Goodies! (And Baddies…)


Today I taught the last writing class of this term. That’s 10 classes done and dusted! Where’s the time gone?

And as you can see, I got lots of lovely goodies from my students! I’ve always wanted one of those ‘Teacher’ cards (I know, that’s really sad) and I’ve never had one – until today!

Tucked in amongst all those gifts is a cheeky one – a new whiteboard marker, because they noticed that mine was always running out! Bless ‘em.

They’ve been a really good class (and I’m not just saying that because one or two of them read this blog…) and I gave them an especially big thanks for taking a chance on a class – and a tutor – that was completely new and unknown to them (and could, let’s face it, have been ‘pants’).

All being well, the class will start up again for ‘round two’ in September – and I’m hoping a few more people will join but for now, I have the summer ‘off’ and my ‘Writing Romance’ course with Sue Moorcroft in Italy to look forward to next week!


1. You can read the results of the Writers And Artists ‘Introduce Your Villain’ competition, (which I told you about, back in April), here.

I like the winning entry although, at first, I thought ‘Jack’ was the villain – but maybe that’s just me, being stupid.

2. Things have gone slightly awry with MR Hall’s Crime Writing competition, which I told you about here.

You had to write the opening page of a crime novel in no more than ‘2000 characters’.

The winner was announced – James Davis – here is his winning entry but then someone, on Facebook, pointed out that it was was too long (and had therefore broken the rules) – and, shock, horror, that it was actually the opening page of a published novel.

Quite a few people ‘objected’ – (understandably) and this is what MR Hall says, on his Facebook page:

“…the rules of the competition did not specifically exclude an entry from a published work, though of course the spirit of the competition was that entrants would write an original opening for a book. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t anticipated that a published author would want to enter a competition for aspiring writers, so the contingency wasn’t provided for. Neither I nor Macmillan researched individual entries to see if they were from published works. The entries were simply read and assessed on their merits.”

Ah, that wonderful term, ‘the spirit of the competition’! There’s always someone who doesn’t understand – or chooses to overlook – the ‘spirit of the competition’, isn’t there? (They have, by the way, awarded the same prize, of a crime writing course, to the ‘first runner-up’).

Simon Whaley has blogged about breaking the rules, just this week.

He’s helping to judge a short story competition and is amazed by the number of entries that are coming in over the word count. Do the entrants really think that won’t be checked by the judges? (Actually, in the case of MR Hall’s competition, they didn’t! But usually they do, so don’t risk it!)

He’s also mentioned competition stories that win or are placed in two different competitions (that’s usually a big no-no, as I’m sure you know. Most competition rules specify that any story you enter must not have ‘won or been placed’ in another competition – and they often also state that it must not be currently entered into another competition).

I’ve seen two examples of this myself, recently, both of which I reported to the organisers! (Ooh, I am the Short Story Police!).

In both cases, a story that had come first in a short story competition, had then, only a few weeks later, been ‘Highly Commended’ in another competition, which means it must have been submitted at around the same time and, when it won one competition, had not been withdrawn from the other.

I think that’s greedy, to be honest. I’ve also seen a story in this month’s (June’s) Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special that I’ve definitely read before, in another magazine, a couple of years ago. It’s unaltered (the title might be different, I can’t remember, but it’s definitely the same story).

Time to resurrect my ‘Naughty List’ perhaps…?!


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16 Responses to Goodies! (And Baddies…)

  1. Edith says:

    Enjoy your writing course. Sounds absolutely fabulous! Thank you also for all your comments on the topic of entering competitions. Though I have yet to pluck up the courage to enter one, I shall bear your admonitions in mind! 🙂

  2. Tracy Fells says:

    Good luck for September term. Can’t wait to hear about the writing course with Sue Moorecroft in Italy, hope you actually get some writing done with all the distractions of sun, wine, Italy!! (very jealous). Also hope I never get on your naughty list. I do enter stories in multiple competitions where the rules allow it, but would withdraw the story immediately if it did well in one. Not helped when competitions publish results much later than expected (or stated).

    • Tracy, yes, I am wondering how much ‘work’ we’re going to get done too. BUT, there are only about 8 of us on the course and I reckon Sue, in the nicest possible way, will be a hard taskmaster (good!), so there won’t be many places to hide (well, apart from the swimming pool and the acres of land around the villa…).. so I think we will get some writing done. When we’ve been to Caerleon in previous years (Writers Holiday, in Wales), we’ve done NO writing (but had a great time), so anything will be an improvement on that!!
      Don’t worry about being on my ‘Naughty list’ a) I’m sure there would never be a need and in any case b) I would never be brazen enough to actually name an individual (I have learned my lesson when I did it once on this blog…!), but I would name organisations and competition organising bodies that haven’t done a good job, IMO!

  3. What a lot of lovely goodies! I entered the MR Hall competition and spent ages jiggling it around to be the correct number of characters. I didn’t get shortlisted but I wonder if I might have done if I’d let myself go over the maximum number of characters? (Or is that sour grapes!)

    • Hmm, it does leave a sour taste (grapes?!) in your mouth, doesn’t it, when you’ve followed the rules and some other cheeky sod hasn’t – and WINS! That’s why I do things like report ‘wrong-doers’ (even if I haven’t entered the competition myself – it’s not because I haven’t won but in the interests of fair play. The organisers can’t have ears and eyes everywhere, after all).
      I hope you’ll be able to do something else with the piece you wrote for the MR Hall comp, anyway, Sally!

  4. Mary Ann Gerber says:

    I was interested in your comments on short story competitions. There are clearly those who enter such competitions on a regular basis as part of their career structure, and who know all the wrinkles and unspoken rules. There are also those like myself for whom entering a competition is a novelty, and who don’t have a proffessional take on it. We enter a competition with trepidation, obey the rules, and unless it’s clearly stated, assume that our entry is acceptable.
    I am left with the impression that competitions are the territory of experienced competitors who have a very good idea of how to go about winning, but who might not necessarily be good writers. I’m not talking about competition rules here, which must be adhered to, but a whole sub-structure of ethics. My thought when reading your blog was that if someone wins one competition and is highly recommended in another, they must be quite good. Surely that’s the real point? Or am I missing something?

    • Mary Ann, thanks for your comment. If someone wins a competition and is shortlisted in another then yes, good for them – they are clearly GOOD and I don’t have a problem with the same names popping up time and time again. (Actually, it hardly ever happens but I have noticed that Ceri Lowe-Petraske is doing very well in the Writers Forum magazine monthly competitions recently. She was second in issue 139, first in issue 140 and third in issue 141!) Clearly, the judges like her style and fair play to her.

      My point is that it’s not fair when it’s the SAME story, not the same author.

      If a story’s won or been placed in one competition, it’s then almost ALWAYS excluded from entry to another competition. Occasionally a competition will say that it doesn’t matter if the story’s already been published or has won a competition, but 9 times out of 10, the organisers want a NEW, ORIGINAL story, not something that’s already done the rounds and been picked as a winner by someone else.

      So, when I see a story that I know has won a competition recently, pop up again on a winners’ list – albeit ‘only’ as ‘Highly Commended’, it niggles me, a) because that ‘highly commended’ place could and should have gone to another writer and b) because a story that’s already won one competition, has almost won another one! And what would the organisers do then? Red faces all round.

      It’s just about being fair and ‘spreading the success’. If a writer’s good enough to win a short story competition, they are good enough to write another story and submit that, different, story to another competition. If they win that one too, then good for them!

    • Can I also just add that I don’t think there’s any particular ‘knack’ or secret to winning a short story competition, that the successful writers have and the rest of us don’t.

      The recipe is:

      a) follow the rules
      b) write a good story
      c) hope that it appeals to that particular judge (and that’s where an element of luck comes in).

  5. Rita says:

    Hi there – it’s fine to submit the same story to different magazines, as long as you’re clear about the serial rights you’re offering.

    • Hmm, I’m not sure about that, Rita. It’s OK to offer foreign rights once you’ve sold the story in the UK but not simultaneously to two magazines in the same country, surely?

      • Rita says:

        Hi again, I assumed you’d seen the story in a foreign mag. I subscribe to a couple. I wouldn’t think to sub the same story to two UK mags once it’s already been published in the UK. I’m surprised WWFS accept reprints to be honest. Enjoy your writing hol.

  6. Linda says:

    I would have thought that the first rule of entering any kind of competition is to read the rules – but it’s surprising how many people don’t. Or perhaps they do, but then think it’s okay to bend them a bit!

  7. Wendy Clarke says:

    Hi Helen. Ooh which one in the WW Fiction Special… tell me… tell me! (and no, it wasn’t mine!) Seriously though, it does seem really unfair because, as you say, it takes away other people’s chances.

    • Hello Wendy – are you back from Greece? (Or are you on-line on a beach somewhere?!). Can’t tell you the identity of the author and which story it is, I’m afraid…! Other people have asked me and I won’t say because a) perhaps the author has got ‘permission’ (?!) b) I don’t really want to get anyone into trouble or cause embarrassment – or make enemies!! The womag world is a small one… and c) perhaps I am wrong? (but I am 99% certain). And no, of course, it’s not your story!! (IT’S NOT WENDY’S STORY, EVERYONE!!). So, sorry but you’ll have to just trust me on this one. I agree though, it’s not very fair and as I get rejection after rejection (2 in one email last week), it’s making me particularly ‘narked’!


  8. KH says:

    Hi Helen. Regarding the WW story like Wendy I too have been trying to work out which one you’re referring to without any luck so far! I do remember seeing one in WW once before though that had been published in Peoples Friend first. I wondered whether the author had just slipped the net or been given permission on that occasion. Be good if the writer would come on here and tell us. Well done on your writing workshop. Your students must have really enjoyed your teaching for you to get such nice cards and pressies. Good wishes KH

    • Thanks for your kind words!

      Re. the same story appearing in 2 different magazines, I think it’s a ‘mistake’ (or possibly deliberate) on the part of the writer. I’m almost certain that another magazine wouldn’t take a story that had already appeared in a rival magazine, even if it had been a couple of years in the past. Magazines usually insist on buying ‘first British rights’ which means you agree that it hasn’t been published anywhere else. They don’t want disgruntled readers, complaining that they’ve already read the story!

      I did, by the way, also see a story published in Woman’s Weekly a couple of months back, that I’d read before on-line. It had been placed in a competition (it wasn’t first but second or third) and they’d published it. I wonder if WW were aware of that? I suspect they wouldn’t have bought that story, had they known ‘the truth’!


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