A Year in the Life of my Arts Council Grant

January
Still in shock from being accepted I had to wind down work commitments. I gave notice to the Harbour School, and other tutoring commitments. Nervous and excited I have my first meeting with my mentor Philippa Francis. Feedback from tutors and agents pointed out that plotting was my nemesis so with that in mind I made a reading list:
Structuring your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story K.M.Weiland
Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success K.M.Weiland
Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story K.M.Weiland
Plot and Structure James Scott Bell
Outline Your Novel Scott King
Having already contacted school to see if there would be any interest in creative writing courses for children for the application it was a matter of sending emails out to let them know that I had been successful and arranging dates for the workshops.

February
I had already made commitments with Portsmouth Council to participate in the annual Bookfest  so I was pleased to run a few events during February and March. Being interviewed for Solent TV was nerve wrecking and fun, and meant that a few creatives got in touch to ask me how to put in their own submissions to the Arts Council.
One of my favourite spoken word events of the year is Valentine’s Day Massacre, and I was performing along side some of my favourite artists at the Square Tower.

With the help of my mentor – the plotting had started!

March
One of the highlights of the grant was being able to go on a writers’ retreat and research mission to Cornwall. For seven days, my husband made me breakfast and I sat in my pjs and wrote from 7 am until 10 am. We then went out and explored the locations I needed for my novel, I took photos, made notes. Then back to the Airbnb for our evening meal, also made by hubby and got more words down. The lack of a proper TV, no internet and WiFi and a break from work and household duties meant my word count broke all records.

April
A month of self-discipline I love spoken word events and a new team had got together to arrange more spoken word events, none other than Christine Lawrence, Amanda Garrie, Jackie Green and Richard Peirce formed T’Articulation. Lots more events, but I knew I had to be focused on the novels and be careful not to sign up to everything. However, one performance at the Canvas Café couldn’t hurt! And I have to say it was a fun event, there is something exciting about performing in a station.
More plotting and refining drafts.

May
To a back drop of my darling daughters working so hard on their GCSE’s and A Levels we were buying a house, we got news the seller pulled out a few days before we were expected to fill up the removal van which was a massive financial hit. Luckily, my husband and I have had many worse disasters in our marriage and were able to take it was obviously not meant to be attitude. Still this was the month I started running creative writing courses for Young Carers in school. Problems at home paled in comparison. I think I was more concerned with my girls being disappointed. I was now in a good writing routine and plodding on with meetings with my mentor, writing and starting to edit.
May is also one of my busy storytelling months, and my girls who usually come along to help with the craft activities were doing their up most to keep up with a lot of academic work. Tiredness was creeping in.

June
Editing month.
A few years ago, I had been lucky enough to attend a macro editing course by Sarah Grant: time to get out the notes. I developed a revision process that helped me dissect and rebuild my manuscript and I studied the overall plot and subplots and reviewed the novel character by character. I want to stress that at this point I am still not obsessing about spelling and punctuation. I had a few spoken word events for June as well as my creative writing lessons for young carers. I was excited to be performing in Holmes Fest, the creative baby of Matt Wingett, because I felt comfortable doing as I had previously taken part in the event in previous years. However, being asked to be a guest speaker at the Winchester writing conference filled me with fear. I had strange, nerve-wracking dreams about standing up and being naked from the waist down; imposter syndrome at the idea of standing up alongside speaker with outstanding pedigrees made me quake in my boots. Memories of being told that no one likes a clever woman and, strangely, a yearning to go back to my working class roots, to eat chips, pie and gravy and drink hot vimto made me consider cancelling the event. However, things that you dread are rarely as bad as you expect and I was proud to speak at such a prestigious venue.

July
It was now coming to the end of my writing workshops with young carers and it was extremely hard to say good bye. My daughters finished their exams, tired and exhausted as washed up sailors, it was time for our family holiday to Florida. Of course, during our magical time at Harry Potter World, Universal, we got news that if we wanted the second house we had to complete immediately. Many hurried phone calls from theme parks later, we had completed on a house but where unable to pick up the keys for another 9 days. Since we had to arrive home from Florida, arrange removal vans, gut and decorate the new property so it was fit for us to move into, I decided not to unpack or wash the dirty holiday clothes and left them in the suitcases till we moved. Husband working away, and with the help of a retired decorator called George, me and my two daughters did the impossible. We cleared house and garden, packed and was ready to move for the day after the Super Moon. I new that I was unable to work on my novel but I did not want to break the writing every day habit. I had been on a day plotting workshop with author Jo Franklin and replotted a young reader that I had previously already written a version of prior. That month I am very pleased that I still managed to write 250 words a day. However, I am not proud of the amount of calories I consumed; the first two weeks were in Florida with an American diet and Voodoo Doughnuts, the second two weeks consisted of mainly sandwiches and take out.

August
In our new house and for the first time, I had my own writing space. Things could only get better. Alas, we have a small West Highland Terrier whose views towards squirrels would make Trump look like a humanitarian. He barked himself into such frenzies, that all the fur started falling from his front legs and chest. And when he ran up trees in pursuit of them only to slide down, he injured his back leg. When Watson is unhappy, no one in the household is happy. All public engagements grounded to a halt. The young carers group finished and the first drafts of my novel and young reader were also finished. I found myself distracted by unpacking boxes. I think the general tension of awaiting GCSE and A Level results did not ease the tension in the house. August didn’t quite bite me in the ass but it still bit. Unfortunately, I contracted Lymes disease but was lucky enough to have it confirmed and given 6 weeks antibiotics.

September
Youngest daughter was full steam ahead with her life plans and enrolled in the college of her choice, however, for my oldest daughter, late August and September was a time of transition and finding herself. She eventually settled on doing a degree in Pharmacy but living at home. With the young ones focused and engaged in their studies, more plotting for me and my second novel. I had hoped to go through and repeat the plotting strategy and repeat the plotting strategy beside my mentor but, unfortunately, she was coping with a family bereavement, which left me to plot alone. I went back over my rejection letter from an agent, the comments I got from my tutors at university, the notes I’d taken from my reading list, and plodded on. I had quite a lot of self-doubt at this moment but one of the benefits of being awarded an Arts Council grant is that, effectively, you’ve been paid to do this task. Without the grant, I think I would have started a different project at this point. But now I felt I had to sit down and get on with it. It was the agents party in London in September, and my husband and I took the opportunity to have a weekend away. It was good to reconnect and my confidence was increased by the fact that some agents remembered who I was and were encouraging about me sending them work.

October
Children storytelling commitments were coming in thick and fast as well as writing courses in the library. However, despite the fever and joint pain disappearing, I was struggling from what the doctors called brain fog. I was forced to make the decision to postpone all storytelling gigs til, the new year with the exception of the Gosport Tree Decorating Event, banking that I would be better by December. With the exception of one year, I had always performed at the Day of the Dead, a really fun spoken word event invented by Will Sutton. I struggled with the performance, although the feedback from friends was positive, I was forced to admit to myself that my short term memory wasn’t good enough to perform onstage: it was a bit of a blow. It also made me second guess the work I had done on my plotting sheets but, I couldn’t see any other option than carry on.

November
With my plotting grids and Nano, it was time to get on and write my first draft. One of the things I love about Nano, is it is all about the words and the pressure of editing is relieved. I hoped for a repeat of the kind of word counts I had achieved in March. I still had some creative writing courses to run but this was the month that I realised I hadn’t managed to kick the Lymes. I had productive days and not-so-productive days. However, one of the biggest changes I have made to my life over the last two years is being much kinder to myself. I wrote over 60,000 words in November. Unfortunately, when I copied them over to the NanoWriMo site, I copied and pasted it in twice, buggering up my beautiful graph which irritated me no end. Also my first draft was still not completed.

December
I eased into December taking great pleasure in the fact that this would be the first Christmas in a new house. And realised, my planned ending for the novel was not quite right anymore. Despite always advising my students to finish the first draft before going back, I printed it out and realised I would need to change the last 10,000 words. I needed long walks and plotting time by the sea. My creative writing classes finished on the 18th December. My last story telling event was on the 2nd December. I moseyed the end of the year by reflecting and writing in my journal. It has been a hell of a journey, a privilege to be granted this award which will end in March 2019. I have 1 completed YA novel that is in the process of being edited, a young reader ready for submission, and a second YA novel close to completion. I met some fabulous young carers, overcame my fears of public speaking in an academic setting and got the opportunity to visit the place I was writing about. Best of all, it is not over yet.

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Dark Cities: A dark twist on spoken word 2017

A year today I was included in the Dark Cities, an anthology inspired by a challenge set by Dr Karl Bell. The writers were asked to create fiction based on our urban surroundings and to celebrate the launch we had a book reading at The Hunter Gatherer café in Southsea. Twelve months later I was asked to arrange a Dark City spoken word event, which would be part of Portsmouth Darkfest.

But what to do, another book reading? Well, we did that last year. A spoken word event based on horror – what so close to the excellent Day of the Dead at the Square Towers? What to do, what to do? At last I decided to throw a few challenges into the evening.

  1. The piece was only supposed to last seven minutes, and if the artist went over their time limit there would be a forfeit.
  2. The pieces would be judged! The audience would pick their favourites.

I was a little worried how they would deal with the extra pressure, but I shouldn’t have been, everyone rose to the challenge. From detail descriptions of electric shock therapy, memories of mental hospital corridors, monsters under the bed to how death likes to spend her time while waiting for victims to pop their clogs, the evening was bursting with creativity.

Alas, as with every competition there can only be a few winners, and the dark crystal goblet was taken home by Jules Garvey-Welsh, other prizes were scooped up by Jackson Davies, Margaret Jennings and Susan Shipp.

Jackson Davies

Jules Garvey-Welsh

Susan Shipp

Margaret Jennings

William Sutton performed spine tingling music and host Matt Wingett gave out the prizes. But I would also like to thank a few hard working helpers who weren’t in the limelight. My daughter Jessica who took lots of lovely photographs and is hoping to make a behind the scenes video, watch this space. My oldest daughter Abigail who helped to count the votes and sat in a draft all evening doing the boring bits. Jo West who arrived with books, chairs and a loving smile. Johnny Sackett who arrived with screens. Mona King Creative for the awesome programmes and Brian Morton at The Hunter Gatherer, he is definitely the host with the most and even provided for our favourite vegan!

Christine Lawrence

Helen Salisbury

Roz Ryska-Onions

Alison Habens

Justin MacCormack

It was brilliant evening and I was just wowed by all the performers; Roz Ryska-Onions, Justin MacCormack, Alison Habens, Helen Salisbury and Christine Lawrence.

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Dark Cities: A Dark Twist on a Spoken Word and Music

It’s not long until the Dark Cities Event! Woohoo.

So this time last year, Dr Karl Bell headed The Supernatural Cities project and group of talented local writers, many of whom are members of the Portsmouth Writers Hub, produced an anthology of supernatural, weird, crime and horror tales set in Portsmouth. This book was launched during Portsmouth DarkFest 2016 and called Dark Cities. To celebrate its first year book day, we will be celebrating with a Spoken Word event with a twist.

We have invited some local writers and poets to compete for a Dark Goblet, each artist will be given seven minutes to entertain the audience with horror, humour or perhaps something weird, but it should have a urban feel. The audience will be able to vote for their favourite act of the night. However, go over the time limit and there will be penalties.

Music, mulled wine and munches prepared lovingly by the Hunter Gatherer staff, competitions for the audience, it should be an exciting evening.

Dark Cities: A Dark Twist on a Spoken Word and Music

15th Nov Hunter Gatherer Coffee, 249 Albert Rd, Southsea PO4 0JR 7-9pm Free Entry all welcome.

Lets look at our line up!

William Sutton, writer, musician, playwright, raconteur, bon-vivant and, most importantly, author of the Campbell Lawless series of Victorian mystery novels.

Jules Garvey Welsh was the winner of the Countrywide Writeidea writing competition 2016 , and on the 1st and 2nd of February 2018 she will be putting on a production of her play based on her book, The Field Street Monologues at The Titchfield Festival Theatre. 

Jackson Davies is a spoken word artist from Southsea his work aims to showcase creative rhyming and wordplay with a political spin, alongside more tongue-in-cheek verses.

Clare Campbell-Collins writer, performer and play write recently wrote The Cold Room, the play was staged at the College Theatre, St. Vincent College.

Alison Habens is the author of Dreamhouse, a 1990s cult novel based on Alice in Wonderland her new novels are a quirky retelling of the St Veronica myth, The True Picture; and a postmodern rom-com, Pencilwood.

Roz Ryszka-Onions has been writing on and off for over twenty years and today will be reading a new story ‘Beside myself’ – not strictly speaking horror, as it’s a story about depression and electric shock treatment, but most definitely horrific.

Helen Salisbury novel The Worry Bottles was shortlisted for the 2017 Impress Prize for New Writers; her writing explore the complexity of relationships, and how the environments we live in shape us.

Margaret Jennings writing offers some home truths and looks at the world from different angles, a regular short story winner who was recently ‘highly commended’ in The Hampshire Writers Society short story competition.

Sue Shipp, Portsmouth writer and performer is a regular at the cities most exciting spoken word events including the recent Holmes Fest and one of my personal favourite performers Justin MacCormack an horror writing genius will also be on stage!

And of course myself and Matt Wingett will be hosting the party!

 

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Counting Tomatoes

September – gosh, what a year. It is only now that I’m feeling better that I realise just how ill I have been. I haven’t blogged or vlogged for a very long time!
Scary.
Somehow, and despite all advice I received at the start of the year, I carried on juggling paid work and did my best to fulfill commitments. Result? I got fatigued. But now months down the line, I’ve ended up with a diagnosis, and I’ve sort of come to terms with the fact I need to make significant changes in my lifestyle.
So, now it is the not so simple task and putting said changes into action.

1. Remembering and consistently taking my medication.
2. Adopting a ‘spoon’ lifestyle – more about that another day.
3. Initially, checking in with my better half when accepting work to stop becoming over committed.
4. And not beat myself up about my editing/writing goals – but carry on using what I call, my tomato technique.

It’s actually called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo and was super big in the 90’s, when I sort of stopped using this method when an evil ex broke my egg timer. So I was trying to recover, and feeling guilty and frustrated about the lack of work I was doing when fellow SCBWI member and picture book author Chitra Sounar challenged people to doing tomatoes on Facebook. It was just the gentle nudge I needed.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The pomodoro technique is a proven and popular time management life hack.
The main premise behind the technique is to work in blocks of time, typically 25 minutes long (called pomodoro sessions), followed by a 5 minute break. Each pomodoro session should demand your full attention on one task, every break requires you to step away from your work to rest.
The result is greatly improved productivity during focused work sessions that can be maintained through effectively managing distractions and taking regular breaks.

Cheap as chips, you don’t even have to buy a timer, you can use your phone or the many free apps on line.
Like everything there are good and bad points. Do really successful people need a timer ticking away? It’s all or nothing, you have to do your twenty five minutes to get your tick in the box.

But – this tried and tested method had meant that over the summer I have done something. No I am not at the point I wanted to be at. And some days I only managed one tomato. But I have been able to chip away at a mammoth task.
So, the glorious six weeks of the summer with my girls has helped me put things into perspective. We have had some amazing days out, squeezed into my oldest daughter work heavy schedule. I have had a massive Spring? Summer? Nearly Autumn clean. Sorted out the car and the garden. And best of all got back to looking forward.

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Baubles Book Launch

front-cover

Saturday 3rd of December was the book launch of Bridge House Publishing latest anthology. So few publishing houses are willing to invest in short stories, so I was especially delighted to be included in the ‘Baubles’ collection. The launch, held in London, and since I have just completed my Master’s degree, my lovely husband offered to take me to lunch in the city. We found a delightful pub called The Mudlarks near London Bridge and found a quiet corner. After a carb loaded meal to keep the cold out we ventured to a new part of London, Chalk Farm and off to the launch. Gill James is a fellow SCBWI member and is on the Words and Pictures team, so it was fantastic to meet a Facebook friend and colleague in the flesh.
It was a fun afternoon of networking with other authors, listening to readings and a surprising bit of marketing training from Gill’s daughter.
The Baubles anthology can be purchased:
Baubles via Amazon
If you are looking for a place to submit short stories, it is well worth taking a look at the Bridge House page: Brigde House Publishing

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DArk to DArker Shivering or Not

https://youtu.be/ayvFyy86hPc
My writing group, The Writers at Lovedean, are excited to be part of this year’s line-up of DArk to DArker Shivering or Not. Together with my daughter’s audiovisual team, A14 Productions we have created a sound box where the audience can feel what it would be like to a medium.

The talented group of writers include; Lynne Stone, Barbara McMeekin, Jackie Green, Linda Rushby, Jules Garvey Welch, David Dunford, Keith Baker, Kate Rawding, Louise Crockford, Christine Lawrence, John Palmer and myself.
This is a free event, and I hope you can come along.

Saturday 26th November, 7 pm -1 am
DArk or DArker Shivering or Not!
Coastguard Studio, 91 Clarendon Road, Southsea, PO4 0SA

A night of audio-visual performance, installations, live artists and theatre makers, all exploring the DarkFest themes. Hosted by 1000 Plateaus.
one000plateaus.com/darkordarker/
FREE (donations welcome)

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Baubles Anthology

baubles-anthology-cover
Bridge House Publishing is an independent publishing house that specialises in fiction which is a little bit different. They focus mainly on short story collections. It is run by writers for writers they do it all for love but we like to give new writers a voice.

The challenge was to write a bauble of a story.

I submitted and was delighted to be included in the anthology. Baubles will be launched in London on 3rd of December. I am looking forward to meeting Gill James, Bridge House Editor, in person, she has worked so hard in getting the anthology together and even made a Youtube link.
Youtube video of the book : https://youtu.be/kfuaSO45P5k
If you are interested in submitting to Bridge House their website can be found here:
http://www.bridgehousepublishing.co.uk/

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Short Story Competition

https://youtu.be/ayvFyy86hPc
The Writers at Lovedean Short Story Competition
Theme: Movement

Maximum length: 1200 words

Entry fee £3 per story, with a maximum of three entries per person.

The Writers at Lovedean want to support Portsmouth MS Society. Therefore we are running a short story competition. The members have DONATED the prize money so that ALL entry fees will be donated to Portsmouth MS Society.

Closing date: 31st January 2017

Winner announced: April 2017

PRIZES
1st: £50
2nd: £35
3rd: £25

The Writers @ Lovedean Short Story Competition in support of Portsmouth MS Society

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Day of the Dead 2016

Oh, what a night! I feel so privileged to be included in this event, and working with some of Portsmouth’s greatest talent. It was an evening of laughs, thrills, scares and toe-tapping music and I loved it all.
img_3965
img_3967.
This year’s line-up was incredible, poets Maggie Sawkins, Sue Spiers and Lord Byro gave a fantastic look into the macabre. The thoughts of a night porter were particularly illuminating and will certainly make me think before arriving at a hotel after check in. We had stories from Tony Noon, Jacqui Pack, James Bicheno and Justin MacCormack. Which included a deal made with a demon for the secret of writing success. A gothic mix from Alan Morris added to the atmosphere of the evening.

The square tower shivered to the rhythm of songs performed by Philip Jeays, Jamie West, Gareth Rees and his friend.

Christine Lawrence buried a cat on stage, while Tom Harris cleaned up the blood. There were more stories from V H Leslie, Diana Bretherick and the evening ended when Matt Wingett turned a gun on the audience.

Best of all my husband found my perfect Christmas present from Headcase Curios.

Sunday also marked the book launch of The Day of the Dead anthology; copies can be found for Blackwells.
If you are interested in Day of the Dead, why not check out their Facebook page?
https://www.facebook.com/events/252124021849520/

Don’t forget there is more fun next week, Sunday 6th of November, 6:30 at the Square Tower, you can see the Dark Songs. https://www.wegottickets.com/event/375811

A couple of plugs for my mates, the remarkable playwright Zella Compton latest play Genghis – The Truth is on at the New Theatre Royal on Saturday 5th November, 7.30 pm.

Genghis

There is a Dark Victorian event at Blackwells on Wednesday 9th November. A panel of novelists and academics talk about the dark side of Victorian life. Local author Diana Bretherick will launch her latest novel, The Devil’s Daughters. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dark-victorians-panel-discussion-and-book-launch-tickets-28548403042?aff=es2

Matt Wingett, who gave a successful talk at my writing group earlier in the year, will be giving a lecture about the creator of Sherlock Holmes and his relationship with spiritualism. That’s at Portsmouth Temple of Spiritualism, Southsea, PO5 2BU on Friday 11th November. http://www.mattwingett.com/conan-doyle-and-his-belief-in-ghosts-a-talk/

Dr Karl Bell and Diana Bretherick will be giving a public talk on how the Victorian media created two Jacks, the demonic Spring-heeled Jack, and the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Wednesday 16th November, 7.00 pm Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-urban-monsters-spring-heeled-jack-and-jack-the-ripper-tickets-28512409384

The Portsmouth Writers Hub is running a workshop based on an authors’ roundtable discussion about the character of the ‘femme fatale’. Feel free to dress up for the occasion.

Featuring Diana Bretherick, Steph Broadribb aka Crime Thriller Girl, Cal Moriarty. VH Leslie and Carolyn Hughes. Thursday 24th November, 6.30 -8.30 pm Eldon building Uni of P’mouth Winston Churchill Ave PO1 2DJ.

Don’t forget The Writers at Lovedean are producing some work at Dark or Darker Shivering or Not! Coastguard Studio, 91 Clarendon Road, Southsea, PO4 0SA Saturday 26th November, 7 pm -1 am. It will be a fabulous evening of audio-visual performance, installations, live artists and theatre makers, all exploring the DarkFest themes. Hosted by 1000 Plateaus. one000plateaus.com/darkordarker/

I intend to end November at a book launch I am included in! The launch of Dark City, an anthology of scary Portsmouth stories by local authors. Wednesday 30th November, Hunter Gatherer Café, Albert Road, PO4 0JR. 7 – 9 pm

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How positive people aid success!

It’s been an exciting week on the writing front, requests for full MS, one of my short stories appearing in The News, and lots of support for The Writers at Lovedean writing competition. However, as delighted as I am with the input of good news, I am aware that I couldn’t have done it alone.

Since Tessa Ditner took over running Portsmouth Writing Hub, there has been a flurry of opportunities for creatives. If you suggest something to Tessa, she does her best to make your idea a reality; I believe a member made a comment about collaborating with The News, and now hub member’s stories are in print. All writers understand the thrill of seeing your words in front of an audience, but there is always behind the scenes hard graft to any printed piece of work. Portsmouth Writing Hub is a fantastic resource for artists, but you get what you put into the group. Although there is support for book launches and writers angst, it is mainly a home for positivity, a spot where creatives can discuss plans for creating art and liaising with others to make something new and awesome. You only have to look at the projects that are supported by the hub to see that, Darkfest, Day of the Dead, Dark Cities, and the Edward King Cityscape Project. These aren’t the activities of naval gazing writers lamenting how hard it is to get published; it is an energetic and vibrant mix of creatives wanting to push the boundaries of their work. My advice, don’t sit on the sidelines jump in and see where the opportunities take you!

I was delighted that Solent TV invited two members of The Writers at Lovedean into their studio to discuss our first charity short story competition. Long-time member Lynne Stone and relatively new member Jackie Green bravely stepped in front of the cameras. These two ladies are examples of what real creatives can do; they are delightful members of the group with such an inspiring ‘what can we do to help’ attitude. I know they were both terrified at the prospect of appearing live on TV, but they did a fantastic job.

You can read my story in the news here:
Short Story Punkat By Charlotte Comley in the Portsmouth News

Check out Portsmouth Writing Hub:
Portsmouth Writing Hub Facebook Page

The Short Story Competition:
The Writers @ Lovedean Short Story Competition

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