Monday, 15 August 2011

Short Story Contest

The Tunbridge Wells and District Writer's Circle belongs to the National Association of Writers' Group (NAWG). 

NAWG are holding a short story competition. The theme of the story is open, although all stories must be aimed at adults. They can be anything from 500 words to 2000 words. The closing date is 31st October 2011. 

Entry fees are £5.00, plus an extra £3.00 if you require a critique and the first prize is £250.00.

Email for further information.

Good luck!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Short Story Contest

In conjunction with the Electric Lantern Festival the Writers’ Circle is holding an Open Short Story Competition. Stories should be no longer than 1500 words and written around the theme of Tunbridge Wells and/or the surrounding areas. For ideas think Regency, Beau Nash, The Pantiles, Garden of England... the list is almost endless. 

There are three prizes – First £60. Second £30 and 3rd £15. Entry is £3 per story. Writers must be over 17 and can be members of the Circle, or of any other writing group, or of none.Closing date for last entries is the 31st July 2011. 

For submission guidelines and application form you can phone 07749 134301 or visit the Circle website at

We look forward to reading your entries.

Choose your Favourite Book

As part of their annual Bookfest Oxfam are inviting the residents of Tunbridge Wells to choose their favourite book.

Participation is free and you may vote in person at the Oxfam Bookshop in Chapel Place or by  

The closing date for votes is 15 July 2011 so hurry and let them know your choice.

Can't wait to see which book wins!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Date For The Diary

On Friday 17th June Crowborough Arts Network will be holding a Poetry Evening.

Bring three of your poems to read aloud, or just come along to enjoy an evening of poetry, great coffee and good company.

The evening will be held at The Old Fire Station Cafe in Crowborough. The cafe has been the venue of many events lately, such as a Conan Doyle Evening, and more recently, a very successful Comedy Night.

Note the date in your diary. Friday 17th June - 7.30pm.

See you there.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Interview With Tess Niland Kimber

In association with the Electric Lantern Film and Arts Festival the circle is holding a short story competition. Entries are welcomed in any genre but must be connected in some way to Tunbridge Wells. Think Beau Nash, Pantiles etc. More details about the competition can be found on our website Entry forms can be obtained by e-mailing Closing date: 1st July 2011.

Tess Niland Kimber - one of our judges for the competition agreed to do an interview for us. In this, she highlights some of the things she will be looking for, when she puts on her judges hat.

How long have you been writing?

I've been writing for as long as I an remember. I've got a very long winded novel about the aftermath of a nuclear war that I wrote when I was 9 but I know I was writing earlier - I just didn't keep anything before this.

What genre do you write in?

That's a good question. I'm not sure I stick to any particular one. I regularly sell to the woman's magazine market which could be described as romance but really all these stories are anything but. For my longer fiction, I started writing for teenagers, moved onto light romance and then switched to thrillers/crime when my agent suggested I try something meatier.

Have you been published? If so, where?

I've had nearly 100 short stories and serials published in most of the major UK woman mags - Take a Break, Woman's Weekly, My Weekly, People's Friend, The Weekly news, Loving and I've also had some articles in Able magazine.

Lots of my stories have been published in the top woman's mag in South Africa who asked me to supply and additional pseudonym as so may of my stories appeared in quick succession. Over there I'm also known as Teresa Andrews. I've had some stories appear in a Swedish woman's magazine and recently sold my first to Australia.

I've also had a light romantic novel published by Robert Hale which was published in hardback, paperback, large print and the foreign rights were sold to Europe.

Recently I've had some stories published in several anthologies including a South African e-book.

What inspires your writing?

Everything. Ideas are the easy part. Making them work on the page can be a problem sometimes though.

I don't like it if someone says, "Oh you must write about my life. It would make a wonderful book." They may well have had a fascinating life but for me personally, I prefer to have one tiny nugget that I can expand. Telling me blow by blow every event they've been through doesn't leave my imagination with anything to work on.

Do you have a writing routine - or a particular place you like to write?

I'm lucky enough to write full time. I have three youngish children, two of whom are disabled, so I find I write around their needs and this is the perfect job for that. After I've taken my eldest son to his special school for the day, I have breakfast then then write until my two youngest children come home from school. Then I dash out to collect my eldest son from school, have dinner and then write some more. I genuinely work 12 hour days so we can be together.

As for a special place - I write on a laptop so I can write anywhere. My son's school is in West Sussex so we live there during term time so he doesn't have to board and then go home to the Isle of White for holidays and weekends. In Sussex I have a desk set up in the corner of the bedroom which is way too cramped but on the island I have my own study/office. However, when I'm there I tend to write in the bedroom anyway as I have a massive desk in there now that someone kindly let me buy when they were going to throw it out. Due to the children's needs, I've learned to write wherever. My son often attends mobility courses in the New Forest so for years I've written in the car until my laptop battery dies. I'm an expert on the best car parks in the Forest that are quiet, near and cafe and have clean loos nearby.

What is the best advice you have been given in your writing career?

I don't think I've had any advice as such. However, I have learnt lots from other writers, especially the ones who wouldn't let a little thing like rejection put them off. I've also learnt that to be successful you have to treat this as a job. There's nothing wrong with the writer who wants to write occasionally, who sells occasionally, but if you want a career where you are regularly selling then you have to put in the hours, write what the market wants and read oodles too.

Do you have a writing goal?

Oh yes - to be a bestselling novelist.

As one of the judges of the Tunbridge Wells & District Writers' Circle's short story competition - what will you be looking for?

Horrible answer but I'll know it when I see it. Something slightly different, well written with well drawn characters who I can believe in. Rather than the X Factor I call it the Wow Factor. I recently read a story by a beginning author who is trying to sell the the mags. her story was set against a street party for the Royal Wedding and it was beautifully written, with a surprise ending that was equally believable. Her only failing was writing this too late to submit to the mags who would have needed to run this in April this year.

Finish the following prompt.

I knew I shouldn't open the door but it drew me like a log fire. I edged my way towards it, my hand outstretched. Just one peek wouldn't harm. Would it? Before I could change my mind I flung the door wide........

'Jasmine! I thought you were dead!'

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Our website

The Tunbridge Wells and District Writer's Circle website is now up and running at There you can find out who we are, what we do, where we meet and how being a member can be of benefit to you. Why not take a look?

If you think you'd like to join us, or if you have a question that isn't answered by the website, please do call us on 07749 134 301. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


The Easter Holidays have been blessed with beautiful weather so far and hopefully that will remain so. However, sunshine and holidays can leave us neglecting our writing. It's far too nice to be sitting at the PC and there seems to be so many more energetic pursuits that can distract us.

But it doesn't have to stop us from thinking or planning. Our chair can often be seen with a dog, on a lead in one hand and a Dictaphone in the other. Ok, it might look like she is talking to herself - or wandering around in a world of her own - but the cog wheels are turning and plans are being made.

I'm a fan of the notebook myself, which can be a bit of a problem if you don't carry a large handbag - but be without it - I dare not. You can guarantee that I will have a "PING" moment should I leave it at home and no matter how much I think I will remember - I never do.

I am sure there are more technological ways of recording your musings whilst out with the kids, or enjoying the weather, but I am not the lady to advise you on those.

My advice is simple - Be prepared.




Ian Porter will be talking about suffragettes and suffragists at Tunbridge Wells Library on Tuesday 17th May at 7pm.

Tickets cost £2 are available at the library 01892 522352.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Electric Lantern Festival Tunbridge Wells

Script Writers

Your Town Needs You.
Scripts are wanted for the Tunbridge Wells Anthology Movie. 4-10 pages long. Deadline is a fortnight. For more information follow the link. The finished script/movies will be shown on the link below. Members, please let me know if you are going to write/ or already have something suitable for this so that I can let the organisers know.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Things of Interest.


Sarah Duncan is holding two one day courses in creative writing in Notting Hill London.

For more info e-mail to see who the tutor is.

Read her blog at



Alt.Fiction are holding a Spring Writing Weekend 20th - 22nd May

or call Alex 07896 228367



Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Our next Speaker meeting will be on the 13th April. The speaker will be Susan Rogers, Customer Services Development Librarian, who orgainsed the successful Poetry Reading on World Book Night.

The meeting will be held at the St John's Church Centre at 7.45pm for 8pm start.

The meeting is open to members £1.50 and non members £2.50.

It would be great to see you all there. Pop it in your diary.


Emma Henderson author of Grace Williams Says it Out Loud will be talking abou her book at Tunbridge Wells library.

Tuesday 19 April 2011 7pm
Tickets are £2 and can be bought from the library.
Contact Susan Rogers
01892 522352.

Emma has just been long listed for the Orange prize.


Sunday, 20 March 2011


Sarah Salway

Author of three novels and two books of short stories is holding writing workshops in Tunbridge Wells.

Unfortunately it is too late to go to the first but I believe it is possible to sign up for the second and third.

Saturday 30th April
Only you can write this - Strengthen your writing voice.

Saturday 28th May
Carrying On -How to be a happy writer

Each workshop is £45.


More details on Sarah Salway website which I am unable to link?

Crowborough Open Poetry Evening.

15 April · 19:30 - 21:30

Location The Old Fire Station

Created by: Crowborough Arts Network, Gareth Owen-Williams

More info A keen poet? You've written poetry but never shown it?
You think your verse deserves a wider audience?
Or you'd like to hear others' efforts?
Come and take part in Crowborough's first open poetry reading.

The even can be found on facebook.!/event.php?eid=192993787388471

I will be going. It would be good to see other members there.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


At the moment we are studying analogy for my degree course. As a writer I love language and words. I feel I have written well if the language is enjoyable. When I read I get really excited over words and how the writer has used them. I like the images they conjure up and the sound and feel of them on my lips.

One of the exercises I was asked to do was to find a picture of someone involved in an unusual occupation, possibly one that has been superseded by modern technology. I chose the picture below of a chimney sweep. I then had to come up with as many analogies as possible and note whether they were similes or metaphors. I had such fun doing this and it occurred to me that as writers we spend very little time honing our craft and we forget the pleasure this can bring.

My challenge to you dear reader, is to do this exercise yourself. Use the picture posted here and post your analogies in the comment box. I can't offer any prize but I hope that you will have fun doing it and reading other contributions.

I look forward to reading yours. Here are a few I came up with.

The soot ferret blackened his snout.

The chimney gave birth to its labourer.

The sweep swept the gullet before it choked on its bile.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


I thought I would share this forthcoming event. Several of our members will be going along and sharing their favourite poem. Do you have one? Why not come along? Details below.


Share it on World Book Night at Tunbridge Wells Library: an evening of poetry and refreshments

Saturday 5 March 2011, 6.00 – 7.30pm

For more information, contact Susan Rogers 01892 522352

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Interview with Catriona Robb our Speaker Secretary

The photo is of me on our friends' boat in Newfoundland and I'm holding Barnaby the Travelling Teddy Bear, whose blog I wrote and which can be read at
Catriona, when did you start writing?

I can’t remember exactly when I started writing but I first began thinking of myself as a writer aged 11 when my teacher at the time was sufficiently impressed with one of my stories to suggest I send my work to a publisher. He looked up an address in one of the books in the staff room and I still have the reply I received from Pan Books. No, they didn’t offer to publish me as a child prodigy but they did say my Enid Blyton inspired novel, The Mystery of Dundee Island (actually set in Newfoundland!) “showed very real promise”. That gave me the confidence to write down the stories I was constantly making up in my head in the belief that people would want to read them.

What genre do you like to write?

The story which impressed my primary school teacher was actually a fantasy about fairies (who emerged from eggs found in the back garden J) but these days, although I primarily write fiction, I focus on real life and particularly human relationships. My stories range from family sagas to romances with a healthy dash of action adventure. I’m more flexible as to literary genre writing both historical and contemporary novels as well as screenplays.

What things inspire you to write?

When I was younger it was simply wanting to share the story and, to a certain extent, find out how it ended as I tend to begin with a series of scenes and only a vague idea of where they might be heading. Since then I’ve taught myself to write to order, whether for an MA assignment or a competition, and that can have its own rewards too. You’d be surprised what you can come up with given a theme and a deadline.
That said my favourite ideas tend to come from my subconscious, whether informed by the news or work and life experiences and I’ve got at least two novel synopses from watching television adaptations and films.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

At a Historical Novel Society conference several years’ back, Bernard Cornwell was talking about how difficult it is to be objective about one’s own work, especially when it’s not going well. He said that once, when he was struggling, he typed up an excerpt from one of C S Forester’s novels substituting the name “Sharpe” for “Hornblower”. A few days later he re-read it, still thinking it was rubbish. Then he told himself that this wasn’t his writing, it was Forester’s and it had been successfully published. That gave him the impetus he needed to keep going.
I thought that was excellent advice but, if you can’t think of an author whose writing is similar enough to your own, then why not come along to the Tunbridge Wells & District Writers’ Circle? Our genre-specific workshops provide exactly this kind of encouragement in the form of objective, constructive criticism with tea, coffee and biscuits as an added bonus.

Do you have a writing routine?

My day tends to begin with checking my emails. Where it goes from there depends on whether there are any needing an immediate response and what my most pressing deadlines are. Ideally though I would concentrate on writing in the morning and deal with the business of life in the afternoon as it’s easier to switch mindsets from the creative to the prosaic that way round.

Who are your writing heroes or heroines?

Above all I like a good story, so as a child it was Enid Blyton (as already mentioned) and Arthur Ransome. I’m a huge fan of nineteenth century classics so I would also include Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins … I could go on. Among modern authors I like Joanna Trollope, Rosamunde Pilcher, Giselle Green, Victoria Connelly, Christina Courtenay and Sue Moorcroft.

Which one of your characters would you least like to meet and why?

Probably the villain of my Italian Renaissance novel and screenplay, Castille. Like most bullies, he’s a terrible coward, nasty and vindictive but unfortunately he also has the power to make a lot of people’s lives very unpleasant indeed.

In what ways do you benefit from being part of the Tunbridge Wells and District Writers’ Circle? In what ways are you involved?

Writing can be a lonely occupation - to keep the perspective Bernard Cornwell talked about, it is essential to have writing friends who understand what it’s like: who can advise, encourage and, if necessary, cajole. Sheila Alcock is right about the alchemy that occurs when you read your work aloud and this is a profession where contacts can make a real difference. You never know who you might meet at a workshop or speaker event who could further your career.
I’m currently the Speaker Secretary of the Circle helping to organise each year’s programme of events as well as working to improve the profile of the Circle generally. In the past I’ve also edited the Circle Newsletter and continue to provide articles for it regularly.

Are you a member of any other writing groups?

My membership of the Romantic Novelists’ Association helped me to get my new job (see below) and I have benefited enormously from their New Writers’ Scheme. I have also made some extremely good friends who are now published and successful authors.

Congratulations on your new job. What is your job title and what does it involve?

At the start of this year I was offered the role of freelance production editor with a small women’s fiction publisher based in Surrey. I liaise with the main editor and author to resolve any issues with plot, characterisation and setting and also check for spelling, grammatical and factual errors before publication.

In what ways do you think it might benefit your own writing?

All writers need to learn how to edit their own work and there is no better way than to constructively critique others. It’s amazing how often, when reviewing a manuscript, you will recognise the flaws in your own writing and also gain insight into how to overcome them.

Does anyone else in your family write?

No one in my immediate family writes now but my late Grandfather had a series of articles published in Marbella’s M magazine in the late 1980’s. He lived and worked in Spain in the 1920’s and the articles contrasted the small fishing village Marbella was then with the upmarket tourist resort it has now become.

What would be your ideal writing retreat?

I’m lucky to have found a more or less ideal writing retreat not very far away in East Kent. I stay in a self-catering bungalow set in beautiful grounds, which I can explore when I need a break from the computer or to let my subconscious find the solution to a plot or character dilemma.
The estate is designed for retreats so there’s no television or radio and mobile phones aren’t allowed. It really does provide the opportunity to get away from day-to-day distractions and focus solely on my writing.

What would you take with you?

Besides my laptop, pads, pens, food (!) and research material, my friends Giselle, Jan and Cara are essential. Who but fellow writers would give you space to write when the work in progress is going well but be there if you need a chat, to give advice and to have a laugh together when you finish work for the day?

Finish the following.

It wasn’t a case of if she would tell – but when. She needed to time it properly.
Cora had kept the secret for so long now that to let it slip clumsily would ruin the surprise Golden Wedding celebrations she had worked so hard to perfect.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Writer in the Brave New World

At our February meeting our Guest Speaker was David Taylor of 2010Media, a company that specialises in helping people, companies and organisations improve their communications in the age of social media. It was a fascinating talk, and very informative.

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube and all the others have completely changed the world. Most of us already knew that. But many of us have yet to realise how that change affects US. For years, we've plodded on, ignoring the inane comments on Facebook ("Had rice Krispies for dinner, lol") and the indecipherable text speak sentences on Twitter: ("R u coming 2 c me L8er 2nite?") We ignored Linked In, or My Space, and hadn't a clue about Youtube. It was for kids who'd left the age of the mobile phone behind, right?


In the 21st century, if we are going to achieve our dreams as writers, we have to do all we can to raise our profiles. Gone are the days of writing a book/script/article and shyly handing it to the publisher/director/editor before scuttling away to anonymity to write some more. Behind us are the times when the publisher's promotion team does all the PR work and leaves us to our art. A writer today has to be prepared to market their work, create interest in it, pitch it.

There is but one simple truth: the more your name appears in public, the more people will have heard of you, and if the name is familiar, they're more likely to give you time and space to make that pitch. They're more likely to take you seriously.

David showed us how it is up to us to use social media sites more effectively. We need to increase the amount of traffic we generate, and to make that traffic interesting, entertaining and informative so that readers will enjoy it and come back for more. To this end, it is imperative that the writing is of good quality - even within the 140 characters of Twitter. No point telling everyone you're a writer and then leaving a badly written sentence where the world and his wife can trip over it. That'd be like telling everyone you were a chef and then serving up burnt shepherd's pie.

My personal experience backs up everything David was saying. I've made many new friends and contacts through social media. Some of them are people who enjoy my posts, which is gratifying and boosts my confidence. Some of them share my passion for writing, which eases the loneliness of the work. And some of them have been in positions to help me, giving me tips to improve my chances of success, helping make the work better, advising me of markets and competitions that will do me good, introducing me to people who may be interested in working with me.

None of them are people I would have met in the street of my town. Most would never have opened a letter from me, or even an email. Yet, social media has made them accessible.

The world is shrinking. Opportunities are growing. All we have to do is keep up with the traffic.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

When you can't finish...

You've been working on your latest project for some time. You've researched, written, plotted and planned, found the weak points and chiselled them out, filled the holes and made it make sense. You're a few thousand words from the end. 

And it grinds to a halt. 

You know how it ends. You know what you want to say. You even have the wording for the very last line absolutely perfect. But you just can't seem to get there. 

If you're not deleting more than you're adding in, and not convincing yourself that every word so far is utter rubbish, then you'll be taking a degree course in procrastination. There is a sudden urgency to bath the dog and clear out the attic, or go back to the beginning and check for weak words like just and very and nice. Anything, ANYTHING, but write those final words.

Something I've found helps is to have another work lined up and waiting to be started. A few tantalising notes in a loose leaf book, a couple of lines about a character, a dialogue quote. What ifs and whys and wheres scribbled, or cryptic sentences spoken into a dictaphone. Pretty soon, a new project is taking shape and demanding to be written, and I am champing at the bit to get to it.

Suddenly, procrastination doesn't seem so enticing. I want to finish this work so I can get started on my new piece, a piece that is going to be the best thing I ever wrote, my great masterpiece, the ONE. At which point, I knuckle down and write those last few pages, and write those immortal words:

The End.

If you have trouble finishing, try it. It can't hurt. And it might just work.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Treehouse Press

Treehouse press - Three-in-One Chapbook Contest

For more information check out their website. Closing date 15th March.
Prizes £100 £75 and £50 plus publication in their Chapbook and 20 copies.

Entries must be three short stories. 10,000-15,000 words in total. Fee for entering £10.

Good Luck.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Flash 500

Flash 500 is a competition aimed at Flash Fiction Writers. Competitors must write a complete story in 5oo words. There is no theme stipulated.

To enter and read the rules follow the following link.

Now in its second year, this quarterly open-themed competition has closing dates of 31st March, 30th June, 30th September and 31st December. The results will be announced within six weeks of each closing date and the three winning entries each quarter will be published on this website.

Entry fee: £5 for one story, £8 for two stories
Optional critiques: £10 per story

Prizes will be awarded as follows:
First: £250 plus publication in Words with JAM
Second: £100
Third: £50
Highly commended: A copy of The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Getting yourself out there!

When I was younger, I believed that "talent would out". I'd been given the ability to use the written word effectively, and all I had to do was practice my craft, hone it, and eventually success would be mine. Right?


Would that things were that simple. If only we could do our best, write our masterpieces and watch as, magically, the world clamours to read them. If only creating the piece was enough.

It isn't. A writer can be as gifted as Shakespeare, as astute as Austen, as witty as Wilde, but it does no good if the world is not made aware. Readers don't search for us in the dark shadows of our anonymity; we have to jump into the light and attract them.

But how?

Our guest speaker this month can answer that question. David Taylor of 2010Media ( will show us how to use the internet, and particularly social media, to our advantage, allowing us to showcase both ourselves and our work, tapping into markets that would otherwise be closed to us, networking, building contacts and increasing our chances of success. Come along, hear what he has to say, and take advantage of his expertise.

The talk is on Wednesday February 9th at 8pm and is at St John's Church Centre (opposite the M and S Garage as you go from Tunbridge Wells into Southborough). Writers Circle members £1.50, non members £2.50.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 24 January 2011


Sheila is a valued member of both the circle and the committee. Her workshops are always inspiring and she is always ready to give encouragement and advice. I just know you are going to enjoy her interview.

Sheila, when did you start writing?

Not until I was in my thirties because I'd always thought writers were incredibly clever people and I didn't see myself in that way. At that time, we used to walk the dog in a tiny village near Alton called Froyle, known locally as The Village of the Saints. I was so intrigued by all the statues, I did some research and produced an article. Greatly daring, I sent it to the Farnham Herald and it was accepted. Following this, I had a letter from a wonderful lady called Meg who invited me to give a talk on writing to the Farnham Writers group. Astonished, I told her I wasn't a writer, and that the article which led her to contact me was the first thing I'd ever written. She said very firmly that I was a writer, and invited me to join the group. And that's when I started writing.

What genre do you write in?

I write general interest articles, short stories for women's magazines, flash fiction, ghost stories and children's stories. I'm currently writing a book for young teenage girls, and have a children's book to rewrite.
What was your first success?
Hugely encouraged by the Farnham Writers, I sent a short story to Woman's Weekly and it was accepted.

What things inspire you to write?

Generally questions. In other words the 'What If ' idea. I think about something which I've been told, or which has happened to a friend, and ask myself if it might have been different under different circumstances. This leads on to a whole new scenario, and I start writing. Sometimes, a chance remark, or a striking looking character in the supermarket can also lead to an idea.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Write every day. Never stop writing, and never give up. Write about what you know, and if you don't know, then do extensive research. For example, if you want to write about teenagers, then you have to listen to them in the coffee shop, on the 'bus, in the department stores.. wherever. You need to do this to catch up with the latest 'in words' and trends. If you want to write about a certain period in history, then you need to read extensively about the period, and not just history books. You need to read first hand accounts about the seamstresses, miners, farmers and housemaids of the period, as that's the only way you can get a feel for the patterns of speech and social mores of the time. I also read Writers' News avidly, and never finish reading it without being refuelled with ideas.

Do you have a writing routine?

I try to write in the mornings, and get the mechanics of housework, gardening, shopping etc done in the afternoon.

Who are your writing hero’s or heroines?

Where to start? Somerset Maugham, Annie Proux, Chekhov, Grahame Green, Alan Bennett, Jodi Piccoult, Khaled Hossein, Kate Moss, Victoria Hislop, Dick Francis, Hilary Mantell……..there are so many, and each of them have strengths which I admire enormously.

Which one of your characters would you least like to meet and why?

Probably the reporter in my children's book. By the time I've finished making him more villainous, even his mother wouldn't want to meet him. He doesn't like children and he bullies them, frightens them, and threatens them.

In what ways do you benefit from being part of the Tunbridge Wells and District Writers’ Circle? In what ways are you involved?

A session with other writers is always of enormous benefit. There's a strange alchemy about reading one's work aloud; it seems to put the reader in the position of listener, and makes you see your work through other people's eyes, so that even before comments are made, you can see awkward sentences, anomalies and, dare I say it, over egging with too many adjectives, background description etc.

I'm involved with the Circle as a committee member, and also as leader of the short story and features workshop, which is held in my house. We meet once a month, bring along our latest piece, and read aloud. I hope we remain detached, and that our comments are helpful. It's useful also, to occasionally work on exercises. A piece of dialogue maybe, or using all the senses, writing in the first person, points of view etc. This always heightens awareness of technique and flow.

Are you a member of any other writing groups?

I belong to closed forum of womag writers. This group is highly professional, extremely successful, and amazingly supportive. We put our short stories on the forum for advice, crits and general comments. The crits are always to the point, detached, and helpful. I've been a member of this internet group now for around 14 years, and I've met some of the other members. Not all of them of course, because they come from points as diverse as USA, South Africa and New Zealand. The last meet up we had was in Brighton. It was a blazing hot day and we sat under the trees in the gardens of the Royal Palladium and talked and talked until sheer hunger drove us to find a pizza hut. Then we talked some more. One of the members was from Canada, and she stayed with me for a couple of nights, before going on to stay with her family in Scotland. We didn't get much sleep!

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution?

I think I must rewrite my book for children. I've spent hard earned cash on getting it checked, and the general summation was that it was a good idea and original. I was told that the villains were not villainous enough, so I need to inject a bit more scary stuff. Then I'll send it off again. I've also almost finished a book for teenage girls, but get distracted by short story ideas.

Does anyone else in your family write?

My daughter Jacqueline is a poet. To date she's had six books published and has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot award. Her work fills me with admiration.

What would be your ideal writing retreat?

I always used to write in a shed in the garden. When my husband Peter was alive, we were out walking one day, and I saw a summerhouse . I raved about it, and said I'd love one just like that to write in. The moment we got home, he looked at places in our garden to site one, bought the wood, laid the foundations, and built it. Peter was also a writer, so he understood the need for a designated writing place. I no longer use the shed for writing, but for quite a long time, my shed was my ideal retreat, where I left concerns over cooking and housework behind, and entered a different, imaginary world where I could lose myself in words.

What would you take with you?

My laptop, unlimited coffee, mobile 'phone to keep in touch and a radio for inspiring music.

Finish the following.

The figure stood at the end of the street waiting. The driving rain illuminated in the street lights seemed not to trouble the figure. Wind rattled the letter boxes belonging to the Victorian houses that lined the street. Half way down the row an upstairs light came on, a door slammed shut ………… and a woman stood for a moment, silhouetted against the light. For a split second, she hesitated then took off. The wind caught her hair, teasing and blowing tendrils into her eyes, and still she ran, high heels pounding through puddles, fury giving her speed.
"This has to stop," she shouted, but as always, by the time she reached the end of the street, he'd vanished.

Note: this has given me the idea for a ghost story, but I haven't finished it yet .

Friday, 21 January 2011




a publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with additional support from the Mystery Writers of America, shines a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. We also provide industry news, advice for writers, and a special focus on the weird and wacky things that happen at the fringes of the publishing world.


Provides up to date guidelines for submissions to women's magazines including abroad.


Accepts submissions for e-publishing and also print. Check out their requirements.


A blog for those of you who write articles or who want to write them

Friday, 14 January 2011


Just a few links to inform you of some writing competitions that you may be interested in entering.

MYSTERY WOMEN - Promoting Crime Fiction

Write a short crime story of no more than 1000 words starting with the sentence:

'Poor Hal. I knew him well - like a brother....'

Entry Fees: MW members £5.00. Non- members £10.00
Max 2 entries per person.
Your name must not appear on the script. A pseudonym must be used.
Closing Date 14th Feb 2011.
Entry Forms available at


Fiction up to 3,000 words on any theme.

Deadline - Noon 28th February 2011

1st Prize £100.00
2nd Prize £50.00
3rd Prize £25.00

Plus publication on their website for three winners and seven commended entries. Entry fee £4.

For more info go to

Good Luck should you decide to enter and don't forget to let me know how you get on.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


International Creative Writing Competition for Poems, Short Stories and Flash Fiction

The Bridport Prize 2011 website is now open for entries!

The Bridport Prize is the richest open writing competition in the English language - with £5000 first prize for a short story (of up to 5000 words); and £5000 first prize for a poem (of up to 42 lines).
The new category of Flash Fiction attracts £1,000 to be won for the best short, short story of under 250 words.

The Bridport is also known as a tremendous literary stepping stone - the first step n the careers of writers such as: Kate Atkinson, Tobias Hill, Carol Ann Duffy and Helen Dunmore.

Anyone can enter - so long as the work is previously unpublished. It costs £7 per story, £6 per poem or £5 per flash fiction and the closing date is 30th June 2011

Each year the prize is judged by well known writers - this year we are delighted to announce that Carol Ann Duffy will be judging the poetry, and AL Kennedy, the short stories and flash fiction

The 2010 anthology of winning entries is available for just £12 or £15 overseas (including postage and packing). The 2009 and 2008 anthologies are available in limited numbers for £7 and £5 (£10 and £8 overseas)

Enter online at:

Or download an entry form:

Or email for a pdf entry form:

Or send an SAE for an entry form to be posted to you

The Bridport Prize
PO Box 6910

Monday, 10 January 2011


Introducing you to Norma, who is a valued member of the circle. Norma attends the short story workshops.

Norma, when did you start writing?

When I was at St Johns primary school I wrote several stories about woodland folk, although, I have to say, I don’t remember any of them showing a particularly original imagination! I began writing again in my early twenties, and achieved early success with the publication of a short story in Red Letter Magazine. Then life, work and motherhood interrupted my creative flow and the intervening years have been spent writing feverishly combined with long gaps of not writing or submitting at all. Recently, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to send my work to an editorial consultant and hope that this will lead to me finally getting it right!

What genre do you write in?

So far I have written three books for children aged between eight and ten, three young adult books - the latest of which is a ghost story - and two full-length women’s commercial novels. I have also written copious short stories.

What things inspire you to write?

Life inspires me. I have been through bad patches where I have dramatically declared, hand swept across forehead, that I will never write again. Then one day I will be going for a walk, or a coffee, or even just shopping, and I will see one tiny scene that will set my imagination racing and off I go again. For instance, I have just been for a walk around Dunorlan Park and to the café and saw at least three little scenarios that could form the basis for a short story.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

That’s a tricky one. I can’t decide between ‘don’t get it right, get it written’ and ‘edit, edit and edit again’. I think one follows on from the other actually.

Do you have a writing routine?

Unfortunately I don’t. I am a self-employed researcher and my workload is usually feast or famine. That means when I have no work I can write as much as I like, but this is balanced out by days or weeks when I can’t fit much in at all. I am not very good at routines anyway – if it’s a lovely day my garden (and all its weeds) beckons me I’m afraid. And I am very easily distracted by offers of coffee and cake…

Who are your writing heroes or heroines?

Many and varied! Off the top of my head (goes to look at bookshelves), I love Anne Tyler, Laurie Graham, John Steinbeck, H.E. Bates, E. Annie Proulx, Penelope Lively, Barbara Pym, Graham Greene. However, my two real heroines - because they have shown in front of my eyes that it really can be done - are of course, ex-Circle members Elizabeth Harris (writing also as Alys Clare) and Tamara McKinley. We were all struggling and unpublished together, reading our work out in various workshops, and these two talented ladies are now hugely successful.

If you were to invite one of your characters to dinner, who would it be and why?

In my first full-length women’s novel I have an ageing character, Clara, who lives with her bullying sister. When she was in her 30s, she sacrificed a relationship with a younger man because she thought it was the right thing to do. I would love to have the younger Clara to dinner (she also likes her food so we would get on well!) I would tell her not to give up her man as he loved her more than anything and she would never meet anyone she loved as much. We could also have a jolly good chat about her artistic career and how she should follow that instead of giving up and moving back home to her sister.

In what ways do you benefit from being part of the Tunbridge Wells and District Writers’ Circle?

Writing is of course a solitary experience and it is very easy to fall into the pit of self-doubt and negativity. It is wonderful to have like-minded people to share your good and bad experiences with, and to pick up helpful tips and advice. The most beneficial aspect, for me, is the opportunity to attend workshops and read work aloud. Not only is constructive criticism essential, the very act of reading your own words can often pinpoint problems that you hadn’t spotted in black and white.

Have you made a New Years Resolution?

No! I’ve broken too many over the years. Although one friend suggested that our resolutions should be to take something up, rather than give something up, and I think that is a sound idea. Maybe I will take up eating more cakes…

If you were marooned on a mountain top in a log cabin, a blizzard outside and a roaring fire within, what five items would you want with you?

A massive pile of logs
My laptop with internet access
Next to Nature, Art by Penelope Lively – a short but exquisite book
A yoga instruction manual
My coffee machine AND plenty of capsules

Finish the following.

When Laura came around, the pain in her head gripped her. She lifted her hand up and felt the blood, sticky and warm. Her legs aching and grazed lay twisted. She looked around the darkness, confused, trying to remember what had happened. When a bright light shone in her eyes, the horror of her situation.........

sank in. She should never have tried to demonstrate her high kick on the boss’s table at the Christmas party.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Script Writing Links.

Below you will find some useful links for writing scripts.

SimplyScripts - Movie Scripts and Screenplays
This website links you to hundreds of free, downloadable scripts. (movie, screen, current, classic and soon to be released). Something for everyone.

Daily Script - Movie Scripts and Movie Screenplays
Daily Script is a resource of movie and screen scripts for writers and actors. A movie script is featured daily.

Sample Scripts Script Writing and Screenwriting Help
You can never read enough scripts if you are writing for the screen. Access hundreds of scripts for your study time.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


I’ve blogged before on the subject of new starts but there is never a better time than the New Year. Tomorrow the decorations can be boxed away, enclosing all that glitter and glitz in old card board boxes that have seen better days. But where was it you stored them? Surely there wasn’t room.

Thankfully the cards can be recycled and the tree shredded but the needles still clog up your choking hoover. But isn’t it exhilarating to get back to normal? To not have to think about shopping, stuffing, crackers and the like.

So what are you going to think about?

Might I suggest your writing? That project you filed away in a drawer for another day, that story that has jingled around in your head along with the jingle bells.

It’s time to spring clean your house and time to spring clean your writing folder. Dig out all that discarded writing, dust it off and look at it with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what potential you might find. You might find, you now know just how to liven up your characters, give more depth to that weak plot, and give your dialogue more punch. And if you really can’t recycle it, then why not start a new project.

Whatever you do – write. No more excuses, no more diversions, no more procrastination.

The time is now and now is the time.

Should you feel inspired, follow the link below for a list of writing competitions.