Category Archives: Success is not about money

Short Journeys

I have talked about short stories before and how important they have been to me on this journey to become ‘real writer’… that makes me think of Pinocchio I want to be a real boy… 

I think, all too often, we tend to overlook the short story form, assuming that the real success and I guess therefore the real creativity and even the real money is to be made from the novel that becomes the bestseller that becomes the Hollywood blockbuster… and so on. But short stories have also been made into movies you know. And besides, not all short stories want to grow up to be movies, do they?

I always talk about how I ‘cut my teeth’ as a writer working on the short form, and how important this was for me in terms of developing my style and honing my craft and I have spurts now of still writing short stories and sending them out. When I did that earlier this year I had three successes and two of those placements has resulted in a publication; one of which is now available to pre-order, I was runner-up! So I thought I would share a short extract of that as a teaser with some links…

Thinking in Circles

In order to understand something, we must exist outside it.
We are all made of numbers.
Aged 13, Size 8 shoes, Form 5, the 14.35.
We are all on a journey to somewhere from somewhere else with
our eyes half-closed.
And sometimes we get stuck.

You are standing there. Head tucked down; reminds me of a
penguin. The strap of your big blue school bag cuts across your blazer
and it’s as if there’s a thread attaching your head to your shoes. Not
shiny new shoes. These are scuffed, end of term Clark’s one-size-too-small
shoes; they didn’t buy new shoes. Because of what happened
over the summer.
It’s the thing – the thing no one will want to talk about – but they
will talk about it. They’ll whisper. They’ll pretend they’re not talking
about it.
People say bad news is always better when it happens to
somebody else but even when it happens to somebody else,
sometimes it’s happening to you.
You shuffle last year’s shoes to the front; to the desk you used
last year. And the year before. And the year before that. Soon they’ll
all come in and sit where they always sit and nobody will ask. But
they’ll all know.

They’ll all know because it was in the Echo. It was in the Echo
over the summer. Shock had filled up the kitchen: a line of uttered
Oh Gods.
In the sound you were sure you heard something break.
Not like a snap. Not like an ornament shattering into a million
pieces. Not like that. And not like the jolt of something stopping
suddenly, because that happens all at once. This was like a slow
unpicking along the seams.
It happened because of what happened over the summer. It
happened to your dad when he went quietly mad and your nan had to
move in.
It was in the Echo. Everyone knows. About the thing – not your
dad going quietly mad, or your nan moving in. About the thing. The
thing that happened over the summer.

The train left London at 14.35. The name on the front said
Southend Victoria…

© Debz Hobbs-Wyatt 2017, With Our Eyes Open, Published by Bausse Books October 15 2017

The book is available now for pre-order as an eBook and a paper version will follow in tine for Christmas! I will share the link again!

With Our Eyes Open

Order me…


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When the self-doubt creeps in…

I was asked how I dealt with doubt. How I dealt with writing something and then thinking it’s pants and wanting to abandon it. What should you do?

Great question from Daniel.

How do we deal with doubt?

Well, self-doubt is another part of process, trust me — and before we start having regular acceptances and even when we do, we all doubt in our ability. We might have friends, writing groups etc.saying this is great but nothing we do finds the work the validation we seek and it’s tough. So there is doubt in a general sense and since rejection is part of process all you can do on that one is to keep writing and keep getting advice — and keep writing. Oh and keep writing. Work through the doubt much as you work through the pain of exercising on top of aches and pains from yesterday’s exercise! It does get easier as you shape up the muscle!

But how about when you are in a project, something like a novel that seems to be going well and then you think — this isn’t working. Start over?

It’s a hard one. I don’t tend to abandon short stories or novels, but I do leave them to rest if they really don’t feel as if they’re working, right now at this time. And often something happens that makes me go back and then usually the distance from it  enables me to see what direction it wants to take. But there are a couple of older short stories I probably won’t go back to. Sometimes you really do have to let go. But if that inner part of you says this is a great premise, worth fighting for, go back and you might be amazed what happens.

The trick is being discerning enough to know something won’t work and time to say bye-bye and knowing when it has that extra something that will get it noticed but either you are not ready to write it or it needs time to settle. And again I truly believe that writer’s instinct will develop the more you write and you will just know. I know I Am Wolf, my feral child novel, has something. I sense it. But I also knew it wasn’t holding together as it should, so when my agent told me what I knew, it proved my instincts were correct. I won’t abandon it, I will allow it to sit and I know when I do come back to it I will find a way to fix it.I just know it is a story that needs to be told. I just need a way to make the reader connect to Amy. She needs time in rehab and then I will go back to her.

Self-doubt has crept in recently with Isle of Pelicans as I still fear the plot isn’t quite there and has challenged me the whole way. So I want to get this draft down (that is always a good feeling) so I can rest it and work on something new now and then come back to it. But I will come back to this one.

What helped me last week deal with doubt was writing a completely new short story that refueled by obsession with writing and it worked. If you haven’t written a short for a while you have this crazy notion you have forgotten how. I know it sounds insane. So now I feel better and the story has been subbed.

Allow stories time to rest and reexamine, but if in doubt write something new. And if it really isn’t working, know when to let go. Nothing is wasted because it’s all part of a long but rewarding process and patience is essential for a writer.

But don’t keep starting one thing and then abandoning it for another or you won’t finish anything. If you get to that stage, take a complete break and don’t write anything for a short time. I don’t tend to do that, but I do know there are times when the words come and the stories work and other times when they don’t. IT’S NORMAL!

Well as normal as life can be for those of us who live inside our own heads!

This is very apt.

Self doubt

Whatever you do — don’t give up!


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The Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2015

Some of you may remember my blog post last year when I had the great honour of being invited to the opening of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, having made the short list in 2013. So I was indeed honoured to be invited once again this year to the opening of the prize. What made it extra special was I asked to bring a friend and they said with pleasure — so I invited the talented Paula Readman. Not only that, I also made  contact with Tracy Fells who was on the short list for the UK/Canada region this year and we all met first, note the selfie below, affectionately titled The Bridge House Anthologists — Tracy and Paula having made it into the next Bridge House collection!

We met at Green Park and partook in a Costa Coffee snack (as you do) — it was the first time I’d met Tracy, but our writing paths have crossed in a virtual sense a few times, so was great to find another kindred spirit. We got to know one another and I was interested to find she had a similar background in science to myself. Tracy is a very successful published short story writer and aspiring novelist so I may ask her to be on my blog soon.

We then walked to the grand and very regal Marlborough House and met with lots of dignitaries — Commonwealth people, agents, publishers, writers, journalists and diplomats. After a short drinks reception, this year we were treated to an interesting discussion by a panel of talented writers including this year’s short story prize winner: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. The other panelists were:

Romesh Gunesekera, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature,originally from Trinidad, author of eight fiction books, novel Reef, short listed in the 1994 Booker Prize and Chair of the  2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Leila Aboulela, Sudanese novelist awarded the Caine Prize for African writing for The Museum included in her short story collection Coloured Lights.

Kei Miller, Jamaican poet, novelist and essayist, his collection of short stories Fear of Stones, shortlised in the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. He also won the 2014 Bocas Prize for Caribbean literature.

The winner of the 2014 short story prize, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist, short story writer and poet with a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and her doctoral novel The Kingu Saga won the Kwani Manuscript project in 2014. Jennifer teaches creative writing at Lancaster.

The panel hosted a discussion called: No Laughing Matter: Conflict and Humour — is there a line?

I will blog more about this at some point and open the discussion to all of you as I think, having read a lot of short stories in my work, there is a tendency in short stories for the deep, the tragic and the sad  and I know with Bridge House, when stories are able to use humour, pathos, it’s a great device. So the discussion looked at the role of humour in even the darkest tales. How does humour translate across the countries of the Commonwealth? While not covered per se, what aspects of humour do cross borders? Is there a universal humour? Are there lines we can’t cross — perhaps as Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi suggested it’s okay to laugh at ourselves and our own culture, but what about other people and other cultures? What about conflict and how do many of these countries where conflict is part of life, create a need for humour, a way of coping?

I know the stories of mine that seem to have the greatest success are those where I use humour and sadness alongside — pathos. You only have to look at the story that won the Bath Short Story Award Learning to Fly to see how I took a family’s grief and used humour to show how even in the darkest moments there can be light.

Tracy and I talked about our short Commonwealth stories after the event, noting that not only did both reveal something about life in Britain, both had elements of humour woven into the fabric, as did the winning story. That does not mean jokes, but use of voice and events even when the essence of the story has sadness. I do this all the time and not necessarily by conscious choice. I happen to think creating believable well drawn authentic characters calls for humour and the ability to laugh at situations, even ourselves. Tracy tells me her story also had elements of magical realism as well as humour and she didn’t expect it to do so well. Same with my story Chutney, never thought it stood a chance! It’s about unlikely friendships formed on an allotment in East London. There is a sadness there, one being a Holocaust survivor, but there is a lot of humour between the characters.

So if you’re thinking of entering this year — I would bear that in mind! Here’s the link and it’s FREE!


Also some great news that I hope happens, as I had a lovely long chat with Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, asking the pertinent question of whether she ‘did the dance’ when she found out she’d won, what did she say? Of course she did! I asked if she would be a guest on my blog and she said yes! So watch this space!

What is lovely for me is being part of the Commonwealth family like this and I feel highly honoured. It was great to see some familiar faces from last year, including the intern Joe who now has a full-time job with the Commonwealth Foundation AND is a great writer as I looked at some of his work for him last year. The new intern, Jake was lovely too. I also got to meet some of the writers I met last year and friend, also an agent and publisher, Unthank Books’s Robin Jones.

It was a great evening and I say a HUGE thank you for the invite.

While last year I posted some photos of Marlborough House from a website, grandeur in abundance, this year — the selfie!

Have a great day everyone and remember my talk at the Rochester Lit festival in 2 weeks’ time! Got your copy of my novel yet? Bought your tickets for this event? Go on, treat yourself!

Don't forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!

Don’t forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!  BUY

Got yours yet?

Got yours yet? BUY ME

The Bridge House Anthologist and so much more…

The BHP Anthologists


Tracy Fells (UK/Canada shortlistee 2014), Paula Readman (winner Harrogate Crime Short Story 2012) and of course Debz  (UK/Canada shortlistee 2013)

Don’t mess with these guys! Look at those plotting faces… pause for evil laugh



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Being Well Known Enough…

As a newly published debut novelist (albeit after several publishing successes with short stories), published by a respectable, but never the less small press, and even those published by the bigger presses, we all have to get our work and our name our there and that means a lot of doing it yourself. The sad fact is, even authors with agents and big publishers are often confined to the mid lists. They might have a good following and write full-time, but being a household name is something more elusive.

Talking to a successful novelist friend last night who is writing full-time and doing very well with his self-published crime series (he did have an agent for a while) a lot of his success is measured a lot in how much time he can give over to marketing. In fact he now pays for someone to do that for him. So how much of getting known comes from how much time and money can be invested in getting your name out there? And how much is purely based on the quality of the books?

I would like to be able to say how talent speaks for itself, and if you write well it doesn’t matter, but you can’t find fans if they don’t know you exist — right? He is a good writer by the way, but his background in marketing and business also helps!

I don’t write for fame or money but I do write for success, measured in how many people read and appreciate my work. I, like all writers, still have much to learn, but have also learned so much on this journey so far. While I don’t seek fame I do hope my work is recognised and awarded even and for that I will strive to always write the best I am capable of. And to do what I love doing every day is indeed an honour for which I am profoundly grateful — every single day. TRULY.

But even when you don’t seek fame as such, for your books but not you, maybe, it still involves a lot of self-promotion and contacting bookshops to arrange signings etc. In fact one of the large bookshop chains would not have me in one of their bigger flagship stores because I am not well known enough. I did so want to say a rude thing to that. Like weren’t all the successful authors once unknown? I guess I know which stores to decline when I am well known enough to draw a crowd. Flippancy aside, they have their reasons, they might just learn how to express themselves with a little more tact if they want an ongoing relationship with those they turned down who might just be the next BIG THING.

Luckily many stores have said yes and I will be signing, even if as the debut unknown I have to hand out bookmarks and smile a lot to get noticed. But I love it! I do. I love everything about this writerly life of mine. And while I wish I could afford to pay someone to market me more and get While No One Was Watching to a larger audience, I also have to focus on the writing and believe in that.

While it might be naive to hope if you write well you will get noticed anyway, there will always be a little naivety, like there has always been — that I will win big awards for my novels, that movies will be made … the same touch of naivety that got me this far — so I think I will hold onto it.

Dreamers Never Disappear. So don’t you.

Believe 2




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Getting into Character

I find myself this week back in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco and then climbing the dizzying heights of Pacific Heights and down to Pier 39. Contrasting neighbourhoods. No I have not jetted off to the states again (more’s the pity) but am back in the minds of Frank and Richard in the next novel. It’s already had a fair polish but needs some overhauling and the ending is in my head but not on a page. So here I am back there. What these characters are telling me is I know Frank’s voice really well (ex con, hard but soft) and Rich is more of a challenge as he is a bit of a bumbling prof recovering from a mental breakdown.

So for me to be suddenly back with these guys feels like a real treat. I have done a lot of work on this one but now I think it’s time to get to sorted. It’s pacey and psychological this one, darker too.

Because I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, one in particular on a fact-finding mission for this book, I feel more comfortable than perhaps I Am Wolf where I have never been to Alaska or Moscow. One of things we did in San Francisco five years ago (see I said I had been working on this for a while) was walk in Golden Gate Park, ride the amazing carousel that is in the novel and wonder where a body might be found near the carousel. Yep really. But what you can’t capture from Google earth are smells and the feel of the place. So I also had my notebook and asked what scents I could pick up on — get a feel for the place in the early morning. What I love about San Francisco is the fog, very atmospheric, right?

So I must leave you now to get back into character. While Frank has his issues — and so does Rich although I think your sympathies are with him from the get-go, Frank is the likeable rogue  and so I hope all of that comes across. Well — I will have to make sure it does. Being a writer is like being a character actor.



Have a great Wednesday, y’all!

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Promo day!

Hi everyone, sorry to do the old promo thing but my novel was selected for a gold star promotion on Amazon Kindle in the UK which means for today only it’s back to 99p on Kindle!

So if you don’t have it or if you do but can help promote it please do share this page!

Part of being an author also means doing this hence there will be lots of tweets and Facebook posts today (sorry). I do get a bit fed up when all anyone tweets are buy my book, but this is usually more something I do when there’s a promotion — and that is today!

Please share far and wide! Thank you so much!

Off to Essex later so no post now until next week. On Monday I see Barry Manilow at the O2 and I might never come back!

But at least I have a legacy … this book! Wonder if Barry would like a copy?


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Shiny happy thoughts

Well it was about this time last year Parthian first showed an interest in my novel, a phone call on an answer machine asking if it was still available …  and so started the year with great hopes that did not disappoint. It just got better!

This year I just heard they are ready to do a second print run of the book. Small presses do small runs so we’re not talking thousands but it does mean it is selling, and slowly getting out there.

I believe we’ve had over a thousand downloads too so it is certainly reaching beyond my sphere of friends which is what you want. Small steps and all of that. I am realistic but also an eternal optimist, bestseller, come on!

I just know 2014 will be an amazing year.

For those who missed it, here’s the interview I did over on Laura Wilkinson’s blog just after Christmas. She is also enjoying great success with two novels out this year, her sequel to All of Me her saucy fiction and also her serious novel so I will have her talking about that over here when the serious one comes out!

My Blog Hop

Have a great weekend and hope everyone was okay in the storms — stay safe and keep pets in and safe too.

And my eBook is still 99p so get it now! While you can!!!

And it is ...

Oh yes …

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