New Hook Writing Contest – Re-post

Some visitors have difficulty finding the rules and regulations of the “New Hook Writing Contest,” so here they are again below this message. And since the challenge of this year’s contest is to create a riff on classic literature, don’t forget to check out my October 16 Q & A with Kathleen A. Flynn author of the acclaimed novel, The Jane Austen Project and my two-part Q & A with some live-wire romance authors on the influence of Austen on the romance genre.

Quick updates: Some last events in 2017 (more are being scheduled for 2018) for The Widow’s Fire

!. The Jane Austen Society of North America Calgary branch, (Calgary, Canada) November 18, A Meeting of Worlds: Jane Austen and the 21st Century Reader.

2. Waterstones, Ipswich, UK, November 29, Meet the Author, Paul Butler

3. Also, see The Jane Austen Book Club of India for a lively debate on villains and heroes in Pride and Prejudice! I ask whether inherited wealth correlates to virtue when it comes to Jane Austen’s male characters, and whether a 21st century readership finds this a stumbling block.

Writing Contest: “New Hook” Update

Are you preparing for the 2017/18 Instant Hook? Good! There are some changes though in keeping with the theme of the history of fiction.

The main one is this: your extract no longer has to be from the very beginning of your novel, but the work must be some kind of ‘riff’ on classic or previously published work (in the public domain). Could be anything from a Helen Fielding-like romp on 19th century literature to a work which uses a Shakespeare play as its template. Your entry could even be a riff on a poem if you like, though, of course, the entry itself must be prose. For the sake of clarity, please state on the entry itself the title of the classic work as well as the title of your entry. Here, below, are the rules:

 

  • The awards are open to anyone who is over 18 at time of entry.
  • The submission must be sole-authored, in English, and no more than 250 words.
  • It must reference, though character, situation or plot, a literary work in the public domain.
  • The extract may have been written for the competition or may be part of a manuscript already completed. But it cannot have been published, and cannot have been accepted by a publisher at time of entry.
  • These awards are open to new or established, already-published, authors (it does not have to be a first novel).
  • This is a blind-judged competition. HB Creativity must not have seen any part of this novel prior to entry; it must not be a work for which I personally have provided tutoring or editing services. I cannot absolutely guarantee I will not recognize a writing style, but I must not recognize the writing, the characters, or the plot.
  • Please use 12 Times New Roman font and double space your entry.
  • Send your entry by mail only (no emails please) to Paul Butler, HB Creativity, 8 – 121 Silkstone Road West, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, T1J 3Y6 (make sure you have “Paul Butler, HB Creativity” as well as the address) with a postmark date no later than December 31, 2017. Winners will be announced in March 2018.
  • Please do not put your name on your entry! Enclose in a separate envelope your name and contact (email and phone), plus the title of your entry. This envelope will be opened after the winners have been decided. Along with your name and contact please indicate whether you wish to receive our bimonthly INK STAINS news bulletin.
  • There will be a one-time email to entrants to announce the competition winner. There will be no advertising of any kind on this email. If you do not wish to receive this email, please indicate this on your entry.
  • Do not send your only copy. Copies without sae cannot be returned. If you do not want your entry returned, it will be shredded and recycled.
  • There is no cost to enter.
  • There is no residency or nationality requirement.
  • Copyright remains with the author. We may ask for permission to publish an extract of the winning work on this website but this will not be done without the author’s express permission. Withholding permission will in no way invalidate the entry or disqualify it from winning a prize. By entering you merely give permission for me to use your name and the (provisional) title of the work.
  • One winner will receive a cash prize of $250.00 (Canadian or equivalent in currency of entrant).
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Excavating Austen’s Bath

Two years ago, I traveled to the UK and spent several days exploring and mapping the streets of Bath. Bath is the setting for my novel, The Widow’s Fire, which is an unauthorized sequel to Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion.

This was an expensive research trip and initially I struggled with the necessity. I believed in research and I knew that lived experience is the best research of all. However, the primary reference point for a modern novel which revisits a literary classic is not a geographical setting; it is rather the cultural and psychological landscape the original author created. This landscape lies not upon the streets of any city, especially 200 years after the fact, but rather upon the pages of the novel. The 21st century novelist is addressing a perspective, not an objective reality.

And there was another, somewhat romantically-motivated, qualm. Part of me suspected that modern chain stores, the cafes selling lattes and espressos might be a distraction rather than a help when it came to conjuring the 200-year-old Bath of Austen’s imagination.

But, in the end, I needed to be certain I wasn’t making a mistake. I needed to be sure I wasn’t leaving out a detail. This might be something as intangible as a quality in the atmosphere that might shed a light on the states of mind described in Austen’s work.  Bath takes up a lot of space in Austen’s cannon and it is characterized perhaps more carefully, and with more reference to mood, than many of her settings. In Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, it is a city of constant amusement. But it is also a city that does not amuse Austen’s most mature protagonist Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion.

Anne associates Bath with low spirits and sad memories. Its clamour and gossip jars the demure and thoughtful Anne. Bath draws the fashionable and trivial-minded, and it is no accident that this is where her spendthrift father sets up court when he is forced to let the family home, nor is it purely by chance that Bath is where Anne’s duplicitous cousin, Mr. Elliot, should tempt to woo her. This is their city, not hers.

Austen’s Bath is about contrasts, lovely gardens and not always lovely society, grand squares in the central sections of the city, leafy-gardened spacious houses in the opulent north, and narrower, dingier streets in some of the city’s more southerly, and lower, sections. It is here in Westgate Street where Anne, against the wishes of her vain father, visits an old school friend, Mrs. Smith, a widow who has been plunged into poverty. This meeting of two worlds – baronet’s daughter and impoverished widow — and the fact Anne has to journey southwards and downhill is one of the subtle, unstated metaphors Austen was at pains to weave beneath her works.

My first surprise on this trip was that this area of Bath is almost as gentile as the others. Much time has passed, of course, but still the discovery served as a reminder that Austen’s concept of poverty is not quite the same as ours. People genuinely on the fringes – the homeless and hungry – do not feature in her stories.

I had an early draft completed before I set out this journey, and I had already created one protagonist who was entirely beyond the reach of the Austenesque radar, namely a former slave, whimsically named Plato by his late master after his own dedication to the classical world. Plato, now working as a liveried doorman, is one of our guides through the story. Together with the other protagonists – some from Persuasion, some not — Plato is on a quest, like his ancient Greek namesake — to define love.  This is really the core of Austen’s universe too. Love that springs out of apparent dislike and resentment, love which has been under the protagonist’s nose all along, love which is patient and kind, in the words of the saint.

Plato was the character who gained most from my visit and through Plato I got the most out of Bath. His perspective helped me to see everything — the graceful semi-circular Royal Crescent, the fine bath stone buildings, and the Assembly Rooms —from an entirely different angle. Luckily it is Austen’s Bath that has survived more or less intact. The Abbey, which was built and rebuilt many times, and the Roman baths tell the city’s layered history, but the Bath that dominates is the same city which provided the social playground described in Austen. I viewed all this through the eyes of Plato, a genuine outsider and one whose family had once been enslaved by the people he now served.

What would Plato have thought, I wondered, of the swirling masses of fashionable people who ignored his presence. More importantly how would he have compared them to the civilizations upon whose ruins this “modern” Bath was built?

Plato was my anachronism in the social idyll of early 1800s Bath. And, for me, it is this contrast, this clash of values, which is the natural seed of unfolding drama.

I was glad I had properly tasted the city of Bath before a second draft. Some things can never be found solely on the page.

See a review of The Widow’s Fire in Consumed by Ink.

Writing Contest Teaser

Watch this blog for news of the next annual writing contest, temporarily taking the space of the Instant Hook Writing Contest. The deadline will be December 31 as usual and there will be no entry fee. However there will be a twist. So, think of your favourite classic (pre-late 20th century) story and in the spirit of post colonialism — or just the spirit of fun if you prefer! — let your creative juices run on the question of how you might bring it to life in your own imagination.

Holiday 2015 Ink Stains: One

Dear HB Creativity clients and friends,

Here is another update on contracts signed or books released by alumni this year. We feature three terrific authors Annie Daylon, Tara Nanayakkara and Marianne Jones

Later in the month I hop to feature a few more excellent writers and new works. In the meantime, don’t forget to enter the Instant Hook Writing Contest (postmark deadline December 7). It’s fun, useful, free to enter and has a cash prize.

Tara Nanayakkara

Cardboard Dreams and Dawning of a New Garden

Canadian – Sri Lankan author Tara Nanayakkara has been very busy! She has just released her latest book Cardboard Dreams and will launch Dawning of a New Garden her sequel to the beautiful Priya’s World through Inanna Publications in 2016.

Cardboard Dreams Available Now from Lulu:

product_thumbnailLife is somewhat normal for Vijay and Siyara Pereira—until the blustery night when Vijay’s brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accident, leaving their temperamental teenager, Jake, an orphan. After Vijay and Siyara take in their nephew, Siyara realizes she understands Jake better than anyone and begins to love him like a son. Through a shared bond of unfulfilled dreams, they both try to forge their respective paths: Jake through his music and Siyara through her work. But when Jake becomes seriously ill, Siyara’s world begins to implode as her shaky marriage shudders under the weight of too many secrets. Just when it seems that Siyara has no choice but to continue down a lonely path, a confession leads her to a shocking truth that will change everything. Cardboard Dreams is a touching story about love, loss, and betrayal as a woman and her nephew embark on separate journeys of unrequited dreams where each finds an underlying spirit of hope and triumph in the face of adversity.

Dawning of A New Garden (Inanna Publications)

Confronted with the task of re-inventing her life, young widow Priya grieves by researching spiritualism for a new age magazine and spending time in the garden her late husband, Gabe, had tended.

Human contact is limited to an elderly nursing home resident, Jeevan, who is from her father’s native land of Sri Lanka. Soon Priya is drawn further into Jeevan’s world which includes a mysterious nephew, Suresh. Despite rigid religious views, Suresh takes advantage of Priya’s vulnerability.

Soon an isolated Priya finds herself facing the prospect of either single motherhood or a loveless marriage. While her Canadian and Sri Lankan friends Meg and Shobi conduct a tug of war over Priya’s destiny, Suresh’s jealous and coercive tactics prevent her from exploring a third possibility; kindly neighbour Ryan is the only person whose presence gives her a genuine sense of solace.

Priya finds her life is mired in uncertainty, but as spring begins to stir, the garden Gabe planted begins to speak to her of new life and fresh possibilities.

Marianne Jones

Mariannes-face-228x300

Poet, fiction author and children’s story writer, Marianne Jones, the winner of last year’s Instant Hook Writing Contest, is also the  place winner in the Word Alive Publishing Contest with The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. This biography of Linda Stewardson was launched on November 7.

“When I first heard share her life story, I was, like everyone else in the room, transfixed,” says Marianne, “I knew I had to write it in a book so that all the world could know her incredible journey.” See the contest details. See Marianne’s website with a host of other publishing  activity.

Annie Daylon

Of Sea and Seed

Set on the rugged island of Newfoundland, Of Sea and Seed takes the reader on a tragic journey through the 1920s as one family strives to hold onto life in the face of secrets, betrayal, and a devastating tsunami. Chronicling this journey is the family matriarch, Kathleen Kerrigan, who is condemned to an afterlife of atonement for the depth of her crimes. But what possible mortal sin could cause heaven to banish this loving mother, grandmother, and storyteller?

of sea and sand

A poetic, literary masterpiece, this first book of The Kerrigan Chronicles illuminates the depths of the human heart as it follows three generations suffering from toxic family secrets, shocking betrayals, and the harsh everyday reality that accompanies a life entangled with the sea. This suspenseful account of life in early twentieth century Newfoundland is as lovely as it is heartbreaking.