Tag Archives: competitions

on the pier

waves dark

I entered the Paper Swans flash fiction competition this month with the following piece. It was written in response to a photo prompt of an elderly man asleep on a deckchair on a pier. I didn’t win but I did enjoy writing the story. I think flash fiction is really useful writing practice especially for someone really wordy like me!

Anyway, here’s my story:

He reclined on the pier, eyes closed, sun warm on his face, drifting in and out of memories. He was a child, muddy and beaming, collecting tadpoles with his brothers, then a teenager playing football on the back streets with friends. Now he was a young man dancing with his beloved Jean, their futures entwining with every step.

As he floated into dreams, images poured in: his friends from the pit, coal-dust faces over frothy beers; the tiny, sleeping form of his newborn son; his daughter, proud at her graduation; his grandchildren’s faces in flickering firelight and finally – wrenchingly – his wife’s casket descending into the earth. A whole lifetime caught in memory’s flickering reel.

A final fog of sleep descended and the images fuzzed and faded. Then out of the haze a figure came twirling towards him. It was Jean, rosy and radiant. Smiling, he took her outstretched hand. His last breath danced with the breeze over the sunlit waves.


Prose for Thought

the test of time

sunset crane

photo credit: Sarah Miles

Last month I entered a flash fiction competition over at Paper Swans. The challenge was to write a 150 word piece of flash fiction using the photo to the right as a prompt.

My entry didn’t win but as it was the shortest ‘story’ I had ever written I was quite chuffed that I managed to do it at all – I really had to hack it back to what felt like the bare bones.

Anyway, I thought I would share it here. I’d love to know your thoughts (the winner was decided by votes so I didn’t get any feedback… that could be a good thing though!)

Oh, and do pop over to Paper Swans; it’s a new venture supporting poets and writers of flash fiction and is well worth a look.

The Test of Time

She had always been tall and skinny although, even in her early days, was never considered beautiful. Those she worked alongside had inevitably attracted more admiration than she could with her awkward, angular frame.

Yet, as the years had gone by, people around her had gained a certain appreciation for what she did have to offer. After all, a towering physique was exactly what was needed in her line of work and what she lacked in aesthetics she certainly made up for in strength. This recognition had allowed her to power through life, stacking up accomplishments. On reaching the glass ceiling she’d simply smashed it up and thrown it on the scrapheap.

But now her lengthy working life was drawing to a close and as the sun sank below the skyline she downed tools for the final time. Peace descended over the construction site. Tomorrow a newer, more modern crane would take her place: she was officially ‘out of service’.

Prose for Thought

sprint finish


It’s been a funny old week, full of ups and downs. I’m feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. My youngest son turned one at the weekend and we had a lovely family party but I’ve been feeling so emotional at the idea of my (last) baby growing up! And, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, his sleep has been terrible this week so I’ve been surviving largely on tea and adrenalin. If I remember to drink the tea.

So, from a creative-writing standpoint, the majority of this week (since my #writingwarriors post last Friday) has been a damp squib. I managed my weekly #limerick challenge over the weekend but nothing more. Then in the early hours of Wednesday morning I wrote a poem inspired by my desperation over the sleep situation and then on Wednesday night – joy of joys – the baby slept through the night!

So yesterday morning, in a sudden rush of energy I was able to turn my desperate night-time poem into something half-way-decent and finish off and submit some limericks to IRON press’ Limerick Nation anthology. So I went from feeling really exhausted and quite miserable to suddenly feeling like I’d achieved something right at the last minute. A ‘sprint finish’ to my writing week!

And that’s given me some new questions to consider this week (for those who haven’t read any of my #writingwarriors post before – hello, my name is Maddy and I’m a question-aholic!)

I got a real feeling of achievement from making the deadline for the IRON press anthology. Of course I have no idea if any of my limericks will be accepted but at least I tried! And it’s made me think about the idea of submissions in general.

Since deciding I’d explore this whole creative-writing malarky I’ve made the sum total of three submissions. One short story, one poem and then the limerick thing. I’ve had two rejections and one answer pending. I’ve hardly been going great guns.

That said, I’m also (incredibly slowly) trying to write a book which I can’t attempt to publish ’till it’s finished and I’ve never had the specific aim of sending lots of work off but, even so, I’ve been watching Stephanie’s ‘year of submissions’ progress with admiration and a certain amount of envy. I’m wondering if I should submit more of my work. So here are some questions and I’d love to hear your thoughts:

  • Do you make a lot of/many/any submissions?
  • Do you find it helpful to do so? (eg does having deadlines help you finish more work rather than leave it ‘unpolished’ on your hard-drive?)
  • Do you tailor your work around what different press’s/magazines etc are specifically asking for? Or just write what you want and then look for somewhere that might accept that sort of thing?
  • Where do you find out about things like competitions you could enter? Any recommendations?
  • Do you make submissions for love or money or recognition? or all/some/something else?
  • Is it worth it, given rejection can be hard to take?

I’m going to be thinking about these things this week. I think I’ll try to put some time into finding some competitions I can enter…

Post Comment Love

a year of writing

As I said in my last post, I may not have blogged, but I have been writing quite a lot in the last eleven months. I won’t go into all the details but I’ll note a few of the main things, just for the record.

Firstly, I wrote (or rather, re-wrote) a ghost story that I first thought up as a teenager. I’ve no idea where the original copy (from back then) is, I’ve just always had – in the back of my mind – the memory of it and the idea that it was worth a second go. It took ages to write (even though it’s only about 2000 words) and I’m still not satisfied with it. I was having real difficulty with building up enough suspense; I was aiming for ‘creeping dread’ but the story kept zipping along. It also started off as a first person narrative but I changed my mind and thought it would work better in the third person… and then decided I was wrong and had to change it back. If I’m honest it’s still more a work-in-progress than an actual finished story!

I also wrote a short story for kids. Children’s literature is a genre I have always loved reading, so I was keen to approach it from a writer’s perspective too. My story has a magical/ghostly theme and I really enjoyed writing it. The story unfolds from the point-of-view of a little boy and since I’m surrounded by those (as a mother of three sociable sons!) it was something I found quite easy to do.  I’m now planning on reading it to my older sons who are aged four and six. Although I think they may be a little young, I’m quite keen to see what they think.

Another fairly big milestone (for a complete novice) was that I entered a themed short story competition in Scribble Magazine. I didn’t get anywhere in the competition but I didn’t expect to –  I was just really pleased that I’d actually followed the project through.

The process of writing these three stories taught me a lot. I realised that there’s a huge difference between having an idea in my head, and in crafting it into a story that I’m willing to show to anyone else, let alone enter into a competition. I had a clear idea of what my ghost story was, of how it would start and end – and even most of the bits in the middle – but, as I’ve said, when it came to writing it down it was so hard to get right!

And then there’s the competition story: I wrote it fairly quickly but then I spent weeks and weeks tweeking it, deciding it was all wrong, re-writing it, re-tweeking it… and then eventually, with the end-of-November-deadline fast approaching I sent it off because I had to. I probably could have fiddled with it till the end of time.

So deadlines are helpful to me. Competitions are therefore probably a useful tool and I intend to enter more. The reason I haven’t so far is… well I think I’ll write more about that next time.