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York Writers member wins Richard & Judy novel award

Posted on October 9, 2014 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (2)

It's with enormous pleasure that we announce that York Writers member Tracy Rees (pictured) is the winner of the inaugural WHSmith/Richard and Judy "Search for a Bestseller" award.

Tracy's historical mystery Amy Snow - early parts of which made the journey through our Manuscript Critique Group - beat thousands of other entries to win Tracy a £50,000 publishing deal with Quercus.

Our heartfelt congratulations go to Tracy and our best wishes for success with the novel when it hits the shelves.

Christmas Bash

Posted on December 6, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

How the heck did the year go so fast?  It only seems two minutes since the last York Writer's Christmas bash, but there we all were again spilling out of the function room at Brigantees enjoying the merriment.

Yet again it was a wonderfull evening - and the food and drink kept us well oiled to stay the distance.  Around 20 of us made it to the event.

It has been another wonderful year for York Writers and I think that this end of year celebration reflected this.  Nick David (pictured below left) has become a published auther again.  Andy Humphry - our current Chair (below middle) has has a monumental year bringing York writers from strength to strength in time to step down as Chair and hand over to new blood, Vicki Bartrum (pictured below right).

The dinner was rounded off by a superb speech from author Fiona Shaw (pictured below).  We laughed with her and also learned.  If you are a British author and want to sell books in the US,  the Americans don't think we are any good at contemporary fiction, so you're unlikely to be published if you write about present day Britain.  I'm therefore so glad my passion is historic fiction!  Apparently that is our forte - horay for Downton Abbey!  Still, the advice was write what you love.  I second that - life's too short to spend time doing what you don't enjoy.

The aim of the evening was for us all to have a good time, and in that we succeeded too. We challenged ourselves to create a story using all the objects won from the Christmas crackers - with the first line "I love the smell of gunpowder".  But then we were having far too much fun just chatting and making merry.  Here's some photos taken of the evening's festivities.

Above - 2014's Chair - Vicki Bartrum, looking wonderful modelling a purple crown.

Above - "really Andy? They can't have published your book of poems this year?"  Actually they did - well done Andy!

Above - "Andy's book of poems was published! - No way!"

May 2014 have as much to offer!

Inspiration from the Writer's Retreat

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (10)

A week on, and memories of our writer's retreat remain fond all round. Now, that is pretty darn impressive coming from me - who managed to get her money and debit card stolen - my own silly fault. It was a great event and my thanks go out to the organisers.

Ten of us attended Alnwick, although the most of the committee members managed to get out out of this photo - it takes one to hold the camera and one to hold the yellow flash you see.  And one (along with his wife) to entertain the hosts of the roof over our heads.  Well, we are writers...

Our youngest member even managed to find writing inspiration at this dinner table, and completed a series of poems he'd been working on.  It wasn't the wine...  Well done.

Alnwick.  A stunning backdrop.  The castle, mean and moody and dripping with history.  You may imagine Harry Potter having his first broom flying lesson at this very location. You may choose to imagine a medieval scene, knights training, supplies piled up on carriages being pulled by heavy horses through the gate.

You may imagine a Ford Cortina flying over the wall of Hogwarts straight onto the whomping willow, or your mind may see archery practice, medieval markets, mud and filth. The limit is your own imagination.

But there is far more to Alnwick than a castle, and film location.  

There are the gardens, which were the inspiration for our Sunday seminar from our superb guest Anne Ryland; an event at which we were joined by a large contingent from Alnwick Writers.  As Humphrey Bogart once said we hope "this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."  

Gardens said Anne Ryland... what hasn't been written about gardens?  The trick she tells us is surprise - a new angle.  Is that fountain really made of water?  Champagne, sherbert, chocolate, a toxin, a mood enhancer?  The reality of this scene is that you have contrasting gardens to the left and right; the poison garden and the rose garden respectively. Evil, and beauty.

Walk towards the poison garden and you are met with a striking image.  Hagrid's hut and Hobbits have been done before, but the idea sets the creative mind sprinting in many different directions.  An evil hermit, magical beings, a wise lady of the dark ages...

As we approach the poison garden we're met with a cliché, but it summons images and possibilities to the creative mind.  Who was this unfortunate soul, and who would want to keep him on their window-sill?

Walk through the iron gates, snakes and spiders twisting among the uprights, and you may see beauty. But beware - everything in this garden is poison.

The Opium Poppy. It genetates images of the nineteenth century far east and the opium dens. It reminds us of the dark side of addiction and heroin culture. It can save lives too - and help us with our pain in the form of morphine. It's a fine line; morphine can kill us. The Poison Garden Website tells us "The list of morphine murderers starts in 1823 with Dr Edme Castaing and continues through the 19th and 20th centuries with Dr. Robert Buchanan, Jane Toppan, Dr. Robert Clements and Dr Harold Shipman. And those are only the ones who were discovered." The website tells us the Opium Poppy is "second only to Nicotiana in terms of numbers killed." You can read more on the above mentioned website. The beautiful is not always the innocent.

We move on to Monkshood.  

This is one of the most poisonous plants here, but thankfully it's horrible taste limits instances of accidental poison.  You wouldn't know it to look at it.  If you clicked on the above link for Monkshood you will know the poison garden website tells us:  "In February 2010, Lakhvir Singh was convicted of the murder of her lover, Lakhvinder Cheema, who died after eating a curry to which Ms Singh had added the extract of Aconitum ferox, known as Indian monkshood or Himalayan monkshood."   The "curry killing".

Are any ideas for crime novels coming to you yet?  

Blurred into the background above is Hemlock, which according to the Poison Garden Website is "distinguished by its action of killing from the outside in as numbness of the extremities slowly becomes paralysis of the lungs. It has no effect on the brain." The flower in the foreground looks similar to Christmas Rose, but only has four petals. We haven't been able to properly identify it. No matter - don't be deceived. Like everything else in this garden it will be poisonous and have it's own stories to tell.

Moving onto the Rose Garden, inspiration flows in a different direction. Or does it?  Themes of beauty may run through your imagination. Sweet smells.  Restfulness. Feeling untouchable behind your walled garden of bliss.

You may imagine growth in the spiritual sense - innocence, running perpetually with the mature and the dying.  The cycle of life.

Can a rose be sad?

A rose may even inspire a negative reaction  A super poem was written about a rose in our Sunday workshop with Anne Ryland.  It was about an aversion to roses.  Remember - surprise makes things interesting - an unexpected angle.

All photos were taken at the writer's retreat by me aka C.S. Wimsey, who does not have green fingers, knows nothing about gardens and gardening, and for whom photographing flowers is her least favourite form of photography.  It just goes to show - things are rarely as they appear.

Be inspired.

York Writers Retreat - Alnwick

Posted on June 23, 2013 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)
On the weekend of 13 -14 July York Witers are organising a "writers retreat" for its members.  The idea is for members to have some space away from the everyday bustle of their lives to indulge guilt free in what they do best - write!  We will be providing plenty of inspiration to aid any writer's creativity:

  • We will all be among fellow, like minded, writers who all support each other.

  • We will be visiting Alnwick Castle which provided an inspired setting for one of the most famous stories of the age - Harry Potter.  It is also a historic and beautiful setting in its own right, and encompasses a famous "poison garden", which should provide inspiration for all you mystery writers out there.  We are specifically arranging a visit to the poison garden. 

  • We have invited well-known Northumberland poet Anne Ryland to come and lead a creative writing workshop for us on the morning of Sunday 14th. The natural environment of our retreat venue will be the starting-point. The workshop will be suitable for prose writers and poets alike. You can read more about our workshop leader here.

We have kept the cost of the trip low and widely affordable at £24 per person.

We hope that the event will be as successful, if not more so, than our Christmas Social.  We were delighted to have such a large turnout for this event that we nearly didn't fit into our room at Brigantes!  You can see some photographs from that event below.  The event included a fantastic workshop by our guest speaker and published author - Jane Lovering.

Our Chairman - Andy Humphrey - (left), along with a couple of our members. 

Published Author Jane Lovering (right) along with a couple of our novelist members.

Members enjoying pre-dinner drinks

Mmm the food was great!

Published Author, Jane Lovering, prepares for her post-dinner speech.  Great speech it was too...


Top agent Kate Nash (aka author Kate Allan) to judge YW novel competition!

Posted on March 10, 2013 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm delighted to report that literary agent Kate Nash, of the Kate Nash Literary Agency, has agreed to be the judge of a York Writers Novel Competition!

Kate, who also writes as author Kate Allan, will be reading and critiquing the first chapters and synopses of members' novels, and will be coming to York Writers on Wednesday 2nd October to offer her thoughts on the competition entries and to announce the winner.

We're really excited that Kate has agreed to judge this competition, which is a first in the new incarnation of York Writers. We hope it will stimulate our aspiring novelists to really focus on their work in the next few months, and that it might encourage one or two of our non-novelists to try their hand at some longer fiction too.

A Character-Building Afternoon with Jane Lovering

Posted on November 25, 2012 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm delighted to announce that 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year award winner, Jane Lovering, will be leading members of York Writers in an afternoon workshop focusing on the development of believable characters in longer fiction. The workshop takes place on the afternoon of Wednesday December 5th, starting at 3.30 pm, and will be "A Character Building Afternoon with Jane Lovering". Admission is £1 for York Writers members, £2.50 for guests and visitors. Please email [email protected] for more details.

"About Our Members" page now online

Posted on September 9, 2012 at 4:30 AM Comments comments (2)

Visit for a showcase of some of our members' published work, with links to blogs and websites. Happy reading!

Romantic Novel of the Year winner Jane Lovering to be special guest at York Writers

Posted on September 2, 2012 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

York Writers are delighted to announce that novelist Jane Lovering (, winner of the Romantic Novelists' Association Novel of the Year award in 2012 for Please Don't Stop the Music, is going to be our special guest at our End-of-Year Social on 5th December. Jane is an unconventional romance writer, with forthcoming books taking a wry look at the publishing world's obsession with "vampire romance", and she has plenty to say about the craft of writing and the ups and downs of trying to make it as a published author.


Members of York Writers will get priority booking for this fantastic event, but members of other writers' groups in the region will also be invited to join us. Please email [email protected] to pre-reserve your seat!

Want to develop and improve your writing?

Posted on April 26, 2012 at 3:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Our novelists' support group has been meeting for 3 months now and provides a great space for the aspiring novelist to get together with others who want to see their work published. The group exists to help its members tackle the "big picture" issues of novel writing: how to develop characters and ensure that they stay true to themselves; how not to lose the plot; how to stay motivated when the end of the novel seems nowhere in sight; how to tackle the difficult business of editing and revising the manuscript; and how to approach agents and publishers. Members of the group are interested in a range of markets from fantasy and magic realism to romance and historical fiction, and there's always room for more.


Our manuscript critique group exists partly to provide detailed feedback on work in progress - whether it's a short story, a poem, a piece of non-fiction, or an extract from a novel - and partly to provide a safe space where writers can share their work in progress and learn from one another. The group aims at getting members' manuscripts up to publishable standards and helping writers to develop their craft, but it also aims to be a welcoming and sociable space where ideas and support can be shared.


Interested? Drop us an email to [email protected] and we can let you know more.

York Writers 2012: good news for novelists?

Posted on January 5, 2012 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The first of the new-look York Writers meetings took place yesterday at our superb new venue. Brigantes Bar and Brasserie on Micklegate has a cosy, secluded upstairs room with big picture windows and a table that's just right for a group of aspiring writers to sit around.


The first of our Local Writers' Nights was a great success, with members bringing along short stories, poems and extracts from novels. The material covered ranged from a snapshot of early-20th-century China to Egyptian mummies and shipwrecked mariners, by way of an imaginative modern take on the story of Rapunzel. Participants enjoyed the relaxed and friendly atmosphere and many commented what a pleasure it was to be able to sit together and talk about writing-related issues as well as listen to great new creative work.


A number of participants owned up to being closet novelists and we spent some time exploring the additional challenges presented by writing a novel, compared to a shorter piece of fiction. The challenges included how to shape and control the plot, how to develop characters and portray them consistently as they journey through the novel, how to redraft and edit a completed first draft, and how to write the dreaded synopsis.


We came to the conclusion it was more difficult to critique an extract from a novel than it is to analyse a piece of short prose. The problem with taking 1000 words in isolation from a novel is that whoever is critiquing the 1000 words is looking at them out of context. The prose might be beautifully crafted but there are bigger issues of plot and characterisation that aren't easily tackled through the traditional route of critiquing a small isolated passage.


York Writers are going to be thinking carefully about how to respond to this challenge in the coming year. The framework provided by the critique groups could be the starting point for a "novelists' support group" to bring members together to look at the "big picture" aspects of novel writing. The hope is that the novelists within the group will be able to pool their expertise and find support and encouragement from one another.


Watch this space for further developments!


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