Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Joy of a Conference

Last weekend I went to the latest West Country Writers Association Congress in Bristol.

What could persuade me to leave my lovely Pennine home and travel over two hundred miles to a Conference? Of course it is always good to come home to the West Country and the speakers are invariably interesting but the Congress is more than that – it is meeting up with old friends - like novelists Helen McCabe, Jean Saunders and Fay Sampson - making new ones and the interaction between so many different types of writers, journalists, poets, novelists, translators, writers of non-fiction – we are all wordsmiths, but the diversity of styles makes for a most interesting weekend.

This year at Bristol there was even more interaction in the form of a workshop (the WCWA Congress takes the form of a country house party, so workshops are not the norm). We were split into groups, each group was given the same set of characters but a different genre, ranging from chick-lit to war, and we were set the task of putting together a plot in just an hour!

This proved a wonderful ice-breaker, and even those who declared they were not writers entered into the spirit of the session – the biggest challenge was to stick to the task and not digress into creating full life-stories for each of the characters! Our group was given the genre of the supernatural, and we were soon engrossed in discussions of ghosts, monsters and possessed children. Jonathan’s knowledge of war and military campaigns helped us with our setting (a fishing village in the Channel Islands), Fay set to work producing a lovely first paragraph, Barbara desperately wanted to work a giant squid into the story and Jo pounced on the idea of a teddy bear creating a spooky link with past generations. At the end of the session each group read out their efforts, and what superbly different efforts they were! Never has an hour passed so quickly – even the deafening roar of a tropical storm beating on the roof of our conference room could not dampen our spirits: the conference was off to a very lively start!

You can find more information on the West Country Writers Assocation at

Melinda Hammond
A Rational Romance – pub Robert Hale Ltd

Sarah Mallory
More Than a Governess – pub Harlequin Historicals


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a great time Melinda. Looking at their website (which I may add and sorry to say, has lots of broken links and not much on it) they say you need a West Country Connection to join. Does that mean you come from there Melinda? Or is it that some of your novels are set there?Certainly, a Rational Romance has Devon in it (when they return from France) and Dance for a Diamond is mostly set in Bath....


Melinda Hammond said...

Clorinda - I am Bristolian born and bred. Having moved to the north of England, I think I now appreciate the West Country even more!

Please bear with the WCWA website - it's a new one and is still having teething troubles!