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Chichester Writers' Circle

  the meeting place for Chichester’s writers

 Past Meetings in 2015 


December 2015

A good turnout for the first Christmassy event of 2015.

The evening was dominated by two competitions.

The first was one set earlier that Autumn by Joan Moules, who suggested three optional starting sentences for a 1500 word short story. Joan reviewed and commented on each entrant. The prize went to Robbie Grieve

The other competition was the annual Christmas Cracker – a short story of no more than 100 words on a Christmas theme. All members took part and after all the stories had been read the  prize was decided by the members present. The winner was Adeline Wong.


October, 2015

Both Vera and John were on holiday in Europe for this meeting and Joe took the chair with the support of Robbie.

Roz Ryzska-Onions gave our group a talk about her adventures in self-publishing with KDP and Createspace.  Roz started by explaining that Minerva wanted £4,000 to publish her book and she decided to take the self-publish route.  Since then Minerva have gone bust! However, Matador publishing offer a similar service, they likewise won’t take a book on unless they feel they can market that book and they make a similar charge for a print run and distribution into Waterstones.

'Ebook' and 'ereader' are generic terms for digital books that can be read on an ereader i.e. a kindle or kindle app.  Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s ebook service; CreateSpace is Amazon’s print on demand service and they also have available an audio book service, which Roz has never used.

Alternatively, Kobo is an American corporation which provides an ebook interface and an ereader called Kobo. Waterstones and WHS Smiths make their ebooks available through Kobo. You can publish independently to Kobo and your book will be listed somewhere in cyberspace, Waterstones and WHS Smiths will not promote it. Uploading an ebook to Kobo is similar to Amazon but less user friendly, less accessible and there were no marketing tools available that Roz could find.

There are several varieties of Kindle and Roz has the Paperwhite. When saving a docx or doc ready to upload to Amazon KDP’s interface, you must first save it to ‘web pages, filtered’ to get an HTML document.  Ricky mentioned that Headings can be put into a word document using Styles option, click on the Heading menu option and chapters will automatically appear.  Most formatters advise using styles, Roz styled her manuscript manually.

So the process is: kindle text - web page, filtered - HTML document.

When you have written your best seller, go on the ebook site and load your manuscript.  For your cover, you can use a photo but it must be converted from JPG to PDF format for Kindle.  A Kindle template can be used for text and saved as a CreateSpace cover jpg to pdf.  Or Amazon will do a cover for you, just bring up their template and cut and paste your manuscript.  You can pre-view to see how it will appear on Kindle.

Roz went on to advise about the ISBN number.  With a CreateSpace free ISBN the author retains all rights. However, if an author decides to distribute through sales channels outside of those Amazon offers, it is probably advisable to buy a batch of ISBNs from Nielsen, you can take your manuscript anywhere independent of the publisher.The remuneration you will get is a proportion of the sales price, commission and VAT, Amazon will work it out for you.  At any time you can check how many of your books have been sold – log in go to reports click on UK and it displays sales.

After the break it was time for the scheduled reading of work in progress.  Joe asked for advice on a non-fiction book that he is writing, he warned in advance that it is quite controversial, entitled St Augustine – Child lover?  Joe gave a brief outline and a discussion of religion ensued which took up the entire second half of the meeting.


1 September, 2015

Those present were John Smith (Chairman), Vera Franklin (Treasurer), Leslie Pardoe, Christine Rowlands, Paul Marshall, Nikki Lowes and a new visitor, Barbara Cluff.

The speaker for the evening, Joan Moules, was unable to come, but she sent in some ideas on  short story writing. The evening therefore started with a useful discussion on that subject. Members with varying degrees of experience and success shared ideas about techniques and their likes and dislikes about the genre.

The meeting moved on to the matter of starting a short story. Joan sent us three possible first sentences for a story:

  1.  “There’s a time and a place for everything,” he/she said . . .
  2. For a few moments after the will had been read, no-one spoke and then. . .
  3. There was a silver edged card with the flowers that had just been delivered. *From Michael* it read. She didn’t recognise the signature and she didn’t know a Michael.

Each choosing one of the options as a starting point we spent some time separately working of the opening section of a story. These would be worked up into a 1500 word competition piece which Joan will judge and donate a prize to the winner. The closing date will be 10th October.

After tea we tried a collaborative word game on the subject of the supernatural, which worked surprisingly well.

Despite losing our speaker and having a relatively low turnout we proved we could still have a worthwhile evening.

August, 2015

Robbie arranged a visit to of the West Sussex Record office in Westgate Chichester.  We met in the foyer at 6.45pm for tea and biscuits before setting off for a tour of the record office

We were introduced to sources of interest in the Search Room and learned how to find them.  The archives were of great interest to all of us.  Time passed very quickly and our visit was rounded off with a discussion about creative writing, areas of interest, sharing ideas and thoughts for the future. 

July, 2015

Welcomed two prospective new members, John, previously a member of West Dean writers group likes writing historical novels.  John is a successful writer and has had four books published and Nick, was at one time a journalist.

Beryl Fleming was our speaker for this evening.  She focussed on characterisation and how as a writer we can 'get inside' the character we are creating.  Beryl put us into teams of two, we were each given a number and teamed up with another member.  Joe was teamed with John and they were given the theme ‘The Lord (or Lady) of the manor and the Head Gardener.  John started off the dialogue with the gardener complaining of "a serious problem with rabbits who are creating havoc with the kitchen garden vegetables."  Joe and John went on to build up their different characters by giving away little details using dialogue alone.  Other members were given 'A dissatisfied restaurant customer and restaurant manager', 'A doctor and hypochondriac patient'; 'A driving instructor and learner'.  Beryl offered a number of other situations that we could give to friends or family and note how their dialogue progressed.

The meeting finished with Paul reading an excerpt from his new short story, The Dark Beck, a work in progress.  

June, 2015

The June meeting was devoted to reading members' work in progress.

May, 2015 - Writing Scripts for Radio

We were delighted to welcome Carolyn Pertwee to our May meeting.  Carolyn recounted her experiences writing for BBC Radio and she gave us valuable guidance in writing radio play scripts.  We were given copies of Carolyn's play to follow as we listened to the recording.  Carolyn spoke about pitching your idea (to BBC Radio) and she said radio gave more freedom than TV since there was no need for expensive sets or costumes so the setting could be any that the writer can imagine.  Writing for radio, or TV, the characters should be well defined, the listener should be able to tell who is taking by their voice, speech manerisms etc.

April, 2015 - Work in Progress

This evening was devoted to appraisals and readings by members.  John read his new story 'The Wrong Turning' which had a superb surprise ending and Lesley's peice 'Oradour 1944' was a moving recounting of a shocking wartime atrocity.  Jan read a chapter from her novel 'Sold for a Status' which was well received and several suggestions were put forward that will help her make headway.  Paul was not present but his memoir 'When I was four' was circulated by email.  A good discussion and the constructive comments were helpful to us all in trying to improve our technique.

March, 2015 - Descriptive Writing

Our speaker for the evening was Karen Stevens and she invited us each to draw an outline of one foot.  We were asked to think of someone who we knew well and to note details of them by reference to their feet.  What shoes does this person like to wear? Comfortable shoes? Fashionable shoes?  Do they love dancing? Walking?  More than 20 such questions were answered and then we swopped our results with colleagues who were asked to describe the person whose feet had been portrayed.

We were all surprised by how accurate a picture we were able to give of an individual, simply on the basis of a description of their feet. 

Our meeting was extended to include the Chichester Writer’s Circle AGM.   Chairman, John Smith reported that our Membership had remained stable with an average attendance of 10 at meetings through the year.  John mentioned the speakers that had visited and the topics that had been covered, the publishing successes of several members and he finished by urging members to enter their work into the Circle’s Anthology.  Last year’s anthology is still selling and it has been decided to defer production of another for the time being.

Our Treasurer, Vera reported that finances were healthy and Joe Baker gave an update on progress on the new Website.  Discussing next year’s programme, Robbie asked members to declare their interest in visiting West Sussex Record Office and the proposal was well supported. 

The existing Officers of the CWC Committee were re-elected unanimously and the meeting turned to Presentation of the John Murray Cup which was awarded to Joe Baker for sourcing funding and helping to create the CWC Website.

February 2015 - Stimulating the Imagination

Local poet Geoffrey Winch was the speaker at the February meeting when he read and talked about the work of American poet Wallace Stevens.

Stevens did not write what we might think of as conventional poetry but he did explore the ways in which everyday things can be viewed in different ways and stimulate the imagination. And this is what Geoffrey tried to do for us.

‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ made us think of this rather common bird in some unusual ways, stirring the emotions as well as the imagination. After reading the poem and getting us to discuss it, Geoffrey then challenged us to write a short stanza of our own.

We then discussed ‘Sea Surface Full of Clouds’ which describes reflections of clouds at different times of the day and the marvellous array of different colours displayed. I particularly liked the many different words for the colour blue.

Although most of us are not poets, the talk was relevant to prose writers as well and we all enjoyed havng our imaginations stimulated.

Geoffrey has set us the challenge of writing our own poem or short piece of prose using Wallace Stevens’ techniques.

The evening finished with Geoffrey reading from his new anthology ‘Alchemy of Vision’, including a poem called ‘Night Music’ about a visit to the National Theatre and ‘Home Hunter’ which was inspired by the horse’s head sculpture at Goodwood.

January 2015 meeting – writing and discussion

As our scheduled speaker, Karen Stevens, was not able to attend due to illness, Robbie and John filled in with some impromptu writing exercises.

We started by looking at a picture of an elderly woman surrounded by carrier bags. Each member then drew a random object from a bag – among them a miniature furry toy, a hairslide, a banana, a torch and a miniature whisky bottle. The idea was to create a character from the picture and relate the object to that person. After writing for ten minutes we read out what we had written. Each of us had come up with very varied ideas, all had the potential to be developed into a short story or a longer piece of work.

We then turned to the subject of cliches, resulting in a long list of our pet hates concerning this form of writing. We were challenged to try and find better ways of saying the same thing.

To round off the evening John read his short story, ‘The Door’, and Vera read the first chapter of her newly published book, ‘Not a Clue’.

Karen hopes to be able to do her talk and workshop at our meeting on March 3rd.