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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
“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!”
‘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.
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
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…
MamaBennet FFS! Single & rich! Somewhere between Jamie Oliver & Spenser off Made in Chelsea.
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?
PapaBennet You’re one fine cougar yourself!
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!
Our girls is big-ass busted, lil’ small-ass waisted n’ come from a phat crew.
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.
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.
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?”
“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….”
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.”
Personality Type: Free Thinker
Intentions: Putting serious effort into finding someone.
“Finally,” Jenna continues, “choose your personality from the drop-down menu.”
“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.
Hey, what’s up?
Hiya! 🙂 Just moved to Netherfield, thought I recognised you.
Yeah, seen you out with your sisters.
So you swiped right on me to get to one of them?
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.”
You had to go for the one Bennet sister who’s not on Insta…
Mate, you’re desperate.
Better than hard to get!
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.
She went to unfollow, but the damage was done. A new notification popped up:
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.”
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.
The February competition was judged by our local, Winchester-based novelist, Claire Fuller. The brief was to write a last letter from a parent to a child and more people than ever took up the challenge!
Just a reminder to all entrants – please could you leave your name OFF the actual story submitted, but make sure it is included in your covering email. Thanks.
And the winners were:
First Place: The Year of Our Lord, 1832 by Barbara Needham
Second Place: Follow Your Dreams Sally by Lynn Clement
Third Place:Dearest Lizzie by Margaret Jenness
Highly Commended: A Good Man by George Rodger
Highly Commended:Pastiche, The Big Top, Southamptonby Gill Hollands
Highly commended, Gill Hollands, with first prize winner, Barbara Needham and highly commended, George Rodgers
Photo by Alex Carter: email@example.com
First Place:The Year of Our Lord, 1832 by
‘This letter had a wonderful narrative and a really strong voice. The parent shows us so much about the recipient and what’s happening, without it feeling like we’re being told information. There’s even a little mystery – the recipient has done something bad but we don’t find out what.’
My Dear Child,
You know I am unlettered, so this is in the hand of Mr Loveless, the Methodist preacher. I pray it reaches you in time.
After the terrible events of yesterday, I went with your sisters to your father’s grave. We wept for him, so lately gone, and we wept bitter tears for you. You tried so hard to replace him as man of the house. You should never have done what you did, but God knows, you did it to help us.
Smudge is pining for you too. He sits by your empty chair whimpering. The girls pat and fuss, but he will not be consoled.
When the jury pronounced you guilty, I feared the judge would put on the black cap and send you to the executioner. I could tell from Squire Frampton’s crooked smile he was hoping for it. He has given us notice of eviction, nailed to the cottage door. We have to be out by Lady Day.
But I do not want to burden you with our troubles. You have enough of your own. Transportation to Australia. Many weeks on a ship – you who have always lived in this little Dorset village and have never even seen the sea. My heart is breaking.
You must know this secret before you go. Your sweetheart, Violet, is with child. Her parents are kindly and will not throw her out. I pray it is a boy, as she says she will call him Reuben, after you.
Be of good courage, my darling son. As long as I live, every day as the sun sets here, I will think of it rising over you, on the other side of the world.
Your loving mother.
Second Place: Follow Your Dreams Sally by Lynn Clement
‘This letter was very clever. Only when I got to the end did I realise what was happening and so, of curse, I had to go and read it all again.’
By the time you read this I will have gone. Well, I might still be there but you won’t see me again. I’ve asked Mummy Jane to open this letter if I’m not heard from by Christmas, when you are nine.
As I’m writing this you have just celebrated your sixth birthday. It was a lovely day. Remember; red balloons and a bouncy castle. Mummy Jane and I were so proud of you. You looked lovely in your silver party pants. You said you felt like an astronaut. Ask Mummy Jane to show you the photograph of the three of us – big smiles. I took a copy of that photo with me.
I am sorry that I missed your seventh, eighth and ninth birthdays but I am glad you are proud of me. (Mummy Jane said.)
I am sure you are doing well at school and enjoying all they teach you. Do remember that not everything they say can be proven – yet. Have your own mind and question things. Art is just as important as science; ask Mummy Jane she’ll tell you it’s so. She loves her re-cycling sculptures. I hope you’ve made one.
Be happy my darling girl, as I have been happy with you in my life. Follow your dreams wherever they lead you, no matter how far you have to go to achieve them. The world is out there waiting for you to explore it, but sometimes even the world is not enough and you’ll have to look further.
My dearest Sally, always have love in your heart, let bad feelings go and embrace everyone, no matter where they come from.
They might not have found me but I am sure I will find something out there – something that will make a difference to us all. There has to be life on Mars.
I love you forever Sally,
Third Place:Dearest Lizzie by Margaret Jenness
‘This letter was really moving and nuanced. I liked how we learn the writer’s backstory, and I felt the author had really got inside the head of the parent to understand what he might be feeling: scared, worried, and even practical.’
Field Hospital 10
I know that I am dying. I am reconciled but heartbroken that I will never see you again, walk you down the aisle, hold your children or take them to football.
After mum died, you begged me not to do this last tour of duty abroad but to take a post in the United Kingdom. “I’ve lost mum.” you said. “I don’t want to lose you too.” Perhaps you had a premonition! I still miss your mum too, darling.
I’ll never forget the tears in your eyes when you, nana and grumps saw me off at the station. Look after them. They are so proud of you, their granddaughter, the doctor.
I don’t know if I ever told you how much I like David despite his preference for rugby! I’m sure when you do get married, you’ll be very happy. I could see how much he loves you when we last went out for a meal together in Salisbury. Treasure those photos and remember me as I looked then. You would not want to see me now.
In the top righthand desk drawer, you’ll find the paper work you will need for all the legal stuff. The army will do some but the bulk of it will fall to you, my darling. I’m sorry. Accept offers of help. It’s hell to do!
There’s also a list of people to contact. When they ask you how I died, tell them courtesy of a landmine! Family flowers only. Ask for donations to the charity Bobby Moore founded to help landmine victims.
I heard a groan then! Mentioning my football hero even at the end!
Goodbye, my darling. Lead a good life! Never forget how much mum and I love you.
With all my love.
Highly Commended:A Good Man by George Rodger
‘A clever twist in this letter with a very sharp and polished writing style.’
The letter, hand-delivered, was waiting on his doormat when he returned from the hospital. Michael shook the drops from his raincoat and sat down at the table. He’d left the hospice just before his father had received Father Kelly’s thumb on his yellowed brow, slipping from life at St Mary’s an hour ago. He wasn’t old, just weakened by the cancer that had hollowed out his body over recent months. He’d boxed professionally until he was thirty-five before starting work as a driver, twenty years ago, for Mancini Brothers, local businessmen.
‘Mikey,’ the letter began, ‘I’ve written this in haste, as I expect to be dead any minute from now.’
Michael smiled. His dad; always the joker.
‘You’ll be hearing I’m a good man when I’m no longer here to deny it. But in my life, I’ve done bad things. I didn’t want this life for you. That’s why whatever I earned went into your education. A driver’s salary could never pay for your lawyer’s degree so I did special work – violent work. I’ve threatened, crippled and even killed people for John Mancini. It’s all written down, sealed in an envelope with Father Kelly. Everything’s there; the policemen and the politicians we paid off, the wives we turned into widows. Pick up the envelope tomorrow and take it to Police Chief Farrell. Tell him it’s my dying declaration. He never liked me but that’s probably a point in his favour. It’s a pity I’m dead now. This is just about the only decent thing I’ve done in my life and I’m not going to be around to see the results. Mikey, now you’re a lawyer; do some good.’
Michael stared at the letter for a while before picking up the phone.
‘Yes?’ the silken voice of John Mancini oozed out of the earpiece.
Michael whispered, ‘Father Kelly’s got a letter. I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.’
‘Thank you,’ said Mancini. ‘Oh, and my condolences. Your father was a good man.’
Highly Commended:Pastiche, The Big Top, Southampton by Gill Hollands
‘A bitter sweet and very original story with a strong voice.’
First, you should know, you’re not an only child. It drove your mother crazy, like the others’ mothers. They all fell for the laughs at first. I guess comedy palls for some. Besides, I can’t stay in one place too long. I’m a free spirit. You are my seventh son. That’s special. None of them have the gift, except you.
The day you were born, with my shock of orange frizz, I knew you were a chip off the old block. Caught perching a tiny tomato on your nose, the nurse threw me out before I could dust the talcum on your face. Next visit, I brought you baggies, long shoes, a sparkly waistcoat. Your mother threw me out. So continued my parenting, as you know.
You mastered that first bike with its square wheels. Guess where it came from. Growing, you learned to tumble and fall like a pro. I yearned to join in when you juggled or spun plates. Your yodelling was inspired. I howled at her screams the days you nailed her shoes to the floor. One day I stopped you getting run over, your head buried in a joke book. Just a shove. Yes, I was watching, so proud.
Even your first car fit the bill perfectly, when the panels kept falling off. It all comes naturally to you. You’ve filled my shoes. Keep an eye on the athlete’s foot.
I should have locked up the cannon explosives, never considered blowing up your mother. Don’t doubt, I deserve to be here. I’ve had a blast on death row; great food, endless material. Don’t feel bad.
I trust only you to write me a fitting epitaph. Wear a big bow tie. Put on a show.