DISCOVERIES 2020-21 (& Making the Most of Opportunities!)

Four years ago, almost exactly to the day – on 19th September 2016, to be precise – I blogged about how author Jojo Moyes was offering her cottage in Suffolk for a week to an aspiring writer in need of time and space, in order to ‘kickstart or even finish’ their novel.

Do you remember?

I do because I thought it was really generous and a great opportunity for someone.

And funnily enough, in that way that life has of coming ‘full circle’, today I sat out in the garden (after 4 fairly kn*ckering hours of Zoom teaching) and finished reading the brilliant, award-winning novel ‘Queenie’.

And? Well, it turns out that the author – Candice Carty-Williams – was the winner of that very week in Suffolk and her novel was partly the result of that retreat.

And it made me think about opportunities and making the most of them.

When Candice read about Jojo’s offer of a week in Suffolk (not on my blog, I hasten to add! She probably saw it, as I did, on social media), she was living in a cold, grotty, flat-share, sitting in bed (and probably feeling rather sorry for herself) and she thought ‘Why not? What have I got to lose?’

So, she applied and won (beating 600 other applicants in the process) and a month later, having borrowed a friend’s car, she was heading for Suffolk.

She hadn’t driven a car since passing her test the year before, she’d never driven on a motorway or outside London and it took her 6 hours to do what should have been a 2-hour journey. (Something, as Jojo Moyes said in her review of the book on Goodreads, that the character Queenie would probably do!).

Brave? Or foolhardy? Whichever way you look at it (I’d have been Googling train timetables!), she was THAT DETERMINED.

“I’m of the mind,” Candice says, “that if you have to do something, you just get it done. So, I did it.”

When she arrived at the cottage, according to Jojo, Candice ‘declined a cup of tea and went straight to work’. By bedtime on the first day, she’d written 8000 words and by the end of the week, 40,000.

“It felt a bit like an outpouring,” she says. “I think Queenie had been brewing for a very long time.”

Sometimes, as writers, opportunities come up – to win a writing retreat, or the chance to be mentored, or for a critique on your writing – and if it’s something that you’d like to do and you think it would help, all I can say is: Go For It!

Let’s face it, it’s hard, beavering away on your own. A bit of help, encouragement, advice or ego-stroking, all helps! (And if it’s free to enter, really, what have you got to lose? Just send it off, forget about it and move on to the next thing!).

A few people have said to me that they wish, now, that they’d applied for the Kate Nash #BookCamp. I wonder why they didn’t? Lack of time, perhaps or that underlying feeling that ‘I can’t do that, they’d never pick me?’ But why not you? If you don’t try, you’ll never know.


And on that note, here’s another mentoring/agenting opportunity, free to enter, for un-agented FEMALE novelists and this time with Curtis Brown.

You don’t have to have finished your novel – only started one – but you do have to live in the UK and be over 18. Check other rules and regs carefully. You’ve got until 17th January 2021 but don’t do what I usually do and leave it all to the last minute.

Good luck! And keep your eye on the blog, as I always post this kind of thing, when I spot it!

And here’s an interesting interview with novelist Kate Mosse, who is chairing the judging panel (I particularly like her writing tip, that ‘5 minutes a day are better than no minutes’).

Happy face!

Posted in Competitions, Events, Novels | Tagged | 15 Comments

Kate Nash Agency #BookCamp Mentoring Programme. And Me.

I have some writing news (or, skip this and read about my trip to Betty’s, if you prefer!).

You may remember, back in June, I wrote about the Kate Nash Literary Agency Book Camp opportunity. (Only I called it ‘boot camp’ – doh! Have now amended it)

The Agency was looking for 5 or 6 potential ‘mentees’ and you had to send in 20,000 words of your unfinished novel, a synopsis and a covering letter. The deadline was 1st July and I urged you to make haste, if you wanted to apply.

I submitted my work and…well, they didn’t pick 5 or 6 in the end, they picked 17 and I am one of them. Eek.

So now, amazingly, I have an agent. (But no novel yet!). I seem to have done things a bit back-to-front.

This is the press release that went out yesterday and appeared on The Bookseller website:

Kate Nash Agency launches writer mentorship programme

Kate Nash Literary Agency has launched #BookCamp, a new mentorship programme designed to accelerate the careers of promising new* writers.
Seventeen authors have been selected by the agency to be mentored, writing across many genres from literary to commercial fiction.
Over a six-month period writers will be working, with individual editorial help from an agent, to complete their novels. At the same time the agency is offering a series of workshops and seminars on masterclass level practical creative writing topics and also on the practical business of being a new author.
Nash said: “This is a huge investment for a small company but sat where we are in prime place not just to spot but nurture new talent, we thought we should offer more of that nurturing and help shape writer’s work from an earlier stage. We’ve surprised ourselves by wanting to offer representation to 17 writers but we were bowled over by the talent.”
The list of successful applicants features Jon Barton, Christopher Byford, Annabel Campbell, Radostina Christova, Joanne Clague, Adam Cook, Louise Davidson and Kate Galley.
Also joining the programme are Nicola Jones, Imogen Martin, Katie McDermott , Samantha Pennington, Tony O’Reilly, Georgia Summers, Laura Sweeney, Kathryn Whitfield and Helen Yendall.
In all, 335 writers applied to #BookCamp, sending in the first 20,000 words of their novels-in-progress for evaluation.
Agency director Justin Nash said: “It’s been a glorious summer of reading. The overall quality of work submitted was extremely high meaning we had some tough decisions but also I think that lockdown has provided many aspiring authors valuable time to work on their craft.”

* I’m .. ahem, not quite a ‘new’ writer (and am slightly worried that I might be the oldest mentee in the group!) but I AM new to the novel-writing/getting published game! It’s exciting but also a bit scary. I foresee a lot of hard work ahead and, of course, no guarantee of a published novel at the end of it! Wish me luck!

Oh and if you’re wondering why a writer might need an agent – and what they actually do – Simon Whaley (who, incidentally, is also agented by Kate Nash!) has written a great article about it (‘Agent Attraction’) here.


And, in other news, last week I went up North for a few days and visited one of the famous Betty tea rooms (in Harrogate. Established in 1919! Other Betty tea shops are available).

It was an extra-special outing because we had my mum with us and it was just about the first ‘eatery’ any of us had been to since lockdown started. After a bit of a nervous start – and a short queue outside – we were IN and it was lovely!

The waitresses had visors on, bless ‘em but it still didn’t stop their cheeky chatter:

ME: (as we paid our bill): It was the first time for all of us.
WAITRESS: Ooh, I love a Betty’s virgin, me!*
ME: Ah, but we’re not virgins any more.
WAITRESS: NOOOO! You’ve all popped your cherry!

(* don’t suppose that was their usual banter in 1919!)

Almost every bit eaten!

The afternoon tea was fabulous and instead of their usual 18 tables in the section we were in, they only had SEVEN. So, lots of lovely social-distancing going on (unlike the village pub we went to the next night, whose ingenious ‘one-way-system’ ensured that everyone, whether they were just propping up the bar, eating, or going to the loo, had to go past everyone else and have the most ‘contact’ possible. Aaagh!).

Have you ventured out into the world much lately?

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It’s Not All ‘Hearts & Flowers’!

Oh goodness me, I have been away for AGES…! Last time I wrote on here it was sweltering and now it’s rainy and quite chilly. Autumn is a-coming…

But, on the plus side, my local swimming pool and tennis club have re-opened and from Monday I’ll be teaching two of my classes, which didn’t run at all last term, on Zoom.

Plus, I’ve got a workshop booked in for later this month. Yes, I’m definitely ‘back to school’!

It’s still not quite ‘normal’ but it’s certainly better than a few months ago. How are things going for you?

The reason for my absence (during which time, the wall was finally finished! It was supposed to take 6 weeks and it took 3 months. But I know all about things taking longer than you think they will!) is that I’ve been beavering away on my submission for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme (try saying that when you’ve had a glass of wine).

As you may or may not remember, last year I completely missed the deadline and didn’t send anything, so I was determined not to do that again.

The romance genre is often belittled, even though it’s one of the most popular genres for readers (and probably because it’s mostly written and read by women). The RNA (founded in 1960 and with around 1000 members) was founded to ‘celebrate and demand respect for romantic fiction’ and if you think that means Mills & Boon, think again.

These novels – all by men – are about relationships and love (amongst other things) and would definitely qualify as romantic fiction and I’m sure you can think of many more:

• The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
• One Day (David Nicholls)
• About a Boy (Nick Hornby)
• Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
• Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh)
• The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
• The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
• The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

So… (*gets off soapbox*).. how did I get on, with my 31st August deadline?

Well, I didn’t send a finished manuscript but I did send a ‘partial’ (which is allowed! Hurrah!) of 52,000 words plus a 2-page synopsis.

As I was a last-minuter, it will be a while until I get my critique back (probably November time!) but that’s fine. Now I can catch up with all the things that I haven’t been doing (like hoovering).

If you want to know more about the RNA and specifically the New Writers’ Scheme, have a look here.

On a completely different note, Erewash Writers have some free writing competitions (and one paying competition) which might be of interest. Details here.

Hearst Talent Scholarship:

There’s a fabulous opportunity for would-be magazine journalists. You’ve got until 6th November to apply, so if you fancy a 2-week paid internship in London, working on one of the top magazines – there are 7 places – take a look. This would have been my dream job once-upon-a-time, so if it’s yours – go for it!


Do you buy too many books? I have got into a terrible habit of buying sooo many 99p Kindle book deals (because you can just download them with a click of the mouse! It’s too easy). When am I ever going to get time to read them all? Eek. It’s stressing me out.

There is a Japanese word for buying more books than you can read: tsundoku. Doku comes from a verb that can be used for “reading,” while tsun “to pile up.” The ol’ piling up of reading things. Are you someone who practises tsundoku?

And finally… I had friends over for (socially-distanced) lunch yesterday and I had planned to make a lemon drizzle cake BUT I ran out of time and this is as far as I got….which for some reason they found hilarious.

Posted in Competitions, Magazines | 8 Comments

Keeping A Weather Diary

Phew, it’s sweltering!

I have removed myself from the boiling hot house (where Him Indoors is playing music as loudly as a teenager), to my boiling hot ‘cave’ (I wish it were that cool!), which hasn’t had much ventilation for the past week and is … well GREENHOUSE HOT!

Excuse me while I just wipe the sweat from my top lip and the back of my neck.

Do you include the weather when you write fiction? It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently.

With short stories, I think you can get away without mentioning the weather unless it’s relevant to the story. But when you’re writing something longer – a serial or a novel – it would seem strange not to mention the weather whenever your characters are outside. It’s part of the setting and ‘world building’ of your novel, after all and the weather can have an impact on your characters’ mood and behaviour, it can add conflict to a story (storms, floods, snowdrifts..) you can use it to foreshadow events or illuminate themes.

But I think it needs to be done with a light touch. And it’s easy to lapse into cliché when it comes to describing weather. (Ooh, it’s suddenly gone really windy out there! Lovely cool breeze! Leaves and dust are swirling around outside and the sky’s going grey!)

A while ago I read some advice on-line for writers, about keeping a ‘weather diary’. Nothing too fancy or arduous: just write a few lines describing the weather each day (and don’t forget to add the date). If you need, say, to include a foggy day, or a windy afternoon in your writing at some point or you can’t remember what the weather’s like in April, you can refer to your diary and it might help with some details that you could otherwise have forgotten.

Now might be a good time to write something about the experience of living through a heatwave, of course (and thunderstorms!). And you might want to include more than just a physical description of the sun. What about the sweat on your skin, that I mentioned above, the difficulty in sleeping, the tips on daytime TV for combatting the heat eg: fill a hot water bottle with iced water; dogs having to be rescued from overheating cars, the lethargy, the extra effort it takes to do anything… ? You get the idea.

Funnily enough, a lot of my favourite novels are set during heatwaves: The Great Gatsby, The Go-Between, Atonement, The Trouble With Goats & Sheep.

People often behave strangely in extreme weather conditions, which is probably why novelists are drawn to them. In a heatwave, clothes and inhibitions are removed, rules change, tempers are short (having experienced a lovely bit of road rage yesterday, I can vouch for that) and your characters might interact more than they would in winter, when everyone’s enclosed in their homes.

Hmm, I think there might be a storm coming. Him Indoors has abandoned his head-banging music and is getting the washing in off the line!

Shall I go back to the house before the storm hits or stay here, pen poised…?

Posted in Novels | Tagged , | 6 Comments

The Pull of The Post-It

Last week I took part in a Zoom workshop led by author Julie Cohen, in which she talked about different ways of using sticky coloured Post-It notes in your writing.

It was fun and informative and while I’m not going to tell you everything that Julie taught us (she might want to run the workshop again and raise more money. She raised over £1000 for two charities with this one), I’m sure you’ve heard about or thought of using Post-It notes for plotting out a novel.

Author Sophia Bennett swears by them and talks about plotting with Post-Its here (she also points out that it’s the perfect excuse to buy stationery. And we all love stationery, right? I’m sure it was just coincidence that her article appears on a stationery company’s website, by the way…!)

And look what I did the morning after Julie’s workshop!

I wrote out the main events of my novel, colour-coded with a different colour for each POV (point of view) character (yellow’s not finished!).

Those are just the events that happen; I’m going to do it again with their emotional/internal journeys mapped out so I can see their character arcs.

I’ve always been a bit dismissive of processes like this but it’s a great way of seeing your whole novel on one A3 page and not have to keep trying to remember or hold it in your head.

I am working on my novel which needs to be submitted to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme by the end of August. Remember last year, when I missed the deadline? I am NOT doing that again. (Definitely not because even if it’s not complete, I can send a ‘partial’ but I don’t want to do that. I want to send the whole thing. And therefore, ahem, I need to finish this blog post and get back to it).

On Reading (and listening!)

I am usually a monogamous reader. Strictly one book at a time! But at the moment, I’ve got THREE on the go (this is what happens when you stupidly join two book clubs).

And each is in a different format: on my Kindle I have ‘Humble Pi’ (for Book Club #1). This is non-fiction, a ‘comedy of maths errors’. Hmm, there are some interesting anecdotes but also some quite technical, boring maths stories, so the jury’s still out on this one.

Then, an ‘actual’ book: Lissa Evans’ fabulous ‘Their Finest’ (originally entitled, “Their Finest Hour and a Half” which I’m really enjoying (WW2, romantic comedy, highly recommended. The film’s great too).

This is partly ‘research’ as I’m attempting to write a novel set in WW2 (see above) but I can only dream of writing something this good…

And finally, on audiobook (get me!) I am listening to Joanne Harris’s ‘Gentlemen And Players‘ (for Book Club #2). This is good but oooh, audiobooks are so long! I reckon I could read the novel in about 2 – 3 hours and the audiobook is … over 11 hours long!

BUT, I read an article on line today about how audiobooks are going through a BOOM.

Apparently, we’re all reading more in #lockdown, for obvious reasons and audiobook sales have gone through the roof, in part because it’s reassuring, in these troubled times, to have a calm human voice read us a story. (Ah, bless).

Do You Think You’re Funny?

The Funny Pearls Short Story Competition 2020

If you’re a woman who can write funny stuff (and I know there are lots of you out there who can!) you might be interested in this competition, which actually doesn’t open for email submissions until 1st September but you could start getting your entry together now.

It’s “open to women of all nationalities from any country. It is free to enter the competition” and they’re looking for funny stories of between 1000 and 2500 words.

As always, don’t forget to read the rules carefully before you submit and good luck!

Posted in Books, Novels | Tagged | 9 Comments

In Which I Wish I’d Done Joe Wicks’ Workouts

Bonnie and her bestie, Rosie, socially-distancing.

Things are gradually opening up a bit, don’t you think? The hairdresser has finally been to this house! BUT, for Bonnie the dog, not me. I’ve got an appointment but it’s not until 11th August. Aagh!

We have had friends round (confined to the garden and our annexe!) and we tried to keep 2m apart (but it’s quite hard to remember to do that when you’ve had a drink or two!)

We still haven’t ventured out to a restaurant or a pub but we did have a take away Sunday lunch last weekend, with a cocktail to start and that was a very nice treat.

But as things ease off a bit, I’m also starting to berate myself for: a) not writing more and b) not exercising more, during lockdown. Anyone else?

My Pilates classes are being held outside now, at the local cricket club and I have booked to go on Monday evening (weather permitting) but I’m still waiting to hear about when the swimming pool is going to open. Ooh, I miss my dose of chlorine. I have visions of sinking to the bottom, when I do finally make it to a pool, due to Lockdown Lumpiness.

I am now wishing that I’d done the Joe Wicks workouts since the start of it all… (don’t look at this link if you are feeling at all lumpy too. These people are seriously smug about their Joe Wicks-ified bodies and how he’s changed their lives).


If you’re feeling a bit ‘volunteer-ish’ – as I think a lot of people are, in the current climate. ie: that you want to do some good to counterbalance all the cr*pness that’s around, you might find this article on the Penguin website of interest: How to volunteer with a reading charity in Britain.

Another charity which isn’t mentioned in this article but which I think is fabulous, is Story Book Dads, which helps prisoners (male and female) stay in touch with their children by recording them reading bedtime stories which are then sent to the child. They need volunteers too. Details are here.

Retreat West Competition

Here’s a nice ‘first page of a novel, memoir or short story’ (400 words) competition, to win a writing retreat in Spain in November (or you can take it at another time if you can’t make November). It closes on 23rd August.

I rather fancy this myself but, a note of warning: it costs £15 to enter, which isn’t cheap, so read the rules very carefully if you’re going to submit and make sure you don’t eliminate yourself (say, by putting your name on the entry).

A clean (ish) plate. Take-away Sunday dinner gets the thumbs up!

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

‘The Elephant In The Zoom’

Damien Hirst’s ‘Verity’ at the entrance to Ilfracombe Harbour. Very impressive!

That clever title’s not mine, I must confess. It comes from a newspaper article about ‘Lockdown Lingo’, in which ‘The Elephant in the Zoom’ was described as: ‘the glaring issue during a video-conferencing call that nobody dares mention eg: one participant has put on three stone, suddenly sprouted terrible facial hair or has a bomb-site of a living room visible in the background.’

So, are you sick of Zoom? If you use it for work then you probably are and even if you’re only using it for family get-togethers and quizzes, the novelty may well have worn off by now.

I must admit, I resisted using Zoom for teaching my creative writing classes at the start of lockdown. I’d never used it, neither had most of my students and I was envisaging complete chaos and unhappy participants.. plus, like most people, I was feeling stressed enough and just couldn’t face any more worry.

But then I was persuaded to try it by the leader of a group for which I volunteer. Someone who’d used it for years gave me a few hints and tips – and a practice session – and… hey presto! It was all pretty straight forward and.. well, easy.

Now I use Zoom for two book clubs and a weekly session that I run for my Stratford writing group for seniors. If we still can’t manage to be together ‘in person’ in September, then it’s likely I’ll be running my two Monday classes via Zoom too.

Apart from the odd (temporary) issue with video or sound, everyone in the groups has managed to join in and use Zoom without too much bother, so if it’s something you’ve been considering for your group (and it’s such a shame, I think, in this current climate, if people can’t meet up, at least virtually), then why not give it a go? Let me know how you get on. Or, if you’re already using Zoom for teaching or meetings, how are you finding it?


I have been away at the seaside in beautiful North Devon for a week since I last wrote!

We were self-catering and took a car-load of food (plus the dog) and pretty much isolated ourselves. No visits to any pubs, restaurants or cafes but lots of walking, reading (and eating!!) and we still felt very grateful to be able to get away at all.

This break was booked over a year ago and for a long time it looked as though we wouldn’t be able to go but then Boris gave things the green light and – hurrah – we were off! (And a highlight was seeing the Verity statue in Ilfracombe).

Richard & Judy’s ‘Search for a Bestseller’

This novel writing competition is back and open for entries from now until 14th August 2020, so if you’ve got a completed manuscript to send them (they want the whole novel – aimed at adults – plus a synopsis and a short author biography, all within the same document), have a look here.

You must be a UK resident and over 18 and un-agented and… oh well, as always, read the rules very carefully! And good luck if you decide to go for it!

This is what Verity looks like from the other side.

Posted in Competitions | Tagged | 2 Comments

Coffee, Comps and (Hair) Cuts

Right, I’ve had my hair all cut off ..oh, and I’ve been in the pub all day. Hic.

Only joking!! I haven’t been near any hostelries or salons and don’t intend to for a little while.

How about you? Have you ventured out into the big wide world?

When I do get a hair appointment, which hopefully won’t be too far off, I’m going to get dressed up! Yes, I am. As though I’m GOING OUT – which of course, I will be. Going Out for the first time in 3.. or 4 months! What a treat.

Amazingly – because I have a habit of missing deadlines – I managed to get my submission off to the Kate Nash Literary Agency #BookCamp mentoring scheme in time (i.e.: with 3 minutes to spare). Results won’t be out until September. If you submitted too, good luck!

I have also signed up for ‘Audible’ – the audiobook ‘branch’ of Amazon. Now that I’m in two book clubs I’m running out of time to read all the books coming my way, so I’m hoping that listening to audiobooks will help me keep up!

I’ve downloaded ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney as my first book and I’m looking forward to that, as I enjoyed the TV series.

I have lots of writing ‘snippets’ (good word) to impart and hopefully there’s something that you’ll find interesting, so here goes:

Costa Short Story Award c/d 3rd August 2020

The Costa Short Story Award is now open for entries. The Award is for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words written in English.

The competition is open to any writer, published or unpublished, aged 18 years or over and resident in the UK or Ireland. This is a pretty prestigious award BUT it’s free to enter and if you’re not in it, you can’t win it, so if you think you’d like to have a go (prizes for the top 3 stories are £3,500, £1000 and £500), read all the terms and conditions here.

You can also read last years’ top 3 stories, if you want to get a flavour of what they might be looking for. (I read last year’s winner ‘The Dedicated Dancers of The Greater Oaks Retirement Community’ – which I enjoyed, although, be warned, there are a few ‘strong’ words – but one thing I did notice: THREE mentions of coffee! Not specifically Costa coffee, but coffee nonetheless. May I suggest you might want to slip some mentions of coffee-drinking into any story you send in…? Just an idea!).

Evesham Festival of Words ‘Lockdown Limerick Competition’
Tomorrow (Sunday 5th July) the Festival is launching a free Limerick competition. You read it here first! Have a look on the website tomorrow if you’d like to know more.


OK, confession time: I am watching ‘Love Island: Australia’.

It’s quite difficult to understand what they’re saying at times (but there are helpful subtitles) but otherwise, I LOVE it. And I know you are probably rolling your eyes at me but I don’t care. It makes me laugh and it’s a complete (welcome) distraction from everything going on in the world. AND it was filmed in 2018, so there’s none of this social distancing stuff going on.

But still on the subject of Australia, I have just discovered a great writing website, from Down Under, namely, Australian Writers Centre.

And, on the first weekend of every month (i.e.: THIS one!) they run a free 500 word short story competition (‘Furious Fiction’) which is open to anyone, anywhere.

For July’s challenge, the criteria are:

• Your story must take place at either WEDDING or a FUNERAL.
• Your story must include something being cut.
• Your story must include the words “UNDER”, “OVER” and “BETWEEN”

The winner will receive $500 Australian dollars, which is about £278. All the details are here but remember, if you want to enter July’s competition, you’ve only got until the end of the weekend Aussie time… the countdown is on the website.

Even if you don’t enter the competition, you could use it as a writing prompt.

The Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing 2020: The Next Chapter is open now and it’s free to enter.

There are actually 2 short story competitions with a word count of 2000 words. The first ‘Open International’ competition (with a first prize of £100) is for ‘feel good’ and ‘optimistic’ stories.

There’s also a separate competition for Yorkshire residents only (£100 first prize for that one too) and the theme is ‘The Yorkshire Coast’.

Closing date 31st August 2020. All the details on the website.

Pandemic Diaries

I’m trying to keep off the subject of You-Know-What as much as possible on here but just a little something to tell you about… if you’re keeping a diary in these strange times – or are interested in reading other people’s (from all over the world), you might be interested in this website.

Yes, most of the published diary entries are from the USA (although not all – I scrolled through quickly and found one from Australia and one from Wrexham) but perhaps you could redress the balance, by sending in something from your part of the world?

Bonnie finds the sunshine

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions | Tagged | 10 Comments

Hitting a Brick Wall

Actually, I’m not hitting a brick wall at all but, given the photos below, it seemed like a good enough title! I hope you are well in this strange coming-out-of-lockdown world and enjoying the nice weather. This was the sky here today:

Do you remember a while back we had squirrels in the loft? I realised I hadn’t told you the end of that story. Blasting them day and night with bright lights and Radio One did the trick!

The pest control man confirmed that they’d left (the droppings were old, in case you’re interested…!) and so we filled in the gaps in the roof and hopefully that’s IT.

But he also told us that he’d spotted a beautiful bat in there: a brown long-eared bat, to be precise and he said not to worry, it could find its way out of the tiniest hole, so all was well.

The mess in the garden

The latest ‘disturbance’ is that we’re having a stone wall built between us and one of our neighbours. It’s being built by one man (and his dog) so it’s taking weeks (and gallons of tea).

Do you find it’s easy to forget about social distancing when you’re outside and/or faced with someone new? When our wall builder first arrived, about three weeks ago, my OH went straight up to him and SHOOK HIS HAND! And then – with a gasp – realised what he’d done.

It’s getting there

Right, a couple of writing things for you, that may be of interest:

Weald and Downland Living Museum (which is in Chichester and is re-opening on 6th July!) is running a historical fiction short story competition.

Entry is free (although you can donate the usual £7 entry fee if you so wish). ‘Historical’ in this instance, covers 900AD to 1930AD (So, no Second World War stories!)

Prizes are modest (publication and annual membership of the museum) and there are lots of rules, so read them carefully, if you’re intending to enter. It closes on 4th September 2020.

The Worried Writer
Someone recommended this website to me which claims to help you ‘overcome fear, self-doubt and procrastination, to get the work done.’ I must admit I haven’t had time to dip in and out of it very much yet but there are lots of podcasts and interviews with authors, advice and tips (and no adverts!) and Sarah Painter, who runs it, has a lovely voice! Might be worth a look.

Book Camp Mentorships

The Kate Nash Literary Agency is offering ‘Book Camp Mentorships’ to 6 aspiring un-agented authors (writing adult fiction or narrative non-fiction). Sorry there’s not a lot of time for this one – applications close on 1st July 2020.

What they’re looking for:

The first 15-20,000 words of your work-in-progress, along with a 1-2 page synopsis and introductory letter, in one Word document, by the end of 1st July 2020. In your letter, tell us about yourself, where your book would sit in a bookshop and what you hope to get out of our programme.

What they’re offering:

Over six months, from September 2020 through to the following March, our mentees will receive:

• Representation at the Kate Nash Literary Agency
• Feedback and editorial support to help you bring your manuscript to completion
• A programme of workshops and round tables sharing industry knowledge and writing craft tips
• Regular one-to-one meetings with a literary agent, to discuss progress and help shape your work
• An evaluation of your outline for film and TV potential

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Hmm, I think I might have a go myself…

Bonnie Takes a Break

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions | 8 Comments

Poppies, Paperbacks & Pilates

Bonnie, strutting her stuff.


I have been quiet for a little while because there’s not been much to tell you! Except: POPPIES! Loads of them in one of the fields on our daily walk. It’s amazing how cheerful they make you feel.

Now, as you probably know, bookshops are preparing to re-open in England from Monday 15th June (they’re not re-opening in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland just yet).

How do you feel about that? Will you be making a dash for Waterstones on Monday?

I won’t, for two reasons… I still feel a little uneasy about making all but the most essential visits to shops and secondly, I have about a zillion books in my TBR pile.

I have over-committed myself by joining another book club (this one is JUST while we’re in lockdown) and it meets on Zoom every two weeks, so a lot of frantic reading is being done.

Our first book was ‘The Accidental Tourist’ by Anne Tyler, which is brilliant (but, oh my goodness, the film is terrible!).

Book number 2, which I have to read by next Wednesday, is ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’ (originally published as ‘Q&A’) by Vikas Swarup (who, according to his Twitter feed is an “Occasional Author and full time diplomat”. Wow!).

I loved the film, so I have high hopes for ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’.

In between all of that, my Evesham Festival book club met this week (on Zoom, of course) and our book was ‘The Bean Trees’, Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, which I had to rush-read in a day or so (luckily it’s short!).

We voted for our next book (someone suggests 2 books and the rest of us vote for our favourite), which is going to be Joanna Cannon’s ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep‘ (which I’ve already read twice! But it’s good, so that’s OK).

The novel is set in the heatwave of 1976, which prompted a chorus of ‘I was conceived in that year!’ from some of the younger members of the group, followed by anguished wails (from me) of, “You’re making us feel old!” (Someone also added – not me – “I think I got divorced in 1976!”). As ‘chair’, I had to reassure everyone who still had to cast their vote, that they did NOT, as part of their deliberations, have to reveal in which year they were conceived. Peace was restored.

I did a strange thing the other evening: Pilates in my next-door neighbours’ garden!

We’ve been going to Pilates classes together for a little while but then of course, all classes were cancelled. But now we’ve got that 6-people-not-from-the-same-household-outdoors-socially-distanced rule, the Pilates teacher is organising classes for 5 people.

So, we got a small group together and she came to my neighbours’ big lawn, to take the session. It was, I have to admit a bit chilly! But it was lovely to be able to lie on my mat, looking up at the sky and to finally have a proper stretch.

Oh it’s handy that the latest Spectator competition fits my alliterative post. Here it is, if you want to have a go!

No. 3155: al fresco
You are invited to supply a poem entitled ‘The Picnic’. Please email up to 16 lines to by midday on 24 June.

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions, Novels | Tagged | 3 Comments