06 March, 2017

Final Curtain: the end of the blog

This is the last post I'll be making on this blog. From now on I'll be blogging over on my author site: chloebanks.co.uk.

I know it is a risk moving blog address as many people will intend to add it to their reading lists and never get round to it. But I hope if you've been reading along with me so far, you'll remember to catch up with me over on my new blog too!

I started blogging about my writing journey in November 2010, when I was just starting to take writing seriously. I'd had a few minor successes - but no outright wins - in small short story competitions and was submitting a children's novel I'd been working on to agents (without success). Since then I've won a few more short story competitions, including some I'm pretty proud of, and I've written a novel which secured an agent, was published and even (briefly) topped the Amazon e-book bestsellers in its category. To find out what I'll get up to next you'll have to join me over here.

Goodbye and happy writing!

10 February, 2017

Flash 500 - Winner!

I am so delighted that my story, Everything After Now, has won Flash 500 for the fourth quarter in 2016. Flash 500 is, unsurprisingly, a flash fiction competition with a word limit of 500. It runs every quarter and has been going for eight years, which means they regularly receive hundreds of entries every quarter from across the world. And I won!

This was an incredibly special win for me. I spent almost all of last year slogging away at the second draft of my next novel, snatching moments to write during my boys' nap-times or between putting them to bed and doing the housework in the evening. I didn't have time to write anything else and I really missed short fiction. By mid-December I was done with my novel but we were fast approaching Christmas with the all the time-sapping chaos (and joy!) that comes with it. Eventually, I managed to snatch a few hours in the week between Christmas and New Year to write Everything After Now. I probably spent no more than about three hours on it from first word of the first draft to final submission - definitely the quickest piece I've written. To have won such a big competition feels incredible. I'm very grateful!

Everything After Now is written in the future tense. It's something I've never done before and I've been meaning to experiment with it for years. I didn't want it to be a gimmick, however. I only want to write in the future tense if the story demanded it or I knew it wouldn't work. One day while I was walking with my one year-old asleep on my back the first line, "Tomorrow they will laugh about this." came into my head. Almost instantly the whole premise of the story appeared with it. That's rare for me. Maybe even unique - I certainly can't remember having such a clear idea come so fully-formed before. Which is why I was able to write it so fast!

I have entered Flash 500 three times. First time I was shortlisted. Second time I came second. Now this. I guess I should stop entering now!

If you have five minutes to read my story, I'd be glad to know what you think of it. You can find it here.

21 January, 2017

Photo Post - My Life in Books

If you're reading this post, chances are you love books. And if you love books, I guess you might have a lot of them around your house?

I have mixed feelings about hoarding books. On the one hand, I grew up in a house full of books which meant I read widely (something I'm keen for my kids to experience too), and I love to have permanent reminders of all the literary journeys I've been on around me. On the other hand, I rarely re-read books and I don't like clutter. So we are not one of those households with books piled everywhere, but we certainly do have quite a few. Here is a sneaky peek at my life in books...

This is our fiction bookcase. On the top shelf we have some weighty classics on the left (Ulysses and War and Peace, the complete works of Jane Austen etc.) Most of the shelves are full of more modern novels. Towards the bottom we get more into genre: crime (including excessive numbers of Agatha Christies), thrillers, even the odd bit of horror or sci-fi. And we finish, bottom right, with short stories. Or we're meant to. The bottom shelves get rearranged by toddlers most days.

Our other two sets of shelves are mostly non-fiction. The shelves on the left of shot have children's fiction on the top and then mostly contain tonnes of OS Explorer maps, walking guides and photo albums. The shelves in the centre of shot contain all sorts of non-fiction: Christian books, travel books, books of knitting patterns, poetry, humour, books of quotations. We have a lot of CS Lewis books (including the Narnia series, which are of course ficiton but we wanted to keep all his work together). We also have a good whack of...

 ...Bill Bryson books. I adored his work as a teenager and his Short History of Nearly Everything remains one of the most fun and accessible pop science books I've read. Which brings us neatly on to...
...our science books! We have quite a lot of popular maths and science books. Here are a few. Anthropology is my specialist subject so a lot of books reflect that. Sapiens is our newest one and I haven't read it yet.

Once we get past the main bookshelves there are still more books scattered round our house.

In the living room I have a shelf of books that are "work" books - books I have written or contributed to, or that are about writing in some way, including the classic On Writing by Stephen King.

On my desk I always have a pile of books that are helping me with my latest project. In this case, my novel-in-progress involving Shakespeare and the language of flowers!

I have a big stack of recipe books inside one of our kitchen cupboards. These are the ones that stay out on the shelf at the moment as I use them most often. Every household should have a copy of the Good Housekeeping cookery book! The box on the left is full of recipes I've pulled from magazines. I love to cook!

Finally, there are the boys' books. I have a two year-old and a one year-old, both of whom LOVE books. The one year-old maybe loves them a little too much - a couple of times a week I usually have to get the sellotape out. We buy and get given new books all the time as well as always having a stack of library books. We must have getting on for 100 or so including all the collections. My favourites to read are Julia Donaldson, Quentin Blake, Jeanne Willis and Lynley Dodd, but the boys go through phases. Our two year-old will get fixated on Alfie or Apple Tree Farm for weeks at a time. At the moment our one year-old has an obsession with a book about a jellyfish running a rocket plane company. Within a few minutes of them finishing breakfast this is a bird's-eye view of what their bookshelves look like...

We are trying to teach them to be tidy but it might be a long process! For now I am just glad they are living in a house where books play a major part of every day. 

What does your life in books look like? Are you a horder or a pass-it-on-er?