Putting the ‘No’ into ‘Notebook’

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At the recent SCBWI conference David Almond treated us to a peek inside his crowded notebooks: every page a fabulous cacophony of ink; of bubbled notes and looping arrows; of doodled diagrams and scribblings out.  That, I thought, is what a proper writer’s notebook should look like.

Now, I can scribble, doodle and cross things out with the best of them. Oh yes.  And I’m a black belt in the art of arrow drawing.  But only in ratty old exercise books rescued from the back of a 1970s office stationery cupboard.  Or on a spare page from last year’s diary.  Or a bunch of old envelopes.  Show me the back of a Christmas card and I’m off, scribbling for Britain. But heaven forbid I mess up my lovely notebook collection with a scruffy bunch of still-fermenting ideas. Oh no.  I’m saving them

Which is why I must have been feeling unusually reckless when I packed my writing bag this morning.  When I threw caution to the bitter North wind and slipped in one of my favourite too-nice-to-actually-use A5 beauties…

 

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These ones even have my name on them – if that’s not permission to scrawl I don’t know what is.

 

… It was all going so well. I settled into my train seat, pulled down the fold-out table, reached into my bag for my pencil and notebook… and instead pulled out a wodge of scrap paper (one side already printed on) that I’d brought along ‘just in case’. And then I got to work.  Sorry, notebook.  Maybe next time.

Brexit Night and a Hidden Pig Bring Czech & Slovak Writing Prizes

I was lucky enough to win the annual British Czech & Slovak Association writing competition at the end of last year and was invited to the annual dinner in London to collect my prize.  Delicious food, great company and a warm welcoming atmosphere made for a truly memorable night and a perfect way to round off an exciting writing year before sinking into a sea of wrapping paper and Christmas chaos!

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A Czech student’s evocative account of a party in London on the night of the EU referendum and what it might mean for her future has won the British Czech & Slovak Association’s most recent writing competition. The first prize of £300 was awarded for Ms Bernhardt’s Brexit, by Jennifer Moore.

Jennifer is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Guardian and Mslexia. She read English Literature at Cambridge University and is a previous winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. She lives in Devon.

The second prize, worth £100, went to The Pig, the Cupboard and the Reichsprotektor, by Jack Mullin.  It’s a comic tale, based on a true incident that took place in Bohemia in 1942, in which an clever Czech householder goes to great lengths to prevent his pig being requisitioned by the occupying Germans.

Jack has lived most of his life…

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The Twelve Writing Days of Christmas

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On the first day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

A draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the second day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the third day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the fourth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the fifth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the sixth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the seventh day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the eighth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the ninth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the tenth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Ten chores a-leaving

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the eleventh day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Eleven types of typo

Ten chores a-leaving

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the twelfth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Twelve bums a-numbing

Eleven types of typo

Ten chores a-leaving

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a last pitch for a trilogy

 

TEN THINGS TO TRIGGER YOUR WRITERLY INSECURITIES (and how to cope with them)

A fabulous post by Non Pratt for writers everywhere

AUTHOR ALLSORTS

REJECTION

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Every writer in the world has heard about Harry Potter getting turned down. You’ve probably also read a book that received ZERO rejections, but you definitely haven’t read that unpublished book by that unpublished author who gave up after five.

What am I driving at? There is no correlation between the number of rejections you might receive and the possibility of success or failure.

One rejection is one rejection, nothing more, nothing less and with each one, you must ask yourself the same question: is this bringing me more pain than joy?

More pain? Then stop. Give yourself a break. You don’t have to keep doing this. There are better ways of making a living and you can enjoy writing without having to be published.

More joy? Then keep going. That might mean persevering with this one manuscript, or it might mean rethinking the story. It might also mean…

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Procrastination Bingo

(The Game that Puts the Pro into Procrastination)

Okay, so today’s the day you’re going to finish that chapter / start that new novel /crack on with that poem. Today is DEFINITELY the day.  Only these things can’t be rushed.  Maybe wait until you’ve got a few cups of tea inside you. 

Okay, that’s better.  Time to open up that Word document.  As soon as you’ve checked your Twitter feed, that is.  And updated your Facebook status.  And put the bins out.  Ooh, look, a new recipe for vegan Christmas pudding!

If you’d rather tweezer out your own eyelashes than buckle down to some proper writing then you’ve come to the right place.  Grab yourself a Procrastination Bingo board and get crossing off those boxes.  Heads down, everyone, markers at the ready. Any row to win or all 16 essential tasks for a Full House!

BINGO!

Pro Bingo

 

Land of Fire and Ice and Stories

Just got back from the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik. Wow! My brain’s still buzzing with the stunning scenery and from meeting so many wonderful writers during my time there.

The retreat offered the perfect mix of writing workshops, delicious food (I’m especially going to miss my breakfast skyr and snacking on chocolate-coated liquorice) and sightseeing, with an extra sprinkling of literary receptions and readings in Reykjavik and beyond.

While I’d love to share the rest of my chocolate liquorice with you (ha! Who am I kidding? It’s mine, all mine), I might have to restrict myself to sharing a few of the unforgettable sights instead…

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Strokkur, Geysir

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View from Harpa

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Hallgrímskirkja

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Þingvellir

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Ingólfr Arnarson

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Gullfoss

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Sólfar by Jón Gunnar Árnason

A huge thank you to Writers News for such a fantastic prize!

Empty Nest Syndrome

Yesterday I waved my youngest off into the big wide world.  I packed him up some mutton pies, brushed down his tattered trousers, and watched him disappear off into the Victorian London sunset to seek his fortune.

This isn’t his first time away from home.  Not by a long chalk.  The cheeky little feller keeps coming back, demanding rewrites.  And more pies.  He’s very fond of pies.  But I’m trying my best not to think about him now.  It’s for the best.  No wondering what he’s up to.  No brooding over how he might be faring out there.  It’s time to throw myself into something new.  And thanks to the fabulous folks at Writing Magazine there’s a new literary adventure just around the corner, in the shape of my prize trip to the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik.  So it’s out with the Victorian ragamuffin garb and straight on with the Viking hat…

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Yes, I know it’s got horns.  It’s also a tad pinker than is strictly authentic…