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01 October 2018

Women's Writing Archives

I Spent Most of That Summer…


Being back together as a writing group after the break is a wonderful feeling. We all felt the buzz in the air to share stories; an itch in our fingers to pick up a pen, or tablet, and get our words down.

With the heat of summer drifting away and to commemorate the end of a season (where has this year gone!), it also seemed natural to reflect on summers that have passed and use them as our source of beginnings in our pieces. And needless to say, the exercise cracked open an array of beautiful stories and writing styles that our So:Write Women have to share.

Jo wrote a simple but eye-catching opener, ‘I Spent Most Of That Summer…’ the ellipsis an invitation to take the narrative wherever we wanted it to go. The only proviso, perhaps, being the compelling use of past tense in this one line, which forces our narrator to think back and sift through their memories, to find – and tell us about, or maybe avoid telling us about – the worst thing they ever did.

Which, in turn, brings about a number potential idea for our writers…

How reliable is our narrator if they are relying on memory?

How many unanswered questions will exist?

How in-the-dark will we be, as readers, as we try to navigate a story contained to this perspective?

With this prompt there as our stepping stone, we took some time to see where the story would lead us.

And sure enough, each tale was very different. We had stories dripping in deception, guilt and betrayal. Stories filled with a nostalgic yearning for love lost and treasured. Happy, cherished moments.

We were all enthralled by the stories written and able to appreciate how each person bought their own individuality to the direction the opening would take. And what was most wonderful to see was the fact that this exercise was just the start of what each story could be.

If you missed our writing session and would like to join in, do try this exercise for yourself. You will be surprised with where it takes you. There is something incredibly visual about the timing of summer, how the heat can impact on setting and the emotions of our characters.

In other news…

Don’t forget about the upcoming So:Write Book Launch, just a month away now and a date to save in your diaries. It will be on Sunday 4th November at the John Hansard Gallery. So:write anthologies from our groups and Writers In Residence will be available to purchase at the free event.

More information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sowrite-book-launch-tickets-47887025382?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Would you be interested in joining us? We’d love to see you at our next session! We are next meeting at the Art House on Thursday 4th October and Southampton Central Library on 20th October at Southampton Central Library.

Hope to see you there!


Summer Writing for the Soul

With our So:write sessions on a break for the summer, making time to put pen-to-paper can be difficult with the busy lives that we all lead, especially if we feel uninspired.

However, when you have a chance to sit down, it can be so worthwhile to give yourself a moment to drift away with your notebook, tablet, rusted typewriter, or whatever it might be that you use to write.

And in trying to listen to my own advice, dear reader, I have set aside some time to create this blog post for you.

I hope to add some colour to the blank page that you might be staring at…

Because I strongly believe that writing is good for the soul. It has the power to express what lives inside all of us.

It brings out the words that are locked away, waiting to be split open like yolky sunlight.

And oh, how they shine when they are finally out there!



1. Stop procrastinating

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”

Jackson Brown

Trust me, you are not alone in that feeling of not knowing what you want to write.

How do we express those ideas floating around in our minds?

Where do we even start?

It is a feeling that all writers go through and will continue to experience in their writing lives.

But we all have to start from somewhere.

Waiting for that moment of inspiration to strike can sometimes feel like an unscheduled train: we don’t know when it will turn up, or how long it will take to appear.

So, write! In any possible way that works for you. Write without an aim, or purpose. Write in tangents, bullet points, off the line. Any attempt is better than none at all.

Begin, and see where it might lead. You don’t need to start at the beginning. There are no rules. Follow what is there and see where it takes you. Sometimes, we have to find the puzzle pieces of the story ourselves, instead of expecting them just to be there. Only then can we start to put them all together. And yes, certain pieces will take longer to find than others. That’s okay.

It’s a process.

2. Accept imperfections 

‘If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint’ then by all means, paint, and that voice will be silenced.’

Vincent Van Gough

Set aside your inner critic. You CAN write. It does not need to be perfect. 

What is perfect writing, anyway? No matter how many redraftings our pieces go through, there will always be something on the page that nags at us. If we go into writing with the expectation that it has to be perfect, then we are already hitting walls. Instead, relish the imperfections in your words.  They have taken you somewhere that you wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

Drafts, after all, are the necessary foundations that we all need for a piece to flourish. Remember this and don’t scrunch up your early ideas.

3. Read

‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’

Stephen King

Composers do not improve their skills by simply writing and playing music alone. They learn about rhythm and tone and melody through the music that they listen to.

It is the same with writing. Reading books makes our writing richer.

Books spur the most powerful of emotions.

Simple phrases can catch in our throats and render us speechless.

When you are struggling to write, find short spaces in your day to read.

Find novels or short stories that are out of your comfort zone. Consider how they make you feel and the journey that they take you on.

Sometimes, the experience of reading a book is enough to get us into the headspace that we need in order to write. If all else fails, at least you have given yourself some much needed ‘me time’ to fall away into a wonderful, fictional world (or non-fiction, if that is more your cup of tea).

4. And finally…

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Writing should be enjoyable.

With all that said, I hope you all are having a wonderful summer, and we at So:write are excited to welcome you all back in near future.

In other news:

The upcoming So:Write Book Launch is a date to save in your diaries.

On Sunday 4th November at the John Hansard Gallery So:write anthologies from our groups and Writers In Residence will be available to purchase at the free event.

More information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sowrite-book-launch-tickets-47887025382?aff=ebdssbdestsearch



Interested in a comfortable writing space to express yourself? Our So:Write Women group will resume in September. We are meeting on Thursday 6th at the Art House and Saturday 15th at Southampton Central Library. 

Hope to see you there.

Wish You Were Here?

The sun blazed down on Above Bar Street, but upstairs at The Art House we gave ourselves shivers as we thought about near death experiences; ‘what might have been’ and ‘if I’d been ten minutes earlier’ scenarios that could have changed our lives. In Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am I Am I Am, the author describes seventeen brushes with death. Each chapter is named after a part of the body and details the illness or near miss that could have prematurely ended the author’s life. We shook our heads in disbelief, seventeen near death experiences? Seventeen? Really? But then we began talking, and each of us could count several instances where fate had looked kindly upon us; stepping unscathed from a smashed up car, receiving a diagnosis that was almost missed, changing travel plans… Maybe we can’t count seventeen near death experiences, but we could all count a few.

I Am I Am I Am details events that cover so many different points in the author’s life: childhood, as a student, travelling, working, being a parent – but at all times we are struck by the state of peril and vulnerability in which we live our lives, all of us, every single day. Perhaps the luckiest amongst us are those who never realise how close we came to that brush with death? Indeed, Maggie O’Farrell writes –

A near-death experience changes you for ever: you come back from the brink altered, wiser, sadder

Looking forward, we each wrote a postcard to ourselves. Not quite Wish You Were Here, more Where Will We Be? We wrote down a goal for the summer (what we hope to achieve between now and September) and a slightly longer term goal (what we hope to achieve by the end of the year). Joanna has kindly agreed to post these back to us later in the summer – let’s hope we have all managed to stay on course with our goals!

One of my goals, and one that Joanna is always keen to promote with the group, is to enter more writing competitions and to submit work to publications. With this in mind, I have collated a list of upcoming competitions, things to enter between now and October. Please do get in touch if you know of any others and we’ll update the list in a future blog post.

Winchester Poetry Festival Prize Closing date 31st July 2018

Costa Short Story Award Closing date Friday 3rd August

Aesthetica Magazine Creative Writing Award (Poetry and Prose) Closing date 31st August 2018

Reader Writer Lounge Short Story Contest Closing date 31st August 2018

LinkAge Southwark (Short stories/Poetry on the theme of friendship/generations) Closing date 31st August 2018

SaveAs Writers Poetry and Prose on a Gothic theme, Closing date 31st August 2018

Manchester Writing Competition (Fiction and Poetry) Closing date 14thSeptember 2018

Mslexia Competitions (Short Stories, Flash Fiction, Novels) Closing date 1stOctober 2018

University of Central Lancashire & CommaPress The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction, Closing date 26th October 2018

Everything With Words (YA Fiction) Closing date 30th November 2018


If you are reading this but have never managed to get to one of our sessions, why not make it your summer goal to join us when we meet again in September?



“I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter…”

Imagine you could write a letter to the 17-year-old you – what would you say?

Literature is full of letters… letters never posted, or received but never read. Letters penned by unreliable narrators peddling one side of an argument, or ink smudged with tears, written from the heart and full of truths that could not be said face-to-face. The epistolary text relies on documents to propel a narrative onward; not only letters, but diaries, the reading of a will, postcards, and scrappy notes carelessly left lying around… Thinking about how we could use the form i


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