For International Women's Day, March 8th, we felt this quote from an NWR member says it all. To all our NWR members, and women and men across the world we'd like to ask you to join us in celebrating this day and make sure your voice is heard...
We know that many NWR members are very creative, with many of you writing peoms, short stories and even novels. Here, NWR member Sally Krykant offers some advice on getting your work self published...
I have been writing for many years on and off. I began when my children were small and used to enter short story competitions. When I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere, I did an Open College of the Arts Creative writing course and improved, getting a few short story anthologies to take my work. However, I then changed direction completely and became a psychodynamic counsellor. During that time I hardly read a novel. My attention was concentrated on theory books and papers but I always knew I would return to writing.
Thinking psychodynamically has helped me enormously with writing, helping me to empathise with characters and think on many different levels about plot and developing story lines.
It is very difficult to get taken on by publishers. One absolutely needs an agent these days and so I knocked a few doors with negative response. Curtis Brown Associates in London gave me some encouragement when I sent them my manuscript for Seeds of Doubt, telling me it was a lot better than many they received and to keep on with the project. I joined a couple of writing groups and met people who had self published their work. At that time I was almost tempted to go with a vanity publisher but was warned off by many writers I spoke to on the Suffolk Writers website. There is a long article in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook which warns writers not to go the vanity route – too expensive, those handling you do not necessarily have a publishing background or interest and also your work can be pulped if it doesn’t sell.
Self publishing has been an easy and inexpensive way of getting my book onto the shelves. Createspace is a part of Amazon. Firstly, you need someone you trust to proofread your manuscript. A fellow writer read mine. Next, you need to have it set out in the way it will be laid out. Createspace list all you need to know on their webpage. Finally, you need a book cover. You can either choose one from their examples or commission one yourself. I chose to have a young artist, who I found on Suffolk Writers, design mine. When you feel everything is in place you then need to send it across on a pdf file. It is then displayed for you on the account page which you will have set up. You will see your book in animated form on your computer and turn the pages, checking for layout errors. An ISBN number is automatically assigned. They will send you a paper copy for the last proof read.
As soon as you give the go ahead you can start ordering books to sell yourself, and your book is immediately for sale on Amazon Books. You can either do all of this yourself for very little or pay Createspace for services as you go along, but I would simply advise anyone to do it this way. You are in complete control. I felt I was collaborating with people rather than being taken over.
As many of you know, I started as the website and publicity coordinator with NWR at the start of October and one of the things I was very keen to do was to visit a local group and attend an NWR meeting.
My local group is not very ‘local’, sadly, but last week I travelled to Kendal to meet the group there and attend their November meeting... and I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.
Although I feel I am starting to get a good feel for the organisation and I had spoken to many members about their experiences with NWR I still wasn’t exactly sure how the meeting would work. I didn’t even know the topic for the discussion!
My first impression as I walked through the door was of the warmth and openness of the members. Everyone seemed pleased to see me and I was immediately found a chair and welcomed to the group – no mean feat as it was a busy meeting with (I think) 14 or 15 people attending. The group started promptly and began their discussion – no time for chat or gossip and I realised that the motto of ‘NWR – more than coffee and a chat’ certainly applied to the Kendal group. The topic for discussion was revealed: PUBLIC CONVENIENCES...
How on earth could we discuss toilets for an hour and a half? I honestly thought we would run out of conversation very quickly, or that the discussion would descend into horror stories of bad experiences...
How wrong could I be? The discussion was fascinating and wide ranging. Members came with information about the Kendal Courtesy Toilet Scheme where local businesses and organisations provide free use of their loos now that the Council run facilities have closed. We also discussed whether councils should be providing free toilets when their spending was under such scrutiny and cuts. Another member gave a fascinating talk about a charity for people who have a condition called paruresis where they find it impossible to ‘go’ in public toilets (a more common problem than you would think and one which has huge impact on people’s lives. Check www.ukpt.org.uk for more details). We also talked about the futuristic high-tech toilets in Japan which automatically wash and dry the user; and how the technology is being used here in the UK to help people with mobility problems to maintain their independence. In between these quite serious discussions we had had some more light hearted moments – including a quiz!
It was only once everyone had been given the time to present their bit of research did we break for coffee, biscuits and a chat. This was a lovely opportunity for me to get to know a few of the members and find out more about why they joined NWR (and why they stay!).
My overall feeling? The Kendal group were exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Everyone was given time to talk if they wanted to and everyone was included. The discussion was stimulating and fun. And yes, I did learn a lot.
I’d like to thank all of the ‘lively minded women’ from Kendal that I met last week. I hope to see you all again soon – and next time I will come prepared!
For those of you who would like to see a photo of us all that evening, head over to the NWR Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nwr.uk I am the one in the middle of the photo holding what looks like a large tea cup; but as you can probably guess after reading this post is actually something quite different!
Please note that due to technical difficulties outside our control the booking site for the Conference is not yet live. We will be emailing all members as soon as we have a date when the site will be up and running to take your Conference bookings.
Registration for our 2018 conference will open soon and we are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Chester in 2018. In the meantime, here is another great write-up about this year's conference in Lincoln by NWR member Sandra Sellers...
The annual NWR Conference held this year in the historic city of Lincoln was on the theme of Wonder Woman (yes we knew the film would be doing the rounds this summer) appropriate as the film has become the biggest live action film ever directed by a woman and has been so successful it is the highest grossing film eve directed by a woman so truly an inspirational theme celebrating the success women can achieve.
On Saturday morning around 300 delegates gathered at the venue to be welcomed by Karen Crow the Lincoln Town Crier in her full regalia. She gave her Home Cry about how lucky Lincoln is to be known for Lincolnshire Sausages and then a specially written cry for the day stating that we are all Wonder Women!
Our first speaker was Sophie Wells who is a renowned Dressage rider who was born In Lincoln and grew up on her parent’s farm. She shrugs off that she has just one finger on each hand and no feeling at all in her feet. She told us that she was determined as a child to take up riding just like all her pony loving friends. She loves training her horses to learn the intricate movements required for an accomplished routine set to music. Her hard work and determination have led to success in World championships and Paralympics so that at the age of just 27 years old she has 23 medals.
Our second speaker was Mary Powell who led the team that has raised and spent £22 million on the refurbishment of Lincoln Castle. Mary took us ‘behind the scenes’ to see images of special highlights of the project and gave us an interesting insight into the challenges and how she overcame them. We were all delighted to share in her excitement that just the day before the conference Lincoln Castle had been voted the best castle in England.
After lunch we held the Annual General Meeting. It was as usual a vociferous affair. The lively minded women had their say!
For those who wanted activity there was the choice of Chasamba line dancing or African drumming. Both were in high demand so apologies if you missed out. Then for those who like to meet other members there was a choice of two discussion groups. One on what we consider makes a wonder woman and the other on the Lincoln castle project and what difficulties a good project leader can overcome. In an effort to make sure we had something for everyone we had the choice to listen to a guest speaker from the Woodland Trust. Many of us were members and enjoyed hearing more from the organisation.
It was then time for the last speaker of the day, author Sophie Hannah. I know of at least two delegates who booked to come along purely so that they could meet Sophie!! Others of us had never read any of her books. Some writers find it difficult to speak to audiences much preferring the chance to craft each sentence carefully in the quiet of their office but this does not apply to Sophie Hannah who kept the whole audience enthralled as she explained how she came to branch out from poetry to crime novels and now to writing novels for the Agatha Christie foundation. She told us of the day she had a caesarean birth for her daughter and how this led her to the theme of her book ‘Little Face’ in which a mother is convinced her husband has switched their baby for another. Like many authors she said that friends often suggest topics that she may like to write about and one such was a friend who said that the Sat Nav in her car had an address programmed into it for HOME which was not her home address. Sophie uses this premise in her book Lasting Damage where the heroine wants to find out who lives at the unknown address.
Next Year the Conference will be held in Chester and we hope many of you will decide to invest the time in coming along and making it a highlight of your year. We all enjoyed our time in Lincoln very much and were inspired by the life stories of all our guests. It was truly a Wonder-ful day!!
Planning is well under way for the 2018 NWR conference in Chester and those who have organised past conferences know just how much hard works goes into making sure these events are a success. The the details for 2018 will be up on the website soon, including details of how to book your place at the conference online. In the meantime, here's a look back to the Lincoln conference as seen through the eyes of NWR member Faith Oxford...
Sandra's excellent report on the conference was a full and comprehensive account of a day that, we as a committee, were pleased to be able to say most delegates enjoyed. But how did we get to that day? What trials and tribulations did we go through? What emotions did we experience...... and how many emails passed between us?!
From my point of view, volunteering to be on the committee was not a hard decision. I had been part of the 2001 Nottingham conference committee so knew how much hard work was involved but also remembered what a fantastic buzz it gave me when it was all over.
Back then, planning began 18 months ahead of conference, which was a full weekend with the committee organising everything - accommodation, food, workshops, speakers, etc. etc. We also had to decide on a theme for the conference so when ten willing volunteers met up for the first time with Natalie on 3rd August last year and were told the theme for this year's conference was to be 'Wonder Women', we thought; at least that's one less thing to worry about. But was it? In the past conference titles have included 'Power' (Leicester 1995),'Fast Forward' (Nottingham 2001), 'Exploring Diversity' (York 2003) and 'Inspired' (Birmingham 2012). All stirring and inspirational themes but with the added bonus that you could make almost any speaker fit the brief. 'Wonder Women' on the other hand... That was pretty specific!
The original ten members dwindled to seven plus Natalie and our first couple of meetings were brain storming sessions to suggest speakers who would be interesting (ideally, having been heard by one of us previously) available (even more important), fulfilled the brief... and affordable! Helen Sharman, first British woman in space was certainly a Wonder Woman but way out of our budget.
We went away from our brainstorming sessions with our brains hurting! But over the next couple of meetings, we agreed on our speakers and booked them; feeling reasonably satisfied that they would be good. Workshops and retail stalls were also agreed upon and booked.
Does that sound as though it was all going too smoothly? That may be because I forgot to mention the frustration when we were trying to get information and people could not be contacted, when emails we thought we'd sent were not sent - or at least did not arrive or were not answered! Then there was the 'biggie' when one of our workshop leaders had to withdraw. Panic set in... Slightly! After all, we are capable, resourceful and determined 'Wonder Women'! Yet another brainstorming session ensued (by email) and we secured the services of the ‘Drumming Man’ - much to the delight I'm sure, of those delegates who attended the session.
The weekend arrived and the first 'disaster'! I do not intend to dwell on the Friday evening chicken - so much has already been said! With many thanks to Natalie, a refund has been arranged and, hopefully, everyone who went will have realised that we were equally disappointed.
Waking on Saturday morning with the evening before very much on my mind - plus the fact that I (as the compiler of the picture quiz) had mistakenly thought Cate Blanchett was Keira Knightley and was loudly shouted down! - I was nervous about the day ahead. As volunteer committees, we take on these tasks willingly and with a great sense of responsibility, knowing that the enjoyment of up to 300 women, at no little expense- is in our hands. It was daunting!
But..... from the moment the Town Crier rang her bell and her stirring voice rang out, I dared to hope that it was all going to be okay! There were moments - the AGM being one of them (almost a tradition since it moved from the end of the day to the middle) - that were tricky but we got through it.
Emotional - yes, of course it was. The whole process was emotional - frustrating at times and annoying at times but also immensely rewarding and, overall, it was fun. Working with and getting to know my fellow committee members was great. The lovely, heart-warming and kind comments from delegates during the day and as they went home made it all worthwhile and I went home on a high. However, unlike in 2001 when that buzz kept me awake and buzzing half the night, 2017 saw me having a glass of wine and falling into a long and deep sleep!
And those dozens (if not hundreds) of emails? I can't quite bring myself to delete the folder just yet - in case I should need to refer to them.
Good luck to Chester committee and I'm really looking forward to enjoying the product of other people's hard work.