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Informed Speculation

“Part of being an historical writer is to reflect on sources and their accuracy.  Sometimes part of the evidence you find is contradictory and you have to find a way of writing that in.”

– Gill Blanchard, speaking to Norwich Writers’ Circle.

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On the evening of 3rd October members and guests at Norwich Writers’ Circle welcomed Norwich historian, genealogist and biographer Gill Blanchard to the meeting. Gill, also a long-time member of the Circle, spoke about her research and writing career, expanding on the progress of her business, ‘Past Search’.

As a youngster Gill dreamed of being an investigative journalist. She and her three siblings were brought up in a household of book readers, for five years the family did not own a television.  Aged eight, Gill won a competition in her home in Sheffield, becoming the youngest Bookworm in the city.  She especially enjoyed adventure stories and explained how her parents’ passion for folk music led to her being immersed in the stories told through folk songs. Gill developed a fascination for history and a love of learning, discovering family history through an encounter with a relative from Australia who was researching his genealogy.

Having had her daughter with partner Ian, she embarked on her first degree, resulting in a job offer from Norwich Record Office, a role that lasted for six years.  Her extensive and varied career, including the launch of Past Search, her own research company in 1997, is well documented on her website, www.pastsearch.co.uk.  Working for private clients, her time was spent searching through records, collecting and analysing data, interpreting data and presenting reports.  In 2009 Pen and Sword Books published her first instructional book, Tracing Your East Anglian Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians.  An updated reprint will be available soon.  Two further books followed: Tracing Your House History in 2013 and Writing Your Family History in 2014.

But it was at a meeting of Norwich Writers’ Circle in 2012 when she learnt of the MA in Creative Non-Fiction and Biography at the University of East Anglia.  She realised that by taking the course she could open up new avenues for her writing and her business.  Gill graduated with the MA in 2014, her studies resulting in her two most recent publications, her first full-length biography Lawson Lies Still in the Thames (Amberley Books May 2017) and I Therefore Post Him as a Coward: An anatomy of a Norfolk scandal, 1836 (Poppyland Publishing April 2017).

A lively question and answer session followed Gill’s talk, when the discussion explored the motivation behind her commissions, how to deal with uncovering uncomfortable truths and the need to be aware of changing attitudes and behaviour over time, putting events into context while making comparisons with the present and commenting accordingly. Members were intrigued by the concept of ‘Informed Speculation’, with Gill explaining how her writing is always based on fact and research, sections of ‘speculated’ narrative prefaced by “One can imagine…”, “I like to think…” or “We can presume…”

After warm applause, Adrian Dearnley gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the Circle for her entertaining and informative talk.

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Member Successes

Congratulations To Gill!

cover.jpgNWC member Gill Blachard has recently had not one but TWO books published.

First is I Therefore Post Him as a Coward: An anatomy of a Norfolk scandal, which documents a disagreement between a clergyman and a knight in 1836 and how it affected the small Norfolk town it took place in

Next is Lawson Lies Still in the Thames: The Extraordinary Life of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson, which details extraordinary life of John Lawson.

Both books are available for purchase.

Well done Gill!

 

Norwich Writers' Circle

A Promising Proposition

On Tuesday 17th January we had our first meeting of 2017.  We kicked the new year off with a bang when our very own Phyllida Scrivens and Gill Blanchard launched the third competition of the year: Impressing the Publisher.

To begin, Gill and Phyllida offered some excellent advice on how to create a proposal with a good hook that will pull the publisher or agent in, offering samples of their own proposals to help.

The evening was capped off with a workshop.  First we wrote the start of our proposal synopsis, focusing on ‘the hook’. Gill and Phyllida advised that the hook could be a quote, the first couple of sentences or short an extract from the book that conveys something of what it is about and makes the reader want to know more.

Next came the hard part: giving and taking criticism from the group.  This went very well, with many participants receiving helpful pointers and suggestions from their peers.

Finally, Gill and Phyllida rolled out the competition.

To enter the competition you must submit a proposal for either a fiction or non-fiction book.  The guidelines are as follows:

1,000 words maximum

These 1000 words should consist of:

1). Synopsis: 200 – 300 words

  • Chapter outline & synopsis of plot/premise

2). Author Biography: 50 to 100 words

3). Marketing 50 to 100 words

  • Concept, audience, social media

4). Sample (remainder up to 1,000 words)

  • If you choose to submit a proposal for non-fiction, your sample should consist of a detailed chapter plan.
  • If your proposal is for a fiction story, your sample should be an extract from first chapter.

The maximum size of your sample will depend on how many words you used for the synopsis, author biography and marketing.

For example, if your synopsis is 250 words, your biography 100 words and your is marketing is 50 words, you will have used 400 of your 1000 words, leaving you 600 words for your sample.  There is no minimum for the sample, so you could write less than the amount of words you have left, but you need to ensure that what you have written has a good hook and captures your story.

Phyllida and Gill also offered a little advice on what publishers and agents are looking for when considering a proposal:

  • Originality.
  • Fresh voice and new insight.
  • Why you, and only you, can write this particular story.

If you want to enter the competition, email your entry to norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

The deadline is 21st February.  For more details visit the contest page.

Norwich Writers' Circle

E-Course In Writing Your Family History

WordPress Gill Blanchard Portrait

Gill Blanchard, one of our members, and owner of Past Search, is repeating the first module of her E-Course in Writing Your Family History in May 2017.

It is a practical writing course that guides participants through the process of bringing their ancestors to life in an entertaining manner. It will enable students to choose the most suitable format, decide what to include (and exclude) and how to find and integrate relevant background context.

The course consists of two ten week modules, although module one can be taken as a stand alone unit. Lessons are delivered electronically. Students receive individually tailored in-depth feedback; have regular live discussions with the tutor and each other and access to an online learning hub.

Module One starts 13th May 2017. 10 Weeks. £125

  • Starting Out
  • Expanding a Family History Biography
  • Bringing your Family History to Life – Building Background Material
  • Developing a Family History Further
  • Introduction to Publishing, Layout and Production

For more details, please contact Gill:

gill@writingyourfamilyhistory.co.uk

Or see the website at: www.writingyourfamilyhistory.co.uk

About Gill:

Gill is a historical biographer and writer, professional genealogist and qualified tutor. She has had three books published, including Writing Your Family History (Pen and Sword). Forthcoming books include a local history based around an 1836 scandal and a biography of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson (1615-1665). She writes regularly for national family history magazines and  holds an MA in Biography.  She also regularly undertakes commissions to write and produce family and house histories for clients.

Writing Your Family History is part of the Past Search historical research business run by Gill Blanchard. See: www.pastsearch.co.uk

Author of Writing Your Family History: A Guide for Genealogists, BA, MA, Post Grad. Cert. Ed. (Adults).

 

 

 

 

Past Search Family, House and Local History Research and Tuition

Office 14 Meadow View House

191 Queens Road Norwich NR1 3PP

Tel: 01603 610619

E-Courses email: gill@writingyourfamilyhistory.co.uk

Work email: gblanchard@pastsearch.co.uk

Her forthcoming biography of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson can be ordered at: http://tinyurl.com/hak7o49

Sign up for Gill’s email newsletter at: news@pastsearch.co.uk

Twitter: http://twitter.com/GillBlanchard

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/laqzoc7

 

Norwich Writers' Circle

Everyone’s A Winner!

WordPress Nick Williams May 2016

At the meeting of Norwich Writers’ Circle on 17th May we received the adjudication of entries for the Past Search Trophy for Non-Fiction, as sponsored by writer and NWC member Gill Blanchard.

Local writer, historian and former Sheriff, Nick Williams had taken time to read and carefully analyse the 2,000 word essays, proposing people, places or events that deserve a coveted Blue Plaque in Norwich.  In his opening remarks, Nick said: “These competition entries have been a pleasure to mark and I am impressed by the high standard of both research and writing.”

’He went on to give feedback to each writer. The wide variety of topics included Gurney Court, Robert Watts, a former Lord Mayor, New Mills, Jenny Lind and Lawrence Scott.  And then the moment we were all waiting for.  The winners!

Joint 1st

Andrew Heron on Jenny Lind, popular Swedish opera singer and philanthropist who gave her first concert in Norwich in 1847. The Children’s Department at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital is named in her memory.

Mickie Dann on Robert Watts, 18th century notorious murderer and the last man to be executed in Norwich on the actual site of his crime.

3rd place

Barré Funnell on New Mills Yard on the River Wensum, now a neglected landmark in the city, yet with a rich history since 1430 of grinding corn and supplying water.

Highly commended

Iain Andrews on Gurney Court.

Phyllida Scrivens on Joyce Morgan, Lord Mayor of Norwich 1975-6

Paul Taylor on Laurence, Scott and Electromotors

As is our tradition, each entry was read aloud with members and visitors agreeing how much we had all learnt about our city. Sponsor Gill Blanchard endorsed the adjudicator’s comments about the evidence of research and resulting narratives.  Chairman Phyllida thanked Nick Williams for his endeavours and invaluable feedback before the meeting enjoyed refreshments and conversation.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Marks For The Plaques

WordPress Nick Williams March 2016

17th May: Nick Williams’ return for his adjudication of the entries to this year’s Past Search Competition.

This competition is for  non-fiction  with an historical theme, sponsored by Gill Blachard’s Past Search business. The task this time was to suggest a new 40th blue plaque for the city.

Nick is the award winning author of Strangers – A History of Norwich’s Incomers,  and others published by the Norwich Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust.

Never mind how major or minor the subject commemorated, so long as your explanation as to why he, she or it warrants recognition is well given within 1000 words, your entry stands every chance of winning. Presentation of the prize will take place at the forthcoming AGM, along with other awards won throughout the programme.

Please don’t forget the £400 cash & £100 Van-Dal gift voucher top prize and others to be had by winning the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition. Click here for more details.

Norwich Writers' Circle

New E-Course In Writing Your Family History

WordPress Gill Blanchard Portrait

Author of ‘Writing Your Family History: A Guide for Genealogists’ and other books, Tutor and Professional Genealogist, Circle member and sponsor of the Past Search in-house competition, Gill Blanchard is delighted to announce she has launched a new E-Course in Writing Your Family History for those who cannot attend her popular face to face courses.

This is a practical writing course that guides participants through the process of bringing their ancestors to life in an entertaining manner. It will enable students to choose the most suitable format, decide what to include (and exclude) and how to find and integrate relevant background context.

The course consists of two ten week modules, although module one can be taken as a stand alone unit. Lessons are delivered electronically. Students will receive individually tailored in-depth feedback throughout the course. There will be regular live discussions between tutor and students and unlimited access to an online learning hub to share work, ask questions and post news.

Module One starts 25 September 2016. 10 Weeks. £125

Introducing Your Project

Using Archival Resources – Context

Bringing It To Life

Time And Place

Finishing Off – The End?

Module Two starts 29 January 2017. 10 Weeks. £125

This module develops the themes introduced in Module One. Students will focus on developing a specific writing project. The emphasis will be on writing and critique, both with the tutor and through peer to peer sessions.

N.B: Module two can only be taken after module one has been completed.

Future courses in development include: Publishing Your Family History on Kindle; Producing Facebook, Website and Blog Family Histories; Mind Mapping for the Family History Writer; Writing a House History; Writing a Local History and Research Techniques and Sources for Authors.

Contact Gill for more information on gill@writingyourfamilyhistory.co.uk

Or see the website at: www.writingyourfamilyhistory.co.uk

About Gill:

Gill is an historical biographer, writer of local histories, professional genealogist and tutor. Her guide to Writing Your Family History was published by Pen and Sword Books in 2014. She also holds an MA with Merit n Biography and Creative Non Fiction (University of East Anglia). See her website for more details: www.pastsearch.co.uk

Norwich Writers' Circle

Nick Williams Reveals Research Techniques

WordPress Nick Williams March 2016

On Tuesday 15th March, Norwich historian and writer Nick Williams gave a presentation to Norwich Writers Circle, detailing his research techniques whilst preparing a number of publications. These included a series of heritage walks, The Blue Plaques of Norwich, a Guide to Rosary Cemetery and Trades and Industries of Norwich. A former Volunteer Co-ordinator for the recently disbanded Norwich Heritage Economic And Regeneration Trust (HEART), Nick still retains a strong interest in local history and is currently preparing a further book.

In an entertaining and informative talk, Nick stressed the benefits of using local archives, including Norfolk Record Office, Norfolk Heritage Centre and the Archant archives. Nick spoke of the importance of having a plan, close editing and the value of a comprehensive index. Members listened attentively, listening for tips to improve their chances of success in the annual non-fiction competition, the Past Search Trophy, sponsored by Gill Blanchard.

Nick will adjudicate the competition at our meeting on 17th May. Entries must be a narrative of no more than 1,000 words, detailing and justifying the writers’ choice of a person, place or event that deserves a Blue Plaque in Norwich, because of the part played in the history of the city. Nick will be looking for evidence of research, conclusions clearly based on research and whether such a plaque would grab the attention of a passer-by. Sources should be listed at the foot of the document (in addition to the maximum word count). Deadline for entries is 19th April. For full details of how to enter our competitions please click the Competition tab. Members can enter for free; non-members are welcome for a  fee. One entry only per person.

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Writing Your Family History Course

WRITING YOUR FAMILY HISTORY COURSEWritingFHFlyer-2
Saturdays 10th October, 31st October and 14th November 2015
10.15am to 3.45pm

Cost £65 (Total)

At Norwich Quaker Meeting House
5 Upper Goat Lane, Norwich, NR2 1EW

Tutor Gill Blanchard
Author of Writing Your Family History (and other books), Professional Genealogist and Tutor

Three progressive and practical workshops guiding participants through the different phases of writing and developing a family history. Each workshop includes writing exercises, feedback, discussion and readings. The course includes one to one feedback from the tutor.

For more information and to book contact Gill Blanchard, Office 14, Meadow View House, 191 Queens Road, Norwich. NR1 3PP. Tel: 01603 610619. Email: gblanchard@pastsearch.co.uk Web: http://www.pastsearch.co.uk

Cheques made payable to Gill Blanchard or via PayPal account gblanchard@pastsearch.co.uk

10th October Part One
Starting out and expanding your family history biography
Please bring a family history related object with you to the first workshop.
• Developing a writing style
• Format and what to include.
• How to stop researching and start writing.
• Introduction to adding social, geographical and local history context.
• Writing exercises and feedback.
31st October Part Two
Developing your writing further and bringing the past to life
• Bringing the past to life with local and social history resources.
• Dealing with family stories, missing pieces and anomalies.
• Writing exercises and feedback.
14th November Part Three
Publishing, layout and production
Review of progress
• What type of family history?
• Printing and publishing.
• Editing and layout.
• Reviewing, feedback and sharing written work.