Pixar offers free course on the art of storytelling


“Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.”

So goes one of Pixar’s 22 excellent writing tips and guidance on how to tell a good story (full list available online). It is a resource much loved by writers, and it’s easy to see why. They are lessons learned by some of the masters of storytelling: Pixar, after all, has been consistently creating world-class movies with gripping narratives since 1995, when it released the masterful Toy Story.

Writers can now look to gain even more insight and advice from the creative studio, which is now offering a free course through Khan Academy that can help you find the kind of stories you want to tell – and help you tell them better.

The “Art of Storytelling” is the latest instalment in a series of free courses from the studio called “Pixar in a Box.” It discusses ways to build worlds and characters, how to make sure your stories reflect your unique perspective, along with other relevant advice.

Pixar’s older courses are also still available on the educational website if you want to learn more about animation, colours in films and environment and character modelling. Of course, if you’d rather learn about something else, you merely need to browse other areas of Khan Academy. The famous online education platform has an enormous catalogue of lessons and is available as an Android and an iOS app.




‘Haikus for the NHS’: NITRB announces winners


Somerset-based poet and musician John Blackmore has been announced as the winner of Nothing in the Rulebook‘s inaugural poetry competition, ‘Haikus for the NHS‘.

The project was launched early in 2017 to use the power of poetry as protest – specifically, the power of haikus as protest – in support of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS).

Blackmore’s poem was chosen from a shortlist of haikus by the poets Eva Reed, Juliet Staveley and Sarah Purvis. These haikus will be printed and distributed liberally during the national demonstration to support the NHS on Saturday 4 March.

“Against a backdrop of gross underfunding, continued cuts and closures of NHS services, and the increasing trend towards marketization and privatisation, the Conservative party are destroying one of the greatest achievements of working class people in Britain,” the founders of Nothing in the Rulebook said in a joint statement. “We are looking to use the power of poetry as protest to spread messages of support for the NHS and what it stands for.”

“We have been blown away by how popular our project proved – we received almost 200 haiku submissions, so many of which were of an incredibly high quality. We’d like to take the opportunity to thank each and every person who submitted haikus – especially those we received from international writers and poets. We had entries from Australia and the USA, with people getting in touch to say they want to lend a hand in whatever way possible to support an institution that is treasured not just in the UK but across the world,” they added.

“It demonstrates, really, both what makes the NHS so important; as well as the power of poetry as protest. It was fascinating to see how many haikus captured a powerful yet meditative sense of emotion that stays with you for days after reading what is, lest we forget, such a short-hand form of poetry.”


John Blackmore’s winning haiku. Nothing in the Rulebook will also publish all winning and long-listed haikus online.

About John Blackmore

John Blackmore is a singer, songwriter, poet and English teacher based in Somerset. Much of his music (listen on Soundcloud) and writing draws on his experiences of, and interactions with, the people and places of his native west country. In 2011, John was a semi-finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award and, in 2014, he contributed music and literary comment to a BBC Radio 4 documentary concerning the Victorian Dorset Dialect poet William Barnes. He is part of the Poetry Society’s ‘Young Poets Network’ (read his prize-winning poems here).


Disappear Here: Launch Screening


logo 2 no backgroundDisappear Here – a poetic film project bringing together 18 Artists to create 27 poetry films exploring the Modernist/Brutalist superstructure of Coventry ringroad – has announced the date and venue of its free launch screening.

The event offers the opportunity to see the artist’s work produced over the last few months, find out more about their creative process in a Q&A session and connect with funders, supporters and citizens of Coventry.

Nothing in the Rulebook previously featured a detailed article about the project, which notes how Coventry Ringroad, which inspired the project, “is an archetype of reinvention. Each time the same A4053 road, but every journey around it different. It is the eye through which Coventry is (notoriously) seen, and can be seen, from above and below; a looping horizon where tarmac sea and brilliant blue sky meet and form a sinew of shuffling perspective.”

You can watch a trailer of the films here below:

Adam Steiner, Disappear Here Project Lead, said: “It’s been a great experience to work alongside emerging and established artists from Coventry and beyond to reimagine the ringroad through a series of poetry films.

“Coventry ringroad is one of the city’s most iconic (and notorious) physical landmarks , acting as both city wall, orbital conduit and dividing line. I feel the ringroad deserves to be celebrated as well as criticized – it is the duty of artists and citizens to engage with issues of public space, control of architecture and the human experience of our built environment – to shine a light on the fantastic, the boring and the universal in the everyday. Coventry has always been underrated as a place to live, work and create – so I hope the films will encourage people to visit and seek inspiration where they can to read, write and attend more poetry events!”

Laura McMillan, Manager, Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “The diversity of artists, writers and filmmakers will be central to Coventry’s plans for UK City of Culture. This project engages artists in reflecting on an iconic feature  of a city that is constantly reinventing itself.”

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said: “One of the Arts Council’s ambitions is to use our National Lottery funding to support the creation of new artistic work that entertains and inspires, which is why we invested in Disappear Here. It will be a great experience for people to take a fresh look at Coventry’s architecture and landscape through the eyes of these poets and filmmakers.”

The event is free – with some money left behind the bar for those who arrive on time. Please RSVP via eventbrite. 

Haikus for the NHS

New poetry project will see haikus distributed among thousands of demonstrators at upcoming march on London in support of the UK’s National Health Service.


Nothing in the Rulebook, a literary and new writing blog dedicated to new ideas, has launched its ‘Haikus for the NHS’ poetry project in support of the UK’s National Health Service.

On Saturday 4 March, demonstrators will march on London in support of the NHS, which the Red Cross recently claimed was facing a “humanitarian crisis”.

During the march, volunteers will liberally distribute printed copies of the winning haikus across the demonstration. All poetry submissions will be published online at www.nothingintherulebook.com and will also be widely publicised across social media channels using the hashtag #NHSHaikus.

“Against a backdrop of gross underfunding, continued cuts and closures of NHS services, and the increasing trend towards marketization and privatisation, the Conservative party are destroying one of the greatest achievements of working class people in Britain,” the founders of Nothing in the Rulebook said in a joint statement. “We are looking to use the power of poetry as protest to spread messages of support for the NHS and what it stands for.”

“We are looking for ideas that are witty and powerful precisely because they are expressed in haiku, that most meditative, ‘least shouty’ of forms,” they added.

Further details of the ‘Haikus for the NHS’ poetry project can be found online.

And more information about the planned demonstration is available here.

2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Award – the literary world’s most notorious prize – goes to Erri De Luca


Erri De Luca has been named the winner of the 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Award during a ceremony in London. The renown Italian author, poet and translator won the award for the following passage in his work, The Day Before Happiness:

“My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach. With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.

She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.”

Described in some quarters as “the writer of the decade”, De Luca was unable to attend and his publisher at Allen Lane accepted the prize on his behalf.

The Italian beat fellow authors Janet Ellis, Tom Connolly, Ethan Canin, Robert Seethaler, and Gayle Forman. All of the nominated extracts for this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award can be read here.


Every year since 1993, the Literary Review, which founded the award, has honoured an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. Last year’s winner was Morrissey for the following passage in his book ‘The List of the Lost’:

“At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.”

Past winners have included literary giants including Tm Wolfe and Sebastian Faulks. You can read the winning extracts of all the past award winners in our full compendium of bad sex in fiction.

How Erri De Luca feels about having their name and extract added to the list remains to be seen. Previous winners Wolfe and Morrissey have both expressed vague dismay at winning the prize, with Morrissey describing it as “a repulsive horror” and Wolfe claiming the judges just didn’t understand irony.

Perhaps all the winners should simply have thought a bit more about how not to write about sex in fiction.

Shortlist announced for the 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards


The Literary Review have published their six-author shortlist for their world-famous annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, which honours those authors who have produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

While the 2015 award was won by Morrissey – who joined a list of winners stretching back to 1993 – this year’s shortlist offers some stiff (word usage intended) competition for the prize.

Ian McEwan received an honorary mention, but just missed out on making the final shortlist. Former Blue Peter presenter, Janet Ellis, joins authors Tom Connolly, Ethan Canin, Robert Seethaler, Gayle Forman, and Erri De Luca on this year’s shortlist.

This year’s winner promises to be a tough one to call, with each of the authors showcasing exactly what not to do when it comes to writing about sex.

A spokesperson for the judges said that some of the nominated extracts “fall into the classic bad sex mistake of overwriting, with mixed metaphors, uncomfortable similes, or becoming so hyperbolic they strain credulity”.

Unintentional Madonna references put American novelist Gayle Forman on the judge’s list, while European prize for literature winner Erri de Luca makes the grade for a startlingly confusing sex scene, in which de Luca writes “my whole body had gone inside her.” One of the judges found the passage so confusing they said: “the detail of what’s happening gets so out of control it’s very hard to make head or tail of it.”

Tom Connolly, meanwhile, finds his name on the list thanks to a description of perfunctory airport sex: “He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.”

The judges noted that, during Connolly’s sex scenes, it becomes apparent that the author’s grasp of human anatomy: “The  judges were struck by the incredible length of the male character’s arms. Sometimes anatomy goes a little bit wrong for a writer who’s trying to do too many things at once,” he said.

Robert Seethaler is on the list for a sex scene that “takes itself too seriously”, according to a Literary Review spokesperson. Meanwhile, Ethan Canin is in the running for the dubious honour of the prize for overwriting and a heavy use of similes. In his book, Canin writes: “During sex she would be quiet, moving suddenly on top of him like a lion over its prey … The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors.”

Former Blue Peter presenter Ellis completes the shortlist after the panel of five judges singled her book out for a surprisingly agricultural passage:

 “‘Anne,’ he says, stopping and looking down at me. I am pinned like wet washing with his peg. ‘Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better.’ He sways and we listen to the soft suck at the exact place we meet. Then I move and put all thoughts of livestock out of his head.”

You can read a full list of extracts from all the shortlisted writers and novels right here on Nothing in the Rulebook.

This year’s winner will be announced on the 30 November. Keep a keen eye for news on who will be added to our fully comprehensive list of all the previous Bad Sex in Fiction award winners.

Know your Carrie from your Christine?

Do you know your Carrie from your Christine? Do you know better than to visit Jerusalem’s Lot for a malted milk after dark? What’s the actual name for the clown (who’s also a spider and immortal inter-dimensional doomsayer) who promises to give you a balloon if only you’d come a little closer to the storm drain?

We’re more likely to talk about Stephen King’s awkwardly titled On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft here but this echidna remembers, with a fond hue, evenings spent cradling the bedside lamp, mightily summoning the strength and will to turn yet another page of Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary or The Ten O’Clock People.

We’ve read a handful of King’s writings but are by no means experts so we spent a couple of minutes this afternoon testing our mettle in BBC Radio 4’s Stephen King Quiz.

The quiz marks BBC’s Fright Night, a series of spooky readings and performances including Sex in the City’s Kim Cattrall reading Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and a three-part adaptation of King’s The Cookie Jar.

Let us know how you fared in the comments, and don’t forget to check out some of Stephen King’s writing tips and King’s thoughts on the commercialisation of literature.


Australian literary award split between novelists Wood and Gorton

Experience and enthusiasm combined as a debut Australian novelist and a five-time author shared a prestigious literary award for fiction this week.

The Natural Way of Things, about the hidden tension in one of Australia’s establishment families and The Life of Houses which centres on a group of women kept prisoner in a derelict home, were joint fiction winners of the prime minister’s literary awards.

The $80,000 prize money will be divided between authors Charlotte Wood and Lisa Gorton with some of the fund going to shortlisted authors.

Announcing the winners at the National Library of Australia on Tuesday night, the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said winning and shortlisted authors had continued Australia’s rich literary tradition.

The winning entries were selected from a shortlist of 30 books from 425 entries across each of the three categories of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, by the prime minister and a panel of experts.

Read more at The Guardian.


The Woman in the Water

Woman Cover.jpg
From the creative minds of Bath-based writers Sheila and Will Barton, and published by Endeavour Press, the UK’s leading independent digital publisher, comes The Woman in the Water

Bath, 1761
Lizzie Yeo has not had an easy life…

Sent into service by her dominating father, she ends up pregnant and rejected by society.
When the baby tragically dies, her Aunt Mary secures her a job as a wet nurse, working for her own boss, the vicar Jonathan Harding.

Having lost his wife Jane, he needs someone to take care of his son.

At first things look to be going well for Lizzie, but when George is sent off to school, she finds herself without work.

But Harding helps her secure a job with the local apothecary, Mr. Leslie, delivering the curing waters of Bath to invalids.

Lizzie is smart and hardworking, and it’s not long before the Leslies offer her a room in their house, meaning she can finally escape the horrors of Avon Street once and for all.

But when a body shows up in the river, she can’t help but notice that her friend Nancy has also disappeared.

Determined to find answers, Lizzie sets out to find her friend, but she cannot shake the feeling that someone is watching her.

After Lizzie is attacked in the street one night and then finds herself caught in a deadly house fire, it’s clear that someone wants her gone.
But who?

And is it all connected to The Woman in the Water?
Praise for Will & Sheila Barton
“A terrific whodunnit, drawing the reader deep into the secrets of Bath in its glory days. And in Jonathan Harding and Lizzie Yeo, there are two new stars in the world of detectives” – Stewart Harcout, screenwriter of Poirot and Maigret
The Woman in the Water is now available on Amazon: 
Read it on any device with free Kindle App from Amazon

Living Room Les Mis

The stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless classic, Les Miserables, has been thrilling audiences for decades. Yet going to the theatre is just so darn expensive. Surely there must be a better way to capture the same thrills – the same spills – but without having to spend half your paycheque on seats with an impeded view of the stage?

Living Room Les Mis is the affordable alternative to the stage show in an age of rising living costs. In fact it’s so low budget, no one really even needs to change out of their pyjamas.

In this week’s episode of Living Room Les Mis, we bring you the classic favourite: The Confrontation.

Stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled for more Living Room Les Mis!