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Halloween Writing Competitions

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As the nights start to draw in, Autumn is the perfect time to sit and write halloween tales, especially when there are so many opportunities for horror writing right now. Here are just a few of them.  Whether yours is a tale of killer clowns or a horror more subtle, good luck submitting.

The Master’s Review Micro Ghost Stories

What’s the beef?   Ghost stories of 250 words or less. Fiction or Non Fiction (for those of you who believe in things that go bump in the night)

What’s the prize? One prize of $50. All other stories published on The Master’s Review blog on 28th October.

What’ll it cost me? Nothing at all.

Closing date:   19th October 2016

Check it out: Here  Themastersreview.com

 

The Writer Darkest Hours Competition

What’s the beef?   A short story using any definition, nuance or understanding of the word ‘dark.’ Max 2000 words.

What’s the prize? 1st prize: $1000 and publication in The Writer magazine. 2nd prize: $500 and publication on the website. 3rd prize: $250 and publication on the website.

What’ll it cost me? $25 per entry. (Discount available for multiple entries)

Closing date:   15th November 2016

Check it out: Here Thewritermag.com

 

Furious Gazelle Halloween Writing Competition

What’s the beef?  Halloween themed writing – fiction, non-fiction or poetry Max 7000 words.

What’s the prize? All winning submissions published on their website. Best piece wins $50 and a book of your choice.

What’ll it cost me? Nothing. And you can enter up to 5 submissions.

Closing date:   26th October 2016

Check it out: Here Furiousgazelle.com

 

Storgy Halloween Short Story Competition

What’s the beef?  Halloween horror stories up to 2000 words.

What’s the prize? 1st prize: £200, 2nd and 3rd prize: The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

What’ll it cost me? £5 per entry and you’ll have to follow them on twitter @morestorgy

Closing date:   26th October 2016

Check it out: Here  storgy.com

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Sant Jordi – AKA Books and Roses Day!

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I’ve just returned from an Easter break with the other half to Barcelona. Whilst we were there, we took a day trip to Montserrat (we were told that this translates as ‘serrated mountain’, which you can really see in the photo below).

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The place itself was just breathtaking, with churches and tiny hermitages built into the rocks as you scale up to the top. I managed to find a little nook to sit in and write in the sun whilst my husband walked to the top and back down.

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While we were there we also found out about a really cool tradition that occurs on the 23rd April in the Catalan region. It is called Sant Jordi and it commemorates the feast of St George when, according to legend, he defeated a dragon.

However, in Barcelona and the areas that surround it, the day is celebrated by giving a red rose and a book to the person you love!

What a great tradition to have.

Me and the other half have decided to celebrate St George’s Day in the same way this year. I wonder which book he’ll choose…

BTW if you want to join in on twitter on the 23rd April, apparently the official hashtag for that day is #booksandroses

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Spring Opportunities for Writers – scripts, stories, novel competitions and submissions

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Wow! So many opportunities for writers at the moment. Better get in there quick as some of them have deadlines in the next few days!

Note: some of these sites also have other opportunities for writing in other mediums. For example, I’ve only given the details for Bridport’s Short Story Competition here but they also have prizes for poetry, flash fiction and a novel award. If there are other opportunities, I’ve mentioned it next to the link.

BBC Script Room 11 – Comedy

What’s the beef? The BBC’s annual opportunity for unsolicited comedy scripts. Send a 30 min comedy script, writer biography (only a paragraph) of your writing experience, and an outline of further episodes in the series if relevant.

What’s the prize? Could lead to your script/series being commissioned with the BBC.

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Surprising things about Mindfulness meditation (yes, increased creativity/productivity is one of them!)

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I’ve been practising Mindfulness meditation for 10-15 minutes every day since the start of January, and attending a class once a week for 45minutes. Initially, this was because I had read about the benefits for anyone who suffers with anxiety.

Mindfulness is difficult to describe. Sometimes its about watching your thoughts. Other times it is about distracting from your thoughts. This does not have to be meditation with a capital ‘M.’ Mindfulness can be done whilst walking or washing up or brushing your teeth.

Most sessions involve some form of focussing on your breathing.

Or at least, trying to.

To begin with, the classes were difficult. I would find myself sat on a chair, fidgeting and willing the sessions to end more quickly. It was impossible to focus on my breathing as my mind get jumping around to my ‘to do’ list.

Fast forward two months later and yesterday I completed a session sitting cross legged without needing to move once. At times I felt as if my body had dissolved completely (perhaps that was the numbness of my legs?) and I felt…well, nothing. Just peace.

My anxiety has calmed down significantly as a result and I don’t get so stressed. These benefits of Mindfulness are well documented but there have been many other surprising things about Mindfulness.

  1. Muscle tone in my lower body. Who knew that to tone up my legs, bum and tum, all I had to do was sit on my butt for 45 mins once a week! After a Saturday session, my muscles ache as if I have been to the gym.
  2. I’ve stopped moaning so much. Mindfulness makes you aware that you own your thoughts and feelings. If you don’t like something in your life, you could moan – which will achieve NOTHING- or you could DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Mindfulness has taught me to choose my mindset.
  3. Weird sensations. Everyone blabbers on about the peace of Mindfulness and whilst this IS true, there are also some hidden extras no one warns you about. I’ve recently had a session where I had an overwhelming desire to laugh out loud, swiftly followed by uncontrollable crying. Thank god I hadn’t make up on that day, as I ended up with tears streaming down my face for no reason at all. According to my meditation teacher this is completely normal after you have been meditating a while.
  4. An understanding that everything is transient, especially your thoughts. Sometimes your brain lies to you. It tells you to be scared, or that you aren’t good enough. But a thought is just a thought. A negative thought is not truth and soon it will pass over just as bad weather eventually turns to sunshine.
  5. Increased creativity/productivity. This is the added benefit for writers. I used to only manage 500 words a day writing or editing after a long day teaching. This is still true of some evenings when I am just exhausted. However, some times I am nearer to writing 1000 words in one session. I’ve doubled my output! And the ideas…oh the ideas! Every morning when I wake up, my head is filled with new ideas. I’ve started permanently keeping a notebook in my bag so that I can write them down. If this isn’t a reason to keep meditating, I don’t know what is.
  6. I’ve started paying more attention to what is actually going on around me. I didn’t realise how much time I used to waste staring at my phone screen. I don’t use social media as much and instead of staring at a screen on the bus, I’ve started looking out of the window and taking notice of my surroundings. ACTUALLY relaxing instead of thinking I’m relaxing, when really my brain is processing all those status updates.
  7. Finding peace in the strangest of places. Do you know what my favourite Mindful exercise is? Putting on my make up in the morning. Its impossible to have a wandering mind when putting on winged eyeliner. If you do, you’ll wind up looking more ‘Joker’ than ‘Dita.’ This is the time my mind is the calmest. Believe me, no one is more surprised at this strange turn of events than me!

I would recommend Mindfulness meditation to anyone, but particularly if you are a writer. Has anyone else experienced any of the above? If so, I’d love for you to let me know. Drop me a comment below.

 

 

Starting Again

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Its been some time since I updated this blog.  There’s not much I want to say about my absence except I’m back and I’m writing.

In fact, I’m starting once again – yes, its draft number four!

I’ve been spending the past few months reading, doodling, taking long baths, getting some sleep and generally trying to look after myself a little better.

Now I’m ready to edit again and so a couple of days ago I started once again on the next draft of my novel.

I’ve read through the whole of draft three and wrote notes as I went along.  I’ve thought about which parts to cut out to make it flow better and how I’m going to restructure it. There are also parts I need to write (and rewrite) to make it more of a page turner.

I’m optimistic that I’ll have this draft in the bag by September.type-786900_1920

 

 

5 Books for Anxiety and Depression

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“There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts.  Life is waiting for you.  You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere.  Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”  Matt Haig, Reasons To Stay Alive.

I haven’t been posting as regularly just recently.  The truth is I’m having a bit of a rough patch with regards to my anxiety disorder.

I know how that sounds.

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What I’ve learned about hooking an agent – Part Three – What happened when I pitched to an agent.

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This is the final part of a three part series on hooking an agent, based on the excellent advice given during the Writers & Artists event I attended a few weeks ago.  In part one I discussed the role of an agent and why you need one.  In part two I wrote about how best to approach an agent.

I have to be honest, it was pitching to an agent face to face that made me want to attend this event.  I have never sent work out to an agent before, but I know that if your work is rejected in most cases you won’t get any feedback explaining why that might have been.  I guess I was eager to test the waters before I attempt to make any submissions.

I explained straight away to her that I knew it needed another draft but that I would welcome some advice on my pitch.

So what happened?

Well, the very first thing I was asked to do was pitch my novel using the one sentence pitch.  In my case, ‘a young girl uncovers a sinister cult in a seaside town.’

The agent liked the idea and then asked me lots of questions about it:

What makes your book YA fiction and not adult fiction? (the age of the protagonist and the themes)

What genre is your book? (erm…historical gothic fiction? I guess, although there are some Lovecraftian style monsters in there.)

Is there a love story? (not exactly.  Some sexual tension maybe.  I was trying not to be too cliche’)

If you saw your book on a table in a bookshop, what are the other books or authors would you expect it to be shelved next to? (Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children)

To explain some of these questions: Firstly, the one sentence pitch is what is used to sell your book.  The agent will use this with publishers.  It needs to get the idea across quickly so that the publisher can say whether it sounds like something they would want or not.

The genre, again, as above.  The agent explained to me that historical fiction for children is a hard sell, so it is really important that the character is someone that they can relate to, with the same teenage angst as a modern setting.

Which is why the love story is important.  As a woman in her thirties, I might find a love story cliche’ but a 14 year old girl will not.  It is something that will keep her interested in what happens and will give her something to relate to.  She said that at the Frankfurt Book Fair, this is the first question the agents were asked about a YA book and if there wasn’t a love story, publishers were not interested.

Thinking about books that are similar will also help an agent to visualise it and help sell it, which is ultimately what you are trying to do.

I then told her a bit more about it and she took a look at my first three chapters.

This was a little nerve-wracking but ultimately very positive.  She said the narrative voice is spot on for a YA narrator but that by chapter three the pace has slowed a little and that you cannot afford to do that with YA. She said it was well written and wished me luck with the next draft.

The ten minutes went very very quickly!

However, it has given me a lot of things to think about.  I’m going to be doing a massive rewrite taking her advice on board and hopefully in a few months time I’ll be ready to submit to an agent for real!

One of the things the day made me realise (and I know this sounds very naive) was that whilst authors often write for themselves, if you really want to write as a career then you have to remember that ultimately you are not writing for you at all. You are writing to become part of a business.  One that needs to be profitable.  In order to hook an agent your writing has to be ‘sellable’ as well as enjoyable to read.