This week I was delighted to attend the presentation of the prize for the Jo Powell Memorial Writing Competition at Edge Hill University.  Jo, a highly-respected creative writing tutor at the university died of a brain haemorrhage in May 2011 and the £1,000 prize was set up by family and friends to reward the best short crime story written by a student.  I was one of the judges and the award went to 24-year-old James Harker with Gary A Love Story.  James, originally from Weymouth, studied at Manchester Metropolitan University and is now working on the Young Writer Programme at the Everyman and Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool.  He’s definitely a writer to watch.  I’m a fan of competitions.  My first novel was published as a result of entering one, in my case a prize organised by Commonword community publishers for the best North West debut.  That was Sal Kilkenny’s debut and helped launch my writing career.  It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that writing is a really tough field to break into.  Finding an agent, getting a publishing deal, getting another one after that are all very difficult to achieve.  Entering competitions can be a  great way to discipline yourself so you finish work, meet deadlines and send stuff out.  They provide an opportunity to make a mark and get recognition for your work and if you’re successful they’re a real boost to your confidence and your profile.  There are lots of places to find out about writing competitions and a quick search online led me to these: 

Good luck.


Recently I was invited into Radio Leeds to do a One on One programme with presenter Liz Green.  This involved an hour’s in depth interview, talking about my life and work and choosing a number of pieces of music that had special importance or significance for me at particular times.  A little like Desert Island Discs.  I could only pick 10 and that was so difficult but I winnowed it down and I’ve listed them below – without the associated memories.  What would your ten tunes be?

(On another very vaguely related note, I am sometimes asked if I write to music.  The answer is a resounding NEVER!  I would have to work hard to block out the sound if there was music playing, even if it was instrumental.  And it would interfere with me writing dialogue which I frequently speak aloud, playing all the parts myself.)

1. Getting to Know You  (The King and I: Deborah Kerr/Marni Nixon)

2. My Boy Lollipop – Millie

3. Twist and Shout – Beatles

4. Ride A White Swan – T Rex

5. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

6. No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley and the Wailers

7. White Man at Hammersmith Palais – The Clash

8. The Wedding – Abdullah Ibrahim

9. Warm and Tender Love – Percy Sledge

10. My Baby Just Cares For Me – Nina Simone