Tales & images from life as me…

The Write Time – Competition!!

Hi everyone,

I promised regular (but not too regular) updates on how the writing is going so this is the latest from me. At the bottom I’ve added details of the first of a series of competitions I’m going to run – I really want (and need, let’s be honest) you guys to be involved in my novels as they progress so these are may of reeling you in and rewarding your loyalty at the same time!

The big news for this month is that I got selected in a competition. It’s a very small online one but it’s a start! The site has chosen my short story to feature in the ‘Lit Café’ and if it’s voted one of the best it could be included in a printed anthology later which would be very cool. I’ll post the link on here once it goes live.

Meanwhile, thanks to you guys, my Bats Blood poem is still at the top of the leader board! Unfortunately the comp doesn’t actually announce winners until the end of May so there’s lots of time for the other entrants to catch up. That means I still need your ‘likes’ so, if you haven’t done it already, here’s the link again: http://batsblood.com/2012/01/gods-and-immortals/ (in case you’ve forgotten the competition is for a poem to feature on the front of the Bats Blood wine bottles).

Right, now onto the journalism side of things: I’m still working with several TZ based magazines but am very excited to have branched out to Destination and Travel News, both of which target the whole of East Africa (and they pay properly!). They are really professionally produced magazines and I’m very excited to have cracked open the doors of their offices. You should be able to view my pieces online over the next couple of months – I’ll put the links up as they’re published.

For Destination I did all the traditional freelancer approaches in order to get a foot in the door, it was hard work and I was chuffed to bits when I got the email to say they’d take the piece we’d discussed. I was especially pleased as I managed to pitch it as a two part series, rather than a one-off piece, which is not usually the way things work.

The Travel News breakthrough was far more unexpected though… I had agreed to join a friend of a friend for drinks. We were in Dar, it was baking hot and we’d been shopping all day and I was kinda thinking perhaps I could just sneak home instead, but I didn’t, I went. Rule no 1 for freelance writers – go to everything! I now consider that lesson learnt!

As we arrived it was quickly apparent that the entire table had had a fair bit to drink (empty red wine bottles and them downing tequila shots was a dead giveaway!). We were introduced and I joined the table and accepted a glass of wine. Conversation began to flow and we chatted about Kenya (where some of them were from and I used to live) and life in East Africa, and then they asked me what I did.

I hate this question. I haven’t mastered how to answer it yet. I always seem to start with “Well I was a teacher…” Of course they don’t care a jot who I was, so then I fumble about apologetically and add “and now I write. I’m a… writer.” Mmmm. Not entirely sure I qualify just yet, as I think I mentioned in my last piece, but still, I’ve got some stuff published. The next question is always “Oh yeah, like novels and stuff?” so I’m ready for this one. “Yes, I’m working on a couple of novels, but it’s the journalism that pays the bills.” I tell them who I write for (and of course I take the opportunity to push the blog!) and the guy next to me pipes up “oh my wife writes for Travel News, the editor’s an old friend. Let’s call him!” Before I can blink I am on the phone to the editor, apologizing for exploiting his friend and requesting a chance to prove myself.

I am so grateful I hardly know where to put myself when I return to the table. People all along this crazy path have been so kind and so encouraging. It does make me laugh though, that when you say you’re a writer people automatically assume you are a good writer! I love them all for that!

Anyway, we’re discussing what angle to go for first right now so hopefully I’ll get an official commission from Travel News very soon.

Oh, and a little bit of insider info – a new Mwanza based magazine, just for us Lake-side folk, is coming out soon so keep an eye out for that.

As for the novels, well I said I’d offer up more on those when I last wrote an update so here’s a little bit.

The first novel is just a few chapters from completion of the first draft (that, as I understand it, is by no means the same as it being complete and ready to go off to agents and publishers for queries but it’s still quite exciting). But I’m not going to focus on the details of the first novel – which is a sort of chick-lit, travel experience that is intended simply to entertain and raise a smile – this week. You can have more on that later. For this week I’m more interested in sharing my preparations for the second novel, which is absolutely entirely and completely different to the first in every way!

It’s still early days so I’m not giving you the whole plot or details of characters or anything, but in order for you to enter my competition you’ll need to know a bit. OK, so…

I guess the premise is best described as Labyrinth meets 1984. It is aimed at the YA (Young Adults) market and falls into the genre of sci-fi, but not as you know it. No robots, no aliens, no mind reading. In order for you to enter the competition, detailed below, you’ll need a bit of background (sorry, you don’t get any plot info at this stage but this should give you a flavor!), so that’s what follows here…

The story is set in 2054 and preceded by a nuclear war in 2016, which causes the destruction of large parts of the earth and the death of many, and the Decade of Disease (2016-2026) where many more people lost their lives due to a series of terrible illnesses and a series of geographical disasters which resulted from the nuclear activity. The world’s population in 2054 in just a third of that of 2012. So is the Earth’s land mass, and only parts of what remains are habitable.

The resulting civilization is one that is exceptionally hard working, has some modern technology and inventions but must grow all its food in domed tents to avoid radiation and bad water and has limited resources. There are a number of crucial facts you must understand…

First, a Global Government has been introduced to bring the remaining population together.
Second, a Universal Religion has been created to avoid war again in the future.
Third, English has been made the universal language.
Fourth, Creativity is banned. It was abandoned, by and large, during the desperate years that followed the war anyway and is now actively monitored by The General and his team and carries a prison sentence. Why? Because it is dangerous. A/ it distract people from work and they need to focus on the Government Rejuvenation plan for Earth and B/ because people begin to think in different directions, invent new belief systems, think of alternative options etc and it could result in another war.

Of course during the story Creativity must be returned to humanity and there are any number of wild adventures that occur, but that’s not what I am asking you to focus on for now.

The Competition
I would like to ask you to invent some of the things people might be using in this world in 2053. Bear in mind it must have a practical purpose – there would be no room for computer games, for example, in this world as no one has time for hobbies or fun. Consider what they need to survive and then give me the details.

What do I win?
In return for your entry, your invention could feature in the text I am working on. I will also promise an official mention in the acknowledgement section and, should the novel actually make it to becoming a printed and bound physical book (as opposed to an e-book) then I promise the winner a free signed copy!

The small print
You must be a follower of the blog in order to enter.
You may submit your idea via email (melissa@igeek.co.uk), this blog or my facebook page.
You should include full contact details with your entry
You may include a drawing or diagram if you feel that helps your explanation
There is no word limit
You may enter as many times as you wish to
If you enter you automatically give me your permission for me to use your idea, or adapt it for use, within my novel.

So, that’s it. You have a month. Please, please send your ideas, no matter how wild, silly or complex – I really don’t mind and I absolutely promise nothing will be judged on spelling or quality of descriptive language – it’s all about the ideas. I can’t wait to see what you think up.


One response

  1. John Yeoman

    Good luck, Melissa!

    March 8, 2012 at 11:45 pm

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