Helen Chambers on her visit to Colchester WriteNight last week – thanks so much Helen it was great to have you with us!

Colchester WriteNight meet on the fourth Monday of each month, 7.30pm, at FirstSite, Colchester. They are a ‘gathering of creative writers from all walks of life’ and are a talented, friendly and diverse bunch who write together, support each other’s writing and invite guest writers to speak.

via WriteNight — Helen Chambers – Writer

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‘…this collection of stories, tales … displays a high level of literary ability, deep curiosity, and engaging self-awareness… The stories have a really mature clarity and plainness, a simplicity that’s never simplistic’

Glyn Maxwell

‘Powerful, subtle and ambitious stories which develop carefully from well-observed details into rich inhabitable worlds.’

Phil Terry

‘Emma’s stories are spare, in touch with the common world, while having a poetic and witty subtext. Her fiction retains its seeming lightness of tone, but often touches on the moral issues of the everyday and the subtleties of caring and loyalty. You feel that you are in company with a sharp intelligence, which has a calm goodness and a wry humour at its heart.’

Adrian May

‘Emma Kittle-Pey’s short story so poignantly highlights the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and was beautifully understated in its crisp yet ambiguous ending. It said so much (about the three/ four people) while saying so little. I loved it.’

Catherine Coldstream

A year in the life: Colchester WriteNight

A very happy writing new year from us at Colchester WriteNight. It’s 2018 already but I’m still reflecting on WriteNight in 2017, and planning the coming year ahead.

Early in the year, it was exciting to be part of Essex Book Festival. We invited a panel of three local guest authors – Sarah Armstrong, Liz Trenow and Nicola Werenowska – to join us for our event. We asked them about their writing practise, focusing particularly on place in their work. The influence of family history, tales and locations emerged as a common theme for inspiring new story-writing. Our guests all contributed to the activities we took part in. There were over thirty attendees scribbling away!

 

 

 

In April, Adrian May, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Essex, joined us and led The Lyric Issue. He gave us his thoughts, ideas and tips – discussing the influence of folk tales, family, community and continuity, and the importance of contributing to an existing body of work much bigger than yourself in writing.

 

 

 

In May, WriteNight moved. After six fab years at 15 Queen Street we packed our bags and relocated to Firstsite Art Gallery, so our first WriteNight there had to be The Art Issue. We held an interactive session on the story of Julie Cope, before Grayson Perry’s actual tapestries came to the gallery later in the year!

 

 

 

We continued with the art theme in June, and looked at the exhibition of documentary photographer Ed Gold (with his permission) to inspire our own stories. It was great to have the artwork there at the gallery for us to wander, ponder, and use for our own writing ideas.

 

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(A photo of a photo by Ed Gold – thank you)

 

Doug Smith led the summer sessions on twitter pitching and story openings. They were very well received, Doug packed in the ideas and challenges. (Doug has just published a book of scary short stories for children which you can find here.)

A L Kennedy joined us for a spellbinding pre-November session, and to a full house. What can I say about this? She talked, shared thoughts with a captive audience, and provided an activity that had us with our eyes closed and thinking about a character in terms of senses. Developing and knowing your characters is one of the key ideas I’m still thinking about.

 

 

(pics Patricia Borlenghi – thank you)

 

WriteNight hosted National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) write-in sessions throughout November and we were all ‘winners’ in one sense or another. Inspired by ALK, Nanowrimo.org, and each other, we powered ahead and got those words down. We celebrated at our annual birthday/Christmas bash in December, and shared a mixture of our writing or writing that inspired us, as well as lots of party treats. It’s one of my favourite events of the year!

 

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Throughout 2017 we welcomed new writing friends, enjoyed our old friends, and missed some that weren’t with us. Thanks to all that have been along, made us smile, supported, given up their time and written with us. I’m looking forward to what 2018 will bring – there are some ideas brewing, but I know for sure there will be lots of awe-inspiring stories written in great company.

If you haven’t been along yet, or can’t make it in person, our community group page on Facebook is here. You’re very welcome to join us.

We’re also on Twitter as @ColWriteNight.

 

 

 

How I made it through my first author event…

 

I had been invited to attend the evening with established author Stephen May at Red Lion Books in Colchester, and this in itself was very exciting. I’ve read at many events, which has really built my confidence, but to be one of the authors on the poster, to answer questions on my work, was a great big fat first.

 

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I met Anthony Roberts and Stephen for the first time just before the evening began, and the bookshop soon filled up. I was pleased I’d read and loved Stephen’s book Stronger than Skin beforehand – I had loads of questions for him about structure and theme, about writing a work of length. My brain wasn’t quite prepared to answer questions myself, so I really had to think on my feet when it came to that moment.

Anthony and Stephen are good friends – they met in the Arts Centre graveyard (I’m sure many of us have similar tales…) and Anthony introduced him with some funny anecdotes. So I was pleased to introduce myself… but I hadn’t prepared for that either! I went straight into reading the stories.

 

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I started with ‘I like your necklace’ which begins: ‘In Willie Gees Kate bought a bra.’ This had to be my first story for a Colchester event. Willie Gees (Williams and Griffin) is the local department store that’s recently become Fenwicks. The story is about Kate, her thoughts/experience when a shop assistant compliments her about her jewellery, and about every other compliment that we receive when buying anything these days.

The second story I read was ‘Milanese Feast’. Another very short story, which I’ve had good feedback about when reading aloud before. I think you learn from the stories you read which work for an audience and which don’t. I feel that some of my shorter stories are the best for reading – self-contained and complete.

We were asked several questions about our work – developing character, writing local places, our writing schedules. This was where I had to think quickly. But I really enjoyed having a conversation about the writing with Stephen, and was able to pick out similarities in our work – the idea of having a theme before a story emerges was one that I liked.

 

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Talking writing with Anthony Roberts and Stephen May

 

And at the end I was actually an author signing books… Everyone that bought one had something interesting to say – their thoughts on the stories or their own writing practices. I met up with some of my local writer friends who have been published or are soon to go through this process themselves.

I am learning from this experience – to prepare an introduction, to practise answering all those questions I’ve read being asked. Maybe you should too!!!

Thanks to Jo Coldwell for organising this event and Jonathan King for the pics.

 

In the press: the short route to success

I met with Neil D’Arcy Jones from The Essex County Standard/Gazette on Wednesday in Tymperleys tea rooms in Colchester. The interview felt like more of a chat about our current writing projects and he wrote the article that night.

I didn’t have a recent picture and thankfully my friend Polly came over in the evening and took a few. Quite a few. I’m not a selfie-making, posing, even smiling-for-the-camera kind of a person… but she really put me at ease.

I was so pleased with the result. I know that Neil writes stories and plays amongst his other creative activities and felt as though he knew what I was talking about. Polly and I chose a couple of pics and the article came out on Friday. Just in time to advertise the event I’m doing at Red Lion Books tomorrow with Stephen May. I’ve just got the last chapter of his book Stronger Than Skin to read and I’m ready…