Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Isabelle King on The Norfolk Story Book

Following the completion of ‘The Norfolk Story Book’ this Summer 2016, Isabelle undertook a Writer in Residence position at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse to work on a potential second children’s book ‘Children of the Workhouse’.

In this piece, Isabelle explains the inspiration behind ‘The Norfolk Story Book’, how she
came to be on site at Gressenhall and her fascination with Workhouse history:


‘My first children’s book is inspired by objects in Norfolk Collections Centre, situated on the same site as Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum.

The first time I set foot in Norfolk Collections Centre, just over a year ago, I knew that I wanted to write about it. An atmospheric cabinet of curiosities, the store is full of exciting objects; Snap Dragons, a Mammoth tusk, and equipment used to make mustard and toffee, to name but a few. Even though the building was open to the public, there was a sense of secrecy in the air, almost as though you, as a visitor, had stumbled into the store by accident - which I believe, is a huge part of what makes the store so utterly unique and which certainly captivated my imagination.

The book is endorsed by Norfolk Museums Service and combines historical fact with imagination and fun. Released October 2016, all details of the book, including how to purchase your copy, are here -
I am very excited to have a book launch October 15th at Norwich Castle - three storytelling sessions will take place at 12 noon, 1pm and 2pm. All families are welcome!

Whilst in the completion stages of writing ‘The Norfolk Story Book’ I was delighted to be invited to the ‘Collaborate with Gressenhall’ day. This was a fantastic day in which Gressenhall staff and freelance creatives got together for a meeting of minds with a view to collaborating on creative projects. The day consisted of talks and activities, led by history professionals, which focused on the lives of people in the Workhouse, as well as discussions with creatives about the ways in which they could bring Workhouse history to life through collaborative projects in community spaces.

There was even a chance to touch and examine some of the museum’s objects; particular favourites of mine were some of the hand-made dolls. It was awe-inspiring to think of how many people’s hands had touched those objects throughout history and how these artefacts had played a part in people’s lives. It sparked some very interesting questions; who made them; who played with them; how were they made?

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to collaborate with Gressenhall and last February, taught a day’s creative writing course on site in the Learning Centre. The course was an introduction to creative writing which drew inspiration from real-life stories and images in the ‘Voices from the Workhouse’ project at Gressenhall,  focussing on how to create character in the narrative. I was thrilled to receive five stars from everyone who participated on the course, in the evaluation.

I suppose it goes without saying that all this work and meeting interesting people had got the creative juices flowing!

Coupled with the fact that I’d experienced such a fascinating insight to the Workhouse through teaching the course, I was eager for my next book to be based on the project at Gressenhall. ‘Children in the Workhouse’ will explore what it was like for a child to be an inmate at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, inspired by real life stories.

It is extremely important to me that the book is historically accurate. As with ‘The Norfolk Story Book’ I intend to root the stories in historical fact and combine this with imaginative interpretation.

Throughout the Writer in Residence position, I dedicated much of my time to research. Thanks to the new displays at Gressenhall, I was hardly short of resources!

The ‘Voices from the Workhouse’ project beautifully highlights, through interactive displays, the many stories of real people who lived and worked at Gressenhall, from how they washed to what they ate and where they slept. In particular, I enjoyed listening to some of the audio interviews from Workhouse inmates, as well as the film clips of actors portraying Workhouse characters, which radiated with warmth and humanity and really brought home the fact that these people could have been you or me.

As a nature enthusiast, I was keen to make the most of my time on site and explore the Farm where I saw some beautiful Suffolk Punch Horses, piglets and chickens!

In the morning, my writer’s desk was situated in the staff offices where I could bounce some ideas at my computer screen and where I was introduced to that most vital of research devices, the staff photocopying machine which, in spite of its evident simplicity, I could never quite get the hang of!

In the afternoon, my writer’s desk was situated back where it all started, at Norfolk Collections Centre which was open to the public and I had the pleasure of chatting to visitors. It was a joy to work on the second book in the place which inspired my first!

Having explored the collections at great length, I am now in the process of writing. In the initial stages of working on this book, it’s clear that the process will not be without challenges in the sense that these stories will differ greatly from my first book. In ‘The Norfolk Story Book’ the majority of the characters are fictional. I believe it is an uplifting book; each story celebrates local history by shining a light on the magic, warmth and fun associated with this region.

As ‘Children of the Workhouse’ is inspired by real-life stories, of course, I cannot fail to acknowledge that this should be handled with sensitivity and respect. However, this does not mean that the stories cannot be without warmth, humour and humanity and I fully intend for each tale to have a positive message at its heart.

As I have learned with all writing - ‘heart’ is the key!'



Isabelle has worked as an actress in theatre, film and radio in the UK and abroad; a career in which she has predominantly been seen in various Shakespearian guises.

She is the founder of literary event Books Talk Back, which is hosted in London and Norwich, including at The British Library with support from The Eccles Centre. Isabelle's creative writing has been short-listed for the Ideastap/Writers' Centre Norwich national fiction competition and she also writes and produces arts journalism pieces for Future Radio.

For more information on Isabelle’s forthcoming book and events visit www.isabelleking.net or www.bookstalkback.com






Monday, 15 August 2016

Jerwood Fiction Prize winner Naomi Wood to judge Words And Women’s prose competition, and we have some amazing new prizes too!

Naomi Wood
Our annual prose competition launches today! This is the fourth year it’s been running and this year we’re proud to announce that our guest judge is Naomi Wood, the prize-winning author of The Godless Boys and the bestseller Mrs. Hemingway (both from Picador). Mrs. Hemingway has been translated into ten languages, won the Jerwood Fiction Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2015 International Dylan Thomas Prize. The brilliant novel was also a 2015 Richard and Judy Bookclub choice.

Naomi Wood will be looking through our competition entries for ‘writing that is smart but also honest. Writing that challenges the reader and writing that may take risks in voice or form. But most of all, I'm looking for writing that has a big heart, and where the reader is left moved by the whole experience of being in the world created by the writer.'

If having Naomi as our judge isn’t fantastic enough we also have two major prizes to award this year: the East of England Prize and a new national prize for women writers over 40.

The national award, generously sponsored by Hosking Houses Trust, marks the fifth anniversary of Words and Women and offers women over the age of 40 the opportunity to win £1,000 and a month-long writing retreat. 

The East of England prize offers its winner £600 and a mentoring session with Jill Dawson of Gold Dust. 


Both national and regional winners will be published in Words and Women: Four, alongside 20 runners up. The anthology, published in partnership with Unthank Books in Norwich, will be launched on International Women’s Day, 8th March, 2017.

All competition entrants will be offered a special discount for Gold Dust, the high calibre mentoring scheme for writers.

For more information on the prizes see our dedicated blog page prose comp prizes and for details on how to enter see our dedicated blog page  prose comp entry details.


But in short: entries should be 2,200 words or under.  Fiction, memoir, life-writing and creative non-fiction are all welcome. Extracts from longer works will not be considered. The competition is open for entries from the 5th September and the deadline for entries is 15th November 2016. Winners will be announced in January 2017. 

Good luck!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Support for filmmakers in the East of England

Wavelength Films and Creative England are collaborating on a talent development module for filmmakers and screen writers in the region.

This is a six-part module run over 6 evenings across 5 months. It is designed to guide 40 emerging film-makers (including writers, producers, directors) through the stages of developing, funding, producing and distributing their first full-length feature. The participants will be selected for the programme on the basis of a competitive application process, requiring them to demonstrate a track record either in short film production, other forms of storytelling for the screen or as an emerging writer in other genres. Participation in the module is free. The selected cohort will attend a series of 5 workshops and 1 screening event, each featuring contributions from industry professionals and experts. They will also be encouraged to explore and initiate their own creative collaborations with other attendees, stimulating the development of new projects and partnerships. 



Below are some FAQs about the scheme which potential applicants may find useful:

EAST OF ENGLAND TALENT MODULE: HOW TO GET A FIRST FEATURE MADE – FAQs

1.    I am currently in further/higher education (university, film school etc.). Can I apply?
No, you cannot apply if you are enrolled in formal further/higher education

2.    I am under 18. Can I apply?
No, you must be over 18 to apply.

3.    I want to apply but will not be able to attend all 6 sessions – will you still consider my application?
We would like participants to be able to commit to attending at least 5 of the 6 sessions in order to get the most out of the module.

4.    I’m from the East of England, but no longer based there. Can I apply?
No. Based on the limited amount of places available, this is just for people currently based in the East of England as we have run Talent Modules in other regions (South East, South West, North East, Midlands and Yorkshire). We may ask to see proof of address if we feel it’s necessary. 

5.    What do you mean by feature film?
In the context of this module we mean a fiction film of 80 minutes or more in length, released theatrically or having attracted distribution.

6.    I have already made a feature film. Am I eligible?
If your film was funded by the BFI or through other public funds or has been released in UK cinemas or shown at recognised film festivals then you are unlikely to benefit from this module.

7.    I have not made a short film. Am I eligible?
You do not need to have made a short film previously to be eligible for this module. We just need to see some evidence of your ability to tell stories for the screen. You may be a writer of fiction or drama, a DoP or editor with experience of documentary or drama, a producer or director of TV documentaries or a director working in theatre.

8.    Does the course cover animation?
No, the focus is on live action not animation.

9.    I am interested in feature documentaries is the scheme relevant to me?
Some parts of the course that cover storytelling, financing and production apply to documentary as well as drama but we will not be covering the very specific skills and issues that concern feature documentary.

10.I have applied for other Creative England schemes like iShorts and iFeatures and been unsuccessful. Am I eligible?
Yes. We have different selection criteria for the modules so please don’t be put off from applying now.

11.My current project in development is a TV drama series not a film does this matter?
Not if it is a great idea, but bear in mind that the purpose of the course is to  equip you with knowledge and skills to help get a feature film project made so consider if your project could work as a feature film or tell us about another project.

12.If selected for the scheme does that mean my project is eligible for funding by Creative England?
The scheme is primarily designed to share relevant knowledge and information to prepare you for taking the next step with your project. There are no follow-on funds attached for development or production, but we encourage people to apply to our film offer.

13.I don’t have any of the experience that you specify, but I do have good reasons for thinking I’m ready to make a feature film: will you consider my application?
If you genuinely believe that you can convince us of your suitability for the course then you are welcome to make an application.

14.How many people will you be selecting for the module?
Around 40 places are available and will be selected on a competitive basis by Creative England and write2screen. The screening and networking event on 12th December will be an open event which you can register to attend.

15.Will you give feedback on applications which are unsuccessful?
No. Based on the volume of submissions we’re anticipating we are unable to give any specific feedback on individual applications.

16.I am part of a film-making team – can I make a joint application with other members of my team?
Please apply as an individual telling us about your experience. If you are part of a team that information will be relevant to your application. You might want to consider whether other team members should apply too, as one of the planned sessions covers creative collaboration and dealing with different visions and approaches.