I love Christmas but I do confess to getting panicky right now. I feel the pressure building up behind my eyes and my heart beating just a little too fast.
It’s good to remember the true meaning of Christmas. As much as I love the shiny baubles and the Buble’s Christmas CD, I was reminded yesterday that Christmas is about awe and wonder. A baby in a manger. A world of possibility.
Children have it right. Anticipation and excitement. But we as adults need to play our part. We need to cut back on Argos and Tesco, even John Lewis (who do the best adverts by far). We need to focus on the way Christmas brings us together, whatever our beliefs. For me, as a Christian, there is nothing better than the carols by candlelight service at our church, which is always packed and so pretty.
What can we do?
Buy local. Buy Fair-trade. Buy from charity shops and Oxfam online. Buy homemade. Or make something yourself. Buy vintage.
Ask someone over for Christmas day.
Watch telly with your family. Watch Elf. Or Home Alone. Or Mupppet Christmas Carol. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life.
Pick up the phone and call a loved one.
Find it in your heart to let go of any hurt and bitterness that lurks there.
Give a book and make an author happy.
This Christmas I’m going to try to cut back on the stress. Which is flipping hard. So When I feel that pressure building, I will watch this scene from Elf, where Buddy shows the excitement of a child. And pop another cherry liqueur.
Here are some links to my favourite online stores right now.
If you have a minute check out Legend Press’s blog where I am talking about Christmas. http://www.legendpress.co.uk
Did I mention The Generation Game is on Kindle for 99p this December?
And can you tell I am all over the place? This blog post is an outpouring of thoughts right now. Better out than in, as they say. Maybe.
Have a very happy, peace-filled Christmas.
I am a huge fan of writing competitions.
Because they are a little oasis in the overwhelmingly vast world of publishing.
They are scouted by agents and publishers.
They have given me focus as a writer, assurance that my manuscript will be read and considered, and they have given me my breakthroughs.
So now I am trying to give a little back and am involved and connected with exciting and worthwhile competitions. If you are want to enter some writing competitions that could help you on your way then read this post.
I am concentrating on novel competitions as there are still comparatively few. In 2006 I won the novel section of the Yeovil Literary Prize with the opening chapters of The Generation Game judged by Katie Fforde. Now in its tenth year the closing date is May 31st so this one you have to be quick for. The novel prize is judged by Tracey Chevalier. There is also a short story and a poetry competition. I will always remain indebted to this prize and am so glad it is growing in status and reputation with an impressive alumni.
Next up, the Harry Bowling Prize. This competition is for novels by unpublished writers and this year there is a new flash competition. The closing date is September 30th 2013. I was runner-up with This Holey Life in 2008 and had a great time at the awards ceremony at MBA. This was affirming and gave me encouragement that I was on the right track.
So now a very special award, the Luke Bitmead Bursary for Writers. This is an annual award for unpublished writers in memory of Luke Bitmead who was Legend Press’s first novelist back in 2005. The first prize is a generous bursary and a publishing contract. I won the award in 2010 with The Generation Game which was published in August 2011 by Legend. A year later Legend published This Holey Life. Entries opened on the 1st May and the closing date is 2nd August 2013. Unlike the other novel competitions I am flagging up, the manuscript must be finished and the work of an unpublished author. The age limit is 16 and over so this allows a chance for a young person to enter. There is always a shortlist and some of these have also gone on to achieve publication.
And now some very exciting news: the inaugural Exeter Novel Prize run by CreativeWritingMatters and sponsored by Exeter Writers is now open for entries. The closing date is October 31st 2013. Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James and myself will be administering the prize which is for both unpublished and published writers for a novel not currently under contract with a commercial publisher. The shortlist will be judged by London agent Broo Doherty of Wade and Doherty and the winner will receive £500. There is a launch at Exeter Central Library on 27th June at 7.00pm, free entry plus cake, and a fabulous chance to meet other writers and find out more about the prize.
And one last competition but this time for a short story. I am honoured to be one of the judges for this year’s Hysterectomy Association’s short story competition. The closing date is 31st August 2013. Stories of up to 2000 word on ‘almost any theme related to women’. There are cash prizes but probably more importantly the first, second and third prize winners plus ten other writers will be published in an anthology.
And I must mention Words for the Wounded, a charity of which I am delighted to be a patron. The competition is closed now and the results will be announced on June 6th.
So I hope this has inspired lots of you to enter these competitions, all worthy and worth it. They really do help writers on the road to publication for which I am evidence…
But I want to finish with one of the best competitions ever. Crackerjack’s Double or Drop.
Thanks to Ruth Dugdall, fellow Legend Press author and Luke Bitmead Bursary winner. She tagged me in the NEXT BIG THING.
I have to answer ten questions about my writing and then tag other writers who will answer the same ten questions. And on and on…
What is the working title of your book?
In a run-down student residence in South London, Annelie Strandli, a beautiful but confused designer, who is disorientated after leaving her native Finland, finds herself gravitating towards Berry Walker, an insomniac and aspiring writer.
JR Crook is this year’s winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary with his novel ‘Sleeping Patterns’. It’s a slim volume - with a tactile cover and beautiful smooth paper – so probably more accurately described as a novella. But it is packed tight with layers of textual intrigue for the reader. This is one you can’t sit back and let wash over you. You have to engage with the text. You have to work as a reader to make sense of what is going on. In these days of instant gratification and transient desires, this is an exciting, energising prospect and should be grabbed and grappled with. Questions are asked; some answers are given; some need to be pondered. What is the relationship between reader and writer? Who is narrating? Who should we trust to tell us the story? What is the story? And do we live life chronologically? Or do we live in the past, present and future all at once…?
‘Sleeping Patterns is a puzzle, a shattered narrative that urges the reader to piece it back together. It is a story of love and the complexities of colliding relationships. It slowly releases the narrative segments needed to unravel each character as you go further in. This approach to form may be unusual, but it is a pleasure to become entangled in, creating a compelling atmosphere with a sense of true realism.’ - Unit Number
I think the above quote brilliantly sums up this book. Oh, and did I mention the language? It has some very beautiful language.
‘Sleeping Patterns’ is published by Legend Press.
It’s been a memorable few days to say the least and yellow has been the joyful colour woven throughout.
Then on Thursday I went to London with my family to attend my book launch. On the way there, struggling in a very tight yellow dress to match the bright yellow of my new book cover, we were caught up with the Olympic flame at Hyde Park and came within feet of it. We took cabs, walked, and got propelled along by the crowds and eventually made it to Great Windmill Street to the launch venue, kindly hosted by Red (yes, I know) Consultancy.
I was worried no one would turn up as they would be put off by the Olympic crush but gradually the room filled and I was so grateful to everyone who made the epic journey to come out, including one lovely friend who I hadn’t seen in over twenty years since our PGCE.
Red are based right opposite the Windmill Theatre which was the place where Sir Bruce Forsyth started his long career as a teenager. He was the inspiration for my first novel ‘The Generation Game’ which was launched from the same place almost exactly a year ago. And on the day of the launch of ‘This Holey Life’, Brucie carried the Olympic torch, representing the BBC.
Back in Devon yesterday, we watched the amazing opening ceremony, kicked off by Bradley Wiggins in his yellow jersey and watched on by Michelle Obama in a yellow dress. All these splashes of colour will stay with me for a very long time.
And finally: if you have an unpublished novel lurking about, do think about entering it for this year’s Luke Bitmead Bursary award. But don’t think about it for too long as the closing date is August 3rd. I wouldn’t have got to wear that yellow dress had I not entered two years ago.
It’s been said before: publishing a book is like giving birth. Well, I’ve given birth to three babies and they might be teenagers now, but I still remember the pregnancies, the overdue dates, the labours, the births, the pain … and the end results.
So… I spent a long time writing the books, waking in the night, unable to sleep, plodding along, struggling uphill, and then the persistence of finding a publisher, someone to take care of you when the time came, knowing it would be worth the waiting and the pain to finally have that book in my hand. In my arms. Etcetera.
This time last year I was a first time novelist and the overwhelming emotion when I held The Generation Game for the first time was relief: I’d finally done it, helped along the way by professionals and friends and family. And there was much celebration.
A year on and I have just held my second novel, This Holey Life, in my hand – born a little early, a few weeks before the due date of August 1st.
(OK, so how much longer can I keep this analogy going?)
Having a book published is not as eye-poppingly, skin-splittingly painful as actually pushing out a seven pound something baby but, yes, there is pain. But there is also joy.
And now the long hard slog of nurturing this book has to begin, along with working on that next baby…
What a treat of a repeat, seeing Brucie host Have I got News For You again last night on BBC2. What a legend. I love this man.
As I’ve mentioned once or twice before on this blog, Sir Bruce Forsyth was the inspiration for my novel The Generation Game. Just as I was writing this post, I had a photo sent to me by my husband, who’s up in Liverpool for the Labour Party Conference. He found time to go into Waterstones and saw my book there, wedged between Daphne Du Maurier and Stella Duffy and close to Ruth Dugdall, a fellow Legend Press novelist. So exciting to see it on the shelves….finally!
Here it is! The cover of my debut novel, The Generation Game, published by Legend Press on 1st August. I’m really chuffed to have endorsements on the cover by novelists Katie Fforde and Maargaret Graham. Now the countdown begins, I’m full of excitement and nerves with the knowledge that people will finally be able to read this story.
If you are a struggling writer and want to be published, then think about entering the Luke Bitmead Bursary for new writers. The award was set up shortly after Luke’s untimely death in 2006 by his family to support and encourage the work of fledgling novel writers. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Legend Press, as well as a cash bursary.
This is the fourth year of the award. Andrew Blackman won the first year with On the Holloway Road. Ruth Dugdall won the second year with The Woman Before Me. And I was astounded to be the third winner with The Generation Game which will be published on August 1st.
If you have an unpublished novel that you want to share with the world, then give it a go. What have you got to lose?