New: Instructions for Living

amazon-cover A collection of thirty-two of my short stories has now been published as a collection: Instructions for Living. The stories have all been selected from those which have either won prizes or been short- or long-listed in creative writing competitions in the UK and internationally.

The book’s available as either a paperback or a kindle version on Amazon and also as a paperback on FeedaRead. If anyone a) buys and reads it and b) likes it, I’d really appreciate it if you took the trouble to leave a review!  Many thanks.

To Hull and Back

I’m really pleased to be amongst the longlisters in Chris Fielden’s To Hull and Back Humorous Short Story CompetitionI really appreciate the work Chris does to help and encourage how_to_write_a_short_story_front_cover_000other writers and love the fact that this is a competition for humorous short stories – probably the hardest of all to write, but wouldn’t it be great if there were more of them?

The competition continues to grow in popularity year on year; I’m already starting to think about next year’s entry…

By the way, Chris’s book: How to Write a Short Story, Get Published and Make Money is well worth a read. Helpfully, you can order a free taster PDF from his website – a great idea when there are so many ‘how to’ writing books about.

 

 

Remembering it’s a numbers game

This article Mistakes Writers Make When Submitting to Literary Magazines published on the Aerogramme Writers’ Studio site and republished from Carve magazine is a great reminder of all the things we know, but somehow, sometimes, choose to overlook.

The physical things – follow the guidelines, keep track of submissions, do your research, etc, are all useful stuff, but the one point that I found really worth remembering is:

Taking rejections too personally and not submitting enough

Even the most brilliant stories will get rejected, and as a writer, you have to come to terms with the fact that you will get (many) more no’s than yes’s. Sometimes your story may not be right for a particular issue, or may not connect with a particular editor. Don’t let the rejections get you down. In many ways, this is a numbers game, and the goal is to get the right piece to the right journal at the right time. That’s hard to do, and chances are it’s going to take a lot of submissions before you get an acceptance.

Oh yes! Intellectually I know that this is abthe-framework-1138288__180solutely true. So why does every rejection bring forth the thought: Well, I don’t know why I’m bothering – I may as well stop right now…?

Three cheers for Anne Tyler

anne tyler    Interviewed recently in the Sunday Times, Anne Tyler responded to criticisms that not enough happens in her books. She commented:

“I have noticed as a woman writer … that an event like war is considered a more real literary subject than just a wedding. I feel so sort of ‘Oh, I’m so sorry I haven’t been to war.’ Then I think, no. What motivates me when I’m writing is that I’m actually awed over and over again just by the fact that people manage to endure. Just that. They have nothing particularly to look forward to, and some of them have really hard and humdrum lives, and they go along.

I mean, it’s a miracle, if you think about it – that we’re all putting one foot in front of another is a miracle. To walk down the street and practically every person walking towards me, for instance, has had a huge loss. You know? I’m just so interested that it’s possible.”

Thank you Anne for some of the most cheering and motivating words I’ve read in a long while.

In praise of writers’ circles

bridgendLast week I was delighted to be invited to a presentation evening in Bridgend where my story, Edna and Goliath had won first prize in the Bridgend Writers’ Circle annual open competition.

The group meet in the old Public Library building where the event was held. It was a delightful occasion attended by the mayor and also Jo Derrick, this year’s competition judge.

Meeting the group’s members underlined for me how much we aspiring writers owe to writers’ circles such as this – without their efforts there would be few competitions to enter and thus, little stimulus to keep writing and striving to improve.

Huge thanks to Bridgend and numerous others like them

New Anthology: Garage 54 & Other Stories

Garage 54 and Other Stories is a new anthology of short stories and poems from the Swansea and District Writers Circle. The pieces were chosen from those entered into their 2015 writing competitions. These original works are a range of genres and form an enjoyable mix to dip into as you choose.

I am delighted that my story The Absence of Something received a commendation in the 2015 short story competition and is included in the book.

The voices of our generation

blue

I’ve only just caught up with The Daily Telegraph’s list of the 60 greatest female singer-songwriters of all time (well, if they will publish in December when there’s so much else going on…) There’s  nothing like a list for stirring up controversy but this time, with Joni Mitchell headlining and Kate Bush in second place, there’s not much for me to argue with.

Okay, on my list, Joan Armatrading would have been number 3 with Tracey Chapman, Sade and KT Tunstall ranked much, much higher than they are. But that’s nitpicking

Just reading down the names, I’m reminded of how all these women have said something so important, so memorable, so gut-wrenchingly appropriate about what it is like to be female that any one of them deserves a place in literary, as well as musical, history. These women are the poets of our time and if ever I came to write an autobiography, every bit of it could be framed within their phrasing.

By the way, I’m blown away to see that this March in my old hometown (Wellington, New Zealand) Joni Mitchell songs feature in what sounds like a fabulous homage: Both Sides Now – part of the 2016 New Zealand Festival.

Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither

sara baumeI’ve just finished reading Sara Baume’s award-winning Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither. I thought it was a fantastic creation, a hugely impressive  piece considering that it breaks many of the rules of storytelling. Very little happens. There’s a scant amount of dialogue (if any?). The main character – the narrator – isn’t hugely likeable… And yet, it really works –  what a great achievement.

As it is such an unusual book I was prompted to read the reviews on Amazon (with my writer’s hat on) to see what others made of it.

Predictably, for over three-quarters of reviewers, it was a four or five star read. Many said that they thought it was one of the best things they’d ever read: “poignant and thought-provoking”, “quietly brilliant”, “unbelievably moving” – you get the drift.

Unsurprisingly, some didn’t rate it so highly – but it’s easy to see that it wouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of char.

But one review really amused me, from one of those people who not only will tell you that they don’t like your work, but exactly where you, in your naive stupidity, have gone wrong: “…this book is flawed. It’s a shame that the reviews it has gathered (here and in national newspapers) have been so lacking in critical analysis. It’s not good for a young author to be left unaware of the ways in which her work could improve…” 

I wonder if this reviewer marks exam papers as her day job?

 

Thanks to Erewash Writers’ Group

My story Would Love to Meet was recently awarded third prize in the Erewash Writers’ Group Open Competition, judged by Simon Whaley. You can read it here.

One of the joys of entering competitions is reading the winning entries and this selection showcased a superb range of different styles and talents. Congratulations to all the other winners and many thanks to the organisers and judge.