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This month learn how to write the perfect pitch with Simon Whaley, improve your characters with our Ten Top Tips, get motivated by the successes of other students and find something useful in Useful Websites.

Hello again and welcome to the June issue.

Is it June already, surely it can’t be, where does the time go? It’s the longest day on 21st June in the UK, which also marks the start of summer – yippee – well, you have to be optimistic!

First, a gentle reminder that those of you wanting to enter our Poetry and Short Story Competition need to get your skates on – it closes at the end of June.

I could not resist mentioning this charming Japanese ceremony called Tanabata or ‘star festival’. Held at night on the 7th of July this festival of wishes celebrates two gods – Orihime and Hikoboshi – who are separated by the Milky Way for all but one night of the year. Modern day Japanese celebrate the day by writing wishes, usually in the form of a poem, on small pieces of paper, called tanzaku papers, which are attached to bamboo. They are then set alight or afloat at midnight. Perhaps you could write your own Tanabata poem, I wouldn’t want to encourage you to set it alight or afloat for fear of inciting the wrath of the council for littering or the fire brigade, but you could send them to me and I will print the best ones in the July issue. If you’d like to have a go at this but don’t feel poetry is your greatest strength you could enrol on our poetry writing course to improve your skills.

A pitch or query letter is something you might think is easy, but in fact it can be difficult and we all know how crucial it is that you get it right – first impressions and all that. So, we’ve picked the brains of Simon Whaley for some expert advice on how to construct the perfect pitch in Expert Advice. Student Stories feature Polly and, for the first time under my command, a story from a Polish student, Barbara, living in the UK. (If you’ve any Polish friends who aren’t using their full potential perhaps you could nudge them in our direction.) Ten Top Tips will help you breathe life into your characters and Useful Websites offers you, well, useful websites.

If you can get out and about this June you may want to visit Scotland where Rory Bremner will be hosting the Borders ‘09 Book Festival in Melrose starting 18th June. This is four days and nights of book-based fun with a clutch of fabulous speakers including Michael Palin, Joan Bakewell, Tom Holland and Chris Bonington. Plus, there’s a selection of events to keep the little ones happy with a reading and sing-a-long by Julia Donaldson amongst the delights to tempt them. Some items are free and the rest range from £3.00-£12.00. More info here.

Or you could drop into the headquarters of Writer’s Digest in Cincinnati, Ohio 20th-21st June for ‘exclusive panel discussions and one-on-one manuscript critiques’ with a selection of top editors. There’ll be workshops featuring topics such as ‘Website and Blog Tools and Techniques’, ‘Why I Stop Reading’ and ‘10 Secrets for Succeeding as a Writer in a Transformational Time’. Sunday will be devoted to 30-minute, one-to-one meetings with editors for discussion of current projects and reviews of manuscripts. The cost is $349.00 which entitles you to submit 25 manuscript or book proposal pages. More information here.

And, thinking a little ahead as this gets sold out early, Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, apparently Europe’s most famous annual crime writing spree, is taking place at the Crown Hotel, Harrogate 23rd-26th July. Here’s what the website has to say about the event “Whether you dip into a bit of Dalziel and Pascoe on the beach, are hooked to The Wire on the box, or want to tell your favourite author you’re a frenzied fan, you can. The biggest and best crime authors, screenwriters, agents and publishers are to gather for this hotly awaited long weekend.” There’ll be discussions with famous crime writers including Val McDermid, quizzes and even a murder mystery event. Prices range from free- to £26.00. More information here.

I’ve saved the best news ‘til last - our new website is up and running and it looks great. Well we think so, but what we’d really like to know is what you think of it. Take a look, have a nosey around the forums, I’ve posted the answers to some of the frequently asked questions on there, and let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see on it. If you are a student and have not already received your log in details for the forum please email us so we can set it up for you.

Shelley

P.S. Subscribers to FMN please note – there is no edition in July. And don’t forget the next edition of Chapter and Verse is accepting submission on the themes of ‘The Reward’ and ‘Rejection’. Send your work to candv@writersbureau.com for 30th June deadline