the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

FREE short story workshops in Dorset



As part of the Dorset Digital Stories project, a series of workshops will be held in January and February 2015 at rural locations throughout the county. The idea is to encourage local writers to submit a story up to 500 words for inclusion in a new e-book. All stories will be set in Dorset so that the anthology reflects the diversity of Dorset: from the human perspective to the sense of place.

I will be delivering a workshop on Friday 16 January 2015 from 10-12 at Cerne Abbas Village Hall DT2 7GY. Everyone is welcome! To book a place please email or get in touch with me through the contact page on this blog.

For details of other workshops please click here.


Useful links

The email group for MPhil students at the University of South Wales has shared some helpful links recently. Here are a couple that might be of interest to you.

Locating London’s past is a new website that allows you to search a wide body of digital resources relating to early modern and eighteenth-century London. A great point of reference for historical fiction writers.

Submissions are sought for the Dundee International Book Prize 2014, with a £10,000 cash prize and a publishing contract with Cargo Publishing. Budding authors are invited to enter their debut novels by 3 March 2014.

More locally, the Wimborne Writing Group are holding a book launch on Thursday 6 February at 6:30pm in Gullivers Bookshop, Wimborne to celebrate the publication of the anthology Grapes on the Vine. Everyone welcome.

The Bridport Prize is offering a new category of novel award entry to its traditional annual competition for poems, short stories and flash fiction. £20 entry fee.


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Excellent repeat event: Story Slam, Briport 2013


With the success of last year’s event, the Dorset Writers’ Network are hosting another story slam as part of the Open Book Festival in Bridport. Organised by Jennifer Bell of Storyslingers, the evening will be modelled on previous story slams where participants are asked to register in advance through (or turn up and register on the night). If there are more registered writers than time slots, the names will be entered into a draw. Each time slot is five minutes maximum (about 780 words). All genres and styles of original prose welcome. This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your talent so get writing and share your work with a supportive and enthusiastic audience.

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Dorset County Show, 2013

The County Show has been celebrating the countryside and all things Dorset since 1841. These days there’s a focus on family entertainment, showcasing agriculture and shopping but the old traditions of a county show remain, including the competitions. There are 1,000 competitions to enter and although we didn’t spend much time looking at the livestock, the homecraft and horticultural tents are endlessly fascinating.

With the rise in popularity of television shows such as The Great British Bake Off, the competition for the best of baking is considerable.  Criteria for entry is strict sometimes identifying the required size, shape and ingredients, others offering the chance to use your own recipe.  One category I continue to find perplexing is:

  • Six sweet scones (men only please)

I wonder what Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would make of that!

Unfortunately, for all the delights of Victoria Sandwiches, Swiss rolls and flapjacks, they were displayed inside plastic bags and not the best circumstances to photograph, so I can’t show you any of the entries.  However, I can share with you the following:

THREE CARROTS, stump rooted, tops trimmed to approx 76mm

THREE CARROTS, stump rooted, tops trimmed to approx 76mm

PAIR OF MARROWS (any size)

PAIR OF MARROWS (any size)


These had my husband anticipating an entry for 2014.

Some of the other categories, however, had me in stitches. For example, THE LONGEST RUNNER BEAN of reasonable quality. I’m not sure that would be worth eating. And then there were the monster entries, the largest pumpkin and the heaviest marrow:

heaviest marrowlargest pumpkin

After all the excitement there was one last treasure. An opportunity to stroke the loveliest of rabbits and meet the proud new owner.



During a long journey yesterday I listened to ‘When God was a Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman.  The family saga was brilliantly read by Emilia Fox but the story was predictable in places. Rabbits at the show and one in a novel – that must be enough rabbits for one week.


The Notebook

Please find The Notebook below, my entry to FLASH MOB 2013. This is a blog competition celebrating International Flash Fiction Day on 22 June. To join the carnival all you have to do is post a previously unpublished piece of flash fiction (300 words or fewer, not including title) to your own blog before the 10 June. Not long to go, so you’d better get cracking! Find more details here.

listing books read notebook           The Notebook

            ‘You’ll have another one?’ Paul drained his pint glass and nodded towards Jane’s tumbler containing only water from the melted ice. ‘One more G and T won’t do you any harm.’

            ‘I guess not,’ she said.

            While he was at the bar, Jane took the pad from her handbag and made a note of jobs for the weekend: woollen wash, change sheets, dismantle wardrobe, take to dump.

            ‘What’s that you’re doing?’ He ground the base of her glass against the table and leaned over, trying to read the words.

            ‘It’s to stop me forgetting the one or two things I need to do.’

            ‘You and your lists.’

            ‘Indeed,’ Jane closed the cover.

            Paul weaved his fingers through his fringe and Jane’s spine contracted with a stab of irritation. He’d always worn that ring on his right hand, as if he never was sure about being married. A shaft of light through the stained glass made a kaleidoscope of colours on the carpet, a torch through the fug.

            ‘Of course, if you really had your priorities right, my name would be at the top of your list,’ said Paul.‘That would show you believe in me.’

            ‘I do Paul,’ sighed Jane. ‘You’ll get a job soon enough.’

            ‘I worked 20 years for that firm and what do I get for my loyalty?’

            ‘They made the whole department redundant. It’s not as if they were picking on you.’

            ‘Less of the lecture, Jane.’

            By ten o’clock Paul’s shoulders were hunched and he jabbed Jane’s notebook. ‘Come on then. Put me at the top of the list.’

            Jane took the ballpoint and scrawled across the page: I be-leave-in you, Paul.

            She passed the paper over and he squinted, trying to decipher her writing.

            ‘That’ll do,’ he said.


Things are looking brighter…

University of South WalesI received an email this week confirming that I’ve been accepted onto the Masters in Creative Writing at the University of South Wales. This is a part-time, distance learning, research degree which includes a creative writing project. Although my proposal still has to be passed by the Research Panel, I’m cracking on with ideas for the novel that will accompany the research. I’ll be investigating the child’s voice in adult fiction and putting together a manuscript written from a child’s viewpoint about the abduction of a sibling. I have to say a massive thank you to Carol McGrath who has offered considerable advice and support that has kept me focused and positive throughout the application process.

I am really excited about returning to study. The university only accepts eight students onto the course each year so I am fortunate to be one of them. Previous students include Emma Darwin (click here for Emma’s blog which is well worth a read) and Maria McCann.

Other good news is that I was successful in getting through the interview with an educational charity which will offer me the chance to work with schools on a part-time basis during 2013-14. I’m also building up my contacts with schools to deliver consultancy work and I’ve had some interest in a project that I wish to seek funding from the Arts Council to deliver.  All this activity means I’ve been incredibly busy and writing has taken something of a backseat. Now that I have a little free time, I will work on a piece of flash fiction to submit to the Bridport prize at the end of the month.  Other opportunities you might like to consider include:

What keeps you busy at the minute?


NEW Dorset Flash Fiction Competition

The Dorset Writers’ Network is running a flash fiction competition to raise funds to support the valuable work they offer in helping isolated writers throughout the county. The first three winners will receive a book or writing related prize.  The best stories will be recorded as a podcast and put on the website. I have been asked to judge the competition, so I’m absolutely thrilled. You can find further details below:

Flash Fiction Competition

New competition from Dorset Writers’ Network, write a story in 300 words. You must include the words: hesitant, string, relative, hand. You can use the words anywhere in the story or in the title. Please make sure that the words make sense in the context of the story. In order to do this, you may wish to add letters to the words, but you can’t take away any of the letters. For example, you can change relative to relatively but not to relation because the ‘v’ and the ‘e’ are missing from the original word. You can check that you’ve included all the words correctly before submission by using the ‘find’ facility. Gail Aldwin will judge the shortlisted entries.

  • Email or post your entry (Sue Ashby, Corner Cottage, Bridge Street, Dorset SP8 5BA; Include your name and contact details (address, telephone, email) – but not on your entry. Entries are judged anonymously, so your name and details must be on a separate document.
  • There’s a charge of £5 for entry and you must live or work in Dorset. Make cheques out to Dorset Writers’ Network.
  • You can make more than one entry (£8 for 2 stories, £10 for 3) – there is no limit.
  • A winner and two runners up will be selected.
  • Your work must not have been previously published on-line or in print.
  • The entry must be written by you.
  • Copyright remains with the writer.
  • Maximum length is 300 words.
  • The title is in addition to the 300 words.
  • Your story must not have won or been placed in another competition.
  • Deadline for entries is Friday May 31st 2013. The results will be announced on the DWN website  where the winners will be published.

If you’re a Dorset-based writer, will you have a go at entering this competition?


A visit to Winstone Books of Sherborne

Winstone’s is situated at 8 Cheap Street, towards the top of the town in Sherborne.  The shop is double fronted and light streams into the space that contains a huge range of books. As well as shelves along the walls, there are central displays and stands for book-themed gift cards.  A quarter of the floor space is dedicated to children’s books and the owner, Wayne Winstone has worked hard to establish links with schools to promote reading as an important life experience for children of all ages.

The children’s area is inviting with a couch, a rocking horse and a standard lamp to entice families to stay and browse.  Children are invited to review books and as part of the Sherborne Literary Festival, a short story competition for children was held.

Wayne has been successful in attracting authors to deliver talks and book signings at the shop and recent events included a book launch by Sarah Challis. Read the rest of this entry »


Wimborne Literary Festival, 1-3 November 2012

Earlier in the year I paid a visit to Gullivers Bookshop in Wimborne and you can read about my experience here.  I’m delighted to again be writing about Gullivers but this time in relation to the Wimborne Literary Festival which the book shop is hosting for the second year.  The on-line programme has just been published and there’s a wide range of workshops for adults and children. Click here for the link to the site.

I’m pleased to see Dorset’s writing talent on the programme, including a workshop to be delivered by Sarah Steele who runs the Wimborne Writing Group. This will be a treat for anyone interested in poetry.  Sarah is an experienced tutor who runs the Wimborne Writing Group which meets once a month on a Wednesday in the Community Learning and Resource Centre. Members are experienced and talented writers who enjoy tasks and activities set by Sarah to develop writing skills.  The collaborative support offered by group members is something I definitely miss now that I am temporarily  unable to attend the sessions due to work commitments.  You can read more about Sarah here.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mere Literary Festival and flash fiction competition

I was pleased to learn about the Mere Literary Festival and I can now share with you details of their flash fiction competition. You’re asked to write up to 350 words which must include a given phrase which will be announced on the website on 27 September. There is a category for the under 16s which is free but all other entries are charged at £2 with £1 for additional entries.  Please send your story through the post which must be received by 5 October.  Prizes are £50, £25 and £10. For further details, click here for the MFL website.

My blog now has over 100 blog followers and I when I started out on 30 November 2011, I promised myself that I’d run a small competition to celebrate if I ever reached the 100 mark. I’m delighted and honoured to have so many people interested in reading my posts. Thank you.  My only concern is whether there are enough people interested in entering a competition.  I have a prize in mind, a copy of ‘Reading Like A Writer’ and you can read a review of the book by Louise Doughty here. If I get more than 10 comments expressing an interest in entering, I’ll get cracking with deciding on the format and drawing up the rules of entry.  Have a think about it and let me know.

This is the cover of the first edition but you can win  a new paperback copy.

(Image used under fair use rationale).