Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will know that I have promoted the competitions organised by Eddie Walsh of Emerald Writing Workshops several times. I felt these contests had a cheap entry fee and were run by someone genuinely interested in writing (and not just out to make a quick buck!).
Recently Angela Greenwood contacted me to point out that the Emerald Writing Workshops website no longer existed and she wondered if I knew what had happened.
When I asked him, Eddie gave me the following sad news:
“In early May I tried to change servers which was a big disaster as the new server is too technical and did not help me log in so site is in limbo. As I have lost the momentum I have decided that the NOBODY comp will be the last one for which I have had about 65 entries. I will refund fees for other comps by end June after judging this comp. Updates will be on www.kerbsidebooks.co.uk (type this into Google – for some reason it doesn’t work as a direct link) as well as results in due course. I will email ALL entrants after judging Thanks for your past support.”
So unfortunately there will be no more competitions – but Eddie is doing the honourable thing and refunding everyone.
I would like to thank Eddie for his competitions and his encouragement to new writers over the last couple of years.
Hope everything goes well for you in the future, Eddie!
We’ve all done those writing exercises with postcards, where you use the picture to provide stimulation for a story or a poem. Last week at my writers’ group we took a different angle on this well-worn activity.
Frances ran an interesting workshop which got us looking at the writing on the back of the card instead of the photo on the front. She provided us with a selection of postcards which were from and to people we didn’t know. Then she broke the activity down into 3 steps:
- Create a pen portrait of the sender of the card by analysing what he/she has written, the handwriting style and the picture they chose.
- Create a pen portrait of the recipient of the card by looking at what information the sender chose to tell them, the manner in which the recipient was addressed etc.
- Create a short scene of what might happen when the sender returns from holiday and meets up with the recipient.
I found this a difficult exercise but it certainly gets the brain cells working when the only clues to your main characters and their relationship with each other, are a few brief, scribbled words. So Frances, thanks for getting the old grey matter working!
In coming years it may get more and more difficult to use postcards as prompts. According to a piece in the Daily Mail, forty years ago one-third of Britons sent a card home from holiday but now only 3% of us pick up a pen whilst we’re on the beach. Instead we tweet, text and Facebook.
When I go away I like to cut all links with ‘reality’ and the fast pace of electronic communication so I send postcards. I like to receive them too – they brighten up my kitchen wall.
What about anyone else?
I had a lovely email from People’s Friend this week accepting a story.
The story was one of my favourites (you know how you get those sometimes – no matter how many rejections a story attracts, you keep tweaking and re-submitting because you think there’s something special about it and all you need to do is find the right market). This one started life as a competition entry and has been almost completely rewritten on its journey via Woman’s Weekly and My Weekly. Finally, People’s Friend asked for two lots of changes to make it fit their readership.
The acceptance email said it now had ‘the perfect balance of romance and emotion’. So all that remains is to recreate that same balancing act in another story!
I’ve no idea when it will appear in print – it’s gone into the magazine’s ‘story stock drawer’.
I have an unusual maiden name – ‘Mumby’ – and it’s rare that I stumble across it anywhere else but I found it on a tiny war memorial in the small church at Croft Castle, near Leominster. I was so surprised that I had to take a picture of it (it’s in the bottom right-hand corner).
This got me thinking about creating female characters by looking at what they choose to do with their surname when they get married and what motivates them to behave in this way. I think we women fall into one of several camps when we walk down the aisle:
- The majority of us go with convention and take our husband’s name – so maybe we don’t want to rock the boat or stand out from the crowd
- Keeping our maiden name - this is the course usually followed by the famous but I know ‘ordinary’ women who have done this and get quite cross when they get lumped together with their husband as Mr & Mrs ‘Husband’s surname’. Could this be the basis for a fictional character desperate to carve her own way in the world or afraid of living in her husband’s shadow?
- Going double-barrelled – some couples choose to join their surnames together when they tie the knot. Could this a social-climbing couple? Double-barrelled names always sound quite posh to me.
- And there’s the choice of Mrs or Ms, if you don’t want the whole world to know you’re married. Why does a character who’s married want to keep it hidden?
Plus don’t forget until quite recently married women were often addressed by their husband’s Christian name as well as his surname, for example Mrs John Smith. An elderly lady in a story might unintentionally annoy her daughter-in-law by sending birthday cards addressed in this way.
Then what happens when we get divorced? Many of us (understandably) decide to revert back to our maiden names but those with young children might choose to keep their married name to avoid confusion. Or what about the high-flyer who’s made a name for herself in her married name – does she drop it or resentfully keep it?
So next time you’re dreaming up a female character think about her marital status and the surname and title she’s chosen to use – it might make you think about her in a whole new way.