Short story competitions

Well I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, but it seems my name isn’t on the Times short story competition list – boo hiss. Perhaps notification is winging its way even now, but perhaps not.

It was a humongous prize £30,000. This particular short story competition seems to always attract sour grapes grumbles as the short list is predominently well established writers. Perhaps this is no bad thing as it is may attract readers that don’t usually show interest in short stories – but will read established writers they already like.

There are a plethora of short story competitions in the UK and Ireland. They cater for absolute beginners to more experienced writers. They are a good testimony for the short story form – although they don’t sell well, the short story is very much alive and kicking.

The BBC 2012 short story competition entry closes at the end of February – it’s another mega bucks prize. I’ll enter, and in the meantime will decide what to wear for the award ceremony. I’ll be surprised when I don’t win, but – my new shoes will always wait for the next time.

Times are a changing

After much resistance I’ve given in to a kindle. So far, I’ve done little more than switch it on as I’m completely absorbed in a proper book – ‘The great Night’ by Chris Adrian. It’s one of the most imaginative entertaining books I’ve read, truely magical – I highly recommend it.

Most people I know love books, and most have kindle. I felt like going over to the dark side as I switched mine on, but it’s perhaps time to join the real world.

In the Guardian this week there was an interview with Amanda Hocking. Two years ago she was tired of having her novels rejected, so uploaded one to Amazon. Since then she has sold 1.5m ebooks.
Perhaps loading my novel onto Amazon will be my next project.

BLOGGING

Horray for the web guy, he is better than spiderman and has created a blog site and a kindle all in one week!
Apparently now I have to blog which seems a bit like talking to voices in my head, – so nothing new there then.
News this week, I have a nursing article published, – see nursing bit.
My second collection of short stories is also good to go – might try somekind of ebook. Short stories are perfect for how we live now. With everyone multi-tasking and more and more people buying kindles, they can have a quick satisfying read on a commute to work – or lunch break in the park. – ebook could be web guy’s next task!

Saw ‘What I heard about the world’ at Northern Stage this week. I thought it was very good – but not for those looking for a barrel of laughs! – It was a creative overview of what a crazy world we live in – which is quite an achievement to pack into an hour or so. We are so lucky in Newcastle to have a lot of culture and arts, traditional and diverse on our doorsteps – who needs the big smoke!

Chameleon and the Short Story Form

As a writer short stories are very liberating, it’s fun to let go of the reins. You can write in forms difficult to sustain the length of a novel. A child’s voice can easily lose authenticity and freshness if not handled expertly in a novel, but in a short story a child’s world view can notch the emotional tension up, flinging that vivid child-like moment at the reader, and packing a punch. You can stretch the reader’s imagination – for example in fairy tales, and play with the readers perception of what’s real and what isn’t. You can be a man, woman, dog, child, or bus.

The two quotes below sum it up –

The best short stories distil all the potency of a novel into a small but heady draught. ……The best short stories pack the heft of any novel yet resonate like poetry.

Iain Rankin

The short story is the most astonishing form, more supple than the novel because of its length. It’s possible to do away sometimes with plot or character or logic. Instead of having to fill in details, to explain itself, to come to a conclusion a short story can simply throw a thought at the reader, hurl a moment. It’s gemlike. There are no perfect novels, but there are perfect stories I think.

Naomi Alderman.

Chameleon is a collection of twelve stories, all different although some themes are recurring. My background as a nurse pops into one or two. Fantasy V reality rattles along side by side.

My son did the front cover, I am immensely proud of it.

On the Way

My first collection of short stories was published in 2011 by Iron Press. Chameleon was chosen as a Read Regional Recommendation and this has led to lots of publicity workshops and readings. People have asked me, “what’s it like to be a writer?” I don’t apologies, blush, or reach for the bottle. It’s all good good good.

To be a writer, most of us have to juggle, there is never a perfect time. Being human means we have family, loved ones, work commitments, health issues, births and deaths. We need to eat and sleep as well as write. Someone has to do the washing, someone has to put the bins out, someone needs a cuddle.

In moving up the steps from writing as a hobby, to a more vocational space in my life, time needed to be allocated for it. It might have begun behind a shut door at home, with a little person clawing on the other side, or for an hour every evening after work. It might have grown to two hours, or to longer stretches at the weekend. What mattered was I wrote. (If I was really tired, reading would do.) If you don’t use it you lose it.

Real writers write every day, they are obssessional. They treat their writing with reverence and respect. It is given the highest priority. As much as possible I go to the library, (my writing den.) I take my flask and butty. I’ve become Queen Nerd and enter my kingdom of pencil, paper, imagination and sharpener.

Read Regional Roadshow

I feel really sad that the Read Regional Roadshow ends this week. After nine readings and three workshops it has been a fantastic experience.

It’s been like having a team of hyper-active literary agents working tirelessly to get you noticed! –AND then paying you for turning up!

It was great to meet up with the other read regional writers, and to share their experiences. Reading with other writers is much nicer than being Billy no mates.

As a writer it was a luxury to have these events organised, and running smoothly. There was a jolly buzz about the whole project and I wish I could do it all again.

Reading in School

In my workshops I urge students to try different types of writing. It always amazes me how straight jacketed individuals are sooooo resistant to even trying different styles from their norm – they’re only words after all. Poets can write prose, prose writers can write poetry. It may not be the best vehicle for their written voice, but it can be done satisfactorily and it’s good to be stretched out of a comfort zone. Adult writers can write children’s stories, children’s writers can write adult. It might be harder, but not impossible, and there’s often lots to be learnt on the way.

So in practicing what I preach when a friend asked if I’d write a story for her class of school children and to read it to them, – I swallowed hard and said yes.

Watch this space – I’ll tell you how it goes.

Convert and Spring Cleaning

Four months in and I’m a kindle convert. It’s the ease of use that’s sold it to me. I’ll never lose the joy of a new book, the untouched pages and perfect spine, but for me it’s the words in a book that matter – and my kindle (Bedakins) can carry a lot of words. Although I’d be terrified to live in a world without books, I think I could live with less on my bookshelf and more on my kindle – sad but true; even though it feels like cruelly dumping a long lasting lover for a dapper younger one.

Spring seems to have a crop of competition closing dates – so I’ve been mega busy. “If you’re not in, you can’t win” is my new motto. Sharpening up pieces for a competition entry makes me edit in a way I wouldn’t otherwise do – ie properly! Even if they don’t win, they’ll be better than before.