Be inspired by Della Parker

Round of applause, please, as I welcome the multi-talented Della Parker to my blog15181642_1119388248179772_9078752180984183138_n2.

The name Della Galton is familiar to many readers. Her first short story was published in 1987, and since then she’s sold over 1,500 short stories. She regularly writes serials, and features for magazines. Della has been published in every major women’s magazine, and she’s the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. Her last two novels Ice and a Slice and The Morning after the Life Before deal sympathetically with the struggles of an alcoholic girl.

Della’s latest series of novellas are rather more light hearted and are released on 1st December, under her new pen-name Della Parker. I asked her to tell us a bit about the stories.

The Reading Group

The Reading Group is a series of novellas about six women, who live in the seaside village of Little Sanderton and come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don’t forget the glass of red!

There are five novellas.

reading-group-bookends-2January, February, March, April, Summer Holiday.  They are published by Quercus which is part of the Hachette Group and are 99p apiece.


Anne-Marie has always considered herself a bit of a matchmaker – never mind that she’s only got one real success under her belt. And this year she’s determined to up her game: Little Sanderton’s singles could certainly benefit from her expertise!

61otwooiskl1But while Anne Marie thinks she knows what’s best for everyone else, her own life couldn’t be less of a fairytale romance. Between looking after her cranky father and running her own business, she doesn’t have time for a relationship. Her friends in the Reading Group know better though: after all, love can be found in the most unexpected of places . . .

This January the Reading Group is tackling Jane Austen’s Emma . . . which has some uncanny parallels with Anne-Marie’s life, but who’s got time for fiction when romance is in the air.

WRITING TIPS for wanna-be writers

While you’re here, Della, please would you give us three tips for writers at the start of their journey.

  1. Join a writing group is my number one tip – if your aim is to get published, choose one where the tutor or leader is published and can show you how to do it.

  2. Don’t send out your work too soon. Let it cool down, then edit it one more time.

  3. Don’t take rejection personally.

Thank you very much for visiting us today, Della. I wish you huge success with The Reading Group. 51-scrgyzcl1

To give you all a taste of the series, December the festive short story which introduces The Reading Group, can be downloaded FREE from Amazon.

So, do download it, read it, and then please rate and review it on Amazon. Your ratings really do help writers.

Visit Della’s website at




The Plymouth Literature Festival runs until 2nd November – an exciting 12 days, with the aim of promoting local authors. One of the events I ran was called Memories are made of this.photofunia-memories-are-made-of-this

During the session I gave some tips on writing memoir, interspersed with readings from the Plymouth Christian Writers’ Group, who had polished up some memories of their own for the occasion.

Here are some of my


How to tackle those memories

p1230214a‘Write memoir, not autobiography. An autobiography is the story of an entire life, but a memoir is just one story from that life. You can only ever write one autobiography, but you can write countless memoirs. It’s a much less intimidating project if you view it that way.’

From How to write your memoir, by Joe Kita

How to start

It’s a good idea to keep a notebook. Jot things down as you remember them. It’s good to have sections, for example: before I went to school; my primary school days; teenage years; at work; etc.. You may find that at first you only remember a few things, but after a while, more and more memories will come flooding back.

Before you start writing for your family

Think about your reader. Think about yourself as a reader. Why do you carry on reading a story or a book? Because it’s interesting. So…

Find a good starting point. A cracking first line.

What writers call a hook. Something that lifts your piece of writing out of the ordinary.

How to make your memoir more interestingp1230220-2

Use the five senses – help everyone relate to your story.

Here’s a fictitious example.

Don’t just write: ‘It was 5th November, and we were taken to the village bonfire by our Dad. There was a great crowd of people.’

Tell us about some details. The distant flicker of flames. The smoke that tickled your nose. We want to imagine the guy lolling on top of the giant bonfire. The first rocket that swooshed into the sky. Describe your reactions. Did you clutch Dad’s hand, or did you jump up and down and clap your hands?

p1230211Good writing triggers a response from the reader

You want your family to understand what it was like, when you were a child, when you went to school, how bossy those grown-ups were.

Sometimes you have to capture a special moment, and leave it at that. Don’t ramble on.

Sometimes it helps to turn an incident in your past into a memorable funny story.

Points of departure

Think about things you struggled with, things you achieved, things that puzzled you.

One day your memoir is going to make fascinating reading for future generations. The time to start writing is now.

FROG: (Nostalgically)

The sunlight shining down through the water in the pond….

Sounds romantic? Well, it was until that huge toad landed ON MY HEAD!!

2015-02-21 13.29.48



Last month I wrote boldly about taking up the gauntlet, and I challenged myself to write a tercet. I photofunia-cp-gallery-picadmit it was hard, and I promise the first draft will never ever see daylight again! I took the advice of Alison Chisholm, though. In her publication called ‘The Poet’s Workbook’, she says:

‘It’s always good idea to rest your draft before beginning the revision process. If you can allow a week or two before looking at it again you will …….. be able to view it with a more critical eye.’

Well, it did take a week or two before I could bear to look at it again. But when I did, I was just about ready to face it. And I think I did manage to improve it, a bit. I want to work on it again, though.

Alison’s advice is very good for creative writers of every kind. That’s why, if you’re going to enter a competition, it’s worth starting early. Then you’ve got plenty of time to put it away, take it out later, and if necessary, revise, revise, revise.


My next challenge is to write a feel-good list poem.

Wish me luck!



Try these:

Lancashire Author’s Association Flash Fiction Competition

A story in exactly 100 words

Prize: £100

Entry fee £3/£2 members

Closing date 31 Oct

Go to the open competition page

McKitterick Prize

For the first novel by a writer over 40

Prize: £4000

Free entry

Closing date: 31 Oct

Women in Comedy Festival Comp

For everyone, not just women!

Three minute comedy sketches or monologues; short stories up to 1000 words

Prizes: £50 in each category

Entry Fee: £3, £2 in each subsequent category

Closing date: 14 Oct

Cannon Poets Sonnet or not

For 14-line poems that in some way reflect the sonnet form, or not

Prizes: £450; £200; £100

Entry fee: £4, subsequent entries £2.50

Closing date 31 Oct


In days of old, a gauntlet-wearing knight would challenge a fellow knight or enemy to a duel by throwing one of his armoured gloves onto the ground. The opponent would pick up the gauntlet to accept the challenge. This month I’m throwing down a gauntlet.

Are you up for a challenge?P1220130

I am.

One of the courses I took at this year’s Swanwick Writers’ Summer School was…

Writing Original Poetry

I greatly inspired by our teacher Alison Chisholm, a successful poet, and a regular contributor and competition judge for Writing Magazine. In the bookshop at Swanwick there was a selection of her books, which I spent some time browsing. I already own one of Alison’s collections, and this year I bought a narrow volume called ‘The Poet’s Workbook’, a guide which gives me ten projects for creating new poems of my own.

Here I am at the start. Project One, a tercet.

A what? Can’t we start with something easy?

A tercet consists, apparently, of three line stanzas – tercets – ‘built up to recreate a memory with plenty of imagery to animate the situation.’ This may be free verse, or any number of rhyming patterns.

P1220155No, I will not let myself shut the book and put it back on the shelf. Neither will I listen to that inner critic telling me I’ll never do it.

My tercet will be about my first day away from home. The day I arrived at Brighton Teacher Training College. The building still exists, on the sea front, at Eastern Terrace. Outside the breeze was often full-on and chilling, but inside there was an immediate sense of the past – big rooms and a wide staircase, and the smell of polished wood.

In my imagination, I stand at the entrance, and look along the sea front. Alison’s voice whispers in my ear. Use all your senses. Make a start.

The wind flaps at my skirt

Line by line, verse by verse. First time. First draft. First tercet.

Why not set yourself a fresh challenge this month?

Will YOU take up the gauntlet?


Frog: (Squeakily)

What do you mean? Something that might be within the realms of possibility? Why didn’t you say so? And no, I cannot get down without help.



Welcome to Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie is an author with a history! She used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, and the shocking facts she discovered there led her to write her latest book Counterfeit!. This month she shares some of the inspiration behind her novel.

Not Always Black and White

by Elizabeth Ducie

Before I started working with pharmaceutical companies around the world, I spent ten years working in factories in the UK. We had a well-defined system of guidelines and within reason, there was sufficient finances around to buy the right equipment, pay for the appropriate tests, make sure the product was safe before it hit the market.

DrugsIn fact, if I’d been just ten or fifteen years older, I would probably have realised that the situation hadn’t been like that for long. Drugs manufacture in Europe in the 1960s and early 1970s was much less well regulated. But memories are short. As far as I was concerned, the situation was black and white; there was just one way to do things; the right way.

But then I started working in the former Soviet Union and in Africa. And I learned very quickly not to judge people on first impressions or by my own standards.

When I found an engineer in Russia hanging a noticeboard on a straightened-out paperclip, I thought he was being lazy, when in fact he was being resourceful in a country where everything, including nails and screws, was in short supply.

When I saw factories using out-dated and far-from-hygienic equipment to make supposedly sterile injections, my first instinct was to recommend closure. But when I realised this would result in 40% of the injections in the country being removed from the market, I had to think of an alternative approach.

In my new book, Counterfeit!, the regulator, COUNTERFEIT_FRONT_150dpiSuzanne Jones is shocked when an African government Minister tells us he can’t afford to worry about quality; it’s quantity of medicines that he needs. And although the main storyline in the novel is fictional, that conversation was real. And when I heard those words, I too was shocked. But gradually I realised he was not being cruel or wicked; he was merely pragmatic and doing the best he could in a terrible situation. Life isn’t always as black and white as we would like it to be.

Counterfeit! Out in July 2016: the new thriller from Elizabeth Ducie; available for order from:






Frog: (snootily)

The world’s green. Everyone knows that.



A friend of mine tapped her head and said, ‘I’ve got a book in here.’

That’s fine, if you’ve got a hundred and one other things to do. It’s also fine if you don’t want anyone to ever read your book, or your story, or anything else you write.

For people like me, and, I suspect, you, the dream isn’t enough. Is there something important you want to say, a social issue you wish to highlight? 10Do you want to take your readers’ minds away to a village in the Cotswolds, or India, or Planet Zonk? Realism or escapism. There are so many exciting and inspiring things to write about.

So this month

  • Keep up to date with your notebook and reread it to get some inspiration

  • Set aside an amount of time for writing, even if you can manage only half an hour a week

  • Work on a flash, maybe. Read it aloud. Edit it. Send it off somewhere.

  • Believe in yourself. You can do it.


Prizes: 1st £100; 2nd £50
Entry fee: £4
Word limit: 250 words, excluding title.
Deadline: August 31st
For more info, see

Quarterly comps: closing dates last day of January, March, June, and September
Prizes: 1st 50 euro (or equiv.); 2nd 25 euro; 3rd 15 euro
Entry: FREE
Word limit: 500 words, excluding title.
Next deadline: September 30th, 2016                                                                                               For more info see
Submissions: email to

JUDGE: David Gaffney 
Prizes: 1st £250; 2nd £150; 3rd £75; Shortlisted £15 

All winning and shortlisted stories to be published in an annual anthology

Entry fees:10 for 1; £18 for 2; £25 for 3

Word limit: 500 words, excluding title.
Deadline: September 30th

For more info see



Frog: (proudly) I’ve been put on slug watch. P1210554

See one coming, I’ll be there in a flash!













Bank Holiday Monday is a traditional time for a break from routine, a day out, doing something unusual perhaps, or heading for the nearest park or beach.P1170698

An ideal day to carry your notebook and jot down a few observations.


P1170704Why not try a bit of flash writing when you get home?



Contributing to Trip Advisor can

  • help you write concisely and imaginatively, (but not fictitiously, in this case)

  • make you more aware of choosing the right word

  • make you think about detail

  • give you a focus for developing as idea for a story later on

Never tried Trip Advisor?

Put Trip Advisor in your search engine.

Go to Trip Advisor reviews, then to Write a review.

Next select City or destination. You might type Devon, for example. Choices will pop up. Select the most appropriate one.

Now type in the box marked Hotels, restaurants, attractions. For example, Coleton Fishacre. P1170724This should then pop up, and you’ll find a place to rate this, a few questions to answer, and the opportunity to describe your trip or experience.

If your chosen attraction doesn’t seem to be there, try rewording it, or find the section for adding something new.

P1170684You can also upload helpful photographs to the site.

You have to certify that your review is based on a genuine travel experience by selecting the check box, then press the Submit your review button!

If in doubt, Google How do I write a review-TripAdvisor?

Your views can help other travellers, holiday-makers, and day-trippers to choose their destinations.


FROG: (just a little bit grumbly) P1210470

I asked for a magic carpet ride. Use your imagination, they said.


There are some fantastic prizes for writers of flash fiction out there at the moment.

Here’s a selection of three.

NUMBER ONE: A 6-night stay at Arvon’s new writers’ retreat in Shropshire, from 6th-12th September

Imagine it. Six nights at The Clockhouse, in the grounds of Arvon’s Shropshire writing centre and former home of playwright John Osborne. Everything there is planned to help you focus on your writing, away from day-to-day distractions. 562_2016_Arvon_ClockTwr_original-475x300[1]You’ll have your own apartment, with bedroom, study-lounge, and bathroom, and all food will be provided. The Hurst is set in inspirational grounds with 29 acres of woodland and a spring-fed lake.
Here’s what you do to be in with a chance.
Write 500 words, fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, on the theme ‘retreat’. Entry if FREE. Submit online by 4th July at
For more information about The Clockhouse and Arvon’s other writing centres see the website at


NUMBER TWO: Prizes £100; £50; £25 in the Rhyme and Reason Writing Competition

Write  story of 400 words, or a poem of up to 20 lines, on the theme Magic and Mystery. There are 3 prizes for stories and 3 prizes for poems. Junior prizes too.
Entry fee £5 (£4 for 3 or more entries; junior entries £1) These fees help to pay for the prizes and any extra goes to a charity called the Rennie Grove Hospice Care, which offers a hospice at home service in the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire area.
If you don’t win, you still have the chance to see your work in the 2017 desk diary.
Submit online by 1st June at


NUMBER THREE: A prize of £75 for the best flash story by a woman writer in the Hysteria Competition.

Also prizes of £150 for the best short story, and £75 for the best poem.

Hysteria 2016 is a competition for previously unpublished stories of up to 2,000 words, flash fiction of up to 250 words and poetry of up to 20 lines on almost any theme related to women. You are invited to submit an entry in ANY GENRE except horror or erotica.
Entry fees are £5 for short story entries; £3 for flash fiction entries, and £3 for poetry entries.
The competition closes at 11.59pm on 31st August 2016.
Go to for full details.

You have to be in it to win it!

Why not give one or more of these competitions a try?


Frog: (patiently)

Sit there and guard the baby broad beans they said. I’m letting ideas grow as well, you know. Multi-tasking, I call it.


SARDINE TIN STORIES…….. small yet packed to the brim with flavour

A joke is a type of flash fiction. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has characters, and conflict. It catches the attention, and gets us wondering. What’s going on? Can we predict the punchline.

On the other hand…. flash fiction isn’t a joke.P1190490


The Bridport Prize website offers the following advice to writers.

Flash-fiction often contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. However, unlike a traditional short story, the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten – that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline.


All that in a limited word count. Mission Impossible?

Not if you

  • Confine your story to no more than two characters. (Rules are broken sometimes, of course!)

  • Write about one incident or occurrence

  • Stick to one point of view.


  • Make your story stand out from the crowd by adding a touch of mystery, something puzzling that keeps the reader guessing.

  • Brainstorm plot ideas, and pick the most unusual, the most moving, the most scary……

  • Don’t worry about writing too many words. Edit down later.

Try entering a competition to hone your skill. Here are three of the many current ones.

Brentwood Writers’ Circle
For stories of exactly 75 words
Prizes £40; £20; £15
Closing date 30th April
Entry fee £2
Bridport Prize
For stories of up to 250 words
Prizes £1000; £500; £250; plus three of £50 each
Closing date 31st May
Entry fee £8
Rhyme & Reason Writing Competition
Theme: Magic and Mystery
For stories of up to 400 words
Prizes £100; £50; £25
Closing date 1st June
Entry fee £5 (£4 for 3 or more entries; junior entries £1)


P1200903FROG: (Mournfully, and, I might add, ungratefully)

I came here for inspiration, and all I got was daffodils.


The choice is yours…

Flash fiction is a short, sharp, focussed look at something — it could be a person and their problem, or a situation that is getting worse, or better.

Whatever the subject, every word has to count.

One of my favourite flashes is My mother was an upright piano by Tania Hershman.

The beginning is immediate and intriguing.

‘My mother was an upright piano, spine erect, lid tightly closed, unplayable except by the maestro.’
This is such a stunning metaphor, the reader has no choice but to go on reading. Here’s the next line.
‘My father was not the maestro. My father was the piano tuner; technically expert, he never made her sing.’
I love it.
Sometimes a photograph can inspire a story.
The man below is going to cut coconuts. He’s climbing the tree with the help of special tree-grippers attached to his shoes.
What about the woman? She has to pick up the coconuts and carry a basketful on her head. Let your imagination loose on a picture, and very soon there’s a story there waiting to be told.


P1200640It helps to read a lot of flash. Study it. Are you drawn in? Gripped?




What makes the story work? Note the economy of words.


It will come as no surprise that Tania Hershman was the Grand Prize winner in the Binnacle 2009 Ultra-short Contest with My mother was an upright piano. This is now the title of a collection of stories available on Amazon. For more info on Tania see and there are a couple more of her stories to sample at
There are daily flash stories on the web at and you can sign up to have a fresh story sent every day. You might even want to join in.

Frog: (seriously)P1200844

One, two three, four, five…… I’m making every word count.