Creative Writing Competitions to Enter in November


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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… A time to curl up with a really good book, or maybe even to write one.

The Caledonian Novel Award for an unpublished novel of at least 50,000 words. First 20 pages plus 200-word synopsis. Open to over-18s only. Entry fee: £25. Prize: £1,500, plus trophy. Runner-up from UK or Ireland to receive free place on writing course at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre. Deadline: 1 November. Details:

Hastings Writers Room First 1,000 words Novel Competition for a psychological thriller, gothic horror or crime novel. Prizes: £100, £50, trophy, signed books, judge’s feedback on the shortlisted entries. Entry fee: £7. Deadline 30 November. Details:

Retreat West Novelette Flash Prize for 3,000-8,000-words total, made up of flashes up to 500 words each. Prizes: £150, £100, £50; publication. Entry fee: £14. Closing Date 29 November. Details:

Betty Trask Prize for published or unpublished traditional or romantic (not experimental) first novels by authors under the age of 35 on 31 December. Prizes: £20,000 total, to be used for foreign travel. FREE ENTRY. Deadline: 30 November. Details:

Bath Children’s Novel Award for unpublished and independently published writers of children’s novels. Send first 5,000 words plus synopsis. Prizes: £3,000, manuscript feedback, Cornerstones online course. Deadline: 29 November. Details:

Creative Mind Horwich Prize for short stories up to 1,500 words or poems up to 40 lines on the theme ‘walking in nature’. Prizes £50, £30 and £20 each category. Entry fee: £3, £5 for three. Closing date: 7 November. Details:

Fish Short Story International Writing Prize, word limit 5,000 words. Prizes: 3,000 Euros; Week at Anam Cara Writers’ Retreat; 300 Euros; 7 runners-up will receive 200 Euros each. Entry fee: £18. Deadline 30 November. Details:

Writers Bureau Flash Fiction Competition for stories up to 500 words, open theme. Prizes: £300, £200, £100, plus Writers Bureau course. Entry fee: £5, £10 for three. Closing date: 30 November. Details:

Do please remember to check entry details in case of last-minute changes.

Someone has to win these competitions, why not you? Best of luck!

The Phoenix of Florence by Philip Kazan



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.

The Writer’s Life



Suffering from Writer’s Block? Take comfort from the following – from the biography of a well-known writer – about her own struggles to put pen to paper.

“…it was not every day that she could write. Sometimes weeks or even months elapsed before she felt she had anything to add to that portion of her story already written.”

Some writers can regularly produce a thousand words a day, but they are in the minority and most of us need to acknowledge there is no shame in putting a project aside until ready to take it up again.

Nor did the above writer’s pain end with lack of inspiration. Even after her work was finally completed to her satisfaction, she bewailed the inevitable disappointment of rejection letters:

“…often not over-courteously worded…and none alleging any distinct reasons for rejection.”

We have all been there. Rejection is bad enough, but if we must be rejected we do yearn for constructive feedback: were the characters weak or was the prose too florid? Did the manuscript need to be cut back, or developed further? Was there anything about it that they liked?

Instead we are all too familiar with:

I am sorry we don’t feel 100 per cent certain we could sell your book to publishers.”

Or the almost-dismissive:

“If you haven’t heard within 8 weeks, assume not interested.”

Writing is not for the faint-hearted. Sometimes even one’s nearest and dearest reveals lukewarm belief in your writing talent. Here is a conversation between our lady writer and her father. She must surely have been tempted to either flounce out of the room, or throw something at the insensitive man:

Papa, I have been writing a book.

Have you, my dear?

Yes, and I want you to read it.

I am afraid it will try my eyes too much.

But it is not in manuscript: it is printed.

My dear! You have never thought of the expense it will be! It will be almost sure to be a loss, for how can you get a book sold? No one knows you or your name.

If you have not already guessed, our author was Charlotte Brontë and the biographer was Mrs Gaskell. The book in question was Jane Eyre.

Would you Like a Free Book?

To mark six months since the publication of her prize-winning historical novel, The Servant, Maggie Richell-Davies is offering free print copies of the thriller to two lucky followers of ninevoices.

Simply subscribe to her new blog: (which will cost you nothing), entering the comment that you would like to take part in the free draw. Two winners will be drawn out of a hat at the end of October.

Her offer is sadly only available to those with UK addresses.

What people are saying about The Servant:

“I fell in love with Hannah immediately. Her pain, her humiliation, her desperation reached through the pages of this beautiful book and grabbed my heart.” Jeanie Thornton, The Books Delight

“I am not in the habit of writing to authors, but read The Servant yesterday – all in one go. I couldn’t put it down! It was a joy to read and such a good story.” Thelma H. via email

‘Hannah is an admirable heroine, brave, strong and entirely credible, while the love story is an uplifting thread running through the book. It is also beautifully written, with such elegant language. I found this a compelling read that I continued to think about long after I had finished.” Nicola C., Goodreads.

The Servant is a cracking good read and a very good historical debut. I look forward to seeing what this talented author comes up with next. More of the same, I hope.” Jaffareadstoo, Amazon Review

“A brilliant mix of intrigue, history and romance.” Connie G, Amazon Review

So, what have you to lose? If historical novels aren’t your thing, you could always gift this thriller about 18th century London to a friend or relative. A more lasting present than a bunch of flowers.

Good luck!

Writing Competitions to Enter in October

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..a time to curl up before the fire with a good book. Or maybe even to write one.

To flex your writing muscles, here are some suggestions for October.

To begin with, why not submit your work to on-line magazine Penny Shorts, which is seeking short stories between 1,000 and 10,000 words. They like ‘thought-provoking, surreal, ridiculous, tragic, tear-jerking, painful, philosophical, horrifying or gruesome stories’ and are particularly drawn to twist-in-the-tale endings. Multiple submissions are accepted. Response time is ‘within 4 weeks’ and ‘there is payment for all writers’. Details from:

The Wenlock Olympian Society and the Much Wenlock & District U3A have launched the Wenlock Olympian Flash Fiction Competition 2020/2021 for original, unpublished fiction up to 1,000 words in any genre on the following themes: Five Rings; Winning; Gold is Only a Colour. Prizes are £150, £50 and £25, plus Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The entry fee is £5, £8 for two and £12 for three. Closing Date: 31 October. Details:

The ovarian cancer charity Ovacome’s first writing competition is for short stories on the timely theme of ‘overcoming’. Enter original, unpublished short stories up to 2,000 words. The ‘overcoming’ theme can be interpreted broadly and stories do not need to be related to either health or ovarian cancer. The competition intends to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and money for its support services. The winner will get £250 and further prizes will be announced. Entry is £5 per story. Closing date: 31 October. Details:

Writing Magazine feature a Picture Book Prize 2020, with comprehensive advice on how to win the prize given in their November edition. First prize is a consultation with top agent Julia Churchill, a year’s subscription to the magazine, and £200 prize money. Second prize is a picture book critique by Amy Sparkes, via Writing Magazine courses, a year’s subscription to the magazine and £50 prize money. Third prize is a year’s subscription to the magazine. Deadline is 31 October. Details:

Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize for graphic short stories. Prizes: £1,000 plus publication; £250. FREE ENTRY. Closing date: 11 October. Details of what is required:

Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize for stories up to 500 words – no minimum word count. Prizes: £300, £200, £100, £15 for shortlisted. Entry fee: £8. Closing date: 25 October. Details:

Retreat West 1,000 word Short Story Prize. First Prize, a professional recording of you winning story, worth £150. Second Prize, a year’s Retreat West Gold Author MJembership, value £100. Third prize, a year’s Retreat West Bronze Flash Membership, value £50. Entry £10. Closing date 4 October. Details:

Cinnamon Press Literature Award for 10 poems, 2 stories or 10,000 words of a novel. Prize: publishing contract. Entry fee: £16. Closing date: 30 October. Details:

McKitterick Prize 2021  for the best first novel, published or unpublished, by an author aged over 40. Prizes: £4,000. FREE ENTRY. Closing date: 31 October. Details:

Flash 500 Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition for the opening of a novel, up to 3,000 words, plus a synopsis. Prizes: £500, £200. Entry fee: £10. Closing Date: 31 October. Details:

The current situation means that competitions can be cancelled or altered at short notice, so please remember to check the details extremely carefully before entering.

Good luck!



More coronatime reading


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So, corona virus restrictions are being reimposed.  Less socialising, less going out of the house, maybe worse to come.  But the upside of all that is, you can top up your lockdown reading …   Your Books To Be Read pile might have shrunk in the past six months, but why not add to it now?  Why not choose something new, maybe something you wouldn’t normally touch?

Taking some books at, er, random – you can enjoy historical fiction, thrillers, comedy, romance, novels exploring relationships and the human heart; revel in the settings of London (in the 18th century and today), modern Czechia, Sussex, the Lake District, Alaska, South Wales, Devon and the Cotswolds.

Or you can read biography and moving memoir; and if you are a manager and your staff are all working from home, why not take advantage of their absence and bone up on management thinking?  And if you’re a parent or doting grandparent, get a lovely book for the little one.

Last, but not least, there’s poetry.  What better way to cope with today’s vicissitudes than settling down with some great poetry ‘the best words in the best order’, as I think someone said.

Happy reading!




Love is All you Need

In these troubled times, love is surely what we need. For one another, and incorporated into a good, escapist story.

The Romantic Novelists’ Association has launched the RNA Learning Programme as part of its sixtieth diamond anniversary celebrations.

Online workshops will take place this autumn, with monthly web-based workshops covering writing, craft, technical skills for writers and the business of writing and publishing. They will be open to RNA members, but ALSO TO NON-MEMBERS.

In addition, as part of its ongoing commitment to widening opportunities for romantic fiction writers, a number of RNA Diamond Bursaries are available to new and mid-career writers from under-represented backgrounds for membership of the New Writers’ Scheme, which includes a full manuscript assessment.

Their New Writers’ Scheme is something I joined myself this January and I consider it one of the best investments I have made. The manuscript that I submitted to them had a minor character killed off half-way through, only to mysteriously reappear at the end, fit and well. It also included incorrect information about an inheritance, which my mentor – carefully chosen to be knowledgeable about historical novels – tactfully drew to my attention. There was praise for what I had got right, and constructive suggestions about how I could strengthen my plot. That it was a worthwhile investment can be seen from the fact that the manuscript subsequently went on to win the Historical Writers’ Association 2020 Unpublished Novel Award.

The RNA are not only about light-hearted Regency romances. They simply require an element of love incorporated in your plot. Jane Austen did so, as did Charlotte Bronte and many others.

Why not take a look at what they have to offer?


Writing Competitions to Enter in September

Thank goodness the coffee shops are open again. Those of us who write and edit best when removed from the distraction of household chores can finally get back into writing mode. And at Taste Well, in Royal Tunbridge Wells, there’s a free chocolate mint – which can be saved as a reward for completing a fresh page of work.

The Adventures in Fiction New Voices Competition is aimed at writers who have started a novel and completed at least fifty pages of a manuscript, with the prize being a start-up mentoring package, including an appraisal of up to 50 pages (16,000 words), guidelines, a development strategy and a consultation. The package is worth £500. To enter, send a one-page synopsis and the first page of the novel manuscript. To be eligible to enter, you should not have been commercially published, though self-published writers may enter. Entry fee: £10. Closing date: 14 September. Details:

Hammond House 2020 Literary Prize. Short story: 1,000-5,000 words. Poem: max 40 lines. Screenplay: max 10 pages. Theme: ‘Survival’. Entry: £10 per category; £5 for members. Prizes: £500 short story; £100 poem, screenplay. Deadline: 30 September. Details:

Telegraph ‘Just Back’ Weekly Travel Writing Competition for a travel article of maximum 500 words. Prize: £250 plus publication – with the potential to win an annual £1,000 prize. Details:

Poet Aurelien Thomas is inviting poetry and flash fiction with the theme of fatherhood for a new anthology with the object of donating all profits to Families Need Fathers. Submissions are open to UK writers and there is no word count for poetry, but flash fiction should be no longer than 1,000 words. A fifty-word biography should be included. As a charity anthology, there is no payment – but you are contributing to a good cause. Deadline: 30 September. Submissions should be emailed to Aurelien Thomas at

The Manchester Writing Prize – given by the Manchester Writing School at Mancheste Metropolitan University, has £10,000 awards for fiction and poetry. The Manchester Poetry Prize is given for the best portfolio of three to five poems (maximum total length 120 lines)and the prize is £10,000. The entry fee is £18 per portfolio. The Manchester Fiction Prize is for the best short story up to 2,500 words. The prize is £10,000 and the entry fee £18. All entries must be original and unpublished. Closing date: 18 September. Details:

Mslexia Fiction and Memoir Competition. Short Story, up to 3,000 words, with a first prize of £3,000, an optional week at an Arvon writing centre and mentoring by an editor at Virago Press. The winning entry and three finalists will be published in Mslexia magazine. Entry fee: £10. Flash Fiction, up to 300 words, has a first prize of £500. The winner and three finalists will be published in the magazine.Entry fee: £5. Children’s & YA Novel – submit first 5,000 words only – finalists will be invited to a pitching and networking event with agents and editors, and will receive manuscript feedback from TLC. Entry fee: £25. Memoir & Life-Writing is for prose of at least 50,000 words that narrate events in the writer’s life and/or a quest or investigation she undertakes by women who are previously unpublished. Finalists are inviting to a pitching and networking event with agents and editors and will receive manuscript feedback from TLC. Submit first 5,000 words only. Entry fee: £25. Deadline: 21 September. Details:

Caterpillar Story for Children Prize. For stories up to 2,000 written by adults for children aged 7-11.Prizes: 1,000 Euros. Entry fee: 12 Euros. Closing Date: 30 September. Details:

Crowvus Christmas Ghost Story Competition for ‘Spooky stories, up to 4,000 words’. Prizes: £100, £75, £50. Entry fee: £3, £5 for two. Closing date: 30 September. Details:

We live in strange times, which is perhaps why there seem to be less creative writing competitions on offer, so perhaps it is time to work on that long-planned novel, if nothing here appeals.

As always, do please check with the relevant websites before entering, in case entry details have been changed.


Sexual Exploitation in 18th Century London


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If that headline has caught your eye – and you’ve maybe been watching Harlots on the television – you might be interested in Maggie’s blog on this subject on her new website, which was created to coincide with the publication of her debut novel, The Servant, this spring.

It is sad but, sadly no surprise, to learn that from Pepys, to Boswell to Johnson, the leading figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries considered female servants existed for their convenience, in more ways than one.

Maggie would have copied her piece here on the ninevoices’ blog, but hasn’t quite mastered the technology involved…

…she would also be more than pleased if you chose to follow her blog. No cost is involved, and any comments on what you’d like her to write about in future would be welcome.

Emily of New Moon – a chaser of rainbows


I have never pretended, nor ever will pretend, that Emily was a proper child. Books are not written about proper children. They would be so dull nobody would read them. (L. M. Montgomery Emily Climbs)

Anne of Green Gables when it was published in 1908 was an instant success and established L M Montgomery’s career as Canada’s leading children’s author. Yet it’s Emily of New Moon, published in 1923, that L M Montgomery described in her journal as  ‘the best book I have ever written … I have had more intense pleasure in writing it than any of the others—not even excepting Green Gables. I have lived it…’

Both Anne and Emily are highly imaginative girls, intensely receptive to the beauty of the natural world, in love with writing poetry and stories; characteristics shared by their creator. But  Anne’s early literary ambitions – which include a comic episode when she wins a short story competition and wishes she hadn’t – are sidelined in the sequels which follow her life at college, working as a teacher and finally as a wife and mother.

Emily is altogether more driven, a fiercer, more complicated character – and possibly to a modern reader more interesting and satisfying. The three books in the series Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest tell Emily’s story from early childhood as she struggles to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. L. M. Montgomery knew about rejection; Anne of Green Gables was rejected many times before being accepted for publication. It’s not surprising that Emily’s courage and self-belief remain an inspiration for girls all over the world.

From early childhood Emily experiences what she calls ‘the flash’ – a moment of visionary awareness when she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside – but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond – only a glimpse – and heard a note of unearthly music.

L.M. Montgomery was only 21 months old when her mother died. Lucy was packed off to live with her Presbyterian grandparents in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, and would later marry a minister. It was a childhood and adulthood she would mine for her novels and short stories.

Even as a small child, Emily has her own ideas about God. When her beloved father dies and as a penniless orphan she is wished onto unknown relatives, she scorns the advice of the housekeeper who has looked after her: ‘There’s one thing I’d advise you to do,’ said Ellen, determined to lose no chance of doing her duty, ‘and that is to kneel down and pray to God to make you a good and respectful and grateful child.’ Emily paused at the foot of the stairs and looked back. ‘Father said I wasn’t to have anything to do with your God,’ she said gravely… ‘I know what your God is like…I saw His picture in that Adam-and-Eve book of yours. He has whiskers and wears a nightgown. I don’t like him. But I like Father’s God.’ …‘Well, you’re bound to have the last word, but the Murrays will teach you what’s what,’ said Ellen, giving up the argument. ‘They’re strict Presbyterians, and won’t hold by any of your father’s awful notions.’

It’s Emily’s ability to withdraw into the world of her imagination that save her in her new life at New Moon – this, and the pride for which all Murrays are renowned. ‘You ought to be thankful to get a home anywhere. Remember you’re not of much importance.’ ‘I am important to myself,’ cried Emily proudly. L. M. Montgomery was writing at a time when children were much more powerless than they are today, and the way Emily gets the better of tyrannical grown-ups with her use of language makes up much of the comedy in Emily of New Moon and Emily Climbs.

Perhaps many older readers like myself will remember a cruel teacher who used sarcasm to destroy our self-confidence and reduce us to misery. The scene in Emily of New Moon where the hateful Miss Brownell mocks Emily’s poetry in front of the class always takes me straight back to when I was caught during prep time at boarding school writing a story when I was meant to be doing maths, but thankfully escaped with only a detention and without the teacher reading it. The unbearable horror of an unsympathetic adult treading on those so sacred words!

But L. M. Montgomery gives us inspirational teachers too in her novels, and the unorthodox Mr Carpenter, though regarded by some as an alcoholic failure, is one of them. He makes Emily promise not to write to please anyone but herself, and his last words to her are ‘Beware of italics’ – today would he say exclamation marks or adverbs?

The delightful Irish Catholic priest Father Cassidy is another of the eccentrics L. M. Montgomery is so gifted at portraying and he too perceives Emily’s gift for words. To the end of her struggle for recognition Emily never forgot Father Cassidy’s ‘Keep On’ and the tone in which he said it. Significantly, when narrow-minded, domineering Aunt Elizabeth dismisses Emily’s ‘writing nonsense’ and even kind Aunt Laura doesn’t understand her compelling need to write, it is so-called simple-minded Cousin Jimmy, the composer of a thousand poems in his head, who is always on her side.

L.M. Montgomery went through periods of depression, made worse by a difficult marriage to a man suffering from some kind of mental illness. She never had the happy life that she gives to Anne in the Anne of Green Gables series. Something of this comes across in the sombre, almost tortured tone in part of Emily’s Quest, where Emily for a time loses her will to write and gives in to the controlling desires of a much older man. It’s hard for readers today to see Dean Priest as anything other than creepy or to forgive him for what he makes Emily do to her first book The Seller of Dreams.

It’s pride that keeps Emily from falling apart during the years of brutal rejection slips and the awfulness of faint praise; it’s also what keeps her estranged from the man she loves. But literary success comes by an unexpected route, and even Aunt Elizabeth (like Marilla Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables she mellows in her later years) can remark ‘Well, I never could have believed that a pack of lies could sound as much like the real truth as that book does.’

It’s a judgment any writer might be proud of…