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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, 27 February 2014

Sussex short story competitions

West Sussex is a very creative county, absolutely chock full of writers, and boasts two National Short Story competitions, which are closing at the end of March. You don't have to live in West Sussex to enter either of these, so read on for details ...

West Sussex Writers' 2014 National Short Story Competition:
Click here for full details.

Maximum word count: 3000
Closing Date: 31st March 2014
Fee: £5 per entry
Prizes:  1st prize £200; 2nd prize £75; 3rd prize £50 
The winners will also receive a critique from our final judge, Pam Weaver.

You can read the 2013 winning stories here and comments from Simon Brett (WSW Patron) and Sarah Palmer (WSW Chair) here.

Steyning Festival 2014 Short Story Competition:
Click here for full details.

“A popular part of the annual Steyning Festival is its short story competition, open to anyone who would like to enter a previously unpublished piece of fiction of up to 1500 words. The theme for this
year is “Home Thoughts, from Abroad”.

Photo right is St Andrew's Church, Steyning.

Judging and prize-giving
The competition will be judged by a Festival panel and a senior member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Prizes will be awarded in three categories
• Best story by a young author (aged 16-19), £100
• Best story by an overseas resident visiting Britain £250
• Best story by a British resident, £250
In addition, three submissions will be marked for special commendation in the competition, and will receive £50 each.

The previous winner of the Steyning Festival Short Story prize in 2012 (Festival runs every two years) was The Indoor Writer, you can read about her marvellous day out at the prize giving ceremony here.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Holdfast magazine: Animals, beasts and creatures

Issue2 of Holdfast magazine came out yesterday including the Indoor Writer's short story 'Down came a blackbird', along with a wonderful original illustration by Jessica Carmen Shamley. Read it here. Do check out the whole magazine, some terrific fiction and articles. I love the fact they include a themed playlist to compliment your reading.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A poetry interlude

One of the most stimulating parts of the Indoor Writer's MA course is the poetry drop-in sessions organised by lecturer, Stephanie Norgate, an excellent poet and advocate of embracing the creative life. Sounds like it should be full of poetry drop-outs, but the joy is you don't have to write poetry to drop in.A recent session focused on American poet, Philip Levine, and his poem The Simple Truth. You can read it here - like many of his poems it is written in simple understandable language, but there is a deep poignancy in it that brought tears to my eyes.

Another session looked at opposites in poetry. A wonderful example is Simon Armitage's You're Beautiful. This is one poem that is better heard and here is Armitage reading it himself, click here. Not all poets do their work justice, but Armitage is an excellent reader and brings his words to life.

There were exercises set around each topic, but I'm afraid the Indoor Writer is still not up to sharing her poetry. She's waiting on the next Vogon Poetry Festival before taking that particular plunge.

However, after attending Lynn Jennings' excellent workshop at West Sussex Writers meeting last week she now knows all the tricks. Lynn talked about 'Performing your work' or as she put it: doing justice to your gems. With both poetry and prose examples read by well known actors (on CD, not the real thing) she worked us through 'The P's of Performance': here are a smattering of her top tips ...
Prepare - read it aloud at home or to someone first
Posture - try not to cover your face with the book, remember body language speaks volumes!
Pausing - stand and PAUSE before you launch into reading
Pace - take your time! (the audience is unlikely to run away...)
Pitch - think about varying the pitch, breathing properly will help!
Power - for just a few moments the audience is putty in your hands ...
Paint - try to paint the picture you want the listeners to see in their mind's eye
Passion - this is about enthusiasm, but it can also be about confident serenity
Production - when you read your work it's a mini-production, so help the audience to enjoy it to the full
Presence - believe in yourself and the audience will believe in you too
Personality - we each bring different gifts to share and remember 'you can't please all of the people' etc

We listened to the same poem read by different actors and discussed our preferences. This almost ended in a writers' punch-up (poetry fans are an emotive bunch) as the room fell into disagreement over the better reading of Dylan Thomas' Fern Hill: Richard Burton or Michael Williams. Sorry, but I'm a Burton fan through and through. His version was sublime.

Finally, I'd like to share this reading with you. WH Auden's poem Funeral Blues (popularly known as Stop all the Clocks) became immortal after being read by John Hannah during the  film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. I read it recently and hated it - to me it seemed such a flimsy, almost comic poem, not a fitting epitaph to a loved one, nor capturing true grief. And then I heard Lindsay Duncan reading the poem, you can listen here. It was as if I was hearing the poem for the first time. The emotion resonates in her low, barely contained voice, and it seriously got to me.

If like the Indoor Writer you are a little scared by poetry and couldn't tell a villanelle from a pekingese then I recommend the anthologies of modern poetry published by Bloodaxe (edited by Neil Astley, photo top right): Staying Alive, Being Alive and Being Human. You can dip into these at your leisure to discover new poems and revisit old favourites. And if you want to learn more about poetry forms and history then these have just been recommended to me (but not yet read):
The making of a poem - Boland and Strand
Poetry the basics - Jeffrey Wainwright
Poetry Handbook - John Lennard

Are there any poems that have gotten to you? Please share.