Tuesday 31 March 2020

Call for Entries: G. S. Fraser Poetry Prize 2020

This is a call for submissions for this year's G. S. Fraser Poetry Prize.

Any student currently enrolled at the University of Leicester may enter. Entrants may submit up to three poems. Poems may be on any subject but must not exceed 40 lines. Poems must not have been published or have won another prize.

How to enter
To enter please email your poem(s), one poem per page, in a Word or pdf attachment from your University email address to ngre1 [at] le.ac.uk, with ‘G. S. Fraser Prize’ in the subject line and your name in the message. 

The deadline for submissions is: 5 p.m. on Friday 22 May 2020. The result will be announced on Friday 19 June. A prize of £50 will be awarded to the author of the winning poem. 

Monday 23 March 2020

Laura Besley, "The Almost Mothers"

Laura Besley writes short (and very short) fiction in the precious moments that her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared online (Fictive Dream, Spelk, EllipsisZine) as well as in print (Flash: The International Short Story Magazine) and in various anthologies (Adverbally Challenged, Another Hong Kong, Story Cities). The Almost Mothers is her first collection and is published by Dahlia Publishing.

About the book
The Almost Mothers by Laura Besley is a flash fiction collection exploring the theme of motherhood.

A first-time mum struggles with her newborn baby. An alien examines the lives of Earth Mothers. A baby sleeps through the night at long last.

Written with raw honesty, Laura Besley's debut flash collection, The Almost Mothers, exposes what it really means to be a mother. 

Below, Laura talks about the experience and process of writing the book. 

Writing The Almost Mothers 
By Laura Besley

I stopped writing for about a year after having my eldest son. Not because I wanted to, but because I was exhausted: physically, mentally, emotionally, and it left no space for anything else. When I started writing again, in fits and starts, one of the first pieces I wrote was ‘The Motherhood Contract.’ Elspeth, the main character, is not me, but like me, she is struggling with becoming a mother, and making sense of her world now that she is a mother. 

As I started writing more, I noticed that I had a growing number of pieces about motherhood, with different characters, covering different facets of motherhood, and in 2018 I did FlashNano (write a piece of flash fiction for every day of November) and most of these pieces were about motherhood too. In December 2018 I put the collection together to enter into a competition. It was long-listed and this gave me the confidence to submit to Dahlia Books when Farhana Shaikh, editor and director, put out a call for submissions in April 2019.  

There’s been a surge in ‘honest’ writing about motherhood, something I felt was lacking only five or six years ago when I first became a mother. There was an expectation of motherhood and the gap between that and reality, I felt at least, was insurmountable. I’d like to think that the overall message of this collection is honesty; we’re not all going to find it easy. 

Here’s an extract from one of the stories:

From ‘The Motherhood Contract.’

You must not tell the mother-to-be that she will lose herself.

Elspeth feels cheated. No-one warned her that she would no longer recognise herself: physically, mentally, and in every other way. She looks in the mirror and wonders who that person is with pale skin and massive purple globs under her eyes; lank and greasy hair; and a body that still looks six months pregnant months after birth.

Meeting her old friends no longer holds appeal as she has nothing to talk about but the baby, and their frustrations seem so trivial. Meeting the women from her antenatal class is unappealing because all they talk about is babies. And going out without the baby isn’t an option.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

"Small Press Publishing: The Dos and Don'ts"

By Isabelle Kenyon

I started writing Small Press Publishing: The Dos and Don'ts because, when I started publishing anthologies at the end of 2017, there were no books or advice columns out there for new publishers. I contacted every single publisher on the Northern Fiction Alliance page (around 50 UK publishers) and offered to work for free, explaining that I had already taught myself a lot about the business, but now wanted to apply that knowledge to a professional team (in a small press, you often do every single part of the publishing process, but ideally, you have the budget to allocate roles and salaries, so I was intrigued to see how this worked). Unfortunately, only two people replied and they said they didn’t have the capacity to take me on.

This frustrated me because I knew I wasn’t a hindrance to their day-to-day activities – I’ve always worked hard and independently. Instead, I just tried harder to work through the legalities of becoming a sole trader, sorting out a distributor, developing relationships with bookshops, etc., myself. A lot of those publishers now book tables from me for the Northern Publishers’ Fair which I organise!

It’s entirely possible to build your own niche within a busy book market. You have to be organised, determined and have a supportive network, who are passionate about the kinds of books you produce. My network is predominately supportive US readers who I communicate with on social media, and book bloggers who give so much of their time to reviewing my titles (thank you!).

With this book, I wanted to help the many who are never given work experience, by talking them through the steps that I have gone down over the past two years. I’ve also interviewed a series of small publishers in various genres because all publishers run their businesses differently, and I wanted to show those varying models.

There is a lot more to succeeding as a publisher, and as a business, than a good idea. You need to maximise your chances of success. In this book, I take the reader through the process of branding, working with authors, the publishing schedule, marketing and distributing and how I started my business. For example, in one section we look at:

Important questions to ask yourself before you launch your press

What is it about your book or your publishing strategy that encourages customers to choose you? For example, I believe that, for Fly on the Wall Press, it’s the quality of the books and the diverse range of voices, which we represent.

As a publisher, you need a very clear idea about what your books represent and why your publishing niche is important in the industry.

Why do you want to open your own publishing press?

What previous work experience will help you to do this?

What qualifications or training do you have, which will help you with your business endeavour?

Which future training courses do you want to complete in order to develop your business?

Especially on a small press level, you are your own best advocate and if people are interested in your books, it is usually because they are interested in you and what you stand for. To begin selling books, you must be able to sell yourself as a business owner. Have confidence in what you are doing and really define what your press represents.

About the book

Small Publishing: The Dos and Don’ts, by Isabelle Kenyon

Start with a good idea.

Set up your own business.
Fill a niche in the publishing industry and turn your hobby into a full-time career.

If you feel passionate that you can fill a niche in the publishing industry, but you haven’t managed to get your lucky break so far, this book is for you.

If you have already started running your own online magazine, small press or are publishing your own work in book form professionally, this book is for you.

With interviews from Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd, HVTN Press, Louise Walters Books, Newfound Journal, Ghost City Press, Broken Sleep Books, Mason Jar Press, Queen of Swords, Neon Books and more.

The book is available from Fly on the Wall Press here.

About the author

Isabelle Kenyon is a northern poet and the author of This is not a Spectacle, micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press) and Digging Holes To Another Continent (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York) and Potential (Ghost City Press). She is the editor of Fly on the Wall Press, a socially conscious small press for chapbooks and anthologies. In 2020, she will be published by Indigo Dreams - poetry chapbook Growing Pains - and Wild Pressed Books (short story 'The Town Talks').

​She was shortlisted for the Streetcake Experimental Writing Prize 2019 and for The Word, Lichfield Cathedral Competition 2019. Her poems have been published in poetry anthologies by Indigo Dreams Publishing, Verve Poetry Press, and Hedgehog Poetry Press. She has had poems and articles published internationally.

She will headline at Cheltenham Poetry Festival  2020 and has opened Coventry Cathedral's Plum Line Festival.  She has performed at Leeds International Festival as part of the 2019 'Sex Tapes' and for  Apples and Snakes' 'Deranged Poetesses' 2019.

​She is a fierce dog lover and a confessed caffeine addict.

Saturday 7 March 2020

Tania Hershman, "and what if we were all allowed to disappear"

Tania Hershman, photo by Naomi Woddis

and what if we were all allowed to disappear is Tania Hershman's seventh book. Tania's poetry pamphlet, How High Did She Fly, joint winner of Live Canon's 2019 Poetry Pamphlet Competition, was published in 2019. Her debut poetry collection, Terms & Conditions, is published by Nine Arches Press and her third short story collection, Some Of Us Glow More Than Others, by Unthank Books. Tania is also the co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers' & Artists' Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014), the co-creator of @OnThisDayShe, and the curator of short story hub ShortStops. She has a PhD in Creative Writing inspired by particle physics. Tania was recently writer-in-residence in the Southern Cemetery in Manchester, and made a radio programme about her residency, Who Will Call Me Beloved.  Hear her read her work on SoundCloud and find out more on her website here.

Her new book, and what if we were all allowed to disappear, is a collage of poetry, prose and prose/poem hybrids. It's a story of fragmentation, collision, absence and presence. Inspired by particle physics, Tania plays with words and narrative to create new shapes and stories, asking the reader, "What does it mean to be in pieces? What might it mean to be whole?" It's published by Guillemot Press on March 4 2020, and you can see more details here. Below, Tania introduces the book, and you can read a sample from it. 

By Tania Hershman

This is a version of the book I wrote for my PhD, for which I took inspiration from particle physics to look at the idea of parts and wholes. I have a BSc in Maths and Physics, but was never cut out to be a scientist. I became a science journalist, and slowly slowly moved towards my first love: fiction. When I started writing short stories - and then later, poetry -  I didn't want to leave the science behind so I played with it, using articles about science, and then time spent with scientists themselves, as inspiration. 

For the PhD, I took this to a whole new level. I had a particle physicist as an external supervisor, and went and sat in on some of her lectures because particle physics has evolved over the past 25 years! I immersed myself, not only in physics, but in everything to do with parts and wholes. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much everything. Every topic has something to say about what “part” means, what “whole” is, how something can be one, the other, or even both. I followed tangents and went in such fascinating directions, from fractals to Gestalt psychology. 

And while researching these topics, I was also experimenting on what I called “particle fiction”: books made of parts that were intended to work as coherent wholes. Not just chapters, something odder, more disjointed. The books I looked at in detail – and in one case physically took apart – were Bluets by Maggie Nelson, An Acre of Barren Ground by Jeremy Gavron, and Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. When I say “experimented,” I came at it like a scientist, taking measurements, then plotting results on graphs and pie charts. I had such fun. The idea was to see how these books worked and then create my own. 

The result was and what if we were all allowed to disappear. I never explain anything that I write, I will never tell a reader what I think it's “about,” because everything - especially the shortest and most experimental things - is a co-creation with the reader. I don't know what anyone will make of this book, in which prose morphs into poetry and vice versa and there are many gaps left for the reader to fill in. I really would love to hear if and how it speaks to people. 

I can't quite believe this odd hybrid book found a publisher! I couldn't be more delighted with how the excellent Guillemot Press took what I'd done – which is formatted very precisely, printing the PhD was a bit of a nightmare – and came up with creative ways to present it, including pages made of tracing paper. And the GOLD COVER. Oh my. It's beyond anything I could have dreamed of. You don't need to know anything about, or have any interest in, particle physics to read this book. It contains parts which I hope work as a whole, and it looks at the idea of taking things apart and what is revealed. I will say no more about it, here is a little taster. 

Susy sits in the waiting room. She feels like there is something she's forgotten. Although they did not ask her to bring anything. Susy is not sure what they want. She is also not sure exactly what this place is. She wonders if they are watching her. She looks around. 
Susy is worried that she has left the gas on, or the taps, a door unlocked, a window open. She sees herself before she leaves the house, closing, switching off, holding keys. Susy breathes. 
They call her name. 

They call her name.
Susy breathes. She sees herself before she leaves the house, closing, switching off, holding keys. Susy is worried that she has left the gas on, or the taps, a door unlocked, a window open.

She looks around. She wonders if they are watching her. She is also not sure exactly what this place is. Susy is not sure what they want from her. Although they did not ask her to bring anything. She feels like there is something she's forgotten. Susy sits in the waiting room. 

In the waiting room,
Susy sits. There is something

she's forgotten, Susy feels.
Bring anything,  although they

did not ask her. Not sure  
what they want

from her. Susy is this
place? She is also not.

Sure. Exactly. What if
they are watching her, she wonders.

Around she looks, left.
The gas on, or the taps, a door

unlocked, a window open? Susy
is worried herself. Before she leaves

the house closing, switching
off, holding the keys. She sees

that she has her name.
Susy breathes they.