Friday, 16 December 2011

Writing Competitions

Although I wrote this yesterday, I didn't have time to post it, so technically I've not really managed a post a day so far. However, this is not a hard and fast rule for participating and we are able to post a number of posts within the seven day frame.
So here goes. Today's theme is the fabulous creation - the writing competition. Many writers enter their work and often are able to supplement their income with the odd prize win or enhance their existences by winning a holiday (yay!) a meal out in a fancy restaurant (okay!) or chocolate (always acceptable.)
I've tried to include a range of subject focus, a range of cash prizes and have also ensured this list does not require a mad month of writing before January 31st 2012.
There may be something to tempt you. Good luck!

Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts Water Poetry Competition
Deadline: 13th January 2012.
Main Category (£5 entry fee for up to three poems):
1st Prize: £500
2nd Prize: £200
3rd Prize: £100
North East Young Adult Category (free entry for up to three poems):
1st Prize: £250
Five runners up will each receive £50
Judges: John Burnside and W N Herbert.

They want you to think about water in all its aspects and submit poems to us
which use it as a theme. For further details or if you’re looking for some
inspiration then visit our website to download our free prompts sheet: 

Theatre Trail Writers Competition 2012

Deadline: 31st January 2012.

The Arundel Festival Theatre Trail, conceived and presented by Drip Action Theatre Company, is now in its twelfth year. It performs for the last eight days of August, eight short plays at eight different venues all over Arundel – last year, for example, in a living room, a kitchen, an art gallery and a pub. 
Writers are invited to submit plays for next year’s Trail.

Plays should be between 30 and 40 minutes long, suitable for day-time performance, with practicable casting and props. All entries should be submitted to:

Drip Action Theatre Trail 2012
c/o SGIS Ltd.
65a High Street
West Sussex
BN18 9AJ

One play only per entrant, in hard copy - no e-mails accepted. Please enclose SAE if you’d like your play returned.  There is no reading fee. 

Choc Lit Short Story Competition

Deadline: 31st January 2012

They’re looking for short stories of up to 1,500 words in which the central theme is chocolate – eating it, drinking it, cooking with it, or anything else.
1st prize £200, publication on Choc Lit’s authors corner blog and a box of chocolates from Plush Chocolates.
A Runner Up will receive £50 and a box of chocolates from Plush Chocolates.
1. Your entry must be a maximum of 1,500 words.
2. All work must be your own and not previously published.
3. Entry fee is £3 per story.
4. All entries must be received by 31st January, 2012.
Your judges are Choc Lit authors Margaret James and Sue Moorcroft. Both are experienced creative writing tutors. Margaret also writes the monthly Fiction Focus for Writing Magazine and Sue is a fiction judge for short story competitions at Writers Forum.
1. Please post your stories to: Short Story Competition, Choc Lit Ltd, Penrose House, Crawley Drive, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 2AB. Please enclose a cheque for £3 per story – i.e. to enter 3 stories would cost £9. Cheques are payable to ‘Choc Lit Ltd.’
2. Or email with the subject header ‘Short Story Competition’ and pay your entry fee by Paypal
Visit: for a free taste of all our novels,
or simply scan the barcode with your smartphone QR reader.

2012 Bristol Short Story Prize
Deadline: March 31st 2012
2012 Bristol Short Story Prize is open to all writers, UK and non-UK based, over 16 years of age.
Stories can be on any theme or subject and
entry can be made online via the website or by
post. Entries must be previously unpublished
with a maximum length of 3,000 words (There is no minimum.
The entry fee is £7 per story.
1st £1000 plus £150 Waterstone’s gift card
2nd £700 plus £100 Waterstone’s gift card
3rd £400 plus £100 Waterstone’s gift card
17 further prizes of £100 will be presented to the writers whose stories appear on the shortlist. All 20 shortlisted writers will have their stories published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 5. The winning story will, also, be published in Bristol Review of Books and Venue magazine.
The 20 shortlisted writers will be invited to an awards ceremony in Bristol in July 2012 when the winners will be announced and the anthology launched.
The awards ceremony will be the final event of our 2nd ShortStoryVille festival.
Judging panel : Ali Reynolds (literary consultant, former Random House editor)
Bidisha (writer, broadcaster, critic) Anna Britten (writer, journalist at Venue Magazine)
Chris Wakling (novelist, Creative Writing tutor)
Full details at

The Sportswriter Competition 2012
Deadline: 1st July 2012
The Sportswriter Competition 2012 is the first of what we hope to be an annual writing competition that seeks to identify new sportswriting talent. Entries may be fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry.
First place: £250
Second place: £75
Third place: £25
(paid in British Pounds Sterling by bank transfer, cheque or through PayPal)
The entry fee is £3.00, of which £1.00 will be donated to our chosen charity, Cyclists Fighting Cancer ( The deadline for entries is midnight on the 1st July 2012, the day of the Euro 2012 Final.
The Sportswriter Competition 2012 is open to anyone aged 18 years or older.
Entries may be submitted directly through the form on the website,, or by email,
Entries may be up to 2000 words (or 40 lines for poems) and should relate to sport in some way. Winning entrants will receive the cash prizes and their work will be published on the website,
posted by
Davy Hackett

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Day One of the Seven Day Blogging Challenge: Five Free Writing Courses You May Love to Hate!

My first challenge of the week is to tell you about five free writing courses available on the internet. Initially, I was unsure I would be able to unearth five such courses. There is a glut of information out there on the world wide web about writing courses available to you which promise no end of opportunities over and above the one you aspire to - to improve your writing skills.But to find courses that are not only competent, with a proven track record, and which are free of charge was always going to be tricky, as although the only real stipulation was that the courses were free, I did not want to recommend anything that I didn't feel comfortable about putting my name to.
With a free course, you have nothing to lose - right? Well, no not quite. There is the small matter of your identity.
So, as with all things on the internet that ask for any details, tread carefully. Read around the course and do not give any details until you personally feel secure enough to do so. I'm sharing course providers who require nothing more from you than a name and email address and seem to be some of the more reputable agencies advertising as such.

I've listed five free writing courses: -

WRITING GENRE FOCUS :Short Story Writing
PROVIDER: Open University, UK
WEBSITE STATEMENT: Have you always wanted to write, but never quite had the courage to start? This unit will give you an insight into how authors create their characters and the settings for their work. You will also be able to look at the different genres for fiction.


WRITING GENRE FOCUS: Letter and Article Writing for Magazines
WEBSITE STATEMENT: Discover how you can earn serious money as a writer - by writing for magazines! This mini-ecourse contains many of the essential concepts necessary to become a magazine writer, and can be applied by anyone who can write a cohesive letter!


PROVIDER: Steven Barnes
WEBSITE STATEMENT: I've written for television and film, books and short stories, comic books and stage. The most important lessons I've learned along the way have been those which deal with the difference between the "Inner" and "Outer" aspects of writing, that is -- the technical craft as opposed to the emotional or spiritual aspects of the game. It is my intent to teach you not just about the structures of Character and Plotting, but also about how your own inner life interacts with your writing in such a way to create art--or at least craft.


WRITING GENRE FOCUS: Introduction to Writing
PROVIDER: Writing.Com
WEBSITE STATEMENT: An online introductory writing class for all levels of writers -- from beginning to advanced. The class includes individual and group chats, and individual and group exercises. Students are given the chance to critique the writing exercises posted to the group.


PROVIDER: Kelly Morris @ Suite 101
WEBSITE STATEMENT: This course is designed for poets who wish to publish their work. While the course begins with an overview of basic poetry styles and techniques, the course is designed with students in mind who already have a basic understanding of these things. You should have some poems already written that you’d like to publish before beginning this course, because we’ll focus on marketing those poems, not on writing new ones. Of course, the skills learned during this course will also help you publish your future work.


I will be working through Steven Barnes' Screenwriting course sometime in the near future. I will be feeding back to you along the duration of the course. This is a genre of writing I will be getting to grips with next year as I develop a novel in to a screenplay. Although I have written plays in the past, I know very little about this writing style and would appreciate some guidance! I'm reading a book with a similar title and lookforward to trying out some of the exercises.

I have always believed that we are all life-long learners and anyone who believes they've nothing left to learn, or they are too old to learn are sadly mistaken! I once ran a course on which a senior teacher announced there was nothing else we could teach him about education. I'm glad to say that by the end of the module he had changed his mind!
So have a look and follow the links to sate your curiosity further - I do hope there is something to interest you and just remember, as these are free courses with no request for credit card or address details, you really do have nothing to lose!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

New reviews for Driftwood and Amethyst - had to share

For any author, one of the most terrifying moments is sharing what you have written. Until then, you can imagine you have created a work of genius, daydreaming your success all day long. Then, you give it to a close circle of friends and family to review. Some are honest, but generally they just want to be supportive and you know they are being so.
For me, when my book was finally out there, I spent the first two months in a state of perpetual anxiety, waiting for feedback. What would the REAL PUBLIC OUT THERE think of my book? I must admit, I wait to hear for feedback rather than badgering people for comments and I've had good feedback so far - kids want to read on which is key to the success of any book, and adults have told me its a pageturner and they've enjoyed reading to their children which is secretly what I have hoped for.
At the moment, I am preparing for new year signings and the odd reading here and there, health permitting. Dates are not yet finalised. Readings and signings so far have been so inspiring and I have met some great people who buy books from new authors to not only support them but to discover new stories and hopefully follow future books. What is most exciting is that friends are buying my book for friends - close to home I hear it's quite well established locally in South Yorkshire now and down in my old stomping ground in Ilford and other parts of London, Suffolk, Bristol. It's venturing slowly in to in different parts of the world as my well travelled and international friends share Driftwood with others in San Francisco, Florida and Texas in the USA, Perth and Melbourne in Australia, Sri Lanka and Singapore, to name the places I remember! The thought that it exists on a bookshelf in all these places is fabulous.
Spreading the word is vital, but when your friends spread the word for you, those little successes speak volumes.

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant10 Dec 2011
This review is from: Driftwood and Amethyst (Paperback)
Having bought this for my son, i decided to take a peak, and felt so intrigued by the 
synopsis, i thought i would have a quick read! 

I loved this story, and cannot wait for my son to start reading it. I feel it is aimed at 
8 to 9 year olds, and above, and any 8 year olds starting to read Harry Potter books 
will love this tale. I finished it wanting to know more about the characters, and feel 
there should be a sequel to this, that explains in more depth, maybe about Mrs 
Dawson's past, and how she became to be the person in the book. It isn't a very long 
book, which makes it ideal, for a reader who is just starting to read books all the way 
through on their own. I found my son sometimes looked at a book and if it was too 
thick, he would think he wasn't going to ever finish it, but this is just ideal for his age, 
and would love the Author to think about creating a sequel, purely for my benefit, 
and i am 32! :) 

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!!!22 Nov 2011
This review is from: Driftwood and Amethyst (Paperback)
This book is a great read for 7-12 year olds, those in their teens, or for the younger 
child if you want to read it to them. It is imaginative, full of twists and wonderfully 
dark in a way that will enthral and engage children. In a world still high on the likes 
of Harry Potter this book is infused with adventure and magic realism in a seaside 
town that most children can easily identify with!

A thoroughly recommended debut novel!!!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Books at Bedtime Event @ Sitwell Infants and Junior School, Rotherham

What a fantastic day!
Visiting the two schools was a real highlight - meeting such fabulous children with a real love of books and reading was very inspiring. First of all I took part in Mrs Skupien's assembly - talking to the Foundation stage (4-5yrs) and Key Stage 1 (5-6yrs) about my book and then reading the little section when Sophie and Danny go exploring and discover a row of four shops. As Sophie an Danny read the sign on each door, I had the hall-full of children calling out "Closed  ...on...TUESDAYS!!! until we finally stumbled upon the final shop - Mr Zauberer's puppet shop. They were great listeners!
I visited the Year 2 classes to talk about becoming a writer, how I write and read an exerpt from Driftwood & Amethyst to them. I met lots of future writers! They were such fun and asked some great questions:

Q Why do you like books?
Because they help me disappear in to a different world and introduce me to different people and places and I get to share in their adventures.

Q When did you become a writer?
I've enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. I started writing diaries and then stories came later. I was a teacher for a long time and I wrote stories to help my students learn about the Romans or Ancient Egypt, Victorian inventions or Ancient Greek banquets. 

Q How do you write a story?
I'm always jotting ideas down in a notebook that I carry with me, and sometimes ideas grow in my imagination. When an idea sticks, I write more and more about the idea, describe the characters and their conversations with each other and the story grows and grows. Sometimes I have a plan that I stick to and sometimes I just have an idea and I don't know what will happen at the end!

Q Which is your favourite children's book?
A Little WomenAlice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, The Magic Faraway Tree, Stig of the Dump, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory . . . I couldn't name one!

The children were keen to hear about Sophie and Danny and the little puppets hanging in the puppet shop window - I wish I could have stayed longer but I was whisked away to the junior school!

Immediately, I joined an assembly run by Miss Saunders where she shared her favourite books with the whole school - photos of all her favourite books were up on the interactive whiteboard, many included in my favourites list above, as well as a few I'd forgotten - Milly,Molly,Mandy, My Naughty Little Sister and Black Beauty. I then talked about my favourite stories and how they inspired me to write Driftwood and Amethyst. After reading an excerpt to a hushed hall where a proverbial pin could have been dropped and heard, the children asked a few questions before I spent a very pleasant hour talking with three Year 6 (10-11 year olds) about my book and my writing.
Their questions were probing and fabulous - here are a few of my favourites:

Q Why did you call your book Driftwood and Amethyst?
A Amethyst is believed, by some people, to have calming qualities, magical properties, and old Mrs Dawson in the story wears a special ring made of silver and amethyst. If you remember, the puppets have driftwood sticks attached to make them dance - the driftwood is important for another character in the story.

Q How did it feel when you had your book published?
You know when you buy a toy or get an ice-cream, and you get that pleased, excited feeling inside for a short time,well, it's about one hundred times more powerful than that. When this book was published, I'd worked so hard on it, it felt like such an achievement so, yes, it was very exciting and I felt very happy. I still do! When we work hard to achieve something, as I'm sure you all know, that feeling of achievement is much better than getting something for nothing, you know?

Q How do you create your characters?
A I think what their parents were like first and how they treated them. If thecharacters were happy or sad, angry or optimistic. How they might behave with another character; their mother, or a doctor for example. Then I write conversations between two main characters and start thinking about what they might wear, the things they like and dislike (food, music, colours etc) and how they will react in different situations.

Q How did you write your book?
With Driftwood, I planned a sketchy outline with a possible ending - not the ending I have at all now! I then planned Sophie and Danny using the prompts I talked about earlier,their mums and Danny's little sister Nina. I write the first few chapters and Mrs Dawson developed as I wrote the rest of the story - she was planned in so much as her appearance and love of children, a retired teacher, but no more than that. She grew as the story grew! The owner of the puppet shop was planned first, but I hid him away until I wrote the first meeting between the children entering the shop. He never changed, but his character was the first to be developed. I wrote the story chapter by chapter, which surprised me as I usually like to write chapters out of order - but I edited it endlessly and that's why it took so long to complete. My first complete edited draft took a year, but I worked on it for another two years with my thesaurus and red pen - I'm very  pernickety! - until I was completely happy with it. 

I had a great time - and spent a good hour after school talking to parents and children, selling books and signing autographs ( which they may get 2p for on Ebay - I don't know how or why that rush of paper scraps started!) It was a fabulous end to a fabulous day.

Thankyou to Mrs Jane Skupien and Mr Jonathon Moody who were great hosts and took great care of me - and thankyou to all the staff and children who let me invade their classrooms and talk about my favourite subjects of the moment - writing and my little book!