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

Monday 31 December 2012

A writing year in review

Blimey is that 2012 all done with already? And what a year with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and 2 sets of Olympics to cheer about. Hopefully you've had plenty to cheer about in your writing too. The Indoor Writer looks back on her writing year highlights as she starts to set out some new goals for 2013 (more in a later post):

April - a day out at the London Book Fair to pitch my children's novel to a publisher. Pitch was unsuccessful but a great experience (more here about surviving my day at the fair).
May - my first ever sale to a magazine. Short story sold to Fiction Feast (and published in November).
Sep - joined a local poetry group, meeting once a month, and I've started writing poetry again.
Oct - first sale to The People's Friend (my mum pretty chuffed about this).
Dec - converted a short story into a one act play. This has inspired me to consider writing a longer play and possibly a screenplay.

April - Won a bursary place at West Country Writers' Annual Literary Weekend - a real treat and met some lovely writers. More here.
June - Steyning Festival Short Story Competition. This is the biggest win to date and I had a fabulous day with Handsome Hubby at Wiston House for prize giving ceremony and lunch. Also got to meet Simon Brett and Elly Griffiths! More on this here.
August - Won a free week plus accommodation to Swanwick Writers' Summer School. A fabulous experience, again met some great writers and some new friends. Here's a write up of the event.
Nov - Won ChocLit Summer Short Story Competition. A great prize and a tin of choccies too!

There were plenty of rejections, inevitably, but thankfully balanced by a steady sprinkle of good news. And I'm very grateful for those sprinkles as they are just what a writer needs to keep believing that somebody out there likes what you write. And that's all you can wish for...

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and much success in your writing goals for 2013!

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas and all that...

As you can see LitPig is all set for Christmas ... now we just need to wrestle the TV remote off him.

Merry Christmas to all our followers. 

Hope it's a good one!

Friday 21 December 2012

Inspired to write

Thank you to the lovely Patsy for giving me this Inspiring Award. I have to squeal that the award is for my blog, but the Indoor Writer is hijacking the response and so here she goes (again) with 7 random facts of what has inspired her writing...

1. Several English teachers inspired me to write. My earliest memory of having a story read aloud in class was age 7 and from then on I declared I wanted to 'be a writer'. There was a couple of years during early teens when the ambition changed to 'international show jumper' (I went through a pony craze), but then reverted by the time I was off to uni.

2. At uni my Zoology studies didn't really inspire, so I wrote a novel in my second year. It was dreadful and remains handwritten (on lined A4), hidden away in a plastic crate in the loft. (Now if I was a true literary genius it would be locked in a trunk in the attic...)

3. Post uni I started a correspondence course for writing (you know the type: earn your fee blah blah), but never finished this as I met a nice bloke. And guess what - that bloke is now Handsome Hubby. Romance led to marriage and a baby... and the inspiration to write disintegrated for many years.

4. Hubby was seriously ill for several months and somehow this triggered the writing again. Wrote a short story, Hurricane Harry's Heir, during this period which later went on to be published in Five Stop Story Anthology. The original version was written 10 years ago... which demonstrates how you should NEVER throw any writing away.

5. Giving up my full time career in 2010 was another trigger to write. Suddenly my head was empty of work gunk and quickly flooded with story ideas. Since then I haven't stopped writing short stories.

6. Inspiration for stories comes from many sources but I find other people's writing often triggers new ideas. Reading, watching TV or listening to the radio can prompt a story theme or sometimes just a title, and oddly the rest of the story emerges later. A quality piece of writing stirs emotions and I hope one day I could write that well. When a book or film makes you think WOW I wish I could write like that, that is truly a moment of inspiration.

7. I find reading about writing actually prompts me to get on with it. LitPig is modelling below four of my particularly favourite inspirational books on writing:
Stephen King: On writing - full of his wisdom on the writing process and semi-autobiography. A rare page-turner of a how to book.

Simon Whaley: The Positively Productive Writer. Full of enthusiastic and encouraging tips, plus some nagging. I have put into operation several of his tracking systems (but then I was a control freak to start with).

Della Galton: How to write and sell short stories. It does what it says on the cover. This is one of several books that helped me to get that first Womag sale.

Noah Lukeman: The first five pages. You can read a review of this from a previous post here.

I'm passing this on to these inspirational bloggers: Simon, Helen, Della.

Monday 17 December 2012

Ben Hatch: Are We Nearly There Yet?

‘Are we nearly there yet?’ was Radio 2’s Book of the Year for 2012. On Twitter Ben Hatch (photo left) describes himself as: Dad, lover of bumbling & cheese. Sticky up hair. Following the review below LitPig chats with Ben and learns some exciting news about Ben's next book and a film deal...

If you like Bill Bryson then you will love Ben Hatch. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ recounts a family’s 8,000-mile car journey around Britain. This is the modern equivalent of the Odyssey, but takes place on land in a Vauxhall Astra and Ben takes his own Penelope (wife Dinah) with their two children (both under four) along for the adventure. Ben and Dinah were commissioned by Frommers to write a guidebook about family travel in Britain and this book tells of what went on behind the scene of researching the guide.
To say this book is funny is an understatement. Many stories made me laugh out loud, particularly the wonderful conversations between Ben and Dinah, or with daughter Phoebe. Hatch demonstrates great skill in interweaving his own memories of growing up in Britain along with remembering life with his father. During the roadtrip Ben’s dad was seriously ill and this illness becomes a big part of the journey he undertakes. The memories of his dad are poignant, passionate and painful, an honest and genuine account of a difficult relationship.

Ben Hatch is an accomplished storyteller, but do not underestimate the skill of a writer who can make you laugh and sob in equal measure. I openly cried on reading several sections of this book. This gets a FIVE pig rating. Highly recommended for your Christmas book list.

Ben Hatch gave a very popular talk at West Sussex Writers (Worthing). You can follow him on Twitter (@BenHatch) – he is very funny.

LitPig chats with Ben…

Q: When did you get the idea to write 'Are we nearly there yet?' Was this planned when you set off on the trip, or did the idea come later?
Ben: I am far too stupid to have come up with the idea myself. I was originally only writing the guidebook. It was my editor at Frommers, the publisher of this guidebook who suggested it. He'd had to fire me from writing any more guidebooks because I kept sneaking too many personal stories into the review entries. He did this with a heavy heart as he really liked what I was writing. I'm very grateful to him because he put me in touch with Summersdale who specialise in travel narratives and it was through talking to them that the idea developed.

Q: Twitter has played a big part in your promotion of the book. What impact Twitter has made on sales? And do you have any Twitter Top Tips to share?
Ben: Twitter has been enormously important. Without it the book would have flopped badly. I missed my window on publicity because the book was embargoed to the Express who were going to do a feature on it. Except the London riots happened the week it was supposed to run. It got pulled and I was left and dry. The PR staff at Summersdale had moved onto other books so it was down to me. Basically I started tweeting all the reviews I got. I had some great ones from John Cleese, Terry Wogam, Danny Wallace, Richard Briers Jenny Colgan, Lisa Jewell, Mike Gayle and others and it started from there. That got a little buzz going, then it was reviewed in the Daily Mail and just took off.

Top twitter tip - don't be too self-conscious. Be proud of your work and tell people about it. Obviously don't only tweet about your book though. That gets boring. And treat tweeter folk as you'd treat friends you see in day to day life. Reply to people, for instance. What's strange is what started off as marketing idea for me has changed into something completely different. In fact I probably spend more time talking to tweeter followers then I do talking to my real life friends now.

Q: Will there be another Hatch family road trip? Are you working on another book or project right now - can you tell us about it?
Yes, We have completed a massive 10,000 mile road-trip round France. I am currently writing that up. It will called Road to Rouen and is due for release in May next year

Q: When Hollywood take up the movie option for 'Are we nearly there yet?' who would you like to see playing Dinah and, of course, yourself?
Well it's Island Pictures who've in fact bought the film rights to Are We Nearly There Yet? They are developing the book with movie director Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee, Waking Ned, What to Expect When You're Expecting and Everybody's Fine) and they have mentioned all sorts of names though obviously it would have to someone crushingly handsome but who also happened to like cheese. I tease my wife that they're lining Sue Pollard up to play her.

'Are we nearly there yet?' is available on Amazon: paperback and Kindle edition

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Tasty timeline tool

The wonderful Wendy Clarke (who only lives down the road from us) has created a fabulous tool: character timeline spreadsheet. Well, her hubby has set it up, but go check it out here where Wendy is generously sharing the tool. You can download the spreadsheet and start using it yourself.

The Indoor Writer is always get characters ages wrong and timelines out by several years and her trusty proofreader (Handsome Hubby) doesn't alway catch the howlers. So now she has no excuse.

Thank you Wendy!

Monday 10 December 2012

Oh Lucky Day!

Do you have a lucky day or date? For the Indoor Writer NOVEMBER seems to be her lucky month. In 2011 Wednesday 16 November was the luckiest day of the year (read post here). Then incredibly it happened all over again on Thursday 15 November this year with the news of winning Choc-Lit Summer Short Story competition.

Other  reasons for November being a lucky month were: payment from Fiction Feast (her first published womag story), payment from People's Friend (they pay on acceptance not publication, NICE!), getting Highly Commended in The Yellow Room Flash Fiction competition, winning Write-Invite weekly competition, filler published in Writers' Forum magazine (winning free subscription for a year) and shortlisted for Writers' Forum monthly short story competition. She's quite chuffed about the last two as her subscription to WF had just run out (jammy or what?) and she's being submitting short stories to WF competition for quite a few months. So never give up trying with a market.

In 2013 I'm saving my piggy-bank money for her to buy a lottery ticket during week of 15/16 November, as clearly there is something auspicious about those dates!!

Go on, share your lucky day...

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Poetry feast

As you can see I'm enjoying the Indoor Writer's tin of Cadburys' Heroes. This was part of her prize for winning Choc-Lit Summer Short Story competition. If you missed the earlier blog plug here is a link to the winning story.

But the flavour of today's blog is poetry. Slipstream poets met on Monday for their December workshop and the theme was FEASTS. The Indoor Writer salivated over the following poems and delighted in discussing the merits of foodie poetry:

  • A winter feast - Paul Schmidt
  • The bistro styx - Rita Dove
  • Washing rice - Lam Thi My Da
  • The great tablecloth - Pablo Neruda
  • Indian cooking - Moniza Alvi
Her favourite was The Great Tablecloth, a poem with heavy political undertones (Pablo Neruda spent most of his life in exile from his homeland of Chile) yet the words slip off the tongue like melted chocolate. A poem to be read aloud! Has inspired us to read more of Neruda's work.

Part of the workshop was to pen two poems. The first on the theme of winter feasts. Amongst 12 people there was incredible variety here from Australian Xmas turkey to Scandinavian rotting fish. She wrote about Valhalla and the warriors feasting (and fighting) for eternity. The second exercise was to write of a meal in a restaurant involving a mythical character (either from Greek/Roman myths or any historical figure). Again this prompted immense diversity with Father Christmas, Oliver Cromwell and Poseidon popping up. We rather enjoyed the tale of Odysseus dining out with Penelope - wouldn't blame her if she tipped pudding in his lap considering all his philandering with goddesses. You can read the Indoor Writer's effort at the bottom of the post - her Father Christmas is a bit of a pagan...

If this has spiked your poetry appetite then why not have a go at the following trio of poetry competitions:

Closing 31 December 2012: Writer's Bureau Poetry Competition 2013
To be judged by the lovely Alison Chisolm (met her at Swanwick Summer School)
  • 40 lines max, no theme, £5 per poem (reduced if you subscribe to Freelance Market News)
  • Prizes: £500/£300/£200/£100
  • Entry postal or online
  • Poems must not have been published
Closing 31 January 2013: Slipstream Poets Open Competition 2013
  • 40 lines max, £3 per poem or 4 for £10 or 6 for £12 (very good value)
  • Prizes: £250/£100/£75
  • Entry postal
  • Poems must not have been published
Closing 8 April 2013: Buxton Festival Poetry Competition
  • 40 lines max, £5 per poem, Theme: History and heritage
  • Prizes for Open category (>19 years): £300/£200/£100
  • Postal entries only with accompanying entry form (download from website)
  • Poems must not have been published
And finally...(hmm perhaps she should stick to prose?)

Yuletide Pizza by Tracy Fells
I chastise him across the garlic ciabatta, hissing,
- You can't do that sort of thing in here.
- Such a pretty thing, he chortles. And I only asked her to sit upon my knee.
His plump cheeks flush to the colour of his suit, a startling stunning red.
Tossed onto the table our pizzas almost skid off their plates.
Margherita, plain and simple, for me.
Four seasons in one pizza for him with all the extra toppings
and extra on top of those too.
He thinks I'm not looking when he scoops grated carrot from his salad bowl,
sweeps handfuls into fur-lined pockets.
- For the boys, he says with a wink. They like a dose of carotene.
Tickling his gleaming bush of beard he signals for the waiter
and another half pint of sherry.
With the back of my hand I swipe away the Cappucino moustache.
Thank god I only have to do this once a year!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Love Sussex Living

On Sunday walked with a friend from Cissbury Ring to home and took a slight detour up to Chanctonbury Ring. It was a crisp, clear day and the view from Chanctonbury was stupendous (see photo left). Made me think how much we all love living in West Sussex.

To celebrate Sussex living why not enter this Short Story Competition to support West Sussex Writers, click here for details of the competition. And here for the entry guidelines. Good Luck!