Welcome to my blog

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

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Random words shortlist Open Category

We're celebrating today as the Indoor Writer's flash story 'Dirty Talk' has reached the final shortlist of Helen Yendall's Random Words short story competition. You can read her story and the other four shortlisted stories here.
The brief was to write a short story in under 250 words ensuring the key words of plague, sleep, magazine and reluctant were included.

Winners get announced for both categories later today. Keep your trotters crossed. Though still reckon she should have written about pigs...

Monday, 24 September 2012

Random words shortlist

Bit of a cheat today, but here is a link to the Newbie shortlist of 5 flash stories from Helen Yendall's Random Words competition. The Newbie category is a great idea, allowing new writers who haven't yet been published elsewhere to enter a story.

The Open shortlist of flash stories from the same competition should be available later today. The Indoor Writer did enter a story, but as the judge muttered about the 'plague' of rats featuring in the stories then she's not too optimistic about her chances... I told her to write about pigs, but she never listens to me and went ahead with the rat tale.

Look out for the announcement of the two winning stories tomorrow at Helen's Blog about writing.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

75 not out!

Last night I was catching up with Vikings and Neil Oliver while the Indoor Writer updated her story catelogue. Two & half years ago she started writing short fiction and recorded the outgoings and success (or lack of it) for each story in a lined exercise book. The book is now full so she's transcribing the contents to a new and much larger book. OK she does track everything in a spreadsheet too, but still has a soft spot for the old fashioned paper method.

She was pretty astonished to count up a total of 75 stories completed and sent out. Most were submissions to competitions but several to Womags and ezines. How does that compare to other writers - is 75 a good innings for 30 months? Or is that total woefully small? How many short stories do you pen in a year or month?

And then the angels and demons started. First the Positive Thinking Angel is chirping on about the effort involved to finish and edit 75 stories. What an achievement and shouldn't she be proud to have such a portfolio to draw on etc. Then the Doubtful Demon sidles up and begins whining on about why has she only sold ONE story to date. And though she's had competition success then why doesn't every story win a prize.

I had to step in and ask which is better: Angel or Demon? And of course there was only one way to find out. They're still fighting, so I'll have to let you know the outcome another time.

Adding vinegar to the open wound out today came the results of Writers' Bureau Short Story competition. Her entry didn't make the named top 3 (don't think any other names are released). From the winner's comments it would appear this is his second major win for 2012 (a big achievement), but it also seemed these were the only two stories he's written to date. I may have misunderstood the brief comments, but if that's a true statement then the Doubtful Demon is going to town on that nugget and the PT Angel is hanging up her wings...

Keep writing... not sure if the Indoor Writer will...

P.S. Did try to find a suitable image of fighting Angels and Demons for this post but gave up after scrolling through too many posters for the Tom Hanks film/ Dan Brown novel. You'll just have to use your imagination instead.

Monday, 17 September 2012

What's a reasonable entry fee?

This topic has been raised in several writing blogs but I just wanted to put my snout in the trough one more time and add my thoughts. The Indoor Writer enters a lot of writing competitions so has to watch the out going pennies and assess a competition's entry fee against the winning pot (and the chance of being successful). The Asham prize closes on 21st September and the entry fee is now £15 with £1000 for the winning story. Now this is for women only, so should narrow the field, but still that's a big chunk to pay out for one story. She doesn't have a story written for the theme 'journey' and to be honest probably any story would fit  - as every story is a journey for the characters involved blah blah - but the quality of writing will be good for this high profile competition. Consequently, this year she's going to pass on the Asham. Bridport is another high profile competition but offers better value with a top prize of £5,000 for £7 entry fee. Most competitions now seem to set an entrance fee of £5 per story with first prize of anything from £100 to £1000.

As we're always looking out for a bargain then why pay to enter a writing competition when many are FREE. Both Patsy Collins and Helen Yendall post blogs about FREE competitions, often with excellent prizes. All the writing magazines: Writing Magazine, Writer's Forum, The New Writer and Mslexia list competitions both free and with paid entrance. In fact Writing Magazine's October issue has a pullout competition special packed with a year's worth of writing comps. It also has a couple of brilliant articles by the Indoor Writer (a shameless plug, but I have to keep her sweet). And here are a couple of tasty competitions I truffled out earlier:

The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival Food and Drink Writing Award:
Click here for further details. This is FREE to enter and the top prize is a whopping £7,500. All you have to do is submit a short story (under 2,500 words) with the theme food and /or drink at its heart. You do need to get writing because the deadline is 1 October 2012. The winners will be announced at a lavish dinner during the 2013 March festival.

A.Vogel Dormeasan story writing competition: write a story for bedtime
More details are here. This closes 31 October (midday), has FREE entry for up to three stories and offers top prize of £500 with £300 for second and £100 for two runners-up. You can enter stories right now and they do select a monthly winning story to publish on the website and pay £50. The monthly winner still goes into the final competition too. Check out the website to read 2011 winning stories. Basically your story needs to be a good bedtime read, and they accept all genres except erotica (as such stories have other aims than sleep...)

It does take a while for the results to come out - Spring 2013 I believe - so it's a long time to tie up three stories. Oh and be warned they rather sweetly send a letter to every entrant to announce the winners. This got the Indoor Writer (and many others) pretty excited at the time because competitions usually only write if you're one of the winners. It was a nice touch though to at least have your entry acknowledged and appreciated.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Five Stop Story out today

The 2nd Volume of the Five Stop Story ebook is now available on the Kindle. It can be purchased for £2.99 here. The guys at Five Stop Story are making the book free for 3 days so you can download your copy for free. It will be available for free download from Wednesday 12th - Friday 14th September. 

Why am I telling you this? Well Five Story Story run an excellent monthly competition, click here for more details, and guess who has a story in this collection. Yep, the Indoor Writer has a strange little tale called 'Hurricane Harry's Heir' in the ebook. The story was originally a runner-up back in the October 2011 monthly competition. If you get a copy then do let her know what you think of it.

Keep reading, and writing too...

Monday, 10 September 2012

Once upon a time...

I believe all stories should start with 'Once upon a time...' but then I'm an old fashioned pig. Why not check out this new anthology of tiny tales 'Once upon a time: A Collection of Unexpected Fairytales': A collection of 89 modern and adapted fairytales (each is only 1-page long) from the Once Upon A Time Flash Fiction Competition, run in conjunction with UK National Flash Fiction Day, 16th May 2012. All proceeds go to the National Literary Trust (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/).

The Indoor Writer's fairytale 'Just Add' is part of the anthology. It does have a cheery ending, but be warned many of the tales do not end happily.

Here is link to the paperbook version on Amazon and click here for the Kindle version.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The magic of Swanwick: People

As you can see from the photo (right) I enjoyed swanning at Swanwick this summer. Okay, so I tagged along to keep the Indoor Writer company - she'd won a week at the Writers' Summer School (how jammy was that?) with her non-fiction article 'Bluebirds over France' (to be published in October issue of Writing Magazine). I had to keep guard over the crystal bowl while she got to meet lots of interesting people - well they were all writers - so I'll let her tell you more ...

I wasn't sure what to expect as a White Badger (first timer) at Swanwick Writers' Summer School as I nervously arrived for the first tea and cake session on Sat afternoon. Within minutes other writers were welcoming me to the school and introducing me to others. This was quite unlike any other conference/event I've attended in my professional life, where if you come on your own you can easily stay on your own (unless you're a born extrovert). But the White Badge system really works and the Swanwick diehards will swoop you up and embrace you as one of their own simply because you are a writer. I also soon realised that tea and cake are a vital ingredient of the Swanwick tradition. Even now back at home I get cravings for cake and a natter at 3.15pm.

Secondly I was unprepared for the size of the event. Expecting to be one of about 40-50 delegates I was overwhelmed to find myself with 240 other writers. The usual opening at mealtimes to a new companion was 'and what do you write?' And each time I asked this question I was never quite prepared for the response. Swanwick attracts writers of all genres. There are many fiction writers, of short stories and novels, but equally many poets, non-fiction and technical writers. I met several individuals specialising in training materials and books, all who enjoyed Swanwick for the chance of sampling other genres.

I will write more in another post on the courses attended, but today I wanted to share the most valuable aspect of the Summer School: the people. Since coming home I've been emailing and tweeting new friends, some I hope will become firm friends. It was great to share my writing projects with others and to learn about other writers' successes (and mistakes). I had fun at the Poetry Slam (listening not participating), loved the Busker's evening, embraced my ambitious streak for the Literary Quiz (my team came a close 2nd) and relished the variety of evening speakers. I wasn't brave enough to step onto the Eurovision Disco floor for the first night, and that was the only night I retired early as simply just too knac-sorry-exhausted. Also hid for the karaoke night, though LitPig was keen to have a go.

One of the most inspirational speakers was Rebecca Woodhead (Writing Magazine columnist on media). I spoke with her after lunch and even off the podium she was still enthusing on the benefits of social networking for writers. Up close she looks at least ten years younger than her age, which she attributes to her diet of non-processed foods (with the exception of chocolate!), but I'd put her youthful appearance down to her positive personality and pure zest for life.

Below I'm pictured alongside the other prize winners:
Front left to right: me (Tracy Fells), Sue Petitt (runner-up Children's Story), Veronica Bright (winner Children's Story)
Back Left to right: Mike Berry (runner-up Adult Short Story), Maureen Jeffs (winner Adult Short Story).
If you regularly read Writing Magazine then look out for the competition adverts - why not set yourself a goal to enter for 2013? The prize is a full week (Sat - Frid morning) at Swanwick Summer Writers' School - all costs covered (worth about £400).

I can understand why many Swanwickers return year after year. Once you've sampled the menu, you just can't wait to get back for more. And it seems Swanwickers simply go on forever - many have been returning for ten years plus. I think I may have stumbled on the secret of a long writing life: Swanwick Summer School ... and cake.

My networking action list:

  • Join Google+ (then I can sit round a virtual camp fire and talk writing with new Swanwick mates)
  • Make more of my Facebook page
  • Use blog and Twitter to promote other writers and their work
  • Earn enough through writing to book my place for 2013!