What Makes a Writer?

What Makes a Writer?

What makes a writer? Is it the talent to have hundreds of books published
like James Patterson, the ability to write a top class comedy programme that
would run for many years – like Roy Clarke and Last of the Summer Wine.
Maybe it’s the desire to be a great poet and be in the running for the next
Poet Laureate?

I started writing when I was quite young. At school I would get ideas and
scribble them anywhere. Once I got a comment from a form master who said
‘I enjoyed your story but in future please do not write on the back of your exam papers’.

I have been with Frome Writers’ Collective for about two years or so and have enjoyed every moment. My main fault is that I have a butterfly mind! Although the short story is my favourite field, I can be writing one story and then get an idea for another. This is why I have several portfolios at home with stories of all genres – at least 280 of them.

I have written several plays, both short and full length, as well as poems and three novels. The first two novels were written by hand and, unfortunately, the second one has got destroyed along the way. My first one is still here but was typed by a friend and now has numerous errors – not because the friend was a bad typist, but because she couldn’t read my handwriting!

I now have two finished books. One which I am currently editing and the other one (a short story compendium) where I am having difficulty deciding which stories to include and have changed three of them in the last week.

I enjoy writing and through the help of one of members of my Friday morning writing group, have had a slim volume put out containing seven stories and called ‘Seven Sides of Life’. But I must now think about what to do with my other work. Submitting to short story competitions is about the only way that I have attempted to publish a story. Maybe I am afraid of rejection slips?

It was attending a course several years ago that set me on my journey on the short story trail. During one lesson, it was suggested that we write from the opposite gender. I found I liked this, so mostly have female characters as my lead.

I will keep on writing because I like it and like doing it. Although a number of people have said they like my stories I often do not believe them. It is just me! My novel has now been seen by at least eight people too. One of these days I will take the plunge and submit it for an editorial critique. I will then incorporate suggestions and, from there, see where my writing leads me.

Alan Somerville

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Up hill and down dale: the landscape in your soul

Up hill and down dale: the landscape in your soul

Nikki Copleston reflects on the landscapes in your soul.

Nikki Copleston

When you’re out and about exploring new places, do you find yourself instinctively drawn to a particular sort of landscape? In spite of yourself, do you sense an affinity with the open, flat countryside of the Fens, or the dramatic ranges of the Peak District? I can’t imagine living anywhere that wasn’t within reach of the sea, but at the same time, I’m in love with the hills and combes, the trees and hedgerows of the West Country.

Do our childhood surroundings imprint us with a love of a certain type of landscape? Even in towns and cities, you’re aware of the topography underlying the buildings and streets. When I used to catch the bus home from work in Islington, I loved the ride northwards, climbing up through Holloway and Highgate to Finchley.  But how delighted I was when I first took the Metropolitan Line as far as Uxbridge, to…

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In Pursuit of Fame – Part 2

Unfortunately, writing fame like snow leopards has become an endangered species, and far easier to achieve in, say, the last years of the nineteenth century than in these early years of the twenty-first. Maybe there were fewer aspiring novelists vying for the prize. For the vast majority, the idea of putting pen to paper was as bizarre as journeying to Mars is for me, especially for those for whom attendance at school happened only to others. Besides which, the word ‘leisure or spare time’, a basic requirement for any aspiring writer, had not yet formed part of their existence.

As for leisure pursuits … nope! And what the hell are those?

People were either sleeping or working … no time for fancy embroidery or petite pointe unless it was an occupation to put bread on the table, in which case it was likely to occupy every waking hour. Candidates for writing fame grew from families who had a bob or two to spare, and who were able to educate their children and keep them at home without the family starving to death.

Although it is fair to say starving in a garret in Montmartre did become the in-thing for artists around this time. Never the most dependable of men, a good dose of cold and hunger went a long way in their search for fame and fortune, which brings up the point: how did they manage to live in squalor and never pay rent and yet spend all night in a bar drinking copious amount of brandy or wine? Be that as it may, once fame and fortune struck it was for many artists already too late to jettison the attic in favour of something warmer and more comfortable. Sadly, all too often the cold and damp, not to mention cheap liquor, resulted in TB which took them off at a very young age. (Look at La Bohême and La Traviata).

Surprisingly, this garret business did not apply because writers needed a smattering of education which had to be paid for. In this regard the Bronte sisters might well be considered cool. Their father’s income was, or would have been, sufficient to keep them all handsomely had not their brother run up huge debts. However, having been fortunate enough to belong to the gentry who actually believed in girls being educated, and living in a picturesque part of Yorkshire, they were able to decide on a writing career as a way of providing for themselves, even if they did have to pass themselves off as men.

(What a long way we women have come!)

Indeed, it is likely there are more writers currently starving in garrets or basement flats than there were in the 19th century.

Barbara Spencer

The Three Swans: Home to Frome Writers

The Three Swans: Home to Frome Writers

The Three Swans is ‘home’ to the Frome Writers’ Collective; its welcoming
atmosphere is why the FWC has made it the venue of choice for the last three
years.

The landlady, Helen Rowlingson, unfailingly serves good beer and offers its
upstairs meeting room generously for functions. It’s a comfortable and happy
place to spend an evening. But this has not always been the case. This 17 th
century pub has a long and lively history.

Its early origins are obscure, but the pub was once mentioned in the
national press when, for a bet, a man consumed 193 oysters with a quart of
ale. That was in 1827.

In the mid 19 th century, the pub gained a reputation for ‘wantonness’. One
landlord was summoned before the magistrates for keeping a rowdy house
with troopers and prostitutes ‘carousing lewdly’. We still enjoy music there on
a regular basis, but the lewd carousing seemed to have disappeared.
The unusual room layouts indicate that the Three Swans was probably once
two buildings. It even has an interior ‘external’ passageway, where today
smokers congregate.

Some things don’t change though. In 1860 an advertisement offered ‘Chops
and Steaks’ and ‘Home Brewed Beer of the Best Quality’ at the Three Swans.
And the pub has recently branched out to provide similar lunches at
weekends. In a further echo of its past, in 1891, during one of its most
respectable periods, the landlord was fined for keeping a dog without a
licence. Today, this is no longer an issue and the Three Swans is probably the
most dog-friendly premises in Frome. Helen loves them.

It is also the most eclectic pub in Frome. Local businessman, Chris Moss,
bought it because he wanted ‘somewhere to go for a decent pint’, but then he
filled it with an amazing assortment of furniture and wall displays. There is
nowhere like it in the town, and it is probably unique in the country. It’s
certainly popular with the people of Frome.

Facts garnered from local knowledge and Historic Inns of Frome by Mick
Davis and Valerie Pitt.

Frome Small Publishers’ Fair

Frome Small Publishers’ Fair

Frome has a long-standing connection with printers and publishers and a wealth of writers currently live in the area. The 2017 Small Publishers’ Fair will take place on the first Saturday of the Frome Festival.

Exhibitors are offering an exciting range of fiction and non-fiction books for all ages, with stands by book artists, illustrators, local authors, independent publishers and publishing services:

Frome SPF 2017 A4 poster (1)ANN PHILLIPS
SILVER CROW BOOKS
ARTWORTH
SELF PUBLISHING PARTNERSHIP
JOFFRE WHITE
RUNETREE PRESS
HOBNOB PRESS
EX LIBRIS PRESS
OTTO GRAPHIC
SILVERWOOD
POETRY SPACE
QUEENIE&MAGGS
SHEARSMAN
VICKI BURKE
COVET & WHISTLE
SALLY BARNETT
JACOB’S CREATIONS ~ ILLUSTRATION
INKY LITTLE FINGERS
AKERMAN

 

As in 2016, the Fair will be held in the attractive setting of the Frome Silk Mill in the centre of town.

Refreshments available at the Silk Mill Cantina and local cafes, pubs and restaurants. There is a car park nearby. July 8th is the first Saturday of Frome Festival, with a range of Open Studios and festival events on offer.

In Pursuit of Fame – part 1

In Pursuit of Fame – part 1

Why does an otherwise normal person decide to commit their life to writing a book?

The answer to that question would form a vast mound of paper because we all have different reasons for setting pen to paper. For Daphne du Maurier, a foremost writer of the last century, it was to escape the unhappiness of a loveless marriage. For me, it was being forced to replace a sparkling career with the more mundane aspects of domesticity – cooking, cleaning and ironing. Maybe it was the tedium of housework that led me to writing for children, for whom the joys of domesticity, housework to you and me, remain undiscovered, somewhat like the river Nile, until they are at least 21.

Nevertheless, regardless of what we give as the reason for days spent peering into a notebook, typewriter or pc, the pursuit of ‘fame’ although strenuously denied is the most obvious goal, even if the words ‘and fortune’ do not accompany it. If someone says to me, I write only for myself, my retort is likely to be: ‘I confess the lady/gentleman  protests too much,’ something Shakespeare used about Hamlet’s mum in Hamlet. I mean, if they genuinely do only write for themselves, the book can live on a shelf or in a drawer – like Fagin’s ‘guilty secret’. (Dickens) It does not need the Internet.

I concede that the word ‘fame’ maybe too strong. Maybe recognition is more apt; the recognition of your peers who think it pretty damn good. That, for any would-be writer is the Everest of accolades.

However, if in doubt as to your motives, apply the litmus test: why should someone buy my book? And does it matter if they don’t?

Broken_AZ_Medal_101916.jpg

If your answer is: Like hell it does. Then, like the rest of us, I strongly suspect that you are seeking at the very least recognition as a writer, plus a wish and desire for fame.

Barbara Spencer

I WRITE THEREFORE…………

I WRITE THEREFORE…………

Why do I do it? I have a degree in History and post graduate qualifications in Teaching and Archaeology. By now I could be running a chain of Academies or kneeling at the bottom of a hole in the ground uncovering the secrets of The Bronze Age in Western Europe and expounding upon them to Tony Robinson, four million viewers (give or take) hanging on my every word. But I had to write, a kind of nervous habit; one of those obsessive-compulsive disorders which, according to recent psychological research, prevent you from getting on with your life.

The world is not ordered to my liking, as I discovered when, at the age of five, it was borne in on me that I would have to attend school not for one day only, but for every day, all day for the foreseeable future – in other words, the rest of my life.

School – in my experience – was not fair. It was not Utopia. It was not the New Jerusalem and, above all, it was not the balmy groves of academe. Birchgrove Juniors was a stone-built prison where resentful inmates plodded through dull books and chanted “five times seven is thirty five, six times seven is forty two…..” Nobody ever told us why. If this were not bad enough, for some reason known only to small childish brains, my fellow prisoners failed to see any social allure in a dreamy slightly scruffy posh kid with buck teeth. So I went to live elsewhere.

Sian World was a place where a girl called Sian, with long golden hair and straight teeth, followed by  a gang of fascinated acolytes, got involved in a series of exploits, many of them comical, in which smart kids, teachers’ pets, strict teachers, horrid boys, park keepers and other enemies of Sian were brought low. The World evolved over the years, but, once you’re in you can never leave, even if the other half of your brain manages to grow up. I am a fantasist…..

writer 2

The most obvious career for someone with such capabilities is Crime, but, though my qualifications are peerless, I failed the interview. According to the feed-back I did not present myself well. My clothes were not smart enough, I lacked confidence and my personal statement was unconvincing. You need passion, these days, to become a successful criminal; and commitment. Competition is intense and I could not convince the gate keepers of the Crime Academy that my personal mission in life, the entire focus of my being, was to flog dodgy financial products or convert the life savings of unwary pensioners into vast corporate profits. Openings in the lower end of the organisation still existed – breaking and entering, for example, or a wide variety of car crime, but, I was kindly advised that I was over-qualified for blue collar work of this sort.

Where to go? All the places they used to call lunatic asylums were closed.

After a brief flirtation with Politics, I became a writer. There are no qualifications, no entry fee, no interviews. Of course you have to sit down and do it, and most of us need to share ….but that’s for future bulletins. All I can say now is I write, and nothing will stop me. To paraphrase Descartes, I write therefore I am……

Sian Williams 

 

images: www.pinterest.com