"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, 15 March 2011

Authors for Japan -- writers' auction

This is a live auction for writers and readers. There are a zillon signed books available - including pre-publication copies - and some things that money can't buy (although in this case money can buy it) such as mentoring from published authors and expert critiques of your work. All money raised will go to the Red Cross and ultimately to the people of Japan.Click on the title of this post to go to the auction

Monday, 14 March 2011


Maya Angelou
 'I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.'
(I've been without the internet for four days and that also gives an insight into character.)
Me: I like rainy days. I'm second generation Irish. I have to like rainy days...
Lost luggage hasn't been a major feature in my life (that's tempting providence, I know) but someone being very helpful did once throw out a week's clean washing (my clean washing) instead of the detritus left behind after a by election campaign and I dealt with it with quiet aplomb. Well, that's how I remember it...
And I don't do tangled Christmas lights. I do Christmas.
The lights are a side issue: they are are not on the same scale as cooking turkey, buying presents and saying how big the christmas tree should be (bigger the better). But if I had to do tangled lights at some point I'd say it's Christmas...let's not break our hearts over this. Let's buy some new ones to tangle up.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

More things you shouldn't do when entering writing competitions

Via Twitter I've had a lots of good advice from writers who also judge writing competitions. Here it is: digest and avoid! 

NICK DAWS – editor, freelance writer and tutor

Stories that clearly haven't been proofread and/or don't abide by the contest rules. A waste of everybody's time!

SALLY QUILFORD – writer and columnist for Writer’s Forum Magazine

My own pet niggle is people, thankfully rare, who 'explain' their story to you just in case you don't 'get' it. Me being really thick and all that!

SUE MOORCROFT – novelist and creative writing tutor

Return envelopes that are too small or already stuck down! you have dozens of stories to return, inadequate envelopes seem a bigger and bigger thing!
Also read (and learn from) Tania's comment on the other post about writing competitions

A Poetry workshop that inspires, transforms and let's you do things you never thought about doing before

Just heard about an exciting writing workshop that will be run by the performance poet Paradox in central Brighton on Friday April 2 .
NEW WRITING SOUTH are the hosts and they describe it as being “genuinely transformational”.
It certainly sounds very special, very different…here’s what it will contain 

An entertaining, thought provoking, performance from Paradox
A theatrical introduction exercise
A historical of the question "What is the meaning of life?"
An examination of perception
A critique of belief/celebration of perspective
A date with death
A guide to the poetry in paradox and the paradox of poetry
A challenge and opportunity to write and perform an epic semi-autobiographic tragicomic poem, that inspires you to live a more creatively meaningful life 
No previous experience or creative writing skills necessary, just the willingness to be more than you thought you were.

A semi autobiographical tragicomic poem: write it, perform it. Bet you never thought you'd want to do that. But now you've read about it you are tempted, aren't you?
Cost for the full day workshop is £35. Bookings can made via the New Writing South website - click on the title of this post.

Three things NOT to do when entering a short story competition

After judging a couple of competitions here are a few of my pet niggles.
(1)     Don’t use & in place of and --- it sends the message that you can't be bothered to write it out and that's probably not the impression you want to give. It makes me think you probably won't be bothered to do lots of others things like develop characters I can believe in or think up a half way decent story
(2)    Don’t use fancy type like Baskerville Old Face or Lucinder Blackletter or even Rockwell. I know they sound wonderful and they look impressive on your pull down list of fonts but just because you've got 'em doesn't mean you have to use 'em. Save it for blackmail notes and jumble sale posters.
(3)    Don’t use 10 pt type for anything. Remember someone is reading your story. Remember someone is reading lots of stories before your entry comes to the top of the pile. You don't want a judge to sigh before they've read the first paragraph. This is not the time to save an extra sheet of paper.
By the way, there are nine days left to enter the Fish One Page flash fiction competition.
Word limit 300 words  
Prize 1000 euros. 
Deadline March 20. Entries accepted from around the world. 
 Reputable and prestigious, the only thing wrong with it is that if you search for fish + competition you may have to wade through a lot of bait and tackle before arriving at the right site. Instead click on the title of this post and go straight there. Good luck.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Flash 500 writing competition

If you write short and tight, if you are more Raymond Carver than Charles Dickens, this is one to put in your dairy because FLASH 500 runs every quarter.
Here are the deadlines for 2011
31st March
30th June
30th September 
31st December.
The results are announced within six weeks of each closing date and the three winning entries each quarter are published on the competition website. The judge changes each quarter which is good because once the no-hopers are weeded out and the entries that have a compelling idea but need more words to work (they read like Ugly Sister shoes - a painful squeeze), then decision making has to be subjective, what will appeal to one judge will leave another unmoved. 

No set theme and the entry fee is £5 for one story and £8 for two

First: £250 plus publication 
Second: £100
Third: £50
Highly commended: A copy of The Writer’s ABC Checklist
Click on the title of this post for more information

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Best Book Title or Short Story title?

As a writer I find titles difficult. Sometimes they just appear like a lighthouse beam shredding through the dark  but more often I am left struggling, worrying over ideas, pinching bits off, adding and subtracting until I'm convinced that what I am left with is as illuminating as a spent match.
On February 19 I wrote about the weird and wonderful book titles that are short listed each year for the Diagram Prize but I've been thinking about the great titles: the ones that stay with you and say something when you first pick them up and say something different when the story is over...
They are important to get right because it  sets a temperture for what follows...
Here's a couple that spring to mind:
(although I did once read a review complaining that it was overwritten and it should be really 50 years of...)
Short story I HAVE NO MOUTH BUT I MUST SCREAM one of the best short stories I've read and I am not a big sci fi fan. Written in the 60s by Harlan Ellison, the title and the story have stayed with me since I first read it.
Any personal favourites? Any tips for creating that all important first line of a story (which is what a title is, after all...)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

If you are in Brighton on Monday March 7th....COME TO A FREE HISTORY WRITING WORKSHOP

I'm running an all day workshop (starting at a civilised 10.30 am - it's Monday morning after all) that is part of a Heritage funded project to record and recreate the history of Tarner, the working class district in the centre of Brighton near the Pavilion.
Together we will look at the role of women in a world that's now vanished. The atmosphere will be warm and supportive - you don’t have to be an experienced writer to take part (or female!)
I chose the date because it is the day before international women's day which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
No need to book just turn up at Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project at 6 Tilbury Place, off Carlton Hill. Brighton BN2 0GY 

Quotes for St David's Day

Aneurin Bevan
Not even the apparently enlightened principle of the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ can excuse indifference to individual suffering. There is no test for progress other than its impact on the individual.

Dylan Thomas 
Go on thinking that you don't need to be read and you'll find that it may become quite true: no one will feel the need to read it because it is written for yourself alone; and the public won't feel any impulse to gate crash such a private party.

David Lloyd George
A politician is a person with whose politics you don't agree; if you agree with him he's a statesman.  

Making a living as a writer when you haven't got a publishing deal

This time last year Catherine Ryan Howard was trying to persuade someone to publish Mousetrapped, her non fiction account of a year working at Disney, Florida. 
Twelves months on she still hasn't got a publishing deal.
She has, however, sold over 3000 copies of her self published book, made a modest income from writing and had a helluva journey along the way. 

This isn't about writing. 
It's about what you can do when the writing is done and the doors of agents and publishing companies are still closed.
Click on the title of this post and read Catherine's recent presentation to a writers' conference in Belfast and be inspired...