Saturday, 23 July 2011

Best is the best!

With thanks to Pat who alerted me to the return of fiction (for the summer at least!) to Best magazine. I've been out today and bought the current issue, dated 26th July, and am delighted to see it contains 6 pages of fiction - 3 stories. One is by novelist Erin Kelly who also introduces the fiction pages - with these words:

"It's so important that people read... We all need a bit more downtime, to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea and lose yourself in the plot."

I couldn't agree more! Except to add that the curling up can be done just as well with a fiction magazine.

Best are planning to include a coffee-break read in every issue for the summer. And maybe (I'm guessing) if the stories prove popular and they get some positive feedback, they might consider including a coffee-break tale every issue indefinitely...

Also, they announce a short story competition. First prize is £1000. You need to collect four Short Story Vouchers from the next few issues, and then complete the entry form which will be included in the September 6th issue. The winning story will be published in Best.

Other opportunities for writers of fillers include:

  • Cleaning tips - could earn you £50 - on a postcard to Amaze Aggie, 33 Broadwick St, London W1F 0DQ

  • Letters - £50 for star letter, £25 for all others printed - to
I've just flicked through the magazine today, but like the look of the mixture in it. I always did like Best - their real-life stories are good ones you can relate to (not the 'my husband ate my baby' type); there isn't too much celebrity gossip; there are good fashion/health/food articles (some great BBQ ideas in this issue!) I have 3 hours on a ferry to Cherbourg tomorrow, so guess how I'll pass the time?

Finally - PLEASE if you are a writer of womag fiction, DO go out and buy Best this summer! We must support our own markets!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

BBF & MBNV & cycling

September's Writers' Forum arrived today, and I was delighted to see the subject of the dwindling commercial short story market well aired in a fabulous piece by Douglas McPherson. Sounds like all is not lost at TAB weekly - occasional stories are still being bought for that magazine. And although The Lady have stopped fiction, they'll read anything sent in and if it's brilliant, they'll publish it. Same at Candis where officially they're only taking commissioned stories.

Added at 22:18 - Pat reports in the comments that Best has fiction in it this week, and also announces a fiction competition. Rush out and buy it, everyone! Their FB page is here if you'd like to go and comment.

If you haven't already, do join Julie P's Facebook campaign to Bring Back Fiction - here. We can make a difference!

If you're writing longer length romantic fiction, the M&B New Voices 2011 competition is approaching, open to anyone who hasn't had a full length novel published.

I'm away next week - cycling and camping in the Cherbourg peninsula. Won't be doing anything like the milage of the TdeF riders, but then again, they don't carry heavy panniers, tents, sleeping bags etc. See you when I get back. Happy writing everyone!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tour de France

Is anyone else a fan? Him indoors and I are glued to it for three weeks every July. We have a long-standing dream to buy a campervan and follow the Tour one year. When it came to Britain back in 1994 we cycled those legs ahead of the race, and went to see them both. Same again when it went to Ireland a few years later.

Those who don't watch cycling perhaps think it's just a huge number of cyclists all trying to be first over the line. It's actually so much more than that. The Tour de France is a 3-week long race, winding its way through France and often crossing borders into neighbouring countries. It goes over the Pyrenees and Alps. There are flat stages, hilly stages, sprints, time trials. There are three main competitions - the Yellow Jersey, the Green Jersey and the Polka Dot Jersey. The Yellow is worn by the current overall leader - the person with the lowest overall time. The Green is won by the person with the most points from sprints. The Polka Dot is won by the best climber. So no matter what your speciality is in cycling terms, there's a prize to aim for. If you're a sprinter but no good at climbing, go for the green. If you can ride uphill quickly, go for the polka dot - King of the Mountains. Or you could try to be part of a breakaway - a small group of riders who get ahead of the peloton (main group) - and try to win one day's stage.

And then there's the team dynamics. Cycling is most definitely not each man for himself. The top sprinters rely on team-mates to lead them into the sprint. You save approximately 30% effort if you ride close up behind someone else, in their slipstream. So a team which includes the best sprinters will position themselves near the front of the peloton as they near the finish line, and each team member (known as domestiques) will take a turn at the front, cycling as hard as he can to keep the speed up. Finally with just a couple of hundred metres to go, the last team member will peel away leaving the sprinter to go into top gear and hopefully win the stage. Those team members give their all, but get no fame or credit for it outside of the cycling community.

TdeF cyclists must be amongst the toughest sportsmen in the world. There was a horrific accident the other day which sent one rider flying into a barbed wire fence. He was patched up and back on his bike in minutes, and went on to finish the stage and gain the Polka Dot jersey. He needed 30 stitches. He's still in the Tour, still cycling, and is my new favourite cyclist. (Johnny Hoogerland. He's cute too.)

Finally, at the end, the man in the Yellow Jersey at the end of the race is the overall winner. But every man who's made it to the end - the race traditionally finishes on the Champs Elysee in Paris - is a winner.

So what has all this to do with writing? Well I suppose we could come up with some tortured analogies. The different jerseys are like different genres. A climber will never win a sprint - a top romance writer is unlikely to publish a best-selling thriller. But they're all valid, all worthwhile, and each of us has our own specialities and strengths. Each stage win is one cyclist's 15 minutes of fame, just as each book launch is one writer's moment in the spotlight. The domestiques who launch the sprinter to his win are like the unsung heros - agents, publishers, editors, cover artists - behind a bestselling book. The cyclists picking themselves up after a crash and going on to finish the stage - well those are like writers after a rejection of course. Get up, dress your wounds and keep on trying. Don't give up.

The Tour de France is about so much more than the glory of the final overall winner, although that's the man who'll be on the front pages at the end, dressed in yellow. There are lots of winners along the way. And losers, and plenty of drama.

It's like a three week soap opera. I love it. Really, I just wanted to write about the Tour. They went over the Tourmalet today (big hill. Him indoors wants to cycle up it someday. I'll drive the support car.) Sammy Sanchez, a climber, won the stage, sadly taking the polka dot jersey from Hoogerland.

And finally, a quote from Lance Armstrong for all those slaving over edits - Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts for ever. Now that IS relevant to writing.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Calling all dog owners - a plea for help with articles

I've had this plea for help from womag writer and freelance journalist Elaine Everest (who also edited the brilliant Diamonds and Pearls anthology). She needs to write a couple of dog-related articles by the end of next week. She says:

I need to interview one person who goes or has gone camping and taken their dog.
It's not for a dog magazine. I would also need the person to send me a good
quality image of them/the family and the dog with a tent in the scene.

Also, do you have a dog (or had a dog) and changed your working life to fit
around his/her needs so that the dog is not left alone all day? This may have
meant working part time, were allowed to take the dog to work with you or
perhaps you started your own business so the dog could be with you?
I have to find three case studies for this feature.
Again, a good quality image of you and your dog is required.

If you can help, please contact Elaine directly at elaineeverest (at)

As for me, I've only got two puddy-tats so can't help. Got the first one after I began home-working, to keep me company!

Gratuitous photo of my cat Mir looking Evil...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A couple of wildly different writing opportunities

If you're feeling particularly arty and literary, have a look at the Creative Works competition over at Aesthetica magazine. Deadline 31st August so there's loads of time. Aesthetica is a well-established and respected literary and arts magazine, available from WHSmith or on subscription, or from various art galleries etc.

If you're feeling more like playing with the latest apps on your iphone instead, then here's a site where you can download them for free, in return for writing a brief review. Might be of more interest to your resident teenagers, so feel free to pass this on!

Or if you'd rather stick to writing womag stories - it's time you were getting on with some Christmas themed stories. So what if the sun is shining and you aren't in the mood - that's what a writer's imagination is for!