Blog Entries
This Week 27th June 2016
Category: Site News
Tags: Writing competitions

Monday Muse – Sue has provided some Monday Muses for us (and Leslie’s is already up – very quick off the mark there!).

The Blog – Angela has written a very interesting blog, with fantastic pictures, explaining how body language can influence how confident you feel. She has also posted the link to a Ted Talk at the bottom, so if you have time, check it out.

The Bragging Stool – I’m pleased to report that the Bragging Stool is jam-packed this week. Well done everyone.

  • Bieke’s “Aunt Ida” combines poetry and details from a single photograph to comment on context and memory.
  • Vanessa’s 1,000-word story 'The Sovereign' is on the shortlist of 12 for the Finchley Lit Fest/Greenacre Writers competition. Fingers crossed!
  • A piece of Sue’s artwork is being used as an illustration for an Adhoc winning story.
  • And Sue is having a top week as her story has made it onto the long list for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. It will be published in their annual anthology.
  • Alyson made it onto the longlist of the Brilliant Flash Fiction 2nd anniversary competition.

June Challenges – there are lots of opportunities in June Challenges for things to enter in July.

  • Doris Gooderson Short Story comp - 1200 words. Deadline July 11th
  • HG Wells short story comp - theme ‘space’ 1500-5000 words. Deadline July 17th.
  • Christopher Fielden’s short story comp – humour. Deadline - July 31st.
  • Chris Allen's 2016 Travel Writing Contest. Deadline July 31st.
  • As well as some more that Sue and Alyson have posted. Please check them out.

Formal Meeting – took place yesterday with Jill in the chair. Hope the first meeting at the ‘new’ time was fun and informative.
Next informal Meeting – Sunday 10th July 11am CET.

I hope I haven’t missed anything. Please feel free to let me know if I have and I’ll make the necessary amendments.

Have a wonderful writing-filled week! 

The Bookworm that Turned into a Starfish!


Writers are often introverts, happy in our own company and communing with imaginary characters. You can find us sitting at our computers, engrossed in a book, making notes, lost in thought. These introverted activities often go hand-in-hand with a hunched-over, low-power pose as we forget our physicality.

But then, because we also exist in the real world, horror of horrors, comes the moment when we have to talk about our work; perhaps at a reading, pitching to an agent or networking at a conference or festival.

Fake it till you make it

Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, had a glittering academic career ahead of her, until a car crash caused brain damage which meant a significant drop in her IQ level. She was told that she should choose another career path, one that didn’t involve an Ivy League University. But Amy was not a quitter, she persevered and worked hard until she overcame her disadvantages and became a Harvard Professor. On the road to recovery she became interested in body language and how it affects us. We probably all know that body language affects how others perceive us, but Cuddy discovered that the body poses we adopt strongly affect how we feel about ourselves. 


Laboratory studies showed that adopting an expansive and open high-power pose, for as little as two minutes, raises testosterone and lowers cortisol levels. Testosterone boosts confidence and cortisol makes us feel stressed and anxious. Unsurprisingly, in the experiment, people who adopted the high-power poses beforehand did significantly better when faced with stressful situations.

When Cuddy published her findings the media were all over it, and of course misinterpreted the message. Those power poses need to be adopted somewhere in private, before the important meeting, interview or in our case the performance, reading or workshop. 

This victory starfish pose is so innate that even congenitally blind people do it when succeeding at something.This victory starfish pose is so innate that even congenitally blind people do it when succeeding at something.

The Proof of the Pudding…

I have been using this technique now since the end of 2014 for myself and for my students and it works. In my business English groups, if we have an afternoon of presentations then we all adopt a power pose for two minutes beforehand. It’s amazing to see the effect, particularly on female students. Because if you were wondering, yes, women do more often make themselves small and are less likely to adopt a power pose; so this message is especially pertinent for women.

Even though it may feel silly, this expansive and open body language that equates with power is hard-wired in our primate past. Standing like a starfish or adopting any other high-power pose for just two minutes could significantly help the success of your next performance. Why not find a private space and give it a go before your next pitch, conference, or any other public appearance. I’d love to hear how you get on.

Watch the short version of Amy's Ted Talk here.



A Solstice Pep Talk
Category: Writing
Tags: writing goals planning

For those of us in Europe and America, today is the Summer Solstice (for those in Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere it’s the Winter Solstice, of course). Either late this evening or early Tuesday morning, depending on the time zone where you are, we move on to the next season in the year. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter and spring have passed and we are moving into the third quarter of the year: summer.

It’s also almost the end of June. At the end of this month, six months of the year will have passed. Any way you look at it, we are almost halfway through this year.

A writer friend of mine, in a Facebook writers’ group I belong to, pointed out to the group recently that this is a good time for writers to take stock of our writing progress for the year. In Writers Abroad each January Jo sets up a Writing Goals for the year thread on our forums. Some years I post my goals in early January and then forget to refer to the post again for the rest of the year. But last night I re-read my post for 2016. The short version of it basically says that I will devote this year to finishing the third Short Read in The Yankee Years series, edit a novel for the series, work on a couple new Short Reads for it and compile a collection of the Short Reads into a print book. That should keep me going all year.

But how much of that have I done so far? This spring I added another unexpected project to my list and working on it has set me back a bit. So I’ve almost finished that third Short Read for the series and plan to put together the print book this summer. Then I will start work on another new Short Read. And I still have to fit in the revision for the novel. In other words, I did write an extra story I hadn’t planned to write, but I’m a bit behind on my original goals...

If we browse the Writing Goals for 2016 forum, we may find that some of us are super organised and motivated, and have met and even surpassed theirr goals. If you’re one of them – congratulations! But, if you’re like me and have fallen behind, it can be discouraging to look back at the plans we had for the year that seem to be fizzling out or have already gone up in a puff of smoke.

If you read your goals post and feel disheartened by falling short of your plans, you have a couple options. You can sit there and feel deflated. You didn’t meet your goals and it’s too late now. Just forget you ever wrote them – Jo archives the Writing Goals at the end of the year anyway. In a few months no one will ever see them again.

Or you can review your goals and decide where to go from here. You still have 6 months left in the year. Check off those goals that you have accomplished and give yourself a pat on the back, even if they were minor ones.  

Then look at the ones that remain. Analyse them carefully. Do you still want to accomplish all of them? If not, scrub off the list the ones that are no longer important to you. Now look at the ones that are left. List them in their order of importance and estimate how long each one will take to complete. Divide the next six months into weeks and months on a spreadsheet, diary, calendar or even a sheet of paper torn out of a notebook. Allocate the time you need to accomplish each goal on your planner. Be realistic about how much time you have available each day to devote to your tasks. You may not finish everything you originally planned to do in the shortened space of time but you can still salvage some of it. Get your revised Writing Goals for 2016 written and post it to our Writing Goals for 2016 forum – as an update to your original post or a new post if you didn’t post your goals in January. Then get on with meeting those goals during the coming six months. It’s not too late yet.


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