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

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

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 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
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 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
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 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 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.