Exeter Writers

My story ‘Dying Teddy Bears’ was longlisted in the Exeter Writers competition (but did not progress any further). It is already in a couple of other competitions, so we’ll see how it does there.


I forgot to post my recent picture of Pippi…

This is based on a photograph, from which I made an outline drawing that I transferred to a wood block prepared with gesso, and then had at it with the acrylics. Here are the photo and drawing for comparison…

June 2023 Competitions

Here again is a look at writing competitions I might enter during the coming month (so no poetry or competitions not open to UK writers, for example – but competitions for old people are definitely in, and in fact I’ve got a couple this time…)

  • The Salamander Prize is for stories up to 30 pages. Entry is $15, top prize $1,000 and the deadline is 1 June.
  • Write by the Sea looks for up to 2,500 words, entry is €10 and the winner gets €500 plus an elegant trophy. You’ve got until 4 June.
  • The Writer’s Digest has a word limit of 4,000. Entry is $35 and the top prize is $1000 – awarded in several categories and lots of lesser prizes are awarded to good entries. The deadline is 5 June.
  • Grist is running the Imagine 2200 competition, in which they invite you to do just that, presenting a climate-fiction vision of how a greener world might be flourishing in that distant year. They want 3-5,000 words and the top prize is $3,000, but entry is free! (You can donate $50 if you want to support Grist, however). The deadline is 13 June.
  • Now one for the oldies: Stories Through the Ages, from Living Springs, is for baby boomers plus (people born in 1966 or earlier) They will accept up to 5,000 words, charge $20 and award a prize of $500 as well as publication. They are, in my experience, discerning judges. The deadline is 15 June.
  • Writefluence is back. Following competitions for stories about the imaginary character Mr Rosewood, and then Mrs Rosewood, they now want one which must be about a day in the life of both old folk, up to 3,000 words. You can imagine them however you want. No prize except publication, but then entry is only Rs. 150/-  ($2 approx). Readers of this blog have had some success with this one in the past. Enter by 15 June.
  • I don’t know much about Bardsy (any views?) but they have a first chapter competition for members. Up to 3,000 words of your novel, $20 for entry, with a prize of $1,000 and inclusion in an anthology. The deadline is 20 June.

All the rest have a deadline of 30 June.

  • WriteTime is another one for the oldies – over 60s, in this case. Only 1,500 words is required, £3 to enter and a £50 prize, so nothing for vulnerable pensioners to get over-stressed about.
  • The Wells Festival of Literature (which I really ought to visit one year) looks for up to 2,000 words: entry is £6 and the prize is £750.
  • A special tribute from me for Graham Jennings, the gent who ran the regular Henshaw competitions for many years with unfailing courtesy. It seems Graham has decided to take a well-earned rest: however the competitions continue as before under the management of Hobeck Books. Word count up to 2,000, entry £6 and top prize £200.
  • The Moth is back, looking for up to 3,000 words: entry is £15 and first prize £3,000.
  • Then we have the redoubtable Christopher Fielden’s competition To Hull and Back, for humorous pieces up to 2,500 words. Entry is £15, and besides winning £1,200 you could have your face added to the dramatic motorbike picture on the cover of the anthology, as well as your story being literally given an exciting ride to Hull (and back) on Chris’s Harley – if you haven’t read about this before, check it out. Chris’s site has useful info about other competitions and much else.
  • The Writers College generously runs a free competition for stories up to 2,000 words,  on the theme ‘Words Have Consequences’ in which you could win NZ$1,000.
  • You might also be interested in another competition from the same people, for a non-fiction essay on ‘My Writing Journey’: a maximum of 600 words in this case, and a prize of NZ$200.
  • Finally, the Katherine Ann Porter prize run by the University of North Texas looks for a collection of any kind of short fiction, from flash to novellas, that totals 100 to 200 pages or somewhere between 27,500 and 50,000 words. You can win $1,000 plus publication. The normal fee is $25, but they are running a fee-free window if you enter on 1 June (careful about time zones if you go for this). Many competitions offer free entry for people who are short of money; this is apparently intended as a different way to improve access.

I would love to hear about any successes you may have!

A Clock

Here’s a clock I made. Well, obviously I didn’t make the mechanism. And the box is a pre-made picture frame. But the rest of it. I made the rest of it.

Dancing at Lughnasa

The new production at the Olivier is very good. I’ve read criticism of the stage, but I thought the way it combines inside and outside with a real sense of perspective was very clever and effective. The cast, featuring Siobhán McSweeney and Ardal O’Hanlon (as Father Jack) is very strong. The play itself is a vivid slice of life with strong and interesting characters, living complex lives that are just about to break down. It is clearly about memory, with the protagonist narrating his life in retrospect and providing the voice for his otherwise invisible younger self. At the end of the day, though, I don’t know what it tells us beyond what any bit of a life might do. To mention a small reservation, I wasn’t sure about Father Jack’s accounts of the beliefs of the Ugandans he lived among: are they accurate or just invented? But an interesting evening.

May 2023 Competitions

These are some writing competitions with deadlines during the coming month. This list is really for me (I’ll probably end up entering about half of them), so it is not comprehensive (I don’t bother with flash much, for example), but I hope it might be of interest.

  • The Bloom prize requires up to 2,500 words on ‘Beauty’: it’s £3 to enter and the prize is £500. The deadline is close, on 1 May.
  • With that same tight deadline, Pigeon Pages will take up to 3,000 words: entry is $15 and the prize $250.
  • There’s an extra week for the Leapfrog contest, which has a deadline of 8 May, but they are looking for a full length piece. It can be a novel, novella, or collection of short stories, but must be at least 22,000 words long. It’s $35 to enter: you could win $150 plus publication.
  • Ploughshares will take up to 6,000 words, and offer a $2,000 prize for a $24 entry fee. The deadline is 15 May.
  • Even better value is Philadelphia Stories’ Marguerite McClinn prize, where you can spread yourself to 8,000 words, entry is $15 and the top prize $2,500.
  • subTerrain offers their Lush Triumphant Literary Award: up to 3,000 words, entry $30 and prize $1,000. I’m guessing they don’t want spare, minimalist prose? The deadline is 15 May.
  •  The Raymond Carver prize is back: up to 10,000 words, entry $18, prize $2,000 and the deadline is 17 May.
  • Folly Journal has launched its inaugural competition with a prize of $NZ1,000: entry is $NZ6. The word limit is 2,000 and the deadline is 30 May.

All the rest have a deadline of 31 May.

  • MTP wants a maximum 3,000 words: the top prize is £2,000 and they print a number of commended entries in a nice thick anthology (they also help people publish their manuscripts, but I’ve entered previously and didn’t get any kind of sales pitch for their services). Entry is £8.
  • The lively Frome Festival wants between 1,000 and 2,200 words: it’s £8 to enter and the top prize is £400.
  • You do not want to miss the prestigious Bridport competition. £5,000 for 5,000 words, with entry £14.
  • Autumn House Press are looking for larger works, of between 37,500 and 75,000 words. You could win $2,500 and publication, for an entry fee of $30.
  • Black Lawrence will also publish your winning entry, as a chapbook of 16-36 pages (a format which is perhaps more familiar for poetry). There is also a prize of $500. Entry is $17.

If you enter any of these and get anywhere, do let me know!

Van Gogh and Hals

While we were in Amsterdam we naturally went to the Van Gogh Museum, which is great: and by coincidence we arrived on Van Gogh’s 170th birthday. The gallery shows works by various other artists, highlighting the influence of Japanese pictures and pointillism, for example.

I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this picture before – it’s by Gauguin, of Van Gogh painting sunflowers!

One other artist admired by Van Gogh was Frans Hals, whose works we saw in Harlem.

Hals’s brushwork was always loose and became extraordinarily free in old age. Lace collars from this period look like random slashes of white paint close up, but when you back off they look perfect from a distance. Apparently at the time some though he was senile, but then other artist’s styles (Turner, El Greco) have been attributed to poor eyesight, and indeed Van Gogh’s to mental illness.


I’ve got a bit behind with these posts: we went to the amazing exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where the largest ever collection of Vermeer’s works are gathered (and we got in before Girl with a Pearl Earing went back to the Mauritshuis).

With so many works together, it becomes very clear that Vermeer had certain favoured themes. Many of the images seem to have been staged in the same place: a room with a window to the left, a chequered floor, and a map or a picture on the back wall. Posed in this space are women reading, or with musical instruments, and the same pieces of clothing get re-used (that yellow, fur-edged jacket).

I had had the impression that Vermeer’s stuff was pastel coloured and just a little soft focus, but neither of those things proved to be true. A great experience, slightly impaired by the crowds. and I’m afraid these snaps are not great quality. I would urge you to go, but I’m afraid it’s too late.

Tin Rose

I quite enjoyed doing the butterfly, so I thought I’d use a few more cans and try a flower – here is the result…