Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Plus Arts Council, BFI and Uncertain Kingdom funding, Big Comedy Conference, Realms of Imagination, and guest cats Archie & Sid.

Hi there,

It’s an absolutely glorious day here in the Home Counties as I write this. I’m continuing my 18-month long campaign to attract more birds to the garden, and have been delighted to see a robin eying up my fat balls. Sadly, only the magpies are regular visitors to the feeder, with the robins, blue tits, great tits and wrens staying in the apple tree and looking wistfully on from the safety of the foliage.

Introducing Grist, a new training program for your imagination

You might have seen my email last week introducing Grist, a different kind of author support and training program for my paying subscribers. Every month, we’ll get together for an hour to talk about topics that will improve your basic authorly skills: observation, feeling both physical sensations and emotions, listening, and intentional reading/watching.

The first session will be held on Monday 27 November at 19:00 GMT, and we’ll spend the hour talking about the ‘emotional wheel’ and Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi’s The Emotion Thesaurus. If you’d like to come along, upgrade to paid and you’ll get an email with the details of how to register when I send the first one out in a few days.

Suw’s news: Would you like to be a beta reader for Tag?

I’m working on the novelisation of the first episode of Tag and am looking for a handful of beta readers who would be available in a few weeks to give it a once over. I’m looking for people who:

  • Know that they’ll have time to read and provide feedback on 10k – 15k words in late November or early December.
  • Like urban fantasy – if you watched Buffy and Highlander when they first came out, this may well be for you.

Although not necessary, you do get bonus points if you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, and extra bonus points if you’re Welsh.

If this sounds like you, reply to this email and let me know! I’m hoping to have finished the first draft towards the end of this month, and will need to get feedback in fairly quickly so that I can make changes and polish it up before the Discoveries deadline on 8 January.

Fiction: Argleton will be in your inboxes on Thursday!

I’m excited to be re-releasing Argleton, the first novella I ever self-published and the first fiction project featured in the first Kickstarter newsletter!

Matt is fascinated by the story of Argleton, the unreal town that appeared on GeoMaps but which doesn’t actually exist. No one, not even GeoMaps, knows how the mistake made its way into the most widely used map in the world.

Matt can’t resist a puzzle so persuades his friend and flatmate Charlie to drive them to the non-existent town. When they are standing on the very spot, at the exact longitude and latitude that defines Argleton, Matt sets in motion a chain of events that will take him places he didn’t know existed… and which perhaps don’t.

There’s a fascinating back story to Argleton. It was originally a copyright trap – a fake town added to a commercial map to catch copyright thieves – used by Google Maps and Google Earth. Although it was removed by 2010, its ghost still exists in Google Maps: if you search for it, you’ll find Argleton Village Hall, Argleton Football Field and even Argleton Heritage Commercial Building.

Inspired to write this story when Argleton was in the news, I launched a Kickstarter project to fund printing and the development of a geogame in May 2010, and produced a number of hand-embroidered silk-covered hardbacks, as well as paperbacks, for my supporters.

Although it’s been on my website for the last 13 years, it’s been a while since I last read it and I am happy to report that it has stood the test of time! If anything, improvements in tech make it more plausible now than it was then.

As with The Gates of Balawat and The Lacemaker, you’ll be able to either read each chapter as it’s released weekly or download the full ebook. The first chapter of this techno-magic realist romp through the English countryside will land in your inboxes at 10:30 GMT on Thursday (if you’re signed up for the Fiction emails – check your settings to see!).

Funding: Arts Council, BFI and Uncertain Kingdom funding schemes

Arts Council

The Arts Council’s Developing Your Creative Practice funding scheme will be opening its doors to applications from 16 November to 14 December, and will be awarding grants of between £2,000 and £12,000. They support a variety of art forms, including literature, although sadly they won’t fund you to just sit and write. Rather, you have to have a plan to develop your audience, skills and activities beyond your writing. They fund approximately 20 per cent of applications in the literature category, and you can only submit twice in four years, so think carefully before you apply.


The British Film Institute’s Early Development Fund is now open to previously producers writers with short film credits who are now in the early stages of development for a debut long-form project. The fund is for “writers who do not yet have the first draft of a script (or equivalent format for immersive work), to produce an initial treatment”.

You can apply, with or without a producer, for a grant of between £3,000 and £5,000, but you must be based in England and not have had a feature film produced and distributed in the UK before. You should also have already written “at least one short film that has been produced” or “if you’re working in other creative media, you’ll need to have made work in television, documentary, theatre, immersive or other art forms”. Read the full eligibility criteria on the BFI website. This scheme is open year round, except for August, when I assume everyone goes on holiday.

Uncertain Kingdom

The Uncertain Kingdom has a scheme for teams making short films on the theme of ‘belief’. Five teams will be given up to £20,000 each to make their short, which will be released “as an anthology by Verve Pictures towards the end of 2024.” Applications open on 1 December and close on 21 December.

Ahead of the application window, Unsolicited Scripts is running a matchmaking program to introduce writers, producers and directors so that they can create teams eligible for funding.

Event: Big Comedy Conference

Early Bird tickets are available now for the British Comedy Guide’s Big Comedy Conference, to be held on Saturday 16 March 2024 in Holborn, London (speakers TBC). I went to this event last year and it was really enjoyable, so will definitely be going again.

Event: British Library Realms of Imagination exhibition

I found out about the British Library’s current Realms of Imagination exhibition too late to get tickets for either of Neil Gaiman’s talks, but did get to see Susan Cooper talking about her fabulous The Dark Is Rising pentalogy, which was a real treat. The exhibition continues until 25 February 2024, and displays notebooks from Gaiman and Ursula le Guin, amongst many other things.

Please do note, however, that the British Library’s website is currently unavailable due to a cyberattack, which means that you can’t currently book online.

Obligatory cat photo

Today’s guest cats are Archie (left) and Sid (right), who were recently looked after by my very good friend, Caroline Ferguson. Archie and Sid captured Caroline’s heart so comprehensively that she wrote an entire post about their different personalities and how their behaviour illustrates their different approaches to the world. It’s a lovely read – do take a look! 

That’s it for now. See you in a couple of weeks!

All the best,



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