Page 1


2018 EVENTS GUIDE Over 250 great ways to get out and about this year!


SHERLOCK What can you learn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

Conquering rejection and moving on

What’s the big deal about



EASY-READ How Katherine Arden blends real settings and magical themes


✓ 20 competitions to enter ✓ 41 opportunities to get published ✓ Insider know-how and more…

ARTICLE VIEWER p001_wmagMarch.indd 1



24/01/2018 14:19

Start a new writing adventure today! Writing Magazine Creative Writing Courses help everyone, from aspiring to published, to take your writing to the next level. Choose between nine courses and you’ll be assigned to a professional writing tutor to suit your personal requirements. Then start your course straight away from the comfort of your home! • Article Writing & Freelance Journalism • Becoming A Successful Writer • Fiction • Making the Most of Your life Experiences • Poetry • Polish Your Writing Style • Scriptwriting • Short story • Writing for Children




MARCH 2018

p002_march18.indd Course advert.indd 12

392 492

19/01/2018 19/10/2017 12:51 09:46

E D I TO R ’ S L E T T E R








SHERLOCK What can you learn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

What’s the big deal about


Conquering rejection and moving on INCLUDING


How Katherine Arden blends real settings and magical themes


NEWS YOU CAN USE ✓ 20 competitions to enter ✓ 41 opportunities to get published ✓ Insider know-how and more…

p001_wmagMarch.indd 1

23/01/2018 14:14

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 2925 Editorial: 0113 200 2919 Marketing: 0113 200 2916 Creative Writing Courses: 0113 200 2917 Website: Publisher: Collette Smith Email: Editor: Jonathan Telfer Email:

Dear Reader

And so, as Charles Bukowski so finely put it, the days run away like wild horses over the hills, and our annual events guide looms into view, loaded with festivals, courses, workshops, retreats, holidays and other writing events to tempt you from your desk and into the wider world. Whatever your style or taste you’ll find something to suit your needs in the listings (starting on p36) but I wanted to highlight one event in particular that is especially close to the WM heart. In April, we’re dipping our toes into the water to launch an event of our own, a ‘Start your story’ day with sessions on ideas and inspiration, structure, plot and character, and bringing your story to life, led by WM faves Jenny Alexander (WM Dec) and Elizabeth Enfield (p30). Tickets are already going fast, so skip ahead to p71 now to find out more and book your place. Are you already blocking out your wallchart with other events you plan to visit this year? Do let us know which you enjoy, which you find most useful, or even any you won’t be attending again. We love to know what you’re up to, and we might even see you there. Just remember that you still have to do some writing when you get home.

Assistant editor: Tina Jackson Email:



Jonathan Telfer Editor

Senior designer: Nathan Ward Email: Editorial designer: Mary Ward Email: Editorial designer: Rajneet Gill Email: Marketing: Lauren Beharrell Advertising sales manager: Sarah Hopton Classified sales: Louise Clarke Email: Subscriptions: Creative Writing Courses: Competitions: WM Competitions, Warners Group Publications plc, The Maltings, West Street, Bourne PE10 9PH, UK. Typeset by: Warners Group Publications plc, 5th Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD Printed by: Warners (Midlands) plc, The Maltings, Manor Lane, Bourne, Lincs PE10 9PH Distribution to the news trade by: Warners Group Publications plc, West Street, Bourne, Lincs PE10 9PH

When you have finished with this magazine please recycle it

p12 JAMES MCCREET James McCreet divides his time between writing novels, tutoring and working as a freelance copywriter, a combination which means he gets to spend every day writing or thinking about writing. He believes there is nothing as difficult or as rewarding as completing a novel: ‘Each one is another step in the life-long apprenticeship.’ James has recently joined the tutors on WM’s Creative Writing Courses and is available for students now.



Phil Collins first attended Swanwick in 2006 having started writing a novel and getting into all sorts of difficulty. Swanwick provided new opportunities to develop other writing directions. He’s been a regular contributor to Page to Stage and the final night’s entertainment, and took up guitar to join in with Buskers’ Night as well as write song lyrics for the pantos. He joined the committee in 2015 and is privileged to lead Swanwick into its seventieth year.

Helen Walters writes short stories for magazines and her work has appeared in Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, The People’s Friend, Best, Yours and Take A Break Fiction Feast. Helen also writes short non-fiction pieces, which are mostly real-life or nostalgia inspired, and writes on writing related subjects. She teaches writing to adults in a number of different settings. Find out more on her website:

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 judgment 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.

p003 Editor's letter.indd 3


MARCH 2018


24/01/2018 14:21


2018 EVENTS GUIDE 37 Festivals: Your guide to literary festivals in 2018 46 Swanwick at 70 Chairman Phil Collins looks back at the history of the much-loved writers’ summer school 48 Courses and events: Your guide to writing workshops, courses, retreats, holidays and events in 2018

WRITERS’ NEWS 88 Your essential monthly roundup


of competitions, paying markets, opportunities to get into print and publishing industry news




14 How I got published: Tim Baker The thriller writer found himself writing a different story to the one he intended

10 Grumpy Old Bookman: Daemonic advice A new book on writing by one of our greatest authors convinces Michael Allen it’s worth every penny of its price

16 Star interview: Fairytale beginnings Russia was the motherland of invention for The Bear and the Nightingale author Katherine Arden’s magic realism

11 On writing: AE Housman 11 Agent opinion: From the other side of the desk Piers Blofeld has good reasons to be cheerful about books in 2018

22 Beat the bestsellers The style and technique of Arthur Conan Doyle

21 Ask a literary consultant A reader who can’t finish her novella needs to ask what her story wants

30 Shelf life: Elizabeth Enfield The author and journalist shares her five favourite reads

77 Behind the tape Expert advice on getting the details right in your crime novel

62 Subscriber spotlight WM subscribers share their writing success stories

80 The business of writing: Understanding your ALCS statement Simon Whaley explains how to decipher it

66 Circles’ roundup Writing groups share their interests and activities 76 Crime file: Ashley Dyer Margaret Murphy takes a darker direction under her new pseudonym 86 Author profile: Carol Wyer The prolific author writes in several genres 108 My writing day: Mark Price The former Waitrose business chief splits his time between writing executive titles and children’s books


MARCH 2018

p004 contents.indd 4

84 Research tips: Primary, secondary & tertiary sources Choose the right sources for your work

CREATIVE WRITING 12 Creative writing: So close, but... James McCreet reveals the most difficult stage of his latest novel project: seeking publication 20 Beginners: Showing off Sometimes the old saw ‘show don’t tell’ just won’t do, says Adrian Magson

22/01/2018 11:58


COMPETITIONS AND EXERCISES 15 WIN! A literary and natural history themed short stay with a visit to Gilbert White’s house at Selborne

32 Under the microscope James McCreet considers the opening of a reader’s women’s historical fiction

25 & 57 WIN! Cash prizes and publication in our latest open and subscriber-only short story competitions

34 Fiction focus: Get a grip As grip lit keeps its hold on readers, Margaret James looks at why we love it, and how to write it

26 & 58 Short story winners Read the winning entries in our latest creative writing competitions

72 Masterclass: The upper hand Helen M Walters explores the tension between characters in The Lumber Room by Saki

67 Writers’ circles: Weather watch Explore the effect of weather on the words produced by your writing group in these exercises

74 Writing for children: Winning tales Did you enter WM’s inaugural Picture Book Prize? Amy Sparkes was very impressed with the entries, and tells us why the top three stood out as winners

82 Train your brain: Red editing pen


78 Fantastic realms: Gateways to another dimension Alex Davis explores portals in science fiction and fantasy

6 Miscellany


8 Letters

28 Poetry winners: Braving the ballad The winners of WM’s ballad poetry competition impressed with the strength of their storytelling

60 Talk it over: Grin and bear it A reader is advised not to let peer reviews spoil the pleasure of her first book

68 Poetry workshop: Lost homes A powerful poem about looking back provides Alison Chisholm with food for thought

61 Helpline Your writing problems solved

69 Poetry in practice Try something different to give your poetry submissions a lift

85 Editorial calendar

83 Away from your desk: Activities for writers and places to visit

93 Going to market

70 Poetry primer: Poetry from A to Z Alison Chisholm guides you through the language of poetry

99 Novel ideas 103 Travel writing know-how



110 Notes from the margin: Damned again Has your moment of glory been tainted by faint praise, or worse?

32 78

p004 contents.indd 5

MARCH 2018


22/01/2018 12:47




Brontës, Blackbeard, Brookside, biografiends, best practice and bad ideas, digested by Derek Hudson so you don’t have to

Guarding against mediocrity

Combing for something new in Brontë-land

In an attempt to bring the Brontës to a wider audience, their creative urges are channelled into blogging, writing screenplays and slam poetry in a new theatre production, wrote Lindsay Pantry in the Yorkshire Post. The play, Jane Hair: The Brontës Restyled, tells the story of Emily, Charlotte, Anne and Branwell, and is set, and performed in, a hairdressing salon. The creators of the new play, the Arts Council and the Brontë Society, who have supported it, see the production as ‘an opportunity to celebrate the literary family’. It was devised by Haworth-born writer and TV producer Kirsty Smith, of Sneaky Experience, and actress Kat Rose-Martin, from Bradford. Kirsty Smith told the Yorkshire Post: ‘A lot of people only know them as faces on a tea towel and may be surprised by what they achieved. Old school Brontë fans may be a little surprised by their presentation, but the play is about how hard they worked on their path to fame.’


MARCH 2018

p006 Miscellany.indd 6

‘Read everything’ is not always the best advice for would-be writers, suggested Jason Guriel writing in Canadian magazine, The Walrus. Walrus ‘The most useful writing advice, like a doctor’s script, is always specific. It doesn’t widen, it narrows. Those sentences that begin with the word “Although”,’ writes Joseph Epstein, ‘or those sentences requiring a “however” somewhere in their middle, are almost always dead on arrival.’ He continued: ‘That’s thrillingly precise. So, too, is critic Stephen Metcalf ’s urgent warning to avoid overuse of em dashes and, especially, semicolons… Whatever else you do, you should not be reading the many, many new releases of middling poetry and fiction that will be vying for your attention over the next year or so out of some obligation to submit your ear to a variety of voices… Instead, shutter your ear against mediocrity.’

22/01/2018 12:48


Blackbeard brought to book

Do traditional tales need a re-write?

Fairy stories have come in for another pasting. Roison O’Connor, writing in The Independent reported that ‘Prince Charming may not be so... you know where this is going.’ Kazue Muta, a professor at Japan’s Osaka University, the author of Sir, That Love is Sexual Harassment!, argues that princes in stories such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are guilty of assault. ‘When you think rationally about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, that tell of a “princess being woken up by the kiss of a prince”, they are describing sexual assault on an unconscious person,’ she explained. ‘You might think I’m ruining the fantasy of it all, but these stories are promoting sexual violence and I would like everyone to be aware of it.’ The Indy journalist added: ‘Ongoing criticisms of classic fairy tales have prompted debates over whether some of the more dubious portrayals of romance need an update.’

Recreational life aboard an infamous pirate’s ship was not only about forcing prisoners to walk the plank, yo-ho-ho and a bottle or rum, it seems. Alison Flood of the Guardian revealed that the 18th-century pirate Blackbeard ‘may have whiled away the hours between raids by curling up with a good book, according to a new discovery’. Alison reported that ‘archaeological conservators in North Carolina working on the wreckage of Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, found fragments of paper “in a mess of wet sludge” that had been in the chamber of a cannon. After months of work, the researchers have determined that the fragments came from the 1712 book by Captain Edward Cooke, A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711.’ The department concluded: ‘This unique find from the wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge provides archaeological evidence for books carried on ships in the early 18th century, and adds to our knowledge of the history of Blackbeard’s flagship and those who sailed in her.’ Historian Angus Konstam, author of a biography of Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, said that the subject matter of the book, a ‘voyage narrative’ describing Cooke’s adventures around the coast of South America, would have been ‘pretty good bedtime reading for a pirate’.

Hacked off

Regional journalists have been irritated and disappointed by Coronation Street’s representation of their role in the aftermath of tragedy. Someone signing themselves Old Cynic observed in the comments section of the Hold the Front Page journalists’ website: ‘Twas ever thus. Soap operas, and TV drama in general, have always got it terribly wrong when they portray the press, which is odd, because the very same writers and producers will make great play of how well they research the work of, say, the police or medics. ‘I can remember the very first time I got a negative reaction from the public because of a soap’s demonisation of hacks. It was at least 25 years ago and I was on the knocker in Manchester after a lad had fallen from a tree and impaled himself on railings. No-one would speak, and one householder closed the door on me with the words: “We don’t want another Brookside here.” There had been a storyline in Brookside at the time in which a reporter had harassed people after some tragic event and actually stolen a photo from someone’s house to use in the newspaper. People really believed that that was how we did our work.’

‘Biografiends’ and others Scathing words about biography were repeated by John Tytell in the Los Angeles Review of Books: ‘When I was coming of age in the literary world of New York I was taught to suspect biography as the product of a disreputable marriage between history and journalism. Henry James feared the biographer as a predator, James Joyce ridiculed what he called “biografiends,” Nabokov dismissed the species as mere “Tom-peepers,” and Saul Bellow compared biographers to coffin-makers. ‘Janet Malcolm, in her adept evaluation of books about Sylvia Plath, claimed that the biographer resembles a “professional burglar.” Stacy Schiff has pointed out that the business of biography might seem obsessional, parasitic, and perhaps pathological, or at best the distasteful result of “peering unapologetically into other people’s medicine cabinets”.’

p006 Miscellany.indd 7

MARCH 2018


22/01/2018 12:48


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


Doing it for Dad

Write your life In the 1950s, with a writing career in mind, I had an interview with the Daily Mirror. At the time all I wanted to do was be a newspaper reporter. The interview went well but there was a snag. I was offered the position of a messenger for three years, but with National Service looming at eighteen, it seemed I might be out of work after this. Sadly, I turned the offer down. This was the time when you were in a job until you were 65 and then retired. At the time this seemed the right thing to do. I tried local papers but there were no vacancies. I eventually got a job in a shipping and forwarding agents and, through various shipping agents, this proved to be my job until I retired. Looking back now, I wonder what my life would have turned out like if I had taken the offer at the Daily Mirror. Chief reporter perhaps, who knows? I always thought I was in the wrong job. But I had a good life, in which I was a footballer, marathon runner, etc, but I kept on writing. I never forgot that. Over the years I have had many short stories and articles published, even one in Writing Magazine! Always keep hold of your dream.

MR P COX Dovercourt, Essex The star letter each month earns a copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury,

FINDING YOUR WAY Thank you, Adrian Magson, for your advice (See through the fog, WM, Feb) to review where you are so far and ask if you are on the right road. I’ve been trying to write short stories for women’s magazines for the last few years with only one acceptance. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not on the right road, and am now trying poetry instead, as well as writing short stories in the one genre I enjoy writing, magic realism. So, like you say, I’ve retraced my steps and found another way ahead. This has given me a new creativity. JULIE DAY London SE23 8

MARCH 2018

p008 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.

Cheralyn Willcox-Ives’ letter (WM, Feb) moved me. It reminded me how my own father has been the catalyst for my writing career. My love of books came from ‘The Old Wolf ’ (Dad’s nickname). One of my fondest memories is of him reading to me. I coveted his personal library (still do) and am certain this led to my own obsession. Like Cheralyn’s memory of receiving the glossy Jungle Book from her father, I will never forget the first book my Dad gave me (Dragons of Autumn Twilight). The Old Wolf has also been my biggest fan, and – perhaps strangely – an unbiased critic. My Dad entered a poetry competition on my behalf, without my knowledge, when I was ready to give up. The poem made a National Anthology and gave me the confidence to continue. The Old Wolf taught me not to quickly discard anything I wrote that I considered ‘crap’. I used to lose my temper if I believed I had written poorly and bin stuff expeditiously. He told me to keep everything, revisit it at a later date. This led to a journey in editing and renewed my faith in myself; often discovering writing I had previously deemed awful, but later loved or could rework until I did. One such piece won me a £150 prize and others were included in my first book (Lacuna, published by Black Pear Press). I am an award winning, published poet because of my Dad. My condolences to Cheralyn, I am certain I am not alone in sending my love. KIERAN DAVIS Worcester I am 24 and have been writing for as long as I can remember – short stories, novels, non-fictions, plays, scripts, poems, you name it. Whilst I write for the enjoyment of writing, I find it really difficult to just write for myself, and always have the idea of publication in the back of my head; how I can make it better, who would read it, would anyone like it? On 15 December last year, my father passed away at the age of 57 and I have written more since he died than I have in the years prior. He always hoped I would write something that would be published and I could finally call myself a published writer. Whilst this hasn’t happened yet, I have now been able to write for myself. I am currently writing a book all about his battle with cancer and how I have coped after losing him. Whilst I may send it for publication in the future, for now, it is a way of putting my thoughts down on paper, and a way for me to practise my writing and hopefully improve. So, from now on, whilst I won’t forget that desired end goal, I will focus on writing for ME and for HIM. VICTORIA BUCKNELL Stevenage, Hertfordshire

23/01/2018 15:52





What a waste of paper, I thought, as the Inspiring Ideas mini-mag fell out of the   February edition of Writing   Magazine. Oh no, I don’t need Magazine any more ideas. Couldn’t they READER SUCCESSES come up with something useful? I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m never short of ideas. I have notebooks bulging with the openings of novels, short stories and plays; of snatches of conversation overheard; newspaper cuttings of amusing or unusual stories; and so it goes on. After a quick flick through and a smile at some of my favourite authors’ inspiring words, I put it in the recycling box. Later that day, I was composing my weekly blog, having decided to focus on style in writing and repetition in particular. I have been reading A Tale of Two of Cities by Charles Dickens and noticed how much he used it in describing the storming of the Bastille as a backcloth to the main story – to great effect. I was struggling to develop my argument and started to think about what advice other writers might give. I needed someone else’s wisdom. Yes, you’ve guessed it. I retrieved my Inspiring Ideas from among the rubbish and Elmore Leonard’s advice on ‘Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue’ filled the bill exactly. Now the booklet is propped up next to my computer in case I get stuck again. DEE LA VARDERA Calne, Wiltshire MOTIVATION, INSPIRATION, EXERCISES AND ADVICE


24/10/2017 14:08

p1 Cover.indd 1

p1 Cover.indd 1

17/11/2017 10:24

February Writing Magazine hit the doormat and the bills were ignored in its favour. As I tore the wrapper off, the Inspiring Ideas booklet fell onto the floor. ‘What a great idea’, I thought, but hang on this is issue 2, so what happened to issue 1? An intensive search found it between a holiday brochure and a Northumberland Tourist Guide. As I opened the first page of issue 1 the ‘Flash of inspiration’ caught my eye. ‘What is the oldest item you own?’ Being in need of inspiration after completing and publishing on Amazon the sequel to my The Helm Trilogy, I started to think. Any old items of value had been sold at some stage during three separate periods of redundancy, so there were only items of no intrinsic value to draw upon. Licky, my teddy bear, homemade due to post WWII shortages,

must have a story to tell. A letter from Dad to Mum asking her out prior to going off to war was of course older than Licky. Older still, and something that shouldn’t have survived the years was my Nan’s. A promotional give-away to advertise the opening of a picture house is a paper and card fan, now that really does inspire the imagination, not only the excitement it must have elicited at the time, but how on earth has it survived so long? Thank you WM, from no inspiration to three potential story lines in seconds. HARRY SEDDON Choppington, Northumberland On 31 December I had no enthusiasm to make a single New Year resolution. I’d had a pretty good year in 2017 submitting stories and having one or two accepted and published. But that all came to an end in September when I broke my wrist – while walking to my writing group. By the end of December I’d had a bandage, I’d had a manipulation to straighten a broken bone and finally I’d had a titanium plate and screws inserted. And I had no confidence at all. I’d even had to cancel my much-lookedforward-to, one-week residential course on writing science fiction. My arm required intensive daily physiotherapy exercises. At the end of December I was still unable to type for more than about three minutes. Writing Magazine lay unopened but the small booklet, Inspiring Ideas, had slipped out of its pages. On page one of Inspiring Ideas it says, quietly, Just Write. I flipped through the booklet and found it engaging, creative. I picked up my notebook and the new pen I’d been given for Christmas. First of all I wrote 200 words on ‘What my Father did when no one was looking’. It was fun. No pressure. For weeks I had only written about the angst and fear of never again being able to use my left hand properly. I wrote another piece called Plant a Seed, then A Letter. During the dark months my writing buddy Linda had kept me sane with encouraging emails, gave me gentle ideas when we had coffee together. She suggested I write to her in emails telling her about my days, and my progress. But those days were generally full of desperation. My writing group in Edinburgh were incredibly supportive even though I could no longer attend the meetings, not being able to drive. But now I have a New Year resolution. Just Write. Thank you, WM. SHIRLEY MUIR Archerfield, East Lothian

Talking history After reading Margaret James’ article A look back in time (WM, Feb), I acknowledge that to write historical fiction can be a bit of a fact-full minefield. Today, authors have the internet to browse through hundreds of sites, all containing conflicting information on what the historic novelist is trying to write about. Then following the befuddled bewilderment of which dot com is accurate, there is the local library or Amazon for published material. I’m sure that I am not on my own here when if asked out of the two, what is my most reliable source for writing my historical prose, I would say none of the above. Why, because there is a third and that is the people who were actually there. In my job as an English lecturer, I was fortunate enough to

have had a temporary supply colleague who in 1974 was living in Cyprus. Needless to say that every lunchtime, he would receive a salvo of questions from me about the conflict which enabled me to get an authentic picture of the turmoil following the Turkish invasion, so supplying me with ample material for my new book. Of course, we can’t always have this source, as the further we want to go back as writers, the harder it is to speak to people who were there. For instance, there is no longer a living soul remaining who fought in the trenches of World War I, so if we want to revisit this awful time, it is back to the web and the humble reference book that we must return. DAVID HOLMAN High Halden, Kent

p008 Letters.indd 9

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 15:52


Daemonic advice A new book on writing by one of our greatest authors convinces Michael Allen it’s worth every penny of its price


or literally sixty years I have been on the lookout for books which provide advice to writers – mainly advice on how to write fiction, since fiction is my primary interest. Year in, year out, there aren’t all that many books which even try to tackle this subject, but now here’s a new one, and it might perhaps appeal to you. Its title is Daemon Voices, and the author is Philip Pullman. We don’t all have the same tastes in books, so you may not have read Philip Pullman’s work in the past. However, it’s fair to say that he is now getting towards the end of about as successful a writing career as you can have in this day and age. Pullman has won numerous awards for children’s books, has sold large numbers of novels all over the world, had his work adapted for the stage by the National Theatre, seen several more books adapted for film and television… and so on. His latest novel, La Belle Sauvage, published in 2017, was quickly declared book of the year by the staff of the Waterstones bookselling chain; by Christmas it had sold 260,000 copies. It has to be said straightaway that Pullman’s book on writing differs from many others in that it was not written from the outset purely as a training manual for young or relatively new fiction writers. Quite the reverse. It consists of a collection of thirty or so separate essays and lectures. Some of these were written decades apart, and most of them were composed initially for different audiences and purposes. But the book’s editor, Simon Mason, sensibly describes the collection as a set of ‘essays on storytelling’, and he has helpfully grouped them under various headings, such as ‘On Religion and Story’ and ‘On Science and Story’. Let’s take a look at one of these 10

MARCH 2018

p010 grumpy old bookman.indd 10

making this comment in the middle ‘essays’ as an example. Towards the of an address to the UEA’s Blake end of the book there is a piece Society, so they would be familiar entitled ‘I Must Create a System’. with the reference.) This turns out to be the text of Another remark in this same a lecture delivered to the Blake chapter, thrown in almost as an aside, Society at the University of East is about doubt. Pullman mentions Anglia in 2005. That’s the that William James (brother of William Blake Society, in Henry) had a name for people case you’re wondering, who have never doubted the not Sexton. After a Most of us writers grow up assumptions they live by: he couple of pages’ calls them once-born. After reading of this being steadily brainwashed you’ve experienced the joys text you might through school and college of doubt, on the other justifiably complain hand, you become a twiceto me that the with the idea that literary born. The importance of lecture has got fiction is somehow morally this comment, at least in damn-all to do with the craft of and intellectually superior to my eyes, is that most of us writers grow up being steadily storytelling and a great commercial fiction. brainwashed through school and deal more to do with college with the idea that literary religion – specifically the fiction is somehow morally and Ophite heresy. (Which you intellectually superior to commercial probably know more about than I fiction. Our English teachers tend do.) However, if you continue to to regard popular fiction as crude, read this chapter with your writer’s vulgar, badly written trash, which hat on, as I did, you will probably finds readers only among the find food for thought. contemptibly hare-brained. Bestsellers One interesting piece of can in no way compare, in their information is that when Pullman opinion, with the novels of those first began to write fiction he found who win literary prizes. However, himself inexorably drawn towards as far as I am concerned, the sooner writing fantasy. This was odd, he young fiction writers become twicetells us, because fantasy was a genre born in relation to this particular of story which he neither enjoyed belief, the better. If Daemon Voices nor approved of. He did, however, does no more than transfer new/ very much enjoy and approve of young writers to the twice-born Milton’s Paradise Lost; and it was camp, it will change the world to a only when he realised that Paradise better place. For that reason alone, Lost was itself a sort of fantasy the book might be worth all 20 quid that he overcame his doubts and of its asking price, and more. inhibitions about fiction of that What we have in Daemon Voices genre. He realised that he was in then is a very highbrow book which fact free to arrange things in his will not appeal to everyone. It does fiction exactly as he wanted them. not give you a ready-made plan If he wanted to write fantasy he for writing a bestseller in six easy could; there was no moral, legal, or weekends, and you may find it hard artistic reason why he should not. going. But it is, undeniably, the work The relief of this penny dropping of a man who has been there and was immense, he says. He apparently done that, and it therefore deserves felt like the freed slave in Blake’s our respectful attention. America. (He was, if you recall,


22/01/2018 12:49


On Writing

From the


Tony Rossiter explores great words from great writers


‘Whence came the intrusive comma on p4? It did not fall from the sky.’ AE HOUSMAN


ousman’s complaint about an unwanted comma was in a letter he wrote to his publisher, Richards Press, on 3 July 1930. Whether you write poetry or prose, punctuation really does matter. Lynne Truss’s bestselling Eats, Shoots and Leaves shows just how important a misplaced comma can be. To put in a comma you don’t need can change the meaning of a sentence – as can the omission of a comma you do need. Consider this sentence: Her first book, about a mass murderer, is to be made into a film. If we omit those two commas, we suggest the existence of several books about mass murderers. A comma tells the reader to take a short pause. Its main functions are: (i) to separate parts of a sentence, splitting one piece of information or an incidental comment from the rest of a sentence; and (ii) to separate items in a list. If the piece of information or the comment occurs in the middle of a sentence, it needs a pair of commas – one at the beginning and one at the end. It must always be possible to remove the information/comment without damaging the sentence. Here is an example of a fairly common mistake: I re-read the report, and much to my surprise, discovered that it was incomplete. It’s impossible to remove and much to my surprise without damaging the sentence. In this example the first comma is on the wrong side of the and. It should read: I re-read the report and, much to my surprise, discovered that it was incomplete. Here we can remove much to my surprise and the sentence makes perfect sense. Another common mistake is to use a comma to join two sentences together, as in this example: Please put your laptop away, I want to talk to you. Here the comma should be replaced by a full stop. Alternatively, if you prefer one sentence rather than two, you could use a conjunction – because or as. That’s a question of style. Remember that the purpose of punctuation is to make your writing clear – easy to read and to understand. Reading aloud is often a good test of correct punctuation. If you’re unsure what punctuation is needed, read the passage aloud, and then insert the punctuation that will best help the reader to understand its meaning.

Piers Blofeld has good reasons to be cheerful about books in 2018


am writing this in early January and 2018 has already got off to a much better start than 2017. The first full-length manuscript that I have read this year was outstandingly good. It is one of the true joys of this job when an author who, in this case, I sent away with notes over two years before comes back with a massively revised manuscript that not only nailed all of the issues that the author and I had discussed, but went way further than I could ever have hoped for. It is one of those definitive signs of real talent. A huge proportion of my time is spent giving notes to people who are either deeply reluctant to kill their darlings or who get rushes of blood to the heads and veer off in whole new directions which kill the very qualities which attracted me to the book in the first place. The second reason to be cheerful is the fact that the year has started with the eyes of the world’s media on Michael Wolff ’s book about the Trump White House Fire and Fury. That’s not to make a political point – although I do love a good bit of political gossip and the image of Donald Trump lying on his bed in his underpants eating burgers shouting at anyone who tries to get him to tidy his room is gloriously funny. But what’s really cheered me up is that, right or wrong, Michael Wolff ’s book demonstrated an absolutely key fact about books – which is this: if you want to tell the real story about something, really give the lowdown, there is no other medium which comes close to books. And this isn’t just a one off – the best performing stocks on the London Stock Exchange last year were Games Workshop who, if you are not familiar with them, create a range of fantasy board games and a huge range of novels which flesh out the worlds of their games. They may not be high art, but as far as I am concerned any book read is a victory of some kind over the torrents of digital nonsense we are inundated by. What is so fantastic is to see real evidence of an actual grass roots movement away from the all encompassing grip of the digital into the gentler and far more human arms of the analogue: the world we actually inhabit. Don’t get me wrong, smart phones and tablets are nifty devices, but the evidence that they have done and are continuing to do a great deal of damage to our sense of wellbeing is mounting and I wonder if 2018 and will be the year in which smartphones come to be seen as the cigarettes of the mind. Above all though, 2017 demonstrated that books are in great shape. Films, television, drama and journalism: none of them come close to the kinds of impact and lasting resonance that a book can have. Books rule. And that is a very good reason to be cheerful indeed!

p011 On writing / piers.indd 11

MARCH 2018


22/01/2018 12:53


but . . .

Author James McCreet reveals the most difficult stage of his latest novel project: seeking publication


he hard work was over. I’d written and edited the novel. Now for the ‘impossible’ work: getting an agent and a publishing deal. Despite having had four books published, I’ve never managed to hook an agent. I’ve negotiated the previous deals on my own and made some pretty bad decisions along the way. With this book, I knew I had something special and I wanted to do it properly. So, like every other writer, I dutifully drafted a covering letter and a synopsis. First, however, I decided to send the book directly to small indie publishers on the reasoning that they might be more open to the themes and writing. Also, you can still write directly to some of them without the intervention of an agent. I chose around ten UK and US publishers – all of whom had won awards for innovation or had successes out of proportion to their size. They all rejected the book, and all for much the same kind of reason. As small publishers, they release only a tiny amount of books each year and those books have to be all but guaranteed successes. They also need to match the overall feel of 12

MARCH 2018

p012 McCreet.indd 12

the list. In this way, many of the smaller publishers are like an exclusive label that promises a certain kind of read. My book didn’t tick those boxes.

The agent Having written ten novels in the last decade, I’ve approached pretty much every UK agent. This time, I didn’t bother with The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. I just Googled UK agents and wrote to the ones I didn’t recognise from before. In fact, I wrote to only one agency and they replied the same day asking to see the whole manuscript. This had happened before – many, many times – so I didn’t get particularly excited. I didn’t get excited even when the agent came back to me and said they wanted to represent me. That, also, has happened before and then the agent demanded that the novel be entirely rewritten with a different story, tone and characters... only with the same general idea. It wasn’t a long-standing working relationship. My new agent said he wanted to take some time to read the MS again and come back to me with edits. Two months passed and, like every writer

in the same position, I worried that the rewrites would be dramatic. My published novels had undergone only the slightest edits (largest change: a paragraph moved) but still I fretted. This novel was my best yet. In the meantime, I was asked to write a one-sentence synopsis (!) of the novel, a short biography and some information about the book’s genesis, market and influences. Such things had been in my cover letter, but now we were creating a package for a publisher. When finally I received the edits email, I dared not open it for an hour. The excitement really began thereafter. My agent didn’t want to change one word of the book I’d written in one draft. Now for a publisher...

The rejections The process was now out of my hands. The agency would send the book and its attendant detail to a highly select mailing list of suitable publishers, identifying the book’s strengths and lightly pushing it in a market full of other agents doing the same thing. All I had to do was wait for the news that I had a deal... or not.

22/01/2018 12:59



The rejections came quickly, but always with a tantalising nugget of information. If there was any kind of unifying theme, it was that everyone liked the writing. ‘Some skilful writing’ said one. ‘An extremely accomplished writer,’ said one of the Big Five. ‘I think he’s a great writer,’ said another... and so on. The praise was welcome, but all of them said no. The reasons why are interesting. For one publisher, the problem was that they didn’t feel sufficiently passionate about the book amid the storm of competition. Someone else said that they didn’t fall for the story in the way they’d hoped. Three publishers remarked that it didn’t suit the rest of their list, regardless of its merits. This latter point is a lesson for all writers currently thinking about starting a novel: study a publisher’s recent list and look for patterns therein. It would be easy to assume the story or the characters were weak, but there has been little consensus on this. One editor said that they were immediately caught up in the story of the two main characters, while another was impressed by how finely drawn the elderly character

Next steps

is. Yet the most recent response said that neither the story nor the characters were sufficiently gripping. What should I make of this feedback? Could it be that the people making the decisions are making decisions based on their own taste, or on behalf of a public taste they’re expected to represent? The answer is simpler. The ‘list’ is a selection of books that each publisher expects to generate an overall profit. The smaller the list, the more assured the choice has to be. There’s no room for risk, regardless of how good the writing may be. At the end of one email, the publisher signed off with, ‘Please feel free to send more fiction (the more commercial, the better).’ And that’s the point. As the rejections come in, my agent has advised me with clear-sighted realism that publishers are incredibly cautious at the moment. Anything that isn’t an obvious ‘slam-dunk’ (psychological thriller, rom-com beach read, etc) is a hard sell. There’s no altruism in publishing.

It’s not the end of the road yet for this novel, but I suspect it’s in sight. It was the best book I could write at the time, but it may not be good (or commercial) enough for this market. My choices now seem to be two: write a more obviously commercial book that can sell on story alone, or write the book I have in mind – an even less commercial work whose themes are interesting but not massmarket, and whose writing will be better yet. Which option to choose? It’s a choice many writers have to face. Talk to some of the really successful commercial writers and they’ll tell you (in private and off the record!) that what they write is not what they always dreamed of. But dreams don’t pay the bills – sales do. I’m pretty sure I could write an obviously commercial book in the next couple of months and it might sell. But I became a writer because I love writing. I’m a dreamer. If trying to be better and better with each book keeps me poor, I guess that’s the way it’s going to be. One day, perhaps, the market and my dreams may coincide.

The 6th Self-Publishing

Conference Saturday April 28th, 2017, 9am-6pm • University of Leicester

This conference offers a unique opportunity to meet and interact with influential individuals and companies working within the self-publishing sector. It is the perfect day for authors thinking about, or already involved in, self-publishing their work. Whether you are going it alone or using a self-publishing company, this conference offers multiple sessions on a wide variety of topics. This year’s event is sponsored by Writing Magazine, Nielsen Book, Writers&Artists, Matador, The Book Guild, TJ International Printers and others. The keynote speaker is publishing consultant James Spackman, with sessions on topics as wide-ranging as illustration, marketing to retailers and media, typesetting design, Ingram Spark, poetry preparation... and much more. A full programme and registration details are available on the conference website. Registration is £65 per person; this includes a delegate’s pack, morning coffee, buffet lunch, afternoon tea, a drinks reception and a choice from more than fourteen sessions on different aspects of self-publishing. “

I cannot think of very much wrong with the event and can recommend it to aspiring writers and indie/self publishers. Richard Denning I just wanted to thank you for the excellent Conference I attended on Sunday. It was well organised, well presented, full of helpful, friendly people and a joy to attend. Sandra Smith That was an absolutely first rate conference - from the speakers to the catering and the venue. A great overal atmosphere and so many nuggets of info and ideas they wouldn't all fit onto the notepads you kindly provided! Tony Boullemier

p012 McCreet.indd 13

MARCH 2018


22/01/2018 12:59

How I got published


Tim Baker’s 2016 debut novel, the neo-noir thriller Fever City, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger and the US Shamus Award. His follow up, epic narcothriller City Without Stars, is published by Faber & Faber ‘My debut novel, Fever City, began life as a detective story set in 1970. A secondary story briefly touched on a kidnapping which had taken place years earlier. ‘But as I moved forward with the manuscript, an unexpected thing happened. The secondary story began to emerge as the principal one. The kidnapping story, set in Los Angeles in 1960, seemed to possess a power all of its own. ‘Despite my attempts to focus on what I considered to be the “main plot”, the kidnapping component kept growing with such urgency that eventually I felt compelled to focus on it alone, and abandoned the other parts of the novel. ‘However, there was still something missing: an entrance into the kidnapping story. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find an opening that worked. ‘Eventually I put the manuscript down, hoping that one day inspiration would strike. In the meantime I started a new novel, which would eventually become City Without Stars. ‘What happened next was wholly unexpected. Around two years later, I woke up in the middle of the night from a vivid dream. I leapt out of bed, compelled to record as much of the dream as I could. ‘After several hours work, I read through what I had written. It was only then that I realised it was the opening to Fever City that I had been searching for. ‘Two more years later, my debut novel was finally finished. I trialled what I thought was a good query letter, sending it out to six agents. Three passed, and the rest didn’t bother responding. ‘So I wrote a completely different type of query letter, pitching my novel as though it were a blurb on the back of a book. This time the response was immediate, with many requests for the manuscript. ‘Then came perhaps the hardest part of the entire process: waiting months for busy agents to find the time to read the manuscript. ‘When I did get an offer of representation, from a young agent, Tom Witcomb at the Blake Friedmann Agency, I let all the others who had the manuscript know and there was a sudden flurry of excitement as agents who had sat on the manuscript for months requested more time to consider my novel. ‘More offers of representation came in. But I had already figured that if Tom had been willing to take a chance with me, I should be willing to take a chance with him. ‘So I said yes to Tom. Four months and one final rewrite together later, and Tom aced a fantastic deal with the publishing house of my dreams, Faber & Faber. ‘There is a saying that everyone has one story inside them, but very few people have two. Luckily for me, every time I had put down the manuscript to Fever City, I’d been picking up the current draft of City Without Stars. ‘Taking a break from one story by working on another is a little like taking a break from the city by spending some time in the countryside. You’re not renouncing one terrain or way of life for another, you’re simply acknowledging that they are different. ‘Being a writer is an ongoing process. Getting published took far longer than I ever imagined, but looking back, I realise that I’m grateful for every single second of that journey.’ Twitter: @TimBakerWrites 14

Tim’s literary agent, Tom Witcomb, from the Blake Friedmann Agency ‘Tim’s cover letter was perfect – business-like and showing a blend of artistic passion and professionalism in his approach to writing. Then the opening chapters just really blew me away. The synopsis told me all I needed to know about the rest! ‘Tim is in a class of his own, though in Fever City and City Without Stars there are hints of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Raymond Carver, Philip Kerr, Cormac McCarthy and Don Winslow. The principle characters in City Without Stars are all emotionally and morally complex yet utterly believable. I think every reader will empathise with Fuentes’s fierce tenacity and courage as he strives to solve a dangerous case shrouded in mystery, and the two female protagonists, Pilar and Ventura, will stay with you forever. The characters in Fever City are definitely more ruthless, violent and morally ambiguous. ‘Fever City is set principally in mid-century America in Los Angeles and Dallas (there is a key section dealing with the assassination of JFK) but there is an important modern-day component as well. City Without Stars is set over four violent days in May 2000 along the border between Mexico and the US. ‘Adults who love twisty thrillers that inspire a little introspection and reflection, but who also enjoy a blistering ride, will love these books. Tim’s characters are human, but imperfect. The scenarios they’re in are often bring out the darker side, though the most despairing acts are counterpoised with a rich humanity, dark swathes of humour and the redemptive power of human courage and decency.’

MARCH 2018

p024 HIGP.indd 14

23/01/2018 14:52


WEEKEND AWAY 4 Star Holiday Inn Winchester

The four-star Holiday Inn Winchester is offering Writing Magazine readers the chance to win a literary and natural history themed short stay

The prize includes: • A two night stay for two people at the award winning Holiday Inn Winchester including breakfast and dinner with a bottle of Prosecco on one of the evenings in the hotel’s 2 AA Rosette Award winning Morn Hill Brasserie • Two tickets to the former home of the pioneering naturalist and author Gilbert White’s House at Selborne, Hampshire • A copy of ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ first published in 1789

Gilbert White’s House and Museum

TO ENTER Write 500 words prose or 40 lines of poetry with the theme ‘nature’. Upload your entry online at Closing Date: is 1st March 2018 *Full terms and conditions are online*

For more information on the 4 star Holiday Inn Winchester visit:

p015_march18.indd 15 Winchester Competition.indd 1

MARCH 2018


19/01/2018 11/12/2017 11:36 13:08

Fairytale beginnings Russia was the motherland of invention for Katherine Arden’s magic realism, she tells Tina Jackson


hen it was published early last year, The Bear and the Nightingale was the perfect book for the frosty season: a magical historical fantasy set in medieval Russia with the Winter King as a central character and a fierce young heroine, Vasya. The bestselling debut’s follow-up, The Girl in the Tower, is just as enchanted, and enchanting, following Vasya through more perilous snow-bound adventures in the wonderfully wrought magic realist world author Katherine Arden has created. Katherine, though, comes from a much more temperate climate: Texas. So how did a young woman from America’s Southern States create this fairytale wintry world so convincingly based in Russian folklore? ‘I had a book of Russian fairytales as a little girl and I read them over and over,’ says Katherine. Fittingly, she’s standing outside in the freezing


Tap Here to watch a trailer for the Winternight Trilogy


MARCH 2018

p016 Interview.indd 16

24/01/2018 14:22


cold of Vermont to have this conversation, because that’s the only place she can get a signal. The fairytales had a profound effect on the life that followed. ‘I finished high school and I wanted an education. I wanted to do something bigger, more different – and I spent a year in Moscow. I went to the Pushkin Institute, that teaches Russian to foreign students, and I spent a lot of time walking around Moscow, drawing in the atmosphere, and it was a very formative experience. Russia, to me, is such a dramatic place. It’s so big and the weather is so changeable and the sky is so vast. The people have so much passion – the lows are low and the highs are high. It’s a country that lends itself to the imagination. Its history is packed with incident. All fertile territory for fiction.’ One of her teachers at the Pushkin Institute sent her back to fairytales. ‘She was determined I’d learn to speak Russian without an accent and she made me read Pushkin’s fairytales aloud. Over and over again. So I’d read them, and when I stared writing, I had this fairytale vocabulary waiting for me. I always loved books based in fairytales so I wanted to write one of my own.’ One of the things that most attracted Katherine to Russian fairytales was the way they differed from the well-known fairy tales in the Western World. ‘The female characters in Russian fairytales have so much more life than they do in our fairytale tradition. You have the Snow Whites and the Sleeping Beauties and they only get to be asleep, essentially. In Russian folklore you have Vasilisa the Brave or Marja Morevna or Baba Yaga – these women who are in control and take action and are in charge of their own stories. And that always stuck with me. Making good, and having agency, is hard – and that attracted me.’ She also appreciated the way the stories featured leading characters with human rather than heroic qualities. ‘I love how Russian fairytales reward not always the bravest, or the best fighter, but the clever ones or even the lazy ones.

Ivan the Fool pretty much always gets the princess – they reward good-heartedness and loveableness.’ When Katherine was creating Vasya, she didn’t want her to conform to the stereotypes of what a fairytale heroine should be. ‘I’ve always felt as though heroines are a bit of a tough crowd. They’re something very valuable, or very vulnerable, and I didn’t want either. I wanted someone who was herself, and didn’t apologise, and made everyone recognise that.’ At the beginning of The Girl in the Tower, Vasya – a girl with the ability to interact equally with the magical and everyday worlds – is in flight from the world she previously inhabited, riding her giant bay horse Solovey through the freezing forest. Her new adventures take her to Moscow, where she has to cross-dress as a boy, Vasilii, to ensure her safety. What began as a narrative device became one of the novel’s most compelling themes: the questioning of rigid gender identities. ‘I felt it would be interesting to see how the world interacts with her if she’s not burdened by being a woman,’ says Katherine. ‘A lot of the things she does would have been impossible if she’d been a girl all the time. I’m a big Mulan fan. Vasya being a boy started out as a plot device so she could ride away and find safety but it became a central theme of the story: who you are and how you are treated. She’s the same, in her boy clothes. It was fun to write about, especially in the scenes with her brother and sister, because people respond to her differently. And not always for the better.’ Katherine is well aware that her characters reflect contemporary, not medieval, ideas of gender. ‘In reality, and without the elements

“I’ve always felt as though heroines are a bit of a tough crowd. They’re something very valuable, or very vulnerable, and I didn’t want either. I wanted someone who was herself, and didn’t apologise, and made everyone recognise that.”

p016 Interview.indd 17


TAP HERE To hear an extract from The Bear and the Nightingale

MARCH 2018


24/01/2018 15:41

of fantasy and the supernatural, Vasilisa wouldn’t have been able to do the things she does,’ she says. ‘I was writing a heroine who was a tomboy, and in real life, at that period, a girl dressed as a boy in Moscow then would have been unheard of – it was a very strictly guarded society. In some cases, she is a modern creation, but the desire for self-determination, and to express yourself, is not alien to any time period.’ In Russian, where diminutives are commonly used, a girl called Vasilisa and a boy called Vasilii might both be called the same shortened name: Vasya. Both The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower show Vasya juggling real-world and supernatural elements, but in The Girl in the Tower it sometimes seems as if the stakes raised against Vasya are impossibly high. ‘The first novel toned down the impossibility of what she’s doing but this book is about the choices she has to make,’ says Katherine. ‘I want to look at personal responsibility versus protecting your family in this book. Katherine’s historical setting is deliberately chosen so that readers will come to it without familiar preconceptions. ‘I wanted to write a book about Russia but I wanted to set it in a time period that was before the Russia we associate with it now. No onion domes! I felt like I wanted to present the country in a way that would not be in line with people’s perceptions. I really wanted to present Russia at a time before the things we associate with Russia existed.’ The books may be historical fantasy, but the folkloric characters who populate Katherine’s writing – frost demons, house spirits, vampires and witches – are all drawn from traditional Russian folklore. ‘All the fantastical characters are actually from Russian folklore. It’s a mish-mash of fairytale and folkloric elements,’ says Katherine. ‘I found out about folkloric house spirits – bath-house spirits, house spirits, door guard spirits – there’s a creature for basically every building, all with different personalities and desires. Often the characters reflect their role – the


MARCH 2018

p016 Interview.indd 18

domovoi (house spirit) is kind and giving, the bath-house spirit can be spiteful and will throw water – and it was the most dangerous building in a Russian home, because it could catch fire. There’s this complex web of unseen creatures and I thought it would be a cool hidden world to bring into the real world. And make Vasya the bridge, because she can see both.’ One of the loveliest, liveliest characters in the books is neither human, nor folkloric, although he is definitely magical: Vasya’s horse, Solovey. ‘Solovey was a gift to myself at twelve years old,’ smiles Katherine. ‘I wanted a great bay horse to be my best friend and take me on adventures. I wanted to give Vasya a horse companion. In terms of working him in, there are lots of strange horses in Russian folklore, lots of magical horses, so writing in a magical horse was not that hard. Because I love horses, I love that Vasya has a friend on her travels. And horses have personality, so I want to make him magical – but also a horse.’ The epic Russian landscape is almost a character in itself. ‘It’s impossible to write about Russia without bringing in the landscape,’ says Katherine. ‘In college I did a paper about 20th-century Russian poets in exile and how their writing changed when they were away from Russia – the size of the Russian landscape can’t help but intrude into art. The sky, the light, winter, summer – it’s very bare.’ Its otherworldliness lends itself to fiction that combines the elemental natural world with strange and supernatural characters and happenings. ‘I just had to recreate the sense of Russia I had when I was there. I think it lends itself to that supernatural element. The uncanny, the mystical. Long nights, short days, not many people. It’s very easy to create this atmosphere that anything could happen – even a frost demon. Winter is a season, but an actual character in the books too, and I feel his presence brings out the winteriness that emphasises him as a character – those things work together.’

23/01/2018 15:54


For Katherine, becoming a writer was an organic, unexpected, process. ‘It was a tiny bit accidental,’ she admits. ‘I did languages at university– French and Russian – and I was going to join the foreign service or be an interpreter. But I took six months, in Hawaii, to think about my options, and started writing. And I enjoyed it, the process, everything about it, and thought I’d try to be a writer, and finish it. And it sort of worked out. It surprised me how much I loved writing.’ The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower are the first two books in a trilogy, but again, this was something she had to discover. ‘I had no idea it would be a trilogy. I knew the story I wanted to tell but when I started writing The Bear and the Nightingale I had no idea how much plot fits into a book. I got halfway through and realised I had too much plot for one book. So I split it into three. And then my ideas were evolved and refined a lot in the six years since I started it, so it’s undergone quite an evolution.’ The final part of the trilogy should be published next winter: ‘They’re definitely winter tales,’ she says. When Katherine was in Hawaii, she worked on a farm. The family who lived in the next farm along were Ukrainian, and they had a threeyear-old daughter. Her name was Vasilisa, and she became the basis for the character of Vasya. ‘She was fine and wonderful – she was bright and open and joyful and intelligent, she had such a zest for life. When I got to know her, I was like, this kid could be in a book. This kid could be a heroine. I wanted my Vasya to have that sense of joy and self-confidence.’ Katherine’s writing process is to go by word count. ‘I try to do 2,000 words a day, five days a week. I handwrite a lot of my drafts in a notebook, which keeps me from getting distracted. I type a second draft on my computer. It’s a bit of a messy practice – I will write things as they come to me, and sometimes they come out of order, so I have to figure out how to put them together. My goal is to get to the end of a process.

I don’t enjoy it when the plotting is heavy-handed. If I’m not enjoying myself writing, I’m not doing a good job.’ Her favourite scenes to write involve two-handed dialogue. ‘Scenes that emphasise a relationship with emotion. It’s so fun to focus on a relationship. I enjoy setting up a good description – finding the right words that set that scene.’ Both novels have been praised for their literary, poetic writing, and to Katherine, this matters greatly. ‘The quality of the writing is very important, and I’d like to keep improving. I’m a huge fan of writers who manage language well – Hemingway, Fitzgerald – writers who find the perfect sentence, or phrase, or word. Writers whose language is never boring. It’s the work of a lifetime.’ Her advice to other writers is to finish what you start. ‘Finishing your first book is really hard,’ she says. ‘You learn a lot more from finishing a book than you do from starting a book. The biggest thing is to start and not stop until it’s done. And then make it better. I write terrible first drafts – I’m sure everyone does. Not Neil Gaiman! But everyone else. But if you keep fixing commas you’ll never get to the end. So don’t edit, don’t read it, just keep pushing the story forward until it’s finished.’ The way she describes it, the adventures facing Vasya in her books could be a metaphor for the writing process: setting off into the endless forest, unsure of the path ahead, facing both wonders and difficulties and finally, emerging with something magical.

“I just had to recreate the sense of Russia I had when I was there. I think it lends itself to that supernatural element. The uncanny, the mystical. Long nights, short days, not many people. It’s very easy to create this atmosphere that anything could happen.”

p016 Interview.indd 19

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 15:54




Sometimes the old saw ‘show don’t tell’ just won’t do, says Adrian Magson

ack in the dim mists of time, when Twitter was a bird sound and Facebook was two separate and unrelated words, I first heard the expression ‘show don’t tell’. I had no idea what it meant, nor can I recall where I saw it or heard it first, but I know it wasn’t Mr Hall, my fearsome English teacher. He was more of the ‘work don’t talk’ school, followed by a faded dap scything across the room to signal a full stop to subversive chatter. (This was back when hurling a dap – an old gym shoe to the trainer generation – was, if not approved as a form of exerting control, at least better than being on the receiving end of a blackboard rubber, which was made partly of wood.) I’ve heard and read the ‘show don’t tell’ expression many times since, and have even used it once in this column, although guardedly. The reason for this, and why I raise it again, is that some people tend to use it as a mustdo credo in every instance. For anyone who hasn’t heard it explained, the way I look at is thus: Tell: Melanie picked up the bag and felt something move inside. With a scream, she threw it away from her. Simply put, the ‘tell’ is a little short on detail or emotion. So there’s something in the bag. It could be a pound of carrots for all we know, and one of them has rolled. It needs a little extra. Show: Melanie picked up the bag. She was about to open it

when something moved against her fingers, quick and scratchy on the inside of the soft fabric. ‘God, no!’ she cried, her lifelong horror of spiders surfacing like a punch to the gut. Instinct took over and she flung it away from her and stepped back. This ‘show’ goes further than mere description, and as well as including the ‘quick and scratchy’, raising all kinds of images for the reader, it refers to Melanie’s innate fear of spiders – which I share, so I’m not being sexist. In fact my wife is the nominated picker-up of arachnids in our house, no matter how big, and will carefully show it the door, something I can do only if I have a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary to hand. I tried the Collins version once, but it tends to bounce off. I’m kidding! I can pick them up but only if my hands are dirty. Don’t ask me why, I’m sure there’s a psychological explanation for it somewhere. So ‘show’ is useful for conveying more information about a scene, be it action, reaction or even speech, and highlighting the emotion of a mostly psychical moment. In Melanie’s case it also tells us a little bit about her character (childhood memories), which might help explain other actions in the story. But this degree of ‘show’ is not necessary every time, especially

TOP TIPS • Don’t over-egg a scene. Sometimes less is more. Then move on. • Some words convey ample meaning without embellishment. • Over-description of emotional reactions can slow the pace of a scene. Keep it moving. • Use the ‘show’ to add depth and, if necessary, colour to the character or scene. But keep it brief. 20

MARCH 2018

p020 Beginners.indd 20

if writing about emotional responses or describing a common enough scene we can all understand. As an example, it’s not unusual for some TV news reporters to use the show and tell, when clearly ‘tell’ is sufficient. Just recently one, at a scene of an acid attack, told us the police were ‘intensively combing the street for evidence’. He then turned to show us the scene… which had a single officer standing in the background looking mean, moody and bored. Okay, bad timing on the reporter’s part, unless he was aiming for irony. But using ‘tell’ by itself would have done the job perfectly well because we’ve all seen it before in cop shows and new reports, and can fill in the blanks perfectly simply for ourselves. We didn’t need the visual proof. In the same way, there are occasions when, as readers, we can fill in the blanks of a story without further explanation or detail. Writing that someone ‘looked embarrassed’, for example, needs no further description. It’s hardly an uncommon situation and we all know what it looks and feels like for both the affected person and the onlooker. One can go on to have the character defending their embarrassment, which might be necessary to add to potential conflict in the scene, but the idea of someone being embarrassed doesn’t need any further description of facial expression, such as the cheeks going deep red or a hand going to the mouth. It’s far better to have the simple statement of ‘looked embarrassed’ stand by itself, stark and perfectly informative, followed if necessary by the person turning and walking away in confusion. Similarly, to have other deep and recognisable emotions, such as terror, fury, amusement, cynicism or despair, all accompanied by additional visual pointers, is not, in my view always necessary or useful. Dialogue used to carry the scene further, or the reactions of others, by all means, might be fundamental to moving the scene along. But jaws dropping, eyes popping, teeth-gritting and similar facial expressions can be a step too far, and delay us getting on with the story. Put simply, keep the show and/or tell to the basics, because if over-done, the reader might start to skim. Better instead to let them use their imagination and their fingers to turn the next page.

23/01/2018 15:54

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Ask a ?Literary Consultant ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

A reader who can’t finish her novella needs to ask what her story is trying to tell her, says Helen Corner-Bryant



is that excites you and start the Several years ago I was story from scratch. This may feel about 55,000 words into daunting but may also save you my novel when I lost my time and heartache in the long run. way with it – I couldn’t see how And the new story may be full of to draw all the threads together, surprises and much improved. You life kind of got in the way, my may find that it’s zipping along: enthusiasm waned and eventually better paced, more tension, more I ended up just closing the file purpose and where the reader is and forgetting about it. Recently, fully immersed and right behind I’ve had some success with short u If yo y er u your character. stories and my writing bug q a e av h , Before you make a decision, is back with a vengeance so lp he to re We’re he n about read through what you have I want to get stuck into on any questio blishing d pu on-screen and then in hard something bigger but I’m the writing an ail: ess. Please em .uk oc pr copy form and scribble notes in still rather intimidated by co s. ew sn er jtelfer@writ e ritingmagazin the margin. Keep it simple and my novel. I don’t want to hit w @ t ee tw or onsult with #askalitc jot down anything that occurs to a block and run out of steam #wmcorner you as you read it: my protagonist again, and when I dipped into feels weak, story meanders here, it, there were passages I barely I’m bored! I love this bit, this bit remember writing! Should I carry could be developed, this scene goes on with it or just shelve it and start on too long, I could hold back on something new? revealing this bit... Try not to come up with any solutions yet and resist the urge to delete or rewrite at this I’m glad you’ve got your stage. Then put it away for a month writing bug back and I or so and in the meantime, work understand you want to on something else. This way, you protect this verve. I think if you keep things light and vibrant and started a novel a few years ago, you remain in control. If you find you may want to consider why it you’re excited to go back to your ground to a halt and if it’s worth original story and you’re clear on resurrecting or if, perhaps, your what needs to be done, then go for writing has developed significantly it. It sounds to me, however, that and you may have grown out of the original issue could be linked your story. Perhaps the concept to structure or plausible cause and or setting stands out for you or a effect of character and plot events. character won’t leave you alone – if Perhaps also you’d lost sight of this is the case, save whatever it


your protagonist’s driving desire or goal. Whatever the reason, the story ground to a halt because you were going in the wrong direction, so remember to always trust your instincts. On a technical level, roughly map the story out into the three-act structure and check your character arc(s) and tension points. If you’re happy with everything, carry on! What you may find, however, is that the original structure or scenes will keep drawing you back in to the original draft (the one which wasn’t working) and tie you up in knots again. I was interviewing LA Weatherly on structure the other day and she said something very revealing. Despite revising one of her books sixteen times, the story never got published. However, one character refused to let her go and he became her protagonist for a new concept. This was later developed into the Angel series, which was huge in the US and UK. She wishes she’d ditched the original story after draft four and said it was like trying to decorate a house she was in love with where the structure and the walls were all in the wrong place. Remember: nothing is ever lost and sometimes you have to let go and start afresh. You can always keep an odds and sods file to save anything that you don’t use— so it’s never really lost anyway!

The UK’s leading literary consultancy Want to know if your manuscript is good enough to attract an agent? Has your plot come to a standstill and you need a professional editor’s opinion? Looking to publish and want to make your manuscript print-ready?

Cornerstones took my writing by the scruff of its neck and pointed the way forward. Invaluable, no-nonsense, warm-spirited advice. I now have an agent and a publishing deal.

Harriet Goodwin, The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43, Stripes

Structural editing, copyediting and proofreading Scouts for literary agents Listed by the Society of Authors

Call Helen Corner-Bryant 01308 897374 • MARCH 2018 Cornerstones 1/4 landscape.indd 1 p021 Helen Cornerstones.indd 21


18/01/2018 15:53 23/01/2018 15:55

f o e u q i n h c e t & e l y t s The



Tony Rossiter shows how he created the world’s most famous detective

herlock Holmes caught the public’s imagination in A Study in Scarlet, a short novel published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887. He went on to appear in three more (shortish) novels and over fifty short stories, and Arthur Conan Doyle became (along with HG Wells) the most celebrated popular writer of his age – on both sides of the Atlantic. Thanks to countless film and television adaptations, Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street is still the world’s most famous fictional detective.

Beginnings Born in Edinburgh of parents of Irish Catholic descent, his full name was Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle; his surname was simply Doyle, but the grander Conan Doyle stuck. Educated at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, he then studied medicine from 1876 to 1881 at the University of Edinburgh Medical School where, as a student, he wrote his first short story. In 1880 he spent a few months as doctor on a Greenland whaler and after graduation the following year he served as ship’s surgeon during a voyage to the West coast of Africa. In 1882 he set up a medical practice in Southsea, but this was not very successful. With few patients to attend, he began his serious career as a writer with short stories published in magazines. A Study in Scarlet was written in only six weeks. Following its success and that of his second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of the Four (1890), Doyle was taken on by literary agent AP Watt, who submitted two Sherlock Holmes short stories to the newly established Strand Magazine. These were accepted, and Doyle received £200 in return

p022 Beat the best.indd 22

for six stories. The first two published were A Scandal in Bohemia and The Red-Headed League; these were so popular that the magazine offered him £300 for a further six – and this persuaded him to give up medicine and become a full-time writer.

How Sherlock Holmes was created Doyle’s favourite authors included Mayne Reid (the Scots-Irish American novelist who wrote adventure stories), Scott, Macauley, Stevenson and Edgar Alan Poe (best nown for his Gothic horror stories). He was particularly influenced by Poe, whose story The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) is generally regarded as the first detective fiction. Holmes’s methods of detection are similar to those of Poe’s Auguste C Dupin – based on observations, inferences and reasoning backwards. Another significant influence was French detective fiction pioneer Émile Gaboriau and his young police officer Lecoq. A Study in Scarlet follows the two-part structure typical of Gaboriau. In the first

part, there is the crime, the investigation and the revelation of the culprit; in the second part we are given the background history that led to the crime. Doyle’s original inspiration for Sherlock Holmes was surgeon Joseph Bell, who lectured students at Edinburgh Medical School. Bell was renowned and respected for his demonstrations of deduction from small clues. Just by looking at a patient he was able to tell a great deal about that person’s life-history. For example, he could instantly deduce that a patient worked in a linoleum factory – from her posture, the calluses on her hands and the type of mud traces on her shoes and clothing. Doyle became Bell’s devoted acolyte, often staying after lectures to ask questions and make notes. He gave Holmes Bell’s thin nose, aquiline face and sharp, piercing grey eyes. But while Bell was short and walked with a limp, he made Holmes tall and lean, with a square jaw and dark brow (the deerstalker was not part of Doyle’s description, but was added by Sidney Paget, who illustrated the stories for the Strand Magazine). Doyle was happy to acknowledge his debt to Bell, as well as to Poe and other writers. In a letter to Stevenson he said, ‘Sherlock Holmes [is] a bastard between Joe Bell and Poe’s Monsieur Dupin (much diluted).’ Despite his phenomenal popularity, Doyle had an ambivalent attitude towards Sherlock Holmes. In December 1893 he decided to kill him off in order to dedicate more time to his historical novels. In The Final Problem he had Holmes and his formidable enemy Professor Moriarty plunge to their deaths together down the Reichenbach Falls. In 1901, however, public outcry

23/01/2018 14:51

B E AT T H E B E S T S E L L E R S persuaded him to put Holmes into The Hound of the Baskervilles; and in 1903, in his first Holmes short story for ten years, Doyle resurrected him in The Adventure of the Empty House, in which we learn that only Moriarty had fallen, and that Holmes had wanted to be thought dead so that he would be better able to pursue other dangerous enemies.

Why Holmes has endured How can we account for the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes? To my mind, these are some of the answers: • The fascinating, idiosyncratic character of Holmes • The strong appeal, to anyone who enjoys mind-stretching puzzles, of crimes solved by observation, interpretation of clues and deduction • The richly nuanced relationship between Holmes and Watson • The ingenious and inventive plots, with plenty of action and excitement • The sheer volume and variety of the stories

Holmes’s character and abilities The opening lines of The Sign of the Four may have startled some of Doyle’s Victorian readers. Here they are, narrated by Dr Watson: Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction. Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance, but custom had not reconciled my mind to it… ‘Which is it today,’ I asked, ‘morphine or cocaine?’ He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-leather volume which he had opened. ‘It is cocaine,’ he said, ‘a sevenper-cent solution. Would you care to try it?’ ‘No, indeed,’ I answered brusquely. When Watson asks ‘Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed?’ Holmes replies: ‘My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems,

p022 Beat the best.indd 23

give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world… The only unofficial consulting detective.’ If we consider Holmes’s knowledge and skills, we find that he has a deep knowledge of some subjects (chemistry, anatomy, poisons, sensational literature, practical geology, 19th-century crime) and a profound ignorance of others (philosophy, astronomy, politics, serious literature). He’s very much at home in a chemical laboratory, plays the violin (and collects rare specimens), can box and handle a sword, and likes strong tobacco. He’s also a master of disguise; a consummate actor, he has no difficulty adopting the appearance and mannerisms of anyone he wishes to impersonate. He can identify scores of different types of footprints, tobacco ash and perfume. Above all, he’s a walking encyclopaedia of the history of crime and detection. He has a passion for definite and exact knowledge – and no time for emotion. As Stamford (the young doctor who introduces Watson to Holmes) puts it: ‘Holmes is a little too scientific for my taste – it approaches to cold-bloodedness.’

Observation and deduction When Holmes first meets Watson in A Study in Scarlet he knows only that he is a doctor. ‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,’ he says as he shakes his hand. Watson is taken

aback; later Holmes explains: ‘Here is a gentleman of a medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly an army doctor, then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone hardship and sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have seen much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan. The whole train of thought did not occupy a second.’ Afghanistan is not really in the tropics, but this is the sort of pedantic detail that never bothered Doyle. In The Sign of the Four Watson tests his friend’s deductive powers by asking his opinion of the character or habits of the late owner of a pocket watch which has come into his possession. ‘I should judge that the watch belonged to your elder brother, who inherited it from your father…’ says Holmes, after examining it briefly. ‘He was a man of untidy habits – very untidy and careless. He was left with good prospects, but he threw away his chances, lived for some time in poverty with occasional short intervals of prosperity, and, finally, taking to drink, he died.’ When Watson, astonished, accuses him of having made enquiries into the history of his unhappy brother, Holmes explains how he made his deductions: ‘When you observe the lower part of that watch case you notice that it is not only dinted in two places, but it is cut and marked all over from the habit of keeping other hard objects, such as coins or keys, in the same pocket. Surely it is no great feat to assume that a man who treats a fifty-guinea watch so cavalierly must be a careless man. Neither is it a very far-fetched inference that a man who inherits one article of such value is pretty well provided for in other respects… It is very customary for pawnbrokers in England, when they take a watch, to scratch the number of the ticket with a pinpoint upon the inside of the case… There are no fewer than four such numbers visible to my lens on the inside of this case – inference, that your brother was often at low water. Secondary inference – that he had occasional bursts of prosperity, or he could not have redeemed the pledge. Finally, I ask you to look at the inner plate, which contains

23/01/2018 14:51

the keyhole. Look at the thousands of scratches all round the hole – marks where the key has slipped. What sober man’s key could have scored those grooves? But you will never see a drunkard’s watch without them. He winds it at night, and he leaves these traces of his unsteady hand. Where is the mystery in all this?’

Holmes and Watson Watson is the perfect foil for Holmes. They were the first in a long line of partnerships between fictional detectives and sidekicks who have quite different backgrounds or personality traits. Watson, the narrator of all but two of the stories, is the mundane, level-headed counterpart to Holmes’s genius. Brave and resourceful, he has been portrayed in some TV and film versions as amiable but rather plodding and slow-witted. This is not altogether fair. He does not have the powers of observation or deduction of Holmes, who often has to explain things to him – and thus, of course, to the reader. But Watson is not a fool. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, for example, where Holmes is absent from the story for more than a third of the book, it is Watson who acts, very effectively, as his eyes and ears on Dartmoor. When they first meet, Watson is fascinated by Holmes’s character. He soon realises his brilliance, but he’s irritated by his arrogance and his vanity. As Watson gets to know him better and their friendship grows, it’s fascinating to observe their nuanced relationship. Watson’s sceptical but accepting attitude to Holmes’s foibles and peculiarities, alongside his admiration for his deductive brilliance, adds warmth and humanity to the stories.

Ingenious plots The plots are ingenious, inventive, and extraordinarily varied, and they touch on many different themes; in three of the four novels, the crime is motivated by a desire for vengeance. Doyle told his Strand editor that ‘A story always comes to me as an organic thing and I never can recast it without the Life going out of it.’ He discouraged ideas for revision, but rarely objected to editorial changes; such manuscript evidence as survives shows (with a couple of exceptions) little revision. Most of the stories are wildly improbable. There are illogicalities,

p022 Beat the best.indd 24

implausibilities and absurdities, but time has shown that these do not matter because there is so much fun and excitement. The ingenious, actionpacked plots, together with Holmes’s idiosyncrasies and his extraordinary deductive powers, have given film and TV producers huge scope for countless different scenarios and interpretations. Doyle’s personal favourite among his Sherlock Holmes stories was The Speckled Band. This is a good example of an implausible plot. A locked room mystery, the plot revolves around a trained snake which can, at the command of a whistle, descend and ascend a servant bell-rope. Doyle’s venomous ‘swamp adder’ snake was an invention (no such species exists) and its actions a physiological impossibility. ‘The band! The speckled band!’ are the dying words of Julia as she is attacked by the snake (resembling a speckled band). When Holmes examines the room in which she died, he discovers a false ventilator, a dummy bell-rope and a saucer of milk. He deduces, correctly, that Julia has been killed by a snake introduced into the ventilator by her step-father. It’s a ripping yarn with a great denouement, as Holmes and Watson hide themselves in the room when the snake is again introduced (to attack Julia’s sister) and Holmes lashes at it with his cane, forcing it back into the ventilator and thence into the room of the killer – whom it kills.

The Hound of the Baskervilles In March 1901 Doyle and Bertram Fletcher Robinson spent a short golfing holiday together in Norfolk. Robinson, who came from Dartmoor, told Doyle the story of an old country legend about a spectral hound, and they discussed

the plot of a sensational story based on this legend. The following month they spent some days on Dartmoor; the wilderness of bog and rock made a deep impression on Doyle and appealed to his imagination. On 2 April 1901 he wrote to his mother: ‘Robertson and I are exploring the moor together… We did fourteen miles over the moor today and are now pleasantly weary. It is a great place, very sad and wild, dotted with dwellings of prehistoric man, strange monoliths and huts and graves.’ In a letter to the editor of the Strand Magazine, in which The Hound was serialised, he said, ‘I can answer for the yarn being all my own .... But he [Robinson] gave me the central idea and the local colour.’ It’s a haunting, atmospheric tale that keeps the reader guessing, and many critics consider it the best Sherlock Holmes story of all.

A prolific writer Despite the fame and financial rewards that Sherlock Holmes brought him, Doyle believed – mistakenly – that his carefully researched historical fiction was what posterity would value most. Throughout his life he was a prolific and serious writer, producing more than 200 stories and articles. Some were based on his time as a young man at sea, including one in which he popularised the mystery of the Marie Celeste. He wrote seven historical novels, which he and many contemporary critics regarded as his best work, and nine other novels. There were also five stories featuring the irascible scientist Professor Challenger and two collections of short stories set in Napoleonic times featuring the French Brigadier Gerard. His life was not wholly consumed by writing. In 1900 he served briefly as a volunteer doctor in Bloemfontein during the Boer War in South Africa (he believed that the short work he wrote justifying the UK’s role in the war, The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, was responsible for the knighthood he received in 1902). He was a political campaigner, standing twice (unsuccessfully) for Parliament and a keen sportsman, playing football, golf and cricket, including ten firstclass matches for MCC. He had a longstanding interest in mysticism; this deepened as he grew older and he became a convinced believer in, and a frequent writer on, spiritualism.

23/01/2018 14:51

0 0 5 £ ! N I W


750 word


SEE P107


Make every word count for one of our most popular competitions of the year, for short stories to a maximum of 750 words on any subject or theme. The winner will receive £200 and publication in Writing Magazine, with £50 and publication online for the runner-up. The closing date is 15 April.


£250 TO BE WON

p25 comp.indd 25

With its closing date of 15 March, there’s still time to enter last month’s competition for humorous short stories, 1,500-1,700 words. Prizes are as above. See p107 for entry details.

22/01/2018 13:00


Competition winner ADULT FAIRYTALE

A Girl O

By Jessamy Corob Cook


MARCH 2018

p026 comp winner.indd 26

Another Girl

nce there was a girl and a magic mirror. Only it wasn’t a mirror. It was another girl. But a girl who looked so like the first

that no one could tell one from the other. People always knew that one of us was the evil twin. Fortunately, no one could tell which. She was cool. I was weird. She was smiley. I was quiet. But good or evil? Who could be sure. Once there was a girl and a magic mirror. Only it wasn’t a mirror. It was a rock. But a rock so shiny, its surface worn by centuries of tides, rising and falling, slippery with seawater, that it looked like a mirror. The Looking Glass Rock is at the foot of the cliff. We found it when we were little, playing on the beach near our house. We stood shoulder to shoulder and peered down. I said, ‘Look! There’s four of us!’ And in the same moment Lydia said, ‘Look! There’s four of me!’ We called it the Looking Glass Rock. ‘The mermaids use it to spy. When you look into it, if they like your reflection, they sing to you. And when you hear them you have to go and join them in the sea. Then you become a mermaid too.’ Once there was a girl who asked her magic mirror: who is the fairest of them all? Only it wasn’t a mirror. It was a picture. And the question was asked of the Mirror with a Million Voices (you know it as the Comments Section) and the voices: I’d tap that. Lol. OMG – ugly! SLUT. You should kill yourself. Some people think that identical twins have a psychic connection. If something happens to one of us, the

Jessamy Corob Cook is an actor who writes stories for both adults and children. She is particularly fascinated by fairy tales, and has had another adult fairy tale, The Wicked Stepmother, published in It’s A Grimm Life. She recently came second in The Caterpillar Children’s Story Prize, and is currently writing a middle grade book.

other can just tell. They ask me: do you just know when something’s happened? The answer is no. The day Lydia died, I had no idea. I found out the same way everyone else did. Online. She made a video. Lydia: By the time you see this, I’ll be dead. I don’t want to die, but I can’t carry on any more. There’s a picture been going around the internet recently. It’s been making my life hell. Boys at school come up and offer me a fiver to strip, or ask to feel through my top, because my boobs are public property now. The girls are worse. They tell me I’m a whore, I’m disgusting, I deserve to die. And there’s no escape from it at home either. Total strangers pass judgement on me from behind a screen. It never stops. I can’t do this anymore. But before I go, I have to tell the truth. That picture isn’t me. That picture is my twin sister, Sophie. She posted it to my profile, so nobody would know. And the voices: RIP. So sad. Literally sobbing right now. She was so beautiful. She didn’t deserve it. The twin should be dead. Not her. There are always trolls under the bridge. I get texts from the other kids at school: How could you? Slut. It should have been you that died.

Your family wishes it was you. You’re going to prison for posting underage porn. Lol. I’m not. The police would never be able to prove it was me. I’m sitting in the Jolly Roger café on the seafront, the day after the funeral. Chocolate milkshake. I always get chocolate. Lydia always gets strawberry because: pink (everything’s a fashion accessory) but then she’d drink half my chocolate. Today I have a whole chocolate milkshake to myself. Sitting opposite the Estranged Father. He is assuaging the guilt of not spending more time with Twin One by spending time with the remaining twin. He says, ‘I should have been more... available.’ I say, ‘You mean you think it’s your fault Lydia died?’ ‘No. Unless. Do you think that?’ ‘I doubt it. Most people think it was my fault.’ ‘Oh. Sophie. I’m sure...’ ‘We don’t have to talk about Lydia,’ I say. He looks relieved. ‘But,’ I add, ‘we don’t have to avoid talking about Lydia.’ ‘Right.’ ‘Unless you want to.’ I blow bubbles in my milkshake. He says, ‘I brought you a present.’ The box is wrapped in shiny paper. A funeral present. A congratulations, you didn’t die. I peel carefully along the Sellotape so I don’t rip the paper.

23/01/2018 14:54


It’s a camera. A big, heavy, old camera, with rolls of film, because it’s the sort of camera that takes pictures on film. He says, ‘Just try taking a selfie with that!’ I hold it gingerly. ‘You got me this to stop me taking selfies?’ ‘No! No, um, I got it because I thought you could use it as a way of looking outwards at the world, not inwards at yourself.’ I put the camera down on the table. ‘What exactly do you mean by that?’ ‘Well, just...’ ‘It was Lydia who was the narcissist actually, not me. She was the one who always took selfies. Not that you would know.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ he says, ‘sell the camera if you want. Get something else.’ ‘Maybe I will.’ Once there was a girl and a magic camera. It was magic because, when the film was developed, in every photograph the girl saw herself. And how could that be, when it was she who had taken the photograph? It wasn’t the sort of camera you could take selfies with. It was heavy and required both hands. They weren’t the sort of pictures you could photoshop. The only explanation was magic. I keep the photos in a shoe box under the bed. They come in glossy envelopes, with strips of negatives, so I can match each picture with its little, backwards-coloured double. I take pictures at the beach. I’m not allowed to go to the cliff, since Lydia jumped off it. But I do anyway. I go to the Looking Glass Rock, where they found her body, draped across like a beach towel. School becomes ordinary again, fast. The media trail away. It’s not an unusual enough story to be interesting for long. Girl posts inappropriate picture, is shamed, kills self. Happens a lot. I’m the bit that made it interesting. Mrs Baker talks to our form at break time. ‘We’re dedicating one wall of the

school hall to a mural, in memory of Lydia. We’d like everyone who knew and loved her to contribute. Does anyone have any ideas for the mural?’ Cassie suggests a girl in white dancing alone on an empty beach. Mrs Baker thinks it might be best to leave the beach out of things, under the circumstances. Then she realises she shouldn’t have mentioned ‘the circumstances.’ She says, ‘I mean, you know, we want this to be a happy, uplifting sort of painting. After all, that’s what Lydia was like, wasn’t she?’ Nobody disagrees. The class brainstorms. Flowers. Hearts. Words like Friendship and Love and Peace. Lydia was popular. The girls sob. Will, the boy with the auburn hair, keeps his head bowed, and tears drop into his lap. More ideas. Sunshine. Balloons. Birds. I say, ‘Mermaids.’ ‘Mrs Baker, I’m not being funny, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for Sophie to be involved in this. It’s kind of disloyal to Lydia.’ That’s the general consensus. I say, ‘Mermaids were important to Lydia. Ever since we were kids.’ Cassie says, ‘I know what was important to Lydia. I knew her better than anyone. I was Lydia’s BEST FRIEND!’ I say, ‘I have her DNA. Put me in some shiny lip gloss and a frilly dress and I could be Lydia! You’re jealous!’ Once there was a girl and a mirror. Only it wasn’t a mirror. It was a photograph. A paper photograph, that you hold in your hands and keep secret, away from the million eyes and million voices. Her body may have gone, but she’s still here. I know because my magic camera shows me. And if she’s still here, she can come back. I take photographs of the empty rock, my heart thudding. She’s close. I visit the grave. There’s a boy already there. A boy with auburn hair. He sees me, and his face turns white.

I say, ‘It’s okAY. I’m not a ghost. I’m the other twin.’ The grave smells of damp as the heaps of flowers quietly rot. Will says, ‘I’ll go.’ I don’t want him to go. I say, ‘Why did all the boys fancy Lydia and not me? We are identical. Were identical. It doesn’t make sense.’ ‘Who says I fancied her?’ ‘Who says I’m talking about you?’ A lone autumn leaf meanders towards the ground. Will catches it and twirls it between his fingers. ‘Is that why you did it? Were you jealous of her?’ The leaf matches the hair. I don’t answer him. He says, ‘Lydia was special. She made other people feel special. She would walk into a room and everyone would notice. It was like she had this light inside her that was always shining. That’s the difference. You’re not like that. You may look the same, but you’re not like Lydia.’ Once there was a girl and another girl. Only it wasn’t another girl, it was a picture, or a mirror, or perhaps it was a reflection in a rock. It couldn’t have been another girl, because only one was left. She isn’t gone. She’s here. I can see her face in the Looking Glass Rock. I know it looks like me, but it’s her. She sings to me. I get messages online: Murderer. You should kill yourself. You’re a waste of space and oxygen. She’s an angel now. You will never be. I write a reply – Lydia lied – but I don’t send it. Once there was a girl. Only it wasn’t girl, it was a mermaid. They found a shoebox full of photographs underneath her bed, and the photographs are of mermaids, and they all have her face. The last photograph of all is of two mermaids together, leaping through the waves, hand in hand, tails flashing sliver in the sunset. They look so alike they could have been reflections in a mirror.

Runner-up in the Adult Fairytale Short Story Competition, whose story is published on is Jackie Burgoyne, Portland, Dorset. Also shortlisted were: Dominic Bell, Hull; Sue Cook, Dobcross, Lancashire; Sarah Hall, Bristol; Damien Mckeating, Penkirdge, Staffordshire; Johanna Saariluoma, London SE14; Clair Wright, Denby Dale, West Yorkshire; Kate Young, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire; Janet Mary Zylstra, Viterbo, Italy.

p026 comp winner.indd 27

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 14:54

Poetry winners

Braving the The winners of WM’s ballad poetry competition impressed Alison Chisholm with the strength of their storytelling

FIRST PLACE The Widow-Maker’s Song Pamela Trudie Hodge Young Jan Trewyn casts out his net upon the singing sea and brings the silver darlings home to Petroc’s ancient quay –

But when she speaks of wedding plans Jan’s shifting gaze will be out far beyond the drowning rocks to where the sky greets sea.

and, moonlit, by the village inn, her hair a firebrand, Trevena waits, her kirtled skirt held in her slender hand.

One storm-dark night, as in a dream, Jan sails his boat away to where the silver darlings shoal far from Saint Petroc’s Bay.

Jan passes with a pleasant smile. He does not hear her sighs or see the sudden tears which leap to drown her sea-green eyes

Sea sends her waves to sweep the deck and bring Jan to her bed. She lays him on green widow’s weeds to rest his drowning head.

but keeps his own upon a lamp, set in the window pane, his mother lights at dimpsey-time to shine him home again.

She enters in his kissing mouth, with starfish crowns his hair and to her pearls and coral reefs Sea makes her bridegroom heir.

He greets her with a gentle kiss and listens to her chide. The old, familiar litany – when will he choose a bride?

She licks his salty flesh from both his short bones and his long and sings to him, tide in, tide out, her Widow-Maker’s song.


he ballad is an ancient poetic form, and has developed as an excellent vehicle for story telling. It has a natural flow and rhythm that appeal to readers, and it should be entertaining and interesting. These are straightforward requirements, summed up in the two main criteria for judging this competition – a good storyline and meticulous attention to form. Many of the poems entered told fascinating stories, and where a poet had taken the advice offered 28

MARCH 2018

p028 poetry winner.indd 28

when the competition was set, and used recognised devices for building an arresting prose story, the results were especially pleasing. Good characters, problems to be overcome, perhaps dialogue, and an appropriate denouement brought the poems to life. Unfortunately quite a few entries simply didn’t have a story to tell. An atmospheric piece, general musing, or a description of an emotion-fuelled situation falls short of the narrative requirement of the ballad. Most of the poems did have a story to tell, but it was sad that more than

half the entries had to be eliminated because they did not follow the form of the poem as described when the competition was set. A few poets used rhyme at all the line ends, instead of the required pattern of rhymes at the end of the second and fourth lines of each stanza only. This changes the tone completely, and affects the feel of the ballad. The biggest problem, however, was with the metre and line length. Using iambic tetrameter in the first and third lines and trimeter in the second and fourth produces the standard ballad pattern, which is broken when all the lines are the same length, or when the metre is not iambic. It is, of course, perfectly acceptable to use certain variants, such as initial trochaic substitution – where the first foot only is a trochee rather than an iamb – or a feminine ending, with its extra unstressed syllable at the end of the line. When the iambic measure disappears under the weight of syncopation or the iambs are replaced by an entirely different type of foot, the ballad dynamic is lost. The winning and shortlisted poems were captivating, however, and showed that the spirit of the ballad is still very much alive. In first place is Pamela Trudie Hodge of Derriford, Plymouth, with The Widow-Maker’s Song, an exotic poem with mythological qualities that grips the reader from the start. Right at the beginning we are shown the singing

23/01/2018 14:17

Poetry winners sea, and this becomes one of the main protagonists of the story. The West Country tale shows a young fisherman who – to his mother’s irritation – is more interested in his work on the sea than in settling down with a wife and raising a family, despite the interest of a young beauty who is longing for him. The climax of the story is set on One storm-dark night when our hero sets sail and the sea washes over his boat. The relationship between sea and fisherman is consummated when She lays him on green widow’s weeds / to rest his drowning head, and then, in the highly poetic final stanzas of the poem, we see the ‘marriage’ of sea and man reaching into eternity. This is a poem rich in atmosphere, but it never loses its narrative thread, and an entire story is delivered within its ten stanzas. Mystical and dramatic, the story is the stuff of legend, and told with flair. The scene is sited through West Country names for people and places, with Jan Trewyn, Trevena and Petroc all mentioned within the first two stanzas. A reminder comes in the fourth stanza, with the dialect term dimpsey-time for twilight reinforcing the sense of place. The tone of The Widow-Maker’s Song is redolent of past times, hinted at in a few phrases that suggest an earlier voice. The inversion of with starfish crowns his hair and the vocabulary choices that present Trevena’s kirtled skirt, that mother is heard to chide, and the seabed’s widow’s weeds all contribute to the ‘feel’ of legend. It’s difficult to include such expressions so convincingly, but here the context is exactly right, and the poet introduces them with confidence. The final stanza of this piece is particularly impressive. There’s an almost hypnotic balance to his short bones and his long and, in the penultimate line, sings to him, tide in, tide out. These lines both reflect the never-ending movement of the sea and funnel the poem into its closing line, a near-repeat of the title. The music of the sea sounds not only in the deaf ears of the drowned fisherman, but in the mind of the reader. The second prize is awarded to Corinne Lawrence of Stockport,

Cheshire for her ballad version of Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition, One Ton Camp. This is a factual narrative, but the story holds enduring fascination. We travel with Scott from the devastating moment when he discovers the Norwegian flag at the South Pole, through the bitter journey back to the camp, and to Oates’ much-documented final words, I’m going out… I’ll be some time. The poem ends with Scott’s own epitaph, the quotation from Tennyson’s Ulysses that reads to strive, to seek, / to find and not to yield. The fact that this is such a wellknown story does not detract from the effectiveness of the ballad in any way. The repeated re-telling of familiar tales is a convention that brings comfort and reassurance, even though the story in this case is one of despair. The narrative is punctuated with a checklist of distances. From eight hundred miles through four hundred to just eleven miles, the mention of these statistics marks the progress through the poem. It also reminds readers of the irony of being so close to the camp when the team

SECOND PLACE One Ton Camp Corinne Lawrence Antarctic winds tore through his heart, as at the bleak South Pole, the flag of Norway taunted him: Scott knew he’d missed his goal.

Lame Evans struggles, weak and sick, and can’t keep pace at all: slumps to his death on Beardmore’s slopes — heaped snow his ghostly pall.

‘The worst has happened. Dreams must go:’ and with them all rewards. ‘Great God! This is an awful place,’ his dismal log records.

Hell bent on making One Ton Camp, the four remaining men plough on, a single thought in mind — to reach their homes again.

Now Scott and his despondent band must trudge back to their base. Eight hundred miles to One Ton Camp, a trek they have to face

Eleven miles to One Ton Camp more raging blizzards blew, and trapped within their flimsy tent they saw they’d not come through.

with ceaseless, blinding summer light suspending night and day: a footslog through the whiteout storms along that endless way.

‘The odds are stacked against us now,’ breathed Oates, in numbing pain, ‘I’m going out… I’ll be some time...’ his meaning all too plain.

Four hundred miles to One Ton Camp: though almost half way there, the backup team abandon them – no thought to how they’d fare.

That final camp became a tomb their reputations sealed: Scott’s epitaph, ‘to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.’

p028 poetry winner.indd 29

was finally defeated. Corinne Lawrence is skilled in natural use of language, so the flow of the narrative never stutters because of the demands of rhyme and metre. This apparent effortlessness is usually the result of meticulous crafting, and adds to the pleasure of reading the poem both silently and aloud. Throughout the narrative there are snapshots of description and action that bring depth and colour to the piece. The ceaseless, blinding summer light, the image of Lame Evans struggles, weak and sick and the picture of the men trapped within their flimsy tent all help to bring home to the reader the situation faced by the expedition. We are shown – rather than being told – how the men suffered; so the account roots in the reader’s mind and the narrative becomes all the stronger. Ballads have been the ideal vehicle for storytellers over the centuries, and they show no sign of going out of fashion. When the irresistible story meets the finely crafted ballad pattern, the result can be spectacular.

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 14:17


Shelf life: ELIZABETH ENFIELD The author and journalist shares her five favourite reads with Judith Spelman


TAP HERE To hear an extract from Ivy & Abe

lizabeth Enfield is a journalist and novelist. She contributes to national newspapers and magazines and has written four novels. Her work has been described as compulsively readable, compelling, thoughtprovoking and cleverly constructed. Her latest novel, Ivy & Abe, is published by Michael Joseph. Elizabeth’s short stories have been broadcast on Radio 4, where she once worked as a producer, and they have appeared in various magazines. Now freelance, she runs a project called The Writer’s Room with fellow author Araminta Hall that offers a one-day introduction to creative writing and she also teaches at the Arvon Foundation and a number of universities. She has organised writing workshops in public libraries and with writing groups.

DOGGER by Shirley Hughes This is a children’s book. In a way I don’t really need to keep it because I think I know it off by heart. It is a beautiful book. One of the things Shirley Hughes does is just makes those tiny ordinary parts of life like going to the park and feeding the ducks feel like a great adventure. I’ve read Dogger to my own children so many times. It’s about a dog toy called Dogger; one of his ears points up and the other one slips over. He’s a bit worn in places and he gets lost. The book is really about him being lost and then being found again. It’s about your attachment to things and about family and friendships. It is utterly touching with things happening in it that are so small but it makes me want to cry just thinking about it. As an adult, the kind of fiction I write is quite quiet and I often go to her books thinking, how does she do it? Even with a book you’ve read a million times, you still want to read it again so how does she manage to imbue such drama into the stuff of everyday life?


MARCH 2018

p030 Shelf Life EE.indd 30

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK I was looking at it recently with a friend who was a translator and I was saying to him I don’t think I have consciously read that many books that have been translated. Then I mentioned this book and he said it was a book that had been translated. I chose this book because when I was discussing it I realised it works as a novel on so many layers. I have not read it for a long time and I’d like to re-read it. When I first read it as a teenager I really read it as the diary of a teenager. I almost read it as a coming-of-age novel. What I was interested in was the love story between Anne and Peter. Everything else that was going on seemed almost secondary. Then I read it again in my twenties and realised that actually it is almost one of the great examples of an unreliable narrator. Subsequently in the intervening years I put my own knowledge in it and then realised that when you read it, Anne is not really aware of what’s going on. So it is this love story but with this awful backdrop that she is only half aware of. There are so many different layers to this book and also the writing is outstandingly accomplished. I want to re-read it, having had this conversation with my translator friend because there are little bits he highlighted that were an example of a deliberate choice of words that make all the difference to the sentence. It is someone else’s interpretation of what this girl wrote.

24/01/2018 14:23


GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens.

A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD by Anne Tyler She is one of my favourite novelists and I chose this book because it’s her twentieth and so it has a satisfactory number to go with it, it was nominated for the Booker and partly because it is a quiet evocation of just the normal drama of everyday life. I love her books for that. It’s about three generations of the Whitshank family and their interweaving stories. It follows the family lives and goes backwards and forwards in time. There are some quite shocking revelations as you go back but there is a sort of poetry in it. There is a swing seat which is on the porch and the rhythm of the book is almost like the rhythm of the swing seat. It is a beautiful and very clever novel.

PINK MIST by Owen Sheers Owen Sheers is a Welsh poet and novelist and he calls this a verse drama. I chose it because I was looking for some poetry and it is almost like Beowulf. It’s a play but much shorter. It’s a drama but written in poetic form and I have always loved war novels and war poetry. This is about three soldiers from Bristol who were deployed to Afghanistan in the Afghan war. They are still friends and it’s about them going off to war and then returning to England. The story is told from their point of view and the points of view of the women in their lives. I haven’t read all of it but I saw Owen Sheers performing it at a festival and it was the most brilliant performance. He has a way of performing when he can just slightly raise an eyebrow to become a completely different character. The bits he did read have stayed with me and I want to read it all. There has been very little written about these wars that have deeply affected the lives of everybody who has been caught up in them. This book illustrates the effects of war on three school friends and how their lives and the lives of people close to them change forever after a very short space of time.


y new book, Ivy and Abe, is a story told over a lifetime in reverse and set in a series of parallel universes. They meet in their eighties, they meet in their forties, and they meet as children. Every time they meet it’s as if they’ve never met before, they are always destined to meet, they are always destined to fall for each other but circumstances make the outcome of what happens to them and the way they react to each other, different. ‘I am quite disciplined as a writer. I think my training as a journalist helps. I always meet my deadlines and, in fact, I set myself little deadlines. I don’t always write every day but I think every day when I’m writing and I do know that by the end of the week the amount I need to have written and I stick to that.

‘I heard George Sanders, who won the 2017 Booker Prize with Lincoln in the Bardo, talking on Radio 4’s Front Row. He articulated it very well. It was about character creation and he said that the thing with creating really believable characters is just to pay them very close attention. And then he said it was a bit like love because if you love someone you pay them very close attention. I was taken by the loveliness of that quote because I think it does sum up the essence of writing. It’s paying very close attention to people and things and things that they say and I have tried to extend that to my life. I’ve even started listening to my children! It’s that close attention that makes the difference. That’s what I’ve learned through writing.’

p030 Shelf Life EE.indd 31

I got into choosing novels that are actual physical objects in themselves. I want to keep the most beautiful ones. My copy is a red leather bound, Collins edition, with gold embossed writing and pattern, of Great Expectations. I bought this with either my pocket money or a book token when I was about eight. I had seen this edition in the local bookshop. Inside there was very thin paper so it is quite small. There is a beautiful line drawing illustration of Dickens and to my whatever-age-I- was-then self, he was rather rakish and looked a bit like Mr Rochester with his swept-back hair and flowing necktie and blond beard! I really loved Dickens. My father was the one who read us bedtime stories but he would never read us anything that we actually wanted to be read ourselves. He just read whatever he wanted to read. I remember him reading Great Expectations and actually at the time being very scared. I had nightmares; I thought there were convicts under my bed! I bought this book because I wanted to read it myself. Dickens was probably one of the people who inspired me to become a journalist. I love the sheer volume of story, character portrayal, history and social commentary that he gets in a book. I could re-read this several times and still not have taken everything from it. I love the feel of this book which still has that slight, leathery smell.

MARCH APRIL 2017 2018


23/01/2018 14:23


Under the


James McCreet considers the opening of a reader’s historical novel

Rachel-Louise Driscoll wrote her first fulllength novel when she was fourteen, and has been writing non-stop since then. She is a business administrator, and spends

Gem of the Sea “I want to get off this damned island.”1 I was startled by my boyfriend’s words – but not completely surprised.2 I had seen this coming.3 The whole island had been talking about how close the war was actually getting to us;4 that morning it had become more than just talk.5 6 “And where does that leave me?” I asked quietly. 7 “Come with me! You will, won’t you Ginny? 8 There’s nothing to keep us here!” he said adamantly. 9 I shook my head. It was an unfair question to ask me. 10 Bertie didn’t have any family ties in Jersey, but he knew what would be at stake for me if I left. 11 Allowing my silence to speak for me, 12 I turned away to stare out onto the cornflower blue waters that were dancing beyond the beach, 13 and willed the hypnotic movement of the sea to lull me. 14 “Let’s get married!” 15 A proposal was the last thing that I had expected, 16 and for some reason I looked around 17 to see if it was aimed at anyone other than me. It was stupid, because I knew that I was the only person that Bertie was ever likely to ask; and also because there weren’t any other people around. 18 Just the two of us were standing on 20 the pier, 19 looking out onto a small, sandy bay. Gorey harbour was usually full of boats, but today claimed nothing 21 more than the imprint of where they had once been drawn up on the sand. 22 Clumps of seaweed still traced the lines where they’d dragged them to the tideline. 23 Ever so slowly 24 the sea was beginning to creep up the shore, erasing all memory of the marks carved by the departed boats. 25 I had heard of ghost towns before – but a ghost harbour was something new to me. 26


A bold and arresting start. Who is speaking? Why do they want to get off the island? We appear to be in the middle of a conversation – always a good way to get immediately into the narrative.


So now we know who’s speaking, but this line undoes some of the initial promise with a classic dialogue faux pas: having the narrator wrest control of the narrative rather than allowing the conversation to flow. Each time this narrative perspective comes in, the dialogue is paused and the reader is told rather than shown. There’s also a mild contradiction in being startled but not surprised.

all her free time researching about World War Two and writing her books. Gem of the Sea is her second warbased historical novel – and is based in Jersey during the German Occupation. Her first novel has been edited by a proof-reader and is in search of an agent


This would have been a better and more dramatic second line. The question mark shows that it is a question, so we don’t need the verb ‘asked’. It’s also debateable whether we need the adverb ‘quietly’. I’m not entirely against adverbs, but they are usually the most obvious and therefore least effective way of guiding the reader’s understanding. Better emphasis is always through the nature of the speech itself or its context.


Let’s have a comma before ‘Ginny’. The phrasing is slightly antiquated, which fits well with the period setting.


Easy on the exclamation marks unless he’s literally screaming these sentences. He didn’t use one when he said he wanted to get off the island. Again, the adverb is too much of a signpost, and isn’t quite right. ‘Adamantly’ is better if we’re talking An interesting and necessary piece about a decision, but he’s essentially framing a question. of information that gives some context to the conversation. Sometimes it’s better to use a gesture rather than words – as in Exactly how it has become more this case. Her lack of words indicates than talk is another thing we her pensiveness and is more persuasive must anticipate. It’s a good hook. than a simple ‘no’. However, I’m not sure whether a semi-colon is the best choice here. A full stop better signals the separation But when the narrative voice between past talk and present returns to further explain the circumstance. situation, we again lose the immediacy


This further undermines the sense of being startled, and continues the narrative control. Why not have her say these things instead? It would be more engaging for the reader.






MARCH 2018

p032 Microscope.indd 32

23/01/2018 14:20



of the dialogue and the reader’s attention is distracted once more.


For the above reason, this would be better expressed as part of the spoken dialogue.


This is redundant. The fact that she hasn’t spoken is clear, as is her continuing lack of words.


‘Dancing waters’? It’s a pretty image but I’m not sure quite how it looks. Is it the waves that are dancing? Or is it the light on the surface? Without specificity, there’s a risk of the description being superficial or indulgent.


Dancing and yet hypnotic? Does hypnosis lull – in the sense of calm or comfort – or does it put a person into a disassociated and suggestive state? What exactly are we trying to say here?


The exclamation mark suggests that Bertie is speaking. It’s a good interjection, bringing us back to the dialogue and snapping Ginny out of her reverie.


They’re on a pier? Previous description had mentioned only a beach. Now we have to reconfigure the scene in our minds.


It’s a bay? Again, we have to mentally readjust. We should have known these things earlier in order to more effectively picture the scene.


There’s a harbour? Where is it in relation to the pier? How big is it? ‘Claimed’ is an odd choice of word. Why this word?


I like the image of the imprint (though surely multiple imprints?), although I’m now confused. A harbour normally implies some kind of construction or formal enclosure, but these boats are simply drawn up on the beach.


The seaweed is a nice visual touch, though I’m sure it’s more than just clumps. Are there not lines? I picture a more complex calligraphy of ruts and seaweed. Paint us a picture. It needn’t be more than a sentence.


24 25



And again, the ‘voiceover’ of the narrative takes us away from the immediate scene to reflect. Her surprise would have been more effective if uttered or expressed as a gesture. Indeed, the danger of saying too much rather than letting the scene unfold is realised here in this piece of pantomime. It seems ludicrous that Ginny would react in such a way.


As this next sentence explicitly expresses. The potential power of the scene is dissipated. Even though we’re inside Ginny’s head, we’re in danger of losing empathy with her if her thoughts or actions seem incredible.

Comma after ‘slowly.’

This further description reminds us that the initial dialogue seems to have been briefly forgotten. The atmospheric description seems to have got caught up in itself.

The image seems a bit overworked. It’s hardy a ‘ghost harbour’ if the boats have only been gone since the last tide has had time to wash away their marks. The solecism reminds us that the narrative voice is too dominant and that it risks asphyxiating the story or characters. Thoughts and description take precedence over the things that really hook a reader.

p032 Microscope.indd 33

There are some nice touches here but there’s an internecine conflict apparent in the style. On the one hand, we have two characters and the situation they are in: a relationship, an imminent war, a difficult decision... On the other hand, we have a piece of writing that the author is clearly enjoying. The second one should be invisible to the reader. The first pages of a book should hook the reader into story, theme and character rather than being an exposition of writing style (unless we’re discussing high literature, in which case the opposite is often true). The problem with dialogue is a classic and common one. We can let the characters speak, or we can tell the readers about the conversation. When we try to do both, neither is fully effective. The speech starts and stops according to the author’s need to keep jumping in to explain or elaborate. This kills pace and stifles character. It also tells the reader that much of the work of reading will be done for them by the author. This is writing as a reader rather than as a writer. The writer’s job is to create a scene that the reader interprets – not to create and interpret at the same time. Description is another issue. The essential details come a little too late, by which time the reader has already subconsciously used any existing clues to picture a scene. This doesn’t mean you have to start with a lengthy description – only that the clues should be sketched earlier... or simply kept very basic. After all, the conversation is more important. Description should also be specific. Not necessarily verbose and detailed, but clear and persuasive. Some of the description here seems to be overtly stylistic – there to please the writer but not always evoking a lucid image.

Read James McCreet’s suggested rewrite of this extract at • If you would like to submit an extract of your work in progress, send it by email, with synopsis and a brief biog, to:

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 14:20


Get a

grip As grip lit keeps its hold on readers, Margaret James looks at why we love it, and how to write it


s 2018 gets into its stride, it’s clear millions of readers are still hooked on stories about apparently ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations, a genre many publishers define as grip lit. I asked three authors who write grip lit to tell me more. Sally Jenkins, Writing Magazine subscriber and author of The Promise (Book Guild Publishing), says: ‘I’m fascinated by the impact the past can have on the present. Our childhood relationships with our parents can impact, for good or bad, on how we live our lives as adults. Also, people from our past can reappear. ‘The Promise is about what happens when Simon’s mother makes a promise to her cellmate in prison. When that cellmate turns 34

MARCH 2018

p034 Fiction Focus.indd 34

up thirty years later, Simon finds he must act. ‘Any novel about the past meeting the present will need to be dark in order to create the obligatory story-driving conflict because otherwise it will just be a tale of an old friend popping in to say hello! ‘I believe grip lit is popular with readers because from time to time most of us like to be taken outside our ordinary lives and be scared, but in a safe way. Ordinary daily life can be stressful, but in grip lit we meet characters much worse off than ourselves: being stalked by psychopaths or chained in dark rooms. Our own concerns about the car’s MOT or an unpleasant boss are put into a manageable perspective.’ ‘Grip lit is not about the dark hooded figure waiting in the lane,’ says SE Lynes, author of Mother (Bookouture). ‘It’s about the threat

of what might happen, or – worse – what’s already happening. Grip lit asks: who are our real friends, is our life partner a safe bet, who loves us, and who is saying they love us when in fact they don’t? ‘Often, psychological cruelty comes in the form of the manipulation of reality: when someone you love and trust tells you something isn’t so, but you know otherwise. ‘Psychological terror feeds into what most terrifies me about the world: what if the world is not how I perceive it to be? ‘I take the touchstones of a happy life – good friendships and loving relationships – and I subvert them for dramatic effect. Do you know anyone who has been betrayed? You might hear this person say: I can’t believe it. I feel like my whole life is a lie. The grip

23/01/2018 14:24


lit writer will think: what if your whole life is a lie?’ According to Amanda James, author of Behind the Lie (HarperCollins), life itself is a mystery. ‘Unless you’re a psychic, the future is a series of unknowns peppered with wishes, hopes and dreams,’ she says. ‘But this doesn’t stop us planning and sometimes putting certain things in place that might help us achieve our goals. I find writing mysteries and thrillers is a bit like life. ‘I get started on a novel with the nucleus of an idea and then I ask lots of questions. My characters come next, followed by an interesting setting that will inspire them to add a few secrets and mysteries of their own. ‘As a reader of this kind of fiction, I always like to secondguess and see if I can work out how the story will end. As a writer, I enjoy setting puzzles for readers and having a dialogue with them. Yes, keeping the reader guessing is a challenge, but I like a challenge. ‘Some grip lit features happy endings, or happy-for-now endings. I always have a relationship in my novels so that the excitement, intrigue, adventure and happy endings some readers love can be theirs between the pages of a book.’ Let’s finish with some advice from a mainstream publisher who welcomes submissions direct from writers as well as through literary agents. ‘The phrase grip lit was coined by author Marian Keyes, an avid reader of “really gripping novels” such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train,’ explains Natasha Harding, associate publisher at Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette. ‘Grip lit describes books that explore familiar, contemporary lives but from a dark, off-kilter angle.

The central characters are usually compelling, complex women, and the plots are twisty, suspenseful and full of secrets, lies, paranoia, intense love and obsession. ‘You only have to look at the bestseller charts to see that our obsession with grip lit shows no sign of abating. While editors hunt for the next BA Paris and Claire Mackintosh, authors such as KL Slater and Louise Jensen are topping the charts. ‘My advice to anyone wanting to write a grip lit novel? Read, read, read! Get a feel for the style of grip lit readers love. Also take note of reviews. Create believable, identifiable settings that readers could mistake for those in their own lives. ‘As for your central characters: they need to be completely enthralling with complicated lives and obvious flaws. The subsidiary characters – missing children, jealous neighbours, backstabbing friends and jaded lovers – should be equally intriguing, and don’t forget any one of them could be lying. ‘A twisty plot is a must. You’ll take your readers on a rollercoaster of emotions, using plenty of chapter cliffhangers to create an unputdownable storyline. You’ll need an unforgettable ending. Shock your readers with a final, unguessable twist, and make them want to tell their friends about the book. ‘Do you have a grip lit novel saved on your desktop, or the seed of a psychological thriller germinating in your mind? If you do, finish your book then send it out to publishers. Readers want more grip lit, and they want it now.’ Writers can submit manuscripts direct via Bookouture’s website: submission-guidelines/

NOW Try this How would you cope if you found any friend, partner or relation had lied to you or was living a lie? Maybe speculating about this could get you started on a new story?

p034 Fiction Focus.indd 35

I wish I’d known… with Suzie Tullett


hen I think about what I wish I’d known at the start of my writing career, lots of things spring to mind. Most of them don’t relate to the words I write. After all, the ability to tell a good story isn’t static. It continually develops thanks to experience and, often, to a wise editor. ‘The stuff I wish I’d known about relates more to the business side of things. Like the fact that it’s okay for me to consider my options. So, when a publishing contract comes in, I don’t have to accept it immediately just because it’s there. That it’s okay to inform other interested parties that an offer has been made because they might be on the verge of making an offer too, and this one might outline a better deal. ‘Mainly, though, I wish I’d known about the importance of creating an author platform. You see, in this modern world of ours, being an author isn’t just about writing. It’s about letting the book-buying public know that both we and our novels exist, something I wish I’d done way before signing on the dotted line. ‘I wish I’d built a strong Twitter following prior to any book deal, creating a network of people happy to support a newbie writer on her journey to publication – and beyond. I wish I’d created an author Facebook page from the outset: a page full of interesting content that would appeal to both readers and writers alike. I wish I’d taken the show and not tell rule to a different level and figured out how to use Instagram well before I did. Yes, a photo might say a thousand words, but a hashtag can reach millions. ‘Not that it’s all about early publicity. Some of the best friendships are built and maintained thanks to the wonders of social media. So, had I built my author platform sooner, I’d have gotten to know some wonderful people sooner, too: people who love all things literary as much as I do.’

AUGUST MARCH 2017 2018


23/01/2018 14:24



Plan your literary year with our definitive listing of literary festivals and events for 2018. Whether you prefer big name talks or family-friendly workshops, find the right event for you here.

FEBRUARY Winter Words Book Festival 2-18 February Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Perthshire An engaging mix of genres and themes, writers including Val McDermid and Sally Magnusson, plenty of Scottish history and culture and programmes from the Banff Film Festival Port Na Craig, Pitlochry PH16 5DR 01796 484 626 Hearth micro-festival 3-4 February Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire Micro-festival that features relaxed opportunities to learn from and talk to four writers: Dipika Mukherjee, Annabel Abbs, Sheena Wilkinson and Jenny Lewis. A second Hearth micro-festival will be held in November TBC. Gladstone’s Library, Church Lane, Hawarden, Flintshire CH5 3DF 01244 532350 UEA Spring Literary Festival 2018 14 Feb-16 May Lecture Theatre 1, University of East Anglia The UEA Spring Literary Festival welcomes award-winning authors to its campus. This year marks 25 years. 14 Feb (Stephen Fry), Wed 21 Feb (Sarah Hall), Wed 28 Feb (Caryl Phillips & Margaret Drabble), Wed 7 March (Jon McGregor), Wed 25 April (Jesmyn Ward), Wed 2 May (Madeline Miller), Wed 36

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 36

9 May (Christie Watson) and Wed 16 May (Emma Healey) Arts 3.03, University of East Anglia, University Plain, Norwich NR4 7TJ 01603 593412 Crime at the Castle 24 February Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland All day event for crime writers from the CWA, with writing workshops and speakers including Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre, Alex Grey and Denise Mina Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland DD8 1RJ 01307 840393 Words in Walden Events Monthly Harts Books Monthly literary events Harts Books, 26 King Street, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 1ES 01799 524552 Essex Book Festival 28 February-31 March 40 venues across Essex A month-long countywide festival taking place in a variety of venues, going one step further this year to enter Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker for a special Nuclear Option Day. The programme includes author events, panel discussions, a post-apocalyptic book club, a beach-combing workshop, a writing for radio workshop, a pop-up writer’s

house and more. Essex Book Festival Box Office, Mercury Theatre, Balkerne Gate, Colchester CO1 1PT 07913 061949

MARCH Aldeburgh Literary Festival 1-4 March, The Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh Expect a line-up of 18 distinguished speakers at this festival, which has attracted some of literature’s most respected names The Aldeburgh Bookshop, 42 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5AB 01728 452587 Lancaster Litfest 2-25 Mar, Lancaster The popular festival from Lancashire’s literature festival, publisher and development agency Lancaster Visitor Information Centre, The Storey, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster LA1 1TH, 01524 582394 Jewish Book Week 3-11 March, Kings Place, London Annual festival with big names, this year’s including Maureen Lipman, Simon Schama, Nina Caplan, Susie Orbach and Afua Hirsch Jewish Book Week, ORT House, 26 Albert Street, London NW1 7NE 020 7446 8771


23/01/2018 13:39


Huddersfield Literature Festival 8-18 March Various venues in Huddersfield An annual ten-day celebration of books and authors, poetry and performance, welcoming major authors and upcoming talent, local authors and community organisations. The Festival offers many free or low-cost events, including some with live subtitling by Stagetext for those who are deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, and has DisabledGo Access Guides for key venues. Events include high-profile author talks, performance poetry, LGBT events, free children’s events, creative writing workshops and the Fables & Fiction Cosplay Ball. Cat Lumb, Festival Secretary 01484 951108 Words by the Water 9-18 March Theatre by the Lake, Keswick 10-day literature festival, with a packed programme including Sayeeda Warsi, Melvin Bragg and Adam Macqueen Philip John, Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Droridge Lane, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JG 01803 867373 Aye Write! Glasgow Book Festival 15-25 March The Mitchell Library, Glasgow and various Glasgow venues Glasgow’s annual book festival, celebrating the best local, national and international writing, with appearances this year from Maggie O’Farrell, Ruby Wax and Shami Chakrabarti. The Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow G3 7DN 0141 287 2999 York Literature Festival 15-26 March various venues in York The festival promotes the arts in York, with an emphasis on literature, spoken word and poetry, and a programme that also features music, comedy, cinema and theatre. This year includes a talk on Jane Austen by TV historian Lucy Worsley

King’s Lynn Fiction Festival 16-18 March King’s Lynn Town Hall Writers confirmed for 2018 include Peter Benson, Guinivere Glasfurd, Mark Illis, Rachel Crowther, Louis de Bernières, Sally Emerson, Rachel Hore and DJ Tyrer Anthony Ellis, c/o Hawkins Ryan Solicitors, 19 Tuesday Market Place, King’s Lynn PE30 1JW; 01553 691661 Oxford Literary Festival 17-25 March Christ Church, Oxford Heavyweight annual festival attracting some very big names, including appearances by Frances Hardinge, Jacob Ross, Maggie Gee, Philip Ardagh and Sebastian Barry 01865 286074 Words for the Wounded LitFest day 21 March Downley Community Centre, High Wycombe Speakers introduced by author and WforW founder Margaret Graham include Jan Moran Neil, Jack Smethurst, Paul Rabbitt and Jason Hewitt Scottish Association of Writers’ Annual Conference 23-25 March Westerwood Hotel and Conference Centre, Cumbernauld Writers’ Conference with workshops, seminars and competition award ceremony. Keynote speaker is Simon Brett Jen Butler, Scottish Association of Writers, 3 The Loan, Bo’ness EH51 0HN 07827 412522

7-11 March One of the top poetry festivals in the UK, 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, take part in a wide range of workshops, a masterclass and open mic events, or just sit and enjoy the lively festival scene with a coffee or drink. This year’s themes are The Self and Borderlines and there will be our Going Dutch language focus (Dutch/Frisian/Flemish). Full programme online. Tickets on sale with concessions, bulk purchase and early bird discounts, and many free events.

Email: boxoffice@ Tel: 01334 475000

Stanza enhanced.indd 1

APRIL Books by the Beach 11-15 April Venues around Scarborough Located on Yorkshire’s spectacular coast, the annual festival brings bestselling authors to Scarborough 01723 370541 WRITING MAGAZINE - FESTIVAL GUIDE 2018

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 37

StAnza 2018

19/01/2018 09:16

London Book Fair 10-12 April Olympia, West London The biggest trade event of the UK publishing year is increasingly offering events for writers and valuable insight into the worlds of publishing and self-publishing, with dedicated author programme Author HQ. Reed Exhibitions, Gateway House, 28 The Quadrant, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1DN 0208 271 2124 37

23/01/2018 13:40


Cambridge Literary Festival 12-15 April Central Cambridge venues The spring festival features leading writers from the worlds of literature, media, science, history, politics, philosophy and children’s authors Anna Millward, 7 Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EL 01223 515335 Crime Writers’ Association Conference 13-15 April, Shrewsbury venues Crime writers’ get-together exclusively for CWA members Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival 21-29 April Various venues in Cardiff city centre Literature Wales, Cardiff Council, Cardiff University, National Museum Wales 02920 472266 Wrexham Carnival of Words 21-28 April Various venues in Wrexham Festival promoting reading and writing across Wrexham. 2018 features Vaseem Khan, Nicci French and Phil Rickman. Stratford Literary Festival 22-29 April Stratford Artshouse, Rother Street, Stratford upon Avon CV37 6LU 8 days of author events, panel discussions, writing and craft workshops and events for kids 01789 470185 Cuirt International Festival of Literature 23-29 April Venues in Galway Wide-ranging festival that includes intimate home-based ‘kitchen’ gatherings, talks on all aspects of the craft of writing and appearances by some of Ireland’s most respected literary figures Galway Arts Centre, 47 Dominick Street, Galway, Eire 38

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 38

Chipping Norton Litfest 26-29 April various venues including Chipping Norton Theatre and Town Hall The literary festival offers big names in small venues, all set in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside. ChipLitFest allows visitors extensive access to authors, this year including Rachel Seiffert, Jasmine Richards, Bali Rai and Mark Norfolk, providing a festival experience that is beyond words Chipping Norton Literary Festival, Windrush House, 55 Crawley Road, Witney 01608 642350 Hexham Book Festival 27 April-6 May Queens Hall, Hexham Annual book festival with author talks and workshops Susie Troup, Queens Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham NE46 3LS 01434 652477 Birmingham Literature Festival 27-29 April City centre locations including Library of Birmingham Lively, diverse and accessible literary festival from Writing West Midlands, now celebrating its 21st anniversary Sian Buckley, Writing West Midlands, Unit 204, The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham B9 4AA 0121 246 3083 WestbourneBookBinge 27-29 Apr Bournemouth village Author events with a twist of urban cool


Newcastle Poetry Festival 2-5 May Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne Poetry festival with leading contemporary poets, emerging poets and free events 0191 208 7787

Strokestown International Poetry Festival, Ireland 3-7 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 Boswell Book Festival 4-6 May Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire The world’s only festival of biography and memoir, named in honour of the father of modern biography, James Boswell. At its heart are the lives of people past and present – presented through talks, drama, art and music. 2017 showcased stories of World War II, bakers, plant hunters, lovers, adventurers, judges, poets, painters and financiers and the sheer glamour of the worlds of actor Nigel Havers and Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman. Caroline Knox, The Boswell Trust, Auchendrane, By Ayr, Ayrshire KA7 4TW Brighton Festival 5-27 May multiple sites Innovative commissioning and producing arts festival with strong literary presence and this year, visual artist David Shrigley as guest director. Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, Church Street, Brighton BN1 1UE 01273 700747 Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival 6-8 May Chiddingstone Castle, Kent West Kent’s Literary Festival for storylovers of all ages this year celebrates truth in all its guises. Speakers include Anna Pasternak, Anne de Courcy, Adam Kay, John Sutherland, Anthony Seldon, Ian Rankin, Kate Mosse, Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, Cressida Cowell, Philip Ardagh and Abi Elphinstone. Chiddingstone Castle, Chiddingstone, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7AD 01892 872746


23/01/2018 13:40


Swindon Festival of Literature 7-19 May Various venues in and around Swindon Celebration of the written and spoken word in prose fiction, prose fact, and poetry with appearances this year from AC Grayling, Judy Murray, Peggy Seeger, Viv Albertine and Harriet Harman Lower Shaw Farm, Shaw, Swindon, Wiltshire SN5 5PJ; 01793 771080 Ullapool Book Festival 11-13 May Ullapool Village Hall A literary festival held in a beautiful part of the Highlands, with a great line-up of Scottish and international writers Joan Michael, PO Box 27, Ullapool IV26 2WY; 07754 835935 Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature 11-19 May Venues in and around Fowey A ten day literary festival with talks by a variety of authors. The festival also encompasses an art trail, a garden trail, some musical events, guided walks and workshops. Adult short story competition and children’s art and literary awards. The Du Maurier Festival Society, 74 Lostwithiel Street, Fowey PL23 1BQ 01726 832580 The Bath Festival 11-27 May Various venues in Bath Bath’s flagship festival has music and literature at its heart and includes appearances by Maggie O’Farrell, Roddy Doyle and Rose Tremain Bath Festivals, Third Floor, Abbey Chambers, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1NT 01225 462231 Charleston Festival 18-28 May Charleston Farmhouse, Lewes, East Sussex Annual festival with big name guests and a beautiful location. The Charleston Trust, Charleston, Firle, nr Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6LL 01323 811 626

Sea Fever Literary Festival 12 May New literary festival replacing Poetry-next-the-Sea The Maltings, Staithe Street, Wells-next-theSea, North Norfolk

Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival 25-27 May Sterts Theatre, Upton Cross, Liskeard Friendly poetry festival held in a covered amphitheatre near Wheal Tor

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival 12-13 May Various venues in Barnes London’s largest designated children’s literature festival has featured some of children’s writing’s biggest stars, including Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo

Steyning Festival 26 May-9 June, Steyning Popular biannual general arts festival The Steyning Bookshop, 106 High Street, Steyning BN44 3RD

International Literature Festival Dublin 19-27 May Various Dublin venues Some of the world’s finest writers take part in Ireland’s premier literary event, which features novelists, poets, non-fiction writers, lyricists, playwrights and screenwriters The Lab, Foley Street, Dublin 1 (+353) (0) 1 222 5455 www, Hay Festival 2018 24 May-3 June, Hay-on-Wye One of the UK’s biggest book festivals. 11 days comprising 600 events covering all areas of the arts, featuring writers, thinkers, historians, musicians, politicians and environmentalists from around the world. A children’s festival runs concurrently. The Drill Hall, 25 Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5AD 01497 822 629 (Box Office) Fal River Festival 24 May-6 June TBC, Cornwall A lively, family-friendly festival of activities and arts. Swaledale Festival 26 May-9 June Various venues around Swaledale, Akengarthdale and Wensleydale, North Yorkshire Music, arts and walking festival with some poetry Swaledale Festival, Hudson House, Reeth, Richmond, North Yorkshire DL11 6TB 01748 880019 WRITING MAGAZINE - FESTIVAL GUIDE 2018

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 39

Listowel Writers’ Week 30 May-3 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, including short fiction with Paul McVeigh, crime writing with Julie Parsons and planning a novel with Carlo Gébler Máire Logue, Writers’ Week, 24 The Square, Listowel, Co Kerry, Ireland (00) (353) 68 21074


Stoke Newington Literary Festival 1-3 June Venues around Stoke Newington Festival celebrating the radical and literary history of this part of North London Charles Causley Festival 1-3 June TBC Venues in Launceston Literature and arts festival this year celebrating the famous Cornish poet Charles Causley The Big Bookend Northern Short Story Festival 2-3 June, various venues in Leeds A weekend of workshops, debates, discussions and readings with a bias towards Leeds writers 0113 237 9900 39

23/01/2018 13:40


Winchester Writers’ Festival Book now for the Winchester Writers’ Festival

15 to 17 June, 2018 at the University of Winchester Bestselling novelist Patrick Gale headlines an extensive programme of over seventy commissioning editors, literary agents, authors and poets offering eighteen day-long workshops, 28 talks and hundreds of one-to-one appointments to help writers develop their creative ideas and pitch to publishing professionals. The Festival is suitable for emerging writers working in all forms and genres, including literary fiction, crime, romance, fantasy, poetry, script, narrative nonfiction and writing for children and Young Adults. Book your place to benefit from support, advice, inspiration and networking opportunities for writing projects at all stages of development, from first idea to publication. Anyone may enter the Festival’s ten writing competitions – even if you can’t attend. Deadline for entries: 11 April 2018 University of Winchester Writers’ Festival Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR Tel: 01962 826367; email: Website:

Winchester Enhanced.indd 1

Beyond the Border 9-10 June St Donat’s Castle, Vale of Glamorgan The 25th Birthday Barnstormer edition of the annual storytelling festival Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff CF10 5FH 02921 660501 Worcestershire Litfest and Fringe 10-16 June, across the county Writing workshops, spoken word events, poetry slams, talks and events, promoting literature by connecting writers and readers Polly Stretton, Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe, Appletree Cottage, 7 Nursery Road, St John’s, Worcestershire WR2 4HB 01905 425366 40

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 40

18/01/2018 15:26

Immrama, The Lismore Festival of Travel Writing 13-17 June Several venues in Lismore Town, Co Waterford Dedicated travel writing festival Jan Rotte, Fernville, Lismore, Co Waterford, Ireland (+353) (0) 58 53803 Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival 14-17 June Harmony Garden, Melrose Book festival Hilary Buchan, Borders Book Festival, Harmony House, St Mary’s Road, Melrose TD6 9LJ; 01896 822644

Derby Book Festival 1-19 June Various library, heritage and community venues across Derby Derby Book Festival celebrates the joy of books and reading for all ages and interests, with a programme featuring internationally celebrated, best-selling authors as well as a broad range of local writing talent and include an exciting children, families and educational programme Derby Book Festival, 30 Lavender Row, Darley Abbey, Derby DE22 1DF Broadstairs Dickens Festival 15-17 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, with the exception of the years of WW2 Sylvia Hawkes, 10 Lanthorne Road, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 3NH 01843 861827 Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival 17-24 June Various venues Now in its 65th year, the UK’s longestrunning poetry festival features readings, workshops and performances. This year’s theme is peace and reconciliation. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6QW 01789 204016 Ashbourne Festival 22 June-8 July Ashbourne, Derbyshire Multi-arts event with some literary activities Ashbourne Arts, St John’s Community Hall, King Street, Ashbourne DE6 1EA 01335 348707 The Historical Novel Society Conference 2018 24-26 August Westerwood Hotel, Glasgow Details TBC


23/01/2018 13:40


Hebden Bridge Arts Festival 22 June-1 July West Yorkshire Multi-arts festival in various venues in and around the thriving Calderdale arts hub Helen Meller, Hebden Bridge Town Hall, St George’s Street, Hebden Bridge HX7 7BY 01422 417373 Proms at St Judes Music and Literary Festival 23 June-1 July Community fund-raising festival in Hampstead Garden Suburb The Litfest Weekend during the festival features appearances by high-profile writers Felixstowe Book Festival 27 June-2 July Venues in Felixstowe, including The Orwell Hotel, Felixstowe Library and Landguard Fort A highlight of the East Anglia arts calendar, with Sir Vince Cable, Dame Jenni Murray, actor Tim Bentinck, Louis De Bernieres and Esther Freud returning. Storytelling for all ages in beach huts and walking through the woods, events in a shipping container and a Martello Tower. 01394 279783 Bradford Literature Festival 29 June-8 July Various Bradford venues Bradford Literature Festival is a cultural and literary extravaganza, with over 200 events packed across 10 days, celebrating the written and spoken word in all its wonderful forms. Every year BLF invites world-renowned authors, poets, musicians and artists to visit the spectacular city of Bradford to share their expertise and passions with you, the audience. 01274 238374 Ledbury Poetry Festival 29 June-8 July Ledbury, Herefordshire 10 days of world class poetry – slams, workshops, readings, talks, interviews, installations, poets-in-residence, exhibitions, street poetry, open mics, poets of national and international repute – this picturesque Herefordshire market town magically

Evesham Festival of Words Friday, 29 June-Sunday, 1 July

Evesham Festival of Words is a fantastic fun-for-all festival, a pick and mix of events and opportunities for readers, writers and anyone else who is interested in the wonderful world of words. So, whether your passion is reading, writing, poetry, music, drama or even photography, the 2018 Evesham Festival of Words has something for suit everyone! 2018 sees a welcome return of the popular perennial, the Festival Fringe, which runs throughout the calendar year supporting authors and poets alongside aspiring writers. This year’s main event programme includes: meet the authors, writing workshops, plays, concerts, poetry readings, an exhibition of photography reflecting literature over the decades and a full day of activities specifically created for children. Tickets and further information are available online at or by emailing Festival Chair, Sue Ablett, at

Evesham Enhanced.indd 1

transforms into a global stage for poetry. Phillippa Slinger, Ledbury Poetry Festival, The Master’s House, St Katherine’s, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1EA 01531 636232

JULY Penzance Literary Festival 4-7 July The Acorn, Parade Street, Penzance TR18 4BU and other nearby sites A Festival renowned for its friendliness with affordable tickets, a varied programme and a great location Frome Festival 6-15 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 2018

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 41

19/01/2018 09:34

Buxton International Festival 6-22 July Buxton Opera House, Pavilion Arts Centre and Devonshire Campus Festival of opera, music and literature. 2018 features a crime-writers’ lunch with Val McDermid, Denise Mina and Sarah Ward. Festival Office, 3 The Square, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 9LU 01298 70395 Ways With Words 6-16 July Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon 10-day festival of words and ideas Philip John, Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Droridge Lane, Dartington, Devon TQ9 6JG, 01803 867373 John Clare Society Festival 13-15 July Helpstone, near Peterborough Annual celebration of the life and work of the poet, with literary events, music and drama 41

23/01/2018 13:40


Latitude Festival 12-15 July Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk Multi-award winning festival based in Suffolk that started in 2006. Billed by the Observer as ‘the something-for-everyone festival’, with music, comedy, film, literature, theatre and poetry. Festival Republic, 35 Bow Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7AU 0207 009 3001 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate 19-22 July Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate The award-winning Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, now in its 15th year, celebrates the best in crime fiction at the Old Swan Hotel each July. 2018 has Lee Child as Programming Chair. 2017’s event sold out with 16,500 individual tickets over four days. The event is known for its friendliness and inclusivity, as fans, fledgling writers and established superstar authors mingle in the hotel bar, bookshop and PapaKata tents in the hotel grounds. Helen Donkin/Natalie Dalkiran, Harrogate International Festivals, 32 Cheltenham Parade, Harrogate HG1 1DB 01423 562 303 festivals Port Eliot Festival 26-29 July Port Eliot Estate Festival of literature, music, comedy, fashion, food and much more held in the stunning grounds of Port Eliot Estate Port Eliot Festival, Port Eliot Estate, St Germans PL12 5ND 01503 230211 Dartington International Summer School and Festival 28 July-25 August Dartington Hall Music and arts festival with some poetry and creative writing events Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL 01803 847080 42

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 42

Niddfest July TBC Pateley Bridge, Harrogate A celebration of literature and nature

NAWGFest 2018

A residential weekend, with a full programme of writing workshops run by professional tutor/writers, costs £350. NAWG president, the Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, DL ( Julian Fellowes) usually visits us during the weekend. We have James Nash (poet), Morgen Bailey (editing your fiction), Julie Bokoviec (drama), Ken MacLeod (science fiction), Simon Hall (BBC news correspondent), for bookable workshops. Steve Bowkett will run an extra, open to all workshop to start your creativity off on Friday afternoon. Also a Saturday afternoon talk Jay Margrave (research for novels); after dinner speaker - Milly Johnson (romantic novelist). A short festival, from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon is only £190. All quoted prices; reduced for NAWG members.

31 August-2 September


Edinburgh International Book Festival 11-27 August Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh A joyful celebration of words and ideas, the Edinburgh International Book Festival welcomes nearly 1000 authors from over 50 countries to its leafy tented village every August including hundreds of top children’s book writers and illustrators. Events feature crime, sci-fi, poetry, feminism, philosophy, economics, history, art, politics and more in inspiring conversations, special performances, workshops, discussions and literary cabaret nights. Edinburgh International Book Festival, 5a Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4DR 0131 718 5666 Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 11-17 August The Hayes Conference Centre, Derbyshire Swanwick Summer School is a week-long programme for writers of all ages, abilities and genres. Featuring courses, workshops, guest speakers, panels and optional one-to-one sessions at one fully inclusive price. Previous guest speakers have included Iain Banks, Peter James, Helen Lederer, Deborah Moggach and Simon Brett. Full programme details are available on the website. 07452 283652


Email: booking-festival@nawg. or for further details and booking. Or, website: to download a booking form. Come to NAWGFest 2018 and meet our budding writers: ‘I’m a new writer and my success in NAWG competitions has given me the confidence to enrol in an MA in creative writing with the Open University. I’ll never be a great writer but I will be a better one, and NAWG are responsible!’ Keith.

High Tide Festival 18/01/2018 15:16 11-16 September Aldeburgh, Suffolk HighTide awards playwrights with their first commission, and these plays are created in Suffolk through the renowned annual HighTide Festival in Aldeburgh. Events and programme TBC HighTide, 24a St John Street, London EC1M 4AY; 0207 566 97 65

NAWG enhanced.indd 1

Gladfest 7-9 September Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire Sixth annual literary festival from Gladstone’s Library Gladstone’s Library, Church Lane, Hawarden, Flintshire CH5 3DF 01244 532350 WRITING MAGAZINE - FESTIVAL GUIDE 2018

23/01/2018 13:41


The Festival of Writing 1-2 September TBC University of York A festival for aspiring writers providing the opportunity to meet literary agents, publishers, professional authors and book doctors. Keynote speakers from across the industry. Also workshops, competitions, networking events, Q&A panels and the chance to pitch work directly to literary agents​.​​ Dates TBC. Laura Wilkins, Events director, The Writer’s Workshop, The Studio, Sheep Street, Charlbury OX7 3RR Chorleywood Litfest September TBC Various venues An autumn programme of literary events organised by Chiltern Bookshops 01293 283566 Wirksworth Festival 7-23 Sept Mixed rural arts festival with some literary content, Derbyshire Wirksworth Festival, Parish Room, Church Walk, Wirksworth, Derbyshire DE4 4DQ 01629 824003 Nairn Book and Arts Festival 11-16 September Venues in and around Nairn Speakers from the world of arts and literature Chiswick Book Festival 13-17 September Various venues in Chiswick Non-profit-making community book festival raising money for charity Graham Greene International Festival 20-23 September Various venues in Berkhamsted An annual celebration of the author in his home town, featuring films, talks and social events. The 2018 festival has a new festival director, Dr Martyn Sampson. 01274 835260

Hastings Literary Festival The South Coast’s newest Literary Festival starts Friday 31 August to Sunday 2 September. Guest speakers: Sophie Hannah, Alison Moore, Michael Arditti, Jane Harris, Simon Mawer, Marnie Riches, David Gaffney, Kate O’Hearn and many others. Workshops for writers include Flash Fiction, Creativity, Scriptwriting, Sports Journalism, Historical Fiction, Marketing & Publicity. Pre-bookable Meet the Agent sessions, book fair (stands available), Crime Fiction and Writing for Children panels, poetry night, film talks, live performances fromThe Pantaloons and London Mozart Players, competitions and much more.

Crime Novel Competition Opens 1 February – closes 31 May 2018. Prizes: publication by Crooked Cat Books, £150 / £100 cash and trophies. Entry fee £10. Open to any author not already published in Crime genre. Submit 3 chapters and synopsis – see website for details. Winner announced 2 September at Hastings LitFest. Hastings Lit Salterton fest.indd 1 Budleigh Literary Festival 19-23 September Various including Public Hall and St Peter’s Church Budleigh Celebrating ten years, the festival has five days of bestselling authors, panel events and workshops with activities for kids, a hub marquee and bookshop and all set right beside the seaside Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information Centre, Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6NG 01395 445275

Wigtown Book Festival 18/01/2018 15:14 21-30 Sept Various venues in and around Wigtown Every autumn thousands of people descend on Dumfries & Galloway for Scotland’s biggest literary party. The award-winning festival has more than 250 events and activities for all ages over its 10 days, featuring many of the finest writers and speakers from Scotland and beyond. Wigtown Festival Company, County Buildings, Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway DG8 9JH; 01988 403222

Appledore Book Festival 21-29 September Various venues in Appledore, North Devon Literary festival and fringe. 2017 featured Kate Fox, Robert Crampton, Ian Rankin, Andy Kershaw and Alex Preston. 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 22-30 Sept Venues in and around Richmond, North Yorkshire Walks each in various locations in the northern Yorkshire Dales and Richmond; author events each evening in Richmond itself Carol Watson, Castle Hill Bookshop, 1 Castle Hill, Richmond, North Yorkshire DL10 4QP 01748 824243


p036_FESTIVALS.indd 43


23/01/2018 13:41


Manx Litfest 25-30 Sept Various venues around the Isle of Man A gathering of readers, authors, poets, illustrators and storytellers from around the British Isles John Quirk, Manx Litfest, 8 Milner Close, Port Erin, Isle of Man IM9 6BG 07624 464634 Jersey Festival of Words 2018 26-30 September Venues in Jersey A five day celebration of literature and writing on the island of Jersey Paul Bisson, Jersey Literary Festival Association Bath Festival of Children’s Literature 28 Sept-7 Oct TBC Various venues around Bath. The largest dedicated children’s literature festival in the UK, which regularly features the biggest names in children’s writing Bath Festivals, Third Floor, Abbey Chambers, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1NT 01225 462231 Ilkley Literature Festival 28 Sept-14 Oct Venues across Ilkley, West Yorkshire 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 Marlborough Literature Festival 28-30 Sept Venues around Marlborough Speakers at the 2017 festival included Will Self, Keggie Carew, Xiaolu Guo, Kamila Shamsie, Sarah Hall, David Mitchell and Nikesh Shukla Rochester Literature Festival 29-30 Sept TBC Various Rochester venues Community-based literature events Rochester 44

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 44

Literature Festival, Sun Pier House, Sun Pier, Medway Street, Chatham, Kent ME4 4HF 07904 643770 King’s Lynn Poetry Festival September TBC King’s Lynn Town Hall Poets last year included Pascale Petit and Penelope Shuttle Anthony Ellis, c/o Hawkins, 19 Tuesday Market Place, King’s Lynn PE30 1JW 01553 691661 Lincoln Book Festival September TBC The Collection, Lincoln Subtled ‘History at its Heart’, the festival takes place in an archeology museum Essex Poetry Festival September TBC Various venues around Essex Community-based poetry festival Derek Adams, 2 The Drive, Hullbridge, Essex, SS5 6LN; 07985 617559

OCTOBER Warwick Words History Festival 1-7 October Various venues in Warwick town centre Formerly Warwick Words Literature Festival, the festival’s focus is now on history and historical writing Warwick Words, The Court House, Jury Street, Warwick CV34 4EW 07944 768607 The Cheltenham Literature Festival 5-14 October 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

Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival 4-8 October, London NW11 Some of the UK’s brightest literary lights and a feast of words and ideas 020 8511 7900 Wimbledon BookFest 4-14 October Big Tent, Wimbledon Common Festival of arts and literature Fiona Razvi, Festival Director, 1 Compton Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 7QA 020 08947 3495 Althorp Literary Festival 5-7 October Althorp, Northamptonshire A celebration of the written word that takes place at one of England’s most beautiful, private and historic houses. Over the past thirteen years the Festival has attracted over 300 bestselling and critically acclaimed authors, influential politicians, sporting heroes, comedians and stars of stage and screen to share their stories with the public. Althorp Estate, Althorp, Northamptonshire NN7 4HQ; 01604 770 107 Manchester Literature Festival 5-21 October Various venues across Manchester Annual showcase of international contemporary writing that features a spectacular line-up of writers and thinkers Manchester Literature Festival, The Department Store, 5 Oak Street, Manchester M4 5JD; 0161 832 5502 Dorchester Literary Festival 17-22 October County Museum and other Dorchester venues Talks, workshops, conversations and discussions with acclaimed writers talking about their work Janet Gleeson, Festival co-director, Dorchester Literary Festival, Winfrith House, High Street, Winfrith Newburgh, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8JW


23/01/2018 13:41


Durham Book Festival 6-14 October Venues in and around Durham A lively programme of literary activity programmed by New Writing North Off the Shelf Festival of Words 6-27 October 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 Guildford Book Festival 7-14 October Various venues in Guildford A week-long book festival featuring bestselling authors, writers’ workshops and renowned speakers across all main genres 01483 444334 Mere Literary Festival 8-14 October Various venues in Mere, Wiltshire A week of literary events and Write-in-theWeek competition in aid of local charity. Now in its 22nd year. Adrienne Howell, MLF, Lawrences, Old Hollow, Mere, Wilts BA12 6EG 01747 860475 Sherborne Literary Festival 10-14 October Sherborne, Dorset Annual literature festival that always features an excellent line-up of authors. Sherborne Literary Society, c/o Stocoomb. Nethercombe Lane, Sherborne DT9 4BU Thame Arts and Literature Festival 18-21 October Venues around Thame Family-friendly general arts festival with some literary events TAL Festival, 12 Aston Street, Oxford OX4 1EP 0871 288 3420

Isle of Wight Literary Festival 11-14 October Northwood House and around Cowes Annual literature festival attracting big name, including, in 2017, Val McDermid, Jenni Murray and Andrew Marr Raworth’s Harrogate Literature Festival 18-21 October, Crown Hotel, Harrogate A convivial weekend of talks and debates for book lovers, with high-profile attendees, last year including Joan Bakewell, Victoria Hislop and Ann Widdecombe. Harrogate International Festivals, 32 Cheltenham Parade, Harrogate HG1 1DB Wells Festival of Literature 19-27 October, Wells, Somerset Last year’s festival’s featured appearances by Hollie McNish, Alan Johnson and AC Grayling The Wells Festival of Literature, Old Ditch Farm, Lynch Lane, Westbury-sub-Mendip, BA5 1HW; 01749 671770 Berwick Literary Festival 19-21 October Venues in Berwick Festival which includes children’s events Canterbury Festival 20 Oct-3 Nov Various venues across Canterbury General arts festival with literature, poetry and performance strands Festival Office, Festival House, 8 Orange Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2JA 01227 452853 Yeovil Literary Festival 25-28 October The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, and other venues in the town The annual Yeovil festival promises outstanding speakers from the world of literature, and starts with a literary dinner Adam Burgan, Yeovil Community Arts Association, The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil BA20 1UX 01935 422884 WRITING MAGAZINE - FESTIVAL GUIDE 2018

p036_FESTIVALS.indd 45


Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival 2-4 November Aldeburgh and Snape Maltings, Suffolk Workshops, readings and appearances by poets Bridport Literary Festival 4-11 November Bridport Arts Centre, Dorset, and other venues Long-running Dorset festival Bridport Arts Centre, South Street, Bridport DT6 3NR; 01308 427183 Southwold Festival 8-12 November St Edmund’s Hall and Church, Southwold 5-day literature festival run by Ways With Words Philip John, Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Droridge Lane, Dartington, Devon TQ9 6JG; 01803 867373 Taunton Literary Festival 9-14 Nov TBC, various Taunton venues Literary festival celebrating new and established writers, organised by Brendon Books Brendon Books, Bath Place, Taunton, Somerset TA1 4ER Folkestone Book Festival 16-25 November, venues around Folkestone Local writers mingle with big names. Creative Foundation, The Block, 65-69 Tontine Street, Folkestone CT20 1JR 01303 245799 Richmond upon Thames Lit Festival TBC November, venues across the borough Rochmond Literature Festival, Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ 0208 831 6494; Literary Leicester November TBC University of Leicester’s College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Programme of events celebrating the written and spoken word by world-class writers • See WM each month for updates 45

23/01/2018 13:41

Swanwick at

seventy Chairman Phil Collins looks back at the history of the much-loved writers’ summer school

Founder Cecil Hunt


949 and post-war Britain is slowly getting back on its feet. In the world of literature Enid Blyton’s character Noddy makes his first appearance and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is published. Meanwhile in the Derbyshire village of Swanwick, the first Writer Circles’ Summer School takes place during August. Fast forward to 2018 and August will see Swanwick Writers’ Summer School or, ‘Swanwick’, as it’s affectionately known, celebrate its platinum anniversary. In a much-changed world how has this school continued to take place for seventy consecutive years? What’s the secret that has kept it going? A look through its history helps provide an answer. The idea of a Summer School was put forward in 1948 by Cecil Hunt, Chairman of the London Writer Circle. Having spoken at many small meetings throughout the country he wanted to bring together members of different writers’ circles, where the more successful could pass on their knowledge. The purpose of the

school was defined as: ‘To provide a meeting place for writers where, amidst congenial surroundings, they may give and receive help and encouragement in the art of writing.’ At the initial conference in 1948 the idea was greeted with enthusiasm and a committee was formed with the task of organising the first event the following year. With a budget of just £35, comprised of donations and loans, they set about looking for a venue. The Hayes Conference Centre at Swanwick wasn’t the first choice. Built in the 1860s as a house it became a Christian Conference Centre in 1911 but had been requisitioned for use as a prisonerof-war camp during WWII. Cecil Hunt’s visit found it still surrounded by barbed wire with views of slag heaps from open cast mines. But new management were getting it back in shape and with its selection of sitting rooms, together with a conference hall able to seat 300, it was considered suitable. Accommodation was described as adequate, though as it was said that had Cecil Hunt been accompanied

by a woman during his visit, ‘adequate’ might not have been the description. Another key requirement was that the Hayes could meet the target fee of under 6 ½ guineas (£6.83) for a fully inclusive week. No one was sure how many writers would attend. The optimistic thought as many as 300 and the pessimists less than seventy. It was quite a risk as the Hayes required a guarantee of 200 with any shortfall being paid for. Finally there was the problem of getting there. Today’s instructions state the Hayes is only 5 miles from the M1, but in 1949 there was no M1 – in fact the motorway was a full decade away. To make it easier to get there coaches were hired taking a total of 88 people directly from Victoria Coach station to the Hayes for a return fare of £2.1s.0d. (£2.05) – with lunch included. Petrol was also a scarce commodity so the drivers and coaches stayed at the Hayes until the return trip. With everything in place, on 22 August 1949 the first school began, with 258 people having paid the £6 fee to attend. The first programme was a six-page document with the first two pages giving general information. There were notes on Ration Books,

The Swanwick alumni, c1951


MARCH 2018

p046 Swanwick.indd 46

23/01/2018 12:50

The school’s founding and early years are covered in more detail in Venture of Faith by Nancy Martin. Covering the period 1949-1982, it runs through how Cecil Hunt’s idea was put into action and gives insight into how and why the school succeeded. which needed to be handed in on arrival. Linen – guests needed to bring their own towels and table napkins. Accomplished musicians or soloists were invited to bring their music. Although most people came via coach or train, those fortunate enough to afford a car could take advantage of one of the 20 garage places available for one shilling (5p) per night. The first talk, entitled Some Aspects of Short Story Writing, was given by AE Coppard, described in the programme as a short story writer and poet, with over thirty published works. Other talks included: The Writing of Novels, Writing for Children, Radio Drama and One Man’s Luck – The Adventures of a Freelance. As well as the talks, on two afternoons there was the option of a coach excursion or a ramble, and one afternoon for sports and games held in the grounds. As the week went on it became clear the whole thing was an unqualified success. ‘That the Summer School gained hourly in stature and significance none there present could deny. That it will attain a widening significance and prestige in years to come, few are likely to doubt,’ wrote Victor Allan, in a prize winning article about the school, published in The Writer magazine. The following year was another success but in 1951 things went wrong. There had been requests from parents to hold the school in July prior to the school holidays. The date was switched to 2 July but it proved a misjudgement with only 140 delegates arriving, as against 251 the previous year. The failure to meet the guarantee of 200 could well have been the end of the school but The Hayes management generously agreed to waive the guarantee provided a booking was made for the following year. Once the desperate financial situation was revealed an appeal for donations was launched to rescue the school. The determination among writers to keep it going was strong.

Dianne Doubtfire, who attended the 1951 school, captured the mood among many when she said: ‘I was 32 and had published nothing but a few unpaid poems. When we were asked for contributions I had no money of my own but gave £3 out of the housekeeping.’ In later years she went on to chair the school as well as publish twelve novels. The school moved back to August and there it’s stayed. As it moved into the 1950s the programme developed further. Group discussions became a feature of the school, increasing in number as the years progressed. The word ‘workshop’ first appeared in 1960 and says simply: ‘Two workshop sessions have been arranged’. In the same year there was a talk called Let’s Be Sordid though no details are given. By co-incidence perhaps, 1960 was the year Penguin Books won their legal case to publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Throughout the 1960s, 70s and into the 80s much the same format was retained. Courses were becoming more prevalent and in 1990 there was a step change as the programme expanded from its six pages to eleven, giving more details on courses and discussion groups. Speakers, too, have always been a feature of the school and have included Arthur C Clarke, Catherine Cookson, PD James and Ruth Rendell, who all featured in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Others, such as Terry Pratchett, Iain Banks, David Nobbs, Peter James and Deborah Moggach, are some of the many who appeared throughout the second half of the school’s life. The school’s programmes also

The One That Got Away During WWII the Hayes was the scene of a famous German escape. Luftwaffe pilot Franz von Werra tunnelled out with four other prisoners from a disused room in the Garden House. Although known about, the fifty-yard tunnel wasn’t discovered until 1980, when building work was being carried out. Von Werra’s story is told in the book The One that Got Away, by Kendal Burt and James Leasor, while Hardy Kruger starred in the 1957 film of the same name. Today the Garden House is no more but the tunnel entrance is marked by a plaque.

p046 Swanwick.indd 47

document the rapid rate of progress particularly in more recent years. In 1997 Roy Devereux’s course Modern Technology for Writers asked: ‘What would I gain by trading in my portable typewriter for an Amstrad?’ And by 2000, author Nick Daws, speaking about his book The Internet for Writers, said: ‘I hope that by the time they reach the end of my book, writers will have discovered at least half a dozen ways in which the Internet could help them in their work.’ But leaving aside technology, what else has changed? What differences would a delegate from 1949 notice in 2018? The first thing they’d find is how much more interactive it’s all become. The first school had just thirteen talks with no other options. In 2018, there will be around thirty courses and talks, while poetry and prose open mics give people the opportunity to read their work in a supportive environment. Page to Stage is another opportunity to get actively involved. This five-minute theatre invites scripts to be written, rehearsed, acted and directed by delegates. Other developments have focused on encouraging younger writers to attend. In 2005 a scheme called TopWrite was set up aiming to attract writers in the 18 to 30 age groups. For just £100 it’s an opportunity to attend the school, where many have found that in addition to all the activities, there’s great value in spending a week surrounded by other writers. Once again places are available in 2018 and the only qualification required is a passion for writing. There is, however, one thing that hasn’t changed. At the first school a remark was made by Marjorie Harris who said: ‘The outstanding feature was friendship. I had the feeling then of “belonging”, as if to a special sect, a Swanwick society’. It’s something many of those who’ve attended will recognise. For friendship is its secret. It’s not just about the courses or the speakers or all the extras. It’s about people meeting up with old friends, making new ones and enjoying each other’s company. Its original definition of a meeting place for writers to give and receive help is as true today as it was in 1949. That, more than anything else, is the reason it has endured into its seventieth year. Website: MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:51



Plan your literary year with our definitive listing of courses, workshops and retreats for 2018. Whether you prefer big name workshops, talks or a personal retreat, find the right event for you here.

LONDON & SOUTH EAST 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: 3 February, 3 March, 6 April and every first Saturday in 2018: monthly afternoon workshops with flexible attendance. You can sign up for 5 or 10 sessions. The Saturday workshops are ideal for people who want to experiment with different forms and ideas. Cover the basics from character, dialogue and viewpoint to plot, theme and story structure with extension activities for the more experienced writer. Learn new techniques, share your work, get professional feedback and receive inspirational tuition in between writing at home. There is also a Novelists’ Survival Group by application and one off specials with visiting tutors on poetry, crime and comedy. There’s an annual writing retreat in Italy and opportunities for one to one development tutorials and manuscript editing services. Chris Leonard Writing Creative writing workshops and writing days, various times and days, Surrey Events: 10-14 Sept: Creative writing break at Ashburnham Place, near Battle, Sussex; Writing from Life two-hour workshops held on Wednesday mornings (Walton on the Hill, Surrey) and Thursday evenings (Bookham, Surrey) during spring and autumn terms Complete Creative Writing Course A range of courses for a range of levels of 48

p048_COURSES.indd 48

writing, various times and days, all held at The Groucho Club, Soho, or nearby Maggie Hamand, Complete Creative Writing Courses, 82 Forest Road, London E8 3BH Events: Six 3-hour sessions on creative writing – choose from beginners, intermediate or advanced levels: Courses include: Original Course (£34 ) and Advanced Course (£425 8 weeks, £355 six weeks) • Further series of courses begin in Apr and Oct. There are also weekend workshops and an intensive summer workshop 23-27 Jul (£425). Creative Writing Summer School, Oxford University Three-week residential intensive course Exeter College, Oxford University Events: Residential summer school from 22 Jul to 11 August at Exeter College for experienced creative writers (intermediate and advanced levels), with seminar-based study and a daily programme of talks and readings by established authors. Seminar options include Creative Non-Fiction, Fiction, Fiction: Turning Ideas Into Narrative, Fiction: Fine-Tuning Your Writing, Poetry, Scriptwriting and Young Adult Fiction. £3,035/£3,320 residential, £1,355 non-residential. 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: 2018 courses include: 3 Mar, 7 Apr, 28 Apr, 9 June, 30 June: Start to Write

(Richard Skinner, Joanna Briscoe); 10 Apr26 June: How To Write A Poem (Maurice Riordan, Richard Scott); 12 Apr-28 June: Write Better: Intermediate Fiction (Rowan Coleman); 12 Apr-28 Jun: Poetry Salon (Maurice Reardon, Richard Scott); 2529 June: Five Days to Write A Life (Julia Blackburn); 13-17 Aug: Nail Your Plot in Five Days (Shelley Harris); 6-10 Aug: Wo Do You Think They Are? Getting Into Character (Arabel Charlaf ). There is also a wide range of online courses. Guardian Masterclasses Ongoing series of courses led by highprofile tutors from the Guardian’s contact book, held at the newspaper’s offices. Guardian News and Media, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU 0800 088 2586 Jane Austen’s House Museum Year-round workshops Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton, Hampshire GU34 1SD 01420 83262, Isabel Snowden Events: Confirmed events: 17 March, 12 May: Writing Workshops with Rebecca Smith The Writers’ Workshop Getting Published Day 3 March, Regent’s College, London The Writers’ Workshop 0345 459 9560 Events: Covering everything aspiring writers need to know about finding and approaching agents and writing a compelling synopsis and covering letter. £195 including lunch.


23/01/2018 14:30


Just Write It Workshops, Suzan Collins Relaxed, informal writing workshops Gunton Hall Coastal Village, Lowestoft, Suffolk 01502 730288 SCBWI Masterclass series and retreats Specialist tuiton 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 Masterclasses in 2018: 18 Mar: Picture Book Focus: Marvellous Motivation – Is Your Character’s Motivation Crystal Clear?; 6 May: Undiscovered Voices Prep: Creating Fiction for Young Readers with Hoot, Heart & Longevity; 16 Sep: Plot and Structure: Translation Software for Your Story; 21 Oct: Fiction Focus: Creating Characters to Care About John Retallack Playwriting Course 10 Sept 2018-3 June 2019 Professional playwriting course with writer and director John Retallack Events: Course includes 30 weekly sessions and three performance days. By the end of the course participants will have written three plays The Literacy Consultancy Writers’ Day 23 June, The Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA The Literary Consultancy, 020 7324 2563 Events: Following on from the success of the sold-out Writers’ Day 2017, The Literary Consultancy will be re-programming the event, with special industry guests, for writers wanting to know more about how to prepare their work for submission, and how best to navigate the changing literary landscapes of writing, editing and publishing. A limited number of editing feedback one-on-ones will be available on the day. West Dean College Year-round programme of writing courses West Dean College, Nr Chichester, West Sussex PO18 0RX; 01243 818300 2018 courses include: 16-18 Feb: Introduction to scriptwriting; 4-7 May: Poetry – form and expression; 11-13 May: How to write fact into fiction; 11-17 Aug: Short story writing

The Literary Consultancy Writers’ Day 10am-4pm, 23 June Free Word Centre, London Full programme tbc The Literary Consultancy’s popular Writers’ Day returns Saturday 23 June. Writers will hear from industry experts in practical sessions offering up the best in thinking for writing across all environments. A must-attend for the aspiring writer. Writers’ Day will also see the return of the popular TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition. Now in its sixth year, selected finalists of the competition will live-pitch to an expert panel of agents and publishers at the event. Previous winners include Guinevere Glasfurd (The Words In My Hand, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award). Entry to the TLC Pen Factor competition is open exclusively to Writers’ Day ticket-holders. Previous Writers’ Day guests include: Juliet Mushens (Caskie Mushens), Max Porter (Granta Books), Valerie Brandes (Jacaranda), Piers Blofeld (Sheil Land), Gautam Malkani (Londonstani, Fourth Estate), Scott Pack (Unbound), Julia Kingsford (The Good Agency) and Jacob Ross (winner of the inaugural Jhalak Prize).

Website: TLC Enhanced.indd 1

Travellers Tales Travel writing and travel photography training with leading travel writers and photographers Events: The Bradt Travel Writing Workshop, Nov (TBC) Writers’ Centre Norwich Courses and workshops for writers Writers’ Centre Norwich, 14 Princes Street, Norwich NR3 1AE; 01603 877177 Events: Programme to be announced ready for the opening of the National Centre for Writing in summer 2018. Please see the website and newsletter for the latest updates. Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books Workshops run by specialist literary consultancy service for children’s writers WRITING MAGAZINE - FESTIVAL GUIDE 2018

p048_COURSES.indd 49

18/01/2018 15:56

Louise Jordan, The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books, Shakespeare House, 168 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TG 0207 801 6300; Events: 16 March: An informal workshop at Shakespeare House, 168 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TG on writing illustrated books for 3-12-year-olds Writers & Artists Year-round programme of workshops Ellie Gibbons, Writers & Artists, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP; 0207 631 5993 Events and courses include: 24 Feb: How to Write for Children and Young Adults; 7 Mar-9 May: Your Novel; 21 Mar-18 Apr: Your Children’s Book; 14 Apr: How to Hook an Agent; 28 Apr, 23 Jun: How to get Published (Arts University Bournemouth); 27 Oct: How to Hook an Agent (Children’s Fiction) 49

23/01/2018 14:30


Get £600 worth of creative writing courses for £30 with a Writers’ HQ membership! If only someone would invent a Netflix-style service for writers… WAIT, WE’VE DONE JUST THAT! Access ALL our brilliant online creative writing courses for just £30 a month. Our productivity-boosting 5-star courses cover plotting a novel, editing, writing short fiction, generating ideas, characterisation, and getting published. PLUS: New courses added every month, access to the friendly, supportive WHQ online community (for feedback, literary chat, general cheerleading and comedy gifs), Facebook Live events, and gold stars. Yes, gold stars! Become a Fully Fledged WHQer and get instant access to all our courses, writing tips, techniques, expert advice, and pep. So much pep. Writers’ HQ is all about helping writers to tell a story and tell it well. Come join us!

Website: Twitter: @writers_hq Writers HQ.indd 1 with Alison Knight Writing retreat 8-12 October Writing retreat at a Victorian manor house near Dulverton, Exmoor

Writers HQ Day writing retreats One-day writing bootcamps with the emphasis on getting work done: 4 Feb, 4 Mar, Birmingham; 17 Feb, 17 Mar, Cambridge; 18 Feb, 18 Mar, Cheltenham; 24 Feb, 24 Mar: Brighton; 25 Feb, 25 Mar, Portsmouth; 3 March, Worthing. 50

p048_COURSES.indd 50

19/01/2018 14:21


Arvon Foundation, Totleigh Barton Year-round courses and workshops Totleigh Barton, Sheepwash, Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5NS 01409 231338 Events: Courses include: 19-24 Mar, Editing Poetry; 16-21 Apr, Fiction; 23-28 Apr, YA Fiction: Work-in-Progress; 30-5 May, Nature Writing; 7-12 May, Poetry; 14-19 May, Spring Retreat; 21-26 May, Crime Fiction;

28 May-2 Jun, Starting to Write a Play; 9-14 Jul, Narrative Non-Fiction; 16-21 Jul, Retreat with Singing; 6-11 Aug, Picture Books; 13-18 Aug, Editing Fiction; 20-25 Aug, Poetry; 27 Aug-1 Sept, Romantic Fiction; 3-8 Sept, Book Art; 10-15 Sept, Starting to Write; 24-29 Sept, Songwriting; 1-6 Oct, Fiction: Tutored Retreat; 8-13 Oct, Screenwriting; 15-20 Oct, Poetry: Tutored Retreat; 29 Oct-3 Nov, Fiction: Work-in-Progress; 5-10 Nov, Starting to Write: Children’s and Young Adults’ Fiction; 12-17 Nov, Starting to Write; 19-24 Nov, Flash Fiction; 26 Nov-1 Dec, Playwriting; 3-8 Dec, Fiction; 10-15 Dec, Poetry. Dartington International Summer School and Festival Music festival with some creative writing courses Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL 01803 847080 Courses in 2018 include: 4-11 Aug: Historical Fiction; Poetry and the Landscape; Creative Reading Dillington House Literature and writing workshops and courses Dillington House, Ilminster, Somerset TA19 9DT; 01460 258648 Creative writing workshops include: 16-18 Mar: Creative writing workshop: Live Life to the Full! Jenny Alexander workshops Creative workshops in beautiful surroundings. Jenny Alexander, 01579 363124 Events: Workshops and courses throughout the year on the art and craft of writing. Also workshops for writers on how to use dreams and image work to spark the creative process. Relax and Write Weekend Courses Weekend courses, The Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester 9 (D) Langthorn Close, Frampton Cotterell, Bristol BS36 2JH 01454 773579; Events: 23-25 Mar: Ticket to Write with Simon Whaley; 6-8 Apr: Write Romance; Writing that Crime Story; The Business of Writing.


23/01/2018 14:31

Bo no ok in w op g en !

11-17 August 2018 If you love writing, Swanwick is for you!

Learn new skills, explore your creativity, make new friends, perform your poetry, sing, act, dance, laugh, or even write! A Swanwick week is truly uniq ue. In 2018 join us for:         

Specialist courses led by experienced tutors Extensive range of short courses and Workshops Inspirational Guest Speakers Freedom to choose your own programme Page to Stage opportunity for scriptwriters Opportunity to sell your books through our Book Room Optional one-to-one sessions with tutors Top Write Places for only £100 Grants available for assisted places

Great value for money with fully inclusive prices from £475 Plus: Beautiful surroundings, comfortable rooms, evening entertainment and much much more. Full details at:

Win your way to Swanwick Three Free Places Are on offer to the winners of this year’s competitions. Enter a poem, short story or children's fiction on the theme of ‘Bonding.’ Prizes: A fully inclusive week at the 2018 Summer School for the winner in each category. Plus runner up prizes. See website for details

What our delegates said about 2017

The mutual support here is fantastic!......Friendliness was an outstanding feature.....Another brilliant year! I've had such a positive experience......A wonderful, wonderful week, everything I had hoped for. The programme structure and content was excellent..... Once again a fabulous, memorable week. Great camaraderie and a full programme.....Loved it all!.......I have rediscovered myself - thank you. Amazing week!.... Loved the welcome and the sense of belonging ....... Outstanding quality of presenters. Plenty of options to choose from - a great range of topics...... This year I go home believing in myself

email or call 01290 552248 Registered Charity No. 1168531

p051_march18.indd 51

MARCH 2018


19/01/2018 14:31


Fire in the Head workshops and courses Reflective, holistic creative writing expression with Rochelle Angwin Roselle Angwin, Fire in the Head, Higher Beenleigh Barn, Diptford, Totnes TQ9 7ND. 01548 821004 Events: 7-14 Apr and 17-24 Apr: Islands of the Heart retreat (Iona); 4-10 Jun: The Land’s Wild Magic: Poetry, place and story walking and writing retreat (Cape Cornwall); 1-8 Sept: Writing the Bright Moment (Gardoussel, France); The Wellkeepers (dates TBC) 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 in 2018 include: 23-25 Feb: Experiments in Fiction; 9-11 Mar: Finding Your Writer’s Voice; 23-25 Mar: The Stories of Your Life The Place to Write Ongoing programme of writing retreats led by authors The Place to Write, Brynhyfryd, Phocle Preen, Ross-on-Wye HR9 7TW 07989 572356 Events: 1-16 March Relax and Write fully catered retreat, bespoke retreats on request The University of Winchester Writers’ Festival 15-17 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 opportunities. Judith Heneghan, Winchester Writers’ Festival, University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire S022 4NR 01962 827238 The Writing Retreat Writing retreats and workshops run by Jane Moss and Kath Morgan Rosemerryn, Lamorna, West Cornwall and Bosloe, South Cornwall 07775 696642/07858 217472 52

p048_COURSES.indd 52 Workshops in 2018 include: 5-11 Mar: Crafting the Short Story with Tom Vowler Write Your Mind Experiential writing workshops with Jo Bisseker Barr in a tranquil setting in the New Forest 07963 592698 Events: 1 Feb; 4 May: Counsellor and writing for wellbeing practitioner Jo leads guided writing activities designed to explore yourself and your situations, to develop insight, resilience, and a sense of positive change. You need never read aloud anything you have written – just bring an openness and curiosity to see what unfolds.

MIDLANDS Arvon Foundation, The Hurst Year-round courses and workshops The Hurst, Clunton, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY7 0JA 01588 640658 Events: Courses include: 19-24 Mar, Playwriting: Work-in-Progress; 26 Mar31 Apr, Fiction; 16-21 Apr, Non-Fiction: Tutored Retreat; 23-28 Apr, Editing a Novel; 30 Apr-5 May, Children’s Fiction; 7-12 May, Playwriting; 14-19 May, Short Story; 21-26 May, Poetry: Tutored Retreat; 28 May-2 June, Popular Non-Fiction; 4-9 Jun, Starting to Write; 11-16 Jun, Musical Theatre; 18-23 Jun, Fiction: Work-in-Progress; 9-14 Jul, Poetry; 16-21 Jul, Starting to Write Fiction; 30 Jul-4 Aug, Comics and Graphic; 6-11 Aug, Poetry; 13-18 Aug, Political Non-Fiction; 20-25 Aug, Science Fiction & Fantasy; 27 Aug-1 Sept, Spoken Word; 3-8 Sept, Retreat with Yoga; 10-15 Sept, Fiction; 17-22 Sept, Writing for TV: Comedy Drama; 1-6 Oct, Playwriting: Tutored Retreat; 8-13 Oct, Poetry; 15-20 Oct, Starting to Write; 29 Oct-3 Nov, Life Writing; 5-10 Nov, Screenwriting: Tutored Retreat; 12-17 Nov, Historical Fiction; 19-24 Nov, Editing Fiction; 26 Nov-1 Dec, Editing Poetry; 3-8 Dec, Starting to Write; 10-15 Dec, Young Adult Fiction. NAWGFest 31 Aug-2 Sept. NAWG’s annual writing festival at University of Warwick

Writing festival organised by the National Association of Writers’ Groups, offering serious learning workshops led by professional author/tutors. Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 11-17 August Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Alfreton, Derbyshire DE55 1AU 01290 552248 Events: 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 Clockhouse Four-day and six-day writing retreats at Arvon’s dedicated Writers’ Retreat The Clockhouse, The Hurst, The John Osborne Arvon Centre, Clunton, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY7 0JA 01588 640658 The Self-Publishing Conference 28 April, University of Leicester Troubador Publishing Ltd, 9 Priory Business Park, Kibworth, Leicester LE8 0RX 0116 279 2299 Events: One-day event, now in its sixth year, aimed at potential and existing self-publishers with high-profile participants. The Writing School East Midlands Year round programme of creative writing courses at centres in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby Clare Speller (Administrator), Writing East Midlands, 49 Stoney Street, The Lace Market, Nottingham NG1 1LX; 01159 597929 Events: 3 Mar: The Writers’ Conference, University of Nottingham with keynote speaker Pat Barker; Courses in 2018 include: Leicester: 10 Feb: Getting Started with Your Novel with Mike Gayle; 24 Mar: Liberated by Constraint: Poetry Masterclass with George Szirtes; 17 Feb-24 Mar: Building your Poetry Collection with Siobhan Logan; Nottingham: 3 Feb-10 Mar: Short Stories: Writing On with Megan Taylor; 17 & 24 March: Editing with Victoria Villasenor.


23/01/2018 14:31



Arvon Foundation, Lumb Bank Year-round courses and workshops Lumb Bank, Heptonstall, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 6DF 01422 843714 Courses include: 16-21 Apr, Poetry; 23-28 Apr, Starting to Write; 30 Apr-5 May, Fiction: Work-in-Progress; 7-12 May, Memoir; 14-19 May, STW with the Brontës; 21-26 May, Audio Drama; 28 May-2 Jun, Editing Fiction: Tutored Retreat; 4-7 Jun, SHORT COURSE: Poetry; 11-16 Jun, Poetry; 25 Jun-30 Jul, Retreat with Walking; 16-21 Jul, Songwriting; 30 Jul-4 Aug, Novels Fiction: Tutored Retreat; 6-11 Aug, Starting to Write; 13-18 Aug, Children’s and Young Adults’ Fiction: Tutored Retreat; 20-23 Aug, SHORT COURSE: Starting to Write; 24-26 Aug, SHORT COURSE: Fiction; 27 Aug-1 Sept, Poetry: Towards a Collection; 3-8 Sept, Experimental Fiction; 10-15 Sept, Starting to Write Non-Fiction; 17-22 Sept, Writing with Ted Hughes; 24-29 Sept, Editing Fiction; 8-13 Oct, Autumn Retreat; 19-21 Oct, SHORT COURSE: Poetry; 29 Oct-3 Nov, Short Story: Tutored Retreat; 5-10 Nov, Audio Drama; 12-17 Nov, Poetry; 19-24 Nov, Non-Fiction: Work-in-Progress; 26 Nov-1 Dec, Fiction; 3-8 Dec, TV Drama; 10-15 Dec, Fiction: Literary Thriller. Lakeland Writing Retreat 20-22 July, Rydal Hall, Ambleside Angela Locke, Creative Writing Retreats UK, Bowscale Cottage, Mosedale, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0XQ 017687 79901 Events: Three-day ‘Landscape and Inspiration’ writing retreat led by author and creative writing tutor Angela Locke Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts Year-round short courses, workshops and summer school Melanie Birch, Newcastle University NE1 7RU 0191 222 7619 Events include: 24 Feb: Writing for Radio; 9-13 April: Spring School: The Short Story; 21 April: Prose poetry with Lisa Matthews; 19 May: Life Stories.

p048_COURSES.indd 53

Northern College Short courses for people with few or no formal qualifications Northern College, Wentworth Castle, Stainborough, South Yorkshire S75 3ET 01226 776000 Events: 21-23 Feb, 16-18 May, 11-13 Jul: Mindfulness for Creative Writing; 16-18 Mar, 29 Jun-1 Jul: Creative Writing Around Northern, 23-25 My: Writing for Purpose The Wordsworth Trust, Cumbria Workshops, talks and events all year The Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere 015394 35544 Events: Ongoing programme of talks and events related to the Romantic poets

Islands of the Heart 7-14 and 17-24 April, Argyll Hotel, Isle of Iona, annual holistic writing retreats Roselle Angwin, Fire in the Head, Higher Beenleigh Barn, Diptford, Totnes TQ9 7ND. 01548 821004 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 in 2018 include: Novel Writing, 14 Feb-21 Mar, 15 Feb-22 Mar; Start Writing Your Novel 11 Feb; Revising Your Novel date TBC

Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference 23-25 March. A writers’ conference with competitions, workshops, talks of the highest calibre. This year’s keynote speaker is Simon Brett 07827 412522

Moniack Mhor Independently run writing courses and workshops in Inverness-shire Moniack Mhor, Teavarran, Kiltarlity, Beauly, Inverness-shire IV4 7HT 01463 741675 Courses in 2018 include: 22-25 Feb, Short Course: Fiction, Jem Poster & Sarah Burton; 26 Feb-3 March, February Retreat; 9-14 April, Fiction, Jenni Fagan & Niall Griffiths; 16-21 April, Poetry, Jo Bell & Malika Booker; 30 Apr-5 May, Nature Writing, Kathleen Jamie & Mark Cocker; 6 May, Flash Fiction, Kit de Waal; 7-12 May, May Retreat; 4-9 June, Memoir, Jennie Erdal & Robert Twigger; 18-23 June, Crime, Val McDermid & Louise Welsh; 8 July, Day Workshop: Performing Your Work, Alan Bissett; 9-14 July, Poetry, Liz Lochhead & Kevin MacNeil; 16-21 July, Fiction: Janice Galloway & Richard Skinner; 23-28 July, Young Adult SF/Fantasy, Joan Lennon & Paul Magrs; 30 Jul-4 Aug, Non-Fiction Tutored Retreat, Donald S Murray & Kapka Kassabova; 6-11 Aug, Fiction Tutored Retreat, Leila Aboulela & Rodge Glass; 13-18 Aug, August Retreat; 19 Aug, Day Workshop: Poetry: Creative Memory, Jacob Polley; 27 Aug-1 Sep, Historical Fiction, SG MacLean & Andrew Taylor; 3-8 Sep, Poetry Tutored Retreat, Jen Hadfield & William Letford; 13-16 Sept, Comic Writing, Mavis Cheek & Helen Lederer; 24-29 Sep, Fiction, Nikesh Shukla & Rebecca Hunt; 1-6 Oct, Writing for Radio, Jessica Dromgoole & Katie Hims; 8-13 Oct, October Retreat; 29 Oct-3 Nov, Fiction (horror), Nicholas Royle & Tom Fletcher;




Crime and Publishment Creative writing courses in Gretna Green designed for budding crime fiction writers Graham Smith, The Mill Forge, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Lockerbie DG11 3BQ 01461 800344 Events: 9-11 March: A weekend of crime writing classes which includes being taught how to pitch a novel by a publisher. Attendees are also give the chance to pitch their novel to the publisher in a private session. Iona Writing Retreats 2-7 May and 1-6 Sept, Argyll Hotel, Iona Famous international writer’s retreat, led by author Angela Locke MA Angela Locke, Creative Writing Retreats UK, Bowscale Cottage, Modesdale, Penrith CA11 0XQ; 017687 79901 or www.

23/01/2018 14:31


5-10 Nov, Picture Books, Mairi Hedderwick & Debi Gliori; 18 Nov, Day Workshop: Poetry: Engaging the Senses, Nalini Paul; 19-24 Nov, From Page to Publication, Jenny Brown & Lisa Highton; 29 Nov-2 Dec, Short Course: Journalism, Chitra Ramaswamy & Peter Geoghegan; 3-8 Dec, Songwriting, Boo Hewerdine & Duke Special; 10-15 Dec, December Retreat.

WALES Dylan Thomas Centre Events, workshops and engagement events throughout the year. Dylan Thomas Centre, Somerset Place, Swansea SA1 1RR 01792 463980 Events include: 10 Feb: Poetry workshop with Helen May Williams: Telling Myths in Different Voices; 21 Feb: Secrets of the Sea: A Creative Writing Workshop with Eloise Williams. Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire Year-round programme of courses and events at the prime-ministerial library Gladstone’s Library, Church Lane, Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales CH5 3DF 01244 532350 Events include: 3-4 Feb: Hearth microfestival; 6 Feb: Writing Illness and Wellbeing; 17-18 Feb: Make Your Writing Dazzle – What’s in the Poet’s Paintbox?; 24 Feb: Writing the Body; 10 April: The Historical Novel – A Very Slippery Genre; 8 May: Making the Personal Political; 26 May: Writing Creative Non-Fiction Masterclass; 7-9 Sept: Gladfest; 3-4 Nov: Hearth microfestival; 6 Nov: Advantages and Pitfalls – Writing Close Family; 24 Nov: Complex Emotion, Detached Appraisal: Writing Memoir – A Masterclass Writers’ Holiday events Creative writing holidays, Fishguard Bay Hotel Gerry Hobbs, Writers’ Holiday, School Bungalow, Church Road, Pontnewydd, Cwmbran, Torfaen NP44 1AT 01633 489438 Events include: 23-25 Feb: Winter Workshop Weekend (£299) 54

p048_COURSES.indd 54

Literature Wales The Welsh organisation for the development and promotion of literature hosts a programme of literary events all year round, throughout Wales, and especially at the Welsh writers’ centre Ty Newydd (see below). Literature Wales, 4th floor, Cambrian Buildings, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff CF10 5FL; 02920 472266 Events: Year-long listings of literary events and activities, including in 2018: 16-18 Mar: Place… a Sense of Space creative writing course and retreat in rural Snowdonia Ty Newydd Residential writing courses in a beautiful Welsh setting Ty Newydd, Llanystumdwy, Cricieth, Gwynedd LL52 0LW 01766 522811 2018 events include: 16-18 Mar, Creative Writing for Welsh Learners, Bethan Gwanas and Eilir Jones, £220 (£295 for single room); 23-25 Mar, Writing about Climate Change, Emily Hinshelwood and David Thorpe, £220 (£295); 9-14 Apr, Songs and Lyric Writing, Stewart Henderson and Willy Russell, £495 (£625); 16-21 Apr, Spring Poetry Masterclass, Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy, guest Paul Henry, £495 (£625); 11-13 May, Storytelling from the Start, Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden, £220 (£295); 14-18 May, May Retreat, £300-£450; 18-20 May, Translating Literature: Poetry and Prose, Menna Elfyn and Owen Martell, £220 (£295); 28 May-2 June, Poetry at the Start, Maura Dooley and Jo Shapcott, guest David Foster-Morgan, £495 (£625); 4-9 June, Emerging Writers: Writing, Editing and Publishing Prose, Tristan Hughes, Tiffany Murray, £325 (£425); 11-16 June, Masterclass: Writing for Performance, Tutor: Kaite O’Reilly, £495 (£625); 18-23 June, Writing Radio Drama, Paul Dodgson and Kate McAll, £495 (£625); 13-15 July, Journeys with Haiku into Verse and Prose, Philip Gross and Lynne Rees, £220 (£295); 16-20 July, Summer Retreat with Yoga, £300£450; 20-22 July, (Re)telling Traditional Narratives: Myth, Legend, Fairytale, Dimitra Fimi and Catherine Fisher, £220 (£295); 23-28 July, Writing Short Stories, Tyler Keevil and Rachel Trezise, guest AL Kennedy, £495 (£625); 6-11 Aug, Summer Retreat, Writer in Residence: Julia Forster,

£350-£495; 13-18 Aug, Crime Fiction: A Twist in the Tale, Belinda Bauer and Jasper Fforde, £495 (£625); 20-25 Aug, Poetry: Writing about Life, Sophie McKeand and Lemn Sissay, guest Zoë Skoulding, £495 (£625); 27 Aug-1 Sept, Life Writing: Travel and Memoir, John Harrison and Katharine Norbury, guest Dan Boothby, £495 (£625); 3-8 Sept, Playwriting and Theatricality, Hamish Pirie and Tim Price, guest Catherine Paskell, £495 (£625); 10-15 Sept, Invisible Zoos: Poetry and Nature, David Morley and Pascale Petit, guest Jane Draycott, £495 (£625); 24-28 Sept, Writing a Novel, Alys Conran and Louis de Bernières, £395 (£495); 1-6 Oct, Writing for Children, Malachy Doyle and Eloise Williams, guest Huw Aaron, £495 (£625); 12-14 Oct, Poetry and Songwriting, Brian Biggs and Paul Henry, £220 (£295); 15-19 Oct, Writing Popular Fiction, Janet Gover and Alison May, guest Jo Thomas, £395 (£495); 19-21 Oct, Writing Historical Fiction, Phil Carradice and Louise Walsh, £220 (£295); 22-27 Oct, Storytelling Retreat: Spell on the Tongue, Hugh Lupton and Eric Maddern, £495 (£625); 29 Oct-3 Nov, applications close 31 August, Autumn Poetry Masterclass, Gillian Clarke and Robert Minhinnick, £495 (£625); 5-10 Nov, Writing for YA, Melvin Burgess and Lucy Christopher, guest Kiran Millwood Hargrave, £495 (£625).

IRELAND Big Smoke Writing Factory Ongoing creative writing workshops Nicole Rourke, 7 Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 2, Ireland; (00)(353) 87 976 6253 Weekly courses, workshops, specialist courses and online courses. 16 June: Dublin Flash Fiction Showcase: Dublin’s annual response to National Flash Fiction Day – readings, discussions & competitions to celebrate the wonderful art of flash fiction. Free entry, all welcome. Fishamble Playwriting Courses Fishamble: The New Play Company has an extensive training and development programme including courses and workshops Gavin Kostick, The New Play Company, Shamrock Chambers, 1-2 Eustace Street, Dublin 2 (00)(353) 1 6704018


23/01/2018 14:31

WRITING WRITING FESTIVALS COURSES2018 2018 Courses in 2018: 5 April-31 May; 5-7 May; 11 Oct-6 Dec; 27-29 Oct Irish Writers’ Centre Range of weekly courses running FebruaryMarch, May-August and SeptemberNovember. Weekend courses all year round Irish Writers’ Centre 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1 (00 353) (0)1 872 1302 Workshops, weekend courses and 6, 7, 8 and 10-week courses in 2018 include: 5 Feb: Writer’s Surgery: Poetry Workshops (6week course); 6 Feb: Screenwriting (9-week course); 8 Feb: Memoir (8-week course); 8 Feb: Writing for Children and Teenagers (6week course); 10 Feb: Travel Writing; 13 Feb: Children’s Book Masterclass Series (9-week course); 14 Feb: Short Story Masterclass Series (8-week course); 15 Feb: Edit Your Novel (8-week course); 15 Feb: Beginner’s Fiction (10-week course); 17 Feb: Fiction Workshop; 20 Feb: Creative Non-Fiction (8-week course); 20 Feb: Begin Your Novel (10-week course); 20 Feb: Finish Your Novel (10-week course); 21 Feb: Poetry, Prose and Memoir (8week course); 3 Mar: Short Story Workshop; 3 Mar: Writing LGBTQ Characters; 7 Mar: The Art of Spoken Word (6-week course); 24 Mar; Sci-Fi/Dystopian Fiction; 3 April: Daytime Creative Writing (10-week course); 7 April: Autofiction; 7 April: Submitting to Publishers; 21 Apr: Write Like a Grrrl; 21 Apr: From First Draft to First Novel. Also some events in Northern Ireland. The Creative Writer’s Workshop retreats and courses Retreats and courses in west Ireland, and year-round online memoir writing club Irene Graham, Kinvara, Galway, Ireland (00 353) (0)86 2523428 Events in 2018 include: 28-30 Jun: Works in Progress Intensive: Fiction; 23-30 Jun: Works in Progress Intensive: Memoir; 15-2 Jul and 7-14 Sep: Fiction & Autobiographical Fiction Writing Retreat; 2-9 Sep: Memories into Memoir Writing Retreat. The Moth Retreat Untutored retreats all year round in selfcatering accommodation in rural Co Cavan 00 353 87 2657426


A Chapter Away Residential writing courses in SW France with authors and industry professionals Events: July 2018 retreat, dates TBC Anne Aylor Creative Writing, Spain Residential writing courses 46 Beversbrook Road, London N19 4QH 0207 263 0669 Events: 2-9 June: So You Want To Write a Novel Retreat, La Torre de Dalt, Spain. Despite the course title, short story writers, memoirists, creative non-fiction writers, poets and playwrights are welcome to hone their skills or use the week as a writing retreat Casa Ana, Grenada, Spain Ccourses and retreats at Casa Ana, Calle Artesia 7-9, Ferreirola, 18414 La Taha, Granada, Spain (0034) 958 766 270; Events in 2018 include: Workshops: 30 June-7 July: A Space to Write: Poetry; 8015 Sept: Literary Adventures in Spain with The Literary Consultancy; 13-20 Oct: A Space to Write: Constructing Story; Retreats: 28 Feb-14 Mar; 13-27 June; 25 July-8 Aug; 14-28 Nov. Chalk the Sun European retreats Ardella Jones, Chalk the Sun, PO Box 67647, London SW19 4FA; 07852 483001 Events: 6-13 May: Writing Retreat, Massseria Impisi, Ostuni, Italy; Creative Writing Course, Gaucin, Andalusia, dates TBC 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 Events: Writing courses include: 4-11 May: Ways Into Writing Fiction with Michele Roberts; 18-25 May: Poetry with Jackie Wills; 16-23 June: Poetry Clinic Live! With Bill Greenwell; 23-30 June: Writing from Life with Lucy Wadham; 1-8 Sept: Writing the Bright Life with Roselle Angwin WRITING MAGAZINE - FESTIVAL GUIDE 2018

p048_COURSES.indd 55

Creative Writing with Sue Moorcroft Writing courses in Italy Tenuta di Poggiolame, Vocabolo Poggiolame 16, Montegabbione, TR 05010 Italy 00039 0763 837347 Events: 20 June and 27 June, week-long writing retreat, Arte Umbria, Montegabbione, Umbria, Italy Iceland Writers Retreat 11-15 April Retreat with workshops with internationally acclaimed writers Wild Words Retreats Immersive writing and nature retreats in the Pyrenees with Bridget Holding, at Le Presbytere, Bugarach, Languedoc Events: 26-31 March: Wild Words Spring Retreat; 8-13 Oct: Wild Words Autumn Retreat. Bridget Harding also does The Writers’ Mentoring Scheme by Skype or telephone (Oct 2018-September 2019) Limnisa, Greece Writing retreats – very flexible Mariel Hacking, Methana, Greece Rosanna Ley’s writing holiday in Andalucia 12-19 July, Finca el Cerillo, Andalucia, Spain Events: A 7-day writing holiday with WM fave Rosanna Ley, providing you with time for relaxation and writing, advice from Rosanna, group workshop sessions and gourmet cuisine in a tranquil environment. Skyros, Greece Acclaimed writing holidays led by leading writers Skyros, 9 Eastcliff Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight PO37 6AA; 01983 86 55 66 Events: Dates on Skyros Island include (Atsisa Bay and Skyros Centre): Atsitsa Bay (prices start from £675); 30 Jun-7 Jul, Find Your Voice, Claire Healy; Your Life in Words, Stephen Clarke; 7-14 Jul, Find Your Voice, Claire Healy;Life, Dreams and Fiction, Steve 55

23/01/2018 14:31


Attridge; 14-21 July, Book Under the Bed, Julia Bell; 21 July-3 Aug, Writing from Life, Monique Roffey; 4-17 Aug, The Stories of your Life, Alison Habens; 18-31 Aug, The Core of Good Fiction, Lisa O’Donnell; 1-8 Sept, Your Writer’s Voice, Crysse Morrison; How to Build a Novel, DJ Connell; 15-22 Sept, Short Fiction, Amanda Smyth. Skyros Writers’ Lab at Skyros Centre (prices start from £725): 7-14 Jul, Adventures in Comedy Writing, Logan Murray; 14-21 July, Fictional Forms, Emma Claire Sweeney; 21 Jul-3 Aug, Life Into Fiction (wk 1), Write Your Novel (wk 2), Mez Packer; 4-17 Aug, Shaping Your Story (wk 1), Telling Your Story (wk 2) with Graeme Simsion; 18-31 Aug, Starting Your Novel (wk 1), Completing Your Novel (wk 2), Marina Lewycka; 1-8 Sept, Life Writing, Nick Barlay. The French House Party Creative writing courses with Sarah Hymas The French House Party, Carcassone 01299 896819; hello@frenchhouseparty.ue Events: 3-8 Sept: Write Like No-One’s Watching; 10-16 Sept: Pen & Think tutored retreat

The Book Doctor, London and Turkey Courses and holidays with Stephen King’s editor and regular Guardian masterclass tutor Phillipa Pride 132 Canalot Studios, 222 Kensal Road, London W10 5BN 020 8964 1444 The Watermill at Posara, Italy Week-long course The Watermill at Posara, Lois and Bill Breckon, Via del Mulino 12-20, Fivizzano (loc Posara), MS 54013, Italy 020 7193 6246 Events: 22-29 Sept: Write the Stories of Your Life with Jo Parfitt Writing and Art Holidays 22-29 and 29 Sep-6 Oct Lippiano, Italy Ways With Words, Droridge Farm, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JG

Confused about self-publishing?

Promotion & marketing Book distribution

Commission-free online bookshop eBook production & distribution Free & friendly advice

For all the latest news and up-to-date details of courses, workshops and other events, subscribe to Writing Magazine, sign up for our newsletter, check our Facebook and Twitter feeds and bookmark

“ I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them for their professionalism, customer care and post-production assistance, all at a reasonable price.“

Copy-editing & proofreading Printing & binding

Writing for Children Course in France 20 May-3 June, a relaxed and fun residential course on different aspects of writing for children with an award-winning author. Crecy en Ponthieu, France 07944 374 734

Professional Self-Publishing

YPS are the one-stop-shop for self-publishers Full book design service

01803 867373 Events: Relaxed holidays hosted by Way With Words directors Kay Dunbar and Stephen Bristow. The writing tutor for the first week will be Mark McCrum and for the second, Wendy Holden

Adrian Churchward Moscow Bound and Dancing With Shadows

∙ Editing and proofreading ∙ Book cover design ∙ Wholesale distribution ∙ ∙ ∙ ∙

Book marketing Worldwide Amazon listing Author websites and social media One-to-one support

Cup of tea and a chat!

Recommended by the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook York Publishing Services Ltd tel. 01904 431213 56

p048_COURSES.indd 56

Discuss your next book with Publishing Director Helen Hart

E: T: +44 (0)117 910 5829


23/01/2018 14:31

0 5 2 £ ! N I W



Unreliable R O T A R R A N ION IT T E P M O C Y R O T S T R SHO

£125 TO BE WON

acters ith point of view char w ay pl to n fu t ea gr It can be s the full t, aren’t giving reader no or y gl in ow kn , ho wn the w ay to lead readers do w w ne a nd fi u yo n . picture. Ca be 1,50 0-1,70 0 words ld ou sh t un co d or w garden path? The April. The closing date is 15 £100 and publication e iv ce re ill w r ne in w The ion on with £25 and publicat in Writing Magazine, p. for the runner-u www.writers-online.

SEE P107



£125 E TO B WON

p57 comp.indd 57


With its closing date of 15 March, ther e’s still time to enter last month’s competition, for a story on the theme ‘chang e’. Prize and word limits are as above. See p107 for entr y details.

22/01/2018 13:02

Competition winner FOOD SHORT STORY

An Unexpected Diner

by Denise Bayes


eneralissimo Franco is here! In our restaurant.’ The Maitre d’ speaks in a staged whisper. Pans are stilled, knives pause in mid-air. Everyone looks towards Jordi, anticipating their head chef’s reaction. He responds with a steady voice. ‘It is our turn to impress the leader this Thursday,’ he says, ‘We can do it! Vamos!’ Taking the lead from their captain, each chef starts to perform their usual lunchtime tasks. However, today filleting a chicken or stirring a pan are performed with heightened consciousness. And fear. ‘When the oil is hot, fry the chicken and rabbit pieces until golden brown.’ Under his breath, Jordi whispers his grandmother’s words. She taught him to make the dish back in his Valencian homeland. Now her structured recipe calms him. Like everyone around him, his pulse has quickened at the news, but Jordi knows that panic will cause his team to make errors. Steadiness is needed right now. As the oil reaches the correct temperature, he watches the smoke rise. Only then does he add the meat. The sizzle satisfies him. ‘Perfect!’ he nods. Jordi glances around the kitchen. The other chefs are chopping and stirring, all in awe of the diner they are serving today. These visits are legendary. Every Thursday Generalissimo Franco leaves the Palace and selects a city centre restaurant for his lunch of paella. Throughout Madrid, every chef prepares the menu del dia, wondering whether today the unannounced visitor will appear in their dining room. Today it is Jordi’s turn. He frowns in concentration as he loosens a piece of chicken caught on the base of the broad paellera. He prefers to forget the man waiting for this food and concentrate on the woman who taught


MARCH 2018

p058 Comp winner.indd 58

Denise Bayes is currently working in Barcelona where she teaches infants in an international school. She focuses her writing on entering a range of competitions and has had successes including Ely Short Story competition and recently in Write Space. She has attended Swanwick Summer School and many courses at Almassera Vella which, together with WM, encourage her to try new styles of writing.

him to cook, seeing her smiling face in his mind’s eye. Closing his eyes to shut out the noise, Jordi can smell the sweet orange oil released by the burning logs in his grandparents’ garden. He remembers the sun high in the cobalt sky, Grandma cooking under the shade of the fig tree. The gnarled branches twist above their heads. Young Jordi hears wasps buzzing around jammy fruit, already squashed on the parched grass. He holds his brown eyes level to the pan edge, intent on the activity within the metal rim. ‘There, Gran! I see the smoke.’ He remembers the heat, singeing the edges of his hair, the sound of the meat exploding in his ears. ‘Molt bé!’ Grandmother and grandson smile at the local words. Jordi frowns now as his mind returns to the busy kitchen. He shuffles the golden-brown chicken and rabbit pieces. At home, behind closed doors, Grandma had taught him Valenciano words reminding him not to say them in the school. Now, the man who banned them is waiting to eat Valencia’s favourite dish. Jordi smiles wryly at the thought. ‘Are the vegetables ready?’ he asks his sous chefs, focusing again on the preparation. Now you can add the vegetables to the pan. ‘The beans are all prepared, Chef.’ Jordi nods thanks at the young lad, a recent arrival from Galicia. He can sense

the nervous energy, the fear of making a mistake. ‘You have done a good job,’ Jordi reassures him. He starts to add the various types of beans to the browned meat. Jordi whistles a tune under his breath, an old song that he learnt from his grandparents. Then he shakes his head, biting his lip. This was the same song that caused him so much trouble in school. ‘Stop that whistling now!’ Father Carlos had been a harsh teacher for small children, and punishment had followed. There had been no fun, no play allowed within the walls of his classroom. Repeating letters and numbers had not interested the young Jordi. He had run home every night, escaping to help his father pick vegetables for dinner. At home, he saw that fresh seasonal produce grown in the garden was quickly transformed into delicious meals in the kitchen. ‘I hate school, Papa. All day I am sitting at my desk. Why can’t I stay here and help you?’ ‘You need to be able to read and write, Jordi. Then you will be able to do anything you want in the world.’ The young schoolboy could forget his troubles with his hands buried into the earth. He smiled knowing how much Father Carlos would disapprove of his dirty fingernails. ‘Pull the garrafon pods like this,’ his father showed him, reaching into the

23/01/2018 12:28


foliage, ‘Now look what is hidden inside.’ Young Jordi had gasped as the familiar flat, white beans he had seen in the paella emerged from the long green sleeves. Even now, he feels they bring a little magic to the dish. He turns the gas down beneath the pan and picks up a large spoon. Make a space in the centre of the paellera. Add tomato sauce and a little pimenton. It needs spice! He can still remember what he was eating the day he met Lola. San Juan fiesta. A group of boys from the village had headed to the beach for the traditional evening picnic on the sand. Jordi was working in a bar in the village, helping to prepare lunches for the customers. ‘I made tortilla with potato and onion,’ he announced to the boys, and they grabbed slices to eat with their cold beers. ‘Hey, you’re good at this. You should be a chef!’ At midnight, Jordi remembers jumping over the bonfires with his friends to bring good luck. As he leapt, he fell towards a girl, reached out his arms to stop himself. ‘Are you okay?’ she asked, helping him to stand up. Lola. She was here with her cousins, she explained. On holiday from landlocked Madrid to celebrate the feast day. As soon as he looked into her chestnut eyes, he had known that he would follow her to the ends of the earth. Or here, to Madrid. Jordi sees Lola in his mind now. Her eyes will be wide when he tells her about Generalissimo Franco’s meal today. He stirs the spicy tomato into the pan, tasting to check that he has the level of spice correct. Now add the hot water and saffron threads. The bright yellow filaments begin to stain the dish blood red, leaking outwards. The colours of the Spanish flag combined in one ingredient. Franco will be proud. ‘Come, Pablo, watch this,’ he calls the young chef over, shows him how a

spoonful of stock from the pan is flecked with red spice. He enjoys teaching the young chefs in the kitchen, watching each man gain confidence. At home too, Jordi is becoming a teacher. As the stock bubbles, he thinks of his little boy, remembers how his heart felt when he first saw Juan in Lola’s arms. ‘I will not let anything harm you,’ he had promised his son. Now he understood his own father’s concern that he learned skills that would help him in life. His days are long at the restaurant but at weekends, Jordi takes little Juan and shows him the world beyond the city. They roam the countryside together. ‘Can I climb this tree, Daddy?’ Jordi may feel fear when he sees his son’s little legs quivering uncertainly on the branches. But he knows to step back and let Juan learn as he tries. Now, at last, add the rice. Do not stir it. Do not touch it. Leave it for eight minutes. Jordi pours the rice silkily in a line down the middle of the pan, just as his grandma did. The opaque grains remind him of home, of the rice fields of the Albufera. He had cried as he passed those familiar fields on the way back to Grandma’s funeral. Even the lake birds had been hushed that day. ‘My heart is breaking!’ his mother had said, with a tight hug. ‘I cannot imagine her not being here to ask when I need to check a recipe or an ingredient…’ Jordi replied. ‘She was so proud of you, Jordi,’ his mother, soothed, ‘She told everyone her grandson was a great chef in Madrid.’’ A few tears gather in his eyes now at the memory of his beloved grandma. Some fall into the cooking liquor. Serve the paella with slices of lemon, squeezed onto the rice. Jordi turns and looks at the team Their faces are etched with exhaustion. ‘The lemons, please, Edoardo.’ The man’s hand shakes as he takes the

cleaver, chopping the fruit into identical sized sections. His cuts release the fresh scent of lemon into the kitchen. ‘The paella is ready for the Generalissimo.’ Silence accompanies the ceremonial carrying of the dish by the maitre d’. Nobody moves as the doors to the dining room close behind him. Jordi holds his breath. Inside, he imagines Franco squeezing the muslin wrapped lemon over the rice. Maybe he will scrape the caramelised soccarat from the base of the pan. Eventually, the door from the dining room opens. ‘Come Jorge. Our “Guest” wishes to meet the chef!’ It seems unreal to see this familiar face here at a table in his restaurant. Despite desiring to eat like the common man, Franco is resplendent in military uniform. He is surrounded by soldiers, some seated at the same table, others standing guard at his side. Jordi approaches the table and bows towards the old man. His stomach clenches. The city kitchens are full of stories of chefs whose food did not please this man. ‘An amazing dish!’ Franco declaims, ‘Gracias. Your paella was excellent.’ Jordi murmurs his thanks. Then he hears Grandma’s voice in his head. ‘Go on. For me and for Valencia.’ He clenches his fist. ‘Adeu!’ Although Jordi whispers the forbidden goodbye, it seems to echo around the space. Tension fills the room. The guards are taut, their hands reaching for their weapons at this transgression by the chef. General Franco places his hands on the table, pushing himself to stand. Jordi waits, unable to breathe. He watches the Generalissimo turn and lead his entourage out of the dining room. One of the bodyguards hesitates, looks towards Jordi. ‘That must have been a fantastic paella,’ the guard winks.

Runner-up in the Food Short Story competition was Michael Callaghan, Glasgow, whose story is published on Also shortlisted were: Norma Allen, Ttroedyrhiw, Powys; Dominic Bell, Hull; Daphne Breen, Davenport, Cheshire; Kevin Chant, Upton Snodsbury, Worcestershire; Jan Godfrey, Rustington, West Sussex; Alicia Gwynn, Pontardulais, Swansea; Angela Joy Hindle, North Duffield, North Yorkshire; Phillip Mitchell, St Albans, Hertfordshire; Hazel Prior, Luxborough, Somerset.

p058 Comp winner.indd 59

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:27


Grin &

bear it Jane Wenham Jones advises a reader not to let the idiosyncracies of peer reviews spoil her pleasure in her first published novel I recently received a very average review for my debut historical The Spark Girl. I’m absolutely fine with readers leaving reviews of all star ratings, after all not everyone can like everything. However, I am concerned that this particular reviewer called into question my research which I’m rather cross about as it was the one thing I was keen to get right. I spent a long time interviewing those that served in the Women’s Army during World War II, spent months in the archives, went on regular field trips and in short I’m not sure what else I could have done other than time travel back to 1940. The reviewer hasn’t actually specified what the problems were other than they had issue with some creative and dramatic licence that had been taken with plot. Is it worth replying with a humble comment asking what it was they objected to or better left alone? FIONA FORD, READING


ongratulations on your debut novel, Fiona, and welcome to the fickle world of online reviews. I doubt there is a published author reading this who is not shaking their head in sympathy – and recognition. It is disappointing to get poor reviews and galling to the extreme when one’s detractors have actually got something wrong. So I am not at all surprised that you feel like responding. But on balance, I would be inclined not to. I am fond of the maxim, ‘never complain, never explain’ even if I sometimes fail to follow it and I think a dignified silence is often far more effective than wading in and engaging with a stranger who may have their own agenda. Unless a negative comment is actually libellous – I once got an aggressive review taken down because it blatantly accused me of writing some of the five-star accolades myself (as if I’d be so stupid!) and since this was utterly untrue, my publisher complained and Amazon removed it as defamatory – I would advise you to grin and bear it. ‘Sit on your hands, go eat chocolate, and read aloud the lovely five-star reviews,’ says novelist Rosie Dean. She recalls that one of her bad reviews complained the book wasn’t as good as the first one she’d read 60

MARCH 2018

p060 Talk It Over.indd 60

of Rosie’s. Unfortunately, this particular person hadn’t bothered to review the one she considered better. Sadly, some people only ever report on the negative. Experienced saga writer Jean Fullerton agrees. ‘At the end of the day it’s only one bad review and we all have them. It hurts but it comes with the territory and you have to let it go. Focus on all the positive ones.’ This is good counsel. Especially as someone else may well enter the fray on your behalf. As successful novelist Elaine Everest says: ‘I’ve seen that loyal readers will often dive in and stand up for their favourite authors when they spot a “not very nice” review – or troll! Leave it to them.’ Prolific romance writer Lynne Connolly experienced just that. ‘I wrote a book set in the 1750s, and one of the critics said that there were no newspapers published then. I actually did reply. I thanked her for her review and said yes – there were newspapers published in that era.’ Lynne immediately got a note of support from another reader. So Lynne takes a slightly different approach: ‘I’d be very polite and ask her to contact you privately,’ she says, ‘as you work hard for accuracy. But,’ she adds, ‘most people would leave it.’ Jane Holland’s first novel was published nearly twenty years ago and

she has published dozens more books since. ‘I’ve had the most appalling reviews, including complaints about research on historicals,’ she says cheerfully. ‘The reviewer is often wrong, and blithely unaware that they are wrong. In general, I just ignore them, while seething silently.’ She cites the reader who wrote: ‘the author should actually VISIT Cornwall some time,’ after Jane had lived there for ten years, and admits she is occasionally tempted to comment ‘ironically’. ‘To the man who complained one of my romcom novellas was “lightweight”, I left a comment asking him if he had expected – stolen from Fawlty Towers – “Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains?” He didn’t reply.’ This did make me smile. But in all seriousness, I would say that if the injustice of this reader’s comment is really going to play on your mind then you might want to leave a calm, factual comment about the amount of research you undertook. If you can manage not to, I will leave you, instead, with the brilliant suggestion from novelist Elisabeth Hobbes, who describes herself as a writer of naughty knights and brooding heroes for Harlequin Mills & Boon – the latest is Redeeming the Rogue Knight. Elisabeth has a marvellous strategy for dealing with those who’ve crossed her. ‘I use the voodoo jelly baby method,’ she explains. ‘Get a jelly baby, tell it what you would like to say to the person it represents, squish it and then eat it. It always makes me feel better.’ Whatever you decide, do not let this mar the joy of seeeing your first novel on sale. There are always going to be some strange people out there who enjoy having a moan – especially if they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet – and who won’t worry about letting the facts get in the way of their own particular story. You know what’s true and correct and so will anyone with a knowledge of the period. Don’t waste energy on the others – save it for writing your next one.

23/01/2018 12:09


Your writing problems solved with advice from Diana Cambridge

Email your queries to Diana (please include hometown 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.


Two questions: 1. You have mentioned using collected material in more than one piece of writing. But if an article is accepted and paid for, isn’t that material the property of the magazine who paid for it?  2. I have a lot of almost-finished articles. They fester in files, partly because I must overcome the fear of releasing them to Unknown Eyes, and partly because I do not know how to “read” a magazine. What tips do you have for identifying which publication would possibly be interested in the work I produce? JUDITH ROBINSON Henlow, Bedfordshire


Once an article is accepted and paid for, it isn’t automatically the magazine’s property. It depends what the contract between writer and publisher is. Some magazines – increasingly – claim all rights, others do not, and some operate a half and half arrangement. In other words, if they syndicate your article elsewhere, you receive half the fees. It’s essential to check just what the contract is – and this will sometimes be stated on the opening page of the magazine, alongside the staff list. You can recycle the content of work – but not send the exact same article, once published, to a new market. You need to rejig, add a new intro, update facts – but you always have your research and your basic material of your piece to re-use. Identifying the market for your work? First, identify the ideal reader. What age is she? What are her interests? What’s her level of education? Has she a special niche interest – like cookery, needlework, home decorating? There are magazines that deal with all these subjects, and more. It’s a question of ‘seeing’ your ideal reader, then matching her to a magazine – the crucial qualities are her age, education and niche interests. Niche in as closely as you can. For example, it’s not enough to say ‘cookery’ or ‘children’. What type of cookery – organic, Italian, vegetarian, quick and so on. The same with ‘children’ – babies and new-borns? Toddlers? Grandchildren? Create a detailed profile of your reader – and you’ll find a magazine to match it. W&A Yearbook will help: better to see the online submission guidelines, and better still to read as many copies as you can.


Are submission letters really that important? Most publishers seem to ask for a sample chapter and a synopsis. Is the letter something they actually look at for the quality of its writing? RITA GRASSBY Lacock, Wiltshire The letter itself will be an indication of how you manage words. Keep it brief, succinct and with a clear signpost to the content of your novel. There’s no need to use formal phrases like ‘yours sincerely’ or any business-speak. If by email, (which it’s likely to be) keep the email literate – no emojis or numbers used instead of words. I don’t think starting an email with ‘Hi John’ looks very impressive. Just use the first name with no salutation – if you put ‘Good morning!’ the mail could easily be read in the afternoon.


p061 Helpline.indd 61


I came runner-up in a women’s magazine comp about twenty years ago. So I know it’s a good story. With some updating, is it alright to enter it into a new competition even though that comp states that entries should be unpublished? ROMA MIZELL Swindon. It depends on the ‘updating’. There should be sufficient updating to ensure that the two stories are different, and that a reader would feel satisfied by reading both of them – not feel cheated because it’s obvious the stories are copies. In fact many plots resemble each other – it’s the characters, the setting, the dialogue and plot twists and turns are different. You can retain the same tone, since many authors create books which are in similar style and that style becomes their ‘trademark’.



I sent two articles to a magazine at least six months ago. One phone call and two emails later, I have had no real response. The phone call was answered by a junior who didn’t know and the emails said it was still being considered. ESTHER INGHAM Ashby de la Zouch You can more or less assume that if they want your article, they’ll get in touch with you. That said, sometimes magazines do hang onto material that they can use should a likely slot emerge. Work on new articles rather than get upset about this.



When a competition says that the deadline is, for example, 30 April, do they mean you can send entries in on that day, or only up until that day? HARRIS COLVIN Isle of Wight. Competition rules are frequently badly written. When they give a closing date, they should also give a time – ‘entries close at midnight on April 30’ for example – but many organisers don’t think their competitions through. If they haven’t given an exact deadline – and you are running close to it – it would be best to contact the competition direct. I’m always surprised by how little clarity there is in some competition rules.


MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:10









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

Reading the past

Correct copy

‘I’m delighted to announce that my “genealogy sleuth”, Esme Quentin, has just made another appearance in the third mystery novel of the series, The Malice of Angels, published in October by SilverWood Books,’ writes subscriber Wendy Percival. ‘Readers have described Esme as tenacious with a generosity of spirit, someone who just has to carry on digging deeper for answers, even if by doing so she puts herself in danger. In this latest novel, Esme finds herself having to confront her own painful past as she searches for the truth about a wartime nurse who disappeared during the Second World War and never came home. ‘The first book in the series, Blood-Tied, explored the theme of dark family secrets and in the second, The Indelible Stain, Esme has to delve into the disturbing history of convict transportation to Australia to unravel the mystery behind a woman’s fatal fall from cliffs on the north Devon coast – a stunning location which is also the setting for The Malice of Angels. ‘October has been a particularly busy month as, having been commissioned by SilverWood Books to write a novella, Death of a Cuckoo, for their ebook imprint, sBooks, earlier in the year, I also decided to bring it out in paperback at the same time as The Malice of Angels was published. Death of a Cuckoo features Esme, but through the eyes of protagonist Gina Vincent, who engages Esme’s services to unpick the traumatic mystery of her past, when she discovers that all she’s ever been told is a lie. Website:


MARCH 2018

p062 Subscriber news.indd 62

‘I’m a published novelist (under my pen-name Rosalie Warren), a former university lecturer in cognitive science, and a qualified proofreader and copy editor with many years’ experience,’ writes subscriber Sheila Glasbey. ‘I’ve noticed that the same mistakes tend to crop up in writers’ work over and over again. I wanted to write a book that would help prospective authors to save money by getting these things right before they pay someone to do the copy editing and proofreading for them. This applies both to those intending to self-publish and to those submitting to publishers and agents. ‘In From the Heart of a Copy Editor – The 10 Most Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them, I’ve compiled a list of the ten most common errors I’ve come across in my clients’ writing. Most writers’ work will probably contain at least some of these, and by reading my book they will learn how to put them right, or not to make them in the first place. ‘The idea is that writers will still send their book to a professional copy editor – I would always recommend that. But they can expect their costs to be reduced, because their work will contain so many fewer mistakes. ‘Many of the problems involve punctuation and dialogue, so I have focused my attention on these. However, you’ll also find discussions of commas (Oxford and otherwise), brackets and parentheses, Mr and Mrs, and a host of other things. ‘All ten mistakes come with clear explanations, followed by light-hearted and, I hope, often humorous examples of the correct and incorrect use of the rule. Pet pigs feature frequently, for some reason I can’t quite explain! ‘I am offering a discount on my editing and proofreading service, Affordable Editing, Proofreading and Writing Help, to anyone who reads the book and can quote the correct code. ‘A paperback edition will be published early in 2018. ‘Please note: This edition is intended for UK readers only, due to variations in style and language. An American edition is pending.’ Website:

22/01/2018 13:11


Quite a month

A good run at a story ‘As Walsall’s Running Ambassador I had always taken a keen interest in meeting political people and reading biographies, hence the interest in North Korea and current affairs,’ writes subscriber Mark Dabbs. ‘It took me some time to get the bare bones of an idea for the book Pyongyang Kill. During my many long runs along the canal and around my home in Walsall I drew on thoughts and ideas to move the story onwards. During breaks from work and even after work I beavered away putting the flesh on the bare bones of the story. ‘Having been a keen fan of the James Bond films and espionage it seemed natural that if I was to pen a novel it would have to be something along the lines of a thriller. In essence I thought of a hypothetical way of offering the world a way to end the tensions and threats from Pyongyang so I thought that similar to the 1960s and the supposed attempts to see off Castro by the United States, there would naturally be a plot to remove the leader of that country by an outside power. ‘Little did I know whilst writing the book that North Korea would begin to get more ambitious in its threats. I knew that I had a story to tell and felt that Grosvenor House represented one way of getting my story out there. I have always read that the only way to achieve what you want to achieve is to keep writing and chipping away. Ideally I would love the book to be picked up by Hollywood and made into a film. In the meantime I am working on another thriller – again featuring Mark Holby, but this time set in the Middle East. You never know, he could become quite a popular character and I could end up writing a string of books about his exploits – just like a certain Ian Fleming maybe!’

‘October was quite a month,’ writes subscriber Rosemary J Kind. ‘Alfie’s Diary (www.alfiedog. was announced at number three of the Top 10 UK Pet Blogs by Vuelio, which was a lovely surprise. I’ve written it for over ten years mainly for fun. It’s the view of the world through the eyes of my eldest dog, Alfie and, as he’s now taken semi-retirement, Aristotle and Wilma help him out too. I only intended to write it for a year or two but then readers would write in and say how much they enjoyed it, so we just kept going. ‘As if that wasn’t enough, my new novel New York Orphan went on sale on 23 October and I had my first ever official book launch in Waterstones in York in November. I’m really excited about the book and the response from the beta-reading team was amazing. The cover was designed by Katie W. Stewart who I met through Writing Magazine’s Talkback site and another Talkbacker, Sheila Glasbey (see opposite), was my proofreader. ‘It’s a historical fiction novel following the lives of three streetchildren picked up by the Orphan Train movement in America. It has involved a huge amount of research and has demonstrated to me that there really is nothing new about the current refugee crisis as there were thousands of immigrant refugees on the streets of New York in the 1850s. ‘One of my earlier novels is proving very popular with book groups, so I’ve set up a page on my website of questions to help guide their discussions. I’m hoping that New York Orphan will prove just as good a book group read. ’ Website:

WE’LL HELP YOU SELL YOUR BOOK! Don’t miss your exclusive chance to feature on our website,

Showcase your book to over 14,000 readers each month in the Writers Online Subscribers’ Showcase. We’ll give your book its own page, with blurb, cover and a direct link to your website or an online store. And if you’re a WM subscriber, the service is completely FREE. See for more details


When you’re sending in submissions to appear on those pages, feel free to send us any additional content you have available. Whether it’s an interview video, book trailer, podcast, audio extract or anything else, we’ll give you as much exposure as we can through our digital edition and website. As ever, send your details to

p062 Subscriber news.indd 63

MARCH 2018


22/01/2018 13:11


Back on track ‘I have wanted to write a novel for as long as I can remember,’ writes subscriber Graham West. ‘Although I‘d been originally inspired by the classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in my schooldays, modern authors such as Stephen King, Nicholas Evans and Linwood Barclay have been a major influence in recent years. Unfortunately, I had plenty of ideas but the stories usually ran out of steam well before the end and although I did eventually submit a completed novel to a publishing agent, I was informed that out of 4,000 manuscripts per week they only chose about two new writers a year. ‘Despite this, the love of writing drove me on and during a visit to Speke Hall in Liverpool the guide took a small group of us into what felt like a small attic room. Seated by the window at a writing desk was the rather diminutive figure of a young woman. There was nothing particularly eerie about the scene but I was fascinated and hence, the story of Amelia was born. It was weeks later before I wrote the first chapter and gradually the tale began to unfold, page by page. All I had in those initial stages was a beginning, a rather sketchy middle and a hazy idea of how it was going to end. However, the story ran out of steam three quarters of the way though and it was only after three years, inspired by many of the articles in this magazine, I decided to dust off the laptop and take another look at Finding Amelia. This time, everything seemed to click into place and four weeks later the story was complete. That’s when a friend told me about a local publishers by the name of Beaten Track, who took on my manuscript and by the autumn, I’d signed the contract. In September of 2017 the book was launched. Believe me, there is nothing like holding a book with your name on the cover so all I can say to other aspiring writers is, never, ever give up!’


MARCH 2018

p062 Subscriber news.indd 64

A killer debut ‘I am thrilled to be joining the HarperCollins Killer Reads list with my new psychological thriller, The Perfect Neighbours,’ writes subscriber Rachael Sargeant. ‘I’ve been writing as a hobby for many years, with some success in short story competitions, including first prize in Writing Magazine’s Crime Story competition. My stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Sexy Shorts series by Accent Press, and I’ve had two previous novels published. But after recently completing an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, I hoped my writing had improved sufficiently to approach agents. ‘There was a piece in Writing Magazine about an author who had gained representation with Peters, Fraser and Dunlop literary agents. On the PDF website I discovered that Marilia Savvides was looking for psychological thrillers. I sent her the first three chapters of The Perfect Neighbours and a synopsis. The next day she asked for the full manuscript and subsequently offered me representation. ‘With Marilia’s line-by-line advice, I re-drafted and she pitched to several publishers. Feedback recommended a major structural overall and changes to viewpoint. So, with nothing to lose, I hit the edit trail again and eventually resubmitted. Finn Cotton of Killer Reads got in touch and offered to publish. For the last few months, under his expert guidance, I’ve been making more changes and line edits to get the manuscript ready for the Killer Reads list. It is both exciting and fascinating to be involved in shaping my book for the mainstream market. And getting to choose from the expertly designed options for the book cover is a memory I’ll treasure.’ Website:

Poems for a new life ‘If ever there was proof that believing in yourself and your work eventually gets you published, then I can put myself forward as an example,’ writes subscriber Maria Stephenson. ‘A writer since childhood and collector of rejection slips and near-misses, I can finally hold my debut poetry collection in my hands. ‘Published by Stairwell Books of York, Poetry for the Newly Single Forty Something is split into three parts, beginning in darkness and journeying into the light. ‘In part one, the collection explores being trapped inside an unhappy marriage. Part two follows ‘the escape’ and part three celebrates freedom which includes online dating experiences. ‘The poetry aims to find its place in the hearts of the many who can identify with both being trapped and starting again. It also aims to bring comfort and strength to others in the same situation. ‘Not only has publication meant the achievement of a lifelong dream, it has also added validation to two ‘distance learning’ courses I offer: Write a Collection of Poetry in Six Months and Write a Novel in Six Months’. Within these courses, I give other writers the ‘tools’ to also achieve their dreams... in six months. ‘I feel incredibly lucky to be able to make my living as a writer and a teacher of creative writing especially after my ex-husband decreed some years ago that my writing “was a complete waste of time!”. I can genuinely affirm that life does truly begin at forty.’ Website:

22/01/2018 13:11


A helping hand ‘It’s a long time since I was a new mum’, writes subscriber Pam Pointer. ‘But this book, Help! I’m a New Mum!, of three-minute prayers for new mums, was fun to write as I recalled my early days as a mother, and having witnessed my own daughters’ experiences with their babies. ‘The arrival of a baby takes you by surprise. However much you plan and prepare, the reality can be startling. Suddenly you have responsibility for a new little life. Help! I’m a New Mum! is a book of honest shouts and whispers to God about all things baby – from labour to love, from panic to peace, from smells to smiles. The prayers are not always polite but they’re real! Here’s a book to have by the kettle or by the bed. ‘Help! I’m a New Mum! is published at £6.99 by Kevin Mayhew Ltd. Its companion book is Help! I’m a New Dad! by David Gatward. ‘An English teacher at school was the first person to encourage me to write. Numerous published articles, plus a dozen books is the result. I’ve tried different genres but am happiest writing non-fiction and poetry.’ Website:

Nightmare vision of Nottingham ‘What would happen if the police no longer existed?’ writes subscriber Jonathan Nicholas, a former Nottingham policeman. ‘What if order was maintained by brutal, unaccountable private security and freedom of speech was gone? What would Nottingham look like? What would be the fate of its people? Active, my new novel written under the pen name Dan Hastings, asks some very difficult questions. ‘With the police gone, the biggest and nastiest bullies in the playground would take over, and a dark, uncertain future would be the result. Influenced by writers such as George Orwell, Philip K Dick, and Ray Bradbury, with echoes of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Active suggests Nottingham would be plunged into barbarism and cruelty, where beheadings and sex slaves become the norm. One reviewer stated: ‘This is darkly satirical of current Middle Eastern politics and political correctness, as well as the historical purges of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. The setting is exactly that of DH Lawrence, his social divisions replaced by more sinister alternatives. It is a thought-provoking and uneasy read, taking events happening right now and superimposing them onto “middle England”, but no less compelling for it.’ ‘Active is available from Amazon.’ Website:


competitive price! An essential critique service for all writers

Writing Magazine’s professional writers are ready to give you one-to-one advice through our Reading and Critique Service. Our experienced specialists offer impartial guidance, support and encouragement on all types of writing, including prose (fiction or non-fiction), poetry and even scripts. We provide tailored, friendly feedback within just 30 days, using both in-line corrections and a detailed commentary of overall improvements. Code: WM/CWCR/03-18

Try it out for just £100! Send 9,000 words of prose to: CREATIVE WRITING COURSES

Critique Half March.indd 1

p062 Subscriber news.indd 65 or call 01778 392492

MARCH 2018 13:10 65 22/01/2018

22/01/2018 13:11



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, ASA


Edinburgh Writers’ Club

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is an international professional organisation for writers and illustrators, which means that members can access a vast range of workshops, conferences and webinars across the globe, writes Helen Liston. In the South West region, we meet in Exeter, Bristol and Bath, we also help connect writers in rural areas. We’re always happy to welcome new children’s writers and illustrators. In Bristol and Bath we meet every month, and talk about all things story, publishing or kid lit. Often we’re joined by an editor, agent or publisher – previous visitors have included Gill McLay of Bath Literary Agency and Greet Pauwelijn of Book Island. We also run critique groups where we feedback on one another’s work to elevate it to the next level. In Exeter, members hold write-ins and a picture book group meets regularly, too. If you’re based in the South West and are writing – or illustrating – for children, and would like to meet like-minds, do get in touch. There are all kinds of benefits to joining SCBWI, including networking, event discounts and free competition opportunities. Between them, our members have a huge range of experience and insight, so getting together to share our skills and knowledge is a wonderful way to help boost morale and improve our craft. Your first meeting is free. So come along and decide if SCBWI might be for you. Check out our regional and national events at or write to me at southwest@


MARCH 2018

p066 roundup.indd 66

We had a wonderful 70th celebration in our new venue at the Edinburgh Grosvenor Hilton in September 2017, writes president Joan Summers. Faed’s painting of Walter Scott and his friends at Abbotsford was the inspiration for the party. Ours developed into a lively literary salon with a tremendous buzz of conversation as people moved around with their glass of wine and slice of cake. Alanna Knight MBE, Edinburgh crime writer, and Frank Ross, Lord Provost of Edinburgh gave interesting and commendably brief talks. Frank selected the free raffle, the prize of a year’s membership going to a new member. The committee’s surprise for everyone was our mystery guest, Ian Rankin. He cut the celebration cake with Alanna making a beautiful quip about EWC allowing two crime writers the freedom of the knife! Over fifty people turned up – a mixture of guests, existing members, and other writers finding out more about the club now that we are in a fully accessible venue. Ian, Alanna and Frank worked the room, separating to contact all the minigroups that kept gathering and reforming to meet and chat. Our original piece in Writing Magazine has been followed up to our delight by Hastings Writers Group, seventy in December 2017, who want to make a link with EWC. Maybe it is because writing is such a solitary occupation, eventually boring the pants off family and friends, that makes it a treat to talk about it to other writers. Website:

23/01/2018 12:11


Weather watch Explore the effect of weather on the words produced by your writing group in these exercises from Julie Phillips


here’s a song that tells us that we should take the weather with us wherever we go, and it’s something worth remembering in our writing too. This month your writing group are going to explore the weather, so put on your wellies, bring a sun hat (this is the British weather we’re talking about after all) and batten down the hatches; there may be a storm coming in your work in progress. Be it in a novel, poem, short story or article, weather, apart from helping to set the scene and mood of the piece can also, almost, become a character in itself. Grey clouds creeping across dull skies over windswept moors can signpost the reader towards a brooding and ominous scene, whereas a bright, sunny, cloudless sky over a beach full of colourful beach towels and children laughing can suggest a lighter, fun mood. First, ask your group members to think back to a time in their lives when they experienced unusual weather. It could be a heatwave, a cold spell, or a hurricane or similar. Or, alternatively, a less than happy event, a car or relationship breakdown when they were teenagers, etc. Ask them to then write down what they remember about that time and what the weather was like. Can they come up with any similes or metaphors to sum it up? Create a word bank asking the group for suggestions of adjectives to describe the weather on a large sheet of paper/flipchart or

computer if you have the facilities to display it. Then ask them to write a piece, no more than a couple of paragraphs, for up to fifteen minutes, based on their memories of that weather or event. Encourage them to use some of the adjectives from the word bank or come up with their own. Next, ask for volunteers to read their piece out, no explanations, just read direct from their page. Encourage comments from the audience to give their opinion on how well the writer captured the weather component of the piece and whether their descriptions of the weather set the appropriate mood for the piece. Once everyone who wants to read theirs out has done so, ask them to then rewrite the piece with totally different weather. If they wrote about a bad snowstorm before, ask them to change it to an autumn rain shower or a sunny day. Again, encourage people to read out the original piece and then the new version. Feedback on the weather descriptions, and how a change in weather can set the tone of the piece, is helpful. Next distribute images of different kinds of weather and ask the group to study them. They can make notes on what they see and think about – if that weather was a person what would they be like? Can they come up with a character based on the weather depicted in the image? Once they have done this with one image, get them to swap to another image and do the same. Do this up to three times, so they end up with at least

p067 Circles.indd 67

two or three characters. Give them up to twenty minutes to then write a scene featuring those characters, ensuring that their personalities are shown through what they say, how they say it and how they interact with each other. Again, ask for volunteer readers to share their work with the group. Can the audience get a picture of which weather the characters are like? What was it about the descriptions within the writing that gave the impressions about the characters? Could they be improved? The weather is always changing, and you only have to look out of your window in the morning to see what kind of day, weather wise, it is. Think about how that often affects your mood and outlook. If it’s grey and pouring with rain it can make you feel low, lethargic, unmotivated and less inclined to go out. If it’s a bright, sunny day, you can feel refreshed and optimistic about what you’re going to achieve that day. The descriptions of the weather in the books and magazines we read, when done correctly, can transport the reader; make the hairs on their arms stand up through the cold and fear for the woman about to be murdered when her car breaks down in a snow storm, or make them smile and imagine the hot sand between their toes in resonance with the young woman finding love on foreign shores. Our job, as writers, is to create resonances with readers. Using the weather to facilitate this is a skill that your writing group can practise and hone. MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:12



You Can Take the People Out of the City … I always felt very sorry for Mrs Lot. When she looked back at that Biblical City and was turned into a pillar of salt. I would look back and so would most. Looking back is what we do, Always, to that quintessential city of our past, once the genesis of our hopes and dreams. Which contained our homes and existence. Spider-webbed in each others lives, cheek by jowl with housing estates, parks, libraries and schools. shops, synagogues, churches and mosques. A lucky bag assortment of friends and neighbours, inspiring open minds, cue ‘The Long and Winding Road’, dead-end streets – a spaghetti junction of missed chances, good to go green lights and shiny gold pavements. The city of our memories and narratives. Mum & Dad, pop, Smiths potato crisps & pick ‘n’ mix and always vying for the supremacy of the swings. The spiritual city of our psyche – made special by kind and generous actions but veering into cul de sacs via unforgiving words and deeds. Abandoned Cities, where arterial roads bleed miles as copiously as broken hearts, while bombed-out buses slam into roadside graveyards. The tragedy of Aleppo – ancient and modern. Now a frail facsimile of its former self where once streets pulsed with people living normal lives. So now I will always feel sorrow and regret for that city ravaged by fighting and destruction. And the homeless Syrian woman who looked back. As she was turned into a Refugee.


MARCH 2018

p068 Poetry workshop.indd 68


A powerful poem about looking back provides Alison Chisholm with food for thought


embership of a writers’ group – if it’s a good one – is a huge advantage for writers in every genre. Brimming with ideas, tips and support, members share help and advice, and encourage each other through critique and challenges. Judith Daniels of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk was inspired by a competition set by her local Quill Creative Writing Group on the theme of ‘don’t look back’. She says: ‘I was lucky to win and hold the muchcoveted trophy for a year. I say lucky because as a group we always have a totally different slant on things and this was no exception, and this title produced such varied and innovative poems from everyone.’ The poem began in the poet’s long-held sympathy for Lot’s wife in the Bible, and she describes how ‘it got me thinking about the world witnessing vast displacement and emigration of men, women and children from besieged and wartorn parts of the world, and how disenfranchised they must feel.’ She makes the point that we all have allegiances to our home town, and that, having enjoyed a very happy sixties childhood and still living in the same town, she would find it especially difficult and distressing to have to leave because of political unrest, destabilisation or the worst outcome, ethnic cleansing. Judith Daniels is aware that her

poetry often strays into political spheres, and of course poetry can be a good way to communicate a political message. She sums up her feelings as she wrote this piece. ‘The destruction of Aleppo in Syria, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, is a huge humanitarian disaster, and to view before and after pictures of parts of this ravaged city is a humbling and distressing experience, although there are encouraging signs of rebuilding and displaced Syrians are returning to their homes at long last.’ The poem moves through three phases, with its introduction via the biblical story, celebration of the security of the poet’s early life, then the tragic image of the Aleppo situation. This is a simplified assessment, but it’s a way of looking at the shifting emphasis and balance of the piece. The opening presents information about Lot’s wife without ever suggesting that the reader is not perfectly aware of her story. We are reminded that she looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt, but in the context of the narrator’s reactions to the account. At once, we are transported geographically into the same part of the world that will be re-introduced at the end of the poem. These references surround the middle phase of the poem, with its nostalgic reflections, mostly happy pictures but with slight censorious undertones in the seventh stanza.

23/01/2018 12:17


The disquiet wrapping itself around a certain cosiness is impressive. The middle section, particularly, uses language with resonance. The word genesis also refers to the book where Lot’s story is told. Putting shops on the same line as synagogues, churches and mosques suggests how the shopping mall will become a new place of worship. Describing the mix of friends and neighbours as a lucky bag ties in with one of the popular sweet trends of the 1960/70s. The topical references of “The Long and Winding Road” and spaghetti junction re-affirm the time frame of the poem. This fixing of memories is important. It draws the contrast between security and statelessness, as well as underlining the historical context. The tone of the poem is conversational – appropriate for its subject matter – and almost reads like prose in places. Its poetic quality is retained, however, by some stunning metaphors. Look at Spider webbed in people’s lives, the reference

If you would like your poem to be considered for Poetry Workshop, send it by email to: jtelfer@

to good to go green lights and shiny gold pavements, and the arresting arterial roads bleed / miles as copiously as broken hearts. The sense of poetry is helped, too, by examples of slant rhyme, such as the assonance of Biblical city, miles / while and hopes / homes, consonance of words and deeds, Syrian woman and lights / pavements, and alliteration in good to go green, bombed-out buses and frail facsimile. The division of the poem into tercets makes it ‘reader-friendly’. The poem is in digestible chunks, every one of which has something to add to the overall message. If this already winning poem is still under review for possible publication, the poet might find it useful to give a little more consideration to the sentence structuring. Sentences lacking a main verb hang awkwardly in the text, and leave the reader feeling dissatisfied. On rare occasions, this device can be effective and add to the words’ message, but it should be used very sparingly. Then readers will

see it as a deliberate means of making a point, rather than as an incomplete scrap of content. Another point to think about is whether the poem ends in the right place. Would it be more convincing to cut the last line? And the homeless Syrian woman who looked back would make an incredible ending. One quality of a good poem is that it can be revisited and yield something new for the reader on each return to the writing. This is certainly the case with You Can Take the People Out of the City… A quick glance gives an interesting overview. A more studied reading provides depth. There’s nothing remarkable in that, but a return to the poem after some time has passed opens up all sorts of new avenues to consider, while reinforcing the ideas gleaned during previous readings. There’s a compelling quality about this poem that urges the reader to think around its theme, but then to return to the core – to read again and understand more of its message.

Poetry in practice Try something different to give your poetry submissions a lift, suggests Doris Corti


re you trying to get your poetry published? Perhaps you have had a series of rejections? Take heart and send some poems written in unusual forms. These might intrigue an editor who could decide that they are something different to go into a magazine. One form that is not often used nowadays is called the kyrielle. This is a French form dating from the Middle Ages. It may be written in couplets or quatrain stanzas, but because it carries a refrain in the last line of each stanza it is difficult to write convincingly in couplets. The refrain may be a whole line, a single word or a phrase. Each line has eight syllables, usually written in iambic pentameter. If it is written in couplets it should rhyme a A a A throughout (A being the repeated line or word). If written in quatrains

the rhyme pattern is a a B B c c b B etc or, a b a B c b c B etc. An example of a quatrain following the rhyme pattern is: Dead leaves are on the steps again, / I tread on their fragility. / Another year clogs up the drain. / O God of silence let me be. Many hymns use this form but a kyrielle is not exclusively for religious verse. The last line of this stanza would be the repetitive one in any following verses. Another unusual form, not often used, is the rubai. It is a quatrain form that originated from Persia. It has a delicate rhyme pattern of a a x a, b b x b, c c x c etc. It is written in iambic tetrameter or pentameter. The best known example is from Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ, / Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit / Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, /

p068 Poetry workshop.indd 69

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it. You might submit an epigram form to an editor – this is a short, witty and often satirical statement sometimes written in prose. Epigrams were originally meant as inscriptions for statues and monuments but poets took them up as a genre in which they could express thoughts on people or life. They often did this in a pithy and memorable way. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote Swans sing before they die -’twere no bad thing / Should certain persons die before they sing.

Exercises Write the first stanza of a kyrielle to the theme of summer. Decide whether your repetition will be a word, whole line or phrase. Using your chosen repetition, finish the poem. MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:17


Perfect your poetry with a WM Creative Writing course. See cwcourses

Poetry from A



Poet Alison Chisholm guides you through the language of poetry The RONDEAU is one of a series of rhymed French forms that rely on just two rhyming sounds, and on repetition. Although there are variants, the standard rondeau has fifteen lines, divided into three stanzas of unequal length, with five, four and six lines respectively. The opening phrase – or sometimes just a single word – becomes a refrain that recurs as the final line of the last two stanzas, and may be left justified or indented. It’s important to choose this phrase carefully, to make sure it will work at the repeat points. Written in iambic pentameter or tetrameter, the rhyme scheme is R/a a b b a a a b R a a b b a R. This example shows the pentameter version.

The RONDEAU REDOUBLÉ is a longer form, still using the two rhymes and refrains, but adding an extra factor. It has 24 lines of iambic pentameter plus a refrain half line, and is constructed from five quatrains and a quintain. Each line of the first quatrain appears again consecutively as the refrain in the subsequent quatrains. The final stanza ends with a refrain of the poem’s opening word/s. The rhyme pattern is R/A1 B1 A2 B2 b a b A1 a b a B1 b a b A2 a b a B2 followed by either a b a b R or b a b a R. You will see from this just how many rhyming words you require for the form – ten different words for each sound. It’s worth checking the options available before you commit to the two sounds.

Silver Ring Rondeau I dropped my ring; watched ripples crease a line of iced black water, give the only sign of movement in the stillness of this cave. I stooped, as if I thought that I could save my ring from slipping through earth’s fissured spine.

Darkening December sunset starts with hints of grey that haze the afternoon, the gulls’ slow flight. There is a lingering drawing-down of day and shadows whisper just this side of sight.

In truth, my clumsiness was by design. The subterranean channels of the mine were tomb black, hushed and colder than the grave. I dropped my ring.

Earth’s turning shrinks the hours of winter light and sends its shivers through us if we stray too close to sand’s edge, crawling sea’s chill bite. December sunset starts with hints of grey,

When I am long gone, then my ring will shine, reborn and new discovered, crystalline, reminder I once trod this timeless wave whose tide change grips us all. For this I gave your gift, full circle, love and soul entwined. I dropped my ring.

then streaks of rose turn indigo, display a final rainbow swirl before twilight devours them, while thin mists rise from the bay that haze the afternoon. The gulls’ slow flight

EXERCISE: Write a rondeau in either line length, building on the theme of this example. Start with any item you no longer have, whether it has been deliberately discarded, lost or stolen, and then consider the circumstances of your parting from it, and how you feel about its loss. Develop the poem around any aspect of these reflections.


MARCH 2018

p070 Poetry know-how/alphabet.indd 70

is wheeling homeward while first breaths of night call them to cliff face. We, who know to stay would be sheer folly, dawdle, take delight – there is a lingering drawing-down of day –

EXERCISE: Devise the first stanza of a rondeau redoublé on any subject, ensuring that each of its four lines will work as the final line of a later stanza, and that the first phrase will work as the closing line. If you enjoy this process, go on to develop the complete poem. If you find this part tiresome, spare yourself the trouble of working on the rest – it’s far more tricky.

The ROMANTIC movement arose in the nineteenth century, and involved such diverse poets as Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Southey, Coleridge, Blake and Byron. The poetry demonstrated freedom of expression, imagination and inspiration, and coincided with the social and political upheaval of life in Britain at the time.

where cloud and shade merge; feel tide’s icy spray invigorate us, charge us, and excite some rebel need to dare our mortal clay: and shadows whisper just this side of sight. For here, responding in some primal way to elements of air and water, rite and instinct urge within us an array of fears and phantoms that disturb, despite December sunset.

23/01/2018 12:35



r u o y t r a t S





Y R O T S with

Get fired up to write your novel with a NEW one-day workshop from Writing Magazine

Whether you have the seed of a story or are struggling to know where to start, you’ll spend the day being inspired by fellow writers and expert advice from our speakers, with fun creative ideas to fire you up. Led by our inspiring tutors, Jenny Alexander and Elizabeth Enfield, the workshop will feature three sessions, covering: • Ideas and inspiration • Plot and structure • Bring your story to life Jenny Alexander





Saturday 28th April 2018


Buffet lunch and hot/cold drinks included. Plus a free goody bag! *Overnight accommodation available at The Great Northern hotel at a reduced rate*

Elizabeth Enfield

9am until 5pm

The Great Northern Hotel, Peterborough Easy access from Peterborough train station and free hotel car parking

Places are limited – book now to avoid disappointment! Or call 01778 392 492

SYS Event advert.indd 1

23/01/2018 14:48


hand Helen M Walters explores the tension between characters in The Lumber Room by Saki


H Munro, also known as Saki, is well known for writing stories of a witty and sometimes macabre nature. Those who have been following my short story master classes will remember we have already looked at two of his stories: Sredni Vashtar, which tells of a young boy turning the tables on his unkind guardian, and The Open Window, in which a young girl gets the better of an unexpected visitor. Like these two stories, the story we are going to look at this month considers the relationship between adults and children, and the profound differences between them. In The Lumber Room (writ. rs/wmmar18) a young boy outwits and gets revenge on his selfproclaimed ‘aunt’. As always you will gain most from this masterclass if you read the story for yourself. The story starts with the first inter-generational clash of wills. The young boy, Nicholas, has refused to eat his breakfast because 72

MARCH 2018

p072 Masterclass.indd 72

he insists it has a frog in it. The adults in the house insist there can’t be a frog in it, but eventually it turns out that there is, because Nicholas himself put it there. The adults are described as ‘older, wiser and better’, yet it is the youngster who turns out to be right. Next we find that Nicholas is to be punished for the breakfast incident by being excluded from the day’s expedition to the beach. Note how Saki describes the adult character who exercises this power over Nicholas and the other children. It is explained that she is his cousins’ aunt, but that she has styled herself as his aunt also. This seemingly innocuous fiction obviously rankles with Nicholas and is another example of the child being factually right in the face of adult wrongness. Note how throughout the story this character is referred to as ‘the aunt’ and not given a name. The next clash of wills comes when ‘the aunt’ decides that as a

further punishment Nicholas should not be allowed into the gooseberry garden. The aunt’s explanation that this is due to being in disgrace doesn’t convince Nicholas as his child’s logic dictates that there is no reason why he shouldn’t be both in disgrace and in a gooseberry garden. Again the way Nicholas sees the situation differs greatly from the adult stance. However, he soon sees a way of turning the situation to his advantage and turning the tables on his tormentor. Note how this part of the story underlines some failings in the adult character that allow Nicholas to triumph in the end. We are told she doesn’t listen when she is told important things. (This is why she doesn’t know that one of the children is unlikely to enjoy the day at the beach because his boots are too tight.) She doesn’t explain things properly, so increasing the boy’s feeling of being harshly treated and desire for revenge. She misjudges the situation, believing

23/01/2018 12:22


that Nicholas will want to get into the gooseberry garden simply because she has forbidden it, when he actually has something very different in mind. Finally we are told she lacks ideas. All this puts her in stark contrast to Nicholas, who is shown as being imaginative and resourceful. Having cleverly manipulated the aunt into watching over the gooseberry garden, Nicholas enacts his real plan, which is to get into the lumber room. The fact that the story is called The Lumber Room and not ‘The Gooseberry Garden’ is significant as it is here that we see Nicholas really in his element and achieving his true goal. In his mind the lumber room is a place of much more wonder and delight than the garden. Why was Nicholas so interested in the lumber room? Initially it is because the room is forbidden. It is locked and only adults have access to the key and the ability to go in there. But once he is in there his expectations are surpassed. He finds that it is full of ‘unimagined treasures’. The room is full of things that are beautiful and interesting, and that have been locked away from sight by ‘the aunt’ rather than being left on view where they can be enjoyed. Again, the discrepancy between what an adult thinks is right and what a child believes is highlighted. Nicholas is particularly taken by a tapestry showing a hunting scene. He is lost in a world of imagination as he wonders whether the hunter depicted in the scene was going to be in turn hunted by a pack of wolves seen in the background. Meanwhile, ‘the aunt’, who still suspects Nicholas of trying to infiltrate the gooseberry garden, has come unstuck. She has fallen into the rain-water tank. Look carefully at the conversation between her and Nicholas which follows. Note how he uses her own words against her as he refuses to help her as this would mean entering the gooseberry garden, which he had been forbidden to do. In this story Saki makes the reader empathise with the

child, Nicholas, even though his behaviour is undoubtedly mischievous. He does this by making the adult character behave even more badly, and inviting the reader to judge them more harshly. The chasm between the older and younger generations is captured tellingly in the final scene. The aunt sits in cross silence following her unpleasant experience in the garden. Nicholas is also silent, but in his case it is because he is still happily daydreaming about what might have become of the huntsman in the tapestry.

Winners and losers Relationships between people are at the heart of all good stories. And the more problematic the relationship, the more story potential there is. As we have seen in the story by Saki, relationships between adults and children can spark tension. There’s an inbuilt power dynamic between the two groups and a disparity in how they see and relate to the world. This is all great story fodder. When you set out to write a story, think about which character has the upper hand, and why. Your plot can then pivot on how the balance of power shifts throughout the story. If you can make sure that the characters in your stories are different enough in their outlook and aims to clash, like Nicholas and his ‘aunt’ then you’ll be well on the way to creating an interesting tale. So what character pairings might cause sparks to fly? As well as adult and child, you could have someone very rich and another person who is very poor. You could have someone who is very religious and an atheist. You could have a very preciseminded scientist and someone with their head in the clouds. As well as having characters who are very different, you could try having characters who want very different things. And if you can make sure that what one of your characters wants will prevent another character from getting what they want, then that’s even better. If you’re writing a crime story then the criminal wants to get away

p072 Masterclass.indd 73

with their crime and the detective wants to bring them to justice. They can’t both get what they want, but how are you going to keep the reader guessing for as long as possible which way the story is going to go? But it doesn’t have to be as clear cut as that. What about if one character wants to emigrate to Australia and their partner doesn’t? The person who wants to go may have a new life down under as their most cherished goal in life, but if their husband or wife doesn’t want to go with them because they have to care for an elderly parent or want their children to stay in their current school then they’ve got a problem. And, as we know, giving our characters problems to solve is a great way to power a story. Or what about if you have two characters who want the same thing? But only one of them can have it. You could have two interviewees going for the same job. Only one of them can get it, but who deserves it the most? Who will suffer the most harm if they don’t get it? All this really helps you to raise the stakes in your writing. Of course, the classic love triangle story is also built on two people wanting the same thing – the love and affection of a third person. But what different spins could you put on it? One of the love rivals might be expected to scupper the other’s chances. But what if that backfires and they end up disgraced in the eyes of the desired one? Or what if they realise their adversary is a better match for the other person and selflessly bow out or even engineer a situation where their rival is given the chance to shine. Think about who the winners and losers are going to be in your story, and why? Then add in the conflicts, disagreements and differences that are going to make them rub each other up the wrong way. Consider who is going to end up with the upper hand at the end of your story, and how you are going to get the reader rooting for them. That way you’ll have a story with an interesting and powerful dynamic and a satisfying conclusion. MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:22

Winning tales

Did you enter WM’s inaugural Picture Book Prize? Amy Sparkes was very impressed with the entries, and tells us why the top three stood out as winners


he inaugural Writing Magazine Picture Book Prize has been an outstanding success! Congratulations to everyone who completed and submitted a picture book for the competition. We had over 600 entries: rhyming stories, funny stories, beautiful stories, magical stories… a huge variety! There were so many wonderful stories that judging the contest was extremely difficult. ‘The standard was overwhelmingly high,’ said WM editor Jonathan Telfer. ‘It’s obvious entrants have been making good use of

Amy’s advice in WM each month!’ After much debate, we decided on the three stories which topped our list – huge congratulations to our top three entrants: One of the judges, Julia Churchill, literary agent at AM Heath, said: ‘I loved the playfulness of the three texts. Moles was my winner as it was just the right side of surreal and it made me laugh out loud.’ Read on to find out more about the winning entries! It can be harder than it seems to produce a picture book which will captivate adults and

How to make your picture book stand out

THIRD PLACE: Fiona Lloyd, Grace and the Band extract: (1) “Yippee!” shouted Grace, as she rushed through the door To find lots of presents piled up on the floor. (2) A board-game, a jigsaw, some sweets in a tin; (Mum made sure the wrappers went straight in the bin). She turned to the last gift. “My goodness,” said Mum, “How thoughtful of Grandma to buy you a drum!” (3) At bedtime, Grace dreamt: in the darkness and gloom A famous conductor was there in her room. “Excuse me,” said Grace, “could you give me a hand? I need some musicians to be in my band.” He stroked his moustache, but before he replied, Grace woke with a start… (4) …there was something outside! (5) Downstairs in the kitchen, the noise was quite plain. Grace opened the back-gate and crept down the lane. And there on a log, by the light of a star, A tiger was plucking an ancient sitar. “Excuse me,” said Grace, “could you give me a hand? I need some musicians to be in my band.” The tiger stopped playing, and stuck out his paw. “My pleasure,” he said, “but we need a few more.” (6) They hadn’t gone far when they heard a strange sound A thumping and bumping that rattled the ground. Then over the fence hopped a grey kangaroo; And under his arm was a didgeridoo. “Excuse me,” said Grace, “could you give me a hand? I need some musicians to be in my band.” The kanga beamed proudly and started to blow, While Grace kept the tempo by tapping her toe.

children alike. It’s rare for the first picture book you write – or even the first few – to make the grade. The good news, though, is that the Writing Magazine Picture Book Prize will be returning in September this year, with more opportunities for unpublished and unagented writers to launch their writing career. Submissions will open from the 1 September 2018. For more information and tips throughout the year, please visit Why not start working on your picture book writing now? Happy writing!

Judges’ comments: The story is full of colour and action as Grace meets a variety of animals and instruments along the way. The rhythm of the rhyming text was beautiful – smooth and flowing. Illustrations could be easily visualised. There is a satisfying twist at the end which helps the reader see the story in a new light. The text was well presented, divided into an appropriate number of spreads, which helped judges visualise it as a picture book.

Read as many picture books as you can. Which do you like best? Why? If you are writing a rhyming picture book, ensure the rhythm and rhyme are flawless. Ask someone else to read it out loud (without having seen or heard the story before). This will highlight any places the rhythm trips up or doesn’t come out as you expected it to. Try to be original. Don’t feel you have to imitate another successful picture book author – create your own idea and write confidently with your own voice. Mix and match ideas to feed creativity and come up with a new, fresh-feeling concept. Create a dynamic, child-friendly central character. What hasn’t been done before? Consider presentation – splitting your story into spreads helps with pacing your writing. It also helps publishers, agents (and judges!) visualise your book. Proofread obsessively and ask someone else to check. Several entries last year included spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Make sure your story is exciting and captivating. Does it have a strong plot? Does it make you want to turn the page to find out what happens next? Is the story interesting enough, with a clear beginning, middle and end?


p074 Children PB.indd 74

23/01/2018 12:25


FIRST PLACE: , Sophie Kirtley ing to Mike extract rd o cc A Moles… t) p.1 Moles arp (scribbled ou rcival J Moldw Pe r so es of Pr by ble)

riting as scrib p.2 (in same handw e ik M to g in …accord

SECOND PLACE: Coralie Evans, Oh No! I’ve Made My Sister Moo extract OH NO! I’ve made my sister moo And now I don’t know what to do. She’s looking at me all confused. My brother’s looking quite amused. “You’re in trouble now,” he said, While belly laughing on the bed. My spell went wrong, I don’t know how I turned poor Jess into a cow. A patchy face of black and white. Her ears stick out! Oh what a sight And gosh, that nose is wet and runny. Mum won’t find this very funny. I’m not supposed to do my tricks On Tom or Jess in case they stick. I turned them into dragons once, They stayed like that for ONE WHOLE MONTH! I used to have a magic book. To do a spell, I’d take a look, But it got ripped by baby Jess, And now I have to try and guess. So I hold my wand and with a swirl. A little shake, a gentle twirl. I cross my fingers extra tight And try and get this next spell right. “Magicuzee, Magicuzog!” OH NO! My sister’s now a...

Judges’ comments: This story is full of action and mayhem with well-placed page turns to make you want to keep to reading – perfect to appeal to a young reader. The topics of magic and sibling relationships – with a healthy dose of chaos – is very child-friendly and lends itself well to illustrations. The rhythm is smooth and works well with the energetic nature of the story. There is an amusing and satisfying twist at the end of the story.

I Moldwarp and essor Percival J. of Pr e p.3 is ar e n, m ar na le y on children. M es, as you will so Good evening, out moles. Mol ab ok bo y m to welcome you tire: sed in formal at s. hrome and dres simple creature oc tly a on en m id ev ry is ve is he arp onetheless, N . he ac st (Professor Moldw ou m ocle, handlebar is written:) waistcoat, mon kboard on which ac bl a to xt ne mole. He stands p.4 dig. 1. Moles like to g worms. tin ea e lik 2. Moles e dark. 3. Moles like th Not Me! erleaf ) intrudes from ov (Mike’s speech P.5 turated colour) (Mike: lots of sa

Mike. Mike is eature. That is cr at th P.6 to n io pay any attent Please do NOT ole… m NOT a proper p’s page.) e! ofessor Moldwar Pr Hi, I’m Mik to on es ud tr eech in (Again Mike’s sp ntific ideas.

e rather unscie P.7 s developed som ha he id ra af … I am y! I can flyyyy

nny and ments: dividual, very fu in , ng ro st is Judges’ com e) (Mike the mol

acter The main char turn the page to ly. nd rs will want to rie de ea R child-f g. in ris getic and surp The text is ener y. ppens next! a hilarious stor find out what ha ge making this pa e , making it th or f th of s au ce e ented by th es Humour boun pr d an t ou t ok. Illustration l though uld work as a bo The story is wel co it w ho ise al to visu easy for judges d helpful. stand out. well-balanced an e ar ns suggestio made this entry ity al in ig or y or st d Author voice an

The shortlist

Special congratulations to everyone shortlisted in the Picture Book Prize: Stephen Burgess, A Pirating Kind of Day; Carry de la Harpe, Skully and the Runaway Leg; Jo Dearden, Cuddle Trouble; Alison Folwell, Hungry, Hungry Horace; Natalie Ford, Rowan on the Planet of Lost Socks; Debbie Jones, Poo Alert; Tom Lancaster, What’s That?; Ellie Lock, The Quest; Victoria Mackinlay, The Crab Who Cried Wave!; Kelly Quance, Posie Pumpernickle and the Picnic Tree; Jonathan Saint, The Firefly and the Moon; Sim Smailes, The Magic Underpants; Karen Swann, Girls Can’t Play Football; Zoe Thomas, Bubble.

p074 Children PB.indd 75

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:25



Chris High asks crime writer Margaret Murphy about taking a darker direction under her new pseudonym

irral-based author Margaret Murphy has a string of acclaimed novels to her back catalogue; 2005’s The Dispossessed being just one. Then in 2014, Margaret teamed up with Professor Dave Barclay to write Believe No One under the pseudonym AD Garrett; a partnership which also saw the publication of Everyone Lies and Truth Will Out, both featuring Nick Fennimore and DCI Kate Simms. Now with the publication of Splinter in the Blood (Corsair), Margaret has employed the pseudonym of Ashley Dyer. Why? ‘Oh, such a leading question,’ says Margaret. ‘There could be a number of answers depending on the specific “why” you’re referring to but ‘why another new pen name’? Well, people tell me that this new Lake and Carver series is different from anything I’ve written before. I disagreed at first, but I’m starting to think they’re right: Splinter in the Blood is harder in tone and more sparely written than any of my other novels. It also focuses on serial killers with a sense of the dramatic – which is a first for me. I wanted to separate this work from my other creations and so hence the new pseudonym. Margaret is right. Splinter in the Blood is harder, grittier and quite brutal in places – arguably more so than anything she’s written before. ‘I hope this is because I managed to make the victims real people readers can care about. I get to know 76

MARCH 2018

p076 Crimefile.indd 76

ASHLEY DYER my characters fairly well at the outlining stage, but they can always surprise you – I’m finding out new things about DS Ruth Lake all the time. I’m also quite glad you didn’t say “gory” though as there’s probably less in this novel than in several of my earlier works. I’m fascinated that you think it’s brutal, because most of the killings happened months earlier, and we come to this case after the investigation has been under way for a year. Many of my earlier works spend some time in the heads of the victims, but in Splinter in the Blood, we get to know them through the investigators’ eyes, which was one of the choices I consciously made. I wanted to take a closer look at both the killer’s and the cops’ psychology, writing in that spare, edgier style I mentioned earlier.’ Sergeant Ruth Lake and DCI Greg Carver are on the hunt for a serial killer who carefully poses his victims and covers every inch of their bodies in intricate, cryptic tattoos. Dubbed the Thorn Killer by the media, the killer uses a primitive and excruciatingly painful thorn method to etch his victims. After many months, a breakthrough feels imminent. Then the killer

gets personal: the latest victim – a student found only a week earlier – is staged to look like Carver’s wife. Margaret has been advised on Splinter in the Blood by Helen Pepper, senior lecturer in Policing at Teeside University and former crime scene manager. Helen is also a judge for the CWA Nonfiction Dagger Award. ‘Helen and I were aware of each other and had met several times on the crime conference circuit,’ Margaret explains. ‘Helen has been advising Ann Cleeves for many years on the Vera and Shetland TV series, and Ann and I are both friends and fellow Murder Squad members, a group of crime writers based in northern England. ‘When I started looking for a forensic adviser, I naturally asked Ann about Helen. Ann, as well as the scriptwriters on the two TV series, all find Helen really great to work with – and willing to go the extra mile to help out with a tricky plot or procedural problem. I approached her, and I’m delighted that she agreed to work with me on these books. Will Jeff Rickman, Kate Simms or Nick Fennimore be appearing in books in the future? ‘Never say never, but foreign rights for Splinter in the Blood have sold around the world, and the novel even went to multiple competitive bids in Germany. It will be a lead title for Blanvalet in Germany this autumn, and the second in the series has also been commissioned worldwide, so the focus for now is firmly on Carver and Lake. Book Two in the series is already well under way and, if anything, this one is darker than Splinter in the Blood and reveals some disturbing secrets about Ruth Lake’s past too.’ Website:

23/01/2018 09:03

BEHIND THE TAPE Expert advice to get the details right in your crime novel, from serving police officer Lisa Cutts


What do most police officers think of the Professional Standards Department? Are they regarded as the enemy?

exactly, although I can see why some would be wary of PSD. A Not The department exists to investigate police officers and police staff

employees for misconduct and corruption matters, as well as complaints from members of the public. All officers, not to mention the public, would agree that corruption is not something that should be tolerated and those officers should be prosecuted. The department exists to do that.


I want one of my police officer characters to sail a bit close to the wind in respect of their private life. Can you give me some examples of the type of thing that would draw attention to them for the wrong reasons?

and police staff have certain restrictions placed on their private A Officers lives because of the nature of the job they do. Any business interest or secondary employment has to be declared and cleared. For example, I had to apply for secondary employment clearance to be able to have a job as a writer. Certain types of work may be turned down be certain forces, such

p077 Behind the tape.indd 77

as anything to do with licensing premises. Any type of political affiliation wouldn’t be allowed either or socialising with those who have a criminal record and failing to declare frequent contact. These are all matters that could cause your character issues.


What happens if my detective inspector wants to speak to another character who is in prison?

on what the DI wanted to speak to them about, she A Depending would probably send a DC to speak to the prisoner. Police officers

can apply to the prison for a visit and the inmate is given a time and date, although not always told who is visiting them. If it’s only a chat or the officer wants the prisoner to make a statement, that can be done there and then. If for your plot, the prisoner needs to be formally spoken to and arrested, they have to be taken from the wing, arrested and taken to a police station. They will then be given their rights, such as asked if they want to speak to a solicitor or want one present for their interview. On completion of the interview, they will be returned to prison.

23/01/2018 09:05

Alex Davis explores portals in science-fiction and fantasy


t’s fair to say that while fantasy and science-fiction usually have the acts of imagination and worldbuilding in common, beyond that there isn’t a huge amount of ground they both tread. The magical worlds of fantasy often look backwards, eschewing technology in favour of a more historically-flavoured setting, whilst SF is more in the habit of looking forward, or at parallel versions of the present. Of course that’s not an exact rule – nothing is or should be immutable in any genre. With that said, the portal remains one of the symbols that is universal to both SF and fantasy. In fantasy fiction, a portal can transport someone from the world as we know it to fantastical lands of danger, magic and intrigue. In science-fiction, these portals can lead from one point of the galaxy to another, often something unknown or unexpected. Whilst they can doubtless be useful story devices, equally they should not simply be portable deus ex machina, popping up at convenient moments to allow our characters to escape from tricky situations or lead them handily to their next step in the 78

MARCH 2018

p078 Fantastic Realms.indd 78

movement of the storyline. If you want to employ the portal in your fiction, it has to be something vital and intrinsic to the plot – but how can you make sure this is the case?

Why go through at all? Like many of you out there, I consider myself a pretty sensible individual, and if a strange portal were to simply appear in my house I wouldn’t be itching to dive through it. After all, there could be literally anything on the other side. So what will be the deciding factor for your character diving through this swirling vortex to the unknown? Many characters, of course, have little choice and are chased or hounded into such a corner that whatever lies on the other side looks like a better alternative. Some are led to believe by external forces – good or bad – that the portal is somehow tied to their destiny and some greater goal or happiness lies on the flipside. Others might – unlike myself – feel enough curiosity that they just can’t resist going through, or at least taking the peek that leads to them being whisked away. Whatever it

is, make sure it’s a very good reason, or your reader might find things hard to believe from the outset.

Exit or entrance – or both? As with so many aspects of speculative fiction, the portal is not really governed by any rules or tenets that would be very recognisable in real life. Whilst this undoubtedly offers great freedom to the author, it also brings a responsibility to create a believable set of rules that govern the behaviour of your portals. An example of how to do it badly would be to have someone state the portal only allows you to enter a world/ place, only to have your characters exit through it later, completely contradicting what you’d already said. It’s vital to consider whether these portals are one-way or two-way doors. Can you pop through and back again, or once you are through are you stuck on the other side of a closed pathway? You can add a further element of risk to the story if your character doesn’t even know, or doesn’t even have time to think about it before diving through – only to discover they are completely stranded...

23/01/2018 12:41


It really matters The next rule to think of is what can make a ‘leap’ through your portal. Is it open to everybody, or only certain people – and, if so, what is the reasoning for that? Is it open only to humans, or could animals jump through as well? Will it only transport living things, but nothing inorganic (cue hilarious clothes-shedding shenanigans)? Again, this is going to be a pivotal rule to the working of your portal. Particularly in SF tales, you might have to consider whether the portal will allow for the vessel people are travelling in to go from one side to the other too. Some portal stories also allow for changes to be made in the process of whatever interdimensional or interstellar travel it is – for example, a character might dive into the doorway dressed in current attire, only to emerge 200 years in the past in the correct garments for that era. The same could apply for another world just as easily – but how does that work exactly? Questions for any author to think about, ideally before even putting pen to paper.

Fragile pathways You might decide in your story to employ a ‘permanent’ portal, something very steady and secure that will remain a dependable mode of transportation for your characters. However many portal stories feature some sort of ‘time limit’, a route that is open for a very limited period. This adds an immediate sense of tension – your character or characters may suddenly find themselves with only days or hours to escape from the world or location they find themselves in, with no other means of escape. While this sounds relatively simple, what you will have to consider as a writer is how the characters discover this fact – after all, the portal is very unlikely to have any kind of convenient timer next to it.

Portal perception One thing to consider before you thrust your character into the unknown is how the portal is seen on the other side. In their original location it might be something startling to your lead, or something with a sensible scientific explanation, but when they are spat out what will the reaction to them be like? Of course, there is a chance they’ll land in the middle of nowhere, but it is

probably more interesting and immediate to slide them into some sort of populated location on the other side. They might be seen as a devil, a hero or a god when they burst from the sky or from what could be seen as a worshipped or cursed place. They might be seen as a very everyday occurrence – oh look, another visitor through our portal – and either welcomed with open arms or perceived as an absolute nuisance, or worse a criminal of some kind. There are two sides to any story, after all, and equally there are two sides to any portal.

A portal can transport someone from the world as we know it to fantastical lands of danger, magic and intrigue. Portable portals? Multi-portals? Of course, many of the scenarios I have described above apply best to cases where there is one portal featured in the story. But of course that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case – it might be the case that a character has a device or the magic to summon up a portal at will, although whether they can control exactly where said portal will take them can be an interesting one. The risk in this particular case is that this does make it distinctly easy for a character to get out of any scenario – looks like we’re in trouble, so off I go! – and this is something to look at ahead of time to ensure you can keep drama and tension in your story. You might want to make the uses limited – be it the physical impact of casting a spell or a more technological factor of charging up/running out of power – or leave a strong element of risk in not knowing where the portal will lead. It might be a better situation, or it could be a much worse one. If you are going to give more than one character this device or power, then of course the conflict could easily continue into a new location. The other, more complex option available would be to have a wide range of portals, perhaps even a complicated ‘network’ available to characters that could lead them to multiple locations or even multiple worlds/universes. In this instance, you’ll need to think of what governs this network. Can anybody have

p078 Fantastic Realms.indd 79

access? Is it highly secret, or very well known? Is it kept, maintained, monitored by somebody? Is this spaghetti junction of interspatial travel mapped and easy to navigate, or far more suited to brave explorers and lovers of the unknown? Is there even a pattern to it – is the navigation of this network simply random, spitting you out wherever chance decides? This again can have an inherent problem as if the portals are simply popping characters out at random – or characters don’t know where they will come out – it can make it hard to maintain a coherent storyline. And

even if their travel is guided by some sort of ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’, is that a bit cliché – something of a deus ex machina in itself? That’s probably why stories tend to focus on a single portal – it offers a clearer structure and shape to the storytelling. But of course, a writer should never be shy of a challenge.

Have portal, will travel As a popular motif in the long-term in fantastic fiction, the ‘portal’ seems to engage with the human fascination – and fear – of the unknown. The uncertainty over what a portal is, where it leads and what will happen on the other side are great fuel for many stories – it could be about confronting fears, embracing exploration, chasing destiny, rescuing someone already lost to the portal, escaping a horrible ‘real life’ or any number of other things. Unlike many genre tropes, they are also very much able to be employed comfortable in both fantasy and SF, although their origins in those two aspects of fiction may be different. In both, they carry risk and danger, and can be a great ally to developing conflict within a tale. However, if they are too easily accessible or simple to ‘summon’ then they can have entirely the opposite effect – and it is vital to consider what governs their operation and the way they work before you begin writing. With some forethought, the portal can be a potent factor in your stories and transport you to some wonderful stories. MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 12:41


your ALCS


Confused with your ALCS statement? Simon Whaley explains how to decipher it.


love this time of year. March is when we get our free money from the ALCS. Free money? Oh, yes! However, from the many comments I’ve seen on social media, not everyone understands their ALCS statement. Many simply look at how much they’re getting and then file it ready for their tax return. But having a clearer understanding of what you’re receiving the money for may help ensure you claim everything to which you’re entitled.

What is ALCS? The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society collects money generated by secondary rights from various sources and then distributes it to writers. When you sell an article or a short story to a magazine, you sell a primary right – a right to publish your work, for which you should be paid. But once a piece of your writing has been published, there are legitimate ways in which it can be scanned or photocopied. Organisations and business pay for this legitimate right to copy your work. Imagine a school teacher reads an article you’ve written about the history of your home town, which has been published in your local county magazine. She decides it would be a useful teaching aid in her next history lesson, and decides to share it with every child in her class. To do this, she needs to photocopy it. This is a secondary use of your originally published article. Schools, universities and further education establishments are licensed by the Copyright Licensing Agency to photocopy published material, for 80

MARCH 2018

p080 Business of Writing.indd 80

which they pay a fee. Many other establishments pay for licenses too, such as libraries, local authorities, government agencies and departments, and businesses. Across the country, this adds up to a tidy sum. The Copyright Licensing Agency pays this money to the ALCS, who then distribute it to writers. I should clarify that being paid by the ALCS doesn’t mean that your article or short story has actually been photocopied. It’s just a payment in recognition of the fact that your published work is available for photocopying. However, the ALCS also receives money from many other sources, too. In Europe a small levy is charged on the sale of recording and copying equipment (such as all-in-one printer/ scanners) bought by individuals. They also collect money from foreign Public Lending Right (PLR) schemes, when books are borrowed from libraries, as well as payments for the reading of works on radio, and the retransmission of works on broadcast television and radio. Therefore, if you’ve had an article or short story published in a magazine (not a newspaper) in the UK, a book published (bearing an ISBN), or had some of your work broadcast on television or radio, you could be entitled to some money.

Membership There’s a one-off lifetime membership to pay to join the ALCS. However, if you’re a member of a writing union (see Business Directory) you can join for free. Even if you have to pay the membership fee, there’s no money to pay upfront because your fee is simply deducted from your first payment. And because writers can leave their copyright to beneficiaries in a will, our beneficiaries can also join the ALCS to receive any secondary rights money our works may generate.

Two payouts The ALCS makes two payouts a year: March and September. The March distribution is the biggest, and pays out monies received for articles, books and scripts. The September distribution shares only money received for books and scripts. So if your work has only been published in magazines you’ll receive one payout in March. But if you’ve had books published or scripts broadcast you could receive a payout in March and September.

Understanding your statement Your ALCS statement can be downloaded directly from their website, when you’ve been notified by email that it’s available. The first page is straightforward, detailing the total

23/01/2018 09:05


amount you’re entitled to, less their commission. The ALCS currently charges a 9.5% commission fee to cover their administration costs in dealing with the collection and distribution of the money. If you’re registered as a self-employed writer you can claim this commission as a business expense against your business income. The subsequent pages of your statement then break down where your money has come from, and this is where confusion can arise. Many headings comprise two parts: a code, followed by a description. The description is selfexplanatory. Reproduction of Journals means articles or short stories that have been copied. The code identifies where in the world the money has come from. For example, you may see the code: CLAUK/2015 Reproduction of Journals. The code CLAUK identifies that the money has come from the CLA (the Copyright Licensing Agency) and is for income received from within the UK. The 2015 Reproduction of Journals clarifies that it is money received in 2015 for the reproduction (either photocopying or electronic scanning) of journals (magazine articles). Other codes include: • CLAEU (Copyright Licensing Agency – Europe) • CLAOS (Copyright Licensing Agency – Overseas) You can register your work as soon as it has been published, although there is a cut-off date for works to be included in the next March distribution. This is usually the previous 30 November. However, that’s for articles published in the three previous calendar years. What this means is, you have until 30 November 2018 to register any articles or short stories you’ve had published in magazines in 2015, 2016 or 2017. The money for these will be paid in March 2019. So the earliest you will be paid for an article published in December 2017 (which you have until 30 November 2018 to register) is in March 2019. The reason for this delay is because it takes time to collect the money from the various sources and then calculate an individual writer’s entitlement. On the statements issued in March this year, most of the photocopying income will be from monies received for copying in 2016. Therefore, most of the headings on your statement for photocopied journals will begin the

relevant source code (CLAUK, CLAEU or CLAOS) followed by the phrase 2016 Reproduction of Journals. You may see other codes and descriptions depending upon the areas of writing in which you specialise. The ALCS will always explain a code if you’re unsure. Simply drop them an email, or give them a call. You may also see income from previous years. For example, on my 2017 statement most of my payments were for articles published in 2015. However I also received some money for articles published in 2013. What happened here is that, in 2016, the ALCS received some additional money relating to photocopying undertaken in 2013. (Most of the 2013 income was received in 2014 and distributed in 2015.) I was entitled to some of this money because I’d had articles published in 2013. So when you see income for more than one year on the same statement it means the ALCS received extra funds for a previous year and this is your share of those funds.

Three year limit Another common misunderstanding is that the ALCS is paying out money for the total number of articles or short stories you’ve had published in the last three calendar years. They’re not. They only pay out once for every article or short story you register with them, it’s just that you have a three-year window in which to register it. So you have until 30 November 2018 to register an article or short story you had published in 2015. If you’d registered it by 30 November 2016, you will have been paid for it in March 2017. If you didn’t register that 2015-published article until before 30 November 2017 then it will be paid in the latest distribution, this month. But if you missed that, then you have until 30 November 2018 to register it, for which you will be paid in March 2019. If you haven’t registered any 2015 articles or short stories by 1 December 2018, then you’re too late. Three years, though, is plenty of time to register your published work. What it does mean, is that writers new to ALCS can claim for the last three years’ worth of work.

Journal categories Under each income source is a series of categories in which your journals have been classified. These

p080 Business of Writing.indd 81

are quite broad, including Lifestyle, Humanities, Medicine, Computer and Library Services. The categorisation is determined by the magazine’s ISSN: International Standard Serial Number. In order to register your article or short story you will need the magazine’s ISSN. Some magazines print this on their contact or contents page. (Writing Magazine’s ISSN, for example, is usually mentioned under the editor’s letter and contributor biographies on page 3.) The simplest way to find it is to use the search facility on the ALCS website.

Annual fluctuations Annual payments vary for many reasons. Firstly, the number of articles and short stories you’ve had published may differ between years. We all have good years and bad years. Secondly, the amount of money ALCS receives from its many different funding sources all over the world varies from year to year. Even the type of article you write can affect your payment. One year I received a lot of money for general science articles. I wasn’t aware I’d been published in any scientific journals until I discovered that some dog magazines fell under that classification. Every writer welcomes their ALCS payment. It might feel like free money, but we’re entitled to claim it. So take a closer look at it this year. Hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding of where your money has come from. And if you don’t understand something on your statement then get in touch with the ALCS and ask. They’re an extremely helpful organisation.

Business directory

Members of the following unions can join ALCS for free: • Society of Authors • Writers’ Guild of Great Britain • National Union of Journalists • British Association of Journalists • Chartered institute of Journalists Website: Membership queries: Distribution (Statement) queries: Authors Licensing & Collecting Society 1st Floor, Barnard’s Inn, 86 Fetter Lane London EC4A 1EN Tel: 020 7264 5700

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 09:05


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 Richard Bell’s suggested solutions set out below: Here are this month’s examples:


The case for hiring an agent is widely pedalled, but Maia, whom had enjoyed some success with her series of children’s books without the help of an agent, was working to perpetrate the series.


Jonah used both pen and pencil to make his interview notes and felt that it made no real difference. He would not admit to belonging to that group of writers whose note-taking was illegible.


He liked his thrillers to have climatic endings that he hoped would scarify his readers.



In our example sentence one, we use the word pedalled. There can sometimes be confusion between the two words, identically pronounced, pedal and peddle. To pedal is to operate a pedal, as in pedalling a bicycle. It is to peddle that means to sell things (hence the word pedlar) and its meaning has widened to include the idea of ‘selling’ ideas and to promoting a point of view. Hence peddle is the verb we should be using in sentence one, as in: the case for hiring an agent is widely peddled. The second point to consider here is the use of whom in relation to Maia. Remember that we should use who when referring to the subject of a verb, and use whom when referring to the object. There is no doubt that Maia is the subject of had enjoyed and we should therefore have who had enjoyed. A final problem in this sentence is the confusion that can arise between the words perpetrate and perpetuate. The word perpetrate has to do with carrying out a harmful or even illegal action, whilst it is perpetuate that can mean continuing an action or a situation. And in this sentence, Maia was clearly aiming to continue her series of children’s books – and we should therefore be using perpetuate rather than perpetrate.


We need to be careful in our choice between both and either. When we use both we mean two things together, in combination. On the other hand, when we use either we mean one of two things on its own. So that when we write about Jonah using both pen and pencil to make notes, we are saying that he uses a pen together with a pencil – using the two writing instruments together.This is unlikely. Generally speaking, we will choose between a pen or a pencil at any one time. Our example sentence two would therefore work better if it said used either pen or pencil on the grounds that he 82

MARCH 2018

p082 red ed pen.indd 82

would use only one of the instruments at any one time. Later in the same sentence, we use the phrase no real difference. This is a classic case of using a vague qualifier in that the word real makes no meaningful contribution. We would be better to try to quantify the degree of difference that is being made; something like no significant difference would therefore be a better example. Finally in this example we have the words admit to belonging. When we use the word admit we frequently feel the need to add the word to in order to give us admit to. However in careful writing we should avoid this usage, and should not follow admit with to. It follows that, in our example, we should have would not admit belonging to that group instead of would not admit to belonging to that group of writers.


In our final example sentence, we highlight the confusion sometimes found between climatic and climactic. The word climatic has to do with the climate – and so we could, correctly, have global warming is causing climatic change. It is the word climactic that has to do with building events to an exciting climax, and which therefore would be appropriate in this context. Another word that can sometimes cause confusion is scarify, which we also use in example sentence three. The meaning of scarify has nothing to do with causing a scare, although its pronunciation may suggest that there is a link. In fact the meaning of scarify has to do with creating a rough surface on something. Instead of scarify at the end of sentence three we should instead use scare or frighten or even alarm or disturb or whichever similar word we feel best describes the emotion we are trying to create.

23/01/2018 09:06

Away from your desk

Get out of your garret for some upcoming activities and places to visit

Back soon!

Big Magic Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert leads a day-long writing workshop on 19 May in London, aimed exploring dreams and obstacles in order to love a creative life. Website: event/big-magic-may-workshop

Settle Stories

Iceland Writer’s Retreat

Explore the ways technology can shire enhance story in the heart of the York e vativ inno nty seve than e mor Dales through val. festi ies Stor e Settl 7th the at ts arts even festival Website:

Stretch your creative writin g muscles between 11 and 15 April during fou r days of retreat and workshops with internatio nal writers in the land of fire and ice. Website: www.icelandwr

Hard Times

rthern novel is Charles Dickens’ classic No adaptation by ge sta new brought to life in a ring Northern Northern Broadsides tou . theatres throughout spring dsi roa des Website: www.northern-b es/

p071 What's on.indd 71

How to be a r features write

ine, presents urnalism magaz jo ow g’s sl e th n, icatio 12 April at Kin Delayed Gratif ure articles on at fe ng ti ri w on an all-day class ses/how-to. on nd Lo , ge vents-and-clas /e colle om .c m is al low-journ Website: www.s riter w sbe-a-feature

23/01/2018 12:20



Primary, secondary & tertiary sources


Choose the right sources for your work with help from research expert Tarja Moles

nformation sources can be classified into primary, secondary and tertiary sources. This categorisation indicates what the material’s degree of originality is. In other words, it conveys to the reader whether the creator of the material is presenting his/her own firsthand experiences and views or whether he/she is merely reporting those of other people. While you are doing your research, it’s good to bear in mind this classification: it will help you choose the right sources at the most suitable time as well as relate to, interact with and critically evaluate them in the most appropriate way. What are these three types of sources and what’s the best way to use of them?

Primary sources Primary sources (aka original sources or evidence) are first-person accounts of events, objects, people or phenomena. They are the raw material in historical research as they would have been created in the past, at the time under study. Investigative journalism also makes use of primary sources and often presents them as evidence. Examples include firsthand descriptions of events, speeches and lectures, handwritten manuscripts, letter correspondence, emails, diaries, autobiographies, the first publications of original scientific studies and historical records. Basically, any source that’s original and hasn’t been previously published or interpreted by another person can be classified as a primary source. These sources provide a window into the past. For example, if you wanted to find out what people thought in the Edwardian era, you could read diaries or personal letters from that time period. These would help you understand the Edwardian mindset. However, as the focus of primary sources is narrow, you need to be careful not to draw wrong conclusions from them. Just think if two researchers who, in 150 years’ time, decide to explore our current society. One reads Facebook posts of people who support Brexit and the other reads anti-Brexit posts. 84

MARCH 2018

p084 Research.indd 84

When the two meet again, they would each have reached very different conclusions about the views in our society. Hence, make sure you use as wide a range of primary sources as possible and consider what kinds of biases people might have. Another limitation of primary sources is their limited context. You have to have prior knowledge of the time period you’re researching to be able to understand and correctly interpret the material you’re reading. Therefore, familiarise yourself with your topic area by studying secondary sources first.

Secondary sources Secondary sources relate to or discuss information that’s been previously presented elsewhere. The author has no firsthand experience of the subject matter and has used primary sources (and possibly other secondary sources) to examine, interpret and form conclusions about it. Most books can be categorised as secondary sources, as can most newspaper articles, documentaries, websites and journal articles in the fields of humanities and social sciences. You’re probably very familiar with using secondary sources in your research. Online material and books are often the first sources that anyone checks out. Indeed, they’re easy to access and frequently provide a good overall introduction to different topics. When consulting a secondary source, pay attention to the date it was published: the older the material, the more likely it is that subsequent authors have either found new information or have interpreted existing information in a new way. In the same way that primary sources can be biased, so can secondary sources. Although the author may have a broader view of the past – and the benefit of hindsight – than the creator of a primary source, this doesn’t mean that he/she is impartial. When analysing any material, remain critical: What do you know about the author and his/her biases? Does the material present only one point of view or

does it cover different angles? Is the author trying to persuade the readers into believing his/her viewpoint? If you detect any signs of bias, use the material with caution.

Tertiary sources Tertiary sources direct you to primary and secondary sources. They compile, index, organise, abstract and digest other sources, and they are not usually attributed to a specific author. Examples include bibliographies, indices to articles, directories, manuals and fact books. Tertiary sources are really useful when you’re trying to find new sources. A thematic bibliography, for instance, can help you discover high-quality material you might struggle to find otherwise. If such a bibliography also contains abstracts of what each source contains, you’re in for a treat: you can get a valuable overview of your topic without having to read every source. If you’re embarking on a large research project and want to make it more effective, save time and make sure that you’re using high-quality scholarly material that’s been vetted by subject-area experts, start your research by finding tertiary sources. Exploring them will lead you to relevant further sources. Then, while you’re reading those, take note of any mentions of other sources that are not on your list already, and follow those ones up too. You may just find that at the end of your project you have found better quality information than what you would have found by using Google only.

Take your research further Oxford Bibliographies ( is a great resource if you’re looking for bibliographical subject-specific guides. There are all sorts of guides available, ranging from the Atlantic slave trade to Hispanic mysticism and from Etruscans to Islamic philosophy. You can access them through research libraries or buy them as Kindle ebooks (

23/01/2018 15:22

Editorial calendar

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

2 June

The first Trades Union Congress (TUC) was held at the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute 150 years ago.


1 June

20 years ago, DVDs (1 June) were first released onto the UK market and £2 coins (15 June) went into general circulation.

Superman first appeared in Action Comics 80 years ago

7 June

50 years ago, The Ford sewing machinists’ strike began. It was a landmark strike that triggered the 1970 Equal Pay Act and was dramatised in the 2010 film Made in Dagenham.

7 June

Prince, who died in 2016, would have been 60.

16 June

The film Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, was first released 40 years ago.

18 June

80 years ago, the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WVS) was launched, initially to recruit women into the Air Raid Precaution (ARP) services.

19 June

40 years ago, Ian Botham became the first cricketer in history to score a century and take eight wickets in one innings of a Test Match.

Looking ahead 22 June 70 years ago, the Empire Windrush docked in the UK with the 492 Jamaicans who were the first wave of post-war migrants from the Caribbean to the UK

Coventry will be UK City of Culture in 2021. Literary associations include the city being the birthplace of Philip Larkin, the setting for George Eliot’s Middlemarch and the origin city of the Coventry Mystery Plays, so if you have ideas round these or any other Coventry-related arts and culture stories, start a file.

Pics Wikipedia public domain, Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0 Nic Redhead Flickr: Sky Team

p085 Ed Calendar.indd 23

23/01/2018 09:10


CAROL WYER Margaret James takes her hat off to the prolific author who writes in several genres


he British author Carol Wyer writes bestselling novels in several genres, always starring feisty women. Carol clearly writes about what she knows because in real life she is something of a heroine herself. She overcame so many setbacks as she chased her long-held dream of becoming a novelist that I am in awe of her determination. ‘I first started writing when I was in my twenties with a series of humorous letters written in a hospital ward,’ she says. ‘I’d undergone major spinal surgery and was bedbound for a long time. I documented the day-to-day life around me, added splashes of humour, then sent the letters to family and friends who were entertained and begged for more. ‘When I was in my thirties, I wrote a series of illustrated books designed to help young children to learn French. A publishing house showed interest in them but, before any contract was signed, my illustrator (and good friend) who’d worked on the books with me passed away, and I abandoned them. ‘I tried again in 2009, this time aiming for the adult female market with a novel about a woman facing fifty. I wrote it in the form of blog posts (rather than a diary), packed it full of humour and sent it to publishing houses. It was rejected by

career took off from there. ‘I made the move from humour to “the dark side” in 2017 with Little Girl Lost, the first in the DI Robyn Carter series, and immediately felt I’d found my true niche. Nowadays my writing motivation comes from readers who email me asking for more Robyn Carter novels. This can all be traced back to that young woman in hospital who wrote those letters, and who still has a desire to entertain. ‘I was brought up on a diet of radio shows such as The Navy Lark and all those television comedies of the 1970s. I watched Dave Allen, Tommy Cooper and Benny Hill, shows like The Comedians, Morecambe and Wise, and sitcom after sitcom. Today, I watch almost anything that is humour-based, and if there’s nothing funny on the television I’ll drag out a comedy classic DVD. As for books, I love Ben Elton’s novels.’ Carol writes crime fiction and humorous fiction as Carol Wyer and non-fiction as Carol E Wyer. Does she need to be in the right frame of mind to be Carol E or just-Carol? Does she have Carol E and just-Carol days/ weeks/months? Or does she chop and change easily?


TAP HERE To hear an extract from the silent children

“I’m fascinated by serial killers and their psychology. What makes one person take another person’s life? Human nature frightens and enthrals me in equal measure.” them all. So I decided to self-publish it – and Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines shot up the Amazon UK charts to become a bestseller. Woman’s Own magazine did a feature on me, and my 86

MARCH 2018

p086 Author Profile.indd 86

‘I’m Carol no matter what I write,’ she says. ‘I suppose my default setting is humour. I’m one of those infuriatingly cheerful people who’s always searching for the funny side of

life, so writing humorous fiction is easy for me. I also perform stand-up comedy and for that I have to be in the right frame of mind. ‘Ordinarily, I don’t find it too much of a problem to switch genres, although last March I was working on Secrets of the Dead and had to write a lengthy, humorous monologue for a standup event. That required a seismic shift in focus. I had to commit the monologue to memory for the performance, and afterwards I found it difficult to get back in the zone for writing crime. ‘When I am writing from a killer’s point of view, I usually write all the chapters that are from this person’s viewpoint in one go, and in order to do that I shut myself away in my office and don’t emerge until they’re completed. ‘I’m fascinated by serial killers and their psychology. What makes one person take another person’s life? Human nature frightens and enthrals me in equal measure so, although I make myself shudder from time to time, I also want to create characters that resonate with the reader at least at some level. My books aren’t filled with gratuitous violence. ‘My imagination scares me rigid. I’ll often wake up after a horrific nightmare having no idea where the thoughts come from, but my nightmares are so realistic that I’ll sometimes believe whatever has taken place in the dream has happened in real life. I’m convinced that one day

24/01/2018 14:24


I’ll frighten myself to death.’ Who or what was the inspiration for Carol’s DI Robyn Carter? ‘I was filming for a television show called Masterpiece with Alan Titchmarsh and met a fascinating woman, Pauline Yong, on set,’ says Carol. ‘Pauline exuded confidence and determination. She’s also extraordinarily fit. She’s a bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast who has participated in many physical challenges, and she became the inspiration for Robyn.’ Did Carol ever go truffle-hunting or do any of the things she discusses in her non-fiction title Grumpies on Board? ‘Yes! We tried out many of the activities in the book, including some of the zanier or adventurous ones: quad biking up a mountain in South Africa, driving a 4x4 over a glacier in Iceland and shark diving. I took part in a travel show broadcast for Age UK too, talking about the livelier holidays that people of a certain age (or any age for that matter) can take. ‘My husband, known as Mr Grumpy, doesn’t enjoy holidays by the pool and, over the years, I’d discovered a variety of alternatives to

keep us both entertained. The book is a light-hearted look at what else is out there for those who want more than a beach holiday.’ Out of all her characters, who is Carol’s favourite fictional creation? ‘Mercedes, the effervescent, wickedly funny, wheelchair-bound character in Take A Chance On Me,’ she says. ‘Mercedes never gives up on life in spite of setbacks. I modelled her on my own personal experiences and on a woman I’d met through blogging, who was paralysed but had a positive approach to life. ‘As for my writing future: there are still more Robyn Carter books to deliver, making a total of seven. I’m considering a spin-off book, featuring Robyn’s cousin Ross, a private investigator. I’ve planned out a new series featuring a different character altogether and written the opening chapters for this. I also have a comedy lined up and ready for release at some point, and am tempted to write another non-fiction title, Grandparenting for Grumpies. That should keep me occupied for a while!’ Website:

§ Detailed critical assessments and services by professional editors for writing at all stages of development, in all genres § Links with publishers and agents, and advice on self-publishing

CAROL’S TOP TIPS • It’s tempting to send that first novel off as soon as you’ve typed The End! But my advice is to put it away for a while and write something else, start a blog or work on outlines for some other books,because a publisher will always want to know what else you plan to write. • Get your work professionally edited. I can’t over emphasise the importance of sending a well-edited book to a publisher. • Exercise patience. It sometimes takes months for agents and publishers to respond. Use that time to write something else (see above) or build relationships on social media. • Don’t give up. If you get rejected, write something else and try again. That first script will be needed one day in the future.

Flash Fiction Prize

§ Six online sessions covering up to 60,000 words § TLC assessment of the completed book § A meet-the-industry day with publishing professionals § TLC Writers’ Day June 23rd with TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition § Literary Adventure writing retreat Sept 15th – 21st § Masterclasses and skills workshops T 020 7324 2563 E W



The Royal Agricultural University Cirencester

Judge: Sherrie Flick

Word Limit: 300

Closes: 28 Feb ’18

Entry fee: € 14.

23rd-25th March- “Ticket To Write” with Simon Whaley

6th-8th April- “The Business of Writing” with Simon Whaley 6th-8th April- “Focus on Romantic Fiction” with Kate Walker- Retreat numbers limited


(€8 subsequent)

le / k in d back azon m A n o

in ack / k paperb azon on Am

d le

Flash Writing Course &

Critique Service

6th-8th April- “Write That Crime Story” with Stephen Wade

All inclusive fee - contact Lois on 01454 773579 Email: or p086 Author Profile.indd 87 Malaga Workshops January.indd 1

17/11/2017 09:10



24/01/2018 14:27


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

Development opportunity for new children’s talent


Writing Magazine and Kickback Media have teamed up to find a new writer to develop a new IP and novel for young readers. With over fifteen years in children’s media, across publishing, television and distribution, Kickback have the experience and contacts to bring new projects to fruition, and they are looking for a new writer to work with collaboratively and develop his or her career. The winner of this competition, exclusive to WM readers, will receive a £250 cash prize, the opportunity to collaborate with Kickback on a new idea, ‘Project FX’, which they will be taking to London Book Fair, and chance to receive feedback and critical assessment of one of their own projects. There will also be nine ‘commendations’. To enter, you must submit up to 2,000 words – not necessarily a complete story – exploring a creative brief. The winner will demonstrate an ability to bring an existing scenario and character to life and open the door to a new, unique, fictional world, aimed at readers aged eight upwards. Your 2,000 words should take your central character, a ten-year-old, from a known world into an unknown/ fantastical one and encounter a character or creature that is in some way magical. You must also include at least two dialogue sequences. The judges are former Penguin Random House Children’s Books fiction publisher Annie Eaton, Kickback founder and multimedia development consultant John Lomas-Bullivant, creative director and designer Henry Coate, and artist and visual storyteller Leighton Johns. The closing date is 23 February and full entry details are on the website:

Come out of your chrysalis

Picture this to earn publication and cash prize

Win a €3,000 first prize in the high-profile short story competition from The Moth magazine The second prize is a week’s writing retreat at Circle of Misse in France, plus a €250 travel stipend, and the third prize is €1,000. This year’s judge is Kevin Barry. All three winning stories will be published in the autumn issue of The Moth. The competition is for original, unpublished short stories up to 5,000 words. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Postal entrants should print off a copy of the entry form and include it with their short story. The entry fee is £12, payable by PayPal or cheques made out to The Moth Magazine Ltd. The closing date is 30 June. Details: The Moth Short Story Prize, The Moth, Ardan Grange, Milltown, Belturbet, Co Cavan, Ireland H14 K768; website: www.


MARCH 2018

p088 News.indd 88

The Stratford Literary Festival/Salariya Children’s Picture Book Prize 2018 is inviting entries. The competition, which is open to authors and illustrators who have not previously had a children’s picture book published, has a prize of a £5,000 advance and publication by Salariya imprint Scribblers. Submissions should consist of a complete picture book text, 28 pages long, aimed at children between 0-5, and two completed double-page spreads of artwork plus rough artwork of the remaining book. The text must be fiction, and should not be written in rhyme. Send entries as a single pdf with a separate front sheet containing names and contact details. All entries must be original and previously unpublished. The writer’s and illustrator’s names must not appear on the manuscript. All entries must be submitted by email. Only one submission by person/team is permitted. Entry is free. The closing date is 5 March. Details: email:

23/01/2018 09:18


Making Monsters


Future Fire publish fiction and poetry ‘that focuses on the social-political elements of imaginary, futuristic, fantastic, horrifying, surreal or otherwise speculative universes’. See back issues online to get to grips with style and tone. Writers worldwide are welcome, especially ‘feminist, queer, postcolonial and ecological themes, writing by under-represented voices, and stories from outside the Anglophone world’. Submit short stories under 5,000 words, 3,000+ preferred, and poetry, under fifty lines, for the new anthology, Making Monsters, which should be retellings or re-imaginings of classical monsters in the genres of fantasy, horror or science fiction. Editors, Emma Bridges and Djibril al-Ayad, will accept ‘Classical monsters… from Greco-Roman mythology, ancient Egypt, the Near East, or any other ancient world cultures far beyond the Mediterranean’. They’d like some stories which ‘explore the marginality and transgressiveness of female monsters and monstrous women such as Medusa, Scylla, Lilith, Kiyohime or Krasue’. Email your submission as a doc, docx or rtf attachment, following full guidelines on the website: The deadline is 28 February. Response time is ‘reasonable’. Payment is £50 for short stories and £25 for flash fiction. Details: Publishing, email:;

Get some art practice

New writing for Wasafiri prize The 2018 Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open for entries. The prize, which is aimed at supporting new writers regardless of age, gender, nationality or background, is in three categories: fiction, poetry and life writing. The judges for the 2018 prize are Malika Booker, Kerry Young and Elleke Boehmer. In each category, the winner will receive £300 and publication by Wasafiri. They will also, depending on eligibility, be offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy. Send up to 3,000 words, or up to five poems. All work must be original and previously unpublished. Send word as doc, docx, pdf or odt files, with double spacing on single sides of A4. If entering poems, put each poem on a new page. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. There is an entry fee of £6 for a single category, £10 for two categories and £15 for all three. Each entrant may enter once in each category. Enter through the online submission system. The closing date is 13 July. Website:


Artists & Illustrators magazine is for practising artists of all levels from beginners to professionals, as well as art lovers. ‘We cover the technical aspects of painting and drawing across all media, providing expert advice on how to improve skills,’ said editor Sally Hales. A&I’s readers are committed to their art practice as a pastime or profession and have a broad area of interest around the subject. The content of A&I is split between practical advice and feature articles. ‘Our practical section includes demos, how-to guides and columns offering insight into the process of painting and drawing in a representational style, however, we’ll happily explore abstract and other genres of painting if we feel they are illuminating,’ said Sally. ‘Our features cover high-profile exhibitions of representational paintings, interviews with working artists and other interesting art world figures, as well as painting movements and area guides.’ Feature coverage is always aimed at practising artists. ‘While our features can be broad, they are always focused on what people who are learning to paint would find illuminating, which is usually some kind of technical insight and accompanied by highquality, relevant images,’ said Sally. A&I features and interviews are no longer than 1,000 words, including a panel of tips or other technical information. ‘Our tone is chatty and informal, but informed. Anyone should be able to read and learn from our features, so we don’t use lots of art-speak. We like our magazine to be clear, concise, knowledgeable and friendly.’ Freelance writers should have an insight into the requirements of A&I readers. ‘We ensure that everything in the magazine is useful in some way to readers’ desire to improve their skills – practical information in a readable format is the foundation of everything we publish. Most of our contributors are practising artists who understand how to build the skills our readers need and can communicate the process clearly,’ said Sally. ‘In terms of feature articles, I’m looking for a strong understanding of the type of art A&I readers are interested in and how reading about it will help them improve their own art. Passion for and knowledge about the subject is essential.’ Sally is happy to accept ideas from writers who understand her readers. ‘A short email pitch about why A&I readers might find the piece interesting is ideal; proof of the availability of good images is even better.’ Payment varies depending on the content but a feature is usually around £250 for 1,000 words. Details:; website: www.

Extra sauce, hold the cheese Tales From The Crust: An Anthology Of Pizza Horror is an upcoming project from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, a US small press which publishes dark fiction in several genres. The anthology needs horror stories about pizza, but, jokes aside, writers are asked to make the story scary. Editors, Keaton and Booth, ask writers to think ‘Not so much the goofy Goosebumps thing you might imagine with a pizza horror story, but we’re taking it kind of seriously.’ They feel that as the humour ‘is inherent in the pizza theme’ they would like writers to be ‘playing

this kind of straight.’ Check out the website and get a feeling for the kind of horror the team publish. Read the anthology guidelines carefully and follow them, or be deleted. Submit stories between 1,000 and 5,000 words. Query if you have a reprint but multiple submissions and simultaneous submissions are permitted. Email work with title, name and word count in the subject line. Make sure the work is edited, formatted to a standard publishing format and professionally presented. The deadline is 1 June. Payment is 3¢ per word for ‘the usual anthology rights’. Details: Tales From The Crust, email subs to: pizzamyskull@gmail. com; website:

p088 News.indd 89

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 09:18


FLASHES Chris Bates is the editor of monthly self-build and home improvement magazine Built It. He will consider ideas for illustrated feature articles. Details: email: buildit@; website: The Folio Society has created a reproduction of the Bayeux Tapestry in a limited edition of 480. At 60% of the size of the actual Bayeux Tapestry, it spans 43 metres on a rolling system encased in a special table and costs £1,920. Chicago native, four-year-old Caleb Green read 100 books in one day in December, and his parents live streamed the marathon on Facebook.The story was picked up by AmericanTV news networks, Caleb telling reporters ‘I want to be a basketball player. When I am 22 I want to be an astronaut and when I’m 23 I want to be a ninja turtle.’ The recipients of Scottish BookTrust’s New Writers Awards 2018 are: poetry: Aileen Ballantyne, Rhona Warwick, Duncan Stewart Mair; children’s and YA: Anne Hughes, Fiona McKeracher; fiction and narrative non-fiction: Samantha Clark, Beth Cochrane, Mary Fitzpatrick, Nadine Aisha Jassat, Eilidh McCabe; Gaelic: Alistair Paul, Calum MacKinnon; the Callan Gordon Award: SashaThanisch. ‘I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze.’ DH Lawrence


MARCH 2018

p090 News/FOW.indd 90


An online quarterly travel magazine that ‘encourages the deep exploration of a destination through powerful storytelling’, Hidden Compass is looking for true, original and compelling stories that push the travel genre by including such as spirit, culture, history, ecology and the perils or residents of a place. Stories can be told in words and/or images and should not have been previously published. The magazine has several departments which include Quest, Portrait, Human and Nature, Chasing Demons and Time Travel which are all 800-1,500 words long. The payment rate in these departments is $200. Feature stories told through text and photographs are 2,000-3,000 long and

A question of aestheticas The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award is open for entries to the 2018 competition. The winners in the short fiction and poetry categories each get £1,000. The winners will be published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual. They will also receive a selection of Vintage and Bloodaxe books, a year’s subscription to Granta, membership of the Poetry Society for the poetry winner and a consultation with Redhammer Management foe the short fiction winner. Aesthetica’s annual Creative Writing Award is given for short fiction up to 2,000 words and poetry no longer than 40 lines. Submissions must be original, and may have been previously published elsewhere. Stories and poems on any theme may be submitted to the competition, which invites international entries. Writers may enter in more than one category. The writer’s name should not appear on the manuscript. Format short fiction in 12pt Arial with double-line spacing. Send entries through the online submission system as a Word doc, docx or pdf. The entry fee is £12 per poetry entry and £18 per short story entry, payable by credit/debit cards or cheques made out to Aesthetica Magazine Ltd. The closing date is 31 August. Website:

Feature Photo Essays, again told through text and photographs, are 500-1,000 words long. The payment rate for both these departments is $300. If your piece does not fit any department neatly but is a ‘powerful, immersive, compelling narrative’ it will be considered. If you can provide published clips of your work a pitch will be considered otherwise email a completed submission in the body of an email. Submit photographs initially as a low resolution jpeg via Dropbox or a similar file sharing system. Email: Website: contributors-guidelines

There’s a twist here Mystery stories with a twist are invited for the Twisted Mysteries Writing Competition which has two sets of £100, £50 and £25 prizes before the closing date of 30 March. All prize winners will be published in a Twisted Mysteries ‘Destiny’ ebook to be published in May. Stories should be set in 1933, an era described as a setting for ‘mystery and romance’ with its steam travel, fashionable hats for men and women, art deco, the growth of cinema, working windmills, horse drawn carts and hay being loaded by hand during harvest. ‘But what lurks beneath the surface?’ suggest guidelines. ‘What twists and tales lie unspoken?’ The competition is open to writers over the age of 18 years and submissions should be a preferred 2,500-3,000 words long and use 1.5 line spacing in a pdf, txt or rtf document. As judging is anonymous your name and contact details should only appear on the submissions form. There is an entry fee of £5 per entry, payable via the Paypal link on the website and you should include the Paypal ID details in the body of your submission. Website: Twisted_Mysteries.html

23/01/2018 09:20


UK INDEPENDENT MARKET All sorts of writing for Williams & Whiting

It’s a Funny Old World



Independent publisher Williams & Whiting is going strong after its first year and a half. ‘We’re not genre-specific,’ said publisher Mike Linane. ‘The only stipulation we have is that we want our readers to know that when they open a Williams & Whiting book it will be a darn good read. So far we have mainly published crime and thriller fiction because that is what has mostly been submitted to us but we have started to publish romance/saga books and we’d like to move further into that market as well as historical fiction, gay fiction, and indeed no genre is off limits to us. We have also published some non-fiction books. We really are open to all ideas.’ Mike set up Williams and Whiting after he helped Susan Moody re-publish her out-of-print back catalogue. ‘I spent eighteen months researching the best way to go about setting up an independent publishing company and thought probably Susan would be Williams & Whiting’s only author,’ said Mike. ‘I was then approached by Janet Laurence to do the same with her back catalogue. Again, I thought that might be it but word spread and all sorts of authors are finding and submitting to us not only their back catalogue but also, and most excitingly, we are receiving lots of original manuscripts by debut authors as well. We officially launched in June 2016 and as of now we have fourteen authors signed and are in negotiation with many others who want to join the Williams & Whiting family.’ In its first eighteen months W&W has published fifty titles. ‘We want to publish as many books as we can manage whilst still giving every single book the same individual attention it deserves,’ said Mike. ‘Ideally we’d like to be able to publish two or three books per month.’ What he wants is straightforward. ‘Basically we are just looking for darn good reads, books with gripping plots that really make you want to turn the page and encourage you to read one more chapter before going to sleep. For us – plot is everything!’ Mike wants quality and variety. ‘Of course, the books have to be well written but not necessarily literary in writing style. And within each genre we are very fluid with what we are looking for. In crime fiction we have already published hard boiled, cosy and humorous titles so would-be submitters should not worry if their book doesn’t fit in with any sub-genre we have already published – if the book is good we are interested to read it!’ For fiction, Mike wants gripping reads with great, believable characters that keep the reader entertained from beginning to end. Ideally manuscripts will be 80,000-90,000 words although shorter (and longer) manuscripts will be considered. Non-fiction should be an original idea written in an accessible way. ‘Even if you’re not sure your book is suitable for us I’d say do get in touch and let’s talk. We’re keen and eager to break some boundaries and publish genres we haven’t already published. We want to discover fresh talent! There’s no such thing as a typical Williams & Whiting book,’ said Mike. He’s also happy to hear from authors interested in republishing their back catalogue and authors with a book that not a ‘fit’ with their current publisher. Williams & Whiting publishes as Amazon-exclusive ebooks and in print. Authors are paid royalties. Authors should submit their manuscript by email along with a synopsis and an author biography. Details: email:; website:

The Story of the Greeting Card, written for the Greeting Card and Calendar Association by Graham Nown back in the 1970s, recalls unusual presents. A well-wisher on the Isle of Man sent the local Highways Authority a steamroller for Christmas because of the poor state of the roads. In 1951 an American industrialist gave his wife a lighthouse which she used for studying seabirds. But perhaps strangest of all, Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer, gave a child his birthday. She was born on Christmas Day and was disappointed that she had ‘one opportunity to celebrate the two occasions’. Stevenson had legal documents prepared so he could officially give her his own birthday of November 13. That’s what it says… • One day Victor Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher. He wanted to know how his new book was doing. His telegram read: ‘?’; the publisher’s reply: ‘!’. The exclamation mark meant Hugo’s book was doing well. The publisher could have deployed long sentences to explain the novel’s success but he saved a few centimes by offering the briefest response. In her book Odd Type Writers, Celia Blue Johnson reveals the truly strange habits of some of history’s great authors. Graham Greene needed a sign from above to begin working on a piece. Obsessed with numbers, the English playwright and novelist needed to see a certain combination of numbers by accident in order to write a single word. He would spend long periods of time by the side of the road looking at license plates and waiting for the hallowed number to appear.  Wherever he travelled, Charles Dickens decorated his desk with nine objects. The bronze toads, green vase, and the statuette of an eccentric dog salesman surrounded by his pups comforted Dickens when he hit a mental block, and helped him feel comfortable enough to work anywhere.  • The Times diary mentioned Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione in the stage production of Harry Potter, was at a charity dinner at The Ivy in London when she was reminded of her reading of Wordworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud for the spring equinox on Radio 4. ‘I love doing radio’, she said. ‘I breezed into the studio without any make-up on. I had on an old coat and a tatty scarf, did the reading and went home.’ Throughout the day her powerful delivery had gone viral on social media and a friend sent her the link. She opened it. ‘Bloody hell,’ she sighed. They had filmed her. ‘I dressed for radio, not television.’

p090 News/FOW.indd 91



23/01/2018 09:20


FLASHES Practical Caravan magazine is edited by Alastair Clements. He will consider pitches for illustrated articles. Details: email: alastair.clements@; website: www. practicalcaravan. com A report by Rakuten Kobo into UK reading habits in 2017 reveals that mystery and thriller titles are the mostread ebooks, with the top title being TM Logan’s Lies, which on average took 7.9 hours to read, has 401 pages and a wordcount of 109,000. The shortlist for the inaugural TA First Translation Award from the Society of Authors is: Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated from French by Jeffrey Zuckerman; Notes on a Thesis by Tiphaine Rivière, translated from French by Francesca Barrie; Second-hand Time by Svetlana Alexeivitch, translated from Russian by Bela Shayevich; Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak; The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon, translated from Thai by Mui Poopoksakul, and The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette. The winner will be announced on 1 March. ‘If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be little printed.’ Benjamin Franklin


MARCH 2018

p092 News.indd 92

UK NON-FICTION MARKET Make a difference

The titles on Trump’s tower


Jessica Kingsley Publishers is committed to publishing non-fiction books that make a difference. The company, founded in 1987 in London by Jessica is now part of the Hachette Group. The editorial team publish non-fiction for professionals and general readers. They are proud of their specialist works ‘on the autism spectrum, social work, and arts therapies’ as well as ‘in the fields of mental health, counselling, palliative care, practical theology and gender diversity’. They also publish ‘a range of graphic novels across these subject areas, and books for children, on issues including bereavement, depression and anger.’ An imprint, Singing Dragon, publishes ‘authoritative professional books on Chinese medicine, nutrition, yoga therapy and allied fields.’ The team welcome ideas for new books ‘in all the areas in which we publish.’ Query first by emailing a detailed curriculum vitae/resumé, and ‘a completed copy of our New Book Proposals form (Word document).’ The team will consider the proposal carefully and get back to the author in a reasonable time. Payments, Rights and Royalties are discussed on acceptance. Details: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, submissions to; guidelines: write-for-us

Eyebrows were raised when, rather than a traditional tree, the White House unveiled its first ‘Christmas tree’ of the Trump presidency to be made entirely of books. As if taunting critics, among the titles chosen to construct the tree were American Mourning: Tragedy, Democracy, Resilience by Simon Stow and Tainted Evidence by Robert Daley. It’s all the more peculiar given Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote Trump’s The Art of the Deal, in 2016 told The New Yorker he ‘never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment. I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.’ Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for first lady Melania Trump, explained that the volumes were selected ‘based on their varieties of green colour tones.’

Write your best for Bristol

The 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize is open to entries from writers all around the world. The first prize is I have a dream of a £1,000. The second prize is £700, and the third diverse YA prize prize is £400. Seventeen shortlisted writers will The Commonword Diversity Young Adult Fiction each get £100. The Prize 2018 is inviting entries. winners and shortlisted The competition is open to unpublished authors of writers will all be middle grade and YA fiction whose writing embraces published in an anthology, and receive two copies. ethnic diversity either through their own ethnicity and/ The competition is for short stories up to 4,000 or culture or in their writing. words. Stories may be in any style or genre, including The winner will receive £1,000, mentoring from graphic or verse. All entries must be original and Marjacq Scripts and an Arvon course. The runner up unpublished. The writer’s name must not appear on will get £500. Name: _______________________________________________________ the manuscript. Beyond that, there are no specific To enter, send the first 4,000 words of an original, formatting requirements for this competition. unpublished YA novel that has already been completed. Address: _______________________________________________________ Stories may be entered online or by post. Postal Format the manuscript as a doc with numbered pages, entrants should included a completed entry form. typed in 11pt Times New Roman with the title in a The ___________________________ entry fee is £8 per story, payable as part of header on each page. Include a 500-word synopsis Daytimeand phone number: the online entry process or by cheques made out to a 200-word author biography, plus a wordcount for the Bristol___________________________ Short Story Prize Ltd. Writers may enter more finished novel and full details of all previously published Evening phone number: than one story. work. Submit through the only submission system. The closing date is 1 May. There is an entry fee of £10. Only one entry per Email address: ______________________________________________________ Details: Bristol Short Story Prize, Unit 5.16, author is permitted. Paintworks, Bath Road, Bristol BS4 3EH; website: The closing date is 29 June. Website: Title of entry: _______________________________________________________

I have read and agree to the rules of the 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize. I enclo entry made payable to Bristol Short Story Prize Ltd. I agree to have my story p Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 11, paperback and ebook, if it is09:21 selected 23/01/2018



If This Goes On is a new anthology being edited by the acclaimed science fiction author Cat Rambo, to be published in the autumn in the US by Parvus Press. The book was conceived as a reaction to ‘the isolationism, divisiveness, anti-science rhetoric, and fear-mongering’ which followed the 2016 US election. Rambo, together with publisher Colin Coyle, are looking for unique stories that offer insights into the shared future of our planet. She says, ‘Tell us how our climate will change if we don’t better protect our planet. Show us how the racial divide in this country (the USA) is only growing wider. Warn us of a coming era of neo-colonialism if we don’t develop conscientious trade practices. Scare us into taking digital security more seriously as we hand over the keys to our digital lives to governments and non-state powers.’ All stories must be set at least one generation into the future, original, previously unpublished and no more

than 5,000 words long. Avoid focusing on currently political personalities, but think in terms of the long term impacts of current day policies. Parvus Press will pay 8¢ per word and a royalty share for contributors for worldwide first electronic and first print English-language rights. Deadline is 1 March. If This Goes On is open to all writers, new and established, anywhere in the world. Parvus Press LLC was founded in 2016 by Colin Coyle and Eric Ryles to publish books ‘so good you won’t put them down for dinner’. Cat Rambo is a former President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Submissions must be made via the online submissions manager at: http:// Upload your manuscript as a doc, docx, pdf or rtf file. Your submission should include your name and relevant contact information in the attached file as well as the body of the email. In your cover letter identify the particular policy, trend, or shift which your story involves. Essential to follow the full guidelines: Enquiries can be sent to Cat Rambo at

A wondrous residency Talliston House and Garden is inviting applications to be its Writer in Residence for 2019. John Trevillian’s project to transform an ordinary suburban house in Essex into an extraordinary experience began in 1990. Talliston’s mission is now to inspire creative, fulfilling lives. As part of that mission, the house offers an annual writer’s residency. The selected writer-in-residence will have two exclusive residential weekends to stay and write at Talliston. To apply, send, a writing bio and a sample of writing titled ‘An Extraordinary Room.’ Apply online or by email by the closing date of 31 August. Details: email:; website:

p092 News.indd 93

Additional evidence

Patrick Forsyth suggests a way of making the invisible visible


hen I think about it maybe I am not so much of a dinosaur after all. The last dozen or so significant pieces of writing I have sold (apart from gracing these august pages, of course) have been published exclusively online – short books to be read on a tablet or phone. It can be a speedy process. In this case, once something is agreed and the manuscript is delivered, proofs come promptly and once they are returned a text can be available online within days and thousands of downloads are possible within weeks. With any luck royalties follow twice a year. All good; but there’s a snag. If I am honest I enjoy putting published books on my shelf (I know!) and with this it’s not possible. This is more than just missing a boost to my ego. Consider: one thing leads to another, and a significant factor prompting an editor to agree to commission something may be seeing something else. If they can do that, I reckon they can do this for me, they say to themselves. Of course you can give an editor details and a link to a website, but they may not take the trouble and besides people may need to open an account or pay to access your deathless prose. So it may be worth creating a printed version. This might just be a one-off on A4 paper in case people can’t access a link you send them, or if you’re at a show. But it may also be worth giving it a smart cover sheet and having it printed on demand. Do this and you have an additional piece of evidence to offer as reason to commission you to take on new projects. Creating it is surely worth a few minutes.

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 09:21


FLASHES Thomas Newdick is the editor of military aviation magazine Airforces Monthly. Send him ideas for articles on current (not historical) topics. Details: email: thomas.newdick@; website: www. Best-selling author Louise Doughty has led the crowdfunding for three BAME writers’ scholarships, each of £15,000, for students enrolled on the MA/MFA in creative writing at UEA to help address the fact that a quarter of students offered places on the MA have to turn them down because of lack of funds. David Melling’s 123 Splosh, DK’s All About Me! and Ed Vere’s Max the Brave have been announced as this year’s new Bookstart titles. Bookstart gifts free books to every child in England before they turn one and again when they’re aged three-four. Weekly title, the Ellesmere Port Pioneer, has been shut down after 96 years. Burton Mail editor Emma Turton has left the daily paper after three years at the helm, to be replaced by deputy editor Julie Crouch.  The short list for the Penderyn Music Book Prize 2018 is due in early March. The winner will be announced at The Laugharne Weekend festival on Sunday 8 April. ‘The great poets express what most of us struggle to put into words.’ Allie Esiri, writer and former actress


MARCH 2018

p094 News/ And another thing.indd 94

UK BOOK MARKET It’s all down in black and white BY JENNY ROCHE

Publishing books in a range of genre fiction, biography, sport, humour, non fiction titles and children’s books, Black and White Publishing considers most things, but no poetry, short stories, drama or anything written in a language other than English. This independent publisher, based in Edinburgh, was founded in 1999, has over 300 books in print and is ‘committed to publishing the best books from the most talented writers in the UK and beyond’. Using the online submission form, submit, as a doc or pdf document, the first three chapters or the first thirty pages of your book together with a 100-word synopsis and a note of the genre and word count for your book. Include also a cover letter saying a little about yourself and why your work stands out. If you feel your work needs an extended synopsis or plot summary there is room on the submission form to do this. If you are bloggers or vloggers the publisher can supply review copies of their books as well as print and broadcast media. If you are interested in joining the blogger database make contact saying which genres you

are interested in reviewing and include a link to your blog together with mailing and email addresses. Details: Black & White Publishing, Nautical House, 104 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6NF; email:; website: http://

Eyelands of dreams Eyelands has announced its first international flash fiction competition, which has the theme of ‘dreams’. The first prize is a week’s holiday for two at Three Rock at Triopetra on the island of Crete (not including airline tickets). Runners up will get a Greek handmade ceramic. Winners and runners up will be published in an anthology of Eyelands competition winners released through Strange Days Books.

All entries must be original, unpublished short stories up to 500 words on the theme of ‘dreams’. All entries must be sent electronically as Word docs, with a separate document containing the author’s name and address. Pay the €5 entry fee via PayPal. The closing date is 20 March. Details: email:; website: https://

Don’t look now, just get it written Fowey Festival is inviting entries for it Adult Short Story Competition 2018. In honour of celebrated Fowey author Daphne du Maurier, the title for this year’s entries is ‘Don’t Look Now.’ The competition is for original, unpublished stories up to 1,500 words in any prose style. The prizes are £100 and £75. Double-space manuscripts and don’t include your name or any identifying details. Enter by post or by email. Writers may enter only one story. The entry fee is £5, payable by bank transfer or cheques made out to The du Maurier Festival Society. The closing date is 16 March. Details: Du Maurier Festival Short Story Prize, 6 St Fimbarrus Road, Fowey, Cornwall PL23 1JJ; email:; website:

Get heard by Pin Drop The Pin Drop Short Story Award 2018 is inviting entries. The annual Award, staged by Pin Drop in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, has a prize of £500 and the winning story will be narrated live by an actor at a special event at the Royal Academy. The event will be recorded for Pin Drop’s podcast series. The competition is for original, unpublished short stories up to 4,000 words. Only one story per author may be submitted. Send stories as a doc or docx with the author’s name and story title as the file name. Format documents in 12pt Arial, double spaced, with numbered pages. The front page should consist of the story title and word count. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Enter through the online submission system. Entry is free. The closing date is 15 April. Website:

23/01/2018 09:24



Dahlia Publishing is opening the first of two 2018 submission windows in March. The independent small press is committed to broadening opportunities. ‘We set up in 2010,’ said publisher Farhana Shaikh. ‘Having run an online literary magazine, The Asian Writer, for three years, we saw that there was a gap in the market for a small press publisher that was championing regional and diverse fiction. We’re committed to publishing books that reflect the multicultural society we live in.’ DP publishes contemporary, original fiction. ‘We are keen to work with first time writers, especially those who feel underrepresented by the mainstream,’ said Farhana. ‘Our current list mainly consists of novels and anthologies (short stories and poetry) but we’re happy to consider strong proposals outside of this remit. Aside from our publishing efforts, we also run an annual literature festival as well as the Leicester Writes short story prize. Our prizes are a great way for us to nurture early-career writers and discover an exciting new voice! We’re committed to creating a nurturing and supportive environment where creativity can thrive.’ DP currently publish three or four titles each year, ‘and are looking to double this by 2020’. The press is also looking at ways of exploiting the potential of digital storytelling. ‘I’m a big fan of the short form and definitely see us pursuing digital projects that allow us to turn around work much quicker than our current schedule of 6-12 months. This might see us publishing individual short stories or setting up a new platform that really celebrates this type of writing. I think there’s a huge thirst for great short stories which was evident when the New Yorker’s Cat Person story broke the internet in early December. Other than that, we’re working on securing funding for a mentoring project specifically aimed at underrepresented writers and continuing developing our existing community-based projects.’ Farhana is particularly interested in contemporary, character-led storytelling. ‘I would say I am particular drawn to a strong female character, excellent storytelling and something that teaches us about the world we’re living in now. But having said this, when I read submissions I try to keep an open mind and look for an original voice, above all else.’ She also likes fiction that is absorbing and accessible. ‘A great book for Dahlia Publishing is something that is a beautiful story, well told and fits in with our values. I read lots of submissions so the story has to grab me in some way right from page one, and keep me reading. Also, we’re not genre-specific or too literary, so if it’s accessible it’s likely to be a good fit for us. I think we’ve published some great titles like When Ali Met Honour that truly represent us as a small press.’ Dahlia Publishing has submissions windows in March and September. ‘A personal, well thought-out covering letter, the first three chapters and a one page synopsis via email is the best way to submit. Manuscripts should be double spaced, in 12pt, Times New Roman font.’ Dahlia Publishing publishes in paperback and ebook formats and pays royalties. Details: email:; website: www.

A very liberal residency Submissions are open for Gladstone Library’s 2019 Writers in Residence programme. The chosen writers, whose work will engage with liberal values, will each receive a month’s stay at Gladstone’s Library, the UK’s only prime ministerial library, in Flintshire. During that time, they will blog about their stay, run a creative writing workshop and host an ‘Evening With’ event. Their residency will include full board and lodgings, travel expenses and £100 a week. To enter, applicants must submit the book they would like judges to consider, plus a one-page CV or biography, a statement defining ‘liberal values’, a description of the writing they plan to do at the library and proposals for their evening event and day masterclass. Preference will be given to books due to be published during the year of the residency. Submissions are equally welcome from fiction and nonfiction writers. Only one submission is accepted per writer. Submissions are open until 30 April. Details: Louisa Yates, Gladstone’s Library, Church Lane, Hawarden, Flintshire CH5 3DF; website:

p094 News/ And another thing.indd 95

And another thing... ‘‘Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic. So, stand aside, forget targets, let the characters, your fingers, body, blood, and heart do.’ Ray Bradbury ‘I can be quite formidable, yes if you mess around with my work or if I feel you aren’t taking me seriously, I can be very strong. I have an opinion.’ ‘Maybe, I did pave the way for a new kind of television. Russell T Davies, bless him, says he couldn’t have written Queer as Folk if I hadn’t written Band of Gold. I would love to think that I did change things, but it’s only when other people tell you that it makes you think.’ Two points made by Kay Mellor when interviewed by Nick Ahad for the Yorkshire Post. Nick recorded Being Kay Mellor for BBC Radio ‘So bring on the fake news; bring on the slosh of sentiment; bring on the wildfires of anger and accusation. They are windows into the interior world of other human beings. Let us learn to see what lives there and make our own judgments. Let us learn to navigate, as we do in the spoken word, in the printed word and in our own lives. Let us learn to discriminate.’ Matthew Parris, The Times ‘In days before film and photography, poems captured a moment in time, a fleeting flicker of emotion not present in the same way in a painting or in history books… ‘Poetry transports us and forces us to imagine what it might like to be someone or somewhere different… Allie Esiri, writer and former actress, in The Sunday Times Magazine. ‘Don’t make lazy word choices: You’ll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words and a curiosity about their shades of meaning that is almost obsessive. The English language is rich in strong and supple words. Take the time to root around and find the ones you want. ‘On the other hand, avoid jargon and big words: Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other. It’s impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English.’ William Zinsser, US writer, author of On Writing Well FEBRUARY 2018


23/01/2018 09:24


FLASHES Lighterlife is a new free weightloss magazine edited by Jackie Cox and published by Made by Sonder. Feedback and weight-loss success stories are welcomed. Details: email: mystory@; website: www. Michael CarhartHarris edits Your Dorset, the free newspaper from Dorset County Council. Feedback is welcomed. Details: email: yourdorset@; website: facebook. com/dorsetforyou ‘Short story anthologies are enjoying a boom in sales, rising by almost 50% in value, to reach their highest level in seven years,’ The Bookseller reported. Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight for Good reached the UK Official Top 50 books number one spot. Novelist Stuart Evers and author Tessa McWatt have each been awarded a £20,000 Eccles British Library Writers’ Award, which are given to writers whose works in progress require they make substantial use of the British Library’s collections relating to North America. ‘£10.5m – the value of the global poetry book market in 2016, the highest since records began.’ Nielsen Bookscan


MARCH 2018

p096 News/Introductions.indd 96


New Rivers Press is a US small press with a mission to connect new and emerging writers and storytellers with eager audiences. It needs literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Many of the best manuscripts come through three global competitions, on top of their general submission periods. Read all the guidelines carefully: there are four separate webpages for the different ways to submit. A variety of lengths and formats is published: ‘novels, novellas, short story collections or anthologies, creative non-fiction, themed essay collections, full-length memoirs, and poetry in the form of poetry collections or anthologies.’ Genre fiction is only published in ebook form. General submissions open on 1 April for full-length manuscripts of poetry or prose. Nonfiction submissions open on 1 May, for full-length manuscripts of creative nonfiction, memoirs, essays, and mixed-genre work. Submissions are also open for short story/novella collections, and personal essays, 100-200 double-spaced pages; novels and memoirs, no more than 400 doublespaced pages; and poetry collections, 50-90 singlespaced pages. The team are flexible for hybrid work but 200-300 pages seems a good length. Submit through the website, with ‘a brief artistic

50 years of Marquez Around half of the archive of Colombian-born Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) has been made available online by the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Centre. The material includes manuscript drafts of published and unpublished works, research material, photographs, scrapbooks, a memoir, correspondence, clippings, notebooks, screenplays, printed material and ephemera comprising around 27,500 images. Project librarian Jullianne Ballou, said ‘Spanning more than a half century, the contents reflect García Márquez’s energy and discipline and reveal an intimate view of his work, family, friendships and politics.’ Explore the archive at

biography with a publication history’ in your submission. Include a brief synopsis, two to three paragraphs, if submitting novels or memoirs. The Electronic Book Series is a new venture. The team seek genre fiction, such as ‘action-adventure, comic misadventure, crime, detective, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, slipstream, spy, thriller/suspense, westerns, young adult, new adult’, but the work must show some literary merit. Submit full length works from 1 July. Use the online submissions system and don’t forget full contact details, a brief CV and links to relevant websites. New Rivers Press also runs two competitions to find new authors and publish their work. The Many Voices Project is a competition for poetry and prose. Emerging authors submit one full length prose or poetry manuscript. The winning manuscripts are published as traditionally bound books and as ebooks. Check the website for the competition details. The winning author receive a $1,000 honorarium, a standard book contract, and ten complimentary copies of the final book. The second competition is for the American Fiction Anthologies. The editorial team accepts submissions of short stories from writers all around the world for their anthology. Cash prizes are awarded for first, second, and third place stories and the anthology is published in print and electronically. Check out the details at the website. Response time is ‘slow.’ Payment for Electronic books is $500 and a standard electronic book contract. Payment and Rights for other submissions is discussed on contract. Website:

Written in the stars

Look up to Stars is a project run by the University of Birmingham’s Astronomy Society and the Big Bang Fair (which celebrates science, engineering, maths and technology). The aim is to engage young people’s interest in space by naming new constellations in a way which appeals to today’s 7-19 year olds. Of the eight new constellations named in December, four have connections to the world of books: Malala Yousafzai (a book), JK Rowling (Harry Potter’s glasses), Sir Michael Bond (Paddington Bear) and Sir David Attenborough (Whale).

23/01/2018 09:25


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

Today’s Golfer, edited by Chris Jones, is all about helping its readers to up their game. The bulk of the magazine’s coverage deals with golf instruction, equipment and golf courses. Feature coverage takes up about a quarter of the magazine’s content, with topics including player interviews, brand profiles or topical issues. Freelances with great ideas and images that are relevant to the interests of Today’s Golfer’s readers are welcome to contact Chris with email pitches. Payment varies. Details: email: chris.jones@; website: www.

The Cricketer, edited by Simon Hughes, is the world’s oldest cricket magazine, dating back to 1921. It offers international cricket coverage, but has a UK focus, and offers the world’s biggest coverage of UK county cricket, as well as interviews, reviews, historical pieces and previews. Features are 750 and between 1,500 and 2,000 words, and the magazine prides itself on the high quality of its writers. Freelance pitches are welcomed from writers with unique angles, original ideas and the ability to execute them to a high standard. Payment varies. Details: email: magazine@thecricketer. com; website:

Tennis Threads is the UK’s only monthly magazine devoted to tennis. Aimed at fans, players and clubs, it provides in-depth coverage of every aspect of tennis, including match reports, tournaments, grand slams, player interviews and profiles, racquet and equipment reports, club news, disability tennis, court construction and anything to do with the sport. Features vary in length, with player interviews at 2,500 words and match reports between 1,200 and 1,500 words. Shorter pieces are also featured. Publisher Paul Johnson accepts freelance pitches sent by email through the website. Payment varies. Website:

Established in 1911, Golf Monthly is the world’s oldest golf magazine and acknowledged as the UK’s most authoritative source of information on the game. Edited by Michael Harris and written for golfers, by golfers, every issue features tips on how to play better, reviews of the latest equipment, interviews with the biggest names in the game, ideas for where to play at home and abroad and expert insight and features on the grass roots game. Michael accepts freelance pitches by email. Payment varies. Details: email: golfmonthly@timeinc. com; website:

The Football League Paper is a weekly newspaper providing fans of football outside the Premier League with extensive coverage of the 72 League clubs. Coverage, which is squarely aimed at dedicated football fans, includes the latest news, features, in-depth analysis of leading figures in the sport and match reports. The editor-in-chief is David Emery. Much of the copy is produced in-house but freelance pitches are accepted. Payment varies. Details: email: newsdesk@; website:

220 Triathlon, edited by Helen Webster, is the UK’s top triathlon magazine, covering everything of interest to enthusiasts, including gear, nutrition, training advice on running, swimming and cycling and race coverage. Features are written in-depth for knowledgeable readers who are active triathletes and endurance sports enthusiasts. The content is practical and useful, and the tone is always upbeat and engaging. Contact Helen with ideas by email. Details: email: helen.webster@; website:

Give peace a chance Stories and poems are invited by Arachne Press for an anthology celebrating the centenary of the end of WWI. Publication is planned for November 2018 and each published author will receive two copies of the anthology, provisionally titled An Outbreak of Peace, plus royalties which will be divided between all contributors. The anthology will aim for a good balance between the ‘appropriate commemoration of the dead, relief it’s all over and hope for the future’ and there are no specific requirements

as to how you approach the topic. ‘It doesn’t have to be about WWI at all,’ says Arachne Press owner Cherry Potts. ‘I am looking for a balance of powerful writing and hope. I have been uneasy about all the commemoration that has verged on the celebration of war – that’s why this is explicitly about PEACE’. Submissions should be unpublished pieces written in English. Stories must be between 1,000 and 2,500 words and poetry a maximum of 1,000 words. Writers who are blind or deaf are welcome to submit by BSL in a video or by an audio file. The website’s Submittable page has more details. The closing date for submissions is 31 March. Website:

p096 News/Introductions.indd 97

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 09:25





Claycraft monthly magazine editor Rachel Graham is happy to accept news and photos of readers’ creations. Details: email: claycraft.ed@kelsey.; website: Steve Harris won the Mail on Sunday’s Jeffrey Archer competition for 100-word stories with The Container. There were more than 2,000 entries. Ocean Vuong has won the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry with his debut collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds. To mark the 25th anniversary of the prize, the prize money increased to £25,000. The Malcolm Saville Society aims to promote the work of this 20th-century children’s author. It produces four magazines a year. Membership is £15 per year. Details: email: mystery@; website: www. The winner of the £1,000 Flambard Poetry Prize 2017, awarded for a group of five poems, is Lydia Kennedy. The Mail on Sunday’s new forty-page lifestyle supplement, Life, launched on 14 January. Website: www. ‘It’s splendid to be a great writer, to put men into the frying pan of your imagination and make them pop like chestnuts.’ Gustave Flaubert


MARCH 2018

p098 News.indd 98

Mythic Romance is the romance imprint of Radiant Crown Publishing, publishing novellas and novels, 30,000-90,000 words. This editorial team prefer the third person POV for single title romances, and first person POV, ‘split 50/50 between heroine and lover,’ for category romances. HEA (happy ever after) endings are preferred, but a novel in a series may have a HFN (happy for now) providing the next novel is HEA. This is adult romance so the ‘heat’ levels range from sweet to graphic and sometime erotica. Novellas are released in digital and audiobook format. If they sell well they make print publication. Novels are released in print, digital, and audiobook format. Currently the team want single-title romance, 70,000 to 90,000 words, of all heat levels, with

Get it write for The Writers Bureau The Writers’ Bureau 2018 Short Story Competition is open for entries. The competition is for original, unpublished short stories on any theme, up to 2,000 words. The first prize is £300, with further prizes of £200, £100 and £50. In addition, all the winners receive a Writers’ Bureau course of their choice, worth over £374. Type entries in double spacing on single sides of A4. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a completed entry form, or a separate sheet with full contact details. Enter online or by post. There is a £5 fee per entry, payable by debit/credit card or cheques payable to The Writers’ Bureau. The closing date is 31 March. Details: The Competition Secretary, Dept S18, The Writers Bureau, 8-10 Dutton Street, Manchester M3 1LE; website: www.

possible series potential if the book is popular. The team also seek ‘sweet, sensual, and erotic category romance’, 30,000-60,000 words, for the Mystique, Honeymoon, and Phantasma collections. These category romances may be adult romance, or erotic romance, and the team are particularly interested in novels which involve ‘aliens, shifters, dhampirs, military heroines, weird westerns and punk’, non-traditional characters. Acceptable subgenres are gothic romance, science-fiction romance, paranormal romance/romantic fantasy. The team do not want work involving multiple partners or dubious consent. Mystique titles must have a sweet mainstream romance level and ‘fall under gothic romance.’ The novel may contain clinical or closed-door sex and some adult language but the HEA is essential. Honeymoon, and Phantasma are sensual and may offend mainstream romance readers. These novels may contains non-clinical sex and adult language and an HEA is essential. Do read the detailed guidelines which cover sexual levels and the ‘proven tropes’ this team prefer. Response time is ‘slow.’ Royalties, payments and rights are discussed on contract. Details: Mythic Romance, website: http://

Time to revisit the Slaughterhouse Kurt Vonnegut’s modern satirical classic Slaughterhouse-Five is being adapted into a television series for Universal Cable. Writer and showrunner Patrick Macmanus says the series will expand on the themes of the novel, noting, ‘There are no lines that Vonnegut ever throws away. But there are certain lines within the book that allude to a much larger world. I’m not just talking about going off into outer space. He alludes to the Balkanisation of the United States and to the hydrogen bombing of the United States. I feel like today’s TV is the only way to tell this story. Even though it’s only approximately 275 pages, I think that it’s ripe to be expanded upon exponentially.’

Celebrating bad sex Just like the real thing, when literary sex goes wrong, it can be embarrassing for all concerned. Consequently, Christopher Bollen, the winner of the 25th annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, declined to attend the ceremony at the In & Out Club in London to receive his Award for his novel The Destroyers. The Award, established in 1993, honours an author ‘who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel.’ Sadly, Bollen’s winning entry is too graphic to quote here.

23/01/2018 09:29


UK ECO MARKET New indie eco-publisher BY TINA JACKSON

Retreat West Books is a new, environmentally conscious independent publisher of novels, short story collections and memoirs. ‘I’m a journalist as well as a fiction writer and have been writing about environmental sustainability for almost two decades and things really need to change; so all of the titles will be published as ebook and print-ondemand paperback so that none end up being pulped,’ said publisher Amanda Saint. Amanda started Retreat West Books in 2017, initially to publish the anthology of winning and shortlisted stories from the 2016 Retreat West Short Story and Flash Fiction Prizes. ‘Then I decided to publish a charity anthology of climate-fiction stories to help raise funds and awareness of the global climate action group, Earth Day Network. This will be the first title published in 2018. And when the rights for my debut novel, As If I Were A River, were returned to me I decided to reissue that too. Initially, RWB will only publish around five or six titles each year, one of which will be the anthology of winners from the annual prizes. ‘I will personally be reading all submissions and working with the authors editorially to get the titles ready for publication,’ said Amanda. ‘I have a team of freelancers in place to design covers, and typeset and proofread the books.’ The long-term plan is to produce beautiful books in an environmentally sound way. ‘I hope that it continues to publish beautiful books that people want to read while keeping its environmental impact to a minimum. When I started Retreat West in 2012 to run writing retreats and competitions I would never have predicted that five years later I’d be running courses, teaching at literary festivals, and starting an indie press, so who knows what the future might bring!’ Amanda is looking for character-led adult fiction with a compelling narrative and plot, and accepts submissions of both novels and short story collections (no high fantasy or police procedural series). She is also accepting submissions of memoirs. ‘It’s all about the character for me,’ said Amanda. ‘All of the books and short stories I love and re-read time and time again have characters who lead the way rather than being very plot-led. Writing characters like this is about complexity, voice, and consistency, and I focus on this for my teaching of creative writing too. So if you’ve written a complex character with a strong voice that sits at the heart of a compelling story, you’ll no doubt reel me in.’ Her advice to prospective authors is to make sure you really know your narrator before you start writing. ‘I read lots of novel openings and short stories for the competitions I run at Retreat West and the ones that don’t progress to the long and shortlists it’s nearly always because their character’s voices and personalities are not properly developed. Do loads, and I mean loads, of writing exercises to get to know your characters before you start writing the first draft.’ Initially interested authors should send three chapters of novels and memoirs (up to 10,000 words), or three stories, with a synopsis. ‘I’ll ask for more if I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far,’ said Amanda. Submit through the online submission system. Author royalties will be negotiated for each project. ‘They will be generous compared to industry standards and paid quarterly,’ said Amanda. Website:

p098 News.indd 99

Novel Ideas

The write age There’s no right (or wrong) age to be a writer, says Lynne Hackles


t’s never too late to write. I don’t mean clock-time as in it’s almost midnight, I need to go to bed so don’t have time to write anything. I mean life-time as in how many years you’ve lived and how many more you hope/expect to. Lately, I’ve heard several people say they were too old to get anywhere with their writing. It made me think. Could age be just another excuse for not writing? As we get older we’ve been programmed to think about everything that can go wrong with our bodies, and minds. Forget all that and, instead, concentrate on what is right with your body and do the best you can to keep body and mind healthy. Writing can help. It’ll keep your mind active and your imagination alive. You can join a writing group or sign up for a weekend course, and make new friends. You can challenge yourself to take a course on article or novel writing. You can consider writing a new chapter in your life. It can energise you and give you something to look forward to each day. You could start a blog. I used to follow one called ‘the oldest blogger on earth’. The lady who wrote this was 101. She wrote about her early life, which really was social history, and had hundreds of followers. Age did not deter her. You can still write a novel, or several, because you can now self-publish instead of searching for an agent or publisher for years. Actually, let’s forget age altogether. Set yourself a target. An achievable one. It could be writing a letter to a magazine or signing up for a course. See how energised it makes you feel. We all have enough excuses for not writing without adding age to the list.

MARCH MARCH 2018 2018

99 99

23/01/2018 09:30


FLASHES Take A Break’s My Favourite Recipes pays £25 for recipes. Send at least three photographs of your favourite dish, a photo of yourself, an ingredients list and method and say why it is your favourite. Include any tips. Details: email: myfavouriterecipes; website: www. myfavouriterecipes. net At the end of 2017 MerriamWebster declared that ‘feminism’ was their word of the year, while plumped for ‘complicit’. Collins Dictionary chose ‘fake news’, saying ‘the word saw an unprecedented usage increase 365% since 2016.’ Whether this was true or not, who can say. VisitEngland named Yorkshire as the top county for holidays with a literary link. When Laura McInerney, editor of weekly newspaper School Week, stepped down, Shane Mann became the interim managing editor. Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky, has won the inaugural Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. ‘Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.’ The late American writer Willian Zinsser


MARCH 2018

p100 News/ Zine.indd 100

GLOBAL LITERARY MARKET Where there’s copper there’s brass BY PDR LINDSAY-SALMON

Poetry, fiction, essays and translations are the fare of Copper Nickel, a literary journal which has published many award winning writers and is based at the University of Colorado.

From the beginning of 2017 the journal has been paying $30 per printed page although this can vary from year to year depending on funding. There are also two Editors’ Prizes of $500 per issue for poetry and prose. The submission window for the next issue is open until 1 March. Simultaneous submissions will be considered but let the journal know if your piece becomes accepted elsewhere. Submit 4-6 poems, one story or one essay and for translation features submit 5-10 poems or a fiction or non fiction piece. If your feature is accepted a 500-1,000 word introductory essay will be required. Use the Submittable link on the website for all submissions. You should gain a response within eight weeks. Website:

Hit the right notes US indie Parsec Ink needs fantasy, SF and horror stories for its speculative fiction annual Triangulation, themed this time as The Music Edition. Music must be an important element in the story. A musical instrument, the parts of music, or musical culture, any aspect of music may be applied with a light touch or a serious touch.

Get creative for Kenneth Branagh Award The 2018 International Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing is inviting submissions of short plays by amateur playwrights. Three shortlisted scripts will be given fully staged performances during the Windsor Fringe Festival. One of the three will be selected to win the first prize of £500. To enter, send original, unpublished and unperformed short plays of no longer than thirty minutes. Plays should be suitable for staging in a studio theatre, and should have a cast of no more than six actors. Send two copies of each play, typed on single sides of numbered A4 pages. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Scripts must not be bound or stapled. Include a cover page with the play title and the writer’s name, contact details and signature. There is an entry fee of £10, payable by cheques made out to Windsor Festival Fringe, or by PayPal. Only one script is accepted per author. The closing date is 5 March. Details: Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Drama Writing Award, Suite 640, 24-28 St Leonard’s Road, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 3BB; website: www.

Submit short stories of ‘up to 5,000 words, but the sweet spot is 3,000 words’ with a creative interpretation of the theme. No fanfic, gross gratuitous sex and violence please. And no reprints, multiple submissions, or simultaneous submissions. Submit through the website with doc, docx or rtf files. The deadline is 28 February. Final decisions will be made by 31 March. Payment is 2¢ a word plus one e-book and one print copy of the anthology for ‘North American serial rights, and electronic rights for the downloadable version(s).’ Website:

Halloween call American small press Corpus Press is currently accepting submissions for the first volume in a new, as yet untitled, yearly anthology series of Halloween-set stories. Submissions should appeal to a wide readership from late teen to adult, be in some way associated with Halloween and fall into the broad realm of horror fiction. Stories can be frightening, thought-provoking, atmospheric, humorous or satirical, or any combination thereof. No stories with excessively explicit language, sexuality or violence, or that have a main goal of shocking via poor taste. Graphic content is acceptable if it is essential and tasteful but this is not an ‘extreme horror’ or ‘splatterpunk’ anthology. Highly experimental works and abstract mood pieces that don’t tell a complete story will have little chance of making a sale. Stories should be 4,5008,500 words. Payment is 3¢ per word plus two contributor’s copies for exclusive paperback, hardcover and ebook rights until November 2019. Deadline is 30 March. Submit through the website: call-for-submissions

23/01/2018 09:31


INTERNATIONAL ZINE SCENE Craft is on online literary zine, publishing ‘new and republished fiction; critical pieces on craft; exercises; craft book summaries; and much more.’ Open to subs all the year round Craft features two separate submission categories, flash, no more than 1,000 words, and short fiction, up to 7,000 words. Follow the guidelines and submit through the website. Other work published includes ‘high quality book reviews, interviews, and critical pieces on craft to publish on our site.’ Query first. Response time is ‘reasonable’. Payment is a flat $100 for flash and 10¢ a word up to $200 for original short fiction. Website:

Slink Chunk Press is an unusual Australian zine, supported by various forms of fund raising and fans all interested in shaking things up, wanting ‘to give fresh takes on the tropes that occur in a lot of magical realist, speculative and urban fantasy fictions, poetry, essays and art’. Work ‘doesn’t have to be technically perfect, as long as the ideas are strong and the passion is lit’. The editorial team like work involving magical realism, urban fantasy and science fiction, LGBTQIA+ lit, non-binary MCs, diversity in race and ability of MCs, steampunk, made up words, unicorns, and work should not be ‘homophobic, transphobic, abelist, racist or misogynist.’ Submit flash fiction, 500-1,000 words, short fiction, 1,000-3,000 words, creative non-fiction, up to 3,000 words, or up to five poems. Paintings and photographs, videos of talking readings, performances, songs, rants, animations, ‘you name it’ and comics are all welcomed. The team are keen to have web-comics on the website, something around six pages. Any work which is cross-medium (eg text and photos, collage) and ‘doesn’t fit the

categories, pitch it to us.’ Submit online using the Submittable system, and include a short third person bio but a cover letter is not necessary. Response time is within four weeks of the submission. Payment is Aus$5 for ‘the usual rights’. Website:

The Suburban Review is another Australian zine with attitude, wanting its readers to build themselves ‘a world of wonder’ and to ‘explore a moment of emotional turmoil’. Change is what the editors want, they expect their zine to shake readers to the core. The zine publishes quarterly, short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and art. The tone is ‘slightly off-centre but always hits the mark.’ The editorial team ‘adore the tongue-in-cheek, and love having our hearts broken again and again.’ Submissions are open until 18 February for a ‘stellar edition’, and ordinary submissions resume at the end of March. Submit fiction and creative non-fiction, 500-2,500 words, or up to three poems. Response time is ‘reasonable’. Payment is Aus$75-$150. Website:

Selene Quarterly Magazine publishes fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and art ‘that dwells in the shadows’. Submissions are welcomed during submission periods, 1-15 March, 1-15 June, 1-15 September and 1-15 December. Check the website for upcoming themes, which are tentatively Necromancy, Tragicomedy, Reliquary and Duality. Submit poems, no more than 100 lines, fiction in several categories, 500-10,000 words, non-fiction essays, narratives and

p100 News/ Zine.indd 101


articles, up to 1,500 words. Follow full guidelines on the website and submit in rtf, doc or docx files, by email Response time is ‘five to eight weeks’. Payment is 2-4¢ Website: Feed Your Monster is an amusing UK zine specialising in horror for readers with ‘inner monsters’. It needs stories that ‘delight and horrify, serving up vampires, ghosts, demons, sharks, aliens and things that go bump in the night’. Stories must be ‘original, fantastic, funny, gory, and scary all in the same course’. Feed Your Monster needs subs of flash fiction, up to 1,000 words, short stories, up to 3,000 words. Study the published work and guidelines on the website, then submit a clean and tidy, well-edited manuscript email. Response time is three months. Payment is £3.50 for original flash fiction and £6 for original short stories over 1,000 words, for first electronic rights and anthology rights and limited one-time, nonexclusive rights to audio. Website: Automata is a zine with style and a belief that zines are about change and experimentation. Its mission is ‘to publish work that simultaneously rethinks and forgets genre’. Writers with work ‘as emotionally compelling as it is off-the-beaten-path weird, please send it our way.’ Fiction submissions are currently open. See the website guidelines and submit stories which ‘explore new spaces: spaces between genres, spaces between styles, spaces between “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction’. Limit stories to 6,000 words and submit in doc or docx format. Response time is ‘reasonable’. Payment is $25 per story. Website:

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 09:32


FLASHES Yoga Magazine accepts contributions for features on mind, body, spirit, ethical living, nutrition and yoga styles. Send ideas by email. Details: editor@ yogamagazine. com; website: www. The Financial Times relaunched its graduate trainee scheme and named it in honour of Paul McClean, 24, a former trainee killed in a suspected crocodile attack while holidaying in Sri Lanka last September, Press Gazette reported. Sinead McIntyre edits Fabulous, the glossy magazine supplement of The Sun on Sunday. Website: www. fabulous Journalist Kate White and Mark McGinlay, a social media manager, launched the Lewisham Ledger, to join sister hyperlocal titles, the Peckham Peculiar and the Dulwich Diverter. Rough Diamonds writers, poets and musicians group meets on the third Thursday of every month at 7.30pm at Lovitaly Restaurant, Market Place, Ringwood, Hampshire. The fee is £5 (£3 concs) with proceeds going to Macmillan Caring Locally. ‘Poetry is the most powerful tool in terms of our emotions.’ Chinese artist Ai Weiwei


MARCH 2018

p102 News/Travel writing.indd 102


Cities of the future

Quarterly anthologies from Third Flatiron BY PDR LINDSAY-SALMON

Third Flatiron Publishing is an e-publishing venture based in Boulder, Colorado, and Ayr, Scotland. They publish digital science fiction and fantasy anthologies with accompanying print editions. Currently the editorial team seek submissions for their 2018 themed anthologies. The focus is on ‘science fiction and fantasy and anthropological fiction’. They like ‘tightly plotted tales in out-of-the-ordinary scenarios’. Light horror is acceptable, if it fits the theme. The editors want short stories which ‘revolve around age-old questions and have something illuminating to tell us as human beings’. Each anthology also carries ‘a few very short humour pieces; around 600 words. The pieces may be first-person or mini-essays. ‘An SF/fantasy bent is preferred.’ Short stories, 1,500-3,000 words, should be in the SF, fantasy or horror genres and written to the theme for each anthology. Themes are open-ended and writers are encouraged to be original. The team like short, imaginative tales. The Summer anthology is called Galileo’s Theme Park and subs are open from 1 March to 15 April. The editors invite readers to ‘take us on a journey to the lands beyond earth revealed to us by Galileo and other space scientists’. Think space opera, SF, physics and let your imagination run riot. The autumn anthology is called Terra! Tara! Terror! and the editors seek SF, fantasy, horror set either on earth (Terra), somewhere fae (Tara), or on the spaceship Nostromo (that’s Terror). Think about dark and bright stories, odd artefacts, alternative histories, paranormal romance, but remember to keep to PG-13 ratings. Subs open on 15 June and close on 15 July. Submit stories by email as attached doc, rtf, or txt files. No reprints, simultaneous or multiple submissions. Put ‘flatsubmit and title’ in the subject line of the email, with a brief bio and ‘one- or two-sentence synopsis’ in the body of the email. Response time is ‘about eight weeks’. Payment, via PayPal, is 6¢ per word plus one digital copy, for ‘first publication rights to the story for six months after publication’. Details: Third Flatiron Publishing, email subs to:; website:

Poems for poets and players The Poets & Players Poetry Competition is open for entries until 28 February. The competition, which this year will have Pascale Petit as its sole judge, has a first prize of £600 and further prizes of £200 and £100. Enter original, unpublished poems in any style or form. Poems may be any length up to 40 lines. Send entries as doc, docx or pdf attachments, single spaced and in 12pt font. Start each poem on a new page, and number the pages if submitting more than one poem. If submitting more than one poem by email, send them as a single

The Stories of the Nature of Cities 2099 Prize for Urban Flash Fiction is a competition run collaboratively between The Nature of Cities, Trinity College Dublin,, the University of Utah Center for Ecological Planning + Design, the New York City Urban Field Station, and the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture. Entries must be flash fiction no longer than 1,000 words, imagining the people and cities of the year 2099. What will cities be like to live in? Will they be lush and green, verdant and biodiverse? What will cities look like; be made of? How will they be designed and powered? Will they be tall, short, dense, under ground or under water? What of public spaces? Social organisation? Mobility? Government? Sustainability and food? Wildlife? Climate change and resilience? Poverty, consumption, wealth, and justice? How will the citizens of the cities of 2099 interact and relate to one another and the natural world? Stories must concern both nature and people and be set in a city in the year 2099. Entries must be original, previously unpublished, in English, and not under consideration elsewhere. Submit no more than one entry, in any style or genre, by the closing date of midnight on 15 April Winning stories and those given honourable mentions by the judges will be published in a book from Publication Studios / Guelph. Prizes are $3,000, two at $1,500 and three at $500. Enter a doc, docx, rtf or txt file by email: Follow the full guidelines at: www.

attachment. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. All entries must include a completed 2018 application form. The entry fee is £4 per poem of £10 for three. Pay this by PayPal, or for postal entrants only, cheques payable to Poets & Players. The closing date is 28 February. Details: Poets & Players Poetry Competition, Poetry Dene, 16 Clifton Street, Bury, Lancashire BL9 5DY; email:; website:

23/01/2018 09:38









Book a date International applications are open for International Literature Festival Dublin’s Date With an Agent 2018, an event which is part of ILF’s Getting Published Conference at the Smock Theatre in Dublin on 26 May. Writers whose work is selected will be invited to an intimate workshop. Each of five literary agents (Simon Trewin, Piers Blofeld, Ivan Mulcahy, Julia Churchill and Tanera Simons) will look at the work of fifteen writers, and five writers will go on to have one-to-one meetings with the agents. To apply, send an author biography (500 words), a synopsis (up to 1,000 words) and the opening 1,500 words of the book (double-spaced in 12pt Times New Roman on numbered pages with the title on every page). There is an entry fee of €10, payable through the Eventbrite page. Send applications by post, by the closing date of 26 March. Details: International Literature Festival Dublin, Boxroom Productions, GEC, Taylor’s Lane, Dublin 8, Ireland; website: http://

p102 News/Travel writing.indd 103



Although it has a Canadian slant, Outpost Magazine has ‘a strong mandate to accept stories from authors anywhere in the world, even if English isn’t your first language’. Its editors think this is the only way to find the best insider guides and tips. The magazine is published bimonthly in print and weekly online and it is recommended you read the online example articles before pitching a story to get a feel for the magazine’s style, focus, tone and subject matter. You can also sign up to receive the magazine’s newsletter. Only original, previously unpublished work will be considered. The magazine’s sections include: Feature Stories, about a travel adventure you or someone else has had; Thrillseeker, on wild expeditions, adventure races, unique small, off the beaten track extreme experiences; The Insider’s Guide, giving concrete and specific tips and ideas on a particular subject, theme or travel experience, for which an authoritative voice is essential; Gourmet de Mode, which has occasional international recipes, especially when they have a cultural story behind them; Field Notes are articles and stories with a science connection. Most online articles are 800-1,500 words long and print articles are 2,000-4,000 words although anything in between these word lengths will be considered for both online and print. First pitch your article idea by email to include your story angle, direction, elements and proposed length together with your contact details and the availability of photographs. Also include 2-3 samples of any previously published work. It is essential you can verify all facts and statements in your idea. Once your pitch becomes accepted for publication you will be contacted to discuss any editing that may need to be made. Payments for published work are negotiated with the editorial board on an individual basis and international authors are paid by Paypal. Email article pitches to: Website: https://outpostmagazine. com/contribute-to-outpost-magazine/


From the frontier O W-H O

The prediction business Patrick Forsyth takes a lesson from a hurricane say, I say, I say, what’s the essence of the best comedy? I don’t know what is the… Timing! Perhaps, despite its age, this sounds better when you hear it. Never mind, it allows me to start to say something about timing. Columns such as this must be written ahead of publication, but it is probably true to say that we will all remember the recent coincidence of three hurricanes in a row hitting the Caribbean (and parts of the USA) in September. Great damage was done and I have encountered more than one person putting thoughts of a holiday there on hold. I write this having just received a travel brochure in the post, the main feature of which was the Caribbean. Bad timing, but I expect it was all printed and set up and too late to stop. It reminds me of what may be the most ill-fated advertising campaign of all time. The Hong Kong tourist body had to pull a campaign just as the SARS outbreak broke out (at the time it was feared this respiratory virus would be much more widespread than it proved to be), so we never saw the campaign. The strap line was to have been Hong Kong: takes your breath away. So, consider timing. Seasonality is one thing. This is broadly predictable and you can fall into the pattern of writing and submitting work well ahead of summer, say, so that it can be published just as a season begins. Many things arrive with known timing, from anniversaries to events, festivals and more. Two other points are worth considering here. First, if you can produce appropriate and good work at very short notice you may steal a march on others and gain commissions from editors keen to have material responding promptly to something topical. This may work best with existing contacts who know you, though there is no reason not to submit to others (perhaps with a little information about your past work). Secondly, and this may admittedly be more difficult, you can try to predict events. You can easily anticipate a hurricane season, and perhaps that something notable will incur in it. But the range here is huge: maybe someone will die, a government or political circumstances change (prompting greater or less danger in visiting somewhere). Maybe one event will influence many different things, in the way that the huge drop in the pound is affecting where people are choosing to travel. Thought in both areas is worthwhile. You will not always pick a winner but a bit of thought can secure you topics that put you ahead of others and gets an editor saying yes.


MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 09:38


FLASHES Sharon Reid, editor of Yours fortnightly magazine, welcomes bathtime memories of when many homes had no bathroom at all. Send to Blast from the Past, Yours Magazine, Media House, Peterborough Business Park, Peterborough PE2 6EA; website: www. With Game of Thrones heading towards its final season, author George RR Martin’s 1980 novella Nightflyers is in production as a ten-part TV series to debut on Syfy in July. The story follows a team of researchers onboard a mysterious spaceship. Free weekly newspaper, the Beverley Advertiser, is no more. Wren & Rook, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Group, is marking the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with an illustrated fictionalised biography, Mary’s Monster, by Lita Judge. The first edition of the Bridport Times, a community publication, has been produced as a sister title to the independent Sherborne Times, which was founded in 2008. ‘I seriously doubt I would have ever written the first book had I not been a lawyer. I never dreamed of being a writer. I wrote only after witnessing a trial.’ John Grisham


MARCH 2018

p104 News.indd 104


GLOBAL MONEY MARKET Count the pennies

For me plot is like a metaphorical car journey.


cities and beauty spots along the way. Things

If you are a writer who has ‘fun, unique ideas for earning or saving money… especially if you can share detailed numbers, strategies and advice’ then you could find a home, and earn money, for your writing in The Penny Hoarder. ‘Our goal is to improve the lives of everyday folks by helping them spend less time worrying about their finances and more time enjoying their lives,’ says CEO Kyle Taylor, whose blog about making and saving money developed into the site, which now has over two million subscribers. It is advised you first look through the site to make sure the topic you intend writing about hasn’t already been covered. There are also descriptions of the kind of posts wanted on the contributor guidelines page and categories include DIY, Life and Recipe Guides, Success Stories, Unique Job Ideas, Eating/ Travel/Life on a Budget and Smart Money Guides. Article posts should be at least 700-900 words long and be informative, relaxed and contain practical advice that can be acted on. Typical posts contain short quotes from experts and links to sources. In the first instance pitch your article by email and include your name, your pitch headline and a description of your idea. Say a little about yourself and your writing career and give three links to any previous writing. Once your pitch has been accepted an editor will be in touch to discuss payment. Email to: with Penny Hoard in the subject line. Website:

You start from A and head to Z stopping at many happen particularly near your penultimate stopover. A kidnapping? Terrorists? A quarrel? Whatever! Climax! Anti-climax. Your car eventually rolls into its destination and you make the loose ends neat and tidy for your readers. Narrative on the other hand means moving from wherever to whatever as the whim takes you. Well – that’s how I see it. You can describe the scenery, ward off enemies, enjoy a sexy interlude or two, peace of mind at the next stop and so on and so forth. You might start from A and end up back at A. Puzzled readers might ask, ‘What’s the point?’ Airily, you reply, ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the travel that counts.’ Me? I’m the first to admit it – I’m a plot and narrative man. When I’m writing, I’ve got an inner satnav whispering in my ear: “Reconfiguring, Reconfiguring!” It gets me there. Eventually. Usually after five or six years.

Big prize boost for young Scots poets Poets under the age of thirty on 1 January 2018 who have a Scottish parent, were born, brought up in or have lived in Scotland for the last three years are invited to submit a collection of their poetry for the biennial Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. The winner will receive £20,000, a runner up £2,500 and other shortlisted poets will receive £1,000. The winner will need to provide a follow up in two years on the impact the Award funding and publicity has had on their creative life. Submit three hard copies of 25-50 pieces of your poetry, written in English, Scots or Gaelic, which have not been published as a collection. Mention if any individual poem has been published in a journal or online and include an English version of any Gaelic poetry submitted. Entries should be typed/printed on numbered pages, which can be double sided, and as judging will be anonymous your name and contact details should only appear on the entry form, which can be downloaded from the website. Include information on your Scottish eligibility, an email address or SAE for notification of receipt and contact details for notification of success in reaching the shortlist. The closing date for entries is 5pm on 2 March. Details: Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DT; website: www.

A looking glass tale The Harper’s Bazaar short story competition 2018 is inviting entries. The subject of this year’s competition is ‘The Looking Glass’, and writers are invited to send short stories of 2,500 words. The winner will have the opportunity of publication in Harper’s Bazaar, and will get a two-night stay and three-course dinner for two at Amberley Castle Hotel in Suffolk and a selection of gifts from Smythson. All entries must be original and unpublished. There is no entry fee. Send entries by email by the closing date of 9 April. Details: email: shortstory@harpersbazaar.; website: harpersbazaarstorycomp2018

23/01/2018 09:40





Edited by Paul Larkin, Trail Running is the go-to magazine for fitness BOOST BO OOST ST 14 coastal STAMINA freaks who like to get off routes the beaten track. Jo Pavey ‘Trail Running is all FITTEST about anything that 8 YEAR EVER! involves moving at pace Simple off-road,’ said Paul. ‘That SHOE GRIP 12-week EXPLAINED marathon plans can mean a run around the local park all the way to a holiday of a lifetime running in the Alps – we work to the theme ‘City to Summit’ to cover anything and everything in between.’ The bimonthly magazine’s core topics are fitness, gear, science, nutrition, inspiration and motivation and practical advice. ‘The feature content’s a mix of all that,’ said Paul. ‘We have an in-depth gear testing section where the latest kit is put under the microscope, while the rest is written by people who really have done it. That might mean taking part in an exciting event or telling people how to prepare for a goal.’ A typical reader enjoys three or four runs a week, which can be on road, but at the weekend enjoys off road where possible. ‘They probably target 1000 MILES


unning Get off the beaten track ISSUE 42 £4.99 FEB/MAR 18

3 tasty recipes for endurance

Run inspiring seaside trails




‘I trained on trails for my marathon success’

Are you getting enough?

ways to build strong ankles

Why trail running is your best route to fitness


From beginner to advanced

What your tread pattern really means


one or two bigger events a year in somewhere like the Lakes.’ Expert and real life features, each 1,200 words, are all written in a friendly, ‘you can do it too way,’ said Paul. He’s happy to look at all sorts of freelance contributions . ‘It’s preferable that the subject is achievable and in the UK. Scotland would win out every time over Everest for instance, unless of course it was a tale of how training in the mountains of the Highlands helped conquer it…’ Above all, Paul wants the magazine’s feature content to be exciting and inspiring. ‘I’m really keen on a great read. A first-person tale of a race complete with a weather report and what you had for breakfast doesn’t do it for me. On the other hand, great description, clear writing and creating something that will inspire me (or the readers) to go and try it works well!’ Send him ideas by email. ‘Don’t be frightened to fire through ideas – there’s something out there for sure! Including pics is mightily handy if it’s a location you’re writing about. Of course, bear in mind we’re only six issues a year so plan miles in advance. By the time Christmas rolls around, we’re thinking about May. We have thought of a lot (!) but I promise not to steal any we haven’t.’ A long feature would pay around £200. Details: email:; website: www.

Creatively consigned to Room 101

Time for a season

For the 2018 incarnation of its annual creative writing competition, Brentwood Writers’ Circle has taken the theme of Room 101. To enter, writers should think of something they hate that should be consigned to Room 101 and write about it in exactly 101 words. The prize money totals £101: £51 for the winner, £30 for second and £20 for third). Send the entry in the body of an email including full contact details, or type it in 14pt Times New Roman and send it by post. The entry fee is £3, payable by cheques made out to Brentwood Writers’ Circle or by PayPal. The closing date is 30 April. Details: The Secretary, Brentwood Writers’ Circle, 1 Delta Road, Brentwood, Essex; email: compentry@; website: www.

Nottingham Writers’ Club is inviting entries from non-professional writers for its National Short Story Competition 2018. For the 2018 competition, NWC is asking writers to choose a season and write a short story of up to 2,000 words in which the season plays a major part. There are prizes of £200, £100 and £50. All entries must be original and unpublished. Format entries in 12pt font, double spaced, on numbered pages with a footer showing the title. Your name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a cover page with the title, a pseudonym and the word count. All entrants must include an entry form. Enter by post or online. The entry fees are £5 for one, £10 for two and £4 for each of three or more for postal entries, and £6/£12/£5 for online entries, payable by credit/debit cards, PayPal or cheques made out to Nottingham Writers’ Club. The closing date is 28 February. Details: NWC, c/o 29 Redwood Avenue, Wollaton, Nottingham NG8 2SG; website:

What’s the big idea? The Big Idea Competition is a joint initiative by top UK children’s publisher Chicken House Books and The Blair Partnership. It originated with the idea to discover a new way of developing original story ideas for children. What this means is that if you have a great idea for a children’s book but don’t want or can’t write it yourself, then Chicken House Books wants to hear from you. The aim is to find a great idea which can be developed into a book which will be written by a well-known children’s author and published by Chicken House Books, and potentially be developed for film, television, theatre or other media by The Blair Partnership. The judging panel this year consists of TV and radio presenter Angellica Bell, founding partner of The Blair Partnership Neil Blair, bestselling author Jen Campbell, Chicken House Books MD Barry Cunningham, creative director of Blue-Zoo Animation Oliver Hyatt, and bestselling children’s author MG Leonard.

The Big Idea Competition is open for UK residents aged over thirteen. Your idea should be presented in no more than 750 words. There is a cash prize of £1,000 and the winner will be named on the published book alongside the author and paid an agreed royalty on every copy sold. There are five runners-up prizes of £1,000. Runnersup are not guaranteed that their idea will be turned into a book, although this may happen. The first Big Idea Competition was first held in 2014 and received over 1,000 entries. The winner of that competition, Neal Jackson, has had his entry, The First Aeronauts, transformed by Emma Carol into the novel The Sky Chasers. Angela McCann was the 2014 runnerup. She has since worked with the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition winner of 2015, Anna Day, to develop her idea into the novel The Fandom. Both The Sky Chasers and The Fandom were published on 15 January, coinciding with the launch of the 2018 competition. The Fandom is already set to have editions in 22 languages worldwide. The closing date is 23 February. For full details, see the website:

p104 News.indd 105

MARCH 2018


23/01/2018 09:40


ADVERTISE HERE Contact Louise Clarke Tel: 0113 200 2915 or email: Box (min 3cm): £13 per single column cm for subscribers; £15 per single column cm for non-subscribers




HELP FOR UNPUBLISHED WRITERS Launched on 1st October 2017 ..................................................................

Your manuscript deserves the best chance, and Proofreader, Editor and Author Joanne Edmonds, ACCE, can help.

Short Stories always required for Scribble, the short story magazine. Over £100.00 in prizes every quarter, with critiques offered on any unsuitable material. Call 0208 994 7893 or email Each issue of Scribble contains 82 pages of quality fiction, readers’ letters and advice for writers. For further information and submission guidelines, please visit or send a s.a.e. to Park Publications, joanne edmonds.indd 1 06/12/2016 09:25 14 The Park, Stow on the Wold, For more information Cheltenham, Glos. GL54 1DX.


The Society of Women Writers and Journalists offers a Manuscript Critique and a one-year membership of the Society. Gentlemen welcome.All genres accepted.


Critique & Advisory ..................................................................... Park publications.indd 1 17/10/12 Please visit the website for more information.

BookCreateService SWWJ.indd 1

Affordable, fully technically compliant conversions to Kindle, ePub, fixed-layout ePub and PDF/ POD formats


To The Last Word New ways to expand Editorial Services your creative horizons

17/11/2017 Let us help you create a quality book with a beautiful cover. Check out our website for affordable prices on formatting, design, Ebook conversion and proofreading. 01626 870999

‘Gary Dalkin is a thoughtful and highly professional editor...’

Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Tricia Sullivan

Gary has edited award-winning/ 15:55 bestselling writers including Cherith Baldry (Erin Hunter), Ken MacLeod, Adam Roberts, Simon Morden, Justina Robson, Lisa Tuttle. Enquire for a critique or edit of your manuscript: literary, genre, non-fiction. Friendly service, competitive rates, fixed quotes. Tel: 01202 579640 / Mob: 07552 220438

Dalkin SEPTEMBER.indd 1



FOR 2018? Publishing insiders share their predictions for the year ahead



...and much much more p001_wmagFeb.indd 1



Queen of Hearts

Barbara Taylor Bradford on the secret of successful sagas


19/12/2017 11:15

18/07/2017 14:30

Get exclusive content from our experts, special offers and the latest opportunities and news

Sign up to our FREE newsletter today 106

MARCH 2018

p106_march18.indd 106

23/01/2018 15:56

Competition rules and forms

To enter:

Enter online at or by post, with the ref code in the address, to: Writing Magazine Competitions (Ref Code xxxxx), Warners Group Publications, West Street, Bourne, Lincolnshire PE10 9PH. Remember to add a front sheet with full contact details and the name of the competition you are entering (see Rule 3)

• 750-word short story competition (see p25) For short stories, up to 750 words; entry fee £6, £4 for subscribers; closing date, 15 April; Ref Code: Mar18/750 • Humour short story competition (see p25) For humorous stories on any theme, 1,500-1,700 words; entry fee £5, £3 for subscribers; closing date, 15 March; Ref Code: Feb18/Humour • Monster poetry competition Poems with a ‘monster’ theme; forty-line limit; entry fee £5, £3 for subscribers; closing date, 15 March; Ref Code: Feb18/Monster • Subscriber-only road poetry competition Poems with a ‘road’ theme; forty-line limit; free entry, subscribers only; closing date, 15 March; Ref Code: Mar18/Roads • Unreliable narrator competition (see p57) Fiction, 1,500-1,700 words, featuring an unreliable narrator; free entry, subscribers only; closing date, 15 April; Ref: Mar18/Unreliable • Change short story competition (see p57) Short stories on the theme of ‘change’, 1,500-1,700 words; free entry, subscribers only; closing date, 15 March; Ref Code: Feb18/Change

How to enter Competition Rules

Poetry Competition

Short Story Competition

I am enclosing my entry for the .......................................

I am enclosing my entry for the .......................................

......................................................... .............................

.................................................. .....................................

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 £6, £4 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 start during 2017. No entry form or fee is required.

Ref code .....................................and agree to be bound by the competition rules

Ref code ................................................ and agree to be bound by the competition rules



FORENAME .......................................................................

FORENAME .......................................................................

SURNAME .........................................................................

SURNAME .........................................................................





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.



POSTCODE ........................................................................

POSTCODE ........................................................................

EMAIL................................................................................ o I’m happy to receive special offers via email from Warners Group Publications plc

EMAIL................................................................................ o I’m happy to receive special offers via email from Warners Group Publications plc

TELEPHONE (INC. AREA CODE) ...............................................

TELEPHONE (INC. AREA CODE) ...............................................

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 and the name of the competition. 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. You are advised not to send the only copy of your manuscript. Enclose an sae if you want your manuscript to be returned. 4 Competition Judging Competition judges will be appointed by Writing Magazine and the judges’ decision will be final with no correspondence being entered into. 5. Notification Winners will be notified within two months of closing date after which date unplaced entries may be submitted elsewhere. Winning entries may not be submitted elsewhere for twelve months after that date without permission of Writing Magazine who retain the right to publish winning entries in any form during those twelve months

p107 comp rules.indd 107

Tick here if you wish to receive our FREE monthly e-newsletter

Tick here if you wish to receive our FREE monthly e-newsletter

ENTRY FEE (please tick one)

ENTRY FEE (please tick one)

■ £6 ■ £4 for subscribers ■ Free entry (subscriber only competition)

■ £6 ■ £4 for subscribers ■ Free entry (subscriber only competition)

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

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

o Maestro o Delta o Visa o Access o Mastercard

o Maestro o Delta o Visa o Access o Mastercard

CARD NUMBER ................................................................

CARD NUMBER ................................................................

VALID FROM........................EXPIRY DATE .....................

VALID FROM........................EXPIRY DATE .....................

ISSUE NUMBER .................................................................

ISSUE NUMBER .................................................................

SECURITY NUMBER ..........................................................

SECURITY NUMBER ..........................................................

CARDHOLDER NAME ......................................................

CARDHOLDER NAME ......................................................

SIGNATURE .......................................................................

SIGNATURE .......................................................................

DATE .................................................................................

DATE .................................................................................

MARCH 2018


22/01/2018 13:12




The former Waitrose business chief tells Lynne Hackles how he splits his time between writing executive titles and children’s books


ife peer Mark Price splits his writing time between his home in Dorset and his work in London. ‘But the writing time is always the same,’ he says. ‘Now I’ve stepped down from my ministerial role for the government, following three decades in the John Lewis Partners – most latterly as managing director of Waitrose – I don’t set my alarm. It’s absolute bliss to wake when your body tells you to. In London I stay at The Goring when I’m sitting in the House of Lords. I’ve been staying there for nearly twenty years now and they take very good care of me. After one of their delicious breakfasts I head to my writing table in the corner of the terrace bar. It overlooks the garden – a rarity for London. I get quite agitated if someone is in ‘my space’ and the wonderful staff now know that from 9am until 1pm the table is mine when I’m staying. They ply me with pots of black coffee until I wander down to the Lords for a snack lunch and then meetings. ‘I write at the same time virtually every day. My mind is sharper and more creative in the morning. I do find however that I can have some creative ideas as I drift off to sleep. I used to think to myself that I’d remember them when I woke up, but I rarely did. And so I now get up, reach for my iPhone and jot something in Pages. I do all my writing on my iPad, I have the large pro version, and what’s wonderful is that the notes I make on my phone are sent to the iCloud and then magically appear on my writing machine. If the iCloud ever evaporates I’m in big trouble. ‘I write both children’s and business books. In London I focus on my business writing. I have a weekly Workplace Fable column with the Telegraph based on my Workplace Fables book, and a monthly column about workplace 108

MARCH 2018

p108 My Writing Day.indd 108

happiness, the genesis of which was my book Fairness For All – unlocking the power of employee engagement. It’s surprising how quickly copy deadline comes around! I agree to do too many speeches and so preparing for them also bites into my book writing time. ‘I’m currently working on two new business books. One is about the difference between business and politics, based on my recent experience of both. The other is a series of business self-help books to allow people to better manage their career, with the added support of my engaging work website, which I also write for. The wonderful David Fickling, who published my children’s book, The Foolish King: The Secret History of Chess, told me to try to write several books at the same time so that if you run out of steam with one you can turn to another. ‘Midway through the morning I start to become distracted and so stop and have a small cigar on the hotel terrace. At home I go to the greenhouse. This is the time to catch up on emails and social media alerts that have popped into my inbox since breakfast. I now do quite a lot to promote my books and website through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I’ve learnt to keep my phone turned to silent and face down when I’m writing otherwise it’s too easy to be led astray. ‘I find it easy to sit down and start to write and I normally produce around 500 words an hour. I have developed a consistent routine. I have an idea, break it down into twelve to fifteen chapter headings and write a short summary for each heading. Then off I go. I love the way my original idea twists

and evolves and the mental stimulation of tracking back to alter earlier sections to align with the new idea. I don’t enjoy reworking at my editor’s or publisher’s request. I returned to The Foolish King 35 times before publication. I almost lost the will to live. I definitely prefer creating and shaping to polishing. It’s all so different to the memo writing I did at Waitrose. I’d write something, share it with my communications director who would suggest improvements, which more often than not I’d happily accept. Then I’d send it to my board to get their thoughts. Again I wasn’t the least bit precious if they tweaked things or suggested improvements. My editor has told me in no uncertain terms that that is not how professional writing works. I’m learning.’

MY WRITING PLACE ‘At home in Dorset I write either in my boathouse, or in the orangery, which if I’m honest is as grand it sounds, with magnificent views of the valley down to the River Stour as it cuts through at Sturminster Newton. I mainly use the boathouse when the weather is good and I can throw open the glazed doors overlooking the river. There’s always music playing, channeled magically from my iPhone to speakers. I have a kettle and small fridge so can easily survive the morning without going back to the house. The boathouse also has some electric heaters for warmth on the frosty shoulders of the summer.’

23/01/2018 09:41



EXPERT ADVICE Explore the new phenomenon of supernatural crime Where are your characters going? Another special BUMPER edition with our 32-page Competition Supplement: • Details of over 250 competitions to enter during 2018 • Sneak peek at the Writing Magazine competition programme until the end of the year • Read winning entries from previous competitions

How to make the most of London Book Fair


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


Digital crime on rise BYJENNY ROCHE

Reflect on that landscape

Penguin-Random House’s A new twist on fairy tales digital-only imprint of

mystery and thriller control of all electronic fiction, Alibi, publishes have joined and print ebooksforces which publishing rights. The National Literacy Trust and Bloomsbury for fairy tales are available from all major competition retailers and compatible with for The Short Story Prize 2017, a new To submit, complete all reading devices. the form on the website The imprint aims to with details of your for children by unpublished writers. offer children book, including title, aimed atand up-and-coming authors’ ‘forward thinking genre, length, a short Writers are invited to send short stories a solid platform description, whether tale a modern on twist. which to introduce have a completed manuscript you aged 8-12 that give a well-known fairy their work to new in an by Bloomsbury and why your audiences. book would be right All authors will be The winning entries will be published the National assigned to an for this publisher, along be donated to editor and with a 1,500-word ebook anthology whose royalties will each a dedicated marketer and publicist, will extract. The form will chosen stories will be able to work with request a short bio also Literacy Trust, and the writers of the a cover designer about yourself, information and offered on £200. social win any publishing/writing media tools and training words. and 4,000 history you may connect to directly with readers. have and if applicable, Short stories should be between 2,000 around your synopsis themed Full length Authors have an option agent’s details. Writers should also include a 350-word works of 40,000 words to choose a 50-50 are wanted. Previously profit share or more re-imagining fairy tales. published manuscripts traditional model template, will bewhich considered as long of advance plus 25% Submit entries by email, using the official as you have net. their submission fee. Type Website: www.random will be sent to entrants on receipt of name The writer’s manuscripts in 12pt Arial, double-spaced. must not appear on the manuscript. There is a submission fee of £30. The closing date is 25 June. .uk; website: Win a Virago contrac Details: email: 017 t and £7,500 advanc e The Virago/The Pool The Michael Terence New Crime Publishing Short Writer Award is inviting or thriller novel consisting Story Competition entries from of a is for short stories debut women crime 5,000-word sample by new authors who writers. and a 500-word has never Virago, which has synopsis of the plot been at the published or self-published previously been of the novel. forefront Virago would hope of women’s publishing . that the prizeThe competition is since its foundation in winning novel would Series, for writing up to 1973, has joined 2017 Lorgnette be completed words,Pamphlet up which with The Pool, a Eyewear Publishing has launched the mayofbe fiction, science 3,000 within a year of winning. success on the digital platform for series builds new The fiction submissions. non-fiction or inviting is women, to find an and As Virago is an imprint biography or memoir). Michael for the(ie exceptional new was shortlisted There are prizes of £300, female crime writer 2015’s 20/20 Pamphlet Series, which authors, the Virago/The for women £150 and £50, and for Aviator Pamphlet series. Pool New the Marks Publisher’s Award, and 2016’s winning The winner will be Virago. Crime Writer Award stories published and will selected be be will awarded published is only open to a Virago in a print Twenty limited-edition pamphlets publishing contract women. Entry is andsubmit. welcome to areanthology online. with free. advance. The winning a £7,500 from this call. All poets working in English unpublished. submit only one entry.Writers may All entries Upload must beall writer will also original and unpublished Double spaced get two hours of mentoring Pamphlets should be original and previously work by the proposal and £20 fee is awho system. There writers submit it by email. with author have never Jill Dawson. submissions through Eyewear’s Submittable or self The closing date published. Enter online, been published is 21 May. to submit. The competition Details: email: formatting short story competition entries as doc or pdf is for debut writers. Exit Earth is the STORGY Magazine The closing date to submit is15 September. annual Writers who have viragoandthepool@littleb Beverley files. Your name must not previously self to its the manuscript.; for 2017. • Eyewear also has a call for submissions appearofon published may enter, website: www.virago. nonto the theme and work fiction, but is a reading The competition invites writers to respond the book being entered Series, which is for an original, unpublished There a second prize of £500 on style or subject fee of £3 per story, payable break free. There is a first prize of £1,000, by PayPal. must not previously fiction, poetry or criticism, with no restrictions for the Beverley Series have and a third prize of £250. been published in matter. One or more works will be selected The closing date is 31 May. 2018. be original fiction early in any be announced Entries may be up to 5,000 words, should in any genre. Each Website: www.mtp.age form. To enter, submit each year, with the inaugural work to submission a is be may There ncy and system. a inspired by the ‘Exit Earth’ theme, proposal for a suspenseful, Submit online through the Submittable September. writer may enter one story. original, intelligent fee of £20, and the closing date is 15 double-spaced in 12pt its annual award for a crime Format entries as a Word doc or docx, • Eyewear’s Melita Hume Poetry Prize, the story title, author and under who has not yet Garamond. Include a front page with full-length collection by a poet aged 35 should be the story title and entries until 31 August. The name and word count. The filename published a full collection, is open for plus £1,000. sent as email attachments collection, their of publication author name. Submissions should be receives winner Individual The in the subject line. pages. Poetry 100 Welsh and2017 48 with ‘EXIT EARTH – TITLE OF STORY’ Submit original manuscripts between launched but the Competition, which independently notDavid’s by PayPal. Include the published, on St There is an entry fee of £10, payable funded, is international poems in the collection may have been is a 1 March, ThereDay, email. Submittable. invites through in scope, and invites entries. There is a £5 entry PayPal reference number in the submission collection as a whole. Submit online entries from poets fee per poem entered There is a first prize anywhere in the world. by post, payable by The closing date is 31 May. £20 submission fee. of £500, a second cheques made out to Entries may be on The Welsh Poetry Details: email:; Website: https://store.eyewearpublis prize of £250 and a third prize of any subject and in Competition. For online £100. There will also be seventeen any style. The maximum website: entries the fee is £6 per poem, payable runners-up, and length is fifty specially commended by lines. Each poem must PayPal. The closing entries. The judge be clearly typed in date is 18 June. will be Kathy Miles. single sides of A4. Details: The Welsh The poet’s name must Poetry 9 The Avenue, Pontypridd,Competition, The competition, which not appear on the manuscript. is proudly CF27 4DF; email: info@welshpo entry form must accompany A completed 88 MAY 2017; website: each entry.


AUTHOR INTERVIEWS STAR Interview: Dorothy Koomson explains how she hooks readers wth her ‘emotional thrillers’ • Clare Morrall highlights her five favourite reads • Australian author Venero Armanno shares the routines and rhythms of his writing day • Meet new crime author Stuart Turton • What makes Paddington so popular? We examine the work of Michael Bond DON’T MISS THE APRIL ISSUE, ON NEWSSTANDS 1 MARCH


Call 01778 392482 or visit

April 2016 - Writing Magazine p109 Next month.indd 93

offers its winner and two The Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize Fellowship Annual runners-up the chance to attend the Alpine will also be presented winner Symposium in Venice in August. The with £3,000 by poet John Burnside (pictured).writing in response to of The prize will be given for the best piece this is ‘Chora: reflections on the theme of the symposium. In 2017 Plato refers to the Chora as landscape’. The AF17 website notes that the event in which things take ‘“that which gives space” – the site of their shape.’ and writers may apply from All genres of writing may be entered, be original, and must never anywhere in the world. All entries must Send entries by email by 1 May have been published in any medium. subject line. Entry is free. with the name of the prize in the email in joining the symposium • AF17 also invites people interested from all walks of (scholars, artists, poets, and also non-specialists theme. To apply, this year’s life) to send their ideas in response to setting out how and why you send a CV and a three-minute video will cover the food and Fellowship would contribute to AF17. The and might also be able accommodation costs of successful applicantsThe deadline to apply Venice. to help with travel costs to and from is 31 June. m; Details: email: / website:

New comp for newbies

Long-sighted new work Long-sighted new work

Exit earth, enter storgy

Get creative for Cymru

22/03/2017 12:06


p88 News.indd 88 p88 News.indd MAY 2017



23/03/2017 10:41

THE ONLY MAGAZINE THAT GIVES YOU ALL THE WRITING NEWS YOU CAN USE: Opportunities to get published Submission calls for writing in every genre Advice from editors and publishers News and tips from the publishing industry Reader success stories …and much more 93 23/01/2018 14:53


D E N M DA AGAIN Has your moment of glory been tainted by faint praise, or worse? Lorraine Mace knows the feeling


ack in 2011 I wrote Damning with Faint Praise for this column and it continues to generate emails from writers who have experienced sideswipes disguised as praise from their peers. I am, of course, delighted that an article from so long ago is remembered, but also distressed to think so many are still subjected to the spite of other writers. I would imagine, for every email I get on the subject, there are at least ten times as many who have suffered alone. Sad to say, it seems our so-called friends at writing groups and family members are the biggest culprits. The column this month is for every writer who has had their golden moment tarnished. A recent email (name withheld) told this sad tale: ‘Having just published my first novel your article struck a chord with me! My book was launched on Amazon this year and people’s reactions have been strikingly unpredictable. Those I thought might have been negative have praised me through the roof and those I expected to be supportive have been quite hostile. One chap (a friend!) announced in a loud voice, to a crowded room of fellow (unpublished) writers: “Well, that’s brilliant.” Then in a louder, more sinister tone said, “Now this gives 110

HOPE to us ALL.”’ A writer friend of mine, who also asked not to be named, was granted a three-book deal by one of the top five publishers, but it seems even that wasn’t validation enough. Full of joy, she announced it at her writers’ group, expecting others to be happy for her. Instead she was met with envy. ‘Really?’ one member said, in a tone of voice that clearly showed what she thought of the editor. ‘It just goes to show anyone can get a book deal if luck is on your side.’ ‘How on earth did you manage that?’ asked another member. An email from last year expressed similar sentiments when the author secured the representation of an agent. ‘Oh, I’ve heard they take anyone on,’ said a disgruntled writer. ‘If they’ve accepted you maybe I should give them a try.’ Of course, not all writing groups are made up of such characters. Most of the members are only too happy to hear good news and express genuine joy on the writer’s behalf. Besides, it’s not just other writers who like to burst bubbles. Family members do so as well. Jack Meacham has, to put it in his words, been scribbling bits and pieces forever. He had never had anything published, mainly because he rarely submitted anywhere. However, last year he decided to start entering short story competitions and took heart from the fact that a few made the long lists. When one made the short list of a competition he was overjoyed. Then he received an email to say his story had won and he

was deliriously happy. As he pointed out, the competition was new and probably didn’t attract many entries, but nevertheless, this was his first success and he was delighted. He won £50, proof that his work had some value. ‘Not that you’d think so,’ Jack said in his email. ‘When I told the family, the comments ranged from: was yours the only entry? to: the other stories must have been really bad!’ Each comment was meant to be tongue in cheek teasing, as he knows his family love him dearly, but not being writers they had no idea how wounded he was by what was said. I’ve experienced something similar myself. My sister heard about a major short story competition with a fabulous £10,000 prize. When she was over in the summer she said I should write something for it. I was touched she thought I was good enough to win such an amount and said so. I was soon put back in my place! ‘How hard can it be?’ she said. ‘If I had time, I’d give it a go myself.’ Never have I wished I was an only child as much as I did that day. I bet Josh Carmichael felt much the same way after his brother asked why he kept writing when he was clearly useless. ‘If you were any good,’ the brother said, ‘you wouldn’t have been rejected so many times.’ In vain did Josh point out that even the best authors experience rejection. His brother’s response? ‘Well, you’re not the best, so what’s your excuse?’ If you’ve had a similar experience and would like to share it, let me know:

MARCH 2018

p110 Margin.indd 110

23/01/2018 09:42


f Cr rom ea W tiv ri e tin W g rit M in ag g Co azi ur ne se s


Break into

GHOSTWRITING Turn your writing talent into a valuable source of income – perhaps even a new career – with this brand new creative writing course With our expert guidance, you will learn: • The role and responsibilities of a ghostwriter • How to find opportunities and clients • How to turn their stories into books readers will value • How to conduct interviews and establish your creative process • How to market yourself as a ghostwriter • How to conduct yourself professionally and format your contract.


Study this eight-module course at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home, with guidance and feedback from a professional ghostwriter, for just £260

For more details visit: Or call 01778 392 492 Ghostwriting advert.indd 1

23/01/2018 16:02

BP 297 x 210 5mm 2018_Layout 1 15/01/2018 10:39 Page 1

Discover The Writer In You! What our students say: “I’m currently working on my fourth book, have been paid for my writing by at least 15 different magazines, and now earn half my income from writing – all thanks to The Writers Bureau’s course." Sarah Plater “I enrolled in The Writers Bureau’s Creative Writing course in the hope of building my confidence as a writer and ending my cycle of publishing failures. I currently work as a content writer with a writing agency and have even won an international writing competition." Walter Dinjos “I won the 2015 Flirty Fiction Prima Magazine and Mills and Boon competition. The prize was £500, a three page feature in the magazine and the chance to work with Mills and Boon on my book. Also I have three stories in three anthologies with other authors – we’ve raised almost £2,000 for cancer charities” Rachel Dove ““I have been published in different papers and magazines and am now producing around 250 articles a year. It’s going a bit too well at times! Seriously, it’s very satisfying, stimulating and great fun – and thanks again to the WB for launching me on a second career. I meet so many interesting people and count myself mightly lucky.” Martin Read “If you listen to the tutors and take time to read the material you can be a working writer, it really is an excellent course. I've found part-time work as a freelance writer for Academic Knowledge. I've earned just under £2000 in the past year.” Steph Thompson

online MARCH 2018 112Enrol p112_march18.indd 112

That’s because our first-class home-study creative writing course contains all you need to know to become a successful, published writer. You learn how to write articles, short stories, novels, TV, radio, drama and more. You are shown how to develop your writing style, present your manuscripts, contact editors, find markets and HOW TO SELL YOUR WORK. What’s more, you do not need any previous writing experience to succeed on the course as it’s suitable for the absolute beginner. Throughout the course you will be tutored by a professional writer, who will offer constructive feedback on your twenty marked assignments. In addition, you can count on the support of our dedicated Student Services team who will do all they can to ensure that you get the most out of your studies. When you enrol, your full course is sent to you on a fifteen day trial. Your studies are then flexible to your requirements. Moreover, we offer you a full refund guarantee. If you do not earn back the equivalent of your fees by the time you finish your course we will refund them in full. So, if you would like to learn how to earn from writing, try our risk-free course. For a free prospectus visit our website or call our freephone number TODAY! FREE CALL 24


Writers Bureau


0800 856 2008 Years of Success

Quote: EE318

Members of ITOL and ABCC email: Please include your name & address

YES! Please send me free details on how to become a successful, freelance writer. No stamp required. EE318

Name: Address:



“I am delighted to tell everyone that the course is everything it says on the tin, excellent! I have wanted to write for years, and this course took me by the hand and helped me turn my scribblings into something much more professional. I am delighted that my writing is being published and I am actually being paid. All thanks to the Comprehensive Creative Writing course.” George Stewart

Being a writer can offer you a second income, extra spending money or it can even be a full-time career. It’s your choice. But whatever your writing ambitions, we have a course that will help you to achieve them.



to access your course modules TODAY at: 19/01/2018 11:21