Awards, articles, submissions…

Rather than always harping on about my own thoughts on writing, or my garden, or stuff I’ve been doing, I like to share interesting tidbits from others that I’ve found around the place. And the last couple of weeks has been particularly interesting so here’s a few of my findings…

Bord Gais Book Awards

Whyte Books - a cosy haven for readers and writers

Whyte Books – a cosy haven for readers and writers

It’s a week of celebration as I’ve just finished the first draft of a new novel, and I also found out the bookshop I work in has been nominated for Bord Gais Irish Bookshop of the Year after winning the Munster vote. So, here’s a massive well done to Sheila, the owner, brains and driving force behind the lovely bookshop that is Whyte Books.

Also linked to the Bord Gais Book Awards, did you hear about the new Writing.ie Short Story Award? Well if not (and I hope it’s not too late) – you have to vote! Read the six shortlisted stories over on writing.ie (six stories for free? It’s a gift!) and then support your favourite by voting on the Bord Gais website. Stories & details here.

Horror Fiction

Is anyone writing horror out there? I love horror fiction and although it competes with crime on a global scale as one of the top genres, I feel it’s still underrated and under-appreciated in the UK and Ireland. I’ve felt rather out on a limb with my attempts at literary horror fiction, but that’s probably because I didn’t know this place – the Horror Writers Association – existed! Thanks to Paul Fitzgerald, a fellow writing.ie blogger, I’ve now found a homely hub for my guilty pleasure! 

Publishing opportunities

Take a look at the exciting new journal, Spontaneity, a refreshing new arts journal that’s all about inspiration, (think future submissions inspired by those selected for publication in previous issues). The first issue has the theme of Age and Beauty – details here.

As writers, we’re always looking for new outlets whether it’s competitions, journals or publishing houses. So here’s a few that stand out: firstly (you’ll have to be quick to get this one in – deadline is Nov 15th), Susan Lanigan’s free-to-enter short fiction competition Walking on Thin Ice based around ‘mental illness, stigma and oppressive institutional power’.  It may be free but the judge is Dave Lordan and there are cash prizes.

Two presses that have caught my interest are erbacce press, a co-operative that makes sure all contributors receive royalties, with all money feeding back into publishing more writers, and Notting Hill Editions, the home of the essay that’s doing exciting things (it produced the gorgeous Deborah Levy Things I Don’t Want To Know essay in response to Orwell’s Why I Write). Go check them both out – they’re gorgeous.

Art meets literature

It seems that every time you think there are no more incredibly interesting ideas left to discover, some talented/forward thinking individual comes up with one! In case you haven’t heard, there’s a weird but probably very wonderful installation/project happening around the Liffey, with quotes from Joyce being washed into the grime of the river’s surrounding walls. Derek Flynn has the info here.

Writing motivation

And finally, here’s a lovely post, I am Good Enough, And So Are You by Susan Lanigan that’s bound to lift your writing spirits.

If you have any more articles, links or competitions you think should be shared, please add in the comments below! I only have a certain amount of time free for researching this kind of stuff (with most of my info through blog subscriptions, twitter, writing.ie and chatting in Whyte Books) – so I’d be delighted if you’d expand my horizons!

You’re not alone

You’ll find that writers are a very supportive bunch on the whole. They understand the pros and cons, highs and lows (admit it, there are lows) that writing involves and they are always willing to help – whether it’s reading through a piece you’re ready to submit, cheering you on when you’ve achieved something you’re proud of, giving tips on writing technique, or giving you a nod at the right times when you’re having doubts.

This can be in person, via email, twitter or Facebook, a text message or a phone call. You might find a revelation in an article, book, blog post, TV documentary or piece of journalism. The source isn’t really important. The point is, you are not alone. Help and support is out there. 

Usually, writers offer their support without question or judgement – just ask and see! – but sometimes, useful advice is given at just the right moment, by mistake. Such an incident inspires this week’s blog post, thanks to Susan Lanigan.

Shrimp pot in the Atlantic

Don’t let fear or doubt pull you in the wrong direction

Last week, Susan posted On Luck and Writing. She opened the post with – “Yesterday, I had a moment of uncertainty about my writing. The usual questioning and fear and stuff. To distract myself I picked up a book that did not belong to me and which I would never normally read…”

This resonated in two ways. Firstly, my mindset at the end of last week matched Susan’s exactly. Secondly, I too needed distraction, and On Luck and Writing proved the perfect tonic.

Usually, I’m all about staying focused but the more I write, the more I value those snippets of free time that you can salvage for research, reading about other writers and winding down. I’m still not great at it, but I’m improving.

Last week, my mindset was simply a product of over work and then stressing about not working enough which in turn generated negative feelings towards my output. Rather than remembering to enjoy the process, without too much inner reflection and criticism, I got caught up in over-analysing results and steaming towards unnecessarily ambitious, self-imposed deadlines.

I know, foolish. But what can I say? I’m only human. I think we can all fall into that trap on occasion. The important thing is that we realise it and rein ourselves in.

Like Susan’s post highlighted, we have a tendency to over-think things and allows ourselves to contemplate failure before we’ve even given things a fair try, flitting from one thing to another trying to find ‘the right answer’ instead of trusting our instincts and continuing on, unshackled.

Personally, I enjoy working on different projects – e.g. poetry, haiku, themed submissions, different word counts for stories – to hone my skills and keep things interesting. But when it comes to my novels, I have to trust my instinct and write what I want to write, what I can write well. It’s usually pretty easy, but sometimes, I need a post like Susan’s to remind me that that’s exactly what I’m doing and it’s the right choice to make.

Many people ask editors and publishers – ‘what are you looking for?’ – as though there is a magic ingredient that will ensure your book/s will be published. The truth is, even though publishers have gaps to fill, there is no such magic ingredient. What they want is a damn good story.

Sometimes your book will be rejected because it’s got a way to go, and it’s an almost damn good story with potential. In this case, listen to the advice you’re given, treasure it and use it to feed into your next draft. Sometimes, your book will be well written but the story isn’t quite damn good enough. Again, listen and act accordingly.

On other occasions, you’ve got a damn good story and it’s really well written, but it doesn’t fit a publisher’s list right now. Or any publisher’s list. That doesn’t mean that it never will, but neither does it mean – ‘quick, write a crime novel because they’re selling well’, or ‘switch to Young Adult, there’s a great market for it’.

Stay calm and carry on writing what you write in the way that you write it. All the while, you will be honing your writing skills, stimulating your imagination and writing more books. If you really want to be a writer, write. No matter what your inner critic says. You cannot let the inner critic hold you back or send you in the wrong direction.

In the words of Susan, “Hunt for what you want. Don’t be a prey animal. Be a predator.”

Great advice.

Squawking seagulls on the Atlantic

Silence the inner critic!

As you go into a new week, put any silent doubts, fears, anxieties or uncertainty about your writing behind you. You are a writer. So write. It’s that simple. Who cares if you have to wait longer for that elusive publishing deal or literary journal to accept your work? Stay on track, be dedicated to your craft and it will come.

I’d like to end with a huge thanks to Susan for being there at the right time, giving much-needed advice, without even realising.

Who has inspired/helped you over the last week? Share it with us – you never know who might need to be listening.