Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Chap - A Journal for the Modern Gentleman

I mentioned in last week's post that I'd come across a rather different men's magazine the other day. I discovered this, purely by practicing what I preach - whenever you go anywhere new, stake out the local newsagents because you'll never know what you'll find.

Seeing as last weekend I was at the Writers Bureau Tutor get together in Manchester, I spent a couple of hours browsing the city centre before catching the train home. The WHSmith's there is huge - far bigger than anything I have in my home county.

All in all, I spent about £35 on magazines, and one of them was this one - The Chap. It's strapline is The Journal for the Modern Gentleman. Hmmm, having looked through it, that seems rather tongue in cheek!

One of the main articles in this latest issue is an interview with Adrian Dannatt, who played 'William' in the 1970's TV series 'Just William' (the version that had Bonnie Langford as Violet Elizabeth Bott). I think that sets the age range of the typical 'Chap' reader.

The website hints more at what the magazine is about. It says:

"The Chap takes a wry look at the modern world through the steamed-up monocle of a more refined age, occasionally getting its sock suspenders into a twist at the unspeakable vulgarity of the twenty-first century.
Since 1999, the Chap has been championing the rights of that increasingly marginalised and discredited species of Englishman - the gentleman. The Chap believes that a society without courteous behaviour and proper headwear is a society on the brink of moral and sartorial collapse, and it seeks to reinstate such outmoded but indispensable gestures as hat doffing, giving up one's seat to a lady and regularly using a trouser press."
Whilst you probably need to be of a certain age to really appreciate this magazine, there were a couple of articles, which may have been freelance written, including:
  • A Biography of Edward James - an aristocrat who turned his back on Upper Class England and built a magical Surrealist kingdom in the Mexican Jungle.
  • A look back at some of the dress codes of the pupils of Eton school.
  • How to buy a proper 'vintage' watch.
  • John Ruskin - the dapper dresser that many people don't realise.
  • La Grande Distillation - a history of the village that became the epicentre of Cognac.
Near the end is a column called 'The Lady and The Cad' - it's a problem page where a reader writes in with a problem, and gets two answers - one from The Lady and the other from The Cad. One reader wrote in to inquire as to the etiquette of whether it is acceptable to go out with a woman who is your father's goddaughter. Hmmm, tricky stuff.

So, for all you gentlemen out there, who are exasperated at the number of women's magazines on the newsagent's shelves, here's one that may interest you.

For more information, visit the magazine's website at www.thechap.net.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not All Editors Have Horns

I had a wonderful surprise this morning, when the post came. No, not because there's a national postal strike today (the delivery men go on strike on Friday), but because I had a hand written letter from the editor of The Author magazine.

The Author is the journal for the Society of Authors and is published quarterly. I've been a member of this organisation for several years now and they are worth every penny of the annual subscription.

Some time ago, I proposed an article idea to the editor. There's a group of us in my local area who have had books published, and we've got together on several occasions to do 'joint' book signings. It's a bit different from traditional author book signings and we've had a bit of a laugh doing it too. So I proposed an article explaining how other authors could do the same.

The editor accepted it and it was published a couple of weeks ago in the Autumn 2009 issue. I was rather surprised to see it as the first article in the issue - but it was nice to see it there!

Then when I opened the post this morning, I was surprised but delighted to see a handwritten note from the editor, Andrew Rosenheim. He thanked me for my piece and said that it deserved its 'pole position' in the magazine because of it's "inspiring mix of utility and entertainment."

And then he ended with the best words possible - he hoped that I'll think of submitting work to The Author again!

It's so easy these days to imagine editors as half-human/half-devil, setting impossible deadlines and then cutting or rewriting our precious material. But every now and then we should remember that they are human, just like you and I. They don't set out to be
ogres or monsters to be avoided at all costs. In fact many of them began their writing lives as freelance writers.

So, don't think badly of editors. Always be polite, professional and charming to them. And one day you may be rewarded with a little magic of your own.

Good luck.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

John's Success

Just a quick post to say congratulations to a previous student of mine, John Rooney, whose work has just been published in an anthology called "Inspirational Thoughts and Stories of Bloggers from all over the World."

To find out more, follow this link: http://gewgawwritings.blogspot.com/2009/10/inspirational-book-is-finally-here.html

Well done John!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Aiming High

Are you aiming high enough with your writing?

I only ask the question this week because of the successes of a couple of friends from my writers' circle this week. Both Di Perry and Julie Phillips have had articles accepted by our local county magazine, Shropshire Life. Now Shropshire Life is THE local high society glossy. It's been around since the early 20th Century and anything to do with Shropshire's high society appears in it.

Both Di and Julie had written articles with a strong Shropshire angle, so the market made perfect sense for them to target. But when they emailed me asking what to do, the tone and choice of language showed that they were nervous of approaching the magazine. The problem with creative writers is that we have creative imaginations! Whilst we're sitting in the corner of our rooms wondering whether to send something off to a specific magazine, we picture the gruff, over-bearing, chain-smoking, alcohol swilling editor at a desk over burdened by freelance submitted material screaming out, "Not ANOTHER amateur!" as they read our submission. Of course, having never met the editor or seen inside their office, we have nothing else but our imaginations to rely on.

Yet what we imagine is nowhere near reality! I've said it before and I'll say it again - every word you read has to be written by somebody, so why shouldn't it be you? If you think that your idea might fit the magazine then try. IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO FIND OUT! Don't assume anything.

Both Di and Julie had 'problems' with their submissions. Either their original submission was lost in the post, or the pictures couldn't be emailed through in one batch, or they worried about whether the pictures were of a good enough quality. But they didn't let that stop them. (They may have gone all queasy in the stomach, chewed a few nervous lips and wrung their hands in fear of what they'd started, but they still persisted.) And within 24 hours of each other, each had an email from the editor accepting their work. (Actually Di had another article accepted on the same day by a different magazine, so she had a REALLY good day!)

When starting out in your writing career you need to be realistic. If you've never written anything before and you've never had anything published, the chances of getting your first piece published in VOGUE magazine are quite low. Both Di and Julie have had a couple of articles published elsewhere. Some have been for free, others have been paid for. But they're now at that stage when they have a little portfolio of work proving that they can write and write to a publishable standard.

So why shouldn't they aim high? I'm a firm believer in the maxim, 'nothing ventured, nothing gained.' If you have a magazine that you always dreamed of writing for, then have a go. No magazine says 'only writers who have had X number of pieces published can write for us,' do they?

When we are first published, it's easy to stay in the comfort zone of the market that first accepted our work. But you'll never know which other markets you are capable of writing for, unless you try! So aim high!

Good luck.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fiction Fix

This is just a quick posting to tell those of you interested in writing fiction, that next month is NaNoWriMo - or to give it its full title - National Novel Writing Month. To find out more and to register visit http://www.nanowrimo.org/

The aim is simple - to spend 30 days, from 1st November until midnight on 30th November, writing a novel. The task is to write at least 50,000 words. You don't need to worry about perfection, you can hone that later. This effort is just designed to get the first 50,000 words done. Let's face it - it's easier to edit something than it is to start filling in a blank page, so the idea is that come December, you'll have made a huge dent into writing the first draft of your novel!

I know many people who have given it a go - and if you tell everyone that you're doing it - and they leave you alone - you'll be surprised at what you can achieve!

And finally, just before I go, another bit of fiction news. I have a story, "Chief Suspect: Mickey Mouse" in the November issue of Fiction Feast magazine, which is out now. It's taken me a while to get a story in this magazine, but I'm holding a copy in my hands and proved that I can do it. Just have to do it again now don't I?

Good luck.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

I'm sure many of you will have come across the acronym "K.I.S.S.", which stands for 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'.

It's something we should all remember with our writing. I'm just putting the finishing touches to a very different writing job at the moment. Is it a magazine article? No. Is it a short story? No. Is it a non-fiction book? No. It's a TOOLKIT. A what? Exactly!

For the past few weeks, I've been working for God. Well, actually, it is the Diocese of Hereford who have employed my services. A friend and ex-colleague of mine is organising a conference to be held in November in Hereford. She's invited over a hundred people from churches all over the UK to the event. Her job is to encourage communities to use churches as community buildings - not just as place of worship on a Sunday morning. Historically, churches always have been used for a wider community use, so her conference is designed to explain to community groups how to go about doing this.

In most cases, this involves making some changes to the church building. It may be as simple as removing pews and installing chairs, so they can be moved out of the way to create a space for the community to use. It could be to install some audio-visual equipment. (Some of you may recall the talk I went to in June about the Television series - Victorian Farm. This talk was complemented with a slideshow of pictures, projected from a computer onto a large screen - and yes, this all took place inside a church.)

But of course, these changes require money, which often involves applying for grants. Then of course, there's the need to go through the Church of England's own planning process to 'adapt' a church building.

The 'toolkit' that I have written for the people going to this conference is a basic step-by-step guide on how to deal with this process. Now, admittedly, I spent six years working in the grant arena - both applying for grants and managing grant programmes, so I have some knowledge of this process. But the reason the Diocese approached me is because I'm good with words.

There are thousands of people out there who work in the grant industry, many of who are capable of producing an impressive document, but they wanted someone who could write this information in a clear and simple way.

Applying for a grant involves lots of terminology. There's baseline data, outcomes, outputs, match-funding, leverage, defrayed expenditure, additionality, in-kind support and so the list goes on. I can see your eyes glazing over now! But big words shouldn't prevent someone from getting involved in an opportunity. So my job was to produce a 'toolkit' that ordinary people can understand.

Now, personally, I hate the word 'toolkit'. I would much prefer to have called it a 'guide'. But my customer wanted it called a 'toolkit' so a 'toolkit' it has been called. Because of this, I've given it a D.I.Y. theme. There can't be that many Church of England documents containing the phrases Channel 4's Challenge Anneka, Nick Knowles DIY SOS, Strippers (paint), and colour charts!

It's been written using language that people will understand. I've kept it simple. As writers our aim is to communicate with other people, so if you use words that are easy to understand, then more people will understand you.

One of the books I've written is called "Fundraising for a Community Project" and it tells ordinary people how to go about applying for grant money. I wrote it because I know from experience that this world is full of jargon, and when I used to do the job, I spent most of my time explaining that jargon.

I'm chuffed with the feedback that I've received from readers of this book. In fact, the latest review on Amazon says:

"This book is brilliant. It is most readable, gives examples, where and how to approach funders."

I particularly like the phrase 'it is most readable'. Wow. A book on the stuffy subject of applying for grants is 'most readable'. I feel good when I see phrases like that. It means I did a good job as a writer in keeping it simple.

So keep your writing as clear and simple as you can and your readers will be pleased. And editors love writers who please readers.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Super Thursday

In the book publishing world, today is known as 'Super Thursday'. Some 800 new books are being published today, all with the aim of being the Christmas Number 1. Well that means there are going to be 799 disappointed authors later on in the year then!

It's also a Super Thursday for other reasons though. One of my students, Helen Baggott, has a letter published in the November issue of Writers' Forum magazine, (out today), so she wins herself a Moleskine notebook. (Savour the moment as you unwrap it from its cellophane Helen.)

Her letter provides a tip to other writers about developing writing opportunities. I won't pass the tip on - go and buy a copy of the magazine - but it also demonstrates that the letters page of a magazine is a useful place way of passing on hints and tips. Editors like the letters page to have 'club-like' feel to it where friends can meet and share news, comment and gossip, so hints fall into this category nicely. So if you have a tip you share with friends, why not share it with the readers of a magazine too?

I happen to have the Star Letter in the November issue of MacWorld magazine (a magazine for Apple computers). My prize is a desktop publishing layout programme - a professional tool, with a professional price. There's no way I could have afforded the price - not at over £900!

And if you happen to buy the November issue of Writers' Forum, then look out for Cass and Janie Jackson's regular column on page 45. I'd like to thank them here for the nice words they said about me!

The November issue of Writers' News magazine is just out, and inside are details of the latest achievements of Penny Legg, a friend who was one of my students. I've blogged before about her book successes, but this raises another point to remember if you can... tell the world about your successes! Being writers shut up in our garrets, we don't often get a chance to blow our own trumpets. So if you've had a success then tell someone. You deserve it! It proves that you are a writer! And people will learn to respect you more as a writer too.

To shout about your successes in Writers' News magazine you need to be a subscriber (well worth the subscription - you get Writing Magazine included in the subscription cost). But even if you're not a subscriber you could still write a letter to a writing magazine (and get another success out of it, if that's published!)

A quick glance though the magazines also shows that Fiona from my writers' circle has got a letter in Writer's News and (update to this post) another member, Julie has a letter in Writing Magazine this month too.

(Update number 2 - and I was just about to close Writing Magazine up when I spotted a letter from another of my ex-students, Rob Innis. Well done everybody!)

So I think you'll agree - Super Thursday doesn't have to just be about books!

Good Luck.

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