Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to Reality ...

Well, I'm back after my little (working) jaunt to Llangoed Hall. All that remains now is to write the article.

If ever you get an opportunity to go and review a place, then go. Having experienced this, I can now say for certain, that I know where I am meant to be in life! Within minutes of arriving in my car (I had to leave the helicopter behind) a member of staff was there to carry my bags and check me in. I met the Activities Manager and we had a most pleasant afternoon tea, whilst we chatted about what was going to happen during my stay. I had a few minutes to settle into my room, before being led on an idyllic walk along the banks of the River Wye. In fact the weather was so good, we were out walking for over two and half hours! When I returned, it felt fitting to test out the bathroom facilities.

Owned by the Laura Ashley family, each room is individually decorated and very comfortable. My room had a very comfortable double bed, with armchairs, LCD television, Victorian double wardrobes along with writing desk and hotel paper and envelopes.

The bathroom had a triple aspect, which meant that I had a choice of three views whilst soaking in the bath, and the view overlooking the Black Mountains was probably the best.

Of course, I had to get dressed once again for dinner, which was a most unusual experience, if only from the fact that I was the only one at dinner that evening. There were a handful of guests in the hotel that night, who decided on eating in their rooms. This did of course mean that I had all the attention from the waiting staff.

I began with a selection of canapes and found I enjoyed the Crayfish, Quail's Egg and Caviar the most. This was followed by my starter of Salmon. Once I had - delicately - devoured this, the waiter brought me a Mandarin Sorbet before my main course, which was a Duo of Welsh Lamb. This was very tasty!

Whilst allowing myself to digest the evening's first three courses, the waiter told me about some of the guests that he'd had the pleasure of serving here. Being only a few miles down the road from Hay on Wye, many of the literature festival's speakers have stayed here, including Salman Rushdie, Sting and his wife, and Cerys Matthews. For dessert, I finished with a Lemon Tart, before retreating to the lounge with some tea and after dinner chocolates, whilst the pianist played a little light music in the background.
Yesterday was the main event - a walk up Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in south Wales at 2,907 feet. Unfortunately it's high altitude meant that we (a selection of walkers from the local walking club, a press photographer, the hotel manager, activities manager and the Head Ranger from the Brecon Beacons National Park) spent all day in thick cloud. Thick cloud gets very wet, particularly when you're walking in it for over three and a half hours, and I must say it's been a long time since I've been soaked through to the skin like I was, on a walk. Still, it didn't matter did it - not when I had that bathroom to look forward to! One of the best things about getting drenched on a walk is the long, hot, steaming, bubble bath you have when you get back! Whilst we didn't see the views from the top of Pen y Fan, it was actually, a really enjoyable day's walk.

Afternoon tea was served upon our return - well we'd climbed nearly 3,000 feet and walked over 7 miles - we deserved it. Hot scones, hot Welsh tea cakes, homemade biscuits and cakes were the order of the day.

For those of you who are now salivating, last night's meal comprised:
  • another selection of canapes,
  • Seared King Scallops on a bed of Cauliflower sauce,
  • Melon sorbet,
  • Welsh Black Beef with Bubble and Squeak
  • Chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream
  • Tea and after dinner mints
I have now returned home to write up the article. The trouble is, the bowl of Shreddies I had this morning, just don't seem to inspire me the same way as the Full Welsh breakfast did (or yesterday's scrambled egg inside a salmon parcel).

But it's helped me to set a few more goals for myself. When I get asked to attend the Hay on Wye Literary festival as a guest speaker - I now know where I want the organisers to find a bed for the night for me!

In all seriousness though, from a writing point of view it's been quite a challenge. I have pages and pages and pages of notes taken during the event to draw upon, and unfortunately the bad weather climbing Pen y Fan meant I couldn't get any photos, which is a serious drawback. If I'm writing about a walking activity break, pictures of walkers climbing a mountain underneath blue skies and sunshine would have been brilliant, and under a grey sky would still have been acceptable. No pictures though is a problem.

But life is worth these little extra challenges, if it throws a few of these associated experiences with it. So if ever you get an opportunity to be part of a press pack, then give it a go. It may feel very daunting at times, but it'll be an amazing experience.

Now if you'll excuse, there's something I have to do. I'd like a cup of tea and I keep clicking my fingers, but no one seems to come running. I suppose I'll have to do it myself. Ooh it makes me shudder at the mere thought - having to turn a tap on oneself. I really must get some staff in.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Boxes, Boxes, Boxes

Just a quick post to say that the latest issue of the electronic newsletter, Ezee Writer is available, and it contains my article entitled, 'Boxes, Boxes, Boxes'. Don't panic - it has nothing to do with moving house - it lifts the lid on boxouts, side panels and further information boxes, which are becoming more important in today's magazine world.

To read the article click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Dangerous World of Writing

It came to my attention yesterday that Rob Innis found himself in a difficult situation when he discovered that another website had published an article of his without his permission. His article had been expanded upon, but essentially, it was his work that had been used without his permission. He had already sold this article to a magazine, so Rob first made enquiries with the magazine to check that they hadn't authorised the use of the material. they hadn't.

The problem with the Internet is that theft (because that's what it is) is all to easy. People simply believe that what is on the Internet is free for anyone to use - it is not. But they simply 'cut and paste' and help themselves.

Sadly, Rob's experience is quite common. It hasn't happened to me ... yet ... or at least I'm not aware that it has, but I am aware that it has happened to others.

When Rob approached the website in question and pointed out that it was his text that had been used without his authority, the website removed the content and apologised. As I said earlier, many Internet users simply don't appreciate that text on the Internet cannot be taken and used freely as they may think, and when this is pointed out to them, in the vast majority of cases the text is removed.

If you find that this happens to you, consider taking the following steps:

1. Contact the website (there should be a 'contact us' link on the website somewhere) and point out that you think your text has been used. Be prepared to quote a date when your text first appeared. Rob's article first appeared in a print magazine, and obviously this could be verified from the issue date of the magazine. Because his article appeared in print first before the text appeared on the website, then Rob had to have been the originator and creator of the text.)

2. Explain that the text has been used without authority. Offer the website the opportunity to correct this. You may be happy to sell them the Electronic Rights so that they can use your material online. If you haven't already sold the Electronic Rights then they are still yours to sell. Name your price.

3. If they are not able to pay you for the rights, then simply ask them to remove the text from their website with immediate effect. If they're not prepared to buy the Electronic Rights, then you have the right to offer them elsewhere. they will not be bought though, if the text appears online already. If the site decides to buy the rights, ask them to attribute the text to you - ask for a byline - for the word "By [Your Name]" to appear by the text.

4. Visit the website to check that the action they've decided upon has been carried out.

What can you do to prevent this from happening? Sadly, not a lot. It merely isn't practical to view every single one of the billions of pages found on a website (a figure which grows every day).

You can use Google Alerts to help you a bit. This free facility allows you to type in a phrase, which Google then stores. Every time it comes across a web page using that phrase it will send you an email with the link to that page. Many writers use this facility to search for their name and the titles of their books because it points out websites that may be using the text from their books. Of course, the less common your name the better. Set up a Google Alert for John Smith and you'll be inundated with tens of thousands of unsuitable page links.

Stay vigilant, and remember, you wouldn't want someone stealing your text, so don't fall into the trap of stealing text from someone else. If you want to quote then tell readers who the source of the quote is. If you want to quote a lot then ask permission. Unfortunately the law in the UK says that people can quote a reasonable amount of text, but there is no definition of 'reasonable'. A 40 word quote may be fine from a 100,000 word novel but is it fine from a 50 word poem? If in doubt, ask for permission. It is the safest way.

Good luck.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rob's Anthology Success

Rob Innis tackled his course work from his new adopted home in Spain, and he's overjoyed to see one of his short stories has just been published in a new anthology called "Courting the Bull: An Anthology of Expatriate Literature in Spain."

Published by Innoword (ISBN: 978-0-9840928-0-2) it is a collection of short stories, essays and verse aiming to seize the resulting momentum of the expatriate's experience. Here, the writers and artists who have succumbed to the allure of Spain illustrate why there is no place in the world they would rather call home.

Another reason why Rob is so chuffed with this (I suspect) is because the course he studied dealt with just non-fiction! He didn't study fiction. But that's what I like about the world of writing. You may be interested in one specific genre, but suddenly a competition or a writing opportunity will pass before your eyes and for some reason, it just sparks an idea. So you give it a go.

My specialism is non-fiction, but I occasionally dabble with fiction. Regular readers will know that a few weeks ago one of my short stories was placed in the top five of a competition. And at the end of August, an editor contacted me to say that she was going to use one of my short stories in Fiction Feast magazine.

I'm currently drawing to the end of writing a correspondence course, and when I've finished that I shall start working on a project I've been commissioned to do for the Hereford Diocese. So as I say, sometimes an interesting writing opportunity will put itself before your eyes. And when it does, banish that first initial thought that says, "Nah, I don't do XXX." Stop and think for a moment. Consider saying to yourself, "Yeah, why don't I give it a go?" Because you never know where it could lead!

Well done Rob!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Best of British guidelines

Best of British is an excellent market for freelance writers, so i thought I'd take the opportunity to pass on their guidelines for writers and photographers.

Best of British is the country's leading nostalgia and heritage monthly magazine. The publication offers an enjoyable journey down memory lane for a readership that tends to be over 50. (So there will be some readers who are younger, but the majority of readers will be older.)

The 1930s, 19401s, 1950s and 1960s are the most popular periods of interest to the readership. Articles about British people, places, industries, crafts and pastimes of today also fit into the editorial mix.

The magazine welcomes original and previously unpublished articles and pictures for consideration. Articles should be the writer's original work. Although they make every effort to check, copyright issues regarding plagiarised work remains with the writer! (You have been warned!)

Article Submission
The magazine prefers articles to be submitted by post as a paper copy. If possible, include a copy of the article on a CD Rom in Microsoft Word format. The magazine is unable to open Microsoft WORKS format (the filename ends in .wps) Emailed articles are accepted by prior arrangement only. (Usually if you become a regular contributor).

No article should be longer than 1500 words, but preferably 1,000. (So there's no excuse for getting that bit wrong now!)

When submitting your work, include your full name, address, and email address if you have one.

Always enclose a SAE for the return of your work. Submissions without a SAE will be destroyed after 18 months if your work has not been used within that time.

Images should be saved as separate files on a CD Rom, not placed within your text. Articles that are accompanied by pictures stand a greater chance of publication. (How many times have I told you that?) The magazine accepts original photos, prints, digital images (in jpeg format) and colour transparencies. Photographs that capture the period setting of the time (people, street scenes, old shops, etc) are particularly welcome (because they are so difficult for the editor to find.) The magazine cannot use photocopied pictures, however, they can be submitted as an indication of what pictures are available.

You must state if you do not own the copyright in the pictures.

You should ensure that each item in your envelope is clearly labelled with your name and address. Although every care is taken, the magazine cannot be held responsible for items that are not clearly labelled, nor can they accept responsibility for the loss or damage to manuscripts, photographs or illustrations.

Decisions & turnaround
The magazine aims to to respond to submissions as soon as possible, although with 200 submissions a month, this can take time. Acceptance of an article does not guarantee publication. Articles are not used in strict date order, but may be held for some time before it is used. If an article will be used a letter of confirmation will be sent to the writer. Payment will then be made at their normal rates, the month AFTER publication.

As I always say, the best advice is always to look at a couple of copies of the magazine first, to ensure that your idea fits the style and readership of the magazine.

Let me know how you get on with this market!

Good luck!

PS - Severn Trent have just advised me that they won't be cutting the water off today, or tomorrow as planned. Instead, they're going to do it next Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Another whole week of pneumatic drills, JCB trucks and generators all orchestrating their own noisy symphony for 10 hours a day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Filler Update

You may recall from my "Are Men Daft" posting last week, how one of my students, Dave Cullen, has had tremendous success targeting the letters and filler pages of magazines and newspapers.

Well, he's just email again to say that he's now expecting another £100 for a photo that will be published and two more £15 cheques for jokes sent to That's Life magazine.

So there you have it - proof that these small amounts really can produce a nice regular income!

Well done Dave ... again!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Water Works ... And I'm Trying To

I happen to live in the county where Muller have their factory - the company who make all those yoghurts, and used to run the adverts with the 'Pleasure/Pain' theme. (Whilst someone was enjoying the pleasure of a Muller yoghurt, someone, somewhere else in the world was experiencing pain.) The theory is that in a balanced world, pain will always be counterbalanced with pleasure.

So I thought I'd just let everyone know that following my last posting - about the pleasure of being a freelance writer - here's the pain.

Severn Trent have finally succumbed to local demands to replace the water main at the bottom of the hill. It regularly bursts every few months leaving us without water for most of the day. Still, following a petition and lots of letters (people power does work by the way), Severn Trent agreed that they would replace the faulty water main at the bottom of the road. Hooray!

They are, of course, having the last laugh. They have also decided to replace all the water pipes ABOVE this main water main too. This includes the pipe that runs up my road as well.

So, here I am, sitting at my desk, trying to write a module on the Finance course I am working on at the moment about Break-Even Analysis (don't ask) and Severn Trent are currently using several diggers, pneumatic drills and other noise inducing equipment to dig up all the roads around here. It's compounded by the fact that it is actually sunny here at the moment too - something we've not seen much here in the western half of the UK since June, so I just have to have my window open.

It will be a painful week. Especially as we've been told that we'll be without water on Thursday and Friday. (It's okay, I had my bath three months ago, so I'm not due for another in the immediate future.)

Of course, the irony is not lost on any of us who live up my road. Have you seen the weather forecast for Thursday and Friday?

However, I have a deadline, so I will work. The writer who strives for the perfect ambiance in which to write will spend all their time getting the ambiance right, rather than writing. Severn Trent will make this week painful, but they won't stop me from writing. (Unless they go through the power cable, which they have been known to do once or twice before).

So if you find writing painful, push past the pain barrier. Because the pleasure comes when it is finished and published.

Wish me luck.