Weekly Inspiration



What do you associate with the colour green? What words spring to mind? Use all your senses to describe it. Does it evoke any memories or feelings in you?

Try this with other colours too.




100 Years On- Why the War Poets Still Matter




Next month marks the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I. The 28th July should be a time for reflection, to feel sadness for the death and suffering, to remember the pledge of “never again,” and to look for the reasons that still wars are fought, and still so many die.

A number of poets wrote of their experiences during World War I, some died. These poems written from the battlefields bring us into the horror of war, we are not just observing through news reports but are there with all our senses, feeling inside what they feel too.

Wilfred Owen is perhaps the most famous of the war poets. He died only a week before the Armistice was signed. In Dulce et Decorum Est he writes of a gas attack, a man dying, “white eyes writhing in his face,/ His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin” and grimly reminds us of a common saying during war, “Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori.” (“It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.”) This poem destroys any romantic ideas about war and glory; it is horrifying, painful and very, very sad.

Siegfried Sassoon, who met Owen in a war hospital and offered him advice and encouragement with his poems, did not shy away from the shocking reality of war either. He survived and years later was still traumatised, as poems like The rank stench of those bodies haunts me still, written in 1962, show. It demonstrates the pain and futility of death suffered by both sides in war. His most famous poem, Everyone Sang, written in 1919 in response to the Armistice is hauntingly beautiful, a mix of optimism and sadness.

The 100 year anniversary should be commemorated, at least in part, with the reading of poems from the war. Lest we forget.

A list of war poets and their biographies can be found at http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/biogs99.htm with links to some of their poems.

Weekly Inspiration


Think about your favourite fairy tale. Can you imagine it happening in a modern setting? What changes would need to be made? Would the characters behave differently, reflecting modern attitudes? Would there still be magic, or does modern technology eliminate the need for it?



Competitions With August Deadlines



Ilkely Literature Festival Competition

Genre: Fiction and Poetry
Word Count: Fiction- Maximum 3000 words, Poetry- Maximum 30 lines
Entry Fee: £5
Prize: £200

Costa Short Story Award

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 4000
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: £3,500

The Word Hut 14th Short Story Competition

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 1000
Entry Fee: £4.00
Prizes: 1st- £70, 2nd- £35, 3rd- £15

Equestrian Short Story Competition

Genre: Equestrian Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 6000 words plus 500 word synopsis
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Winning story to be published as Ebook, with proceeds going to World Horse Welfare

The Bigger Picture- Reflections on the Great War

Genre: Prose and poetry written in response to art associated with World War I. The art could be visual art, music, poetry, film etc.
Word Count: Prose- Maximum 3000 words, Poetry Maximum 50 lines
Entry Fee: Prose- £3, Poetry £2
Prizes: 1st-£50, 2nd-£30, 3rd- £20

Manchester Fiction and Poetry Prizes

Genre: Fiction and Poetry
Word Count: Fiction- Maximum 2500 words, Poetry- three to five poems
Entry Fee: £17
Prizes: £10,000 in each category

Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

Genre: Fiction and Poetry
Word Count: Fiction- Maximum 2000, Poetry- Maximum 40 lines
Entry Fee: £10 plus VAT for two pieces in either category
Prizes: £500 in each category
The Salopian Poetry Society’s Open Poetry Competition

Genre: Poetry
Word Count: Maximum 42 lines
Entry Fee: £3 or £10 for four
Prizes: 1st- £200, 2nd-£100, 3rd-£50, 6x runners-up- £25

Creative Writing Matters Flash Fiction Competition

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 250 words
Entry Fee: £3
Prizes: 1st-£100, 2nd-£25

Weekly Inspiration


This is an exercise that was set by my English teacher (Miss Gray) all the way back in year 8, and I think it can be useful (and fun) for writers to work with the restrictions and use them creatively.

Write an alphabet story. The first letter of the first word of every sentence must be in alphabetical order, ie: Alan was walking in the woods. Bears sneaked up behind him. “Crumpets,” shouted the leader of the bears.

You don’t have to begin with “A,” but you must include every letter of the alphabet, going to “A” after “Z,” ie. WXYZABCDE etc.


Keeping a Notebook


Keeping a notebook is widely recognised as being essential for writers; taking a notebook everywhere and writing down anything inspiring you experience, any ideas that occur to you immediately, before they can be lost.

Somerset Maugham, who kept notebooks for over fifty years, and published extracts as A Writer’s Notebook, described them as “a storehouse of materials for future use.” They are a place to write down anything that could be useful at some time, even if it won’t fit into what you’re currently working on, or it’s an idea that you can’t see how you could develop into a story or poem.

What I find most useful about keeping a notebook is being able to see different thoughts and ideas next to each other. I find that often one idea alone is not enough to make a story out of, and keeping a notebook allows me to see how ideas can fit together, with each other, or with images or potential titles to become something more.

There are different ways to organise your notebook; you could just write everything down in chronological order as it occurs to you, whether it’s a story idea, something you saw, a character sketch, a potential title, etc, or you could divide your notebook into sections for each of those. I have tried both ways, and I prefer not to have different sections, as I didn’t like constantly flicking through to find the right page, and I like to have everything mixed up, where I can see how they could fit together. Different methods work for different people so play around with your notebook a bit to see which is best for you.

Of course it’s not easy to write in your notebook every time something occurs to you; sod’s law dictates that your best ideas will come when you’re working or driving, and there will be times when you feel embarrassed about getting your notebook out in public, but try to get things down while they’re still fresh and before you start doubting yourself about how good it is.

Weekly Inspiration


Take an abstract noun. Imagine it as a person. What does it look like? How does it speak? How does it move? Add details to make it human; favourite food, what makes it happy, what it’s afraid of, for example. Could you use this character in a story, or make this into a poem?

Possible abstract nouns to choose from:

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

throne of glass


Throne of Glass is the first instalment of a Young Adult trilogy about eighteen-year-old Celaena, the most notorious assassin of the Kingdom of Adarlan. Here she is pulled out of the mines where she has spent a year in slavery to compete for the title of King’s Champion. As she takes part in a series of tests she becomes aware of something sinister in the castle.

Celaena is a likeable protagonist, who comes across as typically teenaged while still fitting into the fairy tale world she lives in, and it’s easy to imagine teenaged girls identifying with her and putting themselves in her place. She is not quite believable as an assassin, however, lacking an edge that would make her different to other girls her age. Other characters don’t really come alive, seeming to exist purely for the sake of a love triangle or to complicate the plot.

Celaena lives in an intriguing world, torn apart by war, but with hints of magic. There is not much opportunity to explore it in this novel, mostly set in the confines of the castle, but it would be interesting to see if it is developed in the next two books.

The writing style is not especially polished, and I was fed up of the word “obsidian” by the end of the book, but it keeps the story moving along steadily.

While Throne of Glass doesn’t quite live up to its fascinating premise, it is still a fun, easy read for people looking for escapism and wish-fulfilment.

Weekly Inspiration


Impression Sunrise- Claude Monet

Write what you see, what you feel, what you imagine.

Procrastination: A Step-By-Step Guide


1. You can’t write unless your house is spotlessly clean. Spend some time with the Cillit Bang.
2. Check your email. Your inbox could be full of acceptances. While you’re on the computer you might as well have a look on Facebook and Twitter and browse the Internet.
3. Check your email again, just in case acceptances came in while you were Facebooking.
4. Realise you have the wrong notebook. Search through the extensive collection of stationery scattered around your house till you find the right one.
5. It’s lunchtime.
6. You’ve been stuck in the house all day. Go out for a walk to get some air to freshen up your brain.
7. Now you need a rest. Have a quick sit down with a good book.
8. Keep telling yourself you’ll stop reading and start writing when you get to the end of the chapter.
9. Make sure your pen works. Gather up plenty of spares in case it runs out.
10. It’s dinnertime.
11. Check your email again. There are bound to be acceptances by now.
12. There must be something worth watching on TV now.
13. At midnight sit at your desk and gaze at the blank page until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore.

Previous Older Entries

Follow Thoughts That Breathe on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.