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

Friday 27 April 2012

Once Upon A Time: Just Add

Here is my entry for the Once Upon a Time writing contest, where the challenge is to write an Unexpected Fairy Tale in less than 350 words ... enjoy!

Just Add
Miranda munched the last triangle of toast.  Her diet required thirty chews before swallowing but it wasn’t a chewing sort of day.  According to her horoscope it was a love day, as she should ‘Expect a romantic delivery’.  Miranda had little faith in astrology.  Goat’s intestines were more reliable, but the neighbours complained about the smell and virgin goats were hard to come by.
            Miranda’s mouse squealed as she clicked on the tracking tab of SpellsRus.com.  Her parcel was scheduled for delivery at 10:28 that morning.  The digital timer on the cauldron read 10:27.  As the glowing number seven blinked into an eight the doorbell chimed.  Miranda shivered, a coy smile flirting behind ebony eyes.
            She skipped to the door, snatched the package from the startled postman and then scuttled back inside like a giant black beetle.
            A mottled brown frog and a sheet of paper tumbled from the padded envelope.  Miranda quickly scanned the instructions, eager to begin.  Kissing was so old style.  All she needed was a drop of water.  Pure sparkling would be best, she thought, and opened a bottle of France’s finest.
            “Ribbit,” said the frog and disappeared in a mist of emerald smoke.  When the smoke cleared a tall, tanned handsome man stood before her.
            “Pardon,” he croaked, “but my belly eez full of bubblez.”
            Miranda turned over the instruction sheet.  There was a miniscule warning hand written in blood-red ink.  Carbonated water can cause premature eructation.
            For a fleeting heartbeat Miranda held her breath and then Prince Charming exploded with a mirror-cracking belch, splintering like a waterfall of diamonds across the lino.
            With hands on ample hips Miranda expelled a rude charm.
            A cough from behind her announced the postman’s return.  In haste Miranda had left the front door swinging.  “Sorry pet, forgot to give you this – it fell out in the van.”  He held out a container of liquid.
            Miranda appraised him.  Not bad looking, quite charming in fact.  She welcomed him into the steaming kitchen.  His trainers splashed in the puddle.  “Don’t worry,” she cooed, “it’s only water.”

Thursday 26 April 2012

Double Whammy Thursday

The May issue of Freelance Market News arrived today and the indoor writer received two credits:
Letter printed
Winner of First Line Short Story Competition - where you had to continue the story on from the opening line of "It started like any other day..."

Her story 'Diary of a Redshirt' is also printed in the magazine.  One of my favourites and a nodding homage to the original Start Trek series (featuring Kirk and Co.).  We still play spot the redshirt whenever we all watch TV together - and it doesn't have to be Star Trek, works for all crime/detective/thriller/spy progs too.

Payment also came through for a Star Letter printed (last month) in What's On TV.  So not a bad week after all!

Tuesday 24 April 2012

A whole day of Flash Fiction - May 16th is National Flash Fiction Day

If you love Flash Fiction then mark your diary for Wednesday 16th May, the first ever National Flash-Fiction Day (NFFD).  You can read all about the event on the official website here.  More news is also posted regularly on the blog here.

There are many Flash competitions running up until 16 May, several are still open and you can find these listed here.  I'm tempted by the Unexpected Fairy Tale competition - if you follow the link to the competition you can read the entries to date, which are all great fun.

An anthology of Flash stories, called Jawbreakers (named from one of the included stories) will be published in May to celebrate National Flash-Fiction Day.  This will contain commissioned stories from established writers such as: Ali Smith, Ian Rankin, Tania Hershman, David Gaffney and Vanessa Gebbie. Along with flash fiction from writers who entered the anthology competition.  The indoor writer had a story in the longlist, but sadly it didn't make the final selection for the anthology.  It does look an excellent collection and it's great to see Flash Fiction being seriously promoted.

If you use Twitter then for more news about NFFD follow @nationalflashfd

Keep writing and get flashing!

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Pulchritudinous - word of the day

I'm quite happy to confess that I regularly come across words I don't know.  When I do then I reach for my beloved Oxford Illustrated Dictionary.  In today's Daily Mail I read a brief filler in which Angelina Jolie was described as Brad's "pouting and pulchritudinous partner".  Okay, trotters up if you know what pulchritudinous means.  Really, wow I'm impressed.  I had to look it up.

Pulchritude: Beauty.

Either the filler writer was having a tedious day or they were just having fun with their thesaurus.  Probably a good word to file away in the memory banks if you're a crossword fan.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

A writer's survival guide to the London Book Fair

The indoor writer spent Monday 16 April at the London Book Fair.  Here is her thoughts on spending a day at the fair...

I haven't visit Earls Court since my childhood and was totally unprepared for the size of the venue.  It is ENORMOUS.  I pre-registered and printed my ticket from home (£30 for 3 days is not bad value, £45 to register from 16 April), which meant I could just walk in.  Arriving after eleven was good tactics as there was no queuing involved, and the entrance hall was remarkably subdued at that time.  Inside I quickly located the floor layout map detailing all the exhibitors and where to find them.  I don't usually cope well with maps, but the design and layout of the HUGE exhibition halls made navigating between the aisles a doddle.  Just wish I taken my running shoes as I must have walked almost 10km!

Within 10 minutes I felt rather overwhelmed by the event and after 20 minutes started to wonder what I was actually doing there.  Despite the premise that this is a BOOK FAIR it's not really the place for writers and I spotted very few of the species on my walkabout.  But I had been pre-warned that the LBF is place where deals are made and publishing professionals come to do business.  It's not a writer friendly venue, but the experience of the event is worth sampling even for one day.

It was fun to wander amidst the mainstream publisher's stands and check out what's new for the rest of the year.  Some of the big names had massive stands.  You could have mistaken Hachette's for a small town, particularly as it had a staircase leading up to a tiny viewing platform (probably a venue for broking those really BIG deals).  Most had their own seating areas, some looked as if they had their own coffee bars (I did spot some fridges stacked with beers etc), and one even had fake grass.  These seating areas were packed with suits 'doing business'.  All very impressive, but quite intimidating for a simple writer on a fact finding mission.

So why was I there?  Well I'd managed to secure a 5 minute slot with a publisher to pitch my children's novel (The Wereboy of Bartoncoombe, for ages 8-12 years ... see what I did there?).  My appointment wasn't until just before 4pm so I had several hours to check out the rest of the fair beforehand.  Top of my list was to first find the stand for my appointment.  Thankfully this was on the main avenue and easy to locate.  Next goal was to search out the Writers' Advice Centre, who'd identified this opportunity, and thank them for the contact.

It was almost a relief to enter the Children's Zone of the fair.  Suddenly the stands became brightly coloured, adorned with puppets, games and an incredible rainbow of books in all shapes and sizes.  I felt quite at home.  The Writer's Advice Centre (for children's writing) stand was a calm oasis in the LBF and here I met the very friendly and welcoming Louise Jordan and Cressida Downing.  My timing was spot-on as Louise was just opening a bottle of wine to welcome children's writers.  This was one of the few, and possibly the only, stands that was genuinely pleased to talk to writers.  Louise boosted my confidence and primed me with some excellent advice on what I needed to focus on for the pitch meeting.  She also asked if I would return later to let her know how it went.

After lunch I explored Earls Court 2.  Here you can find the booksellers, distributors, digital media, self-publishing companies and the author centre, where each day there is an hour long interview with a famous name.  Sadly I just missed Peter James - one of my favourite crime writers.  You can also sit in on other talks and demonstrations on self-publishing and other topics.  China is a significant theme of the fair and there were several exhibitions and stands devoted to Chinese history and publishing.  This section also hosts the cookery book stands and ongoing cookery demonstrations throughout the day.

When I asked about Literary Agents and where to find them I was told they rarely leave the International Rights Centre (situated on the floor above), which seems to be the publishing equivalent of the royal enclosure at Ascot.  You only get in to the IRC if you have an appointment scheduled.  So absolutely no point in turning up with your manuscript and hoping to have a 'quick chat' with someone if you're seeking representation.

The exhibition halls were well supplied for food and drink from a multitude of cafes, bars and restaurants (too numerous to list).  Be prepared for London prices!

Okay, so do you want to know how my meeting went?  Well, I listened to all the advice I'd been given and got stuck straight in and covered all the points I wanted.  I met with the commissioning editor and she was friendly, professional and interested - all the things you'd hope for.  As times it felt more like a job interview as she asked several questions about me, as well as my writing.  I was prepared for most of the questions but oddly was completely stumped when she asked where I lived (I think this was because of the location/setting of the novel).  My mind went blank.  Yes, for an instant I forgot where I lived, but my bloodstream caffeine levels were sufficiently high enough to kick-start my brain and I was able to answer her without sounding like a gibbering idiot (that's my version of the story anyway).  I had a biog, synopsis and 3 chapters (the usual suspects) all prepared and handed these over.  She assured me the material would be read and I'd get a response shortly.  I can't tell you how it went until I hear further, but 5 minutes in front of a publisher is an invaluable experience and one to be grabbed.

Would I go again?  Probably not to the LBF unless I had a specific appointment to meet someone in the industry.  If you are a writer looking for a publishing deal or representation then it's a good learning experience, but treat it purely as reconnaisance and don't expect to come home with a book deal (as my hubby expected).  Do take along a business card.  I visited as many suitable publishers as I could, politely asking to take away their catalogue and many asked for a business card in return.

If you do go then enjoy the spectacle, wear sensible walking shoes and take along some emergency sugar supplies...

Wednesday 11 April 2012

London Book Fair

The London Book Fair runs from 16 - 18 April and the indoor writer is visiting the event for the first time.  She's travelling up on Monday 16 April for the day as she has secured a 5 minute slot to pitch her children's novel to a children's publisher.  If anyone is also attending then do let us know - would be lovely to see a friendly face.  Has anyone every attended the event, and if yes what can she expect?

And what do you plan to cover in a 5 minute slot?  This isn't a lot of time to convince someone your book is worth publishing, and marketing and promoting etc etc.  Perhaps this is more like a job interview and you HAVE to get them to like and want you in the first critical 5 minutes.  Getting published in today's competitive market is equally about selling yourself just as much as selling your writing.  So no pressure then!

If you have any top tips or words of wisdom then please comment... all thoughts welcome

Monday 9 April 2012

Beat the postal increase

If you enter a lot of writing competitions then the increase in postal rates due 30th April (1st class to 60p, 2nd to 50p and large letter to 90p) is not good news.  So why not search out the online / email competitions instead and ease the entry costs.  To help the budget the LitPig has rooted out some online competitions for April... and even better news some of these are even FREE to enter!

Print Express Poetry Competition: this closes TODAY 9 April, so you have to be QUICK

Click here for submission details.

  • Poem must be no more than 45 lines on the theme of HAPPINESS
  • Poem must be original and has to make the judges smile
  • Winner receives £100
  • Free entry, email your poem to poetry@printexpress.co.uk

Woman's Own Summer Short Story Competition: Closing date 30 April
For a Summer Fiction special Woman's Own have opened a competition for short stories:

  • 1000 - 1300 words, and they state the 'story can be funny, heart-warming, tear jerking or a mystery with a twist in the tale'.
  • Story must be original and unpublished
  • Winner receives £200 and story is published in summer fiction special.  Runners-up may also be published and possibly paid too.
  • There is NO FEE to enter, just email your story to wo_specials@ipcmedia.com (but there are no clear instructions as to whether story should be an attachment or embedded in the email).
Controversely when this competition was first launched in Feb the prize was simply publication i.e. no cash reward.  This prompted a tirade of comments on Woman's Own Facebook page from numerous Womag writers, many of whom threatened to boycott reading the magazine if it didn't pay for publishing stories.  Just shows the power of social networking and the number of comments left by writers in that the magazine  then backtracked and agreed to offer a cash prize of £200.

Unbound Press 2012 Short Story Award: closing date 30 April   

Click here for more submission details

  • Stories of <1500 words, any theme or genre welcome
  • 1st Prize - £500, 2nd Prize - £250, 3rd Prize - £125
  • All winners and shortlisted stories will be published in an anthology and receive free copy
  • Entry fee is £5 via paypal or cheque (both postal and email entries accepted)
  • Gust Judge is Lucy Luck
  • Stories must original and unpublished
  • Email .doc or .rtf files to unboundpress@gmail.com (cut and paste paypal transaction number along with all contact details into the email).

Good luck if you do have a go at any of the above competitions.  Let me know if you enter and how you get on.  Keep writing and keep submitting ...

Sunday 1 April 2012

Oh to be in England...

"Oh to be in England, now that April's there..."
wrote Robert Browning in his poem 'Home Thoughts from Abroad' and looking around our garden on 1st April I can't agree more.  The daffodils are still trumpeting and both the cherry and blossom trees are packed with feasting bees.  Springtime in England is truly a season to make your heart sing.

Robert Browning famously courted the poet Elizabeth Barrett at her home at Wimpole Street and through many love letters.  I loved the old 1934 film 'The Barretts of Wimpole Street", which dramatised their romance and elopement to Italy.  They both lived on in Italy and continued writing poetry until their deaths.  And now you can relive the romance by reading Robert Browning's love letters to Elizabeth online.  The original letters and transcripts are available at Armstrong Browning Library and Wellesley College.

The indoor writer has had some recent success with letters too (ok, a tenuous link I know).  Letters to Writing Magazine, Writers' Forum and What's On TV have all been published.  Writing letters is good practice for writing to a strict word count and identifying exactly what a publication wants.  They can also elicit some excellent rewards (either payment or prizes), resulting in a good return on any expenditure i.e.  cost of magazine, stamps etc. (and most publications except emails these days).

Later today we're off to Kent, the garden of England, for a couple of days.  Visiting Whistable, Cantebury and Howlett's Zoo.  Looking forward to catching up with the gorillas and elephants - at the zoo of course - and hoping there will be plenty of spring babies to ogle.