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The Write Fantastic

The Write Fantastic logo

The Write Fantastic is an initiative by professional authors aiming to introduce fantasy fiction to readers who have yet to experience the genre. Its mission is also to ensure existing readers know the full breadth and depth of current fantasy writing. Chaz has been a member since its foundation in May 2005, in which time The Write Fantastic's diary has seen over 60 engagements, ranging from library and bookshop events, talks to local writers' groups and contributions to literary festivals to teaching creative writing.

Anniversaries, the Write Fantastic anthology

In 2010 The Write Fantastic celebrates its fifth anniversary with its first ever day event, at the Jacqueline Du Pré Building, St Hilda's College, Oxford on May 8th 2010. In addition to members of the group, guests confirmed so far are Stephen Deas, Ben Jeapes, Geoff Ryman, Mike Shevdon and Ian Watson. The day will also see the launch of Anniversaries, TWF's first anthology of original stories, published by NewCon Press.

Current members of The Write Fantastic are Chaz Brenchley (Daniel Fox), Sarah Ash, Deborah J. Miller and Juliet E McKenna; associate members Stan Nicholls and Jessica Rydill; and new recruits Kari Sperring, Ian Whates, Freda Warrington and Liz Williams.

Below is the piece Chaz wrote about the Write Fantastic at the time of its launch.

Ah, The Write Fantastic. We have a manifesto, a constitution and an Arts Council grant: what more need I say?

Well, all right, then. All that does is bespeak a degree of organisation that still astonishes me, given that I was responsible for most of it; but - because I was responsible for most of it - all of that feels kind of unreal, or at least unimportant: not exactly fake but ill-fitting, a mantle of bureaucracy that we shrugged on for utilitarian purposes. We have a manifesto because we needed that to get the grant; we have a constitution because we needed that to get a bank account wherein to stow the grant; we have a grant because - well, because the money is there to fund good ideas, and the one thing we had that was unequivocally real and important was the good idea, and we'd have paid for it ourselves if the money hadn't come along. Which is not to say that I amn't, that we aren't, that TWF isn't grateful to the Arts Council for their generosity; our gratitude outruns my ability to express it. But we'd have done the thing anyway, which I always think should be one of the funding criteria; if you're not determined enough to fund it yourself, whatever the cost, then perhaps you shouldn't qualify for help. Or is that just too stringent?

Anyway, at heart, TWF is a project on a par with Murder Squad: a group of published and professional fantasy writers, finding themselves in danger of being written off as mid-list and hence not worth marketing, coming together to promote themselves, each other and the genre as a whole, to a literary world too ready to dismiss genre in general and fantasy in particular. Murder Squad does the same thing for crime fiction, and has been conspicuously successful, to the point where we have spawned a dozen imitator-groups (hmm - sounds dreadfully judgmental, that, doesn't it? You can't say "spawn" without sneering. And I confess, it is nice to have been first; but actually I welcome all of them. If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing a dozen times over. And then again in other genres, and so hence The Write Fantastic).

As to what drives us and what we're actually going to do, these paragraphs herebelow are lifted more or less verbatim from the manifesto, which is actually the proposal I wrote for the Arts Council application, and says it all far better than I am able to do today:

"The intention is to establish and launch The Write Fantastic as an author-driven vehicle to promote the literature of the fantastic to new readers, reluctant readers, established readers who have not yet investigated contemporary fantasy. TWF comprises (at present) six professional writers with widely varying skills and experience, all of whom work within the fantasy genre.

"We will seek to raise the profile of fantasy writing on a national scale, by working within the media; in bookshops; in libraries; in schools; at writers' circles and reading groups; at conferences, conventions and literary festivals. We will give readings, talks and lectures; we will run workshops, and participate in panels and question & answer sessions. We will promote both our own work and the wider genre, through our activities and through distributing brochures, leaflets and other publications.

"Activities like this have become very much a part of the novelist's job in recent years, but generally on an individual and haphazard basis. By pooling our skills, resources and experience, we believe we can have a more significant effect. We would hope to benefit individually, through increased sales of our own titles, but it is important to us to promote other writers and the genre as a whole. The last ten years have seen dramatic changes in the book trade, to the point where the commercial imperative is to sell ever more copies of ever fewer books; range is sacrificed to turnover, and the same titles are promoted in the same discount offers throughout the trade. Bestsellers thrive, and everyone else suffers. This can be desperate on a personal level, for writers seen as 'mid-list'; it is also deeply harmful for literature in the long term, as publishers narrow their focus to what is currently successful, and more exciting or challenging writing that's not obviously commercial goes unpublished. TWF is a step towards countering this trend; we mean to bring readers in past the discount tables and the bestseller charts, to the shelves at the back of the shop where much of the most interesting in contemporary writing can be found. It's true of all genres, including 'literary fiction', but fantasy in particular tends to be labelled and dismissed; we need to persuade journalists, booksellers, librarians and readers that it's not all Tolkien and Terry Pratchett, nor indeed all Harry Potter. There is adult and literary fiction to be found under the fantasy imprints, and we intend to bring it to the fore."

Which is necessarily a little pompous, but you get the idea. Watch out for the TWF Roadshow, hitting a city near you (sometime, sooner or later, maybe); visit our own website, which will contain updated schedules and much else besides; look out for leaflets, brochures, eventually books; tell your friends; read the novels...

In addition to the group's web site, The Write Fantastic maintain (intermittently) a communal LiveJournal, and a MySpace page. And, of course, the News and Events page of this website will carry details of Chaz'z forthcoming appearances.

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