Why This Writer Needs Other Writers

I spent the first half of last year being cross at my writing. It had taken me away from people and I was beginning to feel quite isolated.

Then something started to change – my writing began to bring connection, people who I could really hear, people who energised me.

It started when an agent put me in touch with an editor. Yeah, yeah – I know lots of us have been through this, and I was cynical but decided to take a leap of faith and pay for my novel to be edited. It was a wise choice. Editor, Sara Sarre, got my book, was enthusiastic about it. Her wisdom gave me a new spark. Suddenly I felt as if I wasn’t in this alone.

And it was a magical moment in June when literary agent Rowan Lawton signed me. My face hurt, my smile was that wide.

Writing has brought me new friends too. In November, I met up with a group of writers who I knew only through Twitter. I stood outside a restaurant in Covent Garden feeling nervous before I opened the door and sat down to lunch with seven complete strangers. It was one of the highlights of my year. Forget nothing conversations about the weather; here we talked openly about our fears, our hopes, our children. And oh how we laughed.

For a long time, I’d wanted to meet gifted writer Joanna Campbell whose work I admire. In December, I got my chance at the launch of her short story collection When Planets Slip Their Tracks. Her nuggets of wisdom have stayed with me. As has her book – it is so well observed and funny and I am enjoying it immensely.

I’m ending the year feeling grateful to my writing. It’s brought me some special personalities, people who have made my life better with their thoughts and funny asides. I’ll be holed up in the writer’s cave again throughout 2017, but I intend to make regular escapes to talk about it all.


The Frome Festival Short Story Competition

The Frome Festival Short Story Competition. Deadline: 31st May. 

Entry fee: £8

Prizes for 2017 are 1st prize – £400, 2nd prize – £200, 3rd prize – £100.

Enter your unpublished stories of between 1,000 and 2,200 words – either by post or online.

The three winning winning stories will be published on the website.

  • Entries should be typed on single sides of A4, 1.5 or double spaced, with pages numbered.
  • A separate sheet should be attached with your name, address, phone number and email address, plus story title and word count.
  • Stories should show title and word count only. Your name should not appear in the main body of your story.

For more information, click here.

Enter here.

I was lucky enough to win this competition in 2015 with my story Plenty More Where You Came From.

For tips on how to win a short story competition, take a look at this.

The Bristol Short Story Prize

The 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize. Deadline: 3rd May.

Fee: £8

Prizes for 2017 are: 1st prize-£1000, 2nd prize -£700, 3rd prize -£400. Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted writers will receive £100. Winning and shortlisted stories will be included in the 2016 Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology.

Enter your stories of up to 4,000 words on any subject and in any theme. There is no minimum length and both published and non published writers are eligible to enter. Entries must not have been previously published.

  • Entries are accepted in a Word document, pdf or equivalent. There are no specific formatting requirements – font type, font size, line spacing. Writers may format their work in the way they feel is most appropriate. Postal entries will only be accepted as printed typescripts. Please send postal entry/entries to : Bristol Short Story Prize, Unit 5.16, Paintworks, Bath Road Bristol BS4 3EH. Click here to enter online.
  • Do not put your name anywhere on your manuscript as entries are published anonymously.

For more information, click here.

And, read about last year’s fantastic awards ceremony at Bristol Central Library.

Check out the standard of the BSSP by buying one or two or three of the anthologies.

The Exeter Story Prize and Trisha Ashley Award

The 2016 Exeter Story Prize. Deadline: 30th April

(This competition is currently closed.)

Fee: £10


1st prize – £500, 2nd prize – £150, 3rd prize – £100. The Trisha Ashley Award – £200.

Enter your stories of up to ten thousand words into The Exeter Story Prize. There is no minimum word count.

Stories may be on any theme and humorous stories will be eligible for the Trisha Ashley Award.

  • Stories should not have been previously published in print, on the internet or broadcast.
  • Entrants should be over 18 years of age.
  • Only doc, docx, pdf and rtf files will be accepted. Any other formats will be disqualified. Please present your work in Times New Roman or Arial, 12 pt, 1.5 or double-spaced. Your name should not appear anywhere on the story.

For more information, and to enter, click here

Bristol Short Story Prize Awards Ceremony – The Lowdown

It was my second time at the Bristol Short Story Prize awards ceremony last night. I was hopeful; I was in with a chance after all, among 20 other writers chosen from almost 2,500 entries.

There they were, faces I recognized from last year, organiser Joe Melia, judges Sara Davies and Sanjida O’Connell, and wasn’t that 2013 winner Paul McMichael over there? He’d made the shortlist again. I made a beeline for him and we began laughing in a slightly hysterical, scared kind of way. Still the fear was nothing on last year when – gulp – I could barely speak my mouth was that dry.

Bristol Short Story Prize Writers and Judges

Bristol Short Story Prize Writers and Judges

Us shortlistees sat in the front row in the glass-topped Reading Room at Bristol Central Library. And judge Sara Davies read out the names of the runners-up. Mine was among them.

I hadn’t won.

But so what – my story is in a book again – words that I’ve fussed over, changed and rearranged. A story that the early readers and the judges must have connected with somehow. It gets a mention in Sara Davies’ foreword.

‘We all liked….the restrained and powerful exploration of an illegal immigrant’s emotional trauma at the heart of Black Lines,’ she writes.

It was a good feeling reading that. I hope other readers connect with my story too.

BSSP photo

Anthologies galore….

Massive congratulations to Brent van Staalduinen whose story A Week on the Water won first prize, and to the other prizewinners too.

After the ceremony, I spoke to the other shortlisted writers, smiles stretched across their faces, bags bulging with anthologies. (They make very good Christmas presents, let me tell you.) Wine was drunk, woes were shared and successes were well and truly celebrated. I even signed a few books.

It was great to bend Joe Melia’s ear again. His encouragement last year helped steer me through a bout of writing self-doubt. When that strikes again, all I need to do is open up my brand new anthology and remind myself of the rewards for not being a quitter.

Joe also told me that no one in the history of the Bristol Short Story Prize has ever managed a hat trick, so maybe, just maybe I’ll throw my hat into the ring again next year.


What it’s like to attend an Awards Ceremony for Writers

Full Crew BSSP

Bristol Prize writers, judges, speakers and co-ordinator Joe Melia

I had no idea what I’d let myself in for when I accepted my invitation to the Bristol Prize Awards Ceremony. What would the atmosphere be like? Would we have to stand on a stage with shining spotlights turned off one by one until the winner was announced?

Inside the vast space of Bristol’s Spike Island gallery last night, the air was fat with nerves – or maybe that was just me. I picked up a glass of wine from the table and hand aquiver, I just about baptized myself with Sauvignon Blanc.

Sip. Slurp. Gulp.

Bristol Prize co-ordinator Joe Melia talked us writers through what was about to happen.

‘This is all about celebrating your writing,’ he said. Some of the tension fell away.

Here was a bunch of writers at different stages in their careers – a published novelist, a creative writing tutor and others who, like me, are just at the beginning.

So much to talk about. Do you ask friends to read your work? Have you got an agent? And, and, and….

And then it was time for the show.

Images of the stunning designs submitted for the anthology cover flashed onto the wall. The Mayor of Bristol stood up to speak, followed by novelist Patricia Ferguson.

And then came the moment of judgement. Would my name be in the winning three? Hands white-tight on the side of the chair, breath held, the names of the runners up were read out. Three, four, five. I heard my name. I hadn’t won. Was I upset? Disappointed? No way – at last I could breathe again, high on my prize – my first ever piece of published fiction – The Colour of Mud.

Big congratulations to winner Mahsuda Snaith and to all the other writers in the anthology. Didn’t we have some party?!

The evening was a highlight of my year – inspiring chats with authors, an agent, and all the lovely people at the Bristol Prize.