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 Issue #137

Writers' Newsletter

August 2014  



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Share Short Story ContestShort story contest winners and new issue of magazine

This month, has announced the winner and special commendations of its Tenth International Short Story Contest, as well as releasing issue 25 of firstwriter.magazine: Summer 2014. 

Veronica Sims of Bedford, United Kingdom, was announced as the winner of the competition with her short story "The Knitted Eeyore", and wins £200.

Veronica SimsVeronica Sims was born in the middle of the Second World War (1943). She lived in Wealdstone (near Harrow, Middlesex) until she was nineteen when she went to London to train as a nurse at University College Hospital. She always enjoyed writing and throughout her life, when she has lived in Ethiopia, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico, she has always written. Since her retirement she has had the time to pursue her love of writing with a tad more vigour: writing courses, her husband and the company of fellow writers has spurred her on. She has written several children’s stories and just recently plucked up the courage to upload one of them to Kindle (Alric of Bedanford) she also writes short stories for adults.

The winning story can be read online at

The story will also be published in a future issue of firstwriter.magazine, and the winner will also receive a voucher worth £24 / $36 – as will the ten Special Commendations:

  • Rose Dennen, United Kingdom, "Megastar";

  • Christine Cox, United Kingdom, "A Very Special Present";

  • Sheila Blackburn, United Kingdom, "The Ditch";

  • Andrew Campbell-Kearsey, United Kingdom, "Director's Cut";

  • Lucille Bellucci, United States, "Tin Cans";

  • Jack McDonald Burnett, United States, "The Rifleman";

  • Kay Ellis, United Kingdom, "You're Only Young Twice";

  • Annest Gwilym, United Kingdom, "Cats and Dogs";

  • Barbara Lorna Hudson, United Kingdom, "The Grave Robbers";

  • Barbara R. Cohn, United States, "The Potter".

firstwriter.magazine Issue 25: Summer 2014

firstwriter.magazine Issue 25: Summer 2014The latest issue of firstwriter.magazine has also just been released, featuring quality fiction and poetry submitted from around the world, plus your first chance to see not just the winning poems from our Twelfth International Poetry Competition, but also all ten Special Commendations. To view the magazine click here. To enter your work in our Thirteenth International Poetry Competition click here.

All those whose work has been included in issue 25 have now been notified, so if you submitted work for issue 25 and have not received notification of inclusion then, regrettably, on this occasion your submission was not successful. Please do feel free to try again, however, through

Now accepting submissions of poetry and short fiction for Issue 27

With the release of issue 25 we have now begun accepting submissions for issue 27. We are open to submissions of fiction up to 3,000 words and poems up to 30 lines. Submissions are accepted from anywhere in the world (as long as they are in English), and can be submitted online for free at


International Copyright Registration 
Register your copyright online for instant copyright protection in more than 160 different countries worldwide. Click here for more information.


Writers' Handbook 2015 paperback edition now available directly from Amazon

Last month, released the 2015 edition of its bestselling handbook for writers, which lists hundreds of literary agents, publishers, and magazines from around the English-speaking world. Almost immediately, it shot to the number one spot in its category on Amazon... followed closely by the 2014 edition in second place!

Click here to buy the Writers' Handbook 2015 from
Screenshot from

The paperback edition is now available directly from Amazon – as well as through third party sellers – meaning quicker and cheaper delivery, and the option to buy the Kindle version at a reduced rate when you buy the paperback as well.

US customers can purchase the paperback or Kindle version of the book via, while customers from the UK can do so at The book is also available through other national Amazon outlets, such as and, and other retailers, such as Barnes and Noble and Waterstones.

And of course the ebook version is also available on Android through Google Play, on Apple devices through iTunes, and as an epub ebook through Smashwords (compatible with Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, and tablets).



The Maine Review Rocky Coast Contest

The Maine Review is a new literary magazine featuring creative nonfiction, poetry, short fiction, essays, and prose. Each cover is graced by the work
of a Maine artist. Contest is open to all published and unpublished writers, and all submissions are considered for publication in the Fall 2014

First prize: $150; second prize: $50.

Maximum length of 1,500 words; 60 lines for poetry. Entry fee: $10.

The organisers are looking for quality writing with a strong point of view. Deadline: September 15th, 2014. All genres eligible for prizes and publication.

Full guidelines can be found at:

For the details of over 130 other writing competitions, click here. For over 1,800 other magazines, click here.


Click here for great value writing classes!


James River Writers Conference returning for 12th year

Registration is open for one of Virginia's most popular events for writers.

What do New York Times bestselling authors, literary agents and award-winning illustrators have in common? They're all going to be networking and sharing a wealth of knowledge at the 12th annual James River Writers Conference.

The James River Writers Conference returns to Richmond from October 17–19 with new, hands-on workshops, master classes and one-on-one meetings with some of the top agents and publishers. Book Doctors Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry will mark the triumphant return of Pitchapalooza – aka "American Idol" for books – where volunteers will be randomly selected to pitch their work. The Pitchapalooza winner will receive an introduction to an editor or agent appropriate for his or her work.

Sterry says of The James River Writers Conference: "There's just a cool vibe here. This is a hidden treasure, as far as I'm concerned, right here in

This year's conference features more than two dozen experienced guest speakers.

Registration for the annual conference is open, and writing sessions are already filling up. Find more details and a full list of programs at




Thematic writing: a method

Bruce HarrisBy Bruce Harris
Author, and Editor of the Writing Short Fiction website

Writing to themes can be seen as an interesting discipline or a frustrating restriction. It is more popular with magazine editors than it is with competition organisers, probably mostly because the former want to keep the submissions to manageable levels, while the latter want as many entries as possible to increase revenue.

My own view is that, occasionally but definitely not permanently, it is worthwhile for testing out imagination and resources, and I have written thematically often enough now to have developed an approach reliable enough to consistently get results.

Five minutes' demonstration is worth sixty of explanation, so I will start by referring to the two stories which have been short-listed in Red Line competitions

In the first case, the theme was "power", and I began by concentrating on avoiding what appears to me the most obvious interpretations. "Power" brings to mind the exercise of it, militarily, domestically or hierarchically, and begs questions about those on both the wielding and receiving ends. Perhaps not so blatant a reading is to do with the more subtle powers of art and science to influence or even drastically alter people's lives. In this case, I chose science, and the largely understated potential of genetics to change human life as we know it. If the time really is approaching when babies can be virtually manufactured to order, what impact is that kind of power likely to have on our predominantly libertarian view of birth endowment? If ability, sexuality, disability and predilections for illnesses could all be controlled, how would that power be exercised and by whom?

The next step is to decide about first or third person writing. In the space of a few thousand words, scrupulous balance is difficult, and has a menace of dullness. However, in the case of the power of genetics over unborn babies, the extremes are so drastically unsympathetic that they can hardly be represented in any other way but conflict, and to only represent one view would sound preachy, so third person is needed to allow both. I chose a third person double track approach, with the manipulative side a company offering genetic engineering packages and the libertarian side a comedy performance near to the company's headquarters.

Finally, the actual people: a young couple approaching parenthood, realistic, rich and ruthless, and the company representative offering them a precision deal; and the comedian believing implicitly in a more anarchic view and capable of winning empathy as well as laughs. The result was "Blue Genes", now in the Power issue.

The second theme was "Bodies". The obvious starting points included sports, modelling or pornography, all of which are almost always presented as male for the first, female for the second, and heterosexual for the third. I chose to combine the second and third, and represent them as gay. The first or third person choice was straightforward; first seemed much more appropriate, the subject not being about balanced views or interpretations.

The character I chose was a young man beginning a career in gay pornography. A double track again seemed to fit, though this time it was between the now and the then of the young man's life. "Terms of Surrender" was included in the Bodies issue and won third place in competition.

Non-Red Line examples include a piece I wrote in connection with the impending anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. While the actual anniversary isn't until next year, various events have been taking place in the build up, and one of them was a short story competition held in aid of the Hougoumont restoration (Hougoumont being a part of the ex-battlefield). The brief was to write a relatively short story of 1,500 words maximum on the theme of the Battle of Waterloo.

The most obvious route here seemed to be the battle itself, which was very long and very dramatic but has been widely described in both factual and fictional accounts, so I inclined towards the before or after. After has probably been more widely covered than before, so I concentrated on before. It also seemed to me that male characters would almost certainly predominate, so I thought about how to make the main protagonists female and opted, again, for first person writing, the experience probably being one which would never be forgotten in the rest of a long life.

I chose a sixteen year old girl, taking a picnic with her friend in the woods near their village in the Namur district of what is now Belgium, not far from the Waterloo battlefield and a few days before the battle. They were using a particular shaded hiding place they knew, because of strict parental instructions not to go too far from the village or allow themselves to be seen by soldiers. The full story of the "Boy Deserter", which won third place in the competition and was included in the competition anthology, was also in my collection First Flame (see; for the purposes of this article, it is another example of the same kind of thematic method.

Themes can sometimes seem so bizarre as to defy any coherent methodology. Perhaps the strangest was the "3 in 1" exercise, in a competition in aid of the Group, which asked competitors to include a black queen chess piece, a vase of flowers and a ten pound note. Lots of lateral thinking required for that, but my effort, called "The Fellowship of Victims" and set in Berlin in 1947, made it into the competition anthology; details are on my site again, and the anthology is in a good cause.

No forms of writing can be standardised to too great an extent, but some kind of structure always helps, and my own thinking on thematic writing does seem to get results for at least some of the time.

About the author
Bruce Harris is a long-term subscriber to, and the author of a collection of prize-winning short stories. First Flame, by Bruce Harris, published in September 2013 by, consists of twenty five stories which have all won prizes, commendations or listings in established UK competitions. Bruce’s fiction and poetry awards list includes Writers’ Bureau (twice); Grace Dieu Writers’ Circle (five times); Biscuit Publishing, Yeovil Prize, Milton Keynes Speakeasy (three times), Exeter Writers, Fylde Writers, Brighton Writers (three times), Wells Literary Festival, Wirral Festival of Firsts, New Writer, Segora, Sentinel Quarterly, Swale Life, Southport Writers’ Circle, Lichfield Writers’ Circle, Cheer Reader (three times), TLC Creative, 3into1 Short Story Competition, Meridian, Momaya Press, Five Stop Story (three times), JB Writers’ Bureau, Red Line (twice) and Bridport Prize and Bristol Prize longlists. Listings and samples at

Bruce is also the editor of, a free site offering advice, interactive questionnaires and resources for existing and aspiring short fiction writers.


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