Monday, 9 November 2015

Old Stuff, New Stuff

When I first started to write, around six years ago, being published in anything at all seemed like an impossible dream.  I've been very lucky. Since then my work has appeared in various places, both online and in magazines and print anthologies.  If you type my name into Amazon it comes up with stuff that you can buy containing my work. Yes, I've looked, I really am that sad! I'm not delusional. I know nobody has ever heard of me, and hardly anyone has read anything I've written. But you can't argue with an Amazon listing!

No matter how many times it happens, it never stops being exciting. And I'm especially proud to have a story included in the Momaya Short Story Review 2015.  The theme this year was 'Treasure', and I entered a new version of a story I originally wrote some time ago, which seemed to fit the theme perfectly. I've received my copy of this lovely, beautifully produced anthology, and there is at least one story in it that I wish I'd written.

I was also thrilled when another older story, The Secret, was highly commended in the last Inktears Short Story Competition. This story was the first one to appear when the site was revamped recently. It got some lovely, interesting comments, for which I'm very grateful. You can read it here.

Relying on old stories is all very well, but you need to write new ones, and try out different things. In September I went, with some trepidation, to a Woman's Weekly Fiction Workshop in Manchester. I've been submitting stories to 'womags' for some time, although I fear that the optimistic tone they require doesn't come naturally to me. I am a natural pessimist who expects my toast to fall butter side down. Most of my stories have sad endings. This won't do, apparently, in the womag story. There must be a note of hope. So I have a lot to work on.

Having said that, I had a fantastic day at the workshop, which was tutored by the lovely Della Galton, and the very witty Gaynor Davies, Woman's Weekly Fiction Editor. I learned so much about what Woman's Weekly is looking for, and what they don't like. And I was actually brave enough to read something out loud. If you know me personally you'll understand what a massive thing that is. I hate the sound of my own voice. The best thing of all though was the opportunity to spend a whole day just thinking about writing, in a room full of other people who love it as much as I do.

Stepping outside my writing comfort zone again, I entered the People's Friend Serial Writing Competition, which closed at the end of last month. I grew up reading my Nana's weekly copies of People's Friend. I can see them now, piled up in the corner of her sofa.  I suspect that there are some very special skills required to write the kind of stories that People's Friend likes. I also suspect that I don't have them yet. But I had such fun writing an outline for my 3 part serial, and the first 6000 word installment. I don't think I've ever worked so hard on anything in my life, and that includes my university finals. There have apparently been 116 entries for this competition. I don't for one minute expect to be successful, but nothing is ever wasted. I'm sure I can develop what I've written into two or three shorter stories, if nothing comes of this.

In other news, I had a pleasing little win last week in the weekly flash competition recently started by  The Short Story Website . My winning story, Lambs, was originally part of a much longer story. Re-reading, I realised that all I really wanted to say was contained in this little episode. I'm glad it's finally found a home. And this newish site is a wonderful thing for readers and writers of short stories.

My cat Lily remains unimpressed by my writing. All she really cares about is where her next packet of Dreamies is coming from. Can't say I blame her. Onwards.......

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Patience Finally Pays Off....

Pieces of good writing news are, it would seem, like buses.  As the saying goes, you wait forever, then three come along at once.  I was thrilled, last week, to learn that I had been highly commended in the Inktears Short Story Competition 2014. Obviously, I'd have been even happier if I'd won, but to come in the top 7 of a competition with around 500 entries is something worth celebrating.

Then, after 12 weeks of almost always being in the top 10, but never shortlisted, and just before I gave up hope, I managed to win WriteInvite for the first time this year. To be honest, I wasn't that happy with my story when I wrote it. It was all a bit traumatic, and for a few seconds, minutes before the competition closed, I thought I had lost the whole thing. Somehow, I managed to get it back. And miraculously it won! My friend Jo came third. It's the first time we've ever been shortlisted together. You can read our stories here. I wish more people would enter this weekly competition. You have a really good chance of being shortlisted.  I was, the second time I entered. It's such a good exercise, writing for 30 minutes using one of 3 given prompts, with the chance of winning £50. What's not to love?

On Tuesday my story Eavesdropping was published by the online Flash Fiction Magazine. It's the second story I've had published by them,and it has received some lovely positive comments.  Interestingly, not everyone sided with the same character. This is what makes writing so interesting. So it's been a good writing week. Lily Cat continues to seek attention, and has developed a fondness for tapping at my keyboard. I'm thinking of letting her enter WriteInvite on my behalf on Saturday. She'd probably do a pretty good job. She certainly has a tale or two to tell!

On the reading front I have been enjoying the wonderful Millie And Bird by Avril Joy. This is the kind of short story collection I fantasize about writing, all set in the same close knit community. The title story won the Costa Short Story Award in 2012. I'm also currently reading, on my Kindle, From Writing With Love ,  Avril's book of sound advice about the craft of writing. I can recommend it for anyone in search of a little encouragement.  I've also been having a look at the latest Bath Short Story Anthology , in preparation for hopefully submitting a story to the 2015 competition. I have a story in mind, and just need to more or less rewrite it. Onward and upwards .....

Monday, 16 March 2015

A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way

I'm not quite sure how it's happened, but almost a quarter of 2015 has passed.  It's been a frustrating few months, without a single publication. I haven't even managed a WriteInvite shortlisting, even though I've been entering every week. I've definitely fallen out of favour there.

On the positive side, I've actually been writing more than ever. Thanks to writing sessions with my writing buddy Jo I have, since the beginning of January, completed around six brand new stories, and have at least 15 'works in progress'.  One of these new stories made the shortlist of the latest Word Hut short story competition, which is, I guess, better than nothing. At least I know I'm not writing complete rubbish.

The most exciting writerly thing that has happened this year is finding myself of the Inktears Short Story Competition Shortlist. I'm thrilled to be included in the final thirteen, especially since the longlist was VERY long.  The closing date for this competition was in 2014. In a way, I hate having to wait for results. But at least while you're waiting you still have hope.

Last year I blogged about how pleased I was to have my flash fiction, My Evil Twin, included in issue 2 of Firewords Quarterly. Rather belatedly, browsing on one of my favourite websites, Shortstops, I came across a lovely mention for my story in the Review section. You need to scroll down the page to find it, at the end of the Firewords review. I'm especially taken with the sentence 'Her short short is powerful enough to get her imagery stuck in your brain for several days after reading it.' It's a shame they spelled my name wrong, mind you, but I can live with that.

My writing goal this week is to complete a story to submit to The Short Fiction Prize. I suspect that none of my stories are really literary enough for this kind of competition. But you never know.........

Monday, 2 February 2015

Still Just Getting On With It.....

I haven't updated my blog for some time now. January has somehow slipped by with nothing interesting to report. No shortlistings, no wins, no acceptances. In fact, no acknowledgement at all of the fact that I am a writer. Longlists, shortlists and results for competitions I have entered keep popping up. I am never on them. I am like that five year old child that keeps tugging on the teacher's sleeve, needing to be told that she's doing okay.  But I have no sleeve to tug. The only thing I have ever really wanted to do is write. Unless you count my childhood ambition to be a hairdresser. That never happened. At the moment, the writing thing isn't happening either.
          Ironically, I've written more this month than I've done for a long, long time, thanks mostly to almost daily sessions with my writing buddy.  I've got a handful of brand new stories in first draft form. I'm quite excited about a couple of them. I'm sure I'm a better writer now than I was this time last year. All I need is a bit of encouragement. Please? Anyone???

Monday, 8 December 2014

Anthologies, Shortlists, and just getting on with it.

There's something very exciting, when you're an extremely boring person who sells gas for a living, about typing your name into an Amazon search, and seeing a selection of things you've been published in. I'm very proud to have not one but two pieces published in Hysteria 3. The first is a flash fiction piece about a female butcher. The second is a short story I wrote quite a long time ago, using my mum's old teaching notes from the 1950's as inspiration.  I love writing stories set in the fairly recent past, and hope to write a lot more.

My story No Cause For Concern will be published in another anthology, having been shortlisted in the first Black Pear Press Short Story Competition. I'm thrilled to be building up a decent writing profile. It would be nice to know though, how many people actually entered these completions.  There's a big difference between coming 10th  out of 20 entries, and coming 10th out of 200 or even 2000 entries.

In other news, I made it onto the shortlist of the Greenacres November Short Story Competition. 
I like this competition. It delivers results when it says it will, and it's simple to enter. What more can you ask for? Oh, and my story SMILE came 5th in the Write-Invite 1000 word short story competition. I have won a free critique, which I await with bated breath.

I'm pleased to be able to say that I completed my November challenge to write a first paragraph every day. I'm now ready to make some of those paragraphs into proper stories. It's lovely to have so much to work with, but I'm struggling to find the motivation to actually sit down and write the stories. I hate this time of year, with its dark mornings and evenings, and its bad memories and negative feelings. Sometimes I wish I could just hibernate until the middle of March. But there are competitions to enter, and magazines to submit to. So I suppose I'll do what my family has always done, and just get on with it.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

My November First Paragraph Project

It's November again (how did that happen?), the time of year when many brave writers turn their attention to NaNoWriMo or, for the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you attempt to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel during November. No editing, no messing about, just writing. I only ever attempted it once, and I think I lasted about a week, by which time I had run out of plot, and writing had become an onerous chore. Never again.

This year I have set myself a far more modest challenge. Every day in November I am attempting to write the first paragraph of a completely new story. I even have a special notebook for this purpose, and I've optimistically written the dates at the top of the pages.  Some days, so far, I've written a whole page. Some days I've only managed two or three sentences. The good thing is that for more than a week now I've come up with a fresh idea every day. I'm already starting to plan what I'm going to do with some of them. Others might end up going nowhere but I reckon that if I end up with half a dozen decent new stories, my little November project will have been more than worthwhile.

In other news, I've had a few more writing successes. That story that was longlisted in the Doris Gooderson competition was sent out into the world again to take its chances, and ended up published in Issue One of Kishboo, an exciting new online magazine. You can read my story here. If you enjoy it, you can vote for it to win. If you prefer, you can vote for one of the other stories.

As I think I've said before, The Word Hut Short Story Competition is one of my favourites, and I was thrilled when my story Roar came 2nd in the most recent contest. I was especially pleased with the judge's comments:
       'We liked the way you had the narrator showing signs of dementia and linking it to her mother's similar decline. We receive many stories about dementia and the elderly, but this was very different in the way it was presented. The ending was also very powerful and emotive.'

And finally, I've been a runner-up in WriteInvite a couple of times. This last week I lost out to Della Galton, one of the queens of the Womags. So there's no shame in that!

Lily, 'helping' me with my writing, as usual.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Gettting A Bit Embarrassing Now!

Since I last posted, I've won WriteInvite for another two weeks on the run. You can read my stories here. Obviously, I'm thrilled, because it's always good to have people you don't know say that your work is good. But I can just imagine the other entrants thinking 'Oh no, not her again!' For the record, winning three weeks running is a complete fluke. In the past I've gone weeks, and months without a shortlisting, sometimes with stories that have gone on to be competition winners elsewhere. It's a lottery. But it's really nice when your numbers come up!

In other news, I was longlisted in The Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition. This is the furthest I've got in three years of entering this competition, so I'm really pleased, especially since they had 180 entries. My longlisted story has been sent off  elsewhere now. Watch this space.....