Keep On Keeping On

January 16, 2021
Chances are that if you expected 2021 to be better than 2020 you've been disappointed so far. Even if you enjoyed a good Christmas and started the new year as full of good resolutions as ever, the reality of short dark days, dingy weather and lockdowns might have already sapped your motivation. Take heart–you are not alone!
I find it's easier when times are hard to write something factual. Doing research, planning articles and the discipline of writing pitches and presenting facts readably gives me a focus that I can concentrate on. Fiction, I find harder. It requires more imagination, and it's all too easy for thoughts to wander off on other paths, especially if you don't have a deadline.
Ways to regain a sense of purpose are to enter competitions or write for themed anthologies. After the initial rash of pandemic-related themes, thankfully, calls for submissions are now becoming more varied again. These give you something to brainstorm around, a word limit and a deadline. Many offer respectable payment, and it's still possible to find contests that are free to enter–things that are particularly helpful in these straitened times. I've listed a few of them below, and you'll find more complete listings at the following sites.
The Diabolical Plots submission grinder ( is great for keeping up with market changes for all kinds of fiction and poetry. Writing Magazine's site (, Duotrope ( and Submittable ( have useful listings, although many of the publications on Submittable require submission fees. Ralan ( is another good site if speculative fiction is your thing.
Whatever the world brings, I hope you have a great 2021.

Here are a few free competitions to get the brain cells going in the right direction:
* The Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award offers professional rates and a prize package for speculative fiction up to 8,000 words. Closing date: 1st February. Visit to find out more.
* Papatango will once again be looking for unperformed full-length plays for its new writing award, which offers £6,500 and a commission for a follow-up. The closing date is 7th February and further details are at
* The Wergle Flomp competition for humorous poetry at has $2,000 in prizes and closes on 1st April.
* Fix's Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors is for cli-fi stories 3,000-5,000 words and has prizes ranging from $3,000 for first place to $300 for nine finalists. The closing date is 9th April and details are at


A Dickens of a Christmas

December 27, 2020
Christmas rarely lives up to our hopes or expectations, and this year it's likely that it's been further from our wishes than ever. Christmas Day itself is usually quiet for me, but in other years I've had get-togethers with friends and colleagues to remember, and family celebrations to look forward to. In fact, there was a danger that the so-called 'festive' season would not be Christmassy at all.
My recipe for avoiding cabin fever and the seasonal blues is to share a few days with Mr. Charl...
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Excuse Me!

October 18, 2020
I recently enjoyed my annual reread of A Room with a View by E. M. Forster. On this occasion, I found myself strongly sympathising with one of the characters. Lucy? Mr. Emerson? Cecil? No, it was Freddy.
It was the scene where the reader meets him for the first time at the beginning of part two. He was studying a 'small manual of anatomy' and 'From time to time he bounced in his chair and puffed and groaned, for the day was hot and the print small... and his mother, who was writing a letter,...
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Google Discoveries

September 1, 2020
I think I've mentioned before how googling yourself might seem like vanity or procrastination, but that it can throw up some interesting and useful results. In the past, I've discovered that I'd been shortlisted in one competition and actually won another. I've also found a mini-story on someone's website for a hobby related to its theme (origami–'Stone,Scissors, Paper'), and positive reviews of other work.
I'll confess to a little procrastination when I looked last week, but I'm so glad I ...
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Good Out of Bad

August 21, 2020
At the start of the lockdown, poet and playwright Trevor Smith included me in a challenge to write something inspired by the pandemic. There has been a plethora of competitions and special submission invitations on the current situation, and I truly have had little desire to respond. I don't know why. Maybe it's too depressing, maybe it's because it's so ubiquitous that it seems every radio and TV programme or conversation has to include it at least once. But this was a friend throwing down t...
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A Gym-free Work-out

August 6, 2020
Exercise is good for you. I'm not talking about abandoning your office chair or going for the burn, although taking a physical break regularly is undoubtedly wise. The kind of exercise I'm thinking of, is for your writing 'muscles'.
It can be anything from doing a newspaper crossword or wordsearch while enjoying a cuppa, to writing a paragraph about what you can see through your window. There's no need to be stuck for ideas. As long as you have a dictionary, all you need to do is open it at a...
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From Fault to Advantage

July 4, 2020
Last year, I would no doubt have been watching tennis on TV and feeling a little guilty about not writing. From the French Open to the end of Wimbledon, I find it hard to tear myself away. I tell myself the season is short, and it'll have to last me all year, but I still get twinges unless I get a morning's writing in before the matches start. Of course, in England I can usually rely on plenty of rain breaks to catch up with the things I should be doing.
Binge-watching tennis isn't all bunkin...
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Home Travels

June 18, 2020
I should have been in Dubrovnik now. I accepted even before the lockdown that Covid-19 would make it unlikely the holiday would take place, and for the most part it hasn't entered my thoughts. When it has, I've reminded myself that this pandemic has robbed people of far more important things than a few days away. This week, however, I have to admit it's been on my mind.
A dew days in a strange setting, trying to manage in a different language, tasting the local food and enjoying new activitie...
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Take a Different Route

June 4, 2020
Before we were locked-down, you might have traveled along a familiar road, perhaps a daily trek to work or to the supermarket, and not remembered the journey when you arrived. It was probably easy and pleasant and left your mind free to wander, but did you notice anything along the way? If someone was to ask you for directions to somewhere on the route, could you tell them whether it's the second or third turn on the left, opposite the postbox or past the big iron gates? Probably not.
As with...
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How Do You Read?

May 23, 2020
There are different ways of reading. I don't mean whether you do it on the bus or curled up in bed, or whether you start on the last page before flicking to the first, or reading a whole novel in one big chunk. I mean having a different mindset.
I recently discovered that I can have a split personality when I read. The book involved was The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell. It was chosen (pre-lockdown) as a book for discussion with several friends to keep our brains active. Knowi...
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About Me

My writing career began as a freelance feature writer for the local press, businesses and organisations. Now a prize-winning playwright and short story writer, my work has appeared in numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic. I write as K. S. Dearsley because it saves having to keep repeating my forename, and specialise in fantasy and other speculative genres.

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