Tag Archives: Short-story competitions

I won!

Flying high

If you’ll indulge me… a quick boast post…

This week, my story ‘Grapefruit’ placed first in the Meridian Autumn Competition, and another ‘Two Trees’ was shortlisted for the Wells Literary Festival Prize. And…. another radio drama I co-wrote, ‘Berlin to Balaton’,  has been shortlisted by the BBC… so all in all, it’s been a pretty full on, flying high week. They don’t come around that often, so I’m sure as hell going to enjoy this floaty feeling while I can… : )

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Don’t be pathetic!

It was a dark and stormy night...

“Pathetic fallacy” is the posh academic term that refers to the technique of ascribing human emotions to inanimate objects, usually to reflect a character’s mood. For example, say your protagonist falls in love; you might describe flowers laughing and trees waving their branches gleefully. Or perhaps there’s been a loss, and suddenly the landscape looks bleak and there’s rain and clouds a-brewin.

“Pathetic fallacy” was very popular with the Victorian novelists – I always think of Thomas Hardy when asked to give an example. Therein, however, lies the problem – “pathetic fallacy” is a little out of fashion nowadays. This demise is partly due to the modern attention span. If you’ve ever read novels by the Brontes, Dickens, Elliot or Hardy – you’ll know all about lengthy landscape description and frankly, how dull it can be for modern readers. If you absolutely need to say how each field in the valley looked, then spread your descriptions out over the course of your work. Above all, as Elmore Leonard wrote, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

Another reason “pathetic fallacy” is no longer de rigueur in the literary world, is that it can seem a tad cliché. For example, if your protag is heading home to see his wife and there’s a storm, and they fight… yawn. Your foreshadowing’s is derivative, predictable and boring.

Still, “pathetic fallacy” has its place in the literary toolbox. It can provide emphasis for mood. I suggest using it sparingly, with caution and avoid storm/argument, rain/depression, sunny days/falling-in-love clichés.

Personally, I like to turn PF on its head and have my character see beauty in rain or trouble in sunshine or make a storm a symbol of peace. In short, my advice would be to use PF by all means, but when you do, surprise your reader.

Oh, and whatever you do, never open with a “pathetic fallacy” weather report. That’s the biggest cliché in the cliché box. I mean, it’s just pathetic : )


Launch those end-of-year ships!

Waiting for my ship to come in...

Veterans of this blog will know that I liken sending out my short stories(to magazines, publishers, employers, residencies, grants, competitions and contests) to launching ships.

Some will sink without trace, others will come back home with just token cargo (such as a shortlisting) and occasionally they flow into port laden with gold (a win). I have two such golden returns this year (the HISSAC and the Molly Keane Awards) and two further publications and a host of minor treasure besides.

But over half my fleet sunk. I tell you that not to dishearten you, on the contrary. When a ship disappears, you’ve got to brush yourself off and get on with it. Send more out and the more you send, the less you’ll bother about those you’ve lost. If you keep at it, you”ll get there.

Here’s a list of end-of-year comps – go on, launch a ship!

 

Roanoke Review

Deadline: November 8, 2011

Entry Fee: $15

Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Roanoke Review

Website: http://www.roanokereview.wordpress.com

**

Winter Anthology

Deadline: November 15, 2011

Entry Fee: $11

Website: http://www.winteranthology.com

Prize: $1,000 and publication in the Winter Anthology

**

Writer’s Digest

Deadline: November 15, 2011

Entry Fee: $20

Website: http://www.writersdigest.com/competitions

Prize: $3,000

***

Tennessee Williams Contest

Closing Date: November 15

Prizes: $1,500

Entry fee:

Website: http://www.tennesseewilliams.net/contests

**

New Millennium Writings

Deadline: November 17, 2011

Entry Fee: $17

Website: http://www.newmillenniumwritings.com

Prize: $1,000

**

Cheer Reader

Closing Date: 30 November 2011

Prizes: €100

Entry fee: €5

Website: http://cheerreader.co.uk

**

Mary Gornall Memorial

Website: http://www.ashbywritersclub.com/

Prize: £100

Deadline: 30 November 2011

**

Ink Tears

Closing Date: 30 November 2011

Prizes: £1000

Entry fee: £4.50

Website: http://www.inktears.com

**

The New Writer

Closing Date: 30th November

Prizes: £150

Entry fee: £5

Website: http://www.thenewwriter.com/prizes.htm

**

Fish Short Story Prize

Deadline: November 30, 2011

Entry Fee: $28

Website: http://www.fishpublishing.com

Prize of 3,000 euros

**

Glimmer Train Press

Deadline: November 30, 2011

Entry Fee: $15

Website: http://www.glimmertrain.org

Prize: $1,200 and publication in Glimmer Train Stories

**

Narrative Fall Story Contest

Deadline: November 30, 2011

Entry Fee: $20

Website: http://www.narrativemagazine.com

Prize: $3,250

**

Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Writing Fellowships

Deadline: December 1, 2011

Entry Fee: $45

Website: http://www.fawc.org

Fellowships for a seven-month residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown

**

Willesden Herald

Deadline: 16 December 2011

Entry Fee: £3

Website: http://www.willesdenherald.com/competition/rules.php

Prize: £300

**

Ruth Hindman Foundation H. E. Francis Short Story Competition

Deadline: December 31, 2011

Entry Fee: $15

Website: http://www.uah.edu/english/hefranciscontest

Prize of $1,000

**

Boulevard Contest

Deadline: December 31, 2011

Entry Fee: $15

Website: http://www.boulevardmagazine.org

Prize: $1,500

**

Literal Latté K. Margaret Grossman Fiction Award

Deadline: January 15, 2012

Entry Fee: $10

Website: http://www.literal-latte.com

**

Francis McManus

Closing Date: Friday 20 January 2012

Prizes: €3,000

Entry fee: None, but must be Irish or resident in Ireland

Website: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/francismacmanus/Francis-MacManus-Entry-Form.pdf

 

Good luck!


Location, location, location

Are you here?

A literary setting refers to the landscape and the people/characters that fill it.

The setting is the signature of many a writer: Stieg Larsson and Sweden (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Annie Rice and New Orleans (Interview with a Vampire), John le Carre, the world of spies.

Writing what you know

It is often said you should “write what you know”. A sensible approach, especially for the new writer. By placing your characters in scenes and situations with which you are familiar, you are more likely to invest a sense of realism in the story. Also, practically speaking, writing about familiar territory will save on research you might otherwise have to do on a subject/setting.

Some writers resist writing what they know as they feel their own environments are not “glamorous” or “extraordinary” enough to merit such attention. This is nonsense. Whatever you do and whoever you are, your life will seem exotic to someone else. The fact that you grew up on a council estate/project developent in Bolton/Kalamazoo is interesting to someone living on a farm in Siberia. Remember, the life of an immigrant taxi-driver would quite likely fascinate the Queen of England.

Also, you don’t necessarily have to set your story in your street or your workplace. Think of your Saturday morning football team, your chool, the nightclubs you frequent, a hospital you’ve spent time in or a prison. All are equally valuable settings for a short story, novel, play, film script or even poem or song. Your environment is your gold, mine it.

But I don’t want to write about my environment…

That’s fine too. There is also case for “writing what you don’t know”. Fantasy writers, for example, are (usually) not elves living in Middle Earth. Historical fiction writers have not lived in Tudor England. Yet, Fantasy/SciFi/Historical novels are written and enjoyed every year. For Fantasy/SciFi you need a familiarity with the genre and a vivid imagination. For historical fiction you need to like research. For all the above you’ll require the ability to convincingly create an unfamiliar world.

Bear in mind, however, that while a Fantasy writer won’t get complaints from angry elves about his misinformed stereotypes. A novelist who sets a story in a modern French monastery, and knows nothing about France or monks – is asking for trouble. Firstly, their prose may be riddled with (skewed) perceptions of France and the French, monks/Catholicism/wine-making etc… And not only is there danger of rehashing clichés, their writing might lack the detailed realism a reader finds so reassuring and intriguing.

So, if you want to write about banditos in the mountains of Sardinia, and you can’t go and live there for a year – then research, research, research. Read as much as you can on the topic, as well as any other fiction that has used the same environment as a setting.

Or here?


My Winning Story

HISSAC have uploaded my winning story to their website, if anyone is interested in having a read

 


Radio Star(t)

I know it's a TV. I don't have a radio photo (and perhaps there's that hope...)

 

I’m doing an interview with WLRfm’ s Aoibhin Fallon after 5pm today – if anyone has nothing better to do… I think you can listen online. http://www.wlrfm.com/


Words don’t come easy…

words words words

As a linguist and a writer, I love words. However, as a teacher of creative writing, I know that the mis/over use of words, particularly adjectives and adverbs, is the most common ‘fault’ you’ll find in the work of novice writers.

Insecurity will have new writers shoehorn as many descriptive words as they can get into a sentence – with the result akin to an over ‘bling-ed’ Christmas tree. The advanced writer will ‘show’ an emotion/atmosphere/interpretation without  resorting to a heavy-handed sprinkling of descriptive words.

It’s hard to ween yourself off adjectives and adverbs. Part of the problem is that there are so many words in the English language, a tongue with more word-families than any other language. This fact is rooted English having sprung from French and German, so there are English words that describe quite similarly (ie “loving” is from German and “amorous” is from French). And with such a lavish spread on offer, it is hard for the newbie writer to exercise restraint. Oh but, to improve, you must.

That is not to say you can’t enjoy words. English has magpied extensively from many languages. Most of my favourite words are ‘borrowed’ words and include: “pyjama” and “shampoo” which come from India (though I’m not sure of the specific languages), “Hacienda” and “siesta” which are Spanish. “Itsy-bitsy”, “paprika”, “coach”, “goulash”, “hussar” and “biro” which are Hungarian. “Smithereen”, “galore”, “banshee”, “slew”, “brogue”, “kibosh”, ‘hobo’ and “shanty” which come from Irish. I enjoy writing them, I love saying them – to paraphrase Frank McCourt, it feels like having jewels in your mouth. I’ve just got to be careful about over using ‘exotic’ words in my prose. It can look pretentious.

And you don’t only construct literary art from words but they also set the tone of the piece and there are certain words and phrases that are closely associated with particular genres of writing. Romance type novels I associate with “tawny” and “chiselled”. SciFi writers invent words to name their machines, planets and creatures such as “Klingons” and “Zogathons”.

Words are fun, go ahead and celebrate words – but do so in moderation…


I won!

Flying high

I’ve just received the news that my story ‘The Last of the Shower’ placed first in the 2011 HISSAC (Highlands and Islands Short Story Competition)!!!

Whoohoo!!!

I’m really so thrilled about this- and it means I’ll be able to buy a new laptop !!

Yippidyzippidydodah!


The Shipping News

'The Last of the Shower' shortlisted for the HISSAC

 

 

Couldn’t resist the temptation to bring some good news to my new website…

Just received this email from HISSAC about my story:

‘The Last of the Shower’ has made it to the shortlist…
The Final Judges’ meeting is on Sunday afternoon, when the winner will be decided.
Yay! So, a ship may be coming back to port after all. Perhaps this new website is bringing me luck. Third time lucky with a shortlisted story this week perhaps?
In fact, I’m working on a piece right now about a woman who’s looking for third time round luck. Damn, she doesn’t get it though… hmmm

What’s Your Time?

Clock feature on Wells Cathedral

It is said that the closer the brain is to the sleeping state, the more creative it is. For this reason, many writers keep their notepad by their beds and make sure that the very first thing they do when they open their eyes each morning, is write.

The resultant notes are called “morning pages”. Morning pages might contain what a writer remembers of their dreams or perhaps the writer will simply jot down the very first words that come to mind that day. Some writers say that this exercise helps them ‘slip’ more easily into what writers’ call the “rapture” when a writer feels ideas are pouring into their mind from elsewhere.

Just as the waking moments are a bridge from the sleeping state into sober reality – the hour before you go to bed is often a creative time with the brain slipping into that semi conscious state.  Hence there are plenty of writers who write late at night.

And just to show that there are no rules, there are other writers who find their most productive hours are in the middle of the day when all of life’s busyness is in full swing (the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling is a good example. She wrote her first book in a busy Edinburgh café).

So, I guess the point is that different times of the day work for different people and it is really of no consequence whether you are a morning, day or night writer. What is important is that you write and that you find your ideal writing time. Experiment. Find what works for you and then set an hour aside each day at that time and write. Likewise, writers have very personal tastes regarding an environment conducive to writing. There are those who like music or TV buzz in the background and those who can only write in silence. Find whatever works for you.