Monday, 3 August 2009

Writing Buddies - the latest

Friday 31st July saw the smallest group of Writing Buddies so far, as school holidays, illness, grandchildren and non-arriving carpet cleaners played their part in keeping Buddies away. However, the seven of us who assembled for coffee and chat sure had a lot to talk about!

Simon Collins, the outgoing Deputy Manager at Borders Southampton, joined us for a brief peep into the world of book selling. He revealed that Borders, since the management buyout earlier in July, is about to enter the world of publishing. This was exciting news to a group of writers! Simon talked about the best place in the store to display books, and there was a spirited discussion of the future of e-books. He noted the growth in popularity of the 'paranormal romance,' and mentioned that at Christmas nostalgia books sell well.

Simon is leaving Borders after nine years to go into business with his father. The Writing Buddies wish him well and will keep in touch with him in the future.

Dee Williams noted that Catherine Cookson has been ousted from the top of the Public Library Lending Lists by children's writer, Jacqueline Wilson. She had been to a book signing with Jacqueline and realised how good she is with children. Understanding and bonding with the reader is all important.

Donna has written a poem and joined a new writers' group, in Hythe at the Chapter One bookshop. Readers of this blog may remember that Donna joined the group a few weeks ago not knowing what she wanted to write about. Now she has had her first experience of being given a writing task at a Writers' Circle and loved every minute!

Elizabeth has shelved her ideas of sending off Christmas stories as family life has intervened. Now she is editing her past, unpublished work and looking for markets for them.

Jimmy has withdrawn his novels from and is re-writing them as he feels they are not good enough for publication. His son is his sternest critic and tells him when things are incorrect. In the meantime, he has attended his first function as a new Associate Member of the Society of Woman Writers and Journalists (SWWJ). He joined several other members in the South of England at a lunch in Haywards Heath. As a result of a chat he had on the way there, he is now writing his first short story, about a middle aged man in prison looking back on his wasted life. The Writing Buddies wish him well with this enterprise.

Jackie joined us again and told us about the Slam event she attended in Winchester. She was well received but was a little disconcerted to find that the winner was the person who worked for Hants County Council (which put on the event) and who had spread her leaflets and cd on to every table in the room. She wondered if there had been a level playing field. However, she had received praise from the winner and it had been good experience. She is working on a series of children's novels about a child detective and is thinking of a compendium of stories for children.

Dee Williams is working on her twentieth novel. She made the group laugh with her tales of growing up in the 'means test' culture. The 'means test' man would come and assess the worth of items in the house, to see if they could be sold before any benefits would be paid to the poor householder. The family piano, a major asset to every home, would regularly be seen trundling up and down the road as it was moved out of the house so as not to be assessed as having to be sold.

Pam is at a standstill with her work. She is editing a manuscript for a friend but still trying to find a publisher for three novels and three short stories. She wants to put together a nostalgia book about funny stories of childhood in WW2.

I have been working on photography recently. I have posted photographs for quality checking with a stock photo site and am awaiting a reply. I have put together a series of high resolution shots for a magazine, to illustrate an article I wrote and which they are running in the Autumn. (More on this when it appears.) I have also been working on my book, Folklore of Hampshire. I have just edited another edition of The Woman Writer for the SWWJ. This magazine is available for purchase by clicking here and following the link. I am also being featured in Writers' News in November.

We discussed a trip to the Astara Centre in the New Forest. We are thinking of offering a holistic trip there to try to gain inspiration/aid research. More on this in due course.

We discussed erotica and whether sex is essential to a plot. We felt that Ken Follett was guilty of throwing in gratuitous sex just to sell his books. We looked briefly at his 1992 novel, 'Night Over Water,' which is about a thirty hour flight from the UK to America on the eve of WW2. It was felt that of the two graphic sex scenes in this book, the second was thrown in merely to titillate and did not take the plot forward. This led to a discussion of the news that Virgin Books' two erotica imprints, Black Lace and Nexus, are to suspend their 2010 lists and the news that Mills and Boon are to offer their books on mobile phones.

Added to all of this were discussions on book exchanges and book festivals in Spain, Oxfam being the biggest second hand book dealer in the country, badly written books and the value of completing BBC quizzes on the internet at The Writers Room. In all, the meeting lasted over three hours and was characterised by its liveliness!

The next meeting is on Friday 14th August, at 2pm, at the Borders bookshop, Southampton. Come and join us.


  1. Writing buddies, held at borders bookshop every other Friday afternoon at 2pm, is worth it's weight in gold to any professional or aspiring writer. I am in the later of these groups so it is such a pleasure to be sitting around a table with professional authors. At our last meeting this included the very successful and delightful author Dee Wiliams. Just listening to her would make anyone want to take up their pen and start writing.
    As for Penny Legg who runs the group, I consider the day I first met her as one of the most promising days of my life. Her enthusiasm for writers has opened doors for me that I never even knew were there.
    So if you are a writer, either established or just starting out, come along to Borders and meet us all.I promise you that this is something you will never regret. Our next meeting is on the afternoon of August 14th. See you there.
    Jimmy Marsh

  2. Thanks for this endorsement Jimmy. I am glad that you get so much out of the meetings. They are fun and very useful. Penny