700 followers – Free Writing Competition!

As promised, as I’ve now reached 700 followers on this blog, I’m running another of my flash fiction random word competitions, which is free to enter and open to everyone. Exciting biting!

Sorry if you were expecting something different this time. In an ideal world, I would do something else but the flash-random-combo seems to work and doesn’t take up too much time (yours or mine!), so why invent the wheel!?

The trusty random word generator came up with KIDNEY, WHALE, RACE and HONEY and I’m adding SEVEN for good measure and for obvious reasons, so those are your 5 words.

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.

Just to be clear, the words are:

• kidney
• whale
• race
• honey
• seven

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 end of the words – eg: ‘raced’, ‘seventy’ or ‘whales’.

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.


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 of being the winner, which is priceless.


1. One entry per person & no alterations can be made once it’s 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 – this is a ‘family blog’ – 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: helenyendall@yahoo.co.uk by midnight on Tuesday 12th September 2017 (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. Copyright remains with the author and any entries that are not shortlisted will be deleted/destroyed once the judging is complete.
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 on here so that everyone can see the response! Thanks – and good luck!

PS: My tips are: make good use of all 100 words you’re allowed to use. 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 some of the winners and shortlisted entries from previous competitions, just click on the (new!) ‘random word competition’ category (right hand column) and it will bring up the relevant posts.

Have fun and good luck! 🙂

Posted in Competitions, random word competition | Leave a comment

A Slight Touch of Book Bereavement

Is it just me, or does anyone else get ‘book bereavement’ when they’ve finished a good book?

I’ve just read ‘100 Days of Solitude’ by Daphne Kapsali, recommended to me by a friend.

It’s a (self-published!) memoir and meditation on what it means to be a writer, to follow your dreams, to be true to yourself and live the life you really want (and if that all sounds a bit ‘navel-gazing-y’ then this book may not be for you).

It was written in 2014 when the author gave up her job (teaching yoga) in London and stayed on in the family’s Greek holiday home over winter, to write for, you’ve guessed it, 100 days.

The book started as a blog; each day’s blog post became a chapter in the book (and she confesses towards the end of the book that she started to write a novel while she was there too). Actually, although Daphne lived alone, there’s not much ‘solitude’ in the book. She skypes, she phones friends and at one point she even hops on the ferry and goes to Athens for the weekend to see her mum (!) so if you’re expecting real Robinson Crusoe type ‘solitude’ you might be disappointed but I really enjoyed it and I feel a bit ‘lost’ now that I’ve finished it.

50 Word Story Challenge

Think you can write a story in just 50 words? You’ve got until 29th August to submit your story here to the Scottish Book Trust. This month’s theme: write a story about a horseshoe.

You might win a mug! And have your story published on their website. From the rules, “Entry to the competition is open to all. However, residents outside the UK (including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), must be willing to cover postage costs should they win the prize.”

My Funny Old Week (this is a feature they have in Woman’s Weekly and I just fancied doing it. Feel free to tell me about your ‘funny old weeks’ too in the comments, if you so wish!)

Where I’ve been … stuck for two hours in a jam on the M42.
What I’ve seen.. a woman three cars along (see above), answering the call of nature
Who I’ve met.… members of my tennis team. We had dinner at the local pub – and a fair amount of award-winning Cotswold Gin – to celebrate winning our division (still not quite sure how we managed that. The winning, not the gin).
What I’ve bought… a shopping trolley for my mum (not an old lady one but rather a stylish one. Hopefully she’ll like it!)

Tennis ladies, celebrating success!

Posted in Blogging, Books, Competitions, Cotswolds | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Psychologies Magazine: Novel-Writing Competition

The latest issue of Psychologies magazine has a novel writing competition for UK residents, aged over 18, with a £5000 e-book publishing deal – and possibly representation too, by literary agents David Higham Associates– up for grabs, IF (and it’s a big IF) you have a previously-unpublished psychological thriller or crime novel* finished by the closing date of 6th October 2017.

You ‘only’ have to submit the first 5000 words of the novel, plus a 1000-word synopsis by that date but it’s a condition of entry that the novel (75,000 – 130,000 words) is complete when you enter. The longlisted and shortlisted entrants will be required to send in their complete novels.

Have a look at the full details and rules here, if you think you might like to enter.

NB: you need an entry form from the magazine, so you’ll either need to hot-foot it out to the shops and splash out £4.20 on issue 144 (which has Ewan McGregor on the front), OR, if you’re the first person to ask, very nicely (in the comments below), I’ll send you the entry form from the magazine that I bought, in a mad moment and before I realised that the novel had to be a thriller or crime (which is not my thing, sadly. I am trying to write a ‘longer work’ – I refuse to use that scary N word – but it’s not in either of those genres).

For those of you thinking ‘pah, that’s not my thing, either’, do not despair. You might still be interested in the series of 12 articles by novelist Lucy Atkins that Psychologies are publishing this year – the first 6 are on their website (number 7,on ‘keeping up the tension’ is in the latest issue) – about writing a novel (any kind of novel!).

#1 – starting that novel and telling no-one!
#2 – Let your imagination run wild
#3 – Make time to write
#4 – Probe your characters (ooh err)
#5 – How to cut your work
#6 – Some style basics

• from the rules, “This can include police procedural, psychological thriller, historical crime, domestic suspense and supernatural suspense.”

Good luck in the competition if you decide to have a go!

Posted in Books, Competitions, Magazines, Novels | Tagged | 15 Comments

How to Tweet

So, here I am, back from (the last) Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard, our visitors of the past 3 days have gone home (one left his underpants under a pillow but that’s another story..), so there’s no excuse not to get down to some writing and I’m breaking myself in gently with a blog post…

I’ve written about Twitter before – here – but please forgive me for another foray into the world of 140 characters…

I’ve recently offered to run the Twitter feed for Evesham Festival of Words (it’s @infoFOW if you’re interested), as I noticed it had died a death.

I’m making a start by giving it a tidy up and by ‘culling’ some of the inappropriate people and organisations that we’re following. (Twitter tip#1: You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you…!).

This is a time-consuming task (I reckon I’ve got about another 1000 to go…) but it also has its lighter moments. People’s profiles can be excruciating. All those self-depreciating comments, mentions of coffee and/or chocolate addictions and references to procrastinating…! They are, I have decided, Twitter-cliches. Take them off, I beg you, if your profile mentions any of them.

I suppose, because they’re writers or ‘aspiring/future/potential writers’ (I’ve seen all of these descriptions), people want to appear literary (or at least, literate) but lines such as: “There is a moment – a point on the page – when you gasp, laugh, cry, cheer, revolt or sigh. That is where you will find me, hiding in the forestry of words…” (and yes, that’s a real one) or “I’m all about lean, tough prose, & the slaying of adverbs” (it’s really there!), are best avoided unless you are trying to be funny.

Author Joanna Cannon, whom I seem to be mentioning a lot lately but that’s because she speaks/writes a lot of sense, has 10 top tips for Twitter (or ‘how to be a human being’). She’s a firm believer that Twitter should not be used as a tool to sell your books, or promote yourself (unless it’s publication day!) but simply a place to interact with other people. As she puts it: “You’re there as a human being to chat to other human beings about anything other than selling your book.”

When I read that – and in fact, when I read the whole post – I felt vastly relieved because I’ve always had a niggling doubt that I’m doing Twitter wrong, that I should be making a bit more of a song and a dance about the (very modest) e-book offerings that I have published (Oops, that’s just reminded me that as we draw nearer to September and evening classes, someone, somewhere, might be interested in my book on starting a creative writing class. Pause while I send a quick promotional Tweet out.. thus breaking all of Joanna’s ‘rules’!)

If you’re on Twitter – or thinking of joining the 328 million monthly active users – read Joanna’s post and tell me if you agree with her!

Flash Fiction Competition
On a very different note, Birmingham Literature Festival and Virgin Trains are celebrating their joint 20th birthdays with a free-to-enter Flash Fiction competition (max 500 words). Your entry must be on the theme of Birmingham, train travel or ‘the last 20 years’. Closing date is 10th September and it’s open to all UK-based writers. Good luck!

Posted in Competitions, Tweeting, West Midlands | Tagged | 3 Comments

End of an Era

Greetings from Wales!

There are some years – perhaps you’ve noticed this too – when lots of things in your life change.

This summer my parents moved house, after over 40 years in the same place, I’ve left my day-job and this week, while I’ve been at Writers Holiday in beautiful Pembrokeshire, they’ve announced that it’s going to be The Last One.

Although Anne and Gerry will still be running their winter weekends, there won’t be any more of the summer conferences which have been taking place (first in Caerleon and then, in recent years, at Fishguard), for over 30 years.

It’s quite a shock. Chris and I have been to 9 summer conferences in total and loved every one. What are we going to do now?! (All suggestions – polite ones, please – welcome!).

The Cwmbach male voice choir are coming to perform tonight, as they always do and they don’t yet know the bad news (unless any of them read this blog… which, to be honest, I think is unlikely). There are going to be tears…

Too late now as well, to learn the Welsh national anthem, so we could sing along properly tonight instead of standing there like berks (or like former Welsh secretary John Redwood – remember that?)

Write Space

On a more cheery note, enterprising writers Vanda Inman and Linda Lewis (who was a guest on this blog last year), are working together on Vanda’s relaunched website for writers ‘Write Space’ so why not pop over and have a look at what’s on offer? There’s lots of advice and tips on writing, as well as details of the critique service they offer and there’s going to be a free competition soon.

7th Birthday

Talking of which, my blog will be 7 years old in October and I’m rapidly heading for a total of 700 followers so to celebrate I will also be running a free writing competition. Watch this space and if you want the competition to come even sooner, help me get up to 700 by subscribing to the blog. You won’t get any spam, I promise, it just means you’ll be emailed every time I post something new.

Right, and now I have to go and eat MORE food! Lunch is being served…!

Posted in Blogging, Competitions | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

And breathe….

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for 16 days!

Where have I been?

Well, in a nutshell, I have been helping my parents downsize and move house (quite possibly the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, partly because, even up to the moment when we were sitting in the solicitor’s office to sign on the dotted line, my dad was still in two minds about the whole thing…) AND (because I like to pile it on), I’ve been frantically tieing up loose ends and doing a handover for my job, which I finally left today.

Oh and yesterday (because a bit of variety is good), I spent 6 hours at Burton hospital while my dad had various tests. The good part of that, though, was that I managed to read a whole book while I sat there, waiting, namely, Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, based on The Taming of the Shrew and which I loved.

On Sunday, my friend Chris and I are heading West to Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard for our annual feast of: food (honestly, you eat so much that someone I know actually DIETS before she goes), writing workshops, lectures and the male voice choir on the last night.

Lots of laughter and fun guaranteed. We are running the quiz on the first night and I’m doing 4 workshops (ahem, still to be prepared…), so it will be busy but I’m REALLY looking forward to it and feel in need of a holiday. I don’t even care if it rains every day.

If anyone’s reading this who’s also going, don’t panic, yes, it actually starts on Monday but, for once, we are being organised, and going a day early…!

When I come back, it will be (almost) August and my new life as a full-time-no-excuses writer begins – at least for the rest of the summer and until I find something else to possibly pay the bills. I will keep you posted (because I might actually be able to blog a bit more regularly!)

One thing I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks, when, at times, I felt like I couldn’t cope, is that we are stronger than we think. And by coincidence, I’ve just read a piece by the fabulous writer Joanna Cannon on the same theme, here. It’s one of the things she learned from being published.

I enjoyed this article. Maybe you will too.

Posted in Blogging, Books | 14 Comments

Wine Required!

I was up early this morning, despite being really tired because I can’t sleep when it’s so light! Is it just me? I know I shouldn’t be moaning (it’s SUMMER!) but even with the blinds down, the sun sneaks through the gap in the window and prods me to get up! Oh, I’m sounding very John Donne! (Ahem, ‘The Sun Rising’ being one of my favourite poems, don’t you know…).

Since my last post, the Evesham Festival of Words has (mostly) taken place.

My pal Chris and I ran the Book Quiz last Thursday night. Major panic when we realised the venue, which has only just reopened after a fire, didn’t have any WINE! And over forty people were due to arrive any minute.

“Oh, do you think they’ll want wine?” the lady behind the bar asked.
“Erm, yes,” was the answer. We even offered to go to Lidl and buy some ourselves!
But, thankfully, someone else whizzed off in a van and came back bearing bottles and judging from the glasses on people’s tables, most of it was sold!

Putting on brave faces but actually, VERY stressed at the thought of no vino!

On Friday night, Chris and I went to the Prue Leith interview (as well as being a novelist and restauranteur and chef, of course, she’s a new judge on the Great British Bake-Off. I’m sure lots of people – like me – were hoping for some juicy goss about GBBO but she wasn’t allowed to talk about it! ☹)

The junior and adult winners of the Festival Short Story competition were announced on the same evening and presented with their prizes by Prue Leith. When I booked the tickets, a few months ago, I imagined that Chris and I – or at least one of us – might have been on the shortlist, which would of course have made the evening really exciting… but sadly, it was not to be. There’s always next year! And we consoled ourselves with a glass of rose…

On Sunday afternoon, I ran the first of two workshops (because the first one sold out) on ‘Writing Short Stories for the Women’s Magazines’. Of course, as we all know, the markets for short stories are much more limited than they were even just a few months ago (when Take a Break closed its doors to all but a selected few) BUT, as I point out in my workshop, The People’s Friend magazine publishes over 600 stories a year, Woman’s Weekly needs 20 stories a month for its Fiction Special and 2 stories a week for the weekly issue and… well, to find out the rest, you have to come to the workshop, of course! (Still a few places for this Sunday’s…!)

Luckily I had set off early because although Evesham is only 20 minutes from me, I encountered: a road block and diversion (because the fair was in town) which took me miles out of my way, queues of traffic, a full car park and slight palpitations when I thought I might be late! (I wasn’t). Eeek. If it hadn’t been the early afternoon, wine might have been required then too.

Short Story Competition – Win A Writing Retreat (closes Sept 2017)

And on a different note, here’s a lovely FREE writing competition, courtesy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and Retreat West.. they’re looking for a 1000 word short story set on a beach. You can do that, can’t you? I happened to have one set on a beach and that’s never been published, so I’ve zapped it off already.

There are more fiction competitions on the Retreat West website. They’re not free to enter but might be worth checking out.

Posted in Books, Competitions, Events, Magazines, Short Stories, The People's Friend, West Midlands, Woman's Weekly | 4 Comments