‘Swanking’ – unavoidable for authors?



‘Swanking is still unacceptable’ says Mary Killen, on the (always enjoyable) Your Problems Solved page of this week’s The Spectator magazine. She is replying to an anxious letter from a reader  who would like to give copies of his/her two  ‘respectably published’ novels to neighbours and acquaintances who are unaware of the novels’ existence, but worries that these gifts put the recipients in an awkward position.

There is something altogether endearing about this concern for the feelings of others and the appeal for advice in general ‘about trumpet-blowing, however subtly done’. The writer says that in his/her younger days ‘swanking’ was considered the worst of sins …

Mary comes up with a creative solution to the problem perfectly tailored to this particular correspondent. But for most of us it may be that swanking is now a necessity – part and parcel of publishing and marketing novels, however much it goes against the grain.


Writing Competitions to Enter in June


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This is a BIG MONTH for us, since we will be launching one of ninevoices’ rare and sought-after competitions on JUNE 21st. Please WATCH OUT FOR DETAILS on that date!

Meanwhile you can hone your skills on some of the other competitions out there – nobody said you need only enter one.

There’s just time to squeeze in for the Bath Novel Award deadline of June 2nd. They want the first 5,000-words of a novel, plus a synopsis. Prizes: 1st £2,500; 2nd, agent introductions and manuscript feedback; 3rd, Cornerstones’ course. Entry fee: £25. Details: bathnovelaward.co.uk

Bath Flash Fiction Award – a thrice-yearly competition for flash fiction up to 300 words. Prizes: £1,000; £300; £100, Entry fee: £9. Closing date for current competition 10 June. Details: bathflashfictionaward.com

Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting for full-length (at least an hour) new stage plays written in English, which have not been published or professionally performed. Prizes: £16,000; 2x£8,000. FREE ENTRY. Deadline 5 June. Details: http://www.writeaplay.co.uk

Divine Chocolate Poetry Competition for poems on the theme ‘how can chocolate change the world? From poets aged 7-11;  12-16; and 17-plus. Prizes: Divine chocolate and goodies. Free entry. Closing date: 14 June. Details: http://www.divinechocolate.com/uk/poetry

Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize for poetry (up to five poems), fiction and life writing, up to 3,000 words. Prizes: £1,000 in each category, plus publication in Wasafiri. Entry fee: £6 for one category; £10 for two categories; £15 for three categories. Closing date 28 June. Details: http://www.wasafiri.org

VS Pritchett Memorial Prize for unpublished short stories between 2,000 and 4,000 words. Prizes: £1,000, plus publication. Entry fee: £5. Closing date: 28 June. Details: http://www.rslit.org

British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition for any kind of fantasy short stories, horror, sf, magic realism, etc., up to 5,000 words. Prizes: £100, £50, £20, membership of BFS and publication in BFS Horizons. Entry fee: £5 (free for BFS members). Closing date: 30 June. Details: http://www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk

Audio Arcadia’s General Fiction Short Story Competition for stories up to 5,000 words. Prizes: Anthology publication, royalties. Entry fee: £5.50. Closing date: 30 June. Details: http://www.audioarcadia.com

Hastings Literary Festival Short Story Competitions, for short story, poem and flash fiction on the festival theme ‘In Other Words‘ – an exploration of difference and otherness. Prizes: £100; £40; £25 in each category. Entry fee: £5. Closing date: 30 June. Details: http://www.HastingsLitFest.org

Impress Prize for New Writers are looking for full-length debuts from unpublished fiction and non-fiction writers. Submit proposal and sample chapter, 6,000 words maximum. Prizes: £500 advance and publication. Entry fee: £25. Closing date: 30 June. Details: http://www.impress-books.co.uk

Wells Festival of Literature short stories between 1,000 and 2,000 words; poems up to 40 lines; stories for children. Prizes: £750, £300, £200, local prize of £100 in each category. Entry fee: £6. Closing date: 30 June. Details: http://www.wellsfestivalofliterature.org.uk

The Moth Short Story Prize 2019 for unpublished stories of up to 5,000 words on any subject. Prizes: 1st, 3,000 Euros; 2nd, Writing Retreat at Circle of Misse in France, plus 250 Euros; 3rd 1,000 Euros. Entry fee: 12 Euros. Closing date: 30 June.  Details: wwwthemothmagazine.com

Last, but by no means least, is the British Czech & Slovak Association Competition for short stories and non-fiction – up to 2,000-words – exploring the links between Britain and the Czech/Slovak Republics at any time. The suggested, but optional, theme for 2019 is ‘1989’. As has been said before, this does not have to be a worthy, scholarly piece (though please feel free, if that’s your thing…) but could equally be inspired by a honeymoon, a student trip, or even a hen-night, in Prague. By a haunting among those atmospheric buildings around Wenceslas Square. By a cold war spy tale. A memory of trying to make dumplings… ENTRY IS FREE. Prizes: £400, £150, publication in the British Czech & Slovak Review. Plus an invitation to a glittering dinner in London at which you will be presented with your prize.

As ever, let me urge you to check the details before entry. There’s a good spread of competitions this month, and I’m personally greatly tempted by the idea of receiving a hamper of Divine Chocolate… Just the thing to munch on while composing your 150,000-word masterpiece.


Six Things Guaranteed to Turn this Writer into a Muttering Old Grump



1. My other half creeping up behind me (oh, for that creaking stair in our old house) and reading the computer screen over my should before I’m even aware he’s in the room. Despite me having told him repeatedly that I hate him doing it…

2. Having to write a 400-word synopsis that makes some kind of sense of my book.

3. The accusing smell of burning wafting upstairs from the unattended kitchen.

4. The printer going on strike at a crucial moment, because it’s out of MAGENTA, when I’ve used nothing but black for the past month.

5. Discovering, at tea-time, that the entry details for an important writing competition stipulate a deadline of mid-day, not midnight.

6. The torture of having to reduce that 400-word synopsis – that I slaved over for weeks – to a 300-word synopsis.

There are scores more things that make this writer gnash her teeth. Perhaps you’d like to add some of your own?

‘A Perfect Book’ – John Betjeman and Excellent Women


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For John Betjeman, Barbara Pym’s novel Excellent Women was ‘a perfect book’. Nobody listening to a splendid adaptation of it at the Barbara Pym Society Spring meeting in London would disagree. Probably some of the audience had read it so many times they practically knew every delicious line.

But what came across forcibly was that the novel, as adapted here by Georgia Powell and directed by Tristram Powell, worked so brilliantly in the format of a radio play. Large chunks and several characters were cut out but it was still perfect. This must be because the book is really written as a series of delightfully observed scenes; we are not waiting impatiently to see what happens next but savouring the fullness of every moment.

Every character in a Barbara Pym novel has a distinctive way of speaking; what they say could not possibly be spoken by anyone else. Another writing lesson here, I found myself thinking. I happily shut my eyes and listened to the actors playing the characters who are always living in the heads of Barbara Pym devotees, some of them taking on multiple parts – Frances Grey, Malcolm Sinclair, Martin Hutson, Jane Slavin, Carolyn Pickles – and Penelope Wilton as the narrator capturing the sly comedy of Barbara Pym’s voice.

Excellent Women was published in 1952, twenty years after John Betjeman’s first radio programme. If he’d been sitting with us in the St Alban’s Centre on Sunday he too would have revelled in this adaptation of the book he described as perfect. As he wrote, ‘Excellent Women is England, and, thank goodness, it is full of them.’

Writing Competitions to Enter in May


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Entering competitions is probably the best way to keep those hopes of publication going. Having a deadline does wonders for your productivity. Being longlisted is incredibly encouraging. And being shortlisted tells you that you’re not only talented, but very nearly there.

No excuses allowed, then. And in case you think we don’t practise what we preach, we hope you’ll be encouraged to learn that our very own Sarah attended the Exeter Novel Prize award ceremony last Saturday as one of the five talented runners-up. (Third from the right, in the spotted dress.) And this was the second time she has made off with an Exeter Novel trophy…

The London Independent Story Prize is inviting entries for its next quarterly competition for 300-word flash fiction. The competition has a first prize of £200 and there is an entry fee of £7, payable via PayPal. Closing date is 6 May. Details: http://www.londonindependentstoryprize.co.uk

The Bridport Prize. Flash:250 words max. Poem: 42 lines max. Short Story: 5,000 words. Novel: 5,000-8,000 words. Fees: £9; £10; £12; £20; Prizes: flash £1,000; £500; £250; 3 x £100. Poem and short story: £5,000; £1,000; £500; £250; 3 x £100. Novel £1,000 plus mentoring, written report and potential agency representation. Deadline 31 May. Details: http://www.bridportprize.org.uk

One of the most exciting competitions to open this month is a newcomer – the inaugural Curtis Brown First Novel Competition for manuscripts, both finished and unfinished, across all genres of adult fiction. To enter, all you need is the opening (up to 10,000 words, including any prologue) and a one-page synopsis of up to 400 words. You must be 18 or over and not represented by a literary agent. The winner will be offered representation by Curtis Brown plus a prize of £3,000, while the first runner-up will receive a place on a three-month novel-writing course. Find out more: https://curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/first-novel-prize. The closing date for this competition is not until 1 August – but this long notice will provide extra time to hone that entry.

The Frome Festival Short Story Competition is looking for 1,000-2,000 words on any theme. Entry fee: £8 plus optional critique. Prizes: £400; £200; £100; plus various local prizes. Deadline 31 May. Details: http://www.fromeshort-storycompetition.co.uk

Poetry London Clore Prize for a poem of 80 kines max. Entry fee: £3 to subscribers; £7 to non-subscribers. Prizes: £5,000; £2,000; £1,000; 4 x £500; publication in Poetry London magazine. Details: poetrylondon.co.uk/competition

The First Novel Prize. 50,000 minimum length, but you must submit the completed novel. Entry fee: £25. Prizes: £1,000; £500; £100. Judges: literary agent Emma Paterson and Little, Brown’s editorial director Ed Wood. Details: http://www.firstnovel.co.uk

The Big Issue magazine has a competition to find the UK’s next great crime writer, with the winner receiving a two-book publishing deal with the HarperCollins imprint Avon. Entry – which is FREE – requires the full manuscript, plus a synopsis of no more than 100 words. Closing date is 31 May. Details: http://www.bigissue.com/tag/crime-writing-competition/

The Bristol Short Story Prize for stories on any theme up to 4,000 words. Prizes: £1,000; £500; £250; 17 x £100 shortlisted. All published in prize anthology. Entry fee is £9. Closing date is 1 May. Details: http://www.bristolprize.co.uk

Colm Toibin International Short Story Award for stories between 1,500 and 2,000 words. Prizes: 700 Euros; 500 Euros; 300 Euros. Entry fee: 10 Euros. Closing date 4 May. Details: http://www.wexfordliteraryfestival.com

Nick Darke Award for full-length stage plays. Prizes: £6,000. FREE ENTRY. Closing date: 21 May. Details: http://www.falmouth.ac.uk/nickdarkeaward

Bluepencilagency First Novel Prize. The first chapter of an unfinished novel up to 5,000 words. Prizes: £1,250 in prizes, manuscript review, introduction to judge literary agent Nelle Andrew. Entry fee: £20. Closing date: 31 May. Details: http://www.bluepencilagency.com

Yeovil Literary Prize for novels (opening chapters and synopsis up to 15,000 words), short stories (max. 2,000 words), poems (up to 40 lines), writing without restrictions. Prizes: Novel: £1,000; £250; £100; Short Story: £500; £200; £100; Poetry: £500; £200; £100. Writing without restrictions: £200; £100; £50. Entry fee: Novel: £12; Short Story: £7; Poetry: £7 for one, £10 for two, £12 for three; Writing without restrictions: £5. Deadline 31 May. Details: http://www.yeovilprize.co.uk

Do please, as usual, check all details on the respective websites before entering, just in case. There are lots of opportunities above for longlisting and for shortlisting, as well as making off with the first prize. There are two glass trophies in the vicinity of Royal Tunbridge Wells to prove it.

Exeter Novel Prize


Huge congratulations to Rebecca Kelly for winning this year’s Exeter Novel Prize with her novel Skin-whistle. Unfortunately, Rebecca was unwell on Saturday and is therefore not in this line-up pic of the prizegiving.

However, ninevoices‘ own talented Sarah is there (in her spotty dress), having been shortlisted for the second time in two years. Many congratulations to Sarah and to all this year’s longlistees and shortlistees.

L to R: Freya Sampson (shortlistee), Cathie Hartigan (CWM), Broo Doherty (DHH Literary Agency) Sophie Duffy (CWM), Kathleen Jowitt, Sarah Dawson, Emma Albrighton, Debbie Fuller-White (all shortlistees)

Anthony Trollope: clergymen we love


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‘I don’t know that clergymen are so much better than other men,’ says the wife of Archdeacon Grantly in Barchester Towers. Anyone familiar with the stream of clergymen in Anthony Trollope’s forty-seven novels might well agree.

For Trollope certainly doesn’t treat clergymen any differently to his other characters, holding them up to the same well-polished mirror to expose their mixed motives and moral vacillation. But he rarely intrudes on what we might call their relationship with God. Instead he shows us their relationships with their families, fellow clergy and wider society.

Trollope’s clergymen are never depicted as simple goodies or baddies; they are thoroughly human, a fluctuating mix of strength and weakness. The most saintly is probably Septimus Harding, first introduced to us in The Warden, the meek, sweet-natured, peace-loving precentor of Barchester Cathedral and warden of Hiram’s Hospital. He isn’t perfect – he’s not especially hard-working or energetic – but he provides a quiet, underlying morality throughout the six Barchester novels. Even when upset by the sermon delivered by Obadiah Slope, he responds with habitual gentleness that ‘Christian ministers are never called on by God’s word to insult the convictions, or even the prejudices of their brethren.’

Trollope himself was essentially tolerant in his approach to religion. It’s the clerics who push their version of Christianity down other people’s throats who come in for the most stick in his novels. The extremely tiresome Roman Catholic priest Father Barham in The Way We Live Now according to Trollope’s notes was based on the real life George Bampfield, who when staying with the Trollopes ‘made himself absolutely unbearable’ with his aggressive proselytising and criticism of the Anglican church. In the same novel Father Barham is contrasted to the affable Bishop Yeld, thoroughly relaxed as to dogma, but clearly effective and well regarded in his diocese. But Trollope is always even-handed. In The Macdermots of Ballycloran we are given a picture of kindness and Christian compassion in the exemplary Roman Catholic priest Father John McGrath.

There are good and bad apples everywhere, in all Christian traditions, in high and low churchmanship. Most infamous of all is Obadiah Slope, the slimy evangelical chaplain to the hen-pecked bishop in Barchester Towers who cloaks himself in pious virtue while plotting to rule the diocese and suggesting that old-style clergymen like Mr Harding should be carried away on ‘the rubbish cart’ of history. Then there’s his taste for rich widows … In Miss Mackenzie Trollope caricatures what he saw as evangelical cant in the Revd Jeremiah Maguire, but there are low churchmen who are altogether excellent such as Mr Saul the curate in The Claverings. As for villains at the high church end we have the murderous chaplain Mr Greenwood in Marion Fay.

Clergymen as minor characters often provide some of the best comedy in Trollope’s novels and we are treated to a delightful variety, including Montagu Blake, irritatingly jolly and pleased with himself in An Old Man’s Love, Thomas Gibson, ‘a sort of tame-cat parson’ fought over by ladies in He Knew He Was Right, or Caleb Thumble, Mrs Proudie’s time-serving stoodge in The Last Chronicle of Barset.

Especially appealing to modern readers may be those clergymen heroes who challenge intransigent and intolerant attitudes within society and the church – attractive examples are Frank Fenwick, befriending a fallen woman in The Vicar of Bulhampton and Dr Wortle, pugnaciously resisting interference from parents and his bishop in Dr Wortle’s School.

It is in the portraits of clergymen developed over the course of several novels that we see Trollope’s penetrating insight into human frailty and yet capacity for change. The proud and wealthy Archdeacon Grantly, first introduced to us in The Warden, comes across as bullying and worldly when compared to his self-depreciating father-in-law Mr Harding: ‘looking like an ecclesiastical statue … a fitting impersonation of the church militant here on earth; one hand ensconced within his pocket, evinced the practical hold which our mother church keeps on her temporal possessions; and the other, loose for action, was ready to fight if need be for her defence’. By the final volume of the six Barchester novels we come to recognise and value the man underneath.

If Theophilus Grantly and Septimus Harding are the clergymen most beloved by readers, Trollope himself believed that he would be remembered for three characters, only one of them a cleric: Plantagenet Palliser, Lady Glencora, and Josiah Crawley, the perpetual curate of Hogglestock. ‘I claim to have portrayed the mind of the unfortunate man with great accuracy and great delicacy. The pride, the humility, the manliness, the weakness, the conscientious rectitude and bitter prejudices of Mr Crawley were, I feel, true to nature and well described.’ Josiah Crawley is an unattractive character, first appearing in Framley Parsonage where he reproves the pleasure-loving young vicar Mark Robarts, and in his pride and anger at his own poverty creates extra trouble and suffering for his poor wife and children. There is never any doubting his holiness – significantly among the rough and poor brickmakers of Hoggle End he is ‘held in high respect’ – but it is in The Last Chronicle of Barset that he becomes a tragic figure, the half-mad saint unjustly accused.

Trollope was writing at a time when the Church of England was facing much-needed change. Trollope was generally on the side of reform – many of the novels expose the cruelly unequal pay structure – but as always he can empathise with its victims and reveal the occasional less pleasant side of the reformers. ‘Till we can become divine we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for a change we sink to something lower.’ (Barchester Towers). His natural sympathies were at the high church end, alongside Archdeacon Grantly and Mr Harding, but he believed that the church should accept difference: ‘We are too apt to look at schism in our church as an unmitigated evil. Moderate schism, if there may be such a thing…teaches men to think upon religion.’ (Barchester Towers). Interestingly, Cardinal Newman was a devoted reader of Trollope’s novels.

Trollope was a Victorian, and the Victorians saw the novel as an effective way to influence people; novels ought to instruct as well as entertain. ‘Gentle readers, the physic is always beneath the sugar, hidden or unhidden. In writing novels, we novelists preach to you from our pulpits.’ Neither in his life nor in his novels did Trollope make a parade of his own belief in God’s mercy and goodness, but it underlies everything he wrote until his death in 1882. ‘I trust… I shall not be thought to scoff at the pulpit, though some may imagine that I do not feel all the reverence that is due to the cloth. I may question the infallibility of the teachers, but I hope that I shall not therefore be accused of doubt as to the thing taught.’

Tomorrow is the 24th of April and Anthony Trollope’s birthday. Perhaps Mr Harding’s words to the bedesmen of Hiram’s Hospital in The Warden could also be Trollope’s wish for himself and all of us: ‘I hope you may live contented, and die trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thankful to Almighty God for the good things he has given you.’







A Chance to Get Your Debut Novel onto the Bookshelves?




To celebrate the 120 years since Albert Curtis Brown founded his literary agency, and their authors past and present, Curtis Brown have just announced their inaugural Curtis Brown First Novel Prize. Tracy Chevalier, bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and Single Thread, will chair a judging panel formed of Curtis Brown Agents and the Curtis Brown Creative Team.

The prize is open to manuscripts, both finished and unfinished, across all genres of adult fiction. Entry is FREE, but must be online. Authors must be 18 or over and not represented by an agent.

Applications are open until midday on August 1st of this year, but the summer will slip past, so you might want to concentrate your mind now. There is even sufficient time to pen the 10,000-words required for entry from scratch.

A shortlist of six will be chosen for consideration by the judging panel.

The author of the winning novel will be offered representation by Curtis Brown, plus a prize of £3,000. The first runner-up will receive a place on a three-month novel-writing course and a mentoring session with one of their literary agent team. A further four shortlisted entrants will be offered a place on a six-week online course with Curtis Brown Creative and a mentoring session with one of their agent team.

To enter, send the opening of your novel, (up to 10,000-words, including any prologue), together with a single page synopsis (up to 400 words).

If you are not already aware of it, Curtis Brown produce an excellent newsletter, packed with advice and information. Currently it concentrates on how to perfect your submission, from format to the opening; from the synopsis to the title. Worth subscribing to, even if you don’t intend to enter this particular competition.

I suspect more than one member of ninevoices will consider this too good an offer to refuse.

Details and rules are available on http://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/first-novel-prize and should be checked before entry. For example, they will not accept a manuscript which has already won a prize.

Since Curtis Brown are anxious to publicise this great opportunity, I don’t imagine they’ll mind me lifting the quote from their announcement:

‘Every book starts with a first line, every career with a first moment of inspiration.’



Oxbridge Literary Festivals this week


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This weekend sees the annual University Boat Race – Oxford squaring off against Cambridge on the Thames between Putney and Mortlake. But this time of year also sees a more cerebral rivalry – their Literary Festivals.

The dark blue Festival is already under way (https://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/) . Oxford events started on Saturday 30 March and continue till Sunday 7 April. “350 speakers from 25 countries”. Performers or interviewees still to come include Ranulph Fiennes, Robert Harris, Jo Brand, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Owen, Michael Heseltine, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris and Michael Morpurgo. And many more, as they used to say on the compilation LPs they used to sell in the 1970s. (Were they on the K-Tel label?)

Turning a paler blue, the Cambridge Spring Festival (http://www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com/) runs from Friday 5 April to Sunday 5 April. Like Oxford’s, the schedule is too full to list here, but it includes George Monbiot on A Plea For The Planet, Tracey Thorn on A Teenager in Suburbia, Forever Iris (“celebrating the centenary of a magnificent novelist”), Philip Collins on How We Can Fix Our Broken Politics, Francesca Simon on Horrid Henry, Simon Mayo on The Power of Storytelling, Hilary Benn MP on Finding A Way Forward, and Roger McGough with A Night of Poetry and Performance. And many more.

Two real feasts! So if you have the time this week, get along to one of these two ancient seats of learning. You’ll come back with inspiration for your own writing, and rather a lot of books …

Writing Competitions to Enter in April

It’s spring, hatch out a new story!

Entries are invited for the seventh Bath Short Story Award. Prizes are £1,000 for the winner, £300 for the runner-up and £100 for the third. There is a £100 prize for the best story by an unpublished writer and a £50 local prize. Stories should be up to 2,200 words and the entry fee is £8 per story. Closing date is 15 April. Details: http://www.bathshortstoryaward.org

Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize for stories between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Prizes: Aus $5,000, $3,000,$2,000, with $$2,500 divided between 3 commended. Entry fee is Aus $25 and the closing date 15 April. Details: http://www.australianbookreview.com.au

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Deliberately bad opening lines to novels, comic writing inspired by Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s notorious Paul Clifford opening, ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’  Prizes are modest, but receive considerable publicity. Free entry. Closing date 15 April. Details: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com

Billy Roche One Act Play Award for plays up to 15 minutes. Prizes: Euros 300, 200 and 100. Entry fee: Euros 10, Closing date: 19 April.

Grey Hen Poetry Competition for poems up to 40 lines by women who are 60+. Prizes: £100, £50, £25, website production. Entry fee: £3, £10 for four. Closing date: 30 April. Details http://www.greyhenpress.com

Dark Tales Short Story ongoing monthly competition for horror and sci-fi stories up to 5,000 words. Prizes: £100 each months, plus publication. Entry fee: £4. Closing date 30 April (last day of each month). Details: http://www.darktales.co.uk

Swanwick Writers’ School Competition for stories poems and writing for children on the theme of ‘close call’. Prizes: inclusive week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for each category winner. Writing Magazine manuscript appraisal for second winners; Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for third. Entry fee: £6. Closing date 30 April. Details: http://www.swanwickwritersschool.org.uk

Scottish Arts Club/Edinburgh Flash Fiction Award – 250 words maximum. Prizes £500, trophy, membership. Entry fee: £5. Deadline: 30 April. Details: http://www.storyawards.org/about-flashfiction

Please remember to double-check entry details before committing your time and money, in case I’ve got something wrong.

Meanwhile, good luck. There isn’t as long a list as usual, but why not try something different from your normal writing style – like the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest? I didn’t think I could remember how to knit, but managed to cobble together those Easter chicks for a local Hospice fund-raising effort. They’re wonky, but managed to successfully hold a handful of chocolate cream eggs.