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Judge and Jury: Writing Competitions

I could develop quite a taste for touring the world and speaking at Book Festivals: books a-plenty, great company, beautiful locations… what’s not to like? Last weekend saw me heading to the west of Scotland, to Tarbert, to their 4th annual festival. It was a fabulous few days with authors like Janice Galloway and Chris Brookmyre topping the bill, ably matched by more local writers, and art and cultural enthusiasts. I won’t steal from the official website! Head over to for the lowdown.   What I’d like to spend a few minutes writing about is being in the privileged position of having judged the Tarbert Book Festival’s inaugural short story competition. I used to be slightly sceptical of judges’ feedback to writing competitions – you know, that line where they say something about ‘there being so many entries of such a high standard’? That’s well and truly changed now I’ve...
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How (Not) To Write

Leaves falling, shortening days, a nip in the air... it must be the autumn term again. When I'm not writing or editing, I'm teaching creative writing: on-line, in groups, with individuals, and whilst every group, every story is different there are always several questions about how to - or how not to - write. If only there was a clear answer!

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Fifteen Minutes of Fame

The Edinburgh International Book Festival finishes today. I left the Spiegeltent for the last time, feeling totally inspired and curiously bereft - StoryShop 2016 is over and I'm hanging up (somewhere very visible) my official author lanyard. Anyone who read last month's post will know that I was chosen by Edinburgh City of Literature as one of the 17 'emerging writers' to write and then read their short story over the duration of the festival (and if you want to read more about Story Shop in general, you can do so in a feature I wrote for Lothian Life: #storyshop - yes, I am milking it - indulge me!) Of course, it was an honour, but it's also been tremendous fun, and a fantastic way to meet other new authors - as well as mingling with famous ones in the hallowed portals of the author's yurt! Whilst I'm left with a real sense...
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The Great Edinburgh Story Shop Line-Up 2016

Time to follow up last month's far from subtle hint about my other writing news. No, my novel has not found a friendly literary agent or an eager publisher; it hasn't even been sent to any, but that's my project for the summer (and now I've announced that here, I must do it...)At the beginning of June, I learned I have been selected for Edinburgh City of Literature's 'Story Shop' at the International Book Festival this year. Each day of the festival, one 'emerging writer' is chosen to read an original short story to an audience in the Spiegeltent. It's a ten minute slot, it's FREE, and I'll be reading a short story I've written called The Merry Dancers.Obviously, when the organisers contacted me, I assumed they had made a monumental mistake, but a meeting and subsequent photographic evidence suggests I really am one of the Edinburgh Seventeen!Okay, it's a bit like Where's...
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Back To The Writing Game

Catching the tail end of the month here after a whirlwind trip - no, not to Bangladesh - to Legoland, which I must say was amazing. More amazing still, I didn't take my computer and I did barely any work. Guess what - the computer didn't pine without me and the world didn't end. A timely reminder!Back in January, I decided that I had to get back into the writing groove. After all, five years is probably long enough to hide behind a PhD and use it as an excuse for not actually writing anything else... So I set myself the task of entering a few short story competitions and submitting the novel for any relevant awards.Nobody has (yet) fallen on the novel and deemed it the next best whatever, but I'm delighted to say I've had some mentions for the short stories - look away now if you want to avoid...
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