Reflecting on a great year – Seaglass, the anthology!

Today, we’re celebrating the culmination of over a  year’s work on the part of a number of people. Two hundred and six poems, flash fictions, memoir, short stories and a song have been put forward to judges, read, enjoyed, mulled over and eventually whittled down to an anthology: Seaglass. It’s available for £5.99 from Lulu here and will soon be available from Amazon etc.

cover for email

It’s a lovely collection of work, from gorgeous flash fiction surprises to landscape poems, moving memoir and all kinds of stories. During the process I have met many writers, and will meet more at the launch tonight. I’ve also seen the generosity of writers in helping other people work on their entries in writing groups, giving their time and energy to support creative writing in North Devon. My special thanks go out to Vicky at Laughing Gull Design for the lovely cover, Sue and Colin Smith for their work collating and ordering the first draft of the anthology, Colin again for his professional proofreading and editing, Michelle Woollacott for her work publicising the book including getting us a spot on the local radio and blogging interviews with the writers, Jude Jeal at the library who has supported, promoted and encouraged writers through the provision of writing groups at Barnstaple Library and beyond, Gillian Kerr who has done so much to build the Work in Progress group at the library, which is such a melting pot of ideas and work, and Ruth Downie, who took time out of her own writing to read the entries and feed back her impressions of each one to help us select the most suitable.

If you would like to see how the anthology turned out, find out what North Devon writers have been up to and listen to some lovely stories and poetry, we invite you to the Boston Tea Party, Barnstaple, at 7pm to help launch the collection. There will be readings and a chance to meet many of the local writers. Tickets are available on the door for £3 per person.

In making the anthology, we had to leave more than half the entries out. That’s the hard bit. Sometimes the entries were too similar, we had to choose the one that fitted the anthology better. One stunning piece was just too long, some didn’t fit with the size of the book. We just ran out of room at the end. But we captured the best bits, pinned them down, edited a few commas and typos, and they look lovely. Maybe the rejected pieces will be polished and edited and find a publishing home in a competition or another anthology. Well done everyone.

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After a brief absence

Of what seems like forever – we’re back! With a call for writing from North Devon writers to contribute to an anthology for next year. So dust off those pens, keyboards and notebooks and get writing.

The anthology will be peer reviewed and we won’t publish everyone but we’ll try and use as many as possible. We know high the standard is at the Barnstaple library groups alone! Editors (all published writers) will select the best work to put together into a book that you can order on Amazon or put on your Kindle. There will be opportunities for you to polish the work up to publishable standards along the way. This is a not-for-profit anthology – run by consensus although the editors will shape the final publication. We also plan to have an open mic launch so contributors can showcase their work to an audience of writers and readers. I would welcome offers of help at the compiling/publishing/launching/publicity stage!

So: DEADLINE: 31st March 2015

Entry: FREE

Fiction, memoir, creative non-fiction up to 1500 words. Please send either as MS Word file OR in the body of an email.

Poetry and song lyrics up to 40 lines (excluding title) Please send either as MS Word file OR in the body of an email.If you wish to include music notation or tab please contact me.

One more thing: We aren’t able to include children’s fiction but could include young adult.

All copyrights remain with the contributors.

Submissions to be sent to:

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Anthology! Call for submissions in North Devon.

The North Devon Publishing Project is now taking calls for contributions to an anthology, a chance for writers in North Devon to get something published and get their name out there. The aim is to showcase the best of North Devon’s writing. To get involved, send in your most polished and edited work to

Volunteer judges from the local writing community will assess your work for publication in the anthology. At least two judges will look at every piece of writing. Pieces will be chosen in the following categories:

Poetry, Short Story, Flash Fiction, Memoir, Children’s Short Story, Creative Non-fiction and Drama. Entry is FREE.

Selected works will be published in a print-on-demand anthology and sold locally and through writing websites. Any profits will go into not-for-profit writing resources for local writers such as bursaries. All contributing writers will have biographical and contact details (if wished) published. And it’s a valuable writing credit! For a precedent, look at ‘Kissing Frankenstein and Other Stories’ on This was an anthology of flash fictions written by South-West writers a couple of years ago.

‘Winners’ may also be asked to be part of the judging process for future anthologies. If your work shows promise but needs editing or polishing, you may be offered free feedback to bring it to a high standard.

Entry conditions: It’s important you stick to the conditions for entry as we cannot consider work that does not stick to the word count limits:

Poetry: Up to 40 lines

Short Story: Up to 2000 words.

Flash Fiction: Up to 750 words.

Memoir: Up to 1500 words.

Children’s fiction (sorry, we can’t do illustrated stories this time) Up to 1000 words for an age group from the following: 5-7, 8-11, 11-14, 14-16.

Creative Non-fiction: Up to 1500 words on any subject.

Drama: Up to five minutes playing time in the format of radio play, short play, or short film script.

First page of a novel:350 words that drag a reader into a story.

All writing (except children’s) needs to be suitable for an general adult audience. We may not be able to include any work that is for a purely ‘adult’ audience that is mainly explicit sex or violent.

The pieces need to be in separate attachments (in Word or PDF) which include the category to be considered and the title. The email should contain the writer’s name, the title and category of entries. This ensures the work is judged anonymously. Please submit writing double spaced, clearly typed in a point 12 readable font such as Times New Roman or Arial. (Poetry should be single spaced). For more information, please email me.

Deadline: 31st October 2014

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Fantastic writing advice from top writers and agents

Very very good advice from the Wannabe a Writer: an interview with Carole Blake (agent) and Katie Fforde in part 2, helping a new writer through the minefield of sorting out an early draft.

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Literary events in North Devon

It’s the season of events here in North Devon! The Appledore Book Festival starts on the 27th September and looks fantastic. The festival has grown from strength to strength over the last seven years and now has many household names as well as local people leading events. It goes on until 6th October.

Rosie Godfrey has brought another writer event at the library to my attention. Peter Tickler will be giving a talk about his work. Peter is a crime writer, and author of several books such as Blood on the Marsh and  Blood on the Cowley Road. Rosie writes: “Again, we are very fortunate to have the backing of the library to make these events possible. Do please come if you can, even if it’s not your particular genre, you can always learn some useful tips/insights and it makes future events more likely.” Thank you, Rosie. The event is at Barnstaple library, Tuesday 15th October, 6.30-7.30pm in the Henry Williamson room (second floor). Tickets are £2.50 from the library in advance. I shall definitely try and be there!

Literature Works still have a few days to run on their first page competition. This is a brilliant opportunity for local writers. All you have to submit is the first 300 words of a novel and a 150 word synopsis of where the story is going. (You should have written the first three chapters by the time the competition is judged). You have until the end of the month – good luck!

Another date for your calendar. I will be running a book event at Barnstaple library myself on 12th November, more details later. I shall be talking about getting your writing on the publishing ladder, from local publications to getting work noticed commercially. I shall also be launching the North Devon Publishing Project’s 2014 Anthology, and calling on local writers to think about how they would develop and  showcase their own writing. And of course, I will be talking about my own book, The Secrets of Life and Death out on 10th October! There is a 20 book giveaway with Goodreads on my new website now.

For those library writing group members thinking about coming on the blogging workshop, I’ve written about the writing cyber community at Mslexia this month. The free workshop to get you blogging is at Barnstaple library on Saturday 28th at 10.30 am. Book through me at It’s free, and on the first floor IT Training suite (not the IT room just inside the door, you walk through the library, first floor, on the left hand side).

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Back to school (well, it feels like it)

There’s a fresh start in the air, and the change in weather seems to have drawn a line under summer. There are the first yellow leaves in the hedges and trees, and fat orb spiders hanging in dewed webs all over the garden. For writers, there are some opportunities to get on with new projects, or take older projects to new drafts or to the market.

I’m teaching an introduction to writing at Ilfracombe library, 25 September, 10.30 for members of the library. I’m also running a workshop for the Barnstaple writing groups on 28 September on setting up blogs and thinking about virtual platforms and showcases for writing.

There are a number of opportunities for writers with competitions available. For female novelists, there is the Mslexia competition, closing date 23 September, which launched my publishing career. If you haven’t finished your novel but have an idea where it’s going, Literature Works have a first page competition that offers you the chance to impress with a compelling first page that drags the reader in. It’s £5 to enter, but great prizes for the right entries. This is much cheaper than sending submissions to agents and publishers, and may get your work noticed!

This month’s Writing magazine comes with a competition summary for the whole of the next year, including competitions this autumn. Well worth it, with some good articles too. I’ll put a few of the newest ones up later when I have time!

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Free workshops, thanks to the library!

Barnstaple library (thanks to Jude) has given us space to run two workshops on short story writing for existing writing group members.

Barnstaple library has three creative writing groups: a ‘work in progress group’ for helpful critiques of work, a ‘parachute writers group’, and the ‘Ideas Gang’ who use creative exercises and prompts to inspire writing. Contact the library if you are interested in joining any group. I’m happy to pass on your details to the relevant person if you want more details, but I found the groups very welcoming and friendly for people at all levels.

For some people short stories are the perfect creative pieces: succinct, mysterious snapshots, often of a much larger story. Who can fail to speculate on Hemingway’s perfectly formed: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” For others, a more substantial 5000 words finds a satisfying dilemma or conflict for a few vividly imagined characters and a satisfying conclusion. These workshops are about the Long and Short of writing short fiction: finding the inspiration and free-writing the first draft; editing and refocusing the draft into the final draft. The details of the B10 competition are here, but the focus will be on all competitions and also writing for magazines.

I will be running another workshop on 28th September on all things blog and hinting at websites as well. More nearer the time. Although I won’t be paid, we will ask for a small contribution to the IT suite’s costs (around £3, I think but more near the time) and the aim will be to get people accessing free blogs. Contact me for more details! Again, this will be for group members.

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Competitions in North Devon

Two opportunities to spread your creative writing wings:

B10 Writing Competition

B10, the North Devon Biosphere Reserve, are celebrating ten years in collaboration with Barnstaple Library by running a short story competition, open to all. There are two categories for children, up to 11, 12-18 and adults. Do look carefully at the guidelines, the themes are Past and Future; Young and Old; and Town and Country. They have a list of words you might dip into, including culture, community, environment, well-being, conservation, wildlife, economy, business, farming and sustainability. (You aren’t required to use all of them!) Prizes include theatre tickets, book tokens and T-shirts. Of course winning is also a notable publishing credit! Closing date: 31st August 2013

The Plough Prize Poetry Competition

Returning this year is the prestigious and international poetry competition, based at the Plough in Torrington. Judged by Andrew Motion, the prizes go up to £1000 and there is no theme suggested. 40 lines, the entry form is on the website. Deadline, 30th November, with an entry fee of £5 per poem. 

On a related note, I will be running two short story workshops at Barnstaple library for free. 20th July (the Long of it) and 10th August (the Short of it), organised by Rosie Godfrey who runs the Parachute Writers group at Barnstape Library, on the first Saturday of each month. The first workshop will focus on raw material for short stories, especially structure, character and location. The second will look at editing, focus, point of view and getting within that pesky word count which at 1000 words is quite tight. Contact the library for more details or email me on

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Lots going on

First, I would like to remind you that competitions – always an excellent way to bring your work to the attention of publishers – are available for a number of genres of writing. One of them is based right here in Devon.

Literature Works are promoting their First Page Writing Prize with an entry fee of just £5. You submit the first page of a novel (of which you only need to have written three chapters) and a very short synopsis of the whole novel as you imagine it. The prize is £1500 and a look at those first three chapters by a literary agent, who will give the winner feedback.


Mslexia have a novel writing competition coming up in September, this time for whole novels. I know to my cost how stressful it was to have not quite completed my novel, never expecting to get longlisted, then having to write six chapters at breakneck speed to submit! You also need a 1000 word or so synopsis and the fee is £25, but all the shortlisted writers last time found agents, and several found publishers.


Barnstaple library has three writing groups, all on the first Saturday of the month. Contact the library for further details. Well worth a look, I’m hoping to join one myself.

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It’s been an interesting month, not just because I’ve met some charming, literary enthusiasts, but because there’s a lot I didn’t know about going on in North Devon. The library in Barnstaple, for example, not only has three writing groups but is holding writing related events.

Bill Wahl, psychologist, stand up comedian and writer of The Art of Impossibility is giving a talk at the library in Barnstaple, 7pm on 9 July, for just £3 a head. Tickets available from the library.

I’m starting to look at the daunting task of promoting my books in October, a whole new skill set. I don’t think I’m a big book festival goer, but I’m looking forward to the Appledore Book Festival.

I’m interested in promoting reading groups as well, because reading and writing are so essential to each other. As a writer, I hope for a reader, and try to communicate with that person through our shared language. Readers make writing possible. Like most writers, I’m an avid reader. I really appreciate the offers of help that have come in, please get in contact if you are interested in promoting creative writing in any genre within North Devon.

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