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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dr Judith Heneghan, Creative Writing Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader for the MA Writing for Children and award-winning children’s writer, has returned to the beginning. Her first contemporary fiction for adults, Snegurochka, has been published.
Snegurochka, an English mother’s experiences in newly independent Kiev, is to be published by Salt with a release date of 15 April. Another first for Judith was seeing it for sale on P&G Wells’ stand in the foyer at April’s Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting:’A very special moment for any writer,’ she says.
It was at the Winchester Writers’ Festival that Judith met her editor and publisher. A writer needs to be part of a community, a convergence of like-minded writers, a portal into the world of publishing. Hampshire Writers’ Society is one such community and The Winchester Writers’ festival provides another.
Recently retired as Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival, Judith intends to concentrate on the activity of actually doing the writing.
Sara Gangai will very capably follow in her footsteps, but before she commenced her talk to us, Sara paid tribute to Barbara Large, founder of both the festival and the Hampshire Writers’ Society. ‘Barbara’s voice, with its feisty nature and inability to say the word “no”,’ Sara said, ‘is a constant in my head, reminding me to be considerate, kind and inclusive to all writers.’ A memorial service for Barbara will be held in the University chapel on the Sparkford Road Campus on the Saturday of the Festival. ‘Barbara’s spirit will be “chuffed” to be there,’ Sara laughed.
The Festival will be held on the weekend beginning 14th June. Enterprising writers will be given the chance to build up a network of writing friends and contacts; ‘People come from all over the world,’ Sara advised us.
Friday sees two panels running along-side each other on both floors of the Stripe.
Let your hair down afterwards at the open mike in the Terrace Lounge right next to the Terrace bar before the knuckle down of Saturday begins.
The day begins with the plenary speaker, award-winning children’s author, Katherine Rundell. Tickets for this event alone can be purchased. The rest of the day is filled with a variety of workshops, tea, cake and an on-tap agony aunt! Seventy or so industry specialists will be in attendance and the opportunity of a fifteen-minute, one-to-one interview with one or two of them will prove invaluable.
Sunday forms a writing workshop, ‘a chance to put into practise everything that you learned on the Saturday,’ Sara tells us.
Tickets are selling fast. The community created by the Festival will be abuzz with writers. It really is a must just to be around so many friendly faces. Please do come along – it will be wonderful to meet you.
Report by Lisa Nightingale
Poetry can be found everywhere. Something Joan McGavin made quite clear in her presentation at this month’s Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting.
An assignment for the Creative Writing PHD, centring on the study of Phrenology, had her trawling through a rather large collection of death masks! The masks are the property of the Hampshire Cultural Trust and it is believed were owned by the surgeon at HM Winchester Prison whose father was Giles King Lyford; Jane Austen’s doctor during her final illness.
Pre-dating photography, some of these masks are the only remaining evidence of what the person looked like. They led Joan to question our everyday issues and, when borrowing one, to witness and note the effects it had on passers-by. The death masks often look so strange because the subjects have had their heads shaved so as to show the shape of the skull more clearly.
“With no hair, they tend to look even odder!” Joan says.
Still, when discussing poetry, we like to pigeonhole it.
Two of the masks inspired particular poems – the subjects both executed for murder. The first was used in an exhibition of the subject in Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum. The Second featured on a ‘poster presentation’ at an archaeology and anatomical sciences-run conference at the University of Southampton this year, called “Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies”.
Enjoy and just before you go; a note from Joan: “Don’t have nightmares!”
|Baby Face||Death Masks|
|Even his name’s too cute,
too childish –
John Amy Bird Bell –
to suggest a murderer.
And here’s his death mask:
complete with eyelashes
and almost dimples,
especially on his right cheek;
the skull shaven
for the phrenologist’s hands.
I read somewhere
about “flaxen curls”.
He was fourteen years old.
It’s said he was brass-necked
Even his name’s too
|To see it you must cradle it up
and out of its bubble-wrap swaddling
into the room’s light
where you’ll compare the marks left
and wonder at the detail in the moulding:
Posed on its smooth, round plinth
You catch yourself glancing past,
or you’ll start talking to it,
smear some life into it.
Report by Lisa Nightingale
Hampshire Writers’ Society Published Members’ Book Fair
11th December 2018 from 6pm – 7.30pm
followed by a talk at 7.30pm from
Researching, Writing and Publishing Historical Fiction
with special guest author,
Programme finishes at approximately 9.30pm
The Stripe Building, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester
Come along and meet the authors who are all members of the Hampshire Writers’ Society. Talk to them about their path to publication. Some will have their books available for sale and signing on the night.
The Chandlers Ford Writers: Maggie Farran, Sally Howard, Karen Stephen and Catherine Griffin
To find out more about the authors and their books please go to: December Book Fair Authors
HWS November 2018 Meeting Report by Lisa Nightingale
Heather Holden Brown of HHB Literary Agency
“It is interesting how very, very hard writers work to get their book written,” Heather Holden Brown told the attendees of the Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting this Tuesday night, “People on the ‘outside’ think it is easy.”
Heather founded HHB Agency in 2005 on the back of over twenty years’ experience in the publishing industry. She went on to say that if ever she meets someone who says, ‘Everyone has a book in them,’ she runs away — very fast. Because, despite that old adage; writing a book is very hard work.
Drawing on the work of some of the many and varied authors that HHB represents, Heather imparted invaluable advice on the ‘writing’ of books, what draws HHB to and keeps them with an author. And, most importantly, how that helps to pin down publishers.
Number one, of course, is the writing – fabulous, evocative, perhaps with well-timed touch of humour.
Series, Heather muses are growing in trend. So, as it seems, are sunny, by-the-sea settings. Cornwall perhaps.
Be warned however – genre is constantly changing. Remember that, what is en-vogue when your agent secures a publisher, may have gone out of fashion by the time publication comes to fruition! The same with a TV series. Or a film. Some agents may be able to ‘see’ such a promise of the manuscript that they are reading. But then a studio must be sourced and a drama producer. So, it is of little possibility that this vision will be a decider for them taking on your book.
Heather makes the point that biographies, especially if the subject that you have chosen is still alive, are tricky – liabilities that may cost the publishers in turn cost the agents. If you have a biography in mind seek advice and keep passionately tenacious about it! Of course, if your story is autobiographical – don’t try to hide it. Staying true to your story, will make it more saleable.
Meticulous planning, particularly with anything historical and with a down-turned mumble, Heather sheepishly admits that she is not at all enamoured with spreadsheets. But, the planning of dates, research and word-count cannot fail to make that book a winner.
Self-marketing – memberships in many notable organisations, twitter accounts and appearances in publishing journals. All this contributes towards the novel’s success. It also assists the agents.
The cover, this is a debate that as agent, HHB will take on for their author. If the cover is not right, the future sales of that author may fall.
Titles (and to a certain extent historical novels) although it seems that these often wind up being changed. What might make perfect sense to us, here in England, may well be all-to-pieces, mumbo jumbo, balderdash hooey in America; for example, the name Clementine Churchill does not have the same familiarity as Mrs Winston Churchill in a country with a totally different political system to ours. Not to worry though – this is a rough-spot that HHB as agent would iron out.
When it comes to submitting your own novel; “Just send it.” is Heather’s advice. Check out the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (the current one), find your most suitable agent and with a short pitch, comparisons of reading preferences for example; “if you like reading Lisa Jewell, you’ll like reading …” and the first three chapters or whatever the agent’s website asks for, just send it.
Don’t muddle up agents and small publishers – the agencies will not like that.
Incidentally, Heather did mention the dreaded ‘slush pile’ – she hates the term, it makes her grimace!
The evening’s proceedings began with the formalities of the Society’s Annual General Meeting to attend to. Due to the intense interest and anticipation brought about by the evening’s speakers, it came as a pleasant surprise when the AGM proved to a brief affair comprising mainly of the presentation of the Society’s financial position to date.
Treasurer of this past 7 years, Crispin Drummond, used the image of a steady ship to describe the financial position to date. Year on year the organisation operates at either a small profit (as in this year gone) or a small debt, no upheavals or dramatic fluctuations have occurred or are anticipated. The report was proposed as an accurate reflection of the Society’s current status by Peter Hitchen and this was seconded by Angela Chadwick. Gary Farnell made copies of the Annual Report available to interested parties whilst simultaneously asking if the were any questions, or if any clarifications were needed. There were neither and the AGM concluded in a timely fashion.
Main Speaker, Ian Thomas
Ian is a partner and founder of the games writing company, Talespinners and it quickly became apparent that if there was any aspect of writing for games of which he was unaware it probably wasn’t worth knowing. Such was the depth and detail of Ian’s presentation that he could easily have taken the whole of the evening and more besides to offer his insider’s view of the industry (worth an estimated £2.4b pounds to the UK’s economy alone).
The pace and detail of Ian’s presentation was such that it would take a far better reporter (and note -taker!) than I to do his slot justice. With that in mind, for those who want to get a more comprehensive insight into games writing and Ian’s professional creativity please visit the following links here and here. However, needs must, so what follows really is a broad brush rendering of Ian’s presentation.
We began on generally familiar territory when Ian explained that narratives are just as crucial to success in computer games as they are in general fiction. It seemed that the audience was made up of what can be described as natives (those born and brought up with computers/games) and immigrants (those arriving in the tech-world after computers and gaming was already well established). That gaming is particularly popular amongst certain demographics may have accounted for the unusually large number of very welcome younger listeners in the audience.
A recurring theme in Ian’s presentation was the importance of the concept that games players must believe that they possess a locus of control over what they are doing. Of course, given the nature of predetermination, that’s inbuilt into computer games, the possession of locus of control is always an illusion but an illusion that, in the most successful game’s platforms, remains undiscerned by the players. This illusion of control can be bolstered in several ways and one of the ways is to enhance the players’ perception that the game’s characters actually care for them. The idea of ‘call-back’ helps in this regard. When used intelligently a simple thing like a programme remembering a player’s breakfast choice and then much later in the game recalling that choice (‘would you like your favourite breakfast cereal – Frosties wasn’t it?’) can really convince a player that the game ‘understands’ their wants and needs and in so doing enhance the perception of the locus of control.
The level of collaboration needed for success within a games writing company and the level of outreach into the wider profession is really staggering. Writers, animators, actors CGI experts, voice actors, artists, coders, editors to mention just a few all come together in order to produce a game product. Luckily, for those starting out in games writing access to the ‘tools’ needed is very cheap (and nowadays often free) compared to even a short time ago. There are careers to be forged and fortunes to be made by people who have the willingness to learn and the talent to put that knowledge into original and creative use.
Special Guest, Allison Symes
Allison writes novels, short stories and scripts and describes her writing as ‘fairytales with bite’. Amongst her favourite authors are Austen, P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett and her work can be found online at Alfie Dog Fiction, Cafe Lit and Shortbread Short Stories.
Allison Symes is a flash fiction author par excellence and throughout her presentation offered valuable advice and insight honed from long personal experience about how to write successfully in this genre. Commonly flash fiction is a story that is told in 1k words or fewer. Allison has found herself writing drabbles (stories of 100 words exactly) and she explained that notwithstanding this level of brevity the story must still comprise a beginning a middle and an end and that flash fiction, in general, must be character-led and be short sharp and shocking.
The fast turnaround afforded to those who submit to flash fiction outlets allow writers to generate a portfolio of publications. This can be undertaken alongside that grand opus that seems to be taking forever to complete. Simultaneously the discipline needed to write flash fiction enhances a writer’s editorial skills and this then feeds into all aspects of a writer’s output. In short (!) write flash fiction to exercise your writing muscles, a little bit every day is better than a big splurge once a month.
Finally, on a more personal note, I’d like to finish by expressing my thanks to Barbara Large, Dr Gary Farnell, Hampshire Writers’ Society committee and its members at large for the opportunity to contribute these monthly reports which I hope have been informative and sometimes even a little entertaining. Alas, I must now put the top back on my reporter’s pen and stick my notebook back in its drawer but happy in the knowledge that my successor will do an even better job than I.
An evening spent with Hampshire Writers’ Society is often a serendipitous, informative and enjoyable affair, the curtain-raiser to the 2018/19 season was all three and more besides. From a request for ghostwriters (see below) to a mix of speakers engaged in an eclectic range of topics including a writer’s self-publishing journey and an in-depth explanation of what it takes to produce a child’s picture book from concept to completion, September’s meeting had it all.
If any member would like to be involved in a ghostwriting project and is specifically interested and able to render some forgotten but important aspects of British history (channel your inner Walter Scott) then please do get in touch with the Society via the usual routes.
Main Speakers: Tracey Corderoy and Barry Timms
Children’s Author, Tracey Corderoy and the editor of Little Tiger Press, Barry Timms shared the platform to offer a detailed and highly informative account of what it takes to get a new children’s picture book on to the shelves in an ever increasingly difficult market.
To give some idea of the scale of Barry’s annual endeavours it’s not uncommon to see him working on 30 separate projects per year whilst simultaneously managing output and direction from multiple authors on behalf of Little Tiger. Given the extent of his involvement with the creative output of diverse writers, it is important for him to gauge author sensitivities and in so doing manage people as individuals in order to support them and help them produce work of the highest standards. With this last in mind, Tracey pointed out that their own author/editor relationship is founded on trust and mutual respect. With a production time of 18 months from a project’s acquirement to the finished book appearing on the shelves, managing relationships must be an important co-skill.
Over time, Tracey has developed a thick author’s skin and has come to see that many of the editorial decisions that might at first seem out of kilter end up being for the best both in terms of artistic quality and commercial success. On average, we were told, a picture book requires 7 re-writes with some requiring many more than that. Manuscript development goes through 3 main phases starting with a structural edit followed by a line edit and finally a copy edit/proofread. Unlike most books aimed at adults, children’s picture books have the all-important aspect of illustrations to consider. The illustrator has a pivotal role in blending the narrative and close cooperation between all the production team is indispensable as the book’s artwork develops. This is a process, Barry explained, that is undertaken in 4 phases with character creation, thumbnail production, working on the text/image interaction and then the final artwork.
Many will have struggled to produce a ‘blurb’ to support their own work let alone a synopsis but these are two elements that are just as important when trying to market children’s books to an interested publisher. The two main children’s Book Fairs are held in Bologna and Frankfurt and Little Toller’s commercial year revolves around these two events. Tracy and Barry finished off their presentation by agreeing that memorable characters often represented by animals involved in twisting plots or favourite themes are perhaps the best places for any would-be children’s author to start from.
Special Guest: Brenda Sedgwick
Brenda has been a long-time member of Hampshire Writers’ Society and has taught within the adult education sector with a specific focus on creative writing for many years. Latterly, she has lived and worked in Sri Lanka where she pursues her twin passions of teaching and writing. With an already enviable publishing track record, she wanted to extend her output to include a ‘proper’ novel, a goal that she has now achieved with the appearance of her debut, A Marriage, A Journey and A Dog http://bhsbooks.com
It is a work that plots the story of Natalie, an ordinary woman of humble means, who undergoes transformative experiences when she undertakes a journey through Europe. Brenda writes stories that she herself would want to read with narratives underscored by humour and believable characters (we all know a Natalie) that carry the reader along briskly. With a virtual clean sweep of 5star reviews, we should all look forward to Brenda’s future work.
All images © Lexica Films
Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor of the University of Winchester and Patron of Hampshire Writers’ Society headed a group of very special guests in attendance at the Gala Evening which brought the curtain down on an incredibly successful 2017-18 season. Her pleasure at introducing friends and colleagues, including the university’s Chancellor Alan Titchmarsh MBE, DL, HonFSE and Society President, Barbara Large, was palpable.
Members of the Society will know only too well of the troublesome few months that Barbara has faced and everyone’s delight at Barbara’s arrival into the auditorium was manifest by the first of two impromptu and prolonged standing ovations such is the love and esteem in which she is held by one and all.
Joy Carter and Alan Titchmarsh
Barbara spoke briefly and eloquently about her time in convalescence and (dare it be said?) somewhat predictably, she has busied herself with writing a new book containing recipes for health, recuperation and love.
Barbara Large with her soon-to-be-published book
When Barbara’s short address was complete the stage was handed over to Alan Titchmarsh who in his own inimitable way charmed and informed the audience in equal measure. His knowledge of teaching and learning and of the details and skills of creative writing are clear and extensive. One might be lulled into imagining that because Alan’s style of communication is so self-effacing this was just some other ‘ordinary Joe’ but by the end of his time on stage, it was obvious to all that here was a man of immense talent and huge experience with a wealth of knowledge to share. He did so generously and humbly.
Main Speaker: Lisa Jewell with John Miller
Lisa Jewell has written no less than 15 best sellers which isn’t bad for someone whose writing career started in order to try to win a tipsy holiday wager! As is so often the case creativity finds adversity to be fertile ground. Lisa, trapped in an untimely, toxic marriage eventually managed to escape and found herself enrolling in an adult education Creative Writing class.
From these difficult beginnings, she was to be found out of necessity writing in coffee shops and cafes and this remains her prefered working environment. To this day her daily writing routine revolves around forsaking her domestic setting for rather more anonymous surroundings where her next novel can take shape amongst the clink of teacups and pastry crumbs. Lisa never allows herself to ask for a Wi-Fi code preferring a strict regime so that her creative juices can flow unimpeded.
As her career has developed Lisa has found herself in the position of sometimes almost having to write to order – her publisher asks for creative output and Lisa obliges by producing riveting copy with or without the help of her muse. Waiting for higher inspiration is a luxury her hectic schedule simply can’t afford and neither is she precious about whether it’s characters or plots that drive her storylines. She’s happy to take whichever approach is working best for her at any given time. Espousing web connectivity whilst writing, Lisa identified that for her at least, modern technology can often be a double-edged sword. The research potential of the internet is unprecedented but so too are the distractions that can come with web-browsing. These distractions can often work to thwart writing progress, however, one traditional activity that all writers should embrace, Lisa advised, is the age-old bedrock of reading as much as possible.
Lisa’s talk was guided by the very capable and incisive John Miller who was able to tease out informative writing habits and revealing aspects of writing professionally throughout Lisa’s talk. One thing which Lisa has still yet to come completely to terms with are the occasional negative reviews which goes to show that even successful and experienced writers, like those just starting on their writing journey, are equally affected by reviews, good or bad.
Lisa’s latest novel hits the shelves on July 12th and for members of the Society, it will be a wonderful read in light of Lisa’s excellent address.
All images © Lexica Films
Interview by Lisa Nightingale
Next month, Steve McHugh will be talking at the Hampshire Writers’s Society. We wanted to find out a little more about his writing process…
Q. When you first began writing were you aware that you were writing a particular genre and what that genre was?
I’ve always been someone who liked to write stories, and judging from my interests, I knew that I’d be writing in the fantasy or sci-fi genres. When I was 25, when my eldest daughter was born, I decided to get serious about writing and from there I started to work on what turned into an urban fantasy story.
That was when I knew I wanted to work in the genre before moving on to a different one, and I wrote Crimes Against Magic.
Q. Was Hellequinn your first foray into mixing our own up-to-date world with that of fantasy?
Hellequin was the second. The first was never good enough to be published, but it gave me the ideas that would eventually become Hellequin.
Q. Were you then able to find out the ‘dos’ and ‘don’t’ of that genre, for example, a limit on description or a taboo on a setting or type and style of character and what about dialogue, is the genre picky about dialect? For a long time, I was put off high fantasy as I was under the impression that it was way too olde English for a contemporary reader like me.
The good thing about urban fantasy is that it’s such a broad genre, you can really make it your own by adding or removing things you need. The most important restrictions are the ones you set yourself during your world-building. So long as you are consistent with the world you want to create, even if you’re using the real world as a backdrop, there aren’t many dos and don’t.
I’d say don’t let your book go too long, certainly not epic fantasy size, and try to make sure that whatever you do is more character based and not just about the fantastical world around them, but that’s probably the same for all genres.
With the setting, you need to have at least part of the book in the real world, but it doesn’t all need to be here, and I’ve not had any problems with dialect or lengthy descriptions, but then I don’t describe everything in detail anyway, so maybe that’s just me.
Q. Did you find sticking within the genre’s guidelines restrictive at all? Can you give me any tips for appeasing my mind-set to deal with such restrictions?
I find my restrictions quite easy to deal with. You really just need to decide on what you want your story to be. You want an urban fantasy with lots of romance? Go nuts. Or the same, but with a sci-fi edge? That’s okay too. There’s no hard and fast rule. You just need to ensure that whatever you decide is adhered to. You can’t add new fantastical elements that go against what you’ve already stated was part of your world building.
Q. Or, did you do your own thing, in which case, please tell me how you got passed the publisher’s requirement and their somewhat strict gatekeepers.
I self-published my first book, so I didn’t have a lot of gatekeepers to keep happy, but my publisher contacted me after about a year and asked if I’d like to work with them. Since then, I’ve had no issues with making sure I write a book they’re happy with.
So long as you write the book you want to write, you can always worry about what publishers and agents want after. You’ll need to be mindful of what is and isn’t being published currently, but getting the story down first is more important.
Q. How long, in your eyes (and I suppose the genre’s) does a novel of this genre have to be? Agents ask for the first three chapters or 10 to 50 pages, perhaps we should take this as a clue to the length of a chapter.
My books range from 110k in Crimes, to 146k in Scorched Shadows. Each chapter is between 10-15 pages long, on average. For me, that’s perfect as I think people like to be able to read a chapter or two and not feel like they have to put in a long time to do so.
Anything over probably 160k is too long, and anything under 80k is probably too short. If you aim for that 100k spot, and you go either side by a few, you’ll be fine.