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.