Posts Tagged Writing West Midlands

A Few Interesting Nuggets

I’ve had a day of writing events.

First up was a writers’ networking meeting organised by Writing West Midlands:
The chief executive, Jonathan Davidson, explained how the selection process for the writer development program Room 204 works – each year there are around 150 people for 15 places, but a worthwhile scheme for ’emerging writers’ if you can make the grade.
The Arts Council England is now open again for applications for Developing Your Creative Practice – grants from £2000 to £10000 are available, but be quick because they close on 5th November.
And a reminder about the free courses offered by Futurelearn and be edX.

Then it was off to Bristol Literature Festival and Build Your Social Media Presence with Tom Mason. He told us that social media posts that include images get 150% more engagement than those without. He recommended using Lumen5 to create mini promotional videos to use with social media and Canva for graphics.

Next up in Bristol was a panel discussion between Phoebe Morgan, editorial director at Harper Collins, literary agent Kate Hordern and book blogger, Anne Cater. Phoebe explained the importance of the hook – it is the selling point to an agent, on to a publisher and then on to supermarkets and book shops. It’s also essential that the book fits a recognised genre, otherwise even the best written book is likely to fall by the wayside. Kate Hodern echoed the importance of hook and genre and mentioned the usefulness of being able to draw comparisons between your book and others already out there. She added that younger agents are often more hungry to take on new writers than older, more established agents who already have a large stable of writers. Anne Cater gave an explanation about the blog tours that she runs for both mainstream publishers and indie authors. She and Phoebe both agreed that, hot on the heel’s of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club, cosy crime is likely to be the next big thing. There was a general consensus that psychological thrillers are still hugely popular but to be successful, they need to be better than the books being published five years ago and need to offer the reader something different to what has gone before.

Please take the above nuggets and use them as you see fit!

Finally, a couple of months ago I recommended Readly for accessing a multitude of magazines digitally. I now have a link offering you a two month trial subscription if you fancy trying it out: Readly 2 Month Trial. The link is valid until 31/10/2020.

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Storytelling for Writers

I’ve just attended a Storytelling for Writers workshop organised by Writing West Midlands and run by the excellent Maria Whatton.

Maria is a professional storyteller and excellent at drawing the audience into her imaginary world. She does this through the use of her voice, body language and, of course, her choice of words. Maria knows her imaginary world and the characters who inhabit it so well that the listener is soon a believer in that world too. And this was the point that Maria wanted to get across to us during the workshop:

It is essential to spend time thoroughly imagining the setting/world of your story AND the background/motivation of the characters who live in this world.

Map of the Green World

Maria got us practising this technique in a variety of ways. She began by telling us a captivating story from the Middle Ages about two green children from a green world who accidentally find themselves on Earth and the subsequent problems they have as outsiders who look different. We then:

  • Did some role play. One pretending to be the green girl and the others asking her questions about how she felt.
  • Did a piece of writing from the point of view of the green girl reflecting on becoming a mother on alien Earth.
  • Worked together to create a huge map of the green world and then wrote about the landscape.
  • Attempted to write a piece from the point of view of the cave which was the portal between Earth and the green world.

By the end of the day I felt fully immersed in the green world and the character of the green girl. The benefit of doing this for the novel I’m working on would be huge – so that’s my next challenge!

An unexpected bonus from the day was coming face to face with fellow writer and blogger Julia Thorley for the very first time. Julia and I have followed each other’s blogs for several years but never met before. So it was a strange sensation when we looked at each other across the workshop table, each thought the other looked familiar and as soon as we said our names, realisation dawned! It was lovely to get the chance to work together during the workshop – and have our photo taken to mark the occasion! Julia has also written about the day.

Sally Jenkins & Julia Thorley

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Twixmas Thoughts

We’ve just entered Twixmas – that funny sort of no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year. The big event, for which we’ve planned, prepared and worked, is over. The slightly lesser event is still a few days away. Many of us are still off work, surrounded by leftovers, chocolates and the Christmas TV Guide. It’s a good time to relax, ponder and mentally prepare for the year ahead.

Here are a few things to ponder, as you sit with your feet up and enjoy another mince pie:

Morgen Bailey’s Email Critique Group

Morgen writes the regular competitions feature in Writers’ Forum magazine. She is now organising a free email critique group for pieces of fiction of up to 3,000 words. It works on a mutual, writers helping writers, basis. For every submission you critique, you will get one piece of your own work critiqued. This sounds like a great way of getting feedback on your work and honing your own critique skills (which will help you edit your own work in the future).

Should E-Books be VAT Free?

Books and other printed matter have always been free of VAT because it is thought taxing these items is akin to taxing knowledge. However, digital publications are subject to VAT. This hits many disabled people, who find digital reading far easier than handling a paper book.
On 4th December 2018, an EU directive was passed allowing member states to bring VAT on digital publications in line with VAT on books i.e. 0% in the UK. Whether or not to follow this directive is down to the individual countries and, of course, after Brexit, the UK will be able to decide for itself. A campaign has been started to persuade the UK government to abolish VAT on digital publications. If you would like to get involved, sign the petition or read more about it, nip over to Axe the Reading Tax.

Regional Writer Development Agencies

Most regions have a body dedicated to promoting writing in their area. This is likely to be done predominantly through workshops, events and conferences. Many of these agencies also have mentoring schemes. Living in the Midlands, I’ve attended events organised by Writing West Midlands and Writing East Midlands. Both run mentoring schemes. A list of similar organisations is provided by the National Centre for Writing and Jamie Edgley Rhodes. Take a look and get some writing outings into your 2019 calendar!

Finally, if you’ve got a Christmas gift card from a certain online retailer burning a hole in your pocket, The Promise is currently only £5.75 in paperback.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and successful 2019! Hope it’s filled with lots of reading and writing.

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Literary Short Story Markets

On Saturday I went to the annual Writers’ Toolkit run by Writing West Midlands.

One of the sessions was ‘The World of Short Stories’. On the panel were Louise Palfreyman and Lisa Blower.

Louise and Lisa both write what I would describe as ‘literary’ short stories and they gave a long list of journals worth targeting. Among them was Popshot Magazine, which I mentioned in my last post plus a range of others including:

Ambit
Granta
Lighthouse
The Best British Short Stories (annual anthology)
Unthology
The Paris Review
Under the Radar
Short Story Sunday
Thresholds
Comma Press

Lisa and Louise also mentioned the benefits of entering competitions and, when asked about the mechanics of short story writing, gave this wonderful quote from Raymond Carver, “Get in. Get out. Don’t Linger”.

My writing veers more towards the commercial than literary but a virtual friend of mine, Tracy Fells, blogs with a more literary leaning – worth a look!

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Twitter for Writers

At the weekend I attended the annual Writers’ Toolkit in Birmingham, organised by Writing West Midlands. One of the sessions was Making the Internet Work for You with Sathnam Sanghera and Kate Feld.

Many interesting questions were asked about making social media work as a promotion tool for writers. The outcome of the session was that Twitter is an essential part of a writer’s toolkit.

It shouldn’t be used to post family & friends stuff – Facebook is the place for that – and it shouldn’t be used to continually shout ‘buy my books!’ I get the impression it’s purpose is to engage in sensible conversation and to follow those who may be tweeting useful information such as agents, publishers etc.

I think I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve yet to dip my toe into Twitter and perhaps I’ve dragged my feet so much that by the time I string together my first tweet, everyone else will have disappeared off to the next big social media thing.

So, I’m asking all you Tweeters to give me your advice:

  • What do you tweet about and how often? Is it OK to repeat yourself on Facebook and Twitter (as long as it’s not a cat video or other ‘silly’) or do you attract the same audience on both platforms?
  • How much time do you spend tweeting and/or reading other people’s tweets?
  • How do you get followers?
  • Is it expected that you will follow everyone who follows you? (I believe there is a ‘mute’ button if you want to switch people off).
  • Do you think Twitter is beneficial and if so, in what way?
  • Anything else I need to know?

Please feel free to put your Twitter handle in your comment too.

On a different subject and to show that writers come in a multitude of guises, at the Toolkit I came across someone who used to write labels for museum exhibits and someone else who used to write Ceefax pages for the BBC.

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