May You

I’m delighted to have my story Suits included in the new anthology of long-listed and winning stories in the 2017-18 Walter Swan Short Story competition. May You is a fabulous collection and I’m proud to see my work there.

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Thank you Anita Shreve

Coincidence is a strange thing. Just two days ago I downloaded an Anita Shreve novel on my kindle and started reading it for no reason other than that I saw the title and suspected I hadn’t read it. Over the years, I’ve greatly enjoyed a number of Anita’s books so when casting around for ‘a good read’, this seemed a failsafe choice.

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So, I’m currently enjoying The Lives of Stella Bain.

I was astonished and saddened to read today that Anita died two days ago – too young these days at only 71. An obituary piece is here in the Boston Globe.

The sad thing about the death of writers you like and admire – Helen Dunmore being another – is that somehow you expected that they would always be there, writing away, crafting more for you to appreciate and enjoy – forever…

Now, too late, one can only appreciate what they contributed throughout their life and thank them for doing so.

The Power of Perseverance

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As a lonnnnggggggggg-time subscriber to Writing Magazine/Writers’ News, I’ve been mightily frustrated over the decades by the fact that, despite my best efforts, I’ve failed – yes, failed – to win a prize in any of their competitions. Okay, I’ve been short-listed (a whole three or four times), but other than that, zilch. (To be fair to them, I’ve by no means entered all their competitions.)

Anyway, the attitude I’d adopted was that sometimes, you just have to accept that your face – or your writing style – doesn’t fit. Certainly, some months, reading the winning submissions  I could see quite clearly why mine had missed out, but other times, well…

So, you could have slapped me with a wet haddock a few weeks ago when I received an email telling me that I’d come second in their 500 word short story competition – particularly as I recall thinking at the time of entering, “I don’t know why I’m bothering…”

Of course, I’m delighted, it’s great to see it in print (out this week!) and winning anything is always hugely encouraging. But actually, what really impressed me, having come second, was the attitude of the guy who came first (Dominic Bell). Apparently, so he says, he tries to enter almost all the Writing Magazine competitions to diversify his writing and actually finish something.  This is his third win, with three other placings.

Lesson to be learned there?

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