Swanwick: Scurrilous Rumours and Graphic Murders

A delegate has been caught in bed with one of the lecturers at Swanwick just minutes after an “individual tuition” session. Half the class walked out of the Enticing and Enduring the Media Course because it was so badly run and uninformative.

Neither of the above statements is true well, the second certainly isn’t, anyway! They were just two of the ‘news stories’ our groups had to consider running in The Swanwick Standard, an imaginary newspaper invented by Simon Hall in his excellent two-parter on how to catch the attention of the press. We all rejected stories on a Midlands earthquake and Obama’s health as not relevant for local media. Whether we ran with the international bestselling crime writer and a Society of Authors award or the bedroom habits of delegates and an outbreak of food-poisoning depended on whether the group was aiming for a red top or a broadsheet.
We practised writing press releases and soundbites; we learned the difference between plugging our work and saying ‘buy my book’. We heard that journalists see the world in headlines and that an offer to write the story will often lead to a joyous acceptance. We were told to keep an eye for quieter times, but to always be willing to contrive opportunities.

In the final part, we talked about the dreaded social media, laying the groundwork for Monday’s upcoming debate on Twitter versus Facebook. There was also a discussion about orang-utans in taxi cabs but Simon probably wouldn’t want me to mention that so I won’t.
Linda Lewis got rave feedback on her one-off session last year; so this year, she’s presenting a specialist course on how to write successful short stories. If the responses to the ‘improve the storyline’ exercise are anything to go by, there are some very dark individuals at this year’s conference. The trigger of ‘my friend joined an online dating agency’ led to several stories of murder and revenge; my own group’s contribution was so graphic, we didn’t even read it out loud. Definitely not a candidate for People’s Friend, that one!

I’ll skip over my experience in Peter Lyon’s effective dialogue workshop; there were some great scenes written and read out, but mine was definitely not one of them. I knew there was a reason why I write prose, not scripts. Must try harder! However, I had more success in Liz Goes’ Write About session, combining the trigger sentence she provided and a separate competition trigger to produce the beginnings of a short story. Writers can multi-task too!
“Are you eating properly?” asked a friend when I phoned her tonight. Er not sure ‘properly is the right word: a nice healthy breakfast of muesli and yoghurt, followed by roast beef with all the trimmings at lunchtime and a fish supper tonight; but I’m certainly not going hungry and the second helping of Eton Mess was so tiny, it hardly counts as food at all.

For the first time in my five visits to Swanwick, I’ve played truant tonight from the main hall and have found a tiny TV to watch the Olympics Closing Ceremony — some things are greater even than Swanwick — if only briefly. 

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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