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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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Member Successes, Uncategorized

Terrifying Tales

Congratulations to our Vice-chair Kathy Joy for having her short horror story picked up for professional narration:

 

The original story can be read here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/ayhco3/my_perfect_little_boy/

Well done Kathy for an engaging and terrifying story. Perhaps it will inspire those looking to enter the Olga Sinclair Competition this year themed to ‘spooks’.

 

 

 

Norwich Writers' Circle

Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2016 Anthology

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During the prize giving gala for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2016, not only did we announce the winners, but we also revealed our plans to release an anthology.

It will contain:

  • The winning entries of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2016.
  • The shortlisted entries for the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition 2016.
  • The winning entries of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Fiction Competition 2015.

The estimated price of the anthology is £7.

Copies will be available to order in time for Christmas.  Further updates will be posted on our website and Facebook page!

Norwich Writers' Circle

A Busy Week

21st June kicked the week off with a well attended and varied, entertaining Club Night. Notices came first , particularly St. Peter Mancroft Church requesting contributions from Circle members to its glossy magazine. But it wasn’t long we were listening to a fair old mix of pieces from the members.

Anne Funnel explained her contribution was a contemporary theme, international terrorism. More specifically, an updated version of how to accidently-on-purpose get yourself a new car.

Other readers included Margaret Turner and Andrew Heron who each gave us a couple of poems;  Christopher Woodall with his developing novel, mixing historical biography with fictional thriller; Phyllida Scivens with a sample of her next project: the life and times of a Norwich Lady Mayoress; and Barré Funnell who treated us to his entry for last year’s Olga Sinclair Open Short-Story Competition, which you’ll recall required clever use of the word “mustard”.

This nicely leads to another reminder of this year’s deadline: 17th July (Postal) and 31st July (Email). So you’ve still got a fair amount of time to perfect your brainchild.

And so to Saturday 25th: A big “thank you” is due to Anne & Barré for once again inviting us to their home. A pleasure in any weather, which is just as well when considering the thunder, lightning, and downpour we had.

Thank you also to Margaret for organising her quotes quiz. And well done to Ian for winning!

Those that able to make it came laden with food and raffle prizes. Rain did not stop play. In fact towards the end it was the rain that stopped, enabling us to venture outside for a group photo.

Norwich Writers' Circle

We Have Lift Off!

WordPress Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition Logo 2016

Thank you to everyone who made the Launch Night of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition a success. One member who deserves a mention is Anne Funnel who kindly brought along her collection of porcelain Van-Dal shoes for our interest, including a large and decorative, shop window display piece.

With guests and presentations, food and drink aplenty we had ourselves what in old fashioned parlaLaunch2016ance could be described as “a gay old time”.

With Frances & Michael Holmes getting proceedings started with their “History of the Norwich Shoemaking Industry”, old times was the theme. A pity more of us didn’t attempt a verse or two of “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, but to be fair the wine hadn’t yet started flowing.

Next up, a word or two on behalf of our sponsor, from Simon Goodman. Simon’s grandfather was one of the founders of Van-Dal Shoes. Simon is now retired but happily gives talLaunch2016bks about his family heritage. He was particularly appreciative of Norwich Writers’ Circle asking Van-Dal Shoes to sponsor this year’s open competition, since his mother was a biographer and member of the East Anglian Writers. In addition to regailing us with his stories, he also brought along his treasured and historic Chain of Office of the Norwich Footware Manufacturers’ Association.

It may not have escaped your notice that we have an additionalLaunch2016c page on this site: Unthank School. The School is the brainchild of last year’s adjudicator, Ashley Stokes. He too was there on Tuesday evening, announcing an EXCLUSIVE 15% DISCOUNT OFFER to Norwich Writers’ Circle members when enrolling on Unthank School courses. This is very generous of Ashley and we hope many members wanting to benefit from personalised tuition in their chosen genre will take it up.

And so lastly to this year’s competition. This year, best selling author Rachel Hore is adjudicating for us. Here for those who wanted to join us on the night but couldn’t, are Rachel’s extended guidelines. She will be looking for:-

  • A sense of narrative. The story needs to be going somewhere. Make your stories dramatised rather than described.
  • Good structure. No complex plotting. Instead use small shifts in perspective.
  • A feel for the characters – ordinary people made distinctive. Illuminate an aspect of their lives written in a fresh way.
  • Maybe a twist at the end.
  • Avoid cliches and make imaginative use of the “shoes” themeLaunch2016d

Happy writing one and all.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Mustard Competition Thanks

WordPress Thank You

A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who has entered our inaugural Short Fiction Competition.

The entries are currently being adjudicated by Unthank BooksAshley Stokes.

Discover if you have won our competition prizes of £500.00, £250.00 and £100.00, and hear a selection of entries, at a Gala Evening on Tuesday 20th Tuesday October.

We hope you can join us for what should promising to be a highly enjoyable evening. Watch this space for further details of this exciting night in the coming months.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Mustard Deadline

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The deadline for our first Open Short Fiction Competition is fast approaching.

To enter Norwich Writers’ Circle’s inaugural Short Fiction Competition simply send us a story that is a maximum of 2,000 words – which references ‘mustard‘ somewhere within the text – by 17th July.

Entries via e-mail are being accepted up to and including 31st July.

The competition has a First Prize of £500.00 and is being adjudicated by Ashley Stokes of Unthank Books. The prize-winning stories will also be considered for publication by Unthank Books’ Editorial Board.

Details of this impressive writing opportunity can be found by going here.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Must Be Mustard

WordPress Mustard Powder

There is still plenty of time to enter Norwich Writers’ Circle’s inaugural Short Fiction Competition.

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.

The closing date is 17th July for all Postal entries. We will also accepting entries via e-mail up to 31st July.

To discover more about this exciting writing opportunity please go here. We look forward to receiving your competition entry soon.

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The Big Launch

Lots has been going on in the build-up to this week’s launch of the Olga Sinclair Open Short Fiction Competition. Our guest for the evening will be prize winning short story writer (and “fledgling” novelist) Lynsey WhiteLynseyWhite.

Lynsey will be giving members and visitors her winning formula for their entries. Not that all can be winners, of course, but deciding to attend her workshop could set you at the front of the pack.

Starts at our usual time of 7:30. Door Fee: £4

For more details about the competition click here

In addition to her own writing, Lynsey is currently running her own writing course at the Maddermarket Theatre, and has a couple of writing exercises for everyone on her website: lynseywhite.com