Monday, March 31, 2014

Starwell or Holy Well Bidderstone

Well, the day before Mother’s Day was a truly horrendous day. Clean, ironed, folded washing put back in the dirty laundry basket, small fibs coming to light, lost passport.  I had obviously had enough of being a mummy. I have to say that the troops did indeed step up to the mark at the eleventh hour and turned everything around. I awoke to lots of gorgeous presents and two hot buttered crumpets.

Twenty years ago I did my teaching practice in Chippenham. I remembered a local spring where if you were willing to plunge your hands into freezing cold water and sieve through the mud at the bottom. I wanted to go back there because I want to use the star shape fossils in a young adult novel I’m planning. The troops were a little uncertain. So off we went in the car complete with dog in the back on a research mission.

 I had printed out the directions;
"East of a spring - they call it a holy well, - where five-pointed stones doe bubble up (Astreites) which doe move in vinegar." (Aubrey 1969, 45) The seventeenth-century Wiltshire antiquarian John Aubrey notes with his characteristic air of scientific enquiry the outstanding feature of this most magical of Wiltshire wells. Holy well is a natural spring rising at a fault line between the cornbrash layer of the Great Oolite and its overlying clay. Blocks of masonry nearby indicate that the well once had a stone surround and drinking trough, but these have apparently been moved aside and now the spring has returned to its natural state, flowing from a hole in a fold in the land.”

Then after a few wrong turns, finally using latitude and longitude, sinking in mud, crossing a small stream we found Starwell or The Holy Well. In the sandy bed of the spring can be found tiny fossils shaped like stars, which are constantly being freed from the fossil-bearing cornbrash by the action of the spring water, which brings them to the surface. These stars are the isolated stem parts, or columnals, of crinoids, the plant-like sea-creatures commonly known as sea lilies. Crinoids are related to starfish, hence the star-like shape of the columnals; and because they are made of calcite, they will indeed (if you can bear to destroy them) effervesce in a dilute acid solution like vinegar.

Once my daughter found the first little star she was on a mission. It was lovely, and we would probably be there still if another family who liked to throw large stones in the water hadn’t shown up.

It was a lovely day. The tension from the day before had faded replaced with lovely memories and I got some of my research done.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Can you write when you are tired?

Freelance writers enjoy new challenges, meeting deadlines and working to a flexible schedule. But we all get burnt out. Deadlines appear in clusters. Rewrites are needed when you are working against the clock. And the electric kettle decided to die just after 2 a.m.

Plan Ahead

Thursday evenings tend to be crazy for me, the children need lifts home from after school activities, they need to be driven to Guides and music concerts, PCC meetings tend to fall on that evening too. So I plan ahead. When you have rushed around with your Mum hat on it is easy to put off work until the next day when you have had a good night's sleep. But what if you have a tight deadline to meet? Why should a client be sympathetic when you tell them you have not been able to deliver because you had a meeting at school to attend. It is highly possible that they too will be juggling deadlines. I try to work to the 'never leave until tomorrow what can be done today!'

A little planning ahead can go a long way.

Caffeine (and chocolate) Helps! But then so does exercise!

If I'm writing fiction, it is nice to wake up slowly and hit the keyboard. A brisk walk in the fresh air is good for non fiction and book keeping tasks. No one can dislike exercise as much as I do, but it does help honest!

When is Your Most Productive Time

Freelance writing allows some the opportunity to work a flexible schedule. Why not experiment with different work hours to see when you are at your most productive? That way, you will be more alert and able to get much more done. But make sure you keep a time sheet to log your writing hours. It is really helpful when you have to price jobs to know how long tasks REALLY take you.

It's not easy to write when you are tired, but it is certainly possible! I know many of us claim to be creative souls who can't concern themselves with the mundane. Writing is a job. Working is tiring. Many of us supplement our income with other jobs. But remind yourself that other occupations can be just as exhausting if not more. And if you are lucky enough to be working from home you are not getting up at 5 a.m to face a commute. Blessings counted, it's time to go back to work!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writers' Village Short a Story Contest

I received an exciting message today from John Yeoman. It appears that I got a fact wrong when I mentioned the Writers' Village Short a Story Contest.

The top prize is actually £3000 now and total prize values are £4500!

Here are the details from their website.

Win a £3000 ($4800) prize for your short story

Cash prizes totaling £4500 ($7200) can be won in the Writers' Village International Short Fiction Competition summer 2014 for prose fiction in any genre up to 3000 words.

The first prize is £3000 ($4800), with a second prize of £500 ($800),third prize of £250 ($400) and 15 runner up prizes of £50 ($80). 

The top 50 contestants, whether they win a cash prize or not, will also gain a brief personal critique of their stories.

That's 50 opportunities to win a valuable prize!

The Writers' Village award is one of the world's largest short story competitions that specifically welcomes new writers from anywhere in the English-speaking world.

Prizes will go to those writers whose short stories show the greatest originality, mastery of the craft skills of creative writing, and power to move the reader.

The new summer 2014 contest follows the continuing success of the previous 11 Writers' Village short story competitions, entered by writers from all over the world. 
The judges for the short story award are:

Lawrence Block
 is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery and suspense genre. He was named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards. His most recent novels are The Burglar Who Counted The SpoonsHit Me and A Drop Of The Hard Stuff. He's well known for his books for writers, including the classic Telling Lies For Fun & Profit and The Liar’s Bible

Jill Dawson
 is the Orange and Whitbread-shortlisted author of eight novels including Fred and EdieThe Great Lover and Watch Me Disappear. Her most recent, The Tell-Tale Heart,will be published in 2014 by Sceptre. She teaches creative writing for the Faber Academy and Guardian/UEA and works individually with new writers at Gold Dust, a mentoring scheme for writers which she founded in 2010.

Dr John Yeoman
, MA Oxon, MA (Res), MPhil, PhD Creative Writing is a university tutor in creative writing and has been a successful commercial writer and publisher for 42 years. He established Writers' Village in 2009.
The new contest deadline is midnight GMT Monday 30th June 2014. Early entry is advised. 

Gain a £500 ($800) bursary to complete your debut novel

Here's a new opportunity to win a full professional critique of your soon-to-be-published novel.

Every calendar quarter the Writers' Village Foundation will endow several bursaries having a notional cash value of up to £500 (approx.$800) each. The bursaries must be redeemed for copy critiques at the Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory Service. Two bursaries worth up to£500 each will be awarded in the current round ending midnight GMT 31st March 2014.

The principal judge for the Foundation awards is novelist Michelle Spring, a mentor for the Arts Council’s Escalator program and a Royal Literary Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Friday, March 21, 2014

WRITERS: Children’s UK Fiction Publishers

Running a writers group I get sick of sending out the same information. I hope this is of use to some children's authors out there!
Akira Press Publications
 Andersen Press Ltd
 Ashgrove Publishing


 Award Publications Limited

 Barn Owl Books

 Barny Books

 Barrington Stoke

 BBC Books

 Bender, Richardson, White

 Bespoke Books

 BIS Publications

 Black & White Publishing Ltd

 Black Leaf Publishing

 Black Sheep Books

 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

 Book Guild Publishing

 Boxer Books


 Brown Watson

 Buster Books

 Campbell Books

 Cat's Pyjamas

 Cat's Whiskers

 Caxton Publishing Group

 Chicken House Publishing

 Child's Play

 Child's Play (International) Ltd

 Christian Focus Publications

 Constable & Robinson Ltd

 Corgi Children's Books

 Crazy Horse Press

 Crowswing Books

 D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd. - Publications

 David Fickling Books

 Doubleday Children's Books

 Dref Wen

 Egmont Books

 Everyman Publishers Plc


 Faber & Faber Ltd

 Feather Books

 Floris Books

 Frances Lincoln Publishers

 Frederick Warne

 Gairm Publications

 Glowworm Books

 Gomer Press

 Granta Books

 Gullane Children's Books

 Hamlyn Children's Books

 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

 Hawcock Books


 Hodder Children's Books

 Honno Welsh Women's Press

 Hood Hood

 Horus Editions

 House of Lochar

 Icon Books Ltd

 Ivy Publications

 JM Dent

 John Hunt Publishing Ltd

 Jonathan Cape Ltd


 Kids at Random House

 Kingfisher Publications Plc


 Lion Children's Books

 Little Tiger Press

 Little, Brown Book Group

 Livewire Books for Teenagers

 Macmillans Children's Books Ltd

 Magi Publications



 Meadowside Children's Books

 Methuen Children's Books

 Michael O'Mara Books Ltd

 Miles Kelly Publishing

 Milet Publishing Limited

 Mulitlingual Matters


 Nightingale Books

 Octopus Publishing Group

 Onlywornen Press Ltd

 Orchard Books

 Our Street Books

 PicadorlYoung Picador

 Piccadilly Press

 Pinwheel Limited

 Pipers' Ash Ltd


 Pond View

 Pont Books

 Priddy Books


 Ragged Bears Publishing Ltd

 Random House Children's Books

 Rockpool Children's Books

 Roy Yates Books

 Scholastic Children's Books

 Scholastic Ltd

 Scottish Cultural Press Scottish Children's Press


 Scripture Union

 Short Books


 Simon & Schuster UK Limited

 Siphano Picture Books

 Souvenir Press Ltd


 Tango Books

 Templar Publishing

 The Bodley Head

 The Five Mile Press

 The King's England Press

 The Lutterworth Press

 The Orion Publishing Group Limited

 The X Press

 Thynks Publications

 Treehouse Children's Books Ltd

 Usborne Publishing Ltd


 Walker Books Ltd

 Wizard Books

 Wordsmill & Tate Publishers

 Wordsworth Editions Ltd

 Working Partners

 Y Ddraig Fach

 Zero to Ten Ltd

WRITERS: List of Erotic UK Fiction Publishers

Today's list of useful contacts. It may surprise some to realise that our small Hampshire based writing group contains three erotic fiction writers and a couple of steamy romantic novelists!

Accent Press
 Black Lace
 Black Leaf Publishing

 Diva Books

 Great Northern Publishing

 Honno Welsh Women's Press


 Millivres Prowler Group


 Pink Flamingo


 Souvenir Press Ltd

 The Oleander Press

 The Women's Press

 The X Press

 Virgin Books Ltd

 Zipper Books

WRITERS: UK Magazines accepting short stories

Here's a list of UK magazines who accept short stories. Good luck!

5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs, CB6 2LB
The Editor, Granta Magazine, 12 Addison Avenue, London, W11 4QR, UK
Take a Break Fiction Feast
The People’s Friend
Short Fiction Literary Journal
Woman’s Weekly

If you found this post useful, why not follow.

WRITERS: Flash Fiction Publishers

Do you want to get your work out? Flash fiction is a great place to start. Because I run a writers group I’m frequently asked for places to submit work. So my next few blogs are going to be lists of useful sites.

List 1 - Flash Fiction 

Please check that they are opened to submissions before sending your work.
100 Word Story features stories under 100 words… no more or no less.
1000 Words want to be inspired by a photograph? Or perhaps one of your own?
1110 is a small, high-quality print journal.
3:AM Magazine is an edgy, online magazine
Apocrypha and Abstractions specializes in very short fiction, of 500 words or fewer.
Brevity publishes well-known and emerging writers working in the extremely brief (750 words or less) essay form. They have featured work from two Pulitzer prize finalists, numerous NEA fellows, Pushcart winners, as well as many previously unpublished authors.
The Collagist considers all lengths of fiction, from flash to novella. Writers may submit upto three flash fiction pieces at a time.
Diddledog  Almost any genre is acceptable, excluding erotica or porn.
Double Room is a journal of flash fiction and prose poetry. They seek high quality work that questions, challenges, exemplifies, expands, discovers, explodes, and examines the “margins” of prose poetry and flash fiction.
Dark Fiction Magazine  They are on the hunt for flash fiction at its most epic and inviting submissions of original and previously unpublished high fantasy stories of up to 1000 words.
Flash Fiction publishes stories from 500 to 1,000 words in length. They look for previously unpublished material, with the exception of their Classic Flash selections.
Flash Fiction Magazine publishes work no longer than 360 words. Writers may submit up to eight pieces at a time.
Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.
Flash Fiction Online
Flash Fiction SW
Flash Fiction Competition This quarterly open-themed competition for fiction up to 500 words has closing dates of 31st March, 30th June, 30th September and 31st December.
Gay Flash Fiction Gay Flash Fiction showcases flash fiction and poetry which is GLBTQI friendly, and has a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Intersex theme.
Lamplight Magazine A quarterly for literary dark fiction, both short stories and flash fiction.
Monkeybicycle features one-sentence stories.
Postcard Press is a micropress publishing one very short story, essay or poem each month in the form of a 4x6 postcard.
Quickfiction publishes stories 500 words or less
Quarterly West  Fiction, Flash Fiction and Non Fiction.
Romance Flash seeking quality flash romance fiction excluding heavy erotica that is under 1,000
Slick Friction is now accepting submissions for erotic romance flash fiction. Word count should not exceed 750 words.
Smokelong Quarterly publishes flash fiction up to 1000 words.
Two Sentence Stories Big stories in two-little sentences.
Vestal Review is the oldest magazine dedicated exclusively to flash fiction under 500 words. It is devoted to what they consider an underrepresented type of fiction: flash (or short-short) stories.
Word Riot publishes the forceful voices of up-and-coming writers and poets. They like edgy. They like challenging. They like unique voices.

If you have found this blog post useful, why not sign up to be a member.


This is a common question at my writing group, one I wish I could easily answer. However, this is a good starting point.
The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (A&C Black) publishes an up-to-date list of UK agents, along with the types of book they are interested in. There is a separate publication for children’s authors. The Writer’s Handbook (Palgrave) also contains this information. There are also several websites you can consult - for a fee. All you need do is peruse the list of agents, develop a shortlist of around 20 who handle your kind of book, then visit their websites, one by one, to whittle your selection down to your three favourites.

Here are some examples of the agents who are seen as the top of their specialisms.

JUDITH MURRAY of the agency Greene and Heaton represents Sarah Waters and specialises in historical and literary fiction.

PETER ROBINSON of the agency Rogers, Coleridge & White represents best-selling general fiction author Joanne Harris. 

VERONIQUE BAXTER of the agency David Higham Associates specialises in fiction for children. The agency represents Anne Fine and is the leading children’s writing agency in the UK

SARAH BALLARD of the agency Agents represents Nicci French and has a particular interest in psychological thrillers.

BILL HAMILTON of the agency A M Heath represents Man Booker prize-winning Hilary Mantel and specialises in literary fiction.

JANE GREGORY of the authors’ agents Gregory and Company represents best-selling crime writerVal McDermid and specialises in crime fiction and up-market commercial fiction.

Next is your pitch to your agent.