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This month find out how to impress competition judges straight from the horse’s mouth and learn to make your writing environment as productive as possible in Ten Top Tips, plus writing events you can attend and useful websites to help you on your way in competitions.

E-zee Writer
Top Tips For Writers

E-zee Writer Top Tips for Writers Issue 103
April 2009

Welcome to the April issue.

I can't believe it's the anniversary of my first year as editor - phew doesn't time fly!

Talking of time flying, winter appears to have loosened his grip and spring is waking from her hibernation for those in the cooler climates with some warmish weather, lighter nights and cherry blossom on the trees – beautiful! Use this sense of regeneration to look at your work with renewed eyes and, if you really can't manage it, why not consider our Review and Appraisal Service, which I’ve covered in more detail below.

This month we have expert advice from Simon Whaley - he’s giving you insider tips on how to impress competition judges - so those of you entering our annual Poetry and Short Story Competition take note. And on the subject of competitions, another has been brought to our attention by a student - thank you! The Frome Festival Short Story Competition is accepting entries between 1000-2200 words. First Prize is £300, plus there are specific prizes for local authors. Further information is available here . You can also request that they critique your work for a charge of £30.00 and an s.a.e.

Which leads me nicely into my next topic – our revamped Review and Appraisal Scheme. We are in the process of updating our website and as part of that the prices for the Review and Appraisal Scheme have been changed to the following: 

 Any item up to 2000 words or 120 lines of poetry

 £ 20.00

 Any item up to 10,000 words

 £ 65.00

 Any item up to 50,000 words


 Any item up to 70,000 words


However, as a special to all our E-zee subscribers we are offering 10% off the prices given above, but only until the new website goes live on 1st May. So, if you have a piece (or competition entry) that you just can’t get right and you need an expert eye to look it over send it to us. We have a wide range of tutors available to assess your work so all topics are welcome. Please email student services for further details.

This month’s successes come from Melissa and Richard, both of whom are making considerable strides in the writing world whilst still studying on the course. Ten Top Tips shows you how to create your perfect writing environment so that your writing will flow and Useful Websites is all about competitions - something to help you find them and something to help you spot the rip-offs.

Next, some ideas for those of you who want to mix with other like-minded individuals. First is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Taking place at UCLA over the weekend of the 25th April this 'free-to-the-public celebration of everything reading inspires will bring together an eclectic mix of story-tellers, popular musicians, celebrities, chef demonstrations and book-lovers of all ages on the UCLA’s Westwood campus.' Now in its 14th year the event features indoor panels of speakers and outdoor stages with a whole host of celebrity speakers – should be something for everyone. More information here .

Next is the Lincoln Book Festival taking place over five days from the 13th May. The festival features an impressive array of events such as appearances from Benjamin Zephaniah, (see End Note for some of his work), Marcel Theroux and a literary dinner with Rachel Johnson. There's also a special children's section of the festival. Some events are free and others require tickets which range from £3.00 - £20.00. Further information can be found here .

The last event I've found that might be of interest is a book launch in Holyhead, Wales. Marianne Jones is launching her book of poetry 'Too Blue For Logic' at the Ucheldre Centre on the 25th April between 4-6pm. She will be reading from her book and then holding a free poetry master class at 7pm – another scoop for those wanting to enter our Poetry and Short Story Competition. Further information can be found here .

If there are any of our overseas readers who would like me to promote literary events in their country, please let me know and I will do my best to mention them.

And finally, I have lots of emails asking me to update email addresses. If you need to update your details you need to unsubscribe and subscribe again with your new address. You can do this here

Have a creative month!


P.S. A quick point about Chapter and Verse. I forgot to mention that the deadline for submissions for the first issue, along the theme of The last hidden beauty in the world, is May 15th. Please also remember to send your work in rich text format. This is a 'save as' option. When you click ‘save as’ the dialogue box that appears will have a drop down menu at the bottom of it, choose .rtf. Also make sure you include your student number and name in the subject line of the message. Note - anything we receive into this mail box that is not a submission for the magazine will be deleted. For our new subscribers see Issue 102 March 2009 further details.


'I always enjoyed writing although I never thought I would ever really get anywhere with it. I always imagined that to have a writing career, first I’d be forced to sit in lecture theatres with tooth-picks holding my eyes open, while a professor droned on and on about dissecting books that bored me to tears. So I carried on with my life and fell into a career that simply paid the bills.

'It wasn’t until my attention landed on a Writers Bureau advertisement when my dreams all came flooding back. It seemed the ideal opportunity to discover if I really did have some talent and learn some useful techniques. The possibility of earning some money in the process was also a bonus.

'Right from the start of the course I was learning practical techniques that have even been useful in furthering my career. As I worked on my writing skills, I soon had confidence in my abilities and started to apply for work in the writing field. Even though my initial attempts weren’t successful, I didn’t feel disheartened because I knew I was only starting out and could use it as a learning experience.

'Eventually through some contacts who knew I was studying and keen to become a writer, I landed some freelance work. In the past 9 months I’ve written web content, small articles, letters, corporate brochures and done some editing work. Now I also write content for a monthly newsletter that is sent to around 100,000 clients. It’s not a regular income I can live off, but it gives me so much satisfaction to be finally doing what I love.

'I know I still have so much more to learn, but with everything I have achieved so far I’m confident I can succeed. My head is overflowing with so many ideas!'

Melissa Chappell, Spain


‘When I enrolled with The Writers Bureau my plan was to learn enough about publishing to get into print. But things don't always happen the way you plan them!

‘My lucky breaks started in February 2007, when I was looking through The Taxi Drivers' trade magazine as part of the WB course. It was full of well-written articles and reports, but it needed a humorous story to make easier reading. I outlined my idea of funny scenarios involving cab drivers and two days later I received a telephone call; "Sounds good to me. We particularly liked the cartoon idea. Please send us a few."

‘Maybe I inadvertently mentioned that a cartoon or funny story might ease the technical load. The problem was that I had never drawn a cartoon in my life. (Lesson: Be careful how you word letters.)

‘So I converted my short stories into cartoon strips, and 'Roadhogs' was born after a painful labour. (Lesson: Be adaptable.)

‘In April 2007 I was browsing FMN and saw a new Bourne Publishing title called 'Fieldsports'. I emailed them three drawings and received a call from the editor "We would like the 'Ducks' cartoon please.”

‘My third success was the best. I telephoned the 'Countryman's Weekly' and told them about my gamekeeping novel which I thought would be great in a weekly graphic form. I have just invoiced them for numbers 17 to 20 in the series. Through my work at the local hospital, I found myself a great regular spot in the international medical journal 'Coronary Heart'. (Lesson: Once you have established a niche, branch out fast.)

‘In March 2007 I had never drawn a cartoon, and now I have a monthly circulation of over 100,000! It's amazing! (Lesson: Move on relentlessly.) I also recently had a book cover design printed for Frank Chinn's 'Seriously Funny' - ISBN number 0-9622270-3-0.

‘I now have online cartoons hosted by the 'Tribaal' website. Other projects include an 'aliens' regular on my blogsite, which I may aim at my local paper, and a 'Poacher's Stories' for the National Gamekeepers' Organization (NGO).

‘My next targets are the diving magazines, as scuba is one of my real passions. After that, an orchestrated assault on the local and later national newspapers. Things are definitely moving up a notch, with serious deadlines and much more competition, but I plan to be running in the nationals by mid-2009.

‘The point is that if you do get a lucky break as I did, don't sit around feeling great about it for too long, because there is more to come.

‘So thanks WB. At the moment I don't have time to continue with the course, but I have arrived where I wanted for the present.

‘By the way my nom de plume is 'Ric', and I hope you see my cartoons one day!’

Richard Seaton, UK

Related Links


Main Website


Ric's Tips and Borderland Diary

Book Cover Designs

Thanks, as always, to Melissa and Richard for sharing their inspirational stories with us. If you would like a prospectus for our courses please email us here with your full name and postal address.

Or, to share your success stories with others, just send an email to with 'Success Story' in the subject line.


FREELANCE MARKET NEWS Freelance Market News Magazine
an essential guide for freelance writers

For up-to-date market information, Freelance Market News is invaluable.

Issued 11 times a year it's packed with information on markets in Britain and around the globe, plus you get all the latest news and views on the publishing world.

Every subscription comes with FREE membership of The Association of Freelance Writers. Your membership also entitles you to discounts on books and competitions, a free appraisal worth over £30 and a Membership Card which confirms your status as a Freelance Writer.

FREE sample copies are available to view at the website, along with more details about the magazine and how you can subscribe.

This month

All the latest markets for you to target, plus useful hints and tips to help get your work published. 




Simon Whaley

Let me be clear right away, by calling this ‘A Judge Reveals All’, I am not about to strip naked in front of you all! (Not a pretty sight, believe me.) But what I do want to do is strip away a few of the practices that some writers undertake when entering competitions, to reveal how you can improve your chances of winning a writing competition. The closing date for the Writers Bureau Poetry & Short Story Competition 2009 is 30th June, so there’s still plenty of time to put together a high quality entry and I’ll show you how.

I’ve judged numerous writing competitions (this year’s WB competition judges are Iain Pattison and Alison Chisholm) and it’s the same basic mistakes that crop up time and time again. Take spelling, for example. Let your computer do the spell checking and a replacement word may be correctly spelt, but be entirely the wrong word, leaving a judge in fits of laughter, when emotionally, the story needs empathy and sadness. One entry I read was about a funeral in the early 20th century. The writer intended to say that people doffed their hats as the funeral cortege passed by. Unfortunately, the writer didn’t know how to spell ‘cortege’ and neither did the spellchecker, because what the competition entry submitted actually said was: people doffed their hats as the funeral courgette passed by.’

Competition entries that are planned are of a higher quality and make it through to the shortlists and the winning categories. So to make your competition entry a high-class submission, draw up a timetable. Work backwards from the closing date to identify what needs to be done and by when. Here’s an example.

June 30th 2009 This is the closing date for the Writers Bureau competition. This is your deadline!

June 15th Make this your deadline to have a final, highly polished submission ready to submit. That gives the postal (or email) system two weeks to get your entry in on time. Late entries won’t be judged. If others can get their entry in on time so should you.

June 12th Rule check. Ensure your entry submission meets ALL the rules. More on this later.

June 1st Have your penultimate draft ready. This gives you two weeks to put your entry aside for a few days. When you return to it, pick it up and read it aloud. This is where you will pick up the spelling/typing mistakes. Delete your courgettes! I’ve read entries where some sentences are not even sentences. Reading aloud helps you to ‘hear’ these mistakes.

May 15th Have the second draft of your entry ready. Reread your first draft and make the changes needed to make your entry work. If it’s a story, do you have a gripping opening, a logical middle and an appropriate and satisfying resolution? Does your poetry submission make the point you want it to? If it has a rhyme, does it work across the whole poem?

May 1st Finish your first draft. Accept that this is your first draft and that it doesn’t need to be word perfect now. You have six weeks to perfect your creation. Too many entries are first draft submissions and would work better with more editing. Don’t write something and send it off. Edit. Hone. How do I spot first draft submissions? Easy. A character’s name may be Pollyanna in the opening paragraph and Brian in the final paragraph! A new character may arrive in the final paragraph to resolve the problem because the writer hasn’t thought how to integrate them better into the story. It proves their story hasn’t been planned. First draft poems may not have the right choice of words. Something ‘yellow’ may be better described as ‘golden’.

April 25th Generate ideas for your entry. Yes, ideas – plural. Don’t write about the first idea that comes into your head. If a competition has a theme, then your entry needs to differ substantially from the others to really stand out. The first idea is usually the most obvious and it’s the one that other entrants will run with. Spend time thinking your ideas through. Planning an entry timetable like this means you won’t panic. You will think of better ideas because you know you’ve programmed time to edit your entry before you need to submit it.

Do some research about the judges. I don’t enjoy reading science fiction or fantasy and I say so on my website. An entrant who takes the time to find out a bit about me will learn not to write a science fiction entry for an open themed competition that I’m judging. All judges have personal preferences. I wouldn’t judge a science fiction themed short story competition, but if a science fiction entry was entered into an open themed competition, well unfortunately it just won’t work for me.

In our entry timetable, June 12th is our rule check time. Ensure your entry adheres to ALL the rules. If entries must be on white paper, then print yours on white paper! Print on pink and your entry will be disqualified in fairness to those who have followed the rules. I’ve seen entries on all colours and can confirm that it doesn’t improve the quality of the writing. Black ink on a white background offers the highest contrast, making text easier to read for the judges. And remember, we have hundreds of thousands of words to read. The easier it is to read the better!

Planning your entry like this will result in a higher quality submission and one that meets all the rules. Your chances of success will be higher. Here are my final competition succeeding submission tips.

1. Write something new specifically for each competition. I can spot a rejected magazine short story submission a mile off. If a magazine editor didn’t think it was up to scratch, then chances are I won’t either.

2. Ditch the clip art. This is a writing competition, not a painting competition. I want to read words not browse the entire catalogue of clip art on your computer.

3. Don’t write any comments for the judges. I once saw an entry that had the following handwritten note on the top - “I know the word count is 2000 words. This is 9000 but the quality of my writing is excellent.” Er... it wasn’t. Rules are rules no matter what the quality.

4. Put the right postage on your submission. The Royal Mail charges the addressee the difference and then applies a £1 surcharge for underpaid entries. No competition pays for the writer’s mistakes.

5. Treat your competition submission like any other submission. Grip the judge with an exciting opening paragraph and then deliver a confident resolution.

Good luck!

Simon Whaley is a tutor for the Writers Bureau and a freelance writer and author. He has judged competitions on behalf of literary festivals, local writers’ groups, and the National Association of Writers’ Groups. Simon’s short stories have appeared in People’s Friend, Take a Break, Ireland’s Own, Yours and also That’s Life Fast Fiction in Australia. His ninth book, the Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking was published at the end of March 2009.


10 Top Tips for a better writing environment

1. Whether you are lucky enough to have a room dedicated to being an office, whether you work in the spare bedroom or whether you have to work at the dining room/kitchen table – keep it tidy. If your desk is clear and free from clutter there’s a better chance that your mind will be, too!

2. Make sure you have the necessary equipment. You can still write successfully without access to the Internet, but it does make life a lot easier. A good broadband connection isn’t a luxury. But we haven’t yet achieved the ‘paperless office’ so a filing cabinet – or some form of storage for files – is more or less essential. And don’t forget supplies of stationery and any necessary reference books. You might be able to ‘Google’ any information you need but most writers still build up a library of their favourite reference books.

3. Be organised as well as tidy. When you sit down to write have everything you need to hand. There’s nothing more distracting than having to jump up every few minutes to get something you’ve forgotten.

4. You also need to be disciplined. Some people write better in the morning when they’re fresh. Others can burn the midnight oil when everyone else is in bed. Find what works best for you and then make sure that you fit some time for writing into your busy life. You might not manage this every day but the more regularly you write – just like exercising your body – and the stronger your ‘writing muscles’ will become.

5. Don’t be afraid to be anti-social. When you’re concentrating on your writing let the phone ring and then pick up the call from your answer machine later. Tell family that you want some ‘me time’ for your writing and make it clear to friends that you are working – so popping round for coffee and a gossip isn’t an option.

6. Make sure you are comfortable. Are the light levels right? Is your chair at the right height? Are you sitting at the correct distance from your keyboard and screen? Is the temperature right? Is there enough fresh air/ventilation? If you have to work at the kitchen table rather than having your own office these factors can be difficult to control but try your best – it pays dividends for both your creativity and your health.

7. We hear so much in the media about ensuring that you drink enough water, but it is true. Noting saps your concentration and gives you a headache faster than dehydration. You might need a strong coffee to kick-start your brain but then leave the caffeine alone and drink lots of water.

8. And the same goes for exercise. Earlier, we said that you should avoid distractions but if you settle down to write for a prolonged period, make sure you get up every thirty minutes or so to stretch your legs and take a few deep breaths.

9. You’ll find that it really aids your creativity if you are surrounded by things that give you pleasure. It won’t be the same for everyone but it can be as simple as a nice view from your window, pictures of people or places that you love, scented candles, something to stimulate your taste buds and even – dare we say it – the odd glass of wine.

10. And finally, the easy chair! The previous nine points have concentrated on you working away at your desk, but writing is a bit like an iceberg. There should be plenty of thinking time under the surface of your writing. So, treat yourself to the most comfortable chair you can find, sit back and let those creative thoughts flow…  



As well as our competitions, there are thousands of others out there – a quick search with Goolge can confirm this. So, where do you go to find the good ones and how do you spot the bad ones, hopefully these sites can provide a good starting point.  
This site, by a Writers’ Forum columnist and regular Amazon Shorts contributor, is one of the most comprehensive lists of current competitions I've found and is regularly updated.  
This site has a searchable database that allows you to input variables such as fee, prize amount and country. A good one for those who don't want to spend hours trawling through hundreds of results pages.  
And if you want to spot the bad ones here's a useful little article about how to do just that plus some links to other sites detailing well known scams.
I also found this site which is a must for the mobile phone enthusiasts out there. You send in your micro story in full words, no txt abb., in one text message on the monthly theme. The fee is £1 for the chance to win £50.00.

Remember, if you run a website that you think may be of use to our readers, let me know. If I like it, I’ll publish a link to it giving you a free plug. What could be better than that?

END NOTE and a little inspiration


Could you write an article about ...

1st Oct. 1908 

Henry Ford launches his first car, the Model T Ford, which costs only $850 and revolutionizes the car industry.

2nd Oct. 1869

Mahatma Ghandi, the nationalist leader who brought India out of the British Empire is born in Porbandar, Gujarat.

3rd Oct. 1637

Ben Jonson, most famous for his brilliant comedies including 'Volpone' and 'The Alchemist', dies in London aged 65.

4th Oct. 1535

The first translation of the Bible into English is completed and dedicated to Henry VIII by Miles Coverdale.

6th Oct. 1927 

The 'Jazz Singer' known as the first 'talkie' featuring Al Johnson premiers in New York.

8th Oct.

The first test for those suspected of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, the Breathalyzer, is introduced into England.

9th Oct. 1940

Inspirational song writer John Lennon is born in Liverpool.

12th Oct. 1492

The Spanish conquest of the Americas begins with the landing of Christopher Columbus on the island Guanahani.

13th Oct. 1925

The UK's first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, is born the daughter of a grocer in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

14th Oct. 1964

Civil Rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr. wins the Nobel Peace prize.

15th Oct. 70 BC

Virgil, the influential Roman poet known for penning the 'Aeneid' is born in Andes near Mantua.

16th Oct. 1908

'British Army Aeroplane No.1' takes to the skies over Britain making it's pilot Samuel Cody the first person to fly in a powered craft.

17th Oct. 1933

Albert Einstein flees to America following oppression in Nazi Germany.
19th Oct. 1781
The surrender of the British forces at Yorktown, Virginia brings about the
end of the American War of Independence.

21st Oct. 1858

Jaques Offenbach's light opera 'Orpheus in the Underworld', famous for it's Cancan dancing, premiers in Paris.

22nd Oct. 1811

Franz Liszt, the most influential pianist of the 19th century, is born in Raiding, Soporon.

24th Oct. 1945

The United Nations comes into being.
26th Oct. 1881
The 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral' in Tombstone, Arizona sees the killing of three members of the infamous cattle rustling Clanton gang.

29th Oct.1991

The first close-up photograph of an asteroid is taken by the Galileo space probe.

30th Oct. 1938

Mass panic is caused in the USA by the broadcast of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio dramatization.

31st Oct. 1984

Prime Minister of India, Indira Ghandi, is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

Next month we have expert opinion from Heather Cooke on 'Points of View'. No, not those letters to the BBC about programmes, but the vexed issue of viewpoint or perspective in fiction: whose, how many and why? Ten Tops Tips will show you how to plan your novel and there'll be the usual mix of websites and inspiration to whet your appetite.

And finally, here's a Benjamin Zephaniah poem called 'Nature Trail', which I thought was appropriate seeing as our little buggy friends are starting to make an appearance again.


At the bottom of my garden
There's a hedgehog and a frog
And a lot of creepy-crawlies
Living underneath a log,
There's a baby daddy long legs
And an easy-going snail
And a family of woodlice,
All are on my nature trail.

There are caterpillars waiting
For their time to come to fly,
There are worms turning the earth over
As ladybirds fly by.
Birds will visit, cats will visit
But they always chose their time
And I've even seen a fox visit
This wild garden of mine.

Squirrels come to nick my nuts
And busy bees come buzzing
And when the night time comes
Sometimes some dragonflies come humming,
My garden mice are very shy
And I've seen bats that growl
And in my garden I have seen
A very wise old owl.

My garden is a lively place
There's always something happening,
There's this constant search for food
And then there's all that flowering,
When you have a garden
You will never be alone
And I believe we all deserve
A garden of our own.

However, if you really want to see what Benjamin is all about visit his website and enjoy.

If you found something of use to you in this issue please pass the word on to all your writer friends - and even those who don't! You never know, you might inspire them to take it up. They can sign up

See you next month.

Shelley x

As usual, if you've any suggestions or would like to comment on anything you have read then please contact me at:



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Annemarie Munro Writers Bureau's Student of the Year 2022

"I have seen my writing journey as an adventure: What can I write? What am I best at? What new aspects of writing can I discover and contribute towards? I have welcomed the wide range of modules covering different types of writing, challenging me to try new aspects in style and content, pushing me gently outside my comfort zone with encouragement.

"I signed up for the course in December 2020 as a Christmas present to myself and I started the first module in January 2021. I have had eight pieces published: three paid earning £1080 and a star letter where I won a £250 hotel voucher."

Annemarie Munro - Writers Bureau Student of the Year 2022

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