The picture shows the ringing chamber at Staunton Harold church in Leicestershire. The church is cared for by the National Trust and has 8 bells – these haven’t been rung since 1998 due to worries about the structure of the church.
When the volunteer guide discovered that I was a bell-ringer he offered to show me the ringing chamber, which isn’t open to the public. We went up the usual spiral staircase and into a chamber that time forgot. The blue sallies (the furry bits) on the ropes were thick with grey dust and the room seemed to have become a dumping ground for anything and everything. There were a couple of peal boards on the wall recording the ringing successes of earlier generations but what I found most interesting was the ‘music stand’ in the centre of the room.
I’ve been ringing since I was a teenager but have never seen a ‘music stand’ in a ringing chamber before. The ringers would place notes on it to remind themselves of what they were going to ring (usually the ringers have the pattern of changes in their heads or it is shouted by the ringing master). In the picture you can see candle holders on the stand that would have been essential on winter practice nights before electric lighting.
I was very grateful to the volunteer guide for allowing me this peek into history.
What has this got to do with writing? Nothing directly, except that I found it interesting and wanted to bring it to a wider audience – and all my attempts to get an article on bell ringing published have failed.
But then I got thinking about all the generations of ringers that have stood in that ringing chamber - big burly farm hands, soldiers who perished in the world wars, the first women to learn to ring etc etc. Could there be a family saga set around the church and its ringing fraternity? Or maybe a short story about a mutiny amongst the ringers? Or a Midsomer Murders type tale?
So that abandoned ringing chamber could have a lot to do with writing…
The New Writer doesn’t have the glossy finish of Writing Magazine or Writers’ Forum nor does it have pages of adverts. I think the magazine has a cosy, friendly feel. The Spring 2011 edition included features on ‘First of a Million Kisses’ by romance writer Sally Quilford, ‘Travel Writing Perks’ by Roy Stevenson and ‘Make it Short & Snappy’ by me (!).
The magazine is open to unsolicited articles and features (for which it pays a small amount). Poetry is also accepted but fiction is restricted to guest writers, subscribers’ stories on a given theme and competition entrants.
The New Writer runs an annual Prose and Poetry Competition with 5 categories:
- Micro fiction – up to 500 words (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
- Short stories - 500 to 5,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)
- Single poems (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
- A collection of 6 – 10 poems (£12 entry)
- Essays, articles and interviews on any writing related subject - up to 2,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)
The annual closing date is 30th November and the prizes are:
Micro Fiction: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.
Short Stories: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Single Poem: 1st prize £100, 2nd £75, 3rd £50
Poetry Collection: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Essay/article/interview: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.
If all this has whetted your appetite then you can obtain a free back issue by sending an A4 SAE to the address shown on the website here (scroll to the bottom of the page for the offer).
… a few interesting bits and pieces
- Waterstones are offering a Faber Academy Creative Writing Short Course (worth £450) in a prize draw, the only snag is you need a Waterstone’s loyalty card to enter – so if you haven’t got one, get one now! Then click here for full details and your chance to win. Closing date 1st September 2011.
- Ian Arkell used the contact form on my ‘About’ page to tell me about his novel, ‘Who Your Mates Are’, which is available for free on his blog. It is a crime novel set in Sydney and the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. Ian came across the usual brick wall when he tried to get it published in the traditional way and so decided to put it in blog form. He explains why here.
- If you enjoy blogging and have an interest in natural health then here is the competition for you. The Wise Woman is running a Natural Health Blog Competition. 500 words on any topic related to natural health could win you £100. Entry fee is £2 and the closing date 31st August 2011.
- As with any job, writing and publishing has its own ‘lingo’ that can seem amazingly complicated to the newcomer. Nicola Davies has been attempting to de-mystify some of the technical terms associated with magazine publishing on her blog. Have a look here if you want to be able to understand ‘editor speak’.
- And don’t forget there’s still time to enter the 100 word story competition on Helen Yendall’s blog - there are two fabulous writing books to be won. Closing date is 26th July and entry is via email.
When entering a writing competition it’s nice to think that your entry fee has gone to a worthy cause – it softens the blow of not making it to the short-list!
The Help For Heroes charity is running a poetry competition. First prize is £250 in Primark vouchers and there is no fixed entry fee but entrants are asked to donate at least a pound per poem and all money raised will go to the charity.
The judge is Peter Quinn, managing director of United Press and he is asking for, “ …poems related to Help for Heroes. It could be a poem about an individual or it could be a poem with a message.”
The winner will also have their poem published in a general collection of modern poetry and will receive a free copy of the book as well as attending a prize presentation.
The closing date is November 11th 2011 and full details on how to enter can be found here.
This is a cheap to enter competition for a worthy cause – why not give it a go?
There’s an opportunity to ‘Meet the Authors’ tomorrow night (apologies for the short notice) in Birmingham’s Library Theatre. Lesley Pearse, Sam Hayes and Barbara Nadel are going to provide an evening of mystery, suspense and emotion. It is a free event but you need to book a place. Full details are here.
Looking further ahead, now would be a good time to get yourself on the Birmingham Book Festival mailing list to ensure that you receive your program for the event. It runs from the 6th to 16th October 2011 and usually offers a cornucopia of author talks and writing workshops (last year’s Find Your Blogging Voice workshop run by Jo Ind gave me the kick-start to get this blog off the ground). Volunteers are also needed to help the whole thing run smoothly.
Another date worth putting in your diary is the Writers’ Toolkit held in Birmingham City Centre on November 19th. This is an annual event of panel discussions on various subjects to do with the business of writing – tax, digital media, getting published, higher education opportunities etc. It attracts both established and new writers from a wide area and is great for getting to chat to other writers (take your business cards).
If the East Midlands is more accessible for you, the libraries around Derby offer a large number of events. In particular I’ll be attending The Novel Writing Booster Kit with Martin Davies at Mackworth Library. Other events are listed here.
Apologies to those of you outside the area – but why not have a root around your own council or libraries websites and see if there’s anything going on near you? Writing can be frustrating and lonely but an afternoon listening to an author speak or chatting with like-minded people will do wonders for your enthusiasm!
Beak Books is a new, independent publishing company looking for talented writers. An agent isn’t necessary but original ideas plus a willingness to promote your work is essential.
Submissions can be made via Beak Books Novel Writing Competition. The judges are looking for fiction that has a twist to it which is also original, humorous, surprising, action-packed, quirky, romantic, moving or thought-provoking. They do not want horror, crime, children’s fiction, non-fiction or science-fiction. Only unpublished novelists may enter.
Novels must be between 60,000 and 100,000 words in length but only the first three chapters are required in the first instance and submission is on-line. First prize is £80, second £60 and third £40. The winner may also be offered publication. Closing date is 30th September 2011 and the entry fee is £8.
At the other end of the word count spectrum Helen Yendall is running a mini-saga competition via her blog. Helen is celebrating her 100th blog post (congratulations, Helen!) and wants 100 word stories on any theme in any genre.
First prize is the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012′ and second prize is ‘Write to be Published’ by Nicola Morgan. Email entry only and the closing date is 26th July 2011.