Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The York Festival of Writing

I'm back!  Deadbeat, intellectually stimulated, with a notepad full of notes and with a bag stuffed full of goodwill.  I made new friends, was able to help new writers with writing problems (I was surprised by the number of writers I met who thought that 60,000 words were sufficient for a novel.), sat in on a few workshops and lectures and spoke to many people about the myriad benefits of joining professional associations and writing groups.  The workshop I co-presented ('Writing Groups to Get You Published', with Silja Swaby and Jay Cole) to an enthusiastic and committed audience went well and the Afternoon Tea with ... session saw the Society of Women Writers and Journalists' tables overwhelmed with interest.

Harry Bingham and his colleagues attracted over 400 writers to his first Festival of Writing at York university.  They came to meet and learn from some big names in the writing world - Katie Fforde gave the first keynote address and other participants included Sue Moorcroft, RJ Ellory, Helen Corner and members of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists.

We all learnt from the experience.  Roger Ellory gave some startling statistics, which brought a gasp: 80% of all books published in the UK sell 500 copies or less and writers survive on an average income of just £7,000 a year. Only 2% of the books published can be classed as 'best sellers'. Makes you think, eh?

I now have a Twitter account, (so come and find me!) after listening to Robin Harvie from 4th Estate, part of HarperCollins.  He advocated Twitter for building up a fan base.  I am giving it a go.  After all, if it works for Stephen Fry, (he has over a million and a half followers) it may work for me!

Now I am back home after an intense weekend.  I can't wait for the next one!  Many thanks Harry and Co for having me and congratulations on a job well done!

Friday, 9 April 2010

York Festival of Writing

Today I am off to York to attend the York Festival of Writing.  This promises to be an action-packed weekend, with lots of learning and networking opportunities.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The latest news

I finally finished my latest book, Southampton Then and Now, on Ash Wednesday and rushed it up to Stroud, to the headquarters of The History Press. I then allowed myself a small sigh of relief and the delights of a picnic on the common behind the THP's impressive water mill buildings.

Things had got a bit hectic in the week or so leading up to the deadline.  The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Girl Guides, the Sea Rangers, The Art House and the Hampshire Constabulary Band had all found it more convenient to have me over to take photographs in the week before the deadline.  I am very grateful that all of these groups thought my project was worthwhile enough to participate in. A full week meant that yours truly was busily occupied sorting out all that needed to be done to get the resulting images and their captions ready for the book by the deadline.  I had little time for the real world, which was a pity as it was my brother's birthday three days before deadline and, when the family met up to celebrate, I was a bit preoccupied.

In the meantime, it was also deadline time for the April edition of The Woman Writer magazine, which I  edit for The Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ).  This edition was characterised by the lack of a suitable photograph for the front cover.  Society members usually send in something suitable but this edition that was not the case.  In the end, as the magazine is celebrating its centenary, I took the front cover of the November 1915 edition as my front cover. This featured an advertisement for 'Hampers from a Norfolk farm'.  A hamper containing a chicken or a duck, a boiling fowl, eggs, 2 vegetables and herbs could be had for 7/6.  If you wanted the bird plucked and trussed it was 3d extra.   Super!  In an age when the advertising revenue for the magazine is almost non-existent, it was nice to see that the magazine had such delights on its pages in years past.  My thanks for the 1915 edition go to the indefatigable Sylvia Kent, whose two years of research went into making her history of the SWWJ, The Woman Writer, such an enjoyable read.

Two days before my book deadline BBC Radio Solent called me at home to ask if I still wanted some help finding archive photographs for my book.  I had sent them a request for assistance a few months ago. As the book in question was Southampton Then and Now and by the time they called it was nearly finished, I said that now I was fine but thanked them for contacting me.  The call then proceeded to a chat about the other books I am writing.  One thing led to another and, hey presto, a reporter was sent around later that same day to interview me.  If you fancy listening to the resulting conversation, it will be broadcast tomorrow, Thursday 8th April, on the mid morning show, at about 10.15.  Radio Solent is 96.1FM, 103.8FM & DAB or online here.

My friend and colleague, Simon Whaley, has listed one of my blogs in his top ten favourite blogsites.  Writing Buddies comes in at No.8!  Great!  Thanks Simon. 

Talking of Writing Buddies, I was pleased to see the group featured in the May edition of Writers' News.  

Still talking of Writing Buddies, I was so pleased to hear that James Marsh, a Writing Buddy from the beginning, has just heard that his book, Someone Else's Trousers, has been accepted for publication by The History Press. A blog is imminent, so I will bring you this when it happens.

After all this excitement, it is time to slow down and get on with some other work.  Since Christmas new writers have been taking to the pen in large numbers, as they take their first steps towards putting their New Year 'must write something' resolutions to the test.  This is refreshing to see. I love reading their work and helping them on the path to publication.  

Whilst I do this I am preparing for the York Festival of Writing over the weekend 9th - 11th April.  I am assisting, with colleagues from the SWWJ and other professional writers, agents and publishers, on an informal advice session, 'Afternoon Tea with ...' and then co-hosting a workshop, 'Writing Groups To Get You Published' with Silja Swaby and Jay Cole. I am looking forward to being back in York, a place that I love visiting.

Next on the agenda is my book, Haunted Southampton.  If you have any ghostly tales to tell, about things that go bump in the night in or around the city, let me know!