Warwickshire’s Young Poet Laureate

Congratulations, Ruby Murphy! Pour quoi, I hear you ask. Well, Ruby is Warwickshire’s new Young Poet Laureate, crowned last Saturday at Rugby Library.  Competition was stiff, all candidates putting up a poetic fight – immensely talented, all of them.

            With seven minutes to spare and having successfully navigated the Asda car park and the angry man with a small dog and two large children in the back of his Range Rover who wanted to get in front of me at all costs, fed the ticket machine with a collection of still-shiny and under-used five pence pieces, I then hoofed up the exit steps dodging the ripped open and discarded multi-pack of Maltesers – some of which had died on the steps beneath heavy and determined feet – past the young rapper rapping extremely loudly about God and his virtues with a full on loudspeaker that you could probably hear in space, I then legged it three steps at a time into the library entrance where I was eventually guided, slightly breathless and a little dizzy,  by two library assistants to the last remaining seat, to hear the opening speech for this year’s Warwickshire Young Poet Laureate crown.

Rugby Library.jpgThe event was hosted by Former Worcestershire Poet Laureate Fergus McGonigal and punctuated by a small child emitting intermittent screams and bawls at just the right moment as to cause smiles all round. A writer in the making, I mused, trying to get through the pain of the creative process. We’ve all be there, right?

            To my left was a lady who sat through the whole proceedings talking quietly to herself, and often disagreeing with herself, and to my right, as it turned out, a poet, writer, musician and generally talented guy, Mike Took. Mike runs open mic nights for poets in Banbury, Leamington and elsewhere, and hosts a Saturday morning radio show. The place was awash with creativity of one sort or another.

            So why was I at this event I hear you asking. Of course of you are. Well, one of this year’s decisions was to accept as many – as is feasibly possible – offers to go out and about, to meet and greet and catch the vibe. And so that’s what I did.

            Once again, congrats to the organisers, the competitors, the library staff. Excellent.

Eyeing-Up The #Competition

And here we go again! Another year of ideas, of writing, editing, networking. From October last year I began entering all sorts of competitions; short story, flash, meet the agent, pitch your novel, win a basket of kittens etc etc.  In the week before Christmas I received a rejection a day, Monday through to Friday. A No Thanks. A Not Today. A what-some-like-to-call Rejection of my work every single day for a week. Fine. Have it your way I thought. But after a quick sulk and an hour on Twitter looking at large cats squashing themselves into small boxes and dogs pretending they hadn’t been caught emptying the kitchen bin I decided that my work hadn’t be rejected, but declined. That made me feel better. And it’s true isn’t it – one competition judge’s decline is another’s accept, so that’s what I’m going into the New Year with – positivity.
There are lots of competitions out there at the moment. Big ones, little ones, short ones, long ones, international and closer to home ones. So let’s get going! Tinsel and tat long gone, let’s get on with the business of boosting your writing and confidence by entering some. Here are my top tips:

1 – and I never thought I’d ever say this – get yourself a spreadsheet and list what you’ve sent, where you’ve sent it, when the results day is and what the process will be – ie winner notification, shortlisters posted on the competition website etc etc. Dull as it may sound, having a spreadsheet will help. Trust me. Seeing how many comps you’ve entered keeps you on track

2 Go for ones with good prizes, not just ‘and you’ll get published on our website’, good as they may be. Go for something really worth writing for, like a decent cash prize, a presentation (ie a chance to network) and possibly publication

3 Try to enter two or three a week

4 It can get expensive so look for some free to enter comps

5 Share the opportunities with others – FB, Twitter, in person. What goes around comes around my friend.

Here’s six of the juiciest I’ve found this week: (but there are loads and loads out there!)

1 The Chipping Norton Festival ChipLit Short Story Comp 2020 – closes 8thFeb

2 Retreat West – The Retreat West Novelette-in-Flash Prize 2020. Word count for this competition is 8000 words. The narrative arc should be made up of standalone flash fiction chapters of up to 500 words each. Deadline May 31st, £10 entry fee https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/novelette-in-flash-prize/

3 The Fiction Desk – Ghost Story (always a favourite) £3 entry fee, deadline 31 January 2020. Theme: Ghosts Across Borders

4 Bath Flash Fiction Award Maximum length is 300 words excluding title https://bathflashfictionaward.com/ ClosesMidnight February 16th 2020

5 The 2020 Bristol Short Story Prize in association with Tangent Books, is open for entries from writers all around the world

6 And if you’re looking to stretch your writerly muscles, why not write for someone else? That no-nonsense gang of writers down west, Writers HQ, are looking for people to write their blog occasionally. Nothing ventured, nothing gained…

watercolour morning

Reposting this observational blog here to tie-up with this short fantasy horror competition; 1500-200 words https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/competitions/current-competitions
Thanks for the inspiration, DCtN!

don't confuse the narrator

The idea of paintings and pictures as windows and doors into other worlds is fairly common in literature.

From MR James’ The Mezzotint to Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, pictures reveal secrets that are hidden from the real world; from Princess Rosamund in George MacDonald’s The Lost Princess to Edmund and Lucy Pevensie and their cousin Eustace Scrubb in CS Lewis’ The Dawn Treader, children step – or tumble – through into other worlds and places.

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Three Men on the Edge – Review

One of the great things about being a writer is the all the other stuff you get to read. The short story market is thriving, flash is flourishing, new novels booming and writers’ groups are growing. Love it! And I get to read loads of all the lovely words out there.

Three-Men-on-the-Edge-Book.jpgSo without further ado, let me redirect to you my review of the superb Three Men On The Edge by Michael Loveday.  Written in flash style with some paragraphs a matter of only three or four lines, this is a careful study of male depression in microcosm.  It is moving, tender and touching. There are moments where the light slips in, lifting the mood, but the undercurrent remains and you really feel for these three men.  I mean, really feel for them. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this flash novel. It’s excellent. Here is the review.

If you have a book, a short story or flash fiction you’d like me to review on this website, please get in touch either here or on Twitter.

Words That Go Bump In The Night

As we creep a little closer to Hallowe’en come and enjoy an evening of spookiness courtesy of Words That Go Bump in the Night – a live lit event at the Warwick Arms Hotel, Jury Street, Warwick, on Thursday 10th of October.
Words That Go Bump In The Night.jpgBe part of our invited audience and enjoy exceptional 5 minute stories, poems and plays all with a ghostly, other-wordly theme. Run by author Jenny Heap, her Words Of events have been playing both Spring and Autumn seasons to ever growing audiences and participants. If you’ve never attended a Words Of live lit event before come along to Words That Go Bump In The Night on the 10th of October to hear some great story telling from local authors.
7.30pm and £3 on the door.

Tickle Lane, Potato Street and more…

Well dear reader, if last week’s Hen and Chicken Court wasn’t exciting enough, as soon as that little ol’ blog hit the ether I received this picture of the sign for Old Pigeon Pie Court.
Pigeon Pie.JPGAs any historian would tell you most places are named after something or someone pertinent to the area, so we can only surmise that once upon a time a pie maker or baker of some sort worked from this court. Such names are great pointers in time, don’t you think? Although some English villages may take their name from previous Saxon or Roman inhabitants many of our street, land and alley names deffo come from what went on down them. If you’re looking for a vicar for example, just head off to Church Lane. Worried about buying a house on River Street? There’s a reason it’s called River Street. These days it’s the Councils who name our streets and in the case of new developments, the developer themselves have an input. How Dull. Dull. Dull. Dull. I once lived in a house where the tiny slip of road at the front was called Pounda. Pounda, it was said, was the sound the cattle made as they pounded through the village from field to farm at milking time. Might all be claptrap of course, but it works. We have Horse Fairs, Bullrings, Market Squares, Milk Lanes and Bakers Rows littered across the land.  Lifted from this great site, Family Search, I found this fabulous bit of history
In Winchester, a 909 charter mentions three street names that are no longer in use: 
Þa cëap stræt (‘market street’)
flæscmangererestræt (‘street of the butchers’)
scyldwyrtenastræt (‘street of the shield-makers’)

Shield Makers!! How cool is that to the modern eye! The road outside my current house is sufficient for purpose but with a rather boring name, well, boring for modern users. It is named after the village it leads to, so directional and geographical – great when your main mode of transport was no more than a mule and determination. It does imply knowledge though – it implies that you know where the village you’re heading to is –

‘You wanting Farmer Odd Stockings?’
‘Just take the Grassland Road then. You’ll find ‘im in ‘is barn.’
‘Many thanks.’
‘Mind ‘ow you go. Tis a rough road. Your mule might not take kindly to it.’
‘Tis a tough mule. Walk on, Rambo.’

These days road names can seem irrelevant if you’re a sat nav user – as I am – but I do still have my road names option turned on, as there is no sat nav option for ‘Turn Left By The Dodgy Looking Bus Stop’ or ‘Over there idiot! By the pond that you can’t actually see from here.’ So a useful option I’m sure you’d agree.

Recent new road names in the UK have been commemorating soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in the First World War, those who were awarded the Victoria Cross for example, and what a very good decision for the Councils and developers to have made. What would you re-name your road if you could? ‘I Hope That Prat Who Screams Through at 5.30 Every Morning doing Ninety Miles an Hour Gets A Puncture Street’ is a bit long for a road sign, but I live in hope.