Category Archives: Outlets for Writers

Popshot Magazine -Submissions Open

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I was lucky enough to receive a subscription to Popshot magazine for Christmas, and I’ve been really impressed so far.  Popshot is devoted to literary fiction and poetry, but if you’ve seen an issue, you’ll know it’s beautifully designed and illustrated so there are also submission opportunities if you are a budding artist.

There have been 15 issues released so far (subscribers get three issues a year – I’ve had “The Curious Issue” and “The Adventure Issue”) and submissions are now open for their 16th issue, on the theme of “hope”. For more info, click here. You have until 24th July to submit.

    

If you’re interested in submitting, you can also get an online edition (including a free preview) but I have to say, the print magazine is so gorgeous (and reasonably priced – £6 for an individual issue, £10 for a year’s subscription) that I still think a real, tangible copy is the best!

 

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5 Things I Learned From My First Kindle eBook

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After much planning (and not a little prevarication), this week saw my first eBook upload via Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).  For my first foray into the world of e-publishing, I decided to start small.  The Camel in the Garden is a collection of three short stories which have all previously appeared in Woman’s Weekly Fiction Specials, and which are all centred around women facing challenging family situations.  So here are five things I’ve discovered during the publishing process:

  1. Get a professional to design the cover.  Unless you’re extremely artistic or an ace at electronic image manipulation (I’m neither), you really need to get someone to help you with the cover design.  I found my designer through the popular website Fiverr and was able to get a cover designed to my specifications at a very reasonable price. Shar incorporated all my initial ideas, and then suggested some improvements to create a cover I love, which specifically reflects the colour palate of this blog. The only thing I would change for the future is to make the font of the title and author name one solid colour so that it stands out more strongly as a thumb-nail picture.AMAZONCamelintheGarden - front cover
  2. The upload process itself is reasonably straightforward, but you need to do your homework first when it comes to the formatting. I found Sally Jenkins’ eBook Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners invaluable. I had the book open on my Kindle the whole time I was working through the typesetting and uploading, and Sally answered a lot of niggling questions I would have been puzzling over for ages on my own.
  3. I can’t make my eBook permanently free to everyone at the moment. I had intended this little collection to be free but the lowest price you can choose through KDP is 99p.  If your book appears free on Smashwords or another platform, apparently Amazon will eventually match it, but going down the KDP Select route as I’ve done means you can’t offer your book digital format on another platform.  Enrolling on KDP Select does mean your book is free for Amazon Prime members – and it does allow you to run Free Book Promotions. The Camel in the Garden will therefore be available FREE over this bank holiday weekend Saturday 30th April to Monday 2nd May. If you’re looking for something to read while the British weather is doing its worst, I’d be delighted if you’d download my stories and leave a brief Amazon review to let me (and other potential readers) know what you thought.
  4. Writing the stories and uploading to KDP is only the start.  I’ve built an Amazon Author Page, and a Facebook Author Page, and I now need to learn all about marketing!
  5. Seeing your book on a virtual shelf does feel great. But now it’s time to crack on with the next collection….

Widening Writing Horizons

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At the start of 2016, I had lots of plans, both writing and horse related.  Unfortunately, as so often in life, everything came to a shuddering halt when I lost my beautiful mare, Cracker, in early February.  We’d had her for 15 years, so she was a big part of the family, and her death came as a horrible shock – a shock I’m finding is taking time to deal with. Everything is just that little bit harder at the moment, even settling to write anything.

Nonetheless, I am doing my best to widen my writing horizons.  In early January, I wrote to Louise Kittle, editor at Horse & Rider magazine with an idea for an article. I hadn’t been terribly optimistic about getting a positive response (I assumed that most copy would be written in-house), but Horse & Rider is the sister publication to PONY magazine, where I had my first stories published so many moons ago, and I thought it was worth a shot.  I was therefore delighted (and slightly terrified) when Louise said she was interested.  Now I had actually to write the article!

I’ve written one or two articles before, but not for a while, and being mainly a writer of fiction, writing a factual piece seemed quite daunting.  Or rather, drafting reams and reams was easy – but editing it into the form of a finished article was trickier. I knew the magazine, so thought I had the tone right, but keeping vaguely to the word-count involved a lot of cutting (and I’m sure the editorial team will cut it further before it makes it into print).  Fortunately, Louise was pleased with the finished piece, and plans to use it in either the June or July issue – and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it in print.

Hopefully this will be the first step towards broadening my writing skill set. Being successful as a writer nowadays involves widening your potential markets and thinking about all sorts of opportunities available to you.  If you’d like to turn your creative hand to something different, think about your own skills and unique experiences – there’s probably a magazine, webpage or other outlet which might be looking for articles in just your area. As I’ve just found, it’s certainly worth a try.

 

 

 

Pens of Erdington Competition Results – Sneak Preview!

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As you may have gathered, this year I’ve been concentrating on writing competitions rather than subbing to the magazine market (though I’ve done a little of the latter too).  After a dismal start with little to show for my efforts, I had begun to doubt the wisdom of this strategy – but as we all know, writing teaches you nothing if not patience, and the second half of the year has proved to be much more rewarding.

The results of the Pens of Erdington 2015 creative writing competition will be officially announced at an event at Erdington Library on Saturday 12th December, but I happen to know one of the winners – yes, me!

To say that I’m chuffed would be an understatement (I did do a little dance around the kitchen when I found out!).  Jan Watts, former Poet Laureate of Birmingham and the Judge of the shortlisted entries, has said some very encouraging things about my story, and I’m looking forward to meeting her on Saturday.

Competitions such as this one are great for giving focus to your writing, and they allow you to explore some writing styles which wouldn’t generally fit the magazine market.  (And I won’t deny, a win is a huge confidence boost.) I highly recommend trying your hand at a few. Writers’ Forum magazine has a competitions listing page, and there are several online lists such as www.writersreign.co.uk/short-story-competitions

If you’d like to find out more about Pens of Erdington, including their future competitions, visit them at  www.pensoferdington.wordpress.com

 

Statistics and Probability for Writers

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For the last four years or so, I’ve kept a “Submission Diary” – a little notebook where I jot down each story I send off, when and where I’ve submitted it, and the final outcome.  I have made attempts to set up a more professional spreadsheet affair on my laptop which includes more information – the genre of each story, the word count, additional comments – plus a complicated colour coding system for its current position (i.e. whether I’m awaiting a response or, for acceptances, if the story is yet to be published). In theory, the spreadsheet should be much more useful – I can filter it by genre to see where the bulk of my successes lie, I can filter it by status to identify stories which are currently free to submit to another magazine or competition, or by word count to see which stories might fit a competition requirement.  But do I actually do this?  Of course not – because I’m an old fashioned girl, and I love my little notebook with its pencil scribbles.

So, out of curiosity, I had a flick through the aforementioned notebook this morning, and did a quick tally of my success rate – taking a success as anything which was accepted for publication, or reached some kind of placing in a competition.  In the first couple of years, I wasn’t terribly prolific – but I had a 50% success rate, so the work I was submitting was, in the main, well targeted.  The last couple of years, I’ve upped my submission rate – sending more to the magazines but also entering many more competitions.  While the actual number of successes has remained – depressingly – constant, in percentage terms, my success rate has plummeted.

Of course, such stats can be skewed by the rogue story you thought at the time was good, but which was rejected by every magazine to which you ever sent it!  (It’s certainly true that just because a story is rejected by one editor, doesn’t mean it won’t be successful somewhere else – but there comes a time when you have to accept that every editor can’t be wrong.)  And perhaps I shouldn’t have included competitions in my calculations as, in the main, they are less likely to have a positive outcome.  But it does clearly show that it’s the quality of the submission (both the writing, and the correct targeting) which is important.

So, quality over quantity.  Right, I’m off to the Post Office with my latest submission.  […Nervous Cough…]  Perhaps I’ll just have one last read through before I seal the envelope…

‘Going Home’ Short Story Comp – Still time to enter

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If you’re lucky enough to have some writing time over the weekend, but you’re stuck for an idea and need a little challenge to get your teeth into, why not try writing a piece for the Scribble short story competition – theme “Going Home”.  Entries can be up to 3,000 words, and Scribble are quite open-minded about genres, so you can interpret the theme as you wish.  There’s an entry fee of £4 per story (though it’s free to subscribers – an excellent reason for being one!), and there’s prize money up for grabs, not to mention publication in the magazine.  You’ve only got until 1st November to submit your entry (which should focus the mind!), so if you’re interested, pop to the website for all the submission details: http://www.parkpublications.co.uk/competitions.html

Good Luck 🙂

A Must for Writers: Rechargeable Batteries!

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Just back from glorious Devon, where the weather mostly smiled upon us.  There were some quite exciting overnight storms (with some monster waves rather alarmingly close to our chalet!) but during the daytime it was just windy with a fair bit of sunshine around).  It was a super, much needed break, and the chalet provided the perfect base for walking, sightseeing kite-flying, idling on the balcony with a glass of wine, and of course – writing.

2014-10-04 17.37.30   2014-10-04 13.04.13  2014-10-10 08.40.35

One of the writers’ groups meetings took place while we were away, and I’d hoped to finish a piece and email it to the group in my absence, but internet access was a little patchy to say the least, so whilst there’s a completed first draft, the revising and mailing remains a to-do for this week. Nonetheless, I did managed to complete the first draft of another not-so-short story, the idea for which had been rolling around in my head for a while.  Usually when this happens, it all goes a bit stale, and what I finally manage to get down on the page has none of the vitality of the original thought.  Or, worse still, after weeks of not having the time to write, as soon as the time becomes available, my mind goes blank and I find there’s no story there at all.  This week though, it seemed to work, and the bulk of the story is written.  As usual, there’s a chunk in the middle which will need expanding and fleshing out, but hopefully I’ll get to this over the weekend.

I took with me all my old scribbling notebooks, and had a read through, which was a bit nostalgic and quite amusing.  It’s fun to re-read the first notes and handwritten drafts for pieces which have since become published stories, and equally, it’s great to find odd snippets of ideas which have yet to be written up.  It’s also exciting when you come across something you wrote aeons ago which now strikes you as reading much better than it did at the time!  In particular, I found a first attempt at a story which I later went on to re-write from a different viewpoint.  Despite the success of the current version, I now rather like the original voice, and am thinking about having a go at completing it and maybe taking it in a different direction.

As you might be able to tell, having a break has really helped re-charge my writing batteries, and I’ve returned buzzing with ideas.  To top it off, when I got home, my copy of November’s issue of the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special had arrived – which includes my story Sleeps Four.

Woman's Weekly Fiction Special Nov 2014

Very exciting to see this story in print given all the work which went into it!  I’ve also just found out there’s a WW app so you can download the Fiction Special in e-format – find out more at:  https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/womans-weekly-fiction-special/id574443093?mt=8

I did have a momentary panic just now when I thought I’d left my laptop charger at the chalet, but turns out I’d just packed it somewhere v-e-r-y safe! So no excuses for not writing now – both my laptop and I are fully powered up! 🙂

Revisions, revisions!

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Apologies for the lack of posts recently.  I wish I could say it was because I was busily working on a great new writing project, but I’m afraid it’s my usual summer dip when hay making and horses take priority.

But that’s not to say that there’s not been a bit of scribbling going on in the background.  In fact, one piece in particular has been occupying a considerable amount of my writing and re-writing time, and that is a story I originally sent to Woman’s Weekly back in May.  The story itself started life last year when I had an idea for a scenario, but couldn’t decide from which character’s point of view it should be written.  I experimented with several different voices before settling on one which seemed right for the piece, but the storyline refused to develop, so I put the whole thing away for a while to concentrate on other projects.  In the spring, I re-read the beginning, liked it and wanted to push it to a conclusion.  I finished a first draft, ran it past one of my local writers’ groups for feedback, and made some amends – then sent it off.

The good people at WW said, “We like it, but…”  They listed a few things they had issues with, and asked me to take another look.  So I took another look and sent it back.  The amends I made threw up some more queries from the WW team, so back to the keyboard I went.

This time, I made some more fundamental changes, and ran the re-written piece past the long-suffering people at Writers’ group yet again.

WW said there were still some problems.  But I was impressed that at this stage they didn’t simply say, “Do you know what, Jenny, just forget it!”

I waited a bit, pondering various amends and additions as I stacked hay or mucked out!  I concentrated on the end section of the story where the main problems seemed to lie.  The thing was, despite all the extra work, I loved my characters – I wanted them to make it, to exist on the printed page.

I developed, re-wrote and amended.  By now the story had expanded considerably.  I worried it might now be too long and unwieldy.  But there was nothing obvious to cut.  So I sent it off again.

And waited.

By now I had convinced myself that, despite the faith of the WW team, and all my work on it, this story was fundamentally flawed.  I fretted about other issues they might raise with the new, new version.  In my mind, I think I’d almost written it off.

So it was with absolute joy that I received an acceptance email this week!  Although it’s been a bit of a slog, the story has definitely benefited from the extra work – so a big thank you to Clare and the team at WW for asking for the re-writes, not simply rejecting it at the outset.

To say I’m looking forward to seeing it in print would be an understatement!

 

 

 

E-publishing with a twist – Twitter style!

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David Mitchell (not the comedian, the other David Mitchell, author of one of my favourite novels Black Swan Green) has recently joined Twitter, and yesterday he started tweeting his story #THERIGHTSORT…  Yes, that’s right – telling the entire story (which has been written especially for the medium of Twitter) in bite sized chunks.  It’s a bizarrely compulsive sort of reading. And, as he is a master of the narrative voice, it’s completely absorbing.  I thought it might be irritating reading the wrong way up, as it were – scrolling to the next tweet, but it’s not a problem, just gives that extra element of suspense.  Of course, I’ve been catching up, and therefore reading a chunk at a time, which helps.

It might be a bit gimmicky, and clearly it’s designed to be a good bit of publicity before the launch of his new book, The Bone Clocks in September, but perhaps this is another stage in the evolution of the short story – such a versatile creature adapting to a variety of new media.

I’m even tempted to have a go myself.  Quite a challenge, chopping up one’s prose into lengths of no more than 140 characters!

If you want to read #THERIGHTSORT for yourself, look for tweets starting from yesterday @david_mitchell.

Homework turned Prize Winner

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You may recall that some time ago I mentioned a story of mine had been short-listed in the Writers’ Forum short story competition. The story, Beyond Words, started out as an exercise set for one of my local writers’ groups, so you can imagine how delighted I am to see it in print in the current issue, having been chosen by Sue Moorcroft as the second prize winner.  Not only is having the story published itself very satisfying, but it’s also interesting to read the comments from Sue in her “Competition Round-Up” where she gives her reasons for choosing the winning stories.  And I don’t think there’s any shame in coming second to Fiona Dorchester’s Retail Therapy either – which is beautifully written.

Prize winners in the Writers’ Forum competitions each have to submit a photograph and a brief writer bio.  The bio wasn’t too tricky, but not being terribly photogenic, or having the luxury of my own publicist, I was faced with the choice of sending in a selfie (in which I always look startled, worried, or mad) or enlisting the help of my other half.  Obviously I plumped for the latter, and so was subjected to several minutes of “Try looking up a bit…..no, not that much.  Smile.  That’s not a smile, that’s a grimace.  Hmm…we’ll try with the flash.  Oooh, no…..that doesn’t do you any favours!”  Thanks, sweetie!

If you fancy having a go at the Writers’ Forum competition yourself, it couldn’t be simpler. Any genre is acceptable, stories just need to be between 1,000 and 3,000 words. The competition is run on a rolling basis, so any story arriving too late for consideration for the current competition is simply put into the pot in the next one – no closing date to worry about. There’s a fee of £6 (£3 if you’re a subscriber).  For more info, take a look at: http://www.writers-forum.com/storycomp.html