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Chichester Writers' Circle

  the meeting place for Chichester’s writers

 Past Meetings - 2018



January 2018

6 members and 1 visitor attended on this cold January evening.  Robbie announced changes to the programme over the coming months, see menu choice Events / Meetings / Forthcoming Events & Meetings.

Sharon mentioned that Edgebourne writers group have suggested a cooperative project whereby we set a combined competition and they judge us and we judge them.  This was thought to be a good idea which should be followed up.

John read a piece that he thought might be suitable for the Festival Event entitled ‘Spirit’ and there followed an unexpectedly deep, but not unduly morbid discussion of death and dying in reality and as portrayed in literature.

After the break Paul read from his book Bethesda and we discussed genealogy and how the realities of past times are often hidden from us.  The meeting ended at 9:30pm.


February 2018

10 members attended and welcomed Emma who will re-join the Circle after many years of absence.

John delivered notes from Robbie, who was absent.  Adeline had provided an example of a conceptual image developed into 3 ideas for a plot, the 3rd idea being used to create the basis of a short story.  Members were invited to use this device to write a story to be submitted next month.

The talk scheduled for this evening was delivered by Lesley Pardoe – Creative Writing workshop

Lesley did an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester university.  She explained that the Writers workshops were very structured, more so than other workshops she has experience of.  The course consisted of a series of lectures up to half term and the next term was concerned with writing and in the final term that piece of writing was submitted to another member of group for appraisal.  Lesley quickly learned that everyone’s writing style is different and appraisals must be constructive.  The trick is for the appraiser to find something that they do like, write it down and build on that.  These sessions always resulted in a lively discussion and everyone looked forward to these.  Lesley’s group still meet once a month because they found it so useful. 

Leslie distributed useful handouts ‘Points of style’ and ‘Workshopping’ and then gave members a short excerpt from her work that had gone through the Uni. workshopping process.  We appraised and commented and then we were shown the comments written by Lesley’s four reviewers.  It was fascinating to note how differently reviewers commented and made diverse suggestions based upon their own style preferences.

Members thanked Leslie for a well prepared and interesting presentation.


March 2018

The Circle's Annual General Meeting was held this evening and 10 members attended.

It was agreed that visitors 1st visit would be free to encourage new members.

Joe agreed to ask our Webhost to look into making Log-in easier for members.  Festival details to be published on Website.  The Website should list what members are doing, book signing, lectures, competition winners and other activities.

We discussed our proposed partipation in Festival of Chichester – 5 minutes should be allowed for each speaker, Robbie will work out timings, John will intro. 5 mins each.  Robbie distributed  literature - poster and handout – members will print out and display as appropriate.  Adeline will produce Newsletter quarterly.  Spring newsletter in May, has material but Robbie to email competitions etc.

Next item on the agenda was Election of Officers and Committee. John was elected as chair, Nicky as Treasurer, Leslie as Minutes Secretary, Robbie as Secretary.  Others officers were re-elected.  The John Murray Cup was presented to Robbie who kept the show on the road despite personal difficulties thoughout the year.

John spoke about a new competition, which will be taken from The Spectator and he gave examples of the kind of questions to expect, and some weeks might be challenging.   John will send around when a suitable competition is published, weekly.

The meeting closed at 9:30pm.


April 2018

8 members were present this evening and we welcomed a guest Graham, who attended for the first time.

Robbie gave a brief update of the latest news and things to do.  Zoe King, a professional editor, was our speaker and she explained what an editor does.

Zoe has worked as editor with several magazines, Bosworths fiction and poetry also stories of articles on writing and she has edited anthologies and competitions as well.  When working with writers Zoe is not kind but she is honest.  The process to which she works is straightforward and she summarised. First Zoe will read through and look at shape and structure.  Do the characters work? Are there any issues that need to be addressed?  For example, a short story is told from one point of view (the one who is telling the story).  Then she will read back as a reader, not as a writer.  Objectivity with fresh eyes is most important and the story must make endings resonate

Zoe talked about the importance of  the title and opening.  Does the story draw the reader in early on?  She explained that each element must work with the other elements and she went on to talk about dialogue, characters, content and the plot, setting, etc.

Members thought that Zoe gave a good insight into the editor's role.

John announced a competition based on the New Spectator.  "POISON PEN"  Ian McEwan was challenged on the Today programme to come up with the beginning of a novel inspired by the current confrontation with Russia.  John asked for a short story inspired by these events. Karen Stevens, from Chichester University will judge the entries.


May 2018

My Writing Journey – talk by Michael Forester

Michael Forester, our speaker at the May meeting, started by asking the question Why do we write? It is an often asked question and one that is hard to answer. His answer is ‘Because we are writers.’

Michael, a self-published writer, started off writing business books with some success. 

His life had changed dramatically when he realised he was going deaf and would lose his hearing completely in time. He found it quite ‘scary’, he said. Helped by his beloved hearing dog Matt, he wrote ‘If it Wasn’t for that Dog’  He finally got it published after forty rejections.

Not one to give up, he turned to fiction – more rejections followed. Self-publishing seemed to be the answer and he set about learning how to do it.  ‘Dragon Song’, a story in verse, his first fiction book, was followed by more stories and books of poetry.

Michael read from ‘Dragon Song’ and some of his poetry.

An instructive and entertaining evening from an engaging and friendly speaker.


June 2018

Eight members attended this evening's meeting to conduct a 'full dress rehearsal' of our readings for the Chichester Festival event.  Performance of the entire programme took 55 minutes which was considered about right.  Some memers volunteered to put the tables and chairs out and distribute leaflets on seats  and Joe agreed to pick up soft drinks and water.  Finally we discussed production of an anthology for sale after the event and agreed to go ahead despite concern expressed by some members regarding copyright.  Copies of the anthology following this popular event are available from our secretary, Roberta Grieve.


July 2018

On a sunny July evening during the festival of chichester, nine members of the circle presented a selection of their work to an audience in Chichester Library. Poems, short stories, a non fiction piece and excerpts fron longer works were read. The circle also produced a booklet of the readings which was sold in aid of St Wilfrids Hospice. As the event was so successful it is hoped that a similar evening might be arranged in the future.


August 2018

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Our old friend local writer Joan Moules came to talk to us about memories and how they can help our writing. Whether we are wrting a personal memoir, nonfiction or fiction our memories can enhance descriptions of characters, places etc. Smells and taste are evocative and can trigger memories to use.The way people speak is important when describing characters. Joan got us writing with a first line trigger - 'The first time I....'. She then suggested that for the competition she would be judging we should continue with what we had written to produce a story of not less than 500 and not more than 1,000 words. After coffee our discussion contuned touching on themes in storty-writing and the difference between short stories and novels. We ended the evening with readings of the winning entries from our recent competition. This was for a short piece inspired by the recent events in Salisbury. The winner was Christabel Milner with 'Cremated Evidence' with joint runners-up Lesley and Robbie.


September 2018

My Grandmother’s Secret – A talk by Jane Weymouth

Sadly only seven members were present to hear Jane’s interesting talk about how researching her family history led to her writing her first book. ‘Eliza Stone’ is the fictionalised story of her great grandmother who started work at an early age in a big house in Suffolk. The big secret of course is that Eliza had an illegitimate child, a terrible thing in those days.

Jane showed us pictures of the ‘big house’, now sadly demolished after a fire. She told us how she’d visited the places in Suffolk connected with her family and how she built up the story.  After going to a writing group, Jane was advised that her story was too long so she cut it and kept to the story of her great grandmother. She is now working on her next book which continues the story with her grandmother.

A lively discussion followed touching on all matters to do with writing. We talked about our own work and some of the problems that arise when doing research.  Afterwards Jane told me how much she had enjoyed the evening and hearing about other people’s writing.  Christine told us that she had had a photograph which she’d taken in the gallery published in the Pallant House Newsletter.


October 2018 


The October meeting was billed as a workshop but instead we settled on reading and discussion for the evening.

Three members had submitted work for appraisal. Paul was unable to attend but had sent his short story round beforehand. Robbie read the first three pages of this intriguing futuristic story about the effects of modern technology and the possible rather frightening progress being made.

Our second piece was Joanna’s Elaran Sith, a science fiction story about aliens deciding on whether to invade earth.

Both pieces provoked a lot of discussion on the future and whether these stories rang true. We all liked Joanna’s story and agreed that the dialogue was convincing and natural but we would have liked more background information about the aliens.

Paul’s story told in the first person led us immediately into the setting and premise. Several commented that the surprise ending was good. It left us wondering. Did it really happen or was it all in his mind?

The last piece was a re-vamped chapter from John’s novel ‘The Snake’. It described the loneliness of a character left widowed in Africa and struggling to make friends. One member felt that the dialogue sounded too old-fashioned, although the story is set in the 1980s. Not everyone agreed.

Then followed a discussion on how we treat an ethical dilemma in our writing. John used as an example a real incident on a plane where the steward left his post to help an ill person when his job was to stay by the door and attend to the safety of the passengers – should the immediate needs of one person over-ride the possible needs of the many? What would be the right thing to do? This provoked a heated discussion and somehow we found ourselves talking about plastic waste! I don’t think we came to a conclusion as to what is the right thing to do but it is a situation we could use in our writing.

It was a very lively evening, typical of our members who enter into all our discussions so enthusiastically.


November 2018

Joan Moules, who had kindly set and judged our memoir competition attended the November meeting to announce the winner and comment on the entries. She had given us the first line, 'The First Time I...' to trigger off a memory for us to write about. The seven entries were very varied, some real memories, some fictional and one quite out of this world - literally. They ranged from first car, first visit, to first abduction by aliens. The winning entry, 'My first Feedback' by Janet collis, told of a first visit to a writers' circle and the encouraging feedback she received which motivated her to keep writing. The runner-up was John Collis with 'The Car', recalling his parents' first car and the excitement of outings with them, and culinating in getting his own first car. Joan commented that all were good starting points for writing memoir and she was impressed with all the entries. A discussion followed on writing from life and how this can impact on writing fiction too. During the meeting we discussed our future involvement with next year's Festival of Chichester. All agreed that this year's participation had been successful and that we would like to take part again. Members were asked to come up with ideas for the programme and venue. A full discussion will take place at the next meeting.


December 2018

This evening's meeting was the last of 2018 and 10 members attended.

Robbie talked about the proposed Festival and invited members to send her ideas of a theme for our entry. Several ideas were discussed and further ideas should be emailed to Robbie. Entries for the Christmas Cracker competition were read. This is an exercise in getting across a story with a surprise ending in just 100 words. The entries this year were remarkably inventive and the voting was close, but Paul won by a whisker with a humourous story about how Charles Dickens subsidised his wages by scraping leftovers from Christmas pudding bowls and retrieving overlooked sixpences.

Joanna organised a raffle and John recited a Christmas carol and invited us to discuss aspects of Christmas and how the spirit of the season has changed.

The meeting ended with refreshments and socialising in celebration of Christmas.