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.