Saturday, 6 December 2014

Presentation Evening, 2014

At our annual Presentation Evening on 5th December, the new Chair, Eileen Masters, greeted everyone and briefly summarised the group's activities over the year, highlighting the award-winning anthology, 'Animal Writes', and encouraging people buy it to help raise money for the two charities it supports.

Our first guest speaker of the evening was Catherine Smith, who had judged the annual Catherine Cookson Cup competition. She told us what she looked for in a short story, likening the genre to a fish tank, which provided a glimpse into a different world without distractions from the wider sea. She warned of the dangers of trying to 'cram a quart into a pint pot' and said some entrants had tried to write a novel in 3000 words and encouraged them to go on and write that novel. She said she wanted to be enchanted and intrigued and added that when she had finished the stories placed first and second, she had been so convinced that she imagined the main characters would actually walk into the room. The 2014 cup winner was new group member, Elizabeth Allen, with 'Growing Pains'; Catherine said the story was a polished gem with a distinctive style which drew her in. Sam Davey was second, Roz Balp third and Diana Lock fourth.

After the break, our patron, Tamara McKinley, spoke about the hard work and passion that has to go into professional writing and gave fascinating and inspiring examples from her own long and successful career as a best-selling novelist, which illustrated the dedication and self-sacrifice necessary to garner any rewards, particularly in the current world of publishing. She then handed out certificates to all members who had been placed in the group's five internal writing competitions before announcing the winner of the Writer of the Year Award given to the member who amasses most points across all competitions. This year, after a neck-and-neck battle, the shield was shared between Jill Fricker and Roz Balp.

The evening was rounded off with a raffle for Christmas hampers, and a group photograph was taken by the HWG''s very own world famous photographer, John Coles.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Catherine Cookson Entries – 24 November, 2014

At the end of the year, our focus was on beginnings, and in our meeting on 24 November, we read the first 1000 words of our Catherine Cookson Cup entries – the group's annual 3000-word short story competition. As always, there was a variety of genres, including adventure, mystery, humour, crime and ghost stories. Settings spanned a hospital, a Marrakesh hotel and a cottage plagued by dark demons. These were populated by a diverse cast of characters, such as a foreign prince, a London bag lady and a destructive dog. As we listened, we pondered how other members had tackled the thorny issue of hooking the reader into their stories, and in the final 15 minutes, we all worked in pairs to put our ponderings into practice by extrapolating an opening paragraph from a sentence suggested by our Chair.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Radio Play Results - 10th November, 2014

On Monday 10 November, the award-winning playwright, Shaun McKenna visited to give his feedback on our 10-minute radio play competition and to announce the winners.

As previously, Shaun gave very constructive, supportive comments. He also played extracts from his own recent radio drama, 'Home Front', to illustrate his points on how to delineate character, create setting and move the plot forward in natural ways, appropriate for radio.

Marcia Woolf was fourth with 'Crossed Lines'; then there was barely a whisker between third and second place, with Shaun basing his eventual decision on personal preference, so 'Strangeness on a Train' by Vicky Armstrong was in third place with second going to Roz Balp's 'Lost and Found'. However, the clear winner was 'All Those Heavenly Fowls' by Jill Fricker, which Shaun said was ready for immediate broadcast!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Hidden Gems and other things - October 2014

October has been a busy month for the group.
     On 13 October we met to hear the results of our 'Hidden Gems' Competition, for new writers who have not otherwise been placed in our internal competitions.  Our judge was one of our favourites, the extremely knowledgeable Dr Elizabeth Allen. In fact, she has enjoyed her work with the group so much, she has now joined as a member.  As the entry to the competition was relatively small, we decided to award only first and second places. In second place was John Taylor with 'Loved Ones', and the winner was new member Vicky Armstrong with 'Mr Hat'.

     27 October saw our annual AGM and Programme Planning Session. The big news this year was that Jill Fricker, our popular Chair, was standing down to concentrate on her developing creative writing work, and there are other changes in the Committee. Stephanie Gaunt is standing down, as is Marcia Woolf who has been an interim member of the committee for the last few months.  We actually had a contested election for the Chair, the first in the group's history, and Eileen Masters was chosen to succceed Jill. The rest of the Committee members are Kate O'Hearn, new Treasurer Samantha Davey, Janet Kates, Elizabeth Allen and Roz Balp, who is returning to the committee after a few years' break.
     In her final Chair's report, Jill said that 2014 had been another successful year for the group. Our new website had brought in numbers of new members and raised our profile. Our membership was consistently at its upper limit with a waiting list, and the healthy state of our finances meant that we are able to invest still more in professional judges and tutors for our writers.
     The final part of the evening was given over to planning our programme for next year. Members were given a list of options to choose from, based on their responses to a questionnaire sent out earlier in this year. Thanks to Marcia Woolf for undertaking this task.
     Members were also able to see our award for 'Animal Writes', which recently won the National Association of Writers' Groups Anthology prize, and also to purchase copies of our new anthology 'Strandline 14' which showcases members' work.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Results of Crime Writing Competition - 1 September 2014

We met on Tuesday 1 September to hear the results of our recent Crime Writing Competition. Our task was to write a 2,000 word crime story, and the judge this time was thriller-writer Phil Viner.
      He had a very large number of entries to read, and we were impressed by the time and effort he had put into the task. He also gave us a number of useful pointers about writing in this particular genre.
      The lucky winners were: in fourth place, Diana Lock with 'The Energy of the Crescent Moon', third, Musetta Ripamonti with 'Yokohama Duet'. In second place was Jill Fricker with 'What the Heron Knows', and in first place, Eileen Masters, with 'The Police Chief's New Clothes'.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Meeting Reports - July/August 2014

We've had a busy few weeks. On 14 July we had one of our regular Manuscript Evenings, where brave members present their work for constructive comments from their colleagues, and on 28 July we met to read out our entries for our current competition, cime stories. We had a great many entries, which meant that each person could only read for about five minutes - far too many cliff-hangers for one evening.
      Members have also been busy preparing their contributions for 'Strandline', our 2014 anthology. The cover of the new book was chosen by popular vote. Well done to the talented John Vallender, whose watercolour was the winning choice.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Life Writing Results - 16 June 2014

We are always excited when it comes to competition results time, and on Monday 16 June it was no exception. This time it was Life Writing, with our judge, writer and creative writing tutor Andrea Samuelson.
      Judging this particular genre is hard, because people often share experiences they have never talked about, let alone written about before, and the judge must be sensitive to the emotions generated by these revelations. However, Andrea dealt with these issues carefully and well.
       The eventual winners were: in joint fourth place, Jill Fricker with 'A Very Ordinary Miracle' and Mike Walsh with 'Fearless Mary Fosdick'. Third was Marcia Woolf, with 'Miss Brockway's Legacy', second, John Cole with 'Chasing Rats'.  The winner was Roz Balp, with a funny and well-observed piece, 'Job Quest'.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Life Writing: 28 April and 12 May

On Monday 28 April one of our favourite people, Andrea Samuelson, came to deliver a workshop on the skills of Life Writing. A former HWG member, Andrea now is a published author with an MA in Creative Writing. She teaches locally, and Life Writing is one of her specialities.  She made us work hard on a variety of exercises, which we appreciated, because we now have to produce a piece of our own in preparation for the next competition, and Andrea will be the judge!
On Monday 12 May we met to submit our entries for the always popular Life Writing competition. We had been asked to write 2000 words about an episode from our lives, and we took turns to read out extracts from our entries.

     It is always interesting to hear about other people's lives, and the members of the Writing Group are a diverse and varied collection of people. We were only sorry that we could not hear everybody's entry read out in full.  
     Andrea Samuelson will have a hard job to decide between the entries.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Results of Poetry Competition - 14 April 2014

On Monday 14 April we heard the results of our second competition of the year, poetry. Our guest judge was prize-winning local poet, Kim Lasky.
     Kim was very complimentary about our efforts, and gave comprehensive feedback to everyone who had entered.  She told us she was looking for the use of a poetry form which complemented and supported the subject matter, as well as the use of language and the rhythm of the poems.
     The eventual winners were: in joint fourth place, 'The Slip', Diana Lock, and 'On the Hill, Marcia Woolf'.  Roz Balp was in third place with 'Overkill', Sara Young was second with 'Jack', and the deserved winner was Jill Fricker with the moving 'Out of Niger'.

Manuscript Evening - 31 March 2014

The group met on Monday 31 March for one of our regular Manuscript evenings, where members present extracts from their work in progress for discussion and constructive feedback. The meeting was chaired by Kate O'Hearn, fresh back from a trip to Hawaii, where she was doing research for her latest 'Pegasus' novel.

     Four brave members presented their work: Paul Johnson with football inspired fantasy, Anne Spiring with a prospective Mills and Boon bodice-ripper, new member Corinne Graehame with chilling crime, and Lee Owen with science fiction. Needless to say, we found grappling with all the different genres quite challenging!
     However, all the presenters appeared to find our feedback useful.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Poetry Entries - 17 March 2014

On 17 March entries had to be submitted for our Poetry Competition. This year, with a number of new members taking part, we had a record number of entries for the competition. This is pleasing, as poetry has traditionally been a minority interest for HWG members.
     Entrants read out their poems and presented a short 'back story' about what had inspired the piece.

Results of Short Story Competition - 3 March 2014

On Monday 3 March a large group of members gathered to hear the results of our first competition for 2014 - producing a short story from a given first paragraph. The competition had also attracted a record number of entries, despite many members saying they found the task difficult.
     Our judge was up-and-coming thriller writer James Carol, who had also set the paragraph we had to work from. He had been impressed with the quality of the entries, and interested to see that some had used the paragraph to write a 'big' story, about cataclysm and disaster, and others to produce a 'small' more domestic drama.
The eventual winners were, in joint fourth place, Stephanie Gaunt with 'The Choice', and Jill Fricker with 'Falling to Earth'. New member Linda Blackhall was third with 'We are the People', second was Mike Walsh with the 'Wasteland', and our winner was Roz Balp with the mesmerising 'The New Order'.
     We were also pleased to welcome two prospective members at the meeting.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Workshop on Point of View - Monday 17 February 2014

It was challenging for all of us on Monday 17 February when we took part in a workshop on 'Point of View'. The session was led by one of our favourite outside experts, former English Literature lecturer Dr. Elizabeth Allen.
     The issue of 'point of view' is one of the most difficult areas for any writer - whether to choose the first person 'I' (or sometimes 'we), the second person 'you', or the third person 'his', 'her' or 'they'. Then, once chosen - how to stick with it and use it effectively.
     As ever, the meeting was very well attended.
     We were pleased to hear from Kate O'Hearn that she has now signed a contract to produce further books in her best-selling 'Pegasus' series. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Manuscript Evening - 3 February 2014

On Monday 3 February we held one of our regular Manuscript Evenings, where members are invited to present sections of their work in progress to the rest of the group for constructive critique.
     Facilitated by Kate O'Hearn, the session gave rise to lively discussion. Three people occupied the 'Hot seat', Emma Boyde, with a chapter from her novel about young surfers in Cornwall, Bill Petsing, with an extract from his memoirs about life in the 1930s, and Mike Rayner, with a disquieting but enthralling short story/novella which was part fantasy, and part fairy tale.
     Although Manuscript Evenings may be nerve-wracking, people who submit work find them very valuable, as do those who discuss the pieces.
     We were also pleased to welcome one new member and two prospective members.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Dialogue Workshop - 14 January 2014

The Group hit the ground running at our first meeting of 2014 on Monday 6 January. Our resident star author Kate O'Hearn led a challenging - and entertaining - workshop on dialogue and the use of accents. The session was very well attended, and everyone had plenty of opportunity to join with practical writing exercises.
     Just a reminder of the news from our end-of-year Presentation Evening in December. Our premier writing prize, the Catherine Cookson cup for an outstanding short story, was won by Mike Walsh, with Carol Pullen, Lee Owen and Marcia Woolf in second, third and fourth places. The 'Writer of the Year' award for the best performance in competitions throughout the year was won by Stephanie Gaunt.