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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Prepare to self-edit!

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Our next meeting will be on Tuesday the 5th of February at 19:30 at Chantry Hall, Norwich. We are to welcome back Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service, this time to run a workshop on self editing.

Rather than focusing on grammar and spelling, etc Kathy will run through how to edit the content of your story and look critically at establishing a strong point of view, character development, plot, showing versus telling and so on.

In order to participate, please bring a 1500-2000 word excerpt from a current work in progress (fiction only). Ideally you should bring a hard copy, double space, but you are welcome to work from a laptop or tablet, though please be advised there are limited plug sockets.

It would also help to bring some paper or a notebook,and plenty of pens and pencils so you can make notes.

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

norwichwriters@hotmail.com

We hope to see you there.

 

 

 

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Goodbye until September…

The NWC has officially broken up for summer.

Our next meeting will be on 18th SEPTEMBER 2018 at 7:30pm at our new location in Chantry Hall.  

 

 

We have a full programme in store with manuscript evenings, workshops, and speakers including Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing, and Mitch Johnson, author of Kick.

If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch: norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

And don’t forget your entry into the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition.

We hope everyone has a wonderful summer, and we hope to see you in September.

 

 

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Keeping it constructive

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“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

― Frank A. Clark

 

On Tuesday 6th February we ran a workshop on how to give a critique. Kathy Joy, who runs her own critique business called Fine Tune Your Fiction, walked us through the process.

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First, we discussed constructive criticism.

Kathy defined constructive criticism as having 5 main characteristics:

  • It is specific – it clearly states what the problem is, and why it is a problem.
  • It presents solutions instead of problems. 
  • It focuses on the work not the author.
  • It is never personal.
  • It makes no assumptions.

In addition, Kathy explained that these rules applied to both positive and negative criticism. Positive praise that is not specific and does not explain exactly what was so good and why is empty praise, which is a form of destructive criticism.

Next, the group was walked through how to assess a manuscript and give a critique in four simple stages:

  • First, the group was asked to read through the work. No markings or notes were allowed – the task was simply to take in the story and become familiar with what was happening, who the characters were, where it was set, and so on.
  • The second stage was using a red pen to highlight any weaker areas, but also be able to explain specifically what wasn’t working, and why.
  • The third stage was using a blue pen to highlight stronger areas. Once again attendees had to zero in on the specifics – what was good and why.
  • The final stage was to pick a single weak area and suggest a way to resolve it. This was the first and crucial stage to giving a critique.

critique-4.jpg“The most important part of any critique is to ensure your suggestions are not how you would do it if you were writing it, because it’s not your work. An editor’s job is not to impose their style on other authors but instead to cultivate an author’s voice, to refine it. To do this, you must look at the work and try to understand what the author was trying to do and think of a more effective way to achieve it that fits the existing content.”

-Kathy Joy

Everyone managed to highlight a specific weak area and most could come up with a possible solution to it.

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Overall the workshop went exceptionally well, with everyone learning something new, which can be applied going forward.

“Much like how reading more helps you become a better writer, so does learning to critique. Seeking out strengths and weaknesses in the work of others makes you more sensitive to it in your own work.”

-Kathy Joy

The NWC would like to thank everyone who attended.We would also like to thank Kathy for walking us through the process of analysing work and offering effective, constructive criticism.

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17/18 Programme now up!

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The wait is over. Our new programme for the new season is now up on the website and details all the fun we have planned from September!

Our first meeting is at 7:30pm on Tuesday 19th of September where we welcome Elly Griffiths, popular crime writer, alongside Alison Bruce a fellow crime writer who will be launching our first competition of the season.  The meeting will be held at Anteros Gallery on Fye Bridge street. Entry is £5 on the door for non-members and £3 for members.

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We hope to see you there!

Interested in becoming a member? If so please visit our membership page for more details.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk.

 

 

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

Results Of The Ivy Ferari Cup

Tuesday 2nd May saw S.E Craythorne return to announce the winners of our fourth and last competition of the season – the Ivy Ferrari Cup.  The theme was ‘motherhood’.

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The winners were:

  • 1st place Iain Andrews with Judgement of Solomon.
  • 2nd Kim Lewis with The Sparrow.
  • 3rd Phyllida Scrivens with Especially When You Dance.

Congratulations to the winners!

The NWC would like to thank Sally for her superb adjudication.  We’d also like to thank everyone who entered the competition.

Our next meeting is 16th May.  Robert Welton, the Librarian at Jane Austen College and former bookseller, will give a talk about how his library is designed to encourage reading, what type of books youngsters read these days as well as his views on the future of printed books.

We hope to see you there!