Saturday, 29 June 2013

Word of the week (18)

The writer wavered between writing and watching Wimbledon.


(The strawberries and cream helped to make up her mind!)

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The whole story

One of the drawbacks of writing stories for magazines is that once they've been published (as wonderful as that is) the possibility of them being seen anywhere else is very small. Commercial magazines are only interested in previously unpublished stories. Some small press magazines accept reprints but they offer little or no payment. I was lucky enough to sell a few of my early stories to foreign magazines after they'd appeared in the UK, but these days most magazines want more than just First British Rights - even if they don't intend to use those other rights  - so that option is becoming rarer.

Having a story appear only once is, of course, better than not being published at all, but it's particularly frustrating when you find that your story has been edited in such a way that, at first, you don't even recognise it!

In 2000, I was thrilled when my short story Dreamers was a runner-up in a Woman's Realm writing competition. Part of the prize was publication in the magazine and I couldn't wait to open my contributor's copy! The competition results were announced over three pages and, understandably, the first prize winning story took up most of that space. I could see Dreamers had been drastically cut to fit its 1,000 words into half a page. Never mind, it was still my story. Or was it? I think I probably groaned out loud when I started to read it. Some of what I had thought were the important details of the story were missing, and one paragraph simply didn't make any sense at all! I imagined other readers groaning too. How had this story been chosen as a competition runner-up? It was rubbish!

Fast forward 13 years ...

I discovered Alfie Dog Fiction, an independent publisher specialising in short stories, and - oh joy! - they're willing to consider stories that have been published before. I submitted the full version of Dreamers and I'm very pleased to report that they have now made the whole story available to read on a kindle, computer, iphone etc. for just 39 pence!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

90,000 new stories!

Congratulations to Roxanna Toyne and Olivia Hunt who were the gold prize winners in BBC Radio 2’s 500 words children’s story competition. You can read or listen to all the winning and shortlisted stories here. The thing that surprised me most about this competition was that they received over 90,000 entries!  

When I was a child I was always making up stories for my own amusement but I can’t remember ever being encouraged to write fiction by my teachers or parents. The only creative writing I did at primary school was essays – we called them compositions – with uninspiring titles such as What I Did in the Holidays. I confess I sometimes made them a bit more interesting by adding some fiction!   

I loved reading, but I think I assumed that the people who wrote all those stories lived on some remote planet. They certainly weren’t ordinary people like me – or anyone I knew. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up (why do adults always ask children that impossible question?) it never occurred to me that being a writer was even an option.

It wasn’t until I was well and truly grown-up that I started to wonder if anyone else might be interested in my stories, and it still took several years of writing in secret before I plucked up the courage to show some of my work to a publisher.

I think it’s wonderful that not only are so many of today’s children producing imaginative and well-written stories, but they also have the confidence to share them. The only problem is that my ‘must read’ list is going to keep getting longer and longer!

How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a writer?