News For Summer Break

We’re on our summer hols at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s all quiet on the RW front. Here are a few bites of news, successes and notifications for you!

Reading Writers at Waingels College, Woodley: Thursday 4 July 2019

by Julie Roberts

Julie Roberts and Jarrad Elson represented Reading Writers at the college’s Student Literary Festival.

The school has a yearly project at which the senior students organise and run a chosen event. 2019’s choice was a Literary Festival. Ten visiting authors were each given 20 minutes presentation time on their chosen genre.
Jarrad spoke on ‘Writing for Children’, with an excellent slide show demonstrating his path to publishing his picture book Cheetah the Cheater.
Julie’s presentation was ‘Writing a Novella’ – the challenge of achieving a tight format, and producing a thrilling, fast moving story for her book Dangerous Masquerade.
In addition to the author talks, the students had organised stalls for games, raffles and authors’ books.
The event was a success. A good team building exercise for the students to take on into their futures. Well done, Waingels College.

The following Wednesday, Jarrad and I met to exchange our books to each other – I love the photo.
And on behalf of myself and members of Reading Writers, I wish Jarrad a thrilling and interesting tour of the UK and Europe before he heads home to Australia.

Two very happy Reading Writers!

A plug from Julie Roberts – DANGEROUS MASQUERADE

Summer is rolling along on perfect sunny days.
With this in mind, my publisher has released my novella, Dangerous Masquerade.
When the time is right, and you are relaxing with a glass of refreshing juice or wine, download the story of Evelyn, and her thrilling escapes and hiding places to flee a demanding and forceful lord. And her hero, Giles, is the only one who can save her. But will he be in time?

Get your Georgian romance fix here:

Hunting Hearts gig at Reading Pride

A plug from Claire Dyer on behalf of her daughter Lucy – who has joined us at meetings as an associate on a number of occasions. The plug is for synthwave warriors Hunting Hearts who have a gig at Reading Pride on 31st August:

Some Summer Spam From Our Inbox

• Wells Festival of Literature – 18 – 26 October 2019. A set of talks and events all focused around books and authors.

• NAWG Festival of Writing – 31st August to 1st September. Booking closes 12th Aug. We are a member of NAWG, and each year they have an event for the members with talks, workshops, competitions (too late for most of the comps), etc. It is at Warwick University this year, but sounds like it’s moving venue for 2020.

• We get emails from TAR (Theatre & Arts Reading) who are an organisation trying to aim at establishing a new theatre and arts venue in Reading. Their current want is to run Reading Gaol as a venue for this. If you’re interested go see their website:

• A potential opportunity for short story fans and writers. A new magazine called Short Fiction Magazine is launching in October. They are potentially looking for stories, articles, flash fiction and poetry for publication. They have also offered a potential 25% subscription discount – more details at:

That’s it for now. Enjoy your summer!


NAWGfest 2018 Review

nawg logo

RW recently rejoined the National Association of Writing Groups (NAWG thence), a country-wide organisation of idiots, dreamers, narcissists and delusioneers writerly types. As part of the annual subscription, we’re allowed to enter NAWG’s many competitions with a chance to attend annual conference, the snappily named NAWGFest. Blow us down with a feather if we didn’t hit the jackpot on our first go!

Reporting not very live from Warwick University, Best Poetry finalist Eloise Curtis represents for Reading Writers…

Continue reading “NAWGfest 2018 Review”

Supporting ABC To Read

A little something from our Josh…


Today I visited the lovely people at ABC to Read,, and handed over a cheque from Reading Writers for £100.

As you’d expect for a charity that teaches children to read, they have plenty of books, but they don’t have enough games. Games break the ice between children and volunteers, and if they’ve been well chosen they include letters, numbers and reading. So your words, put together by Miranda and everyone who helped, will buy that, and give the volunteers a chance to get their children playing and learning.

I also took five copies of the anthology and was able to give them as gifts to five of their hard-working volunteers!

What ABC to Read need now are more volunteers to go into local schools across Reading and Berkshire. If you’d like to volunteer, get in touch with them. Or mention it to a friend. Or share it on social media. And help a child to read.



Thanks, Josh! Don’t forget, our anthology Tales From Our Town is still on sale, and profits go towards helping out this brilliant charity.


It feels like no more than fifteen seconds since we opened proceedings on another year at RW. And yet here we are, with our flash fiction throw-down/end of term party looming, and summer holiday adventures to anticipate. It’s been a thrill-packed six months.

So what news?

Our spring competition, judged by journalist Francesca Perryman, showed us at our strongest. RW is a varied bunch, and our responses to the brief ‘An Interview With…’ showed us at our strongest. Takes on horror (including an unexpectedly spooky tale from our secretary Andy), SF, memoir and history, poetry and humour gave a solid picture of a group with many passions but one love–that of writing. Congrats are due to our winners; Claire, Josh and Steve, who took the top spot with his hilarious chat with a gender-reassigned Doris Johnson. Utter genius.

Our winners, with judge Francesca second left.
Our winners! L-R Josh, judge Francesca, Steve, Claire.

Claire is having a great year, as her latest book, The Last Day, has been picked up by a new publisher. Hooray! More on that here –> Claire also wanted to add how much she appreciates the support she gets from RW in all her endeavours. You am very welcome, Claire!

While we’re on the subject of writer’s news, new member Becci has been talking about her busy spring as a working writer over on her blog. Check it out here:

Meanwhile, our Writer’s Day earlier in the month was a raging success. A new venue in Park Street was perfect for our needs, and the day was filled with fun activities, quizzes and of course a hefty dose of writing. Many thanks to Hannah and Josh who worked incredibly hard to make the day a triumph of epic proportions.

Next week sees our final meet before September, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops. We have two social gatherments and a book night hosted by this year’s Don Louth Award winner, Julie Roberts. She’s asked us to look at Eagle In The Sky by Wilbur Smith, a tale of adventure and derring-do in the finest traditions of the veteran writer.

There’s also prep to do for our Autumn Competition, and for a few brave souls, work for the first event of the Autumn term, our Not The Booker Prize Night. Five of us extol the merits of our favourite book of the last 12 months. The winner is of course, the best book of the year, no questions or arguments permitted, thank you kindly.

Let’s end with a bit of writing, shall we? This is from our Juliet, who has been featured regularly on Limping Chicken, the UK’s most popular disability website. This, an interview with poet Susan Utting on deafness and poetry, is a good one. Enjoy, and have a great summer!

Writing by Reading Writers: My Special Relationship With America

It’s been an interesting start to the New Year for us, and we promise a full update on our shenanigans soon. But for now, allow us to present some writing from one of our own–last year’s Don Louth Award winner Steve Partridge. Part memoir, part pop-culture run-down, all very rocking.

Please to enjoy.



I am stereotypically English and idiosyncratically proud of being a Basingstoke Boy who has lived in his home town nearly all of his life. I am also a contradiction, because since the age of about three and a half I have lived a secret sub life in a virtual paradise a zillion imaginary miles away from my physical and spiritual home. My paradise is called Americana. My Americana, my personalised, piece-meal, custom built Americana has multiple cultural threads which over the years have woven themselves into the counterpane of my traditional British layer of cultural tissue and morphed it into a duo-cultural comfort blanket which lies over the temporal and frontal lobes of my brain, ready to be engaged at the flick of a brain cell. Let me tell you about my special relationship with America.

It started on the Christmas before my fourth birthday. My Canadian aunt Alice in Calgary sent me a small boy’s cowboy outfit comprising of a leather waistcoat with a sheriff’s star and matching leather chaps, which did up with two sets of straps on each leg. They were secured by stainless steel buckles to the back of a pair of blue jeans. To go with the cowboy outfit I was given, by my parents, a matching pair of golden toy cap pistols with a gun belt and two holsters and endless reels of paper-caps which could be fitted into the pistols and fired repeatedly (the acrid smell of salt-peter still comes back to me when I think about it). I must have shot and killed at least 10,000 imaginary Red Indians and black hatted bad-men in our small garden and maybe some white hatted good-men as well. There was no escape for them, whatever they tried to get away from the quick-draw of the South Ham Kid was never good enough; they were gunned down while hiding in bushes, shinning up trees, climbing fences or cowering behind the garden shed. I was, without any doubt whatsoever, the fastest gun on the South Ham estate. Well maybe not the whole estate, but certainly St Andrew’s Road.


Today this preconditioning of young boys’ minds through simulated imaginary war games, encouraging them to re-enact the near total genocide of a poorly armed indigenous stone-age race of native North Americans is unacceptable. The native North Americans who were previously content to engage themselves in their own inter-tribal wars found themselves having to form cross tribal alliances to fight heavily armed European invaders who arrived from across a vast lake in huge wind powered canoes. The invaders, driven by their insatiable desire to ‘Go West Young Man’ and make their fortunes, traded with them, killed them, infected them with incurable diseases, shot their bison, stole their lands, minerals, precious metals, furs and raped their women. To assuage their guilt, they attempted to convert the indigenous survivors to Christianity with the prize of eternal life, in exchange for relinquishing their nomadic life style, most of their land and an agreement to live in open prisons, called reservations.


That behaviour is of course now quite rightly judged by liberal, postmodern, post-truth, North Americans to be morally wrong. However, today the tables have been turned and it’s North America and the west who face attacks from tribally based political groups from the middle-east who have railed against an Anglo-American alliance who intervened in their internal political affairs. And Ironically, President Donald Trump has described these terrorist groups as behaving like stone-age men when engaging in war with the west.


My father would encourage my developing cultural Americana counterpane by entering a room and saying, in a very poor imitation voice of the miniature American cowboy actor Alan Ladd, ‘Hey bud go for your guns.’ He would pretend to draw his imaginary six guns by slapping his hips with the palms of his hands while transforming them into the shape of a gun with his thumbs imitating the firing hammers. Next he would either make a gun firing noise in the back of his throat, or simply say, ‘Bang-bang you’re dead’ and leave the room. I never ever won one of these surprise ambush shoot outs, however, my resurrection was always instantaneous, and, as far as I know, achieved without divine intervention. This process continued until I was nearly seven years old, when in a moment of frustrated inspiration I pointed out to my father he was always the loser because he never actually had any guns and I did, even if they were only toys.


Regularly on Sunday evenings our family of three would jump on the bus to visit the Plaza cinema at the top of Sarum Hill. This was the golden age of the Western and my father was keen to see the afore mentioned Alan Ladd, (it was rumoured film directors made him stand on a box in a shallow trench to make him look taller), John Wayne, James Stewart and Roy Rogers beat the bad guys into submission in such notable epics as ‘Hondo’, ‘The Searchers’, ‘The Far Country’, ‘The Man From Laramie’, ‘Shane’, and ‘Winchester 73’ (The subliminal message being, superior weaponry will always win a war, a strategy which hasn’t always worked in real life). When Roy Rogers’ records were played on the Light Programme, particularly his hit record ‘A Four Legged Friend’ my father would lead the community singing. Later on in the 1960’s his favourite TV programme was ‘Rawhide’ whereas my mother opted for the comedy romance show ‘I Love Lucy’. She would also ‘nip off’ to the cinema with my aunty Kit to see ‘Singing in The Rain’, ‘The Seven Year Itch’, ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When she came back she would tell me about them in great detail and how she and my aunty Kit had cried at the end of the film.


She would say:
‘It’s a waste of time going to the cinema with your father. He’s only interested in Westerns and John Wayne’.

My father would say:
‘It’s a waste of time going to the cinema with your mother. She’s only interested in silly romances’.


So the bricks were laid on the foundations for my continued indoctrination into Americana. My next progressive step was a Saturday morning radio show on the Light Programme called, not surprisingly, ‘Saturday Club’. Introduced by Brian Matthew (who has just retired, under protest, from broadcasting on Radio 2 on Saturday mornings) Saturday Club introduced me to a genre of music called ‘Skiffle’ and, a singer from London called Lonnie Donegan, who had a Scottish father and sang like a deceased black American called Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly). My father proclaimed ‘Lonnie Donegan sings through his nose’. As far as I could see when he was top of the bill on ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ he sang through his mouth; but I didn’t argue. It would have been pointless. He would have cocked his thumbs and shot me.

With the influence of Lonnie Donegan I moved from the slushy, smaltzy, Hollywood, white hatted, good guy, cowboy music of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry to the down trodden roots music of poor blacks and whites like John Estes, Bessie Smith, Hank Snow, Don Gibson, and of course the king himself Elvis Presley. My hormones and social conscience had kicked in simultaneously, so my hair was slicked back in a pseudo ‘Tony Curtis’ style and I wore imported Levi jeans and black shirts. And, I tried to look tough. Difficult when you’re skinny and wear spectacles.

When the mid-sixties and, later the seventies arrived Americana took me over like an urban, urbane, uber tsunami. It wasn’t just the music. It was the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, Hippies, Yippies, long hair, beards, peace, love, cult films, cannabis, cold beer, poets, and free love. It swamped me with; Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack, The Velvet Underground, Nico, Joanie Mitchell, Ronnie Prophet, Tom Paxton, John Steinbeck, Easy Rider, Lou Reed, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Highway 61 Revisited, Haight Astbury, Buffalo Springfield, Grace Slick, Lyndon Johnson, The 500 yard stare, Grandma Moses, Phil Ochs, Muhammad Ali, Doris Day, The Byrd’s, Norman Mailer, Muddy Waters, Arthur Miller, Ann Bancroft, Campbell’s soup tins, Easy Rider, The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Roy Liechtenstein, B B King, Faye Dunaway, Faye Dunaway, Faye Dunaway and… Cool Hand Luke.

‘All I am saying is give… Americana a chance.’ And I did.

And so the list could go on until the present day. But that was when it all began. The point when the South Ham estate, Sandys Road and St Andrew’s Road, morphed into Greenwich Village, Laurel Canyon, Route 66, Music City Row, Broadway, Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard, Alabama, the Mississippi Delta and the campus of the University of Southern California.

Some time in my late forties I told a friend of mine I had recently stood at the crossroads of St Paul’s Road, Bolton Crescent and Sandys Road where I’d seen a skinny black man called Robert Johnson in a blue suit and a trilby hat playing a bottleneck guitar. The notes from his guitar were distorting and shimmering, attaching themselves to the breeze and drifting down the road. Following the music were, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper on Harleys and Roy Rogers on Trigger, Alan Ginsberg was walking behind them reciting ‘Howl’.

Martin Luther King was shouting, ‘Free at Last. Free at Last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last.’

Pete Seeger was singing ‘We Shall Overcome’, while Willie Loman was delivering the closing speech from Death of Salesman. And as I looked on Edward Hopper started painting a life size picture of an all-night diner in real time on the gable end of a housing association block of flats. When the painting was finished a taxi pulled up and outstepped Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, John F Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. They alighted from the taxi and walked into the diner. The juke box in the diner was playing Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is your Land’. The taxi driver turned in his seat and looked into the back of the taxi at a man dressed in a white suit and wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.

He said, ‘Mr Williams, we’ve arrived.’

But Hank Williams, his head bowed down, never replied. For him, it was the day the music died.

My friend said, ‘Jesus what were you smoking?’

I said, ’Nothing. I just engaged the brain cell which controls my duo-cultural comfort blanket.’

He said, ‘What?’

I never bothered to explain.


October Is The Busiest Month

Let’s be plain here. We’re cramming a LOT into the next couple of weeks.

To begin with, let’s talk about our Chair, Claire Dyer. An acclaimed poet and author, she’s had a busy month already. As part of National Poetry Day on October 4th, Claire was nominated by BBC Berkshire to write a poem about Reading. She chose to pitch verse on The Oracle, our town’s gilded palace of profit. You can watch the short film that was made of her poem here.

As if that wasn’t enough, her new volume, Interference Effects, is launching on the 20th of October through Two Rivers Press. It’s a handsome object, filled with Claire’s wise, warm words. Recommended, trust us.



Meanwhile, esteemed member Vera Morris has turned to crime! Crime writing, that is. Her first novel, Some Particular Evil, is on sale on the 21st of October through Accent Press. A taut, gripping and twisty tale of murder and betrayal, you won’t want to miss this one. Check out the cover!


Oh yes, and then there’s the business with RW’s own launch! Tales From Our Town is a real object now, and editor Miranda Lloyd proudly showed off the fruits of our labour at last week’s meeting. Tea Drinkers Anonymous Assemble!

Our editor Miranda (seated) shows off Tales From Our Town. Toasts with tea all round from the group.

Just a gentle reminder that the launch of Tales From Our Town will be on Saturday 29th October between 3 and 5 at Reading Central Library. Come one, come all! You can buy the book, get it signed by some of the authors and enjoy a reading. There will naturally be tea and cake, as well as discount rates on our other anthologies to date. You could even share your own Tale of The Town! How else could you possibly want to spend a Saturday afternoon?


And then it’s November! Time for a rest. Unless, of course, anyone’s doing Nanowrimo…?

Notes On “Brooklyn”

We’re on summer break here at RW, but that doesn’t stop us writing… or reading! So a bunch of us gathered at Caversham’s Alto Lounge earlier this week for the group’s annual Book Night.

Hosted and curated by the year’s Don Louth award winner, it’s a good excuse to read something that may be a little outside our usual comfort zone. You don’t have to like the book. In fact, contrary opinions make for a more interesting discussion.

Steve Partridge had the honour this year, and he chose Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. Winner of the 2009 Costa Book Prize and adapted into a well-recieved film last year, the book sparked a frank exchange of views over a couple of drinks and some nibbles. Continue reading “Notes On “Brooklyn””

Getting Ready For Summer

Things don’t get any quieter here at Reading Writers. Guest speakers galore have entertained and inspired us, while our own writing ticks along very nicely, thank you.

Over the past month we’ve had talks from authors Amanda Jennings and Virginia McGregor. Amanda led us through the fine art of characterisation, and how to build a cast that comes to life on the page. Her work, which includes the acclaimed psychological drama In Her Wake, is typified by this focus on well-rounded, vibrant characters. After all, if you don’t care about the people in the story, it’s hard to care about the story itself.

Virginia talks to the group

Virginia’s talk focused on what to do when you’ve finished and polished your magnum opus. Her talk on the submission process was filled with good advice and sage counsel. Essential stuff for the nervous novelist who wants his or her book to see more of the world than the inside of a desk drawer.

Meanwhile, we’ve been working hard on a couple of group projects. Both the spring competition and entry round for the Autumn anthology, dealing with the subject “the light and dark side of Reading” have closed. Our editor, Miranda Lloyd now has the task of honing a list of the strongest entries, before the hard work of proofing and editing our stories can go off to her crack team of assistants. Launch date for the book is October 1st, and w.e’ll keep you up to date with progress through the summer.  Entries for our spring competition are now in the hands of our judge, author Debrah Martin, and the winner will be announced next month. Everyone’s keeping their everything crossed…



Julie shows off her reward

More news from our own Julie Roberts, whose novel The Hidden Legacy launches at the end of the month. Sadly, she didn’t win the Best New Author gong at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards, but she proudly brought in her certificate, and revealed that there was a cash prize too! Sounds like a very definite win to me, Julie…



So, as you can see, Reading Writers is a seething hotbed of literary activity right now. It’s going to be a hot, hot summer…

Applause, Applause.

Although the whole point of Reading Writers is to get together and have a bit of fun with our favourite all-consuming passion, it’s also nice when we have a little success with it. I’m delighted, then, to share some good news from both past and present members.

Ex-member Mitch Johnson (enduring memory of Mitch from the group–”he’s very tall”) has been signed up by Usborne who have snagged world rights to his debut novel, Ticks And Stripes. The book, which traces the interlocking paths of a twelve-year-old who works at a sweatshop and a superstar footballer, is described by Rebecca Hill at Usborne as“original, thought-provoking and important.” Congratulations, Mitch!

Meanwhile, 2016 is turning into a wild ride for current member Julie Roberts. Her historical novel The Hidden Legacy is up for publication through Accent Press later this year. Now news has emerged that she’s been nominated as Best New Writer in this year’s Romantic Writer’s Association Awards! Fantastic news, and we couldn’t be prouder of Julie–she’s a true storyteller with a very distinctive voice.

With the clock ticking on the submission deadline for this year’s RW anthology, we’re all busy at our keyboards. Mitch and Julie’s successes will, I hope, serve as both reminder of and inspiration to keep chasing the dream.



I’m handing over this week’s blog to our esteemed chair, Claire Dyer, who posts to us from the wilds of the Forest Of Dean…


Image : The View From Keystone, Claire’s retreat. For more info, just click the pic!

For the past few days I’ve been somewhere which is this last definition of the word ‘retreat’ and where I have most definitely been alone and it’s been a strange, yet illuminating experience.

At home I try to fill every five minutes with worthy and significant things: I keep on top of my email correspondence and social media accounts; I go swimming, I teach, see friends, go to writing workshops and poetry readings. I write poems and work on whatever novel I’ve got on the go, I submit stuff to magazines and competitions, I read improving texts and stuff for fun, I watch TV, cook, wash, iron, do the shopping, talk to my neighbours, family and cats. Occasionally I sing along to the radio in the kitchen and I am out most evenings at some writerly event.

And yet here it’s just me. I’m in a room overlooking a valley where I can see trees and distant roads and houses dotting the hillsides. Down there is a village and other people’s lives, but here in this room it’s just me.

There is a very lovely lady who provides me with food and the occasional, ‘How are you?’ and I keep in touch with my loved ones now and again by phone or text but basically I feel I have been pared back to an essential version of myself who, for the first time in what probably is forever, hasn’t got anyone else around to define me, not in the small moments when I stop and think.

Of course I’m here to write and boy, have I written! My WIP is now 17.5K words longer and this morning I typed what I think will be the last sentence of it. I find that the endings of my books always take me by surprise. Suddenly there is nothing left to say and I have to stop because that final moment, the one I’ve held in my head for months, has finally come to pass.

To have the luxury of immersing myself in the book has been awesome; I can write a bit, lie on the bed and think (or doze a bit); I can read (I’m reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles which is both excellent and infuriating – all that ‘meta’ stuff he goes in for!); I could yomp in the nearby woods in my wood-yomping-boots had I not injured my back on Tuesday, and I am allowed to sit at my desk and watch the raindrops snake down the window. And I am allowed to think.

And these thoughts have been both wonderful and terrifying. I know that when I return home I won’t be changed, not intrinsically; I will go back to my routine of filling my every five minutes, but I will remember this moment, the one when I’m typing this and when I’m more alone than I’ve ever been before and I’m analysing the other definitions of the word ‘retreat’ and am deciding not to take heed of any of them.

(Reprinted, with thanks, from Claire’s blog on her website: