Friday, 28 November 2008

The Crap Holidays Just Keep On Coming!

Well I'm beginning to feel a bit sorry for you all now! I never knew it was possible for so many people to have so many awful holidays!

Liz Dawes has contacted me to say that she's received an email from The Observer today, advising her that her Crap Holiday (No Nooky in Norfolk) will be used in this Sunday's edition of The Observer (30th November). Not only is she overjoyed at this, but it's even more special for her because it's her very first piece of work to be published.

Congratulations Liz, I'm sure you'll enjoy the moment (and don't forget to tell family and friends to go out and buy a copy!)

This means that in the six weeks since my Crap Holiday was published on October 19th, there have only been 2 weeks when this slot was not produced by one of my students!

I hope this proves that there are slots within many newspapers that are open to outside contributions, and Liz's experience demonstrates that previously unpublished writers can achieve publication here.

Keep sending the crap holidays into the Observer. Let's see how many more of my students can get their work published in this slot before the end of the year.

And if this has whetted your appetite, UK based students should check out The Guardian on a Saturday. In their Family section they have a 'Family Life: Your Stories' section, and they pay up to £75 for some of the contributions. Over to you then!

Good luck.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

And Another Crap Holiday!

Well folks, we've done it again! Chris Lacey emailed to say that his 'crap holiday' was published in last week's Observer. To read it click here.

Thanks to everyone who wished me a pleasant 'retreat' with my writer friends. I've just got back and am in the process of catching up with my emails.

For those of you who don't know, I go to a writer's circle that meets monthly in Telford, Shropshire and some of us have fallen into the habit of going away at this time of year in order to write. We hire a large house somewhere not too far away and for a few days the aim is to escape the pressures of everyday life, the phones and family and to write.

If you're interested in finding out what we got up to, there are pictures and videos on the writer's circle blog, which can be found here.



Thursday, 20 November 2008

Don't Forget Your Front Coversheet!

Firstly, apologies for not posting for a while, but I've been away running another writing holiday, and I'm just about to go away again! (Oh such is the life of an international jet-setting writer .... well Wales is another country, sort of.)

Anyway, I've been busy marking the assignments that came in whilst I was away and I noticed an interesting trend. Not one of those students had given their articles a front cover sheet!

It's important that you give all your articles and short stories a cover sheet. Not only does it make it clear to the editor what you're submitting to them, but in some magazines, the editor will scribble a price on the front of it, rip it off from the rest of the manuscript, and that's what gets sent down to accounts to pay you. So cover sheets or title pages are important!

Remember, a cover sheet should include:
  • The title of your article / short story
  • Who it is by (so put a pen name here, if you are going to use one)
  • The number of words
  • Your (real) name, address and any other contact details you want to provide
  • And finally, details of what rights you are offering the editor (First British Serial Rights, First Indian Serial Rights, First Malaysian Serial Rights etc)
First impressions count, so make sure your title page looks as professional as you can make it.

Right, I'm off to Wales for a few days with a few of my writer friends on our annual retreat. We've hired a large mansion near the Welsh Coast and are escaping from the modern world in order to write, so I'll let you know how I get on. In the meantime, for those of you here in the UK, if you want a laugh, then take a look at this week's "Take a Break" magazine (issue 48 - purple cover). It's my short story on page 57, and it'll probably demonstrate why I don't do short stories very often!

Good luck!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Another Crap Holiday!

Penny Legg has just emailed me to say that her 'Crap Holiday' has just been published in the Observer! Well done!

To read about Penny's unfortunate experience, click here.

That means that since my piece was published in the Observer, two of my students have now had their pieces published. Anyone else had a go? Do let me know if you're successful!

If you haven't heard about this reader's column in the paper, the details are as follows:

Have you had a crap holiday? If so, tell us about it. The writers of stories we publish will receive a £16 Lifesystems Adventurer First Aid Kit from Cotswold Outdoor (0844 557 7755; for taking the sting out of minor holiday mishaps. Email

To get a taster of what's expected, read a selection of other people's 'Crap Holidays' at this link.

Good luck!

Monday, 3 November 2008

No, but Yes, but No, but Yes, but ...

Lubna Shahab forwarded an email that she'd been sent from an editor and I have pasted it below for you all to read:

Good morning!

How are you?! Thanks for your email and sorry about the late response. We've
read through the piece and while it's a great piece, we have already done
articles on the topics you have covered in it. So we can't repeat, I hope
you understand. Would be happy to hear some pitches though. Let me know your

Now I'm sure you'll agree that Lubna was disappointed that her article had been rejected. This is a classic example of where the magazine feels that it has already covered this topic recently and to ensure that they don't bore their readers, don't want to revisit the subject for some time. But notice how the editor has told her that this was a 'great piece'. So her writing was good, and clearly her article was targeted at the right publication because the magazine has already covered the topic. Clearly, Lubna has done everything right here. Unfortunately it hasn't worked out, purely because Lubna wasn't aware that the magazine had recently covered this topic. That doesn't mean that Lubna didn't do her market analysis - on the contrary, if she'd examined the last 3 issues the chances are this subject hadn't been covered then. The topics may have been written about 6, 7, or even 8 months ago. But it's still too soon for the editor and the readers.

But look at the final sentence of that rejection email : Would be happy to hear some pitches though, let me know your thoughts. WOW!

Now let's get one point clear. Editors don't ask writers to send in article ideas if they are naff writers! They get inundated with ideas from naff writers everyday, they don't need more. But they DO invite the writers who show promise, and clearly Lubna's article demonstrated that she could write to a high standard, and it also showed that she knew what the magazine's readership wanted. That's what the editor is thinking. Here's a writer who can write, and can write well for our readership.

So I've told Lubna to send in a list of three or four ideas. She needs to think carefully about them, and approach the ideas in the same way that she did for her article. But if she can supply three or four, the editor may like one of them and ask her to write it up.

Now this is NOT a commission. If the editor likes an idea it does not mean that it will definitely be used. However, it puts Lubna in a much stronger position because she knows that the editor already likes her idea. It also means that when she submits the finished article she can begin her email:

Please find, as requested, my article entitled ...

Again, this gives her a stronger position because when the editor looks at the email he/she will know that it is an idea that is suitable. He/she has already asked to see it.

So what started out as a 'reject' email, actually ends up very positive. If ever you find yourself in this position then do send the ideas in.

Never worry about your ideas being stolen. This just doesn't happen. People often have the same ideas at the same time (funnily enough, lots of writers are having ideas about credit crunch / financial doom and gloom articles at the moment).

Ever wondered why in assignment 2 when you're asked to analyse the publication right at the end of the analysis you are asked to come up with several ideas that you can offer them? Now you know!

The rejection began as a "No", but it definitely turned into a "could be!"

Good luck.