May 2019 Competition Results: Stevyn Colgan – Adjudicator

The May competition was judged by author, artist and speaker, Stevyn Colgan.  The brief was to write a scene for a farcical murder mystery in 300 words.

And the winners were:

First Place:  By Any Other Name by David Lea    

Second Place: Death by Yoga by Mark Eyles

Third Place: Doll Parts by Alex Carter     

Highly Commended: Aunt Gertrude by Maggie Farran  

Highly Commended: Who Fed the Pigs? by Lynn Clement      

May Comp

Highly commended, Maggie Farran; third place, Alex Carter;  winner, David Lea; and second place, Mark Eyles.

  Photo by Alex Carter

First Place: By Any Other Name by David Lea

‘Grabs you in the first paragraph and the character of the narrator is immediately created by their speech patterns.  Intrigued by the whole primogeniture business and how it relates to trans people too – not thought about that before.  It opens up some fascinating discussion to come.  I wanted more.’

As photographer for the Saxonford Chronicle or ‘Chronic’, I am often called to social events that induce states of such ineffable boredom as to qualify as near-death experiences and they require considerable self-discipline and copious amounts of alcohol if I am to maintain anything resembling an equilibrium. However, the accession of Ronnie Hardley-Fulsome, scion of the Fulsome family and heir to the Hardley millions, was unusual in that the protagonist experienced  the real thing – literal, terminal and absolute death. And what’s more, it occurred at the precise moment when I pressed the button of my Nikon D500 SLR digital camera and captured the whole scene for posterity.

The entire Hardley-Fulsome family was on the podium in the rose garden and many had travelled the globe to be present at the occasion. But they weren’t all there to wish Ronnie well: the rules of primogeniture require that the estate pass into the hands of the eldest male and Ronnie’s right to inherit had been hotly contested ever since she transitioned from Ronald to Veronica. This and the death of Ronnie’s father, Wolfgang, had left his/her mother’s mind untethered, and although Lady Laetitia Hardley-Fulsome did have periods of comparative lucidity this was not one of them: when someone handed her a blood-red rose, she presented it to Ronnie with a flourish, curtsied to the crowd and fell off the rostrum.

Ronnie raised the bloom rather theatrically to her/his nose and inhaled deeply. Incidentally, this was a nose that had been broken many years before in a boxing ring at Radclyffe public school and could be best described as ‘wonky’.  Her heavy chin quivered for a moment and then she collapsed, her knee length pencil skirt rising up her substantial thighs and her fascinator waving gently above her tumbling curls.

 

Second Place: Death by Yoga by Mark Eyles  

Nice to see a page or two of screenplay in the competition.  I liked the sudden comic shift from serene to sweary when Esmeralda is brought down to Earth by the sight of the body and how she then climbs back into her normal speech patterns.  Good characterisation.’ 

INT. YOGA STUDIO – DAY

Morning sunlight streams into a wood panelled room in a stately home. Yoga mats laid out. At one end an elderly moustachioed gentleman, BARTHOLOMEW, in too short shorts and tie dyed T-shirt is seated in Buddha posture on a yoga mat. A yoga strap tight round his neck and attached to a wall lamp keeps him upright. He is dead.

ESMERALDA, mid 40s, and GUY, mid 20s, enter.

ESMERALDA

…some chakra alignment after lunch.

GUY

Esmie.

ESMERALDA

Then a fluid flow to channel our inner goddess. You have been massaging your inner goddess Guy?

GUY

Esmie. Look…

ESMERALDA

You might find it easier with soft silver yoga balls? I showed you in yesterday’s ‘Rolling my way to happiness’ workshop.

GUY

Esmie! Is Bart all right?

Esmeralda finally spots the body.

ESMERALDA

Fuck me sideways!

GUY

What?

ESMERALDA

Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Stupid, stupid cock. Fuck.

GUY

He’s not OK is he? Is he? Should we do mouth to mouth?

ESMERALDA

Yeah. If you think that will help. He sure as fuck looks like he’s dead. What kind of pervy shit was he up to?

GUY

Maybe he was just being mindful?

ESMERALDA

Mindful my arse. Help me with these mats. Untie that belt. The others will be here in five minutes. We have to cover him up.

GUY

What?

ESMERALDA

Guy, we have to think about the others. You wouldn’t want them to see this would you? Imagine how it would affect their yin yang balance. We’ll just cover up poor Bartholomew and move the body later after morning class. It’s what he would have wanted. He would not have wanted to interfere with my ‘Exploring my inner love’ retreat.

GUY

But he’s dead!

ESMERALDA

Don’t say dead. Bartholomew’s spirit has just taken the next step on its cosmic journey. Maybe this was his way of exploring his inner love.

 

Third Place: Doll Parts by Alex Carter

Now, here’s a great set-up; murder-mystery in Toyland.  Reminiscent of Jasper Fford’s Nursery Crime books, but very different and what a great cast of characters are available!  Liked the ‘arms dealer’ gag that sets the tone from the off.  Good title, too.’

Teddy rapped a soft paw on the red wooden box.

“Come on out, Jack. I know you’re in there.”

He turned the crank and the lid sprang open. Jack’s long torso slunk up out of it. “Whaddaya want? I ain’t done nothin’.”

“The name’s Teddy Boyes, P.I. – I’m here about the murder of Joseph Mann.”

“Ol’ Joe Mann?” Jack shook his head slowly, jingling the bells on his hat. “The doll?”

“He preferred the term ‘action figure’.”

“Whatever.” Jack waved his springy hand, and sunk down into his box. “Nothin’ to do with me.”

Teddy stuck his paw in the box before it could shut, and lifted. “Not so fast. I know what folks call you. Jack the Knife.”

“Yeah, so?” Jack peered out of the dark box. “No knives on me.”

“Poor Joe was killed with a foam dart. Popped his head clean off.”

“What a way to go. If I were you, I’d ask his wife.”

“Sandy? Been there, done that.” Teddy straightened his tie, feeling flustered. “I’d rather follow leads, like the dart. And you, pal, you’re Toyland’s most notorious arms dealer.”

“Oh, no no no.” Jack sprung up again. “Ya got this all wrong. I deal arms, not arms.”

“Eh?”

“Doll arms – doll legs, too,” Jack explained. “Ya know, spare parts, in case dolls—sorry, action figures—lose their own.”

“So… you don’t sell foam dart guns? Or plastic retractable knives?”

“Nah, Mistah Boyes. Unless, of course, you want to replace yer furry fists with a coupla scissor-hands.”

“Then where’d the foam darts come from?” Teddy muttered to himself.

“Ya checked in with the Toyland Locos recently?” asked Jack.

“The train set? They’re our public transport.”

“Public transport with faces. Toy train gangsters, the lot of ‘em. I’d keep an eye on their boss. He hates articulated dolls.”

“Why’s that?”

“Oh man, ya don’t know the Loco godfather? Rollo Polly. No arms, no legs, just one big sphere. He’s yer killer fer sure.”

 

Highly Commended: Aunt Gertrude by Maggie Farran

Straight into the plot, no messing about.  Nice that someone who looks like a chocolate is supposed to die by eating chocolates.  Some nice comic touches.’

I had a hasty look at the congregation to see if Aunt Gertrude had arrived. I saw her straight away in the second pew from the front. She was wearing a purple hat and matching velvet coat. She looked like a quality street chocolate. You know the one with the toffee and nut in the middle.  She was singing loudly from her hymnal. I buttoned up my coat and tottered on my high heels up to the second pew and stood next to her. She gave a slight frown and handed me a hymn book. I found my place and tried to outdo my Aunt’s singing. Then we all sat down. Aunt Gertrude patted me on the shoulder and whispered

“Glad you could come, Clara, lovely singing dear.” I forced my lips into something resembling a smile and lied blatantly, “Great to be here, Aunty. I’m so looking forward to the weekend.” Well if I’m honest I was half looking forward to it. This was the weekend that I had planned to murder her. I’d been planning it for months. I’d brought her a present of a beautiful box of chocolates, which just happened to have lightly poisoned soft centres. Old Gertie could never resist a chocolate and could demolish a box in an evening.

I’m her only relative and she adores me. She’s left me her smart London flat and a few thousands in the bank too. I unpack after church and join Gertie in the sitting room for a glass of wine. I’m quite hoarse after all that hearty singing. I give her the box of chocolates in their shiny black box tied with a purple velvet ribbon.

‘Thanks, Clare, that’s so kind, bit I’m not allowed chocolates any more. I’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes.’

 

Highly Commended: Who Fed the Pigs? by 

Lynn Clement  

‘Oh, the joy in those last few lines!  Two gravediggers and a hitman and the hitman has killed the wrong person.  That’s a great set-up for a comic story.’

‘Ok Dave. Job well done,’ said Bert Knobbler to his grave digging partner.

‘I’m not sure he’ll fit in, Bert.’

‘Yeah, he’s not so tall, is he?’

‘No, Bert but he’s plenty wide.’

‘We’ll just squeeze him in then, Dave.’

Dave and Bert were just lighting celebratory cigarettes when a very rotund man turned up.

‘Hello Hodges. We were just talking about you,’ said Dave. Behind Hodges’ back Bert was using his arms to size him up. He blew out his cheeks when he realised that Hodges was indeed a wide man.

‘What you doing back there Bert Knobbler? ‘Hodges said over his shoulder. Bert picked up his spade from its repose by the graveside.

‘Just firming the edges round this grave. We don’t want you falling in Hodges. – Well not yet,’ he added, sotto voce.

‘Right, you two I’ve come for my pay off. I’ve done the deed, so stump up the dosh.’ Hodges held out his chubby hand towards Dave.

‘How do I know you’ve done it?’ asked Dave sceptically. ‘For all I know my wife might be walking around Primarni as we speak and I can’t afford to have her spend any more money that I haven’t got.’

‘It’s ok,’ reassured Hodges. ‘She’s gone. We had a trip to the pig farm, where unfortunately she had a little accident and the pigs had a feast.’

‘Blimey Hodges,’ said Bert. ‘That’s pretty gruesome. I’m glad I love my wife.’

Hodges turned to face Bert, who hid the spade behind his back. ‘Yeah, she’s lovely your wife, Bert,’ he leered. ‘All that lovely red hair. Is it natural?’

Bert became angry and lifted the spade.

‘Wooah Bert,’ said Dave holding up his hand.

‘But I thought …’ said Bert.

‘Yeah – but your wife hasn’t got red hair, Bert – my Delores has.’

‘Ah, true,’ he said softening. ‘My Jeannie’s a platinum blonde.’

‘Yours is the platinum blonde!’ gulped Hodges backing away from the two men. ‘Then who…’

Ends – Bar the Shouting in the Terrace

Author Damon L Wakes

The Winchester Writers’ Festival sees visitors from all over the world drawn to its weekend of talks, workshops, and one-to-one meetings, and they pay a pretty penny to be there. But did you know that some portions of the Festival are open to the public 100% free?

Turn up on Friday 14th June, and you’ll be able to enjoy the full range of evening events on offer, including an open mic where you’ll have the chance to hear the work of local authors, as well as those from farther afield. And if you’re feeling up to it, you can even share something of your own!

The open mic runs from 21:00 to 23:00 in the Terrace Bar Lounge, and is perhaps the best opportunity to meet like-minded writers at the Festival. After all, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to spontaneously read out their work over lunch! It’s also a particularly good chance to practice reading in front of an audience: an essential skill for book launches and other author events.

These free evening events are perfect for anyone already living nearby, offering a taste of the Festival’s activities without any of the cost. If you’d like to read at the open mic, be sure to sign up as early as possible on the day as slots fill up fast. For those living in Winchester, it may be worth visiting the Stripe Building foyer to get your name down in the morning (and perhaps making use of the trip to look around the book fair while you’re there) so that you’re sure of a slot when you return. For those making a journey in, that likely wouldn’t be practical but you can still get in ahead of everyone who signs up at the start of the open mic by putting your name on the sheet before the other evening events.

The Stripe Lecture Theatre

The other free offerings on Friday 14th are a panel on writing for children and young adults (in the Stripe Lecture Theatre) and a talk by three Salt authors celebrating the publisher’s 20th anniversary (in the Stripe Auditorium). Both these events start at 19:45, so you’ll have to pick your favourite!

If you find you enjoy the Winchester Writers’ Festival open mic, you may also be interested in Poetry Platform, a similar event that runs on the first Tuesday of every month, 20:30 at The Railway Inn. Outside of Winchester, your other open mic options are Write Side of the Tracks (7pm on the third Tuesday of every month at Steam Town Brew Co in Eastleigh) and Write a Note (7pm on the last Thursday of every month at Caskaway, Southampton). These are typically billed as “poetry nights,” but they’re equally welcoming to prose writers and every bit as supportive as the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

Post by Damon L. Wakes

https://damonwakes.wordpress.com/

Damon L. Wakes is the author of Ten Little Astronauts, Face of Glass, and over 200 works of flash fiction, which can be heard at events across the UK.

 

Going Incognito, a Tuesday Night Talk by novelist, TV Writer and Producer, Neil Arksey

 

Like all of us, Neil Arksey, novelist of mid-grade, YA and now dark adult crime, TV head writer, series producer and screenwriter, is in awe of Barbara Large’s work in founding the Winchester Writers’ Festival and the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

A closet writer for years, Neil, the only Neil of his kind was successful in acting. But after falling asleep whilst leaning on a column at Shakespeare’s Globe in the guise of Brutus, the fault of heavily overpowering pain killers he assures us, only to be awoken by a prod from Cassius, he decided a ‘sitting job,’ was needed. That was when Neil turned to writing.

Short stories were his choice to start with. One such story he sent to his nephew, Tom. On Tom’s advice, Neil submitted it to Random House. Here, he gave us some advice not to take – borrowing a book from his niece’s shelf, he copied the publisher’s address onto an envelope, stuffed the ice-cream stained copy of the story in, along with a post-it note saying: “My nephew liked this, you might too,” and sent it to Random House.

The problem was that Neil had unwittingly stereotyped himself. The view of his publisher was: “We own you and you are a brand.” More stories like Brooksie, Neil’s first novel, was what they wanted. MacB, Neil’s third book which was a slight change was rejected.

At this point he was feeling a little vulnerable. Neil took the advice of a fellow author and sought out a writer’s community. It was at an event held by Penguin, where he’d gone to hear one of his favourite authors, Melvin Burgess, speak, that he networked and found a home for MacB.

‘How hard is it to be a writer?’ Neil asked not just the present members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society, but of himself, when his novel writing still failed to pay the bills.

Taking on writing for TV, Neil became a head writer. After a while he found that his own personal writing had taken a back seat; this was not what he wanted for his career. Teaching came next. A smattering of hours gave him enough to live on and he got back to writing.

Reading tomes of adult crime and using their techniques, Neil produced his much-loved dark adult crime fiction. ‘It took much longer than writing middle grade,’ he admitted. It needed drastically reducing. So, he re-wrote it.

The publishers were less than supportive. After fifteen years as a children’s author they were not keen to remarket him.

‘Do I really want to throw it all away and start again?’ he asked himself. Well, thank goodness the answer was yes.

Neil bandied about and re-hashed a pseudonym, finally settling on: James Brodie. Looking on it as active research for his students, he set about submitting his novel to agents. The role of head writer had given him some much welcomed experience of sitting ‘on the other side of the desk’ where he was used to receiving up to eighty unsolicited scripts a week. Tailoring his synopsis and covering letter to fit each of a list of thirty agents, he made a start in October last year and submitted to one a week.

‘Irritate them,’ he says, ‘you’ve spent so much time working on your novel, if you get even a glimmer of interest, send your work again. Even if you don’t, send it again – what’ve you got to lose?’

The response he got was the same lack-lustre response that many writers receive. It wasn’t until he’d somewhat alarmingly reached number twenty-three that he received some genuine interest.

Determined to play the game, Neil then contacted all those agents who’d requested the full manuscript only to brush him off and told them about the interest he’d had. Suddenly they all wanted him. After a ‘feeding frenzy’ as he called it, he selected an agent.

‘I think,’ he said, ‘We’ll leave it there.’ We wait with baited-breath for the next chapter.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

April 2019 Competition Results: Mark Straker – Adjudicator

The April competition was judged by actor Mark Straker, known for the Channel 4 and Netflix  Drama, ‘Kiss Me First’, and BBC Radio Drama Company Productions.  The brief was to write the outline of a plot for a TV drama in 300 words.

And the winners were:

First Place:  The Sons of Erin by George Rodger   

Second Place: A Green and Pleasant Life by Doryn Herbst

Third Place: Insurgence by Summer Quigley    

Highly Commended: Rough Diamond by Kate Salkild 

Highly Commended: Dog of War by Damon Wakes     

April Winners
Highly Commended, Damon Wakes; Third Place, Summer Quigley; Highly Commended, Kate Salkild and First Place, George Rodger

   Photo by Alex Carter

First Place: The Sons of Erin by George Rodger

‘I enjoyed the presentation, It was clear and simply presented. Reminiscent of the style of films such as, Brassed Off, The Full Monty, and Fisherman’s Friends. The use of well-liked music, camaraderie, comedy, and a hint of danger are all good selling points, that would be expanded and would stimulate the reader and later possible the viewers interest. A family drama that would appeal to a good cross section of the public.’

Logline – Three talented Country Music pub musicians attempt to win a lucrative Irish music gig by misrepresentation.

***

Country music night in the back room of a London pub. Customers leave their seats as they crowd the bar for Last Orders. Three musicians dressed as cowboys step down and sit at a table at the front. A barmaid brings across two lagers and an orange juice. The band is the “Sons of Nashville”: Aiden and Sean Sullivan and their bassist, Andy Todd. Andy is not allowed alcohol. Two girls sitting nearby try to catch the attention of Sean who is devastatingly handsome. Sean, ever careful, looks around. Two hardmen at the bar, wearing Arsenal shirts, are watching their girlfriends proprietorially. They don’t look like music fans. Eyes down, Sean sips his lager.

Mick Sullivan, their erstwhile father and unofficial manager, joins them. He places a couple of Guinnesses in front of the boys and toasts a well-dressed man who is just leaving. Mick explains he is Brian Kennedy, owner of a large local construction company. Kennedy’s daughter is getting married and needs an Irish Ceilidh band for her wedding. Kennedy, offering good money, insists upon only genuine Irishmen and

Mick has assured Kennedy that the boys are Irish. Which they aren’t. This lie will cause problems.

Mick has arranged for Kennedy to come back in six weeks to hear them do some diddledee-dee, as he calls it. They decide to ask their Grandfather, Cathal, a former All-Irish fiddler, to help them.

Sean still lives with his mother, Erin Sullivan. Divorced from Mick, she lives a quiet life. She calls her father and soon the boys are rehearsing Irish songs with Granda in the pub back room.

Six weeks later, after problems within the band, including Sean having a finger broken by a jealous boyfriend, the pub holds an Irish night. They play superbly and their appearance at Kennedy’s wedding is confirmed.

*

Now to get Aiden’s temperamental van, with their instruments, up to a stately home in Hertfordshire in time for the reception…

Second Place: A Green and Pleasant Life by Doryn Herbst 

A clear presentation, well thought out. Of a more serious nature, the style reminiscent of Joanna Trollope’s novels which have proved popular on television. Woman in midlife crisis would find a sympathetic audience, plus the husband riding to the rescue would also satisfy some male egos!  

Good female lead character, looking at the nature of midlife, and our expectations.’

Elsa, aged 57, married to Jeremy, living in London, has recently taken early retirement as a bookkeeper for a middle-sized firm.  She is dissatisfied with her lot.

She gives up all her current activities in the city – dinner club, book club, theatre club and finds a cottage to rent in a small market town in Somerset. She intends to live there only during the week. The weekends are to be spent with Jeremy in London. Elsa assures Jeremy that she still loves him and that this is not a break-up but that she needs to make some temporary changes to re-direct her life.

In Somerset, Elsa becomes involved in a local campaign to limit development on a piece of Green Belt Land and to leave the adjacent floodplain untouched. She spends more and more weekends in Somerset. Jeremy wonders whether she is having an affair.

Planning permission has been made for an estate of executive eco-passive houses. The houses are green but the total land use is not ecologically sound. Some councillors who support the development are suspected of corruption.

Elsa meets Michael Smith, a Parish Councillor who is against the new development. Michael tries to woo Elsa into an affair and she is subjected to malicious gossip from village inhabitants.

Elsa learns that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Jeremy discovers that Michael is not who he says he is. The name is correct but he has stolen someone´s identity. Jeremy goes to Somerset to win Elsa back and comes to realise that she has remained faithful to him.

Those councillors suspected of corruption are shown to be innocent. The new estate is scaled down to a smaller and more sustainable development and part of the estate is reserved for affordable housing. Jeremy finds a reconnection to Elsa and they both move to Somerset. Michael is prosecuted for fraud.

Third Place: Insurgence by Summer Quigley

‘An exciting psycho drama! As pointed out by the writer Broadchurch, Strangers, and a touch of The Bridge, plus, of course, Killing Eve!  I loved the revenge angle, with the detective facing her own flashbacks……The lead would be played by a trans actress?’

Transgender, Charlie Stredwick, always hated herself in a man’s body, but after the operation to become a woman society still didn’t accept her; women didn’t want her to use the same toilets, and didn’t feel a closeness to share emotions like they naturally would with each other.  Angered by the isolation Charlie was made to feel, she devises a plan to put men behind bars while also clearing the city of London of any women who didn’t accept her in her new body.

Working as a scientist in a Sperm Bank, Charlie secretly collected semen samples, storing them at her private residence. She would seek out unsuspecting young women, gain their trust, then murder them in their own homes; Charlie would create a crime scene to appear as if the women have been sexually assaulted on a one-night-stand, planting semen inside the women to ensure it was men the police were always searching for.

Detective Constable Heather Martin, recently failed Sergeant’s board to become a DS, but has been given the lead on this case as a chance to prove herself. As the case progresses she finds herself questioning whether she’s the right person for the job as memories of a rape she was subjected to as a young girl come flooding back.

This will be a limited series for viewers of programmes such as Broadchurch, Strangers and Butterfly. The eight-part drama will follow Charlie’s crimes as the Met police try to solve the case.

Highly Commended: Rough Diamond by Kate Salkild

‘Aussie Police meets corruption meets Family…good female lead, chasing and facing the Father/Daughter relationship and the demands of loyalty to force and family. With ultimate sacrifice?’

Successful investigations propel Inspector Drake of the NSW Police, Sydney, to a glittering career, but as a constable in the 1970s, corruption was rife. Hardened by a difficult upbringing, his father, a Gallipoli veteran, abandoned Drake’s alcoholic mother when he was ten, Drake’s own wife later deserted him to bring up their daughter alone.

Toni, inspired by her father’s cases qualifies as State Prosecutor, always working by the rules. Despite Drake’s errant ways, Toni proudly stands by her supportive father, a brave policeman and upstanding member of the community.

A recent public enquiry orders the reopening of cases of suspicious deaths of young men at the beach suburb, Manly, in the 1960s. Political pressure and police bias conspired in a cover up originally leading to verdicts of suicide.

Drake, with knowledge of these cases, leads the new investigation, the last before his retirement. Determined to confirm the coroner’s ruling, he is unafraid to cut corners to do so.

Unwell, Drake undertakes a series of medical tests.

During the investigation, Drake has tough questions to answer about lost or contaminated evidence and witness intimidation.

But within months, following diagnosis of terminal cancer, his retirement is brought forward, glittering accolades showered upon him.

Confined to his chair, a morphine drip quelling the pain, Drake’s guilt ridden musings about the case worry Toni, leading her to evidence identifying her father as one of the perpetrators. Unable to reconcile his deathbed confession with the man she knows, with rising anger she realises their life has been a lie.

Darkness descends as they sit quietly together. Awoken from her thoughts by the morphine alarm’s beep, Toni turns to her father to ask if he wants a top up. Taking a deep breath, she squeezes the barrel of the syringe steadily until the vial is empty.

Highly Commended: Dog of War by Damon Wakes 

‘I liked the war setting …. Lassie meets Stalingrad. I found that I was interested to know more about the brothers’ relationship…and after Artyom has died Nickolai’s  relationship with the dog? Transferrence or no?’

Nikolai Petrov is a Red Army soldier fighting to hold back the Nazi advance. In response to the invasion, Soviet generals dedicate more men to the training of anti-tank dogs in Moscow. Nikolai’s brother, Artyom, has Nikolai transferred to work alongside him at the training school, away from the front lines.

Nikolai proves his worth by retraining Inga, an aggressive guard dog. However, the project is flawed. Artyom has taught some dogs to place explosives under decommissioned Soviet tanks tanks, but even the best, Sila, cannot do it reliably. The brothers’ efforts are further hampered by an air raid which damages the facility and kills several dogs.

With Moscow under threat, the Soviet military demands an early demonstration against a captured German tank. During the demonstration, Sila fails to release a live mine. While attempting to disarm it, Artyom is killed. In response, the overseer abandons the idea of teaching the dogs to place mines, instead developing an explosive harness that will detonate on contact.

Though grief-stricken, Nikolai continues his work and realises that Sila’s failure was due to the unfamiliar smell of the German tank’s petrol engine: the Soviets use diesel. He is determined to demonstrate that the dogs need not be sacrificed and succeeds in training Inga to place mines reliably.

Despite Nikolai’s efforts, the project goes ahead. This simplified process proves faster to teach and requires fewer trainers. Many of the staff are sent to the front lines, but Nikolai’s experience allows him to keep his position at the training school.

The dogs are sent into battle, with Nikolai overseeing their use. Ordered to release the animals against approaching tanks, Nikolai sabotages the mine attached to Inga, giving her a slim chance of survival. Letting her go is the closest he can come to escaping the war.

universally acknowledged that a single guy with a good Tinder profile must be the first to swipe right on a girl he likes. That’s how Charlie Bing met Lizzy Bennet. But it wasn’t her he was really interested in.

Snegurochka to Winchester

Dr Judith Heneghan, Creative Writing Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader for the MA Writing for Children and award-winning children’s writer, has returned to the beginning. Her first contemporary fiction for adults, Snegurochka, has been published.

Snegurochka, an English mother’s experiences in newly independent Kiev, is to be published by Salt with a release date of 15 April. Another first for Judith was seeing it for sale on P&G Wells’ stand in the foyer at April’s Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting:’A very special moment for any writer,’ she says.

It was at the Winchester Writers’ Festival that Judith met her editor and publisher. A writer needs to be part of a community, a convergence of like-minded writers, a portal into the world of publishing. Hampshire Writers’ Society is one such community and The Winchester Writers’ festival provides another.

Recently retired as Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival, Judith intends to concentrate on the activity of actually doing the writing.

Sara Gangai will very capably follow in her footsteps, but before she commenced her talk to us, Sara paid tribute to Barbara Large, founder of both the festival and the Hampshire Writers’ Society. ‘Barbara’s voice, with its feisty nature and inability to say the word “no”,’ Sara said, ‘is a constant in my head, reminding me to be considerate, kind and inclusive to all writers.’ A memorial service for Barbara will be held in the University chapel on the Sparkford Road Campus on the Saturday of the Festival. ‘Barbara’s spirit will be “chuffed” to be there,’ Sara laughed.

The Festival will be held on the weekend beginning 14th June. Enterprising writers will be given the chance to build up a network of writing friends and contacts; ‘People come from all over the world,’ Sara advised us.

Friday sees two panels running along-side each other on both floors of the Stripe.
Let your hair down afterwards at the open mike in the Terrace Lounge right next to the Terrace bar before the knuckle down of Saturday begins.

The day begins with the plenary speaker, award-winning children’s author, Katherine Rundell. Tickets for this event alone can be purchased. The rest of the day is filled with a variety of workshops, tea, cake and an on-tap agony aunt! Seventy or so industry specialists will be in attendance and the opportunity of a fifteen-minute, one-to-one interview with one or two of them will prove invaluable.

Sunday forms a writing workshop, ‘a chance to put into practise everything that you learned on the Saturday,’ Sara tells us.

Tickets are selling fast. The community created by the Festival will be abuzz with writers. It really is a must just to be around so many friendly faces. Please do come along – it will be wonderful to meet you.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Edward Docx – How to Write a Novel in Forty-Five Minutes

“Remember,” says Edward Docx, journalist, playwright, writer for film, TV and Radio and of course, novelist, in fact, you name it, he’s written it, “you have a duty to the fiction.”

See writing as a spell that you cast on yourself every day, even if it is for a short time, soon it will ensnare little snippets or excerpts of “gritty realism” from the daily life that surrounds you, you can then wantonly incorporate them into your writing.

Edward took off his “Anxiety Rucksack” and “left it by the door” advising us all to do the same. Take all those ridiculous anxieties, the likes of: am I as good as “Tolstoy”? No. Stuff them in the “Anxiety Rucksack”, take it off, leave it by the door and then write. Writing is an anxious business and if we allow ourselves to be corrupted by such uncontrollable anxieties then we will not get that novel written, in 45 minutes or otherwise.

So, over the next 45 minutes we writers had honest conversations with ourselves about:

Point of View. What are the pros and cons to using 1st person, 3rd person (God) or 3rd person close?

“First person can be a prison,” be mindful of your protagonist looking over the other characters’ shoulders, reading their emails or eavesdropping on them. If you choose to play God, you must be aware of your peripheral character’s ability to sustain interest. With third person close; “tone bleed” can break the spell and the reader realises, disconsolately that this is, after all just a story and the author is just telling it.

Plot and character. This brought Edward to the 1st optical stimulus of the evening – a simple graph with character and plot sitting at either end of the axis. “Understand where your novel sits on the graph,” he tells us.

Some novels are narrow on character and wide on plot and others are vice-versa. A writer shouldn’t be afraid to scrimp on one, say character, in order to expand on plot. The wrong mix and you may end up with a lumpy novel. Look for a mix that will reach your reader.

Design your cast. Very important, especially if you’re writing for TV or film, Edward advises us; “Whenever you get stuck, just go back to “Shakespeare” because he knows what he’s doing.”

Here, Edward fell back on “Hamlet” for help. And he produced the second visual stimulus – a spidergram. Hamlet with his many emotional dimensions is the body, the supporting cast, even the grave digger sitting on each leg, pulling each different personality out.

Make your characters sufficiently different such that they pull the protagonist apart, thus creating drama. Without this, the character becomes flat, uninteresting.

Totally inhabit your characters even the uncomfortable ones. The skill is, to write characters that we are not happy with!

“Jane Austen’s” writing did not only answer the obvious question, but the deeper one – can the protagonist not only choose her own man, but ultimately, her own destiny.

Consider the MDQ. The MDQ? Edward explains: the Major Dramatic Question, at least that is what they call it in Hollywood. There is no right or wrong way to approach the three-act structure of your novel, but one way that that seems to secure success is to insert the mdq early on in the first act. Ed himself, admits to trudging through an “impressive amount of turgic nonsense,” to get to the answer.

“Try to write on the tide of your talent – when its coming out of you, commit to it,” he says. “You can improve on bad writing – you cannot improve on none.”

50 drafts is what Edward docx writes. 50! The first few are big adaptations, then there is the grammar, the repetitions, the walk through with each character, then the ‘word’ draft and so on. So, here he imparts the advice that he was given – “The only draft that matters is the last draft.”

And always be courteous to your reader, your audience. A screenwriter is always asking, where are your audience now? Think of them as guests at a party. Will they want to stay and chat to you? Try not to confuse them.

Yes, Edward plans and plots, but not to such an extent as to curtail the creative process. If a character comes along that he wants to spend more time with, then he will do that. This may get cut in a later draft, but at the time, that hadn’t been planned.

As for technical support, Ed cannot praise Final Draft enough. His sister cannot praise Scrivener enough – he just hasn’t got to grips with it yet!

“Manage your time,” he says, “you must have tense hygiene!”

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Christine Hamill

‘Time’s running out,’ was Christine Hamill’s thought when she was twenty-five, ‘better get that book written.’

In her mid-forties she was diagnosed as having breast cancer. Amid torrents of tears, she thought, ‘time really is running out.’ and “B is for Breast Cancer: From anxiety to recovery and everything in between – a beginner’s guide”, was written during treatment.

Christine wanted to convey the irony of many of the situations that arose from her diagnosis and treatment, filling the book with humour. Her retort to those who, horrified said, you can’t do that was: ‘Well, I’m the one with breast cancer.’ Still, you’d have to be a raving lunatic not to take breast cancer seriously, she says. It is funny though, the way a fully clothed doctor will expect you, while semi-naked and having your breast handled, to hold an intelligent conversation.

“B is for Breast Cancer” is an A-Z of everything you might experience whilst being treated for breast cancer. D being for diagnosis, Christine read us a very comical excerpt. C is for crying, which she admits she did so much that a nurse told her “she was taking the cancer diagnosis badly.” !!  

Book two, “The Best Medicine” is not biographical, although it does mirror the situation that Christine and her ten-year old son found themselves in. From the point of view of the boy at the heart of the story, “The Best Medicine” tells how he feels that Mum is getting too much attention when he is dealing with such ‘big’ school issues as bullying and girlfriends – or lack of them! Christine read an excerpt where, Philip conducts a bare bottom poetry appreciation.

Each book took six months to write, but both took a while to get published. Originally “B is for Breast Cancer” was published on the internet which led to its being voted Ireland’s book of the year. Christine then put it in a drawer.

The Best Medicine went the same way winning awards such as the Lollies and the Haringey Children’s Book Prize. But it was turned down by so many publishers that the agent sent it back. Undeterred, Christine knew it had to be good and took it to a small, independent publisher who took it on. “The Best Medicine” has since been published in more than six countries including the US and Canada, won further awards and rave reviews from best selling authors and comedians.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

March 2019 Competition Results: Judy Waite – Adjudicator

The March competition was judged by children’s author and University of Winchester lecturer, Judy Waite.  The brief was to re-write the opening of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for the social media age.   

And the winners were:

First Place:  P&P 2019 by Angela Chadwick   

Second Place: Gangsta Pride and Prejudice by Margaret Jennings

Third Place: Plenty.com by Annie Gray   

Highly Commended: A Modern Truth by Gill Hollands

Highly Commended: First Impressions by Alex Carter    

 

march winners
Alex Carter (highly commended) with Annie Gray (third place),           Angela Chadwick (first place), Margaret Jennings (second place) and       Gill Hollands (highly commended)

 Photo by Summer Quigley

First Place: P&P 2019 by Angela Chadwick

‘Funny, clever and manages to capture the characters and the dynamic in this re-working.  A real skill here with characterization emerging through such minimal dialogue, yet nothing from the original is lost.  Very entertaining and well-crafted.’  

Mama Bennet @mamabennet
Lonely AND loaded????? Mine, mine, mine! #fivedaughterstogo

Lady Long @gossipqueen
You’ll NEVER guess which eligible bachelor just staked their claim on Netherfield Park! None other than nerdy genius Chaz Bingley. Chaz zipped up the A1 in his new Tesla and was blown away. Rumour has it the archgeek wants to be in by Christmas…

PapaBennet (WhatsApp)

MamaBennet

OMG!

https://t.co/xA1jk3

PapaBennet
Who he?

MamaBennet
🙄
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bingley

PapaBennet
TLDR

MamaBennet
FFS! Single & rich! Somewhere between Jamie Oliver & Spenser off Made in Chelsea.

PapaBennet
Sick?

MamaBennet
Sick! Think of the girls!

PapaBennet
What girls?

MamaBennet
Our girls! He could marry one of them!

PapaBennet
Does he know them? Is that why he’s coming?

MamaBennet
☹! But think about it. It’s so exciting. I’ve never met anyone with their own Wikipedia page before.

PapaBennet
And you still may not LOL! He’s hardly likely to be nipping into the village pub for a pint!

MamaBennet
But we’ll be neighbours. We’ll have to visit him…

PapaBennet
Pop round with a cup of sugar? What if he’s sweet on you instead?

MamaBennet
Meh!

PapaBennet
You’re one fine cougar yourself!

MamaBennet
LMFAO.

PapaBennet
Perhaps Lizzie then?

MamaBennet
Why Lizzie? Jane is more beautiful. Lydia is much more fun.

PapaBennet
Lizzie’s clever. The others are airheads.

 MamaBennet
😠! Your negativity is blocking my chakras.

PapaBennet
Frankly my dear, I have spent a lifetime unblocking your chakras. Parade our bikini-clad girls in front of this man and all his friends and relations if it makes you happy.

 MamaBennet
How can you be so insensitive?  This is the opportunity of a lifetime!

PapaBennet
Knock yourself out. I won’t stop you. But don’t expect me to take part.

MamaBennet
Your so ???? I will never understand you!

PapaBennet
Sadly true.
GTG. Some of us have work to do… 

 

Second Place: Gangsta Price and Prejudice by Margaret Jennings

‘Impressive re-telling – it would be great to hear this performed.  Unless this author really is a gangster, a great deal of work has gone into making the language choices sound authentic and well-matched with the original.  A true representation of these characters in this contemporary scenario.’

It be a truth, universally bigged up, dat a single playa wiv a phat fortune must be up in want of a hoe. She must be big-ass busted, lil’ small-ass waisted n’ come from a phat crew.          Messenger :-

Why, mah dear,  Mrs. Long say dat Netherfield is taken by a lil’ playa of big-ass fortune from tha uptown of England; dat his schmoooove ass came down on Mondizzle up in a cold-ass lil chaise n’ four ta peep tha place, he is ta get it before Michaelmas, n’ a shitload of his servants is ta be up in tha doggy den by tha end of next week.

  Is this Mista Bingley hooked up or single?

Oh! single, mah dear, ta be shizzle biaaatch! A single playa of big-ass fortune; four or five thousand a year. Shiiit, dis aint no joke. What a gangbustin’ fine thang fo’ our girls!

Whatcha mean?

 

Our girls is big-ass busted, lil’ small-ass waisted n’ come from a phat crew.

They is.

They is.

You know what big-ass busted, small-ass waisted mean?

Well no, but they is dope.Yo ass must know dat I be thankin of his crazy-ass marryin one of dem wild-ass muthas.

  But Mista Bingley might like you tha dopest of tha party.

That ain’t the case. You must  go n’ peep Mista Bingley when his schmoooove ass comes into tha neighbourhood.

Why?  They is all wack-ass n’ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has suttin’ mo’ of quicknizz than her sisters

Yo ass have no comboner on mah skanky nerves.

I be mo’ than familiar wi yo’ nerves.  I lived wit dem fo’ twenty years.

Go peep!

I’ll go peep when there be twenty big-ass fortunes to peep.

Third Place: Plenty.com by Annie Gray

‘I really enjoyed this scene of contemporary women and their modern approaches to dating.  Lots of fun being had here.  I particularly liked the cultural references, and the ending was humorous.’

Teppanyaki with new work besties.   

.PP

Good times.

It is a well-known truth that a single woman must be in want of a partner. However little known the feelings of such a woman on her entering a new job or social gathering, this truth is so set in the minds of those around her that she becomes their rightful property for she is a Bridget without veil, an Elizabeth without Darcy.

“Don’t like to jump to conclusions Beth,” Jenna is asking, “Are you WSM or WSW?”

“Huh?”

“Seeking man or woman?”

“Neither right now, thanks,” Beth says, as if turning down dessert.

Age : 43

Status: Divorced (train wreck – distant memory)

Kids: Yes (THREE boys – SOLE carer)

Personality Type:   Homebody ?

Intentions:  Keep enjoying life. To discover …

“Oohh,” shrieks Charli, thrusting her phone in Beth’s face, “Look at this one.   Solid income.   Personality type …professional.    I could read fortunes off his shiny head, but he could rock a beanie !     We’re signing you up!   Strike a pose….”

Charli

Age : 39 (ish)

Status :  Married (again)

Personality:    Hopeless Romantic 

Intentions:    Living the dream.

Beth’s face is caught in a crossfire of iphone flash.   By the time they are done  – smoothing, brightening, widening – her image on screen is symmetrically plasticised.  Jenna smiles at her, “Got anything pierced? Or a tatt ?   It may help.”

Jenna

Age:    26

Personality Type:   Free Thinker

Intentions:   Putting serious effort into finding someone.

“Finally,” Jenna continues, “choose your personality from the drop-down menu.”

“Arsonist….sociopath…?”

“Seriously, hon….You could end up alone and dead,  chewed on by your Alsations !”

Shreking and bristling with excitement, the women return to frenzied scrolling. All teeth  and hair, they are hyenas at a feast.

Eventually, they look up to find Beth’s seat empty.

“Like I said,” says Jenna sadly, “Alsatians.”

Highly Commended: A Modern Truth by Gill Hollands

 A different approach, with the disinterested male playing computer games and the female just another to add to his list … until this girlfriend takes control in a witty and unexpected way’.

It’s a modern truth, that a single man has to have a great online profile before a prospective partner shows any interest in a date.  Of course, many now prefer the freedoms of a single life anyway.

The dating game is global now. A couple may correspond or chat on Messenger for months before meeting at a convenient spot.

Without the slightest personal knowledge of the man, he is judged entirely by his face, followings, and postings. Ben had found feminist support always made a good impression.

‘Ben, have you heard that Netherfield Park has finally been let?’ Messaged his current girlfriend.

‘Nope.’ Ben added a surprised face emoji.

‘Just spotted it on Longy’s Insta. Guess who took it?’ She added a dancing gif.

‘A tech billionaire. I can see from the vid he turned up in his Tesla Z!  Morris, the agent, posted fireworks on Monday. He says staff are moving in soon to set up and he’ll be there by the end of September.’

‘What’s his name?’ Ben added a rolling-eyed emoji.

‘Bingley.’ She added a gif with flying money.

‘Status?’ Ben yawned, flicking on a game.

‘Available, according to his profile. Must tell Lizzy. He’s bi and just broke up. He’s tagged in some angry photos.’ She attached one so he could share.

‘Your daughter? Surely he’d be too old for her?’ In the game he shot three people and stole a car before he flicked back to her screen.

She’d replied with a grumpy meme.

‘You’d be much more his level, I reckon. Class.’ Well, he had to butter her up somehow.

‘That’s not a bad idea.’ She sent him a sultry gif.

Oh no. What had he done?

 

Highly Commended: First Impressions by Alex Carter

‘An interesting angle, telling the piece through Lizzie’s eyes, this entry captures character well and the ending resonates well with the consequences of fingers slipping and wrong buttons being pressed.  Sets up well for the rest of the narrative.’

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single guy with a good Tinder profile must be the first to swipe right on a girl he likes. That’s how Charlie Bing met Lizzy Bennet. But it wasn’t her he was really interested in.

LIZZY

Hey, what’s up?

CHARLIE

Hiya! 🙂 Just moved to Netherfield, thought I recognised you.

LIZZY

Really?

CHARLIE

Yeah, seen you out with your sisters.

LIZZY

So you swiped right on me to get to one of them?

CHARLIE

What? No!

LIZZY

Brb.

 

Lizzy tapped her new Instagram notification:

 

chbing99 liked your photo.

 

“Damn, he’s quick,” she muttered. She checked the thumbnail image – a photo from Jane’s birthday. “Crafty bugger.”

LIZZY

You had to go for the one Bennet sister who’s not on Insta…

CHARLIE

She isn’t?

LIZZY

Mate, you’re desperate.

CHARLIE

Better than hard to get!

LIZZY

Go Insta-stalk someone else’s sister.

Lizzy selected ‘unmatch’ on her message thread with Charlie, then went back to Instagram, ready to block him on there as well. Ready, until she noticed someone else in his profile picture. Reluctant, yet curious, she tapped on Charlie’s profile.

Tall, dark and handsome. Not Charlie; the other guy.

She scrolled down his feed of selfies and latte art, keeping an eye out for the other guy. “Oh God,” she said to herself, “I’m as bad as him, aren’t I?”

Then she found who she was looking for. His piercing stare contrasted completely with Charlie’s wide grin. Lizzy tapped the photo.

cbing99: Gr8 catch-up with @fitzdarcy! #BFFs #GoodCopBadCop

She tapped the username, @fitzdarcy.

Moody, artsy photos with desaturated filters filled the screen. There were few of this Darcy himself, and even they were shadowy, filtered in black-and-white. Lizzy meant to scroll down to see more, but missed, and slipped her thumb over the ‘follow’ button instead.

“Oops.”

She went to unfollow, but the damage was done. A new notification popped up:

fitzdarcy started following you.

 

Judy Waite Creative Curiosity

Judy Waite, award-winning writer of over fifty Children’s and Young Adult fiction titles, began her talk to the Hampshire Writers’ Society with a tribute to Barbara Large, who was our friend, founder, inspiration and a great ally within the publishing world.

It was at the Winchester Writers’ Conference that Judy, a novice, found not only access to specialist workshops, but also the confidence to take Barbara’s advice: “Keep writing.”

It was a crazy time, Judy says, as she was working as well as writing. Time, she agrees, is one of the writer’s great enemies. Once published, she enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing. A bit back to front; but she still felt unsure when talking about how to write.

Judy was not just here to talk to the Society though. She treated us, the gathered members and guests, to an interactive exercise, introducing an envelope, sheet of spare paper, pencil and candle for each of us.

“If you’re trying to get a child to write a story,” she told us, “don’t get them to tell you it first – they’ll think, job done!”

Encompassing a wide age range, Judy has written for four-year olds, “Mouse Look Out”, and fourteen-year olds, “Game Girls”. She writes trade fiction, research and rigour books which are usually aimed at older boys. Educational books, like “Jamboree Storytime Level B: I wish I Had a Monster”, are mostly for schools and are commissioned, but still publishers of these are always pleased to hear from authentic authors.

Judy also writes High Low books, like “The Street”, a collection of short books aimed at older children who have difficulty reading – perhaps English is not their first language or they are dogged by dyslexia.

‘Where do you get your ideas from?” is the most common question that Judy is asked. Ideas are all around us, she says, suggesting that we use the pen in front of us – imagine that pen full of optimism, wonder and energy to write ethical, positive works, in the wrong hands. Or the pencil on the desk – what is its one true desire; could it be, to be a crayon?

“So that’s how your mind works,” a student commented. That started Judy thinking that of course, all writers may indulge in creativity, but not in the same way. We write from the heart, she enthuses, not the head. It is neither easy nor natural to write with your head saying, I write like this, because this is what the publishers of my chosen genre require.

Judy’s teaching was a resounding success, but at the time, she felt as though she was “standing on the top of a hill on a windy day, throwing her ideas into the air”. This was when Wordtamer was born. Judy was commissioned to put all her ideas into a book.

Her teaching takes the form of: de familiarisation, character connection, free-writing (the Freudian method of helping shell-shocked soldiers to cope with what is going on in their heads), the silent zone and visualisation. These all were incorporated into the continuing interactive exercise.

The most interesting of Judy’s methods is Active Research – she once had a character who spent some time in prison “…so I decided I’d better get arrested.” she said. This, after having auditioned for a position in a boy band and visiting Cardboard City, London. Judy is not our only author who indulges in active research – remember Karen Hamilton’s Characters on the Couch, Penny Ingham’s archaeology?

“When I’m asked to write a story, my mind goes blank,” one of her reluctant writers said. Five weeks later, that same child wanted to be a writer, because thanks to Judy Waite, he was no longer “blank in the mind.”

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Out of the Vortex – A Special Showcase [Tickets on Sale Now]

The University of Winchester invites you to Out of the Vortex, a special showcase of verse, story, music and song. After more than a decade of publishing the highest quality work from Creative Writing students in the Vortex journal, a selection of the very best is brought to life on stage Monday 8 April 7.30pm.

Filling the theatre with writers, readers and spectators that all share a love of the written word will be a unique opportunity for all, and will allow these talented young writers to share their work with the community. Most of the pieces were originally not intended for stage, but they have been adapted for this specific event. For many of the writers, it will be thefirst time their work is presented in front of a live audience.

The 2019 edition of the journal will be launched at the event. After its humble beginnings in 2005, Vortex has evolved into a respected, high quality publication, and is now edited, designed and marketed by 3rd year Creative and Professional Writing students. It is a great introduction to some of the processes and conventions of the wider world of publishing.

Owing to its success, the journal now also accepts submissions from students at any UK university.

Come support the next generation of writers at Theatre Royal Winchester Monday 8 April 7.30pm.

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk/out-of-the-vortex/