Weekly Inspiration



Close your eyes and open a book of poems. Place your finger somewhere on the page. Open your eyes and write the line your finger is on at the top of a page in your notebook. Use that line as a title and write to the end of the page. Don’t take your pen off the page. Keep going onto new pages if you need to.


Competitions With June Deadlines



The Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Genre: Fiction- novel for children aged 7-12
Word Count: First 5000 words, one page synopsis and author biog
Entry Fee: FREE
Prizes: 1st- Publishing deal with Scholastic, representation with LBA and a weekend for two in Venice, Runners up x4- Editorial advice session with LBA and a Montegrappa fountain pen

Erewash Writers’ Group Flash Fiction Competition

Genre: Fiction- theme: “Seize the day, but don’t be surprised if it bites back.”
Word Count: Maximum 500
Entry Fee: FREE
Prizes: 1st- Book by Maggie Cobbett, one free entry to open comp, 2nd- One free entry to open comp.

Swansea and District Writers’ Circle First World War Short Story Competition

Genre: Fiction about the First World War
Word Count: 1500-2500
Entry Fee: £5.00 for one story, £7.50 for two.
Prizes: 1st- £100 and £15 in book tokens, Runners up x2- £25 and £5 in book tokens

V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: 2000-4000
Entry Fee: £5.00
Prize: £1000

Earlyworks Press Poetry Collection

Genre: Poetry
Word Count: Maximum 3000 or 10 pages
Entry Fee: £15
Prizes: Contract with Circaidy Gregory Press, including £100 advance

Steampunk Journal and Titan Publications Short Story Competition

Genre: Fiction- Steampunk
Word Count: Maximum 2000
Entry Fee: FREE
Prizes: A copy of Steampunk Style (Two winners, one under eighteen, one over eighteen)
The best stories will be published on the Titan website

Flash 500
Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 500
Entry Fee: £5 for one story, £8 for two
Prizes: 1st- £300 and publication in Words with Jam, 2nd-£200, 3rd- £100

Writers’ Village Short Story Competition

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 3000
Entry Fee: £15
Prizes: 1st- £3000, 2nd-£500, 3rd- £250, 15x runners up- £50

Weekly Inspiration


Bee hive at the Museum of Natural History, Oxford

Bees are amazing, fascinating animals. What would humans be like if we lived like bees? Would our society be closer to Dystopia or Utopia? What would you be? Queen, worker or drone? Would you be happy?

Morning Pages

In her book, Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande proposes waking up earlier than usual, and before doing anything else, writing.

Just writing anything that comes into your head, not worrying about the quality of your prose or how interesting your thoughts are. Keep writing until you run out of time or, in Brande’s words, “you feel that you have utterly written yourself out.” Then, after a few days start increasing your writing, little by little until you’re doubling your original output.
The point of this is to use your unconscious mind to train yourself to write, making it second nature.

This idea was adapted slightly by Julia Cameron, who coined the term “morning pages.” In The Artist’s Way she recommends writing three pages a morning.

I’ve now been writing morning pages for a month. I began with two pages a day and am now writing four pages a day in only a slightly longer amount of time, so my writing speed has at least increased, as has my ability to keep writing even when I don’t necessarily feel like it, or I think I’ve run out of things to write.

The content of my morning pages is changing too. I still begin by writing about the dream I’ve just woken from, if I remember it, then what I did the day before and what I plan to do on this day, but I am finding myself writing, “I don’t know what to write,” a lot less frequently than I did at first. During the day I am looking for things to write about, making myself more observant so I won’t get stuck in the middle of my morning pages with a blank mind. If I do seem to have run out of things to write, I’m more likely to write something like, “I need a topic to write about. I could write about butterflies.” And then writing everything I know about butterflies, following any tangents my mind goes off on along the way. Sometimes I have slipped into a semi-dream while still writing, and without realising it have written pages of ideas I didn’t know I had.

Whether or not my writing has improved since I started doing morning pages is difficult to tell. They have definitely helped me find ideas and the physical act of writing feels much more natural, but the task of putting words together in a way that sounds good is just as hard as it always was.

Some tips for morning pages:

• Use a pen or pencil you can write with comfortably
• Use a cheap notebook so you don’t feel like you have to write something great in it
• Don’t plan too much in advance what you’ll write- be prepared to go wherever your mind takes you
• Once you start writing don’t stop until you finish
• Don’t censor yourself

Weekly Inspiration

Deerleap, the New Forest.

Deerleap, the New Forest.

What can you see happening in this landscape? Who comes here and what do they do? There were hundreds of tadpoles in the stream.

You could make this a real or imaginary place.

Review: Among Others by Jo Walton


In 1979 fifteen-year-old Mor is exiled from the Welsh Valleys where she speaks to fairies to an English boarding school where magic seems out of reach. The book is made up of Mor’s diary entries, in which she writes about her difficulties in living at the school, her unusual and dysfunctional family, and her love of science fiction and the books she reads.

Among Others is a very quiet book; Mor spends most of her time reading and the magic in the book, while complex and well-defined, is often barely there- which makes it seem only more plausible. It is clear that something traumatic has happened in Mor’s recent past and she is now living with the consequences, but this isn’t the sort of book that keeps you hooked because you have to know what happens, but because you love the character and want to spend time with her and see the world through her eyes.

Some people may be put off by the numerous references to books, especially of the science fiction genre, and the ending seems abrupt, the climax building suddenly and Mor’s story not quite seeming complete, yet the writing, both beautiful and believably teenaged, carries you through.

This is a book for booklovers, showing how books make you who you are and become part of your life.

Weekly Inspiration


If you could be a superhero what power would you choose? What would you do with it? How much control would you have over it? What limitations would it have? Would other people know about it? If not, how would you keep it a secret? If they did, how would they react to it?


Books That Stay With You

A few months ago there was one of those Facebook things- “List ten books that have stayed with you in some way, don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard.”

I’ve looked back at my list, and now I’m wondering, how could I have missed out Slaughterhouse 5 or The Color Purple and so many others, but I’ve tried to think, what made me list the books I did? What is it about these that made them immediately spring to mind?

childrenofthedust1. Children of the Dust- Louise Lawrence

I read this when I was eleven and it terrified me. I remember lying in bed at night, the images of a world ruined by nuclear bombs burned into my mind. It’s a powerful book; harsh and yet strangely beautiful.

waves2. The Waves- Virginia Woolf

I read this in my late teens, and I loved how it got into the characters’ minds, even if I wasn’t really sure what the story was supposed to be. In times of trouble I used to close my eyes and open the book on a random page. Seemingly magically, I always found something relevant.

primolevi3. Collected Poems- Primo Levi

Levi’s ‘Song of Those Who Died in Vain’ was printed in the booklet of a Manic Street Preachers tape. I had never heard of him before, but the pain and strength of his words led me to seek out more. It’s a powerful collection.

snowspider4. The Snow Spider- Jenny Nimmo


As a child I loved how this book mixes magic and reality; Gwyn is discovering his power, but at the same time facing school bullies, arguments with his friends and a difficult father. It made it seem like magic was really possible.


dontlooknow5. Don’t Look Now and Other Stories- Daphne Du Maurier

I found this on my parents’ bookshelf one dull Sunday afternoon when I was nine and read the title story. I didn’t fully understand it, but the feeling of fear was unmistakeable. Re-reading it more than ten years later it was still just as terrifying.


downwardtoearth6. Downward to the Earth- Robert Silverberg

This is probably the book that made me like science fiction. Set in a brilliantly imagined world, the story is magical and mysterious, and speaks of humanity.


brisingamen7. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen- Alan Garner

It’s the scenes in the caves I can’t forget. I felt them closing in on me as the tunnels became narrower and narrower. I found myself gasping for air, not knowing if I’d ever get out. This is perhaps the most horrifying children’s book ever written.




solitude8. One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This is beautifully written, evocative and compelling. The story contains both humour and tragedy, and never stops being believable. It is amazing.




earthsea9. The Earthsea Quartet- Ursula Le Guin

It is, of course, no longer a quartet, but I can never think of the last two books as being properly part of the series. Earthsea is a fully-formed world full of magic, and it, and its people feel as real as  this one.




scenesmuseum10. Behind the Scenes at the Museum- Kate Atkinson

I love the narrator, Ruby, she’s so perfectly characterised it seems impossible that she doesn’t really exist. The book is both funny and heart breaking, and can be reread many times without losing its freshness.




Weekly Inspiration

Starry Night- Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night- Vincent Van Gogh


What’s happening in this picture? What would you do if you were in it?

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