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Writers' & Artists' Blog

Taking Stock After Shortlisting Success

Since signing with a literary agency a few weeks ago, my novel seems to have developed a momentum of its own. It’s been shortlisted in the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Award and after giving me editorial notes and the opportunity to ‘cut and dig deeper,’ my agents now feel that it is ready to submit to publishers. I know that ready does not mean the same as finished; there will be many more revisions to come and an exciting part of that will be hearing how different readers respond. I feel lightheaded at the prospect, but it is also a moment to take stock.

Soon after the shortlisting announcement, I spoke to the mother of a boy I used to teach. I asked formally for her permission to dedicate my novel to her wonderful son, Mahad, who was brutally murdered in 2017. It was a painful conversation and very different to the ones we’d had years ago. She and I spoke almost daily in the playground when Mahad was ten years old, at the beginning and end of each school day during my teaching …

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Short Story Competition 2019: Winner Revealed!

Once again, the W&A Team have been inundated with entries for our annual short story competition, sifting through close to 1,000 in total. We hand over to Writers' & Artists' Yearbook Editor Alysoun Owen to announce this year's winner and two commended entries...


Each year, before I sit down to read the shortlist of entries to our annual Short Story Competition, I get a small thrill: excited to see what wide range of styles, themes and approaches I’ll have the pleasure to read. This year I’ve encountered tales set in present times and in the past; stories woven with magic realism and very real issues such as depression and alcoholism; poetic styles and a tale told in a first-person patois. Thanks to each of you for entering, and if you have not been successful this time do try again next year.

The three stories that made it to the final cut, are tales that are well-told, with a clear sense of structure, purpose and a narrative that drew me in from their opening lines.

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From Idea To Agent

In the first of her blog series for W&A, author Nicola Garrard shares her journey of getting an agent...

If you had asked me, just two weeks ago, how my submissions to literary agents were going, I would have said, ‘Fingers still crossed… should hear in three months.’ I had been sending off my submissions in batches of six and hoping for the best. It looked doubtful; I hadn’t paid for a Creative Writing MA, hired an editor or attended a writers’ retreat. My total spend on my writing career to date had comprised £17 on a copy of the Writers' & Artists’ Yearbook, £20 on a bargain Writers & Artists’ ‘How to Submit your Manuscript’ event in London.

The next week, everything changed.

Two emails appeared in my inbox from agents asking to see the full manuscript and two offering representation. 

A day later, an agent telephoned me. 

I had gone from what felt like months of encouraging rejections, to the kind of interest (and delicious lunches) I had only …

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5 Writing Tips for 2019

12 months in as an aspiring authoress I look back to the first tender weeks of my authorship journey – and give myself a little condescending tap on the head.

I think it’s sweet that I had intended on not only submitting a fully polished novel to competitions and awards, but that I would have found an agent and be well on the way to securing a publishing deal… in one year.

So how did the authoress get on? Where in the process is she now? Let’s skip forward to January 2019… 

I'm on chapter two.

Now let’s get a few things straight – this isn’t because I didn’t do the work, or I was lazy or gave up, far from it. I worked tirelessly, dedicating hours and hours to research, writing, reading, courses…

The past year has taught me a tremendous amount. Not least, the reason I got 15,000 words in to my children’s novel and SCRAPPED it all.

When I set myself a goal, I approach it with dogged focus and determination. I work strictly to a rule book that I create …

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Literary Lessons: Art Matters

Rachel Knightley

From Art Matters by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Chris Riddell.

The best writing advice will always be the writing advice that inspires you to get on with the writing. Inspires, not instructs: no there is no great secret, yes it’s hard work and practise makes improvement. My favourite writing guide and favourite memoir, Stephen King’s On Writing, reminds us Dumbo made it into the air because of the magic feather clutched in his trunk, even though the magic was in him all the time. Writing courses and writing retreats and writing buddies and writing manuals are all great feathers. They can get us up there faster. But the magic is always in the elephant, not the feather. 

I have a new feather. It’s Art Matters, a stocking-filler-sized illustrated philosophy of life, art and freelancing. It sits beside my laptop on my windowsill “desk” in the living room. It’s made of three texts by Neil Gaiman – Credo (2015), Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming

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