What makes a writer?

What makes a writer? Is it the talent to have hundreds of books published like James Patterson, or the ability to write a top class comedy programme that runs for many years like Roy Clarke’s Last of the Summer Wine? Maybe it’s the ability to write great poetry and be nominated as the next Poet Laureate?


Or… maybe it’s something to do with the pleasure of writing for its own sake?
I started writing when I was quite young. While still at school, I would get ideas and scribble them anywhere. Once I got a comment from a form master who said:

‘I quite enjoyed your story but in future please do not write on the back of your exam papers’.

Early on, I realised that, as a writer, my main fault is that I have a butterfly mind. Although short story writing is my favourite field, I can be jotting down one idea, then get an idea for another which completely distracts me. This is why I now have several portfolios at home with at least 320 short stories of all genres in them!

Working in writing groups has been very helpful over the years, though I have learnt that sometimes people’s views are very different from within the same groups. In one group, a member told me I should cut out the first two paragraphs of my story, while another thought the paragraphs were essential.

Occasionally, courses have given me very useful insights. It was attending one course, several years ago, that set me on the short story trail. During this session, it was suggested that we write a short story from the opposite gender’s point of view. I found I liked writing this way so much that I now have female characters as my lead nearly all the time.

Stories mount up. I find that I have now written several plays, both short and full length, a number of poems and three novels. My first two books were handwritten and the second was destroyed by accident, but my first one is still here. Unfortunately, this was typed out by a friend of a friend – a good typist, but someone, it turned out, who couldn’t read my handwriting, so there’s a little more work to do here!

With the help of a fellow writer, I have recently had booklets of my work printed independently and this has been very satisfying. My slim volume, ‘Seven Sides of Life,’ has so far sold about 45 copies, and I have a second volume called ‘What you Want,’ which is waiting to be printed. Recently, too, I finished a compendium of short stories – sixteen tales in all. A number of people have said they like my stories – though often I haven’t believed them – and my new novel which has been read and reviewed by around eight people. One of these days I will take the plunge and send it off. Submitting anything makes me nervous, though. A writer’s fear of rejection slips perhaps?

But it’s not all about getting books on shelves. I enjoy writing and will keep on writing because the simple fact is that I like doing it, like seeing where the stories and characters lead me.

Maybe it’s this that makes a writer?

Alan Somerville.


Writer image courtesy of blogspot.com




The lights were dimmed to black and the pumpkin glow set to red. The photographer adjusted his light settings and the roomful of writers uttered a collective sigh. The first ghost story of the session was about to start…

Caroline’s spook was unpleasantly smelly, with ‘an odour most wretched’. It put one or two people off the slices of cake in front of them – portions from the celebration cake, baked in honour of Eddie Martin, local musician and writer and the hundredth member to join Frome Writers’ Collective.

cake1 (Medium)

Alan’s ghost, Georgina, was next. She liked walking along in sewers at night and didn’t seem cut out for a long-term relationship with her non-ghost fiancé, unlike the next phantom, who was clearly an expert in keeping secrets for years.

Liz’s story had a mysterious vessel gleaming in the Kefalonian pre-dawn light, while Alison’s murderously-intentioned wife got things horribly wrong – as she discovered, in the undertaker’s office – and rather too late.

Amazing apparitions and ghoulish ghouls of all kinds whirled around the upstairs room of The Three Swans. As one of the oldest and most interesting pubs in Frome, the venue was well-furnished for the task.

Writers leant forward in their eighteenth century chairs to hear the tale of Annie McBride in her tartan cape – and leant back quickly as the bloody dagger advanced.  The air stirred to the arrival of mysterious carvings and chilled to tale of an army riding the land forever, never to dismount. Poor Frederick, the hapless office ghost, with his wilting flowers, drew mutters of sympathy and the LED nightlights flickered at nearly all the right moments.

In the first-ever FWC evening of ghost stories, Caroline, Alan, Andy, Nikki, Liz, Alison, Colin, Sheila, Lisa and Barbara shared their scary tales with a very appreciative audience.

More creepy yarns anticipated in 2018!

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

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

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


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.