‘Random Word’ Competition (fiction or poetry): Free to enter! c/d 16th April 2020

I have reached the giddy heights of 1000 followers (of the blog, not a strange religious sect that I run as a sideline. Although, there’s a thought…).

So, to celebrate, I’m running another of my little flash fiction competitions. It’s the usual formula (and it’s likely to be the last one, so make the most of it! I’m not stopping the competitions, I hasten to add but I think, next time, I’ll try something new).

The trusty random word generator came up with PUZZLE*, WELCOME, SHEEP and TEDIOUS and I’m adding THOUSAND for good measure and for obvious reasons, so those are your 5 words.

*strictly speaking – as the eagle-eyed amongst you will spot from the photo – it came up with ‘puzzled’ but I’ve changed it to puzzle, as that’s a little less restrictive.

I’d like you come up with a flash fiction story OR poem, in no more than 100 words, (plus title), that includes all 5 of the words.

Here are some tips:

* Try to be original in both your story and use of the 5 words. Don’t go for your first idea as it’s likely to be the same as several other people’s.

* Check and double-check your entry to ensure there are no typos or grammatical mistakes. I have, in the past, had to eliminate entries that would otherwise have made the longlist because they contained errors, which was a real shame.

* Remember that ‘flash fiction’ is a particular literary form. I’m no expert but it strikes me that it’s a cross between fiction and poetry. Every word counts.

* For inspiration, look at the winners of previous random word competitions on this blog and also winners of other (bigger!) competitions, such as the National Flash Fiction Day website’s microfiction competition results, which have just been published.

It might give you some idea of what can be done in just a few sentences (I think the winner, ‘When Neil Armstrong Walks on The Moon’ is stunning. And it’s 99 words long).

* Don’t be in a rush to send your entry in. You’ve got 3 weeks. Polish, edit, put it away and come back to it You know the drill.

Just to be clear, the words are:

* thousand
* welcome
* sheep
* puzzle
* tedious

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 add letters to the START or the END of the words eg: ‘puzzled’ or ‘thousands’ or ‘unwelcome’.

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 (ie: they’re in the document in their entirety), then you’re OK. ‘Welcoming’, for example, wouldn’t work.


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. And then, of course, there’s THE GLORY of being the winner, which is, quite frankly, priceless.


1. One entry per person & no alterations can be made once submitted.
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. Remember, this is a ‘family blog’!).
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: helenyendall@yahoo.co.uk by midnight on Thursday 16th April 2020 (3 weeks today), along with your name. You will get an emailed response, confirming receipt of your entry, within a day or so.
10. By entering, you agree that your name and your entry can be posted on this blog if it’s one of the shortlisted stories. Copyright remains with the author and all entries that are not shortlisted will be deleted/destroyed once judging is complete.
11. I will ‘longlist’ 10 entries and another judge (yet to be confirmed but someone new!) will choose their shortlist of 5 stories and from those 5, the winner and runner-up (anonymously).

Good luck!

Posted in Competitions, random word competition | 11 Comments

Keeping Perky!

Hello, I’m back and since I last posted (on 4th March) everything’s gone a bit weird, hasn’t it?

Anyway, let’s not dwell on that now but remain bright and breezy and PERKY!

Here are some distractions and nice things that you might like to read or do:

1. Free Novel-Writing Course

Amanda Reynolds, who writes psychological thrillers and is always very generous with her time and support for other writers, is offering a free novel writing course via her blog, to include practical exercises, tips and advice. The first part is on there now.

And so is the second. Here.

2. Evesham Festival of Words competition

Like many festivals, Evesham has already cancelled and postponed some events and will no doubt have to cancel many more BUT the short story competition is unaffected. Hurrah! And there are just 2 days to get your entry in. Closing date is Friday 20th March (at midnight GMT). The adult category costs £5 to enter but it’s free for children. All the details are here.

3. Get Thee to a Gallery!

If, like many of us, you’re stuck at home, you can go on a virtual tour of some lovely museums and galleries without leaving your armchair, by clicking on here.

4. Writing In Isolation

Writing magazine has an interesting post about how to survive writing in isolation:

5. Future Learn Courses

I’ve never tried them myself but lots of people swear by the FREE courses available on ‘Future Learn’ – have a look here and report back if you try one, won’t you?

6. Morgen Bailey

I was recently lucky enough to win a critique from Morgen Bailey in a Twitter competition and she’s given me some fabulous feedback on a story that has never quite managed to make the grade (despite my sending it to lots of competitions and thinking it’s not a bad story!).

Have a look at her website and see all the wonderful things she does and she has a free monthly newsletter, which you might like to sign up for.

7. The Spectator magazine runs a writing competiton on a weekly (I think) basis. Often, anyway. You can usually find them on the Spectator website. The latest one – which is free to enter – is as follows:

No. 3142: with added spice
You are invited to submit a review from Tripadvisor spiced up by a number of misprints. Please email entries of up to 150 words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 25 March.

8. The National Trust

And if you want to get out of the house (while practising ‘social distancing’, of course), the National Trust put a nice little message on their Twitter feed yesterday: “We are aiming to open many of our gardens and parks for free during this difficult time, so the nation can use open spaces to relax and refresh, while following the government’s social distancing guidance.”

So keep an eye on the NT website for more information on that. (But note that houses, cafes and shops will all be shut).

That’s all for now, folks. But I will be back soon with a new random word competition!

Have an emergency G&T on me!


Posted in Blogging, Competitions | Tagged | 18 Comments

GUEST POST: The Importance of Goal Setting

Today I bring you a rare thing on this blog – a guest post!

Many thanks to writer S.Bee who has some wise words to say about setting goals.

This is something I definitely need to do. Without goals, nothing seems to happen but you also need a strong dollop of self-belief, motivation and determination, to carry them through (or is that just me?).

I have probably said this before, but I struggle with procrastination (which is a posh word for ‘faffing’). If you’re the same, then Joanne Harris has a new thread on her Twitter feed #TenThingsAboutProcrastination which you might find useful.

Do you set goals? How do you manage your writing and ensure that the days and weeks just don’t just disappear, without getting any writing done? If you’ve got any tips or suggestions to add, please put them in the comments section below.

Here’s what S.Bee has to say on the subject:

We all need to value the importance of goal setting. This simple technique can help, encourage, motivate and support us to produce high quality regular results. Here, I outline ten steps to get you started on the goal setting path.

1. Why we need to set goals

Goals keep us motivated, it offers us structure, plus it forces us to be disciplined and organised. We can actually finish projects instead of having lots of vague ideas hanging about cluttering up our hard drives, our creative minds and our notebooks.

2. Decide what your goal is

It should be something you really, really want to do. Two years ago, I decided to attempt a rom-com novel. I gave myself a rough time limit of a year to start it, finish it, edit it and submit it.

3. Goals prevent the ‘blank screen’ scenario

Grab a pen and paper, write your goal down and place this note on your desk.
It doesn’t matter if there’s just one small item on the list.
Then every day, when I sit at the computer, I have a good idea what my goals are and what I can realistically achieve in my time limit.
You can crack on with that project straight away – no more time wasted staring at a blank screen. If you adopt this method, you’ll never get stuck, because your goal is already there waiting for you.

4. Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals

You can set goals for every day, every month or every year. If this sounds too much like hard work, that’s because (sorry, writers) it is!

Professional writers and full-time freelancers actively choose to work in their own specific areas of employment – if they don’t work, the bills don’t get paid.

My one big goal for last year was to finish my rom-com novel.

5. Set more than one goal

There’s nothing wrong with having several goals. In fact, I would actively encourage it. However, I would advise you to complete one project before you start work on another, because your mind set may change with each one.

6. How to keep motivated

You shouldn’t have any problem keeping motivated if you have set your goals clearly. If you’ve run out of goals, simply set some more!

Reflect on your past success and think ‘I did it then, so I can do it again now.’

7. Goals must be realistic and achievable

I feel that my goal of producing a commercial rom-com novel is both realistic and achievable because:

(i) I’ve had over 55 stories published in national UK magazines
(ii) I enjoy reading the rom-com genre
(iii) I’ve had practical working experience of my MC’s occupation and
(iv) Hopefully, my novel will fit alongside the other rom-com writers on the book store shelf.

Remember, ideally, your goals should be realistic and achievable.

If they’re not, think about how you’d get from A to B.

For instance, if you wanted to write a political stage play, but you’ve spent twenty years working on a farm, it’d be good idea to carry out research beforehand.
Don’t simply make it up and think it’s going to be okay. It won’t.
Talk to your friends about your project and listen to their suggestions.

8.Struggling? Set yourself a different goal

If you’re struggling to start or complete your goal, it’s perfectly okay to put it on the back burner for a while. Perhaps it’s not the right time for it, or perhaps it’s a big project and you don’t feel ready.
It’s a waste of time and energy to force yourself into something, so jot your idea down, and then switch focus to a different goal instead.

9. Give yourself a reward

There’s one very important aspect of goal setting.
It involves treats. Lots of them, in fact!
Reached the basics? Fix yourself a coffee – oh, and have a biscuit too.
If snacking ain’t your thing, vow to get your nails/ hair done or buy that new book by your favourite author.
Little treats like this gives us something to look forward to when we’re in the midst of despair.

10. Keep going with those goals!

Regard goal setting as standard practice for your working life.
When I was an unpaid writer, my goal for the next day was to visit the local library, type my work up from my longhand and save it on a floppy disc. The fact that I wasn’t a published, paid writer didn’t deter me one little bit.
I didn’t listen to others who put me off achieving my goal – and neither should you.
The reason why I felt my goal was realistic and achievable was because I’d had my work assessed by a specialist womag fiction agency who’d said my material was ‘spot on’ for the magazine market.
I had set my goal and I did everything within my power to achieve it.

And finally, I did it.

My first short story was published in The Weekly News and I actually got paid! I was so proud. I’ve since gone on to repeat this success.

So, go set those goals today!


If you love animals and a pick n’ mix of fiction, our e-anthology PAWS FOR THOUGHT contains short stories by womag writers such as Patsy Collins, Jacqui Cooper, Beatrice Charles, Alan Williams and Fran Tracey.
Income from sales are donated to the RSPCA. Details here.

Many thanks, Sharon, for a stimulating and thought-provoking post. I like the sound of those treats! Good luck with your charity (RSPCA) short story anthology and do let us know when your rom-com novel hits the shelves!

Posted in Finding Time To Write, Guest Post | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘Women’s Prize for Fiction’ Longlist – How Many Have You Read?

Random Word Competition … coming soon!

Some of you (Keith!?) may be wondering, now that I’ve hit the 1000 mark (1000 ‘followers’, which always sounds like a cult), whether I’ll be running another of my ‘random word’ story competitions and the answer is YES …but not quite yet.

I am busy reading entries for the Evesham Festival short story competition (which closes on 20th March), so until that’s all done and dusted, I can’t do anything else competition-related (not enough brain) but at the end of March I should be able to run a new random word comp, so watch this space!

Prize-Winning Stories

And talking of competitions, I’ve got an article on ‘How to write a prize-winning short story’ on the ‘Nothing In the Rulebook’ website but (and the irony of this is not lost on me), today I discovered (when they announced the shortlist of 10) that my latest effort hasn’t made the cut in the ChipLitFest short story competition. Boo.

But here’s the thing about short story competitions (and I’m sure you’re well aware): they’re so subjective. When you throw your hat into the ring, you have no idea either what you’re up against, or what the judge is ultimately looking for.

You just have to write the best story you can, try to be original and hope the judge likes it. I still like my story and I’ll be zapping it off to another competition very soon.

Hilary Mantel

Thomas Cromwell

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Start The Week’ on Monday featured novelist Hilary Mantel, whose third book in the Wolf Hall trilogy (‘The Mirror and The Light’) has just been published. I listened to part of the interview as I was driving to Chipping Norton, for my Monday classes and it was fascinating (and I haven’t even read the books – although I’ve seen the first two novels as plays. Does that count?).

Anyway, the wonderful thing about ‘catch up’ is that you can …well, catch up! So, I’ve now listened to the whole 42 minute interview, which is here, if you’re interested.

Women’s Prize for Fiction

Here’s the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist 2020, which has just been announced (and which, not surprisingly, features the aforementioned new Hilary Mantel novel).

There are writers’ tips on the website, by the way!

Apparently, the judges, chaired by Martha Lane Fox, read 152 novels to come up with their final 16. Phew, that’s a lot of reading!(I’m struggling to get through one novel at the moment).

How many on the list have you read? I have to admit, to my shame, that although the Maggie O’Farrell ‘Hamnet’ is on my TBR list, so far I haven’t read it – or any of the others, for that matter.

Here they are:

• Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
• Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
• Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
• Dominicana by Angie Cruz
• Actress by Anne Enright
• Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
• Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie
• A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
• How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
• The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
• The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
• Girl by Edna O’ Brien *
• Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell
• Weather by Jenny Offill
• The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
• Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

*this is probably a terrible admission to make but I honestly didn’t realise Edna O’Brien was still writing. But she is. Good for her. And she’s 88. And here’s a review of ‘Girl’ which sounds great.

Posted in Books, Competitions, Cotswolds, Novels, Short Stories, West Midlands | Tagged | 6 Comments

In Which I Reflect on Blogging

I got this amaryllis bulb for Christmas and look at it now! Blooming!

In October, this blog will be TEN years old. I’m just 2 followers off 1000 and this is my 665th post.

Yes, that’s a lot of words and a lot of time and, I must admit, I sometimes wonder why I’m still doing it. 😦

Apparently, ‘blogging is dead’. I should be ‘vlogging’ (perish the thought!) or Instagramming (whaaa?) but I’ve only just got the hang of all this technology, so I can’t see me starting again with something like that.

I can’t help noticing that many of the blogs I used to follow ‘back in the day’ have disappeared. Or at least, their owners (is that the right word?) have diversified and use their blogs for book promotion or guest posts more than anything else.

People are doing other things, obviously (like writing their novels!). Hmmm. I have got a severe case of FOMO*

You see, sometimes, after soooo much time and so many posts, it is actually quite difficult to think of something to write about.(If you’ve got any ideas, let me know!).

But enough of this introspection and glumness! Let me tell you what I have been up to:

I went to see ‘Emma’ (the film) last Friday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although they have taken some small liberties with the plot. For example – there are bottoms! (What The Guardian described as “some startling buttock action”).

And then there was the Chipping Norton Literary Festival launch night, which I attended last Sunday. Ooh, get me. I am a ‘friend’ of the Festival, you see (anyone can become one. You just have to cough up £25!) and as such, I received an invite to the ‘prosecco-and-nibbles and priority booking’ night.

The High Street in ‘Chippy’

And very civilised it was, too.

They had a very fancy ‘booking system’ – to avoid nasty queues. As you arrived, you were given a raffle ticket (I was number 12! See, got there early) and the numbers were called out in turn and you could go and book your tickets.

So, amongst other things, I’m going to see Maggie O’Farrell and Marian Keyes. Wheee! I had a ticket to see MK once at Cheltenham Festival but I couldn’t go in the end, so this is extra special! I wonder if I’ll have actually finished her new novel ‘Grown Ups’ by then. I have only read about 10 pages so far. Every time I get into bed to read it, I fall asleep within about two minutes. I think I need to start again.

*Fear of Missing Out. (But you knew that).

PS: Are you watching ‘The Split‘ on BBC 1? Ooh, it’s good. I actually think it’s better than the first series. We’ve ‘binged watched’ it, I’m afraid. So we’re already up to episode six!

Posted in Blogging, Cotswolds, Novels, Television | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Water, Water, Everywhere…

Ludlow Castle and the teeming River Teme

A couple of weeks ago I went to an event run by the ‘Society of Authors’.

It was a talk by author and Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant Ignaty Dyakov, entitled ‘Health for Authors: A Holistic Approach’ and it looked at strategies to help manage health issues and improve energy levels (and most of us could do with a bit of that, right?!)

I’m not a member of the Society of Authors, by the way, but a friend asked if I wanted to go along, as she’d been emailed the details and, if you paid a little more, non-members were allowed.

There were a couple of authors I knew, sitting around the table at the event (‘knew’ as in, I’ve read their books and followed them on Twitter). I shan’t tell you their names because I’ll feel like a stalker and they may not want their editor to know that, when they were supposed to be at home beavering away on ‘edits’ (or whatever proper writers do), they were actually drinking coffee and lunching in Leamington.

A lot of what was discussed was common sense but it did make me think about what I eat and drink and as a direct result, I now buy organic milk, don’t stress if I sleep more than 8 hours (apparently, if you need that much sleep, you just do and you shouldn’t fight it!) and I’ve got my Nutribullet out of the box where it had lain dormant for the past 2 years and yes, I’ve been using it.

If you’re interested, take a look at Ignaty’s blog post here, which covers a lot of what was discussed at the event.

Mind you, much of this ‘wellness’ went out the window last weekend, when we had a few days away with friends, that involved much eating and drinking.


We were in lovely Ludlow in Shropshire. Hmm, I say lovely (and I’m sure it is most of the time) but of course, Storm Dennis struck and we had non-stop rain for most of our stay. The River Teme burst its banks and many of the roads were flooded and closed.

We were OK though. Wherever you were, I hope you managed to stay safe and dry!

Posted in West Midlands | Tagged | 4 Comments

Grazia and Women’s Prize for Fiction First Chapter Competition

Look what I treated myself to today! When Storm Dennis is raging over the next few days, I will be holed up somewhere cosy, reading this.

As I was standing in Asda, holding my copy and getting very excited, a woman came up to me and said, “Ooh, she was on the tele’ this morning!” [she meant Ms Keyes]. “And,” (she continued), “I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never read anything by her. Are her books any good?’”


So, then we had a long conversation about books (she liked psychological thrillers, in case you’re interested and I recommended a couple) and I thought I was never going to get away. It was like a Book Club meeting, only standing up, in front of a shelf of books, in a supermarket.

Finally, the woman said, “Ah well, I’d better be off. I only came in for carrots!” And off she went, empty-handed, which was a shame but she did like e-books rather than actual books (see, I found out lots), so perhaps she’d just gone home to download a couple.

Grazia And Women’s Prize for Fiction Writing Competition

Anyway, enough of all that. I have another FREE writing competition for you (did you enter any of those I blogged about at the end of January? No? Neither did I!)

You’ve got until 13th March to enter this one. It’s the Grazia first chapter competition.

They give you the opening paragraph of a story and you have to finish it in 800 – 1000 words.

Have a look here if you’re interested but don’t forget to read all the rules carefully before you submit.

One of them is, for example (sorry, chaps): “Open to female entrants (including those whose gender identity is female), only, as this is a female fiction writing competition.”

Bonnie’s Birthday

In other news, it was the Bonnie baby’s 7th birthday this week. Here she is, looking glam, with just a hint of distinguished grey on her muzzle.

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions | 8 Comments