Tag Archives: Writer’s Forum

As seen in Writers’ Forum: Where I Write

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Regular readers of “Writers’ Forum” will know that traditionally the last article in the magazine is “Where I Write”. Each month, Phil Barrington talks to an author about their writing space – be that in their house, a café, or even a camper van. It’s always one of my favourite bits of the magazine – nosey as I am about other people’s houses, lifestyles, and writing preferences.

After last month’s article (Patsy Collins and the aforementioned camper van!), I wrote in about my writing room, and the letter has appeared in Writers’ Circle in the current issue. I’ve always been pretty flexible about where I write (happy to scribble by hand on notebooks in bed, or tap away on the laptop sitting on the sofa or up at the kitchen table), but having a dedicated space was always something of a dream.

I now have the luxury (and it really is a luxury) of my own writing room. It’s not even (as in our last house) really-the-spare-bedroom-but-with-my-desk-in-it. This is actually a proper space for me to write in (though it does have a sofa bed for putting up writer friends!). The best thing about this room is that it’s warm enough to work in for hours (should those hours be available of course) – even in the depths of winter, it stays cosy long after the heating has gone off. I’m sure you’ll agree that comfort is a very important part of writing. (I’ve never understood people like Daphne Du Maurier who could sit in a hut in the garden with her fingerless gloves on, tapping away in the chill – it definitely wouldn’t do for me.)

The other great thing is that because the room doesn’t have a dual purpose, and therefore doesn’t really have to appeal to anyone else, I’ve been able to decorate it in the way I want. I’ve chosen a loosely African theme – using a palette of rich Moroccan style colours, and lots of African and Middle Eastern inspired decoration. Most of the wall-hangings, rugs and pictures come from my own travels, so are full of precious memories in themselves, as well as being (I think) lovely to look at. The brass Indian table came from my Dad’s house, and the chairs originally belonged to my husband’s grandparents.

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The huge bookcase was rescued from an old shed many moons ago, and is big enough to house a good chunk of my book collection (even if there are two rows on each shelf!). The desk was a past eBay purchase, and has done sterling service, being both practical and a thing of beauty.

There is a huge window, but fortunately for me (as I’m easily distracted) it’s quite high up so I can’t look out without standing on the chair or the desk! I’ve had to use two sets of curtains – one gold, one red. The red ones were another eBay purchase – and amusingly turned out to be from a fellow writer, Suzanne Baker (https://suzannebakerauthor.com/ ) – I only realised this when she enclosed a flyer about her books with my purchase! Small world, isn’t it, writing?

 

 

 

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Should there always be a happy ending?

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Voting has now closed for this year’s Costa Short Story awards, and the winner will be announced at the end of the month. The three finalists are:

  • Dirty Little Fishes
  • The Boatman
  • The Persistence of Memory.

Though voting is over, you can download them, either to listen to or to read here:

http://www.costa.co.uk/costa-book-awards/costa-short-story-award/

I’d be interested to hear what you think. They are all good, well-written stories, with good characters. But the subject matter in all three, it has to be said, is pretty gloomy. I find this quite striking as writers for the UK magazine market are actively discouraged from taking on gloomy themes. The women’s magazines look for something upbeat (or at least an upbeat ending, even if the themes tackled are sad), and entrants for the Writers’ Forum magazine monthly competition are advised in capital letters that stories “MUST BE ENTERTAINING/RIVETING NOT UNREMITTINGLY BLEAK” and should not rely on themes of death, abuse, etc.

A couple of years ago there was a reader’s letter in Writers Forum about the fact that stories printed in the magazine seemed to focus on the gloomier side of life, and Carl, the Editor, responded by “cracking down on stories that dwell on harsh realities” and so this accounts for the policy and the above instruction. His view was that “We point out time and time again that you have to think of the target market before you start writing, and so it is wrong of us to encourage writing for which there is no other outlet.” This is fair enough, as Writers Forum tends to be aimed at those writing for the domestic magazine market. But often when you read stories which are considered “literary fiction”, the themes are pretty bleak and if there is a move towards a more uplifting ending, it’s very subtle!

So, if we consider our target market, do we conclude that it is considered perfectly acceptable to focus on dark themes when writing “literary” fiction, but if you’re writing for the domestic market, you need to think positive?

 

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

 

Recharging the Creative Batteries

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This month’s Writer’s Forum magazine suggests taking a step back from your writing and having an “ideas week” as an antidote to burnout.  Well, I think I agree with their approach!

Just back from a week in a holiday cottage in Wales – sleeping, eating, walking, site-seeing – all very conducive to battery-recharging.  Have managed to return with at least one almost fully formed idea for a long story (possibly even enough for it to be the basis of this year’s NANO attempt), and another scribbled beginning.  Last night in that dozing moment before properly going off to sleep, I even had an idea for a potential amendment to a previously rejected story, so might have a crack at that today.

I deliberately didn’t take my laptop on holiday – partly, it has to be said, because the thing is on its last legs and tends to do rage-inducing things like randomly switch itself off whilst I’m in the middle of typing (and that sort of thing always seems to happen when you think you’ve written something spectacular, and the re-write never quite measures up). But partly it was just to have a change of pace. I took a notepad and pen instead.  And I scribbled.  It was fun.

Mid-week, issue No 78 of The People’s Friend Special was out, and it was an extra special joy to pop along to the newsagents in tourist-mode and be able to pick up a copy – which includes my story ‘Going Solo’ (with an excellent illustration by Jim Dewar – Judy is exactly as I pictured her!).  ‘Going Solo’ was a story originally written for my local writers’ group – yet another reason I have to be grateful for the group’s support, encouragement and deadline-provision!

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The publication of this story though has given me a bit of a slap as it’s the last thing that was “out there”.  I now have no other stories so much as submitted, let alone awaiting publication.  So it’s official: the holidays are over – time now to get back to work!