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It’s a Big Big World

March 23rd, 2015

C'wealth-blogY’know, it’s a splendid job, blogging for the Writers Bureau. As well as the completely self indulgent necessity to write about writing, it’s introduced me to loads of new stuff. Some of my favourite blogs: Writers In The Storm; Grammarphobia; Grammarly, the works of great writers like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Jhumpa Lahiri, not forgetting Leonard Lopate’s  fabulous WNYC talk show … all brilliant. And now, there’s another one for the list: Commonwealth Writers. Read the rest of this entry »




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Competition Time

March 16th, 2015

Win-blogRight, get your typing fingers ready. The Royal Society Of Literature has just announced its seventeenth V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for the best unpublished short story of the year. This is a competition open to residents of all Commonwealth countries, it’s for stories of 2,000 – 4,000 words, there’s a £5.00 entrance fee and, as well as publication in Prospect online and the RSL Review, the winner gets a very tasty £1,000. The deadline is 22 June, and with all the talent I know is out there, I’m sure one of you folks must be in with a chance.

I’d have a go myself but, as some of you may remember, I had a bad experience with a short story last year and it’s quite taken the wind out of my sails. I tried working something up for a Writing Magazine ‘adult fairy story’ competition, but ended up missing the deadline with a story that was far too long and which, even now, isn’t in any fit state to show an editor.

So where did I go wrong? Well, right at the start, I didn’t think – just launched into an idea without any proper planning. If I’d taken a couple of days to mull things over, it all could have been very different. In fact, I really should have back-pedaled further than that. Even before thinking things through, what I should have done is gone and found some advice on how to write for competitions. “Do-oh!” How thick can you be, ‘ey? Here’s me blogging for the Writers Bureau, and it didn’t even enter my head to see what our own tutors have to say about it.

Ah well … I’ve had a look now. And do you know what I found? A cracking article by Simon Whaley called Writing Competitions – A Judge Reveals All. It’s been sitting there in the back copies of E-Zee Writer since April 2009 and, honestly, it’s like a little potted masterclass. As well as loads of great tips on how to approach competitions, it explains how to timetable your work over three months to be sure you’re ready and properly edited in good time. If only I’d read it last year … I could be counting my winnings now.

So look, if you fancy having a go at the Royal Society’s short story prize, there’s loads of time to get something together. But don’t make the same mistakes I did. Do yourself a favour and read Simon’s article first, it’ll give you a great head start.

Keep on writing!phil-blog-sig




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The One Place Success Comes Before Work …

February 23rd, 2015

dictionary-blogOkay, here’s a question only a writer could consider fondly: do you remember your first dictionary? Mine was a big, red, faux-leather bound Webster’s Encyclopedic, which my Mum bought in the early 70s. It was the thickest, heaviest book we owned and, along with Blue Peter and eggs and bacon, was one of the few things that never let us down. It was always there – always right.

There’s been lots of others since: pocket editions, abridged versions, one huge Collins Roberts French/English from the early nineties and, more recently, a Junior Oxford. But none of them will ever match that old Webster’s. To my mind it remains the font of all knowledge. Read the rest of this entry »




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Painting With Words

February 16th, 2015

white.house-blogImagine you’re working on  story which opens with the view of a white farmhouse beside the sea. In the foreground there’s a beach, and mountains in the distance. How would you present that scene? Before getting in to any kind of narrative, how do you go about painting the picture? Clearly, there’s lots of decisions to make, and lots you need to know. What season are we in? What time of day is it? What’s the weather like? etc. Read the rest of this entry »




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Ten Top Tips For Public Speaking

February 9th, 2015

Speak-blogIt may not be your cup of tea, but if your writing career starts taking off, at some point you’ll have to get up in front of an audience and either read them a piece, or tell them about it. Now, way back in another life (before we had kids) I worked as an actor and, though I never got anywhere near even the suggestion of a shadow of Hollywood, I did pick up a few pointers on speaking in public. So, if and when you get the call, I hope they’ll be of use to you.

1. Know Your Audience. First of all, think about who you’re speaking to. Between a primary school class, an open mic in your local pub, and a literary festival crowd, there is a world of difference. If you manage to pitch things right, you’ll make life a lot easier for yourself. Read the rest of this entry »




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