Category Archives: Competition

Happening today!

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You won’t want to miss this! 

Vic x

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Guest Post: Sarah Dobbs on the University of Sunderland Short Story Award

Today I welcome Sarah Dobbs to tell us all about this year’s University of Sunderland short story award. As Sarah says, entries are welcome from all over the world so even if you don’t live in the North East, you can still enter. 
Good luck!
Vic x
Many thanks for hosting us! The University of Sunderland in Association with Waterstones Short Story Award is now in its third year. We have four categories: Adult, 11-17 and Regional (adults and 11-17). The winners in each category receive cash prizes of £300. All shortlisted entries are collected in an anthology by our publishers, Bandit Fiction.
For the 2019 competition, we have promoted a distinct regional category as the prize has always hoped to nurture and support talent in our area. Entrants to the regional category may live, work or study within Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne and Wear. You can enter both the Adult and Regional category, or just one. We also enjoy working with promising young writers after the competition in an aim to nurture talent.

There is no theme, but there is a word count of 2500 for the Adults and Regional categories and 1500 for the 11-17. Stories don’t have to reach the maximum word count however and we enjoy surprising, experimental and hybrid work, as well as a ‘traditionally’ well-crafted story.

Entry fees are £5 for each category, except 11-17, which is free and we welcome entries regardless of where you live, in previous years we’ve had a fair amount of international entries.

In the past we’ve been fortunate to have been supported by judges who are literary agents and publishers, last year we welcomed Professor Ailsa Cox, the world’s first professor in short fiction and this year we’re delighted to have Dr Guy Mankowski, author of An Honest Deceit and recipient of an Arts Council Award to research his novel Letters to Yelena. Guy is also a lecturer at Newcastle University and runs the arts and spoken word night, New Art Social, at Ernest. Nicholas Royle is also on this year’s judging panel.
Entries open on the 17th December 2018 and close on the 1st July 2019. Further details and links to the entry form are on and it’s worth taking advantage of the fact you can download the 2018 anthology for free.
We look forward to reading your stories!

**The Ice Swimmer Blog Tour** #giveaway

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The Oslo Detectives are back in another slice of gripping, dark Nordic Noir…

When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.

With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.

Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, ‘The Ice Swimmer‘ is the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by Kjell Ola Dahl, the godfather of Nordic Noir.

The Ice Swimmer AW.indd

To celebrate the publication of ‘The Ice Swimmer‘ I’m delighted to be able to offer two sets of ‘Faithless‘ and ‘The Ice Swimmer‘ by Kjell Ola Dahl to give away thanks to Orenda Books. 

To be in with a chance of winning these brilliant books, please leave a comment to enter – preferably with a swimming-related story or memory. This competition is open until Sunday, 22nd April, 2018 at midday.


Happy World Book Night!


Good evening folks, happy World Book Night. For the second year running, I have been chosen to be a “giver” so I have several copies of ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry to pass on.

Here’s a bit more info about World Book Night:

“The more I read the more I fought against the assumption that literature is for the minority – of a particular education or class. Books were my birthright too.” Jeanette Winterson, ‘Why be happy when you could be normal?’

UNESCO defines literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”

It is widely acknowledged that reading for pleasure improves literacy directly by actively engaging emerging readers in the desire to read.

In the UK over half of adults of working age (56%) have literacy skills below the level of a good GCSE, 40% of these are at Level 1 (similar to a D-G in GCSE English), the government set standard for literacy, and 16% at or below the level expected of an 11-year-old. In teens, literacy levels have been steadily rising as a result of the National Literacy Strategy but directly alongside this, reading for pleasure has begun to decline. Surveys report that between a third and half of the UK population don’t regularly read, see reading as a chore and aren’t interested in or see the value of reading. Many regular readers take it for granted that everyone has had the same opportunity they have – to have been introduced to reading by someone passionate about and to have had the opportunity to develop that passion themselves.

Reading changes lives, improves employability, social interaction, enfranchisement and can have an effect on mental health and happiness.

Through its unique delivery World Book Night involves tens of thousands of people in sharing the value of reading in their communities and delivers brilliant books directly into the hands of those who might never otherwise engage with books and reading.

As a trainee teacher and writer, I am very aware of the power of the written word and that is why World Book Night is one of the most important dates in my calendar each year. The idea that giving someone a compelling book could change their life so fundamentally makes me want to do this every day of the year. 

If you know someone who is not “a natural reader” or “a bookworm”, leave a comment on this post or Tweet me @vpeanuts and I’ll happily share one of my WBN books in the hope of changing their mind. 

Last year I gave ‘Someone Like You‘, a collection of short stories by my favourite author Roald Dahl. The guest post that will follow this one explains how that book made the difference to one young man’s life. 

Vic x

Prize Winning News

Me with Mari Hannah who presented me with the award.

Me with Mari Hannah who presented me with the award.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from North Tyneside Council advising me that my short story ‘The Piano’ was one of the winners in this year’s ‘Story Tyne’ competition, an annual competition run by the council. The letter explained that, in order to find out which position the story had been ranked, there was an awards evening at Wallsend Library on November 29th.

Myself, The Boy Wonder as well as my parents, my brother and my brother’s girlfriend attended the informal ceremony, where awards were presented to children and then over 16’s. Authors Mari Hannah and Russ Litten presented the awards, with Mari giving a brief synopsis of each story. From what I heard on Thursday evening, there are going to be some major literary stars coming out of North Tyneside in the next couple of decades.

I was convinced, sitting on the back row, that my story would be placed third. And I was happy with that because – out of the hundreds of entries read, mine was in the top three. But the synopsis given by Mari for third place wasn’t my book. And I was astounded to hear that my story’s synopsis was not mentioned for second place. My short story had won this year’s competition!

It was really interesting to hear Mari’s comments regarding the stories, which were anonymously judged by her, and specifically the comments she made about ‘The Piano’. It was so utterly joy-inducing to hear a professional writer praise my work so highly – it made me realise that I must be doing something right!

‘The Piano’ is available in ‘Off The Record 2: At The Movies’. You can download it here: or order the book here:

Vic x


Random Acts of Kindness

So, winter is here. The nights are drawing in, it’s dark, it’s cold, the weather’s miserable and your summer holidays are but a distant memory. People are worried about dieting to squeeze into that Christmas party dress, others are concerned about their bank balance in the run-up to Christmas. Many people are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.


After reading another blog, I had an idea of how we could help each other to get through the winter. Commit to a random act of kindness. It could be one thing that you’re going to do before 2012 is through – like donate some money to a charity. Maybe it’s something you could do on a weekly basis like help out at a soup kitchen. Perhaps you could help a neighbour or a family member with their shopping or their cleaning. If there’s someone you know who lives alone, maybe you could give them a quick call or send a letter, maybe pop in for 10 minutes. You could make someone breakfast in bed, carry someone’s shopping to their car – or anything you fancy; use your imagination!

My pledge is to share a smile at least once a day, even if I don’t feel like it. I honestly believe that a smile can go a long way.

There is a Guinness World Record attempt to get more than 100,000 people to commit to Random Acts of Kindness before the end of 2012. You can register your pledge here:  They won’t bug you with mailing list stuff unless you opt in.

I’d love to hear about your Random Acts of Kindness, what are you going to do or what’s someone done for you that’s made a difference to you?

Vic x

Tune in, drop out.

Tonight, I’m being interviewed on a local radio station. If you’d like to listen, here’s the link:

I should be on at around 10.15 BST.

Vic x