I am about to launch Creative Progression 2020, if you would like to contact me with queries before the launch please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thoughts about the coming year begin for me around September, related perhaps to the change of the season and the nights drawing in. I enjoy that quiet time, just after New Year’s Eve, it’s the only time of the year when no one bothers me although, along with most of my freelance friends, I am attempting to complete my tax return.
I have a folder, which since September has The Plan 2020 written on the cover. It’s about setting my intentions for the future, it’s broad and it’s directional, because 2018/19 hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been impossible. I spent many months caring for a dying relative and then arranging his funeral, clearing his home and winding up his estate and this all took place hundreds of miles away from my home. When finally I drew a breath I had anaemia and was good for nothing. Since November I have got back into my stride and now I’m emerging. I have done a lot of work on the grounds at Meadow Cottage and renovated (with help) the summerhouse and the shed. There is a backlog, paperwork and numerous people to catch up with, but some kind of routine is establishing itself. I am working through my lists. Teaching, workshops, mentoring, running my Airbnb and, most importantly, my writing.
This year for the second time I was shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport Prize and that was a timely boost. When chaos reigns my anchor is my creativity, be it writing or art and design. I’ve observed that creatives who stop creating frequently fall into a malaise, even depression. Creativity is essential to my well-being. For all of us who attempt to live by our work there is a constant tension between working to pay the bills and working for our creative souls. So in the run up to 2020 all manner of projects are being given the final push they need in order to better support my creative writing. My Airbnb makes the perfect writing retreat and the entire site is a magical location. So I’m branching into photo/magazine shoots and product placement, along with creative writing retreats and short courses, there will be more information in the New Year.
Wishing you all a happy and creative 2020.
When I pick up a short story collection the first page I turn to is the authors writing history, this might be publications or competition successes and then there is the author biography. I not only glean background information I can also find out about their successes, triumphs and near misses, or near wins, as I prefer to think of them. I’ve just had another near miss/win of my own; for the second time (the first in Bridport 2016) I have been shortlisted for The Bridport Prize 2019, out of 3772 entries my short story made it into the top 100.
Some competitions print an anthology and inclusion in an anthology is really good news, I have been included in 4. Not only does it get your writing out there to the general reader and perhaps to a small press talent spotting, but it also gives you as a writer beavering away alone, an opportunity to read winners and runners up in the competition you entered and gage what is topical in the world of short fiction. Sometimes, either on the competition website or in a foreword, there is a judge’s report. This is useful, the judge will tell you what they were looking for in a short story and also, and this is important, the predominant themes in the entries. I advise my students to take note and take care when selecting themes, because I often read that competitions have been awash with stories on, for example; Alzheimer’s, refugees, domestic abuse, eccentric villagers, unrequited love etc. While there is nothing wrong with hitting on the topic of the moment, there is in if this theme has been done to death and you are setting yourself the difficult task of delivering your story in an exceptional and unusual manner coupled with standout prose. Try to think of a topic/theme that is not everywhere in the press, stretch yourself and remember to take risks with your writing.
I am also often asked where to find competitions; Google short story competitions and loads will come up. If you want someone to filter them down get hold of a copy of Mslexia magazine. Above all, you need to write stories regularly and re-write them too. You will get better at the craft of writing and through reading short story collections (I recommend the publisher SALT for their short story collections and books) read widely you will learn a great deal about the technical aspects of delivering an exceptional story.
I have recently been told of the death of Millie Comerford, a member of the 2013 SCVA group..
Millie was a warm, talented and generous member of our group who, in collaboration with Jan Crombie, went on to publish ‘Stories from the Fruit Bowl,’ a copy of which resides in the Poetry Archive; they were just concluding another publication together. I am sure you will join me in sending condolences to all Millie’s family and friends.
Flash Fiction workshop: Groundwork Gallery, Kings Lynn. www.groundworkgallery.com inspired by the exhibition Fragile Nature.
Tel: 01553 340714 best to call Tues-Saturday between 10-4pm email@example.com
Flash or micro fiction is an exercise in concision, it teaches disciplined editing, presents challenges but also opportunities to get your writing noticed, particularly with publication and competitions.
I always like time of the year, partly because the teacher in me is hard-wired to the academic year and to me this is the new year; more so than January. So I am dusting off projects to re-launch and also excited by new possibilities; I’ve been working on my short stories and I almost have a collection.
Summer is particularly lovely here in North Norfolk, it is busy; lots of visitors and people dropping by for al fresco dining in the meadow and the occasional hot afternoon nodding off in the hammock.This summer I have been focusing on preparing the meadow and its vernacular architecture for a new venture, location shoots. Aimed at magazines, stylists, fashion and homeware shops, study groups, painters, writers and photography clubs – anything or anyone who would like to book it for it inspirational rural aesthetic including and, if required, the studio and cottage. The shed is now painted ash white and the roof topped off with cedar shingles, the summer house has a wrinkly tin roof and is almost completed. There is a rustic fire bowl with a tripod for hanging kettles and pots and of course there is bunting – gypsy boho meets village fete!
In the cottage, as the proud owner of central heating and two wood burners, I can guarantee warmth. No more fingerless gloves for me, I can tap away at the keyboard without the encumbrance of wearing multiple layers of what would normally be considered outdoor attire. The photos will appear over the coming month on www.meadowcottagenorfolk.com here is a taster.
Fragile Nature at the Groundwork Gallery, Kings Lynn, is the inspiration for a masterclass in flash fiction.
Please bring writing materials and your lunch. Tea and coffee provided.
Booking is essential.
Fees £50.00 Students and under 25s: £25.00
Booking: 01553.340714 firstname.lastname@example.org
Flash fiction, micro–fiction and mini sagas are all terms for the shortest of short stories. Within a limited number of words; 100, 150, 300 and 500 sometimes up to a 1,000 (although personally I call that a pretty standard, if low, word count for a short story) the writer must complete a story, not a poem, but a complete short fiction.
They have become very popular, partly because they are an easy to assemble collection for the self–publisher and a good way to get your work out in the public arena, also a quick read for any competition judge. They don’t take a daunting amount of time and have the added bonus of training the writer to be concise.
They are a form where the title does a lot of work. I have seen this described as the title doing the ‘heavy lifting.’ There are also plenty of competitions and e–zines to submit to. Below is a short fiction I wrote inspired by Cornelia Parker’s Thirty Pieces of Silver. Parker collected old silver plate and then ran a steamroller over them. Squished flat they became coin–like discs magically suspended from the ceiling and grouped as coins, this title is doing some heavy lifting in referencing Judas.
Like ill–fitting ball–gowns they lurk, the silver salvers and carriage clocks of commemoration.
Uncle Henry’s rose bowls, a relic of his ill–made match, have come to me.
It takes twenty–five roses to fill them and no one has ever sent me twenty-five roses. I haven’t waited to get divorced to dispose of them; they were car–booted on a damp Saturday. Snapped up by a buyer with his fiver and silver polish, no doubt, within weeks they will retire to the back of a cupboard to tarnish.
Family heirlooms, christening mugs and presentations, have no hiding place, minimalist décor having superseded showing off with fine candelabras and tea services. Crushed under the weight of inherited relics, self–service, is the new silver service. We carry so little of our past forward, steamrollering through life, making our presence felt with landfill.
Occasion Wear pub: Ink, Sweat and Tears ©Patricia Mullin 2005
Everyone understands that novels require planning; they take a long time to research. The author works on setting and characterisation, decides on their theme, genre and structure. Works on points of tension, climax and denouement, they may write a synopsis and perhaps a structured chapter by chapter plan.
So what of the short story? Surely there’s no need, after all it’s only a few thousand words or less, you just plunge in don’t you? Well, no; for me that would be like setting off without an address, map or compass. I have left Satnav out of this analogy because it would take me on the journey; whereas I aim to navigate.
When I begin a short story I write a plan, it’s generally a page of single spaced writing and it acts as my guide to the written journey I intend to embark on. I begin by writing the title and a short paragraph which outlines the inspiration and early facts of the piece. It reads a little bit like a pitch as in: describe your story in a paragraph. Next, I describe the central theme, then the characters and the setting; I also consider tone and voice.
While the story has been incubating I will have been alert and making notes these are then added to the page, they may be factual or lead to further research. Finally, I ask myself if this story has a universal theme that people will relate to; something bigger than the story itself. As the story is written it diverts from these notes in unexpected ways, the plan is a template and is not cast in stone. Notes and additions will appear around the margins of the plan. The short story when finally realised will have changed and developed, which is a big part of the magic of writing, later it will be edited and revised over several drafts.
My blog will be updated monthly and will look at issues that are of interest to writers and readers. Do add your comments and I will do my best to respond. Please keep them legal, decent and honest.