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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Spooky tales for Halloween

If you're planning to curl up this Halloween with a good ghost story then here are my top 5 spooky tales (in no particular order):

  • The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore - a novella. A sinister (not-quite-a-love story) set just after WW2, this lingered with me for weeks after reading. Wonderful lyrical writing as always from Helen Dunmore
  • The July Ghost by A S Byatt - a short story (I found it in The Penguin Book of Modern Women's Short Stories edited by Susan Hill, an excellent anthology). A poignant story of a child ghost.
  • Revenant as Typewriter by Penelope Lively - a short story from her collection Pack of Cards. One of the most unnerving ghost stories about possession, quietly disturbing.
  • Whee! by Patrick Gale - a short story from his collection Dangerous Pleasures. An unusual tale of a malevolent child spirit. Across his two collections (the other is Gentleman's Relish) are a smattering of ghost/possession stories told with his deliciously dry wit.
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill - a famous novella which probably everyone knows from the stage play or films, but do read the original. A satisfying traditionally told ghost story. So traditional that on first reading I thought it must have been written in the 1900s and not 1980s!
  • The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill - a novella. For me Susan Hill has a terrific talent for telling ghost stories and this is another classic. People becoming trapped in paintings is almost a recurring nightmare for me, perhaps triggered by some spooky paintings I remember for relatives' homes as a child.
And if you are still hungry for more spine tingling then Kath McGurl's book Ghost Stories and How to Write Them is FREE to download until 2 Nov. 

What are your favourite ghost stories?

Thursday, 24 October 2013


One of the positives of taking an MA in Creative Writing is the exposure to so much good writing. One of the drawbacks is you start to feel your own work will never come close to the literary greats. An exercise recently was to read and discuss in small groups Hemingway's short story 'Hills like white elephants.' This is a typically terse Hemingway tale focussing on a conversation between a man and woman sitting at a bar in Africa waiting for their train to arrive. It's heavy on dialogue as the power play continually slips back and forth between the couple, revealing the disintegrating state of their relationship. A further exercise was to write part of a short story using mainly dialogue. I gave up on mine at about 800 words realising that A) I'd never write like Ernest Hemingway (and really shouldn't try) and B) I didn't want to! My story was MISERABLE and DEPRESSING, and I couldn't bring myself to finish it. Several days later an epiphany struck - I realised I could write the same story but using my own quirky voice. I deleted a chunk of the original and re-wrote it as a surreal comic piece. It may not have a happy ending, but at least I no longer want to slit my wrists while reading it.

I learned a valuable lesson:

Admire and seek to emulate the great writers in the quality of your writing but be authentic, stick to your own voice and values.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Want to write a sitcom for TV or radio?

The Indoor Writer is just completing a 5-week Introduction to Radio Drama with Sue Teddern of Skribita. It's been a great course and she's made good progress with her own radio play. Sue is generous with her knowledge (vast!) and is an incredibly funny
writer, which has spurred our girl to sign up this ...

Writing sitcom for TV or radio with Sue Teddern: 9/10 November

'If you’re a fan of sitcom classics like Porridge, Cheers and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or current shows like Twenty Twelve, Girls and Clare in the Community … if you’ve ever felt the urge to create your very own comedy characters, this two- day, Brighton-based workshop will get you started.  

Price:  £200 (includes tuition, one night’s 
accommodation at Artist Residence Brighton, 
meals & refreshments) 
Or: £85 (includes tuition, meals & 

Sue Teddern is a veteran of the Birds of a Feather 
team. Her TV credits include Sister Frances (with 
Jo Brand) Bosom Pals and My Family. Her radio credits include 
Managing Izzy and five series of soloparentpals.com.  
Harry Venning is creator/co-writer of Radio  4’s Clare in the 

More information about the course and how to book is on the website here: www.skribita.com
or telephone 01273 880625

You don't have to live near Brighton as hotel accommodation can be included. I believe it's rather nice too, more details here.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Is the F-word funny?

The Indoor Writer took a new piece of Flash out for a test run at a local Poetry & Prose Slam event at the weekend. She was lucky enough to be picked (names out of a box) and found herself reading on stage to an audience. Thankfully, she'd rehearsed the piece several times (too many times shout the rest of the family) in the kitchen with a stopwatch to ensure it met the 5 minute rule. She also tried out a bit of acting ...

The reading and the event was a success. The audience actually laughed in all the right places and oohed a few times too. All good. A writing friend commented on how calm she appeared, which is odd because she didn't feel it at the time!

Many of the poems and stories read were written to make an audience laugh. Always a good tip for entering a slam competition. But worryingly many relied on expletives to get a giggle. Now I'm no prude, and the Indoor Writer is not adverse to the F-word in her short fiction or a bit of sauce in her Flash, but it does start to grate with over use. The winning story was very funny and performed expertly by the author, who seemed quite capable of doing a stand-up routine (possibly he does this already?). The material was almost suited to stand-up - the spoof minutes of an office meeting. Anyone who has ever worked in an office environment would have recognised all the in-jokes and truisms. It was genuinely funny and cleverly written. But would it and other pieces have been equally comic without the F-word? Once can be effective and VERY funny, but repetitive use wears thin. Or it does for me.

What do you think?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

September round-up

With the onset of dark mornings and plummeting temperatures I've dug out the winter woolies and fluffy socks. Just need to stock up on tea for a head's down month of writing. September was a bit of a poor show (sorry) due to taking 2 weeks off, as Handsome Hubby on hols. We had some lovely days in Swanage walking along Purbeck Way and the South Coast Path, then a week of walking closer to home up on our own South Downs. Many blackberries were harvested, crumbled with apple and served with hot, hot custard. A lot of time has been devoted to reading as the MA is underway and I also began a 5 week course in Radio Drama (1 night a week) with the talented, and lovely, writer Sue Teddern (click here for more details on Skribita and their courses).

A significant highlight was the performance of my first One Act play: Grave Goods. Earlier this year it won the West Sussex Writers Short Play competition (10-15 minute plays), which was a surprise as this was my first attempt at a stage play. Part of the award is a live performance and this was produced/directed by Ian Black and staged at West Sussex Writers' AGM on 12 September. Ian also starred in the play along with Sarah Higbee and John Eddleston (all WSW members). I was completely overwhelmed that they all dressed in character, brought along props and learned the entire play. At one point the character Noushka has to strip off her dress and to everyone's delight Sarah threw herself into the role - thankfully Ian quickly removed his overcoat to cover her modesty (this was part of the script). Can't describe how it felt to see my words come to life, to hear them performed by actors and to hear the audience laughing (in all the right places too). It was simply magical. Unfortunately, the euphoria is addictive, which is driving my desire to complete a radio script ...

Now for September STATS: 

Write 1 Sub 1:
New - 5 x radio comedy sketches (new R4 sketch show), 1 x Flash, 1 x one act radio play (20 mins)
Total subs - 9 (including 2 articles)

Income: £10 for letter in WOTV. Better than zilch ...

The Good News: 

The Not-so-good News: unsuccessful in the following ...
Bridport failed to recognise my genius in the Short Story and Flash categories (AGAIN!). HISSAC. Booktown and GKBinc Crime story - made the shortlists but no further. Swanezine. BBC National Short Story Prize. Word Factory mentorship scheme. Telegraph JustBack travel competition.

Other projects:
As mentioned above have started an Introduction to Radio Drama course with Skribita. Have an idea for a radio sitcom too so have signed up for their 'Writing a sitcom for TV or radio' (9/10 November in Brighton if you're interested, details here). 
I'm not mentioning the novel ...
Four short stories still out with womags - LitPig has his trotters crossed (bless him).

Recently have hit a run of making the shortlist but not getting higher. Starting to wonder what I need to do with my writing to raise it up a notch. Short-listings are lovely but they don't cover costs.

What have you been up to? Any successes to shout about? Please share.

Keep writing and submitting...