Thursday, 31 July 2014

New Writing North newsletter

Here is the latest New Writing North newsletter for my followers to view:

 July 2014
News from New Writing North
New Writing North news
Arts Council funding confirmed
New Writing North is pleased to announce that the Arts Council England has confirmed we will retain our funding at current levels for the next three years. Thanks to the amazing writers we work with, partners who support us, and, of course, readers and audiences for helping us accomplish this.
Durham Book Festival Launch announcement
Join New Writing North and best-selling author Richard Benson in the beautiful surroundings of Durham Castle for the launch of the 2014 Durham Book Festival. Richard will be at the launch to talk about his new book The Valley. Described by The Guardian as ‘a masterpiece of empathy and good writing’ the book explores the lives of a Yorkshire mining family over four generations. This year’s festival line-up includes world-class authors, poets and thinkers, as well as a host of exciting new commissions. Guests at the launch party will be the very first people to discover what the 2014 programme will contain. A limited number of public tickets are available for £15 on Eventbrite.
Creative Writing for Teachers – now recruiting
If you’re a primary or secondary school teacher looking for an original CPD opportunity you may want to consider joining our Creative Writing for Teachers group. The group meets twice termly at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle for workshops with professional writers such as Ann Coburn and Gillian Allnutt.

The course costs £75 per teacher per year and is suitable for teachers looking for an opportunity to develop their own writing, but also for practical ideas that can be used in the classroom to encourage creative writing. For more information or to sign up contact
Durham Book Festival Schools Day
Durham Book Festival is pleased to announce our Durham Book Festival schools’ day will take place on 6 and 7 October 2014 and is now open now for early booking. Join authors Meg Rosoff, Mick Manning and Brita Granström, Helen Stephens, and Daljit Nagra for two days of special events at Durham Johnston Comprehensive School.

There is also a special Twilight Session with poet Daljit Nagra, who will lead a poetry writing workshop for teachers. To find out more go to
Northern Writers Awards summer party
We had a lovely night with a group of Northern Writers Awards winners who got to pitch their work to top agents and publishers at our summer party in London last Thursday. New Fiction Bursary winner Dale Hannah signed with agent Ben Illis on the night, and many writers have had requests for manuscripts from publishers, so watch this space for more news.
Join the Moth Publishing crime family
Got an idea for the perfect crime? Then get writing and enter the Northern Crime Competition. With our last crop of authors doing well, we’re looking for some new accomplices. There is still two months before the innovative literary competition closes on the 29 August. Find out more at Moth Publishing:
In the news
2014 Read Regional poet Tara Bergin has won the fourth Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry with her collection This is Yarrow. As part of the prize, Tara will be going to the Glucksman Ireland House at New York University to read at the third annual Tom Quinlan Lecture in Poetry.
Congratulations to Ben Myers. 2014 continues to be favourable towards the Durham-born author, as he scoops another award. This time it was the Tom-Gallon Trust Award for his short story The Folk Song Singer. The Award judges, Elanor Dymott and Aamer Hussain, complimented ‘the tautness of the deceptively simple tale’.
In the North
Artists’ Book Market at BALTIC
This December the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art will play host to a national two day Artists’ Book Market. Submissions are welcome from artists, bookmakers, small press publishers and book binders. The deadline for submission is 1 October. For further details on how to apply and to download submission forms please go to or email the organiser on
Juice Festival – tender for Partner Schools Documentary
Juice Festival is seeking a filmmaker to create a documentary, profiling the festival’s two year relationship with five partner schools across Newcastle and Gateshead. To find out more about tendering for this opportunity download this PDF.
Join us for the Durham Book Festival launch
Join New Writing North and best-selling author Richard Benson, author of acclaimed new book The Valley, in the beautiful surroundings of Durham Castle on 12 August for the launch of the 2014 Durham Book Festival. This year’s festival includes world-class authors, poets and thinkers, as well as a host of exciting new commissions and guests at the launch party will be the very first to discover what’s in the 2014 programme. A limited number of public tickets are available for £15. To book, go to
Room to Write Short Story Competition
The inaugural Room to Write Short Story Competition is open until the 1 August. The winning story will be published in the Northern Echo and broadcast on listenupnorth. To find out more go to the Room to Write website.

Bait helps make Utopia a reality

Participants from Northumberland Church of England Academy celebrated the publication of their own collection of stories this week. A group of Year 8’s interested in dystopian fiction worked for 10 weeks with writers Stevie Ronnie and Lauren Stafford to pen their own stories as part of New Writing North’s work with Bait. The book, The Utopia Accidents, was designed by Stevie and copies presented to participants at a special celebration event at the Academy on Wednesday 16 July.
Bait, which is part of the national Creative People and Places programme funded by Arts Council England and Northumberland County Council, supports loads of exciting events and activities, inspiring more people to create and take part in the arts in South East Northumberland. For more information, visit

Keep in touch, sign up today
With the launch of the programme only a few weeks away, have you signed up for the Durham Book Festival newsletter? Starting just after the launch, we’ll be sending out weekly newsletters about events at the book festival, news about the 2014 commissions, a few of our chief executive’s personal recommendations and more. So if you haven’t already signed up, go to and do it now.

Cuckoo Summer School for Cramlington

Cuckoo Young Writers are looking for young people to join them in Cramlington for a Cuckoo summer workshop. If you are aged 14-18 years and love writing, join Carina Rodney, Amy Mackelden and John Challis at Cramlington Library from 18-22 August, 11am-4pm, for a full week of free taster sessions for different types of writing. Try your hand at everything from scriptwriting to recording a poem. All the workshops are led by professional writers and will be suitable for all young people, from beginners to more experienced writers.

For more information and for details of the summer schools in Newcastle and Sunderland, see

To book your place on any of the Cuckoo summer schools email or call 0191 204 8852.

Debbie Taylor launches Herring Girl on the Tyne
Mslexia editor Debbie Taylor will be (literally) launching her novel Herring Girl on 7 August at a party aboard the Fortuna in Newcastle upon Tyne. There will be cold bubbles, fishy smackerels, a (brief) reading – and a return cruise from the Quayside to the mouth of the River Tyne, where the 'historical paranormal crime' novel is set. The boat has disabled access and a pay bar, plus an inside deck in case of inclement weather. Embark at 5.30pm and the three-hour cruise will set off at 6pm sharp. Tickets: £5. For more information, or to invite Debbie to talk to your book group or writing group, contact Click here to pre-order Herring Girl. 

Writer in Residence: Hampshire Arts and Museums Service
A two month residency is available in the Gosport Gallery in Hampshire this autumn. The residency will be launched in association with ‘The Artists Rifles: from Pre-Raphaelites to Passchendaele’. The writer will be expected to engage with local residents, create new writing in response to the exhibition and to support the local writing community. The deadline for applications is 22 August. To find out more or to apply go to their website.
One Day Creative Education: Freelance creative play script writers
One Day is a Creative Education Company, connecting children and learning with creativity and imagination.They are looking for enthusiastic, motivated and passionate freelance creative play script writers (preferably with experience of writing children’s scripts) across the UK to deliver a range of creative and educational scripted one-day drama workshops in schools. Please email your CV and covering letter, along with any example work to or for more information see
Campaign Manager: Youth Training Academy
The Youth Training Academy are looking for a Campaign Manager to run the new Creative North campaign, engaging young people in the Creative and Digital Media Sector in the North of England. The successful candidate will be passionate, driven and have experience working in the sector. The deadline for applications is 31 August. Go to Arts Jobs to find out more.
Inpress Ltd: Interim managing director
Inpress is looking for a dynamic and sales-driven leader for 2.5 days a week from September 2014 on a 12-month fixed contract to further develop its publisher services, working with the staff in the Newcastle office and a team of freelance sales people. Being based in Newcastle is not necessary, but regular visits to the office will be essential. For more information about the role, or to request a job pack, email or see Closing date for applications: Monday 4 August, midday.

Mothers: where do you write?
Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s Writing Motherhood project is going from strength to strength, with the recent fourth event in the tour (with Hollie McNish, Rebecca Goss and Carolyn in conversation with Ruth Stacey) going down a storm at the Ledbury Poetry Festival. For the next blog post Carolyn wants to know about where mothers write. In the bath? On the beach? In a designated office space? At the kitchen table, or in the car during ballet lessons? How important is space for your writing? Send pictures and details to by end of July.
The Listening Post

SI Leeds Literary Prize announces longlist
Congratulations to all the writers longlisted for the 2014 SI Leeds Literary Prize, the award for unpublished fiction by Black and Asian writers. The six shortlisted authors from the list will be announced in early September. For more information about the longlisted writers, see For the past few years, winners have attended the Northern Talent Summer Salon that New Writing North organises for our own Northern Writers’ Awards winners to meet the London publishing industry, so we hope to be getting to know a few of the names on the list next summer. 
Art with WORDS in St Helens
St Helens Council wants to commission an arts organisation with experience of delivering drama/theatre/writing/arts engagement activities with young people in non-traditional arts settings to create WORDS. This project aims to engage with young people who utilise libraries to capture their words, their stories and the narratives they want to tell. These narratives will then be turned into performances and/or open mic nights/events/sharings/podcasts/poetry/writing publications/blogs/websites as decided by the organisation and the young people. To apply for this commission you must be registered on The North West Procurement Portal – The Chest. Once registered you can download the full commission brief here

Write a Novel

Lit and Phil, Newcastle: 10 weekly sessions from Wednesday 24 September, 6pm-8pm
A novel takes time and forethought. This course, run by Kathleen Kenny and Ellen Phethean, is designed to work over a length of time, keeping you on track to plan, plot and finish a first draft of a longer piece of writing. Fee: £60. For more information and to book, call 0191 232 0192.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Norwich Writing competition, deadline 31 July 2014

If you live in, have a connection with Norwich, or just plain love it, then this competition may be for you, but you have to be quick as the deadline is tomorrow:


Submit Your Writing to City of Stories
& Celebrate Norwich City of Literature 


The City of Norwich wants to see your writing!

City of Stories is a new campaign which celebrates Norwich, UNESCO City of Literature and the people and places that make this fine city so wonderful. If you’re a writer who loves, lives in, or has some connection to Norwich, Visit Norwich would like you to submit your city themed writing – you could have your work showcased online and in print.

We know that you are the city’s best storytellers, and Visit Norwich would like to give you the chance to share your work across the streets of Norwich. If your submission is successful your work will be published digitally, and appear in the real world on beer mats and posters, giving you valuable exposure.

Want to see your work displayed in Norwich? Here’s what and how you can submit: 

1. Write a quote (max 60 words) – We would love to hear why Norwich is special to you. Perhaps your first memory of the city, or your most recent; perhaps a facet of Norwich you find enchanting, or a reason why you’ll keep coming back. These quotes could be used across beermats, posters, writing pads and online.

2. Write some beermat flash fiction or poetry (max 60 words) – What better time to ponder a story, get lost in your imagination or discuss the meaning of a poem with your friends than while having a drink? We’d like people to turn over their beer mats and find a great (yet small) piece of creative writing. Whatever you decide to write, there is only one stipulation: it must fit on a beermat.

3. Write a longer piece set somewhere in Norwich city centre – Once people have come to Norwich and discovered some of the places that they’ve heard (and not heard) about, what better way to immerse them in the experience than to give them a short story about the very place that they’re in? If there’s a spot in Norwich city centre that inspires you, we’d love you to write a short story set there. These can be of any length.

4. Create a piece of beermat art (dimensions 94 x 94mm) – We would love to inspire people who have never been to Norwich with some of the city’s best contemporary art, created by the artists that live and work here. What you design is up to you – it could be inspired by Norwich, tell a story about the city, or be of a subject of your choosing – we ask only that it’s the size of a beermat.

Submit your work:

By Thursday 31st July by email to

You must be local to Norwich or the region, or have some connection to Norwich City of Literature to submit.

For more details please contact:
Nikki Holland-Gladwish
T: 01502 726161

If you’re a successful contributor:

You will be invited to the City of Stories launch party on the 18th August, where you’ll hear more about the City of Stories campaign and hear some of the Norwich tales. There’ll be good food, great company, and plenty of culture- much like the city itself!

Of course, you’ll also get to see your work published across the city, and online, sharing your art and writing across Norwich and further afield. 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Labor Day film review

Went to see this film today at Leeds/Bradford Odeon as part of the Senior Screen.

IMDB says: Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.

Kate Winslett (Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) stars as Adele and Gattlin Griffith (Green Lantern, Changeling) as Henry who take in Frank (Josh Brolin of No Country for old Men and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) an absconded murderer.

In this Jason Reitman written and directed film (based on the novel by Joyce Maynard), Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man, Pleasantville) narrates as the older Henry recounting the events of the Labor Day weekend, interspersed with flashbacks of Frank's life to point towards what really happened before he was sent to prison.

There is a wonderful sense of impending doom throughout the film, with an undercurrent of 'what might happen' and it is cleverly done to show how easy it is to be manipulated into thinking a certain way about a person given only negative information. 

Henry was the only one helping his mother, but he could only do so much, but the presence of this man in his home, helps his mother just as much as they are helping him hide from the law.  By the end of the movie, you realise that Henry's biological father (played by Agents of SHIELDs Clark Gregg) was the real person who let this little family down, not an escaped convict.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Transworld Editor critique competition, 31 July deadline

I have been sent the following information about this critique competition:

Read six pages of A Kill in the Morning for the opportunity to win a critique of your opening chapters by an editor from Transworld, publisher of Dan Brown.

How to enter:
Click here or click on the competition link on the homepage and read just the first 6 pages from the first chapter of A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin - published by Transworld and a YouWriteOn Book of the Year  - and then answer a question about the extract via the link above or the youwriteon homepage. Closing Date 31st July 2014

A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin     View Paperback on Amazon                   View on Kindle
The year is 1955 and something is very wrong with the world. In occupied Europe, Britain fights a cold war against a nuclear-armed Nazi Germany.

In Berlin the Gestapo is on the trail of a beautiful young resistance fighter, and the head of the SS is plotting to restart the war against Britain and her empire. Into this arena steps a nameless British assassin, on the run from a sinister cabal within his own government, and planning a private war against the Nazis. And now the fate of the world rests on a single kill in the morning . .

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival event, The Good Old Days, 10.30am Friday 18 July

Mari Hannah

Getting published used to be straightforward in the old days - or did it?  Recent developments in self-publishing have opened up new avenues for today's budding writers to reach their public and mean that, for some, SAEs and rejection slips are a thing of the past.  In this event, Mark Edwards, Mari Hannah, James Oswald and Mel Sharratt, four hugely successful authors who have forged their own separate paths through the shifting publishing landscape talked to Martyn Waites about their journeys.

James Oswald sold 350k copies in 8 months when he self-published on Amazon, which then lead to a deal with a publishing company.  He believes that with Kindle you are your own editor, marketer and publicity manager, as well as trying to continue to write books.

Mel Sharratt was rejected for 12 years (1999-2011), had attended a crime festival for the first time and had begun to get really good personal rejections before she self-published on Kindle in December 2011.  Taunting the Dead took off and she then self-published three books that she had already written.  She feels she writes 'grit lit' and Watching Over You got her the traditional publishing deal.

Mark Edwards self-published after 15 years of trying to get published and then has gone back and forth between self-publishing and traditional publishing.  In a documentary in 98/99 he was filmed sending his manuscript off to the publishers, but it was turned down, but through that he met Louise Voss and they wrote Killing Cupid (which was optioned by the BBC) and Catch Your Death.  He had given up as didn't get published, but then self-published books one and two on Kindle direct in 2010 and reached Number 1 and 2 in the UK Kindle chart, which led to a full book deal with Harper Collins.  He had a torrid time with them at the beginning of last year as the books were not getting into the shops and he felt like he was back to square one.  He then self-published The Magpies to sell copies in order to pay tax back and it got to Number 1 (spending one month at Number 2) and sold 200m copies and now Amazon is publishing two books, then he will be publishing two more with Louise.

Mari Hannah (pictured at the beginning of the blog post) was published by Pan Macmillan.  She got an agent /publisher and for years and years came close and got an indie publisher in Newcastle.  She was about to write the acknowledgements and got a feeling that it was not going to plan and she rang them up and they said that they were unable to publish her in the contracted time.  She feels this is a good illustration of why every writer needs an agent as the publisher wanted the advance back and she had spent it.  When she got an agent it still wasn't easy as her protagonist was seen as a perceived risk and a German publisher bit first.

Martyn Waites was first published in 1997 but it took five years and if his agent/editor hadn't taken a chance on him it wouldn't have happened as the Kindle route was not there.  He knows Stuart MacBride so was introduced to a lot of editors and Stuart helped to edit his books (they swapped manuscripts with each other).  Copy editing and structural editing were to be done and he now has ten books and has beta readers and he is usually at draft four before he shows anyone.  He feels that the slush pile is now going on-line but among the tsunami of rubbish there is some really good stuff and that the cream always rises to the top.

Mark explained that he and Louise co-edited together and with Harpers, Killing Cupid was the same version as the self-published book.  When the second book was published it was crowd edited.

James said that he learned as he went along, e.g. for Natural Causes he used social media to let readers know that anyone who noticed any mistakes and let him know, he would send them a free copy of his next book and he feels he gets loyal readers this way.

Mari's partner is an ex-DI on Humberside Police and she checks the editing twice and then the agent does before Anna Brian at Pan Macmillan copy edits.  Mari plots everything out beforehand.  Her first two books were written as a TV drama screenplay, but the BBC didn't commission it (had a £500 option on it) so she adapted it into a novel and with Settled Blood as well.  She writes as a screenwriter and it is going to be on the screen; watch this space.

Mel put her self-published book up at 99p to get it to Number Two (Taunting the Dead), then she put the price up and self-published her next book.

The authors felt that the UK is more price sensitive than the US for example and James sells twice as many paperbacks than ebooks.

For Mark's first book, whilst he worked full-time in marketing, he undertook promotion and blogging for three years, then The Magpies had an audience and then Amazon promoted it as they bought the last one.

Every book goes through a structural edit, copy edit and then the author is sent proof pages to read through and it takes about two years from sold manuscript to book on bookshelf.  This is to check consistency, spellings etc and Mari feels it is better to work with an editor as it is a second set of eyes.

The event was then thrown open to questions from the audience:

When asked when they truly felt like a writer, Mark said in his 20s he was an aspiring writer but only felt like a real one when he had a traditional book deal; James felt like a writer the moment he started, but you are an author when writing can sustain you; Mel felt her validation was the structural edit and feels the best book she is writing is the one she is writing now and Martyn felt it was when he could make a living from writing.  All the authors agree that shameless self-promotion does not work as other people have to think that the writing is good.

Mel writes her own blog called High Heels and Book Deals and her first pay cheque was for £202. 

The authors feel that the traditional route books are not doing as well because it is down to the marketing and James writes from 8pm to midnight as he farms during the day.

#Theakstonscrime   #TOPCRIME2014   #MariHannah   #MarkEdwards   #JamesOswald  

#MelSharratt   #MartynWaites

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival - Denise Mina event, 18 July 2014 9.00am

A rising star of 'Tartan Noir', Glasgow-born Denise Mina has been charting the dark underbelly of Scotland since 1998, when the first of her award-winning Garnethill trilogy was published.  In the years since, her highly-acclaimed Paddy Meehan trilogy has been dramatised for television, starring Jayd Johnson, Peter Capaldi and David Morrissey, with her detective Alex Morrow novels currently in development.  Mina is also a successful playwright and comic book writer, the latter including the graphic novel adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  In 2013, she became the first writer to win the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Award for two consecutive years, with Gods and Beasts and The End of The Wasp Season.

Mina was shortlisted for three times in a row for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Award, losing out to Belinda Bauer this year, and Denise admitted that no-one knows who has won until the night, or why introverted/shy writers are thrust onto the stage for everyone to gawp at them. 

Denise's plotting in crime fiction is particularly complex, leading the reader to wonder what could possibly be the connection in Red Road.  She feels that as she writes, she likens it to falling off a cliff face first and there reaches a point a third of the way through a book where you don't know - if you get lost, the reader gets lost.  She admits to stealing a lot from Brighton Rock as she had just read it and she had some plot points to follow.

She feels crime fiction is regarded as low art.  Graham Greene was at the beginning of Noir, he wrote low class thrillers with huge themes in an accessible and exciting way and in literary fiction you are published and won a prize of not published.  Mina is at the point in the book that she is writing now where she can resolve it, but not happily; sometimes writers never finish a book, it just gets taken off them.

In her novels, Alex Morrow was not a heavy presence in the beginning, she was just a sulky, rude woman and Denise loves that because she has a lot of friends like that.  For example, Lesley in the Garden Hill book, when a waiter tries to flirt with her, she says 'get me a f-ing waitress.'  She has a happy home life and you don't often see that a lot in crime fiction.

When asked why conflict holds our attention so much she feels that it's more puzzling, not as compelling.  She felt that it was very sinister in the 80s with Jimmy Saville etc. and there was an amazing tolerance then.  She never discussed the Tommy Sheridan case, the book is based on.  Andy Coulson is going to be tried for perjury.  Play by Ian Patterson (Rab C Nesbitt) called Dear Tommy, Gods and Beasts meeting represented.

Denise is a month away from finishing her next book and ready for an April publication date.  The book is about community, not voting yes or no in the referendum.  Blood, Salt, Water is based on Hillsborough (the Hamptons of Britain) and is contemporary fiction.

Mina grew up in London and as a teenager she found it overwhelming and moved to Glasgow which she feels is the perfect city for chatty people, also 20% GDP for international crime (e.g. Red Road money laundering to Pakistan).  She feels she needs to live there to get the flavour of it, e.g. the red sandstone that glitters in the sun and with blue sky looks mesmerising.

Denise does very little research to find out what the questions are and feels procrastination is your enemy.  Write it, find out what you don't know and then go and find someone who has the specific answer, e.g. police are all carrying arms now and there used to be a media section in the police, but not now.

She loved the Field of Blood and The Dead Hour TV adaptations and the actress was the double of her at that age and comes from round the former from where her family are.  The programmes were done on a small budget by the BBC, but had a sense of ownership about it and all shot in doors.  She thinks they are going to make a third one.

#Theakstonscrime  #TOPCRIME2014   #DeniseMina