Two photos today. Both secured from a free photo site and on the first page of my search for images of 'creative writing'. I thought they were both rather lovely, but ever so slightly not anything to do with creative writing.
Unless you want to be metaphorical...
In which case, the small image is, in my mind, the flash competition entries. Have you written yours yet? Only 250 words and a whole month before the closing date. Go HERE
The beautiful and burgeoning cloud below is how my mind is currently feeling about The Exeter Story Prize competition. It's for a story of up to ten thousand words. I have yet to put the details up on the site - soon, promise! The closing date won't be until next April so there's a while to go. By then, the winner of the 2014 Exeter Novel Prize will already have been announced. Could it be you? Go HERE
If you want to give yourself the best chance with any competition, whether it's one of ours or not, then do your homework. So many times during judging do we come across great ideas and talent but the story can't win because of poor execution or a major error resulting of just not knowing! Read the previous winners. Go to a writing class or group. Read a creative writing text book (oh, how can I not give The Creative Writing Student's Handbook a plug here?), or at the very least, get someone else to read your story, if possible someone who writes too or knows more than your nearest and dearest.
If you're reasonably local you might like Friday Writers. Go HERE for more info about the course.
Happy writing and don't forget - you can't win if you don't enter!
Up late this morning and late writing my blog about the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference last weekend. Trying to shape so many thoughts is a challenge. There was so much to see and hear, lot of old friends to meet and lectures to attend. My hand ached as a result of all that note-taking. I haven't written longhand intensively since...oh, since last conference!
Harper Adams University is an agricultural centre and across the car park from our reception, cows queued for the milking parlour. Sheep wandered up the road and associated aromas and flies followed. I didn't see any pigs but was a little piggy myself when it came to the fab food and generously donated wine (by Amazon KDP - they certainly know how to charm). It was gloriously hot again but unlike last year the air-con did work.
As for conference content - wow! The main problem is not being able to do everything. At any one time, there are three sessions to choose from. Aaargh! It's so difficult. One aim I had this year was to find out how the mainstream and self-publishing industries were faring in these changing times. I also wanted to learn more about historical fiction, as I so enjoyed writing the Renaissance thread in my last book. Then there was the one-to-one appointments - I'll jump ahead to those and tell you that I received huge encouragement and praise for my writing as well as some excellent advice about how to tweak it for commercial success. Wheee!
Also good is that I've come home with plenty of new ideas about how to dip into the historical sea without drowning. Carol McGrath gave us wonderful insight into the life of Medieval women and although not my period, her approach gave me so many ideas. I look forward to revisiting the Renaissance which featured in my timeslip novel, Madrigal. At the gala dinner, I was fortunate enough to sit next to Richard Lee - founder and Chairman of The Historical Novel Society and we chatted about all things historical.
Regarding the future of the Industry and Romantic fiction. It's booming! And so is self- publishing. I went to a wonderful session led by Dr Alison Baverstock during which she confirmed that self-publishing has become not merely acceptable but often the most sensible way to go. She has done considerable research into the who, what and why of self-publishing and her results were not merely encouraging, they blew away any notion that self- publishing was only for no-hopers. Apart from those statistics, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests mainstream publishing houses are looking to self-published books as the new slush pile to sift. If that's the case, then it's vital to prepare a professional standard of manuscript before loading.
I will go into more detail in another blog but it certainly confirmed what I suspected. When Margaret and I published The Creative Writing Student's Handbook we didn't know what to expect but our experience has been so positive, we are now beavering away at the companion Workbook.
Back to writing it now. Hooray!
The CreativeWritingMatters Catalogue
Today we are celebrating at HQ. After a lot of work, consultation and yet more work, we have published our textbook, The Creative Writing Student's Handbook on Kindle.
Cat Walks has been out in the world for a few weeks and we were thrilled that it reached No 5 in the best seller list - in the Cats category. It's worth remembering that there are 2,711,905 titles on Kindle as of two minutes ago, so to be in the top hundred of anything is fantastic.
Now we have all fingers and toes crossed for The Creative Writing Student's Handbook. Obviously, we would like to sell well, but what we really want is for all students of creative writing to find it helpful. For a teacher, the greatest validation of his or her work, is when a student gets in touch to tell you of their competition or publishing success.
You do not need to own a Kindle in order to download our books. If you have a desktop, laptop, iPad or smart phone of almost any sort, you can download the Kindle app free from Amazon. It's very straightforward and will open the door of a huge virtual library that weighs the same as your device.
The Creative Writing Student's Handbook is £1.95. To purchase please click on the cover or go HERE
Cat Walks is priced at £1.02. Please click on the cover or go HERE to purchase.
Here's the CWMatters team before the ceremony on Saturday. We are in St Stephen's church that's right in the middle of Exeter High Street. A fabulous venue, newly restored and the perfect place for our inaugural prize-giving.
Ben Bradshaw is quite tall! It isn't that the three of us are spectacularly short but I did feel it as we were having this photo taken.
Do we look too pleased with ourselves? Probably, but there was also considerable anxiety. Would anyone come? Could those on the short list find it? Would I say the wrong thing, drop the trophy, fall up the two steps onto the staging?
All of that, but I needn't have worried. Even though I forgot all about the trophy in my excitement when Broo announced that Su's novel, Sealskin had won, it was a very happy occasion.
Exeter Writers have been absolutely brilliant. Not only did they sponsor the award by forking out the first prize money, they also worked very hard on Saturday behind the scenes. It was fantastic that we were able to launch the latest Exeter Writers anthology after the ceremony.
The Coastal Zoo contains all the winning stories from the past five years of the short story competition as well as contributions from members of the group. It's available via the Exeter Writers website. Go HERE
Bang the drum and blow some trumpets! Toot-tootle-toot!
May I introduce...
Three short stories about cats from the team here at HQ. Here's the blurb on Kindle :
Three cool cats - three cool tales. Is Henry anything but a nuisance? Will Pudding find a friend? And why hasn't that Siamese got a name?
Find out in these light-hearted stories by three award-winning authors. Purr-fect!
Did you know that there are more than two and a half million books on Kindle now? Isn't that amazing? It's also terrifying. How on earth can our little book swim to the top of such a busy sea? There's only one way, folks, and that's up to you.
The award ceremony for the Exeter Novel Prize is approaching fast. If you are in Exeter on Saturday 22nd March, it would be lovely to see you. We will be at St Stephen's Church, next to House of Fraser from 2pm. Exeter Writers are launching their latest anthology at the event too. Take a look HERE for information.
In the last week I haven't won two competitions. This isn't surprising since one I didn't enter and the other had a great many entries. What have I learnt from this experience? Anything?
I discovered this week that a writer I admire, Tracy Fells, had a competition success rate in 2013 of merely 33%. I was amazed at that because her name appeared in so many lists. But what I hadn't known was that she had entered eighty-seven competitions. Gasp!
Note to self - write faster!
I am a firm believer in competitions. They are a godsend for the aspiring writer. Not only do others notice (illustrious others as well as friends and family) but a placing in any list provides massive self-validation. The lonesome writer needs lots.
That's the main reason that CreativeWritingMatters is launching another competition. We're calling it WoW! because it's for a short story of one thousand words (best to say it out loud), although we'll allow fifty either way. The closing date will be 31st May and I'll be posting a page with more information under the competition tab on February 1st.
Tracy won second place in the H.E.Bates competition. Congratulations! And to Anne Corlett for winning. You can read both their stories HERE. I'm thinking of getting a dog (see pic).
Closer to home, I'm going to sing the praises of an Exeter Writer, Dan Knibb who has been short listed for the Harry Bowling Novel and Flash prize. When he's famous I shall tell anecdotes about his first term in my class.
Edit: I've since discovered that a 20% success rate is considered good! Keep sending 'em out, folks.
A slightly belated Happy New Year! My pre-New Year blog didn't happen because the computer decided it was also having a seasonal break. Sigh. I was away from home so couldn't use my back up - left safely behind - or nip along to my local Apple shop.
In spite of that, there's lots of good news here at CreativeWritingMatters.
If you don't already know, go HERE to see which talented writers have made it to the long list of The Exeter Novel Prize. We are very excited about the competition and are already looking forward to finding out who will be on the short list. It will be posted on 7th February.
Also new on the site is Chapter Twelve of The Creative Writing Student's Handbook. We're coming to the end of the book now, I can't believe the time has gone by so fast. Margaret and I are contemplating the next step. We have been very encouraged by the comments received so far and will consider them very carefully. Please do leave a comment, even if it's not directly concerned with the current chapter but is in some way relevant to the book.
I'm in the middle of redrafting my latest novel and I'm already making notes for the next one. I've reached the point where I'd feel rather twitchy if I didn't have a novel on the go.
Finally, I must post this verse from a student of mine from long ago. It made me laugh out loud. He sent it to me this morning.
Did you once write short stories and now want to start again?
Then sign up for a course with young Cathie Hartigan!
She'll bring out your confidence and crush all your fears,
And if worse comes to worst, you can steal her ideas!
She's had stories published and even whole books,
(She's pleasant to look at but this isn't about looks),
You'll meet similar people and your work will be seen,
So why wait? Join up in 2014!
I don't know about young - I'm old enough to be his mother! Not sure about the whole books either but hey...Chris is a journalist and writes a very good blog. Take a look HERE
I'm back from the conference and my bag was bulging with goodies: great books, chocs, soap, pens for England and all manner of bookmarks, postcards and badges to let me know about amazing books by members of the Romantic Novelists' Association.
Of course, a bag wasn't all I came back with. The conference brings the author and the publishing industry together. How we are dealing with the fast moving changes brought about by ebooks, Amazon and all the social media platforms was at the heart of this year's programme. I learnt a fantastic amount and feel very encouraged. Yes, the scales are tipping in favour of ebooks, but there is still a huge market for print books as well. The excellent news is that people are reading more than ever and that's what really matters.
For me personally, and for others in my position, trying to break into the industry, it's somewhat dispiriting to hear that a mainstream publisher may only publish two or three debut novels a year. What is encouraging is that they are throwing their weight behind digital imprints, using their expertise to maintain the quality expected of a traditionally published print book.
Apart from the lectures, workshops and delicious social side of a conference, it is also possible to make appointments with the editors and/or agents in order to pitch your book. I will be sending in my book as a result of mine. Who knows what might come of it? Maybe nothing, but the echo of the words 'you're really talented' is still here in my ear. I thought I should write it down, in case I forget.
Margaret, Sophie et moi.
Do we look rather pleased with ourselves? I think so. We were at Thursday evening's launch of The Exeter Novel Prize and very successful it was too. Lots of people came, turning out in nasty weather more like October's than June. Thank you!
It's quite a while since I posted my first competition entry. I sent my story to the Woman and Home competition in 2005. My mother had given me the magazine. 'You do a bit of writing,' she said. The theme of the competition was Presents. I read the magazine and thought about all the presents I'd ever been given. The lamp in this photo is probably the oddest. It also inspired the story and I shall never part with it.
'I saw it and thought of you,' she said.
The story reached the finals and my name and a little postage stamp picture was published in the magazine. I was so happy I cried. Since then, I've had a lot of success. Competitions abound for the short story writer.
But for the novelist, opportunities are few. Most novel competitions have restrictions of one sort or another. A particular genre perhaps, unpublished writers only, age and/or sex of the entrant are some.
Margaret, Sophie and I want The Exeter Novel Prize to be an opportunity for as many novelists as possible, whether it be a first step on the ladder or a step back on the ladder having fallen off in the past. The thrill of being placed, that recognition of worth after those hours spent tapping away is better than any shot in the arm.
The very best of luck to all who enter.
Read Margaret's Blog