Sunday, 19 August 2012

this is useful

Apologies for the ambiguous nature of my last post. I'm going to make up for it now by being a more useful and interesting blogger.

Writing-wise, I've been doing my usual thing of working on various things at once, though I've been trying to focus myself mostly on the writing of new material to add to a collection which I hope to send to Salt Publishing's Scott Prize at the end of October. It's only recently that I've felt the urge to put some of my stories alongside each other. I never wanted to do it just because I could, I need each story to feel like it belongs in there.  

Here's where this post gets useful. There are loads of short story competitions closing in the next month - these ones have caught my eye.

Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition
for short stories up to 2000 words
£10 entry fee, but you can send up to 2 entries
£500 1st prize and finalists published in anthology
Closes August 31st

Aesthetica is an internationally recognised magazine so this would be a good platform for any finalists, though I know some writers are put off by the winner-takes-all monetary prize.


Costa Short Story Award
for short stories up to 4000 words
no entry fee
£3500 1st prize, 2 runners up of £750
Closes September 7th

This one is interesting, a new award, obviously very high profile so again a really good place to have your work. Entries are judged anonymously so beginners should have the same shot as those who have been subbed by their publishers. A shortlist of 6 entries will be announced in November with the public voting for their favourite - which some part of me likes and another is wary of, in case it comes down to the writer with the most followers on Twitter.


The Short Story Competition
for stories of 1000-5000 words
no entry fee
£300 / £150 / £50 prizes
Closes September 15th

No-entry fee comps with cash prizes are rare (Costa obv has sponsorship) and this one, in its 2nd year, appears to be a friendly and well run place. The website has last year's winning stories, plus advice and guidelines that tell you a little about what the judges want and don't want to read.


The Asham Award
for short stories written by women only (soz lads) up to 4000 words on the given theme 'Journey'
£15 (or £10 concessions) entry fee
£1000 / £500 / £300 / 9 x £100 runners up
Closes September 21st

I would love to have a story published in an Asham collection, and have tried and failed many times before. This is the second time they've set a theme - 2 years ago (this prize is, erm - what's that word for every 2 years? Not biannual is it? That's twice a year. Hm. Answers in the comments, pliz) the theme was 'Ghost/Gothic' and I couldn't write anything for it. 'Journey' is broader, and more encompassing, I feel. Generous prizes for all finalists, too.


In more general news, I had a week of toothache because of a leaky filling, I inhaled a fly, I managed to splash burning oil on my hand when I flipped some fish over in the frying pan.If I have time this week I'll add a photo of it here. Exciting, eh! I am quite proud of it. It doesn't hurt anymore, I just have these dark purple marks where the oil hit. Incidentally, I didn't scream out loud - I sort of screamed inside. Which was weird.

Hope you're all well.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

in the middle of the night

you wake up and think of a thing that someone you know did the other day that you didn't like and it's really got your goat. Whatever your goat is it has been got. Thing is, you need to be up early tomorrow (today) so you could have done with staying asleep and you could have done with keeping hold of your goat.

when the thing happened that you didn't like you said your opinions out loud so that's something.

after the thing happened you felt such dislike for the person that did it that you had to keep some part of your body moving to deal with it. You tapped your foot. You drummed a finger against that space between your top lip and your nose. Your breathed in and out noisily while you did these things.

a few days later you woke up in the middle of the night and laid a while adding to the dossier in your head about all the aspects of the thing you didn't like until you thought it best you just got up, made some tea and toast, and opened the internet.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Embarrassing moment

You know how when you embarrass yourself it can just be a really small part of a bigger experience that was mostly positive, but your brain likes to keep reminding you of the bit you feel embarrassed about, rather than the general positive feeling of the whole?

Well, my brain is really attached to an answer I gave at the interview for a Writer In Residence post (I didn't get it) at a secondary school back in May, and every so often, just when I'm minding my own business, my brain likes to throw this memory in my face just to see my face do what can only be described as a grimace. So I've been wondering WHY.

The question was something like:
Suppose you have 2 very different students who we'd like you to recommend books to. The first is a reluctant female reader of 13 years, and the second is an avid reader - male, who is 17. If you had to recommend a book to each of them, which books would you choose?

I immediately felt thrown by this. Not so much by the reluctant 13 year old, but the 17 year old boy who reads loads - I had no idea what to say. I tried to keep my cool, but the pressure increased when one of the interviewers said the last candidate 'had given really great answers'.

I knew the longer I waited to answer the worse it would be. I said I'd recommend 'I Capture The Castle' by Dodie Smith for the girl. I'm okay with that, I think it's a great book full of humour and wonder and it has an engaging female narrator.

But I just couldn't think of something for the boy. Brain went dead. I said, and this bit is all right - I believe this bit is true: I'd suggest the boy reads something out of his comfort zone, and both interviewers smiled and raised their eyebrows in agreement. Good so far. But I still had no idea of a specific book.

I ended up saying, and this is the bit I cringe at: 'Something by Virginia Woolf'.


But WHY. Why is this a moment in my history I feel icky about? There isn't anything wrong with saying a 17 year old boy should have a go at reading Virginia Woolf.

I think I'm unearthing the WHY bit now and maybe I can exorcise it from the Embarrassing Moments Holding Area in my brain. (Just so another one can rise to the surface, surely.) 

It's because I didn't mean it. It's because I haven't read much Virginia Woolf. I keep getting halfway through Mrs Dalloway then I read something else. She is a writer I want to read, I feel in some way that it's important for me to read her. But I have no reason to recommend her. So, I was on shaky ground. If they'd asked me 'Which book?' or - even worse - 'Why?' I would have totally folded.

And, also, it's to do with the fact that I didn't read much when I was 17, beyond magazines and the odd text book for my A-levels. In fact, I didn't read for pleasure until I started writing seriously, when I was about 24. I used to feel odd about this, when I heard other writers talk about how books and stories were such a part of their early lives, I'd feel a bit inferior. I don't now, by the way, it's just a fact.

Oh, so now I've just typed that out - I don't feel inferior - I feel better. This is live therapy!

Thanks, Blogger. In your face, Brain.

I'll get on with my day now. Oh, and I see that the top event in my Embarrassing Moments Holding Area is an old favourite: the time I saw my old (not in years) (and he's very handsome) A-level teacher 10 years after he taught me and accidentally insulted his new (and actually he's very successful and you will all have heard his voice LOADS on TV) career as voice over artist. It must be noted that as I did this, I was serving him a box of popcorn. Eugh ew eugh ah horrible.