Categories
Earlyworks Press flash fiction

Earlyworks Press Flash Fiction Comp 2020

Judge’s Report by Jocelyn Simms

I find the one-hundred-word limit a fascinating challenge both for the writers who attempt it and for the person whose task it is to evaluate the entries. This year saw a majority of pieces tackling serious societal issues, perhaps reflecting the months of lockdown when concerns regarding inequality, deprivation, fear and isolation have surfaced. I would like to commend all this years’ writers for their unflinching gaze. In one-hundred-words how can an observation, story or reflection make an impact? Well here are my choices which demonstrate that less is more.

[Editor’s note: this is the short list – the commended works – with the winner and runner up at the end. The competition was judged anonymously but author’s names have now been added…]

Commended

[Editor’s Note: The following writers received £10 per work, and a parcel of fiction and poetry books….]

The World from the Eighth Floor by Flavia Idriceanu I really like the perspective taken here. We are in an urban setting where nature has put on a show but we are deluded by an optical illusion. I love the intrigue posed, but not answered, as to why an eternity passes before the yellow cab moves off.

In Planting Potatoes by Jill Yates we are able to imagine only too well the backstory that has brought our young offender to prison. Punchy dialogue and a series of choices turn the offender round and we are treated to a tempting prospect in the final line pointing to further redemption – if only the weather will stay fine.

Under the Radar by Sally Pearson is a chilling and scary moment where the anguish of an abused child is dramatically told. The inclusion of sensual smells and tears add to the visceral impact and reinforces the perilous and frightening feelings she experiences in her hiding place, waiting to be rescued.

A Shift in Time, also by Sally Pearson, is a story of domestic abuse and futility boldly told. I was particularly moved by the silently uttered line in italics. Taut and unsparing it reads with acute authenticity. The ending gives us a momentary sense of just retribution but we imagine respite will be fleeting.

A Question of Womxnhood Sally Pearson again! – is a playful and accomplished piece that poses a serious question and invents a new word to describe the female of the species. I love the word pilosity and the challenge to social norms. The historical markers underpin deeper questions concerning how the ‘fairer’ sex Is viewed. A quirky and memorable piece.

Evidence by Alison Lock offers a pleasant lull as we observe a picnic but the wry humour permeates the rural idyll with a question and answer that makes me smile on one level, yet emphasises the fact that so many people today (in my view) refute the evidence placed before them whether it be climate change or inflammable building materials.

Enough by Sally Stanford is a heart-breaking story of cruelty in a family setting. Graphically told we witness the blows, the guilt and shame. The ending is beautifully simple but powerfully orchestrated. A good example of an ending that remains ’open’ even though the door closes.

Boys by Denny Jace is an atmospheric piece of writing, capturing the heat of the funfair. A dialogue ensues which gives the dilemmas of an adolescent encounter, capturing the teasing moment of flirting whilst the fireflies scatter their jewelled light.

Runner up

[Editor’s note: the runner up received £30 and a parcel of books.]

My runner-up is Revenge by Catherine Adams, an understated piece of writing and all the more poignant because of this. A snapshot of life as an under-valued cleaner perfectly illustrates the gap between rich and poor and the unfairness of a system that fails to recognise the contribution of one of our ‘essential’ workers. Very economical, each sentence makes a point. The ending is a clever twist.

Winner

[Editor’s note: the winner received £100 and a parcel of books]

First place goes to Memorials by Taria Karillion which deftly portrays three people. I appreciate the ruminations of the cemetery keeper, reflecting on the tasks still to be done with his old mower and aching muscles, whilst he observes the last two graves he needs to tend. We are given a potted history of privilege versus the common man.  Names alone reveal the endemic class struggle. A formal coldness surrounds our double-barrelled deceased whilst touching family ‘memorials’ reveal a warmth and sense of loss for unpretentious ‘Ernie.’

I hope the groundsman did manage to finish early.

~~~

~

[Editor’s Note: A selection of the shortlisted works will be added when we’ve heard from everyone, and checked who wants to publish their work here – ed]

You can find out more about judge Jocelyn Simms here…

http://www.poetryproseandplays.com/

Categories
Earlyworks Press Poetry Uncategorized

Earlyworks Press Poetry Competition 2020 RESULTS

Judge’s Report by

Mandy Pannett

(The poems were judged anonymously but we’ve added names here, and a selection of the short listed poems below)

Congratulations to all the entrants for managing, in this terrible year, to write such well-crafted, strong poems. I feel the standard has been exceptionally high and I found it difficult to limit the short list. There were several other poems – many others – that deserved a mention. I have no doubt that the authors’ achievements will be recognized elsewhere.

The winning poems and those on the short list are incredible. Such a richness of theme and craft. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read them.

Ist Prize

Terra, terra

by Roger Elkin

The opening of the poem is unusual. The poet begins by musing ‘Strange to think that …’ From that moment I was captured and entranced. The title itself begins the clever play on the sounds and meanings of words – terra, terra cotta, finisterre, terra firma.

There is a wealth of imagery. We are in another world, overwhelmed by the names of ancient places – Phoenicia, Sparta, Greece, the Levant, Carthage, Alexandria, Byzantium, Iberia, Gaul, Albion. There are ‘lashings of olive and grape, oil and wine’ and we are left with exotic ‘lapis lazuli seas,/and earth the colour of spilled blood.’

A superb poem and a very well-deserved winner.

Runner Up

Requiem for a Kayaker

by Clifford Liles

The structure of this outstanding poem where we have the juxtaposition of narrative with phrases from the Requiem for the Dead is perfect.

I have been thinking of the best way to describe the piece and have come to the conclusion that it is visionary. Although the theme is tragic, the death of a kayaker, there is no impression of tragedy or grief. Rather there is a sense is of reverence, of redemption, of a surrender that is willing, an acceptance of sacrifice. At the end we are led to ‘a bright encounter’.

The author of this poem has a real feeling and flair for language. Wonderful.

Short List

Museum Piece by Pat Childerhouse

This is an excellent dramatic monologue with subtle and sinister implications.  I like the naming of characters. A clever, interesting poem.

Bridge by Pat Childerhouse

There is beautiful clarity and simplicity here. The image of the bridge made with old man’s beard and honeysuckle is beautiful and just right.

Pig Succour by Alan Bush

This poem made me shiver with the image of the ‘undressed light’ photographing ‘other-thoughts amongst the hogweed’. It is sinister and nightmarish and brilliantly written.

Unseen by Alan Bush

Another poem with sinister, dark, violent undertones. Deftly written with a perfect choice of words and images to create atmosphere.

You Let the Cat Out by Ion Corcos

This was a strong contender for a winning place. I really like the surrealism of it and the insistent repetition of the title line. An excellent poem.

Supplicating God by John Moody

The way the poet creates a sense of extreme heat is brilliant. I love the sonics of the first line ‘Burning earth beneath our surly struggle.’ Great use of long and short lines.

Dragonfly Thoughts for a Dried-Up Land by Camilla Lambert

Another strong contender. Some effective and imaginative juxtapositions of imagery and a perfect choice of words throughout. An unforgettable poem.

Shadows by Camilla Lambert

A terrific opening line and a shift of tone at the end. Strong images throughout especially the one about Lavender. Lovely poem.

Winner

Terra, terra  by Roger Elkin

 Strange to think that something

as transparently aquamarine and slicked

with turquoise as the Mediterranean

should be named, in part,

after the Latin for earth

but that was when this sea-cradle

was Rome’s lifeblood, its trade-routes

stolen from Phoenicia, Sparta, Greece

and the Levant; and its imperial money-mould

swapped hands in the markets of Carthage,

Alexandria, Byzantium, Iberia and Gaul –

reason enough for this stretch of treachery  

at the centre of things to be called  

the middle of the earth – that red earth  

they fired to amphora, and pan-tile:  

Italy’s terra cotta

 

And yet, more certain, more contained,

this slippery sea than that terra incognita

where Visigoth and Hun – wolves

circling wolves – grew mean-eyed on envy

and waited patiently for erosions of will.

And not as indefinable, this sea, as that  

where Iberia gave way to landless horizons  

at the world’s end, so named it finisterre

Or as divisive as Caesar’s Albion gamble, 

that uncertain terra firma made secure  

by history’s cliché – veni, vidi, vici –  

and lashings of olive and grape, oil and wine 

shipped in for centurion and legionnaire 

skulking in draughty camps 

and getting maudlin-drunk  

on memories of warmer shores, 

lipped by lapis lazuli seas, 

and earth the colour of spilt blood. 

~~~

Runner Up

Requiem for a Kayaker

by Clifford Liles

                                     Dies Irae

Behold, this loud altar, a cataract

all draped in thunder; this throng of hushed ferns

and rushes. In the shallows, a kayak.

Did strength leave him? What left his boat upturned?

                                     Offertorio

This man, who but for neoprene is naked,

Drifts by beeches hewn from time as soaring pillars.

A nave of Nature, still as roots and mud,

where man’s survival turns on strength and skill.

                                     Libera Me

Past timeless trees, flowing ever downwards;

his paddle’s gone, surrendered to the rapids.

Torrents crash. This surge slicks darkly seawards.

It passes empty scrubland, wild and arid.

                                     Lux Aeterna

                A clearing opens in the wilderness;

                a bright salvation, where he comes to rest.

~~~

A selection of the shortlist

Museum Piece

by Pat Childerhouse

In which the puppet-master gives a talk about his craft

Here’s Mr Punch – hook nose, hump back, crimson tunic.

Very popular. Yes Madam, I do know he’s a violent fellow,

I spent many summer days in a booth with him.

Children loved it. Some sneaked in round the back.

I let them stay, the quiet ones.

I’ll press on. These have strings and moving joints.

Here’s Bluebeard, and the sweet girl whose brothers did for him.

Yes, I made her – stitched her silk dress and lacy underthings.

We played lots of different shows, had a kind of magic,

Pulled people in.

Some characters are missing. Columbina’s gone.

What with all the travelling I don’t remember when she went.

I was fond of her. This is Mephistopheles – black velvet, scarlet trim.

You can touch the soft material. Faust’s here with him,

Always looking sad.

That’s Raven. Yes she has a piercing gaze. I’ll put her away now,

Don’t want those glossy feathers to fade. Yes, I do miss them Sir,

Miss those times. The puppets will be on show again next year.

I heard that! I suppose I am an exhibit too. Out-dated.

Things were different then.

~~~

Pig Succour

by Alan Bush

I find a dream-part

under a hedge

written

on the sleeve of a discarded box:

some pigs, freed by a Road Traffic

Incident stare

at street furniture, a concrete culvert

the tarmac beneath their feet:

‘none of the pigs were harmed

in either the crash or the capture

process’ we must be told…

as the undressed light photographs

other-thoughts amongst the hogweed

as we will forget the empty snail-shells

in the grass-dark

that are clustered bright as steel. 

~~~

Supplicating God

by J H Moody

From Paul Gauguin’s painting ‘Vision of the Sermon’

Burning earth beneath our surly struggle. 
 A cow looks on in extinction-dread

spooked

by awkward pink and angular feet scrabbling
for purchase in dry, red-orange sand.

Coughing on seventy kilograms
of methane in her bovine burps and farts,

she poisons the golden winged angel who

                straining wrestles

me for a firmer grip, throwing me
to baking terra firma.

I’m losing this desperate fight
with everything, a world, at stake.

If she grasps and then grips harder
I’m scuffled to the earth.

The cremating sun to consume us all
 was the final message from her sermon.

Supplicating an absent God.
That’s the sanctimonious plea

of the praying, watching women
not accepting they share my fate.

They shake their chalky bonnets
flapping limply in enervating heat.

No protection from the

                furnace

to follow.

I weaken in a Seraph’s clutch. 

~~~

Dragonfly Thoughts for a Dried-Up Land

by Camilla Lambert

Passing what once were ponds, all cracked

like potters’ bowls fired too hot, we follow

narrow paths where reeds struggle up from black

marsh-sludge. They whisper, brittle, hollowed.

In these edge-lands insect bodies, sucked dry

of life, pile up, compressed. Frail gauzy wings

that soared are now inert; we are denied

the glinting fly-dance of summer evenings.

Were we to cloak these remains with sheets

of green dragonflies, might memories of dash

and dart last into the arid time? Could fleets

of wayward thoughts and challenges flash

out brave new ideas to lift off in rapid flight

above darkening water, be couriers of light?

~~~

NB There are no plans for an anthology from Earlyworks Press this year but if/when we’re in a position to plan one next year, the authors listed above will be invited to place their works.

NB 2 The poets, of course, presented their poems with evenly spaced stanza breaks. If/when I can work out how to make this blog-editor thing do that, the stanza breaks here will be even. Sorry!

Categories
Book reviews book shops Uncategorized

Beauty is still dying

When I read Sheri S Tepper’s ‘Beauty’ back in the early ‘90s, I thought she had done me an injury.

I enjoyed it, but the Ending (not the ending of the book, The Ending) was just too dark. Not fair.

I just read it again, here in 2020 and, when I got to the bit about the Ending (which she places in the 21st century, round about now) I just thought yes, fair enough – but she left out the climate crisis.

Sheri S Tepper’s ‘Beauty’ offers hope, inspiration, and a tremendous call to action. It’s rich, it’s complex and – ooh, I don’t often use this word – it’s seminal. Next time I find myself looking at one of the more recent popular fantasies – Terry Pratchett perhaps, or J K Rowling, I’ll enjoy seeing the star-fire flashes of Tepper’s ideas in them.

Read ‘Beauty’, and remember – a fantasy book is as good or as bad as the ideas and the actions it inspires. Read it, then – as Ursula K Le Guin was fond of saying – go do the next thing. It may well be a better thing than the one you would have done if you hadn’t read ‘Beauty’, and you can’t say fairer than that.

Find out more here

'Beauty' by Sheri S Tepper - cover image
Categories
activism Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press Election flash fiction media Poetry Politics Short stories Uncategorized

In the Absence of Hard Evidence

In the absence of hard evidence of a divine engineer in the sky, I’d say the patterns in your mind are who you are.

This is my thought for the day because it became necessary to clean and decorate the back room, and to do that, it was necessary to move two wallfuls of books, including the poetry and the political sections.

It isn’t a chore. If you’re one of nature’s librarians (ie, your childhood created bookworm patterns in your mind) – if that’s your story then you’ll know that moving and sorting books is the third best thing in the world, coming after reading them and helping to make new books happen (for me, that’s publishing – for others, it’s writing, or buying, or borrowing, or reviewing, or forming clubs around discussing…) books.

Are books better?

Funny thing is, most people don’t read books. In a recent survey among some schools, kids were asked who reads books. “Old people and people with no friends” was a common answer. How much they are missing! To all those who say ebooks are as good as books, or browsing the internet is as good as any kind of book, I say – look to the patterns in your mind. Does bouncing around on the internet, slipping from link to link and forgetting where you started, really lay down a strong, comprehensible and retrievable pattern in your mind? How much do you remember of the stuff you clicked through yesterday, last week, last month? Can you flip to-and-fro, contemplate and come to know an ebook the same way you can a book on your shelf (not just when you’re reading it – all the time).

How gullible are you, how confusable are you, how well do you know your history, your environment, yourself? I suggest to you, along with David Didau, that people who read books have better lives – and the reason for that is the quality and retrievability of the patterns in their minds.

From Ely to South America and Back

While I was moving the political section (remember, we’re clearing out the back room so we can decorate) a hundred and one worlds opened their doors in my head, and reminded me of the richness of the forest in the mind. Here’s one: When I picked up The Open Veins of Latin America, I remembered a beautiful bookshop in Ely. It was a day of beautiful things – the cathedral, the river, the teashop with the samovar and the gunpowder tea – and this bookshop. And this book which, I confess, I picked up because the colours on the cover caught my eye long enough for me to notice what a startling title they presented.

And then, as I look at the book, more and more doors open in my head as I remember reading this tragic history, and how it led me to watch a film about Hugo Chavez, and how I learned that socialism must, and can only ever be, international socialism (act local, think global) because socialism is about people, not flags.

Socialism relies on ‘class analysis’ and you just can’t do that by the kinds of hats people are wearing, these days. Who is the ‘them’ in ‘them and us’ these days? Isn’t it the international corporations? Is it not the case that the ‘them’ we are up against are the world champion border-jumpers? If they can put the cause and the effect of their actions in different countries. And hoover the profits into their (global) banks while you’re watching the misery and chaos on the national news and wondering what it all means, they have already won. You’ll probably end up losing everything, and all the while looking around the neighbourhood for someone who looks a bit different to you to blame it on.

Narrativium – the drug of the post-truth generation?

And then another set of doors opened, and I remembered the more recent discovery that the author of The Open Veins of Latin America had expressed some regrets in later life, that he’d got caught up in what Terry Pratchett called narrativium, that if he’d  had time to write it again, he would have written it differently.

That doesn’t mean the book is wrong, or bad, it means that a story can have the same start and a thousand different endings, depending what lines the author gets a-running along. But sometimes, like the author of that book, you need to retrace your steps, and take a look at some of the things that got lost along the way.

And that opened another, more recent set of doors, about all the things from recent years that are beginning to be forgotten in the daily click-fest – I remembered writing an essay for my CLP, explaining the theory of the ‘Overton Window’, of how the movement that gathered around Corbyn was steadily leading us back to socialism, to caring about others and our environment, caring about the truth – but they really didn’t need my essay – a tide was flowing our way. It isn’t now – and that brings me right back round to today, and reminds me how I need to talk to our local socialist group about the importance of getting that report properly investigated, so the truth will be known properly, and the size of the victory of the anti-austerity movement will be seen, despite the loss of that election, and so that we remember who the enemies were, which brings me to the importance of getting down to some serious political education so that our local socialists don’t forget that socialism is, and always must be, internationalist, analytical, and founded on strong, joined-up ideas – which requires an enormous bookshelf and/or regular, good-quality political education.

And that’s just one book, on one shelf. Going to go move the poetry books now. I wonder what’ll happen to the patterns in the mind then.

Think global, act local

——————————————————————-

——————————————————————-

And if you’d like to spend some time on enjoyable activities numbers one and two now (you know, the reading and writing ones) here are some links to Earlyworks Press comps and books…

Flash Fiction comp – £100 for the best 100 words

Short story comp – £200 for the best story

Short story anthologies

Poetry anthologies

Categories
Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

What has happened to our 2020 competitions

With apologies to all our would-be short story writers, we have decided to cancel the final comp of the year. The poetry and flash fiction comps remain but, the main focus of the short story competition has always been to produce a collection to be proud of and, due to – well, you know all the things that happened in 2020 – we’re unlikely to be able to get a book out this year.

We’ll be blogging the best of the poetry and flash fiction comps, but no-one seems that keen on reading story collections online so we’d rather wait, and see what next year brings than run a short story comp with no book at the end of it.

If you have entered the short story comp already, I’ll be emailing you soon to see about returning your entry fee. In the meantime, if you want to get in touch, please email me, or use the contact form on this blog.

All the best,

Kay Green

Editor, Earlyworks Press

Web links….

Poetry Competition

Flash Fiction Competition

Short Story Competition

Categories
Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Uncategorized

Our Flash Fiction Judge

We’re pleased to announce that Jocelyn Simms is once 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
Categories
Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Poetry Uncategorized

Poetry competition now closed

We decided to extend this year’s Earlyworks Press poetry comp because the 2020 lock down caused problems but it is now closed, and judging is in process.

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

Categories
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!

Categories
Book reviews Poetry Uncategorized women

Farewell to Caron Freeborn

A tribute by Mandy Pannett

Categories
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!

Categories
Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Earlyworks Press 2019 short story winners

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

Categories
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.

Categories
Book reviews book shops Uncategorized

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…

Categories
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…

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Book reviews Hastings Politics Uncategorized women

Afghanistan is talking to Hastings

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

Categories
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…

Categories
Book reviews book shops economics Election Hastings Labour Politics Privatisation Uncategorized

All Good Things Come in Cycles

Or – how to pay for Basic Income

Categories
Book reviews Uncategorized

Quick! Read this book!

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

Categories
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…

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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

Categories
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…

Categories
Book reviews Circaidy Gregory Press Poetry Politics Uncategorized

Tickling the Dragon

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

Categories
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:

Categories
Book reviews book shops economics Labour Politics Uncategorized

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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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?

Categories
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.

Categories
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?

Categories
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.

Categories
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:

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
activism Book reviews Politics Uncategorized women

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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Book reviews book shops

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….

Categories
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.

Categories
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…

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
economics Politics Uncategorized

Is this the worst idea yet?

Curfews are not good

It’s just being talked about at the moment but we need to make sure the reasons why curfew is not a good idea are spread far and wide. We know what works. Back in March, we shut down everything we could, got into the habit of checking on the vulnerable and stayed home as long as it was possible to do so.

The R number went down. Infections went down and, most importantly, deaths went down. It wasn’t all good. Many, many people had a hard time because we have a government that does not see looking after people as its job. It didn’t work as well as it would have done if they’d kept a check on airport arrivals, but we did get control of virus spread and prevent overwhelm of our struggling NHS.

What are they expecting?

Other than limits on civil liberties that have set off a whole range of fears and fight-backs and paranoias, what have the government done in the last six months? The main thing I’ve heard is that they’ve increased the capacity of morgues. Is that enough, in their eyes? Prepare for the dead, and leave your corporate friends to make a fortune running warehouse ‘hospitals’?

If so, it would be obvious they didn’t value human life beyond their own, and that looks bad, so they’d also need to do something relatively cheap that *looked* good. Is that why curfew is on the option-cards now?

Curfew is not a good plan

Tory governments have a consistent history of choosing the option that’s cheap in the short term, and creates an illusion of order. I can see why they’d be tempted by the idea of a curfew.

Curfews are dangerous

They’re a gross infringement of civil liberties, so will create more fightback and more paranoia but they are also directly dangerous.

Curfews create empty streets.

Empty streets are dangerous for those who have to go out – remember those key workers we were going to value above all from now on? Those who’d have to go down those empty streets to get to work, and those who’d have the job of trying to police those empty streets?

People who are attacked or get into difficulty on empty streets find no help at hand.

Buildings and infrastructure on empty streets get damaged or broken into.

Cars on empty streets get vandalised or stolen.

Please don’t let them get away with presenting curfew as sensible or necessary.

Curfews are dangerous, and if you’re under curfew in the evenings but going to work and school all day in crowded conditions, curfews will not control virus spread.

poster: our key workers support everone. Pay them. Protect them. Respect them.

Categories
activism Labour Politics women

What do Rosie Duffield and J K Rowling have in common?

They’re both well known, one extremely well off and the other at least comfortably secure. They both have ways of making themselves heard, and they also, according to those on the left, have allegiances to the wrong kind of Labour Party members.

Duffield and Rowling both recently spoke up about their worries over women’s rights – in Duffield’s case, merely our right to see and hear ourselves called ‘women’ – and I learned all the points above from comments about them doing so – but what matters to me is something else that they have in common.

Knowing your rights, knowing your needs

For various reasons, I made it my business to find, and speak to, as many women as possible who’d spoken up, or wanted to speak up, about what the queer-theory inspired trans rights movement is doing to women. Time after time, when I found those women and spoke to them, it would turn out they were abuse survivors: women who understood firsthand why we need women’s groups, women’s services and women’s health provision clearly signposted and easily accessible and also, why a distressing proportion of the women around us have a deeply emotional need to know that when they’re told they are approaching a women’s service, it will be women who greet them there.

That is why I am still angry. That is why I’ve bashed on with this campaign until I’m absolutely sick to death of it. Please get this, even if you don’t grasp anything else about this tortuous issue: a frighteningly large proportion of the women in this country are, or have been, traumatised by sexual violence at some time in their lives. They are the women most likely to speak out on this issue, and it costs them dear to do so.

And when they do speak out, the more polite trans rights activists tell them they’re being cruel to a group whose oppression and suffering they cannot begin to imagine. The rest send them piles of violent and sexualised abuse. Neither reaction is easily forgivable.

Please pass this message on to all who need to hear it

All women need women’s rights and services. Abuse survivors need them desperately, and need to know that ‘women’ means ‘women’. There are a million and one things we could be doing that make life easier and safer for trans people, things that do not deny traumatised women what they need. If you are so progressive, if you are so righteous and compassionate, could you please go work on those, and leave women’s rights and language alone.

If all you want to do is slap down any and every claim women make, accept that you’re not fighting transphobia, you’re fighting women – that’s just misogyny.

About Duffield’s tweet

About J K Rowling’s tweet

Categories
activism Book reviews book shops Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

The Problem with Wilful Blindness

There was a time back in the last century, when I gave credence to the idea of ‘colour blindness’ as a way of solving racism. It turned out to be a way of convincing yourself it had been solved – if you happened to be white British, that is. While we were being virtuously, wilfully blind, assuming everything was going to be rosy from now on, Liverpool was in turmoil, and school kids were passing around those “Boot Boys” novels. Many of us had completely blinded ourselves to the renaissance of fascism.

It doesn’t work because we don’t have a level playing field. I can see that you are black and act as though it doesn’t matter, but you can’t see that I’m white and act as though it doesn’t matter. I can pretend we’re the same colour, and the problems disappear – from my view. Not from yours.

But now, we have another form of wilful blindness to deal with. Understandable, and well-intentioned, a horde of would-be progressive academics, activists and politicians – to give a random sample: Dawn Butler, Philip Pullman, Owen Jones – and now Margaret Atwood apparently – are pretending to be sex-blind.

As with race, the problem with pretending to be sex-blind is that women have very real, very practical problems that can’t be catered for and can’t be funded unless our sex is recognised. The police, pretending to be sex-blind, record cases of ‘women’ committing violent and sexual crimes, and every time they do it, the statistics that women’s services depend on for their funding get hazier until they become worse than useless; women’s health and wellbeing groups are trying to get by without using any of the words that clearly denote the female condition, and as a result, the grounds for their funding and the efficiency of their outreach go down and down; and teaching on sex and gender has gone the same way – now so far from reality that we have a generation of young people who really cannot tell sex from gender.

What we need to know

Black people can’t escape the problems of being black unless we sort out our institutions and our racist cultural heritage, and we can’t do that unless we see, and talk about, the realities of colour.

It is not wrong to talk about, learn about, and formulate rules about, colour – in fact we need to.

Women can’t escape the problems of being female unless we sort out our institutions and our sexist cultural heritage, and we can’t do that unless we can see, and talk about, the realities of sex.

It is not wrong to talk about, learn about, and formulate rules about, sex – in fact we need to.

Like many people, I’m busy reading up on anti-racism now, because I realise we really, really need to talk about it and sort out the injustices going on around us. I was hoovering up Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” and agreeing with every word… but I ground to a halt on page 181. Feminism, she tells us, must work to liberate everyone. Yes, in a sense. I do believe that if we can deal thoroughly with sexism, we will all be living in a better, healthier society – but, to revert to my first example, does that mean we should be yelling “all lives matter” when black people have something to say? I don’t think so.

Eddo-Lodge says that feminists should be thinking about “disabled people, black people, trans people, women and non-binary people, LGB people and working class people” – well yes, but am I allowed to add “if they’re female”, or is she doing the “all people matter” thing at feminists?

Reality matters

Having included absolutely everyone in the worklist for feminists, Eddo-Lodge then illustrates her statement by saying feminism will have won when we’ve ended poverty, and when women are no longer required to do two jobs by default (meaning the care and the emotional work as well as the money-earning – true, but that’s about female people, isn’t it?). Feminism must combat sexual violence (that is, almost always, males attacking females). Feminism must combat the wage gap (because females earn less). And it must be class conscious (true, absolutely, unequivocally true). And she says feminism must be aware of “the limiting culture of the gender binary”.

And she’s lost it. Feminism is, and has always been, grounded in challenging the social rules and practices based on ‘gender’ – that is, the social constructions that tell us how males and females should behave and should be treated – constructions that are different in different cultures, but that have some commonalities (based on sex). But like many commentators, she’s translated that into telling us we must also disregard sex – wrong. Then she slips from ‘sex’ to ‘sexuality’ and tells us feminism must recognise that sexuality is fluid – well, that’s a whole nother argument and I’m not going to go into that one here but the key point is that reality matters.

Eddo-Lodge tells us that feminism, like anti-racism, has to be “absolutely utopian and unrealistic, far removed from any semblance of the world we’re living in now”. And here, at last, we have the key to a clash that’s been causing endless pain and furore in recent years. Yes, we must deconstruct race and racism. But colour won’t go away, because people are different colours. That’s reality. We must deconstruct GENDER and sexism – but we can’t deconstruct sex, because biology won’t go away. That’s reality.

Rejecting reality in order to be wilfully sex- or colour-blind means blinding yourself to problems that need our attention. If you want to help find solutions, please don’t do either.

Reality matters. Sex matters.

Racism, sexism and classism are the errors to be corrected.

Do please read Eddo-Lodge’s book – it’s excellent, except for page 181. We need to think about, and act on, what she’s saying.

And if you haven’t already, do please go to J K Rowling’s website and find out what she actually said about sex. It is exactly what we need to be saying, and exactly what women are being repeatedly punished for saying.

Categories
activism book shops Labour Politics prejudice Uncategorized

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.