Story Cities – Foundation Myth


Story Cities is an Arachne Press project, bringing together 42 writers and 51 stories about the city – any city, every city, in flash of under 500 words.

The brief for the book was: no names, no recognisable landmarks, and to fit one of the themes – termini, transport, hotels, cafes, squares and parks, markets, main streets, side streets and crossroads.

When I started thinking about it, my reaction was, no, this isn’t what makes a city, it’s the people.

Here’s some video of my contribution to the book, Foundation Myth, read at Greenwich Book Festival, same story, slightly different take.

and at the book launch, at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, also in Greenwich.

Order your copy direct

Writing the Past: The Bog Mermaid


Video from the Arachne Press Writing the Past event for Hither Green Festival 2019 at Manor House Library.

An extract from the 1926 thread of this as yet unfinished novel(la) – first draft almost done.

 

A Summer of Festivals


Early summer is the time for festivals in South London, and this year I am reading/ speaking at several

Hither Green Festival Saturday May 18th 7pm at one of my favourite venues,

Manor House Library, on  Old Road SE13 5SY

I will be reading from my novel in progress, The Bog Mermaid

alongside Joan Taylor-Rowan,  Rebecca Skipwith, Katy Darby, Kate Foley and Math Jones

FREE Readings of stories and poems based in the past – from the 17th to the 20th Century – life stories and imagined lives, followed by a fairly short discussion about writing from history – what inspired the piece, what research was needed, how was the story shaped by the facts and which got in the way – that sort of thing.

 

 

With my writing cronies WOOA we are at  BrockleyMAX Festival again this year, with stories at the Talbot pub, corner of Lewisham Way and Tyrwhitt Road, taking as our theme Hidden Corners.

We haven’t finalised who is reading, but probably Bartle Sawbridge, Neil Lawrence, Catriona Jarvis, Carolyn Robertson. And you can join in a very silly game after the break.

 

 

 

10am on Saturday 15th June (Flash Fiction Day) I am at Greenwich Book Festival for the first time, when I join my fellow editors Rosamund Davies and Kam Rehal for a pre-publication panel discussion on Story Cities at Room KW003 King William Court Greenwich University Old Naval College Park Row Greenwich SE10 9LS.

FREE, but we are assuming you will need at ticket, but they aren’t on the festival website yet.

As well as editing the book I have a tiny story in it, Foundation Myth, alongside 41 other writers. In the shops 13th June, you can buy it here now

STOP PRESS ! I just had a flash fiction accepted for Flash Flood Journal. Rising Dawn will feature on the journal at around 8.45 on 15th June (national flash-fiction day) not long before we talk about forthcoming Story Cities book of flash at Greenwich Book Fest at 10am!

This is a third outing for Rising Dawn, previously on Spelk and Story Friday

Festival Season


It’s that time of year when the festivals come thick and fast.

Over the next couple of months I will be taking part in a number of SE London events, so I thought I’d just mention them, in case you felt like coming along.

Hither Green Festival

I will be talking, with Katy Darby (fellow editor and author at Arachne Press)
about Women, Science Fiction and Fantasy
at Manor House Library 34 Old Road SE13 5SY
Friday May 18th 19:00-21:00 FREE

 

 

 

Brockley Max Festival 

I will be reading alongside my WOOA mates at Strange Brew, on Saturday 3rd June at 4pm at the Talbot Tyrwhitt Road SE4 1QG

Join us for

Strange stories including (probably) spells potions and drinking. Bring your own (story!) to read, and join in the writing relay.

 

Bellingham Festival

I am judging the children’s poetry competition! Winners will be announced on 16th June.

On 20th June I will be presenting authors from Arachne Press’ Dusk anthology, reading their contributions – stories and poems inspired by the in-between of no sun but not dark – yet.

12:00-12:45

St John’s Church on Bromley Road, opposite Homebase.

 

 

Old Women in Books: on publishing your mother


Today is my mum’s birthday. Ghillian Potts is 84. Like me, she has written all her literate life, and still has a notebook full of poems written between the ages of about 7 and 12, (of variable quality!)
To celebrate, my publishing company, Arachne Press, is publishing two of her books today. I crowd funded to the family, and my sisters and Dad all contributed.

I grew up with my mum’s stories, bedtime and bathtime we would congregate to hear the next installment in some long running saga (one of which featured a family of five girls whose names all started with R discovering that their headmistress is a witch, which went on for weeks), or demand yet again an old favourite; Jackanory had nothing on Mum, and the Singing Ringing Tree (remember that?) was a very poor second.

It turned out that the publishing world agreed, and three of Ghil’s stories for primary school aged children were published in the 1990’s, including Sink or Swim which made it onto Jackanory and we were very pleased that they had finally caught up with us! However relatively speaking, these were contemporary, girl/boy in the street, stories (even the one with a witch), which didn’t showcase Ghil’s magnificent flights of fantasy… Her agent ‘knew’ what would sell and just wasn’t interested in her magnificently funny and silly fairy tales for younger children, nor in her fantasy novels for the Young Adult market.

My all time most-often-demanded tale aged 5 or 6 was The Very Cross King, although when I asked Ghil to write it out for me recently, it wasn’t at all how I remembered. Unlike the glorious The Old Woman from Friuli, which was exactly as I remember it, possibly because it was written much later, when Ghil was learning Italian and heard this outrageous claim:

The people of Friuli are the most stubborn in the whole of Italy, and the women are even more stubborn than the men, but the old women… well!

As a  4 star review from The Book Bag says: … a clarion call to our daughters… Three cheers, I say!

Mum denies any intention to instil feminism in the young, saying that she was just having fun letting the Old Woman be as rude as possible, but it’s there nonetheless.

I commissioned Ed Boxall to do the illustrations, having worked with him before, and there would have been more if we could have afforded them.

 

The other book Arachne Press is publishing is Brat: Book One of The Naming of Brook Storyteller.

I don’t have many shared interests with Ghil, we suffer from being very alike in personality but very different in outlook. Writing is our meeting place and touchstone.

Years ago I wrote an extended critique of the three books that make up The Naming of Brook Storyteller for Ghil, probably just before she offered them to the agent, I can’t recall now. And Mum did likewise for me on my novel The Dowry Blade. If there is one person it is difficult to take literary criticism from, it is your mum! Don’t try this at home! I’m sure she found my comments equally difficult, but we were both right. However, it meant that I know these books pretty well, and love them, although they have inevitable evolved over the interim, in fact I realised that some of the cultural peculiarities I had included in a early attempt at a fantasy novel (never to be published!) were swiped from Mum.

Gorgeous cover by Gordy Wright

The decision to publish now was almost spur of the moment, but once made it felt absolutely right. Ghil’s writing inspired me to write, and these are fantastic stories that deserve a wider audience that they have had so far. Neither of us is getting any younger, and I want Mum to see these books published while she can still enjoy the process.

The trilogy tells the story of Brook Storyteller, orphaned and alone, befriended by outlaws and rulers;  trained to remember, exactly, what happens, and sworn to always tell the truth, in a way that the listener will understand, and with the power to raise or destroy people by the names she gives them. Her own name is precious, and changes over the course of the three novels through the success and failure of her own actions.

This is absolutely a series based on the importance of acting and speaking truthfully and the consequences for those who don’t.

So when I sat Mum down and suggested I might publish some of her work, the choice was pretty much already made as to which books to start with, although I did look at one of her other Young Adult books that I remember her writing when I was about the age to be her target market, but these are the stories I grew up loving.

The second in the trilogy, Spellbinder,  will be published in December, and the final one, Wolftalker, in June next year.

Happy Birthday, Mum!

 

 

 

 

TODAY: Songs of Protest at Brockley Max


Copyright Ben Mueller-Brown

 

Vocal Chords are reprising our Songs of Protest repertoire for Brockley MAX Festival today, Sunday 4th June at 3.30.

St Hilda’s Church, Courtrai Road
SE23 1PL

We are joined by Carrie Cohen & Silas Hawkins who will read poems from Arachne Press’ Liberty Tales anthology.

£7 on the door (proceeds to Wheels for Wellbeing)

Books Sales & refreshments available

Carrie Cohen

Pictures from Beckenham bookshop reading of The Dowry Blade

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