Wednesday 29 February 2012

New Oxford Writers Community Oxford-2012, Second Meeting - a review of the evening

 On Thursday evening the newly formed Oxford 2012 writer’scommunity convened for its second meeting at the Friends’ Meeting Room in St Giles.  With a turnout of thirty five budding writers (guestimate) the meet was started by Zool, (the event’s organiser of Blackwells) who outlined the format for the evening, which was to be split into two halves. He explained that the first half was to be talk, by Author James Atterly and the second half was to comprise of a discussion about OXFORD 2012 and a mock critique.

The First Half - The Talk

James Atterly then spoke about publishing and his remarkable writing journey that he embarked upon whist penning Nocturne.  Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight was written by James about his fascination and awe for the moon, and his quest to see the moon and the night sky in its raw honest beauty, away from the light pollution of the western world.
His journey took him through time, as he looked at the way the moon has influenced arts, culture and religions throughout history. In addition to this, his journey took a geographical turn as he travelled the world to experience the moon in different locations and cultures.  Atterly’s anecdotes and readings were both engaging and engrossing, and made me (a dyslexic whose reading mostly comprises of YA and kids book) want to read the book. So there’s another welcome addition to my ever growing “To Be Read pile”.
After his talk he spoke more generally about writing; about grants and the difficulties of the transition to a full time author.

Atterly’s Top Writing Tip;

“A brain is like a dog. If you feed it a 5’O Clock every day, then it’ll be by its bowl at 5’O Clock every day.  Your brain can be trained to write in the same way.”

The Interval

After the inspiring talk by James, we stopped for an interval, a chance to wine and mingle.  This small informal element of the evening gave all there the chance to meet other writers.

The Second half – Everything Else!

The second half of the evening started with a general discussion on the way that OXFORD 2012 is going to be run.  And  finally a mock critique where Zool read out an extract from an already publish novel and the critique was panelled by Cherry. This was an interesting and insightful experience, with much of the comments relating to writing style, and interesting all highlighting the same points.  It also sparked a debate about the nature of critiquing itself, and that it can become a rather negative experience for the author. The answer to this was eloquently summarised by Dennis Hamley who said this…

“A good critique is always on the writers’ side.”

And Finally - An unexpected highlight of the evening…
We were treated to an impromptu recital of poetry by Dennis Hamley, who shared with us part of Browning's, Fra Lippo Lippi…

For, don't you mark, we're made so that we love
First when we see them painted, things we have passed
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see;
And so they are better painted, better to us,
Which is the same thing.   Art was given for that.
God uses us to help each other so,
Lending our minds out .

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Writers on The Radio: Jo Wyton and Me (Sally Poyton) on BBC Radio Oxford

Here is a piccy of Jo and I before the interview!
So yesterday, Monday 20th February 2012, Jo Wyton and I were interviewed by the lovely Jo Thoenes on her afternoon show on BBC Radio Oxford.  It was a great experience, despite having wound ourselves up to the point where we were both actually vibrating with anticipation whilst also shaking with nerves, we managed to get through the interview, and what’s more really enjoy it.

Jo Thoenoes made us feel really relaxed and the whole experience was just like having a friendly chat, abet in a pillar-box-red room, with lots of flashing lights, switches, and big microphones before our faces.  We covered subjects such as writing groups and how we met at Abingdon Writers. The importance of having writing friends, (from the likes of Abingdon Writers and SCBWI) for both the writer sanity and the mental health of their loved ones. Jo also asked about our books, I explained a little about Through Mortal Eyes, and Jo about her YA contemporary novel Magpie, about three teenage girls who have been separated by a secret. We also discussed writing in general and of course the Undiscovered Voices competition and its impact on our writing since being picked as Honorary Mention (in my case) and Winner (in Jo’s case).

Yes it would appear that I'm Jo's plus one!
The interview lasted about 45 minutes, yet seemed much less whilst in the studio. After we left BBC Radio Oxford HQ in Summertown, we felt a buzz of excitement; we actually did it, talked whilst on air, without too much stumbling or thankfully swearing! And with a bit of luck we both made sense.

If you want to listen to the interview, it’s on the BBC Radio Oxford's web-site listen again page until 27th February or just press link here  to BBC RADIO OXFORD. The interview is about an hour into the show, so you may have to skip at bit.

So I at least feel rather pleased as I can say that I’ve done something new this week, (as it doesn’t happen very often,) and I greatly enjoyed it too. 

Sunday 19 February 2012

Jo Wyton and Me (Sally Poyton) on BBC Radio Oxford; Talking Writing and More -20th February 2pm

Ok yes, we’re on the radio being interviewed about writing, the importance of writing buddies, and critique groups, plus entering competitions like Undiscovered Voices.  I am so nervous I’m worried the microphone may pick up the sound of my teeth chattering.  But if you’d like to tune in to hear us then here is the link so you can listen via the web BBC Radio Oxford. 

Wish us luck...

Friday 3 February 2012

Books that I have loved through my life...

Books that I have loved through my life...

The folks of SCWBI UK were asked a question last week by SCBWI member and writing coach Bekki Hill, the question:  What’s your favourite book?

The question was then followed up with another question; What’s your favourite book today? This was in turn followed by a number of questions designed to get us to think. Why does our current favourite book appeal to us, at this moment in time, where we are in our lives and where we are with our writing?

Anyway this exercise got me thinking about my relationships with books through my life, so here is a blog, dedicated to just that, the books I’ve loved and that have shaped my life to date. I've also included some photo's of me at these ages for your amusement - pillar box red fringe - what was I thinking?

My childhood memories become more blurred the further I go back. I reckon my memories start to focus at around age five so that’s where I’ll start…

5-8 Years

I loved the following books, Rosie’s Walk, The Tiger who came to Tea, all the What-a-Mess books and The Owl who was afraid of the Dark – the first ever novel I read. No more Monsters for Me, was the reading book with which, whilst battling through, the light bulb eventually lit up in my brain and  I actually clicked what reading was all about. Oh, and not forgetting Please Mrs Butler, which I loved so much that my teacher gave me a copy when I moved up class.  

My most favourite book at this age however was an anthology of fairy tales, which has sadly been lost, (last seen in 1999 at University College Chichester) which included tales from: The Brothers Grimm, Han’s Christian Anderson and Charles Perrault. I can remember being infatuated with the tales, especially the sad fate of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and the ‘Girl in red Shoes’.  The book was also rich with ink and watercolour illustrations, that didn’t shy away from gore, depicting the bloody carnage after the girl in red shoes had axed offed her legs, for some reason this really appealed to me.

8-12 Years

This is the time of my life when I started to discover fantasy. I loved the Little Vampire books, plus the fantastic Worst Witch books (and the film with camp cameo from the fantastic Tim Curry!). It was now that I started loving both book and the TV/Film adaptations of them, whether I came to the book via the film or vice-versa. This is exactly how I discovered and came to love, Mr Murpurgo’s, Why the Whales Came, going out to buy the book the second the credits rolled at the end of the video. At this time I also discovered and fell in love with the beautifully illustrated Brambly Hedge books, which made me, want to illustrate.

Early Teens

What can I say? I’m a child of my generation, so it was Roald Dahl and Judy Bloom all the way… And as far as picture books goes anything Kit Williams. Of course, I loved Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and today I can still recollect the outcry that they caused upon publication. Many of my friend’s parents banned them reading it. ‘Red Riding Hood pulling a rifle from her knickers – well I never!’

Late Teens

Got to say it, you either do JRR Tolkien or you don’t, there are no half measures, and I did him big style, as you can probably tell. I loved the whole world; it was fantasy like no other I had ever experienced. Also ‘the Never Ending Story’ I loved the film when I was younger, but the book, with its coloured text was a great find. Then Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, another book I read because I loved the film as a kid. For the Romantic in me, the fabulous time travelling YA romance Playing Beatie Bow (written way before YA existed) now this I demand you go out and read straight away, it is just simply beautiful.


Well my twenties, was not a good decade for reading. I was either doing up houses or rearing small not very healthy children (they are all better now). There are no good excuses but it’s true, I just simply didn’t read very much. I did however rekindle my love of fairy tales, and gathered and read huge amounts of them.


I’m heading towards my 34th Birthday – and I think I’m regressing. Most of what I read for pleasure is YA, I love YA! Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is just fantastic. But I’m also loving books by Celia Rees and Meg Rossoff. Two of my most treasured books are; The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce, and The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, which both invoke the darkness of fairy tales juxtaposed perfectly with coming of age narratives. I’ve also discovered Manga – who would ever of thought that graphic novels could be so well – fantastic. The characters in Fruits Basket are as deep and real as any you'd find in a well written novel, and these beautifully illustrated tales, really make me cry and laugh, thanks Mum for making me read them!

So the answer to the first question? 

What’s my favourite book of all time? Well that has to be The Brothers Grimm’s Child and Household Tales, which is this year celebrating its 200 anniversary of its publication. Why? Well, without this book then most of my favourite books throughout my life simply would not exist.

Here's my beloved but battered first English translation of the Grimm's tales

My favourite book today? The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Why? I can’t really explain (I’ve tried but it just ain’t happening), but I do highly recommend you read it for yourself.

To find out what other fantastically talented SCBWI children’s writers have cited as their favourite books, check out Bekki Hills Blog; The Write Coach.