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Planning to enter our Short Story Competition? Let judge, Vanessa Gebbie inspire you.

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Chalk Circle Member Justine Johnstone points you in the right direction.

We’re a lucky bunch at Chalk Circle and this year we scooped a big win, persuading prize-winning local writer and creative writing teacher Vanessa Gebbie to take on the job of judging our short story competition.

But even better, in this weird summer when so many of us are finding it difficult to write because our schedules are all upside down, our families are at home, or we’re cut off from our usual sources of inspiration, Vanessa has come to the rescue with a weekly writing prompt.

You’ll find them free to access on her blog The Inkwell, on the New Writing South website, and we can promise you they’ll challenge, inspire and shake up your writing in equal measure.

If you’re aiming to win our competition what better preparation than tackling an exercise or three created by the judge herself?

Want more help? Vanessa is the editor of Short Circuit, an indispensable guide to the art of short story writing, with 24 specially commissioned essays from experienced writers and teachers. Each expert discusses their own writing processes, sharing tried and tested writing

exercises and favourite stories.

Vanessa’s own story is also one that should encourage all aspiring writers. Before getting into fiction Vanessa Gebbie - described by Maggie Gee as ‘a prodigiously gifted new writer’- studied French, worked for the Ministry of Defence, in Human Resources and Marketing, and wrote articles about education for local magazines. Somewhere along the line she also managed to squeeze in getting married and raising two sons. Which just goes to show that whatever your background and whenever you get started, whether early in life or later on, nothing is ever wasted in a writing career. All those jobs and experiences, whatever you thought of them at the time, are a great store of stories and characters and settings and ideas, all just waiting for you to use in your fiction. Don’t let anything hold you back – get cracking on your competition entry and circle the deadline (31 August) in your diary right now.

And finally, to see what our judge likes in a story, why not try reading some of her own writing? Here's what others have to say about Words From a Glass Bubble, her most recent short story collection.

Adele Geras “Terrific stuff: wide-ranging, interesting and very well-written.”

Mslexia ‘The stories are riveting…the humour especially enjoyable…’

Sarah Crowley, Brighton Waterstones

‘…contains some of the most beautifully crafted and engrossing stories that one can read…’

Check out Vanessa's website to find out more.

Something for free!

A more recent story from Vanessa, Another Landmass, published on The Forge Literary Journal can be read here:

#writinglife #chalkcircleshortstorycompetition #writingadvice

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