The End of an Era: Fishguard/Caerleon Summer Writers’ Holiday

Francesca waves a fond farewell to the summer Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard and takes a trip down memory lane

During my stay at the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard this July, I was very sad to learn that it would be the last such summer event. I’ve attended the summer Writers’ Holiday every year since 2008, when it was still being held in Caerleon. It switched venues in 2014. Here, in no particular order, (apart from vaguely chronological) are some photo memories, some of the venue, some of the area, some of trips during the ‘holiday’ (we all used to work jolly hard, honestly!). Some people seem to be missing from my photos, and some years I can’t locate at all, for which I apologise.  I’m not putting names to anybody, but if you spot yourself in a photo, or you have your own memories of the Writers’ Holiday, feel free to leave a comment. 

Huge thanks, as always, to Anne and Gerry Hobbs for all the hard work and devotion they put into the event over the thirty plus years – for all the courses, after-teas, talks, trips out, pick-ups, choir evenings and everything else they and their family organised. So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, hwyl fawr. Though of course, it’s not entirely the end…

 

 

…No, it’s not the end of Writers’ Holiday altogether, as the February weekend event will still be running. It will now also  feature the wonderful Cwmbach Male Choir, who’ve entertained us all these years at the summer event. More details here.

@FCapaldiBurgess

 

I Have A Dream…

Francesca and Elaine make plans for the coming year.

Francesca: So, it’s 2016 and time to fill diaries and make lists of goals. I never make ‘resolutions’ as such. I have an idea at the beginning of January of what I’d like to achieve, then revise it constantly throughout the year, depending on what opportunities come along, or alternatively, which have been lost.

Things don't always work out the way we've planned.

Things don’t always work out the way we’ve planned.

First of all there are goals which, by working hard, I can achieve by myself. These include finishing the current novel in progress, writing/reviving/revising more short stories, and maybe even some articles. 

Then there are the other goals, achievable but a little less tangible, ones that also need the input of others. I’m talking about actually being published. Naturally I’ve got to put in a good percentage of the effort by finding the right markets and getting whatever is required sent off (and making sure I’ve read the guidelines thoroughly). But the outcome is also in the lap of the publishing gods, so to speak. Experience has taught me that you win some and you lose some. Sometimes you nearly win but fall at the final hurdle. Either way there’s always the next submission or project to get on with along with valuable lessons learnt.

A busy year of writing and workshops requires lots of notebooks.

A busy year of writing and workshops requires lots of notebooks.

Luckily the job isn’t all about being hidden away in a writer’s garret: there are many events to pencil into the calendar that aid and stimulate the writing process. There’s a writing retreat in May, the Hay Festival, the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard and possibly another retreat towards the end of the year. In between I’ll be attending various RNA events, including the local chapter meetings, and continue with classes at The Write Place. All these occasions serve different yet equally valid services, whether it’s to learn skills, meet publishing professionals for advice and/or networking, have a sustained quiet period to write or simply schmooze with fellow writers.

However, I am going to miss many of these events if I don’t acquire a diary. Six days into January and I am still without. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with blog partner Elaine, but first I will need to take a trip to the diary shop…

@FCapaldiBurgess

Elaine: It’s difficult to believe 2015 is over. In my case it didn’t end with a bang; it didn’t even end with a slight fizz. Due to illness, the whole New Years Eve celebrations passed me by and the beginning of 2016 has not been any better, culminating in me missing my aunt’s 100th birthday. However, I’m going to be an eternal optimist and say things can only get better, because 2016 is going to be a special time for me.

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call.

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call at an RNA event.

I have been writing for several years now but I’ve always had to fit it around a full time job, but on March 24th I am taking early retirement. There are mixed emotions, excitement and fear. The little voice in my head tells me there are no excuses now, no hiding place. For the first time, I will be able to write when I am not tired or feeling guilty because I should be spending time doing housework or being with my family. I have been liberated to enjoy writing again.

report_writingMy goals are to structure my day so I can be guilt free and to ensure I attend the fabulous Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) Conference and all other RNA events. I would like to attend the Chapter meetings more often. It has always been difficult because of my limited writing time. My main goal is to finish the saga I started last year, have it critiqued by the RNA New Writers Scheme (NWS), and make any necessary amendments, before sending it out into the world.

It’s definitely going to be a special year.

@RobertsElaine11

What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

Graduating the New Writers’ Scheme – Elaine Everest

This month we share the stories of five graduates of the wonderful Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, beginning with an interview by Natalie Kleinman with our very own Elaine Everest 

ElaineESeptember2013

Elaine Everest is a freelance writer living in Swanley Kent with her husband Michael and dog, Henry. Apart from writing short stories for magazines and features for any publication that accepts her pitches she runs The Write Place creative writing school at the Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford, Kent. Elaine has written three non-fiction books, one novel and has her work in many prestigious charity anthologies. She was also BBC Radio short story writer of the year in 2003.

You recently graduated from the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). Can you tell us about the process, from joining through to culmination as a candidate for the Joan Hessayan Award? 

I joined the New Writers’ Scheme in 2010. I’d tried twice before but didn’t manage to become one of the 250 due to so many writers wanting to be part of the RNA. The first year I put forward a Romcom called, Bride of the Year, for a critique. The feedback was good and although this has not yet been published (I live in hope) it was fun to write and lead to me being a finalist in the Harry Bowling Prize (2012) and shortlisted in the New Writers section of the Festival of Romance (2012). In 2011 my submission was, Gracie’s War which received a lovely report and made me decide that writing family sagas was what I wanted to write in future. However, I’d already joined the NWS in 2013 when Gracie’s War won the Pulse Romance ‘Write For Us’ competition which lead to publication in October of that year. Pulse is part of the well-known publisher, Myrmidon and I was chuffed to be published under their umbrella. As I’d joined for 2013 I was allowed to put in another book for critique for that year. I chose to put in a crime novel set in the dog showing world. I love crime and I love dog showing so it was a labour of love! A part of me does want to write crime so who knows what will happen in the future

When I contacted Melanie Hilton to notify her that I was ready to graduate the NWS she added me to the list of other graduates for that year who were also candidates for the Joan Hessayon Award. It was a magical time culminating in a fabulous awards ceremony. I’m proud to have stood side by side with so many good writers. It was a bumper year. There were seventeen of us!

2014JoanHessayoncontenders2MB

While Gracie’s War is your first published novel, I understand that you have written a series of ‘How To’ books relating to the dog world. How different was it when you moved to the fiction world of the Romantic Saga?

Before I even thought about writing a book I worked as a freelance writer. My fiction was short stories for the women’s magazine market. I wrote features for many publications and because of my life spent in the dog showing world I found myself writing more and more canine features both for mainstream magazines as well as specialist publications. I met the owners of How To Books Ltd who accepted a proposal for Showing Your Dog, A Beginners’ Guide which became my first non-fiction book. Two more followed. A cookery book for dog owners and another on buying a puppy. I could have written more but by then I really wanted to follow my dream of becoming a novelist. The crossover was simple as I’d always written short fiction and simply studied that and held back on the non-fiction.

 Gracie’s War is not set in the present day. How much research did you have to do and did you enjoy it?

Gracie’s War is set between 1939 and 1953 in the area of North Kent where I was born and brought up – and still live! It was a joy to look into the history of a time when my parents grew up. Some of the scenes within the book are based on family and local events. I was worried that I might get some of the details wrong but was pleased that locals, who knew that era, told me I’d got the setting just right. I kept researching until the day the book was written. I didn’t want to leave anything out. 

gracieswar

Are you a planner or a panster?

I’m a planner. I have always worked to deadlines and need to know what I’m writing next. Saying that, I only have a short outline for each chapter with a ‘shopping list’ of what is required to happen so in a way I’m a pantster as well. 

How did you find your publisher and are you contracted to write for them again?

My publisher for Gracie’s War is Pulse and my prize was to be published by them. My contract covers all forms of publishing from ebook to large print so I hope that Gracie gets to be read by many people in many forms. It was a one book contract although I’m able to show the publisher other works that fit their remit. 

Being a writer can be a lonely occupation. What do you do to escape the house and meet other writers and how do you relax?

At the moment I wish I could escape. I seem to be surgically joined to my laptop! I’m looking forward to July as I get to attend the RNA Conference in Telford and a week after set off for Fishguard for the first summer Writers’ Holiday by the sea in Wales. I also love to attend the London Chapter of the RNA where we have great speakers and network over lunch in a good old fashioned London pub. Besides that you’ll find me at dog shows with Henry, our Polish Lowland Sheepdog. He’s already qualified for Crufts 2015 and is tipped to do well – if only he can keep four paws on the ground and not be so happy in the show ring! 

If there was a soundtrack to accompany your book what songs or pieces of music would you choose and why?

My head is firmly stuck in the war years as I’m working on another saga. So for me it is Vera Lynn, Glen Miller and a host of other bands and singers of that period playing in the background while I work. In my current work in progress I’ve also used lines from well-known songs of that time to enhance the passion and closeness of my main characters.

However, I’m gearing up for my trip to Wales so I’m playing my collection of CD’s from the Cwmbach Male Voice Choir – I’m a bit of a groupie where they are concerned. There could well be a Welsh man appearing in my book at this rate!

As well as your own writing you somehow find the time to run The Write Place Creative Writing School in Dartford. Following in your footsteps I understand some of your students have also achieved success. What advice do you give to new writers?

I’m immensely proud of all my students. We have so much talent at the MJC. 2013 was great with three books being traditionally published. 2014 looks to be even better with so many writers teetering on the verge of publication. My one piece of advice would be to stop talking about becoming a writer and just start writing. Network with other writers – ones that are writing what you enjoy writing – and absorb as much of the writing world as possible. 

Finally can you tell us what is next in your writing life?

I’m busy working on a full length novel set in NW Kent during the late 1930s. I now have a literary agent and with her guidance I’m preparing this book ready for her to submit to publishers. It’s all very exciting.

Thank you, Elaine,  for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.

Links:

Website: The Write Place

Twitter: @elaineeverest

Facebook: Elaine Everest

Blog:  WriteMindsWritePlace

Gracie’s War: Amazon