Friday, 13 December 2013

Tedworth House Recovery Centre by Margaret Graham

Tedworth House - Tidworth is one of four Recovery Centres run by Help for Heroes, which forms part of the Defence Recovery Capability.  Tedworth House aims to inspire the wounded, injured and sick and returning veterans to lead active, independent and fulfilling lives, which will enable them to reach their full potential and to support them and their families for life.   It is a place of opportunities providing education, training, sport and adventure in a relaxed, understanding and caring environment.  State of the art facilities and dedicated staff aid the path to recovery.

This opening paragraph describes Tedworth House and it seems there is little more to say. But of course there is. 

When the W4W team had a look round last year it was still a work in progress, so off we went again at the end of November. This time supporters and patrons joined us to find that Tedworth House is absolutely and fantastically finished. 

True to form, we started at The Boot Inn, Shipton Bellinger. We found this great pub on our last visit and this year Sally and Lee were patient and helpful as the group booking changed almost hour by hour, as always seems to happen on these occasions. Our trip was so long in the preparation that naturally some of the party  found they were unable to come after all. Not a problem as their places were snapped up by others eager to see where the proceeds of Words for the Wounded 2nd writing prize would land.

One of our group, Barry Mazey, kept an eye on the time over lunch and herded us off to Tedworth House in good order! He knew I would probably be too busy talking to keep my finger on the pulse. What's more, as an army veteran he has an inbuilt clock. 

Simon Dyer's work

Tucked away in glorious grounds Tedworth house seemed to have grown since our last visit. We walked from the car park to reception, past Simon Dyers evocative sculpture and then on  into the majestic foyer. There is the most beautiful chandelier and stained glass window  in this area and looking at these Barry remembered coming for dinner when it had been an Officers' Mess about 10 years ago. Indeed, last time the W4W team did the rounds it was explained that Help for Heroes wanted only the best for their mates and that the house would be as splendid as it had been when it was a private house and then an Officers' Mess. They have succeeded. 

After tea or coffee we listened to a presentation by the Centre Manager, Giles Woodhouse in which he explained the ethos of Help for Heroes, focussing as he did so on some of their inspiring recovering personnel. He underlined, also, the need to continue raising funds. Did you know that many of the wounded are aged between 20 and 24 and will continue to need back up for 50 years if not more? Not sure I had totally taken this on board. Added to this is the fact that the troops will be out of Afghanistan soon, and probably out of the public eye, but Giles made clear that the needs of the recovering must not also fade. So we all have work to do. 

After the presentation we joined the lovely Susan Gibbings - Front of House Team Leader for a tour, nipping outside first. Bit parky it was too! To the rear and right of the picture is the playground for the children of those staying or visiting here. I gather that the personnel make full use of the woods - something to do with den building, and this that and the other. I think I must be going deaf. I missed a bit here and there.
As we tripped around the outside it became clear that indeed Tedworth House has grown just as I thought. The facilities are numerous and wondrous, honestly they are. There is a ski slope, a swimming pool, both 'resistant' so it must be a bit like going down an 'up' escalator. You have to work really hard and work against the current.

Jan, one of the W4W team, is an avid skier and had to be held back. The gym was perfect, so too the basketball pitch on which many other games are played too, from the sitting position of course. On and on we went. We even glimpsed an equestrian centre  then back into the main house and a look at the rooms. As well as the single rooms beautifully furnished there are family rooms and privacy is ensured with the provision of a nearby kitchen so people can come and go as they please. The doors and corridors of the house are as wide as they have always been but they are easy to open with the use of some sort of hydraulic help. Everywhere there are cheerful painting and prints on the walls, all of neutral subjects which won't trigger unpleasant memories. Nothing has been left to chance.

There is a creative arts room where all sorts of activities  take place including creative writing workshops. It is these activities that we are supporting in this year's competition.
 I was particularly delighted to meet another member of the public on the tour. She is a member of the FANYS, the volunteer First Aid Nursing Yeomanry which has existed since 1907 and though civilian they are in support of the military. She lives in High Wycombe as I do, and was eager to spread the word about Words for the Wounded amongst her fellow FANYS. Thank you, Philippa!

And that about wrapped it up. It was a thought provoking experience and made us even more determined to continue to provide opportunities for writers on the one hand and funds for those who need them on the other. Tedworth House Recovery Centre is utterly essential to the recovery of our wounded - physical and emotional. It made us more grateful than ever to those of you who donate or/and enter Words for the Wounded writing prize, our patrons, and our supporters, including Writers' Forum who are publishing our winners again. Thank you so much from us all.

And a very Merry Christmas and fantastic 2014

Ho Ho Ho


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Guest blog from Jackie Gingell, author of the hilarious Ee Eye Addyeo (The Farmer Wants a Wife)

I'm often in touch with Jackie. She's a fun person and a good writer, and hugely supportive of Words for the Wounded. We met up again at the Yeovil Literary Festival and as our W4W competition opened and the entries started to come in, I asked if she'd write a blog for us. YES, was the answer. Yippee!

Jackie is one of the Yeovil Literary Prize's winners and has gone on to publication. In fact we have several guest bloggers waiting in the wings who have been YLP's winners. You see, winning helps, being Highly Commended helps, being Commended helps. It enhances your CV. Just entering helps because it encourages  you write to deadlines, and if you only enter to help the fund raising, who knows, it may even introduce you to a new hobby or career. 

So join those who have already entered this year's Words for the Wounded Writing Prize, give the W4W team the pleasure of reading your work whether it be poetry, fiction or non-fiction and help the rehabilitation of the wounded.

Rest assured that every penny raised from donations and entry fees goes towards the wounded.

We raise money separately for the prize money. Freddie Hodgson author of  Putney Ferret contributed generously this year and my son-in-law and his friend Lee endured a Triathlon for us. 

 Remember that this year the theme is The Journey and it can be fiction, non-fiction or poetry using no more than 400 words. Entry is £4.50. Please find out more details from our website.

Soon there will be a poetry blog but for now I hand you over to the lovely Jackie. - Margaret Graham.

Guest blog for W4W by Jackie Gingell.

Short story competitions are an amazing way to hone creative writing skills and there are countless competitions for writers to enter.  Words for the Wounded short story competition however is different and very special.  Words for the Wounded is unique in that entering it may not change your life but it most certainly will help to change someone else’s.  Don't forget that the competition this year is supporting Tedworth House Recovery Centre, in particular the Creative Arts Unit. But  remember that The Words for the Wounded Writing Prize also exists to reward genuine writing talent whether you are a short story writer or poet.

The subject matter of this year’s competition is “The Journey”, a title wide open to interpretation.  It could be a literal journey from A to B, an emotional journey, a rite of passage – the possibilities are endless.  The maximum word length is very specific – up to 400 words.  The discipline of having a limit is great for concentrating the mind and making sure that every word counts.

There are many approaches to short story writing – and I would highly recommend you look at Margaret Graham’s diagram for guidance whether you are a complete beginner or an experienced writer.

 Before I even start writing I will spend ages thinking about different interpretations of the theme.  When I have a rough idea what my story is about I then start to write.  For my first draft I don't worry too much about the length, getting the complete story written down is the priority.  Once this is done then the real fun begins - editing.  I know I may be a bit strange but for me editing is the best bit.  It is in these subsequent drafts (and there may be quite a few) that you need to be ruthless and check that words and phrases all function to do one  thing, to tell the story and to tell it well.  Let your dialogue and actions speak for themselves.

“Get out of my life” she shouted angrily.  The spoken words are strong enough so you don’t really need ‘she shouted angrily’ – 3 words saved. 

“He shrugged his shoulders” well what else would he have shrugged?  “Shrugging he …..” would not only suffice it doesn’t slow down the action – 2 words saved. 

These may seem quite trivial and small savings but trust me if you are ruthless enough they will all add up.  It is not just that in cutting out unnecessary words you are getting your word count down but in doing so you are making the story sharper and more readable.

Finally, having written your story put it to one side for a few days, forget about it, then go back and re-read it.  I bet you will find a few areas that can be improved upon.  When you’re finally happy that it is the best it can be send it off to W4W. 

My novel Ee Eye Addyeo (The Farmer Wants a Wife) started out as a short story, which turned into a novel.  Having written it I was at a loss of what to do or how to contact publishers and agents so I entered the first three chapters and synopsis into the Yeovil International Literary Prize.  It didn’t win but received the accolade of   “Highly Commended”.  This gave me the impetus to take it further.  I like to think that success in the Yeovil competition (and I mentioned it in every covering letter I sent out) meant that my manuscript was given a bit more consideration. So go ahead enter W4W competition and with its modest entry fee you could submit several entries.  Who knows where it could lead.

Jackie Gingell

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

STOP PRESS!!! 2nd W4W Writing Prize opens on Nov 11th. Read Santa Montefiore's tips to get you in the mood. by Margaret Graham

STOP PRESS!!!!  The second Words for the Wounded writing competition opens on 11th November 2013 and the closing date is not until 11th March so you have a nice long time. The entry fee is £4.50 and there is a 1st prize of £250, a 2nd of £100 and a 3rd of £50. Wonderful news! Writers' Forum are publishing the winners again.  Remember it can be poetry, fiction or non-fiction just so long as you don't exceed 400 words.

Also remember that to be a prize winner is good for a writer's cv.

Please go to Words for the Wounded to find out more about the competition and how you can enter  - we just love reading all the entries - or perhaps you'd just rather donate. Rest assured, every penny goes to the wounded for their rehabilitation. This year we have a theme: the journey. It can either be a physical or emotional journey.

To get you in the mood and cheer you on we are privileged to have some writing tips for you courtesy of one of our most successful authors, the lovely Santa Montefiore. Santa was the speaker at the Yeovil Literary Festival’s Literary Dinner (Seen here with Adam Bergen, Manager of The Octagon Theatre) and delighted everyone with her charm and hilarious literary anecdotes.

Santa Montefiore is the author of 14 bestselling novels and feels it’s her task to help us escape to sunnier shores whilst reminding us of all that’s stunning about England. Her novels are absorbing love stories that make us cry and laugh in equal measure.

She was born in England, growing up on a farm in Hampshire and was educated at a Dorset boarding school where one of her inspirational English teachers was our very own W4W team member Penny Deacon (Crime and Romance author).

Santa converted to Judaism in 1998 and married historian Simon Sebag Montefieore in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London.

She wrote her first novel as a teenager which was promptly rejected. As she says ‘I hadn’t yet found a good story.’

The story was waiting in the wings. Santa spent a year on an estancia in the Argentine pampa before university. She loved it, the country and the people, and one person in particular! After a year she returned to England and university but longed to go back to the place where she felt she had a ‘place’. In her university break she did just that, but everyone had moved on and she no longer fitted. She had her story.

That was 14 bestselling novels ago.

A few reviews:

Daily Telegraph: ‘A gripping romance. It is as believable as it is beautiful.’

Penny Vincenzi: ‘Engaging and charming.’

Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey. ‘Santa Montefiore really knows these people inside and out. I couldn’t put this book down.

The Times: ‘One of our personal favourites and bestselling authors, sweeping stories of love and families spanning continents and decades.’

Secrets of the Lighthouse is her most recent and you will love it. It’s one of those unputdownable reads.

Santa's tips.

1.  Write for yourself, not with a view to getting published.  This will release you from self-consciousness enable you to write from the heart without worrying what other people may think.

2.    Write from the heart with integrity, not contriving to write something ‘fashionable or marketable’ – if you love what you write and really enjoy doing it, the chances are you will be infectious and your reader will love it too.

3.    Write about what you know.  Don’t be too ambitious and research something that is well out of your experience.  Try to use what you already know, it’s more likely to be believable that way.

4.    Get it written then get it right.  You can spend months polishing and polishing the first chapter and never get any further. Just write the book, the whole thing, without looking back, and then, once you have the story down, you can play with it as much as you like.  I find that many people can write a chapter or two, but it takes discipline to write an entire book.  Push past the first few chapters, you might find your voice in the 6th chapter, in which case keep going, then rewrite the first 6 chapters afterwards if you need to.  The wonder of computers is you can delete and add so easily.

5.    Be inspired by writers you admire. Read their work and learn from them.

6.    Character is so important.  It’s the characters that drive the plot.  Take time to develop them and observe people around you – the world is full of quirky, eccentric people who make great copy!

7.    Never give up. You only need one agent and one publisher.  Listen to advice from people you respect and keep at it.  We’ve all had rejections, but we always kept going!

So there you have it. Wise words indeed from Santa. There are many other tips in our previous blogs, so get reading, and then writing, to help our wounded live their long lives in the best possible way.  

Monday, 21 October 2013

Yeovil Literary Festival - by Margaret Graham

It's high time I wrote about the stunningly successful Yeovil Literary Festival which began on 19th September. There was a terrific line up of writing stars including Tony Robinson, Sante Montefiore, Paddy Ashdown and Michael Morpurgo.  The event was organised by Adam Burgan, Manager of The Octagon, Marcus Bishop Manager of Yeovil Waterstones and Liz Pike, doyenne of the Yeovil Community Arts Association and Yeovil Literary Prize. 

Tony Robinson's session at The Octagon brought tears to the eyes of Marcus, my old mate and partner in crime. We used to do a lot of events together. The tears? He told me it was because Tony connected so effortlessly with the children and captured their imaginations. I missed it unfortunately as I was still on my way down from High Wycombe. Why is it that good things happen on the same day.
I was chairing a history event on my home territory and at lunch handed over to Sylvia, my Chair of Vice, as she likes to be called and galloped on down to Somerset. I made it just in time for the Literary Dinner hosted by the Yeovil Community Arts Association which I ran a few years ago, and of which I am Patron. It is now led by Liz Pike, who is a force of nature. Here she is, talking to Marcus and Hazel, the management team of Watersones, Yeovil.

Santa Montefiore was our speaker at the Literary Dinner held at The Manor Hotel. How very dare such a slim elegant package be such a funny, erudite and charming person. It's totally not fair. We all loved her
stories, and enjoy her books, the latest of which is Secrets of the Lighthouse. She is sitting here with Adam Burgen, my new best friend. He did the most amazing job with the Literary Festival and he and Sean, his assistant, steered it throughout the weekend. The Manor Hotel sponsored the dinner, the proceeds going to the YCAA, a charity that provides funds for the creative arts of the area. I found myself there in between sessions eating, having the odd glass of wine and enjoying the cappuccinos. I am known as a pain in the neck where cappuccinos are concerned, and The Manor passed with flying colours.

Tracy Baines and I ran a workshop and a number 1-2-1 editorial sessions on Saturday at The Octagon Theatre, in the Johnson Studio to raise funds for  Words for the Wounded. The standard of work was exemplary and the enthusiasm boundless. It's so exciting to meet aspiring authors who are willing to work hard to improve. It leads to a lot of fun and is always stimulating. There was quite a presence from the Yeovil Creative Writers (google Yeovil Writers) who go from strength to strength.

 Before that there was a celebratory reading at The Manor by past and present prize winners of the Yeovil Literary Prize, all of whom are now published. From the left, Kate Kelly, Jackie Gingell and Babs Morton. Kate and Jackie I know well, and Babs had come down from the North East for the occasion and I found myself sitting next to her at the Michael Morpurgo evening. The North East is my family's stamping ground and it was great to chat.
Joining them was this year's winner, Sion Wilson, here on the left,  who has written a cracking novel and we wish him all the best with it. We had several others reading their work, including Chip Tolson who came second in the Stage Play Prize judged by Julian Fellowes some years ago. This was organised by the YCAA with The Octagon Theatre. Later in the day Paddy Ashdown, one of Words for the Wounded's patrons talked about his book on the Cockleshell Heroes. A Brilliant Little Operation.  Read it, it's fascinating.
At the Manor whilst sipping a glass of wine with Shelagh Mazey, author of the successfully self-published Dawn to Deadly Nightshade I spied Steve Haigh, late of BBC Somerset Sound who has decided he doesn't do retirement and is working on The Conduit, a local arts magazine. There were so many authors and everyone fascinating but I missed far too many. It's tricky when you're actually working and you can only dip in from time to time. I will do better next year.

Finally Michael Morpurgo and a trio of singers put on a stirring narration of Private Peaceful on stage at The Octagon. Michael's funny, poignant and ultimately heartbreaking reading - well, acting - of his novel, interspersed by songs from the period was an extraordinary theatrical experience. I can honestly say that it was the most impressive theatre I have seen for many years, and a most satisfying finale to the first Yeovil Festival one could imagine. Of course I cried. I do wish I could do it elegantly but as Babs Morton, sitting next to me, would testify I am a noisy mess.

So, this has just been a taste of the Yeovil Literary Festival, which is to be the first of many. So readers and writers, do come next year. It was a total success and Yeovil is still buzzing. One day, if all you aspiring authors out there keep working, keep writing, keep entering competitions, keep developing your craft you will be one of the speakers, making us laugh, cry and nod in agreement.

Don't forget, Words for the Wounded writing competition will be open for entries on 11 November. WE NEED YOU!  Try your luck, support our wounded, sharpen those pens, flex those typing fingers and rev up your creative imaginations, remember the universal shape, strong characters, living breathing scenes. (Check some of our earlier tips and those below). See you next year at the Yeovil Literary Festival and allow me the privilege of reading your work at Words for the Wounded.

Our next blog will be by our guest Jackie Gingell who will include some of her own writing tips. Make sure you tune in.


Point of View

In my first novel, now called After the Storm and re-issued in August, there are times in scenes when I view the action from more than one person's point of view. Though this is often done in novel writing it is not a good idea because it weakens reader identification and empathy. Try to stay within one person per scene so the reader totally buys in to that one person's experience. For instance.

Annie wondered who this strange man was, reaching for her hand, his face white and sad. Archie looked at her, dear God, I would have passed my own child in the street.  

Here we are seeing the scene from two people's point of view.

It would have been more empathetic to have separated them and stayed with Annie until she had taken the hand, received her father's words. 'Hello Annie. I'm your father.' You would then remain with Annie absorbing her reactions and moving on through the scene to the end. At that point you could have a two line space and go into Archie's scene where we receive his feelings and thoughts on the subject.

This is especially important in a short story in which there is usually only one point of view.

Hope this is helpful.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Doing your bit for charity and more writing tips by Tracy Baines

Gosh, just the thought of listening to how someone has run a marathon is enough to exhaust me! I’d love to say I was one of these people who are the first to sign up for sponsored walks, runs or swims but I’m not.  In fact the last time I did a sponsored walk was in 1978. The day before, I bought myself a nice new pair of trainers, white with a red flash. First mistake. After 4 miles the skin was off my heels and the red flash was the blood seeping up my socks. The walk was through country lanes mostly, although I recall that the cluster of people I was with (the laggers) got lost, as we ended up walking through ploughed fields and surely that wasn’t on the route?  I soldiered on for the remaining 22 miles, my only panic that the organisers would leave without us. The sight of the coach waiting to take us home was such a relief I almost ran to it.  As I soaked in a hot bath that night,  wearing my socks – the only way I could get them off was to soak them and prise them away – I thought the worst was over. And it was, until the next morning when I could not bend my rigid legs and had to manoeuvre myself down our very steep stairs for breakfast. Not surprising that I never attempted another is it?

So in future, all my charitable efforts were mainly sedentary. Sponsored silences (very difficult), sponsored bakes, sponsored discos. I diligently collected old keys and bottle tops for the Blue Peter Appeal, year in, year out. I’ll put money in every charity box I pass,  get the stickers, buy fifteen poppies and fifteen pins each November. Anything that doesn’t involve trainers and I’m in.

That’s why I think having a writing prize is such a good thing. It gives those of us who want to do their bit for charity but aren’t of an athletic disposition a chance to get involved. You can contribute your words as well as your money – and you don’t get blisters!

Writing is a lot like running a marathon. The lesson I should have learnt all those years ago was to be prepared and to do my homework/training. I should have bought my trainers long before the walk and worn them in so that they were comfortable on the day - or better still bought some good strong walking boots. I should have started doing short walks over time and built my stamina and endurance for something more substantial. Writing's the same in many ways. You can't just dive in and expect to write a novel straight off. You might wander along a few wrong paths, get a few blisters but you're learning all the time, a better way to do things, a clearer way of expressing your thoughts and ideas.

Flash fiction is a great way of getting writing, letting those ideas pour out onto the page. But it's no less a skill than any other writing. You have to put the work in, get your bum on the seat and sit there, shaping your words until they express what you want to share with the world. Give yourself a head start on this year's competition and get laying those words down on the page. Get yourself in training, building your stamina, day by day. Don't leave it until the last minute like I did all those years ago. You'll get blisters.

So here are my tips for building stamina in your writing. Lots of people think you need to set aside two or three hours to write but that's not necessarily true. We all have busy lives and where are we going to find all those extra  minutes let alone hours? Start small and build up to longer sessions. We can all find ten minutes while we are standing at the bus stop, sitting in the car waiting to collect the kids from school or waiting for the kettle to boil. The trick is to have a pen and paper at the ready at all times so we can make use of those precious minutes. Try to make it a regular appointment with yourself, the same ten minutes, each and everyday. Once you have the habit of writing regularly you can extend that time to fifteen minutes, then twenty. Most people can write 200 words in ten minutes. Times that by 5 and you have 1,000 words - or two flash fiction entries to work on. What's stopping you! Get writing!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Read about crime fiction and enjoy some poetry tips from our W4W team member, author Penny Deacon.

My turn to say a few words on the blog. I did enjoy reading Liz’s entry about the Yeovil Literary Festival – coming up on September 19th. I’ve let the side down badly by not being around for it – in fact I’ll be in Portugal, sight-seeing with a friend who has a great taste for port, so you can guess what we’ll be drinking. We’re going to the north, Douro, region which neither of us knows well (vague memories of Peninsular War lessons for A Level history). Should be fun – but I’m very sorry to be missing the shenanigans in Yeovil. I promise to be around next year!
A few weeks ago I spent a week (I don’t know how I’ve managed two holidays this year, it seems that there’s just something about retiring from the salaried job which makes you want to wander off and - enjoy) on the Greek island of Skyros, on one of the writing courses which some of you may have seen advertised. I was a bit sceptical about this but I’d been feeling that the contemporary crime novel I’d been trying to write was going nowhere and when I heard that Sophie Hannah was running a course on crime fiction I just couldn’t resist. Well, I had a ball. The island is fabulous – too difficult to get to for most tourists, stunningly beautiful and the people are really friendly. The beaches are sandy and safe and what more could one want? Yes - a good writing course.

                 ‘The Skyros Experience is all about ‘finding yourself’ and there are courses in Art and Life Choices which help you do that; the Writers Lab, or my experience of it, was more about finding out whodunit. There were twenty of us altogether the week I went (and I had a fabulous room in the town, full of early Skyros furnishings and – possibly more important – with a great breeze blowing gently through windows at each end to keep out the mozzies and the heat) of whom there were 8 in the Writing Lab. It’s hard to explain exactly how Sophie taught, she seemed laid back but we all knew just how thoroughly prepared she was. She made us work, but it was fun and we all got involved in each other’s ideas as well as our own. Everyone seemed to find something positive to offer about each other’s work, and it helped that we were all at similar stages in our writing careers. And Sophie never made anyone read out anything they would prefer to keep quiet! We heard that she was involved in a top secret ‘project’ and managed to guess she’d been asked to write a sequel  to, or another instalment of, some famous (deceased) author’s work, but none of us guessed whose. Yesterday I heard on the Today programme: she’s writing another Poirot! I can’t wait to read it. Her plotting is as intricate and misleading as Christie at her best – but I cannot work out how she can write anything to follow Poirot’s last case in Curtain.  Just have to wait till next year to find out.
                Did the course help? Yes. Even though it meant I ditched the main character in my novel, because I realised I had the wrong viewpoint, and began to work on a much darker version of the same story. I also learned far more about plotting than I’d expected – Sophie never tells you that there’s only one way to do things, but she has ideas that get your own brain working. I used to begin a novel knowing how things started and ended with a vague idea of the ups and downs of the journey, now I’m considerably more organised (I have a Plan!) without feeling as though I’m in a straightjacket or that I know everything.  The book’s progressing steadily, and I’m finding some nice surprises along the way. If you’re stuck, my experience is that it can help to get right away from your desk (or wherever you write) and talk to strangers . If you can’t afford Greece, there are plenty of weekend options in this country, or think about the Winchester Writers' Conference.
                Writing’s a solitary occupation. We could probably all write a book about the ways in which we can delay getting down to it – if we weren’t too busy cleaning the cooker with a toothbrush or walking the neighbour’s dog (I don’t have one of my own).  Displacement activities can be great fun (or not, but when else would I clean my cooker so thoroughly?) but if you don’t want to write, it’s much better to do something more relevant and constructive and mingle with other writers. They might even stimulate you to scurry back to the laptop/PC/Mac/notebook and pen/pencil/stylus/quill. So why not find your nearest literary festival, or give yourself a short break at a writers’ workshop? You never know just what you’ll find out about your own writing.

Margaret Graham has also kindly (rashly?) asked me to offer some tips about poetry writing.  First admission: I am not a poet. I have, however, taught both the study of poetry and its writing. It’s funny that someone like me who does not have the true gift of poetry has sometimes been able to help students find their own voice and really sing. My advice is therefore taken from their experience as well as my own.
·         Following on from what I was saying about sharing your problems with sympathetic strangers: I am sure several of you belong to poetry groups. Have you ever tried open mic readings? They are public poetry readings and, if they are well run, you should get a knowledgeable audience and some interesting feedback.  Go along as audience at first, to test the waters, but don’t be afraid to give it a try.
·         You always carry a notebook and pencil (or pen) with you, don’t you? Of course you do. Inspiration might strike at any time. But why wait for inspiration? Help your brain get into the habit of poetry. Set yourself a daily exercise. It helps if it’s themed. Get one of those thin notebooks and title it with your theme. Journeys, perhaps. Daily, over coffee or before breakfast, take ten or twenty minutes to write something – it may just be an image, it may be a sonnet, it may be a list of details that might mark a journey (physical or emotional). Choose your words with care but avoid thinking ‘this is a poem’. Give yourself a limit of perhaps a month on this single topic and don’t reread anything until that month is up. Go back to it after thirty days – you will be surprised what jewels lie in the dust of that journey.
·         Whether you write free verse or more formal  poetry is, of course, your choice. It is useful, however to know about the formal styles. You should know about couplets and sonnets and ballads and blank verse and rondeaus. A good exercise is to try to put an idea into a more formal version if you normally write in free verse, and into free verse if you usually choose something more formal. This can be surprisingly liberating although most people initially expect it to be constricting. Poets like Carol Ann Duffy move between forms to suit what she is saying.
·         Try removing all punctuation (including capital letters), take out the line and stanza breaks if you dare.  Now go back to the poem after you’ve had a day or two to have forgotten exactly what you originally did. Read what you have written and see where you think the punctuation falls. Compare your two versions and see which you prefer and why. You might try this with another poet’s work – when you’ve done it, try to see why the poet might have made the choices he or she did.
These are all exercises to keep the mind limber. A bit like doing your stretches before you go for a run (and, no, I seldom go for runs – but I know a man who does). I hope you find at least one that you find enjoyable. Unlike stretches.
Enjoy your writing!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Yeovil Literary Festival by our guest blogger, Liz Pike

In this blog you will find Margaret Graham's writing tips at the bottom and lovely Liz Pike has agreed to write about the Yeovil Literary Festival and the fundraising opportunities for Words for the Wounded. Now, let's hear from Liz Pike.

Thank you W4W for inviting me to contribute to your super-dooper blog.  Yes, for my sins, I’ve attempted to follow in Margaret and Penny Deacon’s prestigious footprints, and administer, along with five others,the Yeovil Community Arts Association and the Yeovil Literary Prize.

So here goes…  

My goodness!  I’m buzzing like a bee, and fizzing like frothy Champagne bubbles.  You’re asking why? Well, something long-anticipated and special is about to happen here in Yeovil.

It seems aeons ago that several of us expressed a wish to put Yeovil on the map with it’s very own Literary Festival.  When lots of different people all have the same dream, the movers and shakers among them work like billy-o to make it happen. Well, it is going to happen this September.

Yes, aeons ago, although time flies in the literary world, Margaret Graham was the inspiration for this festival idea.  No matter how much people dream, without an experienced and recognisable voice to bring ideas together, a ‘well, no one listens, so it won’t happen’ state of mind can ferment. Margaret was our voice at the time.  Also, I’m an avid gardener, so when seeds are sown, no matter how long it takes, I’ll wait for the flowers and fruits of my labour.

It also takes teamwork to start something really big. Adam Burgan, Manager of The Octagon Theatre, Pauline Burr, Arts Development Officer with SSDC.  Marcus Bishop of Waterstones, and the Yeovil Community Arts Association, have been instrumental in pushing hard to make our festival materialise.  The venues for this prestigious (yes, I’ve seen the programme) literary festival are The Octagon Theatre, and The Manor Hotel, both in Hendford, Yeovil.  The local library and our beloved Waterstones will also host an event each.

As I mentioned – yes, it’s my main topic of conversation at the moment – there will be something for everyone.  History, gardening, personalities, poetry, music and sport are available, as well as lovely literary events with well-loved and new authors. Children welcome, as they can become literary astronauts in a Kate Kelly workshop, or learn about pop-up books with PaulStickland.

The Yeovil Literary Festival will open on Thursday 19th September at 7pm at The Manor Hotel, with the Yeovil Community Arts Association – YCAA – Literary Dinner.  After a Champagne Reception, the Mayor, Cllr Manny Roper will open the Festival.  There will be a three-course dinner, and our guest speaker is the wonderful writer, Santa Montefiore. I’m sure you’ve read all her past novels but she has a new one out now, so buy it and enjoy some good summer reading.

Come along to see the wonderful links the YCAA has forged with Words for the Wounded.  We will have Lord Ashdown, much loved Paddy to the people of Yeovil, with his lovely wife, Jane, as well as our Patron and Founder of the Yeovil Literary Prize, and Margaret Graham, among the 100 guests for dinner. The Yeovil Community Arts Association is a charity which will benefit from this event.  All proceeds are ploughed back into the local  community for cultural and art activities.

On Friday evening you can hear Paddy Ashdown talk about his book on the daring ‘Cockleshell Heroes’’ activities in WW2, at the Manor Hotel, where Margaret will also be with some leaflets about the charity and writing competition,

Book events early, like Michael Morpurgo, reading Private Peaceful with a capella singers creating the atmosphere of WW1. The film will also be shown on the Sunday. Jeremy Hardy, much loved BBC Radio 4 wit;  Anne Swithinbank for gardeners; DavidGower will enthral all cricket fans, and Wendy Cope will entertain poetry fans with tea at The Manor Hotel. However you feel about the A303, Tom Fort will give his impression of it.

An event we, the YCAA,  are particularly pleased about will take place at 11am on Friday 20th September.  The Yeovil Literary Prize is very proud of its past winners, and several of them are coming to read a ‘bit of their writing’, to show you that something which starts out as a wisp of an idea, grows, is committed to paper, entered into the Yeovil Literary Prize writing competition, and, before you know it (not really, as its hard work), your book is published. Each winner has their success story to tell, so come along and listen.

Margaret and Tracy Baines are giving a workshop to aspiring writers and will also give a 1-to-1 critique to writers who submit manuscripts beforehand to the YCAA, The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, BA20 1UX. The fees will be £15 for a novel and £5 for a short story. Cheques payable to the YCAA please, but all the proceeds will be split between the Words for the Wounded and the YCAA charities.  Everyone will benefit from this aspect of the festival.

The details will be on the Octagon and websites and tickets can be reserved from Monday 19th August. Take note of the timing for sending manuscripts to Margaret and Tracy please. All tickets for this burgeoning Yeovil Literary Festival must be booked via the box office of The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, Tel No. 01935 422884.  If you are a member of the YCAA, please mention it as there is a reduction in the ticket price.

Thanks so much Liz. Can't wait to see everyone again, and lots of new faces.

Now, onto some writing tips. We were discussing short stories last time. This time I thought we'd look at the basic shape and components that need to be in every piece of fiction. 

So here is the shape. It is, and should be, the shape of all fiction, including drama, though in a short story it would stop at the climax. The components required are: a plot, which is the vehicle that carries the story and characters. These include a main character, secondary characters who are either mentors or antagonists, and minor characters who are the ones who are the spear carriers of fiction. There is setting and tension. Tension is enormously important - and provides the page turning element. By tension I mean obstacles that are placed in the way of our characters. They can be obstacles created by the personality of the characters, or the environment, or other characters. The theme is the underlying message.

I'm now going to talk through Cinderella to show how all this works.

Cinderella is the main character. The story opens in her normal world but at the point of change. Her friend Buttons (in the pantomime version) is there in support. He is a Mentor/Secondary character. He is supporting her against the step-sisters and step-mother, who are Antagonistic/Secondary characters.

A Point of Change occurs - an invitation to the ball is delivered. Will Cinderella attempt to go? She wants to in order to show that she is included in the family and loved(she is, after all, the Baron's real daughter) and also to reclaim her position in society.  Of course the Steps put obstacles in her way, which gives us the tension we need, and they finally pull the plug at the last minute, and go to the ball without her, even though Cinderella has done everything asked of her.

Lo and behold a Fairy Godmother steps up and does amazing things with a wand, (oh, if only!) so off she goes to the ball in a stunner of a frock and falls in love with the prince and he with her. So her aim is achieved  - she has found love, and position. It is at this point that a short story would end. The climax has been reached.

However, this is not a short story, and we are at the stage in the theatre where we would have an interval, approximately two thirds of the way through. Things go wrong, the clock strikes twelve, all seems lost, but is it? The glass slipper survives. The main character has to struggle again to achieve their aim. You see, the reader needs to empathise with the main character, and life isn't smooth. Just when we think things are achievable there's usually another glitch and we have to get up and at it again. So, will Cinderella be happy, achieve love and status, or not? In today's story she'd be out there trying to find the prince, but Cinderella was written in a different time and place, so the Prince has to find her, which he does. Finally she tries on the glass slipper and all is well. So this is the story, the shape. But what haven't I mentioned? The theme or underlying message.
 think we all view stories from our own perspective and put our own themes into them. I suggest that the underlying theme, or message is injustice. Without a theme to address a story is weak. We need to think about what is really going on.

So that's it in a nutshell. When you are reading try and notice the tension, the obstacles, the hesitations, the roles the characters take. Antagonists can become Mentors, the Mentors can become Antagonists. Just be aware of the use to which they're being put, and you will be able to transfer this to your own work.

I hope you've found this helpful. Next time we will talk about point of view. But if there is anything you would like us to discuss, do let us know through 'comments' and we will, with great pleasure.

Perhaps we'll see you at the Yeovil Literary Festival. Do come and say 'Hi.'

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Fundraising in Yeovil, Somerset. Then and now. by Margaret Graham

I'm talking about past and present fundraising, plus I've added some writing tips, to cheer you on towards entering our competition!

Some years ago I lived in Yeovil in Somerset and was patron of the Yeovil Community Arts Association. Sadly the council decided to withdraw funds - well they did have many calls on their budget. In an effort to keep the YCAA going in some form I set up the Yeovil Literary Prize to bring in funds helped by Jim Mitchell, an ex-student of mine.

Unable to afford the Arts Centre premises we were invited to set up our stall at The Octagon, Yeovil's professional theatre. So the YCAA together with the Yeovil Literary Prize trotted up the road with our spotted red handkerchief, just the two of us then, and voluntarily administered the Prize and the Association , (I was still writing novels to a tight deadline and had children - and trust me, I learned a great deal about time management!). Dear John White and Grant Sellen, the Octagon management team were great friends to YCAA - and such a laugh. There was always someone to talk to when problems occurred, and oh yes, dear reader, how they occurred.

Pretty soon there was a cracking committee to help and we incorporated an Events programme called the Prose Cafes, at the Octagon. We added yet again to this with the annual Booker Debate, in which Marcus Bishop of Waterstones provided the short-listed novels for a panel of celebrities who gave their opinion of the books at the Booker Debate Evening at the theatre, in advance of the decision of the Booker judges.

Julian Fellowes
Fay Weldon and Julian Fellowes (W4W patron) were just two of the panellists who joined us and somehow everything always ended up being not only interesting but incredibly good fun. We also ran a Stage Play Prize which Julian Fellowes judged, the winner of which was given a week long run at the Octagon. All these activities were not only fundraisers but created a strong arts presence. The main fundraising thrust however continued to be The Yeovil Literary Prize. The funds we raised went straight out again to various exhibitions, or in the form of bursaries. Any and all applications were considered, and many of the winners were set on the road to a writing career.
Penny Deacon

Penny Deacon, one of W4W trustees and author of A Thankless Child, sequel to A Kind of Puritan (pub. Creme de la Crime and as e-books by Creative Content)  took over when I moved from Yeovil, and then when she also moved, Liz Pike, artist, writer and
Liz Pike
one of my ex-students ran with it and, boy, has it continued to flourish.

One of our dreams back then, and I remember so clearly all the talks I had with Marcus about it, was a Yeovil Literary Festival. And it is to happen!!!  The wonderful Adam Burgen the present manager of The Octagon, Marcus Bishop of Waterstones, and Liz Pike, Administrator of the Yeovil Literary Prize have banded together and created magic. It's here. It starts on 19th September. It has stunning events. It finishes on 22nd September.

And what's more, it includes fundraising events for W4W, so here I am, back in the present, working with Yeovil again! Wonderful, and they thought they'd got rid of me!

Tracy Baines
To huge excitement, W4W team member, Tracy Baines, successful commercial short story writer and I have been invited to run not just a writers' workshop but also 1-2-1 interviews and critiques for aspiring writers, the proceeds of which will be shared between the YCAA and W4W. What's more we will be in evidence with our flyers to tell people more about ourselves. So, after Winchester Writers Conference we now add Yeovil Literary Festival as venues that are helping our wounded. We are very thrilled.
Margaret Graham being thrilled!
More details will be posted next week when Liz Pike will guest on the blog and at that stage we can all book the events we fancy.

In addition, mad old trouts that we are, Jan - my friend from school who is coming onto the W4W team, and I, have decided we WILL do a sky-dive in aid of W4W next spring. But details of that very much later on - we need to make clear even at this stage though that we will be paying for our 'trip' 'plummet' or whatever ones wants to call it, ourselves so that every penny raised in sponsorship goes to W4W. Good timing - I have some novels coming out over the next couple of years, new and reprints, starting with Maeve's Afternoon Delight (e-book) a couple of months ago and  After the Storm (Random House) this month so no problem with funding that little adventure.

I can't wait to hear more about this crackin' festival next week from Liz Pike, when she will tell us of the talks, concerts and dinners that have been arranged. Will have to start thinking of a frock.

In the meantime, the team here thought that as Words for the Wounded is very much to do with writing, we would start to include writing tips within the blog. This will perhaps help you gain enough confidence to enter Words for the Wounded Writing Prize, and the Yeovil Literary Prize. Two very different beasts but all with the same aim in mind - raising funds for good causes. I'm kicking off with a nod at the basic techniques. Tracy will chat at some stage about marketing commercial short stories and other related issues, and Penny Deacon, a W4W team member, about poetry and crime fiction. I'll just flop about with the basics, the publishing world, and generally we'll all be chipping in here and there.

So here we go for starters.

 The short story.

When writing a short story keep in mind The Three Unities. Unity of person (there is only one main character) Unity of Place (the action should take place in one setting) Unity of Time (you may reflect backwards or forwards but the present action should take place at one moment in time).

In this way you are writing a contained but complete story. Just remember that a short story is a moment in time, not a saga dealing with one person's issue. You just need to think carefully about what you really want to say. Is is about dementia as chosen by Janet Scrivens, our third place winner, but shown through a moment in time in the life of a woman?

Is it about a change in circumstances? Perhaps an event occurs which changes the main character's way of life?

Whatever it is, the short story needs to follow certain structural rules, starting in the normal world, and at a point of change. I will explain more about this during the next blog. It will involve looking briefly at Cinderella! Then there is the pesky little thing called show not tell. You might have noticed I said when referring to Janet's story, Twilight, shown through a moment in time...

And do remember, that being placed in writing competitions does help an aspiring writer's CV.

So, there you are everyone. As you can see we're all beavering away here, thinking of ways to encourage you into writing. We can't wait to read the end products when we open for entries in November.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Eton Dorney Triathlon by Margaret Graham

The Eton Dorney Triathlon 21 July 2013

My fantastic son-in-law Kris Dore and his equally amazing mate, Lee Read, volunteered to participate in the Eton Dorney Triathlon to raise funds for Words for the Wounded, in particular to raise funds for the prize money for the W4W writing competition. A fair bit of training took place during some of the hottest weather recently and the language was interesting!

The big day came and the weather continued in its glorious vein - baking hot. I went with 'him indoors', and Martin, father of Megan and Josie, two of the grandchildren and avid supporters of Words for the Wounded, (and ice cream). Once there, after a diversion to admire the scenery (or because we were lost - the Sat Nav not deemed necessary by him who must be obeyed - ho hum) the air of excitement all around was palpable, and already the earlier races were underway. Our heroes were doing the sprint at 1.30.

We'd packed a picnic of course. I find that I (Margaret-greedy-Graham )can't go anywhere without 'just in case' supplies. Do I really think I will totally starve in a couple of hours? Well, clearly yes. This is why I take massive supplies if I drive for any length of time. We settled near the swimming starting line, (it's the lake used for the 2012 Olympic rowing) dashed to the portable loos - best no comment here but one day I will write a guide to the best, and bumped into Kris, Lee, Annie and Michelle so all ended up around the picnic. There, you see, I was right to bring it!
Then the lads donned wet suits, and were off.
We couldn't spot them in amongst the thrashing of arms but it seemed a long long way. Apparently the temperature was close to twenty two degrees in the water which gives some indication of the temperatures during our little burst of summer. I have to say that Meg and I who were the photographers of the group gave loud cheers to the women too who were giving their all and doing incredibly well. But back to our boys: we saw them leave the lake in the middle of the pack, stripping off their wetsuits as they ran for the bikes. They said that the change overs were the trickiest of all. Then off for their laps, in the searing heat with us cheering them on, and trying to take photos. So swift were they that Meg and I had rather a lot of blank spots, and could only say - that should have been Lee, or Kris!
Kris before he became a blank space!
They pulled up a fair bit of time on the cycling and then they were into the run. By this time we were wondering how much longer we, the cheer leaders, could cope with the heat so what must it have been like for the athletes?
How on earth our boys did it I don't know, but they moved up many places during the run and crossed the finishing line pretty near the front of the pack and within seconds of one another, feeling pretty rough, it has to be said. Our ice cream queens joined them for a photograph wearing the W4W T shirts. Congratulations didn't quite include sharing the cones. Ah well!
AND there was £280 in the pot for W4W. Stunning stunning effort. Words for the Wounded is so grateful. Only problem now is that Jan and I have to come up with something we can do next year. Sky Diving, or a L-O-N-G walk along the length of the Thames, even wing walking has been suggested. Hardest of all is a sponsored silence but we must stay within the realms of possibilities! Thank you to everyone who donated and to our heroes - bravo!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Great work being done to raise money for W4W! by Margaret Graham

My son-in-law, Kris Dore, has not only dug a couple of flower beds for the dreaded in-laws, he's now joined forces with his mate, Lee Read to take part in the 21 July Eton Dorney Triathlon to raise funds for Words for the Wounded!  If you'd like to contribute to the fundraising, please click on this virgingiving link.

We are just so grateful to these strong young men who are training, training, training, and somehow fitting it around their jobs. Why are they doing it? Because they know the difference every penny makes to the wounded. Last year it was Matt Pain, my son (and a W4W trustee) who did the Lanzarotte Ironman to raise funds. Where would we be without these fantastic youngsters. I have to say that the remains of the team, Penny Deacon, Tracy Baines and moi, all ever so slightly beyond the first flush of youth,  are now looking at one another wondering if it will be our turn next. Lordy. Anyone for a toddle around the park?

In fact I can remember doing a cycle ride around Israel some years ago now to raise money for Action Research. I did it with Chris Hancock, my Somerset neighbour, where I lived then. Neither of us had been on a bike for ages. (What possessed us? One of those 'why not' moments obviously). In fact, I don't think I had pushed the pedals since I was 8.

Good grief, the palaver once the panic had set in. First my saddle had to be considered. It ended up looking and feeling more like a sofa after Dick and I had inserted all sorts of foam rubber under the totally inadequate saddle cover I had bought to ease the situation. Chris was far more stoic and just got on with it.  As the trip was to be on and off road we trained for almost a year, on and off road. Perhaps not as either Kris or Matt would but it suited us. We cycled for miles and miles around the roads and lanes of Somerset equipped with all that we might need: sandwiches, flasks of tea and coffee, the odd Mars bars and yes, in there too, was the kitchen sink. All stuffed into our panniers. Never been fitter, or with heftier thighs. We were ready to take on the world, as long as we had access to our nibbles.

Just before we went we struck lucky because we saw a snippet on the TV about a bloke who had devised a saddle-post that included a double shock absorber and wrote to him, wondering if we could have one each, for free. Bless him and his wife, the answer was YES. It made the sofa even more comfy.

Once in Israel we had to use the bikes provided. My saddle-post fitted. Chris's did not. I am ashamed to admit I did not offer to swap. No way. Off we went, with the 80 or so others. There were 8 women and a huge number of young men in lycra who I doubt we'd recognise at any reunion as we became inordinately familiar with their black lycra clad bums roaring away into the distance. We came to dread the call of the leaders. 'A slight undulation ahead.' Which meant a mountain. We stayed in kibbutz. We ate together. We felt we'd die halfway through each afternoon as the miles built up and so too the heat as there was an unexpected heatwave. We saw the most amazingly fertile country, with its almond groves, its irrigated fields. We dipped into the Dead Sea and there was an unseemly rush into the waters of an oasis during one exhausting morning. What's more, neither Chris nor I ended up in the dreaded coach that followed, picking up stragglers. It was a life changing experience. It made us realise that if we put in the work we could probably pull things off.

So, here we are today with Words for the Wounded doing its bit to help those so sorely hurt; mentally or physically. Thank you to our own young men who are helping -it moves us and makes us proud.

And it's not just Kris, Lee and Matt who are helping, but Matt's friend, Freddie Hodgson author of Putney Ferret has sponsored us for over £200 towards next year's prizes.

Problems with the upcoming generation? I think not.

So, with the help of everyone out there, we'll go on donating to the cause.

In the meantime, be thinking of 'Your journey', which is the theme of our next writing prize because not everyone is an athlete, or a cyclist (!), but  have other strengths. Whoever and whatever you are, don't forget the lads and lasses who are struggling in the aftermath of their experiences.

Keep training Kris and Lee, we're with you in spirit. I do have a comfy saddle and I,  Margaret Graham bequeath it to you if you feel the need..!

with hea

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

How Rock Choir kick-started Words for the Wounded

A couple of years ago I watched an episode of Harry's Arctic Heroes. After which, as the daughter of an RAF bloke, I wanted to do something to help the rehabilitation of wounded troops, but what? The following week I was sitting at a Rock Choir rehearsal in a quiet moment (rare but it happens!) and pondered Caroline Redman Lusher, the founder of what has become a cracking national Rock Choir. Caroline, a successful solo artist, - see her on the left - was intent on providing an outlet for those who wanted to take part in performance singing but who were scared to death of auditions. That's me, and many like me. From small beginnings this impressive professionally trained musician has created a new singing culture with over 16000 members around the country and it's still growing.
Back then, as we stood to sing under our High Wycombe leader's, (Katy Seath), amazing and amusing direction, I knew that of course, as an author and creative writing tutor,  I could do something. Nothing as big initially perhaps, but something. So I borrowed an idea from my founding of the charitable Yeovil Literary Prize and dreamed up Words for the Wounded which raises money for the rehabilitation of wounded troops through writing competitions and donations. I chatted about it to Tracy Baines, a successful commercial fiction writer, Penny Deacon, another author, and Matt Pain, and we decided it would work. Not to mention Dick Graham, (him indoors) who, crucially, agreed to do our website. We had a founding team. We gathered up amazing patrons such as Julian and Emma Fellowes, Paddy Ashdown, Lt Ian Thornton, Katie Fforde, Elizabeth Buchan, Katharine McMahon and many others. But we had no-one from the music world. Would Caroline Redman Lusher join us?

Indeed she would, and has been enormously generous in her offers of support ever since. Yesterday at the 02 Arena I was there at the Rock Choir Concert, not as a singer as I should have been, but as a guest of Caroline's, representing Words for the Wounded. You can see how much I'm enjoying myself. We took a photo of me with Caroline but our new iphone 'jacket' subverted the flash so you're stuck with me and a glass of wine, toasting you all.
It was an awe-inspiring evening. There was not a spare seat in the Arena, our leaders and Caroline sang on stage for 3 hours in total, and so did the Rock Choirs and their families, and so did I. Margaret Graham rocked!
So much can be achieved if we believe in what we do. Caroline believes in the power of performance choirs, and we at Words for the Wounded believe that those who enter our competitions can change the lives of servicemen,(every penny of the entry fee goes to them). Not only that, our entrants can grow their own talents and if they win W4W Writing Prize, they have that accolade for their CVs. Remember, if you don't want to write, then you can always donate. Our troops need us. Last year we had 425 entries. This year, let's follow Caroline's example and grow, and the same again and again with every passing year. Thank you Caroline, for your support, your generosity and for your vision that has brought so much joy to so many singers! And thank you, all our supporters out there. Let's continue to make a difference.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Battle Back Are Receiving Funds From Your Entry Fees

Well, this first year has whizzed by and we are ready to write our cheque for Battle Back who will receive £1800 of funds from our 2012 Words for the Wounded writing prize. Every penny raised from your entries goes direct to helping our wounded personnel.
The Battle Back programme is a UK Military initiative funded by Help for Heroes. Battle Back uses Adaptive Adventure Training and Sports Rehabilitation to help seriously wounded Service personnel participate in sporting activities – and we’re not talking tiddlywinks here! The sky’s the limit, literally, and the ingenuity and courage of both trainers and sportsmen is incredible. The focus is all about what can be achieved not what can’t. Confidence and independence soars with regular sporting activity.
The Battle Back scheme was formally launched on 28 July 2008, exactly 60 years after Sir Ludwig Guttmann created the first Stoke Mandeville Disabled Games.
Not everyone wants or feels able to run a marathon, bungee jump or abseil down a block of flats. Physical activity may not be your forte and so other sponsored events to contribute may pass you by (especially if you’re anything like me!).
So sharpen your brains and your pencils and get ready for this year’s competition.
This year we have a theme - The Journey. This could be a physical journey, an emotional, or a mental journey, a flight of fancy. Take it as you will and use it to create a piece of flash fiction, fact, or poetry, you decide, but remember the 400 word limit. Give us a flash!