Posts Tagged Simon Whaley

The Museum of Brands

A few days ago I visited The Museum of Brands in London. The museum takes the visitor on a colourful stroll through the branding, advertising and consumerism of the last two hundred or so years. It’s a wonderful microcosm of British social history. Museum of Brands and Packaging

The visit left me with two thoughts. Firstly, it made me feel ancient. A large part of my childhood and the years beyond were in those glass cases. Surely I’m not old enough for my lifetime to become museum worthy! Who else out there remembers Spangles sweets, Jackie magazine, Philadelphia cheese wrapped in silver paper rather than in a plastic tub, Caramac bars (just discovered you can still buy those) and renting instead of buying a TV?

Secondly, it brought home to me how the long-lived brands had evolved over time in order to survive. Much of this evolution was done in baby steps – a change of font for the logo, moving from a metal to plastic packaging or updating the slogan. Companies like Sony have constantly innovated to ensure their products always offer the consumer something new and attractive. Unfortunately Kodak didn’t and was lost in the great tsunami of digital photography.

What has this got to with writing?

It’s a reminder that we should always be looking where we are going with our writing careers. For example the market for womag stories is rapidly shrinking meaning those of us who used to target women’s magazines with our short stories need to find new outlets or try a different form of writing. Attracting an agent for a novel is as difficult as ever – is it time to set a limit on the number of rejections and then start investigating other routes such as the growing number of new independent digital publishers like Hera who accept unagented submissions? Or maybe it’s time to try non-fiction or a different genre?

The important thing is to stay current with what’s going on in the writing world and be proactive to avoid being left behind. Be a Sony not a Kodak! Simon Whaley has been talking about a similar topic on his blog this week.

Incidentally, whilst going through my kitchen cupboards to take the photo accompanying this post, I discovered that most of my tins and packets were supermarket own brands. I wonder what that says for branding in the future?

, , , ,


Two New Books for Writers

By now the initial excitement of New Year’s resolutions will have passed and keeping up that writing habit may have become a bit of a slog again. But do not despair – as always, your fellow writers are here to help and re-enthuse you.the-business-of-writing-by-simon-whaley

Simon Whaley is on a mission to make us all become more businesslike about our writing. If we treat our writing seriously and as a source of income, then our family and friends will adopt that attitude too – essential if you want to turn that ‘nice little hobby’ into a publishing empire! Simon’s blog about The Business of Writing is full of useful tips and many of you will recognise Simon’s name from his regular (and wise) column in Writing Magazine. He’s gathered together many of those articles into a handy e-book, also called The Business of Writing. It covers things like tax, record keeping, legalities, pseudonyms and much more, plus there are lots of tips and advice from writers across the genres.

start-a-creative-writing-class-by-helen-yendallTeaching writing is one way that many authors top up their income but the thought of getting a class up and running can be daunting. Helen Yendall has years of experience as a writing tutor and she’s just published an e-book sharing the knowledge that she’s built up – Start a Creative Writing Class: How to set up, run and teach a successful class. The book focuses on the nuts and bolts of setting up a writing class for adults, covering everything from finding a venue and arranging insurance, to marketing the class and giving feedback. There’s also plenty of advice on dealing with students and ideas of what (and how) to teach. It contains 100 x 5 minute writing exercises plus icebreaker ideas to get the class warmed-up and ready to learn.


So let 2017 be the year you fulfill your ambitions and take your writing more seriously – with the help of Simon and Helen.

, , , , , ,


Two Competitions From Erewash Writers

Debbie from Erewash Writers has been in touch with information about their latest short story competitions:

The first one is FREE to enter. It has a theme of ‘Summer Loving’  and there is a maximum of 1,200 words in which to tell the story. The closing date is 27th August 2015 and the judge is Andrew Campbell-Kearsey, author of more than 100 published short stories. The winner will receive Andrew’s book ‘Centurionman‘, one free entry to the Erewash Open Short Story Competition 2016 plus online publication of the story on their website and Facebook page. Full competition details can be found here.

The second competition is the Erewash Open Short Story Competition, closing September 24th 2015. Entry fees are a reasonable £3 per entry or £2.50 if entering two or more stories. The competition has an open theme and 2,000 words limit.  The judge is Simon Whaley. There are two categories to this competition: New Writer and Open.
Prizes are: £100 First, £50 Second, £25 Third, £25 Fourth plus two ‘Highly Commended’ each win 2016 comp free entry.
Full competition details can be found here.

So, no reason not to pick up your pen and get busy this weekend!

, , , , ,


5minutefiction First Birthday Competition & Book Launch!

5minutefiction has launched a short story competition to celebrate its first birthday.

Entries can be on any theme and any length between 100 and 1500 words. Closing date is June 1st 2012 and the entry fee is £2.

First prize is £100, second prize £50 and third prize £25. In addition, the winners will be published as part of an e-book short story anthology, along with up to 20 other additional entries. These stories will receive royalties from the sale of the book.

All entrants will also receive feedback.

Judging will be slightly out of the ordinary with 10 shortlisted stories being put to the public vote. Voters will be charged 10p to vote to help ensure only 1 vote per person.

Full competition details are here.

Also, I am pleased to announce that the e-anthology of selected stories from the last competition organised by 5minutefiction is now available. Time for Love contains 18 of the best entries from the Valentine short story competition – including mine (this could be the nearest I ever get to a book launch so I have to make the most of it)!  Someone else you might have heard of, Simon Whaley, also has a story in there. Time For Love Book Cover

Time for Love is available to purchase from Amazon here. At only £1.54 it’s cheaper than the Kindle version of Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special – and might just help you win this competition!

If you don’t have a Kindle, download free software here to allow you to read Kindle books on your laptop.

, ,


Cloud Backup or External Hard Drive?

Over the last couple of weeks the computer gremlins have invaded our household, throwing up the ‘blue screen of death

Clouds over Tahoe HDR #1

Image by Bill Strong via Flickr

on the desktop PC and various funnies/frozen screens on my daughters’ laptops. This made me nervous and I decided we needed to have a proper back up copy of everything. I’ve mentioned the importance of regular backups before on this blog (see here) but I’ve still been bumbling along with a memory stick for documents and the occasional backup of photos to CD when we remember to do it.

So off we went to buy an external hard drive. But the nice man in the shop talked us out of it and into buying a Cloud back up instead.  This would mean we could access our data from any PC, it would be equivalent to an ‘off-site’ backup and my elder daughter wouldn’t have to cart yet another bit of kit off to university with her. It seemed a great idea so we bought it and set it to save everything that was on my elder daughter’s laptop – music, photos, university work etc.

It took hours and hours and hours and sent us way over our internet usage allowance (I suppose if I’d thought about it I would have realised this would be the case). Then we had trouble trying to determine whether the scheduled hourly scan & save for changed documents was actually happening. I tried phoning the Cloud support line but a machine told me all queries must be logged via the website.

We concluded the Cloud was a bad idea and went back to the original, external drive idea for the other PCs. It was so much easier! A few ‘copy and pastes’ and everything was saved and we could easily see it was there.

I’ve previously used the limited free cloud storage provided by Dropbox (and recommended by Simon Whaley) for some of my documents and will carry on using it. But it seems to me that if you have large amounts of pictures or music then an external hard drive is the better choice (especially since they don’t tend to change very often and it’s easy to remember to back them up each time you download a new bunch of photos or an album).

Does anyone else have experience of Cloud backup – am I the only one that struggled with it?


, , , ,


48 Minutes to a Magazine Article

This post is being brought to you in association with Sally Quilford’s 48th Birthday Celebrations on August 11th 2011.

Many of us whinge that we don’t have enough time to write. Home and work commitments are always getting in the way -I use this as an excuse for my lack of writing as much as anyone. So, here is a 7 day plan that involves writing for just 48 minutes per day and by the end of it you should have a short article all ready to go.

  • Day 1 – visit a large newsagent and spend 48 minutes finding your market. Look for a magazine that covers something you know at least little about (i.e. write what you know so that the research isn’t too onerous). Check out the list of staff in the front of the magazine and compare to the ‘by’ lines on each article in order to check how much is written in-house and much is freelance provided. Buy the magazine you think you could write something for. (N.B. In a perfect world you would buy 2 or 3 issues of the magazine over a number of weeks/months in order to get a feel for which articles are regular columns and which are the one-off freelance features that we are aiming at) .
  • Day 2 – make yourself a cup of coffee and sit down with a large sheet of paper. Set a timer for 48 minutes and then brainstorm! Dream up as many article ideas as possible for your chosen publication. For example, if you’ve chosen a dog magazine then your list could include ‘How to Choose a Dog Walker’, ’10 Tips for Taking Your Dog on Holiday’  or ‘Famous People and their Dogs’.
  • Day 3 – choose which of the articles shows the most promise and spend 48 minutes writing an outline. Include an introduction (not too long – get straight to the point of the article), each point that you want to make and a conclusion.
  • Day 4 – pitch the idea, via email, to the editor of the magazine. If you want some help on how to put together the perfect pitch have a look at Simon Whaley’s article here
  • Day 5 – start writing the article. If you don’t want to stop after 48 minutes that’s fine – keep going whilst the enthusiasm is high! Hopefully by now you’ll have stopped looking for displacement activities like cleaning out the kitchen cupboards. 
  • Day 6 – finish writing the article. Then find someone to read it aloud to – this will help you spot clumsy sentences, missing words, bad grammar etc. (this bit can be in addition to the 48 minutes since it can involve the rest of the family and therefore isn’t strictly ‘writing time’).
  • Day 7 – spend the last 48 minutes having a final read through the article and then, submit !

For the purposes of simplicity I have assumed that the above activities will take place on 7 consecutive days. In reality there will probably be a gap between days 4 and 5 whilst you wait for a response to your pitch (fill this gap by starting work on a second idea). It might also be wise to leave a gap between days 6 and 7 so that you can re-read the article with fresh eyes before sending it off. 

That just leaves me to wish Sally a ‘Happy 48th Birthday’ and thank her for the challenge to write a blog post based on ’48’.

, , ,


The New Writer Magazine

The New Writer is a subscription only, quarterly writing magazine.  Each edition includes a mix of features, fiction andThe New Writer Magazine poetry along with regulars such as a Writers’ Circle Clinic by Simon Whaley.

The New Writer doesn’t have the glossy finish of Writing Magazine or Writers’ Forum nor does it have pages of adverts. I think the magazine has a cosy, friendly feel. The Spring 2011 edition included features on ‘First of a Million Kisses’ by romance writer Sally Quilford, ‘Travel Writing Perks’ by Roy Stevenson and ‘Make it Short & Snappy’ by me (!).

The magazine is open to unsolicited articles and features (for which it pays a small amount). Poetry is also accepted but fiction is restricted to guest writers, subscribers’ stories on a given theme and competition entrants. 

The New Writer runs an annual Prose and Poetry Competition with 5 categories:

  • Micro fiction – up to 500 words (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
  • Short stories – 500 to 5,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)
  • Single poems (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
  • A collection of 6 – 10 poems (£12 entry)
  • Essays, articles and interviews on any writing related subject – up to 2,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)

 The annual closing date is 30th November and the prizes are:

Micro Fiction: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.
Short Stories: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100. 
Single Poem: 1st prize £100, 2nd £75, 3rd £50
Poetry Collection: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Essay/article/interview: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.

If all this has whetted your appetite then you can obtain a free back issue by sending an A4 SAE to the address shown on the website here (scroll to the bottom of the page for the offer).

, , ,


Bits and Pieces

Hope you all had a good Easter and are dusting off your best frocks and morning suits for tomorrow’s royal nuptials. In the meantime here are a few bits from my world of writing over the last 10 days or so:

  • Those of you who subscribe to The New Writer will have seen Simon Whaley’s piece about receiving 12 rejections from the same magazine, on the same day – each in its own stamped addressed envelope. This made me feel a whole lot better about my own rejections – my personal record  being 4 stories turned down by My Weekly in the same email, which made me feel pretty bad at the time I can tell you. 
  • The results of the Readers Digest 100 word story competition are now out here. They are also showcasing several of the entries on a daily basis on their website – if yours has been selected please leave a comment with the link here so that we can all share your success!
  • I had a phone call from the David St. John Charitable Trust this week to tell me that I had won a competition that I entered in November 2009 !  It just goes to show that you should never give up hope.
  • If you’re feeling lucky there are 6 sets of 6 nature/outdoor books to be won in a Telegraph Prize Draw.
  • Finally, I have a story in the April 30th issue of The Weekly News (2 short story acceptances within a month is something of a record for me!) 

, ,