Sunday, February 12, 2017

I'm offering free appraisals for 2,500 words of fiction until March 1.

So, am I worth listening to? Firstly, scroll back and read yesterday's blog. 

Now read my whistle-stop CV and make your own mind up. 

Way back in the early 1970s, after graduating from London University with a BA in English Literature, a comprehensive old-fashioned feel for the subject but with little idea of what to do with it, I took a job in a large London bookshop which now 40 years of have passed and after many take-overs (Claude Gill, Dillon’s and now Waterstones.) 

I was then promoted to the position of hardbacks manager at one of their smaller store at the other end of Oxford Street, Because, I had just got married to Jon and a hefty mortgage, I needed a bigger salary. So I took civil service exams and because I had 'A' levels in French and Spanish I worked as a civilian for the Metropolitan Police at the recently vacated New Scotland Yard, mainly as a translator for Interpol. I also did some admin work there.

Two children later, we moved up to Harrogate and I became a full-time mother, chief cook and bottle washer. When the boys began school, I took a part-time work in Waterstones and renewed my love of book-selling.

More importantly, I also decided to go to a weekly adult class called ‘Writing for Pleasure and Profit.’ It opened my eyes. I learned so much, the first lesson being that writing articles for non-fiction magazines is reasonably easy if you pitch them well. My non-fiction started appearing in magazines as diverse as Practical Caravan, Essentials, The Automobile and The Yorkshire Journal. I soon grew bored with practicalities and switched to fiction. It took time for this to take off. After much trial and error, my commercial short stories appeared in Women’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Lady, The Peoples` Friend and Best but I soon found I found that I was leaning more towards writing ‘literary’ short fiction.

Fortunately it was boom time (before the internet) for small-press print fiction. I reaped the whirlwind and was lucky enough to win numerous short-story competitions. In 1999, I won the ‘story of the year’ prize awarded by World Wide Writers. In 2005, I was short-listed in the Asham Award and also won first prize in the International Biscuit Prize. (Journalist and novelist Jane Wenham-Jones then dubbed me ‘the veritable Queen of the Short Story.’)

In 2006, I won first prize in the annual Biscuit short-story competition which was cash (always welcome) and the offer to publish a novella. Biscuit Publishing then came to an end when its lovely owner, Brian Lister, retired. It was a wonderful Newcastle-based publisher of short stories, poetry and drama, drama. And so, Chasing Angels about the pioneering female mountaineer, Henriette D’Angeville, was published. The BookBag describes it as ‘a delight from start to finish.’ Its publication gave me the understanding that, although I still write contemporary fiction, historical fiction is where my heart is. This is probably because I need perspective to write fiction and the speed of contemporary life makes it impossible to see it.

During these halcyon days, I helped Jo Derrick who was finding publishing the wonderful QWF magazine single-handedly a little overwhelming. I temporarily was the initial reader of hundreds of submissions, the most promising of which I passed to Jo for her final decision. QWF was the only magazine at the time that offered a page long reason for rejection for free. I know exactly why most magazines do not. I wished I’d kept the rude letter I received! It’s not for the faint-hearted. Having said that, most recipients were appreciative. I have since got to know many writers who remember receiving one of my ‘encouraging’ rejections!

My Victorian novel Hope Against Hope was published in 2011. It was long-listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year the following year. Since then I have struggled to gain publication for a novel set in 1920s Leeds. I am proud of that novel and hope to publish it digitally after exhausting many avenues.

I have almost completed my WIP, a medieval novel set in a very small Yorkshire nuns' priory – provisional title: The Thorndale Miracle. It contains mystery, murder, a bloody battle and a touch of magic realism. I’m writing it for myself really. I am enjoying it but only the ensuing flood of rejections will give me any indication of its worth.  

Having been the overall UK Editor for the reviews magazine of the Historical Novel Society for many years, I now only write the occasional review, I am also a member of the RNA and the HWA. I read both commercial and literary fiction. Both have their merits and I never discriminate. Both have different requirements. 
 I don't bite. So what are you waiting for?

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