Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Costa Short Story Award

Image - Maria A Smith
I thought I'd do a quick post to share news of an exciting new award from the Costa book Awards folk.
The Costa Short Story Award is newly launched and will run between 16 July and 7 September 2012, its exciting news as its going to be judged completely independently of the five-catagory system.

There is a first prise of £3,500 and a couple of runners-up prizes, where each will receive £750.
Good news, there is no theme, word count is up to 4,000, and as long as you are over eighteen and follow the rules, you're in with a chance!

All the details are here

What are you waiting for? Take a chance...you never know what might happen.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 29th July 2012

It's been another busy week, I have felt much happier, possibly because the sun has been shining all week. Hasn't it been fabulous? I am convinced it has lifted everyone's mood. There was a wee blip in the last seven days. My car broke down. Fortunately, I was rescued by those lovely AA people, and long story short, I now have a replacement vehicle until my own is fixed.

Last week went like this.

Relaxation - I slowed down. Simple as that.

Writing - I prioritised the monologues, BUT, I am still unhappy with the last one. I didn't edit my manuscript after feedback from my fellow writers, and I didn't rewrite another chapter.
This is what I did...

I critiqued a fellow writers manuscript.
I wrote and posted four blog posts, including my Goal list.
I wrote a short piece of flash fiction.
I went to my writers group, and read a monologue, I also critiqued several pieces of writing.

Video - I made my short video. Its a bit of fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other writers have come up with when Imran Siddiq  showcases the project.

Cake - There was a lot of cake.

Goals for the week ahead:

Writing - The last monologue, and the edits I need to do on my chapter.

Walking - I need the exercise - There was a lot of cake last week!

And that is it for this week, anything else will be a bonus. I'm trying to keep things manageable, and recharge my creative energy at the same time.
Are you on track? Let me know. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Happy Saturday - The House Of The Rising Sun - The Animals

Have I ever revealed my secret hankering to own a jukebox?  From the age of four, my father would take me with him to the pub after Mass. An Irish tradition in Leicester, and my mother would enjoy a well earned rest at home, hopefully she managed to put her feet up.

Whilst dad chatted to his mates at the bar, I would sit and watch the goings on with fascination. The pub was always noisy, and people would tell each other stories, and jokes, and they'd laugh a lot. People used to make a lot of telling jokes back in those days.

The music was upbeat and happy, and I can still recall even now, forty odd years later, the smell of the beer, the sound of feet on wooden floorboards, and the haze of cigarette smoke. But most of all, I remember the happy smiling faces. 

I loved to stand and watch the records being loaded and played on the jukebox. Every click and whir coming from beneath the glass intrigued me more. I could read, and remember trying to memorise the names of the groups, and the titles of the songs It worked.

If I hear them now, I think back to 'The Kings Head' on New Walk, in Leicester with great fondness. Sometimes, I'd sing at the top of my voice and I'd dance too. It was the way it was back then. 

Every so often my dad would come over with a bottle of Vimto, a brightly stripped straw, a packet of crisps and a coin for the jukebox. What more could a girl want?

I lost my father when I was thirteen - I so wish I could relive that time just once more. 

Another song on the jukebox all those years ago

And when I wasn't in the pub what was I doing? Watching Thunderbirds of course like and self respecting infant of the time. Glued to the screen.

And the big hit film of the year? How many times have you seen it then? 

Oh nearly forgot, there was an important football match that year too. On July 30th 1966, England played West Germany at Wembley Stadium, London.

I hope you've enjoyed my little slice of 1966, I had fun putting it together. And remember, we are all making history every day. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much, is when I look back at the last few years, with fondness, at where I was in my life.
And another thing - Seriously, where would I fit a jukebox in my house? 
Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Writing Competitions

Isn't the weather gorgeous? Makes you want to get outside and wallow in it, but first its time I posted a few  competition links that may be of interest...

This one, The Greenhouse Funny Prize for UK, and Irish Writers is interesting if you write for children, and the prize is well worth having - a weekend ticket to the Writers' Workshop Festival of Writing in York. Get your skates on, the deadline for submissions is 5PM on Monday, 30 July.

The Telegraph runs a weekly 'Just Back' Travel Writing Competition with a cash prize of £200 in the currency of your choice. There is also a best article of the year prize, which is £1000. Not bad for 500 words. Go on, have a go - remember, you have to be in it to win it!

Right I'm off to take advantage of the sunshine - enjoy Friday.

Monday, 23 July 2012

If It Ain't Working - Fix It!

Image Credit
Sometimes we want to pull our hair out when the story we've slaved over with such enthusiasm stalls and stops working. That's where I'm at today. I'm stuck! I've read the first draft of my novel back several times, and realise its not doing what I want it to do.

Its the first chapter. If I'm honest, I've known all along, but while I was in the zone I ignored it, in favour of ploughing through to the end. I wrote the novel in just one month, and it is rough, I refer to it as getting the story out on the page.

I believe first draft should be renamed 'rough draft' and second draft is really the beginning of a long and labour intensive journey, to producing a readable manuscript, which I hope would be good enough then, that someone would want to read it, and perhaps publish it.

Its been drilled into me how important first chapters are, and to make matters worse, I'm mad with myself. Angry I suppose. Why anger? Frustration - I can't find a way forward, and its blocking me from  continuing with the second draft. I've tried skipping it, and continuing with the following chapters, and its not working.  Its nagging away at me, festering, and I've even considered dumping the whole project! Madness I know, but I'm being truthful.

Help! Throw me a lifeline. Someone. Please.

How do I fix it? In my head, the chapter has to be slow, and 'appear' ordinary, apart from the fact the protagonist is sneaking out of a house in the early hours, there isn't much happening. Its really a record of her surroundings, and what she thinks she sees as she leaves behind the life she knows, for something else.

I wrote it to allow the reader to think there isn't much happening, but by the time they reach the end of the novel they'll see all the clues were dripped into the story from the very first page. And all will be revealed.

Now I'm thinking its all wrong.

Rant over. Back to work. It'll come to me.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 22nd July 2012

At last! We seem to have made a bit of a breakthrough with the weather. For the last day or so, its felt much more like summer. Certainly a reason to feel more cheerful. This is how last week finished up.

Writing - I didn't finish both of the monologues. It is my first writing task of the week.
I did prepare a novel chapter for critique, which I took to my group yesterday. I got some very constructive feedback. Although I didn't manage the weekly challenge set by the Chair.

Mac - We are still getting to know one another. Slowly. Went to the local library and borrowed a book to help me. I'm not feeling the Mac love yet.

Laughter - There was some - not nearly enough though.

Music - I asked for recommendations, so when fellow blogger, Rosalind Adam suggested Rod Stewart's American Songbook, I got hold of a copy. Very relaxing, Rod croons and soothes as he does so - it makes for great background music. I've also been listening to Katherine Jenkins, she is fantastic! And now I want to go to the Opera!

All things considered I haven't done too badly this last week with the Goal List.

Here is the plan for this week.

Relaxation - I'm going to re-discover things that make me feel good and happy.

Writing - Priority is the monologues, followed by the edit on my manuscript after yesterdays feedback from my fellow writers. A couple of blog posts, and another re-write of a chapter. That will fill my time.

Video - I'm going to make a very short video, along with lots of other writers, as part of Calling All Writers a project put together by fellow writer Imran Siddiq -its a call to arms project, and you're invited too!
A wee bit of fun, and a way to get your name out there. Come on, its only a few seconds and you can find out how to get started here

Cake - I can't imagine a week without cake, so I'll be trying my best to add somewhere new to my list of tearooms, and who knows I might even break away from the traditional teatime treats and try something different, and new.

That is my plan - I hope you'll share what you hope to achieve this week?

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Happy Saturday - The Beatles

A double bill of the Beatles for you today. One of the greatest pop groups of our time, who have influenced generations of singers, and song writers. The first song I've selected was released on July 20th 1964, its very hard to believe it was over forty years ago.

It took three days to record in the Abbey Road Studio, and although mainly written by Paul McCartney, it was credited as a Lennon/McCartney song. It went out as the fifth track on their third album, 'A Hard Days Night'.

My second song choice from John, Paul, Ringo and George is 'In My Life' which is one of my favourite's, it really sums up life, and if you listen carefully to the words, you'll understand my meaning.

Recorded in October 1965, it is claimed that John wrote the lyrics and Paul wrote the music. I'm not sure that it matters, its a great song. Enjoy your Saturday.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 15th July 2012

Image by Maria A Smith
Here we are again. Another fast week, and yes, it rained all week! Every darn day. However, the week ahead is looking brighter, at least today it is - the sun is out! Yay to that, I think we are all getting fed up and bored with the current weather situation.

It made me think, its true we can't do anything about the weather, we have little choice but to sit it out and make the best of the situation. Not easy if you're constantly under threat of flooding I know. But these 'to do' lists I set myself - I can do something about them. I'm in charge. Only I can make things happen and I'm going to hold that thought this week.

So, lets get on. First a quick update.

ReadingWriting Magazine  - Not as much as I had hoped to read, although I keep dipping into the pages between appointments, or waiting for pans to boil, and ovens to heat up. I'm sure the busy people know what I mean.

An article by editor Lorena Goldsmith had me hooked, 'Don't Lose the Plot' is about structure and making sure you have a clear idea of your plot, so as to develop a compelling story. Its a new series offering helpful advice on self-editing, I'll be following with interest. I've discovered a few plot holes and loose ends in my current WIP, and any help is appreciated.

Writing - Failed to get the second monologue done, I'm possibly fine picking it a bit too much, I've rested it down for the last four days with the intention of working on it for one final editing session early this week. Consequently, I haven't started the final piece yet.

I also wrote two new posts for the blog. I'm really enjoying the blog, and if I'm honest it keeps me writing, and often puts me into the zone. I also love reading your posts guys and girls. You writers rock!

Cake - Oh yes, there was cake, see above. And then there was more too. Fantastic therapy, I urge you to indulge. What can I say other than delicious, peaceful and great thinking time.. Time well spent.

The week ahead looks like this.

Writing - Finish both monologues. Prepare a novel chapter for critique, and complete the writing group weekly challenge.

Mac - Spend time getting to know Mac, my new best friend. You can help me. Calling all Mac users - Any programs I should get? Anyone know anything about Pages? Or should I get Word for Mac? All help greatly appreciated.

Laughter - I must get a healthy dose of laughter this week.

Music - Time I listened to something new. I need recommendations?

Have a good week - Catch you soon.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Happy Saturday - Aretha Franklin - I say a little prayer

Aretha is known all over the world as 'The Queen of Soul' achieving phenomenal success globally, and influencing singers worldwide including Natalie Cole, Mary J Blige and Chaka Khan.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Choosing A Name

Characters begin life inside the writers mind, where an inspiration will arouse a first thought, and an idea will form and  grow. We'll incubate an individual, imagining, and creating until we are ready to record details about them to paper or screen. How then, do you make them real, and alive to ourselves and the reader? One way is by giving them a memorable name.

Giving your character the right name is essential, do take your time over this, its important, treat it as you would if you were naming a child. Does it fit? Is it suitable for the time period when your story is set, or where it takes place? No good calling her  Kylie if she lives her life in 1920's England. Yet its okay to call her Elizabeth today, or anytime at all, and in any setting or genre.

Look for something unique to make your character stand apart. What about giving them a last name for their first name? Place names are good in this instance, how about Chester or Brighton? Add a surname from something everyday, like Friday maybe? Brighton Friday, or Chester Tuesday?

Watch the credits after a movie, or TV show and try switching different combinations of first and last names around. But do make sure you can pronounce the name you choose - readers don't like obscure names they can't decipher, or ones they falter over on every page.

What about Pitt Neeson, or Brad Liam? Not so good, maybe Ginger Day then? Or Doris Rodgers? See how much fun you can have brain storming a name for your character. 

How do you come up with names? 

Image Credit

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 8th July 2012

Another week has flown, and I'm feeling better than previously, but I'm still not back to 100%, its taking time for me to get back up to speed with mundane chores and work!

Watermead Country Park by Maria A Smith

I expected to be away, in Staffordshire this weekend, but due to a few different issues including  the horrendous weather conditions of late, I cancelled my weekend break the day before I  was due to go away.

Instead, I stayed close to home, and spent Saturday doing things I enjoy, including writing, walking, and photography. The pictures above were taken yesterday afternoon between showers of rain. I visit Watermead Country Park often, but I've never seen it flooded before. It wasn't possible to gain access to all the walks. However, I managed to get some interesting shots with my camera.

Here's how the last week turned out.

Writing - I got one of the three monologues written, edited, re-written, edited again and finally sent it off! Number two is between edits. I also visited Phoenix Writers and listened to many different pieces of short prose, as well as two excerpts from fellow writers novels.

Blog - I created a schedule, and decided on some changes which I'll implement over the next few months.

Walking - I averaged one walk every other day, the weather being the main culprit for holding me back, it was often too bad to venture out.

Sleep - Hopeless! I keep waking in the early hours, or I didn't go to bed until I was bone tired, and it made me feel lousy next day.

This week

Reading - Writing Magazine arrived last week, and I haven't had chance to look at anything yet.

Writing - I'll finish the second monologue, and start the final one.

Cake - I'm going to make time to take tea, and eat cake, and I might even share with a friend.

Its a simple list, anything else I do will be a bonus.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Happy Saturday - Phil Collins - Another Day In Paradise

Some songs stay with you. It doesn't matter how many years go by, they are stuck in your mind forever.

Phil Collins wrote 'Another Day In Paradise' to bring attention to the plight of the homeless. It won a Grammy Award for record of the year in 1991, and Best Single at the 1990 BRIT Awards.

He was reported to have said to The Mail on Sunday, when asked about the song, " I wrote this after being in Washington DC where I was amazed by how many people I saw living in boxes."

Sadly, homelessness is still a massive issue.

Many years afterwards, this song prompted me to write a short story based on a character who became homeless through no fault of his own. He lost everything - family, friends, job, and he went from a top position in a financial institution to total destitution.

I believe the lyrics in the song reached out to me, perhaps a germ of an idea lodged in my mind back then. Although it wasn't until a decade later I acted upon it, and wrote the story. Has this ever happened to you? Have you heard a song, or a piece of music, and did it evoke you to write a poem, a story, or even a novel?

Enjoy Saturday.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 1st July 2012

I didn't set myself any goals last week, instead I concentrated on rest. I'm happy to report, I was very definitely in recovery mode. Indulging in spending time not actually doing anything seemed to work, and I'm feeling somewhat better than of recent weeks.

Continuing, I've a few things coming up, but I'm going for a happy mix of pushing forward with writing as well as a good dose of 'me' time.

The plan is:

Writing - I'm starting a series of three monologue's for a new project. Aiming to get one written, edited and sent off this week, and another to first draft stage.

Blog - Going to create a schedule for my posts.

Walking - Will be stepping out as much as I can this week.

Sleep - I'm going to plan better, so that I get at least 6 or 7 hours sleep each evening. Any tips are most welcome!

What does your week ahead look like?

Planning Your Time - How Hard Can it Be?

Blue Skies Over Tenby - Maria A Smith  Planning your time is often much harder than you ever dreamt or expected it to be, and if you do...