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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

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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

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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:

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Funny Bones at the Ready

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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!

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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.

https://norwichwriters.wordpress.com/competitions/guidelines/

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.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Don’t Be A Stranger To Your Voice

It’s official!  On Tuesday 18th April, we officially launched this year’s Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition.  We were joined by Ralph Jackman, our adjudicator, Frank Meeres, author of Strangers: A history of Norwich’s incomers, and Charles Wilde, marketing and development manager for Norfolk Museums Service, who have kindly agreed to assist us with the competition this year.

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First, Frank Meeres gave a fascinating talk on some of the mysterious and intriguing ‘incomers’ into Norwich.

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Then it was up to our adjudicator to offer advice to prospective entrants:

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“I’m afraid, that if you have come today to glean what it is that the adjudicator will be looking for, or what kind of writing I like, then I’m afraid I’m not going to be very helpful.  Because the answer is I like such a wide range of writing, just as I do with music … When something’s good, it’s good.  It stands out.  It captures the reader.  It lingers in the memory afterwards.  So I encourage everyone, whatever their style, to give it their best, no one can ask more, but also to have the courage to submit.”

– Ralph Jackman

Ralph went on to detail his take on the theme, what sorts of images or ideas it conjured for him:

“A brief google of ‘stranger’ led me to the following: A person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar; A person who does not know, or is not known in a particular place or community; A person entirely unaccustomed to a feeling experience of situation.  What a broad palette this allows us … The first thing that crossed my mind, is how we were all strangers once, even to those who love us the most, not just our partners,  but our mums and dads, our brothers and sisters, our best friends.

How do we move from stranger, to dear friend?  Is there something there, to be explored?

Then in the news, Prince Harry spoke of the need to speak about his grief “even to a total stranger” and I thought, what is it about strangers, that we can open up to them? Why is it, that we can share with them our deepest secrets or worst pain?

What other opportunities does meeting a stranger bring? A chance to start again? A chance to pretend, to assume a different persona.

People deliberately move, uproot their entire lives, in order to become a stranger, as a means to start again, to protect themselves from painful memories, or distance themselves from sins of the past.

So being a stranger can, on the one hand, feel lonely, isolated, even frightening.  But on the other hand, it can be desired, wanted, liberating.  Celebrities might seek to be a stranger, to escape the recognition, and they haven’t necessarily sinned … Then I thought how interesting it is, that even in the modern world, with the internet, mobile phones and the like, it’s still possible to be a stranger.  The mask of the internet allows people to hide who they really are.”

– Ralph Jackman

So in short, there is no secret formula that will pique the adjudicator’s interest.  The best way to set yourself above other entrants is to write the story you want to tell and tell it well.  The theme of ‘strangers’ allows for a variety of different interpretations and there are countless ways to explore it.

“I am open to all styles and all genres. 2000 words is not a large number, but it’s enough to change a reader’s life … This does not mean your stories must make the world a better place but perhaps it needs to have entertained, or been thought-provoking – something that makes it an experience … Don’t try to second-guess what I might like. Write a story that you want, in the manner that you want it to be told.  Ultimately, don’t be a stranger to your voice.”

– Ralph Jackman

With this in mind, we wish all entrants the best of luck!

For full details of the competition, including terms and conditions, please visit the competition page.

Remember if your entry wins, not only do you have the chance to win a cash prize, but also see your work in print in a future anthology.

The anthology containing the winning entries of the 2015 and 2016 competitions is available to buy at our meetings or online at: http://www.lulu.com/shop/various-authors/norwich-writers-circle-anthology-2017-stepping-out/paperback/product-23103350.html

Copies are £7 each plus postage (where applicable).

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The NWC would like to thank Frank Meeres for giving his talk, the Norfolk Museum Services for their generous offer of help – particularly Charles for coming to the gala and for his steadfast support.  Finally, we would like to thank Ralph Jackman for his enthusiasm and thoroughness, as well as for agreeing to be our adjudicator.

Norwich Writers' Circle

A ‘Sprited’ Evening

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On Tuesday 1st November we had the immense pleasure of welcoming Sheridan Winn, author of the Sprite Sister books, to our meeting.

As part of her talk, Sheridan regaled us with the story of how she came to write The Sprite Sisters.  After a tale fraught with twists and turns, we moved on to discuss our next competition of the season – the Colin Sutton Cup for Humour.

First, it has been decided that the competition will be expanded to include stories for any age group rather than just a children’s book.  The competition is now as follows:

Devise a title, possible sub-title, and all-important blurb for a humorous book.  Then write the first 250 words of the story.

Guidelines

Your entry should consist of:

  • A title and possible sub-title.
  • A blurb no more than 150 words long.
  • No more than the first 250 words of your story.

 Advice from Sheridan:

Title and Sub-title

  • Titles shouldn’t be too much of a mouthful – roughly 2-3 words long is preferable.
  • Subtitles should qualify the title and be similarly short.

 What makes a good blurb?

  • It should make anyone picking it up think they are going to have fun reading your story.
  • Your character(s) should feature in it.
  • Readers should be able to get a sense of your character’s world.
  • It should also address what your protagonist wants and what is stopping them from getting it.

Sheridan also helpfully gave some examples of book blurbs that she really liked to help illustrate exactly what she is looking for in a winning entry:

  • Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff
  • Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

 The first 250 words

  • It is best to start with the inciting incident as this grabs the reader.  If you cannot intrigue the reader on the first page, your book will be put down.
  • Keep to the point and cut out long descriptions.
  • Create something that is adventurous but also fun.

Finally, let’s not forget that this is the Colin Sutton Cup for Humour.  What kind of humour is Sheridan looking for?  In short, she would prefer quirky, witty humour over ‘belly laughs’.

The deadline for the competition is 6th December 2016.

All entries must be submitted on one side of A4, double spaced.  Work to be unpublished and not entered into previous Circle competitions.

To submit your entry, please email them to: norwichwriters@hotmail.co.uk or bring them along to a meeting.

Entry fee is £3 for non-members but free for all NWC members.  Remember, all entries will receive an expert critique from our adjudicator.

The NWC would like to thank Sheridan for her wonderful and informative talk, and her excellent advice.

We would also like to thank everyone who attended the meeting.  It was wonderful to see you all!

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 15th November, where we will be joined by Peter Stibbons, owner of Poppyland Publishing.  Peter will  be talking about the interaction of new media in the digital age with the traditional printed word.

We hope to see you there!

Norwich Writers' Circle

Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition Gala

WordPress Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition Logo 2016The wait is over …

On Tuesday 18th October, we will be announcing the winners of the Olga Sinclair Short Story Competition at Anteros Arts Foundation.

To celebrate, a light buffet will be served, and a raffle with some fantastic prizes to be won will be held.

The doors open at 7pm with the main event kicking off at 7:30PM.  You are welcome to bring a guest with you.  The more the merrier!

A door fee of £5 for visitors, £3 for members applies.

We hope to see you there!

Norwich Writers' Circle

19th April 2016

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Everyone is welcome to joins us on Tuesday 19th April when we will be launching our second Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition. This time our popular competition has the theme of shoes.

The launch will feature a whole handful of speakers, including Rachel Hore, who is judging this year’s entries.

Other speakers on the night will be local historians Michael & Frances Holmes, Ashley Stokes from Unthank Books, plus Simon Goodman from Van Dal Shoes, who are sponsoring the competition.

The evening starts at 7.30pm (doors open from 7.00pm) at Anteros Arts Foundation. Refreshments will also be provided.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Nick Williams Reveals Research Techniques

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On Tuesday 15th March, Norwich historian and writer Nick Williams gave a presentation to Norwich Writers Circle, detailing his research techniques whilst preparing a number of publications. These included a series of heritage walks, The Blue Plaques of Norwich, a Guide to Rosary Cemetery and Trades and Industries of Norwich. A former Volunteer Co-ordinator for the recently disbanded Norwich Heritage Economic And Regeneration Trust (HEART), Nick still retains a strong interest in local history and is currently preparing a further book.

In an entertaining and informative talk, Nick stressed the benefits of using local archives, including Norfolk Record Office, Norfolk Heritage Centre and the Archant archives. Nick spoke of the importance of having a plan, close editing and the value of a comprehensive index. Members listened attentively, listening for tips to improve their chances of success in the annual non-fiction competition, the Past Search Trophy, sponsored by Gill Blanchard.

Nick will adjudicate the competition at our meeting on 17th May. Entries must be a narrative of no more than 1,000 words, detailing and justifying the writers’ choice of a person, place or event that deserves a Blue Plaque in Norwich, because of the part played in the history of the city. Nick will be looking for evidence of research, conclusions clearly based on research and whether such a plaque would grab the attention of a passer-by. Sources should be listed at the foot of the document (in addition to the maximum word count). Deadline for entries is 19th April. For full details of how to enter our competitions please click the Competition tab. Members can enter for free; non-members are welcome for a  fee. One entry only per person.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Festivities

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On Saturday 12th December Norwich Writers’ Circle held its annual Christmas celebration.

The well-attended social was held at Anteros Arts Foundation, on Fye Bridge Street, which will be our new meeting venue from January 2016. The party saw members enjoy a wide selection of Christmas food and drink. The fun evening was further enhanced by a ‘Secret Santa’ raffle, along with a team quiz. The festive-themed quiz was then won, appropriately enough, by ‘Santa’s Little Helpers’.

At NWC’s first meeting in Anteros, on Tuesday January 19th 2016, we will be welcoming Ejike Ndaji. The Performance Poet will be demonstrating and discussing his craft, as well as setting our latest Circle Competition. We hope to see you there.

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GALA PRIZE GIVING at ANTEROS

Important Note: 20th October 2015 sees a change of venue to our usual home. We will be welcoming members and visitors in the historical Fishergate Room at Anteros Art Foundation, 11 – 15 Fye Bridge Street, Norwich.  7:30 start.

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Everything is gearing up for the big night of our Olga Sinclair Open Short Fiction Competition. Adjudicator Ashley Stokes, local writer, tutor and cheif editor of Unthank Books will lead the prize giving. All are welcome. The competition prize giving will be followed by readings, raffle prizes and refreshments.

To help us host the event we ask members and visitors to bring

the customary door fee: £3 (Members), £5 (Visitors)

Norwich Writers' Circle

Mustard Update

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The postal deadline for entering our inaugural Short Fiction Competition has now passed. Do not worry, we will still be accepting entries online up to and including 31st July.

Run in conjunction with Unthank Books, the competition has a first prize of £500.00. All entries must be a maximum of 2,000 words long, and reference ‘mustard‘ somewhere within the text.

The prize-winning stories, adjudicated by Ashley Stokes, will also be considered by Unthank Books’ Editoral Board for publication.

To discover more about this exciting writing opportunity please go here.