Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Why I Love Writing Showcase

Dear Writer,

It’s Olympic week in London and it just so happens that the office I work in is directly opposite the Jamaican team’s HQ. Let me tell you, it’s very hard coming up with story ideas when Usain Bolt is about to arrive at any moment for a press conference!

This has been my view for the past few days as I gaze out of the window longingly…

Waiting for Usain!

As promised last week, after unveiling the first ever competition winners here on Dear Writer, today it gives me tremendous pleasure to showcase the five runners-up. I think you’ll agree, they all deserve showcasing. And I love the fact that the same title; ‘Why I Love Writing’, sparked such very different responses.

So here they are, with my reasons why I chose them:

Why I Love Writing by Anna Pilkington

I have loved writing since before I could write. Literally. I drew pictures to tell my story. And I love to read. I was in about first grade when it hit me, that you can go anywhere. That you can be drawn into another world and leave all your problems behind. You can fight Lord Voldemort and win the Hunger Games all in one day. And most of all, I love writing for other people. I love watching them react to it, to be transported to that world. The world I made. It can be anywhere. In outer space, Antarctica, Paris, or the Ice Age.

I was brought up on reading and writing. I have had stories read to me since the day I was born. At one time my parents owned a magazine in Lubbock, Texas, and my mom has worked at newspapers her whole life. She started a blog in 2009 about letter writing, so that started my desire for a blog. I now have a fashion blog that I just started that I love to write on.

I suppose someone out there can just whip up a story without throwing anything away, but I love the half finished stories that you find in a notebook from a year ago. It's so fun to finish them and to see how much your taste has changed in genres and themes.

The thing I love most about writing is that I can put my dreams into a story for others to read. I love the feeling when you just finished a story and you feel so proud. Like right now. And that's why I love writing.

The thing I loved most about Anna’s entry (apart from her obvious passion for writing) is when she talks about that amazing sense of pride you get when you complete a piece of writing, and it was fun how she tied this in with completing her entry for this competition. I hope she feels really proud at being a runner-up in the competition too! Well done, Anna!

Why I Love Writing by Drew Boulton

The best song ever written for me and you,
Is the song by P!nk entitled Who Knew,
When I first heard it I very nearly started to cry,
The emotions that were expressed came from her heart inside.

She really lets go about her feelings of her friend,
Who sadly let drugs make his life come to an end,
And the lines in it say exactly who she is,
Just a normal person with nothing but a wish.

A wish that her friend could just have stayed alive,
So she could just touch him one more time,
The words are those of a person with feelings,
Who only writes about something with meaning.

That is why I love that song deep in my heart,
A song of true meaning that in my life will never part,
And if you ever think life doesn't treat you as a friend,
Think of those people who's lives have come to an end.

Drew’s was the only entry about loving another person’s writing and it was also the only entry written in poetry form. I love the way certain song lyrics can have such a powerful effect on you so Drew’s poem really struck a chord with me. I thought it was really well written, emotional and moving and I loved the fact it was so different to the others.

Why I love writing by Marian

There is a problem. Yes, a big problem. See the title is highly inappropriate as I do not love writing. Nor do I even remotely like it. It is a bothersome and distressing ordeal. First you have to think of a storyline and plot. Look how that’s working out for me. I’m going completely against the topic. I’m commonly found dumbstruck with a pen in my hand. Nothing registering in my genius brain. My thoughts get jumbled up and I forget whether I’m supposed to be writing about my dream holiday travelling around the world, with a book in my hand or a fiercely dragon fighting a knight, destined to live happily ever after with a mystical princess.  As you can see it is a big problem. A big problem indeed. And that’s not the half of it. How on earth am I supposed to write what’s going on in my far away mind. It’s difficult enough to focus on one idea at a time. And you’re asking me to write it down? I will forget my capitals letters and full stops. The whole two page essay will be one big sentence with approximately one hundred and fifty two “ands”. Every sentence will start with “I went”. At least my spelling will live through this deathly torment. Thank God for spell check is all I can say! Then after that there’s the proof read to make sure it makes sense. My beginning began in the 21st century where it meandered to the middle ages and came to sudden stop in the year 3000. That is when I start singing Busted's “ year three thousand” and press x without thinking and forgetting to save. There goes all my effort. My long hours spent in front of my thesaurus. So I can firmly tell you I do not like writing and I will never write again – wait … I’m writing!

I LOVED this entry. It was so much fun and made me laugh my head off in places because I could relate only too well to the whole love / hate thing when it comes to writing. Great ending too!

Why I Love Writing by Nadia
My love for writing came from my love for reading. At first I only used to read I didn’t even consider writing. I read because I loved the different places a story could take you, I loved how a character could change the way you feel about something and most of all I loved the story line of a book and how every story was so different and each story held a different idea

I just love how the author can make you feel different things in a book, how it can make you laugh , how it can make you cry but the thing I love most in books is how it can take you places you never dreamt of , places you never imagine. It can just teleport you there and you can feel like your there.

Then one day I thought I want to do that, I want to make people feel like that after reading something that I wrote, so I decided that I should try writing as a hobby. When I did I found that I really enjoyed writing, I didn’t even think my writing was good, I just really enjoyed writing.

But then one day I posted one of my stories onto my blog and the feedback I got was really nice and people said they really liked it. I just loved that feeling I got when someone commented or told me something nice about my story.

So ever since then I have been writing and love it. I love it when someone is genuine when they say how much they liked my story. Also I enjoy writing when I blog, I love to write about different things, it doesn’t always have to be fiction or a story. I love writing in my diary, blog and scribbles of ideas in my notebooks.

So the reason I love writing is because I love the feeling of entertaining people with my writing and I love getting positive and sweet feedback. One day I hope more people will enjoy and appreciate my writing as I love to write.

I could really relate to this entry too – my love for writing also stemmed from a love of reading and I think Nadia perfectly captures the way in which the written word can ‘teleport’ you into a different world. And I’m sure one day her dream will come true and readers will appreciate her writing as much as she loves to write.

Why I Love Writing by Georgia Walters

There are so many reasons as to why I love to write! Mainly though, it lets you escape from the real world... And when I am typing I can write as freely as I want, about whatever subject I like ( it isn't like English classes at school, where you have to do what the teacher says: I can write whatever I want!)

Also, I love it because you can write anything in a story. I love to write fictional stories, mainly dystopian and fantasy one too. When I write these I feel like I'm in the story... Not writing it! it's great, because I can just escape problems at school or arguments by just turning on my laptop and writing!

In fact, that's what I'm doing with one of my stories, about a problematic schoolgirl. I have edited names and write up funny stories, in a diary format. I based it around me and a boy called Michael, who used to pick on me, and also I have based it on my two friends Leigh and Molly, who are so obsessed with a certain few celebrities it drives me nuts! So, I just change some names, and write about the funnier events that have happened to me. I want to make other people laugh along – and hopefully I will, if any of my stories are ever published.

The thing I love most about Georgia’s entry is when she talks about the freedom that comes with writing what you want – especially when you are so used to be told what to write in school or college. I also love the fact that Georgia talks about the therapeutic powers of writing and how you can escape the problems of your every day life by just turning on your laptop and starting to write. Well done, Georgia!

Summer Writing Prompts

Later this week I will be publishing some special summer writing prompts here, aimed at keeping you writing through August, but in a fun, holiday way - no-one should have to work too hard in August, not even us long-suffering writers!

More soon...

Siobhan x

Thursday, 26 July 2012

And the Winner is...!

Dear Writer,


Yesterday I spent a very enjoyable afternoon going through all of the entries for the very first ever Dear Writer competition.

Well, it was very enjoyable at first, when I was reading all of the wonderful pieces about why the entrants love writing. But then, when it came to deciding upon the winners, it got pretty darned stressful. It was SO difficult to choose!

I’d initially said that I’d have one overall winner and a second and third place. But the quality of the entries was so high that I couldn’t choose between the second and third place, so there will be two joint second prize winners, and I’m adding a runners-up category for the five writers who came closest to getting into the top three, as there was so little to choose between them.

First Prize

So, without further ado, it gives me great, humungous, enormous pleasure to present the overall winner’s entry, by Ama Badu from London.

Why I Love Writing…

Putting into words why I put things into words is tricky. I want to write an elaborate account of how it's the only place I can express myself, about world building, creativity, fantasying, the magic of it. But I cannot. I write because I have to. It is no different to breathing; on the outside I appear okay, but if I stop inside I am suffocating. I can no more tell my mind to stop making stories than to cease reflecting the signals passing between the nerve endings of my brain. This is very inconvenient. And distracting. I'm emotionally strangled most of the time. "A story-making mind. Sounds wonderful", some idiot will tell me before proceeding to press their demands.

The stories get clogged up in worries, desires, fatigue and to do lists and I jump far away from the computer. Stare into an infinite future of menial jobs where the very dregs of people end up; make-up free parading themselves around. Forcefully, miserably I drag myself back to the screen. After typing some words I stare the other way, into a future built on typing some words, envision a cocktail of isolation, rejection slips, late bills, the empty fridge, persistent uncertainty, deadlines. I throw in some alcoholism because writers are drunks...or addicts...apparently, maybe a failed marriage, or four, some sexual deviation. And I press save anyway.

I want to talk to the part of me that enjoys writing, (the clearly insane part) and report what it says. Its silence is eerily pronounced. Though the mantra of expressing beauty, truth and love decorates my response, I know to understand might be at the core of why I write. Understanding myself, the world, others. Others, the world, myself understood. A world of understanding people.

Placing the unfeasible aside however, frankly, why do I write? Plunge into the darkness, chuck up rocks for a pearl. Because birds fly despite planes. Fishes swim despite sharks. Londoners breath despite exhaust fumes. And Ama's write despite the unknown.

I loved this entry because it was so well-written and contained so much passion, emotion, beautiful imagery and humour (please believe me that not ALL writers are alcoholic, sexual deviants though!) It ticked all the boxes for me, and above all, Ama’s passion for writing sings from the page.

So a MASSIVE well done to Ama. She has won a signed copy of Dear Dylan, and me as her writing mentor for a month.

Joint Second Place

In joint second place are Catherine from The Book Parade blog and Jasmine, who blogs at Ebony Black Lines.

Here is Catherine’s entry:

Why I Love Writing…

Words are the most beautiful, magical thing. Soft and sweet, singing stories that sweep you in like spells.
A pen is the most powerful, precious thing. Allows you to express yourself, pour your soul onto a page, capture emotions and memories, evoke emotions and memories.
Pen and words walk hand in hand like bow and arrow – a fearless weapon, capable of piercing the heart and setting it ablaze with hatred, anger, fear, passion.
Pen and words walk hand in hand like bow and cello – a magnificent musical instrument, capable of playing a melody with the heartstrings, humming tunes that sing of sadness, laughter, joy, love.
When you pick up a pen and write, you are powerful. You have the power to travel to exotic worlds, to discover new things, to laugh, to cry, to fall in love. And even more wonderful, you have the power to share this incredible experience with others too.
Infuse your words with your heart and soul, let a little of yourself flow into the words, bringing them to life, making them buzz with realness.
Writing doesn’t disappear. Your words will remain in the world for generations, to enchant others, to inspire others.
This is why I love writing. I can lose myself in words, lose myself in imagination.
I can share a little of myself with the world.
I can be anyone. I can do anything.
I am powerful. I am free.

The thing I loved most about this entry was the beauty of the words and imagery used – it felt like a real love letter to writing and I could relate to it so much. I also LOVE the final line: ‘I am powerful. I am free.’ This sums up so perfectly the beauty of writing to me. Massive well done, Catherine.

Joint Second Place

The other joint second place winner was Jasmine from the Ebony Black Lines blog. Here’s her entry:
Why I Love Writing...
I have always been the girl my parents shake their heads with despair at and mutter, “Always got her head in the clouds, always dreaming,” and I don’t deny it. Whenever I can I close my eyes and dream; Dream of wild fancies, hopeless desires and wishful thoughts. It was my way of freeing myself from the strong bonds of reality and letting my mind rove places that would never be possible. It was also my way of living lives that I knew I would never be able to, or feeling emotions that - I hoped (some of them are scary!!) – I would never experience.
And then books were introduced into my life.
I believe reading is like dreaming with open eyes, you are drawn away on a journey in another person’s shoes and get to live their life for the duration of the book, and maybe that is why I loved reading in the first place, because of its link with dreaming. I would be pulled into the story, living and breathing each characters difficulties, triumphs and feeling every little emotion. Sometimes I would get so wrapped up in the book I would forget about where I was or what day or time it was. And then I realised that that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to capture people with my writing and draw them into a book and share my passion for writing with them so that they can feel the same way...
And now I love writing...I write anything, blogs, stories, diaries. It is the way I express myself into something that will live on, something memorable after I have finished writing, and it is a way in which I can pour my emotions out and entertain people whose opinions I value.

I loved Jasmine’s emphasis on the dreamy aspect of writing and her entry included a line that has stayed with me ever since first reading: ‘I believe reading is like dreaming with open eyes.’ How brilliantly put, and of course you can say exactly the same about writing. Massive well done to you too, Jasmine!

Both second prize winners will receive a signed copy of Dear Dylan plus my detailed feedback on one piece of their work.

Next Week

Next week I will be showcasing the entries of the five writers who came closest to making it to the winning three:

Anna Pilkington
Georgia Walters
Drew Boulton

They will all also receive signed books.

If you entered the competition and weren’t lucky this time round, first of all, thank-you and second, please don’t worry, the standard of the entries was exceptionally high and there will be plenty more to come, with loads of exciting prizes.

Next week, as well as showcasing the runners-up entries, I will be giving you some fun, summer writing prompts to help keep you writing through August.

Till then, enjoy the sunshine and, as always…

Happy writing!

Siobhan x

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Writing Prompt

Dear Writer,

Hope you've had a great week.

I went to see Bruce Springsteen on Saturday and he was AMAZING! 

Here I am rocking the British summer festival look...

Yellow plastic is all the rage!

Bruce started his set with Thunder Road, the song that inspired me to write my next YA novel, Finding Cherokee Brown, so that was a very poignant moment.  It took me right back to the day when I was listening to that track and got the first seed of the idea for the book. Back then it seemed like such a huge challenge - how to turn one vague idea into a 200-and-something-page book. But I got there in the end, and hearing the song live brought a great sense of completion.

***Writing Tip***
If you are thinking of writing a novel but are put off by the sheer enormity of the work involved try taking it one chapter - or even one page - at a time. Novel writing can be laborious and daunting and there are times when you just don't think you'll ever get to those magic words, The End. But if you keep on showing up at the page you'll get there in the end. And when you do, nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction! I just finished my seventh novel but I can remember when I was about half way through my first seriously despairing that I'd ever get it done. And seriously considering giving up and going to watch EastEnders instead! I'm SO glad I didn't.

Writing Prompts

Last week somebody asked me if I can start giving writing prompts on this blog, so here's a nice fun one to get you started. 

Try writing a poem or piece of prose that includes all of the following words (in any order):







If you'd like to send me your piece of writing or post it here that would be great.

Last Call for Dear Writer Competition

The Dear Writer Competition closes on Friday 20th July. So if you'd like the chance to win me as your writing mentor for a month and some signed books, then please email me your entry entitled: Why I Love Writing. (For more details please see earlier blog).

I really look forward to hearing from you.

Till next week,

Happy writing!

Siobhan x

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Read to Write

Dear Writer,

Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for me since I last blogged. In Fun and Random News, I went to a sleepover with my niece, got invited to go and see one of my all-time heroes, Bruce Springsteen, and got attacked by a dog whilst out running! And, in Work News, I’ve been putting the finishing touches to my next YA novel, Finding Cherokee Brown, and preparing to start work on a screen adaptation of Dear Dylan. I also, thankfully, got some time to read.

Reading is such a crucial part of being a writer. To me it’s like putting petrol in a car – reading someone else’s beautifully written words seems to help fill up your own writing tank. And every once in a while I come across a book so mind-blowingly powerful and well-written it makes me want to leap up and down and tell everyone about it – and then go away and raise my own writing game.

Last weekend I read one such book – so please take a moment to picture me leaping up and down. And waving my arms about. And holding a banner reading: BUY THIS BOOK!!!

The book in question? The YA novel, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

There are many, many reasons why I love Code Name Verity. Here are just a few:

  • It is a celebration of friendship
  • It has two wonderful central characters
  • It features brave and interesting girls in action roles – there is no sappy ‘waiting for Mister Right / Mister Vampire’ in this book!
  • It perfectly recreates the drama and tension of World War II
  • The plot is full of twists and turns
  • It made me laugh out loud and cry my eyes out because I became so emotionally attached to the characters

At one point, when I’d got to a particularly harrowing scene and was blubbing like a baby, my son came in. When I told him that I was crying at the book I was reading he stared at me in disbelief. ‘Books can’t make you cry,’ he said. But oh, yes they can. If they are well-written enough and if the writer is able to create characters that leap off the page and straight into your heart, then they can make you laugh and cry and gasp and shout.

Elizabeth Wein did all of that and more. And that’s why I’m saying that all budding writers should read her book – it’s the best, most riveting masterclass in writing I could possibly recommend.


There’s now just one week to go before the very first Dear Writer competition closes. So, if you would like to win a signed copy of Dear Dylan – or me as your very own writing mentor for a month – then take a look at my previous post for details.

And, if you would like to know more about the fairytale story behind Dear Dylan and how it went from a self-published experiment to winning a national award and going to auction – and ultimately leading me to set up this very website – then check out this article I recently wrote for We Love This Book. I hope you find it inspiring…

Till next week,

Happy writing!

Siobhan x