This week’s story is a true one. I did begin to write a normal, fictitious one, but found myself too absorbed in the new project I’ve taken on. It involves working on-site with a client, helping them with all the tasks that go into putting on an international medical conference. Last week I was getting the website up to scratch, and I liked the functionality of that site so much that I spent most of Saturday building one for myself.
At the moment it has almost nothing on it, but as a test I dashed out a blog post on it this morning, which is where you’ll find the true story. I expect I’ll eventually transfer everything from here to there, but for now, as I populate it in increments (like building a cake from crumbs), I’ll probably run both in tandem.
It’s my birthday today, so we’re now off to Yorkshire for a few days, I may report from there! X
Writer Opps Wednesday aims to bring you six new opportunities for writers every week. This week we have: a most intriguing call for entries of microfiction; developmental funding for artists who self identify as sharing one or more of the protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010; a survey about arts funding in Scotland which could lead to you directly influencing policy; a call for submissions from an Australian publisher who accepts international submissions; a free e-book on how to get your work published; and a call for submissions on the theme of Detritus. Read on.
Micro Fiction Macchiato
Micro Fiction Macchiato
Deadline: 17 April 2019 at 23:55
Creative project of MLitt Creative Writing University of Glasgow. Call for micro fiction submission.
The project is to get people involved in special reading experience, which participants would be asked to read in dark. As participants re-write one of Edgar Allan Poe’s pieces based on either the original texts, or the already re-written micro fictions (under 30 words/ under 300 words) I created on the website, they have the chance to be included in the online anthology. As part of the submission rules, participants would also be asked to write their micro fictions on used coffee filter papers, photo or scan them while keeping a record in doc./pdf. file.
The online anthology features adaptations of Poe at the current stage and aims to collect more micro fictions in the future.
Location: All Scotland ,England, Northern Ireland, International
I can’t for the life of me work out what Franz is asking for, but I’m going to give it a good go at some point.
Deadline: 04 April 2019 at 23:59
This new fund seeks to increase the diversity of people in the arts, screen and creative industries. Developmental funding available for individuals and organisations.
Creative Scotland’s reports ‘Understanding Diversity in the Arts’ and ‘Equality Matters’ highlighted numerous and complex barriers to access, progression and representation in the arts, screen and creative industries.
These reports indicated that career progression is far from a level playing field. Challenges are more acutely felt by women, people with parental responsibilities, disabled people and those from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Lack of connections, social structures and networks also featured highly as a barrier, with many mentioning the importance of informal networks in securing work or getting noticed.
The Equality Analysis of our 2018-21 Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) programme also highlighted a reduction in the number of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion-led organisations supported through the RFO programme and a reduction in a focus on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion programming. Additionally, there were no new applications from Equality, Diversity and Inclusion led organisations.
This fund aims to start addressing some of these well documented concerns and increase the diversity of people in the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland.
This fund will seek to prioritise applications from individuals who self–identify as sharing one or more protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010; or from groups/organisations which are either minority-led or which focus on working with and for those who share one or more protected characteristics.
There are no minimum and maximum limits on how much you can apply for, and our intention is to award funding at the levels requested by applicants. We expect to support between 12 and 20 applications, depending on the level of demand, and the Fund has a total budget of £285,000 for 2019/20.
This fund is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland. If you have any objections to receiving funding from this source – for example some applicants do not wish to receive money from sources of gambling – then please tell us and if successful we can arrange for the funding to come from other sources.
Literature Alliance Scotland: Survey for Arts Funding Inquiry
Deadline: Thursday 4 April.
Please share your views on the inquiry into the future of funding for the arts in Scotland issued by MSPs on the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee. The inquiry follows scrutiny undertaken by the Committee last year into Creative Scotland’s handling of the Regular Funding round for 2018-2021.
Your opinions will be collated to help inform the LAS collective response to this consultation and will be anonymised. All questions are open-ended comments. Please also share this survey with your membership and amongst your networks.
Gypsum Sound Tales is a publishing house based in Sydney, Australia who accepts international submissions, and pays!
Colp is our ‘anything goes’ anthology collection.
Expect to see a little bit of this and a little bit of that within each issue, so feel free to submit stories from any genre.
Current theme: Big
Think big. For this Colp collection we are seeking stories that feature at least one significantly-sized character or component. Your story must include at least one of the following:
a character (main or otherwise) that is physically enormous (tall, wide, both) – think the size of a skyscraper as your starting point
an environmental feature or man-made structure that is equally enormous
Go as big as you can, and think outside the box. Please avoid any stories that are retakes on Jack and the Beanstalk, Pacific Rim, Godzilla, King Kong or any other classical/modern story or film.
Colp is for everyone and therefore we are willing to read stories that fall into any genre. So, no matter whether your story is a horror, adventure, romance, sci-fi or historical fiction piece, please send it on through (we’d really love someone to send through a romance, just once…) Be original. We also encourage new and unpublished writers to take the leap and get in touch.
A free e-book on how to get your work published in lit mags
Submit, Publish, Repeat: 5th Edition
About the Book: This book is the definitive guide to publishing your creative writing in literary journals. This year, we’ve added a section about what to expect after you’ve submitted your work to literary journals.
The book also includes updated lists of publishers, including publishers for new authors, publishers of genre writing, and literary journals that pay their writers.
There is quite a bit more in this book, including a discussion of reading fees, contests, and anthologies.
Waste and decay surrounds and absorbs you. It’s warm, thick, fertile. Breathe in the fetid excess and expose all the crawling, seething life forces. Write into the dark warmth and send us the best of your scum and grot. We want work like a smell so bad you can’t help but want to know what it is. Let your imagination go there, and then submit the spoils to us. We want to read it all.
We allow simultaneous submissions, just email us once
For this week’s story I decided to merge two theories: the first, regards creativity, the second, productivity. Friday arrived, and I had still to even think about a story topic. I knew if I didn’t start that day I wouldn’t get it written, but I wanted to go to Glasgow and pick up a few necessaries, and I knew, also, that I wouldn’t do it when I got back.
Then I remembered reading somewhere that some writers recommend writing on public transport. Ron Silliman even spent the whole of Labour Day 1976 riding the Bay Area busses and writing a huge, one sentence poem called BART. So I packed my laptop in my bag, and decided to write my story on the bus. Which I did.
Once we were moving I settled down with my bag on my lap and my computer on top of that. It worked brilliantly well, the bag creating a non slip surface of just the right height, and by the time the bus pulled into the station I’d written six-hundred and seventy-six words.
I didn’t get to look at the story again until Sunday evening, and didn’t hold out much hope of shaping it up for today, but had recently read that playing a single piece of music repeatedly aids concentration. According to Ben Hardy lots of writers recommend it because it creates a kind of distraction proof forcefield as you ‘dissolve’ into the music. How could I resist?!
I couldn’t, and decided on ‘Lost on You’ by my new hero, LP, for the track. There’s a great site called Listen on Repeat which will repeat any YouTube video you choose until you tell it to stop, I made very good use of it, though I’m not sure I ever quite dissolved. I did do a bit to the story while listening: removed repetitions; sorted out typos (hundreds, that’s one of the bad things about trying to type on a bumpy bus), and took out, or replaced the senseless bits. I also rather drastically changed the ending, and it’s a new sort of ending for me so I wonder if that’s a direct result of the music? Anyway, here the story is, in all it’s unfinished glory.
Amelia sat on the bus feeling a little too fat for her day’s task: to find an outfit to wear to her daughter’s wedding that her family would approve of, and that she would feel comfortable in. She isn’t the mother of the bride sort, she mused, her favourite clothes are a pair of old cords you might see on a gnarled farmer, a jumper she’s had for over twenty years, and her wellies. There was a time when she could switch between this look and that of the office she ran – tailored trousers, jacket, jaunty blouse, and heels, but these days, having given up that job some time ago, she found heels almost unbearable. The squeezing of her too wide toes, the pressure on the balls of her feet, the general precarity. Her thighs, she feels are now too wide for neat pants, she is no Sofia Coppola, and her bosom too uncontainable for thin material.
She had meant to lose a stone, two would have been wonderful, before having to make this trip, but managed only a few pounds. Her daughters, both, suggested she join a gym, get a personal trainer, take up running, anything, but she failed to do any of those things. Instead, she built a shed and got on with the garden.
Since Jim died she had had to learn to do such things. He had loved the garden, and had a gift for building and fixing; she had been the earner. Now her role was defunct, and he was gone, but she wasn’t defeatist so had taken classes, started a women’s day at the Men’s Shed, and set about becoming more Jim like. The cords she wore were his, and she felt powerful in them. She didn’t think she’d feel powerful in a purple frock and jacket combo with a hat and matching kitten heels.
On leaving the bus she headed for John’s, her mother-in-law had sworn by their clothes, and she was nearly her age now. She browed the racks of linen shirts and trousers, which she rather liked but suspected Greta would sniff at. Scanned the space for anything that called to her, but felt quite uncalled. In the underwear department a nice woman measured her for bras and brought a selection to try, but they all had padding. She didn’t think she needed any more bulk and asked for something unpadded. They didn’t, the woman told her, stock unpadded bras in such a small size. Amelia wondered at the trend for bulbous breasts, and left without making a purchase.
Her jeans, the least country things she owned, kept sliding down her hips as she walked, she cursed their stretchable nature. She felt herself wobble under her shirt as she walked down the steps of the centre out onto the street, where hoards of stylish couples mocked her with their almost matching sunglasses and loose looped scarves. She scrabbled in her bag for her ancient Ray Bans and wiped the dust off them as best she could.
In a small boutique on the edge of town Amelia burst into tears.
As this post goes live I will be in a new office, learning new things, and hopefully not feeling like I’ve taken on more than I’m capable of. Lots of things I’ve been reading lately, about how to reach your goals and make a living as a writer, say one of the key things is to take yourself out of your comfort zone, and that’s what this is. It’s a new project, and an experiment that isn’t directly related to my practice, but I should learn lots of interesting things. I do hope I don’t let my new contractors down.
I’ve been working my way through Benjamin Hardy’s 30 Behaviours to Make You Unstoppable in 2019, and am half way through #12 which is about reducing your avoidance behaviours. Hardy gives two main reasons for avoidance and in the last post I looked at self-efficacy as a possible explanation of why I had been avoiding writing the post itself. Today I look at congruence, the other reason he cites. So, what the feck is it?
I am going to simplify because it turns out there’s far too much to all of this for a blog post, it would take a good year of research and another several years to write up. It’s probably a Phd and/or a book, and someone else has most likely done a much better job than I ever could. But with the help of Carl Rogers I should at least be able to give some indication of what Hardy means, and whether it could provide the answer to my problem.
It would appear that what Hardy means by ‘unstoppable’ is what Rogers called ‘self-actualized.’ Rogers argues that:
‘The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain, and enhance the experiencing organism’
(Rogers, 1951, p. 487).
By which, I think, he means (once our basic needs are met) we are driven to meet what Maslow called our ‘growth’ needs. I’m not going to go any further with this, I just wanted to give a little context to tease out Hardy’s standpoint, but here’s a handy diagram:
Hardy and Rogers both argue that in order to be in a state to meet your growth needs you need to be congruent.
What is congruence?
Congruence is when a person’s ideal self (the person they’d like to be) matches their self-image (the person they think they are). So, if you’d like to be Lauren Bacall but see yourself as closer to Miss Piggy you’re incongruent, and likely to be miserable and unable to grow.*
Is lack of congruence the reason I was avoiding writing the blog post?
In order to answer this I need to examine my ideal-self and my self-image, find out if there’s a disconnect, and if this disconnect could be the problem.
The person I’d like to be is: flexible (able to respond positively to the points of view of others; able to tolerate interruptions; able to change my mind…); honest; capable of learning (mastering new tasks, solving complex problems, understanding other value systems and perspectives…); nice to be around; ethical; helpful; caring; listening; attractive and stylish (more Lauren Bacall than Miss Piggy).
I see myself as all of these things, most of the time, though I do fear I’m becoming more Miss Piggy than Lauren Bacall. By ‘most of the time’ I mean there are occasions when I catch myself being less of one of them than I’d like to be. I have, for example, found it difficult to respond positively to Brexit supporters a lot of the time. But looking at my list of ideal traits I think the reason I avoided writing the blog post is that I got bogged down in so many theories – from Freud to Nietzsche to Maslow to Rogers – that I felt myself incapable of learning enough to write a post that, a) made sense and, b) wasn’t so simplified it became untrue. In the end I had to convince myself that what I could say would be good enough if I was honest about my shortcomings, and provided links to better explanations. This gave me the courage to come out from under the bed and have a go.
But how can knowing this help me become unstoppable?
It could make me lower my standards. It could make me avoid trying to do difficult things. Neither of which would be good. But it could make me stop and take note of the elements of a task and assess the time it’s likely to take to master before jumping in. Which would be good. I do think I have a tendency to say yes to things before thinking about what that entails, not because I believe I can do anything but because I’m afraid of disappointing people. Actually this reminds me of another ideal-self characteristic: free-spirited artist. The big cleavage between my ideal-self and my self-image may be right here. I’m far too much of a ‘pleaser’ which leads to a skewed notion of responsibility. I know I’m not responsible for the happiness of everyone in the whole world, but I really don’t want to contribute to anyone’s unhappiness, regardless of whether I’ve met them or even know they exist.
Thus, as I had set up this series of blog posts based on Hardy’s theory, it felt like I’d made a promise. Having made that promise I felt unable to break it. So when I got to this ‘behaviour’ (#12) and found myself getting ever deeper into the theory of self-actualization, I realised I’d never be able to write about it in a meaningful way so just stopped. Then I realised I had stopped, kicked myself for it, tried to force myself to keep that promise, and failed.
I know I have now written something (thanks to being able to convince myself I could do a good enough job of it), but it is rather feeble. I’m not even sure it makes internal sense, let alone sense of Hardy’s idea, but I am not going to shy away from keeping the promise to publish. I am, however, going to free myself from the self imposed responsibility to keep on with Hardy in such a rigid way.
But, just to recap, by looking at congruence I have found a place where my ideal-self and my actual-self diverge. I’d like to be a free spirited artist who earns a living from her practice, but a skewed sense of responsibility means I often agree to do things for other people that end up limiting both my sense of freedom, and my ability to focus on my art to the degree I feel I need to. And this is probably why I put so much effort into avoiding writing this post: it was too difficult a task in the limited time I set myself, but I felt I’d made a promise that must be kept at all costs so couldn’t just give up. Maybe now I know I’ll be able to work out some kind of strategy to, if not heal the rift, at least transcend it.
Next week I’ll take a break from this series, not least because I’ve been doing this in an attempt to reach my life goal of earning a living from my practice and next Monday I begin a big new (paid!) project. I’m not sure if this is a direct result of, a) all this self analysis, b) attempting to navigate the art-world using Jeff Goins’s twelve step plan, c) merely keeping at it or, d) some combination of all three. Whatever it is, I’m both excited and terrified by this new stage. I’ve discovered by writing this post that I am more than capable of agreeing to do things I shouldn’t, so now I’m worried that this is going to be an example of that. What have I said yes to? I’ll let you know.
*I do realise I’m being flippant here, and there are all number of ways a person can be incongruent that are considerably more serious and damaging.
It’s Wednesday again, seems to come round faster every week! This post brings you a residency opportunity in possibly the most beautiful location in the world; a new Scottish cultural magazine looking for poetry and flash fiction; and twenty five publishers seeking young adult fiction.
Suilven is my favourite mountain, and it’s in my favourite part of the world. Gads! I would love to do this (I’m imagining making an art book with photographs, and stories from people who live there woven with its myths and history) unfortunately I have other commitments I can’t conceive of shifting, so I give it to you! For artists of any discipline, writers included:
CALL FOR ARTISTS 2019!
Invitation for application for a Suilven Artist Residency
The Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership CALLP, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, in association with the Assynt Foundation, is issuing this open invitation for expressions of interest to apply for an Art Residency to focus on Suilven, a mountain of distinctive shape and character, and one that is ranked among the most iconic in Scotland. Suilven dominates much of Assynt Foundation’s 44,000 acres of community owned land.
Major work has been funded by CALLP to improve and conserve the footpath providing access to the summit of Suilven. The recent and previous human interventions raise many questions and issues of significance for artistic exploration, and creative expression across a broad spectrum of perspectives and disciplines. But there is more to Suilven than the footpath and human interventions, and we are open to proposals that address whatever artists wish to express by whatever form of creative endeavour.
Download the artist brief from the link below to find out more about the project and how to apply. The deadline for receipt of applications is 12 noon, Monday 8th April.
Snack Magazine, Scotland’s new what’s on and culture magazine is looking for submissions of poetry and flash fiction to appear in our regular ‘Words’ section. Payment is £25 for any work published.
Snack Magazine, Scotland’s new, monthly what’s on and culture magazine is looking for submissions of poetry and flash fiction to appear in our regular ‘Words’ section. Payment of £25 for any work published.
All we ask is:
Your work must be no longer than 400 words.
It must not have been published elsewhere.
You must submit by the closing date of 5th April. ———–
Young adult is one of my favorite genres to read, even though when I was a young adult I struggled to find good YA books. These days the young adult genre is profitable, diverse, and covers a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to romance and everything in between.
A lot of young adult publishers are open to submissions without an agent. Not as many as in the romance genre, but a great deal more than literary fiction (for example). Below is a list of all the publishers we have previously reviewed that are open to young adult manuscripts.
Some of these publishers exclusively publish young adult novels, others publish children’s books as well, while others are open to a wider variety of genres and age groups. Not all of the publishers are currently open to submissions but the majority of them are. If you click on the name of the publisher it will link to our full review of them. All full reviews contain links to the various publisher’s submission page.
The list is in no particular order.
Click on the link (above) for the full details of these 25 opportunities, and so much more!
There you are, twenty seven possibilities for writers in Scotland and beyond, why not give one, or more, of them a go? If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
On my old desktop computer, and in my loft, I have years worth of writing exercises, prompts, and old lesson plans. And this week has seen me searching through old files, dusting off old documents, revamping ideas (with the help of Pinterest), and doing a little testing.
I have tended to present lesson plans/rubrics/exercises in plain old text. But Pinterest is a mine of visual ideas for all sorts of things from how to disguise your dustbin to how to dress like Emmanuelle Alt on a high street budget, and a zillion other things you never knew you needed to know. It also has tonnes of resources for educators, and after an hour or two of idle browsing early last week I was inspired to transform some of my old lesson ideas into exercise sheets with a visual bent.
Here is part of a lesson plan that is designed to lead to students writing rich descriptions of objects. I’d put an object on the table and give them the questions below, often by writing them on a board, and we’d have a five minute discussion before they got down to writing.
Sketching an object with words:
Questions to ask of it:
What is it?
What does it look like? colour; size; shape; solid or hollow?
What is its function?
What does it remind you of?
Who owns it?
What do they use it for, is that different to its original function?
But thanks to something I saw on Pinterest I made this and decided to test it by using it to start my story for the week:
I ‘d already put ‘vintage object’ in the Pinterest search bar and chosen this as my object:
Then I sketched a possible scene/backstory:
The woman who owned it is recently dead. It had originally been her husband’s, he’d been obsessed with the fragrance of his breath, and ate these like a five year old would eat sweets were s/he allowed, and once he’d used the contents she cleaned it out and kept it. There are at least twenty more, stacked on a shelf in the pantry, behind bags of flour and jars of ancient pickles. Her daughter, who is cleaning out the house, has just uncovered them.
And wrote the first scene (rough draft!)
I remember my father using these, he called them men’s sweets, and we weren’t allowed them. Too strong, he said. I stole one, once, he’d turned to pick up a fallen newspaper and left the box open, I snatched one and put it in my mouth before he could see, but he knew because it made my eyes water and I had to run to the garden and spit it out. He didn’t say anything, I guess he thought I’d learnt my lesson, he wasn’t always angry. Not with me, anyway, the others would probably say different. Joe left home rather than kill him; Cassie tried to take me and mum with her; Michael did kill him, though it was an accident.
It’s difficult to tell if the worksheet helped me or not, I’m probably not the best person to test these things on because I’ve been writing for years and years, and they are really aimed at people who are new to creative writing. But I don’t think it hindered my creativity, so that’s something, and now the rest of the story is burning a hole in my conscious as I haven’t had time to get it out of my head and onto my screen. But it’s Monday* again and time to begin a new one!
*Okay, it’s Tuesday, I’m a day late, it’s been a busy week and weekend…
Scotland’s International Poetry Prize, open to all Based in Scotland’s National Book Town, for over a decade Wigtown Poetry Competition has become one of the UK’s best established writing prizes and a launchpad for many writers’ careers. Refreshed and rebranded in 2019, Wigtown Poetry Prize welcomes entries from poets writing in English wherever they may live. Separate categories celebrate the best of Scottish Gaelic and Scots language poetry, a special category acknowledges a rising talent in Dumfries & Galloway, and a new pamphlet prize is named in memory of Alastair Reid – local poet and one of Scotland’s foremost literary figures. The competition closes on 7 June 2019, with a prize-giving at Wigtown Book Festival in the autumn. We hope to see you there
If you have a short film (15 minutes max) you made in Scotland with a Scottish team, why not apply? Closing date 13 April.
Southlight magazine celebrates changing with an on-line one month long publication as part of Luminate Festival of Creative Ageing. Send us your short porse, poetry, book or film reviews, photographs, art-work about profound changes in life histories from one stage to the next. Think pupa to butterfly; grape to wine; yeast and wheat to bread; selkies; Kafka’s beetle; Woolf’s Orlando; Greek myths.
Email your contributions as MS Word or Rich Text Format – jpegs for images – with your name in the file title – to email@example.com
And if inspiration doesn’t strike visit our Facebook page for daily prompts from April 31.
It’s just possible that you have been invited to speak about your book in another country, but can’t afford to get there. If that is so, and you live in Scotland, this should be just what you need:
AUTHOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL FUND
Scottish Books International works on behalf of the literature sector in Scotland and is dedicated to the international promotion of books, writers, festivals and organisations.
ABOUT THE PROGRAMME
This fund has been established by Scottish Books International to support writers who have been invited overseas to promote their work.
The types of things that this fund will support include:
•Invitations to be part of an event at a literary festival or literature or cultural organisation.
•Trips for publicity events to support publication of a work.
•Invitations for authors to present their work as part of trade fairs or conferences.
•Invitations to a residency or creative exchange overseas, where support for travel costs is required. Support for fees or ongoing expenses as part of residency opportunities can not be supported due to the limits of the fund.
If you’re a writer you’ll be familiar with the question, ‘are you a plotter or a pantser?’ A pantser being someone who writes before looking at such structural things as pace, arc, motifs, etc. A plotter being someone who creates a structure then writes a story/novel/whatever to fit. I’m a pantser, I create a nominal structure after the first draft, to suit the story, rather than the other way round. When I begin to write a story I never know how it’s going to end, it’s almost as if the story tells itself to me, and I try and get it down as best I can. This does mean a great deal of redrafting as I work out the details, which can be a bit of a pain, and I admire writers who have everything worked out from the start, and don’t have to redraft at all. Zadie Smith is one such writer, apparently, which has made me rethink. I’ve always thought plotting in advance was a bit odd, something for writers of genre fiction only, but Smith is a writer of literary fiction, which is what I aspire to. I began to wonder if building the cathedral before installing the vicar and instructing the choir might be worth a try. So I decided to give it a go with this week’s story.
Having let things slip while teaching Café Stories, I wanted to return to Ray Bradbury’s formula for the story-a-week challenge:
Monday: decide on a subject, and write an outline.
Tuesday: write the opening scene.
Wednesday: write the second scene, up to and including the climax.
Thursday: write last scene: resolution.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: edit.
I decided to do an outline, on Monday, using a narrative arc diagram (I love messing about with diagrams), so once I’d decided on a subject – an anniversary lunch – I opened Scapple, and made this:
On Tuesday I wrote a rough draft. Which means I kind of failed at the second hurdle, I was meant to write only the opening scene. But, as you’ll see, this story starts in the middle of the action, any exposition is woven into that, so the opening scene is the main scene: the action is already rising. I could have stopped at the climax, but as only a couple of lines follow it it seemed mad to do that. Anyway, here it is:
He slams his menu shut, ‘I’ll have the soup; fishcakes to follow’. Shit, I haven’t even looked past the salads. I’m not hungry enough for three courses, he won’t want pudding, but it’s my favourite part. I could have a starter and a pudding…
‘Waiter!’ he waives his right arm in the direction of the bar, ‘come on Pru, I’m starving.’
I’m not even quite sure why we’re here, it’s our fifteenth wedding anniversary, but he went to work as usual this morning. We tend to do this sort of thing at the weekend, when we do it at all, so I wasn’t prepared for him to walk back in at midday to tell me he’d booked a table for lunch, and here of all places. I had to throw myself in the shower, and blast my hair dry while looking for a not too crumpled shirt, as he wandered about downstairs. Who gives someone half an hour’s notice to get ready for a lunch date? I know, most people would have been showered by noon, but there have to be some advantages to not having my own studio, and working in a shed at the bottom of the garden. The waiter!
‘Cock-a-leekie and fishcakes, no chips, just a salad. And we’ll have a bottle of Pouilly Fuisse.’ He looks at me, ‘Pru?’
‘Um…’ Did I see… no. ‘Could I just have…’
‘Why don’t you have the Bruschetta, and then sea bass?’
Because I don’t want that much, I don’t say. I notice the drizzle we left outside has been usurped by rain of the flashing-blade kind, someone turns the lights up a notch, I wish the radiator beside me was on.
‘I’ll have the, ah…’ I look at the waiter, Stuart sighs and starts playing with the cutlery. Thunder claps outside like a displeased god.
‘I can recommend the new chef’s Caesar salad,’ the boy says, he is a boy, not much older than Katie, ‘that will leave plenty of room for the pear and chocolate torte, which you really can’t deny yourself.’
Pear and chocolate torte?
‘Thank you,’ I say, ‘how can I resist.’
He takes the menus and the big, red-wine glasses, ‘I’ll get your wine.’
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday ended up being taken up by other things. To an extent I allowed myself to be distracted, I reckon, because I felt a bit stifled by the outline. Knowing what happens in a story before I write it is going to take a bit of getting used to. At the moment if feels like it spoils the fun. However, I forced myself to get back to it on Sunday when I realised it didn’t work, and decided to examine the pacing, with another diagram:
This looks almost inconsequentially simple, but the mere act of making it has helped enormously. Firstly it shows me I need to expand, and build much more tension in, the exchange between the couple regarding his wanting her to hurry up and choose, and her wanting to be able to take her time. It shows me, too, I need to weave the backstory in here with a lighter touch, at the moment it’s a bit of an information dump which holds the action up. Looking at the pacing in this defined way also gave me the title, and a new ending. It is fascinating how looking through a new lens can reveal things with such ease. I probably would have come to all these conclusions anyway, but more slowly.
What know now is that the whole thing needs to be rewritten. Possibly as a play rather than a short story, which could mean I never look at it again. Though it may mean it will sit on the back burner for years, and one day I’ll stumble on it and know what to do. Meanwhile, it’s Monday again and I have to think of a new subject, and write an outline for that. Crikey!
Header image (of my worst restaurant nightmare): Coco Kelley
I’m on a mission to earn a living from my practice, so I’ve been testing Benjamin Hardy’s 30 Behaviours to Make You Unstoppable in 2019, and this week I examine my potential for reaching that goal by looking at Behaviour #12.
12. Less * “Avoidance-Behaviors”
‘In psychology, there are two core forms of behavior — avoidance or approach.
Avoidance-behaviors are where you’re putting energy toward avoiding something from happening. Avoidance-behaviors are generally focused on risks, rather than the potential for growth…
And approach-orientation toward life doesn’t mean you’re a reckless risk-taker. What it means is that you are willing to courageously face risks to accomplish meaningful and important goals.’
I assume here he’s telling me I should avoid avoidance behaviours and, instead, boldly advance toward my goal without letting any risks put me off. What risks might I be avoiding?
Ironically, I’ve put rather a lot of effort into avoiding writing this post. I went off at a weird tangent and read screeds on self-efficacy and congruence; I faffed about creating a new project file for an e-book I suddenly had to pull together; and I’ve literally just, this second, forced myself to stop designing posters for a Making Ends Meet project I seem to have got involved in.
Does this mean I feel there is some sort of risk involved in writing this post? Maybe I just can’t be bothered? Maybe I’m bored with writing about myself, or with the sound of my own voice? Or maybe it is something to do with self-efficacy?
It’s odd how life brings you back to things. I read Carl Rogers for my undergrad dissertation – which began as an enquiry into the existence of the self, and ended as a love song to Nietzsche – and though I liked his accessible style, and absorbing arguments, I haven’t looked at him since. I still have the books though. Anyway, I was pondering Hardy’s proposal, trying to make something of it and failing, when an email came in from him on Confidence and Avoidance that sent me on a wonky path that began with Albert Bandura and ended with Carl Rogers. It was like meeting an old friend in a strange city full of half lit passages and dead ends.
‘Carl!’ I cried, ‘Just the person I need, I’ll buy you lunch if you promise to explain self-congruency to me.’
And so I found myself in a shabby taverna, drinking cheap wine from a semi-opaque carafe, listening to a master. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I need, briefly, to go back to that email from Hardy.
It was entitled ‘Confidence and Avoidance’ and, in it, Hardy gives a personal anecdote about avoiding finishing his PhD, and goes on to explain that this was due to lack of confidence and congruency. Confidence, he says,
‘is the byproduct of prior performance. In other words, confidence must be earned. Your confidence is the emotional evidence of what you’ve done and where you’re currently at.’
An individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997).
My understanding of this is that Self-Efficacy is a person’s belief that they can achieve a particular thing, to a particular standard. The graphic, which is a screenshot of a video on the subject, adds ‘in a certain situation,’ and provides four streams from which this belief flows.
1. Mastery of Experience
As you’d expect this refers to having done a thing successfully in the past. If you’ve achieved an outcome already, you’re likely to believe you can do it again.
2. Social Modelling
If you’ve seen someone you can relate to achieve a certain outcome, you will be encouraged to believe you can do it too.
3. Social Persuasion
If others say you can do something, you’re more likely to believe you can. Conversely if others tell you you can’t do something, you may believe them (depending on who they are).
4. Psychological Responses
This relates to your emotional state: if you’re feeling stressed, for example, your belief in your capacity to perform a difficult task is likely to be reduced.
What might all this have to do with my avoiding writing this post?
1. I’ve been blogging since 2007, I’m pretty sure I’ve mastered writing posts. Though, it’s true, this one has turned out to require quite some thought (and I still don’t know if I’m making sense).
2. I know lots of people just like me who write blog posts, so my social modelling is positive.
3. My stats are growing, so that’s people telling me I can do it, isn’t it?
4. My emotional state is pretty positive, I’m quite cheerful, but I do have a lot to do at the moment. Maybe I’m feeling a bit thinly spread, and that’s enough to make me avoid doing certain things?
The other element in avoidance, according to Hardy is congruence, or lack thereof. This is where Carl Rogers and the boozy lunch comes in; he argued that when the difference between a person’s ideal self, and their perceived self is too great, that person can’t self-actualize.
I’m going to leave you with that thought for another week. There’s too much to self-actualisation to be able to get any purchase on it in a few hundred words, and as I’ve already got nearly a thousand here it would seem better to give it a post of its own. When I began with Benjamin Hardy’s theory I had no idea it would get so complicated. I may not have embarked on this exploration if I’d realised it would make me work so hard, all this research and trying to make sense takes me away from actual writing. I haven’t looked at such complex subjects since university, not really; I’ve had the odd foray into quantum physics, but that’s just play, fun. This, possibly because it relates directly to myself, feels a bit serious.
So, just to recap: in this post I’ve been trying to understand why I’ve been avoiding writing this post. Why do we avoid doing things? I’ve half concluded that it may be something to do with the state of my self-efficacy, which could be a little weak at the moment due to my workload. It’s unlikely that it’s weak due to my not feeling well practised in blog post writing, I do that all the time; it’s unlikely, too, to be because I don’t have enough social models, I have hundreds; and no one’s been telling me I’m crap at writing blog posts, so social persuasion isn’t the culprit. The only thing left is my psychological/emotional state. It may be compromised to the point I just can’t imagine* myself being able to find enough time or energy to do a good enough job.
Unless I’m incongruent, which I’ll look at next week.
P.S. I realise the pictures don’t illustrate the text at all, I think I managed to avoid creating this post, yet still write it, by looking at pretty pictures of the kinds of scenes my ideal-self would experience daily.
We can influence self-efficacy beliefs by imagining ourselves or others behaving effectively or ineffectively in hypothetical situations. Such images may be derived from actual or vicarious experiences with situations similar to the one anticipated, or they may be induced by verbal persuasion, as when a psychotherapist guides a client through interventions, such as systematic desensitization and covert modeling (Williams, 1995). Simply imagining myself doing something well, however,is not likely to have as strong an influence on my self-efficacy as will an actual experience (Williams, 1995).
Maddux, James. (2012). Self-Efficacy: The Power of Believing You Can. The Handbook of Positive Psychology. 227-287. 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195187243.013.0031.
Writer Opps Wednesday today brings you an Emerging Writers Contest; a Screenplay Writers Contest; a link to a great site that lists 33 children’s book publishers looking for submissions; a magazine looking for submissions on three themes, and an acoustic music festival delighted to welcome spoken word performers, poets, storytellers, anyone, in fact, with text based art they can perform to add to, and enrich, the music.
The Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest
The Emerging Writer’s contest is open from March 1, 2019 at noon EST until May 15, 2019 at noon EST. Since 1971, Ploughshares has been committed to promoting the work of up-and-coming writers. Over the years, Ploughshares has helped launch the careers of great writers like Edward P. Jones, Sue Miller, Mona Simpson, Tim O’Brien, and many more. In the spirit of the journal’s founding mission, the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest recognizes work by an emerging writer in each of three genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. One winner in each genre per year will receive $2,000 and publication in the literary journal. We consider authors “emerging” if they haven’t published or self-published a book. To submit, see our guidelines. The 2019 contest judges are Ottessa Moshfegh (Fiction), Leslie Jamison (Nonfiction), and Fatimah Asghar (Poetry). The winners will also receive a conversation with our partnering literary agency, Aevitas Creative Management, regarding their work and writing careers.
The competition is open to you, regardless of where in the world you live. Go to their site for all the details and the link to the submissions form.
Have you ever written a screenplay, are you writing one now, perhaps? If so this may be just the award for you:
I know nothing about screenwriting, but I can tell you this is open to anyone with a screenplay who hasn’t managed to make the jump to professional, and you can live anywhere in the world to apply. It’s not cheap, but it may be just what you need to kickstart your screenwriting career. Go here for all the details, and for the submissions link.
Authors Publish, a wonderful resource for writers everywhere, has published a list of
33 Children’s Book Publishers Seeking Picture Books
Here’s one example to whet your appetite:
Nosy Crow is a UK-based publisher of children’s books and apps aimed at children. They accept international submissions from all over, but everyone outside of the UK must submit via email (which is their preferred method of submission). They have wide distribution within the UK. The books they published are aimed at children up to the age of 14, although the bulk of what they publish is for children under the age of 12. The young adult books that they do publish are not issue-based, and should not involve drugs, sex, or violence. Most of the apps they publish are aimed at kids between the ages of 2 to 7.
If you write children’s books it will be well worth your while dropping in to see what they have that might suit your needs.
Thema is a lit journal that pays for stories, poems, and artwork that relates to a given theme. And they are currently open for submissions, about which they say:
Upcoming premises (target themes) and deadlines for submission [postmarked]:
The Clumsy Gardener [July 1, 2019] What a Strange Question! [November 1, 2019] Not of this World [March 1, 2020]
ALL SHORT STORIES, ESSAYS, POEMS, PHOTOGRAPHS and ART MUST RELATE TO ONE OF THE PREMISES SPECIFIED ABOVE.
NOTE: Previously published pieces are welcome, provided that the submission fits the theme and that the author owns the copyright.
The premise (target theme) must be an integral part of the plot, not necessarily the central theme but not merely incidental. Fewer than 20 double-spaced typewritten pages preferred. Indicate premise (target theme) on title page. Be sure to Indicate target theme in cover letter or on first page of manuscript. Include self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with each submission. Rejected manuscripts unaccompanied by an SASE will not be returned. Response time: 3 months after premise deadline. NO READER’S FEE.
Mail to: THEMA, Box 8747, Metairie, LA 70011-8747.
Outside the US: email firstname.lastname@example.org
On acceptance for publication, we will pay the following amount: short story, $25; short-short piece (up to 1000 words), $10; poem, $10; artwork, $25 for cover, $10 for interior page display.
I really like that they give a long term list. I am a super slow writer, and need time to get a story up to scratch, so providing the premises such a long way in advance allows me to work at my own pace. Go to the site to find out more and to submit.
Finally we have an opportunity for poets and storytellers to mix with musicians, and perform their work in pubs all over Moffat.
This is in my hometown, and I keep trying to get more spoken word performers to come along. It’s a slightly wild weekend of music and booze that welcomes all levels of players and writers, from competent learners who feel it’s time to test their skills in front of an audience, to virtuosos who aren’t driven doolally by less than perfect timing. The only thing we really ask of participants is a little respect for their peers: one tune/song/poem/story at a time; allow whoever’s turn it is to shine – not every song is enhanced by your instrument – and listen. I’ll be dropping in and out, clutching my stories and poems, hoping to see other writers. If you’d like to come, but feel a bit too shy to present yourself to a bar full of musicians (and I can understand that) drop me a line and we can arrange to meet. Here’s the Facebook page where you’ll find lots of pictures of past Rammies.
That, then, is your list of opportunities for this week. Hope at least one of them is just what you’ve been waiting for. If you decide to try for one or more of them please let me know in the comments, so I can wish you good luck!