Monthly Archives: July 2012

Updates and bragging and shout outs!

A Link-Back

First things first, for those who read last week’s post about Children’s Stories, I posted my attempt on Thursday, and I’d love to hear what you think about it. Please take a look and let me know.

Even if you saw Thursday’s post when it first popped up, I would strongly recommend you nip back and look at it again. My friend, Sam Agro, heard about the story and created some original artwork to bring Sally to life. He’s very modest, but this picture was knocked together in less than 10 minutes and I personally think it’s fantastic! You can get a link to Sam’s blog from the post, and see more of his artwork and illustrations too.

Publication – success and failure

In Canada, Reader’s Digest’s August edition has hit the shelves, complete with the “Quick Fix” article, which features two of my Friday Fiction stories. I’m so excited to see my name in print.

And I’ve had two more rejections – both of them personal and ending with encouragement to submit again. Little Fiction said: “Your story was close to making our shortlist, if that’s any consolation — our decision was more or less based on how it was fitting with the rest of the pieces making up the compilation.”

Narrative Magazine commented: “We found many strengths to recommend your work and, overall, much to admire. We
regret, however, that [your story] is not quite right for us.”

Although I’m aware that a rejection is ultimately not a success, emails like that go a long way to making me feel like I’m getting somewhere with my writing and hopefully someday will have more acceptances to brag about.

Booker’s Seven – Progress report

I’ve once again knuckled down to editing the great Booker’s Seven project. I’m working on Brothers at the moment, a story of adventure and discovery. It’s off to my wonderful writing group, Moosemeat on Thursday to see what they think. Wish me luck!

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Friday Fictioneers – Fix It

Back in the land of stable internet and my own computer, it’s amazing the difference it makes. I’ll be going back and updating some recent posts with pictures etc when I have chance, but for now here’s my latest Friday Fiction piece. As ever, it’s inspired by Madison Woods’ picture prompt, and you can find lots of other great stories linked on her page. Critique is welcome – this was a little rushed for me today, so I’m intrigued to hear how well (or not) you think it worked.

Fix It

“There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,” Dad sang as Chantal wiggled the tap again.

“Could you possibly do something more useful than singing?”

“Like fix it?” he asked, adding “Dear Henry,” under his breath.

She tried to smile. Singing was better than the gloom he’d been in since Mum left. But he looked manic: seven-week beard, shirt Mum hated. Perhaps that’s why she left: his dress-sense.

Or perhaps it was this infernal tap: dripping at all hours like the incessant tick of time. Maybe if she fixed the tap, or changed his clothes, Mum’d come back.

 

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Inspiration Monday / Monday’s Challenge

A tough one this week – why do I set myself these challenges?! I’m going to try to write a children’s story as promised in Monday’s post AND use one of BeKindRewrite‘s prompts. Let me know what you think!

UPDATE: Huge thank you to Sam Agro, who heard about Sally Duck and sketched me the amazing illustration you see below. I am constantly amazed by the talents of my friends. Do check out his blog to see what else he can do!

What Are You Going To Do With It?

Sally Duck liked to watch the river from her nest. One day, something exciting bobbed past on the river. It was square and brown. Sally Duck jumped out of the nest. She chased the something as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she picked it up in her beak. It was big and soft. Sally Duck carried it back to the nest.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s bread,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“Eat it!” said Sally. She shared the piece of bread with all the ducklings. It was very tasty.

The next day, something exciting bobbed past on the river again. It was long and thin and white. Sally Duck jumped out of the nest. She chased the something as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she picked it up in her beak. It was big and light. Sally Duck carried it back to the nest.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s a feather,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“Line the nest with it!” said Sally. She dried the feather in the sun and lined the nest with it. It was very warm.

The next day, something exciting bobbed past on the river again. It looked like a silver circle. Sally Duck jumped out of the nest. She chased the something as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she tried to pick it up in her beak. It was big. It was not soft like the bread. It was not light like the feather. It was hard to pick up.

By the time Sally got it back to the nest, she was very tired.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s a can,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“I don’t know!” said Sally Duck. “It is no good to eat. It will not help to keep us warm.”

The ducklings tried to eat the can but it tasted bad. They tried to sleep against it but it was cold and hard. Sally put the can at the edge of the nest and went to sleep. The next day, it was still there.

Sally put the can outside the nest on the ground. Then she heard a voice. It was a little girl.

“Look, Mummy,” said the girl. “That duck is drinking from a can!”

“Cans are not good for ducks,” said Mummy. “Let’s take it and throw it away properly.”

The Mummy bent down and picked up the can.

“Would you like to feed the duck a bit of your sandwich?” Mummy asked the girl.

“Yes please. Here you go, duck.” The little girl threw a piece of bread into the river.

Sally Duck chased it as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she picked it up in her beak. It was big and soft. Sally Duck carried it back to the nest.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s bread,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“Eat it!” said Sally Duck. She shared the piece of bread with the ducklings. It was very tasty.

“From now on, I will only chase bread and feathers,” said Sally Duck.

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Not just for kids

A friend of mine writes the Eager Little Bookworm blog and when I went to visit her – along with the little bookworms – this week, I very much enjoyed exploring their library, including old favourites like “Where’s Spot?” and new (to me) treasures such as “Winnie the Witch”. But it got me to thinking, so this week I’ve decided to set myself – and anyone who feels like joining in – a challenge: to write a children’s story. Not for publication or because I think we should all because children’s authors, but as an exercise to make us write outside our usual pattern and to focus on other aspects of writing, such as:

1. Plot: The plot has to be simple, but also interesting. You don’t need much by way of twists and turns, but you do need a clear and fun story. Spot is hiding, Sally (his Mum) wants him to come for tea, so she looks for him and finds lots of other animals along the way. That’s a plot.

2. Length: A children’s story can easily be longer, like the Narnia books, but a book for children to read themselves, or have read to them in the first few years, will often be one which can be completed in just a few minutes – for example as a bedtime story. As such, it might only be 100 words long, or even less.

3. Language: The language needs to be simple enough for children to understand the story without having to investigate the meaning of every (or even almost every) word. Many focus on a particular word sound, word or grammar principle, repeated throughout the book or on a particular page. And dealing with any of those aspects would be good discipline for any writer to focus on in an exercise like this.

4. Characters: Lots of children’s books end up being series and lots of children’s characters end up being hugely popular outside book form (just think of all the Mr Men toys, lunchboxes, dvds etc you can buy). So there are definitely bonus points for creating a loveable character or set of characters.

5. Theme: Many children’s books deal with a particular theme. They are educational and deal with colours, or numbers, or vehicles, or whatever. Or they are educational in other ways, for example dealing with important subjects like potty training or adoption or getting a little sibling.

6. Illustrations: Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting you illustrate your story (unless you want to). In fact, this is a bit of a false point, because although children’s books are invariably brightened and brought alive by the illustrations, these will usually have been added long after the story was written, by an illustrator selected by the publisher without the author’s input, and that’s only going to happen if the story is good enough in itself. Nevertheless, it’s worth thinking about vivid images (although probably not describing them in words), colourful characters and vibrant scenes … everything that makes a good book for any age really!

Are there other aspects you think make a children’s book special or challenging? Let me know in a comment below, or have a go at writing a children’s story bearing some of these points in mind and let us know how you get on!

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Friday Fiction – Grapes

Another slightly rushed and cobbled together post, but I really hope you enjoy this one. It wasn’t what I expected to write when I sat at m computer this morning, but when I saw Madison’s photo it was exactly what came to mind. Do check out the links on her page for more stories, and do let me have any feedback (positive or negative) on today’s story below.

To see Madison’s site with the prompt and other stories, click here

The Bitter Sweetness of Grapes

The first time, he was six years old, lying under the vines with purple stains and an ugly smile mingling on his lips – delirious with the heady pleasure of excess, unable to form coherent sentences and desperately, repeatedly, declaring his love. At six, you can pick them up and put them to bed to sleep it off. Next morning he awoke with a pounding head and a guilty promise never to do it again.

At forty-six, there’s a lot less you can do. The demon grape still puppets him, its effects all-too similar and its grip stronger than ever.

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Great Scott!

This week I thought I’d share with you a contest I’m strongly considering entering this year, if I can get Booker’s Seven up to scratch in time. The Scott Prize is awarded to a debut collection of short fiction and is a prestigious prize in the otherwise quiet short-fiction scene.

The requirements are for a book-length collection of short stories, between 30,000 and 75,000 in total. The prize is £1,000 plus a publishing contract and the entry fee just £20.

Submission window is open now, and closes on 31 October.

This is a pretty small fee and prize fund for such a body of work, which probably will put some people off, but there’s a definite opportunity for more money and also for a real published copy of your short stories to be on the shelves in bookstores. In my experience, that’s quite a coup in itself, especially at a time when short stories are still struggling to get the respect they arguably deserve. So if you’ve got a collection of short stories you’ve been wondering what to do with, I’d definitely recommend you take a look.

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Disconnection

It’s amazing how much a loss of reliable internet connection can hinder one’s blog posting! And not just in the ways you might think…

I had a brief look at Madison’s prompt photo for the Friday Fictioneers when she posted it on Wednesday, but saved writing my piece until Friday, by which time I was victim of a complete lack of internet. Once I was back online on Saturday, I typed it up, and began to edit. Unfortunately, when submitting the blog post, my connection died and I lost the edits. So, I re-wrote, and posted it – without the picture and without being able to post a proper link of her website.

Now it’s Monday and I’m somewhat concerned the same thing may happen with this post. So I’ll keep it short 😉

But the biggest problem is actually the fact-checking of the buzzard post. I realised as I wrote it that…

1) I don’t know for sure the picture is a buzzard (although I had a vague feeling Madison entitled the picture as such).

2) I think of buzzards as scavengers, but I described this one as a hunter. I don’t know if this is a factual error and without the internet (or a bird book) I couldn’t check.

3) I talk about the “tundra lands” and I don’t know if that’s a fair description of terrain where a buzzard would live.

4) This buzzard caters to the whims of chicks, but is male. Again, I don’t know if that’s realistic.

Ultimately, I left the post as it was without checking these facts, but it made me realise just how much I rely on my internet connection, and not just to put up my posts! In spite of its limitations, do take a look at the story if you haven’t yet. It’s at https://elmowrites.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/friday-fiction-the-buzzard/

I won’t be back with my best level internet until NEXT Tuesday, so if things are a bit ragged until then, please bear with me…

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