Leaves – Left a bit late!

Meeting at Tamworth Library 13th November 2019
Present – at various times during the afternoon – Debbie, Vic, Precia, Moya, Marillia, Ana, Val, Caroline and Wanda.
The meeting opened with the results of the poetry competition. As you are probably aware from other sources the winner was Debbie with Vic coming second and Wanda third. Debbie accepted her non-existent award (note has been made of this Debbie and a gold plated cup is being commissioned as I write) with her customary modesty. She was persuaded that standing on the table was not ‘refined’ enough for our group but a photo was taken to record this momentous event.
We then proceeded to the important task of choosing our menu for the Christmas dinner. The theme for the day was ‘Leaves’. Val read an emotional piece entitled, ‘The Naughty Boy’. It was a time-lapse poem showing Simon, the naughty boy, as he was at school and then forwarding to his funeral and the effect his untimely death was having upon his friends and those who knew him; one of whom was Val herself. She then read a poem about an ancient oak which was a personification of an elderly person sharing the creaks of old age.
Vic then read her poem about seeing the last leaf fall from the tree. She had watched it from her window, clinging onto the branch before it too finally had to fall. Precia then lightened the mood with a story entitled ‘An Elephant Never Forgets’. It was a tale of intrigue and infidelity told from the point of view of one of the female characters. Very uplifting.
We then looked to Sean but after looking at his laptop he told us that he couldn’t find anything. Val came to the rescue with a poem about a birch tree which was present during growing up, falling in love and growing old. Trees generally live much longer than humans and are often an important backdrop to our lives. Sean then found a piece entitled ‘The Lost Soldiers’. It was very emotional and I hope he will ‘find’ it again to read at an open mic event.
We then turned to the characters we are bringing together for a book we are hoping to write. Precia’s character is a serial killer who observes his prey before choosing one to kill. Sean’s character was Brian who is waiting at the station to meet a woman who claims to have knowledge of someone that disappeared from his life . Vic’s character was Felicity, 26, who became pregnant at 15. She has since taken a Psychology Degree on the Open University. She has had a message about an accident. Ana’s characters are a mother with a boy who has learning problems. The boy is repeating words that he hears, trying to understand what is happening. Moya’s character was Odo Ganche who is a retired antiques dealer. A very interesting group of characters and the resulting story should be intriguing.
Watch this space.

The Darker side of Sunshine

Meeting Wednesday 30th October 2019
The theme was ‘Sunshine’ but as usual the Writing Group managed to turn this pleasant image into a horror genre.
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Only Val, Precia, Moya and Wanda from Writers were present. Debbie, accompanied by an adorable Eden, made a brief appearance. A potential new member, Jenny, arrived to read from her book and wanting feedback as to whether it was worth pursuing. She was reassured that any benefit from writing, first and foremost, goes to the writer. Fortunately she sat next to Precia who became her mentor and helper. Val and Wanda looked on in admiration as Precia, encouraged and advised. The story was about a dysfunctional family, all of whom had physical demons attached to them. Precia constructed a family tree and we look forward to Jenny’s return with more details about the family’s machinations. Val read a poem about ‘Sunshine’. The scene is set on a sea shore and at first reading it is idyllic with the sun, as the seducer, enticing the person into the cold waves. On further examination however the poem becomes menacing with an underlying feel of abuse and control. Moya then read her story entitled, ‘The sunshine of her smile’. It was written from the point of view of a stalker who does not realise what he is doing is causing distress and fear. The story was excellent and if we have an anthology needs to be included.
We had a discussion about the workshop next week. It was decided that a railway station (Tamworth?) was a good place for the action to take place. We need to image a character who has a reason for being at the station. Bring our ideas to the meeting and we will endeavour to construct a story based upon the different characters. School holidays are over, it’s getting colder, so now is the time for WRITING.

Autumnal Verse

Today’s theme was Autumnal so there’s plenty of inspiration out there for us. We heard first from Wanda with a captivating poem that revolved around a family tree. The family members each form leaves from which our traits derive, passed through the tree. This stimulated discussion about lost opportunities. When those leaves have fallen it’s often too late to say what could have been said. Beautifully written with thought-provoking language.

I followed with another poem in which the subject is an age old tree that’s watched the times change, suffering as a result. The landscape remains the same but those who inhabit the park where the tree has stood for over 100 years have darker purpose than the children who played there before them. I took the traditional verse, ‘Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree’, to begin each line. We are hoping to publish some examples of our work so this and other pieces will be posted soon.

Moya read a poem which she had written several years ago but which still has a poignancy in today’s climate. Entitled, An End to Winter it begins with how the earth prepares to sleep but as our seasons overlap we can often see flowers blooming in December. The conclusion heeds the warning that we may one day regret the end of winter. Another well written, interesting piece that you’ll hopefully be able to read soon on this site.

Next week we’re shuffling the menu so that Sunshine will be the topic of the day and the workshop will be the following week 6th November. Don’t forget you can join us on 7th November for the writers networking event at the Castle Hotel, Tamworth. Follow the link for details.

See you there!

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Comfort Free Zone

Today was deadline day for our in-house poetry competition and this year we’ve had to up our game. The entries are being judged by long-time Tamworth Writers member, Maureen Edden and she is both an authority on and expert writer of poetry. Eight poems were handed in and a few of us had moved away from our usual writing style; I can’t reveal too much because we don’t want to alert Maureen as we submit anonymously. However, it was interesting to hear how we’d experimented.

We were then treated to a couple more pieces of writing. Precia read another excerpt from her family memoir that involved a holiday journey that didn’t go to plan. It had break-downs and cock-ups and plenty of laughs – helped along by a trip to a bar. If Murphy’s Law hadn’t been written, tips could’ve been taken from Precia’s Dad. Proof that when things go wrong, there’s always a funny side – and an excellent story to tell.

Following the impromptu ‘Flying Doughnut’ stories a few weeks ago, Moya revealed that she had the completed tale to read to us. It tells of an unhappy custard doughnut who, left on the shelf was granted a wish by the Fairy Godbaker. We are taken on the doughnut’s adventure as his wish for wings is granted and he takes to the skies. Sadly, royal icing doesn’t make the most reliable wings and before long the crestfallen cake is plummeting towards and unfortunate end.

Inspired by Moya’s wonderful story, Wanda came up with the idea of putting together an anthology of children’s stories in future. She suggested we each write a short piece and they could be combined to produce a book in time for the writing event we are attending in 2020 in Birmingham. That’ll take a few of us out of our comfort zones again but its always good to try a new genre.

Another of Wanda’s propositions was to come up with a central location to write a story around, with each of us taking a character to develop their individual narrative. This was met with great enthusiasm and we are planning a workshop soon to expand and begin this exercise.

Next weeks theme is Autumnal, I reckon there’s a fair bit of inspiration out there for us. If you want to get involved, find us on the first floor of Tamworth Library at 1-4pm every Wednesday.

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Three’s Company

Where was everyone? It was just Wanda, Caroline and myself today and left to our own devices we managed to sort out some serious first world problems.

Wanda, for instance, has discovered a way to form a Twitter group message. She doesn’t know how she did it or who most of the members are but we are impressed. She also left us in a quandary about the use of the word dwarf in a piece of written work. I have since researched this (asked Mr Google) and found a newspaper story from a few years ago where the D word was dropped in favour of Snow White & her 7 Friends – I’m not making it up, honest. I have gleaned that the ‘M’ word (Google the D word) is wholly unacceptable and if you want to stick to the politically correct and safest option you can use, person of short stature. We discussed other words and phrases not acceptable anymore – all in hushed voices, although in all seriousness it’s a minefield to negotiate when writing historically especially.

Moving swiftly on, todays topic was Graveyard and Wanda had written a narrative account of her own memories and experiences of graveyards. Describing perfectly the atmosphere of churchyards and inscriptions on graves, Wanda saw this setting as a place of beauty rather than sadness. The image she gave was warm and friendly, a family haven and not the cold, dark horror story we hear tell so often. To complement this work, our situation in the library overlooks a cemetery which happened to be hosting a funeral; ok I may have thought it was a wedding but they looked a happy gathering. Maybe Wanda isn’t the only one to find joy in a place of rest.

My own offering was a hastily penned poem on the subject of revenge which, I take pleasure putting to rest; a graveyard of wrongs made right. Thinking about poetry, don’t forget that next week it’s the Tamworth Writers poetry competition so get your entries in, this is a members only comp.

Wanda reminded me that I agreed to sort another Twitter workshop and Caroline is happy to help with that, date to be confirmed. The next evening meeting for local writers at the Castle Hotel will be Thursday 7th November, last weeks was an enjoyable meet-up with some interesting people.

That’s all for now, hopefully there will be more around the table next week.

Happy, Grumpy & Sleepy 😉

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Tamworth Writers Networking Event – October ’19

We met for the second of our evening networking events, held on the first Thursday of the month at the Castle Hotel, Tamworth. Joining the Tamworth Writers was our friend, Sue Flint from the Readers & Writers Group, Sue Ulliot a published author also from Tamworth and Phil Stott a writer from Derbyshire.

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The format for these meet-ups is loose, allowing for discussion of all things writerly, the sharing of work and a chance to exchange knowledge and ask advice. During our introductions, we swapped social media contacts and so the subject of the best way to market our work was explored. Twitter came out top and it was agreed that those not taking full advantage of the platform would benefit from a workshop. Tamworth Writers plan to host a session in the next few weeks at Tamworth Library. Phil also brought up the additional benefits of prompts and hashtags designed for writers on social media like the #100wordchallenge which is useful to both improve writing technique and provide a purpose to write.

Another topic was blogging, a few of us are keen bloggers and we compared the merits of Blogspot V WordPress. It was a useful debate as there are options available whereby blogs can be switched in their entirety from one platform to another which proved useful knowledge for writers present who are considering the changeover.

When the time came to share some work, Wanda from TW asked whether people wanted feedback. She suggested the idea of future work being printed up in order for those listening to also read through as it can be easier to fully take in when you listen and look at the words on a page. This met with mixed reaction and as Sue, R&W pointed out could be problematic for anyone with a condition such as Dyslexia. However, it’s a possibility to think on for future meetings.

As our meeting fell on National Poetry Day, Thursday 3rd October I had come prepared with a poem of my own. It was the first I’d written after joining TW three years ago and probably since I left school nearly 35 years ago! Most surprisingly it won the TW poetry competition that year but I wanted to give it a second look as it was written entirely off the cuff and didn’t have any particular format. The feedback given was extremely useful and I’ll definitely be looking to improve my rookie fluke winner.

Phil read to us next, a piece he’d written using the prompt Missing. Using the location of Wollaton Hall, Nottingham we were given a snapshot from the family tree of the Willoughbys who once owned and lived in the stately home. We heard how Percival Willoughby inherited the building from Sir Francis Willoughby along with its huge debts. He became owner of the prominent country house and its considerable land, all that was missing was the money. During the Second World War, the landmark building was used as a base for US troops including the 82nd Airborne. When they returned after being parachuted into war torn Europe in 1944 many of the Airmen were missing.  Thought provoking writing so well delivered it was remarked that this could be a monologue read on stage.

We then heard an except from Vicky Ulliot’s true life novel Our Bulldog Spirit Vicky read the chapter Bedworth’s Golden Boy that told of local aspiring boxer Les’ match against US fighter Bobby Dawson that was held in the town. As she was unable to draw on any first hand accounts of the fight itself, Vicky set the scene, explaining how Les advised his brother Roy not to bet on him winning. The event itself took place at Bedworth football ground where over 5,000 people attended to see the local lad triumph over his world class opponent. Vicky described the aftermath of the fight where a battered and bruised Les is taken to hospital by his brother, sore but extremely happy. Follow the link to find Vicky’s book for sale on Amazon to read more of this heartwarming story.

Tamworth Writers member, Sue then treated us to the first chapter of her memoir Bobby Dog. Told from the animals perspective we find ourselves seeing life through Bobby’s eyes when it begins with his birth on a farm. His world is shattered as he watches his brothers and sisters taken away one by one until the day he too is removed from his mother. Thankfully Bobby is rescued by Sue herself and she goes on to explain how the book threads its way through Bobby’s life taking in the family’s ups and downs along the way.  It was agreed that the writing process of this was a cathartic experience, it’s a touching account and we look forward to hearing more.

Finally, we had another first chapter, this time from Elaine who is currently still working on her rom-com novel. The book centres around the friendship of two women and begins on a reluctant night out for the protagonist whose best friend Ginny persuades her she needs to drink, dance and pull. Both nurses, the women get ready despite the narrators PMS ‘poor me syndrome’ and hit the town with their mate Matty. Uplifting and instantly engaging, we enter the lives of these ‘besties’. Elaine was encouraged to write more and complete her novel, it’s one we’d all like to see on the shelves.

Thank you everyone who came to the meeting and hope you’ll be able to return for the next event on Thursday 7th November 7-9pm. Don’t forget to bring some work to share, we’ve heard some wonderful writing already, lots more to come I’m sure!

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Just Desserts

A few of us braved the elements and managed to get through the floods to the library this week; considering we’re as far from coastal waters as it’s possible to get (79.8 miles to be exact to Wallasey beach), Tamworth resembles an island right now!

Fearless Tamworth Writer, Caroline ventured out to the actual factual seaside last weekend to attend the Morcambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival In her role of The Divine Write book blogger extraordinaire, she met up with some top-class authors and best of all was featured on the Partners in Crime podcast with Robert Dawes & Adam Croft!

We began chatting about books we are currently reading and I heaped praise on the best selling memoir by former doctor (now writer and comedian), Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt, The Secret Diary of a Junior Doctor. If you haven’t yet read it, do so as soon as possible, you will laugh so much you may cry! Without ruining the best bits; of which there’s an endless supply; there are recurring admissions of patients with things stuck in places they really shouldn’t put them. Apologies to anyone browsing the shelves that afternoon for the raucous laughter coming from the first floor, it was literary discussion, honest.

On to the theme of the day, Impossible and Vic read a poem inspired by this prompt that told of the road to recovery that can at times seem an impossible journey to take.

Another poem came from Sue who penned a thought provoking piece where love made all things possible even when they seemed difficult to achieve. It was commented that this had an air of Give Peace a Chance, profound words beautifully written.

Moya gave us a short story about a cat in pursuit of his favourite fish dish, a seemingly impossible task that almost leaves him out in the cold. A humorous tale cleverly told from the animals perspective.

On to some impromptu writing for which the prompt came via the memory of someone hurling a cake from the first floor balcony of the library and hitting a librarian straight in the chops – I’m not making it up! We did, however, make up some prose using the title. ‘The Flying Donut’.

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My own offering was a poem that followed the course of a doughnut that’s been thrown at someone but winds its way into trouble with the law. Caroline plunged in with a pun-laden piece about a flying cake containing some excellent one-liners. She was followed by Sue who set her scene in a circus big top with the focus on a trapeze artist who falls suddenly from her perch after being struck on the head. Closer inspection shows the culprit to be a doughnut containing a rock, I kid you not! Vic began a poem describing a doughnuts journey across the sky and then came Moya with a tale set in a cake shop. The doughnut has been left on the shelf when, while pondering its fate gets a visit from a beautiful winged fairy cake. When the ‘fairy God-baker’ grants the doughnut a wish the reply (of course) is to be able to fly. This is a story that has to go on!

If you’d like to join us next week the theme is Graveyard, we can be found on the first floor of Tamworth library, follow the laughter! Reminder; poetry competition, entries need to be in the week after next, 16th October.

Workshop – Andrew Sparke of APS Publishing

We welcomed author and publisher, Andrew Sparke today to give us an insight into both his writing and the publishing business he set up. Andrew gave us a brief introduction on how, following early retirement, he pursued his interest in writing. After improving his skills with a course from the Guardian, Andrew self-published his first book Abuse, Cocaine & Soft Furnishing as well as a poetry anthology followed by a book on indie publishing.

The latter was so well received that Andrew started his own publishing business which now boasts around 70 authors and will soon see it’s 200th book published. Andrew sees his business as more of a co-operative saying, “Writers should not have to pay extortionate sums to have their work published”. He outlined the basic publishing expenditures explaining how costs can be cut to a minimum for aspiring authors. This ‘one-man war’ on publishing can bring down the initial layout of producing a book to approximately £30.

Andrew then talked us through the more traditional publishing routes, where big name publishing businesses can charge as much as £3K when everything is taken into account. We were taken through the various editing processes from structural editing, formatting, line editing and proofreading. The group then discussed the quality of editing, even some blockbuster novels have been found to contain errors after going to print. The choice of cover was the next topic which led on to marketing. It was agreed that when it comes to selling a book it’s best to choose a strategy that suits the author. However, there’s no denying the place social media plays in marketing books, whether Facebook, Twitter or any of the platforms available they are excellent tools to reach an large audience. Andrew told of a recent popular marketing ploy which uses video trailer, proving there’s room for any good idea if it sells your book. The role of a website had to be mentioned of course where you can enable e-commerce, set up payment options and sell your work directly. A website can also direct people to your Amazon page and any social media links. Andrew’s website for his business APS Publishing gives an overview of each of the authors, their work and links to where the books can be purchased.

The final part of the meeting was spent discussing writing. Andrew told of how despite starting writing at a young age, he never actually finished and published a book until he was in his late 50s. A brief explanation of how this first book came about following a journey taken, led to a description of how the work was broken down and managed. Aiming for 60,000 words, dividing them into 20 chapters and using a notepad to detail how each stage was written. Andrew began with an introduction and an ending, filling the gaps as he went, writing around 2,500 words per week for six months. The first draft was ready in nine months.

Advice we were given; work at your writing regularly, keep a notebook handy, look for stories everywhere. Andrew talked us through the three-act structure, emphasising the security this gives. Those of us struggling to complete work described the barriers we face, most often procrastination. Andrew’s tip, ‘try and finish it’.

That’s all for today, I have a book to complete…

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Straight & Marrow

Lots to discuss today and we were joined by a newbie and a Mommy. Marilia brought her mother along who was visiting from Brazil so it was good to Welcome Sophia back. The other guest was Ed, a young man who enjoys writing in the cosy crime genre.

Caroline brought up the question of competitions, do we want to continue running in house comps or should we, as has been previously suggested, stop them altogether. Those of us present were unanimous in keeping them going with conditions; a judge should be decided before entries taken, at least six entries have to be made and funds have to be available for the winners. The possibility of dropping to just two; short story and poetry was put forward but as non-fiction is my favourite, I dug my heels in.  If entries are low, then the competition won’t run anyway.

Introductions were made to Ed at this point and he shared his latest idea for a book, asking for our input in the following; interesting ways to kill a person using garden shears – I kid you not. Caroline’s suggestion of lunging aggressively with the blades open had a flaw, it’s not exactly ‘cosy crime’. Neither is Ed’s own idea of dropping the shears onto someone’s head from a height. Sue preferred poisoning the blades whilst I favoured using them to sever a cable and electrocuting the victim. All of the aforementioned amounted to marrowcide according to Moya! Other marrow jokes were available much to Caroline’s amusement, especially when delivered in a mock German accent (you had to be there).

Swiftly moving on, we then discussed the weekend’s literary event put on by Where the Rivers Meet together with Tamworth Literary festival. Only Caroline had attended this on Saturday in the Castle Grounds, joining other local writers including Mal Dewhurst and Anthony Poulton-Smith with the organiser Darren Cannan. The poets and storytellers made their way through the Castle Grounds to Ladybridge, stopping en route to read their work before finishing at The Moat House. There was another opportunity for readings and some interesting local history. Caroline took plenty of notes and her blog will soon be available to read here and on her WordPress site The Divine Write.

On then to today’s subject, Journal. I read first, a piece detailing my diaries which began aged six, continuing throughout my life to the present day. I’ve kept almost all of them, a few gaps can be found in my teenage years where the books are probably still hidden under floorboards at my Moms. The rest cover, marriage, raising kids, starting work, setting up a business and everything that life has thrown at me. I brought along my earliest diary, a school news book from 1973 from which I read a couple of excerpts. Ah those halcyon days where I could fill a page with tales of rolling around on the grass (not my teenage diaries honest!)

Vic read next, a story that centred on friendships of the unrequited kind. A long overdue catch up leaves an alliance in tatters when one discovers unkind diary entries about the other in a journal left unattended. The spiteful revelations she reads lead our protagonist to storm out, ending the bond they’ve held for so long. She then bumps into another acquaintance who, seeing the woman’s distress hugs her and offers comfort, taking her for a coffee. As one tie is severed, another is made and while this new relationship builds the old one is deleted, unfollowed and ended for good.

Finally, we had a heart-rending tale from Sue about how significant diaries can be. In his 79th year, John reflects on the special relationship he had with his Grandad and how, when Althzeimers took hold, John offered comfort by reading to his Grandad from the diaries he’d kept. When John noticed the telltale symptoms of this cruel disease taking hold of his own life, he realises that just as he himself did, his own children are aware of the illness. History repeats as his children relate the diaries of his Grandfather to their Dad. The journalling is passed on from father to son and so on and the entries offer just as much comfort year in and year out. Beautifully written and told by Sue who never ceases to amaze in the way she can perfectly craft a story anywhere in no time at all – this tale was written while waiting for Writers to begin today.

We were all disappointed that Moya hadn’t taken on today’s subject as one of her brilliant characters would have been more than a match for Adrian Mole!

That’s all from me for today. Next Wednesday we have Andrew Sparkes joining us so make sure that date is in your diary. Oh, and don’t forget to add our next evening meet up on Thursday October 5th at 7.30pm in the Castle Hotel, Tamworth – bring some writing to share, all welcome.

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