Workshop Blog 22/01/24

This week it was really wet and windy, but when I got out of bed and went to the YMCA it was warm and dry. There were eleven members gathered to hear Jen Wilkinson (who writes as Jen Holdich), also one of ours, who gave us the low-down on how she hooked an agent. It would have been with Laura Shepherd whose book launch is this Feb 15th at Waterstone’s Cardiff but she has been very ill, and Sharif Gemie, whose book was due to launch in December just past, but there was an issue with the cover. Sharif’s cover is still being debated, and Laura is out of hospital and improving by the day. We await updates from both.

Jen’s first novel – Julie Tudor Is Not A Psychopath –  is due for release to the general public in January 2025, and she has been signed up for a second novel which will either come later in 2025 or early 2026. Jen began by reading us a section of her novel, which was very funny, quite dark, and intriguing. She then took  us through her journey of writing stuff, tearing it up, writing again, entering competitions, getting onto shortlists, and then deciding ‘I’m ready!’ Jen entered the Cheshire Novel Prize, and though she didn’t win received some great feedback. This resulted in a flurry of increased activity between Jen and her keyboard, and she sent her once-more-revised novel off to five agents. None of them accepted it straight off but she did get a wallop of further feedback and one ‘Revise And Resubmit’ offer. She did as suggested and eventually was accepted. Her author bio on the website is available on:

We had a great evening, and there was even time for a few readings afterward. Ruth read three poems – Enter Through The Forest Floor, Screaming, and Here Is The Dream – which all featured her beautiful approach to prose and poetry and her affinity with folk legends and natural beauty, which was enhanced by a lucid-dreaming-course. Wonderful stuff.

Ian then gave us a poem – Forevermore – which was also quite beautiful. With lovely rhythm and surprising beat changes, and making great use of numerous literary devices, Ian is turning into a modern Cardiff Shelley. Can’t imagine who is turning his head in this direction.

We then heard an unfinished essay from Bruce called Meeting Peter Rabbit, which will be concluded when Bruce discovers what happens the day after our meeting. All about children’s books of old and now, and of different continents, he is quite the writer. Our very own Hemmingway. (Note to all – big celebration on Feb 6th when Bruce becomes a British citizen. Please don’t tell Priti Patel, Cruella deBraverman, or Alan Not-So-Cleverly. Also, Bruce asked if anyone wants to buy a slightly used rubber dinghy.)

Jeff was our final reader with two poems. A shortened version on Winter, and Awareness. Very deep stuff from Jeff and he is surging ahead with writing ground-breaking stuff that is sometimes shocking but always lovely.

Thank you all. ZOOM next week and here’s the info:


Passcode:  019874

Meeting ID:  836 2067 4224

Jen delivered a whole heap of hints and tips and we then had a Q&A session which was quite illuminating. The conversations were varied and rambling, but I hope Jen will not mind if I précis it as follows:

·      Do not send to an agent (or publisher) until you have finished your novel.

·  Make absolutely certain you are sending to an agent who deals with your genre/style/format and who is accepting submissions.

·   Don’t be afraid to send to multiple agents and if you hear back from one, you can still wait to hear from others. But never chase them at this stage.

·   Read what the agent wants from you and provide this, not something else. It’s usually a covering letter, the first three chapters (or a word count) and a synopsis. (Be sure to include the ending in your synopsis.)

· Be clear and concise in your letter. Do not waffle! And include your achievements but not in a huge list. These people are time-poor.

·   Don’t send what you believe are the three best chapters. The agent wants your book to grab readers by the nose and drag them in, so send your first three and make sure they are GOOD.

·    Generally, agents/publishers like you to follow the ‘five beats’ approach, or for older members, think of a Shakespeare five act play. If you break it down further it comes to 15 beats.

People ask, what is ‘save the cat’? Well, here is a brief insight: The title originates from Blake’s screenwriting book, in which he tells screenwriters that if you have an unlikeable hero on your hands, you’ve gotta do something early on in the story to get the audience on the hero’s side. The hero has to “save a cat” (like from a tree or a burning building, or a shelter).

Please see revised calendar and note new date for poetry competition submissions.

See you all next week. P.

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