Sickert

To the Sickert exhibition at Tate Britain with Howard, my old friend from University. Reviews had led me to expect mainly brutalised nudes and dead-eyed men watching music hall singers (some people even think Sickert might have been Jack the Ripper) , but it’s much more varied and interesting. Sickert’s unusual framings and his interest in entertainers and people off the street show the influence of impressionism and Dégas, as the nearly-black early paintings show his admiration for Whistler. But he moved things on towards modernism, and brightened up considerably later.

Raphael

I must admit to knowing shamefully little about Raphael before going to the current exhibition at the National Gallery. He was obviously important enough to have a whole artistic movement, the Pre-Raphaelites, devoted to undoing his influence, and he is generally considered one of the top three artists of the High Renaissance, alongside Leonardo and Michaelangelo (who hated him), but somehow he never made an impression on me. The only picture I could really name was the School of Athens, appearing here as a wall-sized reproduction. The exhibition has a lot of Madonnas (with babies who look like babies for once): perhaps a theme of special resonance to the orphan Raphael? Son of the court painter of Urbino, he had all of that city’s famous courtly charm, never falling out with his rich patrons or failing to befriend people. He ran one of the largest artist’s studios ever, and died young: according to Vasari, from too much sex. Perhaps charm was his weakness, and perhaps that’s why Michaelangelo took against him: beautiful, brilliant paintings – but just too damned polite?

Small but Good

I think it’s a burrowing owl, not burrowing.

We went to the ’Small is Beautiful’ exhibition. To be honest I was slightly worried it might be a bit of a rip-off, but in fact it’s quite extensive, varied and entertaining. The artists involved have a wide range of approaches, and the sizes go from nicely modelled butterflies which are almost life size (and some excellent cardboard fish that are probably larger than real ones – though they seem to be carrying little cities on their backs) down to carved pencil leads and sculptures within the eye of a needle (microscope provided). We rather liked the little owl pictured.

Is this really art, or just entertaining craft? Some pieces are really just jokes, others aspire to being slightly deeper. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with being amused.

July 2022 Competitions

Here’s another look at writing competitions I might enter during the coming month.  I’m afraid the first three are right at the beginning of the month, so if you haven’t been working on them already (or have something in stock) you might need to move quickly. It’s usually OK to enter the same story for more than one competition (so long as you withdraw other entries if you win one) but check the details.

  • The Royal Society of Literature’s V.S.Pritchett prize is for stories of 2-4,000 words: the entry fee is £7.50 and the top prize is £1,000. The deadline is 1 July.
  • Cranked Anvil have an interesting prompt competition for a story between 750 and 1,000 words. The story must take place within a 24 hour time frame, weather must play a role, and it must include the words STOOL, CONSULT, and LANGUID. The fee is £5 and the prize £150. The deadline is 1 July, but if you’re too languid to take to your stool for that one, there’s also their regular short story contest, for which any story up to 1,500 words is OK. Fee and prize are the same, but you’ve got until 31 July.
  • The CAS competition seems to be very much the personal enterprise of Catherine Assheton-Stones, and good for her. The maximum word count is 4,000, the fee is £7, and the prize is £800. The deadline is 1 July, but the competition closes earlier if Catherine gets 230 entries, presumably the most she can read.
  • The Faversham Literary Festival Competition gives you a bit more time, with a deadline of 10 July. Maximum 1,500 words, fee of £8 and prize of £350. It’s judged by Nicholas Royle, who besides writing his own novels and stories, judges the big Manchester competition and edits the prestigious annual Best British Short Stories and more. Clearly a good person to impress.
  • The H.G.Wells prize is for stories between 1,500 and 5,000 words on the theme ‘switch’ with a fee of £10 and top prize of £500; the deadline is 11 July.
  • Literary Taxidermy is back, with its unique competition. Your story must use the first and last lines of a nominated work (a slightly bigger selection is offered this year). The word limit is 2,000, the top prize is $500 and the fee is $10: this year, you can opt to have part of the fee donated to a charity supporting Ukraine. The deadline is 11 July.
  • The Doris Gooderson prize, run by Wrekin Writers, is for stories up to 1,200 words in length. The entry fee is £5, the prize £200, and the deadline is 12 July.

All the others have a deadline of 31 July.

  • The  Reader Berlin offers a three-week residency (guess where) as its first prize. Entry is  €10 and you need up to 3,000 words on the theme ‘escape’.
  • Novel London competition asks for your first 3,000 words plus a synopsis. It costs £11 to enter and the top prize is £500.
  • The Seán O’Faoláin prize, part of Munster’s lively Literature Centre, is for stories up to 3,000 words, with an entry fee of €19 and prize of €3,000 plus a week at Anam Cara retreat.
  • Hastings Book Festival is looking for 2,500 words: entry £u.50, prize £250.
  • HISSAC (Highlands and Islands, but you don’t have to be Scottish) wants stories up to 2,000 words; the entry fee is £5 and the prize £200.

Good luck if you enter any of these: if you are longlisted or win, please let me know.

Poetry shock

My poem ’Under and After All’ was longlisted for the Fish poetry prize! This is gratifying and surprising, because I hardly ever write poems. In this case I had a short story that was clearly a bit too strange and avant garde – so I thought, I’ll pare it down, chop up the lines, and call it a poem. If I were to write a poem, it would normally rhyme and stuff. There’s now a terrible temptation to get my old, failed stories out and make them into weird blank verse.

It’s here if you’re interested.

June ’22 Competitions

Here again is a look at writing competitions I might enter during the coming month (a personal selection, so no poetry or competitions not open to UK writers, for example – but competitions for old people are definitely in…)

  • Fitzcarraldo Editions (for Europe and Africa – elsewhere, other publishers) have a novel prize contest which is free to enter (so far as I can see), but offers a top prize of $10,000 plus publication. For these purposes a novel can be as little as 30,000 words – but the deadline is 1 June
  • Also closing on 1 June, the Salamander Fiction Prize requires up to 30 pages. Entry is  $15, and the top prize is $1,000.
  • Write by the Sea, based in Kilgore Quay, gives you a couple more days, with a deadline of 3 June. Maximum word count is 3,000, entry is €10. There are three categories: winners in two get €500, while the one judged overall winner gets €1,000. All three get a coveted trophy.
  • You have until 13 June to enter the Aurora prize: entry is £9, the prize£500, and 2,000 words is the maximum.
  • The splendid Stories Through the Ages competition is for ‘Baby Boomers plus’ – people born no later than1966. It’s $25 to enter and the prize is $500 – the best stories go into an anthology. The deadline is 15 June.
  • The Howard Frank Mosher competition allows up to a full 8,000 words. Entry is $20, first prize $1,000, and the deadline is again 15 June.
  • Not actually a competition as such, but Bureau Dispatch will pay $50 for stories up to 1,500 words. There is no fee (and there shouldn’t be). The deadline is 17 June.
  • Leicester Writes is back with a maximum word count of 3,500, entry fee of £5, and prize of £175 – deadline 20 June.

All the rest have a deadline of 30 June.

  • Write Time has another competition for us old folk – in this case, over 60s. The maximum word count is 1,500, entry is a modest £3 with a modest top prize of £50.
  • The Moth wants up to 4,000 words for a prize of €3,000 (that’s more like it!). Entry is €15.
  • The Wells Festival of Literature‘s prize is £750: entry is £6 and they’re looking for stories between 1 and 2 thousand words.
  • The regular Henshaw competition is back with its prize of £200 for 2,000 words, with entry at £6.00. I don’t usually go for the paid feedback options offered by some contests, and some are expensive and unhelpful: but I’ve found Henshaw good value for money in that respect.
  • The Boston Review accepts up to 4,000 words and offers a prize of $1,000 for a $20 entry fee: stories must be on the theme ‘Speculation’.
  • Also with a theme, ‘Ink’, Blackwater Press has an entry fee of $5 and a prize of $150. Although this is a short story competition, there is apparently no limit on length. Perhaps don’t send your 180,000 word fantasy novel, though.

If you get anywhere with any of these, please do let me know!

May ’22 Competitions

Here are the writing competitions I might enter with deadlines in May.
• The Belfast Book Festival is again running its Mairtín Crawford award, for stories up to 2,500 word. The entry fee is £6 and you can win £500 plus a writers retreat. The deadline is 1 May.
• With the same deadline, the Kipling Society has the John McGivering prize, for stories on the theme animals and connected in some way with Kipling and his work. The maximum word count is 2,000, the entry fee is £8, and the top prize is £350.
• The Australian Book Review has another contest named in honour of someone: the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. Stories can be between 2,000 and 5,000 words: the entry fee is AU$25 and the top prize AU$6,000. The deadline is 2 May.
• Then the Bristol Short Story Prize closes on 4 May. Entry is £9, first prize £1,000, and stories can be up to 4,000 words.
Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors, run by Fix, is looking for upbeat stories from a future perspective about how climate change was beaten and a better world created. It’s free to enter, but you could win £3,000. The deadline is 5 May.
Writer’s Digest has a competition with nine separate categories. Different length rules apply to different categories: for mainstream/literary fiction it’s 4,000 words. Winners in each category get $1,000, while one overall winner gets $5,000. Entry is $30 and the deadline is 6 May.
• Another idealistic contest is Demos Rising, which invites stories that address issues of equity, democracy and the like. Though the subjects are likely to raise strong feelings, they look for nuance, perspective, authenticity, and even humour. Entry is free, but your only prize is publication in their anthology. For short stories the limit is 5,000 words (you can also enter poetry, flash, art or photography). The deadline is 14 May.
Ploughshares invites stories up to 6,000 words. Entry is $24, you can win $2,000 and the deadline is 15 May.
• With a deadline of 16 May, the Raymond Carver Prize has an entry fee of $17 and a first prize of $2,000: stories may be up to 6,000 words.
• The thriving community at Globe Soup has branched out into memoirs, of up to 3,000 words, on ‘Places that have made me, changed me, or inspired me’. The basic entry fee is £12, with lower ones for members and early entry. The prize is £1,000 and the deadline is 17 May.
All the rest have a deadline of 31 May.
• Not to be missed is the Bridport competition, with a maximum word count of 5,000, a prize of £5,000 and an entry fee of £12.
Frome Festival limits you to 2,200 words: the entry fee is £8 and top prize £400.
• The regular MTP competition is running again, with an entry fee of £7, prize of £1,000 and a limit of 3,000. Highly rated stories will be published in an anthology.
• The Yeovil Literary Prize competition is on again: for short stories the maximum word count is 2,000, entry £8 and top prize £600. There are several other categories including the intriguing ‘Writing Without Restrictions’.
• Last but not to be overlooked is the Bath Novel Award. You need to submit your first 5,000 words plus a one-page synopsis (you’ll need a full novel of at least 50,000 words for the later stages of judging).. Entry is £29, with the top prize £3,000: the shortlist gets feedback and agent introductions, with the long list is offered a writing course.

Good luck – if you get anywhere with these, do let me know!

April ’22 Competitions

I’m back (most of me) following my operation! Here is a look at writing competitions I might enter if I’ve got the energy during the coming month (so no poetry or competitions not open to UK writers, for example). Not a long list this time, but a couple of interesting ones.


• The Alpine Fellowship seeks stories of up to 2,500 words on the theme of ‘Freedom’. It’s also free to enter, but first prize is a massive £10,000 plus a trip to their annual symposium, so this is one you really want to go in for. There’s not much time, though, as the deadline is 1 April!
• The prestigious Bath short story award is for stories up to 2,200 words, with a top prize of £1,200 and an entry fee of £9. The deadline is 11 April.
• The Fabula competition allows you up to 6,000 words. The prize is $500 and entry is $10: stories must be in by 14 April.
Desperate Literature wants pieces up to 2,000 words and offers a prize of €1,500. Entry is €20 and the deadline is 15 April.
Writefluence wants stories about ‘Mr Rosewood’: they provide pictures of the jolly old gent but you are free to imagine the details – 2,000 to 2,500 words. The only prize is publication, but then the entry fee is only a modest 150 rupees (about £1.50). The deadline is 15 April.
• The Brick Lane Bookshop is running its regular competition again, with a top prize of £1,000 and an entry fee of £10. You can go up to 5,000 words and you have until 19 April, but must be a UK resident.
Forever Endeavour want stories up to 3,000 words. Half the entry fee goes to Young Minds, a charity supporting young people’s mental health: the basic fee is £5 but you can pay £10 if you want to contribute more. The deadline is 25 April.
Anthology is looking for stories up to 1,500 words on the theme of ‘courage’. It costs €10 to enter and the prize is €500. The deadline is 30 April, or if you pay €15 you get a deadline of 31 August.
• Also with a deadline of 30 April, The Ghost Story wants, well, guess what. Actually any story with a paranormal element is OK: it could even be magic realism, and they like stuff that pushes the boundaries. You can go up to 10,000 words for an entry fee of $20 and might win $1,500
• The Tom Howard/John H Reid contest is for stories up to 6,000 words. The entry fee is $20 and top prize a generous $3,000: the deadline is again 30 April.


Good luck if you enter any of these; if you are longlisted or win, please do let me know.