SWG of 30th April Cancelled and Moved To 22nd May – Different Location – Different Time

We’re cancelling the SWG of 30th April and moving it to 22nd May. 
Readers note: we won’t be meeting in April!
That gives us lots of extra time for enjoying ourselves over the 30th April May Bank Holiday weekend and more time for writing though so it’s a win-win.
May 22nd SWG – Sunday Lunch – Coronation Hall Surbiton 
 
May 22nd is a Sunday. In 2015 we had a Sunday lunch at The Coronation Hall in Surbiton.
It was a fun meet-up and this year we are doing the same…
 
We have a table booked to accommodate us which is on the left hand side of the ‘Corry Hall’, as the locals call it.
For those of you who haven’t been yet, it’s an extraordinary building:
It was built in 1911 and used to house Surbiton’s Ritz Cinema. Inside it is decked out in cinema memorabilia and at the front it is light and roomy. The large windows look out onto St Mark’s Hill which runs down to Surbiton Station.
The Corry Hall has full disabled access also.
Location, travel, parking…
 
If you can get to Surbiton Station, you are there. 
 
Surbiton Station is very easy to reach by bus and rail. Nearby on Claremont Road is a Waitrose which has a car park. 
There’s also a car park on St Philip’s Road which is behind the main road, Victoria Road.
Time is different 11:00 am start
 
Because the Corry Hall gets full and lunch takes time, we’ll be meeting from 11:00 am. Last year we stayed on until past 3:00 so be ready for a proper lunchtime treat.
Websites – Bring your laptops 
 
We’ll have plenty of time to look at websites / blogs and author marketing which was planned for 30th April. 
 
Please remember to bring your laptops and it’s a good idea to make sure they are fully charged.
 
Sharing work – critique and advice 
 
Please do also bring along any ideas or work you would like to share with the SWG.
That’s all for now folks and Happy writing!
The Surbiton Writers Group 2016. 
Contact us: surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com
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The Surbiton Writers Group: Searching For Sugar Man to Will Self, Our Most Memorable Writing From 2015.

What’s the most memorable piece of writing you watched, read, or listened to in 2015?

The new year is a few days old and thoughts have already turned to what delights this year will offer, but the Surbiton Writers took no time at all to reveal what writing has stuck in their thinking from last year to this.

Films, books and newspaper columns all figured in our list, showing the diversity of writing out there to choose from and the enormously wide range of taste within our writers group.

What, no Star Wars!!  

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_Awakens

We’ll give you a spoiler. Our list doesn’t include the screenplay of the long anticipated film release of the year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Carrie said: “as a film fan,  I’d have loved to say this was the most memorable writing of 2015, after all, it was THE go-to film event of the year, but it came quite far down my list and so did Netflix’s House Of Cards Series 3, another must-see.”

Read what Carrie did choose further down the page…

Will your picks be the same as ours…

If you were at a party and someone asked you the same question, what would you say?

Each piece of writing the Surbiton Writers chose wasn’t necessarily first available last year, many being published or released long beforehand.

Regardless of whether our choices ride the curve, they show that good writing has longevity, changes one’s perspective and moves us, altering our inner, imaginative worlds for months after that first watch, listen or read.

Here’s our list. Ta daa!

Janine writes playful and imaginative picture books for the under 5s age group

Her choice was Twan Tan Eng’s ‘The Garden of Evening Mists,’ adding that what stuck with her was the “simply beautiful prose.”

Published in 2012, it was the Malaysian writer’s second novel. Telling the story of Yun Ling Teoh making sense of her experience during WW2, it was short listed for the Man Booker Prize and won the Walter Scott Prize for Historicsearching for sugarman film posteral Fiction.

Peter Wells publishes novels and writes a hugely popular blog  Counting Ducks 

He chose the film Searching For Sugar Man (warning spoilers included):

“..the most striking thing I watched was the film “Searching For Sugar Man” which, as everyone may know, tells the true story of Sixto Rodriguez who, after a period trying to make it in the music industry faded into obscurity and spent the majority of his working life in the construction industry unaware of the fact that he had achieved legendary success in South Africa.

The film tells the story of his rediscovery, and illuminates his supreme modesty and dignity in the face of his growing fame: heart warming on so many levels.”

He reminds me of another man I came across last year, Nick Drake, who took his own life at the age of twenty-six after a shortish period in the music industry were he met with very limited recognition, despair over which may have played a part in his tragic decision.”

Once again, after his death there was a slow discovery of his work which I discovered as part of the soundtrack on a Hollywood film called ” A Perfect Man” which was released in September 2015.”

If you look up the name “Nick Drake” on IMDP you will see his music has featured on many well recognised films in the following twenty years.”

In both cases, as a hopefully creative man, who speaks so much through his writing, both films inspire me with the message that the worth of what you do may not be immediately recognised, and that to persevere is a key ingredient in making your mark. “

Anu is a business journalist, who’s speciality is in change management and often refers to non-fiction writing in her articles. 

Quiet Cover By Susan Cain

She selected another non-fiction book for her memorable read: ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain.

A study of the difference between introversion and extraversion, it explains how the introverted amongst us have unique qualities which are embedded at the level of our brain chemistry.

You could argue that all writers have an introverted side, writing alone and living in a strong inner world is essential.
Accessible and fascinating, Anu described it as: “quite memorable.”

Darren is known for his witty and humorous writing style.

He chose 2 writers who have changed the writing landscape in Britain: Harold Jacobson and Will Self.

However, it was a piece about global warming that changed his attitude towards the race to save the planet.

will-self

“For me it has to be Harold Jacobson from The Saturday Independent, just love his witty style of writing.  I suppose in some ways I base my writing to his. Will Self is another brilliant writer.

As for story that I read this year. Well too many to choose from.”

But if I had to choose one. It would be learning that within 15 years all gas cookers and boilers must be fazed out.  This is supposed to help with climate change! !!!. This can only happen if we are all singing from the same sheet.”

and what did Carrie choose?

It’s not an easy choice,” she said, “but I’d have to say the most personally changing thing I read last year was an article in the Hull Daily Mail from 1931.

Having spent a year or so researching a married couple for a book I’m writing, who have sadly now long died and their family with them, this has been a far more complicated process than programmes like Who Do You Think You Are suggest it is. I’d exhausted all the obvious and not-so-obvious channels so the research had stalled completely.”

Image Courtesy Hull Daily Mail.
Image Courtesy Hull Daily Mail.

Then by accident I found an article in the Daily Mail. It was a feature about a society wedding – their wedding – and there was a beautiful black and white photo of them as well, looking straight at me from the page.”

After reading so much about them, it was the first time I’d seen them in person and I stared back into their faces wanting so much to reach out through the years and talk to them.”

It changed everything and immediately brought them to life. This article reinforced to me how important journalism is to recording events that even on a local level preserve history for generations to come.”

There are our most memorable pieces of writing – what would your choices be?

Tell us whether our list has inspired you to read or watch more.

In the meanwhile we’ve added all of these examples to our growing list of must-read’s for 2016.

If you are interested in joining the Surbiton Writers Group, email surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com

© The Surbiton Writers Group 2016

Journalism And Creative Writing – Difference, Much?

The Surbiton Writer’s Group is a group for people who write in any genre; journalism, creative writing, blogging, rapping – anything that involves wanting to put words down on paper or a screen, whether it’s writing for a job, with an intention to be published or for fun.

While I’ve been chatting with people about the Group we’ve discussed the differences between creative writing and Journalism.

“Surely,” said one person, “Journalism is creative? I really like Polly Toynbee’s writing in The Guardian. That’s very creative!”

Listening to 3 writers of Fantasy Fiction talk so eloquently and expressively about creative fiction writing at an author talk at Waterstone’s book shop in Kingston caused me to think about it again.

Isn’t everything that is newly created and written down creative, whether it’s online, for a newspaper, a business or a blog?

Isn’t it all the same process, the same ideas – including the books Baroness Rebuck publishes at Penguin Random House?

What exactly are the differences?

Journalism

The most obvious difference is that in Journalism, you are collecting together facts and then writing about those facts. You choose words that are easy to understand for the target audience you are writing for.

Most importantly, you don’t make things up.

The facts must be well researched and well supported. You also need quotes to support your story. You stay in the background and remain objective.

When I am writing a factual piece the facts lead the words, not the other way around. 

Journalism is non-fiction, not fiction.

When I am doing creative writing the ideas lead the words

In creative writing, ideas do not have to be factual. Unless the veracity and detail of the facts are important to the story I’m writing, I don’t necessarily have to research them as deeply as I would do when writing a journalistic piece.

I can take liberties and chances. I am in control of what I write. I can choose which words to use from the ground up.

But does that mean journalism isn’t as creative as creative writing…

Here’s a ‘for instance.’

Amy McCulloch at the writer’s talk at Waterstones book shop, said she chose to research the history of China in depth because she felt it was important to setting the scene in a way that was authentic to her as a writer. But she didn’t need to – it was her choice.

At the same talk, Tom Pollack said that his London locations are real, but they don’t have to be 100% factually correct. That’s all part of the creativity of writing the setting in fiction.

A Writer Writing

Journalism expects factual accuracy. It also expects that a pattern of writing is adhered to.

The first paragraph of an article needs to sum up for the reader what the rest of the article is about. Ideally if a reader reads nothing more before they put their IPAD down or throw the paper onto the seat on the train, they should have the salient facts of the entire article.

But if you are reading a column by Polly Toynbee it seems to be more creative because it allows her freedom to write in a way she chooses, a point the member of the Surbiton Writer’s Group made.

Is that sort of journalism Creative Non-Fiction? 

“Well no,” I said in reply, “that’s a feature, or an opinion piece,” I added, confusing things further. “What isn’t seen is the editor at their desk deciding which of those words make it into the published edition.”

“That’s the same as fiction writing!” they said.

Word counts are crucial to journalism. There is an art in being given 250 or 500 words in which to sum up and explain what the article is about, including quotes.

It focuses my mind on what words are important, which words are superfluous. Flowery language is a luxury, not a necessity. Your word budget has to do the job and your first para’ has to sum that up exactly.

So is journalism as creative as creative writing?

I’ll finish by saying something that I read in a blog recently. It was in a post about different types of writing that journalists do.

The journalist was asked what type of writing was most ‘them’; writing for online articles in a popular daily online magazine, writing long feature pieces in a broadsheet newspaper or writing a book.

“All of them,” was their reply. “Each voice is my writing and I have to be able to do each equally well.”

The jury may be out for people reading between the two genres but there’s still plenty of creativity in journalism – they are simply different sides to the writing coin.

© Carrie Henderson 2015

The Value In Listening To Writers Talking About Writing

The point about writing is that other people read your end product –  right?

Right.

But there’s also value in listening to writers talk about the writing process itself.

This is not only because writers like words – and that makes for easy listening – but because hearing about their writing process opens up insight into the world of writing from A to Z.

Writing is a hidden, personal place. It’s the place writers go to when they are shut in their sheds like Roald Dahl, or tapping at their laptops in offices consumed by noise, fear and deadlines like journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Berstein in the film All The President’s Men. 

Roald-Dahl-in-writing-hut

When writers wind backwards from the end result you gain insight into how you go about “this thing called writing” in the first place.

First up. What is writing anyway?

Looking at the gallery of quotes about writing at goodreads.com, one thing becomes apparent.

Every writer thinks about writing differently or at least they say different things about the same process.

Stephen King, the author with a knack of telling us how the backwaters of the US make minds twist to horror, wrote a book called “On Writing, A Memoir Of The Craft.”

In it he’s given perhaps the most universally applicable quote of all:

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” 

One online dictionary defines the craft of writing as either “the activity or skill of writing” or “the activity or occupation of composing text for publication.”

Ah ha! So writing is an activity, a skill or an occupation and can also be for publication. It all becomes clear now.

Or does it? 

Listening to writers talking about their writing process is as fascinating as the work they produce.

This is because the words on the page are the visible peak of a large iceberg submerged beneath.

We all know that icebergs are dangerous don’t we – we’ve seen Titanic struggle and sink in TV dramasdocumentaries and blockbusting movies.

The writing process: what lies beneath!
The writing process: what lies beneath!

Listening to writers talking about their craft helps us navigate through 

Hearing about what happens after inspiration strikes, how the worlds are crafted and created, what frustrations get in the way of the plot or the perfect sentence and how editing finishes the result, are all nuggets of information that help us other writers on our voyage towards publication.

We might find an iceberg glancing across the bows but with understanding of how the writing process works for other people, we can swerve out of the way before disaster strikes.

Sometimes journalism and creative writing meets as you find in this You Tube clip from the BBC series “5 Minutes With” Philip Pullman.

Pullman democratises writing, saying that we all tell stories but writers know ‘what to do’ with a story to make it into a book. Then it’s the journalist who knows how to research and ask the right questions and how to open up the interview that makes it a success.

Both are fascinating insights into the writing process itself.

To quote Mr King:

“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”

Thank you for your words, writers. To know a little bit of your iceberg, helps us with ours.

© Carrie Henderson 2015

Writing Tips: Break That Creative Block – The Hat Game

blank computer screen surbiton writers group

The screen flickers back at you blankly, goading you to write something. Your fingers twitch with half formed thoughts, but nothing comes. 

All you want to do is write something, but your mind is a wasteland. You tell yourself: “write something, Goddammit!”

We’ve all been there with the dreaded creative block – the feeling you get when the flow of ideas dries up completely.

When it strikes fiction or creative writers it can stall progress because the words are all their own.

Non-fiction writers find the creative block can happen because they struggle with organising factual information in the right way.

But The Block can strike anyone while they are writing no matter what genre it is!

What can you do about it? 

One idea is to try The Hat Game. You don’t need a hat or a even a cat, but you can use a bowl or a table.

How to play The Hat Game:

Get 3 pieces of paper:

Paper 1 is for nouns.

Paper 2 is for verbs.

Paper 3 is for situations or settings.

Now use paper 1,2 and 3 to type out, or write down, examples of each thing.

For instance. A noun could be “table.” A verb could be “running,” and a situation or setting could be “trapped in a locked railway station.”

piles of paper surbiton writers group

Write as many examples as you like. 

When you’ve finished, cut out each example noun, verb and situation or setting so that they are on one strip of paper each.

Next step. 

Put them into piles of nouns, verbs and situations or settings.

Fold them over so you can’t see them. No peeking!

Here’s where the fun begins. 

Pick one example from each pile.

Open them up and look. Then write as much as you can using each noun, verb and situation or setting.

You can write anything you like, but you must use each example.

Doing The Hat game is a really good way of getting words to flow, when you think the river has dried up. 

It distracts the mind from The Block and frees up your creative juices to flow again.

Having fun is essential when you are writing – your readers sense it when words are dry and forced.

The Hat Game is great for reinstating that creative flow!

Let us know what tips you have for breaking The Block too!

© The Surbiton Writers Group 2015.

Contact: surbitonwritersgroup@gmail.com