Friday, January 31, 2014

Janathon the Results - Bone Tired

Bone Tired

I started the year making a commitment to Janathon, I was going to exercise and blog every day. Instead of New Years Resolutions I decided on the One Word method and chose Self-Nurture. 

Out of a month with 31 days I did vigorous exercise for 18 days, I think I should get some sort of bonus for those days being wet and grey January ones. I have learned a new buzz word from mixing with runners - 'recovery time,' the time it takes to get your breath back after a run.

I'm tired - not from the exercise, that actually made me feel better, just bone tired I guess.

When we say we’re “bone tired”, what does that really mean?
It means tired to our core, not just sleepy.  It refers to a feeling of depletion – that we’ve drawn upon our vital stores of energy, which are now in need of replenishment.

' A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.'
 Proverbs 17:21

I think this is so true. But sometimes even when we try to carry on we get a weariness that everyone can relate to. It’s the kind that no amount of sleep can get rid of. We work hard to try and build a better and more successful life, and when that hard work just isn’t enough, we work harder. As a result, life burns us out. For those of us who are so tired, we can feel it in our bones.

In the Bible, the book of Ezekiel talks about dry bones being brought back to life.  ”Ruah” means both breath and spirit – “the divine animating force without which no life is possible.”

What do you do when you feel that vital force is missing.

"Lower your standards." This advice, though difficult to hear, has been one of the most important guidelines for me. It helped me choose to let the floor go upswept, the dishes unwashed, the bed unmade, while I wrote a story, or studied, or even just went for a walk in the woods. When I do the things I want to do I have LOTS more energy. 

What are you doing that saps your strength and erodes your delight in life? 

Finding a way to quit activities that leave you feeling stressed and out of sorts is difficult. The painful truth of carrying on when you are drained is that you find that you can for a while. But over time you find that you can carry burdens for short periods of time and that smaller problems push you over the edge.

So I called in reinforcements, bought some charcoal and a new exercise DVD - just to jazz things up a bit and left the ironing for another day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

And then something marvellous happened...

It can be emotionally, spiritually, and even physically taxing to convince yourself an issue doesn't exist or will resolve itself on its own. 

Last year after a 'bump in the road' I knew I had to get myself into a better place. I had to learn my own limits, be honest with other people and admit when I just had too much on my plate. Apparently a happy mind has;

'A sense of contentment.
A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change.
A balance between work and play, rest and activity.
The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
Self-confidence and high self-esteem.'

Sounds good to me. But to get that I needed to learn to say 'no' and ask for help.

Facing your flaws means looking at patterns in your life. Remember Albert Einstein, 'Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.'

Whatever your objective, you must define it, create a plan for achieving it, and set up a timeline for its completion in small, measurable steps. Charting these achievements can boost self-esteem as much as attaining your ultimate goal, because, to put it simply, a success is a success, and the more of them you have, the more favourably you're likely to view yourself. When you take deliberate measures toward a goal, you'll have the fortitude to think—and do—big.

This isn't easy when you are walking around feeling like an exposed nerve. 

This week admitted to my writing group that we had a problem and I didn't know how to sort it out, I even managed to ask for help. Yesterday, I emailed, wrote a blog post and put on Facebook that I'm no longer happy to be the designated driver. To be honest I felt like I was cracking a nut with a sledgehammer. Surely I was being oversensitive? Surely people will be offended by a forceful and loud no more?

I did the usual things, exercise, gave myself achievable tasks, tried not to indulge in worrying, repeated it will pass.

Those who know me will know I'm not one for crying. But I admit I've had a bit of a sniffle over the response. Something marvellous happened;

Practically the entire writing group responded with messages of support and suggestions on how we were going to resolve the problem. My beautiful, amazing little girls aged only 11 and 13 came with me to university. They were well behaved and said that if my nerves are bad next week, they will come will me again so I don't have to face the night drive until I'm back on an even keel. I received a touching email from one of the gentlemen at my writers group. A lovely lady who goes to uni with me asked if I was ok and suggested I ring her or maybe we meet for lunch. Coffees and catch up have been arranged.

I gave myself some time off work and went to an art class in the afternoon. Weirdly enough I managed to finish an article and a draft of a story when I got home in half the time.

When my girls asked for a full English Breakfast for tea, the veg in the pan was forgotten and I was more than happy to crack out the frying pan. We had fresh baked cookies for dessert. 

I spent the evening forgetting about chores cuddling with my daughter watching a film.

I honestly can't describe the sweet and sour mix of emotions I feel. 

First art class in years.

What's your mill stone? - Mine is the 'designated driver.'

So my 'mental' health homework is to remove mill stones!
'A millstone around your neck
a problem or responsibility that you have all the time which prevents you from doing what you want'

My parents didn't drive, I've always had lots of friends and elderly relatives without a car. Add to the mix that I don't like the person I become when I'm drunk - think Absolutely Fabulous, Father Jack and mother from hell. Plus I don't like feeling out of control. So I became a natural designated driver. 

I would say that for the first fifteen years I enjoyed it. Especially in the North West of England. In that area a reliable designated driver is treated with the awe and respect of a unicorn. I never bought a drink, or had to find money for parking. I would frequently get a card, bunch of flowers, box a chocolate and told I was a star. Even my youngest sister who was at the time was a broke single mother always had a bar of chocolate for me. Best of all, every so often someone else would insist that they drive. It would always be on the shopping trip or going to the cinema where no alcohol was involved of course! They made sure I was pampered, it was lovely. And it really lifted my self esteem.

My confidence behind the wheel dropped when I moved to the South East. Nice well lit roads have been replaced with narrow dark country roads. Things jump into the path of your car. Honestly it is true. Badgers, who are not like the Wind in the Willows stories, but are literally the size of a small dog, just walk across the road without looking. Not to mention foxes, once a deer, and don't let me get started on pheasants which I'm convinced were invented by The Lord Almighty for no other reason but to annoy me. The road kill alone is enough to terrify me. 

Next, especially in Portsmouth, Winchester and Chichester is the parking. The problem is, there isn't any. 

I've lived down here now for nearly a decade, and I've happily taken on the role as designated driver. At first lived with my husband who did all the driving at weekends and drove the girls to Brownies, Guides, church groups and drama activities.

November 2012 my husband moved to Stevenage and I was suddenly doing everything at home which included all the driving. In December 2012 I had a car accident, I hurt my back and shoulder and was unable to drive. Then in the Spring and Summer due to mental health issues and medication I was unable to drive. I also had four minor surgical procedures over the last seven months. I have developed a few gynaecological problems which mean that sometime I need to leave an event - fast.

Just looking at the above list makes me feel guilty, makes me feel like I'm making excuses not to drive.

But surely that wouldn't be a problem because I regularly gave lifts to six people. They would step in and help - two did. They were amazing. The other four other people nothing, but the occasional email to ask if I was driving.

The other question for many ladies is whether or not to volunteer your husband to drive. My husband is a naturally shy man, not one to offer help without thought. But when my friend and I was went to a live poetry evening and our designated driver was called away for an emergency. We were stranded in Portsmouth, he came out and insisted he gave my friend a lift home as well.

A couple of weeks after that the same lady was at a Neil Gamien talk in Portsmouth.  I wasn't allowed to drive because of my medication, my children and I got there via taxi and train. I didn't ask for a lift and none was offered. 

Recently I was going to attend an evening talk and a lady who also drives, tried to bully me into driving. She lives 30 minutes away from me in the opposite direction, to take her home would put and extra 40 minutes to the time I would get home at the end of the evening. Instead of saying no, my goal, I didn't go to the event. But she did. She found someone else to drive.

Yet, last week when I was struggling I got an email from someone offering to come out of their way to drive me to an Art Class.

It's a tricky business. Many of us have mill stones. And it's may not be the driving, many women have a 'designated driving problem.' What I mean is something they happily volunteered to do, but now regret it with a passion.

It's not that I don't like the people I used to happily drive around. It is just my circumstances have changed. Mental Health issues don't just clear up in five days with a course of anti biotics and I have learnt to my cost that gynaecological issues don't just go away either.

The annoying thing is that despite knowing I'm doing the right thing by taking myself off the designated driver list. I'm no longer the reliable driver I once was - I feel so guilty and horrible. I'm missing events because I don't want to get sucked into a regular driving commitments. And some people who I thought were friends haven't been understanding, they have been huffy and just a bit mean. 

I want to just be able to look at the clock around six o clock and think, I will go to that. And not feel like I have to. Or if I've bought a ticket and I just don't feel like it - have the freedom not to go and not feel like I'm letting someone down. I want to just step out of my house and to be chauffeured to an event, without having to worry about the SAT NAV, the fallen trees and where I'm going to park. Or at they very least - take turns in being behind the wheel.

So if you do have a designated driver - or lady who always washing up - or always bring the milk. Just think, they may have honestly not minded seven years ago but is that still the case?

Remember when you step in the car and want them to turn back because you're forgotten the craft materials, and you want to detour to pick up milk. That the driver has probably faced stress and hassle to get to your house on time.

Remember when some is acting as your chauffeur, that when you have stepped inside and are kicking your shoes off and driving home. They are still in the car hands clamped to a steering wheel praying that a badger doesn't jump into the road. 

Don't just ring them when you want a lift. 

Don't take offence when after seven years of picking up the jumble they suddenly say no - see it as what it is - that someone is drowning.  I have been dumped 'friend' no longer - now they have found themselves a new driver, until of course a couple of months later when they want you to pick their kids up. People I have driven home for five years have nodded to me like I'm an acquaintance so they can sit and have coffee with the new person who may drive them home. Without a thought about the self esteem of the person who has been ferrying them around for the last couple of years.

I wonder - what is your mill stone?

Ways to be kind to your designated driver.

Be ready when they get there.

Don't let them be out of pocket.

Don't guilt them.

Are you asking when you GENUINELY need help - or taking advantage.

Accept that you need to leave when the designated driver wants to leave.

Offer to share a taxi, so neither of you have to drive.

Dump them as a friend the moment you find a new driver.

On a final note. I'm off now to buy a couple of boxes of chocolates to give to a few people I may have taken for granted.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Depression, curve balls and sore toes

Depression is a side effect of my PTSD and anxiety problems. Once you’ve had depression, there is always a chance you can get it again.  This is a scary thought but by planning what you will do when you feel well, you can make it easier for yourself to get support before things become too bad.

Often before we become depressed, there are some early warning signs.  For example:

Having problems with your sleep 
Crying a lot and not really knowing why 
Feeling irritable 
Feeling more anxious
Panic attacks
Feeling frightened for no reason

I have another great warning sign, when I zone out my West Highland Terrier chews my toe - and I have a very sore toe.

When you notice your early warning signs, take action!   Write a plan of what you will do.  Make them things that you will find easy to do when you’re feeling low. 

My early warning signs are that I don’t sleep well and I find it hard to face the world in the morning. Colours tend to look less vibrant. I'm lazy, lethargic and irritable.  When I notice this happening, I will:

Get some exercise every day even if it’s only a 10 minute walk.  This helps me sleep and is good for my mood.
Cut down on unnecessary driving 
Stop playing computer games after 9pm
Knit, crochet or draw
Find a good talking book to listen to a night to block out my own thoughts
Say no and not over commit (therapist put that in and I'm glad) 

Staying at home with a sick child last week resulted in warning signs flashing all over the place, but I was unable to activate my self help plan. I managed to complete my 5k run on Saturday, but it felt like I was running in a black and white film. I've been so irrated with loved ones, and when I failed to get my daughter to church on time for her first session as an alter girl I felt as if my entire life was a failure. In reality, the reason we were late was driving through floods and fallen trees.

It's Monday morning! Yesterday I had actually pre packed the car with my gym bag, put the books in to take to the accountant, university bag in the car. My partner drove me to the town centre and filled the car up, (it could be because last time I was in a bad place I put unleaded in the car instead of diesel) he also insisted on paying. For that I'm so grateful. 

I wasn't going to sink into the hole without a fight. 

So of course daughter number two - who bravely managed to go out with friends on Saturday against my advice, and then went kayaking when she said she would watch - woke up with a high temperature and rash. She also has bruises under her elbows which I KNOW are from capsizing. Typical.

I am a steam roller by nature. Give me a job - I do it, sometimes accidentally squishing people on the way. I don't do change of plans well. But today I'm going to try and catch a curve ball.

Child number two is currently catching up on sleep. But I need to get well! There is no law that I have to get everything done before 11am. So when she wakes I'm going to dose her up and take her out because I NEED fresh air. Ok, I won't get to the gym - but I should be able to get to the laundrette and the accountant. And unless she takes a bad turn for the worse, tonight I intend to take my sick child to uni with me and damn the consequences. She can snuggle up with a blanket, orange juice and portable DVD. She may have a sore throat and temperature, but if I don't lift my mood soon it will effect the whole family. Besides I would prefer to have my children with me because of all the power cuts.

I won't get my full to do list done - but I'm going to try and not beat myself up about it.

My #OneWord is self - nurture (and I've already pointed out in previous posts that it is actually two words :) ) and that is what I'm going to do.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Being honest when others don't want to hear it!

Now my children are at secondary school I am enjoying so much more freedom. No more school run, no more school gates and no more having to take the children with you when you need a bottle of milk. Bliss.

I started the New a Year making commitments to a new exercise routine, work and mental well being goals. I was enthusiastic about starting Janathon, (writing and exercising everyday.) I had a pretty fab start to the year and then....

.....daughter number one became ill. 

It began with the high temperature and general tearful outlook. Then obvious to the naked eye swollen glands. It ended with a near trip to the hospital asthma attack. The result was me being trapped in the house with a sick child for five days, slowly going stir crazy. 

No Saturday run which I hate but does energise me. No gym, dance class or yoga. No just popping out for a walk round the shops or meeting someone for coffee. Being trapped indoors happens a lot when the children are babies, but how quickly you forget what it's like.

I was suddenly back to sleepless nights, and dozing listening for a call in the darkness.

The result was my mood dropped dramatically. I usually force myself to go out and walk everyday to help fight the depression. Unable to leave my daughter I didn't even walk the dog. I felt blue to my toes. I know from past experience that I will need a little time to get back on an even keel.

I have been told that I need to be honest with others about mental health issues. I am not suppose to pretend that I'm alright. But what do you do when you are honest with others but others only listen to what they want to hear?

This is sort of transcript to some of the conversations I have had today.

I ventured in to the outside world. Some understood that it was a terrible week. Others did not.

'You're looking a lot better!' Person x exclaimed.

'Actually, I've had a bit of a bad week and my mood is quite low at the moment.' I replied.

'But you are OK now,' person x said.

'No, but I'm sure once I get back into my routine I will feel better,' I said.

'But you are such a happy and optimistic person,' person x said.

'I do get described as that, but actually I suffer from anxiety and depression.' I replied.

'Yes but you do cope with everything,'  person x said.

I have actually made up the conversation from two people's comments. They certainly didn't want to hear things weren't OK. I suspected both people were hoping to ask a favour, they didn't. Deciding to be honest meant that I wasn't pretending that I was alright, and I was in a better position to say sorry I can't take anything else on at the moment.

When I first walked away I did think, what's the point in being honest if other people don't want to hear what you have to say. But on reflection I have decided it was worthwhile.

 I feel better about myself. I wasn't pretending I could cope. I wasn't putting on a fake smile. And best of all that horrible feeling of resentment wasn't there.

Honesty has taken away the fear of trying to be perfect and trying to be everything to everyone. Best of all I have been honest with myself. Which means I have decided to be a little kinder to myself about my to do list.       

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Halfway through Janathon

Halfway through Janathon!

This morning I went to a dance fit class and I enjoyed it so much I have pre paid for next week. I wish this class was held in the evening because I know my daughters would have loved it. My youngest daughter who is doing Janathon with me is finding it hard to fit in exercise around the school day. She signed up for her own dance class and it's been cancelled twice.

I'm still aching, but the pain is in my muscles not the joints. I think my general mobility is getting better, I didn't have a problem with all the steps at university last night. But I would be a fool if I didn't think there was a long way to go.

The best news is that I managed to get some writing done this afternoon and had my first pass at writing a picture book. I'm looking forward to yoga tomorrow. 

My daughter and I still haven't booked the badminton court, but we will.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Be kind we are all fighting our own battles

Day 11 of Janathon- we are approaching the half way point. 

I completed Havant Park Run this morning - I'm still only able to walk the course. Once again I've been surprised by the warm welcome and support from other runners. 

I've learned a lot by mixing with runners. The biggest life lesson is that they all find it hard as well. They find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Dislike running in the rain. You can hear the pain as they run. Most of the people I have spoken to have told me it took a long time to build up their fitness levels and stamina. It's easy to think when you are over weight to believe that slim equals fitness. It so it's refreshing to realise that it isn't easy for anyone. 

Be kind we are all fighting our own battles

I feel a bit better today because I was disappointed by my progress during the week. Yes I've started yoga again which is good, but I didn't do as much as I hoped. Next week I've arranged to go to a dance class with a friend. I would ideally like to start walking the park run circuit during the week to get my fitness levels up. Plus it would be nice to do it without worrying about time or the helpers standing around. 

So mentally up beat and positive which is great news after having a couple of really down days mid week. 

Bad news, can't get my jeans on my knee is so swollen! 
And I'm very worried by the way when exercise comes in - writing goes out. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Not falling into the martyr trap

The other day I came across a phrase on social media that caught my eye, Martyr Moms. What a great phrase I knew what it meant straight away. My own mother use to joke that she was the last on the list and first took off when it came to getting new things.

My mother rarely bought new clothes or got her hair done.  She didn't go out with friends or had any hobbies outside the home. She cared for us, but made us feel guilty. I am not ungrateful to my mothers sacrifices, but I think it resulted in me finding it difficult to see a married woman or mother as anything else but a drudge.

My mothers behaviour taught me that I didn't deserve anything nice. Motherhood is a noble sacrifice. Mothers are expected to put an 100% effort in, and be happy with a 7% return effort. We shouldn't mention what we want, we should stand silently in the corner and expect our loved ones to read our minds. Then we become bitter when we don't get what we want.

Now I'm not saying that we should be selfish. I have strong Christian beliefs, we should try to be generous and loving. But why shouldn't that rule apply to us to. If someone in the family is sick, we help, we nurture. But when we are sick we fall into a martyrs role, carry on, and resent the hell out of it. Resentment grows inside us, destroying any hope of happiness. 

Not one person in my family have complained once if I haven't finished the housework. They don't mind if I go to the hairdresser - they don't notice - but you know what I mean. Once again it is a matter of having self control over your thoughts and trying to stay positive.

Janathon has taught me that it is so easy to dismiss exercise claiming we don't have time. To maintain a high level of fitness you need the strength to make time for yourself. But the benefits of being fit to myself and my family surely would be a positive thing in the long run.

What changes I have made?

I have learnt to say no - unfortunately this hasn't been well received by some people, but I can't change what others think.

Instead of silently letting resentment burn, I speak up. I put effort into doing something for you - expect the same amount of effort back.

I'm learning to be my own best friend. Rather than waiting to be rescued, I am capable helping myself. The problem was that in the past I didn't feel like I deserved it.

When I'm tired I rest.

I exercise.

I try to do things I like and enjoy.

When things are bad I speak up and admit I need help.

It's not easy making changes to the way you think. What I needed to remember is that it wasn't my family that pushed me into a martyrs role I did it myself. 

Writing Competitions 2014 Monthly Short Story Competition - The top five stories each month will be published on the site and the first place story will be published in the annual anthology. First prize £100; 2nd prize £50; third prize £25. Closing date for submissions is the 15th of each month, limit is 5,000 words and the theme is dark fiction.More information about Spinetinglers monthly competition.


Inspired by My Museum . Any writer from anywhere in the world between the ages of 16 and 35 can take part. Entries can be up to 400 words. Only ONE entry is allowed per person. Closing date 10 February 2014. More information about the Inspired by My Museum competition.

The White Review short story competition - First prize £2,500 for a short story up to 7,000 words that expands the genre. Entry fee £15. Closing date 1 March 2014. More information about The White Review short story competition


Bath Short Story Award - No story theme'; 2,200 word limit. Entry is £8 and prizes range from £50 to £1,000. Closing Date is 31 March 2014. Find out more about the Bath Short Story Award.


Asian Writer Short Story Prize - Annual award for new and original fiction under 3,000 words. More information about the Asian Writer Short Story Prize.

Asham Award - this award is for women only. First prize £1,000. Entry fee £15 for a story up to 4,000 words. More information about the Asham Award.

BBC National Short Story Award - Annual award. First prize £15,000 for a short story up to 8,000 words. More information about the BBC National Short Story Award.


Berkhamsted Writing Competition- Story theme is 'Beginnings'; 1,000 word limitEntry is £5 and main prize is a £500 bursary for MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University. Closing Date is 4 April 2014. Visit the website for more information


Blue Thumbnail Short Story Competition. 3,000 word limit; entry is £6. First prize is Writers' workshop or Greek retreat, there are also related runners up prizes.


Bridport Prize - Yearly short story competition, any theme. More information about the Bridport Prize. The 2013 prize will be announced in the New Year.


Bristol Short Story Prize - short story, 4,000 words. First prize £1,000. Entry fee £8. More information about the Bristol Short Story Prize.


Cinnamon Press - this website runs monthly competitions. More information about the Cinnamon Press competitions


Commonwealth Short Story Prize - awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000-5000 words). Regional winners will receive £2,500 and the Overall Winner will receive £5,000. Translators will receive additional prize money.  More information about the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.


Costa Short Story Competition - short story up to 4,000 words long. First prize £3,500. Free entry. More information about the Costa Short Story Competition.


Creative Writing for All - First prize £60 for a short story up to 2,000 words on the theme 'Childhood Memories'. Entry fee £5. Additional entries £3. Any profits will be donated to Womens' Aid. More information about Creative Writing for All - Short Story Competition.


Curry Mallet History Festival Adult's Short Story Competition - First prize £100 for stories on the theme 'The reunion', 'The journey' or 'The letter'. Entry fee £5. More information about the Curry Mallet History Festival Adult's Short Story Competition.


Curry Mallet History Festival Children's Short Story Competition - First prize £35 for stories starting with the sentence 'My hamster is stuck in the piano!' for the aged 11 and under category and for the 12-16 category, either '"Ghosts don't sing in tune," she said' or 'I think our garden shed is a time machine.' Stories should be under 500 words. Entry fee £3 per entry. More information about the Curry Mallet History Festival Children's Short Story Competition.


Dark Tales - First prize £100 for horror and speculative fiction. More information about the Dark Tales prize


Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition - annual short story competition on any theme, maximum 1,200 words.More information about the Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition.


Eclat Fiction - regular competitions for stories up to £1,500. First prize £100. Any theme. More information about the Eclat Fiction competitions

Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story - awarded to the best short story collection. More information about the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story


Emerald Writing - First prize £75 for flash fiction. More information about the Emerald Writing prize


Exeter Writers Short Story Competition 2013 - First prize £250 for a short story up to 3,000 words. Entry fee £5.More information about Exeter Writers Short Story Competition.


Eyelands Third International Short Story Contest - First prize air tickets from a European city to Greece and back, and publication, for a short story up to 2,500 words on the theme 'Dream' and 'Getaway. Entry fee: 10 Euros. More information about the Eyelands Third International Short Story Contest.


Fiction Fast-Track - Apostrophe Books run monthly short story competitions. More information about Fiction Fast-Track


The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition - For very short stories from 250-1,000 words; first prize £200; entry fee £3 for one story, or £7.50 for three stories; closing date 31st January 2014. More information about The Fiction Desk.


Fish Publishing - this website runs monthly competitions. More information about the Fish Publishing competitions


Five Stop Story's monthly competition - First prize £50. Entry fee £4. 1,000-3,000 word short stories on any theme.More information about Five Stop Story. New competition every month.


Flash 500 - flash fiction competition for short stories up to 500 words. Regular competitions. More information about Flash 500


Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award - awarded to the best short story collection. More information about the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award


Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition - Annual competition. First prize £100 for a short story up to 2,000 words. Entry fee £5,50. More information about the Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition

Highlands and Islands Short Story Association Competition - annual prize for a short story up to 2,500 words. First prize £400. Entry fee £5. More information about the HISSAC.


Home-Start Bridgwater Short Story Prize 2013 - First prize £500 for a short story up to 2,200 words on any theme. Entry fee £7. Judged by Dame Margaret Drabble. More information about the Home-Start Bridgwater Short Story Prize 2013.


inkhead Short Story Competition - First prize £150 for a short story up to 1,000 words on one of the following titles: Grandpa's Ghost, The Sound of Crickets and Sighing Trees, Dangerous Andrew's Last Mission, A Day In The Life of Robot Ronnie, A Hero Sits Next Door. Entry fee £5. More information about the inkhead Short Story Competition


InkTears Short Story Competition - First prize £1,000 for short story 1,000-3,000 words, any theme. More information about the InkTears Short Story Competition.

Jukebox Story - a new monthly night and website dedicated to short stories inspired by songs (800-1000 words).More information about Jukebox Story


Leaf Books - this website runs regular competitions. More information about the Leaf Books competitions


Lightship International Short Story Prize - First prize: £1,000. Judge: Tessa Hadley. Max: 5000 words. Entry Fee: £12. Patrons: Hilary Mantel, Andrew Motion, Christopher Reid, Cynthia Ozick, Lindsay Clarke. More information about the Lightship International Short Story Prize and other competitions.


Limnisa Bluethumbnail Short Story Competition - First prize: one week writer's retreat in Greece for short stories up to 3,000 words on any theme. Entry fee £6 per story. More information about the Limnisa Bluethumbnail Short Story Competition.


Little House Short Story Competition - First prize £2,000 for short story up to 2,000 words. Entry fee £6.50. More information about Little House Short Story Competition.


The London Magazine Short Story Competition - 4,000 word limit, no theme, £500 first prize plus publication in The London Magazine. Closes 31st October. The competition winners will be announced in January at House of Commons event. More information about the London Magazine Short Story Competition

Meridian Writing Competitions - this website hosts regular writing competitions. More information about Meridian Writing Competitions


Momaya Short Story Competition 2013 - First prize £110 for a short story, up to 3,000 words on the theme of music. Entry fee £8. More information about the Momaya Short Story Competition 2013.


Mslexia Short Story Competition 2013 - First prize £2,000 for stories of up to 2,200 words. Judge: Janice Galloway. Women writers only. More information about the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2013.


Multi-Story - Bi-monthly competitions ranging from flash fiction up to 2,500 words. First prize £300. Entry fee £5 for one or £8 for two. All judges are publishing professionals. More details about the Multi-Story competitions


My Mate Kindle Monthly Competition - Monthly competition for short stories up to 2,000 words. More information about the My Mate Kindle Monthly Competition


The New Writer - regular poetry, short story and microfiction competitions. More information about The New Writer Magazine


Over the Red Line - bi-monthly competition with a £50 prize. Story must have a limit of 3,500 words. Visit Over the Red Line for more details. 


Park Publications UK - this website runs regular competitions. More information about the Park Publications UK competitions


The Rhys Davies Short Story Competition 2014 is open to all writers born in or currently living in Wales. There is also an Under-21 Prize which is open to writers aged 21 and under on the closing date. First prize is £2,000. Under-21 Prize is £1,000. Closing date is Friday 16 May 2014. Entry fee is £7.00 per story or £4.00 per story for the Under 21 Prize. Stories can be on any theme but must be no more than 2,500 words. More information about RDSSC

The Scott Prize - international annual prize for a first collection of short stories in English. Salt Publishing accepts submissions of short story manuscripts from 1 July to 31 October every year. The winner is announced the following April with a collection publishing six months later. More information about The Scott Prize


Senior Travel Expert Travel Writing Competition - Entry is free and the subject is 'travel writing' (fiction or non-fiction). Prize is £100 on a prepaid currency card and to have your story published on the site. Closing date is 1 June 2014. More information about STETW competition

Segora Short Story Competitions - regular competitions for cash prizes. More information about Segora


The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award - Annual award. First prize £30,000 for short stories of up to 6,000 words. More information about the The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award


The Thresholds Short Story Forum - Feature writing competition. First prize £250 and publication on The Forum.More information about The Thresholds Short Story Forum.


Tom-Gallon Trust Award and The Olive Cook Award - First prize £1,000 each awarded biennially, in alternate years. More information about Tom-Gallon Trust Award and The Olive Cook Award


V S Pritchett Memorial Prize - First prize £1,000 to the best unpublished short story of the year. More information about the V S Pritchett Memorial Prize


What needs to change? - First prize £200 for a short story up to 1,500 on any subject. What should we be talking about? Free entry. More information about LibArts London.


Whoosh Books Competitions - regular short story competitions. First prize £50. More information about Whoosh Books Competitions


The Willesden Herald International Short Story Prize - First prize £300 for short story 7,500 words max, any theme. More information about the Willesden Herald International Short Story Prize 2013-14.


Win Your Way to Swanwick - First prize: a week at Swanwick Writers' Summer School for short stories and writing for children up to 1,000 words on the theme '65 Not Out'. Entry fee £5. More information about the Win Your Way to Swanwick writing competition.


Words and Women Prose Writing Competition - Winner £600 and publication in an anthology.  Entry is open to all women writers over the age of 16 who live or work in the East of England. Entry fee £10. More information about the Words and Women Prose Writing Competition


The Word Hut Short Story Competition - Prize: £50.00. £4.00 per entry. 1,000 words maximum, any subject. More information about The Word Hut Short Story Competition


The Writer's and Artists' Yearbook Annual Short Story Competition - First prize £500 and a place on an Arvon course of your choice. Short stories up to 2,000 words on the subject of freedom. Free entry. More information about The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook Annual Short Story Competition.


Writers' Forum Short Story Competition - Ongoing monthly competition with cash prizes. More information about the Writers' Forum Short Story Competition


Writer's Worldwide Prize - this website runs regular writing competitions. More information about Writer's Worldwide Prize 

Writer's Village - First prize £1000 for a short story, any theme, up to 3,000 words. Entry fee £12. More information about Writer's Village.

Good luck - to keep up to date about writing opportunities why not subscribe to my blog :)


My One Word

Janathon Update - no planned exercise for today - but big run with a Cake Club tomorrow.

I have finally chosen my 'One Word.'

Like the site says,
'The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.'

My word - well two words are SELF NUTURE

The times you feel the worst are the most important times to do something kind for

Last year my husband moved to London to work. For a while I carried on with the business and then wrapped it up. My professional workload was as demanding as ever, and without a spouse to help, domestic chores were endless -- hours of driving our daughters to guides and theatre productions, walking the dog, collecting the garbage, shopping, cleaning, cooking, paying bills. Adding to the pressure was that I needed to try and get my own freelance work up and going. 

I made myself ill. My anxiety problems reached an all time high. At one point I couldn't drive. 

I was forced to learn the most difficult lesson in my life - I had to learn to say 'no.' And not just make excuses. I had to be honest and tell people the reason why I couldn't help, which meant admitting I was overwhelmed, admitting what caused me to feel panicky, and accepting there were only so many hours in the day. Trying to accommodate others meant that I was grumpy with my children and disappointed in myself.

Some people have been remarkably supportive. 

Some are no longer speaking to me. The parent group I was a member of to raise funds for the school has folded. Even one or two members of my church have told me how disappointed they are. 

Other still speak, but are huffy and offended - convinced that the fact I can no longer jump in and rescue is some personal slight at them.

It has been a learning curve. 

Now I feel it's time for the next step.

I want to learn to be a bit kinder to myself.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Customer service is a lost art.

We are now living with an entire generation of disinterested shop assistants, rude waiters, indifferent  company receptionists and medical staff who frankly don't give a damn whether you ever cross their  doorway again.

Personally, I mourn for the loss of customer service. I long to be always right in just one aspect of my life. There actually used to be a saying that "the customer is always right." Hard to believe isn't it?

Bad customer service doesn't always mean that you end up with a customer shouting and ranting - for me it can leave me feeling incredibly sad and tired. What bad service suppliers fail to understand is that most customers just want what they are promised, whether it's a product or a service.

I went to optometrists in the village to buy some new glasses. The girl was friendly - but simply didn't listen. I found a pair I loved, but I was concerned that the frames were too small. I asked her what she thought, but even though another customer was being served by another member of staff and his carer, she was jumping out of the seat to help them. I waited for her to serve someone else and then asked if the frames would be big enough, she said yes. When I came to pick them up another member of staff said they were to small.

At this point, when I found out that the pair did not fit I should have been strong and asked for my money back - I didn't and months of hassle started.

Customer service mistake 1 - it is easy to make off the cuff remarks about it only being such a price when they aren't paying. And to be honest even if I was loaded, I don't think it would matter. I truly think the price of the item is irrelevant.

There were no other pairs of glasses that fit me in the store, plus I liked the original pair. I was told a new selection of glasses would be sent into the store.

Customer service mistake 2 - acting as if they are doing you a favour instead of apologing. I went to try on new glasses. They had obviously not bothered to look at the pair I liked. I was told how much trouble they had gone to. I no one like someone trying to make you feel guilty.

I should have put my foot down then. I hate someone trying to manipulate me. If I'd been dealt with properly in the first instance we wouldn't be in this situation.

Customer service mistake 3 - trust. Once lost it is difficult to gain back. I didn't believe or have faith in that they would be honest in helping me to get the correct product.

Customer service mistake 4 - calling customers behind their back. Sitting in front of a shop listening to them call me 'that woman' when I had maintained my temper at all times and spoken to staff politely very difficult. In fact it took a lot of will power to even return to the shop. I'm ashamed to say once upon a time I would have never returned and wrote off the deposit.

What really hurt me was when I got home I realised they had knowly sold me a pair of glasses with a chipped lens. You could see where the lens had been forced into a new frame. 

It was hard but I phoned back immediately, explained the problem - but the manager never even bothered to phone back. I was so tempted to leave it, but I returned the glasses this morning and asked for a refund.

An offish member of staff did a little I can't see the clip act, then gave the refund. However, I managed to stand in silence. After months I got a sniffy apology and told it wasn't their fault. They have already proven themselves to be the sort of shop were they complain and grumble behind customers back.

Three months ago my husband and I made a deal - no more writing off poor customer service. We both hate these situations. I'm glad I stood up for myself and although I feel drained. In the long run I think it's better for your self esteem to actually demand to get the goods you pay for. Letting things like this go doesn't led to an easy life. It may have taken me a long time, no one likes to voluntary go into a shop and deal with people with an attitude. But battle won.

The biggest win for me is that although sad and tired, I still tried to carry on with Janathon with a long walk with the dog. Unfortunately, it ended with a short battle getting the dog out of a bramble bush.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Anyone who thinks a minute is short hasn't been on a bike

My busy schedule and my New Year's resolution to get consistent with exercise seem to be clashing. I'm so excited about my new part time job which allows to be at home with the children and provides the regular income that's hard to maintain while Freelance writing. Doing the books for contractors seems to be a perfect solution - however, although I wasn't prepared to find things in such a muddle, I'm eager to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in.

Although, I'm pleased with the progress I made over Christmas I'm itching to get back to writing - but it's time to try and put things back together. And get the family back into a routine.

So my Janathon progress has slowed down on Sunday - family party and 300 mile drive, and Monday business banking and book keeping. What I don't want to happen is to fall into the belief I don't have time to exercise.  Anyone who thinks a minute is short hasn't been on a bike. A few minutes on Facebook flies by, but the same amount of time drags on when you're doing a gym routine.  It's easy to say "I don't have time" when it's something we'd rather not do anyway. 

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to going back to yoga. Perhaps choosing exercise I like rather than my daughters favourite activities will help.

I have also found two sites that I'm interested in;

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.

See more at:

And, Blipfoto a site which lets you save and share your life in photos, one day at a time.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

“You can’t fly like an eagle if you hang out with turkeys!”

My exercise today has been walking around the Trafford Centre, I'm 2,000 steps short of my target of 10,000 steps. But, I do love 70% discounts and finding out I've dropped a jean size. Yeah!

No writing has been done, even though I have a burning idea for a piece of flash fiction. Alas, four people in a Premier Inn isn't a great location for writing. 

We saw some of my husbands family today - it could have been difficult but the assertive training has paid off. I can't believe how ill, nervous and on occasion sucidal before these visits! They tried it on of course. We had arranged the date and time three weeks before. In writing via email. Of course it was the 'we are going out for lunch with the other grandchild you will have to come at such and such time instead.' 

One upon a time this would have upset me so much. We have driven 300 miles to see them. Couldn't everyone go along? What about, 'All I am saying is give peace a chance' etc...Today, although I reacted at the time of the phone call I quickly calmed down and was able to stand back from the situation. I can put my hand on my heart and say I couldn't intentionally be that rude to anyone. That is something I like about me. Some people in our lives are simply not worth tussling with. Time is valuable, so unless there’s something important at stake, don’t waste it by trying to change or convince a person who’s negatively entrenched. As the saying goes: “You can’t fly like an eagle if you hang out with turkeys!” 

With two pre teen children it is vital to teach by example. Our reaction was 'Fine. We will see you when WE can,' not surprisingly later in the day the phone call came asking if we could come and visit. And we did, when it was a good time for us. The most important thing to keep in mind about bullies is that they pick on those whom they perceive as weaker, so as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. Many bullies are also cowards on the inside. When their victims begin to show backbone and stand up for their rights, the bully will often back down. 

Moving away means that when you come to visit you can see people who have moved on with their lives and those who are still stuck in a rut. For some the roles they act out are unconscious scripts of how unhealthy family life is played out. The real sad thing about the situation is that it keeps people disconnected from true intimacy. Their behaviours causes people to distance and disconnect from each other. It is way for people to attempt to stay safe, feel important and stroke their own egos. 

But finally through prayer and meditation I have realised that participating in the drama of secret keeping, the power of who knows what, who is invited where is so negative. It keeps people stuck in lies, jealousy and vulnerable to unhealthy manipulation.

I can't help wonder if the exercising is actually helping my mental strength as well.