Thursday, 31 March 2011

Up for a challenge?

Sally Q is starting a challenge to write an 80,000 word novel in 80 days, starting 1st May and conveniently finishing just as the kids break up from school on July 19th.

1000 words a day - that's easier than Nanowrimo, and you end up with a full-length novel. It'll need editing, but you'll have the first draft done.

So if you've wanted to write a novel and have an idea, but have just not got round to starting, why not have a go at this and get that first draft done in one push. Go here to sign up.

I'm about 10,000 words from the end of my first draft and then I want to push on with editing it, so I won't be doing this, but best of luck to all who do!

Yours - updated guidelines

Please download updated guidelines for Yours magazine from here. Note their required word length is now 1000-1200. With thanks to Meg for pointing me in this direction!

Monday, 28 March 2011

It's nearly Mother's Day!

Bit of shameless self- and buddy-promotion here.

If you haven't yet bought your mum a mother's day present, or told your reluctant kids what they ought to buy you, can I recommend the following couple of books?

Diamonds and Pearls - anthology of stories by women's magazine writers (including one from me) and sold in aid of a breast cancer charity

or if you or your mum prefers a novel, what about

Mothers and Daughters - Kate Long's latest novel now out in paperback (and previously entitled A Mother's Guide to Cheating)

Both guaranteed great reads and I am of course in no way biased, oh no.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

World Circus Day and an offer for blog readers

Douglas McPherson, a regular contributor to Writers' Forum and a women's magazine story writer, sent me the following for this blog, which includes a special offer for all Womagwriter blog readers! Thanks Douglas!


Ladies and gentemen, boys and girls... Saturday April 16 is World Circus Day, the perfect ocassion to recall childhood memories of the big top, elephants parading down the high street and clown cars with the doors falling off, the perfect ocasion to roll up roll up to a circus near you and rediscover the thrills and spills of the sawdust circle, and the perfect ocassion to use the evocative images of the circus ring as the setting for a short story.

Regular womag short story writer and Writers Forum columnist Douglas McPherson used the magic of the circus as the inspiration for his recent My Weekly serial Murder At The Circus (which can also be read on his blog and his circus themed Pocket Novel The Showman's Girl, which comes out in May.

Douglas is also the author of non-fiction book Circus Mania and to celebrate World Circus Day would like to offer Womag blog readers the opportunity of saving £5 off the recommended retail price by ordering Circus Mania direct from Peter Owen Publishers.

Dedicated to the memory of Eva Garcia, an acrobat Douglas met just days before she fell and died during her act, Circus Mania is a behind-the-scenes journey through the world of circuses traditional and modern, talking to clowns, trapeze artists, tiger trainers and sword swallowers about their unique lives, culture, history, traditions and superstitions.

Circus Mania is launched in America next month and will soon be available as an eBook for the Kindle etc. In the meantime, the paperback has recieved a warm welcome from the critics with a full-page, 4-star review by Roger Lewis in the Mail on Sunday calling it "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form" and "An excellent book."

Tina Jackson on the Writers Hub website wrote: “Like a good old fashioned circus – McPherson’s favourite kind, in the end – the book rollicks along at a cracking pace, delivering a cast of colourful characters, and a parade of stories of the life-is-stranger-than-fiction variety. There are thrills and spills, acts of derring-do, heart-in-mouth moments, and laughs aplenty. The circus deserves this book and, like the circus, McPherson deserves for Circus Mania to reach a very wide and appreciative audience.”

Circus Mania can be ordered direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of £10 postage free in the UK (£2.75 postage worldwide) by sending cheques to:

Peter Owen Publishers
20 Holland Park Avenue
London W11 3QU

Credit card orders can be taken during office hours on 020 7373 5628 or by email on

As they traditionally say at the end of every big top show: May all your days be circus days!

Picture caption: Douglas McPherson (centre) with legendary circus owner Gerry Cottle (left) and Circus of Horrors ringmaster Dr Haze celebrating the launch of Circus Mania at the Circus Space circus school in London.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Anti-Conning Writers Day

Get yourselves over to Sally Q's blog and learn how to become a streetwise writer who won't get conned. Sadly there are people around who play on a writer's desire to see their work published. Sally's article is detailed and informative with loads of brilliant links.

Remember the golden rule - money flows towards the writer.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

May Writers' Forum

My calendar tells me it's still March, but the May issue of Writers' Forum arrived today, so Spring must be definitely here and I'm ignoring the fellow on the telly right now who's telling me it's all going to get colder again this weekend.

I get mentioned both by name and by blog address, so it must be a good issue!

Firstly, Paula William's regular Ideas Store is a great column. She's one of the contributors to the Diamonds and Pearls anthology, and she asked all the other contributors what had inspired their stories. So if you've ever wondered where on earth women's magazine writers get their ideas from, this article will tell you!

Linda Lewis gives this blog a nice little plug in her regular column on writing women's magazine stories.

Sally Q's column focuses on how to be sure competition judges know what they're talking about.

There's a new series beginning this month by Douglas McPherson on how he develops stories for the magazine market, complete with examples of his published stories.

Julie Phillips has an article on giving writers' talks, and Sue Moorcroft's workshop will help you develop your characters.

And there's the usual agony aunt column by Della Galton of course!

Loads there for women's magazine writers. You probably think I must get some kind of reward for plugging this mag. I don't - I plug it because it's a good mag, filled with great advice from great writers.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Authors for Japan update

The auction made almost £11,000 which is an incredible total! If you donated or bid, thank you. Details on the results here.

I've won myself a book on running by Rachel Newcombe, which I'm really pleased about as I regularly run 10km at weekends now.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Anthologies, competitions, questions, mountains

1. If you're an ex-pat writer, you might be interested in this call for submissions by Writers Abroad for a charitable anthology, entitled Foreign Flavours. They are looking for fiction and non-fiction on the theme of food, drink and cooking from around the world. Profits to go to The Book Bus charity. Alexander McCall Smith is to write the foreword. See here for full details.

2. Eddie Walsh at Emerald Writing Workshops is running more competitions for flash fiction this year. Max 500 words, entry fee a very reasonable 5 second-class stamps. Next comp closes on 31st May. See here for details.

3. Teresa Ashby is running a competition to win a copy of the Diamonds and Pearls anthology. Closing date 31st March, and all you need to do is write the first line of a story. See here for details.

4. If you weren't able to help the poor people of Japan via the Authors for Japan auction, perhaps you'd like to contribute to New Sun Rising, an anthology of prose and poems, all profits going to the Red Cross. Details here.

5. Ever wanted to ask a best-selling author a question and hear the answer in her own words? Well, go here to ask Kate Long a question. You type it in, give your email address to get notification that she's recorded an answer, then check back to see what she says.

6. And finally, where I was last week with Leigh - this is me on top of Cairngorm, Scotland. Felt like I was on top of the world!

PS I keep looking at that photo and thinking how fat I look. But it is simply all the bulky warm clothes I am wearing, honest!!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

News from People's Friend

Shirley Blair, fiction editor of The People's Friend, emailed the following message for this blog. Thanks for visiting, Shirley, and thanks too for the offer of answering any questions. I'd suggest blog readers post questions for Shirley after this post. Great to hear there will be more PF fiction specials this year!

Hi, Womagwriter. I’ve been dropping in on your blog occasionally, I hope you don’t mind. We’ve made a lot of changes over the last year or so in how we deal with the fiction in The People’s Friend, and I thought that visiting your blog would give me an insight into if or how any of those changes might be affecting you and your followers. And of course, once I’d visited a couple of times I was hooked! What a lively bunch you are!

Something that was a concern from my point of view was the build-up of stories waiting for attention as we adjusted to the changes in our system, but I thought I might use this opportunity, if I may, to assure any writers who were put off by that that we’ve made massive inroads to that backlog and are now looking at turning stories around in 12 to 16 weeks.
I can also tell you that we’re producing more specials than ever this year, including four that are exclusively fiction. The Spring and Summer Fiction Specials for 2011 are well in hand, but that leaves Autumn and Winter Fiction 2011, plus our usual Summer and Holiday Specials. And then it’ll all begin again next year! So, any writers who had given up trying, were put off trying, or had never thought of trying writing for us — now’s your chance! We have excellent guidelines that anyone can have by emailing a request to

Thanks for allowing me to make this visit. Oh, and if anyone has any questions, post them on the blog and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thanks again for your time.
Shirley E. Blair
Commissioning Fiction Editor, The People’s Friend.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Authors for Japan auction

I've been away all week so am late posting this, but thankfully not too late.
Auction closes Sunday 20th March, 8pm UK time.

If you haven't already had a look at the auction, please do. Click on the image below. Enjoy browsing and please bid!

Friday, 4 March 2011

World Book Night

I've only just seen this lovely, wonderful idea from Nicola Morgan to celebrate World Book Night TOMORROW! 5th March.

Buy a book, preferably from a local bookstore, inscribe it: "Given in the spirit of World Book Night, March 5th 2011 and bought from [insert name of shop] - please enjoy and tell people about it." and give it to someone. Your mum, your mate, your child, or even some random stranger in the street.

What a lovely and generous idea. We're all writers which means we all love reading. Let's pass a little of that love on to someone else, tomorrow. I have friends visiting for the weekend. I think I'll buy them a copy of Diamonds and Pearls and thereby do even more good by raising money for a breast cancer charity.

Come on, join in!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

News round-up

Can I direct you all to Sally's blog, where she has written all sorts of interesting posts lately, including this one about being careful when signing up for writing forums - find out first who you're dealing with; and this one where she's naming 25th March as Anti-Conning Writers' Day. If you've ever been conned out of money as a writer, perhaps paid for vanity publication or signed up for services which were a rip-off, or entered a competition only to find you'd signed away all rights to your story - then consider telling your story on your blog on 25th March, or contacting Sally to tell it for you anonymously on her blog. Let's expose the cowboys who try to make money out of writers by ripping writers off!

And on a happier and more upbeat note, Kate Long's latest novel Mothers and Daughters is now out in paperback - here on Amazon. It's had a change of title and cover (was previously entitled A Mother's Guide to Cheating). You might remember Kate provided a guest post on this blog when the hardback came out. She's a great writer, and this novel is one of my favourites. Would make a great mother's day present, or simply treat yourself to it!

I bought an old, rare book the other day, published in 1945 and containing memoirs of a fellow who was born in 1813. I came across it while doing some genealogical research. And in it I have discovered who my great-great-great-grandfather bought his house from! Which is incredibly exciting to me, but I will understand completely if you are all stifling yawns now.