Claire King


Archive for the ‘Competition Listings’ Category

A Full Tour of the Sun.

Posted on: January 1st, 2011 by Claire - 8 Comments

I love the sense of punctuation that comes with the new year. A paragraph break or, as the clichés would have it, a new chapter. My 2010 has been a memorable and important writing year and now closes satisfyingly, with not with a full stop, but perhaps an exclamation mark. Here are the brief highlights:

The most breathtaking part of 2010 was taking my novel ‘The Night Rainbow’ from a sketchy outline to a first draft, then through subsequent drafts to submission and on to being agented and then very quickly to being read by publishers. I worked hard at this book this year; I was resolved to keep up the momentum and be submitting a serious, polished novel by the end of the summer. I was lucky to have some very sharp beta readers, as well as friends and family that supported my commitment to this work. I need to say a big thank you to everyone who has offered up suggestions, encouragement and the occasional kick up the bum. It has all paid off better than I dared hope and I truly believe this novel has a bright future.

I hope if you’re a writer reading this who has been with me on the journey so far, that you are encouraged by the possibilities that are clearly out there. We will have none of this ‘publishing is a closed shop’ naysaying, thank you very much.

2010 was also my renaissance year for short stories. I’ve found that crafting a short story scratches an itch, improves my writing and encourages me in the long haul of novel writing. It’s also a great way to test the waters and see if others genuinely like what you write. From the competitions I entered last year I had a brilliant run of results. A major highlight was being shortlisted in the 2010 Bristol Prize and going over to the awards ceremony where I met some wonderful and inspirational writers and just generally had a brilliant time. Silly as it may sound, seeing my story in print in an actual book was such a boost to my esteem as a writer as I trudged through the final edits of my novel. The BSSP4 is looking bigger and even better for 2011, by the way, so get writing!

On top of BSSP3 I was also shortlisted in the 2010 Sean O’Faolain Prize by the fabulous Tania Hershman and in the 2010 New Scientist Flash Fiction Competition, with Neil Gaiman judging the shortlist. How much excitement can one writer have in a year?

In other news:

Welcomed Warmly To: Fictionaut. A fantastic community of short story writers and flash-fictionauts. It’s been a joy to mine the rich seam of creative writing here and get to know the writers. Will I ever catch up with the pieces I’ve missed? It seems unlikely, but at least I know where to find a guaranteed and inspiring good read when in need.

Tried and Liked – Twitter. I started tweeting at the end of 2009 and by 2010 had firmly joined a community of writers where those of us still on the road to publication out ourselves and offer support and encouragement. Meanwhile kindly authors, agents and editors share tips and chat. As long as I limit myself, and log off when I’m writing, Twitter has been really productive and helpful, as well as lots of fun.

Tried and Not So Keen: Book reviewing – I did some of this over the summer and realised that it isn’t something I enjoy doing at all. I don’t think I enjoyed the books as much as I would have if I had read them with no other pretext. In reviewing novels I felt half way between a reader and an editor and really, I just wanted to be a reader. I have a whole new-found respect for book reviewers, and whilst the process was instructive I think I’ll be leaving that to others in the future.

And 2011? Well that’s a whole new story…

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and every success in 2011.

A very cool shortlisting

Posted on: December 15th, 2010 by Claire - 4 Comments

Along with 700 or so other entrants, I tried my hand at the New Scientist Forgotten futures flash fiction competition this year and guess what, I made the shortlist!

Which means my story was then read and judged by Neil Gaiman himself.

Now that is cool.

I think this might have made my husband love me a little bit more.

The story, along with other shortlisted entries, can be found here.

Head in the clouds, feet on the ground.

Posted on: September 1st, 2010 by Claire - 13 Comments

I was going to start this post like this:

“With the novel queries now out and about in London slushpiles, two months high, I am bracing myself for a lot of waiting and the inevitable rejections.”

But I just opened my email to find a very prompt request for the full manuscript from a wonderful agency. So whilst rejections are still inevitable, actually I’m feeling on top of the world today.

One mountain after another. Short of breath but the view is wonderful.

One mountain after another. Short of breath but the view is wonderful.

This on top of the news that my short story ‘La Cumparsita at Paris Charles de Gaulle’ has been shortlisted for the Seán Ó Faoláin short story competition 2010. I feel particularly thrilled about this after reading comments from the judge, Tania Hershman, who blogs here about how she went about judging the 849 entries, and what, for her, makes a short story work.

Also this month, my flash piece ‘Flesh & Blood‘ has been selected for publication in thirteen, the 52|250 quarterly collection.

September is starting wonderfully, with encouragement and recognition. However, real life beckons: I have one poorly daughter, house guests and tomorrow my two children are starting school, one for the very first time. So I shall put all of this motivation down here for now and set about healing, encouraging and feeding others. And tomorrow of course I shall email off that manuscript. Please wish it well!

Short stories – seducing writers and readers alike

Posted on: July 21st, 2010 by Claire - 11 Comments

I recently wrote a bio for a publication, where I described myself like this: “Claire King has an open relationship with her novel and a variety of short lovers.”

I mean this sincerely. As a writer I love my novel, I do, I do, and I want to make it work. But sometimes I just want something different. I want to let off steam, let the wind of a stubborn image blow through me until I have it down on paper. I want to use a completely different vocabulary, tackle a different theme, I want to do something dirty, or fast, or clandestine.

At the Bristol Short Story Prize ceremony last week, the writer Sarah Salway gave a great speech about short stories. About their power to pin down a writer until she has wrestled them into submission. Bertel Martin, chair of the judging panel, said that for readers, a quality of a great short story was to be able to re-read it, and read it again, and each time discover something new. A hidden depth or richness.

And that’s another wonderful thing about short stories. You can go back for seconds and it doesn’t take up a whole week of your reading.

So you choose – as a reader, your next weekend could be a wonderful, novelicious monogomy-fest or it could be a promiscuous fiesta of short fiction.

Now, what if you fancy a few dalliances, but aren’t sure where to meet short stories? Never fear. Sarah made the brilliant suggestion that we all share our recommended short story reads, and kicked off with three: Alice Elliot-Dark, Lydia Davis and of course the Bristol Prize Short Story Anthology 3!

Bertel Martin recommended La Gioconda Smile by Aldous Huxley and  Rain Darling by Merle Collins

Valerie O Riordan says this on her blog “And so, my recommendations are Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect and Denis Johnson’s Jesus Son. You’d have to be a hard-hearted crazy bastard of a person not to love Nik’s work, and I just adore Johnson.  Go and read.”

@BristolPrize has also added Amanda Davis’s collection ‘Circling the Drain’. Return to it often. Unusual, edgy, playful stuff.

Jonathan Pinnock recommends “21 Stories” by Graham Greene, “Labyrinths” by Jorge Luis Borges. “A Perfect Vacuum” by Stanislaw Lem, “Exotic Pleasures” by Peter Carey, David Gaffney’s “Sawn-Off Tales” and more! To read more on that, go and visit Jonathan’s blog!

Bristol Prize winner Valerie O’Riordan has this to say in her interview which you can read here:
f you were to read just one story, check out ‘The Ledge’, by Lawrence Sargent Hall. But bring tissues, and maybe don’t read it on your lunch-break, unless you want to go back to the office all tear-stained and emotional – it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever read.
Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Collected Stories’ never get old or dull, and ditto anything by Annie Proulx – these two ladies make tiny isolated rural American villages seem like the most fascinating places on earth. Gruesome and bleak and hilarious.
Junot Diaz’s ‘Drown’ is a stunning first book about the Dominican diaspora in New Jersey. Everybody adores his novel, ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’, but for me it’s all about the short stories.
Denis Johnson’s ‘Jesus’ Son.’ I’ve clearly got a thing for American writing, but Johnson’s work captures the elegiac in the mundane filthiness of his protagonists’ miserable lives. And he does brilliant dialogue.
‘Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’ by David Foster Wallace. Wallace shows you there’s nothing you can’t do with the short story form. This blew my mind.

And I personally would like to add Sarah Salway’s own collection, Leading the Dance. Much darker and edgier than I had expected from a lady who blogs about benches!

Finally, check out the Short Review website for plenty more recommendations.

So, dear readers, go forth and multiply, and by all means please set me up on a few blind dates by commenting below…

July is peachy

Posted on: July 5th, 2010 by Claire - 8 Comments

I love July, especially this July. The peaches are ripe on the trees and I’m having a flurry of writerly happiness.
In the roller-coaster of writing, months like this don’t happen very often. Here’s how July looks:

Thursday July 8th my flash fiction ‘Peach’ was published at Metazen here.
Wednesday July 14th my flash fiction ‘Peach 2’ is up at Metazen here, and an interview with me is featured on the Metazen blog here.
Saturday July 17th was the launch of the Bristol Prize Short Story Anthology Volume 3, featuring my short story ‘Wine at Breakfast’. I got to meet some fabulous short story writers, including the fabulous Sarah Salway and Tania Hershman. The lovely Valerie O’Riordan took a well deserved first place. Cheers all round! You can buy the book here.
Thursday 29th July my short story ‘The Gift’ was published in Writers’ Forum magazine, winning first prize in their short story competition. It got a wonderful review from Sue Moorcroft the head judge, which made my week.

My thanks to Metazen, Bristol Prize, and Writers’ Forum for making July an amazing month. Like the peaches, something this sweet can’t last, but I’m savouring it while the season is here. And maybe I’ll freeze some for the winter.

This is one of my favourite summer recipes, fragrant, succulent and boozy:
Peaches (however many per person, I use one and a half per person)
Lavender – a few sprigs
Lemon rind – two or three chunky strips
Dessert wine – about half a bottle for a 4 person serving

Peel the peaches and halve them. Arrange prettily in a bowl with everything else, chill for 8 hours or overnight. Eat.

I hope you like the stories and/or the pudding. Do let me know!


Posted on: June 7th, 2010 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’ll tell you a story, About Jack a Nory, And now my story’s begun…

As a girl I loved Jackanory* The storytellers held me enthralled. These days my children are just as entranced. Storytellers, and the tales they tell, draw us out of our world and into another. I have always wanted to be a storyteller.

So, now I ask you to please excuse my virtual backflips today. The shortlist for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2010 has been announced and one of my stories, ‘Wine At Breakfast’, is on it! Before I go off at a over-excited tangent, I want to re-iterate congratulations to the other longlisted writers. Getting to the top 40 out of almost 1500 entries is bloody brilliant. That longlist was my first major competition recognition and, as my Gran would say, I was chuffed to little mint balls.

All of that chuffedness made me wonder: what is it about telling stories, stories that people respond to, that rings my bell…and the bells of the thousands, millions of other of writers out there, pitching and rolling in the sea of prose?

Their need to write was so great they scratched at rocks with needles.

We humans are crazy-thirsty for storytelling. Storytellers are passionate and creative – we tell our stories out loud, we sing them, write them down, paint them, act them out, whatever it takes to capture an audience and call up their emotions. Entire industries are built around storytelling in one form or another. But behind that armies of amateurs (from the French ‘to love’) persist in writing, painting, acting, singing, for little or no financial payback. What makes us do it?

For me it’s the tiny shift I can effect in others – as a girl I loved having my stories published in the school magazine. I would hang around watching faces – any reaction was a payoff – feasting on readers’ emotions. It is thrilling that you can make people angry, sad, disgusted, joyous, amused, through well chosen words.

But storytelling is not just about getting people to feel something. Human culture has been rooted in its practical uses since the very origin of language. Through entertainment, stories have taught moral codes and problem solving, taught us our history and hinted at our possible futures. Stories tell us, ‘You are not alone. You are not the first and you will not be the last’. We still tell these stories to our children, at dinner parties, at seminars, in bars. Business or personal, fact or fiction, stories endure after the cold facts are long forgotten.

My love is writing, which holds a special place in storytelling; the advent of writing marks the (official) start of history. Since then, our stories have been passed down over millennia, via the first stone tablets, paper and ink and now digital media. As technology advances, the way we tell our story and the stories themselves morph and grow together. These days we can tell a story to those who live on the other side of the planet, who sleep while we are awake. We publish e-books, update our statuses, we twitter little bits of flash out into the ether. Are our stories becoming more sophisticated, more diverse or more diluted? One thing is for sure, stories are dynamic – they grow and evolve. Over time, they are interpreted in new ways, elaborated and changed to stay relevant. Stories are born of influences we may or may not be able to pin down, but then, just like children, we launch them into the world and they live their own lives. Scary, but rewarding.

That’s the other reason I’m so excited by the BSSP shortlisting – there is a possibility that next year my story could be chosen by a Bristol school for adaptation by pupils, along with other stories published in BSSP anthologies. Please cross your fingers for me, my chuffedness would be great. Also for fellow Twitterers Jonathan PinnockValerie O’Riordan and Clare Wallace.

How about you? Are you a storyteller? What rings your bell?


*Jackanory – a BBC children’s TV series

Post Script: It’s not just me. My four year-old daughter recently self-published her own e-book: you can read it exclusively, here – it’s free.

Amélie (author). It is a book about a cat.

Once upon a time, in spring, there was a cat.

(Illustration – author’s own)

De De Der (sound effect) The cat was in the fire.

The end: Vets.

If it isn’t David it has to go.

Posted on: May 19th, 2010 by Claire - 9 Comments

I can see it. Crystal clear, in full colour. It is perfect, precise, evocative. It will take the reader by the heart and suck them in.
People will say ‘I couldn’t put it down’ and ‘I cried for her’ and ‘You MUST read it’. Truly, it’s a masterpiece, I wish I could share it with you.
But it’s not there yet.

Yep, I’m editing.


Michelangelo said it well:
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

So here I am, hewing.

As an aside, today my hewing is encouraged enormously by my short story ‘Wine At Breakfast’ making the Bristol Prize long list. It’s true! You can see my name and 39 other short story clever clogs right [ here ]


This photo via Flickr Creative Commons, taken from a German advertisement.