Dare To Be Different

floral-pattern-wallpaper-vector-keepdesigning-exampleI’ve been away (again, I know!) in Castleton in the Peak District this time, where it poured with rain most of the weekend but we still had a great time.

We stayed with friends in this lovely one-time miners cottage which dated back to the 1700s – and Bonnie came too. (She thought she was a goat and/or sheep and kept going higher and higher on the peaks, when we were out walking. I was a nervous wreck).

All this gallivanting has meant that writing, Morning Pages, marking for the Writers Bureau, blog posting and general ‘stuff’ has been neglected and now I’m madly trying to catch up and not get stressed.

And breathe…

Random Word Competition – Closing Friday

So far I’ve had about 40 entries for my flash fiction 100 word writing competition but there’s still time to enter (midnight this Friday is the closing date!) if you want to have a go. I’m going to try to print them all out without seeing who sent what (if I can!) so that I can pull together a shortlist, over the weekend, as impartially as possible. And then I’ll get someone else to judge the shortlist. More details here.

A Little Prize

You know how I’m always telling you to be original if you want to do well in a competition? Well, I followed my own advice recently (smuggie alert!) and scooped a much-needed £100 cheque.

If you look on page 28 of the current Writers Forum magazine, you’ll see that I’m the winner of a little competition they ran over Christmas. They wanted a kind of writerly ‘cracker joke’, that involved a pun on a well-known writer’s name. For example: “What do you call a writer who juggles a pint of ale with a snooker cue in her hand?” (Beatrix Potter) or, a more straight-forward one, “Which writer is kind to dogs?” (Pat Barker).

Mine was, “What do you call a writer who will let you borrow £100?” (Len Deighton)*

The editor made it quite clear that his favourite entry wasn’t mine, but “What do you call a writer who falls asleep in an Indian restaurant?” (Edna Curry) BUT as Edna Curry isn’t well-known (apparently she’s an American romance writer but I haven’t heard of her – have you?), he couldn’t award first prize to that one as it hadn’t followed the rules (it had to be a ‘well known writer’).

So, mine was picked because I wrote something reasonable but also because I stuck to the rules (I used a well-known writer) AND, just as importantly, no-one else had sent in the same idea. In fact, as part of his judging process, the editor eliminated any duplications. So, you may think the Pat Barker one is pretty good, but lots of people sent that one in, so he didn’t want to choose it. By eliminating any duplicates, it was ‘easier to choose a clear winner’.

Remember that, when you enter any kind of competition! If yours is the same as someone else’s, it could work against you. Dare to be different, if for no other reason than your story will stand out if it’s original.

*he writes spy and thriller novels – oh, and cookery books. He’s the author of The Ipcress File, amongst others. (But of course, you knew that!)

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions, Magazines, Successes | Tagged | 12 Comments

Back In The Saddle..

bicycle1Hello, here I am back from a long weekend at Center Parcs (the one that had be rescheduled because of chicken pox!) with a sore bum (I’m not used to riding a bike anymore!), sore knees (ditto) and a stinking cold. Aagh.

I am also completely ‘out’ of my writing zone. If you’ve been to Center Parcs yourself, you’ll know that it’s like entering another dimension. Good for total relaxation, of course, but a bit of a shock to the system when you re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and have to try to knuckle down to some work.

I have some People’s Friend news. Firstly, part 2 of my serial has been accepted and signed off – hurrah! So there’s just the final hurdle of the last part to write now!

Secondly, I’m going to one of PF’s writing workshops, in London, on Wednesday 16th March. This was part of my prize and I’m really looking forward to it. So, if any of you are also planning to be there, let me know!

It’s hard to believe it’s already February! In addition to my own little writing competition, which closes on 12th February, I’ve spotted these FREE writing competitions with deadlines coming up that I’m hoping to enter and which you might like to take a look at:

Closing 10th Feb: For the poets out there, The Spectator is inviting you to write a Valentine triolet. Scroll down the page and you’ll find it.

Closing 15th Feb: The Writers’ & Artists’ Short Story competition. Theme: ageing. Max word count: 2000

Closing: 20th Feb: Reader’s Digest 100 word short story competition. This is a ‘Drabble’ ie: exactly 100 words).

Closing 22nd Feb: Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival, short story OR poem, with the title ‘For All Time’. They’ve really bumped up the prize money on this one, much to my friend’s annoyance. She won a couple of years ago when the prize money was nowhere near what they’re offering now… :(

Good luck if you’re having a go at any of these! Don’t leave it to the last minute to enter (erm, like me!)

Posted in Competitions | Tagged | 13 Comments

600 Followers, Free Writing Competition!

planet-260009As promised and to celebrate reaching 600 followers, I’m running another of my little writing competitions, which is free to enter and open to everyone.

I have used this handy ‘random word generator’ to come up with 4 words and I’ve added the word ‘six’ for obvious reasons and, well, it’s the usual: I’d like you come up with a flash fiction story OR poem, max 100 words, (plus a title), that includes all 5 of the words.

The words are:

• key
• planet
• soup
• sardine
• six

The words can be used more than once and can be used in the title as well as, (or instead of), in the body of the story. And you can use ‘extensions’ of the words – eg: ‘sixth’ or ‘planetary’.

Check if you’ve used them correctly by doing a search on your finished document for the 5 words. As long as they come up, then you’re OK.

Prizes:

The prizes are significant! I’m giving away a £25 Amazon e-voucher as first prize and a £10 Amazon e-voucher as second prize. Yoo hooo! And then, of course, there’s THE GLORY (oops, I just typed ‘THE GORY’) of being the winner, which is priceless.

RULES:
1. One entry per person.
2. Open to anyone, anywhere and it’s free to enter
3. Maximum 100 words (you can submit less), plus title.
4. Please don’t copy or plagiarise. You will be found out! (and it will be embarrassing and shameful)
5. Your story/poem’s title is in addition to the 100 words
6. Any theme or genre is acceptable (but anything too graphic or ‘sweary’ is unlikely to be shortlisted, as I won’t want to publish it here, so do consider that!)
7. Your entry must not have won or been placed in another competition.
8. Judge’s / judges’ decisions are final.
9. Email your entry in the body of the email, NOT as an attachment, to: helenyendall600@gmail.com by midnight on Friday 12th February 2016 (3 weeks today), along with your name.
10. By entering, you agree that your entry, or an extract, can be posted on this blog if it’s one of the shortlisted stories.
11. I will shortlist 5 entries and someone else will choose the winner, anonymously. I am being vague about the ‘someone else’ because
I don’t know who it will be yet, but someone other than me and someone who will take their task seriously.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them as a comment, so that everyone can see the response! Thanks – and good luck!

PS: My tips are: don’t go for the obvious use of the words. Your first idea will be lots of other people’s. Take your time! It’s tempting to dash something off, before you forget and miss the deadline but the entries that start zapping in within a day or two tend to be weaker than those that have clearly been ‘worked on’.

PPS: If you want to see the kind of thing that wins my little comps, then look at a couple of the shortlists from some earlier ones, here and here.

sardine

Posted in Competitions | Tagged | 8 Comments

What I’m Up To…

I’m Watching:

the IT crowdThere’s not much on the tele’ these days, is there? I know I told you all to watch War & Peace but to be honest, there’s a bit too much ‘War’ in it for me and when that horse got killed in the first episode, that was IT! (I didn’t mind the incest but the horse death was too much).

Anyway, because of the lack of anything good to watch, we have returned to an old favourite: The IT Crowd.

I think it’s very funny (and in these gloomy times, I need funny), BUT you might not, so don’t blame me if you watch it now and hate it. (But it may appeal if you’ve worked in an office with lots of weird people).

There’s an ‘extra’ bit on one of the DVDs, in which the writer of the series, the very talented Graham Linehan (who also wrote Father Ted and Black Books), talks about ‘how he does it’ (these could apply to a novel too but if you’re particularly interested in writing a sit-com, you might find these tips on the BBC Writers Room website useful).

Before he starts to write a new series, he writes any ideas he has for a situation – this can be an idea, a word, a line of dialogue – on a card. By the time he sits down to try to do something with those cards, he has about 100. He then spreads them out in front of him and tries to make connections. How can he put them together?

Then he writes the first draft and he admits it’s ‘painful’ and what he writes seems childish and the characters don’t seem like themselves. But he looks on the first draft as really ‘just a bunch of notes to work with’. And you need something to work with, or you’ll get nowhere.

It’s good to know that someone as successful as Graham Linehan finds it hard going at times. Writing is hard work, isn’t it?

I’m Eating:

Which is why I have a stash of THIS.

chocolate
Yes, the ‘Writer’s Block’ is actually a bar of chocolate. It almost looks too nice to eat but I will get round to it, have no doubt.

I’m Writing:

As I’m in the middle of writing my serial for The People’s Friend, which is set in a chocolate factory, I think it’s only right to eat some of the stuff, to get in the mood. And in case you’re interested, I submitted Part 2 to the editor, Shirley Blair, last week and she came back with a few suggested tweaks, which I have now done and I’ve just sent the revised version off to her. So, we’ll see what she says. Hope she doesn’t say, ‘Actually the first version you wrote was better…!’ Eeek. So scary.

I’m Reading:

This lovely little bookStill Writing, The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life‘, which is like sitting down with a good writing friend and having an inspiring chat.

Still writing

A lot of what author Dani Shapiro says, really resonates with me.

This, perhaps even more than The IT Crowd, I can recommend! Ooh, and I’ve just discovered that Dani Shapiro has a blog, so I shall be reading that too.

Come on, share! What are you watching, eating, writing and reading this week?

PS: I have a new laptop! It’s BLUE. But even better than that – it has a ‘B’ key!

laptop

Posted in Books, Television | Tagged | 22 Comments

A Trip Down Memory Lane

jackie-imageI’ve always loved comics and magazines. Ever since my nana used to post Twinkle and Teddy Bear to me every week (bless).

I’m not sure if I loved the comics because I loved reading or whether I loved reading (and later writing) because of the comics but either way, for me, writing and magazines go hand-in-hand.

I had aspirations to be a magazine journalist when I was at school (maybe I would have been, if a certain teacher hadn’t put me off!) and when I got a little manual typewriter for Christmas, I used to type up articles and stick them together, to make my own little magazine. (That’s probably why I like blogging: it’s the same thing – only without the Pritt Stick).

I still read loads of magazines, subscribe to more than I should and, as you know, submit stories to the few remaining mags that still publish fiction. Relaxing with a cuppa and a good magazine is the ultimate treat for me. (I know, I’m easily pleased).

After Twinkle, I graduated to Debbie, Mandy, Misty and Jinty (ooh, I loved Jinty. It always had free gifts on the front cover! And the stories were usually spooky. For example, ‘Gail’s Indian Necklace’. She buys an evil necklace at a jumble sale and it makes her do BAD things. Hmm, thinking about it, Jinty was a bit like a junior Take A Break!)

I also read Bunty, Diana and FAB208 and usually had a sneak-peak at my mum’s ‘SHE‘ (which had an extremely rude educational problem page) BUT my absolute favourite – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – was JACKIE.

For years, I didn’t miss an issue. It was the highlight of my week (it came out on Thursdays, I think?). There was always a pull-out poster in the middle (usually of one of the Davids – Essex, Soul or Cassidy) and the really sad thing is, when I look at some of the old covers from the ’70s (you can buy ‘vintage’ copies on Ebay), I can still remember a lot of them.

Debbie and Leslie Ash were always in the magazine or on the front cover (that’s Leslie – picture below, on the right). And also that other model there, on the left, whose name I never knew. She was on the front cover practically every week! I think I probably wanted to be her.

Other Girl Jackie

Then there was ‘Cathy & Claire’ – the problem page (which definitely wasn’t as enlightening as the one in SHE) but which was still one of the first things I turned to.

And the fashion illustrations! Do you remember those? Girls with huge eyes, even bigger hair and legs that went on forever….

If you’re a fan of Jackie, like me, you might like to know that there’s now a … drumroll….Jackie musical!! WHEEEEE!

My friend and I have got tickets to see it in Coventry in March and we’re going to dress up – of course – in the requisite flares and cheesecloth shirts and all that stuff (platform soles, anyone?).

Can’t wait!

jackie-logo

Posted in Blogging, Magazines | Tagged | 23 Comments

Another 1st January Blog Post…

Happy new YearIs anyone else confused? It feels like Sunday to me today but I’m reliably informed that it’s actually Friday. We’ve still got a whole weekend ahead of us! Weird! (But good, at the same time). There must be a name for it (New Year discombobulation?).

Ooh, it was difficult to write that last word because my ‘B’ key broke off the laptop last night and I’m having to press the little stumpy white peg every time I need that letter. I would take a photo to show you but it’s all dusty down there, in the depths of the keyboard and I’m too ashamed. This could be an excuse to buy a new MACHINE! (Because it’s not just the ‘B’ – it’s old!). If any of you have any ‘machine’ recommendations, do let me know!

Hope you had a good Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. Let’s hope all our writing dreams come true (or at least, a bit nearer!) in the New Year.

Here’s what’s coming up in 2016:

1. A FREE writing competition on this blog once I reach 600 followers!

2. On Monday afternoon (or is it Wednesday or Saturday week?) Douglas McPherson is interviewing me by phone for Writer’s Forum magazine, all about my People’s Friend serial win. I’m rather excited about that! (let’s hope I don’t forget and go out…).

3. I’ve sent my writing targets for 2016 to Sally and she’s sent hers to me, so we’re all set for the New Year. I won’t bore you with the details of mine (plus if I reveal them, it feels a bit like setting myself up for failure!) but suffice to say, one of my goals is to write a post a week on the blog in 2016. If there’s anything (writing-related!) that you’d like me to write about, do let me know!

4. On Thursday 30th June 2016, my friend Chris and I will be running a book/literary quiz for the brand new Evesham Festival of Words! More details here.

If you live in or around Evesham and you’ve got some bookish pals to make up a team of 4, please put the date in your diary! We’d love to have a full house for this quiz!

5. And finally, if, like me, you’ve never read Tolstoy’s War And Peace (and let’s face it, who’s got time?), you might want to tune into the BBC’s epic new adaptation, which starts on 3rd January, BBC 1, 9pm (this Sunday!). It is, apparently ‘racy and pacy’ – that’ll do me.

War And Peace is 560,000 words long

War And Peace is 560,000 words long

Posted in Blogging, Books | Tagged | 16 Comments

All I Want For Christmas..

free-christmas-clipart-RcG7RdpcLIt’s Christmas Eve and it’s taken me all week to write this post.

I’ve had a funny few days.

I’ve been to a funeral that was, at times, more like a pantomime (because we laughed, a lot) and a pantomime that was more like a funeral and on Monday morning we walked along the canal in Stratford with some friends and Bonnie the dog fell in! Luckily she was still in her harness and was hauled out by the lead. She was OK but not happy at being soaking wet on a freezing December day. Our friend kindly dashed home to fetch her a towel (he was Bonnie’s handmaiden).

Still on my to-do-list for the end of the year:

1. Submit story number 52! I set myself a target of 52 womag story submissions this year and I’m just one off.

2. Finish part two of the serial I’m writing for The People’s Friend. My aim is to have it done by 31st December so I can submit it to the editor (eek, scary) when she’s back at her desk in January.

3. Send Sally my writing goals and targets for 2016. We agreed to do this when we met up a couple of weeks ago (and I’m still waiting for hers…!). They won’t be written in stone, it’s just to get us thinking and to have some kind of rough ‘road map’ for the new writing year.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to get through Christmas and still stay sane, remember my handy hints from last year? ‘10 Ways For A Writer To Survive Christmas...’ (just note that the TV programmes are out of date, of course!)

Writing Competitions

If you want to get stuck into some real writing over the holiday, then take a look at the Harpers Bazaar short story competition (closing 21st January 2016, max 3000 words on the subject ‘The Jewel’) which is free to enter if you’re a UK resident

OR, the Evesham Festival of Words short story competition, which doesn’t close until 31st March 2016 and is open to any writer, worldwide, published or non-published.

There’s a £5 entry fee for that one BUT if you win, as well as £100, you get a trophy and a presentation by novelist Katie Fforde! The theme is ‘An extra day’ (max 2,500 words) because of, course, 2016 is a leap year, so we get an extra day on February 29th.

Have a great Christmas and see you on the other side..!

PS: All I want for Christmas is to see my ‘followers’ reach 600. Just another 11 people to go! If you want to sign up for notifications of new posts by email, the button’s in the bottom right hand corner of the screen! Thank you! :)

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions, Short Stories | Tagged , | 17 Comments