An Extra Ingredient!

This week we’re very lucky to have Sue Moorcroft Sunday Times and international bestselling author send us a writing tip. Sue is worth reading, she has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle, won the Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary; and she’s been nominated for several other awards, including a RoNA.

A writer of short stories, serials, columns and writing ‘how to’, Sue’s courses have appeared all over the world!

Her current release is Let it Snow, in which Lily the heroine searches for her half-brothers. Lily’s quest takes her from the frosty cottages of Middledip village to the snowy mountains of Switzerland. The ebook is out now with the paperback and audio available on the 14th November 2019

-  A tip from Sue Moorcroft

You’ve written a story, a good one. You’ve created a high-stakes conflict to hurl at your central character and had her or him solve it via a pivotal moment. Your setting’s vivid; your characters jump from the page; you’ve spoken your dialogue aloud. There’s no overuse of adverbs, repetition, passive or loose sentences. Your metaphors and similes are poetry.

And yet you’re not satisfied.

Where do you look for that extra ingredient to catch the eye of an editor or judge?

How about a specific angle in your structure? An easy example of this is the ‘epistolary form’, which means a story told in the form of correspondence. For years – centuries, I suppose – it often meant letters but now we’re equally likely to see email or other electronic communication. For the purpose of this post I’m going to use the word ‘message’.

Maybe it’s because we’re taught not to read the messages of others that reading one within a story can be so intriguing? You can tell an entire story in the form of messages or just introduce one at the right moment.

We tend to write (text/message/e-mail) in our own voice or some version of it. You can use this fact to create a strong impression of the character responsible. This can be especially useful if you want to bring out the voice of a character who has no viewpoint and little or no dialogue.

A teenager’s text or WhatsApp:

hope u & dad r ok. thx 4 sending my course work can’t believe I forgot it lol.

A solicitor’s letter:

Dear Mrs Bell

I am writing to update you on …

A love letter:

Hey, sexy buns …

A threatening note:

Some people should know when to shut up …

Cyber bullying:

Everyone knows you’re …

Messages can be a brilliant way of getting information over to readers without the dreaded ‘infodump’. If you’re writing about a character with an unusual medical condition, creating a message board for the sufferers in your story provides an accessible way to get background detail across.

Big Bob: What I find the hardest to deal with is the shakes from the meds. Anyone else get this?

Little Ted: It’s a stress when you’re trying to talk to a girl, isn’t it? I spend a lot of time with my hands jammed in my pockets.

This personalises the condition you’re trying to convey and prevents your story plunging into passages that sound like a medical text book.

Here are a few ideas for utilising written communications in fiction. Just add imagination:

o   Letters

o   emails

o   Texts/WhatsApp

o   Social media posts

o   Diary entries

o   Log book entries

o   Reports (medical/school/work/prison)

o   Sticky notes

o   Graffiti

o   Lists

o   Recipes

o   Blogs/blog comments

o   Newspaper/magazine articles

o   Footnotes

o   Excerpts from books

o   Songs or poems

Note: It’s important to be aware that it may not possible to use lyrics from songs or excerpts from books without gaining permission from the rights holder. Check out the relevant copyright law, especially if the author is alive or died less than seventy years ago. Or write your own!

 

Get on the Customer’s Shelf

“Booksellers are Pragmatists,” says Crispin Drummond, proprietor of P&G Wells independent booksellers in Winchester, “not Romanticists.”

The Shop at College Street

P&G Wells have been in the business of selling books for over 200 years. Crispin was sold the shop on College Street after one too many glasses of wine. His only credentials — he liked to read. A year of learning on the job followed. He learned that the horror stories are true; there are too many books, chain-stores are closing and yes, authors are getting a bad deal from publishers.

The bookseller is firmly on the side of the customer and P&G Wells’ first policy is to give thoughtful customers a wide choice. So, when looking at new titles, deciding what to stock, he considers the customer and listens to their wavelength. The bookseller will think on over 50,000 titles, of those they will stock roughly 8,000. For a pragmatist, choosing those titles is blissfully free of the sentimentalities suffered by the romanticist. Of course, he doesn’t do “blissfully”.

“The average British reader only buys 3 books a year.” Crispin reports, “5 at most.”

The bookseller’s customers will not be swayed by the Best Seller label, they can get those anywhere. It is the fresh books that sell. P&G Wells supports a far larger number of authors than any of the chain stores, regardless of who publishes them.

To get your book on the P&G Wells customers’ shelves, it must be well-written, it needs to have something new, bring something special to the shelf. The customers would not forgive the bookseller for offering them something that was run-of-the-mill. They do not buy the same-old, same-old.

“Obviously, the booksellers’ best time of the year is Christmas.” Crispin told the members and guests gathered, “When the ideal customer is the one who wants to buy presents for every member of their family. And P&G Wells has just the book for each of them.”

Crispin is the Hampshire Writers’ Society treasurer. He is the bookseller in the foyer at every Tuesday night meeting.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

September 2019 Competition Results: Ed Davey – Adjudicator

Firstly – congratulations to our winners of 200 year celebration of Keats’ Ode! 

First Place: The Picking Party by Colin Johnson

Second Place: The Coffin Walk by George Rodger

Third Place: An Imagined Letter to John Keats by Mark Eyles

Highly Commended: Autumn Ode by Gill Hollands

Highly Commended: To Swell the Gourd by Viv Smith

 

The September competition was judged by travel writer, journalist and novelist, Ed Davey.   The brief was to write a travel article in 300 words.

And the winners were:

First Place:  The Christmas Hippo by George Rodger    

Second Place: Cool Runnings Catamaran by Lynn Clement

Third Place: An Island of Contradictions by Frank Carver       

Highly Commended: The Bear by Rosie Sutcliffe  

Highly Commended: Viet Mong by David Lea       

George and Ed

Winner, George Rodger, with Tuesday’s speaker, Ed Davey.

   Photo by Alex Carter

First Place: The Christmas Hippo by George Rodger   

Hippo

The Christmas Hippo – a week spent at Royal Zambezi Lodge, Zambia

Groucho Marx said, “I woke up one morning in Africa, walked out of my tent and shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into them, I’ll never know”.

Here I was, in my pyjamas, outside a tent in Africa trying to shoot a hippo. With a camera. Despite being such massive, lens-filling icons, hippos are very shy creatures and when approached, tantalisingly show their heads and twitching semaphore ears before sinking from view. At night they come ashore to graze. I gave up and returned to bed. It was before dawn and we were spending Christmas in a tented unit in Royal Zambezi Lodge in Zambia.

The lodge’s slogan is “Where Luxury meets the Wild”. Leave the bar after dark and an armed guard escorts you to your tent. You never know what’s walking around the camp at night! Each riverfront unit is on stilts to cope with the rise and fall of the Zambezi. Raise your head from your cotton pillow in the morning and you look straight across the river to Zimbabwe, two kilometres away.

There are game drives in four-wheel drive vehicles daily although many people come to Royal Zambezi for the fishing. The King of the River is the Tigerfish. It rises out of the water like a Marlin, dancing on its tail as he tries to throw the hook. The Tiger is pure muscular aggression, from its broad tail to its terrifying mouth with teeth that are a Jurassic nightmare. It can remove an unwary angler’s finger and are fast enough to have caught low-flying birds.

By Christmas Day, I still hadn’t got near enough to a hippo to capture a really memorable photograph. We were drifting downstream on the boat when suddenly our guide whispered, “Hippos, right behind us” as a pod emerged out of the water into the fiery path of the sunset reflected on the river. I trained my camera and finally got one, mouth open, laughing.

And not a Marx Brother in sight.

Second Place:  Cool Runnings Catamaran by Lynn Clement   Cool runnings jpegThird Place: An Island of Contradictions by Frank Carver  

Weather information is online these days, so I am prepared for the 38-degree heat. The surprise is the altitude. I do not consider its elevation until we step from the plane in Salt Lake City. A lake as high as the top of Ben Nevis.

We drive for an hour through the city to the ragged edge of the street grid and finally the long curve of a causeway. Ahead a white and silver blur, salt flats blending into the lake edge. Beyond that, the hazy bulk of Antelope Island State Park. Gulls wheel above the salt water, seven hundred miles from the ocean.

A park ranger explains about geography, history and wildlife. “With the shrinking lake and the new causeway, it’s not really an island anymore.” The ranger taps the flint spearhead shape of the park on a scale model. “and the ‘antelopes’ are not antelopes, but closer to giraffes.”

From the beachside car park, the lake looks much further away. The path submerges in a low dune, but we carry on, each pace cracking a crisp layer of salt beneath our feet, crème brûlée in silver-grey.

Everything appears fuzzy near the waterline. Our movements disturb millions of tiny flies which swirl and disperse, never rising more than a few centimetres. They don’t bite but their patterns are mesmerising, shifting with every step.

We abandon shoes and socks without fear of rising tides, wade into the warm shallow water and pause, calf deep, enchanted by underwater clouds of pale brine shrimp which dance around our legs. Too salty for predatory fish, there’s nothing to keep the shrimps from multiplying. In front of us the Great Salt Lake shimmers into the distance. Behind, the parched brown spine of the island rises another thousand feet.

Highly Commended: The Bear by Rosie Sutclfife

The path wound between magnificent conifers, skirting the shoreline of the brackish lake, towards the large wooden shed. I hesitated at the entrance aware that this was the beginning of a twelve-hour vigil and like a diver about to plunge into deep water, I took a great gasp of fresh, pine scented air before lunging into the warm, musty darkness of the hide.

Finland was all about long forest treks, bracingly cold spring water, the thrill of venturing onto the no mans land fringe of the Russian border. The afternoon had passed with a ponderous circumnavigation of the lake by canoe, followed by a tentative five minutes in the sauna and even more tentative toe dipping in the lake. Now was to come the highlight of the trip, a night of midnight sun, or at least a dusk, followed rapidly by a dawn and with luck a sighting at some point of a European Brown Bear.

I sat motionless, eyes straining to catch that elusive glimpse of the great boreal ursus. Hooded crows, hardly seeming related to their malachite British cousins descended in flurries of frenetic activity as the hours passed. I grew stiff from staying motionless, like a Buddhist monk practising tranquillity ,  I reached a state of quiet stillness.

Suddenly, silently, a subtle parting of the bushes as a great bear emerged and padded towards the hide, strings of drool hanging from its expectant maw as nostrils flexing it sought the nuts and berries hidden to lure it to us.

A great wave of emotion pulsed through me, a kind of wild excitement rarely felt in adulthood, mixed with a powerful awe for this majestic creature. Breaking the stillness I reached for my camera to capture the moment. Too late. The bushes closed over his departing form. The memory embedded in my mind must suffice.

 

Highly Commended: Viet Mong by David Lea

We arrived at the entrance to Angkor Wat early one morning towards the end of our sixteen-day “Asian Adventures Guided Tour to Vietnam and Cambodia”. There were twenty-four of us, mostly late-middle-aged, mostly retired and mostly biddable and uncontentious. Over the previous two weeks we had shared tuk-tuks through the Hanoi traffic, visited Uncle Ho’s mausoleum and gone down the Viet Cong tunnels; we had shared imodium tablets, exchanged confidences and swapped biographies: we had bonded.

Affinities and preferences had been established and, each morning, there were unspoken manoeuvres as we made for the seats on the coach near our own special friends. Nobody wanted to sit next to John: six feet three or four and in his late sixties, he wore synthetic red shorts, luminous trainers and a Hanoi T-shirt.

That morning at Angkor, our guide, Saroath, was introducing us to the site when he was interrupted by John: ‘What’s a mong?’ he snorted, casting about for someone he could share the joke with.

‘Saroath was talking about monks, John. Over there by the steps.’ John’s wife pointed to the young monks in their robes.

‘I was raised by monks,’ said Saroath, although, again, what we actually heard was, ‘I was raised by mongs’.

A stifled giggle from John and an awkward silence.

Then someone asked, ‘Why were you brought up by monks?’

‘My parents died when I was three: the Khmer Rouge murdered them. It is not unusual.’

The next day, John decided against the optional tour to the floating village. His wife came with us, but John spent the day floating on his back in the hotel swimming pool. At the buffet breakfast the following morning, he glowed.

He shone. He radiated heat.

He was a bright and painful, sunburnt pink.

And the group bond was decidedly stronger.

 

 

E.M. Davey: Fiction as a Window on Our World

E. M Davey

“A thriller writer needs to gain the trust of his reader.” E.M. Davey informs the gathered guests and members of the Hampshire Writers’ Society. With this in mind, he seeks out genuine ancient text, quotes and voices from those who were there, actually on site at the time to use in his conspiracy thrillers.

No stranger to the media, Ed decided on the use of the pseudonym E.M Davey, after being confused one too many times with Ed Davey MP. His day-job is in investigative journalism, harbouring a stint in undercover filming with a passion for travel and he uses it all to influence his thrillers. He grins when he points out that his job is exciting and a lot of fun. If the anecdotes he regaled us all with are anything to go by, his novels will be full of fascinating characters, beautiful settings and bustling cities.

“There’s something about that world that attracts absolute nutters!” he assures us.

It was the British Museum that captured his interest in history and he went on to study it at University. That was 15 years ago and he confesses to still uncovering ancient unknown civilisations. Clearly, he remains fascinated.

After pin-pointing the idea that will spark a novel, Ed totally immerses himself in his subject. He reads up extensively on it, attends exhibitions about it, watches documentaries on it and visits the setting. Seeing himself as a magpie, collecting snippets of information that will interest people, he’s never without his diary and now has a shelf of colourful, one-off, first account records for the 60 or so settings that he has visited.

“Find your Investigator’s Friend.” he advises.

Ed’s was invaluable when after researching in China he arrived home to find he’d been so blown away by the setting, he hadn’t taken any notes and for a writer so bullet pointed as E.M. Davey that wasn’t good.

“Its like being a bad, tabloid journalist, taking a quote and blowing it out of context.” he says.

A knowledge of the law is handy, although a writer, no matter how absorbed in their subject should have a care for the humanity in people. Those who have only recently passed-away may have family trusts set up.

There’s no right way to writing a novel, he tells us. In fact, Ed’s wife writes in the exact opposite way to his organised, chronological plotting, arcing, drafting and editing.

Ed’s system is to equip himself with a large Black and Red book which he then divides into colour coded sections in which to file his research. When the book is full, he creates a word document for each part and transfers all the information.

He then makes around 50 bullet points and begins dropping bits and pieces of story, character, setting in between these until an unashamedly large first draft is formed. A hard edit is then embarked upon, followed by 2 or 3 more until the final edit is down to roughly 80,000 words.

Here, Ed imparts a piece of advice that he was given when concerned that his books were boring. “Remember, none of your readers have read any of your book before. So, it is bound to seem boring to you; especially after 2 or 3 hundred reads.”

Report by Lisa Nightingale

September is a New Year

September! For Hampshire Writers’ Society, September is the start of a whole new year. The programme for our forthcoming season is now shining brighter than a diamond on the website.

E. M Davey

We’re starting the year off with Thriller writer E. M Davey. Ed spent eight years with the BBC, going undercover for Panorama, presenting the BBC World Service, and working on investigations for Newsnight, File on 4, and News at Six. He has visited more than sixty countries and next Tuesday Winchester where he will recount to HWS how adventure, travel, history, and investigative journalism have inspired his thrillers.
PG Wells Proprietor and HWS Treasurer, Crispin Drummond is our special guest. Crispin will spill the beans on how book shops choose the books that they stock and sell and where those books come from. His talk will be a must for writers planning on self-publishing.

Claire Dyer

In October, our speaker is Claire Dyer. Claire is a novelist and poet who likes love stories and cheese! However, she is “allergic to mussels, oysters and the like.” Still, Claire is proud to announce that she has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London which, when added to her BA in English & History from the University of Birmingham, and her MA in Victorian Literature & Culture from the University of Reading she has “three degrees so all she needs is to be able to sing in tune and wear sequins without looking foolish!” You must join us for Claire’s talk; it promises to be a giggle. Writer and poet Hilary Hares joins Claire as special guest.

Laura Williams

Literary Agent, Laura Williams in November is going to bring us all back down to earth with some myth-busting about the publications industry. November special guest is to be novelist of history and the supernatural, Emma Nichol-Lewis.

Caroline Wintersgill

Editor, Caroline Wintersgill in December is going to let us in on a secret – What Editors Want. Our own wonderful historical novelist, David Eadsforth is our Christmassy special guest.
Before you get excited about Christmas, HWS has four excellent speakers worth a listen even if their writing isn’t your thing. All genres, types, makes or brands of writing go into making a novelist and our speakers are eager to pass on that tip-bit that will click all your everythings together.

Check the programme on the website for monthly competitions and the remainder of the 2019-2020 programme.

Post by Lisa Nightingale

A Bond of Brothers (and sisters)


HWS blog is going Guildford this time to meet the Hogs Back Writers. Fellow writer and Winchester Writers’ Fest goer, Richard Fuller is our inspiration, here he tells us what Hogs Back Writers get up to at their meetings:

Hogs Back Writers’ Village Hall

We walk up the unlit, unmade, muddy lane, past mouldering gravestones and uncut grass, a bitter winter wind at our backs, before climbing the steep uneven steps at journeys end.

No, not the beginning of a novel, but the path from the car park to Hogs Back Writers regular meetings in a small village hall, between Farnham and Guildford. Why so remote? The answer is long gone. I’ve been a member for nigh on ten years, and the group was old then. I can give the reason for us staying, the hall is cheap and convenient(ish), though on a January night…

So why belong to a writer’s group, and why Hog’s Back?

I’ll answer those questions in reverse order to explain the benefits of our great little group of seventeen members, which include two published, and another two agented authors. Nearly everyone is writing novels, with a couple of exceptions in non-fiction. There is no poetry and only the occasional short story. Nearly everyone has managed to complete a first draft, we are all in the same metaphoric boat.

Writing, we know, is a solitary business, hours locked away with just a keyboard and spell check for company, but it needn’t be. I look forward to seeing my fellow writers. We share our problems, discuss sticky plot points, get considered feedback on our hard penned words. Not the ‘Lovely, dear,’ from friends and relatives, who think you need to be humoured.

Why Hogs Back? We meet most Mondays for critique of manuscripts. Bring along up to 2500 troublesome words, hand out half a dozen printed copies and read out your worries. The printouts are marked up with whatever anyone feels appropriate, and a ten minute discussion (not hard and fast) follows, in which members describe what they liked and where things might be improved. Of course it doesn’t always work, one person may say they thought the “voice” was perfect for the character, and the next may well suggest the opposite. But at least it gives you, the author, something to think about.

Our biggest benefits though, are not just in the critique. Every third Monday we lock away the manuscripts and meet in a pub, aptly named The Good Intent, to have a themed chat about writerly things, such as character, viewpoint, plotting, book blurbs, or anything else bothering us. These nights are some of the most useful things we do.

Then there are the Jellies.  We hold them a couple of times a year in a local hall. A writing day with quiet distraction-free time and a social buffet lunch. More recently we’ve taken to holding Trifles as well. Oh come on, a trifle is like a Jelly but more complicated- it’s a writing weekend. We have used the same large house in Margate several times, lots of bedrooms and writing spaces, sea views, and the companionship of fellow writers, oh yes and wine, lots of wine.

We also offer each other much needed support with such painful topics as synopses, and agent letters. We celebrate member’s successes and awards. We occasionally have guest speakers and of course there is the annual Christmas party with it’s hard fought flash fiction competition, mince pies, and, dare I say, lots of wine.

So that is Hogs Back, a very sociable addition to the solitude of writing. But please don’t rush to contact us, we are not looking for new members right now…

Post by Richard Fuller

 

Beacon Productions

Our blog post this week comes from Portsmouth based Simon Sansbury. A member of the Portsmouth Writers’ Hub, Simon is also part of Beacon Productions. If you have a drama, comedy or thriller you’d like to see produced either on screen or audio Beacon would love to hear from you – read on…

Beacon Productions is a not-for-profit group based in the Locks Heath area of Southampton. We’ve been running for over thirty years and currently have about fifty members aged between 18 and 79.             

Over the years the group has produced numerous shows. The longest running of these being the science fiction show, ‘The Adventures of Stephen Brown’. We’ve also produced soap operas, thriller series and short films.  

Beacon Nonsense

Currently in production we have a drama serial based around a coffee shop ’80 degrees’, an escape room show ‘Big White Doors’, a gameshow ‘Beacon Nonsense’ and have just begun a legal/socio-political science fiction audio series ‘Phipps Files’. As well as converting thriller series ‘Ninth Man’ for audio, we have a podcast and a couple of stand-alone audio dramas.

Zombies in a field – Day 66

Being a small group, our resources are limited and thus feature length films with a large cast, complicated set or location requirements present difficulties. But, set and location considerations don’t apply to audio dramas.

Knowing how many characters a script has, what genders and ages they are, what locations or sets are required (for film) helps us decide what is practical. The simplest things of all for us to record are of course short stories which require neither locations, sets or actors.

All of the output we create is uploaded to our YouTube or Soundcloud. You can find out more about us on our website.

 

CHINDI

The Winchester Writers Fest, attracts attendees from all over the world and a week ago on Saturday, Karin and I met up with many of them. So, for the next couple of posts, the blog is going to branch out into our surrounding counties and hear some of their inspirational stories

CHINDI (Celebrating and Helping Indy authors) is a network of independent authors based in West Sussex. Running online and live events, sharing ideas, expertise and contacts, they encourage independent authors to follow their dreams by supporting them in the creation of excellent printed, ‘e’ and audio books, followed by marketing, promotion and selling opportunities.

Helen Christmas, member of CHINDI and author of five self-published romantic thriller suspense takes time out from event organising at the Festival of Chichester to tell us a little more about them.

CHINDI Members at the Southern Book Fair

It is CHINDI’s belief that independently published books are as valid and exciting as those produced the traditional way; the authors have the same expectation and levels of excellence in production values and gripping content.

CHINDI works with retailers, media and event organisers to promote our member’s books, working in harmony with traditional agents and publishers.

The advice on offer comes from authors who have been there, done that. Answering many and varied questions, the likes of: Where do I find a good proofreader? How do I produce an e-book? What the heck is an ISBN? We share what worked and what didn’t through our private Facebook page CHINUP.

Members support each other through social media campaigns. We attend events, hold our own panel discussions and library talks, we regularly run competitions and blog tours too promoting our books. CHINDI has supported charities including Dyslexia Action, Words for the Wounded and Cancer UK.

A very enthusiastic group of authors, we encourage members to actively support each other as much as possible, whether that be simply reading each other’s books and manning book stalls or joining in our events.

At the Arundel Festival

New members are invited to join the CHINDI Facebook group, Chinup, where we share resources, such as self-publishing tips, seminars and blogs, anything to help with promotion. We follow each other on Twitter too and have a CHINDI account which is an easy way to share content.

We occasionally have meetings by zoom online conferencing!

The benefits of being a member are numerous but here is some information from our website:

Profile on CHINDI Author Website,
Have your books listed by genre in our Readers Section,
Join our CHINUP Facebook page for online discussions, sharing promotions and networking,
Eligibility to upload own videos/book trailers to Chindi Youtube Channel,
Inclusion in media PR programme,
Speaking opportunities at events,
Sales opportunity at events and market stalls etc.
Access to database of writing competitions,
Inclusion in CHINDI quarterly newsletters,
Shared knowledge and experiences of the group,
Free feedback on proposed cover designs and early drafts (this is not a full proofreading or editing service but might suggest you need these)

Chindi is set up as a not for profit Community Interest Company. Fees go towards hosting the website, booking rooms, funding promotional material etc. Find out about membership and events at https://www.chindi-authors.co.uk/

Festival Season – Writers are no Exeption!

The HWS stand spent last weekend at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. The festival, if you’ve ever been, is one exhilarating time. Friday night is spent debating discussions, before thrashing out the open mike. See Damon’s blog spot of April 29 Ends – Bar the Shouting in the Terrace.

Back to back workshops run all day on the Saturday, stopping only for a short lunch. But one-to-one appointments booked with any one of up to thirty agents, editors, writers and publishers continue throughout – there is so much to think about. And it’s all nourishment for a writer’s mind, inspiration stimulating the imagination. Its bliss! The fresh faces that started the day are, by tea-time blushed with unspoken ideas, itching to get onto the page. That’s all before socialising once again at the sumptuous evening dinner.

This year a well-deserved memorial to our beloved Barbara Large, the founder of, not only the Hampshire Writers’ Society, but the Winchester Writers’ Festival too, took place in the on-campus chapel at six o’clock. It was somewhat satisfying to discover what a foodie Barbara actually was. Long live the Luscious Lasagnes!

The Winchester Writers’ festival can be credited with the creation of so many new friends and contacts. A writer’s life need not be so lonely after all. Travel, trips abroad and holidays were one mainstay of the HWS stand, intriguing stories were another and of course, vampires! Oh, and writing

All in all, twenty-five new names have been added to the HWS lists. Welcome all! We so hope to meet you again in September. In the meantime – stay right here!

Wordtamer Competition: Adjudicator, Judy Waite

Following on from her recent talk, ‘Creative Curiosity’, children’s author and University Lecturer, Judy Waite, set a competition to write the first 300 words of a middle-grade children’s novel, inspired by her ‘Wordtamer’ method of creativity.

The winners were:

First Place: Hush by Helen Adlam

At first I thought it had snowed.  The room was so still, like a thick blanket of quiet had been wrapped around the whole cottage.  I sat up in bed and lifted the corner of the curtain.

Nope. Darmoor was flat, boring and brown, same as it had been when we’d arrived yesterday.  Well, there was a hint of colour, just on the horizon.  Kind of purple, or maybe black?  Weird.  But that was it.

I grabbed my hoodie off the floor.  The room was cold, probably because no one had bothered to check out the heating last night.  We’d lit the log burner and played Monopoly in the little, dark sitting room, then, when my sister Jess flipped out because I wouldn’t give – yeah give – her Park Lane, I’d given up and gone to bed.  The whole evening was a disaster, not helped by dad freaking us out with this ‘lone-wolf-on-the-moor’ ghost story.  Which – I looked across the room, yup – which explained why Jess’s bed clearly hadn’t been slept in. She was scared of the dark at the best of times so she’d be in with mum and dad.

I went downstairs, hoping someone had got the bacon on.  Or at least the kettle.  Yet again, nope.  No sign of anything happening there.  The sitting room was just as I’d left it.  I mean, literally.  Which was odd.  The Monopoly board was upside down on the floor and the pieces were scattered around.

I was starting to feel a bit, I dunno, bothered.

‘Mum!’  I called out.  ‘Hey,  M .. U … M…’ but my voice seemed to soak into the thick stone walls.  ‘Dad?’  I tried.  ‘Anyone?’

Upstairs, the door to mum and dad’s room was closed.  The handle, cold, black, wrought iron, was stiff.  I pushed down hard and eventually the catch gave.  The door swung open.   Without even looking I knew the room would be empty.  The bed untouched.  And I was right.

Second Place: The Ghostly Hand by Cass Morgan

Lucy ran out the bathroom and screamed. ‘The ghostly hand. It’s back!’

‘Again?’ My insides froze.

The door banged. Joanne barged out. ‘Eeeeeeekkk!’

‘It reached through the mirror,’ said Lucy.

‘Blue and misty fingers,’ hissed Joanne.

‘What are we going to do?’ I asked.

A voice boomed behind. ‘WHAT is going on?’

‘Aaargh!’ we shrieked.

‘QUIET!’ bellowed Mr Edwards.

‘The ghostly hand is back,’ I whispered.

Fear flickered on his face, then he blinked. His I-am-the-headmaster eyes returned. ‘Ridiculous,’ he muttered.

‘It’s true,’ said Lucy.

‘I saw it, too,’ said Joanne.

‘Did you?’ he asked me.

‘Um, no.’

Lucy scowled. Joanne frowned. They looked at each other. ‘But I believe them,’ I said. And I had. Every time they’d seen it in that old mirror by the door.

‘The bathroom is out of bounds.’ Mr Edwards marched away, then marched back with a sign, a hammer and a bag of nails.

BANG-BANG-BANG.

DANGER. Keep Out! it read.

Lucy shivered. ‘I left my scarf in there.’

‘Share mine,’ said Joanne, huddling close.

‘Share mine, too,’ I said.

‘I don’t want to. You didn’t believe us.’

‘I do. I’m your friend.’

‘Prove it,’ whispered Lucy. ‘Get my scarf.’

I crept to the bathroom, heart pounding don’t-go-DON’T-GO and nudged open the door.
I am scared. I should not be here.

The mirror was clear, the scarf right underneath. I bent down and grabbed it.

HISSSSS.

My head shot up. The tap had turned on and water gushed out. I stood up and turned
it off. Something brushed against my hair. My breath froze. I darted forwards, and that something grabbed my wrist.

Blue fingers clutched me, feathers and pins on my skin. The mirror misted. The hand pulled me nearer and nearer.

H-e-l-p, I mouthed. A shout no-one would hear.

Third Place: So Heroic by Annie Gray

I didn’t know cows could run.

That was my first thought.

As Toby and I stood at the foot of the hill, watching tons of cow galumphing down to

mash us into the squishy Dorset grass, my second thought was “Cows shouldn’t be

allowed to run – they look well-awkward :  all rolling fat over knobbly legs”.

Finally,  the thought… I should run now…

I, not we.   NOT my most heroic moment – abandoning my eight-year-old brother!

Back at the campsite, Toby told Mum it was “all Layla’s fault” he’d ripped his jacket by scooting under the barbed wire fence in a panic.    She harped on about how we needed to “respect the countryside code”.   I didn’t dare tell her that  “Cow-gate” had happened in a field marked  “Keep Out”.   The cows had looked chilled-out.. so there couldn’t be anything child-hazardy there !

Next day, we visited The Village.    Our clapped-out car skittered  along the chalky track, set high over deep valleys on one side and hills on the other.   Mum used the word “majestic” LOTS …we weren’t  listening.  We were busy sign-spotting.

“Military Firing Range”

“Do not touch any military debris.  It may explode and kill you”

Toby’s eyes were round with excitement.

When we arrived in the tiny parking area, I tuned in to Mum who was giving us one of her history lectures, “The villagers had to leave in 1943 …never allowed to return.  It’s been a ghost village ever since. The public can only visit on certain days.”

I spotted crystal beads of sand littering the pavement and a sign pointed “To The Beach”.   But I turned uphill – past the row of roofless cottages – to the schoolhouse.    Inside, above rusting coat hooks, I found names :  Violet, Walter, Dorothy…

A strange sense of anticipation razored through me…

Highly Commended: Radio Flyer by Nigel Luck

That freedom when you first learn to ride a bike is a special moment. Neil was still waiting for this moment to arrive. His friends had talked of it, but they had practised with stabilizers. Neil’s Dad thought stabilisers a waste of time. After failed attempts to remain upright and several grazed knees, his Dad had decided, ‘What he needs is an incentive!’ With this in mind he had chosen the steepest hill he could find. On the left of the narrow path, picket fences with dangerously sharp looking points, to the right ….brambles, with the nastiest looking thorns Neil had ever seen. And now he was sat on the bike his Dad clutching the back of the seat.

‘You won’t let go will you?’ asked Neil shakily.

‘Of course not’ replied Dad, ‘I’ll be right behind you. Now peddle!’

The bike took off rapidly and picked up speed.

‘You’re doing it!’ shouted a voice from behind, a bit too far behind Neil thought. He turned to see his Dad still stood at the top of the hill. He panicked, the bike wobbled and the front wheel hit a bump launching it into the air, but Neil didn’t stop peddling and the bike didn’t come down. Instead it continued to rise above the roofs of the houses. Below he could see the Grover’s from number 25 staring up at him. The bike flew past the street and to the beech. With no idea how to stop as he headed out over the sea he had two thoughts, firstly, riding a bike was actually fun and secondly he wished he’d packed a snack.

Later that night as Neil’s Dad tried to explain to his wife why he’d launched their son from the top of a hill, the Grover’s were being interviewed on the news ‘We thought it was a plane at first’ they said. Which was exactly the moment Neil could no longer continue peddling and his bike plunged towards the sea.

Highly Commended: Remembering Lilliput by Mark Eyles

Tiny villagers cowered in their model village as the sea breeze whistled above. Peering from windows they saw a giant shadow moving by, Harry Pebbles the village attendant locking up for the night. Tommy Minstrel was sitting, banjo on his lap, waiting for the village to be closed, the visitors all gone. He glanced at the ‘no music’ sign, a trumpet with a red line slashed through it, and sighed. A giant face swung passed the nook window of The Gallows’ Basket Inn where Tommy was quietly sitting. The giant’s eye winked. There followed a loud clang and rattle of chains.

Sea breeze and silence.

With a collective outbreath the tiny villagers relaxed and started talking, finally able to safely leave their houses. The giants who loomed oppressively over them during the day were gone. The villagers came out of hiding into the twilight, no longer fearing the sounds they made. Tommy took up his banjo and started plucking The Lilliput Lament, a song of the faraway land their forebears came from, escaping an oppressive regime. Playing under the ‘no music’ sign, the first song of the evening always felt like an act of rebellion.

Though they had freedom in their village, they knew discovery was death. Their new giant neighbours did not understand them, apart from Harry who made sure the well was always full, the food store replenished.

Tommy struck up ‘I May Be Tiny, But I Am Free’. As villagers joined him in the Inn, Tommy’s eyes briefly glazed with tears. He clutched the banjo tightly, his voice rising above the stamp of dancing feet.