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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 The Society will be launching a new class of membership on 1 October, aimed specifically at unpublished writers.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.