We enjoyed an entertaining evening with historical fiction author Clare Harvey on Thursday 1st November. Clare was the judge of our recent letter writing competition and, as well as announcing the winners, kindly added a few comments to each entry. The aim of the competition was to write a letter to someone who had influenced you, or changed your life, for better or worse, and could be fact or fiction.
Clare was keen to stress that the results were completely her own personal decision and what worked for her may not have been to another person’s taste. She commented on the originality of the entries with letters to all sorts of people with a range of emotions: some funny, some sentimental, some jealous or bitter, but all were a real pleasure to read.
In third place was Anne Howkins with a letter to her granddad. Clare praised the wonderfully descriptive passages of the land- and sea-scapes of Sutton on Sea and her childhood memories of jaunts with a grandparent.
In second place was an entry from Nick Rowe. This was completely different and read like a short story, unsettling and challenging with a slow reveal to a disturbing end.
First place went to Linda Cooper and was a letter written to Scarlett O’Hara. This was different again, making Clare laugh out loud as the author commented on the fickle behaviour of Scarlett whilst reading Gone With The Wind, accompanied by various bottles of wine. Clare said that humour is hard to do well and this was beautifully paced, original & witty. The letter ended with the feeling that the writer was suffering from a ‘book hangover’ as well as one of the traditional alcoholic kind.
One of the interesting (and cheering) facts about the winners was that all three are members of Fosseway Writers 🙂 In case anyone shouts “Fix!” we can assure you that Clare had no idea about who the authors were; as with all of our competitions the judge only receives anonymous entries with a simple entry number added to the top.
We then had a brief discussion about the use of letters in literature, both epistolary fiction, where the narrative comes from letters, and their importance as plot drivers. Clare read out an excerpt from her new book (The Escape, to be released in January 2019) where a letter reveals new information.
Finally, we attempted a short writing exercise where we had to think back to a time where we were feeling alone or beleaguered and then find a letter written to us from our future selves. This had some mixed results and we finished the evening with a discussion on individual responses to different writing methodologies and assured Clare that it’s very rare to have an exercise that everyone is comfortable with!
Our next meeting is on Thursday 15th November at the Organ Grinder pub where we will have an informal read out of anything people want to bring along that they have written (latest prompt, if you need it is “He couldn’t prevent the truth”) plus further planning of our ambitious new collaborative project. Hope to see you there!