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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

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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

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Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Our Short Story Comp Judge

Journalist and media consultant Lynne Walsh, an arts reviewer at the Morning Star, is judging our Short Story Competition this year.

Here’s Lynne’s story…

Lynne Walsh describes herself as a journalist and campaigner, and says it’s not clear which came first.

The desire to be a reporter came early; she says: “My mother complained that, at about 4, I was always up and down the bus, asking other passengers ‘Where are you going? What will you do when you get there?’ Then I’d give my grandparents the headlines, when we arrived for tea: ‘There was a man on the night shift, a lady drinking tea from a red flask, and a little girl like me – she’d lost a button off her best coat.’ Big news in the South Wales Valleys, I reckoned.”

The campaigning [aka kicking up a fuss] crept up on her, as a teenager: “Volunteering for Oxfam, running fundraising events, making speeches – it’s a good training ground, when you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re very shy!”

The love of short stories started young – “My friend Penny and I, walking round the village, creating tales from what we saw around us. One, a ghost story set in the old mine workings, had us running for home; we’d scared ourselves, with our own fiction.”

Love turned to obsession, with trips to ‘town of books’, Hay-on-Wye. “My boyfriend and I would come home with the boot and back seat of the car full of books. We read voraciously – and we wrote: journals, terrible poetry, stories, plays, all that stuff that stays, forgotten, in attics.”

Journalism was a way of telling stories, even when they came from turgid council meetings or traumatic court cases. “There’s a lot of discipline in reporting, a lot of constraints – but at its heart, there are the complicated lives of real people.”

As well as working for newspapers, magazines and radio, Lynne has helped run major campaigns. “My CV says I worked on HIV & Aids campaigns in the 80s and 90s. The story, though, is that I was quite ashamed of my chosen profession at that stage – tabloids writing about a ‘gay plague’. I wanted to work with scientists giving us facts; the challenge was to turn that into something meaningful for ordinary people.”

The CV also shows a stream of clients, with whom Lynne has developed media strategies, coached spokespeople and created events:  Women’s Resource Centre [WRC], Drinkline, National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, Hestia, British Association for Counselling, BackCare, National Family Mediation, Mental Health Media, National Appropriate Adult Network, Fair Play for Women and Safe Schools Alliance.

There are personal stories within all of them; “At Drinkline, I voiced all the recordings for their helpline. It did worry me that friends who were concerned about their alcohol intake might call, and get my voice. For some, more of a hindrance than a help!”

At the WRC there was the Women Speak Out! Project, helping speakers make short films to promote their expertise on trafficking, poverty, domestic abuse and slavery. “I met Ntombi, who’d been trafficked, held in Yarls Wood and Holloway. She’s a dancer now, part of an African cultural troupe that performs with incredible joy. She brings a new meaning to the term ‘survivor’. Telling her story makes my heart skip a little beat!”

Lynne handled the UK media work for LGSM [Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners] around the launch of the film ‘Pride’ and the 2015 London march. “There are 101 stories from that series of events – one of them involved my colleague Alison and I moving the entire Tredegar Town Band across a packed parade. We shoved aside baffled Met police, insistent corporate sponsors and anyone who got in our way. That’s the power of the hi-vis jacket.”

There are stories of a different kind in Lynne’s community learning classes. She’s taught hundreds of learners to write accounts of the lives of their families, neighbourhoods, and experiences. Students often get creative; stories embellished, with flights of fancy; incidents become more colourful in the retelling. Lynne lectures at conferences which examine the links between storytelling and health, and is occasionally evangelical about the benefits: “Let them confabulate! Encourage them to create different versions of themselves. Help them understand they can ‘write their own endings’. Why not? It’s not newspaper reporting.

“I teach the basics, of planning, gathering material, structuring the story. I’ll even help them get over anxiety about grammar and syntax. I’ll read poetry, or song lyrics, or ask them to bring in a memento, and tell me its story. What I’m always looking for is the heartbeat of a story – it sounds cheesy and I don’t care, because it’s true – the memorable or quirky or emotional thing that makes me want to tell that story to the next person.”   

Competition entry details….

Poetry Competition

Flash Fiction Competition

Short Story Competition

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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
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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

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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 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.