Thursday 17 December 2015

Another Flash Fiction Success!

Delighted that my flash fiction story, Pilgrimage, has been selected for publication in the Gascony Writer's Anthology, which is due out in May 2016.  This story is close to my heart as it is based on a place high in the Pyrenees where my husband and I camped ten years ago when we trekked from the Atlantic Coast to the Mediterranean Coast.  

Friday 13 November 2015

Second Place!

I am thrilled that my short story, The Wedding, was placed second in the Flash 500 competition.  My other story, Angel was short listed too so feeling very happy!  The challenge of flash fiction lies in its brevity - in this case 500 words.  It is important to make each word count yet create tension and drama.  In The Wedding I combined backstory and several key characters, which was a challenge.  You can read The Wedding here.  

Monday 26 October 2015

A perfect weekend

This weekend I was at the Parisot Literary Festival (Festilitt).  Festilitt is held in the small medieval town of Parisot in the Tarn et Garonne. The event was popular, bringing together the local and wider community.   For me, there is nothing better than hearing an author talk passionately about their books and the craft of writing.   Appearing this year on the English programme were Deborah Lawrenson, Sara Taylor, Helen Dunmore and Kate Mosse.  The illustrator and writer, Ella Frances Sanders brought both French and English together in her session about her book, Lost in Translation. (Click on the author's names for links to their websites) The sessions were well attended – Helen Dunmore and Kate Mosse were by reservation only and the Salles des Fetes was packed.  Along with 14 other people I was lucky to attend a short story workshop being given by Greg Mosse and I'm hoping to apply what I learned to some of my unfinished stories.

Thanks to a team of volunteers admission to Festilitt is free, the only charge being for the dinner with the authors on the Saturday evening.  I felt privileged to be able to chat to the authors in such an intimate and informal setting.   I came away from the weekend feeling energised and inspired, but a little sad that it was over for another year.  As you can see, I have a pile of books signed by the authors, which I can’t wait to read!  

Saturday 29 August 2015


This summer the Parisot Writing Group met up for some critiquing sessions.  The idea was to keep to a 1,000 word limit and to circulate our pieces a week before the date to allow people time to read each other’s work.  I found the sessions extremely helpful.  It seemed to work better when the group was smaller (six instead of ten for example). Furthermore, at the first session everyone spoke at once and this made it difficult to take on board all the comments.   At subsequent sessions we adopted a different strategy and each member of the group took it in turns to speak.  This seemed to work a lot better.

Critiquing is difficult to get right – it takes time to build trust and some people are better at giving/receiving criticism than others.  I think it's one of those things that improves with practice.  On my Open University course when we critiqued each other’s work we were told to imagine we were creating a “praise sandwich” by doing the following:-

  • Firstly, try to acknowledge what works overall.
  • Follow it with an objective criticism, commenting on why the piece might not pull you in, why the voice might not be realistic or engaging, whether anything is over the top or underdeveloped.  As long as the criticism is objective, it can be useful to speak your mind. 
  • Lastly, add a comment on any touches of the writer’s style that you particularly liked and state why.

For me, I think the most important thing is to be encouraging.   After all, it’s very easy to say what doesn’t work, but it takes more time and effort to say what does. 

Wednesday 10 June 2015

The Parisot Writing Group

It has been a great year so far for The Parisot Writing Group.  Amanda Hodgkinson came back to do a weekend workshop with us in April.  In May, Jacqueline Yallop, did a workshop with the group on sub-plots.  This week Tracey Warr did a workshop on creating probable worlds by using maps, places and objects.  One member of the group commented that she still has so much to learn.  I think as a writer you never stop learning and it is this journey of discovery and being part of a coterie of kindred spirits that, for me, makes the writing process fun.    

Monday 25 May 2015

Flash 500

I entered two short stories into the Flash 500 competition and was delighted to have one of them shortlisted. Congratulations to the winners whose stories can be read on this link.  My story, Au Revoir, was an amended version of a longer story that was shortlisted a while back in the Global short Story competition.  It was inspired by an exercise I did with the Parisot Writing Group using the prompt of a funeral.  I am particularly enjoying writing flash fiction at the moment and the result has encouraged me to enter more competitions.  

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Writing Workshop

This weekend, Amanda Hodgkinson came to do another workshop with the Parisot Writing Group.  It was a fantastic weekend and I’m now busy trying to put into practice what I learnt.   There was a lot of discussion on the importance of character and we did several exercises where we really got under the skin of our main characters.  Following the critiquing session at last year’s workshop, I felt this year we were able to critique each other’s work with more honesty and clarity.   Amanda is such a good listener and we think this has made us better listeners too.  We hope she will come back next year!

As usual, lots of eating and drinking was done and I’m still working my way through the chocolate! 

Amanda is one of the tutors at Writing At The Castle in July.

An impromptu photo call on Saturday night


Monday 26 January 2015

Be Prepared!

Saturday saw me up early and on my way to London to attend the Writers & Artists’ "How to Hook an Agent" Workshop.  Having completed my novel, The Gift, I felt that I needed some guidance on the submission process before sending it out to agents.   The workshop was made up of sessions on knowing when your novel is ready, what should be included in a submission package, how to pitch your novel and what appeals to agents in a submission.  The first session was lead by Ed Wilson (Johnson and Alcock) and Juliet Mushens (UK Literary Division of The Agency Group).  The next session was lead by Juliet Pickering (Blake Friedmann Literary Agency) and Hellie Ogden (Janklow & Nesbit).  All the agents were professional, encouraging and unintimidating.   

The session ended with a ten minute one to one meeting with one of the agents where we were given the opportunity to pitch our novel.  I was nervous about my ten minute session, but I had done some research and chosen the agent whom I felt was right for my novel.  I needn’t have worried, as I was made to feel instantly at ease.  I linked up with some other interesting writers too.  I learnt another valuable lesson - most of the other attendees seemed to have business cards so I must get some printed - much more professional than scribbling my contact details on a scrappy piece of paper!     

Monday 19 January 2015

Walking and Writing

How does it happen?  I can be walking along when suddenly I have the answer to a short story or chapter that I have been struggling with.  I’m not evening thinking about it, but in the story creeps.  It is at times like these that I wish I had a notebook and pen with me, but I never do!  Instead I have to hold on to the idea and keep playing it in my head until I’m back home.  This is what happened to me yesterday.  I was concentrating on the muddy path, being careful not to slip over and wham I had the solution to a problem with a short story I’m working on.   

There has been research linking the advantages of walking to creativity.  Here is a link to an article that appeared in The New Yorker on why walking helps us think.  It certainly works for me!