Meeting in the flesh

7 07 2021

We really pleased to be meeting in The Lamb again after more than a year’s break.

Lockdown has shed a few regulars (for non-fatal reasons before you worry!) so we’d love to hear from any new writers, fiction or non-fiction, playwrights, novelists, poets – we like a good variety. You can join us on Signal for a chat – email Louisa for a link or to check about the next meeting.

Coronavirus update

23 05 2020

While Coronavirus restrictions are in place, we are meeting online.

if you would like to join us, please get in contact and we’ll share details with you.

Writers’ Day at Salisbury Literary Festival

9 09 2019


As we approach the second run of literature festivals, I’m thinking of the different kinds of festival within easy travel of Marlborough.

Swindon (okay, it’s in May), focuses on ideas and has a lot of intellectual non-fiction catering to a city-sized town (and county) missing undergraduate education. Cheltenham (October) has grown into a mega book behemoth, even more so than when I was press officer there twenty years ago. Marlborough (end of September) started out ten years ago with a mission to support fiction and only fiction (entry barred to celebs, non-fiction and even journalists) but has become more similar to Swindon in recent years. And there’s tons of specialist stuff in Bristol, including CrimeFest in June. At the end of September, Bath hosts Europe’s largest children’s literature festival, while the main May festival morphed into a general arts festival in 2017, like Swindon did this year.

A recent edition is the Salisbury Literary Festival (18-20 October 2019), set up by locally-based author and Faber Academy course leader, Tom Bromley, in 2017, and grew out of the monthly Salisbury Writing Circle. Not only is it focused on creative fiction, but Sunday is Writers’ Day, packed with authors, publishers, agents and editors.

Salisbury Literary Festival also runs a short story competition, free entry, for ages 4 and over on the theme of rivers, and up to 500 words in length. Deadline is 30 September 2019 with a prize of book tokens for under 18s and a place on the Professional Writing Academy ‘Writing Short Fiction’ course for adults.

Describing the appearance of characters

29 07 2018

I won’t lie. Description is my Achilles’ heel. I’m terrible at reading it too, skipping over swathes of it. I like it short and sweet; to know the character in as few words as possible. (Yet Lord of the Rings is one of my favourite books. Go figure.)

Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. But if we want to be good writers we need to know how to handle each tool in the box without hurting ourselves.

If, like me, physical description doesn’t come easily to you, you may be tempted to leave it out, or to insert frustratingly clunky, lonely sentences into your story. But description should be an integral part, besties with your plot, characterisation and atmosphere. When the reader encounters your character, they want to like, love or hate them straight away, even if you deviously change their mind later. Read the rest of this entry »

The art of critique 🤔🤗🤨😫🧐😕😖🤪😀😍

12 07 2018

Back in the day when I did a bit of training in research, we were taught that discussion groups work best in groups of eight to twelve. Less and you can’t get a good discussion going, it can be awkward, or it’s easily skewed by the potentally odd opinion of one. More, and some don’t get a chance to speak, the introverts probably won’t join in; people can split into packs. There may only be time to express one thought each and so rich discussion is lost, people create submeetings to counteract the increasing volume as individuals struggle to be heard.

In a writers’ critique group, the group dynamic is vital. Writers have scribbled away in their cave to produce this work, don’t know if it’s any good (think it probably isn’t) and have emerged, blinking, in the sunlight of critique. Yikes!

So along with that magic group size of eight-to-twelve, it’s important to be kind and offer critique supportively, especially to those newly emerged writing cubs with rough-hewn work. We want them to grow into strong writing bears, right? (And if we want decent critique of our own work, we need to get it right for everyone.)

But what does this look like? Read the rest of this entry »

Colonised writing

9 07 2018


After inhabiting the polar south with my 1914 horror noveletta, The Crate, I’m up in the north, sucked into the 1845 ill-fated Franklin expedition to find the North-West Passage by way of horror fictionalisation The Terror, by Dan Simmons.

Anyway, Google meanderings through the historical background found this in The Conversation, by a Canadian Inuit writer, Norma Dunning:

She says, about becoming a writer, ‘I didn’t want my work re-colonized.’

Inuit people have a strong oral tradition, and have been, at best, ignored, at worst, treated as animalistic savages. So setting down stories in a written format is a challenge both in conveying syntax and resisting the straitjacket of accepted Westernised creative style and grammar.

Without wishing to minimise the Inuit experience of colonialism, as writers we can all be colonised (and colon-ised!). I think one of the biggest challenges as a writer is taking that story in your head and making the written words do it justice, without it being terrible, unintelligible or identikit style.

And there’s the importance of finding an editor/friend/muse who doesn’t seek the quick fix, but who understands your style and brings out the true potential of your ‘voice’.

And why is it important to foster our own voice? To enjoy different voices?

Well it took 156 years for the British to learn of the resting place of the first of the lost Franklin ships (HMS Erebus, then in 2017, HMS Terror), when the Inuits knew all along what had happened to the ships and the last sightings of the crew. In fact, it wasn’t until the modern expeditions began to listen to the Inuits that they found the vessels. But, in the 19th century, their knowledge was treated as worthless by the British. Even enlightened social reformers like Dickens called them ‘savages.

But, history aside, different voices are more interesting, more fun. They take us down different paths. They open up different parts of our brain. Different ways of looking at the world. Discovering new stories. Whilst at the same time helping us understand that we all need to eat, be warm, be loved and love, feel safe yet be challenged. Appreciated and heard.

Pictured above, left, Louis Kamookak, the Inuit oral historian who died earlier this year (2018), compared Inuit stories with explorers logbooks and journals to determine the position of the two Franklin expedition ships.

Written by Louisa

Poetry Swindon Festival

2 10 2017

So today I was in a cow onesie outside Swindon town centre M&S reading The Cow by Roald Dahl, with a bunch of other onesie animals. (The other option was to read An Ode to Autumn by Keates with added moos).

The point of this stunt – and believe it or not this was the watered down version as originally we were to be birthed from a giant fallopian tube – was to do something for social media for Poetry Swindon Festival which starts this Thursday (5th-9th October 2017).

This sums up the Festival, no doubt the silliest and friendliest of its kind, which treats Poetry as Life but never a poe-face in sight.

Most of it takes place at the Richard Jefferies Museum (Coate, Swindon) pop-up Tent Palace of the Delicious Air, with bits and bobs here and there like the Poetry Pram trundling poems to give away round Swindon town centre to bemused locals.

Here’s more about it:

In fact, there’s me in the cops and robbers leggings from last year, photo under Friday 6th.

If you want to see the Onesie Stunt, go check out the Twitter feed at @poetry_swindon

And I’m one of the two festival bloggers at

Written by Louisa

Competitions and submissions

24 06 2016

Budding writers! Just six days to go to enter Poetry Swindon‘s BATTERED MOONS POETRY COMPETITION and submit to DOMESTIC CHERRY magazine.

Battered Moons only costs £5 to enter per poem, and has a top prize of £700.

Domestic Cherry invites submissions of Poetry, Flash Fiction, Playlets, Shopping Lists, Inner Leg Measurements, First Borns and Bribes! No fee but you may be published in the lovely DC mag.

More info here:

Deadline for both is Thursday 30 June 2016.


Words, Pictures, Publishing

8 03 2016



Just met former primary school deputy head and children’s writer, Vicki Watson, who runs a publishing company, Callisto Green. They offer a full service from editing to book design to book coaching. Always handy to know these kind of people when stuck or want a book to look as well as read professional.

And I liked their cool infographic above.

Post by Louisa Davison, Marlborough

First Novel Prize

8 03 2016

Daniel Goldsmith Associates is pleased to introduce the First Novel Prize, an exciting new competition for unpublished and independently published writers. Not only will writers have the chance to win £1,000 for first prize, but they will also have their work read and recognised by a panel of publishing professionals.
“It is a real privilege to judge a writing competition. The range of undiscovered talent is always amazing.” Robin Wade, Literary Agent at Wade & Co.

“I’m delighted to be a judge for the First Novel Prize. It’s a wonderful chance to highlight new talent and I look forward to discovering a fantastic new voice in fiction.” Carla Josephson, Judge & Fiction Editor at Simon & Schuster

“The overall aim of the new First Novel Prize is to find an outstanding new writer and a brilliant debut.” Lorena Goldsmith, Judge & Literary Consultant at Daniel Goldsmith Associates

Entries: Now Open!

Closing Date: 31st May 2016

Submissions: full manuscripts only, should be in English, unpublished or self-published, of any adult genre and over 50,000 words. Please note that children’s fiction, Young Adult and Non-fiction will not qualify for entry.


*1st – £1000* *2nd – £250* *3rd – £100*

All entries must include a title page with your contact details followed by a synopsis and the whole novel attached within the same document. The entry fee is £25.

Post by Louisa Davison, Marlborough