Saturday, 1 June 2019

Volunteers’ Week

Never volunteer for anything, they say! (‘They’ obviously doesn’t refer to the folks behind Volunteers’ Week which runs from 1-7 June.)

I have ignored all such negative advice and help at my local community-run library in Jesmond.

As well as putting in a few hours each month stamping books at the front desk, or behind the scenes tidying shelves, I also write a regular blog post  for them.

I’m always interested in any news or events or facts connected with libraries or books. Anything that will pique interest enough to make readers say, “I like that, I’m going to visit the library”.

If you come across any such news, or have any favourite library or book-related blogs I can follow for inspiration, please let me know.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Useful, interesting or amusing

Writers’ Forum magazine invites readers to submit short items each month for its News Front pages. With a limit of 200 words the articles have to be concise. The overriding requirement is that the news should be ‘useful, interesting or amusing to writers’.

I try to submit something regularly and am pleased to report that two of my submissions have been published in the June edition, currently on sale. 

One is about the Independent Libraries Association - as a volunteer at an independent library this organisation is of particular interest.

However, it is the second article that I enjoyed writing the most. It concerns the bicentenary of American poet Walt Whitman (‘Oh Captain! My Captain!’) and his curious relationship to the English town of Bolton. In the 19th century a group calling themselves the Whitmanites of Bolton declared themselves his disciples. If you visit the town be sure to take a stroll along the ‘Whitman Walk’ and go to the museum to see his stuffed canary. 

I’m delighted to say that my submissions this month have won me a year’s free subscription to the magazine.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Take a letter, Ms Charles

All images by Readly
Back in the day when shorthand was an essential office skill, business men (and women) would ask their secretary to ‘take a letter’. 

Now I’m self-employed, no-one tells me what to write or to whom!
But I still do write letters. Inspired by my writing colleague S Bee, I write to magazines. It’s fun, it’s good writing exercise, and it’s always a thrill to be in print no matter how trivial it may seem. 

It can be lucrative too, with gifts and cash sometimes available. Most letters and images are also eligible for registration with ALCS.

I’ve learned that it’s not as simple as it may first appear. Each magazine has a preferred style so research is essential. Some want a brief 30 word sound-bite, others a more considered discussion point. 

Having the Readly app is a great asset for both research and markets as it provides access to many different magazines.

It’s a fun hobby. 

But beware, it can become addictive!

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Submissions Matter

‘In it to win it’ is a well recognised catchphrase, the moral being you cannot win the lottery if you haven’t bought a ticket. Which doesn’t mean you will win because you buy a ticket: but for certain you will never win unless you do.

Submitting one’s writing is the same. Sending work out provides no guarantee of success. But not doing so is a sure way to fail.

I know this lesson so well yet have to remind myself of it on a regular basis.

I had a small piece of writing, exactly 75 words, published yesterday on Paragraph Planet. There was a time when I was featured on the ‘planet’ most months. But it has been a while since I’ve been there. And the reason? Failure to submit!

It’s so obvious really. Writing which never leaves our desks will never be published.

Why not give the Paragraph Planet daily writing competition a go? It’s a good way to warm up the writing muscle, rather as a musician uses scales before a performance. Be sure to let me know if you do enter so I can watch out for your name.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Right place? Wrong place?

Some advice please.
Which is the best forum for blog posting? I have accounts with both WordPress and Blogger. For a while I ran them both side by side. Then I decided I was getting more ‘hits’ through Blogger.
But for you as the reader, which is the easier on the eye? And is it any easier to leave comments on one site rather than the other? I’d appreciate some feedback. Please will you look at both sites, attempt to leave a comment on each, and by so doing tell me which you prefer.
Your choices are here on Blogger.
Or ‘the other place’ at
Thank you!

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Quirks, Passions and Guilty Secrets

Rejections. We all get them!

All too often the ensuing silence means eventually you accept it’s a ‘No’. If you’re lucky then you receive a polite ‘No, thank you’. But if you’re really lucky then you will receive some feedback: ‘This didn’t work because...’

One of the frequent reasons I received for rejection was ‘the characterisation was too weak’. But as I only write short stories, how can I make room for character development within a limited word count? So I asked the question of my fellow writers at the weekly #writingchat on Twitter (every Wednesday at 8pm, all welcome!).

Amongst many useful ideas I received, one which I found worked well was to assign each character a quirk, a passion and a guilty secret. These three simple pointers do indeed help to add depth to the inhabitants of a story who have only a few short lines to make their impact on the reader.

Those three ideas became the basis for an A-Z of character development which has now been published in the April edition of Writers’ Forum magazine.

So my thanks again to the writing community of Twitter. What useful advice have you received from fellow writers?

Sunday, 17 March 2019

People’s Friend

The first edition, 1869
One of the magazines for which I write is The People’s Friend. I have been fortunate to have several short stories and articles published with them.

The magazine has been officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s longest-running women’s weekly magazine: first published in 1869, that is 150 years continued publication of short stories!

J Campbell Purr, maybe?
As part of the anniversary celebrations it has fitted out the ground floor reception area of its Fleet Street offices as a cosy living room, complete with a very purry cat. 

I called in on Friday afternoon and had a cuddle with the as yet unnamed feline.

Unlike many other magazines in the Womag market, ‘The Friend’, as it is affectionately known, still accepts unsolicited submissions, the editorial staff are renowned for their willingness to engage and work with their writers, and it does not demand copyright. 

My first Friend publication, 2014
They are though very exacting in their requirements and you would be well advised to follow their guidelines with care and to read several copies of the magazine before submitting any stories to ensure you understand precisely what it is they are looking for.

It is wonderful to see that there is still a market for short story fiction. And as magazines are often shared between friends it means your writing may be read by over a third of a million people. 

Long may The People’s Friend continue to flourish! (And long may I continue to be one of its writers!)