Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Good luck, Bridport entrants

So many hits from folks Googling about The Bridport Prize this past week - deadline is tomorrow (31st May) so will no doubt get a few more visitors in the next 24 hours.

So you Googled and now you're wondering why you've ended up here? Click here.

Bon chance!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Good news

Spookily, at the same time I was penning the post below about having to withdraw from the Writer in Residence job I'd applied for, I got an email from the school to say that they've reflected on the requirement for the successful candidate to live at the school and are now able to negotiate on this - so I am now back in the process and will be attending an interview day on Thursday! 

This is very welcome news. It's not just an interview - I also have to give a presentation to a group of students so I have lots to prepare for. Exciting and terrifying in equal measure.

Wish me luck!

Monday, 28 May 2012

sunny innit

It's been such a lovely week of good weather here in the UK. I know us Brits LOVE talking about the weather and I'm just reinforcing stereotypes by writing about this but... it's kind of rare for us to have a full run - 7days! - of blue skies and heat. I think the sun brings out the best in most people - not all - I have plenty of good friends who get clammy and upset in it - but generally, the sun brings positivity and a feeling of anything is possible.

Right in the middle of this mini heat wave I got an invite for an interview for a job I really really hoped to get - Writer in Residence at a school nearby - only I had to withdraw when the school made it clear that the 'residence' aspect was absolutely necessary, and not negotiable as I'd hoped when I applied. Even though I'm walking distance away I can see why they want someone to live on campus, but that just isn't a commitment I can make. I'm sure it'd suit a single writer with no ties really well, but that isn't me. I'm glad I got shortlisted, I felt like I ticked the boxes and would have been really inspired to get the job. But there we go. As ever, onwards!

I saw my family last week and will be welcoming my (almost) sister in law from Australia this coming week so there's lots of lovely stuff going on. Loveliest of all, two of my friends got married in secret - wowing me and everyone they know with this unexpected and wonderful union. Yes, I just said 'union'.

Now I have to go and work my evening bar shift - white wine spritzers a go-go.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Please don't

sit in a fairly quiet coffee shop, on your own, reading the paper, while whistling a jaunty tune to yourself. Loudly. Especially if there is already music coming from the speakers, music you're purposefully not tweet-tweeting along to. It is odd. Stop it. I do not support your right to whistle to your own tune. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

writing opportunities

A round-up of what's looking interesting for subbing writers right now:

For the young 'uns: If you're 18-25 and you write fiction for children, this competition from The Guardian and Hot Key Books looks fantastic. Your fiction needs to be either for children aged 9-12 or 13-19, original and unpublished, and could win you a £10,000 advance. Closes 31st May.

For playwrights: 2 very different contests -  The People's Play Award and Pint-Sized Plays both have competitions running that close on May 31st. 

For everyone: 18 - yes 18 - different competitions from The Winchester Writers' Conference 2012, including prizes (cash and/or books) for poetry, short stories, life writing and article writing. Some categories close on 25th May, others are 1st June. Full details here

For those interested in self-publishing: Shortbread stories are offering a fantastic prize of a self-publishing package worth £3000. Submit a novel, novella or a short story collection before June 17th. Details here.

For poets, fictioners, life writers: The Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open with £300 prize in each category. Closes July 27th - loads of time to write and send a cracking piece of work.

Good luck if you try your luck in any of these.


This week I have been mostly...

  • filling in a form
  • organising a trip to see my family
  • warming up milk for various cups of hot chocolate
  • thinking about a really tasty steak I ate days ago

the rest of the week I will...
  • write and submit some writing
  • catch up with some old friends
  • keep thinking about that steak

And do the day jobs, au naturel. 

What you up to?

Thursday, 10 May 2012


2 business men
1: I've never understood it myself, I mean why do people pay for it? It's basically -
BOTH: Cheese on toast
1: Exactly! I'd rather have cheese on toast.
2: Or a cheese sandwich.
1: Even better.

Hm. I don't like cheese so perhaps I shouldn't judge, but I'm pretty sure there's more to pizza than that. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Just because it's real doesn't mean it's good

I've been thinking about the process of writing fiction from real-life experiences this week. I mean the kind of writing that is rooted in you, based on the big things that have happened in your life. It's not exactly memoir, or life-writing, because you dress the events as fiction, embellish them maybe, but its emotional core comes from you.

This isn't something I do a lot of now, in fact I don't think I've written fiction about any life events for several years, but I did when I started writing back in 2005-ish. I think it's natural for new writers to do this when they're finding a way and unearthing what they want to write about, but the more stuff I wrote, and the more I read of others, the less I drew directly on my own experiences - in an obvious way, at least. 

There are 2 stories from my past that I tried to create fiction around but ran into difficulties with. I've blogged about one of them before - here - and the hallelujah moment when I started re-telling that story from a different POV, creating a much better piece. I've been wondering if I could have the same success with the other story. 

I started it in 2005, and reworked, edited, added to, and took words away from it endlessly over the next few years, certain there was something in it. It just never quite worked, and it ended in a flat way. I was hesitant about how to finish it, and also, if it was a story I should let people see.

It's about a girl meeting her Dad for the first time, as I did, when I was 10. I'd had some contact with my Dad until I was 3 or 4, but then nothing until he sent me a birthday card on my tenth birthday. I replied, and that began our getting to know each other, until his untimely death when I was 16.

The story focused on that first meeting, the weirdness of it, the power struggle, the way the girl didn't want to make the moment easy for her Dad. The fact that she didn't know him, but he felt he knew her. It was heightened, but rooted in how I felt, not just that day, but in the early days of having a Dad when I was pretty sure I'd never have one, or need one.

I got to know my Dad over the next 6 years and we found ways of getting on and ways of arguing, which is pretty normal I'd say. I always felt like he died just when we were accepting each other as adults, and we would have had our hey-day, I thought, in the years that should have followed.

But the story I told was the one of that first afternoon. The feelings are mine. The perspective is that of a 10 year old girl trying to be an adult. It's easy to see why I revisited that event when I began writing. It was a pivotal time. But as I said, it didn't get published, it didn't ever work properly. Then when I was a little more skilled a few years later, and I might have been able to rework it, there were other concerns about trying to get it published.

One was that my Dad's Mum, my Grandma, was still alive, as were his sisters. In 2005 or 2006 I didn't have a blog, and I didn't try to get stuff published online. If it had been accepted back then, the story most likely would have gone into a small press anthology, and would have only been accessed by strangers, or the people I showed it to.

But over the years with the increase in online publishing, and my own online 'presence', I knew that publishing it might mean there was a chance my Dad's family might read it. I knew the story was a heightened reality, and that after the first testy few years of getting to know my Dad things evened out, but others may not see that, and I was concerned it might have been seen as a disrespectful move, even though the feelings were mine. So it stayed where it was.

Until this week when I opened it up for a look (I do that every so often - then think 'no, leave it' and close it again) and I found my hands hovering over the keys to change a line or 2, and I realised I had some impetus to rewrite it, not just tinker with it, but cut a lot of the lines and change the tone completely.

I still wasn't sure that it'd be a story to have published (if someone wanted it), but I liked that I was changing it in a bigger way than usual, and I felt a little bit of excitement similar to when I rewrote that other big true event  - and I could see more clearly the things that were wrong with it, as a piece of writing.

So the point of all this (is there one?) is that I'm still not sure I have a story that deserves to be read. Sadly my Grandma and one of my Aunts have passed away in recent years, so there is less of a feeling that I would need to explain to anyone that this is just a snapshot of a relationship rather than the definition of it.

I just don't know that the piece holds up as a story - and I guess this is the point - just because something happened to you doesn't mean it's a story. It will feel like one, because it's yours, but if you're thinking about other people reading it, possibly editors saying 'yes' to it, it is something else separate to you and must hold up and earn its place.

I will most likely let it rest a while now, and come back to it with fresher eyes in a week or 2. If it still feels not-right, I'll let it go again. Maybe not forever. It might find its way into a bigger story, or my autobiography (eyes widen slightly at thoughts of best seller autobiography and poster of self in Waterstones…)

It's been a good experience revisiting it, and it got me thinking and reflecting on this writing journey, and the things I write, or don't write about now.
What about you? I'd love to hear your experiences of writing from true events.