Competitions to Enter in November


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With Hallowe’en imminent, here is a spooky/lucky black cat for you. The chair on which Gizzy is conducting her radiator worship was purchased from an antique shop in Edenbridge, then humped laboriously back to the car park at the far end of the High Street. My plan was to recline in it for late afternoon reading of Jane Austen. Fat chance…

Everything With Words independent children’s publisher wants entries for its Urban YA Competition, for a debut novel set in today’s urban, multi-cultural Britain. The winner will receive £1,000, plus possible publication. Novels should be between 40,000 and 700,000 words and may be written by agented or unagented writers, but must be the author’s first novel for YA readers. Send novel and a 500-word summary, with “YA competition” in subject line. Closing date is 30 November and THERE IS NO ENTRY FEE, so what do you have to lose? Details:

The Against the Grain Poetry Press (which publishes three collections each year) is inviting original unpublished entries for its Poem Competition 2018. The winning entry will be submitted to the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, and will be awarded £100. There are second and third prizes of £50 and £25. Entry fee is £5 for two poems, or £10 for five poems. Closing date is 30 November. Details:

Indie press Mother’s Milk Books is inviting submissions of dark fairy tales for the fifth in the series of their popular annual anthology The Forgotten and The Fantastical. Stories should be up to 5,000 words and may be set in the present day or in any fantastical or sci-fi setting. Entry is free, but submitting writers are asked to buy a copy of one of the previous books in the series through the website and to include the invoice number with their submission. Each accepted author will be paid £20 and will receive a complimentary book and the chance to read at the book launch in Nottingham. Closing date 30 November. Details:

Arkbound Short Story Competition for stories between 500 and 1,000 words on the theme of ‘time‘. Prizes: £100, £50, £25, 3 x £20. Entry fee: £3. Arkbound will sponsor entries from disadvantaged people. Closing date 1 November. Details:

Caledonia Novel Award for the first 20 pages, plus 200-word synopsis, of a novel by an unpublished writer. Prize: £1,000, plus trophy. Entry fee: £25. Closing date 1 November. Details: http://www.caledoniannovelaward

Fish Short Story Competition for stories up to 5,000 words. Prizes: 3,000 Euros for first; a week at Anam Cara Writer’s Retreat in West Cork, plus 300 Euros expenses for second; 300 Euros for third. Entry fee: 20 Euros for the first, 10 Euros thereafter. Closing date 30 November. Details:

Inktears Short Story Competition for stories between 1,000 and 3,500 words. Prizes: £1,000, £100, 4 x £25. Entry fee £7.50. Closing date 30 November. Details:

Aeon Award for short stories up to 10,000 words ‘in any spec fic genre’.

Ely Amnesty Group Short Story Competition for stories up to 1,500 words on the theme of ‘hope’. Prizes: £50, publication. Entry fee: £5. Closing date

National Novel Writing Month is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place during November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between 1 November and 30 November. Although there is no monetary prize, participants can get on-line support, pep-talks, and can even get involved in local events. This could be a brilliant way to get started on a new novel project.  Details:

Literary magazine The White Review is inviting entries for The White Review Poets Prize 2018. The winner will receive £1,700, expert professional advice and will be published in the Review. To enter, submit between five and ten pages of original and unpublished poetry. The entry fee is £12. Closing date 6 November. Details:

As ever, let me remind you to check entry details with care before submitting in case I’ve got something wrong…!

And finally, to also remind you that even rejections give something positive back, is that brilliantly encouraging quote from Sylvia Plath:



The Tonbridge Poetry Trail



This is the month of the Tonbridge Poetry Trail. Poems of several local poets are displayed in the windows of many local shops, from Optimum IT Solutions at the north end of the town to Sulston’s Kitchen in the south (see for more names). 24 shops, 24 poets, 24 poems …  Maps are available in most outlets. It’s all sponsored by the Tonbridge Festival.

There’s a reading on Tuesday, 30 October at 7-00 pm at the Tonbridge Basil’s (30 High Street). Should be good! (You’re asked to post on Facebook if you want to attend – .)


Train delays can have their compensations


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My train journey home on Tuesday evening was muchly delayed – long enough to qualify for a refund!  “Signalling problems in the Chislehurst area …”  But no worry: I had a seat, and some good reading material.  Two good reading materials in fact.  I settled down to a happy session.

I remember the green gaze is the latest poetry collection by Matt Chamberlain (for previous ones see the posts and on this blog).    In his Foreword Matt Chamberlain talks about seeing things in colours.  He writes, “The preceding year has been difficult, with bereavements and faltering friendships …  But green says ‘calm tolerant, easy’, and when buffeted between red heat and deep blue cold, I sought its neutrality.   I longed for the return of nature.  I remembered the green gaze.”

‘A Father’s Day’ will echo with anyone who’s lost a loved one, thinking of the everyday actions that won’t be done again.  ‘Commuters’ suggests ways of passing a train journey, eg “Rain makes patterns and I imagine introducing people to their own reflections, me their gentle intermediary.”  ‘Counting’ describes the sheer abundance of nature: “Frank swept away twelve tons of leaves last night but morning said ‘I’ll raise you’; now the scarlet carpet is measured in fathoms.” ‘An Old Soldier’ recalls one’s youth in a way that will resonate; we won’t have in our own memory bank an Action Man stuck for years on a telephone line, but we’ll have the equivalent.

And many more, as they used to say on the sleeves of compilation LPs.  (Talk about going down Memory Lane!)

The other was Mythos, Stephen Fry’s retelling of many of the Greek myths.  As you would expect from him, it’s so readable, a fresh take on familiar stories.  And many of them that weren’t familiar to me.  Told with affection and a modern feel.  In the very first chapter, for example, describing Chaos and the creation of the universe, he explains how your trousers began as chaotic atoms, became your trousers, will become landfill, and in time will return to cold Chaos once the Sun expands and destroys the earth.   When telling the story of how Europa, changed by Zeus into a cow, swims across the Bosphorus, he delights in pointing out that ‘Bosphorus’ and ‘Oxford’ mean exactly the same thing.  Time and again we see the Greek origin of our words or our ideas.

His imagined conversations on Olympus entertain, as does his recognition that he is repeatedly introducing us to perfectly beautiful young people, who may well (but not always) come to sticky ends once their beauty attracts an Olympian.   Adonis, Ganymede, Narcissus, Echo, Psyche, Semele – they’re all here.

Sometimes he gives us interesting variants on what we’re used to.  Athena, for example, changes Arachne into a spider not because she presumptuously took her on in a spinning competition, but as a reward for being a great artist, the poor girl having just hanged herself in mortification a few moments before.

Eventually the signalling difficulties in the Chislehurst area were resolved.  But I hadn’t minded.


The thrill of being shortlisted 2


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Shortlists follow shortlists ….   I too am now enjoying this thrill (see Sarah’s previous post) having just heard that I was shortlisted in the 25th birthday writing competition run by the excellent Link Age Southwark. The competition’s theme was friendship and/or generations, and I sent in “She’s Leaving Home”, a story of parents packing their daughter’s belongings into the family car. This was the fruit of some ninevoices’ set homework. So it can pay to do that homework!

I look forward to reading the stores that won the prizes in the Link Age Southwark comp.  Well done those guys!

The thrill of being shortlisted


I’m always heartened by writers’ honesty about disappointment – and, TBH, I have a lot more time for posts with titles like ‘The Rejection Diaries’ than for ones like mine above.  But … yesterday Maggie posted her excellent monthly round-up of forthcoming competitions and as, minutes later, I found I’d been shortlisted for the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Award, I thought I’d just say how jolly grateful I am to her for her monthly reminders.

Do have a go at one of the October competitions she lists.  You might get placed – and it’s such a boost!


Competitions to Enter in October


You’re a writer, so you naturally keep a notebook. Don’t you? This is my current personal collection. They live in my handbag, in the bedside drawer, the car, on the shelf under the coffee table, in my walking jacket, in the kitchen…just about everywhere!  And now I’m giving serious thought to short stories and flash fiction, I’m hoping to mine the odd nugget of gold from within their tattered pages.

Why not join me in entering at least one of the following:

The National Memory Day Poetry Competition wants up to 40 lines on the theme of ‘memory‘. First prize is £700, second £200 and a third of £100. The entry fee is £3 for a single submission and £2 for each additional submission. Deadline: 5 October. Details:

Bath Flash Fiction Award for up to 300 words. Deadline 14 October. Details: (Please note that this website appears down today, so I couldn’t check the prize details and only had these squiggled notes in one of the above notebooks. However, anything Bath does is usually first-rate, so take a look at their site when it comes back on line)

RW Flash Fiction Prize for 500-word flash fiction. Prizes: £350, £200, £100, £15. Entry fee: £8. Deadline 28 October. Details:

Flash 500 Novel Opening, Plus Synopsis, Competition has prizes of £500 for the winner and £200 for the runner-up. Deadline 31 October. Details:

RW Short Story Prize, for stories between 1,500 and 4,000 words. Prizes: £400, £250, £150, £20. Entry fee: £10. Deadline 28 October. Details:

NAWG Novella Competition for first 5,000 words plus a one-page synopsis. Prizes: books to the value of £300, 2x£200. Entry fee: £10. Deadline 31 October. Details

NAWG Open Short Story Competition. 500-2,000 words. Prizes: £200, £100, £50, publication. Entry fee: £5. Deadline 31 October. Details:

Southport Writers’ Circle International Short Story Competition 2018. Stories up to 2,000 words. Prizes: £150, £80, £25; humour £30. Entry fee: £3, or £10 for four. Deadline 31 October. Details:

Tom Gallon Trust Awards. Short stories, up to 5,000 words, by authors who have had at least one story accepted for publication. Prizes: £1,000. Entry: FREE. Deadline 31 October. Details:

London Magazine Short Story Competition 2018 for short stories up to 4,000 words. Prizes: £500; £300; £200. Entry fee: £10. Deadline 31 October. Details:

London Short Story Prize 2018. is for short stories up to 5,000 by writers with London postcodes. Prizes: £1,000. Entry fee: £6 Closing date: 9 October. Details:

A Story for Daniel, flash fiction competition is in memory of Daniel Farbrace and aims to raise awareness of blood stem cell donation. They are looking for up to 500 words ‘with a joyous or hopeful theme‘. The winner will receive £100 and their story will be published on-line. The runner-up will receive a bundle of goodies, including a Retreat West bronze membership and a writing critique. Entry is free, but there are suggested good causes if writers would like to make a donation in young Daniel’s memory. Deadline 31 October. Details

As always, please double-check all particulars – especially the deadline date. Some sources suggest 28 October, others 31 October. That way madness lies…

The Rejection Diaries



I haven’t penned one of these for a while because I’ve been concentrating on my novel. However, things could be about to change.

As a rubbish swimmer, and someone nervous about heights, I’ve decided I must finally leap off the high diving board and submit to my wish-list of literary agents.

I’ve typed The End on my final page. Proof-read every damn one of them. Deleted as many adverbs and adjectives as I can. And subjected my friends in ninevoices to countless readings of chapters that were giving me difficulty. I could nitpick for ever, but feel like someone with a much-loved blouse: I want to keep washing it, but might that make the colour fade?


So I think I’d better jump.  And hope the agents to whom I submit don’t fall about laughing at my presumption in thinking it can properly be called a final draft.

Watch this space…


“Ponder” photograph of diving board courtesy of Kat @ flickr


Competitions to Enter in September


I’ve always been fascinated by doorways, wondering what or who lies through them. Old ones can really get my imagination seething… So why not hunt one down that fires YOUR imagination? Write a story. Open a door for your reader…

Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing 2018. To celebrate 100 years since women won the right to vote this year’s competition is entitled: Women’s Writes. Open to all genders over 16 years of age, entries should be in the form of a short story, with entrants free to write about whatever they wish, but each story must feature a strong female protaganist. The winner will receive £100 and their entry will be published on their website and shared via various social media outlets. The runner-up will receive £50 and there will be two commendations of £25. Max. word count is 1,500 and the deadline 15 September. Details:




Do you live in London? London Short Story Prize. Win a first prize of £1,000 in the annual competition from London writer development agency Spread the Word, which is designed to publish the best new stories coming from the capital. They are looking for unpublished stories up to 5,000 words and the winner will not only receive £1,000, but also have a meeting with an agent. Two runners-up will each receive £250 and a meeting with an editor. Highly commended entries will be published in the London Short Story Anthology 2018. Entry is £8 per story. Deadline 17 September. Details

Mere Literary Festival Write in the Week timed Flash Fiction Competition. On a theme to be announced in 14 September, deadline 22 September. Prizes: £60, £30, £15. Entry fee £2, with £1 for each subsequent. Details:

Hammond House International Literary Prizes 2018, run by the University Centre, Grimsby, are open for entries on the theme: ‘precious‘. The 2018 Short Story Competition is for fiction between 2,00 and 5,000 words. The first prize is £500 and there are second and third prizes of £100 and £50. The top 25 entries will be published. The entry fee is £10. The 2018 Screenplay Competition is for ten-minute screenplays. The winner will receive £25 and their screenplay will be professionally produced and submitted to the Aesthetica film festival. Entry fee £10. The 2018 Poetry Prize is for a single poem, with prizes of £100, £50 and £25. Entry fee is £10 for each poem. Deadline is: 31 September. Details:

Erewash Writers’ Open Short Story, for short stories up to 2,500 words. Prizes: £100, £70, £30. Entry fee: £3, £5 for two, £2.50 thereafter. Deadline 27 September. Details:

The Imison Award for original radio plays by writers new to radio. Prizes: £2,000. Entry fee: £30. Deadline 29 September. Details:

Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2018 for stories up to 6,000 words. Prizes: £1,000, or a year’s editorial support. Entry fee: £10. Deadline 28 September. Details:

Bedford International Writing Competition for stories up to 3,000 words, and poems up to 40 lines, on any theme. Prizes: £300, £150, £100 in each category. Entry fee: £6, £12 for three. Deadline 30 September. Details:

Manchester Fiction Prize for short stories up to 2,500 words. Prizes: £10,000. Entry fee: £17.50 Deadline 14 September. (PLEASE NOTE: ON CHECKING THIS TODAY, I FIND THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN CHANGED FROM 29 SEPTEMBER!)  Details

Caterpillar Story for Children Prize. Short stories up to 2,000 words for children aged 7-11. Prizes: 500 Euros, plus a two-week stay at The Moth retreat; 300 Euros; 200 Euros. Entry fee: 12 Euros. Closing date 30 September. Details:

Chorley & District Writers’ Circle Annual Short Story Competition, for stories on the theme of natural justice. Prizes: £100, £50, £30. Entry fee: £5. Deadline 30 September. Details:

Grindstone Literary Services Novel Prize for an opening chapter, maximum 3,000 words. Entry fee £20. Prizes: £1,000; £100; publication. Discount on Curtis Brown online writing course. Deadline 28 September. Details

The 2019 International Beverly Prize for Literature is for an original, unpublished manuscript of fiction, non-fiction, drama, memoir or criticism. The winner will receive £500 and publication with Eyewear Publishing. The entry fee is £20 and the closing date 15 September. Website:

My apologies for being a bit late with this list – blame editing fever. As always, I rely on you double-checking any competitions you’re interested in, since terms and conditions, or entry dates, can change at the last minute. See my note above, on the Manchester Fiction Prize. 

All that remains is for me to urge you to give something a try. And to remember Samuel Beckett’s famous words:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.



What’s the story?


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What prompts a story in your imagination?

The vogue for fixing padlocks to a bridge as a token of your affection has reached Prague: here are some on a bridge on Kampa Island, a romantic spot favoured by lovers.

On a visit earlier this year we saw this gentleman, in long conference with someone by mobile phone, trying to identify a particular padlock.

What on earth is the story here?  A broken romance, so painful that not even the padlock must remain on the bridge?  A padlock made of gold?  A vital message scratched on one?  And why delegate the finding of this lock to someone else?

Any ideas?