"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...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Famous last words --- YOUR famous last words

Win a place on a four day residential writing course in Cornwall - FREE Entry
It’s all part of the 1st birthday celebrations for WORDS WITH JAM. The prize, generously donated by Orion author Ruth Saberton, is a four day residential place on one of her Writers’ Courses Cornwall (UK) retreats - http://www.writerscoursescornwall.co.uk. Included is all tuition, 5 star accommodation in Polperro, food at a local inn, drinks and a car parking permit.
All you have to send us is the last couple of lines of a story. That’s it. Obviously you have to have written it yourself and not lifted it from some famous piece of work. The lines can be from something you’ve already written or just made up for the competition. It can be funny, or clever, or moving, or just bloody good. 40 words max, pasted in the body of an email, and no more than three goes per entrant. 

Easy peasy...
Entries should be emailed to danny@wordswithjam.co.uk by no later than 14th January 2011. The winner will be announced in the February 2011 issue, where WORDS WITH JAM will print the shortlist of ten, together with the overall winning entry.

MONEY and WRITERS - two words you don't often see together

Great news! New Writing South - an inspirational literary organisation serving the south east of England - has launched an exciting new bursary scheme.  The New Buds Award will give small grants up to £900 to writers living or working in the region. 
The awards will particularly help emerging writers at early and/or crucial times in their career to apply for grants below the Arts Council’s Grants for the arts threshold.
Aimed at those striving for excellence and writing fiction, poetry and drama, the awards can help pay for career development and ‘time to write’ expenses and can also cover: professional training (but not formal education), mentoring, travel costs for attending a course, research or other valid and viable means of support that will enable the writer applying to write.
Find out more and apply by clicking on the title of this post. 
(By the way, the south east region covers: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex.)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Favourite household chore

Been off line for four days, seven hours and....(have spotted gap in the market - sympathy cards definitely appropriate for this situation) so no posts for awhile, no tweets, no emails, no nothing. So I thought I'd mark my return with a quote close to my heart
“My second favourite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.” Erma Bombeck
That message should be displayed in cross stitch in every home...
Erma Bombeck is new to me but I imagine not to anyone on the other side of the Atlantic because her columns on  a housewife's lot in the mid west were apparently read twice weekly by thirty million readers of 900 newspapers in US and Canada. (Can that statistic really be true? Anyone good at maths reckon that's feasible...?) 
That's a helluva lot of readers.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Irish only book discount

Just heard that online book retailer, The Book Depository, is spreading a little cheer in Ireland by launching a special, Irish only, discount for book buyers.
The site, which sells books at a hefty discount and with free shipping, is offering an extra 10% discount to Ireland-based buyers if they use a specific code when purchasing.
Book buyers will have to buy books before 17th December. They can access the site and find the code by clicking on the title of this post. The offer is also exclusive of VAT.

Monday, 22 November 2010

50 reasons to be cheerful in Ireland

OK, we're all going to hell in a handcart and Ireland's leading the race, but the Irish Times discovered  parts of Irish life that economics can’t reach. They asked Twitter users to name the things they love about Ireland. Here is a selection - click on the title of this post to read all 50.
  •  knowing all your cousins 4 times removed and being shamed by your mother for not knowing all their kids too
  • West Cork, the sunset through the namhog bus stop at Dingle Harbour, Lough Allan flat beneath a pure blue sky 
  • The ritual “no thanks I’m grand I’m only after a cup” followed by “well if you’re having one yourself”
  •  Where you can still watch a Western during prime time Friday night telly
  • They can take away our sovereignty but they can never take our red lemonade or sugar sandwich
  • The fact that we don’t have to pay for royal weddings 
  • Having a defence force instead of an army
  • The Tart with the Cart, Floozie in the Jacuzzi, Stiletto in the Ghetto, Time in the Slime & The Hags with the Bags
  • Having a unique measurement of length – the long mile – and naming a road after it.
  • Waving hello to complete strangers on country roads
  • Beautiful words fashioned in the misty dawn of the countryside, from celtic gossamer. Like . . . gobshite

Sunday, 21 November 2010

In a dark mood?

Perhaps you're bored with Christmas already (everything gets earlier every year - it's a fact - including the fed-up-ratio); perhaps the boiler has broken or you've just remembered that Monday follows Sunday...but if you are in the right frame of mind you might just be able to come up with a cracking name for a Christmas Serial Killer. 
If so email author Richard Jay Parker before December 10th at richard@richardjayparker.coand you could win a copy of his debut crime novel Stop Me. I haven't read it but it's been well reviewed and is up for some major awards. Below is his  killer opening (I know, I know but I couldn't resist)  And if you are really in a dark mood Parker's website lets you send a similar email to all your friends which is one way of cutting down on the number of presents you have to buy. (click on the title of this post to find out more)

On Monday February 5th
johnnya@apex.com received an email:
howdy doody
on vacation
slim, attractive, dreadlocked babe with a fun sticky-out bellybutton, likes rabbit fur
forward this email to ten friends
each of those friends must forward it to ten friends

maybe one of those friends of friends of friends will be one of my friends
if this email ends up in my inbox within a week I won’t slit the bitch’s throat
can you afford not to send this on to ten friends? 
                      Vacation Killer

This blog is proud, very proud...

...to be on author's Nicola Morgan's list of resources for writers under the heading UK Authors whose well-followed personal blogs are useful for aspiring writers.
Gives me a warm glow on a chilly morning...

Click on the title of this post and you will be taken to Nicola's blog Help I need a Publisher where you will find witty, pithy and practical advice for anyone who wants to see their words in print. Nicola has written over 90 books for teens and young adults and knows her subject inside out.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

75 words

Kate Mosse (the writer not the model) says writers should practice writing in the same way musicians practice the scales....Well here is a way that will also allow you to broadcast your talent and become part of a community of writers. Since October 2008 authors have submitted 75-word paragraph to PLANET PARAGRAPH  Entries have ranged from stand-alone pieces to extracts from short stories or novels. Published, aspiring and occasional writers have all got involved. For some it has kickstarted their creative juices; for others, its an addictive, time-wasting distraction!Find out more by clicking on the title of this post.

Whisky Writing and a Scottish Island...what's not to like

Jura malt whisky is offering one writer the chance to stay at the island’s exclusive Jura Lodge and compose a short story based on the island. There is, however, a catch... Writers will only have 1984 minutes to compose their story (I make that 33 hours..hey, if you're in one of my classes you'd think that was a luxury...), in keeping with the name of the George Orwell masterpiece which was penned on the island more than 60 years ago.
To win the competition, writers are being asked to submit the first 300 words of their proposed short story. There are only two criteria. First, the narrative of the short story must take place on the island itself. Second, the story should have a link to one of the many myths and legends about Jura.

Monday, 15 November 2010


Nothing to do with writing....except as inspiration...except as a way of putting you in the right mood...except this did start as marks on paper and words on a page...except everything has something to do with writing...

Writing in one of the most beautiful places in the world....

The Beara Writing Experience:  Becoming a Part of Rural Ireland through Landscape, Literature, and Culture
Sometimes we need to set down our burdens and wait for our souls to catch up.
I've just received news about The Beara Writing Experience in  west Cork.  I'd go in a heartbeat if I had the chance. I stayed in Anam Cara for a two weeks in the summer of 2009 and the magic lingers on.
The workshop/retreats are for everyone - novice to experienced writers, teachers and business people. They offer the opportunity to retreat from the dailiness of  life into the atmosphere of peace and tranquility that is the Beara peninsula and Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat. They are also a chance to immerse yourself in Irish literature, history, and culture in a landscape of haunting beauty as well as the community life of a rural Irish village.

A cooperative partnership created to explore and honour all that is the Beara Peninsula through the writing arts, the Beara Writing Experience is a joint effort created by Paddy O'Conor, a poet, educator, counselor, and fisherman; John O'Leary, a professor, poet,  historian, and farmer; and Sue Booth-Forbes, an educator, writer, editor, and director of Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat.Scheduled to fall on or near Celtic quarterly celebrations, the next one is the Imbolg Writing Retreat scheduled for 27-30 January 2011 at Anam Cara.  For more information, see www.beara_writing_experience.com.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Wages for Interns --- claim up to six years later

Have you worked as an unpaid intern within the past six years? 
The National Union of Journalists say that you could be entitled to claim back the National Minimum Wage, regardless of the terms of your internship agreement. 
The union want to hear from any former journalism intern who would like legal support from the union to claim unpaid wages.  It could be possible to recover up to £232 per 40-hour week of the internship.
A judgment given in Reading Employment Tribunal in November 2009 has shown it is possible to claim back wages, no matter what the original agreement. Nicola Vett - an intern who worked for a London production company - had agreed to receive only expenses. After her internship ended, she decided to seek payment of wages, with the full legal backing of the Broadcast, Entertainment and Cinema trade union, BECTU.
 The tribunal recognised that a worker is entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW), whether or not they have agreed to work for nothing. Find out more by clicking on the title of this post.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

BRISTOL Short Story Prize

Maximum words 3,000. 
Stories can be on any theme or subject and are welcome in any style including graphic, verse or genre-based (crime, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical etc.).
DEADLINE March 31 2011.
1st - £1,000 plus £150 Waterstone's gift card
2nd- £700 plus £100 Waterstone's gift card
3rd- £400 plus £100 Waterstone's gift card

The other 17 writers who feature on the shortlist will be presented with a cheque for £100. All 20 shortlisted stories will be published in both print and ebook versions of Volume 4
of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology.The 20 shortlisted writers will be invited to an awards ceremony in Bristol on July 16, 2011 when the winners will be announced and the BSSP Anthology Volume 4 will be launched. Prizes and anthologies will be sent to any shortlisted writer unable to
attend the awards ceremony.

For more information click on the title of this post

Monday, 8 November 2010


1) You need a ghost. Ok, that one is easy, but remember that it's not a sprite or devil from the underworld or a monster from outer space. It can be an animal, but it is far more likely to be human. The crucial thing is that it is something that was once alive and is now dead.
2) There is one big difference between 'real life' accounts of  ghostly appearances and stories crafted for the big screen or the printed page. In fiction the ghost has to have a purpose
A ghost story only works if the ghost has a reason to appear. The ghost may be seeking revenge for what happened to it in life, it might be intent on dishing out punishment to the descendants of a wrong doer. Some ghosts may want the truth to be uncovered or justice done, some may be altruistic and want to alert the living to a secret. They may even want to bring comfort and consolation. It doesn't matter what it is - evil or benign - as long as it is something they want to do, say or make happen. Without that you may have a ghost but you haven't got a story.
3) Ghost stories are about creating atmosphere. This is a real test of a writer's skill. Without spooky music or special effects, with words as your only tool you have to create tension and suspense. You have to convince your reader to see with your eyes and hear with your ears, to be afraid of the thing that's scaring you...
Weather can play a big part. There's a lot of it about today, so it's a good research day. Here's some pages from the notebook...
...Heavy clouds hanging over a crazy sea, frothing in anger. Cold thin rain, needle sharp, carried by an east wind with the chill of the Alps on its back...relief to be home but it's a cold house that greets me, the boiler refuses to co-operate, and I am still twiddling knobs and swearing when the lights go out ....and I can feel...
....a bony dead finger on my neck...


GHOST STORY competition

SUSAN HILL -- author of The Woman in Black (among many things) -- is judging The Daily Telegraph ghost story competition. The winner will have his or her story published and illustrated in The Daily Telegraph Saturday Review, and will receive a unique specially bound copy of The Small Hand by Susan Hill.
Closing date: November 20th
Word Count  2,000 words or fewer.
Email or postal entries are accepted - click on the title of this post for more details.

Last week I set one of my classes the task of reading Edgar Allen Poe's classic story The Tell-Tale Heart. For homework they had to come up with a contemporary version of the story and the opening paragraph. A lot of strong, interesting ideas came out of the exercise - there wasn't a dud among them - but it was the ones set in the most ordinary surroundings that made the hair on the back of the next stand to attention.
Here's a trailer for my all time favourite film ghost story. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (who went on to make Pan's Labyrinth and is currently filming The Hobbit), The Devil's Backbone is set at the end of the Spanish Civil War when the fascists have won and the living are more scary than the dead. Watch it and be inspired and very, very scared...(Warning: the trailer has none of the poetry of the film or its subtlety. It's a taster in the same way as a fish finger is a taster for line caught plaice...)