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A Writers Bureau course isn’t just for Christmas!

November 27th, 2009

I recently came across the website Goodreads which describes itself as ‘the world’s largest reading room’.  You’ll certainly find a well-read group of people participating, lots of literary trivia and, for me, the constantly changing stream of pithy quotations from famous people is one of the best things about it.

The Internet has certainly changed the way most writers work.  It’s made research, communication and publication so much easier and has cut down on the feeling of isolation that many writers experience.  But there are dangers out there and we need to be aware of them.  The SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) have a terrific section on their website exposing dubious agents and publishers, scams and dicey literary competitions.

You’ll find that the information doesn’t just apply to American Sci-fi fanatics – it’s useful to anyone who writes.  It’s definitely worth checking out and might just spare your blushes or prevent you getting ripped off.

How many shopping days left till Christmas?  Stop worrying about it and buy your loved one a Writers Bureau course!  They’ll be so grateful that when they become rich and famous they’ll keep you in luxury for the rest of your life – so look on it as a sensible investment.

Joking apart, if you order now we can extend the 15 day trial period to the end of the first week in January so that they have plenty of time to look through it once they’ve got over the surfeit of turkey and tequila. Who knows, it could be the start of a new career for 2010!




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£10,000 prize for unpublished writer!

November 20th, 2009

Back in October I was railing against the Sunday Times short story competition and the fact that it was only open to writers who had already published work.  Now there’s another high-prize competition – the Brit Writers’ Awards.

The main prize is £10,000 with other awards in different categories.  This time, though, it’s firmly targeted at unpublished writers; so it might be worth visiting their website. But you’ll have to get your skates on because the closing date is 18th December.  And be warned!  There is quite a hefty entry fee – so read the blurb carefully before deciding to send an entry.

Moving on, have you ever stayed in a Travelodge?  Apparently, over 7,200 books were left behind by guests in the past 12 months.  Two of the three ‘most discarded’ titles are quite revealing.  The top one is ‘Pushed to the Limit’ by Katie Price (I got to the end of page two and couldn’t push myself to read any further!)  In second place is ‘Dreams from My Father’ by Barack Obama – worthy, but…

At least they probably served their purpose for Travelodge, ensuring that guests got a good night’s sleep rather than burning the midnight oil in their eagerness to find out what happened next.

And I’ll leave you with a final piece of trivia.  Yesterday was World Toilet Day 2009.  You might look askance, but did you know that there are 2.5 billion people with nowhere safe, private or hygienic to go to the toilet.  It’s an excellent way for charities to raise funds to help.  So, this year if you’re tempted to buy your loved one the usual unwanted junk for Christmas, think again.  A £30 donation on their behalf could leave someone, somewhere flushed with happiness.




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“Food Laureates” – Are they off their trolley?

November 13th, 2009

I’m not a shopaholic – I don’t have a love affair with handbags and I’m not the Imelda Marcos of shoes.  But food is another matter.  Upmarket food halls are my idea of heaven on earth and although I probably shouldn’t admit this, I actually enjoy my weekly trip to the local supermarket.

Not being the faithful type, I go wherever the mood takes me but Morrisons caught my attention this week.  Apparently, they’ve appointed three “Food Laureates”!  Yes, you can visit their website and see rhyming recipes written by poets Ian McMillan, John Mole and Peter Sansom. The standard of verse won’t put Carol Ann Duffy on her mettle but it’s a quirky idea set up in conjunction with the Poetry Society.  I can’t really imagine myself reciting an ode at the same time as making a chicken tikka masala (that’s taking multi-tasking too far) but anything that gets people thinking more about either poetry or cooking can’t be a completely bad idea!

Next – your views on Oxfam Bookshops.  There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether they are just another group undermining small independents and traditional second-hand booksellers.  It’s possibly true but the choice is usually excellent, good pricing makes the books accessible to everyone and the money they raise for a worthy cause is not to be sniffed at.  And if they don’t take their share of the market… then the big supermarkets certainly will.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m all in favour – but what do you think?




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Stephen King’s writing tips!

November 6th, 2009

Personally, I’m not a Stephen King fan – it’s not the way he tells a story, it’s the genre.  But years ago I read his ‘On Writing – a Memoir of the Craft’ and I still recommend it to students. Like all his books, it’s an interesting read and packed with useful and down-to-earth advice for writers.

At the moment, his latest book ‘Under the Dome’ is being plugged and if you go to his website you can win a signed copy.  All you need to do is submit an original piece – poem or prose – no longer than 2000 words, before 15th December.

According to the website, extracts should be inspired by “whatever ‘Under the Dome’ conjures up in your imagination” and the winner will be chosen on “the readability of the entry and the quality of the writing.”

Still on the subject of books, a survey at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair of 840 international industry experts came to the conclusion that by 2018 digital sales would overtake those of traditional books.  This may well be the case and a good site for anyone wanting to know more about writing, publishing and selling ebooks online should visit The Ebook Business Blog.

I can never imagine that browsing a list of titles and downloading them to a kindle could give me the same kind of pleasure as spending a couple of hours in Waterstones, wandering round the shelves and flicking through the books.  But times are changing and if you’re an author you’ve got to change with them.  Even someone with as ingrained ludite tendencies as myself!




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