Saturday, 31 December 2016

Food for thought

For this competition you're invited to submit a piece of specualative fiction* which explores one or more philosophical ideas.

You have 1,000 to 7,500 words and until the 1st February to do that. So far I'm in, but then it gets tricky. They also want a 'Food for Thought' section, explaining the philosophical ideas behind the story. Helpfully there are a couple of examples to refer to.

There's a prize of $500, publication in Sci Phi Journal, and although they don't mention this, I imagine there will also be buckets of kudos.

*"this includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternative history, or magical realism".

Fancy a cheese straw to help give you the strength to tackle this one?

Friday, 30 December 2016

Small but perfectly formed

Thanks to Beatrice Charles for telling me about this flash fiction competition. Anyone over 16 may enter, the requirement is for between 180 and 360 words and the top prize is £100.

My reflex, whenever I see '360' is to think of the panoramic photos my husband takes - like this one of Harlech Castle (wiggle it to get the full effect).

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A legend?

There's no requirement to be either legendary or a woman to enter this free short competition from Legendary Women. The first prize is $100.

One of my plans for 2017 is to enter more competitions, so I'll probably give thisone a try.

This castle has been the home of more than one legendary woman - can you name any of them?

Wednesday, 28 December 2016


A tribulation is a great affliction or oppression, or the cause of that. The occupants of many abbeys suffered tribulations during the reformation ordered by Henry VIII.

It's a good thing I looked it up before using it anywhere as I'd always imagined it meant a minor source of annoyance. Perhaps I was associating it with trivial?

Did you know what the word meant?

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Happy Christmas, and a joyful anything else you care to celebrate around this time of year, to all my blog readers.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Twelth Planet

If you're a sci-fi fan, you might find this request for letter to Olivia Estelle Butler, of interest. This is a paying publication opportunity.

Have you read anything by this author?

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Big fat zero

Zeroflash run a monthly flash fiction competition. There's a different prompt each time and the best story will be illustrated and the author awarded £10.

Thanks to Alyson Faye for letting me know about this one and giving me a chance to post a picture of my zero shaped muse.

The Sphere has challenged me to a snowball fight. He said I can bring my friends as he'll be bringing his. Who's with me?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


To rootle is to dig with a snout, to poke about or search. Whilst you're doing it you're rootling and afterwards you'll have rootled.

Somewhere I have a photo of pigs rootling, but when I rootled through my hardrve I got distracted, so here are some steps instead. Do you know where they are? Have you climbed them?

What were you looking for last time you rootled – and did you find it?

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Guest post by Alex Gazzola

Today my guest is Alex Gazzola.

A writing competition offers motivation and potential opportunity for writers, both aspiring and established alike. A break from your ‘normal’ work. The discipline of writing to order, and to deadline.

If you don’t win, you’ll have only parted with a modest entry fee at most (although many don’t charge), and you’ll still be able to use the material you created elsewhere.

At least – you would hope to be able to use the material elsewhere …

Depressingly, it’s not always the case these days. Increasingly, competition organisers are introducing what I term ‘rights grabby’ terms and conditions, specifying that entrants assign copyright in entries as a condition of participation. Not just winning entries, you understand – which is questionable enough – but usually non-winning too. I have even seen one specifying all rights (which is effectively copyright) in work which did not meet the entry criteria – in other words, disqualified entries.

If you’re as appalled about all this as I am, you can fight back.

First, read terms and conditions – and don’t enter any which make unreasonable demands.

Sometimes a grab is straightforwardly put, as in this Vogue Contest, which says plainly: “Copyright of entries belongs to the Condé Nast Publications Ltd [Vogue’s publisher]”

Sometimes it’s more wordy. A recent Irish Times travel writing competition specified that “The entrant assigns intellectual property rights in his or her submission to the promoter and waives all moral rights” – just one among many grim demands.

Occasionally, no mention of copyright is made, or else there’s an ostentatious declaration that you retain it … and then you’ll spot a sneakier clause reserving all manner of rights, which may allow the organiser to profit from your work, and possibly prevent you doing much with it in future.

For instance, this Rough Guides Travel Writing Competition says that “… each entrant grants to the Promoter a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to edit, publish, translate, modify, adapt, make available and distribute the entry throughout the world” – in other words, they can exploit your work for ever, anywhere, and pay you nothing. And if you object? “If you do not want to grant us these rights, please do not submit materials to us.” The charmers.

To fight back, politely challenge them – by email or via social media – and ask them to reconsider. It may not get you far, but you’ll have added another voice of dissent.
Warn your followers, friends and online colleagues. Report organisers to any relevant writers’ bodies. For instance, I grassed up the Irish Times to the British Guild of Travel Writers. I was ignored, but the more voices object, the more we’ll be noticed.

One group which doesn’t ignore me is the Artists’ Bill of Rights, a volunteer campaign group defending rights on behalf of creatives.

The AboR regularly dismantle unacceptable terms (usually in photography competitions, often riddled with obnoxious clauses). You can learn a lot from their demolition of the Irish Times travel writing competition’s T&Cs here, for example. Their website outlines the many ways you can support them – but at least give them a follow on Twitter (@ArtistsRights) or like on Facebook.

What else? Publicise, champion and enter those competitions which request only fair usage of winning work – and whose organisers split any secondary revenues with the writer.

Finally: explain the value of copyright to new writers who look to you for advice, and how it sustains the creative industries. We must defend it. It is not an option.

Alex Gazzola is a journalist and author specialising in food allergy and intolerance – and in writing advice. His ebook, 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make, is out now. A follow-up – imaginatively titled 50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make – is released early in 2017. His blog is at

Friday, 16 December 2016

Ongoing competitions

I thought some of you might appreciate a reminder of a few regular free to enter writing competitions.

This travel writing competition for The Telegraph is weekly and has a £200 prize. The best entry of the year wins £1000.

Daggerville Games have a monthly flash fiction competition with a $50 prize.

Writing Magazine has free entry subscriber only short fiction competition with £100 for the winner. There are also free entry poetry competitions throughout the year.

Writers' Forum also have a free competition each month, for subscribers only which offers £100. Theirs is for flash fiction.

The quarterly L. Ron. Hubbard competition for science fiction writing has a $1,000 top prize and an additional annual prize of $5,000.

The Reader's Digest annual 100 word story competition has a £2,000 top prize.

W&AYB has an annual short story competition with the prize of an Arvon course (worth £1,000) as the prize.

The list is getting long and it feels appropriate to continue it in another post, so I shall.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


A launch is a type of motor boat e.g. a pilot launch.

To launch, is to hurl forward, set in motion or make a start. Traditionally when a ship was launched, it would be sent speeding down a ramp into the water. Nowadays they're more usually floated out, a safer and more sedate process, which is still referred to as launching the vessel.

In the case of a book launch, the word means to introduce a new product. My latest book was launched just two weeks ago.

Have you launched anything lately, or perhaps you're planning on launching in the near future?

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

I'm ready!

It's Solent Writers' Circle Christmas party tonight and for once I'm properly prepared. Every year the winner of our annual humour competition is announced and the entries read out. We each bring something nice to eat - which includes home made shortbread from our chairperson.

Everyone brings a book or two. These are usually ones we've previously read and enjoyed ourselves. They're wrapped in recycled paper and heaped up for us to help ourselves.

I've bought the junk food, wrapped the books, written the cards, cadged a lift and checked I have the right day!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Get dramatic

Thanks to Lynne Pardoe for alerting me about this opportunity to submit an unsolicited script to the BBC

They're looking for '1 drama script of at least 30 minutes / pages in length for TV, Film, Radio, Stage or Online.'

Would you like to see/hear your work performed on the BBC?

Sunday, 11 December 2016

A bonny wee freebie - or two

Rosemary Gemmell's short story collection Beneath the Treetops is available to download for FREE today. (US link)

Rosemary lives in Scotland and writes lovely books set there. She informs me (via her newsletter were you can enter a competition ti win your own mini beastie, plus a copy of her latest book) that the correct way to pronounce the name of the creature featured is 'hielen coo'.

I was saying it wrong the whole time I was there – I'm going to have to go back and put that right, aren't I?

Saturday, 10 December 2016

'nother nifty fifty

There seem to be a lot of 50 word competitions about at the moment. Thanks to Alyson Rhodes for telling me about this one. The best stories submitted each month will be published on the site and the best of those wins $10 Canadian.

I'm jolly pleased with my photo choice for this post! What do you think – too cryptic? Flippin' obvious?

(You did work out yesterday's didn't you?)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Free copy - From Story Idea to Reader

There's a Goodreads giveaway running for From Story Idea to Reader. (UK only). If, whilst you're on the site you could mark the book as 'want to read' that would help us a little with visibility.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Making plans

"In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?" That's this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question.

I'm going to answer by going back in time to when I first learned I might be offered a redundancy package from my last job. At the time I thought very carefully about the future and decided I wanted to write full-time. 

I felt that with more writing time I probably could sell more stories to magazines, but knew that alone wouldn't be enough. I'd need to sell articles and books too. Again I was confident about the writing part, but less sure I'd find buyers. I took the risk.

Back then I'd had one novel and around 200 stories published, plus won a few competitions, in the ten years I'd been writing. That was four years ago. 

Now my story sales are more than double that, I've sold numerous articles on writing, won or been placed in competitions and published three more novels, four story collections and co-authored a book on writing. I am a full-time writer.

Mostly I'm telling you all this to brag and hopefully convince you to buy the book. But partly it's to prove that if we know what we hope to achieve, work out how we might get there and then work hard to make it a reality, there is the possibility of success.

Back to the original question - "In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?"

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

To a friend

The Keats-Shelley Prize offers a share of £4,000 for the winning poems on the theme of 'to a Friend'.

I was tempted to illustrate this post with photos of some of my writing friends, but I didn't want to leave anyone out. Instead, here I am raising a glass to all of you.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Writing for free?

Recently I've had a few queries on this subject and I know opinions vary. I've changed my own mind more than once. Please share you current feelings about any of the following –

Is it a good idea for newer writers to build up confidence and credits by submitting to non paying markets? And if so, at what point should they move on to paying markets?

Is giving away a free ebook (like this one) a sensible way to attract readers for your other books?

Are writers who work for free doing a diservice to those who hope to get paid?

Are you in favour of anthologies published to raise money for charities?

Do you think any non financial rewards for publication are worth having?

What about token payments? Are they fine as it's the principle which matters, or do you find them insulting?

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Easy to swallow

Unless you live outside the UK, Channel Islands or Ireland, I don't want to hear any excuses for not entering this competition from Reader's Digest.

You have until 20th February to write 100 words and the prize is £2,000.

You're allowed to enter more than once, but I'm not insisting you do.

ps If you're interested in how I came to co-author a book about writing, take a look at this interview.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The same difference

The W&AYB annual short story competition again offers an Arvon course as the prize. Unusually there's no theme this year.

Do you prefer competitions with or without a theme?

I like themes as they encourage me to write something new, rather than dust off something which has been hanging around gathering rejection slips.