Welcome to my writers blog.

Writing to entertain and encourage other writers. To keep you informed of events, workshops, retreats and conferences available for writers.

The Love of Dance

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Get Writing 2011 - Tickets on Sale NOW!

Inspired to write? Well if you really love writing, have a dream of becoming a writer or just want to know a little more about writing then Get Writing 2011 might be worth attending.

Verulam Writers’ Circle has been supporting and encouraging writers for more than fifty years and in association with the University of Hertfordshire are pleased to announce their fourth Get Writing conference.

So what do you get for your money? The opportunity to pitch your novel to an agent, editor or publisher. A selection of seminars and workshops to inspire your development. Q & A sessions dig out all the trade secrets of getting your writing from the written page to the published novel. Time to network with authors, editors, agents and publishers during coffee and lunch breaks. And no conference would be complete without the writing competitions. If you would like to find out more click on this link: www.vwc.org.uk

Get Writing 2011
Saturday 19th February 2011
9:00am – 6:00pm
de Havilland Campus
University of Hertfordshire
Off St. Albans Road West (A1057)
AL10 9EU

So brush up your writing skills, check it out the website and sign up. What are you waiting for?

A Selection of Talented Writers.

Open Mic Night 25th November.

Wow! What a selection of talented writers. Twenty five authors turned up at ‘The Goat Inn’, Sopwell Lane, St. Albans to share their work.  The event was part of the National Short Story week and kicked off at 7:45pm with the wonderfully talented comedian, actress and writer Mandy Knight as MC. The pub was alive with laughter, applause and the odd barracking, all in good fun of course. Mandy kept everything in order and to time. 

The occasion was filmed by Kevin Bennett and Ian Cundell. Keep an eye out for an exclusive extract appearing on YouTube soon. 

Authors in order of appearance:

Lesley Eames - Breaking down.
Anne Ellis - Don’t ask, don’t tell.
Ellen Hanns – Waiting (poem).
Dave Weaver – Tweelight .
James Feilding – Untitled.
Ian Cundell – The Flower.
Kevin Bennett – Who’d Have Thought It.
Ellen Hanns– Burgess Hill (extract).
Jon Pinnock – Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens (extract forthcoming novel)
Tim Blinko – The Radiance (extract)
Steve Barley  – West Falkland’s Finest.
Sandra Norval– Libertine On Life (prequel to the novel)
Susanne Stanton  – It’s Time.
Mark Clementson – Secure in the knowledge that everything happens for a reason.
Oscar Windsor-Smith– Charity Begins
Jane Fookes – A trophy of war.
John Goh – The announcement of a new political philosophy.
Tina Shaw – Found one, lost one.
Ian Cundell – Lost Princess.
Toby Frost – Space Captain Smith (extract)
Susan K Franklin – Unwilling Sorceress (extract YA novel)
Nick Cook – Final Draft.
Janet Baldy – Pendulum.
Jenny Barden – To the Ends of the World (extract)
Katie Barron – Blaze, Unmade Bed & Last day (poems)
Simon Bowden – The Manual (extract)
John Spencer – Bill & Al (extract)
Jon Pinnock – Advice re Elephants.

This was a resounding success and bodes well for next year.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Open Mic Night

Open Mic Night
25th November 2010

This is the second Open Mic Night from the Verulam Writers’ Circle. The first was an event full of magic, mystery, mirth and on occasion morbidity, and this year’s experience is shaping up to be just as wonderful.
As part of the annual Short Story Week, the event is being hosted at The Goat, 37 Sopwell Lane, St. Albans, AL1 1RN on Thursday 25th November. Arrival time 7pm the readings begin at 7:30pm expecting to finish around 10:30pm, but don’t hold us to that.

You’ll find us in the front bar, just as you come in the front door, turn left and you’ll find us. The work read will be varied as suggested above and be prepared to laugh, cry and maybe feel fear, but this is all done in short burst, hence the short story element, you will also find a touch of the poetical amongst the creative works on offer. check out their websites.
All of the authors below and around another twenty will be reading their short stories, poetry or any other material they have selected for the evenings entertainment.

Check out these websites for more information on the talent standing up for your entertainment.

Toby Frost – creator of the Space Captain smith trilogy http://spacecaptainsmith.com/
Jon Pinnock – creator of the Mrs Darcy & the Aliens www.mrsdarcyvsthealiens.com
Ian Cundell - Journalist http://www.cundell.net/
Julie Mayhew – creator of the forthcoming 16 Days Since http://juliemayhew.co.uk/
Mandy Knight – comedian & writer http://www.mandyknight.co.uk/
Jenny Barden – her upcoming novel To the Ends of the World http://www.jennybarden.com
Oscar Windsor-Smith http://oscarwindsor-smith.blogspot.com/
Sandra Norval http://www.sandranorval.co.uk/12.html
Steve Barley http://www.stevenbarley.com/
Dave Weaver http://daveweaver-unreal.blogspot.com/

Added to this we have the honour of the amazing Mandy Knight who has agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to MC for us on the night.

So put the address in your Satnav and head on over. You will be in for an evening of great amusement.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Struggling to get the words in the right order?

We all do it, yes, all of us. Even the greatest writers have to juggle each word to ensure each is used to it optimum potential, and of course to check they haven’t used that word too many times.

I recently read a scene from a novel I’m currently working on to the VWC and struggled through the whole thing. It was that terrible it made me laugh with embarrassment, I’m being honest here - it was tragic. Once the audience had also stopped laughing, it really was that bad, the true constructive criticism poured out. The upshot was that all the words were in there but in the wrong order. The ideas were good, but used in the wrong way. It was time to go back to the drawing board.

I attacked this issue in a positive way, after all they liked the ideas, they just needed to be written in a different way – I was up for the challenge. Firstly, I stripped the scene down in to its individual components and then placed them out in front of me. And as I looked, I saw a more coherent way of developing the scene. Now with each section in place I began the rewrite. The words behaved, formed sentences that actually made sense, always a good thing for a sentence, and then those sentences grew in to competent paragraphs. Well, that is what I’m saying now, the proof will be in the reading this coming week.

A little tip: Check to see how many times you use favourite words by using ‘find’ in your word processing package. This will show you how many times you’ve used each word giving you the opportunity to find new and exciting words to replace some of the old favourites. It's surprising how much stronger your work will be.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

How useful are writing circles?

That would depend on how good the circle is. So how can you find out?
The best circles will probably have been established for a long while, but this isn’t always the case. I’ve visited some very good ‘New’ circles who have been constructive and forward thinking, but equally, I’ve found some ‘Pat on the Back’ groups – If you are serious about your writing avoid these with a passion.
What attributes should you look for in a good circle?
Established members – new and fledgling members, published authors, active journalists an odd agent or two would be an added bonus. Also invited speakers, manuscript evenings, workshops, good critiquing (constructive criticism, praise where it is needed and guidance on how to move forward), regular meetings with manuscript surgeries.
So what makes an exceptional group?
All of the above plus:  an active online network and forum, run their own conference and links with agents, publishers and editors.
Exceptional groups like this are rare. I’m lucky to belong to one - The Verulam Writers’ Circle. They have been established for over 50 years and have many published authors - fiction and non-fiction. Members can enjoy their online services, which includes online critiquing, information on forthcoming events and much, much more.  They run their own ‘Get Writing’ conferences and weekly meetings which are always inspirational and informative.
The next ‘Get Writing’ conference will be announced soon, I’ll post details when I receive them.
So keep your eyes open for a good writing circle, they really are worth their weight in gold.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

British SCBWI is celebrating 10 years of supporting and encouraging Children’s book writers and illustrators with their third conference.
This year the conference is being held between the 13 -14 November 2010, at The Stripe complex, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, SO22 4NR. This is also the venue for the regular Winchester Writers Conference which has now been supporting writers for 30 years and the university offers degrees and MA’s in creative writing.
The SCBWI conference is for writers or illustrators focusing on children’s writing. There are opportunities to have work critiqued, talk to agents, and editors and attend workshops as well as networking with established authors and illustrators.
Not a member of SCBWI? Well that doesn’t matter, the conference is open to anyone working or wanting to develop their work in the children’s genre. Check out the official British SCBWI website for more details and how to book your place.
If you are serious about writing for children this is a brilliant place to start. If you become a member, not expensive, there are many benefits: professional series, networking parties, retreats and much, much more.
If you do go, why not drop us a line and let us know how you got on?

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Winchester Writers' Conference 2010

Plenary Speaker
Sir Terry Pratchett OBE

This year the Winchester Writers’ Conference was celebrating 30 years of inspiring, encouraging and educating aspiring authors. The conference ran over three days. During this time workshops, seminars, networking, midnight reads and the all important One-to-One appointments with agents, editors and authors were held. Not forgetting the book shop where first time authors saw their books beside established writers. And after the plenary speech delegates were invited to get Sir Terry Pratchett to sign their copies of his work.
The One-to-One’s sessions were once again very busy. These were held over two full days Friday and Saturday. Hundreds of delegates milled in and out passed my desk, stopping only to give their details and to be given their instructions. Most came away happy from their meetings, although there are always a few who weren’t quite ready to see an agent and therefore came away with less enthusiasm. However, we all need to take a good look at our work with a critical eye and from the feedback given at these events delegates should be able to look at their work with a clearer perspective.
The conference started proper at 9am with the plenary speaker, Sir Terry Pratchett OBE. A digital image of the great man himself with this phrase “Why are You Listening to Me When You Should Be at Home Writing?” were displayed.  Terry Pratchett an amazing storyteller. His keynote speech was witty and fun, we wouldn’t expect anything less from the legend. Click this link http://www.terrypratchett.co.uk/ to find out more about Terry Pratchett.
If you are serious about your writing then you should seriously think about attending a writers’ conference. There are three I can heartily recommend: Get Writing, held at the university of Hertfordshire in February – click this link to view Get Writing 2010. The Festival of Writing at the university of York – click this link to find out more Festival of Writing - York.
One thing to remember when attending these events – be prepared. Know what you want to say and find out. Ensure you send the correct pieces of work in advance if it is requested – don’t send anything that hasn’t been asked for. Accept creative criticism with an open mind – it is given to move your writing forward. And network effectively – you never know who you might be standing next to in a crowded room, or who may be sitting across a dining table. Networking is the best way to let the right people know who you are – remember first impression count.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Winchester - 25th Pitstop Refuelling Writers' Weekend

The 25th Winchester Pitstop Refuelling Writers' Weekend is designed to give an injection of inspiration, to get you going again, if you're slowing or findiing it slow going.

Two workshops are available:

Writing Marketable Fiction and Non-Fiction with Sarah Mussi and Elizabeth Arnold.
Creating, Writing, Editing and Marketing Your Fiction with Paul Bavister and Catherine King.

Workshops begin on the Friday night and continue throughout the weekend. Check out the website for further details: times, pricing etc.Look under the tab for PITSTOPS  http://www.writersconference.co.uk/index.htm

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Be prepared.

I've recently been running the One-to-One pitching sessions at the Get Writing Conference with the VWC (Verulam Writing Circle) and the University of Hertfordshire. This event was attended by over 140 people all keen to develop their writing skills. There were workshops, lectures and pitching sessions to cater for writers of all levels.

Some of the top publishers, agents and editors were in attendance all willing to share their knowledge, both inspirational and factual. It was obvious to everyone in attendance that writing isn't an easy road. There are many pitfalls and hurdles to jump before you even get your work in front of an editor. This conference gave a true reflection on the publishing market today - its ups and downs.

Speaking to those attending, it was obvious that everyone came away inspired, and keen to get home and continue writing.

For my part, I had many people asking what they should expect when pitching. Now the easiest thing to say here is: nothing - that way you won't be dissappointed, but that would be unfair.

If you are going to pitch to an agent, editor or publisher, you have to be prepared. Don't go in with a scrap of paper and prattle on. Make sure you have either: supplied your synopsis and sample chapters in advance - this enables the agent etc. to read, understand and prepare comments on your work. Listen intently, ask questions, be prepared to answer their questions - know your book inside out.

If you are pitching from a standing start: Make sure you have a short, sharp synopsis, a couple of chapters ready should the agent etc. ask for it. They may not have much time to go into detail about your manuscript or idea, but if they think the synopsis has promise they will tell you it does. If they have seen many things similar, listen, they are trying to help you. Don't ever force your work on an agent etc. because it will end up in the bin - unread.

Above all be professional - if you are, they will treat you like a professional.

Do your homework. Make sure you are pitching your work to the right person. It is a waste of your time and theirs if you try pitching a children's novel to a romantic novelist agent.

One last thing. Arrive at the checking in desk on time, not before the time stated in your information pack, otherwise you will be sent away. It causes problems if people try to get in early, so they don't miss their slot, this may make others late as you are queuing too early. And yes, queuing is important. When you enter the pitching room stay focused. Give the name of the person you have an appointment with and then your name. This way the team organising can move you effectively through the process giving you the maximum opportunity to shine.

If you follow these instructions, you should find the pitching session very productive. Remember, your work might not be of interest to the person you are seeing, but that is only one person so keep trying. Writing is a hard task master; it takes talent, determination and a great deal of luck.

Above all be passionate about your work, that way you might just find others are too.

Friday, 5 March 2010


Festival of Writing York 2010 are you going?

Many of you will know I'm often at the Winchester Conference helping organise and more recently (Feb 2010) organising the One-to-One pitches at the GET WRITING 2010 ... in association with the University of Hertfordshire.

Well I'm also helping organise the One-to-One pitching at the Festival of Writing in York 2010.

This festival is shaping up to be a major writing event in York. Already delegates from around the world are signed up and booking is still open. Last bookings accepted on 25th March 2010.

Mini courses are available and workshops throughout the weekend.

Many agents from: Greenhouse Literary Agency, John Jarrold Literary Agency and Blake Friedmann are just a few of the agencies attending.

Also publishers: Barry Cunningham, Genevieve Pegg and Jane Johnson are but a few attending.

Some of the editors/authors: Beverley Birch, Sally Spedding, Toby Frost, Adele Geras, Julie Cohen and Kate Allan are amongst the many.

Click on this link to find out more and to book your place. http://www.festivalofwriting.com/

This event has been advertised in Writers News, many of you may have seen it. Don't miss out, take a look today.

I hope to see many of you there. If you are going post and let me know, I'll keep an eye out for you.