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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Week Two of the Course

The second part of the short story writing course caused mixed feelings. I duly used the link provided to read a most excellent prize-winning and atmospheric story (cue "I could never write like that".) The writing exercises were completed too (not to be submitted at this stage, but filed away). I had submitted a draft of the first 800 words of a story, with the task being not to worry too much about editing at this stage, and submitted my feedback on the story openings buzzed over from the tutor.

Then - oh heck. Encouraging feedback from the tutor, with some aspects to consider including an unexpected change of point of view. Yes, I know, a common mistake. One of the students' feedback comments kindly mixed positive with problems and suggestions, and agreed in some places with the tutor's own opinion. The other feedback (almost as long as the original piece) piled comment upon comment about what didn't gel, what didn't make sense, what trips the reader up and so on, with the point-of-view comment only too incisive (and repeated).

It's a funny thing with writers. As a group we seem to lack confidence; even the most prolific and successful suffer. Which I guess is a spur to keep up standards or risk falling victim to failure. This review certainly knocked me for six. After all, it was supposed to be only a draft. Like most students I suppose, I found it hard to take such a wealth of criticism, wrote to the tutor saying maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew, and whinged to my family and my writing group. All-round reassurance followed, and given a few days to stop sulking, I have now listed from each critique the points which I accept and to which attention will be given in the next draft. Just as planned, no doubt!

So, on to week three, about which I'll write soon (getting a bit behind, but will catch up). As a psychologist who has run courses for teachers, I know all about negative/positive feedback, how students often feel after the initial flush of enthusiasm about a course, and how important it is to keep them on track and looking ahead with confidence. Physician, heal thyself and all that. And I shall.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Back To School!

As I've been venturing into fiction more lately, especially of the flash type but also short stories, the lure of Tom Vowler's six-week online short story course was hard to resist. After looking at his website, achievements and general cred, I paid up and planned - very roughly - my 3-5 hours per week to devote to the course. There are only a few 'students' so feedback from Tom and from the others is manageable for us all.

The first week's work is now done, and I am really glad that this is more a literary course than one for women's popular magazines, as that's what I feel I lack. Tom wrote a useful intro about the short story, and set some exercises - including submitting the beginning of a story - and reader, I did them all. He intends to make silk purses out of sows' ears, and I shall give it my very best shot. Oink, oink.

I shall blog in a week's time about the second lot of exercises now in my inbox, together with (if publishable) any interesting feedback on my first attempt.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Win a Book Token!

Welcome, and here are details of this new competition.

Why a Competition?
I've been reading books avidly on my Kindle lately, and feeling that they are absolute bargains for (a) how much work the authors put in to produce them and (b) how many hours for which each one entertains me. So it struck me that it would be appropriate to 'give something back'.

What is the Prize?
There are two prizes of national book tokens. (Sorry but this means UK entries only.) The first token is worth £15, the second £10.

How to Enter
Simply describe, in fifteen words or fewer, how you would use your book token. Maximum of two entries per person please. There are two ways to enter: either leave your answer as a comment on this blog post, or on Twitter to @JacquelinePye with the hashtag #bookcomp

When Does It Close?
Open now, and closes at 6pm on Wednesday February 8th.

Who Is Judging?
Richard Morris, Founder & MD of TheGivingMachine, has kindly agreed to judge the competition, and all entries will be passed to him anonymously after the close. TheGivingMachine is a thriving not-for-profit organisation, perfect for online shoppers to support their favourite charities absolutely free. Participating online shops (over 350 of the most popular sites so far and counting) pay TheGivingMachine commission for whatever we buy through the portal - only one extra click. These commissions are converted into cash donations to the shopper's chosen charity. Details are on The Giving Machine website. I use it for all my online shopping, and donations go to Leukaemia Research. It seemed the ideal 'partner' for this competition, going with the theme of 'giving'.

Anything Else?
There are no other conditions - I'm not insisting on a follow or RT on Twitter! I'll provide a link to the competition on Twitter, and on Facebook too although I'm, er, rather inactive on Facebook! If you decide to enter, the best of luck. Winners will be announced on Monday February 13th and contacted individually.