This is the time of year when many traditions are upheld, of course, but I think the best involve getting together with friends to celebrate something you have in common.
For me, this winning combination works so well with the Bridge House Celebration Event held this year at St. John’s Church, Waterloo, in London on Saturday, 7th December 2019.
Thankfully, the train strike was not an issue. Generally, the trains to and from Waterloo are running hourly, rather than half hourly. You have to change at Bournemouth to get to Weymouth or at Bournemouth to get to Waterloo and the last trains of the evening are leaving Weymouth or London earlier than normal. For more details do see the SWR website.
The Benefits of Meeting Other Writers
As well as celebrating the launches of The Best of Cafelit 8 and Nativity, I get to meet up with friends whom I keep in contact with via social media for the rest of the year. Social media has its merits and keeping in contact with friends like that is one of the best, but there is nothing to beat getting together in person.
I met up with some of those friends for the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition event in the summer but, all the same, twice a year – well it isn’t a lot and I try to make the most of such get-togethers. I find them an enormous boost to morale and of course there is nothing like chatting to another writer.
They really do understand the joys and frustrations of writing and trying to be published/published again/selling your work as nobody else can, I think. They particularly understand what drives you to write in the first place (and yes I would classify it as a compulsion). Most of the time you are at your desk alone writing after all.
It was also lovely to meet in person people recently published for the first time by Bridge House Publishing and Cafelit. Again an asset to social media is you can feel you already know the person concerned before you get to meet them in person. Funnily enough, it helps break the ice when you do meet face to face.
J.K. Rowling famously used a cafe for writing the first draft of her first Harry Potter story. I prefer to write while on the train and I kept up that tradition this time. I managed two new flash fiction stories, posts I write on my author and book pages on Facebook, a blog post which is book related for Goodreads, which I write once a week, and drafted a piece for a non-fiction book I’m working on, so I was well pleased with that.
As a kid, whenever I went anywhere by any form of transport, I had to be able to look out of the windows. I wanted to see the world. Now, I am quite happy to get on with writing, especially since for this trip it was pitch black outside when I went up and the same again when I came home. So no admiring the lovely Hampshire countryside for me on this trip.
Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event
The Bridge House event gives the publisher a chance to bring us up to date with news and set themes for forthcoming anthologies. Yes, we get a head start if we choose to use it!
We also have a speed “dating” exercise where, for about two to three minutes, we have to talk to someone new about any aspect of reading and writing and then move on to talk to someone else. This is getting more difficult, not in the sense of finding things to say, but many of us meet up before the event for a scrumptious pub lunch, which is a tradition I am only too happy to uphold (!), but it means I’ve already chatted to several attendees before the event starts! Still, it’s a nice problem to have…
Then several of us read from our work. I chose to read a couple of pieces from From Light to Dark and Back Again and three new stories which I hope will eventually make it into my second flash fiction collection.
The range of stories and extracts read represented a good range of styles, though you would think we writers are a bloodthirsty lot, given how many we killed off in our tales! (My weapon was by dragon for one of my stories!). The quality of the stories was very high and it was a pleasure to be read to as well as to read myself. I do think “grown-ups” (the jury’s out on me!) miss out on the joy of being read to, though audio books are wonderful here (and I highly recommend them).
Taking Pictures for your Friends
A big thank you to Paula Readman and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use some of their photos here. One of the difficulties of being in an event is you can’t take any pictures of yourself reading work for publicity purposes. You really do need your friends for that one. (And Janet Williams, bless her, very kindly took those at my railway book signing event a couple of years ago).
So if you have a writer friend and you’re wondering how you can support them, consider taking pictures for them at their events as that is a great way of helping out. And good shots can be reused on websites etc later so if you can help writer friends out this way, do say. I’m sure they’ll be keen to take you up on it!
Books, Glorious Books!
Of course one tradition all writers are very keen on is the fact this is the biggest and busiest time of year for selling books. We want to encourage books to be given as gifts as much as possible for obvious reasons but also we all share a love of reading that goes far beyond our own works.
No one writer can cater for all tastes in reading (which is another reason why I’ve felt for a long time no writer is ever in competition with another. I can only write as me. Writer X can only write as Writer X. Yes, you can copy a writer’s style but for me this comes across only as a pastiche. Those I’ve felt are best served up rarely and kept short. Whenever I read a story by someone else, I want to find out what it is they have to say through their characters. I don’t want, at that point, to listen to anyone else mimicking them!
The Waterloo Arts Festival ebooks I’ve had work in proves my point here. All entries to this competition have to stick to 1000 words and the same theme, which becomes the title of the ebook. There have been 15 to 16 very different stories and styles in both the Waterloo Arts Festival ebooks produced by Bridge House Publishing so far. I tend to represent the humorous fairytale contingent!
I love the Icelandic tradition of people being given new books on Christmas Eve and they then spend the night reading and relishing hot chocolate! That tradition is brilliant and the sooner it becomes entrenched here, the better! What a way to support writing, bookshops, and have a wonderfully relaxed lead into Christmas Day itself.
So then from Saturday’s event, I’ve now got two new themes to write stories to which will be fun to tackle. I am working on bigger projects, including a non-fiction book at the moment, but I like to write flash fiction and short stories to (a) mix up what I write as that keeps things really interesting for me and (b) writing shorter work makes a good “break” from writing the longer pieces.
Indeed it has been a tradition for me for some time to mix up what I write and to intersperse short works with longer ones. And, of course, writing for CFT means I get a weekly dose of non-fiction to write too.
In a way every writer has to set their own traditions based on what works well for them. Which writing events will you go to? How will you organise your writing to make the most of the time you’ve got available for it? Another lovely aspect of going to events is by getting to talk to other writers, you will find out how they do things and some of their tips may be of direct use to you.
It is also rather lovely when you can give tips that help others. There is a lot of paying it forwards and backwards in the writing community and long may that fantastic tradition continue!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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