The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A New Society of Authors Bristol Group

Yesterday evening, I went along to the first meeting of the new Society of Authors Bristol Group. I’ve been a member of the Society for more than 10 years and I try to go along to their events when I can, but they’re often in London, which is a bit of a trek unless I can combine it with something else. So I’m quite excited at the prospect of something more local.

As ever, it was a fascinating mix of writers from different fields, with several novelists, a writer for young adults, a ghost-writer, one other ELT writer like myself, plus people who’ve written plays, short stories and poetry. The mix, inevitably, makes these events slightly less focused than the ELT groups I’m part of, but over the years, there have been all kinds of useful snippets that I’ve taken away from SoA events and I’ve got to meet lots of interesting people.

As this was the first meeting, it was all about discussing how we want the group to work. Three local SoA members, Jonathan Pinnock, Margot Arendse and Jean Burnett, helped to set things up and Anna Ganley from the SoA came along to talk about the work she does helping set up and support other local SoA groups. Rather rashly, I offered to write this post as a summary of the first meeting. I didn’t take any notes, so don’t expect perfect minutes, but hopefully, I can just summarise some of the main points. Here goes …

Where and when?

We met at The Square, in Berkley Square, Bristol, a private members club which the group has membership of, for the next year at least, to allow us to use a room there for our meetings. They have comfy chairs, a bar and disabled access via a lift.

The initial plan is to have meetings every two months, with the next in January, probably at a similar early-evening time – we met at 7 and went on until nearly 9.

The group is open to any SoA members in the area. Although it’s been set up as SoA Bristol, there was general agreement that we would like to include members from Bath and from the surrounding area as well. Although the bi-monthly meetings will probably be in Bristol for now, we talked about the possibility of arranging some meetings or events in Bath too.

The big question then remained as to what we want the group to do. I won’t try to cover all the specific suggestions here, but as we have a diverse membership, we discussed covering a mix of topics to appeal to everyone. We talked about having different speakers both from local contacts and organized via SoA HQ. We also spoke about how the group can be a hub for people to meet and then maybe arrange their own smaller groups (formally or informally) with a particular special interest. I’m certainly keen to get together a local Educational Writers group in some form. We discussed how the group might become involved in wider events, such as the current Bristol Festival of Literature, or arrange events to involve an audience of non-members, readers, etc. And we all agreed that as well as speakers and organized events, the social aspect of the group should be key too. Cheers to that!

Next steps
Based on the ideas already put forward, the group organizers are planning to put together some form of questionnaire to send out to all SoA members in the area to ask for their input. So if you’re an SoA member in  the general Bristol and Bath area, do look out for that and please take the time to fill it out.

In the meantime, there’s already a Bristol Society of Authors Facebook page. It’s a closed group, which means that you click on the button to ask to join. Hopefully, this will become a place to share not just news of the group’s activities, but also links to other things going on locally of interest to members. And if you’re on Twitter, I’ve started a #SoABristol hashtag to use and follow.

I came away excited about the possibilities for the group and I’m already planning to meet up for a coffee with a writer I met who lives nearby #lovenetworking

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Succeed in doing the opposite

A while back I wrote about a corpus search throwing up slightly unexpected findings for the chunk 'crowded market'. Yesterday, I was researching some vocabulary around the theme of success and again, came across some more slightly unexpected uses.

The first thing I noticed was how many of the words I'd picked out to talk about success were commonly used in the negative to talk about lack of success.

He hasn't had any luck finding a job.
She tried ... without much success
Your application has not been successful.

I wonder if it's a way of being slightly less blunt about failure. Are we softening the blow a little by saying someone didn't succeed rather than admitting they failed?

What struck me even more though was the common use of the chunk succeed in -ing where the following verb describes a negative; often the exact opposite of the intended result:

He tries to turn the lamp off, but only succeeds in knocking it over.
He only succeeds in digging himself into a deeper hole.
... succeeded in alienating hispanic voters.*

It turns out that the usage, especially preceeded by only or just, is frequent enough to merit a subentry in the Macmillan dictionary:

Needless to say, it succeeded in sidetracking me from what I was meant to be doing and proved no use at all for what I was writing, but I'll store it away somewhere for future reference ...

* Examples from the enTenTen corpus via SketchEngine

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