At the beginning of the year, one of my crit groups decided to write down some things we wanted to achieve this year. One of mine was to be braver and put my writing out in the public eye. I have started to enter more competitions and had some small successes, but I have decided to go a step further. There is now a new page on my blog where I will put up some of the pieces I submitted for competition. That feels VERY brave to me!
I was absolutely delighted to receive a Highly Commended from Beverley Birch with my first entry into a Hampshire Writers Society competition. It’s the last story on the page, but please read all the others before you scroll down to my piece. There are some great stories here. I have also added it to the Writing page of my blog, so you can look here if you would prefer.
Beverley Birch was shortlisted three times for the Branford Boase Award in recognition of the editor’s role in nurturing new talent and, as a prolific author, she was also nominated for the Carnegie medal. Hampshire Writers’ Society is most appreciative to Beverley, who graciously came to our rescue by agreeing to be our April adjudicator as well as our speaker. In return, our members managed to supply entries that made it difficult for her to choose the usual two highly commended places. The competition, ‘Write a children’s story, inspired by a well-known story for children’, meant that after choosing 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, Beverley was unable to decide and ended up choosing four additional pieces to praise.
1st Place: Cass Morgan – Mrs Bilious
2nd Place: Kristin Tridimas – A Koala Named Sydney
3rd Place: Matthew Cross – George and the Dragon
Highly Commended: Annie…
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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.
… where does the time go?
I have received a notification from WordPress congratulating me on two years of blogging. Intellectually I know this to be correct – I started my blog as part of the Publishing Project module of the MA course. Emotionally, sometimes it feels like just last month and other times it’s more like a decade.
However long it’s been, I feel like a bit of a fraud. ‘Keep up the good blogging’ the notification said, making me study my fingers and shuffle my feet in shame. I’ve hardly been near my blog this year. The poor thing is fading away from lack of content and pining for attention.
Exceptional women supporting exceptional women
Source: The WoMentoring Project
It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I’ve been so busy having a nice time that sitting at the keyboard has drifted down my list of priorities. Now I feel I should get back into a sensible routine, but I’m finding it hard to convince my inner child that it’s time to settle down and do some work. It feels like that first week back at primary school after the long break when you have to write “What I Did On My Holidays” by Kim A Howard aged 56 and a bit. I promise, I won’t give you a blow-by-blow account of what I’ve been doing, even though it’s been very exciting. I’ll just show you a few pictures, share a couple of highlights and promise to
do better try harder from now on.
Things started with the thrilling news that I had won a Twitter give-away. When my parcel arrived, I don’t know what made me more excited – getting a book (for free) by a debut writer or getting an envelope with an honest to goodness Chicken House label on the front! The book won. Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley is now tottering on the top of my To Be Read heap in the bedroom. The envelope went into the rubbish.
Winchester Writers Festival was the first big event. I spent two days as a student host, looking after an agent, an author and a digital whizz. On the third day I was a fully fledged delegate, working on plotting stories with the wonderful Sarah Mussi, and I really didn’t feel the day was long enough. It would have been great to have another hour or so to go into everything in a little more depth, but I’m not complaining. She was extraordinarily generous with the documentation she gave us and with her offers of support afterwards. There has been a flurry of tweets and emails over the last few weeks between those of us in her group – responding to them is another thing on my ever-growing ‘to do’ list.
In a quiet moment at the Festival I was browsing the internet and found this website. I spent quite a lot of that day showing this page to anyone who would take a look. On 30th July 1952, at 21.20, in a programme entitled Community Theatre, is a performance of The Deluge by the Southampton Student players. Run your eyes down the cast list and you will find Japhet, played by Patrick Garland (actor, writer, director of Chichester Festival Theatre, etc). Now look at the line underneath. His Wife is played by Margaret Mansbridge – that’s my mum! I can’t tell you how excited and proud seeing her name in print made me. The internet is wonderful at preserving old records like this for future generations.
Next stop – New York City. Who knew you could fit so much into seven days? We saw two concerts, two Broadway shows, went on a half-day cruise, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, watched part of the Pride parade, visited the 9/11 memorial garden and museum, went to the top of One World Trade Centre, ate, drank, shopped… and, yes, I did come back to England with more books in my case than on the outward flight. We had an amazing time – it would take another post or two to tell of all the joyous happenings so I won’t say more here. Just let me know if you want details.
We flew back overnight, leaving NY on Thursday evening and arriving at Heathrow at 8.00 on Friday morning, so we were more than a little jet-lagged when the alarm went off at 7.00 on Saturday. We had a train to catch! We missed it by about 90 seconds and had to wait for the next one. It was quite pleasant just sitting on a bench on the platform for half an hour and gave us chance to build up our energy reserves for the day at Wimbledon. We had tickets for Centre Court and were nine rows from the back, up on the fifth floor – a long way from the nearest Pimms seller. We watched three brilliant matches and didn’t fall asleep once. I won’t give you a point-by-point account of the tennis – that’s what the iPlayer is for!.
Sunday was a day for laundry, lunch and lounging around on the sofa and it seemed like no time at all before we were back into the working week, added to which I went to two different crit groups on Tuesday evening with my current favourite work-in-progress.
If you just look at the pictures, it doesn’t seem that I have done much reading this week, but that’s not the case. I have finished two cracking YA novels, a beautiful version of a traditional tale, an early reader and a magazine about writing. The latter always takes me off onto researches and explorations inspired by the articles and news features. That takes up a lot of time! I’ve also been reading profiles of people who were speaking at Wonderlands, a symposium organised by the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy that I attended this weekend. I shall post more about that later in the week.
This week I have done something I thought I would never do. I have given myself permission NOT to finish every book I start. It has always been a matter of pride that, no matter how dull, annoying or frustrating, I always plough through to the very end. There have only been one or two exceptions over the last fifty years. At the moment, the books in my TBR heap would reach the bedroom ceiling twice over if they were gathered into one place. The books I’m reading for work still get the full treatment, as do most of the books I’m reading for college. However, if it’s a book that I’ve picked up just because it might be useful, or I liked the sound of the blurb, or it’s had a lot of attention on social media – the rules have changed. Those books get thirty pages or so to grab my attention. If by that stage I’m not looking forward to my next opportunity to read a chapter or two, I can choose whether or not to persevere. As someone pointed out, the early pages of most books have received a disproportionate amount of attention from writers, agents and editors. That being the case, how likely is it that my reading experience will improve as the book progresses?
Over the last seven days I have started and abandoned two books and returned a third to the library as it was a sequel to one of those two. I won’t name the books or the authors – it is, after all, just my opinion and it would be unfair of me to cast aspersions on something I didn’t finish. After all, it could be that my head was just not in the right place to read those stories on that day. I have to say – seeing my TBR heap shrink as a result is strangely liberating. Every time I put an unread book in the library returns bag it makes me giggle like a naughty little girl.
Not reading books I didn’t enjoy gave me space to read books that I really did. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is Jackie Morris’s beautifully illustrated adaptation of a traditional story. I was going to say it had been a long time since I read the original, but I’m sure you know what I mean. I haven’t read any other versions of this story for a while so I can’t remember how they end. I think Ms Morris got it just right. The girl grew up and changed during her travels and accepted that she was not the same person who had fallen in love with the bear/prince. Each of the illustrations is a little jewel and I was very sad to give it back to Hampshire libraries.
Vortex by S J Kincaid is the sequel to Insignia. This series has children with processors implanted in their brains competing in games in preparation to defend the world against enemies from beyond. In reality they are engaged in a constant battle between the mega-rich corporations who control the wealth of the world. It is full of technology, intrigue, action, politics and teenage friendships and I think I might buy them for my nephew for his 14th birthday – if he doesn’t have them already.
Before July last year I knew nothing about Rainbow Rowell. Then I went to YALC and saw the rapturous attention she received from her many fans. I’d been seeing a lot of chatter about her book Eleanor & Park on social media so I decided to read it. I fell instantly in love with the characters, the story and her writing. It’s taken me nine months to move another of her books up my reading heap – and it was worth the wait. Fangirl could, at first glance, be just another story about twin sisters going to University, leaving their bipolar father home alone. The mother who abandoned them tries to build bridges, there are new friendships, parties, boys and worries over studies. But this story was written by a master (sorry, mistress) of her craft and has the added bonus of a sub-story; a piece of fanfiction written by the protagonist, Cath. It was one of those stories that made me sad when the book was over, but happy because I was certain the characters were still carrying on their lives without my watching them. The library catalogue has two more of her titles listed, but I am being very brave and not placing a reservation at the moment. Anyone want to take bets on how long I can hold out?