Weekly Inspiration

If you (or a character you’re writing about) discovered a lost property cupboard for your life, what would be in it? What objects, people, hopes, dreams or fears would you find? Would you leave them in the cupboard or would you do something with them?


Competitions With July Deadlines


The Ifanca Helene James Short Story Competition

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 2200
Entry Fee: £4
Prizes: 1st- £100 and bottle of champagne, 2nd- £50, 3rd- £25

Ledbury Poetry Festival Competition

Genre: Poetry
Word Count: Maximum 40 lines
Entry Fee: £5 for first poem, then £3.50
Prize: £1000 and course at Ty Newydd

Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 1200
Entry Fee: £3.00
Prizes: 1st- £150, 2nd- £70, 3rd- £40

Wasafiri New Writing Prize
Genre: Fiction, Life Writing and Poetry
Word Count: Fiction and Life Writing- Maximum 3000, Poetry- Up to five poems
Entry Fee: £6. If entering more than one piece in same category- £10 for two, £15 for three
Prizes: £300 to winner in each category

The Elmet Poetry Prize

Genre: Poetry
Word Count: Maximum 40 lines
Entry Fee: £5
Prizes: 1st- Arvon course at Lumb Bank, 2nd- a week’s writing retreat at Ted Hughes’ house,
Runners up- £50

HISSAC Short Story Competition

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 2500
Entry Fee: £5 for one story, £12 for three
Prizes: 1st- £400, 2nd and 3rd- £50

The WriteIdea Prize
Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 4000
Entry Fee: £5.00
Prizes: 1st- £500, 5x Finalists- £100

InkTears Flash Fiction Competition

Genre: Fiction
Word Count: Maximum 500
Entry Fee: £3
Prizes: 1st- £250, Runner up- £50, Highly commended x4- £25

Cinnamon Press Annual Debut Novel Prize

Genre: Fiction- novel/novella
Word Count: First 10,000 words
Entry Fee: £12 for first entry, then £10
Prize: £1000 and pubishing contract

Dream Quest One Poetry and Writing Contest

Genre: Fiction and Poetry
Word Count: Fiction- Maximum 5 pages; Poetry- Maximum 30 lines
Entry Fee: Fiction- US$10, Poetry- US$5
Prizes: Fiction: 1st – $500, 2nd- $250, 3rd- $100
Poetry: 1st-$250, 2nd-$125, $50

Love on the Road 2014 Writing Contest

Genre: Fiction and Non-fiction- Love and Travel theme
Word Count: 4000-6000
Entry Fee: US$10
Prizes: 1st- $200, 2nd- $100, 3rd- $50
Top twelve stories will be published in an anthology

Weekly Inspiration


Close your eyes and listen to Andante from Schubert’s “The Trout”. See where the music takes your imagination. Write it down. If it helps play the music again while you write.

You could use any piece of music you like to do this, but it works better to either use instrumental pieces or songs in a language you don’t understand.

Attempting a Novel in a Month


Every November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a challenge started in 1999 in America that is now attempted by thousands of people around the world. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. It sounds impossible, but the point is not to worry about the quality but just to get the story out. Editing and rewriting can come later, and some published novels, including Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus were originally written in NaNoWriMo.

For several years I’ve been planning to take part in NaNoWriMo but I always seem to forget about it until about halfway through November when it’s too late to join in. This year I decided not to wait till November but to have my own novel writing month in May.

I thought it would be easy. I had already written a synopsis. I knew my characters. I had even written some of the novel already (which is against NaNoWriMo rules). All I had to do was write the story, and it wouldn’t matter if it was filled with clichés or the characters were two-dimensional or I wrote it all out is a “and then this happened and then that happened” style. I just had to write 1613 words a day to get to 50,000 by the 31st.

I found I wasn’t happy knowingly writing badly just for the sake of writing quickly. Usually I write slowly, struggling over every word. Sometimes it can take an hour just to write a few sentences, but at least I know they’re the right sentences (even if the next day I rewrite them or delete them). Trying to write a novel in a month I started to feel I was wasting my time; I would get the whole story written out, but so badly that rewriting would feel like starting from scratch again.

It may be that I was too invested in the story. If was starting with a vague idea and writing to see where it went then maybe I wouldn’t notice how badly I was writing in the excitement of discovering the story and the characters.

The good thing about attempting a novel writing month is that I am now much more focused on the novel, I’ve set myself a (much lower than 1613) daily word target and often when I’m not writing I’m thinking about the story, picturing the settings, imagining how my characters feel, hearing their conversations.

I think it is worth attempting to write a novel in a month, it obviously works for some people, and even if it doesn’t work for you it can still help you to get more into your novel and find a realistic timeframe for you to work with.

Weekly Inspiration

Greys Court, Oxfordshire

Greys Court, Oxfordshire


What can you imagine happening here?

Review: Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman (Editor)



Unnatural Creatures  is a selection of fantasy and science fiction short stories chosen by Neil Gaiman (including one of his own), all featuring some kind of creature. The definition of creature is stretched a bit  to encompass beings that are more plant-like and even Death, but the stories hang together well, following this loose theme.

The book is aimed at teenagers, though not all the stories are written specifically for that age-group, and acts as a kind of introduction to science fiction and fantasy. There is a diverse range of older stories by well-known writers with stories by newer writers, and Gaiman writes a short paragraph before each story about the writer and/or the story. Only three of the stories have not been previously published.

Avram Davidson’s classic “Or All the Seas With Oysters” is one of the stand-out stories, in which safety pins begin to take on a sinister presence, as is Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Smile on the Face” which draws on myths of dryads to tell the story of an insecure teenager and her bullies. E. Nesbit’s “The Cockatoucan; or Great-Aunt Willoughby” is a delightfully whimsical tale of a girl who ends up in a strange land after getting on the wrong bus and E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” is an original idea beautifully written.


The full contents:

An untypeable sort of ink splodge- Gahan Wilson

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees- E. Lily Yu

The Griffin and the Minor Canon- Frank R. Stockton

Ozioma the Wicked- Nnedi Okorafor

Sunbird- Neil Gaiman

The Sage of Theare- Diana Wynne Jones

Gabriel-Ernst- Saki

The Cockatoucan; or Great-Aunt Willoughby- E. Nesbit

Moveable Beast- Maria Dahvana Headley

The Flight of the Horse- Larry Niven

Prismatica- Samuel R. Delany

The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me- Megan Kurashige

The Compleat Werewolf- Anthony Boucher

The Smile on the Face- Nalo Hopkinson

Or All the Seas With Oysters- Avram Davidson

Come Lady Death- Peter S. Beagle

Weekly Inspiration

Where in the world (or any other world) would you most like to live? What makes it special; the people, the scenery or something else? Write about this place using your imagination and all the senses to bring it to life.

The Story Museum, Oxford



Story Wheel


The Story Museum recently opened in Oxford with the aim of showing how important stories are. At the moment it is still a work in progress with one exhibition (26 Characters) and different events going on.

On the day we went there was a Roald Dahl event, where Anthony Pedley, who played the BFG in the original stage production, performed a one-man show reading extracts from the book and acting out scenes with a Sophie puppet, bottles of frobscottle and whizzpopping sound effects. It was performed a large studio which at first seemed drab and uninspiring, but with just one small corner being used, laid out with two short rows of chairs and a rug for children, the show had an intimate feel and Pedley kept the audience spellbound with his performance.

Dr Jekyll's lab

Dr Jekyll’s lab

The 26 Characters exhibition is running until the 2nd November, and features scenes from stories chosen by 26 children’s authors, with photos of those authors dressed as their favourite characters. Each exhibit is assigned to a letter of the alphabet, but this is slightly confusing as there seems to be no connection between the stories and authors and the letters, and they aren’t always in alphabetical order.

The exhibits are varied and many of them can be entered or touched. Our favourite was the wood in Lord of the Rings, where we had fun putting on the ring and “disappearing.” Entering Narnia was a magical experience and Malorie Blackman made an impressive wicked witch from Oz.


There was also a dressing up room, with a long rail of clothes for children (and adults) to use to become their own characters, and once they are dressed up they can slot words into a board to name their character and be announced as they sit on a throne. A story wheel in the middle of one of the rooms encourages people to make up stories, spinning it three times to find a character, place and theme.

The exhibition is aimed at children, but there were unaccompanied adults clearly enjoying themselves too. Entrance costs £7.50 for adults (£5.00 concessions) and £5.00 for children. On their website you can find details of forthcoming events for adults and children.


Follow Thoughts That Breathe on WordPress.com

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