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Issue 89


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Spring Prize Giving New Data Protection Laws Society News Marketing Advice

Who’s who Printed by TandC Printers, Bromley, Kent BR1 3PU Issue 89

Spring 2018

The Woman Writer is published by The Society of Women Writers & Journalists Editor: Carol Cannavan 10 Dury Falls Close, Hornchurch Essex RM11 3AX Tel: 01708 459376 Mob: 07947 133509 Chairman: Barbara Field-Holmes BIGG-in Words Ltd Room 2, Aileen McHugo Building Westmore Green, Tatsfield Westerham, Kent TN16 2AG Tel: 01959 575031 (Wk) Tel: 01959 575936 (Home) Mob: 07814 738894 Vice Chairman/Press/ PR/Newsletter: Doreen Friend Tel: 020 8505 2476 Hon Treasurer: Benita Cullingford Tel: 01727 857388 Manager, Writer’s Debut Hon Secretary: Janice Grande Tel: 01268 451547 Mob: 07951 671498 Membership Secretary/Events: Valerie Dunmore Tel: 01737 557936 Speakers: Pamela Payne Tel: 01730 892413


Patrons: Lady Howard, Lord Quirk, Sir Tim Rice, The Earl of Stockton, Simon Brett OBE

Minutes Secretary: Vacancy

Hon Life President:

Book Reviews: Pamela Birley Tel: 020 7351 6377


Competitions/ Manuscript Appraisal: Vivien Hampshire Tel: 01895 254453 Marketing Coordinator: Rebecca Harding Mob: 07966 459080 Website: Gywneth Box Mob: 07986 613437 Archivist: Sylvia Kent Tel: 01277 651062 Chawton Liaison: Pamela Birley Tel: 020 7351 6377

The Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe DSG

The Rt Hon Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham OBE DL

Vice Presidents: Doris Corti,Valerie Dunmore, Joyce Elsden, Jocelyn Glegg, Sylvia Kent, Jennie Lisney, Jean Morris, Mary Rensten, Jean Marian Stevens

Welfare/Benevolent Fund If any member requires help, please contact Jennie Lisney on 01444 412087 or write to: 4 Larch Way, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 3TY. Email: Donations to benefit our members in times of illness or hardship should be made out to SWWJ Benevolent Fund.

Twitter & Facebook: Vivien Hampshire Tel: 01895 254453 Consultants: Martin Cort (Drama) Tel: 020 7582 5839 Patrick Forsyth (Marketing) Patricia Alderman (Proofreader) SWWJ website:

SWWJ members have the right to express their opinions in The Woman Writer. These opinions are not necessarily those of the Council or Editor. Neither the Editor nor the Society accepts responsibility for errors in articles. The Editor reserves the right to amend articles submitted.

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

From the Editor

Contents 4

From the Chair By Barbara Field-Holmes.


Letters Members’ views and comments.

7 - 10

Society news Discover what’s happening in the SWWJ.

11 - 12 Members’ news A round-up of news and successes. 13

Obituary The sad passing of Penny Vincenzi.


Poetry A love letter to Armenia.


Drama Workshop report from Martin Cort.

16 - 17 Data protection New regulations. 18

From the archive Women’s suffrage.

Hi everyone! It was great to meet some of you at our Spring Prize Giving and Tea (see page 19), which took place on 14th March. These events take a lot of planning, so it was good to be rewarded with such appreciation on the day. I really love the venue. The National Liberal Club is housed in a building that is full of character. A great setting for our events. The next one will be the AGM and Summer Gathering, which takes place on 28th June 2018. You’ll find the application form on page 35. The SWWJ Council has been extra busy the last few months, looking at ways to give you more membership benefits. Our Chair, Barbara Field-Holmes, will reveal some interesting news in her column on page 4 that I think you all will appreciate. Keep writing!

19 - 31 Spring Prize Giving and Tea Read the winning/runner-up entries for the SWWJ competitions. 32

SWWJ Competition Entries are invited for the John Walter Salver Competition.

33 - 35 AGM and Summer Gathering Meet our speaker – Anita Sackett and book your place! 36 - 37 Marketing Getting competitive. 38

43 - 45 Book reviews 46

Subscription renewal A gentle reminder.


Dates for your diary 2018

When I was not upon this page Problems, with Doreen Friend.




r Is


Around the regions News from Moonraker Country.



Issue 89


Front cover picture Inset: Photo taken by Carol Cannavan.

40 - 42 Markets & Competitions By Carol Cannavan. • Spring Prize Giving • New Data Protection Laws • Society News • Marketing Advice

The Woman Writer Spring 2018


From the Chair Chair types... by Barbara Field-Holmes, Chairman I hope you have all survived the bouts of snow that the UK has experienced recently; as I write my Chair types it is snowing once more (in north Kent), and Spring seems far away again. Fortunately though, the day we held our Spring Prize Giving (14th March) was a wonderfully sunny day (in London) and for those who were able to join us, a very wonderful afternoon. You can read our report, together with the winning entries, in this issue from pages 19 to 31. As usual, Carol Cannavan has produced a great issue, packed full of reports, news and useful articles designed to help our members. Spring is also the time of year to start thinking about subscription renewals. Our Membership Secretary,Valerie Dunmore, will be contacting members with renewal forms, but we have also printed one in this issue on page 46. This leads me onto the sensitive subject of fees. All Council, especially our Hon Treasurer, take great care to ensure that we spend members’ money wisely, from the cost of hiring a meeting room for our Council Meetings to our main events and promoting the SWWJ. We make sure events are always self-funding and when an event makes a small profit, that money is put straight into the Society’s funds; and when hiring a meeting room, or placing an advert, we always use our best negotiating skills for a good price. However, like everyone, we are faced with price increases. Continuing to keep our functions self-funding is just a small part of what we have to consider. For example, we introduced the new Writer’s Debut membership category, and while the running of this is self-funding, and Vivien Hampshire is doing a brilliant job of promoting the SWWJ on social media, we do need to promote the new category outside of the SWWJ. It is no 4

secret that we need to increase our membership, but to do this means investing in marketing. We are very lucky that we have friends (non-members), and members who continually offer to help promote our wonderful SWWJ for free, but sometimes we do have to pay for some advertising. Next year, 2019, is our 125th Anniversary so we are busy planning competitions and events running up to this fantastic milestone in our history. It has therefore been decided to increase membership by just £5 per category (except for the Writer’s Debut). Sometimes we need to ‘invest to accumulate’, and this, I believe, is such a time for the SWWJ. In addition to making a small increase, we are introducing the use of ‘post nominals’, so that members can officially carry letters after their name to show that they are a member of the Society. Full Members (including Associate Members) can follow their name with the letters MSWWJ, while Hon Members are SWWJ(Hon). The title Fellow will be conferred by Council on those members who have given distinguished service to SWWJ. Post nominals do not apply to the Friends category. I will be talking more about some of our exciting ideas in my Chairman’s speech at the AGM, due to take place on 28th June 2018 at the NLC (see p33).

Minutes Secretary required We are looking for someone to take minutes at our SWWJ Council meetings, which take place five times a year at The National Liberal Club, London. Your travel expenses will be covered and you will receive an honorarium of £100. The meetings start around 11.30am and usually finish by 4pm. If you would like more information, please contact Barbara Field-Holmes at: Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Letters Write to us Come on members, let’s hear from you. This is your opportunity to have your say. Send your views to the Editor (see page 2 for contact details).

Thank you everyone! I have just received my New Year issue of The Woman Writer and I saw my letter published, in which I asked for help in placing blogs. At the time I also telephoned a few relevant people. One was Sylvia Kent, who gave me much useful advice about that and other matters, like suggesting publishers for my 'opus' – Walking to School Through Bombs. Many thanks, Sylvia – you always find the time to help, despite your heavy workload. Also you, Carol, and Barbara Field-Homes. Anyway; my husband Graham and I attended two courses at Liverpool University – but in the end it was Graham teaching himself from YouTube teaching sites that has resulted in the first of our blogs being 'posted' on our new website:

We hope several members will click on it and have a look. Graham designed it and used his own photographs – and I wrote it (except for a few pieces he wrote, like his experiences driving – I don't drive). Clicking The Woman Writer Spring 2018

on places will send you straight to their own pages... By the time the next issue of The Woman Writer is published several blogs (or posts) should have been added, and ever more refinements. Anyone wishing for links to the sites Graham used/s to learn from, please email me at It's all very exciting to do – though occasionally fur has flown... We are very pleased so far; the next step is to send it to Facebook and other relevant sites. We are so grateful for the initial help and encouragement from fellow members. Jackie Usher (aka Debbie Darkin)

Writing challenge Can I encourage members to enter the 81 Words Challenge on Chris Fielden’s website. Every entry is published in a book as well as online. When 1,000 stories have been received, written by 1,000 different authors, an anthology will be published. It will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the Most Contributing Authors Published in an Anthology. To do that, we will need to sell over 1,000 books. Last time of looking 717 entries were still needed. How nice for us SWWJ members to be published alongside each other! A record in itself. If you don’t know Christopher Fielden, have a look at his website. Lots of other challenges – all entries published free online and then in book form. Just done the Colossal Cliche Challenge – great fun. Will all be published in an anthology when 100 received. All profits from this one to Book Aid. Dee La Vardera 5

Letters Blogger to be? I am published by Penguin and have been a member of the SWWJ for many years. I was reading the New Year issue of The Woman Writer over lunch and saw that you were looking for tips on blogs. My youngest son Giles is a qualified journalist and has just created a blog for me. I was very pleased with it. He is now setting up blogs for other authors and updating them. Giles is currently charging a special rate of £50 for SWWJ members to set up a blog and £10 every time it needs updating with new posts. He can be contacted on or on his mobile 07951 065521. Jane Corry

A word of caution... In the New Year edition of The Woman Writer, I was alarmed to see in the Writing Opportunities column, a favourable write-up about Austin Macauley Publishers, pointing out that they are one of the few publishing houses that still operates a fully open submissions policy. What it doesn’t say is that they are ‘author assist’ publishers, requiring a large sum of money to publish your book. In my experience, they asked £2,800. To my mind this is vanity publishing. A few years ago I sent them a manuscript and received a very enthusiastic response back – plus a contract. However, as I was an ‘unknown’ author (although I’d had many books published at the time!), I wasn’t eligible to have their free service. The amount they wanted – was £2,800. Naturally I declined their offer of publishing with them. A writing acquaintance of mine had the same experience. He was an unpublished author and was so excited to get a contract. Only on closer inspection of his contract, at 6

my insistence, did he spot the clause that told him he’d have to pay that same amount (or a figure very close to it). Perhaps Austin Macauley have changed their mode of operation now. But could I just warn SWWJ members that if they do send anything to this publisher, they read their contracts very carefully before signing anything. Ann Evans Editor’s Note: I was dismayed to read Ann’s letter, I had no idea Austin Macauley Publishers charged for their services. It just goes to show that you have to do your research when it comes to publishing deals.

Consistency I feel I must write a brief response to Hilary Townsend’s letter in the New Year issue. My comments about an author’s ‘brand’ and the use of different author names for different genres were made in my autumn Fiction Focus column and were aimed specifically at writers of commercial novels. Once a reader has enjoyed several novels by a favourite author, they come to expect more of the same when choosing to buy and read future titles by that same author. This is where consistent branding from book to book, including similarity of cover illustrations and fonts, etc, helps them to recognise that is exactly what they are going to get. If I write romantic sagas and suddenly decide to switch to horror or sci-fi, it would be only fair to write under another name and create a new look/brand, in order not to mislead or confuse my existing readers. It was never my intention to suggest that writers of non-fiction books should adopt similar techniques, and I wish Hilary well with the new travel book which proudly bears her (real) name. Vivien Hampshire Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Society news Can anyone help? I have a website which was created by a person who was recommended by someone from our Society; unfortunately, I cannot remember who that was. The website designer’s name is Gareth Thomas. Until recently Gareth has been very helpful in updating anything I asked him to on my website. Last November I sent numerous messages asking him to update details of my latest novel. When I’d had no contact by end of January I began to get concerned. I finally tracked him down via a mobile number and he said he’d never received my messages and that he no longer created websites but could do updates; he promised to do this but nothing happened. The point is, folks, I do not have a user name or password. Gareth tells me that the whole website was set up using HTML and said that anyone who has knowledge of this format is welcome to take over. He said he would furnish the new webmaster with all relevant details. I was wondering, in view of my dilemma, if anyone would be willing to take over the servicing of my website or make any suggestions to me for starting over and building up my own website. Please note I am not a techno, but if it is easy enough to start a new website then I am willing to give it a go. Best way to contact me is via my email address of Thanks in advance.

Subscription renewal 2018 Yes, it’s that time of year again – membership fees are due by 1st May 2018. There are many benefits associated with membership of the SWWJ. • SWWJ Press Card (Full and Associate Members) • The Woman Writer, four times a year • Quarterly Newsletter via email • Competitions • Regional groups • Writing workshops • Email information loop • Assisted publishing with SCRIPTORA • Drama workshops • Events • Awards • Professional credibility • Manuscript appraisal • Letters after your name (post nominals) You’ll find the subscription form on page 46.

Jenna Hines

Change of address Will members please ensure you notify the Membership Secretary of your change of address, telephone number or email address so that we can keep our records up to date. The Woman Writer Spring 2018


Society news SWWJ welcomes new members FULL MEMBERSHIP Laura Burkin, Chigwell, Essex Membership number: 750 Laura has worked as a journalist on local, regional and national newspapers for many years and currently works in communications, where she continues to write and work with the media. Laura worked with Doreen Friend on the local newspapers and won the 2001 BT South East Journalist of the Year. She is currently writing fiction with a view to being published as an author. Laura belongs to two writing circles and a book group. Dr Vivien Newman, Chelmsford, Essex Membership number: 751 Vivien’s main topics concern First World War women. She has had the following books published: We Also Served:The Forgotten Women of the First World War; Nursing Through Shot and Shell: A Great War Nurse's Diary; Tumult and Tears: The Story of the Great War Through the Eyes and Lives of its Women Poets; and Régina Diana: Seductress, Singer, Spy. All available through Amazon and Pen and Sword. Suffragism and the Great War will be published in May 2018 Dr Celia Doyle, Dawlish, Devon Membership number: 755 Celia has had many books and journal papers published on her specialist subject of child protection and working with abused children. She has also had chapters published as contributions to other writers’ work.


Helen Summer, Lymington, Hants Membership number: 756 Helen has had four non-fiction books published: The Man Inside the Machine, Starpress Publishing; Mental, Running Crazy and Are You Tough Enough?, all by John Blake Publishing. Articles in Writing Magazine, Cycling World, My Weekly, as well as stories and poetry in a variety of magazines.

FRIEND Howard Schaverien, Surrey Membership number: 752 Naneh Hoyhannisyan, Henley-in-Arden, Warks Membership number: 753

WRITER’S DEBUT Jane Gilley, St Helier, Jersey Membership number: 754

Regional Meeting Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire Group The next meeting of the Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire group will take place on Thursday 26th April at The Filly Inn, Brockenhurst, Hampshire. The speaker is Dorset writer Steve Roberts, who will talk about how he successfully pitches articles to magazines and how this publishing success led to being commissioned to write books. Times are 12.30pm for a 1pm buffet meal, followed by the speaker. The cost is £13. Anyone wishing to attend should contact Julie Ratcliffe. You can reach her on email or ring her on 07936 554222. We hope to see as many members as possible attend this meeting! Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Society news Overseas members I have become an International Friend, travelling to France, India, the USA and Canada plus many more countries. This globetrotting doesn’t cost me a penny and there is no worry about passport, tickets and visas and luggage limits. How have I managed this? – I have taken on the Council job of Overseas Liaison. There are members of the SWWJ in many locations around the world. I have been in touch with them all and there are lots to discuss. Getting to know them and their writing days is proving to be interesting and fascinating. I am looking forward to introducing them to you when the overseas page becomes a regular feature, starting in the Summer issue of The Woman Writer. Doreen Friend

Digital copy? We are now offering members the opportunity to be emailed a link to a ‘page-turning’ digital copy of The Woman Writer. This will enable you to view the publication from your computer, iPad, tablet or smartphone. Could be handy if you need to check a date or venue for an event... If you prefer, you could have a PDF version emailed to you. For members in the UK, you will still receive a hard copy in the post. Please contact Carol Cannavan if you would like to be included on the mailing list.

EVENING EVENT FOR MEMBERS AND NON-MEMBERS Taking place at The Savoy Tup (private room) 2 Savoy St, London WC2R 0BA on 24th May 2018 at 6pm - 8pm

How to win over a literary agent Penny Holroyde, literary agent, will be addressing the issues that worry all writers. How do you approach an agent? How should you present your work? How should you present yourself? Penny is happy to cover any areas you particularly want addressed and will answer questions. Penny Holroyde, Literary Agent, and her partner, Claire Cartey, launched Holroyde Cartey in 2015. They represent 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. Penny has worked 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.

Cost: Only £16.50!! The nearest underground station is Charing Cross. If you would like to attend, please email Rebecca Harding on

Don’t miss out! The Woman Writer Spring 2018


Society news Profile of our judge John Walter Salver Competition 2018 Elaine Everest has been a freelance writer for over twentyone years. She started out writing short fiction and articles, specialising in canine features. Her columns and articles have been read in national newspapers as well as women’s and specialist publications. Features as diverse as ‘Why we should not live with our husbands’ to personal pieces about deciding to be childfree have been published in ‘the nationals’, while short stories were popping up in magazines across the world. Never one to let the grass grow under her feet, she also entered competitions with much success, being runner-up in the Harry Bowling Prize in 2012 and winning BBC Radio Kent Short Story Writer of the Year in 2003, to name but two. Elaine was commissioned to write three non-fiction books for dog owners, which led to radio broadcasting – all of which was great experience in building contacts and enjoying being a guest on radio programmes to chat about her novels. Whilst busily earning a living as a writer, Elaine was thrilled to be invited to teach creative writing for Kent Adult Education and is now a qualified teacher. She has run her own writing school, The Write Place, in NW Kent for the past eight years. These days Elaine mainly writes historical sagas for Pan Macmillan, where her Kent-based WW2 novels have become bestsellers. She manages to write the occasional short story and serial while wishing she could still pitch a feature idea – if only there were more hours in the day! Elaine is very much looking forward to judging the John Walter Salver Competition and thanks the SWWJ for their kind invitation. Competition information and rules can be found on page 32.

Writer’s Debut If you know of someone who needs advice and help in getting their writing project on track for publication, they may be eligible to join our Writer’s Debut scheme. For a fee of £145, ‘Debut’ members will be able to submit a completed manuscript for advice and a full critique from an experienced published writer (in their chosen 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. With the right guidance, it is hoped that Debut members will achieve publication and be able to join us as a Full or Associate Member at the end of their Debut year. Open to both male and female writers. Please spread the word! An application form can be downloaded from the Society’s website – – or requested from the scheme’s Manager, Benita Cullingford, by emailing 10

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Members’ news

Success! A ray of sunshine... Dorothy Pope has had her poem, Late Sunbeams, accepted by Acumen and a request for it being a guest poem on their website.

Well done! Pamela Birley was shortlisted for the Writers Bureau Short Story Comp for 2017.

Good move Since Sue Moorcroft moved to Avon (HarperCollins), she has become a Sunday Times bestseller (The Little Village Christmas), an Amazon #1 bestseller and an international bestseller (The Christmas Promise), and Just for the Holidays was nominated in the Contemporary category of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Sue will have a new book out with Avon in May, One Summer in Italy, which is set in the glorious Umbrian Apennine mountains in Italy.

SWWJ member Sue Moorcroft is heading up two retreats in glorious Umbria, Italy, this year – 20th-27th June and 27th June4th July. Why not join her on the Poggiolame estate? The hospitality is generous and you can write to your heart's content. Sue says: “I wrote 23,000 in a week at last year's retreat but still found time for relaxed and convivial meals and to round out every day with a swim.” More information and booking at or contact Sue on: The Woman Writer Spring 2018

More success for Margaret! Margaret Mounsdon has had her latest ‘pocket’ novel (her 32nd!) accepted by People's Friend. It is due to be published in July and is entitled The Eighth Child. Her book Island Magic is now available as an ebook on B079C4S9TC Vanessa is duped into taking her sister's place on a luxury yacht, then finds she is the prime suspect when a valuable diamond ring goes missing.

Debut novel Marilyn Pemberton has had her debut novel The Jewel Garden published by Williams & Whiting. It is now available on Amazon as an ebook and print-on-demand. The book is set in a time when women were starting to rebel against Victorian conventions and to strive for their independence. This is a story of Hannah Russell’s physical, emotional and artistic journey from the back streets of the East End of London to the noisy souks and sandy wastes of Egypt; from the labyrinthine canals of Venice to the lonely corridors of Russell Hall in Kent. Hannah thinks she has found love with Mary De Morgan, a writer of fairy tales and one of William Morris’s circle of friends. But where 11

Members’ news there is devotion there can also be deceit, and where there is hope there also dwells despair.

Special memories I have recently enjoyed a wonderful trip down memory lane in Singapore. I lived there for two years from 1956 to 1958 (yes, I’m that old) and the best part of our last day was spent in the brilliant Singapore Museum. I was very proud to see the words of SWWJ member Josephine (Phine) Chia on the walls of the museum. Phine has written nine books about her childhood in a Kampong (village) and excerpts were printed on the appropriate walls. I shall write more about Phine for the Summer Woman Writer, but in the meantime, I have great pleasure in telling you that she has become a Singaporean literary celebrity and will be launching her 10th book on 21st April. How I wish we had timed our visit to coincide with this momentous event; sadly, I

didn’t even see her this time because she was in Switzerland! Nevertheless, I would like to send best wishes and congratulations from us all at the SWWJ and hope the launch goes well. Pamela Payne

Green fingers... Mari Wallace recently discovered an American magazine called Greenprints that features 'human-interest' gardening stories. As she’s a very keen gardener (and ex-pat American), she decided to write up one of her experiences and send it to them. To her delight, the editor liked it and it will appear in their next issue. Mari is particularly chuffed because her American family and friends will get to see it in print. She can only tell them of her UK successes, as the publications The Guardian, Best of British, Countryfile, Sussex Life, etc, are not available over there!

Poetry recital Naneh Hovhannisyan is a newly joined Friend member of the SWWJ. She recently took part in her first-ever ‘Open Mic’ event in Warwick, reading A Love Letter to Armenia as part of the Words of Love programme. She said: “They were a very good bunch of people, with interesting and diverse pieces, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.” Naneh is shown below reading her poem, which is on page 14.


Spring 2018 The Woman Writer


Penny Vincenzi – 1939-2018 by Pamela Payne

Penny Vincenzi dies at 78 10th April 1939 – 25th February 2018


his morning I learnt with deep sadness that Penny Vincenzi, one of my favourite authors, has died. It is just over a year since the death of Dorothy, my mother, who was also a great fan and whose photograph with Penny was published in the Spring 2017 issue of The Woman Writer. I would buy Mum hardback copies of both the latest Maeve Binchy and Penny Vincenzi every birthday and Christmas, but made sure she knew that they were on a long piece of string so that I could pull them back! She was so very excited to meet Penny. Penny became an Honorary Member of the SWWJ in 2003, joining such literary luminaries as Lady Antonia Fraser, Anne Fine,Victoria Glendinning and Dame Jacqueline Wilson. She was our guest speaker on at least one occasion. She was a most attractive and elegant lady, which wasn’t surprising because she worked as a fashion journalist before signing her first book deal in 1989. Old Sins was the first of

17 blockbuster ‘doorstop’ novels – as well as two volumes of short stories – selling more than seven million copies worldwide. Her bestsellers featuring strong women, romance and family secrets include The Best of Times, An Outrageous Affair, A Perfect Heritage and, my favourite, An Absolute Scandal about trouble in the Lloyd’s insurance market. She was married to Paul Vincenzi from 1960 until his death in 2009. It is reported that her final years were affected by illness in the form of a rare blood disorder and debilitating back pain. According to her publisher, Headline Books, Penny died peacefully. She had begun working on her last novel, said to be based around a Biba-style fashion house – that I would have loved to have read. We send our deepest condolences to Penny’s four daughters, Polly, Sophie, Emily and Claudia, her grandchildren and to all her many friends and colleagues in publishing who are devastated by the loss of a very dear friend.

Looking ahead... The speaker for the Autumn Lunch on 20th September will be Andrew Lewer MBE, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Publishing and Member of Parliament for Northampton South. He will be speaking to members and guests about the current issues and challenges facing the publishing industry. More on Andrew in the next issue. The Woman Writer Spring 2018



A love letter to Armenia by Naneh Hovhannisyan My poor little homeland… So small, in fact, that I, at times, felt suffocated, when embraced by you. So cosy that I had to duck to melt into the crowds. Your tallest mountain, in the end, didn’t elevate me, I claimed. Your loudest river failed to keep me lis’ning. I paid a heavy price for that, with trials and much turbulence, it’s taken me all these years and some to learn to live apart. My poor little homeland… So conveniently small that I could cuddle you and take you with me. Or so I thought. Because at times you seemed too heavy a burden. It is a quality of distance, they said, and a feature of time. And their constant gardener, the all-consuming guilt. Sat in this green and pleasant land, I am forever juggling devotion and desperation. Is there too much of you in me or not enough? Am I doing you proud or letting you down? Will I ever return? Only to be buried? Do you need me even? Over the years, my heart, at times, has swollen for you proudly. And when, sometimes, embarrassment for faults of yours has gripped me, I fantasised about swapping you, or being free of you. Then, what I saw, was my own reckless self and rootless, lonesome existence. So I pulled the cord up tighter, and hugged you closer still. I found a way to understand, accept you in your pain. My pocket-size ‘back home’… My anchor and the measure of my decency. The sentences I go weaving with your ancient language are slim and soggy now. And yet I strive. I strive to do you justice by speaking to my children, by singing it, by strumming it. You won, my love, you always had me: it’s where I learnt to walk and read and help a friend and fell in love for the first ever time. You are where I received the gift of loving parents and one male sibling for life. I went around the world and marvelled at other countries, and came away longing so bitterly for you. They’ve pleased my eyes, for sure, but left my heart both cold and broken for you. So I ran, rushed back to you for solace. And you, your giving ground fed my feet with energy and sunshine. ‘’Unstick,’’you whispered, and slid me down the slope, into the arms of my ‘adopted home’. You kept repeating that my lucky stars are watching, and pushed me to connect and to create where I am, well, residing. You helped me see the many blessings of these shores. You let me open up a space to love some more, for something else – for humour and for history – to wear another culture and to let it get under my skin. You stood aside, you gallant homeland, to make room on that pedestal for a tongue, alien before, and for a climate and a people, that were a riddle in the years past. You gave me more than I could ever do for you. And we shall never know what could have been, who I’d have been, if it were not for you, that poor little land, my home. 14

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Drama A day of romance, sorrow and humour by Martin Cort Report on the Drama Workshop at the Helios Foundation Centre, London, on 3rd February 2018 We opened with the return of Blinks by Benita Cullingford. The finale of this short play is the surprise award for bravery to one of the main characters seen on television. Benita said that she hoped it would interest amateur companies. Next, Doreen Friend’s Powder Blue, written as a competition entry, was charmingly read by Hilary Field. Although very well received by the audience, Doreen explained it didn’t win the competition. A new member Howard Schaverien’s Lost and Found set in two eras – 1923 and 1976 – told of a love story and of the lovers’ dash to Greta Green. As a radio play, it allowed Linda and Joseph Tobias’ story, read by Liz Felton and Kenneth Michaels, to be told by Jean, Linda’s daughter. This sad tale of cultural and religious bias was exposed at the end of the reading as having been based on a true event. Jackie Mitchell’s The Stripper, read by Hilary Field and Peter Stenson, told of the parents’ discovery that their daughter Gemma is a stripper in a Durham club. There is an urgent confrontation with her in a pub. The heat of their argument is instantly cooled when Gemma reveals that she knows that in her youth, her mother Carol worked for Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Club (commonly known as the Bunny Club). Tacey and Steve – re-union by Mary Rensten was an extension of her play performed at the ‘Scripts Live’ showcase. Mary was so impressed with the performances given by Luke Francis and Sophie Morris Sheppard in Still Fresh that it inspired her to write more for the characters. The rather gauche The Woman Writer Spring 2018

meeting and proposed first date got a resounding reaction and encouragement from the members, with an urging of “Let’s see more”. It was an example of what the Workshops are for. Next, Mary Drake gave us a sensitive reading from Beverly O’Connor’s Retribution, which included Chapters 16 and 17 of her novel in progress. What begins as a simple tale of the wedding day of her heroine in 1796 turns dramatically to horror in the church. To say more would spoil it for when you read the finished story. Another ending that I cannot reveal was Doreen Friend’s The Grapevine; as with all good stories, it’s only at the end we find out the reason why Colin and Beryl have spent so much time in his bedroom and in the greenhouse. His mum Angie’s nagging is all too familiar to the audience. There was a crossing of the line between a criminal and an MP in Beverley Holloway’s Governed by Magpies. It set us all wondering if the nursery rhyme One for Sorrow,Two for Joy… related to the content of his lost briefcase. If so, why did Sir David Peterson pay so much for the top-secret documents, his late wife’s letters, or his male lover’s letters? As usual, our writers and actors contributed helpful advice and encouragement during the session.

NEXT DRAMA WORKSHOP The next Drama Workshop will be held at 11am on Saturday 9th June 2018 at:

Leicester Square Reference Library, St Martin’s Street, London WC2H 7HP Do remember that scripts must be sent to Martin Cort at least 10 days prior to the Workshop. Send your scripts to Martin at:

Flat F Kingston Mansions, 147 Clapham Road, London SW9 0HP 15

Data protection

Protect yourself! by Rebecca Harding


t’s the business equivalent of waiting for those evil zombie White Walkers in Game of Thrones. You know they are coming, but everyone is completely underestimating the horror of what they can do to you. And I don’t mean computer hackers. I’m talking about the ICO, otherwise known as the Information Commissioners Office. The executioners of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is coming into force on 25th May 2018. Some small organisations might have thought about it a bit, but to be honest, don’t we all think new legislation is only really for the big boys? Well, to be frank, I was more than a little shocked when I met with the fantastic Jennie Jahina from Wilson Browne solicitors in Northampton. Not by her, obviously. As I said, she’s fantastic. But shocked by the conversation on the whole issue of the GDPR coming along in May 2018. Whilst I was scooping cappuccino froth and chocolate sprinkles onto my spoon – and that takes a lot of my concentration as I’m a simple soul – she began to tell me about the real consequences of not getting the right procedures in place and risking a complaint, no matter how big or small the organisation is. And a complaint can boil down to something as simple as a disgruntled member. However, once a complaint has been made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), they will investigate. Jennie informed me that they have, in their enthusiasm, taken on 200 extra staff in order to do this and that they are self-financing. Basically, if they don’t fine us, they don’t get paid. It reminds me of traffic wardens on 16

commission, the only differences being that they won’t turn up in those terribly attractive uniforms and they will have a good rummage around inside before they write the ticket. At this point, the froth was running down my chin as I sat openmouthed, the reality hitting home. The fines may well be eye-watering, she said. Yikes. They will probably have the same search powers as HMRC, she says. Double yikes. Grabbing my notebook, I wanted an action plan, so that we can protect ourselves and our organisations. So, here it is: • Audit the information you hold. Audit everything from old invoices in filing cabinets and out-of-date CVs to old order forms and old membership lists. This is not just about the digital stuff. • Where is your digital information held? Where is your server? Has your hosting company taken the right actions to protect your data? Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Data protection • Decide whether you need to keep the information or whether it can be destroyed. • Decide whether there is personal or sensitive content. • Audit your current data procedures. Are you going to be legally compliant under the new rules? • How are you going to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you need to be? • You must be able to explain your data protection procedures to be legally compliant. Can you do this? Have you documented this? • Appoint an individual who is responsible for your data compliance. • Make sure everyone is completely on board and understand that this needs resourcing properly and must be given the correct attention. It’s not an odd job on a Friday afternoon if you get a bit of time! So, there is a way to avoid the White Walkers, but I do wonder whether we should catch one, and show everyone what they will be capable of, in order that they believe us? Anyone seen Jon Snow? For further information please visit:

COPY DATE FOR SUMMER 2018 ISSUE The deadline for the next issue of The Woman Writer is Monday 28th May 2018. Please ensure that all copy and images are sent to the Editor, Carol Cannavan, on using Microsoft Word or pasting the text into an email. Please do not embed images into the document/email; always send images separately. Always use the prefix **WW in the subject line (for example, **WWsuccesses). Copy can also be sent by post to the Editor, 10 Dury Falls Close, Hornchurch, Essex RM11 3AX, United Kingdom, but should be typed rather than handwritten. Images should be high resolution (300 dpi) and a good size. Photographs are acceptable but not photocopies of book covers. If you are submitting a photo that doesn’t belong to you, please make sure you have permission for it to be published. These deadlines cannot be changed and any late copy will be published in the email newsletter or held over for the Autumn 2018 issue of The Woman Writer, deadline Monday 3rd September 2018.

The Woman Writer Advertising Rates: Dont forget, membership fees are due 1st May. See page 46 for details.

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

The Woman Writer is published quarterly. Quarter page (60mm x 90mm) £38 Half page (128mm x 90mm) £75 Full page (128mm x 184mm) £145 (Series discounts available.) PDF format preferred. For further details please contact the Editor. Members can post events and items for sale and any other advertisements at £2 per line. 17

From the archive Deeds not words – women’s suffrage! by Sylvia Kent During February, the media spotlight has been on the centenary celebrations of the introduction of the ‘Representation of the People Act’. People now know more about this period of history than ever before. SWWJ members sometimes ask how our Society, a basically feminine organisation, survived that difficult period. While our founder, Joseph Snell Wood, was drawing up our blueprint (we were eventually founded on 1st May 1894), Millicent Fawcett was forming the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, bringing together – under a national umbrella – all the associations that had fought for votes for women. Thereafter, in 1903, the WSPU (Social & Political Union) was formed in Manchester with Emmeline Pankhurst at the helm. Whether these important women of the time knew each other we have no idea, due to scant archive material. But maybe because of the militant action of the time, Mr Snell Wood and his first President, Pearl Craigie, agreed that politics and religion were best avoided. From Minute books, we know that the forthright Charlotte Despard, Council member, was incredibly political. She was one of the 3,000-strong parade of women at Hyde Park Corner in 1907 and later became Leader of the Women’s Freedom League. Edwardian England, at least for the middle and upper classes, vibrated with thoughts and ideas for change. The Independent Labour Party had emerged in 1900 and the radical spirit of those early years of the 20th century was typified by ‘Votes for Women’ and the demand for Home Rule for Ireland. One of the most famous passionate Irish 18

Nationalists, Alice Stopford Green – a colleague of Countess Markievicz – served on our 1908 Council, yet incongruously, not one political word was recorded in the Minutes! The following year, our new Chairman, Mrs Humphry Ward (Mary Augusta Ward), a keen advocate of women’s educational studies and eventually the founder of Somerville College at Oxford, was appointed leader of the anti-suffrage movement, opposing women’s rights to vote. Strange! Among other members who felt strongly about women’s suffrage was Alice Meynell (1847-1922). Alice’s father had been a friend of Charles Dickens and, when small, she had met and mixed with many eminent writers of the time. She began writing poetry as a child and her work was admired by many famous writers of the time, including John Ruskin and Dante Rossetti, so much so she was nominated twice when the Poet Laureate position became vacant, first in 1895 and again in 1913. Endorsements by Kipling, Tennyson and Chesterton failed to help her elevation. The Government feared that conferring such an honour upon a woman could be seen as a victory for the suffragettes. Robert Bridges became Poet Laureate that year. On 1st May 2019, SWWJ celebrates a special birthday – 125 years! In the presence of our President, Baroness Benjamin, we’ll toast our continuing success alongside a new generation of professional writers. Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Spring Prize Giving

Well done everyone! by Carol Cannavan


hat a great afternoon we all had at The National Liberal Club for the Prize Giving and Spring Tea on 14th March. It was a glorious sunny day and that added to the energy in the room. Our Chairman, Barbara Field-Holmes (left), welcomed everyone and thanked Vivien Hampshire, competition organiser, for all her hard work. Vivien does a brilliant job of promoting the SWWJ competitions and arranging judges, which is no easy task. In this case,Viv excelled in her choices! All the judges were well qualified in their fields and gave great feedback. Over the next 12 pages you’ll be able to read the winning entries and extracts from the runners-up. Hopefully, it will inspire you to have a go at our next competition (see page 32). L to R: Ann Evans, Margaret Mounsdon, Janet Gover and Claire Dyer.

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Janet Gover signing one of her books.

Thanks go to our judges: Claire Dyer, Ann Evans, Janet Gover and Margaret Mounsdon. Extra thanks go to Janet Gover, as she was also our guest speaker after tea. Janet grew up in Australia and had some riveting stories to tell about her life. She has written a series of novels about ‘Coorah Creek’, a fictional town in outback Australia. The series has won a number of awards, including the Epic Romantic Novel of the Year in the UK, two Book Buyers Best Awards and the Aspen Gold Readers’ Choice Award in the USA. Originally, Janet started her career as a television journalist, first in Australia, then in Asia and Europe. At present, she lives in London. Although there are more books about Australia to come, Janet is also writing as Juliet Bell – in collaboration with her writer friend Alison May. They are both qualified writing tutors and run writing retreats. To find out more information, please visit Janet’s website 19

Spring Prize Giving

Winner Takes All 2017 This competition asked for any piece of writing – fact, fiction, prose or poetry – themed ‘Red’. Our winner was Pamela Payne, who takes the prize of £42. The judge was Margaret Mounsdon.

Judge’s comments “I wasn’t sure what I was looking for in a winner, but from the moment I started to read the 21 entries I was amazed at how many interpretations of red the entrants could come up with – from Russian agents to fairy tales, final demands, Isaac Newton, a killer red dress and Italian underwear. They were all intriguing and reading them was a lovely way to brighten up a dull January afternoon. I could only marvel at the imagination and ingenuity of the writers... All the entries were well presented and followed the competition remit, which made it an extremely difficult task to pick a winner. However, after reading all the entries several times, in the end it was the Italian underwear that won the day. Red Alert!!! was a piece of writing which kept me amused, entertained and informed. I certainly had no idea that red clothing played such a significant role in Italian culture and it is certainly something I shall bear in mind the next time I visit Italy.” Competition organiser Vivien Hampshire read out Pamela Payne’s winning entry.

Red Alert!!!



ake sure you have red underwear on your Christmas Wish List if you want to ward off evil spirits during 2018. These must be new, a gift, worn on New Year’s Eve and thrown away the next day! Wearing red underwear will also bring happiness, good luck, success in sexual endeavours and improve fertility. So, put them at the top of your list! We lived in Naples for four years and learnt about Italian superstitions and traditions. Christmas was, of course, religious but New Year’s Eve was mayhem! Shop windows were festooned with red underwear of all styles, from sexy lacy jobs to Bridget Jones big pants and long johns. They were even hung from balconies and telephone wires – these were probably last year’s gifts! New Year’s Eve in Naples is a dangerous place. They embrace the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ tradition by throwing old pots, pans and especially crockery out of the window – often followed by wardrobes and chairs! The lanes of Spaccanapoli (the old inner city) are extremely narrow, so there is no ‘dodge’ room – injuries do happen. Red clothing has been used for centuries to ward off war and disasters and today the Neapolitans need all the luck in the world to avoid earthquakes or an eruption of the volcano Vesuvius. Everyone stays up, often until dawn, to watch the amazing firework displays all over the city’s skies – unless, of course, the seductive red underwear has cast its magical spell! © Pamela Payne Unable to attend.


Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Spring Prize Giving

John Walter Salver Short Story Competition 2017 The theme for this competition was ‘The Weather’. The judge was Janet Gover and the first prize (£100) went to Beryl Fleming.

World in a Carrier Bag



t was Christmas Eve. At Victoria he walked the length of the platform to the furthest carriage, hoping fewer people would reach that far; it would be less crowded. He huddled into a corner seat, pushing the carrier bag inside his coat. In a futile attempt to escape being noticed, he tried withdrawing into the upholstery, ashamed of his unkempt appearance and the offence it might cause. His hopes were unfulfilled. The carriage filled up slowly at first, then in a rush, everyone seemingly hell-bent on reaching home for Christmas. Several passengers, about to sit next to him, moved elsewhere when they saw the long hair, beard, shabby coat, dirty trousers and boots. Disdainful eyes swept over him, followed by overloud comments – “shouldn’t be allowed on a crowded train like that”... “the guard should have thrown him off”... “he’s probably drunk”. He ignored them, staring fixedly at his pathetic reflection in the grimy glass, stomach churning with anger and resentment. What did they know – or care – that he hadn’t always looked like this? The ticket collector pushed through the packed compartment. Smirking, he snatched the ticket from the dirty hand in its threadbare, fingerless mitten, the look of disgust on his face indicating his expectation it would be invalid. Realising it wasn’t, he thrust it back and the smirk disappeared. When they reached Bognor Regis snow The Woman Writer Spring 2018

was falling; he waited until the train disgorged its frantic hordes, watched them surging towards the exit, intent on reaching their destinations before the weather closed in. He too had a destination, but was in no hurry to reach it... Outside the station he shivered, pulled his collar up, straightened up and breathed in deeply. Surely he could smell the sea...? He tried remembering how many years had passed since his last visit to the little town that had once been home, had meant so much to him. Twenty, thirty...? He’d lost count. He only knew he wanted to come back, tonight, just to see it again, walk familiar streets, re-live old memories. He shuffled along, aware of snow rapidly seeping into his boots. Even in the gloom he realised there had been many changes, but a few buildings were familiar. The quaint old Picturedrome, the Reynolds’ Furniture Depository rising up into the dark sky. Passers-by, intent on home and warmth, ignored the elderly tramp whose beard was rapidly collecting a covering of snowflakes. It was so long since he had walked this way to the sea yet if he closed his eyes, even briefly, he imagined himself prosperous again... smart uniform, head held high... Life was very different now, he thought, but there was still this overwhelming longing to see the old town just once more. Occasionally he stopped, stared into shop windows, unfamiliar names above the doors, none to recall the past. The sweet shop whose windows had shone with tinsel and fairy lights at Christmas, where he had taken his children for sugar mice – now displayed the impersonal advantages of a high-interest account. 21

Spring Prize Giving Turning into Merchant Street, a lump came to his throat. Mary had lived there when they first met; he had always walked her home, first kissed her on the doorstep; from here she had come to marry him. Suddenly, unwilling to pass her house, he turned and shuffled towards the sea down Steyne Street. The thin overcoat was useless against the icy wind, his boots were saturated – but he struggled on to Lennox Street, to walk past their little home again, remembering their happy days there. Fewer and fewer people passed him; no one noticed the shabby old man standing outside the little house, gazing up at its dark windows as if expecting to see someone there. Hunger pangs gnawed at his stomach and he suddenly caught the old familiar smell of a fish and chip shop. Forcing numb legs forward, he groped in his pocket for his few remaining coins and in the light of the doorway of a gleaming new establishment studied the price list and entered. The young, shaven-headed assistant accepted a handful of coins for the swiftly wrapped parcel, grinned and called him ‘Grandad’. Had he looked back he would have seen the grin turn, briefly, to a look of concern as the door slammed and the old man shambled out into the bitter night. The snow was lying thickly, muffling traffic sounds; great flakes swirled down the shafts of street light. He stumbled onwards to the seafront road, hesitated, looking right and left. Memories flooded back – standing on this same corner holding small, warm and trusting hands in his, emphasising the necessity to cross safely. Those were summer days, long ago... blue sky, a gentle breeze from the sea. Now, on the other side of the world, those hands probably held little warm hands of their own... He would never know. At last he reached his final destination – the hotel – a majestic building staring solidly towards the sea. It appeared unchanged, 22

imposing as ever; lights in many windows. But there was no uniformed commissionaire standing ready to open limousine doors with a flourish. Now it had a modern, casual air about it. As he stood in the shadows he heard loud music from inside; several minicabs came and went, disgorging young, noisy passengers. It had been so different, so different in his day... Exhaustion overwhelmed him as he crossed the seafront road between a few struggling cars, clutching the warm parcel tighter with near-frozen fingers. Snow was drifting rapidly into smooth piles against the walls along The Esplanade. Struggling up the steps to the promenade he shuffled along to a shelter, then stood facing the inky blackness of a winter night. He was so cold, colder than he ever remembered... he must eat now... He swept the snow off the shelter seat with his hand and huddled into a corner, a single thought in mind – hot food. As he unwrapped the layers of paper he heard a faint ‘miaow’; suddenly a tabby cat leapt on to the seat beside him, purring loudly as it shoved an inquisitive nose into the paper. “Hello, moggy, smell the fish did you? Come on then, may as well share it.” His frozen fingers, slightly warmed by the food, broke up little pieces of batter and extracted morsels of fish, smiling when the cat gobbled and purred at the same time. Soon their supper was gone and the cat sniffed expectantly for more. “All gone, puss,” he said, stroking its soft coat and feeling the scrawny frame beneath. “Looks like we’ve both seen better days, eh?” The cat pushed its way into the folds of his coat and laid against him. He drew it closer. He listened to the sea roaring up the deserted beach, unseen, menacing. As the snow continued he groped for his one possession... the plastic carrier bag – and tipped out the contents beside him. Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Spring Prize Giving Newspapers, faded photographs, a grubby, crumpled brown envelope – and a small tin. Fumbling in the tin for cigarette ends and matches, he lit the remaining stub. The cat, disliking the disturbance, rose and investigated the bag. He picked up the grubby envelope with difficulty, tipping out the contents; inside was a battered, faded passport, long outdated, its pages yellow with age. Opening it, he peered in the dim light at the bright, eager face of a young man and looked at the ‘Occupation’ – Hotel Commissionaire. The face was round, plump, full of hope. Snapping it shut, he thrust it back into the bag. A few faded photographs fell into his lap – and lay there. After a cursory glance he pushed them back, but one – caught by a gust of wind – fluttered away: a photograph of a woman, smiling... He watched it disappear into the darkness. Treasured so long, now it no longer mattered. The stub burnt out and the bitter cold attacked his body, creeping into his bones. Closing his eyes, he struggled to will it away. The last time he remembered heavy snow like this on Christmas Eve he had stood beneath the big chandelier, greeting guests as they removed furs and overcoats – never giving a thought, then, to the needy who came to the kitchen door of the hotel for leftovers and handouts. There would be no kitchen door charity for him tonight, not from there... He had never felt so cold. His legs were immobile, his head ached. The cat had moved away from him and crawled into the carrier bag, pushing the newspapers into a ball and making circles with her body until she was comfortable. “Sensible puss,” he murmured, as she settled on the grubby envelope, passport and discarded photographs. “Her world and mine,” he murmured, “in one carrier bag.” The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Through the night the town slowly ground to a halt. An eerie silence hung over the beach, broken only by the gentle sound of shifting pebbles as the tide receded; snow continued to fall steadily. The hunched figure in the shelter did not move under its glistening blanket of snow. The cat, warm and snug, slept on... unaware that the carrier bag – and all it contained – now belonged to her alone. © Beryl Fleming Beryl Fleming (right) receives the John Walter Salver from Janet Gover (judge)

Judge’s comments “This was the first story I read, and I kept thinking back to it, and wondering more about the character. That’s a good sign. The use of weather is terrific. The story had a strong emotional impact. It’s sad, but not depressing. And the title was intriguing. Most of all I chose this story for two reasons. First I wanted to read it again. Not as a judge, but as a reader. I wanted to enjoy it a second time. And the closing line of the story was masterful...” 23

Spring Prize Giving Here is the opening extract from our second place winner. Patrick Forsyth won £50 for his entry.


Who’d be a Writer?


“ ’m not very happy…” The figure that was clearly a ghost spoke in a deep, drysounding voice, seemingly that of someone who had not spoken for a very long time. The house was old and deserted. Approached up a long winding drive, now littered with weeds growing through its pitted surface and with the unkempt vegetation of the grounds crowding in from all sides, it had lain empty for many years. I hurried up the drive seeking shelter as the weather deteriorated, the dark ominous sky and scudding clouds unleashing rain whipped sideways by a wind that increased in vehemence by the moment sending the trees into a frenzy of whirling branches. If the weather had not been so atrocious I would never have gone inside; I knew the place was said to be haunted. I opened the unfastened door and stepped into the hall shaking water from my coat as I did so. Inside there were still a few items of furniture; in the wide hall there was an oak side table alongside a heavy wooden chair and a grandfather clock. The clock stood at five past four and had likely not run for more than a hundred years. Cobwebs abounded, thick dust covered every surface and tattered curtains hung at the windows, doubtless making the house gloomy even when it was full daylight outside. Today the heavy cloud made it especially gloomy; lightning flashed briefly and lit up the room a little. I saw dark wooden panelling lining the staircase, which rose up from the hall in a wide upward curve, upstairs shadows rippled into the distance. As befits such an old house it was eerily silent, yet not completely devoid of noise. 24

The wood of stairs and floors gave out occasional random creaks, no doubt due to temperature changes, and currently as the weather deteriorated it was getting colder, There were moments when some sounds could have been taken for footsteps as the boards above shifted a little. As a venue for a ghost hunt it was surely heaven sent, though one presumes earthbound ghosts are not linked to heaven, or perhaps not yet. I wondered if I should have come in... © Patrick Forsyth Patrick Forsyth receives his Certificate from Janet Gover.

Judge’s comments “This is a story that was a truly unique and interesting approach to a common idea. It made me smile and it resonated with me. There was use of the weather as a plot device – not quite as much as I would have liked, but the story held my attention from start to finish. It’s the story of a writer who is losing control of one of the characters he created. That’s a feeling every writer can relate to, but this story takes that feeling up a level and makes it quite scary.” Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Spring Prize Giving Here is the opening extract from our third place winner. Julie Ratcliffe won £25 for her entry.


A Chill in the Air “


e can’t afford one, Joan.” “We’ll save. I’ll get a job, parttime, mornings. We need the money in any case.” “We won’t need one if this freezin’ weather carries on. Anyway, you’re wanted at home.” “Come on, Bill. Carol and David are both at school, they won’t know I’m at work.” “What if one of ’em’s ill?” “It’ll save time.” Mum pressed her lips together and drew a deep breath through her nose. “What about when you were sick? Off a week with no pay, what did that cost us? Doctor said it were the chicken. If we had a fridge, it wouldn’t have happened.” I watched as Dad gave a grunt, like he didn’t know what to say next. Mum wanted a fridge for Christmas, but got a Yardley’s perfume set and some earrings instead. I was hoping for lots of ice lollies. My friend Gail has a fridge, she has ice lollies. “I’m goin’ to the pub.” Dad grabbed his coat and scarf and banged the front door behind him. I sneaked back upstairs. David was asleep. I crept into the double bed we shared. I shivered and pulled the eiderdown around my shoulders. I heard the back door, twice, then Mum’s footsteps. She’d been to the privy. We have a potty under our bed in case we need to pee in the night. She came in – I closed my eyes. She tucked in the bedclothes, kissed our foreheads and crossed the landing to her and Dad’s bedroom. After a few moments, I heard the creak of her getting into bed then the sound of her soft sobs. Tears filled my eyes and I pushed my face into my pillow so she couldn’t hear mine. It was Sunday morning. I didn’t want to get out of bed. We didn’t go to church like

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Gail’s family. Dad likes his lie-in. The smell of toast was wafting upstairs along with the sound of David brumming his toy cars. He’s six, I’ll be nine in April. I’d stayed awake for ages listening for Dad to come home. He’d stormed out a lot lately. My heart thumped at the thought of him not coming back at all. That’s what happened with Brian’s Dad. Brian was always crying. Dad cried when he told Mum the mill was closing. I saw him. But he got a new job on the buses. He’s a conductor, a trainee. He won’t earn much until he has his licence. I heard him tell Grandad that. He gets up at four to be at the depot for five each morning. That’s why he likes a lie-in... © Julie Ratcliffe Unable to attend.

Judge’s comments “Third place goes to a story that was very well structured. There was conflict and resolution. Too often the ending of a story can be predicted from the beginning – but this was not the case here. There was doubt right up to the last three paragraphs, and that takes some skill. The story revolved around a child’s love and uncertainties, and the complexities of family. The theme of weather was woven through quite nicely – even into the title of the piece.”


Spring Prize Giving

Writing for Children Competition 2017 There wasn’t a theme for this competition. The judge was Ann Evans and the first prize (£100) went to Marilyn Pemberton.

Target Practice



h Mum! Do I have to take her?” “Yes, you do. And don’t forget to be back before sunrise.” Night has fallen. I stand at the cave opening waiting for her. I decide there is no point in sulking. “Come on Sissy. We’re going to the woods. You can help me with my target practice.” She hasn’t got all her teeth yet and she lisps, “Hurrah! Letsth go!” She takes a running jump out of the entrance and starts to beat her wings. She is ungainly but soon levels out and hovers, waiting for me. I sigh, step out into the void and glide effortlessly on a thermal. “Wrong way, Sissy. Follow me.” Sissy is so slow! She is a pain in the tail, but I smile at her fat little body, still covered in baby mud-coloured scales, and her stumpy wings that flail up and down in a desperate effort to keep up with me. Eventually I see the wood below me and I point out the small glade. I alight perfectly. Sissy lands with a thump and ends up on her back, her feet scrabbling uselessly in the air. “Thtop laughing at me and help me up!” I tip her over the right way. “Ssh. Listen!” “I can’t hear anything.” “Exactly! If there is anything else here we must hide. Do you understand? We must never, ever, be seen.” “I get it. So, what do you want me to do?” “


I don’t really need her help but I get her to find large leaves to stick to the trunk of trees that I can use as target practice for my flame. “You are useless! You are not even hitting the tree. I’m hungry.” “You’re always hungry. Go and catch a mouse or a squirrel then. Don’t go far.” I continue practising, with one ear listening out for Sissy. I hear her scrabbling amongst the roots. I hear the squeal of a luckless victim and the crunch of its bones. I hear Sissy give a little burp. I hear voices. Voices! I stand stock still, hardly breathing. Yes, definitely voices. I can still hear Sissy rooting around. I silently scream to her to be silent, but she cannot yet hear my thoughts. Too late! “Look ‘ere, Tom. What’s this?” I creep soundlessly towards the sound of the voices. I peer round an oak and see two men with fishing rods and large canvas bags over their shoulders standing either side of a terrified Sissy. She has never seen a human before but she knows she is in great danger. “It looks like some sort of lizard. It looks ‘armless enough.” One man prods Sissy on the side. She squeals and tries to run. The men laugh as she waddles away. Then one picks her up and stuffs her into his bag. “It must ‘ave escaped from the zoo. We’ll take it tomorrow. There may be a reward. C’mon, lets get ‘ome.” What on earth am I to do? I am overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty. I am her big brother. I am meant to be fearless. I am meant to look after her. The men disappear round a bend and I am suddenly jolted into action. There is only Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Spring Prize Giving one thing I can do. I have to save her! I rise into the air and glide over the treetops, following the men as they stroll along the path, chattering to each other. I can see a clearing ahead and as the men reach the edge I land in front of them. I am taller than them; I must look a fearsome sight with my emerald scales glistening in the moonlight. I smile at them so that they can see my array of pointed teeth. I cough a little spurt of flame to show I mean business. The men stop chattering. Their mouths are open but no sound comes out. I look directly at the man carrying Sissy, open my mouth as wide as I can and roar. They stand like statues. I aim a tongue of flame at their feet. The grass and leaves burn momentarily then die down. They are both whimpering now. I aim the next flick of flame at the canvas bag. Just enough, I hope, for him to get the message but the man still clings to it for dear life. “For Gawd’s sake, Tom, it wants the lizard. Give it to ‘im. Quick, before he roasts us alive!” The man hurriedly slips the bag off his shoulder then, when they see I am not following, they run away as fast as their spindly legs will go. I should really kill them. I bite through the canvas until there is a hole big enough for Sissy to crawl out of. I wrap my wings around her shivering body and hug her tightly, licking the tears from her face. “Ssh, Sissy. It is all over now. You are safe.” “I just didn’t hear them. You are so brave!” “Come on, we need to get you home. I’ll carry you.” I hunker down so she can climb onto my back and she puts her little wings round my neck. She may only be a baby but she is heavy and I can only fly slowly. The sky begins to lighten. The Woman Writer Spring 2018

“Be quick! The sun is rising!” I try to fly faster but I am so tired. I can now see the cave, but I can also see the sunlight creeping towards the entrance. I have to get there first! With one last concerted effort I almost throw myself into the cave and lie exhausted on the floor. “Pull your tail in!” Too late! The sun glides over the tip of my tail and I hear the crackling sound as it turns into stone. I sigh. At least it is only my tail and not my whole body. It will return to normal tonight but I will need to be careful all day not to chip it! © Marilyn Pemberton Marilyn Pemberton (right) receives her trophy from Ann Evans (judge).

Judge’s comments “I loved this. It's a fast-moving, action-packed adventure story, aimed at readers aged 8+. It's told clearly through the viewpoint of the boy dragon, although we aren't told they are dragons. The narrative paints pictures, which is so important for all readers – young or old. And each of the characters is really well defined. There's not a wasted word and there's even a quirky little surprise at the end.” 27

Spring Prize Giving Here is the opening extract from our second place winner. Beryl Fleming won £50 for her entry.


The Nativity Play Miss Forbes was going frantic, it was nearly half past two... the manger had gone missing, one king had lost a shoe... With parents due she tore her hair and yelled out “Children, hush!” But most tots wept and panicked in the overwhelming crush of getting costumes sorted, with four Mums helping out – everyone was squabbling, then Lucy gave a shout: “My virgin halo’s horrid, it’s all prickly and wonky!” Then Thomas said he would not play the rear half of the donkey. “But why not, dear?” asked Teacher, “the costume is so sweet!” “Cos Toby in the front half keeps treading on my feet!” The tears flowed ever faster when Balthasar was sick and Melchior hit Caspar with his Grandpa’s walking stick... © Beryl Fleming Here is the opening extract from our third place winner. Benita Cullingford (shown on page 31) won £25 for her entry.

Hen Friends


Set: Two cut-out free-standing bushes, placed side by side. FREDA: You did well, Scatty, finding those bacon rinds. SCATTY: (preening) Thank you. FREDA: I really enjoyed mine. (Stretches neck) Went down well with my egg. SCATTY: Oh, Freda! FREDA: Now we’re free, we’ll have to find our own food! Eat when we can. SCATTY: We were free before. FREDA: Only free range. We belonged to the farmer. (Giggles) Now we’ve ranged a bit further! Both scratch around on the ground with their feet. SCATTY: D’you think we’ll be missed? FREDA: Shouldn’t think so. Speckle didn’t return last week, and nobody missed her. SCATTY: Yes but – FREDA: What? SCATTY: Don’t want to say. FREDA: What? SCATTY: Well, she was plumper than us. I think she got taken, you know – to be plucked... © Benita Cullingford 28

Judge’s comments “A rhyming story about the school nativity play with all its chaos. This is just so funny and would appeal to all school age children right up to adults. I can well imagine the children laughing out loud if this was being read to them, or they were reading it themselves.”

Patrick Forsyth’s entry gained a Highly Commended Certificate.

Judge’s comments “This was a scene from a children's play, and as well as being very visual and funny, was well presented, so that a school (YR6-YR7 10-13 year olds) would be able to perform it. It features two hens and an elderly pigeon, and these characters alone, pecking about on a stage, would have an entire school in stitches. The dialogue and stage directions are faultless. I'd love to see the whole thing performed.”

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer ”

Spring Prize Giving

The Elizabeth Longford Poetry Competition 2018 The theme for this competition was ‘Water’. The judge was Claire Dyer and the first prize (£100) went to Valerie Tigwell.


Philippa at the Outdoor Pool Philippa detested swimming so paraded the length of the pool in a slinky black swim suit, silver mules, towel trailing over one shoulder, lips pouting at the boys. As she sauntered to a cubicle to change she singled out a youth, then leaning over the door affected her little girl voice, “Be a sweetie and pass me my purse, pen” – whatever she’d planted outside, fingers stroking as she took it, slight slip of the towel, a husky “Thank-you darling,” her Marilyn giggle. Once us girls hid in the deep-end, grabbed her ankles as she wiggled by, toppled her face-down into the cold pool; her body arched, rigid as the diving board. Coughing up water she lashed out her legs and arms scissoring the air. Instantly Ricky Wilson (the gorgeous one) dived through our legs like a submarine and swept her up. She lay whimpering in his arms, eye lashes fluttering. He snuggled her up in his Bondi beach towel while we dripped over her like extras. At that point the rain lashed down; Ricky whisked her home in a taxi to the posh part of town. We fought over her sun glasses but one lens fell out. Gutted, we trailed the two miles home, feverishly plotting. © Valerie Tigwell The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Valerie Tigwell (left) receives The Elizabeth Longford Rose Bowl from Claire Dyer (judge).

Judge’s comments “I love the humour in this and the conciseness of the storytelling. The voice of the narrator is fresh and original... This poem jumped out at me on my first read-through of all the entries and stayed with me throughout my deliberations. The fact that the perpetrators are to continue their plotting is a gorgeous way to end the poem. I would love to know what they have planned next!” Valerie Dunmore (left) receives her Certificate from Claire Dyer.


Spring Prize Giving Valerie Dunmore came second in the competition and won £50.


Finola Holiday came third in the competition and won £25.



Velvet darkness mirrored velvet dark as I floated on the midnight sea, enveloped in the nightglow. Starwards I stretched my arms, reaching, reaching for the rippling spheres. Shooting star streaked after shooting star, cascading showers of glittering rain. A yearning pain pierced me, if only I could touch. Turning I laughed and splashed at their reflections, chasing the meteors as they descended deep into the deep. I duck-dived after them. Around me phosphorescent bubbles rose flowed from my fingertips, effervescing upwards. I spun round and round but could not grasp them. Breathless I surfaced, spangled in a cloak of stars. © Valerie Dunmore

The light comes early to polish the glass lake while the wind is away. The mountains are awake and shafted with silver before the sun can finger their forests, before leaves grow green again. The pines stare at the water where the trees are up-side-down, the peaks shining below them crowd the lake floor A fish jumps, the tree-line blurs for a moment, a rock-face trembles. The ripples sink back to the glaze. The sun has frayed the winter's ice-lace and brittle fragments lie under the glass. Two cyclists race along in pursuit of the morning. Red helmets catch the light like cabochon rubies. They circle, wheels on fire, as the sun spins them. Intent, they do not see their twin companions the images who pace them under the lake. © Finola Holiday

Judge’s comments “‘Perseids’ is a super poem that cleverly sustains the metaphor of swimming in space, but my reading of it also leans me towards seeing the poet’s actions as an act of yearning or searching for something which, whilst not found, leaves them ‘spangled in a cloak of stars’, which is a great way to end the poem. The poem has fantastic rhythm and I believe the poet makes good use of their line breaks to propel the poem, so that the movement in it and the movement of it correspond. Another reading could, of course, see the poet’s breathlessness at the end as something joyous and I like the fact that I don’t really know the poet’s intentions; being lost in the moment swimming through the night sky is enough for me!” 30


Quarry Lake, Canmore, Alberta. Unable to attend.

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Spring Prize Giving Judge’s comments “‘Reflections’ is a poem that is packed full with amazing details and a great sense of movement, from the light polishing the ‘glass lake’, to the jumping fish, to the blur of the cyclists’ wheels... The poem paints a vivid picture of the tension between man and nature and leaves intriguing questions hanging in the air about the cyclists: where are they going, why are they racing, who will win, what do the reflections in the lake signify?”

Photos from the Spring Tea

Benita Cullingford (right) receives her Certificate from Ann Evans (judge).

SWWJ Flickr account There’s only space to include a few of the photos taken at the Spring Tea and Prize Giving, but now you can see them all on our Flickr page. To access the photos just visit Click on a photo and it will take you through to a different screen – in the bottom righthand corner you should see a down-pointing arrow, click on that and it will show the different sizes you can choose, click on the size and it will download to your computer. The Woman Writer Spring 2018


SWWJ Competition

SWWJ John Walter Salver Competition This year’s competition is for an unpublished ARTICLE Theme: ‘Something you don’t know about me’ Tell us something interesting, intriguing or unusual about you! A job, a hobby, an experience, who you have met, where you have been… Surprise us with a side to your life we may never have imagined! Maximum 1500 words First prize: £100 – Second: £50 – Third: £25 Entry fee: £5; or £12 for three entries Judge: Elaine Everest Closing date: 31st August 2018 Send your entries to: Vivien Hampshire, 16 Abingdon Close, Uxbridge UB10 0BU Please check the RULES carefully before you submit your entry Note: The trophy and cash prizes will be presented on Wednesday 20th March 2019 in London SWWJ COMPETITION RULES Please read these rules carefully. Failure to comply could lead to your entry being invalidated. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.


SWWJ competitions are open to Full and Associate Members only. Unless specifically stated, Friends of the Society and non-members are not eligible to enter. Please ensure that any maximum word or line length set for the competition is strictly adhered to. Your membership number (NOT your name) and the title of your work should appear on every page of your entry. Please number the pages. Please type or print on one side of plain white A4 paper only. No handwritten entries please. Please use double spacing for all prose entries. Poems may be spaced as the poet requires. Every entry must have a detachable cover sheet showing the title, your name, membership number, address, and email address and/or phone number so we can contact you. Entries must be accompanied by the appropriate fee. Cheques to be made payable to SWWJ. A maximum of three entries per person to each competition is allowed. Sending cash is discouraged. Entries received after the closing date may be disregarded with no return of fee. If you would like to receive a copy of the judge’s report, please also enclose a self-addressed envelope of suitable size and bearing the correct postage. Entries MUST NOT be previously published or have been read or performed in any public domain up to the closing date. They should not be currently entered into any other competition. Please do not send your entry by recorded/special delivery or registered post. Enclose a stamped self-addressed postcard if you wish us to acknowledge its safe receipt. Keep a copy of your work as the Society cannot be held responsible for the loss of your entry, in the post or otherwise. Manuscripts will not be returned after judging. Cash prizes for winners and runners-up vary per competition and will be as advertised. In the event of a large number of entries, or if the judge requests it, the Society reserves the right to appoint a shortlisting panel. Please keep the prize-giving date free in your diary and book a ticket to attend if at all possible. If you are a winner, we would like to congratulate you and present your prize to you in person!

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

AGM and Summer Gathering

AGM & Summer Gathering 28th June 2018 at 12.30pm (arrival from noon) at The National Liberal Club, 1 Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE

Guest Speaker – Anita Marie Sackett


t is the turn of the poets in our Society to have a speaker at one of our meetings and we are very pleased to announce that SWWJ member Anita Marie Sackett has kindly agreed to do the honours at this year’s AGM Tea. Anita has taught in England, New Zealand and Jamaica and many of her pupils have been successful in national poetry competitions and have had their work displayed in the Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall, London. She began writing poetry whilst in Maryland, USA, and since returning to England her poems have been widely published by a variety of publishers. Anita is a regular speaker on cruise liners so is well qualified to speak on travel! She also gives reminiscence talks to senior citizens and Alzheimer’s groups and PowerPoint presentations to Women’s Institutes, Rotary Clubs and many other organisations. Her subjects include: ‘Christmas Customs Around the World’ and ‘Living in the 1940s and 50s’ – for which she draws upon her own childhood for inspiration. Before Anita’s presentation we will all tuck into a scrumptious feast of sandwiches, cakes and scones with cream and jam. Washed down with several cups of tea, of course!

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Anita Marie Sackett

Join us on 28th June! It will be a great afternoon where you can catch up with old friends, and make new ones! Booking form on page 35. 33

AGM and Summer Gathering

SWWJ Annual General Meeting on Thursday 28th June at 12.30pm (arrival from noon) The National Liberal Club, 1Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE AGENDA 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Welcome to Members Apologies for Absence Minutes of Annual General Meeting held on 29th June 2017 Matters Arising Chairman's Report Treasurer's Report Appointment of Auditors Election of Council Officers 2018/2019 Officers offering themselves for election: Honorary Secretary Janice Grande Honorary Treasurer Benita Cullingford 9. Election of Council Members 2018/2019 Agreeing to stand for election for a period of one year: Pamela Birley Carol Cannavan Barbara Field-Holmes Doreen Friend Vivien Hampshire Rebecca Harding Sylvia Kent Pamela Payne 10. Resolution 1 – Item 3 of the SWWJ Constitution should be amended to read: 3e) The title Fellow will be conferred by Council on those members who have given distinguished service to SWWJ. Resolution 2 – Item 15 of the SWWJ Constitution should be amended to read: Full Members (including Associate Members), Honorary Members and Fellows of the SWWJ shall be entitled to use the post nominal letters, MSWWJ, SWWJ (Hon) and FSWWJ respectively. 11. Any Other Business By order of the Council NB: Attendance at AGM is free to all members (only members can vote). If you are staying for the Summer Gathering, there is a charge – please fill in and return the application form opposite. 34

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

AGM and Summer Gathering

Annual General Meeting and Summer Gathering 28th June 2018 at 12.30pm (arrival from noon) at The National Liberal Club, 1 Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE ENTRY APPLICATION (can be photocopied)

Name …………………………………………….

Membership No. ……………

No @£18.50 members …..…. @£19.50 guests …..…… Cheque amount ………….. Name of guest(s) ……………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………… Any dietary requests …………………………………………………………………… BOOKINGS MUST BE RECEIVED BY 21st June. There can be no refunds after this date. Please send completed form with any dietary requests, together with a cheque made payable to SWWJ, to: Benita Cullingford, 5 Cunningham Avenue St Albans, Herts AL11JJ. Receipts are available on the day. Tickets are not being issued. If you would like an acknowledgement please add your email address below. Email ......................................................................................................................................................

The Woman Writer Spring 2018



Getting competitive Patrick Forsyth suggests a number of reasons why competition entry can be worth a go


s I write this piece I am still enjoying the fact that I wrote a story that came second in a SWWJ competition, though it now occurs to me – is second place success or failure? I shall settle for calling it success; it did produce a cheque after all. It made me think about competitions, however. Those interested in writing seem to have mixed views about competitions. Some happily write as a hobby and have no interest in being published or entering competitions, though probably few in SWWJ are in that category. Others twitch at the entry fee often charged; perhaps an attitude of speculating to accumulate is to be recommended with regard to them. After all, such fees are often little more than the


price of a coffee and cake. Certainly I feel competitions can be particularly useful in a number of ways. First, writing to a brief, in this case the competition theme, word count and rules, is a discipline that helps develop writing skills. Choosing competitions carefully can focus you on areas where you feel you need to practise and develop. And, let’s digress for a moment, most would surely agree that writing needs constant development, so this is definitely useful and can also be an opportunity to experiment and try something new. One thing can lead to another and, having tried something new successfully, it could give you a whole new area to exploit and earn from pursuing. Furthermore, editors demand you deliver on

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Marketing spec, respecting the brief, word count and so on; it is essential, and something that writers need to get used to. You can be a prima donna, but you may earn less. Secondly, a win, or a number of wins, is something that can be added to your writing credentials (or CV) and which may act, at least in part, to persuade an editor that your ‘credentials’ make you worth commissioning to write for a fee. A win also can act to boost your confidence and persuade you that you do write to a standard that deserves publication. Most writers get some rejections (or are ignored in making suggestions) and it is always good to know someone approves. Last, but by no means least, you might win something useful. Often there are several prizes and, whether it’s cash or something else, it can be worthwhile; though strictly it needs to be borne in mind that, certainly for a writer earning something from their writing, a cash prize is taxable (and the entry fee is an allowable expense). If you do not do much in this area, then perhaps you should find a competition or two that suits you and have a go. Who knows, maybe you will be able to add something positive to your writing CV and, maybe, bank a useful cheque. Writing Magazine publishes a supplement about forthcoming competitions. It’s useful information. Indeed, I know some writing groups hang their whole programme round it, selecting topics that allow their members to produce something right for the group and ideal as an entry for a particular competition. Similarly an individual writer can give themselves a series of projects meaning that they make a number of entries over the course of a year. Being competitive can be a route to being profitable.

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Photos from the Spring Tea


When I was not upon this page... Problems... by Doreen Friend When I was not upon this page I spent time trying to sort out women’s problems. No, I was not a doctor or psychiatrist, I was in a team of agony aunts on a national weekly women’s magazine. The office was equipped with desks, typewriters, row upon row of shelves crammed with books and filing cabinets. Letters written on various shapes, sizes and colours of notepaper were divided into ‘dealt with’ and those awaiting reply; all were piled high on every desk. The outward appearance gave no clue of the worried minds that had caused the women (yes, they were all women) to write to the magazine asking for a solution to their lives. There were a variety of needs, from a simple request for information to much more personal needs. Based in Central London, each ‘problem-page’ worker specialised in various types of dilemma. “Dear Suzie” (not the page editor’s real name), “I don’t know where else to turn. I want to become...”, “How do I...?”, “What is the best way to...?”, “What would you do if you were in my shoes...?”. Albeit very few letters were published on the Problem Page, every letter was answered and every reader received a personal reply which began: “Dear Mrs Smith, Thank you for your letter; I am very sorry to hear that... May I suggest that...”. Women from all ages and walks of life put pen to paper, desperate, depressed and lonely ladies looking for an answer. While not providing counselling, the replies from “Dear Suzie” provided something tangible to cling on to, making them feel that someone was interested in them. I researched what qualifications were needed for specific jobs; travelling, traditions, 38

etiquette and more. This was BG, Before Google, when research was much more than the touch of a keyboard. I specialised. I apologise in advance if this sounds crude – I had the ‘hairies’ and the ‘smellies’. It amazed me how much hair some women had in the most unexpected places. For the women without a best friend to whisper ‘BO’, a deodorant and personal hygiene regime was advised. Eventually, I was offered a job with agony aunt Margery Proops; I turned it down, thinking the journey to Camden north London was difficult. With hindsight and age I have come to regret that decision. Maybe I should have written to Dear Suzie for advice.

Book your place! Don’t forget to book your place at the AGM and Summer Gathering at The National Liberal Club. You will find the application form on page 35. Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Around the regions News from Moonraker Country by Dee La Vardera I have just finished two terms of evening classes on Life Sculpture at Bath College. It was one of the best things I’ve done for a long time. I had no idea what to expect as I have never done Life Drawing or used clay since primary school – and that was a coil pot that cracked on firing. So sculpting a head and a life figure, using hot wax to create moulds and then pouring plaster of Paris in them for the finished piece, were all new experiences. It was a most relaxing time, doing something completely different – away from domestic chores and sitting at a computer. Working with my hands, feeling the clay, using my eyes to absorb what I saw and then my fingers to recreate the form and features. No preliminary sketches or measuring, straight in, just observing the model. As tutor Jonathan Mulvaney, sculptor and landscape artist, said, “It’s 75% looking, 25% doing.” It was a totally absorbing activity – what I imagine is a form of mindfulness. You empty your mind. No wandering thoughts, worries, critical voices. No chit-chat. In the moment. Just pure art and aesthetics. What I saw and what I felt with my hands and shaped with my fingers. I'm no Jacob Epstein but I was quite proud of the second head in the second term, Follow the SWWJ on Facebook! Members are invited to ‘socialise’ on the Society Facebook page. Check out swwj.facebook and ‘like’ the page. The Woman Writer Spring 2018

which was near life size and actually bore some resemblance to the model. One session, we spent the two and a half hours just getting the eyes right. Intense work. Not unlike repeatedly going over a piece of writing trying to get the words and rhythm of the prose right. Till you're sick of it. Of course, I've been storing away the experience for future use. I'm writing an article about being a life model for a woman's magazine and another, I hope, about art therapy. Dee's website: Follow the SWWJ on Twitter! Find out about the latest news and events by following (and retweeting) @SWWJ. Help to spread the word about our Society! 39

Markets & Competitions Writing opportunities by Carol Cannavan Here’s a round-up of markets and writing competitions to keep you busy! Although every effort is made to gather correct information, it is down to you to contact individual publications/agencies and ask for their current writing guidelines. Good luck!

UK markets Maverick Arts Publishing Ltd was launched in 2009 by Steve Bicknell and has been gaining momentum over the last few years. Now, with over sixty books in print and another thirty-six due to be published in 2017, Maverick is growing rapidly, even delving into the educational market with their early readers. Maverick has a strong ethos of championing new authors and emerging illustrators, with a big emphasis on supporting them once their book is published. If you would like to submit your own stories to Maverick, please visit their website for details. Website: Trigger Press was set up in 2016 by the Shaw Mind Foundation. If you have a story to tell about your own experience with mental illness, or the experience of a loved one, this may be the publisher for you. If you have an idea for a novel that relates to mental health

issues in some way, please visit their website for further information. While they are certainly looking for stories that are well structured, they are not looking to publish books that all sound the same. Generally, they favour a much more accessible style. Email: Website: The Femedic is a website looking for pitches from freelance writers who have specialist knowledge in particular areas of women’s health. They are especially interested in writers with knowledge about how groups particularly at risk – for example, BAME women, trans women, sex workers, and others – are disproportionately affected by health issues. If you have insight into a women’s health issue that isn’t being discussed by other media outlets, they want to hear about it. Visit their website for information on their requirements. Email: Website: Jessica Kingsley Publishers was founded in 1987 in London by Jessica Kingsley and is committed to publishing books that make a difference. They publish books for professionals and general readers in a range of subjects. They are well known for their long established lists on the autism spectrum, social work, and arts therapies. More recently they have published extensively in the fields of mental health, counselling, palliative care, practical theology and gender diversity. Visit their ‘Write for us’ page on their website. Website:


Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Markets & Competitions Overseas markets Outpost Magazine is a Canadian publication, and much of its content has a Canadian slant, but they do accept stories from authors anywhere in the world. They ask anyone who is thinking of submitting an article to first read some of the feature articles on their website to get a feel for house style, focus, tone and subject matter. All payment rates for content submissions are negotiated with the editorial board on an individual basis. Email: Website: /contribute-to-outpost-magazine/ The American Gardener is primarily freelance written, and its content differs considerably from that of other gardening publications. Its readers are mainly experienced amateur gardeners; about 20 per cent are horticultural professionals. Authors are asked to send a proposal before developing a manuscript. All proposals should include a description of the proposed topic and an explanation of why it is of interest to a national audience of knowledgeable gardeners, as well as an outline of the major points to be covered in the manuscript. Payment for feature articles ranges from $300 to $600 on publication, depending on the article’s length and complexity, and the author’s background and publishing experience. Email: Website:

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Competitions The Page is Printed Write in any genre: prose, poetry, script, a confession, a love letter, a list... Be bold, be imaginative, but contain your entry to just one side of A4. Their esteemed panel will be looking for something that dares to be different and most importantly something that comes to life when it is read aloud. Prizes: £100 x 3 – £50 Best on the Night Closing date: 4th May 2018 Entry fee: £5 (£10 up to three entries) Email: Website: Nick Darke Award The Nick Darke Award 2018 is open for stage play submissions. Please visit website for full entry details. Prize: £6,000 Closing date: 21st May 2018 Entry fee: Free Email: Website: nickdarkeaward


Markets & Competitions Bridport Prize 2018 This is a global competition seeking out the best new writers from across the world. There are four categories: poetry, short stories, novels and flash fiction. Prize: Ranging from £100 to £5,000 Closing date: 31st May 2018 Entry fee: Various (see website) Email: Website: Wirral Festival of Firsts Open Poetry Competition Poems must be unpublished, and of no more than 40 lines in length. Enter online via website. Prize: 1st prize £200; two runners-up £50 each and a special Wirral prize of £50 will be awarded on merit Closing date: 1st June 2018 Entry fee: £4 (£10 for three) Website: Bath Flash Fiction Award 300-word limit. Full entry details on website. Prizes: £1,000, £300 and £100 Closing date: 10th June 2018 Entry fee: £9 Website:

Calling all members! See yourself on our website The Society has been working hard to improve its website in recent months. Please take a look at what we have to offer at including our diary page of upcoming events, all the latest news, and our brand new competitions page, listing details of current competitions, photos of prize-giving events and the names of some past winners and runners-up. The website also gives us all the chance to tell other members and the wider public a little about ourselves and our work. Under the ‘About Us’ tab, you will find an alphabetical listing of some of our current members, with profiles and photographs. If you would like to be included, please write a short and relevant biography (in third person please) and send it to Vivien Hampshire at along with a photograph and any social media/ website links. The site is updated at least once a month, so you could very soon be seeing yourself there!

Themed Flash Fiction Competition This is a quarterly competition. The winner and two runners-up receive cash prizes and have their stories published on the website. Maximum 500 words. The theme is ‘Reunions’. Enter via website. Prize: 1st prize £200 - Runner-up x 2 £100 Closing date: 24th June 2018 Entry fee: £8 Website: 42

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Book reviews An East End Girl by Maggie Ford Published by: Penguin Random House ISBN: 978-0-09195-627-1 Reviewed by Celia Pyke Cissie Farmer was born and raised in London’s East End between the two world wars. King George V is on the throne and the country is living through the Depression, so people in the area are struggling to make a living. Eddie, who is a lighterman and barge owner, is in love with Cissie but holds back on offering marriage while he builds his business. Having taken elocution lessons, etc, to further her ambitions, when Cissie meets the rich and sophisticated Langley Makepeace in a London dance hall, it seems her dreams have come true. She abandons her roots to be with Makepeace, who takes her abroad where she mixes with his wealthy friends. She experiences a life of luxury as he buys her expensive clothes, flowers and jewellery; although he never suggests marriage. When Cissie becomes pregnant he recommends an abortion, giving her money before leaving her. Having had the baby, she returns to the East End determined to make something of her life but still has to struggle, although she eventually gets back with Eddie. Maggie Ford paints a wonderful picture of life for families whose income had been derived from working on the River Thames during prosperous times when it was alive with shipping. Thoroughly researched, this book is evocative of the era and I loved it.

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

Murder on the Minneapolis by Anita Davison Published by: Buried River Press ISBN: 978-0-75054-325-5 Reviewed by Doreen Friend Murder on the Minneapolis is a good traditional who-done-it. Set on board the magnificent ocean liner sailing from New York to England back in the days when men were gentlemen and a governess knew her place, the story travels along at a cracking pace. Anita Davison has provided the reader with a collection of interesting and diverse characters who keep us guessing from the time they set foot on the gangway and settle into their cabins. From the minute our heroine Flora Maguire discovers a body and begins to wonder did the dead man fall or was he pushed, she becomes embroiled in intrigue after intrigue. The book has echoes of an Agatha Christie mystery, with Bunny Harrington as the good guy. Max Cavendish, Gus Crowe, Dr Fletcher, Carl Hersch and Mrs Penry-Jones, and her companion Hester Smith, Eloise, Cynthia and Monica are just some of the passengers who have guilty secrets. As Flora delves deeper into the death of Frank Parnell, she receives a chilling whispered warning, is attacked from behind and copes with a second murdered passenger. The handsome Bunny sets Flora’s heart racing and wondering if their friendship will last when the voyage ends. Murder [or murders] on the Minneapolis keeps the reader guessing page after page. By the time the ship approaches England three people have been murdered and the list of suspects is growing rapidly as Flora 43

Book reviews discovers that no one is who they appeared to be. The ship is awash with assumed names, false identities, missing thousands, an incriminating photo, a sacred knife and a deadly sedative, plus there is more than one murderer. The book is a genuine who-doneit, the clues are there to be found, all that is needed is a little detective work and a suspicious mind. When I began reading Murder on the Minneapolis I almost gave up as some of the phrasing seemed very old-fashioned, but I persevered and I am very glad that I did. Reading phrases such as: ‘Bunny’s lips twitched as he dipped his nose into his cup. “Dash it, my bouillon has gone cold”’, and ‘The comforting smell of tea wafted into the room’, ‘She accepted his proffered arm’, was a welcome relief from some of the more modern forms of literature around today. I found the style very relaxing and refreshing and I became so engrossed with the book I had trouble putting it down. This is the first time I have read a book by Anita Davison and it certainly won’t be the last.

Book reviewers wanted! Do you enjoy reading books from different genres? Could you write a short review of the book for The Woman Writer? If the answer is yes, please get in touch with Pamela Birley at or call 020 7351 6377 or write to: Pamela Birley, Flat D, 49 Christchurch Street, London SW3 4AS. 44

Twice Royal Lady by Hilary Green Published by: Buried River Press ISBN: 978-1-910208-33-5 Reviewed by Celia Pyke Matilda is betrothed at the age of eight to Emperor Henry of Germany at the behest of her father, Henry 1 of England, who inherited the throne from his father, William the Conqueror. The betrothal is a political move on behalf of her father, who wants to strengthen ties with Germany. As Matilda is betrothed to Henry in the cathedral at Mainz, little does she realise that Germany is now to be her home. But, she quickly learns to speak the language of her new country and the ways of the German Court, showing an intelligence and strength of character beyond her years. The marriage takes place when she is twelve but produces no children, and she is widowed in her early twenties. Once again her father forces her into marriage, to a man ten years younger than herself by whom she has three sons. When her father dies she spends much of her time plotting her eventual return to England to take up her rightful place as Queen of England, despite being usurped by her cousin Stephen. This is a tale of conspiracies and intrigue, beautifully written, depicting characters which come alive on the page. I was absorbed into the atmosphere of both English and foreign courts and can recommend this book as a thoroughly good read.

Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Book reviews The Guardian Angel by Kay Seeley Published by: Enterprise Books ISBN: 978-0-99333-946-2 Reviewed by Mary Rensten If you enjoy novels set in Victorian London, this is one for you! It has all the ingredients of a story by Dickens: an unloved, five-yearold, mute boy, Robert Eversham, the only son of a wealthy, land-owning earl; a socialclimbing American stepmother; mean streets and dark alleyways; even an undertaker's business with a hiss-worthy villain, Linus Frumley; and, most importantly, a lovely young girl from the workhouse, Nell Draper, who becomes Robert's nursemaid and rescues him from a bleak future in Bedlam. In a plot with many twists and turns it also has some well-drawn, appealing minor characters: Lottie, who provides shelter for Nell and Robert when they flee the earl's estate; Ethan, a gardener there; Josh, Lottie's brother, who takes Nell to the Alhambra Music Hall; Lady Mary, the earl's sympathetic mother-in-law; and Mr Crosby, who, aware of Robert's remarkable artistic talent, finds him a tutor, Max, a young art student. All the characters, both good and bad, are completely believable, and the author's meticulous research brings alive the London of the period: I could smell that dreadful workhouse and the undertaker's premises, where Nell finds work for herself and the boy. There is plenty of humour, and romance, too... No, I won't spoil the ending for you! I have just one quibble with this book: it could have done with more careful editing and proofreading. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much; it is definitely a page-turner.

The Woman Writer Spring 2018

A word about book reviews... If you want your book reviewed in the WW, please ask your publisher to send a hard copy only to: Pamela Birley, Flat D, 49 Christchurch Street, London SW3 4AS. Tel: 020 7351 6377 Email: PDFs or entries sent by computer will not be accepted. The hard copy of the book is the only payment for their services that the reviewer receives, so please do not ask for the book to be returned. Send an image of the cover of your book to Carol Cannavan or ask your publisher to send the cover photo to: Please be patient. The review of your book will be in the WW, but sometimes there is a backlog. Also, we are unable to review a trilogy or series of books at one time and books submitted should be recently or newly published. A copy of the WW containing the review will be sent to the publisher, unless the book is self-published or the publisher doesn’t give a postal address on their website.


Subscription renewal

Dear Member, A gentle reminder that it is subscription renewal time on 1st May 2018. We have held subscription rates now for a number of years but the time has come for a small increase as we have exciting times ahead with our 125th Anniversary. Please ensure your subscription is paid in good time. Below is the renewal form. It would be appreciated if members would use the STO method of payment for subscriptions. Please would you arrange with your bank to update existing STOs to the new amount and date them from 1st May to coincide with the annual renewal date. Ensure your membership number is quoted for identification.

REMINDER SUBSCRIPTION RENEWAL due 1st May 2018 Name …………………………………………………

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PLEASE PRINT CLEARLY If you have not already done so, please provide a photo (passport size) showing head and shoulders in jpeg format or high quality original to receive a Press Card. Full and Associate Members not providing a photo will receive the plain membership card. Fees: Full £55, Male Assoc £50, Overseas: Full £45 (GBP), Male Assoc £40 (GBP). Friend £30. I enclose cheque to SWWJ for £………

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Data protection Owing to more stringent rules, which come into force in May this year, the SWWJ requires your consent to hold your personal details for the purpose of contacting you on Society business. I consent to SWWJ holding and using my personal details for all business matters to do with the Society. Signature …….…….….………….……………….….……………….………………….… Please sign this form and send it to: SWWJ Membership Secretary, Bradmore Farm, Bradmore Green, Coulsdon, Surrey CR5 2LQ. Payment can be made by cheque, STO, bank-to-bank, IBAN or Paypal. (Methods of payment details available from Please enclose an SAE for your membership card. (Can be photocopied.)


Spring 2018 The Woman Writer

Diary dates DATES FOR YOUR DIARY 2018

26th April:

Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire Group Meeting

24th May:

Evening event: How to win over a literary agent

28th May:

Copy date for Summer 2018 issue of The Woman Writer

9th June:

SWWJ Drama Workshop, London

18th June:

SWWJ Council Meeting at NLC

28th June:

SWWJ AGM and Tea at NLC

31st August:

Closing date for John Walter Salver Competition

3rd September:

Copy date for Autumn 2018 issue of The Woman Writer

10th September:

SWWJ Council Meeting at NLC

20th September:

SWWJ Autumn Luncheon at NLC

26th November:

SWWJ Council Meeting at NLC

5th December:

SWWJ Christmas Tea at NLC

The Woman Writer is published four times a year: New Year (January), Spring (April), Summer (July) and Autumn (October). Copy dates are listed above. Send your copy to The SWWJ Newsletter is published four times a year towards the end of February, May, August and November. Copy that misses the WW copy dates will be passed to Doreen Friend for the Newsletter on To receive the Newsletter, please make sure we have your current email address. Regional meetings take place at the advertised venues. Council meetings are held at The National Liberal Club,1 Whitehall Place, Westminster, London SW1A 2HE. The Woman Writer Spring 2018


28 | Diary & Services

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The Woman Writer – Spring 2018  

The Woman Writer is produced by the Society of Women Writers & Journalists (SWWJ). For more information on the Society please visit www.sww...

The Woman Writer – Spring 2018  

The Woman Writer is produced by the Society of Women Writers & Journalists (SWWJ). For more information on the Society please visit www.sww...