Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Poetry, Writing for Children on November 15, 2022
Back to normal now all the excitement of the book contract is over. I have two competitions for you:
Wolverhampton Literature Festival Poetry Competition 2023
“Send us poems on whatever subject you like. Surprise us, enthrall us, astound us, but make sure you send your entries in before December 31st 2022!”
Entry fee is £4 and first prize is £400 plus there is a special, extra, prize available for those living in the WV postcode area.
Full entry details are on the Pandemonialists’ website.
Skylark Soaring Stories Competition
This one is for children’s writers and is run by the Skylark Literary Agency.
The competition is for new stories aimed at either middle-grade (8-12-years) or YA readers (ages 13+) by un-agented and unpublished writers. The judges are from Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins.
First prize will be a one-hour one-to-one editorial critique of your finished manuscript. There are second- and third-place prizes of a half-hour one-to-one on your submitted chapters and synopsis.
Entrants must submit a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters or 4,000 words of a novel (whichever is shorter) by 24th December 2022. See the Skylark website for further details.
Hit or Miss?
If short stories for adults are more your thing, you might fancy dipping into my new coffee break story collection: Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories. Can you spot which stories were successful in securing magazine publication or competition success and which failed to land on the right desk at the right time?
A Book Contract!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Successes on November 8, 2022
Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve had an up and down journey over the past few years in my quest to see my commercial women’s fiction novels published. You can read about some of it here and here.
Now, finally, some good news: I have signed a 3-book contract with Ruby Fiction and the first book (provisionally titled The Museum of Hope, but that might change) will be out sometime next year. Ruby Fiction is the sister imprint of Choc Lit, which publishes stories with romance at the heart. Ruby Fiction publishes women’s fiction such as thrillers, saga, mystery, chick lit, historical, fantasy, etc.
Ruby Fiction and Choc Lit are different from most publishers because all submitted manuscripts are reviewed, in the first instance, by their Tasting Panel who are genuine readers. I was overjoyed when I was told that The Museum of Hope had done well with the panel and the readers felt it was a unique story.
I have been made very welcome by my fellow Ruby & Choc Lit authors within their private Facebook Group and am now looking forward to working with Ruby’s editors and sharing the finished books with you!
And a reminder: if you’re looking for Christmas stocking fillers or secret-santa presents, my latest short story collection, Hit or Miss, is now available in paperback, on Kindle and on Kobo.
Challenge yourself! Which of these short stories were competition or magazine hits and which failed to land on the right editor’s desk at the right time?
Short Story Writing Tips & a Launch!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Promotion, Self-publishing, Short Story, Successes on October 28, 2022
I’ve been busy with the feather duster in my Dropbox repository and have rediscovered several of my favourite short stories that missed their target. These are the stories which didn’t land on the right editor’s desk at the right time or failed to catch the imagination of a competition judge.
This exercise made me think about two things: What are the best tips or rules for short story writing? And how can I best utilize these short story ‘misses’ in this age of recycling and ‘waste not want not’?
Here are the five top short story writing tips I came up with:
1. Have only a few characters. Any more than three or four makes it difficult for the reader to get to know them in a short space of time. Make sure all their names begin with a different letter – this makes it easier for the reader to differentiate between them. Don’t give names to ‘walk-on’ characters such as the postman or policeman – this will only add to any confusion in the reader’s mind.
2. Be clear whose story it is i.e., from which character’s point of view are you telling the story. That person should have the most to gain/lose from the action. Ensure the reader becomes emotionally invested in that person.
3. Have the action take place in a short timescale. Focusing on a single moment in time works best because the story is ‘immediate’. Avoid a long buildup of backstory. If back story is essential, drop it concisely alongside the action.
4. Conflict should be at the centre of the story. The main character should be facing a dilemma or decision of some kind. This character should solve the dilemma himself rather than have it sorted out by someone else, coincidence or fate.
5. Edit! Give the story more impact by removing words like ‘very’ and ‘just’. Replace adverbs with more specific verbs, for example ‘run fast’ becomes ‘sprint’. Combine characters, for example does the heroine need two friends or will one work just as well and make the story neater?
And what’s happening to those short story ‘misses’? They are now getting their fifteen minutes of fame in Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories. I’ve mixed the stories up with others that DID land on the right editor’s or judge’s desk at the right time, and I challenge YOU to decide which were hits and which missed their target.
Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories is now available on Kindle, in paperback from Amazon and on Kobo.
It would be lovely to get the comments started on the book’s Amazon/Kobo Review pages to indicate whether or not you agreed with those editors and judges.
Book Reviewing Opportunities
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Books, Lifestyle on October 5, 2022
If you like reading new books by indie authors this could be the opportunity for you:
Reedsy Discovery is recruiting reviewers. The main Reedsy website is full of resources and freelance services aimed at helping writers at all stages of their journey to publication. Reedsy Discovery is an offshoot of this and is designed to spotlight the gems of the indie publishing world. The reviewers on Reedsy Discovery help to identify these gems. Reviewers are unpaid but they do have the opportunity to monetise their reading by accepting tips from people who find their reviews useful.
Interested? Visit the Reedsy website to find out more and to apply.
If you fancy finding out what it’s like to be a competition judge, The Highland Book Prize, uses keen
readers from the general public as initial readers. Readers provide a report and scores for each of the books they read and these are then used to compile the longlist for the Prize. Reading for the longlist takes place between July and September each year and has just finished for 2022. However, you can apply now to be on the panel next year. I have now been involved in this for three years and previously blogged about the experience.
Finally, if you enjoy blogging, tweeting and generally shouting about the books you’ve read, NetGalley might be the site for you. Publishers and authors distribute digital review copies and audiobooks to the NetGalley community, and in exchange, members provide reviews, star ratings, social media posts etc. Some publishers on NetGalley will vet reviewers before releasing ARCs (Advance Review Copies) but others are happy for their books to be read more widely. Register online to be a NetGalley reviewer.
Note: In all three cases above, the books are supplied in digital format, i.e. not paper books.
Short Story Ideas Generator
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Resources, Short Story on September 22, 2022
I’m on a mission to gather 30 short story ideas before the end of October. I will then write one 1700-word story per day through the 30 days of November, harnessing the global enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to keep me going. Purists may argue that writing short stories rather than novels for NaNoWriMo is cheating but for me, as long as I’m in the groove and aiming for 50,000 words, it doesn’t matter – it’s not a competition and no one is giving out prizes.
How do I come up with 30 short story ideas?
So far, I’ve amassed 14 and used a variety of means. There were a few ideas floating in my head anyway, a friend sent me a page of prompts used by her poetry society, I took inspiration from all the recent royal coverage, and I discovered this online short story generator. Fill in the form to customise the story or take the option to fill the form with random things, then let the generator do its stuff.
Warning: the story will be nonsense. However, the first time I used it the opening sentence triggered an idea for me and the second time around it produced an intriguing title.
Might be worth a try if you’ve got a blank piece of paper and an empty mind?
For anybody not familiar with NaNoWriMo, the 30 stories I write will be very rough drafts, time doesn’t permit anything else. From December onwards they will need to be worked upon, crafted to the right length to suit the prospective market and then submitted gradually next year.
Whatever you choose to write in November, it only generates a starting point to be worked on over future months. It is never an endpoint in itself.
Calling Rejected Poets!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Poetry on September 14, 2022
Have you ever had a poem rejected by a magazine? Do you have the rejection letter to prove it?
If so, here’s the perfect competition for you:
The Onwords website is running a free-to-enter competition for rejected poems with a first prize of $100, second prize of $50 and three honourable mentions winning $25 each.
The competition is open to submissions for two weeks only: 16 – 30 September 2022 and each poem must be accompanied by a screenshot of its rejection letter.
Full details of the competition are on the Onwords website.
What I Did on My Holidays
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Lifestyle, Non-writing, Travel on September 8, 2022
You don’t have the slightest interest in what I, or anyone else, did on their holidays but please bear with me – there is a literary slant to what I have to say, plus it saves me having to write a book, which I did in 2013 and 2021.
This year we drove from the Midlands to Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway. En route we stopped for coffee in Sedbergh: England’s Official Book Town. Sedbergh is a small place where many of the independent shops have added the sale of secondhand books to their wares. The big attraction for me was Westwood Books which has a stock of over 70,000 titles – antiquarian, secondhand, and some new books. I was tempted by a copy of The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley which has been strongly recommended by my sister-in-law. But it’s a very thick book and I have a long TBR list, so I resisted the urge.
On arrival in Kirkcudbright we discovered that Dumfries and Galloway has its own literary connections. It was the setting for The 39 Steps by John Buchan and the viaduct in the photo was used in one of the film versions of the story. And Five Red Herrings, a murder mystery by Dorothy L Sayers, is set in Kirkcudbright itself and the 4-part serial is available on YouTube.
What did we actually do on holiday? Walking, a guided tour plus afternoon tea at Buittle Castle (both were excellent), walking, Raymond Briggs retrospective exhibition at Kirkcudbright Art Galleries, walking, Kirkcudbright Annual Tattoo (marching bands and a stunt motor cyclist!), walking and Kirkcudbright Art Tour.
Well done – you made it to the end of my holiday essay!
Finally, you might be interested in this crime writing short story competition. It closes 23rd January 2023 but there’s a reduced early bird entrance fee of only £3 if you enter before 1st December 2022.
Two Free Writing Competitions
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Poetry, Short Story on August 16, 2022
Thank goodness the heatwave in the UK is diminishing. It seemed to sap all my energy and brain power. As I cool down, my thoughts are getting back into some sort of order and I’ve found two free competitions with generous cash prizes. They might be worth a try if you’re feeling creative.
The inaugural Patricia Eschen Prize for Poetry 2022 is open for entries.
Poems can be on any subject, up to a maximum length of 40 lines. Entry is free and limited to one entry per person. First prize is a massive £1,000, second prize is £500 and third prize is £300.
Closing date is Friday 30th September 2022.
The Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition is being run by Bristol University. The website says, “this secret life of data – the traces, bits, and fragments of personal information that we leave behind us online – is the focus of this short story competition.”
Maximum word count is 4,000 and any style or genre is acceptable. Prizes are: 1st – £1000, 2nd – £500, 3rd – £250. The ten shortlisted stories will be published in the Secret Life of Data Anthology in both print and ebook formats plus there will be an Awards Ceremony in Bristol.
Closing date 9am (BST) Monday 12th September 2022 and entry is free.
This timid little fellow belonging to one of our neighbours didn’t like the heat either and flaked out in any shade he could find.
Keeping On, Keeping On
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Lifestyle, Writing, Writing Handicaps on June 17, 2022
“Keeping On, Keeping On,” said Alan Bennett. But I’m wondering whether that is always the right thing to do? Should there come a point when it’s best to draw a line in the sand, say, “I tried my best”, and then move onto something else?
I’m going through a dry patch in my writing. You may remember me telling you that I had a second book on submission with my agent and was keeping my fingers crossed. As with the earlier novel, this one also failed to find a home with one of the big publishers. I suggested trying both books with the smaller, digital first publishers. My agent felt unable to add much to this process and therefore we agreed that I would proceed down this route un-agented. I have submitted to several places but, as of this moment, nothing has come of it.
I’ve put a lot of work into getting so near, but yet so far. People tell me that I did well to get taken on by one of the best agents in the country. I understand that and I learned a lot from the process. But it’s still very difficult to get re-enthused about starting all over again on another novel that might also never see the light of day.
I’ve considered returning to short stories and have managed to write two. One’s gone off to a competition and the other one is waiting for a final edit before I try it with The People’s Friend. However, the short story market has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, so I’m not feeling optimistic.
And, at the moment, the article pitches seem to be landing on deaf ears after a good run of successes.
On a more positive note, I am two weeks into a free Zoom novel-writing course run by Jacci Turner. She’s running the course in the US at 10 am, which is a convenient 6 pm BST but there is an Australian in the cohort joining from a darkened house at 2:30 am! I’m hoping this course might re-ignite my passion and enthusiasm.
But in the meantime I’d love to hear your opinion/advice:
Should I continue ‘keeping on, keeping on’ as a writer or call it a day and find something else? How do you cope with dry patches like this?