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W I N OV E R £ 81, 9 9 5 I N W R I T I N G P R I Z E S

BUMPER ISSUE still just

February 2016





Market your first ebook

The definitive list of 2016 festivals, workshops, courses and retreats

Write the perfect submission letter Sell your article ideas

GET ACTIVE! 10 top tips: make the most of your writing retreat

“Leave it out!”

How to get booked at your local library

Crime author

Create clichéfree crime dialogue




Tackling dark topics with a light touch

ways to inspire new ideas

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Ebook distribution to over 60 stores + 44 (0) 116 253 0203

Unable to get published ? 2


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E D I TO R ’ S L E T T E R

W I N OV E R £ 81, 9 9 5 I N W R I T I N G P R I Z E S


BUMPER ISSUE 128 pages still just

February 2016





Market your first ebook

The definitive list of 2016 festivals, workshops, courses and retreats

Write the perfect submission letter Sell your article ideas

GET ACTIVE! 10 top tips: make the most of your writing retreat

“Leave it out!”

How to get booked at your local library

Crime author

Create clichéfree crime dialogue


Tackling dark topics with a light touch

Charlotte Brontë, 150 since the birth of Beatrix Potter and 100 since Roald William Shakespeare. But let’s not look to the past. Let’s start the year all

02 9 770964 916259

p001_wmagFeb16.indd 1


ways to inspire new ideas

2016 is a big year for literary anniversaries – 200 years since the birth of Dahl’s, not forgetting, of course, the 400th anniversary of the death of



Dear Reader

• (Publishing:) • (Fiction:) • (Journalism:)

15/12/2015 13:04

Published by Warners Group Publications plc, 5th Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds, LS1 5JD, UK Main office: 0113 200 2929 Fax: 0113 200 2928 Subscriptions: 01778 392 482 Advertising: 0113 200 2918 Editorial: 0113 200 2919 Marketing: 0113 200 2916 Creative Writing Courses: 0113 200 2917 Website:

fired up and full of ambition. In 2116, will they be celebrating the 100th anniversary of your book? Or mine? Or that landmark year when thousands of new authors broke through, topped all the charts and toppled the literati? If we don’t try, we’ll never know! No doubt those big four anniversaries will be well commemorated at the hundreds of literary events coming up this year which we’ve detailed for you in this issue’s definitive events guide for writers in 2016. How many are you planning to attend? Do let me know if you find any particularly useful or,

Publisher: Janet Davison Email:

even better, if you’re planning to make any appearances yourself – with a

Editor: Jonathan Telfer Email:

to help drum up support... and that could be the first of our collective steps

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few months’ notice we might be able to mention you in Subscriber Spotlight towards literary world domination. Best get writing!

Jonathan Telfer Editor

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was born in 1981 in a small Irish village where the most exciting thing that ever happened was some cows getting loose on the road. She is the author of the Paula Maguire crime series, the fourth of which, A Savage Hunger, is due in March. She was previously director of the Crime Writers’ Association and now teaches on the first ever crime-writing MA at City University.

was the manager of a very busy and popular town library for a number of years. She has hosted a variety of author events, book exhibitions and workshops, for both adults and children, promoting mainly local authors. To further support local writers, she also started a writing group at the library. She has published a number of articles, mainly on historical subjects.

is a former school librarian and English and history teacher who has an MA and a MPhil in children’s literature and recently obtained a diploma in freelance and features journalism from the London School of Journalism. Since moving to the Cotswolds, she has joined a creative writing group, which reignited her passion for writing and gave her the confidence to try a new career as a writer.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Warners Group Publications plc. No responsibility can be taken for artwork and photographs in postage. Whilst every care is taken of material submitted to the editor for publication, no responsibility can be accepted for loss or damage. Email submissions preferred. All mss must be typewritten and accompanied by a sae for return. © Copyright Warners Group Publications plc. ISSN 0964-9166 Warners Group Publications plc are not able to investigate the products or services provided by the advertisers in Writing Magazine nor to make recommendations about them. Readers should make sensible enquiries themselves before sending money or incurring substantial costs in sending manuscripts or other material. Take particular care when responding to advertisers offering to publish manuscripts. While few conventional publishers seek a financial contribution from authors, many such advertisers do seek a payment (sometimes thousands of pounds) and readers should remember there can be no guarantees such publishing arrangements will prove profitable. There have been cases in which subsidy publishers have provided unduly optimistic reports on manuscripts to encourage authors to commit themselves to financial contribution. Readers should be aware of this and should not allow their judgement to be blurred by optimism. Manuscript advisory services do normally charge for their time, but agents normally do not (although some agents do quote a reading fee). While Warners Group Publications plc cannot act as a licensing or accreditation authority, they will investigate complaints against advertisers. Complainants must, however, send complete documentation and be willing for their names to be disclosed.

Cover picture © Steve Lindridge,

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15/12/2015 13:06




10 Grumpy Old Bookman: Guiding light Michael Allen is in enlightened mode as he looks at inspiration handed down through the centuries


16 Star interview: Louise Welsh Like life, literature is about balancing light and dark, says the genre-busting crime-writer

20 On writing: John Galsworthy 20 How I got published: YA author Lisa Williamson 26 Beat the bestsellers The techniques and tricks of Milly Johnson

70 Subscriber spotlight 39 Festival guide Get out, get your name about and enjoy the company of other writers – plan your 2016 writing events calendar with our extensive year-round listings of festivals for writers in the year ahead

Writing Magazine subscribers share their paths to publication

74 Circles’ roundup Writing groups profile their interests and activities

48 Writing holidays: Recharge, refresh, retreat

92 Crime file: Michael Koryta

Research and preparation will ensure you get the most out of your writing retreat or holiday

102 New author profile: Mike Craven

51 Writing courses guide Want to embark on a writing course, go on a writing holiday or find a retreat where you can just write? Our writers’ guide to courses and holidays in 2016 will help you plan your writing year

60 Writing retreats: Write away Whether you follow a guided retreat or just book a quiet room on your own somewhere, the advantages of retreating are clear

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96 Webbo 97 Computer clinic 98 Helpline

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BLOCKBUSTIN G The easy way to beat writer’s block 12 9 770964 916259


It’s easier to find writing time than time to read, says the debut historical novelist



92 Excuse me officer


8 Letters


Adventure historian



Exploring the story therebiggest is





WRITING Prune RESOLUT your first IONS into submissi draft YOU’LL on STICK TO IN 2016

to enter ✓ 19 competitions to get published 01 How to write ✓ 50 opportunities a panto news ✓ Insider industry 9 770964 916259 from professional writers ✓ Essential advice p001_wmagJan16.indd


Write rs’ Retreat death Life, humanity… &WOR TH


STEP BY STEP WIN a 4-day Iceland GET PUBL Retreat Writers’ ISHED •

124 My writing day: Guinevere Glasfurd

104 Your essential monthly round-up of competitions, paying markets,opportunities to get into print and publishing industry news




6 Miscellany


January 2016





The former probation officer had to go back to the drawing board – even though his debut had been shortlisted for a Dagger


PUBLISHING COVER STORY 22 E-publishing: Easy ebooks – Going to market

You’ve produced your ebook. Now it’s time to publish and market, with advice on generating those all-important sales

COVER STORY 62 Submission under the microscope

James McCreet turns his eagle eye for detail to the all-important cover letter to an agent

64 Talk it over: Why no X? What is that elusive quality agents and publishers are looking for? Some big names share their thoughts

Your writing problems solved



p4 contents.indd 4

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FICTION 24 NaNoWriMax 50,000 words in a month? Here’s what happens when you complete NaNoWriMo twice, with 50,000 words in a single day

34 Open short story winner Read the winning entry in our open competition for love stories

78 Subscriber-only short story winner Read the winning entry for our subscriber-only competition for stories about a local reporter

84 Fiction focus: Plot engines What drives your novel’s narrative? It’s important to know so you can keep it ticking over

COVER STORY 12 Inspiration: 101 ways to inspire ideas

88 Writing for children: 10 ways to grow as a children’s writer In the first part of a two-part miniseries, we look at five practical ways to grow your career as a children’s writer

Whether you’re looking for a warm-up exercise, short story prompts, article suggestions or inspiration for a novel, we show you where to look


21 Editorial calendar

Nothing kills a novel faster than clichéd, clunky dialogue. Get it right with our advice

28 Ten top tips: Write to the heart

94 Fantastic realms: It’s not rocket science

65 Novel ideas

How much science you leave out of your SF is as important as how much you put in

69 Inspirations: Change of scenery

90 Crime: Leave it out! With Valentine’s day on the horizon, use all the love in the air as inspiration for your writing

Part two of our series on using random prompts to generate ideas advises visiting somewhere new

WRITING LIFE 32 Beginners: The 3 secrets of successful writing You already know the three secrets of successful writing – you just have to accept and embrace them


36 Event planning: Library of opportunity Advice from a librarian on organising your own library reading or event


86 Article writing: Creating opportunities The final part of our series on writing and selling non-fiction articles focuses on targeting your approach to editors

99 Going to market

66 The business of writing: Productivity leap With an extra 24 hours coming up next month, three productive writers talk about making the most of our writing time

126 Notes from the margin: To author, with love Feedback from fans is welcomed by our columnist... mostly


101 Research tips: The Cold War Providing material for fiction and non-fiction writers alike, the Cold War’s division of Europe in recent history requires careful research

119 Travel writing know-how

30 Train your brain: Pen pushers It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s gloomy – the ideal time for some exercises in writing funny

31 Train your brain: Red editing pen


33 Open competition launch

80 Poetry workshop: Lived experience A poet’s voice feels authentic as she uses her life knowledge in a poem

82 Poetry from A to Z

Win cash prizes and publication in our competition for humorous stories

75 Circles’ roundup: Telling tales

An alphabetic guide to the language of poetry

Venture into the deep, dark wood with an inspiring exercise for your writers’ group

83 Poetry competition: Try a triolet

77 Subscriber-only competition launch

Enter our open poetry competition for short poems with a repeating rhyme pattern

Win cash prizes and publication for our competition, open only to subscribers, for stories written entirely in dialogue

p4 contents.indd 5



15/12/2015 11:15




Paperback perfume, sorting out submissions, the pursuit of plots and the fate of some of out best-loved books crop up in this month’s wacky world of writing

Publishers urged ‘do more to help writers’ We hope that you have never been at the receiving end of such bad manners, but apparently there are some publishers out there who turn away ‘writerly brilliance’ with a snooty dismissal. Josh Barrie, highlighting this dastardly behaviour in The Independent, said that it had been happening for ages ‘JK Rowling was advised not to quit her day job, George Orwell was informed there was “no market” for animal stories and Rudyard Kipling was told he clearly did not understand the English language.’ Josh reported that Hannah MacDonald (pictured), September Publishing founder, raised her concerns at the FutureBook conference saying editors should be given more time by the industry to provide authors with feedback. She said publishing should be more constructive with its criticism and rebuffs, as there is a danger that potential stars might abandon their dreams. ‘Getting your book

Figures of speech

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published is notoriously difficult. We need to reach out and nurture talent. Publishers could do more to help writers.’ The Indy mentioned other famous authors who had to struggle to get into print: • William Golding, winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Literature, whose novel Lord of the Flies ‘suffered twenty refusals before becoming one of the defining books of his time’. • James Joyce, who was ‘knocked back 22 times for Dubliners’. • American novelist Louisa May Alcott who was told to ‘stick to teaching’ following her submission of Little Women. There seems to be another message here: don’t give up easily.

On the lookout for plots John Grisham, interviewed by Goodreads, which describes itself as ‘the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations’, was told that many Goodreads members were intensely interested in his writing process. Among the questions asked was this perennial – what comes first, plot or character? The Goodreads archive shows that the famous American author of the courtroom drama replied it was almost always plot that came first, because his books were so plot driven. He was always thinking about what would be a great plot. ‘I’ll read a newspaper article or something in a magazine about the law or a trial or a firm or something, and I’ll think, “Okay, I can take this story, change this and that, add some fiction to it – and you’ve got a real hook, you’ve got something that can really grab the reader.”’

Sorting out the submissions James McGarry, 27, who launched his Valley Press publishing company, ‘based largely on Yorkshire poets’, in 2007, told his story to Alan Combes, of the Yorkshire Post. Alan described how James started by contacting local authors he admired, and by 2012 he was receiving on average two submissions a day. James told him: ‘To slow down the number of submissions I had to insist on hard copies rather than email and to be considered they must buy a Valley Press book.’ As he said, this was controversial ‘but it enabled would-be writers to become familiar with what we were doing and it was a statement from them that

they took it seriously’. His interviewer asked him what chance do writers stand with him now he’s a serious publisher of novels and non-fiction as well as poetry. ‘Out of 150 submissions, I’ll seriously engage with, say a dozen writers, publishing just one or two.’

15/12/2015 10:05


Foreign critics love Middlemarch When BBC Culture polled foreign book critics to give outside perspectives on the best in British literature they chose Middlemarch by George Eliott (1874) as the greatest British novel ever. BBC Culture contributor Jane Ciabattari approached 82 book critics, from Australia to Zimbabwe, but none from the UK, which resulted in a final list of 100. Writing on the BBC website Jane said the list ‘included no nonfiction, no plays, no narrative or epic poems (no Paradise Lost

or Beowulf), no short story collections (no Morte D’Arthur) – novels only, by British authors (which means no James Joyce)’. Here are a few of others placed in the top 100: 10, Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848; 20, Persuasion, Jane Austen, 1817; 30, Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe, 1722; 40, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865; 50, A Passage to India, EM Forster, 1924; 60, Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence, 1913, and in the 100 spot, The Code of the Woosters, PG Wodehouse, 1938.

Literary fragrance lacks the pong of old carpet Paperback by Demeter is a new scent meant to evoke ‘a trip to your favourite library or used bookstore’, revealed David Shariatmadari on the Guardian books blog. ‘Where once perfumes promised a ride on a magic carpet to sensual Araby, now they capture the olfactory experience of handing your overdue Catherine Cooksons to a vaguely disappointed librarian. ‘Paperback advertises itself as “sweet and lovely, with just a touch of the mustiness of aged paper”, which sounds nice, I guess, though I wonder how it would go down socially: “Wow, you smell lovely, sort

of like the Encyclopedia Britannicas in my grandad’s cellar.”’ Regulars have been offering their opinions about the fragrance on Basenotes, a perfume news and reviews website, One wrote about a book-loving brother who loved it. ‘He actually wears it and he also uses it as room spray in his home office… Of course that dusty, musty smell is the dominant one, and I can smell printing ink and a touch of that sharp acidy smell that comes from older, self-destructing paperback.’ Another contributor declared: ‘Demeter Paperback doesn’t even vaguely remind me of books… It’s not unpleasant, but it doesn’t smell of paper

p6 Miscellany.indd 7

and dust, or of the places where books live, or of any of the many kinds of bindery glue, or even of old leather (though of course paperbacks don’t smell of leather either).’ It also does not have the ‘smell of industrial floor polish and stamp pad ink like a college library, or of kids’ winter coats and old carpet…’ Well, all we can add is thank goodness for that.



15/12/2015 10:05


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR We want to hear your news and views on the writing world, your advice for fellow writers – and don’t forget to tell us what you would like to see featured in a future issue... Write to: Letters to the editor, Writing Magazine, Warners Group Publications plc, 5th Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD; email: (Include your name and address when emailing letters. Ensure all

Know your worth!

STAR LETTER Just write ‘The solution, I suggest, Write for wr iting’s sake is to learn how not to care,’ says Michael Allen A (Write for writing’s sake, WM, Dec). Reading this was like music to my “” ears, or should I say, splendour to my eyes. As I’m newly emerging into the writing scene, I’m amazed by how much focus most writers put on publishing their work and letting their names out fairly quickly. Now of course I won’t deny those tiny little butterflies in my stomach, that flap their wings every time I imagine my name reaching glory. Just flipping through WM and looking at the very useful tips and examples is uplifting and inspiring in itself. But I wonder, should we always care about the end result when the process of writing is just as enjoyable? The father Michael talks about had 25 unpublished novels, yet was not defeated. How I wish I could read his novels! Success is ecstatic, yes. And failure is often dispiriting. But let us do our best to safeguard that little flame inside us. As much as income is important, the passion behind holding a pen and letting it roll into the unknown remains priceless. LARA GHAOUI Broughton, Milton Keynes GRUMPY


Reaching readers is a problem for all writers wonders whethe r we should be , but Michael Allen focusing on it

ny writer, whether of novellas, or full-length fiction or non-fictio books, most of n, them fiction, being is always going shoved in front to have the Shatzkin’s comment of public, through a problem in this one supplier, really hit me finding the eye. It was every single day. readers. And in a passing reference in Hmm… Might that connection there to that small group of be a bit tricky finding is both good news writers who are readers through and bad news. familiar with the problem all that lot don’t you of selling significant think? The good news numbers, in both The same difficulty is that in 2015 traditional and applies, no writer need go selfpublishing arenas, curiously enough, unpublished. And and yet ‘maybe even if you secure it was not always so. don’t even care’. contract with And it struck me a traditional publisher a In 1960 I had that Shatzkin had put Reliable sales . a friend whose data his finger on many are almost late father’s hobby writer’s salvation. a impossible to had been writing come by – publisher novels. For 25 regard them as Let’s go back to s years Dad had my commerc friend’s written a confident ially father, and novel every winter. his 25 unpublish ial – and we’re In the spring, ed novels. Most all used have it typed he’d of us might have given to reading success up and up after eight or stories in the it out. Only twice, begun sending ten rejections, and press. But the in all those years, joined the bridge big successes are had a publisher club. But the he didn’t. One exceptions. Thirty shown any interest. can only assume, years ago I was And both times therefore, that he enjoyed associated with something or the writing process a small academic other went wrong, so for its own sake. What press which published the books never a wise man. highly specialise were actually published d books; In my experience typically these . , the trouble with sold less than Today, by contrast, most writers is 100 copies each. that they are rabidly book in both ebook you can publish a ambitious. (In Here are some and paperback my youth I certainly more for absolutely no form modern was.) They yearn data provided money at all. You to be a by certainly spend can science-fiction writer’, ie someone ‘a successful a few hundred and fantasy pounds who is on professional writer Kameron interviewed in services for editing, Thirty years ago Hurley. the Sunday design, and text cover According layout if you choose. papers, has films to the US associated with I was made from But you don’t trade journal Publishers have to. her books, and a has a holiday The bad news Weekly, the average academic press small is that because home in France. anyone can now And traditionally published do published highly which that sort of success yet everyone is doing it, almost is book sells only specialised it. And that means not going to happen just 3,000 books; typically that the volume to copies. This is of reading matter 99.9% of writers, these sold in the being produced either in market, remembe US by self-publishers less than 100 this world or the r, which is reaching astonishin next. is far bigger than So what then is g proportions. the UK’s. Of copies each. the Consider, for those 3,000 copies, solution, if the instance, Wattpad. only about frustrations com. The Wattpad ten percent will typically of finding readers web site is famous are not to be sold in the for providing first year. overwhelm you? young platform on which writers with a The Since solution, that 3,000 figure they might find I suggest, is to is in any case readers, and from learn how not to care. an average, it follows which they might, Or at any rate, that some books perhaps, be offered not to care so much that and writers must a contract by a you inevitably do less major publisher. unhappy. My suggestionmake yourself well. Hurley tells us Examples include that she is this: work Beth Reekles (who through a traditiona publishers’ spreadshe has seen some later signed with l ets Random House publishing service, publisher or a selfsales of just a couple which show and was named whichever proves of hundred copies one of over Time magazine’ be practicable to a book’s entire s most influentia and whichever lifetime. Or, just l teens in 2013); Abigail suits you best. Just get the a dozen copies Gibbs and Lilian book out, and over an eight-mon Carmine (both then let it go on its karmic th period. Or even, with way. But choose in one case, four and Taran Matharu Harper Collins); be a writer not to copies over a twelve-mo (Macmillan). for the fame and nth period. Wattpad now fortune (highly unlikely) I’ve been pondering has more than but for the simple these two million writers statistics satisfactio over the last month producing 100,000 n of shaping or so, and feeling uploads a day new page. Regard anything the words on the bit depressed. a for twenty million But then I saw else as a bonus. readers. on the That’s 100,000 a sentence Blessed blog of publishing new short stories, are the writers who just enjoy consultant the job, and don’t Mike Shatzkin. care too much about the outcome: for they shall achieve peace of mind.

p11 Grumpy.indd


JULY 2015




The star letter each month earns a copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2016, courtesy of Bloomsbury,



p8 Letters.indd 8

letters, a maximum of 250 words, are exclusive to Writing Magazine. Letters may be edited.) When referring to previous articles/letters, please state month of publication and page number.


I would like to share some advice for fellow writers who are starting their careers on the internet: don’t let employers dictate your value. I’ve been working as a full time freelance writer for almost three years. I began by trolling the content farms for a tiny slice of ad revenue or a shockingly low upfront fee. After one year slaving away on uninspiring projects for less than minimum wage, I decided to move on. I landed a position as a copywriter for a boutique content firm. While the fees were less than I asked for, the steady flow of work was too hard to resist. I soon realised – after a couple of successes in specialist print magazines – that I was being taken advantage of. I started to demand more money from new clients, but the damage was done. Word of my low price had got around until every client I approached knew that I had previously charged less to others. Luckily, I finally mustered the courage to make a stand, and after sticking to my guns for a little time, it started to work in my favour. So, my advice to anyone interested in the business is to set your price accordingly, stick with it and don’t give in to temptation. Clients will haggle, beg and threaten to drop you altogether if you don’t meet their demands, but if you’re genuinely worth what you quote, they’ll eventually come around. ADAM MANUEL Saltash, Cornwall

NaNoWriMo? No.

it was for many, but not for me. My Well, it wasn’t a great success. Or rather 538 words. This doesn’t sound a lot in grand total, at the end of thirty days, was was 50,000 it sounds even less. itself but when you factor in that the goal main excuse for having failed so I, however, am not too disheartened. My same time as it began, the possibility miserably at NaNo was that at about the once in my life began to hover around of actually finishing a (different) book for sh me. Finish me,’ and it became all me, teasing and whispering in my ear, ‘Fini finished (arghhhhh) it’s so so so close consuming. Although I still can’t say it’s the very first time I will be able to and it WILL be done by Christmas. For it manuscript in my hands and NaNo hold a complete, finished, ready-to-subm avoidance is part of the reason for that. pointed in my efforts (or lack thereof) So I cannot bring myself to be too disap er comes around every year and I hear but neither will I admit defeat. Novemb e iMo. There are plenty more words wher rumour of a spring-time Camp NaNoWr last. my be ’t first NaNo but it won they came from. This may have been my CATE FRANCES Brixham, Devon

11/12/2015 13:24

Home is where the writing happens

Guiltless pleasure One of Liz Gregory’s Writing Resolutions Worth Keeping (WM, Jan) struck a chord with me. She said ‘Never feel guilty’ and reminded us that, for the majority, writing is a hobby or a part-time source of income and should therefore be enjoyable. I would like to add that there are much easier was of earning money or enjoying a creative pastime than writing – ways that don’t involve sitting alone at a computer trying to wrench unwilling thoughts from brain to page. So if the ‘fun’ of writing has morphed into a hated drudge, take action, and fast! Go back to what attracted you to writing in the first place, play with a poem, create a piece of flash fiction or write a daily journal. Then, refreshed and re-enthused, return to your magnum opus, pitching to editors or whatever is your bête noire. A change is as good as a rest and it’s much better to make a temporary change than risk abandoning your writing life altogether. SALLY JENKINS Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Group benefits

A writing group trip, what a great idea. After reading Julie Phillips’ The Great Outdoors (WM, Sept), I suggested to my writing group that we should go on a group trip. They loved the idea. We are working on our World War II anthology, so I thought a group trip would help inspire us. We decided to go to Haden Hill House because it housed evacuees and those sheltering from the bombings during World War II, which makes it a perfect location. We didn’t take part in a group activity as suggested in the article. Instead, we toured the house and grounds, made notes, and took plenty of photos. We all enjoyed our day, and now have more World War II story ideas. We also have other potential story ideas due to this beautiful location. I would encourage any writing group to go on group trips, especially if members are struggling to get ideas. My group is already planning our next one. NICOLE SIMMS Oldbury, West Midlands

p8 Letters.indd 9

When I read Hilary Wilson’s description of how moving house resulted in writer’s block (Talk It Over, WM, Jan), I instantly identified with her experience. Four years ago, circumstances forced us to move from the house we had lived in for twenty years. Our new bungalow had far less character, but it had a room I could use as a study, a luxury I had never had before. Soon after we settled into our new home, I discovered a problem: although I had lots of writing projects lined up, I was finding it impossible to write anything. This was because I missed our old house so much, it felt like a bereavement. It was where our children had grown up, and where I had first started to write, and even my own study couldn’t compensate for that. Eventually I decided to sign up for an Open University course which would force me to write regular assignments to deadlines. However even after that I still felt, like Hilary, that nothing I wrote was worth keeping. Then I woke up one morning and realised a pall had lifted. Slowly, insidiously, I had grown used to our new house, and no longer missed the old one. From then on, sitting down at my desk to write became a pleasure, not a chore. Eighteen months later I have published one book, and just finished writing another. Jane Wenham-Jones is right. You can get through writer’s block. You just have to persevere. TESSA BUCKLEY Leigh-on-Sea, Essex I read with interest Jane Wenham-Jones’ advice to reader Hilary Wilson as I have been in a very similar situation this year; during and after a major house move I found it impossible to write. Jane’s sympathetic response suggested that the stress of the move may be responsible, but in my case it went deeper. What made the difference for me was a brilliant blog by Mary Robinette Kowal, Sometimes Writer’s Block is Really Depression ( It made me feel so much better. Writer’s block seems so hopeless, and I was beginning to think I had lost my drive to write completely, but acknowledging that depression, brought on by the stress of moving, was the underlying cause was the first positive step to changing things for the better. Having read Mary’s blog post I wrote 111,415 words during November for NaNoWriMo – the first words all year. I wish Hilary Wilson all the very best with her writing – writer’s block is horrible, but it does pass. ELIZABETH HAYNES Edingthorpe, Norfolk Like Kate Long (My Writing Day, WM, Dec), I also wanted an office. When we moved a couple of years ago, I found the place that I liked writing best was at the dining table, sitting on a particular chair, facing a particular direction. As you can imagine, this isn’t at all practical. So, earlier this year I converted the small bedroom into an office. I redecorated, bought a desk and a chair and put shelving units in there. I put my files, books and magazines on the shelving, filled the desk drawers with stationery and moved my laptop upstairs. Unfortunately, I just can’t write in there. I tried, but within a week the laptop was back downstairs on the dining table, along with various stationery items and paperwork. It’s the only place I want to write, the only place that feels comfortable to write. Maybe I should convert the office into a dining room! VALERIE GRIFFIN Weymouth, Dorset FEBRUARY 2016


15/12/2015 10:31


Guiding light

Michael Allen is in enlightened mode as he reflects on inspiration handed down through the centuries


uestion: What connection is there between a 17th-century physician who lived in Norwich, and an American novelist who grew up in the 20th century? To save you racking your brains needlessly let me say that the answer is contained in four words: lie down in darkness. The physician referred to above was Sir Thomas Browne. He was by all accounts an excellent doctor, but it is not for his medical achievements that we remember him today: it is for his various writings; and for the fact that he is often regarded as one of the great masters of English prose. Coleridge and Virginia Woolf were among his admirers. The most important of Sir Thomas’s publications is his 1658 essay entitled Urn Burial. He was inspired to write this by the then recent discovery in Norfolk of some Roman urns, containing cremated human bones. The essay is, in short, a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life and death. Sir Thomas’s writing style was somewhat idiosyncratic even for his day, and for modern readers his meaning is not always immediately clear. Urn Burial is therefore best read with a modern commentary to hand, to clarify what he is saying. The NYRB edition, ISBN 9781590174883, is a good one. But the complexity of Sir Thomas’s prose is not, perhaps, the key point for me. The point is that if you read his text out loud, it sounds magnificent, and the general drift of his ideas is clear enough. What is more, the very sound of his words, if declaimed in a church for instance, conveys strong emotions. As has been said of Finnegans Wake, it makes sense aurally even if all the meaning might not be apparent on paper. 10

JULY 2015

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But it was through Styron that I first Here are just a sentence or two, became aware of Sir Thomas Browne from one of Sir Thomas’s more famous of Norwich, a city in which I began my passages, to give you the flavour: married life. ‘…since our longest sun sets at For me, Lie Down in Darkness also right descencions, and makes but provides another connection: and winter arches, and therefore it that’s to James Joyce. On the title page cannot be long before we lie down of this same novel Styron quotes a in darkness, and have our light in line from Finnegans Wake: ‘Carry me ashes… and time that grows old along, taddy, like you done through in itself, bids us hope no the toy fair.’ long duration; diurturnity This is a line which I think I is a dream and folly must have read first on Styron’s of expectation.’ title page, and it has stayed And there, of course, in my head for the last 57 in his statement that it It makes sense aurally years; and so when I recently cannot be long before even if all the meaning re-opened my copy of Styron’s we too ‘lie down in might not be apparent book, for the first time in darkness’, we have perhaps a decade, I was rendered the connection which on paper literally breathless to be reminded I mentioned above: a of where I had first seen it. direct link with the novelist Styron, you see, was much William Styron (1925-2006). influenced by Joyce. Some critics Styron was born in Virginia maintain that the penultimate section and took a degree in English at Duke of his novel is obviously inspired by University, North Carolina. And it was Faulkner; but to my mind the long at Duke, I strongly suspect, that he was ‘stream of consciousness’ chapter introduced to Urn Burial. which precedes his heroine’s death When Styron came to publish his is clearly inspired by Molly Bloom’s first novel in 1951, he used the phrase soliloquy in Ulysses. It is a rare Lie Down in Darkness as its title. And example of the successful use of on the first preliminary page of that stream of consciousness technique book he quotes in full the passage in a mainstream novel. which I abbreviated above. Lie Down in Darkness is still in Lie Down in Darkness is a novel print, and there are plenty of cheap about a beautiful but suicidal girl secondhand paperback copies. By all from a dysfunctional family; it was means take a look at it if you wish, if immediately a huge literary success. only to see how a novelist could make The influential Saturday Review a big impression on the literary world referred to it as ‘A remarkable and in 1951. But it has not aged well, and fascinating novel – and one of the some readers find it depressing. few completely human and mature Whatever else you do, however, do novels published since the Second give Sir Thomas Browne a try: his World War.’ work contains much food for thought, And why, you may wonder, do I and it reads splendidly. bother to mention this particular novel, As for Finnegans Wake: the which was once admired by the literary Wordsworth Classics version will cost elite, but is seldom read now? you just £1.99. And online you can Well, I was given a copy by a friend, find various audio versions – mostly in New York in 1958, and as a young free and all extraordinary. man I found it absorbing enough.


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15/12/2015 11:27


101 WAYS Whether you’re looking for a warm-up exercise, short story prompts, article suggestions or the inspiration for a novel, Patsy Collins has some suggestions to get you started

1 You don’t need to look further than your own life for inspiration for anything from a filler about one moment, to an autobiography describing your whole history. You can keep it factual, gloss over the truth or embellish with fictional details, depending on your market. 2 Other people’s lives are interesting too. Biographic writing can focus on one decisive event, or an entire life. The subject needn’t be famous. Family members or local characters might have fascinating stories to tell. Perhaps you’ll create a biography or autobiography as a record for your grandchildren. 3 Newspaper headlines can be great story prompts, especially if you avoid reading the rest of the article. 4 Or write your own news report. Local papers often welcome, though seldom pay, someone willing to provide a write-up of sports matches, fêtes and events. 5 Talk to a homeless person. How did they end up in that situation? It might be worth buying them a cup of tea and sandwich to find out. You could write up the answer, or something inspired by it, a plea to help, or a piece to help others avoid such a situation.



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6 Make a note of your suspicions if you witness unusual behaviour. Record what happened and your thoughts and reactions, before the innocent explanation spoils a promising plot-line. 7 Reading the lonely heart ads reveals interesting characters. Try putting them together in likely, or unlikely, combinations. 8 Studying problem pages could also be inspiring. How did they get into that mess? Will the person follow the advice? Will it help? Or maybe you could write a self-help piece for others with similar issues. 9 ‘Accidentally’ overhear people’s conversations on the High Street and continue them in your imagination, or write what led up to the bit you heard. Do watch out for lamp posts as you trail behind scribbling notes. And those A boards listing special offers outside shops. And small dogs on extendable leads.

the lost item? Maybe someone was glad to see the back of it. 12 The supermarket. It’s not quite as simple as finding the aisle for your chosen genre and selecting by word length, but ideas are there. Do customers need all that stuff? Can they afford it? Are they in a hurry or not? 13 Charity shops. Who owned that interesting-looking item? Why don’t they want it any more? 14 While we’re out shopping, have a look at car boot sales. Is anyone selling murder weapons, cursed china, the wife’s favourite ornament? 15 Compare the differences in people’s expressions as they enter and leave: the dentist, beauty salon, betting shop, slimming club, that mysterious establishment with blacked-out windows...

10 Free ads. People sell some strange things who’d buy them and why?

16 Notice people’s clothes, especially unusual combinations, or those which seem designed to blend in. What motivated these choices?

11 Dropped items or lost property. What happened to the man who lost that shoe? How did the child react when she discovered teddy was missing? What was done to retrieve

17 Graffitied walls. Why was Baz ‘ere? What did he do, why did he need to record his presence, where is he now? Or maybe he wasn’t there at all. Could it be a code?

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18 Park benches. Or rather the dedications on them. Did Eric really love this spot? Why? And why did his friends or family chose this one over other places which were important to him?

39 Wills and last requests. Shakespeare left his second best bed to his wife, Houdini requested his wife hold an annual seance so he could visit her. John Bowman wanted his dinner prepared every night, in case he came back.

19 Watching birds or other wildlife in a nature reserve is a great way to relax and can provide story or article ideas. Doing this led to several scenes in my novel Firestarter.

40 The past. Straightforward historical fact or fiction is always popular.

20 A fork in the path – what would have happened if you, or your character, had taken the other one?

42 Read old diaries or letters; yours, greatgreat-grandma’s, Queen Victoria’s.

21 Airports, taxi ranks, train stations. Where are people going? Who are they meeting? What have they left behind? 22 On jetties and breakwaters. Whose ship is coming in? Is it bringing what they hoped? Who’ll sail out on it? 23 Anywhere you’ve got no means to write down the brilliant idea which has just come to you, seems to be a common location for inspiration to strike. Take a good memory and loiter. 24 Car parks. Odd things go on. Trust me. 25 Under an umbrella. Talking about the weather is a national pastime. I’ve sold three short stories based on people doing just. How about a self-help piece on dealing with extremes of weather or money-saving tips on keeping warm? 26 Weather trends, global warming or rainbows are all possible article, or poetry, topics. 27 Search for online ‘plot generators’. 28 Facebook and Twitter updates. What caused that online rant? What happened next?

41 Research your family tree.

29 Look at trending hashtags and combine them into a story. 30 Write one of those quizzes to see what kind of cake a person resembles, or what their goldfish name would be. 31 Got an embarrassing rash or worried about a legal problem? Google to see what’s the worst that could happen and you’ll have the start of a horror story.

44 A visit to a castle could result in useful material. There’s one in Kent which I’m desperate to use as the setting for a murder.

32 Scam emails. What’s the purpose behind them? Is it achieved? 33 In bed. No, not erotica! Note down any interesting dreams you remember or ideas which come to your subconscious when you’re most relaxed. 34 Or you could write what you first thought of when I mentioned getting ideas in the bedroom. I don’t know how old the phrase ‘sex sells!’ is, but it’s just as true now as when people first cottoned onto it. 35 Gravestones. Those with quotes, eulogies or mini family histories can be a good starting point. Take a look at the tributes left too. 36 Obituaries. What do they say and what have they left out? Is that how everyone viewed the deceased or is someone shaking their head in disbelief? 37 Archaeology reports can provide fascinating details which could form the basis of a factual or speculative piece about that individual, or be incorporated into fiction. 38 Autopsy results prompted many of Kathy Reichs’ best selling novels.

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43 Old newspapers. Rewrite an old news report, setting it in the present. ‘Solve’ a mystery or just use the characters in your own work.

45 Re-enactment events. Often people don’t just dress in character, they act and talk that way too, so they’re perfect for immersive research. 46 Your memories. Write it how it was, or how you wish it had been, or even how you’re glad it wasn’t. 47 When you holiday abroad, you’re also conducting a research trip. Straightforward, factual travel pieces are always in demand. Or perhaps you could put a slant on your trip so it’s suitable for a cookery or sporting publication.



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48 That car driving at speed down the road – where’s it going? How did it get that dent? What is the driver trying to escape from? 49 What’s in that closely guarded handbag? 50 Keep watch on the house next door. Who are all those people who keep visiting? What was that row really about? 51 Pay attention in the Post Office too. What exactly is in those packages? 52 You don’t need to believe them, but do read horoscopes. Write a story based on yours, or the effects of following or ignoring one. That’s how I came up with my novel, A Year And A Day. 53 Other people’s writing can be a source of inspiration. You can’t use their characters or the world they’ve created, but you could use them as inspiration to create your own. A tooth fairy version of Hogwarts perhaps, or a 100-year-old adventurer who breaks into an old people’s home looking for a quiet life? 54 Classic, out-of-copyright, works can be retold. Fairytales, legends, even bible stories can be brought up to date, transformed into science fiction or the characters re-homed. 55 Rejection slips might not seem the obvious source of inspiration, but if they contain any feedback it can, and most definitely should, be taken into account if the piece is reworked. 56 Let off steam with a letter of complaint for poor goods or services. This could be to get action or a refund, or as an open letter to be published. 57 Use your thirst for revenge and write the person who irritated you into a story and sort them out. I do that a lot.

58 Annoying situations. You could write a howto piece on handling stress, or a fictionalised version of the situation and make it all come right for your characters, or become far worse.

66 Song lyrics can prompt stories. You can’t use the same words, nor any worlds or characters, but you can use the ideas or emotions they conjure up.

59 Your non-writing brainwaves can be written up. Household hints and tips, especially with photos, are published by several magazines including That’s Life!, Take a Break and Pick Me Up!. The rate per word is higher than for short stories or articles. Funny, true stories or opinion pieces are also welcomed.

67 Ditto poems.

60 Your good ideas or triumphs in the garden can also be sold as letters or fillers to numerous gardening magazines. 61 Your craft room or work basket could inspire a how-to piece on making a particular item or fiction based on your character’s creativity. 62 Paintings. As with art, your writing could be surreal, modern or just plain odd. Perhaps, like Tracy Chevalier, you’d prefer to use a classic masterpiece. 63 Competitions. Many, including those in WM, have a theme or prompt. Use these for a story even if you don’t plan to enter. 64 Writing group exercises. You each give a random word and then write a piece including as many as possible, or play a version of ‘consequences’ and fill out the resulting story outline. Swap stalled stories. 65 Titles. Book, story or song. Neither ideas nor titles are subject to copyright.



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68 Your own stories. Try rewriting from a different POV, or change the ending. 69 What happens to people after they’ve had their few minutes of fame on the local TV news or if they’re shown in the crowd when they were supposed to be elsewhere? 70 Picture postcards. Is the sender really having such a great time, or is trying to make you jealous the highlight of the trip? 71 Photos. Yours or someone else’s. I’ve been told people use photos I post on my website as story prompts. 72 Down the back of the sofa. Yes, literally stick your hand down under the cushions and see what’s there. It’s tactful to wait until the owner has left the room and to replace your finds before they come back. 73 Your fears. 74 ...and hopes. If either are filling your head to such an extent you can’t think of anything else, then write about them. 75 In every disappointment. Rewrite events to cheer you up, or delve into how much worse it could have been – misery lit is still selling.

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76 In the gaps. If your favourite publication has a gap in its coverage of whatever you’re interested in, offer to fill it. 77 Bookshops, newsagents and libraries. Find out the kind of stories people would like to read, or what they’d like to know, and write it for them.

89 If you’ve ever been in love, or wanted to be, or are glad you’re not, you have a story to tell. 90 Is the hospital patient alone? What’s the nurse thinking about? Will scientific advances eradicate disease?

79 The dictionary. Look up obscure words and bring them into use, or visit my blog for the Wednesday word of the week.

98 Look around you next time you’re at a wedding. Is everyone happy for the couple? Is the bridesmaid excited, the registrar bored, the photographer distracted?

80 Lost in translation. Try watching a film or TV with the dialogue muted or in a language you don’t understand and write your own story based on what you see. Only view for a few minutes though – you want to be inspired not plagiarise.

82 Out of your comfort zone. Try a genre you’ve never written before. 83 The innocence of children. Or their guilt. They can ask great questions or make interesting observations. Look at the world through their eyes for a while. Or write about them repeating something they shouldn’t have heard. 84 If you write non-fiction for adults, consider adapting your subject for children. Don’t attempt this without good prior knowledge. You need to know a subject well to explain it simply.

96 If you have a pet then you have a source of inspiration, even if only for shaggy dog tales. 97 Transport yourself to the future. Will it be as dystopian as George Orwell’s 1984 or as amusing as the Stainless Steel Rat and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

78 At work. Whether it’s the job itself, customers, clients or office politics, there’s bound to be something you can use.

81 The attic. What’s up there? Why was it kept, not thrown away?

95 Sign posts and maps. Unusual place names are great for character names, or you can imagine what the place is like from the name alone.

99 Take a look at visitor books and websites such as TripAdvisor. Read between the lines to discover why the writer was so miserable, or delighted. 91 Take your character with you everywhere you go. Watch what they do, how they react, notice the things they’d notice. 92 On your keyboard. Often if you can just make yourself get started, the ideas will come. 93 If a straightforward story doesn’t appeal, how about alternative writing forms such as an exchange of letters, emails or text messages? 94 Look at ‘this day in history’ on the calender. Even better, look a few months ahead so your piece is still topical after submission.

100 In pretty paper. What was the sender of that unwanted gift thinking? Or create a non fiction piece on what to do with these, or advice on how to avoid sending them. 101 In a panic. Although I’ve done it, I don’t recommend this one. However if you leave it to the last minute it’s amazing how the pressure of a deadline can squeeze out ideas. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to send a letter to Writing Magazine saying which one of the above led to you having a piece of writing published.

85 Listen to someone speaking on the phone. Fill in the other part of the conversation. 86 Wrong numbers. Who did they really want to speak to? What distraction caused them to misdial – or perhaps they weren’t given the correct number to start with. In that case, was yours given deliberately? 87 Before you pick up letters from the doormat, allow yourself to speculate about the possible contents. 88 Valentine’s, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries. The combination of hope, memories and expectation give almost endless, emotional material to work with.

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14/12/2015 11:50

Portraits by Steve Lindridge,


Burning Bright

ouise Welsh does not, on first impression, seem like an author of viscerally macabre crime and genuinely disturbing dystopian fiction. ‘I just make everything up!’ she says, laughing, in her lilting Glaswegian accent. But what horrors this chatty, softlyspoken writer conjures. From her debut, 2002’s The Cutting Room, to her most recent, Death is a Welcome Guest, award-winning, genre-busting Louise Welsh has taken her readers on a shadowy walk into truly gruesome territory, from the snuff pornography of The Cutting Room to The Plague Times trilogy’s evocation of a post16


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Like life, literature is about balancing light and dark, Louise Welsh tells Tina Jackson

pandemic dystopia. Louise writes as a way of exploring her interests, and The Plague Times books bring together several longterm strands. Louise grew up at the height of Cold War paranoia. ‘When you write something, you attach reasons retrospectively, but I was growing up in the late 1970s, early 80s, and there was a lot of talk of pandemics, nuclear war. With my generation, we lived with the idea that the end of the world was nigh – there were TV series like Survivors and Threads, which was a great drama-documentary about nuclear threat. So as a child, there was the idea that everything might

be fleeting. And writing about the end of civilisation is like a love letter to that civilisation.’ A Lovely Way to Burn, the first Plague Times book, shows London in the grip of a virulent virus that starts with flu-like symptoms and is almost inevitably fatal. Another interest of Louise’s that fed into the books is the history of pandemic disease and its effects of society. ‘I studied medieval history as an undergraduate, and I was really interested in the Black Plague,’ said Louise. ‘We don’t know how many people died but it might have been up to 70% of the population. It had this huge effect on art, on

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Portraits by Steve Lindridge,


politics, and on the feudal do not sound any less sinister for system: people could move being spoken so cheerfully. ‘I do rabbit on,’ she remarks. around, and perhaps wanted With all these ingredients to. Everybody lived with death in place, they then have to be at their shoulder – and these transformed into a story. This ideas make for great fiction: involves plot, and character – in terrible experiences and very this case, The Plague Times’ high jeopardy.’ lead character, Stevie Flint, a A Lovely Way to Burn was minor TV personality who published in 2014, the year somehow survives the virus and the Ebola epidemic saw fatality embarks on a quest to discover rates of up to 70% in Liberia, the truth about it. ‘I really like Guinea and Sierra Leone. books with a strong narrative,’ ‘People were saying, “This is says Louise. ‘I grew up reading really good timing, you must be adventure books, heroic tales quite pleased!” No! No! I started of armies. A Lovely Way to writing The Plague Times way Burn is really an adventure before the Ebola crisis happened book, people up against things. but if I’d been writing it then, Stevie does all these things. I’d have thought about When the crisis comes she’s setting it to one side – it physically fit, she’s got might have felt a bit skills that turn out to be close to home.’ survival skills. She can Fiction, she says, read people, she’s got a conveys a heightened Like all novel writers I’d good smiley manner – version of reality love to have that big hit and she can run.’ that asks: what if? – but you can’t anticipate Before The Plague ‘Pandemics have Times, Louise had always happened. I’d what that would be. only ever written probably have set it standalone novels, but aside if I’d been writing her plot demanded a it during the Ebola crisis trilogy. ‘It was too big a because of panic. In fiction story for just one book. There’s you up the ante and say: what a long arc to the story. There will would happen if it went to this only ever be three books – it’s extreme point?’ a very strong structure.’ Another thread that finds its In book two, Death is way into A Lovely Way to Burn is a Welcome Guest, a very contemporary interest in Guest out this month in paperback, the focus the politics of healthcare. ‘I guess shifts from Stevie to a minor (the books) are not polemics comedian called Magnus, or manifestos, but everything we do is a political act and it’s wrongfully imprisoned just hard to write a book without as the virus is ravaging the politics,’ she argues. ‘It’s a book population of the UK. He about dreadful things. The escapes in the company of a NHS – what happens when we convict to discover the entire see drugs as commodities, there country in meltdown, and tries to make a profit rather than to to head home to Orkney. ‘I wanted to look at how help – bad pharma. Looking at what matters to us, and what people engaged with this happens when these constructs wave of death, and I wanted are removed. I wanted to look to look at the penal system,’ says Louise. ‘Magnus doesn’t at different aspects of society. My lead deserve to be in prison, yet there he character Stevie is in the world of sales, is. I wanted to think about things of selling things that turn out not to like Hurricane Katrina, and what matter. And there’s medicine: I’ve long it must have been like to be in wanted to write about a hospital, it’s jail while that was happening. I’ve gothic. These are places where no-one done various workshops in prisons. wants to go, there are people who are In [Glasgow jail] Barlinnie, most able to cut you up in them.’ The words


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people are in there for less than a year, and if you treat people the wrong way, you may be setting them up for a repeat visit.’ Dark themes do not mean she doesn’t enjoy her work. ‘The prison breakout was such fun to write as an exercise in jeopardy and illogic.’ Death is a Welcome Guest also looks at the historical role of religion in the aftermath of an unprecedented disaster. ‘With the Black Death you had people who were incredibly religious, such as the Flagellants, people who wanted to appease an angry god. And then there were people who thought that god was dead, and we could do what we want.’ Book three of the trilogy will be set seven years in the future, and will look at the effect of the apocalypse on the children of the survivors. ‘Stevie and Magnus are part of the same community in the Orkney islands. And then they go back to the city. It’s about the next generation, thinking you had all this stuff, and you’ve blown it. Air travel, the internet. That tension between generations is always there.’ A Lovely Way to Burn is Louise’s second title with John Murray Press, a division of Hachette; the first was psychological thriller The Girl on the Stairs. Before that she was with cutting-edge indie Canongate. ‘I didn’t change publishers to write more commercial fiction – it was a very amicable leaving and I’m still in touch. I don’t know if these books are more commercial, but you have to write the book you want to write. Like all novel writers I’d love to have that big hit – but you can’t anticipate what that would be.’ Louise’s books, which include a literary historical crime novel, Tamburlaine Must Die, follow her interests rather than any particular formula. ‘I’m interested in genre: crime, speculative fiction, a certain kind of horror,’ she says. But she’s delighted to be perceived as part of the crime-writing community. ‘It’s not for me to place myself – for the writer, you shouldn’t say you’re this, or that. But I like to have a strong narrative at the centre. I’m very grateful for the welcome I’ve got from the crime fraternity – they’re friendly and interesting and I’m happy to be FEBRUARY 2016


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came out of anger – there was still a part of that world. My books don’t Clause 28, protests about gay have a three-act murder thing, and lesbian teachers. I think or particular set scenes, but I that graphic sex scene was like going to their parties.’ about, it’s okay to be gay She wonders if the as long as you’re funny conviviality of the There’s always an element gay, but otherwise we crime-writing scene of restraint in writing the don’t want you to is because the writers gory bits. Hopefully the be a part of society.’ confront their On publication, it demons in their work. readers are in the moment, immediately marked ‘I’m in a lunch group, and there has to be space Louise as a fearless, it’s mainly crime for them to make their disturbing new voice. writers and graphic ‘It was my first book – I artists, and we have such own image. didn’t even think it would fun. I think we get it out get published! The idea that it of our system. We have this would be widely read didn’t occur engagement and connection: life is full of dark things. But life to me,’ she says. is also full of light. In the Another thing that makes her novels, I enjoy both together. books memorable is the way she portrays her victims – they are Love and empathy and acts never just objects to move the plot of kindness. These all occur along. ‘I dislike books where the within the books, but not in victim is just something to turn a sentimental manner – I have the page,’ she says. ‘I dislike the to pull back from that. There objectification of the tortured, has to be some light otherwise naked body, which is usually they’d be too bleak.’ female. Don’t be cheap. Try to Ah yes. The bleakness. convey it as a real loss, a person, Louise’s reputation for not just a convenience to the creating shock goes before plot. We should feel their loss.’ her. ‘I love all that stuff She enjoys ‘mucking about’ – the moment of horror!’ with genre fiction, and is She laughs again. ‘I feel I’m interested particularly in what quite squeamish – when I it has to say about society. watch movies I like it when ‘I’m interested in the way genre there’s something around the works and I like that it’s fiction that corner where you don’t really see it anyone can pick up. I’m interested at all. What I like is when there’s in narrative and the way that genre something lurking there and you novels reflect the world they’re in – get that visceral moment of fear, which means they can date quickly. without the disgusting thing of With my first novel, The Cutting having to see someone’s entrails.’ Room, people are smoking like crazy. In fact, she says, holding back is Click here to When I wrote it, everyone was key. ‘There’s always an element of listen to an smoking all the time – and I think restraint in writing the gory bits. I’m extract of that mobile phones were quite a interested in how much do we need The Girl on novelty. And trafficking. I remember to show and how much should we the Stairs, being really physically shocked that I hold back. Hopefully the readers are or buy the might be walking past a door where in the moment, and there has to be book from there were trafficked individuals. space for them to make their own Audible So I suppose these do become image. The visual world has lots of historical documents.’ advantages, but in writing the reader She writes about outsiders, but sees as much as they need to see makes the point that that could with their mind’s eye.’ mean any of us, depending on Writing sex, she says, requires circumstance. ‘If I had to stand on similar tactics to be successful, Sauciehall Street [in Glasgow, where although in her case – most notably, she lives with her partner, writer in The Cutting Room – she uses it Zoe Strachan] and stop everyone, I to shock, not titillate. ‘Writing sex think even the most well-adjusted is a lot like writing violence and “insiders” have a little bit of them horror. Part of The Cutting Room




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that feels “outside”. I think it’s a natural thing. Stevie might, at the start, seem an insider – she’s pretty, she’s got a well-paid job, a boyfriend, friends. But I think we all have realms where we feel a little bit less comfortable. I enjoy engaging with jeopardy and outside is a great place to be.’ She also has a knack of conjuring sympathy for the devil. ‘I think there’s a big tradition of people in literature doing that. Jekyll and Hyde. People who have done dreadful things and yet there’s a moment where they’re a human being.’ She is equally at ease inhabiting a male character as a female one. ‘That transference into another person’s mind that you do as a writer is such a big thing that changing gender is not such a big deal after that. It’s about point of view and who would inhabit that world. It refers to plot as well. But I enjoy thinking about these things. I guess you’re thinking about the whole person and how they fit into the world; and gender is part of who we are. Men and women are different – but they are individuals as well. I don’t have at the forefront of my mind: this is a man. He must do that. But masculinity is an interesting thing to talk about. I come from a very masculine society – in Glasgow you see different ways of being male. Maybe at the bottom of things writers are observers.’ Writers are observers, and they are also, insists former bookseller Louise, readers. ‘You can’t be a writer unless you read and love books.’ Her advice to other writers is just as straightforward. ‘Just sit down and do it. Make the time when you can write. Calendar it in and stick to it. Don’t write for the market. Make sure there’s a book you want to write, not just because you think you want to write.’ The books she wants to write have included literary, historical, crime and genre fiction but they all involve one central theme, she says. ‘They’re all quest stories. They’re all people looking for something, or more than one thing. A lot of crime genre novels are quests, and Death is A Welcome Guest is a classic one: the urge to go home.’

15/12/2015 15:47

Booking now for 2016


MEMOIR & LIFE WRITING with Julia Blackburn WRITING A NOVEL with Esther Freud & Richard Skinner GETTING STARTED with Keith Ridgway


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10/12/2015 15:38


On writing Tony Rossiter explores great words from great writers


Slang is, at least, vigorous and apt. Probably most of our vital words were once slang. JOHN GALSWORTHY


ery informal language that is usually spoken rather than written, used especially by particular groups of people.’ That’s the dictionary definition of slang. Writers are often advised to write in a style that’s as close as possible to the way they speak. If you do that, you’ll almost certainly find yourself using at least some slang. If you write non-fiction articles, the vocabulary you use, like the style of your writing, has to be appropriate for the specific publication you’re writing for. These days many magazines favour an informal, chatty style, but the inclusion of slangy words and phrases is more acceptable to some editors than to others. It’s always advisable, before submitting any article (or pitching an article idea), to study a few issues of the magazine. This will usually give you a pretty good idea of the kind of language the editor likes, and should enable you to judge whether or not to use slang and, if so, how far you can go. Depending on the publication, some words (relating, for example, to sex or to bodily functions) will be more acceptable than others. To be most effective, slang needs be used sparingly. But if the word or phrase is carefully chosen, it can enliven – or ‘pep up’ – your prose. Perhaps it’s in fiction that slang really comes into its own. After all, most novels and short stories contain a good deal of dialogue, and most of us pepper our conversation with a few slangy words and expressions. Whether your story is set in the past or the present, the words and expressions you put into the mouths of your characters, as well as their speech rhythms, need to reflect their origins, education, occupation, social status and so on. If you’re writing a YA novel set in the present day, for example, your characters will have to use the kind of language – and the kind of slang – that young people today really use. Young adults are by no means the only group of people with their own language and their own slang. Actors, aristocrats, bankers, builders, servicemen, civil servants – from time to time they all use words that are double Dutch to the rest of us. Using slang that’s ‘vigorous and apt’ can help you to create believable characters.


How I got published YA author Lisa Williamson didn’t want to be a writer, but started typing stories when she was temping between acting jobs ‘I didn’t always want to be a writer. Despite being a shy child, at the age of nine I decided I wanted to be an actor. I spent my teenage years performing with local amateur dramatic societies and dreaming of stardom. I went on to study drama at university and had been working as an actor for about seven years when I was struck by the desire to write. I loved acting but was growing increasingly frustrated that I was always working towards someone else’s creative vision and found myself craving an alternative creative outlet. ‘I started typing stories on slow days at the temporary office jobs I took on between acting roles, eventually completing a full-length novel about an actor whose career is failing to live up to expectations. I submitted it to around fifteen literary agents and received polite rejections from them all. Although disappointed, I was not despondent. The manuscript proved I could write something with a beginning, middle and end. More crucially, it allowed me to get that particular story (essentially my story) out of my system. ‘By this time, I was working for the Gender Identity Development Service, a specialist NHS service for under-18s struggling with their gender identity. One of my tasks was to audio-type therapy session notes. The patient stories I heard moved me deeply, completely changing my perceptions of gender and gender identity. Having discovered there was a lack of fiction featuring transgender characters (particularly for children and teenagers), I began to write from the point of view of David, a fourteen-year-old natal male who longs to be female. It took me two years to complete the novel, which I eventually titled The Art Of Being Normal. ‘I completed a three-month novel writing course at Curtis Brown Creative, which helped me find my voice and gave me the opportunity to workshop my writing with other aspiring authors. I also sought the help of the excellent Golden Egg Academy, a mentoring and editorial service for writers of children’s and young adult fiction. It was through Golden Egg I met my mentor, editor Bella Pearson, who gave me the confidence and editorial input I needed to complete the novel. She also introduced me to my now agent, Catherine Clarke. From there things happened very quickly. Catherine submitted the manuscript to nineteen publishers, eight of whom wanted to meet me. Two weeks later I signed a two-book deal with David Fickling Books.’ The Art of Being Normal was the bestselling YA debut novel of 2015 in hardback, and is released in paperback on 7 January. Lisa is currently writing her second novel. Website: Interview by Dolores Gordon-Smith


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14/12/2015 11:32

Editorial calendar

Strong forward planning will greatly improve your chances with freelance submissions. Here are some themes to consider for the coming months.


ay Orson Welle s’ one of the m film Citizen Kane, ost famous movies in history, was released in th e US 75 years ago, in 1941.

3 May

The last episode of the original run of soap opera Dallas was broadcast 25 year s ago, in 1991.

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12 May Konrad

Zuse completed fully the world’s first puter, m co le programmab o ag s ar ye 75 , Z3 the . 41 in Berlin in 19

21 May

28 May

6 May 50 years ago, in

1966, Moors Murderers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The first episode of en called The Goon Show (th oadcast 65 Crazy People) was br years ago, in 1951.

100 years ago in 1916, bestselling US novelist Harold Robbins, who reputedly had worldwide sales of 750 million and $50m earnings, was born. Why isn’t he better known today?

Looking ahead: Now’s a good time to be thinking of novels or nonfiction works on counter-cultural themes, with the fiftieth anniversaries of many of the great social revolutions of the 1960s coming up in the next couple of years, including the 1967 Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury and swinging London, Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and the Paris student protests of May 1968, sure to prompt substantial coverage and interest in all media.

Three decades in music: May sees the sixtieth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s first No1, Heartbreak Hotel and the first Eurovision Song Contest, the fiftieth anniversary of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, and forty years since the punk explosion rocked the UK musical landscape.

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14/12/2015 11:34


Going to market You’ve produced your ebook. Now it’s time to publish, market and, with advice from Chris Glithero, generate those all-important sales


eady to unleash your ebook upon the world? Over the past two months we’ve looked at the ebook production process, from the initial idea through to actually writing and editing the book, and then compiling it. If you’ve followed these steps then you should by now have a finished ebook with an attractive cover to draw people in. One thing remains – selling it to the digital book-buying public.

You are the author and the publisher The digital book publishing industry differs from its traditional counterpart in a number of important ways. While print publishers provide the resources to turn your book into a product, and take a hefty cut of the sales in return, ebooks cost nothing to produce, and an infinite amount of copies can be sold on demand. As there’s little or no financial outlay, you, the author, can cut-out the middle-man

Where to sell your ebook There are many places that you can sell your book online, so choose those that you think are most beneficial and the best fit for your ebook based on the above considerations. Here we’ll take a look at a few of the most popular and respected online book retailers and platforms through which you can sell your book.

1 Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing ( Though Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) will only make your book available on Kindle devices and apps, it’s one of the simplest and most powerful ways of getting your ebook out there. As the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon’s Kindle store gets a significant amount of traffic, and if you choose to you can make your book available worldwide. Through your KDP account you can track sales and initiate special offers to pique reader’s interest, such as 24-hour free giveaways and price ‘countdowns’ in which a steadily decreasing discount is offered for a limited period. Royalty rates/fees (when selling through



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and become the publisher. As a publisher with a book to sell, what you now need is to find a distributor who can sell your product via their online store. We’ll look at some of the best publishing platforms for ebooks in a moment, but first let’s consider some of the most important aspects to bear in mind when selling your ebook via a third-party platform. Fees/royalty shares: Most online ebook retailers will take a cut of your profits in one way or another. This might be via a flat fee you pay them for distributing your book, or it could be as a percentage of your royalties per unit. Either way, this is something that you should pay attention to when choosing your sales outlets. Audience/distribution rights: Where will your book be available for purchase? Some online retailers sell only to a specific country, while others may offer it for sale across multiple territories or worldwide. Amazon offers two different royalty rates. Books priced between £0.99 and £150 are eligible for a 35% royalty rate. If you price your book between £1.99 and £9.99 though, you can receive 70% of the royalties. Royalty payments are made direct to your bank account at set intervals.

2 Better known as a printer of books, photo albums and other items, Blurb may not give you the same exposure or visibility as selling through Amazon but you do get your own dedicated sales page. You can use this to promote via your own website, social media and other online spaces. Through Blurb you can also make your book available for Apple device owners as well as Kindle readers. Royalties/fees: Blurb charges a 20% selling fee for ebooks.

3 Apple iBooks store Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads are almost ubiquitous, and you can offer your self-published ebook for sale in more than

fifty countries via the iBooks store. You can find a comprehensive online feature on how to publish on iBooks at MacWorld (http:// Royalties/fees: No charge for publishing, authors receive a 70% royalty rate.

4 Smashwords works a little differently than those listed above, in that it’s a distributor rather than a retailer. It’s perhaps the best choice for those who want to spend as little time as possible on publishing their book, but there is a trade-off in terms of the amount of royalties that you’ll receive for each sale. Smashwords makes it possible to upload your ebook to iBooks, Barnes and Noble, WHSmith, Scribd, Kobo and many other online retailers instantaneously, and also offers daily sales statistics for each platform. Royalties/fees: When selling directly through Smashwords, you’ll receive 85% of the net sales profits. For ebooks sold through other platforms, Smashwords will take their cut, on top of any fees taken by the actual retailer.

15/12/2015 09:56


Final steps

Marketing your ebook

Once you have chosen the platforms through which you will sell your ebook and uploaded it, there are a few more things you need to do before you make it available to buy.

Once you’ve published your book, it’s unlikely that you will suddenly see hundreds of sales immediately without any further effort on your part. As with any product, you need to market it to your prospective audience. This comprises two parts: firstly making them aware of its existence, and secondly, convincing them that is something that is worth them spending their money on. Your marketing strategy should use a variety of the avenues available to you. These include:

Product description In most cases you will write your own product description, so make sure it’s compelling and provides a positive, accurate insight into what the book is about. Aim to be concise but also get into the specifics of what readers can expect it. If it’s a fiction book, include a blurb as you might see on the back cover of a paperback.

Bio People like to know a little about the author (though take care not to waffle on or give unnecessary details about your life, which will do little to boost sales). If your book is about a specialist subject then it is imperative that you put emphasis on any credentials that you have for tackling it – you need to establish yourself as an expert, or at the very least someone with a passion for it who has done extensive research. You should also provide details of any relevant writing or publication experience – give people a reason to believe you have written something worth reading.

Excerpts Including an excerpt is the best way to convince people of the quality of your book. Most retailers will allow you to do this, though for some this may be automatically generated. If you are able to specify your excerpt, ensure that it’s interesting, has lots going on, and is indicative of the rest of the book.

Price Ebook sales are particularly price sensitive. On one hand, if you sell your book at a lower price then people may be more willing to take a chance on you as an unknown author. On the other, if you price yourself too low then the book may be perceived as poor quality, and the money you can potentially earn will be limited. Try to find a balance, and consider what price level other books like yours are selling for.

Category When you publish your ebook you’ll have to choose which category, or categories, it will appear in. This can have a substantial impact on your sales, so make sure that you place it in the categories which are the closest fit. As in bricks-and-mortar bookshops, people often browse by category, so a brilliant book placed in the wrong section of is unlikely to sell well.

Reviews One of the strongest factors which convinces people to purchase an ebook from an unknown author is the number of positive reviews it has. You will of course have little control over this, but it may be worth offering your book for free or on special offer for a limited time in order to gain extra exposure and potential reviews.

Your own website Setting up your own website is relatively easy (see WM April 2015), and on it you’ll have total freedom to market your ebook as you see fit.

Social media Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms can be powerful tools for marketing your ebook, as they allow you to reach your potential audience directly, and to intrigue them with what you have to offer. Booklaunch provides a handy free tool for promoting your book, and with it you’ll get a customisable page on the web dedicated to your title, on which you can link directly to the various places that it’s available for sale. You can also include detailed information about your book and its author, as well as viewing statistics related to how many times your page has been viewed, clicked on or shared.

Word of mouth Despite the technology available to you, sometimes the most powerful sales tool can simply be people telling their friends and family about your book. You should also become your own most enthusiastic promoter and be ready to tell people why they should buy your book.

Online advertising If you’re willing to spend a little money to promote your ebook, you might consider using pay per click/impression advertising such as that offered by Google Adwords or Facebook to drum up some interest. It’s worth bearing in mind though that you will pay a certain amount every time your ad is clicked on, not every time you make a sale. Aside from these specifics, perhaps the best advice is to keep in mind your target audience when promoting your ebook. Consider what areas of the internet they are most likely to visit, and what will appeal to them, and work that into your marketing plan.

Go forth and publish Now we’ve come to the end of this three-part series you should have everything you need to create, compile and sell your ebook. As with any form of writing though, aside from these technical and practical concerns, it is the originality of your idea and the quality of your prose that will determine the eventual success of your book. It’s up to you to make sure it’s a good one!

Practising what he preaches, Chris recently published an edited selection of his previous WM articles as an Amazon ebook, How to Earn Money Writing Online, available here:

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14/12/2015 11:35



(‘#New2Nov’) and promptly told everyone I knew. What could go wrong?

! X A M . . .

Preparations Well... I had no idea how to plot. That’s why I wrote 100,000 words on my last novel and only covered backstory. But I thought it couldn’t be that hard: three-act structure plus character traits equals story. However, one personal character trait of my own undermined me. My timemanagement skills warp when I’m nervous. I thought I’d secure my crucial plot by taking several steps back from doing it. After all, I couldn’t possibly start plotting until I had my whole online empire set up, blog and all. I read three self-help books about how to write, but had no time left to use even one of their suggested plotting methods. In the end what actually helped was discussing my ideas with Tonks and my boyfriend Francis, and taking chalk to my study wall-paper the night before my Wordathon to graph a skeletal outline of half a dozen key scenes. (It all became easier after my Wordathon, when I was no longer terrified. I sat down in a cafe with my Write-In group a week later and used a couple of worksheets to start me off. It took one afternoon.) In other respects, I prepared quite well. I rotated in strict bursts of 25 minutes with five-minute breaks, and got myself some Deep Heat cream to guard my wrists against RSI. I even pestered 100 friends into signing my social-media Thunderclap, which

50,000 words in a month? Why stop there? WM creative writing courses coordinator Sally Bridgewater decided to take NaNoWriMo to a new level, with some very clear benefits


wenty hours in, my thoughts seize up and my fingers falter. ‘I don’t hear any tippy-tappy!’ My friend Tonks, sitting in an armchair beside me, jumps in to spur me on after one second of silence. My thoughts jangle around in my head. It is curious, but when one is thinking ‘Come on, I need to do this!’ one is not concentrating on the actual doing of it. Then the screen turns red, and a spider graphic appears and starts to disemvowel my writing. ‘No! Spider!’ I cry, and jab the letter ‘J’ to make it go away. The spider is from the program Write Or Die, which I’m using for two reasons: it shows me a live Wordometer (I need to maintain an average of 42 words per minute), and it uses some devastatingly effective accountability measures to keep me on track. It is still not quite as effective as my friend (Sarah Jane) Tonks, who has decided to stay up with me until 5am to see that I complete my Wordathon. 24


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My 50,000-word, 24-hour Wordathon. You’ve probably heard of, or even taken part in, NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in November. I completed this the last two years, but failed to complete a full draft. In fact, since finally starting to write two years ago I had only finished one short story. This year I had to finish a first draft. My self-belief depended upon it. Meanwhile, I heard tell of mystical beings who take on amplified versions of NaNoWriMo. There are smug ones who win NaNo on November first; dogged ones who leave it all until the 30th; even godlike ones who do a million words in November. I was enthralled by such tales. Some perverse part of me asked: could I do that? Maybe, a cocky part answered. Thanks to my parents’ foresight, I can touch-type well. Thanks to university, I can pull off caffeine-free all-nighters. The two goals dovetailed beautifully. I called it ‘Newbie to Novelist,’ found a unique hashtag

THE STORY ITSELF The Boundless will grow up to be a romance sliced with a sci-fi and wrapped in an old-fashioned adventure. Thirteen, a young Techy, stumbles across a secret at the centre of her society and is whisked off for a mind-wipe, but she gets rescued by the middle-aged hunter-gatherer Enn. Together they get chased, attacked, ambushed, nearly drowned (twice), and disillusioned. Their main antagonists are the seven Boundless, immortal humans who have ruled the planet for millennia. I thought I would use third-person limited but instantly discovered it was easier to write in first person, alternating between my two main characters. I found Thirteen’s viewpoint easier to write than Enn’s. For the first half, it’s just them, then a dozen new characters appeared and altered the whole dynamic.

15/12/2015 09:27


meant I reached 100,000 people with news of my Wordathon.

The big day But it still felt surreal to wake up at 4.45am and crank up the computer knowing what I was about to attempt. For several hours it was just me typing and the dog snoozing. My first drama therefore went unwitnessed: halfway through a session, my wireless keyboard’s battery died. The dreaded spider mangled several sentences before I got my emergency one plugged in. Mercifully, it worked perfectly for the rest of the day; the next day it remembered it was broken and didn’t type the letter M. After a few hours of doing the same thing, I was grateful for any variety, even just the growing light outside. [I started noting the tiny differences between each session – a minute faster here, a few words slower there.] At 8am (6,000 words done), I stood outside for ten minutes waiting to hand some cover work through a car window for my Saturday music centre job. That moment of human contact didn’t last long, and I discovered I needed about two hours to catch up from a five minute delay to the schedule. Overall, though, I had paced the day quite well, because as I got bored with my routine a steady trickle of milestones and encouragements kept me going. I ate a delicious lunch away from the computer for fifteen minutes, which was the longest break I took all day. My parents called round with an enormous bar of chocolate (we had it for brunch the next morning). And just when Francis had to go play a gig, Tonks arrived for the support-Sally night-shift. Even as my focus fractured and my back ached, I began to realise that I would make it. In the end, the experience of doing a Wordathon is the same as every writer ever: write one word at a time.

The aftermath I had psyched myself up so thoroughly for the Wordathon that I could hardly fail. I came in at 50,010 words at 4.35am the next morning. I had thought less about the part that came afterwards. Sure, I had allowed for a day’s rest, but then I thought I’d start my regular 2,000 words a day again.

a Wordathon but think ‘I can’t do I didn’t expect to sink into a slow, that!’, maybe you’re a bit right. You foggy state for a full three days. will have different obstacles; you’re It was weird – I’ve never felt the coming at it from a different place. specific sensation of my brain being Perhaps you type slowly. Perhaps tired before. you struggle with perfectionism. My willpower took longer to But for some of you Newbie recover. I didn’t write another word Novelists, if you think it might be towards my novel for over a week, fun to put some wind in your sails and not much the week after as you push off from the shore that either. It was only in the of ‘I got nothing’, then go last ten days that I was ready The experience of for it. I tell you, it feels good to pick up the pace again. doing a Wordathon here in the land of ‘I made Meanwhile, my neglected something exist outside of body finally succumbed to is the same as every me!’ So pick an auspicious a bad cold and threatened writer ever: write date. Multiply your average a full-on fever as soon as one word at word speed by eight, twelve, December arrived. eighteen hours... and don’t forget So any person with a a time. to tell everyone you know. What modicum of rationality should could go wrong? surely choose moderation over such rash extremes. I mean, I would certainly not recommend that anyone do just one thing for 24 hours – it’s undeniably unhealthy. And yet, for me, it was worth it. On Monday 30 November I reached So what do you do after you’ve raced 133,222 words, and the last two of through your first draft? Here is my plan for approaching the next stages of this novel: those were the hallowed ‘The End.’ 1 Don’t touch it for a minimum of one month. I did it.



2 Swap bits of my manuscript with my friend Tonks’s NaNoWriMo manuscript, so we can give each other some pointers. 3 Actually apply the plotting methods I read about in How to Write by Harry Bingham and Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke. 4 Run through a few world-building exercises online. 5 Search for all my [inner-editor notes] in the manuscript to check for remaining plot-holes. 6 Research my [questions] by asking people who know about things like astronomy. 7 Move the text around in Scrivener until I have a new scene-list. 8 Fill in the new scenes and rewrite old ones to fit. Discard a lot. 9 Enrol on the Fiction course with WM’s Creative Writing courses and bounce my problem chapters off a friendly professional!

The benefits Sure, it’s messy. It’s inefficient. More of a hyper-detailed plan than an actual draft, and I probably won’t keep even an eighth of the text from this draft to the next. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful. I jotted down 2,000 words for this very article and I’m not bothering to edit any of them for direct inclusion – but writing them still got my thoughts in order. The ideas made that crucial first leap from my brain-space into real-life. No other step will be as difficult. And I don’t only have a draft to take with me. There’s also the intangibles to consider. Creating anything as big as a novel has a built-in gulf between when you are in a deep hole of self-doubt (as you’re making it) and when anyone else understands what you were trying to do (after you’ve made it). For this we need a good deal of psychological grit. Maybe getting to the finish line as fast as you can is one of many valuable coping methods you can try. Plus of course, I know I can do it now. I KNOW. 10,000 words? Give me five hours. It’s nice to have that sort of confidence up your sleeve. Last thing: if you like the sound of

Links Part of the ‘Newbie to Novelist’ project’s purpose was to display the whole creative process transparently, to prove that first drafts really do suck and are not intimidating. You can read it here: • To try out Write Or Die’s ruthless ‘encouragement’, go to • To find out more about NaNoWriMo’s work spreading story-writing across the world, go to

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15/12/2015 09:27


f o s k c i r t d n a The techniques

milly johnson Tony Rossiter shows how she makes her readers both smile and hold back tears at the same time


f you like easy-to-read, feel-good romantic comedy, Milly Johnson fits the bill. She’s written eleven novels, one or two a year since 2007, and several have made the Sunday Times top ten bestseller chart. She won the 2014 Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Comedy Award and the 2015 Yorkshire Society’s Award for Arts and Culture. ‘Don’t faff about if you want to be a serious writer,’ she says. ‘You have to work like a bull at it otherwise it’ll always be an unpaid hobby!’

How she began

She has written stories since she was a small child and remembers stapling pages together to bind them into a book. An avid reader from a very young age, she enjoyed Enid Blyton, the Brontës, Jane Austen and Catherine Cookson. After school in Barnsley,

she studied drama and education at Exeter University. Then, writing in her spare time (mainly poems and short stories), she took many different jobs to pay her bills: primary school teacher, trainee accountant, waitress, barmaid, sales assistant, telesales, office manager, writing copy for greetings cards. ‘Nothing is ever wasted when you are a writer,’ she says. Her dream was always to write a novel, but she only stopped ‘faffing about’ and got stuck into it with a ‘now or never’ approach when she was forty. Now a successful novelist, she still writes copy for greetings cards. She also has a local magazine column and writes the occasional newspaper article and short story. She began sending out manuscripts to agents and publishers in 1989 (when she was 25), but it was another fifteen years before an agent took her on. She had sent him the first chapters of A Spring

Affair (2009), a story, written in about three months, about a woman who starts clutter-clearing her life. The agent asked her to submit the whole manuscript, and when she did this she also sent him the first chapter of a second novel she had just started on. She wanted to show that she was not a one-book wonder – an important consideration for any agent or publisher. The agent, Darley Anderson, thought that this story about three latepregnancy women would make a stronger and more commercial debut novel. So she had to work her socks off to complete it asap. ‘I’ve never worked so hard or so fast in my life,’ she said. The hard work paid off: she was offered a two-book deal by publishers Simon and Schuster and the book, The Yorkshire Pudding Club, was published in 2007.

Favourites and influences

She has spoken about the profound effect that Jane Eyre had on her as a young teenager. She loved the fact that the heroine was small and plain (she could identify with her) and that the hero, Rochester, was flawed and powerfully attractive, rather than classically handsome. She also fell in love with Jane Austen’s novels, especially Persuasion, seeing Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth as coming from the same mould as Jane and Rochester. Contemporary favourites include Marian Keyes, Maggie O’Farrell, Sophie Kinsella, Louise Douglas, Jane Elmor, Lucie Whitehouse, Nicci French, Sophie Hannah and Mo Hayder. Her all-time favourite living author is Helen Fielding,

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What and how she writes

The Yorkshire Pudding Club is about three thirty-something women from South Yorkshire who fall pregnant at the same time. They have been friends since school, but their character and their circumstances are all very different. There’s a convincing portrayal of female friendship as we follow the stories of their pregnancies. If you like Christmassy stories, you’ll probably enjoy A Winter Flame (2012) (although the plot is too far-fetched for my taste). Her latest novel, Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café (2015), is an upbeat story about friendship and new beginnings, with her characteristic humour, engaging characters and, as ever, a strong feelgood factor. Milly has loved sunflowers ever since she read the story of the first sunflower. This is from the Greek myths and tells of a heart-broken nymph, Clytie, who watches Apollo drive away on his sun-chariot across the skies. She stands without moving for so long that she takes root and turns into a flower – a sunflower – whose face follows with longing the sun’s passage across the skies.

Real people

Milly Johnson still lives in Barnsley. Most of her stories are set in Yorkshire and feature strong Yorkshire women and well-drawn male protagonists. She’s adept at building worlds to which the reader wishes to escape, but most of her novels have their origins in her own life experiences. The Yorkshire Pudding Club was based on her experience of falling pregnant at the same time as two of her best friends. She joined a ‘club’ of women who shared their experience of having babies and caring for them, and she attended parent-craft classes. The Birds and the Bees (2008) is a tribute to her Scottish roots, while the idea for A Spring Affair came to her while she was filling a skip with junk. Both that book and A Summer Fling (2010), about a cross-generational friendship between women who bond at work, drew on her experience of workplace bullying (she has said that in 1990 she was sacked from an office job for ‘having an accent suited to the textile industry’). Here

have to plot the book completely before they set off.’ It used to take her a very long time to write just one chapter, because she was continually editing and re-writing. Then she read Stephen King’s On Writing and followed his advice to just get the whole story down from start to finish, albeit in a very raw state, before beginning to edit. This is the way she now writes, and she finds that it works well for her. Once a novel is completed, she advises putting it away for at least a week before beginning to edit; and after you’ve been through it and edited it from beginning to end, you should, she suggests, put it away again for another week – and then do the same thing all over again. When it comes to writing romantic comedy, Milly believes that it’s important to work hard on the tension between the two that’s a 91,000-word main characters. She stresses book at the end the need to make characters believable, by giving heroes and ‘Persistence is the name of of the year.” heroines some faults and villains the game,’ says Milly, who some redeeming features. She suggests advises would-be authors to trawling the internet for pictures of write every day: ‘If you only write people to match your characters, so that 250 words a day, that’s a 91,000-word you have their image in your head as book at the end of the year.’ If you have you write (and perhaps, also, choosing a trouble concentrating or managing your piece of music to match the character). time, she suggests giving the Pomodoro She believes that romcom novels need system a try. This involves working some pacey action, but that contrast is flat-out for 25 minutes, ignoring all important, and that occasional darker potential interruptions (knocks at the passages can help to develop character door, social media, telephone calls, etc.), and to heighten the impact of the and then taking a five-minute break. Do lighter parts. this four times and you earn yourself a She thinks it’s really important to thirty-minute break. enjoy your writing: ‘If you don’t have She believes it’s important to read as much as you can, both fun with it, then that will seep into for pleasure and (as a the words and your reader will pick it up… Jane Austen had a rare old time trainee writer) analytically, with her characters and that shines perhaps jotting down through. Love your characters, savour phrases you think work the power you have over your readers particularly well and to give them the most satisfying asking yourself why they ending you can after dragging them work so well. She advocates through a drama.’ networking as widely as possible, on the basis that the more people who know you and your work, the greater your chances of becoming a successful writer. ‘There is no right or wrong way to write a book,’ she says. ‘Writers work in so many different ways – I can’t plan; other friends of mine Come the Girls (2011) celebrates her love of cruising holidays. Her novels are light and easy to read. She writes in the third person, with multiple, well-handled viewpoints, in a style that’s been described as ‘humorous Click here to and provincial’. Her stories revolve listen to an around the kind of perennial issues which extract of resonate with women – friendship, love, Afternoon children, the workplace – but she has Tea at the tackled grim subjects such as alcoholism, Sunfl ower domestic abuse and bullying. She writes Cafe, or buy in a down-to-earth way about ordinary the book people we can recognise (for example: from Audible cleaners, weight lifters, couch potatoes), and justice is always done. The writing is occasionally rather clunky and clichéd, but if you like feel-good romcom you’ll be carried along by the author’s warmth, humour and ability to make the If you only write reader both smile and hold back tears at one and the 250 words a day, same time.

whose Bridget Jones’s Diary is the one book she wishes she had written. It’s one of the few books she has read over and over again and it greatly influenced her own writing.


Writing tips

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o t e t i r Whe hear t t

With Valentine’s Day up coming, Liz Gregory shares ten top tips on wr iting about love


t’s coming up to that tim e of year again. Whether you love it or dread it, it’s hard to ignore the fact that St Val entine’s Day falls slap bang in the middle of February. Here are a few tips for making the mo st of all that love in the air and using it as inspiration for your writing.

Real-life romance Let’s start on a cheerful note. Magazines are always looking for heartwarming stories of love that has flourished against all the odds, or in unusual circumstances. Perhaps you yourself have an uplifting story to tell about reuniting with a lost love or overcoming great geographical distances, or you can go back in time and share a romantic tale from your family’s past. This type of genre has been around for a while now and a story will need something different or unique about it if you are to pitch it successfully, but there is still plenty of scope for publication. Women’s weekly or monthly magazines are a good place to start. If there is an element of overcoming some kind of hardship then all the better – although remember, we are looking for a happy ending with this one.

Not so happy-ever-after

There is an equally large – if not larger – market for stories about love affairs that have gone horribly, horribly wrong. Plenty of publications – especially the weekly women’s magazines – carry fairly scurrilous tales of doomed romances, from the heart breaking to the comical via the downright scandalous. Think carefully about divulging this kind of story though. Even if it’s about yourself it’s likely to involve at least one other person, who could be hurt or angry if you put the affair into print. And if it’s about somebody else, be even more careful to get express permission to use the story. Even if you’re very careful to change people’s identities it may still be fairly clear who you’re talking about!

Planning the perfect Valentine’s

Relationship advice There are all sorts of potential topics here, ranging from the very serious to the extremely light-hearted. Obviously you should only attempt the former if you are well-qualified to do so – if a relationship is physically or verbally abusive, for example, or has left someone feeling very vulnerable. These situations need to be handled sensitively, and anyone wishing to pass on advice and guidance must be aware of the potential consequences if this is not done properly. That still leaves plenty of scope for more informal, humorous pieces. A few years ago, many of these were on tackling the thorny world of online dating, for example, or trends such as speed dating. If you can find the next big trend then you may well be on to something (and don’t forget to share it with the rest of us!) 28


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As with any special occasion, there is a fair bit of pressure to get things right on Valentine’s Day. Whilst it doesn’t carry the same significance for most of us as Christmas Day does, there is still a general sense of panic every year about living up to expectations (and not spending the rest of the year in the dog house as a result of getting things wrong) – which explains the rush of articles each February on where to go, what to buy, what to wear and so on. If you can find an interesting or particularly humorous angle to one of these well-worn topics then there’s no reason why your article shouldn’t be among them.

Great love affairs Most of us can bring examples of legendary couples to mind fairly easily – Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for example (although that particular love affair ran far from smoothly at times). There continues to be a huge amount of interest in celebrity culture and in who is dating whom – although some celebrity couples are more interesting (and more convincing) than others. A good example would be a very famous couple such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (so famous we blended their names in Brangelina), who lead interesting lives both as husband and wife and in their individual careers.

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The alternative Valentine’s

The most romantic books and films As above, but with fictional examples. Who doesn’t love the story of how Elizabeth Bennett overcomes her prejudice to fall in love with Mr Darcy, despite his proud and haughty manner? Sometimes the most romantic fictional love affairs are far from conventional – Catherine and Heathcliff ’s turbulent relationship in Wuthering Heights, for example, with the closing lines of the novel suggesting there will be no peace for this partnership even after their deaths. And indeed, the more unusual your suggestions, the more interesting for the readers – the beyond-thegrave love triangle of Victor, Victoria and Emily in The Corpse Bride, perhaps, or Joel and Clementine’s mismatched perfection in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

For many people, a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration is something to be avoided – the soppy cards, the overpriced meal, the sad-looking flowers hastily purchased from the garage forecourt. These might all be Valentine’s clichés, but just the very thought of them is enough to strike terror into the hearts of many people who would like to mark the occasion in a different way, acknowledging their feelings for their loved one but avoiding the overly-sentimental, unnecessarily commercial elements of the whole event. Rather than sit in a restaurant full of couples not speaking to each other, many people prefer to stay in, so suggestions what to cook, what films to watch etc may find publication. Another potential topic is ideas for gifts that cost little or no money – small gestures that mean far more than a giant teddy bear from a supermarket.

Perfect poems There are a couple of options here, depending on how poetic you are. If you’re something of a poet yourself then this is a great time for penning a few lines on the subject of love (happy or otherwise – one of my favourite poems about love is Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover, where a man strangles his girlfriend so that she will always remain his), or you could write a more practical ‘how-to’ guide about the art of writing romantic poetry. However if, like me, you enjoy poetry but don’t have a creative bone in your body, you can still write about other people’s poems – perhaps an article in which you run down your favourite ten verses about love. I’m still going to include Porphyria’s Lover, but then I never said I was romantic.

Single and fabulous Of course, for many people, Valentine’s Day is a bit of a non-event. If you’re single, or can’t be with your loved one, it can feel like a bit of a kick in the teeth to be surrounded by loved-up couples flaunting their happiness. The recent stereotype for being alone on Valentine’s has been a slightly tragic, Bridget Jones-type figure, sitting at home swigging wine and waiting for the phone to ring, but more recently it’s been recognised that actually, many people are single by choice and are perfectly happy on their own. A piece celebrating this and suggesting lovely things that can be done alone at this time of year could well be a winner with readers.

Love story Romantic fiction is an eternally popular genre, and with good reason. As we’ve already seen above, there are any number of variations that can be used to make this flexible genre as conventional – or otherwise – as you like. Mills & Boon are perhaps the most famous of all the publishers in this genre – they have a huge roster of writers and are still happy to accept new submissions (full details are on their website). They also accept different styles of romance novels now, offering a range of imprints alongside the more traditional examples of the genre. Women’s weekly magazines are still a good avenue for romantic short fiction, although do check submission guidelines carefully and make sure you look at some back issues to ensure your interpretation of a good romantic story matches theirs! Or you could host your own website or blog and publish romantic fiction there, or submit to one of the existing sites that does this already.

Whether you look forward to the romance of Valentine’s Day or whether you dread its ritualised commercialism, there are plenty of ways you can turn the occasion to your advantage when putting pen to paper! FEBRUARY 2016

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!? PEN


A write laugh

It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s gloomy – the ideal time for some exercises in writing funny from Lizzie Enfield


ou’ve got to laugh.’ A friend rounds off a tale of tragedy and despair with the popular saying and most of us nod sympathetically, with the exception of a friend who is Russian. ‘Why?’ she asks. ‘What you just told us is terrible. Why would you laugh?’ We try to explain the saying to her but she’s unconvinced. Laughing, no matter what the circumstances, seems to be a peculiarly British trait but one that we value enormously. Laughing, at ourselves, in the face of adversity, at a particular situation is how we deal with things as well as how we try to entertain those around us. GSOH isn’t a popular dating initialism for nothing. So, it’s that time of year. It’s cold and dark and Christmas is over and there’s not much to look forward to. You’ve got to laugh… Or at least try to inject some humour into your writing.


blog Write a humorous

and try to that happened in your day 1 Take one amusing thing because might have passed you by describe it. Think hard. It t for comedy value. you weren’t on the lookou look for the ing mundane and try to 2 Or write about someth as trying to ple sim as be something ridiculous in it. It could ing. open hard-to-open packag amusing o a blog. Expand on the 3 Now try to turn this int parisons com iculous, making daft thing, over-egging the rid with other scenarios etc. .

4 Try to write 300 words


Tell a sto ry

like a jo ke

1 Choose your subje ct. This are writing about alread could be an issue y ou y: love, dea middle age, th, illness, bringing u p children . 2 Write do wn as man y aspects o can think f this subje of. This ca ct as you n be a list to be great – it does n prose. ot have 3 Try to th ink o illustrate so f any people you kn ow w h o me of the aspects you ’ve outlined . 4 Select th e funniest bits from y our list. 5 Choose one and w rite an am as if you w using short ere telling anecdote, it to a frien d. 6 Give the story a beg inning, mid dle and an end. 7 Try to d eflect the re cipient’s at the end bef tention aw ore ay from you are lead you get there; make them think ing somew here else. 8 Then giv e them the punch line.


JULY 2015

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For example, your chosen subject is parenting. The aspect you’re focu sing on is how alm ost worryingly well-behaved your daughter is. You alm ost wish she’d go off the ra ils occasionally. Yo u tell a story about the only in cident of rebellion you can recall. As a young teenag er, daughter went to London for the day, without te lling you. She wa s too young to go on her own an d didn’t know her way around. It was completely out of character. Yo u worried about where she’d been and what sh e’d been doing. Had she been to Ca mden to score drug s? Or met with unsuitable m en? No, she’d been to the Royal Academy to see an art exhibition and bought postcards to prove it. Within the fra mework of this story, exaggerate th e details; the good behaviour, the worry about he r going off to Lond on and the climax (or anti-cli max) of discover y that it was just more sensible stuff.

14/12/2015 10:57


Red Editing Pen Each month, we give you a few sentences which would all benefit from some careful use of your red editing pen.As writers, and regular readers of Writing Magazine, you should not find any of these too difficult. But if you would welcome a little help, you can always check out the suggested solutions below. Here are this month’s examples:

1 2

His work was based on such obtuse data that it suffered from a chronic lack of understanding and he reckoned that it needed to be presented more simply.


The company headquarters are in close proximity to the airport and there’s more people working there than one might think

Gerald was awaiting for the train when what he had forgotten occurred to him like a bolt of lightening: His briefcase.



There can be confusion about the two words abstruse and obtuse. We use abstruse when we mean that something is not easy to understand and is perhaps a bit obscure. On the other hand, obtuse is the word we use to describe someone who is rather stupid. Clearly, data is not capable of being stupid (or even clever, come to that!) and we should not be using obtuse. Two other words that can be confusing are chronic and acute. In medical terms acute can mean sharp or severe (as in: acute pain) while chronic pain is a lasting pain. These meanings have become transferred to ordinary colloquial English. However, chronic has also came to mean bad, especially in sports journalese (for example: England’s bowling was chronic). But chronic is not the best word here, and we would be better to talk about a serious lack of understanding. Finally in this sentence, we use the word reckoned instead of thought. This is still very informal usage, fine in speech but still less acceptable in writing, so we would be best advised to use thought.


It’s all in the usage. That is the difference between wait and await. The word await is normally used as a transitive verb and therefore takes a subject. So, like Gerald, you can await a train, but if so you do not use the preposition for (as we have in our second sentence). However, wait is used as an intransitive verb and is frequently followed by the preposition for; in which case you can wait for the train. Moving on in our second sentence, we came to the word

lightening, which is a verb meaning making things lighter. It has nothing to do with the electrical discharge we see in the sky during a thunderstorm, which is lightning (a noun). Therefore Gerald experienced a bolt of lightning not a bolt of lightening. Near the end of the sentence we have a colon – followed by a capital letter. Is this correct punctuation? There is a generally accepted rule that a colon can be followed by a capital in either of two situations. The first situation is when the words following the colon are a piece of direct speech. The second situation, more common in US English, is when the words after the sentence are an intact sentence in their own right (ie not a list or qualifier of what goes before the colon). In our sentence, the words are His briefcase, which clearly cannot stand on its own and is therefore unacceptable after the colon.


Let us look at the definition of proximity – a word we find in sentence three. It means nearness, closeness. You obviously should not have close nearness nor close closeness which is what you are saying if you write close proximity. It is a tautology and proximity will do fine on its own. Then we have: there’s more people there. Here we have the collective noun people, so we have more than one person – and therefore we need a plural verb. But in our sentence we have used there’s, a contraction for there is and therefore a singular noun. We should be using the plural verb, as in: there are more people.

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14/12/2015 10:55




You already know the three secrets of successful writing, says Adrian Magson, you just have to accept and embrace them

ike others before me, I’ve occasionally echoed the familiar saying, ‘write what you know’. But usually with certain reservations, clauses and optional get-outs, such as if you have particular skills or knowledge, then use them. But, as I’ve also pointed out, how do sci-fi and fantasy authors do what they do so successfully? Well, we’ll come to that. Although the title of this piece is ‘3 secrets of successful writing’, there are a couple of others that shouldn’t need a mention, but I’ll throw them in, anyway, for free, just in case.

Work hard and often A bit like the Klingon sign-off of ‘Live long and prosper’, it pretty much means the same thing only without the fingersplitting. It’s been said of successful people that the harder they work, the luckier they become. What it actually means is that by keeping on doing what they do, no matter what obstacles fall in their path, they increase their chances of hitting a successful streak. And providing they learn as they go and correct their mistakes along the way, they become more adept at what they do, too. And that’s just the case with being a writer. You can’t sit back after one effort and expect success to come banging on the door. Actually, that should read, you shouldn’t sit back after one effort. I put that clause in there because there’s always some smart Alec or Alice out there who does just that, and we’re all allowed to hate the ground they walk on just because… well, because that’s not lucky, that’s plain freaky and unfair and shouldn’t be allowed under whatever competition rules I can think of. Maybe we need a new EU ruling on the issue. Or maybe not.

Study the market The books market, like any other, changes all the time. So do readers’ tastes. Today it’s zombies, vampires, 32


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psychological crime, erotica, and a large Write helping of titular girls doing stuff. By Being a writer can only be accomplished the time you read this, who the heck by doing it. Dreaming won’t do it; nor knows what it will be? But the advice will talking about it. You have to do it. still holds true; see what is current, what Do it with enthusiasm, do it in spite of has lasted, what looks like catching on other distractions, do it often and even to become a trend. If you think you can if it doesn’t work, do it again because match or better any of them, go for it. you’ll get better and increase your But don’t waste time pondering your chances of success. options too long or the bateau will have sailed. Certainly, if Research you’re already along the road Whatever you write will at You can’t sit back towards completing a book, some point require a degree don’t panic; instead finish it, of research or fact-finding. after one effort find a potential home and Doesn’t matter what it is, and expect success get it out there. Then get on whether it’s checking up to come banging on with the next one. the spelling of something technical or scientific, finding a the door. geographical location, confirming a Know where to send historical event or creating a character your work or setting with conviction – you need This is so important. You need to to get it right simply because doing so study the agents and publishers’ listings will add to your writing, increase your because they change, too. Just because confidence and make you better at being you know an agent or publisher who a writer. It will also help you approach once took on a few books about zombies, your craft like a professional, which spies, cats solving mysteries or some dude believe me is not to be underestimated. who could shape-shift at will, doesn’t mean they still do. Like all commercial concerns, they’re constantly on the And the third secret? lookout for something fresh and new – That’s the biggest one that few people so much so even they don’t know what seem to talk about openly, as if somehow they’re looking for, even if they pretend it’s cheating. Believe me, it isn’t. It’s key to otherwise. So, keep an eye on current the whole process. trends. It’s also worth checking out the agents and publishers who seem flexible Making stuff up in their books list. Call it invention, call it creativity, call (I should mention here that it the outpourings from a fertile mind. small publishers certainly fit this last Dress it up however you like. The simple description, so don’t discount them. fact is, most of what you write will be Their advances might be smaller but made up. Yes, it still requires all the Write often they’re often quicker at getting your book extraneous elements outlined above, and to market and out to the paying public. each has its place in the process. But there Get your And there are lots of smaller ones around are things you don’t know, things you checkable facts right and they’re growing all the time). won’t know and things you can’t find out Now, I did say there are three secrets or research. And those things can only Know the to successful writing. And while all the come from inside your head. market above are part of the mix, there are three So, the three secrets to writing: (1) which are fundamental to the basic task write what you know, (2) research what Enjoy making of writing. And all three are entirely you don’t… and (3) make up the rest. stuff up within your control. Simple, really.



14/12/2015 11:46

WIN £500!





Annual Humorous Short Story Competition

SEE P123


A short story is the perfect vehicle for humour writing, but it’s rare for WM writers to enter funny stories in our other competitions, so we want something different from you this month. Whether with wry satire or outright farce, or both, all you have to do is make us laugh. The word limit is the usual 1,500-1,700 words and the closing date is 14 March. The winner will receive £200 and publication in Writing Magazine, with £50 and publication on for the runner-up.

ME STILL TI ER TO ENT With its closing date of 15 February, there is still time to enter the Annual First Line Short Story Competition announced last month. Your story must begin with the first line, ‘What What are you doing there?’ there? See p123 for more details.

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£250 TO BE WON

15/12/2015 10:07

Sooner or later by Sally Pearson

by Sally Pearson

After early years in India and Africa, Sally Pearson grew up in Kent, but gradually migrated to Durham, where she stayed for 25 years. Sally trained in the Laban art of movement, drama and TEFL and has taught communication skills to adults and children from all backgrounds, and worked as an educational counsellor and welfare officer. She now lives in France, where the St Clementin Bilingual Literary Festival and the North Deux-Sevres Writers’ group have inspired her to develop her writing skills. Sally recently Sally won the Segora 300-word vignette competition. This is her first short story win.


he flat is tiny. It is all she can afford. Six years of volunteering have nourished her soul, but played havoc with the savings. Besides, her usual overseas contracts, once a sure source of revenue, are coming to an end. The town, northern, is trying to re-establish its identity. Sink estates are being bulldozed and rebuilt, schools are creeping up the league tables, and the local hospital has successfully fought closure. The high street now gives preference to pedestrians over cars, and boasts several coffee shops. The cinema has reopened. At first, she cares nothing for it. She misses huge skies, heat, living on the edge. She misses Jack too, despite all her training, the travelling to forget. She feels adrift, forlorn. She still listens out for the rattle of gunfire, the screams of the bomb-blasted dying. Here, only sirens and the shrieks of drunken student partygoers pepper her nightmares. There is no one, now, who understands what she has lived through, or why. She is careful to look and sound like everybody else. Her accent is impeccable; her grey-green eyes clear, her clothes unremarkable. Her loneliness goes unnoticed by the strangers who scurry through their lives around her. She searches out where to buy the cheapest bread and vegetables, and then begins scouring the temping agencies. They are doubtful of finding anything to fit her qualifications and age. Since when did 35 mean unemployable? She is not put off. She lists her skills on postcards, pins them 34


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up in the corner shops, the supermarket, everywhere. Translator, baby sitter, dog walker, cleaner, anything. He already has a job. It has taken him months to get, including joining the clandestine groups that hang about street corners in the early hours. He is relieved when an opportunity arrives to stand in, semi-legally, as gardener for a block of privately rented apartments. The area is a splash of colour in the greyness, but nothing like home. On hot afternoons, he shuts his eyes and tries to imagine the lime trees, the figs and pomegranates, the orange groves. Here, there is gravel to sweep, spiked bushes to prune, paths demanding to be cleared of weeds and litter. It is a strange occupation for such a talented man, one who can pen devastating, satirical pictures of mad politicians, but has never had to pick up dog dirt, until now. She notices him on the first day, as she skitters against the wind on her way to read the small ads in a café paper. His head turns away as she passes, but she glimpses the marks on his cheek, on his hands, and senses his suffering. Her own scars are invisible. Eventually, he nods at her regular ‘good morning’, his head always down, not looking. One day the paper bag she is holding splits, tumbling bruised fruit at his feet. He drops his brush and bends to harvest the rolling apples. He glances at her, acknowledging her thanks, revealing his damaged face. She pauses for a moment, to ask his name. He

Love short story competition

Winner steps back without speaking, picks up his brush and continues sweeping. She regrets her mistake. She clambers up the three flights to her floor, pockets full of fruit, muttering angrily to herself. Wednesday, as she passes, he says ‘Sami’. She is not even sure if he is talking to her. She halts, and repeats ‘Sami?’ He nods, lifts his head to look at her, the sadness in his eyes untouched by her smile. She’s uncertain what to say next. ‘Miriam,’ bursts out of her unexpectedly. He flinches. Then he smiles, a broken smile. They stand, face-to-face, awkward, not knowing how to continue, until she speaks. ‘Look, I’m going to the shop. Is there anything you need?’ Did she really say that? Offer to do his shopping? His smile vanishes, but she thinks she just catches the word ‘bread’, as he turns his back to carry on sweeping. At the corner shop, they are selling off yesterday’s sandwiches, half-price. She finds a couple of cheese and lettuce, floppy in clingfilm, and adds them to her other purchases. Walking through the gardens minutes later, she places a sandwich on a bench near him, without speaking, and hurries home. For the next two days, she takes a different route to the centre of town, carefully avoiding any chance of meeting. She doesn’t know why. Saturday morning early, she sits in the empty café, paper spread before her, making her coffee last as long as possible. His shadow falls across the newsprint, as he places a single red rose beside her cup. ‘To say thank you,’ he says. ‘There’s no need,’ she replies, but is secretly elated. ‘Please, sit… sit here.’ ‘May I get you another coffee?’ ‘Yes, yes please, of course. Black, no sugar.’ He returns from the counter, placing the cups on the table. ‘Miriam.’ He says the word with reverence. ‘Miriam was the name of my daughter. Her eyes were the same colour as yours. So… beautiful.’ ‘Where is…?’

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‘They took her. She was just thirteen. They took my wife Sara too, after they’d done this.’ He points to his disfigured hands, his face. ‘I was in hiding, trying to get them both out of the country. I found their…’ he chokes, fighting to speak ‘… their mutilated bodies. Two weeks later.’ The silence between them aches with pain. ‘You?’ he says. ‘What about you?’ ‘Ambush. My husband was driving. Mistaken identity, they said. Nobody’s fault, apparently.’ The words sound easy; as if it was no effort to stop blaming, stop the bitterness. ‘We were on our way home from a field hospital, with our baby, our first. She was… they were…’ She can’t continue, looks down at the coffee to hide her tears, knotting her fingers over her stomach, determined to prevent the anguish exploding out of her. Why now? She has spent the last years dealing with the grief, hasn’t she? Why now? ‘I’m so sorry,’ he says, and means it. He lifts his hand, rests it briefly on her shoulder. The touch sends the first shockwaves through her. She feels the tingling in her legs, the chopping sensation behind her knees. She gives a tiny gasp, turns to look at his wrecked face, and sees the strength of the tenderness there. She thinks she knows, now, where this is going. He lets his hand drop, his voice continuing, gentle in her ear. ‘They’ll get me, of course. One day, sooner or later. They never give up. If they catch me, I’m dead. I keep moving, always.’ They talk for hours, about nearly everything, taking the long route back to her little home. She invites him in, says she has food in the fridge, but he refuses. Before he leaves, he looks long into her eyes. She struggles not to kiss him. He won’t tell her where he lives, doesn’t want to compromise her. She starts making the sandwiches herself, taking them down and sitting next to him on the bench during his lunch break. Once, laughing together, they attract dark looks from the elderly dog-walkers. He won’t sit for long, is always strict about timekeeping. She knows how much he wants her. Now and then she peeps from her window, down into the gardens, loving from afar the curve of his back, the rhythm of his movements. The night her mobile rings, interrupting her dreams, she struggles to speak the guttural language she no longer wishes to use. The voice from the past is abrupt, the commands brusque. She takes notes, slams the phone down, and sobs. The next day she travels to London.

She doesn’t tell him she is going, leaves early in the morning, returning three days later, on an afternoon train. He is waiting, at the entrance to her block. His scarred face is tense, his thick grey hair uncombed. There is no smile, but this time he accepts the invitation to climb the stairs with her. He looks with care around the sparse flat. She makes coffee, and tells him inconsequential details about her trip. His eyes are fixed on her mouth. He’s not listening. Abruptly, he drops onto a chair by the small table. He drags a piece of paper from his pocket, smoothing it flat on the hard surface. His eyes beg her to look. She swings the other chair round, sits by him, studying the ingenious black strokes. The image is of them, together on their bench, heads touching, naked. Words tumble at their feet, and transform into flowers. Behind them charge dogs, teeth bared, dragging their raging owners, whose mouths spew tangled creepers of thorns. She begins to ask him something, glances up, and stops. He has no answers to give her, only his ache, his longing. He gets unsteadily to his feet, bringing her with him. As his arms encircle her, she begins to tremble. The paper slips unnoticed to the floor. He hugs her to him until the trembling stills. She lays her head on his chest, feeling the strong beat of his heart, the melting along the length of their bodies. His first kiss is impossibly gentle, touching his lips to her hair. He savours the sweet scent of her, aware of the pressure of her breasts. He almost trusts her. In the neat bedroom, he pours himself too urgently into her, before she is ready to respond. She hushes his apology with a fingertip; lies quietly against him, letting him recover. This time, he allows her to lead, sensing her desires, reacting to her movements, pacing her pleasure. Their cries of release bring tears of joy. In the early hours he whispers all the things she needs to hear, wanted to ask; his real name, the places he goes to hide, the friends who help him. He leaves before dawn, taking care to cover her sleeping nakedness with the crumpled white sheets. She wakes alone, still treasuring the smell of him on her warm skin. She has offered him hope. He has given her peace, and she knows, now, how to find him again. And whom to inform. When she returns to the gardens on Monday, he is gone.

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EDITOR’S COMMENTS Love comes in many guises, and so do love stories, as our Love Story winner shows. Sally Pearson’s Sooner or Later is an unsentimental account of the fragile flickerings of love in near-impossible circumstances between two broken people trying to build new existences after their former lives – and loves – have been shattered. In their different ways, both have been victims of the kind of global conflict that makes news headlines, and although Sally Pearson is never specific about who, or what, has persecuted ‘Sami’ and ambushed ‘Miriam’s’ husband and child, her story is a timely reflection on the human cost of war. Sally’s compassionate story may strike a chord because of the current refugee crisis, but it was chosen as the winner of this competition because of the subtle, understated way in which she builds her story. Its components – war, torture, loss, the harshness of a new life, the long-term implications of allegiances – are harrowing, and require the most careful handling if they are not to sound overwrought and overstated. But there are no false notes here; instead a delicate, gently devastating accumulation of detail and suggestion as Sally weaves together the complex threads of her tale. Sally’s confident writing builds a sense of the fledgling tenderness and the – hopeless – possibility of a happy ever after for this couple, and at the same time acknowledges the human capacity to seek love and find solace. There is consolation, but also the suggestion of betrayal. This is a story of love, not romance. Sally conveys moments of hope and healing between two people haunted, and hunted, by their pasts, and without the possibility of a future together. There is a quiet beauty to her story that makes it a moving, and very worthy, winner.

RUNNER-UP AND SHORTLISTED Runner-up in the Love Story Competition, whose entry is published on, was Debbie Collins, Worcester. Also shortlisted were: Christine Ballantine, Poole, Dorset; Carolyn Henderson, Mildenhall, Suffolk; Sophia Lovell, Northampton; Emily Simpson, Bristol; Lorraine Swoboda, Le Bodeo, France; Christian Wolfenden, Glossop, Derbyshire; Gail Wright, Atherton, Manchester.



15/12/2015 12:40

Library of

OPPORTUNITY Organise your own library reading or event, with advice from librarian Chris Alton


olding an event can create the kind of local publicity that might not otherwise be available to a little-known author. Posters, fliers, tweets, website event listings, and possibly a mention in the local press, will bring your book to the attention of a large number of people, regardless of how many attend the event. This can have other spin-offs, such as more sales online, or acquiring useful contacts and offers of further promotional opportunities. However, while a very well-known author may need only to respond to requests to do events, and can command a good fee, an unknown author is in a very different situation. It may not be easy to find a venue willing to host your event, even if you offer to do it for nothing. Publicity, and other tasks which a very successful author can leave to their publicist, will all have to be done by you. The following suggestions may increase the chances that your request to do an event will receive a positive response and result in worthwhile outcomes. Before you start, put yourself in the shoes of the person in charge of the venue. If it is a library, the librarian will wish to encourage people to enjoy a wide range of books and may be very happy to promote new authors, but there are various reasons why it may not be possible to say ‘yes’ to all authors. Time and money will be limited and reading preferences can 36


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vary significantly from one place to another. So while the manager of a venue in one town may think that your book should attract a good audience, someone in a different town may have reasons to think differently.

Make it difficult to say ‘no’ To be successful with your initial approach, try to make it difficult for the person to say ‘no’, not by being pushy, but by being pleasant and friendly, and by meeting them face-to-face if possible. Not only is it harder to say ‘no’ to someone face-to-face, but anyone arranging an event will usually prefer to have met the author beforehand. Phone or email first and then try to arrange a visit to talk to the person in charge about your book and the event. Attach an information sheet to your email, attractively presented on one side of A4, with an image of your book cover and/or yourself, your contact details printed prominently, a brief description of the book, references to any press coverage or accolades, a few biographical details and information about the kind of event you could offer. When you visit, bring a copy of the book as the venue manager will usually wish to read it before agreeing to the event, and a copy of the information sheet.

Make it easy to say ‘yes’ Equally important is to make it easy for them to say ‘yes’. One way of increasing your chance of succeeding is to make links. Could your book event be linked to one of the annual national

literary days such as World Book Day, Children’s Book Week or the Summer Reading Challenge? The dates and themes for these events are posted on the internet each year. Alternatively, there may be local events, such as a festival week, during which a venue such as a library might be happy to host your event. Approach the manager well in advance of the date with which you might be able to link. Make the most of any links your book might have to local history, interests, locations or issues. If you know other local authors, could you make links with them and offer a joint event? It can be great to have the moral support, and more ideas are generated when you work with another person.

Try something different Think of ways to make the event you offer that bit different from the standard author talk. Take a look at the website of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, a bookshop in Bath that runs literary events with a difference (www. The shop’s events incorporate author interviews with food, music, wine and ‘fun props’. Food is always an attraction, so talk to the person organising the event about whether there are any funds available. A library may have a ‘friends group’ who can help out.

Workshop around it Writing workshops can sometimes attract a good audience, so consider whether your book would lend itself to this

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approach. A workshop could be offered instead of, or as well as, a standard author talk, and might appeal particularly in a library which runs a writing group. Most books can be used to develop a workshop on an aspect of writing, but it helps if you can find an angle that is relatively unusual. A book such as Writing in the House of Dreams for example (www., lends itself to workshops on an approach to writing that is rather different.

Catch their eye

A visual display is an excellent way of engaging people’s interest. People will often stop and look at an image more readily than they will stop and look at a book. A good display can be an ‘event’ in itself and can have advantages over a traditional author talk. Several hundred people a day may walk past a display, whereas only a handful may turn up to an author talk. If artwork is an integral part of your book, then make the most of this for displays and talks by reproducing the images on A4 or A3 size paper. Another idea is to ask artists to create work in response to your book. Enquire whether there might be a space where your display could remain for a few weeks and ask whether you need to provide any fixings.

Be prepared If your offer to do an event is accepted, be prepared with the resources the venue manager will need to create the publicity for the event. The three main items are: 1 An image that can be used on posters and fliers or in a press article. These need to be at a suitable resolution and file size. Requirements vary, but a rough guide is a minimum resolution of 300 dpi and a file size of 5mb. 2 A brief description of your book appropriate for use on a poster. It needs to be exciting, informative and precise – one or two sentences only. No one reads a lengthy description on a poster. 3 A draft press release and/or your information sheet about the book.

The publicity part Publicity is too crucially important to leave it all to others and sharing some responsibility for it can have added benefits for you. For example, visiting other venues in town yourself to ask if they will display your poster, gives you the opportunity to talk to them about


other possibilities for promoting it is about the content or the your book. If you have not process that inspires and An event provides a already done so, visit the motivates you. If you can great opportunity to talk to local bookshops. They convey your enthusiasm may be willing to hold to others, it will do people about your book, writing some copies of your more to sell your book and whatever it is about the book for a few weeks than anything else. content or the process that around the time of the Consider having some event and to display interesting business inspires and motivates you. If you the poster. Put the cards, postcards or can convey your enthusiasm to event on your website bookmarks which you or Facebook page and can give to everyone at others, it will do more to tweet about it – this can the end of the event. That sell your book than then be re-tweeted by the way, even if they don’t buy a anything else. event manager. Create some book, they are taking something bookmarks about your book that promotional away with them. can be displayed for people to take. If the event is in a library, ask if you can slip Donating chances these into other books of the same genre. Many local libraries have no book budget If the organiser is able to contact the of their own as book buying is often local paper to run an article, make sure done at headquarters. If this is the case, you have given them all the information donate a book to the library if you can they will need to do this. If you contact afford to do so, as it really can lead to the press yourself, you may occasionally purchases. One person told me that he find that a paper will refuse to run a recommended a library book to a friend free item because, as you are aiming who liked it so much that she then at selling something, they class it as bought eight copies for her book group. ‘commercial’. Look out for any other Just make sure that all copies of your local publications which might be book have easy-to-find details about how willing to run an article – you might and where people can buy more copies. find a few just by looking around the local library. Talk to the librarian about Take something positive away promoting your book to any library Hopefully, your event will attract a good writing or book groups. audience. But even if it doesn’t, try and take something positive away from it. Don’t allow the outcome of the event Check the details in terms of sales, or numbers, to be the Throughout the whole process, make it arbiter of your feelings afterwards. Don’t easy for the person organising the event be disheartened – a small attendance to get hold of you to ask questions and can happen even to well-known authors confirm arrangements. Double check – and don’t take it too personally. In the date, time, posters and website particular, be wary about blaming entries. If you have not already visited lack of publicity. Whilst it is extremely the venue, make sure that you know important, the effectiveness of publicity where it is, and that you have a way of is notoriously unpredictable and does not communicating on the day in case you always relate to quantity. are held up. If you are selling copies Analyse what happened, and learn of the book yourself, have a float with from it, but be cautious about your plenty of change, and a cash box. If conclusions. Look at its value in a variety you are fortunate enough to be offered of ways. Follow up on any contacts, expenses or a fee, check the payment offers or suggestions you may have method with the organiser – you will received and remember that word-ofusually need to present an invoice. mouth recommendation is one of the most powerful ways to promote your Enjoy it for itself book. By holding an event, and leaving See the event as something enjoyable and a copy of your book to be borrowed, worthwhile in itself. If you see it this way, you are increasing the probability that people will respond positively and will be more people will recommend your more likely to buy your book and spread book. Concentrate on selling copies the word favourably. An event provides one-by-one. You never know where each a great opportunity to talk to people one may lead. about your book, writing and whatever

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Plan your literary year with our definitive listing of literary festivals and events for 2016. Whether you prefer big name talks or family-friendly workshops, find the right event for you here.

FEBRUARY Dylan Thomas Centre Year-round literature programme and annual Dylan Thomas Festival from 27 October to 9 November Dylan Thomas Centre Jo Furber, Somerset Place, Swansea SA1 1RR 01792 463980 Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Year-round events at the five Shakespeare houses in Stratford-upon-Avon 13-15 January: Winter School themed around 2016’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6QW 01789 204016 The Wordsworth Trust Ongoing events in Grasmere Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Trust Museum, and the Jerwood Centre Events include: Discovering Paradise Lost: Its Pleasures for Us Now (13 Jan and 3 Feb); The Romantic Pastoral (2 Feb); Wordsworth, Portraiture and Romantic Icons (9 Feb); Reimagining Wordsworth (9 Feb); Wordsworthian Childhood (27 Feb); Necessities of Life (19 Mar) The Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria LA22 9SH 015394 35544


University of East Anglia Spring 2016 Literary Festival Weekly events, February-April University of East Anglia, University Plain, Norwich NR4 7TJ; 01603 592286

Purbeck Literary Festival 14-27 February, Purbeck Small festival celebrating classic and contemporary authors, with Jill Mansell as this year’s headline author

Essex Book Festival 1-31 March 2016 35 venues across Essex Writers, poets, film-makers, artists, politicians and thespians, Essex Book Festival is a celebration of the book in all its forms Essex Book Festival is the only month-long, countywide festival of its kind in the UK. As such, it reaches the places other like minded festivals can’t reach. With stellar Essex artist and icon Grayson Perry opening the Festival in his hometown, Chelmsford, this year’s programme promises an explosion of literary talent. That includes literary luminaries Louis De Bernieres and Helen Dunmore, historians AN Wilson and David Starkey, while also dipping into the world of theatre with

thespian Simon Callow. The fabulous Park Inn Palace Hotel in Southend will be stepping back in time to celebrate The Golden Age of Crime, as Colchester explores what it means to have a home - or not - via a series of events at first site gallery. Writing workshops, ceilidhs, storytelling, film screenings, art installations, tea parties, and lectures, Essex Book Festival really does have that something for everyone. Spread the word - or words - and come along. 

Contact: Ros Green, Essex Book Festival, Centre for Creative Writing, University of Essex, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ Tel: 07913 061948 Email: Website: Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016 ESSEX.indd 1

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Hearth micro-festival 6-7 February Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire Micro-festival; workshops with Gulwali Passerlay, Rebecca Farmer, Natasha Pulley, Dan Richards Gladstone’s Library, Church Lane, Hawarden, Flintshire CH5 3DF, 01244 532350 Winter Words Book Festival 12-20 February Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Perthshire An inspiring mix of star authors, historical fiction and the great outdoors, including a screening from Banff Mountain Film Festival Port Na Craig, Pitlochry PH16 5DR 01796 484 626 Jewish Book Week 20-28 February, Kings Place, London N1 Usually attracts big guests; last year included Alain de Botton, Andrew Sachs, Robert Harris and Julie Burchill. Pam Lewis, Administrator, ORT House, 26 Albert Street, London NW1 7NE 020 7446 8771; LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 22-27 February, LSE, London WC2A 2AE The theme for the 2016 festivial is ‘utopias’ Louise Gaskell, LSE Festival Organiser, Conference and Events Office, 3rd Floor, Tower 3, LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE 0207 955 6043; LiteraryFestival2016/Home.aspx Bath Literature Festival 26 February-6 March, various venues in Bath Last year’s festival included appearances by Kazuo Ishiguro, Rachel Cusk, Simon Schama, Kate Mosse, Elif Shafak, Meg Rosoff and David Nicholls. Bath Festivals, Third Floor, Abbey Chambers, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1NT 01225 462231;

MARCH Huddersfield Literature Festival 3-13 March, various Huddersfield venues An annual literature festival that takes place over 10 days in March in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Events include author talks, creative writing classes and competitions, multi-arts performances, LGBT events, poetry nights and

open mic events, plus a Literary Afternoon Tea. The festival is also involved with outreach work with schools and other local organisations, and hosts Majikkon - the annual Huddersfield Anime, Manga and Comic Con. Michelle Hodgson, Festival Director, Huddersfield Literature Festival, c/0 29 Dartmough Avenue, Huddersfield HD5 8UP 01484 430228; Aldeburgh Literary Festival 4-6 March, The Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh Expect a line-up of distinguished speakers at this festival, which always attracts big names. Aldeburgh Bookshop, 42 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5AB; 01728 452389 Words by the Water 4-13 March, Theatre by the Lake, Keswick 10-day literature festival, with over 100 local, national and internationally acclaimed authors in attendance, this year including Howard Jacobson, Melvyn Bragg, Ben Okri, James Naughtie and David Hare. Philip John, Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Droridge Lane, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JG; 01803 867373 Aye Write! Glasgow Book Festival 10-20 March The Mitchell Library and other Glasgow venues Glasgow’s annual book festival, celebrating the best local, national and international writing The Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow G3 7DN; 0141 287 2999; ayewrite@; King’s Lynn Fiction Festival 11-13 March, King’s Lynn Town Hall Writers confirmed for 2016 include Simon Mawer, Sophie Hannah, DJ Taylor, Jonathan Smith, Patricia Duncker and James Wilson. Tony Ellis, c/o Hawkins, 19 Tuesday Market Place, King’s Lynn PE30 1JW; 01553 691661 Weymouth Leviathan 12-13 March, Weymouth, Dorset UK’s only dedicated maritime literary festival Lancaster Litfest 17-20 March, Lancaster The 37th edition of the popular festival Poetry Bookcase, The Storey, Meeting House Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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10th - 23rd March 2016

Vince Cable

Val McDermid

Arthur Smith

Michael Portillo

Carol Ann Duffy

Wendy Cope


York Literature Festival 10-23 March

In association with Writing Magazine and Writers and Artists, York Literature Festival will host a special event on how writers can avoid mistakes when submitting their work to literary agents. Get the full festival programme from for more information.  PLUS! Win £500 in the York Literature Festival / York Mix Poetry Competition.  Full details at for more information.  Lane, Lancaster LA1 1TH; 01524 62166; Oswestry Litfest 17-20 March, Oswestry venues A long lit weekend in March to celebrate words, whether written, spoken or sung Scottish Association of Writers’ Annual Conference 18-20 March, Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld Writers’ Conference with workshops, seminars competition award ceremony and keynote speaker Caro Ramsey Jen Butler, Scottish Association of Writers, 3 The Loan, Bo’ness EH51 0HN; 07827 412522


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Scotland’s International Poetry Festival StAnza 2016: 2-6 March One of the country’s top poetry festivals, held annually in Fife, StAnza is famous for its friendly atmosphere and international focus, the place to hear favourite poets, discover new voices and enjoy the beautiful town of St Andrews and StAnza’s lively festival hub. Choose from more than eighty readings, performances, discussions, poetry inspired installations and exhibitions and other cross-media performances in a range of atmospheric venues in and around the historic and lively town centre, or just sit and enjoy the lively festival scene with a coffee or drink. Don Paterson, Lemn Sissay, Jo Shapcott, Sean O’Brien and Pascale Petit are among the headliners for 2016. This year’s themes are Body of Poetry and City Lines and there will be a focus on architecture and German. Or take part in a wide range of workshops, a masterclass and open mic events.

StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival Fèis Eadar-Nàiseanta Bàrdachd na h-Alba

StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, St Andrews KY16 9LA 01334 475000 Mancunicon Hilton Deansgate, Manchester 02/12/2015 Eastercon, the annual British national science fiction convention, comes to Manchester with special guests including Aliette de Bodard, Dave Clements, Ian McDonald and Sarah Pinborough.

25-28 March, Stanza enhanced.indd 1


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Oxford Literary Festival 2-10 April, Christ Church, Oxford Massive annual festival attracting some very big names. Guests in 2015 included Antonia Fraser, Ben Okri, David Lodge, Don Paterson, Esther Freud, John Crace and Kazuo Ishiguro. 01865 286074; info@oxfordliteraryfestival. com; Cambridge Literary Festival 6-10 April, Central Cambridge venues Biannual festival, every spring and winter, engaging with the newest fiction, cutting edge commentary and science, workshops, children’s events and lots more. Cathy Moore, 7 Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EL; 01223 515335 London Book Fair 12-14 April, Olympia, West London Now in its 45th year, the biggest trade event of the UK publishing year will be back at its new home Olympia, and is increasingly offering events for writers and valuable insight into the worlds of publishing and self-publishing. Reed Exhibitions, Gateway House, 28 The Quadrant, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1DN 0208 271 2124; Books by the Beach 13-17 April, venues around Scarborough Located on Yorkshire’s spectacular coast, this year’s festival offers a fantastic programme of crime, art, archeology and espionage, with topselling fiction writers and celebrity historians. 0845 0349563; heather@booksbythebeach.; Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival 16-24 April, various Cardiff venues Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival returns for its fourth year, with some big ticket events, presentations by popular children’s authors and illustrators, and educational sessions for schools – all for youngsters who appreciate the magic of books, and grown-ups who want to write them Literature Wales, Cardiff Council, Cardiff University, National Museum Wales 02920 472266; 13:37 Cuirt International Festival of Literature 19-25 April, venues in Galway Wide-ranging festival that includes intimate home-based ‘kitchen’ gatherings, talks on all aspects of writing and appearances by some of

Ireland’s most respected literary figures Galway Arts Centre, 47 Dominick Street, Galway, Eire; Chipping Norton Litfest 21-24 April, various Chipping Norton venues The literary festival offers big names in small venues. Now in its fifth year, ChipLitFest allows visitors extensive access to authors and fellow literary fans. Chipping Norton Literary Festival, Windrush House, 55 Crawley Road, Witney 01608 642350; Hexham Book Festival 22 April-1 May, Queens Hall, Hexham Author talks, independent book seller, writing workshops and related activities Susie Troup, Queens Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham NE46 3LS; 01434 652477 Wenlock Poetry Festival 22-24 April Various locations in Much Wenlock, Shropshire Three-day festival of contemporary poetry, with Paul Francis as poet in residence for 2016 Wenlock Poetry Festival Ltd, 12 High Street, Much Wenlock, Shropshire TF13 6AA; 01952 726829; Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival 24 April-1 May A week of events about books and writing, with author talks, fascinating discussion and debate, workshops and events for children Stratford Artshouse, Rother Street, Stratford upon Avon CV37 6LU; 01789 207100 Strokestown Poetry Festival, Ireland 29 April-1 May, Strokestown, Ireland World-renowned poetry festival featuring more than 24 readings over three days Strokestown Poetry Festival Office, Strokestown, County Roscommon, Ireland. (00 353) (0)71963 3759;


Newcastle Poetry Festival 5-7 May, Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne Three days with leading poets and free events 0191 208 7787;

Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Poetry-next-the-Sea 6-8 May, The Maltings, Staithe Street, Wellsnext-the-Sea, North Norfolk Guests for 2016 include Gillian Beer, Kate Bingham, Martin Figura, John Fuller, Ruth Padel and four Faber New Voices 2016 Fiona Fraser (Artistic Director), The New Cottage, Burnham Market PE31 8HH 01328 738243;

The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books London Book Fair, 12-14 April We will be back at London Book Fair this year but this time on Wacky Bee’s stand. We will be inviting five minute pitches throughout the three days for our new Wacky Bee imprint. We also have a brand new workshop programme for 2016. For details and dates visit our website. Shakespeare House, 168 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TG Tel: 020 7801 6300 Email: Website:


Swindon Festival of Literature 4-16 May, various Swindon venues 1 06/11/2015 Celebration of the written and spoken word in prose fiction, prose fact, and poetry with novelists, scientists, artists, storytellers, poets, and other good writers and speakers Lower Shaw Farm, Shaw, Swindon, Wiltshire SN5 5PJ; 01793 771080 Boswell Book Festival 2016 6-8 May, Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire The world’s only festival of biography and memoir; talks by leading biographers and people with extraordinary life stories such as Jung Chang, Joanna Lumley and Ian Rankin. Caroline Knox, The Boswell Trust, Auchendrane, By Ayr, Ayrshire KA7 4TW 07697 7982359

Ullapool Book Festival 6-8 May, Ullapool Village Hall Annual writing festival held in the north west Highlands which includes work in Scots and Gaelic. Guests TBC. Last year they included Jackie Kay, Glenn Patterson and AL Kennedy. Joan Michael, PO Box 27, Ullapool IV26 2WY 07754 835935; info@ullapoolbookfestival.; Brighton Festival 7-29 May, multiple sites Innovative commissioning and producing arts festival with strong literary presence: last year Ali Smith was guest director Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, Church Street, Brighton BN1 1UE; 01273 700747 Fowey Festival of Words and Music 7-14 May, venues around Fowey A celebration of words and music through talks, discussions, workshops, walks and exhibitions. The 2015 festival featured Daphne du Maurier and Poldark strands. 5 South Street, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1AR 01726 833847;

Charleston Festival 20-30 May, Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex Annual festival with big name guests and a beautiful location. Last year featured appearances by Neel Mukherjee, Andrew O’Hagen, Colm Toibin, William Nicholson, Michael Frayn, David Lodge and Jenny Uglow. The Charleston Trust, Charleston, Firle, nr Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6LL; 01323 811 626 International Literature Festival Dublin 21-29 May, Dublin, Ireland Formerly known as Dublin Writers’ Festival, Ireland’s premier literature festival features appearances by Irish and international writers Dublin Writers Festival Administration, The Lab, Foley Street, Dublin 1; (00)(353) 1 222 5455;; Hay Festival Wales 26 May-5 June, Hay-on-Wye One of the UK’s biggest and longest-running festivals. Always attracts big, enthusiastic crowds and a warm atmosphere whatever the weather. Authors last year included Simon Schama, Amitav Ghosh, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jessie Burton, Laura Bates and Malorie Blackman. Kitty Corrigan, The Drill Hall, 25 Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5AD; 01497 822 629;

09:20 Wrexham

Carnival of Words 7-14 May, various Wrexham venues Festival promoting reading and writing across Wrexham with a focus on performance. Acts invited include Dan Snow, Robbie Savage, Martin Edwards, Alan Johnson, Robert Low and Martine Bailey Twitter: @wrexcarnival Barnes Children’s Literature Festival 14-15 May, various SW13 venues Bradford Literature Festival 20-29 May, various Bradford venues Multi-cultural festival of literature and ideas 01274 238238 Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Perth Festival of the Arts 19-29 May, Perth Concert Hall and Theatre General arts festival with some literary events. Sandra Ralston, Perth Festival of the Arts, 2 High Street, Perth PH1 5PH; 01738 621 031

Salisbury International Arts Festival 27 May-11 June 16-day multi-arts festival with a lit programme Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, 87 Crane St, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2PU 01722 332241; marketing@salisburyfestival.; Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival 27-29 May, Sterts Theatre, Liskeard Friendly poetry festival held in a covered amphitheatre near Wheal Tor 01579 362382 Fal River Festival May/June TBC, Cornwall Family-friendly festival of activities and arts.;


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Swaledale Festival 28 May-10 June, various Swaledale, Akengarthdale and Wensleydale venues Music, arts and walking festival with some poetry Swaledale Festival, Hudson House, Reeth, Richmond, North Yorkshire DL11 6TB 01748 880019; Steyning Festival 2016 May-June, Steyning Popular biannual general arts festival The Steyning Bookshop, 106 High Street, Steyning BN44 3RD


Writers’ Week Literary Festival 1-5 June, Listowel, Co Kerry, Ireland One of Ireland’s longest-running, most popular and prestigious literary festivals, Listowel Writers’ Week includes art, theatre, music, tours, a children’s festival, and an extensive programme of workshops for writers. Máire Logue, Writers’ Week, 24 The Square, Listowel, Co Kerry, Ireland; (00) (353) 68 21074;; Charles Causley Festival 3-5 June, venues in Launceston Literature and arts festival celebrating the life and work of Cornish poet Charles Causley Stoke Newington Literary Festival 3-5 June, venues around Stoke Newington Festival celebrating the radical and literary history of this part of North London The Big Bookend 4-5 June, various venues in Leeds A weekend of workshops, debates, discussions and readings with a bias towards Leeds writers i0113 237 9900; Hebden Bridge Arts Festival 24 June-3 July, West Yorkshire Multi-arts festival in various venues in and around the thriving Calderdale arts hub, this year featuring writers connected to Charlotte Bronte’s bicentenary activity and a writing strand in conjunction with Bluemoose Books Helen Meller, Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, New Oxford House, Albert Street, Hebden Bridge HX7 8AH; 01422 417373


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Worcestershire Litfest and Fringe 10-19 June, across county Writing workshops, spoken word events, poetry slams, talks and events, promoting literature by connecting writers and readers Polly Robinson, Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe, Appletree Cottage, 7 Nursery Road, St John’s, Worcestershire WR2 4HB 01905 425366;

Proms at St Judes Music and Literary Festival 25 June-5 July, community fundraising festival in Hampstead Garden Suburb. The Litfest Weekend during the festival features appearances by high-profile writers – in 2015, these included Gill Hornby, Alan Johnson and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Borders Book Festival 16-19 June, Harmony Garden, Melrose 2015 authors included Alexander McCall Smith, David Nobbs, Jenny Colgan and Andrew Marr Hilary Buchan, Borders Book Festival, Harmony House, St Mary’s Road, Melrose TD6 9LJ; 01896 822644

Immrama, The Lismore Festival of Travel Writing, Ireland June, TBC, Lismore Town, Co Waterford Dedicated travel writing festival Jan Rotte, Fernville, Lismore, Co Waterford (+353) (0) 58 53803; info@lismoreimmrama. com;

Ashbourne Festival 17 June-3 July, Ashbourne, Derbyshire Multi-arts event with some literary activities. Ashbourne Arts, St John’s Community Hall, King Street, Ashbourne DE6 1EA 01335 348707;

National Flash Fiction Day, Ireland June TBC, Arthur’s Pud, Dublin Big Smoke Writing Factory’s event, now in its fifth year, aims to celebrate all that is exciting and bold in the world of flash fiction 1 Coppinger Row, Dublin 2; (+353)(0)87 976 6253;


Broadstairs Dickens Festival 18-24 June, Broadstairs, Kent The annual Dickens festival has run every year since 1937, when it was set up to commemorate the centenary of the author’s first visit. Sylvia Hawkes, 10 Lanthorne Road, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 3NH; 01843 861827

Althorp Literary Festival 1-3 July, Althorp, Northamptonshire Internationally renowned authors speak at this intimate literary event, hosted at a stately home. Althorp Estate, Althorp, Northamptonshire NN7 4HQ; 01604 770 107;

Lowdham Book Festival 18-25 June TBC, venues around Lowdham A mixture of local authors and special guests, including creative writing workshops and author talks run by The Bookcase bookshop. 0115 966 3219;

Beyond the Border 1-3 July, St Donat’s Castle, Vale of Glamorgan International storytelling festival. Themes for 2016 include epic storytelling from India, blacksmith tales and Celtic myths. Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff CF10 5FH; 02921 660501

Manchester Children’s Book Festival 24 June-3 July, MMU and various venues The event starts with a family fun day on 25 June Natalie Carragher, MMU, Geoffrey Manton Building, Rosamond Street West, Manchester M15 6LL; 0161 247 1951;

Evesham Festival of Words 1-3 July, new festival, replacing the Apsara Writing Festival, with headline appearances from Katie Fforde and Michael Lunt.

Felixstowe Book Festival 25-26 June, various Felixstowe venues Now in its fourth year, the Felixstowe Book Festival offers an eclectic mix of writing, poetry and literature, headlined by Deborah Moggach 01394 279783;

Frome Festival 1-10 July, venues around Frome, Somerset Community arts festival with literary events and poetry readings 25 Market Place, Frome BA11 1AH 01373 453889;

Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Buxton Festival 8-24 July, Buxton Opera House, Pavilion Arts Centre and Devonshire Campus Festival of opera, music and literature Liz Mackenzie, 3 The Square, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 9LU; 01298 70395; liz@;

John Clare Society Festival 15-17 July, Helpstone, near Peterborough Annual celebration of the nature poet’s life and work, with literary events, music and drama.

Penzance Literary Festival 6-9 July, Acorn Theatre and other venues A lively and varied arts festival with a strong artistic community focus. Writers in 2015 included Nina Stibbe, Sarah Winman and Patrick Gale 07787 155180;

Ways With Words 8-17 July, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon Ten-day literature festival, celebrating its 25th year in the beautiful surroundings of Dartington Hall. Over 120 events. Themes are broad and include environment, science, history, art, travel, architecture, food and philosophy. Philip John, Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Droridge Lane, Dartington, Devon TQ9 6JG 01803 867373;

Edge Lit 16 July, QUAD, Derby One day-festival for readers and writers of fantasy, sci-fi and horror 01332 290606

Raworth’s Harrogate Literature Festival 7-10 July, Crown Hotel, Harrogate A convivial weekend of talks and debates for book lovers, with high-profile attendees Gemma Rowland, Harrogate International Festivals, 32 Cheltenham Parade, Harrogate HG1 1DB;

Latitude Festival 14-17 July Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk Music and arts festival with designated strands of literary events and poetry Tania Harrison, Festival Republic, 35 Bow Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7AU 0207 009 3001;

Ledbury Poetry Festival 1-10 July, Ledbury, Herefordshire Ten sparkling days of world-class poetry, from slams to sense-tingling readings, open mics, community and street events. Phillippa Slinger, Ledbury Poetry Festival, The Master’s House, St Katherine’s, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1EA; 01531 636232

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate 21-24 July, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate The world’s biggest celebration of crime writing this year features Linwood Barclay, Neil Cross, Tess Gerritsen, Peter James, Gerald Seymour Harrogate International Festivals, 32 Cheltenham Parade, Harrogate HG1 1DB 01423 562 303 crime

WELCOME TO THE LBF AUTHOR CLUB The Author Club is a NEW offering, giving our author audience access to everything LBF has to offer throughout the year: • Free ticket to LBF 2016 (includes entrance to Author HQ, access to exclusive Author Club sessions, and priority access to others) • Global Rights 365 membership • Discounts to all LBF author events (including the Write Now! residential course)

Membership fee £125 per year

• Regular news updates from our ‘Authority’ newsletter • The opportunity to be included in the LBF Anthology of New Writing • Invitations to networking drinks throughout the year • Free access to LBF Autumn Author Clinic

LBF-AuthorClub-Ad-190x130.indd 1

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Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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15/12/2015 13:09


Port Eliot Festival 28-31 July, Port Eliot Estate Festival of literature, music, comedy, fashion, food and much more held in the stunning grounds of Port Eliot Estate Grace Craigan, Port Eliot Festival, Port Eliot Estate, St Germans PL12 5ND 01503 230211


Niddfest 5-7 August, Pateley Bridge, Harrogate Three-day celebration of lit and nature, launched in 2015 with Carol Ann Duffy as patron Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 6-12 August, Swanwick, Derbyshire Organised by writers for writers, Swanwick offers an unrivalled choice of courses and workshops for all genres and writing experience, plus guest speakers, full-board accommodation and entertainment. 07452 283652 Edinburgh International Book Festival 13-29 August, Charlotte Square Gardens The world’s biggest and most celebrated book festival, guaranteed to get all the big names, with around 750 authors from 40 different countries. Programme is announced in June. Edinburgh Book Festival, 5a Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4DR 0845 373 5888;; Hoo’s Kids Books Fest 31 August, Luton Hoo Walled Garden Celebrating reading and books for young readers


Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival 14-16 Sept TBC, London NW11 020 8511 7900


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Gladfest 2-4 Sept, Gladstone’s Library, Flintshire Fourth annual literary festival Gladstone’s Library, Church Lane, Hawarden, Flintshire CH5 3DF 01244 532350 Historical Novel Society Conference 2-4 Sept, Mathematics Institute, Oxford Writers confirmed for the major conference on historical fiction include Fay Weldon, Tracy Chevalier, Kate Wiliams, Elizabeth Chadwick and Margaret George. NAWGFest 2-4 Sept, Warwick University A residential weekend, with a full programme of writing workshops run by professional tutor/writers, organised by the National Association of Writers’ Groups Pam Fish, 65 Riverside Mead, Peterborough PE2 8JN, 01733 311680; chairman@, The Festival of Writing 9-11 Sept, University of York Offering workshops, one-to-one feedback consultations and opportunities to confer with other writers, the FoW gives writers of novels, short stories and scripts the opportunity to meet agents and publishing professionals. Laura Wilkins, Events director, The Writer’s Workshop, The Studio, Sheep Street, Charlbury OX7 3RR; info@ Wirksworth Festival 9-25 Sept, Derbyshire Mixed arts festival with some literary content Wirksworth Festival, Parish Room, Church Walk, Wirksworth, Derbyshire DE4 4DQ 01629 824003 Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival 15-18 Sept, Budleigh Salterton, Devon Guests TBC. Last year included Hilary Mantel, Xinran, Ben Okri, Paula Hawkins, David Hare, Sarah Waters and Patrick Gale Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information Centre, Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6NG; 01395 445275

Chiswick Book Festival 15-19 Sept, various Chiswick venues Non-profit-making community book festival raising money for charity Graham Greene International Festival 22-25 Sept, various Berkhamsted venues An annual celebration of the author in his home town, featuring films, talks and social events Mike Hill, Festival Director, The Graham Greene Birthplace Trust, The Fairways, Keighley Road, Denholme, Bradford BD13 4JT 01274 835260; Fantasycon by the Sea 23-25 Sept, Grand and Royal Hotels, Scarborough Friendly fantasy and horror festival, with special guest Adam Nevill. Wigtown Book Festival 23 Sept-2 Oct, various venues in and around Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway Founded in 1999 and now one of the UK’s best-loved literary events: a vibrant, eclectic 10-day festival in Scotland’s famous ‘book town’. Wigtown Festival Company, County Buildings, Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway DG8 9JH; 01988 402036 Appledore Book Festival 24 Sept-2 Oct, Appledore, North Devon 2016 will the be the tenth anniversary of this friendly festival, which features a lively mixture of talks, workshops, theatre and music. Guests in 2015 included Terry Waite, Patrick Gale and Santa Montefiore. Brenda Daly, c/o ABF Box Office, Docton Court Gallery, 2 Myrtle Street, Appledore, Bideford, Devon EX39 1PH; 01237 424949 Richmond Walking and Book Festival 24 Sept-2 Oct, venues in and around Richmond, North Yorkshire Daytime guided walks and evening author talks Anne Wicks, Castle Hill Bookshop, 1 Castle Hill, Richmond, North Yorkshire DL10 4QP 01748 824243;

Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Lincoln Book Festival 27 Sept-2 Oct, The Collection, Lincoln Subtled ‘History at its Heart’, the festival takes place in an archeology museum Manx Litfest 28 Sept-2 Oct, various Isle of Man venues Includes a writers’ day (1 Oct) with talks, panel discussions, workshops and agent pitch slots; Jersey Festival of Words 29 Sept-2 Oct, various Jersey venues A second outing for Jersey’s literature festival, which least year featured Carol Ann Duffy, Jane Hawking and Owen Sheers Bath Festival of Children’s Literature 30 Sept-9 Oct, various Bath venues The 10th anniversary of the UK’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival, which has featured the biggest names in children’s writing, including Michael Rosen, Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child, Neil Gaiman, Anthony Horovitz, Darren Shan and Terry Deary. Bath Festivals, Third Floor, Abbey Chambers, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1NT 01225 462231; Essex Poetry Festival Sept/Oct TBC, various venues around Essex Guests in 2015 included Brendan Cleary, Rebecca Gough and Martin Newell Derek Adams, 2 The Drive, Hullbridge, Essex, SS5 6LN; 07985 617559; derek@; High Tide Festival Sept TBC, Halesworth, Suffolk Emerging playwrights festival, with new plays and premieres and a comedy strand programmed by Soho Theatre HighTide, 24a St John Street, London EC1M 4AY; 0207 566 97 65;

Ilkley Literature Festival 30 Sept-16 Oct, venues in Ilkley, West Yorks 200+ events over 17 days including author talks, discussions, masterclasses and events for children and families. Ilkley Literature Festival, The Manor House, 2 Castle Hill, Ilkley, West Yorkshire LS29 9DT; 01943 816714

Warwick Words Autumn Festival 6-9 Oct, various Warwick town centre venues Literature and spoken word festival. Helen Meeke, Warwick Words, The Court House, Jury Street, Warwick CV34 4EW 07944 768607

King’s Lynn Poetry Festival 30 Sept-2 Oct, King’s Lynn Town Hall Tony Ellis, c/o Hawkins, 19 Tuesday Market Place, King’s Lynn PE30 1JW; 01553 691661 Marlborough Literature Festival 30 Sept-2 Oct, venues around Marlborough Speakers at the 2015 festival included Salley Vickers and Alexander McCall Smith


Mole Valley Arts Alive Festival, Surrey 1-31 Oct, Mole Valley, Surrey Month-long multi-arts festival including poetry, literature and creative writing workshops and events Arts and communities officer, Mole Valley District Council, Pippbrook, Dorking, Surrey RH4 1SJ; 01306 870609 Rochester Literature Festival 1-9 Oct, various Rochester venues Community-based literature-for-all event Rochester Literature Festival, Sun Pier House, Sun Pier, Medway Street, Chatham, Kent ME4 4HF 07904 643770 Birmingham Literature Festival 6-15 Oct, various city centre locations In 2015, writers appearing at the annual

Warwick Festival of Writing

festival included Rita Dove, Mark Bilingham, Allan Ahlberg, Laura Bates and Meera Syal Sian Buckley, Writing West Midlands, Unit 204, The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham B9 4AA 0121 246 3083

The Cheltenham Literature Festival 7-16 Oct, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire One of the UK’s longest-running and biggest festivals, always attracts major writers and thinkers from around the world Cheltenham Festivals, 109 Bath Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 7LS 01242 774 400 Off the Shelf Festival of Words 8-29 Oct, various Sheffield venues Innovative and wide-ranging Sheffield-based literature and media festival Off the Shelf Festival of Words, Major Events Team, Room 311, Town Hall, Pinstone Street, Sheffield S1 2HH 0114 273 4716 Bridport Open Book Festival 10-16 Oct Bridport Arts Centre and other venues, Dorset An eclectic programme of events for book lovers of all ages centred round the Bridport Prize prize-giving lunch with appearances from the judges Bridport Arts Centre, South Street, Bridport DT6 3NR; 01308 427183

2nd 2nd— —4th SEPTEMBER 2016 at the UNIVERSITY OF WARWIC WARWICK K A full weekend with top tutors tutors— —details unfolding every day.

Organised by the National Association of Writers’ Groups.

SAVE THE DATE for NAWG’s great 2016 Writing Festival Festival.. GERVASE PHINN speaking after the GALA DINNER

Enjoy the wriƟng challenges of sƟmulaƟng workshops; relax for the entertainment; luxuriate in rst class accommodaƟon Emails: Tel: 01733 311680 Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Mere Literary Festival 10-16 Oct, various venues in Mere, Wiltshire A week-long festival of literary events, in aid of local charity, featuring the Write in a Week timed flash fiction competition Adrienne Howell, MLF, Lawrences, Old Hollow, Mere, Wilts BA12 6EG 01747 860475;; Isle of Wight Literary Festival 12-16 Oct Northwood House and around Cowes Annual literature festival attracting big names, with Simon Scarrow, Jill Mansell, Harriet Evans, Matt Haig, Lissa Evans, Rachel Joyce and Clare Mackintosh all featured in 2015 Sherborne Literary Festival 12-16 Oct, Sherborne, Dorset Fast-growing festival, now in its fifth year. Guests last year included John Suchet, Princess Michael of Kent, Christina Lamb and Kate Adie Manchester Literature Festival Oct, TBC, various venues across Manchester Annual showcase of international contemporary writing. In 2015, its tenth anniversary, MLF guests included Margaret Atwood, Joanne Harris, Jeannette Winterson, Simon Armitage, Louis de Bernieres and Michael Rosen Manchester Literature Festival, The Department Store, 5 Oak Street, Manchester M4 5JD; 0161 832 5502 Thame Arts and Literature Festival 14-16 Oct, venues around Thame Family-friendly general arts festival with some literary events TAL Festival, 12 Aston Street, Oxford OX4 1EP; 0871 288 3420; Wells Festival of Literature 14-22 Oct, Wells, Somerset Guests in 2015 included Will Hutton, Emma Hooper, Jonathan Bate, Mary Berry and Jeffrey Archer The Wells Festival of Literature, Old Ditch Farm, Lynch Lane, Westbury-sub-Mendip, BA5 1HW; 01749 671770


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Eastbourne Book Festival 15 Oct TBC The Underground Theatre, Eastbourne Book festival with a local author focus organised by New Eastbourne Writers Canterbury Festival 15-29 Oct, various Canterbury venues General arts festival with strong literature strand Festival Office, Festival House, 8 Orange Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2JA 01227 452853 Dorchester Literary Festival 19-23 Oct County Museum and other Dorchester venues Returning for a second year with Tracy Chevalier as its patron, the festival focuses on the literature and culture of the area Dorchester Literary Festival, Winfrith House, High Street, Winfrith Newburgh, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8JW Harrogate History Festival 20-23 Oct, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate Now in its fourth year, the weekend festival celebrates historical fiction and non-fiction. Gemma Rowland, Harrogate International Festivals, 32 Cheltenham Parade, Harrogate HG1 1DB 01423 562303 Berwick Literary Festival 21-23 Oct, TBC, venues in Berwick Literature festival that includes a popular poetry cafe Yeovil Literary Festival 21-24 Oct, The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil The fourth Yeovil festival promises outstanding speakers and a literary dinner. Adam Burgan, Yeovil Community Arts Association, The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil BA20 1UX 01935 422884 Kilburn Literary Festival 27 Oct-3 Nov, various Kilburn venues Writing workshops, panel events, celebrity

spots and a Festival of Books make up this community, writer-focused north London writing festival, now in its fourth year Guildford Book Festival October annually, various Guildford venues A week-long book festival in Guildford featuring best-selling authors, writers’ workshops and renowned speakers across all main genres Jim Parks, 155 High Street, Guildford GU1 3AJ; 01483 444334 Travellers Tales Festival Oct, TBC, London Weekend festival of travel writing and photography, featuring workshops and guest appearances from some of the biggest names in the field Wimbledon BookFest Oct, TBC, venues in Wimbledon Writers appearing in 2015 included Sebastian Faulks, Ben Goldacre, Michael Rosen and Alexandra Shulman The Old Post Office, Compton Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 7QA Words in Walden Autumn Festival Oct TBC, venues in Saffron Walden, including Friends Festival Hall and Dame Bradbury’s School of Theatre An unusual range of high calibre speakers spanning a wide range of topics from science and philosophy to art and fiction. Harts Events, Hart House, Shire Hill, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 3AQ 01799 523456


Richmond upon Thames Literature Festival Throughout November Various venues across the borough Emma Cookson, Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham TW1 3DJ 0208 831 6000

Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Chorleywood Litfest 3-18 Nov, TBC, various venues Billed as a ‘the greatest little litfest you’ve never hard of – until now,’ Chorleywood Litfest attracts a stellar line up that in 2015 included Judith Kerr, Charles Moore and Jonathan Dimbleby 01293 283566; chorleywoodbookshop@; Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Cancelled (4-6 Nov) Well-loved and respected annual celebration of national and international contemporary poetry, unlikely to take place in 2016 due to the removal of funding for The Poetry Trust. Taunton Literary Festival Nov TBC, various Taunton venues Literary festival celebrating new and established writers, organised by independent bookseller Brendon Books Brendon Books, Bath Place, Taunton, Somerset TA1 4ER Swindon Youth Festival of Literature 6-13 Nov, various Swindon schools venues and the Wyvern Theatre

The Festival is a collaborative project coordinated by the librarians of the eleven Swindon secondary schools which aims to celebrate and promote reading, writing and creativity to the student population. Fiona Hardcastle, Co-ordinator, Swindon Youth Festival of Literature, The Dorcan Academy, St Paul’s Drive, Covingham, Swindon SN3 5DA 01793 525231 Southwold Literature Festival 10-14 Nov, St Edmund’s Hall and St Edmund’s Church, Southwold Five-day literature festival with twenty events. Previous speakers have included Melyvyn Bragg, Ben Elton, Richard Coles and Maggi Hambling. Southwold is a special place with its inland lighthouse, colourful beach huts and artistic pier. Exploring the un-spoilt, seaside town affords great pleasure to festival attendees. Philip John, Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Droridge Lane, Dartington, Devon TQ9 6JG 01803 867373


1st – 3rd July 2016

Spend an inspirational weekend by the sea learning the craft of picture book writing with author, Rebecca Colby. This intensive course takes place in a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian house in Herne Bay, Kent.


Contact us via our website

We can help you become a better writer

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• Evesham Poetry Walk • Writers’ Workshops


Professional tutors will guide you one-to-one through an inspiring course tailored to your needs. Choose from:

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email the Chairman at:

• Fiction

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Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Non-tutored writing retreats also offered. Next course starts April 15th-17th

• Short Story Competitions – deadline 31st March

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Cambridge Literary Festival 26-27 Nov, various central Cambridge venues Biannual festival, every spring and winter, engaging with the newest fiction, cutting edge commentary and science, workshops, children’s events and lots more. Cambridge Literary Festival, 7 Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EL; 01223 515335

February 26th - 28th 2016

Evesham Festival of Words


Folkestone Book Festival November TBC, venues in Folkestone, Kent Local writers mingle with big names at this festival – last year Louis de Bernieres switched on the Christmas lights. Creative Foundation, The Block, 65-69 Tontine Street, Folkestone CT20 1JR 01303 245799



• Keynote speakers: best-selling author Katie Fforde and one-man show, actor-pianist, Michael Lunts

Literary Leicester 16-19 Nov University of Leicester’s College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Programme of free events celebrating the written and spoken word by world-class writers

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Recharge, REFRESH,


Research and preparation will ensure you get as much from your writing retreat or holiday, says Julie Hall


ttending my first writing retreat recently got me thinking about the reasons why it had been (largely) a successful venture. My conclusion was that it was partly due to my research but also pure luck, so I will be bearing these points in mind in future, and thought you could benefit from them too.

• Pick your venue carefully If you know you are the sort of person who would easily get distracted by nearby shops and craft cafés, then pick a retreat – as I did – in the middle of the countryside, where your nearest neighbours are a long, hilly walk away, and the only other inhabitants you can see out of your window have four legs. Alternatively, if such a quiet, rural place would drive you insane, pick somewhere more lively by all means (remembering, of course, that most writing retreats are designed to give you peace and quiet in which to write!)

• Work out who the retreat is aimed at Try to find out if it is geared towards complete beginners or more confident writers. Are there workshops or lectures planned, or are you left completely to 48


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your own devices, meeting up only at mealtimes? If you are three quarters of the way through your second novel and want this time away to push on to completion of the first draft, you may not appreciate lots of planned activities eating into your time. However, if you are a novice writer, you might benefit more from a structured weekend with classes given by resident or visiting teachers, or published writers.

• Do as much writing research as you can before you leave home You only have a limited amount of time at the retreat, so don’t waste it surfing the internet or trawling through heavy books that took up space in your suitcase; the time spent sitting at your desk, in the venue you have chosen, should be spent actually writing – if you are going to procrastinate, stay at home to do it and save your money! Obviously this applies more if you are writing fiction rather than a biography or textbook, but even then it still applies; as we all know, getting the basic words down on paper in an acceptable first draft is the most important hurdle to overcome, so try to have as many facts and figures at your fingertips as possible – you can always re-check them later

when you are back home, working on the second draft.

• Pack several paperbacks The old maxim ‘to be a good writer you need to read a lot’ may be a cliché, but that’s because it is most certainly true. However productive you want your time away at a retreat to be, schedule in some time away from the keyboard to read; not only will it refresh you and give your eyes a rest from the screen, it may even inspire you in your own writing. If possible, try to read a genre that is not the same as the one in which you are currently working: for example, if you are trying to write a gritty, urban murder mystery thriller, then maybe pick up a weepy romantic novel just as a contrast or for a bit of light relief.

• Plan your packing When packing your suitcase, read the ‘things supplied’ list carefully. If you can’t live without Molton Brown shower gel, fluffy slippers, Green & Black’s chocolate or Fortnum & Mason’s coffee, take them with you. Writing retreats are often held in lovely, old, privately-run houses, not five-star hotels with a wellstocked mini-bar and plastic shower caps in tiny boxes. Equally, if food is provided and cooked for you and you have any

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special requirements or intolerances, don’t wait until you get there to let your host know – it’s no good telling them as you arrive that you can only drink soya milk, if the nearest supermarket is an hour and a half away.

• Disconnect Tell your nearest and dearest before you leave home that there is little or no internet or mobile phone coverage at your isolated venue – even if it’s not entirely true. One of the main reasons for going on a retreat in the first place is to escape some of the emails and phone calls, but if you are one of those people who couldn’t last 24 hours with no wifi, make sure there actually is some coverage where you are going. Of course, you should leave your family a landline telephone number where they can contact you in a real emergency; otherwise, keep the technology ball in your court by preparing them to not receive fifty texts a day from you while you are away working on your masterpiece. You can always contact them if you feel the need or get a bit homesick.

• Come prepared with more than one writing project If you are working on a novel, perhaps bring a little poetry project or an idea for a non-fiction article with you as well; then, if you find yourself stuck in the middle of a chapter, or just feel a little bored with your characters that afternoon, you can switch your brain into another gear and return to your primary project a little later, hopefully refreshed and re-energised. Another good tactic here would be to do something else creative other than writing – for example, knitting or sewing craft projects, or buy one of the popular ‘colouring books for adults’ and while away an hour using a totally different part of your brain, thus increasing your creativity levels (it’s a scientifically proven fact).

• Be sociable Even if you are naturally shy or not a ‘group activities’ person (I’m not!) do make an effort to be friendly and socialise with your other ‘inmates’. If, as at my chosen retreat, your host prepares and cooks all the meals for the residents at set times, this is the time to be open and honest, sharing a little

ideas came to me as I was enjoying a bit of your writing history and current swing in the cottage garden (an activity projects with the others around the previously done twenty years before). farmhouse kitchen table, or decked terrace overlooking the sea. Don’t be worried that you will be shown up as • Make the most of it the ‘inadequate’ or ‘unprofessional’ one Take this opportunity to think outside – a broad spectrum of people choose the box and explore different levels of to go on these writing retreats, some your individual, personal creativity. Talk of whom are not necessarily serious to the other people there, with whom writers. (On mine, one young woman you already have at least one thing in was there to consider what next to do common, the desire to write. with her life, whether to leave her job If other activities are on offer, why which she disliked and risk travelling not have a go? (Our retreat was visited abroad for an adventure – the most by a local sports massage therapist she wrote was a new CV, but she spent who, in just half an hour, sorted out valuable quiet time researching and the knee that had been painful for thinking away from the hustle and weeks.) Grab a chance to ‘network’ – bustle of her London life.) yes, we all hate the word, but it can be There will always be a variety of very productive to make contact with writers, just as there are a variety of other writers or potential agents and people. Out of our group, one was a publishing professionals this way. The self-published author, one a journalist life of a writer is often an intrinsically working on a novel for a change from solitary one by its very nature, so it non-fiction, one a traveller working can only be a good thing to get out on her blog in her ‘adult-gapand meet others of the breed year-abroad’ sabbatical, one a (especially if you don’t have a children’s writer and one a writing group in your home poet; all of varying abilities, town). And if you are a bit I came home for some of whom writing nervous or even fearful of rested and relaxed was their career (or they going off to a strange house but also stimulated wanted it to be), and others in a strange part of the for whom writing was country to write alongside and inspired. always going to be just a very potentially strange people... enjoyable hobby. So whatever well, face your fears and just your writing desires, trust me, do it anyway. As the saying goes: you will fit in. ‘life begins where your comfort zone ends’ – so why not give it a go and book your writing retreat today? • Remember to pack a


notebook and pens

Even if you always write straight onto your laptop, take a notebook or two with you (if nothing else, it is a good excuse to buy a shiny new pencil case and (yet another) prettily covered journal from Paperchase). If your venue is in the midst of glorious Devon countryside, as mine was, or on the Welsh coast, or (more exotically) abroad on a Greek island or in a village in Provence or Tuscany, there will be plenty of places outside in which to sit and soak up the stunning scenery and get inspired, if only by the new landscape at your feet. An old-fashioned pen-andpaper combo is more portable than a laptop or even an iPad – and won’t pack up on you if you get sand from the beach in it. Sometimes the strangest places can find you coming up with an idea that is begging to be written down there and then – one of my better

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As I said before, my first foray into the world of writing retreats was pretty successful: I came home rested and relaxed but also stimulated and inspired; I had enjoyed the company of people with whom I might not normally have become friends, but who were pleasant, like-minded souls; I wrote a couple of articles, two outlines for picture-book texts and worked on my fledgling novel; I enjoyed one and a half paperbacks without any interruptions from the telephone or the dogs needing to be let out; most of all, I gained precious thinking time away from the demands of my normal daily life, and the modern-day distractions of the internet and television – all of this in the heart of some of England’s prettiest countryside. Now I just need to recreate some of those retreat benefits at home. FEBRUARY 2016


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Plan your literary year with our definitive listing of courses, workshops and retreats for 2016. Whether you prefer big name workshops talks or a personal retreat, find the right event for you here.

LONDON & SOUTH EAST Anne Aylor Creative Writing Various venues in London David Wilson, 46 Beversbrook Road, London N19 4QH; 0207 263 0669 Events: Short courses, weekly sessions: 7 Jan-10 Mar: So you want to write a novel; 14 Mar16 May: Creative writing for fact or fiction. Weekend course: Starting to Write, spring, TBC. Chalk the Sun Creative Writing Year-round courses, workshops and events for writers, in and around SW London Ardella Jones, Chalk the Sun, PO Box 67647, London SW19 4FA; 07852 483001 Events: Monthly Writers’ Room workshops: 9 Jan: Kick Start Your Creativity; 6 Feb: Creative Special; 5 March: Poetry Special; Novelists’ Survival Group: 1 Feb: Story and Theme Special. All workshops £30 for a taster. Complete Creative Writing Course A range of courses for a range of levels of writing, various times and days, all held at The Groucho Club, Soho, or The New Cavendish Club, Marble Arch, London W1 Maggie Hamand, Complete Creative Writing Courses, 82 Forest Road, London E8 3BH Events: six 3-hour sessions on creative writing. Courses include: Original Course, starts 23, 25 and 26 Jan; Intermediate Course, from 18 and 23 Jan; Advanced Course, from 23 Jan (£325). • Further series of courses begin in Apr and Oct. There are also weekend workshops and intensive full-day summer workshops, TBC.

Chris Leonard Writing Creative writing workshops and writing days, various times, days and venues Events: 14-18 Mar: Creative writing break at Ashburnham Place, East Sussex; 13-17 Jun: Times of Selah Writing retreat based around ‘another way of seeing’ at High Leigh Conference Centre, Herts; 24-28 Oct: Creative arts break, with writing on two days and music or art on the third, Ashburnham Place, East Sussex. Faber Academy Extensive programme of weekly courses, weekend workshops and day events, all year round, now with some online courses Faber Academy, 74-77 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DA; 0207 927 3868 Events: 26 Jan: Writing a Novel, Shelley Weiner (6 mnths, £4,000); 30 Jan, 27 Feb, 2 Apr: Start to write, Richard Skinner (1 day course, £75); 1 Feb: Memoir and Life Writing, Julia Blackburn (12 wks, £995); 2 Feb: Getting Started (beginners’ fiction), Sue Gee (12 wks, £995); 4 Feb: Write Better (intermediate fiction), Rowan Coleman (12 wks, £995); online courses: 25 Jan: Getting Started: Beginners fiction, Helen Shipman (8 wks, £300); 27 Jan: Writing a Novel: the first 15,000 words, Tom Bromley (28 wks, £1,400). Jane Austen’s House Museum Year-round workshops Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton, Hampshire GU34 1SD 01420 83262, Isabel Snowden Events: 21 May: Bullies, Snobs and Heroes – Compelling Characters in Action, £45. Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Guardian Masterclasses Ongoing series of arts courses led by highprofile tutors from the Guardian’s contact book, held at the paper’s King’s Cross offices. Guardian News and Media, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU; 0800 088 2586 Single day courses, weekends and ongoing workshops, including: 9 Jan and 14 Apr: How to turn your idea into a novel, with Jill Dawson; 10 Jan: How to write bestselling non-fiction with Simon Garfield; 16-17 Jan, 12-13 Mar and 14-15 May: Free your creativity and get started on your book with Phillipa Pride; 23 Jan: How to write for children with Lucy Coats and Michelle Lovric; 23-24 Jan: Writing crime fiction: A weekend workshop with William Ryan and David Headley; 6-7 Feb: Develop your book and get it published with Phillipa Pride. New courses continually added. SCBWI Masterclass series and retreats Specialist tuition and retreats for writers for children from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) The Theodore Bullfrog Pub, First floor meeting room, 26-30 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6HL Events: Masterclasses in 2016: 19 Mar: Writing Nonfiction for Children with Judith Heneghan; 14 May: Marvellous Motivation – Is your character’s motivation crystal clear, with Natascha Biebow; 17 Sep: Writing Funny with Mo O’Hara; 22 Oct: Are You Submission Ready with Shannon Cullen; Retreat in 2016: 6-9 May with Melvin Burgess and Felicity Trew, Dunford House, Sussex.


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hook an agent - YA; 26 Nov, How to hook an agent – YA; 13 Dec, The National Academy of Writing public edits. Ten week course: The novel: writing is rewriting (16-18 May).

ers’ ntre en’s

Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books

‘What’s Your Story?’:

The Literary Conference 2016 Save the dates, June 10th and 11th 2016 The Literary Consultancy’s flagship annual conference returns for its fifth year and will bring together leading writers, publishers, agents, editors and more to answer the question ‘What’s Your Story?’. The programme will reflect on the changes in the publishing industry over TLC’s twenty years of work with writers, as the UK’s first and leading editorial consultancy, sharing key insights. It will also include the popular TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition. The Literary Conference was the first digital conference for writers set up in the UK. Previous speakers include Kate Mosse, Audrey Niffenegger, Cory Doctorow and Claire Armitstead.


Workshops run by specialist literary consultancy service for children’s writers Louise Jordan, The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books, Shakespeare House, 168 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TG 0207 801 6300; Events: one-day workshops at Holiday Inn, Wandsworth: 23 Jan, Writing Illustrated Books for Wacky Bee; 20 Feb, Self Publishing Your Children’s Book. 12-14 April: Wacky Bee Books, London Book Fair, Olympia. Writers’ Centre Norwich Year-round courses and workshops Writers’ Centre Norwich, 14 Princes Street, Norwich NR3 1AE; 01603 877177 Courses include: 12 Jan-22 Mar: Starting to Write Fiction; 12 Jan-22 Mar: Writing Fiction (Intermediate). Also online courses.

SOUTH WEST Writers’ Workshop LC enhanced 1.indd 1 Getting Published Day 5 March, Regent’s College, London The Writers’ Workshop, 0345 459 9560 Writing workshops, industry panel events, Q&As, and editorial feedback sessions, whether you’ve completed your manuscript or looking for advice to help you to move forward. Travellers Tales Travel writing and photography training with leading travel writers and photographers Courses in 2016, all TBC, include: Jun, Travel Blogging Workshop, Travel Journalism Masterclass; Jul, Travel Photo Masterclass; Nov, Travel Photo Masterclass, Travel Blogging Workshop, The Bradt Travel Writing Workshop; Dec, Travel Journalism Masterclass West Dean College Year-round programme of writing courses West Dean College, nr Chichester, West Sussex PO18 0RX; 01243 818300; booksoffice@; Courses: 15-17 Jan: Constructing comics and graphic novels; 19-21 Feb: Writing short stories for women’s magazines; 18-20 Mar: Children’s poetry writing; 22-24 Apr: Writing a short story.


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National Academy of Writing Summer 02/12/2015 13:48 School, St Hilda’s College, Oxford 25 July to 19 August, residential or nonresidential summer school Summer writing school, includes specialist seminars for intermediate and advanced creative writers with NAW director Richard Beard and novelist Kerry Hudson. Guest tutors include AL Kennedy, Sophie Hannah, Deborah Moggach and Liz Jensen. Writers & Artists Year-round programme of writers’ workshops Ellie Gibbons, Writers & Artists, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP; 0207 631 5993 Events: 14 Jan, Masterclass: Faking it until you make it; 23 Jan, How to hook an agent; 27 Feb, How to write for children and YA and get published; 12 Mar, Editing workshop; 15 Mar, The National Academy of Writing public edits; 2 Apr, How to hook an agent – children’s fiction; 11 June, How to hook an agent; 2 Jul, Writing historical fiction; 14 June, The National Academy of Writing public edits; 6 Aug, How to hook an agent – non-fiction; 20 Sep, The National Academy of Writing public edits; 1 Oct, How to

Alison Clink workshops Creative writing workshops For members of Babington House and guests, on Wednesday mornings (10am-12pm) Babington House, Somerset Arvon Foundation, Totleigh Barton Year-round courses and workshops Totleigh Barton, Sheepwash, Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5NS; 01409 231338 Courses include: 18-23 Apr: Starting to Write, Mark Haddon and Kathryn Heyman; 25-30 April: Poetry, Karen McCarthy Woolf and Vicki Feaver; 2-7 May: Life Writing: Family History, John-Paul Flintoff and Alice Jolly; 9-14 May: Editing a Novel, Patricia Duncker and Jenny Parrott; 16-21 May: Poetry, Ann and Peter Sansom; 23-28 May: Short Story, Clare Wigfall and Tod Wodicka; 30 May-4 Jun: Tutored Retreat: Screenwriting, Robin Mukherjee and Ursula Rani Sarma; 6-11 Jun: Songwriting, Helen Porter and Helen Chadwick; 13-18 Jun: Retreat with Yoga; 11-16 Jul: Nature Writing, Jay Griffiths and Paul Kingsnorth; 18-23 Jul: Fiction: Tutored Retreat, Romesh Gunesekera and Lawrence Scott; 1-6 Aug: Radio Drama,

Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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Simon Armitage and Susan Roberts; 3-8 Aug: Writing a Novel, Fred D’Aguiar and Monique Roffey; 22-27 Aug: Non-fiction, Sarah Wise and Rachel Lichtenstein; 29 Aug-3 Sep: Children’s Fiction, Steve Voake and NM Browne; 5-10 Sep: Starting to Write, Sam Riviere and Emma Jane Unsworth; 12-17 Sep: Fiction: Tutored Retreat, Nadifa Mohamed and David Szalay; 19-24 Sep: Poetry, Jane Draycott and Jack Underwood; 26 Sep-1 Oct: Starting to Write a Novel, Rachel Seiffert and Courttia Newland; 3-8 Oct: Starting to Write Poetry, Kathryn Maris and Jamie McKendrick; 10-15 Oct: TV Comedy, Sarah Morgan and David Quantick; 17-23 Oct: Fiction: Psychological Thriller, Melanie McGrath and Alex Marwood; 24-29 Oct: Life Writing, Kapka Kassabova and Nick Barlay; 31 Oct-5 Nov: Retreat; 7-12 Nov: Experimental Fiction, Toby Litt and Adam Foulds; 14-19 Nov: Starting to Write Fiction, Stephen May and Emylia Hall; 21-26 Nov: Musical Theatre, Willy Russell and Nick Stimson; 28 Nov-3 Dec: Poetry: Towards a Collection, Jen Hadfield and Penelope Shuttle. The Place to Write Ongoing programme of author-led retreats Jane Ayres, Brynhyfryd, Phocle Green, Ross-onWye HR9 7TW; 07989 572356; jane.e.ayres@; Events: spring programme 2016, courses TBC

Cornerstones workshop: Self-editing and submitting to agents Workshop from well-established literary consultancy, 4-5 May, with writer LA Weatherly and Cornerstones founder Helen Bryant, built around your writing Seaside Boarding House, Burton Bradstock, Dorset; 01308 897374; helen@cornerstones.; Dillington House Creative writing workshops and courses Dillington House, Ilminster, Somerset TA19 9DT; 01460 258648; dillington@somerset.; Events: 28 Jun: Let There Be Light… And There was Light: creative writing workshop with Elizabeth Rapp); 18-21 Jul: Creative Writing Workshop with Rosanna Ley Fire in the Head Reflective, holistic creative writing retreats Roselle Angwin, Fire in the Head, Higher Beenleigh Barn, Diptford, Totnes TQ9 7ND. 01548 821004; Events: 30 Jan: Thresholds one-day workshop, nr Totnes, Devon; 13 Mar: Soul Medicine: Held in the palm of the land, Little Rylands, north Cornwall; 9-14 Jun: Poetry, Place & Pilgrimage

retreat, Wes Cornwall (details TBC); 24-26 Jun: Horse Medicine, non-residential ecotheraphy and writing workshop exploring animal archtypes, Dunster, Exmoor. The Grange, Isle of Wight Various weekend writing courses Jenni Canakis, 9 Eastcliff Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight PO37 6AA; 01983 86 76 44 Courses include: 26-28 Feb, Your Writer’s Voice; 11-13 Mar, Writing a Screenplay; 1-3 Apr, Good Fiction; 15-17 Apr, Comedy Writing; 22-24 Apr, Screenwriting; 13-15 May, Successful Fiction; 3-5 Jun, The Stories of Your Life; 16-1 Sep, Fiction Writing; 20 Sep-2 Oct, Life Writing; 14-16 Oct, Historical Fiction. Relax and Write Weekend Courses The Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester The Secretary, Malaga Workshops, 9 (D) Langthorn Close, Frampton Cotterell, Bristol BS36 2JH; 01454 773579 Events: 8-10 Apr: Write a Short Story in a Weekend, Della Galton; 15-17 Apr: Write a Novel, Beginning Middle and End, Kate Walker; Write About the Past, Stephen Wade.

long Week- es r u o c s 5 47 from £

Tyˆ Newydd Writing Centre 2016 Residential Writing Courses Poetry, Prose, Food Writing, Illustration, Scriptwriting, Yoga, Creative Non-Fiction, Travel, Memoir, Nature, Masterclasses and Retreats Featuring: Gillian Clarke Carol Ann Duffy Pascale Petit Ian McMillan David Hunter Jan Morris

Elisabeth Luard Amir Or Nathan Filer Jackie Morris Kaite O’Reilly Justin Marozzi

Paula Meehan Patience Agbabi Jonathan Edwards and more…

Visit our website to view all of our 2016 courses, and to book online 01766 522811 / / @Ty_Newydd Tŷ Newydd, Llanystumdwy, Cricieth, Gwynedd, LL52 0LW

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Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016 07/12/2015 15:11:49


15/12/2015 12:48


Jenny Alexander workshops Creative workshops in beautiful surroundings Jenny Alexander, 07759 013034 Workshops include: 16 Jan: Under the Ice: Writing in the Heart of Winter; 9 April: New Shoots: Writing the Sweet Soul of Spring. Courses include: Jan 20, 27, Feb 3, 17, 24, Mar 2: Writing in the House of Dreams evening course; 9-13 April: Writing Your Life weekly evening workshops. Winchester University Writers’ Festival 17-19 June, Winchester. One of the UK’s longest-running events for writers, the festival offers opportunities to pitch to agents and editors, workshops, lectures, one-to-one appointments and networking. Judith Heneghan, Winchester Writers’ Festival, University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire S022 4NR; 01962 827238 Writing Retreats Cornwall Creative writing retreats and workshops with novelist Vanessa Matthews Vanessa Matthews, 12a Tregony Hill, Tregony, Cornwall TR2 5RU Events: 26-29 Jan: Introduction to Creative Writing, Moonrakers, St Mawes; 5-7 Feb: Rediscovering Your Creative Self, Roselidden, nr Helston; 29 Feb-4 Mar: Beginners & Novels in Progress, The Vean, Caerhays Estate, Gorran; 22-24 Apr: Tai Chi and Writing Retreat, Roselidden, nr Helston.


Arvon Foundation, The Hurst Year-round courses and workshops The Hurst, Clunton, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY7 0JA; 01588 640658 Events: Courses include: 11-16 Apr: Fiction Work-in-Progress, Bernadine Evaristo and Paul Murray; 18-23 Apr: Playwriting, Simon Stephens and Graham Whybrow; 2-7 May: Historical Fiction, Sanjida O’Connell and Tom Bullough; 9-14 May: Poetry: Tutored Retreat, George Szirtes and Pascale Petit; 16-21 May: Starting to Write, Lucy Burnett and Adam Marek; 23-28 May: Poetry Retreat, Walking; 30 May-4 Jun: Children’s and Young Adult Fiction: Tutored Retreat, Narinder Dhami and Malachy Doyle; 6-11 Jun: Crime Fiction, Tobias Jones and Dreda Say Mitchell; 13-1


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Jun: Graphic Novel, Leah Moore and Kate Charlesworth; 20-25 Jun: Poetry, Caroline Bird and Kei Miller; 11-16 Jul: Non-fiction, Andrea Stuart and Alexander Masters; 18-23 Jul: Poetry, Luke Kennard and Colette Bryce; 1-6 Aug: Retreat; 8-13 Aug: Starting to Write a Play, Jessica Swale and Inua Ellams; 22-27 Aug: Flash Fiction, Tania Hershman and David Swann; 29 Aug-3 Sep: Screenwriting, Kate Leys and Andrea Gibb; 5-10 Sep: Memoir, Hannah Lowe and Horatio Clare; 12-17 Sep: Fiction: Tutored Retreat, Nadifa Mohamed and David Szalay; 19-24 Sep: Non-fiction: Popular Science, Michael Brooks and Aarathi Prasad; 26 Sep-1 Oct: Poetry, Helena Nelson and Cliff Yates; 3-8 Oct: Short Story: Towards a Collection, Michèle Roberts and Jim Hinks; 10-15 Oct: Young Adult Fiction, Tanya Byrne and Bali Rai; 17-22 Oct: Starting to Write, Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Rebecca Goss; 31 Oct-5 Nov: Poetry: Tutored Retreat, John Greening and Jo Bell; 7-12 Nov: Starting to Write a Novel, Tiffany Murray and Jonathan Lee; 19-19 Nov: Comedy Writing, Richard Thomas and Ivor Baddiel; 21-26 Nov: Non-fiction, Julie Summers and Sukhdev Sandhu; 28 Nov-3 Dec: Speculative Fiction, Joanna Kavenna and Liz Jensen. Relax and Write Weekend Courses Weekend courses, Keele University, Staffordshire and The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire The Secretary, Malaga Workshops, 9 (D) Langthorn Close, Frampton Cotterell, Bristol BS36 2JH; 01454 773579 Courses include: Keele University: 28-20 March: The Power of Poetry, Alison Chisholm; 18-20 March: Photography for Writers, Simon Whaley. The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire: 13-15 May: Write a Mini-Memoir, Alison Chisholm; 13-15 May: Writing for Children, Anita Loughrey; 14-16 Oct: Autumn Choices: a choice of four weekend writing courses including Write a Non-fiction Bestseller. Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 6-12 August Swanwick WSS, The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Alfreton, Derbyshire DE55 1AU 01290 552248 Believed to be the oldest residential writers’ school in the world, the annual Swanwick Writers Summer School attracts over 200 published and unpublished writers across all genres, with a choice of courses to tailor your experience to your style and needs.

The Self-Publishing Conference 7 May, University of Leicester One-day event aimed at potential and existing self-publishers with high-profile participants Troubador Publishing Ltd, 9 Priory Business Park, Kibworth, Leicester LE8 0RX 0116 279 2299 The Writing School East Midlands Year round programme of creative writing courses in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby Writing East Midlands, 49 Stoney Street, The Lace Market, Nottingham NG1 1LX 01159 597929 Courses include: Leicester: 19 Jan-15 Mar, Finding the Rhythm, Working the Form; 19 Jan-15 Mar, Writing for Wellness; from 22 Jan: Short Story Writing Workshop; 16 Jan-24 Mar: Writing Poetry for Performance 24 Mar, Practical Performance Workshop; 25 Apr-25 Jun, Novel Writing Workshop; 27 Apr-22 Jun, Making Crime Pay: Writing Crime Fiction; 11 Jun, Special Event: The Prose Poem Workshop with Mimi Khalvati; Nottingham: 30 Jan-20 Feb, Inspiring Short Stories; 1 Feb-21 Mar, Getting It Written: Novel Writing Workshop; 12 Feb: Special Event: Writing Romantic Fiction; 18 Feb: Tum-ti-tum-ti-tum: Writing Poetry People Will Listen to; 5 Mar, A World of Your Own; 23 Apr, Special Event: The Lazarus Trick: Writing Historical Fiction; 25 Apr-13 Jun, Let’s Write a Book; 30 Apr-4 Jun, Inspiring Short Stories: Getting Your Short Stories Out There; 11 Jun-2 Jul, Writing Fiction for Young Adults; 20 Jun-11 Jul, Writing Memory: Memoir.


Arvon Foundation, Lumb Bank Year-round courses and workshops Lumb Bank, Heptonstall, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 6DF; 01422 843714 Courses include: 11-16 Apr: YA Fiction: Workin-Progress, Marcus Sedgwick and Sally Gardner; 18-23 Apr: Retreat; 25-30 Apr: Fiction: Work-inProgress, Kerry Young and Christopher Wakling; 2-7 May: Poetry, Jackie Kay and Jo Shapcott; 16-21 May: Fiction, Clare Allan and Tash Aw; 23-28 May: Memoir, Sathnam Sanghera and Hannah Pool; 30 May-4 Jun: Editing Poetry, Sasha Dugdale and Michael Laskey; 6-11 Jun: Non-fiction: Work-in-Progress, Lois Pryce and Ian Merchant; 13-18 Jun: Writing a Novel, Samantha Harvey and Ross Raisin; 18-23 Jun: Starting to Write, Jenn Ashworth and Adam O’Riordan; 20-25 Jun: Playwriting, David

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Eldridge and Tanika Gupta; 11-16 Jul: Romantic Fiction, Mike Gayle and Chrissie Manby; 8-13 Aug: Picture Books, Joyce Dunbar and Petr Horacek; 15-20 Aug: Starting to Write, Clare Pollard and Nikesh Shukla; 22-27 Aug: Poetry, Jacob Polley and Jean Sprackland; 29 Aug-3 Sep: Editing Fiction, Max Porter and Francesca Main; 5-10 Sep: Poetry, Mimi Khalvati and Ian Duhig; 12-17 Sep: Songwriting, Samantha Parton and Kathryn Williams; 19-24 Sep: Fiction: WIP, Jenni Fagan and Niall Griffith; 10-15 Oct: Starting to Write Non-fiction, Laura Barton and Colin Grant; 3-8 Oct: Book Art, Rachel Hazel and Stevie Ronnie; 17-22 Oct: Poetry, Tim Liardet and Jennifer Militello; 23-29 Oct: Writing for Puppetry, Mervyn Millar; 31 Oct-5 Nov: Fiction with a Gothic Twist, Diane Setterfield and Jim Friel; 7-12 Nov: Literary Translation, Margaret Jull Costa and Daniel Hahn; 14-19 Nov: Poetry, Daljit Nagra and Julia Copus; 21-26 Nov: Historical Fiction, James Runcie and Ian Sansom. Lakeland Writing Retreat 6-8 May, three-day creative writing retreat led by Angela Locke in Mungrisdale, Cumbria Angela Locke, Creative Writing Retreats UK, Bowscale Cottage, Mosedale, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0XQ; 017687 79901; angelic@globalnet.;

Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts Year-round short courses, workshops and summer school Melanie Birch, Newcastle University NE1 7RU 0191 222 7619; Events: 14-18 March: The Newcastle University Creative Writing Spring School, with the theme of ‘the threshold moment’ £300; Creative Saturdays one-day workshops, programme TBA The Wordsworth Trust, Cumbria Workshops, talks and events all year The Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere 015394 35544; Courses and workshops include: 13 Jan-16 Mar: Weekly literature classes on Paradise Lost; themed Poetry Sundays; Dove Cottage Events on The Romantic Pastoral (2 Feb); Discovering Paradise Lost (13 Jan, 03 Feb) and re-imagining Wordsworth (9 Feb). Unleash your writing power Inspirational weekend writing course Mind Matters, Unit 2, Woodend Mill, Manchester Road, Mossley, Ashton-UnderLyne, Greater Manchester OL5 9RR; 0203 750 2455;;

Inspirational writing course to unblock the barriers to your creativity. Build creativity and fluency in an atmosphere of fun and discovery.


16th annual Iona Writing Retreat 3-8 September Angela Locke, Creative Writing Retreats UK, Bowscale Cottage, Modesdale, Penrith CA11 0XQ; 017687 79901; or Crime and Publishment Creative writing weekend in Gretna Green, designed for budding crime writers, 26-28 Feb Graham Smith, The Mill Forge, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Gretna Green, Lockerbie DG11 3BQ 01461 800344; Islands of the Heart 9-16 April and 22-30 April, Argyll Hotel, Isle of Iona, annual holistic writing retreat Roselle Angwin, Fire in the Head, Higher Beenleigh Barn, Diptford, Totnes TQ9 7ND. 01548 821004;


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The Complete Creative Writing Course has a range of courses throughout the year to suit your individual needs, from beginners, intermediate and advanced courses in fiction writing and also screenwriting courses. We also run regular weekend workshops. Classes are held on weekday afternoons, evenings and weekends, and all our tutors are experienced writers and teachers. Published former students include Dreda Say Mitchell, Clare Sambrook, and Naomi Wood.

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Moniack Mhor Independently run writing courses and workshops in Inverness-shire Moniack Mhor, Teavarran, Kiltarlity, Beauly, Inverness-shire IV4 7HT; 01463 741675 Courses include: 11-16 Jan: Songwriting, Boo Hewerdine and Edwina Hayes; 7-12 Mar: Walking Retreat, Emily Rhodes; 13 Mar: Poetry Day: Writing Poems, Jo Shapcott; 31 Mar-3 Apr: Starting Out in Fiction, Kirsty Logan and Raffaella Barker; 11-16 Apr: Crime Writing, Dreda Say Mitchell and Simon Brett; 24 Apr: Under the Skin: Film Screening and Discussion, Michel Faber; 2-7 May: Fiction: Begin Again, Jane Rogers and Neel Mukherjee; 16-21 May: Poetry: The Music in Words, Tim Clare and Christina de Luca; 23-28 May: Fiction Retreat, Michel Faber and Emily Mackie; 13-18 Jun: Crime Fiction: The Art and Craft of Murder and Mystery, Andrew Taylor and Laura Wilson; 16 Jun: Rebel Inc Fiction Day, Laura Hird and Kevin Williamson; 20-25 Jun: Midsummer Retreat; 3 Jul: Playwriting Day, Hamish MacDonald; 4-9 Jul: Tutored Memoir Retreat, Kapka Kassabova and Rachel Kelly; 11-16 Jul: Tutored Retreat: Poetry Collection; 25-30 Jul: Short Story: Less is More, Susie McGuire and Julian Gough; 31 Jul: Jessie Kesson Words in

the Landscape Workshop, Linda Cracknell; 1-6 Aug: Young Adult Fiction: The Kids Are Alright, Martyn Bedford and Cat Clarke; 15-20 Aug: Starting Out in Fiction, MJ Hyland and Zoe Strachan; 21 Aug: Poetry Day, Diana Hendry and Hamish Whyte; 22-27 Aug: Travel Writing, Rory Maclean and Jay Griffiths; 29 Aug-3 Sep: Starting Out in Poetry, Carol Ann Duffy and Michael Woods; 5-10 Sep: Historical Fiction, Isla Dewar and Margaret Elphinstone; 12-17 Sep: Fiction: Everybody Needs an Editor, Todd McEwen and Lucy Ellman; 26 Sep-1 Oct: Fiction Retreat, Jens Christian Grondahl and Ian Stephen; 3-8 Oct: Illustrating and Writing, Mairi Hedderwick and Bob Dewar; 30 Oct: What do Publishers Want?, Francis Bickmore; 7-12 Nov: Novel Tutored Retreat, Doug Johnstone and Sue Peebles; 13 Nov: Poetry Day, Liz Lochhead; 14-19 Nov: Nature Writing, Sir John Lister Kaye and Helen Macdonald; 28 Nov-3 Dec: Winter Retreat; 5-10 Dec: Science Fiction, Pippa Goldschmidt and Juliet McKenna Skriva A wide range of courses to help people find their own way of writing Skriva Writing School, The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, 25 Palmerston Place, Edinburgh EH12 5AP;

Classes include: Novel Writing, 6 Jan-10 Feb, 7 Jan-11 Feb, 17 Feb-23 Mar, 18 Feb-24 Mar, 27 Apr-1 Jun, 28 Apr-2 Jun, 8 Jun-13 Jul, 9 Jun-14 Jul; Winter Short Stories, 20 Jan; Writing a TV Pilot Script, 23 Jan-18 Jun; Beyond the words Poetry Workshop, 6 Feb; Editorial Group: Prose Fiction: 25 Jan-8 Mar, 29 Mar for six fortnightly sessions; Writing Sound Stories, 2 Apr.


Gladstone’s Library, Flintshire Year-round programme of courses and events at the UK’s only prime-ministerial library Gladstone’s Library, Church Lane, Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales CH5 3DF; 01244 532350 Events include: 31 Jan: Persian Poetry: A Guide to Sufism (£8); 6-8 Feb: Hearth with Rebecca Farmer, Natasha Pulley, Dan Richards, Nadene Ghouri and Gulwali Passarley (from £12); 13 Feb: The Gap in the Sky: Masterclass with Rebecca Farmer (£35); 27 Feb: Register, Voice and Genre: Learning from History, a Masterclass with Natasha Pulley £35); 19 Mar: Developing Yourself as a Writer Through Diaries, a Masterclass with Amy Liptrot (£35); 30 Apr: A Masterclass with Susan Barker (£35); 2-4 Sep: Gladfest.


More than 2oo events for adults, young people & children

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Literature Wales A programme of literary events all year round, throughout Wales, and at Ty Newydd Literature Wales, 4th floor, Cambrian Buildings, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff CF10 5FL 02920 472266; Events include: 27 Jan: Willian Ayot discusses Agincourt, language and motivation; 24 Jan: Villians and Morality in Crime Fiction; 30 Mar: Wales Play in Red – Journalism in Wales; 27 Apr: Charlotte Bronte’s 200th Birthday Party Ty Newydd Residential writing courses Leusa Llewellyn, Ty Newydd, Llanystumdwy, Cricieth, Gwynedd LL52 0LW; 01766 522811 Events include: 19-21 Feb: Creative writing for Welsh learners; 26-28 Feb: Poetry & dementia, John Killick and Karen Hayes; 4-6 Mar: Clowning with words; 7-11 Mar, Spring gardening retreat; 7-11 Mar: Storytelling from the start, Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden; 25-30 Apr: Writing for the screen, Catrin Clarke and Sophie Francis Jones; 2-7 May: Writing drama for radio, David Hunter and Neil Brand; 16-21 May: Memoir, history and travel writing, Rory MacLean and Justin Marozzi; 23-29 May,

Poetry masterclass, Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy; 30 May-3 Jun: Summer retreat; 6-11 Jun: Masterclass in writing for performance, Kaite O’Reilly; 13-17 Jun, Writing and yoga; 18-23 July: Embodying poetry, Damien Walford Davies and Richard Marggraf Turley; 25-30 Jul: Sky in the eye, Pascale Petit and Pamela Robertson Pearce; 1-6 Aug: Poems about people, Patience Agbabi and Jonathan Edwards; 8-13 Aug: Prose boot camp, Tyler Keevil and Cynan Jones; 15-20 Aug: Poetry from conflict, Amir Oz and Nazand Begikhani; 22-27 Aug: Starting your novel, Tiffany Murray and Nathan Filer; 5-10 Sep: Writing for health and wellbeing, Victoria Field and Graham Hartill; 12-17 Sep: Introducing young adult fiction; 3-8 Oct: Writing and illustrating for children; 10-15 Oct: Storytelling retreat; 17-22 Oct: Poetry masterclass, Gillian Clarke and Imtiaz Dharker; 7-12 Nov: Making poems, Paula Meehan and Tony Curtis. Writers’ Holiday events Writing holidays at Fishguard Bay Hotel Gerry Hobbs, Writers’ Holiday, School Bungalow, Church Road, Pontnewydd, Cwmbran, Torfaen NP44 1AT; 01633 489438 Events: 19-21 Feb: Winter writers’ and artists’ workshop weekend ; 25-30 Jul: Writers Holiday.


Irish Writers’ Centre Weekly courses Feb-March, May-Aug and Sept-Nov. Year-round weekend courses 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1; (+353)(0)1 872 1302; Workshops, weekends and weekly courses: 21 Jan, Finish Your Children’s Book; 1 Feb, Shaping the Short Story; 1 Feb, Creative Writing; 2 Feb, Travel Writing; 2 Feb, Poetry & Prose; 3 Feb, Begin Your Novel; 3 Feb, Edit Your Novel: Publisher’s Perspective; 3 Feb, Comics & the Graphic Novel; 3 Feb, Screenwriting Workshop; 4 Feb, Historical Fiction; 6 Feb, Start writing for Children & Teenagers; 9 Feb, Finding Your Form; 9 Feb, Essay & Memoir; 10 Feb, Writing Memoir; 11 Feb, Playwriting; 13 Feb, Comedy for TV and Film; 15 Feb; Crime Writing; 18 Feb, Sci-Fi & Fantasy; 20 Feb, Reading Contemporary Poetry; 20 Feb, What’s Your Story?; 27 Feb, Writing Opinion Pieces; 27 Feb, Managing Creativity seminar series; 5 Mar, How to Prepare and Present Yourself and Your Work to Agents and Publishers; 12 Mar, Stand Up Comedy; 12 Mar, Writing Book Reviews; 15 Mar, 6-week Starter Kit; 22-24 Mar, Teens Mid-Term Fiction Workshop; 29 Mar, Dystopian Fiction; 2 Apr, How Fiction Works; 6 Apr, The Modern Writer; 9 Apr: What Not to Do in the Short Story.

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York Publishing Services Ltd tel. 01904 431213 Writing Magazine - Festival Guide 2016

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WRITING COURSES 2016 Skyros Mslexia advert 296 24/03/2015 08:47 Page 1

SKYROS Inspiration



THE WRITERS’ LAB 2016 The Writers’ Lab, run by Skyros Holidays, has an amazing reputation and was named ‘Number 1 of the World’s Five Best Writing Holidays’ by The Guardian. The Writers’ Lab offers a wonderful opportunity to learn directly from distinguished authors, to share the joys and struggles of the creative process, and to discover strengths and polish skills. Courses are open to novices with a secret passion for writing as well as those who already have a book under their belt.the All are welcome. “Number 1 of World's

The 2016 summer programme includes a wide range of courses including life writing, historical fiction, novel writing, screen and comedy writing. Guest authors include: twice BAFTA nominated author and screenwriter Steve Attridge; Sunday Times Book of the Year novelist and winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, Justin Hill; Jane Harris, whose first novel The Observations was shortlisted for The Orange Prize for Fiction; Lisa O’Donnell who won The Commonwealth Book Prize in 2013

for The Death of Bees and awardwinning crime writer Leigh Russell to name just a few! Writers’ Lab holidays are held throughout the summer months on the beautiful, unspoilt island of Skyros, Greece. Prices start from £595.00. ‘So am I writing a novel? the answer is still no. But after a week on Skyros I may be inching ever closer to making a start’. Roisin Ingle The Irish Times.

Five Best Writing Holidays” THE GUARDIAN

An inspirational summer on an idyllic Greek island

See or call 01983 86 55 66 for your free 2016 brochure.




BigSkyros Smoke Writing1 Factory enhanced.indd Ongoing creative writing workshops, courses and online courses Nicole Rourke, 7 Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 2, Ireland; (00)(353) 87 976 6253 Starting mid-Jan: for six weeks, Speculative fiction workshop; for ten weeks, Commit to your first draft; for ten weeks, Beginning to write. Fishamble Playwriting Courses An extensive training and development programme including courses and workshops Gavin Kostick, The New Play Company, Shamrock Chambers, 1-2 Eustace Street, Dublin 2; (+353) (0)1 6704018; 3-day playwriting courses (TBC) and 9-week evening courses in spring and autumn (TBC). The Creative Writer’s Workshop Retreats and courses in west Ireland Irene Graham, Kinvara, Galway, Ireland (00 353) (0)86 2523428 Events: 4-15 Sep: Fiction and memoir writing workshop and retreat, Aran Islands & Doolin.


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T: 01983 865566


Anne Aylor Creative Writing, Spain 6-13 June, So You Want to Write a Novel Retreat, La Torre de Dalt, Camos, Spain 46 Beversbrook Road, London N19 4QH 0207 263 0669 Creative Writing with Sue Moorcroft, Arte Umbria, Italy 13-20 July, all inclusive writing week Tenuta di Poggiolame, Vocabolo Poggiolame 16, Montegabbione, TR 05010 Italy 00039 0763 837347; Chalk the Sun European retreats Ardella Jones, Chalk the Sun, PO Box 67647, London SW19 4FA; 07852 483001 Events: June, 5-day course, Gaucin, Andalusia, Spain; Sept, TBC, Italian Writers’ Retreat, Ostuni, Puglia, Italy, all-inclusive week-long writing holiday with two tutors and guest speaker, morning workshops, one-to-one tutorials, feedback over wine and three course dinners.

Espirita, Loutro, Crete 09/12/2015 09:31 Tutored writing retreats Events: 7-14 Jun: creative writing with Adam Marek, poetry with Helen Mort; 14-21 Jun: creative writing with Lizzie Enfield, poetry with Mimi Khalvati; 21-28 Jun: creative writing with David Swann, poetry with Kathryn Maris and Maurice Riordan. Limnisa, Greece Writing retreats and workshops – very flexible, with retreats running 5-29 May and 7 Sep-2 Oct; stay any length over seven days. Also in 2016, writing workshop with Philip Wooderson, dates TBC Mariel Hacking, Agios Georgios, Methana, Greece; 01424 718368; Writing for Children Course in France 31 May-5 June, a residential course in rural France, exploring writing for children with author Alan Durant. The £470 fee includes all tuition, accommodation, food and drink, plus free return travel from London. 07944 374 734;

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Gardoussel Retreat, France Abri creative writing courses are full-board, with home-made vegetarian food, and take place in a picturesque hamlet Sharon Black, Gardoussel Retreat, 30940 St Andre de Valborgne, France (00 33) 466 60 16 78 Courses include: 14-20 May, Writing from Life; 3-10 Jun, Writers Open Retreat (with optional mentoring); 27 Aug-3 Sep, Writing the Bright Moment; 3-10 Sep: Seize the Week open retreat with daily group feedback. Vidados Creative writing, and other, courses at locations across Europe 0203 750 2455; Switzerland: Five days (TBC) of intensive group workshops with readings and group discussions of the works in progress. All phases of writing, editing, publishing, and promoting your work will be covered. Rome, 24-30 Mar: residential yoga and creative writing holiday in Lazio. Granada, Spain: 26 Mar-1 Apr: Creative writing; 11-18 Jun: Creative writing; 6-12 Aug: Creative writing.

Rosanna Ley Andalucia writing holiday 28 June-5 July, Finca el Cerillo, Spain Events: A 7-day writing holiday with novelist Rosanna Ley, providing time for relaxation and writing, advice and group workshop sessions. The Book Doctor, Turkey Courses and holidays with Stephen King’s editor and regular Guardian masterclass tutor Philippa Pride 132 Canalot Studios, 222 Kensal Road, London W10 5BN; 020 8964 1444 Events: 2-9 May: Free your creativity, write your book and get it published. The French House Party Creative writing courses with Sarah Hymas Moira Martingale, The Jaylands, Abberley, Worcs WR6 6BN; 01299 896819 Events: 4-9 Jul: Write like no-one’s watching; 11-16 Jul: ‘Pen & think’ tutored writing retreat; 29 Jul-1 Aug: Song writing with Dean Friedman.

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Old Olive Press, Alicante, Spain Weeklong courses at Almassera Vella Almassera Vella, Carrer Mare de Deu del Miracle 56, Relleu 03578, Alicante, Spain Events include: 4-11 Jun: Poetry course, Anne Sampson; 27 Aug-3 Sep: Poetry course, Mimi Khalvati; 11-19 Sep, Poetry course, Tamar Yoseloff. Self-catering writers’ retreat available all year round for €200 per week. Wild Words, France 18-23 Apr and 3-18 Oct: Writing and nature retreats with Bridget Holding Le Presbytere, Bugerach, Languedoc-Rousillon 07817 506492; Writing and Art Holidays 21 Sep-1 Oct and 1-8 Oct, Lippiano, Italy Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JG; 01803 867373 Events: Relaxed holidays led by Ways With Words directors Kay Dunbar and Stephen Bristow. The tutor for the first week will be Mark McCrum and is TBC for the second.


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Whether you follow a g uided re a quiet roo treat m on your own s or ju o m ew h e r st b e , the oo adva of retreating are nta k clear, say g s Lizz ie E es nfie ld


t’s finding the time,’ is a constant refrain from students who cross my path: at residential writing weeks, weekend courses and evening classes. There are various different responses to this. ‘You can make time if you really want to do it.’; ‘Set aside a little time every day/ week.’; ‘Even if you only write 200 words a day, if you do it every day it, will mount up.’ Some people find they can do this. Others say that work, family, life, etc, gets in the way. Recently I advised someone in the latter category ‘Why don’t you just go away for a week and use it to write?’ It’s something I’ve done myself, when starting or finishing a novel. Time away, without the distractions of home and work, is so much more time than you will ever get any other way.

Worthwhile, whatever the weather When I began my third novel, I went to a B&B in the Andalucian mountains above Malaga for five days. The place, Casa Collina (www. had been recommended by another writer: ‘All your meals cooked, places to walk, a pool to read beside. It’s perfect.’ And it was, albeit I arrived in 60


p60 Retreats.indd 60

the midst of a period of heavy and prolonged rain. It rained so hard the river, which had been dry when I arrived, had burst its banks by the end of my stay. It rained so relentlessly that I was virtually confined to my room. The result? I wrote about 8,000 words a day, not great words, not carefully crafted, but I had made substantial inroads into a novel. And there’s nothing like a healthy word count to build momentum. Once you’ve started, you want to keep going, you have something to work on. I’d finished a first draft three months later. If I’d not got away and had that time to myself, it would have taken me much longer to get going or perhaps I’d have given up. There are plenty of places that offer retreats for writers, residencies you can apply for and receive financial help towards and tutored writing retreats, where a professional writer is on hand to set goals and meet at regular, not too frequent, intervals to guide and encourage you. And, of course, you can do it yourself! Domestic noir writer Julia Crouch regularly takes herself off for the weekend to a cheap, anonymous hotel. ‘I live like a slug in my room except for compulsory daily runs and or walks. And I write and write.’ I’ve done this myself too – a hotel

in Hastings in January – but if you want a bit more company, without having to organise, then an official retreat might be a better option.

Guided retreats The Arvon Foundation (www.arvon. org), known for its residential writing weeks, also runs retreats at some of its centres, the former homes of well known writers. At the Hurst, home to playwright John Osborne, up to sixteen writers can stay in single rooms for a week and, apart form taking turns cooking evening meals, their time is entirely their own. ‘Writers are free to lock themselves away in their room for the whole week, gain inspiration by walking the hills, or go to the pub if they wish. We leave it entirely up to them,’ says Dan Pavitt, the Hurst’s centre manager. ‘Part of the point of the week is that in addition to uninterrupted writing time, participants are spending a week with like-minded people and bouncing ideas off them, but we don’t impose anything at all.’ Rebecca Whitney, author of The Liar’s Chair, says her most productive writing time has been at Retreats For You in Devon ( ‘It works well for me as there is limited wifi, no housework, no cooking, and while you can stay inside your story night and day, there are

14/12/2015 11:05


other writers there to go over process with in the evening.’ If you’re anxious that days with nothing to do but write might be filled with nothing but writer’s block then a tutored retreat is a good halfway house. I’m lucky enough to be tutoring one for Espirita ( uk) in the beautiful village of Loutro in Crete next summer. Writers who attend will be able to combine a lot of time to write, with staggered feedback sessions, as well as having the chance to discuss their work and progress over meals with other writers. David Swann, a senior lecturer in creative writing at Chichester University, has run previous writing weeks there and says the place itself plays a huge part in the process. ‘There’s a magic in Loutro; almost everyone feels it. We talk about books we love and hate, and do most of our reading and writing right by the harbour-side, wedged in against the mountains, with the life of the village going on around us: blokes fixing fridges, fishermen darning nets, the women toiling away in the kitchens. For me, this odd mixture of mythical and everyday things seems to both relax people AND concentrate them. ‘One of the things that are hard about writing is that it’s lonely, and often it feels like you’re emptying a sack of melons down a bottomless well. A tutor on any course will, at least, help you to register the splash when the melons hit the water! Also, a good tutor will try to help you to write more like yourself.’

The view from there For a lot of writers, abroad appeals. Not only are you giving yourself time away from the demands of everyday life but you are putting real distance between you and them too. Plus, being in an alien environment gives you a fresh perspective on your work. Writer and poet John Donoghue, whose memoir Sectioned was a Mind book of the year, has just returned from the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in County Monaghan, Ireland (www. ‘It was the home of Tyrone Guthrie, theatre director, and what the Irish call “a Big House” – in effect a small stately home. What struck me most

worried about getting the most out of it, and I would say the best way to do that is not expect to write too much. I was at an early stage with my book, and the writing I did there was really exploratory but the chance to think clearly was amazing. In terms of where I was with my understanding of what I wanted the novel to do – I reckon I advanced about six months in three weeks.’ My Malaga B&B worked well for What works for you? me, partly because there were no Prices for retreats vary enormously other writers there but there were depending on the level of service, other people. I wanted the freedom funding, location etc. A tutored to work on my novel and not have week with Espirita in Loutro to think about anything else or with room and food costs roughly anyone else but I’m not a natural between £600 and £700 while a hermit and needed the reassuring week’s retreat at the Hurst, run by presence of other guests. the Arvon Foundation is Casa Collina was driving £650. Skip to a local distance from the B&B (and become nearest restaurant a slug) and you so in the evenings could be down It rained so continuously we gathered on to £30 a the terrace for night, or less, that I was virtually delicious meals depending on confined to my room. cooked up by your personal The result? I wrote the owners, comfort Paul and Niki. requirements about 8,000 words I relished the and just how a day. chance to chat but much whisky also that that chance you need to was to strangers in get the creative whom I had no obligation to juices flowing. invest time or energy. There are also funded residencies Fellow writer Kate Harrison, which you can apply for and, author of the hugely successful if successful, get free board and Secret Shopper series as well as lodging, the company of other writers several young adult novels and a 5:2 and access to whatever the particular diet book, prefers to retreat in the venue has to offer – a library or company of friends. reading room, for example. ‘I now go at least a couple of Sally O’Reilly, author of the times a year, with a small group critically acclaimed Dark Amelia and of writing friends, and find that herself a creative writing tutor at the the most positive way. We hire a Open University, was lucky to secure holiday cottage, do a huge internet a place at Hedgebrook, a retreat for shopping delivery, and hunker women writers near Seattle in the down to write, with biscuit breaks USA ( at unscheduled intervals, plus group ‘I was there for three weeks to write dinner, readings and brainstorming my fourth novel. It is a sort of dream in the evening. It’s blissful and life place, all women, where each writer affirming, and the collective writing has her own log cabin, beautifully mojo is infectious.’ appointed, and all your food is cooked Whatever your preferred option, each day. It’s in the middle of a forest, the most precious commodity you and there are barn owls, coyotes, deer can get on a writing retreat is time: and all sort of other wildlife. to think your own thoughts, work ‘It can be challenging to be out how you want to approach your confronted with your writing in such writing and get those all important an absolute way but I found it very words onto paper. soothing and helpful. Mostly, I was was the profound peacefulness of the place: very rural, a lake nearby, lovely locals looking after us all. I spent the mornings working on a play, then took a walk round the lake, dreaming I was in a Seán Ó’Faoláin short story, then a bit more work, lunch, and long afternoons writing and reading. I hope to go again, perhaps for a fortnight, next summer.’


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Under the

microscope Author and lecturer James McCreet looks at a sample cover letter to an agent and considers the best ways to proceed

1 Subject: Novel submission: Dandelion Days by Susan Davy1 Dear Nick2 5 4 Please accept this submission3 for my 82,000-word family saga 6 Dandelion Days.

Set in rural Somerset during the 1980s7, the novel follows three 8 generations of the Drake family over a two-year period , during which they discover that the dandelions on their land have remarkable healing properties.9 The rapid wealth they accrue10 attracts the attention of a rapacious local businessman11 and sets up tensions within the family that threaten to divide them.12 The novel is light in tone, funny in places, fast moving and has three interwoven storylines.13 My intention14 is that it will appeal to the reader who loves Radio 4’s The Archers,15 to people who enjoy gardening,16 and to everyone who has dreamed of one day making it big.17 My main influences are the novels of Catherine Cookson, Victoria Hislop and Rosie Thomas.18 I am a 47-year-old mother of four.19 I’ve lived in rural Somerset for 21 the last twenty years,20 where I run an independent bookshop and 22 lead a writers’ group. I have had a number of short stories published in The People’s Friend23 and other magazines that match my target readership.24 In 2013, I won the Branston Pickle national short-story competition.25 In seeking an agent, I hope not only to place this title but also to 26 find markets for the three other novels I have written. I have ideas 27 for at least two more books and I am able to produce a finished manuscript from scratch in ten months.28 I enclose a synopsis and sample.29 I would be delighted to send you the complete text of Dandelion Days if these initial chapters please you.30 Sincerely31

Your email will be one of perhaps two-dozen arriving in the agent’s inbox that day, so you need to help them relocate it if they like your initial sample. Include your title and your name and the fact that it is a novel (just in case they also look at scripts or poetry). Some agents will specify what you should write in the subject header.


Ideally, you’ll know the name of the agent because you will have researched who at the agency will be most receptive to your work. If not, go for something neutral like ‘Hello’. I’d avoid the stiff formality of ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

3 4

A bland but polite formula that also manages to use the word ‘accept’.

Wordcount is a very important indicator to the agent. Too short (sub-60,000) and he’ll stop reading immediately; too long (100,000 plus) and he might be wary of handling such a large debut.


Alas, genre is a useful shorthand that influences decisions. The agent may stop or continue depending on your chosen genre or market.


And mention the title right away, just to put it in the agent’s mind. It doesn’t matter too much if the title is good (bad ones will be changed), but a great title will help to sell the letter.


Straight away we have a location and a period. All of this information is used by the agent to assess the book’s potential marketability.


Now you’re hinting at the size of your cast and the scale of your



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influences. Ideally, your heroes will be mega-selling authors within your genre.

Dandelion Days, he might ask about the ones you’ve planned.





Another engaging story element. Your synopsis will go into greater depth, but this is another key selling point.






story. Vague as such detail is, it allows the agent to conceive what kind of book this might be. This is the real story hook. You need to get across your killer idea in the most concise way because this is the bit that will sell the book.

Here is another key character and the source of some obvious conflict. Already, it’s becoming clear what kind of read this will be.


And this hints at more patterns within the plot. The fact that you have so briefly captured the essence of your novel is a sign to the agent that you are not only good at writing, but also at selling your work.


Here you identify what kind of a read the book is, putting yourself in the audience’s position as any good writer should. It shows that you have considered your approach stylistically and structurally – great news from the agent’s perspective!


It’s worth mentioning that this stuff is intentional. Too many submissions struggle by on hope and a prayer when what agents really want is a decisive and businesslike approach.


The Archers is a radio show rather than a book, so this helps to identify a much wider market type. It doesn’t hurt that the programme has been popular for about a hundred years. Radio 4 could also be a potential platform for serialisation.


Again, gardening is something that goes wider than the book market. It’s a lifestyle that millions of people enjoy, widening your potential market still further.

Who are you? Are you marketable? How do you represent or appeal to your readership? If the book is published, the attention will be on you as the personality behind it. This reinforces your chosen subject matter. You know the area because you’ve lived there for years.

Aha! So you have some knowledge about the contemporary market and reader tastes. Always try to find something in your experience that makes you stand out as someone who knows what they’re doing as a writer.


Better still. A writing group encourages some kind of critical feedback on your work, improving it. As leader, you might make yourself out to be a little better than the others.


Even better. Work isn’t commercially published if it doesn’t reach a minimum standard of proficiency. You are a writer who has produced text to order. This virtually makes you a professional.


Clever! You are already thinking in terms of audience categorisation and you have identified your target readership. This implies that your novel should be designed specifically to please.


Mention any kind of success you’ve had as a writer. Competition wins prove that you are better than others. If you have already had an actual novel published, I’d mention this in the very first line: ‘I am the author of Absinthe Nights, published by Orion in 1999. Dandelion Days is my new book...’





Who hasn’t dreamed of making it big? Your target audience seems to be everyone in the whole world! Still, it’s necessary to reference some similar authors so that the agent can get a grip on your style and

If you have other works in a drawer, allude to them. Agents would rather sell four books to a publisher than one. Also outline why you think you need an agent. This reinforces the point. If the agent doesn’t entirely like

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Another hint at your professionalism. If the agent is thinking about asking you to edit your manuscript, this suggests you’ll be quick and practical in the execution. But don’t promise something you can’t deliver. This makes clear that you have read the submission guidelines and followed them. Many don’t.

Here, you underline that the novel is finished and ready to go. Repeating the title again can’t hurt.


No need to get hung up on sign-offs. The agent will have already made a decision by this point so your goal is simply to avoid anything too irritating, presumptuous or fatuous.

In summary The cover letter is your foot in the door. Some agents might not read beyond the first line before making a decision, so your aim is to give them everything they need as clearly and concisely as possible. If they like the letter, they will look at the synopsis... which is a whole other story. The thing to remember is that many agents are averse to reading your actual manuscript. It takes time, and the vast majority of submissions are horribly sub-standard. You need to prove to the agent that your work is worth reading because you are able to summarise its value and understand its audience. These are the terms in which the publishing industry thinks. Being able to write is a given. Nevertheless, even a letter like this will be rejected 80% of the time. Perhaps someone else has written a similar book. Perhaps you are off-trend. Perhaps the agent has a headache. You did your best. That’s all you can do. I believe some agents would ask to see more after reading a letter like this... provided the synopsis is of an equal standard, and provided your initial chapters are excellent.

NEXT MONTH: A detailed look at the most important page you’ll write: the synopsis.



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What is that elusive quality that agents and publishers are looking for? Jane Wenham-Jones canvasses some big names to find out.


have written three novels, all of which have done the rounds of publishers and agents and been nicely, politely, or even enthusiastically, rejected. The last one came back from the final agent I tried, saying, in so many words, that there was nothing wrong with my submission and she had enjoyed reading it. She praised my plotting and my writing style and picked out a couple of sub-plots she had particularly liked, but ended by saying she was reluctantly turning it down. This was because she feared she wouldn’t sell it as, in the final analysis, it lacked the ‘X factor’. This has left me at a loss. I know of the television programme obviously but how does this analogy translate when it comes to writing books? Is it to come up with something totally different that hasn’t been done before? And if so, how do some ‘top’ novelists (mentioning no names) manage to sell so well when their books are all the same? What is the definition of an X factor for a manuscript or novelist? And more importantly, how do I go about getting it? ROBIN BRADLEY Wakefield



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h Robin. If only I knew that, believe me I would bottle it, flog it for a fortune, and most of all turn out a string of mega-selling books that were all made into blockbusting movies. What IS that elusive quality that leads some manuscripts to be hotly fought over by publishers and others politely returned, or sends some books shooting to the top of the bestseller lists, taken there by enthusiastic word-of-mouth, while others never capture the reading public’s hearts? Your agent may not even be able to put her finger on it herself, but I expect she would tell us she knows it when she sees it. It is what crime king Peter James – whose books have sold in excess of 25 million copies – calls the ‘WOW factor’. Most publishers and agents, he tells me, know if a book is any good by the end of the first page. ‘It hits you instantly in the opening words,’ he says, explaining that ‘gripping characters in peril or in love’ are what make a book unputdownable for him. ‘I love it when I’m hit with twists that

I just did not see coming,’ he enthuses, citing Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go (Sphere) and Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex (MacLehose Press) as recent examples. Bestselling romance writer Katie Fforde also emphasises that the characters must be compelling, saying that for her a book has the X factor, ‘when I love spending time with them’. Katie was reading Judy Astley’s A Merry Mistletoe Wedding (Black Swan) when I last spoke to her, and felt her characters were like ‘good friends’. ‘They entertain me, make me laugh and make me worry when they’re not happy. So until I know all is well with them, I have to keep reading.’ So when we are talking about the factors X, the attributes that lift a book out of the ordinary, that keep the reader reading while the dinner burns and the bus leaves without them, we are not so much talking about something ‘totally different’ but the ingredients we all love in a book being presented at their most magical. In the same way that Simon Cowell and his fellow judges recognise star quality when it struts onto the stage,

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©Geraint Lewis, Writer Pictures

I love it when I’m hit with twists that I just did not see coming.

and produces those first notes, even if the song is one that has been sung many times before. Indeed, far from breaking new ground, Katie Fforde puts her enduring popularity down to her readers knowing ‘what they’re getting’. While she modestly insists that luck has played a big part in her ongoing success – her latest novel A Summer at Sea (Century), out in February, is her 22nd – she also believes her books’ recognisable traits are key. ‘I think I’ve kept going because my books are all similar,’ she says. ‘I haven’t changed genre ever, or style very much.’ But she does acknowledge: ‘I do write about things that are in the zeitgeist – cooking, house buying, literary festivals – so I suppose that keeps them current.’ Peter James, whose Roy Grace crime thrillers go straight to the top of the bestseller lists, is also hot on keeping up with the times. Both in terms of what his readers want and in his research. ‘I put a lot of time and effort into communicating with my readers, through email and social media,’ he says, ‘and I’ve learned a lot from their feedback.’   We come back to characterisation again with Peter emphasising the characters of his hero Roy Grace and his team as well as the perpetrators and victims. ‘I believe in showing all three sides of the stories I write and readers clearly like this.’ So how do you create that elusive ‘Wow’? Not easily, I would say. Both Peter and Katie make it look simple but they both work extremely hard, writing for long hours and spending months getting their detail

right. Peter, describing himself as a ‘stickler’, believes research underpins all good storytelling. ‘I love to read a gripping thriller, but the kind I connect with are those where the author clearly knows his or her facts and understands life, and where I don’t get just a funfair ride, but I learn insights about human nature and the world around us,’ he says. ‘So those are the kinds of books I strive to write.’ He also mentions ‘pace’. And to make an instant good impression, you need to think about it too. ‘I believe in gripping my readers from the very first sentence and never letting go,’ Peter says. If you’ve not yet read a James novel, go get one now and you’ll see he does just that. There are eleven Roy Graces so far, with the twelfth, Love You Dead (Macmillan) due in May. Meanwhile his first ghost story The House on Cold Hill is a page-turner (if best read with plenty of lights on) and his third novel Billionaire (Pan) has just been re-released after thirty years. I list all these books because in order to have a hope of achieving the X Factor, we need to keep reading those who already have. It is frustrating to be rejected and not be entirely clear what one can do to improve but on the bright side, this agent has said many positive things and taken the time and trouble to do so. I would say that is very encouraging. I also wonder how many agents you have tried. Remember this is a subjective business and the next one may think differently. Keep reading, keep writing, keep going. And good luck!


I think I’ve kept going because my books are all similar. I haven’t changed genre ever, or style very much.

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Novel Ideas Don’t stress about being productive, says Lynne Hackles. String your writing together bead by bead Have you all been making those writing resolutions again? Are they the same ones as last year? Are you going to get depressed or down-hearted by next month when you’ve broken most, or not produced those thousand words a day you promised yourself? Personally, and I’ve told you this before, I’ve always thought New Year Resolutions are a waste of time. You can, and probably should, start afresh every day, and not just 1 Jan. So, you have a bad day and don’t do any of the writing you’d promised yourself you would. What if you’re sick and can’t write? Or tired? Or maybe just plain scared that what you are producing is rubbish? Some days you may feel the need for company. You may feel sad or lonely. These are the times when you don’t need to beat yourself up. Just do the best you can today and always aim to do better tomorrow. My stamina is erratic. Yesterday I achieved nothing but I woke this morning and had written 500 words before breakfast. Since then I’ve produced even more. Doing what you can could be making a list, or attempting to write a page, or a paragraph or even a sentence. What I recommend is this – set yourself one small task. If this gets done you’ll immediately feel better and may even set yourself another one. It’s a bit like making a necklace. You do it bead by bead until you have a full string. I’ve been known to write a whole story by leaving a notebook open on the table and adding a sentence each time I pass. As my mentor, Mike Dooley of www.tut. com says: ‘If you do what you can, with what you have, from right where you are, it will always be enough.’ DECEMBER FEBRUARY 2015 2016


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c t u i v d i o t r y P LEAP With an extra 24 hours coming up next month, Simon Whaley chats to three productive writers about making the most of our writing time.


hen you’re an employee you get paid at the end of the month. Unfortunately, most employees get paid the same amount of money whether there are 28 days in February, or 29. For selfemployed people, things are a little different. A leap year gives us a whole extra day in which to write something and, hopefully, earn more money. But it doesn’t matter whether you write full time, or in your spare time, this February we have all been allocated an extra 24 hours. How are you going to 66


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make the most of yours? When it comes to the business of writing, it’s important that we make the most efficient use of our time. Every time we sit down at our writing space we should know exactly what we’re going to do next, even more so if your writing time is limited. Sitting at a computer screen and staring at a blank page is not only unproductive but demoralising.

Getting things done David Allen is recognised around the world as a leading expert on

David Allen

productivity. His Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology has been adopted by individuals and huge corporations, and it’s now his business. He’s also written several books on the subject, including his New York Times bestseller Getting Things Done: How To Achieve Stress-free Productivity. One of his biggest tips is to have an inbox, which can be something physical sitting on the corner of your desk. Or it could be virtual, perhaps in your email programme, or in some To Do software on your computer, tablet or smartphone. This inbox becomes the one and only receptacle for everything you need do at some point in the future. Then, every few days, you sit down and go through your inbox and start actioning it. That action might be to deal with it now, to schedule it for later, or it might be to file it somewhere for future reference. For writers, the classic inbox is a notebook. We’re forever being told to carry a notebook around with us at all times and write down our ideas as they occur. ‘The GTD approach,’ says David, ‘is to capture any potentially meaningful data. I’ve used that for every writing project.’ David’s philosophy is that our brains are designed to think. They’re creative. It’s where our characters and plots come to life, and where our non-fiction ideas are developed. Our brain is not designed to be a filing cabinet. It quickly becomes cluttered and then confusion sets in. Our memories can no longer cope, and we waste time trying to recall information. Clear the brain of the clutter and you give it the space in which to be creative, and therefore more productive. That’s where the inbox comes in, especially the writer’s notebook. Inboxes boost creativity. ‘The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas,’ David suggests. When your brain is clear of clutter it has the space to breathe and generate ideas. He used his methodology when updating his Getting Things Done book, which was released again in 2015. ’For many months I captured random ideas as they occurred to me about the potential project. Later I curated them for the best things to do.’ Curating is David’s process of deciding which ideas to develop and when. It’s another fundamental

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principle of his methodology. Always know what your next step will be. He calls it the next action. It’s a process I’ve adopted with my writing. It’s important to break projects down into achievable steps. Sitting down to write a novel is daunting, but sitting down to write 500 words feels more achievable. When I come to the end of my writing session I write down what the next action, or next step, is for that project. It might be to do more research, or to review the first draft of an article. This next action step ensures that whenever I sit down to write something, on any of my projects, I know exactly what I have to do. I’m not faffing around looking at a blank screen. Instead, I’m getting on with things or, as David prefers calling it, getting things done.

Planning productivity Productivity is also about being organised. Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, and was voted as one of the Guardian’s UK Top 100 creative professionals in 2013. Her website www. is regularly voted one of the Top 10 sites for writers. She’s achieved all of this by being a detailed planner. ‘I plan my diary months in advance,’ she says, ‘and block out time for writing new books as well as business activities like professional speaking events and conventions.’ As well as making the big overview plans like this, she also drills this down to a weekly plan. ‘I detail each week so I know I have everything prepared, eg questions done for podcast interviews or tasks I know need completing. I have a physical Filofax diary on my desk and use it to schedule by writing in events. I don’t use an online diary but I do use the Things app (https://cultredcode. com/things/) as my To Do list and scheduled tasks. It is brilliant!’ This means that her mind is clear for the times she has for writing. She takes steps to ensure that her writing time is not disrupted. ‘I go to a local cafe with my laptop and get a coffee. I plug in my headphones and listen to rain and thunderstorms on repeat to shut out ambient noise. I write for about two hours and then go for a walk.’

By organising her workload in this way, Joanna knows what she has to do every time she sits down. There is no opportunity for confusion or distractions.

Ditch the ironing These principles of being organised, planning your time and identifying what your next action needs to be works for writers with day jobs too. Kath McGurl has written short stories for women’s magazines in the UK and Australia, and is the author of two novels, the latest of which is The Pearl Locket, published by Carina. She’s achieved all of this despite also having a day job in IT for a large retail organisation. For her, the thought of having a whole day for writing seems daunting. ‘Oh, I would probably struggle with the luxury of a whole day and spend half of it faffing on Facebook. What I would try to do is wake up that day with the idea that I’m going to write, first and foremost. I’d prioritise it over everything else. When a decent amount has been written, that’s the time to relax and do something else for a while, feeling good that you’ve achieved your goal.’ Many writers find they have a more productive time of day, when the words seem to flow easier. If your writing is restricted to outside of your working hours, experiment to discover whether evenings or early mornings work better for your creativity. Make Monday 29 February part of that experiment. Once you’ve identified the time slot that works best for you try to stick with it, because it then becomes a habit. Your brain accepts that this is the time when you write and the words flow better. Kath has found a two hour time slot works best for her. ’Early evening, 6pm-8pm,’ she says. ‘Why? Because that’s when I am most used to writing. If I didn’t have a day job I’d probably be more productive in the middle of the day, say 10am-3pm, but at the moment those hours belong to the day job.’ Business leaders understand that time is a resource that has to be managed. Spending time on one activity means other activities have

Joanna Penn

Kath McGurl

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to be sacrificed, and as writers we are faced with similar decisions. It’s all about determining what’s more important to you. ‘I’ve thought a lot about time management for writers,’ says Kath, ‘as it has always been a struggle fitting in everything I want to do. I ended up writing a little book, Give Up Ironing, A Writer’s Guide to Time Management, to try to pass on some tips. So I suppose the other thing I’d like to say is... give up ironing, no one will ever notice!’ It’s a valid point. What do you want to be remembered for? Is it the writing you achieved or the creasefree clothes you wore? So what are you going to do on 29 February? It doesn’t matter whether you take a day’s annual leave and spend the whole day writing, or decide to give yourself two hours writing time in the morning or evening. Don’t treat it as just another day. Make it special. Think of it as a bonus day. It’s already in your diary. Make an appointment with your writing, and then on 28 February sit down and plan what you’re going to write. Be specific: an opening paragraph, 500 words on your novel, or the climatic scene in a short story. That way, when your writing time arrives, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to do. Hopefully, it’ll be the productivity leap you’ve been looking for.



• David Allen: ‘Capture any and all potentially relevant ideas at the moment you have them. Curate them within the next 24-48 hours, and don’t let old agreements with yourself get in the way of the new work you’re here to do.’ • Joanna Penn: ‘Plan the hours you write, as you would any other appointment. Then for that time, sit and write words. Don’t wait for the muse. Sit down and start typing and something will happen. Trust emergence – but it will only happen if you make the time for it regularly.’ • Kath McGurl: ‘Set yourself small achievable targets for every writing session. This evening I’m going to add 500 words to my work in progress, for example.’



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ick a card. Any card.’ We’ve all heard this said by magicians just before the magic happens. Now change one word – card to place – and see if you get a magical result. Pick a place. Any place. Feeling jaded? Don’t have any new ideas for your writing? Try visiting somewhere new or

Change of scenery In part two of our series on randomly generating ideas, Lynne Hackles advises visiting somewhere new returning to somewhere you’ve not been for many years. Stick a pin in a map of your local area and go there, whether it be a city or a tiny village, an empty space or a thick wood. Consider spending a holiday at home and exploring your own city/town/village. Approach it as if you were a stranger and ask at your nearest Tourist Information which places of interest you should see.

Random place – novel setting When aspiring novelist Nicola Burgraff needed inspiration she picked a place to visit. ‘I’d heard interesting things about the historic town of Great Malvern in Worcestershire so I headed there with my camera and notebook. ‘The town centre is built on the steep flank of the Malvern Hills and the two main streets are lined with independent shops, which was lovely to see. The atmosphere in general was calm, unlike the stressful shuffles of a larger town. Tucked away up a side-street, I stumbled across a quaint bookshop. Of course, I had to go in. The two ladies running the shop welcomed me and offered a coffee whilst I browsed. At one point a man came in. Seemingly he owned the antique shop over the road. I listened to the banter from behind the bookshelf and felt a deep sense of community as they chatted about the well-being of different people from the neighbourhood. This sparked an idea. ‘As I headed back down the hill, I noticed the architecture of the buildings differed, from a medieval-looking gateway to Edwardian and Victorian-style buildings and at the centre of everything stood a majestic-looking church. This was an interesting building. There seemed to be a mishmash of ages built into the structure. I snapped away on my camera and made a note to research its history. ‘At the base of the town, there was a complete contrast of scenery. A beautiful park with a lake and old-fashioned bandstand. On the far side there were steps up to the town’s theatre. It was the perfect place to sit, soak in the atmosphere and make notes whilst the ducks quacked noisily in the background. Young and older people walked past me – an indicator of the generations that make up this pictureperfect town. The seed of my idea grew quickly. ‘I sketched a quick map of the area marking the key features of the town and started to outline a new crime story. Set in a small hillside community, the investigation of a burglary of a local bookshop uncovers a dark secret spanning two generations… I couldn’t wait to start writing and researching.’

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Random place - poetry Poet James Nash found inspiration when revisiting the past. He says: ‘For much of my life I have loved film. Sometimes magic happens in cinemas when you are sitting and sharing a story together, all of you laughing or sighing at the same time. I remember that the air would sometimes be thick with smoke curling up into the light from the projection room. I had never thought that this quiet passion might lead to any writing. But then my fellow poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard approached me with an idea for a new collection. It was to be about the cinemas and picture houses of Leeds. The city, where I have lived for many years, used to have sixty suburban cinemas. It seemed that every corner of its jumbled terraces and grander Victorian villas had one. For the last two years we have been tracking down the old cinemas in Leeds, notebooks in hand, soaking up the atmosphere of faded plush seats and the choc-ices of yesteryear. ‘We’ve been trying to tell some of the stories associated with these old buildings. Some have gone completely, others have become warehouses, offices and launderettes. Two are operating as cinemas still. But there was always something left to be discerned, a set of double doors, an old foyer or a trace of Art Deco ornamentation to remind us of their past lives, and the films that were shown there in the heyday of “going to the pictures”. ‘Sometimes it was the films themselves that we remembered and though nearly forty years separate us in age, we have our shared favourites. Billy Liar and Whistle Down the Wind immediately came to mind. ‘Our collection of poetry Cinema Stories (Valley Press) was published in November 2015 and featured as part of the Leeds International Film Festival.’

Exercise • Pick a random place – stick a pin in a map and visit a random place. Go explore it. • Take a notebook and camera. • Come home with ideas for a travel article or some history, architecture, a setting for a story or novel.



11/12/2015 15:13








SUBSCRIBER SPOTLIGHT Share your writing success stories. If you subscribe to Writing Magazine and would like to feature here, email Tina Jackson,

An actors’ curse ‘I’m celebrating my fiftieth year with my first published book,’ writes subscriber Mark Iveson. ‘To call it amazing is something of an understatement. ‘I’ve been a horror fan since childhood and what I find fascinating about the old chillers were the actors. As well as being movie heroes, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price were also exceptionally talented men whose committed performances could turn a dismal horror film into a masterpiece. ‘My journey from novice to author began several years ago when I started writing a reference book about everyone associated with the genre. As I continued my research, I became intrigued by the downside of horror typecasting and how it could seriously affect an actor’s career. ‘Cursed Horror Stars charts the rise and fall of five genre favourites. It focuses on how typecasting, along with alcoholism, drugs and personal problems exacerbated their career declines. My

book is a tribute to these fine men who clearly deserved a lot better in their lives. ‘The journey continued when I started making annual trips to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School; my buskers’ night there is a very popular evening event (I play guitar and run my own buskers night in Newcastle). With the support of fellow writers who have become good friends, I took the next step by writing articles for the movie webmag Shadowlocked. ‘Like many budding authors, I had my fair share of rejections. When Telos Publishing accepted the book, it was an incredible moment for me, especially when I still had a lot to learn about the writing process. Steve Walker at Telos is wonderful and very encouraging. I owe him a great debt of thanks for his kindness and support. ‘I am aware of the shocking influence horror films can have on young minds. In my case the influences were positive. I’ve watched these films since I was a kid and instead of becoming a would-be Freddy Krueger, I became a writer.’ Website:

A successful experiment ‘I’ve been submitting manuscripts to children’s publishers for about fifteen years, always promising myself I would never give up,’ writes subscriber Lou Treleaven. ‘Five years ago, to help with my submissions, I compiled a list of UK children’s publishers accepting unagented manuscripts and decided to put it on my blog to share with other writers. I never dreamed it would become such a popular resource with nearly 800 comments made up of questions, suggested publishers, shared experiences and – occasionally and delightfully – success stories. ‘Now at last I can add a success story of my own. A year ago my manuscript for a rhyming picture book was picked off the slush pile at Maverick. Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip, illustrated by the



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incredibly talented and delightfully zany Julia Patton, will be published on 28 January. To anyone who is tempted to give up submitting – don’t! I’ve written more than ten children’s books which will probably never see the light of day, but I learned so much writing, editing and sending them out. I also learned that it’s worth trying different genres and age groups, and having multiple projects on the go while you wait. I’d almost forgotten about the Professor, until I got the email that changed everything. ‘Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip is available online at Amazon and WH Smiths, and can be ordered from your local bookshop. Visit the website for inventive

fun, plus you can download Professor McQuark’s Incredible Ideas Spinner to make at home! For writing resources and details of children’s publishers and agents, visit’

11/12/2015 13:29


Travels with the railway man ‘After writing a variety of fiction and non-fiction books over the last ten years, most self-published, I now have six (six!) contracts to fulfil for the publisher, Pen & Sword, who have added transport history to their successful military history imprint,’ writes subscriber David Maidment. ‘With four novels (the Madonna trilogy looking at the traditional Bible stories through authentic cultural and political context and a novel, Lives on the Line, with a 1960s railway background) and two non-fiction books about street children, written to publicise and fundraise for Railway Children, the charity I founded in 1995, my house was becoming a book store, filling rapidly with each new title awaiting further sales. ‘It was with some relief that I received contracts from a mainstream publisher to write books using my career experience and hobby interest in railways. I started my railway career in 1960 and spent most of that decade in South Wales, when the coal business was still predominant. My first Pen & Sword book is therefore an illustrated and researched history of freight locomotives, entitled Great Western Eightcoupled Heavy Freight Locomotives and was published in June this year. It was launched at a book signing at the Didcot Great Western Railway Centre in August alongside one of the preserved steam locomotives featured in the book. A Privileged Journey followed in the same month, a 260-page book illustrated by over 150 of my own photographs recounting my early years as a trainspotter and railway enthusiast – a second volume called An Indian Summer of Steam, covering my career and travels from 1962 until the 21st century, will be published later this year. ‘Two further “locomotive profile” series books have been completed and are in the design process and a book on German express passenger locomotives is nearing completion. ‘To date I have been able to donate several thousand pounds from the profits and royalties of my books to Railway Children and look forward to increasing this with the backing of Pen & Sword and many of my colleagues and friends in the UK railway industry and steam heritage railways, who are both avid readers of railway history and supporters of the charity, which is now recognised by the United Nations as the largest charity in the world that works exclusively for street children. Websites: and

Stuck at a hurdle ‘Was it a coincidence?’ writes subscriber Glenis Wilson. ‘I picked up my December copy of Writing Magazine and was uplifted to read the article on beating the dreaded ‘block’, plus, a few pages later, the setting up of a crime series. Editors like series, you instructed. Indeed, they do. ‘At the moment, I am stuck at the very start of chapter seven of the fourth book in my new series of horseracing novels featuring jump jockey, Harry Radcliffe (males are as green-eyed about Harry as his ginger tomcat, Leo – females simply drool). But if Harry has other men jealous, females purr with pleasure and cannot wait to get their claws on the next book. ‘The first book in the series came out at the end of February this year, entitled, Dead Certainty. The second, Dead on Course, was published at the end of August. For both books, I held signing sessions at the golfing hotel on the east coast where I wrote the ending of the second book. Harry also stayed here, in the same room, number 115. ‘It is a unique turret room with windows facing all directions – and the only room with a north-facing one. ‘Harry, having gone up to his room to take a painkiller – he’s been kicked by a racehorse – is reaching up to draw the curtains on the north window when the clouds move away from the moon and the sea is cloaked in silver-edged waves. He is moved to stand appreciating the beauty. Until he sees a person running up the beach away from the hotel. And he is the only eyewitness to see a black figure rise up from behind the sea escarpment rocks before dragging his victim away onto the adjoining golf course. ‘Dead on Course, published by Severn House Publishers, is my tenth novel. I have never before attempted a series, but the publisher liked the idea. So, here I am, attempting my fourth ‘Harry’ book. I’ve typed Chapter Seven and now I’m stuck... or am I? ‘All I need is just the first sentence...’ Website:

Getting to the heart of the matter ‘I love Writing Magazine and I’ve been reading it for over a decade,’ writes subscriber Mark Anthony Smith. ‘My break came with a star letter in October 2014’s issue – “Angling for ideas”. Philip Pullman was on the cover. I then had a poem commended last February and several haiku peer assessed on a poetry website. ‘I now have a collection of poetry on Amazon: Hearts of the matter. It also has a Facebook page. The poems are about nature and the weather. It is also a celebration of Hull winning the “UK City of Culture”.’

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11/12/2015 13:29


A ghostly encounter

Secrets and spies ‘My latest book, Regency Spies, was published in hardback by Pen & Sword at the end of November,’ writes subscriber Sue Wilkes. ‘After exploring the elegant and fashionable side of Regency life in my last book, A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England, my new book looks at a more sinister aspect of that era – the government spies and informers who kept watch for trouble-makers on the home front. Very few people had the vote at that time, but reformers who campaigned for a fairer electoral system were branded as “revolutionaries” and “Jacobins” by the authorities. ‘I also tell the story of Cato St conspirator Arthur Thistlewood and his dastardly crew – in 1820 they planned to assassinate government ministers at a social engagement. I very much enjoyed researching my book, which involved much reading of spy reports, and hunting down descriptions of the spies and their prey’. ‘The cover price for Regency Spies is £19.99 and it can be bought from the publisher or via Amazon. ‘You can find out more about my work at my social history blogs http://suewilkes. and http:// visitjaneaustensengland.’

‘I’ve been creating stories, and trying my best to write them down, since I was at school, and thanks to enrolling on an adult education course when I started work after university, I was finally able to start taking it more seriously,’ writes subscriber Jennifer Wilson. ‘I’m now delighted that Crooked Cat Publishing have just (in October 2015) published my debut novel, Kindred Spirits: The Tower of London, and I have Writing Magazine to thank for it too. ‘A couple of years ago, there was a competition to write a poem about ghosts, and it got me thinking that, if they were to meet, the ghosts of Richard III and Anne Boleyn would probably have a lot in common, thanks to a certain pair of Henry Tudors. The poem I wrote was appalling, but the idea kept nagging away at me, and thanks to NaNoWriMo 2013, I got my first draft written in a month. It then sat taunting me for almost eighteen months, until I was lucky enough to win a place at the service of Compline for Richard III in March of this year, which was just the nudge that I needed – how many other people get to attend part of the funeral of their story’s main character, after all? ‘Kindred Spirits follows the adventures of the ghosts who “live” at the Tower of London, and it was great fun to both research and write, although I get nervous reading books about the place now, in case I find somebody new and juicy who I could have added to the mix! ‘I’ve loved reading and writing historical fiction for years, and although this is more “quasi-historical”, it’s really inspired me to tackle a more complex plot, which has started spinning around my head. So it’s back to the research books for me…’ Website:

An e-project bears fruit ‘Summer 2014: my husband Keith and I were trying to think of a way to combine our skills in one project,’ writes subscriber Sharon Boothroyd. ‘His skillset: professional web design, software coding, SEO, Android app development, graphic design, logo design, and Kindle book production. ‘My skillset: writing web-based text, plus stories, opinion pieces and letters for the magazine market (some of these were published). ‘Eventually, we came up with the idea of an e-magazine, which would hold a low-cost story competition (£3 to enter). The amassed entry fees would fund the cash prizes, and the advertising on the site would cover the cost of the domain name and web hosting.



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‘We aimed to run the project from home as a small non-profit hobby. ‘It was a big risk. ‘Would the idea work or would we be forced to shut the project down due to lack of interest? ‘We launched the first issue in October 2014. ‘A year on, we are pleased and proud to report that Kishboo e-magazine is doing fantastically well! ‘We celebrated our first birthday (with Issue 5 – e-published October 2015) with a fresh feature – a poetry corner. ‘We publish four times a year – spring, summer, autumn and winter. With every issue, Keith designs a fresh cover and FB/ Twitter icons as well. ‘Kishboo is free to read on our website

(we also have a free mobile-friendly website version) and 99p on Kindle. ‘Back issues are free to read on our site. ‘As for my writing – well, I wrote all the web pages for the Kishboo site, and as editor, I write the Ed’s letter – in each issue, I usually have an article and a book review published too. ‘I’m also responsible for all social media promotion and I deal with all enquiries. ‘Please check us out!’ Website:

11/12/2015 13:29


Who writes? ‘A subscriber for some time, I have been following various articles with more than normal interest. ‘The first is the debate on using a pseudonym or not, this being of interest because I use the pseudonym of Mollie Cunliffe when writing romance (Elle’s Diary, A Friend and a Lover). I do this partially to separate romance from my other stories, but mainly to save the blushes of our children! Although our girls are very late thirties they find it extremely embarrassing that their parents should even think about sex, let alone write about it (not an uncommon phenomena I believe, and the reason I have not included my real name). The other discussion that is of particular interest, is that of genre, whether or not it is important? ‘Although I have not listed it as such on Amazon, (all my books are e-published on Amazon Kindle), I think I have inadvertently written a young adult novel. ‘It is rather embarrassing to admit that I’m not sure what kind of story I’ve written, but there it is.

The story, Elle’s Diary, is about love, friendship and discovering about oneself, (which sounds rather grand for what was supposed to be an easy read, which it actually is), the main characters being eighteen-year-old girls. ‘I have researched the definition of the YA genre, and looked at the type of book that is listed in that category, but am still confused. ‘I also have to confess to having, once again, failed miserably in my planning process. Whilst in the past what was supposed to be one novel turned out to be three, this time what was planned as a novel became a novella! The story ran its course at that length and I didn’t feel anything would be gained by padding it out to novel word count. Again I’m not sure if that was right, or if I should have persevered and stuck to my original intention, but somehow my writing just does what it wants to, despite what I think or plan (apart from Writing Magazine competition entries of course).’


Somehow my writing just does what it wants to, despite what I think or plan.


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If your writing group would like to feature here, whether you need new members, have an event to publicise or to suggest tips for other groups, email Tina Jackson,

Renegade Writers


Crawley Writers Circle ‘Crawley New Town – 1950s. New houses, shops, schools and churches. A wooden community hut was provided for each district but it was up to the newcomers to create their own entertainment. Clubs of every description sprang up all over town. ‘Crawley Writers’ Circle was formed in April 1956 so in April this year we celebrate sixty years of continuous monthly meetings,’ writes Beryl Armstrong. ‘Numbers have ebbed and flowed. During any national recession numbers will drop to six but when we have the feel-good factor we end up with a waiting list. ‘We meet in a private house so there is an upper limit to the number we can take. Once we had forty in a guest house. It could be months before everyone had a chance to read and making tea took forever. We rarely have speakers, preferring to learn from and encourage each other in friendship. Some will write merely for pleasure while others have higher ambitions. ‘We’ve had many successes over the years in all formats from competitions, film scripts, letters, poems, short stories, non-fiction and novels. Each publication is a time for all of us to rejoice in their achievements. ‘Currently we can accept a few new members. ‘We meet on the third Wednesday morning of each month. ‘Contact by email:’



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‘After moving to north Staffordshire in the mid-2000s my wife and I looked unsuccessfully for a suitable writers’ group,’ writes Peter Coleborn. ‘In 2009 a group (Stoke-onWriting or Stow for short) grew out of a Stoke Library workshop. ‘After a few months it became clear that ongoing commitments meant that Saturday mornings, together with a venue that was hard to reach without a car, made it difficult for many people to carry on. Several of us also found that monthly meetings didn’t allow the regular feedback necessary to enable us to develop as writer. The logical course was to set up a group that suited our needs and we began to look for a new venue. ‘I was told that a pub, The Jolly Potter, had a room available and was free to use. Then came the fun part – deciding what to call ourselves. One of our members said that we were renegades and we jokingly called ourselves Renegade Writers. We wouldn’t want to be anything else now. ‘We meet on Wednesday evenings, now at The Bridge Street Ale House in Newcastle Under Lyme (run by two of the group’s members, Grum and Tansey) from 7pm to 9.30pm, every week, excluding Christmas and New Year. Well, we all need a break now and again! ‘Renegade Writers has an active membership of around twenty with another fifteen or so who can only make it every now and then. On average between ten and twelve people turn up each week, and we manage around six readings during the evening. ‘The group covers all types of fiction: general, historical, war, crime, science fiction, horror, short stories and novels. As an indication of our popularity many members turn up week after week, even when they have nothing to share. ‘I seem, by default, to have become chairman of the group. That’s fine, but means I usually have to start off the discussion after each reading. It makes sure I listen carefully to each piece – no nodding off in class. ‘Because Renegade Writers grew so quickly we instigated a rule that new members must attend four meetings before they are allowed to read work to the group. This means they have a chance to get to know us and the level of our critiquing. ‘That is the key to our success: being robust. This robustness shows: several group members have had stories published in magazines and anthologies, a sign of becoming a good writer. ‘It is Renegade Writers’ intention to help every member become the best writer possible and go on to achieve successful publication.’ Website:

11/12/2015 15:15

Telling Tales


Venture into the deep dark woods with an inspiring exercise for your writers’ group from Julie Phillips


attention to setting, characterisation, he truth is often stranger language/tone used, plot and description. than fiction. It’s what writers thrive on, our bread What is the underlying message or moral of the story? How do modern day fairy tales and butter. From fact we compare to the old favourites? weave our creative spell to Spend some time allowing the group to feed intertwine reality with a little fictional magic. back their findings. They will need as much Think of your best friend retelling a tale in information as they can to enable them to the pub about how he once averted a major take a fairy story apart and reconstruct it in a disaster at work, or your children regaling you more modern environment. with tales of how they scored that goal in the last seconds of the game to win the match. Embellishment is often at play as we ramp up Rewrite it! our starring role. The group can then either join up into small I’m asking your writing group this month groups and plan and write a collaborative to retell a fairy tale. There are fairy tale or they can work in pairs or plenty of them to base your individually. The aim is to stick writing on for this exercise. with the plot of a traditional Think Cinderella or Jack fairy tale but change it to suit Have you thought and the Beanstalk, or modern times. Instead of maybe Snow White about setting your fairy the wicked witch in Snow or Hansel and Gretel. White perhaps you could tale as a Western with Fairy tales are usually have a difficult and spiteful a battle between good gun slinging cowboys or boss. What about a modern and evil and can be a day cleaner wishing she aliens on another lot of fun to read as well could attend the works do planet? as write and this is what and dance with the boss’s son your writing group will be instead of the impoverished doing for this workshop. Cinders wanting to go to the ball and dance with the prince? What happens at midnight when she has to return home? Preliminary questions Fairy tales have been with us for centuries Ask the group to think back to their and they are a lot harder to write and childhoods. What were their favourite fairy rework than you would at first imagine. So stories? What did they like about them? What scared them or enthralled them? Are there any allow plenty of thinking and writing time. If the group become stuck, ask them to ask common features or similarities between the their characters questions to see if they can’t stories they remember? You could take in a come up with some answers. They could, if selection of fairy stories in for them to read – they were feeling dramatic, role play some the library should have a good supply or you of the parts to help move the story along. could download some from the internet. This will help with any dialogue issues too. Ask your group to make notes on their Reading your words out loud lets you hear chosen fairy stories, paying particular


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what works and what doesn’t. Think of some of the infamous phrases that are often seen in fairy tales, such as ‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down,’ and ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ Can the group come up with a modern day version? Think mobile phones and other such technology.

Practical benefits Don’t be afraid to experiment and ask other group members if they aren’t sure if something they’ve written works or not. This is the type of workshop that lends itself well to discussion and experimentation and working together as a team. This workshop will also help to build up plotting skills. Once they have reworked an existing fairy tale they can have a go at writing their own from scratch. This has potential for many avenues. They could work it into a short story or it could form the beginning of a novel which could be expanded upon later. It also has the potential to fit into many different genres. Have you thought about setting your fairy tale as a Western with gun slinging cowboys or aliens on another planet? The aim is to have as many different ideas as possible and to share them. A character that isn’t working in one person’s tale might be just right for a tale another group member is having difficulty with. It’s the same with setting. Playing around with your ideas as a group will open the group up to new ideas. The secret to success with this workshop is to have fun and be prepared to pool your ideas while not being afraid to make suggestions to other group members and also to accept them back improving writing skills and encouraging the group to mix – all in the name of creating a tale or two, which is, after all, what writers do best. FEBRUARY 2016


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10/12/2015 15:59


Local reporter short story competition


O R E H L A C LO by Rhonwen Shaw

rapist from Lancashire. speech and language the red reti a is w Sha en nw Rho showed her work to and off for years but never She has been writing on iting Courses’ Becoming iting Magazine Creative Wr anyone. She completed Wr the confidence to e years ago, which gav her of ple cou a iter Wr l sfu A Succes has had one non-fiction er people. Since then she oth h wit ting wri her re sha competition win. lished, but this is her first article and one story pub


ack in our junior reporter days, Tony Foster and I would often decide who would cover what story on the toss of a coin. On this occasion I called heads for the cat show, tails for the gravy wrestlers. As his coin spun in the air I rather hoped it would land on its edge and I wouldn’t have to do either of them. It was heads. I rolled my eyes, downed the last of my coffee and headed off to my car. Lane Ends Community Centre car park was busier than I had ever seen it. Were there really that many cat lovers in Langton? I parked as close as I could and walked the hundred or so yards to the entrance, trying to think of some interesting angle, an original approach. Don’t get me wrong. I am actually quite fond of cats; we’d had a succession of them at home and my childhood was dotted with cat-related crises (the magpie in the kitchen; the midnight dash to the vet’s; the six newborn kittens in the wardrobe). But I couldn’t see the Langton Cat Society’s annual show as a significant step along my career path to becoming a world-famous investigative reporter. (This was in the wake of Watergate.) I used my press card to gain free entry (saving fifty pence, perk of the profession) and approached the organiser, Mrs Hetherington. ‘Good afternoon. I’m Jack Rawlinson, from the Langton Times.’ ‘Oh.’ Mrs Hetherington frowned. ‘I was expecting Rebecca. She gave us such a good write-up last year.’ Great start. ‘Rebecca Winters? She’s left us I’m afraid. She’s with the Mail now.’ I pasted on a smile 78


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to show how pleased I was for Rebecca. (Lucky so-and-so. She wouldn’t know a grammatical sentence if it bit her on the bum. At least she kept the sub-editors busy.) Mrs Hetherington, resigned to being stuck with a second-class reporter, accompanied me up and down rows of caged cats who were displaying the full gamut of cat emotions from cross to furious. I had the urge to fling open the cage doors and let them all out. Now there would be a story: MAD REPORTER IN CAT SHOW SABOTAGE BID. She soon abandoned me at a stall selling catnip toys and hurried off to meet the judges. Brenda Baxter, grateful for someone to talk to, explained in mind-crushing detail how she had designed and knitted the toys (all, inexplicably, in the shape of fruit), while I feigned interest and let my mind drift. (MAD REPORTER STRANGLES CAT TOY KNITTER WITH SKEIN OF WOOL.) I excused myself as soon as politeness would allow and went back to pacing the aisles, still trying to come up with a human interest angle to lift my story above a mere list of winners. (I wondered, fleetingly, what Rebecca Winters had written last year that had impressed Mrs Hetherington so much.) The complexities of pedigree cat judging defeated me but the moggies at the far end of the hall looked more promising as they were going to be judged for their achievements rather than the length of their whiskers or the colour of their tails. It was while I was chatting to the owner of Misty, a strong contender for ‘Bravest Cat’ (having leapt claws-first on to the head of a rottweiler which was threatening the owner’s grandson),

that I spotted Terence Murray walking down an adjacent aisle, shifty-eyed and sweating. The Murray family, feared and despised by their neighbours on the Trees council estate, were often featured in the Langton Times. Dad, Jim, was serving time for armed robbery and his wife Brenda, a terrifying woman who could fell grown men with a glance, had instilled in their three sons the family philosophy of entitlement (if you want it, grab it, before someone else does) and paranoia (don’t look at me like that, I didn’t do it). Their eldest, Michael, was on probation for handling stolen property (I’d covered his court appearance) and second son Joseph was in a Young Offenders’ Unit for drug dealing. Young Terence had already been up in front of the magistrates several times for threatening behaviour and vandalism and was an unlikely cat lover. I could picture him swinging a cat, maybe drowning or skinning one, but reflecting on the finer points of cat form or behaviour? Never. Indeed, he barely glanced at the cats as he passed them; instead, he looked frequently over his shoulder towards the entrance. I gave Misty an encouraging smile and wished him and his owner luck, then moved off down the aisle, focusing on Terence and what he might be up to. The potential for crime at this event was limited; the takings would be negligible and even though some of the cats might be worth a bob or two, it would be hard to imagine Terence smuggling one out of the show and flogging it down at the Rose and Crown. (HEROIC REPORTER FOILS CAT THIEF.) Terence would have been conspicuous even

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without his furtive glances across the hall. He was about eighteen, just four or five years younger than I was, and we were probably the only males under the age of sixty in the place. And at least I had a respectable air about me (or I fancied I had, with my M&S suit and my shorthand notebook) but Terence, in scruffy jeans and battered leather jacket, with his unkempt hair and shifty eyes, looked like a walking crime wave. Luckily for him, most of the people in the hall were preoccupied with preparing their cats for the judging and wouldn’t have noticed if the Queen had cartwheeled down the aisle. As the minutes ticked by, Terence’s attitude changed. No more furtive glances; hands in his pockets, he swaggered past the cages, oblivious to me tracking his progress. As he had now lost interest in the entrance, he didn’t immediately spot the two uniformed police officers chatting to the lady on the ticket desk. But then the Murray sixth sense kicked in and in the space of a second he had turned, registered the police and accelerated from a swagger to a run, heading for the kitchen at the back of the hall. Having attended numerous similar events in the building, I knew there was an exit from the kitchen into the car park. Without considering the wisdom of my actions – and, I must add, with scant regard for my own safety – I set off to cut him off at the kitchen door. He raced up his aisle and I raced up mine. Hard though it may be to believe, I played rugby back then and could get up a fair speed, but of course I was just running for a story and Terence, as they say, was running for his life. Also, I ran with some consideration for the ladies and cats along the way whereas Terence had no such qualms, barging into cat lovers and even tipping over a couple of cages, creating a cacophony of howls from cats and owners. So, he got to the kitchen before me (only just), crashed the door open and was about to shut it in my face when I rugby-tackled him, taking him at the knees and slamming him to the floor. He twisted and squirmed, released his feet and kicked me on the shoulder. We both hauled ourselves upright, each desperate to push the other down. I was taller but he was more solid and he managed to topple me against a cupboard. He scrabbled around for a weapon; there was plenty of choice: a knife rack on the wall, an urn full of boiling water, a cast iron pan. Now I was considering the wisdom of my actions. (HEROIC REPORTER SLAIN IN CAT

SHOW HORROR ATTACK.) He grabbed the pan (thank goodness; I think that was my best option) and swung it over his head, ready to embed it in my skull. I managed to slide to the left, out of range, and the pan crunched a dent into the cupboard door. Only a brief respite though. He raised the pan again. Where are all those brave cats when you need them? I curled into a ball, lifted my arms to protect my head and closed my eyes, bracing myself for the blow. It never came. I heard a tussle, an aggrieved protest, a voice of authority, a curse and the click of handcuffs before I dared open my eyes. Just in time to see Terence being escorted away. Mrs Hetherington and the Cat Society ladies made a big fuss of me and I was given a cup of strong tea and two chocolate digestive biscuits, a free catnip toy shaped like a banana (for my parents’ cat) and, most satisfying of all, the bones of a story. (HAVE-A-GO REPORTER CATCHES THUG IN HEROIC CHASE). Back at the office, once I had added the flesh of my well-crafted and evocative prose, the cat show story was upgraded from page seven to page one, pushing the fire in the gravy wrestlers’ tent to page two. (I’ve often wondered whether Tony had taken a box of matches along to that event. Just joking, my old mate.) I’d love to say I was instantly promoted to lead reporter, but of course that’s not how things worked, even then. There were many more weddings, WI meetings and flower shows along the way as my career unfolded. I never became the investigative reporter I once aspired to be but I’ve been content with the path I’ve followed and wasn’t disappointed to end up as the Northern news editor of a national daily. One brief message for the junior reporters among you: be patient, and leave the running until you’ve mastered the walk. Remember, even Piers Morgan will have done his share of cat shows. I’ve probably said enough now, so I’ll leave you with one more headline before we get on with our partying: WIT, WISDOM AND WILD REVELRY PREVAIL AT AGED JOURNALIST’S RETIREMENT DO.

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EDITOR’S COMMENTS There were several elements of Rhonwen Shaw’s Local Hero that appealed to us in judging the subscriberonly Local Reporter Competition. Chiefly, and surprisingly for someone with no direct experience of the job, she captures the reality of being a local reporter, from the often underwhelming assignments that make up the reporter’s bread and butter to the cynical distance with which they set about them. We received some otherwise quite strong entries that had to be discounted for fundamental inaccuracies and presumptions that undermined their stories’ credibility. Moreover, her story was actually very much about being a local reporter, a slice of life tale that didn’t treat the theme as simply an element of backstory used once in the setup and then forgotten. The delivery is well-handled. It’s easy to imagine our aging reporter relishing the colour, exaggerating and embellishing the story he’s run through hundreds of time in the local hacks’ boozer, perhaps, as retirement nears, considering his memoirs. Read back and see how the character’s voice is apparent entirely through the monologue, without any clanging signposts other than his age. He knows his patch well, has a nose for a story and is always on the lookout for an angle, but beyond that surface detail, he seems warm, doesn’t suffer fools gladly and understands his foibles... but what leads the reader to infer that? A wry, gentle, sense of humour runs throughout Local Hero. I particularly relished the balance of sardonic distance and vivid observation in the like of ‘full gamut of cat emotions from cross to furious’. It’s a difficult tone to get right, not jokes for jokes’ sake, but well-observed and well-phrased lines that let the humour develop naturally from the story and the characters, filtered through that effective narrative voice, something of an It Shouldn’t Happen to a Reporter.

RUNNER-UP AND SHORTLISTED Runner-up in the Local Reporter short story competition, whose story is published on, was DJ Tyrer, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. Runnersup were: Peter Coupe, Norwich; Carolyn Henderson, Mildenhall, Suffolk; Eileen O’Reilly, Wrexham, North Wales; Sim Smailes, Braintree, Essex; Martin Strike, Newbury, Berkshire.



15/12/2015 12:42


L IVED� EXPERIENCE A poet’s voice feels authentic as she uses her life knowledge in a poem, says Alison Chisholm


very single poet has one massive advantage over anyone else practising the craft: a unique outlook and collection of experiences. Many of us write our most telling work when the things we have done and witnessed fill our poems. This is the case with Ann Phillips, whose background and experience coalesce to provide the insights that fuel her piece. Ann grew up in an Army family. She lived in the Far East as a child, and returned as an adult to be an Army nursing sister. She became a midwife, and also went to Bible college before marrying and having a family. So a poem that touches on themes of caring and compassion, prayer and understanding is not an unexpected outcome. But there’s something more. Ann explains that she wrote this poem during time she lived in London, and was a volunteer at one of the City Missioners outreach venues, ‘where we gave hot meals and sat and talked to the homeless. The tragedy and sadness of the men and women caught in that downward spiral stayed with me for many years and the poem came out of those experiences, reflections and prayers. I always think any one of us are but a hair’s breadth away from such a path.’ This is a poem narrated in two voices, and although it is clear who is speaking at 80


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each point, it might be helpful for the writer to provide some physical separation of the lines spoken by the drinker and those by the observer. Perhaps indenting the fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas would create that separateness, a tiny but helpful touch. The reader is presented with a balance of views, more factual than judgemental. In the first two stanzas, the observer paints a picture, and only in the third is there a hint of frustration with the other character, when we are told her breath stinks / Of that which is her god. The drinker accepts her situation with regret and a plea for pity, but not a rant or a whinge. Only the comment of the adverbs in the penultimate stanza, the swiftly and bitterly, suggests a touch of self-pity. Those first three stanzas are full of images engaging the senses of sight, smell and taste; and effective imagery is one of the easiest ways of communicating the poem’s message. The sense of smell is particularly important, being so evocative and memorable. The story narrated by the drinker, beginning in stanza four, has something of the fairytale about it. The reminiscence of innocence and light contrasts well with the reality that we learn from the next two stanzas; but maybe there is a little overstatement here. The fifth stanza tells information the reader already has. We know the drinker’s situation from the opening of the poem, and this stanza does not add to the reader’s knowledge or flesh out the account with concrete imagery. It reiterates the points already made, and holds up the action of the poem rather than moving it forward. The content of this stanza calls it into question, but cutting it would also dispense with the weighty full rhyme of wise and guise, rather too close together in consecutive lines, and the awkward final line whose grammar and significance seem difficult to fathom. There are a couple of other small points that would merit attention if the poet decides to keep this stanza. There is no need for the comma after why, as it prevents an enjambment required for the sense

of the sentence. It is not necessary to abbreviate thro’. This style of abbreviation is seen as archaic, and no longer used. These might seem trivial concerns, but it should never be forgotten that a poem’s brevity means that a lot of attention is paid to every tiny aspect of it. If the poet should decide to drop the fifth stanza, it would mean that consecutive stanzas at the heart of the poem would begin by using repetition – a strong device of slant rhyme – most effectively. The shift in wording at the end of the second repeated line adds to the effect. Fairytale becomes morality tale when nostalgia for the innocence of childhood is snuffed out by reality, and our heroine relishes nothing more than the prospect of coming oblivion. Here, though, the observer’s narrative takes over, implying that there is human help for the drinker, a hand to hold, a faith indicated by the use of the familiar – and in this case not clichéd but cri de coeur – phrase, but for the grace of God. One of the most appealing aspects of this poem is its use of slant rhyme. There are occasional, irregularly placed full rhymes which, with the one exception mentioned, work because of their randomness. The sound similarities create a truly pleasing effect. Look at the alliteration of slipping stealthily and darkened dream, the consonance of embrace / peace and path / death, and assonance of provides / fry and stinks / is / drink. Each slight echoing of sound is magnified in the context of all the other examples, and builds into a network of slant rhyme. If the poet wishes to continue working on this powerful piece, it might be a good idea to cut down on some wordiness. The first three stanzas, for example, don’t really need the single word comment that ends each, and tightening the language by removing every nonessential word from the lines would create a more dynamic reading. Essentially, though, this piece communicates its message with intensity and integrity, and provides a rich example of how personal experience can bring a poem to life.

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THE� � M ETHS� � DRINKER Changeless — like a shadow, slipping stealthily Through deserted streets and haunted alleys She pursues her weary way. A living death, this creature — nameless. Shapeless — her bloated body clothed now In cast-off rags, foul smelling, Provides a joyous feast for lesser fry. Unrecognisable, this creature — faceless. Godless — her breath stinks Of that which is her god. The drink Which rules her days and darker nights, Draws her to death’s embrace — remorseless. Pity me, stranger, as you pass by. I once was young, and in those days, Remembered now as in a darkened dream, I wandered through enchanted ways Ran, or lingered, knowing childish joys and griefs Innocence my clothing and beauty in my face. I grew, and knew not how or why, Innocence was dragged gutter-wise Beauty fouled, and turned to other guise. Until, at last, thro’ dull despair I trace This rank decay, called Woman. Pity me, stranger, as you pass by. I once was young, knew love and life. But now a joyless death stalks swiftly Through my darkened dreams — Puts to flight all youth; And bitterly I descend this path of living death Longing for that last embrace Which shall be — a sweeter peace Than any you can offer. Release. Then nothingness! Pass by? I cannot! For here I see That, but for the grace of God, This could be me.



11/12/2015 14:25


Poetry from




Poet Alison Chisholm guides you through the language of poetry FOUND POETRY is selfexplanatory. A found poem turns up where you may not expect it, as a form of words you stumble across Perfect that have some sort of poetic quality your poetry – however slight – to them. They could be anywhere; in a set of with a WM instructions, an advertisement, a creative writing weather forecast, a news report. course. Because of copyright, it is not See p47 advisable to take a chunk of material from another source, put in a set of line breaks and then call it your poem. In any case, that is hardly a creative practice. The skill in found poetry is to use the found portion as a base (which should be acknowledged on the final text) and extend and enrich it with your own input. The poem will be all the more interesting if you can move away from the original message. If, for example, the basis of your found poem appeared in the instructions for assembling a flat-pack bookcase, the poem should be about anything but assembling bookcases. Found poetry also needs to satisfy the requirement of any poem, to fascinate its readers. EXERCISE: Look at the information given on a jar of herbs or spices. Copy down any wording that captures your imagination. Create a poem inspired by and using the words found.

Although FREE VERSE has a long tradition, its modern form is generally attributed to Walt Whitman in English, while Arthur Rimbaud is regarded as founding the French vers libre. Free verse follows the route of speech patterns rather than traditional set forms. It does not make consistent use of metre or full rhyme, and some critics have condemned it as prose that’s been chopped up and arranged on different lines. To avoid such criticism, good free verse demonstrates careful application of line lengths, so that the line end pause, whether endstopped or by enjambment, falls naturally with the phrasing of the poem rather than sounding awkward or artificial. Poets can take advantage of the hint of extra emphasis on the final word of a line by ensuring that a strong, important word resides there, rather than a less significant of or the. A sentence in prose could read: He travelled far, but found the treasure he sought was fixed in his heart. This could be worked in free verse as: He travelled far, but found the treasure he sought was fixed in his heart. Or He travelled far, but found the treasure he sought was fixed in his heart.

A FOURTEENER is a line of iambic heptameter, consisting of seven feet, each foot comprising an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. It is seldom used in contemporary poetry, having been overtaken in popularity centuries ago by the five-foot pentameter line. It is, however, useful for the translation of Greek and Latin texts, as it lends itself to rendering the classical hexameter lines in English.

The first version mars the phrasing and ‘wastes’ that emphasis on the. The second breaks the phrase logically and capitalises on the enjambment’s suspensory pause to provide a subtle hint of emphasis. The other major element of free verse is sound similarity. There may be repetition of sound, and possibly even full rhyme – although this is seldom at line ends. Most of the



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similarities are categorised as slant rhymes, which include: • assonance same vowel sounds, different consonants sleep / dream • alliteration same consonant sounds starting words finer / feelings • consonance same consonant sounds ending words first / last • full consonance same consonant sounds at start and end first / fast • unaccented rhyme only unstressed final syllables rhyme hammer / mutter • eye rhyme eye sees rhymes that pronunciation denies plough / through • half rhyme - also used as a synonym for slant rhyme. stressed rhyme followed by unrhymed syllables naughty / fortieth These sounds are scattered through the lines rather than appearing at fixed points. Any few examples could be the result of coincidence of pronunciation. Use plenty, and you demonstrate slant rhyme producing free verse. EXERCISE in three parts: 1 Check any free verse poem you have written to ensure it uses appropriate lineation and plenty of slant rhymes. 2 Take any rhymed, metrical poem you have written and re-work its message in free verse. 3 Write a new free verse poem demonstrating good lineation and slant rhymes, with a nostalgic theme, such as memories of childhood days out.

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Try a triolet Try a triolet a triolet TryTry a triolet Try a triolet P O E T RY C O M P E T I T I O N

Enter our competition for short poems with a repeating rhyme pattern with advice from judge Alison Chisholm


he triolet is not one of poetry’s giants, but it’s a charming form that can be just right for a little cameo of an idea that will accommodate some repetition. The repetition helps to make it memorable, so a light form is not necessarily slight, but has the capacity to communicate a message. The form was devised in France, and its earliest examples appeared in the 1200s. Although it was used in English poetry, it fell out of favour until Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate from 1913 to 1930, reintroduced it. The triolet consists of just eight lines, and the rhyme pattern is: A B a A a b A B where upper case denotes repetition and lower case rhyme, as this example shows.

GROSS A cockroach, lurking in my drawer, strolls through my socks and underpants. It freaks me out. It’s gross. I roar “A cockroach!” Lurking in my drawer it’s had the freedom to explore my secret things. I squirm at ants! A COCKROACH lurking in my drawer Strolls through my socks and underpants.

This triolet is written in iambic tetrameter, with four feet to a line, each foot consisting of an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. This is the most popular metrical pattern for the form, although it is acceptable to use different patterns – usually iambic pentameter with five feet or trimeter with three – as long as all the lines of the triolet are the same length. The repetition is interesting. In such a short poem, including the same line three times might seem excessive, and of course the piece ends with the same couplet

A B a A a b A B


that opened it. The repetition, however, can be used to advantage to demonstrate subtle shifts in emphasis from one occurrence to the next. These shifts arise within the content of the poem, but may also be indicated by changes in the grammar and punctuation. In Gross, the second phrase of the first line is in parenthesis, indicated by the two commas. When it recurs, the grammar has changed completely. The first two words have become part of a sentence starting at the end of the previous line, and an exclamation mark appears – punctuation that is seldom part of a poem but seems appropriate in this instance. Instead of a comma, this line leads into the next through an enjambment. The final repeat gives a visual indication of emphasis with the use of the capital letters. The implication is that the writer begins with a general comment about the situation… then is struck with horror… and ends up in a state of total revulsion. It is not essential to add these subtle changes to meaning and interpretation, but can be a pleasing feature of the form. Tiny adjustments to the wording are also acceptable, but they must be tiny. As soon as the wording changes, the dynamics of the triolet are at risk. The Writing Magazine competition for triolets offers the opportunity to explore the form in a lighthearted manner or with as serious an approach as you wish. Do take a little time, though, to consider all the options. The form must be exactly right for your idea if it is to be a serious contender

WM Open Triolet Poetry competition Enter a poem on any theme in the triolet form. First prize is £100, with £50 for second. The closing date is 14 March. See p123 for details.

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in the competition. It could even be helpful to make a shortlist of themes you might like to choose, and then experiment by trying out each in turn in the set pattern. Although it’s a timeconsuming activity, the perfect theme for your entry may present itself with startling clarity and make the decision about content for you; and of course time spent working on poetry – in any way – is never time wasted. Think carefully about your opening two lines, remembering that they will be repeated at the end of the poem. Will you be able to use them again with a shift of emphasis, or some extra baggage? Think, too, about the rhyme sounds you choose. The first line requires another two lines to rhyme with it, and the second another one. There need to be rhyming options available that will make sense and fit in with your message. The line length requirement is a potential problem for writers of triolets. It’s worth checking that your selected length and metre, whether the standard iambic tetrameter or a variant, are applied flawlessly throughout the poem. Remember that even the shortest of poems need to be revised and refined before submission. A triolet demands as much attention as every other form, to check that its message is communicated fluently and logically, and that the rhyme scheme is exactly right as well as the metre. If you are certain the poem is crafted to perfection, you can enter with confidence. Good luck.



15/12/2015 10:23


engines t


What motors your novel’s narrative? It’s important to know so you can keep it ticking over, says Margaret James


hat’s the most important part of a motor vehicle? Of course it’s the engine – the motor. The clue is in the name. Unless the vehicle has a motor, it isn’t going anywhere, or not under its own steam, anyway. A story is a different sort of vehicle. But every story you’ll ever write will need a reliable motor or – if you prefer – an engine. It must have at least one basic premise that fires it up and then keeps it moving throughout its journey until it reaches that journey’s end. Let’s look at ten classic plot engines I’ve found to be consistently reliable.

1 Accident This could be an accident that’s already happened, or it could be an accident waiting to happen. Wherever an accident comes



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in a storyline, it tends to affect everything that comes both before and after it. What if the crash in The Great Gatsby hadn’t happened? What if Daisy hadn’t been driving? Maybe Gatsby wouldn’t have been shot and killed after all? Or was his whole life an accident waiting to happen and was his downfall inevitable?

4 Change

2 Revenge

5 Opportunity

Revenge is the engine that drives the original novel by Brian Garfield and the Death Wish series of vigilante movies starring Charles Bronson. It also drives hundreds of other stories in a whole range of formats. A classic example is Wuthering Heights, in which the (anti)hero Heathcliff returns from his mysterious wanderings to take an awful vengeance on the people who treated him so badly.

What happens when a character is given an amazing opportunity? A girl could fall in love with a prince, a sheikh or a billionaire, perhaps, as so often happens in a Mills & Boon Modern Romance. Or a character could rise to an occasion or meet a challenge, as Mary Lennox does in The Secret Garden when she decides to make this neglected garden beautiful again.

3 Loss

This could be deliberate or accidental. It could be confusion of motive, as in Teddy Wayne’s novel Kapitoil in which the idealistic Qatari hero goes to the USA to work for a greedy multinational company and is forced to decide what he really wants. Or it might be confusion of identity, as in the classic A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in which Sydney Carton deliberately takes the place of a condemned man at the guillotine.

The loss of a job, a loved one, a pet or indeed almost anything can all inspire a central character to take action. When we lose something or someone, what will we do – accept this loss or try to turn our lives around? A vintage comic novel by Graham Lord entitled Sorry – We’re Going to Have to Let You Go shows a newly-redundant executive fighting back, while the storyline of Cecelia Ahern’s PS, I Love You is driven by the heroine’s loss of her beloved husband.

Change is a great plot engine, forcing characters to rethink their lives and maybe do something they’ve never tried before. Wartime is usually a time of change, as the three women in Clare Harvey’s Exeter Novel Prize-winning debut The Gunner Girl discover when they join the ATS.

6 Confusion

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I wish I’d known…

Novelists tell us what they wish they’d known right at the start of their careers.

With Linda Mitchelmore

7 Crime

9 Lie

When a crime is committed in fiction or in life, we always want to know what happened, why it happened, who was affected and what became of the perpetrator: if he/she was caught or got away with it. Classic crime and mystery novels, for example those by the late queens of crime Ruth Rendell and PD James, always feature something bad happening to an often blameless victim. But don’t forget a crime or mystery can drive the storyline in many other kinds of fiction, as it does in Clare Chase’s romantic novel You Think You Know Me.

Although in real life we sometimes get away with telling lies, in fiction characters hardly ever do. The lying uncle in Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby is directly or indirectly responsible for all or most of the bad things that happen in that story, and he ends up dead. The fascinating fibber Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Diary doesn’t get the girl, who ends up with the boring but truthful Mark Darcy.

8 Meeting Who will you meet for the first time today, and will this person become a positive or negative force in your life? This question makes a great plot engine for romantic and relationship stories, which sometimes feature lovers’ meetings that have disastrous results, as in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Remember though, that meetings can sometimes work out well in the end, as they do for Jane and Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre.

10 Mistake A fictional character who makes a mistake, whether deliberate or accidental, will always be punished for it. Or at least there will be some kind of comeback. Anne Elliot, the heroine of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, is persuaded by her elders to send her supposedly unsuitable lover Captain Wentworth away. But a few miserable and regretful years later she meets Captain Wentworth again and this time it all works out. Oedipus, the hero of the classic Greek myth, is not so lucky. He didn’t intend to marry his mother, but this criminal act still results in a dreadful punishment.

Now try this There must be thousands of plot engines, so why not try making your own top ten, perhaps inspired by your favourite stories in several formats – novels, short fiction, movies, or even video games? You can use more than one engine in any kind of story, so maybe try a bit of mixing and matching, too?

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‘Time is finite. We all know that, but I wish I’d remembered it when I first started writing novels rather later in life than most. After having hundreds of short stories published, it struck me one day that a novel is only an extension of a short story, isn’t it? And I could write one (please take note of the use of the word one here) of those. So I had a go at a novel. I galloped fairly quickly towards the final page and with an italic flourish I wrote the end. I shall gloss over how long it took before a publisher agreed to take me on. ‘“What’s your next book about?” asked my lovely new publisher. ‘I had a duh-slap-my-forehead-with-the-palmof-my-hand moment. No one – agent, publisher, general public – wants just one book from an author, do they? In between sending my manuscript out and it coming back far too many times, I ought to have been writing the next novel, and maybe the one after that, but I hadn’t been. What sort of an idiot was I, expecting my one book to be enough? Okay, I know Margaret Mitchell, of Gone with the Wind fame, wrote only one book. But that was back then, and what a book! ‘After contracts were exchanged and signed, along came the edits: quite a few edits. All very necessary, but taking up time – time I really needed to be writing something new. Then came the networking required to let the world (and I mean the world!) know my book was coming out, all of this taking time I would have preferred to be spending writing the next book. ‘While writing novels and seeing them published is marvellous and life-changing, time goes on. So don’t sit around, as I did, wasting time, waiting for that wonderful “I’ll take it” phone call. Zap your manuscript into the ether, or put it in an envelope (with an SAE) and start your next work of fiction.’

Linda has had over 300 short stories published, around 60 articles, and six books – two novellas and four full length novels – with Choc Lit.



15/12/2015 09:59




Creating opportunities In the final part of this series on writing and selling non-fiction articles, Patrick Forsyth focuses on targeting your approach to editors


t was Thomas Mann who said: A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. Actually writing non-fiction may be the easy bit. Doing it in a way that appeals to potential buyers and getting it published is another matter. There are a number of factors to address here, and some hints to help you along the way.

First approaches You can, of course, write something (articles or books) and then submit them to a likely outlet in the hopes of getting them published, but it is often better to make suggestions first. To an editor you know this may be only a few lines; this (third) article began as three lines in an email to the editor. If you write to someone you don’t know, then you need to deploy a longer argument – an overall pitch. Describe what the article is about and why you believe it suits. Provide information about what will be covered – probably 3-7 lines should suffice. Add something about you that links to the topic – and maybe include an overall hook – for instance, that something is a fit because of a season or anniversary. Offer to supply more information by all means and be open, ie don’t say your suggestion must be 1,500 86


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words. Instead, say that it can be written to a length to suit. Even a phrase like ‘working title’ may help you exude flexibility. Note: it helps to keep a kind of rolling CV, adding things that support your track record as time passes and successes accrue (let’s be optimistic). But, and this is important, always regard the CV as a template. Amend it every time to match your suggestion and the editor you send it to in order to emphasise the things that are most relevant on a particular occasion.

Follow up If you hear nothing, it makes sense to follow up. A simple way to do this with email is simply to forward your original approach and add at the start a short note of reminder. Don’t be so insistent that you’re rude and don’t resend something every day for three weeks. For ‘cold’ approaches be realistic. There may be a dozen reasons for them to be uninterested and they do not owe you any favours. Do you reply to every direct mail shot you receive with a polite ‘no thank you’? There is a parallel here. But persistence pays. So follow up, try your idea out on others, turn a Christmas issue idea into a summer holiday one or follow up

an anniversary idea the following year (yes, sometimes you need to think long term). And always remember the old maxim: one word can describe a writer with no persistence – unpublished!

Deliver Let’s assume you get a positive reply. Then what? Bear in mind that editors will consider the degree of hassle or uncertainty that might be incurred in dealing with someone. So you must deliver and deliver with a capital D. Three factors are especially important here. The first almost goes without saying: good writing. Check, check and check again. It might take only a couple of errors, such as spelling, to get an editor wondering if you should be commissioned again. The second is word count: if an article is agreed to be 1,500 words, then deliver just that. Deliver 1,700 saying it is all good stuff and that it was impossible to omit anything and the likelihood is that they will carve out 200 and never ask you again. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, deliver on time. Even slightly ahead of deadline is good, especially the first time you deal with someone. It gives a little time for any discussion or amendment should that

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be necessary. Never take on a deadline you can’t meet. It may be possible to negotiate them in advance, but trying to change them later can cause major inconvenience and put your reputation at risk. If you give people exactly what they expect, or better still exceed expectations, there is every likelihood they will be open to using you again.

Building on success Keep in touch with editors who have accepted your work, make further suggestions and you may well get a second commission – or more. Find reasons to be in touch. This can start with something as simple as common courtesy. Thank them for sending a copy of a magazine with your feature in it, for instance, and make a new suggestion. Then take it further. For instance, new suggestions may link to a first article published. There may have been points made in your initial exchange with an editor that you can pick up on or other links you can use. Never become a nuisance, but do not allow yourself to be forgotten either. If follow-up activity eventually becomes a dialogue then you may find that you receive suggestions from them. For example, the editor at WM suggested non-fiction to me. I then made a specific suggestion. This sort of thing can become regular. If you have created a reputation for reliability, you may get work for that reason: for example, being asked to do something topical to a tight deadline, because experience tells them that you won’t let them down. You might aim for a regular slot, ie, monthly, which would make regular (sales) contact natural. Learn from your successes and failures. Give it some conscious thought and make new approaches, amending the style of your approach in the light of past results, comments made and things learnt.

Getting paid Always ask if there is a fee and what it is. If nothing is said it may be impossible to negotiate something later. Many publications have standard rates (especially for first-time writers), which are not negotiable. Maybe later you might raise this. Rocking the boat early on is not a good idea. Get

the details sorted and agreed: when is payment to be made (on delivery, publication or what)? How will it be done? Most editors find it easier to pay into your bank, so it may be best not to demand a cheque. Do you need to send an invoice (and can it be emailed)? Late payment sometimes happens only because an accounts department does not have the necessary documentation. If you need to chase payment do so and do so firmly. What you have, provided it was all set up and agreed right, is a contract: you deliver, they pay. Many an organisation has two piles of invoices awaiting payment: one to be paid, and another which will sit there unpaid (assisting their cash flow) until each invoice is chased. One hint (and yes, it does work): if you phone to chase payment, make the call standing up. It is much easier to sound firm and you can better avoid something that starts with an apology and continues with I wonder, perhaps, maybe… Sometimes – and this is a contentious issue – you might agree to do something for nothing. It might be a way in. You might agree upfront that two articles will be done, one free, the second for an agreed fee. This is effectively a half-price deal. Alternatively you might agree something else. I once did an article in

Start your article writing career with a WM creative writing course. See p47


If you have created a reputation for reliability, you may get work for that reason, because experience tells them that you won’t let them down. exchange for a year’s subscription to a magazine, and then used the ongoing contact to arrange more work.

Onwards and upwards Having made a start you need to build on your success. As you have things published your writing CV grows and positive credentials boost your chances of getting more work. You can extend your reach, moving from one journal to another or moving from one genre to another (from short pieces in popular weekly magazines to more serious monthly journals, perhaps).

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Another jump that can be made is from article, largely the focus in this feature, to book – and most of what I have said throughout this series can apply to books as much as anything else. You need to think carefully about your credentials: publishers tend to want non-fiction books written by someone who is expert in the subject. You might want to do something that is different from what else you know or have previously done. If you have a dream, although it might mean stepping back in terms of your progress – suggesting something where your successes to date count for little or nothing – fulfilling it can still be possible. I have – finally – successfully progressed through a number of genres: from non-fiction (business, careers, self-help, how to) to light-hearted travel writing and, most recently, a novel. Doing so involved some jumps. It required going back to square one in some respects, but when success came it was perhaps disproportionately satisfying. If you regard writing as a business, albeit a part-time one, then you must to a degree focus on whatever breadand-butter work brings in the income you target. But, given an ability to write, it would be a pity not to try to take it where you want to go. There is so much scope in nonfiction. As I wrote in the first article

in this series, it can run from a letter to the editor to articles and books across a range of lengths, styles and topics. The most often-quoted advice to aspiring writers is simply to do it – write. There is more to it than that, of course, (as we have seen) but the whole process does get easier with practice. It was Aristotle who said: What we have to learn, we learn by doing. How true this is for writing and in non-fiction there are so many possibilities, so much to practice. So, go on, do – you may be surprised where it takes you. FEBRUARY 2016


11/12/2015 14:55


grow as a children’s writer

In the first of a two-part mini-series, author Amy Sparkes outlines five practical ways to grow your career as a children’s writer


riting is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger and better it becomes. And when you spend time training it and pushing it to its full potential, the better the results will be. You may have just started out on the writing road, or you may have been writing for some time. Perhaps you feel a little disillusioned that success has not been as forthcoming as it might have been. Or perhaps you would just like to challenge yourself to make your writing (and you as a writer), even better. In this two-part mini-series, we’re exploring ten ways to grow as a children’s author. This month we look at five practical things you can do to help improve your writing.



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1 Visit schools If you have had a book published (traditionally or independently), try contacting a few local schools to see if anyone would be interested in a school visit. Spending time with your readers (or potential readers) is invaluable. As you read or interact with the children, take note of the things that get them excited. What went down particularly well? When did their interest start to wane? What comments did they make? When did they laugh? How can you use this information to make your next book even better and more appealing to these readers? Visiting schools may well be out of your comfort zone. A lot of authors are quite happy behind a notebook or

laptop, but less happy performing in front of a group of people. The good news is, like many things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I was terrified about my first school visit (an invitation to a pre-school with my first picture book) and actually put it off for ages. When I had finally run out of delaying tactics, I agreed to go in. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Now I regularly undertake (and enjoy!) school visits. If you do step outside your comfort zone, encourage and reward yourself. Not only will it help you in your writing career, but it can help you develop personally and grow in confidence. If you decide or discover that school visits really aren’t for you, that’s absolutely fine. You don’t have to do them. There’s plenty of other ways you can grow as a writer. Should you charge for a visit? It probably depends on the situation. Ideally, every author should be paid for every visit they do (visit www. for information, under the ‘Resources’ tab). However, in reality, schools are always tight on budget and can be quite cagey with the way it is spent. If you have just started your writing career, it wouldn’t do any harm to offer a visit for free. You will gain a wealth of experience from the event. You can always describe an unpaid visit as a special offer – such as undertaking free author visits for a limited time or to tie in with an event like ‘Tell A Fairy Tale Day’. This then implies that the norm would be a fee, and leaves the door open for subsequent paid visits. Similarly, if you have a new book, it is acceptable to do some free visits to promote your book. You could describe it as a free promotional book tour (which sounds rather satisfying) to celebrate the launch of your book.

2 Visit libraries Another brilliant (and simple) way of growing as a writer is by visiting the children’s section at the library. This is wonderful news: it means

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you’re officially allowed to submerge yourself with books. Ask the librarians about any new releases. Or spend time looking at books in the age range or genre you’re interested in. Looking at other people’s books can be a valuable source of inspiration so make sure you take a notebook and pen. Ask yourself questions like: • Do you like the concept for this book or series? How does it feel fresh and original? Could you explain the concept in one sentence? (This is always useful, and something agents and editors look for so they can pitch the book to other people.) You could try writing down a one-line description of each book you look at. • How effective are the opening lines and paragraphs of the book? Do they intrigue you as a reader and make you want to read on? How has the writer achieved this? Any particular words or phrases? How could you apply this technique to your own writing? • Who is the main character of the book? Does the character feel original? If so, how? • How do the chapters end? Do they make you want to read on to the next chapter? How has the writer achieved this? How can you apply this to your own work?

3 Get your work critiqued Another way to grow is to ask somebody else to look at your work. Feedback from writing friends, groups or relatives can be helpful in the first instance. However, it can be hard for someone you know personally to be wholly honest or objective. Critiques don’t come cheap and if you are paying for one, it should be undertaken by an experienced professional who is familiar with children’s fiction. You could expect to pay about £100 for a picture book critique, £150 for young fiction and £250 or so for older fiction critiques. Most literary consultancy agencies offer various different packages, so it’s easy to find something which suits your needs. Although most places will conduct the critique via email, some places, such as the Writers’ Advice Centre, also offer face-to-face or telephone services. It’s hard to be brave enough to send off your manuscript for feedback (and it’s perfectly natural to obsessively

hit the send/receive button on your email once your manuscript has gone). However, receiving professional feedback will do wonders for your work. You will find out where you are going right and also identify places where you could improve. This could save a lot of time at the submission stage and may increase your chances of success. There are many different consultancy agencies. Here are a couple to try: • Cornerstones Literary Consultancy • Writers’ Advice Centre For Children’s Books

4 Find a workshop Another option is a bit more handson: take your manuscript along to an event. The advantage of this is interaction. With a consultancy critique, the whole business is usually conducted over email or via the post. With a workshop or event you can discuss your work face-to-face. Some literary festivals offer writing workshops where you can receive feedback on your manuscript. Check the individual programmes for details. Most festivals with a writing strand offer one-to-one appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors and authors. Slots for these sessions are usually limited so early booking is advisable. For example, the renowned Winchester Writers’ Festival (1719 June) takes bookings from February. For more information, visit the festival’s website: www. There are also plenty of general workshops around which focus on developing your writing skills, even though they may not directly involve feedback or development of your actual manuscript. Learning with someone already working in the field is inspiring and motivating. Many literary agents like to go out and about to meet new people and discover new talent. Follow them on Twitter or look at their websites to find out where they are speaking or holding workshops. If you’re unable to attend workshops, several agents run an #askagent session on Twitter, where you are able to ask any questions. Check out the hashtag on

5 Join a network Finally, consider joining a network of writers. Writing can be a solitary business and it can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. Being part of a network of like-minded people can provide friendship, support and encouragement as well as useful information. • The Society of Authors is concerned with protecting and advising authors as well as running events. You are eligible to join the society if you’ve had a full-length work traditionally published, or sold 300 printed copies or 500 ebook copies of a self-published work. For more information: • The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, or SCBWI, describes itself as ‘the only professional organisation specifically for writers and illustrators of children’s books. We act as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people, from board books to young adult novels.’ As well as information and networking on a national level, the SCBWI also runs regional groups. Many of these offer opportunities to meet face-to-face as well as interaction via closed groups on Facebook. For more information: www.scbwi. org or • As well as online communities, there are other regional or local writing groups you could join. Don’t underestimate the benefit of such a group. It can be a wonderful source of support and encouragement – a place to share an idea, obtain feedback, find inspiration and, very importantly, the motivation to keep going. Have a look at Writing Magazine’s database at Writers-Groups/ or the National Association of Writers’ Groups at By challenging yourself and exploring new avenues, you will become a stronger and better writer. Be inspired and be bold – hopefully your career will thank you for it. Next month we look at five creative ways you can develop your writing and grow as an author.

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Perfect your writing for children with a WM creative writing course. See p47



15/12/2015 10:00




Nothing kills a novel faster than clichéd, clunky dialogue. Get it right with advice from crime author and MA tutor Claire McGowan


novel is not a script. We’re fortunate that we have many more tools at our disposal, from narration to inner monologue to description. But even with that, clunky dialogue is something that will kill a novel faster than you can say ‘Look out, he’s got a shooter!’ In a crime novel, dialogue needs to work hard, as it has to convey information, tell us something about the characters (and possibly even function as a clue or red herring), and also not interfere with the pace or momentum of the plot. Sounds like a lot!

Balance realism and readability The greatest tension in fictional dialogue is between realism and drama. We don’t want to recreate actual speech exactly, with all its hums and haws and its banal niceties, but we want to give the flavour of how real life people speak. People aren’t usually ordered and insightful, or at least not most of the time, and especially not when they’re upset or frightened. People who are very distressed may not be able to speak at all, from shock or terror. Even in everyday speech people interrupt, repeat themselves, trail off, correct themselves, 90


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and often make no sense. Ordered, corporate speech is as boring to read as it is to listen to. Even if your police officers talk in institutional jargon, try to make it interesting, and intelligible, for the uninitiated reader. My biggest tip is to get away from the idea that dialogue is simply there to reveal information. Yes, sometimes your characters will need to tell each other things, but in crime novels this can lead to clichéd ‘here comes some exposition’ scenes, for example the classic walkingdown-the-corridor-talking one. If you find you have lots of expositional dialogue – what we might also call ‘info dump’ – try using viewpoint instead. Show us the character thinking about these things rather than discussing them. You want to avoid what I call ‘as you know, I am your sister’ dialogue – in other words, when people tell each other things they already know, for the sake of the reader. Police officers who work together presumably already know how things would function. There is no excuse for ‘as you know’ dialogue in a novel, where you have access to narration and direct thoughts. You may also find that you don’t even need to give the reader this information directly. If you can hold something back, it often works to create much more suspense.

What are they really saying? Dialogue can do so much more than tell us what’s going on. It can reveal plot points – for example, if your police officers visit a witness to ask about a missing person, and the witness talks about the person in the past tense, this can be a huge clue. Dialogue can tell us all about a person – their background, their age, their prejudices, what their personality is like. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that everyone doesn’t sound exactly the same. Give them distinctive voices and verbal tics (but make sure it’s not overdone). A writer I’ve been recommending to my students is Liane Moriarty. She sometimes has whole chapters just in dialogue. There’s no indication of who’s speaking, but you always know, because they have such clear voices. This also means you can cut out lots of those ‘he said’ and ‘she said’s, which will improve the pace of your work. One thing to bear in mind when creating realistic speech is that dialogue must be appropriate for the person and also for the situation they’re in. For example, a small child or teenager likely wouldn’t use high-register words or complicated metaphors. If they do, then this should be a deliberate feature

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of their character. Likewise, an older person might not swear much or use slang. A quick side-note about swearing – some readers, especially in America, find it very off-putting, but the reality is that many people do speak this way. I think it depends on the voice of the character, and how deeply into their viewpoint you’re going. Used well it can be very effective.

Dialectical discourse What if your novel is set somewhere unusual, with a strong regional dialect? Mine are set in Northern Ireland, and people there do use a variety of words that will get you baffled looks on the mainland. I always have to find a balance between authenticity and being understood. This is what I mean about fictional dialogue not always being 100% realistic – you do need to make sense as well, especially in commercial books. A more literary novel might be able to get away with less clarity, but in crime fiction we have a plot to be getting on with. I always say use dialect very sparingly. Think of it like truffle oil – a few drops are enough to give a strong flavour, and any more is overpowering. You don’t want your characters to sound like leprechauns if they’re meant to be savvy 21st-century cops, for example. And if you’re tempted to represent accents in your writing, be even more careful with that, as you may cause offence. The same goes with characters who aren’t meant to be speaking English – you can represent this by throwing in the odd foreign word, or even saying they’re speaking another language to start with, then just writing in English. You can also use italics, or even just leave it in the other language, if it’s not crucial to the plot. Under no circumstances write it in the other language and then offer a translation after every line! I’ve seen this done. This is another place where viewpoint will solve a lot of problems. Ask yourself what your character hears at this point – do they understand what’s being said, or is it just meaningless sounds?

Keep it snappy Done badly, dialogue can really destroy the pace of your book. Think about what you can leave out. So many scenes in first drafts involve going to a place, saying hello, making a bit of chit-chat,

and finally after half a page getting down to the crux of things. There’s nothing to stop you jumping into the scene much later, and explaining how the characters got there (if you even need to) later on. Don’t waste space with niceties and chat – same goes for phone conversations. Take out all those ‘Hello John, how are you?’ bits. And try starting and ending a scene on a snappy line of significant dialogue. This acts as a real cliffhanger and propels the reader through the pages. Remember that, as screenwriting guru Robert McKee says, dialogue is not the same as conversation. There are various exercises you can do to improve your use of dialogue. Try getting hold of a good play or script, and see how much work dialogue has to do there. You can also try listening to a real conversation and transcribing a little bit – the radio works well, or if you’re feeling brave, eavesdrop on the bus! I sometimes listen to Northern Ireland radio when I’m trying to tune my ear back into the dialect and way of speaking. I’ve used the word tune there, and it’s appropriate I think, as being able to use dialogue well is about having a good ear, and listening well. Ask yourself – would any real person say that? Would a person of that age/background/status say that? Would they say it at this particular moment? If not, change it. And get into the habit of listening in while on public transport or in queues.

Who and how? Make sure you are formatting and attributing your dialogue correctly. There’s no real need to dig out the thesaurus and use grinned, grimaced, expectorated, declared, or any other synonym for said. I often try to avoid ‘said’ at all, instead attributing dialogue by having my characters do a gesture of some kind. However, this does mean I end up with lots of frowning, shrugging, and head-nodding characters. Remember to put the dialogue on the same line as the gesture, or the reader won’t know who is meant to be speaking. And take a new paragraph when it’s a different speaker. If you have a tense ongoing dialogue with two people, you’ll likely still need to throw in the odd ‘Bill said’ so the reader can keep track of things. If you are doing voice very well, it should be clear enough who’s speaking all the time anyway, but make things as easy as possible. You’ll

often get this in interview scenes in crime novels, and it’s an opportunity for a brilliant bit of tension. Use that dynamic where one person has information that they really don’t want the other to get, and the other will do almost anything to extract it. Conflict creates great dialogue, so throw in a row or too if things are flagging.

Outside the speech marks Some more dialogue tips – use speech adverbs (eg sarcastically, coldly) very sparingly. Again, you shouldn’t need to if you’ve used the dialogue correctly in the first place. Remember to put punctuation inside the quotation marks, and use a comma instead of a full stop if you’re following the bit of dialogue with ‘he said’ or a similar dialogue tag. If it’s followed by a gesture or action – eg ‘She shrugged’ – then use a full stop and take a new sentence. What about if you have scenes where the character is alone, or no one speaks for a long time – eg an action or chase scene? These can get quite monotonous, even if the stakes are high and action is pacey, because we do need something to break up the narrative. If there’s no dialogue, try using direct thoughts instead. Write exactly what the character is saying to themselves – so usually first person and present tense – and maybe put it in italics to make clear it’s separate from the main narrative. This can fulfil the same function as dialogue, even though it’s internal. But don’t overuse this either, and try to only use it for interesting or significant thoughts (not ‘I’m drinking my tea, thought Rhonda. It’s too hot.’) Sometimes, if the viewpoint is very close and you’re very clear what is a direct thought, you won’t even need that ‘thought Rhonda’. On a practical level, this also breaks up the big chunks of text which can look so offputting to the brain. Many writers say that dialogue is something they struggle with. But you already have the tools you need to improve it – your ears, and your eyes. Get used to really listening to what people say and how they say it, and also the things they don’t say, and what they say accidentally. Every time someone speaks they reveal more about themselves than they mean to. You can also use your eyes to see how great writers do dialogue – reality, but a much leaner, better, more interesting version of it.

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11/12/2015 14:07


Crime file


ormer journalist and private investigator turned bestselling author Michael Koryta certainly has the knack of being able to create and sustain tension. In his latest book, Last Words (Hodder), the author takes on a journey like no other, forcing his protagonists not only underground through a myriad of caves and tunnels, but also deep inside his own psyche and into the ‘personality’ of each individual cave. ‘I’ve been in a lot of caves, have done a good amount of recreational caving,’ Michael says, explaining a little of what lay behind his idea for the novel. ‘I went out with more qualified people, learned the techniques, read a lot. The world of a cave is fascinating to me because it has, as you so aptly say, a personality. Each cave is unique, but there is also this sense of a shared world, a shared underground connection, and the only thing getting in the way is stone walls. But sometimes you find a new passage and two separate caves, or three or four, are suddenly part of one system. Symbolically that fascinated me.

Exploring underground caves forced Michael Koryta to take his lead character into very dark places, he tells Chris High

The return to the “real world” is always a little startling. Last year I did a trip in a water-filled cave, splashing through chest-deep water in swimming passages, and emerged into a February day that was absolutely freezing. I tried to evoke a little of that chill in Last Words.’ How difficult was it to maintain the intensity and how does Michael manage to release the tension that must have built during the writing – and how much did his journalistic experience help with writing so vividly? ‘That’s a great question – one of the major challenges of the process for me, particularly when I’m introducing new characters and I’m so fascinated by learning about them. With Those Who Wish Me Dead, I had built a narrative around a sustained breakneck pace. I wanted to step back from that with Last Words and go a little more subtle, a little darker, more introspective. At times I worried that this was hurting the tension. So the way I look to fix this is by trying to enhance the emotional weight of the character’s struggle and to throw more trouble at the poor guy.


me officer

Not sure where to go next with your crime novel? Sunday Times bestseller and former police inspector Clare Mackintosh answers your questions on law, forensics and procedure.


I’m writing a detective novel about a serial killer. He operates across the UK; is it feasible that this would be investigated by one force? Andy Johnson, Swansea


In the case of a cross-border series, jurisdiction is usually determined based on the location of the most serious crime, or – if they’re all murders – the location of the first offence. An exception to this might be if the first murder took place in West Midlands, then ten further murders occurred in Devon and Cornwall; it wouldn’t make sense for West Mids to lead, even though they had the first crime. Unless your murderer has a particularly distinctive modus operandi it’s possible your crimes wouldn’t be linked straight away, but once the series was established it would swiftly be brought under one roof (a process not without its internal politics, which could add some useful conflict to your work-in-progress).


In almost every crime novel I read, I seem to encounter detectives throwing up at crime scenes, or immediately after attending them. I’m curious to know whether this is realistic? Ryan Gilmore, London


JULY 2015

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‘I wanted Mark to be literally stripped down to his essential self by the end. I wanted to remove all his layers of defences and have him required to go into places, both literal and of the self, that he does not wish to return to. Journalism was a great learning ground for developing descriptive prose. You have a limited word count, so you learn to look for the telling detail, for the small things that speak of larger moments. You learn how to paint a picture with words for the reader. It’s funny – the one thing I see referenced constantly in reviews is how well I evoke the natural world, and I am always convinced that I’m missing this. I’m forever telling myself and my editor “I need to take up the description a notch… I need to make people feel what it’s like to be in a cave in the dark,” for example. For whatever reason I view that strength as a weakness somehow and then I feel more confident about narrative techniques in which I am probably nowhere near as natural or as strong.’


This happens on television quite a lot, too! I can only speak from my own experience, and tell you that in twelve years of attending crime scenes, traffic collisions, post-mortems and traumatic incidents, I’ve never thrown up. In fact the only time I saw a colleague vomit was after completing the bleep test for his fitness assessment… Physical reactions – nausea, light-headedness and so on – can be useful shortcuts for expressing the emotions our characters are feeling (after all, we want to show, not tell, right?) but you’re right to consider authenticity as well. Crime-writer’s tip ‘Think about the emotional journey you want to take the reader on. It’s easy to get caught up in issues of plot and character motivation, and forget that reading is an interactive experience. What do you want people reading your book to actually feel. Fear? Excitement? Sympathy? All of the above? Bear that in mind as you plan and write.’ Ava Marsh, whose debut novel is Untouchable, published by Transworld

11/12/2015 14:12

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15/12/2015 11:28

It’s not rocket science


here are many people out there who might be avowed readers of science fiction, viewers of science fiction or even many people who might unwittingly engage with science fiction on a regular basis without even knowing it. There’s a lurking discussion there about how SF is marketed and promoted, but many people are surprised to learn what titles can come under that genre bracket. Of course, being interested in a genre or a fan of it doesn’t always mean that you want to turn your hand to writing it. And many SF enthusiasts might not fancy having a go at it because of the ‘s’ word – yes, science. In an ever-expanding and changing genre, the title has remained the same – although the content has transformed greatly over time. So just how important is an understanding of technology and science to the genre these days – and how much does your reader want or need to see it?

The genesis of science fiction When you track back to the earliest days of the genre – when the first popular magazines in the field were emerging (Amazing, Astounding etc) and the Golden Age authors were just starting to work their magic – there was a genuine desire to explore what science and technology would bring for the future. Bearing in mind we were talking about the latter part of the 1930s, obviously developments were a long way behind what we have now eighty years on. The early term for the style of fiction was in fact ‘scientifiction’, representing just how much it should be rooted in the sciences. This was very much an era focussing on what became known as ‘hard SF’, described wonderfully by genre scholar and historian Adam Roberts – ‘the phrase Golden Age valorises a particular sort of writing: “Hard SF” ( hardsfwiki), linear narratives, heroes solving problems or countering threats in a space-opera or technological-adventure idiom.’ There was little concern in this era of SF 94


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How much science you leave out of your SF is as important as how much you put in, says Alex Davis

for social issues, and little dystopia – things that have become commonplace in 2015. These were tales of idealism, of the incredible things that might be achieved by physicists, chemists, inventors and engineers in years to come and the adventures it might take humanity upon. The evolution of the genre to take in ‘soft SF’ was many years away – but wasn’t too long in the making.

Going soft The very earliest days of ‘soft SF’ were probably in the 1950s, which saw the major emergence of incredible authors such as Fritz Leiber, Alfred Bester and my personal favourite, Ray Bradbury. The term was born to reflect one of two things – either SF that was not based on ‘hard’ scientific fact or established theory, or SF that was more looking at the ‘soft’ sciences (ie sociology, anthropology, psychology etc.) It’s fair to say that this was a time in which the genre underwent a significant expansion, not just in popularity but also in variety. This was a time in which science fiction grew and matured substantially, bringing an increased focus on characterisation and human issues. The likes of old-school SF heroes like Dumarest and Captain Future retained a certain popularity, but these relatively simple tales of adventure were being rather swamped and outgrown by sophisticated work that readers were able to relate to more substantially because of its increased human aspect. My personal favourite of the era is Eric Frank Russell’s WASP – it’s hard to imagine a more human story found within the field,

and like many books of its time was a set-up and a concept that could easily have been transported from an alien planet to the world around us.

The growth of dystopia As well as these two very interesting subthreads of science fiction, we have relatively recently had a real explosion in dystopian fiction. This has not just permeated books aimed at adults, but very much young adults also – The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, just as two popular examples, are bleak depictions of the future as it could be. Dystopian fiction doesn’t always get classified as science fiction, but it has clear elements of the field – not only typically being set in the future, but also their look at the ‘soft sciences’ discussed earlier. The subgenre looks at issues that might emerge in time, or current matters that are areas for concern that could escalate and what form that escalation might take. It could be matters such as the political regime, environmental issues, societal difficulties, gender or class relations and more besides. Some of our most acclaimed fiction can easily fit into the dystopian bracket – 1984, Brave New World, The Time Machine, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, High Rise, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Children of Men – a range of books that cover both literary greats and titans of SF. And what’s also notable about the list there is

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that very few feature any strong technological or scientific elements – only Brave New World, The Time Machine and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? can really lay claim to that. 1984 looks at issues of surveillance and state control, A Clockwork Orange looks at teen violence and how it might be dealt with, High Rise looks at class divisions – and by looking at these kind of universal issues great dystopian fiction can remain relevant for a long time, or indeed become highly topical again as issues begin to reemerge.

Getting into the mechanics If you do decide to go down the ‘hard SF’ angle – and many authors are making a great success of that subgenre now – one of the important things to bear in mind is that you might well be writing for a very knowledgeable audience. So if you are going to say from the get-go ‘I want this to look and feel plausible, and have some genuine backing for that in current theory’ then you need to make absolutely sure you get it right. If you have some knowledge already through work or hobbies, then this probably puts you into a good position. However if you’re coming to the area relatively new, research is going to be essential – and in the case of hard SF especially this can see you getting lost down a

rabbit hole. Much scientific and technological theory can be extremely complex, and attempting to comprehend one thing can involve developing an understanding of many others. I’d honestly say unless you feel completely confident getting into how something in your science-fictional setting works, then it might be best not to do so.

Let’s talk toasters It’s also important to bear in mind that whom the characters in the story are will play a part in how much tech and science you need to go into. If all the people within your setting are familiar with the advances around them, why would they feel the need to go into the details? They’re either already au fait with the inner workings or have become so blasé about owning them that it’s impossible to care. How often do we in 2016 think about how our mobile phone works, or how a toaster actually warms your bread? These are items that we have grown up with to such an extent that they have become absolutely everyday. And in this way a time machine or teleporter might be everyday to your SF characters. It’s only if you have a character who is in some way alien to all this – literally or metaphorically – that this kind of detailed explanation might come about naturally in the course of the story.

Not the Haynes Manual... But then the question remains – how do you make this kind of technical detail interesting to

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read? It can be a huge temptation to simply ‘info dump’ by dropping the explanation in the first time, thus getting it out of the way. But three pages of tech spec is not going to enhance the story or keep it moving. If you do feel compelled to tell your reader the ‘how’, then you need to think of a way to make this unobtrusive to the plot you are conveying. It’s not a user manual, or a textbook on the subject – it’s a work of fiction, and that has to remain first and foremost. Can you weave it into conversation, or feature the mechanics of the machine in the plot in some way? Can you explain it by using some simple metaphor or comparison that a 21st-century reader might be familiar with? If you feel as though you really have to keep a lot of detail, at least break it up into smaller segments that might be more easily digested by a reader.

No science is better than bad science Last but by no means least, a final cautionary note to those of you who might be wishing to weave some technological or scientific marvels into your stories. If you don’t have the knowledge, don’t feel like the research, but still wish to appear intelligent and imaginative the best way to do it is probably to say nothing at all about the mysterious inner workings of the future’s finest advances. Many authors don’t go into it, never have and probably never will whilst still making great names for themselves in the field. Many of the authors who do go into it have some background in the field to call upon. It’s far better to glaze over the details than offer some terribly worded, halfarsed explanation that kind of makes sense to you but might be a pure insult to anyone with an academic or scientific background. ‘Cod-science’ is no match for real science, and certainly no improvement upon science left to the imagination of the reader. 95

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Reach more readers on your website and social networks with Webbo’s advice on SEO and keyword optimisation

s writers, we know it’s important to use words with care – and to use the right words for the context. In the ever-changing world of social media, it’s vital to keep up-to-date and on-trend so your online presence reaches your readers and effectively communicates your message, whether it’s chatting to your community, raising your profile or spreading the word about your writing. For a start, think about keywords. Once upon a time, in the early days of SEO, repeatedly hammering out keywords was what got you to the top of search engines. But search engine crawler algorithms recognise copy that is a keyword dump list as reader-unfriendly, so above all, make it sound natural. Relevance and prominence still matter – but you have to be clever about how you use the keywords. Up-to-date thought is that to be effective, use a keyword once in a heading, again in a sub-heading, and then naturally throughout the remaining text. You can use the free keyword density analysis tool (http:// from Internet Marketing Ninjas to help you



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link to something else in it, or your refine the keyword density on your site. Facebook or Instagram feed. To grab readers’ attention in the first Don’t pack your site, or copy, with place, keep your meta-descriptions calls to action: be discriminating. One in mind – Google certainly does. school of thought is that you should Meta-description is the snippet of set out your CTA at the beginning marketing copy that appears but more and more, CTAs are under your title tag and gives seen to be effective when readers a clue about what they’re below the line, and they will find when they Once you’ve got them have been read by people click through to your interested (ie, they’ve who are interested in your site. Here is where you copy. It makes sense that should incorporate clicked through) write people will buy your book, your mission statement for your readers, not or sign up to your newsletter, clearly and concisely a search engine. or like your Facebook page, (approx 160 characters is once they’ve had a happy online the recommended length), experience with you. because at this stage, people Aha, Facebook! All the above applies scan web pages rather than read when comes to writing an effective them. Think carefully about the post. Keep it short, keep it clear, use keywords you need to incorporate here. your keywords effectively, write for Once you’ve got them interested (ie, your readers, add links. But there are they’ve clicked through) write for your a couple of other things. Post pictures. readers, not for a search engine. Your People respond to pictures. And vitally, keywords may entice a reader to your ask questions – remember people love page, but you then need to keep them Facebook for the community aspect. there – they’ll bounce to the next post They are looking for conversations if your writing doesn’t engage them. to join in with, so if you can start a So, use your keywords in your headline discussion, that’s effectively raised your to get people to your page or site, and profile. Remember it’s a community, then keep them there by understanding so be reactive and join in with other your readers and writing something people’s conversations too – and that will appeal to them. don’t forget the lurkers. Just because Don’t bang on. Think about how someone’s not commenting doesn’t web readers butterfly from one story mean they’re not reading, and if your to another. Keep sentences and post is the one that prompts them to paragraphs short. Not only are they join in there’s a very good chance you easier to read, they’re more SEOmight have found yourself a reader. friendly. Including links makes for Good luck online in 2016 – keep us a better reader experience – if you posted about your success stories! don’t want them to leave your site,


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Making changes This month, PC trainer Greta Powell helps with hiccups in changing file format





his month we take a look at a little-known trick for converting photograph files into working pdf files from directly inside Photoshop in order to combine a number of files to send out for viewing. We then look at a couple of queries regarding bringing text across from Microsoft Word into InDesign whilst controlling paragraph and character formatting.

Over a period of time I have worked with a number of photographs then added descriptions and notes to them in Photoshop. My issue now is that I have been requested to send these as a pdf to a wildlife publisher and cannot figure out how to get them in to some form of book format to do this. I wondered if you had any suggestions as to how to deal with this?


After creating a style in InDesign I match the style name to the Word style that I’m importing but quite often the text does not look right. It still seems to retain the Word formatting. Is there any way to remove a style completely from a set of headings and substitute it with the default paragraph style? To do this you need to clear the style overrides. If you hover your cursor across the style in question you should see a cross appear next to the style name, which indicates that you still have other formatting in there. To remove the formatting simply Alt or Option-click on the name, which will remove any local formatting remaining from the Word import. To make sure that all formats and character styles have been removed, make sure to hold down the Shift key as well as the Alt or Option keys. For anyone wondering about importing their text from Microsoft Word into Adobe InDesign this video tutorial from should give you a broad overview of the process:

There is a solution that may well work. You can create multi-page pdfs directly inside Photoshop which can then be opened in Acrobat and if necessary tweaked from that point. As with all pdf exports these images should replicate exactly as viewed in Photoshop, so depending on the requirements you may need to adjust some page sizes in Photoshop. All image resizing can be done via the Image menu >Resize command. To create the pdf itself go to Photoshop’s File menu >Automate and select PDF Presentation from the dropdown menu. When the dialogue box opens you will see a couple of options, either to save as a multi-page document or as a presentation. All you need to do next is click on the Browse button and select If you have a the files you want adding to the document, technical query for Greta, then click OK. Once the file names appear please email: info@ in the browse box click the Save button, give, or contact her via the document a name and you should have a working pdf file. This is quite a good YouTube tutorial:



QUICK TIP If you are creating a long document such as novel it is best to bring it across to InDesign chapter by chapter and combine all the separate files under what is known as the Book panel. This gives you the ability to keep all your files in one place and to initiate page numbering and section breaking easily across a large document. This short video will give you an idea how this works and how easy it is to do:


I am currently working on a long document in Microsoft Word which is being saved as an rtf file, with the overall objective being to transfer it into InDesign and publish it as a book. So far a couple of dummy runs have proved successful – except even with the suggested shortcut keys it seems impossible to get the text to run across more than one frame at a time. Do you have any clues as to what is going wrong?


To bring content across to InDesign from Word you use the Place command, which once the Word file has been clicked on will fill the cursor with text and then let you drag content across one or more pages. To get it to flow across multiple frames and pages you hold down Shift then click. From that point it should flow through the document automatically. However, for this to happen you need to make sure the InDesign document has been set up with an automatic text box. There are a number of modifier keys that you can use to give you a variety of options for controlling the flow of text across various threaded text frames. This tutorial is very short but provides an extremely good description about the various text flow techniques that can be used in Adobe InDesign:

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As well as keeping track of your word count, if you also like to keep an eye on the keywords and keyword density contained in your digital content you might like to give Wordcounter a go. You can either use it online or download a thirty-day trial a trial run at



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Your writing problems solved with advice from Diana Cambridge

Email your queries to Diana (please include home-town details) at: or send them to: Helpline, Writing Magazine, Warners Group Publications plc, 5th Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD. She will answer as many letters as she can on the page, but regrets that she cannot enter into individual correspondence. Publication of answers may take several months. Helpline cannot personally answer queries such as where to offer work, or comment on manuscripts, which you are asked not to send.


I sold a series of articles to a publisher of small local magazines. On their website they claim copyright to the articles, although no mention had been made of this by either side prior to publication. Can I sell (or offer free) the articles to another publisher? Daniel Hicks, Riddlesworth, Diss, Norfolk


If you haven’t assigned copyright, then they don’t necessarily hold it. However, did you read the small print before you sold the articles? Many magazines and websites state that they hold copyright to any feature that they publish, and that they are free to use the feature in any way they wish. This is more and more frequent. Often this small print is on the first page of the magazine, where contact details for the staff are outlined. I would first study this, and if there’s no mention of copyright, then approach the publisher. It might be unwise to sell the same features to a rival without checking first the copyright situation with your existing publisher.


After sending a story to a workshop leader who offered to do a free crit for me after the workshop, I was very disappointed with the critique. It was quite negative and not very constructive. In fact it had a bad effect. I have not written to him but feel I would like to say a few words. I am trying to resist this. Rory Banwell, Aberdeen


If the writing tutor was doing your critique for free, then it’s a little ungrateful to be rude to him. I would still send a brief note of thanks, and check your work again. Is there anything you can take from the critique that will help you? It’s unrealistic to ask for work to be professionally critiqued, and then get upset because the words aren’t what you wanted to hear. If you don’t want an honest appraisal, it’s best not to ask for any appraisal.


I have noticed that some magazines and newspapers pay by the word, and others by the feature. Surely paying by the word would encourage one to write more than necessary. Also, it seems very old-fashioned. Sara Ann Robertson, Walmley, Sutton Coldfield


I have to agree – to be paid by the word seems to belong to the past. But I know there are magazines who do this. And I don’t think they require long articles – rather, they’d prefer shorter ones! It’s best – in my view – to first approach magazines who will pay a flat fee for the feature. Of course, in many ways it can be “by negotiation” which could mean anything. And you may have to wait a while for your fee – there’s no question of payment in advance. Of course, if you really enjoy reading the “pay by the word” magazine then there’s nothing to stop you submitting. One thousand words at 5p each would be £50.



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I am a Brit who has been living in the US for the last few years so I’m a bit out of touch with the UK market. This side of the Pond, there seems to be a big and growing market for personal essays. Is that also true in the UK? Where can I find listings for such markets? MediaBistro seems to be US-focused. Claire Lyman, Washington DC


If you are referring to experience-based and memoir writing – it all depends on the content. Most women’s magazines will have features based on their readers’ family and upbringing (which often will include some kind of trauma or dysfunction). These would vary from features on becoming carer to a family member, to growing up with anorexia. The weekly magazines go for the sensational, the monthlies for the more thoughtful. The magazine Psychologies looks for original features which are usually based on readers’ experiences… and all about their feelings. Your best bet would be to invest in a copy of Writers & Artists Yearbook – especially as you are based abroad. Yet many family experiences are universal and would strike a chord anywhere, so look at US markets as well. In many ways this kind of writing is the backbone of women’s magazines.


I have done a lot of work on my picture book ideas and need an illustrator. But what I’d really like is a workshop where I could meet people working in the same field. Most workshops I read about are concerned with creative writing, nonfiction or children’s writing. Is there anything for picture book writers and illustrators? Kirsty Bradley, Dunstable, Bedss


There’s a creative weekend for picture book writers and illustrators – in 2016 it’s in July at Holland House, Pershore, and Worcestershire. Projects are set, every student gets a personal mentor and you can even book a slot with a commissioning editor. There’s time too to work on your personal projects. Email:

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What’s the standard qualification that will look good on my CV if I want to get work as a journalist? A number of the job recruitment agencies offer online media courses, but I am not sure how they are looked upon. I plan to be a travel journalist. Lisa Schmidt, Stamford, Lincolnshire


The industry standard is still the NCTJ – National Council for the Training of Journalists – certificate ( They do one-day courses for freelancers. But if you have qualifications in other disciplines, for example finance, medicine, law, these still rate highly if you combine them with writing skills. These are where the openings are, mostly. The aim of ‘being a travel journalist’ is rather a high one. It’s easy for journals to find writers on travel, but not so easy for them to find writers who know about money or health, or other specialised topics where you can pick up work – gardening, antiques, food, wine, art. Local newspapers often require multi-media journalists – writers who can blog, make a short film, deal with social media, and run a website. Picking up all these skills would be an advantage to your CV. Some of them can be done online (for example Reed Recruitment offers dozens of online courses, including how to deal with social media or send out MailChimp mail outs), but make sure you get a certificate and have evidence you’ve completed the course successfully.

The trumpet and the tune Sell yourself as the kind of writer editors want to work with, says Patrick Forsyth



I won two prizes in a short story contest and both the stories were performed locally at an arts centre. Since then – nothing! I have submitted a story every month for six months and know I am losing confidence. If my stories were good enough to win then, why aren’t they now? I don’t believe the quality has gone down – in fact my skills have improved. Maria Maddox, Axbridge


Writers so often lose confidence after they have had success which is followed by a long period of rejection. There’s a feeling that success will continue – and if it does not, then the writer must be doing something wrong. The late writer Jean Stubbs sold a story to a woman’s magazine – her first success – and this was followed by a year of rejection. During that time she wrote a story every week, and submitted them – until the next story was accepted twelve months later. She went on to become a prolific and successful story writer and author, with a never-ending global flow of work. So it’s the discipline to keep going when nothing seems to be happening that counts. If you tell yourself that it’s too much to bear, it will be. But if you look on it as a learning process and a writing discipline, then you can bear it. If you have had the energy to submit a story every month for six months, keep going!


Can I claim back the money I spend on my writing? Endless computer repairs and inks, books, printing, my own business cards and also my tickets to workshops and training events. Currently I make very little money. William McNamara, Milton, Cambridge


It depends what you’re earning. If it’s very little – when you may not even be paying tax – then the taxman considers what you do as a hobby. But when you are earning, you may be able to claim back some expenses retrospectively. It would then be worth seeing an accountant for an initial consultation, which they often give free of charge. To claim back tax, you need to be paying it. It’s always better to see an accountant for a free discussion rather than grapple with this yourself – unless you are used to dealing with accounts.

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n editor deciding whether or not to publish a particular submission may be faced with a mountain of other potential material. This means that the process is competitive. A writer may not be selected, not because their writing is poor or inappropriate, but because at that point something better is on the table. This goes some way to explaining how a submission may be rejected, resubmitted months later (sometimes unchanged) and then be accepted. Any writer must live in the real world. However frustrating the process of submitting, the facts above are easy enough to grasp. But what happens when the choice facing an editor is less clear? Several articles, say, are vying for their attention, each equally as good and appropriate. Then other factors can become the deciding ones. Two especially. First is accuracy – a word I use to encompass everything about the way the article fits a slot. Of course an article that nearly fits can be adjusted. An editor might ask for a change of wordcount, more headings, simpler language or whatever and most writers will comply scrupulously if that gets them published. But… the editor then takes a risk. Will the adjustment be done promptly and right? Might they end up with nothing on publication day? They will tend to act to minimise any potential hassle. This flags my second point: you. A writer editors know and trust has an advantage. But so too does a writer at pains to describe themselves in word and deed as low hassle. Convince an editor that you can be trusted, that you are professional and guaranteed to deliver spot on, and you may increase acceptances. Decide which trumpet to blow… and take a deep breath.



11/12/2015 13:33

Writing Times


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Our work ranges from publishing The Poetry Review and hosting acclaimed national poetry competitions, to developing educational work and commissioning a packed calendar of performances and readings. We’re on a mission to connect people to the transformative power of poetry. Now you can join us by becoming a member.

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The Cold War Providing material for fiction and non-fiction writers alike, the Cold War’s division of Europe in recent history requires careful research, says Dr Tarja Moles fter the Second World War, the relationship between the Western Bloc led by the United States and the Eastern Bloc headed by the Soviet Union deteriorated into mutual distrust and military build-up. This state lasted until 1991 and came to be known as the Cold War. The Cold War has provided lots of material for writers, both for those who have written factually about it and for those who have used it as a backdrop for their fiction. If you think about it, the Cold War is major element in many spy thrillers.



If you’re not familiar with the Cold War, study the basics before you start writing about the era. There’s a lot of information online, but if you want a clear, structured presentation and analysis of the events, you’re better off with starting with textbooks and monographs. Your local library will hold some introductory books; research libraries attached to universities that teach international relations and politics will have a broader selection. If you’re not sure where to start, do an online search for reading lists about the Cold War. For example, the reading suggestions by Questia (http://writ. rs/questiacoldwar) list introductory texts as well as more analytical monographs.


Once you have a basic understanding of the Cold War, extend your research into your area(s) of interest. This could involve looking into its social, intellectual, economic and military aspects, its historical origins and/or contemporary repercussions. Remember that the latest research tends to be first published in journals and conference papers, so don’t restrict yourself to books alone. For instance, the Cold War History journal ( coldwarhistory) publishes new research on a wide variety of aspects relating to the Cold War while the Cold War History Research Center at Corvinus University of Budapest ( focuses on the history of the Soviet Bloc. In addition to visiting research libraries

and studying relevant literature, various all, the international politics of the era archives and museums have a wealth of had a direct impact on many people’s information. War-related museums are lives, especially in Eastern Europe and great places to visit as not only do they have in places where the two superpowers interesting exhibitions, but they also tend engaged in proxy wars (eg Vietnam, to stock literature, archival records, images, Korea and Afghanistan). videos and podcasts. To get a feel of what happened in For example, the Royal Air specific places, consider visiting them and Force Museum Cosford (www. exploring their local history. For example, has an Berlin is full of Cold War reminders and award-winning Cold War exhibition and the Berlin Wall Memorial ( the Museum’s reading room in London is berlinwallmemorial) and the museum open for research by appointment (http:// Haus am Checkpoint Charlie (www. It also might be some of the has Cold War podcasts ( places to include in your research. coldwarpodcasts) and other information These days you can also find different online. Other museums you might like kinds of tours that bring the Cold War to explore are the Imperial War Museums period to life. One such tour is the ( and in the US the Cold Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour War Museum ( Even if in Prague (www.prague-communismyou can’t visit them, it’s worth having a which helps you see the If you look at their websites. city in a completely different speak another If you’d like to consult light and gives you a glimpse language (especially archival records, The National into what local people one of the Eastern European Archives in London hold the went through during the ones), it’s worth exploring Cabinet Papers (http://writ. communist time that was material in that language. You rs/cabinetpapers) which have characterised by paranoia, may come across information relevant material in the form spying and violence. which is different from English of the Cabinet’s discussions Interviewing people sources and which gives you a and decisions. Currently the whose lives were significantly completely different view records extend to 1986, but each affected by the Cold War of the Cold War. year new material is released. can be illuminating. You To explore US records and their could also read biographical and view of the Cold War, check out the autobiographical material. If you’re federal records and presidential material interested in the memoirs of CIA spies, held by the US National Archives you can find reading suggestions on and Records Administration (http:// Their Fictional stories about the Cold website includes digital material as War can also be useful, but remember well as links to further resources. The to remain critical and don’t take any National Security Archive at the George presented facts at face value. If the Washington University ( authors have included bibliographies at nationalsecurityarchivecoldwar) also has the end of their books, check them out a lot to explore, including publications and follow any relevant leads. and Cold War interview transcripts, as does the CIA’s library website (www.cia. There are different ways to interpret gov/library). what caused the Cold War, how it developed and why it evolved in the way it did. As new facts emerge, historians are UNDERSTANDING THE COLD constantly revising their interpretations. WAR FROM THE INSIDE When you’re studying the era, bear this in Finding out about people’s experiences mind and try to keep up to date with the during the Cold War can help you latest research findings. understand the period more vividly. After

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11/12/2015 13:35


MIKE CRAVEN The former probation officer tells Adrian Magson that he had to go back to the drawing board – even though his debut had already been shortlisted for a Dagger


eing told by an agent that his debut crime novel (already shortlisted for the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger in 2013) needed a complete overhaul and should be cut by a third, required, as Mike Craven puts it, two responses: sulk or get cracking. Being made of stern stuff he chose the latter course, and Born in a Burial Gown was published last June by Caffeine Nights. ‘After being shortlisted in the Dagger,’ says Mike, from Carlisle, ‘and receiving some interest from agents, I spent the rest of the year polishing the manuscript. The result was awful… 150,000 words long, it had morphed from a crime novel in Cumbria to an international thriller involving a conspiracy in Iraq!’ He credits meeting the CEO of Caffeine Nights at the Crime and Publishment writing conference in March 2014 with getting published. ‘He asked to see the manuscript and signed me up in June. I was very fortunate.’ Where did the idea come from? ‘Both the crime and motivation for the novel came to me during the night. By morning it was fully formed, although some characters changed or disappeared during the writing process. But the central idea, of a woman’s body being discovered on a building site, shot execution-style – and more importantly, why she was there – never changed.’ Having worked in the probation service for sixteen years, specialising in dangerous offenders, extremism and protected witnesses, Mike has an extensive internal database of knowledge and anecdotes on which to draw. More importantly, he used his more personal experience to great effect. ‘My main character, DI Avison 102


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Fluke, is recovering from a very rare cancer, Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Suffering side-effects which prevent his blood clotting, any injury could be fatal, meaning he can’t be a police officer. So he lies about his condition and even commits a crime to cover it up.’ Diagnosed with the same illness in 2003, Mike’s side-effects are nerve damage. But drawing on his own experience helped him nail Fluke’s situation down tight. ‘Getting this on paper was cathartic. I put Fluke in the same wards and hospitals as me, and other than changing the names of key medical personnel, that part of the book is pretty much autobiographical.’ His only other published writing was just prior to Born in a Burial Gown, with a collection of short stories (also published by Caffeine Nights) called Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything. ‘The stories take place roughly a year before the event in Born in a Burial Gown and serve as a taster. They include the key characters and hint at Fluke’s upcoming illness.

They were the first short stories I’d ever written and I had a lot of fun with them.’ Before that he’d written in various forms, but it was after coming out of hospital and learning that golf and cricket were a thing of the past that it took off. ‘If I hadn’t had that first agent’s email, I probably wouldn’t be a published author today,’ he admits. ‘So that low point was actually a high point!’ The sequel, Body Breaker, is due out in June 2016, and he’s currently completing an American novel, A Man Apart, as a break from police procedurals.

MIKE’S TOP TIPS • If you haven’t already, read Stephen King’s On Writing. The most useful book you’ll ever read. • Use beta readers but go beyond family and friends. Don’t sulk or get angry at feedback; look at it objectively before deciding whether to take advice or not. • Attend a writing conference and network with other writers. You’ll find out how helpful everyone is. • Most importantly, get it written, don’t worry about getting it right. The novel comes together in the editing process.

11/12/2015 13:36

AJ 297 x 210_Layout 1 14/12/2015 09:15 Page 1

Write Your Way To A New Career! Writers Bureau Celebrates Twenty-seven Years Hazel of Helping New Writers McHaffie by Nick Daws When distance-learning pioneer Ernest Metcalfe founded The Writers Bureau in the late 1980s, he can hardly have dared hope that twenty-seven years on it would be acknowledged as Britain's leading writing school. Yet so it proved, with thousands of Writers Bureau students seeing their work in print for the first time. And, for many of those who persevered with their writing, the dream of becoming a successful writer has turned into reality.

Times and The Independent, and updated guidebooks for Fodor's, Thomas Cook, and the AA." Another student who benefited was Hazel McHaffie. Hazel wanted to make her academic work in Medical Ethics more accessible to people, and decided to write the themes into novels. Following her Writers Bureau course, Hazel has had five novels published, and appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. She also has her own website at

Students such as “My writing Tim Skelton. An career took off engineer by exponentially.” profession, he had always harboured an ambition to write, and at the age of 40 signed up with The Writers Bureau. The decision changed his life: "My writing career took off exponentially. I started appearing regularly in lifestyle and in-flight magazines. The following year I was commissioned by Bradt Travel Guides to write a guidebook to Luxembourg. I've appeared in The

Sometimes studying with The Writers Bureau takes students down new and unexpected paths. Patricia Holness originally enrolled on The Writers Bureau's Writing for Children course. However, she soon realised that what she was learning applied to other types of writing as well. She is now a full-time writer, regularly selling short stories for both

Why Not Be A Writer! As a freelance writer, you can earn very good money in your spare time, writing the stories, articles, books, scripts etc that editors and publishers want. Millions of pounds are paid annually in fees and royalties. Earning your share can be fun, profitable and creatively most fulfilling. To help you become a successful writer we offer you a first-class, home-study course from professional writers – with individual guidance from expert tutors and flexible tuition tailored to your own requirements. You are shown how to make the most of your abilities, where to find ideas, how to turn them into publishable writing and how to sell them. In short, we show you exactly how to become a published writer. If you want writing success – this is the way to start! Whatever your writing ambitions, we can help you to achieve them. For we give you an COURSE FEATURES 27 FACT-PACKED MODULES 2 SPECIALIST SUPPLEMENTS 20 WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS ADVISORY SERVICE TUTORIAL SUPPORT

It’s ideal for beginners. No previous experience or special background is required. You write and study at your own pace – you do not have to rush. Many others have been successful this way. If they can do it – why can’t you? We are so confident that we can help you become a published writer that we give you a full refund guarantee. If you have not earned your course fees from published writing by the time you finish the course, we will refund them in full. If you want to be a writer start by requesting a free copy of our prospectus ‘Write and be Published’. Please call our freephone number or visit our website NOW! = = = = = =



0800 856 2008 FREEPHONE 24 HOURS

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children and adults. She also has a monthly column in Devon Life. These are just a selection from the inspirational true stories from students of The Writers Bureau. There's no reason why YOU couldn't be their next success story. With a 15-day free trial and money-back guarantee, there is nothing to lose and potentially a whole new career to gain! So why not visit their website at or call on Freephone 0800 856 2008 for more information? Hannah Evans, Winchester “I’ve been published in The Guardian and Good Life earning £400. And now I’ve got my first book published by Bloomsbury called MOB Rule: Lessons Learned by a Mother of Boys. The Writers Bureau course provided me with structure, stopped my procrastination but most importantly it provided the impetus to try something different.”

Kris Roberts, Somerset “When I first saw my words in print it was life changing. Someone else had read my work, believed in it, paid for it, and put it out there for others to see. As more articles made it to press, my confidence grew and I found I wanted to inject some of myself into my writing. At the time of writing this I have received £1,197 for my work.” Jane Isaac, Northamptonshire “When I started the Writers Bureau course, I wanted to explore avenues for my writing and develop and strengthen my personal style. I had no idea that it would lead to me being a published writer of novels and short stories. I still pinch myself when I receive emails and messages from readers who’ve enjoyed my work or when I give talks to book clubs and visit bookstores to do signings. These are magical moments that have changed my life – my dream has come true.” YES! Please send me free details on how to become a successful, freelance writer. NAME ....................................................................................................................................... ADDRESS .................................................................................................................................


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effective, stimulating and most enjoyable creative writing course… appreciated by students and acclaimed by experts.

Tim Skelton

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Years of Success

14/12/2015 09:34


WRITERS’NEWS Your essential monthly round-up of competitions, paying markets, opportunities to get into print and publishing industry news.

Big rewards for crime first-timers

Hale not hearty


Entries are invited now for two of The Crime Writers’ Association’s awards open to unpublished authors, The CWA Debut Dagger Award and the Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. • The CWA Debut Dagger Award is open to any writer who has not yet published a crime novel commercially. There is a first prize of £500, and the winning novel is seen by leading agents and publishers. Many winners and shortlisted writers have found agents and publishing deals in the wake of their Debut Dagger success. All the shortlisted writers will receive a professional assessment of their entries. To enter, writers should submit the opening of a proposed crime novel (up to 3,000 words) and a synopsis. Submissions should be a single Word document, double-spaced in an easily readable 12pt font, with the title on each page. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Writers must submit through the online submission system. Writers who have commercially published non-fiction or short stories may enter, and so can writers who have self-published on Kindle. There is fee of £30 for each entry, which can be paid by PayPal. Writers may enter as many times as they like. The closing date is 28 February. Website: • The CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition is for unpublished mystery stories. The competition is sponsored by the Margery Allingham Society and has a first prize of £1,000. The winner will also receive full passes to CrimeFest 2017. The competition, which is open to all writers, published and unpublished, is for mystery stories up to 3,500 words that satisfy Margery Allingham’s definition: ‘The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.’ All submissions must be original and unpublished. Manuscripts should be double spaced in 12pt font, with the title on each page. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Submit through the website. The entry fee is £15 per story, which can be paid by PayPal. The closing date is 1 March. Website: • The CWA is inviting readers to nominate their favourite crime writer for its Dagger in the Library awards. The Dagger in the Library is given for a body of work, not for a single novel. Readers nominating a writer will be entered in a prize draw to win £200 in National Book Tokens. New for this year, readers are also being asked to nominate their favourite library. The CWA believes that with funding cuts threatening the future of libraries in the UK, it is more important than ever to support them and celebrate the role they play in community life. Nominations close on 1 March. Website: 104


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Robert Hale Ltd, a popular publishing choice for many WM readers, ceased trading as a publisher on 1 December last year, after nearly eighty years in business. Company chairman John Hale is intending to retire in the spring, and realise the family’s assets. Robert Hale was founded in 1936 and its titles, which included hardback fiction, non-fiction, mind, body and spirit titles, equestrian books and the only specialist Western line in UK print publishing, were largely aimed at the library market. Ten people have been made redundant as a result of the company’s closure, and another four people will become redundant when the company is formally wound up in the spring. Its lists and imprints have been acquired by another independent publisher, The Crowood Press. Crowood Press chairman John Dennis has said he is ‘honoured’ to include the Robert Hale imprints in The Crowood Press lists.

Africa unite The Caine Prize for African Writing is open for submissions for the 2016 competition. The Caine Prize is awarded for a published short story by a writer who was born in Africa, is a national of an African country, or has a parent who is African by birth. The winning author will receive £10,000 and each of up to five shortlisted authors will be awarded £500. All submissions must be made by publishers, must have been published after 1 February 2011 and must specify which African country the author comes from. Publishers should submit six copies of the work. If the work has been published online, send six photocopies. Only one work per author may be submitted. All submissions should be fiction, no shorter than 3,000 words. Include a letter with a brief CV or biography of the writer. All submissions must be made by post. The closing date is 31 January. Details: Lizzy Attree, The Caine Prize for African Writing, The Menier Gallery, Menier Chocolate Factory, 51 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU; website:

11/12/2015 13:37



The human experience of war BY TINA JACKSON

Britain at War is the UK’s bestselling military history monthly, covering all of Britain’s wars from 1914 to date. It is aimed at a general rather than academic market, although it is read by academics and people with a deep interest in military history and history in general. ‘With all wars covered from 1914 to date, we strike a balance in each issue with features covering both major wars and other “smaller” conflicts,’ said editor Andy Saunders. ‘We always strike a balance between land, sea and air topics across all our core areas. A strand that also runs through our subject matter is also home-front related stories.’ Andy stresses that the magazine is as much about human interest as it is about the history of war. ‘I would say that the magazine is very much about the human experience of war, rather than being about tactics, strategy, policy or politics. Whilst those areas obviously meld into our subject matter, they are not the core of the material we present.’ Readers are typically male, but BaW also has a growing female readership. Features in Britain at War will typically deal with the personal experience of war and often draw on letters, interviews and diaries of those who were there. ‘We tend to avoid generalised accounts of battles and campaigns and always strive to cover “new” material or take a fresh and different look at topics that might otherwise already be in the public domain.’

Andy is keen that BaW’s content should always be fresh, and not otherwise available elsewhere. ‘We look for originality, and a picture selection which will be new to our readers. Thus, we always avoid the old and staid images that regularly appear covering various aspects of recent wars and which all of our readers will likely be over-familiar with.’ He also aims to convey a measured picture of events. ‘The tone should be noncontroversial and not represent strongly held views or bias, even if the topic is controversial. Balance is the key.’ A typical feature would involve good personal stories with a word count of around 3,000 words and between 15 and 25 photographs, in black and white and colour. Andy is happy to hear from freelance writers with fresh, original stories. ‘Originality and readability are paramount, along with the ability of a story to potentially engage our readers in a subject that is, hopefully, out of the ordinary or not run-of-the-mill. In this context, newly discovered stories, research, etc, are always attractive.’ Writers should be able to engage readers on a human level. ‘We want to see a lively writing style. These are dynamic topics, and we want them to be presented in a manner that reflects that.’ Send Andy ideas by email. Payment is generally £35 per 1,000 words, £20 per colour image and £10 per b/w image. Details: email:; website:

Play it write for 503 The biennial Theatre 503 Playwriting Award, which offers a playwright a £6,000 prize and a guaranteed production of their play at Theatre 503, will be open for entries between 1 and 29 February. Developing playwrights may also submit for 503Five, an 18-month resident writer training programme that will be offered to five emerging theatre writers. The selected writers will receive a full-length play commission, mentoring, workshops, masterclasses and practical opportunities to develop their work. To be considered for this, writers should have no full-length professional production credits. Applications go live on 1 February, and must be made via the online form. It includes submitting a 200-word biography, a 50-word play synopsis and the entire play as a pdf. Writers may submit one play, at least sixty minutes long, which must be original, unproduced and unperformed, available for production and unattached to any theatre company. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. The winner of the Award will not be eligible for 503Five. Submissions will close after 29 February. Website:

COMPETITION A literary review Literary magazine The White Review will award £2,500 to the winner of its annual short fiction competition, which is now open for entries. The competition is open to writers who have yet to secure a publishing deal for their fiction. Writers may have previously been published in magazines or journals, and in non-fiction. The White Review is looking for imaginative entries that explore and expand the possibilities of the short story form. Entries may be in any genre, and there are no restrictions on subject or form. The winning entry will be published in a future print issue of The White Review, and the winner will be invited to meet literary agent Imogen Pelham. Stories may be between 2,000 and 7,000 words, and must be original and unpublished. Writers may submit only one story.

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The first page of the story should give the title and wordcount. All submissions must have page numbers. Include a short covering letter with name, contact details and story title. Submit through the website as doc, docx, rtf or pdf files. There is an entry fee of £15 per story, payable as part of the online submission process. The closing date is 1 March. Website:



11/12/2015 13:37


FLASHES Icon, the monthly architecture and design magazine, had a redesign for its 150th issue. Editor David Michon will consider contributions from freelances with relevant knowledge. Details: email: david.; website: www. If you want to discover more about sports journalism, the website of the Sports Journalists’ Association, ‘the world’s largest national organisation for professional sports journalists’, might be of interest: www.sports Pen International’s new ‘writers circle’, including Salman Rushdie, Colm Tóibín, Alexander McCall Smith, Margaret Atwood and Ian Rankin, offer financial support to Pen’s work defending freedom of expression around the world. Flora International is bi-monthly magazine about flower arranging and floristry. The editor is Nina Tucknott. Details: email:; website: www. Phil Klay won the Warwick Prize for Writing 2015, worth £25,000, for Redeployment (Canongate), a short story collection about ‘the American experience of the Iraq War’. ‘It takes a lot of energy and a lot of neurosis to write a novel. If you were really sensible, you’d do something else.’ Lawrence Durrell



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UK SF MARKET Romance in the stars BY GARY DALKIN

Tickety Boo Press is a UK small press specialising in producing high-quality science fiction, fantasy and horror hardcovers and ebooks. The press is currently preparing to launch Venus Ascending, a new imprint devoted to romance science fiction. Editor Teresa Edgerton is looking for romance stories in wellrealised fantasy, science fiction, or science fantasy settings – steampunk, high fantasy, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, space opera, time travel, alien worlds, urban fantasy. Elements of both romance and speculative fiction

must be integral to the plot. Strong characterisation is essential and she is more interested in stories which focus on the development of a powerful emotional bond between the hero and heroine than in books with long scenes of graphic sex. Stories should preferably be told through alternating viewpoints of the hero and heroine, though novels seen entirely from the female perspective will be considered. The ideal length for submissions is 90,000100,000 words. Enquire first, sending the first three chapters of your manuscript and a two-page synopsis in doc or rtf format attachments emailed to venusascending@ with ‘Attention: Teresa’ in the subject line, and the title of your book. Full details at: • Tickety Boo Press is currently also accepting submissions for ‘good old fashioned’ space operas between 80,000-190,000 words. Series preferred, though stand-alone novels considered. Details at: In both instances include a short bio with full contact details. Tickety Boo pays a 30% royalty on all sales.

We love Lucy The Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, for the opening of an unpublished novel combining literary merit with unputdownability written by a woman, is open for entries. The winner will receive £1,500. The competition is for the openings of novels that are unpublished, and have not been self-published. Writers who have previously published a novel may not enter, but writers who have

Cúirt creative

The Cúirt New Writing Prize 2016 is open for entries. The competition is in two categories, fiction and poetry, and has a €500 prize for the winner in each category. Winners will also be invited to read at an event at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway, 19 and 25 April. Fiction submissions may be up to 2,000 words, and poetry submissions three poems under 50 lines each. Writers entering the competition should not have had a collection published in the category they are entering in. Include contact details with each submission, pay the entry fee of €10 (which can be done via PayPal) and include the transaction ID in the submission email. Send stories by email. The closing date is 28 January. Details: email:; website:

self-published may enter with a different novel from the one they self-published. Writers who have previously been published in other genres (ie, not a novel) may enter. Only women writers may enter. Submissions may be on any subject, and may be literary or genre fiction. To enter, send a pdf of up to 50 pages of the novel, and a separate pdf of a synopsis up to ten pages. All documents should be typed in 12pt font, 1.5

spaced, on numbered pages. All entries must be submitted via the online form. There is an entry fee of £12, which is payable as part of the submission process. Only one entry may be made per writer. The closing date is 5 February. Details: email: executiveassistant; Website: http://www.lucy-cav.

War and peace and incest Andrew Davies, famed for ‘sexing-up’ the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice by putting Mr Darcy in a wet shirt, is courting literary controversy with his new BBC adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The drama features incest and on-screen nudity. Davis says, ‘Tolstoy hints very clearly that the characters of Helene and Anatole Kuragin have been having an incestuous relationship. The convention of the day means that Tolstoy would never have actually written the scene.’ However, Tolstoy expert Andrew Kaufman noted that the incest subplot ‘has absolutely no justification in the text. It just doesn’t exist in it. I think they may be imposing a 21st century perspective on to a 19th century novel. What Tolstoy is playing with in a very muted way is the fact that they have immoral values.’ Historian Simon Schama noted, ‘It is true the siblings have a complicated relationship. But the idea of a gratuitous bedroom scene is totally inappropriate.’ Even Professor of Russian Studies at the London School of Economics, Dominic Lieven, who served as a historical advisor to the production, commented, ‘You couldn’t completely rule out the strangest sexual antics in young aristocratic St Petersburg, though brother-sister incest is perhaps a bit ripe.’

15/12/2015 10:03


UK CHILDREN’S MARKET Nosy call for BAME children’s fiction

It’s a Funny Old World


Leading independent publisher Nosy Crow has put a call out for submissions of work by debut BAME writers. ‘The issue of diversity (or the lack thereof) in our industry isn’t a new one, of course, and it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months, but I was galvanised into action after reading Nikesh Shukla’s column in The Bookseller (see p115), in which he noted that the list of books announced for the 2016 World Book Night do not include any titles by BAME writers, and the conversation that ensued,’ said Nosy Crow commissioning editor Tom Bonnick. ‘I think that there is probably a fair amount of complacency in the industry (and I’ve been as guilty of it as anyone): individually, we all think that of course we’d never discriminate, but at an institutional level, there are clearly problems to address.’ Diversity in children’s books is hugely important, believes Tom. ‘Not only so that children from every background can recognise their own lives and experiences in the books that they read, but also simply to enrich the body of children’s literature that we publish, by moving out of a monoculture and embracing a wider world of ideas.’ Tom completely agrees with Nikesh, whose comments made national newspaper headlines, and promoted Tom to launch a call for new submissions by BAME writers for Nosy Crow. ‘Proper representation is an area in which we could definitely do better, which is why we’ve announced this open call for children’s fiction submissions. We’ve always had an open submissions policy at Nosy Crow, and so this isn’t exactly a departure for us in terms of our stated position, but I think that what this particular discussion has shown me is that it’s not enough just to say that you’re happy to consider writing from anywhere: if you aren’t hearing from authors from particular backgrounds at all, you need to go out and actively seek them.’ Nosy Crow publishes high-quality, parent-friendly, child-focussed books with great stories, that are inclusive and appealing to everyone. For this call from BAME writers, Tom is looking for fiction for children from five upwards. ‘I commission fiction at Nosy Crow, so anything in the 5-12 age range, but I’d be especially interested in 9-12, aka “middle grade”,’ he said. ‘I’m very happy to receive submissions from agented and un-agented authors, and although I’d particularly like to see children’s fiction submissions from debut writers, I’d still be pleased to consider texts from authors who’ve already been published. I’m happy to consider writing in any genre.’ Send Tom a synopsis and three chapters. Nosy Crow pays an advance and royalties. Details: email:; website:

Paint a (not so) Vulgar Picture Heaven knows, he must be miserable now. In December The Literary Review gave the 23th annual Bad Sex In Fiction Award to Morrissey – the former Smiths lead singer who spent a large chunk of his career avowing he was celibate and/or asexual – who came first beating off stiff competition with his novel List of the Lost. The judges were seduced by lines like, ‘Eliza and Ezra rolled together into one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, shouting and screaming.’ Also shortlisted were George Pelecanos, Erica Jong, Joshua Cohen and Richard Bausch. Morrissey’s win was announced at London’s In and Out club.

Scandinavia, long prominent in crime writing, saga and fairy tale categories, added timber lit to its pedigree when a guide to chopping, stacking and burning wood the Norwegian way logged a place in best seller circles. Hel Ved (Solid Wood), by Lars Mytting, released in 2011, led to Robert Ferguson’s English translation, Norwegian Wood, which soon soared up Amazon’s UK bestseller chart, encouraging independent publisher MacLehose Press to make four reprints It is all about such matters as tree types, wood-pile lore and other skills from the drying time of a birch tree felled in winter to the proper way to sharpen a chainsaw. ‘New heights of artistry are possible if you combine chunky and finely chopped logs with unsplit branches,’ is one piece of its wisdom. • Edward Brooke-Hitching is the author of a strangely named book Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports. According to the publishers’ blurb: ‘Edward Brooke-Hitching has brought back to life some of the most curious, dangerous and bizarre sports and pastimes that mankind has ever devised, before thinking better of it and erasing it from the memory.’ Fox tossing was, allegedly, a popular sport for men and women in 18th-century Germany. ‘It would involve dozens of couples pairing up and standing 20-25 feet apart in an enclosed field, each holding one end of a net, and then they would pull hard at both ends as the fox ran past, sending it flying high into the air.’ Really? • Thankfully, The Ladybird Book of the Hangover by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris is not aimed at the brand’s traditional age group, being one of the Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups. For the records, other in the series are: • The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness • The Ladybird Book of Dating • The Ladybird Book of Sheds • The Ladybird Book of The Hipster • The Ladybird Book of the Mid-Life Crisis • How it Works: The Husband • How it Works: The Wife • The brains behind BBC quiz show QI - John Lloyd, John Mitchinson and James Harkin - have put together a book 1,234 QI Facts To Leave You Speechless (Faber). Among the things we learn is that in 1900, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle caught fire during a cricket match at Lord’s. The ball hit a box of matches in his pocket. Here some other snippets: • Poet TS Eliot wore pale-green make-up. Nobody knows why. • The Wikipedia page for ‘pedant’ has been edited more than 500 times. • A Shakespearean euphemism for infidelity is ‘groping for trout in a peculiar river’. • English has more words for the noises that dogs make than any other language. There are lots more where these came from.

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FLASHES Ski + board magazine, the official magazine of the Ski Club of Great Britain, is edited by Colin Nicolson. Contact deputy editor Ben Clatworthy with ideas for future issues. Details: ben. clatworthy@skiclub.; website: TimeInc UK will be relocating its specialist magazine portfolio to new premises at Farnborough Business Park in Hampshire. The move will take place in February. Oxford professor and author Paul Slack took the Samuel Pepys Award 2015 – the biennial prize awarded to a book that makes the greatest contribution to our understanding of Samuel Pepys – for The Invention of Improvement: Information and Material Progress in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford University Press). He received a cheque for £2,000 and a specially cast silver medal. Future Publishing’s monthly PC Format magazine has been closed down after 24 years. Nigerian author Chimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun was named the Best of the Best, ‘chosen from the past decade’s winners of the Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction’, receiving a specialedition statuette, by the artist Grizel Niven. ‘I have always been popular in America. Readers there are less stupid about science fiction.’ Brian Aldiss



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The motto of UK-based folk, roots and world music magazine fRoots has always been ‘inspiration to enthusiasm’ with a balance being struck between ‘informing new readers and interesting experienced ones’. It aims to deal with a unique mix of music, everything from ‘Anglo-trad to Zanzibar pop, the latest fusions to the very ethnic’ and claims to be the first place to read about new names and previously underexposed local music. The magazine is available in print and digital formats and is sold on newsstands, through major music chains, independent specialist shops, live music venues and by subscription. It has a readership of an estimated 40,000. This is a paying market and all material should be original to the magazine. Before considering writing anything it is advised you check with the past features index on the website to see the subject has not been covered before and it is also advised you contact the magazine before submitting anything. Main features of interviews and overviews of types of music are 1,800-2,000 words and interviews should avoid a Q&A format. The Roots Salad sections has news and shorter features and these should be a preferable 800 words, although a maximum of 900 words can be considered. Reviews of CDs, DVDs, books etc will always come from items sent to the office rather than direct to the reviewer by publishing companies or bought

by the reviewer. There is no payment made for reviews of this kind although the reviewer does get to keep the copy of the item reviewed. Reviews of live events are widely covered in the print magazine and unique or out-ofthe-way events are preferred. Check first to see if the event is already being covered. Reviews of a single artist or band at a concert or club should be a maximum 350 words, although festival reviews can stretch to a maximum 600 words. The website has guidelines on the preferred way of writing a review. Photographs are always needed and these should be a minimum 300ppi colour tif or jpg file. The next copy date for material is 15 March for the May issue which will be published on 21 April. See the website for dates following this. Submit all work by email, preferably as text in the body of the email with an attached doc or rtf file. The website has full details of submissions criteria and guidelines on writing for the magazine’s specific style and content. Website:

Go the Greenway

Art from art

Fancy a three-month paid writing residency in Greenway, Agatha’s Christie’s holiday home? Writing Places, a partnership between Literature Works, the National Trust and Poetry Archive, is inviting applications for a writer in residence to support the Writing Places project during May, June and July. The writer will be based at Greenways, Agatha Christie’s holiday home in Devon, and will be paid a stipend of £4,000. The residency does not include accommodation, and there is no travel budget. During the residency, writers will be expected to give two workshops in creative writing/ reading, attend an open day, give four property/visitor engagement activities, contribute three blog entries and support the Writing Places team to promote the house and Writing Places blog, websites and trails. To apply for the residency, writers

Carlo Pirozzi, Research Fellow at the Italian Department of St Andrew’s University, is inviting submissions of short stories in response to the artwork The Manuscript of Monte Cassino (1991) by Edward Paolozzi. Carlo is interested in stories that explore how the sculpture, which itself bears a historical memory, creates memories and inspires new stories when it is seen from a transnational and transcultural perspective. Texts will be selected for online publication in the Transnationalising Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures project that Carlo is working on, and in an edited book. There is no word limit. The closing date is 29 February. Website: manuscriptofmontecassino

should send a letter outlining their publishing history; why they would like to undertake the residency and what its impact would be on their own work and development; their availability, experience and ability to meet the requirements of the post. Also include a CV. The closing date for applications is 31 January. Details: Kate Campbell, Literature Works, Peninsula Arts Gallery, Roland Levinsky Building, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA; email: kate@literatureworks.; website:

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Find the right Fitzcarraldo

Stand out from the crowd BY TINA JACKSON

Independent Manchester publisher Dead Ink Books is inviting submissions for its New Voices 2016 publications. Dead Ink publishes literary fiction from new and emerging authors. ‘Our big focus is debuts,’ said publisher Nathan Connolly. ‘Last year the New Voices authors made a big impact, we think this year they will be even more successful. As we evolve and expand we want publication with Dead Ink to be the start of a promising career.’ Dead Ink began as a digital-only publisher in 2010. ‘Digital publishing was a sort of Wild West back then,’ said Nathan. ‘We may have been the first digital-only but I’m not sure. We were set up with an Arts Council England grant with the aim of using digital technology to experiment in bringing new authors to publication. Last year we began printing physical books for the first time.’ At the moment, Dead Ink publishes between three and six titles per year. ‘So our output is small. But that is changing and I expect it to change drastically over the next twelve months. We’ve been growing at a tremendous pace with further grants from Arts Council England, representation by Inpress books and a very supportive (and growing!) community of publishers in Manchester.’ All Dead Ink titles are literary fiction debuts, and Nathan is keen on books that take, in some way, risks. ‘We’re not afraid of or averse to fiction that works with genre. What Dead Ink means when it says literary is that we want work that has something to say and a unique way in which to say it. It also helps if the books are challenging in some way. We think each of the books we have published has been provocative in its own way.’ Dead Ink will select three titles from its New Voices call for submissions. ‘I’m not really interested in defining what we are looking for in terms of any strict requirements. I think the best new writing often shows you something you had never even considered before and makes you passionate about it. Dead Ink has a very broad definition of the literary and we stand by that. What excites me when selecting books for publication is a confident author. And I mean that in terms of their style and subject matter. A willingness to stand out.’ All writers submitting to Dead Ink’s New Voices call must be Dead Ink members. ‘Dead Ink’s bread and butter is literary fiction from debut authors. That is a huge risk in publishing. Membership is what enables us to take that risk. So we’re asking everyone who wants to submit their work to support our current generation or writers. If we do publish your book, then we’re going to be asking the next generation to do the same when it comes to New Voices 2017. Community is the future of digital publishing and I think that this is one way that it can work. New writers supporting each other.’ Lifelong membership costs £8. To submit, send a manuscript, a synopsis, and author bio and your Dead Ink membership number. Submissions are open until 31 January. Dead Ink publishes in print and digitally, and pays royalties. Details: email:; website:

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A new prize has been launched for unpublished writers called The Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize. An Arts Council grant has enabled an award of £3,000 for the best proposal for a book-length essay by an unpublished writer living in the UK or Ireland. Submissions opened on 1 January, and there is a 15 March deadline with the winner being announced in May. Entries will be judged by an editorial committee comprising Ali Smith, Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Paul Keegan and Fitzcarraldo Editions publisher, Jacques Testard. In addition to the £3,000 prize money, which will act as an advance towards the publication of the essay with Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2017, the winner will also be awarded a three month writer’s residency at the Mahler and Le Witt Studios in Spoleto, Italy, to work on their book over the summer. A statement said: ‘The Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize aims to find the best emerging essay writers and to give them a chance to develop and showcase their talent. It will also provide future winners with their first experiences of publishing a book, from the planning, research and writing of it through to the editing, production and publicity stages.’ More details of the prize can be found on the website:

Open House for poets Open House 2016, literary magazine The Interpreter’s House’s poetry competition, is inviting entries. The competition judge will be Jonathan Edwards, whose debut collection My Family and Other Superheroes won the Costa Poetry Prize. There is a first prize of £500, a second prize of £150 and a third prize of £100. A further seven poems will be highly commended, and the winning poems will be featured in a future issue of The Interpreter’s House. Poems must be original and unpublished, and may be any length up to fifty lines. All entries should be clearly typed in 12pt font on single sides of A4. Each poem entered should be on a new page, and should be titled. The poet’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Include an entry form, covering letter or email with details of name and contact details. There is an entry form of £4 for one poem and £10 for three poems. Postal entrants should make their cheque payable to The Interpreter’s House. Email entrants may pay be PayPal or credit or debit card. The closing date is 30 January. Details: The Competition Administrator, Open House 2016, The Interpreter’s House Poetry Competition, 26 The Wern, Lechlade GL7 3FF; email:; website: FEBRUARY 2016


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FLASHES Simon McGrath is editor of Camping and Caravanning monthly magazine for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club. Contact him with ideas for illustrated articles. Details: The Camping and Caravanning Club, Greenfield House, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JH; website: www.campingand caravanningclub. Island News & Advertiser, based on Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, a monthly free newspaper which went digital last year, has been revived in print as a paid-for weekly. Australia’s newest literary award, the Richell Prize for emerging writers, went to Sally Abbott, who won $10,000, a year’s mentorship with Hachette Australia and publication of her work in the Guardian Australia. The foreign literature category of Russia’s Yasnay-Polyana Book Award, worth one million roubles (£10,000 approx) went to American author Ruth Ozeki for ATale For theTime Being. Mark Frith, editorin-chief of Now magazine, has also been appointed editor-in-chief of Look magazine. ‘If there has to be a first rule of biography, perhaps it should be that dirt for dirt’s sake is offensive – vulgar, a slur. But dirt for art’s sake, dirt put to exegetical purpose, is precious – far more precious than good taste.’ Adam Begley, the Guardian



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The Creative Non Fiction Foundation and its In Fact Books publishing strand have two current opportunities for publication with a magazine and an anthology. For both, you may make as many submissions as you like and although the company is based in Pittsburg, USA, work from writers around the world is welcome. The Creative Nonfiction magazine is looking for true, factually accurate, unpublished essays of a maximum 4,000 words on the theme of learning from nature. Examples given are such as airlines developing boarding methods based on movements in ant colonies and new age fabrics being inspired by pine cones. Well-crafted articles that show the relationship between humans and the environment in a time of climate change challenges are what is wanted. Make it vivid, dramatic, with an informative or reflective element that goes beyond the personal to give a universal or deeper meaning, and you could be onto a winner. The winner in this case will be awarded $5,000 and a runner up $1,000. The deadline for submissions is 1 February 2016. • True, factually accurate stories that capture the complexities and comforts of sibling relationships are also wanted for a Siblings anthology.

‘Essays should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element, reaching beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning,’ say guidelines. All the varieties of sibling relationships can be considered whether that be adoptive or biological, step or full, human or animal, one or many. Stories which reflect perspective and change are of particular interest. Submissions must be a maximum 4,500 words and not have been previously published. The deadline for submissions is 7 March and payment for published work can be expected to be around $150. For both opportunities, send your manuscript with a cover letter containing your contact information, the title of the piece, a word count and enclose also a stamped addressed envelope or email address for a response. Submissions may be made by post or online via the website. There is a $3 fee payable if submitting online. Details: In Fact Books, c/o Creative Nonfiction Foundation, Attn: Siblings or Creative Nonfiction, Attn: Learning from Nature, 5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202, Pittsburg, PA 15232, USA; website:

Short form for a big win The free-to-enter European Haiku Prize invites entries from around the world, written in any language but accompanied by an English or French translation if not written in one of these languages. There is a prize pot totalling €1,300 on offer to three winners who will also receive a diploma and commemorative plaque. Winning and mentioned haiku will also receive online publication and a selection of submissions will be published in an anthology to be published by Manyoshu Publishing and distributed worldwide. There is to be an award ceremony in Italy on 30 April, with accommodation provided on request. Entries should be unpublished, typed/printed or clearly written on

single sides of paper and you can enter up to three times. The closing date is 20 February. Postal entries should consist of five copies of each haiku, one of which also provides your name, age, postal and email addresses and phone number. For email entries, include your personal information in the body of the email and either include entries in the body of the email or as an attached doc, docx, txt or pdf file. The European Haiku Society (EHS), a non-profit organisation, publishes the quarterly Makoto ezine with articles, essays and reviews in addition to poetry from members and international writers and artists. The society also features its activities and events in the weekly Akisame newsletter. Look

out towards the end of 2016 for details of the Kobayashi Issa Award for published collections of haiku, essays or works of scholarship about haiku poetry written in English. See the website for full details of EHS. Details: European Haiku Society (EHS) Via Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 4, 33084 Cordenons (PN) Italy; email:; website:

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Send your writing across The Pond BY GARY DALKIN

Founded in 1857 as The Atlantic Monthly, The Atlantic is one of America’s great literary and cultural magazines. The editorial team is always interested in great non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. The best way to have work accepted it to familiarise yourself with the sort of writing The Atlantic has previously published, which can be freely done by reading the online version of the magazine at Make sure non-fiction is thoroughly researched and fact-checked. Payment for the electronic edition is a flat rate of $150, and for the print edition by negotiation. All manuscripts should be submitted as a doc or pdf attachment. Succinct pitches may be submitted in the body of an email. For nonfiction send your manuscript or pitch to: To submit fiction, send your manuscript to: To submit poetry, send your manuscript to:

Get lost with Robert Louis in France Scottish Book Trust is inviting applications for The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship 2016. Four professional writers will be offered places on the programme, each of whom will be offered a monthlong residency at the Hotel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez sur Loing in France. The residencies will take place in June, July August and November. Each resident will receive a month’s accommodation in a selfcatering apartment, a bursary of £300 per week and their travel costs to and from France. To apply, writers must be practising writers living and working in Scotland. Traditionally published writers should have published at least one book, or at least six separate publications in a range of established literary journals, magazines or anthologies within the last ten years (for anthologies). Playwrights should have had at least one professional production of their work performed within the last ten years. Writers applying for a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship must download and complete an application form, which requires a personal statement, a paragraph explaining why you want the residency, a sample of writing of up to 2,500 words, and if the sample is part of a longer work, a synopsis. The closing date is 3 February. Details: RLS 2016, Scottish Book Trust, Sandeman House, Trunk’s Close, 55 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SR; email:; website:

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And another thing... ‘The problem is that people who like science and technology, and people who like storytelling and the arts have typically been placed in different buildings since about the age of sixteen. We haven’t been taught how to admire each others’ work, to recognise excellence, or even to know that there is excellence in “the other culture”. There’s a kind of sullen arrogance on both sides, with some people in both camps simply denying that the other knows anything worth listening to. There is a kind of “worthy” arts professional who thinks that knowing nothing about games – like saying “I don’t even own a television!” – is a marker of intellectual superiority.’ Naomi Alderman, novelist and games designer, the Guardian

© Phyllis Christopher, Writer Pictures


‘When we buy a physical book, we can do with it what we want – cut up the pages, burn it for warmth, give it to friends, and so on. Because the contract of ownership between reader and object is implicit, not dependent on any third party, the physical book also becomes a true souvenir of the reading experience. One that can’t be revoked because of broken or neglected software. In effect, a long term trust is embedded in the nature of a physical book. This is not the case with Kindle Books, we never truly own the book we are purchasing, we are merely renting them.’ Michael Kozlowski, editor-in-chief, Good e-Reader ‘I joke that I suffer from CRD: compulsive reading disorder. I don’t drink liquor or use drugs or eat sugar anymore, but books still have the power to enthral and derail me. Often, I find myself eyeing a book in the late afternoon when I am tired of working. It might be a hardcover I have bought, or just something in my e-reader’s new-releases list. I have writing to do. I shouldn’t be reading. Someone is expecting a call from me. I will mindlessly pick up the book, just to have a look, and somehow, before I know it, hours have passed, it is three in the morning.’ US writer Susan Cheever, Publishers Weekly ‘Why do writers so often love to run? Running affords the freedom of distance, coupled with the literary appeal of solitude. There’s a meditative cadence to the union of measured breaths and metered strides. Writers and runners both operate on linear planes, and the running writer soon realises the relationship between art and sport is a mutually beneficial one.’ Nick Ripatrazone, The Atlantic FEBRUARY 2016


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This England and Evergreen are two DC Thomson publications celebrating traditional England and the monarchy. Send ideas for illustrated articles to editor Stephen Garnett. Details: email: thisengland@ website: www. Amina Shah is the Scottish Book Trust’s new director of programme. The BBC has ordered a drama series for BBC One, based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials. Eric Musgrave, editor of fashion industry title Drapers, has been replaced by Keely Stocker, formerly deputy editor. Crime writer Ian Rankin, British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Oxford professor of poetry Simon Armitage, children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson, Antony Beevor and Antony Horowitz will appear at the eighth Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, 1-12 March. Danny Milner has been appointed as editor of Mountain Bike Rider, succeeding Simon Collis, who has been appointed content director of TimeInc UK’s cycling portfolio. ‘I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for?’ Franz Kafka



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GLOBAL SPECFIC MARKET Lustrous fantasy opportunity BY GARY DALKIN

Shimmer Magazine is an American print and electronic contemporary fantasy title with forays into science fiction and horror. The editorial team, led by senior editor E Catherine Tobler, often selects stories which are tinged with sorrow, though it is not averse to the occasional humorous tale. The title is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary and publishes a new edition every four months. The editors aspire to print ‘excellent fiction across lines of race, income, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, geography, and culture’, and therefore encourage submissions of diverse stories from diverse authors. Stories should ideally be unusual and beautifully-written speculative fiction stories with full plots, strong characters and a powerful emotional core. Stories with a distinctive voice and original imagery are preferred. Avoid formulaic sword and sorcery, hard SF, space opera, paranormal romance, and slasher/ body-mod horror. Anything involving

mermaids, devils, writers, holidays, selkies, sexual violence or protagonists suffering from amnesia will be a hard sell. No multiple or simultaneous submissions, poetry, or reprints. Preferred length is around 4,000 words. Stories up to 7,500 words will be considered. For anything longer than that, enquire first. Payment is 5¢ per word, with a minimum of $50. Send your manuscript as a doc, docx or rtf attachment in standard manuscript format to shimmersubs@gmail. com. Include a brief cover letter introducing yourself and including full contact details. Make the subject line of your email ‘Submission: “title of your story”’. Shimmer occasionally accepts non-fiction and audio works. If you have anything you think may be suitable enquire to Follow the full guidelines on the website:

Book Talk BY JOHN JENSEN Women writers for literary anthology The Woman in Black author Susan Hill is looking to compile, edit and publish an anthology of highquality literary stories by women, and is inviting submissions from new authors, to be published alongside stories by well-established writers. If the anthology is published, it will be in hardback under Susan’s own Long Barn Books imprint. Stories should be between 2,000 and 6,000 words and must be literary. Do not submit horror, fantasy, erotica or light romance. Stories must be previously unpublished in book form or online, but may have been published in a magazine or journal. Send submissions as Word docs to Susan by email (, and please do not send her any other enquiries. Authors published in the anthology will receive a flat rate of £500. Submissions are expected to be open until the end of May.

© Lesley Anne Churchill, Writer Pictures


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INTRODUCTIONS Writing Magazine presents a selection of gardening magazines currently accepting contributions. We strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with their publications before submitting and check websites, where given, for submission guidelines.

With almost 200,000 readers, Amateur Gardening is the UK’s leading weekly magazine for garden enthusiasts, and is edited by Tim Rumball. The heavily illustrated weekly is carries the latest in gardening news, and has a highly practical focus, with easily accessible breakdowns of practical gardening techniques and projects. Although much of the copy is generated in-house, there are occasional opportunities for freelances. Prospective writers should be gardening experts whose writing fits with the friendly, personal style of the magazine. Send Tim a brief email including the idea and the writer’s credentials, and up to two low-res images if these are relevant. Payment is negotiable. Details: email: amateurgardening@timeinc. com; website: Gardens Illustrated, edited by Juliet Roberts, is a lavishly illustrated monthly that looks at the most beautiful gardens in the world. It offers ideas and inspiration for gardeners who read it to get style inspiration for their gardening projects, and Juliet emphasises that the magazine is useful as well as lovely to look at. Features include interviews and profiles of garden designers, and there’s a horticultural who’s who. Garden features tend to be around ten pages, with between 500 and 1,000 words of copy. Juliet is happy to receive ideas for features from potential freelances, and looks for fresh, stylish, original writing. Send pitches by email. Payment varies. Details: email: gardens@gardensillustrated. com; website:

Linked to the BBC’s flagship gardening programme, BBC Gardener’s World magazine is the UK’s biggest-selling gardening title. Both practical and inspirational, features include monthly checklists, informationrich feature articles and a wealth of images to inspire gardening ideas. The magazine’s contributors include some of the biggest names in gardening and garden writing, but editor Lucy Hall is happy to receive proposals from knowledgeable freelance writers who understand the magazine and its readers to add to her impressive roster. Send a summary of credentials and other publication credits, a heading and a short summary of the proposed piece, and if the idea involves a gardening project, an idea of the location and a few images. Payment is around £350 per 1,000 words depending on experience. Details: email: magazine@gardenersworld. com; website: www.gardenersworldcom The Garden is the magazine of the Royal Horticultural Society, and on a monthly basis provides its readers with news of all the RHS’s activities and beautifully illustrated feature articles on all aspects of practical planting and gardening. All the content is written by specialist writers for a readership of passionate and wellinformed gardeners, and there are occasionally opportunities for exceptional freelance gardening writers. Contact commissioning editor Michelle Housden with a brief introduction and outline ideas. Payment varies. Details: email:; website:

Hortus is an independent in-depth gardening quarterly edited by David Wheeler, which is read throughout the English-speaking gardening world. It features lively, intelligent writing by gardening specialists and includes features on gardens, plants, gardening history, gardening design, garden ornaments and famous gardeners. David is happy to accept outline ideas from prospective contributors by email, which should be marked for his attention. Payment varies. Details: email:; website: For readers interested in growing their own produce, Kitchen Garden, edited by Steve Ott, is an essential monthly read. Friendly, practical and packed with advice on cultivating fruit and vegetables, Kitchen Garden takes a seasonal, month-bymonth approach to what and how to grow. Features include planting guides, product reviews, and recipes including home-grown produce, and Steve is always happy to hear from gardening specialists with in-depth fruit and veg knowledge who can offer him something interesting and unusual. Words and images are commissioned as a package, so send him an email with writer credentials, a brief outline idea and a couple of sample images. Payment varies. Details: email:; website:

In the running for big prizes The shortlists for the 2015 Costa Book of the Year Awards have been announced. For the Costa Novel Award the nominees are: Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins (Doubleday); Anne Enright, The Green Road (Jonathan Cape); Patrick Gale, A Place Called Winter (Tinder Press); Melissa Harrison, At Hawthorn Time (Bloomsbury). For the Costa First

Novel Award the nominees are: Sara Baume, Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Windmill Books); Kate Hamer, The Girl in the Red Coat (Faber & Faber); Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney (John Murray); Tasha Kavanagh, Things We Have in Common (Canongate). The winners in all five categories, also including Biography, Children’s Book and Poetry, will

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be announced in January. • The shortlist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2016 is: Akhil Sharma, Family Life; Anuradha Roy, Sleeping on Jupiter; KR Meera, Hang Women; Mirza Waheed, The Book of Gold Leaves; Neel Mukherjee, The Lives of Others and Raj Kamal Jha, She Will Build Him A City.



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FLASHES Swimming Times, the monthly publication of the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) and British Swimming, is edited by Peter Hassall. Contact him with relevant ideas. Details: email: swimmingtimes Toronto resident, Trinidad-born Andre Alexis, was presented with the Scotiabank Giller Prize, worth Canadian$100,000 for his novel, Fifteen Dogs (Coach House Books). Fremantle author Joan London has been awarded the 2015 Patrick White literary award worth Aus$24,000 for her ongoing contribution to Australian literature. France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, went to Mathias Enard for his novel Boussole (Compass), who won a prize worth €10, the same as for the first award in 1903, although big sales usually follow this success. Bauer Media has decided to suspend publication of FHM and Zoo monthly magazines for men. The Daily Mail offers a special Magic Mug to the writer of its Letter of the Week. Write to: Daily Mail, Letters, 2 Derry Street, Kensington, London W8 5TT; email: letters@ ‘It should cause no surprise that anyone so lazy as myself should be economical to the point of miserliness with everything he writes.’ Leslie Charteris



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The Masters Review is a US-based online and print publication celebrating new and emerging writers. The editors are on the lookout for new voices with hopes of publishing stories from writers who will continue to produce great work. The New Voices programme is open for submissions year round by any writer who has not published a book length work of fiction or non-fiction. Payment is 10¢ per word up to $200 for writing up to 5,000 words. If you are happy to wait for the usual response time of 8-12 weeks submission is free, or you can choose to pay $5 for a response within two weeks. Read recent New Voices stories online at: new-voices/ The page also has a link to an complete archive of earlier stories. If you have any questions, email • The Masters Review also holds a competition to select ten stories by new writers for an annual anthology. The third edition, guest edited by Guggenheim Fellowship Award winning author Kevin Brockmeier, was recently awarded the Silver Medal for Best Short Story Collection by the American Library Association. The authors selected received a total of $5,000 prize money. Submissions for the fourth Masters Review Annual Anthology are open until 31 March, with publication set for autumn. For submission details visit or enquire to The Masters Review holds two other short story competitions later in the year. Check the website for details later in 2016. The 2015 fall competition was edited by award-winning authors/editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

Starring stories and poems Literary magazine Brittle Star’s Poetry and Short Fiction Competition 2016 is open for entries. The competition offers prizes of £250, £50 and £25 in each category. The judges are George Szirtes (poetry), Alison Moore (fiction) and Brittle Star editor Jacqueline Gabbitas. Short stories may be up to 2,000 words, and poems up to sixty lines. Entries may be on any subject. All entries must be original and unpublished, and typed on single sides of A4. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Postal entrants should download and complete an entry form. There is an entry fee of £4.50 for the first entry and £3.50 for any subsequent entries. Brittle Star subscribers get a free second entry. Pay by cheques payable to Brittle Star if paying by post. Online entrants may pay by PayPal or by debit or credit card as part of the online submission process. The closing date is 1 March. Details: Brittle Star Competition, 97 Benefield Road, Oundle, Peterborough PE8 4EU; website:

Big winners this month The winners of the 2015 Portico Prize, which is awarded for books that celebrate the North of England in literature, are Benjamin Myers for Beastings (fiction) and Richard Benson for The Valley (non-fiction). Coralie BickfordSmith has won the Waterstones Book of the Year Award with her illustrated book The Fox and the Star, beating last month’s WM cover star Matt Haig, with Reasons to Stay Alive. Also shortlisted were: Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman; Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend; Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train; James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life; Mary Beard, SPQR; Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life.

The Game of Our Lives by David Goldblatt is the winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. Andrew McMillan has won the £10,000 Guardian First Book Award 2015 with his debut poetry collection, Physical. Lyn Farrell has won the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary. She wins £2,500 and a publishing contract for her debut, The Wacky Man.

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Eye Spy intelligence magazine is unique – it is the world’s only newsstand magazine that covers every aspect of intelligence. ‘Since its inception in May 2001, Eye Spy has sought to demystify intelligence and allow the public an insight into this most secretive and fascinating world,’ said managing editor Mark Birdsall. ‘However, it has also become somewhat a “must have” publication for those who work in the industry as well, and besides a strong public subscription base, the magazine is subscribed to by over 500 government intelligence and security organisations – many of which are very familiar!’ Eye Spy sheds a light on a world that is little known and little understood. ‘By studying the world of intelligence, writers and readers will soon realise that the profession is one that by necessity often operates in the shadows,’ said Mark. ‘There are occasionally glimpses of this secret world that filter into everyday life, and Eye Spy is always ready to share its knowledge. National security is paramount to me, and in fifteen years of publication, we have been careful not to cross the line. However, journalism is the life-blood of investigative publications, and we will always seek out those bits of information beyond what the national media can source.’ Eye Spy has offices in the UK and New York, and its reach is international, with a readership in government offices in more than sixty countries. ‘From Beijing to Canberra, spies like to read about themselves and just as important, what is being written about them!’ Content and editorial is often dictated by world events. ‘Obviously we seek new case files or materials involving espionage, but the magazine will report on subjects as diverse as cyberwarfare, MI6 operations in the Sahara to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Ukraine last year,’ said Mark. ‘Because so many elements and news stories are associated with intelligence, there is a constant flow of material – thus helping to make the magazine relevant and current.’ Eye Spy publishes a blend of current affairs and the latest intelligence happenings. Examination and coverage of spy tradecraft is popular with Eye Spy readers. Features cover planning spy operations, how a new identity can be created, the art of surveillance, telephone interception, concealment, equipment selection and the ruses performed by spies throughout history. ‘Whilst our emphasis is on events in the UK, USA and the English-speaking world, we always provide major coverage of international events, because these do ultimately affect everyone,’ said Mark. ‘It’s one reason our readership is very diverse.’ Eye Spy has an editorial team of around thirty people, many who have worked in the industry and are specialists in various areas, but Mark encourages new writers. ‘Stories and news items submitted by contributors are always very welcome. However, because of the subject matter, accuracy is imperative, thus where necessary it is important references or sources are included. These do not necessarily appear in the finished feature.’ Divulging material of a sensitive or secret nature can be problematic for both writer and publisher. ‘If we intend to publish a report or article which needs clarification, we have experts to oversee such tasks. In Britain there also exists a system which provides support for intelligence and defence writers – the D-Notice in Whitehall. Thus, if something is submitted which could affect national security, for example, we have in the past deemed it necessary to let the D-Notice take a look. But this is extreme.’ Eye Spy seeks the unusual, a great spy story, a strange but true fact – ‘but we try to avoid conspiracy,’ said Mark. A typical piece would be 1,500-2,000 words, and photos are appreciated if possible. Accuracy and authority are vital, but features are written and presented to be read by the public, not just by experts. To pitch a feature, send a few lines on the proposal via the website, by post or by telephone. Payment varies. Contact Eye Spy via the website, by post or by telephone. Details: Eye Spy Publishing Ltd, PO Box 10, Skipton BD23 5US; tel: 01756 770199; website:

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All-white World Book Night The Sixth World Book Night, to take place on 23 April, describes the fifteen featured titles as ‘a sensational and diverse lineup of crime, poetry, nonfiction, quick reads, YA, historical fiction and fiction in translation’. Titles to be given away as part of the annual event span the gamut of war and peace, from Band of Brothers by Stephen E Ambrose to Love Poems by Carol Ann Duffy. However, to quote the title of the volume featured by Ann Cleeves, it may all be Too Good to be True. As Nikesh Shukla wrote in The Bookseller, ‘much as World Book Night has bravely decided to diversify the types of books offered for its lists... it seems to have left off any Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writers in 2016. Which is, in my eyes, a sadly wasted opportunity to be truly diverse.’ Ironically other books which have been included feature titles such as Someone Else’s Skin (Sarah Hilary) and Now You See Me (Sharon Bolton). World Book Night’s project manager, Rose Goddard, responded, ‘Each year we strive to strike a balance across the list. This year, despite our best efforts, we have not been successful in respect of BAME writers.’ She acknowledged that Shukla was ‘right’ and that he had voiced a ‘great summation of some of the exasperating problems we are facing as an industry’.

Island of opportunity Island is a longrunning and reputable Australian literary quarterly, publishing contemporary fiction, essays, memoir and poetry from eminent writers and new voices, especially when they promote Australian ideas, writing and culture. The magazine has a policy of publishing subscribers first, but non-subscribers may submit. If the work is accepted then a subscription is part of the payment. Submit up to three poems, one piece of short fiction or a brief overview of a non-fiction essay. No reprints, sim or multiple subs please. Response time is slow. Payment and rights are discussed on acceptance. Submit through the website: FEBRUARY 2016


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FLASHES Simon Richardson is the acting editor of Cycling Weekly. Send him feature ideas by email. Details: email: cycling@; website: www.cycling The Dorset Echo, a regional daily, has launched what it believes to be a UK first by giving a regular column to writers with learning disabilities, Holdthefrontpage website reported. Their ‘Our View’ column, runs every Tuesday, in association with charity People First Dorset. Library development charity Book Aid International launched a programme to improve reading opportunities for a quarter of a million African children. Called Inspiring Readers, it aims to provide ‘book box libraries’ to over 300 African schools, with each school receiving 1,250 new books as well as special teacher training. Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman has been voted by users of the Amazon-owned GoodReads website as the best novel of 2015. ‘If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.’ Somerset Maugham



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UK POETRY MARKET A step into poetry publication BY TINA JACKSON

Oversteps Books is an independent publisher of top quality contemporary poetry. ‘Oversteps was formed by Anne Born in 1992,’ says managing editor, poet Alwyn Marriage. ‘She approached me in 2007, inviting me to submit a manuscript, which she published as Touching Earth later that year. She also commissioned me to publish another book with Oversteps, which came out as festo in 2012. When Anne became ill she persuaded me to take over as managing editor – which was not something I had been expecting or wanting. Nevertheless, I took over in 2008 and have been managing editor ever since, during which time I have published over sixty books.’ Quality is vital to Alwyn. ‘Over the last few years, Oversteps has become well-known and highlyrespected. We intend to continue to produce top quality poetry collections. But competition for the few publication opportunities each year are necessarily limited.’ Until last year Alwyn was publishing twelve books a year. ‘I have now cut this down to ten.’ Oversteps Books receive up to 300 submissions a year, and Alwyn warns that she does not look at any that don’t follow the submissions guidance given on the website ‘No one can

Small story, big prize Reader’s Digest’s 100-word story competition is back for the sixth year running, with a £2,000 first prize for the winner in the adult category. The competition, for original, unpublished complete stories told in 100 words, is in three categories: adults, 12-18s and under-twelves. The adult winner will receive £2,000 and two runners-up will each win £200. The 12-18s winner will receive a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, a Samsung Gear S watch and £150 for their school. Two runners-up will each win £100. The under-twelves winner will get a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and £100 for their school. Two runners-up will each win £75. The winning entries will be published in Readers’ Digest. To enter, upload a complete short story in 100 words (the title is not included in the wordcount) though the online submission system. There is no entry fee. Writers who have problems with the online submission system may send their entries by email. The closing date is 20 February. Details: email:; website:

even submit until they’ve had six poems in national poetry magazines or among the winners in recognised competitions,’ she said. ‘This ensures that we receive only good poetry, but unfortunately we can publish only a small percentage of these good submissions.’ A lot of the marketing is done by the poets themselves. ‘We give free copies of the books, which can be sold on at readings etc, and we also sell copies to them at enough of a discount to ensure that they make a good profit on their sales.’ Oversteps Books publishes in perfect bound Royale paperback, on high quality paper and with individuallydesigned glossy covers. Poets are paid royalties. To submit, in the first instance send in the body of an email copies of six poems that have been published, giving publication dates and magazine titles. A prize in a poetry competition counts as a publication. Details: email:; website:

Let your light shine Writing East Midlands is inviting entries for its inaugural writing contest, the Aurora Poetry & Short Fiction Open Competition. The competition is for short stories up to 2,000 words and poems up to 40 lines. The short story judge is Paul McVeigh and the poetry judge is Pascale Petit. There are prizes of £500, £100 and £50, and the Stonewood Press Regional Prize, which is £70 and a Writing School East Midlands course, which is open to writers from the East Midlands only. Entries may be on any subject, and must be original and unpublished. Entries should be typed on single sides of A4

(double-spaced in 12pt font for short stories), and the writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Writers entering for the Stonewood Press prize should indicate this on their entry form. Postal entrants should download and complete an entry form. There is a fee of £7 for the first entry and £5.50 for each subsequent entry. Postal entrants should pay this by cheques made out to Writing East Midlands. The closing date is 1 February. Details: Aurora Poetry & Short Fiction Open Competition, Writing East Midlands, 49 Stoney Street, Nottingham NG1 1LX; website: auroracompetition

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INTERNATIONAL ZINE SCENE Terratory Journal is an unusual zine founded not by some keen genre writer but by photographer Ryan Nemeth. His idea is to bring together a community of photographers and writers who are ‘dedicated to fostering stories and discussions about land and place’. He welcomes unsolicited submissions ‘based on relevant landscape themes and topics of interest’ of photo essays, essays, fiction and poetry to dovetail with photography ‘documenting humans’ interactions with land’. Submit a short bio or introduction describing yourself, your photography style, and briefly describe how your work fits in with the ethos of the journal. When querying for a photo essay or story ideas please include ‘a 200 word abstract’ and 3 to 5 photos. Non-fiction, fiction, and place poetry are welcome. Check the guidelines for a long list of topics, including cartography, and sustainability. Fiction must explore, through story, landscape, nature and place. Poetry may be in any form and again must make a statement about landscape, nature and place. Submit work between 1,000 and 2,000 words, no limit for poetry. Email submissions as a doc, pdf, a direct link or via ftp. Website: Sewer Lid is a new, online, art and literature biannual with a focus on city life. It publishes original art, fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry and seeks submissions from writers anywhere. For fiction and creative non-fiction, submit one or two pieces of up to 3,500 words each, or three flash stories in a single

file. For poetry, submit 3-6 poems, totalling no more than ten pages. Submit by email in a doc attachment. Response time is ‘within 1-2 months’. There is no payment. Details: email:; website: The Write Place at the Write Time is a literary zine with a community atmosphere. It is published three times a year, and the editorial team wants to ‘inspire, educate and stir the blood with powerful tales and powerful words’. It publishes fiction, ‘Our Stories’ nonfiction, poetry, writer resources, book reviews, original photos and artwork, and interviews with authors and creative professionals whose work involves writing. Submit: fiction and non-fiction, up to three pieces, up to 3,500 words each, or 1-5 poems, each shorter than thirty lines. Submit in the body of an email. Response time is ‘reasonable’. There is no payment beyond ‘exposure, recognition and a good home’. Details: email: submissions@; website: A brand new zine looking for submissions, The Courtship of Winds is the rebirth of a print magazine of the same name. The editor, William V Ray, aims to publish ‘poetry, fiction, short dramatic pieces, essays, photography, art, and short pieces of music’. Submit through the website: no more than ten poems at a time, ‘all subjects and styles’; prose, from flash to novel excerpts, up to 10,000 words; one-act and short verse plays; ‘literary analysis, reportage and

travel writing’. Simultaneous submissions are fine, with the usual proviso, but reprints and multiple subs are not. Response time is ‘within four months’. Authors retain all rights. Website: Words Surfacing is another new online literary magazine, to be published monthly. The editorial team is seeking submissions of flash fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Preference is given to submissions with ‘an emphasis on literature as continuum and contemporary imagism’. Read published work at the website to see what they mean. They also hope to publish an annual anthology of the best work. Submissions are accepted year round and simultaneous submissions are reluctantly accepted. Submit all work in the body of an email, with your name, submission and genre in the subject line. Response time is ‘within ten days’. Details: email:; website: Bloody Key Society Periodical is a Canadian zine set to launch in early 2016. Each issue will publish ‘five stories (or novel excerpts) by great writers from all over the place’. Writing should be well-written and accessible, and any genre is acceptable, ‘literary fiction, creative non-fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or novel excerpt’. Submit through the website. Payment is by rank, ‘Story One: $90, Story Two: $50, Story Three: $30, Story Four: $20, Story Five: $10.’ Website:

Right up our street Bridgend Writers’ Circle’s open competition for stories on the theme of ‘our street’ closes at the end of January. There is a first prize of £200, and second and third prizes of £50 and £30. Entries must be original and unpublished. Stories may be between 1,500 and 1,800 words and should be double-spaced in 12pt Times New Roman on single sides of A4. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. An entry form,

which may be downloaded from the website, must accompany each entry. There is an entry fee of £5 for a single story or £7.50 for two stories. Cheques should be made payable to Bridgend Writers’ Circle. The closing date is 31 January. Details: BWC Open Competition, 11 Litchard Bungalows, Bridgend CF1 1PH; website:

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FLASHES Patrick Smith is the editor of fortnightly Africa Confidential current affairs journal. He accepts pitches for news and feature articles. Send them to deputy editor Andrew Weir. Details: email: andrew@ africa-confidential. com; website: The PG Wodehouse Society has two in-house publications, quarterly journals Wooster Sauce and By the Way. Events and meetings are organised across the country. Membership is £22 per year. Website: www. pgwodehouse Accountants Moore Stephens have reported that 128 publishers went out of business in the UK in the year up to 30 June. In the year previous the number was 81. There was a 5% fall in sales of physical books, with sales of £2.7 billion, and an 11% rise in ebook sales, up to £563 million. Their figures did not include how many new publishers were launched in the same period. ‘Jargon never stands still, and now depictions of what kind of envelope is being pushed can produce remarkable metaphors. This week US animal feed producers were praised for “pushing the forage envelope”.’ The Vocabularist column, BBC website



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Play with time for gothic anthology

Get into Splinter BY GARY DALKIN

Splinters is a new project from Netherlands publisher, Quasis Uitgevers. Editor Jasper Polane has recently begun to publish a monthly chapbook featuring a new speculative fiction story each edition. The latest edition featured a story by award-winning British writer Steff Swainston. Jasper is seeking English-language stories which can be fantasy, science fiction, supernatural thriller, magical realism or horror. The series is aimed at adult readers, but four editions each year will focus on YA fiction. Submissions should be 5,000-10,000 words, with the preferred length around 7,000. Selected stories will be professionally translated into Dutch and fully edited in that language. Original works are much preferred, though stories which have previously been published in print will be considered. No submissions of work which has appeared online. Payment is a €100 advance against royalties. Send enquiries or submissions, which should be doc or docx file attachments, to More about Splinters, though it is in Dutch, at:

Temporal Discombobulations, an anthology of gothic short fiction, is inviting submissions. Temporal Discombobulations: Time and the Experience of the Gothic, will be an interdisciplinary conference taking place at the University of Surrey between 22 and 24 August. For the anthology, produced in conjunction with the conference, submissions are invited of short fiction that pays homage to the gothic and has ‘time’ as its theme. Submissions may be made by scholars and new or established writers. Prose submissions may be up to 3,000 words. Submissions of poetry up to twenty lines and flash fiction up to 500 words are also accepted. All submissions must be original and unpublished. Paste the submission into the body of an email and send it, with title and contact details at the top, with the subject line ‘Fiction Submission’. Only one submission will be accepted per writer. The closing date is 15 February. Details: email:; website:

Strokes of poetic genius The Strokestown International Poetry Competition is open for entries to its 2016 prize. The annual contest, which is part of the Strokestown International Poetry Festival which will take place from 29 April to 1 May in Roscommon, has a first prize of €1,500, a second prize of €500, a third prize of €300 and prizes of €100 for three further shortlisted

poets. Poems may be entered in any style and on any subject, and at any length up to seventy lines. All poems must be original and unpublished. Entries should be clearly typed on single sides of A4. Submit entries through the website as doc, docx, pdf or rtf files. Entrants from countries outside Ireland must pay a fee of €6 per

entry via PayPal. • Also connected to the Strokestown Poetry Festival and inviting entries is The Percy French Prize for Comic Verse. First prize €300, second prize €200, five shortlisted entries €100. Entry details as for Strokestown International Poetry Competition. The closing date is 29 January. Website:

Keep it under your Malahat Canadian literary journal The Malahat Review is inviting international entries for its 2016 Novella Prize. Offered every second year, the Novella Prize is worth $1,500 to the winner. The winning novella will be published in The Malahat Review’s summer 2016 issue, and an interview with its writer will appear online. Entries should be a single work of fiction between 10,000 and 20,000 words. All genres, subjects and writing styles will be considered. Entries should be original, unpublished, and

formatted as double-spaced Word documents. A previously-published excerpt may be included only if it is less than 10% of the complete work (any appearance in print or digital media, including personal blogs, Twitter and Facebook). The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a separate page with the title, wordcount, full contact information and method of payment. Send entries as email attachments with the subject line being the entrant’s full name and method of payment. There is an entry fee of $45 for overseas writers, which may be paid online by credit card and includes a year’s subscription to The Malahat Review. A further entry may be made for $15. The closing date is 1 February. Details: email:; website:

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Interlink Publishing is an independent US publishing house specialising in non-fiction. There is an impressive catalogue of works and list of topics. The company publishes world travel, world literature, world history and politics, art, world music and dance, international cooking, and children’s books from around the world. The editorial team ‘publishes approximately fifty titles each year and has an active backlist of over 1,000 titles under five imprints’. The imprints are Cadogan Guides, USA travel guides, Olive Branch Press, ‘socially and politically relevant non-fiction, concentrating on topics and areas of the world often ignored by the Western media’, Clockroot Books, innovative fiction from around the world, and Crocodile Books, high-quality illustrated children’s books, quality picture books for preschoolers, as well as fiction and non-fiction books for children ages 3 to 8 from around the world. Crocodile Books is closed to all submissions as the list is full for the next two years. Submit by email with a query letter. Craft a perfect query and include a writing sample, ‘preferably the opening of the book’ of up to ten pages, as well as a brief synopsis, and bio. The query letter should be the body of the email, and the writing sample should be attached as a pdf (preferred), rtf, or doc file. Put the word ‘query’, and the genre and title in the subject line The only fiction published is translated fiction, so don’t submit fiction or poetry. One of the aims of this company is to broaden the range of English-language reading matter by translating fiction from countries very different from the USA. Response time is three months. Payment and rights are discussed at contract. Details: email: submissions@; website:

Get fired up for this encouraging comp The annual Nottingham Writers’ Club Short Story Competition is aimed at encouraging less experienced writers, and every writer who submits receives a few lines of feedback on their story. The theme of the 2016 contest is ‘fire’, which may be interpreted in any way the writer wants. There is a first prize of £200, second and third prizes of £100 and £50, and further prizes for runners up. The competition, which this year will be judged by WM subscriber, novelist and short story writer Patsy Collins, is not aimed at professional writers, and is only open to writers who earned less than £300 from short story writing in 2015. Stories may be up to 2,000 words, double-spaced in 12pt font on single sides of A4. Pages must be numbered and have a footer containing the title. A cover page should include the title, a pseudonym and the wordcount. An entry form, available via the website, must be completed. Entries may be submitted online or by post. The entry fee is £5 for one story, £10 for two and £4 each for any further entries if entering by post, and £6, £15 and £5 if entering online. Entry opens on 1 February, and closes on 29 February. Details: NWC, c/o 29 Redwood Avenue, Wollaton, Nottingham NG8 2SG; website:

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Global truth O W-H O

A mix of methods Developing and varying writing style will add to the effect of your travel pieces, says Patrick Forsyth


uch of what is written about places is designed to praise. This links to recommendation: if you want to suggest readers visit somewhere you have found excellent, you need to be clear about it. How this is done is important. You need to avoid the bland: a place may well be very, very, very nice but there has to be a better way of describing it. And you need to take care with over-used words like unique. This is often misused – nothing can be very unique, it is either unique or it’s not. So what to do? I love Bill Bryson’s writing. The Road to Little Dribbling, his new book about travelling round the United Kingdom, is no exception. It seems to be informative (often in a quirky way – it must take considerable research time to write like that) but it’s also engaging, amusing and regularly laugh-out-loud funny. One technique he uses leads me to draw attention to it. On a bus near Littlehampton he is disturbed by a baggypanted and baseball cap-wearing youth whose earphones were sending booming soundwaves through the magnificent interstellar void of his cranium, on a journey to find the distant, arid mote that was his brain. He concludes his comments about what was clearly an annoying encounter by saying If you took all the young men in southern England with those caps and that slouch and collected them all together in one room, you still wouldn’t have enough IQ points to make a halfwit. It seems he is very much into grumpy old man territory these days. Writing of this sort is unashamedly a form of exaggeration. And it works well. Of course there is more than this to such a book. This technique is merged with many others – for instance Bryson has some wonderful invented conversations with people – to form a seamless whole. Reading, or rather reading widely (after all, you do not want to copy someone’s style slavishly) is a form of ongoing research. It is worth thinking about writing techniques and about what particular mix will create the overall style you want (and that your readers like). If you have a quiver full of such techniques then you can deploy them to create the effect you want and match different effects to different pieces and purposes, deciding, for instance, just how informative or amusing something should be. It may take some experimentation, but assembling techniques and varying the mix is of earth-shattering importance – I did mention exaggeration, remember! FEBRUARY 2016


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FLASHES The editor of Heart Matters, the free magazine for the British Heart Foundation, welcomes letters and emails. The star letter writer each issue wins a purse worth £75. Details: Heart Matters, British Heart Foundation, Greater London House, 180 Hampstead Road, London NW1 7AW; email: newsdesk@; website: www.bhf. While bookshops struggle in Europe and the US, in December Dangdang. com, a major Chinese online retailer, opened the first of 1,000 new physical bookshops. The store has 1,200 square metres of retail space and sells books at the same price as the Dangdang website. Another 999 Dangdang bookstores will open in malls and supermarkets across China within the next three years. The UK has its first professor of Graphic Fiction & Comic Art. Benoît Peeters, a French critic, biographer of Tintin creator Hergé, as well as a graphic novelist in his own right, has joined the faculty at Lancaster University. He will hold the position until 2018. ‘Although some people think I am a romantic novelist I have always thought of myself as a rather gritty radical historian.’ Philippa Gregory



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Leading Australian science fiction and fantasy magazine Aurealis is now 25 years old. The title, which publishes ten issues a year, reopens to submissions on 1 February. The title pays between $20-60 Australian per 1,000 words for stories of 2,0008,000 words. However, non-Australian writers should enquire to editor Dirk Strasser before submitting, as stories by non-Australians are required to have some Australian character and background. This needs to be integral to the story, and not just bolted onto a standard plot. Send your enquiries to and read the full guidelines at:

LOL @ OUP Oxford Dictionaries have chosen the emoji officially called the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ as their Word of the Year. An emoji is the official name for the now ubiquitous yellow pictograms used as a shorthand to expressing emotion on social media. This is the first time a pictogram has been so honoured, and Oxford University Press’ partnership with virtual keyboard company Swiftkey to find the Word is presumably coincidental. The other nominees were: ‘sharing economy’, ‘they’, ‘on fleek’, ‘ad blocker’, ‘refugee’, ‘brexit’, ‘dark web’ and ‘lumbersexual’.

Northern pride Now open for entry, the 2016 Northern Writers Awards from new Writing North offer a total of £40,000 in funding for emerging writers from the North of England. Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North said: ‘The Northern Writers’ Awards are our primary means of identifying writers of exceptional talent, whose work we feel we can support towards publication or broadcast. As such, they are right at the heart of our work. It’s always incredibly exciting to open up the awards each year, not knowing whose work we are going to come across, often for the first time. We know now that winning an award can have a real impact on a writer’s career, and it means a huge amount to us to be able to support writers across the North of England in this way.’ To be eligible, writers must live in the North of England (areas covered by Arts Council England in Yorkshire, the North East and the North West), and should apply to awards to support work in progress (ie, work that has not been published, self-published or which has been offered a publishing deal). Writers applying for a Northern Writers’ Award may select from: • Northern Writers’ Awards: Up to £5,000 to support writers of prose and poetry. • New Fiction Bursaries: Offering an in-depth report from The Literary Consultancy to novel writers. • Northumbria University Student and Alumni Award: A new award for final-year students and alumni of the university. • The Channel 4/Northumbria University Writing for Television Award: Three writers will be offered an attachment to Liverpool-based production company Lime Pictures. Two new writers will work with writers on Hollyoaks, and – new for 2016 – a third writer will be attached to Lime Pictures’ TV children’s TV drama department. All three writers will receive mentoring and a £3,000 bursary.

• The Clare Swift Award: £1,000 will be awarded to the best unpublished short story by a writer from the North East. This award is only open to writers from the North East. • The Andrea Badenoch Award: For a female writer over the age of 42. • The Arvon Award: Offering an unpublished writer the opportunity to go on an Arvon course. •The Cuckoo Award: For a writer under eighteen whose work shows exceptional promise. •The Matthew Hale Award: For talented writers under eighteen who might otherwise lack the opportunity to pursue their talent. Writers must be nominated for this award by a parent, teacher or other adult. The awards are open to writers of poetry, fiction, children’s fiction, creative non-fiction and graphic novels. Writers entering the Writing for Television Award may submit scripts or any form of creative writing that demonstrates an ability to write dialogue. Writers may only apply for one award. All applications must be made online. Applications should consist of the online application form and the creative work in progress. All work entered must be unpublished. The closing date for the awards is 3 February. Website:

11/12/2015 14:08



Get a break in theatre

Championing new writers BY TINA JACKSON

Patrician Press is a small independent publisher of literary fiction and poetry set up by author and publisher Patricia Borlenghi. Pudding Press is its children’s imprint, set up early in 2015, which publishes picture books, some with an educational theme, and fiction. ‘I set up Patrician Press at the end of 2012,’ said Patricia. ‘I have always worked in publishing and then I started to write. In 2010 I started to study for a MA in creative writing and it was after completing this that I decided to set up the press. As I have worked with children’s books for the main part of my career, I was compelled to set up a children’s imprint as well.’ Patrician Press publishes around four titles a year, finely written contemporary stories and poetry, and champions original work that is neglected by mainstream agents and publishers, and work by women, ethnic minorities and the disabled (Patricia suffers from extreme hearing loss). Patricia likes quirky fiction for Patrician Press, and beautifully illustrated work for Pudding Press. Patricia advises prospective writers to have their manuscripts read several times before submitting work. She accepts submissions of novels, novellas, short story collections and poetry collections. Send a synopsis for novels and novellas, 10,000 words of the manuscript and a word count of the competed book. Novels under 100,000 words are preferred. For poetry and short story collections, send the complete work. All files must be Word documents. Submit through the online submission system. Patrician Press publishes in paperback and ebook and pays royalties (25% for paperback receipts and 50% for ebook receipts). Website:

Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s annual New Writing Festival is set to hit the boards again and the First Break playwriting competition will offer four early/mid-career writers the opportunity to see their work professionally performed as a rehearsed reading during the Festival. The selected writers will have dramaturgical support and guidance during the development of their script plus networking opportunities with other writers and industry contacts. The theatre has recently appointed Chris Lawson as associate director and he will continue the Coliseum’s commitment to ‘developing the work of emerging artists and companies from across the region to explore the stories and issues that affect and reflect the local communities’. Script submissions should be fifteen minutes max and have no more than four characters. The theme for the competition is Untold Stories and plays should be based on a story or experience which somebody has shared with you. ‘Use this opportunity to explore Oldham and beyond through the eyes of those who live it, love it or leave it,’ say guidelines. The closing date for entries is 22 February and one copy of your script should be sent by email and two hard copies posted to the theatre. Don’t forget to include your name, age and email and postal addresses with your submission. Details: First Break Writing Competition, The Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Fairbottom Street, Oldham OL1 3SW; email to:; website:

Into the abyss Abyss & Apex, a Hugo Award-nominated speculative fiction magazine, now has a set schedule of quarterly reading periods. The editors will consider science fiction and fantasy stories up to 10,000 words during the first weeks of February, May, August and November (until 11.59pm EST midnight on the 7th of each of those months). Flash fiction under 1,250 words is particularly wanted. Payment is 6¢ per word up to a maximum of $75. Submit as email attachment to Follow the full guidelines at:

Ravens for Ted Poems for this year’s Elmet Trust Poetry Prize are invited in response to: Ravens; The City. The Elmet Trust promotes the life and work of Ted Hughes. The competition will be judged by Steve Ely, and the winners will be announced at the Ted Hughes Festival in February. There is a first prize of £400, a second prize of £100 and a third prize of £50. All entries must be original and unpublished, and should be sent by email, with each poem entered as a separate

attachment. The poet’s contact details should be included in the entry email. There is a fee of £5 per poem. Each poet may enter up to three poems. Send the entry fee by post, in a cheque payable to The Elmet Trust. The closing date is 15 January. • The Ted Hughes Young Poets Award 2016 is also running, in three age categories: 6-10, 11-14, 15-18. Entries should be in response to Cat; Sketching a Thatcher. The first prize winner in each age

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group will win £50 and the runner up, £25. Up to two poems may be submitted, with no entry fee. The closing date is 15 January. Details: The Elmet Trust, 19, Roseneath Street, Wortley, Leeds LS12 4DY; email:; website:



11/12/2015 14:08


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Competition rules and forms Enter online at or by post, with the ref code in the address, to: Sally Bridgewater (Ref Code xxxxx), Writing Magazine, Warners Group Publications, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD. Remember to add a front sheet with full contact details (see Rule 3)

To enter:

• Annual Humorous short story competition (see p33) 1,500-1,700 words; entry fee £5, £3 for subscribers; closing date, 14 March; Ref Code: Feb16/Humour • Triolet Poetry competition (see p83) Any theme, in the triolet form; entry fee £5, £3 for subscribers; closing date, 14 March; Ref Code: Feb16/TriPoetry • Annual First Line Short Story Competition (see p33) 1,500-1,700 words; entry fee £5, £3 for subscribers; closing date, 15 February; Ref Code: Jan16/Firstline • Subscriber-only Dialogue-only short story competition (see p77) 1,500-1,700 words; free entry, subscribers only; closing date 14 March; Ref Code: Feb16/Dialogue • Subscriber-only Anticipation Short Story Competition (see p77) 1,500-1,700 words; free entry, subscribers only; closing date, 15 February; Ref Code: Jan16/Anticipation

How to enter Competition Rules

1 Eligibility All entries must be the original and unpublished work of the entrant, and not currently submitted for publication nor for any other competition or award. Each entry must be accompanied by an entry form, printed here (photocopies are acceptable), unless stated. Open Competitions are open to any writer, who can submit as many entries as they choose. Entry fees are £5, £3 for subscribers. Subscriber-only Competitions are open only to subscribers of Writing Magazine. Entry is free but you can only submit one entry per competition New Subscribers’ Competitions are open only to those whose subscriptions started during 2015. No entry form or fee is required. 2 Entry Fees Cheques or postal orders should be payable to Warners Group Publications or you can pay by credit card (see form). No entry fee is required for New Subscribers’ competitions. 3 Manuscripts Short stories: Entries must be typed in double spacing on single sides of A4 paper with a front page stating your name, address, phone number and email address, your story title and word count. Entries will be returned if accompanied by sae. Electronic entries should be a single doc, docx, txt, rtf or pdf file with the contact details, etc, on p1, and your story commencing on the second page. Poetry manuscripts: Entries must be typed in single spacing with double spacing between stanzas on single sides of A4. Entrant’s name, address, telephone number and email address must be typed on a separate A4 sheet. Entries to poetry competitions cannot be returned. Electronic entries should be a single doc, docx, txt, rtf or pdf file with the contact details, etc, on p1, and your poem on the second page. All manuscripts: Receipt of entries will be acknowledged if accompanied by a suitably worded stamped and addressed postcard. Entrants retain copyright in their manuscripts.

Poetry Competition

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I enclose my entry fee (cheques/postal order payable to Warners Group Publications) OR I wish to pay my entry fee by:

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14/12/2015 12:02




It’s easier to find writing time than time to read, debut historical author Guinevere Glasfurd tells Lynne Hackles


he Words In My Hand, the first novel by Guinevere Glasfurd, is out this month. She tells WM about her writing regime. ‘I set deadlines and stick to them, working as many hours as needed to get the work done. Being an insomniac works in my favour. I did most of my MA in creative writing between the hours of 4-7am. Most days I write when my daughter is at school but I also write in the evenings and at weekends if the writing is in my head and I need to get it down. ‘Making time to read is more of a challenge, as reading is often focused around research. I tend to binge-read novels on holiday. ‘It’s true to say that writing pretty much runs into every corner of my life – but I’ve never been happier. I felt immense pride when I registered as a self-employed writer. Even before my book sold to a publisher, I held fast to the belief that my work had value. ‘I’m not someone who always knew they wanted to write. One of my first stories was published by Mslexia in 2007. Another won a competition. Little by little it occurred to me, maybe I could do this. Since then, I’ve gradually moved writing to the centre of my life, did an MA in creative writing and then was one of ten new writers mentored by Writers’ Centre Norwich under 124


their Escalator programme in 2012. My novel won the PenFactor first novel competition in 2014. Within a week, I had met with my agent and she agreed to represent me. I’ve had plenty of knocks along the way too, had work rejected, turfed out in the first ghastly mass cull that happens in any competition. All I can say is that you either have to harden your belief in the worth of your work and send it out again, or take a good long hard look at it, sharpen it, and make it better – if you can. I’ve deleted thousands and thousands of words and binned page after page of work. ‘I’m part of a small writing group with two other women, all working on novels. We’ve known each other for several years, meet fortnightly and twice a year go away to the Norfolk coast for a week to write, out of season. Feedback is important, as is critiquing another’s work. Working in a small group provides support when the writing gets bogged down and I want to snap my laptop lid shut and never write another word. ‘The Words In My Hand is about Descartes – cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) – but it was his relationship with Helena Jans, a Dutch maid, that interested me. She merits little attention in histories and biographies about him. When I came across a reference to an exchange of letters between Descartes and

Helena I wanted to understand how Helena became literate because it was extremely unusual for a woman of her social class to be so. ‘Writing historical fiction is demanding – I read histories, art histories, Descartes’ primary works and his correspondence, which helped establish his voice. I made contact with scholars in the Netherlands, academics whose work is dedicated to understanding Descartes’ life and work in the Dutch Republic in the 1630s and 40s. Dr Erik-Jan Bos, who was working on a new translation of Descartes’ correspondence at the time, kindly read a first draft and answered my questions on Descartes. The Arts Council England grant paid for two research visits to the Netherlands. Being there helped me with the details – weather, light, sense of space – and imagining what these places might have been like in the seventeenth century. ‘I started The Words In My Hand in 2012 and by October 2013, had a first draft. Editing took another nine months of full-time work. It came to close to acceptance at three UK publishing houses then my agent took it to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Ullstein Buchverlage wanted it. I was absolutely stunned. Shortly after that the UK and Commonwealth rights sold to Two Roads, an imprint of John Murray Press. Rights have since sold to The Netherlands, Spain and France, and an edition is being published in Australia and New Zealand. ‘I’m currently editing the second draft of The Index of Lost Colours, a novel about the recurring power of first love.’ Website:

WRITING PLACE ‘In the winter, I tend to work in bed to keep warm. Summer sees me drift downstairs to a small sofa in a room facing west – I like the afternoon light. Upstairs at the back of the house that looks out onto the garden, there’s a small cluttered room where I have a desk. I also work in Cambridge University Library. Wherever I write, it needs to be quiet. I don’t know how anyone manages to write in coffee shops. I’d never be able to zone out. Or stop eating cake.’






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p125 next month.indd 109



14/12/2015 12:42


with Love


Feedback from fans is welcomed by Lorraine Mace... mostly


ne of the delights of being published is getting feedback from readers, but this is, as you can imagine, both a blessing and a curse. You might be surprised to hear someone would put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to let me know how much they dislike my books, but it happens. I had an email from a very odd person who was so offended by the first in my crime series that he felt compelled to buy the rest to see if the content in the next three was equally disturbing. As he said in his irate message: ‘Any decent person would be on edge reading your work.’ Well, yes, that’s the idea. The clue is in the genre: crime/thrillers. But I don’t only get disgruntled emails. Many that I receive are not only gruntled (I know it’s not a proper word, but it should be) but the senders also hope I’ll be able to use my influence to further their own fledgling careers. As one correspondent said: ‘I’ve read all your books and love them. I think my own novel would fit well with yours. Would you read my book (120,000-word manuscript attached) and pass it on to your publisher for me? It’s a dystopian tale of germ warfare set on a distant planet.’ Now, if that nice author really had read my novels, he would have known that my tales couldn’t be further from his, but at least he wasn’t berating me over my subject matter. I once received an email from someone who felt my first children’s novel was too frightening. Fair enough, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but 126


P126 Margin.indd 126

I was a little bemused by the opening one of my proudest moments. salvo: ‘I haven’t read Vlad the Inhaler, It also brought about one of the but...’ It seems the cover, showing Vlad weirdest communications I’ve ever and a werewolf, upset her five-year-old received. Quite how the writer got my and gave the little girl nightmares. As the email address remains a mystery to books are aimed at an older age group, this day. Suffice it to say, somehow he I wondered how she’d even seen the tracked me down. cover, but that was explained later in The background had been the email. Her older child, a boy, formatted to a pale rose pink and had borrowed the book from a the font was deepest purple – friend and shown the cover to giving a whole new meaning I have kept the his little sister, telling her the to the term purple prose. I message over the werewolf was going to eat have kept the message over years, just in case I her while she slept. the years, just in case I ever I don’t want you to disappear and the police ever disappear and think I only get nasty need a starting point to find the police need a messages, because I do me again. starting point to find receive fan mail from people who enjoy my novels. Sweat Lorrain, (it began) me again. I also get lots of lovely emails I red your storey and new strait from readers of this column saying away that you are my solemate. I my page is the first one they read woud like to meet you one day becose each month. But no matter how I no you are ment to be mine. I live fulsome the praise, none of them in america (you can imagine how will ever come close to the missive I relieved I was when I read that!) were received early in my writing career. do you live? pleas rite back Lorrain At that time I didn’t have any we too soles are ment to be one and columns to my name, nor had any of one day we wil be my novels been published. The idea Simon xx of my own website was laughable. I didn’t even have a blog back then. I’d I received that about twelve years written a few articles and had a couple ago and can only hope Simon has of short stories published in women’s found his true soul mate in the magazines, but my fame, far from intervening years. being spread far and wide, as I hoped it would be one day (still hoping for that Have any of you received strange one), was non-existent. However, I did fan mail? Send your weirdest and win an online short story competition funniest to lorraine@lorrainemace. run by an American magazine. The com and I’ll use them in a future story was published on their website column. (Just don’t give Simon my with my name under the title. It was new email address.)


14/12/2015 12:45

Writing magazine - February 2016  
Writing magazine - February 2016