Goodbye and Thank You

The Litmus 2015 blog team would like to thank all our contributors, followers and friends for their support during 2015.  This blog will now be closed, but please keep your eye on the internet – a new team of writers from the University of Winchester will be producing an anthology in 2016.  I’m certain they will welcome your support.

Happy New Year!

Liking Minds at the Winchester Writers’ Festival

photo by Alex Carter

Photo by Alex Carter

A perk of doing my MA at the University of Winchester is that I had the opportunity to be a student host at this year’s Winchester Writers’ Festival. My duties were to look after two session leaders and in return I got to see the keynote and sit in on my speakers’ sessions, not to mention lunch, with tangerine and coffee pudding. Well, I did mention it, I had to; it was so good!

Beforehand I was terrified. Stupidly so. I thought I ought to prepare an elevator pitch to market myself effectively, even though my novel is less than half written. I forgot that people are human beings. I also forgot that these days I am barely ever intimidated.

The start of the day was wonderful, Sebastian Faulks was everything you want from a keynote. He was very warm, had fascinating anecdotes and said exciting things, like allowing your characters to contradict themselves. Check out @JennySavill1 ‘s #sebastianfaulks tweets for a great summary of his gems.

Jenny Savill from Andrew Nurnberg was my first speaker. She was, of course, lovely and encouraging, talking about there being a potential market for my clumsily explained story (I still haven’t nailed my elevator chatter). My second speaker was Paul Bryers, who had been one of my lecturers so I knew he wouldn’t be scary and it was brilliant to catch up with him. He was in high spirits, having just finished writing a novel the day before!

I don’t want to give away my speaker’s intellectual property because that would be unethical and if you get the chance to hear either of them talk, please do!

So just tiny tasters:

Jenny’s session was ‘Think you’re Ready to Submit to an Agent’. She gave lots of excellent tips on what to do before sending your manuscript off. I’ve made a checklist from what she said. A jewel for me was about starting action as late as possible. Very resonant!

Then lunch. And. That. Pudding.

Paul’s session was ‘Making a Drama Out of a Crisis’, looking at ways in to factually-based historical fiction. It was great to hear his film maker and novelist perspectives and I love that he says the story must come first; truth is flexible.

Both speakers answered all sorts of questions from attendees, honestly and expertly.

In between, I bumped into MA friends at various stages of their dissertations, some more frantic than me and others I’m incredibly jealous of (already editing!). I also saw other friends, some that I hadn’t seen for years, some that are becoming new writing buddies. And met new people. I love new people; they’re so unexplored. All of them with that shared passion; that drive to write.

Thanks to Judith Heneghan for this fantastic opportunity. Next year I’ve promised myself a fully paid-up ticket and I’ll be touting my completed novel. Dear readers, book yourselves on and I’ll see you there!

Kath Whiting
@kathdwhiting
MA Creative & Critical Writing
Also posted on http://kathwhiting.blogspot.co.uk/

We’re Nearly Famous!

Words & Pictures logo Earlier this month the Litmus 2015 launch was written up in Words and Pictures, the online magazine for The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in the British Isles. I really must go on an internet trawl and see if any other media outlets made use of our press release. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy their article.

http://www.wordsandpics.org/2015/05/small-big-celebrations.html

Where are our manners?

A copy of Litmus 2015 next to the celebration cakeThe Litmus 2015 launch party was on Tuesday night.  Today is Sunday and we have yet to tell you anything about it.  Please accept our apologies.  It’s not that we didn’t want to share, we’ve just been a bit busy.  We’ve been feeding the hungry Twitter bird, sending thank you emails and continuing with the business of obtaining our masters degrees.  OK, most of the time we’ve been sat rocking in a corner, gently stroking the shiny cover of our very own copies of Litmus 2015; turning the pages to make sure our names are still in the table of contents, our stories in the body of the book and our bios on the back pages.

A group shot of people at the Litmus 2015 launch partySorry, we’re still not telling you anything about the launch, and we should.  It was a wonderful evening.  The room was full of students (aka, Litmus 2015 authors), literary agents, editors, lecturers, journalists, bloggers, family, friends and a delightful little dog.

Adam Knowles reading from Litmus 2015The night began with opening remarks from college lecturers Judith Heneghan and Julian Stannard, followed by a presentation of flowers to Vanessa Harbour.  Then came the most nerve wracking part of the evening – a series of short readings from thirteen of the Litmus authors.  What a variety of writing was presented: from memoir to fantasy, realism to science fiction, stories for grown ups and stories for children.  Each pieceAmelia Mackenzie reads from Litmus 2015 had been carefully crafted by the reader, but half the audience felt they had a stake in the finished piece.  We had critiqued each other’s work; encouraged, comforted and cajoled each other through the writing process.  Some of us had edited the finished pieces before assembling them into the finished book.  We had all played our part and loudly applauded those who stood to read on our behalf.

Students celebrating the launch of Litmus 2015Once the formal part of the evening was over, we could relax a little.  We had drinks and canapés, exchanged hugs and autographs (our first author signing event!) and introduced the friends and family members who had come to support us.  We introduced ourselves to the representatives of literary agencies, publishing houses, journals and blogs and tried out our ‘elevator pitches’ .
Marie Armstrong cuts the Litmus 2015 cake
One of the highlights of the evening was a beautiful cake, made and donated by Carol Thompson of Cakes Beyond Belief.  You might have spotted the picture at the top of the page.  If you are looking for a celebration cake, please give Carol a call.  The fabulous (and truly delicious) Litmus cake was organised and collected from Hove by Marie Armstrong, so it seemed appropriate that she should have the honour of cutting it.

Head shot of Alex Carter reading a copy of Litmus 2015We had a wonderful evening and are still dealing with the after effects.  We need to thank all the lecturers who have helped us to develop our writing skills, our fellow students for their constructive criticism and our families for their encouragement and support.  Thank you to Carol for the cake, to the industry professionals who took the time to join us for the celebration or requested a copy of Litmus 2015 be sent to them, and to the faculty for funding the print run.  Last, but not least, a big thank you to Alex Carter for taking the fabulous photographs – well, all except this one.

The end is nigh

Book CoverIf you have been following this blog for a while, or can see the counter on the right of this page, you will know that it is only a few short days until our publication is released to the wide world on May 12th. This has been a long time coming for all involved but, I can personally say, I’m delighted it’s finally here.

We have been planning the Litmus 2015 anthology since January, carefully selecting which piece of writing we think best represents us as writers, refining the details, editing and reading in class, and finally pressing that send button a few short weeks ago. Four months to achieve that doesn’t seem like a long time, but the planning and blogging and scheduling will all be over in a matter of days.

And then what are each of us left with? A publication which we have individually contributed to as writers, our stories and names in print, and, hopefully, smiles adorning our faces on Launch Night.

During this term I have struggled to consider myself as a writer. I have never quite been convinced that just because I write things down this makes me a writer. But Launch Night will bring this one issue home for me. I will see my name in print, and my words on the page, in an actual printed book which I will take home to put in my book collection. Madness.

It has been a long road for us bloggers, event organisers and editors but the end is nigh. The Litmus anthology Launch Night is but days away. And I can honestly say I’m quite excited.

Rebecca Travers (MA Creative and Critical Writing)

If you are an agent, editor, blogger or journalist who somehow slipped off our invitation list and would like to come to Winchester for cake, readings, and your own copy of Litmus 2015, please let us know.  You can comment below, tweet your interest on @litmus2015 or email k.howard.13@unimail.winchester.ac.uk.

Litmus Launch and why Writers are like Hummingbirds

Book Cover
As well as promoting our book, the Litmus launch is a celebration of the end of the taught component of our MAs in Creative & Critical Writing and Writing for Children at the University of Winchester. It is the end of a very intense creative experience. A time for goodbyes and good lucks and thank yous. Of course, there will be graduation but that won’t be until next October, or even 2017 for some part-time students, so the 12 May will be our last communal hurrah.

I’m really looking forward to reading Litmus 2015; it promises to be an eclectic mix from a talented group of writers. People have worked really hard on this project; promoting, editing, organising and galvanising.

The hummingbird cover is beautiful and appropriate. Hummingbirds are relentless, tireless and always seeking nectar. We’ve learnt on our final module, in order to be successful, to find agents or to self-publish, writers have to be tireless and resilient. And of course, we are always hunting for ideas; our own creative nectar.

As well as students and their significant others; tutors, expert speakers, guest bloggers and agents will be attending. Many of us will read excerpts, which is not at all terrifying  with an audience like that! There will be refreshments and merriment, and I’ve heard there may even be cake.

So, 10 days to go and we will be going with a bang!

Kath Whiting
MA Creative & Critical Writing

If you are an agent, editor, blogger or journalist who somehow slipped off our invitation list and would like to come to Winchester for cake, readings, and your own copy of Litmus 2015, please let us know.  You can comment below, tweet your interest on @litmus2015 or email k.howard.13@unimail.winchester.ac.uk.

A Sneaky Peek

I am getting very excited!

Oh dear. I’ve just broken one of the golden rules we learn on our MA courses; show, don’t tell. Well, sometimes rules have to be broken and today I am going to do ‘telling’ – mainly because I don’t want to give you a mental picture of a short, middle-aged, Rubenesque woman doing a happy dance in her PJs. You don’t need to see that on a Saturday afternoon. It didn’t work, did it? Sorry!

So why am I so excited? Because earlier this week I held a book in my hand. That’s not the exciting bit. I do that several times every day and sometimes it is quite thrilling, but not like this. This book had my name in it. I have many books at home with my name in them. I write it inside the front cover of a book before I lend it to a friend, in the hope it might make its way back home to me. This book wasn’t one of those. This had my name in print.

I was holding a printer’s proof of Litmus 2015, an anthology of writing by students on the MA Creative & Critical Writing and MA Writing for Children courses at The University of Winchester. It still needed revisions and corrections before the final print run, but I didn’t care. To see my name in the table of contents, the beginning of my story in the body of the book and a brief biography all about me in the back pages was staggering. My breathing went wobbly, my skin clammy and I felt a tiny bit sick. A thing I had dreamed of, the result of hours of work, something I though of as happening at some time in the murky future, was in my hand and it didn’t seem real.

When other students wanted to take it from me, I found it hard to let it go. Then I saw their faces as they turned the pages, looking for their own names. If I hadn’t been feeling so sideswiped I would have taken out a pad and made notes about their reactions. What a wonderful resource it would have made for future writing: the changes in skin colour, breathing, body language, facial expressions. Some students disappearing into a land that only contained them and the book, others holding it out to share with the whole world.

As I said, the inside of the book still has some work to be done, so I can’t share that with you, but I can show you the beautiful cover. I hope you love it as much as we do – although, admittedly, we may be just a wee bit biased. Welcome to the cover of Litmus 2015. Hope to see you at the launch!Book Cover
Kim A Howard
MA Writing for Children