Eyes on the Prize


OK, writers out there. You still have until the end of the month to sharpen up those novel manuscripts and enter them into the Exeter Novel Prize.

If you are not currently under contract, then you can enter this competition,whether you’ve been published before or not. If it wasn’t for writing prizes, I wouldn’t have been published. Your manuscript will be read and considered by the three of us at CreativeWritingMatters – Margaret James, Cathie Hartigan and me. The shortlist will be read by literary agent Broo Doherty. And who knows what will follow…

You don’t even have to spend on postage. It’s just the push of a button…


Sophie Duffy

I did something I know I shouldn’t do. I googled myself. Worse, I googled Sophie Duffy images. And there I was, in many forms, with many different hair cuts, clothes, backgrounds, but with the same smile which I think is genuine as I had it as a baby.

sophie lecture 005

So who is Sophie Duffy? Well, she’s a lot of things, including a mother and a writer. A daughter. A sister. A cousin. A niece. A Feminist. A teacher. A mentor. A friend. A Christian (Baptist to be precise – but don’t let that put you off; you might be surprised). I’m also a wife – not a particularly good wife because I don’t clean behind the fridge. Not forgetting a depressive. A suicide survivor (not my own, my dad’s). And a Corrie addict.

I can be grumpy and moody. Persistent and stubborn. Impatient and bored. But I can be kind and funny. Sometimes. If you get me on a good day. With a fair wind.

And one day I hope to be happy. And grown up. And wise. And then I might know who I really am.

You never know… Watch this space…

Back to the Present

mac and borg

I haven’t blogged for three weeks. I don’t know where the time has gone. In fact, where does Time go? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could dig it up and pick out the best bits and revisit them. Would we treasure them more? Would we try and hold onto them? What would you change?

Ok, so this is why I haven’t blogged. I have recently finished the first draft of my current novel which revisits the youth of the four main characters and the repercussions of one night back in the day. I have been stuck in time with these characters and now I have come back into the world and it’s become a very scary place. Day by day I am reconditioning myself to live as Sophie Duffy and not as Bex, Tommo, Cameron or Christie. I need time away from the novel not only to be able to come back to the edits with a fresh eye but also to remind myself of who I am.

But good timing. Wimbledon begins today.

Writing Competitions

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.

Does your writing need an injection?

Are you are a writer living in Devon (or thereabouts)? Do you have an issue with your writing (embarrassing or otherwise)? Then do consider making an appointment at our Saturday morning writer’s surgery in Exeter on December 1st. Doctors on call will be Cathie Hartigan and Sophie Duffy, consultant writers of CreativeWritingMatters.

Please don’t suffer alone. Get in touch now via http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk and we’ll do our utmost to give you a dose of something restorative.


The Birth of a Book

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…

Festival virgin makes it through the night

I was very nervous on Thursday as I was speaking at my first festival, about my journey as a writer since winning the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2006. I was privileged to be asked along to the inaugural Brympton Festival at the stunning Brympton House in Somerset. I had a lovely receptive audience and it was informal and relaxed. They were very gentle with me. And it was a cathartic experience, talking about my ups and downs until finally having The Generation Game published last summer, five years after the opening chapters won the Yeovil. It was particularly touching to have Margaret Graham there, as she organised the Prize the year I won and has been an encouragement ever since. 

In fact, I met lots of  great people, including author Katharine McMahon who writes novels about strong women in historical settings such as the Crimean War and the French Revolution. She was the speaker at the literary supper. Very glamourous evening. Too much champagne (if there is such a thing) in a gorgeous setting.

I wish the festival well for next year and the years to come. And I’ve got the festival bug. So I hope there are more to come…

A Tale of Two Book Launches

a pile of lovely books
My mum reading my book; my aunt looking serious
Last Thursday saw the London launch of my debut novel The Generation Game. It was an amazing evening, hosted by Red and Legend Press in Great Windmill Street, opposite The Windmill Theatre (where, appropriately, Sir Brucie started out on his long career).
It was really moving to have such special people there: family, university friends, old neighbours. And it was lovely to have Luke Bitmead’s mother there, Elaine, to join in the celebrations; without her son’s legacy I would not be holding a copy of my own book. Thank you, Luke, for caring about us struggling writers.  And how cool that Elaine’s good friend, Philippa (Pip), was there seeing as The Generation Game is all about another Philippa.
Elaine, me, Pip
It was a really friendly atmosphere, people chatting, cameras clicking, wine flowing, retro sweets to eat, 70s cheesy music (remember Manhattan Transfer?). Such fun.
Then it was time to sign some books and I realised I didn’t have a pen… somebody, I can’t remember who, shoved one in my hand – thank you. (You can see more photos on the link below.)
And then there was last night, the Devon launch at Torbay Books in Paignton. It was just as fun with loads of friends and family, fellow writers and book lovers.  I even managed to make a brief speech without notes or too much rambling. Though I forgot to bring a pen again… Thank you to all who came through the holiday traffic on such a scorcher of an evening. And thank you to Matthew and Sarah for being such good hosts.
Photos to follow.