Competition Results

Now, how many of you actually forgot this was coming up? And how many have been waiting with baited breath for the results?

For those of you that completely forgot, here’s the competition details to refresh your memory…

ChristmasCompetitionPosterupdated

We had an amazing turnout, and the top 3 fought hard for their spots. It was a very close call when choosing the winner, who is…

10 year-old, George Moore!

Congratulations! You will now have your story featured in our anthology, as well as receiving a free copy of the book!

In second and third places, also receiving a copy of the book, are Hannah Greenland and Olivia Thomas.

A big “well done” to everyone who took part and congratulations to our top three!

Do you want a sneak preview, guys?

 

catchingsanta front cover

 

Blurb

Do you know how to get off the Naughty List?

What happens if you eat too much on Christmas Day?

Have you ever heard of a Christmas Starfish,

or seen a dragon pull a sleigh?

What does Christmas mean to you; Santa and his Elves, or the latest must-have gadgets and toys? For most children it’s about excitement and wishing, and the characters in Catching Santa are just the same. Busy Elves have work to do, can Santa deliver all his presents on time, and will everyone discover the true meaning of Christmas?

Immerse yourself in this wonderful collection of stories and poems for ages 7-12 that will get you in the Christmas spirit.

 

The book will be launched on 25th October 2014 at Chelmsford Central Library, 11am-3pm. At the launch event, we will have lots of activities for kids of all ages. Why not make a day of it – there are some great activities where parents and children can do things together. More details will follow in the very near future. I hope you can all make it.

Catching Santa poster

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KIDS WRITING COMPETITION

By Carol Thomas

Does your child love to write?

Would they like the chance to be published?

Writebulb Writers’ Group are running a competition for all UK children aged 7-12. First prize is publication in our second children’s anthology plus a copy of the book and two runners up will also receive a copy of the book.

This book has a Christmas theme (the last was for Halloween.) It might seem too early to be thinking about Christmas but in a writer’s world it is never too early! They can write about anything Christmas related.

All entries must be in by 23rd August, so there isn’t long (It’s half way through the summer holidays so they should be bored by now!).  Maximum word count is 2000 but there is no minimum. Entries can be stories or poems or both.

If you think this might be something your child would enjoy check out the competition link below for guidelines and entry form.

All proceeds from book sales go to Farleigh Hospice.

Link to competition details: https://writebulb.wordpress.com/kids-competitions/

The Muse Has Returned

by Carol Thomas

I have been struggling with writing fiction since I found out I was pregnant last August. I was so distracted with getting to the next milestone in the pregnancy that my mind was unable to concentrate on anything else.

As New Year 2014 neared I started to panic that I would find myself years down the line, once the child was at pre-school, one of those people who tells people they ‘used to write.’

100k100days started on January 1st and I resolved to take that on again. I found it hard to create fiction so threw myself into writing non-fiction for my Life Story that I am dabbling with. I found this easier because I didn’t have to make anything up, the material was already there.

I found it frustrating though not being able to write what I really wanted to. My imaginary friends wouldn’t talk to me. January brought with it the plans for the Writebulb anthologies, not one but two! Then there was the little matter of my unfinished thriller that I had promised myself I would have finished last year.

I forced myself to work on my own novel; luckily I had made notes of what I needed to do. I wrote blog posts in longhand and read more to try to get my brain moving.

Then something amazing happened! I had a couple of opening chapters tucked away that I had started but found I didn’t like. I re-read them and realised what was wrong with one of them and why it hadn’t worked. I liked the plot idea so wiped it, only keeping character names and basic plot, then started writing. The words flowed.

Then something crazy happened. I realised what was wrong with the other story. I was so excited by it that I had to get that opening re-written.

So now only a few days after struggling to write any fiction I have three to work on. I am dividing my writing time between them all.

I also have the first anthology piece well under way, so hopefully this will be a good writing year for me.

 

Writing – the (not so) lovely endeavour

by Anna Jones Buttimore

The lot of a writer is one of long hours hunched over a keyboard in a dimly lit room with nothing but a cat for company. Shut away from the real world we pull faces and make hand gestures as our characters do, mutter dialogue to ourselves, and live in a strange environment peopled entirely by creatures of our own imagination. Alone we face the frustrations of edit after edit, and the crushing disappointment of rejection after rejection of our precious offspring. It’s little wonder that many of us seem to be a little eccentric, if not downright mad.

As least, that’s how it used to be. These days writing is no longer the lonely and solitary profession.

  • Today Hellen is coming to my house to work on her novel. She’s coming partly because I have a spare desk and she won’t be tempted to do housework in my house (although I’ve told her she’d be welcome to), but also for the company. And once in a while she can ask me, “What’s that word that means..?” or “How would you describe the smell of..?” Hellen and I have written a book together, and writing in the company of others is a lot of fun.
  • Years ago when my first novel was printed my editor put me in touch with a fellow author I admired, Kerry Blair, and she in turn “virtually” introduced me to several other authors, most of whom I have now met in person. For many years we emailed each other frequently with messages of support and encouragement. We congratulated each other on books accepted and published and commiserated on rejections. We cooed over baby photos and offered support in times of illness and despair. Most of all, though, we shared the experience of writing, its rewards and its difficulties, and we were there for each other. We email less frequently than we once did, but we do now share a blog.
  • Hardly a day goes by without me receiving an invitation via Facebook to a book launch party; probably because around half my Facebook friends are writers. I also belong to many writers groups on Facebook where I find discussions on editing, naming characters and every and any aspect of this strange craft of ours.
  • I belong to two writers’ groups (Writebulb and Rayleigh WINOS) and thus two Saturdays a month are spent writing flash fiction, undertaking challenges and setting goals with other writers. It’s a really wonderful opportunity. One Writebulb member pointed out “We learn far more in two hours than we could at any creative writing class”.
  • Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month – November) sees groups of writers meeting together in libraries for “sprints” on their laptops, badges popping up all over Facebook, and a real sense of solidarity as thousands of writers struggle to write 50,000 words in just one month. I’ve only done it once, and I failed due to poor planning (got 20,000 words in and realised I had no idea where the book was going and needed to do some major research) but I’m going to try again in this year.

Writing may once have meant working in glorious solitude, but it doesn’t have to any more. We authors can support and encourage one another, get together and share our experiences and goals, either online or in person. Even if, at the end of the day, we like to retreat to our dimly-lit attic room with our laptops to immerse ourselves once more in the worlds we create.

 

Book Review: Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

by Sofia Andrewski

www.theinkyfeather.com

 

Dellarobia lives in poverty on a farm in the Appalachians in Tennessee, and is forced into an early marriage by an unplanned pregnancy. On the way to meet with her extra-marital lover she stumbles across a mind-blowing sight: the forest near her family’s land is blazing like a fire, but instead of flames it is thousands of Monarch butterflies that light the branches.

Despite the beauty before her, Dellarobia soon realises she is not witnessing a miracle, but a sign of a disintegrating climate. But fighting the short-sighted schemes of her fellow countrymen is more than a challenge where money is involved—and the community is forced to choose between alleviating their poverty or the survival of a species.

Kingsolver graduated with a science degree in biology and ecology, and these themes permeate Flight Behaviour. The extreme rural setting helps to encapsulate the story and the message into a coherent whole, like a snow-globe separates a scene from the outside world. This is somewhat ironic considering that the core message is not an isolated issue, but one that applies to the whole planet as a biological system in its own right.

The text skilfully records the micro-moments of Dellarobia’s claustrophobic life whilst constantly underlining the reality of an impending environmental catastrophe. In addition, the author utilises a range of characters, often from very different positions in the social hierarchy, to illustrate the problems of social justice and responsibility that face humanity.

For example, Dellarobia’s husband Cub is an uneducated but good-natured bumpkin, and simply doesn’t grasp the enormity of the unusual weather, whereas the affluent scientist Ovid—who comes to investigate the sudden butterfly migration—fully understands the implications but does not grasp the social idiosyncrasies of the farming communities.

The healthy mix of opinion given by different characters helps Kingsolver to avoid preachiness and she portrays the interplay between the religious and scientific elements of the book with both accuracy and fairness. The reader finishes the story with an unnerving sense of its reality; we only need look out the window to see evidence of the same bizarre weather that Dellarobia faces in the novel. There is a sense of recognition, partly because Flight Behaviour was published in 2012, and partly because Kingsolver chooses to focus on modern themes: climate change is interwoven with social disparity and how the media screens the information we receive.

Even though the story focuses on this at its centre, the plot is personal as the reader follows Dellarobia’s often mundane but identifiable life, and the style of writing does not lack good doses of humour. It is an enjoyable, meaningful read, and hard to forget.

Writing and composing

by Ian Wilson

In the half term break, my wife and I were faced with the problem of how to get a seventeen-year-old to take a family holiday with us. We hit on the idea of a trip to Manchester so that we could look do the university tour and consider the music department as a place for him to study. Wandering around the campus together, we were congratulating ourselves on our insight into teenage psychology when my wife noticed this plaque:

Blue Plaque to commemorate Anthony Burgess - writer

My first reaction was one of surprise. Who knew that the writer of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was also a composer? When I got home I decided to explore his work. To my astonishment, I discovered that composition was Burgess’s first love and that he’d written well over 250 works. Apparently, he spent much of his life unsuccessfully trying to gain recognition for his music, only managing one-off, unrecorded performances at literary events. I thought I’d have a nose round the internet to see if I could find something to which I could listen and found he’d written ‘A Manchester Overture’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Jo-4AlOaY) to celebrate his time in the city. I was struck by its invention and the quality of his orchestration. Why wasn’t this music better known?

This made me think about whether it is possible to be a successful polymath. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Omar Khayyám notwithstanding, most famous people are only recognized in one field. Does our need to pigeonhole people prevent us from appreciating their broader contribution to culture? Or is it that we are too narrow in our understanding of creativity?

I have been a composer for some time (http://www.thechoralagency.com/composers.html) but it has only been in the last year that I have turned my attention to writing. Trying to put a young adult novella together has been a steep learning curve for me and has made me consider the similarities and differences between the process of writing and that of composition.

The most important similarity that I’ve found is the need to constantly revise my work. I find it so easy to settle on an idea before I have had the chance to consider other possibilities. At one song writing workshop that I attended, the leader stressed the need to write lots of potential verses so that the best ones could be selected for the final lyrics. I have often used internet forums to ‘road test’ initial versions of my songs so that I can get extra pairs of ears on them before honing them to their final forms. When I wrote a song cycle for the Dunblane Chamber Orchestra, I had to revise the work considerably after the first performance because they found it so hard to play, as you will hear if you follow the link (2 mins 11s into the video on the front page of http://dunblanechamberorchestra.org).

It is a great comfort taking the same approach to the ‘terrible first draft’. Author Anne Lamott claims that her first drafts are so bad she worries about getting into a car crash and dying as she’d never want others to see her work before she’s had a chance to revise it. I used the Beta Read service from Eagle Eye Editors (http://eagleeyeeditors.me/beta-reading/) to get someone else to sample my writing efforts. Alison DeLuca, an author of young adult novels, read my book and gave helpful feedback which I am now trying to apply.

The second similarity that I have found between writing music and writing fiction is the need to develop your themes. At university I was taught how Beethoven explored simple ideas (such as the ‘knocking on the door’ theme from his fifth symphony) to the full limit of their potential. In my writing, I am trying to achieve the same clarity of expression, ensuring that I know what central ideas I am following and how they might be developed coherently.

Am I labouring in vain, like Anthony Burgess appears to have done when wearing his composing hat? Almost certainly, but I’m having a lot of fun on the way.

 

Airborn By Kenneth Oppel

by Christopher Kennett

Airborn

“Matt Cruse is cabin boy aboard the Aurora, the luxury airship he has called home for the past three years. He has high hopes for promotion to junior sailmaker – until Kate de Vries arrives, fired with her own mysterious quest. She may be rich, but she’s spirited and brave and won’t let social distinctions prevent their friendship.

Then one night, over the middle of the ocean, deadly air pirates board the Aurora. Far from any hope of rescue, Kate and Matt are flung into adventures beyond all imagining….”

 

The blurb on this book was what caught my interest and I’m glad I took it out of the library and then later brought my own copy, as it was a very good read. The time setting for this story is roughly Victorian age, properly before airplanes became common use.

The style of writing is told in first-person from Matt Cruse’s perspective. Kenneth Oppel really did a great job in diving deep into Matt’s character, which portrays him as a young honest, reliable, resourceful and hard working cabin boy. At the same time he is also trying to bottle up his inner fears that surface when he isn’t airborn, as he was born as a baby on an airship halfway across the ocean and he feels his life belongs in the air, hence the title of the book.

Matt has a very deep attachment to the ship, which he considers is his home, so if something bad happens to the Aurora, he feels very insecure and worries that he may never be happy again as the ship makes him feel connected to his deceased father. The way Kenneth writes Matt’s view of things truly makes the reader get a very good look into Matt’s personality, how he handles things and in some cases makes me at least sympathize with him.

I also took a great liking to Kate. It should be noted that this story takes place during an age where men do all the work while women don’t and have no right to vote and stay home doing lady things. Kind of like before women started to get equal rights to men during world war two in real life. While most women in “Airborn” accept this way of life, Kate doesn’t. On the contrary, she stands against this society’s way of thinking and is willing to do anything to make sure she gets to stand on equal ground as men.

The actions she takes during the story as well as some of her quotes make for some interesting moments, not to mention putting Matt into some awkward situations. But this is what makes Kate a fascinating character. Mostly female characters in fiction that play a minor role and let the males do all the work just blow over me. But when there’s a strong willed lady like Kate who does not like sitting on the sidelines, but want to get into the thick of the action despite male views comes along, I tend to take a shine to them.

Onto the writing structure, it is very well done. The pacing of the events is smooth and allows the reader to follow the story without suddenly jumping from one event to the next and not give an explanation as to how the characters got there. The story is well built, starting slow, then moving nicely to action, then back to calm actions again before building up to the climax.

The epilogue is also excellently done. It is written so that the reader can choose if they want to go onto the next book or go on to different story altogether. It ties up the story nicely and brings it to a close, yet at same time there are very tiny hints that a second book could follow the first. When an epilogue does this, it is a great bonus in my view.

Another score for this book is Kenneth’s descriptive writing of his fictional creature for the story. During the story, Kate is trying to find an undiscovered species. It’s one thing to describe how a fictional creature appears in any story, it’s quite another to detail the biological side of the said animal, and through Kate, Kenneth does this very well. From the animal’s skeleton, to its habitat, to things like Kate observing the animal is an omnivore (an animal that eats both plants and meat), clearly shows that Kenneth has done his research of animal zoology before writing this book.

Overall, this book is a great read, both for young children and adults alike. It has a well-built story. An interesting cast of characters. Apart from Matt and Kate, I also give honourable mentions to the Caption of the Aurora, Captain Walken and the chief cook, Chef Vlad. The descriptions of the characters, places, and creatures are expertly done. And it has a good epilogue that ties it all up soundly. I would recommend this book as well as its audio CD version to anyone.

 

10 out of 10!