Thursday, 6 March 2014

Writing Buddies in 2014!

Twenty-two Writing Buddies joined the first meeting of 2014, on Friday 7 February, at the Dolphin Hotel.  It was great to see so many and good to welcome new writers to the group.

Good News
James started the session by telling us that he had three books ready for submission through his own publishing company, Aloe Jimmy. The first will be a volume of the David Collins and the Sundance Gang series and then a children's book with the central character, Jayden the goldfish.  After this will be the first of the Far End of the Tunnel trilogy. 

Patricia was sending work to several websites, but was reticent to add further at this stage.

Jacqueline now has both her books on Good Reads.  Bottles And Pots has been described as 'a story of murder, rivalry and jealousy', which she likes. She did a book signing event for her 'Milly' detective novel at October Books, in Southampton. The Friends of Portswood Library group have selected her to judge a cake competition on National Libraries Day. The event has a children's books theme.

Brian signed books at Waterstones in Milton Keynes in January, as they were supporting local authors. However, Waterstones seemed to have different rules for different stores (Manager's Discretion), which they seem to change at will and it is hit and miss if an author is offered a signing or not. However, he was persistent and he was invited to the book shop.  He sold five copies of each of the books he was promoting. He commented that his persistence was really necessary and warned that writers, particularly self-published authors, must be prepared to stand their ground.
   Brian is also editing a work based on private letters from First World War serviceman, describing trench life. 

Josephine reviewed four books for Good Reads, and she was offered two new books to review. This was considered to be a good way of keeping in touch with what was new to the market. 

Mo was invited to do an interview at BBC Radio London, in conjunction with their reviewing her book, Blues for Shindig. However, when she got there, they hadn’t read the book, so she had to do a more general interview, about writing. She managed to ‘plug’ Writing Buddies, and later tweeted about the event.

Pat brought some samples of her Silverfinger Press books, which were shown to the group.

Tessa had previously had work on knitting published some time ago by Victor Books, all of which she had sold. She had made the decision not to do any more due to the typesetting problems associated with knitting patterns. However, it was a coincidence that she was contacted by the Bishop of Leicester (aka The Knitting Bishop), from Melton Mowbray, asking if there were any more of her knitting books  available, as he wanted to use them in a knitting group he was running.

Six new members introduced themselves.

Jane is interested in producing some historical work and has attended Cavendish College courses. A  teacher and radio journalist, she has also been heard on BBC Solent as a radio player (reader) for a full range of writers.

Steven has been in the book world for forty years. He has just started competition writing and is looking to share experiences, get tips and help. He also mentioned Cosmo Funnel as useful.

Margot said she has had ‘a book in her head’ for about three years. She went on an Open Study writing course by Diana Cambridge, but wants to learn more about the routine of writing. 

Andy is interested in paranormal type magazines and has written some articles and interviewed personalities for these. He is in the early stages of producing a version of a paranormal book, as he has ‘spotted a hole on the market.’ However, he has heard that someone else is doing something similar and wants to wait for this to come out and then analyse it so that his work does not clash with theirs. He wants his to be fresh and different.

Margaret is interested in writing short stories and is looking for inspiration.

Beryl has done some family history research and been involved in a local history competition. She is a member of the Eastleigh Local History Society but prefers to write her own work, with a short story bias, with a view to them being published privately.


The position of Waterstone and their changing attitudes to author signing was the first topic of discussion.  Waterstones had approached Penny's publisher to ask if she would join other authors in a day of  book signing, but then cancelled at the last moment, despite ordering in huge stocks of her books for the event. She agreed with Brian that the company did not seem to have a clear set of guidelines on author book signings.

Independent Book Shops
Local book shops, or the lack of them, was discussed.  October Books in Southampton is still open, as are other independent shops in Lee On Solent and Petersfield, but the one in Hythe has closed and one in Salisbury is about to close. This makes life very difficult for authors as outlets diminish. It was also mentioned that Hampshire County Council might be a little interested in promoting children’s books at Readers Days.  Writing Buddies will keep an eye open for book promotion events and report them back to the group.

Public Libraries
Public libraries and their fate were a cause for concern. These can be immensely helpful to writers as their staff are knowledgeable and can sometimes answer questions that authors might have.  Massive cuts to libraries have happened, and further library cuts are to be announced in many areas. Calvin Smith has started a Portswood, Southampton, library support group to keep that local library open. Lymington library is being re-furbished – Margot is going to find out about it’s future.

Literary and other festivals were discussed.  These can very useful to writers and readers alike.  Brian pointed out that authors should act like a medieval troubadour, touting their work around, as it is a very competitive market place. Authors need to target their market, know where to sell and even organise events. He mentioned the recent Lantern Festival in Milton Keynes, where he sold forty-three copies of his books, but even that was down on the seventy-eight he sold the previous year.  Mo mentioned the Winchester Writers' Festival, where she had won three prizes and sold some books and Christine mentioned how badly run the The West Cork Literary Festival, Ireland, had been.  Margot said the Sherbourne festival was small, but friendly enough, with lots of big names. The North London Literary Festival has a useful speed pitching event.  

Some Writing Buddies had written book reviews but others had not.  In writing a review the author needs to be honest as reviews help to sell good material, but also identify what to avoid. Penny is about to review Jane Riddell's, Words'Worth: A Fiction Writer's Guide to Serious Editing, which covers the ‘nuts and bolts’ that perhaps many are not aware of. General consensus was that people DO READ reviews.

Local History Writer Needed
The Bevois Mount history group is looking for a local history writer.

The Writing Buddies Email Information Loop
One of the benefits of membership of Writing Buddies is the behind the scenes email information loop, run via the Writing Buddies Yahoo Group.  All Writing Buddies are encouraged to join the loop as it is a valuable resource between meetings. The loop can be reached via: 

Fifth Anniversary Exhibition
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Writing Buddies group in May 2009, there will be an exhibition of work at the Central Library, Southampton, between 12 - 17 May 2014.  All Writing Buddies, past and present, are encouraged to submit work for the display.

Guest Speaker
Josephine Shaw gave the first of the new series of writing-related talks. Her topic was Presentations.

At the March meeting, Margot will be speaking about her work teaching creative writing to the blind at Southampton Sight.

The next meeting is at 2pm on 7th March 2014.  Everyone is welcome.