Archive for category Successes

What Can We Learn From The Geese?

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. What we can learn from the geese
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!

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Generating Publicity

It’s a universal truth that marketing and publicity are difficult skills to master. If an author constantly shouts ‘Buy my book! Buy my book!’ then people get irritated and start pressing ‘unfollow’ or ‘unsubscribe’ (No! Don’t all rush to do that now!). But if the same author says virtually nothing at all then very few people know that he has a book available or how good that book is.

The key is subtlety. And in my own subtle fashion I have been popping up in different places this week.

Gadgette.com is the smart woman’s guide to tech, style and life.  Because I am a smart woman, I was invited to give them 6 Easy (and free!) Steps to Publishing Your First Ebook. It’s only a two-minute read and worth it if you want to find out what this e-publishing lark is all about.

Kobo Writing Life is the self-publishing arm of Kobo (similar to Kindle Direct Publishing) and has a very useful blog. As many of you know, Bedsit Three was shortlisted for a competition partly organised by Kobo, so when the novel was published they invited me to do a blog post for them. Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins
Birth of a Novel explains how Bedsit Three emerged from NaNoWriMo 2013. If you’re struggling with last few days of this year’s NaNo, you might find some encouragement in this post.

Readers’ Favorite is a US book review website. It’s readers review books for free (sometimes there is a long wait). The review isn’t posted on Amazon but it can be quoted from in book descriptions and it appears on the Readers’ Favorite website. Here’s the Readers’ Favorite verdict on Bedsit Three.

I hope I haven’t irritated you too much – and keep your finger OFF that unsubscribe button!

 

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Birth of a Novel

My first novel has just been launched into the big, bad world and I’m sitting here fretting. Perhaps it will sink without trace or people might hate it … Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins

So, to stop me brooding, I’m going to tell you about how it came to be.

Let’s go back two years to October 2013. I went on a weekend writing course organised by Lois Maddox of Relax and Write. The title of the course was ‘How to Write the Mystery Novel’ and it was led by Eileen Robertson. At the same time I spotted a free-to-enter novel writing competition organised by WordPlay Publishing, there was no theme or genre specified but the hero had to be named ‘Ian’ (incidentally, that competition is on-going annually until 2017 if you want to have a go). I combined these two things together for NaNoWriMo 2013 and drafted the first 50,000 words of Bedsit Three.

I spent December 2013 writing a synopsis and polishing the first three chapters. I submitted to the competition just before the 31st December deadline. Then I gave up being a novelist and went back to short stories.

In May 2014 I received a phone call out of the blue. It was Michael Barton of WordPlay Publishing to tell me I had won the competition! The prize was formatting for Createspace and Kindle plus 250 Euros marketing budget and a financial contribution towards a cover design.

After my elation subsided, I realised that I had to knuckle down, finish the manuscript and get it ready for publication. When I thought it was done, Anne Harvey acted as a beta reader and I also had a critique from Patricia Fawcett. Lots of changes followed, including getting rid of a superfluous character, an unlikely coincidence and a lottery win. The ending of the novel also changed.

Then I decided that if Bedsit Three had won one competition, perhaps it could win another. So I entered a few more and was shortlisted in the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition. This gave me confidence and I had the manuscript professionally edited by Mark Henderson. Then off it went for formatting and I looked for cover designers. I chose John Amy. He gave me five initial designs which I showed to a handful of people and their verdict was unanimous.

The back cover blurb was put to the vote in this blog post and I am most grateful to all of you who took the time to comment.

My first novel looks and feels very professional. Here’s the Amazon blurb that goes with it:

“A word of warning to anyone who picks this book up: be prepared for a sleepless night, because you won’t want to put it down until you get to the end,” Michael Barton, WordPlay Publishing.
A stupid mistake ended Ian’s marriage. Now he’s trying to put it right.
Sandra was a teenage mum. Now she’s fighting to make a good life for her daughter.
Maxine made an important decision behind her boyfriend’s back. His reaction devastates all their lives…
Every mother tries to do her best for her child. But sometimes that ‘best’ creates a monster.

Bedsit Three is a tale of murder, mystery and love. It won the inaugural Wordplay Publishing/Ian Govan Award and was shortlisted for both the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition.
Michael Barton, Founder and Managing Director of WordPlay Publishing said of Bedsit Three, “This novel is well-constructed and well-written. But it’s also far more than that. It’s a book that elicits emotional reaction, drawing the reader into the story and placing him or her in the middle of the action page after page.”

‘Bedsit Three’ is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon and also as an e-book for Kobo.

 

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A Disappointment, An Award and Kobo Writing Life

A few weeks ago I told you I was on a shortlist of eight for the Kobo-Silverwood Books-Berfort Open Day Writing Competition. I heard this week that I didn’t reach the final three. Congratulations to those who did: Phoebe Powell-Moore, Edward James and Sarah Channing Wright. Curiosity will definitely make me buy the winning novel when it’s published later this year.

It’s not all bad news though. As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I was awarded the Hwyl Stone (pictured) for Most Improved Speaker by Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ ClubSutton Coldfield Speakers' Club.  This was a nice confidence boost. The stone is supposed to have similar properties to the Blarney stone and was collected in Wales and made into a trophy by a former member.

Finally, to show I’ve no hard feelings against Kobo, here’s some interesting stuff from Kobo Writing Life:

  • A useful blog post looking at Goal, Motivation and Conflict – the three essential things for every character. Without these it’s difficult to move the story forward.
  • There’s also a good post on why you should enter competitions. Take a look at it if you’ve been dragging your feet lately and not submitting anything.
  • Kobo are now running a Romantic Novel competition. It’s free to enter and the winner gets a publishing contract with Mills and Boon. Closing date July 14th 2015.

Kobo do seem to do more to help and motivate writers than Amazon KDP. Or have I just missed the Amazon stuff?

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Shortlisted in a Novel Writing Competition!

A bit of blowing my own trumpet today – I have been shortlisted in the SilverWood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Writing Competition!

There are eight of us on the shortlist and there will now be a nail-biting time until the end of April when the winner is announced.

First prize is an ebook publishing package provided by SilverWood Books, with an additional print edition sponsored by Berforts Information Press. The publishing package will include a full copy-edit, proofreading, ebook and paperback cover design, formatting and conversion to epub, with a corresponding print edition. Plus, very importantly, publicity.

The shortlisting was done on the basis of a synopsis of the novel plus the first 5,000 words. I’ve now submitted the completed manuscript for final judging. I know there’s ‘many a slip twixt cup and lip’ so the chances of me actually winning are tiny but I’m going to enjoy just a little bit of the limelight while I can! And it’s good to know that the first 5,000 words of my novel aren’t absolute twaddle whatever the outcome of the competition.

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I Passed My PTLLS Micro-Teach!

Today I did my micro-teach session on the PTLLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) and I’m pleased to say that I passed!

I had a thirty minute session to fill, which at first sounded daunting but in reality, it is a very short time to teach anyone anything, especially when faced with a class of non-writers (i.e. my PTLLS classmates, none of whom are ‘into’ creative writing). I chose Haiku as my topic because it’s a simple, short form of poetry which can be ‘learned’ quite quickly.

Working in three small groups, my learners brainstormed a list of words from pictorial prompts which I provided and then they fitted the words together to create a 17 syllable, 3 line (5, 7, 5) Haiku. We heard them all read out and they were very good.

I’ve now got to write-up the experience for my PTLLS portfolio and am going through the peer review forms I received after the session. One lady (for whom English is not her first language) wrote, “I am now thinking of joining a Creative Writing class” and another, “It made me realise I actually could write a Haiku, which I didn’t believe at all when you first introduced the subject.”
So I’m chuffed to think that I may have inspired two non-writers to have confidence in their creative ability!

Finally I pointed the class in the direction of the PoemPigeon website, where anyone can post poetry and/or leave comments. The site also runs occasional competitions.

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The Journeyman

The tagline for The Journeyman magazine is, ‘a collection of short stories from emerging authors‘. 
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It is distributed free (in the Sheffield area, I’m guessing from the adverts) to be read ‘on the train, in the office, at home …‘. There is also an example edition to be read online.

I’ve just received a complimentary copy containing my story, ‘One Day for Me’. Like most small magazines the payment is not great – only £10. But the editor will accept things that have been previously published elsewhere, provided that copyright and publishing rights still remain with the author. This means that you can get a little bit of extra mileage out of a story that’s already earned its keep, plus The Journeyman also has a ‘Meet the Authors’ section which includes a short bio of all the writers published in that edition.

If you fancy submitting, the guidelines are here. In brief, the editor is looking for well-written stories across all genres. The preferred length is up to around 3,500 words.

Update July 2015: I understand that The Journeyman has now ceased publication. It’s very sad to see fiction markets like this disappearing.

And the mention of ‘One Day for Me’ gives me the excuse to tell you that my e-book ‘One Day for Me – 8 Award-Winning Stories‘ is available for just 99p/99c (UK & US only) until August 10th 2014.

One Day For Me by Sally Jenkins

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The Winner of The Ian Govan Award is …

ME!

You may remember me telling you about The Ian Govan Award award several months ago.

Ian Govan

Ian Govan

This is an award running annually until the end of 2017. It is in memory of Ian Govan of WordPlay Publishing

The brief is to send the first three chapters, character study and outline of a novel featuring a main character called Ian. It can be set anywhere, and be in any genre (except erotica). But if it has some humorous content, and perhaps a little social commentary, then all the better. Ian was known for both when he was alive.

The prize is free publication through WordPlay Publishing and €250 (£210) towards the winner’s marketing budget.

Entry is FREE and the competition closes on 31st December each year. Entry is by email.

I was over the moon to get a phone call recently informing me that I was the winner of last year’s competition (which I believe was the first). My entry was based on the manuscript I produced during NaNoWriMo last November – so all that typing for thirty days was worthwhile!

Now I have twelve months to get the novel into a publishable state. There’s no editing included in the prize, so if anyone’s got any experience of paying for editing services, do let me know.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a novel to work on …

 

 

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E-Book News

A couple of bits of e-book news for you:

Just in case there’s anybody out there who hasn’t yet got A Writer on Writing – Advice to Make You a Success, I thought I’d let you know that it’s currently reduced to only 99p (99c in the US) until Sunday 18th May 2014. Grab it while you can!

A Writer On Writing

Pete’s Story, the third in the Museum of Fractured Lives series is now available. Pete tells how he fell in love with Sarah almost thirty years ago when he was twenty-one. At the time he was singing in a band and living in a bedsit. Sarah was eighteen and had just left school. They planned their life together. Sarah would manage the band and it would become a worldwide success. But the couple’s future goes awry…

Pete's Story - The Museum of Fractured Lives

 

Finally I had some good news yesterday from Liz Smith at My Weekly – two stories accepted! So if you ask me this week how my writing’s going I’ll say, ‘Very well, thank you’.

By the way – thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on my previous post ‘How’s the Writing Going?’ It was really lovely to share all your experiences and know that none of us are alone!

I do hope that this week everyone’s writing is going tremendously – and if it’s not, remember we all often hit a dark spot. So pick yourself up and carry on! (or leave a comment on this post & I’ll commiserate with you).

 

 

 

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Lights, Camera, Action!

Remember I told you here about being shortlisted as Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate for the Midlands and having to read my story over the telephone? Well, I won! Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate

Last week I went along to the Disney Store in Birmingham to receive my certificate and read the story to a group of children. It was exciting – TV and newspaper cameras turned up along with a professional photographer organised by the PR company. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham and the Lady Mayoress attended in their chains of office and last, but by no means least, Birmingham crime novelist Judith Cutler presented my certificate and kept me company through the afternoon. As an added bonus she introduced me to her husband Edward Marston, who writes historical crime fiction.

The media coverage of the event opened my eyes to the small budgets these people work on and how difficult it is to get publicity for anything that’s not hard news.

I’d been told the previous day that ITV Central News would be coming and had agonised over what to wear. Am I the only one who thinks there’s some rule about not wearing stripes, checks or loud patterns in front of TV cameras? Anyway, in the end I went for plain navy blue.

When the camera crew arrived, the ‘crew’ turned out to be a single cameraman (who’d arrived by motorbike) and that was it. I’d been expecting a reporter as well and possibly a sound man. But the cameraman did have one of those big furry microphones.  So, Lina, the Disney PR lady, became the interviewer and stood just out of camera shot whilst she asked questions of Judith and myself. It’s very hard to talk naturally or sensibly when a camera is pointed towards you but you’ve been told not to look at it and when there’s that microphone, which looks like a cute animal, being held out to catch every word. Judith and I did our best. Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate

The two photographers had their turn with us next and spent ages posing Judith and I alongside various Disney cuddly toys in the shape of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of their friends from Hundred Acre Wood. They took pictures of us with the Mayor and some children (parents had to sign permission forms) and a giant story book.

After all this, I finally read my story to a group of children who were shopping in the store.

I went home clutching a goody bag of soft toys and a fistful of Disney Store vouchers.  I felt quite a celebrity and couldn’t wait to watch my recording of Central News.
But my TV appearance was short, very short. Either my fears that I was spouting rubbish during the interview were true or everything else going on in the Central TV area that day was much more interesting! They showed a shot of Judith presenting my certificate and then a close up of the certificate and that was it. Neither of us was shown speaking – which in my case was probably just as well …

As for the press, there’s been nothing in the local paper yet despite the length of time the photographer spent with us.

BUT I have been sent some of the pictures taken by the PR company’s photographer AND I have got the platform of this blog to display them. So forgive me for indulging in a little celebrity showing off!

Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate

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