Competitions

Writing Competitions: give yourself the best chance

Competition in creative art is an odd concept, but also a natural one: since the beginning of time there's been a limit on the number of chops you can carve off a goat, and only one place by the fire for a storyteller because our audience - the Lord, the Lady and their top henchmen - had the other places ex officio. We compete, too, to increase that audience: the Palace fireplace is bigger than the Manor's, and the Royal cooks serve roast swan. But it's not only good practice to enter competitions: they can be a very good way... Read more →


Recommend an historical novel, win a signed copy of Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction

Update: 27th June 2016: The competition is now closed, and I announced the winners in this post. Thank you very much to everyone who entered; it's a fantastic list of recommendations which my bedside table does not thank you for, but I do. I would love this post to become a resource for the future, so do feel free to add more recommendations, and comment on other people's. I'll be back to post my two penn'orth in a few days. *** To celebrate the publication of Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, which is now also out in the USA,... Read more →


You will never annoy anyone if you present a manuscript like this

Well, I can't absolutely promise that, but pretty darned close. Of course this is subject to whatever the magazine, publisher, agency or editor says on their website that they want. And we are talking prose, here, not scripts or poetry, which run by different rules. But don't think that, just because we're in the digital age, what's used on computers has superseded what's used on manuscripts. The book is near-perfectly evolved technology for reading large amounts of prose, and the book and magazine trade still handles prose in those paper-based forms, even on screen. Digital design has evolved to suit... Read more →


The Itch of Writing Bookself 3: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

The third in a new series of mini-reviews that focus on what a book I've enjoyed has to offer a writer. Click here for the full (or rather, rapidly filling) Itch of Writing Bookshelf, and if you're looking for books to help with your writing directly, then click through to Books for Writers. H IS FOR HAWK by Helen Macdonald Helen Macdonald was a young academic when her photojournalist father suddenly died. She had flown and worked with birds of prey as a hobby, but now she decided to buy and train a young goshawk: the biggest as well as... Read more →


The Itch of Writing Bookshelf 1: The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

Happy New Year! To celebrate, this is the first of a new series on This Itch of Writing: not exactly reviews, but mini-posts about a book I'm reading which I think would be useful and interesting to us as writers. I'm planning to interleave these with the normal Itchy fare. Click here for the full (or rather, rapidly filling) Itch of Writing Bookshelf, and if you're looking for books to help with your writing directly, then click through to Books for Writers. Not every book I write about will be one I think is perfect, but I shall be focusing... Read more →


Historical Fiction Autumn: Hodgson, Harrogate and How Not to Start your Historical Novel

It seems to be Historical Fiction Autumn. The Historical Novel Society's Awards have had a good deal to do with that; I was one of the judges for their 2014 Short Story Award, and our comments on Anne Aylor's wonderful winning story, "The House of Wild Beasts", and on the two runners-up, are now up on the site. The HNS's website is also stuffed with great blogs and articles about everything to do with historical fiction. Antonia Hodgson, whose debut novel The Devil in the Marshalsea is very high indeed on my TBR pile since I heard her speak and... Read more →


Judging writing: why does presentation matter?

I've had a lovely, tricky time as one of the judges for the Historical Novel Society's Award for 2014, and the results are here. There were some great stories, and we had a right old barny between the three of us to decide the winners. And then the other day I bumped into Jacqueline Molloy, whose marvellous story "Wake" won first place at the Frome Festival competition in 2011. I don't know if I or she was more surprised at how much I remembered of it, but it's got me thinking. My friend Susannah Rickards' guest-blogs about being a filter... Read more →


How do you decide which project to go for?

So, you've written a good deal of longish stuff, and know something of what it takes to sustain a project. And you've got lots of ideas for stories, and several of them look promising for a book-length project. The interactions and conflicts they set up might be enough to fuel a novel, or the seam of travel or life that you're drawing on is rich enough for your creative non-fiction. But of those promising ones, which should you commit to? How can you make sure that, some months of research and writing down the line, you won't realise that this... Read more →


Giving a Reading Part One - Getting Ready

Most writers are introverts, and for some the prospect of standing on a platform and reading their work aloud is terrifying. But at some point in your writing life you will find yourself having to read your work to an audience consisting of more than your sister and the dog. It might be an open mic in the local pub, a bookshop event, a platform at a literary festival, an X-Factor competition before agents at a writer's festival, or the launch of something like Stories for Homes (in aid of Shelter, and it's a cracker. Do buy it). Some authors... Read more →


Support Authors for the Philippines: win signed books, critiques, mentoring and more

Have you, too, been wondering what on earth any of us can do about the dreadful situation in the Philippines? YA author Keris Stainton has set up Authors for the Philippines, an online auction of all things readerly and writerly, to raise money for the Red Cross’s Typhoon Haiyan Appeal. Authors, agents, editors and illustrators have donated some fabulous things, and the list is growing all the time; it opens tomorrow, Wednesday 13th November, and closes on Wednesday 20th November. Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday (8 November), causing catastrophic damage. It is the strongest storm ever to... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Highly Commended: Hairnet Aardvaark, by Lev Parikian

This is the last of of three Highly Commended entries to the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. I liked this post because it made me laugh and it's probably more true - though arguably less detailedly helpful - than all the other competition posts put together with the rest of the whole darned more-than-six-years' worth of This Itch of Writing. Having said that, if you want to bag yourself a Highly Commended, then grossly flattering the competition organiser in the second paragraph is no bad strategy either. "A blog post, 500 words at most, which is helpful, interesting... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Highly Commended: Dark Matter, Dark Glass and Anne Tyler by Sophie Beal

This is the second of three Highly Commended entries to the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. I like this piece because it made me laugh, in a rueful, recognising sort of way, but also because it its own blog-sized way it's doesn't shirk the big questions. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by literary ambition. I aim for the prose quality of Anne Tyler, the themes of Tolstoy and hope I’ll produce it at the speed of Dickens. Today is a good day. I’m happy to be someone trying her best with an English GCSE, a recordable IQ and no one... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Highly Commended: Is it wrong to describe a fart? by Debbie Ash-Clarke

This is the first of three Highly Commended entries to the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. I liked this because it tackles a subject which we all have to deal with - how much is Too Much Information, how little is cowardice? - in a calm and thoughtful way, unpicking the issues without issuing a "rule". Is it Wrong to Describe a Fart? Have you winced? A lot of people do, even at the mention of it. Why would you want to read a story where the author tells us a character farts, or a blog post which... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Third Prize Winner: Where Do You Get Your Ideas From, by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Congratulations to Sophie Jonas-Hill for this delightful post, which won third prize in the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. Sophie wins a two-night writers' retreat at Retreats for You in Sheepwash, North Devon, where full board and friendly writerly company come as standard, and total silence and lunch-on-a-tray are offered with equal generosity. What I loved about this post is that it takes a classic question which we're all very familiar with, and finds a way to express it freshly, and practically. And I always love connections between different kinds of creativity: so often they illuminate each other.... Read more →


Postiversary Competition Second Prize Winner: Loving, Hating and Writer's Block, by Anne Goodwin

Congratulations to Anne Goodwin for this terrific post, which won second prize in the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. Anne wins a year's free Full Membership of WriteWords, Full Membership of WriteWords, which apart from anything else in the way of Groups, Jobs&Opps, Directory and so on, is the place that about 50% of all my posts here started out, as thinking-aloud-in-the-forum. What I love about Anne's post is that she acknowledges both ends of the spectrum of what gets said about writer's block, and then unpicks what's really going on, from both her own experience, and one... Read more →


Postiversary Competition First Prize Winner: Seeming & Thinking, by Esther Saxey

Congratulations to Esther Saxey for this fantastic post, which has won her First Prize in the This Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition. Esther wins a free Quick read of 5,000 words, synopsis and covering letter, from Writer's Workshop. What I love about Esther's piece is how she's thinking about craft, in the sense that I use the term: the business of what's going at the interface between imagination and technique. It's craft that makes what you want to say into something the reader can and will and will want to read. And Esther made me laugh, which I'm always... Read more →


And the Winners of the Itch of Writing 500th Postiversary Competition are...

I was so thrilled to have so many great entries for This Itch of Writing's 500th Postiversary Competition. It was terribly difficult to chose, (as well as terribly difficult to find enough time to choose carefully), between so many posts which made me laugh, and think, and gave me so much insight into how other writers think and feel. It's the readers who make this blog what it is, and it's lovely to know that y'all are as fascinated as I am with the whole business of how writing happens. So thank you hugely to everyone for entering, and another... Read more →


The 500th Postiversary Competition: win a writer's retreat and other prizes

I can't quite believe that This Itch of Writing has being going for 500 posts - and five and a half years, come to that - but it's true. To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to have a competition, and some of my favourite writerly places have kindly offered prizes. TO ENTER: Please write a blog post, 500 words at most, which is helpful, interesting or illuminating for other writers. Of course yours will stem from your own experience of writing, but the focus of This Itch of Writing is outwards, towards other writers, not inwards towards yourself.... Read more →


Spring Roundup: Pinterest, the Postiversary, and other stories

It must be spring in the air: I'm fantastically busy on various fronts, but some of them might be relevant to all you lovely blog-readers, so here goes. Since October I've been absolutely loving my RLF Fellowship at Goldsmiths; it's been some of the most rewarding and enjoyable teaching I've ever done, so I'm delighted that playwright Annie Caulfield and I will again be there next year. Our job is to help with academic writing across the full spectrum of the College, from first years to PhDs and staff, from Fine Art to Social Work and Anthropology. I am planning... Read more →