Category Archives: work

What a stunning piece from Tania

Here’s some news from Tania Hershman, a talented and accomplished writer of stories about science. Tania read her own story on Radio 4 and her reading voice is a pleasure to listen to.

Tania Hershman smallLatest News

Aug 2016 my brand new short story, There Is No-One In The Lab But Mice, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday Aug 28th at 7.45pm, and is now available on Listen Again if you’d like to hear it!

 

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Writing Buddies, a guest post by Linda Tyler

My sincere thanks to my two-year writing buddy, Linda Tyler, for this insight into how she got her short fiction writing career off the ground. This is my first guest post on this blog and I am grateful to Linda, whose work I admire.

linda tyler with sherlock holmes

Linda Tyler in conversation with Sherlock Holmes

Early Writing Buddies Success Already friends, Shirley and I started to write seriously a couple of years ago (2014), bouncing ideas off each other and providing an honest critique of each other’s stories. We were delighted when our first success was joint second prize in a regional short story competition in Scotland.

Since then, like Shirley, I have had a few successes.   I’ve self-published on Kindle an historical romance (Summer Intrigue), have a poignant story in an anthology (Last Call and Other Stories, published by Ouen Press), been highly commended for the opening page of a crime novel, short-listed for a piece of mystery flash fiction, had a family tale published in The People’s Friend and have stories, one bizarre and the other comedy, in two anthologies to be published this year (2016).

Write the story You want to write As each of these works of fiction is different, I feel I’ve yet to find my ‘voice’.  On the other hand, this means I’ve written the story I wanted to write and the style followed naturally.

Rejections go with the territory Despite these little successes, I’ve had many rejections.  Between the summer of 2014 and the end of 2015, I submitted 58 stories; six of these were successful.  Interestingly, two of the stories had been rejected previously by other competitions/publishers, another had been rejected elsewhere twice and yet another had been to three different places before finding a home.

Don’t Look Back Writing really is a case of perseverance.   Shirley’s motto is Onwards and Upwards; mine is One Story Back, Another One Out.  Both are good maxims.   Send off a piece of work, forget about it and get on with the next one.

My ideas usually come from comments made by friends or something I’ve read (I read widely, both fact and fiction).  We are often told ‘write what you know’.

For whatever reason, I find it difficult to base a story on an aspect of my life; and the one story where I’ve attempted this has been out seven times with no success.

What I do find helpful, though, is to set a story in a place I know – for example a coastal town, a relative’s sitting-room, a church and a preserved steam railway.  The characters may be imaginary, but the setting is one I can easily visualise. Image result for pound money

Don’t waste your money With the exception of the flash fiction piece, my successes have been with free submissions.  It is too easy to spend £5 here, £7 there, and find at the end of year how these sums have mounted up. This year I intend to submit only to those competitions, magazines and anthologies with free submission.

And I cannot over-emphasise the importance of a writing buddy.

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An Infectious Success

My story published in The Opening Line Literary ezine and my name on the front cover.

Thank you, editor Frances Button for selecting my story. I am thrilled.

Pages from Winter 2016 - Infection

 

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Robert Louis Stevenson might have sat here

As I always carry a notebook and pen with me I often capture my thoughts when they amount to something. Yesterday I sat at the harbour in North Berwick and looked across the Firth of Forth to the massive slab of rock that is the Bass Rock. It’s an uninhabited volcanic island that is home to thousands of seabirds and was an inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson. It featured in his 1893 novel, Catriona, which he wrote as a sequel to the more famous Kidnapped.

word in-notebookYesterday, this sombre edifice three miles away inspired me, too.

The sun shone on the green-swathed headland to the east, it bathed the northern coastline of the Firth of Forth in golden light. Even the harbour wall at North Berwick gleamed on this bright February afternoon.

But Bass Rock was brooding. Solemn and grey against the blue of the winter sky it lay in the shadow of a single blanket of darkness, the only cloud in sight. It was as if the rock was sulking, waiting for someone to switch the light on.

And then a shaft of light trickled over the top of the tiny island, sneaked down the vertical cliffs to the sea and the rock smiled. Warm at last. Gloom dissipating.

 

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What a useful coincidence

It’s only two days since I was bemoaning my inability to write some science fiction.

By total chance an email from the local library dropped into my inbox yesterday telling me about their new e-resources. Lo and behold they offer some online magazines. Best of all they have available my favourite magazine – New Scientist. It’s chock-full of snippets about science, medicine, climate, all sorts of information on Pluto in case I want to write about alien worlds. (I don’t)

scrabble wordwriting

 

So that’s today’s writing planned. I have no excuse at all to complain I’m short of ideas. I’m spoilt for choice in fact. Now I just need a plot, or some free writing to get me going…

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New Year Resolutions are SO worthwhile

ovencl1This morning, having finally got over a streaming cold and eating too much christmas pud, I woke with new enthusiasm for my writing. Casting aside the box of tissues and the packs of paracetamol I was raring to go.

So much so that I pre-empted New Year and made an early resolution. Today, I vowed, I would submit five items for writing competitions. I have a good up to date calendar of competitions ranging from 500-word flash fiction to 5000 word short stories. More than six of these have closing dates in the next five weeks.

Well, I have had such a productive day! And it isn’t even five pm.

I have sent off some CDs to a friend who is starting up a film club, bought and posted a gorgeous card for my best friend’s birthday, drawn some cash out of the ATM, taken a huge bag of clothes to the charity shop, walked along the beach and admired the massive waves,been blown sideways by the gale-force winds, put on the dishwasher – and cleaned the oven!

 

 

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The Queue-jumper – a microadventure

queueAs soon as the man walked in the door I had him down as a queue-jumper. Our branch of the bank gets really busy and as we sit with our tickets waiting for our number to appear above the tellers’ desks, queue-jumpers can be very frustrating and delay our own transactions. You can spend an hour sitting in a bank waiting to deposit some £ sterling or transfer some funds from your savings account.

We all looked on as he headed straight for the nearest teller, who was taking a deposit of a great pile of banknotes from a customer. Probably the weekend’s takings from a small business. It was Monday after all. The teller stopped as he was loading the notes into the counting machine, hand poised mid-air and clutching a wad of money.

The man, in blue Polo shirt and grubby grey trousers, said something to the teller and showed him a laminated card that had the Turkish flag on it. I don’t know what it was. Re-directing him to a teller position at the far end of the bank the teller then carried on loading his banknotes.  The counting machine chuntered on.

The man walked to the end of the office and spoke to a woman through the final teller window. She inspected the laminated card he offered her and then raised her voice and spoke to the other tellers in the office as they were serving their customers. Her question to them contained the word ‘calismak’, which is Turkish for ‘work’.

Each teller in turn shook their head and said no. The woman relayed that to the man and he turned slowly and headed for the door. His body language indicated humility and acceptance of the decision.

He wasn’t a queue-jumper. He was a middle-aged man with no work and therefore no money coming in. Today he was probably asking everywhere for work in this busy town. He was prepared to walk into a bank and be publicly humiliated in front of a dozen or so people, just so he could try to find a job. Any little job. Empty the bins, polish the floor, tidy someone’s garden, paint the front door.

I cursed myself for my snap judgement. I was wrong. I admired the man’s courage and my heart went out to him. I wished him success. He wasn’t after charity, just honest work.

Today’s microadventure taught me to think before passing judgement on another.

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Do my stories lack Suspense?

excited cats

When a story of mine fails to win a competition or be accepted for publication I try to work out why it wasn’t chosen. Of course, it might just be the wrong story in the wrong place but it’s always worth trying to give a story a makeover.

I say this because I gave one story a 90% makeover and it won a competition. Never mind that the previous draft was poorly written with mixed-up points of view (yes, I admit it, the judges were right).

Today I gave a ‘failed’ story a makeover and injected some of my internet-gathered suspense factors. There are some excellent writers’ web sites with tips tailored to all sorts of fiction inadequacies and I had selected 22 ideas on generating Suspense that I wanted to explore. I felt as if I was holding a bag of mixed sweets and was eager to try some.

The story is memoir and a bit sentimental so I added a measure of cruelty towards the protagonist. She was an interesting and convincing person anyway but she needed an impetus to push her story forward. I made her more feisty and I began to admire her spirit as she fought against her tormentor.

Then I added a subplot that fitted neatly around the existing tale. In addition to increasing suspense for the reader it provided a more satisfying ending, which echoed the scene I had set up at the beginning of the piece.

What I have to do now is shut it in a drawer and wait three weeks till it ferments. Then I’ll take it out and read it just to see if it’s rubbish or actually better than the previous draft. It’s exciting waiting for my own decision on the re-vamp in a few weeks.

And I still have my shopping list of 22 suspense-generating ideas waiting to be adapted and rolled out elsewhere.

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