Competitions to Enter in February


, , , , , , , ,

Meet the new beta reader for ninevoices! Nine-month old Kiko’s recommendations for this freezing cold morning are a bracing walk (yay!) before curling up before a roaring fire with the laptop and entering a competition or two… Dropped biscuit crumbs would be a bonus.

Papatango and Southwark Playhouse welcome submissions of new stage plays for their Papatango New Writing Prize. The winner will develop their play with Papatango in preparation for a four-week production in the autumn. Their script will be published by Nick Hern books and the writer will receive ten percent royalties. In addition, following the stage production, the winner will be awarded a £6,000 commission to create a new play, with Papatango providing developmental support. The competition is for an original, unperformed and unproduced full-length stage play – minimum sixty minutes/forty pages/9,000 words. ENTRY IS FREE, and the deadline 17 February. Full details on their website:

The Chiplitfest Short Story Competition is open for entries up to 5,000 words. There is a first prize of £500, a second prize of £100 and a third prize of £50. The authors of the top ten stories will have the opportunity to be featured on, which publishes short stories. The entry fee for stories up to 2,500 words is £5, and £8 for stories up to 5,000 words. Closing date is 7 February. Details:

The CWA are inviting entries for two writing competitions. The CWA Debut Dagger is given for the opening of a crime writer who had never published a full-length novel and who has not got a contract with a publisher or agent. The winner receives £500 and shortlisted writers receive feedback, plus having their entries sent to interested UK agents. To enter, send up to 3,000 words, plus a synopsis of no longer than 1,500 words. The entry fee is £36 and the closing date 28 February. The CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition 2019 is for the best unpublished short story that most closely fits vintage crime writer Margery Allingham’s definition: ‘The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuse. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, and Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.’ The prize is £500, plus two passes to Crimefest 2020.To enter, send unpublished stories up to 3,500 words. The entry fee is £12 and the closing date 28 February. Full details:

The CWA Debut Dagger people are generous with hints and tips on how to impress their judges – in particular. posting a five-point analysis of why a reader might fail to be impressed by a synopsis. This is valuable for ANY novel, not just one involving a crime. So do take a look at their website.

Fish Flash Fiction Prize, maximum 300 words. Open subject. Prizes 1,000 Euros; 300 Euros; online writing course; publication in anthology. Entry fees: online 14 Euros for one, then 8 Euros; postal 16 Euros for one, then 10 Euros. Deadline 28 February. Details:

Flash 500 Short Story Competition for between 1,000 and 3,000 words. Prizes: £500, plus a two-year Duotrope gift certificate; £200; £100. Entry fees: £7 for one story, £12 for two; £16 for three; £20 for four. Deadline 28 February. Details:

Kelpies Prize for a novel. Send the first five chapters, plus a 1,000-3,000 word synopsis starting ‘There were three things everyone knew about [character name]… Rules: Scottish writers only, aged over 18. ENTRY IS FREE. Prizes: £500, plus £500 advance on signing contract, mentoring, writing retreat and £100 expenses. Full details: 

The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Contest for a novel for children. Full manuscript 30,000 to 80,000 words, synopsis and covering letter. Rules: novel suitable for children aged 7-18. Entry fee: £18. Prize: publishing contract/royalty advance of £10,000; critique for all longlisted. Details:

If you fancy attracting the attention of an American agent, WOW! Women On Writing Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest is open until February 28. The guest judge is literary agent Kari Sutherland with Bradford Literary Agency. Submit short fiction of any genre between 250-750 words. Prizes: $400; $300, $200. The prize also includes publication and an interview. Can’t find if there is an entry fee, but details should be on:

That should be enough to be going on with, but do, please, double-check all and any details before entering.

Having noted the requirements for the Kelpies Prize, above, with its suggested opening phrase, I’m going to suggest this as one of the homework tasks that whoever hosts the fortnightly ninevoices’ sessions sets for those not immersed in novel editing. It should trigger useful flash and short stories – so why not make use of it? Kiko would give you an approving tail-wag..





Tsundoku – we’ve all got it (haven’t we?) …


, , , , , , , ,

Tsundoku is the Japanese word for books you’ve bought but have not yet read. How brilliant to have such a word – why isn’t there an English one, we must have been piling them up just as much over here for just as long! Here’s some of my own tsundoku. Some was bought on impulse in a bookshop, some ordered after careful thought, some bought at a church fair because I was a friend of the person manning the bookstall and felt I had to buy something.

Authors, how do you feel about your work being tsundoku? Is it enough that your book caught a purchaser’s eye so much that he or she bought it? Or that you’ve had the royalty on that sale? Or are you somewhat put out that you’re still in the To Be Read One Day list?

If the latter, my apologies to the authors in my photo. I suspect that Robert Browning, George Eliot and Arthur Conan Doyle wouldn’t have minded that much.


Was Your New Year Resolution to Write More?


, , , , , , , , , , ,

If so, here are a selection of writing competitions to enter in January. We don’t mind if you use a quill pen, an ancient Remington, a clapped-out biro, or a top-of-the-range laptop, just get those words down…

University of Southampton Netflix Script Competition – six episodes of 25-30 minutes each, or 45-50 minutes each. Prizes: £500 and submission to Red Production Company; £200; £100, plus £100 for the best student (18-25) and £100 for the best under-18. Deadline 6 January. Details:

The Mogford Prize Story. 2,500 words on the theme of ‘Food and drink’. Prizes: £10,000, plus 3 x £250. Entry fee: £10. Deadline 7 January. Details:

Comedy Women in Print Prize. Comedy novels by women in two categories: published writers, and unpublished writers. Prizes: £2,000 for published writers; £1,000 and (a wonderful opportunity here) a free place on the University of Hertfordshire MA in Creative Writing for unpublished writers. Entry fee: free for published writers; £10 for unpublished writers. Closing date: 31 January. Details:

Lancashire Authors’ Association Flash Fiction Competition for a story in exactly 100 words. Prize: £100. Entry fee: £2; £5 for three. Closing date: 31 January. Details:

Fish Short Memoir Contest for personal, non-fiction up to 4,000 words. Prizes: 1,000 Euros, publication in an annual Fish Anthology; a week at Casa Ana Writers retreat in Andalucia and 300 Euros travel expenses; seven honourable mentions plus 100 Euros. Entry fee: 17 Euros. Deadline: 31 January. Details:

The Fiction Factory have prizes of £150, £50 and £25 in their Short Story Competition. Entries must be up to 3,000 words and the entry fee is £6. Closing date: January 31. Details:

Retreat West First Chapter Competition offers a prize of submission package feedback and review from literary agent Sarah Manning at The Bent Agency, and a second prize of submission package feedback from Amanda Saint of Retreat West. To enter, submit an opening chapter of up to 3,500 words from an original, unpublished novel in any genre for adult readers. The entry fee is £10 and the closing date 27th January. Details about how to enter through their online submission system are available at

Drip Action Theatre Company is co-ordinating the Arundel Festival Theatre Trail 2019 and want 30-40-minute plays for performance as part of the Trail. Previous audiences have totalled over 2,000 people, and each play selected will earn its writer £150. The writer of the best script will receive the Joy Goun Award of £250. Eight plays will be selected for performance at eight different venues around Arundel in August 2019. Check details of requirements at Entry appears to be free, but please double-check. Only one play is permitted per playwright and they should be posted before the closing date of January 31st.

The Teignmouth Festival Poetry Competition invites entries for their 2019 prize. In the open category (please check website if you’re local), there is a first prize of £500, a second prize of £250, and a third of £100. Enter original unpublished poems up to 35 lines. The fee for online entries if £4.50 for the first poem and £3.50 for additional entries. Closing date is 31 January. Details:

The Cambridge Short Story Competition is for stories between 2,000-3,000 words. There is a £1,750 prize fund and all shortlisted entries will be published in an anthology. Entry is £8 per story, payable via Paypal only, and the deadline is January 15th. Check details at

Books make the most amazing Christmas gifts – my own haul promises much pleasure to come – so why not make it your Resolution to add your own novel to the ones that will be available next December?

Best of luck – and remember to check those details before entering anything.

‘Prague Spring’


, , , , , , ,

Topicality, or anniversaries, can give writers real opportunities.

The events of August 1968 are the setting for Prague Spring, the new novel by Simon Mawer. He has written before about Czechoslovakia, as readers of The Glass Room will know, that telling and compelling history of a villa that is remarkably like the Villa Tugendhat in Brno. (See He shows the same confidence and attention to detail here.

The novel focuses on two diverse couples whose lives become intertwined in Prague as the political tension mounts, as Warsaw Pact troops are massing on the borders. Two students decide to hitch-hike across Europe: wealthy, Home Counties Ellie (revelling in the role of revolutionary socialist – this is 1968, remember!) and poorer, Sheffield-born James. Their relationship shifts as they find their way across Europe, depending on the opportunities or the hazards that face them. Dubček and “socialism with a human face” have been much in the news, and the toss of a Deutschmark decides that they will go to Prague to see it rather than head south to Italy for the sun.

Meanwhile, at the British Embassy in Prague, Sam Wareham (a fluent Czech- and Russian-speaking First Secretary) has met beautiful Lenka Konečková. She is the daughter of a victim of the show trials in the 1950s, and is someone anxious to enjoy the new freedoms the Prague Spring has brought. With her Sam explores this new optimistic world in ways that might well have been closed to him if he was confined to his usual round of Embassy socials and official trade union visits.

The mixture of this exciting new freedom, and the threats gathering at the frontier, generates a tension that pervades the love lives of these characters and the people they meet and the places they go. We visit a chaotic pop concert given by a ramshackle American pot-smoking pop group the Ides of March, and at classical concerts we are transported by the music of Dvořák and Brahms. We attend an exuberant political meeting; just like the hitchhiking couple, we meet a wide range of folk on the road, we come across an influential Party member, and we see shadowy people in action at the Embassy. Musicians feature quite prominently – as well the Ides of March we meet a famed German cellist, a more famous Russian conductor and his young violinist lover. There is even a cameo appearance by the Moody Blues (as a way of evoking the late 1960s in the minds of those of us who were there, bringing in Nights in White Satin is a masterstroke). Dubček is seen briefly. We visit Café Slavia and are greeted by a shortish man in a leather jacket who we are told later is a playwright … There is a lot of sex (as, I recall, there was in The Glass Room).

Reader, I don’t think I’m really spoiling it if I tell you that the paths of these two couples cross and the Russians do invade. The sense of massive confusion throughout the city when that happens is well described. The Prague Spring is being brutally brought to an end and our protagonists find themselves in the midst of the horror and the chaos.

Simon Mawer has included in the text four short explanatory notes to give some background: on the suspicious death shortly after the Communist coup d’état in 1948 of the Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk; on the Communists’ murder in 1949 of the democrat Milada Horáková; on the Bavarian-Czechoslovak border; and on ‘Ghosts’ – Kafka, Hašek, the Castle itself, and the letter from five members of the Czechoslovak Presidium to Brezhnev asking him to intervene to save the country from counter-revolution.

In August 1968 I was staying with a German family in Bielefeld. I recall their fear that the Russians wouldn’t stop at the Czechoslovak border.   Many readers will have their own memories of what it was actually like to be in Czechoslovakia as they unfolded: for those of us who don’t, Prague Spring is a novel that tries to capture that historic moment.

Published by Little, Brown ISBN 978-1-4087-1114-9

(This piece first appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of the British Czech & Slovak Review, the newsletter of the British Czech & Slovak Association – see To hear Simon Mawer talking about this book in a radio interview go to

Which Children’s Characters Still Walk Beside Us? Part III


, , , , , , ,

Reading the posts on ‘Which Children’s Characters Still Walk Beside Us?’ I realise that I don’t have any such fellow-travellers.

Is that a male thing, or just me?

There were books I liked (eg The Magic Pudding) but I can’t claim to remember the characters by name. In my house we had a long-playing record of Treasure Island (the audio book of yesteryear!) which meant that I only ever heard that one intonation, the characters only ever had that one voice, and I didn’t really take to them. So I didn’t have Long John Silver or even Jim Hawkins as mentors or friends as I got older.

Molesworth perhaps has stayed with me longest. I look at my old copy of Down with Skool (1953, by Geoffrey Willans, illustrated by the great Ronald Searle) which I see

“Contanes Full Lowdown on Skools, Swots, Snekes, Cads, Prigs Bulies Headmasters …” etc.   Teachers say things like “This is not going to hurt me as much as it hurts you”, “I am hoping to get a job in the colonial service somewhere”, “Unless the culprit owns up the whole school will dig the vegetable garden”, “Mr Chips? No such character ever existed”, and “I am still hoping for a job in the colonial service somewhere.” Canes (or rather “Kanes”) are omnipresent, as are Latin verbs.

But even though I myself had Latin grammar literally beaten into me (I remember being caned for making the literally schoolboy error of thinking that castra, a camp, declined like mensa, a table), I can’t say that this shared experience made Nigel Molesworth my companion through life.

Then, at around 10 or 11 I discovered Agatha Christie, John Creasey and Erle Stanley Gardner. And the rest is history …



Writing Competitions to Enter in December


, , , , , , ,


Yesterday was one of ninevoices’ fortnightly writing days. An opportunity to share work-in-progress, discuss books we’ve read, and encourage one another to persevere – perhaps the most important quality for a writer, after talent. And, to demonstrate its importance, ex officio member Skipper trawled around the room in search of a dropped or donated fragment of food and reminded us with his melting brown eyes to be dogged in our literary endeavours.

Here are some ways:

The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize wants stories up to 4,000 words and poems up to 50 lines on any theme. Prizes are £1,000, £300, £100 and 2 x £50 in each category. The entry fee is £5 and FOR EVERY ENTRY A TREE IS PLANTED IN AFRICA. Worth entering for the good you are doing, with the possible bonus of winning one of the prizes. The deadline is 31 December. Details:

Flash 500 Competitions hold quarterly competitions for flash fiction, up to 500 words. Prizes: £300, £200 and £100. Entry fee is £5 for one, £8 for two. Deadline 31 December. Details:

Bath Children’s Novel Award. Send first 5,000 words and synopsis. Prizes: £2,500, various shortlist prizes, including Cornerstones online course worth £1,800. Entry fee: £25. Closing date 2 December. Details:

Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition for full-length novels of 30,000 to 80,000 words, suitable for readers 7-18. Prizes: publication deal worth £10,000. All longlisted writers receive an editorial report. Entry fee: £15. Deadline 18 December. Details:

H E Bates Short Story Competition for up to 2,000 words. Prizes: £500, £200, £100, £100 for best short story by Northampton writer not winning another prize. Entry fee: £6, or £10 for two. Closing date 3 December. Details:

RW Themed Flash Fiction Prize. Short fiction up to 500 words on quarterly set themes. December: ‘Running Away‘. Prizes: £200, 2 x £100. Entry fee: £8. Closing date 30 December. Details:

Henshaw Quarterly Short Story Competition for stories up to 2,000 words. Prizes: £100, £50, £25. Entry fee: £5. Deadline 31 December. Details

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 31 December. Details:

The Exeter Novel Prize is open for entries, and asks for the first 10,000 words (including synopsis) of a novel that has not been accepted for publication by a tradition publishing house. The first price is £500, plus a trophy. Five shortlisted writers will each receive £100 and a trophy. Entrants must not be currently represented by a literary agent.The entry fee is £18, payable by Paypal. Details  The closing date is January 1st – technically next year, but the morning after New Year’s Eve isn’t the best time to press all the right buttons on your computer. Do it well ahead of time!

The Moth Poetry Prize awards 10,000 Euros for a single unpublished poem, and 3 prizes of 1,000 Euros for runners up. Closing date 31 December. Details:


Skipper would like to remind you to check all details carefully before entering any competitions. Good luck!



Which Children’s Fictional Characters Still Walk Beside Us? Part II


Reading Tanya’s post reminded me that we picked up a copy of Black Beauty in a charity shop this summer – a book my husband and I both loved as children. Perhaps it was where our love of horses began.

In an idle moment – not many of those with a book to edit – I started reading it again. And cried again, as I did as a girl of eleven or twelve.

Books like Black Beauty teach young people about compassion, and the need for kindness in an often cruel world. Qualities as relevant now as they were in Anna Sewell’s day.

Choose your Christmas books well, as Aunt Laura did. They help form the next generation.


Which children’s fictional characters still walk beside us?


, , , , , , , , ,

The children’s section of our local bookshop has been invaded by older adults buying Christmas presents for grandchildren. Watching them picking up titles from the classics shelf I wondered if they are secretly longing to buy the books they loved as a child rather than today’s bestsellers?

Perhaps all of us can remember the books which seemed to frame our childhood and become part of our identity. They were usually about ordinary children in the real world; they gave us companions who shared the same feelings and troubles. Such books were entertainment and escape, but also something even more valuable. They contained characters who inspired us with a wider vision. Without ever being preachy, they were stepping stones in the confusion of growing up and sorting out what matters in life.

Anne Shirley in the Anne of Green Gables series, Emily Starr in the Emily of New Moon series (L. M. Montgomery), Myra in Apple Bough, Laurel in Saplings (Noel Streatfeild), Katy Carr in What Katy Did (Susan Coolidge), Sara Crewe in A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) – just some of the vital friends who lived beside me in childhood and ever since. It’s good to see them still on the shelves in bookshops along with today’s favourites Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Matilda.