I’ve rather neglected the short story scene of late – my head has been stuck in the clouds, dreaming of becoming a bestselling novelist!
Last week Mars Hill from Nottingham Writers’ Club kindly sent me an email about the Club’s 2018 competition and I’m sure that some of you more down to earth people will be interested in having a go. My one dismal attempt at the RNA NWS came back with a comment indicating that it was easier to earn money with short stories than novels. So maybe I should get my head out of the clouds and have a go at this.
The prompt for the Nottingham Writers’ Competition is ‘Choose a Season’. It can be any kind of story in any genre, as long as your chosen season plays an important part. Maximum word count is 2,000.
The three main prizes are £200, £100 and £50. There will be five runners up prizes.
Entry fee is £6 online or £5 by post.
Entries can only be submitted between 1st February and 28th February 2018. But that means you need to start planning and writing now!
Visit the Nottingham Writers’ Club website to register your interest and get full details.
Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will know that a few years ago I joined Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club in order to gain the public speaking confidence necessary to promote myself and my books at author events. Last week I was part of a panel of three judges for a speech competition at a neighbouring club. The speeches were 6 to 8 minutes long and had a completely open theme.
All the speakers were confident in front of an audience and all chose subjects with wide appeal. They all did well. After we’d decided on the winner and runner-up, we judges discussed the points the head judge should make in her summing up of the competition. The aim of the summing up was to give general advice for the contestants and members of the audience to take away. Listed below are some of these points plus other tips I picked up from my observation of the speakers. They maybe useful to those of you devising an author talk:
- Beware of meaningless gestures i.e. continually moving your arms as you speak
- Beware of keeping your arms rigidly still throughout – include a few meaningful gestures e.g. expanding your arms to describe the size of something or stamping a foot to jolt/surprise the audience
- Project your voice from the very first word you utter. Grab the audience’s attention!
- Don’t continually sway from side to side or move your weight from one foot to another. It’s disconcerting to watch a human pendulum!
- Inject a little humour. Not in the form of a joke but perhaps a throwaway observation on something the audience is familiar with.
- Make eye contact with all parts of the audience – this means shifting your eye gaze around the room as you speak.
- Speak with minimal reference to notes – this will free you up to make appropriate gestures and make lots of eye contact with your audience. Don’t read your talk!
From my own experience, I would add – don’t be put off if someone in the audience falls asleep. This has happened to me twice when speaking to groups of older ladies. The first time I put it down to the fact that we’d all just enjoyed a nice, big lunch. The second time, the organiser warned me in advance that one particular lady always went to sleep when they had a speaker and sure enough, I saw her head nod and her eyes close quite soon after I’d started.
However many times you do it, speaking in public is nerve-wracking – if you’d like to practise in front of a sympathetic audience, find a Speakers’ Club near you.
Do you ever get weeks when life seems to rush at you like a steam train and there’s barely time to eat or sleep? I’ve just had a couple of those weeks.
The catalyst was a four day weekend away. I’m NOT complaining about that, I had a lovely time at Nidd Hall near Harrogate with my mum and sister. But it meant that for two consecutive weeks I lost one of my two writing days (the three days a week for my day job still had to be fulfilled). In week one most of the remaining writing day was swallowed up by an author talk for a Women’s Institute group and in week two it was eaten into by the monthly reading group I coordinate, followed by a nighttime Black Friday rehearsal.
In case you’ve been living on the moon for the last few years, Black Friday is an opportunity for everyone and his dog to get stuck into some early Christmas shopping as retailers slash prices online and in store. It falls on the last Friday in November but preparations have already begun. The retailer I’m involved with staged an overnight rehearsal last week to ensure the website could cope with a large amount of price changes and customer activity. I acted as scribe for the rehearsal, providing a live feed about all the technical goings-on. It could be classed as a form of writing/communication but everything happened so quickly there was no time to edit or review my words, so it went straight out, typos and all.
Also, week two ended with a night of no gas supply, meaning no hot water or central heating. Following the installation of a new gas main in the road our gas couldn’t be turned back on due to a fault with the meter. Apparently, the meter is the responsibility of the gas supplier and we discovered to our cost that our gas supplier had no out of hours emergency phone line. So it was the next morning before an engineer was despatched to sort us out. Needless to say, we will shortly be changing energy suppliers to avoid being caught like this again.
On top of all of the above, the final typeset proofs of The Promise arrived for my attention. I’d hoped to read them ‘on the go’ on my Kindle but because they were in PDF format the font couldn’t be enlarged and even with reading glasses I couldn’t read them (old age!). So I had to make time at the PC to go through them.
Fingers crossed, this coming week should be back to normal. There’s lots to catch up on, including preparing guest blog posts for you lovely people who’ve agreed to host me and The Promise around launch time early next year. But right now I’m going to have a look at Julia Thorley’s Yoga Blog in the hope of finding some inner calmness!
Exciting times! I can now reveal the fantastic cover of my forthcoming grip-lit novel, The Promise, to be published 28th January 2018.
As yet, the back cover is not finalised but the proposed ‘blurb’ is:
A man has been stabbed. A woman is bloodstained. The nightmares have begun again for Olivia Field.
Ex-convict, Tina is terminally ill. Before she dies, the care of her younger brother must be ensured. She calls in a promise made thirty years ago in a prison cell.
Tina’s terrible blackmail demands put Olivia’s entire future and, ultimately, her freedom under threat.
“Jenkins spins a web of intrigue” – Judith Cutler
At this point I’d like to give a very grateful shout-out to two of the very few people who have read the book so far:
Womag writer, Sharon Boothroyd acted as my beta reader and gave valuable feedback on the parts of the story where what was in my head didn’t quite make it on to the page. Thank you for your patience and constructive comments, Sharon!
Prolific series crime writer, Judith Cutler read The Promise and gave me a great shout line for the front cover, ‘Jenkins spins a web of intrigue’. Thank you for making time in your busy schedule to read my book, Judith.
The Promise is now available for paperback pre-order, either from Amazon, Waterstones and other book shops or direct from The Book Guild. Why not treat yourself and get a lovely, brand new, first edition (!) paperback book through the post in the dark days of January?
Alternatively, leave me your email address and I’ll send you a reminder about the publication date in January and let you know when the e-book editions become available (should be the new year too).
And if any of you bloggers out there would be willing to host a guest post/interview spot around January 28th or into February 2018 please get in touch. I would be grateful for any help with publicity! I can be emailed at sallysjenkins ‘at’ btinternet.com (replace ‘at’ with @).
Thank you all for sticking with me over the years.
The brilliant thing about book clubs is the encouragement and opportunity to read books outside your comfort zone – that’s how I found myself reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell.
It’s a thick book written over 100 years ago and viewed by some as a classic. It has much to say in favour of socialism and the edition I read had an introduction by Tony Benn. However it is possible to push the politics to one side and read it as a piece of social history.
The story centres around a group of painters and decorators living in poverty. They are in and out of work depending on the season and very badly treated by their rich, fat cat employers. Health and safety is non-existent and this is long before the safety net of the welfare state and the NHS. The book follows these wretched men and their families over a twelve month period, contrasting their circumstances with those of their bosses.
I found the first chapter hard going – there were far too many characters introduced all at once. But I persevered and the subsequent chapters focused in on individuals which made the going easier. I became fond of Owen, the deep thinker of the group, and young Bert, who worked for nothing in an exchange for an ‘apprenticeship’ which taught him only the skills of being a dogsbody. I also felt for their wives, who often went without food so that their children and husband could eat.
Verdict: It took me three weeks to read the book and only 30% of the book club members stuck with it all the way through. It made me incredibly glad that I wasn’t born 100 years earlier into a society that had to live hand to mouth. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is not a ‘good’ read but I’m very glad I’ve read it – in the same way that I’m often very glad I’ve been to the gym even though pounding the treadmill or doing sit-ups was not a good experience.