Hastings Writers’ Group

On March 2, experienced journalist Emma Boyde, gave a lively and informative workshop to prepare us for our third competition of the year.

She explained the structure of both a news story and a feature. She then provided us with examples of a range of journalistic models: a piece of news analysis, a theatre review, a blog which went viral, and a piece by our judge for the competition, Kathryn Flett.

She encouraged us to examine their structure and style; feedback involved some lively discussion about the merits and demerits of journalism and its function in the age of social media. Emma talked about so-called ‘balance’ in a story as a misguided ideal: bias is inevitable, and a ‘balanced’ story would be, at best, 80:20.

Our practical exercise was to interview a partner, to write up the interview; the person interviewed then assessed the final piece for accuracy.

On March 16, judge Alexandra Benedict, who writes under the name A K Benedict, gave her feedback and verdict on our Flash Fiction entries. A possible record of 24 stories of exactly 250 words had been submitted, and Alexandra commented on the quality and interesting range of approaches taken: the humorous, the scary, the touching and the lyrical.

Her one piece of advice was that in every piece, she felt at least one sentence digressed and distracted the reader from the main thrust of the narrative, and that we should trust our instincts to go with the flow of the story. In first place was Sally-Ann Clark’s In Perspective, which was praised for its structure and lyricism. Diana Locke came second with Missing Baggage, Marcia Woolf third with Devotion and Roz Balp fourth with The Green Door.

In the question and answer session which followed, Alexandra talked of the value of what she had learned from the creative writing courses she had attended at the University of Sussex, of finding an agent and the auction for her first novel. She told us an intriguing tale of the inspiration for this novel, The Beauty of Murder, with its time-travelling serial murderer, in a strange experience while an undergraduate at Cambridge.

For more information about Hastings Writers’ Group, visit our website: http://hastingswriters.co.uk or email us on: membership.hwg@gmail.com.