Winchester Writers’ Conference Reports

Report by Celia Livesey

HWS joint secretary with Jim Livesey

Back at Winchester 4th year running and the magic hasn’t worn off.

I love the buzz of excitement as delegates queue for One-to-Ones – the hustle and bustle in the Bookfair, and the wonderful friendly atmosphere.

It was great to see many old friends, Beverley Birch, Madeleine Milburn and Julian Unthank, past speakers at HWS events, as well as new addition Jasper Fforde with his very popular Master Course.

Jim and I manned the HWS stand over Friday and Saturday and were delighted so many members stopped by to chat. We did a brisk trade in renewals, with many new joiners for the ‘early bird’ offer of £25 for next season. Much interest was also expressed by a number of delegates who lived too far away to be able to join.

One sad note, however – Barbara Large, the Conference Director and founder, is stepping down this year. Although I am sure this will not mean she is slowing down, with talks and travel already planned for the future. Barbara’s warm personality and unique style will be greatly missed at the Conference.

A Report from Lisa Nightingale 

Julian FellowesJust like the bees that are losing their buzz thanks to the bad British weather. I need a break from my badly behaved family. The Winchester Writers’ Conference gives me the time I need to be me again. Julian Fellowes, Plenary Speaker, said never mind all the advice that you are given, it is the ‘me’ inside that counts. Like a spot the character competition, this point shone through in all the workshops and one to one appointments throughout the day. It is a day spent with like minded people talking about beautiful things whether that be setting, characters, the lunch or perhaps even publishers.

From a day filled with both high and low lights, it is hard to focus on memorable moments. A low spot for us all was the news that 2013 is to be the last year that Barbara Large MBE will be the Conference Director. We were reminded that the conference was Barbara’s baby. Well, it is a baby to be proud of. Thank you Barbara for an inspirational event that has given me back my buzz.

A high spot for me (I think my family are sick of hearing about it and rest assured they are going to hear more) was the one to one appointment I had with Anna Baggaley, Commissioning Editor at Harlequin UK Ltd. After chatting about my various writing dilemmas, she actually asked me to send her more of my work. A Commissioning Editor of Harlequin UK asked me to send her more of my writing and gave me her email address. So submissions sent, watch this space. Confidence boosted by conference.
Thanks again, Barbara!

HWS member, Celia Livesey received Highly Commended in the WWC competition – Retirement.

Retirement Competition Adjudication:

Crocodile Skin by Celia Livesey (Miranda Writes, pseudonym)


This poem made me laugh out loud, a delight to read. I found I could hear Pam Ayres’ voice reading this in my head! With excellent rhythm, it playfully but not unkindly twists around recognisable stereotypes of old age; of appearance and ability, confidence and social expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Crocodile Skin

I’m sitting by the fire, and warming aged skin

all crinkled like a crocodile, with lips that are too thin,

with legs apart – pink bloomers, tight knotted at the knees,

and garters holding back the veins, while scoffing Cheddar cheese.

I dread it when the bell rings, and someone comes to call,

and hurry past the mirror that’s hanging in the hall.

When did I morph into my gran? How did I get so old?

On leaving work ten years ago, my beauty all extolled.

Forever gone the high heels, glam make-up slapped on thick,

If children see me now they shout. ‘You need a new broomstick!’

My nylons swapped for leggings – more cosy don’t you know,

with mitts, and boots in sheepskin, for walking in the snow.

I take the dog out twice a day, and follow all the ‘soaps’.

How did I find the time for work? However did I cope?

I used to do three things at once, and had an active brain

but when I take the car out now – I drive in the slow lane.

My daughter takes me shopping, and tries to make me rush,

I’m trying hard to help but no, my brain has turned to mush.

I programme in the telly when grandson comes to tea,

he shows me how to do it – bless, although he’s only three.

It’s sad when you hit sixty, and start to fall to bits,

your teeth go, then your bottom sags, and pounds go on your hips.

Life’s cruel to older women; we’re ‘mutton dressed as lamb’.

Just join the WI, you say, start making strawb’ry jam.

 But do I really miss it, the boring daily grind?

A little if I’m truthful; but, for now I’ve peace of mind.

I’ve time to watch the sunrise and, go walking in the rain,

I’m grateful for each day I get – they’ll never come again.

© Celia Livesey 2013

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