Tag Archives: writing competitions

First, Find a Hat…

Submitting a novel takes a certain amount of focus and effort. It takes time, and brain-space, and most, if not all, of your guts. It doesn’t, in short, leave you a lot of time to do other things, like enter competitions or submit stories to literary magazines, which is a shame; those things are important.

It’s hard to even write a short story, though, when you feel like this:

The lemon, that is. Not the hand. Image: catalysttrainingsystems.ca

The lemon, that is. Not the hand.
Image: catalysttrainingsystems.ca

Sometimes, however, you’ve just got to tell that Muse who’s boss, and get her to start pulling her weight. If you were to wait until you felt in the fullness of your mental and physical health and/or everything in your life was shiny before you put pen to paper, you’d never write anything.

So, in that undaunted spirit, this week I’m beginning the process of submitting work to magazines and competitions afresh. I’ve just stuck my head above the parapet to check out the landscape, and realised I’ve missed a load of deadlines, which is a shame.

But, as is always the case, where one deadline passes another five sprout up to take its place, so there’s never a need for sorrow.

I have compiled a short list of competitions and/or submission opportunities (not exhaustive, just so you know: other opportunities are available!), mainly to help myself to stay focused but also to aid anyone else who might find themselves in the mood to throw their hat into the ring.

Artist: Bill Watterson Comic: Calvin and Hobbes Image sourced: helenlevel3writing.wordpress.com

Artist: Bill Watterson
Comic: Calvin and Hobbes
Image sourced: helenlevel3writing.wordpress.com

Competitions

Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition

The Skinny: Stories can be up to 2,200 words, and so long as they’ve never been published before (and they’re written in English), they can be on any subject. Entry costs £10 (sterling) and should be accompanied by a cover sheet, downloadable from the Mslexia website. First prize is £2,000 plus publication in a forthcoming issue of Mslexia.

The Complicated Bits: You have to be a woman to enter, and the closing date is next Monday, March 17th. So, get your skates on!

The Molly Keane Creative Writing Award

The Skinny: Entry is free, and there’s no restriction on the style or length of the short story submitted. You need to download an entry form from the Waterford County Council website and submit it with your story to the Waterford County Arts Office. Peachy.

The Complicated Bits: Entry closes this Friday, March 15th. Sorry about the late notice.

The Moth International Short Story Prize 2014

The Skinny: Stories can be up to 6,000 words, and must be original and not published elsewhere. A €9 entry fee allows you to enter one story, and you may enter as many stories as you like. The closing date isn’t until June 30th, which is good. You can find the rules here, and a link to online entry here. Go on, go on, go on.

The Complicated Bits: There aren’t any, really. Get on it.

The Bridport Prize

The Skinny: Bridport offers a smorgasbord of options. There’s a flash fiction competition (stories up to 250 words); a short story competition (stories up to 5000 words) and a poetry competition (poems up to 42 lines.) A variety of entry fees apply, and you should probably check out the rules, over here. Bridport offers great prizes, and wonderful exposure should you win, or be shortlisted.

The Complicated Bits: Winning is difficult, as the world and his mother tends to enter this competition. It’s reputable, popular and well worth entering, but there’ll be stiff competition. Just so you know.

MMU Novella Award

The Skinny: Have you written, or are you writing, a novella of between 20,000 and 40,000 words? Then, this is the competition for you. The prize is £1,000 plus publication, and the closing date is May 23rd, and the entry fee is £15. So long as you’re over 16 and writing in English, you’re good to go.

The Complicated Bits: Ain’t none. Well, assuming you have a novella in the works, that is. I don’t, so for me it would be nigh-on impossible. For you, though, it may be just the ticket.

Criminal Lines

The Skinny: If you’re a writer of crime, suspense or thriller novels, then listen up. A.M. Heath, an excellent agency, is looking for an unagented, unpublished crime author for their Criminal Lines prize. Amazingly, the novel you enter doesn’t even have to be finished – but you need to have a clear plan in place for the story. The prize is £1,000, but – better than that – you get to chat to some of A.M. Heath’s super-agents about your work. So, it’s well worth giving this a go if you’re the next Henning Mankell. Details are available over here.

The Complicated Bits: There aren’t any, so long as you have a twisty, nefarious brain which cooks up deliciously dark stories. I don’t. So, um. Good luck, though!

Image: avajae.blogspot.com

Image: avajae.blogspot.com

Submissions

There are literally millions of places to submit your work. Millions. I’m throwing out a few that are on the top of my head, for various reasons, but the following list is by no means complete.

ESCzine

A fabulous wee e-zine which is well worth checking out. They’re looking for submissions for their fifth issue, closing date April 30th.

Number Eleven Magazine

Possibly the most beautiful literary magazine in the ‘verse. Send them in your stuff, and maybe you’ll see it lovingly and gorgeously reproduced.

Story Shack Magazine

The best thing about this magazine is the fact that not only will you see your story in print if it’s accepted, but you’ll also be paired with an illustrator who’ll bring your vision to life.

The View From Here

Edgy and interesting, ‘The View From Here’ is a great place to stop off if you’ve some free time and fancy a read, and also if you have a slightly strange short story looking for publication. Give them a go.

Metazen

Pretty. Great stories. Wonderful ethos. Check them out!

wordlegs

wordlegs’ remit is wide – they accept poetry, short stories and flash fiction. And they’re lovely people.

The Bohemyth

You can’t go wrong with The Bohemyth. Always worth a read, and wonderfully produced. As far as I know, their submissions window is always open.

***

Wherever you choose to send your work, good luck. I hope to see you on a winners’ podium, or in print, in the near future. With any luck, I’ll be there with you. Always remember you have nothing to lose by submitting work to competitions (well, besides a small sum of money, sometimes!); every competition will make you a better writer. And – needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway – never give up.

 

 

Nothin’ to See Here…

So, it’s that time of year again. That pink, beribboned, heart-shaped balloon, teddy-bears-’round-every-corner time of year.

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with showing your loved ones how much you appreciate them. Don’t get me wrong. But I shudder to think how many people only say ‘I love you’ to someone else on this one day of the year.

Image: profmuluka.com

Image: profmuluka.com

I love to love people. I think love is the most important thing in the world. I love everyone I meet, just a little bit (well, all right. Some more than others.) I love to tell my friends and family that I love them, and – even though it can sometimes be scary – I have found that taking the risk to tell someone they’re loved is, in most cases, worth it. You don’t always get the love back – and you have to accept that – but you nearly always make someone else’s life a little easier.

It doesn’t have to be about grand gestures, or gifts. It doesn’t have to involve spending money at all, in fact. Love’s in the unasked-for cup of tea that you hand to someone when they look like they need it, or the favour done to the best of your ability, or the chore completed without any fuss because you know your loved one hates to do it. It’s in the quiet time, sitting side by side just enjoying being together. It’s in the long walks and the warm conversation; it’s in the moment when you pay someone a visit; it’s in the phonecall or text message when someone you know is going through a hard time. It’s the hand in yours when the world seems dark. It’s the playing along with a child when they want to bring you into their imagination. It’s the hug, or the gentle touch, or the smile just when it’s needed; it’s the switching off of your own thoughts to listen closely to what another person is saying. It’s the hearing of another, and the validation that their words are important. It’s the gentle attempt to understand, and the respectful acceptance of another person, and the assurance that yes, I am here – no matter what.

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day, mainly because I believe every day should be Valentine’s Day. We should remember to love above all else every day of the year, and remember that love takes many forms. Most especially, we should remember every day never to take all the love we’re lucky to have in our lives for granted.

So, I’m not wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. Have a happy, love-filled day. Then, go and have another tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that…

**

This Friday, for the Flash! Friday challenge, our compulsory element was ‘Patience’, and our prompt image was this:

Kolmanskop, in the Namib Desert. Image: lovethesepics.com

Kolmanskop, in the Namib Desert.
Image: lovethesepics.com

So, in honour of it being Valentine’s Day, I wrote a story about death. As you do.

Deathtrap

Every breath boiled. Sweat trickled down my spine. The trail was clear, her deep footsteps beckoning. Their darkness calling to mine.

Soon, it would be over.

A tumbledown house swam into view. Sun-bleached, half-rotted, its front door stood open. Paint peeled off its walls.

I paused, breathing hard.

Then, I ducked inside.

In a dim room, half-filled with sand, she waited. Her body bore my scars. I settled my hand around my gun, and my skin prickled.

‘So. Death comes, even for one like me.’ Sand, gritty and sharp, began to whirl like multitudes of tiny knives as she spoke. I spat and blinked it out. ‘Each grain is a life,’ she hissed. ‘A life you took. A life you touched. A life you destroyed!’

‘Not my problem.’ I fired.

But my bullet became a desert wind, and my gun crumbled to dust.

‘I have waited so long for you,’ she smiled, as I shattered, sparkling, at her feet.

**

I’m off to batten down the hatches – another storm is predicted to roll in off the Atlantic today, and I want to try to be ready for it – and to get through my words. I am rewriting one book while trying to do a final, final draft on another, and planning out my strategy for submissions, and trying to keep everything straight in my head, and it’s not easy.

But I love it.

Of course.

Image: catziac.wordpress.com

Image: catziac.wordpress.com

 

Friday Flash

Well, golly.

Today’s a whirlwind of activity for me – you may or may not have noticed that I’m, oh, three hours late with the blog post, so if you’ve been inconvenienced let me heartily apologise – and I must dash now, too. The wind is howling outside, I feel like I’m wearing ice-block socks and I am in dire (dire!) need of a cup of coffee.

So, without further ado, I present today’s Flash! Friday entry. This week, contestants were asked to include a telephone call as part of the story, and the prompt image follows (apologies for the poor quality – but you can always visit Flash! Friday’s blog if you’d like to see it more clearly. Nudge nudge, wink wink, why don’t you enter a story this week? Anyway):

Image: zazzle.com

Image: zazzle.com

Overdue Justice

‘Jen? Pete. Look, uh –‘

‘Pete? It’s four a.m.! Couldn’t this have waited?’

‘Nah. Listen. Jen, I found our boy.’

‘You what?’

‘Chrissakes, Jen! Arlon! I swear it’s him.’

‘I’m – I can’t be hearing this. Arlon? The chronofugitive? The murderer?’

‘Nothin’ wrong with this telephone line. Arlon Nash, big as life.’

‘But – when? He’s been in the vortex so long –‘

‘Got careless, I guess. All I know is, I’m lookin’ at an image, 1920, 21, and it’s him. Laughin’, standin’ near a car wreck. Jen, he’s smirkin’ like he knows somethin’ we don’t.’

‘Pete. Listen, I’m coming over.’

‘God. If we found him, after all these years?’

‘Don’t get your hopes up. And don’t Slip without me, okay?’

‘Sure thing.’

Pete hung up and stepped straight into the Slip, leaving the photograph on his screen.

Jen arrived within minutes. The first thing she saw was Pete’s broken face behind the wheel of the car. Arlon was long, long gone.

**

I really enjoyed writing this story; I loved the apparent mismatch between the prompt image and the prompt element of the telephone call. However, one thing that writing this story taught me is this: titles are important. I apologise for the title of this one. I went through several options, including ‘Timehunters’, ‘Chronokiller’ and ‘Justice, Overdue,’ and – in a fit of desperation – settled on the one you see above. It’s not great, I know. But it’s what you got. Sometimes life is cruel like that.

Happy reading, and happy writing! Why don’t you get involved in a writing challenge, enter a competition, or even just create something that only you will see? It’s the best way I know to put those grey cells to work. Speed-the-pen.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

 

Proof Of My Silliness

As if you needed proof, right?

So, it’s NaNoWriMo, as we know. I have a project to complete, as we also know. Other stuff that I knew, but which perhaps I should’ve taken into account when deciding to bash my details into the NaNoWriMo sign-up page included:

The fact that it’s my dad’s birthday this month;
The fact that it’s
my birthday this month;
The fact that my husband is taking several days’ leave this month;
The fact that I have at least two medical appointments this month; and, last but by no means least:
The fact that I have no fewer than three really important family things to attend – yes, you’ve guessed it – this month.

Image: likeablequotes.com

Image: likeablequotes.com

Over the weekend, I attended a (very fun, and wonderful in every way) birthday party for one of my dearest and oldest friends. I got to see so many people – some of whom I hadn’t seen for ages – and much laughter and catching up was had. We also visited my husband’s aunt and uncle, and that was great too. The silliness in all this, of course, kicks in when one considers that I also knew about all this before I signed up to NaNoWriMo.

So.

I am, at the moment, trying to do several things simultaneously, all of which are vitally important. I am attempting to do them all in the one month so far this year when I have the least time. It’s definitely silly. It’s even perhaps a little on the ditzy side. But you know what else it is?

It’s great.

Image: kwasistudios.com

Image: kwasistudios.com

It’s a privilege to have friends and family to spend time with, and it’s great to have so much to celebrate. (The medical appointments aren’t so much fun, but we’re not thinking about those, right? Right.) It’s also fantastic to be busy, and to have so many opportunities to submit and create work. Having said all that, I still really wish I’d engaged my brain a bit more before making the decision to begin NaNoWriMo. It’ll be NaNoGoSlo at this rate. I was doing really well last Friday – I was way ahead of schedule for the day, and the site was predicting I’d be done with my 50,000 words a week early if I kept up the same pace – but, of course, over the weekend it all went to hell. I’m afraid to check the website now, in case it yells at me – or, worse, tells me how disappointed it is in me, and how it expected better.

I hate that.

The current picture of my situation is like this: I am just over two-thirds of the way through my line edits for ‘Tider’, but the manuscript has been sitting on my desk now since Friday, so I hope I can get back into the right mindset to get through it. I want to finish that job and get the manuscript sent away to the kind agent who gently rejected ‘Eldritch’, but who wanted to see my other work. So, my heart is (not literally, because urgh) in my mouth as I work. Once that’s done, then it’s NaNo time, and to stay on track I have to write something like fifty million words today (approximately.) Then, it’ll be time to turn my attention to my story for Walking on Thin Ice, which has been neglected so long I’ve forgotten what it’s even about. (The closing date for this contest is coming up, by the way, so if you’re preparing a story, get ‘er done.) On top of all that, then, we have the usual stuff – living, eating, breathing, sleeping, attempting to keep the house from turning into a hovel, and all that other incidental stuff.

If someone finds me gibbering gently in a corner, don’t worry. Just leave me be. If you really need me for something, however, just waft a book in my direction and I’m sure native curiosity will drive me out of my stupor.

Happy Monday and happy new week. I’m armed with a brand new jar of decaf, my biggest mug, and my game face. Let’s do this.

Nicolas Cage speaks the truth. Image: brightestyoungthings.com

Nicolas Cage speaks the truth.
Image: brightestyoungthings.com

 

Keeping Count of the Good Stuff

Today is ‘Budget Day’ in Ireland, the day when our government will announce the latest round of cuts and taxes designed to take over €2 billion out of our economy without throwing us back down the plughole of recession. Not an easy thing to do, I’m sure; I don’t envy them the job. Things have just barely started to nudge in the right direction here, and our ‘recovery’, if you can call it that, is still on very shaky legs. I hope today’s budget will be gentle enough not to cause stress and worry to too many people as we face into the colder months.

I hope.

Image: intervene.dugfree.org

Image: intervene.dugfree.org

Yesterday, I spent some time with my brother. It was an unexpected joy. I hadn’t seen him in a very long time, and he happened to call over out of the blue. It made an otherwise ordinary day into something that sparkled with happiness, and even though it meant I took an unscheduled day away from my writing, it didn’t even really seem to matter.

It’s on days like this, spent with loved ones and making the most out of life, that I try to count the good stuff.I’m not much of an accountant, and I don’t have a lot of anything to count, but I like to think I know a little about keeping things in balance.

If I were to prepare a personal ‘budget’, designed to maximise potential and encourage these elusive ‘green shoots’ and keep my own small economy running, it would look a bit like this:

Negativity – to be reduced by at least 75%;
Pessimism – to be taxed at the higher rate of 90%;
Fear – to be eradicated through greater reliance on existing support structures;Self-belief – to be nurtured through tax breaks on ‘You can do it’, ‘You’re good enough’, and ‘It will all be okay in the end’;
Ambition – to be fostered through cuts to Negative Self-Talk and Doubt;
Peace of Mind – to be the focus of spending for the coming year.

Image: thejournal.ie

Image: thejournal.ie

It’s a cold, clear day, with traces of the frozen north on the wind. It’s exactly the sort of day I love. I have some final edits to do on ‘Tider’ – things like tidying up chapter numbers and making sure my pages are properly laid out, that sort of thing – and I have at least two new ideas bubbling in my brain. I have several competitions I want to enter, and I’m looking forward to opening up my idea-chest and having a good old rummage inside. The sun is shining, and I am alive.

By anyone’s account, that’s all good.

A Little (Short) Friday Fiction

Some of you may know that, most Fridays, I take part in a flash fiction competition over on Flash! Friday; I’m not sure whether the stories I write there have actually been read by anyone but me, and my lovely fellow competitors. So, because it’s Friday, I thought I’d share some of my work in a blog post.

All of these stories are my own original work, and they first appeared on the Flash! Friday blog; the ones I’ve selected are some of my own favourites. The image that accompanies each story is the ‘prompt image’ supplied by the Flash! Friday crew, out of which the story was born.

I hope you enjoy them!

Image: vi.wikipedia.org

Image: vi.wikipedia.org

 

Inspection Day

By the time word of the Demonstration reached the Workshop, the Inspectors were already on their way. There was so little time, and so much to be done, and everyone knew what that meant.

‘Grigor must be recalled.’ It began as a whisper, from throats both flesh and iron.

‘The Collective has need,’ went the grey recitation, up and down the corridors of the Workshop, reflecting off the dull metal surfaces, absorbing into the grease. The words of the summons soaked into the threads of every bolt, and flowed like ichor through the pipes. ‘We are the Collective. Bring us Grigor.’ Every hiss of steam called for him, the hero-Worker.

Eventually, the call reached the Infirmary.

‘They ask for you,’ murmured the nurse at Grigor’s bedside. A machine hummed, removing the oil and filth from his body, making him fit to work once more. The nurse kept an eye on its readings, observed its pressure as though it was an Engine. Grigor’s eyes remained closed. He’d known, of course, that he was needed. He’d known from the first.

‘Will you go?’ The question was gentle, but Grigor said nothing. The nurse’s fingers flicked, adjusted, monitored, maintained; she saw the increase in his pulse, and realised she had been answered.

Without a word, she unhooked him from the equipment, and left him alone.

He returned to the Workers’ Mess carried shoulder-high, the Engines hooting and hissing their approval, and the Foremen allowed themselves a smile. Nobody mentioned the Breakdown, and nobody could find the words to ask him how he felt. Grigor was silent, and they were glad.

The following day, the Inspectors arrived.

They were welcomed with banners and the clanging of wrenches on pipes; they were applauded as they strode toward the Engines.

‘Productivity,’ said the Inspectors, ignoring the tumult. They were focused. ‘Commodity. Output.’

The Foremen gazed upon their inscrutable faces as Grigor stepped out of the crowd.

‘You are the Collective?’ they asked him. Grigor made no answer besides to pick up his wrench and settle his grip on its worn-smooth handle.

As he bent to his task, he remembered the pain, and the dark exhaustion. He remembered how it had felt to break and fail. He closed his eyes and took the strain.

The bolt was loosed before anyone could stop him.

Nobody stood a chance when the explosion came.

 Image: clayscowboychronicles.blogspot.comImage: clayscowboychronicles.blogspot.com

Standoff

‘Amelia!’ he roared. ‘Come on out here, now!’

She’d seen him coming, but not in time. No chance to get Baby out of her crib, bundled up and ready to run. She’d hesitated too long, and now he was outside her house, stalking back and forth like an angry bear. She couldn’t see his gun, but she knew it was there, not far from his hungry hands.

‘Amelia! I’m not gon’ wait much longer!’

Her breaths quickened, and thoughts began to pile up as her panic grew. How’d he even found them? She’d done so much to cover her tracks. Hadn’t she? Laid a trail to suggest she’d gone to Kansas City… Left clues she’d married, even. She must’ve made a mistake, somewhere along the line.

She could smell that old liquor stench. The moist heat of his breath, smothering her. The pressure in her chest almost grew too much.

Then, her burning eyes fell on her father’s old shotgun, lying in the corner.

‘I know you’re in there, woman! You and that brat both!’ He spat, sudden as a slap. ‘I’m comin’ in, Amelia. See if I don’t!’

Daddy’s gun was unloaded, she knew. She couldn’t reach the bullets, on top of the tallboy, without being seen through the window. Baby stirred, moaning in her sleep.

Fast and quick, Amelia slid towards the gun, cold and heavy in her hands. Two short breaths, and she pulled open the door. Stepping out, she levelled the empty weapon at his heart.

Dust storm, Texas, 1935.  Image: newrepublic.com

Dust storm, Texas, 1935.
Image: newrepublic.com

Stormbringer

Most nights, I’d dream about the cloud. Hard not to – I mean, it hung on the horizon, day and night, fair weather or foul, like the frown of heaven. Those mornings when I woke up feeling like I’d eaten my pillow, I could be pretty sure it’d been in my head all through the night, trickling in through my ears, through my pores. Settling inside me with every breath.

When I was a kid I used to think it was like a thick black blanket over the Old World, keeping everyone beneath it warm and safe. I’d say this to Ma as she tucked me in at night, and sometimes she’d give me a tight little smile, and sometimes not.

Nobody lives in the Old World now. How could they? No air to breathe, no light to see. It’s just us, over here. Far enough away to be safe, Ma said; close enough to be scared, is what she meant.

Some days it boiled, the cloud, like it was stirring to move. Others, it just sat there, placid, looking well fed and sleek. Sometimes it rolled like the sea, stirred by an unfelt wind.

‘What is it, Ma?’ I used to ask, staring out our tightly sealed windows, across the miles of barren land that separated us from it. ‘What’s it made of?’

‘Hush, now,’ she’d say, dragging me away with her poker fingers. ‘Don’t ask questions.’

There’d been lots of theories down through the years. ‘The will o’ God,’ some said; ‘the work of Ol’ Nick,’ said more. ‘The gover’ment,’ muttered others, ignoring the shushing noises from all around.

I woke one morning with my mind full up. Houses emerging from murky, inky darkness; people inside like husks, sucked dry. The cloud retreating, drawing up its roots and pulling free. A roaring noise, an angry howling. Rocks and twigs and bones flying, whirling. Blackened skin, sunken eyes, yellowed teeth gritted in a final, pointless battle against an enemy that couldn’t be fought.

I blinked the dream away and ran to find Ma, to tell her the cloud was coming, but she already knew.