Thursday, 24 September 2015

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: Masterclass!

Barbara Dynes, Writers' Forum columnist and Writing Buddy, will be giving a Masterclass as part of SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words ( @sofospeak15), on Sunday 1 November.  Learn how to write engaging dialogue and create compelling characters with Barbara, one of the country's top creative writing tutors. 

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: Writers' Day

The Writers' Day on Friday 30 October is a must for anyone who writes or aspires to do so and is part of SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words ( @sofospeak15 

A full day of speakers offering advice on all aspects of the writing craft, book signings and a trade show will combine to offer delegates a useful, action-packed day aimed squarely at those who write.

Carole Blake, literary agent with Blake Friedmann and Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors (SoA) will be just two of the speakers.  Writing Buddies taking part include: Penny Legg (@PennyLegg), who organised the day and who will open proceedings; non-fiction author Robin Dynes; Writers' Forum columnist Barbara Dynes; Catherine Miller, Southampton's Writer in Residence at Central Library and novelist Lisa Scullard.

Trade Show organisations taking part include the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ); The Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) and many more. 

The full programme can be read here.

Writing Buddies at SO:to Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: 'My Southampton' Competition Awards

Writing Buddies are running the 'My Southampton' writing competition in partnership with So:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words.  The awards ceremony will be held at The Stage Door, Southampton on Wednesday 28 October. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: Haunted Southampton

Writing Buddy Penny Legg will be telling ghost stories on Tuesday 27 October as part of SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words.  The author of Haunted Southampton and Folklore of Hampshire will be at the haunted Red Lion Pub, High Street, between 7 and 8.30pm.

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: Mo Foster at the Art House

Writing Buddy Mo Foster will be at the Art House Café on Tuesday 27 October between 3pm and 4.30pm, reading from and talking about her novel, A Blues for Shindig

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: Authors on the Water

Authors will be on the water as they join Red Funnel Ferries' ships as they cross between Southampton and the Isle of Wight on Monday 26 October.  Writing Buddies Jacqueline Pye, James Marsh, Eileen Long, Christine Donovan, Richard Hardie and Geoff Parkes will join authors Carole Burns, Ann Victoria Roberts and Tracy Gorman on selected crossings.  Passengers will be able to join the authors as they read from their work, answer questions and sign copies of their books during the crossings.  A fun event!

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: Book Launch

On Sunday 25 October, Writing Buddy Penny Legg (@PennyLegg) will be hosting the official launch of her new book, Military Wives From The First World War to Afghanistan as part of SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words.  This book raises funds for SSAFA, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. The launch will take place at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, at 6pm.

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: CSI Southampton

On Saturday 24 October, Writing Buddy Penny Legg (@PennyLegg) will be chairing a panel discussion at the CSI Southampton Event, part of SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words, at the Civic Centre.  Later, after a talk from Dagger Award winning author Peter Lovesey, who will be talking about how a decent, law-abiding man can think up more than 200 ways to murder people (!), Penny will chair a second event as part of Crime Day, a discussion with crime novelists Jessie Keane and Sue Wilkins

Writing Buddies at SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words: Southampton Sight

On Friday 23 October, the first day of SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words, Southampton Sight's Writing Salon, run by Writing Buddy Margot Tilbury, (@MargotTilbury) will be open between 10am and noon. 

Catching Up!

Life at Writing Buddies has been a bit busy recently, and consequently, we are a little late in updating this blog.  So, what has been going on? 

We welcomed Brittany Poulin from IPR License to our May meeting.  Brittany gave an enlightening talk about the many and varied rights authors have and how they can be sold for best advantage to the author.  Needless to say, this was a popular talk!

In June, Claire Fuller came to visit us.  Claire's first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, won the 2015 Desmond Elliot Prize.  She told us about her writing journey and answered questions about her life and work.

July saw the Writing Buddies meeting crime novelist Tracy Gorman.  Tracy also told us about her writing journey, first as a child author, then an adult journalist and finally as a novelist. 

In August, Janine Pulford came to Writing Buddies and talked about the two magazines she edits and her inspiration as a novelist.

September saw publisher, Ian Bayley, of Sabrestorm Publishing come to give a different perspective on the writing world.  In an eye-opening talk, he described how he got into publishing and the rewards and pitfalls of the business. 

Discussion around the table has centred on the new Southampton literary festival: SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words, which takes place 23 October - 1 November at a number of venues across the city.  Writing Buddies and SO:To Speak have partnered to run the first writing competition and WB members are braced for a hoped-for rush of competition entries.  The awards ceremony will be on Wednesday 28 October at which we are looking forward to hearing some of the work of the writing talent in the SO postcode region. 

Various Writing Buddies are involved in SO:To Speak and there is much excitement building as we inch nearer to the date.  See later posts for more details.

Our next meeting will be on Friday 2 October at the Central Library at 2.30.  Barbara and Robin Dynes will be running a short workshop on plotting the short story at this meeting.  Everyone is welcome.

The Scribblers' Script

Read the first edition of The Scribblers' Script on ISSUU.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Pam Fudge at Writing Buddies' Sixth Birthday Meeting - 10 April 2015

Fifteen Buddies came to the Central Library at Southampton for the meeting immediately after Easter, our sixth birthday.

Good News

Jacqueline Pye received an honourable mention in a flash fiction competition run by Micro Bookings.

Janet Turner has published another book on Amazon Kindle: Off the Rails

Josephine has done no writing but a great deal of thinking, putting her ideas, on scraps of paper, into order.

Barbara Dynes has just sold another two articles, on relationships, to women's magazines, in addition to her regular column in Writers' Forum.

Patricia, whose first language is French, has written her first English-language article, for the new Writing Buddies magazine, Scribblers' Script.  She hoped it was good enough!  She also has an idea for the next edition.

Richard Hardie has been concentrating on getting his books into schools and libraries.  He has managed to get his books with the three suppliers who supply most of the schools in the UK and is working with the county school library service to encourage them to order his books from these suppliers.  'It is starting to pay dividends!' he says.

Ken Brady has two books out on Kindle, both offered on free promotion for two days.  He has given away sixty four copies.  He has learnt from his mistake and now realises that he should have given away the first book and sold the second.

New Writing Buddy Laura has written her first book, set in Nigeria, which she plans to publish via Kindle.

Penny had an article on Southampton's ghosts on the Spooky Isles website.  She had also been contacted by a company that lets holiday cottages, Hideaways, to help with a piece about Winchester for their holiday guide for the area.


Could men write for women's magazines?  Bill commented that he thought that men would not be eligible to write for women's magazines.  It was pointed out that they were a paying market and should be open to both sexes.  Men would be accepted only if they submitted!  Simon Whaley recently blogged about this.

Agent Open to Submissions

Samar Hammam has opened Rocking Chair Books Literary Agency,  which concentrates on adult fiction, literary fiction, graphic novels and general non-fiction for publication around the world. She is looking for writers to represent.  See guidelines on her website.

SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words 

23 October - 1 November 2015 Twitter: @SOToSpeak15

The Writing Buddies will be corporate partners at the festival and will run a competition in conjunction with the festival organisers.  Watch this space!

The Scribblers' Script

Deadline for the first edition of the new Writing Buddies magazine is today.

Next deadline: 10 July
Theme: Summer

Discussion: The merits of The London Book Fair, Winchester Writers' Festival,  Festival of Writing, York

Each was deemed to be well worth going to, although trekking to York from Southampton was acknowledged as a long way.  At the London Book Fair, authors can gain an idea of what publishers are interested in publishing, as well as sitting in on workshops and talks. Each of the other two events were aimed at helping writers with the craft of writing and with the task of obtaining representation/publication.

Have a Go: Short Story

15 minutes to write a story incorporating the follow:
'He was afraid his anxiety to know the truth would set a guard on her tongue.' (Louisa Elliott by Ann Victoria Roberts).

This is becoming a popular section of the afternoon with everyone joining in and some of the resulting work read out.

Guest Speaker: Pam Fudge, Novelist

Pam, from Poole in Dorset, gave us an overview of how she got started as a writer and the inspiration behind her novels.

She started writing in 1983, with early success in competitions and on radio.  Since them, she has written ten romances, published by Robert Hale.  Pam was a tutor at adult education classes teaching Writing for Pleasure and Profit and also tutored for the Writers News home study courses.  She currently tutors writing for Write For.

The next meeting will be Friday 1 May 2015.  Everyone is welcome.

Ann Victoria Roberts at Writing Buddies - 6 March 2015

Twenty three Writing Buddies came to this meeting, which was tinged with sadness as we said farewell to Karl, who has been taking notes for us for the last eighteen months.  We wish him well as he moves on to pastures new.

Good News

James Williams' new play, Who Killed Hercule Poirot? will be produced by The Dalian Players in July.

James Marsh has completed his first gangster book, and is on to the fourth chapter of his second book. He has been accepted by the Society of Authors

Bill has had a piece selected by a magazine for the blind. The piece was called Tea Break Brother, which he read out. 

Janet Turner has her first novella entitled Legacy Of Guilt out on Kindle. 

Lisa mentioned a publishing opportunity through Headline, for writers who are not published, or self published.  Click the submissions link.

Jacqueline mentioned ALCS (Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society), which looks after the rights of writers and ensures fair distribution of payments from the various uses of writers' work. It costs £36 PA, or free if you are a member of the Society of Authors.

Forthcoming Events

SO:To Speak, Southampton's Festival of Words, (Twitter@SOToSpeak15) runs from 23rd October to 1st November 2015, with a day for writers on 30th October. 

Scribbers' Script Update

Advertising: £3 for 50 words.

Deadline: 10 April 2015

Exercise: Write a Covering Letter

Write a cover letter to an agent or publisher:

               Remember it would be opened first, so it is to introduce yourself. 
               Do your research by finding out who you are sending it to, and address it personally to them, i.e. Dear Mrs. Robinson, not just the editor.
               Give your name, and authority to write on the subject, outlining your professional qualifications and experience in the field. 
               Focus on any good previous material you have produced, articles in trade journals, published material. 
               Really sell yourself, think why would they WANT to read my material, talk about target audience, why it could be commercially viable. 
               Remember to conclude courteously.

Guest Speaker - Ann Victoria Roberts: My Life As A Writer

               Best selling author of Louisa Elliott and Liam's Story.
               Ann was traditionally published, but now self publishes.
               She writes up to 14 hours a day when she is coming to a deadline.

In 1995, and overcoming her fear of being hacked, she bought her first laptop, and soon realised how much easier it was than using a typewriter, and how she could do research at the click of a button. All she needed now was inspiration.  

By chance, whilst cleaning out an attic she came upon a battered old box with a skull and crossbones on the front. Inside was a collection of old photographs and a World War 1 novel. They were some of her mother's mementos. Along with that was a manilla envelope containing the diary  of a soldier. Inside, in tiny, scribbly writing, was mention of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. She realised what a precious item this diary was. The soldier was killed in 1917, but the diary survived.  Research on the writer led to her first book, Louisa Elliott, set in the 1890s. This book, and its sequel, Liam's Story were the subject of a six figure bidding war, which was won by Farago Press. 

For a housewife from a council house in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the whole experience was surreal. She appeared in The Sun, page three, next to a topless model, with the caption 'Mum makes millions from first book.'  She disputes the sum mentioned. She was interviewed on the radio by Derek Jamieson, and the irony was that the term, 'like winning the lottery' was used - actually writing the books was, in itself, a gamble. Family responsibilities keep her feet firmly on the ground. 

Ann's writing tips:
              Be Aware - writing is hard work, particularly when deadlines are looming. 
               Authors have to do a lot themselves, so there are positives and negatives to consider when weighing up whether to stay with a traditional publisher or to self publish.
               Observe, use your eyes to look carefully before you are creative, and research  facts. 
               Successful writing is usually lifted from life, because it contains essential truth. 
               Be prepared to learn something new. 
               History is about people, so nothing is new, but the facts can be interpreted in a new, different way. So we can take a fresh look at something, by viewing it from a different angle. 
         Be passionate about what you write, it's often not what the readers expect. 

The next meeting is on Friday 10 April - note change of date due to Easter. 




A New Beginning - February 2015

Our first meeting in our new venue at the Central Library was well attended, with 24 Writing Buddies coming along at the new 2.30 start time. We have met here before in our six-year history and it felt good to be back.

The list of events for the year:

06/03/15  Ann Victoria Roberts, author, guest speaker.
10/04/15  Pam Fudge, author, guest speaker.
01/05/15  Brittany Poulin, IPR Licence, guest speaker.
12/06/15  Claire Fuller, author, guest speaker.  Note change of date.
03/07/15  Tracey Gorman, author, guest speaker.
07/08/15  Janine Pullford, novelist/journalist/publisher, guest speaker. 
04/09/15  Ian Bayley, Publisher, Sabrestorm Publishing, guest speaker.
02/10/15  To be decided
06/11/15  Elizabeth Burnett, Editor, Hampshire Life, guest speaker.
04/12/15  Merry Christmas!

New Year, New Start

The Writing Buddies will now be a membership group. The membership fee is £15 per year. There will be a £2 attendance fee.  For those who cannot commit to attending regularly throughout the year, there will be the option of attending up to three meetings a year at £5 per meeting. The first meeting will be free to all newbies. The fees will finance events, guest speakers, community events and personal liability insurance, which now means all members will have insurance to cover them at market stalls, launches and community events. This resolves a problem which persisted throughout last year. 

Jacqueline remains as Treasurer, Patricia becomes Membership Secretary and Christine will act as Assistant Treasurer. Penny gave personal thanks to all those for agreeing to these roles.

Good News

Margot attended workshops in New Milton on writing and selling features and short stories.

Josephine writes for The Voice, which is a free monthly newsletter from Wessex Writers. Robin Dynes is the editor.  To join the mailing list for this magazine, email: Robin  Dynes 

Richard continues to struggle to get any movement from the 'powers that be' on his attempts to resolve issues over his comic/horror crossover work.   

Penny showed a draft front cover of her new book, Military Wives, from World War One to Afghanistan

Several Writing Buddies were featured in Writers' Forum magazine this month: Simon Whaley, Barbara Dynes and Pam Whittington.

Exercise: Press Release

As part of the changes to the meetings for this year, there is now a 15 minute exercise each month.  This month, the group was challenged to write a Press Release on their latest book.

The aim was to produce an eye catching title, and to give information on, i) who (the author is, and his credentials), ii) what (the subject specifically is), iii) where (locality of the subject),  iv) when (a brief history of the subject or the time period covered e.g. from WWI to Afghanistan), v) why (reasons for the book), vi) how (it was achieved), and  highlight who the book would appeal to (target audience).  The words 'Press Release' should be used!

New Writing Buddies Magazine

The Writing Buddies will launch a new online magazine this year.

Name: The Scribblers' Script
Frequency: three editions per year.
Themes: Spring (1 May), Summer (7 August) and Winter (6 November).
Content: Diary; Top Tips for Writers; New Writers Corner; Editor's Column; competitions,Poets Corner, Reviews, Quiz (with prizes), journalism features, profiles of group members; fiction, community tie-in.

The next meeting will be on Friday 6 March.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

New Year, New Venue, New Writing Buddies!

So, what do you do when you run a group that has become so popular that it has outgrown its venue, needs to adapt to changing ideas and technology and, generally, move with the times?

Answer: You reorganise!

This is just what we have done within Writing Buddies for the 2015 season.

We have loved every minute of meeting at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel on the High Street but recently it was very apparent that we were trying to squeeze too many into a small space.  So, with many thanks for two successful years at this venue, we have moved to the Seminar Room at the Central Library, Civic Centre, Southampton. We will hold our first meeting there tomorrow, Friday 6 February.

We have also taken the opportunity to revamp the group and present it more professionally. Writing Buddies will stay a not-for-profit organisation but members will now pay a membership fee to join (£15 a year) in addition to the £2 meeting fee. New members will have one free meeting, to get to know the group. Casual members will be welcome at £5 a meeting for a maximum of three meetings.  Proceeds from these fees will be used to fund our notetaker and guest speakers, as well as pay for essentials within the group.

In addition to an increasing line up of guest speakers, new this year will be writing practice, set discussion topics, opportunities to help run the group, writing competitions and an online magazine.  Phew!  We love a cream tea at Christmas, so this is one thing we have retained from the past.

The meetings are open to anyone who is actively writing (or who an interest in an associated field, such as editing, illustration or photography), willing to participate and wanting to have some fun.  Writing Buddies come from all walks of life, are aged from mid twenties to over eighty, write in all genres and are a rich mixture of amateur and professional.

So, we hope that the New Writing Buddies will be as popular as the old.  If you fancy giving us a try, do come along to meet us.  Our meeting dates are on the diary page of this blog.

Writing Buddies November 2014

The regular monthly meeting of Writing Buddies convened on Friday 7 November 2014, at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel, High Street, Southampton, at 2.00 pm. There were eighteen present.

Good News

Ray’s second book is due for launch on 4 December 2014, at the New Bridge Public House, Woolston. He is not fully decided on the title, but it seems logical to keep the same title as his first one, From War to an Iron Figher  but call it Volume 2. It was commented that the first book had had a successful launch at the same venue, with literally hundreds present. The group wished him well. One piece of advice was to keep the cover artwork the same, but to change its colour as this would indicate a new book in the series.

The group wished Jacqueline luck, as she is one of ten shortlisted for the Greenacre Writers writing competition for creative writers and tutors.  

Chrissie has sought advice from publishers in Cromer, Norfolk, about submitting a novel by the beginning of next year. Salt Publishing were very encouraging after her previous novella submission. She also met an agent at the University Theatre in King Alfred College in Winchester, who gave her advice.

Eileen submitted an e-book through Kindle, using Kingstar and later discovered there were margin problems, so she had to re-format. However, in the meantime, (about an hour) someone had actually bought one, so she had to apologise and send them a correct version. It was ironic because the book was based on a real life experience with a twist, about a builder who actually turned up, and came back when he said he would!

Jimmy mentioned that Aloejimmy Publishing was going from strength to strength. He has sold 53 copies of his children’s book, Jayden The Naughty Goldfish, as a Kindle e-book. (He gave a breakdown of global sales: 1 in Spain, 6 in the UK, 12 in Japan and 34 in USA). He has also sold 29 books in his Sundance Gang series. 

Jacqueline mentioned We Buy Any Books as a place to examine to buy and sell books. She put in a code for her own book, Bottles and Pots, which they were offering at £2, which is only 10% more than she is offering it at, and one of her Milly detective books at just £6, both of which she thought was good value.

Bill recently went to a talk about privately published books at Winchester Library. He recommended a visit to the Winchester Discovery Centre.  

Penny gave a talk about her book, Haunted Southampton, at the Shirley Women's Institute. 

Anne is nine chapters into her book and trying to get photographs for the cover. She has seen a style guide to formatting and is considering Smashwords and Kingstat software. Bill insists formatting software is unnecessary as it can be done through Word.

Christine went to a meeting of the new Southampton Chamber of Art, which is to support writers, authors and artistic and musical creativity. She said it may be good for offering support and networking, but it might be a case of going to several ineffectual meetings. She will monitor the group on Facebook and make a decision about whether to attend any further meetings. There was an Education Officer there who mentioned funding resources. One concept that may be of interest to the group was speed networking, where members briefly meet one to one to exchange contact details to promote their cause. It was suggested that Writing Buddies should leave some business cards with the group. Calvin warned of being beholden to the council after applying for funding, but it can raise a group's profile.


Crowd funding in general and organisations such as Front Row and Kickstarter in particular were discussed as a way of presenting an idea and asking for funds to make it a viable project. It can cover various areas of the arts, including book publishing. As the average writer earns very little they often have to obtain public funds elsewhere. Both Terry Pratchett and Paul Kibbie have used Kickstarter in the past. Money is pledged in return for a stake in the project, should it become profitable. It was pointed out that the project could flop, so investors could lose their money. Bill mentioned drawbacks for those proposing a project, such as financial targets not being met and the time lags that can occur.

Royalty free photographs and music were discussed. Flickr is a source of royalty free images. Penny mentioned that if a picture belongs to someone else (copyright) you must seek permission to use it. Bill said he has used software (photo publishing) that turns photographs into pictures, and then it can be edited into a variety of finishes (eg. embossed, sketch, oil painting etc.)

An aspect of self-publishing comes up regularly at Writing Buddies’ meetings and this meeting was no exception. Rob said he has a basic aversion to Amazon, so for e-publishing he uses Kobo, LuLu or Barnes and Noble, but Ray said that these cost about £120 and, as e-books can sell for as little £1 each, he claimed this was very expensive.

Guest Speaker – Calvin Smith, founding member of the Friends of Portswood Library

Calvin spoke about the challenges of setting up the Friends of Portswood Library, following a chance remark by his daughter who, when they were walking back from the library one night, enquired, "Where would we go if there were no library?"

The Friends of Portswood Library now has 40 - 50 members. The aims of the group are to promote, protect and modernize the library, in order to serve the community. The group hosts a variety of events, for example, children were invited to bake a cake based on their favourite book. Other events include charity coffee mornings, Armed Forces Day displays and author book signings. It also serves as a community hub and invites guest speakers to deliver talks to the members. Penny, Jacqueline and James have all given talks to the group.  The idea of a Friends group has now spread to three other Southampton libraries.

Calvin talked about the future of Portswood library, which loans about 500 books per day. All the libraries are under pressure from possible closure, merger, reduced staff and shorter opening hours. The group is continually frustrated at never being taken into the decision-making loop. They have enlisted the support of a local journalist, and they intend to lobby the Education Services department of Southampton City Council, by claiming that "some stuff can't be done off a spreadsheet." The group does not want decisions dictated by budgets, yet the council seems to see the libraries as being frequented by undesirable people. He pointed out how few amenities for adults with learning difficulties there are, which is one area where the libraries help.  The Friends of Portswood Library want to get their Reading Club back, but they see the spectre of the Isle of Wight hanging over them. Here there is a policy where the council never supports volunteers, only librarians and professionals.  Calvin’s view was that they should top-cut management and train volunteers to do more.

In 2015, Portswood library is 100 years old. A 99-year-old library user, who has been visiting the library for 79 years, will join in the centenary celebrations.

The next Writing Buddies meeting will be on Friday 6 February 2015.  Everyone is welcome.