December 2019 Competition Results: Caroline Wintersgill – Adjudicator

The December competition was judged by editor, Caroline Wintersgill.  The brief was to write a 300 word novel pitch to an editor.

And the winners were:

First Place:  Jane Austen Pitch by Angela Chadwick    

Second Place: Icefall by Mark Eyles

Third Place: Dear Wolfy by Grant Taylor         

Highly Commended: Dear Mr Johnson (The Woman Who Does Not Exist) by Margaret Jennings

Highly Commended: Brexit, A Survivor’s Guide by Kate Loveridge          

December Competition Winners: Kate Loveridge, Angela Chadwick and Mark Eyles

Photograph by Summer Quigley

First Place: Jane Austen Pitch by Angela Chadwick

Dear Ms Wintersgill

I wonder if you, like me, are exhausted by the current crop of romance novels featuring endless numbers of kidnappings, where our poor, endangered heroine must flee in a state of some considerable disarray across wild and windswept moors or face the destruction of her simpering purity. Indeed, the fear and suspense leave me quite faint.

I believe today’s women no longer require brutish, unnatural acts to find passion.  My heroine is a modern woman herself. Civilised, educated and well-read, she is in charge of her future and refuses to settle for less than her worth.

My novel, Pride and Prejudice, is a romance, unique in its tone and construction. Might I venture to say it is a delightful take of the Enemies to Lovers trope. Written as a modern-day play on manners, the hero is the sort of man you could happily introduce to your parents without giving them undue concern for your future safety or prosperity. Initially abrasive, he does a good job of redeeming himself when he successfully saves the cat (in this case a foolish, naïve and headstrong girl – oh yes! There is a moral).

The villain is indeed villainous but (mostly) within the confines of the law. We do after all live in a society where young women of good family cannot just disappear without causing much consternation.

Written in a light, slightly humorous tone, this book is the first of many I can offer to you. Dare I say it, this novel is revolutionary. I believe its charm will be enduring and it will set the tone for the new century.

I, myself, am a woman of good character; a vicar’s daughter. With your help, maybe one day I can designate myself, published author.

Yours sincerely

Jane Austen

 

Second Place: Icefall by Mark Eyles 

Dear Caroline

I am pitching my first (100,000 word) book, Icefall, in a sci-fi space opera series. I’ve had a passion for writing my whole life and have been honing storytelling skills working as a video game designer and Principle Lecturer teaching game design and interactive storytelling. I have previously written series for 2000 AD (Wire Heads, PARAsites), weekly scripts for Sonic the Comic (including the popular Zonerunner series) and was published in Fear magazine. I have taught a creative writing evening class and recently worked on a transmedia storytelling project (Cursed City, Dark Tide).

Icefall pitch: “Planetary intelligences, flocking ships, star destroying music and quality assurance clash at an outpost built by deranged robots.”

Icefall brief synopsis: “Carrying out quality assurance on a new outpost, far along the Orion-Cygnis arm, should have been simple for Checkani NiFe. Unfortunately, she discovers the robot builders have created a deadly maze of overlapping cities on the icy planet. Struggling to survive and unlock the planet’s secrets she is hindered by a gender neutral 232-year-old, an autistic musical savant, an inept assassin, a clutch of bickering spaceships and a community of stoic squatters hiding fearful abilities. However, the greatest threat comes from an entirely different universe triggering events that change everything, forever.”

Set in 3134, Icefall is the first volume in a series that moves from planet to planet back along the Orion-Cygnis Arm of the galaxy towards the Earth. The second volume Rocksunsea is in preparation.

First three chapters and full synopsis attached.

I believe Icefall and subsequent books would be a good fit for your company. Inspired by Iain M. Banks, the milieu, style and characters of my books would complement your existing books. I am especially encouraged by seeing the authors you already represent and believe I have something new and fresh to offer.

Thank you for taking the time to consider Icefall and my future books.

Best regards

Mark

Third Place: Dear Wolfy by Grant Taylor

The Old Morgue

                                                                                                            Lower Upping

Saint Eadburh’s Day  2019

Dear Wolfy,

I know you won’t mind me calling you Wolfy. As my putative editor I feel our relationship is close enough now for me to address you by your first name and Dear Mr Wolfgang Nachtnebel-Leichenberg is a bit of a mouthful after all.

Anyway, here it is! I guess you weren’t expecting this manuscript so soon Wolfy – or perhaps at all – but Dolina, my tiny, difficult wife just loves it. Eleven false starts, sixteen complete rewrites and not forgetting the 2018 housefire that destroyed my PC and most of the village . . . oh, and the unfortunate business with that awful court ruling . . .  but I got there in the end Wolfy.  Eight hundred and ninety-two pages of toil, perspiration and burning the candle at the bottom. But I’m sure you will agree every word is worth it.

The title deserves some explanation. I know, I know, “I Must Have Been Conscious” is a tad obscure for most tastes, but as you become engrossed you will see the relevance. After all, our hero has his flaws, as do we all Wolfy, as do we all.

The illustrations are by my ancient mother. In her dwindling years I concede that her monstrous, detailed, black spiderwork has become a trifle bizarre but I can explain the connection between mother’s asymmetrical Rorschach and my zesty prose in footnotes if you think it’s needed.

Finally, subject matter. I know you favour Scandi-noir but ‘write about what you know’ has become my maxim since our last difficult conversation. So, you will understand why neurological encephalitozoonosis in small rodents it is Wolfy. Our hero must face his demons after all.

Humbly I commit my work to your expert scrutiny in the knowledge that your silent support will be as challenging as ever.

Let me know your thoughts.

The world waits.

Love,

P Hubert Fuffing (Percy).

Highly Commended: Dear Mr Johnson (The Woman Who Does Not Exist) by Margaret Jennings 

Dear Mr Johnson,

I am sending you the details of my new novel because research tells me that you very much enjoy the gothic horror traits that this story portrays. I also suspect that this book might be a good fit with your other publications.

This novella is a work of  literary fiction. A dark psychological horror story with strong gothic elements, The Woman Who Does Not Exist is written in the unique voice of the first person main character. It is a voice you will never have heard before. The Woman Who Does Not Exist will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you rethink your relationship with the world. It is a shorter, more accessible version of Steven King’s horror stories and will be instantly recognisable as a distinctive new voice.

In brief, a woman believes there is a space built into the home she has lived in since childhood, a space where evil lurks. What will happen when the room is opened up?

I have been writing for many years and have an MA in Creative Writing. The Woman Who Does Not Exist my fourth novel. I write poetry, short stories and have recently branched out into playwriting and screenwriting. My first poetry chapbook, ‘Killing the Dragons,’ has recently been published and received good reviews.

Short listed in the Bridport for flash fiction and long listed for the Bare fiction literary prize, my work has appeared in several anthologies and The Lighthouse magazine.

I  enjoy reading at literary events and supporting other writers in their writing.

I hope you enjoy reading The Woman Who Does Not Exist chapters I have sent to you,

with best wishes,

Francis Liitlewood

Highly Commended: Brexit, A Survivor’s Guide  by Kate Loveridge 

Dear Caroline,

I’m currently seeking a publisher for my debut, Brexit – A Survivor’s Guide.

For Brexiteers and Remainers alike, this self-help bible will harness the anger and frustration of those unsure of the future and riddled with fatigue, guiding them through the next 30 years of inter-governmental negotiations, creating the power of positive in all areas of their lives, including:

Health, Well-being:

Yoga for Brexiteers – perfecting the flexible extension

Coastal waking for Remainers – avoiding the cliff edge

101 yummy chlorinated chicken recipes

Relationships Coping with the intolerance of your nearest and dearest

Influence your family to your point of view

Working Life and Finance

Keeping your job as companies fail

Managing budgets as prices soar

Fashion of the Supreme Court

What the not so hidden meaning of Baroness Hale’s broaches tell us about the constitution

Holidays

A traveller’s country-by-country guide to 194 trade deals

Can’t get a visa or afford travel insurance? Embracing the staycation

The back roads – avoiding Brexit motorway chaos in Dover and Portsmouth

Hobbies

Introduction to genealogy – find long-lost Irish, French, German or Greek ancestors to facilitate your EU passport.

Failing that, our guide to romance includes a full list of dating websites – your ideal EU match awaits to secure your EU citizen’s rights.

And much, much, much, much, much, much more!

“The GREATEST book…reading it makes me the smartest ever.”                        D. Trump

Teresa May or may not read this guide, but one thing is certain, “Brexit means Brexit”.

I’m currently working on my second tome, “Twenty-First Century Lorry Parks of Kent and Hampshire”.

Having lived and worked harmoniously in Europe for 50 years, I’ve recently taken residence in Brexit Party MEP Nigel Farrage’s constituency. The roller coaster ride of the past 3 ½ years has driven me to submit this proposal to you Caroline.

The synopsis is attached for your perusal. If you can bear to hear any more of Brexit, please get in touch.

Yours sincerely

 

 

What Editors Want!

“Editors are often thought of as gatekeepers, holding back the masses from Mount Olympus.” Caroline Wintersgill, editor for thirty years told the members and guests gathered for the December meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

Caroline Wintersgill

An editor, specialising in non-fiction, for publishers large and small, corporate and independent, including Bloomsbury, Cassell, Routledge and now Biteback, Caroline sees herself more as a curator. A “snapper up of unconsidered titles”. One of the first books she snapped up, the uninteresting sounding ALMANAC OF BRITISH POLITICS was given an illustrator whose caricatures bordered on rude, along with scurrilous, unheard excerpts from the Alan Clark diaries. The Almanac became fun to work with. “We worked on the knowledge that MPs rarely sue”, Caroline smiles, “they look too silly.”

Publishing a book is a process, a honing of skills, developing of a craft and it will pass through many hands before it comes to publication day. The editor’s appraisal will be based, using their experience of similar works, on the authors’ use of their artistic craft.

Publishers tend to problematise taste, turning it into a literary issue. It is the story that counts. Like all other readers, an editor desires an emotional sometimes visceral response to the proposed book. This is where the author needs to start. “When the book makes them shake,” Caroline laughs, “then the editor wants to work with it.”

With a non-fiction book, the chance of publicity is higher. Non-fiction books are much more likely to be included in the review sections of magazines and newspapers.

Perhaps for some nature, art, music, current events or cookery books, Caroline points out, it is necessary for the author to have an agent. But, in general it is possible for non-fiction authors to settle a good publishing deal without an agent. The life of a non-fiction book being longer than that of a fiction, the author may only write one or two books; this may not be the length of career that an agent is looking for.

For a non-fiction author, media platform is important. Your platform may start small, but it will expand. “Consider the CHEESE MONGER’S HISTORY OF THE BRITISH ISLES; the author had little more than his being a cheese monger that ran tasting events to go on. When published, the book outsold the popular fiction titles.

The author should know their audience, where to reach them and what they are looking for. Taking a risk, Caroline used previously unrecognised language in THE PRECARIAT, this catapulted the book into the limelight. Then, recognising that the book’s audience was not likely to buy it, she took a leap of faith and made chapters freely available to read on the internet. The book became a best seller rocketing the author to two four-figure deals with Bloomsbury.

Non-fiction authors do not need to wait until the manuscript is finished to submit it. A proposal of the work will do; an editor will be looking for a chance to shape the book for the correct market. Also included must be your title; it must be clear and memorable and the contents page which needs an outline of each section. The author still needs to be able to write, so also include a chapter or two. “It is difficult,” Caroline agrees, the sample chapters should show your distinctive voice but also the book’s similarity to the editor’s list.

Site your book, know the editor’s list, motivate them too. With the growth and ease of on-line shopping, readers can buy any or every book on earth; so why should they choose yours? Think of the best-known person in your field; this is your competitor.

Often working against a deadline, time constraints on the editor are tighter. The non-fiction publishing process is “old fashioned” with salespeople touring the booksellers roughly twelve months in advance. Remember, that salesperson will have only thirty seconds to sell your book to busy booksellers.

Create a buzz! If there’s a society that appreciates your subject, then you should join it. Do this prior to publication. “Have a go,” Caroline urges; write your blurb and an elevator sales pitch, gain a clear insight into the selling of your book and go some way to showing you what the editor is looking for.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Tips for Book Sellers!

The Hampshire Writers’ Society December book fair will be taking place in just a few days –

Tuesday 10 December at 6.00 pm.

So here are 6 very quick ways to promote your stall from author and strategist EMMA-NICOLE LEWIS.

Emma’s tips are a swift and easy way to let potential readers know about your presence at the book fair:

  1. ESTABLISH YOUR PROMOTIONAL HOOK

    Author and Strategist, Emma-Nicole Lewis

This is the first thing that you need to do. It will give you something to shout about that will attract attention and make people feel as though they’ll be missing out if they do not attend.

Is there something unique or special that you can offer on the night? Here are some examples:

‘Buy one book and get another half price’.

‘30% off on the night’

Everybody loves to feel like they have snagged themselves a bargain, so could you play with your pricing strategy? Use a pricing offer or a discount that works for you, without losing money.

Or, how about offering all those who buy on the night an entry into a prize draw for a 10 local bookshop voucher? If you are not successful, you can use the voucher in another promotion. You’re likely to only need sell a few books to get a return on that investment. If you feel confident that you are likely to break even through your sales, you can offer a bit more as a bigger hook.

Alternatively, you may want to lead with a message that focuses on supporting local authors this Christmas or lead with an offer that offers a personal touch. For example:

‘Give a unique gift to someone special this Christmas – a signed book containing a personal message from the author’.

It is up to you what kind of message you will use to draw people to the fair and your stall, but try and think of the sort of thing that is likely to appeal to your target readers.

When you have defined your ‘hook message’, ensure that this is exactly what you say on all promotional material. Consistency is key to reinforcing and reminding!

  1. PROMOTE ON YOUR WEBSITE

People stumble across your website all the time. Ensure the message is on the front page and in your news/events section or blog, if you have either of these menu options.

You could always direct people to your website’s contact page inviting them to get in touch in order to ‘reserve a book’ so that you can ensure that one is kept aside for them. If you generate responses to this, you are creating a level of commitment for visitors to actually attend and buy one of your books.

  1. USE SOCIAL MEDIA

    Goodies at HWS Book Fair

There are a variety of ways that you can use social media to shout about what you are offering at the book fair:

  • Creating a banner to add to your Facebook and Twitter accounts will help keep the message front of mind for all your followers. Below is an example of a Facebook banner I have used for promoting one of my own books. It sits on top of my author page so that followers always see it whenever they visit my page.
  • Create an event on Facebook. You have the option to do this on your main Facebook page and followers will see it.
  • Create a post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram promoting the fair and what you are offering there. Ensure that you use hashtags to attract local people, but you can take the message a little broader by popping some more generic ones in too. For example,

WinchesterChristmas

Winchester

Christmasmarkets

bookfair

Winchesterbookfair

I tend to check out which hashtags are trending and try and use them, if appropriate and relevant.

  • Publish an advert on Facebook, but ensure you refine it to only go out to UK Facebook Users and to those in ‘Winchester’. You may have to refine using ‘Winchester’ as part of the target audience’s interests. Cleverly work something into your copy in order to encourage people to comment on the post and share.
  1. USE LOCAL VENUES TO PROMOTE

Can you leaflet drop in coffee shops, specific shops that your readers are likely to visit, or community centre noticeboards?

The Stripe Lecture Theatre

Are there local book clubs you can send an email to, advising of the book fair and your promotional offer there – particularly if you are leading with a message that offers a discount to local book club members?

A successful tactic I once used was to stand up in front of a very large gym class and use the instructor’s microphone to promote my book. I left a home printed leaflet behind too. A large WI book club bought it as a result and that led to more opportunities too. So, if you are a member of a club or a gym, enquire whether they will let you shout about your stall. Make sure you do leave behind a leaflet though, as people will forget if they do not have something with details on it.

  1. TRY AND USE LOCAL PRESS

If there is time to get into a print run of a local paper and you think your message has enough stand out, then there is no harm in contacting the Daily Echo or the Chronicle. You are likely to have missed the opportunity with any of the Winchester magazines, but it is worth trying weekly publications.

  1. WORD OF MOUTH

    HWS June Book Fair

Ask your friends and family to share this message too. If you know anyone locally who has read your book, get them to recommend it and share the message. Word of mouth is a wonderful tool.

Myth-busting the Publications Industry; Laura Williams, Literary Agent

“It’s the best job in the world,” Laura Williams, Literary Agent for Greene & Heaton told the members and guests gathered at the Hampshire Writers’ Society November meeting, “I get to work with authors, from day one of their career, until the end of their career.”

“Agents are not out there to take the author’s money,” she says, “and neither are they there to crash your dreams.” Outside the agency, they are super competitive. But, inside they are very forgiving. They talk books all day, swap manuscripts and read unbelievably fast. As agents for authors, they need to get to know all the publishers and booksellers in the industry. They go to book fairs and carry out a huge amount of editing. Laura’s message is that; if her author isn’t happy, she isn’t happy. Myth numbers one and two — busted!

Myth number three: your submission needs to be perfect? No. A bad synopsis will not preclude your submission. Your synopsis should be like a “greatest hits of your book.” The end MUST BE INCLUDED. Your covering letter needs to be polite, to the point and endorse that you know your book thoroughly. Also include a little about yourself. It doesn’t matter that you might have your genre wrong, that is fixable.

It also doesn’t matter who, in the industry, that you know. Laura is keen for us to understand that “It is all about the book.” Myth number 4 — busted!

Until she reads it, Laura sometimes doesn’t know exactly what it is that she is looking for in a manuscript. Her list varies from horror to big love stories that make her cry. As for timing and luck of your submission? The year’s two biggest book fairs take place in March and December. Do not expect an expedient reply if you submit at those times. Also, manuscripts submitted on Christmas Day are not likely to be read until the New Year! “Try three pm on a Thursday in August.” Laura says in jest. But yes, Agents really do read every submission that they receive.

On to myth number six – no, you do not need to live in London. Perhaps this was partly true in times of posting hard-copy manuscripts. Agents travel well and they are eager to try out all other cities. Laura even has clients in Canada.

Myth number seven: it’s about the prizes that you’ve won. It isn’t! A list of the competitions in which you’ve been successful, and your membership of societies (Hampshire Writers’ Society for one) in your covering letter shows that you are serious about your craft. Again, Laura is keen to advise that; “It’s all about the book.”

The same answer shot down myth number eight: it’s essential to have an MA in Creative Writing. There is a plethora of websites offering free advice. The Writers and Artists’ Yearbook is another free resource readily at hand.

Find the “essence” of your book and use that to pitch it in answer to the question, What’s it about? The essence is not always what the book says. All books can be pitched in this way.

Do not write for the market or the current trend. Some trends pass by very quickly, going right out of fashion. It may well be that by the time your novel is to come to fruition, the trend will be long gone. Always write the story that you want to write. If the agent picks it up and the genre isn’t clear; they’ll just “make it up”. And that takes care of myth number nine.

Ten: it’s all in the great writing? It’s a great story that is necessary. If, however the agent suggests a change, it is a good idea to listen. Again, here the agent supports their author. Laura once spent a Sunday afternoon re-writing half of a future client’s manuscript in order to change the point of view; the author did the other half.

What about social media? The agent and the publisher are there to help you through social media. Even if you have no presence on social media at all, it doesn’t matter.

Finally, to number twelve: once you have an agent, you’re set for life! Laura wishes that were true, but unfortunately it is not. Not all books are sold. However, many authors debut is not their first book. In the rare event that the agent is unable to sell your book, they will talk this through with you and together you’ll work out a way forward.

“Carpet bombing may not be quite the right phrase.” Laura says, “But, you get the idea. Send your manuscript to everyone that you want to read it. That’s what she does.”

Report by Lisa Nightingale

November 2019 Competition Results: Laura Williams – Adjudicator

The November competition was judged by literary agent, Laura Williams.  The brief was to write a creative piece entitled ‘The Waiting Room’.

And the winners were:

First Place:  On the Landing Stage by Peter Duncan    

Second Place: Smart Rooms by Nigel Luck

Third Place: The Room, Waiting by John Quinn        

Highly Commended: Waiting for the Word by Barbara Needham

Highly Commended: Teething Problems by Dominique Hackston          

November Competition winners, Barbara Needham, Nigel Luck, Peter Duncan, Dominique Hackston and John Quinn, with literary agent, Laura Williams

   Photo by David Eadsforth

First Place: On the Landing Stage by Peter Duncan

‘This is the ideal short story – a snapshot of a moment, leaving you satisfied but also imaging more.  A worthy winner!’

The bus drew to a halt. The driver turned off the engine. Jarred into movement by the brief silence I stumbled toward the doors, heaving the rucksack onto my shoulders. The driver glanced up, then went back to counting his fares.

The lights in the deserted ferry terminal shone pointlessly bright. Above the covered walkway leading down to the landing stage I saw familiar adverts for department stores and local newspapers, now oddly distorted by the brightness. The echo of my footsteps on the wooden boards carried too loudly all around. I had never been here so late before.

Out in the open again I faced the wide dark river, my senses caught by the wind coursing in from the sea and the rank smell of industrial estuary. The lights of the city were spread out all along the distant farther shore.

I spotted a weather boarded, dimly- lit cabin right at the end of the landing stage and began walking slowly towards it. Oily water slapped against the steel piles beneath me. The river night was all around. It felt for a few moments as if I was walking into oblivion.

I pushed at the door. Inside, nothing more than a long and heavily graffitied bench beneath a wide dirty window. The place smelled thickly of stale cigarette smoke. I laid my rucksack on the bench, sat down and gazed through the grimy salt- smattered window at the river and the city way beyond. Behind me was the place I could no longer call home: somewhere ahead was a destination I didn’t yet know. I sat in that cheerless room waiting for the ferry to arrive, held terribly between the life that had been and the one that was yet to come.

Second Place: Smart Rooms by Nigel Luck

‘This story is instantly intriguing and perfectly self-contained, with an original and clever concept.’

The problem with Smart Rooms was first recorded in the waiting room of a large hospital. Basic functions of these rooms were common across all, they could read people’s body temperature and adjust the heating or air conditioning accordingly. The more sophisticated could monitor occupants moods and make changes to improve their comfort.

Bathrooms could inform you when the shower had reached the optimum temperature thus avoiding the shock of a cold shower. Smart kitchens were able to do the majority of cooking or talk you through a recipe. Laundry rooms washed, dried and folded your clothes and even the playrooms were capable of putting away toys. It was noted that as a result injuries from Lego had been reduced by 100%.

The sensory detectors in these rooms were designed to read the needs and desires of their occupants and make adjustments in line with these.

Smart Rooms in large buildings were particularly sophisticated; Gym Rooms, swimming pools, restaurants and libraries were all equipped with multi functionality. Waiting rooms however were limited to adjusting room temperature, lighting, and occasionally playing easy listening music.

The difficulties in the Hospital waiting room began one afternoon in May when it deviated from the norm by instigating a game of charades with the waiting patients. It took the Hospital staff two hours to stop the game. Programmers were brought in and the problem was thought to be fixed. But the following week the waiting room compared a talent competition. Following activities included a mass game of hide and seek, a disco and a game of Sleeping Lions where the winner turned out to be dead.

It became apparent that while the resulting activities were direct responses to the occupants desire to alleviate the boredom of waiting, the Hospital deemed this type of behaviour inappropriate. The smart room function was turned off and Hospitals across the country reverted back to installing flickering fluorescent lights and torn magazines from the previous decade.

Third Place: The Room, Waiting by John Quinn

‘This story is so atmospheric and totally heartbreaking – a real achievement in so few words!’

The heavy brocade curtains defiantly stared out of the windows, inside their linings, beige and dull, remained mute. Only the slimmest shaft of sun evaded the room’s defences, momentarily and theatrically illuminating a small speck of Turkish rug or a plank of the once mirror-polished oak floor.

It was in these rare moments, when the interior of the music salon was dimly illuminated, that the room took a shallow breath, surveyed itself in its gloom and, reassured, settled back into a melancholy wait.

It noted the tuning fork, dust covered and slightly rusting, lying unloved and abandoned on the music stand. Even the metronome, that transmitter of time, could not recall when last it had been wound and allowed to sway and click and precisely and lovingly fulfil its destiny.

The Steinway, normally that proudest of grandest pianos, was relieved to have its out of tune embarrassment covered by dustsheets. Those sheets had last been respectfully lifted by blind Dr Cox, the piano tuner, but even his cane’s tap, tap, tap had been absent for more than a decade.

Since the riding accident Suzanne had been confined to bed or wheelchair and, out of respect or pity, no one had struck a chord or carried a tune in the room’s well-proportioned and once elegant interior. Bridy, the maid, had realised, several years ago, that dusting was pointless and had privately declared the room a no-go zone.

Now Jody, just five, tall enough to reach the room’s door handle and strong enough to turn it, clasped the brass knob. ‘Grandma, there’s a piano in here? I’m learning at school. I can play Chopsticks.’

Suzanne pushed hard down on the inner wheel rims of her chair to catch her mischievous grandchild. ‘Don’t go…’ But then she paused. Confused, Jody, turned to look at the grey-haired woman. ‘No, of course you can, darling. Turn the light on, be careful, I suspect it’s rather dusty after all these years.’

Highly Commended: Waiting for the Word by Barbara Needham

‘This is a very clever interpretation of the theme, and the author has been sophisticated in using the reader’s knowledge of history to fill in the blanks.’

There was a palpable sense of déjà vu. The Great Hall bustled with activity. Heralds in shining livery awaited their moment of glory, spitting into their trumpets. In a distant office, clerks eyed their copies of a royal proclamation. Complete … except for one important word.

Messages had reached Henry that events were underway in Greenwich. He waited, alternating between joyous anticipation and a sickening feeling he could not articulate. Hours went by. Restlessness gave way to anger. Why, in God’s name, was it all taking so long?

Henry was accustomed to being in control. Giving the orders. Making the decisions. He felt impotent and frustrated by lack of action. Blast those sycophantic courtiers surrounding him, who told him what they thought he wanted to hear. Blast those toadying cronies who were probably lining their pockets at his expense. And damn and blast all the soothsayers, prophets and priests who claimed in total confidence that, this time, he would have his wish granted. Not one of them dared to voice the question of what if…

Attendants sent for the court jester, but even his antics failed to lighten Henry’s mood.

The long-awaited deputation filed in. Henry’s heart sank as they bowed low. There were no smiling faces, no puffed up officials bursting to impart momentous news and no-one looked Henry in the eye. They were hesitant, muted and measured.

He prepared a trite answer to hide his overwhelming  disappointment.  When they had said their piece, he forced himself to ask about the welfare of the mother.

Henry made a perfunctory visit to the mewling infant, with her silky thatch of red hair. Meanwhile, clerks sharpened their quills and inserted the word princess into their documents.

Highly Commended: Teething Problems by Dominique Hackston

‘This story has a very funny and unexpected twist, which was well executed and neatly done.’

Bob sat next to his mother, his leg twitching. Silently he inspected every poster on the walls. Only one of them depicted looming torture. He twisted and untwisted the latest copy of Beano. Finally, his mother reached over and calmed his agitated leg.

“It’s only a check-up.”

“Do I have to?” he whimpered.

“Read your comic.”

Obediently he opened it but stared over the top at the huge perfect pearly smile opposite. ‘Bet she’s never had a filling’, he thought.  His eyes slid to the story below. Dennis and Gnasher were having a bad day at the doctors and got stuck in a window trying to escape. Bob ground his teeth and wondered why Dennis hadn’t tried the larger window.

“I need to er…” He stood.

“You’ve just been. Sit!”

He sat. Dennis could never have got into trouble with a mother like his, he lamented. Bob returned to his comic where Roger the Dodger was cleverly distracting an old man with a photo album while he crept past with a steaming apple pie.

Bob rose and rifled through the pile of publications.  He handed a glossy cookery magazine to his Mum, sat and waited for her to bury her head in a new recipe.

“Sit!” she hissed without lifting her eyes. “Lilly might see you?”

He checked the door and flopped onto the chair. An-hour-long five minutes later the dentist’s door opened.  Giggles tinkled as Lilly’s blonde curls bobbed towards him in her mother’s arms.

“Mummy thaid I can thit on your lap too, Daddy.”

“Did she now?” He set Lilly down and she toddled straight back to the dentist. He followed. In the doorway, Bob scooped-up the chuckling child. He scowled at his mother and his wife, firmly closed the door on them and plastered a smile of his face.

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‘A Journey to Self-Publishing’ Emma-Nicole Lewis, supernatural historical fiction author of three self-published novels, business strategist and Hampshire Writers’ Society member.

EMMA-NICOLE LEWIS appeared last month on the HWS blog featuring in the trailer for a mini-documentary about, Eyam the town where her latest novel, A SHADOW BEYOND, is set. The documentary, for which she sought permission from the museum and church used, took her only a week or so to make and has brought interest in her from as far away as Russia.

“Making yourself visible is now what it is all about.” she told the meeting last night, “Amazon has done wonders, but for the writer, it has saturated their market.”

Writing has been a passion of Emma’s since a young age and following the success of her first novel, THE WISHING HOUSE, she made the decision to swap her career in business strategy for full time novelist.

“Define your reader,” she says. It is something that can be done within your other research. As an unknown, new to the market, you won’t be selling books on your name alone. Think about how your story might fit with your reader. Consider the sort of book clubs that they might belong to, what are their interests, their hobbies, where do they go for leisure time and what are the websites that they might visit. By pin-pointing your readers, you’ll find it easier to market your book. Emma’s stories are historical; many of her readers will be interested in history, so she made good contacts with the museum and coffee shops in the town where A Shadow Beyond is set, leaving advertising leaflets there for readers to pick up.

Have your marketing plan in place before publication day. “Getting those pre-orders in to Amazon will raise your stakes in their best-seller lists.” she tells us. This in turn encourages them to spend their advertising space on you. “So, line up your reviewers and bloggers before you go live.”

Establish a PR hook. Find a story within your story. When Emma told the story of how her first novel was written whilst she was on maternity leave (she still doesn’t know how she did it), the local press bit quickly. Interest seems to be on the person who wrote the story almost as much as the story itself, so Emma’s social media pages are peppered with pictures of her and her family on her latest research expedition. It brings out either the Aaah! or the humorous side of your readers.

“Love your readers.” she urges, “It might sound soppy but, if you love them, they’ll love you back.” Reply to contacts and comments when appropriate (DO NOT RESPOND TO REVIEWS; ITS NOT THE DONE THING) your readers will talk positively about you, share your work and comments. A sort of virtual marketing team.

Finally, what is it that you want to see from your favourite writer? An avid reader, Emma often gets to the end of which ever book she is reading, wondering about what that author will do next. She often looks into it. If that author is not doing what she wanted – she does it herself!

Hampshire Writers’ Society AGM 2018-2019

Report from Events Manager, David Eadsforth

The 2018-19 season proved to be as exciting as we hoped. In September, Tracey Corderoy, the amazingly prolific author of sixty children / young adult books, and Barry Timms, author and editorial director of Little Tiger Books, described how they collaborated on picture books. In October, Ian Thomas, writer, programmer, and games developer for Talespinners, described the art of game writing and narrative design to a packed house. November saw deeply experienced literary agent Heather Holden-Brown describe the path to publication, and in December the year was rounded off by Penny Ingham, classical scholar, ex-BBC production assistant turned author, who explained the benefits of working with the small independent publisher to research, write, and publish historical novels.

2020 was opened by Lucy Courtenay, author and editor of children’s books, who described how to get started in writing an illustrated children’s book. In February, Edward Docx, thriller writer, explained the craft of creating the bones of a narrative in a single brainstorming session. And in March, Judy Waite, children’s author of more than fifty books, took an interactive workshop approach to tell us how to fire up our creative curiosity.

In April, Neil Arksey, screenwriter, script editor, producer, lead writer on a number of TV dramas, and now author of young adult novels, described how the challenge of finding an agent can meet with success. In May, Stevyn Colgan, policeman turned author, took us through the illustrious history of British comic writing and, to wrap up the year, Simon Hall, news correspondent for twenty-five years, gave us an insight into the real events that have inspired his crime writing; and how to locate a dead otter when circumstances dictate.

All in all, another great season for the HWS.

 

Report from Liaison Officer, Gary Farnell

2018-19 has been a busy year for the Liaison Officer at the Hampshire Writers’ Society (HWS). Liaison has been mainly at the University of Winchester, but also with other bodies – at both regional and national levels – where there is an interest in the Society’s activities. In addition, there has been further liaison with specific individuals, with a view to putting together the HWS programme for 2019-20.

When vacancies arise on the HWS Organising Committee there is often an element of liaison which comes into play, in order to fill these vacancies. 2018-19 has been no exception in this regard. It is pleasing to report that the HWS Organizing Committee continues to function, in 2019-20, as the hard-working body it has always been.

The Liaison role at HWS also entails acting as moderator at the Society’s monthly meetings, in the post-talk question-and-answer sessions. This is a very stimulating role to perform: it has been a privilege, and a pleasure, to be able to meet with the Society’s speakers and guests in this way.

There will, of course, be further liaison in 2019-20. The Society is already planning its next season: it will be exciting to try to shape a new programme from the activities of the past year.

 

Report from Competitions Manager, Helen Adlam

The 2018/19 season was busy in terms of competitions.  As well as the regular monthly competitions, October 2018 saw the addition of the Hyde 900 poetry competition (organised in conjunction with Edward Fennell), which received 13 entries.  The winning poems were read out by actor Nigel Bradshaw at a specially arranged Hyde 900 commemorative event in Winchester.  In addition, children’s author, Judy Waite, organised a Wordtamer competition, inviting writers of children’s fiction to enter a short story/novel extract.  The prize was a one to one session with Judy to develop the story further, as well as a selection of Wordtamer-related books.  This competition received 10 entries.

In terms of monthly competitions, the average number of entries was around 10.  However, the competition judged by Claire Fuller in February 2019  – Write a last letter from a parent to a child – proved to be particularly popular, generating 23 entries.  Least popular was Write a story outline for a video game, adjudicated by Ian Thomas.  This, disappointingly, only attracted seven entries (last season’s lowest figure for entries was 11).  Competitions which evoke personal memories, or memories from childhood, seem to be the most popular.  It is noted from last year’s report that the most popular competition drew 26 entries, so three less than the 23 generated most recently.

 

Report from Membership Secretary, Karin Groves

During the 2018/2019 season, the Hampshire Writers’ Society grew to 154 members. Amongst the members you will find published and established authors; those seeking literary agents and publication; students studying for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees or attending creative writing classes; and those for whom writing is a passion or an enjoyable interest.

In the past year, there have been two HWS Book Fairs (December and June) for mainstream and self-published members of the society. This gives authors an opportunity to display and sell their books. The occasion was a great networking opportunity for all members. I am currently taking bookings for the next book fair in December 2019.

Subscriptions 2019/2020

Without members paying a subscription fee and visitors paying an entrance fee, the HWS would not have enough income to pay for the speakers, so it is essential to renew the membership, introduce new members and publicise our events to keep the HWS thriving.

The HWS was able to offer a special discount price of £25 until the end of August for 2019/2020 membership. From 1st September 2019, the membership subscription is £30. Students are free on production of a valid student card. Non-members pay £5 per evening. All this is exceptional value for 10 monthly informative and entertaining evenings.

For no extra charge. members have the opportunity to join the HWS Critique Group; enter the monthly writing competitions; and participate in the Members’ Book Fair in December and June.

Due to rising costs for the speakers and falling numbers of people paying a subscription fee, from September 2020, the subscription fee will rise to £35 per year. The cost of a visitor ticket to our Tuesday evening events will rise from £5 to £6. This is the first increase in nine years. Also from September 2020, free membership will only be available to full time students.

It is possible to subscribe or renew your membership at any HWS event by cash, credit card or cheque or email Karin Groves for the HWS bank details to make an online payment.

Planning for 2020/2021 Season

We always have our members in mind when the committee is planning for the next season. After many helpful suggestions and contacts last year, we were able to create a diverse programme of speakers for this coming season. Now we are planning for the next season, so we ask again for your suggestions! Please email your ideas or leave a list at the next meeting.

Volunteering, vacancies and ideas!
The Hampshire Writers’ Society is run by a very small committee of volunteers and we are always looking for people to help in any way they can.

We need:

 

·         A Marketing Manager

·         HWS Newsletter Editor/Compiler

 

Report from the Treasurer,   Crispin Drummond

The financial statement for 2018/19 has been prepared. It shows a reduction of membership income for the year, at a time when the Society engaged with an increased number of speakers coming from the other side of the country. These additional travel and accommodation expenses meant costs rose importantly. In consequence the Society made a deficit for the year amounting to nearly £2000, and our capital funds are much reduced.

In reaction, The Organising Committee has met to view the forecasts of costs and revenues for the coming year, and to confirm the adequacy of our resources for the remainder of the year. At the same time steps are being considered to replenish the Society’s capital, to boost recurrent revenue, and to re-establish the financial strength as we embark on the next season of the Society’s activities.

Claire Dyer and Hilary Hares – October 2019 – Chapter and Verse

Tuesday, 8th October’s meeting was one filled with warmth and a relaxed, chatty atmosphere throughout. Audience members were able to ask questions of the two friends as they thought of them which ensured that time was made for everyone’s questions, with two openhearted, welcoming speakers in Special guest Hilary Hares and main speaker Claire Dyer.

Special Guest: Hilary Hares – Writer and Poet

Poet Hilary Hares gave a captivating talk about honing your craft. While some poets may jest that you should never trust a poet who can explain what their poem means, Hilary told how it’s important to know the essence of what you’re

Hilary Hares - Oct 2019
Hilary Hares

writing.

“When I’ve written it, I often cut it in half to distill the essence,” Hilary told, elucidating this further with “as much as property purchasing is about location, location, location, poetry creation is about revision, revision, revision.”

Hilary suggested the following edits and checks to strength your work after the first draft:

  • Read aloud to feel the rhythm;
  • Check your verbs – are they powerful enough?
  • Check your nouns – are they all working well?
  • Move things around;
  • Change the point of view;
  • Change the piece from passive to imperative voice. This will reveal which voice is stronger for this piece.

You need to know whether you’re just writing for yourself or for public consumption, because if for public consumption you will need to make decisions on how you want this to happen. A second pair of eyes is a must; Go to open mic open nights. There’s one in Winchester, even if it’s just to listen; You could Attend a tutor group or poetry school – some good ones are Arvon (https://www.arvon.org/writing-courses/courses-retreats/) or Live Cannon (http://www.livecanon.co.uk/courses).

“Most valuable is a trusted poetry friend. Claire Dyer is mine. You become to know each other’s style and likely edits. We know what will be e-mailed to each other now so we make those amends before sending for review.”

“I’ve written about 600 poems, so I use spreadsheets to keep track of where I’ve sent them and where they’ve been used.” You must be disciplined about sending work. Hilary recommends setting aside a day a month specifically to do this, whether sending to competitions, magazines or works being published. Set yourself small goals but be realistic with time lines. Print magazines may take six months to respond but online magazines’ turnaround is closer to three weeks. But also read the print or online publication you’re submitting to first, do your research. You want to be sure of quality.

Hilary told how ‘rejection is your friend.’ She voiced how it can feel personal when you put your heart and soul into a poem but ‘if you look at the poem as an entity in its own right which needs to find its way in the world, like sending your children off to university, it becomes easier.’

Hilary has used this system for 11 years and so far has had 150 poems published either in print or online.

“I take a lot of inspiration from Radio 4. For example, I heard on Radio 4 about a whale who gave birth to a baby girl and a baby boy. The daughter went off to be her own personality but the son stayed with his mother, learning from her. There is inspiration everywhere – Facebook, funnily enough. I don’t engineer inspiration. Things pop up.”

“Some of my favourite poets would be Jo Bell, Kim Moone, Simon Armitage, Alice Oswald. The list goes on. No particular genre. We would be here all night if I listed them all.”

 

Main Speaker: Claire Dyer – Chapter & Verse

Claire is an author of three poetry books and four novels published via two agents and two publishers (with many more written and hidden in the loft); being a writer of both chapter and verse, Claire is often asked which she prefers. But she finds this question very similar to ‘which one of your children is your favourite?’ the answer will always be: ‘I like them the same.’ “There are different challenges with poetry and prose but in both you need to use character, message, atmosphere, voice.”

Claire Dyer2 - Oct 2019
Claire Dyer

It was the 10 years of experience on top of studies that led Claire to discover her voice. Claire joined the Poetry Society (https://poetrysociety.org.uk/), went to festivals, studied for a Masters at Royal Holloway, and 10 years later was when she noticed a change in her writing, “Nothing beats thrashing out ideas with other poets. All life is material. Nothing is ever wasted. Writers’ lives are exciting and frustrating in equal measure.”

Claire has been teaching creative writing for five years. She has seen writers grow in confidence and conviction during this time. She also runs a critique service – Fresh Eyes (www.clairedyer.com/fresh-eyes/) – which she hopes most writers will find less extortionate in price in comparison to the typical fees you expect from paid critique services.

“Writing can be frenetic and other times can be silent. I had to learn to be silent.” Putting a poetry collection together can take years, Claire’s first collection took 10 years, her second took four years and her third took five years to compile.

“And learning to live with rejection is important. Writing is a journey of wonderment. We’ve been to some amazing places, but I also have enough rejections to wallpaper St. Paul’s Cathedral… and I still don’t take them well,” she laughs, self-deprecating.

But Claire’s favourite part of writing is the personal connection: “Living with the work is so wonderful. Living with the writing life is my oxygen, publishers are a secondary consideration. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one page or a 100,000.” Claire loves writing a character that even she doesn’t know what they’re going to do next, until she sits and writes their pages. “Many writers will know exactly how their story is going to end but I like the ending to be a surprise for me and then I know it will be a surprise for the reader.”

Claire started her writing journey with ‘very bad short stories’. Her first novel at just 20,000 words she was advised to put under the bed. So she did and it’s still there. Claire said how with rejections you only ever remember the negatives, those directions to hide things under beds, you miss the positives comments of what worked well. But there are things that you can do that will help, Claire suggests ‘being in a writers’ group – such as Hampshire Writing Society – is step one; and to read! Read in your chosen and other genres. Look for good dialogue/bad dialogue; ask yourself ‘how is it constructed?’; inspiration is everywhere.

“I’m often inspired by one tiny idea, one tiny thought; for example, with my book Last Day, I wanted a love triangle where everyone got on and wondered how that would play out. Inspiration could be found looking at a photo, looking at a door, books can grow from the smallest idea. I have even spent time with potters, carpenters, firefighters just to learn.”

Last Day, underwent three major rewrites. “It’s no surprise it can take 18 months for a book to reach the shelf when you see the process of publishing a book.”

“Sometimes you’ll have three sets of experiences live in your mind at one time,” Claire explains. “The book that’s on the shelf selling, the book that’s with the publishers going through the process and the book you’re currently writing. I’m a nightmare to live with at this point,” Claire quips.

With 15 books written, Claire is familiar with sometimes falling out of love with a book when you’ve left it a while. And then it can be impacted by timescales, continuous advances in technology, for example, and can make it even harder to go back and change it. Changes in readers’ expectations as time moves on also plays a part. As a comparative in example, modern day readers like to be thrown into a book but Victorian readers enjoyed the slower introduction.

“It’s about the journey, not the destination. So much of what we do is predicated by luck. Our chances are slim but we keep hold of hope. Keep the faith in your work and maintain public contact… And don’t get too drunk at book launches.

“Enjoy the friends you meet, the points of view you get, live the writer’s life. You’ve got to be in it to win at it, after all.”

photos by Alex Carter, LexicaFilms

 

Literary Agent, Lorella Belli Talks E-books, Publishing and Self-Publishing: an agent’s view

In just over two weeks, Literary Agent Laura Williams will be speaking to Hampshire Writers’ Society. Her talk, Myth-busting the Publications Industry will be live at the Stripe. So, I thought it would be good to resurrect the report of a talk from the Literary Agent, Lorella Belli. Especially as Lorella appears in one of this website’s banner photos, plus it’s Halloween time; resurrecting things is topical!
Lorella talks about the role of an agent regardless of whether the author has chosen to self-publish or the more traditional route of ensnaring the interest of a publisher.
Lorella Belli and Barbara Large
What are the pros and cons of getting a traditional deal or choosing the self-publishing route? In this rapidly changing landscape, what is the role of the agent?
It was Lorella Belli’s ambition to set up her own agency. She set out to know the publishing industry inside out. Her brief to discover ‘new blood’ gave her not just invaluable insider experience but introduced her to many unpublished authors.
‘An agent works for their Author.’ Lorella says. As an agent, her primary concern and something which she feels forms a vital part of the agent/author partnership is; ‘What does the author want from their writing?’
She is the first to declare that the agent’s role in the modern author’s career remains unchanged regardless of chosen route of publication – self or traditional. An area of particular interest is the protection and exploitation of the author’s rights and here, Lorella is well versed and diva.
For the most part, a writer wants readers, they want to see their work in a bookshop. Equally, it is important to recognise the financial aspects of a writer’s career. Both the traditional route and the contemporary self-publishing route provides remuneration, but in different ways.
It is her belief that an agent has a responsibility to be aware of the many platforms of publication available to authors both new and experienced, how those platforms work and therefore be able to fit the author to the best publisher.
Lorella’s agency is vocational towards the needs of an author. There is no room for the agent’s preciousness over writing. ‘So, what if the book is ‘trashy’.’ Lorella says, ‘If the writer is happy, then their readers are happy and so is the publisher.’
An author can retain some control over publishing decisions e.g. the cover even through the traditional route. An informed agent will know to insert such clauses into their contract. Similarly, self-publishing has given the publishing houses some much needed competition – authors now have an alternative.
However, authors must be aware that by choosing the self-publishing route, they are choosing to take on their career in its entirety and inevitably this will cut into writing time. A publishing house provides editing, a marketing department, a sales department and publicity.
The traditional route may seem like it is taking its time, whereas self-publishing can be a whirlwind. Of course, this is after the author has learned all the skills needed to be a publisher.
One huge pro for the appointment of an agent – they get the hurtful rejections! However, an agent of Lorella’s talent will believe in the book and wants to see it published. It is that agent’s job to spot the writer’s talent and therefore their target audience.
It is hugely important that authors remain professional. When an agent is passionate about a book and has an author that they can build on, they will stand more chance of promoting it, even if it does not appear to fit, or is the wrong length.
Even to an agent as talented as Lorella, the next big thing is a mystery. There will always be the wild card – who could have predicted 50 Shades of Grey? However, a writer can keep their eye on publicity to hang on e.g. the Olympics.
As a writer grows more successful, their chosen path can become more complex. Lorella suggests building a team – delegate, remember the AAA (Association of Authors’ Agents) and ask an agent for advice. That is the bottom line of their job – to work for the author.
Lorella Belli
An agent’s website will state what they are looking for. There is no divide between male and female, it is all down to what that agent wants to feel when reading a book. For Lorella, it is what makes her laugh and what makes her cry.
The members present were left in no doubt of Lorella’s message – the agent works for the author, no one else, not themselves, not the publishers. Just the author. They thanked her for her candid, refreshing approach and dependably constant open door