Posts Tagged ‘magazine’


I haven’t done much in the way of submissions recently because (drum roll) I have been busy writing new stories. They’re all short (some only 140 characters) but are new stories nevertheless and that gives me great satisfaction.

wpid-fine-linen.jpg.jpegSo I was thrilled to hear that my submission to Fine Linen, a new Literary Fiction magazine, had been successful. ‘Dressing Up’ is a flash fiction of which I am particularly proud and started as an opening sentence that popped into my mind and wouldn’t leave, as with most of my successful stories. It is a gift that arrives apparently out of the blue and I count myself exceptionally lucky to receive it now and again.

Fine Linen Magazine is a curious and original ‘pack’. It consists of several parts, including an A5 magazine containing half the stories and an A3 full colour fold-up broadsheet with the remainder. There is also a little factsheet, a suggested reading order, a mini-bookmark displaying ten-word biographies of the issue’s contributors and another linen one.  It’s lovely but I’m not sure what to do with it! My other printed pieces are in conventional magazines and anthologies which can be casually(!) displayed on the coffee table or retrieved easily from shelves. Unfortunately, I think Fine Linen will remain in its envelope to keep the elements together and stop them getting dog-eared, which is a bit sad, especially because a remarkable coincidence occurred in this issue.

Fine Linen is based in the US and yet two of this quarter’s contributors (myself and Simon Kewin) live fifty yards from one another in a tiny English hamlet! As the list of selected stories numbers only fifteen out of hundreds of submissions, we were astonished to find ourselves back-to-back in the broadsheet. I’d like to think it was because I’ve trained Simon so well but, alas, he has a good many years of publishing successes on me!

You can subscribe to Fine Linen by following the link.

I was also delighted to be approached by the Editor of a new online Literary Fiction magazine, The Writing Garden, for permission to print ‘Decorated Hands’, which she found on Readwave, in her third issue. This is a story I wrote over ten years ago after sitting opposite a woman with decorated hands on a train following the death of my mother. Everything that happened around that time is still very clear in my mind and the story I wrote, though having nothing to do with death, has a great deal to do with loss. It is a story that has had many lives in print and online and I am so pleased it continues to travel independently.

And finally, please get your submissions in to National Flash Fiction Day’s micro competition (100 words) and anthology (500 words) by midnight on May 15th. I have nothing to do with the judging of either of these but you will recognise the names of all this year’s judges if you follow the flashing scene. I’ve got my three hundred-worders in but am still mulling over the theme of ‘Geography’ for the anthology. With only a week to go, I’d better get cracking, and so had you! Please use the links to spread the word.

Cheerio for now, Sue.

A WEEKLY INCENTIVE TO WRITE

Jo Publicity PhotoI find one of the hardest things about being a writer is getting started. By that I mean putting pen to paper or words into a blank document. In my experience, once I type the first line I’m away and all is well. Opening that blank document and starting to type is the problem. That’s why the Write-Invite Competition, Write On Site was perfect for me for a couple of years .

On its website, Write Invite describes itself as ‘in a nutshell a literary open mic’. Their Write On Site Competition runs every Saturday from 5.30pm until 6.30pm. You are required to join as a member, then once the countdown reaches 17.30, you are given three themes and required to check the terms and conditions box, then pay the £4 entry fee via Paypal. It’s possible to buy credits in advance, which is advisable, as it speeds up the whole process. Once you’ve paid, a text box appears and you begin typing your story, which you have to submit by 18.00. Your words are automatically saved at intervals during the thirty minute period.

I remember my first attempt at the Write On Site Competition very clearly. I was very much on edge and worried I wouldn’t get a complete story written in the thirty minutes. When I had a mere five minutes left before having to submit, I was shaking and breaking out in a sweat. Talk about an adrenalin rush! The sense of relief when you hit the ‘Submit’ button and see your story as ‘Pending’ is enormous! However, rest assured that each time you enter, it gets easier and you are able to produce more and more words in the time limit (particularly if, like me, you are a 60wpm touch typist!).

So, are there any hints and tips to make the Write On Site experience less traumatic?

Firstly, I recommend having a glass of your favourite alcoholic beverage to hand. This frees up the sub-conscious and helps you ignore your internal editor/critic.

Secondly, write from the heart and don’t worry about the market or genre. Simply immerse yourself in the words. Remember, it is supposed to be an enjoyable experience!

Thirdly, it helps enormously to have your notebook next to you as you write. Like most writers, I regularly go out and about with my notebook, writing down images, experiences, snatches of conversation and ideas. If you don’t do this, I highly recommend it. Sit down on a park bench, in a café, somewhere overlooking a beauty spot or bit of coastline and write down your observations.

A few minutes before Write On Site begins, I flick through the pages of my notebook and pick out a few images or phrases. Often I use one as the first line of my story. I’m the kind of writer to whom setting is very important, so my first line is often a piece of imagery, which places the reader firmly at the scene. This gets round the problem of staring at the blank page wondering how on earth you’re going to begin.

It also helps to have an idea in mind before you’ve even seen the themes. For example, I might spend a bit of time in the hour leading up to Write On Site thinking about the sort of relationship I want to write about. For example, ‘today I think I’ll explore the relationship between a father and his gay son’. Or I may choose one of the ideas in my notebook and fit it to one of the three themes. That way you’re not going in totally ‘cold’.

Once you’ve written that first sentence, you need to forget it’s a timed competition and immerse yourself in the writing. Lose yourself in the story. However, do keep an eye on the time. When you have about ten minutes left, you need to start winding down the story and think of an ending. Try not to end the piece too abruptly. Maybe have a closing image in mind before you begin writing in those crucial preparation stages.

I don’t usually think up a title until the last five minutes or so. Try to think of something quirky to capture the judge’s imagination. I find this one of the most difficult aspects of Write On Site, because at this stage you’re up against it time-wise. I never prepare titles in advance, as I think it’s very dependent on the theme.

Try to allow yourself enough time to edit. There have been many weeks when I haven’t had time to edit my story, but these days I find I don’t need to, as there are very few, if any, mistakes. This sounds arrogant, but it comes with practice. One of my early ‘tics’ was to slip into the past tense when I’d started in the present (particularly if there was a flashback scene) or vice versa. Some people may sub-consciously switch viewpoint. We all have bad habits. Another one is putting in too many weakening words like ‘just’ or ‘quite’. These are minor points that the Write Invite judges will happily overlook provided you’ve written a memorable piece.

Remember that Write On Site is a bit of fun. It’s not meant to be tortuous! Everyone is in the same boat in that they are all under pressure to produce a story in the thirty minutes. The story and/or idea is the most important thing and spelling mistakes and typos, for example, can be forgiven.

For me, Write On Site is all about producing a new piece of writing to hone and polish at a later date. I have been fortunate in that many of my entries have been in the Top Three, including my first ever attempt, which came third that particular week back in August 2011. I’ve been lucky enough to win the £50 prize on several occasions. Most writers will receive a short write-up of their story when the top three shortlisted stories are announced on the following Wednesday evening. This provides much needed feedback and encouragement. Some stories are ‘Also read’ (ie. they don’t receive a write-up), but don’t be put off. I know writers whose ‘also read’ stories have gone on to be published or win other competitions after a bit of a polish.

If you enter Write On Site regularly, then it will increase your productivity no end. In 2011 I entered 15 times, 43 times in 2012 and 29 times in 2013. That’s 87 new stories or potential stories to work on. I’d never have written so many without this weekly incentive. I have won the £50 prize seven times so from a financial point of view I don’t necessarily come out on top, although one of the stories I wrote for Write On Site has made me £200 so far. What was more important to me was the competition gave me the incentive to write something new. I came to look forward to my appointment with the computer on Saturday evenings and to the Wednesday afternoon ‘results email’. It is also fun to read the top three stories each week and vote for your favourite.

I’ve now taken a break from Write On Site, as I wasn’t getting so excited about doing it anymore and wanted to focus on my novel. Some weeks I miss it, but I have the option of joining in again whenever I want to.

So, what’s stopping you taking the plunge? Write On Site, although nerve-wracking at first, is a most rewarding experience.

You can read some of my winning Write On Site stories here. Just click my name to read:

On Good Authority, Dancing Girls, Surfer Boy, Alopecia and A Stray Dog, Skin and Bone and Tilly’s Tale.

***

Twisted SheetsJo Derrick has just published her first collection of short stories from 1997 to the present as an e-book on Amazon Kindle, entitled Twisted Sheets.  Twisted Sheets is a bold exploration of love, loss and longing. Some of the stories started life on Write On Site!

Jo has been writing seriously since 1990 and has numerous short stories and articles published in a wide range of publications, including Mslexia, Writers’ Forum, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, Take A Break’s Fiction Feast, Upstart!, Peninsular, Buzzwords, The Whittaker Prize Anthology and many more. Jo is the editor/publisher of The Yellow Room Magazine, a print journal for women writers and former publisher of QWF Magazine. She is working on a psychological crime novel.

I was absolutely thrilled yesterday to hear that I had won both first and third prizes in the third quarter Flash500 competition! I didn’t believe it for a while and then, when I saw the money in my PayPal account, I had a good old blub. An odd reaction, maybe, but I was completely overwhelmed as there are hundreds of entries every time. If you fancy reading the stories, don’t read the judge’s comments first as they contain spoilers.

This news has come at the optimum time, as I had decided to stop writing flash for a while because I have had an idea for a novel that won’t go away however much I chase it. That’s not to say I’ll end up writing or finishing it, but I think I have to give it a chance, and I find the mindsets of very short and longer fiction impossible to switch between. If anyone has any good tips, I’d be very glad to hear them.

I have done well with flash over the last three years, having won Flash500 twice, taken two third and two fourth places, and been honorably mentioned in a few other competitions, and I think I am now pretty competent at both knowing when I have a suitable idea and writing it down. One of the things I enjoy most about flash is the editing that takes place even before the words hit the page, and this is one of the main reasons I am going to find a novel challenging. Already I am editing the first scene in my head and I haven’t even opened a new document yet! The other thing that daunts me is the planning. I have the attention span of a puppy and it looks like far too much hard work at this stage. Did I mention how lazy I am? I’m not sure quite how to overcome this but I have to give it a go. Again, any tips will be most gratefully received. It’s eight years since I wrote my one and only novel and I daren’t even look at it because of the work I know it needs. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

Anyway, wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Other news – my 1,000-word murder/mystery story, The Perfect Place, came third in Yorkshire Ridings Magazine’s competition. A mini-flash, Post Mortem, will be published in the Worcestershire Literary Festival’s flash anthology, The Seventh Christmas will be published at the end of the month by Alfie Dog, and the first stage of filming of The Beast Next Door is now complete and apparently went very well. I can’t wait to see the finished piece.

I’ll be reading the flash (along with many other writers) at the anthology launch on December 9th, if anyone is around and fancies coming. And that’s about it for the moment. Cheers!

 

Once again I have had the pleasure of being one of the selecting editors for the FlashFlood journal. If anything, the standard of submissions was slightly higher this time and the variety of topics and ‘voices’ seemed more diverse. I laughed out loud a couple of times, which is always a good sign, and one very short piece made my eyes water so much I had to stop and find a tissue! I had a great time reading and discussing them with my colleagues – many thanks to everyone who submitted. We may go quarterly from now on, so I’m looking forward to the next outing.

Please drop by and have a read – some stories are just a few sentences long. My story, Fashion Victim, will go live at around 6.45pm. I hope you enjoy it!

A huge thank you to Sue for inviting me onto her blog today… I don’t think she realised that when I’m enthusiastic about something, I can ramble for hours!

So Sue’s asked me to convince her of the merits of creative writing courses, classes and workshops. I’m hoping that by the time she reads this she’ll be enrolling on everything she comes across.

My first experience of ‘creative writing’ was a baptism of fire. I decided (through madness or stupidity, I still don’t know which) to accompany a friend to a course at our local Adult Education centre. I hadn’t written any fiction since leaving school, although I had been journal writing for several years. That was exactly 2 years ago this month, and it was one of the best decisions of my life! I’ll be honest; the course itself was a little boring. I found myself nodding off in several sessions! But somehow, through all the yawning something clicked. Something happened to me during that short course, and it’s been driving me on ever since.

I realised that writing is just like any other subject. To be a good writer you have to learn how. I devoured books, writing magazines and completed Nanowrimo (twice!) all in my quest to be a better writer. But I needed instruction. I needed someone to tell me where I was going wrong. So I enrolled on the NEC’s Home Study Writing course. That was great, but I felt very isolated. Seeing the advert for Swanwick in The Writing Magazine, and my friend agreeing to come with me, came at exactly the right moment, as I was beginning to realise that I would need more than just my passion to achieve my dream.

Since that first trip to Swanwick, a truly life changing experience, I have studied with The Write Place, attended many workshops, been to Caerleon, attended Swanwick for a second year and completed an online Pocket Novel Course. I’ve had critiques on my work by respected authors, joined a writing group, and set up a writing group. My life has been enriched by every single experience, and my writing improved tenfold. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learnt in the last 2 years, it’s been a roller coaster, one that I’m not sick of, just yet. I’ve met some fantastic writers, inspiring tutors, and made some great friends.

It was all very scary at first. You’re in a room with all these people and you’re thinking, oh no, they’re all better than me, they’re all proper writers, I’m not. But the great thing is, you don’t have to share your work. There have been plenty of times where I’ve gone completely blank. Most recently at Swanwick, when I did an Erotica class with Della Galton. One of the exercises was to come up with a title for an Erotic story. Could I come up with one? Nope! I watched everyone scribbling away in their notebooks, whilst my pen just hovered over mine. Of course, I didn’t offer to share my non-existent title, and by the time I’d got back to my room I’d come up with six!

But there are other times, when you hear people read out their work and you think, wow, mine isn’t so bad after all. When you take that first step, to share something you’ve just written, read it out aloud to the class, your chest is pounding and your mouth is dry. You wonder, “What the hell am I doing here?”And then, after you’ve read it, someone says “Oooo, I want to know more, what happens?” or “That was really good, I liked it.” Well, at that moment, your confidence soars and they have to peel you down from the ceiling.

If you’re the shy type (as I am) I would definitely recommend attending a couple of work shops or classes before you throw yourself in at the deep end and attend a residential school. The residential schools are brilliant, from a social aspect, but they can also be a little overwhelming for an introverted newbie. I would never have attended one on my own, without at least knowing one person there. At Swanwick they have a white badge scheme, so everyone knows its your first time. This is very useful, because, although you’re singled out as being new, it alerts others (some who have been attending for 20+ years!) to the fact that you may be on your own. As a Swanwick Steward last year I tried to talk to every ‘white badger’ I came across, because, I knew what it felt like.

So, that’s all well and good, I guess you’re saying, but what about putting all this knowledge to good use? Where’s the novel? Am I actually any closer to becoming the publishedauthor I dream about? Well, I feel that I’ve spent the last 2 years experimenting, not really knowing which direction I should go in. I came away from Swanwick this year more focused, discovering, for example, that I’m not a short story writer. My voice has started to develop and so has my style (blogging has really helped with that…I can highly recommend it!). But there is still so much I need to learn and in the words of Albert Einstein, “I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very very curious.”

As I sit at my desk, typing this, surrounded by piles of notebooks, folders, cats and study guides I can’t help but smile, and remember my conversation with Simon Hall, after we’d both attended Roz Southey’s “Show Not Tell” workshop in Swanwick. I jokingly commented on his attendance, saying something along the lines of “Well, you don’t need a workshop for show and tell.” He laughed and replied “You’d be surprised, I often need reminding, and there’s always something you can learn.”

So I guess I’m not alone in my quest to learn, my need to be better. My confidence increases with every course, class and workshop. And in 10 years’ time, I’ll still be learning, but hopefully, by then, I’ll have at least a couple of best sellers to my name. Oh, and if you’re thinking of coming to Swanwick next year, do, I’ll be the one with the bright yellow badge saying “STEWARD” and rescuing ‘white badgers’ when they lock themselves out of their rooms.

***

Vikki Thompson lives in Kent with her husband, 3 adult children (who refuse to leave home) and 2 cats. She blogs, (or should that be rambles?) daily at The View Outside and spends her time fantasising about being the next EL James but isn’t too keen on having to write Erotica to achieve that, unless Robert Downey Jnr is available for research. Next month she starts another course, with The Faber Academy and is hoping that SJ Watson won’t be too upset when she becomes the next Faber success story (tongue firmly in cheek!).

On 1st April this year, Anne Tyler made a rare appearance at the Oxford Literary Festival. This wonderful American writer has been publishing her stories of large dysfunctional Baltimore families since the 1960s. In all that time, she’s only given a couple of interviews. It’s no wonder so many people queued to get good seats to hear her speak.

The sun shone, everyone was relaxed and chatting; sitting on the window sill way above the stage in the magnificent Sheldonian Theatre, I felt a moment of pure happiness. I told anyone who would listen to me: I am a writer! I had my notebook in my hand to prove the point.

The day before, I had officially ‘retired’ from a thirty year career in pharmaceutical manufacturing and consultancy. I’d written technical text-books for the past fifteen years but had gradually found my interests moving towards fiction. Now I had the chance to give free rein to my creative side.

Three months down the road, this seems like a good time to reflect on what have I’ve achieved so far— and what I’ve learned. I wasn’t really staring at a blank page or starting from scratch. My to-do list at the beginning of April read like this:

  • Convert Chudleigh Phoenix (the community magazine I co-edit) from bimonthly to monthly;
  • Write 6000 word story and 1500 word essay for final module of MA;
  • Write 15000 word creative piece and 5000 word essay for MA dissertation;
  • Write article on ‘Doing an MA as a Mature Student’ for Writing Magazine;
  • Finish the first draft of my novel Gorgito’s Ice-Rink
  • Put the final touches to Pharmaceutical Process Design and Management 
  • Ramp up the marketing for Life is Not a Trifling Affair
  • Bump up my score of ‘out-theres’ (submissions to magazines or competitions);
  • Put more time into building my marketing platform.

And that’s without mentioning planning and writing a 40 page brochure for our town’s summer festival; project managing the town’s Christmas Fayre; and generally ‘sorting my life out’! It didn’t take long for me to bring out that saying so beloved of retirees: I don’t know how I had time to go to work at all!

I’ve always been good at time management — and as a former factory manager, I tend to work on the ‘just-in-time’ principle. (In fact, I’m quite impressed with myself that I’m writing this on Wednesday morning when the deadline I’ve been given isn’t until Thursday evening.) Some of the items on my list have defined deadlines. So I calculate how much time each will take; work back from the deadline; and set a start date. No problem. In the past three months, I’ve published three editions of CP; submitted the WM article (which will be out in the August issue); completed my final module assignments (achieving a reasonable mark); and am well on the way towards completing my dissertation work. The 40 -page brochure has been printed and is being delivered this week. The pharma textbook is out on 12th July — although I confess asking the publisher to contract out the indexing.

Life is Not a Trifling Affair is an anthology of short stories I co-published with another writer last July. It’s been a huge learning curve — and frankly, the writing side was the easiest part. We launched it at the Chudleigh Literary Festival; organised a pre-Christmas Fair; heavily promoted it with friends and family; and converted it to an ebook in March. What we’d avoided doing so far was getting out on the road, knocking on doors and asking strangers to stock it. There was always an excuse: she has children and a part-time job; I was working more or less full-time for a demanding client. But in reality, we were scared of rejection.

Finally, in mid-May, we ran out of excuses. We planned our route and hit the road. The response we got was overwhelming. On our first day, we found five outlets that agreed to stock the book. The only refusal we got was at a local holiday park that had closed their shop — but even there, we left with a list of suggested other venues. We were so relieved by the reaction, we quickly planned several other days out. We gained so much confidence that when we did get a rather surly refusal in a gift shop in a popular tourist haunt on Dartmoor, we smiled sweetly and left without feeling in the least abashed. The highlight of that day was two outlets that refused to consider Sale or Return – and bought 13 copies between them on the spot. We’ve even started taking a stall at local craft fairs — our confidence is growing every day.

I am finding that my enthusiasm for writing the novel waxes and wanes. Some days I can write more than 3000 words; one week I added more than 10000 to the total. Sometimes, I write nothing at all — and initially, I felt guilty, wondering if I was being afflicted with the dreaded ‘writers’ block’. Then I looked back at how much I’d done in three months and decided that wasn’t it.

I’ve always been a grasshopper in relation to my writing (and to the rest of my life for that matter). I tend to jump from one topic to another, from one task to the next, as the fancy takes me (unless I’m working to a deadline, of course). So, I’m learning to relax and enjoy the process. Writing should be the best job in the world, but if I try to force it, I’m not enjoying it – and in that case, what’s the point?

If I feel like working on the novel, I do so. I switch off the phone and the email, log out of Facebook, and get on with it. If I don’t feel like it, I work on a short story, make notes on a character, update my website, prepare the minutes of the last Christmas Fayre committee meeting — anything that involves putting words on a page. Then when I’ve done enough to justify my title as ‘writer’, I read a novel (an illicit day-time pleasure that can now be justified in the name of research).

I’ve released the inner grasshopper and she’s having a wonderful time exploring.

***

Elizabeth Ducie is a writer (as she never tires of telling people). She produces the Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine and runs the annual CP writing competition. Her first co-written anthology of short stories Life is Not a Trifling Affair is available from the website or on Amazon for Kindle. The second anthology Life is Not a Bed of Roses will be out on 23rd November. A Brummie by birth, Elizabeth moved with her husband to the south-west of England for its rich, green scenery after many years in London and the arid south-east. She forgot to wonder why the countryside was so green — but has now invested in a pair of wellies, so is much happier. When she grows up, she wants to be a best-selling novelist and live in a cottage with roses around the door. So far, she’s got the roses!

A quick round-up of my current status regarding the various competitions I have entered for National Flash Fiction Day, next Wednesday, May 16th.

One of my stories was longlisted in the Spilling Ink comp but got no further. Both my entries in Flash500 were shortlisted and one came in fourth, Highly Commended, and received a judge’s comment and a prize. There were several hundred entries, so I’m delighted. Having now been placed 1st, 3rd and 4th (twice) I am hoping to take that elusive 2nd one day! I really recommend reading the top three stories – all are excellent and worthy winners – as are the winners of the Humour Verse competition. They are laugh-out-loud funny.

All my other entries have yet to be judged.

I also heard last week that my competition entry for a 1,000 word murder/mystery in Yorkshire Ridings Magazine is to be published in their next issue. So that’s exciting, especially as I’ve never written murder/mystery before and hadn’t really a clue how to start.

I am one of the editors for Calum Kerr’s project ‘FlashFlood‘, which isn’t so much a competition as a selection process. The best entries will be published on the website on May 16th at regular intervals – possibly as often as every five minutes judging by the flood of entries – and will be left there for the immediate future to give everyone a chance to read them all. So please, get your 500-word flashes in by the end of the 15th May – further details on the site.

And that’s it for now because I have another competition to enter, deadline tomorrow!