Dearest Ringwood Readers,

We bring you the joyful news that our 2022 Short Story Competition has now launched! Read on for information about how you can enter.

To get you reaching for your pen or keyboard, this edition of the newsletter also includes a special piece from one of our Ringwood authors, Simon McLean, on overcoming writer’s block. On top of that, we have an interview with our 2020 winner, Mónica Ferreira! You will soon be buzzing with inspiration.

But first…

Our Short Story Competition

Ringwood wants to celebrate up-and-coming writers with a Scottish connection, so the competition will be open to all writers based in Scotland, or who have previously resided in Scotland, or who identify as Scottish. We particularly welcome and encourage submissions from underrepresented communities.

Entry is £2 per story, entries must be short stories with a maximum limit of 3000 words, and the deadline is Friday 2nd December. The winner of the first prize of £100 shall be announced in December, just before Christmas, with the winning entry and up to two others being published on the website at the same time as the announcement of the results.

Please email entries to submissions@ringwoodpublishing.com.

For more information, see our website HERE.

Ringwood in the News

We would like to congratulate A.M. Nicol for his recent feature in the Glasgow Times newspaper! His spellbinding book Sheila Garvie: Mastermind or Victim was lauded for its exploration of one of the most salacious true crime cases in Scottish history.

Check out the article HERE to find out more about the case and read the interview with A.M. Nicol himself.

You can buy Sheila Garvie: Mastermind or Victim HERE.

Upcoming Events

Our very own Leela Soma will be featuring in a selection of brilliant events to share her insights and let you into her creative processes.

Peruse some of Leela Soma’s events below:

August 18th – Headlining ‘Open Book’ meeting at The Maryhill Integration Network as part of YSS’22

August 20th – Bearsden Writing Festival as Chair of Bearsden Writers, YSS’22 – buy tickets HERE.

August 23rd – Authors in Conversation at Gavin’s Mill, Milngavie at 7pm, (more details soon)

Now we turn to author of The Ten Percent, Simon McLean. He kindly shared his essay ‘Writer’s Demon’ on how you can tackle a creative rut.

‘Writer’s Demon’

These are surely the most dreaded two words in the vocabulary of any budding or established author. Of any writer of words, whether melodic lyrics, emotional poetry, or simple prose is the objective. Enough to strike fear into the very core of the very best or most aspiring wordmonger. Capable of halting in its tracks any chance of creation just by their very utterance. With no respect for duty, deadlines or simple desire, they can supposedly deprive any wordsmith of the very will to live, never mind write. Of course those words are known to every one of us as ‘writer’s block’. There, I said it without whispering.

“The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing”

This is one definition that seems about right, and I have absolutely no doubt that this condition or state of mind not only exists, but is prevalent throughout the writing community. The trouble for me is that the minute we give this ‘condition’ a label, we also give it real power over our thought processes. By acknowledging it as a thing, ‘writer’s block,’ we give ourselves the perfect excuse to stop racking our brains, to take a break, to put things off until another day. To stop writing.

The reasons for this condition can be numerous and varied. Rejection, criticism, being unable to find the right start, middle or ending. All of these things, and many more, can lead to self-doubt and pause for thought and reflection. This is a good thing, but only if the writing continues.

I would contest that few have ever produced anything of merit in the certain knowledge that it will be received as such. The trick is surely not to find that elusive formula for perfection, but to acknowledge that the end product is totally subjective, and that often you will hit a chord with some of the people, some of the time. If you just keep writing.

If we accept that someone will want to hear what we have to say, even to disagree with us, and that what we say might make things better for someone, somewhere, then our writing can be seen as a duty. An obligation to use our God-given ability to put simple words down on paper. From that perspective we simply must just keep on writing, in the certain knowledge that we are contributing, perhaps encouraging others and even provoking strangers to think or respond. Above all we are doing the one thing that many struggle to do on a daily basis.

We’re participating. We’re taking part. Is that not the main objective? I really believe that:

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”

I also believe that it’s easier done than said. What are you waiting for?

You can also check out Simon’s book The Ten Percent HERE.

And finally, we recently got in touch with Mónica Ferreira, winner of our 2020 Short Story Competition. We found out what she has been up to since winning and gleaned some tips on finding your voice as a writer.

Hello Mónica, thanks for catching up with Ringwood!

Since winning the competition in 2020, can you tell us what you have been up to?

First of all, thank you so much for reaching out. Winning the competition back in 2020 really meant a lot to me. Since then, I’ve finished my Master of Arts in English with Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, and returned to Lisbon, where I’ve started working as a copywriter for a local production company while also tutoring part-time.

Thinking back to your winning story, what were the sources of inspiration for ‘The Shoes’? And more broadly, what usually fuels your creativity?

I wrote ‘The Shoes’ for a Creative Writing assignment at university. At the time, I was watching a lot of Room 104 on HBO. Every episode is set in the same room of an American roadside hotel, but with different characters and storylines. Every single one of them has a very surreal, bizarre feeling to it. It can end up being a thriller, a comedy, or a horror. I wanted to capture this same feeling in my story. I just needed something to explore. So, I got to thinking about experiences that had impacted me, something that was real to me, and that I could deconstruct and turn into something else, something that would make sense to others as well.

It didn’t take long for me to decide I would base my story on a relationship I had in my first year of university. I wanted to do a retelling of it, explore it through metaphor. In the end, it was a very rewarding and cathartic experience. It allowed me to distance myself from what happened and look at it from a completely different perspective. I’ve since written a lot of other short stories based on personal experiences. It’s become like therapy to me, except cheaper, much cheaper.

This is to say, my life definitely fuels my creativity. I take a lot from it, if not everything. In the end, I’m always writing about what I know. It feels disingenuous not to. Although, of course, my inspiration also comes from the media I consume, which is a lot. Films, TV shows, music, literature. Everything moves me to write.

It would be great if we could now get a sense of your writing journey.

When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing in eighth grade. Before that, I was a big reader, so I was already familiar with literature as an escape route from reality. When I started writing, I felt an even bigger sense of freedom. I was beside myself. Suddenly, I felt like I had an infinite number of lives. Writing was an out-of-body experience. It still is. I can be anything, go anywhere. I remember sitting in class daydreaming scenes for my stories, going through the dialogue in my head, smiling to myself. I had a lot of fun. It felt like a superpower.

Then, when I went to high school, a friend introduced me to Wattpad, a platform where I could publish my stories and read other people’s as well. This opened a whole new world for me. Still, at the time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Back home, being a writer doesn’t really come up as an option. It’s as abstract as wanting to be an astronaut, a famous pop star, a princess.

I remember watching the film Letters to Juliet. I don’t remember the plot at all, but I remember at one point, the main character is asked what she does for a living, and she says she’s a writer. I never forgot about it. To be able to say I’m a writer. To be a writer. It sounded like a dream. It only became realistic to me when another friend of mine told me about studying abroad. Again, a whole new world opened up for me. Abroad, studying creative writing was an option. So was becoming a writer. That’s when I knew. I wanted to be a writer.

Is there a genre which is generally your favourite to write in? If so, why does it appeal to you?

When it comes to short stories, I prefer psychological thrillers. I really like creating a tension in the story that leaves readers wanting more, a combination of surreal, bizarre, and even lethargic scenes. More so, I like everything to have meaning, and I like for it to be both my doing and the readers’. It’s a cooperative experience, like building a puzzle together, except the final image might be different for everyone.

For novels, I’ve written mostly teen fiction, coming-of-age stories, sometimes with a lot of mystery and thriller as well, but always with some elements of psychology. I’m really interested in exploring the self and its relationships to others. Themes like identity and performativity really appeal to me.

Since you have moved to the UK from Portugal, we would love some insight into the different literary cultures that you have experienced.

Do you write stories in Portuguese as well as English? If so, does your style of writing change as you switch languages?

I’m afraid I don’t write much in Portuguese. I think my writing flows better in English, probably because that’s where I’ve had the most practice, but also because the Portuguese language is more complex, which I think creates a bigger distance between myself and what I’m writing. I feel closer to the text in English, so in the end, my voice is not quite the same, which I’ve been told happens when speaking as well. It’s like I have different personalities for the different languages I speak.

Let’s talk a bit about your plans for the future.

Do you have any particular career goals? Or a vision of the kind of writer you hope to become?

My goal is to become a published writer. I would love to see my stories on bookshelves all around the world. In the past few years, I’ve also met a lot of people in the film industry, which has made me consider turning some of my short stories into scripts. We’ll see.

What are your next steps?

Getting a literary agent. I’m currently preparing everything to delve into the daunting world of querying, and hopefully find the right fit for my stories so I can send them out into the world. And, of course, I’ll keep writing more.

Finally, can you share some advice for entrants to this year’s competition?

I would say write what you know, and by this, I don’t mean something that’s necessarily happened to you, but rather something that at its core relates to you, something you can be honest about.

Another piece of advice I’ve gotten over the years that I always keep in mind is the usual ‘Show. Don’t tell’. Trust that your audience can keep up with you. Don’t indulge too much in your writing. Don’t use too many metaphors. And have fun. Writing, as intimidating as it is at times, should always be fun. I know writing is one of the things that has made me the happiest in life.

Thanks for chatting to us Mónica.

That’s all from us! We hope you have a wonderful few weeks.

Until next time,

Olivia Jackson (Editor) and the Ringwood Team

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