21 January 2015

David Lea, HWS Member and January 2015 Competition Winner

Winner of the January 2015 Competition
David Lea
A Secret Place in Wessex

David Lea is a retired teacher and sometime actor. He spends his time writing plays, digging the allotment and in grandparental childcare.

David Lea and friend

In 2013 he had a play produced by Progress Theatre in Reading as a part of their WriteFest event, and has subsequently won a first and second prize in the monthly Hampshire Writers’ Society competitions, which he finds very encouraging. David went on to say that he tries to enter as many of the HWS competitions as possible since they offer short, achievable tasks alongside whatever else he is writing and they force him to write in genres and styles with which he is not immediately comfortable.

Congratulations, David, once again for a well-deserved first place, and I know all our members will be looking forward to reading your winning entry in View Magazine. Details will be announced later.

15 January 2015

Dai Henley, HWS Member, Author and Self-Publisher

Hampshire Writers' Society

Tuesday 13th January 2015

Dai Henley, Author and Self-Publisher.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Unwilling to let himself dwindle after the sale of his business, Dai enrolled on an Autobiography Writing Course. Following a four year schedule of writing, reading aloud, accepting constructive criticism and advice, he published his autobiography. His own advice is to remember your passion for your writing and to stand up for it.

As a reader of crime fiction, he found himself constantly struck by the lack of plausibility in many of the characters that he was reading. By then, he had caught the ‘writing bug’. So, he was determined to write his own crime story. At the same time a news headline caught his eye. He was incensed enough to imagine the horror of being personally involved in such an atrocity. “What if this happened to your own mother?” he says. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Dai Henley

Well, Dai did think about it. He then embarked on a busily active and fascinating research project becoming learned in our legal system and our justice system. He likens the writing of a novel to the creation of a patchwork quilt – stitching scenes together and then unpicking and re-sewing.

Finally, Blazing Obsession was completed. When it came to publishing, Dai applied the same in-depth research into finding the best route for him. After having quizzed various agents at festivals and talks, he came to the conclusion that the odds on achieving acceptance by one of them and then their securing publication were slim. Very Slim!

So, Dai took the step towards self-publishing. But, he stresses, it takes investment. If a writer is chasing Best Seller’s lists and Top Tens then they must be prepared to source the best partnerships available. Satisfaction with the look and quality of his book ensured the natural step was publishing. Dai chose Matador to do this and has not looked back since.

One thing that self-publishing has banished to bad memories is the receiving of rejections. “I don’t care how thick-skinned you are” he says, “rejections hurt”. And of course, with self-publishing there are no rejections. Dai treated the members to just a couple of five-star reviews for Blazing Obsession. And he left us with one final piece of advice:
Invest in your writing. It is your passion.

Many thanks, Dai and good luck, although you don’t sound like you need it.

Blazing Obsession on Amazon

An Evening with Luke Harding

Hampshire Writers’ Society Tuesday 13th January 2015

Luke Harding, Award-winning Journalist and Author.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

It was difficult to believe that Luke Harding, confident and humorous in suit and blue suede shoes, had been the action hero link in Hollywood type investigative journalism. Perhaps, the red shoe laces were a reminder of a hidden bent for rebellion. Having been orchestrator of enlightenments on the Mafia State of Russia and WikiLeaks, he threw himself, and his team at the Guardian into The Snowden Files.

Luke’s effortless ability to use only one or two well-chosen adverbs to build characters had the most cynical of us sold on his work. The description of his latest work, The Snowden Files that it reads like Le Carre crossed with something by Kafka may sound like the spy thriller to end all sceptics, but it would seem that it is all 100% true!

Luke promised HWS members that he had tried to recreate the constant atmosphere of paranoia in the book. His stream of anecdotes on the day to day workings of spies, emphasising the differences between the US spies, devoid of all sense of humour and the British spies educated on Monty Python kept us entertained. But his simple exercise on our very own iPhones, showing us how we can be tracked at any given time, assuring us that this information is accessed by the government and making us all question our own privacy raised an audible gasp from the auditorium.

Luke Harding with HWS Chairman Barbara Large

The complicated trail that Edward Snowden initially led the journalists on would have caused anyone less dedicated to question his plausibility. But as they kept digging, interest from both the British and the American Governments confirmed both his and his story’s credibility.

Refreshing and convincing was Luke’s description of Edward Snowden as a young agent having become enraged by his organisation having morphed into a monster following the terrorist attacks on his home country in 2001. Adding gravitas to his words was his honest admission that it was Snowden who then had to educate the journalists on the use of encryption, computer viruses and code words.

A very apparent threat that legislation put in place to deal with the plots of terrorists would be used to deal with the British press brought home the credibility of the research and writings of the Guardian team. A necessity for facts and names used to be checked and double checked with the limitations of legalities was adhered to at all times. Luke is able to tell us that although perhaps the President of the USA and UK MPs were not happy to confirm the findings, they complied as the laws put in place by their predecessors state that they should.

What was Edward Snowden hoping to achieve? It was never his plan to destroy the organisation he worked for, but reformation was needed and his actions brought many secrets to the fore, causing the people they supposedly protect to question their working. While Edward Snowden is unable to return home to America, Luke advised us that, that is what he would most like to do.

In the meantime, there is no stopping Luke and as the Guardian moves to global coverage, we look forward to more surreal truths and wonder who it is that is protecting us.

Our three speakers knitted together well. One thing that was evident throughout was the passion for writing. Bringing characters much needed plausibility and credibility when their plausibility is destined to be disenchanted. The dissemination of research which was a mystery to many of us now makes perfect sense. And the necessity of the integrity of the activities experienced in gaining that research is what makes it unquestionable.

Dr.Simon Jobson - Special Guest
We were delighted to welcome Dr. Simon Jobson as our special guest for the evening. He is the newly appointed Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Winchester  after becoming an academic in Sports Physiology. 

Simon very kindly voiced the question mostly probably simmering away in most of our minds – What is Knowledge Exchange?  It is the dissemination of research activities and the research that has been carried out.

Simon issued a request for our help! He has written, edited and published works on the physiology of sports, particularly cycling and so is aware of many of the challenges faced by writers. How is it, that writers such as ourselves overcome these challenges?

In his experience Simon has realised that there is much criss-crossing of the academic and the creative writer. It is a requirement that academic writing remain ‘dry’, for example, the use of such terms as ‘I’ or ‘we’ is not allowed. An issue is then created that the piece of writing is rendered unenjoyable to those choosing to read it for pleasure. And so any suggestions, ideas or just thoughts on how to overcome this problem will be most welcome.

Regardless of the level of our writing, our knowledge and experiences are valuable to academics like Simon. It is in this way that the University of Winchester is hugely supportive of the Writers’ Society.

Many thanks to all our speakers

14 January 2015

Magazine Article Competition

Competition Report 13th January 2015

The Competition for January was to write a magazine article in 300 words about “A Secret Place in Wessex’. Unfortunately our adjudicator, Heidi King of View Magazine, was unable to be at the meeting.

Heidi’s interest in journalism dates back to when she was 11 years old, with a love for ponies, when her ambition was to work for the PONY magazine. She later achieved this ambition when she was offered a job as a trainee journalist with PONY magazine and within a few years became assistant editor.

Subsequently she has contributed to over 200 titles worldwide ranging from The Financial Times and The Sunday Times to the Hong Kong Tatler and Wine Magazine. Heidi now edits ‘Wiltshire View’ and ‘Hampshire View’ as a freelance editor, whilst concurrently working on national titles. She still loves ponies, and magazines.

Heidi’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: David Lea, A Secret Place in Wessex
“David’s piece, based on a bunker near his home of which most are unaware, reminds us how scary the Cold War actually was, and how much we owe to Petrov’s clear thinking. Petrov’s decision touched our lives.

By mentioning his young children in the text – the portrayal of helpless sleeping innocence – David brings home the point that their destiny was in the hands of distant men. Having been behind the Iron Curtain back in the day, I remember how frightening this regime was. Putin’s recent belligerence gives this piece topicality.

David uses the limit on words to add drama, his simple sentences increasing the tension. He leaves it to his reader to fill in the gaps and understand the significance of what he is saying: he respects his reader. The piece is also loaded with irony, illustrated by the timeline, and David has found and included humour too, a bonus: five lavatories, four for men, one for women, the absurd allocation meaning that a visit to the loo in the underground bunker would result in long queues, but only for the women. ‘Twas ever thus, even in the face of nuclear catastrophe.”

2nd Prize: Rebecca Lyon, Odiham Castle
“This made me smile, and remember.

The first sentence of this piece is prosaic, perhaps just another touristy blurb, almost enough to make me stop reading. If I were subbing it for publication, all mention of the road number and directions would go. The first sentence must be an invitation.

But from then on, through Rebecca’s adult eyes and the artless observations of the four-year-old child, the reader is reminded of how the places we visit in our youth become almost sacred in our memory as we grow older. We know that because of this visit, the little girl will love Odiham Castle throughout her life and cherish the memory of being there with her mother.

Rebecca, with the help of a child, has crammed a great deal into her 300 words, and it is a charming conversation. It’s a skill to know which pieces of a conversation to include. No matter how simple and artless they may seem, they can still speak volumes.”

Highly Commended: Sally Russell, A Secret Place in Wessex
“I’m insatiably curious and constantly looking for information but I had never heard this story about Fanny Adams, so thank you Sally for adding to my knowledge. This is a disturbing true story. I have now looked it up, of course, and the detail of the little girl’s injuries, omitted by Sally from her piece, is sickening. Did she make the decision to draw the line at including this detail because of its terrible nature or because of constraints on the number of words? Deciding what to leave out and what to leave in makes a real difference in a short piece.

Sally’s choice of story has two hooks, the first being the extraordinary explanation of a much-used, well-known phrase, the second the fact that this was the last hanging in Winchester. This gives her piece news value and would help to make it attractive to editors.”

Highly Commended: Louise Taylor, Winnall Moors
“Louise’s description of Winnall Moors and her children’s changing perception and enjoyment of the place as they grow, is a happy piece. She takes me right there with her voles with ‘grassy moustaches’, and her children ‘stacked like pancakes’. Apart from sharing Louise’s pleasure of the reserve, the message I take from her piece is that protected areas such as Winnall Moors are invaluable not just to the creatures that call them home, but to all of us, at all ages, for a variety of reasons.”

David Lea - 1st prize winner

 Prizes and Awards:
The prizes were signed copies of “The Snowden Filesby Luke Harding, and a Certificate of Adjudication from Heidi King. The winning entry will also be featured in View Magazine. The winning entries are shown below:

1st Prize: A Secret Place in Wessex - Copyright © David Lea, 2014

To be published in View Magazine details will be given later.

2nd Prize: Odiham CastleCopyright © Rebecca Lyon, 2014

Driving southwards along the B3349 into the village of North Warnborough there’s a little turning on the left, unmarked except a dead end sign. Take this turn, if you can spot it, and follow the winding track to the little parking area. From here you walk through marshy fields where ponies graze and gorgeous purple marsh orchids sometimes appear. Cross the River Whitewater through two clear fords (fun in wellies) and you pass a house with high walls and towering gates. It has a CCTV camera and shiny intercom.
‘Is this Odiham castle mummy?’ my four year old daughter asks.
I think she’s a little disappointed when I tell her that we have a little way to go yet. Take the footpath through a dandelion strewn field and you’ll come to the green-glassy Basingstoke Canal. Behind a clump of high trees and brambles is the magnificent octagonal keep of Odiham castle.
‘But it’s all broken down mummy!’ says my daughter.
I tell her that although it’s a ruin now (‘who ruined it mummy?’), it was once an important castle where royalty, knights and ladies lived. Built by King John at the beginning of the thirteenth century it’s been a fortress, a home and a hunting lodge.
‘It’s not pretty like Sleeping Beauty’s castle’ says my Disney-loving girl.
‘Maybe not, but in the olden days those pointy flints were covered with smooth stone. There would have been lovely paintings and tapestries on the walls and pretty gardens too.’
I decide not to tell her that it was also used as a prison, albeit a genteel one. We feed the nearby ducks until it’s time to go.
‘Can we come again mummy?’
‘Of course’ I answer. It’s a bit hard to find, but I’m sure it’ll be here for many years yet.

In Conclusion:
The competition secretary, Jim Livesey, thanked everyone who had entered the competition, and said that Heidi King had said that all of the entries had been pleasurable to read.

Next month’s competition is to write a ‘Letter from the front’, any era, any front, in 300 words. The special guest for the evening is Lieutenant-General Sir Christopher Wallace, who will also be the adjudicator.  

Please email to the Competition Secretary, Jim Livesey competitions.hwsAThotmail.com
by noon (BST)1st February 2015. (please replace AT with @)

Please read HWS Competition rules