‘Life-Writes’ – Book Giveaway

I have acquired 2 copies of the same book – ‘Life-Writes’ by Suzanne Ruthven, so I’m giving one of them away.

The author is the editor of New Writer magazine, she’s a tutor and has written over 20 books, so she knows what she’s talking about.

I’ve only flicked through my copy so far but it looks good. (“Where do writers get their ideas from? It’s called Life”). There are lots of exercises, hints and tips and let’s face it, as a writer you can never have too many ideas – or sources of ideas.

I’m always fascinated by where and how people get their ideas – especially if they’re good ones! So, if you want to win a copy of the book, just leave a comment telling me how you got the idea for your last piece of writing (or any piece of writing with which you’re particularly pleased). If you tell us about an idea you’ve already used – rather than one you’re planning to use – then you don’t need to worry about other people ‘nicking’ it!

Just to get you in the mood, here are a couple of mine…

A few years ago I went to the gym with a friend. On the ‘A’ board on the pavement outside there was a sign, advertising all the beauty treatments they offered (it was a posh gym!). But a letter had fallen off one of the words. Instead of ‘Manicures’ it said ‘Man cures’. “I’m going to write a story about that one day,” I told my friend, “about a kind of agony aunt who works in a beauty salon.” She nagged me until I did. It took about 4 years to get round to it, but I did eventually write it and it was the first story Woman’s Weekly ever bought from me. Moral of the story: keep your eyes peeled when you’re at the gym!

I used to get lots of ideas from people I worked with in offices. One colleague had a little boy who was always doing and saying funny things. Once he said to her “I love you a hundred but I only love Daddy ten.” (this, I hasten to add, was not because her husband was a wife- or child-beater! He was a policeman, who mostly worked nights and the little lad hadn’t had much time to bond with him). Anyway, it gave me the idea for another story, “Love You A Hundred” about rival grannies, which was also published.

D’you get the idea? Pun intended. I’ll do the old random generator thing to choose a winner, I won’t be actually ‘judging’ the best, so everyone’s got the same chance – and I’ll do that on Friday 29th June, so you’ve got a week!

I look forward to reading them…!

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25 Responses to ‘Life-Writes’ – Book Giveaway

  1. adelesymonds says:

    One of my recently written short stories was generated by a writing exercise, first line starter. The plot of the story was inspired by the number of young girls who bottle up horrible things that have happened to them and never tell anybody and how this can and often does affect the rest of their lives. The sentence starter was ‘Yesterday I killed a man” and my story can be found on http://adelesymonds.wordpress.com

  2. The idea for the novel I have been working on recently (on and off, life is getting in the way) came from a photo I took while on holiday. I didn’t notice when taking the photo (it was a pic of a view) but there was an old man in the foreground, sitting on an old wall with his head in his hands, leaning on his stick. I kept staring at the picture of the old man and wondering wht he was thinking, why he looked so weary and sad and have been working backwards from that.

  3. Nic says:

    I recently received a frantic call wondering if I would do some short notice invigilating at a local ‘academy’. As all of my WIPs were being resistant to further improvement, I agreed.
    I should say that it is well over 30 years since my university finals, so I found myself in a strange limbo where the envirinment looked familiar but was subtly (and sometimes surprisingly) different.
    It is not a case of viewing the past through the proverbial rose tinted bifocals, but I honestly think that I have never been in the company of such a uninversally miserable group of individuals as these teenage candidates.
    In the allotted two hours I absorbed the atmosphere, breathing in the miasma of misery to such an extent that I was glad to get out into the pouring rain! At home, still puzzling over the extent of the despair I had witnessed I started to compare the students’ situation to those who had more substantial reasons for being truly unhappy.
    This line of thinking morphed into a first person piece from the POV of an ‘inmate’ coming into the exam. Such is their personal depression about the situation that all of their observations parallel those of a prison inmate. The reader only discovers the real situation in the last line. It has since been accepted for an anthology published later this year, so at least there was one person happy as a result of that exam.

  4. I was bored with writing and at the computer, and I went on Rightmove, to cruise houses I couldn’t possibly afford. One had a genuine Tudor well in the garden, which led on to a whole novel about a filled in well being excavated by an archaeologist – and finding a baby’s bones buried. The photo I nicked off the house details is still on my desktop!

  5. J R Moeller says:

    Recently I wrote a story about a wounded soldier. The girl friend took over the story and left the mother standing on the sidelines. I decided to put the mother at the centre of a new story which is now finished but needs a title.

  6. It’s the small everyday things that people tell me I write down. Like when a little lady told me recently ‘they don’t wear hats now at weddings, they have pasionaters on their heads.’ Think I’ll stick with the hat. Also, the local allotment chaps and ladies are worth writing about. There’s always some story going on there, people come and buy foot high beans from us, and pretend they’re the ones they planted from seed a couple of weeks ago.

  7. Angela Greenwood says:

    I get some ideas from song titles, and unusual pictures from newspapers and magazines. Sometimes a one liner someone says does the trick. For example: ‘and after all that it still didn’t fit!’

  8. cathaber1 says:

    Sometimes I have anxiety dreams – generally variations on the theme that I’m about to perform in a play or concert and haven’t learnt my lines/music. Recently I used this in a story. I haven’t had the dream since – have I exorcised it, I wonder?!

  9. Jenny Francis says:

    I got my idea from my writing group. We each set a different topic for the meeting and that weeks topic was , `Giving Away Your Millions.` One lady wrote about buttons and another (who always writes fairy tales)wrote her fairy story. I said to her, “why don`t you write about a Button Fairy.” When I got home I decided to use my own idea , so wrote a children`s story about Millicent Mouse, who finds a pearl button and gives it to her friend the Fairy Button. A story from a throw away comment.

  10. spbbygirl says:

    I love Alison Uttley’s books, not her children’s stuff but her adults books. Generally they’re collections of essays, for want of a better word, all about Victorian country life. I also love Thomas Hardy. I also love people, I was looking at the short, stocky, powerful figure of my neighbour recently & thought he would make a fab blacksmith in a story! I put all these things together and set them in a tin mine in Cornwall, added a couple of single people and hey-presto! Story sorted!

  11. Virgoan Scribe says:

    I got my idea for my last piece of writing from this blog. it was the post you did Helen on “Stepping out of your comfort zone” and you told us to: ‘Here’s an exercise you might like to try: Make a list of all the things you never want to write about.’
    The first thing that sprang to my mind was that I really couldn’t write about my brother’s death from a brain tumour.
    The day after, I decided you were right and that I should step outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t easy writing but I was pleased I’d written it and it became my entry for the Bridport.

    • Good for you. I’m pleased that my blog has inspired you, firstly, but more importantly, that you wrote something that really pushed you – but that you were pleased with in the end. Well done and good luck in the Bridport!



  12. Tracy Fells says:

    We have a tame male blackbird that visits daily. He’s been coming to the kitchen door now for over two years and he knows exactly how to get my attention so I can feed him his favourite snack of raisins. My husband remarked one day that I loved Bertie (the blackbird) more than him and one day he’d come home to find his place usurped. Well Bertie is rather gorgeous… Anyway this inspired me to write an adult fairy story called ‘Down came a blackbird’, which incredibly has recently come runner-up in the Exeter Writers’ 2012 Prize. So inspiration can come right under your nose sometimes.

    • That’s great Tracy! Is your story on-line, can we read it? I love feeding the birds too – at the moment I’m enjoying watching all the baby blue tits and sparrows being fed by their parents – sooo sweet. We have a blackbird (‘Ebony’ I’ve called him!!) that sings his heart out from the roof every evening. Would love it if he came to be fed too – lucky you. And a great idea for a story, of course!


      • Tracy Fells says:

        Here is the link to my story: http://www.exeterwriters.org.uk/2012/06/down-came-blackbird-2nd-in-201112.html
        I just started leaving out raisins and Bertie came closer and closer. Now he rather cheekily flies at the kitchen window when he’s hungry. And the other day I became Blue Tit saviour – found fluffy baby on its back on the patio. They can’t really walk on the ground but it was perfectly happy perching on my fingers. So I propped it up in a nearby bush and hope mum came back for it.

      • Tracy
        I enjoyed your story – more than the winner’s, I have to say (sshhh, don’t tell anyone!). Well done. That’s a prestigious short story competition, you must be delighted to have come second.

  13. Kath Cavanagh says:

    While I try very hard to seek inspiration for my stories from the world around me and being a ‘good listener’ many of my ideas just appear as a single image in my mind which I then develop.

  14. Amongst more jolly ruminations, I’m also interested in how people prepare to die – if they have time to prepare, that is! I visited the Shakespeare Hospice some time ago while the day patients room was empty and I noticed that there was a large half finished jigsaw of Anne Hathaway’s cottage on one of the tables. I hate jigsaws at the best of times, and this set me thinking about why anyone in the later stages of their lives would want to work on this kind of activity. That question remained unanswered, but the image fixed itself in my mind and I later wrote a short story called JIGSAW which I sent off to a Mslexia competiton. I didn’t win, but I got a nice letter of commendation.I kept it and reread it when the going gets tough!

    • If you got a letter of commendation from Mslexia, then you did well. The half-finished jigsaw – how poignant (and a great metaphor for life!). I actually quite like jigsaws but I never have time to do them. I’m also, coincidentally, working on a story about a woman who does jigsaws – but realises that the missing piece in her life is a man she keeps rebuffing. Sounds a bit cheesy but hopefully it’ll come out a bit better than that!

  15. Keith Havers says:

    The relationship between myself and my wife is a combination of George & Mildred, Sybil & Basil Fawlty and Else & Alf Garnett. I’m always being told off for not eating healthily and not wearing a hat when it’s sunny, so our holiday in Tenerife was the inspiration for Why Can’t I Take Life Easier? which appeared in the charity anthology 100 Stories For Queensland. This is still available on Amazon and my story was mentioned in a Book Depository review.
    PS We love each other really.

    • Ah, Keith – how sweet! Lots of material there, too, I’m sure! (I tell my partner off for reading when he’s eating his breakfast. It drives him mad. Actually, I’ve stopped nagging him about it now. If he wants to get indigestion/ignore me at the breakfast table, fine!). Hmmm, maybe there’s a story there…?!

  16. Helen M Smith says:

    I was parked outside a butcher’s shop one day on my way to work and I saw the butcher wearing his butcher’s apron and trousers etc sitting on a chair just inside the doorway. The shop was closed as it was on a Sunday. He was sitting on the chair with his head in his hands and I just thought that something awful must have happened to him – maybe his wife had left him or his business was failing. Whatever it was, I witnessed an unguarded moment that nobody was meant to witness and this gave me an idea for a story.

    • Helen – that’s a very vivid scene – and unusual, with the butcher, in his apron. I’m not surprised it gave you an idea for a story. I’m wondering what had happened to him too.

  17. Mo says:

    Hi, I’m just exploring your blog 🙂 I am doing a non-fiction course at the moment and I am finding that whilst I have my ears and eyes peeled for different angles on non-fiction articles I am stumbling across weird and wonderful fiction ideas!

  18. Helen Lowry says:

    Hi. I get a lot of my ideas when I’m out running. It clears the mind and you can have a good nosy without anyone bothering, but it also gives me time to think. A couple of years back I won a Writers’ News competition with a story that came from dodging all the the bins on the pavement when the strike was on in Leeds.

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