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Chichester Writers' Circle

  the meeting place for Chichester’s writers

 Past Meetings in 2016 



December 2016

Seven members attended our Christmas meeting on 6th December.

Robbie talked about the Women Writers and Journalists meeting she had attended in London earlier in the day and she relayed some good advice on getting published.  Six members’ 100 word entries for the Christmas Cracker competition were shuffled and distributed for reading by the other members.  All the entries were deemed excellent and the result was close run, the winning entry being ‘Christmas Day’ submitted by Sharon.  All these stories will appear in the Chat Room.

Members contributed party nibbles and a little vino and we took a short break to celebrate Christmas together.

After the break John started a discussion on the difficulty in deciding ‘What do I write about’.  In fact almost any subject is capable of inspiring literature.  To illustrate, John proposed an apparently humble subject “Your big toe” for a short story in the final 20 minutes, which produced some surprising and interesting vignettes.

The meeting ended 9.30pm

November 2016 

11 members attended this evening, and Wendy Hughes appeared to announce the winners of the September competition ‘Submit 1st chapter (up to 1,000 words) of a Pocket Novel’ on any subject.

John, our chairman, opened the meeting and asked for ideas for next year’s programme, currently in the process of being compiled.

There were 9 entries for the Pocket Novel competition and Wendy Hughes said she had a difficult job finding the one winning entry, all work that had been submitted could be suitable for publication. After discussing the various merits of the entries, Wendy declared the winner to be Robbie with 'The laundress' (provisional title only). Wendy commented that Robbie’s characterisations and attention to fine detail were the deciding factors.

Leslie was runner up with Explosion which she read out to good reception. Wendy described this work as remarkable and quite different

Christine read two short poems ‘A day in Brid’ (Bridlington, Yorkshire) and ‘She knows a thing or two about drama’ and Karen read from her work in progress, while our new member, Rosie, read ‘The Magic of Christmas’ – a truly magical telling. This work had suffered a rejection and Robbie suggested other publishers that would be more responsive.

Robbie read the opening chapter of her first crime novel ‘I don’t know why she left’.  Discussion followed and the evening ended with an accouncement of December’s competition entitled: A Christmas cracker – a concise story of 100 words.

October 2016

Nine members attended our meeting chaired by Joe standing in for John who is on holiday.  We welcomed visitors Eleanor and Laura who came for the first time having Googled the CWC Website.  Joe opened by asking around the table about the Circle's new Website and it was established that most members log in regularly.

Lesley claimed her poetry prize from the previous meeting which she then read for us.

Our scheduled speaker, Barbara, who was to have given us a talk on 'Writing for Children, was unable to attend and Robbie stepped in to give a short overview.  Robbie started by emphasising that the age of the target reader must be decided and then writing must be pitched to that age group.  Listen to children speak, sometimes young children can be rude and very direct and writing will only be successful if it is sympathic to that vernacular. 

The meeting was thrown open for discussion of topics for 2017 followed by readings by members.  Lesley explained that her new book has had a chequered route though publishing with one publisher having gone into liquidation and the another collapsed when the boss died.  In the digital age it is not enough to just write, a writer must write and sell.

Sharon, a visitor, read her piece about a little girl's awe of Princesses.  The writing was couched in child-speak giving extra weight to the finale.  Eleanor read her story about a stalker entitled 'Every breath you take'.  This was thought to be a compelling theme and worthy of submission to a magazine.  Robbie suggested entering a competition and Eleanor thought that a good idea.  Paul told more of his budding novel centred around 2nd World War attrocities and he related a gory description of flaying alive carried out at Auschwitz.  This provoked much discussion and the meeting ended late at 9.35pm. 

September 2016

Nine members were present at this evening, and we welcomed two visitors, one of whom decided to join our group as a permanent member.

The results of the poetry competition, judged by Karen Stevens from Chichester University, were announced: First prize went to Leslie Pardoe, with John Smith second and Paul Marshall third. The three winning efforts were read out and discussed.

Robbie Grieve collected eight entries for the "Pocket Novel First Chapter" competition. The results will be announced later in the year.  Robbie also reported on a successful "away day" in August. This was an innovation where members were introduced to works of art at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester before writing up their various responses.  Two members, Robbie and John Pollard read their works and it was agreed that although only five members took part it was a worthwhile event.

After a break for tea two members - Paul Marshall and our new member, Clare, offered for discussion examples of their work. Clare read a poem giving her response to the way in which the medical proffession threated her mother's acute depression some forty years ago. Paul read a charming description of the tender relationship between an elderly man and his young grand-daughter. This was part of a much larger work and we discussed the difficulties inherent in appraising work taken out of the context.

It was a worthwhile evening with everyone making a contribution to the discussions that took place.

August 2016

Instead of meeting in our usual venue for the August meeting we  gathered at the Pallant House Gallery to look at pictures and discuss how they can inspire our writing.  Unfortunately  only five members came – possibly because of the change of meeting day. 

We were met by member Christine who is a volunteer at the gallery. Out main focus was the beautiful  charcoal sketch by Degas – ‘Femme se Peignant’ (Woman combing her hair). This is a new acquisition for the gallery donated by the owner in lieu of death duties.

As well as the paintings and sculptures by well known artists and some not so well known – it was a pleasure to tour the part of the gallery situated in the older house. Christine’s wide knowledge both of the art on view and the history of the house made it an interesting visit. 

July 2016

The speaker at this evening's meeting was writer Wendy Hughes, making a welcome return to the circle for another of her inspiring talks and workshops.

This time she was talking about pocket novels and shorter fiction. Some of us had not heard of pocket novels but Wendy explained that they were short novels published by the women’s magazines and often sold in newsagents and supermarkets. They were usually romances of about 30,000 to 50,000 words. She also spoke of other markets for short novels and novellas which might not fit into the pocket novel format.

She told us that the main character was usually the starting point – a strong, feisty heroine who the reader could identify with. The importance is character first, dialogue, plot then setting.

Members had brought a first paragraph to the meeting which we read out in turn and Wendy commented on. Some were not really subjects for a pocket novel but she emphasised that all were very good starting paragraphs and worthy of continuing with the story. She was very impressed with everyone’s standard of writing.

Wendy has set a competition for members to continue with their stories and submit the first 1,000 words.

Earlier in the evening the plans for an ‘away day’ instead of the usual August meeting were discussed.  It was agreed that we would visit the Pallant House Gallery to study a picture, discuss it and write about it. Robbie will liaise with Christine to finalise details and inform members.

June 2016

Eight members were present for this evening's meeting.

The evening was one reserved for members to read their work in prgress and four pieces were considered.

All were well received, though one experimental piece led to some debate as the member himself was not there to elaborate on points of difficulty.

However the other three authors did take part in lively discussion in the face of some well constructed appraisal.

The meeting also considered the proposal for an "away day" in August. The consensus was that if it could be arranged we make an evening visit the Pallant House Gallery where we might have a professionally led viewing of a selected picture. We would then spend half an hour afterwards writing up and then discussing what the picture meant for us individually.

Enquiries will be made at the Gallery to see if that is possible.

Next meeting, on 4 July, will examine the concept of the pocket novel.

Wendy Hughes has asked us to come to the meeting with the first sentence of a story that could be the start of such a novel, and she will set a competition.

May 2016

9 members attended this evening and we welcomed a new visitor, Rosie.

Robbie offered copies of last month’s handout by Karen.  There was no speaker for this evening and we took the opportunity to review work in progress by members.  Nicky, Leslie and Paul read stories they had written or excerpts from their work and invited members’ comments on different aspects.

After the break Rosie read out a brief piece she had written about a lady who was let down by a man – “the bastard”.  The ‘Flash Fiction’ format is intended to stimulate ideas of what might have been – or might not.

To end the meeting, Mark Lindsey talked about self-publishing and print-on-demand which he told us works out at about £11 for a paperback book.  This format could be used for an anthology of members’ work, currently compiled by Adeline.

April 2016

John opened the evening by pointing up an Event at Chichester Library on Tuesday 24 May - A Sussex evening: Elgar and Downland poems. Tickets: £4.00 each.

Karen Stevens, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Chichester University, gave a talk about Poetry to this evening's meeting.

Karen starts University students with poetry because poetry contains everything that you need for prose. Poetry is a good way for children to get into writing.  Every word counts.  A poem means different things to different people.  A poem creates sound and imagery to elicit an emotional response.  It is expected to be memorable.  It is an observation or thought, it has rhythm, structure; it’s lyrical.  A poem might access a precise moment that has affected one; a microscopic look at something.  Karen advised, rather than say direct, try to create sensory images – see Coleridge.  Create a concrete image – something that can be seen, touched, smelt, tasted, heard, etc.

Next we looked at rhythm and Karen pointed out that everyone has personal rhythms, the heartbeat for example.  There is even rhythm in routine, one action follows another.  All good prose contains rhythm and Karen gave examples of how rhythm can convey ideas and feelings – to conjure up ideas of the sea, think tidal surf.  The meeting ended with Karen suggesting some exercises:

Analyse ‘The Making of Marmalade’ by Gillian Allnut

Compose a poem to describe something done manually, could be a communal project, a woodworking task or some such.

March 2016

Most of this evening was taken up with our AGM meeting.

A revised subscription system was unanimously agreed.  In future the annual subscription will be £25 which includes subs previously collected at meetings.

We discussed how our new Website has been received and how successfully it is performing as intended.  Our Website is listed on the main search engines and Googling ‘writers groups in Chichester’ returns us at the top of page one.  We couldn not ask for a better result than that.  On the other hand we have had no new members introduced from the Website.  Joe will apply to the local library, university and other writer's groups to be linked. 

The next item on the agenda was to review our forward plan.  We need more members to safeguard our future, there is no immediate threat because we are financially secure, but we must pay our way month by month and that requires 10 – 12 regular members.

Several initiatives were considered.  Robbie suggested a canal trip, Chris a museum visit, the records office visit was popular last year.  John pointed out that Pallent Gallery has talks opportunities.  Several of our writers are working on religious themes, and the Chichester University has a good Christian library.  We have had some excellent speakers but we need more reading opportunities – discussion of writing problems.

New Officers were appointed and the John Murray Cup was awarded to Vera, Past Treasurer, for her excellent work over many years, keeping the circle's books in order.

To finish up the meeting, our Chair threw out an open question: Why do you write?

Some of us write because we enjoy it, others want to communicate a truth - the crusader spirit.  It seems we all have a need to communicate and writing is the preferred channel of communication for some people.  It does not matter if we are not read, the point is that our writing is exposed.

John Pollard suggested that one creates a relationship with one's art, it’s between you and it, if others want to enjoy it that’s fine, if not they’re the loser. 

February 2016

8 members attended this evening, including our chairman John Smith.  We welcomed one new member, Michael who found our group mentioned in the paper.

Karen Stevens from the University was programmed to lead a workshop on poetry but unfortunately she couldn't make it but hopes to be with us for the April meeting.  We therefore decided to hold an informal discussion meeting during which members could propose any particular subject they would like us to cover in the forthcoming year. We devoted the latter half oif the meeting to reading work in progress.

John talked about forward plans for circle and explained that for the New Year subscriptions would be rationalised by including the weekly subs into a £25 or pro-rata, annual sunscription.  Visitors would continue to pay £3 per visit.  The format of meetings would be developed to include more reading but focussed on specific aspects that the writer needs suggestions on.  We will hold Self Help discussions and talk about the day to day problems of being a writer, including practical issues perhaps.  We will commission fewer speakers and they will take ½ the available meeting time so the other half can be devoted to some other topic.

John offered an example by reading out his work and seeking opinions:

1. Does the time and place come over clearly?

2. Tony is obviously socially incompetent, but have I overdone his weakness?

3. Am I introducing too many characters too early?

4. Is the dialogue convincing?

After the break Mark read out his work and in addition to grammar and spelling, he asked:

1.  This work describes two factual historical events that happened in the same family, but separated by 60 years.

2.  I am curious to get feedback on what emotions or feelings the description part of the text invokes in a reader.

3.  The two historical events are linked by a bit of prose that attempts to explain what these events have in common, and how both
     events are emblematic of a whole variety of sub-themes. Do these sub-themes come across (if so what comes across?)

A good deal of discussion followed so that we ran out of time for Nicky’s script, which was deferred to next week

January 2016

Only five members but a good discussion took place on the future of the Circle. We all agreed that we should continue meeting at Bassil Shippam unless an obviously better location could be found – good carparking, kitchen facilities and reasonable rent. 

We also discussed the content of the meetings, thinking that there should be more opportunities for members to read their work but that there should be a focus for any subsequent discussion. This would help the member concerned to gain something positive from the evening. Work should, as far as possible, be circulated in advance by email with an indication as to the areas or points of difficulty which the author would particularly like to be discussed. 

There would still a place for outside speakers but they would be fewer in number.

Instead of meeting in our usual venue for the August meeting we  gathered at the Pallant House Gallery to look at pictures and discuss how they can inspire our writing.  Unfortunately  only five members came – possibly because of the change of meeting day.

We were met by member Christine who is a volunteer at the gallery. Out main focus was the beautiful  charcoal sketch by Degas – ‘Femme se Peignant’ (Woman combing her hair). This is a new acquisition for the gallery donated by the owner in lieu of death duties.

As well as the paintings and sculptures by well known artists and some not so well known – it was a pleasure to tour the part of the gallery situated in the older house. Christine’s wide knowledge both of the art on view and the history of the house made it an interesting visit.  

Earth’s dark hibernal curfew succumbs to wakeful spring

And blossom-gravid fruiting buds of life rekindled sing.

Now, Common Sturnus sorties out for mayflies on the wing

And grubs, his greedy starlets have demanded him to bring.

That fount of social balm that we’ve been restive for is here,

He’s warmed our pocket plot and nudged her life back into gear.

Our living space extends to let this joie de vivre come near;

Now, sweet pea, rose and dahlia miraculously appear.

We’ve watched the seed unfurl and swell, here God unveils his store:

Cos leaves, Savoys, Olympians, Valencias by the score

And canes borne down with lusciousness, red, gold and black galore.

Now, fiery Stag Horn Sumac shows and livens the décor!

Luminescent emerald fades to depleted gold

As the cool thief of fruitfulness contemptuously takes hold

And wilful frosty fingers wrap his booty in white mould.

Now, plucky Winter Pansies melt my eyes and scorn the cold.

Thus the seasons spend themselves, while Time keeps silent score.

Throughout our humble garden, with its year split into four,

Earth flaunts her wondrous cycle to inspire us ever more

With the miracle of life, enacted right outside our door.