What I learned this year: the fellowship of writers and readers

indieBRAG would like to welcome Derek today today to talk with us about his fellowship with writers and readers this year. Derek was born in Hampshire in England but spent his teenage years in Auckland, New Zealand, where he still has strong family ties.
For many years he taught history in a secondary school but took early retirement to concentrate on writing. Apart from his writing, he spends his time gardening, travelling, walking and taking part in archaeological digs at a Roman villa.

Derek is interested in a wide range of historical themes but his particular favourite is the late medieval period. He writes action-packed fiction which is rooted in accurate history. His debut historical novel, Feud, is set in the period of the Wars of the Roses and is the first of a series entitled Rebels & Brothers which follows the fortunes of the fictional Elder family. The fourth and final book of the series, The Last Shroud, was published in the summer of 2015…


At this time of the year it is customary to reflect upon the year almost past. For me, this has very much been a year for the family, visiting my brother in New Zealand and especially the occasion of my son’s wedding – so, a big family year.

As a writer though, it has also been a varied and interesting year. What did I learn about being a writer this year? I learned a lot but I think the most revealing aspect to consider this December is the fellowship I found among other writers and with readers too.

derek-birks-profile-picIn July I spent some time at the Chalke Valley Festival in Wiltshire, selling copies of my books over a weekend alongside two other writers of historical fiction. It was a weekend when torrents of rain threatened to wash away the whole festival and reduced the ground under foot to the proverbial ‘sea of mud’. Yet, what the occasion provided was an opportunity to meet potential readers and discuss my books or other matters with them. I met, for example, a lovely lady – a reader with whom I had regularly tweeted in the past year, and who had been very supportive. How marvellous to talk to her! Another delightful lady came up, not to buy a book, but to ask me if I knew her son, the author of Roman HF, Robert Fabbri – with whom I communicate online.

Sometimes you chat to someone, they decide to buy your book and you wonder later whether they enjoyed it. Well, one reader actually emailed me to thank me for persuading him to buy Feud at Chalke Valley, explaining that he enjoyed it and was finishing it at Dallas airport. I thought it was rather nice of him to bother, especially since the book had clearly travelled a long way! Such connections are very rewarding for a writer.

derek-birks-with-author-friendsThe other occasion where I experienced the fellowship of authors was at the September Historical Novel Society conference at Oxford. This was another opportunity to meet in the flesh writers I had only communicated with online, as well as renewing friendships with some I had met before. Sure enough, before we even got to Oxford, a flurry of emails instigated by Elaine Powell arranged a meal for us in the town. There must have been almost twenty of us renewing old acquaintance or making new ones.

An event such as the HNS conference always provides other, often serendipitous, opportunities. One occurred the moment I arrived, when I met the wonderful Helen Hollick outside the door to the accommodation block whilst we wrestled with the door entry code. Helping out also provided occasions to meet and chat, whether it was stuffing the goody bags or manning the Indie table at reception. Meeting and greeting at the door also ensured that I was able to at least say a few words to those that I didn’t manage to catch up with later.

Writers, like everyone else, don’t always get on and don’t always agree but you sort of gravitate towards those that share the things you enjoy and value. It is a wonderful community and I think fellowship is quite an appropriate word to use to describe it. You celebrate each other’s successes because you know what hard work goes into the writing process but you also console each other at difficult times, or support with feedback and advice.

It was quite a shock to me when I worked out that I had met in person at least fifty of the writers I know online. Together we share our good days and our bad; we celebrate or commiserate.


I can’t finish this piece, however, without reference to a group who may be, but are not necessarily, authors. I mean those bloggers who read and review avidly. I am grateful to them, for these people, such as Stephanie, are also part of the fellowship. They are great supporters of writers but they also point readers towards books that they might like.

2016 has had its problems but the fellowship of writers and readers is still going strong.

Derek Birks



The comments, advice and opinions expressed here are those of authors whose books have been honored with a B.R.A.G. Medallion. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the owners, management, or employees of indieBRAG, LLC.

8 responses to “What I learned this year: the fellowship of writers and readers”

  1. Alison Morton says:

    I love that photo of us at the HNS Conference, Derek (you, me, Helen Hollick and Laura Morelli)! And the smiles weren’t just for the camera.

    Writers need other writers and as you say. We celebrate each others’ success as well as ask for help/opinions/comments. But I am slightly envious of you meeting Robert Fabbri’s mum!

  2. Derek Birks says:

    HNS Oxford was great, Alison! But wherever I go, I seem to meet other writers – or their mothers…

  3. Helen Hollick says:

    Derek became my ‘Knight in Armour’ on a couple of occasions during the conference – as well as ‘coffee boy’ – fetching much needed caffeine sustenance! (Rgank you Derek!) I hope we get opportunities to meet in person again Derek!

  4. Matthew Harffy says:

    HNS Oxford was a highlight of the year for me, as was meeting Derek and the other authors there. Great blog post, Derek and here’s to many more years of fellowship!

  5. Derek Birks says:

    Cheers, Matt! And Helen!

  6. Geri Clouston says:

    One of the most inspirational things I find about writers (and particularly self-published authors) is their willingness to share and be a part of a community.
    It is so wonderful to see-

  7. Clare Flynn says:

    Great piece Derek. And hear hear!!
    Clare x

  8. Derek Birks says:

    Thanks, Clare!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *