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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Vortex Magazine Market Research

Vortex magazine was first published in 2005 by the University of Winchester staff to showcase the work of their student writers.

After over a decade of success, the publication has been handed over to third year Creative Writing students to revitalise it for a new and extended readership.

In this endeavour, Vortex are seeking the opinions of the readers we would like to reach in order to create the most exciting edition yet.

As local writers, many of you students yourselves, we hope that as many of you as possible can spare a moment to give us feedback about what you would like to read from the other creative voices in your area.

Although originally only accepting submissions from University of Winchester students, Vortex opened the door to poetry and prose from students of all institutions as of last year.

It is not too late to submit and the details of our submissions team can be found here, on our market research survey: https://goo.gl/forms/ywYgBoS9LQ1ZIEyj2

We would be very grateful if you could take the time to help us and we look forward showing you a new and improved Vortex in 2019.

Portsmouth Book Fest 2017

The Portsmouth Book Fest starts on Saturday 11 February and runs through till the beginning of March.

There are many varied events from ghosts and criminology to Morty and knitting!

Costs vary also depending on who, what, where and how long your chosen event is, many are free though! Follow the link to book.

http://www.portsmouthbookfest.co.uk/2017-programme/

HWS Are Looking for Two New Committee Posts

Publicity Manager

The new member of the Organizing Committee will have the job title ‘Publicity Manager’. He or she will be required to perform the following duties.

1) To publicize the events organized by the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

2) To use, for publicity purposes, an already existing list of contacts, and to seek to add to this list of contacts.

3) To attend the Society’s monthly Tuesday-evening events, and to assist in the smooth running of these events.

4) To attend the Society’s monthly Thursday-afternoon meetings of its Organizing Committee (normally at 4.00 p.m., on the third Thursday in the month, at West Downs, University of Winchester, Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5HT).

Hampshire Writers’ Society will undertake to provide the Publicity Manager with a designated e-mail address (if required); it will not be possible to provide desk space or a computer. The Society runs on a goodwill basis, which means that all the positions on its Organizing Committee are unpaid.

From its foundation in 2011 the Hampshire Writers’ Society has grown steadily, in terms of both its membership and its range of operations. Recently, a vacancy has arisen with regard to the position of Publicity Manager on the Society’s Organizing Committee. The Society is now looking to fill this vacancy and invites expressions of interest, ahead of the Organizing Committee’s next scheduled meeting on 12 January 2017.

Website Manager

The new member of the Organizing Committee will have the job title ‘Website Manager’. He or she will be required to perform the following duties.

1) To manage the Hampshire Writers’ Society website, see hampshirewriterssociety.co.uk.

2) To receive postings for the website from other members of the Society’s Organizing Committee and to include these materials in the website’s general management, without any other person adding postings to the website.

3) As an option, to attend the Society’s monthly Tuesday-evening events and to assist in the smooth running of these events; attendance is optional rather than a requirement.

4) As an option, to attend the Society’s monthly Thursday-afternoon meetings of its Organizing Committee; attendance is optional rather than a requirement.

Hampshire Writers’ Society will undertake to provide the Marketing Manager with a designated e-mail address (if required); it will not be possible to provide desk space or a computer. The Society runs on a goodwill basis, which means that all the positions on its Organizing Committee are unpaid.

From its foundation in 2011 the Hampshire Writers’ Society has grown steadily, in terms of both its membership and its range of operations. Recently, the Society’s Organizing Committee has decided to add a Website Manager to its membership. The Society is now looking to fill this vacancy and invites expressions of interest, ahead of the Organizing Committee’s next scheduled meeting on 12 January 2017.

 

Poets and their Poetry – Hugh Greasley

Report by Lisa Nightingale

 

Hugh Greasley is a visual artist – a painter – as well as a poet.hughgreasley

He often collaborates with other artists, enjoying the intersection between poetry and arts. In 2015, he worked with a performance artist to develop a poetry/performance piece about a moonlight walk along the Itchen River, from Winchester to the sea over the course of a night. Hugh has recently collaborated with a ceramicist, hand writing poetry around pots and bottles, mixing writing with three dimensional form.

His poems are inspired by places such as St Ives and nature. He often begins with quite an ordinary subject and allows the poem to twist itself into something more interesting.stives

Hugh’s research tip is to use Etymology which is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed. Etymology can often lead you to interesting related concepts. He agrees with the advice to read widely the works of other poets.

Poets and their Poetry – Maura Dooley

Report by Lisa Nightingale

mauradooleyMaura’s poetry is inspired by her feelings for places, or people or situations. For example her wonderful poem inspired by her becoming star struck at meeting her idol, Leonard Cohen in a lift. In her travels she will often take a wander around the new place, looking in estate windows and imagining living in those houses, putting herself in the shoes of those that live there and she read us her poems about the Ace Sisters of Mumbles in Wales and Streatham Hill.

Her work sounds as though it has been well researched and she says that research is not the inspiration, but often she will be looking into something which interests her and a poem begins to form from it. On The Moor with Keeper was inspired by the Yorkshire Moors and Keeper was the name of Emily Bronte’s dog. And another on her arrival in London during the Thatcher years.oldauthenticinstruments

Maura also reads widely the work of other poets and writers. Another of her poems, Bellowhead was inspired by the bands ability to take ancient ballads and make them contemporary using old and authentic instruments and here she read us her own reworking of an old ballad.

Maura was honoured to spend time as Chawton Houses Poet in Residence. She used the comings and goings of those visiting to imagine what it was like in Jane Austen’s time. And looking at the grave Jane and her mother turned the stereotypical graveside feelings on their head to produce a positive poem which reduced the grave to what it is – a square of earth; Jane and Cassandra’s spirits are in the house.austengrave

Ideas often ramble around for a long time in Maura’s head until she finds a way to write it down. Her first poem was about a ghost. She called the ghost a ‘blip’ of light. Her teacher returned the work with ‘blip’ crossed through in red and the word ‘blot’ written in instead. Maura knew then that she wanted to be a poet.

Poets and their Poetry; Maggie Sawkins

Report by Lisa Nightingale

maggiesawkins

Maggie’s writing took off after attending a workshop on the theme of sound with the Poet John Burnside in Portsmouth. Originally she was at a loss. Knowing that she wanted to write something, she asked herself a challenging question (where does sound go to when it’s not there) which helped her to look at the subject from a new angle.

Maggie quoted the poet Charles Simic: ‘Poems are the translation of silence’. It was this that inspired her to write the poem that won the Winchester Writers’ Poetry Competition in 1998. It reminded her of returning home from school to find that whatever had been causing her parents constant rowing had been overcome – they’d made up and what ensued was silence. Maggie chose to interpret that silence in the prize winning poem, ‘The Birds’.

Maggie quotes and reads the work of other poets taking inspiration from them and asking questions of her own understanding of them and reworking them from challenging angles.

zonesofavoidanceThe arena of addiction provides a wide range of material for a writer. But it is the drama triangle that interests Maggie. She knew that she wanted to write a long poem sequence and became interested in the ‘walls’ that we and our society use as coping mechanisms. During her research she found that the biggest wall of all is in the Milky Way near the Zone of Avoidance.

The Zone Of Avoidance
The Zone Of Avoidance

Maggie takes pride in writing all types of poetry. She wrote ‘Hooked’ in the form of a pantoum in which the lines are repeated. Her starting point was the emotion of grief personified as an animal – in this case, a dog. ‘You curl up with me when I lie down/I vow each time not to feed/I should lock you out/but you’re too far in.’

She spends much time crafting her work and making every word count and advises that using a working title is a good idea as the overall title is so important.

Experience, publication and attendance at workshops have all attributed to her work evolving. ‘Maybe you grow into your voice,’ she muses. ‘Looking back, the preoccupations stay the same but the voice has changed.’

Poets and their Poetry – Isabel Rogers Hampshire Poet 2016

Report by Lisa Nightingale

‘When I feel an itch at the back of my skull, I think; there’s a poem coming!’ Isabel Rogers Hampshire Poet 2016 told the Society at October’s meeting.

isabelrogers-jpegIsabel is now three quarters of her way through a hectic but fantastic year as Hampshire Poet. The post has enabled her to take her poetry onto the radio and into many of the county’s schools running workshops and getting the children excited about poetry.

Isabel is also an enthusiastic advocate of the Winchester Poetry Festival and in partnership with Hampshire Cultural Trust her latest commission has been produced for National Poetry Day. It is a poem in Book Morse on a book mark – you have to look at it as a column!

Isabel admitted to often working on a poem with no title adding it at the end and as for research – ‘I usually make it all up!’ she says. But on a serious note, Isabel fessed up to researching her subject to within an inch of his legend when once writing a poem about John Harrison.

John Harrison's Chronometer
John Harrison’s Chronometer

The poem was titled ‘John’s Curious Machines and it won the 2014 Cardiff International Poetry Competition. Still a man in her audience told her that one of her points was wrong!

Read other poets widely was her message – ‘It is essential. It is how we learn’.

Poetry Magazine, a publication based in Chicago (distributed internationally) has this month printed two of Isabel’s poems and she read Watching the Perseids to the Society.

Have a look at Isabel’s website – https://isabelrogers.org/

 

Poets and Their Poetry

Maura Dooley has published several collections of poetry, most recently Life Under MauraDooleyLifeUnderWaterWater and edited verse and essays including The Honey Gatherers: Love Poems and How Novelists Work.

Maggie Sawkins won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2013 with Zones of Avoidance. Her two poetry collections are Charcot’s Pet and The Zig Zag Woman.MaggieSawkinsZigZag

Special Guests: Isabel Rogers, Hampshire Poet 2016 and Hugh Greasley, local poet and ceramicist.

Mingle and meet poets amongst many other writers on Tuesday 11 October 2016. The evening will incorporate a short AGM which will start at 7.15pm

P&G Wells Book Stall with books available for sale

Wine, soft drinks available for purchase from 7.00pm

Members and students free; guests £5