Up to Snow Good – Updated with details of Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition

Now, no one likes a whinger, right? So, let’s get it over with: I am still ill (and I’m going to claim that as a 2-word poem as it’s just about the only writing I’ve done for a week).

I’ve had to cancel a dentist’s appointment for tomorrow because I have so many cold sores that if I try to ‘open wide’ my whole face would crack.

It probably didn’t help that we’ve just been on a tennis weekend and I ran about in the freezing cold for two days (I know, I know).
It has given me a ‘relapse’ when I was getting better. (I doled out antiseptic hand gel to everyone I played with; that’s how guilty I felt).

Have you noticed that, just as ‘busy-ness’ has become a competition, so, at this time of year, does ‘illness’? We met friends for dinner on Friday night. And we were late, of course (because we are always late. Partly, this time, because the Victorian market in Stratford had made the traffic even worse than usual).

“Sorry we’re late!” we chimed, as we rushed into the restaurant, breathlessly. They wanted to greet us with a kiss on the cheek but we waved them away. “No, no – we’re ill!” we said, expecting sympathy and understanding for our tardiness but no. “Oh, we’re ill TOO!” they cried, the implication being, that everyone’s ill and THEY were actually ‘ill-er’ than us.

But enough of this. The lovely Jackie Sayle has passed on the information I was lacking regarding the Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition (I have 2 copies of the mag coming to me but due to the snow and the lurgie, I haven’t been able to pick them up from my mum yet). So, here it is (and NB: you need the entry form, so make sure you buy the magazine pronto, if you want to enter):


Competition opened at midnight on 28th Nov. 2017 and closes at midnight on March 30th 2018.

Unless you live in Northern Ireland, you must post your entry (5,000 words of your novel) + a full synopsis on no more than 2 A4 sheet + a 100-word mini biography of yourself + the completed entry form from the magazine to:

Good Housekeeping Novel Competition, Orion Books, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ.

If you live in NI, you can email your entry + synopsis, biography and a scanned copy of the entry form to:


Genre must be women’s fiction. M/s to be double-spaced, 12pt font, on A4. Only one entry per person.

To be eligible you must never have had any novel published by a publishing company or ever have been represented by a literary agent, although you can have self-published.

1st prize: £6,000 advance (paid in instalments) + publication of your book + representation by Amanda Preston, literary agent. Five short-listed contestants will get feedback from Clare Hey at Orion Fiction and will have the chance to be respresented by Amanda Preston. Two runners-up will receive an Acer Switch 3 tablet/laptop worth £449.99.

Judges are: Cathy Kelly (author), Amanda Preston (director of LBA Literary Agency), Clare Hey (publishing director for Womens’ Fiction at Orion Fiction), Michelle Hther (Executive Editor of Good Housekeeping), Joanne Finney (Books Editor at Good Housekeeping).

Although, of course, it doesn’t specifically say so (men, after all, can still write ‘women’s fiction’), I would guess this competition, like the magazine, is really aimed at ‘the ladeez’ so if you’re a chap – or you’re just interested in novel competitions, per se – then there are more novel writing competitions on Jessica Davidson’s blog here.


Have you got lots of snow?

I’ve waited over 4 years for our dog Bonnie to see snow. She’s nearly 5 and it has never snowed (not properly) in all the time we’ve had her. So, of course, it snowed Big Time this weekend while she was at the dog sitter and I didn’t see her first experience of snow! Aagh! Like a parent missing their child’s first step.

Anyway, she came back today and duly raced around the garden like a loony, as I had expected. I tried to take a photo but this was all I could manage… !

Tomorrow we are going to build a snowman and try taking the camera out again. And yes, I will wrap up warm!

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions, Magazines, Novels | Tagged , | 4 Comments

On the Hunt for Inspiration

Bah, I am poorly bad*.

It’s only a cold (which, strangely, when my OH had it last week, was man flu) but still – yuck.

I can’t be under the weather because this week my Christmas ‘outings’ start with a vengeance! Including, on Wednesday, a gathering of the poetry group that I belong to, which meets once a month. We are ‘supposed’ to bring 2 new poems to be read and critiqued and, as usual, I haven’t even started to write them (my friend – who is also a pantser like me, has just texted to say perhaps we could do a ‘joint’ poem? ‘Haiku are short!’ Yes, that would only be 7.5 syllables each!).

I must admit, that as much as I enjoy it as a ‘social’ event – everyone’s very nice and it’s great to get together with other writers (and we have nice biscuits) – sometimes I think ‘why am I writing poetry?’ when really, I should be spending the time on my fiction, either the short stories that (sometimes) pay the bills or the novel that I’m trying to finish. And then, the brilliant Emma Darwin, whom I’ve mentioned before, pops up with a relevant post, such as this, just last week, which reminds me that writing poetry is good for me and – heck, it’s fun (or should be!): 10 Reasons For A Prose Writer To Do A Poetry Course

On a different note, this morning, we took the dog for a walk to Broadway Tower, one of our favourite haunts and it was full of horses and hounds – the North Cotswold Hunt was there. Oooh! (I love horses).

Now, whatever your feelings about ‘hunting’ (remember, they’re not allowed to hunt foxes any more), dozens of horses and riders and big hounds (they are big!) is still an impressive sight.

Due to my poorliness, I sat in the café with my tissues, reading my book (If You Knew Her by Emily Elgar – very good!) next to a roaring log fire, while Bonnie went out for her walk with my chap and quite a few of the hunt followers were in there too, with their dogs and their loud jolly laughter.

I was waggling my ears of course because it was all good research (perhaps I will write a poem about the hunt?) and there were some very interesting characters. The hunt website is fascinating too. Did you know, for example, that if your horse is prone to kicking others, it should wear a red ribbon in its tail? And a note on ‘general etiquette’ made me smile: “It is surprising how many people leave their manners on the ground when they get on a horse… A smile and “good morning” to people on foot will help to dispel the myth that everyone on horseback is a snob and too good to talk to people on foot.”

I am normally a ‘person on foot’ and thought that was rather nice, although today of course, I was a ‘person in cafe’ and therefore wasn’t near enough to anyone to get a smile or a good morning.

I only need another 28 followers to get to 800 and then I’ll be running another random word competition. It would be nice to do that over Christmas, when, after the madness of Christmas Day itself, there might be time for a bit of writing? Anyway, it’s out of my hands but if you want to help things along, just put your email in the subscribe box. Thank you!

*do not feel that you have to commiserate. It’s only a cold, after all and half of you reading this have probably got one too!

Posted in Bonnie, Cotswolds, Poetry | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sad & Happy News – and a couple of writing competitions

Ah, David Cassidy (RIP). I loved him. If you were a fan of Jackie magazine, back in the 70s – and I’ve talked about that before here – then you probably had posters of David on your wall. Ooh, that one of him standing with his palamino horse, perhaps (perfection!)? Maybe he was your ‘first love’, maybe you, too, kissed his poster good night?

He might have seemed to have had it all – good looks, talent and the adoration of millions of fans – but it turned out he had rather an unhappy life in the end, didn’t he? He hated some of the songs he had to sing (he wanted to be a rock star), he battled alcoholism, depression and dementia and died penniless at the age of just 67 and (sorry this is a bit sad), according to his daughter, his last words were, ‘So much wasted time…’

That Royal News

But on a jollier note (and still on the theme of ‘celeb news’): hurrah for Harry and Meghan! I am unofficial ‘royal correspondent’ for some of my friends and I’ve been telling them for weeks that an engagement announcement was ‘imminent’ (courtesy of the tabloids, of course, who seem to know everything before anyone else).

So, it was rather satisfying this morning to be able to email them (my friends, not the tabloids) with the header: From Your Royal Correspondent: Tidings of Great Joy!

I must just be an old romantic at heart but I love a wedding – especially a royal one. Ooh, the glitz and the glamour and who will be the bridesmaids and where will it be? And, probably just as importantly – will we get the day off work?!. As my friend Jane has so wisely said, it’ll keep us all going once Strictly’s over!

Short Story Writing Competitions

Finally, here are a couple of writing competitions to which I have promised to give a little plug:

The first one is closing on THURSDAY this week (30th) so get a move on if you want to enter this. Vanda Inman and Linda Lewis (who was a guest on the blog here), who have recently set up a new writing website, ‘Vanda ‘n’ Linda’s Write Space’ are running a short story competition on the theme of ‘secrets or lies’ with a top prize of £250.

Entry is £6 with an optional critique of £4 from Linda. Personally, if you can afford it, I always think it’s worth paying a little extra for a critique and then, even if you’re not placed in the competition, you can learn from the experience and use the critique to polish up your story. On its next outing, to another competition, that (new, improved!) story could do better.

Linda’s given a little tip to entrants on the website: ‘If you want to get on my shortlist, make me care about your characters. I won’t be impressed by a complicated, clever plot unless I believe in the characters’.

Tamworth Literary Festival has launched its 2017/8 short story competition and this time there’s no theme and a first prize of £100, as well as other prizes. I won this last year (I won £100 of book tokens which I’m just about to spend on Christmas presents!), so I won’t be entering again but I’m encouraging you all to have a go. It’s a small, newish literary festival and (sshh, between you and me) I don’t think they had a huge number of entries last year. The closing date is 31st March 2018, so there’s plenty of time! Entry fee is £4.

Posted in Competitions, Short Stories, The Royal Wedding | Tagged | 4 Comments

‘Torn Between Two Lovers’: Trying to write ‘long’ and ‘short’

I am on my eternal quest to make better use of the time available to me and to actually sit down and write. That doesn’t mean beating myself up if I don’t write every day (Alex Gazzola has something interesting to say about that today over on his blog, Mistakes Writers Make) but it does mean trying to ‘up’ the number of hours that I spend writing.

Have you ever tried writing something ‘longer’ at the same time as writing short stories? When I’m focussed on one, I feel guilty or think I should be doing the other one. If I’m writing a short story, I often have an overwhelming urge to swap back to the novel that I’m neglecting but if I’m dallying around with that, then I want to write a short story because I enjoy the buzz of finishing something and sending it off.

‘Torn Between Two Lovers’ springs to mind. Remember that cheesy song by Mary MacGregor?

Anyway, the novel needs more of my time and focus, if it’s ever to get finished, so I have devised a cunning plan. (It’s not that cunning, don’t get too excited):

On Mondays, I am allowed to write a blog post and to work on a short story. But for the rest of the week, I have to get on with my ‘longer work’.

Hmm, we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve also been trying to get to my local library to write. So far, I’ve managed it twice. It’s a small library, there are only 4 computers (all taken this morning when I showed up!!) and, libraries, I have discovered, are not the shhh-quiet places they once were.

This was the conversation this morning, between two members of library staff (positioned at opposite ends of the room).

Phone rings (loudly)
Jill: Hello, Cheakley Library*, Jill speaking, how may I help you? Oh, hello Janet. Right, yes. OK, Janet. (puts phone down). THAT WAS JANET!
Rita: Janet? What did she want?
Jill: She didn’t say. She had someone in front of her.
Rita: Oh.
Phone rings again (loudly)
Jill: Hello Janet!

*names have been changed to protect the innocent.

And so it went on….

Also, it’s quite hard to concentrate when the person on the computer next to you has a bit of a B.O problem. Right, so I need headphones and a peg and I’ll be fine. Any excuse to spend, eh?

I’ve also been taking books out of the library, rather than buying them. One I can highly recommend, which I finished today is Liane Moriarty’s ‘Big Little Lies’. Apparently it’s been made into an award-winning mini series starring Nicole Kidman. You might have seen it – it was on earlier this year in the UK. The novel is set in modern-day Australia and focuses on a primary school and its various factions and cliques. Right from the start you know there’s been a murder but you don’t know until the very end, who’s the victim or the perpetrator. Really unputdownable!

The wedding went well last weekend. Everyone thinks it always rains in Scotland but it never rains when I’m there! And sure enough, at the weekend, it was a bit cold but it was dry and sunny. The good news is, I managed not to break my ankle in my new killer heels (which felt like stilts when I was wearing them. I am used to trudging around in wellies most of the time!).

Posted in Blogging, Books, Finding Time To Write, Novels | Tagged | 20 Comments

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Too early for the snowman header? Hmm.. maybe but it’s really gone cold here over the last few days (apparently we are heading for a ‘three week winter snap and polar winds’. Eek!). Autumn definitely feels like it’s over, so a wintery scene was required!

Today I had two little writing firsts: the Swedish women’s magazine Allas popped through my letter box, containing the first story I’ve ever had published by them, which is also the first of my stories ever to be translated into another language (not by me, I hasten to add! My Swedish vocab is strictly limited to Volvo, Ikea and the names of the members of Abba).

Anyway, my story ‘Marathon Man’, which was published a year ago in Take a Break magazine as ‘Long Distance Love’ is in Allas as ‘Maraton-Mannen’. You don’t have to be a linguistic genius to work out that the Swedes have kept my original title – yah!

They also kept the Swedish-i-fied names that I gave my characters. Originally, they were called ‘Kate’ and ‘Greg’ but when I sent the story to Sweden, I rechristened them ‘Karin’ and ‘Stefan’. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to do that but I think it’s a nice touch (and it’s a good excuse to have fun – and waste time – googling Swedish names).

If you want to know how to submit to Allas magazine (and the good news is that they will take stories that have already been published elsewhere), then check out the guidelines on the womagwriter website – and good luck!

I went to Sweden once – for an evening! I was in Copenhagen, with work (those were the days when I jet-setted around a bit) and my boss discovered that you could take a boat (ferry? I honestly can’t remember) across to Sweden. So, we went over, had dinner and came back again. And we were able to say ‘we’ve been to Sweden!’

And talking of jetting off, I’m flying up to Scotland this weekend for a wedding in a CASTLE. How freezing is that going to be?! Because it’s not ‘lower Scotland’, it’s right up near Inverness. I am planning to invest in some thermals.

Wrap up warm, everyone!

Achnagairn Castle

Posted in Magazines, Short Stories, Successes | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Little Things…

Guess what exciting thing has happened out here in the sticks since I last wrote? No, it’s not fireworks (although I can hear them outside as I write).

Give up?

Right. Well, one of those German supermarkets (Aldi, to be precise), has opened in the nearest town to me: Moreton-in-Marsh! Whee! I know it’s a bit pathetic to be so happy (little things please little minds and all that) but shops are in short supply around here and a supermarket with new and different things is a delight.

We were there on the first day, queuing to get into the car park with all the other saddos keen shoppers. And yesterday, on my second foray, I bought (serious bakers look away now) a Betty Crocker cake mix and I’ve just made this cake! Amazing, even if I do say so myself.

It’s actually inspired me to write a short story aimed at Woman’s Weekly (the supermarket opening, I mean, not the cake!), which is an added bonus.

And on the subject of writing, just in case you were wondering if I ever do any, I currently have 25 submissions ‘out there’ (how many do you have?), including 14 short stories and 6 competition entries. I know this isn’t many, compared to some people – and it’s a long way from my never-yet-achieved goal of 50 things ‘out there’ at any one time (!) – but filling in my multi-coloured spreadsheet is a source of much pleasure. I wrote about it here – and there’s even a photo, if you want to see it in all its technicoloured glory. Little things, again..

Words & Women Competition (closing 15th November 2017)

I’m really sorry that I’m so late with this competition. There are only 10 days left to get your entry in and I did mean to blog about it sooner than this but, if you’re a female writer over 40 years old (living in the UK or Ireland) and/or a female writer over 16 living in the East of England and you’re prepared to spend £10 on your entry, it may be of interest.

It’s run by Words and Women, is for prose writing (of any kind – so fiction, memoir, life-writing, creative non-fiction and essays all count) and the national prize (for us ‘oldies’!) is £1,000 & up to a month’s writing residency, provided by Hosking Houses Trust, a charity which offers free use of a cottage, as a retreat, to ‘women over the age of 40 who need time in which to start, continue or complete interesting or innovative work in English dealing with any subject whatsoever’.

Free Short Story Competition
And, don’t say I neglect you chaps and you lucky people who live outside the UK: here’s a FREE short story competition (for stories between 3,000 – 10,000 words), with cash prizes, open to all and run by Ouen Press. The closing date is 31st December and the theme is TASTE. Have a go! What have you got to lose?

Hmm, and on the subject of taste, where’s that cake slice….?

Posted in Competitions, Cotswolds, Short Stories | 7 Comments

‘Topping Up My Well of Creativity’ (honest..!)

Last week I was invited to take part in a poetry workshop in Stratford’s Guildhall (and Shakespeare’s schoolroom).

It’s an amazing place. If you’re ever in Stratford, don’t miss it. Historian Michael Wood called it, “one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain.” Wow!

The workshop was led by poet and academic, John Wedgwood Clarke (you have to have a middle name like that if you’re going to be a poet, right?) and he was great. All the old school desks in the building are riddled with signatures and initials, engraved (no doubt with compasses and pen knives) by former pupils.

So, after a little warm-up exercise in which we roamed the building and wrote down everything we saw, the workshop was about ‘signatures’. We started by choosing one of the signatures in the desk in front of us and writing a short description of it and then we went on to think about our own signatures and the occasions on which we’ve used them.

Everyone in the group ended up with a beautiful poem (I know because they were all read out). A really inspiring way to spend an afternoon!

Today, by the way, it is my birthday (thank you, thank you!) and I’ve had a very relaxing day.

We don’t have Netflix and actually use DVDs (apparently, that’s hilarious. Tell me I’m not the only one?) and my OH bought me the first series of ‘The Crown’ which I’ve been dying to see. Oh-my-God it is brilliant! (if you like the Royals, which I do). We’ve already watched 3 episodes today (yes, they are an hour long! But I have also walked the dog – twice!) and I reckon we’ll probably squeeze in a fourth this evening.

I’m also reading a really good book – Robert Harris’s ‘Munich’, set just at the start of WW2. Writing has gone a bit ‘by the by’ just lately but I will get back into it. All this reading and viewing is topping up my well of creativity! (That’s my excuse, anyway and I’m sticking to it!).

Posted in Books, Poetry, Television | Tagged | 10 Comments