The Winner Takes It All

6ws400A few weeks ago, one Saturday night, I read about Magic Oxygen’s six word competition on Twitter. The guidance on their website was, “your six-word story should present the reader with a snapshot of an event with a pertinent happening and offer a suitable enough conclusion to deliver a sense of completeness within its brevity. In other words, make it short and great! The best ones should leave the reader pondering an array of side-shoot possibilities for why it occurred and for what happens next”.

downloadI love flash fiction and as the telly was rubbish as usual, I thought I might as well have a go in collaboration with my old pal Pierre Smirnoff. And then I forgot all about submitting my entry (often the way of things after spending the night with Pierre).

So it was a lovely surprise to be told that I’d made the final nine on a shortlist, drawn up from 1,722 entries from 38 countries. Also, my entry would be read out with the other shortlisted stories and the winner would be announced live on radio.  I’m off chocolate right now (too many Weight Watchers Pro Points!) and all this unexpected excitement replaced the usual sugar rush I experience over the Easter weekend.

Appropriately, ‘The Winner Takes it All’ by ABBA was played just before the result was announced. Hubby and I paused unpacking the shopping to hear that Dan Micklethwaite’s very clever story scooped the £100 prize. You can read Dan’s winning story and the others shortlisted here.

Of course it would’ve been great to win, I’ve managed a 2nd prize in a writing competition but never a first. But it wasn’t to be, not this time… Hubby is a sore loser and looked more gutted than me and he was surprised that I wasn’t more upset by the result. Maybe it’s because I know that rejection is more common than success in the writing game and as I’ve had plenty of experience of knock backs over the years, I honestly didn’t expect to win (and the other entries were really impressive).


And although this will sound cheesy, I did win and here’s why: the competition was free to enter, it was a fun challenge, getting the email that I was shortlisted was exciting, hearing my story read aloud and discussed on radio was weird in a good way, listening to the other entries was inspiring. What’s not to like about that little list?

The word ‘winner’ has six letters in the word but my story has 6 words.

Cash withdrawn. Profile selected. Sperm deposited.

My story lost out on winning by a bawhair (recognised unit of measurement in Scotland) but there’s always next time…

Have  you tried to write a story in six words?

One Step Closer…

Being a published writer has been my ambition for a loooong time now and today my dream of becoming a published writer seemed one step closer when the postie delivered a parcel. I managed to rescue the package from the dog’s grip just in time to discover that it contained an exciting memento of my writing journey.

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I’ve often been tempted to indulge myself by paying to have my ms printed as a real book just to be able to put it on my book shelf rather than it staying hidden in the hard drive of my laptop. To have the book, albeit a plain proof copy, in my hands feels amazing!

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My ms kidding on it’s a real book sitting in Waterstones!

For anyone who hasn’t crossed my path in person or online (but I doubt I’ve missed you out) my novel, ‘Buy, Buy Baby’ has been shortlisted in the next stage of the Hookline Books Novel Competition.


At Hookline Books novels are chosen for publication by book groups from around the UK. Their process is to run an annual competition and invite manuscripts from students and graduates of MA/MLitt writing courses. The entrants submit the first three chapters, reading groups create a short list of interesting work, and those writers submit their complete manuscripts for book group review. Hookline Books then publish the works that book groups endorse as well-written and engaging. No pressure at all then!

Here’s a short video made by the BBC which shows a book group in action mauling discussing an entry.

My book is now through to the final four and the book groups have until the end of October to make their judgment whilst I have weeks of wondering if my story is being pulled apart or praised. It will be a long wait and although I’m really excited at the possibility of winning, I’m not buying a new outift and shoes (any excuse) or organising a book launch party yet!

images (1)I also read a sobering article by Joan Smith in the Guardian and a blog post, ‘An Open Letter to New and Would-be Writers’ by James Smythe. Both pieces highlighted the harsh reality of being a debut writer, if I ever get that far. In the week that JK Rowling was outed as using a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, for her first foray into crime fiction, this piece gives any other wannabes like me a reality check and a reminder that although my copy of ‘Buy, Buy Baby’ clearly states, ‘not for sale’, there’s value in writing that doesn’t relate to fame and fortune. You only need to ask why JK Rowling, with an estimated wealth of £560 million, felt the need to write, ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ to understand that writers write for the love of it, although winning the Hookline Book’s completion wouldn’t hurt one wee bit!!!

Writing Competitions-In It To Win It!

My name is Helen and I’m addicted to quality stationery.There you go, I’ve admitted it publicly. And one of my annual highlights is always starting a fresh diary (I know it’s sad). This year’s object of my affection is a lovely Writer’s Diary (thankfully my eldest son responded to repeated hints (I don’t do subtle) for a Xmas present I would actually use. The diary is produced by Mslexia and is packed full of ideas and info for women writers.  On one of the first pages it has a Submissions section for you to record when and where you’ve sent your precious masterpieces.There’s nothing quite like pages of blank columns to make me feel under pressure.  And as the publisher, Bloomsbury has dubbed 2012 as the year of the short story, I felt that I should get cracking and enter a short story competition.

I’ve not got a lot of experience of writing short stories and I know it’s not easy. With strict word limits you can’t afford to waste a single word.  I’m in awe of writers who can pull off a powerful story succinctly. The ultimate in flash fiction, a short form of storytelling, has got to be Ernest Hemingway’s work of genius, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Wow! How can six words be so evocative? Maybe stunning examples like that are why I’ve avoided the genre, but it was time to face my fear.

I needed a theme and a deadline to motivate me. And I found it on a trip to visit the newly refurbished Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.  Hubby and I went as part of a festive trip to Auld Reekie.  The gallery is a fantastic neo-gothic red sandstone building and has something to suit everyone’s taste whether you like traditional paintings of Scottish lairds or photographs of Glaswegian slums.  It’s well worth a visit and it’s free entry! On the way out, I picked up a leaflet for a competition called, ‘Inspired? Get Writing!’  There’s still time to enter! I chose to write about a striking (and a bit scary) portrait of the acclaimed writer, committed feminist and social activist, Naomi Mitchison, painted by Percy Wyndham Lewis. She sounded like my kind of woman!  

A very clever lady but what a dour faced looking besom!

sent off my submission this week and felt quite smug at being able to make my first entry under the Submissions section of my new diary. Entering the competition has fired me up to enter as many as I can in the hope of being published. Read a lot, write a lot is my new mantra and the competitions will give me a goal and the chance to practise, practise, and practise my writing skills. The chances of winning are slim but as they say, if you’re not in it, you can’t win it. Watch this space…