Friday, 4 January 2013

New Year and New Opportunities

Happy New Year to you all and here we go again into 2013.

After my pitiful performance for most of last year I kicked myself into action and worked more on my writing and submissions in the last couple of months. Here's my review of what I've done so far.

November 2012. I entered three poetry competitions and one short story competition. I was runner up in the short story competition, had no luck with two of the poems so far but not expecting to hear until the end of this month, and the third poem, well, just wait and hear about that one in my next post Should  You Ever Argue with Editors?. In any case, one out of three ain’t bad. 

December 2012 I entered three more short story competitions, which I am still waiting to hear about.

I also found an excellent opportunity for a short radio play I wrote as part of the Open University Advanced Creative Writing course (A363). The play, Turners Never Turn, is the one loosely based on my runner up story The Pit, and while my tutor loved it, sadly there seemed to be zero market for fifteen minute plays.
So I was very excited to find this opportunity via the BBC Writers Room site with Slung Low, an award winning theatre company, in their Fifteen Minutes Live Project. 

In their own words:
“Original new short plays for radio that are performed live in front of an audience with on-stage sound effects and live music … Each 15 Minutes Live will be produced and performed in a different venue and location with original scores for each event played live by the band. A permanent legacy will be created online of new audio work and a body of new stories that look to speak to an audience both digitally and live.”

Each session has a theme and while my play did not fit the current submission requirements, I contacted them and they were happy to look at my play on-spec.  As well as accepting themed submissions they also commission work, so fingers crossed on that (not heard a dicky bird yet, mind).

This is a fantastic opportunity for A363 students who may be sitting on something we felt could never be used. Find out more at

2013. So far this year? One entry to the Flash 500 Humour poetry competition, and two brand new pieces of flash fiction written for the Darker Times website monthly competition. I’m hoping lightning can strike twice…

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Success with a very strange little story

I may have been lazy recently but in November I submitted to four writing competitions. Still waiting for the results of three but I was very pleased to be a runner up in the November Darker Times short story competition.

You can see my story here

No prize, but it's published on their site and will be published in a print and e-book Anthology early next year.

What I'm most pleased about is finally finding a home for a rather odd little story. It's historical, but not of interest to most outlets for historical fiction. It's got its horrific parts, but not enough to be of interest to most horror readers.

My poor little waif and stray of a tale found a home eventually with Darker Times. Take a look at their website for some very interesting fiction and poetry that goes beyond the classic horror genre. All they ask is that it is 'darker' in some way, not necessarily horror, and it's encouraging to find somewhere that isn't trying to place writing in a little restricted box.

My story? This was inspired by an exercise on research for the Open University A363 creative writing course. Ratcatchers was one of a list of topics we were sent off on a hunt about, and I ended up in, increasingly horrified at the anecdotes of these Victorian ratcatchers, and determined to make a story out of it all. Spot Mr Jack Black and his belt on that Wiki page? (image below) That sure grabbed me straight away.

I've taken it a stage further and ended up with a radio play, using this short story as the subplot in a story, about a grandfather talking to a grandson who is about to leave for France in WW1.

If you are lost for inspiration then Mayhew's book - text available online - is a fantastic resource, full of the lives, work, worries, concerns, problems, crimes, families, joys, and triumphs of ordinary people often in what seems to us now, very bizarre situations. Whether you want to write historical fiction, or want to work these ideas into sci-fi, young adult, crime, thriller, romance...there's a huge amount to help trigger off your own muse.

Portrait of Jack Black

Man plans...God laughs?

So, all my good intentions went by the wayside yet again. Another year and another blog post - what happened to every week?

Life happened.

One of those phases when the universe - through the medium of other people -  basically just dumps on you.

I'm back, pen in hand (or rather, fingers on keyboard) and raring to go now. Lots of new material, lots of ideas, and more time blocked out for my writing.

So, THIS year's resolutions (I don't believe in keeping them for January 1st)

1) Blog once a week on pain of beating myself with nettle leaves if I fail
2) Submit at least three pieces of writing every month

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Creative Writing courses - is writing something you can grade?

I've just received the result of my second Open University creative writing course, and I'm celebrating as I managed somehow to achieve a distinction again this year in A363, as well as the one I got last year for A215. Wine has been drunk, congratulations received, smug satisfied smile attached to face, and everyone on the planet informed. I now have my Diploma in Creative Writing and Literature and I'm over halfway towards my Literature degree.

9% of us got the distinction. So, yes, I am proud of that. Yet I also know many of my fellow students were disappointed with the grade they were awarded. Many of these were the students whose work was quirky and original, who explored the boundaries of style and voice, who pushed against the structures and restrictions the course necessarily placed on us. Me? I'm a grade hunter and quite happy to 'play the game' to get what I want. But as creative writing is such a very subjective subject, is it possible to devise a marking system that is fair to all and minimises the personal reaction to the work of the marker? It seems that the solution the OU takes is by structuring the marking in such a way that then penalises those who move out of the expected arena.  It's a problem that effects all marked creative writing courses.

I want to say well done and congratulations to everyone who was on the course - no matter what your grade - it was tough, we worked hard, I learned a lot from you all and value the networks we've built up, and I wish I could do another one next year?

Friday, 5 August 2011

Yay! I got published!

I set myself a target in June to send at least three pieces of writing each month out there; to competitions or as submissions to publishers, agents or other interesting places. This, I hope, will keep me producing new work and not just endlessly recycling the few pieces I'm proudest of, and helps me to shrug off the inevitable rejections.

This month, I am able to say, finally, that I've had something published.

I am a runner-up in the Poetry competition published in the September edition of Writers-forum magazine.writer's forum September issue

I am thrilled by this - especially as I have no serious intentions towards poetry - but it also raises a few questions in my mind. Is this all a little bit 'pop will eat itself'? To be published as a new writer in a magazine that is for people who want to write? It's all rather self contained and circular in my gloomiest moments, but hey - it's a well-designed glossy magazine, you can buy it in WH Smith's, it has a decent circulation (or Smith's wouldn't touch it) and it has got a little sample of my writing out to all those readers. Does it matter that they are also wanna-be writers like me?

Publishing in the literary small press may have more kudos, but this is still going into my nice newly purchased 'published' file. Page one filled. Another 24 sparkling fresh pages to go.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

I've been a bad girl!

I set up this blog in a fit of enthusiasm then disappeared. Terribly sorry. Bad bad bad. I shall forswear chocolate for a whole month.

But I'm back...and I'll stay back this time. After all, I need somewhere to come to procrastinate instead of working on the big scary final writing project for my course.

So what have I been up to writing-wise in the past few months? A fair bit.

Still studying with the OU. I'm now on course A363 and concentrating on drama. Turning out to be a bit of a drama as well at times, but I'm enjoying it overall and learning a lot. Have a ex-BBC scriptwriter for a tutor so making the most of it while it lasts.

Applied for a small 'New Buds' grant here: to develop a 15 minute radio drama written for the A363 course into a full length radio drama (to be used for professional feedback and a few days off work to concentrate on it) but I was unlucky there. Apparently my application met the criteria but 'there were too many applicants'. Ah well, never mind, worth a try. It's an interesting site if you are in the south east so take a look. It can be a bit Brighton-centric but they hold events throughout the region and have a lot to offer new writers.

Went to a rather scary but enlightening training day with East Kent Live Lit, looking at new ways to present literature work to a live audience. Scary because I felt way out of my depth; enlightening because it helped me  look at my work in a new way and be inspired by other people doing all sorts of wonderful things. Live Lits blog about the day with a film of a groupwork art piece, and here's a link to another participant who was brave enough to have her work posted on the net afterwards: live-lit-making-day-clare-proctor. Clare has the most amazing sense of timing here and has created an innovative piece to accompany her poem.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Mummies on the Bus go chatter chatter chatter.

Yes, they do indeed, and here's a big thank you to them for providing me with lots of material to write about.

I've been commuting on the bus for the last year and it's been a far more inspiring experience than sitting in my car oblivious to anything but what is on the road in front of me. I've taken to making secretive little notes in a tiny red book, whipping it out and plonking down a few words to remind me of what I'm seeing, or hearing (or smelling on a few occasions), as a way of collecting ideas and material.

It's embarrassing to do this on the bus. People look at me, puzzled. Some are wary. I try not to be too obvious about it but sometimes forget my manners and stare. I only write in my little book if there is an empty seat next to me and no curious eyes to read over my shoulder. That might not be good for my health.

But it's a terrific place to pull in impressions and incidents. One of the pieces I wrote for the creative writing course I'm on started with looking at a rabble of teenage schoolboys on the bus, all trying to impress each other and the girls, swaggering around as 'big men', saying 'fuck' at every opportunity, but at the same time making fart jokes. I thought about how much simpler it was in the past when you were either a kid, or an adult, with none of this messing about in the middle and that lead on to a story that looked at growing up to adult responsibilities, and losing them again as we age.

I'm still looking for a way to use: the man wearing one of those joke baseball caps with drinking straws leading from attached beer-can to mouth, but who oddly had no drink installed; the woman who got on and asked if the bus went to X, was told yes, nodded her thanks and got off again; the driver who looks at everyone presenting a £10 note as if he wants to stab them through the eyes; the homes I'd always assumed were tiny bungalows but now see, from my higher viewpoint, as the top floors of four-storey buildings perching at the peak of a steep hill (a cliff?) that falls away from the road.

But best of all are the conversations. Whether it's caused by the increase in mobiles, reality TV, or a break-down in old-fashioned mores (who cares), people on the bus definitely talk more than they used to. They discuss the most personal and private events with no sign of embarrassment. Privacy is fast becoming an outdated concept. For those of us who want to write, this is a fantastic thing.

I've listened to an elderly man behind talking about his piles and getting folk-remedy recommendations. Two elderly ladies loudly and gleefully running through the scandal of a niece, the next-door neighbour and a broken promise. A couple sat and calmly debated whether they should continue with their affair; after he got off the bus at his stop, she got on her phone to a friend to denounce him as a wanker but a wanker with a big one and that's why she puts up with him. Teenagers will talk about anything.

So many stories…so little time. If you are stuck for inspiration, a trip on your local bus could be just what you need.