the writer is a lonely hunter


A writing week in the Algarve

It’s hard to believe that only last week I was in the Algarve enjoying the hospitality of Carol McGrath who organised a writing retreat for friends.  I joined other writers including Alison Morton and Denise Barnes as well as Sue Stephenson (I wrote about some visits I made with Sue and Carol here) and Grace McGrath. It was wonderful to feel the sunshine, swim in the pool, eat delicious seafood and talk endlessly about books and writing.

As part of the week, I delivered some input on writing flash fiction.  I’m not sure if my captive audience were aware of being guinea pigs for a workshop that I’ll be delivering in November at the NAWE conference in York. Fortunately, the tasks and activities were well received and, I believe, may have converted some to the benefits of flash fiction as a relief from longer writing.

While a good part of our time was spent writing, we also  visited the beach and spent Saturday in Lagos. While I was there and had internet access, I found I’d been contacted through this blog’s contact page by Larry Michell, the driver of the overland bus that I travelled on from London to Kathmandu in 1981 (you can read more about the journey here).  The internet is a marvellous thing, I was thrilled hear from Larry and when I’m next in Australia (hopefully in 2015) they’ll be a reunion of overland survivors.

Lagos also provided a splendid restaurant for lunch and an interesting afternoon Read the rest of this entry »


Wimborne Literary Festival, 1-3 November 2012

Earlier in the year I paid a visit to Gullivers Bookshop in Wimborne and you can read about my experience here.  I’m delighted to again be writing about Gullivers but this time in relation to the Wimborne Literary Festival which the book shop is hosting for the second year.  The on-line programme has just been published and there’s a wide range of workshops for adults and children. Click here for the link to the site.

I’m pleased to see Dorset’s writing talent on the programme, including a workshop to be delivered by Sarah Steele who runs the Wimborne Writing Group. This will be a treat for anyone interested in poetry.  Sarah is an experienced tutor who runs the Wimborne Writing Group which meets once a month on a Wednesday in the Community Learning and Resource Centre. Members are experienced and talented writers who enjoy tasks and activities set by Sarah to develop writing skills.  The collaborative support offered by group members is something I definitely miss now that I am temporarily  unable to attend the sessions due to work commitments.  You can read more about Sarah here.

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Four Buses: going to print

You may remember that back in July, I won a competition to have sixty copies of my flash fiction and short story collection titled Four Buses printed by CPI Anthony Rowe. While it was great to become a winning author, I didn’t realise how much work would be involved in claiming this prize.  I was asked to submit a print-ready pdf of the collection together with a monochrome cover.  I set to work, finding out about typesetting and organising the stories. The process was more involved than I had imagined and together with editing, this took a considerable amount of time.  I even turned my hand to producing a mock-up of the cover but had to seek professional help for the final version. You can see the cover below:

FourBuses Cover v2

I’m delighted with the reviews on the back page, it’s great to have positive feedback from writers that I admire:

‘A varied and interesting collection from a fresh new voice.’

 –  VANESSA GEBBIE, author of The Coward’sTale

 ‘This is clever writing! Ingenious, perceptive and heartfelt: snapshots of real lives, which make us look twice – and with new understanding – at the familiar.’

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Alfie Dog: an online paying market for your stories

I recently had two stories accepted by Alfie Dog, an online publisher where you can download a whole range of stories in different genres.  My stories are identified as commercial fiction and are titled Social Surfing and Wait There They only cost 39p each to download so I’d encourage you to take a look.  Don’t worry if you haven’t got a kindle, you can always download the story as a pdf and print it off or read it on your computer.  I’ll get the benefit of 50% in royalties if you do.  While this is never going to make me rich, at least my stories are now of a standard to appear in paying markets. The other good thing about Alfie Dog is that they accept previously published work, so long as the copyright remains with the author.   I’m very much into recycling and see this as a good way of enabling my stories to reach a wider audience.

If you fancy submitting, the editor will provide feedback even if the story is not accepted and may suggest changes in order to resubmit. It’s certainly worth a go. Click here for submission details.

Do you know of any other online paying markets?


The writing shoehorn: trying to fit it all in

I’m now four weeks into a full-time contract that lasts until 31 March 2013. I haven’t worked full-time for over 20 years and I’m more tired and grouchy than normal as a result. I’m working for the local authority, managing a service for schools, and although there is a lot of pressure, I’m not actually stressed. Something of the writer enables me to schedule activities into a reasonable timetable and put off until later those tasks that are not a priority.

I’m also pleased that I’m managing to keep writing.  I get up early each morning and write at least 500 words.  It means the pace is slower than usual in writing the first draft of a new novel but at least I’m moving forward.  This time I’m tackling a story about  first time mums.  My manuscript titled ‘Manipulation’ is again abandoned in a drawer.  When the feedback came from the reader with the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I gave up all hope of turning this into something marketable.  According to the report, the writing is definitely not of the romantic genre and I should think about turning it into a psychological thriller! I take the point,  I was never convinced it was a traditional romantic novel, but I’ve got no intention of doing any more work on it.  Tra-lah, I’ll have better luck with the new project, I hope.

The idea of running a competition was met with some enthusiasm.  I didn’t get the full ten comments but enough to think it’s worth doing.  I’ll get onto it when I have a minute!

Along with other activities, my home life is also changing at a pace with my daughter now away at university and my son enjoying his parents’ undivided attention.  Relationships are funny, the way everything shifts now that there are only three of us at home.  My husband has decided to cook most evenings to save me the trouble and  I’m now stuck doing the ironing. I had paid my daughter to do it for the last three years but my son is not so keen to accept the job.  Instead, he’s doing the wood-chopping – a very good job indeed, with the nights drawing in and the winter approaching.

Have you noticed your routines changing lately?


Mere Literary Festival and flash fiction competition

I was pleased to learn about the Mere Literary Festival and I can now share with you details of their flash fiction competition. You’re asked to write up to 350 words which must include a given phrase which will be announced on the website on 27 September. There is a category for the under 16s which is free but all other entries are charged at £2 with £1 for additional entries.  Please send your story through the post which must be received by 5 October.  Prizes are £50, £25 and £10. For further details, click here for the MFL website.

My blog now has over 100 blog followers and I when I started out on 30 November 2011, I promised myself that I’d run a small competition to celebrate if I ever reached the 100 mark. I’m delighted and honoured to have so many people interested in reading my posts. Thank you.  My only concern is whether there are enough people interested in entering a competition.  I have a prize in mind, a copy of ‘Reading Like A Writer’ and you can read a review of the book by Louise Doughty here. If I get more than 10 comments expressing an interest in entering, I’ll get cracking with deciding on the format and drawing up the rules of entry.  Have a think about it and let me know.

This is the cover of the first edition but you can win  a new paperback copy.

(Image used under fair use rationale).


#fridayflash: windmills

Tucked in the buggy, the baby finds his thumb and after a few minutes, his eyes close and his fist hangs in the air, as if he’s hitching a ride. A weak sun pierces the clouds then vanishes. The sea is slate-grey and flat but at the shoreline the waves churn offering percussion to the seagulls that squawk and wheel overhead. I walk along the path and my stomach hangs like a shopping bag, disfigured. With each step the stitches pull. Finding a bench, I catch my breath and the baby stirs. I grip the handlebar and jiggle the buggy’s frame, but he’s awake and already screaming. I count the waves as they turn and when I look back, his face is red and mottled like a skinned rabbit and his eyes bulge. I crawl to my feet and start walking again.

A blue-rinse pensioner watches me through the café window. She smiles and acknowledges me as a new mother. Turning the buggy around, I drift away. By the kiosk, the children’s windmills spin. I remember the ones I stuck into sandcastles when my Dad was the best builder on the beach. The plastic heads hum as they twirl, reminding me of being zipped into my sleeping bag and Dad’s bristly goodnight kisses. I hand over the coins and choose a yellow windmill with black stripes. The baby watches as the blades turn, flapping his arms while his ‘o’ shaped lips blow bubbles.

‘Like the windmill, do you? Nicholas.’

This is my first attempt at writing about postnatal depression. What do you think?


The Book Shop, Bridport

Close to Bridport’s Bucky Doo Square, where open air performances frequently take place, you can find The Book Shop, an independent bookseller.

The shop has been in Bridport for 30 years and has been run by Ross Hendry for the last thirteen.  Unlike other book shops, Ross is committed to maintaining a shop dedicated to book sales rather than diversifying into other products.  As a result, the  walls are lined with shelves and central displays offer further titles. Amongst the stock is a large collection of books written about Dorset and books written by Dorset residents, a huge boon to local writers. The Book Shop also has a tradition of inviting authors into the shop to sign copies of their books.

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An interview with Fiona Murphy

Profile pictureToday, I’m delighted to introduce Fiona Murphy. She’s an enthusiastic writer, full of intriguing ideas and stories and she’s always keen to make children and parents laugh. She lives in Weymouth with her husband and grown up children. After losing her job she dug out the poetry she had written for her children when they were younger. It was always a dream to get them illustrated and published, but back in the 90s this proved difficult. With the help of social media and the internet she managed to achieve this and while battling with illness, her dream came true. She hopes to continue writing for children and is looking for an agent. Fiona’s collection of children’s poetry titled Down the Plughole is illustrated by Michelle Last and published by Poetry Space.

·            Tell us about your writing journey

I wrote stories for my children when they were young and I’d read them aloud. My children and their friends loved to hear these stories and people said I should try to get them published.  Instead, I kept them in a drawer and many years later, when ill-health meant I couldn’t work any longer, I revisited the stories. I wondered if I could work as a writer.  I had a lot of time to think when I was ill, about my life and where it would go. I wanted to work, I’d had a job since I was fifteen, so during an interview at the job centre, I asked if they’d pay for me to do a writing course and eventually they agreed to cover half the fee.  The course taught me how to put articles together and approach publishers.  I returned to my children’s poetry and thought I could develop that.

  • What inspires you to write now?

I like to come up with characters that make children laugh.  I’m always thinking about new characters and the ideas come from chance remarks, comments, anything from everyday life.  It’s like a seed being planted in my head that gets me thinking.  I like to try out some of the ideas on kids and they tell me whether they like them or not.

·            How did you find an illustrator to turn your children’s poetry into a picture book?

Fiona (illustrated by Michelle Last)

I went to a Facebook page called Writing and Illustrating for Kids and typed a comment saying that I’d written children’s poems and asked if anyone was interested in working with me.  I got two replies and decided to approach Michelle Last, who lives in Leicester.  I loved the quirkiness of her illustrations and the simplicity of the way she draws – it’s quite unique and very suitable for young children.  We each signed a non-disclosure agreement and I sent her examples of my writing.  She illustrated a couple of poems and sent me other drawings. I thought about poems I could write to complement her style.  I wrote some poems in response to her drawings about witches and pirates.  Other poems came from ideas prompted by family and friends.  We worked via email and Facebook until we had a complete book. Then, we met at the Tate Modern in London in March 2011. We made plans to get published, looked at children’s books in the shop and talked about future projects.   I researched publishers of children’s poetry who accepted unsolicited manuscripts and sent off samples of our work.  Michelle did the front cover, and I set up a Facebook page. I built a following on Twitter and came in contact with Sue Simms of Poetry Space. I knew Poetry Space was based in Bristol and sent her an email. She asked to see the book and when I didn’t hear back, I sent a chaser.  A little later she replied saying she wanted to publish Down the Plughole. It turned out that she loved the book and hadn’t got back to me because she’d been on holiday. We signed a contract with Sue and I began to learn more about publishing and layout. I did more work and found out how to add borders and further images. I tried to make the book as attractive as possible for children.

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What the Dickens? magazine – going for a print edition

What the Dickens? Magazine #2What the Dickens? Magazine: Issue 4 - The Olympia EditionWhat the Dickens? Magazine: Issue 5 - The Sunflower Edition

If you haven’t had a chance to read the brilliant bi-monthly What the Dickens? magazine that celebrates creativity in the visual arts and writing, now’s the time to take a look here. There are all sorts of articles of interest including author interviews, book and film reviews, competitions, creative writing and poetry and a fantastic range of visual stimulation.  On top of all that, I offer a column titled ‘Help! The dog at my manuscript!’ which answers writers’ questions.

The editor, Victoria Bantock is aiming to get the seventh edition of the magazine published in print as well as on-line.  This provides a unique opportunity for a double dose of submissions to be received by 15 September.  What the Dickens? magazine invites submissions with the theme of Pumpkin for the October issue and Journey for the December issue. Please get busy with your ideas, be creative and enter your work by the deadline.  Full details for submission can be found here.

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