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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?