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

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The last round up of 2013

Are you ready for the New Year? Today I'm sorting out the diaries, aren't they lovely when brand new and full of promise? (I keep a personal one and a writing one) The whiteboards have been scrubbed cleaned and await new goals. The calendar is ready to go up. But first here is the final round up for 2013. Hope these have given you a flavour of a writer's year. This is the last one and I will try and think of something new for 2014. I will share new goals and projects once I've brainstormed with fellow writer, Wendy.

December STATS: 
Write 1 Sub 1:
New - 0 (oops just didn't manage to write anything new in the last month)
Total subs - 11 (6 short stories, 2 novel openings, 1 x stage play, 1 x radio play and 1 x flash  - you can sing this is you like...)

Income:  Free annual subscription to Writers' Forum, worth £38.

The Good News: 
Special mention and another shortlisted in The Yellow Room Magazine flash fiction comp.
Longlisted in Flash 500 novel opening comp (first 3,000 words). Really pleased with this as it was still an early draft - a definite endorsement to carry on writing!
Shortlisted in The Writing Competition flash fiction (judged by Wendy Holden).
Shortlisted in another short story comp, but this is still being judged so can't name it yet.

The Not-so-good News: unsuccessful in the following ...
2 rejections from Miso magazine (flash pieces).

More good news than bad, making December a very merry month!
My big achievement was submitting the radio play to BBC Writer's Room before the script window closed on 16 December.

Now I just need to do a review of 2013 and see if the Good outweighed the Bad! How was your writing year?

Finally, best wishes for a fabulous New Year. LitPig predicts 2014 will be a very successful, creative and productive year for all his followers. He'd like to thank you all for following and leaving such encouraging and lovely comments. If you enjoy what you read then please leave a comment - it is such a joy to read these. Writing can be a singular task, but it is truly inspiring to hear from others out there who are experiencing the ups and downs of a creative life.

Keep writing and submitting...

Monday, 30 December 2013

Writing on the blog chain!

Thank you to my teacake buddy and fellow writer, Wendy Clarke, for inviting me to be one of the links in her writing blog chain. As all I have to do is answer some questions about my writing I was happy to take part - since eyes glaze over when I mention writing to my family ...

1) What am I working on?
Like Wendy I'm having some writing downtime until 6 January to try and give the brain a rest. Am reading lots and already several new ideas have surfaced, which is the main reason for the downtime - to allow new ideas to emerge. Projects for the new year include: continuing the WIP novel, converting a short story to a one act play, new short stories, a new radio play and a smattering of non-fiction articles. I plan to continue with the objective of writing one new story a month.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, firstly I write across numerous genres and am always trying out new areas. New for 2014 will be screenwriting. I've been told that my writing is often 'funny, but with bite' and I think I look at topics from unusual angles (quirky?). I do aim to write more upbeat pieces, hopefully with positive and life affirming themes - simply because I can't bear to write 'doom, gloom and misery' anymore, it's too depressing! Fiction can be fun and still convey a serious, but upbeat message.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Hmm, to be honest I have no idea. I'm not entirely sure where some of the ideas come from, but once they start assembling out of the mist I usually know what I want to achieve. I do like to write across lots of genres, because I want to master a whole range of techniques and I love experimenting. I would hate to be pigeon-holed as a one type of writer. In 2013 I started to write drama and now realise that many of my short stories could work as either stage or radio plays. When I write I see everything as scenes in my head, and I love writing dialogue. So working more on drama is something I'm really keen to develop.

4) How does my writing process work?

I'm a bit superstitious about answering this, as I'm terrified the writing (or more realistically the ideas) will suddenly dry up and talking about the process will scare it off even quicker! 

I keep a notebook and jot down ideas, titles, dialogue. Something will start to niggle me and then I'll plot it out completely before I start to write. Swimming, walking and running or washing-up and gardening (not all at once) are great activities to help the plotting process. I can't sit down and write from scratch. I also don't subscribe to the school of write any old rubbish and edit it later. If I did that I would just end up with rubbish. My first drafts tend to be scarily clean. I usually edit and then pass onto my tame proofreader (Handsome Hubby), who is terrific at grammar, punctuation and fact checking. I then print out and read through on paper, plus read aloud. Edit if necessary and that's it. Through my MA workshops I'm learning to become a more thorough editor and realising this does lift the quality of my writing. 

Hope the above have been interesting.

The writing baton now passes to the following talented writers and bloggers - please pop over to their blogs on 6 JANUARY to read their posts.

Simon Whaley writes British travel features, walking routes and humorous pieces, for UK and USA publications, and his short stories have been published in the UK, Ireland and Australia. He's the author of 11 non-fiction books and his twelfth (Photography for Writers) is published in March 2014.

Lynne Hackles self-confessed butterfly writer who successfully writes across many genres. Columnist on Writing Magazine and creative writing tutor.

Sally Jenkins specialises in shorter length fiction and the odd article. Two of her story collections have been published on Kindle and she is currently kicking her 2013 NaNoWriMo script into shape.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Bridport Prize success

I am pleased to welcome Shirley Waite as my guest on the blog today. I know Shirley from the
Swanwick Summer School, a lovely bubbly lady who (as you can see from her photo, left) is always smiling and a talented writer. Shirley joins us today to talk about her recent success in the Bridport Prize and hopefully share some of her secrets... Firstly, I wonder where she got that terrific hat ...

After a working life as a secretary, receptionist, PA and complementary therapist among other things, Shirley took early retirement and rented a flat in Scarborough for a few weeks.  Ten years later she is still there.  She started a part time BA (Hons) in Creative Writing at the University of Hull Scarborough Campus and is now in her final year working hard on her last assignment. She has been a runner up in several writing competitions but considers the Bridport her biggest achievement to date.  Since discovering the wonderful writing week known as Swanwick, she has been every August to meet up with some lovely writers (including The Literary Pig).  Thanks to encouragement from Swanwick, she has self-published a Kindle book about setting up a cafe church (‘A Menu for Cafe Church’ on Amazon).

Shirley, please tell us all about your success in the Bridport Prize this year.

Since hearing about the Bridport in my first year of a creative writing course, I have entered Flash Fiction three times with no success.  This year I entered two poems simply because the poetry judge was Wendy Cope who, as far as I am concerned, is our greatest living poet.  Just the thought of her scanning over my attempts was enough.  When I received an e-mail from Frances Everitt, Competition Administrator, telling me my poem had won a Highly Commended prize I thought it was a joke – except nobody knew I had entered.  They ask you not to publicise your win until prize giving day, apart from friends and family, so I did ring a friend straight away.  I’m afraid I babbled – possibly squealed a bit - and she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about but congratulated me anyway.

I'm a bit jealous as I've been entering prose for years without success. How did you decide which poem to enter and what is the story behind the poem?

I entered two poems.  The one I thought would appeal to Wendy Cope sank without trace.  The other was written during a class at university when we had to think of an object from our childhood and write about it.  I chose my mother’s pinking shears (don’t ask!) which fascinated me because of the noise   What started out as a light-hearted poem changed when I added the ending as my mum now has dementia.  It was originally called ‘Memories’ which was the only criticism from my tutor when I handed it in as part of a poetry assignment.  It took longer to think of a new title than write the whole poem but as Alison Chisholm says in her excellent book ‘Crafting Poetry’ the title is a vital part of the writing.  I made a list of possible titles and ‘Unravelling’ worked its way to the top.
they made when she was cutting fabrics out and probably because I was banned from touching them.

You kindly invited me to join you for the prize giving ceremony and lunch in Bridport and I’m still kicking myself for not joining you.  How did the day go?  Did you meet any famous writers and can you share any gossip?

Originally, I wasn’t going to go to the prize giving but a writing friend said of course I must as I’d probably never get another chance.   When I saw your tweet about Bridport I realised you had entered the competition and would probably enjoy going to the ceremony just for the experience.  For some reason I thought you lived in the Dorset area.  We got on so well at Swanwick  that it would have been fun to get together again.
The day was brilliant.  In fact, the weekend was brilliant.  I was lucky enough to book into a B & B (No.27, Bridport) where the owner, Juliet, was a member of The Arts Centre, theatre-goer and big reader.  She got me a ticket for the Friday evening when Wendy Cope was giving a poetry reading followed by a book signing where I managed to have a quick chat with her (see photo left).  Do I really need to say that was the best part of the weekend? 
The ceremony itself was better than I expected.  The prize winners, guests, judges, etc, all mingle in the art gallery with a glass (or two) of bubbly, which gave us a chance to chat.   I met a lovely author who writes as Rosanna Ley and lives in Bridport.  (Took her book ‘Bay of Secrets’ on holiday with me last month.)  Also reintroduced myself to Michรจle Roberts, the short story judge, who I met a couple of years ago when I attended her short course on writing stories in Beverley and also when she gave a talk at Scarborough Literary Festival one year.  The buffet lunch with wine was a credit to the Arts Centre, followed by the prize giving and listening to the top three prize winners in each category read out their winning stories/poems.
No gossip, I’m afraid, but if it is any help I sat on the same table as two ‘readers’ who said that every single entry is read, regardless of bad grammar, bad spelling, written in coloured chalk . . .  They said it was very easy to sort the good from the bad at the early stages but they were glad they didn’t have to decide on the eventual winners as there were so many good entries.  The judging is completely anonymous and fair yet some people have won a prize several times throughout the years, showing their consistent good writing.  In 2013 the total entries were: poems 7758, stories 5887 and flash 2720. 
All the winners received a copy of The Bridport Prize Anthology 2013 which can be bought from their website http://www.bridportprize.org.uk/.
Other highlights of the weekend:  a walk to West Bay where parts of Broadchurch were filmed.  No dead bodies on the beach and no David Tennant but you can’t have everything.  A preview showing of the film The Selfish Giant and a poetry slam, both at Bridport Arts Centre, Chocolatiers Cafe,  @Dorsetchocshop (I managed to squeeze in several visits for coffee and a chocolate frog plus took a bag of truffles home), meeting @RosannaLey who was so helpful with writing advice.

Ooh, I sort of know Rosanna Ley - she used to be a member of West Sussex Writers. What a small world! And the stats on number of entries puts your success into context, Shirley. Making the final Highly Commended list is a significant achievement.
Finally, any top tips for succeeding in poetry competitions?

I wish I had.  I can only repeat what has been told to me: 
Find out who the judge is and read their poetry to get a feel of what they enjoy. 
Read the judges’ reports from previous competitions on the websites. 
Read the winning poems in as many competitions as possible. 
Stick to the rules. 
Make your poem the one that sticks in the judge’s mind.
Keep trying.

 Also I think your comments earlier on selecting a title are appropriate too. A memorable and distinctive title can only help.

It's been lovely to chat with you, Shirley. Now you can relax for Christmas. And here is Shirley's poem

The pinking shears lived
On their own special shelf in the cupboard;
Shiny black handles, rows of silver teeth,
Too heavy to lift.  My mother could –
She could do anything when I was young.
Nights, weekends, her second job, cash in hand –
Singer, material, blue tailor’s chalk,
Tissue paper patterns, hedgehog of pins.
Then the shears: high priestess makes the first cut,
Blades grinding, shark-like, slicing through fabric.
A pile of soft shapes falls like a jigsaw,
Stitched into wedding dress, blouse, winter coat.

They still sleep on a shelf in the cupboard
And she likes to stroke the worn enamel,
Though they are too heavy for her to lift
And she doesn’t know what to call them
Or what they do.

(Reproduced here with kind permission of Shirley Waite)

Friday, 20 December 2013

What are you reading for Christmas?

As you can see LitPig is pondering on what to start with for our Christmas reading. We need to finish The Snow Child (by Eowyn Ivey) first and then these are the books we've put aside for the break:

The Bad Mother's Handbook - Kate Long (have saved this especially for Christmas)
Breathing Lessons - Anne Tyler (Love her writing)
The curious incident of the dog in the night - Mark Haddon
Girl with a pearl earring - Tracy Chevalier (read many years ago and now need to read for first week back on MA in Jan)
Twisted sheets - collection of prize-winning short stories by Jo Derrick (on my kindle - want to find out why Jo keeps beating the Indoor Writer in competitions...)
Hysteria 2 - anthology of the winning stories from this year's Hysteria competition (sorry, this is yet another plug for the Indoor Writer, as she has a story in here too). Looking forward to dipping into this as the 2012 collection was superb.

We're taking a bit of a writing break over Christmas to recharge the creative batteries, but there will be lots of reading, some walking and a good deal of consumption going on instead. But we do have a special pre-Christmas guest here on Monday 23rd December, so please pop back to meet a lovely writer who was successful in the Bridport prize this year.

Writing chum and teacake champion, Wendy, is joining a blog chain on 23rd December. Make sure you visit her to learn some of her writing secrets. And then please pop back here on 30th December when we pick up the chain.

What are you reading for Christmas? 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Hearing voices

Earlier this week I met with a group of Performing Arts students to record my radio play. A friend from my MA course had first suggested this during our workshops and reviewing early drafts of the play. She teaches theatre at a local college and really wanted her students to get some experience with radio. Apparently there is a lack of good material suitable for young/teenage actors (dramatists take note). The recording went incredibly smoothly, mainly because they were already briefed on their parts and had read through the scenes. I just had to introduce the title and make a brief appearance at the end to state the actors names.

Today Tame Teen and I have spent a fun hour downloading sound effects to layer onto the recording - we also made some of our own (mobile phone etc). Over the Xmas break we plan to clean up the recording: edit out the paper rustlings, the squeaky door of the studio and add in the effects. He uses a fabulous open source programme called Audacity. This is just for our own entertainment, but it is satisfying to hear your words come to life. Handsome Hubby has been listening to the play on his way to work and is really enjoying it.

Writers often talk about hearing their characters in their heads. I've always heard these voices and not though it at all odd, which is probably why I now write for a living! But to see and hear my characters come to life is a truly unique experience. The guy who played my lead character was perfect. He had a youthful voice and brought a vulnerability to the role which was spot on. He WAS the voice I'd been hearing all the time I was writing the play. This definitely was one of those 'tingle' moments.

If you write drama then grab any opportunity to get your work performed or read. It could be worth approaching any colleges which teach theatre/performance arts - they may be crying out to work with new writers and happy to help with readings. Hearing others perform your work significantly helps to iron out dialogue issues. You immediately hear where the lines don't scan or sentences are over long. If actors stumble on dialogue it usually shows where to cut or edit.

Now we just need to go and pretend to smash a door down and we're all set.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

November round up

As you can see I'm ready for Christmas, but while we're waiting for the repeats of The Snowman (and Babe) here's the Indoor Writer's round-up of writing news for November...

November STATS: 

Write 1 Sub 1:
New - 1 x article, extended radio play from 20 to 45 mins
Total subs - 15 

Income: almost £300! The mince pies are on me.

The Good News: 
Winner of Christchurch Writers' Radio Play competition - pretty chuffed as first radio play
Runner-up Christchurch Writers' Article competition
Shortlisted (final 4) in Retreat West short story competition (judged by Sophie Duffy)
Shortlisted in InkTears flash fiction competition - pleased with this as previously not had any success with InkTears
Positive comments received on a story from a womag. Already resubmitted ... so ... keep'em crossed!

The Not-so-good News: unsuccessful in the following ...
Aesthetica, The Short Story comp, Five Stop Story, The Red Line. 3 rejections (in 2 emails) from WW.

Other projects:
The radio play is almost ready for submission to the BBC. A friend from the MA course is organising her theatre group of teenagers to record this next week. This will be a real treat and the perfect way to road test the dialogue (the main characters are all teens).
I'm working on my semester 1 submission for the MA at present, which is due on 20 January. So not sure what new writing I will achieve by end December. Hoping to write some new flash pieces, but may run out of time for a new short story.
Some positive news on the novel, but you'll have to wait for the December round up ... sorry
Lots of ideas for projects, but not sure what to focus on in the New Year. Guess this is a good situation to be in as writer!

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

Keep writing and submitting...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Hysteria 2013 success

I was delighted to win this year's Hysteria Short Story competition with 'Fibonacci's Tree'. You can now read the story here - hope you enjoy it! You can also read my interview with Linda Parkinson-Hardman from the Hysterectomy Association here.

The inspiration for this story came from a lunch time conversation at Swanwick Writers' Summer school, when I chatted with a friend about mathematical patterns. We started on the 'rule of three' and later moved onto Fibonacci's sequence (as you do...). This gave me an inkling of an idea for a story, which I later wrote up when I got home. Interestingly, regular follows of this blog may remember a September post 'Why do you write?', where I mentioned a short story described by my proofreading hubby as 'the best story you've ever written'. Yes, you've guessed it 'Fibonacci's Tree' was THAT story. Shows he has got taste. Hmm, maybe I should listen to his comments more closely in future...

Hysteria 2 is the anthology of all ten winning stories from Hysteria 2013 and it’s now available to purchase online and through all good bookshops.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Costa Short Story Award finalists announced

The finalists for the 2013 Costa Short Story Award have now been announced here. Six stories are available to download and read or listen to and you can vote for your favourite. The winning story will be announced early in 2014. At present the names of the shortlisted authors are being withheld so the voting can be based on the quality of the story. Sadly, once again they did not pick the Indoor Writer's story - she'll be working hard next year to rectify this oversight.

We're still working through the stories so will have to disclose our favourite in a future post. Please share  what you think of this year's finalists. Which one will you vote for?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Short story opportunities

Apologies for the absence but the Indoor Writer has been immersed in her writing (poor excuse if you ask me) and unable to help with the blog...hmmm. To make up for the lapse here is news of a new website Short Stops set-up by Tania Hershman and devoted to the Short Story. Click here to read more about outlets and opportunities for short stories. I've come across Tania in many Flash Fiction competitions and love her writing, which is quirky and thought provoking. I particularly like how she brings science into her writing. She's also the judge for the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014, which is a fantastic achievement.

And you still have time to enter the 2014 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, which closes at noon on 30 November. Click here for details of how to submit - you can also read the winners from 2013. Top prize is £5,000 and £2500 for regional winners. They want unpublished, original stories of 2,000 - 5,000 words. It's FREE to enter so why not have a go?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Short Story Week

I'm wallowing this week, wallowing in a glorious mud bath of short stories! If you want to read all about National Short Story Week (11 - 17 November) then click here, where you can find out about events and what to read or where to listen to short stories. You can also follow the week on twitter @shortstoryforum.

And if you like reading short story collections then there is an excellent critique of Kate Atkinson's collection 'Not the End of the World' on Thresholds (Short Story Forum), another excellent site for short story addicts. You may recognise the author of the article ... Okay, yes this is just another plug for The Indoor Writer, but she needs all the plugs she can get!

I've blogged about my favourite short story writers before, so won't bore you again with my list. I'm currently reading Lucy Wood's 'Diving Belles' and have on my shelf to read:
Alice Munro - Runaway
Zoe Lambert - The War Tour
Raymond Carer - Stories

 Who are your favourite short story writers and what are you reading now?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

October round up

With only ?? days left to Christmas thought I'd better get this out quickly as the year is whizzing by at breakneck speed. I'm settling into the rhythm of my MA course now. We have to submit 2,000 words of a WIP by midnight on Wednesday, in time to review and feedback to other members of the workshop on Monday evening. So the first half of the week is polishing the piece I'm submitting, followed by reading and reviewing the work coming from the rest of the group (5 of us in each group). With the time left I have to keep up with the reading list. And then work on the novel, short stories and any features I have commissioned. At times it's a bit scary. One day last week I worked on: a radio drama, the novel and started a new short story. By the end of the day I didn't know which head I was in! But it felt good to be writing, in the words of Simon Whaley I really was a 'positively productive writer' - well for one day at least.

This weekend I'm attending a course on writing sitcoms for TV and Radio - will report back soon.

October STATS: 

Write 1 Sub 1:
New - 1 x short story, 1 x filler
Total subs - 13 

Income: Zilch. (I only count income when it turns up, so though I had a success in October I haven't yet received the goodies.)

The Good News: 
Winner of Hysteria 2013 Short Story competition - just waiting for my story and interview to appear on their website (watch this space).
Feature commissioned by Writing Magazine.
On final shortlist for another competition, judging still in progress (trotters crossed!)

The Not-so-good News: unsuccessful in the following ...
Telegraph JustBack travel competition (again). Flash 500. Little Pieces of Gold (10 min play). The Word Hut short story competition.

Other projects:
Currently extending a 20 min radio drama (more on that in November round up...) to 45 min length with intention of submitting to BBC.
One short story still out with a womag.
Novel is up to 10,000 words and still growing.

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

Keep writing and submitting...

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...

Saturday, 28 September 2013

BBC National Short Story Award shortlist

The 5 shortlisted stories for the BBC National Short Story Award have been announced. Sadly, they didn’t contact the Indoor Writer about her entry, but not unsurprising as the competition is tough - they probably received thousands of entries for the £15,000 prize. The top 5 writers are all professional and some are pretty well-known names, for example Lionel Shriver wrote the bestselling novel ‘We need to talk about Kevin’. Interestingly, the 2013 shortlist is all women... You can listen (or download) the 5 shortlisted stories, see links below, which have been broadcast all week on Radio 4 (3.30pm).

Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall
A sensual fantasy where a husband lives through the amazing transformation of his wife. Weird and compelling. Some of its hypnotic power may have been lost with a male narrator.

Barmouth by Lisa Bower
A tale of family seaside holidays, to which we all probably can relate. Have to admit I drifted off and didn't follow this one too well...

Prepositions by Lionel Shriver
A brave story from a US born writer where a New York widow, who's husband died 'on' 9/11, writes to a friend who lost her husband 'in' 9/11. Short in length, but powerful in its simplicity.

Notes from the house spirits by Lucy Wood
Unusually told in third person plural ie. 'we' and 'us', which works for the subject and theme. A gentle and engaging tale, again very hypnotic listening.

We are watching something terrible happening by Lavinia Greenlaw
A contemporary story weaving the science of meteorites, a civil war and a woman's thoughts on her disintegrating marriage. I had to concentrate to stay with this one, possibly easier to read.

I'm already a fan of Lucy Wood, her debut short story collection is 'Diving Belles', so really enjoyed her story which comes from this collection of Cornish folk tales. But the story that has lingered longest in my thoughts is 'Mrs Fox', so I'm plumping for this as my favourite and top tip for the prize.

All of the above stories work well read aloud but I do wonder if the attention would still be held on the page. Leading to the question: should a short story meet the demands of a reader or listener or both? What do you think?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A terrific tool for writers

Wendy Clarke has updated her terrific tool for writers the Story Timeline, click here to learn about (and download) the updated version, which now includes a date of birth calculator. I'm dreadful at trying to calculate ages etc so this looks incredibly useful.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Fancy some flash?

The results of the Northampton Literature Group Flash Fiction Competition (first time running this year) are now up. You can read all the winners here. Oh and guess who came third? You can read the Indoor Writer's flash story 'Bindweed' here (I do worry about what goes on inside her head ...)

Keep writing ...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Where and who would you visit in time?

Here's a 'what if' question for you, if you could travel anywhere in time then where would you pick and who would you choose to meet? After spending Saturday ambling round the beautiful city of Bath in the midst of the Jane Austen Festival then perhaps you can guess my choice ... I'd pop back to Regency England to chat with Jane herself, and politely ask for a private reading of 'Pride and Prejudice'.

Incidentally the Bath Jane Austen Festival is running all week. At the weekend the city centre was dotted with colourful P&P wannabes, all looking as if they had just stepped off a TV set - the Georgian costumes were simply gorgeous. Sadly, we didn't spot a Mr Darcy look-a-like but did catch one lady, complete with pale blue dress and matching bonnet, taking a fag break outside a pub. WRONG on so many levels!

If are you near Bath this week then Jane Austen is making a daily appearance at the central library (The Podium above Waitrose) from 2pm every afternoon, where she will be reading from 'Pride and Prejudice'. Hmm ... so I don't need a time machine after all ...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

New Moon Rising - Anu Gupta

I’m really pleased to welcome Anuradha Gupta to the blog today. The Indoor Writer first met Anu at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer school in 2012 and again this August. This year Anu was selling her
own book of poetry in the Swanwick Book Room. ‘New Moon Rising’ is such a beautiful creation that I wanted to share it here and also let Anu tell you how it came into being. Anu should be very proud of her achievement as ‘New Moon Rising’ clearly has been crafted with. Throughout the poems are illustrated with Anu’s own paintings and artwork. I personally found this read as one long prose poem and was very accessible. It is a book to revisit at any season of the year and one I will cherish.

Over to Anu:
A little bit about my writing career....
I began my writing career as a copywriter in India. After very exciting two years the manic pace of the advertising scene in India got to me and as I looking for a change an opportunity came up for a trainee writer at Voyage, India's foremost travel magazine. It was a dream come true. Ever since I was little there were only two things I wanted to do. Write and travel! 
Since then I have been a travel writer. Although we moved away from India some years ago and I had to give up my job at Voyage I continued to freelance as one. My articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers and travel websites.
New Moon Rising was my first attempt at poetry, art and publishing.

Q.   Anu, can you tell me more about the inspiration behind New Moon Rising?
The inspiration to create New moon Rising came from an unexpected series of events.
This year had started off as it were on the wrong foot. I witnessed a fatal accident near my house. The shock of seeing a life wiped out in a flash shook me considerably. And then, as if on cue bad news started to stream in from everywhere. Illness, death loss and grief it seemed were all around me.
Yet, one morning I woke up to a glorious day. I remember looking out of my window and being awestruck. Yes, life was transient but it was also incredibly beautiful.
I wanted to capture that moment, that day and all my life and put it away in a little box. As a keepsake.
That led me to think of other moments captured in small verses that lay hidden somewhere.
I dug them out and decided to create a little mosaic of images and words.
I have always wanted to publish a book but had never really imagined I would. I was a travel writer you see and not a ‘real writer.’
I had found my idea for a book. I wanted to make something beautiful to remember my life by and leave something back for my daughters.
Perhaps I realised that day that I was alive now and now was the time to live and make my dreams come true.

Q.   How much time did it take to create the book? I believe you created all the artwork and images too - why did you choose to do this?
I had a vision of what I wanted my book to look like but I had no idea on how to go about creating the book. So I worked with my friend Toni Marshall who is a graphic designer and photographer. Toni understood exactly what I was trying to create and was able to translate my ideas into a reality. She took my art and poems with her photographs of some of my favourite things and put them together in this rather lovely coffee table bookIt took just under six months from the moment I conceived the book to get the printed copies in my hand. But I worked on it with 24/7. There was a certain urgency because I guess I could not put my trust in the future.

Q.   I particularly loved the section Shadows. Do you have any favourites within the book? And why?
I very fond of the Shadows sections as well. I have always felt a certain affinity to moon and those were my very first poems. But I don’t have a favourite section just some favourite verses scattered across sections.

Q.   Creating a whole book from scratch is an inspiring concept. Were there any significant problems you encountered in producing the book, and how did you overcome them?
When I first thought of creating the book all I had was vague sense of what the book would feel like. I had no experience in publishing or printing. I spent days googling the pros and cons of digital and offset printing. Eventually it became clear it the kind of book I had in mind needed offset printing.
Then started the hunt for a printer. I had to find it making the book was even viable before I started working on it. I visited quite a few printing houses in London but could not afford the cost they quoted.
So I started searching online for printers in India, China and Italy. After many frustrating calls and communications I was ready to give up when I found out about Pragati Printers in India from a friend. They were supposedly the best.
I sent them an email without expecting to hear back. The smaller printers had not given me any time or attention so there was no way such a big company was going to give my small job any priority.
But within an hour the manager of their Mumbai office wrote back asking for details. When I told him what I was hoping to do he guided me through the whole process, suggested ways to do it and supported me from start to finish.
As luck would have it I found an art teacher near me who was willing to help me on the project. I had never done any art before. She taught me how to use different mediums and express my self. For four months my kitchen had turned into studio and I painted endlessly.
A print designer friend then helped me put it all together into print friendly PDFs and sent it off to the printers. Within 10 days the books were in my hallway!
I was so nervous when I opened the first carton. Not sure if it would live up to my expectations. I was stunned.
The printers had done a brilliant job. I couldn’t thank them enough.
But it was the service that gave me the confidence to go ahead in the first place and of course they much cheaper than anyone in London.
I was lucky. I had a great team.

Q.   Can you tell us about your next writing project, Anu?
Two years ago I was shortlisted in a Disney India competition for Indian writers. We had to pitch an idea for a series of books with a first chapter. Mine was a story based on an ancient myth but set in the future. It didn’t win but being amongst the top three out of 700 plus entries makes me think I ought to pursue.
Except I have never written a book before. The word count scares me. As does every other aspect of it.
So to break in gently I have just started plotting my very first Mills and Boons book for Mills and Boons India. It’s a smaller word count to start with!

You can find copies of Anu’s beautiful book at Amazon and they are also available at Waterstones in Putney and the Barnes Book Shop.

Anu also has an interesting and informative website on Hinduism here (she's in process of moving the site from here).

Thank you, Anu, for popping by today. Good luck with ‘New Moon Rising’ and with the Mills and Boon book, please let us know how you get on! Maybe you should also revisit the children's book too.