10 resources for your literary New Year’s Eve celebrations

 

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Parties! The opportunity to kiss strangers! Unrelenting fun and endless bonhomie! It is the last day of the year – a time to remember the year just past, make resolutions, plan for the year ahead and, perhaps, have fun over an alcoholic beverage or two. Fireworks may or may not be involved. Yet so much emphasis is often placed on New Year’s Eve that the night frequently fails to live up to expectations. Indeed, it can often feel quite like mandatory fun – the expectation that you must absolutely have the most wonderful time at all costs, even if it’s cold outside, everyone is at different bars – all of which are overcrowded or fully booked – several people are already arguing with complete strangers and the clothes you’re wearing hardly fit after the overindulgence at Christmas.

Of course, you still want to try to have fun on New Year’s Eve – yet leaving the house almost guarantees you’ll spend at least part of the evening crying drunkenly, shoeless and wondering what the point of anything is. As literary giant W.H. Auden said of New Year’s: “The only way to spend New Year’s Eve is either quietly with friends or in a brothel. Otherwise when the evening ends and people pair off, someone is bound to be left in tears.”

In light of this, and out of a desire not to suggest visiting a brothel, we’ve put together a brief crib sheet of resources you can use to have the perfect literary New Year’s Eve, safe in the comfort of your own home. So, crack out a bottle of something bubbly, and get reading!

  1. Seven short stories by Junot Diaz you can read for free

The recipient of countless honours and accolades, Junot Diaz’s writing has been referred to by critic and playwright Gregg Barrios as “a deft mash up of Dominican history, comics, sci-fi, magic realism and footnotes.” What better way to spend a New Year’s Eve than reading the short stories of a writer whose unique voice, swinging between street slang and profanity to incredibly formal academic prose, gives us lines such as “As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end,” which are surely appropriate for a night of new resolutions and insistent new beginnings.

  1. Bad sex in fiction: the connoisseur’s compendium

Spasming muscles, groans, whispers, licked ears, sweat, bucking, otherwise central zones and bulging trousers. If you’re hoping your New Year’s Eve will feature at least some of the above, you can guarantee it by checking out our collection of all the winning entries of the infamous ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award.

  1. Rare audio recording of James Baldwin discussing the real meaning of words and the artist’s struggle for integrity

Who needs the latest pop culture mash ups blaring over speakers in a sweat-drenched club when you can sip a civilized glass of merlot and listen to the smooth, dulcet tones of literary giant James Baldwin giving a lecture on the real meaning of words, and the artist’s struggle for integrity?

  1. 16 short stories by Alice Munro you can read for free

Junot Diaz provided the evening’s early entertainment; now move onto the short stories of Alice Munro – the author described by Jonathan Franzen as having “a strong claim to being the best fiction writer in North America”. 16 of the best short stories by one of the best short story writers.

  1. Hunter S. Thompson’s advice on finding your purpose

As we move through the years, signposted by New Year’s Eve parties and New Year’s Day hangovers, there is a risk that we begin to find ourselves borne along through life via currents not of our choosing. This sensation that we are not quite in control of our destinies – though ultimately still personally responsible for them – can be crippling both mentally and creatively. So, instead of heading out for the annual expensive night out, featuring in all likelihood tears and disappointment (or a brothel, if you follow Auden’s advice), why not take the evening to read some of the finest life advice from one of the finest writers of the 20th century?

  1. One letter from Charles Bukowski that will make you want to quit your job and become a writer

At that time of year when we take stock of where we are in our lives and careers, you may struggle to do better than listen to the words of acclaimed poet Charles Bukowski, as he looks back on what it takes to quit your soul sucking day job and pursue your authorial dreams.

  1. 33 writing competitions for 2017

Now that Charles Bukowski has convinced you to become a writer, put your pen to paper and get your own writing out there. This collection of upcoming writing competitions for the year ahead is as good a place to start as any when looking at places to submit your work. All power to your typewriters!

  1. Raymond Carver reading ‘What we talk about when we talk about love’

After your burst of creativity and writing, settle back down with that glass of port and enjoy the smooth voice of Raymond Carver reading his most celebrated short story, ‘What we talk about when we talk about love’. After all, if the holiday season is about anything at all; it’s love.

  1. 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? Thanks to the power of Youtube, you can bring this classic of the literary canon to musical life right where you’re sitting (or preferably, up on your feet, singing). And after the bubbly, merlot and port, you’ve probably reached the stage in the evening where it would be rude not to participate musically.

  1. Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the future

It is a little known fact that Kurt Vonnegut, one of the true titans of literature, collaborated with TIME Magazine to write a letter to the future population of Humanity, in the year AD 2088. The purpose of the project was simple: to provide “some words of advice” to those living in 2088”. For our last item needed to make your literary New Year’s Eve a success, it seems pertinent to look forward to the future – not only to our own lives for the year ahead, but to the direction of mankind over the coming years.

Vonnegut’s words of advice are, of course, that trademark and distinctive blend of satire and sincerity, and – at a time when the world increasingly seems destined for catastrophe (what with the election of various demagogues-cum-fascists in major countries around the globe, along with the passing of the carbon threshold, mass extinction of flora and fauna, rising global temperatures and increasing inequality) – it seems we need to revisit Vonnegut’s words now more than ever before.

 

 

 

 

 

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The year ahead: 6 literary trends to look out for in 2016

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So the New Year hangovers are gradually receding and New Year’s resolutions have been both started and abandoned in earnest. Literary stocking fillers have been read and enjoyed, and those presents we were less than impressed by have been exchanged for books. Writers are cogitating quietly, holed up from winter storms, preparing for upcoming writing competitions. As we look to the year ahead, though, the question on every bookworm’s tongue, of course, is what literary delights we can expect to come our way over the next twelve months.

We here at Nothing in the Rulebook have incanted the runes and stared into the tea leaves, and have come up with some of the key trends to watch out for in 2016.

  1. Books are back – did they ever go away?

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Tales of the printed book’s demise have been much exaggerated, it seems. Despite the long-standing brouhaha around e-books and how they were set to take up at least 50 – 60% of the literary market, Waterstones and Foyles have been announcing strong sales figures or printed, physical books (made of paper, would you believe?) and even predictions about the death of the Kindle.

Consider the words of Robert Topping – owner of bookshops in the beautiful towns of Ely, Bath and St Andrews: “I’m utterly confident that there is life in books. E-books were hyped up nonsense. It could be the zeitgeist, I don’t know, but people are talking more about supporting community businesses rather than sucking money out of the community and giving it to American tax dodgers.”

He adds: “I don’t know about you, but I spend all day staring at a computer screen, I don’t want to go home in the evening and stare at another one.”

After Waterstones reported an increase in sales of book figures of 5%, the company even took the Kindle off its shelves. Perhaps this in part because people are starting to recognise how good printed books actually are: after all, for starters, they have pretty good longevity, they’ll work just as well today as they do ten years from now, they don’t need to be recharged, and if you spill water on them, they’ll still work! Incredible!

  1. Adult colouring books continue to boom

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In 2011, the British publishing house, Laurence King, asked Johanna Basford, a Scottish artist and commercial illustrator specialising in hand-drawn black-and-white patterns for wine labels and perfume vials, to draw a children’s colouring book. Basford suggested instead that she draw one for adults. And so began what has been one of most intriguing publishing trends in recent years – and one that seems set to continue.

Fuelled by the rise of digital technology and social media, adults seem caught on the idea of colouring in these books and sharing their work on forums like Facebook and Pinterest.

“We’ve never seen a phenomenon like it in our thirty years of publishing. We are on our fifteenth reprint of some of our titles. Just can’t keep them in print fast enough,” Lesley O’Mara, the managing director of British publishers Michael O’Mara Books, said.

When you have delights like Dream Cities, or Colour me good Eddie Redmayne, as well as the sublime Jeremy Corbyn Colouring Book (pictured above), is it any wonder these have taken hold? Expect to see more of them in recent months – though perhaps not a David Cameron colouring book any time soon, after all, we’re talking about a man described by illustrator James Nunn as having “a big dough face with no markings, no sign of life on his face.”

  1. The explosion in sales of left-wing literature shows no sign of abating

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Bookstores across the UK have reported huge spikes in the sales of socialist and left-wing literature. In fact, some booksellers have noted being inundated with requests for Karl Marx’s Capital, and The Communist Manifesto.

With figures like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders coming to prominence in the UK and the US, alongside booming left-wing movements in Europe – from Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and the newly elected left-wing coalition in Portugal – it seems likely such publishing trends are set to continue, as consumers become more interested in the literature of left-wing philosophers and economists.

  1. Publishers feel the power of the force

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With ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ set to break box-office records, publishers expect a corresponding rise in consumer demand for science fiction and books about regaling space adventures.

Orbit, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Hatchette, is set to double its annual number of sci-fi titles to 90 books. Meanwhile, in late 2015, Simon & Schuster launched its own science fiction imprint – Saga – in anticipation of the ‘Star Wars effect’.

And of course, we’ve already seen some Star Wars-specific books released – such as the new take on the classic ‘Where’s Wally’ book series in the recently released Find the Wookie search and find book.

  1. More female protagonists and heroines

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Just as Rey in the Force Awakens has proven to be a feminist hero mainstream cinema has been so sorely lacking, so too have characters like Katniss Everdeen from bestselling book trilogy The Hunger Games finally started to shift attitudes towards female protagonists and heroines in mainstream book publishing.

At last, it seems as though girls are at the centre of the action is ways that go beyond spending 300 pages worrying about which boy to go out with (sorry, Twilight fans). Instead, the heroine is growing increasingly central to the books we read – and their quest is no longer to simply find love or win the heart of a man.

Here, YA fiction is leading the charge – with a string of new heroine-led books set to be published in the coming year. They include The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine, Nemesis, by Anna Banks, and Of Fire and Stars, by Audrey Coulthurst.

They’re already on our to-read list!

  1. The future of literature may be electric

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Increasingly, books are being designed with the digital age in mind. So-called ‘interactive’ literature combines the traditional printed book with apps and software. This creates, according to Faber & Faber, “a rabbit hole that encourages all sorts of reading”.

Another intriguing trend has been the development of computer software that generates original pieces of poetry and creative writing. Already, this software has had pieces of writing accepted into various journals and magazines. It begs the question as to whether androids actually dream of electric literature.

 

 

 

30 Writing competitions for 2016

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Ohohoho! Saviours of the written word! As we look forward to a fan-frickin-tastic 2016 filled with a multitude of writerly insights and discussion, we’ve compiled a list of upcoming writing competitions scheduled for the year ahead.

Included are details about word counts, deadlines and direct links to each event.

If you’d like to add a writing competition to our list then please feel free to contact us!

  1. Graywolf Press Non-Fiction Prize

The next submission period for the nonfiction prize will be from January 1-31, 2016.

A US$12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf will be awarded to the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre.

Submissions must include a one-page cover letter, a two to ten page overview of the project (including what is already complete) and a minimum of 100 pages (25,000 words) from the manuscript.

  1. Climate Fiction Short Story Contest

Climate change – perhaps better described as catastrophic climate breakdown – undoubtedly represents one of the most significant threats to humanity. Yet it remains a fairly abstract concept for most of us.

Speculative fiction stories have the power to take abstract ideas and turn them into gripping, visceral tales. The emerging subgenre of climate fiction help us imagine possible futures shaped by climate change.

The grand prize for this competition is US$1000, and the deadline for submissions up to 5000 words in length is January 15th.

  1. Bare Fiction Magazine Short Story Competitions

Any style/genre of writing in a variety of forms, including short stories, flash fiction and poetry. An annual competition with submission deadline of October.

Short story submissions must be below 3000 words and the associated entry fee is £8. Winners of each category receive £500.

  1. Bedford Writing Competition

Annual competition for writing of any style or genre. Winners are published on website and in an eBook, and they also receive a £200 prize.

Submissions have a maximum word count of 3000 words and the associated entry fee is £5.

  1. Young Lions Fiction Award

This award recognises ‘young authors’ – defined in the competition rules as anyone aged 35 or under. Submit any novel or short story published or scheduled to be published in the calendar year.

The deadline for submissions is August.

  1. 2016 Newcastle Short Story Award

One for Australian writers. First prize is AU$2000. The deadline for submissions is midnight, 31st January 2016 and the entry fee is AU$15. The maximum word limit is 2000 words, which includes both titles and any subheadings.

  1. Chicago Tribune short story award

The contest is open to all writers in residence in the United States. All entries must be fiction and less than 8000 words in length. First prize is US$3500 with four finalists receiving US$1000 each and five runners up receiving US$500.

Deadline is January 31st 2016.

  1. PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

For American citizens with books published in the calendar year (or scheduled to be published) – no self-published books will be accepted. No submission fees, with a deadline of October.

  1. British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition

One for fantasy writers. Deadline for submissions (max 5000 words) is annually in June. There is a £5 entry fee and first prize receives a £100 award.

  1. The Caine Prize for African Writing

For published African authors of fiction. Must be over 3000 words in length and written for adults. Advisable length for the stories is between 3000 and 10,000 words. There is a cash prize of £10,000 and works must be written in or translated into English.

Deadline for submissions is January 31st.

  1. Cinnamon Press Writing Competitions

Any style or genre of writing is eligible for their rolling competition deadlines, which fall throughout the year between September and July. Entry fees vary according to form of writing, such as poetry, novels, short stories and flash fiction.

  1. Artificium Short Story Competition

What makes a winner? The judges are looking for accomplished writing, full of style and intelligence, demonstrating a passion for language. Intriguing plots and themes that captivate the reader and make them think. Any genre, as long as the quality of writing is high. Works must be written in English, and authors can be from any country.

Submissions must be less than 8000 words in length. There is a £6 entry fee and a prize of £300 for the winner.

  1. Nelligan Prize

International writing prize for writers of all stripes and nationalities. Deadline is March 14th, 2016 for submissions of 12,500 words or less. Entry fee is US$15 and first prize is US$2000.

  1. The Bath Short Story Award

An award for local, national and international writers. Closing date for submissions is April 25th, 2016. Short stories of up to 2200 words in all genres and styles are welcome – there is no minimum word limit. First prize receives £1000 and there is also a local prize for Bath residents, as well as The Acorn Award of £50 for unpublished writers of fiction. Entry fee is £8.

  1. The Bristol Short Story Prize

Entries are welcomed for unpublished stories written in English. The deadline for submissions is 30th April 2016 and stories can be on any theme or subject. Maximum length of 4000 words. An £8 entry fee and first prize is £1000. There are also 17 further prizes of £100 for all shortlisted writers.

  1. Brooklyn Non-Fiction prize

Annual prize awards US$500 for the “best Brooklyn-focused non-fiction essay which is set in Brooklyn and is about Brooklyn and/or Brooklyn people/characters”. (It’s Brooklyn centric, you might say).

Submissions should be between 4 and ten pages long (up to 2500 words). Deadline is mid-November.

  1. Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award

Annual poetry competition for African America poets – both published and unpublished. The award offers a US$500 prize and publication by Lotus Press for the best book-length collection of poems (approximately 60 to 90 pages). Deadline is March 1st.

  1. The HG Wells Short Story Competition

Space is the theme for the 2016 HG Wells Short Story Competition. Key date for your diary is July 17th – the final deadline for entries. Submissions must be below 5000 words in length and there is an entry fee of £10. Various prizes are on offer for different types and styles of writing. Check website for more details.

  1. The Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition

Submissions welcomed for writing of any style or genre. Winners are published on the Wrekin Writers website and in the Wrekin Writers anthology. This annual competition offers a first prize of £150 for stories of no more than 1200 words. Entry fee is £3.

  1. Early Works Press

Annual writing competition accepts entries of any style or genre. Winners are published in anthology containing 10 to 20 stories (length dependent). There is a £5 entry fee for stories up to 4000 words in length and £10 fee for stories up to 8000 words long. Deadline is October each year, though the publishers also run other competitions throughout the year, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their site for details.

  1. Exeter Writers Competition

Exeter Writers runs an annual short story competition. The competition began in 2009 and is very popular, receiving entries from all over the UK. The 2016 competition is OPEN for entries. Prizes are £500, £250, £100 for first, second and third placed submissions. There is also a local prize of £100 for the best Devon entry.

Deadline is February for stories no more than 3000 words in length, of any style or genre.

  1. The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition 2016

Entry fee is £8 for ghost stories between 1000 and 7000 words in length. Though the website also runs competitions throughout the year for flash fiction stories. Deadline is Thursday, March 31st 2016 and first prize receives £500.

  1. Writer’s Digest Competition

The winner of this annual award will receive US$5000 and an interview in Writer’s Digest. There are a variety of different award categories so it’s best to check the website for details. Deadline is May 6th 2016.

  1. Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2016 Short Story Competition

First prize receives £500 and a place on an Arvon residential writing course of your choice, as well as publication of your story on the W&A website. Closing date for writing submissions is Monday February 15th 2016 and all submissions must be unpublished prose of 2000 words or fewer.

  1. Manchester Writing Competition 2016

There are two prizes – one for fiction and one for poetry. Both competitions offer a £10,000 first prize. Deadline for entries is Friday September 23rd 2016. The fiction prize will be awarded to the best short story of up to 2500 words, and is open to international writers aged 16 or over. The poetry prize will be given to the best portfolio of three to five poems (maximum length: 120 lines). The entry fee for each competition is £17.50.

26. Tethered by Letters F(r)iction contest

Literary publisher and resource for writers Tethered by Letters run this tri-annual publication, F(r)iction, – an art and literature imprint that is distributed around the world. It features short fiction, flash fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and even a selection of graphic stories. It also showcases amazing artwork.

First prize for the short story contest is US$1000 and there is an entry fee of US$18. The first prize for both the poetry and flash fiction contests is US$300 and there is a US$10 entry fee.

The deadline for these contests is 31 March 2016.

27. The Short Story ‘Monthly 500’ Flash Fiction competition 

The Short Story was established in 2015 and has quickly developed into an influential platform for short fiction. They champion short stories, flash fiction, and micro-fiction.

Every month, they invite submissions for their flash fiction competition, the winner of which receives publication on their website and £50.

The deadline for each month’s contest is midnight on the last day of each month.

There is an entry fee of £2.28 and entries must be no longer than 500 words (including title).

28. The Tales for Teens competition from Skylark Literary Agency 

Skylark Literary Agency are on the look out for dazzling and original writing for young teens. They are looking for compelling voices with strong characters and a gripping story – an “unputdownable read” for 13-15 year olds.

Entries must take the form of a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters of the novel, submitted by via email.

The competition is open to writers of any nationality writing in English, and entrants must be unpublished in the field of fiction and unagented.

The winner will receive a one-to-one editorial critique of their finished manuscript either via telephone of in person (location permitting) with one of the competition judges.

The deadline for entries is Easter Sunday – 27th March 2016.

29. The Brighton Prize

The Brighton Prize offers cash prizes for new short and flash fiction. If you’re a writer with a brilliant short story that will both challenge and excite the judges; this is for you.

Submissions are currently open for flash fiction up to 350 words, and short stories of 1-2000 words.

The winner of the short story prize will receive £500, and the winner of the flash fiction prize will receive £100.

There is an entry fee of £8 for short stories and £6 for flash fiction.

The deadline for submissions is 10th June.

30. New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing

The prize celebrates the best short form travel writing from writers based in the UK and Ireland and those based worldwide who have been educated in Wales. The word length is 5,000-30,000 and the closing date is midnight 3 April. Entry is free.
The winner receives £1,000 cash, e-publication by New Welsh Review on their New Welsh Rarebyte imprint in 2016, as well as a positive critique over lunch with leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at WME.
Second prize is a weeklong residential course in 2016 of the winner’s choice at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, and third prize is a weekend stay at Gladstone’s Library.