23 July 2014

Santa Montefiore to speak on 9th September

Santa Montefiore

An Evening of Novels, Inspiration and Other Tales with Santa Montefiore

We are delighted to announce that Santa Montefiore, romantic novelist, will be speaking at the opening event of the  Hampshire Writers' Society 2014/2015 season on 

Tuesday 9th September, 7.30pm

This meeting will take place at the 
Shakespeare Room,

Winchester Business School

The University of Winchester

West Downs Campus

Romsey Road


SO22 5HT
Wine and soft drinks available from 7pm.
Free parking available at the front and rear of the building.

All welcome!
Non members £5,  Students free
Membership £25 for the year if paid before 31st August or £30 from 1st September
Contact,  Karin, Membership Secretary for information about becoming a member
email: membership.hws(AT)hotmail.co.uk

September Competition: Write the first page of a novel. 
300 words, double spaced.
Adjudicator: author, Daniel Clay

Please email to the Competitions Secretary competitions.hwsAThotmail.com 
by noon (BST)1st September. (please replace AT with @)

Please read HWS Competition rules here.

To find out more about Santa Montefiore and her books visit her website. http://www.santamontefiore.co.uk

Click link for map to find West Downs Campus

22 June 2014

Winchester Writers' Festival 2014

Hampshire Writers’ Society
Winchester Writers’ Festival 2014

The Hampshire Writers’ stand attracted lots of interest from delegates at the Winchester Writers’ Festival again this year. Several people even signed up as email members when they found that they unfortunately lived too far away to come to the meetings. 

Jim Livesey at  the HWS Stand at Winchester
 Many of our longstanding members also renewed their subscriptions, taking advantage of the special £25 offer which is open until the end of August. Jim Livesey and Cat Randall also signed up six new members. So hurry up and join before the new season kicks off with a super programme of celebrities and industry specialists.

12 June 2014

The Countess of Carnarvon and the real Downton Abbey

HWS Meeting June 10th Chawton House

Report by David Eadsforth

Barbara Large, Chair of the HWS, opened the meeting and welcomed everyone to what would be a wonderful event on a sunny evening, and pointed out although we may be at different stages of development, we were all writers.  Barbara welcomed our guests: Lady Carnarvon, Professor Joy Carter, Becca Munday, and Becky Bagnall.  She delivered the apologies of Stephen Lawrence and Lindsay Ashford who could not be present and thanked Ray Mosley and Keith Arscott of Chawton House for their great help in making the event possible. 

Barbara pointed out that the membership of the HWS was drawn from beyond the confines of the county, and informed us that one member lives in London and endeavours to attend every monthly meeting.  Barbara then reminded the meeting of the HWS events of the past year, citing the highlights of each.  She then thanked the members of the management committee, asking each to stand up and be recognised.  The HWS Treasurer, Crispin Drummond, then gave a brief report on the state of health of the Society’s accounts which were, in brief, healthy; we had a strong, stable membership, revenue was good, and considered that the HWS could do even better if it were to extend its activities into the running of workshops and other activities.  Barbara then ended the Society’s interim report and asked Professor Joy Carter to say a few words.

Professor Joy Carter and Barbara Large

Professor carter said that it was a joy and a privilege to be present at the event, thanked Barbara for such a wonderful set of events, and wished everyone a great evening.  Barbara then introduced the main speaker for the evening, Lady Carnarvon.

Lady Carnarvon greeted the members and commenced the delivery of what was to be a fascinating and at times immensely amusing presentation, supported by a huge number of projected photographs.  Highclere Castle had, reportedly, been made famous in “two hundred countries” around the world, which slightly exceeded the actual number, but confirmed that the TV series “Downton Abbey” was indeed a worldwide phenomenon, loved by huge numbers of people and once amusingly parodied as “Downturn Abbey”.  Filming of the series at Highclere Castle had resulted in a number of amusing production requirements, such as the use of a cupboard as a door to a bedroom.  Today, Highclere had between 80 and 120 people connected with the maintenance of the building and between 35-40 people who actually run it.  There were 200 rooms in the Castle, which is set in 1,000 acres, with a larger estate surrounding that. 

The Castle had a fascinating history.  In 749, the then estate was granted to the Bishop of Winchester, and there is an area known as the “Monk’s Garden”.  William of Wykeham, founder of Winchester College, held it while in office, and there were significant developments in the Elizabethan, Georgian, and finally Victorian eras, all of which were being increasingly understood by modern archaeology.  One significant modern development is that Lord Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, is a regular dinner guest.

Lady Carnarvon

 Lady Catherine, the subject of a book by Lady Carnarvon, truly represented the glamour of the 1920s and 30s.  Lady Catherine was American, and when she married, the wedding guests comprised a few close family members – numbering 750 – and the event was followed by a party for 1,000.

The Earls of Carnarvon had traditionally been prosperous, but by the end of the nineteenth century the old, previously dependable revenue streams were drying up, at which point salvation appeared in the form of Almina, the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild, who appeared on the scene with a £500,000 dowry.  Almina was a great society hostess, but on the outbreak of the First World War decided to turn Highclere into a hospital and convalescent home for wounded servicemen, the first of which arrived at Highclere in September 1914, to be greeted by Lady Almina and her attractive troop of nurses.  Almina had asked her father for £25,000 to set up the hospital and requested a further £10,000 a little later for running costs.  One patient, who kept a diary, was Captain David Campbell who had served at Gallipoli and been shot in both legs.  Almina concentrated on orthopaedic work.  This period saw a shortage of surgeons, sixty having been killed at the Battle of the Somme alone, and many doctors and surgeons came out of retirement to help.     

(On the third of August, Highclere will once more be turned into a hospital: as part of the marking of the start of the First World War.  There will also be a big air show, and the proceeds will go to the Royal British Legion.)

Almina’s husband, Lord George Carnarvon, along with Howard Carter, had discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1923, but was the first to fall under “the curse of Tutankhamun” and died in April of that year.  On the news of her husband’s illness, Almina had been lent an aircraft so she could be with him, but sadly he died before she arrived.  Death duties then hit the family, but Almina managed to save Highclere by selling many old masters.

A complicated period now followed.  The sixth Earl, Henry, had married Catherine Wendell in 1922, and they were together until 1936 when they divorced.  Henry, after having become engaged to Tanis Montagu, who turned him down shortly before their intended marriage, then married Tilly Losch, the ballet dancer just before the Second World War.

WWII saw Highclere providing a home for dozens of evacuee children, and cooking for everyone was a challenge for the resident chef.  But danger was never far away as Luftwaffe bombers would frequently jettison bomb loads on the way back to Germany from Bristol, and Highclere was under their flight path.  Tragedy also came to Highclere in the form of several crashes of allied aircraft, including a B17 Flying Fortress, and parts of this aircraft are now in the possession of Highclere.

Lady Carnarvon ended with a description of present life at Highclere, and how the people who work there rarely retire.  A valet, Robert Taylor, served for fifty years, and one employee is now in his 90s.

Barbara thanked Lady Carnarvon for her absolutely fascinating talk, and Gary Farnell then handled questions from the members.  One question concerned the awnings seen over the Castle windows in one WWI image, and the answer was that these were to shade sun-facing windows.  Lady Carnarvon was asked how she decided what to include in a book, and replied that generally she includes, and Hodder takes out!  (At this point a gentle ‘ooh’ was heard from Becca Munday, Lady Carnarvon’s agent.)  In answer to the question “what next?”, Lady Carnarvon said she now viewed the interests of her readership as important, and was looking at ‘a year in Highclere Castle’: the food of Highclere and also the people who have worked there.  She admitted that she had now come to know an enormous amount about plumbing and electrical systems.  Asked if she kept a diary, Lady Carnarvon said she did not, but had a huge volume of emails which was just as good.  Asked how she found time to write, she replied that it was indeed difficult, but it was a challenge and, if she found herself facing writer’s block, opening a bottle of champagne usually did the trick.

Lady Carnarvon signing copies of her latest book for HWS Members

 Barbara then introduced Sharon Garrett, who had recently published “Friday Night’s Dream: Wyckerton” under her pen name Nick Newberry.  Sharon explained how she had been inspired by Julian Unthank, HWS speaker of June 2013, who had presented the ways in which a person could write for the screen.  Sharon had decided that what worked for screen should work for a book, and set about reading and analysing existing fiction, and seen how internal conflict could draw the reader into the story.  The result had been her book.

Jim Livesey then asked Becky Bagnall to present the results of the competition, the details of which can be seen in the ‘Competition Report’.

11 June 2014

10 June 2014 Chawton House Gala Evening

Competition Report 10 June 2014

‘The First Page of a Historical Novel’

I’d like to start by giving a big thank you to Becky Bagnell for being our adjudicator. Of course Becky is no stranger to the HWS; her first visit was September 2012 when she was the judge for ‘Create an Amateur Detective Character’.

Becky founded the Lindsay Literary Agency in 2008. She has been a commissioning editor for Macmillian and worked alongside authors such as Max Hastings, Robert Service and John Simpson. The Lindsay Literary Agency represents a wide range of authors; Becky said that finding new authors and that all important initial publishing deal is what makes the agency tick.      

Becky’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: Louise Taylor, The Gardener’s Boy
“This is a strong and confident piece of writing that engages the reader from the first sentence, offering multiple layers of complexity in the narrative. The touch, feel and taste of monkey nuts seems to pervade the entire page whilst at the same time disguising the sexual tension that lingers just beneath the surface.”

2nd Prize: Elizabeth Wald, Sultan’s Shadow
“‘Sultan’s Shadow’ stood out from the others because of its exotic setting carefully portrayed through the use of small detail like the, ‘thin porcelain cup in its silver filigree holder’.  The narrative is intriguing and full of suspense, I’d like to know what happens next!”

3rd Prize: Linda Welch, Hall of Mirrors
“The opening page is immediately redolent of its First World War setting using descriptive clues rather than spelling everything out. Very quickly the narrative opens up lots of questions for the reader making the story more compelling.”  

Highly Commended: Anne Eckersley, A Union Man

Highly Commended: Louise Morrish, All Earthly Things

Prize Winners Louise Taylor and Linda Welch

Prizes, Awards and Readings:
The prizes were signed copies of Lady Carnarvon’s books, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication by Becky Bagnell. The winning entries are shown below:

1st Prize: The Gardener’s Boy - Copyright © Louise Taylor, 2014
He waited by the side gate, the one that was beneath the head gardener’s dignity. A paper bag holding the remnants of sixpence’s-worth of monkey nuts was scrunched into his pocket and rested warmly against his thigh. Eva liked monkey nuts. She cracked the shells between her teeth and spat the pieces out onto the ground. None of the other young ladies did that.
       Here she was. He heard the swish of her skirt and the soft clack as her feet kicked one stone into another. ‘Jack,’ she said, as she rounded the little bend in the path and saw him standing there, scuffing up clods of grass and earth as casually as he could manage. ‘Anyone would think you didn’t have work to do.’
       He grinned with a mouth punctuated by as many gaps as teeth. ‘I’m turning over the mulch heaps, dontcha know?’
       She winked. ‘Looks like hard labour.’
       ‘It is. Pa’s conked out in the greenhouse.’ He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out the paper bag. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘I saved these. Want some?’
       He watched as she cracked the nuts between her teeth and used lips and tongue to send the pieces skittering to the ground. She was a good spitter; he’d like to see how far she could get a cherry stone. When she’d finished and had wiped away the tiny fragments of shell that clung to her lips and besprinkled her chin, he said, ‘Off home then?’
       He wanted to ask to walk with her but he knew that wouldn’t do, even if she might have said yes. If only he hadn’t eaten so many nuts himself, she might have stayed a minute or two longer. But, just as if she’d read his mind, she looked at him with the sort of quizzical look in her eye that a magpie gets when it spots something shiny. She was about to share a confidence. His face flushed with excitement and he felt himself stand taller with the importance of it all. ‘What is it?’ he asked, watching as she picked up the books she’d placed on the edge of the path and hugged them to her with a kind of fierce possession.
       ‘I’m going to university,’ she said. ‘Cambridge. To Girton.’

2nd Prize: Sultan’s ShadowCopyright © Elizabeth Wald, 2014

Isfahan, Persia 1888

When the sultan offers you a cup of coffee, etiquette demands you accept; but when you know the cup is poisoned, refusal is impossible.

This was the problem facing Mahmoud as he sat nervously on a pile of cushions amid the opulence of the sultan's drawing room. It was a fine room but he had little time for it. Besides, he had seen it many times before and was only dimly aware of the lofty room with its creamy white marble and tall columns that soared to the ceiling.

They had eaten a fine supper with pleasant company. The other men had been friendly and the conversation had flowed as freely as the wine. Now then other guests had left and the two men were alone. The sultan called for fresh coffee and the kalyans, the water pipes, so that they could smoke and talk in peace.

But Mahmoud was not at peace. He looked at the thin porcelain cup in its silver filigree holder. The dark liquid within it rippled slightly, catching the light. He could imagine drinking it: thick and gritty with the consistency and flavour of sweetened mud. The poison, if it was present, would be totally undetectable, but he knew what to expect: the pain in the stomach, the vomiting, the distinctive smell of garlic on the breath. 'Qajar coffee' they called it, popularised by the royal family, with whom this was a favourite assassination method.

Now the second most powerful member of that family sat in front of him: the Zillu's-Sultan, the Shah's Shadow, and governor of southern Persia. And his dark, penetrating eyes were studying Mahmoud.

Mahmoud shifted uncomfortably, fingering the hose on his kalyan. A narrow band of sweat appeared on his upper lip. In a moment of absent-minded weakness, he wiped it away. Then, worried he had betrayed himself, he quickly drew on the pipe. The blue smoke hung in the air like a coiled snake before drifting upwards to the ceiling.

Yet still the sultan stared at him. The sultan's mouth, fringed by a fashionably dyed blue-black moustache, widened into a slight smile. There was no doubt in Mahmoud's mind now: the coffee was poisoned.

'Well, are you going to drink your coffee?' The sultan's voice was edged with impatience.

The cup shook as Mahmoud picked it up with his thumb and forefinger and the dark liquid splashed over his hand. When the moment came, he drank quickly so that the tepid liquid slid down his throat without him even tasting it. Then he placed the cup down again, slowly and deliberately.

Now there was nothing left do except wait. Wait and wander if he would still be alive at midnight.

3rd Prize: Hall of MirrorsCopyright © Linda Welch, 2014
Southampton was not the end of the line, but it was as far as Eleanor Woodford could afford to go.  Picking up her basket and pulling her suitcase from the rack above her head, she moved slowly along the crowded carriage, trying to avoid the people who had been forced to stand in the aisles.  She turned to apologise to the man whose foot she had trodden on and her heart seemed to stop for an instant when she saw that he was in uniform.
     ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said.
     ‘Don’t mention it!’ he laughed.  ‘I’m sure I shall suffer more than a bruised foot where I’m going!’
     Eleanor wanted to ask him which regiment he was going to join, where he would be stationed, did he know Anthony? but the guard was already slamming the doors shut, so she only had time to wish him luck before alighting.  As the train pulled out of the station, she stood on the platform and watched the soldier, laughing with his friends.  Give him my love, if you get to Flanders, she thought and, as if he had heard her, the soldier looked out of the window straight at her, smiled, and sketched a salute.  As the train picked up speed, Eleanor lost sight of him, but she remained on the platform until it was deserted.
     ‘What the Dickens shall I do now?’ she wondered aloud.
It was one thing to walk into a public house on Anthony’s arm, quite another to enter one alone.  Eleanor walked past the door seven times.  Had it not started to snow she would doubtless have walked past it seven times more before the cold forced her inside.
     Conversation stopped.  Eleanor fought down the tears and walked up to the bar.
     ‘Yes?’  A woman in her middle years put down the glass she was polishing and looked at her with some disdain.  Women alone in a public house invariably spelled trouble.

In Conclusion:
Becky said that she had really enjoyed doing the adjudication because all the entries were of such a high standard. Writing the first page of a novel is a very difficult task and many submissions are discarded because the writer doesn’t explain where the action is taking place or even identify the characters clearly, but Becky said that there were no such problems with any of the HWS entries.

The competition secretary, Jim Livesey thanked Becky for doing such a great job of adjudication and announced that the next competition will be at the start of the new season – Tuesday 9 September 2014 – The Stripe, Winchester:

Watch the website for the details of the competition and adjudicator.

Please email to the Competitions Secretary, competitions.hwsAThotmail.com
by noon (BST)1st September 2014. (please replace AT with @)

Please read HWS Competition rules