stabcon south logoLast month, I had the great pleasure of attending StabCon South's springtime event at the Jurys Inn in Southampton.

What is StabCon South?

The southern variant of StabCon, a regular, long-running event in Stockport (Manchester for the less geographically inclined).

The focus is on board gaming. There's no panels, no workshops, just good ol' fashioned worker placement. Oh, and quite a few tabletop RPG one-shots. And a sci-fi ship crew simulator!

Where did we stay?

StabCon is local to us, so we didn't bother with accommodation. However, being located in central Southampton, and in a hotel to boot, there were lots of very affordable options for out-of-towners. We ran into people who had travelled from as far away as High Wycombe, and also Isle of Wighters in for the weekend.

You also had the option of just not leaving the event! It ran 24/7 from 11am on Friday til 11pm on Sunday. A true test of endurance for any self-proclaimed gamer!

Which characters did we cosplay?

With a strict focus on tabletop RPGs and board gaming, there isn't a cosplay element to this event. So we went as boring ol' us. Womp womp.

Was there anything to eat?

With the venue being located in central Southampton, close to London Road, there's a plethora of options. There's the restaurant in the hotel itself, which is exactly what you'd expect: a bit overpriced, but damned convenient, especially given the dismal weather this weekend. But go a bit further afield and options abound: MexiGo, Starbucks, pubs, Subway, etc...

Verdict:

We've been several times before, and it's a great, low-key way to spend a weekend. It's also an amazing opportunity to dabble in a hobby that frankly can be a little intimidating and have a high cost to enter. Everyone contributes to the available games and helps with teaching newbies, so it's a good way to try out new games.

If you're interested in attending, the next event will be in June, with a focus on extremely long, crunchy games. The next standard Stabcon South is in October, with more information here. You can keep up with them on Facebook, and pricing is generally £15 for the entire weekend.

Additionally, the original Stabcon is coming up, and you can find more information here.

candles, pumpkins, animal skulls

Towards the end of September, I had another bit of a slip-up. Relapsed after a good solid run of committing to my goals and my writing. So currently October is being devoted to rebuilding my routines and habits and trying really hard not to think about NaNoWriMo because frankly it's an awful lot to consider at the moment. Oh, and founding a writing group!

Writing News

The biggest news is starting a creative writing course and a writing group for the Southampton area. Since the class isn't terribly interesting to any of you, I'll move along to the group I started.

It's called Itchen to Write, and you might've noticed the link at the top menu for it. Primarily, I want it to be about helping writers make a career of writing. I'm a terrible role model for this, but the tools involved could help others. I'm basing it largely off the writing group I attended in Atlanta, formerly 10 Days Before, and now called Atlanta Writes. It'll involve a number of different meeting formats. Primarily group critiques but also focusing on writing, querying, and mock agent pitching. I also want to try storytelling games, to flex the creative muscles and force people out of their comfort zones.

In other news, I finished linking up the Twitter Tags page on here. While it'll always be under construction, it's complete enough to keep me on track with the Twitterverse. Maybe it'll even help a few people discover new outlets for their writing and for building a community.

Going forward...

So for this month I'd honestly just like to get ship shape from a routine and general life maintenance perspective, plod along on Nushada's rough draft, read Frankenstein, and see if I can get an author interview posted on here.

I also have an idea in the pipes for a regular research feature, which I hope will help others as well as myself. And as HootSuite have just severely limited their post scheduling for free accounts, and their first paid account is way more than I need and way more than I'm willing to spend, I may also be reviewing HootSuite's alternatives from a writerly perspective. Watch this space!

 

the art house, one of many writing places i've found

Why do we need writing places?

I'm a firm believer in the "going to work" school of thought when it comes to writing...or for that matter, any home based work. The gist is that you have a dedicated space which is only for work, and thus when you go to this area your brain gets into 'work mode'. This is why I never write on my desktop PC. I can't. My desktop is a Fallout Machine. That's the place where I waste eight hours building a replica of my house in Minecraft. I've tried producing writing there. It doesn't work.

The amazing, Atlanta-based writing group 10 Days Before... did not introduce me to the idea of commuting to write, but it did show me what I could do in the 'write' atmosphere. My highest ever word count was 2200 words in an hour, and that was achieved at one of 10DB's write in events. It sold me on the concept of hunting out places to go to write.

The search begins...

So off to Google I go, trying every search term combination I can think of to try and find reviews of local watering holes written from a creative point of view. Do they have power outlets? What about just the right amount of background noise? Which are too loud to hear yourself think? Where's the wifi? Who's been to these places and tried to write there?

I found the results sadly lacking. Outside of New York City and London, no one seems to have compiled any sort of 'best writing places in X' type pages. So this is what I'm going to set out to do here. I'm going to go to random places in the Itchen Valley area--specifically Winchester, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, and Southampton--and write there for a few hours to try and get an idea of what it's like to be there as a writer and how the place functions as a creative space.

My first stop is a well known landmark in Southampton's cultural scene...

the front of the art house, one of many writing places i've found

The Art House

An eclectic cafe on a Mission from God™ and fighting the good fight. From their website:

We are a not-for-profit, Community Interest Company, a gallery, arts venue and cafe which has been running since January 2008 in Southampton, UK.  The Art House was founded by the four directors, Bik, Jani, Ziggy and Nina and is staffed mainly by volunteers.  We have three main aims:

– To promote the Arts.
– To enhance our local and global community.
– To encourage positive, healthy & sustainable living.

I can't recommend this place enough. It's an interesting atmosphere, full of bright colours, local artwork and crafts, and the occasional Doodle Book lying about. They also offer low key music, not too loud, and are just busy enough during the day that you can get some stimuli without being overwhelmed. They also offer free wifi, and a quiet space during the day, which demonstrates a commitment to giving people a creative space.

doodlebook at the art house, one of many writing places i've foundA taste of the decor, and a Doodle Book!

They stay busy, playing host to local musicians, a storytelling group, and even the local Makers scene. What this means for us hermity writer types is the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in so many different scenarios and soak up information on a broad range of topics. Maybe even discover a new hobby?

The staff are friendly and welcoming, as well as largely volunteer-based. They're happy to help newcomers and lone travellers settle in, and the place is a magnet for solo questers. It strikes me as a venue which strives to be a safe place for everyone.

How's the food?

loaded nachos at the art house, one of many writing places i've foundThe food is very good, and almost entirely vegan, with many gluten free options. I had some nachos while I was there, and an England's own brand of cola, Fentimans. The prices are on par with a restaurant in the city centre, believe my nachos were around £5-6, total was around £8.

They also offer a lower cost option in their Magic Hat Tea Bar. This is a self-serve, by donation alternative to expensive drinks out. It's part of their belief that public spaces are vital to mental and emotional wellbeing, and the lifeline this can give to those who are struggling financially...as a lot of writers and other artistic types are.

Where you are is where it's at...

"Wow! I'm super stoked to go support this amazing business!" You chirp, eyes large with optimism. "Where is this magical place?"

Ah, well, it's conveniently located in Southampton's city centre. They're on Above Bar Street, close to the Guild Hall. Easily accessed by rail or bus, though parking a car nearby can be an endeavour unto itself. As a nondriver myself, I can't comment on this aspect, but I hear tell it's a beast.

Opening time information

Pulled from their website:

Tuesday 11am – 10pm
Wednesday 11am – 10pm
Thursday 11am – 10pm
Friday 11am – 10pm
Saturday 11am – 10pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm.

Lunch is served 12 – 4pm and supper is available 6 – 9pm

So what're you waiting for?! Get out there and absorb some of the local flavour!


What're your thoughts on writing in the field?

Do you have a venue to suggest for this project?

Let me know!