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

Q&A with Barry Cunningham, MD of Chicken House Ltd, Publisher, Agent and Discoverer of Harry Potter

barrycunninghamQ. In your talk at the September meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society, you told us that a writer’s voice is important to an Agent/Publisher. To save a writer many painful rejections from targeting the wrong agents – how would they know if their voice is that of a children’s writer? Is there a checklist of things that the writing must or mustn’t have?

A. I THINK THIS IS ALL TO DO WITH BEING ABLE TO ‘ACCESS’ YOUR SUBJECT. IF YOU SET OUT TO WRITE FOR CHILDREN THEN TRY AND FIND THE VOICE APPROPRIATE TO THE AGE GROUP YOU ARE AIMING AT – IF IT COMES EASILY – GREAT – IF IT DOESN’T THEN YOU’LL KNOW THAT CHILDREN’S BOOKS ARE NOT FOR YOU!chickenhouselogoQ. Similarly, as an Agent how would you know if what has been submitted is a teen or a YA? Do you think that there are any taboos? Or ‘must haves’?

A. NO – BUT MAINLY SEXUAL CONTENT AND SWEARING IS FOR YA – IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE HANDLED CAREFULLY

Q. The lines between children’s, teen and YA are very blurred – can you outline them for us?

A. THE SAFEST AREA FOR MOST GENERAL APPEAL IS ‘CLEAN TEEN’ WITHOUT EXPLICIT MATERIAL – THE OLDER EDGES OF YA MERGE WITH ADULT AND SHOULD BE HANDLED POSITIVELY AND WITH CARE

Q. How should a children’s author writing a trilogy or series go about submitting?

A. SAMPLE MATERIAL AND A SYNOPSIS OF HOW ALL BOOKS IN SERIES/TRILOGY ARE GOING TO WORK WITH A CLEAR OVERALL PLOT LINE

Q. And what about their commitment – should they finish book one and sell it before starting book two?inkheartA. NO – ACTUALLY BEST TO HAVE BOOK 2 IN PROGRESS – BE CONFIDENT!

Q. Advice is to ‘write what you love’. Simon Trewin of WME said ‘don’t even think of publishing until your book is finished.’ The Writers and Artists Yearbook advises us that when you come to submitting, first decide on a genre. Shouldn’t we decide on a genre first, saving ourselves a lot of heart ache and work? And that brings me back to question one!

A. NO – GENRE IS NOT SPECIFIC – YOU SHOULD WAIT UNTIL THE BOOK IS WELL UNDERWAY – THE GENRE BOUNDARIES SLIP ALL THE TIME AND ARE LARGELY WHAT THE MARKET/PUBLISHER WANTS THEM TO BEblack-powder-aw-2-195x3001

Secret Special Guests

Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford

 

 

secretlivesThe Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford is a collection of short stories, some contemporary, some historical and some Sci Fi. All are based around Chandlers Ford.

Karen Stephen, Maggie Farran, Catherine Griffin and Sally Howard, four friends with a passion for creative writing nurtured the idea for Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford in April 2015 whilst studying creative writing on a course run our own Barbara Large.

What, they wondered, are the “secrets” of Chandler’s Ford? What goes on behind the net curtains and leafy hedges? Chandler’s Ford is a quiet, respectable backwater. A suburb, although no one is quite sure whether of Winchester or of Southampton. It has clean streets, decent and kind citizens. Could it have any secrets?

Using Amazon, the authors have self-published the Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford. This means that the technical bits and the uploading of all their work to a software whereby it can be printed on demand had to be done themselves. There are companies that will do this for writers. At a price though. Luckily Catherine is ‘down’ with technology and took it in her stride. The book was published around May time 2016.

All four agree that writing and production of this book has been a most enjoyable Untitledprocess. In fact, were it not for much gossip, cake and tea, it might have been produced a bit quicker. However, this simply adds to its charm.

Book two is due to be finished later this year.

The four will be speaking at the September meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society which takes place on Tuesday 13 September in Room 303 St Elphege at 7.00 for 7.30pm

Five Research Tips from this Season’s Speakers

  1. Go Outside – Kate Mosse told us that settings and places that fascinate her are key to her writing success. Taxidermists-Daughter-mmp-217x327Whatever the weather, she stands in her setting, lets her imagination run riot and listens to the voices of those who have passed through the place before her. OK; so you may not be able to stand in exactly the right place, especially if you’re writing Sci Fi, but you get the idea – woodland in the rain, sandy beach in the wind, any stately home, castle or gallery may do and even a car park in hot sunshine. ‘See the vista through their eyes.’ Chris Cleave told us of his characters. As James Marrison suggests; a good walk is soothing when the writing gets tough.
  2. Take the Kids? – Della Galton admitted that much of her writing is driven by emotion. Children are good at provoking an emotional response in us. Yes, cinemas still have Saturday morning clubs – feel free to get emotional; the kids do. Children also have the ability to overlook the macabre in the most natural way, take weirdness in their stride and come up with the original character names. Children are valuable tickets to ‘hands on’ research and ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses that, for some reason museums don’t hand to adults.
  3. Have a nice day! – High Fantasy Author James Barclay gave us a master class in world building and battle creation in which ‘Be Realistic’ was his advice, ‘A peasant is most unlikely to defeat an experienced fighter’. ElvesBeyondtheMistsofKaturaIndividual guides dotted around historic sites or animal park keepers are only too keen to depart with their knowledge. Don’t be shy about asking them either they spend most of their time with people who don’t need to know and then you come along wanting nothing more than to hear their stories. You may not come away with a file full of research, but you’ll most likely pick up a snippet and definitely a feeling.
  4. Volunteer – ‘Put yourself in your reader’s shoes.’ said Jude Evans of Little Tiger Press. ‘Know your market.’ The Library’s annual Summer Reading Challenge plunges children’s writers right in the middle of their target market. Volunteers are needed to man the Reading Challenge desk where you will need to quiz the readers. If you don’t come away with a clear idea of the literary needs of your chosen age range then you haven’t been listening to your market.
  5. Rain stops play? – ‘You’re only really listening to the conversation when you’re not in it’ said Chris Cleave. Clare Morrall told us that dialogue is often underestimated as an aspect of bringing characters to life. WhentheFloodsCame‘Absorb the voices around you and let a hint of the waffle remain for believability’, she advises. So, buy a coffee and nurse it till its cold whilst you listen in on the conversations around you. ‘Carry out your market research.’ said Della Galton. Sit in a waiting room and read the magazines.

A Question for Romance Writer Kate Walker

‘You mentioned in your talk (April 2016) that you took inspiration for one of your heroes from an interview with a chap on the radio. You have 65 different heroes; where do you get them from and with that many, how do you ever come up with different appearances for them, surely there can be only one ‘tall, dark and handsome’ hero?’

 

Your question chimes in well with my overall approach to writing popular ‘category’ romance; one that I always say is the most important consideration when I’m teaching. 12PointGuideKWAnd that is character. Romance writing has been established so long (since 1908 in the case of Mills and Boon) that it’s very difficult – if not just about impossible – to be really original when writing this mass-market genre. But the thing that keeps me fresh, again and again, is writing about the different characters I create, and telling their stories to the reader. I find myself fascinated by – and perhaps falling a little in love myself – by my hero and heroine, particularly the heroes. That way I can hope to create a fascinating, flawed and exciting man, who will entice his heroine – and my readers along with her. It certainly seems to be that way as my books have been selling, and republished in so many languages for over 30 years now.

A romance novel is the story of the emotional journey of the two central characters from first meeting (or reunion) to the sort of love that will lead to the ‘happy ever after ending the reader is hoping for. Each character is different – some heroes are the fantasy sheikhs that are still popular, such as in my duo of linked books A Question of Honour and Destined for the Desert King some are Spanish or Greek, some artists, some are sportsmen. . . And it is that individuality that, when combined with the heroine’s own personal; story, makes the ‘emotional journey’ different each time.

So – when you ask where I get my heroes from – the answer is that, as with every sort of story writing, ideas can be found anywhere in life. In newspapers, magazines, on the TV – in drama or documentaries. Something will provide a ‘seed’ that can be planted to make me think what would happen if . . .? And to develop a story from there. The man on the radio I heard – in your example the Italian Forced Bride ItaliansForcedBride– was telling how he had been a foundling, abandoned by his mother, without ever knowing his parents or family. That sparked my interest and I wondered ‘what if. . .’ that man met a heroine, fathered a child. . . And what would that heroine be like? How would she react to him? Asking those questions gives me my characters’ stories. And because my characters are all different in their ages, nationalities, interests, careers, family backgrounds (that’s what helps keep my interest in writing their stories fresh) then each book/each hero and heroine has its own individual plot, its individual flavour and atmosphere.

The line ‘tall dark and handsome’ is really just a form of shorthand for the type of hero that romance writers create. What it really means is that the hero has to be the man who would most appeal to the heroine when she meets him and begins to fall in love with him. This is the way it should be because, to a woman in love, the hero will be the most attractive man she has seen. But of course heroines come in all shapes and sizes – some are five feet nothing, and some over six feet tall. Obviously, a very different sort of man would be ‘tall’ to either of those. And we will have our favourite sorts of looks that we find appealing. Life would be terribly boring if we all liked the same sort of man. So the reader sees the hero through the eyes of the heroine in the story – and vice versa.

AQuestionOfHonorIt’s well known that the ‘tall dark and handsome’ is the type of hero who is most popular the world over, but often the heroine might start out thinking that this particular man is not really that appealing. Rochester, after all, is stern-featured, heavy-browed, craggy-faced, rude, abrupt – at the beginning – but he fascinates Jane Eyre and then that fascination grows into something more. Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice is acknowledged to have a ‘fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien’ . . .’till his manners gave a disgust which turned to tide of his popularity.’ But as the novel progresses, the feelings of the heroine(s) change – just as his feelings about her are changing.

I’ve always written these stories by concentrating my focus overall on the characters I’m writing about. So perhaps the answer to your question is really that ‘surely there can be only one ‘tall, dark and handsome’ hero’ . . . for each heroine.

Creative Writing Degree Programme Leader’s Top Five Lyrics

When Glenn Fosbraey joined the HWS as our special guest back in January this year, he spoke, as Programme Leader for the Creative Writing Degree at the University of Winchester of his passion for the recognition of the importance of song lyrics within the degree. He has very kindly sent us his top five ‘popular’ music song lyrics.

MorriseyNovember Spawned a Monster – Morrissey

 

I could quite easily have filled all five positions with Morrissey lyrics. The Marmite of music he may be, but none can deny that Morrissey pulls no punches in his lyrics and constantly addresses subjects that other lyricists shy away from. ‘November Spawned a Monster’ is no exception to this. Morrissey sings from the perspective of a young woman frustrated by people’s reactions to her physical disability: “save me from pity, sympathy and people discussing me”; and suggests how she is as much ‘a hostage to kindness’ as she is to ‘the wheels underneath her’. Morrissey also provides the viewpoint of those who wish for equal opportunities for the disabled: ‘oh one fine day LET IT BE SOON/ she won’t be rich or beautiful/ but she’ll be walking your streets in the clothes that she went out and chose for herself’, as well as those of the harmfully narrow-minded: ‘poor twisted child, so ugly, so ugly’. Insightful, impactful, and way ahead of its time, over 25 years after its release, ‘November Spawned a Monster’ remains one of the best commentaries on disability even committed to record.

S&GKathy’s Song – Simon and Garfunkel

A song about self-doubt and introspection, it includes one of my favourite ever lines:

‘And as I watch the drops of rain/ Weave their weary paths and die/ I know that I am like the rain/ There but for the grace of you go I.’

A love song that manages to reject any kind of cliché. Beautiful.

ThisIsHellThis is Hell – Elvis Costello

 

A lyricist that never relies on stock phrases and has an ability to create vivid mind pictures with his songs, Costello blends his talent with words with delightfully sprawling melodies, making him a songwriting force to be reckoned with. ‘This is Hell’ includes my favourite ever Bridge section, where the tone of the song shifts dramatically, almost out of nowhere, from playful to serious, and contains the magnificent line:

‘It’s not the torment of the flames that finally sees your flesh corrupted/ it’s the small humiliations that your memory piles up’.

One line buried in the middle of an album, this perfectly demonstrates Costello’s ability to make the listener engage with his words, and think about them long after the song has finished.

PulpPulp – Common People

 

A masterclass on socio-political commentary wrapped up within the narrative of a story, set to an infectiously catchy melody, ‘Common People’ tells the story of a wealthy female student who wishes to be like other students and live the proper student lifestyle, even if that means living in relative poverty. The narrator doesn’t buy into it, however, and points out that however much she may pretend she’s just like the ‘common people’ our protagonist will ‘never understand/ How it feels to live your life/ With no meaning or control/ And with nowhere left to go’, and that even if she does share the lifestyle, if she ‘called (her) dad he could stop it all’.

The Britpop period spawned many throwaway songs, but this certainly isn’t one of them.

PinkFloydPink Floyd – Brain Damage

I’ve chosen this one not because of its story, or ‘meaning’, but for the sheer aesthetics of the lyrics. The final song on Dark Side of the Moon, Roger Waters really goes to town with his wordplay and imagery with lines such as:

‘Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs’, and ‘The paper holds their folded faces to the floor’.

A stunning end to a stunning album.

Simon Trewin

SimonTrewinSimon Trewin, Literary Agent, Head of the London Branch of Literary Agency, WME.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

‘Don’t be in a hurry.’ is Simon Trewin’s advice. The Publishing world is slow. In the publishing industry there is movement, but it is often amongst itself. The industry runs the risk of becoming an island of in-breeds.

It is when an idea in a person’s head will not go away until it has been written down that they become an author. Validation of their creativity comes with an agent.

Unfortunately, the publishing industry has taken a path where the writer’s talent is dumbed down by a deal and a big cheque. Publishing has been suffocated by business and as a result, it is more concerned with turnover.

Currently publishers are putting lots of energy into debut authors – not such good news for the author’s future career. This is where your agent comes in. Here Simon gives us some examples of his clients who have much creative genius still bubbling after their first phenomenal success. the-boy-in-th-striped-pyjamas-205x300  the-thief-of-time-n-192x300The agent perseveres with the publishers along with the author’s creative abilities, picks their battles carefully, does all the speculative work and filters through the business issues of the writing/publishing process.

‘When a writer employs the services of an agent, they are buying into a set of tightly honed relationships with the publishing world.’ He says.

‘The world doesn’t need another novel.’ Simon tentatively states. An average reader might buy five books a year. The first four are likely to have been bought under some sort of pressure (Richard & Judy or even the book club’s choice) The fifth book is the one that interests Simon Trewin the Literary Agent. An author needs to make the Agent believe that theirs should be that fifth book. Technology has made that reader’s choice complex. Bookshops have declined and there is nowhere for the reader to browse for their next good read.

‘Do we over-communicate?’ He asks. We share everything using technology. A writer must embrace technology. Engage with Social Media.

Don’t be in a hurry, he repeats. It is not worth trying to hop on the band wagon of what’s trending in novels. Simon believes honesty and hard work is the key to a good relationship with the author. He has learnt tenacity through experience and is pleased to still be learning. An Agent is a good thing to be.

For Simons tips on submitting your manuscript to an agents see our members’ newsletter.

March Meeting Report – Councillor Roy Perry

Councillor Roy Perry. Councillor since 2005, Leader of Hampshire County Council since 2015. CllrRoyPerry

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Politicians are not listed bottom of opinion polls. In some ways they have lots in common with writers – it is necessary for them to relate complex issues and detail ideas in just a few words to an ever expanding range of intellects. Councillor Perry recognises that this is not an easy ask.

As Culture Secretary, he has been able to visit many countries and experienced the reawakening of the ‘closed down cultures’ of Tallinn bringing the city back to life.

In the UK, it is a difficult time. Councils are fraught with cuts. Many libraries have been incorporated into Discovery Centres where a broad range of resources can be found. The provision of culture has been assigned along with a ‘realistic’ brief to the Hampshire Cultural Trust.

Groups like the Hampshire Writers’ Society can help by putting pressure on himself and his colleagues, he tells us.