Results of the Olga Sinclair Prize 2020

Olga Sinclair 2020 Results

1st Making the News by Clare Marsh
2nd Doorstepping by Fiona Ritchie Walker
3rd There’s Always a Story by Veronica Swinburne

Shortlisted (in no particular order)

Made Up by Sherry Hostler
Under Offer by Phyllida Scrivens
A Reasonable Person by Lucy Porter
The Storm by Helen Murray
Repeat Offence by Christie Davies
The One That Got Away by Cathy Rushworth
Correction by Amanda Moscou

Member’s Shield

1st: Trailing Arbutis by Christie Davies
2nd: Orphan by Kathy Joy
3rd: Grandma finds a Stolen Spitfire by Anne Funnell

Highly Commended – A Knife Remembered by Iain Andrews


Science Fiction Workshop

On Tuesday 20th October we’re hosting an online workshop on writing science fiction. The workshop will be led by Ian Nettleton – award winning novelist and creative writing tutor for UEA and the National Centre for Writing. The workshop will be between 19:30 – 22:00.

The meeting will be held via Zoom. If you are interested please email us: norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk to register your interest and we will send you the Zoom link a few days before the event.

All you need to participate is access to Zoom, something to write with, and an open mind!


Free – NWC members (including Online Members)

£5 – Non-members


Payment can be made in two ways:


Send money directly to our bank account.

Sort code: 77-68-22
Account Number: 00010414
Name: Norwich Writers Circle

This can be done either via your e-banking, or you can visit a TSB branch and pay it into our account over the counter. Please email us when you have paid so we can check it has come through.


If you are from outside the UK, you might prefer to send payment via PayPal, in which case please send payment to:


Your receipt may confirm payment was made to Alan Rosser. This is our treasurer.


Writing Party

On October 6th, we were supposed to hold a critique evening, but due to new restrictions, we are unable to meet in person, and it would be tricky run a critique session over Zoom, so instead we’ve decided to throw a party… a Writing Party!

Our vice-chair Kathy will be putting together some fun writing exercises, challenges, and prompts to help jump-start your creativity.

All you need to participate is something to write with, a little creativity, and access to Zoom.

The meeting will be free to both members and guests. Our hope is to all come together and have a good time from the safety of our own home. Join us, bring your own nibbles and drinks, and have some fun!

The Facebook event page can be found here:


The Zoom link for the meeting is:


Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Ivy Ferrari Cup 2020

Due to COVID-19 the group has had to adapt to a lot, but this didn’t stop us from kicking off our new season off in style on Zoom!

Sarah Passingham joined us and officially set the Ivy Ferarri competition, and also offered help and advice on what she is looking for in a winning entry.

If you weren’t able to make the meeting, don’t worry, you can watch the recording of the meeting:


COVID-19 Update

Due to recent government guidelines, we are not able to meet at The Chantry as previously planned. However, this doesn’t mean we are cancelling our meetings. Instead, they will be held online via Zoom.

Full details of our first meeting can be found on our Facebook event page:


This meeting, where Sarah Passingham sets the brief for the Ivy Ferrari Cup competition, will be free to both members and guests. Zoom link:



Upcoming Online Workshop

To help you tune up any work you’ve managed to get done over the summer, we’re hosting a self-editing workshop. The workshop will be free and will be held via Zoom.

Kathy of Fine Tune Your Fiction – a critique and editing service – will be leading the workshop and using her years of experience to guide people on how to spot mistakes and how to fix them.

For this workshop, it is recommended that you bring 4-5 double spaced pages of a current work-in-progress. These pages can either be printed or worked on via word processing software.

The workshop is completely free and suitable for most ages and skill levels. So whether you’re a seasoned vet, or just starting out in the writing world, learn some tricks and tips to fine tune your writing.

The workshop will be held on Saturday 22nd August between 14:00 – 16:00.

Join the Zoom Meeting
Norwich Writers' Circle

Writing for Children Online Workshop

Yesterday evening we ran a free online workshop on writing for children. The workshop was put together by Amanda Addison, author of Boundless Sky. Over 140 people registered their interest to attend this event.

This event was originally part of our programme of in-person meetings at Chantry Hall, but with COVID-19 and lockdown, we had to cancel all of our in-person meetings. We wanted to offer something for people to do during lock down, so we decided to offer it online. While we do miss our little get togethers at Chantry Hall, it was wonderful to meet so many new faces from all over the world.

The workshop was broken down into a series of videos. Each video was posted at a specific time. Together, we worked through the exercises, all from the comfort of our own home.

It was wonderful to see so many amazing ideas for children’s stories! We hope you will continue to work on them.

If you missed the workshop, we’ll be keeping the videos up until the end of the week, so you have time to go through them and take part in the workshop.


After, we’re looking into uploading them to YouTube so they can be taken any time.

We’d like to thank everyone who took part and made the event as fun as it was. We’d also like to thank Amanda for collaborating with us to produce the workshop.

We may be considering running more workshops throughout the summer. To stay updated, be sure to follow our blog, and also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Olga Sinclair Virtual Launch

Normally, we would host our launch gala in Chantry Hall, serving drinks and nibbles, however, due to COVID-19, we were unable to do so. Most of our meetings for the season had to be cancelled, but we still wanted to run the gala. So, we got creative and ran a virtual launch instead.

For those who were unable to attend, here is what you missed.

Iain, our Chairman, opened with a brilliantly edited introduction:

Next, we were treated to what Keiron Pim, the adjudicator for the main competition, was looking for in a winning entry:

Next, Amanda Addison, adjudicator for the Members’ Shield Challenge, shared what she was looking for in a winning entry: 

Finally, Kathy, our Vice Chair, offered a series of tips, advice, and exercises in regards to interpreting and exploring our theme of ‘news’.

Overall the night was a success and it was wonderful we still got to engage with entrants and share lots of useful tips and advice.

If anyone still have any questions, feel free to email us: norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

Any questions posted on the Q&A thread should be answered and posted on the website within a week.






Everything is better with free cake!

Last night we held our very first free-writing event where we offered a distraction free environment for members and guests alike to get some writing done. This was aided by complimentary cupcakes which were kindly provided by our Vice-chair Kathy, and tea and coffee.


We had a fantastic turn-out, and even had 3 guests join us.

The goal was to bring work in – whether it was a short story, a novel, or some editing – and make use of the time to get work done. We understand it can be difficult to find time to write. Even at home, it can be all too easy to be distracted by other things that need doing – laundry that needs doing, dishes sitting by the sink, windows that need washing.


Everyone who attended was productive, managing to get work done. Whether it was editing a few more chapters, figuring out the plot, or writing from one of our prompts. Given the success, we’ll definitely look into doing it more often. Watch this space.


Results of the Past Search for Non-Fiction 2019

We’re pleased to announce the winners of the Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction, kindly sponsored by Gill Blanchard of Past Search.


  • 1st Helen Murray with Jane Sellars
  • 2nd Cathy Rushworth with The Wretched Life of Thomas Vaughn
  • 3rd Iain Andrews with An account of Amelia Lightharness

Runners Up

  • Anne Funnell with How a Case of Mistaken Identity changed the law
  • Alex Sykes with The Vitriolic Weaver
  • Phyllida Scrivens with The Hanging of Hubbard Lingley in Norwich


Well done! Special thanks to Stephen Carver for his excellent adjudication and his generous offer to feature all entries on his blog.


Poetry Workshop with Andrew McDonnell

On Tuesday 21st we had the pleasure of welcoming Andrew McDonnell, author of The Somnambulist Cookbook – a collection of poetry.

Andrew treated us to readings of several poems, including some hair raising horror sonnets.

Andrew explained that a big inspiration behind the collection was a sense of vanishing, of something being missing.


Then,  Andrew led us through some interesting exercises that called for us to imagine ourselves at a train station and imagine or remember things our senses picked up on.

Even those who were less than confident poets found themselves able to construct something from this exercise.

When asked about where poetry end and prose begins, Andrew commented that the two bleed into each other. There is no end or beginning.  Poetry is about capturing something without naming it, of saying something without really saying it. Understanding this can be beneficial to prose and in fact there is some prose which is more like poetry and vice-versa.

We would like to thank Andrew for a thought-provoking and informative workshop session. We’d also like to thank attendees for engaging with the workshop and offering Andrew a warm NWC welcome.

Our next meeting is Tuesday 4th February and will be a critique evening. Bring 6 double spaced hard copies of up 1000 words maximum of a work in progress. We will work in small groups and take it in turns to have our work critiqued constructively.

Alternatively you can use these sessions to bounce ideas around, or if you’re stuck on an aspect of your story, ask for second opinions, or even ask for feedback of a blurb. Complimentary light refreshments will be served.


Self-publishing panel

By popular request from our members, on Tuesday 5th November, we held a panel on self-publishing. Our panellists were:

  • Brenda Gostling, Marketing Consultant and author & publisher of children’s book Sister Poppy at the Front.
  • Stuart Walton, copywriter, publisher and web designer from GetProCopy Ltd.
  • Kathy Joy, from Fine Tune Your Fiction critique service and author and publisher of Last One to the Bridge and Shop of Liars, and is currently self-publishing a horror book series.


Our experienced panellists gave some essential advice to anyone thinking of self-publishing. Here is a summary of some of that advice.

Should you self-publish?

Self-publishing is an equally valid option to traditional publishing. Both come with their own pros and cons. The important thing is to go with the option that best suits you and your current project.

Self-publishing comes with many benefits. You can set your own schedule. You keep all the profits instead of getting only 10-20%. It also offers you more control. You have the final say in the cover, the editing, how you market your work etc. However, all the control also means all the work. You will be responsible for finding a cover artist and an editor, you’ll be responsible for making sure you book comes out on time, picking a release date, advertising the book, and running promotions. While you do make more profit, you’ll also be the one footing the bill for the cover, editing, and advertising and promotion.

These days when you traditionally publish, you’ll still be responsible for promoting your work, especially on social media. Unless you’re one of the publisher’s big-name authors, you won’t get much help. The only difference is a traditional publisher often has more connections with booksellers, newspapers and so on. However, it’s not impossible to make these connections yourself.

Should you have a website or a social media account?

All three panellists unanimously agreed that an online presence is essential. You need a way to get the word out about your book. You could spend hundreds, perhaps even thousands on ads in the paper, or billboards, but it is so much easier and cheaper to reach people across the globe online.

One attendee asked that if they decided not to open a social media account or website, where could they sell their books.

“Exactly,” Brenda said. “Where would you showcase them? You wouldn’t have a platform to advertise them.”

“Even if you want them in bookshops, you often need to have sales figures, and if you’re not selling, book shops won’t take your books, and those that do often take a huge cut – to the point where it actually costs you money,” Kathy added.

Stuart added that it is easy and cheap to set up websites.


As a minimum, our panellists agreed that every author should have a website. Kathy suggested that authors should also as a minimum have a Twitter and Facebook page too.

“Facebook is most there for information, to give specific updates like release day, give-aways, and book launch events. Twitter, however, is great for networking. You can use it to engage with people, make connections, which in turn might lead to more connections. Hashtags are especially useful if you can get the hang of them,” Kathy said.

You can clearly see what hashtags are trending every day. If you can ‘piggy-back’ off them, it can be a great way to get your posts seen, but be sure it’s appropriate. For example, Kathy used a lot of trending Halloween Hashtags to advertise her book and her Halloween give-away. However, it might not be so appropriate to use Memorial Day Hashtags to advertise a horror book. Think carefully about any hashtags you use. If you’re not sure, search them to see how others are using them. Some useful common ones are:

  • #WritingCommunity
  • #AmWriting
  • #AmEditing
  • #WriterLife

If you ever want to check how effective hashtag is, use a website called Hashtigify.


Simply input a hashtag and it will tell you how popular a particular hashtag is, and will suggest other connected ones.

It does this in two ways. First, it will show you the hashtag and related ones together. The bigger the font, the more widely used a hashtag is.


In this example, ‘#writingcommunity’ was searched. As you can see, this hastag is quite small, and #amwriting is much more popular. You can also see other examples of hashtags you could use.

It also tells you how the hashtag has been performing:

hashtigify 2

Before using a hashtag, always check how effective it will be with Hashtigify.

In short, social media is a great, free way to spread the word about your book and you should have some online presence.

There are other platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn. Whether you use these will depend on what you are writing. LinkedIn is good for building connections but it requires a lot more work than Twitter of Facebook, however it can be worthwhile.

Stuart advised he’s gotten a lot of web design jobs from LinkedIn.

Should you do all the work yourself or hire a professional?

As already mentioned, if you self-publish, you have organise everything. Should you design your own cover, do your own editing and proofreading and marketing? Brenda Gosling commented that it depends on your skill. If you’re good at designing things, do everything you can. Otherwise, hire a professional.

However, Kathy warned that you should never skip getting a professional edit. No matter how good you are, you will always miss errors in your work. You’re too close to your work. You should always hire and editors and if possible a proofreaders. You only get one first impression. If you release a book riddled with typos and poor sentence structure, chances are nobody will want to read any future books you publish.

Both Brenda and Stuart reminded everyone that your book is a product. It might be a creative endeavour, but at the end of the day, you want people to buy it. The only way to get people to buy it is to treat it as a product. If you know exactly what product you are selling, you’ll know how to sell it to people.

Brenda, however, cautioned that you should always be confident. If an editor suggests a change that you really disagree with, be brave enough to push back. Kathy added that when looking for an editor, or cover designer, or anyone else who might help you with the process, shop around. Look for somebody who is right for you. Not all editors are the same. You want to be sure the two of you are on the same page. Ask for testimonials and examples of past work so you can get an idea. Don’t go with somebody who can’t offer either. If they have an option the edit a small sample of your work as a sample, always go for it. Never go with the first editor you find, or even the cheapest, but don’t go with the most expensive either. Money is not always an indicator of quality. Even if you find an editor you love, keep looking. You wouldn’t but the first house you saw. You’d keep looking to find the one that was right for you. The same is true of an editor or a cover designer.

Kathy went on the share an experience she had when looking for a cover designer for her upcoming horror series: “I reached out to a lot of cover designers and they sent me their portfolios. I had narrowed it down to three who I liked, but I chose my cover designer because they suggested something which I had in mind but hadn’t actually mentioned. I gave all the designers the same brief of what I was looking for. I knew then that we were on the same page and had the same vision for the cover. I chose them over the other two who were just as good.”

Where do you find editors and cover artists?

Kathy detailed where she looked for cover designers. First she did a Google search. She also joined several Facebook groups.

“I got the best results on social media. I was able to interact quickly with prospective cover artists. There was one group in particular that I would recommend is Book Design Cover Marketplace. It is a community where authors and designers can connect with one another. Writers can post jobs where they specify what genre their book is, what their budget is, and what sort of style they are looking for, and designers respond, often sharing examples of their work, or links to their portfolio.”

There are lots of places you can find editors and designers online. You can also look locally. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. If you see a cover design that you like on somebody else’s book, ask them for the designer’s details.

When should you start marketing and promoting your work?


Kathy advised that you should start promoting your work as early as possible.

“If you leave it until release day, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” she warned.

You need to build hype, get people excited about your work so that come release day, they’ll buy a copy or better yet pre-order.

“Think about it this way: films aren’t just advertised the day they come out. They put out trailers and posters months before release – sometimes even a year in advance if the movie is big enough. The same is true of your book.”

Don’t be afraid to promote your book even as you’re writing it. You’ll need to enlist beta readers after all. Share details of characters, small excerpts, early versions of the blurb, and also don’t be afraid to share when you’re editing. Kathy has had great success sharing funny typos she’s found. Not only does it help people relate to her, but it shows she’s actively working to make her book the best it can be.

Most importantly, people need to see you had fun writing it. If you didn’t have fun writing it, it won’t be fun to read. Show people how much fun you’re having.

Kathy commented, “Every time I share some fun detail about the process or working on my book, I gain a trickle of followers. I’ve even had two offers for publicity. ”

Brenda added that when you make posts on social media, even to promote your work, try to make it personal – show some personality. People aren’t just buying you’re book – they’re buying into you.

Stuart added that you shouldn’t be afraid to put things other than writing on your author website. Add things that show some of your personality.

Kathy gave an example: “As a hobby, a friend of mine likes to learn ‘forgotten arts’ like book binding by hand, or paper making. She posts all her projects on her author website. This has led to people commissioning her to create hand bound notebooks for them, but it also gives her more personality. She’s a fantasy writer, and showcasing these hobbies sets her apart from the countless other fantasy writers out there.”

However, as with anything, you still need to be careful about what you post. You need to select specific elements of your life to share. Not everything is going to be appropriate. For example, it might be appropriate to share photos of a holiday or day trip you went on, but not pictures of your children. That said, it all depends on what you are writing. If you were writing a book on parenting, then that could be appropriate. Think carefully about what kinds of things you share on your author platforms. There are some things that work for any writer – such as sharing the occasional photo of a pet, or an inspirational photo, but some content might only be appropriate in specific circumstances.

“I’ve shared articles on my on-going writing process, but I also share funny stories I have from my days in retail,” Kathy explained. “I’ve also written a few articles on issues around customer service. I also plan to write articles on things like my top 5 horror movies, just for fun.”

These work for Kathy because although she is writing a horror series, they take place in locations like the local supermarket, and she combines the horror of working in retail with supernatural horror.

Remember, as our panellists have advised, your book is a product. Think about what your product is and who you’re selling it to. For example, if your book is a sci-fi novel, you know your readers enjoy sci-fi, but they might also things like comic con, Star Trek, and be interested in technology. In this case a blog post about your love of stargazing, or photos of you and your family cosplaying would be great additions to your blog, but pictures of your kids in the bath would not be quite so appropriate to your product.

Where can I self-publish my book?

Brenda explained that she produced the book herself. This is because she wanted a specific paper quality and for the book to have a specific format that online print on demand services just couldn’t give her.


If you are printing a book with an unusual format, this might be something to consider.

However, if you are thinking of publishing a book, be it a novel, novella, anthology, comic book, or graphic novel, there are free online services.

“I use KDP,” Kathy advised. “Both for the group anthologies and for my books. When we first started producing the anthologies, we used a service called Lulu but we had some problems with it and switched to KDP. It seems to have been a much smoother experience. Plus, KDP have a free piece of software called Kindle Create, which allows you to format your book ready for Amazon easily.”


There are other services like Smash Words or Scribd. Which one you use depends on which you prefer. Do your research. Check our each one and decide which is right for you. Amazon is the biggest and most well known, but it’s hardly the only option available.

“Just remember, you should never have to pay somebody to get published,” Kathy warned. “If somebody asks you to pay in order to get your work published, do not go with them. It’s a scam. They’ll take your money, and produce your book, but they won’t do anything with it.”

Remember, prints on demand services are free. The only time you have to pay is when you want to purchase author copies. You have to pay an editor, and a cover designer, but you should never pay to actually publish your book.

Useful Links:

Our panellists have provided a list of useful links to help. These are by no means an extensive list. Just things they have found helpful:

Cover Designers:



Allows you to make mock-ups for book covers or other merchandise. Simply upload your book cover and it will apply it to an number of different mock-ups that you can use to advertise your book.


Allows you design graphics for a variety formats including a book cover, social media posts, and bookmarks.

Other links:


This is an online learning community with thousands of courses, including on how to design book covers, social media, and marketing. It also has classes on creative writing, as well as courses on sewing, knitting, painting, and anything else creative that you can think of. Each class is broken down into small parts that you can easily fit into even the busiest schedule. Classes are taught be experienced individuals.


Results of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2019

The results of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition are as follows:


  • 1st Place – The Serenity of Still Water by Iain Andrews
  • 2nd Place – Cornelia by Joseph Hipgrave
  • 3rd Place – Panorama by Alexander Sparrow

Runners Up:

  • A Flash of White by Rebecca Burton
  • Anniversary by Louise Wilford
  • Cover-Up by Louise Goulding
  • Forgiveness by Lesley Bowen
  • Guising and Souling by Cathy Rushworth
  • Ten Thousand Hours of Love by Robert Kibble
  • These Damn Conspirators of Hell by Phillip Vine

Long listed:

  • Ruth Flanagan
  • Joseph Francis McCullough
  • Phillip Vine
  • Maureen Nisbet
  • Stephanie Makins
  • Colin Sheehan
  • Jonathan Sean Lyster
  • Phyllida Scrivens
  • Jacqueline Fowle
  • Jeni Lawes

Members Shield Challenge:

  • 1st place: The Serenity of Still Water by Iain Andrews
  • 2nd place: How to Become a Spook by Anne Funnell
  • 3rd place: Childhood Haunts by Jon Platten

Highly commended:

  • The Golden Thread by Rachel Wood
  • Boris and the Boy by Phyllida Scrivens

The Olga Sinclair Competition 2019 is closed!

That’s it. The deadline for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2019 has passed. The 2019 competition is over.

Thank you to everyone who entered. We received an astonishing number of entries this year.

The results will be announced at our prize giving gala on Tuesday 15th October 2019.

For those who cannot make the gala, the results will be announced online at 10:30pm BST on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to follow us in order to stay updated!

If you didn’t get an entry in this year, fret not. We host this competition every year. We’ll be announcing next year’s theme very soon!



Closed Until September…

With the AGM out of the way, we are closed for the summer. There will be no meetings until 17th September 2019. Our new programme will be posted very shortly.

We have lots of exciting things in store such as a self-publishing panel, a workshop on flash fiction, and will welcome authors like Ralph Jackman and Ian Nettleton. Keep watching our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.

If you are interested in becoming member, please feel free to make enquiries. You can even pay membership fees early to get it out of the way. We welcome writers of all genre and experience level.

In the mean time, we’d like to thank everyone, both members and guests, for joining us this season. You are what makes this group so special.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch:


If you’re interested in winning up to £400, there’s still time to enter the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2019. The deadline is 31st July 2019. Results will be announced in October, exact date to be confirmed on the new programme.


All’s well that ends well

Tuesday 2nd July was our AGM. It is the last meeting of the season. It was here that winners of our in-house competition were awarded their trophies for the year:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our Officers gave their reports.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The reports were positive and our group is continuing to grow!

Finally, there was some sad news. After four years, Phyllida Scrivens stepped down as Chairman. Phyllida has contributed a great deal to the group, infusing each meeting with her energy and verve, and given everything she has to ensure members are welcome and happy. We at the NWC will always appreciate everything she has done as Chairman.

She’ll be a tough act to follow, but we can think of nobody better for the task than Iain Andrews! Iain has been an outstanding member for many years and we have the utmost confidence that he will rise to every challenge.

There was a brief ‘passing of the torch’ between the former chair the the new. And by ‘torch’ we of course mean the gavel:


It’s been an amazing season. Thank you to all the members, guests, speakers, committee members and officers who make it all possible. This group wouldn’t be possible without you.

We look forward to starting a new season in September. The new programme will be posted soon. Keep an eye out for it. We hope to see everyone there, and would welcome any new members.

For details on membership, please go to our membership page which give you details of membership prices and benefits.

In the mean time, there is still time to enter to Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition.

Norwich Writers' Circle, Uncategorized

Final Manuscript Evening of the season

Tuesday 18th June was our final manuscript evening of the season. As such, we decided to go out with a bang.

As usual, we critiqued each other’s work. We had a wide variety from short stories, to horror novellas, to articles. The group’s constructive criticism skills have grown considerably over the season!

Finally we ended with some fun writing exercises. There was even time to read a few out.


Special thanks to Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service, for leading the meeting.

We’d also like to extend a huge thank you to the members and guests in attendance that night. Without your hard work and willingness to improve, we wouldn’t be able to host these evenings.


Upcoming Manuscript Evening

This Tuesday 18th of June will be our last manuscript evening of the season. With that in mind we wanted to perhaps try something new.

As the last manuscript evening wasn’t that long ago, we realise that people may not have anything to bring in so we are opening up this evening to either being an evening of writing exercises, or perhaps even a free writing session where you can bring work you are currently doing and write in the company of others.

What we do will depend on what people would prefer to do on the night. If the majority of attendees have work that needs to be critiqued, we’ll stick with the manuscript evening, but if more people would rather do some writing instead, we’ll do that!

In any case please remember to bring plenty of pens and paper as you will be needing them!

If you plan on bringing work to be critiqued, please bring six hard copies of no more than 1000 words, double spaced.

The meeting starts at 7:30 pm but we recommend you get there at about 7:15 pm to give you time to find a seat and get settled.

If you need parking, you can try Chapelfield or The Forum, or the theatre parking off Bethel Street, which charges only £2 after 5pm and is not far from Chantry House.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch:


Guests are more than welcome. The door fee will be £5 for guests, £3 for members and includes light refreshments and a raffle ticket.

We hope to see you there!

Member Successes, Uncategorized

Results of the Colin Sutton Cup for Humour 2019

On Tuesday 4th June Lynne Mortimer returned to the group to give her verdict on the Colin Sutton Cup for humour.

The results are as follows:

1st Place: Roses Are Red by Jon Platten

2nd Place: Father Brown by Iain Andrews

Joint Third Place: Unleash the Dogs of Brexit by Robin Parkinson

Joint Third Place: Toblerone anyone? by Cathy Rushworth

Highly Commended: Diversites by Barré Funnell


Left to right: Barré Funnell (Highly Commended), Robin Parkinson (Joint Third), Jon Platten (First place), Lynne Mortimer (Adjudicator), Iain Andrews (Second Place), Kate Le Cornu (Joint Third)

There were twelve entries and Lynne commented that each one had the potential for publication.

The NWC would like to thank Lynne Mortimer for her tremendous efforts in judging the entries.


Writing from life

On Tuesday 21st of May, we hosted a workshop on life writing given by Margaret K Johnson.


Margaret walked us through how go begin writing from life. First, she showed examples such as Toast by Nigel Slater.  We also looked at Shop Girl by Mary Portas.

Attendees were then tasked with coming up with 10 chapter titles similar to Mary Portas’ book, picking out what first came to mind in our past. Once we had done this, we each read them out.

Finally, we were tasked to make a start on one of those chapters. What significance did the item have? Did it have a story to it, or even several?


The group had a great time, and we were even able to read some of our work. It was interesting to hear what items had certain associations to different people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The NWC would like to thank Margaret for her engaging workshop. It’s certainly made both members and guests think different about memoir writing.


Olga Sinclair Launch Gala 2019

On Tuesday 16th of April we officially launched the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2019.

Guests were treated to gin tasting courtesy of Patrick and Sandra of Black Shuck Gin.

Then we kicked off the evening with Piers Warren, the main adjudicator for the competition, offering insights on what he’s looking for in a winning entry.

Advice from Piers Warren


Piers is the adjudicator for the main competition. He is the author of Black Shuck: The Devils Dog, but also a conservationist.

When it comes to his adjudication, he warns that all reading is objective. The stories he likes might not be what another judge would like. However, he offered some guidance by sharing the sorts of things he likes:

“Ideas for stories often start by wondering ‘what if…’ I like to be surprised and end up thinking ‘what on earth made them come up with that’.”

He then gave some general guidance on what exactly he is looking for:

  • I like to care about one or more characters in a plot. If everyone is unlikable, bland or has no depth of character, it’s easy to lose the will to read on.
  • I like to read on to know what’s going to happen next, without being tripped up by unnecessarily strange words or phrases, or ones out of context.
  • Make dialogue realistic. People tend not to talk in complete sentences or be very descriptive. Grunts, noises, single words are all fine if appropriate! Stephen King is very good at dialogue and I love his book of advice On Writing.
  • If it’s obvious who has said something you don’t need to pepper dialogue with he said, she said etc. But also, don’t get bogged down trying to find alternatives– ‘she exclaimed’ (and many other similar possibilities) grates after a while!
  • Don’t overdo adverbs. I prefer ‘slamming’ a door than ‘shutting it firmly’.
  • If written in the first person – is your protagonist male or female? Making it clear fairly early on can avoid an incorrect assumption which then throws the reader later on.
  • Set your scenes using details rather than descriptions. For example, rather than describing how the bar looks, give some detail of what the bartender is wearing. Tom Waits is particularly good at this when writing lyrics.

Piers went on to offer some solid advice when it comes to editing:

  • Plan, write the first draft, tweak, leave for a while, edit, get feedback from your first reader, tweak further then abandon! Editing is never truly finished.
  • Drown your babies/kill your darlings (favourite phrases or sections which do not help drive the story). Leaving a gap between drafts (a few weeks ideally) makes it easier to kill darlings/babies which by then feel more like someone else’s!
  • Editing is often better when removing words rather than adding.


Advice from Holly Ainley


Holly Ainley will be the adjudicator for the Members Shield challenge. This challenge is for members only. Members who have submitted to the main competition can choose one of the stories submitted to the main competition so it can be judged by Holly, giving them another chance to win.

Holly is the book buyer for Jarrolds, and so is used to being arms deep, selecting stories.

Holly first commented on the popularity of the ghosts in Norfolk folklore.

Many excellent non-fiction titles have been written on the subject, including Peter Tolhurst’s This Hollow Land. Plus ghost walks are a surprisingly popular form of entertainment in Norwich.

It’s not just non-fiction but fiction too, for example Shadows on the Fens, edited by Wayne Drew, the short stories of MR James (many set in Norfolk and Suffolk), Black Shuck by Piers Warren, Michelle Paver’s Wakenhyrst (Suffolk)

Why is it such a perfect setting? There is a wealth of legends and actual ghosts associated with the area, from that of Robert Kett hanging over Cathedral Close (now memorialised in CJ Sansom’s novel Tombland), to Black Shuck roaming the North Norfolk coast.

Holly suggests it may be because we have an abundance of churches, functioning and ruined, in the county. What comes with Churches? Graveyards. And with graveyards? Ghosts. We are surrounded by perfect spooky locations. She suggests reading Medieval Churches of the City of Norwich by Nicholas Groves and Landscape of Towers by Clive Dunn for inspiration.

Norfolk and Suffolk are also counties of beautiful old stately homes and mansions, with their own legends attached – take the headless spectre of Ann Boleyn riding through Blickling Hall. Big gothic mansions are full of ghosts and when located in remote areas, there is no-one to hear you scream.

Beyond buildings, there is the extraordinary coastline and rich geological history: it is a perfect setting for archaeological mysteries, for example the salty marshes in the North are the inspiration for Elly Griffiths’ crime fiction – a place that theoretically preserves bodies and bones would serve well for a ghost story.

Although stories do not have to be based in Norwich, or even in Norfolk, but you can find an abundance of inspiration here.

In terms of what she is looking for in a winning entry, Holly highlights the following:

  • I love setting and place and how this influences characters’ behaviour.
  • Short stories are a unique medium, perfectly suited to explore a moment, an episode, plunging the reader into a particular atmosphere.
  • I’m looking for stories that captivate me from the first line, opening a brief window onto a person or a place and their story.
  • Don’t be tempted to overwork your stories – resist the temptation to over-edit and trust when it feels like time to let go.

Advice on how to interpret the theme

Every year, we get entrants asking for guidance on how to interpret the theme – are we looking for it to be interpreted a specific way? The short answer is: no. You can interpret it any way you like.

This, of course, is not always helpful. Some people may be intimidated by the idea of writing to a theme and have no idea where to begin. Our suggestion is to start with the dictionary.

The Oxford dictionary online defines ‘spooks’ as follows:

  • A ghost or a spectre
  • A derogatory term for an African American in America in the 1940’s-50’s
  • A ghost writer

Already you can see the vastly different directions you could take this theme – from a ghost story or a story featuring some kind of supernatural entity, to a spy thriller or mystery, to a story that explores racism, or one that looks at the writing process. You could even write a story that combines several of these definitions.

So even if you’re not a fan of the supernatural, or much of a horror writer, you should still be able to find an angle to approach this theme that suits your style.

Digging deeper, ‘spooks’ can also mean to be haunted, or to be scared (is in, to be ‘spooked’). So you could write a story that explores fear, or being haunted, but again remember that the supernatural is not the only thing that can haunt a person, and people fear more than ghosts and ghouls.

For example, a story about a bride or groom getting cold feet on their wedding day could tie in just as well with the theme as a story about a person being terrorised by a ghost.

There’s no limit to genre either. It has to be fiction, of course, but you can explore the theme of ‘spooks’ through the lens of horror, sci-fi, romance, comedy, historical fiction, steam punk – anything goes.

In the past, entrants have interpreted our themes a number of ways with a wide range of genres. We highly recommend checking out our anthologies to see examples of how winning entries have interpreted past themes to give you an idea of how you might approach this year’s theme.

Finally, we’d like to make it clear that your stories do not have to be set in Norwich, or even Norfolk. You can set them anywhere you like, in any time period. It’s up to you. Nor do you have to write about spooky things in Norfolk. You’re welcome to if you like, but you’re not restricted.

Ultimately, your only limit when it comes to interpreting the theme is your own imagination. We’re excited to see all the different ways entrants will explore this theme.

If you’re still stuck for ideas, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where we’ve been posting at least two writing prompts every week ranging from image prompts, specific scenarios and even real life inspiration. Each of them has been specifically chosen because it can easily lead to a story that explores our theme. We will continue putting them up until a week before the deadline.

Even if you already have an idea or have already written your entry, it’s still worth checking them out because there’s no limit to how many entries you can submit.

We’ll be revealing the cover for this year’s anthology on our social media very soon, so if you want to see the cover of the book your entry may well be published in, it’s worth following us to be updated.

The entry fee is £8 per entry. There is no limit on the number of entries. International entries are welcome. The competition is open to all writers of all ages and skill levels. The deadline is midnight GMT July 31st 2019. There are cash prizes available for the top three winners.

Full details of our competition can be found here: https://norwichwriters.wordpress.com/olga-sinclair-open-short-story-2019/

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk

Here are more pictures of our wonderful evening:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Join us at the gala

This Tuesday 16th April is the official launch gala for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2019. Both our adjudicators Piers Warren and Holly Ainley will be there to talk about what they’re looking for in a winning entry. But that’s not all.

There will be free gin tasting courtesy of Black Shuck Gin, one of our supporters.

black shuck head & claws LOGO

The door fee will be £5 for non-members and £3 for members. This helps us pay for the room hire, but it gets you:

  • Free gin tasting.
  • Light buffet of finger food with both vegan and non-vegan options.
  • Drinks such as wine, as well as soft drinks, and tea and coffee.
  • The chance to chat to us and the adjudicators.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest news on the gala, go to the official event page. Also, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news, tips, and advice on the competition, as well as regular writing prompts to help get those creative juices flowing.

If you have have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk


Funny Bones at the Ready

Photo courtesy of Cameron McDonald of McDonald Images

Last evening we welcomed Lynne Mortimer, much-loved columnist with various newspapers in the Archant family.  For those of you who were unable to attend, you missed an amusing and inspirational talk from Lynne about her 25 years as a journalist.  Lynne gave us a comprehensive ‘heads-up’ for how to tackle the next competition for the much-coveted Colin Sutton Cup for Humour.  In view of the number of absentees I hope you will find this information useful and I encourage you to enter even if you were not there last evening.

Her first job was as a mature mum of 35, writing for the Evening Star in Ipswich.  During her children’s teenage years she wrote under a pseudonym to save their blushes!  Lynne spoke about the panic of working to strict deadlines and of having to come up with 1,000 words every week on a different topic.  She explained how her inspiration comes from her own life, the importance of writing the truth at the core of every column and how she scours newspapers for ideas when she is stuck!

Photo courtesy of Cameron McDonald of McDonald Images

In the past her stories have covered Waspi Women, weight-loss, public toilets, the Menopause (both female and male), the abuse of Parent & Child parking spaces, grammatical errors, energy saving light bulbs, her husband, grandchildren and her mother-in-law!  But never Brexit, religion, death, disability or mental illness. She certainly has her own “red lines” and always tries to keep her columns light-hearted and entertaining.

The Competition:

“Take one small frustrating life incident and expand it into a humorous article of 1,000-2,000 words.  It can draw upon similar frustrations or veer off somewhere else, but at the end of the piece it should return to the original incident, featuring a final pithy sentence or two.”

The deadline for entries is Tuesday 7th May, which is our next Manuscript/Critique evening.  If you are unable to attend please be sure to mail or email your entry to our Competitions Secretary Marian Pearson.  Details can be found at this link.


Good luck everyone!

On a different topic, your committee will be meeting next Tuesday to agree the arrangements and menu for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition Launch Night on Tuesday 16th April, when we will be offered gin tasters courtesy of sponsor Black Shuck Ltd of Fakenham, and meet our adjudicator Piers Warren, author of Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog.  Do bring your partners and friends to our party. £7 door fee for non-members includes light buffet with wine, teas and coffees.


A Talk to Go Down in History

On Tuesday 19th March we welcomed the award winning historical fiction writer Rory Clements to talk to use about his books, his writing process, and what led him to write historical fiction.


When asked whether he considers himself to be a historian or a novelist first, Rory commented:

“I’m definitely a novelist first. I’m no a historian. I didn’t go to university, I didn’t study history. But I’m very widely read – I read huge amounts of history and when I fix on a subject – say like the Babington plot, I’m probably one of the worlds experts for a few months on that subject and then I forget it all … But I do a lot of research, I do take it very seriously trying to get the historical background as close as I can to what I think it is.”

Clements explained that he had been inspired to write by his uncle, who ran away at a young age to become a sailor. He wrote many books about his adventures, which made Clements want to be an author.

He started out as a journalist, but soon moved on. During this time he read extensively, which helped him become the writer he is today.

Clements went on to talk more about historical fiction:

“Historical fiction vs history … I went to Oxford University to argue with a lot of historians who were sort of knocking down historical fiction. I think it has a real place in out life. I think we fill in the skeleton. History is a skeleton. There’s a lot missing from it … the fiction writer can fill that in and hopefully bring history to a lot more people in that way.”

After answering a variety of questions form the group, Clements has some excellent advice to offer anyone thinking of writing historical fiction:

What you’re trying to find first and foremost if you’re writing about a time long ago is you’ve got to find a voice …  you can’t write in  Elizabethan English you can’t write in Shakespearean English, because nobody would read it. They simply wouldn’t. Nor can you write in twentieth century English slang. You have to find something in the in-between… you don’t want it jarring to the reader.

The NWC would like to thank Rory Clements for his frank and open advice and intriguing stories. We’d also like to thank everyone who attended and had plenty of questions to ask.


Kick off time!

On Tuesday 5th March, we welcome award winning children’s author Mitch Johnson.


After overcoming a few technical problems, Mitch detailed his inspiration for Kick, and the process writing it. Kick went through many iterations and versions.



Mitch then discussed his experience working with his agent, and then the publisher, and regaled us with information on his upcoming projects, as well as projects he hoped to work on in the future.

We’d like to thank Mitch for giving such an engaging and informative talk. We’d also like to thank our members and guests for giving Mitch such a warm welcome.

Our next meeting is Tues 19th of March where we welcome Sunday Times Best Selling author RORY CLEMENTS, creator of eight John Shakespeare thrillers set in Tudor England and two novels set in WWII featuring Professor Tom Wilde.

Entry fee is £7 for guests and £3 for members.

We hope to see you there!


Results of the Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction competition

Members and guests of Norwich Writers’ Circle were delighted to welcome back Gareth Davies, proprietor of Poppyland Publishing, to adjudicate the entries for the Past Search Prize for Non-Fiction.

Gareth said that he was fascinated by all three entries, proposals or early drafts for a 5,000 word pamphlet exploring a historical event in East Anglia.  The entries were:

  • The Great Flood of August 1912 by Paul Taylor
  • The Yellow Caravan by Juliet Webster
  • The Martyrdom of Thomas Bilney by Iain Andrews
  • The Sawmill in the Park by Barré Funnell
  • Of Those in Peril on the Seas – the story of inventor Captain Manby

Gareth expressed his views on each of the entries before announcing the winners. Joint second were Paul Taylor and Iain Andrews.

First prize went to Juliet Webster with her story of three North Norfolk sisters in 1912, who set off on an adventure to tour the county in a horse drawn caravan.  Drawing on original family source material, Juliet has spun a charming tale of endeavour and innocence, only two years before the world will be shattered by war.  Juliet will now work closely with Gareth to produce a Poppyland pamphlet.

Competitions Secretary Marian Pearson thanked Gareth for this hard work in judging the entries and the evening finished with light refreshments.


Self-editing Workshop

On Tuesday 5th February Kathy, owner of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service, ran a workshop on self-editing.

The workshop focused on editing content rather than spelling and grammar. The areas we focused on were:

  • Show vs Tell
  • Tightening Point of View
  • Tightening the Narrative

Kathy went through each area:

‘Show’ vs ‘Tell’

‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’

– Chekov

What is the difference between showing and telling?

Telling does what it says on the tin – it tells the reader something, usually in a purely descriptive manner with no emotional attachment. Showing, on the other hand, is a more immersive experience for the reader, allowing them to feel and sense what is going on.

It might help to think of showing as firsthand experience, and telling as second hand experience, at least as far as your reader is concerned.

When should you ‘show’ and when should you ‘tell’?

Telling engages the readers intellect. It is useful when you want the reader to take in information to carry with them through the story.

Conversely, ‘showing’ engages a readers imagination and emotion. It helps them feel what is happening first hand. Any time you want the reader to have an emotional connection to what is happening, you need to show.

‘By this I don’t just mean making the reader feel happy and sad at the appropriate time. Of course you do, but there are other ways this applies.’

– Kathy

Kathy went on to discuss effective characterisation:

‘Your reader has to get to know your characters. The only way to do this is to show them. It’s not enough to tell them “John was shy”. Show them what shyness looks like for John, allow them to experience him. This is something that will take time to build and you can only achieve it through consistent showing.’

Then we moved onto showing atmosphere.

‘It’s not enough to write something like “She ran into the creepy house and was scared”. It doesn’t give the reader anything to go off of. You need to show what it is that makes this house so creepy, and also how this character reacts when scared’

– Kathy

Kathy then explained ways to identify ‘telling’ sentences:

  1. Look out for adjectives. Adjectives are nearly always telling.
  2. Looking out for emotional qualifiers i.e. ‘She said angrily’. If you’ve shown your scene well enough, you won’t need it.
  3. Describing sensory experiences i.e. ‘John smelled freshly baked bread’. This is not a first hand experience for the reader – instead let the reader smell the bread too.

Then it was time for the first exercise or the workshop. Attendees were tasked with going through their extracts and underlining any instances of ‘telling’. Then they were challenged to re-write them to show everything they ‘told’ instead.

Tightening Point of View

‘Whenever you write a story, you are telling it from somebody’s perspective … How we perceive things is very personal. We all see, experience, and describe things very differently. You have to take this into account when you are writing.’

– Kathy

Kathy then explained three things that affect how writers describe a scene:

  1. Is this how the perspective character would describe them? What is their frame of reference?
  2. Is this what the perspective character would focus on?
  3. How does their mood affect how they describe things?

‘These things overlap. You need to scrutinise every word you use and everything you choose to describe. Ask yourself – is this what the perspective character would focus on? Is this how they would describe it? Does it match their frame of reference? A sixteen year old girl and a ninety year old man are unlikely to focus on and describe things the same way. On top of all that you have to consider their mood. We describe things differently and focus on different things when we’re angry, or sad, or happy.’

– Kathy

Participants were then given their second exercise: go through the ‘showing’ passages again and scrutinise every word, asking those three questions.

Tightening the Narrative

This is sometimes referred to as ‘proportioning’.

‘It’s all about removing the extraneous details … sometimes you show things you don’t need to, or repeat yourself’

– Kathy

Are you showing in detail how a character opens a door? Readers know how doors work – you can simply write ‘He walked through the door’ or ‘He left the room’ and the reader can fill in the step in between.

‘I once read work where the writer described their character getting dressed – how they put on their socks and then underwear, then their jeans and shirt and so on. This was completely unnecessary. When a reader gets to descriptions of clothes, they’re probably going to figure they’re wearing underwear, assuming they care at all. Most likely, they don’t.’

– Kathy

Kathy also explained that it applies to other areas such as:

  • Using dialogue tags that are obvious i.e. “Where are we going?” she asked. We know from context that this is a question, so you do not need to tell the reader again.
  • Repeating yourself when creating similes and metaphors. Example: ‘It was as dark as the deepest ocean, a darkness so thick it enveloped everything.’ The second line is basically exactly the same as the first, just with different words. They’re describing that deep, dark ocean again. If you want to build on your simile/metaphor to create a more vivid mental image, try focusing on a different aspect such as ‘It was as dark as the deepest ocean, and silent as a tomb’.

The final exercise of the evening was to read through the showing lines a third time and check for redundancies and repetition.

Kathy finished by offering some general tips for catching mistakes:

  • Read your work aloud. Sentences that are hard to say are often hard to read.
  • Try reading aloud passages how you want the reader to process them – if you have fast paced passages, try reading them quickly. The same goes for slower ones, or passages that fluctuate between the two. If you can’t do it, chances are your reader can’t either and you may need to edit some sentences further.
  • Try reading lines of dialogue how your characters are saying them – if they’re shouting, or laughing etc. If you can’t, then your character can’t either. 
  • Use text-to-voice software. Even when you read out loud, you still risk missing mistakes because you know what the words should be. Text-to-voice software will read everything exactly as you wrote it. You can therefore listen out for incorrect words that both you and your spellcheck missed. Frees ones include:

If you own a Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle 

Online: https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/

  • If you’re struggling with a ‘showing’ scene, try listening to appropriate music while you write. For example, if you’re working on a sad scene, listen to sad music, if you’re writing a battle scene, try fast paced or ‘angry’ music (such as death metal, or Ride of the Valkyries). It will help put you in the right mindset to think of appropriate language. If you’re easily distracted, try music without lyrics. You can listen to these for free on services like YouTube or Spotify.
  • Do you often forget to consistently take into account the setting/environment of your scene? Try playing some appropriate ambient sound effect tracks to help you immerse yourself . You can access anything from forest sounds, to ocean waves, rain on a car roof, to city sounds, and even space ship noises – all for free on YouTube. Play them as you write the scene. A channel which provides a lot of different ones is called ‘Relaxing White Noise‘. You can also find plenty more simply by searching for the sounds you want such as ‘haunted house sounds‘ or ‘crickets‘.

Word clouds can also be useful to check the overall balance of characters and themes. There are plenty of free generators too. They work by scattering words into an image/shape, with the most commonly used word at the centre in the biggest font. With this in mind, you want major characters, themes, and possibly settings to be the largest text. If they aren’t, you may need to look at the manuscript again.

‘It’s not totally foolproof … but it can be useful to see at a glance what words crop up the most. It is especially useful if you are juggling a multitude of characters. You want the biggest name to be your protagonist, but if a secondary or background character is the most prominent, you may need to cut back some of their scenes, or show more major characters more prominently. The same can go for important themes or settings.’

– Kathy

The NWC would like to thank Kathy for guiding us through the editing process. Everyone seems to have benefited from it.

If anyone is interested in hiring Kathy to critique their work, you can visit her website: www.finetuneyourfiction.com or email her on kathy@finetuneyourfiction.com. Kathy has offered to give NWC members a 15% discount.

Lastly, we’d like to thank our members and guests for coming and actively participating in the workshop. It went far better than we ever could have imagined. We hope you enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing you at out next meeting.

Norwich Writers' Circle, Uncategorized

Prepare to self-edit!

person woman desk laptop

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday the 5th of February at 19:30 at Chantry Hall, Norwich. We are to welcome back Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service, this time to run a workshop on self editing.

Rather than focusing on grammar and spelling, etc Kathy will run through how to edit the content of your story and look critically at establishing a strong point of view, character development, plot, showing versus telling and so on.

In order to participate, please bring a 1500-2000 word excerpt from a current work in progress (fiction only). Ideally you should bring a hard copy, double space, but you are welcome to work from a laptop or tablet, though please be advised there are limited plug sockets.

It would also help to bring some paper or a notebook,and plenty of pens and pencils so you can make notes.

business college composition desk


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us:


We hope to see you there.


Member Successes, Uncategorized

Unexpected coincidence, luck and fate

On Tuesday 15th January 2019, in place of the advertised speaker, Chairman Phyllida Scrivens and author of Escaping Hitler (Pen and Sword 2016) and The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich (Pen and Sword 2018), gave the Circle the very first showing of her new illustrated talk called: ‘When the Past collides with the Present – Remarkable true stories of unexpected coincidence, luck and fate when researching biography.’


Members were transported back to 1930s Norwich, 1940s Gloucestershire and Suffolk, 1950s Harwich and to various locations in Nazi Germany.  Members were invited to give constructive criticism and ideas of how to improve this presentation, which makes it debut at The Out and About Club in Norwich on Wednesday 23rd January.

The meeting concluded with light refreshments and a raffle.


Prepare Yourself.

Our first manuscript evening of the season is on the 6th November. It will be led by Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service.

This time, we’re going to try something different.

As usual, you can bring along six double spaced printed excerpts of no more than 1000-1500 words of a current or past project, be it poetry, prose, screen play, non-fiction, or a blog/journal article.

However, if you don’t have anything ready to be critiqued, we have some other options.  Do you have a blurb you’d like to get some feedback on? Or a book cover? Or both? Bring 6-8 copies, double spaced, to the meeting and work in small groups and get constructive feedback.

Are you stuck somewhere in your current project and need to bat ideas around? Do you have questions like:

“My character needs to find a piece of evidence but I can’t think of a believable way to do it.”

“I can’t decide between these titles. Which do you think works best?”

“If my protagonist does this, would they still be likeable?”

“Should I write this in third or first person?”

“I need to find a title for my work/can’t decide between these titles.”

You can ask your fellow writers in the group and bat ideas around and see if they can’t help you fill in some gaps or overcome hurdles you are experiencing. Bring excerpts of your work to give context, six copies, double space, but not more than 1500 words.

We hope to see you there!


Winners of the 2018 Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition

First, our adjudicators have their thoughts on the entries.

Alison Bruce, had this to say:

Then Linsay White offered these thoughts:


Without further delay, we are pleased to announce the results of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2018!

Main Competition:


1st Place: Guernica by Sue Ryder Richardson

Adjudicator’s Comment:I love the way that you chose to tell Ana’s story through her grandchildren’s eyes and this multigenerational approach brings the past very much into the present. This could have become expositional and rather dull but, instead, you make it vivid and relevant to the reader. The writing is excellent. In this particular competition there really was nothing to choose between first and second place but, your final sentence, which was both vivid and haunting, stayed with me and secured the win.

Overall, an engaging and powerful story demonstrating excellent writing.

2nd Place: Scarlett Johannson Is The Anti-Christ! by Louise Wilford

Adjudicator’s Comment: I loved this story. It makes excellent use of the market theme and the descriptions of produce are vivid and build both the tension and interest in the character. There’s a real sense of undercurrent and the story has an effective and punchy resolution. You use dialogue well and Lucy was well developed and believable.

Overall, excellent writing, a polished and a very memorable read.

3rd Place: Circle Of Life by Rhona Godfrey

Adjudicator’s Comment: I was drawn to this story for its strong market theme, its warmth and the dynamic that forms between the two characters. The last sentence really added to its impact too. The formatting was distracting and, although it wasn’t marked down for this, other competitions might penalise which would be a shame. You have double spaced but don’t put an extra line between paragraphs and you should indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. The most important change you need to make to your formatting is to make sure that there is a new paragraph each time someone speaks. But, otherwise, it was a very enjoyable story.

Overall, a warm and engaging story with strong reader appeal.


Runners Up:


El Rastro by April McIntyre

Adjudicator’s Comment: Lovely sense of place. The atmosphere is built gently and the story is well paced, it is quite mellow and more about characters and the moment than about plot and, because of this, it felt as though it would have been a chapter or section of a longer piece – that isn’t a criticism at all, and I would have been interested to read more. You use local words and you have achieved the balance of using enough to add flavour but not too many so that it becomes a distraction. Pay attention to proof reading, e.g. ceramists should be ceramist’s and ‘A pale, marginally overweight woman in her twenties only months before…’ only months before relates to her being in her twenties rather than being overweight.

Overall, written with a strong voice and to a high standard.

Fading Times by Kathy Joy

Adjudicator’s Comment: Fading Times takes some of the familiar elements of the market and weaves them into a story which is both charming and imaginative. I enjoyed the way the tension rose and was completely invested in Iris. The story provokes thought about the challenges that markets face in current times and this is neatly reflected in Iris’s situation. Try to avoid clichés e.g. ‘knife to the throat’, ‘biting the bullet’ and ‘bigger and better’ because finding new ways of saying these things will extend your writing.

Overall, a strongly themed and original story.

The Pale Child by Iain Andrews

 Adjudicator’s Comment: You set the scene well through the use of dialogue and traditional trades which allowed the reader to place the story, timewise at least, with gothic / Victorian undertones. You have made good use of the market theme and the eeriness that is present around a deserted market at night time. The story has the feel of traditional folklore or campfire storytelling and this is a perfect choice. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first line in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, strong imagery and an enjoyable read.

The Coat by Bonnabelle Leftwich

 Adjudicator’s Comment: This story shows the relationship between mother and daughter and its effectiveness lies in experiencing the insight that the daughter, Lucy, is suddenly given. The mother’s memories build to make her a relatable character. The opening paragraph didn’t engage me, it felt as though you had tried too hard to make it stand out, but once the story moves on you settle into a more natural and fluent style. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first line in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, a warm story with a well thought out plot.

The Night Market by Peter Loftus

Adjudicator’s Comment: You set the scene well and the narrator has an engaging voice but the strength of this story is its plot; it kept me reading and you built a sense of anticipation. The final twist was unexpected and clever. The downsides were minor. I would have liked a little more foreshadowing. You also could have picked a more interesting title; quite a few entries were variations on The Market and ones with more intriguing titles were immediately more appealing. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, a dark story which stayed with me long after I’d finished reading.

Traders by Mary Outram

Adjudicator’s Comment: This story immediately reminded me of a classic espionage thriller and you effectively built an atmosphere of mistrust and intrigue. Your writing shows a clear affinity with your genre. I think you could expand some of the scenes and descriptions and develop this into a longer piece.

Overall, a fast paced read from a writer with a good eye for detail.

The Trans Sahara Highway by Claire Wood

Adjudicator’s Comment: The way you link the two locations takes the reader smoothly from a British market, which is probably more familiar to most, to an African one. The comparisons are elegantly drawn and the story achieves poignancy and positivity. When I reached the end I wanted to read on. The major criticism is the story’s low word count and, for this reason alone, it almost missed being shortlisted. In general, for a short- story competition of up to 2000 words it is wise to be as close as you can to that limit without going over; 1800-2000 is ideal, however I shortlisted this for the strength of the writing and the beautiful sense of place. A small point with the formatting; please indent the first line of every paragraph apart from the first in each section. This makes it much easier to read, especially as typescripts are usually presented in this way.

Overall, sharply drawn with a strong sense of place.



1st Place: The Market by Phillip Vine

Adjudicator’s Comment: This enigmatic story hooked me straightaway. I loved the dark humour and the Kafkaesque atmosphere. Very well paced, and lovely rhythmic touches in the sentence structure. Of all the entries, this had the strongest sense of voice. The open ending won’t be to everyone’s taste, and the last lines could have more impact. But the quirky concept and the confidence of your prose won me over. Congratulations!

2nd Place: Swipe Left by Kathy Joy

Adjudicator’s Comment: There’s a grizzly twist to this dark but gripping tale. Of all the entries this made cleverest use of the theme. The plot kept me guessing. Perhaps it’s a bit far-fetched (could she really spot predators so easily?). Also the flashbacks were sometimes confusing (try using pluperfect tense when you first go back in time). But the story stuck with me long after reading it, and the last line is wonderfully macabre! Well done.

3rd Place: Mr Dickens And The Bakewell Pudding by Phyllida Scrivens

Adjudicator’s Comment: What a quirky idea! Gorgeous food descriptions made me feel very hungry while reading this. Little details leapt off the page and really came to life. I loved the characters and believed in your world. But structurally it needs development. I’d definitely lose the footnote. Root us more firmly in Ann’s POV: she’s the heart of the story. But overall a joy to read, and it stuck in my memory too. Well done!



The Pale Child by Iain Andrews

Adjudicator’s Comment: There’s some really fine writing here. We open with a hook, and the voice feels convincing. I love the premise and period atmosphere. But structurally it’s not quite ‘there’ yet, and overall I didn’t feel it was tense (or scary) enough. Rather a lot of dialogue and too little action – let us see the pale child for ourselves before we hear his story. But this dark little tale showed lots of promise and stuck with me after reading.

The prize giving ceremony can be viewed here:


Congratulations to the winners! Your stories will all be featured in our anthology. We aim to publish this by December, however, we are all volunteers with out own time restrictions and responsibilities. We will make every effort to release the anthology as soon as we can. Updates will be posted Facebook and Twitter.

If you didn’t win this year, don’t worry. You’ll get another chance at next year’s competition. Theme and adjudicator tbc – keep your eyes on our page and social media for updates.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Jumpin’ Jack Flash


Our first meeting of new season kicked off in style with our speaker Keiron Pim, where he discussed how got started in his career, from starting out working for the EDP, to how he came to write a book about dinosaurs, to finally getting to work on his life’s obsession.

At the end, he graciously read from his book.

The NWC would like to thank Keiron for such an extensive and intriguing talk.

Thank you to everyone who came to the meeting.