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

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Judging a competition by its judge

If you regularly enter writing competitions then will a 'named' judge make a difference to you? I have many reasons for entering particular competitions and confess that a big name judge makes a difference to me. I've entered several of Retreat West's short and flash story competitions (read more here) solely because of the judge involved i.e. Jane Rusbridge, Paul McVeigh, Tania Hershman to name a few. I came runner-up in the 'A Pet' themed competition judged by Jane Rusbridge (July 2013) - the voucher was a bonus as for me the best bit was receiving her comments, all very constructive, on the story.

Amanda Saint is the brains behind Retreat West and I'm pleased to welcome her as a guest on the blog today. She's kindly agreed to answer some questions ...

Q. Do you think having a named judge makes a difference to a writing competition? What impact does it have on numbers of entries for Retreat West competitions?
Personally, when I enter my work into competitions I'm attracted by the judge and would always try and send something if it's a writer whose work I admire. When I started the Retreat West short story comp I wanted to have established authors as the final judges for two reasons: to attract more writers to enter and to give them the opportunity to have their work read by writers that they like. The competition has been growing steadily and each time the number of entries increases, sometimes only slightly but I'm hoping that I can keep growing it and keep getting great judges involved.
Q. You've had some big names (and more to come) judging. How do you know all the judges? (I'd kill for your address book!)
In the first year of the competition I knew most of the judges personally. I try to attend events and workshops as much as I can, mainly to keep learning but also to get out and meet people as its a very solitary life working at home, so had known most of them for a while. But other authors, such as Nicholas Royle, who's judging the next flash competition, I've just approached and asked them to take part. I'm very lucky that, so far, everyone's said yes! Social media is also a great place to meet and get to know other writers, and that's how I knew Tania Hershman, who judged the first flash competition earlier this year.
Q. Your writing competitions are usually themed. Is this something you let the judge choose or do you propose the theme to the judge?
I choose the themes but I'd be more than happy for a judge to choose if they wanted to. Some of the themes from last year's competition I tried to tie in with the judge. For example, Shaun Levin launched his Writing Maps project last year so the comp he judged was a map theme. Alison Moore is judging the June competition this year and I asked her to read fear themed stories as her writing is often cited as sinister. It must be catching as when she ran the workshop at the lighthouse retreat last year, most of the work we created through the exercises also had a sinister undertone! Will be interesting to see if it happens again at the literary fiction retreat workshop she's running this year.

Q. Are there any contemporary writers you'd love to have judging a competition, and why, but haven't reached out to yet? 
One of my favourite authors is Margaret Atwood and I'd love to have her judging a dystopia themed competition. I love a good dystopia story but really admire how she writes really great stories across so many different genres. I haven't reached out to her yet as I doubt very much if I could afford her fee! Maybe if things keep growing and going well...

Blimey, I'd be first to enter any competition with Margaret Atwood as the judge! Keep us posted on that one, Amanda. And thank you coming along today.

Keep an eye on Retreat West's competition listings as coming up in the next couple of months they have the following judges:
Nicholas Royle - Flash Fiction <500 words, theme: Medicine, closing 31 May
Alison Moore - Short Story 500 - 1500 words, theme: Fear, closing 30 June.

You can read the 2013 short story competition winning stories in the anthology:
The Colour of Life and other stories
Available from Amazon here.
Here comes the plug ... containing my short story ‘Monsters’.

Keep writing ...

Saturday 19 April 2014


We're a little behind in our reading at present. This Shelfie shows the backlog of books on the to-read
list. Eeek! Not to mention the 8 novels and 3 short story collections on the Kindle. Plus 3 months backlog of Writers' Forum and Writing Magazine ...

Some days all I want to do is read, read, read. But the echoing shriek is when, when, when? Lots of writing projects in progress and the novel is going well. Any spare moment is spent getting fresh air and exercise - to compensate for time on bottom staring at screen.

Have just started Elly Griffiths 'A Room Full of Bones' - the 4th Ruth Galloway novel. I first met Elly  at Steyning Festival in 2012 where she read my story at a competition prize giving. Then met her again the other week at the Hove Book Festival. She is a fun speaker and shared some wonderful top tips about finding a literary agent. She also shared that the BBC have optioned the Ruth Galloway books (she's a crime solving Forensic Archaeologist with attitude and a very dry sense of humour), but sadly have not yet started filming. I highly recommend this series - Ruth is an unusual protagonist, being overweight, single and loving her cats more than her friends, she also has a complicated relationship developing between her and the DCI she keeps solving murders with.

Then today the postman brought 2 books I've promised to review, plus a package of several books ordered online, which I have to read for my MA assignment. Heaven knows where I'm going to put them ... let alone when I'm going to read them ...

I don't need a writing retreat as I have no excuses, other than housework (ugh) and family commitments, to write during the day. But I really do fancy sneaking off for a reading retreat ... any suggestions?

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Playing with words

Some good news arrived last week for The Indoor Writer: an invitation to attend a performance of the winning entries from the Five 'n Ten (Sandalle's international stage-writing) competition. Even better was the news that her 5 minute piece was a winner in the monologue category and it would be performed at the event! The prize also includes a one hour session with a BBC Script Editor (a former
winner in the monologue category) and lunch with the actors involved. What a treat! She's thinking of dragging Handsome Hubby and the Tame Teenager down to Wales (Neath, nr Swansea) and making a family weekend outing of the experience - hope she remembers to pack me ...

To have your drama performed in a theatre by actors is the ultimate credit for a playwright. This is going to be a high point of the year. Watch this blog for a full report post 8th June.

If you have a short play already written or have an idea for one then why not have a go and enter one of these drama competitions for 10 minute plays:

Little Pieces of Gold New Writing Showcase:
10 min play for max of 4 actors on theme: To ‘like’ or not to ‘like’? 8 short plays about social media

Submission deadline: 5 May
No entry fee
Email entries only
8 winning plays will be performed at on 16 June, Park Theatre London. (Note: BBC scouts often attend these performances to 'scout' out new drama talent ...)
Details of rules and how to enter are here.

Pint-Sized Plays:
Plays of 5-10mins length. Suitable for performing in a pub. This is what the organisers have to say:
We often get queries about Pint-sized Plays asking just what and what is not possible.  I hope that the following will prove useful in helping you to judge whether your submission will be suitable. Fundamentally, the first thing to know is that (with the exception of the Script Slam) the plays are not performed in a theatre, they are performed right in a pub bar. So you don't have the luxury of lighting effects, or scenery or any such stuff.

Having said that, the play doesn't have to be specifically centred in a pub. It can be anywhere, but there are important considerations. The only props are those that the cast might reasonably carry and any furniture has to be what is already there. Bear in mind that, when we set up the 'playing area', it might be in a corner of the bar or right in the middle amongst the punters. So, for the play to work, the audience has to be able to imagine what you're imagining.

Entry fee: £5.50, online or postal entries acceptable.
Submission deadline: 31 May
Details of rules and how to enter are here.

If there are any playwrights out there then let us know how you get on ...

Friday 4 April 2014

Jonathan Cape opens submission window

Publishing group Jonathan Cape are open for submissions for a short period...


From 1–30 June, 2014, Jonathan Cape will be open for fiction submissions from new writers of high calibre and imagination. 
Submissions should be an initial 50 pages of prose fiction. These can be part of a novel or novella, or short stories. The pages can be finished work or a work in progress. 

Full details are here.

They don't make any promises, but if you have material ready then what's to lose?