THE MARTIANS ARE BACK! WOKING CELEBRATES HG WELLS
It’s the 150th anniversary of the birth of HG Wells this year – and the 70th anniversary of his death as well. He may have lived for only a short time in Woking, but he put the town well and truly on the map by beginning his world-famous sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds on Horsell common, the place where his Martian invasion force lands. Wells lived in a small semi-detached villa in Maybury Road facing the railway line, “where all night long the goods trains shunted and bumped and clattered without serious effect upon our healthy slumbers”. He had a good word to say for the nearby Basingstoke canal … “Close at hand in those days was a pretty and rarely used canal amidst pine woods, a weedy canal, beset with loosestrife, spiraea, forget-me-nots, and yellow water lilies, upon which one could be happy for hours in a hired canoe”. But The War of The Worlds is why we remember Wells in Woking. Over the next few months there is packed calendar of events commemorating the man and his book, and culminating in the unveiling of a statue of Wells in the town. The HG Wells Society is staging a three-day international conference on the great man in Woking in July, and you can find a guide to all the upcoming events, including walks, talks, exhibitions and performances here. The Lightbox has kicked off the celebrations with its own exhibition – and Woking Writers Circle member Greg Freeman went along to take a look at it.
Woking Writers Circle aims to encourage and support local writers. Poetry, fiction and non-fiction, all welcome. Meetings are on the third Thursday of each month, where we read current work; receive informal, constructive criticism from other members; and share ideas and news of competition and publishing opportunities – and members’ successes as well.
And talking of successes …
Catherine Rogan’s novel, Mighty Like A Rose, and short stories titled Forget Me Not
Woking Writers Circle member Catherine Rogan published her first novel, Mighty Like a Rose, under the pen name Kitty Campanile, back in January 2015. Set in the fictional West Yorkshire mining town of Thornethorpe at the time of the 1984-85 miners’ strike, Mighty Like a Rose follows housewife Mary Ryder on her journey from neat detached house to the frontline of the UK’s longest-running national industrial dispute. Catherine, who is a rights adviser for a charity, said: “The miners’ strike is a huge part of the cultural background where I come from, and while it is passing into folklore many of the lessons of the strike still have relevance today. There is a parallel between the work of the women’s groups in 1984, setting up communal kitchens to keep communities fed, and the growth of food banks today. The miners’ strike may have ended in defeat for the men, but it did give a voice to the women who formed groups to support the miners – many of the women are still active in politics today.
“From start to finish it took me around 15 months to write the book. The story was completed after about six months and then there was a long period of editing, getting feedback and editing some more. It was tapped out on an elderly laptop on the dinner table over weekends and evenings. I self-published the book through Amazon Createspace. It’s a straightforward process, although there were a few hiccups. Createspace expects a margin of error in printing the covers, so there mustn’t be any important information too close to the edge. Neither I nor my cover artist realised this so it was initially rejected. I had to copy and paste individual roses to make a border – I can still see roses if I close my eyes! I’m indebted to friends who beta-read and proofread the book – if you are going to self-publish you really do need fresh eyes to spot any mistakes or clumsy phrasing. I also recommend getting professional cover design – Amazon is a crowded market and you want your book to stand out. It’s a little strange seeing my words in an actual book, but it’s exciting too – I’ve already been asked to sign a copy!”
Since then, Mighty Like a Rose has received five star reviews, been made into an audio book, and Catherine has gone on to release a book of short stories – Forget Me Not. Catherine says: “Many of the short stories are ones I’ve read out at the writers’ circle and I’ve received valuable feedback on them. It’s an opportunity to put out a different style of writing.”
Catherine is working on the sequel to Mighty Like a Rose and also on a new project. “I’ve got an idea about a story set around the Northern Soul scene in the mid seventies – I’m going to release it chapter by chapter on my blog and get feedback as I go. It’s going to be an interesting experiment!”
Greg Freeman’s poetry collection, Trainspotters
Pyrford TV Arts, the online TV station that staunchly supports local creativity, has turned its attention to another member of Woking Writers Circle. After interviews with Amanda Briggs and Alan Dale, this year it featured Greg Freeman’s poetry collection Trainspotters in a seven-minute “summer special” edition, on location at the disused Bramley and Wonersh station near Guildford, with the resulting programme including archive footage of steam locos. This followed Greg’s appearance on an earlier Pyrford TV arts feature on the Phoenix Cultural Centre, reading his poem ‘The 21.53’. Greg said: “I was bowled over by the enthusiasm and dedication shown by Tim Matthews of Pyrford TV Arts, and his sidekick Anne Jones, who usually interviews but on this occasion played the part of an intriguing woman reading a book, while I paced the platform, as directed, trying to look a little like Sir John Betjeman, waiting for a train that would never come. Quite clearly it would never come, as the line closed over 50 years ago! But the local council have done a lovely job in restoring the station, and made the setting very evocative of the golden age of steam. The line from Guildford to Horsham was the only one in Surrey that was closed by the notorious Dr Beeching, partly because it had never been modernised for electric trains.” (That’s enough trains info – Ed). Greg’s poetry pamphlet can be found – if you look hard – in the poetry section of Waterstone’s in Woking, or can be purchased here
DRUGS, JAIL, AND A STORY SMUGGLED OUT OF PRISON – THE AMAZING REVELATIONS AND NEW LIFE OF AUTHOR, PUBLIC SPEAKER AND TV CELEBRITY SHAUN ATTWOOD
Almost a year ago, a softly-spoken young man walked into a Woking Writers Circle meeting and began reading the kind of story we had never heard before. It was an account, splattered with expletives, of his time of an American jail, and the characters he had come across there. At first it was hard to believe. But when we went home that night and googled Shaun Attwood, we discovered it was all true – his stockmarket success, and the drug dealing that upset the Mafia and led to his incarceration. He has written the following books about his story – Party Time, Hard Time, Prison Time and a self-help book, Lessons. He is now preparing a new book for publication, about a killer who befriended him in prison, Two Tonys. He is banned from America. He still comes to Woking Writers Circle meetings when he can, but he is often away, talking to student audiences across the UK and Europe about his jail experience and the consequences he faced after getting involved in drugs and crime. He has appeared on TV worldwide, speaking about issues affecting prisoners’ rights. His writing, smuggled out of a jail in Arizona with the highest death rate in America, turned the spotlight on conditions there: dead rats in the food, cockroaches in his ears at night, murders by guards and gang members. Shaun recently co-hosted Prison Night on Channel 4, a countdown of the top 10 prison movies as voted by UK prisoners – his fellow hosts were other ex-inmates. His story, Locked Up Abroad ‘Raving Arizona’, on National Geographic Channel, was broadcast to 40 countries, and seen by 50 million viewers. Shaun said of his relationship with Woking Writers Circle: “Reading aloud to the members of WWC puts my writing under intense scrutiny. The eclectic mix of people at WWC provide a broad range of feedback that works like magic to improve my prose. I’m grateful to the members for helping to weed out my errors and their constant invaluable advice on all literary matters.” You can find out more about Shaun on his own website
Our next meeting will be held at Strollers in Goldsworth Park, Woking, on Thursday 18 August 2016. The homework theme is to use as inspiration photographs that were circulated at the July meeting. Click here to read the minutes of our July meeting
For more information about our activities, email: firstname.lastname@example.org