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Did you spot the obvious typos in this? My apologies to Annie Garthwaite for getting her name wrong… Must have been the emotion of remembering her terrific story.
Before reading this book I was already aware that Cecily Neville – granddaughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, the mistress who subsequently became his wife – was feisty enough to face down her enemies at the gates of Ludlow Castle, with her small children at her side. But I knew little else, except that she was wife to Richard, Duke of York, and mother to three famous (or infamous) sons: Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence, and Richard III.
Annie Garthwaite’s stunning new historical novel,CECILY, admirably fills the gaps, providing a vividly female perspective on the Wars of the Roses and showing how a determined woman could operate in a man’s world. Medieval women, we learn from Annie, especially those of the aristocracy, could be responsible for huge households and vast estates – “enterprises similar in complexity and size to mid-sized FTSE companies”. As if that weren’t…
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Two members of ninevoices entered – but failed to win – the same writing competition during the course of February (names/details redacted to save their blushes). HOWEVER, one of them succeeded in being shortlisted, while the other was longlisted. Surely the equivalent of being awarded a silver and a bronze medal at the Olympics?
The point we are trying to make is that engaging with a writing competition offers advantages in addition to a possible prize cheque. It concentrates the mind, pushes you to either compose something new or to polish a piece of work that has been languishing on your hard drive. If your entry is either longlisted or shortlisted, it proves you stand above the crowd. Perhaps most importantly, it exercises your writing muscle.
Bridgend Writers’ Circle Open Short Story Competition for stories between 1,500 and 1,8700 words. Prizes: £100, £50, £30, plus publication on website. Entry fee: £5 for one, £7.50 for two. Closing date 1 March. TODAY. Details http://www.bridgendwriters.org
BBC National Short Story Award, up to 8,000 words. Prizes: £15,000, 4x£600. FREE ENTRY. Closing Date: 9am on 15 March. Details http://www.bbc.co.uk/nssa
Hastings Literary Festival Writing Competition for short stories up to 2,500 words; short stories by BAME writers up to 5,000 words; poems, up to 40 lines; and flash fiction, up to 500 words. Prizes: £200, £100, £50 in each category; mentoring for best Sussex entry. Closing date: THIS COMPETITION APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN CANCELLED, BUT THEIR TWITTER WEBSITE DOES HAVE A VIDEO SAYING THEY HOPE TO GO AHEAD WITH 2021 FESTIVAL. BEST THEREFORE TO KEEP CHECKING FOR NEWS. Details: http://www.HastingsLitFest.org
White Review Short Story Competition for stories between 2,000-7,000 words, “by emerging writers”. Prizes: £2,500. Entry Fee: £15. Closing date: changed from 4 March to 26 April. Details: http://www.thewhitereview.org
Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize for published and unpublished (at least 50,000 word) adventure novels. Prizes: £15,000. FREE ENTRY. Deadline 7 March. Details: http://www.wilbur-niso-smithfundation.org
Harpers Bazaar Short Story Competition. Stories on the theme of “Threads”, up to 2,200 words. Prize: publication, plus a weekend break at The Mitre, Hampton Court. Entry appears to be FREE. Deadline: 15 March. Details: email@example.com
Fowey Festival Short Story Competition, for stories not exceeding 1,500 words. With Daphne du Maurier’s popular collection of short stories in mind, the title of the competition is “Breaking Point”. Apparently when Daphne du Maurier was writing the collection – entitled “Breaking Point” – she “found solace and peace after a turbulent period”. A timely thought. Prizes: £200 and £100. Entry fee: £10, which goes towards supporting the future of the Festival. Deadline: 7 March. Details: ww.foweyfestival.com
Evesham Festival of Words are seeking short stories of up to 2,500 words on any theme. Prizes: £100, £50, %30, plus an engraved trophy for the winner. Entry fee: £5. Closing date: 12 March. Details: http://eveshamfestivalofwords.org
Short Fiction/University of Essex International Short Story Competition, for stories up to 5,000 words. Prizes: £500, plus publication; £250; £100. Entry fee: £9. Deadline: 31 March. Details http://www.shortfictionjournal.co.uk
Writers Bureau Annual Short Story Competition for stories up to 2,000 words. Prizes: £300; £200; £100 £50, plus a choice of Writers Bureau courses. Entry fee: £5. Closing date: 31 March. Details: http://www.wbcompetition.com
We live in confusing times, so do PLEASE check all details before entering any of the above. Good luck with those entries!
Some things that you can do to spread a little love in the present gloom:-
- Set the children to creating a hand-made WE ARE THINKING OF YOU card for their grandparents. They could make use of cut-outs from the Christmas cards and its presence on their mantelpiece will cheer them up.
- Write someone a letter – a welcome addition to those tiresome bills and Chinese takeaway flyers that come through their letter box.
- Sit down in a comfortable chair, with a mug of tea in your hand, and take time for a thoughtful chat on the landline.
- Send granny a DVD to help pass the time. There are plenty of excellent old classics at modest cost.
- Persuade/bribe a teenager to guide a techno-phobic relative through how to make Skype/Zoom calls.
- With garden centres open, and many supermarkets (and M&S Food Halls) offering inexpensive hyacinths and miniature daffodils in pots, why not gift one to an elderly neighbour? It will remind them they are not as isolated as they might fear.
- Send granny a jigsaw. Wentworth make wooden puzzles incorporating fascinating ‘whimsy’ shapes; Waterstones also sell jigsaws online – including their magnificent Shakespeare one.
- Last, and not least, send them a book. Reading is good for the mental health and provides welcome comfort and escape. Imagine the pleasure a friend or relative will have from receiving a surprise package from you through the auspices of Amazon? A paperback often costs under £8 and – if you you have granny’s kindle email address – not much over £1. How much nicer to see a gifted book on her door mat, than those tiresome bills and pizza takeaway flyers?
Most of us long to escape our present circumstances, so why not do so by immersing yourself in a new story (perhaps Tanya’s prize-winning compliment to the style of Barbara Pym?), by ordering a new book (plenty of those on offer via Amazon or Waterstones on-line) or – better still – by penning something for one of the writing competitions on offer in the New Year?
The Fish Short Memoir Prize has a word limit of 4,000, an entry fee of £16, and closes on January 31. Prizes are: 1,000 Euros; a Writing Course plus 200 Euros; 200 Euros; with the 10 best memoirs being published in the Fish Anthology 2021. Details: http://www.fishpublishing.com
The Henshaw Short Story Competition requires a maximum of 2,000 words and entries must not have been published before the submission date. Entry fee is £6 (add £12 for an optional critique). Prizes: £200; £100; £50; plus publication in the next Henshaw Anthology. Deadline 6 January. Details: http://www.henshawpress.co.uk
The Mogford Food & Drink Short Story Prize has a magnificent £10,000 first prize, together with the story read by an actor and uploaded onto the Storyplayer website; three other entrants will receive £500. The entry fee is £16 and the requirement is a maximum of 2,500 words, with the theme of food and drink at the heart of the story. The deadline is 13 January and details can be found: http://www.mogfordprize.co.uk/how-to-enter
The Bath Flash Fiction Novella in Flash Award is for ‘linked flashes’ of 6,000-18,000 words. Entry fee is £16 and the deadline 17 January. Prizes: £300, 2 x £100, publication. Details: http://bathflashfictionaward.com/
The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for the first 40-50 pages of a finished but unpublished novel by a woman. Prizes: £1,500. Entry fee: £12. Closing date: 17 January. Details: http://www.lucy-cav.cam.ac.uk/fiction/prize/
The Kent and Sussex Poetry Society Open Competition is for a poem of under lines. Entry Fee: £5; £4 each for three or more. Prizes: £1,000; £300; £100; 4 x £50. Deadline: 31 January. Details: kentandsussex-poetry.com/the-kent-sussex-poetry-socity-open-competition
The London Magazine Short Story Award. Short stories up to 4,000 words. Prizes: £500; £300; £200. Entry fee: £10; £5 each subsequent. Closing date January 15. Details: http://www.thelondonmagazine.org
Retreat West First Chapter, for the first chapter of a novel on any theme, up to 3,500 words. Please read the entry requirements carefully, since including a prologue will disqualify you. Prizes: critique and review. Entry fee: £10. Closing date: 31 January. Details: http://www.retreatwest.co.uk
Finally – though this is really close to the wire – The Exeter Novel Prize is open until midnight tonight, the 1st January. They require your first 10,000 words, plus a synopsis, and the competition is open to currently unagented authors. The entry must be the opening of the novel; no children’s books. Prizes: £500 plus a trophy; 5 runners-up will receive $100. Entry fee is £18 and the deadline, as mentioned above, midnight on January 1st. Details: http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk
Please remember to double check all details before entering as some competitions are being cancelled because of covid crisis difficulties.
We are entering a new year full of hope for better things to come. So stay safe, and follow your writing star.
Every year our group inscribe our writing wishes on a tag to hang on the Christmas tree. This was Maggie’s, last year, when we were still able to gather together to celebrate the festive season.
Creative writing can be a struggle but, as with so many things, persistence can make a wish come true.
Keep writing…and 2021 could be the year that you, too, receive the wonderful news that your book will be published. Good luck…!
Inside The Foundling Museum, in London’s Bloomsbury, hangs Hogarth’s splendid portrait of a generous-hearted man who should be better known.
Thomas Coram, a sea captain, on his retirement to London in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, was horrified that babies were abandoned to die on the dung heaps of the city’s streets. The Catholic Continent had convents which accepted foundlings, but there were none of those in Protestant England. A man of action, Coram devoted his retirement to raising enough capital for a refuge for infants whose mothers were unable, through want or the social disgrace associated with unmarried motherhood, to care for them. It took this tenacious man an amazing seventeen years to make his dream a reality but, finally, in 1741 London’s Foundling Hospital opened its doors.
Today, The Foundling Museum has on display the well-thumbed notebook in which he painstakingly recorded the sums – large and small – that he persuaded citizens of London to part with. The Museum also holds poignant examples of the coins or scraps of ribbon or lace left as tokens by desperate mothers in the hope they might, one day, be able to reclaim their precious child. It was one of these, a pink square of fabric embroidered with my own initials, that moved me to write my novel, The Servant. The embroidery is exquisite, the fabric looks like silk, and the woman who created it was clearly literate. What was her story? We will never know, but it must have been a sad one.
I like to think it was Coram’s wife – like myself childless – who suggested to him that he stop his fruitless attempts to raise enough money from the city fathers and powerful male aristocracy and instead approach their wives. For it was the signatures of the Duchess of Somerset and other high society women on The Ladies Petition presented to George III in 1735 that finally made Coram’s dream a reality. I am also tempted to wonder whether the consciences of those ladies had been pricked by awareness of sins committed by their own sons and husbands.
When the Museum is properly open again, next year, I hope that those who live within reach of London will make a visit. The stories of so many betrayed women are poignant, but an important part of our history.
In his final days, Thomas Coram is recorded as liking to sit in the garden of The Foundling Hospital, in his distinctive scarlet coat, handing out gingerbread men to the children. The Santa Claus of his age.
The Servant by Maggie Richell-Davies – £1.99 on Kindle https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087N8H9PB
Take a leap into the fictional unknown and enter one of the competitions below.
The Ruth Rendell Short Story Competition for stories up to 1,000 words. Prizes: £1,000 and commission to write four further stories over the course of one year. Entry fee: £15. Deadline 2 December. Details: http://www.writers-online.co.uk
The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award 2021, the world’s richest short story prize, is inviting entries up until 4 December. In addition to the winner’s prize of £30,000, shortlisted authors each win £1,000. Shortlisted writers will also be included in an Audible audiobook anthology and receive a further £1,000 fee. Writers must have a track record of publication/broadcasting with an established publisher, magazine or broadcaster. Website: http://www.shortstoryaward.co.uk
Mslexia Poetry & Pamphlet Competition 2020. Poetry: 1st prize £2,000 plus mentoring and writing retreat, 2nd prize £500, 3rd prize £250. Special prize of £250 for the best poem by an unpublished woman poet. Deadline 7 December. Details: http://www.mslexia.co.uk/competitions
Language Evolves Short Story Competition for max. 2,500 words on the theme of language evolution. Prizes: £400, plus publication in New Welsh Review; shortlist also considered for publication. Details: creativewritingink.co.uk/competitions/language-evolves-short-story-competition-2020. Entry free. Deadline 1 December.
The Devon & Cornwall International Novel Prize for the first 5,000 words of a novel, plus a synopsis of no more than 500 words. All adult genres acceptable, including YA. Entry fee: £15. Prizes: £2,000 for the winner, plus a trophy and online publishing contract; shortlisted authors get a trophy and online publishing contract. Deadline 31 December. Details: dci-novelprize.com
Henshaw Short Story Competition for stories up to 2,000 words on any theme. Prizes: £200, £100, £50. Entry fee: £6. Deadline 31 December. Details: http://www.henshawpress.co.uk
Not a huge list, but some competitions appear to have been withdrawn because of the covid crisis. Because of this, please check the appropriate website before entering any of the above in case more withdrawals have taken place.
Two names have now been drawn out of the hat to receive free copies of Maggie’s prize-winning thriller about eighteenth-century London: The Servant.
Congratulations to Em, from East Sussex, and Ceri, from Newport, who should receive their prize copies some time next week.
We hope you both enjoy reading them!
And for those who missed out, the Kindle copy is currently on special offer from Amazon at a mere £1.99 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087N8H9PB. Rather less than the price of a cup of coffee.
If you are starting to think of books to put on your Christmas wish-list, here is a suggestion from Maggie. We may put up a few more in the weeks that follow.
The Phoenix of Florence is a vivid evocation of a brutal era in Italian history. We are introduced to a senior member of the forces of law and order in Florence: a man of power who also shows surprising sensitivity and compassion for the position of women in his male-dominated society. Someone who, all the while, is guarding an astounding secret of his own.
I relished Philip Kazan’s use of language and marveled at the complexity of his plot as I raced through the pages of the book. It reminded me, in places, of C J Sansom’s Shardlake – until the story takes a shocking twist into the back story of its main character and makes you question everything you have previously learned about Comandante Celavini.
If you enjoy thrillers, mysteries and historical fiction that transports you breathlessly into a different time and place, this book delivers on all three counts.