Sunday, 26 October 2008

Not My Crap Holiday, But Sarah's Crap Holiday

I see that one of my students, Sarah Radev, has commented on my blog about my crap holiday and advises that her crap holiday has been published in today's Observer! To read about Sarah's eventful trip (more of a journey than a holiday) click the link here.

So, I feel a challenge coming on... how many more of my students can get their crap holidays in the Observer? To find out how to submit your work, read Sarah's piece and my piece to assess the style. The details on how to submit your crap holidays are provided at the very end of the columns.

Of course, perhaps it is just Sarah and I who've had crap holidays ... but something tells me that if the Observer are running a whole series on this, then we're definitely not the only ones!

Let me know how you get on.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Your Vote Could Make The Difference

One of my students, John Price, has emailed bringing me up to date with all of his activities, one of which has been the joining of a writers' group. Now I'm an advocate of such groups, but I'll let John explain in his words what he is enjoying most about it:

"A group of other writers seemed to be a good idea so I sought one out and it's been a joy. Apart from the laughs, the incentive to have something to share each week - whether it's in response to the prompts given out at the meetings or one of my own writing projects - has certainly got me writing more quickly and even dabbling with unfamiliar genres. But Rising Brook Writers in Stafford is different from other writers groups in this area in that it is a voluntary charitable trust that aims to promote the joys of creative writing among the over-50s and the disabled. As well as weekly meetings and on-line workshops, each year we run a series of touring workshops for senior citizen groups, care centres and the like that encourage people to share their memories, which we help them to write and publish as both a book and a CD. Last year the theme of the workshops, which are supported by lottery funding, was wartime memories, this year it's seaside holidays, and I've been asked to lead the sessions and write the book. So, I joined the group for company and feedback on my own writing and end up getting paid work. It really is true that there can be writing opportunities in the most unexpected places."

So, if you want to broaden your skills, friends and overall writing experience, then look for a writing group in your area. John would now like our help to gain some grant funding for a project they're involved with:

"We have applied to the Staffordshire County Council’s Local Member Initiative Scheme for funding to replace computer equipment to enable senior citizen volunteers to operate a weekly online writing workshop for the housebound. If you would be kind enough to vote for us by text message before 31st October, It would be a great help. Just send Vote SW11 to 60003. "

Please remember that your mobile phone operator will charge you for texting your vote, and that votes need to be cast by 31st October.

Good luck John.

Monday, 20 October 2008

My Crap Holiday

Apologies for the rude word in the title, but I'm only quoting the section in The Observer newspaper that is open to freelance submissions.

Many of the newspapers have sections which are open to 'readers' and in The Observer's Escape section (travel and holidays) there is a 'Reader's Page' mainly consisting of letters asking for help with their holidays. There is however, a section of about 400 words entitled "My Crap Holiday" where readers can describe their worst holiday. There's no payment, but there is a small prize of a First Aid Kit (designed to 'take the sting' out of future holiday disasters!).

To give you an idea, why not read an example of someone's 'crap' holiday and see if you have one that's even crappier?

Click on this link to read an example - yes folks - it's my crap holiday - which was published yesterday Sunday 19th October 2008. It's easy to do. I emailed it to the address that the paper provides on 8th October and here it is 11 days later. And no - they didn't tell me they were going to use it. Why should they? After all, it's on the "Reader's Page" therefore they expect me to be a reader every week and buy a copy anyway!

So go on. Have a go. We've all had at least one crap holiday. Haven't we?

Good luck!

Friday, 17 October 2008

New Magazine Launches (with free copies)

Lonely Planet magazine is just about to be launched (it is being operated by BBC magazines) and as you can see from the picture, a free copy is available. Now I'm never one to turn down a free opportunity to analyse a new market!

It's only available to UK addresses unfortunately and the offer closes on 31st October 2008, so you'll need to be quick.

To claim a free copy (there is the cost of the telephone call to consider - approx 5p per minute from BT lines) ring 0844 243 9861 and quote code LPEM08.

They are offering a free copy of the very first issue (December 2008) which will be available in mid November (and posted out then).

Scotland Outdoors is another new magazine that has been recently launched and looks at anything to do with Scotland's great outdoors whether it is nature or sports related.

On the subscription page of the magazine, it is offering a free copy for readers to look at. The website says that the offer is available whilst stocks last but it makes no mention of whether only UK addresses can claim, so if you're based abroad, all i can suggest is that you try it and see!

Visit their website for more details and to find out more about the magazine.

Good luck!

When To Stop Titivating?

Ros Houghton recently emailed and asked, "I keep tweaking my work and cannot leave it alone. Am I going mad?"

Firstly, I told her that she wasn't going mad! It's important for a writer to assess their work and look for ways to improve it. Work should be the best it can be when it is submitted.

However, if there comes a time when tweaking or titivating is preventing you from submitting a piece of work then you need to stop!

Ros's situation is that a publisher has asked to see the first few chapters of her work, so whilst she's waiting for the publisher to respond to that, she's busy 'tweaking' the rest of her manuscript. This is fine because her work is still being considered whilst she looks for ways in which to improve her text, so that when (thinking positively!) the publisher asks to see the rest of the text, she knows it is the best she can make it.

I always advocate putting your work aside for a day or so and then reviewing it with fresh eyes. If you make an amendment, put it to one side again and then review it later with fresh eyes, and continue doing this until you read it without making an amendment.

So if I write a first draft of an article on a Monday, I'll review it Tuesday, then Wednesday and so on, but usually by Thursday I'm ready to submit it.

But of course, if you keep 'tweaking' a piece of work forever, you will never send it out and the only way it will get published is by submitting it. So be realistic with yourself. If the only amendment you are considering making is whether a comma should or should not be taken out, make a decision and then send your work out. Your work won't be rejected on the basis of whether that particular comma is right or not.

A writer whose aim is to write for publication, but keeps amending their work and never gets around to sending it out IS going mad! So don't go mad ... get it written ... get it right ... then send it out!

Finally, I just want to say congratulations to Sarah Radev who has just been offered a regular column in Kennel and Cattery Management magazine. She's certainly someone who can't spend all her time tweaking her work now - she's got a monthly deadline to adhere to!

Good luck.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Write for Writer's Forum magazine

Writer's Forum magazine is a great magazine for writers, but it is also one of the most accessible ones to write for.

Here are the guidelines for anyone interested in writing for this magazine. One such area in the magazine where you may be able to achieve publication is if you can interview a writer you know. Now the writer doesn't have to be famous, but if a member of your writer's circle has achieved publication, or has had a great experience with self-publication then other writers may be able to learn from this (see notes below on what is and is not acceptable with self-published stories).

And if you are based abroad, are there any good markets in your own country that you can write for, or have had success writing for yourself? How did you break into these markets? The reader's of Writer's Forum magazine are interested in any tips - just like you are! So if you have any knowledge you can share, then this could be a useful market to share it with!

This is what the editor, Carl Styants (make a note of his name!) has to say:


We welcome feature ideas from both new and established writers, but we expect journalism not opinion. [Top tip!] Back up any statements with facts and figures. Unless the story is personal and told in the first person, keep your voice from intruding.

In almost all instances, articles should show research of current markets or issues affecting writers, and include quotes from relevant experts. [Aren't I always telling you how quotes add credence and authority to your work?]

Space is limited and articles that try to cover too much will not be able to explain any part in detail. Stick to one topic, but make it one that will be of interest to enough readers.

Avoid formats used by regular contributors in their columns, such as 'Where I Write'. [I know Phil Barrington who writes this piece and I can tell you, he wouldn't be very happy with someone muscling in on his territory. PS - He's just interviewed me about my writing space - look out for in an issue around Spring 2009 - I might mention it nearer the time in the blog! It's where I mark all your assignments too!]

As in all good writing, show don't tell. Give detailed examples of any points being made; ask other writers, publishers and relevant experts for them.

The main reason for rejection is that an article tells us things we already know; advice that even a relatively new writer will have seen too often. If you want to cover a familiar aspect of good writing, show why and how it applies in today's publishing world. New ideas in writing are extremely rare but there always new ways to present old ones.

Articles examining an issue that affects writers (eg legal, political or financial matters, or those involving writing relationships or health concerns), are especially welcome. Again, these require quotes from relevant experts. [In other words any 'off-beat' or more unusual articles about writing stand more chance than traditional 'how to write' type articles.]


Author interviews should concentrate solely on the process of writing and getting published. We prefer masterclasses on a specific technique or style for which the author is known. The content of books, plots and characters should only be discussed in those terms; as examples to illustrate a piece of advice. Do not praise the author or the quality of his or her work but state reported facts, such as 'bestselling', 'controversial' or 'prize-winning'.


If you are writing about your own success in getting a book published, pick out aspects that make your story unique or interesting. Everyone knows they should keep going and not give up, but how did you do it? Tell your story chronologically and stick to your own experience. Show don't tell, eg: 'This is what happened to me and this is what I would do next time.' Don't presume to speak for all writers, or lecture the readers on what they should do. Let them decide which parts of your story are useful.


We are inundated with stories from readers who have self-published a book. We welcome how-to articles on specific aspects but please don't send submissions describing the whole process. Contact Siobhan Curham who uses lots of case studies for her Self-Publishing Workshops. She plugs the books of those featured who can help out with anecdotes and tips.

Remember that Writers' Forum is a trade magazine, not a literary review. The language should be kept simple and all jargon explained in passing. Save any literary flourishes for your creative writing. Be informative, accurate and, just as importantly, entertaining.


How to suggest ideas:

All ideas should be sent in the body of an email to Briefly describe the proposal in the subject line to make it stand out. Be as concise as possible but explain the aim and scope of the article. Add a few words about your writing experience, if any. [From my own experience, Carl will get back to you if interested although allow several weeks before chasing.]

How to send copy:

Once agreed, articles should be sent attached as a Word document preferably (.doc not .docx) or as a Rich Text File (.rtf).

Use a single plain font at 12pt or 14pt. Bold and italics are fine but keep it simple. Please do not format the text with tabs, indents, borders, colour, images, headers and footers etc.

There's no need for a cover sheet but make sure your contact details are in your email and at the top of the copy on the first page (not in a header).

Freelances often ask about wordcounts but it is more important to get all the details into your article. We edit all articles on the page and it is easier for us to cut material than to add it. As a very rough guide, an article that suits a page should be about 800-1000 words, or about 1500-1700 words if it suits a spread, depending on photos, book covers etc. We'd rather receive 500 tightly written words than a 1500-word article padded out with repetition and deviation.

How to send images:

Mention any available images in your submission but you needn't send them until requested. You should source images of anyone interviewed – we prefer normal colour photos to arty black and white 'author' shots. If necessary, you must seek the consent of the copyright holder and supply a credit.

Electronic images must be print quality – 300 dot per inch (dpi) at a decent size. Web images at 72dpi will not reproduce well unless they are four times the size they will be used in the magazine (ie a 20cm square web image at 72dpi will be only 5cm square when printed at 300dpi).

Give them filenames that are brief captions, eg sam_at_her_desk.jpg You can also send images to be scanned by us, although we cannot be held responsible if they are lost in the post. The address is:

Writers' Forum,
PO Box 6337
Bournemouth BH1 9EH

We appreciate that many contributors will be new to feature writing and do not mind if these points are not followed to the letter. The ideas and level of detail are far more important than the presentation.


Here in the UK Writer's Forum is available in most large newsagents. You can buy back copies which may be a good idea for those based abroad. Click here for more details.

My article about writing for the outdoor magazines was published in this issue

and my article about arranging your own Writer's Retreat was published in this issue.

Good luck!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Read a magazine for free!

Rob Innis kindly passed this one to me, which I think many people will be interested in.

There's a website called which enables people to subscribe to magazines but read them electronically instead of buying a paper version. The idea is to cut down on the number of trees cur down!

Part of the initiative allows people to have one free electronic magazine subscription. Now the site is American, but it's an opportunity for a free market study of an American magazine.

For further information and details of their terms and conditions, visit to see the sort of magazines available.

Good luck.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Wouldn't You Believe It?

Unfortunately, an elderly family member of mine is back in Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, which means that I'm travelling the 160 miles across the UK to visit them when I can.

Addenbrookes is quite a famous hospital and well known for its pioneering enterprise. (Unfortunately my elderly relative is an ordinary Cambridge resident and therefore her ailments do not push Addenbrookes' pioneering boundaries back further. Perhaps that's why she was admitted to A&E last Tuesday needing an urgent MRI scan, and here we are a week later, and they still haven't arranged it for her. Still, that's a completely different posting, and one that if I said everything I wanted to say, would probably see me in court for saying naughty things I shouldn't!)

Anyway, whilst she waits for the urgent MRI scan, we've been chatting, and when you're in small wards you often start chatting to the other patients as well. And across the ward in a bed opposite is an elderly woman whose husband was posted in the rural town where I live in Shropshire, during the Second World War. She heard us talking about the Long Mynd, the big hill that dominates the town.

Now, my neighbour and his son have been exploring the hill and have recently discovered some remains of what look like some Second World War buildings. They're quite large and looked as though they may have housed some big machinery.

Well, wouldn't you believe it, but the elderly woman in the hospital bed opposite says, "my husband used to drive tanks up and down the Long Mynd," and suddenly I realised what those huge buildings were.

I'm now in the process of doing some more research for an article on this subject, but isn't it amazing how someone in a hospital bed 160 miles away from home can unlock a whole host of ideas? The thought of driving up The Burway, the single track road that climbs up and over the Long Mynd fills many drivers with dread, for the sheer drop on one side that they might get acquainted with if they don't pull into a passing place properly when they meet something coming the other way. I'd hate to think what they'd do if they met a tank coming in the opposite direction!


I must say congratulations to Joan Newman who's just told me that her second assignment has been retained on file by Best of British magazine. She was a little disappointed that the editor hasn't said that it will definitely be published. But I've reminded Joan that editors don't have a habit of hanging onto unpublishable material!

Ships Monthly magazine is on the look out for nautical related articles. It's preference is for all types of sea going vessels except yachts and it prefers boats to be 20th or 21st century models. Alternatively, a sea related topic such as lighthouses, shipyards and harbours may also catch the editors interest.

As you can see from this month's front cover, it's not just British orientated, so perhaps those of you based further overseas may be able to sell an idea to the editor, More information can be found at the magazines website

Good luck!