Norwich Writers' Circle, Uncategorized

Final Manuscript Evening of the season

Tuesday 18th June was our final manuscript evening of the season. As such, we decided to go out with a bang.

As usual, we critiqued each other’s work. We had a wide variety from short stories, to horror novellas, to articles. The group’s constructive criticism skills have grown considerably over the season!

Finally we ended with some fun writing exercises. There was even time to read a few out.

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Special thanks to Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service, for leading the meeting.

We’d also like to extend a huge thank you to the members and guests in attendance that night. Without your hard work and willingness to improve, we wouldn’t be able to host these evenings.

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Upcoming Manuscript Evening

This Tuesday 18th of June will be our last manuscript evening of the season. With that in mind we wanted to perhaps try something new.

As the last manuscript evening wasn’t that long ago, we realise that people may not have anything to bring in so we are opening up this evening to either being an evening of writing exercises, or perhaps even a free writing session where you can bring work you are currently doing and write in the company of others.

What we do will depend on what people would prefer to do on the night. If the majority of attendees have work that needs to be critiqued, we’ll stick with the manuscript evening, but if more people would rather do some writing instead, we’ll do that!

In any case please remember to bring plenty of pens and paper as you will be needing them!

If you plan on bringing work to be critiqued, please bring six hard copies of no more than 1000 words, double spaced.

The meeting starts at 7:30 pm but we recommend you get there at about 7:15 pm to give you time to find a seat and get settled.

If you need parking, you can try Chapelfield or The Forum, or the theatre parking off Bethel Street, which charges only £2 after 5pm and is not far from Chantry House.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

Guests are more than welcome. The door fee will be £5 for guests, £3 for members and includes light refreshments and a raffle ticket.

We hope to see you there!

Member Successes, Uncategorized

Results of the Colin Sutton Cup for Humour 2019

On Tuesday 4th June Lynne Mortimer returned to the group to give her verdict on the Colin Sutton Cup for humour.

The results are as follows:

1st Place: Roses Are Red by Jon Platten

2nd Place: Father Brown by Iain Andrews

Joint Third Place: Unleash the Dogs of Brexit by Robin Parkinson

Joint Third Place: Toblerone anyone? by Cathy Rushworth

Highly Commended: Diversites by Barré Funnell

 

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Left to right: Barré Funnell (Highly Commended), Robin Parkinson (Joint Third), Jon Platten (First place), Lynne Mortimer (Adjudicator), Iain Andrews (Second Place), Kate Le Cornu (Joint Third)

There were twelve entries and Lynne commented that each one had the potential for publication.

The NWC would like to thank Lynne Mortimer for her tremendous efforts in judging the entries.

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Writing from life

On Tuesday 21st of May, we hosted a workshop on life writing given by Margaret K Johnson.

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Margaret walked us through how go begin writing from life. First, she showed examples such as Toast by Nigel Slater.  We also looked at Shop Girl by Mary Portas.

Attendees were then tasked with coming up with 10 chapter titles similar to Mary Portas’ book, picking out what first came to mind in our past. Once we had done this, we each read them out.

Finally, we were tasked to make a start on one of those chapters. What significance did the item have? Did it have a story to it, or even several?

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The group had a great time, and we were even able to read some of our work. It was interesting to hear what items had certain associations to different people.

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The NWC would like to thank Margaret for her engaging workshop. It’s certainly made both members and guests think different about memoir writing.

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Olga Sinclair Launch Gala 2019

On Tuesday 16th of April we officially launched the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2019.

Guests were treated to gin tasting courtesy of Patrick and Sandra of Black Shuck Gin.

Then we kicked off the evening with Piers Warren, the main adjudicator for the competition, offering insights on what he’s looking for in a winning entry.

Advice from Piers Warren

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Piers is the adjudicator for the main competition. He is the author of Black Shuck: The Devils Dog, but also a conservationist.

When it comes to his adjudication, he warns that all reading is objective. The stories he likes might not be what another judge would like. However, he offered some guidance by sharing the sorts of things he likes:

“Ideas for stories often start by wondering ‘what if…’ I like to be surprised and end up thinking ‘what on earth made them come up with that’.”

He then gave some general guidance on what exactly he is looking for:

  • I like to care about one or more characters in a plot. If everyone is unlikable, bland or has no depth of character, it’s easy to lose the will to read on.
  • I like to read on to know what’s going to happen next, without being tripped up by unnecessarily strange words or phrases, or ones out of context.
  • Make dialogue realistic. People tend not to talk in complete sentences or be very descriptive. Grunts, noises, single words are all fine if appropriate! Stephen King is very good at dialogue and I love his book of advice On Writing.
  • If it’s obvious who has said something you don’t need to pepper dialogue with he said, she said etc. But also, don’t get bogged down trying to find alternatives– ‘she exclaimed’ (and many other similar possibilities) grates after a while!
  • Don’t overdo adverbs. I prefer ‘slamming’ a door than ‘shutting it firmly’.
  • If written in the first person – is your protagonist male or female? Making it clear fairly early on can avoid an incorrect assumption which then throws the reader later on.
  • Set your scenes using details rather than descriptions. For example, rather than describing how the bar looks, give some detail of what the bartender is wearing. Tom Waits is particularly good at this when writing lyrics.

Piers went on to offer some solid advice when it comes to editing:

  • Plan, write the first draft, tweak, leave for a while, edit, get feedback from your first reader, tweak further then abandon! Editing is never truly finished.
  • Drown your babies/kill your darlings (favourite phrases or sections which do not help drive the story). Leaving a gap between drafts (a few weeks ideally) makes it easier to kill darlings/babies which by then feel more like someone else’s!
  • Editing is often better when removing words rather than adding.

 

Advice from Holly Ainley

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Holly Ainley will be the adjudicator for the Members Shield challenge. This challenge is for members only. Members who have submitted to the main competition can choose one of the stories submitted to the main competition so it can be judged by Holly, giving them another chance to win.

Holly is the book buyer for Jarrolds, and so is used to being arms deep, selecting stories.

Holly first commented on the popularity of the ghosts in Norfolk folklore.

Many excellent non-fiction titles have been written on the subject, including Peter Tolhurst’s This Hollow Land. Plus ghost walks are a surprisingly popular form of entertainment in Norwich.

It’s not just non-fiction but fiction too, for example Shadows on the Fens, edited by Wayne Drew, the short stories of MR James (many set in Norfolk and Suffolk), Black Shuck by Piers Warren, Michelle Paver’s Wakenhyrst (Suffolk)

Why is it such a perfect setting? There is a wealth of legends and actual ghosts associated with the area, from that of Robert Kett hanging over Cathedral Close (now memorialised in CJ Sansom’s novel Tombland), to Black Shuck roaming the North Norfolk coast.

Holly suggests it may be because we have an abundance of churches, functioning and ruined, in the county. What comes with Churches? Graveyards. And with graveyards? Ghosts. We are surrounded by perfect spooky locations. She suggests reading Medieval Churches of the City of Norwich by Nicholas Groves and Landscape of Towers by Clive Dunn for inspiration.

Norfolk and Suffolk are also counties of beautiful old stately homes and mansions, with their own legends attached – take the headless spectre of Ann Boleyn riding through Blickling Hall. Big gothic mansions are full of ghosts and when located in remote areas, there is no-one to hear you scream.

Beyond buildings, there is the extraordinary coastline and rich geological history: it is a perfect setting for archaeological mysteries, for example the salty marshes in the North are the inspiration for Elly Griffiths’ crime fiction – a place that theoretically preserves bodies and bones would serve well for a ghost story.

Although stories do not have to be based in Norwich, or even in Norfolk, but you can find an abundance of inspiration here.

In terms of what she is looking for in a winning entry, Holly highlights the following:

  • I love setting and place and how this influences characters’ behaviour.
  • Short stories are a unique medium, perfectly suited to explore a moment, an episode, plunging the reader into a particular atmosphere.
  • I’m looking for stories that captivate me from the first line, opening a brief window onto a person or a place and their story.
  • Don’t be tempted to overwork your stories – resist the temptation to over-edit and trust when it feels like time to let go.

Advice on how to interpret the theme

Every year, we get entrants asking for guidance on how to interpret the theme – are we looking for it to be interpreted a specific way? The short answer is: no. You can interpret it any way you like.

This, of course, is not always helpful. Some people may be intimidated by the idea of writing to a theme and have no idea where to begin. Our suggestion is to start with the dictionary.

The Oxford dictionary online defines ‘spooks’ as follows:

  • A ghost or a spectre
  • A derogatory term for an African American in America in the 1940’s-50’s
  • A ghost writer

Already you can see the vastly different directions you could take this theme – from a ghost story or a story featuring some kind of supernatural entity, to a spy thriller or mystery, to a story that explores racism, or one that looks at the writing process. You could even write a story that combines several of these definitions.

So even if you’re not a fan of the supernatural, or much of a horror writer, you should still be able to find an angle to approach this theme that suits your style.

Digging deeper, ‘spooks’ can also mean to be haunted, or to be scared (is in, to be ‘spooked’). So you could write a story that explores fear, or being haunted, but again remember that the supernatural is not the only thing that can haunt a person, and people fear more than ghosts and ghouls.

For example, a story about a bride or groom getting cold feet on their wedding day could tie in just as well with the theme as a story about a person being terrorised by a ghost.

There’s no limit to genre either. It has to be fiction, of course, but you can explore the theme of ‘spooks’ through the lens of horror, sci-fi, romance, comedy, historical fiction, steam punk – anything goes.

In the past, entrants have interpreted our themes a number of ways with a wide range of genres. We highly recommend checking out our anthologies to see examples of how winning entries have interpreted past themes to give you an idea of how you might approach this year’s theme.

Finally, we’d like to make it clear that your stories do not have to be set in Norwich, or even Norfolk. You can set them anywhere you like, in any time period. It’s up to you. Nor do you have to write about spooky things in Norfolk. You’re welcome to if you like, but you’re not restricted.

Ultimately, your only limit when it comes to interpreting the theme is your own imagination. We’re excited to see all the different ways entrants will explore this theme.

If you’re still stuck for ideas, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where we’ve been posting at least two writing prompts every week ranging from image prompts, specific scenarios and even real life inspiration. Each of them has been specifically chosen because it can easily lead to a story that explores our theme. We will continue putting them up until a week before the deadline.

Even if you already have an idea or have already written your entry, it’s still worth checking them out because there’s no limit to how many entries you can submit.

We’ll be revealing the cover for this year’s anthology on our social media very soon, so if you want to see the cover of the book your entry may well be published in, it’s worth following us to be updated.

The entry fee is £8 per entry. There is no limit on the number of entries. International entries are welcome. The competition is open to all writers of all ages and skill levels. The deadline is midnight GMT July 31st 2019. There are cash prizes available for the top three winners.

Full details of our competition can be found here: https://norwichwriters.wordpress.com/olga-sinclair-open-short-story-2019/

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

Here are more pictures of our wonderful evening:

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Join us at the gala

This Tuesday 16th April is the official launch gala for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2019. Both our adjudicators Piers Warren and Holly Ainley will be there to talk about what they’re looking for in a winning entry. But that’s not all.

There will be free gin tasting courtesy of Black Shuck Gin, one of our supporters.

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The door fee will be £5 for non-members and £3 for members. This helps us pay for the room hire, but it gets you:

  • Free gin tasting.
  • Light buffet of finger food with both vegan and non-vegan options.
  • Drinks such as wine, as well as soft drinks, and tea and coffee.
  • The chance to chat to us and the adjudicators.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest news on the gala, go to the official event page. Also, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news, tips, and advice on the competition, as well as regular writing prompts to help get those creative juices flowing.

If you have have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

Member Successes, Uncategorized

Glowing Reviews for Gill Blanchard

Member Gill Blanchard has received amazing reviews for her book ‘Tracing Your House History’, which was published  19th July 2017. Well done Gill!

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‘This book has been thoroughly researched and presented; and I believe it should be considered the book for those researching houses or a One-Place Study. It was a true delight to read and review.’

– FFHS

 

‘Among the most comprehensive books on tracing house history, packing a great deal of information into just over 200 pages. A complete guide to house history.’

– Your Family Tree

 

‘I was particularly impressed by the great detail the author goes into with each source and how she explains some of the mystifying terms used in old documents. Highlighting the relevant websites as you progress through each chapter is another useful tool, and the ‘Finding…’ part at the end of each section is a great idea, as it can help you hunt down sources with ease. Gill’s text is not only easy to follow for beginners, but also contains up-to-date information for more experienced researchers. It may inspire those who think they have exhausted all records on a particular house to pick up their notes and try again.’

– WDYTYA Magazine

 

 

 

Member Successes, Uncategorized

Terrifying Tales

Congratulations to our Vice-chair Kathy Joy for having her short horror story picked up for professional narration:

 

The original story can be read here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/ayhco3/my_perfect_little_boy/

Well done Kathy for an engaging and terrifying story. Perhaps it will inspire those looking to enter the Olga Sinclair Competition this year themed to ‘spooks’.

 

 

 

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Funny Bones at the Ready

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Photo courtesy of Cameron McDonald of McDonald Images

Last evening we welcomed Lynne Mortimer, much-loved columnist with various newspapers in the Archant family.  For those of you who were unable to attend, you missed an amusing and inspirational talk from Lynne about her 25 years as a journalist.  Lynne gave us a comprehensive ‘heads-up’ for how to tackle the next competition for the much-coveted Colin Sutton Cup for Humour.  In view of the number of absentees I hope you will find this information useful and I encourage you to enter even if you were not there last evening.

Her first job was as a mature mum of 35, writing for the Evening Star in Ipswich.  During her children’s teenage years she wrote under a pseudonym to save their blushes!  Lynne spoke about the panic of working to strict deadlines and of having to come up with 1,000 words every week on a different topic.  She explained how her inspiration comes from her own life, the importance of writing the truth at the core of every column and how she scours newspapers for ideas when she is stuck!

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Photo courtesy of Cameron McDonald of McDonald Images

In the past her stories have covered Waspi Women, weight-loss, public toilets, the Menopause (both female and male), the abuse of Parent & Child parking spaces, grammatical errors, energy saving light bulbs, her husband, grandchildren and her mother-in-law!  But never Brexit, religion, death, disability or mental illness. She certainly has her own “red lines” and always tries to keep her columns light-hearted and entertaining.

The Competition:

“Take one small frustrating life incident and expand it into a humorous article of 1,000-2,000 words.  It can draw upon similar frustrations or veer off somewhere else, but at the end of the piece it should return to the original incident, featuring a final pithy sentence or two.”

The deadline for entries is Tuesday 7th May, which is our next Manuscript/Critique evening.  If you are unable to attend please be sure to mail or email your entry to our Competitions Secretary Marian Pearson.  Details can be found at this link.

https://norwichwriters.wordpress.com/competitions/guidelines/

Good luck everyone!

On a different topic, your committee will be meeting next Tuesday to agree the arrangements and menu for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition Launch Night on Tuesday 16th April, when we will be offered gin tasters courtesy of sponsor Black Shuck Ltd of Fakenham, and meet our adjudicator Piers Warren, author of Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog.  Do bring your partners and friends to our party. £7 door fee for non-members includes light buffet with wine, teas and coffees.

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A Talk to Go Down in History

On Tuesday 19th March we welcomed the award winning historical fiction writer Rory Clements to talk to use about his books, his writing process, and what led him to write historical fiction.

 

When asked whether he considers himself to be a historian or a novelist first, Rory commented:

“I’m definitely a novelist first. I’m no a historian. I didn’t go to university, I didn’t study history. But I’m very widely read – I read huge amounts of history and when I fix on a subject – say like the Babington plot, I’m probably one of the worlds experts for a few months on that subject and then I forget it all … But I do a lot of research, I do take it very seriously trying to get the historical background as close as I can to what I think it is.”

Clements explained that he had been inspired to write by his uncle, who ran away at a young age to become a sailor. He wrote many books about his adventures, which made Clements want to be an author.

He started out as a journalist, but soon moved on. During this time he read extensively, which helped him become the writer he is today.

Clements went on to talk more about historical fiction:

“Historical fiction vs history … I went to Oxford University to argue with a lot of historians who were sort of knocking down historical fiction. I think it has a real place in out life. I think we fill in the skeleton. History is a skeleton. There’s a lot missing from it … the fiction writer can fill that in and hopefully bring history to a lot more people in that way.”

After answering a variety of questions form the group, Clements has some excellent advice to offer anyone thinking of writing historical fiction:

What you’re trying to find first and foremost if you’re writing about a time long ago is you’ve got to find a voice …  you can’t write in  Elizabethan English you can’t write in Shakespearean English, because nobody would read it. They simply wouldn’t. Nor can you write in twentieth century English slang. You have to find something in the in-between… you don’t want it jarring to the reader.

The NWC would like to thank Rory Clements for his frank and open advice and intriguing stories. We’d also like to thank everyone who attended and had plenty of questions to ask.