I bought the Guardian for a change the other Saturday and was surprised at how many slots there are in the paper for readers’ contributions. Some of them pay and some of them don’t.
The Family section pays £25 for each of the 4 slots listed below:
- A letter to - This is an open letter to someone who has had an impact on your life in some way (& can be published anonymously). In the issue I looked at it was a letter to half-siblings that the author had never met. Read it here.
- Snapshot – This comprises a reader’s old photo and the story behind that picture.
- Playlist - The effect a particular song has had on you.
- We love to eat - share a favourite family recipe and include the story behind it or the memories it evokes.
Recent pieces published for Snapshot, Playlist and We love to eat can be found here.
In addition the Travel section of the Saturday Guardian offers a camera for the best travel tip received. The tip must be on the topic specified in the previous week’s paper.
In the Magazine section there is a traditional (non-paying) letters page plus 3 other slots where the reward is the prestige of appearing in a glossy weekend broadsheet magazine rather than a cheque:
- What you like - email a couple of sentences about something you love plus a website offering the reader further details.
- Weekender - email a photo plus a brief description of how you spend your weekend. Read an example here.
- What I’m really thinking - your (anonymous) thoughts on an aspect of your life (job, hobby, appearance etc). Read an example here.
If you fancy targeting any of the above slots grab yourself a copy of the Guardian on Saturday and do a bit of market research to ensure that you write in the correct style and to the right word length. All the email addresses are in the paper too. If you fancy trying some of the other weekend papers see my previous post on the subject.
Or, if you’re single and fancy a night out rather than another night toiling away over the keyboard in your garret, email your details to the Blind Date feature in the Guardian Magazine and have yourself some fun!
- I won the Lichfield & District Writers’ Article Writing Competition (members only) and received the lovely silver tray in the picture. Unfortunately it’s not to keep forever - I will have to hand it on to the next winner. Congratulations to John Walters and Elizabeth Dickerson who came second and third respectively, with articles on listening to the radio as a child and collecting collectibles. My article tried to dispel the many myths around church bell ringing (bats in the belfry, super human strength needed etc etc).
- I was placed third in the Emerald Writing Workshops Novel Opening Competition and received a £10 cheque. These 500 word competitions are run quarterly with a very reasonable entry fee of £1.80 for a £50 first prize. Well worth having a go! The next closing date is 31st August 2011 – check the website for further details.
That’s the good news over with and now the more serious stuff. As many of you will know the women’s magazine fiction market is shrinking and the latest casualty is the one page story in Take a Break (although the Fiction Feast story special will continue to be published). So some womag writers have started a campaign to let the magazines know that we want more fiction. Patsy Collins has put details on her blog about how to use Facebook to voice your opinions to the magazine editors. Alternatively (if like me you don’t ‘do’ Facebook) you could email or write to the magazines’ letters pages. If enough of us make a fuss then maybe it will have an impact and bring back some of those short story markets. Fingers crossed!
Do you ever get that feeling that you can’t see the wood for the trees? You’ve edited and polished the words over and over again but you’re still not sure whether they’re any good? Or maybe you’ve had a string of rejections from the women’s magazines but can’t work out want you’re doing wrong?
Sometimes it helps to get the impartial opinion of a professional – someone who’s achieved success in the writing world and has a good idea about what editors are looking for. I’ve come across two such writers who offer critiquing services at reasonable prices:
- Patricia Mcaughey is a successful romantic novelist from Plymouth and she writes as Patricia Fawcett. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the West Country Writers’ Association. It was through the West Country Writers’ that I met Patricia at their annual Congress. Patricia charges £25 to critique the first 3 chapters of a novel plus the synopsis. A critique of a complete novel is £50 and Patricia is happy to look at any genre except children’s, horror or science fiction. She prefers to receive hard copies of manuscripts through the post but can be contacted via email in the first instance – firstname.lastname@example.org. Patricia currently has a website under construction.
- I’ve mentioned Joanna Barnden before on this blog. Joanna is a successful womag writer, Open University tutor and runs very inspiring writing courses. Joanna’s critiquing service costs £10 for one story (including a re-read after you’ve improved the story following her original comments) or £50 for 6, either sent in a single batch, or one after another over as long a period as you wish. The second way often works best as you can use it as a mini-correspondence course to improve your general writing techniques. This price applies to stories of 3000 words or under; for longer works she would be happy to quote on an individual basis. As well as critiquing the story Joanna will also give market advice. Joanna can be contacted via her website or email – email@example.com.
Alternatively, why not have a go at the Laurel House Creative Workshops competition which provides every entrant with a 400 word critique of their story. Entry fee is £4 and the winner will receive £100. Closing date 4th July. Full details here.
Last week I was a guest blogger for the Writers’ Bureau. I chose to do my post about writing sub-1000 word stories for the womag market, in particular The Weekly News, My Weekly and Take a Break/Fiction Feast.
If you’re interested in writing for these magazines then read the full post by clicking here.
Anyone who is a student (or a temporarily lapsed student like me!) of the Writers’ Bureau is eligible to apply to be a guest blogger - just log in to the student community section of the Writers’ Bureau website for details. If chosen you will get a link back to your own blog – so if you’ve got something to say, it’s worth having a go.
Have you ever tried using old photos as a writing prompt? That was the task we were set at my writers’ group last week but it’s something that could be done just as well at home to get the creative juices flowing.
Our session was broken down into the following steps (we spent 5 minutes on each one before going round the group and reading aloud) and these may help you to get going on your own as well:
- Write from the point of view of one of the people in the picture – are they happy to be photographed or are they there under duress? Is their smile genuine or is it for the camera only and masking some personal tragedy?
- Write from the point of view of the photographer who took the picture and try to include some of the senses e.g sounds, smells etc.
- Write a piece of journalism about the scene in the picture – i.e. what newsworthy event could have affected these people or this place. Is one of them a murderer, a lottery winner or a kidnap victim? Was the building devastated by fire minutes after this picture was taken?
- Imagine that the photograph has been lost for a number of years. You have found it, traced the original owner and are now handing it over to them. What is their reaction – are they happy, sad or angry to have this section of their past raked up again?
As a group we then discussed which of these exercises had been most inspirational and given us something to take away, work on and turn into a polished piece of work. My own preference was the last piece because it enabled past and present to be linked through back story, with the opportunity to create mystery for the reader by withholding selected information.
The picture prompts work best if you don’t know the people in the photographs and therefore don’t have any preconceived ideas or go off at a tangent writing your family history. Bundles of old photos can sometimes be picked up cheaply in junk shops or car boot sales. Alternatively, try swapping pictures with a friend - recent pictures would work just as well, so long as you don’t know the people.
For some immediate picture prompts have a look here and then get writing!
The draw has been made and my World Book Night books now have a new home. I will be posting them off to Dorinda Cass in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Dorinda says about herself:
I am about to start the final year of a BA(Hons) degree in Creative Writing at the University of Hull. For the degree I have done all different types of writing including plays, short stories, poetry. Next year I will be concentrating on one of my favourites – either short stories or novel. I am just starting to write with publication in mind. I have been a member of Scarborough Writers’ Circle for five years and, for my sins, I am now the treasurer of the group! We have a website at: http://scarboroughwriterscircle.wordpress.com and anyone interested in writing is welcome to come along.
I hope you enjoy the books, Dorinda!
I also want to give a mention to two fellow bloggers:
- Bev Morley is giving her blog a makeover and is looking for guest book reviewers – so pay her a visit if you’ve read a good book recently.
- I had intended to award Mel Hammond a Versatile Blogger Award but unfortunately she didn’t get my message about it in time for me to include her in my original post. So this is a belated mention for her!
Finally I have a couple of small successes to report (which go some way towards making up for rejections from The Oldie and The Weekly News):
- Star letter in the July edition of Writing Magazine
- Long-listed in the Emerald Writing Workshops ‘Novel Opening Competition’ . I have made the long list of 16 from an original entry of 54. A short list of 6 will be chosen shortly – fingers crossed!
Do you make regular backup copies of your work?
We all know how temperamental computers can be – one minute they’re working fine and then the next they freeze up and refuse to do anything. Usually the ‘turn it off and back on again’ method brings the machine back to life and everything is hunky-dory again but just occasionally the PC is dead and has taken with it folders full of precious work that can no longer be accessed – unless you have a backup copy.
Some of the more common backup methods to consider are:
- External Hard Drives – this is a similar type of hard drive to that found inside your PC but it is mounted in a separate enclosure. It can be connected to your PC via a USB port or wirelessly. If you have an Apple Mac, an automatic wireless backup can be provided by a Time Capsule.
- USB Stick - very small, easy to use, portable device that plugs into a USB port – but they are known to have a limited lifespan.
- CD/DVD - CD-R, DVD-R, and DVD+R can be written to only once but there are other types of disk that can be erased/rewritten.
- Online Storage Facility - this allows storage of data on a 3rd Party server. This may require a manual copy of the selected files from PC to the server or there may be the option to schedule an automatic backup. An example of this is the BT Digital Vault.
- Email - set up a free hotmail account and periodically email work to this account. If your own computer is unusable, this email account and your documents will be accessible from any other PC.
But before choosing a backup method there are a couple of questions that you should ask yourself:
- Do you need a backup copy kept away from your home? An external disk drive sitting next to your PC will go up in flames with the rest of the house.
- Do you regularly work on more than one PC – i.e. do you need an easy way of transferring your work in progress from one computer to another?
- Are you saving a finished piece of work that won’t be touched again or one that is being constantly updated?
As a computer professional I feel that I should be using a failsafe hi-tech backup method but actually I use a USB stick on a daily basis and periodically email my larger pieces of work to myself.
What backup methods does anyone else use? And have you ever had a computer disaster and lost data (or successfully recovered it from backup)?