calling all writers and poets: fantastic opportunity to showcase your work with Aesthetica Magazine

Creative-Writing-20141 Win £500 and publication with the Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition!

Aesthetica Magazine is inviting all writers and poets to submit their work into the Creative Writing Competition.

The Creative Writing Competition is a fantastic opportunity for existing and aspiring writers and poets to showcase their work to a wider, international audience: previous entrants have gone on to achieve success and recognition across the world. There are two categories for entry: Poetry and Short Fiction.



  • Deadline for entering the competition: 31 August 2014.
  • Finalists will be announced on the 30 November 2014.
  • Winners will be announced on the 6 December 2014.
  • There will be two winners; one Poetry winner and one Short Fiction winner.
  • Each winner will receive £500.
  • Each winner will receive a selection of books from our competition partners.
  • Winners and finalists will be published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual.
  • Click here to purchase a copy of last year’s Creative Writing Annual.
  • Winners and shortlisted finalists will receive a complimentary copy of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual.

To enter follow the link to the  Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition!

Good luck!

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Calling all writers and poets, photographers and illustrators, the new arts mag Dactyl wants your submissions!



Call For Submissions – Dactyl Issue 2
The first edition of Dactyl launched at Summerhall in Edinburgh in December 2013 to much acclaim.  They are now accepting submissions for thier second issue, scheduled for print publication in Summer 2014.  The theme is Time & Space.

Submissions close at midnight on Friday 11 April 2014.  For full guidelines, plus some thinking points on the theme, please go to their Submissions page.  And if you’d like to see what makes them tick, click here to buy a copy of their first issue, Lost & Found.

ps: I bought a copy of Lost and Found this weekend at the Pop up Market at Dalriada  bar ( organised by The 26 present) in Portobello, Edinburgh. Lost and Found is worth a read! (and Dalriada bar is worth a visit!).




Thanks to The 26 present for letting me share their photos :)

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What, Why and How I Write …

url Recently, I was asked by fellow writer Juliet  Wilson ( left) to take part in a blog tour on the theme of What, Why and How I Write. I was delighted to be asked by Juliet because she is a wonderful poet, an enthusiast of all things natural, a great writing tutor and generally a lovely person who is two thirds through writing her first novel.

Okay, this is how the blog tour works … a participating author answers four questions about their writing on their own blog, and then nominates another couple of writers to answer the same questions on their blog some time later, in turn, they nominate further participants and so on.

Here’s Juliet’s contribution from last week:

Juliet nominated me and Nasim at velogubbed and now it’s our turn. Here are my answers …

What am I working on?

I am in the process of finishing writing the sequel to bestselling  Food of Ghosts, the working title of which is Double Lives, Double Deaths. For those of you who don’t know, Food of Ghosts is a mystery crime novel set on Tarawa, a tiny remote  island  in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. My detective is DS Louisa Townsend.


In Double Lives, Double Deaths,  DS Townsend is visiting Fiji for a conference. There’s a murder  (of course!)  and Louisa gets caught up in the search for the killer. Double Lives, Double Deaths is due out in October and although I am way behind with my edits I am hoping,  fingers crossed, I will get everything finished  very soon and the book will be ready on time :)

How does my novel differ from other novels in the crime genre?

My DS Louisa Townsend crime novels  are set in remote faraway countries in the Pacific. Why there?  I have always been fascinated by foreign places and travel and spent some ten years living and working in the Pacific area. I was so blown away by the natural beauty of the region and the wonderful generous nature of the peoples that I wanted to share with others the uniqueness and quirkiness of the countries. However, there was also a darker side to life in these paradisiacal places, and I wanted to write as much about that as the good stuff. So, hopefully, the reader will not only get a sense of what it is like to live in these wonderful faraway places when reading my novels, but will also glean a sense of the darkness that lies beneath the surface of the beauty.

My detective Louisa Townsend is different from your usual detective sergeant in that she suffers from a secret obsessive compulsive disorder. She is also half Scottish and half Kiribati, which means she has one foot in both worlds but fully belongs to neither. She is feisty and fearless yet vulnerable – a maverick “outsider”.

Suva market, Fiji

Suva market, Fiji

picnic at nature reserve with me and number one son, Viti Levu, Fiji

picnic at nature reserve with number one son, in Viti Levu, Fiji

Fiji sunset :)

Fiji sunset :)

As soon as the edits for Double Lives, Double Deaths are finished I will start my next novel,  The Brown  Paper Package. The Brown Paper Package is the sequel to The Blue Suitcase. The Blue Suitcase is an historic fiction and is the story of a German Christian girl, Antonia, growing up in Nazi Germany. The novel finishes in 1947 and is inspired by my mother’s life.

ref=sib_dp_kd   mum's house, wlen, poland
The Brown Paper Package  is set in Leith, Edinburgh, and begins where The Blue Suitcase finishes, with  Antonia leaving Germany for Scotland. It tells the story of a middle class, well educated, catholic German girl,  who’s been forcibly expelled from her home, who falls in love with a working-class, uneducated, protestant  Scottish laddie ( my dad!). In other words it’s about poverty and culture clashes, perseverance, survival and love.

mum DAD

Why do I write what I do?

I love reading crime fiction and have many fond memories of staying up to the wee hours, gripped by a crime story, unable to put my book down until I had discovered who had done it and why – and that they were safely locked up! I believe a good crime novel can tell us as much about the dark side of society as any literary novel, and I am fascinated by the dark side of society – I think most of us are.  When I started writing it seemed natural to me that I should write a crime novel.

My historical fiction novels are based on my mother’s life. I was inspired to write the books  after finding her private letters and diaries. Her story is both shocking and sad and compelling and inspirational.

How does my writing process work?

I  like to write  Monday to Friday  for about 5-6 hours a day. I have weekends off and I also take holidays.  Some weeks I get more writing done than others  – I wouldn’t be behind with my edits, otherwise ;) – but that’s okay because writing is sometimes like that.  That said, I do always try to write something every day Monday to Friday.

“The one ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning.”
Anne Tyler

Okay, that’s my four answers.  If you have any questions about my answers, do ask!

Meanwhile my nominees are:

Louisa Dang, author of a collection of short stories, Up Pops The Devil; a great wee  guide on how to publish your e-book, Publishing and Selling Your ebook on Kindle; and  the wonderfully quirky and engaging Rest and be Thankful; and the soon-to-be-released YA novel Rain Catcher!

ref=la_B00DP96I0E_1_1 ref=la_B00DP96I0E_1_2 ref=la_B00DP96I0E_1_3


And Natalie Scott , author of the wonderfully evocative Berth, Voices of The Titanic.


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Calling all writers and bloggers and lovers of France and all things French …

The Good Life France Writing Competition 2014

writing competition 2014

Those of you who follow my blog will know how much I love France and that my other half is part French and that we visit  France often. So, I am especially delighted that the online creative writing school,,  has been invited  to support  The Good Life France‘s wonderful writing competition  – I am the co-director of, which I founded in 2002. You can read about how that came about here

There is no entry fee for the competition and some fabulous prizes – including a top prize of a ten week online creative writing course from, yes, you guessed it,  WritingClasses! :)

The Contest: Your entry should be about France or French related and it is entirely up to you what you write about. Perhaps you’d like to write about your favourite place in France, where you live in France, your memories of France, the first time you saw the Eiffel Tower, gastronomy, a festival or event, culture, history, a French icon… maybe you’ve never even been to France but you dream of visiting… if it’s about France or French related, The Good Life France  would love to hear from you.


How to Enter: Write an article of up to 1000 words. The post should be sent as a word document.  The Good Life France encourage you to make your submission online as early as possible before the deadline. (See The Rules for more information on how to enter).


The Good Life France would  love you to include images to illustrate your blog post but they have a BIG library of photographs to help if you’d like that. If you use someone else’s photo, please get permission and tell them who to credit. (For more information see The Rules).

P1030959 Send your entry to – she’ll notify you if you make the short list for the jury to discuss and judge.

The deadline for receipt of entries is: Friday 11th April

The winners will be announced: 28th April

sign For more  information and al the rules and regulations go to the lovely The Good Life France’s website:




barbroante What you waiting for ?  :)  


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Calling all women who write: competition and submission deadlines for Mslexia

Follow the  Mslexia links to discover 17 different different ways to submit to Mslexia magazine and see your words in print! What is Mslexia?


Mslexia is a quality print and digital magazine plus a regular email supplement. Here’s a wee taste of what you’ll get when you subscribe:

insider info on what literary agents and editors are looking for and what’s hot in every publishing genre

12 pages of writing opportunities, courses and events, including around 60 writing competitions and grants and 50 publishers and magazines looking for new material

inspirational writing exercises and masterclasses, plus advice on getting published

interviews with top authors about their writing methods

plus our FREE little ms email supplement, full of creativity prompts, writing jobs, competitions, submission slots, offers and fun stuff

All of this, plus (count them!) 17 different open submission slots. You name it – poetry, fiction, script, journalism, memoir – there’s a place for your writing in Mslexia.

‘an essential part of the writer’s toolkit wherever you are in your career’ Val McDermid

‘the place for poets to see and be seen’ Carol Ann Duffy

‘I look forward to every issue’ Hilary Mantel

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Happy Rabbie Burns Day!

Robert Burns  (AKA Rabbie Burns) is often referred to as Scotland’s favourite son and widely regarded as our national poet. He was born in 1759 on the 25th January ie: today!  To  celebrate the event some of us Scottish folks get together and have lovely soup, if we are lucky, and eat haggis and neaps and tatties (AKA turnip and potatoes). We may then sing some songs by Mr Burns, recite poetry, in particular Tae a Haggis by Mr Burns,  and even get a wee bit drunk. Of all of Robert Burns’ songs and poems my favourite is Tam O’ Shanter. It’s his longest poem, funny and clever and about Tam’s hair-raising horse ride home after a night in the pub. Click here to hear it and to  read more about it  courtesy of the BBC :)

My favourite quote from Tam O’ Shanter is …

“But pleasures are like poppies spread,

You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white—then melts for ever …”


Poppies by Alex Morley

Anyone else got any favourite poems or quotes? I’d love to hear them and a Happy Rabbie Burns Day to you :)

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Calling all writers – competition and submission deadlines from Thresholds

Follow the link for some helpful information about deadlines for Short Story Competitions, Bursary Applications, and submissions to online and print magazines, journals, and conferences from the people at *Thresholds: Home of the International Short Story Forum…


photo by Matt West

*Here’s what Thresholds says about the short story:

“Like doorways and other thresholds, the short story form gives us the sense that we are crossing worlds, and entering new realities and states of mind.  Across the threshold, both reader and protagonist arrive, often together, at fresh perceptions of what it means to be – and feel – alive.”

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Great writing opportunities for Scottish writers or writers with a Scottish connection!

Here are three writing opportunities for writers who ordinarily reside in Scotland or who have a Scottish connection. Each opportunity is a chance for the writer to escape his or her usual environment and be inspired by exciting new sights and cultural experiences. If you meet the criteria, why not apply? Happy 2014!

Ardtornish Writers Retreat 2014, Morvern peninsula, Scotland (the deadline for applications is this Friday, the 10th January, 2014!)


Scottish Book Trust and the Ardtornish Estate are offering a writer the chance to spend four weeks on a retreat from 31 May to 28 June, when he or she will be given the creative space to write while spending time on the spectacular Morvern peninsula.

The writer will be offered accommodation in Rose Cottage, a listed nineteenth-century sandstone building overlooking the River Aline on the estate. Additionally, the writer will be paid a bursary of £1000.

The project aims to support writing of literary excellence. Few demands will be made of the writer, who will be there to use the creative time and space for her or his own purposes.  Click here for more info.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship 2014, Grez-sur-Loing, France (the deadline for applications is 28 February, 2014)


The Scottish Book Trust are pleased to offer four residencies of one month each at the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing in France. The residencies will take place in June, July, August and November 2014. The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship is supported by Creative Scotland.

Each writer will receive a month’s accommodation in a self-catering studio apartment and a bursary of £300 per week. Travel costs to and from France will be paid for.

The Fellowship allows writers to develop their work in a creatively rich and inspiring environment with the aim of making significant breakthroughs on particular projects. The residencies allow writers to escape their usual environment, with the prospect of spending time with other artists and absorbing fresh cultural experiences. Click here for more info.

University of Otago Scottish Writers Fellowship at The Pah Homestead, New Zealand, 2015 (the deadline for applications is expected to be around the end of June 2014)

PahHomestead University of Otago Scottish Writers Fellowship at The Pah Homesteadis a three-month literary residency in Auckland, New Zealand. It is open to writers of Scottish residency, background or affiliation.

In association with the University of Otago, the Wallace Arts Trust has extended its support of the arts to include the University of Otago Scottish Writers Fellowship at The Pah Homestead in Auckland – an opportunity for Scottish writers to live and work for a three-month period in New Zealand. The Fellowship aims to facilitate and encourage literary and cultural exchange between Scotland and New Zealand. It provides a fully-furnished apartment, the use of a car, and a stipend of $3,000 dollars per month. It is expected that Fellows will undertake a light schedule of readings and public appearances during their stay in New Zealand. These may include: an appearance at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival; a reading and ‘masterclass’ at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington; and a reading and ‘masterclass’ at the University of Otago’s main campus in Dunedin.

To apply for the Fellowship
: keep an eye on the university web page, applications will shortly be invited for the 2015  fellowship, which will run from April to June 2015.

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Criminally good Xmas Socks and who sang driving home for Christmas?

xmassocks Yesterday I was at at my first ever Crime Writers Association in Scotland’s Xmas lunch. While tucking into our festive food we mulled over a clever little quiz, set by the lovely Alex Gray. Incredibly, I won these great wee Xmas socks – not the first prize, by the way, but as far as I’m concerned the best! What’s so incredible about that? Well,  out of the 25 quiz questions I knew the answers to a mere four –  and if you think that’s bad, rumour has it a certain Mr Ian Rankin only got one question right ;)  I worked out the remaining 21 by conspiring with new partners in crime writing Eric Brown, Chris Longmuir,  Mac Logan and Aline Templeton, who, by the way, can wear my socks any time they like, other than Xmas day ;o)

The questions I got right all by myself were:

1) what is marzipan made of ?

2) who sang ‘Driving Home for Xmas’?

3) who wrote the Nutcracker Suite?

4) how many swans are swimming in the Xmas song 12 Days of Christmas?

If you can answer the above four, you too can borrow the Xmas socks!  Meanwhile, I’m now pausing from blogging until next year. Have a great Christmas and festive season, happy reading and writing and good wishes to all for 2014!

Members Badge

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Book Week Scotland 2013




I loved being part of  The Scottish Book Trust’s Book Week Scotland last year, so am super delighted to have been invited to help celebrate Book Week Scotland again this year.

Book Week Scotland is about celebrating books and reading in every part of life in Scotland. Between 25 November and 1 December 2013, people of all ages and of all walks of life will be able to come together in libraries, schools, community venues and workplaces to share and enjoy books and reading. They will be joined in this celebration by Scotland’s authors, poets, playwrights, storytellers and illustrators to bring a packed programme of free projects and events to life.

Yesterday, the 26th November, I was at the lovely St Ninian’s Library just outside Stirling, talking about the inspiration behind the writing of The Blue Suitcase and Food of Ghosts. And what a great “feisty “audience – brilliant questions! I look forward to returning to the library one day!


On Thursday the 27th November, as part of the wonderful BLOODY SCOTLAND on Tour, I’ll be in Lasswade with fellow crime writers Aline Templeton and Alex Gray. We’ll be talking about all sorts of dastardly things! Come and join us!

Lasswade – Lasswade Library, 7pm 19 Eskdale Drive, Bonnyrigg, EH19 2LA - 0131 271 4534 Free and not ticketed. – See more at:






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