Yes, Sir! Soccer and Sunrises

Just a quickie from me before the football starts!

Yes, it’s England v. Scotland tonight (Euro 2020) and although we are not normally a soccer-watching household (I mean, why don’t they just do away with the first half and make it much more interesting?), we thought it might be fun (?) to cheer on our respective nations.

Did you know that the Scottish team’s unofficial anthem is ‘Yes, Sir, I Can Boogie?’ (for reasons that are too convoluted to go into here). I’m sure you did.

Be warned: if you watch that video you will be singing the jolly tune all day and all night, as I have been doing. And if you don’t remember the 1977 song from Baccara (one-in-black-one-in-white), where have you BEEN?!

Oh, OK. You weren’t born. Fair enough.

News on the novel submission.

It’s gone – the pitch and the actual manuscript – to some editors-who-might-be-interested-in-a-WW2-saga.

But I’ve been warned not to expect any response for at least six weeks! There’s a lot of waiting in this hoping-to-get-published game, isn’t there? (Sorry, I have a bad case of hyphen-itis tonight. There I go again).

Anyway, as and when I hear anything, I will report back.

Write About a Sunrise

Now, if you fancy a little writing challenge, the folk at the Scottish Book Trust (yes, Scotland is my theme), have launched another of their 50-word-story competitions, which is free to enter and open to non-Scottish folk too and closes on 29th June 2021.

They want you to write a story featuring a sunrise and here are the terms and conditions.

Good luck if you have a go. And even if you don’t want to enter the competition, the photo could work as a prompt or story starter, couldn’t it?

Read, read, read!

I am reading lots at the moment. Probably because I’m not writing!

Today I finished reading a novel that I’d been looking forward to for months.

And the ending was really disappointing. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I wanted for the characters. But I won’t tell you what it was, because I’ll spoil it for you.

By the way, if you entered my giveaway for the Nicci French book, I announced my winner (Lynda M) in the last post – and I even put a photo of the lucky wheel of chance on there. Look closely and, if you entered, you’ll see your name.

I’m always telling (advising/suggesting to) my classes that they should read a lot.

Stephen King says if you want to be a writer you should do two things above all else: ‘Read a lot and write a lot’ but I wasn’t always sure exactly why it helped, until I saw a quote from Hilary Mantel (who, let’s face it, knows a bit about writing), on the Mslexia newsletter that popped into my inbox a couple of days ago:

This is what she says about reading: ‘If you are a great reader then you can become a great writer. If you read many novels, and many different kinds of novel, the principles of novel writing will be encoded deep inside you…. If you are a reader, then you know subconsciously how to tell a story.’

Ah, yes, that makes sense.

Hilary Mantel is judging the Mslexia novel competition, by the way, which you might want to consider if you have an unpublished novel and £25 to spare and this is what she has to say about novel-writing.

So, never feel guilty about spending time reading. Read lots, read everything and anything.

What’s the last great book you read? Tell me and perhaps I’ll read it too.

Posted in Books, Competitions, Kate Nash Agency, Novels | Tagged | 1 Comment

Book Giveaway (Nicci French) & A Couple of Competitions

Nicci French Giveaway

I am reading (the hardback version of) ‘House of Correction’ by the fabulous duo Nicci French and it’s brilliant. One of those books that you just can’t wait to get back to.

It’s about a woman who finds herself in jail, accused of murder. “They all believe she killed him. How can she prove she’s innocent?” She fires her solicitor and decides to defend herself and she has to put the case together from prison. It’s gripping!

And lucky you, I have a brand new paperback version to give away.

I’ve got a subscription to The Capital Crime Book Club and this month’s bundle-of-joy included ‘House of Correction’ which, obviously, I’ve already got, so I’m giving it away.

If you’d like to be in the draw, just leave a comment to that effect and on Sunday evening (13th June) at 8pm I’ll do a random draw to decide the winner. UK only (sorry!).

UPDATE: 13th June. I’ve now drawn the winner, using the nifty Random Name Wheel of Fortune (see below) and Lynda McMahon’s name was picked out! Well done Lynda. A message and the book will be winging their way to you soon!

Wheel

Working Class Writers’ Prize

If you consider yourself a working class writer, you might be interested in a new competition being run by the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook folk.

You’ve got until 16th July to submit a sample of your writing, which must be the beginning of an unpublished work-in-progress no more than 2,000 words in length and a one-page synopsis for the full manuscript. You must also include a short piece of writing (200 words) in the Covering Letter section of the on-line entry form about yourself and why this prize speaks to you.

And if you’re wondering why we need competitions like this, you might find this article about the Common People project interesting (I did!).

Louise Walters Books Page 100 Competition

I featured the Louise Walters’ Page 100 competition last year but only gave you a few days to enter, so this time I’m giving you lots of notice: it doesn’t close until 30th September.

As you may remember, it’s a quirky competition which asks you to submit page 100 – and only that page – of your unpublished novel or novella.

It’s only £6 to enter and the winner will receive a full manuscript report of their novel or novella, four LWB books of their choice and a £50 book token.

There are runners-up prizes too.

All the details are here.

Good luck!

Bonnie In The Buttercups

Bonnie in the buttercups June 2021

Bonnie has had her hair cut! Boy, did she need it.

In fact, the big pile of fur on the table after the dog groomer had done her stuff, looked like… well, like another dog!

And now she’s all little and smooth and it’s hard to believe she’s 8 years old because she looks like a puppy.

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions | 16 Comments

(In which I) Carry On Waiting…


I write to you with a sore left arm because yes, I am all ‘vaccine-d up’, to coin a phrase.

I had my second dose this morning and oh, bliss, unlike the first time, the person administrating the needle didn’t cause me severe pain!

It was just a little scratch in my arm, so insignificant that I’m actually wondering if anything happened! But I do have a sore arm now, so that’s OK then.

Gazebo taken at a jaunty angle

In other news, we have bought a ‘gazebo’. That’s a posh word for a plastic awning, to be honest BUT with the addition of a few jaunty bits of bunting it does look rather like we’re preparing for a village fete (with those seats we’d be the people at the entrance to the fete, with a metal tin full of change, fleecing you for all your cash). I like it!

It’s been something of a godsend in the HOT (yes, actually hot and sunny) weather we’ve been having lately, as it means I can sit in the garden without frying to a crisp.

The Novel

Right, news on the ‘novel’… well, there’s nothing much to say except, there has been a small delay in proceedings. (For once Not My Fault!)

If you remember, in the last instalment, the novel was declared to be ‘ready’ for the outside world and before he went on holiday last week, my agent wrote a pitch, which I graciously approved and he was due to send the pitch out to lots of lovely editors, in the hope of tempting them to ask to see The Whole Thing.

But then, I got an email from him … and you know when you look at an email in your inbox and before you open it, you can read the first few words?

Well, the first few words were, “After a lot of discussion, we’ve.…” and my heart sank!

– “after a lot of discussion, we’ve realised we’ve made a huge error in taking you on…”
– “after a lot of discussion, we’ve decided it’s time to reveal you’ve been on Candid Camera* all this time! Gotcha!”
– “after a lot of discussion, we’ve agreed the novel stinks and you need to rip it up and start again.”

These are the thoughts that flashed through my mind.

So, when I read the email and it said that they’d decided not to send out the pitch until Robbie was back from holiday (mid-June) because they are currently sending out another pitch for another of their novels to the same editors (and it doesn’t make sense to have two novels from the same agency competing for editors’ time), I was elated and, quite frankly, would have agreed to (almost) anything.

So, there you are. It’s all still in limbo.

But that’s fine. I’m enjoying the relaxation in our lockdown rules and have been catching up with friends (some have even been to stay!!) and doing my usual: forgetting that I am supposed to ‘Carry on Writing’ (see what I did there?) and pushing all thoughts of the next novel to the back of my mind.

Evesham Festival of Words Competitions

Congratulations to readers of this blog, Wendy and Julia (and possibly the winner Jennifer too but I don’t know for sure), who were placed second and third, respectively, in the Evesham Festival of Words’ 6-word story competition, which I mentioned on here. The results were published today and are as follows:

Our annual Six Word Competition has now closed, after receiving an impressive number of 249 entries! The worthy winner was Jenny Moore, with her entry ‘Apologetic magician seeks recently vanished assistant.’ Second place was won by Wendy Janes with ‘He lost pounds. They weren’t his.’ Third was Julia Thorley with her entry, ‘Missing man. Suitcase on baggage carousel.’ Many congratulations to all three winners and thanks to all who entered.

Aren’t they good? And every one is an actual STORY, inviting you to fill in the gaps and imagine what might have happened before and after. I’m impressed. If you’ve ever tried to write an original 6-word story you’ll know how hard it is.

The Festival now has a Limerick competition (theme ‘Around The World’) running until 30th June. It’s free to enter, one entry per person and please note that I am shortlisting (i.e.: I’m a judge!) so don’t put anything on here or on your entry that would identify you as it’s all judged anonymously and if I know who’s written one of the entries, it will send me into a tizz. Am sure you understand.

Have a go! Limericks are fun. You can be amusing and even a bit saucy, if you wish. (But go steady with the sauciness. Think ‘Carry On’** rather than ’50 Shades’ because nothing too rude will make it past our very strict censors!)

*yes, I am that old
** yes, I am even older

Posted in Competitions, Kate Nash Agency, Novels | 8 Comments

I Am Back! (did I miss summer?)

Two things ‘of note’ have happened:

1. Today, I got my hair cut for the first time since DECEMBER 2020. Aagh. No, I will not post a photo but trust me, it looks better (and my head is a lot lighter).

2. I seem to have written a novel.

And this second point is the reason that I’ve been away for so long (and now it’s gone all wintery so I think I must have missed summer). Since I embarked on the third draft, I’ve spent a huge number of hours on it (I daren’t admit how many because you’ll be expecting nothing less than a Booker-prize-winning tome…!).

Anyway, I sent it to my agent on Sunday night and he has now responded to say that it’s ready to submit to publishers.

Now, let’s not get too excited. There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip, as the saying goes. There’s no guarantee that anyone will want it, for a start.

BUT (and this is a big but, deserving of capitals), whatever happens, I have finished a novel, properly, for the first time in my life and it kind of makes sense and it’s not too bad. (Will that do, for an elevator pitch? ‘It kind of makes sense and it’s not too bad’?)

I will keep you posted!

So, I am having a little rest now from this novel-writing lark because it is Hard Work.

I listened to (fabulous) novelist Clare Chambers interviewed last week and she said how much she loves reading. She compared reading and writing to hosting a wedding or being a guest at a wedding. If you’re a guest (reading!), all the hard work’s done for you and you can enjoy it. If you’re hosting the wedding (writing!) you have all the stress and the hard work. I thought that was a good analogy.

Evesham Festival of Words: 6-word story
Evesham Festival is running its ‘6-word story’ competition again and you’ve got until 31st May to submit up to 6 entries (but they must all be sent in one email and in the body of the email too).

Make sure your entry is 6 words, by the way! It might sound obvious but one entry had to be disqualified this week because the word count was wrong.

It’s free to enter and there are book token prizes. All the details are here. I have nothing to do with the judging of this one, so can’t (sadly!) be bribed.

Posted in Competitions, Novels | 25 Comments

Oh, Olive!

As the pub is called ‘The Churchill Arms’ & my novel’s set in WW2, the outing was excusable, as it was ‘for inspiration’.

Just dropping by – quickly – to say hello, as I am supposed to be working, as you may remember. Aagh, not panicking at all.

The weather here’s gorgeous – I hope it is with you too – and on Friday we finally did something we’ve been promising ourselves for about a year: we walked across the fields to the next village and went to the pub (ahem, we sat outside of course).

As I had to get back to the computer screen that afternoon, I only allowed myself a diet Coke, not the G&T which was the ‘post lockdown dream’ but never mind, there will hopefully be another occasion, by which time I’ll definitely have earned a triple double.

Characters

In an on-line class today we talked about good characters in fiction (and on TV and in film because they all count) and I forgot to say ‘Olive Kitteridge’. Have you read the book (and the next one, ‘Olive, Again’?). I know, I know, I am late to the party. There’s a TV series and all sorts now.

I’ve listened to the first Olive book and am now on the second (audiobooks, brilliantly narrated by US actress Kimberly Farr) and they are so good. I can’t remember the last time I loved a fictional character as much.

I have embraced Olive to the extent that when my OH asks what’s for dinner I have been known to yell ‘Strawberries!’ in an American accent.

Yes, I love Olive Kitteridge. In fact, I am rationing myself now because I don’t want ‘Olive, Again’ to end.

Hold on… I have to text the dog clipper, who wants to know when she can come and ‘do’ Bonnie. Yes, the dog is getting a haircut before me.

Literary Festivals

Hay on Wye Festival (digital) 26th May – 6th June 2021 is free again this year. You just have to register and then you can attend as many events as you like (although of course, donations are welcome).

They’ve got so many events, it’s quite mind-boggling when you look at the site, although I do quite fancy Event 52, ‘Graham Norton Book Club with Marian Keyes and Richard Osman
Join us online: Sunday 30 May 2021, 7pm – 7.50pm BST’ (sorry, can’t seem to directly link to it)

Evesham – Wellbeing Event (Zoom)

The Festival with which I’m involved – Evesham Festival of Words – has just set up a new, live on-line ‘Wellbeing’ event for Saturday 12th June.

It’s just £10 for 3 sessions on Zoom (bargain!) and you can do all three or just one or two, as you wish. And there are gaps in between so you can grab a coffee or powder your nose!

I have done the ‘Pilates For the Pen’ workshop myself (and will be doing it again) and can can particularly recommend it if you want to go off and write, write, write afterwards. It will relax you and put you in the right frame of mind.

The 3 sessions are:

• ‘Chasing Rainbows: The Power of Creativity to Heal’ with Alice May
• ‘How to Sing in the Rain – Building a Toolbox of wellbeing strategies in the time of Covid 19’ with Rachel Kelly
‘Pilates for the Pen: Guided Creative Writing Workshop’ with Cat Weatherill

There are more details here.

Maybe I’ll ‘see’ you there!

PS: And in other news, when our neighbour returned the previously faceless table tennis ball that had been WHACKED across the wall, it looked like this. Aw!

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Events, West Midlands | 1 Comment

Easter: The Goodies & The ‘Baddies’

Goodies courtesy of author Helen Matthews. Ooh, I love a giveaway.

Look what just arrived in the post!

Lucky me, I won two of Helen Matthews‘ books (‘Lies Behind the Ruin’ and ‘After Leaving The Village’) AND a lovely jubbly Easter Egg in a giveaway on her newsletter.

Interestingly, ‘After Leaving The Village’ won first prize for the opening pages of a novel at Winchester Writers Festival. There’s a really interesting interview with Helen here, in which she speaks more about her research for that book and how it’s resulted in her raising money for a related charity.

This year’s Winchester Writers Festival competition (plus others, not novel-related), is open for entries until 28th May. There’s a £10 entry fee but a fabulous first prize of a week at Arvon.

If you want to sign up to hear more about Helen’s books, events, new blog posts and occasional giveaways, you can do so here.

Easter Fun

I hope you all had a nice Easter, despite the strange ‘all-season’ weather.

It’s been freezing here and even a bit snowy but on Easter Sunday the sun came out and it was lovely and that was the day I had my brother and his brood joining us (outside, of course!) for lunch, giant Jenga and a table tennis tournament, so I can’t complain. As my sister-in-law said, “It almost felt normal.”

Easter was not without incident, though. (This is the ‘Baddies’ part of my title. OK, bit tenuous, I know but you try thinking up a blog title when you’ve written over 700 posts…!)

We had to take Bonnie to the ‘emergency vet’ on Saturday, as she was struggling with the stairs and had what can only be described as a ‘limp tail’. Turns out, she’s torn the ligaments at the base of her tail but how’s she’s done it, is a mystery.

Anyway, it’s at least a week of ‘complete rest’ (for her, not us!), painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Aagh. It’s really hard to be confined to barracks; we are all so used to going out every day. (In fact, as I write this, she is sitting at my side, staring at me in a ‘why aren’t we going out?’ kind of way). I did venture out for a walk on my own this morning but it felt very strange and very disloyal.

Bonnie, in happier times.

Writing Chat

Last night I was invited to a Zoom meeting with some of my fellow Kate Nash mentees. There are 17 of us in total and there were 9 or 10 of us on the Zoom meeting. It was the first time I’ve spoken to any of them because although we’ve had some Zoom workshops as part of the Bookcamp programme, we haven’t actually had the chance to ‘socialise’.

Some of them are in a Whatsapp group but I’ve resisted joining that because it would be yet another distraction! (And, as you know, I am very easily distracted!)

It was very interesting to hear more about everyone’s novels and what stage they’re all at. Some of the mentees are, like me, still working on their first novel, others have finished the first and are now ploughing on with the second (a third was even mentioned by someone! How, how?!).

Some of the manuscripts are out with editors, waiting for a response (a nerve-jangling time). It will be so exciting when the first Bookcamp novel is accepted for publication. One thing of which I am certain: it won’t be mine!

If you’re interested in reading more about my agent at the Kate Nash Agency, who is Robbie Guillory, there’s a fascinating interview with him on the RNA’s website, here.

Anyway, it was inspiring to listen to the others and the chat has given me a virtual ‘kick up the backside’ to start working on the novel again, once I take my mum back tomorrow and my Easter holiday is officially over. #BackToTheGrindstone

Posted in Bonnie, Kate Nash Agency | Tagged | 6 Comments

All Zoomed Out

Does anyone else have a recurring nightmare? (Apart from being stuck in an everlasting Zoom meeting?)

Here’s mine: I’m packing to go somewhere (that has to be a dream, at the moment, right?) and I’m late and in a mad rush and I’m throwing things into the suitcase but it’s still not fast enough.

I’m going to miss the plane or the train or the bus and someone’s waiting for me (sometimes the mysterious ‘someone’ is tapping their foot, looking at their watch, saying, “Come on, come on!”)

Eek, my chest’s going tight just thinking about it.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out that’s a stress dream. Even when I don’t feel stressed, I sometimes have the same dream.

Now, I’m lucky: I really don’t have much to get stressed about but ‘time management’ has always been a thing for me and just lately, Zoom has taken over my life. Last week, for example, I had 10 Zoom meetings/events/classes. Yep, two a day. Something of a record, even for me.

Out of interest, I consulted Aunty Flo’s Dream Dictionary (‘What does it mean when you don’t have time to pack?’) and it said, “This is an anxiety dream. Dreams of not having enough time to pack can illustrate the stress you feel. Often these types of dreams occur [when] we simply do not have time and we have so much to do.’

Ha, yes, Aunty Flo is right on the money! (I’ll warn you, the dream dictionary is something of a rabbit hole. Once you start looking, you won’t be able to stop. Don’t say I didn’t warn you).

Novel Progress

One of my Zoom meetings was an hour long chat with my agent on Tuesday about the draft that I sent him a few weeks ago.

There are more changes to make to the manuscript. For example, all the action and resolution is still too bunched up, at the end. I’ve got to spread it out more and move things around.

There are also some significant things to ponder, such as, should I kill off character X or let him/her live? (Killing him/her off is ‘the nuclear option’).

But it’s nearly there. And once I’ve worked on it (from now until the end of April), it will be DONE, all being well.

Someone (well meaning!) in one of my classes asked me, in all seriousness, whether she could buy my book yet and I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

No. No is the answer.

I will let you know if that situation ever changes. Believe me, I will let you know.

Opportunities/Competitions

The annual Women’s Prize/Grazia First Chapter competition is now open for entries (from UK residents and women only) and the closing date is 6pm on April 20th 2021. Read the rules carefully if you’re going to enter.

Novelist Dorothy Koomson has written an opening scene and you have to continue the story in 800 – 1000 words.

There’s no cash prize but there’s enough to make it worthwhile winning, I would say – not least, mentoring from Dorothy Koomson herself (who’s just published her 16th novel and who, for some reason, I thought was American but she’s not, she’s British).

There’s also an invite to receive your prize at the Women’s Prize award ceremony in London in July (fingers crossed and all that) too, including hotel and travel. That would be quite an experience and who knows who you might meet? (Famous writers, other writers, an agent or two…?).

The application form asks for your date of birth and, I know what you’re thinking: why, why, why? Do they want to choose a winner that fits the Grazia magazine demographic of ’25-45 year-old women’ (just looked that up)? You would hope that is NOT the case and they will choose the best writing but there’s no way of telling.

They ask for your ‘occupation’ too and that makes me wonder whether they’re looking to reward a ‘key worker’?! (Oh, I’m cynical). BUT, there are so many ‘unknowables’ when you enter a competition, I’d say, just go for it and once you’ve sent in your entry, forget it and move onto something else!

Coventry: UK City of Culture 2021

If you live or work in Coventry and are interested in play writing you may be interested in this opportunity.

The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry has teamed up with Paines Plough, as part of Coventry City of Culture 2021 and is inviting applications for a free ‘10-week programme of workshops aimed at supporting storytellers and aspiring writers to write and perform their own 10 minute play.’

It starts in May and applications close on 19th April.

Details are here.

Don’t forget to put your clocks forward 1 hour!

Posted in Competitions, Novels | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Taking a Knife to Short Story Endings

Almost exactly a year ago (in my 18th March ‘Keeping Perky’ post), I wrote: everything’s gone a bit weird, hasn’t it?

And 12 months later, it’s still weird.

Although, hopefully, with vaccines being dished out (here at least), quicker than you can say ‘global pandemic’, there is a glimmer of light at the end of what’s been a very dark tunnel.

In the writing classes I teach (via Zoom these days, of course), we are tentatively starting to talk about ‘when we can meet again properly’. *Fingers crossed.*

I had my jab on Tuesday and my arm is still sore, which I’m hoping means, despite having done hardly any exercise for a year, that I still have a vestige of muscle in there and it hasn’t all turned to flab.

But enough of this and onto writing stuff.

Telling Tales Short Story Competition

Chipping Norton Theatre is running a short story competition, open to children and unpublished adult writers, which closes on 30th April.

There are three age categories for entry: 7 – 11 years, 12 – 15 years and Adult.

The theme for the 7 – 11 years is The Visitor but ages 12 – 15 and adult can write on any subject that gets the creative juices flowing and it’s free to enter.

The short stories will be read by an impressive panel of readers and judges, including:

 Peter Buckman, writer and literary agent
 Jo Cotterill, award-winning children’s author
 Guy Jones, playwright and novelist
Clare Mackintosh, multi-award-winning author

The winner in each category will have their story published in the Oxford Mail and a printed anthology.

I teach 2 creative writing classes which are based at the Theatre in Chipping Norton but I have nothing to do with setting up or judging this competition! So, I can’t help or hinder you but good luck if you decide to enter.

Short Story Endings

I’ve just finished reading over 140 entries for the Evesham Festival Short Story competition and my mind, unsurprisingly, is focussed on short stories. Or at least, as much as it can focus on anything at the moment. (Anyone else feel like they’re wading through treacle? I don’t seem to be able to concentrate for longer than about ten minutes at a time, which is why it’s taken me all week to put this post together).

If you write stories for the (now almost-non-existent) woman’s magazine market, you’ll be ‘programmed’ – like me – to strive for happy endings. Womag stories, although they can and do deal with dark and difficult subjects, must have a hopeful or an upbeat ending because on the whole, people read magazine fiction for escapism and enjoyment and they don’t want to be depressed. I can understand that, particularly at the moment (in my book club we have a new ‘rule’: we don’t want to read anything depressing!)

But stories aimed at writing competitions don’t have to follow those ‘rules’. I think it’s fair to say that a good proportion of the stories I read for the competition, did not have happy endings. And that’s fine. I don’t mind a sad ending, or a happy ending (as long as it’s not too twee). When I read a short story – particularly if I’m judging it for a competition – I want a GOOD ending. And good endings are tricky, aren’t they?

Award-winning writer Gaynor Jones who knows a thing or two about writing short stories and flash fiction (one of her lovely stories, Butterfly Kisses, is here), says she doesn’t think she’s written a happy ending in her life.

I recently read some advice from her (in the Retreat West newsletter, to be precise. You can sign up for it here, if you’re interested), in which she said ‘short fiction should leave the reader with more questions than answers’ and when she’s asked to critique short fiction, almost always, her advice is to cut the last line or even the last paragraph of a story.

It’s very tempting to try to tie everything up in those last few lines, isn’t it, to make sure the reader ‘Gets It’? But you have to trust that the reader will. Leave some gaps for him to fill in, or allow him to imagine what might have happened before, or after, or during the time in which your story takes place. If you read Gaynor Jones’ ‘Butterfly Kisses’ (the link’s above) you’ll notice that there’s a big gap before the final section of the story. A gap that the reader has to fill in. It works fine, doesn’t it? Better than fine, I think it’s great.

I can’t say too much, obviously, about the stories I read for the Evesham Festival competition, because it’s still being judged, but there were certainly some otherwise excellent stories that fell at the final hurdle. They had endings that either fizzled out, or didn’t make sense or, more often, were over-written and were like a summary or an explanation of what had just gone before.

It was such a shame.

Posted in Competitions, Magazines, Short Stories | Tagged | 6 Comments

Groundhog Day

A jaunty little post box spotted on a walk

So here we are again, another week over.

As someone wise (it was Marian Keyes, actually) said on Twitter today, ‘The weeks whizz by but nothing changes’ (probably a bit wittier than that, but you get the idea).

It’s all a bit ‘Groundhog Day’, isn’t it? But hopefully things will start to ease up a bit at the end of the month. (Not that I’m looking forward to golf courses re-opening, or anything..)

Still haven’t watched The Serpent or It’s A Sin (but thank you for all your comments, mostly recommending them). I will get to them at some point!

I did watch the Lucy Worsley ‘Blitz Spirit‘ programme (strictly research, of course) and I thought it was excellent but NOT for the faint-hearted (there’s quite a lot of gruesome stuff and it made me cry a bit at the end). But if you are made of sterner stuff than me, you might enjoy it!

Competition Judging

I am right in the middle of reading squillions of entries for the Evesham Festival Short Story Competition.

As always happens, in the final week the stories start to pour in.

The competition closes on 12th March – next Friday. If you’re thinking of entering, please note that the closing time is 5pm, not, as you might expect, midnight.

The competition always used to close at midnight and the administrator had to stay up until then, to confirm receipt of the final few entries (ahem, in the past, when I was allowed to enter because I wasn’t on the Steering Group, I’m afraid I was guilty of pressing ‘send’ at about 2 minutes to midnight). Then she realised, that if the time was changed to something more sensible, she wouldn’t have to stay up late. But it could catch a few people out, I reckon, so I’m telling everyone, Just. In. Case.

The Novel

You might be wondering what’s happening with my novel-in-progress (or should that be novel-ground-to-a-halt)? I am wondering, too.

I sent it over to my agent over a month ago and had heard nothing.. so sent a polite email asking whether I’d missed an email from him? (He’s usually very quick, so I genuinely thought that might have happened).

Anyway, I hadn’t but we now have a date, for a couple of weeks’ time, to discuss The Novel and I sense another lot of structural changes coming up… which was a bit of a depressing thought, until I read an interview with an agent (Lucy Morris at Curtis Brown) on the Women’s Prize For Fiction website today, in which she said, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever submitted a book to a publisher without having done three drafts of the manuscript with the author beforehand. Sometimes it can be more, because books do change as they’re edited.’

Hurrah! So, it’s not just me.

She also said that the editorial process might be as long as 18 months. And the more you edit it, the more you need to spend time away from it, ‘so it doesn’t feel like a slog, and you can feel that thrill of it coming together on the page.’

That ‘time away from it’ bit is sooo true.

I deliberately didn’t look at my novel again, after sending the last draft off, until a few days ago, when I sat down and read the whole thing in one go. It took me over 3 hours, which was a shock (ie: like a proper book!).

Some of it made me cringe. The ending’s still not right. And I know there are other areas that need work. If someone took the book from me and offered to publish it now I would wrestle it from their hands and scream, “NOOOO!” because it is simply not good enough. But, hopefully, one day it will be.

And on that pathetic note, I will love you and leave you! Hope your writing, reading and whatever else you are up to, is going well. Let me know!

Posted in Competitions, Kate Nash Agency, Novels | 10 Comments

Walking in the Middle of The Road

Does anyone else find themselves leaping off the pavement as people approach TWO ABREAST?

As someone pointed out to these joined-at-the-hip types on Twitter yesterday, “when passing someone on a narrow path or pavement, please walk in single file. It won’t kill you.”

I find myself trilling, “It’s fine. We don’t mind getting run over!” as we trudge ungraciously down the white line (and the people we’re trying to avoid don’t even notice!). Grr.

I think #lockdown is getting to us all a bit, isn’t it?

Television

Now, before we discuss important writing topics, I need to talk about TELEVISION. The idiot’s lantern, as my friend’s dad used to call it.

I haven’t seen ‘The Serpent’ (should I? Is it good?) and I’m too scared to watch ‘It’s a Sin’ in case it’s harrowing. I can’t cope with harrowing. (In fact, all I can cope with is Channel 5’s endless programmes about the Royal Family. It was Princess Anne’s ‘7 Loves of Her Life’ last night. Very relaxing).

So, tell me whether you think I can cope with ‘It’s a Sin’. The ’80s was ‘my’ era, so I am very tempted but knowing the subject matter, I am also nervous.

Please don’t advise that I watch ‘The Dig’ or ‘Bridgerton’ because we don’t have Netflix. I know, I know.

There is a good programme starting tonight – ‘Bloodlands’ – which I am definitely going to tune into.

Writing Stuff

Comic Sans

Apparently, changing your font to Comic Sans will cure writers’ block!

Comic Sans is a ‘fun, informal, childish’ font (aw, sweet. It’s got a personality!) that you should never use for serious writing, like a letter to the doctor or a competition entry but something to do with the different shapes and spaces between the letters, lets your mind relax enough to write. Or so it says here.

Might be worth a try if you’re struggling to get the words down?

And if you are struggling to write (and I know that’s not everyone. For every person that can’t concentrate or has children to home-school, there’s at least one other who’s ‘never written as much!’ during this pandemic), then this article might be of interest.

Top 10 Tips for Writers

Megan Kerr who runs ‘The Writers Greenhouse’ (and lots of writing courses/classes for adults, which are usually based in Oxford but are of course now on-line), is celebrating her 10 year anniversary by publishing her top 10 (very practical!) tips for writers. I’m with her on the ‘writing by hand’ (and I did have a fountain pen but I seem to have lost it so I will treat myself to another one very soon).

Definitely worth a read.

Right, it’s finally stopped raining, the sun has come out and so… I am heading for a walk in the mud with the dog (at least, if we go over the fields, we avoid people!). Have a good week!

Posted in Television | 21 Comments