Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Writeidea Prize: short story competition

This new short story competition is for fiction - in any genre - of up to 4,000 words. The closing date is 31st July 2014. There's a £500 first prize, plus five runners-up prizes, each of £100. There's also a £500 prize for the best story from a resident of the Tower Hamlets area of east London. Full details may be found here (opens as .pdf) and here.

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children's Writing

The first 5,000 words of a children's novel plus a synopsis and an author biography are called for in this new competition for writing for younger readers. Writing for ages 7 - 12 years is called for. The competition closing date is 2nd June 2014. Entrants should be unagented. Shortlisted authors will need to have produced a complete novel manuscript by early August. There's a £5,000 first prize, plus a publishing deal with Scholastic, a Venice break, a Montegrappa pen and an offer of representation from literary agency Luigi Bonomi Associates.    

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Borough Press: open to literary fiction submissions 7th to 21st April 2014

New HarperCollins imprint The Borough Press is open to submissions from 7th to 21st April 2014. Unagented writers are invited to submit three chapters (up to 45 pages / 15,000 words), a synopsis, and an author biography of their completed novel. Submissions should be "general literary fiction". Submissions should be wholly original and not have been previously self-published. One submission per writer, please. Full details are available here.    

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

2014 Wasafiri New Writing Prize

The 2014 Wasafiri New Writing Prize is now open to original, previously unpublished short stories from writers who've not yet had a complete book published. Stories of up to 3,000 words may be entered into the competition. 

There's a first prize of publication in Wasafiri magazine plus £300. There are also poetry and life writing competitions running concurrently. The competition closing date is 25th July 2014. More details are available here (opens as .pdf).  

Monday, 7 April 2014

Harper Collins "Beyond The Stars" short story competition for children

Harper Collins publishers are looking for a young writer to contribute a story to a winter-themed collection of short fiction by a range of well-known authors. Stories can come from anyone aged 8 - 16, should be between 1,500 and 5,000 words and should be appropriate for readers aged between 8 and 10. The closing date is 30th June 2014. The winning writer will also get editorial support and win £250 for their school's library. There's more information here

Friday, 4 April 2014

City University London crime novel writing competition

City University London, in association with literary agency David Higham Associates, have announced details of a crime novel writing competition. The prize is a £2,000 bursary towards the university's MA in Creative Writing (Novels). Entrants should submit a two-page synopsis plus up to the first 10,000 words of their crime genre novel. Entries will be read by an agent from David Higham Associates. The competition closing date is 28th April 2014. More details are available here

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Jonathan Cape open submission period 2014

Publishing house Jonathan Cape is open for fiction submissions this June. The submission period will be 1st to 30th June inclusive. Fifty pages of prose fiction (novel, novella and/or short stories) may be submitted. This can be work-in-progress material. Submissions should include contact details and a paragraph of supporting information. All submissions will be read. More details on the great opportunity may be found here

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

What I've Read: Captains Outrageous, by Joe R Lansdale

Or, Hap and Leonard Go To Mexico. This time out, Lansdale's serial heroes Hap Collins and Leonard Pine end up on a cruise ship holiday after Hap rescues an industrialist's daughter from an otherwise-certain fatal beating. receiving $100,000 from her grateful father (who's also the owner of the chicken processing factory they're currently night shift security guards at), they take a holiday. Except before too long, they're stranded in Mexico, they get into something over their heads and the bodies are starting to pile up.


Captains Outrageous, the sixth in the Collins/Pine series, finds Lansdale on fine form. The action comes thick and fast, the situations spiral rapidly out of control, and our heroes fined ever-more creative ways to land themselves well and truly in the mire. An added bonus is the always-welcome appearance of occasional series guest star Jim Bob Luke. As before, Lansdale balances genre thrills, tough guy action, sassy and witty banter and a softer, melancholic side to Collins, making this series something akin to one of Clint Eastwood's filmic meditations on masculinity and ageing. Superior entertainment, with a heart and some soul. recommended.  

Lansdale, Joe R (2009) Captains Outrageous (London: Vintage/Black Lizard) 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

What I've Watched: Prisoners (2013, directed by Denis Villeneuve)

When two young girls disappear and are feared abducted, their parents (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard) react in different ways: Jackman's and a reluctant Howard's characters decide to take the law into their own hands by tracking down and kidnapping and torturing prime suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Meanwhile, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhall) tries to investigate the disappearances and deal with the increasingly-unstable Dover (Jackman). 

Prisoners is a slow-burn, moody piece that ultimately can't quite decide what kind of movie that is wants to be: an abduction thriller or a character study. At times it succeeds at being both, but the cumulative effect of the disparate elements of the narrative being in tension with each other lessens the film's impact. 

That's not to say that Prisoners isn't a good film. It is: it's well-acted (especially Dano and the always-great Melissa Leo as his protective mother), though with Jackman emoting furiously and Gyllenhall stoic in the extreme they're inhabiting different universes, it looks fine (thanks to Roger Deakins' cinematography) and there are some standout sequences. A couple of genuinely weird kinks in the screenplay add suspense and give a sense of alterity to the situation. However, the resolution isn't wholly satisfactory and there's a sense that the whole Birch family (headed by Howard) are unnecessary to the plot, except to finesse the Dover girl's escape.   

As such, the film's burdened with too many characters and feels about half an hour too long. The screenplay can't quite decide who the protagonist is either, which feels a little unsatisfying. These are niggles, though to some extent they add to the movie rather than distract from it, as they make you engage with its flaws. A bit of a mixed bag, then, but worthwhile. 

Monday, 31 March 2014

2014 Cheshire Prize for Literature - writing for children

Prose of up to 1,500 words (or poetry of up to 100 lines) may be entered into this competition. Entries should be aimed at a readership aged between 7 and 14 years. the competition closes 1st September 2014. There's a first prize of £2,000, with runners-up prizes totalling £750. Entrants should have a connection to Cheshire. More details may be found here and here.  

Friday, 28 March 2014

Parthian Books call for Gothic short story submissions

Following on from yesterday's Gothic-related book review, here's a similarly-themed creative writing opportunity. Parthian Books have an open call for Gothic short fiction for an upcoming anthology. There's no mandatory word count, though submissions should be in by 31st March 2014. There'll be an as-yet unspecified fee for accepted contributions. Thirteen (obv!) stories will feature in the anthology. More information is available here

Thursday, 27 March 2014

What I've Read: British Gothic Cinema, by Barry Forshaw

An overview of the Gothic tradition in British cinema. 

Forshaw's book gives us a guided tour through the greatest hits of Gothic cinema, taking time to look at pre-Hammer moviemaking (Gainsborough Pictures, a brief look at the American Universal cycle of adaptations of British Gothic novels such as Dracula and Frankenstein. Hammer is rightly given pride of place here, as the studio's output from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s is examined. Time is given over to Hammer's rivals, the likes of Amicus and Tigon. A case study approach is used when looking at some of the more influential movies and auteurs of the cycle (Michael Reeves, and particularly his Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General). 

The long slow decline of the Gothic is documented, as is both its recent revival, culminating in the Hammer brand's recent with releases such as Wake Wood and The Woman In Black. There's also mention of television, from the late 70s/early 80s Hammer-branded House of Horror and House of Mystery and Suspense shows, and influences on programming as varied as Doctor Who and The League Of Gentleman.     

Some of the conclusions are a little forced (I'm not convinced that Shaun Of The Dead is in any way Gothic), but the reasoning behind the cycle's fading (contemporary-set, visceral, and increasingly-big budgeted American offerings vanguarded by Romero's Night Of The Living Dead as opposed to the formal, staid, discreet and period British alternative) is strong and correlates with critical opinion elsewhere. 

As a primer to (and a celebration of) the area, this is a great little book with plenty to recommend it. Of particular interest is a selection of brief interviews included as appendices. The likes of actor Ingrid Pitt, horror author Ramsey Campbell, critic and novelist Kim Newman, screen writer Stephen Volk and others are usefully featured here. There's also a decent filmography. And if you're in the mood for a book-based drinking game, try downing a shot of something red every time the word "sanguinary" is used...  

Forshaw, Barry (2013) British Gothic Cinema (London: Palgrave Macmillan), 227 pages, 978-1137300317

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Saga magazine ghost story competition

Spooky stories of up to 3,000 words may be submitted into this competition from Saga magazine. The closing date is 1st May 2014. There's a £300 first prize, plus smaller prizes for runners-up. the best stories will be collected together into an anthology for publication by Profile Books at Halloween 2014. 

The competition page also reminds us of MR James' five rules for what he considered a great ghost story: the pretence of truth / a pleasing terror / no gratuitous bloodshed / no explanation of the machinery / a contemporary (not period) setting.

There's entry details, more information and a few more words of inspiration here

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

SFX magazine zombie writing short story competition

Stories of up to 1,500 words may be submitted into this competition being run by SFX magazine. Naturally, zombies are a must. Entries should be original (so no Walking Dead fanfic). The competition closes 29th April 2014. 

The judge is YA horror author Darren Shan. The winner will receive an armload of books - signed hardbacks of the first seven novels in Shan's Zom-B series, published by Simon & Schuster - and have their story published in the upcoming 250th issue of SFX. You can find more details here