March Competition Winners 2013

by Hermione Laake

Adjudicator: Writer, Editor, and lecturer Calum Kerr.

Our adjudicator was writer and lecturer Calum Kerr. Calum’s recent Flash Fiction project, “365” was featured on BBC Radio 4, and can be listened to via the link on his website via the “news”link (Read by Dame Diana Rigg, Kenneth Cranham, Rory Kinear, and Emilia Fox). The background effects really bring the pieces to life.

1st place – Gill Hollands, for her piece Captive – Calum said he was suitably terrified by Gill’s prose. Gill is becoming a regular winner. Can you knock her off the top spot?

2nd place –  A Kind of Loving by Catherine Mortimore, our very own secretary Celia Livesey, (Celia is becoming quite a pro’ at giving our competitors a run for their money).

3rd place – newcomer, Tania Travis, with Opening Paragraph.

 

Highly Commended:

David Eadsforth in 1stplace. (David is also on our committee, as Events Manager.)

Hazel Donnelly in 2ndplace, with Time Lock.

 

Calum Kerr gave written feedback to all our winners, and highly commended.

Calum spoke about Flash Fiction Day, and his 365 Flash Fiction venture. He invites you to tidy up your entries and enter them for the competition—more details on the website.

January Competition Winners 2013

By Hermione Laake

Hermione began by presenting 3rd Prize to Anthony Ridgway for his entry for December’s competition.

Hermione pointed out that Anthony’s piece (a letter to Santa in the style of Dickens) was about the importance of seeing past the disability to the person within

Flash fiction Competition:

Our adjudicator was Paul Bavister. Paul has worked at Macmillan and has published 3 books of poetry. Paul teaches creative writing at Birkbeck College, London. Paul has also been a speaker at the Winchester Writers’ Conference.

Paul was unable to attend. However, he provided our winners and highly commended with helpful guidance and comments.
Book prizes were awarded to 1st, 2nd and 3rd places

1st Place – The Final Chapter by Anne Eckersley

2nd Place – The Burglar by Georgie Jensen (Karin Groves)

3rd Place – Wifebeater by Gill Hollands

 

Highly commended/joint 4th

Balloons by Liz Symonds

Undone by Sally Wood

Graham Hurley speaks to Hampshire Writers’ Society

Brian Evans-Jones, Hampshire Poet Laureate, is our guest blogger this month.

IT’S A STEAL: SOME THOUGHTS ON ‘FINDING YOURSELF’ AS A WRITER

I spent an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening last night at the Hampshire Writers’ Society. I was invited as the warm-up act, giving a brief plug for the Writing Hampshireproject, which is going strong: over 100 poems now, and more coming in all the time. Next I hope we can get 200 poems, including more by kids, and more for poor old Basingstoke, which is badly under-represented at the moment! But the main pleasure of the evening was listening to the main speaker, crime writer Graham Hurley.

Graham gives a mean lecture: energetic, funny, revealing. If you’re interested in becoming a full-time fiction writer, and you get the chance to listen to listen to him, you should. His talk told me a great deal about fiction publishing, and what it might take to succeed. But beyond that, his story also made me think about how we can all find our ways as writers: figuring out what kind of writer we want to be, and what we can be good at.

Graham’s story started with a rejection, as so many do. In 1999, with a dozen or so standalone thrillers published, his publisher refused to take any more. Instead, they ‘asked’ him to try something new: a three-book Rebus-style crime series, set in his home city of Portsmouth.

A decent opportunity on the face of it. But Graham hated, and still hates, crime fiction: he hadn’t read any then, and he doesn’t read any now. He was being asked to change his genre completely; rather like Faber offering me a contract on the condition than instead of poetry I send them a cookbook. Being 100% dependent on his income from publishing, he had to give it a go. And as you’ll have guessed by now, he succeeded; the series became 12 books long, sales have gone ever upwards, and there are popular adaptations on French TV (and possibly soon in the UK).

So here’s my moral 1, and any writer who’s ever written a piece with constraints should recognise it: Be thankful for problems and limitations in your career, because your best results may come from them.

How Graham responded to his new limitations is also revealing. He said he had two options. I think he had three. The first, which it’s clearly not in his personality to do, was to grumble and be bitter about this new twist in his life.

Which leads me to moral 2:If you want to fail as a writer, be as bitter and resentful as you can, and focus as much as possible on the ‘if onlys’ of your career. I can’t think of a better way to ensure you’ll never get anywhere.

To go back to the two options that Graham saw, they were: 1) To read every book of modern British crime fiction he could find, and then try to imitate them; or, 2) To start from scratch, and find his own way to write the genre. The first option comes straight from the advice that I have many times seen, and many times given: you’ve got to read what you want to write. But Graham hates crime fiction; so he chose not to. He has, in fact, become a complete exception to that ‘rule’: a proof that you don’t have to read what you want to write.

(However, I want to make clear there are caveats: he was already an experienced and proficient writer of thrillers, so he knew the craft. And while he doesn’t read crime fiction, he has read a lot of good work, and still loves reading. You still can’t succeed as a writer without reading anything at all.)

Instead, he took option 2; and here I think is the most interesting moral from his talk. He drew intelligently and profoundly on the kind of person he is, and the unique skills and experiences he’d acquired. He’d worked in TV as a journalist and documentary maker for 20 years; he was also, and therefore, in touch with every strand of life in Portsmouth. His TV experience had involved investigating in depth, and recording with fidelity, the lives of a wide range of people, so he did that again: he spent months shadowing Portsmouth police, getting to know police work and police officers with clarity and precision. Then when he wrote, he combined what he’d learned with what he knew about the city; and the combination worked. I’m making a selective interpretation there; there was a lot more to it than that, but Graham explains it better than I could (in his Kindle book ‘Backstory‘).

Which leads to moral 3: To be a good writer, don’t try to do what others have done. Draw on what makes up you – your skills, interests, experiences – and chances are it will work.

Not only will it work for readers: it will work for you as a writer. You’ll believe in it, and probably enjoy it.

And here’s another benefit: it will make you stand out from other writers. Graham’s work stands out from other crime fiction in two ways: by being factually accurate in its portrayal of contemporary UK police work (so much so that Hampshire Constabulary started to invite Graham on special police operations, so he could use them in his work); and by dealing with wider concerns – the life of a whole city – than is usual than the genre.

So here’s moral 4: being yourself can give your writing that ‘USP’ that publishers are so keen on.

And that’ll do for now. He also said some things about the role of luck in a writer’s life, but I think that’s another post for another day.

 

Happy New Year everyone.
Brian Evans-Jones
brian@brianevansjones.com

Review of Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting 13th March 2012

Rebecca Shaw, author of the Turnham Malpas/ Barleybridge village series, made creating, writing and marketing village sagas sound very easy. Such an inspiration. She didn’t believe in retiring after her children departed for university. She chose to be a writer!

We are grateful to Carole Hastings, Publicity Chairman, for the following…

Calum Kerr, lecturer in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Winchester, kicked off the evening by telling us about his ‘short story a day’ regime that he started May 1, 2011 and has continued every day since then. He was chosen for a Christmas Eve feature on Radio 4 and has organised the National Flash Fiction Day to take place on May 16 with events and various competitions happening across the country, including Southampton and Winchester. An anthology of the best work will be edited by Calum and Valerie O’Riordan.

Rebecca Shaw, our Guest Speaker, started a creative writing class when her youngest child went off to university in 1992 to fill her free time. She wanted to focus on short stories but was advised that this was the domain of well known individuals, As a result, she wrote her first novel based on the imaginary village of Turnham Malpas and sent it off to six publishers. After five manuscripts were returned rejected…she was delighted when Orion offered her a three book deal. She hasn’t looked back. She has written 22 books in 20 years, the majority based on her village sagas, but three books have been based on a veterinary practice. Her two sons, who are vets, have provided the rich research and technical advice.
Her advice to writers is to write when you are bursting with ideas, not necessarily every day. Then your writing will feels fresh. Don’t try to force yourself to write. She uses the time when she is not writing to observe and to store ideas and information in her brain. She believes that supermarkets are great places for people watching and advises “You must watch the world as it is.” When she started writing she avoided reading for two years so that she could develop her own voice.
Rebecca’s success has proved that there are opportunities to become a published writer when you least expect it.

For those of you who missed out on Calum’s Flash Fiction stories, his ebook 31 is now available for Kindle at: