Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bridport Story Slam 2013

Last night I was at the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport for the 2013 story slam, organised by Frances Colville and Kathy Hallsworth, where I had been invited to be one of the judges.

If, like me, you’ve never been to a story slam before, I’ll explain to you what happens.

The format is very straightforward. Authors register to take part and their names are put into a hat and drawn at random. Each then has five minutes in front of the microphone to read their short story.

The five minutes was strictly enforced and if you are taking part in one of these events I would strongly advise you to make sure your story stays within this time frame. Several over-ran which was a shame because we never heard the ending and, so often with a story this length, ending is everything. You final line is your moment to wow your audience, to leave them with the resonance of what you have just read.

The stories we heard were amazing. We had so many varied themes and wonderful settings. Fabulous characterisation and daring story structures. But in the end one stood out for us all as the clear winner. A delightful story called Denial by Gill Smith. This really was a perfect example of how to write a short story!

The second and third places were harder to choose because we all had our favourites but in the end we selected Ged Duncan in second place for his bold story structure and vivid scene setting, and Maya Pieris in third place for a piece that was almost poetic, every word packing a punch, with sinister undertones!

The venue was cosy and informal, the turnout really good, and it was a sheer delight to see so many people embracing the spoken word.

And of course it was great exposure for Red Rock!

Here are my fellow judges, Julie Musk of Roving Press and short story writer Gail Aldwin, ready to start judging.

And a big thanks to the organisers for making the event such a success.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tips for Writers: A three Point Checklist.

I hear many authors bemoaning the fact that they are collecting nothing but piles of form rejections. They wonder why this could be. Sometimes they blame the publishing industry.

So I thought I’d share with you my three point checklist – three elements your submission has to have if it’s going to stand out from the slushpile. Of course there’s more to it than just these – but it’s a starting point.

And be honest with yourself, you may think you meet all three – but do you really?

1. Voice: Voice is so difficult to define. It’s more than just good writing – it’s that special something that makes your prose stand out. When people can read something you’ve written and know it’s by you then you know you have voice.

2. Character: Your characters need to be interesting, engaging and well rounded. The reader does not necessarily have to like your main character but they do need to empathise with them. There’s a big difference.

3. Idea:  A strong original idea, or a unique twist on an old one. Don’t follow trends – those that are on the shelves now will have gone out of fashion by the time your book is published. Something new will be causing a buzz. Be that something. Break new ground.

Keep an eye out for more tips to follow.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Post Publication Whirlwind

The past few weeks since Red Rock hit the shelves have passed in a blur of excitement. I don’t think my feet have touched the ground and I’ve barely had time to breathe. There’s been so much happening I hardly know where to begin.

I’ve been taking part in so many author events – I’ve already blogged about the Yeovil Literary Festival but I’ve also been in to a couple of schools and last week I was back up in Yeovil where I was on the panel at their annual Booker Debate.

I was allocated ‘We Need New Names’ by NoViolet Bulawayo to review. I’ve no idea how I managed to make the time to read it but somehow I did – helped by the engaging prose and fascinating subject matter. I don’t think it will win but I do recommend it.

And there’s more to come. This Saturday I’ll be doing a book signing in Dorchester Waterstones so if you’re in the vicinity do call in and say "Hi." And then there's the Story Slam - an open mic event in Bridport at which I'm judging - and yet more schools to visit....

But as things start to calm, like seas after a storm, my thoughts return to other ideas, and new characters start nagging in my year – “Tell my story.” “Hear my tale.” And I know that I need to sit down and get to know them – I need to get writing again.