Ex-Machina

A while ago Judith Heneghan posted something on Twitter – I can’t remember exactly what it was now – but it made me really miss being at college and studying for my MA. It wasn’t just the brilliant friends I’d made or the totally supportive critiques they gave. It wasn’t even the lectures and speakers. It was all of those, plus the driving impetus of having to produce some words every week and doing so as part of a writing community. I sent a tweet back, suggesting she set up a group or forum where graduates of Winchester’s Writing for Children MA could get in touch and maybe even meet up every once in a while. We both thought it was a great idea but, between the University and the Writing Festival, she couldn’t contribute more than support, encouragement and a few email addresses.

That’s how it started.  I set up a closed Facebook group and called it Ex-Machina (EX-MA CHildren In Absentia) – probably not the best name, but it was all I could come up with at short notice.  There seem to be some quite unusual groups with the same name.  Oops!  I added all the people I knew on Facebook who had completed the course and emailed the people Judith had suggested.  A couple of posts later we are up to 16 members without really trying.

So – did you graduate from the University of Winchester with an MA in Writing for Children?  Would you like to be in touch with other people who did the same course?  If you are on Facebook, please ask to join us.  If you avoid social media, please contact me via this blog and I’ll add you to an irregular email update.

I hope to make contact with some more of you over the coming months.  Writing doesn’t need to be a solitary occupation.

Winchester Writers’ Festival 2015 Writeup

Damon has written a really great write-up of the Winchester Writer’s Festival. I was there as a student host again this year, so only get a restricted view of the activities. Hopefully I will be able to attend next year as a fully-fledged delegate. I’ll have to save up as, unlike Damon, I won’t be able to apply for the scholarship scheme. I’m far too old for that! Thank you for a fabulous insight into the three days, Damon.

Damon L. Wakes

Last weekend wasn’t my first time at the Winchester Writers’ Festival, but thanks to a scholarship from the University of Winchester, it was the first year I managed to attend the entire event. That really made quite a difference, since the full range of day courses, talks and workshops offered far more variety than I could have got from any individual day. It was particularly useful to be able to get advice on both writing and publishing. Here’s how the weekend went:

Friday:

Each day of the festival starts (if you get up early enough!) with coffee and an opportunity to chat to other delegates. For the first two days, this was also an opportunity to wander around the Book Fair. I was really keen to make the absolute most of the weekend, though most people didn’t turn up until a little later.

P1000755 EDITED Unless stated otherwise, these photos…

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The Ernie Tree

In the spring of 2013 a group of people started digging holes in our local park.  We didn’t see them do it.  Whenever we went back, something had changed.  More holes appeared.  On one visit we found heaps of compost and stacks of wooden stakes.  Then trees began to appear in the holes.  Eventually there were four straight rows of Row of young fruit treestrees, all carefully staked and evenly spaced.  More time passed and little wooden posts started to appear in front of each tree with plaques giving it’s location in the orchard, information about the type of tree it was and when the fruit would be ready for harvest.

Map of orchard layoutEventually an information board appeared telling anyone who was interested that this was Incredible Edible, North Hampshire.  A community orchard planted and maintained by volunteers for the benefit of the local community.  The half-dozen paragraphs of text and the colour-coded map of the orchard gave you all the information you could want and, if you felt you needed more, there was a QR code and a web address.  Brilliant!List of fruit trees

When I looked down the list of trees, I got a shiver of excitement.  One of them was called Ernie’s Russet.  I headed across the field to find tree location B3.

Identification plaque for Ernie's RussetThere was a sturdy little apple tree with another information plaque in front of it.  This told me that Ernie’s Russet was a desert apple, ready for harvest in mid September.  “So what?” I hear you ask?  Well, Ernie was the name of my father-in-law.  He was a lovely man with a very sweet tooth.  His favourite part of any meal was pudding.

The idea of a ‘desert’ apple tree with his name was brilliant.  His children were born at the end of August and the beginning of September – the tree was even close to his own personal ‘harvest’ time.  Since then I’ve been watching the orchard with interest.  At irregular intervals I’ve taken photos for my partner so she can see how Ernie Tree is coming on.  It has been a heartwarming experience.Young apple tree in orchard

I have built up a small collection of photographs of the tree, taken over a period of several months.  It now feels like a project.  I plan to shall share the photos I have taken this spring so you can see the progress the tree has made.  I will keep taking photos so that , hopefully, you will eventually see a harvested russet apple.  In the meantime, here is the first photo I took of Ernie Tree.Head shot of Ernie

This week would have been my father-in-law’s birthday.  It would also have been his & Mamie’s wedding anniversary.  Sunday will be Father’s Day.  So, to mark these occasions, here is a picture of the man I called ‘Super-Ern’.  Fancy an apple crumble, Ernie?  More custard?

Where are our manners?

It’s now nearly two weeks since we launched Litmus 2015 and I am still bubbly with happiness at seeing my name in print. Celebrating our achievements with colleagues, family and friends and strutting our stuff in front of guests from the publishing industry was thrilling – and the cake tasted as delicious as it was beautiful.

It may be time to shove the rainbows and glitter out of my head and get back to the black and white business of writing. I have three works in process, two with deadlines attached and I’m looking forward to finally finishing a full book of story rather than just an assignment’s worth. Happy, happy!

Litmus 2015

A copy of Litmus 2015 next to the celebration cakeThe Litmus 2015 launch party was on Tuesday night.  Today is Sunday and we have yet to tell you anything about it.  Please accept our apologies.  It’s not that we didn’t want to share, we’ve just been a bit busy.  We’ve been feeding the hungry Twitter bird, sending thank you emails and continuing with the business of obtaining our masters degrees.  OK, most of the time we’ve been sat rocking in a corner, gently stroking the shiny cover of our very own copies of Litmus 2015; turning the pages to make sure our names are still in the table of contents, our stories in the body of the book and our bios on the back pages.

A group shot of people at the Litmus 2015 launch partySorry, we’re still not telling you anything about the launch, and we should.  It was a wonderful evening.  The room was full of students (aka, Litmus 2015 authors), literary agents, editors, lecturers, journalists, bloggers, family, friends and…

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The end is nigh

Rebecca has done such a great job of summing up all the hard work that has gone into preparing Litmus 2015 for publication and of the doubt so many of us carry about our own abilities as writers. The launch on Tuesday evening marks not just the end of another module but also our own personal successes. Hopefully seeing our names in print will give us all that boost to our confidence we all need. Good luck, everyone

Litmus 2015

Book CoverIf you have been following this blog for a while, or can see the counter on the right of this page, you will know that it is only a few short days until our publication is released to the wide world on May 12th. This has been a long time coming for all involved but, I can personally say, I’m delighted it’s finally here.

We have been planning the Litmus 2015 anthology since January, carefully selecting which piece of writing we think best represents us as writers, refining the details, editing and reading in class, and finally pressing that send button a few short weeks ago. Four months to achieve that doesn’t seem like a long time, but the planning and blogging and scheduling will all be over in a matter of days.

And then what are each of us left with? A publication which we have individually contributed to…

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AUTHORS FOR NEPAL GOES LIVE

There are some great things up for auction from ‘Authors for Nepal’ on Ebay: signed artwork, signed books, critiques, all fab for book lovers and writers. If that isn’t you, bid on something for someone you love and send some much needed assistance to the people of Nepal.

GirlsHeartBooks

11160657_978606502179677_768518093034374166_nA group of authors are raising money for the Earthquake Relief Appeal for Nepal. 

There are lots of goodies to be had from signed books, poetry and illustrations through to writing critiques. Children’s authors donating things include the legendary Cathy Cassidy and GHB’s very own Sue Ransom. Also not to be missed are children’s literary agents Polly Nolan and Julia Churchill, who are both are offering critiques.

What are you waiting for? Get on over to the auction now and keep popping back as items are still being uploaded!

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