Tag Archives: writing competitions

New Year Ships’ Log

It’s 2014 – a year that still sounds to me like the title of a Sci-Fi movie. And I’m hoping the spaceships I encounter over the next twelve months will be of the friendly variety .Veterans of this blog will know that when I refer to ‘ships’ I’m talking about all the texts/scripts which I’ve sent out on spec re publication, staging or broadcast etc… I have always liked the idea of my work as ‘ships’ as it somewhat relieves me of responsibility – once launched, they are out there and I can only hope they return to port in some form, preferably laden with a win or publication.

Last year I sent out a total of 59 ships. Some 17 returned to port, 39 never made it. Rejections/disappointments/ non-runs/PFOs are part and parcel with the writer’s lot and learning how to handle them is one of the most important (and difficult) lessons a novice writer faces.

I when I was 22, I wrote seven short stories. They were bad, really pretentious, decorated with adjectives and adverbs and with no theme or character development or point to any of them at all but I thought they were pure genius. I sent them off to every magazine I could find in the bookstore. And waited. And waited. And waited… until I became convinced that they had all been lost in the post. It was the only explanation, surely, as any editor would recognize my genius immediately, no? A couple of months later, I received a single rejection letter. And the truth dawned. No one else even bothered replying. It was 100% rejection. I was floored. I burned the stories I was working on and I didn’t send anything else off for another ten years.

That was very stupid of me. I should have brushed myself off and tried again. I would be in a much better position and be a better writer now if I had. But I wasn’t strong or  mature enough to know that then. Ah, well. During my first year on my MA at UEA  (2009), I sent out another batch of stories. I’d had a few shorts published at this stage and was confident that I’d now win every competition going and it would pay my MA tuition. And, again I got nowhere. I was pretty down but I recalled how I’d let rejection defeat me before and vowed it wouldn’t happen again. I sent out more, and then more and after six months, I had bagged the Mary and Ted O’Regan Award, and then the Annaghmakerrig award and the Molly Keane Award, the HISSAC, the Sussex Playwrights’, the Meridian, the Escalator Award. I’ve now got two broadcast radio plays under my belt (and am working on a third)  as well as signing with an agent and my novel is currently on submission to publishers. My  short stories have been published in seven anthologies/literary publications. I’ve had staged readings of my work in Norfolk, Brighton and Cornwall. I’ve served as writer in residence on the Aran Islands, lead workshops in creative writing in Ireland and the UK and teach writing for a living. These are all ships that came home to mama over the past five years but believe me, many had to sink before I saw the slightest hint of success.

Don’t give up – look at how you can improve your rejected story/script/novel/play and send it out again. Remember, much depends on what the magazine or the competition judge is looking for at that particular time, it may not be a comment on your writing skills. It’s all about not giving up.

The 2013 stats:

Ships sent out: 56

Wins/acceptance/short-listings/publications:17

Ships sunk: 39

The 2014 stats thus far:

Awaiting news on 13 ships launched

Wins/acceptance/short-listings/publications: 1

Ships sunk: 3


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… : )


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!


Clean up clutter

Clean up clutter

There aren’t any rules in creative writing but…. there kind of are.

At least, if you’re a newbie, unpublished, unpractised writer, then you ought to learn the ‘unwritten’ laws of the craft. Once you are up and running, then respected and published and lauded, you can break every rule in the book (so long as you are doing so for a reason).

For now, learn your craft.

Probably the most common “rookie mistake” is to cram sentences with adjectives and adverbs. A new writer will often fall in love with words and phrases and become over-enthusiastic in their application. However, overly verbose writing deadens the impact of the sentence – which defeats its purpose. By all means, use adjectives but go easy and be clear.

An example of an adjective/adverb heavy sentence:

‘A dark grey, crinkled brow of solemn cloud crept sluggishly over the majestic hills that were patchily bruised with a blackish purple moss and randomly spiked with prickly yellow furze.’

There is too much going on in this sentence. Each individual image is in competition for the readers’ attention. The result is a boring blur. Think about what is necessary here. Everyone knows furze is yellow and prickly, so do you need to inform the reader of these facts? “Majestic” doesn’t really do anything here – except communicate that the hill is big, which one would assume.

I would pare the sentence to the following: ‘A cloud slugged over the hills.’

I hope you can see how ‘less is more’ here. The image is much stronger without shoehorning in all those adjectives/adverbs.

A note on adverbs:

Adverbs have a bad reputation in the literary world. Many writers avoid them completely (there’s one right there). I would suggest you use them with caution and very, very sparingly (see, another one) and never, ever with speech attribution (“she said nervously”). Adverbs like “suddenly” or “immediately” are thought of as cliché traffic lights. If something happens unexpectedly in a story, you don’t need to “flag it” to make the reader aware that this was a “sudden” action – it should be obvious. So, don’t use them.

Over reliance on adjectives and adverbs is a typical, and some would say necessary, phase for those beginning their writing journey. So, don’t worry if you recognize your own writing here. As “mistakes” go, the over use of adjectives and adverbs is a useful one, as it serves to build your vocabulary. All good writers should have this phase. Just keep calm, carry on, edit down the adjectives and remove the adverbs – and you’re on your way.


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/


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!


Wells, ah well.

Vicar’s Close, Wells, the oldest continuously inhabited street in existence, apparently.

 

So, I didn’t place at the Wells Literary Festival, the comp I’d been shortlisted for- but I did get to spend a weekend in nearby Wales with my sis and a day out in Wells – probaby England’s prettiest metropolis (and definitely its smallest).  I’ve also advanced no further than the shortlist with the Meridian Autumn comp – results out yesterday. Which leaves only the HISSAC longlisting for me to watch out there on the horizon- the shortlist will be announced on Thursday.

A friend said that winning sometimes blunts the urge to continue – so I’m meditating on that thought today.

 

How are all the six monthers going?


Competitions with an autumn closing date

Go for gold

September Unpublished Fiction Authors Print Ready Competition
Closing date: 30th September 2011

Entry fee: None.
Theme – Crime.
Website. creativeprintpublishing.com/publishing/

Capri-sun Perfect Day Competition
Closing date: 30th September 2011
Prizes: “Your Perfect Day” up to £5,000; 17 x £80 gig tickets; 1,000 x £15 iTunes vouchers.
Entry fee: None. Type in your entry online. capri-sun.co.uk/perfectday

The Aeon Award 2011 Short Fiction Contest
Closing date: September 30th
Prizes: €1000 and publication in Albedo One.

Entry fee: €7 per entry.
albedo1.com/

The Ashram Award

Prizes: £1,000

Closing date: 30 September 2010

http://www.ashamaward.com/

2011 Spilling Ink Fiction Prize
Closing date: 1st October, 2011.
Prizes: £500, £250, £125,
Entry fee: £5. There is no theme. All styles (including experimental) and genre-based fiction (mystery, crime, fantasy, science fiction, historical) are welcome. Stories up to 3,000 words. spillinginkreview.com/competitions/

Write A Story For Bedtime Competition
Closing date: 28th October 2011.
Prizes: 1st: £500, 2nd: £300, 2 x 3rd: £100 each.
Entry fee: Free and is open to UK residents only, over the age of 18.
Entries should be in English with a minimum length of 1500 words; maximum 3000 words. avogel.co.uk/story/

Atlantis Annual Short Story Contest
Closing date: October 31, 2011
Prizes: $300, $100 $50

Entry fee: $10.
Maximum 1,500 words. Contact e-mail: inquiry@atlantis-shortstorycontest.com
atlantis-shortstorycontest.com/

Southport Writers’ Circle Annual Open Short Story Competition 2011
Closing date: 31st October 2011
Prizes: £200, £100, £50
Entry fee: £3.00 for each story, or £10 for 4.

Unpublished, original story on any theme of up to 2000 words.
Send a cover sheet for each entry with the story’s title, word count, your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address for results. Send entries to: Short Story Competition, Southport Writers’ Circle, Flat 3, 35 Saunders Street, Southport, Merseyside, PR9 0JH

Earlyworks Press Short Story Competition
Closing date: 31st October 2011
Prizes: £100.
Entry fee: £5 up to 4000 words. 4000 to 8000 words, £10. Max 8000 words.
earlyworkspress.co.uk/Competitions

NAWG Open Short Story Competition

Closing date: 31st October 2011

Prize: £250

http://www.nawg.co.uk/

Inktears Short Story Competition 2011
Closing date: 30 November 2011.
Prizes:  £1,000, £100, £25

Entry fee: £4.50.
Length:1000-3000 words, any theme.
 inktears.com for full details.

The New Writer Prose and Poetry Competition – Fiction
Closing Date: 30th November 2011
Prizes: £300, £200, £100.
Entry fees: £5 per short story;

thenewwriter.com/

The Fish Short Story Competition

Closing date: 30th November 2011

Prize: €3,000

http://www.fishpublishing.com/short-story-competition-contest.php

HE Bates Short Story Competition

Closing date: December 1st, 2011

Prizes: £150

Entry fee: £4

http://www.hebatescompetition.org.uk/

Here’s an interesting one for those of you of the heaving bosoms and chiseled chins bent…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/sep/15/my-romance-mills-and-boon

And on the other side of the moon… for those of you with an ISBN:

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/article703128.ece

GOOD LUCK!