Monday, September 30, 2013

Margaret Jennings Writing Retreat - continued

I'm sitting writing my blog while someone else prepares a beautiful meal for me. I had a lovely pasta meal with salad for lunch, followed by a French Chou Pastry. My host made me a cup of tea, took away my plates and told me to sit back and write. The sky is blue, it is warm outside but cool in the villa. I can hear the sounds of the running water in the pool. 

Apart from the fact I haven't slept properly yet (long standing problem nothing to do with the bed,) and I miss my loved ones back home, I think I'm beginning to unwind. I tried to talk to my children this morning, but the dog took over the FaceTime call. My little doggy seems to have noticed I've gone. It must be bad because my husband admitted letting him sleep in the bed last night. 

I've written another two thousand words on the story I started. Plus I completed one of Margaret Jennings writing exercises. I was asked to write a poem about my first sexual encounter - no way I was doing that - or a romantic moment I remember. 

Poetry and talking about feelings, and I thought I was suppose to relax on this break. 

Margaret let me escort her to Usclas to collect water from a spring. It wasn't bending down with empty plastic bottles in a mountain spring, instead it was a green water hydrant in a little village. I still haven't decided if I like the buildings or countryside around here. It is a strange shabby chic. I have never seen as many different shades of stone, beige and orange colours. 

Anyway, poetry and photos below for you to enjoy - or not! C'est la vie!

And I died as I drove home

His bottom lip reminded me of an orange segment
the kind found in tins at Christmas,
used to decorate cheesecakes at school
or hidden in the jelly of a trifle.
It was sweet, full, filled with promise.
Eyes a soft grey suede, textured within
were effervesce when he laughed.  
A strong jaw line, neck made for kissing.

Hot lava swirled inside me,
my body betraying me to feelings
which I refuse to recognise. Doubt,  
about who I was invaded. I longed to be
wood, solid, safe invincible to his charms.
He created heat with his touch
when I needed to be ice. And,
those eyes prevented my escape.

A faded shirt, cords worn at the seam
I pretended my feeling were virtuous 
my aim was to look after, not to succumb.
I denied my hand the right to rest on his chest
stopped my head from leaning on to his shoulder.
My lips would never press against his skin.
The maelstrom inside would be quietened 
desires held in check, his aroma forgotten.

A firm grip which did not tighten or
break the bones in my fingers
held my hand as we walked to the car.
The pain of saying goodbye hurt my throat.
Stars in the clear icy night were tears.
Lips, soft, wet, tender and surprisingly cold
touched my cheek, a warm goodnight whisper
kissed my ears. And I died as I drove home...

...until he phoned the next day.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

First impressions of my French Writers Retreat

On Saturday morning the plane landed on the runway of Montelliper. I passed men in army uniform with strange blue hats, and guns that looked like they were made of plastic. Laptop in my hand luggage I strode forward ready for my writers retreat. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but judging by the location, a beautiful villa in the South of France. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be disappointed. And I was right. Beautiful views, delicious food (fresh bread, delicious ham, a selection of beautiful cheeses, not to mention and English roast on Sunday), and interesting company was clearly a winning combination.

I'm pleased by my word count, well into six thousand words in two days. The retreat, organised by Margaret Jennings, who has a MA in creative writing and is a talented writer is relaxed and fun. It is very strange having someone look after you, making you meals, setting writing activities, and listening to you read.

Today we has a lazy walk to the river. I was fascinated by the difference in wildlife - the size of the ants for example! I tried to take some pictures of the local wildlife and flora.

Helen Larham Guest Blog

Helen a regular member of The Writers at Lovedean is now the proud Centre Stage Poet of a wonderful poetry magazine Decanto.


I am a poet and busy Mum living in Hampshire And I have an ongoing ambition to have a collection of my poems published. I have had Poems published in: South 39and 42, Reflexions, Rain Dog,
Salopeot, Sarasvarti, Inclement, and Decanto Poetry Magazines. I have twice been placed highly commended in the Winchester Writer's conference poetry competition. I have had a poem included an Art exhibition. In the form of a written response, to Nick Shlee's painting, Buscot weir. I read my work regularly at the, Tongues and Grooves, poetry events in Portsmouth, and the Poetry CafĂ© in
Winchester. And I am a member of The Writers at Lovedean, writers group.

Yesterday I was chuffed to be offered 'Centre stage' poet by Decanto poetry magazine. I have been a contributor and subscriber to this magazine for a number approximately 3-4 years. Being a Centre Stage poet,  means that I will be the highlighted poet in Decanto for that issue, not sure if it is this coming November or next. The editor requested I send a head and shoulders photo, some extra poems; they will publish 3-4 instead of the 2 already excepted.

I also had to fill in a questionnaire of 12 questions.  This took me a couple of hours as the questions were quite extensive. Questions ranged from how long I had been writing, about 23 years, to who and
what things inspire me to write. This made me realize that my husbands paintings have provided a lot of inspiration over the years.  The Writers at Lovedean, especially Charlotte Comey's workshops have given me a lot of inspiration and helped to improve my writing a great deal. I was asked 'What did I think of 'Traditional and Modern poetry?' I tend to write free verse, I find writing to a rhyming scheme a bit constricting. However, I like some traditional poets, such as Betjeman.  I. enjoy reading modern poets. I like poetry that captures emotions and ideas in a way that is not constrained into any rigid
form. For me, it is the emotion, or idea that poem is trying to communicate that is important, not the form it takes.

The question I found the hardest was: 'Do you think poetry still has a place in our culture today'
I don't believe I would be a poet if I thought poetry was irreverent in our culture today. I believe poetry provides an important outlet to communicate and entertain, a vehicle for me to find my voice. Poetry
has provided me with the opportunity to be part of a wealth of creativity that exists, has always existed in this country. Although I am unlikely to get rich writing poetry, I think more people than ever
before are reading, and writing poetry.

From my experience I would say, If you like writing poetry, don't give up. Keep persisting, sending your work off to publishers. I have been writing for many years, and contributing to poetry magazines for
about 18 years. But, I don't think I would have kept going as long as I have if I didn't love writing poems. For me, nothing else makes it worth while.     Decanto Magazine

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tower Workshops Creative Writing in Portsmouth

Portsmouth is the home to a large and active community of authors, poets and scriptwriters from a wide range of backgrounds, with a wealth of experience and knowledge that may help you to improve your writing, or gain some practical tips on the business of selling your work.

These valuable Tower Workshops have been arranged by Jack Hughes at The Square Tower, Broad St, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO1 2JE. Workshop starts at 7pm. 

Jack Hughes is an author, historian and broadcaster. He was born in Essex in 1976 and has lived in Hampshire since 1990. He has two Masters degrees in Creative Writing and Heritage Studies at the University of Portsmouth and a BA in History. He also been a guest reviewer on local radio, and is currently working on a maritime history project in conjunction with the BBC. 

Works by this author include:

'Shadows of the Temple' series: 

Dawn of Shadows (2003)
Covenants of Shadows (2010)
Fall of Shadows (1999)
Shadow of Winter (2011)

Writers will be able to access the knowledge of seventeen local writers and poets at the workshops.

The next events will be on;

Wednesday 30th October 'Day of the Dead'
Flash and short fiction workshop and readings. This will be followed by an open mic session of spookily-themed work by the Portsmouth Writers Hub.

Wednesday 27th November 'Pitch Perfect'
How do some authors find an agent in seconds? A good pitch can sell a story. test your pitch/synopsis before a judging panel. The X-Factor comes to the Tower!

Wednesday 18th October 'Going it alone'
Many new authors begin their careers by self-publishing and e-books. Self-publishing authors will be offering advice on this rapidly expanding market.

Come one - come all!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Day of the Dead

Well worth a visit;
The Day of the Dead

An evening of chilling tales. Expect the undead.
Fancy dress encouraged, not obligatory. 
Refreshments available.
£4 tickets, £3 library members
Tickets on the door
from Central Library, Southsea Library, Hayling Island Bookshop

This events follows "In a Flash" 
the Writers’ Hub Tower Flash Fiction Workshop in association with the University of Portsmouth. 
Students attend performance for free. Info:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to write an writers bio

You have written and edited your story or poem. The competition comes and goes, but you miss the deadline date. Why? 

While running a writing group I have often seen people miss a deadline and I have put it down to lack of confidence. And sometimes that's true. However, over the years I have realised it's because some people don't have the basics ready and waiting on file.

If you don't have a bio and head shot DO IT NOW. I cannot stress how important it is for a writer to have this on file. It doesn't even need to be a good bio. The point is when a deadline looms it is easier to edit a couple of paragraphs than to write something from scratch.

Make a list of everything you do in the writing community and keep a note of it. You will forget. 

'No,' I hear you say. 'I'm proud of getting into that poetry anthology. And when I won third prize for a flash fiction competition I was so pleased I danced a jig.'

Yeah right! Write a list. Weeks turns to months. Months turns to years. And at 10:30 at night, an hour and half before the midnight email deadline, when you are looking at a blank page trying to write a bio, YOU WILL FORGET.

Have a brief bio and an author headshot photo (in jpg format) ready before you even start to look at where you can send submissions. If you look at any of the pages on websites you will see that everything more or less follows the same format.
The Bio (in the third person) should include: 
a) where you are from
b) a short list of publications in which your work has previously appeared
c) any books you have published
d) any awards you have won or been short-listed for
e) any other literary credits (editing work, writing schools attended, etc.)
f) any additional  information 

Next big sigh is the headshot. I hate having my photo taken to. Suck it up, and just do it. If you have a phobia of technology find a teenager. They will happily take a picture of you on their phone, crop it, remove red eye and send it to you in a jpg format for you to keep on file. You can find lots of teenagers outside shops at seven thirty at night who will perform this service for a Mars bar.

There is no excuse for you not to have these basics ready.

That includes people who are now saying, 'but I haven't had anything published.'

We all started that way.

You enjoy writing - that's the first line of your bio done for you. How long have you been writing? What inspired you to start? You get the idea.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Writers webpage - my next step in 'The Plan'

Last year I went on a social media course lead by Chrissie Lightfoot. I started a blog, got a Facebook page and learnt how to tweet. The focus of my blog was my journey of getting that first 'proper' publishing deal. 

Well I managed to the first part of my master plan. I have secured a couple of educational resource book publishing deals, and become a member of The Society of Authors.

Now it's time for my next step. 

Getting my writers platform co ordinated and off the ground. 

I spent yesterday creating my own website. The first problem I was forced to overcome was the realisation that my IT support person - my eleven year daughter - was at school.
Alone in the house I gave battle with the dreaded technology.

I've had to think long and hard. Although proud of my non fiction book, do I use my website to advertise it? In the end I decided no. My books are filled with lesson plans, AF Levels and specialised information for a small niche market. They are on the publishers web site and are advertised to school by them via mail shots and specialised marketing.

I've heard from aspiring authors who tell me they haven't bothered with a website yet because they don't have a book to sell. When they get a book published, they tell me, there will be plenty of time to build a website. But according to The Society of Authors they have it backwards. You don't need a website in order to sell published books, there are plenty of bookstores willing to fill that function for you, including Amazon. 

Unpublished authors need a website to help sell their manuscript so it can get published, and then to help market the book so the publisher will oblige them with royalty checks and new contract offers. 

The strategy behind building an author website is not about selling more books today, or next month. It's about having your own strategic marketing asset for years to come. Most professional authors lead a hand-to-mouth existence, living from advance to advance, always trying to line up the next book contract, and the one after that, even before they finish grinding out the title they're working on at the present.

But most authors, if they want to keep writing for a living, have limited choices. They never create an independent marketing platform so their main professional qualification as an author is the books they have in print. When those books disappear from the shelves, the authors become yesterday's news. A well conceived website platform doesn't have an expiration date. Unlike online stores and social networking sites which live in fear of the next big thing to come along and destroy their business model, websites based on content retain their value as long as the content remains relevant.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fears icy fingers

After a sleepless night it is here. Today I enrol at university. Icy fingers are clutching my bowels. I'm terrified.

But what exactly am I scared of?

I'm investing hard cash and time into myself.
The children will come home from school to an empty house. They are older now and have been trained on how to cope. I will be home at six. But guilt comes with motherhood I guess.
The driving and parking is high on my list.
Next is the IT requirements. I had to ask for help in registering online. I prefer to be self reliant. I still haven't managed to up load my photo from my phone. 
Worries about editing and proof reading my work are also a major concern. 
I've read the information the University has sent out and I'm still unsure this is actually the right day. I can't make heads of tails of what I'm suppose to do - especially the details on finance! 

And if I'm completely honest, I'm a little frightened about my hospital procedure on Friday - which is also silly because its a day operation.

According to articles online, mature students are worried about fitting in. I've never fit in, but I am concerned about being loud.

So there they are. All my worries real and imagined.

Now the only thing to do is walk the dog.
Get my jobs done for the day. 
And then go and enrol.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Group Etiquette - There's nought(nowt) so queer as folk

It's that time of year again. I've been asked to write about writing group etiquette. 

First point - I'm from the North, I'm proud of the fact I call a spade a spade. I never say anything behind anyone's back that I wouldn't say to their face. I find accepting criticism easier than receiving praise. I like to thank people, and easily get narked when people forget their p and q's. I tell the same rabbling stories over and over again when I'm feeling stressed, and tend to be the person who needs to break the silence with a joke. I love helping people, but hate being taken advantage of. I'm a hard worker, but I hate editing. My biggest problem with writing is grammar and proof reading.

Why have I started with this? Before you start looking at your writing group, take a look at yourself. What do you like? What do you dislike? Is the problem with the group or with yourself?

When I first moved to Hampshire I went to two writing groups before I settled. I'm not comfortable in small clicks - welcoming new people is important to me. I went to one group which was unfriendly. When no one invited me to sit with them during coffee, I left during the break. 

Here is my basic list of points when attending a writing group. I found most of these points in emails complaints over the last five years of running a group.

1. When you turn up, don't expect to be able to spend twenty minutes talking about yourself and/or your project, while describing what YOU want from the group. Like any club, it has its own ways of doing things, it's never a good idea to want to come in and change everything to suit you on day one. Likewise, 

'I have just self published a book, I have never been to this group, and I will never come again, but I came this morning expecting you all to buy my book for £9,' 

tends to annoy people!

2.If you want to catch up with people, come early and have a chat in the kitchen, use the breaks, go for lunch afterwards. Most people want to read and get something back.

3. Everyone is late sometimes or needs to leave early. But is it fair to interrupt someone  else reading, with the story of your lost keys or annoying husband? Or get upset because everyone didn't stop their writing exercise to shout hello? If you're late come in sit down and say hello at break. If you need to go, get up and go, leave your mug and go out quietly.

4. Now this is one I personally struggle with. Someone reads, it prompts a story in your head and you need to share. You can't cut this out completely or the groups becomes as dry as toast. But it's not great to be clock watching while you are waiting for YOUR turn, and then you decide it's time for a massive chat while others are waiting to read. I'm proud of the fact that even when we had twenty people - everyone who wanted to read got a turn at The Writers @ Lovedean.

5. Try and not sort out your papers and fidget when someone else's reads. Especially if the organiser is an ex special needs teachers - I pounce.

6. Once you decide to share your work you have given up ownership. Could you cope if someone turned around and said, 'I hate it?' If the answer is 'no' think about the hundreds of places you can send your work and receive written feedback. There is always someone in a group who won't like it.

7. Pick who you receive criticism from. If you read romance and write romance, who in the group do you take advice from? The woman your age who also reads romance novels who suggests you spice things up a bit? Or the military expert who thinks your novel would work better if you rewrote it in the Second World War, add a spy, and a Nazi? 

8. Another one I personally struggle with - despite what writers say - most of them would prefer you to be kind rather than honest. I have no problems being told that my hero eating his love would not be suitable for People's Friend, and is 'weird even for me.' Most people aren't. Be kind with your comments, remember you are critiquing the story not the person.

9. Being over sensitive. You have asked for feedback!

10. Going around saying please proof read my novel for free, but when asked to read someone else's work you are busy. This will get writers gnashing their teeth. Just remember most writers have worked out the perfect murder! Sometimes when I read I print out copies, and ask people to spot the mistakes. It can be off putting because it feels like Bingo while you're reading. Or go for a coffee with other writers and swop stories. That way you are both proof reading at the same time.

11. The long ramble when it's your turn to read comes up a lot in the top ten of complaints of every single group I've belong to. 'Which one should I read?' 'It's no good.' Not only are you eating into your reading time, but usually there is someone next to you waiting to read. It's normal to have those thoughts, and everyone uses the 'it's a first draft,' occasionally - but not every week.

12. Not paying your way. It's interesting, but this happens in every club and organisation I've been a member of. I remember a massive feud in a staff room caused by someone frequently not contributing to the coffee club, and taking cookies out of the charity box without paying. Normally laid back people can become incredibly touchy on this one. If someone gives you a lift at least offer to pay towards the parking and petrol. If you don't want to buy a drink for someone, say no when they offer to buy you one. Writing groups are not the place to describe how broke you are. 

13. At the end of the day - it's a writing group. Keep things in perspective and chill. Not everyone is going to share your views on religion, politics, education, child rearing, work, laws, illegal immigrants etc. That's not the writers group problem. People have different views on life.

Remember the wise words,

 "There's nought(nowt) so queer as folk" which means " There is nothing as strange/weird as people" 

(This saying has nothing to do with a persons sexuality) 


Friday, September 13, 2013

Jane Bwye - Guest Blog


Jane Bwye has been a businesswoman and intermittent freelance journalist all her life. She lived in Kenya for over half a century, where she went to school, and brought up her large family.
A world traveller, she buys a bird book in every country she visits. Now "retired" to the UK, she mentors small business start-ups, judges dressage, and advocates for the elderly, while indulging in her love for choral singing, tennis, bridge, and walking.



1.  Can you share the premise of your latest project?

I am trying to write a novella called I Don’t Want to be Here, based on something that happened to me, although it is not my true story, as I feel freer when expressing myself in fictional form. It’s a story that must be told, based on what can happen to a couple when one of them falls very ill, dramatically changing their lives.

2  In particular, what led you to write?
It has always been easier for me to put my thoughts down in writing, than to speak them. My first book, Breath of Africa was written as a catharsis, when we moved from Kenya to retire in the UK. I was able to re-live my experiences in the country I still call my home, and I re-discovered a joy in making up stories.


3  Is there a key person or group that has inspired you in the process of writing?
The Authonomy peer review website, set up by Harper Collins played a major part in the development of Breath of Africa. I made many friends on this site, and received valuable advice and support in the book’s journey to Gold Medal status.


4  How do you envision your work will impact your readers?
Breath of Africa means different things to different people. It can be read as a love story, a psychological thriller, or as an exploration into the interactions of people of different races. Superstition and Christian faith clash, and the stunning beauty of the country is a major character in itself. It has also proved to enlighten many on the recent history of Kenya since Independence.

As far as I Don’t want to be Here is concerned, I guess readers will identify with the main characters, if they have had a similar experience. They willrealise that they’re not the only ones going through a crisis, and perhaps learn something from it.


5.  As you embarked on writing your book, what was the overall message you wanted to convey to your audience?
That outsiders may not to be too quick to take sides, condemn or judge, without knowing the full story.



6  What process did you go through to build the narrative of your book?
A very long painful process! Both books started with short stories. With both, I knew what the ending was going to be. I just had to fill in the gap. When I went to a writers’ conference, I realised I had to learn the difference between a story and a plot. I still have to keep reminding myself of itFor me, the story was fairly straightforward – it wrote itself, once I got down to it.

It was the plot which took some manipulating - the exercise of bringing each chapter to a climax, and yet providing a tantalising hook to draw the reader onto the next chapter. It is a skill which I found hard to develop, and I would change the order of some chapters more than once.

I also found myself writing chapters out of order, as the whim took me, thenslotting them into the storyline by manipulating the beginnings and the endings. It didn’t always work.


7. In every author’s experience, there is often a pivotal event that results in the creative process. Can you describe the pivotal event that led you to write your book ?
The pivotal event which led me to write I Don’t want to be Here was when my husband contracted cancer over twenty years ago, and we have been living with the consequences ever since.


8.  Are there any tips you can share on what parents can do to foster the love of reading and books?
Take away the television set and the mobile phone!! It was easy for me to become a bookworm at an early age, as I had neither.

Seriously, though, I don’t think parents, or anyone, should try to foster love of anything in children. The children will develop their own likes and dislikes. Example is the best way to arouse an interest. If the parents curl up every evening with a book, read a bedtime story, and discuss books with each other, a receptive child will take note.

One thing I did do with my children, however, was to insist on an hour’s quiet time after lunch every day. They were encouraged to sleep, but there was also a bookcase full of fairy tales in their bedroom. The volumes were calledThe Golden Pathway, and The Children’s Encyclopedia. That said, only one of my six children, now grown up, is a regular reader.


9. What aspect of life do you want your readers to know about?
I would not presume to try and educate my readers. They will draw their own conclusions. I am merely setting out my thoughts and experiences in asinteresting and entertaining a way as I can.


10. Describe the role books played in your own life.
The only time I did not have a recreational book to hand was when I did a distance education degree, and even then, I was reading study books!

Books and the worlds they have opened up to my imagination have had an enormous impact on my life, and how I regard it. I cannot imagine anyone growing their lives without this amazing way of finding knowledge, understanding and a semblance of wisdom.

In this day and age, one cannot afford the time to reinvent the wheel. To my mind, the written word is the most prolific way to learn in depth from the experiences of others.



Facebook Author Page:






The e-book can also be bought from the publishers: Crooked Cat:



List of publications:

BREATH OF AFRICA. Published by Crooked Cat 2013
ST. WILFRID’S, A HISTORY.  2013. A simple account of the major happenings in our church.
MUSEUM MIXTURES. A Cookbook, Published by the Kenya Museum Society. 1989
Numerous articles, short stories, reviews and two newspaper columns published in Kenya and in the UK. 1960-2008

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Free Entry Writing Competitions

Free Entry Writing Competition for 2013  - 2014

October 2013

Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize
Fiction and non-fiction interpretations 1,000 - 1,500 words.
You must be between the ages of 18-25 to enter.
Prizes: £750, £500
Closing date: 31 October

The Eric Gregory Trust Fund Awards
30 poems by a UK author under the age of 30 on March 2014
Prize: a share of up to £24,000
Closing date: 31 Oct annually

Playing Bingo Poetry Competition
Bingo themed poetry
Prizes: £150, £100, £50 and web publication 
Closing date: 31 October

Tom Gallon Trust Awards
Short stories 5,000 words (authors must have least one story accepted for publication)
Prize: £1,000
Closing date: 31 October annually

November 2013

Erewash Writers 'Full stop' Short Story
2000 word fiction on the theme of 'full stop'
Closing date: 7th November

The Betty Trask Prize
First novels for writers under the age of 35 on 31 Dec
Closing date: 30th November

Somerset Maugham Awards
Full length books published in the UK by authors under 35 on 31 December
Prizes: up to £6000 for foreign travel


Harper's Bazaar Short Story Competition
Short stories up to 3000 words - theme 'spring'
Prize: Publication
Closing date: 13th December

Holland Park Press What's your Place?
For poetry up to 50 lines about your neighbourhood
Prize £100
Closing date: 31 December 2013


James White Award
Sci Fi 2000-6000 by non professional writers
Prizes: £200
Closing Dates: 31th January

Northern Writers Awards
New writers in Yorkshire, North Easr & North West
Poetry, Prose, Children's Prose, Bio, Life Writing or Literary Non Fiction
Closing date: 31th January 2014


Limousin Writers Short Story
Short stories up to 300 words titled 'Second chances'
Prize: weekend in France
Closing date: 10th February

The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook Short Story Competition
2000 words - theme - freedom
Prize:  £500
Closing date: 15th February

BBC National Short Story Award
Short stories up to 8000 words
Prizes: £15000, £3000, three £500 all broadcast on Radio 4
Closing date: TBC end of February

Playing Bingo Short Story Competition
Bingo themed short fiction 1,500- 3000
Prizes: TBC (usually cash)
Closing date: TBC February 2013

Kelpies Prize 2014
Novels aimed at children aged 8-12
They must be set in Scotland 40000-70000 words
Prize: £2000
Closing date: 28th February annually

Wergle Flomp Humour Poetry Contest
Prizes: $1000 ten $100
Closing date:1st April annually

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Deliberately bad opening lines to novels.
Prizes: Tend to be fun.
Closing date: 15th April

Divine Chocolate Poetry Competition
Annual chocolate theme poems (TBC in February)
Age groups 7-11, 12-16 and 17 +
Prize: chocolates & book tokens
Closing date: TBC 30 April

Write a story for children
Up to 2000 words - complete short story or opening chapter
Prizes: £2000, £300, £200
Closing date: 30th April


William Soutar Writing Prize 2014
Short stories up to 2000
Prizes: Arvon writing course
Closing date: TBC June 2014

Other sites worth checking but you will probably have to pay an entry fee

Dark Tales

The Yeovil Literary Prize

Writers Bureau Annual Short Story

Lightship Literary Prize

The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition


Writing Magazine



Monday, September 9, 2013

Waking up with a start!

Starting your day off with anxiety is never easy. It essentially sets you up for a struggle, because anxiety tends to beget more anxiety. When you wake up with anxiety, you often find that your stresses are all you can focus on, and every little thing that occurs throughout the day only adds to it.

Anxiety may also lead to more nightmares or more stressful dreams. Often when you are woken up in the middle of these dreams, you feel exactly as you did in the dream – stressed and anxious.

But this morning I know exactly what was the cause. 

Watson my West Highland Terrier.

I woke up thirty five minutes ago, I'm still shaking.

For those of you who don't have young children zhu zhu pets are small electronic toys that whizz around the floor or in a track. 

I awoke this morning with something small and furry travelling at great speed up my shin. I panicked stood on the bed, backing up fast banged my head in the wall, fell and cut the back of my head open on our metal bed board. At this point I still thought it was something live. I flopped off the bed and started to scream at the dog to get it. 

Of course he was happy to jump on the bed and dive under the covers. He found it alright. Slowly, I realised that it wasn't a real rat or mouse. He didn't shake it, instead he stood on the bed with it in his mouth, tail wagging. The settled on the bed with his new toy. 

Trying a different approach

I'm usually a good time management person. Over the last couple of months I've began to sink under my work load. I would get so far, hit a brick wall which usually had a plug on the end, ie printer, computer. So I would start something else. Nothing was getting finished.

My partner has worked as a Project Manager in the software industry.  I saw a completely new side to him on Sunday. We walked the dog, had a coffee, and looked at my workload. He looked at the list, and the first thing he did was insist that anything that wasn't my responsibility was bounced back with a message  that I was to busy to complete. He refused to listen to any comments of why I HAVE to do it rather than the other person. My to do list dropped by a third.

He didn't want to know 'what' the work was just the completion dates. Each task was then broken down into exactly what was needed to be done. He scribbled percentages in the margins. It was a challenge for me handing over control.

Three important emails were sent out, 
My manuscript was formatted (with Simons help - what am I trying to prove and to who?) and sent out.
BEFORE I started formatting the second manuscript I sent an email to the publisher checking if they wanted me to do it since it had already gone out for peer review.
I registered on my University course - I still need a photo!   
I purchased my book list.
I contacted the landlord.

I'm not sure how this method worked or if I could use it alone. What was completely beneficial was having twenty minutes in a cafe discussing my workload, my plans, the tasks I needed to do. Time focused entirely on me. 

This morning I have not jumped out of bed to walk the dog, go to the gym and dash to complete chores. I have a dentist appointment at 10:30. It was Sunday yesterday, I worked. I'm now relaxing until my appointment, then I will start on things when I get back. It will be interesting to see how a more relaxed approach will affect my productivity. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What is a writer's platform?

What is a writer's platform?

Your writer's platform is basically the group of activities you engage in that get your name and work noticed by the public. It's everything you do to build your brand.

Why Build One?

If you are currently unpublished, the fact that you are building a platform and marketing yourself looks great to publishers. Publishers love authors who are willing to get out there and market themselves. The fact that you're already doing so proves that you're the kind of writer they want to get behind.

If you're already published, your publisher undoubtedly expects that you will get moving on your platform as soon as possible. 

When to Start?

Some professional authors have a carefully crafted public face.

A simpler way is to just be yourself and tends to be preferred because fake personas are difficult to maintain, and the public is good at identifying fake marketing.

Building a brand can be fun, rewarding work that fits in well with the writing life and gives a social balance to what can be a solitary occupation. But it is hard work and time consuming - no one can do it for you! Everyone starts off unsure of the technology, but it can be mastered.

What do I need to do?

Website/Blog: Starting a website or blog is an easy, cheap way to launch your platform. You can be set-up with a basic blog literally in minutes.

Social Media: Once you've got your blog up and running, the next step is to start using some social media tools to help drive traffic to the blog. The two main tools for this at the moment are Twitter and Facebook. Start with these, and once you get comfortable you can evaluate other newer tools as they appear.

Public Speaking: Speaking at writer's groups can help you build your brand, and meet other writers. 

Teaching: Another great way to get your name known, and to make a bit of extra cash. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Katie Gill - Guest Blog

At the Victorious Festival this young poet caught my eye, her work had so much energy. I think this is a name we will hear in the future.

Name: Katie Gill
I am 19 and have been writing poetry since I was about 14. It is largely autobiographical as I am inspired by things I have experienced personally and by what people close to me have been through. I am also inspired by Kate Tempest and Sylvia Plath. I will be going to Queen Mary University of London soon to study English. I hope to become an English lecturer in the future whilst pursuing my writing. 

In particular, what led you to write?
I had always written short stories and poems when I was very young and I have always loved reading; my Dad nurtured my love of literature by giving me lots of different books and encouraging me to read widely. Experiencing different styles of writing spurred me on to take my writing seriously and I started writing poetry when I was about 14. I remember that my English teacher read the poem 'Edge' by Sylvia Plath on National Poetry Day when I was about 15 and I was so blown away by the powerful imagery and language choices and so moved by Plath's life experiences that I was inspired to write about my own experiences and feelings.   

How do you envision your work will impact your readers?
People have told me that my poetry is quite dark so I hope it doesn't leave people feeling depressed! I hope that they can read or listen to my poems and relate to certain feelings that I discuss. I hope that they find the strong emotions moving and engaging.

Are there any tips you can share on what parents can do to foster the love of reading and books?
When I was little my parents always made sure that they read to my sister and I every day and my Mum took us to the library regularly to choose books. When we were learning to read Mum would sit down with us every night and help us. I think that this instilled a love of literature in me from a very young age and I believe that encouraging children to read when they are still young can help them to grow up with a positive attitude towards books. Finding some time each night, no matter how little, to sit down with a child and help them as they are learning to read a book can give them the confidence to continue reading into adulthood and to enjoy doing so. I also think that taking a child to a library so that they can choose books themselves will inspire them to read more as they will be more likely to read a book that they have chosen and that they are interested in.

What aspect of life do you want your readers to know about?
A lot of my poetry is quite personal but it covers topics that people could relate to, particularly teenage girls. Its no coincidence that I started writing poetry seriously when I became a teenager and experienced the changes that ensue and the pressures that can arise. Its a bit of a cliché but young people can feel pressures, be that due to school, the media or peers and hopefully by talking about my own experiences people may relate to certain poems and feel less alone or become more aware of topics that have a lot of stigma attached to them.

Twitter: @katiegill_


I am taking deep breaths and praying for patience this morning.

Yesterday, I was the model of activity. But my technology decided to hinder rather aid.

Edited my manuscript on the computer - yeah.
Couldn't print it out to go over with a red pen - no.
Designed my new web site - yeah.
Couldn't save template and lost it - no.
Started working out my business plan - yeah.
Couldn't print it out or get the values to stay in the box - no.

It is so frustrating when life is one step forward and two steps backwards.  I gave up around 12:30 last night. 

The question is, am I frustrated with technology or my own inadequacies? I truly believe that life is a set of skills, and with determination we can master those skills. Then you start clicking, nothing happens and you want to throw the thing through the window.

I have an hearing problem, not volume - so no help available from hearing aids. I find it hard to hear certain frequencies. The hearing specialist says that my hearing is similar to being tuned between radio frequencies. Not that I'm aware of it. It only comes up during mispronunciation, other people get frustrated when I fail to repeat a word back correctly.

I have tried to learn a language four times. At school I remember being called in before my options, Mr Webb gave me a chocolate digestive and informed me that the language department had managed to allow me to drop German. I cried, and promised to try harder. Mr Webb said it would be impossible for me to try harder, and because of my nature and determination they were worried that my other subjects would suffer. But after my pleads said he would think about it.

I of course, studied hard on my own, and then tried to impress him with my German. I would have been better if I had kept my mouth shut. I was off the course.

At college I tackled Russian. Again it ended with the tutor asking to have a little chat. While working in Kiev I was proud to get to the point where I could read a little Russian, understand what people were saying to me. But when I opened my mouth no one could understand a word.

I then had a go at speaking Fersi because my friend was from Iran and her mother couldn't understand English. She came over to take her granddaughter to school, and was so lonely we tried to teach each other. We would spend the morning cooking and chatting thinking we were doing great. Then my friend would come home, and we would often find out that we were having to different conversations. I talked her into volunteering in the kitchen with me for the church, she'd been helping for five weeks before she found it was a Christian group - she would have been in trouble with the law at home. I was a bit more successful at her teaching me belly dancing.

Recently, I had a stab at French. I had an opportunity to practise yesterday, he didn't understand a damn word. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to school

My youngest daughter is going to senior school. 

In the words of Forrest Gump: That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Congratulations Abigail Comley and Sophie Lee

Last night The Writers at Lovedean went down to Rosie's Wine Bar to take part in a live story evening called,'Write Invite' run by Rob Richardson. It was a great evening, and a brilliant turn out from the group. The members reading were;

Mick Cooper
Lynne Stone
Margaret Jennings

I was pleased that some members took that brave first step to read aloud. It is very difficult to stand in front of the crowd. First time readers were;

Sophie Lee
Barbara McMeekin
Abigail Comley

The level of stories were incredibly high. 

I was pleased and proud when Sophie Lee came in third place - first time out - very impressive. And that my little girl Abigail Comley scooped up second place. 

Needless to say that the writing bug is very strong at my house at the moment. It was a lovely night and it had a great atmosphere. I would strongly recommend checking out Rob Richardson site and competitions. 

This Saturday he's running a day out for writers which is a bargain for £10.

Rob Richardson
Write Invite - Short Story Competitions