"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Monday, 30 August 2010


So far, I've had 40 entries in my desperate search for a new blog name. All of them much better than anything I've dreamed up. Some are LOL funny, some are lyrical, some witty, some descriptive...several are bordering on the brilliant.

I want a new title to be less boring (not difficult)
I want it to stand out on a list of other blogs
I want it to do what it says on the tin - in other words give browsers some idea what they will find here
And I want it by September 1st

So...only a day to go.
Reward: a copy of A GOOD CONFESSION sent to any address in the British Isles.
Take pity and email your suggestions to softrain AT ntlworld.com

I'm so proud....

Just heard that one of my student's Carole Hardman is runner up on an online writing competition. Click on the title of this post to read her thoughtful and emotionally intelligent story. Did I mention that I like it....way to go Carole!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Last chance to enter

Had some great entries for choose-a-less-boring-name-for-this-blog contest but there is still time to enter. Closing date this Wednesday September Ist. Prize: copy of A Good Confession sent anywhere in British Isles....I need something witty and pithy that would alert passersby that this is a blog for writers and readers...Email your entry to me AT softrain.ntlworld.com

To TWEET or not to TWEET

Discovered an excellent writing blog today by Scottish author Nicola Morgan  (click on the title of this post to visit). Thanks to her straightforward three part guide to twitter for writers I have re-discovered tweeting...follow me at @agoodconfession and I will follow you, promise! (Unless you are axe murderer obviously or SHOUT ALL THE TIME or just tweet about west coast bands and make me feel very old). There is another Bridget Whelan twitter account which is also me but for reasons that are too boring to relate I can't access it right now. Tweet to you soon (and if you have no idea what I am writing about check out Nicola's blog and all will become clear).

Written a Play?

Or thinking about writing one?
Just back from holiday on the beautiful Beara peninsula - I'll post some pictures when the cases are unpacked and the washing done - but meanwhile check out the Pentabus Theatre website. Click on the title of this post to go there. They are currently looking for plays that have NOT been previously published or performed and fit with their ethos of producing pioneer engaging, surprising and provocative new work.
Hard copies only - sent by snail mail to Pentabus Theatre, PO Box 57474, LONDON, E5 5BL Include a short synopsis and explain why it might suit Pentabus Theatre
Deadline October 29 2010
Looking around the Pentabus website I was also intrigued to discover that every year they organise a WRITERS' WEEK
when writers are invited
 to come and explore local issues. In the past writers have followed a local fox hunt, witnessed life in an abbatoir and worked shifts in a Michelin starred kitchen.
They are currently planning our 2011 Writers' Week, more details to follow.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Poetry is all around us

Southbank Centre in London are running an engaging new project. GLOBAL POETRY SYSTEM is an international map of poetry created by users. It's based on the idea that poetry is everywhere - on gravestones and graffiti, in books and blogs, living in our memory. Southbank want people to load up poetry that inspires in video or audio recording, in photographs and, of course, in writing.
Warning note: this is not a platform for your own work (unless Seamus Heaney or Carole Ann Duffy are reading this in which case go ahead)
Click on the title of this post to travel the world in words.
(Just looked and there's no entries for Brighton. How can that be? Brighton is full of poets...postman-poets, teacher-poets, tarot reader-poets, nurse-poets. I thought it was one of the qualifications for living here...)

Studying at Hogwarts

Just read that Durham University is running a new course this autumn on the Harry Potter books. Reminded me of the weekend I was in City Lit's staff room and saw a notice advising that MAGIC had been moved to a different room. For a moment I rather enjoyed the fantasy that spells and potions were being developed down the corridor (homework: find two sources of Highwayman's nail clippings). The module at Durham is part of the BA in Education Studies and students will study such issues as peer pressure, good citizenship and ideals of adulthood. 
 "It will also explore ways in which the Harry Potter series has helped to re-brand Britain.”
That takes a bit of the oooomph out of the broomstick but yes, I can see how it works to put the iconic series in a wider social and cultural context, especially for the generation which has grown up with them . 

 Any ideas for other serious courses from unlikely sources? Pattern cutting from the last half of The Color Purple? (Remember the trousers Celie makes into a thriving business - I always wanted a pair).

If you've ever considered self publishing read this

I've been following Catherine Howard's writing blog CATHERINE, CAFFEINATED at http:catherineryanhoward.com
 for some time and it makes good reading. She not only offers witty insights into a writer's life but offers sound, detailed advice on such subjects as checking the format of an ebook on different platforms (that may not be your thing but if you ever want to find out about the nuts and bolts of ebooks from someone who is not a geek this is the place to look). 
In today's post she complains about the poor quality of many self published books and has two simple rules to combat it.
1) Try to sell your book to agents and other people who know about books (not your mother) before you go down the self publishing route. If they like it, but don't think that it's commercially viable, you can use self publishing to establish if there is a market.

2) Use the magic of technology to make your self published POD (print on demand) book look as much like a conventionally published book as possible. Be professional about every aspect from copy editing to cover design.  
I'm paraphrasing - go visit her blog to read the post in full. (click on this title to go there.)
And I will add my own tuppence worth - writing matters. There is a craft to learn and there are two ways of learning it: by writing and by reading (gifted creative writing tutors can help, of course). Rushing into print is not part of the learning process - make your mistakes where readers can't find you. Only your very best work, polished and carefully edited, should have the solidity of print. You are still learning even after you get published of course, but your shouldn't treat paying readers as though they are members of a writing support group. They have bought a product and they have every right to expect it to be as good as you can possibly make it.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

International TROUBADOUR Poetry Competition

It will be judged by Gwyneth Lewis & Maurice Riordan and it is nice to know that both judges will read all poems submitted
Prizes: 1st £1000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250
& 20 prizes of £20 each
plus a spring 2011 coffee-house poetry season ticket
and  a prizewinners’ coffee-house poetry reading on mon Nov 29 2010 for all prize-winning poets
Deadline: Oct 15 2010 
Gwyneth Lewis was the first National Poet of Wales (2005) and her words appear over the Wales Millennium Centre, opened in 2004.  Her poetry collections in English include Parables and Faxes (1995), Chaotic Angels—Poems in English (2005) and A Hospital Odyssey (2010, all Bloodaxe).

Maurice Riordan from County Cork is the author of three collections of poetry, A Word from the Loki (Faber, 1995, a PBS choice), the Whitbread shortlisted Floods (Faber, 2000) and The Holy Land (Faber, 2007) which received the Michael Hartnett Award. He has been Poetry Editor of Poetry London and is currently Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University.
Competition open to poets of any nationality over 18 years; no competitor may win more than one prize; judges’ decision is final; no individual correspondence will be entered into.
Poems must be in English,  no longer than 45 lines, must fit on one page of A4, must be the original work of the entrant and must not have been previously broadcast or published (in print or online); winning and commended poems may be published (in print or online) by Troubadour International Poetry Prize and may not be published elsewhere for one year after Friday 15th October 2010 without written permission. No limit on number of poems submitted. No alterations accepted after submission.
Fees: All entries must be accompanied by fee of EITHER £5/€6/$8 per poem, if fewer than 4 poems, OR £4/€5/$7 per poem if 4 or more poems submitted; payment by cheque or money order (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only) payable to “Coffee-House Poetry” with poet’s name (and/or e-mail Entry Acknowledgement Reference, if appropriate) written on back.
By Post: No entry form required; each poem must be typed on one side of A4 white paper showing title & poem only; do not show author’s name or any other identifying marks on submitted poems; include a separate page showing Name, Address, Phone, E-Mail (opt), Titles and Number of Poems EITHER @ £5/€6/$8 each OR @ £4/€5/$7 each; no staples; no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post; entries are not returned.
By E-mail: No entry form required; poems must be submitted in body of e-mail (no attachments) to CoffPoetry@aol.com; entries should be preceded by Name, Address, Phone, Titles and  Number of Poems EITHER @ £5/€6/$8 each OR @ £4/€5/$7 each; acknowledgement will be sent to entrant’s e-mail address showing Entry Acknowledgment Reference; send payment by post within 14 days quoting Entry Acknowledgement Reference; e-mail entries will be included only when payment received by post; no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post.
Acknowledgement/Results: will be sent to all e-mail entrants after entry deadline and winners announcement respectively; no correspondence; postal entrants should include stamped, addressed postcard marked “Acknowledgement” and/or stamped, addressed A5 envelope marked “Results” if required.
Deadline: All postal entries, and postal payments for e-mail entries, to arrive at Troubadour Poetry Prize, Coffee-House Poetry, PO Box 16210, LONDON, W4 1ZP postmarked on or before Friday 15th October 2010. Prizewinners will be notified individually by Monday 22nd November 2010. Prizegiving will be on Monday 29th November 2010 at Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour in Earls Court, London.
Anne-Marie Fyfe (Organiser)
coffee-house poetry at the troubadour


Monday, 16 August 2010

If you are enjoying this blog...

...and thanks for all the emails saying that you do...please click  the favourite button at the bottom of the right hand column. It's just a way of saying hi and showing your support.
Your in-box won't be clogged up with notices every time I add something. In fact nothing happens except I'll smile and you won't even see that.

What links James Joyce and Gordon Brown?

Although I realise I'm in danger of sounding like a pub quiz or the Saturday edition of The Guardian,  I just had to share this nugget of information. Did you know that James Joyce's pen name was Gordon Brown? He used it as a token of respect for Giordano Bruno.  
Born in 16th century Naples, Bruno was a monk who left the monastery to travel and philosophise about the nature of the universe (apparently he came to England in 1580 and may have met Shakespeare). Like Copernicus and Galileo, he was in danger from the Inquisition, but unlike them he refused to moderate his views or keep quiet. After eight years in prison, he was tortured and executed. When he was sentenced to death for declaring that the earth could not be the centre of the solar system, he said: 
"Perhaps you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it." 

Friday, 13 August 2010

SUBMIT TO PENGUIN for a limited period only

Just heard - in a very round about way  - that Penguin are accepting unsolicited manuscripts by email for three months. Haven't seen this on any literature/writing websites so perhaps they aren't promoting it in fear of drowning under an avalanche of words. 

The following is from Penguin's website. You can also click on the title of this post to go straight there. Good luck!

 Our company policy is to not accept unsolicited manuscripts or synopses and we cannot enter into correspondence about unpublished work. However, for a limited three-month period from the beginning of August until the end of October 2010, we will be inviting submissions to be sent in electronically to the following address: submissions@uk.penguingroup.com.  We ask that email submissions comprise a brief covering note and synopsis and not a full manuscripts. Please do not send attachments, please write out your cover note and synopsis in the body of the email. We remain unable to accept hard copy submissions and will not return or be responsible for the safety of any that we do receive, so please do not send any original or hard copy manuscripts to us. We will not contact you with feedback on your submission and will only enter into email correspondence with you if an editor within Penguin is keen to progress your idea.

Lucky Booker longlist

It's Friday 13th - an unlucky don't-go-out day for the superstitious - but it was reported this morning that the 13 books on the Booker long list are doing pretty well. Sales are up on previous years - you have to go back to 2001 for them to be better when Ian McEwan's Atonement and Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass were contenders.
So, that's cheering news. Times are hard but people still want new stories. It's a basic human need. As soon as we learn to walk, we dance; as soon as we can grab a crayon or stick of charcoal from the fire we draw and as soon as we have words, we tell stories and listen to them... 
Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap is the most popular book on the long list - set in Melbourne, it's been described as a satanic version of Neighbours.
The winner - announced in October - will receive £50,000, while the five runners-up will each receive £2,500 each.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

SHORT SCIENCE - a taste of writing creative non fiction

Want to write compelling non fiction? Test out your skills by submitting a short passage on any aspect of science, technology and related disciplines – including astronomy and psychology - as well as scientists (living or dead) to Kinglake Publishing. Short is short: minimum 100 words and maximum 200 words. So you have to be pithy, witty and accurate. It won't make your fortune (in fact I don't think you even get a copy of the book that comes out of this project) but publication might boost your confidence so you feel able to tackle that biography, text book, memoir...and it gives you a deadline...September 24 2010...and we all need those.

Click on the title of this post to go to the website. 

Choose a new name for this blog

TWENTY NINE  suggestions so far in my name this blog competition, launched because I need a title that would encourage a casual browser to come visit.  And somehow Bridget Whelan just doesn't do it.
First prize is a copy of A GOOD CONFESSION sent anywhere in the British Isles (when you submit a precious manuscript to an agent or publisher there is no second prize - same here).

I was impressed by the quality all of the suggestions. They were thoughtful and interesting....
....Twelve used puns
....two contributors sought inspiration from Seamus Heaney
....one was original and lyrical
....one made me laugh out loud (a good thing)
....one made my husband laugh out loud (not such a good thing)
Haven't made my mind up yet - the deadline is SEPTEMBER 1st. Please send me more ideas. Email me on softrain AT ntlworld.com or post it as a comment.
However, I have made one decision.

Maggie of Florida said lots of wonderful things about my teaching. Thank you Maggie, but no, I can't call it The Tenth Muse I really can't. Sorry.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Opportunity for unpublished British novelists - but there is a catch

Just heard that Sony UK is going to sponsor a new category in this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize – the Sony Reader Award for Unpublished Writers. It has been created to support unpublished novelists but
  • you have to be under 30 
  • and everything from submission to judging and publication is in electronic book format. However, this isn't as scary as it first sounds. You can submit in PDF, Word or EPUB format so that's do-able...as long as you have the 80,000+ words to send
Deadline 31st August 2010
Prize £5,000 plus publication of your manuscript in eBook format and made available for download from the Sony UK website in time for the Christmas season.
Click on the title of this post and you will be taken to Sony eReader site - the box in the middle explains how to enter this competition.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Free tomorrow morning? How about a creative walk in Brighton

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow there is a free guided creative walk around the Tarner area. Meet at 10am  Monday August 9th at Brighton Unemployed Centre at Tilbury Place, off Carlton Hill. It should be fun!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Free to enter competition that will only take a few moments...

I need help.
I've written elsewhere that titles are tricky things, hard to get right. The best ones seem to come in a lightening moment of inspiration. I've chickened out with this blog - first calling it the deeply unimaginative Twenty Ten and then deciding that I did probably quite like writing it and was in for the long haul. Fearing that the title would make even less sense in Twenty Eleven, Twenty Twelve etc etc I plumped on Bridget Whelan....I said I needed help.
Ok, so here's the competition.
Think of a title that suits the content and that would encourage writers and would-be writers and casual surfers - someone like you perhaps - to visit on the off chance.
Prize - there has to be a prize. Drum beat. Fanfare. A copy of A GOOD CONFESSION sent to your address (as long as it is somewhere in the British Isles).
Deadline - there has to be one of those as well. September 1st 2010.
That's a whole month to come up with a few words.
You can post your suggestion here as a comment or if you would rather not expose it to public scrutiny straightaway email me at softrain AT ntlworld.com. Put the word title in the subject line.
Think of it as an act of charity....
Just to recap - it's open to anyone with a bright idea but I can only send the fantastic prize to an address in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.