Feeling competitive? Get your work out there…

Hi gang,

This month instead of blogging about life and the meaning of the universe, I thought I’d highlight a few writing competitions, and give people a chance to enter if they wanted to.  I get information on all sorts of different comps and don’t always have the chance to pass the information on, or even to enter myself, so the least I can do is make a list of some of them here.

 

Words and Women – A new prize for writing women in the East of England

1st Prize – £600 – winner and runners up feature in Words & Women’s flagship anthology.

Deadline: 30th November

Judges are looking for distinctive work, crafted, strong, creative and adventurous.  Open to all women living in the east of England, over the age of 16 – short fiction, memoir, life writing and creative non-fiction, up to 3,000 words.  For more information go to www.wordsandwomennorwich.blogspot.co.uk

 

South Bank Poetry – 2nd SBP Poetry competition

1st Prize – £200, 2nd £125, 3rd £50. 4th Prize a 2-year subscription to SBP mag, 5th 1-year subscription + all published in the SBP Edition 18 in 2014.  Judge – Clare Pollard

Deadline: 30th November

Entry fee £3 per poem.  No entry form required, send 2 copies of each poem, one anonymous, one with name & e/contact details to: Peter Ebsworth, South Bank Poetry, 74 Sylvan Rd, London SE19 2RZ. Cheques/postal orders payable to Peter Ebsworth.

 

Ink Tears Short Story Competition 2013

1st Prize – £1,000, runner up £100, 4 Highly Commended £25 + the chance to have your collection of short stories published by InkTears.

Deadline: 30th November

Submissions must be 1,000-3,000 words in English, on any theme.  Entrants must be 18 years or over. Each submission must be accompanied by £6.00 entry fee, payable via Paypal.

Full entry Rules on – www.inktears.com/Inktears/WritersNewWritersContest.html

 

The Plough Open Poetry Competition 2013

1st Prize – £1,000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250.   Judge – Sir Andrew Motion

Deadline: 31st November

Submissions no more than 40 lines, typed single-space in standard 10-12pt font, one-sided on A4 with no identifying marks.  Entry fee of £5 per poem, cheques in stirling payable to The Plough Arts Centre.

An entry form must accompany each entry downloadable from www.theploughprize.co.uk

 

Words for the Wounded Writing Prize

1st Prize – £250, 2nd £100, 3rd £50 + all winners published in Writers’ Forum.

Deadline: 11 March 2014

Words for the Wounded is a charity for the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen & women.

Write no more than 400 words of fiction, or a real-life tale, or poem, on the theme of The Journey, a physical or emotional journey.  For more info look at: www.wordsforthewounded.co.uk

 

I know there are lots of writing competitions happening all the time – maybe it’s about time Loose Muse started its own in 2014 – but these are some to get you all writing, and maybe it’ll be a Loose Muse supporter who actually wins.  Hooray.

 

Next Loose Muse is on December 11th, with Manchester poet Rebecca Smith and romantic crime novelist Claire Dunn, so it promises to be another good one you’ll be sorry to miss.

So come along and share the passion, share the joy,

Love – Agnes

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THINGS GOING BUMP AND OTHER PUMPKIN HEADS

The pumpkin decapitator strikes again!

The lights were low, the atmosphere was spooky, and the stories and poems were straight out of the Hammer Studios.  No, not a scene from ‘Britain’s Most Haunted…’, but the Loose Muse Pre-Hallowe’en Special Gothic Open Mic Night.  Well, being a closet Goth, what else was I going to do for an extra Loose Muse event at the end of October but add a dash of Dracula and the chance to hear some truly horrible writing in the run-up to Hallowe’en.

And we had a good night with lots of variations on the dreadful, the doom-laden and the down-right scary.  For my money Niki Aguirre’s nightmare short story about a woman who dreams of being followed by a faceless Man In Black was one of the high spots, although it did mean I slept with the light on when I went to bed.  That’s the trouble with having such a vivid imagination (and having trained as a psychic…yes, really!), it means every creaking floorboard, cold draft and odd noise in the night freaks me right out.

Having said all that, October is still my favourite month, and Hallowe’en one of the celebrations I enjoy most.  Just to set the record straight for those who’ve been led to believe it’s a night of unparalleled evil and devil worship, Hallowe’en has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which was a celebration of the end of the harvest season, and a preparation for the darkness of winter.  It is an ancient festival when the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead are at their thinnest, and the passage between the two worlds is easiest.  It was also a way for people to celebrate their ancestors and to get in touch with those who had passed over.  So yes, it was sometimes on the scary side (imagine sitting on a hillside in the October darkness centuries ago, with midnight approaching, waiting for that doorway to open and reveal….well, you get the picture!!).

But it had nothing to do with vampires, evil hauntings or devils waiting to snatch your soul away.  That came much later with the church’s hunger for control and power, plus the commercialization that have turned it into what it is today.

When I lived in Canada (about a million years ago), my pals and I had a great variation on the ‘trick or treat’ game where children would knock on your door and ask for sweeties.  Instead, we went ‘trick or drinking’, so every door we knocked on in down-town Vancouver was offered the chance to give us a drink or be ‘tricked’ in some way.  Of course, we didn’t really trick anyone, and by the end of the night we were absolutely plastered.  But we had a great time, and everyone we had a drink with thought it was as much fun as we did.  It’s a different world now of course; if a bunch of strangers turned up at my door one night demanding alcohol, I’d probably call the police!  Aaaah…the innocence of youth.

Anyway, only a few more days to the November Loose Muse, which will be held on the 13th, and feature poet Jacqueline Gabbitas and writer Leah Thorn.  It’s going to be another good one – when are they not – so I hope you can come along and share some of your work with us, be it ghostly, ghoulish or just plain great.

So come along and share the passion, share the joy.

Love,

Agnes

THE NATIONAL HEALTH WAS NEVER LIKE THIS IN 1177

You’ll never look at this the same way again…

 

As any of you who have ever tried writing a historical novel will know, you have to do a truck load of research to make sure you get all the dates, facts and figures right so your story is as accurate and colourful as possible.  This is both a pleasure and a problem.  A pleasure because you learn an awful lot more about the era your story’s set in and the characters living at the time.  A problem because:

a)    it’s never ending, and

b) you also unearth some truly weird, wacky and wonderful stuff – thus the subject of this blog, specifically stuff relating to health and medicine.

My novel’s set in the 12th Century (it opens in 1177) – a time of supreme brutality, violence and weirdness.  If I had a £5 note for each time something I had read in the course of my research had made me exclaim out loud ‘Get out of here. No way!’ (or mother colourful words to that effect), I could go on a long holiday somewhere warm and sun-kissed.

I’ve already blogged about weasel testicles being used as a method of contraception, but check these facts out:

  1. To ward off plague, tie a shaved live chicken to the groin.  It doesn’t say whether you could eventually eat it with roast turnips, or how long you were supposed to keep said chicken tied to said groin.
  2. The church decreed sex was not to be indulged in for pleasure even within marriage, and people were not allowed to make love on Sundays, Holy Days, Feast Days, or during Lent, pregnancy or menstruation.  If these rules were disobeyed, deformed children or lepers would result.  Which explains a great deal about the state of the nation!!
  3. To cure toothache, the ancient Egyptians suggested you should cut a mouse in half and place the half rodent on the afflicted tooth.  It doesn’t actually say which half, but I suspect this tip probably worked because you’d be vomiting so much you’d forget all about the toothache.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to put you offer your dinner so I’ll stop.

My aim was to get this novel finished by Christmas and so far I’ve finished just over 100,000 words, and it looks as if I might actually achieve my goal.  Hooray!!! I’ve become such a recluse while writing this novel, I’m surprised people still recognise me on the rare occasion I turn up at gigs.  And I’ve hardly written any poetry in the past year…too busy living in the 12th Century with my head in a totally different place.  There are other things I want to write, including my fantasy novel ‘The Conference of Dragons’ which has been smoking away on the bookshelf of my imagination  for a long time now…so, as usual, watch this space.

In the meantime, don’t forget we’re having a Special  Pre Hallowe’en Gothic Loose Muse Open Mic at the L’Osteria Restaurant in Greys Inn Road, London on Tuesday 29th October – 7.30 p.m. £5 donations would be very much appreciated to keep things moving until I can get some more funding.  And the next Loose Muse is on November 13th and features Leah Thorn and Jaqueline Gabbitas.

So come along and share the passion, share the joy.

Love

Agnes

 

TOMORROW THE WORLD!

 

Amazing! That’s the only way to describe the Loose Muse 4th Anthology launches in Manchester (on Sept. 17) and in London (on Sept. 19).  Two brilliant nights that totally underlined the amazing talent of all the women writers whose work was included in the anthology, as well as the enthusiastic support of everyone who came along.  It’s brilliant Loose Muse now has a sister event in Manchester, with another gig planned for early 2014.  And massive thanks for that goes to the fabulous Steph Pike, because without her hard work and passion, Loose Muse Manchester would never have got off the ground.

I still have feelers out to start other LM sister events in other parts of the country, with things possibly happening in Penzance and Surrey next year, and also still working on something at Loughborough Uni. Ultimately I’d like to get a circuit going where various LM events can cross-fertilize and writers from within those areas can visit each other and circulate talent and share skills.  Imagine that, if you will…I think that’d be fabulous, and hopefully more funding from the Arts Council (and other sources) will enable the dream to become a reality.  Any help any of you out there can give to make it all happen, just get in touch and let’s talk.

In the meantime, the 2nd year of the ACE grant has enabled Loose Muse to feature 22 writers and 7 special guests over the past 12 months in London alone.  And there have been hundreds of writers/supporters attending events and taking part in the open mics.  Yes, most of them have been poets, but we’ve also had playwrights, novelists, short story writers, and others mixing their writing with other creative skills.  That includes writers from Spain, Germany, Holland, Greece, USA, and France, as well as home-grown talent from many parts of the UK, including all the new Manchester faces – there are 5 writers from that fair city included in the 4th Anthology.

I’ve also been able to give 4 commissions – 3 for short stories and another one for poetry – this year.  The idea has always been to stretch writers so they come out of their comfort zone and try a new genre.  This has been tremendously exciting and the excellent results appear in anthologies 3 and 4.

I have so many more plans for the future of Loose Muse and ways in which it can develop and grow, I daren’t event begin to write about them or I’d be writing all day and night.  All these plans and ambitions will take funding, so I’ll stop now so I can plan a few more funding applications and get the ball moving on inspiring more interest in the project.  And of course without everyone who comes to Loose Muse events and makes them so successful and such a fabulous night for anyone interested in writing, none of this would be possible anyway.  Just keep on coming, keep on writing, keep on telling your pals about Loose Muse and encouraging them to come along as well.

Don’t forget we’re having a Special  Pre Hallowe’en Gothic Loose Muse Open Mic at the L’Osteria Restaurant in Greys Inn Road, London on Tuesday 29th October – 7.30 p.m. £5 donations would be very much appreciated to keep things moving until I can get some more funding.

So come along and hear some truly horrible writing…share the passion, share the joy.

Love

Agnes

THERE’S MAYHEM IN THE TILTYARD

Why Are Men in Armor so Sexy?

Can’t believe how long it’s been since last I blogged, but August has been a helluva month.  I thought I’d have lots of time to sit and relax, think about my novel, do lots of writing…generally move things forward with the help of cake and no ‘day job’ work.  How dumb was that? Instead, it seemed to get fuller and fuller of ‘day job’ essentials.  And the fact I’m on various Boards of arts organisations doesn’t help either, as you’re duty bound to help if requested to do so.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play.  On the pretext of historical research, I finally managed to get up to Leeds to visit the Royal Armouries, to take a closer look at their collection of medieval weaponry and indulge in my passion for swords.  Yes, I have a small collection of sharps, gathered over the years since my re-enactment days; not a really serious collection, but I enjoy the look of surprise on visitor’s faces when I unsheathe one of them and start talking about the balance between blade and hilt etc. (Better stop now in case you all start thinking I really am bonkers!).

Anyway, there I was up in Leeds on a warm and sunny week-end mid-month and visiting the Armouries.  The actual content of this purpose-built museum was excellent – you wouldn’t expect anything else, really, would you? Considering how much Lottery money was spent on building it.  But the building itself was a total disaster…unquestionably one of the WORST designed museums I’ve ever been to, nationally or internationally.  Everything had been shipped up from the Tower of London and other Historic Palaces to this purpose-built black brick mausoleum in what had been a derelict industrial estate next to a scummy stretch of canal.  No signage outside meant you couldn’t find the entrance, and poor signage inside meant you could find anything inside either.  Plus, little real thought had gone into the mediocre shop, cafes and restaurant.  A classic case of corporate funding going hand-in-hand with unimaginative local authority planning, and coming up with the worst of all possible worlds. Which is a real shame, as it should have been world class instead of being world crass.

But it was free entry, and it being a Friday during school holidays there were about a million kids there  all having a great time at the Knight School (which cost extra), and at the Jousting (also extra).  Now, as some of you may know, I’m a proper sucker for a man in armour (yes, I know I’m weird that way) and LOVE Jousting, so happily paid my dues to watch the Red Knight fight the Green Knight to rapturous applause and much booking and/or cheering.

This was theatrical jousting, as opposed to Full Metal Jousting (see Challenge TV Mondays at 10.00 p.m.), which is much fiercer and more authentic judging by the injuries.  There was no un-horsing or blood-shed, but there was plenty of very fine horsemanship and some excellent trick riding.  And as far as I was concerned the Red and Green Knights were both sex on legs in their full body armor, so the expedition was not an entirely unhappy experience.

I also enjoyed the selection of weaponry on display from early Celtic onwards (though not interested in the guns or modern day machinery of war), plus items covering many different cultures including Japan, China and India.  The full-scale model of an Indian war-elephant covered in armor was truly impressive and certainly not the kind of thing you’d want to meet on a dark night in Leeds or anywhere else.

Fully armoured war elephant

Fully armoured war elephant

Apart from that I spent the rest of the weekend with my lovely friends, Olivia and Howard, eating too much, enjoying lots of great conversation, and loving being out of London for a change.

Now, it’s back to the grindstone of preparing for the first Loose Muse event of the year on September 11th, featuring a selection of members of Highgate Poets.  Check the events page for up-to-date information on that and also on the two Anthology launches.  Until then, enjoy the remains of the summer and the gentle drift into autumn, and…

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

Where are all you short fiction writers?

It’s wonderful that we always have so many great poets coming to the Loose Muse events. Every month, lots of women step up to the mic to blow our minds with their lyrical verse. Having said that, we really don’t want anyone to think that we exist for poetry alone. At Loose Muse we encourage ALL women writers (including playwrights, script writers, flash fictioners as well as short fiction and novel writers) to come and perform. We would love to have even more great short stories submitted, for example, to the anthology.

Here is a great short fiction competition which you still have time to enter if you hurry. You can win up to £1000. Anthony Howcroft, the director of InkTears, is looking for writers who have, ‘enough quality short stories’ to publish a collection. Alternatively, they are looking for writers whose work may go into an anthology. So you could enter a competition and find yourself publishing a collection at the end of it!

It sounds like a great opportunity, so don’t miss out. http://www.inktears.com/Inktears/WritersNewWritersContest.html

Elsewhere, Cinnamon Press has some great poetry collection, novella or short story competitions that are still open.  Go to http://www.cinnamonpress.com/competitions/ to take a look.

Book trust is a great website for listing competitions, so do take a look at that as well, although I’ve often found it slightly annoying that they don’t organise the competitions by date relevancy. No one likes clicking for ages to find out that a competition happened back in January!

So all you short story writers, before you send our your brilliant prose to these great competitions, why not come along to Loose Muse and try them out on an audience?

Love,

Sara-Mae

Loose Muse one-off free open mic event…

 

Hi gang,

Well it’s Anthology time again and the submissions for the next Loose Muse Anthology are piling up very nicely, thank you.  This will be the last anthology that the Arts Council of England grant pays for, as the grant that was given to develop Loose Muse over the past couple of years has now been used up.  I think we’ve done extraordinarily well in growing things, and certainly we’ve been able to make sure that women writers are given a platform to produce and explore new work, and to share experiences and expertise.

The Anthology launch date is set for Thursday, 19th September, and will be held at Cotton’s Caribbean Restaurant – the room downstairs we’ve used for the last couple of launches, and which everyone loves – at 70 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QP, 7.00 p.m. for a 7.30 start.  So put that into your diary at once whether or not you’ve actually submitted work for inclusion, as it’s always a fabulous night, and it’s FREE, always a bonus.  Who knows it might inspire you to take up the pen yourselves, if you haven’t already got the bug.

But before then, there’s an EXTRA LOOSE MUSE EVENT IN AUGUST. 

Yes, even though we’re usually dark in August, and start again in September, this year I thought it would be a good idea to have a SPECIAL OPEN MIC EXTRA EVENT to celebrate all those writers who want to share a bit of their work with us.  Each one will be getting at least 5 minutes, so put this in your diary as a MUST DO event:

LOOSE MUSE AUGUST EXTRA

Wednesday, 14 August – 7.00 p.m. for 7.30

All OPEN MIC for anyone who wants to share their work.

L’Osteria 57 (downstairs) Wine Bar

57 Grays Inn Road

London WC1X 8PP

A £5 donation towards Loose Muse expenses in the autumn would be gratefully received.

L’Osteria is only a 5 minute walk from Chancery Lane tube station, and on several bus routes, so is very accessible.  And, as it’s an Italian restaurant, the food is good and reasonably priced.

Do come along and bring something to read, or just come and listen, have a pizza/pasta and be part of the action.  Go on…you know you want to.

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE GNOME

Gnome-ageddon is nigh!

If you’ve been watching tv over the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen the ad by a leading Scandi furniture store featuring the destruction of rampaging garden gnomes.  When it was first screened, it made me laugh, as I thought it was quite witty.  So imagine my surprise when I read there had been 50 complaints about this ad to the Advertising Standard Board saying it was over violent and offensive, and that some people had found it distressing.

Now, call me old-fashioned (I know my place!), but I find the idea that people were actually distressed at an ad where plaster gnomes (not real, live gnomes, but gaudy figurines made up of plaster-of-paris and painted in garish colours) were shattered by a woman wielding a garden sprinkler jet, is just plain bonkers.

Clearly, the complainers haven’t been watching the news or reading the papers.  The situation in Syria, where hundreds of people are being killed or made homeless every day is distressing.  A tornado leaving a swathe of death and destruction in the US is distressing.  Cuts in crucial services that leave the poor even poorer and thousands reliant on banks or the kindness of strangers is distressing. Female genital mutilation in girl children is very distressing indeed.  And a newborn flushed down the toilet and stuck in a sewerage pipe is inexpressibly distressing.  Gnome attack in a spoof ad just ISN’T, and if you think it is, you’ve not got enough to worry about.  Get a life and get a sense of humour!

Having said all that, I also love the fact that there are gnomes in the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time ever.  And even more, there’s a place in Western Australia called Gnomesville, in the Ferguson Valley, about a 2-hour drive south east of Perth, where there are thousands of gnomes from all over the world are on display dotted around the forest landscape. I love the quirky eccentricity of that.  But I still wouldn’t any of the plaster variety in my garden if I had one…give me a real life fairy or elf any day of the week.  I’ve always been a sucker for Otherworld Creatures.

Our next Loose Muse is on Wednesday 10 July and, as ever, we’ll have some cracking features. Remember to come early to sign up for the open mic session at the end of the evening (gnome caps are optional).

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

Write Out Loud talks us up a bit

Greg Freeman of Write Out Loud wrote a rather lovely piece on us about the Manchester Loose Muse. It’s great to see that our plans for ultimate world domination are on track 😉

Check it out here:

http://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=37394

Thanks go to Write Out Loud and Greg, for featuring us!

EATS, SHOOTS, LEAVES, AND OTHER APOLOGIES TO LYNN TRUSS

 

Don’t fear the red ink

Having put the final touches to the 3rd Loose Muse Anthology of New Writing by Women, in order to be ready for the launch on Thursday 4th April, I started thinking about the knotty editorial process.  It’s another corker of a collection, with contributions from 40 writers, 17 of whom have not contributed before, and coming from all over London and the UK, as well as a sprinkling of internationals for good measure.  Looking at the final product gives me a warm glow of satisfaction, as I truly believe it is another volume stuffed with high quality work displaying a very great deal of imagination and creativity.

 

But although pulling together something as terrific as this is immensely gratifying, anyone who says its easy and that the editing process is a piece of cake is bonkers!  It’s really hard work because you have to encourage the writer to produce stronger, better material without making them lose confidence in themselves as creators.  It’s certainly not a task that is always appreciated by writers who are submitting work for publication.  Nobody should be telling a writer what/how to write, they cry with an angry flash of the eyes.  Yeah….well, that’s fine if each word is a pearl written with the pen of perfection using the ink of inspiration.  Sadly, however, that’s not always the case.  You wouldn’t believe the time it took me to sort out the punctuation, grammar, spelling and presentation of some of the submissions we included in the anthology.  It really tested my patience, as well as making it take twice as long to get the first draft ready for the printer and looking good.

 

A good editor isn’t there to massage a writer’s ego, but to help them, among other things, to move away from bad habits, sloppy presentation, lazy formatting, grammar and punctuation, dull images and vocabulary, and encouraging the production of leaner, tighter and more original work.  However well a writer actually writes, sloppy presentation and rubbish punctuation does a writer no favours.  They’re the most basic skills that any writer should have regardless of genre.  And if you can’t be bothered to get these things right, why should any publisher take you seriously or want to publish whatever you’re producing?  A professional attitude to writing can only make you a better professional.

 

Yes, of course you can argue with your editor and debate with them content, vocabulary and so on of a particular piece…you can re-jig your poems or stories, paint the whole the purple and cover it in strawberry yoghurt if you want to.  But ultimately if you want to be published, you have to take on board that your editor is trying to help you, even if you don’t necessary agree with what they are saying.

 

I’m really lucky.  My editor Nii Parkes, who runs Flipped Eye/Waterways, is excellent at his job, and we have a very good relationship.  But he’s totally ruthless when it comes to the editing process.  And however painful this process has been for me in the three collections of mine he’s published to date – and sometimes it really did feel as if I he’d asked me to chop up my children to make them fit into a different shaped crib – in the end he helped me grow as a writer, enabling me to understand more about line-breaks, presentation, vocabulary and content, and many other things.  All of this has made me become more professional about this writing lark, as well as appreciating what a tough and thankless job editing actually is.

 

Check out the results of all this professionalism.  The 3rd Loose Muse Anthology was launched on Thursday 4th April, at Cotton’s.

It was a free event, Cotton’s is a great venue selling terrific Caribbean food, and the night was full of fabulous poems, stories and plays.  How much cooler do you want a night to be that doesn’t involve sex with Johnny Depp!

Love

 

Agnes