Rebellion: Writing Fantasy


Arachne Press

 Rebellion: Writing Fantasy, author talk and workshop

Author Cherry Potts reads from her new novel The Dowry Blade, and discusses ways of writing fantasy with an opportunity for a short writing exercise for the audience.

World building, weird logic and rule breaking at

Brompton Library

210 Old Brompton Road

London SW5 0BS

Thursday 14 April 18:30-19:45

Attending the London Book Fair?  This event is on the final day and Brompton Library is one stop on the tube/overground away from Olympia, at West Brompton, then a short walk.

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Refugees Welcome Anthology


I’m delighted that I have TWO stories in the forthcoming Refugees Welcome anthology.

refugees welcome

These are We Apologise for the Delay… a story of what it means to be a stranger and how communities form in times of need, told through the prism of the London Underground as the site for ‘first contact’ with aliens; and Queues a story about waiting at a border crossing and recognising someone from home. Both stories have at their heart the human instinct to kindness in a crisis, something I have been hearing from friends all over the country – offering their money and help and even their homes to those in need. All we need now is for the government to actually accept a sensible number of refugees: at the moment what we are offering over a number of years,equates too readily to the numbers arriving in a single day at the European boundaries. We need to offer  proper help, not pretend we are doing anything when we clearly aren’t. A couple of stories isn’t much, but it is something I can do, so I’ve done it; all the writers are donating their stories, no one will make anything from the anthology. RWA is a charity book that combines inspirational stories. It is the 3rd project run by Greg McQueen and 100% of sales go to Red Cross for Refugees.

UPDATE publication date 19th November so you can help by buying a copy (or more than one!). The perfect Christmas/Solstice/Diwali present etc.

 

Pretending poetry, songs of liberty and Ursula le Guin


The thing about running your own business is that holidays become almost entirely theoretical. It’s a holiday to leave the computer for long enough to hang out the washing on a sunny day, it’s a holiday to take the long way to the post office, it’s a holiday to read something that isn’t for work, or to listen to something that requires your full attention on the radio, or to take a day to learn new songs.

The thing about running your own business is that you can build a holiday in anywhere you want to, and around anything you want to, and justify it as ‘work’.

So a week in Cumbria because one of the poets in The Other Side of Sleep had organised a reading in Grange-over-Sands and it’s too far to go and not stay over, and if you have to stay over, well…

A few days with friends in Bath and a stop over with another on the way to Cheltenham.

So I briefly pretended I’m a poet last week. As I said whilst doing so, I am not a poet, I occasionally write poetry, it really isn’t the same thing. So here’s me pretending to be a poet, with one poem and two flash fictions that happen to kind of work as poems.

cherry grange os

If you want to hear how real poets do it you can listen over on the Arachne Press website. I’ll be pretending again at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival on Saturday in the company of Angela France, Math Jones, Bernie Howley, Kate Foley and Jennifer A McGowan.

In the meantime I’ve been listening to Ursula le Guin on Radio4, first an epic 2 hour catch-up with The Left Hand of Darkness, and then a 30 minute documentary, with the woman herself, and various writers who admire and were influenced by her, including Neil Gaiman,  Karen Joy Fowler and David Mitchell. I found myself falling in love with LHD all over again. I read it first in my teens, and again about 5 years ago, and I am in awe of le Guin’s talent and the subtlety of the adaptation for Radio by Judith Adams, everything I remember is there, and the bitter, bone deep cold swells through the recording so, so well. Listening to Gaiman and Mitchell say words to the effect of ‘this is why I became a writer’, I wonder: is this why I became a writer? (and unlike ‘poet’ I do identify as ‘writer’ because even when not writing I obsess about it – think about my characters, interrogate my bad habits, consider plot twists, discover great titles in over heard conversations…) and I think the answer is probably YES.

The Left Hand of Darkness has been one of  my favourite books since I first read it, and unlike many others was even better on the second reading, and still made me cry (and I think another re-read is due). Discovering it so early, probably about the time I began to seriously think I might write ‘for real’, it must have had a huge impact. It is hard to tell, I read voraciously at that point, three books a day at weekends, back to back, swimming in words. I’m sure I amalgamate many of those books in my mind, not sure what comes from where, but LHD stands out from the morass, as do other of le Guin’s books: The Tombs of Atuan and The Lathe of Heaven in particular. They are doing an adaptation of A Wizard of Earthsea (My first ever le Guin read, when I was probably nine or ten) on Radio4 Extra next week – LISTEN!

Did you think you were going to get away without a reference to music? Ha! fooled you.

I spent Saturday immersed in songs about making choices and community and freedom, taught by the marvellous Lester Simpson in preparation for the next ‘big idea’, a celebration of Magna Carta in the week of the actual 800 year anniversary of the first draft being signed (if you ignore the change of calendar in the 18th Century). Nearly 50 people turned up and we sounded amazing. Here’s a sample…

You’ll get a chance to hear the songs we are working on in a more polished format at West Greenwich Library, 7:30 on Thursday 18th June. More on that nearer the time. There is a call out for STORIES for the event over at Arachne, you have til Mayday.

Right. Off to my next ‘holiday’, in Bath for readings of Solstice Shorts at Oldfield Park Books, this evening!

Cutting a Long Story – update


Some of the stories that were originally published in Tales Told Before Cockcrow are up on Cut a Long Story. Pleasingly quick. Buy them now!! (thank you).

all hallows imageAll Hallows: Keith’s obsessions get him into trouble
red dress imageThe Red Dress: A daughter’s loyalty is put to the test.
Dragon2Tales Told Before Cockcrow: Sybil tries to get Amelia to sleep – a very long sleep.
tales cover combinedThe She-Lord and her Tailor: A Tailor meets a very large cat and tries to sell her clothes. That was always going to end well…

and (not in Tales…) We Apologise for the Delay (complete with spelling mistake in the title – my fault – dizzy fingers.) Ade discovers a nest of strange creatures whilst cleaning an underground station

More to follow.

Reach them through my page on the Cut a Long Story site.

Hear me read from one of these,  and several others 7pm tomorrow, Thursday 26th February, at Richmond Lending Library, Little Green, TW9 1QL £2 which includes refreshments (booking in advance not essential but POSSIBLE here)

I still need a good image for several stories… offers of assistance anyone?

Cover image for Tales Told Before Cockcrow

Cover image for Tales Told Before Cockcrow

Secret shortlist?


Thanks to Rosalind Stopps for pointing out that my story Knitting for Demons had been shortlisted for the Momaya Press 2014 award. I had no idea! They didn’t tell me. Anyway I’ve not won; but still, better than a poke in the eye with a blunt codfish. (That means I’m pleased, in case it doesn’t translate.)

Awards and Mermaids


PrintIt’s been an exciting week. First I won an award for one of the anthologies I edited for Arachne Press – Weird LiesThe Saboteur2014 Best Anthology Award!

It’s one of very few independent awards, voted for by the book-reading public, and it was thrilling to win. They don’t tell you beforehand and being a bit superstitious I refused to believe there was a chance, so it was only when they were reading out comments from voters I was thinking, ooh, that sounds like our book, that really sounds like… oh crikey, it is! In fact we netted about 35% of the over 1000 votes – you can read more of all the lovely things people said here, though I will quote just one particularly juicy one:

one of the most original writers herself Cherry Potts provides opportunities for unusual and thought-provoking writing.

Good eh?

Then, Liars’ League London chose my story The Real McCoy, (featuring a naive but indignant mermaid) to read at next Tuesday’s Weird & Wonderful event,  and will  be read at The Literary Kitchen Festival in Peckham on Tuesday 17th June 7pm

AND THEN Liars’ League Hong Kong chose Portrait of the Artist’s Model as A Young Woman for their Truth & Lies event on 30th June.

So that makes me not just “award-winning”, but “internationally renowned”, right? (She says with unrepentant cheek).

If you can make any of those events it would be brilliant – I won’t be at the Hong Kong one, but I will be at the other two, so you could come and say hello.

Finally, a heads-up: The title of this blog is a nod to Mary Hamer, author of Rudyard & Trix, a novel about Rudyard Kipling and his sister. (Awards and Mermaids, Rewards and Fairies, yes?) I’ve read this novel, after inviting Mary to The Story Sessions, and it is brilliant – upsetting in many ways, but very perceptive, and manages without doing that annoying thing some people do of making it SO clear that they did lots and lots of research and you aren’t going to escape an iota of it. Mary has belatedly joined the blog hop and will be blogging about her writing process just as soon as she finishes unpacking from the trip which meant she didn’t see the email I sent her about this sooner.

Blog hopping the writing process with fellow writers


I don’t know where the idea originated, but here I am blog hopping, thanks to Michelle Shine, author of the extraordinary fictional biography of Dr Paul Gachet, Mesmerised, and of short story Skin Deep, which I published in Lovers’ Lies.

So here goes with the hopper’s questions:

What am I working on?

I’m always working on several things at once. I’ve just finished putting together my latest short story collection, fine tuning the order of the stories and such like, more admin than writing really. At the moment active progress is being made on a novella about wanting to be normal when you are born into a family of witches, which strays into some very strange territory – gingerbread, nuclear power, planning applications, genealogy, parrots… I’ve just finished a short story set in a fairground sideshow, which I wrote at the request of the actress who will read it, Carrie Cohen (well, she kept asking when I was going to write her something so I did) at Other Worlds for Brockley Max on 1st June. and I’ve promised myself a final, final edit on a fantasy epic as soon as I have a stretch of time to concentrate on it.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Oh, the G word. I err towards fantasy as my default – possibly because it means I don’t have to do much research, possibly because it amuses me to stretch outside the real and explore the might be. How does it differ from others? I take a very loose attitude to fantasy, (I’ve been reading it for forty years, and I get fed up with rigid sub-genres) so sometimes when I say fantasy I just mean rather unlikely, sometimes it’s a whole other world with different rules. Alix, my partner has a yardstick for fantasy – is there a sword that goes ‘ting‘ in it? If there is she won’t touch it. So no tinging swords for me. (But the space where it would go ting is very um, ting shaped.) I really dislike graphic violence that is there to make your stomach churn, so you won’t get any of that from me. Violence, yes, realistic and upsetting, possibly, but not stomach churning. Sometimes I’m funny, sometimes I’m deadly serious. I aim to make you care a LOT about my characters one way or another, so they aren’t ciphers or archetypes, they are real people doing strange things and coping, or not.

Why do I write what I do?

It’s fun. I couldn’t spend the amount of time I do at the computer if I didn’t enjoy it. I adore the what if of fiction, I’m passionate about inventing new rules for the universe and seeing what that does to my characters.

How does my writing process work?

I don’t have hard and fast rules, or techniques that I can be sure will always work. An idea will strike me (often on the bus, or in a cafe, overheard – especially mis-heard – conversations are fertile ground) or an exercise at my writers group will spark something off. Sometimes it just lies fallow in my ideas file until something else comes along and they create a crazy offspring, sometimes I’ll start writing straight away and not stop until I’m done, sometimes I write the key scene and put it away for months.

I’d hate not to have something cooking, as well as what I’m actively working on. I’m a great believer it write first check  facts later, and if the facts don’t fit, change the facts.

Once I’ve got to first draft, I’ll do any fact checking that’s necessary, then I put the piece away for a while – a few weeks for something short, a few months for a long piece. Then I read it onto a recording device and listen back, a great way to spot over used words, plot inconsistencies, awkward phrases and so on. The I take it to my writers group (or if it’s very long ask a couple of them to read it outside the group.) I get useful feedback, which I sometimes ignore! My final test is to read aloud to a live audience who don’t know me: preparing for that really makes me hone the story into the best it can possibly be.

Editing other people, as I do for Arachne Press, has been very good for me, I really analyse why something isn’t working these days, and beat it around the head until it does, rather than shrugging and shoving it to the back of the metaphorical bottom drawer.

Ok, that’s the last of the questions, time to hand over to Alex Smith for the next blog hop.

ALEX Smith-AT-BEAUTIES-LAUNCHAlex lives in Cape Town with her partner, their book-eating baby boy and their two dogs. She has had four novels published in South Africa (Random House/Umuzi Imprint), was shortlisted for the 2010
Caine Prize and won the 2011 Nielsens Bookseller’s Choice Award.

She has a story in Weird Lies, and her YA novel, Devilskein & Dearlove is forthcoming from Arachne Press in the UK and Random House Umuzi in South Africa, on July 24th 2014.