Submissions Week

The world in and outside the window – June Perkins

This was a watershed week of submissions for me.

I have spent most of the year reworking and editing a number of promising writing pieces, and working out whether some earlier projects are short stories, picture books or novels.  Sometimes I don’t know in the early drafts what the final form will be.

Each piece chooses its destiny, as I write and rewrite.  I play, experiment and do radical things when it just doesn’t seem to be working but the story tells me it must be told.

Then there are some other tips I have picked up during the year like to, remove telling not showing from my work through avoiding ‘thought verbs.’

The other thing that’s happened is now that so many rules have been absorbed about writing I pick and choose which ones to follow.  This is based on which ones improve my writing.  Sometimes I even reverse a rule.  I will share more about that one day.

The most enjoyable part of editing is reading my pieces loud to find the musicality and poetry.  I realise I love things that have a beautiful sounding and flowing sentence, but it must also be purposeful.  My family often hear me in my room doing this and wonder who I am talking to.  ‘Just editing’ I say afterwards.

So with all of these things now happening, I reworked some stories I have always wanted to tell, and sent three completed pieces off.  All three were reworked pieces that I have filed away to keep working on and had rediscovered.

If they don’t place in the competitions, and even if they do, I will then begin submitting to other places like publishers.  There are so many competitions and not all of them result in publication.  The stories feel just right to me.  They still make me laugh or cry.

When I write I go looking for magic sentences, engaging characters, and use setting as a character when I can.

Now onto some much longer pieces, to apply the same process!

As well as editing and reworking, I do keep on writing new pieces.  But my patience for the time a work might take to come to fruition has grown.  Especially when the difficulties with it that niggle at me feel solved!

Over and out, off to do more writing.

A Mentor’s Journey


When you mentor you are working towards giving someone independence to achieve his or her own dream.

You are not doing for, but inspiring someone to action.

I made the short film above, inspired by Danielle’s dream for a dance drama where she danced both parts.


She wanted to make a film called Shadow Boxer.

I just wanted to show her how far I thought we could go with the footage we had.

She inspired and challenged me by asking me to do things I had never done with film before.

‘Can we do this June?’ she asked.

She knew I was still learning too but she had faith in my ability to learn and adapt.

I learnt what I could about the editing program I had and then taught her what her could, fully expecting her to take it a step further because this was her dream and her vision.

I created layers of film that she could mix and remix.

We worked in the time frames we had, but I knew she could do a lot of the editing herself as she had some film experience.  So we invested that time in finding the parts of the program she would need to master to achieve her goals.


I wanted her to know she could finish her project by herself.  She worked and worked on the film after the time I had with her came to an end.  Then one day she sent me the link – she was happy with it!

After many months I decided to revisit the original mentoring film and have since added more elements, like falling leaves and a closing sequence to round the music out. The subtle animation seems to work well with the piano.

I didn’t like the original colour, so I warmed it up.  So you see the mentor learns from the student and the student the mentor.  It is best when it’s a two way street.


Have you ever been a mentor?  What was easy and what was a challenge for you?

Mentoring Reference



The days of porridge – draft1#

I am setting myself a challenge of working on a piece over the week and sharing the drafting to redraft process. I thought I’d apply this to pieces posted on my memory /memoir blog.

Following the Crow Song

handrocks2sat Rocks for Art and Dreams – June Perkins

The first draft of this piece is the outflow of the emotion of memory.  Next I want to write it  more in a way that shows not tells.  In this draft I like the way the porridge motif works and will think about metaphors and myths around magic porridge pots perhaps.


Remember the days when we survived on porridge and rice

and friends sometimes bought us groceries unasked

to make sure we didn’t go hungry

both of us students

with young children

striving for our qualifications

to move ahead with our lives

under thirty we were.


We even spent short stints living with friends

and family

as we searched for affordable accomodation

who only asked that one day

when we were better off

that we passed it along

and shared that they had once

lived in the days of surviving…

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5 Thou Shalt Nots of the Writing Craft

Writing Mirror – June Perkins

Once we have beaten writer’s block, found our stories, and drafted them, then comes the intense process of editing.

This is where we put ourselves to the mirror as writers and start to notice the blemishes and strong sides of our writing.

Over time there are rules that we learn from editors, teachers, readers, bloggers and other writers that make that looking glass moment bearable.

These vary from ‘Thou Shalt not’ to ‘our writing will be stronger if we do …..’

Then there are specific formulas to poems, novels, genres within novels that gradually  become set in stone, and then are challenged by those who don’t want to follow rules but make new ones.  Before we break rules it is good to understand them, and then work out why it is we might depart from them or reinvent them.

Writing Looking Glass – June Perkins

Thou Shalt Nots’ tend to stay around for longer and follow each new rule.  The main ones I have heard continuously are:

1 – Don’tTell, show, (I like to think I am a camera with this one, and it works well with sensory language and seeing a character through their actions and not just their words.’

2- Don’t add useless words, make every word count (there are huge lists of these, very, really, but I’ve come across lists saying avoid saw and sit and find new words)

3- Don’t use words that are overused and mundane, be surprising (this list might include words like saw and sit and it changes as the popularity of words changes, this one is a tricky one, but lots of editors are aware of this list, which can remain secret unless you read a lot and see that truly some of the best writers avoid these words like the plague).

4- Don’t use overly predictable plots, provide twist (there are set plots that are frequently used, polyplots, and yet the challenge is to put something extra in and play with the expected).  Some of the most annoying plots might be ‘then I woke up and it was all a dream’  and the romantic plot where the two main protaganists hate each other at the beginning and end up together)

5- Don’t sink into cliche, surprise (again it’s about the unexpected and surprising situation or image, and so love and rose becomes something to avoid it is so over done, but also there are so many crime stories it is becoming harder and harder to avoid cliches, they then start making the characters the unique thing to avoid cliche even whilst working in the set plot (more on this in future posts).  One thing I love with the use of cliche though is humour and a twist, here it begin with the cliche but ends in a different direction.)

With writing that surprises, the twist is never seen,  the plot is keenly anticipated and theorised yet tricky, the image is unique, every word is doing work and there isn’t any  padding and love is raised above the expression of desire and roses;  yet even as we learn and follow these ‘thou shalt not’ rules there has to be something in the story that people recognise and follow that has its origins in the past.

One of the surprises we learnt about when I was studying modern fiction was the rise of the ‘unreliable narrator,’  where the character narrating a story is lying to you, and yet you don’t realise it until almost the end of the story.  At the time this began being employed as a technique it was surprising, and yet now it can be cliched as people took up the trend and employed it in their writing.

Memoir has always fascinated me because we have come to expect the author to be as reliable as possible, even as they write from a slanted perspective, and yet there are now some highly publicised memoirs, that have turned out to be mostly fictions.  If only they had been written as fictions their authors would not be being sued by publishing companies, but the catch is that these authors have sought the authenticity mantle as a selling point for their work and cheated the public reading it for that element.

The challenge for  contemporary writers, is perhaps how can we keep it surprising when so many have come before us and set up patterns.  This then is the role of the imagination and pushing ourselves with our craft.

Who are the contemporary writers who most impress you with how they do any of the above?

Quest for brilliant first lines and strong openings


Standing on the muse’s dune, I want to hook the best first line ever.

Don’t you long to say that about the first line you wrote to a short story or a poem?  If not you might want to say that about the best line you delivered to someone you had a crush on and wanted to impress.  I think first lines can be in danger of entering cliche territory if one tries too hard.

Yet, despite this danger, a thought provoking video viewed this morning has me looking at the first lines of my short stories, and memoirs with a hypercritical eye.

This week I’m going to search for these as if  questing for best friends when I was ten ( I imagined one next door who came to her window and called out goodnight to me every night as if she was my sister from the Waltons and was into reading Swallows and Amazons and Famous Five),  along with the usual writing tips of look out for ditching cliches and making sure to show not tell.

I have to be careful though, because having this goal for that brilliant one line, and being too hypercritical  about it, might cause a complete shut down in my writing.

Normally I like to write without censoring, and see where a story takes me.  I follow my fictional or non-fictional nose.   Then I begin to polish.  Free writing is liberating and stops a blocking of the creative flow.  It can be enlivened by paying attention to all the senses, or concentrating on one or two.

I have come to enjoy editing and polishing, especially when it’s not attached to read ink and marks, but attached to an improvement in telling a story.  Looming though is the desire to have work that will be worthy of publishers, editors and the all important reader.

Although the last year or so, particularly for 300- 500 word beats, I find beginning well is empowering for telling the rest of the story.  When I am in this state I write as if it’s a haiku  reading in one breath and suddenly 500 words are strung together just the way I want.  I wish I could do that in longer and longer beats.  Is it possible to write without always needing to redraft and polish, polish, polish.

I begin my quest by writing a 100 first liners and will then make a selection from them as story triggers to write other pieces.

What is your favourite first line ever?  How much attention do you pay to your openings?


(c) June Perkins