It’s the taking part that counts

March 3, 2015 6 comments

‘It’s the taking part that counts’ is a phrase often bandied about to make people feel better if they don’t win or get placed in a competition. Mostly it just washes over us and we’re still fed up that we didn’t get a prize. Perhaps we even think about throwing in the towel and not bothering to enter any more competitions. Last week I had an experience that made me truly agree that it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts.

My Speakers’ Club asked me to represent them in a Speech Evaluation Contest against two other clubs. This involves giving a four minute speech on the strengths and weaknesses of a ‘target’ speech which all three competitors have just watched. I was a bit reluctant since I’ve only been in the club eighteen months but decided to have a go anyway. My fear was that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to say or I would dry up or I would speak in a muddled, incoherent way.

On the night, I discovered that one of my competitors runs a public speaking coaching business and the other had been education director of his club for fifteen years. This gave plenty of opportunity for making a fool of myself! Needless to say I came third (i.e. last!) in the competition BUT I was surprised to feel good in the face of defeat. There were lots of positives from the evening: I’d spoken to a larger audience than usual, I’d taken part in a speaking competition for the first time, I lasted the full four minutes, I’d been a ‘team player’ by agreeing to take part and my fellow Club members told me I hadn’t disgraced myself or let down the Club. I came away on a high!

So, what’s all this got to do with writing? It’s to urge you to enter writing competitions even if you think you don’t stand a chance of winning. You will learn and gain experience from each competition entry, it might be writing to a tight deadline, trying to write to a different word count than usual or experimenting with a new genre. Don’t worry about winning, concentrate on the challenge of producing the best work you can.

And to get you started, have a go at one (or more!) of these:

Erewash Writers’ Group New Writers’ Competition   3,000 word short story. There is a £40 first prize and a FREE basic critique. Closes 26th March 2015.

Nuneaton Writers’ Circle Flash Fiction Competition – free entry. Prize is 1 year’s free membership of Nuneaton Writers’ Circle. Closes 27th March 2015.

Alfie Dog Review Competition –  download a story from Alfie Dog during March 2015 and write a  short review. First prize £100.

Enjoy the taking part!

Amazon Asked Me to Change My Book Title

February 24, 2015 20 comments

Regular followers of this blog will know that I published my first Kindle e-book, One Day for Me – 8 Award-Winning Stories, two years ago. It’s a collection of short stories, all of which have either won or been placed in UK writing competitions. One Day for Me - 8 Coffee Break Stories

A few weeks back I received an email about this book from Amazon. It told me that the book’s title contained ‘extra descriptive content ‘ which was not allowed. It said that this extra content could be ‘distracting or misleading to our customers’. I was given five days to change the title of the book or have it removed from the Kindle store.

Initially I was confused about was wrong with the title and queried it. Amazon replied that I must remove the words ‘Award-Winning’. My first reaction was to argue the point because I feel justified in using these words since all the stories have done well in competitions. But I decided it would be a David and Goliath contest and David would probably end up with all his books being removed from the Amazon store.

So, I complied and changed the title to One Day for Me – 8 Coffee Break Stories. Then I realised that I didn’t know how to change the cover image to reflect this new title. The cover was all my own work (following some wonderful advice from many of you about what worked and what didn’t)  two years ago but since then I’ve forgotten how to get back in and edit it. I decided time was too precious to waste trying to sort it out so I’ve had a new cover created by Helen Measures on http://www.fiverr.com. It’s quite different from the first cover so I’m hoping that it will attract readers who dismissed the book first time around.

I post this as a warning to those of you thinking of publishing on Amazon KDP. Don’t put any spurious claims or words such as ‘free’ or ‘best’ in your title. If you do you may be asked to remove them.

Can Creative Writing be Taught?

February 17, 2015 21 comments

I was telling a writing friend of mine about my PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) course, she made various encouraging noises and supportive comments but then she asked that awkward question, “But do you think creative writing can be taught or is it a natural talent?”

That made me think. There’s no doubt that some people have a natural flair for grabbing ideas out of nowhere and turning them into wonderful finished pieces. Others put in hours at the PC but have very little success. But that’s true of many creative skills, such as playing a musical instrument, painting or drama.

Lots of us do believe that at least certain aspects of creative writing can be taught – just think of all the courses advertised in the writing magazines and the many, many more advertised only in their own locality.

Personally, I believe that it is possible to teach someone how to structure a story, how to edit their work and write ‘tighter’, how to pitch an article to an editor, how to give that article an arresting opening, the mechanics of writing a haiku or a limerick and much more. I believe this because these are all skills that I’ve learned over the years.

Maybe it’s not possible to teach someone to see the poetic value of a sunset or imagine themselves into a character’s head. Or maybe it is, if you give them enough practice and constructive feedback.

Perhaps I’m biased because one day in the future I hope to teach Creative Writing. What do the rest of you think?

I Passed My PTLLS Micro-Teach!

February 10, 2015 21 comments

Today I did my micro-teach session on the PTLLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) and I’m pleased to say that I passed!

I had a thirty minute session to fill, which at first sounded daunting but in reality, it is a very short time to teach anyone anything, especially when faced with a class of non-writers (i.e. my PTLLS classmates, none of whom are ‘into’ creative writing). I chose Haiku as my topic because it’s a simple, short form of poetry which can be ‘learned’ quite quickly.

Working in three small groups, my learners brainstormed a list of words from pictorial prompts which I provided and then they fitted the words together to create a 17 syllable, 3 line (5, 7, 5) Haiku. We heard them all read out and they were very good.

I’ve now got to write-up the experience for my PTLLS portfolio and am going through the peer review forms I received after the session. One lady (for whom English is not her first language) wrote, “I am now thinking of joining a Creative Writing class” and another, “It made me realise I actually could write a Haiku, which I didn’t believe at all when you first introduced the subject.”
So I’m chuffed to think that I may have inspired two non-writers to have confidence in their creative ability!

Finally I pointed the class in the direction of the PoemPigeon website, where anyone can post poetry and/or leave comments. The site also runs occasional competitions.

Review of ‘The Museum of Fractured Lives’ by Sally Jenkins

February 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Sally Jenkins:

I wanted to share this timely review of ‘Museum’ by Charlie Britten. It’s wonderful how bloggers, writers & readers all support each other. Thanks Charlie! The Museum e-book is only 99p until Sunday 8th Feb.

Originally posted on Write on:

Available from Sally Jenkins’ blog.

The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Broken_Relationships

The inspiration for ‘The Museum of Fractured Lives’  came from the author alighting – purely by chance – on the website of The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.  (There is a similar museum in Brussels too, by the way.)  In 2011 the Zagreb museum was the winner of the EMF Kenneth Hudson Award for demonstrating the most ‘unusual, daring and, perhaps, controversial achievement that challenges common perceptions of the role of museums in society’.  Now, I want to go myself!

Back to Sally Jenkins’ book, this very short work consists of a prologue, which takes the reader through how the Museum came to be set up, followed by what are, in reality, three short stories told in dialogue to the main character, and then a final chapter entitled ‘Last Word’.  The three short stories (Maxine’s Story, Karen’s Story and Pete’s Story) were…

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Bag a Bargain!

February 2, 2015 2 comments

Just a quick post to let you know that The Museum of Fractured Lives is reduced to half-price until Sun Feb 8th 2015. It’s only 99p in the UK and 99c in the US. The Museum of Fractured Lives Omnibus Edition

This e-book is a compelling collection of four emotive long stories. Each one is perfect for filling a lunch break, coffee break or commute to work. Dip into this collection and escape into someone else’s life, experience their ups and downs, joys and sorrows.

The Amazon reviews are excellent and there’s also a growing number of reviews on Goodreads.

Here are just a few short comments:
“I just loved this book. From the prologue to the end.” Federica.
“It was a great read and I didn’t want it to end.” ShellyH
“…if I could have given this story six stars, I would have.” Sparky

After the EU e-book VAT hike on 1st Jan 2015, 99p is the cheapest price that independent authors can set on Amazon. So I hope you’ll take advantage of getting this ‘boxed set’ of all three Museum stories (plus an exclusive prologue) for the same price as a single story when bought individually.

Click here to buy on your local Amazon site.

Copyright for Writers

January 29, 2015 12 comments

More from the world of my PTLLS course …

My fellow learners and I each had to choose a piece of legislation affecting adult education tutors and give a short presentation to a small group. I decided to look at copyright law because of its direct impact on creative writing tutors, who may use extracts from other people’s work as examples in a class. This is a brief summary of what I came up with:

It is an infringement of copyright to do any of the following in relation to a substantial part of a work protected by copyright without the consent of the copyright owner:

  • copy it
  • issue copies of it to the public
  • rent or lend it to the public
  • perform or show it in public
  • communicate it to the public

The important word here is substantial.  It is subjective and the quality, importance or significance of the extract are as important as the quantity of words – using just four lines of a poem or even a four word extract have been found to be substantial.

Tutors working in colleges or similar places will probably be covered by the institution’s CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) licence. In brief, this allows tutors to copy up to 5% of a published item e.g. one chapter of a book, a single article from a magazine, a ‘reasonable’ amount of text from a website. The source should always be cited on the copy and copies can only be given to students and members of staff.

The money collected from the sale of these licences is distributed back to writers via ALCS (Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society), PLS (Publishers Licensing Society) and DACS (Design and Artists’ Copyright Society). If you’ve ever had an article or story published in a magazine make sure you register with ALCS to get your share of this money.

However, tutors who work independently in the private sector have to purchase their own CLA license or obtain the permission of the author or publisher each time they want to use an excerpt.
Alternatively it may be best to avoid using other people’s work and make up examples instead.

With all the cuts in local council spending, I guess more tutors may be forced to teach privately so the above is just something to be aware of.

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