Sunday, 29 August 2010

Mail on Sunday Novel Competition

Deadline Friday, October 29, 2010.

The winner of last year’s competition has been announced. ‘So tantalising and so appetite-whetting for the novels to come,’ was the verdict of judges Fay Weldon, Deborah Moggach and James Buchan on this year’s entries. The participants had to write the opening lines of a book using the word ‘light’. Diane Coulson from Newbury, won with her 132-word piece, described as ‘simply but effectively written, visual, spare, surprising’:

From where I am sitting, upstairs in the house, on the window sill, wrapped in the curtains for warmth, I can look down on to the swimming pool.

I can see Rosy there, on the floor of the pool, the pale winter light illuminating her bright red hair. I can see Patrick sitting on the edge of the pool, his legs dangling down as he watches her.

I want to throw open the window and shout down that she shouldn’t be out there. It is too cold. She is the light of Patrick’s life, of all of our lives, but he never thinks of practical things like keeping warm. We both continue to watch her as she dances wildly and beautifully, using the floor of the long drained pool as her stage.

For this year’s competition you need to create the opening lines of a novel – between 50 and 150 words – introducing the word ‘set’. It could be a set expression, a set-to, setting off, or you can use it as an adjective, noun or verb. The winner will receive £400 in book tokens and a place on an Arvon writing course. The 5 runners-up wil receive book tokens ranging from £150 to £300. The judges will be Fay Weldon, James Buchan and Minette Walters.

Send your entry – typed or clearly written (!) – with your name, address, telephone number and email address on the same page, to arrive by Friday, October 29, to The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, PO Box 150, Rochester, Kent ME1 9AG. Results will be announced next summer, so be patient.


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Blind dates, lamplight and terrorists

Although this session was planned as a Hot Pen morning, there were a couple of leftovers from last week, so we heard from new Anne with her poem on the theme ‘too damned hot’ which ably summed up Brit expats’ feelings about the weather (they’re never happy). Then John McG gave us an amusing reminiscence about a blind date where ignorance was not bliss.

The hot pen word was ‘lamplight’ and each member had 10 minutes to write something featuring that word. As usual, the resultant material was varied in content and tone.

Mary K wrote an amusing poem about dating, maybe reflecting on John’s piece, maybe not. Jane gave us more of her French memoirs; one day, her collection of amusing, sad and memorable anecdotes may go out to a publisher. Anne reflected on the street gas lamps during the Second World War when she was four. Jenny and Heather wrote about camping, while Brenda posed a mystery with a dead man and a gun. Lisa provided a word picture of Van Gogh’s lamplit painting. John McG mused upon Lili Marleen, while Rob tackled online dating and chat down line (opposite to chat up!). Nik brought groans with his ‘lambs plight in the lamplight’. John McI’s poem was about soccer in the street, when all boys were superstars. Gerry committed murder in the street in an atmospheric piece, while John M went on holiday in a Swiss campsite. Norma told us how she disliked evenings because of those monstrous shadows, and Douglas gave us a poem about squaddies after girls. Ann read a poem about a shoeless drunk – makes a change from being legless.

There was still time for readings after the break. Brenda read a section of her ongoing novel, this time from Elizabeth’s diary. Plenty of atmosphere and dialogue, but the dramatic moments could do with more. Norma read about her work as a Councillor. John M read out his synopsis for a novel about a terrorist plot and gained insight from several comments on how to improve it – the storyline and the synopsis.

Yet another good session, with 15 attendees.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

People Poems, Rant and Review

Attendance at this week's meeting was 17. It's amazing how consistent attendance has been this summer.

Before the meeting started Nick announced that he was to be interviewed on Radio Europe by Hannah Murray.
Nick also read out an extract from an agent's blog about story issues.
Rob read out a winning story of a competition from a staff magazine which although it was a good story was extremely badly written and highlighted many of the issues which had been listed in the agent's blog that Nick had just read out.

Jane asked if she could go first with the member's readings as it was a poem remembering her son whose death anniversary it was at the weekend. This was as you can imagine a very personal piece of writing appreciated by all.

John Major gave us the conclusion of his story about an expat family in the Middle East being arrested by security forces. There was a good blend of humour as well as being tense but it was suggested that it required more information and emotional content which would also heighten the tension.

John McGillvary's offering was a poem, written from a woman's point of view, about various blind dates that she had been on. It's title was "I don't give a Fig about a Date". This was very cleverly written with every line being a pun and was well received.

Douglas told the story of a memorable weekend about making a fool of yourself doing a party piece as part of a cabaret act. This was an item that most had heard before.

Mary K's piece was a rant in the form of a poem about a news item from England that a single old man was to be removed from his house in which he had lived for 74 years because of under occupancy and this made Mary irate at his treatment. Everyone sympathised with the man's predicament.

Ian provided a book review of "The Book Thief" and suggested that others could do the same (good or bad) as it was interesting to know what other members read and their thoughts on the material. He recommended this particular volume to the members because of its storyline and innovative style.

Brenda read a partially rewritten piece from "The Diaries" having taken on board previous comments to try and show the mixed emotions of her main character. She had achieved this to some degree but a number of suggestions were made about the introduction of a new character.

Last but by no means least Heather gave us the beginning of a novel about infidelity and lottery ticket winnings. The majority of members found the piece very confusing with too many strands of the story being presented in too short a space. It was suggested that she slow the pace down by providing more detail on the characters, their backgrounds and surroundings.

That was all for this week but remember it's a "Hot Pen" next meeting.

Ian C

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Reviewing Poetry/Poetry Pitfalls

This is a review of an article by Doris Corti in the August edition of "Writing Magazine".

After completing each piece of work, check every detail.


Words,phrases and whole lines may be repeated for effect but too much can be monotonous. Try to achieve a balance of imagery and language.


Hyperbole or overstatement can be used to emphasise a point however, too much will become a rant. Beware of saying the same thing twice.


As with prose, avoid the use of cliches although they may be used in speech to provide authenticity.


Check the lineation of free verse as there is not the set metre to structure the control of the lines. Lines may be ended with a full stop or use of continuation where words spill over to the next line but still convey the same sense. Line breakage can be achieved where there is a natural pause, punctuation or between phrases.


This is something easily overlooked. Commas provide breath pauses and slow the tempo, exclamation marks will convey urgency or commands. Full stops are needed at the end of a sentence and the piece of work to signify that the elements are complete.

Irregular Rhyme

Rhyme pattern should be regular throughout the work as failure to do this will confuse either the reader or storyline. Choose a pattern which best suits the subject matter of the poem.


Avoid using archaic language. It is acceptable to use abbreviations but words that are no longer in everyday use should not be utilised. Keep to contemporary language.

Ian C

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Diaries, Dilemmas, Wars & Words

Attendance was still good this week with 14 members appearing.

There were little or no announcements and it was therefore straight into readings.

Gerry told oa story of a GI coming back from the war in the Pacific to find his sweetheart had fallen in love with another man.Outraged, the soldier shoots his rival before committing suicide. Various suggestions were made as to possible alternative endings. Gerry pointed out that his inspiration had come from listening to Glenn Miller.

John McGillvary read a poem entitled "Home From Home" using the minimum amount of words to indicate a possible story line. It was then left to the reader/listener to flesh out the story for themselves.

Nik gave us the opening chapter of his next western "Old Guns". A number of points were raised an answered
along with various suggestions with regard to the characters.

John Mcgregor told a sad tale entitled "Icarus" about friendship and rivalry where the friends drift apart. This was a well told story with good comparisons.

Maureen read a re-worked item on her travels in India and in particular a tiger safari. Extremely atmospheric one or two comments were made before she submits it to the publication "Riviera Women".

Brenda continued with her story of "The Diaries" dealing with Belle leaving Richard. Comments were made about the changes in emotions of the characters which did not seem to ring true.

Mary K used this week's subject "Lets sit somewhere more comfortable" for her poem about writing. Tongue in cheek it was suggested that she could make a fortune writing about not writing

Moichael's piece"It Pays To Be Frank" was about a man who could do anything and perfectly. When questioned the person telling of Frank. was married to his widow. A humourous story with the inevitable sting in the tail.

Ian C

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Phew! It's Hot!

Contrary to the title, this week was not a hot pen, merely a comment on the weather.
This week's subjects were " My Aunt's Knickers" or Grandmother's Legacy. Now I am not sure if there was meant to be a connection but the titles could be regarded as "pants".

There were 19 members in attendance this week
Prior to the meeting starting, Nik distributed blank suggestion lists for forthcoming meetings.
John McGregor announced that he had passed his writing course. Congratutlations!
Nik read some publishers letters to well-known authors that the publishers, with hindsight, probably wished they hadn't.
Rob advised that he would put details of "Platinum Page" on the blog site.

Mary K started the meeting off with a poem entitled "What's in a Word." This related to the subject of a hot pen and all the differing interpretations of the chosen word.

Nan also read a poem about "Life" and was her second interpretation of the subject. This time dealing with the time from contraception to old age.

John Mcgillvary aplogised for giving us a rather deep, meaningful poem called "Desolation Street" which dealt with the life of an alcoholic.

John Mcgregor's story called "Something to Shout About" was about his hero obtaining a new job in London and meeting one of his idols-Lulu. The twist in the story was that it was not Lulu but Felicity Kendall.

Jane gave us a piece based on a previous week's subject "Too Damned Hot"  which dealt with a first meeting.

Ann B's poem was called "The Keep Fit Class" and provided an insight into the world of mature ladies exercising.

Jenny read out numerous limericks that she had composed- the first one being about this week's subject "My Aunt's Knickers" and the names of well- known chocolate bars.

Michael provided another reminiscence which was a tall tale about Harry, agiant of a man.

John Major continued his theme about working in the Middle East. He had anticipated entering it for inclusion in the anthology about "Ex Pat Life" and therefore various suggestions were put to him that could improve the item.

Nan continued her previous theme with another poem about life and death.

Stan, last but by no means least, investigated the meaning of his surname and its associations including a genealogical tour.

Ian C

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Platinum Page Magazine

Platinum Page is a new UK based writing magazine looking for submissions and subscribers (Writers need Readers!) Here is a summary of submission guidelines but please visit their web site for more and note priority is given to subscribers. Some members of TWC have already been published.

Submit your work to Platinum Page using the following guidelines.
Short stories should be typed in size .12 font, double spaced, and should have a maximum word count of 1,500.
Please do not include headers/footers/borders.
Anything obscene, heavily violent or blasphemous will be automatically rejected.
The editor assumes no responsibility for plagiarism, or breach of contract.
The editor reserves the right to edit all works for minor errors and clarity.
A subscription will ensure priority into possible publishing.
Copyright remains with the author.

Submissions should ideally be in .doc, .rtf, .pdf format