Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A BIG announcement!

I've decided to launch a Short Story prize!

The New Rose Prize 2011 is looking for new writing talent and is open to all unpublished writers. To enter, write a short story of any genre, maximum 2,500 words - amaze us, thrill us, make us cry, it's up to you. The closing date for entries is midnight (UK time) on Wednesday 31st August.

So what are you waiting for?

The top prize is wonderful - a place on one of RNA-nominated author Ruth Saberton's writing holidays, plus signed goodies from me and a starring role on my blog. Two runners-up will win a short story critique from competition judge Jamie Guiney (see below), as well as signed goodies and their stories published on my blog. (Please note that the first prize does not include travel - sorry!)

So, why short stories?
I love writing short stories. As an art form they are truly special: the chance to take your readers on a brief journey into someone else's world. I began a short story blog in 2008, before I was discovered by my publisher AVON (HarperCollins) and writing these stories was a great way to learn my craft.

I wanted to run something more than just a writing competition - to celebrate the wealth of writing talent that I know is out there. So, together with wonderful short story master Jamie Guiney (see Judges below) and brilliant author Ruth Saberton, we have created this special competition to celebrate the short story.


Jamie Guiney

Jamie Guiney is a literary fiction writer from County Armagh, Northern Ireland. His short stories have been published in literary journals, newspapers and digitally on iPhones and iPads. In 2011, his short story 'A Quarter Yellow Sun' was nominated for 'The Pushcart Prize.'

Jamie is also a graduate of the Faber & Faber Writing Academy and a member of the Newman Writers Group. His work has been backed by the Northern Ireland Arts Council through several Individual Artist Awards.

He is currently working on a short story collection, a novel, and when time permits, a screenplay set during the Belfast Blitz.

Ruth Saberton
Ruth Saberton has written 8 romantic comedy novels in total under the names of Jessie Fox (for Little Black Dress), Ruth Saberton (for Orion) and Georgie Carter (for AVON HarperCollins).

Ruth's first novel for Orion, Katy Carter Wants a Hero was nominated for The Romantic Novelists' Association's Romantic Comedy of the Year award this year.

Ruth runs amazing writing weekends and retreats in her home village of Polperro in Cornwall - and the first prize for this competition is a place on one of her holidays. She has a real eye for pace, comic timing and great characterisation.

Miranda Dickinson
Miranda Dickinson is a Sunday Times Bestselling novelist. Her first novel, Fairytale of New York was discovered on and went on to sell over 107,000 copies, become a bestseller in Germany and Turkey and was nominated for the RNA Novel of the Year award 2010. Her second novel, Welcome to My World became her second Sunday Times Bestseller.

Miranda is currently writing her third novel, It Started With a Kiss (published 10th November this year) and is vlogging all year about the writing and publishing process of this novel on her blog.

Send your entries on a Word document (double-spaced and 12 point text) to:
to arrive no later than midnight on Wednesday 31st August. Please write 'New Rose Prize entry' in the subject line. Your story must not have been published anywhere before and must be no longer than 2,500 words.

I'll announce the winners on Coffee and Roses and will publish the top three stories there for everyone to see.

Best of luck!

Just to qualify the rules for submission: we are looking for UNPUBLISHED stories by UNPUBLISHED writers. If your stories have been posted on a Facebook page, blog or forum post you MAY enter it for the New Rose Prize. If your stories have been published in a magazine, book, compilation or any other printed matter then they DO NOT qualify for this prize. The New Rose Prize is looking for writers who have previously not been published - as a way of giving an opportunity to those who have not seen their work in print. Hope that clarifies things - and sorry for any confusion!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writer Spotlight: Matt Dunn

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm really excited to welcome the very lovely MATT DUNN into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?
When I was 14, I wrote a report of a cricket match to be read out at school assembly. I thought I'd put some jokes into it, and I got a few laughs (though in retrospect, they may have been because my flies were undone), so there and then I knew I wanted to be a comedy writer. It took me another twenty-one years to actually sit down and have a go at it properly, though.

What interests you as a writer?
The complexity of relationships. The individuality of men and women. Maybe it's the other way round, but anyway, put those together and there's endless material.
Do you have a typical writing day?
I get up, have breakfast, then sit at my desk, look at my mortgage statement, and start typing! Seriously, like most writers on a book-a-year schedule, I treat it pretty much like a full-time Monday-to-Friday job (but with more tea-breaks), so I make sure I put a full working day in evey day. Worst case scenario, if it's not going well, I make sure I grind out a thousand words, even though they all might be rubbish. As deadline approaches, I'll work longer and later, and my final drafts are always given one last going-over in one twenty-four hour non-stop bout.

What made you decide to write The Accidental Proposal?
I'd loved writing about Ed and Dan, the two characters from The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook and Ex-Girlfriends United, and people kept asking me whether I was going to re-visit them with a third in the series. I'd originally come up with the concept for The Accidental Proposal as a standalone novel, and then it occurred to me it'd work perfectly for the two of them.

What are the best things about being a writer? 
There are loads: You get to make up stories for a living. The feeling when someone emails you to tell you they've enjoyed something you wrote. The great writers I've met who you'd expect to be secretive and competitive, but are (mostly) the complete opposite. The thrill of seeing your book on the shelves. Being able to work from anywhere (I'm in Barcelona as I write this). Being launched in a new country (The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook and Ex-Girlfriends United have just come out in the US, so I'm going through the thrill of that again). Oh, and the royalties.

And the worst?
Some days, it's the writing...

Tell me about what you're working on now.
Apart from my backhand and my tan? Quite a few projects, actually. I'm writing my first stage play, completing another draft of book 7 (which is a bit of a departure from my normal stuff), and I'm about a third of the way in to another romantic comedy.
You've written six brilliant novels so far. What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?
You're making me blush! Well, read, read, read, then write the kind of book you want to read. I had an epiphany when I first read Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and realised there might be an audience for the kind of thing I wanted to write about, so I sat down and tried to write something like that. Six novels later, I'm still trying. Also persevere - loads of people start writing a novel, very few actually finish it. And set yourself a word target per day - if you can do a thousand words, then in three months, you'll have completed a first draft. Oh, and don't worry if you think it's rubbish - it all comes together in the editing. Eventually.
Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
I've missed it - I would have liked to be one of the writing team on Frasier. I'd like to write a film one day, but not obviously One Day, as David Nicholls has already done that.
Anything else you'd like to say?
Thank you for having me!

Thanks so much to Matt for a fab interview!

I'm a massive fan of Matt's books and I can thoroughly recommend his novels. I read
The Accidental Proposal in a weekend and loved every minute of it! To find out more about Matt, visit his website and follow him on twitter.

If you would like to be considered for a future Writer Spotlight, email me at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It Started With a Kiss episode 15: edits and the RNA...

All this year, I'm keeping a video diary of everything that goes into writing my third novel, It Started With a Kiss, due to be published on 10th November (but you can pre-order it here!). This week, the line edits are complete, so I head off for fun and inspiration at the RNA Conference in Caerleon - and gain a new hat!

First of all, massive apologies for the delay in getting this episode to your screens. I had just two weeks to complete what turned out to be a mammoth line edit (15,000 words ended up being edited from the manuscript, but I think it's better for it, even though it was a bit scary!) and then I contracted flu and was out of action for almost a week...

But I'm all better now, thank goodness, and just about to start going through my novel again, this time checking the edits suggested by my new copy editor, Rhian. It's quite surprising to a lot of people when they discover how many times I 'finish' my book through the various edit stages, but I'm a big believer in the importance of all of these edits to create a story that is the best that it can possibly be.

The best reward for emerging victorious after the killer combo of edits and flu was to join with lots of lovely RNA members at this year's RNA Conference at the University of Wales in Caerleon. Writing can be such a solitary pursuit, so to be able to spend time with other writers and share inspiration and experiences of writing is always a treat! I also received a lovely new hat (which you can see in the vlog) from the very lovely Mandy Baggot (read my Writer Spotlight interview with Mandy here). I had some issues with my Flip camera, so didn't get to film as much as I wanted, but hopefully the bits in the vlog, together with the photos I took, will give you an idea of this fabulous weekend...

So here's this week's vlog and photos from the conference are below. Enjoy!

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze frame is entitled 'Half-asleep at a picnic table'

Images from the RNA Conference: Tamsyn Murray's brilliant talk on the rise of the bad boy in YA fiction - with a plug for Keris Stainton!); the very glamorous Gala Dinner; and my table at the Gala Dinner with the very lovely Tamsyn Murray, Cally Taylor (who also won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for her short story on the night) and Kate Harrison... together with (not pictured) Ruth Saberton, Julie Cohen and Joanna Cannon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Writer Spotlight: Keris Stainton

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm delighted to welcome the awesome (and thoroughly fabulous) KERIS STAINTON into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...

When did you first decide that you wanted to write? (Was it a Damascus-esque flash or a slow-burn?)
It was the slowest of slow burns! Even though I'd written for as long as I can remember, it didn't occur to me to try and write a novel until I was in my late twenties. And then as soon as I thought of it, I thought, "Yes! That's EXACTLY what I should be doing!" It still took me about eight years to actually finish a novel though (and thirteen before I had one published!)

What interests you as a writer?
Pretty much everything, which is one of the greatest things about being a writer - "everything is copy", as Nora Ephron's parents told her. I find myself writing about identity quite a lot - I think the teen years are the time when you fix on a personality or a way of being and it may or may not actually be right for you and it can be so hard to break out of it. That really interests me (I feel like I've only started breaking out of my own in the last five years!)

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?
I have childcare on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so they're my writing days. The rest of the time I try to write while 2-and-a-half-year-old Joe has a sleep. He sleeps for a good 2-3 hours generally, so that's plenty. And when I say "write", obviously I mean faff about on Twitter and get myself in a flap reading online newspaper comments. I generally only get down to actually writing fiction when I have a deadline.

What made you decide to write Jessie ♥ NYC?
I wrote it during NaNoWriMo which is how I try to do all my first drafts. It's a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month, and I figured that if I set it in New York, the setting alone would be good for 10,000. Plus I really love New York, so that helped.

I'd originally planned to write a series of linked stories following an iPod - Jessie took her iPod to New York and lost it, Finn found it and then gave it away, etc., but once I'd written a bit of Jessie and Finn I got attached to them and just stuck with them. And then cut the iPod out altogether!

What are the best things about being a writer?
Living in a world of my own, mainly. I always did it - always daydreamed and made up stories - and now I get to do it for a living. Amazing.

And the worst?
Oh the waiting. Waiting for agents or editors to get back to you. Waiting for a book to come out. Waiting for sales figures. Waiting for - ahem - money. Everything takes so long! And I'm not a patient person.

Tell me about what you're working on now.
Well I'm not working on anything right now because I'm... waiting. I know I should be writing something else in the meantime but I'm lazy, so I'm having a sort of reading and thinking break.

You've written two awesome novels so far. What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?
Thank you very much! Oh my tips are always so boring: read a lot, write a lot and don't worry about the market - just write what makes you happy.

Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
The one I'm waiting to hear back on is pretty dreamy actually, but the screenplay for Jessie (to be directed by Nora Ephron) would be pretty cool too.

Anything else you'd like to say?
Thank you very much for having me!

Many thanks to Keris for stepping into my Writer Spotlight!

Keris is a fantastic writer and I absolutely loved
Jessie ♥ NYC - it's a wonderful story with characters you can believe in, sprinked with a generous dose of New York magic. And the cover is gorgeous, too!

You can find out more about Keris at her website, follow her excellent blog and say hello to her on Twitter @keris, where she is - quite frankly - a bit of a legend!

If you would like to be considered for a future Writer Spotlight, drop me an email at: x

A spot of writerly advice...

I met a young writer at the weekend and we had a fab chat about writing, books and publishing. I always love meeting other writers and hearing about their stories and experiences, so it was great to spend some time nattering and sharing bits of writing life with another scribe. But it made me think about the writing advice I wish I'd had when I was his age...

Me. V-E-E-E-E-RY young and before I discovered eyeliner...

I started writing stories as soon as I could string a sentence together on paper, but it was around my teens and early twenties (from GCSEs to A Levels and on through my degree at university) that I started to approach writing with any level of seriousness. There was one story in particular that I kept returning to, and I think I probably wrote around 30,000 words in total over a period of about three years. I never shared it with anyone - just spent hours typing on the little travel typewriter I had received as a Christmas present when I was fourteen. It was the first time I had found myself lost in a world of my own creation, with characters as real in my mind as any of my friends in real life. But after a couple of years, I discarded it - because I thought it had no value and was merely evidence of a 'daft hobby'. I wish someone had given me advice at the point when I decided writing wasn't something I could legitimately do.

So, what writing advice would I give to my teenage writer self?

1. It's OK to call yourself a writer.
You don't have to be published, sell a million books or win awards to be able to refer to yourself as a writer. If you write, you're a writer. Full stop. Get this into your head now and you stand a good chance of being able to overcome a lot of hang-ups and wasted hours spent agonising over this question. You are a writer. So get on with it!

2. Your words (and worlds) are important.
Even if only to yourself. In fact, most importantly to yourself. Because if you don't write things that entertain you, how on earth do you expect to entertain other people? And even if nobody else ever gets to read what you've written, it should still have the power to make tingles race up and down your spine and that swell of joy to rise within you that steals your breath and makes you feel like you could explode into a million tiny stars right then and there. At the end of the day, that feeling is what every writer lives for (and royalties, of course. But mainly for the thrill...)

3. Write like you've made it already.
Don't be apologetic. Be ready to learn about yourself, your writing and how to move forward - but at the core of it all keep a confidence that you can do this. Even if you later go back and discard what you've written, write with confidence. Stand by your characters, defend your story and champion your plot - no matter how many sneaky, slimy or downright nasty doubts stand in your way. You know what makes a good story. Work hard to realise it on the page and be unshakeable in your resolve to see it through.

4. Ignore the Prophets of Doom...
You know them. The ones who say how hard it is to get published. The nay-sayers, the doom merchants, the people who would much rather jump on your dreams than pursue any of their own. They'll quote the statistics of how many books end up on publishers' slush piles, recount tales of failed writers and convince you that you haven't a hope in the face of such odds. Ignore them. Odds were made to be defied - and they can only tell you what has happened, not what can happen. Be like Emily Dickinson: dwell in possibility. Every year, new writers appear on the world's bookshelves. Nowhere is it written that you won't be one of them. So don't even think about giving up - not now, not ever!

5. Read everything.
Writing is a constant education. You learn from your own experience of actually doing it, but also from the example of others. Don't limit your experience to one genre. Any writing of any kind can teach you something about your own. It could be a story in a newspaper, an email, a tweet, a blog post, a Booker Prize-winning novel, a children's story, a romance or a thriller... Every writer works to find their own way of recreating on paper what is buzzing about between their ears, and you can benefit from their experience by reading what they have written - and how they've written it. When you're not writing, be reading.

And finally...

6. Get ready for the ride of your life...
Writing is a wild, crazy, frustrating, exhilarating, mind-boggling, breath-stealing adventure of epic proportions. If you take the chance to ride it, your life will change irrevocably, regardless of whether you are published or not. It will change because the way in which you see your world will change. Anonymous customers in a coffee shop will become secret agents, murderers, wizards and star-crossed lovers; people around you will unwittingly light the touch-paper of myriad ideas and send them sparkling and fizzing in your mind; and a hundred thousand stories will walk past you in the street every day. Bus queues will become audition candidates, dinner parties will become cast lists, overhead scraps of conversation will be woven into screenplays...

Of course, you can stop right now. You can stop writing at any time. But can you imagine your life without the characters, stories, plots and worlds waiting for you in your mind?

You were created to write. So do it!
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