Tuesday, 13 August 2019


When I reach the letter Z on my blog postings, I usually take it as a cue to pause and take stock of where I’m up to. This is the end of five complete turns through the alphabet, 130 posts in total.

For my Blogspot blog, it means the time has come to pause, maybe even to stop posting here altogether.

If you have been following this blog, then I thank you for your presence. May I invite you to rejoin me now at www.beacreativewriter.wordpress.comwww.beacreativewriter.wordpress.com which is where all future posts will be made.

Thank you. I’ll see you on the other side!

Monday, 12 August 2019

Xtra-curricular activities

“Think again, Dear”
Three years ago when I first came to Swanwick Summer School I kept a low profile. Last year I berated myself for not taking an active part in some of the evening events. I commented that my Swanwick School Report would surely read, “Could do better”.

“His and Hers”
And so this year I determined to be bold and become more involved.

Yesterday I helped with reception and checking in duties. This morning I sold raffle tickets. 

And tonight? Tonight I read at the Poetry Open Mic event. Go me!

(With thanks to Les Boynton for helping perform my poem “His and Hers”, and to Jen Wilson for the photographs.)

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Yes I can! (But no I won’t.)

I’ve returned to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. This is my third time here in this creative cauldron, this year alongside 292 other writers.

It is wonderful to be back, to connect with special friends made during the previous years, and to have the opportunity to meet new friends.

300 attendees is a lot of people.

And with so much scheduled to happen throughout the week I’m not just spoilt for choice, I’m actually overwhelmed by possibilities. Specialist courses, short courses, workshops, evening speakers, morning mediations, afternoon wind-downs, open mic - poetry and prose, quizzes, discos, tea dances. The programme is bursting with options.

There is so much I want to do.

But I recognise that to fill every waking moment would be a mistake. The very creativity that is fed and nurtured by being in this special environment could be injured by over indulgence.

And so, as difficult as it is to say ‘no’, I will take a few steps back and try to pace myself. 

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Where next?

I do love train travel. 

My next journey will take me north to Scotland. Along the way there is some stunning scenery. The first train to Edinburgh follows the east coast up past Alnmouth and Holy Island. The second train takes me up to Stirling and Perth before crossing the Cairngorms on its way to Inverness.

Yes, I will have reading and writing materials with me but I suspect not much may get read or written while I’m distracted by the views.

I’m going to visit Helen and Mike Walters at Solus Or, their lovely writing retreat. Once there I intend to do a lot of writing. (Although I fear I may again be distracted by the beautiful view from the house across the Cromarty Firth towards Ben Wyvis!)

Best not think of it as distraction – perhaps I’ll call it ‘inspirational pondering’ instead.

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 Beacreativewriter.wordpress.com
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!)

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Over to Sharon Bee : Guest Post

Copyright Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Inkygirl.com
I’m delighted to welcome long-standing writer chum Sharon Bee to my blog today.

Sharon runs Fiction Addiction, a writing group of established Womag writers who meet remotely via email.

I have been a member of Sharon’s group for several years and have appreciated the practical help, support and friendship shared between members.

Over to Sharon:

Calling all Womag Writers!
Are you a published short story writer for women's magazines?
Would you like to receive honest (yet kind) feedback on your work to help increase your rate of sales?
Then why not join Fiction Addiction?
Fiction Addition is a free to join email critique group. 
We are a small group of womag writers with a high record of publication, therefore we warmly welcome published writers.
The idea of the group is test our work on members, and with their feedback, we adjust our work before subbing it to magazines. 
And it works!

For more information, please visit my website: 

I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, 8 March 2019

National ‘Something-Or-Other’ Day

World Book Day, 7th March
I have volunteered to contribute a weekly blog post for the wonderful Jesmond Library. My focus is to explore happenings in the wider community which may be of interest to the library’s many users.

Other volunteers add regular posts about forthcoming events and activities within the library.

Researching for interesting topics I have been amazed at the number and variety of awareness days, weeks and months that exist. 

St David’s Day, 1st March
In March alone there are saints’ days (St David and St Patrick), various charities’ fundraising days (eg Comic Relief), social/political days (today is International Women’s Day), and there are foodie days (National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day, anyone?). There are so many interests clamouring for attention.

Topics relevant to readers and writers this month include:
World Book Day - 7th March (outside the UK this is celebrated on 23rd April)
World Poetry Day - 21st March (but the UK celebrates poetry on 3rd October)
World Storytelling Day - 20th March (the UK conforms to the international diary for this one!)

National Stay-in-bed Day?
What do you think? Are there too many awareness days?

Any new topic days you want to suggest?

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Mine? - No, It’s Yours’

It’s not mine - it’s Yours
(and yes, this photograph is offensive)
A story ‘what I wrote’ is currently on sale in the Yours Fiction Special. Normally I would be very excited about this and to some measure I suppose I am. ‘Guess Who From’, is printed alongside one written by Celia Imrie. To have my story listed next to hers is thrilling.

Except ‘Guess Who From’ is not my story. Yes, I wrote it. But it is no longer mine because when I sold it to Yours (part of Bauer Media) in 2016 I sold it with all rights. This means that the story belongs to Bauer.

Delighted to see there is a demand for short
story fiction. If only writers were better regarded.
Because it is theirs they can reprint it whenever they wish, without my permission, without my knowledge and without any further payment - as is the case here. They can use another name, or even no name at all. I understood this when I accepted their payment three years ago so I am not in any way moaning about the consequences.

There was a time when only a few magazines demanded all rights, Yours being one of them. Sadly TIMedia changed their terms last year and all stories now purchased by Woman’s Weekly are under an ‘all rights’ contract. This week news has broken of another Bauer magazine, ‘Spirit & Destiny’, demanding all rights.

Despite complaints and adverse publicity, the unfair bargaining position means that individual writers are faced with accepting such unfair terms imposed by large corporations or to stop submitting and selling. It’s not a good position to be in.

What was once mine is mine no longer. It’s Yours.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Library Humour

The stereotype of a Librarian as staid, dour and frowning upon noise of any kind is a classic trope of film and fiction.

Display at Tavistock Library
Photo: Stephen Lloyd
But follow various libraries on Twitter and you will find that is far from the truth. Accounts such as @OrkneyLibrary will soon alter your view and convince you that librarians have a very good sense of humour.

I particularly look forward to their Bookface photographs, always intending to create one of my own. Tales of Booky McBookface, their travelling library van, are the stuff of legend. And the song lyrics they replicate using various book titles are ingenious.

In stark contrast to such levity, Tavistock Library is embracing the darker side. In October 2019 they are playing host to Tavistock’s ‘first Gothic and Neo-Gothic Celebration, including Literature, Art, Architecture, Theatre, Film and Creative Fun.’ As part of that event there is to be a short story and poetry competition which I thought I might enter.

Later today I am travelling to Devon to visit my brother. While there I hope to do some research into local mythology to provide me with suitable background knowledge.

Thanks to Tavistock Library for letting me use this
photograph of their bodice-ripper display.
Mind you, when not embroiled in the gothic, the folks @tavilibrary have a keen sense of humour too. Having had fun with their “Have you seen my shirt?” display, they promised a similar collection of bodice-ripper fiction under the title “Anyone know a good seamstress?”. 

Does anyone have more examples of library humour?

Monday, 7 January 2019

Keep it up!

Photo: The People’s Friend, used with my article
“A History of Women’s Football” published Nov 2014
2019 has only just begun, the ink on the New Year Resolutions barely dry. It is too soon to celebrate the long-term successes, or bewail the failure, of those good intentions. 

In general terms my resolutions for the year are: to blog regularly; write everyday; aim to have something published every month; to join a critique group.

A philosophical take on the prompt “swing”
Let me share what I have begun.

Blog regularly: Well, here I am, blogging! Week one achieved.

Write everyday: #vss365 Each morning I have written a tweet-length very short story using the daily prompt. It’s a good warm-up exercise. Six days achieved, only 359 to go.

Paragraph Planet, 4th January 2019.
Publication: Paragraph Planet publishes a different 75 word story every day. In the past I aimed for one per month, and for a while was successful but then let my submissions slip. My first submission of 2019, made on 1st January, was published on the 4th. Eleven more needed.

Critique group - I have reconnected with some experienced writing buddies and have already shared my first story, and received some helpful suggestions. Achieved!

Now all I need to do is keep up the good work.