Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Novel Writing Workshop - 17th October, 2016

On 17th October, HWG member and successful novelist, Glyn Harper, generously shared everything he has gleaned from  both his writing experience and his own reading in a workshop entitled 'Planning Your Way Through a Novel'. We romped through stories and their elements, protagonists, premise, goals, conflict, tension, stakes, twists, character arcs, themes and viewpoints. We looked into place and setting and how to analyse characters and depict their emotions as they confront all the obstacles and setbacks thrown at them at every turn by the dedicated author, who is intent on putting them through an Act I Crisis, an Act II Revelation, a Mid-Point Reversal, an Act III Disaster and the final Climax until the reader is rewarded with a Satisfying Ending. It was a thorough and entertaining talk, and we all left feeling inspired to have a go ourselves.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Historical Writing Entries - 3rd October, 2016

It was like taking a roller-coaster ride in a time machine on 3rd October, when members read out their entries for the group's last competition of the year: non-fictional historical writing. There were vivid childhood memories: of finding a bayonet at the end of World War I and the sweet sin of licking jam out of tarts during the 1953 coronation celebrations. There was an array of colourful ancestors: a camp conscientious objector who did time in Wormwood Scrubs, a star cricketer with an unusual name and a d├ębutante who made a life-changing secret liaison with an African prince. There were portraits of two fascinating and feisty women: Mary 'Slasher' Richardson, the suffragette who sliced the Rokeby Venus, and Bluebell Klean, who stopped 'chasing musical dreams to chase fish'. Places also came under scrutiny: the history of Church in the Wood, founded in 1090 by a priest who wanted a church hidden from the devil, and the Bexhill celebrations of 1917, when the band played on and elegance was everywhere. On a darker note, we also learned about the 1948 Warlingham Murder, when a shotgun rang out from 76, Harrow Gardens, and the so called madness of Victorian women. It was a very entertaining evening, and judge, Alan Judd, has his work cut out.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Planning Meeting - 19th September, 2016

On 19th September, it was our annual planning meeting, at which members gather to suggest competitions, judges and activities for the following year before voting to finalise the programme. A small but enthusiastic group assembled to discuss what we all wanted to do. There was agreement and disagreement, but fortunately, it was always amicable. This was a particularly important meeting as 2017 sees us celebrate our platinum anniversary as Hastings Writers' Group was founded in 1947 and is one of the oldest in the country. Another item on the agenda was, therefore, the celebration anthology, Strandline 11; it was unanimously voted to have an anthology and to have it unthemed but 'drawing inspiration' from the platinum celebration year. Many of the members present immediately volunteered to be involved in the project as writers, editors and proof-readers. 2017 will be a very busy year for the group as honorary member, Rosemary Bartholomew, is also organising a children's anthology to raise money for three local children's charities. Stories and poems are invited from primary-aged children (5 to 11) who live in Hastings or St Leonards. For more information, please email

Manuscript Evening - 5th September, 2016

On 5th September, the group focused on the craft of writing through various problem-solving activities. In the first half, veteran Bill Petsing, read out 'Mistaken Betrayal', his ongoing memoir of World War II. He had acted on previous critique from group members, and everyone noticed the work was much improved. After the break, our Vice-Chair and best-selling author. Kate O'Hearn, shared a real and thorny problem with her current manuscript, 'Phoenix, Fire and Raynne'. As a children's author, she said she was finding it difficult to write from an adult's point of view, particularly as the adult in question is a terrifyingly evil demon and so was having to do it via another adult's perspective. She read out a section, but everyone said that it was convincing and that there was nothing to worry about, so she now feels more confident about carrying on. However, it just goes to show that even the most experienced and successful of writers need a bit of encouragement now and again. As always, all members learned something about the perennially fascinating challenge of writing.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Poetry Results - 15th August, 2016

On 15th August, poet, Roz Goddard, came to give feedback and announce the winners of our poetry competition. She said the first element in poetry should be the heart rather than the head and gave her comprehensive judging criteria, including the creation of lines and phrases that ‘caught' her, the poem’s effectiveness when read aloud, its look on the page and the skills of ‘poetic handicraft’ that it demonstrated. In first place was 'The Father's Tale' by Vicky Armstrong, praised for its excellent use of the Icarus myth, its skilful layout and its 'heartbreaking' effect. 'The Bryn' by Diana Lock was second, Jane Hempson-Jones' 'Peace' was third, and 'Haiku on Kuniyoshi' by Roz Balp was fourth. Roz Goddard commented on the effective use of imagery and the adoption of rhyme schemes which might either enhance or ‘hem the poem in'. In the question and answer session, she advised: ‘letting the words flow’, writing a first draft in prose and allowing the structure to emerge as well as reading lots of contemporary poetry through magazines like Rialto or Under the Radar. She encouraged the non-winners by saying that all judgements are ‘subjective and tell us much about the judge and her reading and experience.’

Friday, 5 August 2016

History Workshop - 1st August, 2016

On 1st August, we were privileged to welcome our speaker, Ann Kramer, who gave an invaluable and inspiring workshop on writing historical non-fiction to prepare us for the group's final competition of the year. She has a long career as a professional author and has written 60 books on history for both adults and children, as well as many articles. Ann managed to condense her considerable experience into some very clear advice on how to go about approaching the task.. She responded with ease to questions from the floor, outlining a clear procedure for planning, finding an original angle as well as giving a very thorough guide on how to tackle the thorny problem of research, giving useful tips on how to find and use a variety of sources. Finally, she gave us two practical activities to get us started, which propelled us from vague ideas to a definite starting point. Throughout the evening, Ann was positive and encouraging, so we all feel more confident about taking the first step on this unfamiliar path.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Poetry Entries - 18th July, 2016

On 18th July, we read out our entries for our fourth competition of the year: poetry, beautifully and aptly summed up in this little ditty by our Treasurer, Sam Davey:

In a room of budding poets,
Words are flowing – don’t you know it.
Sonnets, ballads and some haiku,
Laments, couplets to name a few,
Erotic missiles and dying drummer,
Silent Angus – what a bummer,
Grains of sand and introspection,
Beach huts ready for inspection,
Songs of sadness, songs of magic,
Global madness, personal, tragic –
In a room of poetry,
Weaving words beside the sea.

The group also agreed to accept Rosemary Bartholomew's proposal to produce a children's anthology as part of our celebration of the group's 70-year existence.