Swanwick 2019 Part 1

LogoLast month, three members of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle, Bea Hutchings, Steve Male and Elizabeth Ducie, headed north towards Derbyshire to attend the 71st annual Writers’ Summer School at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick. Over the next two weeks, we will bring your just a flavour of the week of writerly activities. This week we hear from Steve:

steve male

Steve Male

“Swanwick 2019, its 71st outing, was the usual buzzing mixture of reconnecting with old friends, meeting interesting new people and a plethora of courses to attend.

The problem at Swanwick is not which courses to attend but in the absence of carving yourself in half, which ones you can bear to miss. They are all of exceptional quality and the speakers always seem to have some new and novel angle on the subjects they covered. I have attended a number of Swanwick Crime Writing courses over the last three years and every one shed a new light on the craft.

Bettina von Cossell, a German writer of “cosy crime” went through the importance of the tropes of the genre and how to incorporate them while still keeping them fresh. Her four lectures were both informative and entertaining with some role play to demonstrate the points she made. I particularly liked playing a suspicious farmer in a scene, but some of my colleagues, rather unfairly I thought , accused me of hamming it up!

Tarja Moles delivered an exceptionally professional and informative two lecture series on writing and marketing non-fiction books. From generating ideas, through pitching them to publishers, writing the book and on to marketing she covered a formidable amount of ground. Seeing how a professional does it, was both informative and inspirational.

But Swanwick is not all about the teaching and lectures there is a vibrant social life as well. Seeing Elizabeth sing “YMCA” in a quartet with words adapted to writing (see the picture) was, how can I put it: unforgettable!


Elizabeth joins friends on stage for a rousing rendition of ‘HMRC’

On the Tuesday the organisers laid on a special event. When I was awakened by the alarm I thought it was rather loud so grabbed my iPad to silence it. Now I was sleepy and somewhat befuddled so trying to enter the password correctly is no mean feat especially when you think you’re waking up the whole school. Swearing at it didn’t help. After the fourth attempt, success, and I cancelled the alarm, only I didn’t and it wasn’t 0630 it was 0130. It was the fire alarm not my morning alarm. So I started to go back to bed when it occurred to me this was unlikely to be a drill and I’d better get out. After throwing on some clothes I hastened downstairs.

In the car park were all my colleagues staying in the main house. The rest of the accommodation blocks were unaffected. There was Elizabeth in her dressing gown* and Bea and many others. Simon Hall, late of BBC Spotlight, and a stalwart of Swanwick was there complaining of losing his beauty sleep, and looking at him, I could see why he needed it.

After about 20 minutes of standing around in mindless confusion we were told to troop around to the main conference room where someone had the bright idea of doing a roll call to make sure we were all out. It was such a good idea they did it twice, still not sure why. After a further 30 minutes the all-clear was given and we all went back to our beds.

Not the most successful event of the week but different.

Will I go again? Definitely. Should you go? Absolutely. Its great fun (even the fire alarms) and when all is said and done there is so much more we all can learn of our craft.”

Steve Male

*For Elizabeth’s dressing gown, please read elegant Nigerian caftan! Ed.

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