A Hotchpotch of a Post

I treated myself to a new writer’s notebook this week (‘Night Swimmer’)

Hello! I’ve been meaning to write long before this (it’s been a fortnight!) but somehow, the days got away from me.

I don’t even have the excuse that I’ve been snowed in or stuck in the snow (again) because we don’t have any of the white stuff here. Have you?

So, prepare for a hotchpotch of a post, full of all the things I’ve been saving up.

Firstly, I need to tell you about a few competitions.

Evesham Festival of Words, to which, as you know, I have an ‘allegiance’ (I am on the Steering Group and run the Twitter feed, amongst other things), is running their annual Short Story Competition and you’ve got until 12th March (5pm) if you’d like to enter.

Go on! It’s only £5, there’s no theme and you can send up to 2,500 words.

I am judging the first cut of stories (i.e.: producing a longlist of 15, in conjunction with another judge).

Every time we get a batch of 10 or so stories, we read them and then discuss them on Zoom, which is fun! And of course, it’s all done anonymously, so I won’t know it’s your story.

Simon Whaley will be judging 1st, 2nd and 3rd places from the longlist of 15.

Anyway, all the details are here, if you want to have a go. It’s open worldwide and there are CASH prizes!

Mini Saga Competition (Free!)

But if flash fiction is more your thing, the Festival is also running a FREE Mini Saga competition, which closes on 28th February. There are book token prizes.

I have nothing to do with the judging for that but it was my suggestion and I drew up the rules, so I’d love to see lots of entries flood in!

You can only send in one entry and it must be exactly 50 words (plus title). All the details are here.

Harpers Bazaar Short Story Competition (closing 15th March and the theme is ‘threads’).

The competition is open to UK residents only, aged 18 and over, published or unpublished. To enter, send an original, unpublished short story, written in English on the subject of Threads and of up to 2,200 words, to shortstory@harpersbazaar.co.uk.

Avon x Mushens Entertainment Prize

And last but not least, this competition is open writers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who are writing a commercial novel – whether in the crime, thriller, women’s fiction or historical genre.

They want the first three chapters and a full synopsis by 28th February and the prize is a two-book publishing contract with Avon with an advance against royalties of £10,000 (£5,000 per book), an additional £3,000 grant to support their writing, and representation from Mushens Entertainment (literary agency). All the details are here.


I’m currently re-reading ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith. Ah, isn’t it a lovely book?

And funnily enough, yesterday, lurking on my book shelf I found an old book diary and it contained an entry for ‘I Capture the Castle’ which I first read in 2002!

I’d written ‘It would make a good film!’ and of course (call me psychic), in 2003 it was made into a film (which I haven’t seen but hey presto, at the touch of a button I have just ordered the DVD from eBay).

Virtual Backgrounds

As we’re all Zoom-ing away, you might be interested in these virtual backgrounds from the National Trust, which make it look as though you’re sitting in a lovely writing room, a la Virginia Woolf, for example.


And finally, here are a few mantras that I try to bear in mind (I don’t actually chant them but maybe I should?), when the writing is tough (sssh, but still no word from my agent about the second draft of my novel. Ah, I am enjoying the ‘rest’!!)

* Progress over perfection
* Don’t get it right, get it written
* Just tell the story
* If not now, when?
* Someone else is writing your story. Beat them to it!

Let me know if you’ve got any to add!

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7 Responses to A Hotchpotch of a Post

  1. Eirin Thompson says:

    I slightly remember reading I Capture The Castle many years ago, and enjoying it. And I think I remember the film – wasn’t the dad played by Bill Nighy? But, for me, Dodie Smith was first and always The Hundred And One Dalmations, which I discovered when I was about eight. It was one of those books where, when I read the last page, I immediately went back to the start and read it again. I loved it, and still buy it for various children, when they reach the appropriate age. I rarely feel that way about books, these days, but the last one that gave me that ‘must-reread-immediately’ feeling in recent years was Brother Of The More Famous Jack (by no means a new title, but new to me) – I’d love to know which other books grabbed your correspondents in this way.

    • Ah yes, the fabulous Barbara Trapido! I read – and loved ‘Brother of the More Famous Jack’ too, many years ago. I will have to revisit it, if I ever get through all the books I have sitting on my bookshelves and on my kindle waiting to be read!

  2. I am also re-reading I Capture the Castle right now. I always forget how funny it is! Everything to do with Topaz has me in hysterics.

    • That’s a coincidence, isn’t it, Nicola? I’m just amazed by how modern it seems, given that it was written in the 1940s. I suppose that’s the sign of a real classic – that it seems timeless.

  3. Oh, I love I Capture The Castle!

    A phrase that’s been resonating a lot with me recently is ‘You can’t edit nothing’. I got it from Wendy Hudson, and I think she got it from somebody else. Same theme as your first two, I think.

  4. Thanks so much, great mix of stuff!

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