Hello fair writer peeps, what's new? What's new for me is a grown up poem I wrote will be appearing in a grown up poetry anthology next year - this is a first for me and I am very, very excited and also slightly bewildered. Also I have written an educational resource for My Elephant is Blue which is now available in the menu at the top of this blog's landing page.
I don't know if you've noticed but the Storylines writing awards close at the end of this month - October 31st - and hopefully some of you will be sending in entries, so you'll be polishing, revising, editing, tidying and putting the finishing flourishes on your manuscripts right now. I've been both an entrant (Joy Cowley and Tom Fitzgibbon) and a judge (Joy Cowley) and I can honestly say, hand on heart, these are wonderful competitions - worth entering, albeit nerve wracking and difficult to shortlist in, but they force you to finish a story, to polish it till it gleams, and to take a risk which is all part of how this business works. And every entry is read by the publishers involved.
My tips, if you are planning to enter ...
1) When you have revised, checked spelling and got rid of all those darlings that aren't pulling their weight and making a solid contribution to your story as a whole, put your story away for a couple of days. Ideally the longer the better but clearly its getting down to the wire now so if you can look away from it for 48 hours it will help. It is amazing how mistakes or rough bits manage to hide themselves from our prying eyes when we have been checking, re-checking, and re-re-checking the same story for weeks on end. A wee break will bring them back to the surface and you will be a little more objective for one final read through.
2) Think - have I got the rhythm right? Many a fabulous story is ruined by an abrupt rhythm which spoils the reading experience. Does it flow smoothly or do you stumble and hiccup on some words or punctuation? If something makes you pause, even if you think it fits, see if you can rearrange it or smooth it out somehow. I find my gut is usually smarter than me at this point.
3) While your story is having a wee lie down in a darkened room, go and check the submission details and rules of engagement. Make a checklist and then do everything they have asked you to do. This is not the time to be a rule breaker.
4) Note the required word counts on the entry forms. Are you in the right range? You really need to be. If you aren't, your story might not be ready.
5) Number your pages. And I think it can be handy to put the title of your story in the header at the top of the page. If manuscripts get dropped or muddled by accident this should help every page find its rightful home again.
6) Covid means delays in mail deliveries - post early to ensure your manuscripts get there in time.
7) Have a strategy to get you through the long wait. Winners are announced at the Storylines Margaret Mahy Day which is usually end of March beginning of April. Join a band, knit a car, run away to the circus ... and work on a new story ... and if picture books are your thing then that new manuscript you are working on can be entered on the open submissions day that Scholastic hold on Valentine's Day.
8) I never got anywhere when I entered the Tom Fitzgibbon. I entered the Joy Cowley maybe 4 or 5 times and got shortlisted twice I think - the stories that were shortlisted needed heaps more work. Don't despair if you don't win or shortlist - it is not the final word or the end of anything. It was a useful step for me to take no matter the outcome. I think entering helped familiarise my name with some folk. It certainly made me keep writing.
Okay that's enough for now ... you really should be getting those stories ready ... talk soon ... and GOOD LUCK!!!