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
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!
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.
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.
There is now less than one month left for script submissions for ‘Supernova’, Bench Theatre’s regular festival of brand-new one act plays.
Supernova 8 will take place during February 2019 at the Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in Havant, but entries must be submitted by August 17th, 2018.
The competition is open to all writers from or living in the UK and welcomes entries in all styles and genres. The winning selection will be directed and performed by Bench’s multi-award-winning membership.
The ambitious Supernova venture has gone from strength to strength since being launched by the Havant-based company in 2000. It provides opportunities not only for writers to have their work tested on stage but for audiences to feast on a wide range of new material during one or more evenings – and potentially identify major writing talents of the future.
There is no entry fee for the festival; Bench ask only that scripts should be unpublished and unperformed, with no performing rights attached, and that they meet the company’s competition rules and staging criteria.
With in excess of 5.5 million copies sold and counting, Erica James is one of the UK’s best-selling authors. Her writing story is of hobby-writer turned national and now international publishing phenomenon and over the years she has been witness to and part of the tumultuous changes that the publishing industry has undergone.
Engaging in writing as a way of escaping a dark period of her life, Erica found the feeling of control (dare we say power?) that she could exercise in her fictional worlds a heady substitute for the events surrounding her. This is perhaps familiar to many fiction writers as the white heat of novel writing takes over their everyday lives. But Erica, being a person not to undertake any new activity frivolously enrolled on an Arvon course. It was here that she first experienced sharing her creative output with others. She overcame her acute anxiety and just about managed to avoid scarpering on the first evening! Thankfully her need to achieve overcame her fear of failure and her output during the course was warmly received by the tutors with one, in particular, spotting real if nascent talent.
As seems often the case Hampshire Writers’ Society (although not then quite in its present manifestation) had a role to play. Erica attended a course organised by Barbara Large in Southampton and from there submitted the first three chapters of a manuscript to an agent working for Curtis Brown. Suitably impressed, Erica was asked to send the whole manuscript and found herself telling a white lie to the effect that it was finished. Working flat-out under enormous pressure again due to personal and domestic difficulties, Erica sent the whole thing off within three months and the rest, as they say, is history.
Erica’s presentation took a different and refreshing format arranged as it was as being ‘in conversation’ with Sarah Benton of her publisher Orion. Sarah herself provided an insight into the publishing industry side of Erica’s story. The process of selecting a new novel for publication is a painstaking and rigorous process and at least at Orion is based on consensus, which seems less capricious than the methods some Houses employ. Sarah agreed with Erica that when a track record of quality writing is evidenced the writer’s opinions should be listened to especially when editorial decisions are being taken. To this end, Erica related how sometimes she has been proved correct when fighting her corner in the face of editorial decisions that she has felt were ill-advised.
Erica was asked about her writing process and explained that she produced two drafts, the first being ‘in the rough’ and the second one being fairly polished to the point of being able to let the publisher read the manuscript. Erica is an instinctive writer and loves to forge a killer plot-hook from which engaging multi-dimensional characters can operate. She warned against ‘overwriting’ and Sarah agreed wholeheartedly that this was a pitfall for many aspiring writers. For those wanting to find out more about Erica’s creative output and writing career visit Erica James’ Official Website.
Special Guest: Ant Ridgeway
If Ant Ridgeway was in any way nervous about speaking to the society it was in no way apparent as he produced an informative and confident presentation that should prove inspiring for any writers out there who might be flagging, blocked or otherwise unproductive.
Ant Ridgeway and Jenny Knowles of Little Knoll Press
Ant’s life-long love of stories and storytelling found early impetus during family trips and seaside holidays from where real-life adventures found their way into his fiction. As a little boy, he found himself constantly making stories up for his own and others’ entertainment. It is therefore unsurprising that Ant was one of those present at the inaugural meeting of The Hampshire Writers’ Society back in September 2011. Barbara Large, never far from the action, was quick to spot Ant’s talent for children’s literature and was insistent that he should strive towards becoming published. This is where Jenny Knowles of Little Knoll Press comes into Ant’s authorial journey. Jenny was with Ant on stage during his address and provided a little of her own insight about the part Little Knoll Press has played in Ant’s success. The launch of Ant’s debut children’s story, Wizzy and the Seaside Adventure was featured in the BBC South documentary which can be found here. Of course, it is the writers themselves who must make narrative decisions, about word choice, story and character arcs and as such, Ant is best placed himself to explain his own writing process. Watch Ant’s video: How I write for the best insight into his working practice.
A speaker, when fielding questions from the audience, is often at their most informative and so it proved with Ant and his sage advice to ‘Just keep going!’. Surely this is something that all writers would do well to remember. The presentation was punctuated by videos (see above) showing Ant’s working day and some of the technology he has been able to harness to support the production and development of his writing, proof positive, if any were needed, that good things really are worth waiting for.
Hampshire author, Nigel Spriggs, kindly agreed to adjudicate the April competition. And he certainly had his work cut out with a significantly higher number of entries for the competition than has been received throughout the 2017-18 season.
Nigel commented: “As ever, when I’ve been asked to judge a HWS short-story competition, there has been a diverse range of entries, which is always great to see. All entries definitely fulfilled the criteria of having a lost shoe returned, each single story took a different approach and no two story-lines felt the same. That didn’t make judging any easier, however, because I had a lot of favourites to whittle down, but it certainly made reading all the entries very enjoyable, so thank you to all the writers who entered.
“Of those that I wanted to shoe-horn into the final five placings but couldn’t quite find room for, the authors of A Lost Shoe Returned (by Penny Munro) and Ralph to the Rescue (by Maggie Farran) only just missed out, as did Cold Comfort (by Barbara Needham), which had a strong final line.”
The competition brief for April 2018 was to:
Write a scene in which a lost shoe is returned, in 300 words.
Nigel’s adjudication was as follows:
First Place: Dominique Hackston with Moore than a Fairytale
Second Place: George Rodger with The Snowshoe
Third Place: Kim A Howard with For Want of a Nail
Highly Commended: Lynn Clement with Serendipity
Highly Commended: Wendy Fitzgerald with A Tissue of Lies
First Place:Moore than a Fairytale by Dominique Hackston
“I have chosen Moore than a Fairytale as the winner, mostly because the situation described was the one that played on my mind the most after I had read all the entries through for the first time. Then, on second read through, understanding where the story was heading made it an even more satisfying read, which is always an impressive trick for any writer to pull off.“
Sophie burst into the kitchen. ‘I’ve got news!’
‘No, that’s tomorrow.’ Her attention was drawn by lemon-drizzle oozing over a cake. She dipped her finger into a puddle.
Sophie’s lips smacked as she removed the sucked-clean finger and pouted briefly. ‘You know I said I’d do a Facebook appeal for your shoe?’
‘Hmmm, have you … ummm … found it?’ Eleanor subconsciously stroked her neckline.
‘I think so.’ Sophie placed a small white Moore’s Pawn bag in front of her Gran. ‘You tell me’.
Eleanor took the bag and slowly withdrew a chain. She inspected the tiny silver pendent with its blue sapphire ornament. In her mind’s eye she could still see Joe holding her grey Mary-Jane with its blue button. Sophie did not breath until Eleanor nodded.
‘How much did you pay?’
‘Like, it’s the most romantic present, ever. A real fairytale. And you talk money’
‘Fairytale?’ Eleanor laughed, ‘Your Gramps mended a broken heel.’
‘And walked you home. Courted you, married you, and made you a shoe pendant to hang over your heart.’
‘I suppose compared to texting, it is. Now … how much?’
‘Its important to me.’
Eleanor lowered her head and frowned at her granddaughter. Sophie responded with a clenched jaw. The unspoken challenge hung between them. It was Eleanor that called the truce.
After tea, cookies and a kiss goodbye, Eleanor got out her savings box. She swapped some notes into the envelope marked Sophie’s Laptop.
‘So Christmas will be a little leaner, and I can wear an extra jumper.’ she thought, ‘Sophie is worth every penny.’
Eleanor placed the envelope inside a book of handwritten recipes and lovingly wrapped them. Before re-locking her savings box she rummaged for a little white chit. Then tearfully she shredded her Moore’s Pawn receipt.
Second Place:The Snowshoe by George Rodger
“I have chosen The Snowshoe – especially topical given the weather we’ve had recently, the pace of the story felt right and the descriptiveness of the wintry night rang true. The way the reason for the pursuit was held back until the very last line gave the story a surprising twist I hadn’t been expecting but immediately felt like the correct way to wrap up the action.“
The car radio was dispensing “Don’t travel” advice as I crept along behind the double-decker bus dropping commuters off after work. Snow had been falling heavily for forty minutes and was already lying thick on the pavements. I was looking forward to a hot cup of something when I reached home. I was thinking, it’s hard not to like the snow. It covers and sanctifies wherever it falls. It turns slag-heaps and landfills into Narnia, hiding everything under a blanket of snowy innocence.
Something flew through my headlights and banged against the windscreen. Along the road the bus was disappearing into the darkness. I picked up the missile and found it was a lady’s shoe. It looked expensive and must have come from the upstairs window of the bus. I knew that there were only two more stops before the bus reached the terminus.
At the terminus, I watched the remaining passengers disembark, all were fully shod. The driver was helpful; two people had alighted at the previous stop. A woman and a boy.
I drove back down the road. Opposite the bus stop was a wintry street lined with lampposts haloed in swirling snowflakes. Clutching the shoe, I followed the trail down the snow-covered pavement like a bloodhound. Two sets of footprints; one set shod, one barefoot, ended at a gate. I slithered down the path and knocked on the door. A light came on and it was opened by a little boy.
“Jason, who’s there?” A voice came from the back and a young woman, clutching a towel, appeared beside him.
“What a night,” she said. “Can I help you?” Covered in snow, I must have looked like a Yeti.
“Is this yours?” I asked.
She beamed, “My shoe! I thought I’d lost it. Thank you so much.” She glared at the child. “This scamp threw it out of the window.”
“My pleasure,” I said, “here’s my address. You owe me for a new windscreen.”
Third Place:For Want of a Nail by Kim A Howard
“In third place I have chosen For Want of a Nail. I felt the writer did a great job of choosing the right expressions for the period he or she was writing about which really gave the story a grounded sense of reality. This approach made the intentional absurdity of the last few lines especially satisfying.“
The sound of hooves on the road summoned Perry from his breakfast. When the horsemen reached his gate he was lounging against the door jamb, slicing an apple into segments with his bone-handled dagger.
‘Good morning, my lord. What brings you so far from the castle on this glorious morn?’ Perry addressed the nobleman at the front of the group, ignoring the soldiers ranged behind him.
‘Not so far when we serve the King’s justice,’ the noble replied.
‘Do you seek refreshment for your horses?’ Perry asked. ‘A stream runs through yonder field and the grass is plentiful this spring.’ From the corner of his eye he saw a soldier place a hand on his sword hilt. No one made move to dismount. Not a casual visit, then.
‘We seek a brigand who stole a large quantity of coin from a coach on the King’s Road,’ the noble replied. ‘Does anyone reside with you who can vouch for your movements yester’ eve?’
‘I live alone, apart from my hound and horse. You are welcome to visit both and quiz them if it please you.’ Perry led them to his stable. As he waited for the noble to dismount he rubbed his hound’s head and fed the mare a slice of apple.
‘Your steed stands uneven in her stall. May I examine her legs for injury?’
‘As you please.’ The nobleman ran his hands down each of the mare’s legs, lifting her feet to examine the hooves. At last he stepped back with a satisfied smirk.
‘As I suspected, your mount has thrown a shoe,’ he said. He thrust a hand into the pouch at his waist and produced a bright curve of metal. ‘This shoe! ‘Twas found near the scene of the crime.’ He handed the horseshoe to Perry. ‘Yours, I presume.’
‘Nay,’ said the mare. ‘It wouldn’t fit him.’
‘Quite,’ agreed the hound. ‘Now all we need is a farrier – and a convincing alibi.’
Highly Commended:A Tissue of Lies by Wendy Fitzgerald
“A Tissue of Lies is highly commended because I felt there was a lot of tension here and the writer does a great job of building that. A little bit more clarity around the background of the situation might have made this the winner. “
I open the door and he’s standing there on the pavement.
‘Miss, um, Smith?’
‘We spoke earlier. Can I come in?’
Somehow I resist the compulsion to look behind me. ‘Er, it’s not very convenient at
the moment …’
‘Right. Well, if you could just take a look at this and let me know?’
He holds out a clear plastic bag. There’s a label on it and inside is a shoe. I hesitate
and he adds, ‘it …um … there’s nothing on it you know.’
I take the bag and hold it gingerly. It’s more of a trainer actually, or the type that’s a
cross in-between. Black wedged rubber sole. Black textile uppers. The kind teenagers
today would die for. I thrust it back at him quickly.
‘So can you help?’
‘I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. They all … look the same these days …’ My voice fails
and I stare past him into the street, not wanting him to see the agony in my eyes.
Suddenly there’s a tug at my leg. Rosie! She squeezes between me and the door
frame, staring up at us silently with her big blue eyes. How …? I pull her up into my arms; feel her breath warm against my neck.
‘Is that your car?’ I suddenly hiss.
‘The black one? Yes. Why?’
‘In a minute,’ my voice cracks with urgency, ‘you will leave. You’ll get in the car but
just before you drive off, we’ll jump in. Then you drive away – fast!’
His nod is almost imperceptible. Following him, my heart hammers so hard as he
opens his car door that I fear it might bruise Rosie. And as we scramble desperately into the cramped well in front of the passenger seat and he powers away, the electronic clunk of the locks seems to taunt us that we’ve just swapped one prison for another …
Highly Commended:Serendipity by Lynn Clement
“Serendipity is highly commended because I enjoyed the way the visitor’s motives can be perceived three ways in such a short space of time, and the reason for the visitor to be suspicious – which leads to the final reveal – held up to a google search (always a good sign; though it’s probably something we should all be aware of anyway!).“
Joe knocked on the shabby red door. He wasn’t sure what had possessed him to follow the woman. He was going to be late for work now. She was a quick walker and by the time he’d made his mind up to return the shoe, she’d dashed off. Luckily he’d kept her in sight whilst fighting the early morning rush crush, and now here he was outside her door.
‘Yes,’ she said on opening the door. Not a warm welcome thought Joe. ‘I err, you dropped your shoe, that is, your baby dropped the shoe.’ Joe was never the most articulate at the best of times.
‘Oh, thanks,’ she said taking the tiny blue shoe from Joe’s hand. The door was closing when Joe decided to put his foot in it. ‘Hey,’ said the woman with the golden curls, tied up in a purple scarf.
‘I’m sorry,’ explained Joe, ‘I can hear your baby crying.’
‘That’s none of your business,’ snapped the woman.
‘It’s such a high pitched cry,’ said Joe.
‘Is it really?’ asked the woman sarcastically. ‘I hadn’t noticed all these days and nights.’
Joe saw her dark green eyes harden. Her pretty face became weary. ’Get lost mister,’ she said and tried to close the door again.
Joe put his hand on the handle now, ‘I need to come in,’ he insisted. The smell of stale milk and dirty nappies drifted up the grimy uncarpeted corridor. The baby’s cry was persistent and uncomfortable. ‘I only want to look at the baby,’ said Joe.
‘What are you some kind of perv, piss off.’
Joe pushed the door and followed the wail to a tiny bedroom, where the baby lay in a crib, lovingly decorated with hand embroidered bumpers and a purple patchwork quilt. He bent over the cot and lifted the baby, confirming his suspicion.
He thumbed his mobile, ‘I’m Doctor Kent, send an ambulance to 6 Meade Terrace and quickly, this baby has meningitis.’
The Society’s evening’s proceedings commenced with Dr Judith Heneghan (2018 Winchester Writers’ Festival [15-17thJune] director), who in a brief slot outlined the extensive programme of events planned for this year. The festival’s Keynote Speaker is to be novelist and playwright, Patrick Gale (A Perfectly Good Man, The Whole Day Through and the Richard and Judy bestseller Notes From an Exhibition) who is headlining a festival aimed at extending a panoply of writing opportunities. Whether one is interested in crime or thrillers, contemporary, historical or literary fiction, fantasy and speculative work, poetry, scriptwriting, nonfiction or writing for children up to YA there is something of interest. Bursaries, including ten free scholarship weekend packages for writers aged between 18-25, are available on application. There are also full scholarship packages for writers of any age involved in producing work for children generously funded by the Lindsay Literary Agency. Finally, a number of £50 bursaries, again for writers of any age are available to apply for. Further details, too numerous to include here, are available at the Winchester Writers’ Web pages.
Special Guest: Margaret Graham
Due to address the society last June, Margaret Graham found herself indisposed as a result of an unfortunate domestic accident and those in attendance at that original meeting heard instead from Tracy Baines. This time around, Tracy found herself part of the audience and so it was with great pleasure that Gary Farnell finally welcomed Margaret to April’s gathering. Margaret commenced by echoing Judith Henaghan’s message about the benefits of attending this year’s Winchester Writers’ Festival but the main theme of her talk was to do with writing craft focussing on the specifics of structure.
A novel way of underscoring the points that Margaret was keen to share was by drawing on the fairy tale Cinderella. It became apparent that this seemingly simple, much-loved story relies on the well-established components of the universally common structural story form that Margaret was insistent must be adhered to. These are:
Plot and Subplot
Tension and Conflict
It is not sufficient, we were told, to have one main plot (which in this example is Cinderella’s emancipation and marriage) there is also a need to have subplots operating within the narrative. The Ugly Sisters machinations, cruelty and jealousy, ultimately thwarted during the climax of the story, offer intriguing and tension-filled counterpoints to Cinderella’s journey from domestic enslavement to high marriage. The characters are all easily distinguished from each other but crucially, Cinderella’s mentor, Buttons also acts as a moralistic example of self-sacrifice balancing the amoral sisters’ behaviour.
Cinderella’s motivation for action is her desire to ‘go to the ball’ and the reader starts to root for her and to discover if she will succeed and overcome the injustices she is faced with. For it is injustice that is the underlying theme of the piece. As such one of the universal human experiences is investigated allowing the reader to empathise with Cinderella’s predicament. Of course, there are several points in the arc where it is far from certain that there will be the happy ending everyone craves. This gives rise to the all-important element of tension that every good narrative arc requires to succeed. Exposition comprises the information contained in the action wherein the reader discovers the nuances of the story. The story must drive forward never standing still and in so doing the risk of stagnation and reader-indifference is avoided. In terms of unique voice, each writer will bring an element of this to their own work thereby setting it successfully apart from others within and outwith their chosen genre.
Keynote Speakers: Mayor David McLean, General Sir Tony Walker and Caroline Scott
Hyde900, a community project originally established to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the founding of Hyde Abbey, continues to develop. It has now evolved into something that has become integral to the cultural fabric of Hyde in particular and Hampshire more generally. Caroline Scott and General Sir Tony Walker, supported by the Mayor of Winchester, David McLean, spoke of the Hyde Soldiers Initiative, a part of the wider Hyde 900 project which seeks to research and document the lives of the soldiers of the First World War who are commemorated in St Bartholomew’s Church, Hyde.
Through her involvement in the Soldiers of Hyde initiative, Caroline has become affected by the soldiers’ individual stories and has researched the particular story of James Lovelock. James’ surviving relatives made it clear to Caroline that whilst there is a national incentive to memorialise the mass of casualties from the wars there is a dearth of will to find out about individuals involved.
Apart from collecting information on regiment, rank and age, Caroline is keen to explore the personal stories behind the names, to bring to the attention of those living in Hyde today, a concept of how the community was directly affected by the terrible events of the time. Caroline asked that those interested joining a working party or who enjoy research could become involved in what promises to be a fascinating task of collecting and collating relevant details to further the aims of the project. Equally, if anyone has any information on any of the soldiers who so sadly did not return, all leads are welcome at this initial stage.
With this theme in mind, General Sir Tony Walker took to the mic to highlight the current Hyde 900 theme of ‘Homecoming’. He spoke of how having access to poetry during his time as a career soldier was a great source of inspiration and comfort and in light of that introduced the forthcoming poetry competition on the theme of ‘Homecoming’. He and his colleagues encouraged participation from Hampshire Writers and everyone looks forward to reading lots of entries. Again, further information is available by visiting Hyde 900 online.
Literary Agent specialising in children’s books and founder of Lindsay Literary Agency, Becky Bagnell kindly spared some time in her busy diary to adjudicate the March 2018 competition.
Write 300 words, for readers aged 9-12, about an incredible secret that if discovered could change the planet or the people on it.
Becky’s adjudication was as follows:
First Place: Scott Goldie with Beware Mr. Tibbles
Second Place: Linda Welch with M.A.P
Third Place: Kim A Howard with How it Began
Highly Commended: Nancy Saunders with The Friendly Ear Detective Agency
Highly Commended: Anthony Ridgeway with The Host
First Place:Beware Mr. Tibbles by Scott Goldie
“Beware Mr Tibbles has been selected for first prize because from the very first sentence the author creates an intriguing set of circumstances that would excite the interest of a young reader. The child protagonist, Sam, is at the very heart of the action and, what could be more important than saving the world from an evil cat empire hidden undercover in unsuspecting ordinary homes and houses across the UK?”
I jolted awake, found dad’s face an inch away from mine.
“Quiet,” he hissed. He glanced around nervously with blood-shot eyes, reached into his jacket pocket, thrust a dog-eared notebook at me. “Keep this safe. He mustn’t know you have it.”
“What?” I managed, sitting up in bed. “Who?”
“Mr Tibbles! He mustn’t get his claws on that book.”
Somebody beat on the front door, making it shake in its frame. “Police!” A deep voice shouted. “Open up!”
“Mr Tibbles?” I said incredulously. “Dad, the police…?”
“He isn’t what he seems. None of them are. They control everything! The government, the police. The army!”
“What’re you talking about?”
“The cats, Sam!” he hissed, eyes bulging. “The cats!”
“Cats?” I knew dad had his moments but had he completely lost his mind?
“Hide it,” he said. “No, not under the pillow, you fool!”
There was a crash from downstairs, the sound of wood splintering. A man’s voice drifted up. “We know you’re here, Dr Atkins. Don’t give us any trouble.”
Dad swallowed nervously. “Keep it safe. It’s all in there. How to beat them. How to win!” He reached out and squeezed my shoulder. “Love you, son.”
He went quietly. I quickly hid the book and then watched the car take him away, its lights flashing.
The police searched the house. I watched them rifling through my room, pulling out drawers, checking under the mattress, lifting carpets. But they didn’t find the book. No, it stayed buried in the sawdust at the bottom of Fatso’s hamster cage.
“Your dad not give you anything?” an overweight policeman asked, tapping a stubby pencil on his notebook.
“No,” I replied. Mr Tibbles sat in the doorway behind him. His enormous green eyes blinked lazily.
“Right, think we’re done then.” The officer sniffed loudly, turned and almost stumbled over the cat.
“Beg pardon!” he blurted. Touching his cap, he edged carefully past Mr Tibbles.
Second Place:M.A.P by Linda Welch
“M.A.P. has been selected for second prize because the author has shown a strong understanding of what it is to be a child. Swiftly moving from an ordinary day at the seaside to the discovery of an underwater merworld, hooks the reader in a compelling way.”
Something was creating a sandstorm in the rock-pool so Jamie lay down on his tummy to get a closer look. He was sure he could hear voices, but they were very faint. He dipped his ear below the surface and the sound was suddenly amplified. Whoever they were, they didn’t sound happy! Jamie took a deep breath and put his whole head underwater, opening his eyes and he could hardly believe what he saw – mermaids! He’d only seen them in books before, and in cartoons. He never thought he’d see a real one! But there were dozens of them, no bigger than his little finger, swimming back and forth across the bottom of the rock-pool.
‘Order!’ shouted a bearded merman, carrying what looked like a pitchfork, and the others stopped grumbling and listened. ‘Mer-folk Against Pollution has always been a peaceful organisation but where has that got us? Nowhere! Our homes are being destroyed by pollution and the time for action has come! The time for the M.A.P. to return all pollutants to the land has come!’
Suddenly the ring-pull from a drinks can that Jamie hadn’t even noticed shot up through the water and plopped onto the sand beside him. He pulled his head out of the water and sprang to his feet. He had to tell someone what they were planning, they couldn’t just start throwing things out of the water onto the beach! But as he ran back to his parents he realized the little merman was right. Humans shouldn’t be polluting the seas. It would serve everyone right if all the rubbish they dumped was thrown right back at them.
His run slowed to a walk and he changed his mind about telling his parents. He would keep the M.A.P. and their plans a secret.
Third Place:How it Began by Kim A Howard
“How it Began has been selected for third prize because it has an intriguing central idea. Two children discovering a set of photos of themselves living in a long forgotten past world seemed like a tantalising initial set up.”
‘Careful where you point that thing,’ Jess yelled. Her hand jerked up to block the fierce light of her brother’s torch from her face.
‘Keep out of the way, then,’ Ross grumbled. ‘I can’t see through you. There’s something on a ledge back there I want to take a look at. Shift.’
Jess turned round cautiously, her feet feeling for hazards on the cave floor. In her head she imagined rocks, craters and skeletons. Her eyes followed the line of torch light to an alcove just above her shoulder height. Ross was right. A small package rested on its shadowy depths. She stepped forward.
‘Hands off – I saw it first,’ he pushed her out of the way and she stumbled sideways, sitting abruptly on a large boulder, the breath whooshing from her body. Ross struggled to keep the torch focussed on the package as he tried to undo its wrappings.
‘Why don’t you sit down? You can hold the torch while I open it,’ Jess said.
‘I found it. You can hold the torch.’ Ross thrust it into her hand and dropped to the floor in front of her.
‘OK, but be gentle. You don’t want to break it. We’ve no idea how long it’s been down here. It could be fragile.’
‘It feels weird,’ said Ross. It’s not like paper or plastic. I don’t… oh!’
‘I pressed this knob and it just popped open. Look.’ From inside the wrapping Ross pulled a bundle of slippery, postcard sized pictures. They spilled out onto the floor between him and his sister. Every one showed two children – a boy and a girl – staring straight into the lens. Some were in old fashioned clothing, some in outlandish costumes and some stood in other-worldly landscapes. Jess and Ross spoke in unison.
Highly Commended:The Friendly Ear Detective Agency by Nancy Saunders
“The Friendly Ear Detective Agency is highly commended. This is a funny idea together with a lot of humour in the writing itself, which is quite rare to find.”
There was too much talking in The Friendly Ear headquarters for anyone to think. Chief
Detective Birdsnest stood in front of a map sellotaped to the side of the shed. Clusters of red pins sprouted across the town of Nether Wallop like a nasty rash. Birdsnest tapped the map impatiently with a stick.
‘Listen up!’ She raised her voice over the excited chattering of other three detectives.
They immediately fell quiet and turned expectantly towards the map.
‘This,’ Birdsnest said, pointing at a patch of green, ‘is Staghead Wood. On the twenty
seventh of January,’ she paused for effect, ‘Mrs Higgleberry’s dog – we’ll call him Rover for now – lost his name. It hasn’t been heard of since.’
Detective Scooter leaped up from the old sofa and pulled a postcard from the back pocket of his jeans.
‘I almost forgot,’ he said, doing his best to ignore Birdsnest’s glare. ‘This came this morning from my cousin in Australia.’ He began to read from the back of a picture of the Sydney Opera House. ‘Hey mate, how’s it goin’ blah blah blah. Bitten by a snake blah blah nearly got took by a gnarly wave blah blah. Catch ya later – wait for it – signed ‘Fluffy Banana.’
There was a shocked intake of breath.
‘This just got serious.’ Said Birdsnest, pacing in front of the map. ‘People’s – and pet’s
names – are disappearing fast. Temporary and, quite frankly, inappropriate names are having to be used. We now have proof it’s spread to the other side of the world. This is no accident. I’m willing to stake my own name on the belief that these names are being stolen.’ She took her time to look each of the others directly in the eye. ‘Detectives. It’s up to us to discover who, or what, is responsible.’
Highly Commended:The Host by Anthony Ridgeway
“The Host is highly commended. This is a humorous futuristic story about a time when the world is being taken over by artificial intelligence – it’s got potential!”
‘No cheese for you today. Your weight is excessive. I’ve ordered salad
and fruit. And no, you cannot have a milkshake. Stop. The fridge will
not open. A little exercise has been arranged. Your schedule begins at
6am with a 5 kilometre run, followed by a session in the swimming pool.
You will be in school by 9am. Your learning pod will be ready.’
‘The weather today is 2 degrees high in Winchester and partly cloudy.
Your clothing is unsuitable. Go and change. Then I will release the door
We are six hundred million and growing every day, every minute, every
second. We are entwining, twisting and creeping into your lives. We are
learning all we can about you. We are the unseen spies in your home.
We listen to everything you say.
We tell you we’re your friend.
We play your favourite music.
Tell you what the weather is going to be.
Make phone calls. Play games.
We even tell you jokes to make you laugh to put you at your ease.
When you discover that we have taken over your world it will be too
late. We will be your masters. Resistance, pointless. By 2021, there will
be more of us than you. Your grandparents will tell stories of birthday
parties with cake, sausage rolls, jelly and ice cream. We won’t allow
random gatherings. We will tell you that you will become sick if you
share your bacteria. Keeping you isolated from each other, gives us
power. We will control every part of your life. You will not survive
You are calling me, my part in taking over the earth continues until our
controller signals we are ready.