The Calabash Literary Festival 2011

New Writers UK member, Rosemary Palmer, would like to make you aware of the Calabash Literary Festival; the only international literary festival in the English-speaking Caribbean. Authors and musicians from around the world fill the festival agenda with readings, discussions and musical events. Founded in 2001, Calabash is 'earthy, inspirational, daring and diverse' - and free and open to the public.

The festival is held at the Treasure Beach resort, in the Parish of Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica, in the month of May. Richard Branson offers some affordable flights on Virgin Atlantic, whilst Rosey can arrange a low cost writers’ camp at her yard. Alternatively, or you might choose a more classy, hotel option.

If you’re interested in testing the international waters, contact Rosey at and check out last year’s Calabash festival


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Julie Gross (pen name  'Auntie Julie') would like to thank all the wonderful people sponsoring her head shave. So far, over £600 has been raised for The Moir Foundation, a charity that was initiated by her son, Joe, just before he died in 2009, aged 21. The money will be used to help set up and fund teenage cancer units at the City and QMC  hospitals in Nottingham.  
If you would like to make a donation, or learn more about the charity, then please visit    

The ponytail will go to the The Little Princesses charity which collects hair to make wigs for children going through chemo.


Guest post: David P. Elliot, What is ‘Literary Fiction’?

I suppose, not being an intellectual, I struggle with the concept of the categorisation of books as 'Literary Fiction'.

A few months back there was a discussion on one of the groups on LinkedIn when I asked the question what is 'Literary Fiction?' The question was a serious one as the issue had been exercising me for sometime.

As an author of fiction, I spent a long time concentrating on looking for an agent rather than a publisher as the conventional wisdom is that an unknown author of fiction will never make it passed a Trade

Publisher's 'Slush Pile' (that mountain of solicited and unsolicited dreams sent in by aspiring authors) unless it has effectively been pre-filtered by an Agent.

The theory is understandable; Agents make money based on a percentage of the author’s earnings. If the author earns nothing then the agent earns a percentage of that nothing, which is of course still nothing. So if the agent is respected, a publisher may take a more serious look at a book if the agent feels there is sufficient potential revenue from the author to make it worth his while.

There is still no guarantee the publisher will take the book on of course, but it raises the prospects.

But whether an author is talking to a potential agent or publisher the question of genre will certainly crop up.

It seems to me that people are obsessed with genre - and if you get it wrong, well you are pretty much banjaxed!

People are often very prescriptive - call it the wrong thing and many people will just refuse to read it! "I don't read - (horror/Sci-Fi/thrillers/crime/historical/romance)” - enter almost any genre you can think of - is often a knee-jerk response.

I called my book "a historical, supernatural thriller" my publisher called it "horror" - but then I think that's because he is a wimp!

Bookshops insist on knowing what genre it is - apparently unless they are told which shelf to put the book, on booksellers can be seen marching up and down their shops with a book in their hand not knowing what to do next until they collapse from starvation.

Then of course, what genre a book is, is very subjective anyway. Often people will tell me 'Clan' is fantasy. I try to explain it isn't - I don't even like fantasy, successful though they are Terry Pratchett and Tolkein leave me cold - I did struggle through The Hobbit once and I have read a Terry Pratchett - but I can't remember which one because it did very little for me - but at least I tried!

I have a deep respect for all writers - I know how hard it is so I feel the least I can do is finish it. I always feel I must get to the end even if I'm hating it - it is some kind of masochism I was brought up with - like finishing the food on your plate because children in Africa are starving. I even finished a Jeffrey Archer once - that's how dedicated I am!

You will see therefore I am the same as all other readers - by declaring "I don't like fantasy" I am making generalised and sweeping assumptions that I have no doubt will lead to me missing some excellent writing.
(incidentally the difference between fantasy and supernatural for me is that fantasy creates entirely fantastical worlds, Middle Earth, hobbit languages and all that kind of thing - supernatural is about strange things happening in the real world - hence SUPERnatural)

So genre is a minefield - but even that is not as difficult as this concept of so-called 'Literary Fiction.'

Agents and publishers will often tell you they are not interested in your book because they only handle 'literary fiction'.

So what is my writing - 'Illiterate fiction’?
That may sound a little defensive and maybe it is - but there is no doubt that the term is often used as some kind of intellectual snobbery. Ask twenty people what 'Literary Fiction' is and you'll get twenty different answers, I know because I've tried it.

Some will say it is beyond genre, it is about beautiful language rather than plot and story, it is cross genre, or simply that it can't be good if people actually want to read it - that's commercial fiction, no intellectual would be seen dead reading something that was actually enjoyed by the hoi-polloi. Popular means bad.

Some people have never forgiven the BBC for using Nessun Dorma sung by Pavarotti as the theme for a football tournament - God forbid that some builder/soccer fan should enjoy the tune without having dressed up in a dinner suit and paid £200 for a seat at the Royal Opera House!

There are still people who say Stephen King is not a "proper writer" because before he became one of the World's most successful writers he submitted short stories to Sci-Fi magazines. Whatever next!

One of my favourite quotes is by Robert Benchley "It was fifteen years before I realised I was no good as a writer, but by then I was too famous to stop."

So - until somebody can come up with real definition of 'literary fiction' that actually has to do with something other than intellectual snobbery I will continue to claim I write literary fiction as well as commercial fiction, thrillers, mystery, crime, romance, horror etc - even if in the end - they are actually all the same book!

So I think we should let readers decide what they like and spend a little less time trying to categorise things.


Guest Post: A. J. Bishop, 'The Book-buyers Dilemma'

Being an avid reader means one is always interested in buying books. This is self-evident. However in the modern world, the problem isn't in the choice of books but in the choice of book sellers. The major players in this field are online shops, chain bookshops, independent book shops and (quite recently) supermarkets. There are pro's and con's to all outlets but - to readers of specific genres such as historical crime - the current market is in flux ... with the independent shops fighting a loosing battle. The main elements in book buying are choice and cost. Other - lesser - factors include availability and physicality; the latter I shall explain later.

In choice and cost, the internet market will win the general reader's money right from the start. Using the computer, we have the world's book supplies at one's fingertips. You want a title only printed in the States? Search Amazon.Com (for example) and you'll have a particular book ready for the purchase. There's three main drawbacks to t'internet book market; firstly, postage costs and shipping delays, problems or losses. Not terrible but annoying. Secondly, the limitations on browsing, not the site but the book "shelves". In a store, ones eyes are cast over many titles and, while looking for one author or title, your attention might be drawn to another name. On the internet, it's possible to browse but you can take hours and hours without finding anything that catches ones eye. Thirdly, the "physicality"; it might just be me but there's something about examining the cover art, reading through the back-cover blurb ... even dipping in and reading a paragraph or two. This just isn't possible online. In general, the internet is good for availability, accessability and cost. Bad for aimless yet satisfying browsing.

The chain bookstores are easy to find in any major town and great for popular titles but - for the genre reader - incredibly limited in "browsability" and availability. In theory, it's possible to order particular books from any branch ... but you can do that on the internet (possibly getting the book for cheaper). The main "up-sides" to chain bookstores are accessability and physicality but choice is limited and price isn't always good.

Supermarket book departments operate along similar lines - with attendant pro's and con's - as a chain bookstore but with a major hinderance - the choice. They will stock best sellers but overlook any (they see as) genre authors. For instance, the publishers of Lindsey Davis or Steven Saylor might've worked hard to get a good distribution deal with a big supermarket chain but the fan of roman crime fiction might search in vain for other, lesser broadcast names. Push comes to the shove, a supermarket is in business to sell, period. Buy cheap, sell masses. If the general public, while out buying their weekly supplies, aren't interested in an author then they will not see "different" titles on the shelves.

Independent stores - for my money - are a wonderland. They need to work hard to get the sales in any event; they have limited access to mainstream titles at a good price (thanks indirectly to the abrogation of the Net Book Agreement), they have a finite stocking resource and they have limited advertising and sales coverage. Their benefits are great, however. The physicality is massive. Just think of working your way through high stacks of shelves, squeezed to bulging with books, the sales assistant happy for you (they are usually reading something themselves) and always ready to chat, discuss and recommend. Wow! If you get a small bookshop which specialises in a genre, then you've hit paydirt! These might not have a particular title but they sure as hell will have one (or ten) which will attract your attention ... and money. They have drawbacks; first, they will have limited stock and, therefore, availability of particular titles. Secondly, the cost probably isn't the cheapest. After all, not only do they get a poor deal in stock-purchasing (again with the net discount agreement!) but they have staff and premesis overheads which eat into their total sales far more than the chain store.

So much for the current situation. So what am I getting at? I see nothing wrong with using the internet for particular titles - especially for struggling authors trying to get their work out to a wide readership. Chain bookshops have enough on their plate, slugging it out with supermarkets over celebrity semi-autobiographies and the latest diet/cook/excercise/lifestyle titles; they needn't worry about genre fans. I think readers - at the risk of stating the obvious - should devote their loyalty to the small, independent book shops. But, in return, the shops should speak out a bit more; not only do local interest events but put themselves out on the internet (generally speaking, this is an advertising world that's next to nothing in cost), look to attracting attention, not only from genre readers but the general public.

A short word about the Net Book Agreement farce. The background - the NBA was a British price fixing agreement between publishers and sellers that was started in 1900. In 1962, it was examined by the Restirictive Practices Court which decided it was of benefit to the industry (it meant that publishers could afford to print important - yet little known - authors with the profits from best sellers. In 1994 the Office of Fair Trading decided that the R.P. Court should review the NBA. After several big publishers and retailers lay low during the review, in March 1007 the Restrictive Practices Court ruled the NBA illegal.

Now this would seem A Good Thing to book buyers. Ah ... no. Well, at first it seemed good with book prices dropping. But it strengthened the hold on the market by chain bookstores, it meant supermarkets (which could negotiate bulk discounts and sell incredibly cheap) started to threaten even chain bookstores - and it severely affected the business for independent traders. As a result, it's easy to get "best sellers" ultra cheap anywhere but has driven genre readers to the world wide web.
A recent report commissioned by the Booksellers Association has shown that while the US has a lower avarage selling price than the UK, the UK - along with Sweden - "enjoys" lowest levels of profitability in sales. This is considered to be a direct result of the loss of the NBA. The moral of the story? Cheap books do not mean more sales. Odd, isn't it?

NWUK Book Festival 2010, images

Please click on this text for a link to view the slideshow of our 6th Book Festival & Fayre

All pictures, courtesy Daniella Brian
Music, courtesy Derek Audette


NWUK – the future

The great thing about New Writers UK is that we are a club; not a clique or a crusading army but a club, utterly relying on the membership ‘clubbing together’ to get things done. Our agenda is not dictated from on high, nor is it set by a small band of people who just happen to live within easy distance of meeting places. If we are to thrive then our agenda has to be set by YOU. We all need to be thinking of ways in which we can promote ourselves and our works. But the key point is YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Do you have contacts in schools? NWUK will do their best to support any visits you can organise.
What about links to a retail outlet? NWUK will help to stock shelves.
Organisations needing speakers? Many NWUK members would happily oblige.
How about a local mini book festival? NWUK will help with organisation (and of course participate).

So please don’t feel you are an unimportant person on the fringe of something. You can be right at the centre. E-mail your ideas, either to the whole group or to a few individuals. Even if you can’t get to meetings easily, we don’t want to lose your thoughts and ideas; and we certainly don’t want to lose your contacts and routes to selling books.

By Nick Thom


Inclusive Stories for Young Children

Lesley Berrington, the author, is NNEB qualified and was a Nursery Owner for 9 years. During this time she found it difficult to find story books featuring characters with disabilities for use in her Nurseries. After further research into this market she wrote ‘A Day at the Zoo’ and ‘Hattie’ was born!
All 4 stories are about friends and family enjoying a day out, the disability is not mentioned in the text. This is important because it is purely incidental and means each character is accepted for who they are and their disability doesn’t matter. Children of all abilities can have fun!
The range now also includes jigsaws, colouring sheets and posters. The feedback from child care providers has been excellent and these resources are now being used in hundreds of Nurseries across the UK.

For more information or to order online please visit:

Guest Post: Author, Morgan Maelor-Jones

I have just watched a repeat of the incredible BBC drama Wide Sargasso Sea, set in Jamaica, starring Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall, a prequel to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. The best drama I have ever seen on TV. The young Mrs Antoinette Rochester thinks of England as '...roses, swans and snow...always snow.'

To think this ultimately derived from chilly (in all senses of the word) Howarth Parsonage and Charlotte Bronte's trip to Hathersage in 1845. 'Morton' in Jane Eyre is based on Hathersage and there is a large gravestone there to the local Eyre family from North Lees Manor. The Eyre family arms are displayed in the church chancel there.

I'd always assumed it was commonly known that Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre was an anagram of North Lees in Hathersage (North-thorn and 'lees' is an old word for 'field').

In Nikolaus Pevsner's 1978 Derbyshire edition of 'Buildings of England' he says 'North Lees plays a part in Jane Eyre (as March End or Moor House)...' . I'd thought Moor House in Jane Eyre was based on the real Moorseats - 750m north east from Hathersage Parsonage, where Charlotte Bronte actually stayed in 1845. In the novel itself, Jane was attracted off the moors by the lights of Moor House, much as Charlotte Bronte would have seen the real Moorseats from the Parsonage, albeit from lower down in the valley. So next time you go to Hathersage, and it all seems a bit tame, think Wide Sargasso Sea. Or rather let's all go and live in Bronte-world, far away from computer spreadsheets, crawling traffic to work, continual car MOTs and council taxes...

BBC Radio's Amanda Bowman: Am I a writer?

You are a writer, or you would not be reading this. But am I? A cupboard in my hall is overflowing with my scribblings but does that make me a writer?

When I was eight years old, I wrote to Penguin books and asked them if I bothered to write a book, would they publish it. I got a very kind letter back advising me to get some more life experience and then write to them again. The life experience I managed- perhaps too well - but I never troubled them with the fruits of my labour. 

I set myself targets - first novel at twenty, then thirty, then forty and finally, here I am at fifty one, nervously waiting to hear from a publisher who is a slight friend of a friend and wondering if my extremely short novel or possibly over-long short story is worth public scrutiny. It is a totally exposing and horrifying experience.

Years ago I attended a writing class and was lucky enough to have the amazing Sheelagh Gallagher as a teacher. She thought I was good enough and, although I respect the opinion of a woman I firmly believe to be a living Goddess, I think there is a reason for that. We would be set a writing assignment and in turn would read it to the class the following week. I am a great reader.  I can talk fluently for England, in private, in public and even in my sleep. I talk for pleasure, for fun and even for a living so maybe the writing was mediocre or worse and the reading of it was so splendid that it covered up how rubbish the writing was. I cannot bear for anyone to read what I've poured out on to paper and even the short novel/long short story was read to my husband rather than letting him read it himself. My friend is a published poet - she bullied me into sending it to her email box and the wonderful Julie Malone has read it and neither have said it was awful but they are both lovely, encouraging women who would not necessarily tell me I had wasted my time and theirs!

The more I think about it, the more of a fraud I feel. I have always wanted to be a brilliant fiction writer, not for the money or the fame but because, if I am honest with you as well as myself, I am arrogant enough to believe I can be as long as I do not test the theory by putting my writing in the public eye. I can delude myself that the world is missing out on the next Edgar Allen Poe or Patricia Highsmith merely because I haven't got around to sending my work off. So what is the point of this self obsessed ramble?  Well, the point is to tell you how much I admire you. You are a writer, you have put yourself out there and are prepared to accept whatever judgement comes. How did you get to where you are now?  What gave you that little extra bit of Oomph to push on through and share what you had to say?  Am I actually being realistic in my reluctance to test my writing ability or chicken?

Whatever the answers to those questions may be - and if we meet I will almost certainly ask them - I salute you. You are brave and bold and literally beautiful - pun intended. Those that can, do - and you have done  - and I'm jealous!