Freelance writer, author and public speaker.
Two Competitions and Some Thank Yous
Posted in Competitions, Successes on May 11, 2023
Little Museum of Hope was well and truly launched back in April with some magnificent branding and support from Joffe Books and their Choc Lit imprint. I went on tour and was humbled by how many invitations I received to do Q & A interviews and write guest posts. In particular I would like to thank:
The Book Shelf Cafe – who poured me a coffee and chatted through some interesting questions
Jan Baynham – where I spill the beans on which parts of the novel are autobiographical!
Karen Mace – who asked me to introduce the unusual and unique concept behind Little Museum of Hope.
Anni Rose – who read the book and then posed some insightful questions!
Chris Penhall – who wanted to know about my writing process
Kat Devereaux – who allowed me to wax lyrical about church bell ringing and dispel some annoying myths!
Claire Sheldon – who was interested in my writing inspiration
Portobello Book Blog – more probing questions including the book I’d take to a desert island!
… and still to come on 15th May 2023 is a slot on Morton Gray’s popular book blog.
Also, a massive thank you to all of you who have bought, read and reviewed Little Museum of Hope. It is such a relief (and a pleasure) to know that people are enjoying it!
” … you feel the tenderness, as well as the turmoil of the protagonist.” – Arnie Witkin
“From the first page I was hooked.” – S. Copley
“I found this book really unusual, clever and heart-warming and a joy to read.” – Jan
That’s enough crowing about myself. Are you looking for something to get those writing juices flowing? The two competitions below might be of assistance.
The South Warwickshire Literary Festival is holding a Creative Writing Competition which closes at the end of June. Entry is a modest £3 and they require up to 800 words of prose (fiction or creative non fiction) or up to 40 lines of poetry. There is a £50 prize in each category, and the winner and two runners-up in each category will have the opportunity to read their work at the Festival.
The Jenny Brown Associates Over 50 Award has already been widely publicised but I thought it worth mentioning again because it’s something I would definitely have entered if I hadn’t yet published. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“Jenny Brown Associates is running an award for debut novelists resident in the UK aged 50 and above and invites submissions during May 2023. The winner will receive £1,000 and a placement on a residential writing course at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.”
Don’t forget to read the full terms and conditions.
Publication Day for Little Museum of Hope!
Little Museum of Hope hits the virtual shelves today and if you’ve pre-ordered (thank you!), it should have already landed on your e-reader. It’s published by Joffe Books, who recently took over the original publisher, Ruby Fiction. Joffe (rhymes with coffee) is the UK’s largest independent fiction publisher by title count.
How will I be spending today? The budget won’t stretch to lunch and champagne in a swanky London hotel but there was a celebratory meal last night at my house with a couple of friends – and wine. Today I’m working my usual Tuesday shift in the library – which is at least a bookish environment!
While I shelve books and help customers, let’s talk about some of the unusual objects which make their way onto the shelves of the Little Museum of Hope:
Maxine brings a teddy bear which she and her boyfriend chose when Maxine fell pregnant as a teenager. Parental intervention meant the teddy never got played with.
Polly donates a pair of men’s slippers because she wants her husband to be remembered as he was, in the prime of his life, not as a dementia sufferer with the demands of a toddler.
Local news reporter, Tim, brings a jar of Glastonbury mud. The festival atmosphere, alcohol and freedom made him think he was in love. But afterwards the ‘love’ disintegrated into dust.
More About Little Museum of Hope
A jar of festival mud, a photo album of family memories, a child’s teddy bear, a book of bell ringing methods, an old cassette tape, a pair of slippers …
These are the items that fill the exhibit shelves in Vanessa Jones’ museum. At first glance, they appear to have nothing in common, but that’s before you find out the stories behind them. Vanessa’s Little Museum of Hope is no ordinary museum – its aim is to help people heal by donating items associated with shattered lives and failed relationships, and in doing so, find a way to move on, perhaps even start again. The museum becomes a sanctuary for the broken hearts in Vanessa’s city, and she’s always on hand to offer a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a listening ear. But could the bringer of Hope need a little help moving on herself?
Little Museum of Hope is available from Amazon now and the audiobook will be out at the end of May (don’t worry, I’ll remind you!)
What the advance reviews say:
‘This novel has, much like the museum opened by its main character, something special that’s bound to intrigue.‘ Isabelle D.
‘Fascinating, often emotional, addictive reading. Recommended.‘ Coco.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone wants help filling in a form to join the library. Maybe I’ll get the champagne lunch with the next book …
The editing of Little Museum of Hope is now complete. It is winging its way off to be proof read. Hurrah!
Sarah, my Ruby Fiction editor, was full of wise advice and suggestions to improve the overall story arc and pace. She also has eagle eyes that spotted several inconsistencies in the manuscript, such as ages of characters which didn’t tie in with the music I’d mentioned, plus I had someone being 22 in 1981 and 50 in the present day. And I spotted an engagement ring change from sapphire to diamond half way through a chapter. This has taught me that going forward I need to be rigorous in keeping a detailed timeline and lots of notes for each protagonist. Every day is a school day, as they say!
I’ve also been learning about Instagram. You can now find me on there as @sallyjenkinsuk. I don’t have many posts to my name yet but will get more familiar with the platform eventually. If you’re an ‘Insta’ person please drop by and say ‘Hello’.
Since I last posted I’ve also had a big ‘0’ birthday which involved family, gin, a weekend away in Chester with two schoolfriends both hitting the same age (obviously) and prosecco. This leads me to: Never think you are too old to write a novel or to be published: through all the ups and downs of my writing career I’ve never specifically been asked my date of birth or how old I am. But, if you meet me in the flesh, my face might give the game away!
Finally, I spotted a great blog post from Kobo Writing Life on writing a fast first draft. I like to get the first draft completed as fast as possible so that I know the whole story and can then go back and flesh out/delete/change as required. But writing 60 – 90,000 words is never quick. One piece of advice in the blog is to write the whole novel in bullet points in order to get the complete structure down on paper while it’s in your head and without getting bogged down in description, dialogue and all the other minutiae. I am very tempted to try this next time I start a new project.
What do you think, will it work?
Two Free Short Story Competitions
Posted in Competitions, Short Story on March 10, 2023
Green Stories Superhero Competition
In this competition your superhero must save the planet!
It sounds a fun brief to play around with: ‘this contest challenges you to create an uplifting short story of superheroes that respond to climate change. Imagine your target audience to be teens and young adults that enjoy watching superhero films‘.
The prize is £500 plus a scene from your story turned into a 1 page comic strip.
The competition is open to adults, and teenagers aged 14+. The deadline is 15th April 2023.
As always, don’t forget to read the full terms and conditions.
Evening Standard Stories Competition
The theme for this competition is ‘belonging’ and it’s not limited to short stories. You can submit a piece of spoken word or performance, for example a monologue, a script or a self-contained episode of a narrative podcast. Entries can be submitted as written, audio, or film.
The winner will get a masterclass with Evening Standard Stories Editor, Lotte Jeff, a one year mentorship in their chosen field by management and production company, 42, plus the chance to perform their piece and other extras!
Closing date is 12th April 2023 and it is a 1,000 word limit. Again, read the terms and conditions, they do include: Work from previously published authors or writers cannot be accepted. It doesn’t indicate what their definition of ‘published’ is.
Talking of short stories, I was delighted to be invited, last month, to talk to author Tony Riches and to give my top 6 tips on short story writing. Did I cover everything or have you got a tip to add?
Little Museum of Hope – Cover Reveal!
I can hardly believe that Little Museum of Hope now has an actual cover (isn’t it beautiful?) and a pre-order link. This book has been a decade in the making and now it’s becoming a reality!
Around 10 years ago I read a newspaper article about The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. Its website describes the sole purpose of this museum as ‘treasuring and sharing your heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions. It is a museum about you, about us, about the ways we love and lose.’ This sparked my imagination and I decided to write a series of linked short stories based on a fictional version of this museum.
For a short time, I dabbled in self-publishing these stories on Kindle. The first was ‘Maxine’s Story’ about a teenager who has an unplanned pregnancy. The story went through various rewrites and became one of the six stories shortlisted for The 2016 Just Write Creative Writing Competition organized by Writing Magazine and John Murray Press. The prize was a rooftop reception at the London offices of the publisher Hachette. As well as the other shortlisted authors, there were several industry professionals present at the reception and a conversation I had with a representative of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy made me realise that these stories, about individual donors to the museum, could be woven together as a novel.
Creating a novel from short stories was more difficult than I expected because it needed an additional storyline or two which could run through the whole of the novel, thus binding it together. There were several stumbling blocks along the way but I stuck with it because I was convinced that the concept was strong. In 2017 the novel gained an agent’s attention in a Twitter pitching competition and I was given feedback on the whole manuscript. I edited the novel following this advice but the agent decided not to take it further.
In 2018 I was signed by a different agent on the strength of the novel. Together we did more editing but it failed to sell to any of the large publishers. Last year I decided to independently submit to smaller publishers and I was delighted when the ‘tasting panel’ at Ruby Fiction enjoyed Little Museum of Hope – I had finally found a publisher for the book.
Over the past few weeks there have been structural edits to hone the story for the readership of Ruby Fiction – mainly to add in some additional ‘bright spots’, in order to provide light relief from the emotional stories which the donors bring to the museum. There will be more work to come before the publication date of 25th April 2023. But today I’m sitting back and enjoying the satisfaction of seeing something that’s been brewing for ten years take its first faltering steps in the big wide world – and I’m really glad I didn’t give up at the first hurdle!
Little Museum of Hope is now available to preorder and will then be automatically delivered to you on 25th April. Fingers crossed that you think it’s worth the ten year gestation period!