I was lucky to spend the morning in Salisbury, Wiltshire,recently voted one of the top ten cities in the world to visit by Lonely Planet. The Society of Women Writers and Journalists were holding their regional meeting of the Dorset/Wilts/Hants branch and as I am the organiser I thought I’d better turn up early – really early. It was the most beautiful morning to drive through the narrow country roads from my home to Sarum College. There was barely any traffic and I had plenty of time to spare so no need to push the accelerator. The trees were turning a burnished gold and at one point I saw more than forty Canadian geese fly overhead. It was so uplifting, a truly joyous day, and it just got better and better.
The venue was easy to find thanks to great instructions from the website, and happily plenty of free parking spaces. Once I’d dropped my bags off and organised myself I went for a wander around Salisbury city centre. There was something wonderful about strolling around the Cathedral Close, admiring the buildings, the flowers and shrubs. The pace of life seemed to slow down and I took a few photos but mostly just drank in the beautiful weather. It is such a privilege to live in a beautiful country and I think perhaps we all take our home counties for granted at some point, flying of in search of the exotic and the different when beauty can be found on the doorstep. It was a jigsaw photographers heaven. Every building would make a great puzzle and possibly most have over the years appeared on one somewhere or another.
Sarum College turned out to be the perfect venue for the meeting and it was great to meet members and guests that have been introduced to the Society in this, its 120th year. After lunch we moved to the Cavell Room where we settled down for novelist and lawyer Allie Spencer’s workshop on public speaking. Allie took us through the science of why we panic at the thought of speaking in front of an audience (the lizard brain) and then presented various strategies on how to combat the nerves and deliver the speech anyway. We had great fun working through a few vocal exercises before Allie opened the discussion up for hints and tips from other members.
I recommended joining a Toastmasters group as a great way to build confidence and get practice. Catherine King suggested making friends with your audience and Hilary Townsend gave an amusing example of how she keeps the audience on their toes.
Jenny Rose demonstrated some of the relaxation techniques she used before going on stage and Judy Hall suggested some alternative methods for calming the nerves and cleansing the room using crystals and essential oils.
Specially invited guests to the lunch were introduced to share news of opportunities that may be of interest to members. Sue Ashby of Dorset Writers Network and the Juno Theatre Company – an all female theatre-making project in Salisbury and surrounding areas- gave a brief summary of the projects she was involved in and opportunities for writers.
Helen Baggott shared how an effective use of Twitter brought in business for her proof reading and copy editing services and Liz Gordon of Brilliant Fish PR and Marketing briefly detailed her social media support packages for writers, surely a must for every writer these days.
It was a good day, presenting a chance for members to network but also introducing them to opportunities and services offered that are beneficial to their own discipline. Salisbury was an inspirational setting for us all.