Uncategorized

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.

IMG_3988

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.

Advertisements
Norwich Writers' Circle

A Productive Evening

Our manuscript evening on Tuesday 21st February was a success.  We welcomed three visitors and one new member.

manuscript-evening-1

We tried a slightly different format than usual, breaking off into smaller groups.  Those who brought work waited for each member of the group to read it and then received feedback.  Overall, the evening was productive, enjoyable and informative.

We had the pleasure of reading poetry, fantasy, historical fiction, young adult, comedy, biography, academic and science fiction.

Our next manuscript evening is 20th June.

In the meantime, our next meeting is Tuesday 7th March.  Not only will we be launching our third competition of the year, but S. E. Craythorne, the adjudicator, will be giving a talk about the joys and struggles of working with an unreliable narrator as well as exploring how ‘reliable’ any realistic narrator can be.

We hope to see you there.

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

Competition 1 Winners

On Tuesday 6th December, Norwich Writers’ Circle welcomed back Dr. Susan Burton to adjudicate our first competition of the 2016-17 season.  The competition was to write a personal profile or non-fiction character study and the winner would be awarded the Annual Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction sponsored by Gill Blanchard of www.pastsearch.co.uk.

After a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the entries, including an invaluable tip on detecting the difference between Personal Memory and Collective Memory during an interview, Dr. Burton announced the winners.

  • 1st  Phyllida Scrivens with ‘Christopher’, a study of a man with Down’s Syndrome who spent a year of his life as official consort to the Lord Mayor of Norwich.
  • 2nd Anne Funnell  with ‘The Hernia Hedge’, a study of Mary Manning, Norfolk Gardener who kept records for over 60 years of when certain plants first flower each year and who had visited Anne’s garden to identify plants.
  • 3rd Maureen Nisbet with ‘Victoria Refused to Fall’, a study of a woman called Joan from Leamington and her life during WW2.  In the discussion afterwards Maureen admitted that Joan was her mother.

The authors read their entries aloud to the meeting, followed by a humorous reading by Iain Andrews of a fictional magazine interview with medieval character Will Kemp.

The entertaining evening finished with the raffle and refreshments.

Our next meeting is Saturday 17th December and it will be our Christmas party!  There will be drinks and a buffet.  The party will be held from 4pm -7pm in our usual spot in Anteros.  Members and guests are more than welcome.  There will also be a raffle with some fantastic prizes up for grabs.

We hope to see you there!

 

phyllisa
Chairman Phyllida Scrivens, winner of the Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction 2016-17

 

 

 

Norwich Writers' Circle

Poppyland

peter-stibbons

 

On Tuesday 15th November the NWC welcomed Peter Stibbons, owner of Poppyland Publishing.

The group was then treated to a highly informative presentation following Peter’s career as well as some invaluable insider-secrets.

The NWC would like to thank Peter very much for his talk – especially for the props.  Seeing a laser disc was a real ‘blast from the past’ for many of us!

We would also like to thank every who attended!  It is always nice to see faces both new and old.

 

 

 

 

Our next meeting is Tuesday 6th November. Not only is this the deadline for the Colin Sutton Cup for Humour competition, in which case if you haven’t sent us your entry by email or post please bring it to the meeting, but we will also be joined again by Susan Burton, who will announce the winners of the Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction.

We hope to see you there!

 

Norwich Writers' Circle

L’esprit de l’escalier

susan-1

On Tuesday 4th October we launched our first competition of the season – The Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction.  We were joined by Susan Burton, UEA PhD researcher, for a talk on creative non-fiction.

Susan started by sharing her harrowing yet light-hearted account of the Tōhoku earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that followed.  The group was then treated to three thought-provoking  interview recordings.

Once her talk was finished, Susan was kind enough to answer questions and offered some solid advice for anyone thinking of entering the competition.

We hope this has inspired all who attended to give both the contest and creative non-fiction a go!

The NWC would like to thank Susan for her spirited talk, and those who attended for giving her such a warm reception.

Our next meeting on Tuesday 18th October is the Prize Draw Gala for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story competition!  We hope to see you there!

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.