Lancaster Writing Programme Campus & Distance Learning Students Creative Writing MA Online Anthology 2013
Lancaster University Lancaster Writing Programme
postcards Campus & Distance Learning Students Creative Writing MA Online Anthology 2013 Published June 2013 Copyright © 2013 retained by contributors. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the contributor. Postcards editorial team: Fin Jackson, Janet Lees, Lizette Martinez Cover Photograph © Ian Pilbeam Acknowledgements Thanks to Lancaster Writing programme tutors Jenn Ashworth, Sarah Corbett, Jane Draycott, Paul Farley, George Green, Zoe Lambert, Sara Maitland, Brian McCabe, Graham Mort, Conor O’Callaghan, Ian Seed, Jayne Steel, Tom Pow and Michelene Wandor.
Lancaster University Lancaster Writing Programme Campus & Distance Learning Students Creative Writing MA Online Anthology 2013
Contents Foreword by Graham Mort…………………………………………………………………………………...………i Mandy Bannon
The Man Who Is Not My Father…………………………………….....…...4
Dance To The Wild Ice………………………………………………….....…...5
The Ice Rocket……………………………………………………………....……11
Petra with the Hard P…………………………………………………....…...12
Prince Phillip the Elderly Cockpheasant …………………….....….14
In the Doctor’s Surgery…..………………………….....……………......…..15
Red Kites …………………………………………………….................................18
The Saddle And The Ground………………………………………....…...19
When Charles & Camilla came to visit……………………….............21
Extract from novel Frozen…………………………………………….....…...23
The Last Performance, Copenhagen 1943… ………………....…..26
Extract from Untitled………………………………………….........................28
Nguyen Phan Que Mai
My Father’s Home Village………………………………………......………30
Ericka Olsen Stefano
Primes and Prams……………………………………………………...………36
Phillippa de Villiers
Foreword The work in this anthology has been solicited from the part-‐time and full-‐time campus Creative Writing MA groups at Lancaster University and its two part-‐time distance learning MA cohorts. It therefore represents different stages of engagement for those students. Our programme at Lancaster remains distinctive because of its ‘open’ or student-‐centred approach to teaching and learning. We have no set curriculum and no modular structures. All students work together – face-‐to-‐face or online – whether they are writing poetry, prose or scripts. The course is taught by published writers who have strong interest in pedagogy and who are continually making new work. Students come to us with a project they’re keen to develop, and we help to develop that project through the workshop process, challenging and shaping the work, making a curriculum from the writing itself, drawing out rather than instilling. Such freedom can be exhilarating both as a student and a teacher – it is also deceptively demanding because the writing projects themselves have to gain strength and independence to sustain the students and their tutors in such an ambitious joint enterprise. The breadth and range of the work in this anthology is a testament to this working method – there is no hint here of the production-‐line literature that is sometimes attributed to creative writing courses. As I turned the pages I was continually surprised by the freshness of the work and the strength of individual voices (whether in prose or poetry) and by the range of geographies (physical and psychological), cultures, subject matter and techniques. The creative work itself is intriguingly varied and it is only when turning to the biographies of the contributing writers that the reasons for this really become clear: our MA students comprise a remarkably diverse cultural grouping who have chosen to work in the medium of English. For me this is one of the great strengths of the MA at Lancaster, which brings together students from all over the world to explore the creative act of writing, which opens up debates about the provenance and future of language itself, which negotiates a hard-‐won identity for each writer and each piece of work. I hope you enjoy reading the work here as much as I did. For me the experience was of finding writers whose work I thought I knew evading my expectations through new i
experiments in form and technique, continuing to grow and extend. But literature, of course has to fly free of any educational context. It has to engage with and become human experience, returning us to a sense of life and its exigencies, interactions, opportunities, hopes, disappointments, and sometimes unidentifiably mixed emotions. This anthology captures that essential texture: by which I mean the interweaving of language, lived experience and an expectant and reflective consciousness into new works of literature. Professor Graham Mort, May 2013.
Mandy Bannon The Pickers Luo spat the mollusc out. No wonder the English exported these things abroad. He wiped his mouth on a red scarf that was binding his neck, where the iced west wind fought to invade his so-‐called weatherproof. He’d been intrigued enough to prise open the heart-‐shaped shell when no one was looking. It had a small orange beak like a baby chicken and shone in its cosy case like a sleeping malformed gem. He loved shrimp, but this was different. A creature at home in the dark grey mud of a bay so vast he could barely see to the other side. Still, this was only the first day. He must keep working and think of his family. The salty taste and grit lingered in his mouth as he raked at the shells. He was not afraid of hard work. He’d farmed with his father and cousins since he was a boy. Ploughing and tilling the dusty soil of his Fujian hills. He knew how to take orders — keep his head down and do as he was told. Last night he’d thought of nothing else. The promise of fresh air and sea had buoyed his restless night and kept his mind alert. That, and the droning from the sleeping bag next to him. Seventeen of them all bunched together in the living room. He smiled as he scooped the pile of sea shells into the orange nylon sack. Huddled together like poor cockles, he thought. But these creatures were destined for the tapas bars of Spain, and he, Liang Luo, was destined for a better life. It had been agreed. Passage to the UK and the promise of a steady income. Accommodation and food all taken care of. The language? No problem, Cheng had barked. We’ll look after you. We’ll even take you to your work place. Just pay us in advance. Think of it as an investment. Of course, if you’re not interested, there are plenty more who are. Jing-‐wei had smiled sadly and lowered her eyes when Luo had told her his plan. She was holding Xiu-‐xiu in her arms and bent to kiss her sleeping baby’s bulging cheek. I’ll only have to work a year, then I’ll have enough to pay our debts and buy some land of our own, he’d 1
said. And Jing-‐wei had looked up with those hungry eyes again. You promise to come back to me? she’d said.
Four Years Later… A cloud of geese ebbed and flowed above an egg-‐yolk sunset. Landing in swirls, the honking softened to a muted moan. The estuary provided rich pickings for all its visitors: curlews, oyster catchers, redshank. David held the binoculars to his young son’s face. ‘Can you see the geese now, Jack?’ he asked. ‘Yes, but it’s fuzzy daddy.’ David hadn’t been back since that night. He’d taken the first job he could get on the oil rigs, until Carol threatened to leave. So then labouring and now — well, how could he have expected her to stay if he couldn’t work? If only he could go picking again, maybe she’d come back and they could all be a proper family like before. That night. He’d been working since low tide all afternoon — so was surprised to see the clapped out minibus turning up so late in the day. It was the Chinese again. Didn’t speak a word of English. No bloody clue. He’d tapped the face of his watch, but they’d just stared. One of them peered out over a bright red scarf and simply shrugged. David had thrown the last of his sacks into his 4x4, changed out of his waders and climbed into his car. Ignition on, Dire Straits and instant warmth. He’d driven home thinking about his day’s work and what it would fetch. There was a baby on the way — and his heart swelled. The Police had thanked him and the rest of the lads for their help. ‘Local knowledge’ they’d called it. It had been a long, bitter night. He’d seen fear frozen onto the faces of the survivors and felt the anguish of the rescuers retrieving bodies. Just one tide had swept something away forever. ‘I can see them now, Daddy. There’s so many of them. Why do they come here?’ 2
‘Well, to feed themselves and their young, and well, that’s it really,’ David replied, crouching down. He picked up a cockleshell and placed it in his son’s unfurled palm. ‘That’s everything.’ 3
Claire Black The Man Who Is Not My Father Mum kept, tucked into the back of one of her photograph albums, a big, glossy picture of her and a man who is not my father. They’re sitting at a table, a big round table, with a white tablecloth. It looks like some kind of dinner dance and the man has dark, dark hair which is slicked back with something which is making it shiny. Mum looks very pretty. She is laughing into the camera, and she’s got a long string of beads around her neck, which she has knotted at the front. She told me the beads were red but on the photograph they are black. The man has his arm around the back of her chair. She told me that it was taken the year before she met my dad, when she worked for a summer in a holiday camp in Scarborough. She worked in the record shop, and she said she thought she was the bee’s knees. I don’t know why she said it like that, that she thought she was the bee’s knees, as if actually she wasn’t. If you’re working in a record shop in the nineteen-‐sixties, knotting beads around your neck and getting photographed at a dinner dance with a man in a Beatles suit with slicked back hair, you are completely the bee’s knees and that’s all there is to it. I used to like looking at that photograph. I used to think that if Mum had chosen to marry this man with the dark, shiny hair instead of my dad with his thick glasses and fat ties, that he would be my father. But it doesn’t work like that. I would be half someone else and this photograph would just be one of many of my parents in their younger days. I wonder if the man who is not my father got married himself and had a child, a son perhaps, who, when he happens upon this picture of his dad at a dinner dance with a girl who is not his mother thinks that she might have been his mum. I used to like thinking about that. I’d think about the endless possibilities of my life, my nearly life and Mum’s life and get them all in a tangle like the beads around her neck. 4
Suzanne Conboy-Hill Dance to the Wild Ice When Izzy’s eyelids got burned off, she had to watch all the time without blinking — apart from the frog-‐lick that slides across side-‐to-‐side, but you can see through that so there’s no escape and she’s been watching since Jinty started making the dance. Izzy and Jinty and me are on the same birth ring — at least for now. When the ice breaks on your birthdays, you don’t want to get distracted by the noises and the flap-‐ yappering of the spirits getting into people’s mouths and ears. If you do, you might forget to keep looking, like Izzy did. She won’t be on our birth ring after the dance.
Making a dance is tricky; you can’t just put it together from nothing with your own
leggy-‐hops and chinbobs and such — there’s a right way to do it. For a start, you have to make sure there’s the same number of steps as celebrators. You can have multiples or squares or roots, but you can’t have primes; they’re sneaky and unfriendly, so you put harmonics on primes to layer them up, like chords for feet.
Jinty got permission to open the Book of Dances and stuffed leaves in his ears so the
whistling wouldn’t get into his head while he traced over the old patterns with blackwood chalk. Jinty plays cat-‐string harp and he knows harmonies, but he’s not good at numbers, so we blew the good ones into his left ear and the bad ones into his right ear and made marks on the backs of his hands so he’d remember.
He was gone half the year doing that dance with only the tapping and thumping to say
he was still in the Book House. We pushed bits of bovey meat and pea parkies under the door to keep him going, and we tried not to sing in case we put him off his rhythm and he got something wrong. The problem with being the dance-‐maker is that, if you get it wrong, you have to join the dancer and do the dance together, hopping over the ice from beat to beat and picking up more and more birthdays on the way. Of course it means you share them with the dancer so you only pick up half each which can be a blessing — as long as it doesn’t leave you with the head-‐dallies and not being able to think straight because then you’ll straightaway make a mistake and end up stiff as a snowfish with your eyeballs pointing at the sky and the deep at the same time.
Jinty’s doing it because he got the green twig and there’s a lot of us on our ring so not
much chance of coming back if he fouls up. Not like when there’s only, say, ten or twenty of you. You can add ten or twenty birthdays no problem as long as you don’t already have a 5
whole lot stacked up. There’s over two hundred of us, and we have twenty five rings, and who lives that long?
We knew he was done when the spirits started chasing about above the Book House,
whipping the roofing up at the corners and screeching through the windows like banshi-‐ ghosts riding on lightning. It was going to be our birthdays tomorrow so there wasn’t any more time. Anyway, he came out, pulling the dance along behind him on wax-‐leaf runners and it twitched and throbbed like it was ready to go all on its own. We all helped to pin it down — spitting on its edges and freezing it to the ice. The last step had to be in the right place for Izzy, in the middle where the wild ice shifted and sucked like a whirlpool full of skinning knives. We could see the spirits under the surface, charging about with trails of fire behind them, and we made sure to keep looking. Izzy was looking too, of course, but even with the doze-‐weed it was like she knew this was for her. She’d be stepping and hopping and gathering years to her back until she was stooped and crouched. But if Jinty had done his job right and we’d done the freezing out right, Izzy would drop into the wild ice just before her skin fell off and her arms and cheeks and bones came apart, and her blood and water and gristle spread over the lake to feed the shinny beetles. It wouldn’t be so bad if she couldn’t feel any of it. It wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of us couldn’t hear any of it either, but we only had the doze-‐weed so we could. Jinty wasn’t allowed doze-‐weed and he was scrabbit-‐scared. We’d know tomorrow if he had good reason. 6
Alex Croy Freelancer It’s not a job. Not really. I mean I’m paid for it, sometimes, and my CV grows a little with each confidence eroding offence. But, well, it’s a sign of the times; you take what you can get, and don’t get me wrong, at least it’s interesting. One day I’ll be working in a call centre: ‘No madam, I don’t know what time it is in Singapore. No, I wouldn’t like to be called for a survey when I’ve just gone to bed. That’s, yes, look I dialled a Bournemouth area code you’re not in Singap…I what? Well, I’ll give it a go, but I don’t think I can bend that way. I… yes, yeah ok same to you….yep Merry Christmas.’ The next, filming cut-‐aways for the local paper’s online section: I stand in the middle of Bournemouth town centre in my best suit, diagonal hail ricocheting with a thuck sound off my unsheltered head, icy water pooling in my professional shoes. I hold my only umbrella to my right to shelter the camera that sits smugly whining away, filming a two minute still of a new council robo recycling compactor bin that, as luck would have it, is solar powered. Still there are the upsides. Every student has a shit job but at least I get all kinds of experience with mine. I even got to work for some real papers: Three thirty in the morning. It’s cold and rotten outside. Numb arse and bad back; I hate stakeouts. But my editor Andy is paying me two hundred quid, just to ask one question of the bloke that comes out of that house as he makes his way to court; that’s worth a bit of discomfort. The door opens and a suited man steps out. Not my guy; must be his lawyer looking for press. Another one, shaved head, tattoo over the back of his neck, stalks impatiently after him. I make my move. I’m out the car and half way across the tarmac before the lawyer throws up a hand shaking his head. ‘Mr Andies, scuse me, Alex Croy Bournemouth Echo, can I ask you a quick question about your sentencing today?’
The guy nods and calls off the lawyer, standing with his hands in his pockets and glaring expectantly. ‘Great,’ I unfold the piece of paper Andy gave me, ‘Now that you’ve been convicted of six counts of GBH, do you think violent gang crime will see a drop in the weeks to come?’ I swallow hard. It’s silent, but for the popping sound of the troll’s knuckles. Ah feck. The editor position. That was a proper job. I was in charge of the entire arts and culture section. Respectable. Professional. A chance to really make my opinion count. Of course it could have had a better name than The Bad News, and maybe I should have asked why the owner’s “office” was a booth at the back of a Turkish hookah bar: We wait. The three editors of Poole’s latest local rag, each commanding a team of the best student journalists on the south coast. Mark’s just gone to get his notes on our various layouts, as well as the cheques for paying us and our writers of course. ‘He’s been a while,’ says Joe (local news editor). ‘Probably just double checking the wire,’ I say, ‘doesn’t want to miss out on something this close to print.’ My cohorts nod. Mark’s a professional. That’s why he came to us; actual journalists, pillars of the fourth estate, rather than just drafting in a bunch of witless students who don’t know anything about the real world. ‘There are offices behind this place right?’ Galvin (sports and leisure editor) says, his tone hinting at concern. I snort, ‘Of course there are. Where else would Mark have gone?’ We sit in silence a moment longer then look down the bar at the door Mark disappeared through. The door with the push bar on it; lit faintly by the glow of a fire exit sign glaring at us through a fog of fragrant smoke. ‘Well maybe it’s around the corner from…’
‘Alright gents?’ a smart casual clad man says striding up to us, ‘One of you Mark
‘No, he’s just stepped out.’ I say in my professional voice, ‘He’ll be back in a second,
but we’re his editorial team. Is there something we can help you with?’
The man smiles pulling out a digital flash mic, ‘Ian Marshall Poole Informer, what do
you have to say about Mr Harris being charged with fraud?’ 8
‘He’s not coming back is he?’ I sigh and take a puff from the table’s complimentary
hookah pipe. What? Ok, well, maybe those weren’t the best examples. But you know I’m not doing too badly. I wonder if Burger King has any openings. 9
Olivia Dawson One-Night Stand I turn to catch his scent in the bed like a game of hide-‐and-‐seek; bury my face in our playground my heart spreadeagled hands open ready to strip the bed for the next unexpected guest. A wink of blue ruffles the emptiness; a tiny button has popped from his perfect denim shirt and spun under the duvet like a pest so I tuck it into my knicker drawer ready with some matching cotton thread. 10
Natalie Gordon The Ice Rocket We start on the rocket ramp. The back end wedged and weighed down with mum, the front end in the air, a diving board daring me to clamber on, tuck my snow boots in, grip the rope — if I let it go I ruin everything — “Ready!” Mum pushes off as I head for space Bang! The front end hits the ice, I shut my eyes and scream and scream again as I fly like rockets must, the scraping skidding crunch of sledge on icy snow grabs and spins and hurls me laughing down the slope, faster faster faster till I see the wall — the jagged ends of rocks jut out, further than I thought they did. I lean and so does mum but the sledge ignores us, hurtles on, held in frozen ruts. She shouts at me to lean some more, I scream and mum is laughing but not me — I shut my eyes and feel her arms around me as she yanks me off and we tumble, limbs entwined, and hear it slam into the wall. “Again!” 11
Shannon Hancock Petra with the Hard P She was an older woman who knew who she was. She was tall for her age but so was Bryan. She carried a magical twitch in her left eye, possibly a nervous tick, but to Bryan, it was a secret wink forever in his general direction. Bryan thought she must be in grade 7, Petra with the brown braid and the single blue ribbon. Bryan liked the way she dressed so casually American in no-‐nonsense zip off shorts/pants combinations and cozy sweatshirts that zipped as if she had just gotten out of bed or was about to head back under the covers. There was always a sense of purpose about Petra on the yard, like the Darling’s Nana, ready for anything the other children might need. Bryan needed to be rescued, to have his shadow reattached. After a decent start at this school, he had lost his confidence and was now floating around in the sky like a cottony seed to Neverland. After all, he had not meant to be boastful or careless or even selfish to John or Michael or the other real boys who had been here since pre-‐K. But he was a lost child in the strange land of Serbia, and in his childish ways, he had overshadowed the others with his boasting. They saw his baby teeth, his vulnerabilities, and they went for the easy mark. Petra and Bryan had finally met face-‐to-‐face during his second month at Chartwell School. She had been assigned to present a science fair project to the younger kids. It had been a Rube Goldberg machine. The sheer creativity and innovation of the idea had sealed Bryan’s fate. This was the muse he had been trying to invoke. Using a pendulum and a cloth napkin, this invention could wipe a child’s chin as he or she ate their nightly dinner. Bryan’s classmates had lined up to eat the raspberry cupcakes Petra’s mother had made, while having the contraption sweep back and forth on each of their faces as they sat in the hard chair underneath it. The machine tickled and caused giggles as it caressed them. It was a hit in grade 4. Gaining some of his old courage back momentarily, he had walked up to Petra and asked her if she had ever been to San Francisco where Rube Goldberg was from. Petra had stopped scanning the crowd of children then to peer at his blue eyes dead on. “Why, yes, I have. That is where I am from actually. Well, right across the bridge. There is a museum in the city where they have all of his machines and you can play with them all you want. Have you been there?” She was as wonderfully intense as he had expected her to be. 12
No, of course, he had not, but luckily his aunt lived in Mendocino, which was close enough to fake it. “I have been to California, but not there exactly. I read about him and it online a lot though.” Then he decided to risk it all. “Yours was the coolest project I’ve seen.” He paused and added, “Have you seen Edward Scissorhands?” The 7th grader smiled knowingly. “Of course,” and she tossed her braid across her chest and sucked on its soft end. This is how it all began, the odd pairing, the 7th grade girl and the 4th grade boy hanging around at recess times. “I am Petra with a hard P like this,” she said then, pursing her lips and spitting out the P sound as if it were a bullet. “Hi. I am Bryan. I am new here.” “I know.” True, Petra could not manage to be with Bryan all of the time, as that would alert attention, but she was generous to him most of the time. Petra counseled, “You must forget your own adventures and what you have learned about the world in order to stay childlike to the others. You need to forget about being so damn American and stop talking about all that you know in order to be accepted here. Just shut up, okay!” Then she saw the glisten in his eyes. Petra put her hand on his bony shoulder and said softly, “They will stop if you just let them.” These were new found lands of deep understanding in this Petra with the hard P. Though at night he would still fly home to Pennsylvania, to baseball and normal milk and backyard games in the trees, but during the day he would look forward to visiting Petra with her signature blue ribbon. For now this was how he could manage things here. 13
Jenny Hodkinson Prince Philip the Elderly Cockpheasant The breathing of my mother in the snoring sleep of old age. On the carpet the dog chews her paws. Infected with my mood: her spirits are low. It’s too early for tea, all hope deferred ‘til Monday. In the garden, Prince Philip, the elderly cockpheasant, is making his presence felt and pays court to Philipa, his queen consort, outside the window as he struts up and down, shouting in triumph in spite of his gammy leg. The black hour will pass. I hear the owl hooting, telling me to put on the light. My mother wakes, demanding her tea. 14
Adrian Horn In the Doctor’s Surgery ‘Good morning Lieutenant Strang,’ said Miss Tulip with red lips smiling. ‘Won’t you sit down? Dr. Cassidy should be free soon.’ Derrick smiled, nodded and sat down. ‘It’s such a beautiful morning, what a shame to be wasting it in here,’ she said. Dr Cassidy’s door opened and a middle-‐aged, clearly well-‐to-‐do lady emerged with Dr. Cassidy holding the door open for her. ‘Would you book an appointment for Mrs Robinson for two weeks time please Miss Tulip?’ He turned to Derrick. ‘Ah! Derrick. What a lovely day. How are your parents? Doing well, I hope. It must be six months since I saw either of them. Do send them my very best regards. And how is Lucy?’ Derrick mumbled. ‘Splendid. Splendid. Now we’ve got some serious business to get down to. How’s the pain been since you last saw me?’ Derrick shook his head. ‘Where is it worse?’ Derrick touched the top of his head. ‘In your head?’ Derrick nodded. ‘I presume your arm is still giving you some gip. I’ll need to give you a full physical examination.’ The doctor stood up and paced up and down behind his desk. ‘I’ll give you a note to take to the pharmacist for some more morphine, new needles and hypodermic but you must try to only use it when you absolutely need to, just to ease the pain. It’s a good servant but a poor master.’ Derrick’s eyes opened a little wider. ‘Now I have to write to the War Office explaining your condition since the relapse. This should correspond with their own examination when they see you next week. Don’t worry, they won’t send you back to the front; you’re still too shaken up.’ Derrick lit up a cigarette and crossed his legs. ‘I must say it’s been extremely helpful that you wrote to me beforehand with the details. That will save a bit of time. I do understand that this may cause you some distress by 15
bringing it all back but it can’t really be avoided.’ Derrick crossed and uncrossed his legs. ‘The main problems seem to have arisen from the concussion you experienced after the piece of shrapnel pierced your skull. The whole experience has clearly shaken your nerves; it must have been terrible.’ Derrick took in a lungful of smoke. ‘Am I right in saying that you are still experiencing continual headaches?’ Derrick nodded and repositioned himself in his chair. ‘And are you still only able to walk short distances? The doctor paused but got no reply. ‘And do you still get dizzy spells when doing so?’ Derrick nodded. ‘Well, that’s good. Some improvement, eh?’ Derrick nodded and then nodded again. ‘Do you still need a stick?’ Derrick started to rock backwards and forwards in his chair. ‘It’s alright, Derrick. Things are beginning to improve now. Given more time and plenty of rest you could make a very good recovery.’ Dr. Cassidy got up and walked to the door. ‘Would you come in for a minute please Miss Tulip? Thank you,’ he waved his arm at her. Miss Tulip came in. Derrick was shaking and rocking and his leg twitched in front of him. Miss Tulip knelt down by his side, put her arm around his shoulders. ‘It’s alright,’ she said cushioning his head on her chest. His mechanical rocking eased. Dr Cassidy loaded a syringe with morphine. ‘Can we just drop Lieutenant Strang’s trousers a little Miss Tulip please?’ Derrick felt her fingers as she undid the buttons on his braces and then started at the top of his fly. He stopped rocking to help her. She worked his trousers and underpants down far enough for Dr Cassidy to push his waiting needle into Derrick’s buttock and press down the plunger. ‘This won’t hurt a bit,’ he said as the needle went in. Derrick didn’t struggle. ‘One…two…three…four…’ the Doctor counted gently and Derrick felt the tension leave his body. His arms fell to his side. He looked up into Miss Tulip’s eyes and felt her compassion then his eyes glazed over and tears ran down his cheeks. He wheezed, coughed 16
once and started to breathe lightly. The morphine flowed through his veins relieving his pain and then his bladder. He wanted to say he was sorry. 17
Fin Jackson Red Kites Like sentinels – but swaying, too many chevron tails strung along the road’s edge. Shot with smart phones now these sentinels are waiting for a tyre squeal for a cracked carcass spread wide as a wingspan hot blood the only thing a Chilterns’ picnic lacks. They wait, like sentinels – but swaying. 18
Steve Lee The Saddle And The Ground The pub was snug and warm as a badger’s den in winter, glowing with a golden aura left by echoes of thumping, bouncing New Year and Christmas party nights that had brought regulars and strangers in through the door until there was not a square of carpet to stand on and steam rose from the crowd as it does from a squash of cattle. The slow-‐ticking mantelpiece clock still wore its red tinsel scarf, taking its January time, no longer required to hurtle towards Christmas, and the little brass jug next to it still sprouted with berried holly but no mistletoe — that had been stolen weeks ago. But the larger decorations, the room-‐high tinsel tree and the snowman lights were all packed away in a cupboard for next year, exhausted. Beryl, a veteran of campaigns, decked in Primark opulence and hung with baubles, read the newspaper behind the bar in the deep peace that follows a bountiful yuletide. The festive takings were safely banked and now she bathed in the blessed calm after the storm. She read about the Amalfi Coast and fiddled with the pearlescent beads around her neck. Seven nights in a four-‐star, all inclusive. She might book it tomorrow, or might keep looking a bit longer — the possibility was the sumptuous thing. Her gloss black shoe with its diamanté detail pivoted on the point of its toe, her foot lolling left and right in a luxury of idleness. Just a scatter of customers, and all of those in easy groups were settled in the corners: two couples on their way home from a meal at the Harvest Moon, four young lads, loud on the lagers, and the Three Wise Men, George, Des and Colin from the climbing club in their usual Wednesday corner. Good regulars. She turned a page and read an advertisement for erectile dysfunction. George was in full flow, his volcanic laughter shaking his shoulders and trembling the empties. Two pints down and a healthy sup into the third, the three men remembered Eastern Buttress on Dow Crag, the scene of Sunday’s triumph. George led the meeting as he led most things. He slammed his hand down on the table and insisted on a Macallan all round. And without waiting to hear the mock protestations he stood, banged his head on the low-‐slung lamp, suffered the usual jeers, steadied the weighty glass lampshade, and wavered in the direction of the bar. Beryl came alive from her newspaper, smiling, all teeth and lipstick and earrings, dyed blond hair, straightening her crocheted jumper with its peep-‐hole 19
open weave that offered glimpses of bra strap and made him imagine a penchant for adventurous underwear. George placed the three tumblers in the very centre of the table before then sliding each one out, perhaps three inches, so that they sat centrally but allocated on the high-‐gloss territory, like chess pieces, as if he had made a move to reclaim the board and proposed a fresh initiative. ‘There… you… are, gentlemen — your very good health.’ The peat-‐coloured liquor evaporated around them and drew them together like a camp fire. ‘A bad day at work, it was,’ said Des. ‘I had one of the new starts sitting in my office for an hour. First day on the gun; everyone thinks they can do it.’ There was a sympathetic tutting and angling of heads. ‘A shaky hand just isn’t fair,’ he continued. ‘There’s been times the lads have had to bail the new starts out but not till we’ve had beef staggering about, half stunned, skating in their own mess, then it’s not an easy job to finish. You can’t put a bolt between the eyes of a shaking half-‐ton animal so easy. There’s a particular way to go about it.’ He glanced around the pub and leaned forward a little. ‘You keep the gun concealed till the last second and you keep a calm in your eye.’ He tucked a hand behind his back. ‘Now, you don’t say bugger all. The animal knows, just from your voice, what you’re up to, so you say nothing.’ He brought his hand round, slowly, beneath the table and presented it over his glass with a single finger as a barrel pressed to the fist of his other hand. ‘Then, all matter-‐of-‐fact you place the bolt-‐end on the right spot and pssht, she’s down and quiet but for the twitch. You miss by a millimetre (he pinched the air) and she screams like a stuck pig, and I tell you what, it’s a noise you don’t forget. It goes right into you. At the end of the day, we’re all beasts, and that sound, that squeal goes all the way down to the pits of your stomach.’ 20
Janet Lees When Charles & Camilla came to visit they didn’t take the hill where cars roll upwards; didn’t stroll among the ruins of our fairy village. They didn’t meet the Pearly King who cruises the charity shops; the lollipop ladies christened Hinge & Bracket by Angie in the vets. They missed the mushroom ice-‐cream, the museum’s pair of space suits, the yellow polar bear on his resin iceberg. They didn’t even come close to dipping their toes in the blue shriek of the Irish Sea. They only had time for a nose round the new kipper factory – the film of this runs on a silent loop in the library. 21
Liz Monument Extract from novel Frozen Dead Beat wasn’t my kind of club, but I wasn’t there to enjoy myself. The dance floor pulsated with slim youths and scantily dressed girls. Most of them were high. Even the crowd standing round the edge swayed in time to the music, like mannequins pulled by a single string. Mo, who looked the part in skin-‐tight black, and wore a pout the size of HQ, hung back by the bar. He turned his head away, but I knew he was watching me from behind the shades. I pushed my way through the sweaty bodies and headed for the stairs. Merv had spent too long among people who hadn’t got a clue what he was. I didn’t have to see him — I could feel him, and he got stronger as I continued on up. Once I reached the top, the crowd thinned out. Merv was leaning against the balcony, his back pressed into the rails. The slouchy settees on the mezzanine level had been bagged by amorous couples. Merv’s expression of rhapsody had nothing to do with the music. He was staring at a threesome in one corner, their lean limbs entangled — until he spotted me, and shot away from the balcony, dropping his water bottle. He stood in the middle of the gangway with his mouth open. There's something singularly unattractive about a guy who wears a parka and jam-‐jar bottom glasses to a nightclub. 'Jess?' he squinted.
'Hello Merv.' I thrust my hands deep into my pockets and stared.
'What are you doing here?'
'Looking for you,' I said. 'I have to take you in, Merv.'
We were lip-‐reading, but he got the message. Merv began to back away, until he
slipped on a puddle of water that'd leaked from the bottle.
'Don't play hard to get,' I said, advancing.
'How did you know I'd be here?'
I gestured towards the threesome. 'You're a creature of habit.'
'Don't knock it till you've tried it,' Merv said, straightening his glasses. 'I won't come
'If you don't come with me, they'll send somebody far more frightening.'
Merv appeared to think about it, then he turned and ran. There was only one
staircase, and he was going in the wrong direction. I waited for him to bounce off the far wall and return like a boomerang. When Merv ended up exactly where he'd started, in the same 23
puddle of water, and fell over, I realised he was crying. His glasses were on the floor. One lens was cracked. I picked them up and knelt by his side.
'Merv, why did you come back?’ I said. ‘I haven’t seen you since Torches, then you
send me a card and you’re here, right under my nose. Why?'
Merv looked me up and down, and sniffed. ‘What's with you, all Unit-‐tagged and
official? What happened to Torches?'
I shrugged. ‘I got tired of guys trying to touch my butt.’
‘I didn’t recognise you without makeup,' Merv said. ‘And you’re wearing… well,
‘Get used to it,’ I snapped, ‘because this is me now. You can't fight the Unit forever,' I
yelled in his ear. 'They know about you. They want you. Please, come quietly and there won't be any trouble.' I handed Merv the broken glasses. He fumbled as he slid them on. 'You're sat in the water,' I said. 'You're going to look like you've pissed yourself unless you stand up quick.'
Merv scrambled to his feet and backed away. I was three feet smaller than him and
yet he was afraid of me. A teensy weensy part of me enjoyed it.
'I don't want to be like you, Jess. I won't be forced to join something I don't believe in!'
'Mervyn,' I shouted, 'I need you for one job. You have to join the human race some
time. Hanging around sex bars surfing on the desires of complete strangers is not an appropriate use of your skills.'
'Neither is poking around in the minds of criminals,' he yelled. 'I know what you do,
Jess. I know all about Department Thirteen. News travels fast. Especially among people like us.'
'Don’t ever mention the others,’ I said, moving in so close that when Merv backed
away, he fell into the wall. ‘I don’t even want to know where they are. What I want to know is, why did you come back? Why send me a post card? Didn't it occur to you that vanishing into the Disaster Zone might afford you a bit more anonymity? Don’t you realise you haven’t given me any choice about what happens next?'
Merv started to cry. 'I didn't think the Unit would look under their own nose.’
I took a deep breath and checked either side of us from underneath lowered lids. The
other clubbers were oblivious.
'The Unit pay a wage,' I said, calmly. 'When did you last actually earn anything you could call your own?’ 25
Anne O’Brien The Last Performance, Copenhagen 1943 One sheet of paper would be printed; then the dentist would start up his drill....S. Toksvigi Søren buttons the white dentist’s coat with hands that tremble. He must look the part. He stares at his slender, ink stained fingers in dismay; no way to clean them in time. His stomach lurches and his mouth fills with saliva. Maria's muffled voice reaches him through the surgery door, 'But of course Officer, we will help you. Tomorrow morning is good, Dr Jansen can see you then. You are coming at 8 o'clock?’ Søren hears the slight inflection in her voice and all the hope that hangs on it, weighing it down like an anchor. He holds his breath. 'What you say? Tomorrow morning? Are you stupid woman, it is now. I will see him now.’ Søren strains to listen to the sound of shuffling papers, the plaintive screech of chair legs on the tiled floor. 'But of course,' she says. 'Yis. I will tell him.’ Not for the first time Søren wonders how on earth he was persuaded to help out with the underground newspaper; Hans, with his brilliant idea of setting up shop in the disused dentist's surgery where the noise of the drill could be used to muffle the sound of the press. But for Christ's sake, could one of them at least not have been a dentist? He thinks of the others in the back room, as scared as he is, barely daring to breathe.
Deep down he knows it's not all Hans fault. For almost a year he'd kept quiet, going to
work each evening to the Tivoli Gardens, taking his place as second violin in the orchestra pit, not raising his head to look at the benches filled with Gestapo officers. A whole year spent pretending that all would be okay, a year regretting he hadn't taken Hanne and fled to Sweden when he'd had the chance, a year wishing it would all go away. With each day a little more hope eroded and he got to thinking they were silver herrings caught in a trawler’s net which was closing in around them tighter and tighter until there was no way out. If only he was brave like Hans. ‘Little Bror’ his friends still called him, his nickname from school, always Hans’ 'Little brother', small and slight. But Hanne said that was why she'd noticed him first. His beautiful Hanne, unlike the Danish girls, with her dark eyes and
hair, oh her hair, spread out about her head, dark against the white sand of the dunes in Skagen where they lay sheltered from the wind that first long summer. 'Little Bror, will you just wait until they come for Hanne? Will you? We can use your help and you will feel better, Little Bror, believe me'. And so he had said yes, though what did he know of printing? Oh Hans, where are you now? Søren longs for the feel of the smooth neck of his violin in his hand and the sound of the orchestra tuning up. His eyes flit around the dentist's surgery taking in the yellowing leather chair and the alien arm of the dentist’s lamp. They come to rest on the row of shiny instruments lined up on the small hinged table attached to the chair. It is then he spots them, a pair of surgical gloves lying quietly beside the drill. Relief makes him lightheaded as he pulls them on. The rubber sticks to his clammy skin, snapping as he forces each ink stained finger through. 'Wait, I will just check the dentist's…,' Maria's voice, urgent now as footsteps approach the door which abruptly opens. A gowned and gloved Søren turns and raises his head, looking straight into the eyes of a Gestapo officer, Maria's white face just visible over his left shoulder. 'Yes, Maria, what is it?’ The Officer answers, 'What you think? My tooth, all night I have been in agony and now you will fix it.' 'Herr Boch, Doctor,' Maria interjects. 'He insists to see you…' Herr Boch crosses the room and installs himself in the dentist's chair which tilts back with his weight leaving his black boots dangling over the end. Søren turns towards him. The overture is about to begin, he thinks, and the first violin’s place stands empty. Søren knows what he must do. He flicks the switch of the dentist's lamp illuminating each pore of the face below him; the clean shaven chin, the bulging adam’s apple. Herr Boch closes his eyes and opens his mouth. Søren stares down into the gaping hole, then slowly, oh so slowly, he picks up the sharpest instrument from the tray. 1 p.141 Toksvig, S. ((2006) ), Hitler’s Canary, Great Britain: Random House Children’s books.
Bryan Phillippi Extract from Untitled It was a cool autumn day and I was doing my usual thing, leaning back in my chair, feet kicked up on my desk, and a victory at Frogger under my belt. It might have taken me since the 80’s, but those frogs had finally made it across unscathed. As a result, I felt I was in need of a reward. I reached for my desk drawer and pulled out a tin candy box. A puff of dust shooting out when opened. Reaching in, I was disappointed. Not to mention annoyed at myself for not planning ahead, and, most of all, annoyed because it meant one thing. I would have to visit Crazy Steve. Crazy Steve, although not a bad guy, was in no ways someone I would call a friend. He was fat, messy, and legitimately Crazy. He also had the consistent habit of locking you into a conversation whenever you visited. Hence why I always took Andy. It might not sound like the nicest thing in the world, but Andy didn’t mind Steve. That made him the perfect person to shove on the talking hand grenade. I got up from my chair and went down the hall to my partner’s office. “Andy,” I knocked. “You decent?” “Come in.” Upon opening the door, I saw my partner. Pants down, playing an anime game that didn’t even seem legal. One hand on the keyboard, one hand on his joystick. “Good Lord!” I shouted, doing my best to cover my eyes. “You said you were decent!” “It’s just my penis.” I heard the shuffling of pants, the crinkle of a zipper, and the fumbling of a buckle. “It’s not like you’ve never seen my penis before.” “I didn’t want to see it last time either. From now on let’s just have a no masturbating policy in the office. It’s bad for business.” “What business?” As much as I wanted to slap the bearded man-‐baby, he had a point. Business was bad. It had always seemed like such a good idea in the movies, having your own detective agency. Femme fatales. Tail jobs. Gun chases. Crime galore. Instant paycheck. And, best of all, you could be drunk all the time and it didn’t matter. That was part of the job. But in the real world, there were only bills and the random adultery case. Hollywood had lied to me. Aside
from maybe the drunk part. I don’t really do that, because of the whole calories thing. But I’m fairly certain that if I wanted to, I could. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, Steve. “Grab your coat, Andy. We’re heading to Steve’s.” “Pizza Steve or Crazy Steve?” “Crazy Steve.” Andy’s eyes lit up like a child. “I love that guy!” “I know you do, Andy. Now let’s go.” And like that we were off and away. “Should we lock the door?” Andy asked as we left the building. I thought about it for a moment. In the movies, they’d always come back to see a case waiting for them. And if we just got robbed instead, there was always insurance money to collect. “Fuck it. We’re fine,” I told him. We left for Steve’s. *** The Plymouth Prowler raced along as we made our way to the north side of town. It was a sketchy type of area, and I’d prefer to buy at safer. But Crazy Steve needed a favor years back. Since then, discounted prices on an already competitive rate. I parked the car in front of his beat-‐up Tudor and got out of the car. Judging from the looks of it, one wouldn’t suspect a drug dealer lived there. It had the beaten down shingles of a crack den, the broken windows of a gun nut, and the grass of a welfare addict. It was the perfect cover for a man in Steve’s line of work. And if any of it had been intentional, I’d have commended him for it. “You’d think a man that takes so much speed would have at least some energy to fix this up,” I commented, as we approached the front steps. “Steve doesn’t like to go outside. He’s afraid the government is checking him out.” That raised a flag. “Checking him out as a suspected drug dealer?” “No, checking him out.” 29
Nguyen Phan Que Mai My Father’s Home Village For the villagers of Yen Mo, Viet Nam Among the new corn my father waited for his mother; the grass on the dike withered. The afternoon in deep sleep, my grandfather started the fire, sunlight came to rest on our doorstep, muop flowers made the pond golden, dragonflies flew high, grasshoppers flew low, calling rain to come and fill the fresh, clear well. The war rushed in; village men left and few came back, pain engraved white on the old ones’ hair. My father’s childhood was filled with bombs and bullets; after the drought, the river flooded the village. My father tied his promise into a grass ring, and during a windy afternoon, he proposed marriage to my mother. The small road filled with laughter, the gao flowers set fire to the sky. The leisurely dew came to weave its net on the pond. Upon the arrival of autumn, I cried my first tear. The vegetable flowers are gold, the hibiscus red; on the windy dike, my brother’s kite flew high. I baked sweet potatoes in hot ash; 30
I ran to hide among the young green rice my mother had sown. Through hungry seasons, the village hill was steep, people bending their backs, patiently tending their seeds, their gazes haunted by cracked fields. My father still believed, still ploughed and hoed, the village roads fragrant again with the scent of new cut hay. Storms come, destroy the gao tree at the village gate, but the bamboo grove gave birth to new seasons of young plants. The curves of the village temple, the persian lilacs purple, the sun set low with low flying stork wings. I hug the rice straw to sleep. Because I keep my homeland in my heart, my harvest is rich, all year round. Translated from the Vietnamese by Nguyen Phan Que Mai and Bruce Weigl 31
Amali Rodrigo Cormorant Fishing China Black banners in wind — prodded with a pole fold blade tight and rip in to the tapestry of a hunt. Catch still writhing in beaks they hop back on the sampan, obedient as old dogs, stay rag sack still. No quick throw, or snapping beak in a skyward Y. The man must grab their rope-‐thick necks to pry away the fish and they eat shadows from their own wings scrap by scrap, small enough to keep them alive, always the silk-‐fine wire in a choke-‐hold, calling each medallion to chew at the root of this long hunger, fief of yellow eye and fish-‐stare. O flown prayer hook-‐hung on a man walking on water. (First published in the Bridport Anthology 2012) 32
Michelle Scowcroft Missing Men Cleavering off a snake’s head isn’t the simplest of tasks. Alvin’s unexpected disappearance, however, had caused Hetty to become quite the expert. Alone, she now got down to doing those things that were not considered a pretty lady’s business; things like taking out trash, chopping wood and, of course, decapitating snakes that slithered the highways and by-‐ways. She preferred it that way. It’s one thing having a brother, but it’s totally another having him in your bed . . . whether you want him there, or not. Hetty was, in fact, far the happier now that Alvin had gone missing . . . even though it did mean her killing snakes regularly. In fact, she seemed to relish the activity. In fact, she began to stalk them, lifting up abandoned tyres and other debris scattered in the yard, yanking open the cesspit’s lid and leaving petite piles of dog food bait on the cool tiles of the outhouse floor. Oftentimes she could be seen rocking on the loveseat on the porch with a cleaver resting on her lap. Waiting. Other times crashes could be heard as she hacked into the floor with such astonishing vigour and resonance that people passing by jumped at the sound. Neighbours, who wouldn’t normally pass the time of day with each other, were seen shaking their heads and agreeing that Hetty had surely lost her mind: what with losing her daddy and her brother all in such a short space of time. “It’s too bad,” they declared. “What that girl needs is another man about the place.” As you can imagine, there were plenty of candidates in Las Animas County only too willing (whether they were available or not!) to be of manly help to such a pretty lady. Anyhow decency prevailed since Alvin, like his daddy, had not yet been declared dead. They were still considered missing persons. The police couldn’t find no clue to Alvin’s disappearance. “He’s probably gone looking for Daddy,” she explained to the officer when he called. “He missed Daddy just something awful. They were so close, Officer, you know, just like this.” She slowly crossed over her second and third finger in front of Officer Hatchet’s face. I’m feeling so lonesome these days and so very vulnerable without my men around.” Hatchet coughed and moved his weight from foot to foot. “As you say, Mrs Brigham …” 33
“ . . . Oh no, Officer, it’s just Miss Brigham!” “Were you and Alvin not matrimonially joined in matrimony?” “Alvin was my brother!” She rubbed her fingers over her lips. “Now, why’ve you’ve got that idea into your head? If I’d matrimoned, d’you think I’d go for a lily-‐breasted type like Alvin? I like my men to be solid. Y’know what I mean? I thought you’re well aware that Alvin was my big brother. You’ve been listening to too much gossip, Officer!” “Excuse me there, Ma’am. I got in my head you were man and wife. ” “I don’t think you can marry your brother in this county, or can you?” “No, Ma’am. I must’ve heard wrong. Sorry if I caused upset.” “No offence taken. People may have gotten you confused, Officer. By the way, may I call you Rodney? I’m feeling kinda sensitive having lost both my dear brother and my wonderful father in such a very short space of time. I’m not used to a man standing in front of me no more here in my home. “That’s okay with me, Ma’am.” “Now, oh where’s my manners gone! Can I fix you a drink, Rodney? Oh, excuse me, no, you’re probably on duty.” “True, Miss Brigham.” “Hetty to you, Rodney. Well, maybe some other time? Just drop in whenever you’re passing. Don’t mind the dogs. Their bark is worse than their bite, or so they say!” She watched him swagger the path; his gun stuck out sharp against the setting sun. She swung open the refrigerator door and called the dogs from the yard. She stood back whilst they hounded in and devoured their meat from the shelves. Two nights later, Officer Hatchet returned. This time he was dressed in slacks and a V-‐neck. Hetty ushered him in and, later that night, after leaving her bed, he sneaked home to his wife. He enjoyed the ‘pot-‐luck’ he’d been served. He was a good investigator. One sad day, Officer Rodney Hatchet died in the most dreadfully grisly accident. He was found in Hetty’s bed; savaged so badly by the dogs that his poor widow did not recognize his body when she saw him lying there in the flesh, and blood. After that, Officer Hatchet’s widow came to live with Hetty for the company. Together they went out hunting and decapitating all the snakes they could uncover from their travels around Las Animas County. 34
Isobel Staniland Lost Hoard I’ve laboured, pushed out the pram in the hall, could no longer stomach it, staggering top heavy, swollen, too much of my all given in worrying, guilt, carrying. My over taxed body, forever in debt bears the scars of raising, ripened, quickened by innocents who took all they could get left me high and dry, limited, thickened. But, life of my belly, buns of my oven, now the hall’s empty I want the pram back for just one last time and I’ll lift up the covers searching for something to put in the bank and I’ll see them again, curling in rows, and this time I’ll treasure those pearly toes. 35
Ericka Olsen Stefano Primes and Prams You are delicious, my precious baby. I could eat you up. I could eat your little toes, eat your little fingers. You look like me but you also look like your father. I recognize the chin I saw bobbing above the knife he held to my throat as he whispered nasty words in my ear. Look at Mommie. She’s going to eat your little hand. I put the baby’s hand in my mouth and suck it. I nibble just a bit, just a tiny little bit, but damage is done. The baby cries, and I want more. I pick the crying thing up, so helpless, so tiny. Look at what you’ve done to Mommie, look at my hair falling out, look at the marks on my thighs. You’ve stolen my figure, and stolen my nights. You cry like a kettle until I come and take you in my arms. I wake to feed you, but we’re going to swap roles, you and I. Yes we are. I could eat your little eyes, pop them out like eggs with a butter knife. Make myself an apple pie with your eyes, with cinnamon and spice and a bit of whipped cream. Eve did not eat an apple but the apple of her eye, as will I. I do. I was alone in eating you up at first, but now I’ve met others. There is a look in the eyes of a mother who knows that special taste, and we recognize each other at once. They have already eaten theirs up and will help me finish mine. The trick is moving around. The borders are so slippery these days. We arrive with our poor handicapped babies, oooh look, it has no eyes, no arms. What a trial for you. What a worry for you. My worry is how to eat the rest. The little finger food. Appetizing appetizers. We three who have partaken of the final forbidden fruit. We know that the Garden of Eden is a place we can go back to, once we have digested you. Mary ate hers raw And complained about the gristle Sarah gnawed and gnawed But forgot to shave the bristle But we will eat you right My charming little whistle Three to make a coven Put the baby in the oven 36
And we do. We slip away now with our tickets, our bellies heavy and swaying. We are given seats on the bus and men help us with our suitcases. We are pregnant again. We are leaving. We are hungry. 37
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers Gautrain Grandfather bought a ticket for the new Gautrain. He’s always clean and neat, but he dressed for the occasion. When you reach a certain age, if you don’t take care, you’re liable to find some well-‐meaning stranger pressing coins into your hand. Dignity glides on wheels, riding history smoothly it arrives and life clicks satisfyingly into place. Johannesburg's underground belongs to Europe. They started with the gold and now We rent air from them: the master alchemizes our fluids into oil, which we purchase again and again; as much as they have wept with guilt and acknowledged centuries of war crimes, the only reparation is the privilege of becoming European in short bursts, moments where commuting becomes pleasantly predictable. On buses and taxis workers run ragged with worry, but on Gautrain we are whole again . Sugar heaped on a spoon. Sweet. Spoiled. Bad for you, but nice. Out of the chaos, in with the plan. Evolved to modern life. Just say it – civilized. The pensioner steps into the clean plush train a child’s wonder in his eyes: light trapped in the nest of his tangled mind. He sits on a seat that will never belong to him and races over his ancestral land at 320km per hour, and it feels quite fun, actually, something to tell the grandchildren. 38
Mandy Bannon started creative writing three years ago, when she joined a writing class in her hometown of Lancaster, UK. She has since written several short stories, some poetry and one-‐act plays. Mandy is using the MA as an opportunity to write a historical novel, which is inspired by the local landscape. Claire Black is 38 and currently a second year on the DLMA programme, working on a collection of short stories. When it finishes, she's going to change her name and apply again. Originally from Blackpool, she now lives in Lyon with her husband and their two little girls. Suzanne Conboy-‐Hill has published stories in Every Day Fiction, Boomunderground, Zouche, The Other Room Journal, Ether Books and some lovely others. She lives in Sussex with a fluctuating number of cats and dogs, fish and visiting wildfowl, and tries to be kind to spiders. Website: http://conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com/wheres-‐my-‐published-‐stuff/ Alex Croy is a writer, part-‐time poet, freelance journalist and professional wandering idiot. A fan of authors such as Terry Pratchett and Iain M. Banks from an early age, Alex began writing his own science fiction and fantasy prose and is now working on a science fiction novel. Olivia Dawson is originally from London but now lives in Portugal. She started writing poetry when studying for her Literature degree with the Open University and then leapt straight into the Creative Writing MA. She set up an English bookshop in Portugal and has written articles for local newspapers. Natalie Gordon writes short stories, is working on a children’s novel and very occasionally slips into poetry when the mood takes her. She loves to write and squeezes it into the early hours of the morning before the kids wake up and the work phone starts to ring. Shannon Hancock is a writing and literature teacher currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. This is an extract from her working novel which explores the quirks, scabs, and lost-‐in-‐ translation moments of a modern American family living overseas within the backdrops of suburban Pennsylvania, post-‐war Serbia, and the burgeoning economic powerhouse of Brazil. 39
Adrian Horn is a prose writer who specializes in historical fiction. His intention is to give a voice to those people who have long since been unable express their views and feelings. His current novel Anaesthesia is a tragic love story set against the background of morphine addiction in WW1. Fin Jackson spent her undergraduate years at Lancaster University and didn’t want to leave. Currently a part-‐time MA student, with a passion for poetry and short fiction, she also organizes a quarterly reading event called Flash Fire. She enjoys walking and eating cake and has, on occasion, done so simultaneously. Steve Lee enjoys writing poetry, short fiction, and drama. His play Mackenzie’s Choice was performed at the Dukes Theatre Lancaster and at the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick. His current project is a novel for young teenagers entitled ‘King of the Mountains’, a story of Mountain Biking, teenage dreams, and family realities. Having worked as a freelance copywriter for many years, Janet Lees enrolled on the Creative Writing MA in October 2011. She was one of the 12 poets shortlisted for the 2013 Poetry School & Pighog Press pamphlet competition, and has had poetry and collaborative work featured in Cannon’s Mouth and Aesthetica magazines. Liz Monument teaches music on the Isle of Axholme, in North Lincolnshire. Before joining the DLMA, Liz had three supernatural non-‐fiction books published, and won two short story competitions. She's currently working on a sci-‐fi trilogy, and hopes to stay on at Lancaster for PhD. Anne O’Brien is an MA-‐CWDL student, living in Brussels. Until recently she worked for the European Commission writing everything from speeches to policy document, while all the while dreaming of writing stories. Windy days make her homesick for her native Ireland; Belgian café life and excellent chocolate help chase the blues away.
Bryan Phillippi – born Abraham Jacobson Pierre the Third – originates from the far off land known as The States United a.k.a. The United States. It was there that he studied English at Western Michigan University, before travelling to the United Kingdom where he studied, read, and wrote an exactly fifty-‐word autobiography. Born in a small village in north Vietnam, Nguyen Phan Que Mai embraces the full range of Vietnamese traditions in her creative works. She has won three of the most prestigious literary awards in Vietnam including the Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association and First Prize, Poetry Competition about 1,000 years Thang Long, Hanoi. Amali Rodrigo holds a BA is Econometrics and is currently studying for the MA via distance learning. Her poems have appeared in Magma, Poetry London and PN Review. In competitions she’s won 1st prize in Magma, 2nd in Poetry London, was shortlisted for the Wasafiri Prize in 2012 and has been commended in Café Writers and Bridport prizes. Michelle Scowcroft was born to non-‐British parents in the 1950s. She loves silence. She likes rain and likes snow. Her work always contains an uplifting message; life can be good. She is a feminist and will not tolerate any form of racism, or homophobia. Her first novel 'Squashed Tomatoes and Stew' is available from Amazon. Isobel Staniland is using the Creative Writing MA as an inspiring and supportive space to complete a novel. Learning about how to keep going with it and how to approach the work of crafting it into a readable consistent piece is a big challenge... Ericka Olsen Stefano is an American who came to Geneva, Switzerland to learn another language before turning thirty, met a guy, and stayed. She’s since done an MA in English at the University of Geneva and teaches in a public school. Phillippa Yaa de Villiers is a South African writer and performer whose collection The Everyday Wife won the 2011 SALA award for poetry. Her work has been translated into Italian, German and Mandarin, and appears in local and international journals and anthologies. Her play, Original Skin, tours locally and internationally.