Monday, 12 November 2012

Writing Competitions Closing soon

So, after a little break from writing (a week-ish) I have my sights set on my next project. Completing the challenge I set myself with the anthology has boosted my confidence in terms of how much work I can do, and there's one particular project I've been slowly adding to over the years that I'd like to have a similar sense of completion on. I'm going to head off to a coffee shop in a bit to bash out a plan. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the last week I've come out of my hibernation phase and caught up with friends I've been saying 'No, not just yet... can we meet up in November?' to for quite a while. The month ahead holds several more catching-ups and visitings, which is lovely.

Looking ahead are a few prizes I'd like to enter (if I have time around working on the project I mentioned up there). I won't be going for the first one, the essay-writing one, but it sounds interesting. Fish is a well established and well respected prize, though I know the high entry fee is off-putting to a lot of writers. And for those citizens of a Commonwealth country, the free-to-enter Commonwealth prize is very appealing. Mslexia is still one of my Holy Grails - I'm  pretty sure I will be entering their call for memoir writing - I have something lined up that might work. 

And so - here they are in more detail: the writing prizes that have caught my eye, all closing in the next month.

The Financial Times and The Bodley Head Essay Prize
Non-fiction essays up to 3500 words written by writers under 35years
Free to enter
£1000 1st prize, plus mentoring session
Closes 18th November
From the website: "We are looking for a dynamic, authoritative and lively essay of no more than 3500 words on a topic of your choice. It can be journalistic, it can be a case study; it can be wide-ranging or minutely focused. In keeping with the ethos of both sponsors, it can address any topic – from finance to history, from current affairs to a scientific discovery. We are not looking for a particular subject; we're simply looking for quality writing."

The Fish Short Story Prize
For short stories up to 5000 words
e20 / e22 entry fee (online/postal)
e3000 1st prize (includes e1000 for travel expenses to attend award ceremony), 2nd prize: retreat at Anam Cara, 3rd prize: e300
Closes 30th November

The Commonwealth Writers 2013 Short Story Prize
For short stories 2000-5000 words from citizens of a Commonwealth country
Free entry
£5000 overall prize, £1000 for winner in each region
Closes 4th December

Mslexia New Writing: Memoir
Up to 2200 words, from female writers
Free to enter (though postal entries only)
Best entries chosen by the guest judge will be published in the magazine
Closes December 10th

Good luck if you enter any of these - and with any projects you have on the go. I'm away now for my early morning coffee, write and plan. I do like my days off from my day job(s). Enjoy your day.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

She did it (Putting an anthology together: Part 7)

On Wednesday (the day of the deadline, and the day after my last post) I tackled that final to-do list and submitted my short story collection to Salt. It took a couple of hours to do the last few edits and organise the acknowledgements, contents page etc (that was exciting, though) and then it was as simple as emailing it over. A couple of clicks. Off it went.

In the seconds afterwards I felt a small sense of relief - I think the big 'YES!' moments had happened the evening before when I finished the last story taking me over the wordcount. That's when I knew I'd done it, save for actually entering the prize. That was a good feeling. It made me do a lot of exhaling and talking out loud to myself.

In the past 4 or 5 weeks I've been a mix of confident that I would do it, and concern that, in a practical sense, I just didn't have enough time. I considered how long it usually takes me to write a story (months, but I'm usually working on several things at once), and that I had seriously less time through October than any other month this year so far. I had to be strict with how I used the time I had, saying 'no' to social invitations but still giving myself enough time off from all kinds of work to not burn out or get too stressed.

I had 2 clear days off each week. I gave one to writing, and one to spending time with my loved one. As much as I could, I created a stable environment for myself. And in those hours before work, or nights when I wasn't tired, or in between shifts, if I felt like writing I did, and if I didn't, I didn't. I said, 'If I don't get it finished in time, it's okay,' then always added 'But I will'.

I had to have a bit of faith. This was hard when, on a writing day, I had a headache, no energy, and 6000 words to go. I tried, but made little progress that day. But 2 days later, a whole afternoon I wasn't supposed to have free fell into my lap, and the writing got done that day.

I used the extra hour the clocks gave us last weekend. I didn't plan it that way, I just got up early before work on Sunday and shut the internet off for an hour. A whole new story came to life in that hour, and on Tuesday another fortuitous thing happened out of nowhere - a full day off from work - and on that day the story grew and grew to 3000 words, the longest story I've ever written. I relished writing it, and the feeling of having room to let it become something different. I can't deny that it's better to have some distance from a new piece of work before editing and submitting, but I felt the energy in this one as I wrote it, and it felt 'true' in the sense I sometimes bang on about - when you write something that feels part of you.

I think the combination of being free with myself and being honest with myself is what got me through this month. Free to not write, and honest in looking at how I spent my time. The days off from it all were valuable, and essential. As was shutting the internet off for an hour or two or three when I needed it.

So, away my collection has gone, to be read along with hundreds of other manuscripts, all created in their own individual way by a hopeful writer, sent off to see if they're the one that will rise to the top of this particular pile.

I'm happy with my collection. It feels like it is me, it contains the stories I wanted to tell, in the way I wanted to write them. As I get to the end of a year with only one publication acceptance, I feel proud of myself for what I've achieved with this, that I pushed myself and took care of myself in fairly equal measure.

And now... what now? Well, anything.

Oh and this guy - a new friend I made (literally) (ish) on Wednesday night.

Thanks to everyone who's read and commented and cheered me on this past month - it's been a great help to have your support.
How are you? Are you working on something in particular? Do you have a deadline you're moving towards right now? Shall I stop quizzing you? Okay.