Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Penny Legg - Review of 2010

It is about time I reviewed 2010.

I began January working like mad to finish Folklore of Hampshire in time for the 5th January deadline for delivery to the publisher.  My diary on 3rd January says, ‘There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind!’ I was right, there is not! At this time I was also editing The Woman Writer magazine for the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) and had a deadline looming for that, too.

After the demise of Borders, my group for writers, Writing Buddies, moved to The Art House CafĂ©, Above Bar, Southampton.  This proved to be a good move and the Writing Buddies quickly settled into their new home.  We held a first birthday party in May, to which 25 Writing Buddies came and the Art House did us proud with a splendid (and very big) chocolate birthday cake.  We then launched the Writing Buddies First Birthday Anthology Competition, which ran until July and had categories judged by Simon Whaley, Nik Morton, Doris Corti and Val Dunmore.  The results were announced in September. The Thorn Press will publish the resulting anthology, Wordfall, in the near future.

January and February were characterised by snow, snow and more snow and I was out and about when I could, trying to take photographs for my book, Southampton Then and Now.  This was not fun.  With a deadline on this book looming, the lighting was awful and I lost a lot of time because I physically could not get to some of the places I wanted to photograph.

In February, I gave a talk and workshop to the Southampton Writers’ Circle on the fun to be had writing magazine articles and I ran a workshop for members of Writing Buddies on how to set up a blog.  Later in the year, I talked about my life and work at Writers in Southampton and ran a workshop on article writing for New Forest Writers.

In April, I was at the York Festival of Writing, co-presenting a workshop with Silja Swaby and Jay Cole.  We were also there as ambassadors for the SWWJ.  Several new recruits to the Society’s ranks joined up as a result of our efforts.

I attended the London Book Fair in April, too.  For me this was a mixed blessing.  While I was fortunate in being able to take advantage of the fact that the volcanic dust clouds had prevented large numbers of people attending, thus allowing those who could get there better access to the publishers and others at the event, I had my portable hard drive stolen from my bag on the train travelling there.  Just how serious this would prove to be did not dawn on me at the time, but suffice to say that I am still feeling the consequences of this, as so much of my writing life was on it, including most of the notes and a lot of the first draft of my next book.  This had to be pieced back together again and meant that all of the other work during the rest of the year was knocked out of sync.  I went from a calm and reasonably ordered state of busy activity to playing catch up and keep up.  It taught me the importance of backing up work elsewhere.

In the summer, I was the official photographer at the Swanage Armed Forces Weekend and I started working on the staff for Carousel and the Bulletin magazines. I am now a regular writer for Carousel, in addition to editing Bulletin. 

August saw the launch of Folklore of Hampshire and it was nice that the weather stayed fine for the outdoor party at The Brushmakers Arms, who made us feel very welcome.  Lots of people, who had helped me with the book, turned up for the launch and all seemed to like it, which was great to hear!

The following day saw the second major technical problem to hit me in 2010 – Microsoft Word corrupted and took down most of my computer.  I was not impressed as Haunted Southampton, the book that had already been delayed from April, was due with the publisher a few days later.  Much time was lost while I tried to sort it out, both at home and at the Mac store. I did get the book in on time, but this ultimately delayed the next edition of The Woman Writer as the software I was using was one of the casualties of the crash.  It was after this that I decided that it was time to move on, after nearly two years, from the editorship of this publication and so resigned my position.

All year I have been marking scripts for The Writers Bureau. My students are a super bunch, full of enthusiasm and ideas. I now also tutor on the Biographies, Memoirs and Family History course.

October saw me at the Bournemouth Literary Festival once again; this time working with Martin Baum, John Haughton and Jackie Edwards on a panel discussion on getting into print.  I also finished my next book, Winchester: History You Can See, a photographic look at the history all around us in the city.

November saw my Southampton Then and Now book arrive in the shops and readers have been very kind about it.  I must say that the modern colour photographs look good against the sepia archive shots. The launch was a small affair as so many people were busy getting ready for Christmas but The Old Farmhouse did us proud.

I ended the year judging a creative writing competition for the Writers’ Suite and in editing Wordfall, the 2010 Anthology from the Writing Buddies. This has taken much longer to produce than I thought it would, mainly because I have, once again, had problems with software.   

I won third place in The Lady Violet Astor Rose Bowl Competition at the Society of Women Writers and Journalists and was Very Highly Commended at the 2010 Scroll Award at the Southampton Writers’ Circle.  I do not have time to enter many competitions, so these results, from the two I did enter in 2010, were encouraging.

In between all of this, I have met some charming people at the many book-signing events I have attended.  I would like to thank the staff at the various bookshops, supermarkets and events who have welcomed me into their midst and to the many people who have taken the trouble to come up and chat to me and to buy my books.  

I am looking forward to the publication of my book, Haunted Southampton, on 28th January, of Winchester: History You Can See in May and of Voices of Southampton in August.  I have talks for libraries and writing groups lined up. I will continue writing for Carousel and editing Bulletin. I look forward to reading the scripts my students send me and, in February, I will begin a term of tutoring a creative writing class for Southampton’s Age Concern.