Sunday, 31 July 2022

The high, high, highs!

Happy chappies....just how I feel!

Hello writers and readers. Don't you just love it when one of your dreams comes true? I'm still pinching myself after I received an email from Popshot advising me that my flash fiction had been chosen to appear in the 'Haunting' issue, due for publication next month. You could say there was much excitement! I cannot wait to see the illustration to my story. Popshot is a great magazine publishing poetry, flash and short stories. I've been a subscriber for a few years now and always enjoy the contrast of content. 

While I'm still reeling from that success, Seaborne Magazine has finally been published. There had been difficulties with printing, but it was worth the wait. It is a beautiful magazine. I have two poems in this issue and lovely art work alongside them. This is the first time a print version has been on offer. You can also purchase a digital version.

I have been slow this month to submit other work, and then had a mad time trying to catch up before I went away on holiday. I sent out three submissions before leaving and this morning I have sent another two, which means I have reached my goal of five submissions this month. It was touch and go there this time!

I completed the poetry course on Writing the Personal with Julia Webb and thoroughly enjoyed it. Feedback was, as usual, extremely helpful and positive. I am now trying to focus on what comes next. I've been toying with the idea of publishing a book of flash and short stories, while I have an idea for a follow-up novella for something as yet unpublished. Of course, that might all change, but at least the creative writing juices are gradually swimming around again.

Meanwhile, I have been reading The Ghost in the Garden by Jude Piesse. The author has gone in search of Charles Darwin's garden at The Mount in Shrewsbury where he grew up. The house is currently used by the Council as offices, but the lease was due to expire last year and all sorts of speculation was running rife about what would happen next. I've just searched online and it looks as though it will be turned into a museum and cafe! Read about it here.

The book has made me want to return to Shrewsbury, a place I visited a few years ago. I walked in the footsteps of Darwin (a trail you can follow). Maybe I will wait until the house is ready!

Until then I am waiting for Popshot to drop through my door!

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Bookish and Writerly things


The pond on Wimbledon Common

I seem to be rebelling against myself. Last month after a struggle I submitted to six different places. This month so far I have sent out to one. Maybe it's because I'm a summer person and I want to be out there walking, sitting in the garden and reading, visiting places, but the urge to write has faded. My goal of submitting to at least five places a month may well fall this month. I read about deadlines coming up, yet I cannot drag myself into submission mode.

Last month I had a piece published on Visual Verse. I'm still waiting for Seaborne magazine to be published so I can see my two poems in it. There has been a cover reveal on Twitter, and it looks brilliant. Surely, publication must be any day now!

I met my writing buddy last week and it took us both a while to get our writer's heads on. It was a slow start. We do free writing, using a random word as a prompt and then set a time limit. We laugh so much I'm surprised we haven't been asked to leave the cafe!

I am two weeks in to a four week poetry course with Julia Webb on Writing the Personal. Now this I am enjoying. I've been delving into my past, growing up, relationships, other roads I didn't travel, and writing a lot. This is the only writing I'm doing right now.

The call of summer is stronger than my call to write at present. I am walking, lazing in the garden reading and heading out to visit places. I've also attended three author events at Wimbledon Bookfest. The first one was all about William and Jane Morris, though really about where Jane sat in this relationship, and her contribution, which gets less coverage. Normally, it's all about her affair with Rossetti! Very interesting talk, and of course I bought the book. The second event was author and journalist Tim Marshall who writes political/current affairs. I never used to be political. I think these things only started to matter when I had my children and with the current state of the country and the world, as well as my passion for environmental issues stemming back to childhood, I feel I have a lot to say these days! Tim's talk was excellent. I have read one of his books, and I have mentally added two more to my book list.

I've heard it said that authors shouldn't air their views on political matters online. What views do you have on that? I'm afraid I have become more verbal. These are things I am passionate about and everything you experience in life seeps into your writing. It's a bit like people who say you shouldn't mix politics and religion. Really? I think the church make some very good points/arguments about what is going on today, and wasn't Jesus political?

My final event at Bookfest was a workshop and walk on Wimbledon Common with author Leif Bersweden. As we headed off into the woods I had a moment when I thought about the book We're Going on A Bear Hunt, only we were going to hunt for wildflowers. Leif made the whole thing very accessible to someone like me who can't tell a weed from a flower, and anyway isn't a weed just a flower in the wrong place for most gardeners. I have buttercups and dandelions in my grass and I love them! This was a brilliant walk. I even wrote down the names of the plants we found. The one I loved was the Pineapple Weed. If you squeeze the flower buds they really do smell of pineapple. Leif told us little stories about the plants he found for us and made the whole thing come alive. Afterwards we all received a copy of his book which he signed individually for us. I'd love to follow this up as I've never been good at identifying plants, but it certainly makes walks even more interesting when you can 'name that plant'.

So, while I'm not writing much, and submitting has fallen by the wayside, I have been involved in bookish and writerly things in other ways.

Three of books I bought at Wimbledon Bookfest
At present I'm reading about John Ruskin, a book by the same author as the nbook on the Morris's

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

What have I been doing?

Blooming May by the River Thames

Sometimes I really have to think about what I have spent the last few weeks doing. A friend said to me recently that I have such wide interests. That is true, and can mean that my concentration wavers. Trying to fit in all my passions can end up with me not giving enough attention to one thing. In the past I definitely used to get waylaid by any new obsession. Those things that held my attention enough I would eventually come back to. Those things are music, reading and writing. I was also good at starting things and not finishing them. I have tried hard over the years to change this, and to a great extent I have achieved this. But I do have a 'waiting list' of things I want to do, but as yet cannot give enough time to.

One of my more recent obsessions was online courses. I would sign up for free courses on FutureLearn or OpenLearn and realise I had too many on the go at once. When it comes to writing, I have amassed rather a lot of work that needs editing. I try not to have two things on the go at once (I don't count poetry as that is a nice side distraction when I get stuck with other writing, or I just have the need to write it). I find it hard to switch between editing one document whist writing another. Too many characters and storylines to contend with. Do others have this problem?

Recently, I have been reading feedback on a novella I have written. It is out for more feedback now as an issue arose and I need to know it that's one opinion or me! I need more beta readers, that's for sure, and that should be my next priority.

Having started off well with my submitting earlier in the year, I can feel myself flagging. I have reached my goal each month, but I have to push myself. I do think having the right frame of mind helps and I seem to be having a lull in enthusiasm right now. Instead, I have been on a reading frenzy, and getting round to finishing those half read books that have been lingering on my coffee table. These are non-fiction. Last year I began reading a book on Victorian England and abandoned it for fiction. I got back into it a few weeks ago and have really enjoyed it. I bought it for reference purposes really as I have written something set in the Victorian age (it needs editing, of course!) and this book has been helpful. Another book came my way about musical history, and having read that, it sent me back to another book I abandoned on Early Music. Several years ago, I attended a course at Morley College on Early Music,  but the course was cancelled after only two lessons.There were only three of us in class. I was pretty cheesed off (for once it was not me giving up!). I particularly loved learning about how music began and the simple way of writing music. One of my great regrets is that I cannot seem to learn to read music (I have tried several times).

I have finally heard from The People's Friend that they are taking a poem of mine for their Fireside Book 2023. I'd given up on this as I was told I'd hear by March. I think this poem has been with them now for a year. Still, Visual Verse published another of my poems last month. There are 18 pieces of my work on their website, but I know there are more. One year I was published by them every month. I still enjoy the challenge of writing to a picture prompt within the hour.

My writing has taken on a darker and more weird (surrealist?) flavour in recent weeks. I've been writing a lot of flash fiction in this style. The more I write flash fiction, the more I enjoy it. It's a bit like knitting on large needles, you have a finished item quickly!

So, what keeps you motivated to write and what takes you away from it? Here is my lineup. 

Distractions/not want to write:

  • Mood
  • Sunshine (I don't want to be indoors when the weather is good)
  • Trips out (for content for my travel blog!)
  • Rejections
  • Other interests

What motivates me:

  • Mood
  • Ideas
  • Acceptances
  • Writing buddies
  • Certain friends
  • Workshops/courses
  • Trips out
As you can see a couple of things appear in both lists. What never bothers me is writer's block or lack of ideas. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by how much writing I have and how little of it has been published, and how little of it I've just not got round to editing! I love the writing process, but it takes time to edit. What do you struggle with?

To end with, here is a little challenge (no prizes, sorry!). Write a piece of flash fiction or a poem using all the following words (the order doesn't matter, unless you want to make it harder!):


Good luck! If you want to post your efforts into comments, do, but please be aware that anything published here would not be eligible for submission to magazines or competitions as they would consider it already published.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Feedback and some good news

 Good morning writers and readers! I received the feedback on my novella (Christmas theme) recently. I decided to leave it for a while, though there was the temptation to open the file. My current  novella was nearing completion, and I didn't want an added distraction. So, I ploughed on with my writing. One day I worked on it off and on throughout the day to get it completed. The piece runs to just under 50,000 words, the longest novella I have written so far.

Having saved and filed my document away to stew, I opened the feedback document. This particular lady and I use Tracker in Word. Somehow I must have clicked something I've not used in the past and I couldn't get it to do what I wanted. Frustration kicked in, and I was making mistakes and deleting things I didn't mean to. Tracker has all sorts of things you can keep tabs on, but I just wanted to make the changes, not keep what went before. I really need to learn how to use it properly. I'm sure there is a YouTube video I can watch. You can find anything on YouTube.

Eventually, I got it to work, though I still don't know what I did to right it! All the amendments have now been made. These are the silly things like typos, grammar, punctuation and sentences that don't sound right. All my usual things, like changing names of people and change of tense came up (though I picked up one that was missed). It's advised to do most of these things in the final run through, but I prefer to have a lot of these ironed out first and to get an overall feedback. There is still a bit of work to do. Mainly, this is description. I charge quickly into my stories and when I leave things out, it's usually description. So the next thing will be to go through it again and fill out the detail. But I'm going to leave it for a week or two now and go back to it fresh.

I have two poems due out in Seaborne magazine next month. They only publish poetry and stories about the sea, and it thrilled me to learn they are taking both my poems. I'll post a link when I know the day of publication.

Now the sun is calling me. Time to stop writing and get into the garden with a book.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

April showers


April showers

I cannot imagine a life in which I'm not writing. Even if I never got another thing published, I'd still write. If I had to say why, it's a hard one, but I love telling stories and love sharing them. Even in those years I barely wrote - when I married and bringing up children - I wrote letters. I started writing letters to penfriends when I was about fourteen, and I've never stopped. Some have come and gone, and one I still write to at Christmas and have known since I was eighteen. Some penfriends I have met. Sometimes that can be daunting because you never know when you meet if you will click as you do in letters, but one of them I really did click with and we still write. We began writing when my youngest was around six, maybe younger. We tell each other things we probably don't discuss with anyone else.

In today's society where few people still write letters, it is lovely when a letter from one of my penfriends drops through the letterbox. And I could tell you some stories of past dalliances with male penfriends in the past! My poor mother! There is certainly material there for a story or two, or a poem.

My writing is like April showers. There are periods of intense writing and then I go off and do something else. There are longer periods when I write, but when the sun comes out I want to be outside in my garden or walking.

My latest WIP became all consuming recently. Maybe that is good, but my head was filled with scenes. I was even dreaming about it. This can be offputting when my head is in my work and not on what is going on around me. One of these days I know I'm going to miss my bus/train stop. It once happened when I was reading! But I try to be present when I'm with friends, though I did once have to apologise to a friend when I wasn't on the ball. I'd taken my characters with me, and while I know my way around on the tube well, I had a blank moment about where we were going and which route!

I sometimes think my characters are leading the lives I can't. As a writer you can be who you want to be. My characters are my friends. I know how they think. Sometimes I even fall for one! 

So, in the last few weeks I have been plugging away at my latest WIP. The end is in sight. It's just about how I wrap it up. I'm almost at 40,000 words. Apart from that, I've been slow to submit this month, with only two so far. My friend, who is reading the novella I sent her, has now proofread it and will be adding her comments. I'm expecting that back soon now. She's not said very much so far. Is that good or bad?

A friend of mine asked me the other day if she could come with on one of my days out. When not writing, I love taking myself off to places. Anyway, she said 'we could sit and write or paint.' I couldn't bring myself to disappoint her and say I rarely write when I'm out, or in fact on holiday. This is another part of my life and I write about it, but for a different blog. I walk miles and take an exorbitant amount of photos. I'm not quite sure this is what she had in mind. I'm sure we can work it out, though.

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Slow down March

 After a frantic February, March has been the opposite so far. But of course that kind of activity with  four pieces published doesn't last. But it isn't all about acceptances. My output is still the same. Somehow I am keeping to my goal, though I do admit it seems to get harder each month. 

Since I began using my planner at the start of the year, I have realised two things (a) I put pressure on myself (b) using the book motivates me. There are lots in the planner that I don't use. There are places to enter rewards for getting things done. I don't use these. Rewards are for the tough stuff in my life, and when that happened recently, it had nothing to do with writing! I have always mentally set up rewards for things I know are going to be difficult to get through, anyway. Colour coding different areas of my life seemed like fun in the beginning, but I soon got bored with it. However, there are pages at the end of each month with questions about how the month has gone. I do find those useful. The planner also helps me keep on track of goals set and nudges me into keeping things going.

Finding outlets for work can be time consuming. In my last post I mentioned two sources for finding publications accepting work, and for up and coming competitions. Another source I have found useful is Twitter. At least two publications I have submitted to this month have come from Twitter. The thing is, so many publications close down, other submissions windows aren't open. Often I find their 'wants' obscure, or the genre doesn't fit mine. By the time I have eliminated all the publications that I don't 'fit' (and that can also include age, culture and sexual orientation) all those magazines I'd highlighted are whittled down to just two or three at best. Which is why I find Twitter so good. Often I find magazines I have not seen on any list. You really have to do your work.

My current work in progress is going slowly. With this one there is a certain amount of planning,  but each scene needs thought. My way of working this one is to visualise each scene in my head first. Notes are then made before writing. Because I don't want revels to come too quickly, I need to work out when and how things are revealed. I am sure lots of writers know when they start a piece what length it is going to be. Me? No! I start writing with enthusiasm and see how much it has in it and whether it is just a short story or maybe, my favourite, a novella. In the past, I have changed a poem to a flash or short story and vice versa. A work will often shout out at you about what it wants to be. If unsure, just experiment with other forms.

At present I am laid low with a rotten cold. Reluctantly, I have had to cancel a couple of things, but I am able to write. My imagination is still functioning and I've banged out a few poems, and last night when I was in bed I played out the next scene of my WIP. Not the entire scene because I fell asleep, but enough to get me started. I always say that I know when I'm on the mend because I start to get bored and want to get out and about and do things. I'm not there yet, but at least I can write.

I have heard back from my beta reader. She is half way through the first read of my novella (she says the first read is always for the enjoyment). Her second read through will bring up points she doesn't understand, or don't work for her, as well any grammar and punctuation errors. She has only made one comment so far about one thing that 'sticks out'. Is that good or bad? I will have to wait and see.

One last thing I would mention is that the more submissions you have out there, the less likely you are to ponder over what you have sent. It stops that waiting around for replies with a sinking feeling! Just get on and submit, and if a 'no' comes, look at it again, make any changes that might improve the work and re-submit elsewhere. Good luck. Keep writing.

Monday, 28 February 2022

A busy February


Three of the five books I bought while I was away in Canterbury

February has been quite a month for me. My poem The Treatment was published by Writers' Forum in their Feburary issue, and I was excited to receive my cheque and Chambers Thesaurus. I then got a 'yes' from both Paragraph Planet and Visual Verse (flash and poem both published this month), and I also heard from Ink Sweat & Tears that they will be publishing a poem of mine next month.

I have just checked and seen that I have submitted to eight different places this month. I had some very good feedback from Pennine Platform. Although they didn't take any of my poems, their feedback was unexpected and the response fast, considering everything conducted through snail mail.

This month we've lived through three storms, and I was away in Canterbury during two of them! I had to change my arrangements and leave home a day earlier than planned to outrun Storm Eunice. The afternoon of the storm I spent in my hotel bed catching up on sleep! I took my laptop with me and wrote three poems and make notes for a piece of fiction. 

Early in the month, I attended Helen Cox's Poetry Hour, an online class. It was fast and furious, and I didn't get much written, but I did manage some notes for a poem I shall go back to.

Also this month, I accidentally deleted ProWritingAid. I never realised before how much I relied on it. The company were very helpful to me when I explained. In fact, Sarah (at the other end of my Inbox) and I became quite chatty towards the end. It took two days, several emails and even some photos to get it up and running again. I am so grateful for Sarah's help on this, and happy to have my 'helpmate' back.

Two resources that you might be interested in:

Neon Books Big Writing List of UK Writing Competitions An A-Z list. Very useful.

Robin Houghton's Poetry Magazines Spreadsheet. There is a sign up for this. There is also monthly email with a list of submission windows. Robin has also written a book about submitting. Everything here is worth checking out.

That's it for now. I wonder what March will bring? 

Canterbury Cathedral from the Cloisters