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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Win an Arvon course

There's still a few days to get your entry in for this FREE competition. Arvon have teamed up with English PEN (the charity which promotes the "freedom to write and the freedom to read"). The prize is a fully funded place on an Arvon writing course (plus travel costs), which is worth winning. To enter you have to write a poem (max 14 lines) or a piece of flash fiction (max 100 words)where the title must be a made-up-word. And you need to get on with it as the deadline is 29 March!

More details can be found here. Thankfully submission is by email only. Send your entry in the body of an email to competitions@englishpen.org.

Reading that Patrick Gale is tutoring on a course at Arvon this year prompted the Indoor Writer to get her entry in over the weekend. He's one of her writing heroes. Also she's recently had a bit of success with really short stories, I can't grunt more right now as I've been sworn to secrecy until next week when winners are announced for a national competition. So you will have to pop back later to learn more...

Monday, 18 March 2013

A mish mash

Today's post is a mish mash, a hotpotch, in fact a gallimaufry of items. Firstly, the Indoor Writer has entered the Lascaux flash fiction competition which closes 20 March - so still time if you fancy entering a short story (<250 words) inspired by the painting on the website. Details here - it is FREE to enter. You can read her entry Whiteout here (do leave comments on the site if you wish).

What a difference a day makes. This time last week West Sussex had disappeared beneath several inches of snow. Handsome Hubby and the Tame Teenager were both stranded at home and she was fretting over her daffs (see photo above). An excellent natural ice sculpture formed on the climbing rose (see photo right) and the world had turned white. Then the sun made a guest appearance and within 24 hours only the tips of the South Downs showed any trace of snow. The world thawed and life returned to normal again, well the schools reopened.

And finally if you need some inspiration for writing short stories set a few decades ago then why not visit a vintage clothing shop. Over the weekend the Indoor Writer ventured to Brighton with the Tame Teen, they took a tour of the lanes where there are several excellent vintage/retro shops. One was the size of a small warehouse and seemed to stock the contents of her parents' wardrobe. Characters and story lines jostled to be heard amongst the racks of jumpers, grannie coats (you know the ones), and sublime collection of hats. Even if a visit doesn't stir some ideas it will certainly make you smile as you trot through your own memory fashion show.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Women's prize for fiction 2013

The longlist for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction) is now out and I'm not going to say too much because Edith has covered it all in her excellent post, which you can read here.

Rather pleased to see two favourite writers on the list: Hilary Mantell and Kate Atkinson.
Kate Atkinson's latest novel is literally just about to hit the shops and going straight on my 'must read' list. Also good to see Kitty Aldridge on the longlist (won Bridport Prize 2011) with her novella 'A trick I learned from dead men'. I wrote about this back here. And I still haven't got round to reading another book on the list: The light between oceans, M L Stedman, of which I heard many good things. Another name on the list is Michele Roberts. I have started 'Daughters of the house', but confess that I'm struggling with it and stalled.

Writers have to keep reading, but that's one of the fun bits of the job. I'm currently reading 'A perfectly good man' by Patrick Gale. What are you reading?

Monday, 11 March 2013

The best fit

If you subscribe to Writing Magazine or regularly buy the monthly issue then look out for this month's edition (April issue) as there is a terrific feature on p. 51: 'Prosetry in motion.' Okay, yes this is another pathetic plug for the Indoor Writer, but she is rather pleased with this articles and for once they didn't change the title!

Inspiration for the article came from attending monthly workshops of her poetry group (Slipstream poets). A recent meeting focused on the importance of selecting the right word. This is a key skill to any writer, but if you analyse a poem or piece of prose you soon realise every writer chooses their own 'right' words as a best fit. We looked at several poems by famous names where key words had been blanked out. In assessing what words we would insert demonstrated that everyone thinks differently, as we all came up with surprisingly different choices. It also demonstrated that true poets come from a different planet, as we rarely chose the words they actually wrote.

For example we reviewed the first stanza of Philip Larkin's poem 'Church Going' as follows. And were asked to consider what words might best fit into the gaps...  (note: the number of spaces doesn't indicate letters)

"Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door ....1.... shut.
Another church: matting, seats and stone.
And little books: .....2.. of flowers, cut
For Sunday, .....3... now; some brass and stuff
Up at the .....4.... end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty .....5.... silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in .....6..... reverence."

Have a go then look below at the words Larkin considered as his best fit. How did you do?

1. thud
2. sprawlings
3. brownish
4. holy
5. unignorable
6. awkward

This is probably a good game to play at Xmas, with a bunch of poets of course!

And you could try this final exercise. Pick a picture or photo and pen a few lines of poetry to describe the scene. Then blank out several words and swap the piece with another writer. Each writer then fills in the gaps of their partner's poem. It's quite astonishing to see the end results. From one piece of writing you end up with two entirely different poems simply because each writer selects quite different words - despite looking at the same picture/photo for inspiration. Shows how unique our writing choices can be.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

National Short Story Competition

Just a reminder that West Sussex Writers (a lovely bunch) have their first National Short Story Competition closing 31 March. So you still have time to enter a story, or why not enter more than one as the prizes are worth it. Details are here and full guidelines here.


  • Open theme stories of under 3,000 words
  • Final judge is SIMON BRETT
  • 1st Prize = £200, 2nd = £75, 3rd = £50
  • Entry fee £5 per story
  • You can email stories
  • You don't have to live in West Sussex to enter, this is a national competition
This is one competition the Indoor Writer can't enter as she is one of the initial reading panel. 

Why not have a go - you could be the first winner of this new short story prize!

Monday, 4 March 2013

February round up

Last week I reminded the Indoor Writer that I'd soon be posting on her February achievements. This prompted a surge of submissions before the end of the month as follows...

The stats for Feb:

Write 1 Sub: 1 new short story written, 1 new serial synopsis and sample chapter written, 11 submissions (including novel opening for competition)
Publish e-collection: still collating the stories and now not sure if I should first try for The Scott Prize (Salt Publishing) before going straight to ebook.
Re-start the novel: am planning to use some of the existing novel for a short story (or stories). Will attempt this for BBC Short Story Competition (so need to pull finger out on this as deadline is 10am 11 March!)
Crack the Weekly News: Womagwriter's blog warned that TWN now has shut to new submissions until after 22 April. This is to allow the Fiction Editor Jill Finlay to clear the backlog. My story must be sitting in this backlog so I'm remaining positive on this goal.
Crack Woman's Weekly: story submitted - no response yet.
Write and sell a serial: synopsis and first chapter submitted, now waiting on a response...
Application for MA in Creative Writing: Application received, now waiting to hear if I will be invited for interview (chews on nails). 

Successes: Shortlisted in Flash 500 (but didn't make final 3), 75 word story published on Paragraph Planet, took part in Rattle Tales storytelling evening (read more on the event here), shortlisted for Write-Invite weekly competition (result not yet out). And no rejections for stories submitted - sometimes you have to celebrate the absences as well as the successes!

And now for the bad news... Income = zilch again. 
The Fish International Short Story Prize shortlist and longlists were also published. Disappointingly my entry didn't make the longlist. OK, so this was 348 stories out of 1600, but I really (REALLY) wanted to get on the longlist this year. Guess I have to 

Keep writing...