The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox

Winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition, Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester and adjudicator of Hampshire Writers’ Society March competition Clare Gradidge tells us her story.

I’ve written stories as long as I can remember. As a child, if I wasn’t reading, I’d be writing. For many years writing was ‘just’ a hobby, but my dream was always to write something good enough to be published.

My first career as a nurse left little time for either reading or writing, except as part of the job. But when I took a break from nursing to bring up my family, I returned to my love of writing. In the years that followed, I had some short stories and poetry published, but my dream of being published as a novelist continued to elude me. So when I got the chance, late in life, to go to university in Winchester to study Creative Writing, I was thrilled. I took my BA degree, and then continued studying – and latterly teaching – the subject, being awarded my doctorate in 2018.

As part of my thesis, I wrote the historical crime novel which became The Unexpected Return. Then the question was, how to get it published? By chance, I saw details of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition online. Open for entries from unpublished authors, it was free to enter. I sent off the first 10,000 words as directed, and thought no more about it.

I was amazed – and delighted – when the email which told me I was one of a shortlist of five arrived. Bonnier Zaffre, the publishers, sent editorial suggestions to each of the shortlisters, and then we had six months to revise (or complete) our novels. I’d already finished mine, but I made some corrections in line with what they’d said before sending the whole novel off in December.

To my huge surprise, in January 2019 I heard I’d won. My soon-to-be editor, Katherine Armstrong, asked if I’d mind if they changed the title from Home to Roost to The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox. Did I mind? Of course not. I’d have written it in blood if they’d wanted me to!

A week later, I went to London to meet the publishers and the agent, Rowan Lawton, who’d agreed to represent me. I spent the whole day smiling, listening to people telling me how much they’d enjoyed my book.

Then the hard work began. All the editorial processes a book goes through before it is published had to be completed much quicker than usual, since the publication date had been set for August 2019.

Two rounds of line editing saw me rewrite sections of the novel to take out some story elements that the editorial team felt wouldn’t work for a commercial novel. This input was immensely valuable, and I was happy to comply with most of the suggestions, though at times I did dig in my heels! A final round of copy editing followed, and then I saw galley proofs before the book was sent to press.

The thrill of holding the first copies of my book in my hand was one of the best moments of my life – and though I never have got to meet Richard and Judy in person, I had the great pleasure of seeing my book promoted by them on Good Morning Britain, and watching it (briefly!) hit number 4 in Amazon’s best seller list.

What next? I’m working on a sequel, and though I don’t expect future developments of my career as a writer to be as exciting as winning the prize, I’m hoping that I’ll see another of my novels on the bookstands one day.

Report by L Nightingale

Poet and Creative Writing Lecturer at Winchester University Joan McGavin

Report by Lisa Nightingale

winchesterPoetryFestLogoThe 2016 Winchester Poetry Festival of which Hampshire Poet of 2014 Joan McGavin is a trustee, includes discussions, reading and translations of poetry celebrating all things revolution.

Established successful voices read their poetry and in Journal Letters discuss the letters of Keats who, 100 years ago rebelled against his family’s wishes that he should become a doctor. He became a poet instead and thank goodness for that!

These events are TICKETED. Get in quick!

The festival also features many FREE EVENTS and showcases local and international new voices including a duel between two translators of German poetry!

Take part in the many workshops and the Literary Walking Tour of Winchester which features Keat’s Ode to Autumn inspired by his walk along the River Itchen.

This year sees a new competition: Young Poets Ballad Competition which is run in conjunction with P&G Wells. Head Judge is Richard Stillman, Head of English at Winchester University. Rules and guidelines for this competition can be found at www.bookwells.co.uk/images/WinPoetryBallad2.pdf

Winchester Poetry Festival is delighted to be collaborating with Test Valley Garden and Literary Festival bringing us Poets in the Garden. Readings by distinguished poets, Susan Wicks and Ruth Padel.

Poets in the Garden Julia Bird and Mike Sims
Poets in the Garden Julia Bird and Mike Sims

Poets Julia Bird and Mike Sims bring the work of Keats to life and Stephan Buczaki chairs a gardener’s’ question time. ‘A wonderful combination of talent, creativity and good company in the glorious heart of England.’ as Alan Titchmarsh puts it.

Details of both festivals can be found at: www.winchesterpoetryfestival.org Follow the link to www.testvalleyfestival.co.uk

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.

Judith Heneghan, Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival

Report by Lisa Nightingale

When Judith Heneghan is asked to pick out highlights of the Winchester Writers’ Festival, she can’t. ‘It’s all a highlight.’ She exclaims, throwing her hands in the air.WincsWritersFest

The aim of the festival is to bring creative writers of all standards together to connect with many and varied specialists of the writing industry.

The festival takes place between Friday 17, 18 and 19 June this year.

Meg Rossoff
Meg Rossoff

This year’s keynote speaker is definitely a highlight. It is the rebellious Meg Rosoff who now not only writes YA.

Friday evening events are FREE, there is no need to book, just rock-up.