"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...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Better than a Booker/ Nicer than a Nobel

Work started this week on a new town inspired by a novel. The most famous work of Yugoslavian writer Ivo Andrić (who did actually win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961)  is The Bridge on the Drina, written during WWII. Across three centuries the Bridge is a witness to continuing conflict  in the small Bosnian town of Višegrad.
"From this bridge spreads fanlike the whole rolling valley with the little oriental town of Višegrad and all its surroundings, with hamlets nestling in the folds of the hills, covered with meadows, pastures and plum-orchards, and criss-crossed with walls and fences and dotted with shaws and occasional clumps of evergreens. Looked at from a distance through the broad arches of the white bridge it seems as if one can see not only the green Drina, but all that fertile and cultivated countryside and the southern sky above."
The new town is tiny and will be built inside Višegrad. I'm not quite sure how that will work out, but with its museum, library, theatre and memorial it is going to be a wonderful tribute to a writer.Click on the title of this post to read the full story.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday morning quote for writers

Good advice from the author of Wolf Hall and my all-time favourite historical novel In Place of Greater Safety. (If you're studying the French Revolution read it, she doesn't put a foot wrong.) And here's what to do when you're staring at the computer screen and all ideas seem to have gone on holiday.

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Quote for Monday

“A book, like a wedding, is the product of many people.  Without a wedding, there would be no bride, and without an author, there would be no book.  The bride would be a bit lonely standing at the altar without very many other people ...”  from Katie Fford’s acknowledgements in her novel, ‘Wedding Season’, Arrow Books

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Short Story Competitions with added value

This morning I came across two short story competitions that include a short critique of your story for the entry fee. That does sound like a very good deal. I am emerging from a heavy round of marking (university non fiction and adult education fiction) and know only too well just how long it takes to give written feedback.
Competition entrants should be realistic - they can't expect anything very detailed and probably a few generalised standard paragraphs will be included in the response...but, even so, it is a generous add-on that should give writers some insight into their work.

Writers’ Village Best Writing Award Summer 2011
Wanted: short story up to 3,000 words on any subject. 
Entry Fee: £10 for up to two stories.
Prizes: £200, £100, £50, 5@£20; winning entries will also be published online. 
Deadline: June 30 2011
Writers’ Village, The Old School House, Leigthon Buzzard LU7 9DP.

Laurel House Creative Workshops Short Story Competition
Wanted: short story up to 4,000 wds on any theme; each story entered will receive a 400 wd critique.  
 Entry fee: £4 per story. 
Prize: £100, plus full critique and publication in a LHCW anthology.
Deadline: July 4 
Laurel House Creative Workshops, Laurel House, Groesfaen, Rhondda, Cynon Taff CF72 8NS
Couldn't find a website for this one...

And here's one that awards the winner with a bottle of sparkly stuff as well as hard cash 

The Ifanca Hélène James Short Story Competition
Wanted: short stories up to 2,200 words.  
Entry fee: £3 per story 
Prizes: £100 plus a bottle of champagne; £50, £25.
Deadline: July 1st 2011
The Ifanca Hélène James Short Story Competition, Green Plain, 185 St David’s Road, Letterston, Haverfordwest SA62 5SS
This is a new competition to celebrate the life of a writer, dancer, herbalist and homeopath who died in a car crash last September.

Friday, 17 June 2011

SUMMER LOVING Free to Enter International Short Story Competition

Wanted: a story about Love
Length: A minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 1000

Deadline: July 31st

Run by Brighton Community of Writers: they say:-

You don’t have to become Barbara Cartland – it can be soppy, romantic, dark, uplifting or depressing – even terrifying (much like love itself). Just impress us! Any genre welcome, but please send any pure pornography to those who’ll appreciate it more than we will and who are a lot more likely to publish it.
Check out the rules at Brighton COW's website (click on the title of this post to go straight there). For this competition there are two extra rules

1) Give the story its own title (and you can't have Summer Break...Brighton COW are very clear about that...)

2) Include the title of your short story in the subject line of email entries. GOOD LUCK

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Happy Bloomsday

June 16 is Bloomsday. It celebrates Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyce's Ulysses. The story takes place takes place in Dublin on a single day: June 16th 1904 - the day on which (we believe) Joyce first went out with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.
Ulysses follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am through to the early hours of the following morning. 
Here's a few events I've been able to locate...
USA nationally  Radio Bloomsday will be broadcast live from 7pm to 2am ]on the Pacifica Radio Network, wbai 99.5FM in New York City, KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles and online at www.wbai.org anywhere in the world. This year's broadcast includes artist from New York, Los Angeles, Dublin and London.
 Bloomsday Celebrations hosted by the Irish Writers' Centre in the Garden of Remembrance from 12-3pm with Finnegan's WakeA Traditional Irish Wake Celebrating Life, Death and Everything in Between. This traditional Irish 'wake' will both commemorate the work of Ireland's late, great writers and provide a platform to admire the wonderful writing being created in modern Ireland.
Lots also happening at The James Joyce Cente. Events include a breakfast, readings, Joycean tours around the city, songs and poetry readings, and actors wandering the streets dressed as characters from "Ulysses." And when the day is done, a quiz at the Great Hiberian Metropolis.
Los Angeles: Machine Project's Bloomsday Silent Read-A-Thon. Starting at 8 a.m. and going on until 3 p.m.

The first Bloomsday celebrations were held in France in June 1929 (only a few years after it was first published...in France.) The first Bloomsday to be celebrated in Ireland, however, had to wait to the fiftieth anniversary in 1954, but it must have been a pretty special day. The writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien visited locations like the Martello Tower at Sandycove, Davy Byrne’s pub and 7 Eccles Street, reading parts of Ulysses as they went. And drinking too...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

POSH BINGO - what writing competitions should be called

I'm indebted to Kate in my Friday morning class for that insight (and she tells me she got it from someone else). I think it is important to remember that luck has a lot to do with winning competitions or publishing contracts.
Our responsibility as writers is to do the best work we possibly can and then go away, walk the dog, have a drink, cook the dinner and revise it some more; it's our job to be different and original and exciting and when we are marching along the same route as other writers to do it in such a way as though it seems like the very first footfall.
But when we do submitt it is chance that dicates whether it drops onto the right editor's desk at the right time or it appeals to a particular judge's very subjective view of the world....
A lot of writing careers have been launched by competitions  - not by the winning of them or even the taking part, but because they provide a focus and a deadline.
The worst thing you can say to a writer is that you can write about anything you like, for as long as you like and it doesn't matter when you finish...(Well, perhaps not the worst. 'Your writing is bland drivel' is probably higher up the list.)
PS Sorry that the last post appears to be shouting at you. I have no idea why it is in caps when it is sober and well-mannered lower case on my screen. I wrestled with it for awhile but I decided that it was such an interesting competition that it was better to post in A VERY LOUD VOICE than keep the news to myself.

Life Writing Competition

The Society of Women Writers and Journalists have launched an international life writing competition.
length - 3000 words
deadline - September 30 2011
entry fee £7
prizes: there are two age categories (which is unusual in an adult competition): 20 to 40 year old and over 40s and three very decent cash prizes for each category: 1st - £3,000, 2nd - £1,000, 3rd - £500.
Judges are Katie Fforde and Sophie King - both big in romantic novelist association. 
(ps  Open to men too - check out all the conditions by clicking on the title of this post.)


Finding new authors in unexpected places

I've just been reading about Vala, a brand new publishing house which describes itself as a bold experiment in community-supported publishing
What does that mean?
I'm still finding out but it is co-owned by its members – workers, authors, investors (and potentially anyone reading this, if it floats your boat...) and I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of Grassroots Commissioning.
Vala's members will be encouraged to scout for potential authors and put forward ideas to an elected Editorial Board.
Being a member of Vala community membership also means having the opportunity to take part in the physical making of books. Vala want to reconnect people with production,  in the same way that farmers' markets and vegetable box schemes are reconnecting people with their food...
Like the talent scouting idea and the emphasis at looking in non traditional areas for new writers.  Good readers can spot good writers so it makes sense to develop new ways of allowing  voices outside the publishing industry to be heard. It's immensely cheering that seven out of ten books are still sold by word of mouth recommendation.
Not so sure about everyone getting their hands dirty and making books...can't help being nervous about what the result would actually look like. Every aspect of book making requires a lot of skill from the way the type sits on the page to the choice of cover and I'm not convinced that democracy should play a big part.
But the big question - for writers and readers - is what is this ground-breaking idealistic company going to publish. 
Short answer: non fiction.
Long answer: non fiction with heart.
They seem to be open to many and various ideas. Their first book will be out in November. Called Coming Home to Story, the author is story teller and former policeman Geoff Mead who shares the magic of storytelling and the influence story has on our lives.
To find out more
click on the title of this post to go to Vala's website

Saturday, 11 June 2011

And now for some good news

With cuts and rumours of cuts everywhere it was good to hear that the Brighton publisher Myriad Editions have received £60,000 from the Arts Council England.
The small but perfectly formed independent publishes eight to 10 books a year, with a focus on debut novels and new work by graphic artists.
Myriad managing director says that they are seeking out new graphic authors.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Think you should know...

Dreamt is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt"

Getting Published

One of Scotland's most prolific writers Nicola Morgan is talking about her new book, Write to be Published at Blackwell Bookshop Edinburgh, South Bridge on June 16 (hey! that's Bloomsday...if you are not celebrating Joyce's masterpeice, then you better go to this. Then one day we can celebrate yours...)
If you want to know the truth about how publishers make their decisions this event is for you. Nicola Morgan has had around 90 books published and is renowned for her honest, inspiring and and revealing advice.
This evening she will be offering insights into how to negotiate the hurdles and answering your questions over wine and a chance to meet fellow aspiring writers.
This event is ticketed, but tickets are FREE. Tickets are available from the front desk at Blackwell.

For more information or if you would like a signed copy please contact Ann Landmann on 0131 622 8222 or events.edinburgh@blackwell.co.uk

Can't get to Scotland? Edinburgh out of reach? I suggest you follow Nicola's blog - Help! I need a Publisher. Click on the title of this post to go there

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Publishing Fiction for Young Adults - meet the author, her agent and publisher

You rarely get all three together - the writer, the agent and the publisher - so this looks like a fine opportunity to find out how the publishing industry works from the inside.  
New author Caroline Green, her agent Catherine Pellegrino and her publisher Anne Clark will discuss the journey to publication and beyond.
Find out what innovative approaches Caroline took to secure her agent and how she worked with the publsihers who offered her a deal. Hear what Anne Clark of Piccadilly Press and Catherine Pellegrino, of Rogers, Coleridge & White Literary Agency, have to say about the creative demands of writing for teenage readers. In the afternoon, Catherine Pellegrino will lead a masterclass on the do’s and don’ts of finding and securing an agent.

£20/ £17
Saturday 25 June, 10.30am – 3pm
Foyles Gallery, 113-119 Charing Cross Road London WC2H 0EB

Find out more by clicking on the title of this post

Creat a video script with a message

If you live within earshot of Wave 105 you can enter Southampton City Council's competition to encourage recycling.  Watch this film to find out more.
Closing date is Thursday 16 June. Click on the title of this post for all the details

Create a script to be watched by millions

British Airways want you to write an original and innovative film script charting London's journey to The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Your film will be used as part of the official London 2012 Sports Presentation Programme as well as being a part of the pre-show to the Opening Ceremony. The film will also be shown on BA flights in the run up to, and during, the London 2012 Games, while an edited version will also be shown as a pre-landing film. 
To make it even more special, the winner will receive mentoring from Richard E Grant...how good does it get?
To find out more click on the title of this post.