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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

West Country Writers - a literary weekend

Reading other writer's blogs can be entertaining, informative and even beneficial. Last year I read about the West Country Writers' Association and their annual congress on Sally Jenkins' excellent blog. Sally had been awarded a bursary to attend the annual event (held in Plymouth for 2011) and gave it a great write-up. As the indoor writer hails from that part of the world (she was born in Plymouth and still calls herself a Devonian) she had a go and applied for the 2012 bursary. The bursary award offered a writer full access to the 61st annual weekend's literary talks, dinners and included all accommodation and meals - so it was worth winning (click here for details of the 2012 event). To cut a long story short she was awarded the bursary and attended the event held at Bailbrook Hotel (outside Bath) in April (20-22). The indoor writer recounts her weekend below:

It was a damp weekend, hence the picture of the hotel (above) looks rather eerie and misty. But the wonderfully warm welcome from Patricia McAughey (Treasurer), Fiona McAughey (Secretary) and Lyn Carnaby (Chairman) made up for the weather. In fact all the West Country Writers I met were lovely - a really friendly bunch, who clearly love writing, books and eating (there were lots of opportunity to eat and network at this event).

The event kicked off with an interesting talk from The History Press, followed by a Civic Reception held at the Mayor's Parlour in the Guildhall Bath. This was a rare treat, a chance to meet the Mayor and also hear about the special treasures displayed within the parlour. We then returned to the hotel for a lovely dinner and a chance to meet more members of the association.

After the AGM on Saturday morning (impressively starting at 8.30am) Penny Bryde gave a fascinating talk on fashion and Bath in the 18th century. The annual luncheon (3 delicious courses) was attended by the Mayor, Mayoress and the assoication's President Lady Rachel Billington - who introduced the lunch with a evocative speech about memories and writing. Post lunch attendees could do their own thing and visit Bath. There was also a talk on the healing properties of Bath Spa waters by John Harcup (Vice-President). The day concluded with the inspiring Christopher Fry Memorial Lecture given by Linda Hooper on how she develops her historical research into novels. Linda writes as Melinda Hammond/ Sarah Mallory and had just been awarded a Romantic Novelists Association award for her Regency novel The Dangerous Lord Darrington. Before we retired to dinner I had my moment of fame at the awards ceremony, where Chairman Lyn Carnaby (see photo on right) presented the bursary certificate. The winners of the short story competition were also announced and the winner read out his very entertaining story.

The event came to a lovely conclusion on Sunday morning following another terrific talk given by Dr John Sugden on the Nelsons of Bath, from which we learnt about Horatio, his family and their impact on Bath. The final talk was all about blogging and I was delighted to meet the fabulous Lynne Hatwell aka Dovegreyreader. If you haven't yet discovered her wonderful scribbles then do investigate here, this is a blog for all those who are genuinely passionate about books and anything literary. She is also a lovely lady and I could've listened to her talking about books for hours, days even...

This is an unusual event in that it doesn't feature talks/workshops on the art of writing. The literary weekend is usually themed around its location. The 2013 event is planned to be held in Torquay (5-7 April 2013) and will be themed on Agatha Christie (she lived locally). All of the talks were interesting and stimulating, though not necessarily about writing they certainely prompted many ideas and stimulated further topics for investigation (I came away with several new plotlines for short stories). I would recommend checking out the programme for 2013. And do seriously consider applying for the bursary - it really is worth winning.

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