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Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Uncategorized

Our Flash Fiction Judge

We’re pleased to announce that Jocelyn Simms is one again our Flash Fiction Competition judge.

A message from Jocelyn, from her home in Deux-Sevres….

A busy time just recently processing entries for the Segora Writing Competitions (which we’ve run since 2007). A record 21 countries are represented this year. It’s an exciting time wondering what the judges will choose.

This brings me to my Summertime Task. The judging of Earlyworks Press Flash Fiction Contest. It’s a fascinating but rigorous duty to judge the entries of a writing competition. As I enter lots of competitions myself, I know the dedication it takes to refine one’s work to a standard, then the nervousness of sending it off into the ethers. Have I followed the procedure correctly? Did I Pay? Did I send the right version? Then follows the seemingly endless wait for the results, to be followed by delirious exultation or disappointment. There is nothing like winning, but comfort yourself that the rejected piece is now ready to go elsewhere, and with the reminder that there is inevitably a certain degree of subjectivity in the final phase.

I first became aware of Earlyworks Press 100 words flash fiction challenge when I was published in This is a book about Alice, 2012. What I really like about these anthologies is the quality both of the contents and the publication, including their terrific covers and intriguing titles!

Currently I am working on a ‘coalescence’ of personal journals and don’t know where that will take me. Also on a project researching Georges Simenon who lived here during the final two years of WW2, in hiding from both the Gestapo and the Free French. During this period he wrote some of his finest romans durs, in which local villages and villagers feature.

It’s a real pleasure to be involved with this forthcoming competition and I look forward to the entries flooding in. Being part of an international writing community means a great deal to me. It’s uplifting and thrilling to know our words matter to one another, across oceans and mountains, that through language we are part of a shared culture which both defines us and grants us freedom of thought.

Now, after these lofty insights, I have a potager to water and my neighbour’s chickens, geese and ducks to feed!

Flash Fiction Competition, closing date 30th August click here for entry details.

Jocelyn Simms is the author of Tickling the Dragon, Hiroshima and after, published by Circaidy Gregory Press

Tickling the Dragon by Jocelyn Simms - cover pic
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Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Poetry Uncategorized

Poetry deadline extended

We have decided to extend this year’s Earlyworks Press poetry comp because – being locked down, your editor (that’s me) has not managed to put the work in to publicise it. In short, we need some more entries, so please spread the word!

The Poetry Competition is open for entries until the end of JULY.

Click here for entry details.

It can be any kind of poem, on any topic, and if your poetry has been flowing well of late, you can enter six poems for a fee of £20.

Prizes

The first prize is £100, the runner up prize £30 and with luck, there’ll be further runner up prizes. We’ll publish the best ones on the website if the authors wish it, and we’ll offer those authors publication in our next print anthology if/when the press is properly in action again – probably early next year.

We’re also offering a selection of poetry books to the shortlisted authors – a copy of comp judge Mandy Pannett’s Wulf Enigma for the top three, and a selection of our anthologies and/or Circaidy Gregory poetry titles for everyone shortlisted.

Our poetry judge

Mandy Pannett lives in West Sussex where she works freelance as a creative writing tutor. She is the author of four poetry collections: Bee Purple and Frost Hollow (Oversteps Books) All the Invisibles (Sentinel Poetry Movement) Jongleur in the Courtyard (Indigo Dreams Press) and Ladders of Glass ( a pamphlet of poems with English and Romanian parallel texts. (Integral Contemporary Literature Press).

She is also the author of two novellas: The Onion Stone (Pewter Rose Press) and the recent publication The Wulf Enigma (Circaidy Gregory Press). A new poetry collection Crossing the Hinge is due to be published in the autumn 2020 by KFS Press.

Mandy worked for several years as poetry editor for Sentinel Literary Quarterly and has also edited anthologies for SPM Publications including ‘Poems for a Liminal Age’ which was published in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières. She has won or been placed in many national competitions and has been the adjudicator for others.

Here are entry details for all the competitions – please share, and spread the word.

Poetry Competition

Flash Fiction Competition

Short Story Competition

All the best,

Kay Green

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book shops Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Poets – three weeks to go!

Competition Closing Dates

Virus response, climate crisis, for many of us, financial crisis – and now the new, national awareness of racism and other urgent social issues – these are definitely what they call ‘Interesting Times’. I hope all our authors and associates are getting through okay, and I remind you of the one compensation authors have against any kind of crisis –

May it all come out poetry

–  or flash fiction – or stories.

Poets – a call to action

This year’s poetry comp closes in three weeks’ time. Click here for entry details, and get ready to send your poems…

Poetry comp closing June 30th

Fiction authors have a little more writing time left…

Flash Fiction comp closing August 30th

Short Story comp closing October 31st

Don’t forget, we have two categories for the short stories – up to 4000 and up to 8000 words.

More prizes

It’s not clear whether we’ll be in a position to produce a paper anthology this time around, due to all the consequences of lock-down. If we don’t, the money not spent on the printer will mean more runner-up prizes for the comps.

Helping hand

We’d be grateful for any help spreading the news about our comps and books. It’s simply not been possible to run events or visit bookshops and libraries so far this year so, if you have social media accounts, or are a member of any online writing groups, please could you retweet/share this blog, and/or pass on this link to the Competitions Newsletter sign-up?

All the best – keep safe, keep well, and do keep writing!

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Book reviews Poetry Uncategorized women

Farewell to Caron Freeborn

A tribute by Mandy Pannett

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Words from before the world went quiet

Here comes the new anthology!

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Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Earlyworks Press 2019 short story winners

Here are the results of the Earlyworks Press £200 short story competition.

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Book reviews economics Hastings Politics Uncategorized

Can we spaff some more money up the wall, please?

I’d forgotten, after the blandly destructive Cameron days and the robotically dysfunctional May days, just how it feels to be viscerally repulsed by one’s Prime Minister.

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Of Migrants and Distressed Gentlefolk

Holiday Reads aren’t always big fat novels. These are the books that grabbed me in Buxton bookshops, on my holidays this year…

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Book reviews book shops Poetry Uncategorized

Tickling the Dragon – bilingual fest, photos and reviews

Joc Simms’ book brought together some never-before seen photos of the soldier-victims of nuclear tests, some very personal histories and her breath-taking poetry about nuclear tests and warfare. Here are some of the events and some of the reactions…

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Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

2019 Flash Fiction Comp Results

[Report by Jocelyn Simms]  I’ve been reading and re-reading aloud the entries for some months and have discovered a feeling of ‘in-dwelling’ with the ones that somehow, I couldn’t eschew. They were veritable ‘cling-ons’ and became internalised in my psyche.

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Book reviews book shops Corbyn Election Labour media Politics prejudice Uncategorized

DON’T BUY THIS BOOK! DON’T GO TO THAT MEETING! DON’T LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE!

There are so many people trying to use bullying and false accusations as political tools lately that when I heard Waterstones had backed out of a book launch during Labour Party conference, I went straight to my local indie bookshop and ordered it.

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Book reviews Hastings Politics Uncategorized women

Afghanistan is talking to Hastings

180 years of conflict and misery, and no end in sight.

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Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press Uncategorized

Read old books, write new stories

A people who might endure: a people who might find their way back to living lightly, living innocently…

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Book reviews book shops economics Election Hastings Labour Politics Privatisation Uncategorized

All Good Things Come in Cycles

Or – how to pay for Basic Income

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Book reviews Uncategorized

Quick! Read this book!

Sometimes, someone manages to release just the right book at just the right moment. This is it.

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Book reviews Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

2019 Poetry competition results

The results of the 2019 Earlyworks Press poetry comp which closed on June 30th are as follows…

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activism Book reviews Corbyn Labour media Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

We are racist, we are sexist, we are classist – really we are

I’m looking around social media at so many of the new intake in Labour in the last years, venting their rage and frustration at being labelled anti-semitic.

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activism Book reviews Hastings Poetry Uncategorized

Socialism with Pepper

“Penny Pepper’s work is a virtuoso display of invention, wit, and courage.” – it wasn’t me who said that, it was Dame Margaret Drabble.

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Uncategorized

Joyous return to the Calder

Eight years ago, Earlyworks Press was at the Calder Theatre and Bookshop, launching our annual short story comp winners’ collection called, that year, Ways of Falling.

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book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Uncategorized young fiction

Who loves Timothy’s Gate?

It’s not for scaredy-cats!

I think people of 9+ would like it more. It was slow going at first, but became very gripping. Tim seemed like he could belong in the real world. I could imagine people being like him, and whenever I look at a closed gate I do think of the story. It was a happy ending, but please write a sequel because I really want to find out what happens next.

I think that in the sequel, Tim and Angela would meet in America and would explore the new Door that is going to form.

My favourite bit was when it said ‘Tim lifted the padlock and threw it – straight at Myella’. [Mummy says ‘yes – she keeps reading this passage out to me!’]

There was a typo on page 174, 5th paragraph – it said ‘Tom’, not ‘Tim’ and at first I couldn’t understand why somebody called Tom had suddenly turned up!

By Rowan Savage, age 10

Timothy's Gate cover picA reply from Circaidy Gregory: Thanks Rowan, delighted to hear that you enjoyed the book, and it’s always useful to know which age-groups like a book best. (Rowan’s research also told us that the book works for guinea pigs, but possibly only in combination with dandelion leaves) and I promise we’ll sort out the typo before re-printing.

Author Sue Hoffmann has promised to give some thought to the idea of a sequel.

By the by, here’s something we came across on the beach the other day that made us wonder…

 

A mysterious gate on the beach

More about Timothy’s Gate, and how to buy your copy, at Circaidy Gregory

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Poetry Uncategorized

Launching a hyperbolic plane

First, find a poet who’s on top of her craft, who is researching something compelling that’s been lost in time and change, where the emerging questions are serious and joy-filled, and the answers birth ever more questions…

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Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Poetry Politics Uncategorized

Tickling the Dragon

Exclusive – never-before-published photos and messages from Christmas Island.

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Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Uncategorized

You’ve never read anything like this before

Poet, editor and tutor Mandy Pannett is the judge for the Earlyworks Press 2019 Poetry Competition. In this guest post, she tells the story of her latest work, The Wulf Enigma:

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Basic Truths About Basic Income

The UK is one of the top half dozen richest countries in the world. I feel lucky to have been born here. For most of my life, we all knew no-one in the UK could possibly fall destitute and starve. We still know – just about – that we could, given the will, secure everyone’s basic needs.

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Book reviews prejudice Uncategorized women

50 shades of grey matter

Professor Gina Rippon, a neuroscientist, has written a book called The Gendered Brain. I’m currently very pre-occupied with what people believe about sex and gender, and my partner’s very interested in neuroscience so of course we went along to Rippon’s talk at Conway Hall.

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Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Uncategorized

Timothy’s Gate

A magic, hidden world just for you, just when you need it, what could go wrong?

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Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Uncategorized

The past is a dangerous country – guest post by S. P. Moss

Ripping Yarns

I’d always longed to write a book like those I grew up with. However, the ripping yarns of yesteryear don’t always bear close examination against the more enlightened values of the 21st century.

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Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Short stories Uncategorized

What’s in a name?

Why is Earlyworks Press called Earlyworks Press? And why isn’t it Early Works or anything else that’s similar to but not Earlyworks Press, and anyway, what’s it for?

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Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press Hastings Poetry Uncategorized

The 100-word Live Challenge

Thank you, Printed Matter Bookshop for hosting the Records, Rivers and Rats 100 word challenge. Thank you, Andrew, Paula, Zarir, Brian, Howard and Felicity for the readings. The 100 word challenge was won by Howard Coyler.

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Book reviews Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Trigger warnings all round!

Editor left speechless by competition shortlist. Results within…

The shortlist of the 2018 Earlyworks Press short story competition is as follows:

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Book reviews Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

Books are your friends, even when they seem to lead you into trouble

I’ve been having tremendous fun making a meal of the 10-beloved-book round robin on Facebook. I got up to number six, each time giving a bit of a background about how I came to be attached to that particular book at that particular time in my life. It’s really worth unpicking that if you’re a reader, to see if you can uncover where your attitudes and opinions came from.

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Book reviews Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Records, rivers, rats and a 100-word challenge

The 2018 poetry and flash fiction anthology was released on 22nd November, and advance copies have been sent to the authors who’ve been patiently waiting since its expected appearance in September. Fear not! There are copies here to order in time for Christmas.

Records, Rivers and Rats

This year, one of the questions we asked ourselves was – why do we always have all the poems and then all the flash fiction – a more than obviously striking question because we had what I thought was a piece of flash fiction but its author saw as a poem amongst the poetry comp entries, more or less at the same time as I put a poem in our club workshop on which one of our members commented ‘a flash fiction story has mysteriously developed line-breaks’ – so much for my sense of rhythm.

I decided to mix it up in this year’s collection, and leave the reader to decide what is flash fiction and what is a prose poem. I asked for some works of different lengths from the club, and used them to segue the poetry and flash sets together. Here, so readers will know which were the competition winners, are the full shortlists, and here my congratulations, and thanks to all who took part.

The Poetry

In the poetry competition, the £100 first prize went to Christopher M James, the £25 runner up prize to Nadia Saward, and commendations and £5 each to John Baylis Post, Ion Corcos and Rachael Street. The other shortlisted authors were Matthew Adamo, Nicholas Catlin, Brian Charlton, Andria J Cooke, Ion Corcos, Maureen Cullen, Andy Eycott, Carol Frost, Georgia Gardner, R D Gardner, C Gillett, Elizabeth Heddwen Smith, Jack Howard, Rona Laycock, Bill Lythgoe, Abigail Elizabeth Ottley, Alyson Powell-Rees, Derek Sellen, Jocelyn Simms, Ashley Lloyd Smith, Lizzie Smith, Phil Vernon and Catherine Westwell.

Our thanks to Mandy Pannett, who was our final round reader. Here are her comments. On the winner, Pathetic Fallacy by Christopher M James: this poem quickly reached the top of the pile of entries and stayed there. It is perfectly crafted, rich in quality. I love the syntax, the whole tone of it. Memorable lines are immediate: ‘goodbye slouching friend,/soothe my body to the junkyard gate…’, ‘Bystanders who stopped bystanding/when the world emptied of people’, ‘So, I plead/the ontology of objects in an era/of packaging.’ The last stanza, in particular, is stunning.

On the runner up, Underworld by Nadia Saward: this is a chilling but beautiful journey poem – a journey to oneself or to an afterlife, whatever that may or not be. There are expectations here but one by one they are negated – the waterfall which is seen as a portal becomes a shroud, on the other side there is only ‘the dark and the cave.’ There is no greeting, no welcome, no voices, no company, ‘No moon, no stars. There was no light.’ The narrator is isolated in a realm of silence. Memories offer no consolation. The sun ‘is only a word.’ This is a terrific poem albeit grim and tragic.

On Guillemots by John Baylis Post: there is a broken relationship here, the pain of it staved off by the ‘lingering recall’ of memories and a clever, linguistic game identifying metaphors. Neither work. In the last line the narrator confronts the reality: ‘I miss your voice.’ I love the central metaphor of the guillemots ‘allopreening’ – a loving act now missing in the narrator’s own life.

On A Stone in My Shoe by Ion Corcos: here are connections and repetitions – an orange tree, water, a river, a mountain, earth, stone and the idea of home. In the end the links grow old, creak, turn to scars. This is a subtle hard-hitting poem that ends with an outstanding couplet: ‘an iceberg sinks into the winter sea/only a polar bear afloat in the dark’. On Oedipus by John Baylis Post: The opening of this poem caught my interest at once: ‘Jocasta puked.’ A few lines later ‘palace kittens, necks in gold torques,/lapped at the vomit.’ A strong narrative poem with a great depiction of character, setting and mood.

On Records by Rachael Street: there are many depths, here not only the layers of the artist’s ‘vision’ which merge and blend. I love the language of the whole poem, the way it begins ‘Consider this:’, the descriptions of shifting light, the movement of the pencil ‘almost engrained/In muscle memory.’ Beautiful writing.

The Flash Fiction

The winner of the £100-for-100-words Earlyworks Press Flash Fiction Competition 2018 was Jim Bowen. The shortlisted authors were Paula Balfe, Cecile Bol, Tom Bowen, Lorraine Cooke, John Holland, Barbara Lorna Hudson, Andrew Irvine, Taria Karillion, Gordon Massey, Mandy Pannett, Anoosh Falak Rafat, Kate Twitchin, Alison Woodhouse and Faye Wynter.

The variety in tone and content of the entries was enormous. As ever with the flash comps, we used several judges, who then struggled to work out how you rate the serious against the comic, the gently poetic offering against the raw, stirring shout-out, and how to rate quality of content versus style and craft. What is needed now is emotional agility from the reader, to change gear in time to appreciate the mix.

How did we finally choose the winner? Once we had a set of twenty or so pieces that held the judges’ interest in one way or another and a few firm favourites picked out, we asked the famous last-ditch question. Which image, idea or feeling is going to stick in your mind the longest? The answer was – the guilty fever that rises, as you grip the wheel with one hand and grope around desperately for…

…anyway, no spoilers. There are some excellent narrative poems in the poetry shortlist and some pieces packed with rhythm and philosophy in the flash fiction shortlist. In both sets, some were satisfyingly short and to the point, others a happy meander, some as serious as serious can get, others decidedly tongue-in-cheek – so – you decide which is which. Congratulations all, and thanks for taking part. I hope you enjoy the collection.

Start work now on next year’s entries…

There will be new competitions on the website soon, and we’ll be choosing the works featured in next year’s anthologies from there so if you haven’t done so already, please start planning your entries!

In the meantime, please sign up for our newsletter if you’d like to have timely updates of goings on at Earlyworks Press and if you’re anywhere near Hastings, why not sign up to do a reading in our 100-word challenge night at Printed Matter, Queens Road, Hastings. Click here for event details.

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Sexuality and Synchronicity in Salop

Having spent over a year thrashing around in the gender wars and a weekend of glorious feminist goings on at Filia 2018, I suppose it’s not surprising that Human Aggression grabbed my eye on a book stall when I finally got myself off on holiday but Storr’s book did present me with A Big Surprise.

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Uncategorized

Pleasant distractions

As Shaun Bythell of Wigtown Bookshop demonstrates in the pages of his diary, people who depend on book sales for a living in the 21st century tend to have a definite Black Books air about them, especially when austerity bites – but Booka doesn’t.

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Book reviews Poetry Uncategorized

How to Win at King’s Cross

I was deep, deep underground. The walls were red, the walls were black, the walls were packed with posters. The room was hot and packed with us. We listened to a man who was far, far away, stamping as he declaimed from behind his would-be Teutonic beard.

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Book reviews economics Politics

An Exciting, Revolutionary, Comprehensible Book about Economics

In 1543, Copernicus drew a new diagram of the sun and the planets. As we all probably learned at school, his world immediately fell apart and he went in fear of his life.

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Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Short stories

Stunningly Unexpected Twits

Fasten your seatbelts – we are moving through a patch of turbulence. I had thought it was just me, getting more involved in politics than is good for a person, but when I looked at the lead stories our readers had placed in the final round of our latest competition, and started mentally writing the blurb for the back cover of the anthology, I realised extreme turbulence is on everyone’s mind.

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If you didn’t get your fingers in the sparkle jar right away…

I’m so pleased that for the rest of my life there’s an extra element to the experience of listening to bird song. I can work on how the notes of a thrush might sound like the smell of cold tea with no sugar….

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Book reviews book shops

Bookshops of the Borders

We never pass by an indie bookshop if we can help it but, on arriving in Carlisle last Friday evening on the way to the border, we were actually stopped in the street outside Bookends and directed down a side-alley where this particular shop has a books-and-events cafe to be proud of, and where there was a book launch going on.

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Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories

Reader, writer or publisher? two books to help you on your way…

‘If on a winter’s night a traveller’ what?!

Italo Calvino’s epic adventure in perceptions of reading and writing was devoured by book lovers of every variety when it first came out. At least, the first few pages were. If it has a fault (I think it has two actually) it is that the first few pages are so utterly, delightfully entertaining to booklovers it’s worth buying just for those…

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Book reviews Corbyn economics Labour Politics

It’s not the end of the world… or is it?

I put a status update on Facebook expressing my frustration about all these EU experts around me thinking Brexit is a more important issue than all the lives that are falling apart and being lost around us right now.

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Book reviews Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories

Bruce Harris’s Odds Against

One of the things that’s really absorbing about running writing competitions is that you meet and judge works before you know who’s written them, so when I first read a Bruce Harris story during the 2015 competition judging, I didn’t know that was what it was. The story was called ‘Home Movies’, and it’s a brilliantly presented monologue by a teenager who has escaped from A level revision hell and is amusing himself by annoying various friends and relatives by filming them on his phone. We, the readers, get to follow both his inner commentary, and the reactions of those who find themselves being filmed. It’s intricate and utterly absorbing.

And one of the things I particularly enjoy is when two quite different works get put forward to the shortlist and turn out to be by the same author, so it was a real surprise when ‘Roxanne Riding Hood’, a detective-suspense-thriller that creeps up on you via a drag queen going about his/her late night club act business, turned out to be yet another Bruce Harris creation.

journeys_cover

Both stories appear in the resulting Earlyworks Press prizewinners’ anthology, Journeys Beyond. It was some time later that Bruce approached me again to say that he had a big enough collection of prize-winning works to put together a collection of his own – and a very sobering reason for wanting to do so. Let’s leave aside the joy of his range of extremely human, often funny, always well-crafted stories, to consider a very common problem of our day and age – all those long-term, sometimes fatal, debilitating illnesses that don’t quite require permanent hospital care and don’t quite get the kind of home-care that makes life easily manageable for friends and relatives of their victims. When Bruce found himself in the situation of carer for a loved one, he set about looking for ways to improve that situation and his new poetry book Kaleidoscope and the story collection Odds Against which we published as an Earlyworks Press title, are part of that project. In both cases, all Bruce’s earnings from the book are going to the Huntingdon’s Disease Association.

But you don’t have to be in a charitable mood to buy them. Bruce’s poetry and stories Bruce blog revieware, as Booker shortlisted author Wendy Perriman put it, both amusing and uplifting. ‘Odds Against’ offers 15 stories about people doing what they can, in serious and humorous ways, with difficult and sometimes insoluble situations. You will find a young woman, a victim of refugee trafficking, rescuing herself in midnight London, wartime spies trying to adjust to post-war living, restauranteurs trying to survive the horrors of customers, wedding guests exhibiting contrasting takes on a universal situation, ex-lovers manouvering their way to (perhaps) reconciliation a series of consequences of a falling bucket on a building site, and more… all full of the pathos, belly-laughs and heart-wrenching that human life entails.

Bruce_Harris_Odds_Against_coverBuy Kaleidoscope   https://www.artificium.co.uk/buy/Kaleidoscope-p86230028 (Proceeds to the HDA)

Buy Odds Against     http://www.circaidygregory.co.uk/shortstories.htm (Proceeds to the HDA)

Buy Journeys Beyond     http://www.earlyworkspress.co.uk/fiction_index.htm  (Journeys Beyond is an anthology by Earlyworks Press competition winners, including Bruce Harris, but is NOT part of the HDA fund-raiser)

 

One of the many reasons I’d like to recommend Odds Against is that the much-loved Hastings artist Katherine Reekie offered Bruce the choice of images of her works for the cover. He settled on the haunting ‘Icelantic Field’, with its mix of the bleak, the absurd and the beautiful, as the image to speak for Huntingdon’s Disease sufferers and their carers. You can learn more about the Disease, and the HDA association on their website here, see more of Katherine Reekie’s work on her website, here and find out more about Bruce’s work at Harris Central.

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Book reviews Earlyworks Press

Everything Under the Sun

When we at Earlyworks Press were reading the competition shortlist for the stories that would become our 2015/2016 anthology, The Ball of the Future, one story gave the judges pause for thought. We allow for quite long stories – up to 8000 words, in the Earlyworks Press comps, because we don’t like the idea of the whole world being made up of bite-sized quickies – but when a story weighs in close to that limit, we always look suspiciously for rambling, or poor editing. We found no such with ‘Angela’ by Ann Butler Rowlands. Thoughtful and well crafted, the exactly 8000-word story followed Angela through a lifetime of visits to a Greek island, studying all the flips and troughs of her career and her love-life along the way. It left the reader feeling as though they’d experienced a whole novel – and it stayed in the mind, causing thoughtful pauses – in a good way – for weeks afterwards.

Nevertheless, when I saw that Butler Rowlands had produced a whole book of English-people-on-Greek-island stories, it gave me pause. Could she sustain that style and quality through a whole book? – But she has. It isn’t just that Butler Rowlands makes such a fantastic job of using the light of Greek sun and sea to illuminate a wide range of stories – in some cases it is not the glorious light that illuminates, it is “the silence of the island at night” that “settles on us all…as if it came from the sea.” Nor is it just the variety of tones and moods or the skillful variety of narrative voices that make it special – from the jaded, retired academic to the adopted child feeling, but not understanding, her unremembered early years, from the cultured woman recovering from her husband’s last illness to a gossipy holiday maker thinking herself very superior in a hotel “quiet with self-contained Europeans who don’t need any more friends.”

The book is made special by a sad but intriguing theme: “What happens when the European middle classes come out to play on an upwardly mobile Greek island?” The totality of this set of absorbing and self-contained stories is the biography of an island with a bad attack of mixed humans. One of my favourites is the story of Sevasti, who was born into a pre-tourist era Greek community and “Galia” (the locals can’t pronounce “Gloria”) who makes a career of being, first the glamorous blonde on someone’s yacht and eventually a world famous model. It is questionable how much the two women really understand each other’s lives, as Sevasti finds her way to an education, a business and an accommodation with the modern world unfurling around her whilst Galia travels in the opposite direction, eventually consumed by the impossible demands professional glamour make on a woman. But despite the little they have in common, the empathy between them, and Sevasti’s quiet acknowledgement of Galia’s tragedy within the glamour, give the story its truly stunning strength.

Each of the stories is headed by snippets of Butler Rowlands’ own translations of C P Cavafy’s poems, and my favourite sits between Galia’s story and that of the adopted child – perfectly, I think, because it speaks to both of them:

I shall make myself a fabulous caparison…
…no-one will know
…where I am wounded…

Heaven. The title of the book is Heaven – both in the slightly silly way one says ‘Heaven’ when greeting a holiday vista and in the awestruck way that one responds to the numinous. Just think about the endless variety of reasons people with a bit of money to hand might dash off and bury themselves in a Greek idyll, and you’ll understand why these stories are a natural mix of the funny, the dangerous, the farcical and the deeply thought-provoking. If you enjoy exploring the spectrum of human experience, you’ll love Heaven by Ann Butler Rowlands.

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Read this, Sir Keir

We need to tell our politicians something…

Sir Keir’s recent comment on BLM (which he corrected apparently, after a lot of shouting) demonstrated that he can’t see why Black Lives Matter have made many of us want to change everything. He can’t see why people want to change or educate our institutions, including the police.

He’s a long way from being the worst on racism – just look at those Tories – remember Theresa May, Amber Rudd and their development of that ‘hostile environment?’ Remember the list of revolting, racist comments Boris Johnson has to his name?

I know many of us are busy learning to be anti-racists now. I see the books by and about black people leaping off the shelves in the bookshops. If you haven’t done so yet, please do some reading.

If you’ve started already,

please do this now

Get a photo of yourself holding up a book you think would help Sir Keir understand. Spread it all over social media with these tags…

#BlackLivesMatter

#ReadThisSirKeir

And then save the photo somewhere where you can find it again so that every time a politician does or says something that demonstrates they just don’t get it yet, you can post it again, with their name on the tag.

Categories
activism economics Hastings NHS Politics Uncategorized

Who puts the skill in key jobs?

There isn’t *quite* a poem called sweeping the street by George Herbert, but you don’t have to be religious to grasp the wonderful truth of his idea that you can sweep the street ‘for god’.

Categories
activism Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

White woman thinking

Do you remember your personal experience of #metoo? Does it bear some lessons we can use to learn anti-racism?

All the stories

#metoo was a celebrity thing at first, but then it started flowing around social media and those posting their experience, and those reading those posts, began a journey. For me, it was a slow realisation that whilst I’d been ‘pretty lucky’ (a friend pointed out a story that started “apart from the usual groping…”) – although I’d been pretty lucky, I had never realised just what a morass I’d been ‘rising above’.

That morass included quietly accepting the blame for all the shame or confusion I suffered – of digging it quietly in, dodging the consequences of “don’t get yourself into trouble” – but not successfully dodging them – of growing up with a feeling that I ‘handled things badly’, or ‘put myself in the way of harm’.

The backlash

And then came the #notallmen and the #getoverit and the outright aggression from men – and yes, some women – who took any talk of female oppression as an insult to any and every man. We’re seeing all that now in the ‘all lives matter’ responses to BLM.

It hurts

I still clench my fists and cringe when I remember an incident from decades ago – I cringe, and send up a prayer of thanks to a woman I’ve only met once, the woman who stepped in and saved my then teenage daughter from a situation I’d been completely blind to – blinded by the horrible familiarity of unhealthy male attitudes everywhere I went.

I’m not blind to sexual exploitation any more.

#metoo was an excellent learning experience for women. It helped bring us together, and empower the latest wave of feminism. Despite the scary bits, I don’t regret it for a moment but what I’m thinking about now is how raw, undermined and vulnerable many women felt at the time. To participate, you had to speak your pain. To really spread the word, you had to speak your pain in public, on social media, in all the places that would invite the backlash, that would remind you of, and put you in the sights of, the people who want to hurt you.

#metoo was an excellent learning experience for men. Many men did get together and have enlightening conversations, and discuss what was going wrong, and how to help put it right. Even if it made them feel uncomfortable.

Black Lives Matter

Many of us are engaged now in a very similar exercise – we’re learning what’s missing from our history, and in finding out that “I’m not racist” isn’t enough. We have our ‘L’ plates on, and we’re learning how to do anti-racism. That’s great, but it does mean that we have our attention very much on ourselves – what can we do, what do we need to know, etc etc

Black feelings matter

But this morning I read some messages from black women about the emotional toll black people are currently suffering from all these statements and actions. Of what a slog it is to unburden and analyse a lifetime’s defensive reaction to racism, of how many times they’ve already had to try and explain, of the anxiety caused by the attention on them, and the anticipation of the inevitable backlash…

So – if anything I’ve said here about the experience of #metoo resonates with you, please use it to inform yourself about how black people might be feeling right now. We need to tread carefully, we need to be aware of all the stirrings of lifelong struggles that have common elements, but may be far more intense than we realise for some around us.

We need to be honest, and kind, and humble and do a lot more active listening than maybe we’re accustomed to.

Resources for learning and activism

I haven’t been through all the links yet but this looks useful.

Categories
activism Hastings media Politics prejudice

What’s with all the whitewash?

Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart says we mustn’t whitewash our history.

In a recent interview conducted by Hastings in Focus, Hart repeatedly used the term ‘whitewash’, apparently to criticise the taking down of offensive statues. This felt really bizarre to me, because listening to political conversations around the place, the term ‘whitewash’ appears to have two almost opposite meanings. One is to cover up the wrong-doings and the shady bits where we’re half-aware of corruption and injustice, the other is to deliberately or unconsciously remove the contributions and experiences of black and ethnic minority people.

Which does she mean? Statues are official markers of how a country, city or organisation sees itself. They mark up the kinds of people citizens are expected to know about and honour. That is why the ritual of pulling down statues is a global, traditional custom to mark a sea-change in a population’s awareness and attitudes.

Perhaps that important piece of information has been ‘whitewashed’ out of our history curriculum. Let’s consider it now.

Colston

The people of Bristol have long been campaigning to remove that statue they recently, famously, threw in the river. As per usual, the establishment was slow responding – it’s always easier for those in office to leave something where it is than to make a potentially controversial change, so the people did what people do – they picked up the mood of the moment, and removed the statue themselves. Problem solved.

That wasn’t whitewash as in hiding our history. It led to a week in which vast numbers of people across the country were talking about our history of slave trading.

That wasn’t whitewash as in ‘airbrushing out’ black history. It helped black people start talking about how deeply British glorifying of slave traders has affected their own families, and led to more white people trying to understand those feelings and their still-manifest consequences. It was a fantastic, nationwide history lesson.

Churchill

In my lifetime, I’ve seen at least three big demos where the Churchill statue in Parliament Square has received the attention of ‘political artists’. Sitting where it does, right opposite the seat of our parliament, it’s the perfect subject for a protesting movement to use to display their message about an unchanging, unresponsive establishment.

That’s not whitewashing as in airbrushing out corruption – it’s done on demos that are highlighting that corruption. And it’s not whitewashing as in ignoring black history – quite the opposite, in most cases.

What Hart was trying to say

 “We’ve all got history. We don’t whitewash it,” she reckons if we know our mistakes, “we make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Right, let’s learn something

Ms Hart says she was grateful the “march in Hastings was peaceful” she says there was “horrendous violence all over the country” she says the agenda is to combat racism but “all the violence is undermining that message” that the “conversation is not about racial equality, but violence and statues.”

She says “We have a history in this country, we can’t brush it under the carpet, she says “we’ve got to learn from the past.” She says “It’s up to local communities to decide what they want to do with a statue.”

What can we conclude from Hart’s words?

Firstly, that I don’t think Hart has paid any attention to what BLM did in Hastings. Yes, it was very peaceful and very well organised. The main event was not a march – was there a march?

Secondly, that I don’t think Hart has paid any attention to what happened anywhere in the country. Where was this horrendous violence? There were a few unfortunate incidents in the London demo, the worst of which happened in, and many think were caused by, a reckless police charge. Other than that, the only violence I’m aware of came from a crowd of completely not BLM white blokes who ran rampage in London the next week, for no very clear reason and among other things, tried to goad police into a fight. I conclude Hart is part of a tradition that takes any rumour of violence and seems to vaguely suggest black people were to blame.

Thirdly, when she says “the conversation is not about racial equality, it is about violence and statues”, I realise that she is only talking to the people who have not yet grasped what BLM is about – because it is only those people who insist on talking about violence and statues, rather than about what is happening to black people in our country. so be warned –  our MP and her following have not even begun to get the message about BLM. We need to keep that conversation going, and really, deeply learn what people who want to teach anti-racism should be doing in Hastings and Rye.

She is right about one thing. We must not brush our history under the carpet. It is a very racist, sexist and classist history, and we urgently need to sort out the consequences of that.

What Sally-Ann Hart said about refugees

What Sally-Ann Hart said about child poverty

Hastings in Focus interview with Sally-Ann Hart MP

Hastings Black Lives Matter event…

Categories
economics Hastings media Politics

All Hart and no Information?

Hastings and Rye MP does not understand Cities of Sanctuary

In a recent interview, MP Sally-Ann Hart said she could ‘count on one hand’ the number of her constituents who wrote to her in support of accepting refugees in Hastings.

Cornered and anxious?

This comes after Hart wrote an inflammatory letter to Priti Patel, claiming Hastings people felt ‘cornered’ and ‘anxious’ about desperate asylum seekers washing up on the beaches in Pett and Camber. She said she was afraid they were bringing the virus to Hastings.

On her publishing her letter, many Hastings people wrote angrily, directly to her and also on social media, saying that she doesn’t understand what it means to be a City of Sanctuary. I don’t know how many fingers Hart has, but I have just counted the number of people I know personally who wrote to her about the many mistakes in her letter.

Virus risk

Asylum seekers washing up on the beaches do not ‘bring the virus’ to Hastings because they do not come to Hastings. They are picked up – usually immediately, on the beach, by police or immigration officers, and taken to processing centres outside our constituency. They do not have the time or the opportunity to mix with local people so cannot possibly spread the virus. Anyway, Hart also said in that same interview that we should stop being scaredy cats and get out there and ‘live with the virus’.

Asylum seekers seek asylum

It is true that Hastings is, and according to many constituents is proud to be, a City of Sanctuary. That does not mean we take in and house anyone who washes up on the beach. It means our council decides, along with government authorities, how many refugees we can take and when. And those refugees have been through the processing system, they have not just arrived so the virus situation is as irrelevant to what happens in Hastings as is everything else she said about new arrivals.

France is a safe place?

Hart also said no-one should be washing up in the UK because asylum seekers should seek asylum in the first safe country they come to. But a very cursory study of what happens to the victims of war and aggressive governments will tell you what is wrong with that idea.

The people who have sought sanctuary all the way across Europe and ended up in camps full of traffickers and pimps, or who have experienced French police setting fire to camps, will tell you what is wrong with that idea.

Sally-Ann, please have a heart, and do some research before you speak.

Hastings in Focus interview with Sally-Ann Hart MP

What Sally-Ann Hart MP said about hungry children:

So Sally can wait

Categories
Hastings media Politics Uncategorized

So, Sally Can Wait…

Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart says….

Get a job, feed your children

Hart says it’s sad if children are not fed by parents because of choices they’ve made. She says the amount of Universal Credit granted to Hastings is very high and that HBC is very slow getting everyone jobs. She says…

We need to reopen our economy

Hart’s message on coronavirus is that we need to be confident. to get ourselves back out there, live with the virus, be brave and move on. She acknowledges that a large proportion of Hastings’ income is tourism related, that we’ve lost Easter and we’ve lost May Day and we need to get out and earn some money now.

There are two glaring problems with this

  1. On going child poverty

Even before coronavirus, there were many, many parents in Hastings who, whether working or not, were not getting a decent, reliable income that allowed them to look after their families properly. The fact that they then missed out on the usual ‘big earning’ weekends in the spring has made that worse, and brought more people into the danger zone.

The school summer holidays are almost upon us and there is no way, not with even a Tory-sized ego, a family can make up for three months losses on top of ten years of Tory austerity and be sure to feed their kids properly.

There is no way that Hastings Borough Council, struggling with swingeing losses to government grants over ten years of austerity, can magic up thousands of well-paid jobs overnight to solve these acute and immediate and devastating problems.

Sally-Ann Hart, please understand those families need help NOW.

2. We need to protect our depleted health and social care services

Both services have been run down during the ten years of austerity and, when Hastings people set up those admirable volunteer services to help people not properly compensated by the government to stay home safely, they weren’t doing it because they lacked confidence, they were doing it because they had an eye on the small number of available hospital beds and other services. They wanted to make sure that we didn’t all fall ill at once, and keep within the limits of the Tory-depleted services we have, and to avoid overwhelming our hard-working, under-paid NHS and social care staff.

Sally-Ann Hart, please understand our health and social care services need re-funding NOW.

Sally can wait – we can’t

The landlord won’t wait for the rent. A hungry child can’t wait for economic measures to filter through. Sally-Ann Hart, please understand – Hastings does not lack confidence, but Hastings can’t wait.

Hastings in Focus interview with Sally-Ann Hart MP

What Sally-Ann Hart MP said about refugees

All Hart and no Information

Categories
media Politics Uncategorized women

Liz Truss has been listening to women

Well done, Liz Truss, for implementing some of the vital elements of the 2019 Labour Manifesto.

If today’s leaked document is correct, Truss is proposing to maintain women’s protected spaces under existing sex-based rights; retain the current basis on which individuals can affirm changes in legal gender, and make so-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ illegal.

Now, just watch a load of ill-informed people go to war over imagined losses.

A bit of context

right wing press announces new Tory policy

We are all being seriously misled by jockeying politicians and a malevolent media. At some level, we understand that the people who need support and redress now are, as ever, oppressed groups including black people, women, LGBT people, the disabled, the stateless, the poor and those denied a decent education.

Establishment in crisis

The coronavirus situation has brought many of those issues to a head, especially in the United States and the UK – it has also shown up the helplessness of either Trump’s people or Johnson’s people in the face of a real problem that needs managing. My, how the politicians and the establishment would like to deflect all that into an argument about statues rather than address the more deadly #BLM issues, and how grateful they are for any other available spat, like furthering the pretence that there are large groups of women trying to be nasty to trans people.

…but where have we seen this policy before?

TERFs?

Let us be clear, most women wish to preserve sex-based rights and safeguarding for women and girls. Most women defend trans people whenever they come across them having a hard time. Those two ideas are not in conflict. What is in conflict is what constitutes ‘trans rights’.

Labour Party manifesto, women and equalities page, committing to ensure that single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision
…in the 2019 Labour Party manifesto.

Stonewall, LGBT Labour and many other well-funded, US-inspired groups have been touting the idea that cancelling sex-based rights (a necessity to make legal self-ID meaningful) is a ‘right’, rather than a ‘demand’, of a group they never actually define – Stonewall, under their favourite banner of ‘acceptance without exception’ include absolutely everyone who might fancy hanging around the girls’ changing rooms as under ‘the trans umbrella’ – thus providing an open door for rapists, abusive husbands, peeping Toms and whoever else. THAT is what you hear women getting angry about.

Progressives?

Cartoon with protest banners: 'terf' 'bitch' 'ban her' 'cancel her' 'kill her'

Ironically, it’s likely that the ‘woke’ left, including some otherwise very good socialists, are now going to set about attacking the Conservatives for protecting women’s rights. Is there any chance at all that they’ll put a significant amount of their energy into supporting this excellent decision by Truss to crack down on gay cures, and help her find a solution to the degradation of sex-based rights, a solution that also leaves room for helping trans people? Somehow, I doubt they’ll do that much thinking or debating before they act.

Conflict?

Protestors' banner - "The Media Is A Virus"

It’s my opinion that Labour created a conflict for ourselves by committing to both sex-based rights and on-the-spot sex self-ID in the same manifesto, without thinking through how both those things could work. It’d be really great if Labour’s self-avowed progressives would now resist the media-fuelled frenzy, sit down and do that thinking before they start shouting. If they do, I think they’ll realise that Truss’s announcement is largely good and that (as our manifesto also states) we have yet to come up with the best answer for trans people.

If you are one of those who insist there is no conflict between the ideas of sex self-ID and sex-based rights, please consider what happened to Jeremy Corbyn’s policy manager when he set about the perfectly normal process of running impact assessments on those policies…

Focus please, socialists!

Defend black people, women, the disabled, the stateless, the poor and anyone else who is being discriminated against. Defend anyone who is attacked – but where ‘rights’ and ‘demands’ conflict, don’t go in with hobnailed lefty boots on; check the law, check the policies, do some consulting and real thinking.