Competition News

I’ve had a couple of ‘near misses’ this month, competition wise, but as they say, a shortlisting is still an achievement, and I’m certainly clinging on to that at the moment…

My Write Invite story (written in half an hour) placed 2nd last week and I also made the shortlist of the latest Flash 500 fiction competition too. It’s lovely to do well in Write Invite, but Flash 500 seems ‘bigger’ somehow as apparently they get several hundred entries each quarter. Am I disappointed not to have won? Well, yes, a bit, but as many judges point out, a lot of it is personal taste and opinion, plus at least I know I was along the right lines.

I’ve noticed recently that I tend to do a lot better in flash fiction (usually 500 words or under) competitions than short story contests which have a longer word limit and have been wondering why this is… I think it’s probably that my longer short stories just aren’t ‘edgy’ or perhaps ‘literary’ enough for writing competitions. They tend to be much better suited to the womens’ magazine markets and whilst I’ve still only sold a very modest number to fiction editors, I’ve certainly done better with them than I have with competitions… Now, I’m not complaining! It’s hard to write for womens’ magazines, much harder than many people realise, plus if they like your story, you get paid a good rate (in my opinion) and don’t need to worry about any dodgy rules that may be lurking in the small print (some competitions are known for publishing runner up stories but not paying the writer anything or awarding a prize…). Still, I continue entering competitions I trust in the hope that one day I’ll pen a prize winning story.

If you’re interested, here are a few opportunities I’ve come across recently and two of them are FREE!

Helen Yendall is running a free to enter 100 word competition on her excellent and very friendly blog, here. There are five random words that must be included though so make sure you have a good read of her blog post, which has all the details.

You can win a book by womag and crime writer, Maggie Cobbett in this free to enter flash fiction competition too. It’s run by Erewash Writers.

And lastly, for a longer short story, I’ve just spotted this competition too. It’s called The Brighton Prize. I like what I’ve read so far – it’s £6 to enter but with a prize of £400 for the winner and two runner up prizes of £50 too. Plus, the writers of shortlisted stories will be ‘offered’ publication in their anthology. It’s good that they will be asked first, rather than just having their stories published (and therefore disqualified from almost all other writing opportunities everywhere) without giving their agreement.

I think these three are well worth a go!

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This entry was posted on February 11, 2014. 2 Comments

Top Five Literary Romances

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Humph! Is it really still January?! I don’t know about you, but to me, Christmas and New Year feel like ages ago… But there is good news. February is only a week away and whilst it won’t make the dark, the cold and the rain disappear overnight, it is at least a step in the right direction.

February is also the home of Valentines Day and wherever you fall in the ‘love the romance’ or ‘commercialised waste of time’ debate (my husband and I fall somewhere in between), I hope you’ll enjoy this list of my top five literary romances!

1. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy – how could this perfect pair not claim top spot?

2. Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars – I’m staying with the Austen theme here, though have to confess that I haven’t actually read Sense and Sensibility. Still, when Emma Thompson breaks down at the end of the Ang Lee movie, I’ve never not burst into tears! (must read the book this year!)

3. Othello and Desdemona- I’m going off-piste here and have chosen these two rather than Romeo and Juliet… They are just wonderful together before Iago messes it all up (but if he hadn’t, there wouldn’t really be any story, I guess – just two blissfully happy people!).

4. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester – I love this book so much and ‘Reader, I married him!’ never fails to make my eyes well up.

5. Pip and Estella – Controversial, I know, but their relationship has always fascinated me and it can be interpreted in so many ways.

And a special honourary mention for Hermione and Ron, just because I’m a huge Potter fan, love their bickering and find it hard to make up a literary list without any JK Rowling!

It’s interesting that apart from Harry Potter, all the top five are from pre twentieth century works. I thought through all the contemporary novels I’ve read over the years and whilst there are many that I adore, the couples in them just didn’t quite make the grade… Can you think of any modern romances that would make your top five?

And on the same theme, here is a free romantic fiction competition, run by The Cremona Hotel in Bournemouth. There are (modest) cash prizes on offer and for the winner, a weekend in the hotel as well. The deadline is 14th February and do bear in mind that it’s postal entries only. I’ll be having a go, as long as I can think of a reasonable idea fairly quickly!

2013 in Books

Books

I like to keep a log of the books I’ve read each year. This is partly so that I don’t forget them and partly because I set myself a ‘goal’ to read at least thirty books a year, plus plenty of magazine short stories as well, to keep up with the markets.

This year the list is quite an eclectic mix. I’ve read lots of (chapter) children’s books, ostensibly for research but, I have to admit, it’s often for nostalgia, indulgence and pure enjoyment too!

So, here we go: (My favourite books are highlighted.)

1. Moondial by Helen Cresswell

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3. Trespass by Rose Tremain

4. The Trial by Franz Kafka

5. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

6. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

7. Grace Williams Says It Loud by Emma Henderson

8. Starting Over by Sue Moorcroft

9. Heaven Eyes by David Almond

10. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

11. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

12. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

13. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (re-read) by JK Rowling

14. The Great Gatsby (re-read) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

15. The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

16. Forbidden Friends by Anne-Marie Conway

17. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

18. Stuart, A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

19. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (re-read) by JK Rowling

20. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

21. Ice and a Slice by Della Galton

22. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

23. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

24. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

25, 26, 27. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

28. The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick

29. Timecatcher by Louise Fitzpatrick

30. A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulkes

31. Shadow Forest by Matt Haig

32. Ghost Stories and How to Write Them by Kathleen McGurl

33. Why Short Stories Get Rejected by Linda Lewis

So, a new year and a new blank page to fill with scribbles of the books I’ve read and enjoyed. Wishing you a lovely reading (and writing) year as well 🙂

This entry was posted on January 5, 2014. 2 Comments

So that was 2013…

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It’s almost time for me to start cooking New Year’s Eve supper and get ready to head to the pub, but I just wanted to write a quick post to wish you all a very happy and sucessful 2014. Hope you had an enjoyable and restful festive period as well.

I’m going to follow in lots of my fellow blogger’s footsteps and do a quick round up of my writing achievements this year. My main New Year’s Resolution is to be brighter and more positive in my outlook, so in the spirit of this endeavour, we’ll tactfully not talk about the fact that I haven’t completed the first draft of my children’s book yet (though I’m getting there) or that I haven’t yet broken in to Take a Break’s Fiction Feast.

I’m going to focus on the good stuff and feel proud of myself all over again:

Short Stories – two sales to Woman’s Weekly, one to The People’s Friend and one to The Weekly News (see the photo above). I was really delighted to receive acceptances from two new publications this year 🙂

I also had a short story included in the ‘Came as Me, Left as We‘ anthology, published by Alfie Dog.

Competition wise, I was shortlisted in one of the Flash 500 competitions and had the same story longlisted in The Writing Competition as well. I made the shortlist with a different story in The Yellow Room Flash Fiction competition too. Joining in with the Write Invite weekly competitions also saw me winning the contest one week and placing third in it another time.

Non Fiction – Prima Magazine published my little filler about falling for Leonardo Di Caprio when I was sixteen.

It’s fair to say that the second half of 2013 was a LOT better than the first. I had months and months of nothing and more nothing until things finally picked up around May/June time. It just goes to show – write, write and never give up. Yes, rejections sting but they also make the sales and successes all the sweeter.

Here’s to a hopeful 2014. Have a wonderful time, whatever you’re doing and wherever you are. 🙂

 

 

This entry was posted on December 31, 2013. 4 Comments

Embarrassed Face…

My delight in reaching the shortlist in the Write Invite competition the other week, with my story, ‘Mother Hettie’s Old Stew Pot’ was tainted slightly as it was absolutely RIDDLED with mistakes. As you only get half an hour to write and submit your story, the odd typo is very forgiveable, but still, this one left me extremely red in the face.

For a start, I messed up my tenses mid-paragraph and I was so busy fretting over that when I read it back through, that I missed the real howler of the story.

“Um,” started my beloved husband a little nervously, as he read over the story after the competition had finished.

“Yes, I know that the tenses are all wrong,” I answered crossly.

“No, it’s not that. Did you mean to write spew pot instead of stew pot?” he replied, finally allowing himself a bit of a chuckle.

“What the ……..????”

You can guess the rest.

Yes. I wrote spew pot instead of stew pot in a story that went on to be shortlisted and read and judged by everyone who had taken part in the competition!! Truly, only I could do that!

“But it’s still a good story,” my husband tried to reassure me (in between guffaws). Hmmm… yes, if there’s any silver lining at all, it’s that in spite of my unfortunate mistake, the judges still saw something in my writing. To be honest though, I’ve written a couple of Write Invite stories recently that I’ve felt really proud of. They may not have been quite perfect, but they certainly didn’t contain any errors of this enormity. Both placed 4th in the rankings and I do wish that one of them, rather than this one had made the top 3. Oh well, you can’t have everything!

(And it placed 3rd, of course. I really never expected it to win!)

Feel free to laugh at me.

Well, we’re getting to the end of the year and I’m doing all I can to keep motivated and stay focused on my writing with all the Christmas preparation to do. I also have several short story ideas floating around in my head and plan to harness some of them and pin them down on paper before they escape 🙂

Hope your Christmas preparations are going well and that you’re finding time to write too.

This entry was posted on December 6, 2013. 4 Comments

News Round Up

I had some lovely news last week – a ‘yes’ from The People’s Friend! Those of you who regularly follow this blog (and if you do, I’m sorry for the lack of posts – time has run away with me lately), will know that I have been working towards this goal for quite some time now (two years in total) so I’m really delighted to have finally made it. I’m not sure when the story will be out yet, but I’ll let you know when it is.

And, on Monday, I’ll be giving my very first ‘author talk’ at a college near me!! I feel a bit of a fraud as I’ve only had a handful of stories published, but it will be a great experience. I also get very nervous whilst speaking in public. I used to love acting when I was younger and had no problem speaking to big crowds of people but I seem to have got more fearful with age… But, writing is a subject I’m passionate about and I quite happily talk (bore) my family and friends about it ALL the time, so hopefully this shouldn’t be much different 🙂

Wish me luck!

This entry was posted on November 23, 2013. 3 Comments

Inspired by The Snow Child

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You know when you read a book that really captivates you? The characters and places feel totally real, the plot is exciting and when you’ve finished, it feels like you’ve lost a good friend? These days, I don’t often find that ‘wow’ factor with novels. I read plenty that I like a lot, but not many that I can truly say I love… But then I found The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

I have to be honest. I was fairly seduced by the cover. It’s gorgeous and looks just like something from a fairytale. I barely knew anything about the story itself, but as soon as I read the first page, I was mesmerised. It’s not exactly a ‘happy’ book, in fact I’d say two of the main themes are grief and loss, yet there’s so much hope by the end. I’ve lost track of the number of times I wept whilst reading it.

It’s a little while since I finished the novel, yet, unlike many of the books I read, I still think back to the plot, the people, and the setting pretty frequently, and notice the mood of the novel has stayed with me for quite some time.

The Snow Child is set in Alaska and having read the book, I have to say that I now feel very interested in this place. Before, all I’d really known about Alaska was that it was, well, cold. I honestly couldn’t have told you much more than that. Now, I know that they have snow topped mountains, huge lakes, moose, wolverine and foxes running about, dense woodland, plus northern lights in the nights sky. I’m mainly a ‘warm weather person’ but now I really want to visit Alaska! I’ve already looked up trips there on the internet, even though it’ll be years before we ever get there on holiday…

I also feel drawn to Alaska as a setting for my own work. Whilst I could never hope to capture it as perfectly as Eowyn Ivey, I do feel that it offers so much as a literary setting. With vast, impressive natural beauty, bears roaming around and extreme weather, Alaska is practically a character in itself.

So, with Google and my imagination as my new best friends, I’m striking forwards on a journey of discovery, without having to leave my sofa (well, I may go over to Costa for a hot chocolate with my laptop in tow…) Wish me luck!

Oh, and in other news, I have managed to have a third short story accepted with Woman’s Weekly magazine – hurray!