Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Greatest Woman On Two Wheels

A few weeks ago I went to see a play about cyclist Beryl Burton written by Maxine Peake. Being a keen cyclist myself I already knew the story of Beryl and wondered if the performance would do it justice. I was not disappointed. Read this and be inspired.

Beryl Burton (1937 – 1996) dominated the sport of cycling from the late 1950s. Having won numerous world championships, her last domestic title was won in 1986 at the age of 49. She did this despite suffering chronic health problems as a child. She set several national and world records; one of them even beating the men's record.
The story of how she broke the 12 hour record in 1967 has gone down in cycling legend. The race began on open roads with the women starting two minutes behind the men. Despite calls of nature and problems with her bike she caught the leading man, Britain's best all-rounder Mike McNamara, and cycled alongside him. As is the habit of most long-distance cyclists, she carried a bag of sweets in her back pocket in order to keep up her energy levels. She offered Mike a liquorice allsort, which he is said to have accepted with good grace. Beryl then pulled away to set a record of 277.25 miles beating McNamara by three quarters of a mile. It was another two years before a man beat her record. Nearly fifty years later that distance still stands today as the women's record, despite new bike technology, modern nutrition and professionalism.
On May 5th 1996 Beryl went out to deliver party invitations for her upcoming 59th birthday. On her bike of course. She collapsed and died of heart failure, possibly due to cardiac arrhythmia with which she had been diagnosed at an early age.

These days, if a man achieves a fraction of the things Beryl did, he is awarded a knighthood.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Shock Horror! Editors Have A Sense Of Humour

It's been a bit of a busy week.

Last Sunday was awards day at Trowell Writers' Club. We don't have many members but the turnout was excellent and it seems like I made some popular choices as the prose judge. So I'm relieved about that.

I sold my 40th story a few weeks ago and my latest is in the October 24th edition of People's Friend. Pleased with that too.

On Thursday October 22nd I went up to York to attend a People's Friend short story writing workshop. This was run by the magazine's commissioning fiction editor Shirley Blair with the assistance of prolific writer Kate Blackadder. As writers it's sometimes easy to believe that editors are grim people whose only purpose in life is to make our existence miserable by criticizing our work and rejecting our submissions. Well, either we're all wrong or Shirley is a remarkable exception. The talks were upbeat, the exercises were fun and she even threw in a few jokes. There were 25 attendees whose age range must have spanned around 6 decades, the oldest being a sprightly 92 year old. I met a fellow writer who I had already met on a couple of previous events at Nottingham Writers' Club and another lady who works as an extra on Emmerdale. Some, like myself, had already had successes with a few magazines while others had not yet submitted anything. The event was really useful to me and I'm really glad I didn't miss out. If you want to submit to People's Friend it's essential that you keep up to date with their guidelines which can be found on the PF website.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Busy Busy

Time for another blog. It seems to have become just a monthly post lately.

My story The Box In The Corner was in The People's Friend Special No.111 last month and my latest Call Me Madam is in this month's No.112.

I found that I had applied for The People's Friend York workshop just in time as it is now fully booked. I believe there are still a few places available at the other venues. Looking forward to that on October 22nd.

I'm also having a go at their serial writing competition. You need to write a 6000 word first instalment and a synopsis of the whole story. The winner will get help in writing the final two instalments of 5000 words each. Closing date is October 30th so there is still plenty of time.

Finally – my main sources of inspiration:

This is my lovely daughter-in-law
with Finlay and Orla
on a bike ride.

       Here are Finlay and Orla enjoying sandwiches outside their great grandmother's home.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Mission Statement

I've had a few e-mail conversations just lately with People's Friend editor Shirley Blair (name dropper). The editorial team seem to like my stories at the moment and Shirley has been very helpful in guiding me along the right lines to meet their requirements. Sometimes I submit a story that appeals to her but I might have a problem with POV or the ages of the characters. Sometimes she asks for a little more background information on the characters. It has made me put more thought into my work and hopefully I won't have to do so much editing in future.

In addition it has made me think about the type of stories I write. I hadn't really put much thought into it up until now. An idea would just present itself and I would try and concoct a story from it. But now I realise that there is a pattern to what I have been submitting so I've tried to list down the main points of what I've been trying to accomplish:

To write stories that are captivating, stimulating and entertaining.
To create characters that are interesting, appealing and resourceful.
To produce situations that are unusual and challenging.
To evoke emotions across the whole spectrum of human feeling.
To introduce locations that are unique, uncommon or exotic.
To arouse memories by use of nostalgia, past events and social history.
To devise plots that conclude with a twist, a lesson or a feel-good spirit.

No doubt you could all modify or add to this list to suit your own personal objectives. Perhaps some of you already have a similar list in your heads but haven't actually written it down.

PS Most of you may be aware that People's Friend are running a series of writers' workshops over the coming months. Shirley informs me that they are open to published writers as well as beginners so, work permitting, I'm intending to go to the York event in October. It's worth considering if you want to keep up to date with their requirements and improve your technique.

PPS My next story will be in The People's Friend Special No.111 on sale August 26th.

PPPS Couldn't resist posting these photos of my grandchildren:

This is Finlay
auditioning for
The Harlem 

This is Orla
 with her 

Friday, 31 July 2015

Inspiration From My Dad

With my tale – Doug's War – in The People's Friend this week I thought I would give the story behind the story.

It's all about my dad, Douglas Havers, and just like the setting in the story he was a Norfolk lad, born and raised in a tiny village called Syderstone a few miles north of Fakenham.

It is true that his desire to enlist in the navy was thwarted by the fact that he worked on the land and was therefore in a reserved occupation. When he was finally accepted into the armed forces he was put into the infantry. This was a little disconcerting as prolonged marching was painful due to him having part of his leg bone removed as a child. He had contracted some sort of infection which affected his fibula. However, like many others, he just got on with it.

I've probably exaggerated his mischievous pranks but the incident with the school bell is true. The real reason for him being let out early was because he could simultaneously rub his belly with one hand and pat himself on the head with the other. A trivial skill you might think but apparently it impressed the teacher.

It was dad's younger brother, my uncle Frank who told me about the vicar being the LVD captain, unlike in Dad's Army where they are two different characters. It was him that told me about the firecracker incident too. I have a photograph of the whole platoon with the vicar/captain centre stage minus dog-collar.

As a footnote - I've always been a fan of Arthur Lowe, Clive Dunn etc. in Dad's Army. My dad always maintained that the programme wasn't all that far-fetched. In his view he characters portrayed and the antics they got up to were a fair reflection of real life. Still heroes though.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

More Blogging

I promise I'll try and do more blogging. Honest.

Now the A level exams at Bilborough College are over I have a bit more time for writing, although the vocational exams at Stephenson College are still ongoing so I still have another job to go to. I'm booked to help on results day and enrolment days at Bilborough in August too. That's usually fun.

One of my stories was in The People's Friend at the beginning of July and the next one will be in the August 1st edition. That still leaves another three to be published.

Because I'm concentrating on stories for magazines I haven't entered any competitions for a while but I thought I'd give it a go this month. Erewash Writers and Fosseway Writers have a few ongoing at the moment. I sometimes find that if an entry doesn't get a place it can be revamped and made suitable for the womag market anyway.

Talking of competitions, for the second year running I've been asked to adjudicate Trowell Writers' Club annual short story competition. I find the task quite daunting as I'm pretty certain that many of the entrants that I'm judging are far more talented than me. I'd love to hear any words of wisdom from those who do it regularly.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Tempus Fugit

Good grief!

I've just checked. Was it really two months ago that I last posted on here? May and June are usually the busiest time of the year for me but I haven't blogged since March so I thought I ought to take some time out.

It's currently GCE A level time so I'm at Bilborough College all day, every day for the next few weeks to invigilate in the exams. I seem to have been given a lot of word processing sessions so I have to cope on my own, setting out the seating plans, logging in for the students and distributing the question papers. It's a long, lonely day with often only a short break for lunch. Then it's back home to do some jobs like mow the lawn, fix the garage door and sort out the dripping tap. If I can get any writing done then that's a bonus.

Luckily I've managed to get another two acceptances from Shirley Blair at The People's Friend. That makes five stories to come in PF. I seem to be in the groove for their requirements at the moment.

It's cricket and cycling season now so that's a couple more distractions for me. In addition my grandchildren take up the odd weekend when they get the chance to visit and I enjoy every minute of their company. In fact I'll end with a couple of images of them. Till next time...

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Gaffer's Little Helper

Hello, everybody. Orla here.

I'm helping my granddad out today (or Gaffer as he prefers to be called). He's been too busy again this month to post on his Blog so I'm doing it for him.

I've made this collage to cheer him up.
He had another one of those stories he writes in The People's Friend last month. I was a little mischievous the other week when I found a copy on the table and tore it up. I like tearing things up. He didn't get mad though. I smiled at him. Seems to work with granddad. Not with mum though.

Here's me being a rascal at Christmas. I managed to reach the bauble on Boxing Day and brought the whole lot crashing down. Won't be trying that again.



Here's me on my horse that granddad and nanna bought me.


Here's big brother Finlay with his new Xbox (whatever that is).

Granddad and nanna came to my first birthday party last month. They didn't buy me toys as I had a lot for Christmas but I did get some nice things to keep me warm when I'm asleep.

In fact I'm feeling sleepy now so I'll say 'bye' and see you soon.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Finding Time

Happy New Year!

Since Christmas I've really struggled to keep up with Twittering, Blogging, answering e-mails etc, not to mention trying to get some writing done, so I've bought Kath McGurl's e-book Give Up Ironing. It's a self-help book on time management for writers and the title refers to the fact that many of us get bogged down in domestic chores, rather than actually sitting down to write. I'm now trying to put Kath's ideas into practice. At least now I've read the book, got the t-shirt, as they say. (But not ironed it – obviously).

For those of you that don't know, Kath's alter-ego is womagwriter, that source of submission guidelines that all us magazine writers find invaluable.

 One distraction that I'm not going to give up is spending time with my granddaughter, Orla, who will be one year old in a couple of weeks.

She doesn't like wasting food and has found that the best way to ensure her cereal bowl is empty is to wear it on her head.

Here she is trying to get to grips with using cutlery. Hasn't quite got the hang of it yet but I'm sure she soon will.

I must be getting some work done because I've had 3 stories published already in 2015 and there are another 2 in the pipeline. With Kath's guidance I'm hoping for a good year.