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AGM and Visit to The House of Lords
This month we will be getting together at the House of Lords, where members will have the opportunity to meet our President, Baroness Floella Benjamin, take a tour, enjoy tea, and have their say on the future of the Society at the AGM. This has proved to be a very popular event, with tickets already sold out, but we hope to return to the House of Lords for an even bigger and better event at some time next year.
After four years in the Chair, Barbara Field-Holmes (pictured right) will be stepping down during the AGM to make way for our new Chairman, Rebecca Harding (pictured left). Our thanks to Barbara… and welcome Rebecca!
In the footsteps of Jane Austen
Chawton House in rural Hampshire is a very special place. It was not only the home of Jane Austen’s brother, now open to the public as a visitor attraction, but is also renowned as a centre for early women’s writing. It is where the SWWJ keeps its collection of silver cups and trophies, many of which are presented each year to our competition winners and then returned to their permanent home in Chawton’s display cabinet. Our recent group visit was a wonderful occasion. A guided tour of the old Elizabethan manor house, including the magnificent library packed with old books by female authors, was followed by a lovely lunch in the courtyard and a wander around the glorious grounds and gardens.
We have plans to work more closely with Chawton in the future as it extends its programme of talks, panels and events, and hope to soon be able to display our leaflets and membership forms in the foyer. If you have not been to Chawton, or to visit Jane Austen’s own much smaller home in the adjacent village, put them on your list!
A Very Special AGM
In this, our 125th anniversary year, we will be holding our AGM at a very special venue – the House of Lords! The meeting on 9 September will give members the opportunity to find out what’s happening within the society and what’s being planned for the future, elect the next Council, ask questions, and welcome our new Chairman, Rebecca Harding.
The AGM will be followed by tea and a guided mini-tour of the House of Lords, hosted by our President, Baroness Floella Benjamin.
Places are limited, so get your ticket requests in early. The booking form can be downloaded from our Diary page and will also be in the Summer issue of The Woman Writer, coming soon.
Check out our Diary page for other events happening over the coming months, including a visit to Chawton House, an author talk by Vaseem Khan, drama and poetry workshops, and a lovely anniversary lunch meeting in Chichester, with our 2019 celebrations culminating in the Christmas Tea on 5 December – always a popular and enjoyable get-together.
And don’t forget to enter the Floella Benjamin Trophy open writing competition, closing on 31 August, with £200 and a year’s free swwj membership to the winner.
Our Anniversary Lunch
Photography: Livi Gee
Our 125th anniversary lunch was a fantastic success! The wonderful Stationers’ Hall in the City of London hosted our celebratory event on 2 May, where members and guests were welcomed with a drinks reception and were able to peruse displays showcasing highlights from the society’s past, present and future, before enjoying a delicious three course lunch and a glass or two of wine. Our speakers were our president, Baroness Floella Benjamin, and bestselling novelist Kate Mosse, and both kept everyone entertained and enthralled with their enthusiastic and inspirational speeches.
A special achievement award was given to a very surprised Mary Rensten for her long and dedicated service to the Society, SCRIPTORA and the drama group. As a parting gift, everyone attending was given a goody bag to take home, packed with carefully chosen items bearing the SWWJ anniversary logo. But our big anniversary year is not over yet. Our new paperless competition, The Floella Benjamin Trophy, is now open for entries, and we still have a trip to Chawton House, a House of Lords tea/tour and a poetry day to look forward to, plus an extra anniversary lunch in Chichester hosted by our Southern Region group – and our Christmas party on 5 December, with special guest speaker Jackie Malton, talking TV crime!
Past, present and future: celebrating our 125th anniversary
On 1st May, the Society of Women Writers and Journalists is 125 years old! Since its creation by newspaperman Joseph Snell Wood in 1894, the Society has attracted the company of many of the world’s most famous writers, journalists, poets, playwrights and associated creative people involved in the wider world of literature, film, music, theatre and entertainment. Our presidents, patrons, members, associates and friends in the UK and overseas have all helped to make the SWWJ the thriving and all-encompassing society it is today.
On 2nd May we celebrate with a wonderful gathering at Stationers’ Hall in the City of London, with a welcome by our President, Baroness Floella Benjamin (pictured) and an after-lunch speech from bestselling novelist Kate Mosse. Looking forward, we are also pleased to announce our brand new writing competition – open to all, and based around the theme ‘Children are our future’. Details on our competitions page, and via social media, from 1st May.
Celebrate in style!
Kate Mosse. Photo: Ruth Crafer
The day of our wonderful celebratory lunch is drawing ever closer. Join us on Thursday 2 May at Stationers’ Hall in the heart of London for a three course meal with waiter service, including a glass or two of wine. Vegetarian options are available. There will be a display, detailing some of the Society’s highlights ‘past, present and future’, a raffle with some lovely prizes, goody bags for everyone to take home, and a fantastic guest speaker: novelist Kate Mosse, OBE, whose books have sold in excess of an incredible 7 million copies to date. Bookings will close in mid-April, so don’t delay. Get your tickets now! Booking form via our Diary page or The Woman Writer. Guests and non-members very welcome.
Members Doing Their Best!
Sylvia Kent receives the John Walter Salver trophy from judge Elaine Everest
The Society’s annual prize giving ceremony on 20 March was a highly enjoyable occasion, with competition winners, judges and members coming together to enjoy afternoon tea and celebrate some wonderful writing achievements. A full report, with photos, the winning entries in full and extracts from all the runners-up, will appear in The Woman Writer, due to be delivered to members in early April. After tea, our guest speaker, bestselling saga writer Elaine Everest, told us about her path to success, from article writing to non-fiction books and short stories to novels, with some competition wins along the way, her mantra throughout echoing the Brownies promise ‘to do my best’. Certainly all our prize winners had given us their best! We now look ahead to a brand new ‘paperless’ competition, open to members and non-members alike, which will be launched via social media on our 125th anniversary on 1 May.
All the fun of the fair!
Come and find us at the London Book Fair. Some of our members will be visiting on Tuesday 12 March, dressed as suffragettes! They will be handing out leaflets and chatting about our society in its 125th anniversary year. Come and say hello and take a selfie. We would love to see your photos on twitter, using hashtag #swwj125 In other news, the first major event in our calendar takes place on 20 March at The National Liberal Club where we will be celebrating all our writing competition winners from the last year. Meet the judges, hear some great readings, and listen to our guest speaker, bestselling saga writer Elaine Everest, while enjoying a delicious afternoon tea. Details on our Diary page. Still time to book a place.
Kicking off a year of celebrations!
It’s our 125th anniversary year and we have lots in store! Our first big event is the Spring Tea on 20 March, during which we present the prizes to all our recent competition winners. Come along to the National Liberal Club, right next to the River Thames, for a fun afternoon, chat to fellow members, enjoy a delicious afternoon tea, listen to some of our winners and runners-up reading their entries, and meet our fantastic judges: literary agent Rebecca Ritchie, bestselling novelist Elaine Everest and award-winning poet Miriam Nash. Non-members and guests are always welcome. Full details and booking form on our diary page.
Our Christmas Tea
Members and guests gathered at the NLC on a rainy day in London for our annual Christmas tea. Our entertainment this year – A Christmas Cornucopia – was provided by four professional actors, reading a collection of monologues, some comic, some dramatic, written by Doreen Friend and presented and directed by Martin Cort. We then enjoyed a delicious tea, including fresh scones, mince pies and cake, with plenty of opportunity to mingle and chat. With a book table displaying members’ books, a gift table and a grand raffle, we were never short of something to do! There will be a full report and lots of photos in the New Year issue of The Woman Writer.
The Woman Writer Autumn issue
Another great edition of our quarterly magazine has landed on members’ doormats. In this issue, we have a full report and photos from our Autumn lunch, advice about using social media to promote your work, news from some of our inspiring overseas members, an interesting chat between author and editor, and a dip into the archives taking us back to 1958. Add poetry, marketing, a visit to a crime writing event and all our usual lists of member news and successes, competitions and writing opportunities into the mix, PLUS: Five pages of members’ books reviewed. What a talented membership we have! And remember, if you would like to receive your magazine digitally or as a PDF, all you have to do is contact the editor to get your name onto the mailing list.
It may have been blowing a gale outside, but inside the NLC there was a rapt silence as our TWO guest speakers captivated us with stories and anecdotes from their diverse lives. The occasion was our annual Autumn lunch and our speakers were Andrew Lewer MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Publishing (APPG), and Sunday Times bestselling novelist Jane Corry.
Andrew is the only person in Britain to have served as an MP, MEP and Council Leader. His first job was in publishing and, as a writer himself, he spoke with passion about the industry. One of his concerns is the closure of libraries and he recalled that, when he was the Leader of Derbyshire County Council, he had the opportunity to open two new libraries, something he was very proud of. The publishing industry as a whole, said Andrew, is fundamental in safeguarding the UK’s cultural identity and standing in the world, with the UK already being the world’s biggest exporter of physical books.
After lunch, Jane Corry spoke about her life in the writing world, which began as a magazine journalist, including a period as feature writer for Woman’s Own. She also spent three years as writer-in-residence for a high security prison for men, and submitted eleven manuscripts to publishers before her first novel was accepted. Now a highly successful novelist, her three most recent books have all been listed in the Sunday Times bestseller lists. You can read a full report of this event in the Autumn issue of The Woman Writer, coming soon.
The SWWJ celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2019. To mark this important milestone we have a brand new anniversary-themed competition for members, and are so pleased that top literary agent Rebecca Ritchie has agreed to be the judge. Rebecca is part of the A. M. Heath team, representing many successful writers, and was runner-up Agent of the Year at the Romantic Novelists’ Association industry awards in 2017, but rest assured she will not just be looking for romantic entries! Details on the Competitions page and in the latest issue of The Woman Writer magazine.
The Woman Writer is here!
The Summer issue of our quarterly magazine, The Woman Writer, should by now have arrived through members’ letterboxes. In this fabulous issue you can read about the recent AGM/Summer gathering, join us on a visit to the London Book Fair, and find out how to inject realism into your submissions. Plus… dates for your diary, reports from our regional and drama meetings, learn all about list poems, celebrate members’ successes and news, find details of our latest competitions, take a dip into the archives and a trip down memory lane, and feel inspired by the many wonderful reviews of our members’ newest published books. Meet our brand new recruits, read profiles of some of our many fascinating and prolific overseas members and say farewell to those sadly no longer with us. A bumper issue, as ever, with something for everyone. Time to get reading!
A Sizzling Summer gathering
The Society held its AGM on 28 June, followed by afternoon tea for members and guests. Our chairman, Barbara Field-Holmes, welcomed everyone and spoke about our successes over the past year, the many ways the society is moving forward and working to attract new members, and Council’s plans for some exciting events to mark our upcoming 125th anniversary in 2019. Treasurer Benita Cullingford presented the annual accounts and reported that the Society’s finances are in a healthy condition. Council officers and members were re-elected for a further year.
We were very pleased that our President, Floella Benjamin, was able to join us for tea – a good selection of sandwiches, cakes and delicious scones and jam. Our speaker after tea was Anita Marie Sackett, who spoke about her life as a writer and how she helps to bring poetry into the lives of children. Anita has worked as a teacher, lived at times in New Zealand, Jamaica and the USA, and gives talks in schools and on cruise ships on a variety of topics. Her talk was entertaining, using toys and props to bring some of her lovely children’s poems to life. Anita also spoke about her interest in the 1940s and 1950s and was happy to sign copies of her new book, ‘That’s How It Used To Be.’.
You can read a full report of the afternoon in the Summer issue of The Woman Writer, due to be published later in July.
Pitching your novel to a literary agent: An evening with Penny Holroyde
More than 30 people, many of them new to the SWWJ, enjoyed a brilliant evening with literary agent Penny Holroyde on 24th May. The private room at The Savoy Tup, just off The Strand in London, was absolutely buzzing with energy… and Penny didn’t disappoint!
She kicked off the evening by telling everyone there were no silly questions – ask whatever you like. Her friendly, relaxed approach certainly encouraged a lot of participation and there were some thought-provoking questions posed throughout the ninety-minute session.
Penny had some good tips to offer anyone looking for an agent. At the top of the list was: make sure the agent deals with your genre, and pay attention to their submission guidelines – she added that in her experience six out of ten submissions do not conform. Look at the agent’s website and get a ‘feel’ for the style of books written by their authors.
Penny emphasised that your writing has to be amazing to get noticed. Agents are busy people and if you don’t grab their attention in the first couple of paragraphs, it’s unlikely they will read on. Avoid ‘over writing’ with too many adjectives.
On the subject of writing a synopsis, Penny suggested one A4 page would be sufficient. A good cover letter was essential; you must get to the point quickly. She asked us to imagine being in an elevator, giving our pitch to an agent before we reached our floor…
Be professional in your approach. After your pitch, put in a little bit of background information about yourself.
Her final tip was taken from Stephen King: when you have finished your manuscript put it away for six weeks – this will allow you to read it through with ‘fresh eyes’.
A full report, with additional photos, will appear in the next issue of The Woman Writer.
Meet an agent
We are pleased to announce our very first Meet an agent evening, to be held in London on the evening of 24 May. Successful literary agent Penny Holroyde will be giving an exciting session on how to pitch your novel and how to approach a literary agent. This is your chance to avoid making the most common mistakes and to find out how to make the right impression.
Penny Holroyde founded Holroyde Carter in 2015 and she represents a quality list of award-winning and best-selling authors and illustrators primarily in publishing, but also in licensing, and film and television across the world. She has been in publishing for over twenty years for publishers Walker Books in the UK and Candlewick Press in the US and then as an agent with Caroline Sheldon.
Agents receive a huge number of submissions and have little time to make a decision on your pitch. How do you attract their attention? This is a fantastic opportunity to gain professional input on approaching agents and pitching to them. If you have any questions you would like Penny to cover at the event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by 17th May.
This event is open to all new and experienced writers. Everyone is welcome, both men and women. Our events aim to support you in your career as a writer.
Tickets cost £16.50. For booking details, see our Diary page.
In order to recognise the professionalism and authority of our Society and its members, we are delighted to announce that Council has voted for members to use ‘post nominal’ letters after their names from the beginning of May 2018. It was also decided to add a new category, that of Fellow, for members who have given distinguished service to SWWJ. Fellows, Members (including Associate members) and Honorary Members will be able to use the letters FSWWJ, MSWWJ, SWWJ (Hon) respectively. Fellows and Honorary Members are nominated and will be informed by Council. The letters will appear after your name on your membership cards this year.
Spring Prize-Giving Tea
Members and guests gathered in London on 14 March to celebrate the winners and runners-up from all our recent competitions. Trophies, cheques and certificates were awarded by our judges, followed by afternoon tea and a fascinating talk, ‘From Outback to Paperback’, by our guest speaker, Australian journalist and award-winning novelist Janet Gover.
Pamela Payne took the prize for our red-themed Winner Takes All competition, judged by last year’s winner Margaret Mounsdon. Pamela could not attend but her winning piece, about some very surprising New Year traditions, was read on her behalf by Vivien Hampshire. Ann Evans was our judge for the Writing for Children competition, won by Marilyn Pemberton, who read an extract from her story ‘Target Practice’ and was presented with the Junior Literary Cup.
The John Walter Salver competition was won by Beryl Fleming for the second year running, this time for a weather-themed short story, ‘World in a Carrier Bag.’ The trophy was presented by judge Janet Gover.
Our prestigious annual poetry competition was won by Valerie Tigwell for her poem ‘Philippa at the Outdoor Pool’. Judge Claire Dyer presented the Elizabeth Longford Rose Bowl.
A report of the afternoon, with the winning entries in full and extracts from all the runners-up, plus lots of photos, will appear in the Spring issue of The Woman Writer, available to members from the end of April. And don’t forget to check our Competitions page here on the website for more photos and details of past, current and upcoming competitions.
Come and join us
As we approach our 125th anniversary year, the Society is keen to tell the world about itself – not only its long history of supporting, informing and inspiring women writers, but also the very many benefits it can offer to today’s writers – both men and women – at all levels of their writing careers. To help us ‘shout from the rooftops’ and hopefully attract many new members to join us over the coming months, we now have a fantastic new publicity poster, designed for us by Michelle Harriman – and here it is! The poster will be at the heart of our 2018 recruitment campaign, hoping to reach all the places where existing and potential new writers will see it - on noticeboards, in universities and across social media. Please help us to spread the word about the SWWJ as we say... Come and join us.
The Woman Writer New Year issue
By now, all members should have received the New Year issue of our fantastic magazine.
In this issue, we share some of our members’ publishing successes and reviews of their latest books, and look back on our most recent London event – the Christmas tea – and the regional meeting held in Chichester. Sadly, we lost two valued members during 2017 and the magazine carries obituaries, photographs and memories of them both – Audrey Groom and Patricia Pound. Our sympathies go to their families.
Drama takes centre-stage with reports from both the regular workshop on 23 September and the very special Scripts Live Entertainment Showcase in October, where plays written by SWWJ dramatists were read by professional actors.
This issue also contains many varied articles of interest to writers from all genres – fiction tips, an account of a successful book-signing day, useful info about crowdfunding, and a little about our long connections with the Romantic Novelists Association. You will also find our usual round-up of markets and competitions where you might be able to submit your work, and the booking form for our next major event, the Spring tea and prize-giving ceremony.
Our Christmas Tea
Members and guests gathered at the National Liberal Club on 6th December to meet friends old and new and enjoy a scrumptious afternoon tea. Entertainment was provided by member, writer and professional actress Marion Field, who delivered a seasonal mix of poems, songs and witty monologues, with several on-stage changes of accent, costume and shoes! Full report to follow in The Woman Writer, coming in January.
In the photo gallery above:
Elaine Roberts pours more tea. Mary Rensten (left), with Scriptora author Alfa. Janice Grande, Society Hon. Secretary (left), with The Woman Writer editor Carol Cannavan. Marion Field, provided the afternoon entertainment.
Our "Writing Commercial Fiction" workshop
We were very pleased to welcome bestselling novelist Sue Moorcroft as tutor for our commercial fiction-writing workshop in London on 19th October. Sue is so busy these days, writing two novels a year and teaching courses abroad, that this was to be her last UK-based course for the foreseeable future. How lucky we were!
Having talked a little about her own path to success, Sue then went on to explore what makes a novel commercial, covering genre, brand, theme, and how to ‘sell’ both our book and ourselves as something an agent or publisher will get excited about!
It is a fact these days that books are very much a product, and sales are the measure of commercial success. The right cover (plenty of snow and glitter for a Christmas title for instance) and cleverly targeted marketing will hopefully bring your book to the attention of the right readers. But who are they? It’s something we really need to know, even before we begin to write, and certainly before we submit our work to a publisher. Where does your book fit in the market? What other authors’ books might your work be similar to? How might you find readers of your particular genre and reach out to them through special interest groups and social media? What makes you the ideal person to write this book? What is your ‘Unique Selling Point’?
Through a series of short tutorials, discussions, hand-out sheets and exercises, including writing a three-paragraph submission letter and the dreaded synopsis, Sue was able to help guide each delegate towards planning just how they were going to categorise, submit, present and ultimately promote and sell their book. It was a very enjoyable and productive day for all concerned!
Playwright Jane Willis
An interesting, and as always, stimulating day of play readings took place at Westminster reference library on Saturday 25th September 2017. There were six SWWJ playwrights and eleven professional actors. The six plays read were: Family Affair by Maxine Burns. Coming Home by Beverly O’Connor. Neighbourhood Watch by Dawn Knox. Abracadabra by Jane Willis. Justice by Jennifer Pulling. One of Those Days by Ann Mary Stanton.
Martin Cort also presented and directed a showcase of new plays and monologues at the CAA in London on the afternoon of 25th October, performed by The Around Readers (TAR) and including works by Actors and Writers London and SWWJ members Benita Cullingford, Doreen Friend, Jennifer Pulling, Mary Rensten and Jane Willis. The next SWWJ Drama workshop day will be held on 3rd February 2018. See our Diary page for details.
Our Autumn Lunch
Nicola Beauman (right) showing one of her books to members Sally Ann Voak and Pamela Payne
In the grand but comfortable surroundings of the National Liberal Club in Whitehall, around thirty members and guests gathered on 21st September to enjoy a delicious three course lunch and to meet our new President, Baroness Floella Benjamin, for the first time.
After a welcome from our chairman Barbara Field-Holmes, Floella took to the microphone with a short but inspiring speech in which she paid tribute to the SWWJ as an all-embracing and forward thinking society. Words are powerful, she said. They can change people’s lives, embrace all colours and backgrounds, and make people feel they belong. Having recently judged a children’s writing competition, she was impressed by the imagination, quality and freedom in the many entries from young girls, and feels that the writing of the future is in very good hands, but that it is up to us to pave the way for them. As our new President, she is very much looking forward to being part of that journey.
After our meal, Pamela Payne introduced our speaker for the afternoon, Nicola Beauman. Nicola gave us a brief overview of her experiences as a young woman at Cambridge in the 1970s and her growing interest in the many unsung and unappreciated women writers of the past. Women’s fiction was not being read and was not represented on the curriculum and, when she decided to write a book about women writers, she was told she couldn’t ‘because they aren’t any’!
After receiving a crushing report from a publisher’s reader for her first three chapters, Nicola abandoned her book for many years in favour of the expected path for a woman - marriage and children. In 1998 she decided to found her own publishing company, specialising in reprints of books by women writers, mostly from the interwar years, and Persephone Books was born in a small basement office. She published 12 books in the first year, but sales were slow as nobody had heard of the company and newspapers refused to review reprinted books, so Nicola made the move to mail order, took a stand at Country Living, moved to shop premises, and slowly began to build her business. The company now has 125 books to its name, three staff, and an annual turnover of £500,000. There are monthly book groups, free catalogues, and a twice yearly magazine. Find out more at: www.persephonebooks.co.uk. You can read the full report of the event and more from both speeches in the forthcoming Autumn issue of The Woman Writer.
Welcome to Writer's Debut
Benita Cullingford, Writer's Debut Co-ordinator
We are pleased to announce the official launch of our brand new category of membership. From 1st October, and for the very first time, new and unpublished writers have the chance to join the SWWJ!
As a ‘Debut’ member, your fee of £145 will allow you to submit a completed manuscript for detailed advice and a full critique from an experienced published writer in your own field. It can be a novel up to 90,000 words, a work of children’s fiction up to 60,000 words, a collection of poems or short stories, a play for theatre or radio, or a non-fiction project. Your Debut membership will last for one year and also entitles you to all the benefits of regular SWWJ membership with the exception of a press card and competition entry. And, with the right guidance, we very much hope that you will achieve publication and be able to join us as a full or associate member at the end of your Debut year! Open to both male and female writers. Advance applications are welcome now, if you want to beat the crowds!
Our new President
Photo by: Ayo Banton
The SWWJ is very proud to announce that Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, DL has accepted our invitation to become the Society’s new President. Floella is well known as an actress, broadcaster, writer and charity campaigner, and an enthusiastic supporter of a wide range of public and voluntary organisations, and we are sure she will be a wonderful asset to the Society. We very much hope that members will be able to meet her at one of our forthcoming events. Look out for a full interview with Floella in the Autumn issue of The Woman Writer. Meanwhile, the Summer issue is out now.
THE WOMAN WRITER: A bumper issue!
Left to right: Ann Evans, Karen King. Photo: Rob Tysall, Tysall's Photography
The Summer issue of The Woman Writer has landed! New editor, Carol Cannavan, has delivered a packed, informative and highly entertaining issue, including a fascinating sneak peak behind the scenes in her ‘Day in The Life of an Editor’. Catch up with members Ann Evans and Karen King as they launch their latest books and meet their readers in Coventry, Josephine Chia performing as featured author at an event in Singapore, and read all about Elaine Everest’s new bestseller, ‘The Butlins Girls’ on our book review pages. Sit back and enjoy our profiles of member Noreen Riols as she turns ninety (surely not!), poetry judge Claire Dyer, and read our touching obituary of a member we have recently lost – Audrey Wilson. In her Fiction Focus pages, Viv Hampshire asks the question: Do you need an agent?, and also urges members to send in their photos and biographies for inclusion in our Members pages here on the website. We do love to get to know you all! Read about the latest Drama Workshop, book a place on our exciting Fiction Workshop led by novelist Sue Moorcroft, and salivate over the delicious menu for our upcoming Autumn lunch. Join Sylvia Kent as she searches back through her archives for more of the Society’s historic moments, and discover some new markets and competitions which could be the perfect home for your work! With so much to read in this great issue of our popular magazine, we bet you’ll have trouble putting it down! Happy reading… and writing… to you all.
Annual General Meeting
Around fifty members were in attendance at the AGM on 29 June at the National Liberal Club in London. Our Chairman, Barbara Field-Holmes, having welcomed everyone, spoke about the challenges the Society has faced in recent years, with the feeling sometimes that we were travelling through a dark tunnel, but she assured us that we are now very much emerging back into the light with much positive news to report. She highlighted the social events we have enjoyed over the last year, including our new Spring prize-giving, and thanked her fellow Council members for their tireless work in organising venues, speakers and competitions. All our self-funding events were so successful that they brought in a small profit. Barbara spoke also about the many jobs Council members undertake, and said it was no secret that more volunteers are needed to come forward. We are very lucky that one such member, Janice Grande, has now offered her services as Hon Secretary, a post that has been vacant for some time, and Janice was warmly welcomed into the role. Barbara also welcomed Rebecca Harding onto Council. Rebecca could not be present, but had already attended one Council meeting and has agreed to join us, in a marketing capacity. The Council will now be looking at ways to advertise and promote the SWWJ and attempt to attract new and younger members, including approaching universities which run writing courses, writing groups throughout the U.K. and placing printed ads in the writing magazines
Benita Cullingford, the SWWJ’s treasurer, talked us through the accounts which are showing a healthy profit, boosted by a kind donation of £1000 from a past member, and confirmed that we are now again in a position to offer 2nd and 3rd prizes in all our major competitions. The Society will be launching a new class of membership on 1 October, aimed specifically at unpublished writers. ‘Writer’s Debut’ will include one year’s membership and a full manuscript critique by a specialist reader from among the SWWJ’s own members, operated on similar lines to the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers Scheme, but with six categories, to include non-fiction, plays and poetry as well as adult and children’s fiction
Tea and Talk at our Summer gathering
Following the Society’s Annual General Meeting on 29 June, members and guests listened to a fascinating talk by Richard Combes, Head of Policy at the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), while enjoying a delicious afternoon tea. Richard spoke about the ALCS’s work and how it collects and distributes money to some 90,000 U.K. writers every year in respect of a range of photocopying, licensing and secondary rights.
Those SWWJ members who already benefit from the efforts of the ALCS learned just how the money we are owed (more than £500 million collected so far) is tracked down, collected and distributed, while those who had not yet joined the scheme were actively encouraged to do so.
Richard told us how the ALCS was formed by a group of visionary writers (in a pub!) forty years ago and of some of the celebratory events planned for this, its anniversary year. The main aim of his talk was to try to demystify the work of the ALCS, which employs around 35 staff and is an entirely non-profit making organisation, working for the collective benefit of writers who could never hope to keep track of photocopying and all manner of secondary rights linked to their own work across the world. It funds its staff and admin costs by deducting a 9.5% commission from all distributed funds.
Non-fiction certainly generates the biggest ‘pot’ with textbooks, professional journals and magazine articles in demand by schools and universities who pay a licence fee for the privilege of being able to legally copy pages for their students, with education and business being the most widely copied and therefore most lucrative areas. But even novelists are urged to register their work, as there will be some fees collected on their behalf, for instance from non-U.K. library borrowing. So how much an individual receives will depend on the class of writing, how many works he/she has written or contributed to, and much more. An annual statement prepared for each member lists the sources of their own share of the annual distribution.
Richard stressed just how much the advancement of technology is changing the work of the ALCS, as digital formats appear, work is published online, and even producers of memory sticks and flash-drives have to pay a licensing fee. In the end, it all comes down to data and how it is collected and shared, with the ALCS now working collaboratively with other similar agencies at home and abroad, and keeping a constant eye on changing policy and practices, government interventions in the U.K. and the E.U., in order to protect the rights of its members.
Questions from the floor were dealt with thoroughly and knowledgeably, and we were left in no doubt that the ALCS is a friendly and highly approachable organisation. If you have not yet joined, please take a look at their website www.alcs.co.uk/ About a hundred new members are joining every week, so don’t miss out on what you may be owed. You never know until you apply!
Several members took the trouble to thank Richard and the ALCS for the extra money that finds its way into their bank accounts every year. As Richard did not charge a fee for his inspiring talk, he was presented with a gift bottle of wine as a token of our thanks.
The next event in the Society’s calendar is our AGM and Summer Gathering, which takes place in London, on Thursday 29 June. The AGM is open to all members, whether or not they have booked a place for the afternoon that follows, and gives them the chance to find out what’s happening in the SWWJ and to have their say.
As usual, the Summer Gathering will include a delicious afternoon tea, time to mingle and catch up with old friends, and a fascinating after-tea speech. Our speaker is Richard Combes, Head of Policy at the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, who will be talking about the work of the ALCS and the additional fees that may be due to us as writers (but that so many fail to claim!)
Looking further ahead to the Autumn, Sue Moorcroft will be running a fiction workshop for us in October (details and booking form available soon), and we will shortly be announcing a brand new initiative which we are calling Writer’s Debut. This will be a new category of SWWJ membership, especially for new and unpublished writers. Debut membership will last for one year and include access to a comprehensive critique of the writer’s work in progress, which we hope will help them along the road towards publication and ultimately to qualify for full SWWJ membership.
The Woman Writer Spring issue
The Spring issue of The Woman Writer is the last issue to be edited by our Chair, Barbara Field-Holmes, who hands the baton on to Carol Cannavan. In her “Chair types...” column, Barbara reflects on the changes the Society has undergone in the last few years, particularly in view of social media developments and changes in the field of self-publishing. She also talks of the additional events and activities in our annual calendar, including the new annual Spring Gathering and Prize Giving, which was held for the first time in March this year, and the Autumn Workshop, to be held in October and run by Sue Moorcroft on the subject of “Writing Commercial Fiction”.
As usual, the magazine is full of Society and members’ news, features and updates. There are reports from the regions, the regular Poets’ Corner, an extended Drama column from Patricia Jones and Martin Cort, market updates and a host of other useful information, including details of upcoming events and competitions.
Items for the Summer WW should be sent as usual to email@example.com, and in the meantime, members should watch their email inboxes for the Society newsletter
Spring gathering and prize giving
Left to right: Doris Corti, Viv Hampshire, Edwina McPherson, Solange Hando, Barbara Field-Holmes
Blessed with lovely sunshine on the 15th March, our new Spring Gathering and Prize Giving heralded the start of an exciting year ahead and brought new faces to the impressive meeting room at the National Liberal Club in London’s Whitehall Place.
Our Chairman, Barbara Field-Holmes welcomed us all, making special mention of new members visiting us for the first time. It was a pleasure to meet our friend and guest speaker, travel journalist, Solange Hando who judged our Travel Competition. Over the past twenty years, Solange has visited more than eighty countries around the world and her prize-winning features have been published in numerous prestigious travel magazines. Solange’s book entitled: Be a Travel Writer, Live your Dreams, Sell your Features, is available in major bookstores and on Amazon.
Alongside Solange, our Competition Co-ordinator, Vivien Hampshire introduced the other judges of our recent writing competitions.
Well-published short story author, Edwina McPherson was the adjudicator of the WINNER TAKES ALL competition. Margaret Mounsdon’s clever short story ‘Weeping Willow’ won first prize and appreciative applause from those present.
Judge of the ELIZABETH LONGFORD ROSE BOWL competition was Doris Corti, who chose Finola Holiday’s ‘Trees in Winter’ as first prize and Mary Rothwell took second prize with ‘Whale Island’. Finola also took third place with ‘The Accident’.
The beautiful JOHN WALTER SALVER was presented by Solange to Beryl Fleming for her superb travel article entitled ‘White Silence’.
After the prizes were presented, a scrumptious tea was enjoyed by those present before settling down to listen to Solange’s fascinating talk about her career as a travel writer.
As usual, the Society is planning a range of activities throughout the year for members, guests and visitors. In addition to our usual Summer, Autumn and Christmas events at the National Liberal Club in London, we have introduced a new Spring Gathering and Prize Giving Tea (March 15th), giving us an opportunity to celebrate the winners of the various competitions in due style.
Although the competitions are usually member-only, the awards ceremony is open to visitors and our guest speaker will be Solange Hando who will tell us about “The Life of a Travel Writer”. Do check the diary pages and our Social Media feeds for more information about this and other events or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
The Woman Writer
Our in-house magazine is published four times a year. One of the perks of Society membership, it includes news and views, including a regional round-up, articles and updates on fiction, drama, poetry and other genres, market information, book reviews, snippets from the archives and news of our different competitions, events and other activities.
As usual, the Winter edition of The Woman Writer is packed full of photographs and anecdotes and it includes a full three-page write up of of our Christmas Tea - “Tea, cake and inspiration” by Council member Vivien Hampshire.
Tea, cake and inspiration
On a chilly and foggy December day, and despite the threat of rail strikes across the south of England, SWWJ members and guests gathered at the stunning National Liberal Club for the Society’s annual Christmas tea. Special guests included patron Lady Sandra Howard, publisher Ian Skillicorn from Corazon Books, TV actress Sarah Thomas, and two of our judges for the Winner Takes All competition, writers Rob Nisbet and Kay Seeley.
Guest speaker Ginny Vere Nicoll, an absolute powerhouse of energy and determination, gave an inspiring talk of interest to all of us, especially those who have occasionally felt let down by a stream of rejection letters or by failure to find a publisher by the traditional route.
SWWJ Christmas Tea - non-members welcome
Non members are welcome to join us at our annual Christmas Tea on Tuesday 6th December 2016 at The National Liberal Club in London, where our Guest Speaker will be Ginny Vere Nicoll of the Feel Good Books imprint.
The Society’s Patron Sandra Howard will also be in attendance, as will Ian Skillicorn of Corazon Books, as well as other writers and publishing professionals.
Members: £18.50; Guests and non-members: £19.50
The National Liberal Club, London SW1A 2HE. Arrive 1:30pm for 1:45pm; Tuesday 6th December.
The Society meets The Archers
Our special guest Sunny Ormonde, best known as Lilian from BBC Radio 4's The Archers, gave a lively performance at the SWWJ's Autumn Lunch at the National Liberal Club on 29th September. Sunny presented extracts from her successful one-woman show, talked about her own childhood on a real-life farm and gave some wonderful insights into the behind the scenes goings-on both in Ambridge and the recording studio.
New Hon. Life President
It gives us great please to announce that Ann Widdecombe has accepted Council’s invitation to become our new Hon Life President. The position became vacant when Shirley Williams (The Rt Hon the Baroness Williams of Crosby) stepped down in order to reduce the number of voluntary commitments she had. Ann Widdecombe is an excellent replacement.
Members who came to the SWWJ 120th Anniversary celebrations in London in October 2014 will remember her lively and engaging talk as our special Guest Speaker. A lady of many talents, with a career that encompasses the political world and writing, we are sure she will be a great asset to the Society and extend her a very warm welcome.
AGM 2016 and new Vice President
As usual, the Society AGM preceded the summer gathering in June. Our Chair, Barbara Field-Holmes reported on a mixed year, in which we lost a number of dear friends, including our President Victoria Wood, who died far too young. Despite the sadness, Barbara was able to highlight many positive aspects of the year: the reinstatement of the Autumn lunch, Sir Tim Rice’s appearance at the 2015 Christmas tea, the introduction of a new in-house competition, the continued hard work of Council members and the activity of the regional groups.
Other recent good news includes the announcement that Sylvia Kent (in the photo) has joined our list of Vice Presidents, a role that Sylvia says, “I am honoured to accept”. Sylvia is our Archivist and provides The Woman Writer with her regular column, answers many questions from members and non-members about past and present SWWJ members, and does an excellent job promoting the Society through social media, her frequent radio appearances and other journalistic work.
Around 50 members and guests gathered at the National Liberal Club for the Society’s summer gathering on the last day of June. The tea was preceded by adjudications of recent Society’s competitions, including the annual Elizabeth Longford Poetry competition, judged by Cathy Galvin. The 2016 trophy was awarded to Finola Holiday for her poignant love poem, 'Lines Written on the Eve of a Departure for Siberia'.
After the tea, guest speaker Michelle Magorian gave a talk highlighting the many ways a story can be told, as her children's book ‘Good night Mr Tom’ has been adapted for TV and transformed into a stage musical, each version requiring its own special additions and amendments to suit the medium. Michelle's acting background shone through as she performed and sang, before answering members' questions about her life, research methods and career.
We’ve been updating our diary page, so you can now schedule the dates for our usual Autumn Winter and Summer events up until the end of 2017. To round the year out, from 2017 we’re adding a Spring gathering in March.
Non-members are welcome to most of our events, many of which have special guest speakers from the world of publishing and performance, and often feature a book stall for members’ publications as well as the chance to chat and network. You never know who you might end up meeting!
21 April 2016
WW celebrates the Queen’s 90th birthday
Joyce Grenfell and other SWWJ members meet the Queen in 1969
at the Society's 75th anniversary celebrations
The Spring edition of The Woman Writer, the Society's quarterly magazine includes a special feature on Queen Elizabeth II, to coincide with Her Majesty’s 90th birthday celebrations.
In addition to the usual market information, reviews and round up of members’ news, this issue contains information about membership renewals, which are currently due. It also includes full details and a ticket application form for the Summer Gathering, to be held on June 30th at the National Liberal Club, as well as the agenda for the AGM, which will be held prior to the Summer Gathering.
There is also news of SWWJ Live!, an invitation-only event organised by Drama coordinator Martin Cort and scheduled for October, which will showcase the work of the Drama group and the professional actors who regularly take part in our workshops.
20 April 2016
Victoria Wood dies after battle with cancer
Members of the SWWJ, Council and Vice Presidents were all saddened to learn of the death of Victoria Wood, on April 20th. We offer our sincere condolences to her family.
The Society was honoured when Victoria accepted our invitation to be our President, and we were delighted when she joined us at our 120th Anniversary celebrations in October 2014.
One of the Society’s previous Presidents, Joyce Grenfell, was a life-long inspiration to Victoria after they met backstage at one of Joyce’s performances when Victoria was only six. Victoria herself has inspired many writers, both men and women, and has given pleasure and the gift of laughter to people around the world. She will be sadly missed.
1 March 2016
Looking ahead to summer
We are thrilled to welcome author Michelle Magorian as guest speaker at our Summer Gathering, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London on June 30th.
Michelle trained as an actress and has written seven novels, one play (which she is currently developing into an adult novel), four musicals, two collections of poetry and two collections of short stories. Her talk, entitled ‘Goodnight Mr Tom, Which Version?’, will cover the book, the musical, the TV drama, and the stage play – something for everyone, whatever your writing genre!
As with most Society events, the Summer Gathering is open to non-members, so do come and find out more about the SWWJ and listen to this multi-talented, creative lady. Ticket information available from email@example.com.
14 Feb 2016
The Woman Writer
The Winter edition of the Society's magazine is brimful of interesting news and views from members and from the world of writing and publishing. As always, the magazine includes information on markets, reviews of members' books, a round up of regional and overseas news, drama and poetry updates, as well as news of members' activities and successes.
This edition includes a full report on the Christmas tea, where we welcomed patron Sir Tim Rice as guest speaker as well as a special feature on our patroness Baroness Howard of Lympne better known to most as the novelist Sandra Howard.
The magazine, which is sent to all members, is published four times a year and an electronic newsletter comes out between issues.
New Year Honour for SWWJ Patron
Photo by Christian Doyle
Our very own Simon Brett, writer, actor, director and producer, was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2016 Queen's New Year’s Honours List for his services to literature.
Simon is the man behind the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter Fethering and Blotto & Twinks series of crime novels and in 2014 he was awarded The CWA Diamond Dagger, one of the highest accolades in the crime writing world. His writing also includes comedy in radio and television series such as No Commitments and After Henry.
As Society Patron, Simon attended our 120th anniversay celebrations in 2014, delighting us by reading his witty poem The Woman Writer, written especially for the occasion. An inspiration to writers everywhere, Simon says “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. I still do, and I want to do it better.”
5 December 2015
SWWJ members gathered in London on December 2nd for the annual Christmas Tea, an occasion brimful of good news and good fellowship. Featuring a bring & buy table, book table and raffle, the annual event is an opportunity to meet friends old and new and to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea in the plush setting of the NLC on Whitehall Place.
This year, our Vice President Valerie Dunmore was surprised and delighted to be named Woman of the Year in recognition of her tireless efforts and enthusiasm on behalf of the Society. Wendy Clarke, judge of the John Walter Salver Competition, gave her adjudication report, clearly identifying the varying strengths of each story, congratulating the runners up and presenting the silver salver to winner Caroline Aukland.
The highlight of the afternoon was a short talk and Q&A session by our Patron, Sir Tim Rice, who fondly recalled his mother’s association with the Society as well as recounting the story of his early career.
21 September 2015
Autumn lunch at the NLC
On Thursday 17th September, Eve Bonham, journalist, novelist, sailor, and adept at a host of other fascinating skills, was the guest speaker at the SWWJ Autumn Lunch at the National Liberal Club, London. Society members and guests enjoyed a whistlestop tour of Eve's life of adventure from childhood to the present day.
We shared Eve’s joys and excitement as she recalled working as a fine art auctioneer, selling jewellery and competing in Atlantic and Round the World yacht races – often using her time at sea to think and write. Her latest book The Lost Journey Homeward was published in June.
17 September 2015
Nina Bawden honoured
Photo courtesy of Islington Council
Former SWWJ President Nina Bawden wrote over 40 books including the award- winning children’s book, Carrie’s War, which was later adapted into a television series and also won the Phoenix award in 1993 – 20 years after its publication. One of her last books, Dear Austen, was a collection of letters addressed to her late husband.
In 1995 Nina was made a CBE. In 2004, she received the ST Dupont Golden Pen award for a lifetime’s contribution to literature. She died in 2012, aged 87.
Earlier this month she was honoured with an Islington People’s Plaque. Deputy Leader of Islington Council and executive member for health and wellbeing, Cllr Janet Burgess, said: “Nina had an exceptional life. Today, her stories, characters, and observations still resonate as strongly as they ever did.”
House of Commons visit
Party-guests L-R: Trudy Lewis, Sylvia Kent, Vivien Hampshire, Patricia Pound and Valerie Dunmore, seated Jean Morris. Photo by Matt Crossick
A number of SWWJ members joined others from the writing world and beyond on the terrace at the House of Commons for a ‘Summer Drinks Reception’. A welcome from Jim Dowd MP, speeches from the ALCS, the Society of Authors, John Whittingdale, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and others made it clear that writers are valued and our creativity, earnings and rights are to be appreciated, celebrated and protected at all costs. Thanks go to the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group, and to the ALCS staff for a lively, informative and enjoyable occasion.
James Hadley Chase plaque unveiling
L-R: (back row), Mike Tiley and Tom Doran of Ealing Civic Society, Simon Cole, Cllr Ranjit Dheer. L-R: (front row) Rupa Huq MP, Harbhajan Kaur Dheer - Lady Mayor and Ann Evans.
On May 15th, SWWJ member Ann Evans had the honor of unveiling a plaque to mark the Ealing birthplace of writer James Hadley Chase (1906 to 1985). Ann says she read the thriller writer's books as a young teenager and liked them immensely, a fact she mentioned when she wrote a blog post a couple of years ago about writers who had inspired her. Fast forward to 2015 when a phone call came out of the blue asking her to unveil the plaque to be erected by Ealing Civic Society: her invitation was a direct result of the blog post!
AGM and Summer Gathering
The Society AGM preceded the SWWJ summer gathering held at the National Liberal Club in June. In her report, outgoing Chair, Valerie Dunmore, reviewed the previous year's events, which included our 120th anniversary celebrations, the Society's rebranding and the sponsorship of a Fellowship for women writers at Chawton House under the title the Vera Brittain/SWWJ Fellowship. Barbara Field-Holmes has now taken over the role of Chair. The afternoon event included a talk from Michelle Hather, Deputy Editor of Good Housekeeping magazine, as well as the adjudication of the Elizabeth Longford Poetry Competition and presentation of prizes by judge Katherine Gallagher.
22 June 2015
Croydon Writers celebrate 70th anniversary
Many SWWJ members are also active in other professional associations and in their local writing groups. Our Vice President Jean Bowden has been President of Croydon Writers for many years, but has now decided to step down. She will remain a member of the group, whose members are active in all genres, including prose, poetry, stories, novels, plays, articles and broadcasting. Croydon Writers was founded in 1945 and the photo shows Jean Bowden cutting the cake at the group's 70th anniversary celebration on June 17th, watched by Patricia Hay-Justice, Mayor of Croydon.
21 March 2015
SWWJ Digital Day
The SWWJ understands that it is important for professional writers to keep up with the changing face of technology, which is why we organised a Digital Day for Writers. A small group, comprising both SWWJ members and non-members, met at Somerset House to explore the ideas behind creating a professional online author presence, and to learn more about social media and digital publishing. We hope to run the course again, as well as other associated workshops, so do contact us if you are interested in being kept informed of future dates.
8 March 2015
SWWJ sponsors Vera Brittain Fellowship at Chawton House
International Women’s Day saw the launch of the Vera Brittain Fellowship, open to academics, writers, journalists and independent scholars working on any aspect of women and warfare, in any historical period. By sponsoring the fellowship, the SWWJ is delighted to strengthen our ties with Chawton House Library, a respected research and learning centre for the study of early women's writing. In the photo, our Chawton House liaison, Pamela Birley, with former Society President, Shirley Williams, daughter of Vera Brittain.
6 March 2015
SWWJ launches SEN
The Woman Writer, our regular SWWJ magazine edited by Barbara Field-Holmes, has recently undergone a revamp, with more pages and a new image in keeping with our new website. In future the magazine will be published four times a year.
To keep members abreast of events and news in between issues, the Society has launched an email newsletter - the SEN, edited by Doreen Friend. Please send all your news, views and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that, depending on when it is received, news may be included in the SEN or WW.
26 February 2015
Poetry Workshop in London
“Hyacinths and biscuits” – “imaginary gardens with real toads” – “rhythm, dance and the human voice” … the February poetry workshop at the Abbey Centre in London started with a brief discussion of ways of looking at poetry.
The afternoon included reading and commenting on each other’s poems, a writing session using written and visual prompts, and a look at the effect line length can have on a poem. Memorable images from the workshop included floral aprons, dressmaking, serendipitous yellow orchids and broken air-conditioning.
9 December 2014
The SWWJ Christmas Tea
Our annual Christmas Tea was held at the National Liberal Club. As well as a lovely afternoon tea – complete with mince pies and crackers – we enjoyed a short seasonal entertainment by our drama co-ordinator, Martin Cort and his team of professional actors. Sally Ann Voak, judge of the John Walter Salver in-house competition, gave her adjudication of the entries. This year the competition was for an unpublished article on the theme "Starting Afresh"; the winner was Patrick Forsyth, with Carol Cooper in second place and Jean Morris in third place.
7 November 2014
SWWJ member wins Singapore Literature Prize
We are proud and delighted to hear that “Kampong Spirit” by Phine Chia, a book about her experience growing up in a small village in Singapore, has won the Singapore Literature Prize for Non-Fiction. Minister Lawrence Wong presented the prize to SWWJ member Phine, a Peranakan Author who writes both fiction and non-fiction.
You can find out more about Phine on her website. www.josephinechia.com
14 October 2014
Our 120th anniversary
SWWJ members and non-members came together on October 14th to mark the 120th Anniversary of the Society with a special service at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street – known as the "spiritual home of the media" – and with a luncheon at Stationers' Hall, a venue associated with the written word for over five centuries. The celebratory service included music from the renowned St Bride's choir, as well as readings and addresses from SWWJ Honorary Life President, Baroness Williams of Crosby, freelance journalist Libby Purves, and SWWJ Patron Simon Brett. The Society President, Victoria Wood, joined us at the luncheon and the event concluded with a talk by Ann Widdecombe.