How horrible is this?

So it seems that not only are writers now the target of unscrupulous, money-grabbing ‘companies’, but in particular young writers as well.

We, as writers, are all aware that if you choose to use a self-publishing company for your book, or even an independent editor, you run a certain risk of being taken for a ride. Research and prudence will usually see you good in these instances, but the story in the following newspaper article is another next level of dastardliness. I’ll also mention that I have a friend who fell for this one, and she is by no means gullible.

I shan’t say any more, as the article speaks for itself…

It’s a typical weekday morning rush. As you hurry the kids to finish their breakfast and get off to school, the post arrives. In it there’s a letter that thrills everyone. It’s from a company called Young Writers announcing that “an imaginative mini saga – a story using 50 words or less”, written by your 10-year-old and sent in by her school, has been chosen for publication in a book.

“The Adventure Starts Here is the 18th annual Young Writers’ competition and we have received in excess of 20,000 stories from all over the UK and overseas,” it says. “I am therefore delighted to let you know that Julie’s piece has been chosen for publication.”

The letter comes with an impressive “Talent for Writing” certificate which says: “This is a certificate of merit to certify that Julie Smith (not her real name) has written a creative piece of distinction that was selected for publication in a Young Writers anthology”.

Having been showered with congratulations by her proud parents, your child heads off to school on cloud nine to tell her friends and teachers of her success. But her mood is less jubilant, when she discovers that she’s by no means the only “winner”. Most of her friends’ parents have received the same letter.

Your mood takes a further dive when you read the letter in more detail and find that it’s going to cost you £14.99 plus £2.50 postage to buy the book containing your child’s work. OK, the price comes down the more you buy – “a great keepsake for other family members, capturing a snapshot of Julie’s work at this age in a format that will last for years to come” – and postage is free if you buy four or more. But it seems a ghastly amount to pay for something where your true interest lies in only 50 precious words written by your child – the rest won’t hold quite the same fascination, let’s face it.

This was the scenario for my daughter and many of her friends last week. Most parents reacted with delight when they first read the letter and, despite the cost, some readily complied with their children’s request to order at least one copy – “pester power” is hard to resist when your child appears to have achieved so much and wants mum and dad to buy the proof.

Most, however, felt more sceptical on hearing that virtually all the entries from the school had been accepted for publication – a spokesperson for Young Writers confirmed to me that between 60% and 80% are published. Was this venture, they wondered, perhaps more about making money out of proud but gullible parents, than a genuine literary achievement by their children?

One mother says: “Our daughter has needed special help with reading and writing in the past, so when we first discovered she had been chosen to have her story published, we were so proud that both her dad and I were literally in tears. The letter made it sound like her work had been singled out and that was a massive achievement for her. Then, when I found out all her friends’ stories had been chosen and that the book was only being sold to parents and would not be available in bookshops or libraries, I realised it must be a money-making exercise. I think playing with parents and children’s emotions in this way is absolutely outrageous.”

Elaine Millard, chair of professional body the National Association for the Teaching of English, says: “I would disaprove of this. It appears to be a money-making business with little educational merit. Looking at the website at youngwriters.co.uk, there isn’t any advice on how to write well – this is left to the school – and no apparent feedback for the children. The book on offer is also very expensive and, coupled with parents’ desire not to let their children feel left out, puts pressure on parents to buy at a time when many are having to count every penny. Parents would be better off spending their money on the many lovely children’s books available for half the price in bookshops to read with their children.”

Parents who wish to encourage their children’s creative writing further should look instead at websites, including publishinghouse.me.uk and poemhunter.com, where children can upload and publish their writing online free of charge and get feedback from their peers, Ms Millard suggests.

Reputable national writing competitions are also worth looking into. Parents will find a list of those available for both child and adult writers on the National Literacy Trust website, literacytrust.org.uk.

Young Writers was invited by Guardian Money to respond to questions it raised, but declined to comment.

Taken from an article in the The Guardian
Thanks for reading
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Screenwriting… easy, right?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have got this blog back up an running mainly to give myself some focus and get myself witting fit again.

But why?

Well, with my novel complete and yet far too niche for any agents to bite, I will self-publish that, put it to the side and let the millions and adoration come rolling on in. Done. But then what do I do to fill in my time? Another novel? Hmmm (I pondered, whilst watching some series or other on Amazon) And that’s when it hit me POW! Screenwriting! Of course! With this current revolution in the way we all watch TV – moving from network channels to online viewing and box sets – there is a now a huge market for screenwriters. And not only that; it seems almost anything is given consideration, going by some of the concepts inherent in the new shows presently available from Amazon and Netflix Originals (please note that I am not referring here to the Grand Tour on Amazon, which is load of tripe).

So, with a novel that no publisher wants behind me, it’s time to look forward… although saying that, I am tempted to turn my novel into a screenplay, as much to gain experience than anything else. I’ll let you know what I discover along the way.

And so on that subject, I am now going to return to reading my screenplay bible – The Complete Screenwriting Course by Charles Harris – and will be back in touch soon to see where I am going to go with this.

What I can tell you right now, however, is that at first glance screenwriting is a lot more complex than simply churning out a story. But who said this was going to be easy? (Well, actually, the promoters of the book I’m reading kind of hinted at it, but I guess they have to).

Thanks for reading

So I’m going to be in a book…

… not me personally, but one of my stories will be.

You may remember a while ago that I was shouting about being on the shortlist to have a horror story published (along with 49 others) in Twisted50: a compilation of 50 short horror stories brought about by the Create50 team.

content_winner

Naturally I’m over-the-moon at this news, and having my story reach this stage means I now get to attend the the gala launch and awards ceremony in London at some point in the near future, where the final awards will be handed out.

The writing in this completion was very strong and I’m really surprised to have made it this far. And like the photo says, I do feel like a winner as getting into the book was always my goal. And did I mention that this is not going be a self-pub, but a real book with a real agent (Blake Friedman) and everything?

I’m starting to wonder if I could go on to be awarded one of the additional awards too? I mean I’m now begining to believe that anything is possible.

Furthermore, the organisers felt so many amazing stories were submitted that they have come up with a companion book called Twisted’s Little Sister, which is 50 of the best stories that didn’t make the final cut. And guess what? I’ve got a story in there too. It’s all a bit much to comprehend really.

That aside, I think one of the most exciting aspects to this is that Clive Barker (Candyman, Hellraiser) is one of the judges, which means he is going to read one of my stories…  one of my stories. Imagine, Clive Barker sitting down and reading something written by little ‘ole me.

So there we are. Just an update of what’s happening in my writing life. I’ll be in touch after the launch party.

I love saying that.

Thanks for reading.

Reblog: 14 Agents Seeking Science Fiction Novels NOW

For all my friends out there who write sci-fi, Chuck Sambuchino has just released a list of literary agents who are actively seeking sci-fi novels.

They are all US-based agents, but I won’t let stop me.

I hope you find this as useful as I did.

Yet another great post from Writers in the Storm. Thanks guys.

See the full list here

Re-blog: 14 Authors Share Their Advice on the Rocky Road of Publication

So I just read this great post with advice from successful authors on Writers in the Storm, and I simply had to reblog it.

If you’re a writer and fancy some bite-sized nuggets of worldly writing wisdom, then you can read more here.

Enjoy.

Pit2Pub

Thought this may interest some people…

Thanks Dawn Allen for the original.

Dawn Allen

The Intro: Who has fun spending hours creating that perfect 140-character pitch? Then bouncing that sentence or two off others to see if it’s fantastic? And finally having to create a couple more so you’re not posting the same one every few hours?

The Why: Kristin and Ann know what you’re going through. In fact, they both did quite a few Twitter Pitch Parties so they know your pain. Kristin remembers what it was like to see that little colored star and then checking and re-checking email to confirm that someone did in fact click on the pitch and favorite it. And Ann’s recalls her heart pounding and her palms sweaty, all the while hoping and praying that it wasn’t made by accident from a friend or some complete stranger who marked it and not re-tweeted it by mistake. They both trolled the feed all day long and didn’t work…

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How To: 7 Steps to a Great Writer Blog

Some great insight for those of you who are querying agents while trying to keep your blog going too.
Thanks a lot Carly Watters (once again) for the original.
Enjoy…

Carly Watters, Literary Agent Blog

Screen Shot 2012-04-26 at 4.18.09 PMI love it when writers link to their blogs when they’re querying me. I know not all agents agree, but if I’m interested in a query or a project I’ll definitely be looking you up. So what do agents look for when we’re going through writers’ blogs (which are different than author websites)? Here’s a glimpse into my thought process.

How To: 7 Steps to a Great Writer Blog

1. FREQUENCY

My biggest pet peeve is writers who set up a blog but don’t keep it up. I know things get in the way (life, marriage, kids, day job, etc) but the most important thing is some sort of schedule. I’m not saying you have to blog everyday, because you certainly don’t! What I am saying is try to create a pattern: once a week, twice a month, twice a week–whatever you can manage.

2. CONTENT

What querying…

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