Barbara Olive Smith, Founder and Life President of the Thames Valley Writers Circle has sadly died at the age of 93.
Before she decided to take up creative writing, she was retired and widowed and had lived most of her life in Africa and other Far Eastern countries.
She married at the age of 21 and moved immediately to Africa where her husband was in the Colonial Service.
On deciding to write, she took several creative writing courses finishing with one at a local night school. Some of the members wanted to keep together, so she formed the Thames Valley Writers Circle and became its Convenor for many years.
She was lively and great fun. One year for the Circle’s August break she set members the task of writing a story about bugs. On return, the stories were read and voted on but that was not enough. Barbara gave the four best authors a wind-up plastic caterpillar and they had to race them along the central table, with the winner getting the prize.
At an earlier spell in hospital, unbeknown to her visitors from the Circle, she made notes of something everyone said to her and then on return she set the optional homework of including all the notes in a story.
Barbara also had the knack of encouraging high profile authors to become guest speakers, such as Colin Dexter (Morse), Robert Harris, Mike Walker, Deborah Moggach and many more. She was also very generous, providing a bag of gifts for members attending the meetings before Christmas and Easter.
She was successful with her own writing. She had published two novels, the second one, The Sound of the Drums was based on her experiences in Africa prior to independence, and a book of poems.
Her short stories and articles feathered regularly in magazines such as Writer’s Magazine, My Writer, Yours, My Weekly and The Countryman.
She won many awards with her short stories and poems including being the first-ever winner of the National Association of Writers Groups open short story competitions.
She regularly attended and contributed to the Circle’s weekly meeting until prevented by the onset of her recent illness.
She was much loved and will be sorely missed.
Dick Sawdon Smith
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