Archive for category Events
To get things started a poetry competition has been launched for poems on the theme ‘Birmingham’.
So start thinking poetic about things like Spaghetti Junction, Edgbaston Cricket Club, the Bullring, the Jewellery Quarter, New Street Station etc. etc. Maybe you live in the area or maybe you’ve done the tourist bit or perhaps been here on business – whatever your connection to the city, there’s lots of inspiration to get your teeth into.
The only problem is I’ve left it a bit late to tell you about this. The closing date for the adult section of the competition is September 11th 2016 and for the children’s section it’s September 30th. But a short deadline is good – it forces the brain cells to perform!
Full details of the competition are on the Verve website.
Last night I and five other short-listed authors were sipping sparkling wine in the rooftop garden of Hachette UK. Also among us were the team from Writing Magazine, several of the authors published by the various imprints of Hachette, editors and literary consultants. Earlier in the day we’d each made a short video interview in the Darwin room (Origin of the Species was one of the first books published by the company). It was all exciting stuff!
The six of us had been shortlisted from 130 entrants in the 2016 Just Write Creative Writing Competition organised in association with Writing Magazine and John Murray Press. The competition asked for short stories of 4,000 to 8,000 words in any genre and on any theme.
In true award ceremony style, the name of the winner was taken from a ‘gold’ envelope and announced to the waiting crowd. Emma J Myatt was the worthy winner and we expect great things from her in the future! There followed lots of chatting to literary people and I got encouraging feedback for an idea I have in mind – something to work on for the future …
We all came away on a high, with goody bags full of books plus copies of the newly-printed anthology containing all six of our shortlisted stories. And we were kept busy signing the anthologies for lots of the other guests to take home – I felt like I was famous as people kept pushing books in front of me to sign!
Earlier this week I gave a talk to a local neighbourhood forum group. They are a mixed bunch of people who meet every couple of months principally to discuss what should be done to improve our locality. But before their business meeting they often have a speaker – hence my visit with my pile of books to speak about my experience of self-publishing.
When I’d finished my spiel there was time for questions. This can be the point when things go awkwardly quiet because no one likes to be the first to speak. But the forum chairman was great at getting things started. He’d been scribbling as I talked and had noted several points to raise with me. His questions got the audience relaxed and soon everyone was asking things.
I’m pleased to report that no one came up with the old chestnut ‘where do you get your ideas’ but here are some of the things I was asked:
- What do you think of ghost writers? (in relation to books by celebrities)
- How many words can your write in one hour? (I’d told them about NaNoWriMo)
- Could your book be made into a film?
- How many books have you sold?
- How much did it cost to have the novel professionally edited?
- Would I consider writing a historical novel?
- Could I make my book available in Waterstones?
- Did JK Rowling and EL James find it difficult to get published?
- Would I be willing to go and talk to two reading groups that a couple of the attendees were members of? (Yes!)
It was great to get people engaged, pass on the message that self-published books can be just as good as traditionally published works and sell some copies of Bedsit Three.
Last Saturday I went the Self-Publishing Conference at the University of Leicester.
I took two key messages away from the conference (as well as a bag of leaflets and promos!):
- Self-publishing is no longer an inferior, second best alternative to traditional publishing. Well-written self-published books that are put through similar editorial and design processes to their traditional counterparts are indistinguishable from ‘normal’ books. Readers choosing a book online, in a bookshop or in the library seldom check the publisher before deciding whether or not to have the book.
- Quality is key when self-publishing. We all know that some get-rich-quick merchants push anything out on Kindle and, unfortunately, give the rest of us a bad name. However the rules are being tightened with Amazon cracking down on books containing errors. The successful self-publisher always puts his book through quality control procedures such as copy-editing and/or proofreading.
Throughout the day I absorbed other information such as:
- How to get e-books into the digital catalogues of libraries through Overdrive (loans of self-published material are growing). There is no PLR but it is a sale which may get you known more widely.
- It’s free to generate a QR Code which can be added to bookmarks and other promotional materials. The code will take readers direct to your website via a smartphone.
- Bookshops and libraries will not readily order/stock Createspace books. If it’s important to you to have copies of your books available in this way then consider a different method of self-publishing, such as through a provider like Matador.
- How ISBNs and metadata work. This was complex and generated a lot of questions! ISBNs can now be bought singly as well as in blocks of ten.
If you’re serious about your self-publishing activities and ambitions, this is a conference well worth attending. I’ll be looking out for the announcement of next year’s date.
P.S. There was also a very good lunch plus chocolate brownies in the afternoon!
Last week I took part in an event for International Women’s Day organised by Birmingham Adult Education Service . I was asked to speak about something to do with women and writing. Women are flourishing in the field of self-publishing so that’s the area I chose to focus on.
An early female ‘self-publisher’ was Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility was only taken by the London publisher Thomas Egerton on the condition that the Austen family made good any losses suffered by the book if it didn’t sell. In my mind that equates to self-publishing because the author was taking all the financial risk. This story removes much of the stigma attached to self-publishing – showing that even classic writers have done it.
Jump forward 200 years and books by indie women authors are outselling those by men. An article in the Guardian stated that in early 2015 67% of the top-ranking self-published books were by women, compare that to the Telegraph’s ‘Best Books of 2014’ list – 70% of those were by men.
This article in the Daily Mail showcases three women who’ve sold thousands of their books on Kindle. We all know that they are the exception but they provide inspiration to the rest of us and show that it is possible, with hard work and an understanding of the marketplace, to make it big.
Having (hopefully) enthused my audience with these facts, I went on to give them a whistle stop guide to self-publishing on Kindle, based on Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners. Afterwards a couple of ladies came and told me that they’d been inspired which was very gratifying.
Just in case I’ve inspired you too, my non-fiction e-books on writing are both only 99p/99c (UK & US only) until Sunday 20th March 2016. And men are allowed to make use of them too!
The official guidelines for The Weekly News are on that treasure trove of information, Womagwriter’s Blog, but here are some of the other points that I made in my presentation:
Research the market. The Weekly News can be hard to get hold of but I find it more readily available in smaller newsagents and convenience stores rather than WH Smith or large supermarkets. Ask your newsagent to reserve a copy for you. Alternatively, stories that have been previously published in The Weekly News can be found in these two e-collections: House Guests and Other Stories and Old Friends.
The twist should come as late as possible in the story and will often turn the tale completely on its head BUT the reader should not be lied to. The story should make complete sense whether read with the twisted ending in mind or the ending that you hope the reader will assume is coming.
Types of Twist
- Character Identity – the small boy nervous about going to school turns out to be the headmaster
- Character Motive – the head juror is pushing for a quick verdict not because he’s in a hurry to get home but because he’s actually committed the crime and therefore wants the defendant sent down ASAP
- Location – the stranded climber is not on a mountain top but is on a climbing frame in the park
Things that (seem to) work for me:
- Having a male main character (both sexes read The Weekly News)
- Aiming at the lower end of the 1200- 1500 required words. These stories pull the wool over the reader’s eyes and the fewer words, the easier that is.
- Keep the time period for the story as short as possible (I’m talking seconds/minutes rather than days) to keep it snappy
I know that a lot of you are successful Weekly News writers and probably have your own personal set of ‘rules’. You might prefer to keep them secret from the competition(!) but if not, do they differ greatly from mine?
Finally a shout-out to some of the people who helped Saturday go with a swing:
Marilyn Rodwell who ably orgainsed the whole day
Bella Osborne who taught us how to plan our novel (and gave us post-its to play with)
Lizzie Lamb who talked about her self-publishing and marketing experiences
Alison May who educated us about editing and said it’s OK to hate your first draft
Helen Barrell who talked about all things social media
and fellow blogger Maria Smith who came and introduced herself to me – lovely to put a face to a name.
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Events, Lifestyle, Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, Successes on December 11, 2015
Yesterday I went to a presentation organised by Birmingham Adult Education Service to collect my Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) certificate.
It was an inspiring event and as well as the certificate, I came away with two thoughts related to the virtual writing community of which we are all part.
Everyone at the presentation was given the sheet of paper shown on the right of this post and asked to think about it.
Then we were shown a three minute video about why geese fly in a ‘V’ shaped formation. As each goose flaps its wings it creates an uplift for the following birds, making their flight easier. This means that by flying in formation, the flock has a 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. When the leading bird gets tired he drops back into the formation and another goose takes the leadership strain. If a bird gets sick and has to land, two other geese accompany him and stay with him until he is either well enough to fly again or until he dies.
This made me think about how we are stronger as a virtual group of writers rather than a single lone writer. Together we can help each other with publicity and promotion. We can offer support and encouragement when the going gets tough. Those who are feeling enthusiastic and strong can take the lead by trying something new and sharing their experiences with the rest of us. As a group we can all be more successful.
The celebration of success is the second thought I took away from the presentation event. A PTLLS certificate does not represent years of study and, in the academic world, it is quite small fry – but it’s worth celebrating. Celebrating each of our small achievements gives us the confidence and enthusiasm to take the next step forward along whichever path we have chosen.
So let’s all take a moment to reflect on our latest achievement – it might be meeting the deadline of a short story competition, plucking up the courage to pitch an article idea to a magazine editor, completing a synopsis, winning a prize, having a letter published in a newspaper, or anything else that makes you smile with satisfaction.
Record your achievement in the comments section beneath this post and let us all celebrate with you!
I’ll start the ball rolling. I’m chuffed to bits with an Amazon UK review for Bedsit Three which describes it as, “a psychological why dunnit reminiscent of Barbara Vine/ Ruth Rendell.”
What a great lady to be compared to!
It’s a mystery to me why National Short Story Week takes place in November when writers are hammering away at keyboards trying to complete 50,000 words of a novel. But it’s worth taking a break from your magnum opus and celebrating the art of the short story. A change is as good as a rest.
This year National Short Story Week is the 16th to 22nd November 2015.
- Get more people reading and listening to short stories
- Get more people writing short stories
- Develop creative and commercial opportunities for individuals and organisations involved in the short story form.
I was hoping to point you to lots of resources and activities related to National Short Story Week but there seems to be very little happening online. So here’s a couple of free to enter competitions to get the creative juices flowing:
Morgen Bailey runs a monthly 100-word story competition. There is a different theme each month and the prizes are access to up to three of her online courses.
Words Magazine has an open-themed short story competition closing on December 31st 2015. First prize is £50 and second prize is £25. Word limit is 2,000.
Finally, in celebration of National Short Story Week, my latest story collection, House Guests And Other Stories, is only 99p/99c until 22nd November 2015.
It’s a cornucopia of contemporary short stories about modern life. Enjoy a plethora of twist endings, some humour plus a tiny bit of romance.
Happy Short Story Week!