Stop! Rewind. We Belles have been taking full advantage of the last few weeks of summer, but now autumn has definitely arrived so we’d better get back to work and fill everyone in on what went on at the September meeting.
Vice President Jo brought everyone to order at our new, earlier start time of 7:45, after our efficient meeting fairies and committee got the room set up super-quick. Everyone had the chance to grab a cuppa, and then it was time for the good news round. Plenty to celebrate with Belles reporting a promotion at work, an almost-finished Masters and plans to visit family.
Cambridgeshire-based author Guinevere Glasfurd was our guest speaker for this very bookish meeting. Guin has recently published her first novel, The Words in my Hand, which was the Times Book of the Month in January 2016. Set in 17th century Holland, it’s the story of Helena Jans van der Strom, a maid who had a child with the French philosopher René Descartes. After reading numerous books about Descartes, Guin was shocked at how history had largely ignored Helena, so she decided to tell this woman’s story. She talked us through the process of writing a novel, from finding the confidence to explore creative writing in the first place, to getting funding, going on research trips to the Netherlands, and finally being published.
Although it may seem to a reader that stories spring into existence fully formed, Guin explained that a book is really just lots of short pieces of writing that gradually come together. She was helped along on her journey by the Escalator programme at Writers’ Centre Norwich and the Gold Dust programme for mentoring writers. For any budding novelists among us, she also recommended checking out the WoMentoring project and the Words and Women annual writing competition. Above all, Guin stressed the importance of placing value on her writing and recognising that it was time well spent, inspiring us all to believe in our capabilities and ourselves.
After a couple of readings from the book, many Belles were keen to find out the full story, so The Words in my Hand was chosen for our book club. Guin even had a few copies for sale at the meeting, all of which were quickly snapped up! She kindly signed them for us, in striking beetroot-coloured ink.
Tea time featured caterpillar cake and some delicious homemade brownies, and then it was the business section, which Jo revealed will henceforth be known as (drum roll) … Belles’ Bits! Thanks to the earlier start time, we managed to get through all our Bits and still finish up at 9:45, so every Belle was able to get her beauty sleep.