Inevitable Explorations

Inevitable Explorations

(The great adventure continues)


Chris Owen

Arthur C Clarke once famously stated these two propositions clarify the ultimate destiny of the human race:

‘Only two possibilities exist:

Either we are alone in the universe or we are not.

Either way the prospects are terrifying.’

‘We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return. The coming of the rocket brought to an end a million years of isolation. The childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began.’

(Exploration of Space (1952)

Taking these two great epithets to heart, the task of the human race now (the now part meaning with gathering urgency) is to take on the mantle of explorers and to search for our destiny in the only place that would produce another planet should we need it – the universe. The cosmic wheel of destiny is turning as inevitably as the firmament and we must not be left behind in the dust. Even our cradle earth is still a dangerous place that could easily tip into chaos and become instead our tomb as a species.


2017 Robert Graves Prize

The Robert Graves Prize is launched this year as an exciting new collaboration between the Roehampton Poetry Centre and Wimbledon BookFest.It is named for one of the major figures of twentieth century poetry and encourages entries from all around the world. The Prize will be given for the best single poem submitted: multiple entries are encouraged but will be judged separately.

Judges: Fiona Sampson and literary agent, Peter Straus

Prizes: £200 for the winning entry and £100 for two runners up. All three winning entries will be published in POEM magazine.

Deadline: Wednesday 23rd August 2017

To qualify, entries must be original, written in English and unpublished at the time of submission. Each poem must be no longer than 40 lines and should be single-spaced.

Entry Fee: £5.

For more information, click here:

Wrekin Writers – Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition 2017

Hello, can you help us? Wrekin Writers are desperate to receive short stories of up to 1200 words for the 2017 competition. It closes on 10th July so time is running out. At least half the proceeds are donated to the Severn Hospice so every entry will help. If you know anyone who may be tempted to enter please forward on this email to them and also please enter yourself. I have attached the competition rules and entry form. Submissions can be made digitally or by post. There is an open theme. Each entry costs £5 and the prize money for the top three stories will be: £200, £100 and £50 respectively. Winner are announced on the 2nd October.

I hope I’ve tempted you to help us.

Many thanks
Darren Bailey
Wrekin Writers


2017 VS Pritchett Short Story Prize

The Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for previously unpublished short stories is currently accepting entries. There is a prize of £1,000, and the winning entry will be published in Prospect Magazine online and in the RSL Review.

In addition to this, there will be an opportunity for the winner to appear at an RSL event with established short story writer in autumn 2017.

Entrants must be resident in the UK and stories should be 2,000 and 4,000 words in length. Submission fee is £5 per story. More information and entry details can be found here.

The closing date for entries is 14 June 2017.


  • Writers! Enter the £1000 @RSLiterature V.S. Pritchett Prize for unpublished short stories. Deadline 14 June.


  • Enter the £1000 @RSLiterature V.S. Pritchett Prize for unpublished short stories. 2000-4000 words. D/L 14 June.


  • Enter the @RSLiterature V.S. Pritchett Prize for short stories. D/L 14 June. Win £1k & pub in @prospect_uk online

2017 Norwich Writers’ Circle Short Story Competition

The Norwich Writers’ Circle 2017 Open Competition is now open for entries. This is the third year of their competition. This time the theme is ‘Strangers’ and they are offering cash prizes and publication in their next anthology. Full details on attached images and at their website

You will also find hints and tips from their adjudicator currently on the home page at
Closing date for entries is 31st July 2017.

Hatchette’s The Future Bookshelf

Hachette UK is officially launching its new creative writing resource, The Future Bookshelf – . It is a creative writing hub for aspiring writers which aims to demystify publishing and guide users of the website through the process of writing, editing, submitting and publishing.

The Future Bookshelf will also be hosting an Open Submissions period in December 2017. This will be for unpublished, unagented writers of novels and non-fiction, who feel that the industry doesn’t adequately represent people from their background or with their experiences. It is to run from Friday 1st to Friday 8th December 2017.

You can find them on Twitter @FutureBookshelf and use the hashtag #ChangingtheStory

Full press release attached here: The Future Bookshelf press release

2017 Birmingham Literature Festival

For its 20th year, Birmingham Literature Festival welcomes Jess Phillips MP, bestselling novelist Lionel Shriver, poet Inua Ellams, as well as pop-up events and workshops across the city from Friday 21 April – Sunday 23 April 2017.

The full programme can be downloaded here BLF Spring Festival Programme e vesrion for the first ever Spring Edition, to complement the annual October festival- great speakers and workshops plus more events for children, and fun activities including canoeing and cycling!

You can find out more via our website:


2016 Anthology Cover Vote

Yes, it’s back! It’s time to vote for your preferred front cover for the 2016 anthology front cover.

A range of images were identified and these three were selected as the better options for placing text against.

Please view the images below and then make your vote! (Voting closes at 23.59pm on Saturday 18th March 2017, or when I wake up on Sunday morning.)

Option 1. Entrance to Cynghordy retreat (by Diane Perry)


Option 2 – The Cynghordy Viaduct encased in scaffolding (by Simon Whaley)


Option 3 – Cynghordy Viaduct (by Mike White)


Vote closed Sunday morning (19th March). Result:

2017 – 5th Virginia Prize for Fiction

The 5th Virginia Prize for Fiction

Now open for submissions

Aurora Metro, the Twickenham-based arts organisation, is once again searching for the best new fiction by a woman writing in English.  The winner will receive £1,000 and a conditional offer of publication by Aurora Metro Books.

This biennial prize was launched in 2009 as a tribute to Virginia Woolf who published her first novel, The Voyage Out, whilst living in Richmond.  The prize’s founder, publisher Cheryl Robson, hopes that “by naming this prize in Virginia Woolf’s memory we will inspire women to find their voice and contribute to the pantheon of great women writers.”


It’s a Business AND a Craft

Wthe-business-of-writing-vol-1-front-cover-lo-resriting. It takes skill, dedication, determination and lots of ideas to become a writer. It also takes a little business sense too. For getting published is all about meeting a market’s needs, whether that need is from a magazine editor looking to please readers and editors, or a publisher, looking to boost profits and keep the accountants happy. Writing, these days, is a business, even if something you do at the end of a long day at work, once the kids are in bed.

Some of these business aspects are dealt with in my new book, The Business of Writing, which is a collection of my articles, first published in Writing Magazine.


The Dragon and the Sword (Book 4 of The First Sword Chronicles)

The Dragon and the Sword

Christopher Smith has just published his fourth book in his The First Sword Chronicles, which is now available from Amazon here, priced £2.39 in Kindle format.

The synopsis is as follows:

Lonely and friendless, Irithelie has lived her whole life in the hall from which her exalted mother rules the armies and the peoples of the alvenkind. She yearns to show that she is more than a helpless child, and when she and her sisters are despatched across the dark between the worlds on a mission to return the alven people to their homeland it seems her chance may have finally arrived.


But Iri has a secret power, dangerous and unique, and when it is revealed the love and concern of those closest to her may swiftly turn to fear or even hatred.

Meanwhile, the ambitious Summer Phoenix makes her way to Eternal Pantheia just in time to foil an attempt on the life of Princess Romana. Eager for glory and recognition, Summer swiftly joins the new First Sword of the Empire, Michael Callistus, to investigate a series of disappearances on the Imperial frontier, disappearances that may be connected to the assassination attempt…and involve creatures not scene in Pelarius for thousands of years.

The World Serpent comes to claim all crowns, and the army of dragons will devour all worlds that stand before him.


18th Feb 2017 – near Bridgnorth – Ceridwen and the Cauldron of Transformation – A workshop to inspire writers

 *Ceridwen and the Cauldron of Transformation – A workshop to inspire

 *When: Saturday 18th February 2017*

 *Time: 10 am – 4 pm*

 *Where: Morville Village Hall*

In this workshop, run by writer Ruth Cameron, writers will explore the Welsh myth of* Ceridwen and the Cauldron of Transformation*.

Ceridwen, a great sorceress, intends to give her son the gift of wisdom. However, Gwion Bach, the young boy who is set to stir the cauldron accidently spills three drops onto his thumb and licks it off thus acquiring the gift. In fear he runs from Ceridwen and they both go through a series of transformations a she hunts him down, which ultimately results in Gwion transforming into the legendry bard and prophet Taliesin.


Oh Zoe! Picture Book Competition

Oh Zoe! – is a new children’s book publisher looking for titles ahead of our launch in autumn this year.

They’re running the Oh Zoe! Rising Talent Award to find new authors with unpublished work – there is a prize fund of £500 and a range of professional development courses.

The competition runs until the end of March and more details can be found on their website

2017 – Tamworth LitFest Writing Competition

Entries are now open for The Tamworth and District Civic Society and Tamworth Writers Group Tamworth writing competition.

With prizes totalling £310.00, which will hopefully aspire all budding writers  who have not yet been published, to enter. Entries must  be set in and around Tamworth, Staffordshire and a particular building or address.

The closing date for all entries  is Tuesday 31st January 2017. Winners to be announced in April 2017.

For full entry details please click on the writing-competition PDF link.

2017 Hampshire Cultural trust Short Story Competition

Short Story Competition

Taking this Jane Austen quotation as the story title, writers are encouraged to respond in 2017 words or fewer.  Open to writers aged 16 and over, across the world.

“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”

First Prize £1000. Second  Prize £500.  Judges David Constantine and Claire Fuller.  Closing date 28 February 2017.

Hosted by Hampshire Cultural Trust in partnership with Jane Austen’s House Museum to mark Jane Austen 200.

Full details and how to submit stories:

2017 Ware Poets Competition

Ware Poets is running its competition for the 19th year, and we are delighted that Hannah Lowe has agreed to judge the competition. Hannah Lowe’s first poetry collection, Chick, won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection, and she has been named one of the 20 Next Generation poets, as of 2014. Her family memoir is Long Time, No See (Periscope, 2014). Chan, her second poetry collection, is published by Bloodaxe. She lives in London and teaches at Kingston University.

The Ware Poets competition offers cash prizes for the winning poems, including one for the best sonnet, and we publish a competition anthology of prizewinning and shortlisted poems.


Tamworth Writing Competition

Tamworth Literary Festival, in conjunction with The Tamworth and District Civic Society and Tamworth Writers Group, have recently launched a brand new writing competition. Sponsored by Tame Valley Wetlands with total prizes just over £300, the competition is open to everyone.
Pen a short story, maximum 1,500 words, and submit before midnight on January 31st 2017 to be in with a chance of winning. All entries are judged anonymously and winners are to be announced in April. A selection of the best entries will be included in an anthology, to be produced later that year and timed to coincide with a walk around the town where any of the entrants can join us to read their entry inside or outside the venue.


2016 Shrewsbury Festival of Literature

NOVEMBER 25th – 27th   2016

Shrewsbury’s inaugural Festival of Literature kicks off at the end of November and we have something for everyone.  Festival Patron Jonathan Coe will be in conversation with Paul McVeigh on the opening night (Friday 25th November) and the weekend will finish with the wonderful John Agard (on Sunday 27th) performing his one-man verse play “Roll Over Atlantic”.  Both these events will take place in the beautiful Blackburn Chapel and Theatre in Prestefelde School, London Road and the venue will also play host to best-selling author Louise Doughty on the Saturday night.

Full details of the programmes are available on the website and tickets may be purchased online or through Pengwern Books, Fish Street, Shrewsbury.  (TEL: 01743 232236)


2017 Bristol Short Story Prize

The 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize is open for entries. The competition is open to all writers around the world
whether published or unpublished, UK or non-UK based, over 16 years of age.

The closing date for entries is midnight (BST) May 3rd 2017. The maximum word limit is 4,000, there is no minimum.
Stories may be on any theme or subject and entry can be made online or by post.
There is an £8.00 entry fee for all stories submitted and entries must be previously unpublished.


2017 Kent and Sussex Open Poetry Competition

The Kent & Sussex Poetry Society OPEN POETRY COMPETITION for 2017 is now accepting entries:

* First Prize: £1000,  2nd: £300,  3rd: £100,  4th: 4 x £50

* Judge: Catherine Smith

* Entry fee: £5 per poem. 3 or more poems: £4 each

* Closing date: 31 January 2017

* Entries to: The Competition Organiser, 13 Ruscombe Close, Tunbridge Wells,              TN4 0SG

* Put name and address on separate sheet – not on poem


* OR ENTER ON-LINE and pay by Paypal


For more details, go to:

Dreamcatcher Magazine looking for Jacqueline Zacharias

Does anyone know Jacqueline Zacharias? She was longlisted in our 2015 Doris Gooderson short story competition, which is why the editor of Dreamcatcher magazine has approached us. He’s trying to get hold of her. She’s sent him some stories and he’d like to use some in an upcoming issue, but he has no contact details for her!

So, if anyone knows Jacqueline Zacharias, please ask her to get in touch with John Gilham, editor of Dreamcatcher magazine ( It’s good news!

2016 DG 1st – Mountains and Pebbles and Sand by Douglas Bruton


 By Douglas Bruton


There are fish bones in the mountains, pressed between the flat prayer-palms of stone, and ammonite shells shiny and ridged, and impressions of things that once swam in the sea caught in rock the colour of seabed-sand. That’s what Edwin’s grandfather told him. He said it was the earth’s story and it was like going back to the first page of a book and starting the story over, always going back.

And Edwin’s grandfather beginning in on a story of when he was a stripped-back boy, telling it like it was a new story even though he’d told it a hundred times over, not leaving out even the smallest detail, the smallest grain of sand.

‘It’s a pebble you want. Pebbles are best.’


2016 DG 2nd – Yesterday’s Pastries by Carole Stone


By Carol Stone


She arrives at Paddington on the District line. Well-worn suede shoes, lace-ups, a shade of blue-grey with a thick flat sole. She is a stranger to this line. From where I sit it’s always the shoes I notice first. The polished city brogues, shiny patent stilettos, athletic sneakers. I’ve seen them all but never shoes quite like hers.

Amidst the rushing bodies she stands on the platform, the map she holds turning this way and that. Beneath the rim of her knitted hat, wisps of caramel hair protrude which float wildly as the air is sucked through the tunnel. Brushing it from her eyes she glances around, confusion on her face. Then my watching eyes meet hers and a smile comes my way, not fearful or sympathetic but the genuine kind not usually reserved for the likes of me. Momentarily I forget myself, forget where and who I am. Then a man rushes by, kicking my feet, sharply returning me to reality. I burrow down into my sleeping bag, hoping she won’t be there when I next brave a peek. Except the suede clad feet are already heading my way. Before long they are beside me.


2016 DG 3rd – Lasting Impression by Jacqueline Cooper


By Jacqueline Cooper


‘He wants you to go to him to sign the divorce papers?  Don’t you dare!’ Sally’s mum sounded outraged at the very idea.  ‘You were at that man’s beck and call for 10 years. Let him come to you if he wants something. In fact let him come here to the house. I’ll get your Aunt Tricia and Aunt Betty round,’ she said grimly.

For a moment Sally pictured her soon-to-be ex-husband walking in to face her mum and the aunts, who’d be sitting in a row on the settee, arms crossed over ample bosoms, ready to lay into him.  The image made her smile but she knew it would never happen.  Greg, her ex, was the biggest wimp going.  He wouldn’t dare face her family. Her mum used to think the sun shone out of him, so once the truth about their marriage finally came out, mum had taken it particularly hard, especially when Sally had to move back in to the family home until she got back on her feet. At thirty years old she’d ended up sleeping in her old bedroom, working two jobs to pay off her half of the debts she hadn’t even known Greg was running up.


‘X’ The Unknown (The Writing Theory)

I must begin with an apology.

I espoused my ‘X’  theory to colleagues at the last meeting without fully formulating my argument.

I also did not explain with enough clarity and detail the reasoning behind my assumptions.

However, if we start at the beginning again here is my theory of a writers reason d’etre in two parts:


Part 1 – First Person Singular

If a mouse sat up and barked would that make him a dog?

If a cat spoke in Mandarin would that make him Chinese?

I would argue creative writing cannot be taught; merely nurtured, encouraged, trained and honed if the talent, knack, gift of story-telling, call it what you will, is innate to the student.

That may sound controversial; even dismissive and elitist but it is not said in malice. It is merely a statement of empirical fact, made by someone with his nose pressed against the literary pane, fighting desperately to get in.

There are a thousand hacks masquerading as journalists in Fleet Street, as we speak. These are paid professionals all, who write all day, every day, for a living. Busily filling up newspaper columns till the cows come home. They produce prodigious reams of prose that’s printed as gospel every day and avidly consumed by their readers.

If all it takes is the ability to string one word to another and use a key-board – why isn’t every single one of them a best-selling author?

Few have that devine spark; that ‘X’ factor that drives writers along to capture and record a thought or feeling with enough emotional drive and creative talent to win the readers attention first and their hearts second.

That’s called building a readership, a fan-base, a career; and it takes time and dedication.


Part 2 – Present Indicative

If ‘X’ is the unknown, that indefinable unique factor within the author, then we should first take mental stock (especially when we feel doubt-ridden or literally stuck for words).

Be honest with yourself and ask these questions:

Who else but you can tell the story in the first place? (If you don’t write it – who will?)

Who else can best inform the reader that there is a story to tell, if not you?

Your unique perspective, which is different to mine or anyone else’s on the planet, qualifies you to write the story. This is true regardless of whether you are writing fact or fiction.

In the highest sense you owe it to your readers (present and future) to tell the story to the best of your ability and as soon as you are ready, without waiting for devine inspiration.

What if Shakespeare had put off writing Hamlet on a Monday; caught the plague on the Tuesday; and was dead by the Friday (that’s how quickly it took people to die)

Would the world be better off culturally? – of course not.

Bubonic plague was rampantly endemic to Britain during most of his lifetime and besides killing al lot of people, particularly in large cities, it frequently shut down many theatres for twelve months at a time; cutting off people’s incomes.

Remember, Shakespeare didn’t think of himself as a genius, just a struggling writer, the same as all of us.

I admit that all of the above is a blatant application of moral-boosting rhetoric for which I make no excuses.

Nevertheless it is also cold, hard, undeniable fact.

If you have ever sat staring at a blank page not knowing what to say or how to say it, take heart.

You are not alone.

© Chris Owen