The Voice is produced by Wessex Writers. This is a group of writers whose aims are to support each other and communicate with readers.

    Issue 20 September 2015

The Voice

Writers and readers talking

What does the Chelsea Flower Show have in common with the world of books?
Paul Manning shares his thoughts.

A review of the Chelsea Flower Show is not what you would expect in The Voice but there is a reason - the show highlights the difference between what 'experts' select as medal winners and non prize-winning popular tastes. A situation apparent in many art forms.
At Chelsea a huge marquee features the most colourful flowers you are ever likely to see, but the show gardens are full of stone, wood, steel and other architectural features that have the BBC presenters drooling. Ironically these creations seldom contain colourful flowers. Visit then your nearest garden centre and notice nearly everyone coming away with trays of bedding plants, frowned upon by Monty Don, but promising a summer full of colour in gardens that are a joy to see but would never win Chelsea gold.
In the art world, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, plus those carefully placed piles of bricks, are highly praised by those 'in the know' while down on the street people are actually buying Jack Vettriano.
In the book world how many recent Nobel prize winners for Literature could the average Waterstones' customer name?  Would be an interesting survey.
There are numerous literature prizes awarded and reading winning books is a worthy yet not altogether rewarding pastime. Many such tomes are started, but equally many are not finished - they are either boring or obscure, or both, their qualities only appreciated seemingly by an unrepresentative few.
Although there are exceptions - Ian McEwan and David Lodge come to mind - best-selling authors do not automatically win literary prizes. An article in the Guardian from June 2014 found that a lot of prize-winning books had been over-hyped - eventual readers found them disappointing.
Meanwhile, Jack Vettriano, popular and successful, is looked down upon by the art establishment, but carries on regardless, possibly planting geraniums and reading Ian Fleming.

Novel writer Pamela Fudge shares her enjoyment of this novel by Nicci Gerrard who is one half of the well-known thriller writing team that is Nicci French
The Twilight Hour
Nicci Gerrard

I was intrigued to come across this novel written by Nicci Gerrard, having previously read several of the Nicci French thrillers. The Twilight Hour is a very different read, telling the story of Eleanor Lee who, at 94, is coming to the end of her life – and what a fascinating life she has led, full of dark secrets she would prefer her family not to know about.
Eleanor , who is now blind, will soon be moving to a care home and is anxious to erase the secrets of her past before that happens. After her own attempt to destroy evidence of past misdemeanours causes a fire, she employs Peter Mistley to help her sort through her lifetime of possessions. Peter is a young man who is dealing with his own ghosts but he and Eleanor develop a close relationship and share confidences. 
Peter is taken into Eleanor’s confidence as he catalogues her books, photos and private papers and under her instruction he finds and destroys items which would reveal the story of a forbidden love seventy years before.
A beautifully written novel and a compelling read, as you would expect from Nicci Gerrard.

For more information about Pamela Fudge, visit her website


Barbara Dynes tests your literary knowledge

The answers are all characters from classic novels. Also, can you name the author of each book? Answers at the bottom of this newsletter.
  1. Name the housekeeper in Rebecca
  2. Who is the main male character in Great Expectations?
  3. Elizabeth is the main female character in Pride and Prejudice. What is her surname?
  4. Who does Jane Eyre, in the novel of that name, marry?
  5. What are the Christian names of the four sisters in Little Women
For more information about Barbara Dynes visit

Robin Dynes questions multi-tasking writer Simon Whaley

You do a lot: feature articles, short stories, non-fiction books, photography and  also run courses. Which is your favourite activity? Why?
That’s a difficult one! I have my fingers in lots of pies because I love the variety. In the last month I’ve stayed overnight at a luxury stately home for The People’s Friend magazine, tweaked the ending of one of my stories the editor of Take a Break’s Fiction Feast wanted re-working, helped Country Walking magazine out with an urgent walking route they needed doing, and I’ve just sold the Icelandic rights to my first book, One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human.

Do you enjoy doing research?
I enjoy MAXIMISING my research. By that, I mean making the most out of the research I’ve done. For example, staying overnight in the luxury stately home has given me a wealth of material to work with. The People’s Friend commissioned two pieces for that, but I’ve identified seven other angles, and have pitched ideas to different magazines. I’ve also come up with a short story idea, too. Research is fun, but getting as much out of it is even better!

Do you have a writing routine?
I try to keep normal office hours, so I’m at my desk sometime after 8.30am until about 6pm, unless I’m out walking for Country Walking or BBC Countryfile magazine. However, deadlines influence which projects take priority during the day. If I’m not out walking for one of the magazines, I make a point of going for a two-mile walk at some point during the day to stretch my legs (usually when it’s not raining!). Walking time is great thinking time too.

How important is reading to you?
It’s vital! I’m currently reading Hunter Davies’ biography of William Wordsworth for a book idea I have. And I’m reading the seventh book in Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series of novels, set in my local area of the Welsh Borders. In between those I’m reading other magazines for market analysis purposes, and soon I’m going to be judging a couple of short story competitions.

Do you have a favourite author or book? Why?
At the moment my favourite author is Phil Rickman. The first of his Merrily Watkins’ novels has just been adapted for ITV. As a reader I like his use of the local landscape in his books. As a writer I admire his ability to italicise exactly the right word for maximum impact.

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Three words: read, write, submit. You have to read other people’s work. You learn so much that way. You have to write. Lots. It’s the only way to find your own writing voice. And you have to submit. Too many beginners don’t submit their work because they don’t want to be rejected. That means they’re rejecting themselves. It’s an editor’s job to reject, but it’s also their job to accept. You’ll never get published if you don’t submit!

To find out more about Simon visit his website
Both Simon and Robin will be giving talks and taking part in Southampton Festival of  Words Writers’ Day on Friday 30th October. For details go to
Penny Legg gives us some background on how she came to write her new book ‘Military Wives: From The First World War to Afghanistan’

If Joe had not joined the Royal Navy when he was sixteen, then replied to my penpal advertisement in Navy News, we would never have met and married.  Now he is a ‘veteran’ and we go to get-togethers where he and his mates enjoy remembering old times.  The journalist in me, of course, cannot resist a good story and so Under the Queen’s Colours came out in 2012. This is an anthology of the hilarious, sad, behind-the-scenes experiences of the personnel in our armed forces, which raises funds for three service charities.  Of course, there had to be a sequel.
Military Wives From The First World War to Afghanistan is a worthy successor.
Military wives had to cope with the attitudes of their day, as one found when she was turned out of her guest house whilst heavily pregnant because her husband, an Army surgeon during the First World War, was not with her. My grandmother, a Royal Navy wife in the 1920s, had to cope with my grandfather’s continuous absence whilst on the ‘China Run’ for two years. One current military wife, in premature labour in Brunei, nearly died because the Muslim doctors would not perform an emergency caesarean until they had her husband’s written consent to the operation. He was on jungle warfare training and was not easy to find.  For me, being a military wife meant frequent separations and difficulty finding employment.
For many women, the reality of life is that they marry the service, not just the man. As Army wife Steffi Hughes sums up, military wives ‘… are all very special, brave and strong women, who support their husbands throughout their careers, regardless of what it brings for them and their families.’ The book raises funds for the Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).  
To find out more about Penny and her books visit her website   She will also be doing a book launch for ‘Military Wives’ on Sunday 25th October  during The Southampton Festival of Words. For details go to  


Writer, speaker and artist John Houghton says he doesn’t have typical days but here is a representative one.



06:00 AM. Awake aching but good to go. Coffee. Pray for some people. Talking with God gives focus and purpose to my working day. Continue this on my 3 km morning run. Note to self: lose some weight!

08:30 AM. In the studio. Writing, speaking, painting harmonise on a good day. This isn’t one of them! Students off, holidaymakers having fun. I should join them. Remind myself that professional creatives need self-discipline. Decide to work in short bursts before the sun wins. Some brushwork on my latest ‘Psychedoodle’ painting (must write the text for that); produce a short magazine article and mail it; check e-mails and social media; do more work on my revamped web sites. August is no time for a major work, but I consider some options. More coffee.

Pick beans from garden. One or two phone calls. I enjoy the quietness of working from home, but writing can be a lonely existence if you’re not careful. I need the stimulus of people.

11:30 AM. Liz, my social media advisor, called in to save the day. My web designer is not getting it right, so must do some page mock ups of what I want. Irritating.

13:00 PM. My wife, Jan, is back in time for lunch. We take a couple of hours break around Christchurch.

15:30 PM. Commissioned to produce a mixed media Harvest Festival display for a business/charity environment. Email from friend who has found a cornfield. It’s a start!

Running order for a local choir concert arrived. I’ve to write and narrate live the continuity for Around the World in 80 Minutes.

19:00 PM. Evening discussing the book of Revelation with a bunch of uni students. Have written a book on this. Good fun.

Unwind to Mock the Week before bed at 23:00

For more information about John Houghton visit his website


Literary humour with cartoonist and author David Reeves


Barbara Dynes talks to Peggy Hume about her reading habits
‘How did you come to have such a terrific interest in books?’ I asked writer and prolific reader, Peggy Hume.
‘I was lucky; as a child I was taken to the library (Hamworthy library, in Poole, actually) and loved it – the books, the smell of them, the wonderful atmosphere!’ she answered enthusiastically. ‘Now I read anything: fiction or non-fiction. Anything, that is, except romance. For me, it’s all been said before!’ she laughed. ‘I enjoyed the classics years ago, but I never go back to them now. I’ve read all the ‘Lord of the Rings’ books but I didn’t like ‘Jane Eyre’ or any of Agatha Christie’s - including the television adaptions.'
 ‘As for non-fiction, I do like biographies of interesting people, but,’ she pulled a face, ‘NOT celebrities! One book that stands out was about Archibald McIndoe, the pioneering plastic surgeon. Another fascinating memoir - which took me six weeks to read - was ‘Farewell Kabul’ by Christina Lamb.’
I asked Peggy how she selected a book.
‘In three stages! First I look at the cover, then the author (to see if he or she is familiar), followed by the blurb on the back. If I’m still interested, I scan the first page. My favourite authors are Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, Harlan Coben (but not all of their books). A special, for me, is ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini which, I thought, was better than his best-selling ‘The Kite Runner.’
Then she added casually: ‘I have recently finished reading all seven books of the series ‘A Game of Thrones’, which I loved, yet I didn’t see the television series.’
Phew! I left Peggy thinking that ‘prolific’ is not really strong enough for such an enthusiastic reader.   
To find out more about Barbara Dynes visit her website  She will be running a workshop based on material from her book ‘Masterclasses in Creative Writing’ during The Southampton Festival of Words. For details go to

Novelist and short story writer Pamela Pope tells us how starting a creating writing group has rekindled her interest in writing after a long lapse.

A new U3A has been formed in our small town of Cranbrook, Kent. In a rash moment I offered to lead a Creative Writing Group, though I've hardly written anything since leaving the Bournemouth area 15 years ago.  I lacked incentive to write when I was unable to find anyone here interested. Without the stimulus of like-minded friends there was nothing to spark any creative ideas even though I've had seven novels and a hundred or so short stories and articles published.
Then came the U3A.
I thought perhaps five or six people might be interested and we could meet at my house, so at the signing-in session I was overwhelmed when thirteen registered, and unless I could find another venue it meant starting a waiting list, not easy when other new group leaders were trying to do the same.  I was lucky.  A nearby Tea Rooms was able to take us on Thursday mornings once a month.
My anxieties mounted before the first meeting.  I’d never taught or led a group on any subject before, so after much helpful advice I decided to run the group like a Writers Circle where we could discuss our ideas and help each other.  These were people new to me and I didn’t know if any had done writing before, so prior to the meeting I asked them to look for a snippet in a newspaper or magazine which might spark something which could be worked into a further story or article. 
The day of the first meeting arrived and I went along to the Tea Rooms armed with a ‘Writers’Forum’ and ‘Writing’ magazines, various possible markets, a Writers & Artists’ Yearbook, Barbara Dynes’ book on Creative Writing, and of course my notes.  The room proved to be a perfect venue and nine members turned up, a nice manageable number to start with.  After introductions I found that two were more interested in factual subjects and research while the others wanted to write stories.  Some had already written them and ideas quickly flowed.  To my delight everyone contributed and the input resulted in such enthusiasm that by the end of the morning we were all looking forward to the next meeting.  I left them with the following sentence to work on:  ‘The door was slightly open but she just couldn’t go in.’.  Can’t wait to tackle it myself, and hear what everyone else has done.
Feedback via e-mails was very encouraging.  Four members hadn’t turned up, two through illness, but the other two said they hadn’t heard from me and thought they were still on a waiting list.  Memo to myself:  Telephone anyone who hasn’t been in touch before the next meeting in case my e-mails haven’t gone through.
All in all it was a very successful and enjoyable first meeting and I can now prepare for the next with fewer worries.

 SO: TO SPEAK 2015

Southampton Festivals has announced that Southampton will play host to its first ever festival of words, SO: To Speak 2015.
To take place over ten days between the 23rd October and 1st November 2015, SO: To Speak is a not for profit festival and will bring stories, poetry, illustration, theatre, music, creative workshops and more to the city. Events and speakers so far revealed include renowned local authors Philip Hoare, Ali Sparkes, MJ Arledge, and Claire Fuller.  The award winning crime writer Peter Lovesey will also be giving a talk. Penny Legg will be launching and talking about her new book ‘Military Wives: From the First World War to Afghanistan and Barbara Dynes will be running a workshop based on material from her book ‘Masterclasses in Creative Writing’.

                           Peter Lovesey            Barbara Dynes              Penny Legg

The festival also promises spoken word performances and music at the Dancing Man, ghost stories and ‘Tales of Southampton’, poetry at the Solent Sky Museum, an open-air Shakespeare production, and Words in the City - where pop-up poets will perform throughout the city centre. The festival will also launch two new specially-commissioned art works.
To add to this, local arts organisation, element arts, will be producing ‘Transported’, which is a series of art installations and performances within an innovative use of shipping containers in Guildhall Square, working in collaboration with Williams Shipping.
For further information and to view the programme please visit or, to purchase tickets, call the Mayflower Box Office on 02380 711811. There are also still plenty of opportunities to sponsor and volunteer at the festival – for more information please contact Charlie at
Do feel free to use the ‘forward to a friend’ facility at the top and below to pass on copies of this e-magazine to people you think might be interested.


In this issue:

  • Popular or prize-winning?
  • Recommended read –Fiction
  • Quiz time
  • Writer interview
  • Non-fiction recommendation
  • A day in the life
  • Literary humour
  • Reader interview
  • Starting a creative writing group for the U3A
  • Southampton Festival of Words


To find out more about Wessex Writers,
visit our website


Fiction is about what it is to be a human being.
David Foster Wallace

A classic is something that everyone wants to have read and nobody want to read.
Mark Twain, Speech, The Disappearance of Literature


The Complete Article Writer began life as a series of eight step-by-step workshops that took delegates through the process of creating a publishable article. In book format its aim is the same: to show you how to get from a potential idea to a finished article written for a specific readership.
This book by Simon Whaley, published by Compass Books, is available from


‘My piece was rejected. I should give up writing, yes?’ NO! The Positively Productive Writer offers practical techniques to help writers reject rejection and fulfil their writing dreams. It’s not a ‘how to write’ book, but a motivational 'how to be a positively-thinking writer'. The more positive a writer is, the more productive they can be, and it is productive writers who become successful writers.
This book by Simon Whaley, published by Compass Books, is available from

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are the books other folk have lent me.
Anatole France, La Vie Litteraire

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
J.D. Salinger


For as long as there have been armed forces there have been camp followers – the families who move with the military to stay with their men. This book looks at the experiences of just a few of these families, through the eyes of the military wives and their relatives. From the First World War, when many women were fiancees but never wives, through the Second World War  and postwar Britain to the present day and twenty-first-century service life, military wives talk about their experiences as never before. What is it really like to be married to a member of Britain’s Armed Forces? Can you ever be prepared for the reality that awaits you when you say ‘I do’ and walk down the aisle?  From Big Bertha’s booms, rationing and bomb shelters, to military wives choirs, Afghanistan and marathons, this book celebrates that great British heroine, the military wife.

This book by Penny Legg is available from 

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.
Brenda Ueland

It’s so easy and quick to publish one’s work in today’s digital, instant gratification world, but that doesn’t mean you should; not yet anyway. Hone your writing skills first before you take that leap.
Carol Hoenig


Uncover timeless truths from what we know of Jesus’ mother, Mary. How she reacted to the news that she would give birth to the Son of God, and how she lived and communicated during His time on earth, can teach us much about how God wants us to act today.

Perhaps one of the most famous women of all time – whatever our denominational background we can celebrate Mary’s life and learn from her joys and despairs.
7 sessions including icebreakers, commentary, discussion starters and leader’s notes.
This book by John Houghton is available from or

Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.
Flannery O’Connor

If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You’re a human being, with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle.
Richard Rhodes


The years of caring for an alcoholic husband and a demanding mother are over. With her wayward son finally on the straight and narrow, Jo Farrell finds the peaceful existence that has always eluded her, but taking along hard at herself and her life Jo isn’t impressed with either. She longs to make changes but has no idea where to start, until she writes a list of all the things she had once planned to do before life got in the way.

Falling in love wasn’t even on the list but suddenly Jo is spoilt for choice. Her quiet life disappears almost overnight but unfortunately, family problems have a habit of reappearing at the most inconvenient times.

This novel by Pamela Fudge is available on kindle from

Read with the mindset of a carpenter looking at trees.
Terry Pratchett: A slip of the keyboard. Collected non-fiction.  

And I went on reading: and since, if you read enough books you overflow, I eventually became a writer.
Terry Pratchett: A slip of the keyboard. Collected non-fiction.  


The story of a young woman torn between the demands of religious fanaticism and passion, in mid-Victorian England, by the author of ‘The Wind in the East’ and The Rich Pass By’. Little does Hannah know that a harmless prank will be the catalyst for a sequence of events that will change her life. 
This novel by Pamela Pope is available from
Answers to this month’s quiz


  1. Mrs Danvers.      Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  2. Pip.      Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
  3. Elizabeth Bennet.      Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  4. Mr (Edward) Rochester.      Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  5. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.      Little Women by Louisa M. (May) Alcott 


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Copyright © 2014 Wessex Writers
All rights reserved.

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