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

Advertisements

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