Monday, 10 June 2013

Woman's Weekly Writing Workshop Part 2 or Did Wendy Ever Get Her Coffee?


Here is part two of our day at The Woman's Weekly Fiction Workshop.

As you will have noticed from part one in my Friday post, it is a little tongue in cheek so I shall direct you to my companion for the day, Tracy Fells', blog for the more serious stuff - she'll be posting later.


So the revolving doors have spat us out into what can only be described as 'The Land of the Young and Beautiful' - the Blue Fin Building. We are asked to join some others who are waiting and told we will be taken upstairs soon but my bladder is telling me something different (who can blame me - after the morning I've had). We find the toilets and then emerge back into reception to find that they have gone without us.

We look at each other - should we wait? Should we search the hundreds of rooms in the hope that we might eventually find Gaynor? We decide to wait... and wait... Eventually a sweet girl arrives (surely she can't be more that fourteen) and tells us we will wait for a few others to arrive before going up. We wait... and then wait some more. I am suffering from lack of caffeine and the shock of the gun shot (I'm sorry, Tracy but I'm sticking to my theory). Time is also going by and we picture Gaynor giving the introductory talk without us. We start to get twitchy. At last we are escorted upstairs and into the conference room.

Twenty five pairs of eyes stare at us and Gaynor stops mid-sentence - she is charming and welcomes us but we can't help but feel like school children who have arrived after the bell.

'Do take a seat, ladies.'

I look at Tracy then at the full table. Tracy manages to find a place at the table and I find myself a corner. It is a very nice corner, actually. Gaynor's talk is interesting but I am more worried about my stomach. I didn't have much breakfast and I can feel it is about to rumble. I am also worried about my see-through t-shirt and the prospect of going into post traumatic shock due to the sniper (see part one).

During the talk, I notice across the table a striking looking lady with red brown hair and glasses, beside her sits a confident looking woman with beautiful blonde highlights. Ah, faces I recognise. It's Patsy Collins and Cara Cooper - it will be nice to have a chat with someone I know. After learning everything we will ever need to know to sell thousands of stories to the magazine, we have a coffee break. Now's my chance.

'Hi, Patsy. Hi Cara. Really nice to see you here!'

I watch them desperately scan my chest for the sticker that will identify me (and which I am not wearing because I was late). I am unaware that the security tag with my name on is turned round the wrong way. The pause lengthens and I realise that I have done that thing that people do if they meet a celebrity in the street - presume that just because you know them, they will know you.

At last I blurt out, 'Oh it's me, Wendy Clarke'. Luckily they recognise the name and we all sigh in relief. Sorry to put you through that, girls, it was great to meet you.

After saying a quick hello to Jean Bull and Helen Hunt I sit back down and turn to my neighbour.

'Hope you weren't disturbed by my stomach rumbling?'

'Not at all, Wendy.' I realise that I am sitting next to a pub landlady who has won the lottery and wants to own a sweet shop (oh no, I'm getting confused with one of our writing tasks where we had to create a fictional character based on an interview with out neighbour). It is in fact the lovely Karen (no relation) Clarke and beside her is Amanda Brittany from Writing Allsorts. I begin to feel like I am in one of those TV programmes where the compare names the famous people in the audience and I am in awe. I just hope they don't notice the see-through t-shirt.

Then the fun begins. 'You are going to write the first three lines of a story, based on a letter.'

Cue total mind blank. There is a pen and paper in front of me - they are alien - I only ever write on a computer... in my own home... with nobody around except the pets. I watch as everyone feverishly scribbles away and I chew the lid of my pen. First lines, what do I know about first lines? I've written enough of them and didn't I recently write a blog post on them?The page remains stubbornly blank.

'Three more minutes' says Gaynor.

My writing career is over. I cannot write a first word let alone a first line. As people start to read theirs out, I manage to get something down. I read it and am relieved when Gaynor smiles - maybe it wasn't so bad... or maybe she is just being kind.

The day goes by in a bit of a blur. Serial writer Susanne Ahern wows us with her knowledge of... well... serial writing and I vow to give it a go - along with writing a pocket novel, an article and a full length novel. I imagine placing said novel into the capable hands of agent Laura Lonrigg who in her talk is very candid about the state of the publishing industry - oh well, a girl can but dream!

At last it is time to leave and I have an urge to run up to Gaynor and say, 'Choose me, choose me!' Luckily for everyone I manage to suppress the urge and instead say, 'It's been lovely to meet you, Gaynor.'

And it has. Overall it has been a lovely day - despite the assassination attempt and the wardrobe malfunction. It has been a pleasure to meet other writers - there is no space to mention them all but a quick hello to Lindsay Bamfield and the lovely Ola whose sweet comments about my blog made my day. And of course, a special thanks to Tracy for putting up with me and being the co-star of my blog post.

But I have a big apology to make to all my readers... I forgot to ask Gaynor the vital question - you know the one about the Well Worn Theme. Oh well, I guess we'll never know!

My story 'A School of Thought' can be read in this month's Woman's Weekly Fiction Special - I hope you enjoy it.

36 comments:

  1. My post is now up Wendy, but not have as entertaining as yours! Now need to get on and write a suitable story to submit...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Tracy - will pop over and have a read now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It was lovely to meet you, Wendy. What a smashing day! X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was great to meet you too, Amanda. Keep in touch.

      Delete
  4. Sounds like a wonderful day, Wendy! I read your story in WW special this morning and enjoyed it :-) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Teresa - that means a lot coming from a great short story writer.

      Delete
  5. Lovely write up of a great day. Glad the sniper missed! Can't wait to read your WW story (I thought the day was for those of us who haven't broken the Blue Fin glass barrier!)I tried to get a copy of the latest Fiction Special and it had sold out! I think you could turn your write up into a pretty good short story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a good day, wasn't it. Hope you enjoy the story when you get hold of a copy, Lindsay.

      Delete
  6. It sounds like a great day. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure - I'm glad we lived to tell the tale!

      Delete
  7. Fab and funny overview, Wendy - I can see why you're such a successful writer! Really enjoyed Wendy's and Tracy's Day Out.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love your blogs about your day out. It was certainly more eventful than mine!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sounds like a great day. Did you gain any new insights into the writing for magazines proces or was it more of PR exercise in encouraging all you great writers to keep writing and to make you feel like you belong to one happy family? Or both? I suppose I am asking what you most took away from the day? Did you pay for it, or was it invitation only? And I am being very dense now – it's one of those mornings! – but I don't understand what you had to do when you were told :
    'You are going to write the first three lines of a story, based on a letter.'
    Surely all lines begin with a letter of the alphabet – or did they mean a letter you'd written to a chum ( I told you I was being dense!). Did you all have different letters, all use all the same letters? Did each sentence start with a different letter of the alphabet but in order eg:
    A boy stood on the burning deck.
    But his clothes did not catch on fire.
    Cripes, he said, that was lucky ;o)
    Sorry, again for being so dim!
    Yours, curious ;o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, Marianne, no you're not being dense - first rule of writing... never presume the reader knows what you're talking about! The task was to write an attention grabbing opener on the theme of 'The Letter'. Most (including me) wrote about a letter (as in postal) but a couple of more imaginative people wrote it about a letter of the alphabet. It had to be between one and three sentences long. It was amazing how different each one was. As to your other questions - I suppose it depends what you wanted to get out of it. I wanted to meet up with other writers, meet Della, find out how to sell more stories to WW and how to write a serial and the day worked a treat for all of these. The workshop won't make you write better but does give guidance. Yes, we did pay for the day (and a very expensive rail ticket). Not invitation only - anyone could attend but everyone seemed to be a writer either already writing for WW or wanting to break into it or other mags. Hope that clears everything up! Also, I think that your first line task sound infinitely more amusing!

      Delete
  10. Thanks for this, Wendy. It all makes sense. I'm just not thinking clearly today and sorry for demanding so many answers to so many questions – yikes, was that me?! It sounds a very good exercise - apparently easy but actually very challenging! And what a good day. I am a big fan of writing conferences and get-togethers with fellow writers such as this. Writing is so solitary it can make us writers a tad inward looking sometimes. Getting out and about and being with like-minded others is great for sharing ideas, picking up information, learning knew things, being inspired, seeing our own writing in a fresh way etc etc – and for having a bit of fun.
    Thanks again :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the first time I've been to anything like this.

      Delete
  11. Sounds like you all had a wonderful day - wish I'd been there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it would have been nice to have met you, Sally

      Delete
  12. It was a good day and lovely to meet other writers, yourself included of course!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I'm really glad I went Bernadette. Maybe we'll meet a gain at something else.

      Delete
  13. Just to reassure you were weren't staring because we didn't know who you were - we were just transfixed by the see through top! * almost sure that's helped ;-) *

    Actually I was wondering if I (virtually) new everyone there. Isn't it weird recognising people you've communicated with but never met?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, it is strange isn't it, Patsy. Some people were instantly recognisable but not all.

      Delete
  14. It was lovely to meet you Wendy and others on Friday. Fabulous event. Thanks for mentioning my name. As usual,I enjoyed your piece about the workshop.

    Olajumoke

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ola. Lovely to hear from you - thank you for leaving a comment.

      Delete
  15. Sounds a great day Wendy, and I can see why you sell so many of your stories with such a great way with words you have. Thanks for sharing, and I'll get a story accepted there one day... Will try and get the magazine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Susan - that's very kind of you.

      Delete
  16. Hi Wendy, I loved your accounts of the day - made me smile :-) I'm going tomorrow and am all the more excited now!
    Alice

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good Alice - I'm sure you'll have a good time.

      Delete
  17. That was a lot of work. Hope you got it all in.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm so jealous!

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time :)

    Xx

    ReplyDelete
  19. Such fun! Reading this has brought it all back again, Wendy (no relation) Clarke :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I can't believe it was two weeks ago, Karen.

      Delete