Monday, 22 April 2013

Less is more, sometimes

When I was in the top juniors, or Year 6, as it's known nowadays, I had a teacher who didn't like me.  Well, he didn't like my mum, who taught at the same school, and had recently been promoted to deputy head.  He didn't take kindly to a woman being in a senior position to him.  But that's another story, and one I might write one day.

In my end of year report, this teacher described me as 'taciturn'.  To this day, I regard that as an unkind word with which to describe a child who was painfully shy.   I'm a person who holds grudges.  I'm not proud of this, but it's the way I am.  I take after my Nana. He also said that I needed to be 'more prollific' in my writing.  He confused quantity with quality,   Which only goes to show how thick he was. Not that I'm bitter, or anything.

I'm a person of few words.  I say what I've got to say, and then I stop.  I'm not very good at small talk, and this has always carried over into my writing.  Throughout my education, I was always being told that I needed to write more, to expand, to embroider.  I felt inadequate, because I just couldn't do it.  It doesn't take much to make me feel inadequate.  I am a person of very little confidence, as well as few words.

In the light of all this, it's probably a bit strange that the only real ambition I've ever had is to be a writer.  I didn't do anything about this ambition until around four years ago.  I got myself an A4 ring bound note pad and started writing down all kinds of rubbish, with no idea of how to go about it.  Then I got a bit more organized, and took the Open University  Start Writing Fiction course.  My tutor said I should start submitting stories to journals and magazines.  I assumed she said that to everyone. 

Eventually, and I can't remember how or where, I discovered flash fiction.  Flash fiction could have been designed just for me.  You say what you've got to say in as few words as possible.  There's no room for rambling, showing off, or gratuitously explaining.  You really do have to show, rather than tell.  I love flash fiction.

Last week, I was proud to be part of Flash Flood , the online journal of National Flash Fiction Day.  I was fortunate enough to have three stories accepted, Irony, Dream Sequence and A Bite Of The Apple.  There are lots of wonderful stories on there, and I feel privileged to have been included.

And finally, another bit of trumpet blowing, I've been longlisted with two entries in the same competiton, which has never happened to me before.  So I am a bit happy and excited.  Although most people who know me don't know that I write, and just see me as the mad person who gave up a well-paid teaching job to work part-time for minimum wage.  But again, that's another story....

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Feeling A Bit Hysterical

It's been a strange couple of weeks since I last posted.  I have started a new part-time paid job.  I'm not very good at it yet, and I don't know if I ever will be.  I don't like doing things I'm not good at, and looking  stupid and incompetent.  I've been doing quite a lot of that lately.  It's not a nice feeling, but hopefully things will get better.  It's not easy learning a completely new set of skills when you're over 40!

The postman cheered me up, a few days ago, when he brought my proof copy of the Hysteria 1 Short Story and Poetry Anthology, published by the Hysterectomy Association, which includes my story 'While I Was Ironing'.  What's even more exciting is that you can buy this excellent publication on Amazon.  I was childishly excited (again) to see my name listed in the product description. 

It seems like a long time since I submitted my story to the Hysteria 2012 competition.  Reading it for the first time in ages, I have to admit that I'm quite proud of it.  It began life as a simple idea about a woman doing something routine and everyday whilst, unbeknownst her, her life was being changed irrevocably.  I had an image in my head, from who knows where, of someone searching for a missing button. From that, a whole story evolved.  It doesn't sound very interesting, when I try to describe it.  But I still like it!

The end of March is a deadline for lots of short story competitions.  I've entered as many as I could afford to.  Now the waiting for results begins.  When my poor, rejected babies begin to straggle home, I will be sending them out elsewhere.  I am determined that they will all find homes, eventually.....

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I Have Good News!

The life of a 'wannabe' writer is a depressing one, consisting mostly of disappointments and rejections.  You need to be thick skinned to cope with it.  You need to be thin skinned to be any good at it.  You need to learn not to care when someone describes what you do as 'sitting at home twiddling your thumbs'.

Sometimes, thumb twiddling pays dividends.  Last week I got a letter (yes, I know, how quaint!) telling me I was the First Prize-winner in the Microfiction category in The New Writer Annual Prose & Poetry Prizes 2012.

This makes me happy for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I came first and Tania Hershman came third.  And I happen to know that Tania Hershman is a very, very good writer.  I know this, because I've read her book The White Road and other stories. She is a writer I have heard of.  It's kind of like beating the class swot in an exam.

Secondly, the competition was judged by David Gaffney.  Not to be confused with Dean Gaffney, who used to be Robbie Jackson in Eastenders, because that would be a bit weird.  David Gaffney is another writer I have heard of.  I have one of his books, Sawn-Off Tales, on my Kindle.  A writer I have heard of picked my story as a winner.  And what makes it even better is that, from reading his comments, I know that he completely 'got it'.  He said my story, which is called I Blame The Parents, and will be published in July in The New Writer magazine, was 'both funny and weird'.  I love it when people find my writing funny, because people who don't take the time to get to know me often think I am serious and humourless.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Then there's the prospect of seeing my work in print.  And although it's not the first time, it's always exciting. The prize money is nice too, and will be paying some bills. 

In other news, I have just submitted my entry to the Mslexia Short Story Competition  I know I have next to no chance of winning.  But I love the story I have entered, and I wanted to give it a chance.  My next writing task is to find a couple of 500 word pieces of flash fiction to enter in the Flash 500 competion, which closes on March 31.  I got shortlisted last time.  Maybe next time I will get a bit further.  Onwards....

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Second Post Syndrome

Well, at least I've made it to my second post!  Not that I've got much to say.  It's been a quiet week in Writerland.  It's not that I haven't been busy.  I just haven't got much to show for it. 
I was sad, although not surprised, not to make it onto the Inktears Short Story Competition longlist.  It offers a really good prize, and it would have been nice, but maybe next time....  I think of my stories as my 'stock', and now at least I have a story I really like to send out somewhere else.  Hopefully, one day it will find a good home.

I've entered a couple of competitions this week.  Both of them had a word limit of 1000.  I had stories, but none of them were the right length.  So, in one case, I made a piece of flash fiction a bit longer, and in the other I edited a longer story to within an inch of its life, until it fitted the word count.  I think it's easier to make a long story shorter than the other way round.  I'm always amazed (or maybe I should say embarassed) by how many superfluous words I use. 

On the subject of not using too many words, I've also entered the National Flash Fiction Day 2013 100 word story competition.  There's still time to enter, if you're interested.  It's free.  Closing date is 8th March.

Yesterday, my flagging self-esteem received a bit of a boost when I received my prize-winning cheque and print copies of  Words With Jam  magazine.  The cheque is, obviously, very welcome, and will be paying some bills, but there are few things as exciting as seeing your name in print (twice!!) in an actual magazine printed on actual paper.  I also love the fact that people who don't know me at all have liked my stories.  Especially when they are writers I've actually heard of!!  And I'm a little bit chuffed to have one of my characters compared to Holden Caulfield, of Catcher In The Rye fame! 

So that's all my writerly news for this week.  In the coming days I shall be wrestling with the problem of what to do with a handful of stories with unfortunate and unwieldy word counts, and possibly attempting to install a new printer, so I can submit stuff by snail mail to places that won't accept e-mail.  I am a total techno-fool.  So fingers crossed!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Fresh Start

I know I'm a bit late, but one of my New Year's Resolutions was to start blogging again.  I had a blog before but it was, to be honest, rubbish, and I haven't posted on it for a year.  So this is a new start - a blog about my adventures as I attempt to become a 'proper' writer.  By which I mean one that people have heard of.  I know it won't make my fortune, but writing makes me happy.  It also makes me miserable and frustrated sometimes, but the happy moments make it worthwhile.

After a quiet start, 2013 has been quite a good year so far.  A couple of weeks ago, my Playlist piece was published in the Guardian Family section.  You can read it here.

Then, last week, I had the exciting news that I'd won 2 prizes in the Words With Jam  Bigger Short Story Competition 2012.  I was placed second in the 250 word category with my story Word Problems, and Little Ears came third in the 1000 word category.  All the winning stories are published in the February 2013 issue of the magazine, which is available on Kindle, as well as on the Words With Jam website. 

So that's about it for now.  Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year brings....