You’ve gotta be in it to win it…

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Today, I’m reminded of a joke I once read…

A devout man prays every week – “Please God, let me win the lottery jackpot. I’ll do great things with the money and promise to use it all helping others.”

Finally after many weeks without winning so much as a tenner,     he falls to his knees and says – “Why not me, Lord?”

And God replies, “Come on, help me out here – you could at     least buy a ticket!”

That’s kind of how I feel about the BBC National Short Story Award, one of the most prestigious (and potentially lucrative) short story competitions around. Winning the National Lottery feels more likely than winning this prize; all the previous shortlists have included (as you might expect) excellent, well-established ‘name’ authors, rather than the diffident, part-time, easily-distracted likes of me. But still, I always feel I have to give it another go. Why not join me? You never know – it could be you!

The BBC National Short Story Award – closing date 15th June. For more info see – www.theshortstory.org.uk/nssp/2009.php4

Thoroughly recommended…

Well I made it to the ‘mental flamenco’ this morning (see previous post). I’m not sure I was dancing exactly; my brain felt creaky, as if it was only capable of a kind of sciatic shuffle, but still, the session was well worth the effort (and the entrance fee).

This Bank Holiday treat made me realise how goal-orientated my writing has become; finish a chapter by lunchtime, write a themed short story for this deadline, complete a 5 page story treatment… It was great to kick back and let my mind wander along the pathways Roselle Angwin expertly suggested and see what my subconscious discovered. Some amazingly vivid memories, thoughts and images have now been scribbled into my faithful black notebook, and I’m really hoping to persuade the fella to babysit again another Monday…

The course has been so popular that Roselle will be adding more sessions throughout June – check her website www.fire-in-the-head.co.uk for more details.

Fire In The Head

“Mental Flamenco for writers” anyone?

That’s how  Writer / Artist / Mentor   Roselle Angwin describes her Monday morning drop-in sessions which aim to kickstart your writing week with creative ideas and exercises.

I’ve read Roselle’s articles in various writing magazines, but never had the chance to attend one of her courses, so I’ll be going along to a couple of sessions (if I can find a babysitter…)  If you’re based in South Devon, or holidaying here over the next few weeks, why not come along too and get those writing muscles moving?

Roselle’s a great believer in getting in tune with mystical, magical, creative elements – exactly what I feel in need of at the moment, with Summer just around the corner and miracles of new growth burgeoning all around me…

The sessions cost £7 each and will be held at Birdwood House, Totnes, every Monday from 9.20 – 10.30am, until June 8th. Please check Roselle’s inspirational website, www.fire-in-the-head.co.uk for more info.

Paper, pen… and a torch

It’s an old chestnut of a tip for writers, popping up in every book of advice, each ‘how-to’ article by successful authors – “always keep a pen and paper by you, in case inspiration strikes”.  I used to dismiss it as impossibly old-fashioned – a remnant of the Romantic idea that creativity comes from some semi-mystical external stimulus rather than an internal power of thought…

But, over the years, I’ve been ‘caught short’ many times with an idea or plot point or revelation of character burning in my brain and with no adequate way to record that fleeting insight.  While I know that the key to writing success is sheer hard graft and application, I’ve found that those solutions and breakthroughs come to me when I am wandering in woods, letting my mind drift, letting my brain idle happily in neutral. My low point was once having to inscribe ideas onto a (clean) disposable nappy, the only available writing surface in my bag; after that, I resolved to carry a notebook at all times.

And it has been worth it, enabling me to stop beneath a tree while out walking  last summer and record the ideas that form one of my favourite short stories, giving me a chance to snatch 40 minutes valuable writing time while my children sleep in the car, and providing a record for details of useful websites or books to look up when I get home. It’s also proved extremely useful for keeping the children entertained in a cafe while Mummy natters or reads a newspaper!

So there you go – always have the tools of your craft at hand. And as inspiration frequently strikes me in bed (ask my husband about this) it’s probably a good idea to also keep a notebook and pen by your bedside.  And a torch, for the sake of your poor sleeping partner…

Leaving it too late…

It really pays to be organised…

I usually marshal my writing in a business-like fashion, keeping lists of possible submissions and dates to accomplish them by, and then filling out a log of each piece of work as it is sent out. However, this month, the system has broken down. Too busy, too distracted, too immersed in other pieces of work – my life has intervened in my fiction with a vengeance.  John Lennon said: ‘Life is what happens while you’re making other plans’, which sums up my progress in publishing very well, as well as raising the interesting ‘what if’  about the plans Lennon felt had been sidelined in his (very successful) life.

Anyway, I’ve missed two unusual submissions that, when I noted them down a few months ago, I really meant to get my teeth into. With closing dates just a week away, it’s probably too late for anyone else unless you already have something  written that suits – but if so, the very best of good luck to you!

Short Story Competition – “Old Magic in a New Age” from www.earlyworkspress.co.uk

3 Short Story Competitions – Chilling / Pagan / SciFi  from www.paganscribbles.com