Wednesday, 28 February 2018


You've probably come across the word incorrigible, which means a person is unable to be changed, corrected or reformed. It makes perfect sense that corrigible means the opposite of this, but until I spotted it in the dictionary a few moments ago, I hadn't realised corrigible was an actual word.

I've changed since this photo was taken, so I must be corrigible – or at least, I was once!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Over the threshold

Thanks to Beatrice Charles for telling me about this free to enter, feature competition from Thresholds. There's £500 on offer for either the author profile of a short story writer*, or a personal reccomendation of either a collection of short stories or an individual story. You can submit up to three essays.

*I can think of at least one, who is jolly interesting...

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Purple Paisely

Today I have a guest post by Gail Aldwin (and not just because her book cover is purple!)

Hello Patsy,

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog to share my writing experiences. Paisley Shirt my collection of short fiction is now available on Amazon or it can be ordered from all good bookshops.

What is the process of putting a collection together?

I searched the range of short fiction I had written over time to find a thread that wove the stories together. I discovered resilience is a theme in my writing and this helped me to select the best pieces. Several of the stories have won or been placed in competitions I learnt about through Patsy’s blog. Others have been published online and print anthologies. This publication history helped to secure me the offer of a collection published by Chapeltown Books. (I notice Allison Faye was on Patsy’s blog recently – my collection is in the same series, hence the similar presentation.)

What are the highpoints and pitfalls of your writing journey?

You have to get your work out there in order to experience highpoints such as competition wins and publishing opportunities. Putting writing forward also means preparing for the pitfalls. Rejection is a professional hazard for a writer and as soon as I realised that success depends on the individual taste of an editor/judge, it helped me through the lows of writing stories that struggled to find a home. It’s even harder trying to place a novel that has been tirelessly worked on. Even when the writing is of publishable standard, the story won’t suit everyone.

Do you think of yourself as a writer?

I have always taken my writing seriously and see it as work rather than a hobby or distraction to fill time, but it has taken years to acknowledge that I am a writer. We have many roles in life from relationships with family members to paid and voluntary employment or educational studies. Although my role as a writer has been a priority, admitting this to others in social and professional contexts was something I avoided. It has always been much easier to say I am a student of creative writing or a tutor in creative writing. It was only upon acquiring representation by a literary agent that I began to tell people of my occupation as a writer. Representation did not last long as my agent took maternity leave and decided not to return to work but I still continue to consider myself a writer.

Can you describe your writing process? 

When I get an idea, I muse on it for a while, then I decide which style of writing the content is suited to. Fragments or moments lend themselves to poetry, short fiction needs a story arc, I usually work collaboratively to develop scripts and novels are a home-alone process. The first draft of anything is about getting the words on the page, then the fun begins: shaping, deepening, and layering through drafting and redrafting.

Why is your collection called Paisley Shirt?

The title comes for the opening story in the collection. It’s about Piotr who returns to the neighbourhood of his childhood to visit the woman who used to look after him. For the woman, this prompts unravelling memories about a love affair with his father.

What plans do you have for future writing?

This Much I Know is my current WIP. It’s a novel with a six-year-old narrator that gives a child’s view of the interaction between adults in a suburban community where a paedophile is housed. The trick in writing from a child’s perspective is to exploit the gap in understanding between the child and the actions of adults around them. I’m having a lot of fun playing around with strategies and techniques to capture the voice of a young child.

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Patsy. I hope we’ve been able to uncover a thing or two that gives encouragement to writers who follow your blog. 

I hope so too, Gail!

Gail is the chair of the Dorset Writers Network. You can find her on Twitter as @GailAldwin and on Facebook and via her blog.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


Vegetal refers to plants, or anything which has the nature of plants, or is vegetative.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Last chance

Today is your last chance to get All That Love Stuff for 99p (99c). Tomorrow it will be back to the usual price of £1,99 ($2.99).

Either price is a bargain for 24 stories though, isn't it?


OOOOPS!  I lost track of ... something. The book is still on offer until midnight on Tuesday.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Cash for a flash

Thanks to Beatrice for reminding me about the National Flash Fiction Day competition. They want 100 words and are offering books and cash as prizes.

I've run out of photos to illustrate 'flash' so will one of a splash do instead? The competition closing date is St Patrick's Day and I did take the picture whilst waiting for a ferry to Ireland ... (The crossing was what I believe is technically known as 'lively'.)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


A gimmick is a trick or device, used to attract attention, publicity or trade.

Valentine Gimmick is the title of my story in the Valentine's Special issue of Ireland's Own. It's on their website too, so you can read if it you like and find out what Betsie thinks of Valentine's gifts and cards (yes, there could be a clue in the title!)

I've possibly got involved in some gimmickry myself by reducing the price of my short story collection All That Love Stuff to 99p/99c this week.

What do you think – is that a bit gimmicky?

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Down in Devon

Just a quick reminder that Anne Rainbow and I are running a writing weekend in Devon next month. There's still time to book if you'd like to join us.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Show the kids

This competition is for a children's picture book.

The prize is publication, a £5,000 advance and 'career building advice'. Sounds pretty good.

I wish I could write for children. Or draw something other than Scotty dog scribbles.

In case you were wondering, this is Ock. He goes on adventures, most of which involve sausages. Maybe I could teach him to keep a diary?

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Persistence Pays

Once upon a time I submitted a story to The People's Friend magazine. They rejected it. I sent another. They rejected that too.

This sequence was repeated at varying intervals over the next 13 years. But for two things, that would have made me feel insecure and caused me to give up. The first is that I was selling stories to a wide range of other women's magazines on an increasingly regular basis, so I knew I could write, I just wasn't getting it quite right for that particular publication. The second is that I'm just a touch on the stubborn side.

My persistence has finally been rewarded with an acceptance and a message from my editor expressing the hope that it's the first of many. I'm jolly pleased.

I was lucky in that I was getting better results elsewhere. For those who've yet to have something published, repeated rejections are very demoralising. It's harder still if you're a slow writer and/or are writing novels as there will be a long gap before your next attempt. It might be tempting to give up, but don't. Your next submission might be a yes and that yes might be followed by many more.

If you're interested in submitting fiction to women's magazines, take a look at the womagwriter blog, which gives all the guidelines, news and tips you need to get started.

If you're feeling insecure in any way about your writing, then consider joining the Insecure Writer's Support Group. The group's purpose is 'To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!'

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Brew up a story

Helen Yendall is running a flash fiction competition. She only wants 100 words and she's given you five of them to help you get started (one of them is kettle). The first prize is a £25 Amazon voucher, plus oodles of glory.

If you'd like a few tips on writing flash fiction, take a look here.

And if you'd like to read a piece of my flash fiction, take a look here. (It was published because I was a runner up in a competition I blogged about a while ago.)

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Naturally appealing

This competition from Writing Magazine, is for 500 words of prose or 40 lines of poetry on the theme of nature.

The prize is a bottle of prosecco ... oh and two tickets to Gilbert White's house so you can work up a thirst walking round and a two night stay with breakfast for two people in a Winchester hotel and dinner on one of the nights.

I'd like to visit Gilbert White's house, and I like prosecco, am keen on nature and enjoy travelling. Guess I'd better have a go at this one myself.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Things I've learned ...

Recently I was talking to my writing buddy Sheila Crosby about things I'd learned from judging writing competitions. It occurred to me that some of my blog readers might find the information useful.

Some items on this list might seem quite trivial, but getting them wrong means the judge is less likely to have confidence in the author. That means they'll be less able to suspend disbelief and more likely to find fault.

 - Set it out nicely and use decent paper and fresh ink if subbing hard copy. Don't send in something which is really hard to read, looks as though you didn’t think the story deserved new paper, or is formatted so badly it seems you've never read a magazine or book in your life.

- Still set it out nicely if submitting electronically. I’ve seen daft things such as randomly varying size indents (on the same entry I mean – it doesn’t matter if they vary from entry to entry).

- Don’t do weird stuff, such as ‘interesting’ fonts or random bold and italics all over it. The judge will be so distracted by this, they'll pay less attention to your story.

- If you notice a mistake after printing, don’t cross it out in red pen. 

- Do pick a title that’s not the same as, or similar to, the theme. (In a potential tie that can be a deciding factor.)

- Don’t use lots of names etc that you’ve made up and the judge can’t pronounce in their head.

- A lot of these come down to ‘don’t do stuff which could stop the judge eagerly reading your story straight through’. It’s the story which should make the decision for them. If they’re distracted by other issues, you'll lose marks.

- Do get as close to the maximum word count as possible without padding. A shorter story is likely to lack the depth and substance of a longer one.

- Don’t be overly grim. Serious themes are OK, but only be as horrible to the characters and kill as many as the story demands. That doesn't mean all characters must live happily ever after, but do include some lightness or a touch of hope wherever possible.

- If there’s a theme or something else to include, don’t be too subtle about using it. If the judge can't see you've stuck to the rules, you may get disqualified.

- Always follow the rules. In almost every competition I’ve been involved with, there were some entries which are excluded even before they were read, because the author had failed to follow the instructions.

Anyone willing to admit to having made any avoidable mistakes when entering a competition? (I *may* have done once or twice.)

Do you have any more tips to add?