This is the view from the bedroom window of my flatlet in the flat where the lovely Annie and her photographer friend, Heather shared with my mother and me. It was such fun finally meeting up with Annie after all this time, and also Kev (aka Captain Black), although I didn't end up spending nearly as much time chatting to them as I would have liked.
The Writers' Holiday at Caerleon was everything I'd hoped and a whole lot more. Nothing was too much trouble for the tireless Anne and Gerry Hobbs who organize everything. This year was their twenty-fifth anniversary at Caerleon, and having now been, I can fully understand why so many of the people I met there return year after year. If you wish to book for next year have a look at the site here.
Everything from the courses, to the accommodation and the endless supply of food was excellent.
My two main courses were with Marina Oliver - Advanced Novel Writing - writer of over 50 novels, past chairman of the Romantic Novelists Association, StorytrackS and very lovely lady. I've faffed about with my manuscripts not quite knowing how to better them, but now, having learnt so much from Marina, I'm now armed (not dangerous, though my ex might beg to differ) with the knowledge to take them to a far higher standard, which can only be a good thing.
The other course I took was with another lovely lady, Della Galton - How to Write & Sell Short Stories. As with Marina's course, I've now come away with a far deeper understanding of (where the hell I was going so badly wrong) what I should be thinking and working on, if I want to write saleable short stories.
Both ladies were inspirational, as were the After Tea speakers, including Sue Moorcroft who held a fun workshop - I slunk down several inches when she asked for a brave volunteer, who was given a character and then we all fired questions at her asking about the character's life, etc. I thought this a little strange, until my mother and I did the same thing to each other in the pub (yes, there's an excellent pub there too) and found it far more useful than either of us had anticipated. In fact, it helped me to realize that I need to swap two female characters in the book I'm about to start writing.
Katie Carr My mother was amused when I wrote down the name and asked, "What are you doing?" I replied, "I don't want to forget her name and miss the talk." "But," said Ma, a confused expression on her face, "She has the same surname as you, and you have a sister called Katie. How hard can it be to remember?" She gave a talk about skeletons in your closet, and how your family history can help inspire you to think of different plots for your story, if you only ask, "What if?"
The evening lectures included talks by Teresa Chris, agent to so many excellent authors who basically told us that we wouldn't expect to exhibit at the Royal Academy without years of learning to paint, so why should we expect to be published and be successful without serving our apprenticeship with our writing. Also, never submit work to an agent if you haven't finished the novel first, and polished it to make it the best it can be.
Katie Fforde, who very kindly answered my garbled question, "What is your starting point for a book? Do you think if the character, or the plot first?" Basically, Katie starts with a spider graph, including all that she wants to include in a book and then works out how she can put it all together (I'm sure she answered that in a far more intelligent way, but my brain is still frazzled from all the concentration).
I was exhausted by Wednesday evening, not helped by the journey to and from Hay On Wye, when we met up with my friend Andrea, who laughed hysterically at the sight of me wearing my mother's ghastly hat. Hell, it was raining, and I didn't have an umbrella! Actually, I forgot I had the damned thing on. However, I was determined not to miss the truly unmissable Jane Wenham-Jones. She is one entertaining lady, and, having just finished reading her book, "One Glass Is Never Enough" a damned good writer to boot. I came straight home and re-read my copy of her how to book, "Wannabe a Writer?".
Zoe Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox series, who was fascinating to listen to, as well as amusing, and very friendly later as she signed her books.
On the final night we were treated to a "Welsh Night Concert" with the excellent Cwmbach Male Voice Choir, who have to be heard to be believed. Then Kate Walker (author of 57? books) made a presentation to Anne and Gerry, together with crime writer, Stephen Wade and a few others, who had arranged a collection and presented Anne and Gerry with a huge bouquet, a padded album in which we'd all been invited to write something (photos, cards, etc also inside), and Kate Walker's most recent book dedicated to them. It was a perfect ending to a fabulous week.
I can't wait to go again!