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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The magic of Swanwick: People

As you can see from the photo (right) I enjoyed swanning at Swanwick this summer. Okay, so I tagged along to keep the Indoor Writer company - she'd won a week at the Writers' Summer School (how jammy was that?) with her non-fiction article 'Bluebirds over France' (to be published in October issue of Writing Magazine). I had to keep guard over the crystal bowl while she got to meet lots of interesting people - well they were all writers - so I'll let her tell you more ...

I wasn't sure what to expect as a White Badger (first timer) at Swanwick Writers' Summer School as I nervously arrived for the first tea and cake session on Sat afternoon. Within minutes other writers were welcoming me to the school and introducing me to others. This was quite unlike any other conference/event I've attended in my professional life, where if you come on your own you can easily stay on your own (unless you're a born extrovert). But the White Badge system really works and the Swanwick diehards will swoop you up and embrace you as one of their own simply because you are a writer. I also soon realised that tea and cake are a vital ingredient of the Swanwick tradition. Even now back at home I get cravings for cake and a natter at 3.15pm.

Secondly I was unprepared for the size of the event. Expecting to be one of about 40-50 delegates I was overwhelmed to find myself with 240 other writers. The usual opening at mealtimes to a new companion was 'and what do you write?' And each time I asked this question I was never quite prepared for the response. Swanwick attracts writers of all genres. There are many fiction writers, of short stories and novels, but equally many poets, non-fiction and technical writers. I met several individuals specialising in training materials and books, all who enjoyed Swanwick for the chance of sampling other genres.

I will write more in another post on the courses attended, but today I wanted to share the most valuable aspect of the Summer School: the people. Since coming home I've been emailing and tweeting new friends, some I hope will become firm friends. It was great to share my writing projects with others and to learn about other writers' successes (and mistakes). I had fun at the Poetry Slam (listening not participating), loved the Busker's evening, embraced my ambitious streak for the Literary Quiz (my team came a close 2nd) and relished the variety of evening speakers. I wasn't brave enough to step onto the Eurovision Disco floor for the first night, and that was the only night I retired early as simply just too knac-sorry-exhausted. Also hid for the karaoke night, though LitPig was keen to have a go.

One of the most inspirational speakers was Rebecca Woodhead (Writing Magazine columnist on media). I spoke with her after lunch and even off the podium she was still enthusing on the benefits of social networking for writers. Up close she looks at least ten years younger than her age, which she attributes to her diet of non-processed foods (with the exception of chocolate!), but I'd put her youthful appearance down to her positive personality and pure zest for life.

Below I'm pictured alongside the other prize winners:
Front left to right: me (Tracy Fells), Sue Petitt (runner-up Children's Story), Veronica Bright (winner Children's Story)
Back Left to right: Mike Berry (runner-up Adult Short Story), Maureen Jeffs (winner Adult Short Story).
If you regularly read Writing Magazine then look out for the competition adverts - why not set yourself a goal to enter for 2013? The prize is a full week (Sat - Frid morning) at Swanwick Summer Writers' School - all costs covered (worth about £400).

I can understand why many Swanwickers return year after year. Once you've sampled the menu, you just can't wait to get back for more. And it seems Swanwickers simply go on forever - many have been returning for ten years plus. I think I may have stumbled on the secret of a long writing life: Swanwick Summer School ... and cake.

My networking action list:

  • Join Google+ (then I can sit round a virtual camp fire and talk writing with new Swanwick mates)
  • Make more of my Facebook page
  • Use blog and Twitter to promote other writers and their work
  • Earn enough through writing to book my place for 2013!


  1. Sounds like you had a fantastic time, Tracy! I shall be definitely looking out for the 2013 competition.

  2. Wishing you all the best Sally if you decide to enter - it is a great prize. :)

  3. Interesting post - you obviously had a great time. Entering more competitions is an ambition of mine but I find promoting The Haphazard Gardener and editing my mss Alice takes up all my time. I'm following you on twitter now.

  4. Thanks Penelope. But you're right entering competitions eats up time. I can imagine promotion takes time too and you always have to be working on the next mss as well. I find myself in a current dilemma on whether to now focus on polishing a novel, finishing another and writing short stories. To keep entering competitions I need to keep writing the short stories and then find I've little time left for other projects. P.S. I'm now following you too - sorry didn't realise you were on Twitter :)

  5. It sounds fab. I'm going to have to find the time to do one of these courses.

    Just read your great article in Writing Magazine's competition special. Thanks for mentioning me and my book!

  6. And thanks back to you Patsy for the comments I used in the article. Glad you liked it. Oddly my copy hasn't arrivedt so haven't see it yet!

  7. Great post, Tracy. Brought it all back to me - only eleven months to the next one.

  8. Thanks Elizabeth - it was a highlight of my year and I hope to return next year.