Cheering Charney

Charney Manor
          I write this blog in a hurry, as I'm only just back from the Scattered Authors' Society's annual conference/retreat/get-together/shin-dig.
Uffington white horse
     It's held here, in the beautiful Charney Manor, a medieval manor house in the vicinity of the famous white horse.  Are you jealous yet?
          This year was a smaller gathering than usual, due to the demands made on writers' purses by the recession, the Olympics, the Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference (in September, at Reading) and the IBBY conference - but Charney was all the friendlier for that.  The group was so small that were were able to meet and talk with everyone there.
          I was especially glad to meet Frances Thomas and Joan Lennon, who I've come to know via e-mail, but never met, and who had never been to Charney before - and Sharon Jones, who runs with the poodles, and who was new to Charney and the SAS.
In the solar, getting set for the quiz.
          What do we do at Charney?  Well, we talk a lot - a lot! - and we eat a lot, while talking - and we drink a lot of wine, while talking - and we sit up late, while talking.  And we laugh as much as we talk.
Another Charney visitor
       Most years we do a lot of this talking on the lawn, in the sun, while the Charney swifts swoop, soar and scream around us.  And we usually go for a walk on one afternoon.  But this year it rained, the rain it rainethed every day.  So, less sun and less swift-watching this year, but just as much talking and laughing. (And eating and drinking.)
         We pretended to work. Kath Roberts and I brought people up to date with our e-book adventures, and answered questions on the whole process.  There was, as last year, a lot of interest.
          Miriam Halamy led an excellent poetry workshop, during which I found myself writing stuff which surprised me, as I'm no poet.  Miriam has a gift for poetry and for getting others to think they can write it - check out some of her poems on her website.
The lavender friinged courtyard
          Di Hofmeyr and Penny Dolan led a session on book-trailers, showing us a varied selection and getting us to think about what made them effective or not.
          Mary Hoffman, the History Girls organiser (where does she find the time and energy) gave a talk on the blog, on organising a multi-blog and writing historic fiction - with help from the other History Girls present, Penny Dolan and Linda Newbery.  (And I chipped in a History Girl Reserve.)
          There was free time to cram in a little writing - and on Wednesday evening there was the famous Charney quiz, organised and presided over by Penny and Lynne Benton.  Score was kept by Cindy Jefferies.
A Charney work-session in between downpors
          The quiz was hard-fought, as ever.  I was on Celia's Reivers, led by Celia Rees, together with Sharon, Joan, Kath and Yvonne Coppard - but the intellectual power-house that is Mary Hoffman led Mary's Marauders, and they also had Joe Friedman, who proved an ace mime-act in the charades round.
          Celia's Reivers therefore did all we could to distract and infuriate the opposition, with psychological undermining, nobbling with strong drink, overdoses of chocolate and surprise attacks with screwed up paper balls - but as Celia, Charney quiz veteran, predicted, we lost despite it all. (Her address to her troops went, 'You do realise, don't you, with that Hoffman on the other team, we're going to be utterly trashed?')
          Charney was, as ever, wonderful.  Now, back to work.
The gardens at Charney Manor
          And here's Blott, the writer's muse...