Report by Carole Hastings
Barbara Large opened the evening by inviting Local writing group, Pencils and What-not, to promote their new self-published book, Journeys and What-not. It’s a miscellany of sixty pieces of fiction, travel tales, poems and assorted writing. £1 per book will go to the charity First Story that supports creative writing in schools where at least 50% of the children are deprived. The book is available from P & G Wells in Winchester, The Winchester Discovery Centre and from their website.
Then we heard from special guest Jenny Knowles who runs a small publishing company in the New Forest, called Little Knoll Press.
Her mother wrote stories of her life in China and India and sent them to Jenny at boarding school rather than ordinary letters and these inspired Jenny to get into publishing. She has published some of her family’s stories and as well as a few others. She will soon be publishing a book of postcards accompanied by stories produced by a local artist. She thinks that people considering self-publishing use an external editor to get their work to a publishable standard. She recommended that people interested in travel writing join the Itinerant Writers Club via their website: http://www.lizcleere.com. It’s run by a woman called Liz Cleere from a boat near Cochin in India and provides a good support network.
The main act was Jane Wenham-Jones and was pure entertainment. She recounted saying to one audience that it was easier to rob a bank that make money from writing. The audience were guests at HMP Send! This set the tone for the evening.
She sees herself as a jobbing writer – novelist, short story writer, columnist, features writer, agony aunt, speaker. She’s feisty and tenacious and deals with her rejections by sending out another script the same day – often reworking a piece depending on the comments she may have had back. Her record for sending out the same piece was11 times across a period of two years. Her advice was to do something positive when you get a rejection – it’s normal to get plenty and few people really get their first novel published.
She believes in writing what you know and her first novel Raising the Roofwas based on her experiences in the buy to let market where one of her tenants actually stole the boiler and another filled the place with stolen goods and replica guns. She tends to keep research to a minimum – mostly Google and asking people to tell what she needs to know. She’s a firm believer in not trying to sell your book until you’ve written it – the first three chapters are not enough. Keep your focus in what you want to write as you can easily pick up so much contradictory advice – bigger plot/bigger characterisation etc.
Jane never wastes her life experiences – they all provide her with material for books and features -domestics even find their way into her column… Woman’s Weekly Fiction Specials are a great outlet for short stories.
In the name of research Jane has been botoxed, [better performed by the dermatologist than the dentist apparently], been painted naked [her laptop strategically placed] and had a go at stand-up comedy. The audience found her funnier in real life than when she was trying to tell jokes.
Her second book Perfect Alibis was based on research from a friend on how to have an affair which led her on to work on The Sun and an appearance on Kilroy. Her most recent novel,Prime Time, based on her experiences in day time TV was nominated for The Romantic Comedy of the Year Award.
She currently has a 15,000 word book on Kindle called 100 ways to Fight the Flab and this will be out in paperback as a 60,000 word book by Christmas. She is running a “How to Lose Weight” competition for a week’s writing course in France.