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bi-monthly magazine for writers, readers and all literary types

What the Dickens? magazine

Issue

2

the love dickens edition


Front Cover illustration by Kate Hughes: ‘Great Expectations’ Kate Hughes is a Dublin-born artist currently studying animation at IADT Dun Laoghaire. She sidelines in design and illustration, and dreams of one day producing her own animated series. Drop by katehughesart.blogspot. com for more artwork (or follow her at katehughesart.tumblr.com). You can also catch her animated shorts at vimeo.com/user5309936.

YOUR GUIDE TO LITERARY PLACES & EVENTS TO VISIT IN THE UK Coming soon at: LITERARYUK.ORG


editorial Hello!

Issue 1 was spectacular and I received so many positive thoughts and comments about the magazine. So of course, we went and made another one! Welcome to Issue number 2. The theme is Dickens & Love and celebrates the great man himself as well the impending Valentine season almost upon us. The themes I set are always intended to be loose, a passing phrase to spark an idea and see where it takes you. I have hugely enjoyed reading all of the submissions and I hope you find within them as much inspiration as I have. I would like to draw your attention to my secret literary adventure project which is very much a work in progress and which I will continue to work on weekly. It is a blog called LiteraryUK (if anyone is interested in setting up one for another country then get in touch and we can link them in some way) and is open for others to contribute to. I love literary places and will be journeying both mentally & physically around the UK, listing all those fantastic places to visit that are connected to literary figures such as Virginia Woolf ’s house, the Dickens Museum and more. I will also list some well known festivals and events. How can you get involved? Get literary! Post pictures or videos of bookish type goings on. Perhaps you’ve gone to a festival and want to tell us about it, or visited a scene from a famous novel that you want to share. Maybe you heard a whisper of somewhere near you that Wilde once roamed. Go and check it out! Paint a picture while you’re there and post it up on the blog. It is all about place and I hope it encourages people to get out there and explore. The blog address can be found on page 2. Send me an e-mail if you would like to do something. I must again thank Sandy East for her huge contribution in The Old Curiosity Shop section, be sure to pay a visit there. And of course to Ben Ottridge who continues to help out and create this amazing magazine. He has worked very hard! His eyelids were actually on the floor after a few solid days of graft! I am eternally grateful always to them and all else who have shared and contributed.

Victoria Editor

Twitter @writersgifts facebook.com/writersgifts veebeewriter.wordpress.com

Contents Letters, Jokes..............................................4 Behind the scenes of a writing website...5 Author Interview – Lynn Shepherd.........6 Art – Allan Farrow.....................................8 Digital World.............................................9 How to be a Writer.................................10 London: A Tale of a City........................12 Author Interview – Ann Featherstone....14 Book Reviews – Novelicious.................17 Soft footsteps – Art and Literature...........19 Author Interview – Fiona Macdonald....21 Celebrate Dickens with... Amanda White.........................................22 Hearts, Flowers and Handfasting..........23 Art – Bobby Mono...................................24 Dickens & Love Writing..........................25 Book Reviews – For Books’ Sake..............54 Valentine’s Author Interview..................56 Help! The dog ate my manuscript!........59 Memories of Love...................................60 The Old Curiosity Shop.........................63 Competitions.........................................77 Art – Shannon Finch................................78

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letters

Letters, Jokes Dear WTD, As I clicked the link to open the first issue of What the Dickens? Magazine, I didn’t know what to expect. There are loads of online and print versions of magazines for writers these days, some of them good and some of them not so. But when I opened up this one with its classy front cover and gorgeous online design, I was hooked. A great mix of author interviews, writing tips and a showcase of short fiction and poetry – all of which I read and enjoyed. But what I enjoyed the most was The Old Curiosity Shop. I am a writer who enjoys good prompts and exercises to help form ideas – I’ve written some of my best stories based on a handful of seemingly random words from something I’ve read somewhere, and from this issue alone I now have dozens of potential story ideas. Thanks to all at WTD for bringing us readers/writers something fresh and fun – the enthusiasm you’ve brought to this really shines through. Really hope to see a printed edition on the shelves of a newsagent one day soon :) Susi Holliday

Borrower: Excuse me, where’s the self-help section? Librarian: Look for yourself.

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behind the scenes of a writing website

Behind the scenes of a writing website

Part 2

Richard Hearn

L

ast issue I discussed the birth of my writing website, Paragraph Planet, in the hope that it might shed light on the under-the-bonnet mechanics and be useful for others considering setting up their own sites. Having seen my nuts-and-bolts column at the beginning of What the Dickens’ first issue, in which prose on subsequent pages soared and swooped elegantly, I have now accepted my role as akin to that of the Health & Safety Man introducing the Circus. So let’s start with some practical advice before I leave the fun and games and maybe seals that can juggle, I‘ve always loved those - to others in the pages that follow.

When my inbox started having submissions from authors I recognised, I decided to contact others with books newly-published to see if they wanted to submit extracts. It was good to widen the field, and be able to switch between aspiring and established authors on the home page. Looking inward he other key consideration is how to adjust and adapt your website to encourage further visitors. Think of this as a kind of ’internal’ marketing, as opposed to the ’external’ methods employed above.

T

Give people extra reasons to visit. I wanted to keep the key gimmick central - a daily story of 75 words - but over time I’ve added author interviews, Let’s talk marketing. Having created and uploaded archive pages, the chance to write sequels, plus a my initial pages, next I wanted people to visit. What writing group map. Hopefully, this has expanded steps did I take, and what tips can I pass onto others? the website’s appeal, with each section appealing to slightly different groups. More content, put Spreading the word simply, means more chance of appearing in search bviously, I emailed my writing friends, and engines. A list of contributors is designed both said to pass on the information. (First tip: to give authors appropriate credit, but also – in proofread your emails, check you’ve typed any a mercenary way, perhaps – means that anyone links correctly, and make any emails ‘forwardable- searching for a name may discover the site. friendly’, e.g use a separate email if you need to ask them what they’re doing Friday night.) Then I Search engines should also be considered when you moved onto other local contacts. I was incredibly name any page or picture. Be literal in your titling grateful to Brighton community publisher but, conversely, it helps to use synonyms in a larger QueensSpark, who sent out their own newsletter body of text. That way, if you’ve name-checked ‘writers’, ‘authors’ and ‘novelists’ separately, you’ll which really kickstarted submissions. appear in those different search terms. Next, I targeted creative writing groups. Local groups first, then rippling outwards to national and I’m not claiming to be an expert on this topic, but then global groups. I still find it thrilling waking hopefully I’ve shared some insights that will be up to submissions from the other side of the world! useful to others on how I’ve gone about spreading the word - or paragraph - of a writing website. I contacted magazines such as Mslexia and Writing Magazine and momentum started to build. It was Richard Hearn has been published on getting mentioned on other websites and blogs topics including Immortality, Sat Navs and (having stats help you see how visitors have got Glastonbury. And no, that wasn’t one weekend. to your site). Then came Twitter, which has been He also writes two regular columns on being great for publicity, and a natural fit for an online a Dad: Dadsense for Mumsense magazine, and site which encourages brevity. Distracted Dad for Brighton’s Latest magazine.

O

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author interview

Author Interview Lynn Shepherd

Lynn Shepherd is a writer from Oxford, who writes what she likes to call ‘literary murder’ books. Have you got previous? What is your writing background? I’ve always written, one way or another. I read English at university, but then spent a while in the City, where it was more about numbers than words. But since 2000 I’ve been a freelance copywriter for companies, which has freed me up to do writing of my own. Two and a half unpublished novels later and Murder at Mansfield Park was accepted. And the rest, as they say… How did you find yourself writing ‘Literary Murder’ novels? Everyone always says you should write what you yourself love to read, and my two favourite types of books are classic English novels, and clever crime. Austen, Dickens, Hardy and Samuel Richardson would be great examples of the former, and writers like Elizabeth George, Joan Smith and Ruth Rendell the latter. So when I started to play with ideas for a book myself it was no real surprise to find my own thoughts moving towards a merger of the two.

The road to publication? Rough or smooth? Murder at Mansfield Park was the hardest. The first one will always be tough, I guess, when you’re an unknown quantity, but we were trying to sell that book in early 2009, at the very depths of the credit crunch, when there wasn’t much appetite to take on an untried author. Tom-All-Alone’s was easier, not least because I had already written something that had already sold reasonably well. What inspires you? The first and most obvious answer is the books that I’ve ‘engaged with’! So Mansfield Park for the first one, and Bleak House for the second. I’m also an avid viewer of good TV crime, like Law & Order, Morse, Lewis and the rest. I think you can learn a terrific amount about the craft and technique of mystery-writing for the way those programmes are put together.

Which books have influenced you the most and why? Many and various! Austen for the beauty and precision of her prose, Dickens for the sheer How long does it take you to write one of the exuberance of his imagination, Hardy for his books? unforgettable characters and his sense of place, It’s getting the ideas that takes the time for me. Samuel Richardson for the way he renders the I had the basic concept of Tom-All-Alone’s for movement of the mind in words. And I first read months before I cracked how to turn it into a The Lord of the Rings at age 12 and I have loved it workable plot. But once I have a viable synopsis ever since, though I never read fantasy otherwise. I’m usually quite fast – of the ones I’ve written so far the longest to write took about six months. Where and when do you write? In my study at home where I do the ‘day job’ too.

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author interview

#askauthor

I’m sitting there now, looking down the meadow to the Chiltern Hills in the distance – I’m very lucky. And because I write for a living as well I’m very disciplined and will be at my desk by 9am at @larrymeath What is the square root of 1,071? the latest. I can’t work much after 5 though – I’m I refer my honourable friend to the nearest pocket calculator… definitely not one to work into the small hours! @ahach While writing Murder at Mansfield Park, did she ever feel like she was betraying Austen or the original text? No – I never did. History is full of examples of works that have used other books as their inspiration – like James Joyce’s Ulysses, or Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, which was inspired by Jane Eyre. I worked very hard to make the language of Murder at Mansfield Park absolutely faithful to Austen’s, and to get all the period details right, and I think that’s why so many Austen fans have given it such nice reviews. What words of wisdom can you leave us with? I always dreamed of being a writer when I was And in fact Jane Austen did the same herself – a little girl, and nothing matched the moment her favourite novel was Samuel Richardson’s Sir when I held a copy of my first book in my hands. Charles Grandison, a huge 7-volume affair. She If writing is your dream, go for it. It takes hard adored the book, but it didn’t stop her turning it work, and perseverance, and you need to grow a into a comedy sketch for her family to act! thick skin, but don’t give up. If I can do it – you can do it. Tom-All-Alone’s has just been released. What are your plans now and what’s coming up next? Well there’s lots to do for the launch, as you can imagine, and the North American version is published in May, so there will more coming up then. Though don’t get me wrong – I love doing it! I’ve also just finished the first draft of a third ‘literary murder’ which will be out in 2013. And yes, Charles Maddox will be back!

Tom-All-Alone’s (Constable & Robinson, 2012) A gripping new Victorian murder mystery set in a grim London underworld Dickens could only hint at. Murder at Mansfield Park (Constable & Robinson, 2011) Ever wondered what it would have been like if Jane Austen had turned her hand to murder? Murder at Mansfield Park takes Austen’s masterpiece and turns it into a riveting murder story worthy of PD James or Agatha Christie.

Constable & Robinson have kindly donated a copy of Tom-AllAlone’s for us to give away. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning, head over to the Competitions page for details.

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art

My name is Allan Farrow, and I am an aspiring artist, mainly self-taught who enjoys working in a variety of styles. I have a fondness for both the dark and esoteric, and bright gorgeous colours. More of my work can be seen at memorypalace.deviantart.com, and I can be contacted at ravenswritingdesk@ hotmail.co.uk

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digital world

Digital World Ben Ottridge eBook formats

H

ello! And welcome to this issue’s Digital World. This time we’re going to have to get technical I’m afraid... Yes that’s right, it’s time to talk formats! If you’ve been looking to dip your toe into the world of eBooks, you may have noticed that there are a number of different formats competing for your attention. So let’s have a look at the major players and see what’s what. ePUB ePUB is the worldwide eBook standard adopted by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), who develop and maintain standards for all publishers to follow. If you break it down, an ePUB file is a specially organized ZIP file, with a particular file setup of special folders for metadata (book information), content, images and so on. You can even rename the file extension to ‘.zip’ and ‘unzip’ it if you fancy having a look yourself. It’s based on web standards so that the text can be ‘reflowable’, much like it would be on a webpage if you adjusted the text size. You may have heard rumours of ‘ePUB3’; this is the latest version of ePUB coming soon, based on the newest version of the web’s HTML building blocks, HTML5. This will enable all sorts of new methods of interactivity, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Mobi/Kindle Mobi is Amazon’s format of choice, with Kindle being the only platform to use this exclusively and not ePUB. Again, this is based on web standards, to have much the same sort of effect as ePUB. And again, KindleFormat8 is coming soon, which should take advantage of the new coding abilities of HTML5. It’s a case of Amazon versus everyone else in this format war, which should be interesting... (for the record, I personally have a Kobo reader because I wanted ePUBs!). Confusingly, if you’re creating your own files, the file extension can be either ‘.mobi’ OR ‘.prc’. PDF Still selling well, PDF is less suitable for eBooks due to its fixed layout. Some people do prefer it precisely because of this, however the growing popularity of ‘fixed-layout’ ePUBs may put paid to this soon. You may come across Palm (.pdb) or Microsoft Reader (.lit) files too, but these are rapidly dying out; Reader in particular is no longer supported by Microsoft. I hope this little introduction to the major formats has been helpful. See you next time!

• • Are you looking for a new way to publish? • • Do you want to enter the digital realm but just don’t know how? • • Do you want to concentrate on the creative rather then the technical side? • • Do you want to avoid high upfront costs?

Then

SelfSelfSelf is for you!

We take your completed words and turn them into fully-fledged digital products (mobi, ePUB, PDF), ready for us to distribute around the world.

selfselfself.com

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how to be a writer

How to be a Writer Stewart Ferris

I

am many things. I’m a husband. A pedestrian. A consumer. A son. A graduate. A driver. A viewer. A Cicestrian (look it up). A publisher. A rubbish marathon runner. A pain in the neck. But I don’t usually define myself by those labels. I call myself a writer. That isn’t to say that I spend the majority of my time engaged in that pursuit. It is not unknown for me to scribble for fewer hours in a day than I squander under the hypnotic glow of the television, but on official forms I describe myself as a writer, not a couch potato. What does it mean to be a writer? A storyteller, perhaps? A literary exhibitionist? A recorder of the human experience? It sounds rather splendid and noble, but it isn’t how I regard myself. My chosen trade surrounds me with frustration and torment. A quagmire of unproductivity constantly attempts to drag me to its catachrestic depths. It’s a peculiar calling. I quietly yearn for a life free of the shackles of my creative streak. My somewhat tragic fantasy is to be able to spend a day doing nothing and not suffer the inevitable remorse that feels like lead in my stomach. But whenever a whole day passes without any words making it from my head to my word processor, the shame becomes entrenched. It’s exasperating. Maddening.

By the age of fifteen I had a folder crammed full of ideas for books, plays and films that I wanted to write, and almost thirty years later I still have that folder and I still haven’t had time to work on them. It doesn’t really matter now: I think the time for topical satires about Thatcher’s Britain and sketches written for Frankie Howerd may have passed. But the failure to complete the unrealistic mountain of ideas for writing projects I had in my youth is yet another source of irrational regret. For those fortunate enough not to be afflicted by this curse of creativity it’s probably hard to conceive what it feels like. Try to imagine you’re a teenager about to go to bed having failed to tackle your school homework, and you know the teacher’s going to make you regret your laziness the next day. It feels a bit like that. Conversely, at the end of a productive literary day an endorphin rush floods me in a tsunami of satisfaction. There’s no greater sensation than knowing a writing project has taken a giant leap towards completion. That’s the positive force that motivates me to write.

Being a writer is emotionally tough. It’s a selfpunishing existence that demands anti-social hours and which rarely pays a return that bears any relation to the eons spent perfecting the craft. So why did I become a writer? A moment to ponder the horror of what it would mean for me I’ve called myself a writer since Lady Di haircuts to be anything else should answer that. When I and leg warmers were the height of fashion, worked in a yoghurt factory I had to quit within although I haven’t actually been a writer during a week because the rubber gloves made the skin every one of those intervening years. Some of my hands peel off. When I was a pizza waiter years would go by with no creative output at all. I made Basil Fawlty look competent. When I Others would see plays, books, songs, sitcoms, was a book sales representative I used to spend or other literary products taking shape. Some more money buying all the irresistible new went nowhere other than the filing cabinet (and publications in Waterstone’s than I made from later, the virtual filing cabinet of the computer); selling them. I’m just not cut out to be anything others saw publication, production or recording. other than a writer.

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how to be a writer Fortunately I happen to be extremely skilled at sitting on a chair. I hardly ever fall off. I also have a basic competence at the task of rearranging words that I find lying around in the dictionary, not to mention the ability to press clearly-labelled buttons on a keyboard. I was born for this role. And when I look up at my bookshelf and see my books next to the works of Shakespeare and Hardy, I thank my younger self for having had the courage to mine the seam of creativity and build something for my future. The results of a day’s literary labours will still be visible long after a day I squandered lounging around unproductively has been forgotten. I sense a timeline stretching ahead of me, like a conveyor belt into the future. Writing a novel is like putting a gift on that conveyor belt, knowing that it will help my future self.

like cheating on my older self. So does sitting on a beach all day absorbing radiation. It’s like spending every penny you earn and putting zilch aside for retirement. Your future self won’t thank you for that, although if you must sit on the beach your future self will certainly be happier if you use sunscreen.

If you want to put ‘writer’ on official paperwork, the future starts now. Write something each day for the benefit of the older you. Make yourself proud. You’ll both get along fine if you try to impress yourself. Anyone can be a writer if they want to, but to make the transition from being a ‘waitress who writes’ to plain ‘writer’ requires a commitment to work with the person you are now and the person you’re going to become. There’s no switch, no magic wand that can transform you instantly. You need to accept the downside of this I know I will be thankful in twenty years for the vocation: the quotidian guilt that accompanies effort I make today. I’m grateful that I bothered failure to make as much progress as you would to write dozens of books when I was younger: like. But only by embracing that pain can you some of them are still selling. A day spent reward yourself in later life with the fruits of your watching sport or drinking in the pub to me feels endeavours. How to be a Writer: Secrets from the Inside (Summersdale, 2004) This exciting book takes you through all aspects of what it takes to be a professional writer in the publishing and media industries today.

Stewart co-founded award-winning publishing company Summersdale in 1990. In his publishing career he has published over a thousand books, as well as finding the time and the inspiration to write more than forty of his own, including How to be a Writer and How to Get Published. He has also worked as a scriptwriter for Pokémon, a songwriter for Ricky Gervais and has written and presented a documentary about the ideas behind The Da Vinci Code, entitled The Mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau. He is currently writing a novel, The Sphinx Scrolls.

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london: a tale of a city

London: A Tale of a City By Marion Katrina Poerio London. A city of Great Expectations. A capital plagued by insomnia; fuelled with the buzz of unlocked potential and the zany hum of wired minds. An hour before dawn. The first train rumbles into a platform. An anaemic sun nestles between blankets of smog, clinging to the last wisps of darkness, resolutely undisturbed by the clanging of seven million alarm clocks. Big Brother Ben joins the chorus with a melody of deafening booms that ricochet off the Houses of Parliament, echoing across Westminster, and surprising a flock of dopey pigeons who take refuge on the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. And so it begins... The daily battle against a nondescript button named ‘snooze’. Snooze. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? But no. A Londoner’s ‘snooze’ is less comforting than a dip in a bath full of overcooked baked beans and syrupy marmite. Few are able to conquer this satanic creature, who tempts its somnambulant victims with precious moments of timeless sleep. Seconds turn into hours. Hours disappear into minutes. Before you know it, you unravel yourself from musty sheets, utterly underslept, having over-slept by exactly 9 minutes. The process is futile and, as such, completely necessary. But slowly. Slowly, slowly, slowly, a network of lights blinksthrough the morning night, illuminating silhouettes of outstretched limbs and silent yawns. The early morning routine is a tangle of rushed footsteps and shoe laces, a blur of cornflakes and coffee, carried out like a well rehearsed speech to the staccato rhythm of rolling raindrops which pepper kitchen windows with fat full stops. The front doors slams. The Commuters March begins. A mish-mash of suits and polished shoes First Class Stamp their way to the trains buried under the earth. Newspaper tucked hastily under a jacketed arm. Ink stained fingers clasped around the handle

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of a battered briefcase. Buildings, boots and umbrellas leak into a sweeping watercolour of greys and silvers splashed with the occasional burst of Royal Mail Red. A red reserved specially for London telephone booths, post boxes and double-decker buses. By order of her majesty, the Queen. A small group of tourists huddle together, barnacle backpacks held tight at the straps, Nikon cameras dangling from their necks. Each takes a turn gesticulating at a dog-eared piece of paper decorated with a tapestry of multicoloured threads that Oliver Twist their way over and alongside one another. Playfully nicknamed ‘The Tube’, this tangled network of destinations, is nonsensical even to the common Englishman. But beware.... this choo-choo-tube has rules. Londoners know the rules, of course. Londoners will not, however, spare a moment to explain them nor will they hesitate to throw a wobbly if they aren’t followed to precision. So please, pay attention. Mind the army of suits, whistle and flutes. Mind the left, stand on the right. Mind the closing doors. But above all, mind the gap. Mind the gap. MIND… THE GAP. On the tube, endless clones are synchronised and perfectly choreographed. One hundred eyes skim the same headlines of the same newspaper which, despite being called The Metro, has nothing to do with Paris. Those without reading material find themselves studying advertisements for ‘cheap as chips’ car insurance and online dating websites claiming to match you to the love of your life in sixty seconds based on the colour of your eyes and your eclectic taste in music. Never in the history of civilisation has it been so acceptable to spend a quarter of an hour, cheek-deep in the unfamiliar warmth of a strangers’ left armpit while at the same time holding hands with a yellow pole, a couple of sweaty bankers and the knee of the man sitting nearest the doors. Sardined between


london: a tale of a city a dozen bestselling novels and a ghetto blaster disguised as an iPod, you clench your buttocks, dig your feet into the moving floor. Anything. Just please, please... DON’T. FALL. OVER. It is a well known fact that Londoners work harder than a colony of ants on Lucozade. Each day, men and women across the city attempt the impossible by working 18 hour days within the hours of 9 to 5 while the rest of London teems with entertainment. Museums on the Southbank showcase bizarre masterpieces of modern art. Shaftesbury Avenue boasts a string of garish theatres. Shoreditch offers a slice of cool to those dressed for the occasion. Stroll around the famous cobbled streets of Covent (not actually a) Garden. Visit the Queen’s gaff. Discover leafy suburbs and lose yourself in the depths of Hyde & Seek Park. Go for a ride on a glorified ferris wheel for a birds eye view of the city; the London Eye which, contrary to its title, has more eyes than a box jellyfish. That’s 24 eyes in case you were wondering. London is your Oyster as long as you keep topping it up. For those on a budget, blackened blobs of chewing gum tattooed onto pavements make for a great game of ‘join the dots’. Spot the tourist is also popular amongst locals. It’s simple, really. Just look for the poor sod who forgot the most important accessory known to Londoners. Behold... the sooty umbrella. A staple of London culture and lifestyle. Protector of a people condemned to severe droughts of sunshine and incessant drizzle that leaves hair slick with grease. Londoners unanimously agree; those with coloured umbrellas aren’t quite welcome. Get The London Look. Blend in with the crowd. Head to...

The pub. London’s Crown and Glory. Always waiting, doors open with your regular tipple and a bag of Walker’s Salt & Vinegar Crisps. Like a loyal friend, your local is always there... two doors down from the office, at the end of your street, round the corner from the church, shop, museum, bus stop, you-name-it, and of course, a stone’s throw away from the next pub. A sanctuary for the over-worked and under-paid, the overqualified, unemployed graduates and tourists alike. Sweaty, warm perfection. Closing time. Last orders. Please, sir. Can we have one more pint? But alas, the last tube waits for no one and so, dragging your feet like a naughty schoolboy, you trudge towards Oxford Street Underground Station. Suddenly, the smooth curves of a black taxi swing into view, adorned with a crown of yellow light that beams lovingly at you. With a simple hand salute you find yourself cocooned in the darkness of the warm upholstery, lulled into a red wine daze by the running commentary of a London cabbie who deposits you, scruffy, penniless and exhausted, on your communal doorstep for the reasonable price of a Mulberry handbag. Key in the door. Post on the floor. Up the stairs. Apples and pears. Quick cup of tea. Rosie Lee. Pillow meets head. Time for bed. You see, Mr. Dickens, London may well be a Bleak House, but it’s our house. And home, don’t you know, is where the heart is.

Marion is a life long fan of the written word and all letters of the alphabet. Loveaholic and self confessed crazy chick, Marion lives on a diet of yoga, rust and gold dust, and multivitamins ABC. rustandgolddust.com Twitter @RustandGoldDust facebook.com/rustandgolddust

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author interview

Author Interview Ann Featherstone

James Walker spoke to Ann Featherstone about the oddities of Victorian London. This article was originally published by LeftLion, Nottingham; reproduced with permission.

A

nn Featherstone has been nominated for the EMBA Award for exposing the dark underbelly of Victorian London in her second novel The Newgate Jig. It’s told from the perspective of Bob Chapman, an entertainer who aspires to leave the slums and make it big on a more respectable stage with his beloved dogs Brutus and Nero. Imbued with a trusting and kind nature he offers hope in an otherwise bleak and harsh world. This is in contrast to the main protagonist of her previous novel, Walking in Pimlico, which saw a street-wise and cocky Corney Sage guide us through the freak shows and music halls of the period. It would appear Ann is building up the definitive Victorian landscape in the tradition of Balzac’s comédie humaine and perhaps more familiar to these shores, Sillitoe’s Nottingham. We caught up with her to find out more about her Victorian obsession and why she believes certain things still haven’t changed: ‘What a world of gammon and spinach it is, though, ain’t it.’

plot... So I’d say it’s a historical novel in which crime is a major feature.

You’ve been compared to Sarah Waters and Michel Faber but I see more of Dickensian influence as we see a collection of misfits living by their wits. Who and what influences your work? Dickens is the master in my opinion. He draws characters who live and creates environments in which they walk about. Those are the key elements in his novels and they are in mine. But I’d say it’s not just Dickens’ fiction that influences my writing; I love his journalism too. In fact, I love the newspapers and journals of the period and I read them avidly. Working at the University of Manchester, I’m very fortunate that I have access to them online, so I can immerse myself in Blackwood’s Magazine and The Era and the very wonderful and gory Illustrated Police News. You get a very strong sense of the ‘music’ and ‘rhythm’ of 19th century speech from reading the journalism of What does the Newgate Jig mean? the time, particularly court reports where you It’s what you do if you’re hanging on the gallows get verbatim records of court proceedings. – you dance the Newgate Jig. I like that 19th century black humour. The opening of the novel What is it about this period that you love so sees a man hung and is very much a homage to much? William Thackeray’s 1840 essay Going to see a I’ve always loved it. It’s so familiar – and that’s man Hanged. due to Dickens, Wilkie Collins, M R James – who’s not strictly Victorian, of course, the Is this a crime novel then? BBC Classic Serial which was essential Sunday I’ve never thought of myself as a crime writer: afternoon viewing as a child, and the many I’m not clever enough. I can never work out wonderful period movies - Oliver Twist, Great who’s dunnit and as for coming up with a tricky Expectations, Gaslight. More recently Child of

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author interview the Jago by Arthur Morrison – a masterpiece in London slum living, and modern revelations by Peter Ackroyd have helped crystallise this passion. There’s plenty of books and TV programmes on the monumental aspects of the period – the Great Exhibition, the Pre-Raphaelites, Queen Victoria. What really fascinates me though are the nooks and crannies, the glimpses of everyday life which you get through the journalism – and the extraordinary things that happen: nights with the Fancy, ‘slumming’, penny shows. The overflowing churchyards and children playing football with a human skull they found. The underbelly of the period is so fascinating. Are the events in the novel based on real life individuals or situations then? Well, it’s all factual in a way. I’ve used the research I’ve done into 19th century entertainment and living conditions and just poured it into the novel. For instance, the East London Aquarium and Museum of the novel is based on an actual place – the East London Aquarium, Bishopsgate which was a menagerie and curio exhibition with live acts.

A number of reasons. I needed a strong voice, one that was distinct and, above all, authentic. So it had to be a mature person really; it’s very hard to have a child telling a story, because a child can’t always go to places that an adult can, and understand what he or she is seeing. I did consider Barney as a narrator, actually, but rejected it for those very reasons. I also wanted a contrast with Corney Sage, the main narrator in Walking in Pimlico. Corney is very worldlywise and quite a tough-nut. I wanted a different voice, and a different view of the world. In a way Chapman and Sage move in the same world, but they see it differently. Chapman is a really lovely character. Innocent, naive, but also aspirational, hoping to move his act upmarket from the Aquarium to a more respectable setting. Where did he come from and is he typical of this type of performer? I’m glad you like Bob. He breaks my heart every time I think of his trusting nature and hopefulness in his wicked world. And his children are his dogs, Brutus and Nero, and that makes him even more endearing. There was a real ‘dog-man’, James Matthews, who had performing dogs which he toured in the low theatres and in circuses, just like Bob. They were very clever dogs and apparently one of them rescued a drowning child and Matthews was presented with a medal. But, tragically, Matthews fell ill with bronchitis and was unable to work and, in an age where if you didn’t work you didn’t eat, he was unable to keep his dogs. He couldn’t afford to feed them nor buy a doglicence, and he had them put down. He wrote about it very movingly in his autobiography, a book which shows him to be a very talented man, kind and sensitive too. I’ve tried to capture something of James Matthews in Bob Chapman.

And I suspect that the journals of Sydney Race may also have helped shape events. Can you tell us a little bit more about him? He’s a real Nottingham treasure. He wrote journals from 1892-1900 which are all in the Nottinghamshire Archives, written in oldfashioned exercise books with times-tables on the covers. He was in his teens when he wrote them and was trying out at being a writer – which is what he wanted to do as a career, really. In the novel, Princess Tiny is based on any number of ‘fairy women’ or ‘doll ladies’ who were exhibited in the capital and of course Sydney Race does write about going to see the Living Doll at Goose Fair who used to stand on her head. The book has a very dark theme. Was it your intention to highlight the suffering of The narrator of the book is Bob Chapman, children when you set out to write the book a stage entertainer who performs with his or did it simply make a good plot? beloved dogs Brutus and Nero. Why did you I had an idea about crimes involving children choose him instead of, say, young Barney because I’d been reading about them, in Kevill – whose father dances the Newgate Jig? particular, the investigative journalism of W T

the love dickens edition ~ 15


author interview Stead for the Pall Mall Gazette, but I didn’t have the intention of highlighting them. Because the research comes first and the plot grows out of it, I think there is a different process going on. It wasn’t a conscious decision.

before. So the Constellation Music Hall of Walking in Pimlico pops up in The Newgate Jig and reappears in the third book I’m working on now. Mr Pickuls, the proprietor of the Constellation also appears. But the narrator of the third book is Will Lovegrove, the leading Similarly, how were your publishers when actor at the Pavilion Theatre and friend of Bob you approached them with this taboo subject Chapman. I wanted to tell his story almost as matter? I ask as I imagine it could make soon as he walked into The Newgate Jig! marketing the book difficult and publishers seem less likely to take a risk nowadays. Your novels deal with the dark underbelly I think because the children aren’t the focus of Victorian culture, taking us through the of the plot, it was not an issue. Terrible things music halls, circus rings and freak shows of happen in the novel, but not just to children. the period. But reading this I wonder how Princess Tiny has a pretty awful time, and the much has really changed? Certain Reality TV treatment of Pilgrim, the mad bookseller is programmes seem to have a similar appetite cruel. I think the events in the novel highlight for public humiliation and schadenfreude... the potential for the exploitation of the weak or Probably not a lot has changed in this respect. the physically or mentally ‘different’ in Victorian Some people are still cruel, will bully the society. Some people weren’t squeamish. And weak, exploit the vulnerable, and see nothing some people, sadly, still aren’t. wrong in what they do. Reality TV does pretty much the same thing. But it has ever been so, Some of the characters from your first novel, unfortunately. ‘What a world of gammon and Walking in Pimlico, reappear in this book. spinach it is, though, ain’t it?’ as Miss Mowcher Are you trying to create a definitive Victorian said to David Copperfield... London landscape similar in principle to Balzac’s comédie humaine? The Newgate Jig I must admit I like the idea of creating a ‘world’ (John Murray, in which a population of characters come 2010) and go, and it’s funny you should mention Balzac, because my maitre was Zola and his A hanging always Rougons-Macquart epic. There’s something draws a crowd. But very satisfying about following a character not everyone there you’ve already met and, hopefully, will meet has come to jeer again in another setting and having that setting at the condemned clear and accessible, because you’ve been there man...

James Walker is the Literature Editor at LeftLion magazine, a Board member of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio and part of the Alan Sillitoe Committee. Quite simply, he’s an unashamed book lover. He writes fiction as well. jameskwalker.co.uk

16 ~ what the dickens?


book reviews

Book Reviews By Novelicious

The Return of Captain John Emmett By Elizabeth Speller

REVIEWED BY CESCA MARTIN Holy Moly this is good! I seem to have had a glut of some stonking good historical reads recently and this book is no exception. The book is set in England in 1920. After the death of his wife and baby, and his harrowing war time experiences, Laurence Bartram is living a quiet life. Researching a book on churches in England, spending some time with his boisterous, childhood friend Charles, Laurence is, I imagine, like many men in the aftermath of World War I; a little at sea. Then an innocent request from a friend, the sister of one Captain John Emmett, turns Laurence’s safe, new world upside down. John Emmett survived the war but killed himself and his sister wants to know why. As the search for answers leads Laurence with a heap of other questions, and the discovery of a whole host of untimely deaths, we begin to realise the story of Captain John Emmett is not as simple as it might first have appeared. This is a beautifully dense debut novel from Elizabeth Speller. You feel instantly at ease in the hands of a perfectionist; her ability to draw you into the rich world of post-war Britain is found on every page. If you like your novels fast paced and resolved quickly - this is not the book for you. It is a relaxing meander through this time; the atmosphere, the locations, the descriptions include layer upon layer of detail. All the while however you are keen to get back to the wonderful Laurence Bartram (I imagine a sort of 1920’s George Clooney type in a really nice tweed suit – but then that’s me!) and his search to discover what exactly did happen to Captain John Emmett. You want to uncover the mystery, and in the meantime are hugely entertained by some wonderful characters (Charles is really very amusing and Laurence himself is such a gent) and some witty one-liners. When Laurence angrily states that he knows where to find a man, “He is in Birmingham.” Charles retorts, “Ah yes that rural hamlet”. This novel kept me guessing, painted a horribly vivid account of instances both during and after the war, and kept me coming back for more. I would love to read Elizabeth Speller’s next book; this is definitely an author to look out for. Rating: 9/10

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book reviews

A Weekend With Mr Darcy By Victoria Connelly

REVIEWED BY DEBS CARR Katherine, Warwick and Robyn are attendees at a Jane Austen conference. Dan lives at the stables of Purley Hall the stately home where the actress Dame Pamela Harcourt lives and holds the conference each year. None of them have ever met before, but by the end of the weekend none of their lives will ever be the same again. Katherine, an Oxford lecturer, immediately bonds with Robyn and together they determine to make the most of this long anticipated weekend. Both ardent Austenites they love and know well the works of Jane Austen and spend as much of their lives as possible being absorbed by the various novels, film and television adaptations. What Katherine doesn’t know when she meets the handsome, Darcy-esque Warwick, is that he is not the Antiquarian bookseller he describes himself as, but is in fact an author, and his alter-ego happens to be Lorna Warwick, not only Katherine’s favourite author, after Jane Austen, of course, but also someone she considers her friend and the pen pal she’s been confiding her innermost secrets to over the past few months. Warwick, already in love with Katherine is determined to get past her immediate disinterest in him and as the weekend progresses they become closer, however it never seems to be quite the right time for him to disclose his true identity to her. Robyn, trying to find a way to finish with her long-term boyfriend, meets up with Dan, the stable hand, who as well as appearing to look like a pretty perfect version of Captain Wentworth, also happens to be Dame Pamela’s much younger brother. He offers to take her out riding with him to make the most of their beautiful surroundings and their attraction grows stronger until the appearance of her erstwhile boyfriend causes mayhem at the hall threatening to put a stop to any hopes either may have been secretly harbouring for the other. Victoria Connelly takes us through the complexities of each character’s relationships, whilst cleverly weaving snippets from scenes out of Jane Austen’s beloved novels. This book is for anyone wishing to enjoy a romantic novel, whether a Jane Austen fan or not, and for those of you, who like me, might have ever wondered what a Jane Austen conference could entail, this book certainly makes it sound like a magical time not to be missed. It is a romantic story with the added feel of being taken every so often into a Jane Austen novel and I loved every moment of it. A beautifully written book Lisa Jewell rightly describes as, ‘sunshine on a rainy day’. I loved it. Rating: A perfect 10/10 Novelicious (novelicious.com) is a website dedicated to women’s fiction and chick lit. It is updated daily with news, reviews, interviews, competitions and writing tips. You can find Novelicious on Twitter (twitter.com/novelicious) and Facebook (facebook.com/novelicious)

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soft footsteps

Soft footsteps – Art and Literature Frances Burney

Maggie Baldry collated and published the Kindle eBook Soft Footsteps in 2011. It celebrates the achievements of women who are leaders in their professional and creative lives, historically and in the 21st century.

I

n 1918, Virginia Woolf described Frances Camilla in 1796, and The Wanderer in 1814. Burney as the Mother of English Fiction. All of Burney’s novels explore the lives of English aristocrats, and satirize their social pretensions For fear of bringing disgrace to her family her and personal foibles, with an eye to larger early works were written in secret and she was questions such as the politics of female identity. reluctant to reveal her identity. Yet, her satirical novels and plays about eighteenth-century Frances Burney’s early career was deeply affected society were thought to be the literary precursor by her relationship with her father, and by the to prominent authors who came after her, critical attentions of their family friend Samuel including Jane Austen and William Makepeace Crisp. Both men encouraged her writing, but also employed their influence in a critical fashion, Thackeray. dissuading her from publishing or performing Frances Burney her dramatic comedies because they felt that to work in the genre was inappropriate for a lady. 13 June, 1752 – 6 January, 1840 With one exception, Burney never succeeded in having her plays performed, largely due to objections from her father. The exception was She was also known as Fanny Burney and after Edwy and Elgiva, which unfortunately was not marriage as Madame d’Arblay. Her father was well received by the public and closed after the the musical historian Dr. Charles Burney and first night’s performance. her mother was Mrs. Esther Sleepe Burney. Many feminist critics view her as an author whose Frances Burney was a novelist, diarist, and natural talent for satire was stifled by the social playwright. In total, she wrote four novels, eight pressures exerted on female authors of the age. plays, one biography, and twenty volumes of In spite of setbacks however, Burney persisted in writing. When her comedies received criticism, journals and letters. she returned to novel writing, and later tried her The third of six children, she was self- hand at tragedies. She supported both herself educated, and began writing what she called her and her family with the proceeds of her later “scribblings” at the age of ten. novels Camilla and The Wanderer. Frances Burney was born in King’s Lynn, England.

In 1778, at the age of 26, she published her first novel Evelina anonymously. When its authorship was revealed, it brought her almost immediate fame, due to its unique narrative and comic strengths. She followed with Cecilia in 1782,

While some early historians derided the “feminine sensibility” of her writing, her fiction is now widely acknowledged for its critical wit and for its deliberate exploration of the lives of women.

the love dickens edition ~ 19


soft footsteps Throughout her career as a writer, her wit and talent for satirical caricatures were widely acknowledged: literary figures such as Dr. Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Hester Thrale, and David Garrick were among her admirers. Her early novels were read and enjoyed by Jane Austen, whose own title Pride and Prejudice derives from Although her novels were hugely popular during the final pages of Cecilia. William Makepeace her lifetime, following her death Burney’s Thackeray is reported to have drawn on the first reputation as a writer suffered at the hands of person account of the Battle of Waterloo, recorded biographers and critics who felt that the extensive in her diaries, while writing Vanity Fair. diaries, published posthumously in 1841, offered a more interesting and accurate portrait of Currently working in a supply chain support eighteenth century life. Today, however, critics are returning to her novels and plays with a role, Maggie continues to enjoy developing her own writing and supporting the work renewed interest in her perspective on the social of other writers. More information about lives and struggles of women in a predominantly Maggie’s work can be found on her blog male-oriented culture. Scholars continue to (triedandtestedusermanuals.wordpress.com). value Burney’s diaries as well, for their candid depictions of eighteenth-century English society. She married in 1793 at forty-two, to a French exile, General Alexandre D’Arblay. Their only son, Alexander, was born in 1794. After a lengthy writing career, and travels that took her to France for over ten years, she settled in Bath, England, where she died on 6 January 1840.

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Winter 2012

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magazine


author interview

Author Interview Fiona Macdonald

Fiona Macdonald is a writer based in Scotland and is the author of several volumes in the Very Peculiar series by Book House. Have you got previous? What is your writing background? I have written over 300 books, mostly for children, mostly about history. I am interested in how people lived in the past, what they thought and hoped and feared, as well as what they did. Dickens was a fascinating ‘person from the past’ to write about. How did you find yourself writing the Very Peculiar books? The publisher asked me! I have written several previous volumes in the Very Peculiar History series, about Christmas, Vampires, Victorian Servants (Dickens would have recognised some of the details in that) and more. Last year I had great fun writing a Very Peculiar History of Royal Weddings. It was on sale at Westminster Abbey in time for the great day, featured in a Japanese newspaper and was given away as a prize on an American radio quiz show!!

to find new and – I hope – interesting ways of passing on that information. Which books have influenced you the most and why? Poetry, and ancient myths and legends. They free the imagination. Where and when do you write? In the kitchen, in a small house, in a tiny village, in an extremely remote part of Scotland. Writing is my full-time job. Like any other job, it can be demanding, absorbing, frustrating, satisfying … but it’s never boring!

Charles Dickens: A Very Peculiar History has just been released. What are your plans now and what’s coming up next? Four more Very Peculiar Histories for Book House, all with a Scottish theme: the life of Robbie Burns, Scottish Words, Scottish Tartans, Scottish Clans. And then, I hope, by way of a complete change, How long does it take you to write one of the books? some fun craft project books for children – though The research takes the longest. Although the plans for those are still at a very early stage. books are small in size, they contain a lot of information. Research and writing together What is your favourite peculiar fact? probably take at least 6 weeks. Favourites come and go, depending on what I’m writing about. Since I’ve just finished the text of The road to publication? Rough or smooth? ‘VPH Tartans’, what about: When King George I am extremely fortunate to work on this Very IV visited Edinburgh in 1822, he wore Highland Peculiar series with a wonderful publisher and his Dress - plus a pair of pale pink woolly tights under team at Book House. his kilt, to preserve the royal modesty! What inspires you? What words of wisdom can you leave us with? I like to investigate and find things out, and I like You don’t know what you can do until you try. Writers Gifts has a copy of Charles Dickens: A Very Peculiar History to give away. Head on over to the Competitions page for details.

the love dickens edition ~ 21


celebrate dickens with...

Celebrate Dickens with...

Amanda White

Gad’s Hill Place Quilt

Coming Soon to Etsy!

Dickens in Doughty Street Collage I am an English artist living in Spain, painting and collaging in naive style, with a special affinity with Sussex and Derbyshire. My influences are magpie-like: my favourite places, local history, patterns in the landscape, flora, fauna, patchwork, folk art, embroidery, books, Staffordshire pottery, any number of naive and not so naive artists, found objects, my sketchbooks old and new and last but not least my cats and other people’s dogs! amandawhite-contemporarynaiveart.blogspot.com amandawhite-contemporarynaiveart.com

22 ~ what the dickens?


hearts, flowers and handfasting

Hearts, Flowers and Handfasting Judith Allnatt

V

alentine’s Day is said to be the day when birds choose a mate for life; likewise, in the spring ‘a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’. The nineteenth century poet, John Clare, courted Patty Turner in the spring, gathering wild lilies of the valley for her flowerpots and wooing her with poetry and passion. But this was to be no fairy-tale romance: family bitterness and fears of scandal were to follow and, after marriage, a tragic love story unfolded as John Clare’s genius tipped into madness.

she matures and experience teaches that there will be some sore trials rather than roses all the way. As she says to Eliza: ‘the heart is an organ of fire: it can warm us or consume us.’ I have always been fascinated, in my own reading, by the blurring of the boundary between love and madness: from Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre to Jed Parry in Enduring Love, we see thwarted passion forcing characters to act in irrational and peculiar ways.

The discovery that ignited the idea for my novel, The Poet’s Wife, was that John Clare’s madness included the delusion that he was bigamously married. He believed himself to be married to both his real wife, Patty, and his childhood sweetheart, Mary Joyce.

In the novel, John disregards Patty’s hurt, writing screeds of poems and letters to Mary, hankering after his first love even after she has died and refusing to believe that she has passed away. Eliza is driven to deceit and an attempt to destroy her own beauty. Patty is forced to spy to try to find out the state of her husband’s heart and even finds At the start of the novel, Patty finds her husband herself drawn to visit her rival’s grave, in an effort sitting at the side of the road having absconded to lay a ghost which will not be put to rest. from an asylum and trudged eighty miles home. He fails to recognise her and it becomes apparent Yet despite all the heartache caused by love, Patty that he has returned not to find her and his still wishes that she and John could have been children but to find his first love, Mary. What ‘handfasted’ – their wrists bound tightly together must it be like to feel that you are losing your at their marriage, in the country custom of the husband to a rival who is impossible to match: time. This marriage ritual is surely an apposite a woman who is worshipped in his memory and image for love, reflecting its chafe and pain while perfected in his imagination? What duties does still acknowledging that our greatest strength lies the marriage vow, ‘ in sickness and in health,’ in the bonds of the heart. incur when a partner has changed beyond recognition? Through writing in Patty’s voice I The Poet’s Wife is published by was able to explore this conundrum. Beset with Black Swan and is available in jealousy and struggling with her anger and hurt, paperback and Kindle editions. Patty seeks refuge in remembering a happier past, but is unsure whether the memory of courtship is ever enough to sustain love or whether this is just a romantic dream; she longs to heal John of his demons and restore him to the man she married. Patty’s clear-eyed view of the deep rifts and strong bonds of a marriage contrasts with the naivety and vulnerability of her daughter Eliza, whose romantic notions lead her dangerously close to ruin. Placing the love stories of both mother and daughter side by side allowed me to explore the way that a woman’s views about love change as

Judith Allnatt is an acclaimed short story writer and novelist. Shortlisted for the inaugural East Midlands Book Award, her latest novel, The Poet’s Wife, tells the story of the poet John Clare and his wife Patty Turner: a story of poems and passion, genius and madness. judithallnatt.co.uk

the love dickens edition ~ 23


art

Bobby Mono is a comic artist and illustrator from Seattle, Washington. He has self-published 4 mini comics including Tales of Mild Discomfort and Anxiety and The Wizard. You can read more at bobbymono.com.

24 ~ what the dickens?


dickens & love writing

Dickens & Love Writing Through Time’s Window by Ikhtisad Ahmed

A gentleman in a black tailcoat, matching top-hat in hand, He greets us at Bank Station, smiling above the collars of His white wing tip shirt and silk puff tie, a warm smile on A cold winter evening, our guide for a tour of old London. His quiet demeanour forsaken the moment he starts leading us, With a newfound fervour he weaves a path through alleyways Forgotten, hidden courtyards, sleepy pubs aplenty, regaling us With tales now gone from man’s memory, banished, a lost history. His words a mystical spell uttered, we are plunged into a time From before, too long ago for us to have lived in or recall. A quiet whisper awoken, it speaks into the shadowy recesses of these Forgotten parts of this great city, living in a cocoon in its very heart. The gentleman, a misplaced spectre from his famed ghost walk, He tells us more and more, and with his every word the dead Streets, the butterfly within, flutter to life, slowly, cautiously; The seamless storytelling continues, summoning it forth. A colourful shadow now engulfs us, the butterfly broken free, It effortlessly transforms all around us to that time of long ago; Every crumbling wall coloured the red of new brick, every Abandoned shack a vibrant inn or counting-house illuminated By the gas streetlamps, newly installed and burning bright. As a horse-drawn carriage meanders towards us, our guide Points at the window of an old public house, now new, His gaze fixed he says, “Do you see him? Dickens! There!” Through time’s window we see him, holding his quill over parchment, Pondering how to proceed with his tale to transcend centuries. Ikhtisad Ahmed was born in Singapore, grew up in Bangladesh and India, and now lives in the UK. An aspiring writer working in the field of alternate dispute resolution and mediation, he is the author of Cryptic Verses (a poetry collection) and The Deliverance of Sanctuary (a play that is due to open in London in May).

the love dickens edition ~ 25


dickens & love writing

The Real Re-enactment Society

Artful pulled harder at my coat. As he did so he showed off a gold chain around his neck and the Rolex on his left wrist. ‘Hello, Peter,’ Mr Artful said. He knew my name! I looked around to see a policeman walk by. ‘Shall by Cleveland W. Gibson I tell him you’re not at school and you’ve Charles adam La Guillotine fascinated me in the Dickens’ wallet in your pocket?’ My pocket diary-Mr Artful had it in his hand book entitled Tale of Two Cities. Weeks later and read out my address. He certainly knew about I heard the Real Re-enactment Society planned ‘something’ to celebrate the anniversary of the picking pockets. ‘Mind I can keep quiet if you do a job for me. great author. He was born on 7th February and I I can pay, and you’ll still get to keep the wallet. knew I wanted to join in with those celebrations Well?’ next month.

M

On that day I skipped school to stand outside the brightly coloured ‘Big Top’ in London watching weird come-alive characters from Dickens’ other books pass by. All the characters had been drafted in from the RRS members. A loaded tumbril rumbled past followed by urchins from a Victorian workhouse. Then I heard the driver’s horn as a stagecoach flew by as if it were on the London to Faringdon route. I mused that Bill Sykes might follow next, but instead a large red-faced man waddled past. Plop. A wallet dropped from his pocket. I gulped. He never noticed. “Hell!” I exclaimed. His T-shirt bore the legend Charles Dickens. The man continued on his way, the rain started, and I decided to own that wallet. I dropped down to tie an imaginary shoelace, at the same time I slipped the wallet into my pocket. Nobody saw me, or so I thought.

***

By this time my anxiety levels were back to normal. I grabbed my diary and thought about the deal. What did Mr Artful want from me? And the wallet? I slipped it out of my pocket . The Charles Dickens wallet bulged with £50- notes, and it also held a credit card. ‘I keep the wallet?’ Now greed drove away my fears. ‘Yep. I’m part of the Real Re-enactment Society. You must have heard of us. My partner, Charles Dickens, is a magician, and your help is needed for a promotional stunt. It is quite safe.’ I nodded. Mr Artful moved me to where a small crowd waited. As he started juggling Charles Dickens regarded me in silence. Perhaps it was because I’d kept his wallet. At some given signal Charles grabbed me. In seconds I found myself strapped to a wooden turntable favoured by those in the Music Hall *** entetainment business. Mr terror grew as he spun The man stood at 7ft 6inches looking down at me. the wheel with a vicious twist. The next instant His weather beaten skin looked dirty, making me knives slammed into the board, inches from my desperate to give him a character name. Nobody body. I died many times in only a few seconds. was that tall , unless they wore stilts. And he did. Then to a fantastic applause my drama ended. ‘Convict from Great Expectations?’ I asked *** ‘Nah,’ the man returned. ‘I’m like Artful growed up.’ He winked at me. I liked his green shirt, pink Mr Artful grinned at Charles Dickens, who then jumper and yellow trousers. My legs turned to jelly as his arms caught my passed me a five-pound note. I accepted it with a coat to, slowly but surely, drag me to my feet. As stupid grin on my face as I thought how well I was doing now. The fiver and keeping the wallet made his face drew closer to mine, I felt petrified. To me his flamboyant way of dressing contrasted me aware that money was my god. Minutes later after the men had left I still stood with his fierce looks. I mean his bloodshot eyes, and hook-shaped nose. Now he was close, I saw there in the Pip Street area. Adrenaline pumped through my body but I felt smug. I moved to a he wore a latex mask, but he still frightened me.

26 ~ what the dickens?


dickens & love writing doorway of a shop called ‘Little Nell’ to check out the wallet. The credit card-it had gone. But I had the money. I quickly counted the notes. I gasped. Eight hundred pounds, in £50 notes. I could scarcely believe my luck. Then I saw all the £50 notes were only printed on one side. I cursed all magicians, and especially one called Charles Dickens! I threw the wallet away and started heading for the Underground and home. At least the five-pound note remained real. My route to the station took me past the ‘Big Top.’ Outside I saw a crowd of men dressed in top hats, splendid suits and waistcoats. They wore floppy lace type ties. The women in the crowd wore dresses of various colours but all in the Dickensian style. I paused as I wondered what might be happening. ‘Peter has agreed to help us out, as a volunteer,’ boomed a voice. I knew that voice. Nobody could forget Mr Artful. The crowd turned to watch as the tall Mr Artful ran up to me. His hand grabbed mine and whisked me away to a stage. The snapping in place of constraints took seconds.

The crowd cheered. As I suspected I was lashed in place to La Guillotine. My fears doubled. But nobody else seemed scared. Certainly not Charles Dickens or Mr Artful who ate pieces of birthday cake. ‘Perfectly safe, me boy,’ Charles Dickens chuckled. He raised his eyes to the stage/circus setup ignoring my protests. And then his hand played gently with the lever connected to the blade above my head. ‘I’ve saved you a piece of the cake, Peter. What fun! You’ll be wanting more, me boy?’

And Now It Can Be Told

stifled a scream. Above the collar was a grinning ivory skull, with the clothing kept broadly in its shape by the rest of the skeleton. Pip whirled round as a finger jabbed into his back. ‘So. You see what you see. And what does it tell you?’ Steady, Pip. She’s standing between you and the door. ‘Is this … is it your b-b-bridegroom, Miss Havisham?’ She laughed, loudly, rasping. Then turned on her heel and made for her dusty chair. Pip followed, feeling now the faintest glimmer of courage. ‘No, not my beloved. For once, Pip, the gossips are right – he did leave me at the altar. But they don’t know why.’ She pointed to an empty chair, and Pip could do nothing but sit down and wait. ‘He did come to the church on our wedding day, and in good time. I was a few minutes late, as befits. But his best man, William, was a former beau of mine. Do you know the word, ‘beau’?’ ‘Yes, I think so.’ ‘Well, William wanted to marry me but I turned him down. So now he poured his poison into my darling Arthur’s ear, saying we’d had ... Saying

by Jacqueline Pye

P

ip brushed the cobwebs from his face and neck, but they stuck to his clammy fingers. He ran his palms down his jacket in case she insisted on shaking his hand. ‘Closer’, she snapped, making him jump. ‘How old are you, boy?’ He dug his nails into his palm. ‘Eight, your ladyship.’ ‘Old enough to pour me a sherry, perhaps.’ Miss Havisham, dripping ragged grey lace from every arthritic joint, pointed a bony finger toward a nearby door. ‘In there.’ Pip saw a door, opened it and stepped through, just as she shrieked, ‘NOT THAT ONE!’ Too late. Pip had seen the human shape lying on a narrow bed. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, he could pick out the details of black trousers, white dress shirt and morning coat. A carnation, dry as paper, in the buttonhole. Then he

Cleveland W. Gibson publishes on Smashwords.com and Amazon.com. He has worked for the Government, taught ESOL, been a carer, trained as a lifeguard and road race director. His writing has appeared in many forms. A current project is a fantasy novel, House of the Skull Drum

the love dickens edition ~ 27


dickens & love writing we’d been in love and that I was a ruined woman. You wouldn’t understand.’ Pip indeed didn’t understand, but she didn’t wait for a comment. ‘So Arthur thought I’d been untrue. I hadn’t, of course, but he thought we couldn’t marry. So he took flight. And I never saw him again.’ Pip blurted out, ‘But the man in there?’ ‘William waited for me at the church, then brought me back here. He tried to hold me, told me he was the one who really loved me. So I stabbed him with my paper knife. Just like this.’ Jab, jab downwards with her fist. ‘So now you know.’ There was silence. Then Miss Havisham sighed deeply. ‘Time for that sherry, I think. Make sure this time, if you please, that you pick the right door.”

Brotherhood by Nicola Belte

“Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.” –Dante Gabriel Rossetti in A Superscription

I

don’t know who she thinks she is. He’ll never be faithful. And she isn’t that pretty. Not as pretty as she thinks she is, anyway. Since the day that Millais nearly killed her in the bathtub she’s looked more dead than alive. But they like that, don’t they? That doe-eyed fragility. Nothing gets their brushes fired up like consumptive cheekbones and jutting collarbones on a woman. With lots of hair. That’s why they don’t ask me to model, I suppose; too much meat upon my bones and not enough fluff upon my head. Too hearty, too healthy looking, too plain. I just don’t bruise easily enough. On the outside, at least. I asked him once, Rossetti; he was waiting in the street outside the milliners shop for Lizzie, as dapper as ever, his appearance somewhat compromised, however, by his incessant fidgeting and pathetic lovelorn expression. Symptomatic of a fancy. Of lustful infatuation. Nothing that could last. Nothing important. Not that it diminished the sting. ‘If you need other models, I’m free,’ I’d ventured, turning my burning face back towards the shop

28 ~ what the dickens?

Jacqueline Pye has been a prolific writer for many years in magazines and newspapers, mainly non-fiction but recent publications also include poems, short stories and short drama. She’s a member of Southampton Writing Buddies and has four entries in their new anthology Wordfall. Her first children’s book is currently with a publisher. jacpye.com jacpye.blogspot.com

front, where through the glass and beyond the streamers and bows and hat displays, Lizzie could be seen frantically tidying away, knowing he was there, waiting for her. He didn’t even respond. He was watching her too; entranced, hypnotised; beguiled, his face ignited by her presence; a gas lamp flickering to life.I didn’t stand a chance. Nobody did. ‘Goodnight Mary’ she says as she pulls on her coat, and straightens her hat. ‘No Dante this evening?’ I ask, looking towards the doorway. ‘No, no he’s engrossed in his latest masterpiece’ she says, then misreading the look in my eyes, smiles and adds, ‘but don’t worry Mary, I’ll be fine.’ She walks over and kisses me on the cheek. I rear back, flustered, but she’s already stepped out into the street; been swallowed up by the fog. Back home, I rub my face, and feel the burn left by her lips. Demonic, the way it lingered. I light candles, and sit alone in my drab, cluttered lounge, listening to the sounds of the street: hansom cabs rattling and clunking; hooves against the cobbles; people shouting, singing, laughing, and crying; every emotion possible passing by my window. Outside. I stare at the walls. I open my bag, and inside it, neatly folded, is Lizzie’s handkerchief. She needs one. The poor thing is always sniffling or dabbing at her eyes, or rubbing her perfect nose pink. How


dickens & love writing does one so sensitive survive? I hold it carefully, and run my fingers around the embroidered edges, then press it to my face, inhaling the sickly scent of her. Cloying. Intoxicating. She must suffocate him. I fall asleep with it clutched in my hands, and throw it aside, like a ghastly nightmare, in the morning. She’s unbearably happy today. She hasn’t stopped talking. No wonder she’s barely moved on from binding edges. Whereas I deftly shape and trim the hats; bring them to life with nets and veils and flowers and spangles, she’s content to do the preparatory, the humdrum, the dull. Here, I am the peacock, and she is the hen; but not out there in real world; not where it matters. They are going to the country, tomorrow, she tells me: Rossetti, Millais and Hunt, and no doubt others in that silly Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, or whatever it is they call themselves. ‘On the train’ she smiles, excitement emanating from her, carrying her away, far from our cramped, hot room in the back of the hat shop, away from the dirty, noisy city with its grime and soot; its beggars, traders, drunks and thieves. She’s losing track of her stitching, but I don’t tell her. Not yet. I smile as she talks, and she inches her chair closer. She likes me because I indulge her selfindulgence. I gorge upon it; question-nod-smile, question-nod-smile, my gestures the careful laying out of cutlery in an expensive restaurant where I’ll never eat, and her the fancy cake. She doesn’t notice. She’s in love, and for all she cares, the whole world could starve. She babbles on and on about her paintings, and my smile begins to crack. She thinks she’s an artist, and not just a disposable pretty face. Fancy that! Immortality in her own right? Well, not if her millinery is anything to go by. I watch her sew to the end of the line, and say, ‘Lizzie, I hate to point it out, but you’ve missed a stitch, right there, back at the beginning of the line…’ ‘Bother!’ she mutters, blowing back a loose lock of red hair that has fallen onto her forehead. ‘Now I’ll have to unpick it all and start again. Last week one was ‘below par’ and it can’t happen again, they’d see me out on the street!’ She laughs. That would never happen, I know. Not to her. ‘Thank goodness for you Mary, what would I do without you?’

I smile wider than ever, jabbing my needle into my finger; the thread screaming as it breaks in the silence of the room. My finger still throbs later as I prepare my evening meal: a small, red apple. I chop it into tiny pieces, and eat it whilst slumped in my grey shapeless smock; envisaging the transformation occurring beneath it. I see myself stepping out of a lake, thin; tossing droplets of pure aquamarine from my hair, which is as black and as glossy as a raven’s wing. My skin is pale, tinged with violet, but my amber eyes gleam, a tiger-eyed Aphrodite; emerging to admiring, awe-struck silence; my applause the frantic scuffle of brushes of canvas. I open her umbrella, the one that I took last week, and place it over my shoulder. Twirling it I dance around with the shadows in my room, faster and faster, until the faded wallpaper whirls before my eyes; until the candle lights blur into one dizzying stream; until I forget that I’m hungry. She got caught in the rain on her way to work, and sits at her station trying to run her fingers through her long, matted locks, muttering as her damp mane ensnares them. ‘This weather must be murder on your lovely hair’ I say, my initial feeling of triumph flattened by her beauty. Tendrils of hair curl around her face, and the downpour has darkened her eyelashes. Her cheeks are flushed, and she looks both vulnerable and wild, like a beautiful child. Beside her, dry and immaculate, I feel dusty, desiccated; old. She takes out a large, silver hairbrush, and I watch silently as she lifts it to her head. She places it against her temples; the bristles perilously close to her tender flesh, like teeth about to nibble at an exotic, sweet fruit; and then it bites. She pulls it through her hair; her slim, graceful wrist moving languidly through the air, almost ethereal; the beckoning call of a mermaid, or an angel. ‘Ouch’ she mutters, as the bristles catch. I blink, and move to help her, walking slowly, as if through treacle, taking the brush, the handle of it warm in my hands. ‘Here, let me do that,’ I croak, standing behind her, my shadow falling across the ribbons and scissors strewn over the work surface. I steady myself by putting one hand on her shoulder. It feels fragile, like a baby birds, easy to

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dickens & love writing crush. I sweep her hair to one side and her neck here is deathly pale, her crepuscular complexion other-worldly, ill-suited for this one, and yet she’s the centre of it. I pull the brush through her hair, softly at first, and then more violently. She winches, but doesn’t complain. She’s docile. Pathetic. ‘Thank you so much Mary, I can’t reach the back myself at all, you’re a diamond.’ I feel a tear form in my eye, feel a tremble animate my mouth, but then I snap back her neck, harder than necessary, and run the brush through the full sweep of her hair. When I’ve finished I feign a headache, and refuse to speak to her for the rest of the day. I sit in the bath, with my head hung over the back of it, letting the water turn cold. I dry myself quickly, and sit with the fire unlit, shivering in my smock. I open my bag. Her hairbrush. He’d called for her, and she’d rushed out into the drizzle with hardly a farewell, swiftly looping her arm in his. He makes her forget herself. That must be nice, to escape from yourself, like getting on a train that’s heading somewhere sunny by the sea. The bristles are full of compacted red hair, and slowly, I pull it out, in clumps, and lay them across

The Hunchback and the Guillotine

my knees. A horse whinnies outside, and I hear the crack of a whip. The shadows hold their breath. I take the hair, smell it; press it against my lips. I poke it with the tip of my tongue, taste it, and then I take a strand, and begin to chew. It makes me gag, makes the back of my throat tickle; makes me retch until I think that I’m going to throw up all over the dirty stone floor. I gasp; drink water, my eyes streaming and my stomach churning, the hair wet between my fingers, but still, I force it down. All good medicine tastes bad. I feel its briar like tendrils clutching at my oesophagus, fingers on a cliff-face, digging into the unmoveable, merciless mountain of me. They’re losing grip, slowly, beginning to slip. One more sip, and she’s gone. Nicola Belte lives in Birmingham, U.K, and writes fiction in-between pulling pints and pursuing a Masters degree in Writing. Her excitement at getting to write something ‘Victorian’ was most un-Victorian, and she is currently recuperating in a dark room with smelling salts and cucumber sandwiches. You can find her at her blog, here: nicolabelte.blogspot.com.

equally ridiculous names but my parents never had another child. I longed to be left alone and forgotten about Surely one would expect someone with a name like mine to be adorable in an exotic or unusual way, by Sarah Cuquemelle or at least to be endowed with a sweet temperament. y parents called me Vanilla. I am Vanilla I was neither. I look typically English, just like Cameron-Wright. As a child I always felt the portraits decorating the long dining-room in our manor house. There is no hint of tenderness embarrassed when I had to repeat my name. or softness about my complexion or my features. ‘Camilla?’ I am sallow-skinned, my nose is too long and my ‘No, Vanilla. My name is Vanilla.’ The children looked at me with mocking smiles, chestnut-brown hair never looks as though it has especially the little girls. Sweet cruelty of the been combed. I have also always been too tall; so childhood. After asking my name they started that, without realising it and without my parents playing games without inviting me to take part correcting this bad habit at the age of thirteen I in them. Everything was said. No matter what started to look like a duck. I felt incredibly awkward blue-blooded surname I inherited I would always of being taller than my cousins Ralph and Laurie who be the odd one, the one whose parents had given were two and three years older than me respectively. her the sort of name you would give to a pet, Consequently after a few years it was too late for me and one that is not even special for an animal. I to stand up straight, and the expensive and amiable wished I had been given a simple and plain name doctors could do nothing about the pains I had such as Emily or Anne or that I had siblings with started to feel in my neck.

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30 ~ what the dickens?


dickens & love writing When I was fifteen, my parents decided there was nothing left for us in dear old England, and my father thought it would be easier to make a living in the colonies. He had met dodgy businessmen, signed risky contracts and bought land in Ireland and Scotland that were too isolated to grow any culture in. So they left for India and sold the family manor house, whose upkeep they found harder and harder to afford, and I was packed off to boarding school in Switzerland – and not one of the smart ones. I fantasised for a while about my mother inviting the wives of governors to tea and a boy holding out a parasol for her when she went out for a walk, to keep her skin immaculate. I imagined my father chasing tigers in the jungle and learning the local dialects. These daydreams came to an end when I received a letter informing me that my mother had died of malaria and telling me, furthermore, that my father would be coming back home as everything in England would remind him of his gentle Amelia. He moved to Kerala where he probably encountered more mosquitoes than tigers and where the post was unreliable, according to the few letters he sent me once he had settled near Trivandrum. Edmée became my only friend at school. Her father had been born in Bath, while her mother was a penniless aristocrat from Normandy who lost all her relatives during the French Revolution in 1794. She moved with a friend to England, where she soon married the Viscount Lawrence Fitzherbert-Jones,whom she met at a ball. They lived happily for a year before the noble woman returned prematurely back to her country, after giving the viscount a child. Once the death certificate was signed, her grieving husband made the impossible possible by convincing a boat company that her wife should rest in a cemetery in Normandy on her ancestors’ soil. He looked after the coffin himself in the boat, barely eating, not shaving, just caressing the wood of Amelia’s last bed in a final act of tenderness. I was surprised to have made such an interesting and lively friend – I was used to being shunned by the people I met of my own age. The other girls started to hate us, simply because they could not understand us - German and Italian were the only languages taught at school, by a strict elderly woman whose strong English accent made us all laugh. Soon we became cut off from the other

boarders and their activities. “The Hunchback” and “The Guillotine” were the disparaging nicknames bestowed upon us. After one year of seemingly pointless lessons, sewing and embroidery, Edmée went back home for the summer. Feeling sorry for me because I had nowhere to go, she invited me to go and stay with her in Bath for as long as I wanted. When I eventually met her father, I did not recognise the despondent and grieving man Edmée had described to me. He looked down at his daughter in a disapproving way when she dared talk at the table in front of the guests. He joked and laughed with his friends but would barely speak to us. He wanted an obedient and silent daughter who would not disturb his social pleasures and his business activities. At the end of the summer he introduced Edmée to a count and made it clear that he expected her to marry him. George Redcliffe-Wood was about thirty-five, and his eyebrows gave him an air of severity severity and unfulfillment. He could have been the viscount’s younger brother. Ever the obedient daughter, Edmée never consulted her own feelings, yet her eyes sparkled and a smile crept across her face when she found out he owned a property in Provence. The fiancés met a few times and went for walks around Edmée’s garden, and the wedding took place a month after I returned to Switzerland. I had nobody to joke and have private conversations in French with any more . The other girls were delighted to see me silent and humbled. I was the Hunchback without the Guillotine, and my long neck felt more painful than ever. Edmée wrote me a letter every week for a year, full of descriptions of her solitary life near Grasse. Her husband was spending most of his time in England and seemed cold and bitter whenever he returned to France to see her. A few old servants were her only company, as George imposed a rule that she was not leave the house alone. The place was damp and the draughts made her ill for several weeks over the winter. All she had for company was her books. She begged me to spend the summer with her. The servants were all deaf and insane, and were all obsessed with keeping her locked in the bedroom. I was just as eager to see my friend again, but at the same time I was anxious about what I would find at Edmée’s new home. She promised me her husband had

the love dickens edition ~ 31


dickens & love writing no objection to my presence at the home and, more importantly, he had no intention of leaving England before winter. On the stagecoach leading me to Edmée’s residence I was thinking how much I must love my friend to come all the way from Zurich to a place I did not know. The house was grey and covered with ivy. The driveway was obviously not looked after, the garden was neglected. I knocked at the door. A young, grinning housemaid of about fourteen opened the door. She certainly looked completely different to the old, deaf woman my friend had written to me about. A man’s voice called after the giggling girl, who then quickly disappeared round the corner into another room. I called out: ‘Edmée?’ An plump girl with loose hair came down the stairs. I had difficulty recognising this redcheeked, unkempt person as my sweet friend, but Edmée leapt into my arms. The following day I discovered how untrue Edmée’s letters had been She had never been mistreated and while it was true George seldom came to visit, she was left entirely free to go to dances with her new French friends, female and male. She told me she had no time for reading, which made me think she was undoubtedly losing her senses. I told her how she had worried me every week with the tale of her unhappy and lonely days. She mocked me and said how melodramatic I had always been, that I always took pleasure in any sad or terrible story. We barely spoke to each other. She went off on her own to meet her friends, or spent most of her time sleeping. I had not brought enough books with me and was forced to wait patiently the end of the day, sitting in the garden, watching the maids and gardeners joking and working in a very half-hearted pace. On the third day, Edmée almost fainted in front of me and, and as she lay on the ground, the curves of her body were noticeably accentuated. ‘When was the last time you saw George?’ I asked her. ‘George? He has only been here three times since I got here. He has too much to do in London.’ ‘Edmée, am I right saying you are carrying a child? Why is your husband not here with you?’ ‘Because he does not even know!’, she burst out laughing. ‘He leads his life, I lead mine. George is not like us. He is not normal. He never... I do not owe him anything.’

32 ~ what the dickens?

I had never felt so shocked in my whole life. Edmée had been taunting and provoking me, constantly flirting with the dark-eyed young gardener and touching his hand, not only in front of me but in front of the servants too. I looked forward to getting back to the peace of my boarding school in Switzerland and returned to earlier than I planned, preferring the solace of my Latin books to Edmée’s rudeness and incivility. I did not write to thank Edmée for her hospitality. She stopped sending me letters. I suppose she probably had no time to write either. Several months later, one of the girls at my school read us all out a letter that she had just received from her mother. It described the circumstances in which Edmée’s husband had passed away. George had paid a visit to his wife unannounced. Apparently he did not appreciate the way Edmée was managing the house, incuring needless expenses and allowing the staff to pilfer from her. They had a row and he abruptly decided to go straight back to England. The story went that, just as he was leaving, he was set upon and murdered by thieves in the woods nearby his property. Although no one saw the culprits, it was noted that all his money and valuables were taken, including his wedding ring. The girl went on, lowering her voice: ‘Do you know how they killed him?’ With her audience captivated, she paused a moment: ‘They decapitated him.’ Abject horror could be seen in every girl’s face. After what seemed like eternity an Italian girl spoke. ‘The Guillotine? The Guillotine’s husband has his head chopped off ?!’ A few nervous smiles appeared. Even if nobody really liked Edmée - too pretty, too arrogant, already married when they were still waiting for a wealthy man to rescue them from boarding school, - they felt sorry for her when they learnt that she was about to give birth to a baby who would never know its father. Even cruel girls can sometimes show pity. Sarah Cuquemelle... Born in France I have spent three years in England where I wrote and directed short films. I now focus on short stories writing, both in French and English.


dickens & love writing

STARBABY - blog! by Caroline Scaramanga

you’re just born with! He seemed uncomfortable – maybe even scared of me, li’il ol’ me! Power! The old guy wanted to come in too, but he wasn’t on the list, so ‘tough’, just HAD to turn him down. I took him to MH – they had a bit of a chat - I left them to it. And then, MH asked me to ‘amuse him’ – wanted to see how he moved, so we played my latest game on the x-box – naturally I won, again and again, but he took some beating! Afterwards he wanted to look around outside – I watched him go first, then followed – I knew he’ld watch me too. Standing with the sun behind me, I just knew my dress was see-through, and oh boy, it definitely didn’t go unnoticed! Ok, so he’s gone now, but he’ll be back again next week apaz. I’ve decided he’s going to be my new plaything – I’m going to have fun with him! Second instalment next week….. ‘Till then, think of me, (I won’t think of you)!!!!

WEDNESDAY 16TH JANUARY ecided to write this as I am soooooo…. bored, stuck here at the house with MH, miles from London and the bright lights of the city. It is SO bleak – what’s a girl to do – there’s no-one to talk to, the house is f…ing FREEEEEEZING and noone’s cleared the table for years. And when I say years, I really really mean it!! Ugh, you should see the bugs crawling all over it, amongst the ruins of her wedding – but that’s another story, another time. But, something a bit different happened today – this morning MH told me that a guy called Pip was coming – weird name I know, but at least it was someone new. Anyhow, bang on time, there was a ring at the gate – I looked out and could E-stella see this young guy – definitely WAY behind the times! His clothes were HORRENDOUS – definitely not in the land of fashion, although Newly installed in her landing lookout, I guess you could call him ‘retro’, sort of used Caroline Scaramanga is enjoying the fact clothes look?! Standing next to him was an old that fitness and age are not limiting factors in man with a serious weight problem. I couldn’t be the world of the written word. Having spent bothered to go down straight away so I shouted 12 years designing gardens, she is turning out the window for his name – and yes, it was her hand, and in particular her fingers, to him. I went outside to let them in – made sure he writing, after the sun goes down. caught a good look at me first – well, some things

D

Of Cabbages and Queens by Ralph Beddard

M

ost people don’t like pickled cabbage. Albert liked pickled cabbage. Perhaps that is not quite accurate, what Albert liked was sauerkraut. Back home in Rosenau and in other parts of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha everyone liked sauerkraut. Victoria had eaten it on one of her visits to Uncle Billy and had not found it entirely unpalatable. King William, however, had been served and looked after by the last of the great Hanoverian chefs brought over by the family. Now, alas, they had all gone and Buckingham Palace had to make do with chefs who, fine and skilled in their own right, did not have the finesse of the old school of continental masters.

Very occasionally Albert was allowed to join Victoria in drawing up the week’s menu; she liked to make him feel that he was contributing something, other than respectability, to the task of governing. It was at such of these menu-setting conferences that he suggested that sauerkraut might be served at one lunchtime – he, like many of his contemporaries, felt that sauerkraut in the evening might be too much for the digestive system. Victoria, always keen to maintain the Englishness of her upbringing and calling, suggested that they should refer to it as pickled cabbage and thus it was agreed. Two days later ‘pickled cabbage’ did appear on the menu. The Prince was happy and almost salivating with expectation as he lifted the lid from the silver chafing dish. To his horror, what he saw was a mound of what looked like red kelp floating in a deep magenta sea of vinegar. Having recovered slightly from his initial shock,

the love dickens edition ~ 33


dickens & love writing he prepared to honour the chef of the day by tasting. He coughed and spluttered as the acerbic taste and fumes of the pickle seared his mouth. Albert was not amused. How could something so unnatural be served up to the Queen of England and her husband? Victoria, on the other hand, found it difficult to suppress a giggle. She now remembered the red pickled cabbage served in her mother’s meaner establishment as part of a cold collation. She tried to explain to Albert that English chefs had probably never heard of sauerkraut. ‘You see, Sauerkraut is cabbage pickled in salt, the English use vinegar’ ‘Vhy is it that everything in this country is eaten vith vinegar? he questioned. Victoria felt it best, on this occasion, not to remind him of the Sauerbraten regularly served by Albert’s uncle where an erstwhile delicious fillet of beef had lain several hours marinating in vinegar. Instead she said, daringly. ‘Have some more chips, my dear.’ ‘Ven ve get to Balmoral this summer ve shall make our own sauerkraut’ he pronounced, lapsing into English. Victoria wondered if he meant the royal we. She was certainly not, however, about to go into such menial occupations, not even on holiday. ‘But I had thought, Albert dear, that we might go to Biarritz again this year. The children so enjoyed it.’ ‘I think Bertie enjoyed it perhaps a little too much,’ came the reply. ‘I think Balmoral is better.’ ‘Yes dear. I expect you are right. Not even the Queen of England could trespass on a husband’s prerogative to choose a holiday destination. When summer arrived and their long stay at Balmoral had begun, Victoria was somewhat surprised that Albert had not forgotten his project to produce echt sauerkraut. He summoned the new boy recently taken on by the stables, John Brown, and got him to produce several straightsided barrels held together with heavy bands of iron. Now Scotland is not famous for the kind of cabbages used in such recipes and some had to be sent for, to Albert’s annoyance, from Northern England. When they finally arrived he set to, with

34 ~ what the dickens?

only a little help from the army of kitchen folk, to shred the cabbage and stuff it, together with large helpings of salt, into the barrels. A disc of wood was placed in the top and this was loaded down with heavy stones. Albert was finally satisfied that he had set the process in motion and all they now had to do was to let nature take its course. It was later in the summer that Albert and Victoria’s lunch was disturbed by raised voices in the kitchen. The door opened and in came the cook. ‘I’m sorry ma’am, we can’t stand it any longer’ ‘What cannot you stand’? asked the Queen. ‘There’s a mighty loathsome smell coming from those barrels in the corner of the kitchen.’ ‘What sort of smell?’ ‘It’s a bit like rotting cabbage,’ ventured the cook. Which, of course, was what it was. After a brief inspection by the royal couple, who had scarcely been in the kitchens before, it was agreed that the smell was indeed intolerable. Although Albert was somewhat displeased that his project should be put in danger at this almost final stage, the Queen ordered that the offending barrels should be removed, with minimum disturbance, and placed below in one of the wine cellars that was not in use. John Brown’s services were again called upon and the operation of removal was shortly complete. Autumn arrived and it was necessary to leave the beauty of Scotland for London. Parliament was waiting to be opened and, in addition, Mr Mendelssohn was planning another visit. The royal entourage set off on their journey well rested and fattened by their holiday and ready to begin again the relentless task of almost governing. Everyone had forgotten about the barrels of fermenting cabbage. They were safely locked in the twenty fifth wine cellar and, indeed, they may still be there today. Ralph Beddard trained as an international lawyer but having published academic text now writes mainly fiction. He has completed two novels for adults, and one for children and has published children’s stories. He now lives in West Dorset.


dickens & love writing

The Last Letter of Elizabeth Siddal Lizzie sits in silence watching green lights slide on the oily Thames. Laudanum warms in a wineglass in the cave of her hands. She dreams of Dante’s blessed damozels, their hair waterfalling from heaven, and Ophelia, whose corpse she became for Dante’s sake – drowning in a bath of tears while thirty candles burned to lard on the hip of it, and Millais’ brushstrokes slowly syphoned her life. Afterwards she crept back from the dead to worship him. A sip of laudanum, then Lizzie dips her quill. Indian red clings like a murder to the nib – the stolen paper is smooth, creamy, virginal, ripped. Lizzie sighs, begins to write: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, my only love, you have betrayed me – I beat myself like a caged thing wipe my tears on your stinking shirts and contemplate this black, greasy night of your drinking and whoring. You called me soulmate, artist, only to extinguish my light, and disunite us. Once you said we were two nodding cowslips on a single stem; now you marry your art, your lovers, your blessed damozels – and there is too much flesh in the way of heaven. Tipping back her head, Lizzie drains the laudanum. Sometimes I think I hear a baby cry – our dead one come to visit the sickly husk that tamped its birth. Nothing lives, nothing lives by the river but eelish green lights. And so, my love, are you gone from the death-house, and your waiting spectre-wife in her golden halo of failure? Lizzie drops the quill, takes it up again; perspiring, violently shaking, she writes: This was the story of a cutler’s daughter who loved the moon – and lived a shadow. Sallie Durham

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The Saga of Albert and Victoria by Sallie Durham

P

rince Albert was the pick of the litter, the only white rabbit in a bunch of blacks, greys and multistripes. My daughter chose him because he reminded her of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Indeed, Prince Albert seemed to have the same comic urgency about him, though his eyes weren’t pink, they were cornflower-blue – weirdly, the same colour as my husband’s. Of course Prince Albert needed a companion, so our daughter chose a round, cross, black fluffy female and named her Queen Victoria. We were besotted. My husband built a hutch under the loggia; the garden quickly filled with rabbit paraphernalia. Through the summer we watched Prince Albert and Queen Victoria munch, nibble – and grow. Word got around that we had rabbits, one of each sex, and people began to warn us. My sister in Florida told us to be careful. ‘You’ll be surprised how fast they can breed.’ She’d had to move thirty bunnies from her red-carpeted office to the poolside cabana. Then a Spanish lady told me she’d bought a Californian White and, a few weeks later, a ‘friend’ for it; within a year they had a hundred rabbits. ‘It was a nightmare,’ she said, ‘even the babies were having babies. In the end we helicoptered them all to the top of a mountain.’ We had no choice: one of our rabbits had to be neutered. But which one? We put them in a cat box and took them to the vet. They surprised us all right. Albert turned out to be Victoria. Victoria

Death Of A Dandy by T.A. Cooper

I

awoke when the sun shined through the window. It seems to be about ten o’clock, but my day has not begun. I dress myself with the utmost care. Remember to put on your new ring Victorine got you I tell myself. Her heart would be shattered like a crystal if she did not see it when I visit her. I twirl up my mustache, and examine myself in the mirror, ‘Mon cher, you are beautiful today, as always.’

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turned out to be Albert. Everyone thought it was hilarious – except our daughter, who was mortified. She rejected the idea of renaming them Victor and Alberta; so we switched names. Prince Albert became Queen Victoria and Queen Victoria became Prince Albert. Poor Albert got the short straw (so to speak) and was nominated for castration. In the weeks leading to sexual maturity we watched the rabbits closely for signs of amour. By day they blissfully nibbled each other’s ears; at night they folded together, one white, one black, like yin and yang. Our daughter said they were in love; we had to admit they had a nice thing going, even if they were brother and sister. We explained to her why they couldn’t marry and have babies. Castration Day arrived. It was a Friday. Our daughter dutifully carried Albert to the vet, before she went to school. We collected him later, after the park and supermarket. He was alive. We were given instructions, drugs and syringes. Albert needed tenderness, warmth, and so our daughter invited him for a sleepover in her bedroom. On Saturday we let him out to nibble grass, and then, on Sunday, Albert moved into his new apartment: a two storey bachelor hutch with an asphalt slide. For weeks, Victoria gazed balefully across the garden at Albert. We couldn’t bear it, so we got her a sister. Princess Alice. Fingers crossed Alice isn’t a man. Sallie Durham teaches English to all sorts of people. She has a lifelong addiction to writing, and loves zumba dancing. Sallie’s poem, Festival, is published in the current winter issue of The New Writer magazine. Sallie lives in West Sussex with husband, child, cats and rabbits. As I walk down the street to my first destination I whistle a tune. I twirl my cane like a boy plays with a stick. The women love boyish charm you know. Ahh, a group of ladies approaches. Remember to bow deeply and smile that winning smile. They pass by, and a lingering look from one of them earns her a wink. they saunter away giggling. I reach my first destination. ‘Madame Cleotilde is home only to you this morning,’ the footman tells me. ‘Of course she is,’ is say under my breath, ‘She is always home when she thinks I may grace her with my presence.’


dickens & love writing She is a lovely woman, but very infatuated. It does not help that I lead her on, but what can one do? being in the presence of a beautiful woman is like being in the presence of God, you gain fuel for life from it. We talk about nonsense. The latest fashion, her ‘beautiful’ dress, and if I like the way she has done up her hair. I am starting to get bored with this one. she comments on my dress, and says she likes the print of my jacket. A real bore is this one. Time to go. With pleading she asks me to stay a bit longer. her husband is out of town, and she begs for a kiss. I relent and she tells me of her love for me, yet again. I tear myself away with an excuse of having business to take care of downtown, but I don’t think she falls for it. Oh well. On to the next one. ‘Victorine is waiting for you,’ I hear from the next lackey. This one is a catch. No marriage ring, and a massive dowry lying in wait. She loves me as well. This one might be worth marrying, I think to myself as she babbles on incoherently about love and destiny. I talk her up a bit and display my new ring, and she eats every word. we talk for a little bit longer then, as usual, she waits for me to ask her to marry me. I play around with the idea for a second, but to no avail. She can wait a little bit longer. I still have one more stop to make. I head down to the club, and it is merry as usual. men talking business, and reading the paper, and

In early October 2010, a group of writers came together to form the Historical Writers’ Association – the HWA. This grew from the belief that we as historical writers need to have the same kind of professional body run by professional writers for professional writers (and their agents and publishers and booksellers) to sustain, promote and support each other and our work in the way that the Crime Writers’ Association provides professional and social support for its members.

what not all with a nice glass of brandy, or scotch. As I light a cigarette I think back on the two ladies that I have visited today. I weigh the pros and cons of marriage with one, and a continued affair with the other. How droll it must be to be married, but on the other hand I think her husband is getting suspicious. He is a lout, but still, he is a man. I wonder how much that dowry is exactly. It may be worth it. Decisions, decisions. A few glasses in to my thinking, and I have decided. Yes I will marry her. Lifestyle will have to change, Ha! I doubt it. She is beautiful, and rich. I think I may rather like ‘settling down’ to an extent. I walk back to her house whistling a tune the whole way. I rush in the door and fall on one knee. she is ecstatic, but that is no surprise. her mother and father rush into the room when they hear her screams of joy. Congratulations all around. Oh bugger, what have I got myself into now. My name is T.A. Cooper. I have grown up in a small town in central Illinois, and went to school in Florida. I received my degree from Full Sail University in 2007, and I am now continuing my education at Illinois State University this fall. I have been writing for only a short time, but I have been an avid reader my whole life.

If you think you’d like to join us, or know someone who does, please mail our Membership Secretary on: tony.riches@ btinternet.com giving your name, details of your recent books and your publisher. Annual subscriptions stand currently at £75 per annum, if paid by BACS or Standing Order, £80 if paid by Paypal or cheque.

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Focal Point Peering down through the microscope (while listening to Bleak House on podcast) she no longer perceives what she formerly saw; she twitches the knobs, coarse focus and fine — moves the specimen stage up then all the way down, tries to make old meanings appear. She looks through the scope. Sees only a blur. Only a blur. She sees only a blur. Her eyes itch with the scurry of mites spotting her eyelids with invisible shit, nesting in lashes and clumping in cankers — for diving, for floating, for pinning. The halogen light sparks, spits, slowly expires — reechy with bashed wings, frayed wiring, the mouse that drowned in the blue galvanized pail and the plates of autoclaved fungi in biowaste bags because death is the thing that will happen to her because death is the thing that will happen to her because death is the thing that will happen to her and the terror of starting to see a new pattern. E.E. Nobbs E.E. Nobbs lives in Prince Edward Island, Canada. She’s had poems published in The New Writer magazine and the Word Aid anthology Not Only The Dark. She returned to writing poetry five years ago, after a hiatus of thirty years or so.

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The spring collection and the great expectations of Miss Havisham. (With apologies to Charles Dickens) by Caroline Auckland

Miss Havisham dreamt that she had married and that she had had issue. She had given birth to a daughter Estella , who, in turn had also had a daughter, her granddaughter Pippa-Estella, ‘for there has always been an Estella’. Her husband and she had been very happy and so when Estella married Jack, Miss Havisham was delighted that love had been in her life and that men were not knaves. Many summers and winters had passed and the big house had been filled with laughter , games and sunshine. Pippa-Estella had found the suitcase in the loft and decided that as it was spring it was time to explore the past. She wanted to look at her grandmother’s belongings as they were by today’s standard vintage. She knew that there was quite a collection. The garments had been folded lovingly in tissue and stored in brown leather trunks. All hand-made in silk , lace, satin and crochet , scarves, chemises, stockings, gloves, handkerchiefs and collars.

Her grandmother’s clothes and valuables had been lovingly spread across the apple tree to bathe in sunlight.She had shaken the memories, concerns and the folds of anticipation out to flutter away in the sunlight. Her scarves and crochet gloves were washed in the warm spring breeze. Her pearls polished by rays of molten sunshine resulting in an iridescent lustre.

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dickens & love writing In her dream, Miss Havisham had followed Pippa-Estella into the garden , something white caught her eye in the far corner of the walled vegetable patch. As she stepped closer, she could see it was a baby gown with a lace bonnet. She smiled, contented with herself, life had been good. Then a shadow crossed over the sun, the spring breeze blew wintry leaves across her vista. As she moved even closer, she could see the gown was secured by tendrils of ivy, rather like the ivy around Satis House. The ivy had covered the house all the way to the chimney as if it was trying to strangle all life out of the building. She was well versed in the symbolism of plants and flowers and knew that ivy meant fidelity, marriage and eternal life. But today the ivy taunted her, ivy belonged in graveyards, a rambling ,stifling plant that could destroy any other living plant, it could restrict growth and block the light. In her dream she turned to run to her granddaughter but was halted by a vision at her feet. A photograph album containing playing cards instead of photographs of her children taunted her. Her family were now only paper card kings and queens and a knave of spades had appeared, together with an empty gilt frame lying in a nest of fallen leaves. The memory of a halfbrother and a cruel, cold lover flashed before her eyes. She reached out to touch the unused pages and saw that her arm was withered, wrinkled and dry like the foliage surrounding the book. She glanced around her, the trees had lost their leaves like tears, their branches barren. This was no longer spring. She was no longer a mother. The children in her dream were only playthings, games to be discarded when bored. Her dream was taking a disturbing turn. She shivered with cold . Her wedding head-dress was made of roses, white winter roses, hellebores, it’s blooms frozen solid by winter’s touch and poisonous in essence. These were not flowers from a lover but rather a portent of death. Hellebores were supposed to cure madness not induce it. The garden was now empty of laughter and young. As she moved along the path, she saw that time had frozen at twenty minutes to nine. The sunlight had tried to reach the dial and move it on, but even the damaged glass would not permit the fingerlike rays of light to unlock the movement.Time had stood still. Like the butterfly pinned behind the glass frame, never able to fly again, her dreams were beginning to rot into wormeaten visions.

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dickens & love writing She tossed and turned, her panic waking her into the living nightmare that was her lonely life, lit only by candlelight.The brightness had been dimmed. She wept silent tears as she recognised the ghosts of her future. Her very soul had been frozen by time, in time. Revenge for her loss had only resulted in her loneliness and desolation in a crumbling building rather than a family home. Satis House had had enough.The only children she would bear would be the weight of heavenly cherubs on her grave. Her wedding dress would be her burial shroud with the stains of decaying flesh. The heat of the flame from the wax candle the only element which could transport her to another time and place - death.

Caroline Auckland; Writer, reader, reviewer. Blog: newtonhouseltd. blogspot.com I write in words and pictures in a house filled with props waiting for their stories to be told. Equipment: Earl Grey Tea, chocolate biscuits, pen, camera and a very full mind.

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The Castle of the High Faces by Max Dunbar

A

bout three weeks after returning to the abandoned townhouse in the village of my birth I had a dream of a horned devil in some high castle throwing babies down alternating tubes after tapping their foreheads with a blackened claw and intoning one or other catechism: Alone. Not alone. Alone. Not alone. I understood then that all the euphemisms we make about one’s course through life, our talk of a balance between talents and failings and sorrow and joy, were all conscious or unconscious lies, and the truth was as William Blake had recognised it two hundred years ago in his poem ‘Auguries of Innocence’: Some are born to sweet delight/Some are born to endless night. I wouldn’t have seen it any other way of course, being at a point where I felt that the delight had tipped some time ago and the endless night was only just beginning. I’d been living and studying in London these last four years, and the last six months of that I had barely gone out, getting my food from the Sainsbury’s website, living off freelance editing and the Amazon sale of review copies. I had got into political blogging during that time, and had had fun, but the constant point-scoring and intellectual one-upmanship exhausted and depressed me; the world of progressive politics was a cold second childhood of mockery and derison, and I reverted to writing long pieces about romantic poetry and different aspects of romantic love. Eventually money and fear drove me onto a first-class train passage bought with the last two hundred on my credit card. I never thought returning to the old town would cure me completely; in fact it made me worse. I believed then that I would be there the rest of my life, for not only had the National Government driven people like me from the cities (the cities of England were now machines working towards the appeasement of the capricious volcano god of the deficit) I was now incapable of commuting by bus to Stockport or by train to Piccadilly without going through florid and borderline psychotic panic attacks. Halfway down to the Bowl there was a train

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station with trains running to Yorkshire, one of the few places I could contemplate without fear; as a kid, walking down to a pub or a house, I’d see these trains come and go beneath the bridge, and I knew that if I could handle myself in the tramlined streets of the seven hills I could work my way back to Hyde Park, get a job at the Brudenell Social or the Picture House, there to read and drink and live anonymously and die happily. But these days I could go nowhere near this bridge. Any irregular degree of altitude or angle made me want to scream. How good stasis must be. A house of ordered lines. Linear pathways to the job and the pub. I wanted two dimensionality over anything and everything else. I recognised my state as that of paranoid anxiety, something external, the result of drugs and booze and overwork and undersleep, but the head and the heart are very different organisms. For food and wine I staggered around, dazed and scattered, through the tiny precinct in the last hours of light. In the evenings I had the Facebook newsfeed on for hours, drawing strength from the evidence that the people I’d known in cities were still out there, drinking and watching movies and playing in bands; I wandered through the bookshelves of the big house trying to find a book that would bring comfort and carry me down to sleep; I usually settled on Elizabeth Wurtzel or Martin Millar or Stephen King. I needed to know about good things, of positivity and love, people who were into things cute and silly and had no money but enjoyed life nevertheless on the ragged alternative edges of the cities and who risked pretension and weakness yet still had the strength to reject the cynicism and evil of the wider world. I believed that people were coming for me in cars. Still, one must face one’s fears, and towards year’s end I began to run and work out again and got a job in the pub nearest to my house and got another job doing part time data entry for some estate agent on what passed for our high street and got into the habit of walking down to the Bowl and up the Curve to the pubs that my old gang had used as a child. Most of them were still around, some had got married and actually bought property in this town or ones like it. I was friendly enough at these times and bought loads of rounds; I wore Paul Smith shirts and ironed jeans and a Thai silk scarf given to me by my father; words tumbled out of me and formed sentences like birds falling


dickens & love writing into flight formation as they are kicked out of the nest; it’s still a source of pride to me that I looked so good and carried myself with style. For if you don’t have looks and style, what do you have? ‘So, did it not work out for you in London, then?’ This was a small blond runt who was now teaching in a secondary school and engaged to some fool from central Stockport. ‘Well, it worked out for a while, and then, really suddenly, it didn’t.’ Again, my tone was jovial enough and so were the feelings behind it. The hate I’d felt for these people had been exhausted long ago. All I felt these days was terror and relief. The talk skipped on to other topics and I tuned into the chat of a married man who had been my best friend when we were younger; we shared pretty much the same interests in music and books and games and would talk late into the night in pubs and on parks. I’d looked down on him in recent years, first for fucking his degree and then for buying that place in fucking New Mills with April Barrington, but then my own situation – broke, alone, riddled with anxieties and regret and running from real and imagined enemies – didn’t exactly recommend the road I’d walked. ‘So where do you see yourself in the next ten years?’ April asked me now. ‘Christ knows, honey. I don’t know even where I’ll be in ten days. Hand to mouth, baby, that’s where it’s at.’ ‘Okay then.’ This was a small blonde girl with buck teeth who all the men of the group lusted

after for some reason. ‘How about all of us? Where do you see all of us in ten years?’ ‘I see you as a Cheshire woman. Playing golf. Wearing Laura Ashley. Occasionally having sex with waiters and barmen.’ April cut in before she could answer. ‘And me? Where do you see me?’ ‘I don’t know. Maybe you will own that residential home company. I just see you and Harry continuing to be this positive unifying force of the group.’ ‘I always thought that you would write the book of the group,’ April told me. As the year turned and lightened I developed a habit of meeting up with April on Friday or Saturday nights and having a platonic pint. I would walk across the bridge I had walked across so often as a child. I could see the Yorkshire train over the craggy rim of the bridge. At some point, just after the clock change, I got on it.

Réunion

He handed her the bird in a cramped metal cage, together with a filthy plastic bag full of tamarillos. His hands were small, curled things, like her bird.

by Elizabeth Welsh

S

Max Dunbar was born in London in 1981. He recently finished a full-length novel and his short fiction has appeared in various print and web journals. He also writes criticism for 3:AM and Butterflies and Wheels. He blogs at maxdunbar.wordpress.com and tweets at twitter.com/MaxDunbar1. He lives in Manchester and can be contacted on max. dunbar@gmail.com

he stared at the cage of birds hanging in the They left Réunion on Sunday. The bird is in market. quarantine.

Pycnonotus jocosus, she whispered, and in She writes its name down, over and over. whispering, lost the bulbous yellow rock of her lisp. Her tongue flicked deftly, like the crested lizard at her feet. Elizabeth Welsh is a New Zealander currently living in London. She is a freelance editor in Her mother pointed out a bird with a small red her day job and writes short stories, flash target mark on its cheek, ‘A red-whiskered bulbul, fiction and poetry in her spare time. She please’. The stall holder watched the fluted blogs about all things literary, here: ewelsh. movements of her fingers and nodded, again and wordpress.com. again, reaching up for the cage.

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The Unrequited Wish by Alexandra Lanc

‘K

iss me.’ The small words stumbled off of her lips as she practiced them. ‘Kiss me –’ no, not quite right. ‘Kiss me…’ still, the words were lacking. ‘Kiss me!’ she knew she sounded frustrated now, and that would never work. She hung her head. ‘Well, if only he would kiss me. But he won’t…’ Well, only in her dreams. But maybe it was better that way – because someday, someone wouldn’t want to wait for her to dream.

‘Rose’

by Jan Dobbs

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Alexandra Lanc lives in the US with her family. She writes YA, and is the author of Shadows of Past Memories, as well as other titles. You can find out more about her books and blog at alexandraaanc.com, and follow her on Twitter @AuthorLanc.


dickens & love writing

Brand New Knickers I need some brand new knickers. Oh, I wish I were a man! Its ‘‘Y’ fronts or some Boxers - no need to fuss or plan. They think it’s just as simple for us women. . .well, they’re wrong, ’cause it isn’t just a choice between a full brief or a thong. There’s the Hi-cut and the Low-cut, the Bikini and the Tai. The Hipster and the G-String (note the watering of the eye!) The Shorty, French, Brazilian - Im told they do exist, with a sassy, half-cheek coverage . . . well, I’m sure you get the gist. So, even when we’ve found our style, men just can’t comprehend that the problems don’t stop there and then (as well you know, my friend) What purpose will these knickers have? What role must they perform? These questions are imperative – seduce, support or warm? I think we must consider this, before we spend our cash, before our thoughts of oysters turn to sausages and mash, before we walk seductively across the kitchen floor and dare to flash those knickers as he walks in through the door. Yes, those ‘Magic Knickers’ slim your thighs and lift that sagging bum (and control that baggy tummy to the point of being numb) But, whatever Trin & Suzy say about their ‘mystic’ fashion, believe me girls, they won’t bring on a night of red-hot passion! Now, perhaps you’re into exercise, aerobics or gymnastics? Support and stretch is what you need in cotton and elastic. Perhaps the weather’s icy? Buy some thermals, so much tougher. (Are you sensing the dilemma that we women have to suffer?) Fabrics? Tulle and mesh and jersey, silk and satin, cotton too. Lycra, lace and micro fibre . . . or even paper (spare me, do!) I haven’t touched on sizing yet, or gussets for that matter (perhaps the men would like to leave, considering the latter?) Size and gussets. SO important girls, regardless of your age, should make one feel delightful, not send one in a rage. They shouldn’t lift and separate, or drive you raving mad as you pull and yank and rescue any decency you had! Oh wait! Before you dash off to the shops, or ‘click’ to buy online, before you find the ideal pair to grace that cute behind, one pair is not sufficient. No, you’ll need to buy a batch. Then consider this – oh, happy days – youll need a bra to match! Jan Dobbs A self taught artist who’s recently returned to painting & wondering why she stopped! Writer of fiction (unpublished) and humorous poems - love to raise a smile! Have had two poems published by Writers’ Forum magazine. Most of my time is spent between the two arts - and tweeting! wix.com/janrdobbs/art

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The Dance of The Sacred Flame In the darkness a flame burns bright; Through the beauty of the night: Bathing All in Love and Light – Blessing with the gift of Sight. As it burns it dances: A glowing silken veil It wraps itself around itself, lighter than air it soars, Reaching into the furthest depths of Infinity’s warm embrace Meeting and merging with darkness, to kiss the Light beyond... Sometimes soft and sensual: a gentle tongue Exploring the vast deep Ocean of the Night. Melting mystically into its own blurred boundaries As unfixed form and formless flame open to the One Then raging twisting turning rising falling all-consuming Ignited by the Passion that’s engulfing its own Heart: The core of its very Being, the Centre of its Self Is the Longing Light of Love within, eternally ablaze A Secret Symphony suggested by a display of Divine Dance – The flame moves in gentle grace; whirling, twirling Rhythmic pulsing, lifting, bowing, ever-yearning. In Light it Serves: In Love it IS; and ever shall remain In the darkness a flame burns bright; Through the beauty of the night: Bathing All in Love and Light – Blessing with the gift of Sight. Sally-Shakti Willow Sally-Shakti Willow is a writer and teacher living in East Sussex between the Downs and the sea. Inspired by the earth, the sky and the heart, her writing is dedicated to opening doors within the depths of the soul. innernature.org.uk

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This One Like others Makes me Eat in fast-food joints And walk in the wet At a bus stop Lip synching to Sinatra She puts her arm Under my coat   This one is perfect Like a guitar string A £50 note A key change   This one Has the word   We talk In cabs At tables On sofas   She’s a small town In South Africa A mammal She’s a Buddhist demon A Romanian river   A song A tribe in India A dental appliance   Tonight My mantra. Gareth Eoin Storey Gareth Eoin Storey has been living in London for 20 years. For what it’s worth he has a degree in Creative Writing and Journalism. He enjoys binging. Read more at dirtysuitcase.blogspot.com

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dickens & love writing

Number 84 by Amina Hachemi

I

t was a long avenue. Clay-tiled roofs atop brick and stone houses adorned both sides of a wide tarmac road. Bushes, trees and various other flora lined the paths that ran alongside the road. Oak, elder, hawthorn, ash and horse chestnut trees towered over daisy and dandelion strewn grass and rose and gooseberry bushes. Neatly mowed lawns were distributed at intervals in geometrically fenced-off gardens. Here and there, various forms of garden decor were placed: rosy-cheeked gnomes, white stone fountains, discretely ornamental benches, and the like. Concrete driveways nudged their way in between the stretches of council-sponsored roadside grass. Bus stops stood unassumingly displaying their route numbers, evenly dispersed so as to be equally accessible to all. On the whole, it was a pleasant street; there was nothing unsavoury about it and it served its purpose very satisfactorily. Of course, none of these perfectly admirable qualities were visible. The clay-roofed houses and tarmac road, the bushes and trees and flowers, the lawns and fountains, the driveways and bus stops; all became one, submerged in the heavy, thick, unforgiving depths of an inexhaustible fog. The fog bulged between grey houses, sprawled over grey roofs, and sank down grey chimneys. It crushed grey flowers, flattened grey grass, peeled the paint off grey fences and mocked the greyfaced gnomes. The fog had not been invited; it was not wanted, but it had come anyway, rolling and billowing, drowning all in an impenetrable Grey. At number 84, there lived a spinster. She had lived in the house all her life. Like their friends, her parents had bought it in the early years of their marriage and, like their friends, had spent a great many years paying off the mortgage. It wasn’t a big, spacious house, nor was it a quaint, cosy house; it was somewhat drab and entirely void of character, but it had been adequate for their needs, so they’d bought it. They’d lived the rest of their uneventful lives in it and eventually passed away quietly in their sleep within months of each other, leaving it to their only child.

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Although she had no particular fondness for the dwelling and no sentimental attachment, she found the arrangement convenient and so stayed there, soon falling into a routine. She rose at six thirty every morning, completed her morning preparations, dressing in the outfit she had laid out the night before, ate her breakfast of a wheatbased cereal with warm milk and tea with milk – or rather, milk with tea – and two and a half teaspoonfuls of sugar, washed the dishes, took out a pre-cooked, packaged meal to defrost, put on her coat and shoes, picked up her handbag, walked out of the door, turned the key in the lock twice – checking its success with one sharp pull on the handle, and walked straight down the concrete slab pavement and into the Grey. She worked in an administrative position of a respectable level in a medium-sized office in a suburban business park that had once been considered modern, but was now just average, and had surrendered to the Grey some time ago. This was not the kind of job she had dreamt of in her youth; in her ambitious student days, she had had great plans for her future. When she graduated, however, life brought her back down to the unattractive, but practical cemented ground. Unemployment, once a legend of political television programmes and marginal protests in front of imposing, grey government buildings, became an intimate reality. After searching for several months, she received a job offer. It was not exactly what she had been hoping for, but it was not too bad either. The pay was not too bad, the hours were not too bad, the distance from home was not too bad, the traffic was not too bad, her supervisor was not too bad, the food in the cafeteria was not too bad; all in all, she couldn’t complain. She took the job intending it to be temporary, but time left her ambitions behind. She got on well with her colleagues, on the whole. They always ate lunch together, discussed last night’s episode of this or that soap opera, compared favourite toothpastes or washing powders, commented on the undercooked carrots or over-spiced balti, complained about the rain, and all the other usual topics of conversation for long-term acquaintances. Once lunchtime was over, they returned to their desks with parting nods and stayed there till the end of the day when


dickens & love writing they put their coats on once more and entered the various other household chores until dinnertime when she prepared a meal of two vegetables, a Grey. carbohydrate of some variety and a portion of Her life continued in this fashion until she reached meat – red or white, or occasionally some tinned that age when it is generally considered time to soup and bread. Having eaten and washed up, she retire. The office organised a small gathering and sat down in her flowery wallpapered living room gave her a present of a watch. She said goodbye to with a cup of tea and two biscuits on a china her co-workers, they exchanged phone numbers saucer and watched quiz programmes or soap and sincerely but not over-expectantly encouraged operas depending on the night, until the news each other to keep in touch, and then she put on came on at ten. She consequently turned off the her coat and walked out of those doors for the last television, washed her teacup and saucer, and headed to bed. As the light went off in the toptime and into the Grey. left window of number 84, it slowly faded away, She settled easily enough into her retirement with joining the tile-roofed, stone neighbours, tarmac a reasonable pension to maintain a comfortable road, neat lawns, gnomes, fountains, benches, and standard of living and a new pattern to her day driveways in the all-encompassing, unrelentless that suited her. She allowed herself the luxury of blanket that was the Grey. an extra hour in bed in the mornings since she was no longer working, but years of early rising meant she rarely slept longer than that. After her Amina Hachemi holds a BA from Parisusual morning ritual, she proceeded with her Sorbonne University and an MA in Translation, Writing and Cultural Difference tartan shopping trolley to the nearest bus stop from the University of Warwick. A passionate and rode the bus to a shopping centre not too far linguist, she enjoys exploring cultural away. Once there, she browsed the charity shops experiences and perspectives through her for about half an hour, sat in a small, independent writing and translation. café and had a cup of tea and a small slice of sponge ahachemi.weebly.com sandwich cake, bought some shopping at the Twitter: @ahach supermarket next door, and took the bus home. After that, she cleaned around the house and did

A Fool Hath My Heart Oh to love but an idle fool Who doth not proclaim his feelings true With hand on heart I cannot deny How my state of mind is rather blue Gone are the days when I show my soul For I move no ground and touch no hearts Only my pen spills love on the page Showered with words when the fountain starts

Paola Borella was born in London. She currently lives in Shanghai and works as a teacher trainer. Paola has lead many poetry workshops for children and hopes to continue to inspire children to write poetry. Some of Paola’s work features in anthologies by Forward Press. Her first poetry collection is The Blemished Rose: Volume One (Troubador, 2010). theblemishedrose.com

Paola Borella

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dickens & love writing

Trees Beyond their tops the gray bleeds through This thickness of the sky before it opens up and spills out. Branches, barren and stubborn still twisted up and wrapped around one another like arms to hands to fingertips.. making the effort making a point to say to the other, ‘I am here. We will make it through. We always do.’ and we do even after the sharpness of electricity splits us in half while the waters flood through.. we do when the sun beats us to a scald and each inhale stings like its our last.. we die and inhale again. ...because never does a tree fall in the forest without touching the arms of its friend. Ami Lum Ami Lum is a completely sober, vegan, opinionated, Jane of All Trades, semi-shy loud-mouth, who is never ever bored, and is @ahhhmeee on Twitter

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dickens & love writing

The Library Paul O’Connell

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dickens & love writing

52 ~ what the dickens?


dickens & love writing

Paul O’Connell is a writer and graphic artist whose work has featured in a variety of interesting and unlikely international books, magazines, zines, comic anthologies and exhibitions; from The Journal of British Photography to Italian Cosmopolitan and beyond! Lots more of Paul’s work can be found online at soundofdrowning.com.

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book reviews

Book Reviews

By For Books’ Sake Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? recounts her quest for identity. Written in her characteristic caustic style, its raw emotion punches you in the belly and storms out of the room without looking back. Winterson’s first and most famous novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, is itself largely autobiographical and the first part of Why Be Happy… covers the same time period. The second part covers her quest for her birth mother, precipitated by a descent into madness following the break-up of a relationship. Peppered with philosophical and literary explorations of concepts of time, of home, of liminal space, of love and of roots, it’s a fast-paced story that will make you laugh, cry and rage along with her (and think for ages afterwards). Jenny Tipping

The White Shadow By Andrea Eames

The White Shadow by Andrea Eames begins with a feeling of utmost despair (how could you not fall in love with a story that starts with a man sitting in the corpse of a rotting elephant?). It tells the story of Tinashe, a Shona boy growing up in rural Rhodesia in the late 1960s. As the children grow, their lives seem to blend the traditions of Tinashe’s Shona ancestors with the influence of the white colonialists. Eames describes childhood perfectly and shows that ‘play’ is universal no matter where in the world you live. Although some scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, there is always a sense of panic in how Tinashe and Hazvinei interact with their world. A powerful piece of writing, Eames blends folklore and superstition perfectly with accessible language, relatable characters, believable dialogue and a fast-paced, well-structured plot. Jess Haigh

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book reviews

Emerald City and Other Stories By Jennifer Egan

Emerald City and Other Stories is the new collection from Pulitzer prize winner Jennifer Egan; eleven short stories based around relationships, both positive and negative. Not all of these relationships are of couples; some are friends, some are enemies and some are total strangers. This is one of the highlights of the book; each story focuses on different people in different situations, so most readers will identify with one or more of them. However, the main problem with them is the length. It may be possible to have character depth and a strong storyline confined to twenty-five pages, but on the whole Egan just does not manage it. Egan’s male protagonists are not as strong as her portrayal of female characters, and this causes at least half of the book to be hard to enjoy. Lauren Peel More reviews available at For Books’ Sake (forbookssake.net), the webzine dedicated to promoting and celebrating writing by women.

WOMEN’S SHORT STORY COMPETITION 2012

‘You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your hand’ Margaret Atwood

1st prize £2,000 plus a week’s writing retreat at Chawton House Library and a day with a Virago editor (terms & conditions apply)

Judge: Tessa Hadley Closing date: 19 March 2012 For entry details visit www.mslexia.co.uk/shortstory email shortstory@mslexia.co.uk or call 0191 233 3860

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author interview

Valentine’s Author Interview Amanda Egan

Amanda Egan is a trained actress, wife, mother and Indie author, who has brought us the two mummylit gems Diary of a Mummy Misfit and The Darker Side of Mummy Misfit. This romantic season, she discusses Meemies, romance, maternal love and champagne with Rachel Dove! Your first book and subsequent sequel have gone down a storm with readers, generating fabulous 5 star reviews. Has your author journey been an easy one, and what advice have you got for other inspiring authors out there? My author journey hasn’t been an easy one, no. I was taken on by the first agent I approached, nearly five years ago. The book was enthusiastically received by two major publishing houses with talk of contracts. After the suggested rewrites, word culls and an additional plot line, I waited … and waited. When the agent finally chased them up, the recession had hit and one house said they were no longer taking chances on Newbies and the other said that in the meantime they’d signed somebody too similar in style. I sulked for a long while and then decided to go Indie. Advice to new writers would be: write every day, even if it’s only notes or revising. And never give up – every word written gets you closer to the end. Recently in the media, ‘chick-lit’ has been slated as low-brow and of no literary merit. Do you think this is true and if ‘mummy-lit’ will suffer the same criticism and bias? This really annoys me. As busy women, mothers or otherwise, we don’t always want a hefty piece of literature to digest and analyse. Sometimes all we want is a light frothy read to take us to another place for a while or to give us a giggle. Yes, I think mummy-lit will be in the firing line too but there is clearly room in the market for both so I don’t see the problem.

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In your books, we meet the ‘Meemies.’ Can you describe for us what a Meemie is and give mums out there some tips for dealing with them? Every parent reading your books will identify in some way with these types of parents! As the name suggests, a ‘Meemie’ thinks only of ‘Me, Me, Me’. They breeze through life having no consideration for others - talking too loudly, bragging, queue jumping and parking by Braille! They firmly believe that the world wants to know about their latest designer handbag, their skiing holiday or their ‘exceptionally bright’ child. Dealing with them? Try to keep a sense of perspective and see them for the shallow (and often unhappy) people they are. Oh, and find a partner in crime to have a glass of wine and a giggle with. The romantic season is almost open us. What will you be doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and what do you think your characters Libby and Ned will be doing? We’ll be celebrating in much the same way as Libby and Ned would have done in the first book. I refuse to pay inflated prices for the same food just because it’s Valentine’s Day so we’ll have a romantic meal at home and play daft games. Also there’s something a bit weird about sitting in a restaurant with a whole heap of couples all holding hands and trying to be romantic.


author interview Champagne quaffing is a constant theme in your books. What is your favourite tipple, and what nibbles would you serve with it? Are you a ‘Nigella’ buff like Libby? My fave tipple is white wine - the drier the better. I love all kinds of nibbles with it - olives, smoked salmon, Twiglets, parmesan crisps. When we go to my real-life ‘Fenella’s’ her top choice of nibble is ‘Monster Munch’ - but that’s so typically Fenella! Yes I am a bit of a Nigella. I love to host dinner parties and experiment with different recipes. I’m a huge fan of ‘Come Dine With Me’ - lots of tips and ideas. Our dinner parties are never stuffy affairs - we will always end the evening with silly games or singing and dancing.

When your son IS playing the dating game, will he be cool, laidback Ned, anxious Libby or pushy matchmaker Mrs Sengupta? My son will most definitely be a ‘Laidback Ned’! He’s not started on the dating game yet but I can already see the signs of nonchalance. He’s also quite pragmatic - when things don’t work out the way he wants them to, he’ll have a hissy-fit for ten minutes and then be back to laughing and joking. Not like his mother - I can stew for weeks! I may well kill the first girl to break his heart but that’s normal … isn’t it?!

Valentine’s gifts? Best and worst received? Dream gift? Best ever gift was a Butler and Wilson necklace Love comes in many shapes and forms, and the from my husband. It’s very 1920’s in style and maternal love and pain felt by Libby, especially totally gorgeous. I’m a bit of a magpie for all in ‘The Darker Side’, is superbly written and things shiny, so this is a sure-fire way to my heart. so gritty and realistic. How did your personal Worst ever was a rather nasty pair of red nylon experiences shape your characters’ emotions knickers from my ex. Note the word ‘ex’! and actions? Dream gift would be a Bentley Continental in Without giving away too much of the plot of black - my perfect car. either of the books, the feelings were very much based on my own. I was made to feel like I didn’t Finally, now the sequel is out, what’s next for belong at my son’s school and I spent many years Amanda Egan? trying for a second baby. Libby’s heartache and I’m trying really hard NOT to write at the moment despair were very much my own - I don’t think I as I need to be promoting my two books. This is could have written it if I hadn’t felt it. the part of being an author I DON’T like! I’m itching to get started on another book and have Now that your son is a teen heading for lots of ideas but I have to keep myself under manhood, what advice in the love and wooing control. The downside of being an Indie is you stakes would you like to pass onto him? Leaving don’t have anyone but yourself and your readers the toilet seat down perhaps? selling your books for you - it’s a constant job. My advice to my son would be to be as thoughtful as his dad. Before we were married our vicar told us the most important word in a marriage is Amanda Egan’s books The Diary of a Mummy ‘cherish’ and I have always felt cherished by my Misfit and The Darker Side of Mummy Misfit lovely hubbie. He always puts my feelings before are available now on Amazon for Kindle, and his own, is wonderfully house-trained and never in paperback from Lulu. fails to make me laugh. If my son can be half the man my husband is, I’d be happy. But as a sixteen mummymisfit.blogspot.com year old he has a long way to go - picking his socks Twitter: @Mummy_Misfit up would be a step in the right direction! Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Diary-of-aMummy-Misfit/205957346106477

Rachel Dove... Wife, mother of 2, writer, degree student training to be a teacher, book reviewer for The Kindle Book Review. Days filled with toddlers and laundry, nights spent between the pages of a book, anywhere I chose to travel. Visit my blog at frustratedyukkymummy.blog.co.uk.

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the old curiosity shop

Find out what the story is at www.writing.ie Find outwriting what the story is at The new Irish resources website www.writing.ie From tips on technique and getting published to author interviews and The new Irish writing resources website advice, details of literary events in your area, courses and workshops,

• • vent • ngs • • • •

Event listings Course listings Tips from Top Authors Interviews Reviews Giveaways Guest blogs from some of Ireland’s hottest new writers

whether you are an aspiring or published writer, writing.ie has something From tips on technique and getting published to author interviews and for you. advice, details of literary events in your area, courses and workshops, whether you from are an aspiring orand published writer, writing.ie something Get support other writers industry experts at the has writing.ie forum. for you. For readers we have book reviews, special offers and much more! Get support from other writers and industry experts at the writing.ie forum. • Tips from Top Authors For readers we have book reviews, special offers and much more! • Author Interviews • Events listings • Tips from Top Authors Courses listings Author Interviews • Writers Forum Events listings • Book and Event Reviews Courses listings • Giveaways Writers Forum • Library and Online Book Club Listings Book and Event Reviews • Self Publishing & Digital Publishing Giveaways • Guest blogs from great new writing talent • Library and Online Book Club Listings • Self Publishing & Digital Publishing Running a course or a writing or reader event? • Guest blogs from great new writing talent

Do you provide services for writers?

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Running a course or a writing or reader event? Do you provide services for writers?

The Home of Irish Writing Online The Home of Irish Writing Online

Get in touch with us to post your information on: www.writing.ie

Tel: 01 2765921/ 087 2835382 Email: contact@writing.ie

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help! the dog ate my manuscript!

Help! The dog ate my manuscript! Share your writing problems with Gail Aldwin

Do you need an agent to be a writer? If yes, how do you find one? Caroline Auckland

Dear Caroline With the exception of diarists, it’s probably true that all of us who write would like our work to reach a wider audience. Depending on the type of writing, there are various routes to consider. If you write non-fiction, particularly scholarly or professional texts, it’s unlikely that you’ll find an agent who is willing to represent you and you’d be better to approach publishers directly. Writers of poetry and short stories will also struggle to find an agent and you’ll have a better chance of getting published by submitting your work to journals or magazines instead. In the case of novels, most publishers will only consider work that is presented by an agent and this makes finding one almost essential. An agent will also guide you through the publishing process and will negotiate on your behalf for the best commercial deal and contract. By consulting the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, you’ll find listings of agents and information about the types of writing they represent. Select the agents you wish to approach carefully: make sure they deal with your kind of writing and follow the criteria for submitting your work exactly (check the website for up to date information). As a rule of thumb, agents request three consecutive chapters, a one page synopsis and a covering letter. There are thousands of writers seeking representation at any given moment, far more than the number of novels that will ever be accepted, so the competition is fierce. But agents are always looking for brilliant new writing and debut novelists are taken on all the time. Your best chance of success relies on the following: Make sure your sample chapters hook the interest of the reader and use a title that pricks their curiosity. The writing must be the best you can offer, proof-read and presented professionally (double spaced and in an easy-to-read font)

The novel should be complete before making an approach – if an agent wants to see more and the manuscript’s not ready, you may have scuppered your chances Provide a synopsis that outlines the kind of book you’ve written, giving details of what happens, including the ending (single spaced) The covering letter should give a flavour of you as a writer and include information about the market you’re targeting, the number of words in the manuscript and a brief outline of the story. Address the letter personally. Remember that agents are extremely busy and while they may only ‘look over’ the sample chapters and the synopsis, they will read your letter. This is your chance to make them think seriously about the potential of your writing. Be organised in your approach: keep a list of agents you’ve contacted, expect to receive rejections and try submitting simultaneously (choose 4-6 agents at a time). Send off each package with a SAE and always keep a copy of your work The process of finding an agent can be gruelling and you’ll need to maintain confidence in yourself and your work. Alternatively, you may wish to consider approaching smaller publishers who do accept unsolicited manuscripts. Again, find the contact details in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, check the website and submit as required. If a small publisher offers you a contract, consider joining The Society of Authors for advice on making adjustments to the contract. The society can also advise when self-publishing. Don’t forget, there are also very real possibilities to reach your audience through e-publishing without the need for an agent.

Got a question for Gail? Write to her via letters@wtd-magazine.com

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memories of love

Memories of Love... I

’ve always enjoyed meeting family and friends at airports – I was once at Heathrow and Gatwick on consecutive days, happily providing taxi service to friends who’d been away on holiday. I’d never thought about why I like to do this until I saw the very opening sequence to Love Actually. Hugh Grant as Prime Minister says that whenever he feels gloomy about the state of the world he thinks about the Arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. There really is almost no place better that I can think of to see genuine displays of love and affection. There’s such eagerness on the faces of people waiting, almost desperate in some cases to catch that first glimpse of their loved one(s) – the anticipation and hope when a few more people come through the door or round the corner. Those faces arriving are searching the crowd for that familiar face...that moment where the eyes

connect and oh...those smiles, those joyful reunions, the hugs and kisses, the shrieks (ok, that might just be me!). It really does warm your heart and provide a soothing stroke for a sometimes saddened soul to be reminded that love actually is all around us. Well done, Richard Curtis!

I

father about funeral arrangements, a single tear fell down the side of her face. They say the body has reflex reactions such as this when unconscious, but I found myself trying to discretely cover her ears as I brushed her hair back with my hand and fought back my own tears. Logic told me she couldn’t hear them nor see me, but her sorrow, as I perceived it, overwhelmed me and I somehow felt her realization of what was occurring find acknowledgement somewhere deep inside of her. She didn’t want to go yet. She wasn’t done doing what she wanted to do. She wasn’t finished loving us. I forced myself to hold her lost gaze as I softly reassured her, “It’s all right….I know”. After what seemed an eternity, her hazel eyes slowly closed for the last time as I softly caressed her forehead. She would never not be there for me. I was determined to be there for her.

t is said that, no matter how we prepare ourselves, we are never fully “ready” to face the loss of a loved one. It is, singularly, the most soul wrenching part of the life process that we endure. With a longstanding practice of putting the needs of others before her own, a detriment in her battle with diabetes, my mother’s death was not a surprise, and yet, it was completely unexpected. Nothing prepares you for the shock of that reality. Nothing readies you for the loss of that physical connectedness. Nothing braces you for hearing the distinctive sound of your mother’s voice inside of your head, saying your name, even as she lay there with tubes and machines breathing for her (a phenomenon, I later learned, my brother had experienced, as well). A tumultuous week had passed. Receiving the phone call from my brother, hundreds of miles away, telling me that mom had collapsed and was hospitalized in a coma. The first sight of my mother as I, tearfully, walked into her hospital room, the hum and beep of the machines swirling around me; she looked so small, so weak, so far away. The first all-night vigil, sleeping in chairs, my hand permanently holding hers where my head would come to rest in the early morning hours; the heart-wrenching moment, late the next morning, when her eyes half opened briefly and seemed to look right at me, and as family members talked softly with my lost

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Donna Stavely @doonakebab: reader of books (avid); giver of hugs (real/virtual); maker of cake (and eater); believer of unicorns (they DO exist!); drinker of wine (explains the unicorns), trainer of juggling kittens (not really). Incessant chatterer/giggler; far too easily amused by too many things; every party should have me; novice sharer of words.

Days passed. I found myself feeling, at once, beauty and pain as I looked at her, her body continuing to fail her, depriving the world of the love that was my mother. But then, I realized that this was wrong. She lived her life as she taught us to do, loving unconditionally, without boundaries, without judgment, without fear. Intrinsic to her soul, she taught her children to do the same. She was the most genuinely loving person I have ever known. I realized that what we


memories of love have all learned from her—those of us whose lives were, somehow, chosen to be blessed by simply being touched by hers—is that if you…live LOVE… as my mother had done her entire life, then you can find your way through anything that life presents, good or bad, wanted or not, and become that much more of who you are meant to be on this earth. And as this happens, as we share our truest selves with the world, her inspiration, her legacy of love continues on. I sat there Friday evening, not knowing that it would be my mother’s last, talking to her long after visiting hours were over and everyone had gone home to get some much needed rest. I had written and was reading a letter to her, telling her everything I wanted her to know. The next day, at four o’clock in the afternoon, as my uncle held her one hand and I held the other and my sister-in-law held me, I opened my heart as my mother took her last breath. Through tears, I immediately felt all of her ailments free her and I somehow sensed she was amidst some glorious “awakening” beyond simple mortal comprehension. Her physical pains, anxieties, and fears, in that single moment, they were all gone. And in that exact same moment, in their place, there was this profound…Joy. I was awash with this overwhelming, indescribable awareness of love and peace that was all around, all at once…everywhere. And as I looked at her, I also knew that my mother was no longer “there”. She was “here”, but not “there”. A few moments later, which seemed like an eternity, I gently released her hand and stood up. I walked over to the window and looked out from the sixth floor view at the suburban horizon, so completely iced over from a recent winter storm. (The experience that follows is a visual that was, admittedly, of “Hollywood” merit. I probably wouldn’t have believed it, had I not seen it myself.) Still overcast, as it had been for days now, I looked

I

t’s with a heavy heart that I must confess to being something of a Dickens dilettante. A Nickleby neophyte, if you will. A Chuzzlewit… chump. Sure, I’ve dabbled in some Hard Times, and had my Great Expectations duly exceeded. I’ve got the basic gist of Bleak House, and I could hold my own in a (largely shallow) chat about Edwin Drood. I’ve even, inexplicably, partaken in the relatively obscure American Notes for General Circulation. But beyond that, I’m effectively spatchcocked – which,

skyward and saw that more than half of the blanket of gray above had suddenly opened up to reveal the most brilliantly blue sky beyond. The sun cast visible rays through the remaining clouds causing every frosted tree, every frozen branch, every icecovered blade of grass to become brilliant with light. Sparkling like of a sea of diamonds as far as the eye could see. I don’t remember the tears flowing down my face but I was keenly aware of every nerve ending in my body trembling at the beauty of it. For one awed, brief moment, I felt all that was and yet, only a glimpse of…God. A moment later, even the nurse that came in whispered to us, “It’s like they’ve opened up the gates of heaven”. From somewhere, inside and outside of me, all at once, my mother’s voice came to me just once more, “Jen, I’m o.k.” she said. I never heard her voice again. Death, like birth and life, is all about love. It is not to be feared nor avoided but honored, in its time, for its profound ethereal beauty and purpose. Within the experience of losing the ability to physically connect with my mother, my relationship with her, in love and spirit, grew beyond measure. Amid my sorrow, by allowing myself to be receptive to whatever was to come, allowing love to transcend my pain, sharing her last moments on earth was, paradoxically, one of the most beautiful and lifeaffirming experiences I have ever known. In such a strange and unexpected way, love gave way to life… even in death. She is with me, always. Jen Hammell Jennifer Hammell is currently working in the “main stream” of the Interior Design industry, but is also avidly interested in developing Social Enterprises that utilize the healing capacity of the creative process, including and beyond developing interior environments, to affect positive change in urban communities.

for all I know, could be the surname of a Dickensian antagonist – my knowledge limited to several TV adaptations starring Gillian Anderson, and an ability to recite, word-for-word, the entire script of A Muppets Christmas Carol. Tenuous as it may be, this probably explains why my overwhelming Dickens-related memory isn’t especially literary. Rather, it’s being forever psychologically damaged, at the age of eight, by the sight of what can only be described as the single

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memories of love most horrific piece of on-screen violence ever committed to celluloid. I refer, of course, to Oliver Reed’s stoving-in of poor old Shani Wallis in a shadowy night-time corner of London Bridge, somewhere towards the end of Oliver! (jazz-handy exclamation mark, musical’s own). More specifically, I refer to the leg-twitching aftermath, the actual Nancy-bashing having taken place a few inches out of sight. The grisly image of bloodied, spasm-ing legs in torn purple stockings, accompanied by harrowing (and, come to think of it, possibly imagined) groans of agony, as everyone’s favourite fictional Victorian whore is effectively bludgeoned out of the narrative, has haunted me for more years than I care to divulge. To any viewer, it’s a shockingly violent scene, hugely at odds with the prior two hours of high-kicking dance routines and cheerful kerchief-nicking. But to an eight year-old with a tendency toward hypersensitivity, it’s positively earth-shattering. It’s that twitching leg – that horrid, horrid twitching leg – on which my pre-pubescent gaze fixated and from

which I’ve never quite recovered. That leg, which summarily surpasses every chilling moment of onscreen domestic abuse I’ve seen since. Dickensian London, I learned while perched, podgy and slack-jawed on a floral sofa in the late nineteen-eighties, isn’t all wacky surnames, mistaken identities and considering yourself part of the furniture. It’s dark, grisly, dangerous, and it haunts you. On reflection, it’s probably best that I don’t become too familiar with the literature; I’m not sure the Dickens estate could cover the therapy.

Book Love M

Sedgwick’s effect on me: in contrast to most literary theorists, I always feel warm, protected and loved reading her work. Most critics take: their work demands you give up time, attention and brain cells (most of them in my case) in order to engage with them. Sedgwick gives endlessly. This does not mean her work is easy; it can be very difficult unless you are prepared to just press your face into it and breathe it in liberally. And speaking of liberality, one of my favourite things about Sedgwick is her relentless campaigns through her work to make people think liberally and generously about others. Unlike some feminists, she clearly has a great deal of affection for men and much of her writing is committed to closing – healing - the gap between the genders. With all this together, there are many reasons for me to love Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Even the fact that she is, sadly, no longer with us does not affect my affection for her: as avid readers, we all know that reading the work of another is the ultimate way of cheating death.

y most enduring loves are always with books. I have recently fallen head over heels with a book, and its author. The book is an academic text, Touching Feeling, and the author the late theorist, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. It is a complicated book, full of intense thought and convoluted language, and it takes as its subject the emotions, or affects, particularly shame. What Sedgwick manages to do is turn these academic ruminations into a highly personal love letter to everything she is interested in: literature, theory, people, feelings. It was a present to me this Christmas, and I instantly fell in love with it. Like many readers, I am (ironically) a very tactile person. Although my main pleasure in reading comes from the abstract: thoughts, concepts, ideas; a pleasure almost equal to that for me is texture. I love the physicality of books, and am very picky about covers, the feel and colour of pages, the smell of paper. I often press an open book close to my face, to breathe in its secrets. The cover of Touching Feeling is a photograph of the late textile artist Judith Scott, pressing her face into the contours of one of her spectacular womb-like creations. The image symbolises perfectly all of Sedgwick’s work: her need to touch and feel her ideas as much as think them. And the womb imagery symbolises perfectly

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Paul Hirons Paul Hirons is a lover, not a fighter. He’s also a copy-writer/proofreader, and can usually be found lurking in an insalubrious corner of Twitter, under the moniker @PaulHi

Mike Rowland Mike Rowland is an MA student at the University of Sussex studying literature 17001900 and I’m a reader first, writer second, and I like music, gin and the sea


the old curiosity shop

The Old Curiosity Shop Weird and Wonderful Writerly Witterings, Tips, Tasks And Treats Sandy East ‘Oh the nerves, the nerves; the mysteries of this machine called man! Oh the little that unhinges it, poor creatures that we are!’ Charles Dickens

myself... I touch, stroke and caress the keys on the keyboard! I deny myself chocolate and fresh air and contact with other humans and I make myself balance REAL published books by REAL writers Dearest Writer, We know. Your family, friends, and neighbours on my head as punishment to make me write but know. That woman who gave you that vein- still it will not come... The words, the sentences, bulging-on-the-verge-of-splitting-evil-eyed paragraphs, scenes, stanzas... All of them. They look in the street the other day, knows. The will not come... They just don’t like me-’ gathering of seagulls that screeched a sudden, frantic cacophony of hellish cries in the sky above Hush, Writer, hush... For I am here to help you, you last Wednesday, did so because they know. and myself, and to remind us all that WRITING Oghma! Momus! Seeshat! Neptune! Hermes! IS FUN. Or at least it should be. If you’re not Sarasvati! And all those other gods, goddesses having any fun when you’re writing or attempting and booming-voiced-clothes-shy-over-powerful to write, and you often find yourself weeping into dudes totally know... And it saddens me to tell you the gnawed-by-humans and moth-bitten sleeves this but if, say, you could slice the whole universe of your writer’s cardigan and cursing yourself for in half like a stick of Brighton rock - back off, Prof not having churned out that screenplay yet then Cox, and practice your star-gazer face somewhere you’re doing the writing thing wrong- I said hush! else - written through it in big, fat, all-knowing Yes, writing can be a serious business. ‘Important’? Yes... ‘Illuminating’? Oh very much so. ‘Profound’? letters would be the message: Yes but enough now. Enough. We all love writing, we all care about writing, and sometimes when WE KNOW THAT YOU HAVE NOT we write something really gasp-inducingly good BEEN PHYSICALLY WRITING. YEP. WE with brilliantly, dreamy, hilariously funny and charming characters we start to think that if KNOW. we had the POWER to design and make actual ‘Writing is hard!’ you cry, ‘Hemingway BLED people into actual humans that we could actually all over his typewriter! And Brande was right; make one and actually marry it one day. Or just I do have to pretty much ‘climb over the heads have a wildly romantic fling in another city. Don’t of people’ just to get some time to write! And deny it, Writer, I’m helping you here, and we ALL I’m writing. I AM... Sort of but- I’ve all these do this. We do. So, alas, my point is this: If the ideas, and I’ve read and re-read ‘How to Write writing’s not going well, then you need to bring a Proper-High-Brow-Literary-Wow-And-So- the FUN back into it and in order to help you out, Very-Very-Poignant Novel in a Day! Yes a Day here are my WRITING IS FUN rules for you.. Yes, or Your Money Back!’, and I’m following loadsa I do break them sometimes but only to make sure writery stuff on Twitter, and I sit there every that they really work. Obviously. Let’s have some day doing eye-wars with my laptop, and I force fun!

WRITING IS FUN! YES! NO, REALLY, IT IS... IT IS!

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the old curiosity shop WRITING IS FUN: THE RULES 1) FORGET EVERYTHING.

Forget other writers, how they write, and what they’ve written. So what if THAT person has completed three novels, a play about green cows, and a poem about the queen’s jewel-encrusted underwear in three months? They’re doing their thang, you’re doing yours, and I’m doing mine. It’s all beautiful! Even The Ghost of Charles Dickens, who is a bigger writing sensation up in Lit-Heaven - an opium-fuelled-disco-library full of candles and clothes that swish to killer beats, rammed full of seriously dead writers - would agree with this. I, for one, am pretty damn sure that, Mr D, champion of the underdog, dreamer and redeemer, and, a bit-of-a-lad would be in full support of us all writing in our own way. Dismiss the great and the good and write.

plate. Indulge yourself in pampering pleasures/ manly maintenance must-haves. What makes you feel better? Buy that bubble bath. Wax that dark animal-nesty place. Wear that silk scarf. Make the space around you more workable and comfortable. Flowers. Images. Quotations. Use colour: soft yellow note-paper to stimulate your brain; a painting of the bluest sky to help your thoughts flow; an orange cushion to sit on to fuel your fire in every way... Yeah.

5) GET YOUR BLUE PETER ON!

You’re determined that you’ll progress this week on that project. You have to. You want to. However, every time you sit down to write, it just all feels a bit beige, and then dust starts to form on everything and... Oh woe... What we need is enthusiasm! Grab some colourful paper, scissors, glue, fat pens, pictures and a whole lot of woomph. Can’t quite bring that character to life? Doodle her/him/it on a big sheet of paper, stick 2) GET OUTTA HERE! Leave town. Take a break. Get away from all that cut-outs of body-parts, attire, objects, places and is electric and portable and take yourself to the such things to it. Draw your story. Write down river. Or a gallery. Or a festival. Or a class. Go lines of dialogue, description or simply notes somewhere new and absorb everything. Gobble it that come to you. Make it bright and ragged or up. Bathe in it. Fill hours of your time and shine concise and two-tone. Work in another way to with the newness of it all. When you get home help nudge your stories forward. Use it to work allow yourself half an hour to write about what out a structure. Embrace the space of a blank page you remember. No more, no less. Splurge it. in a different way... Whatever you write will be useful in some way... Be it through clearing or creating something new 6) “YOU’RE TERRIBLE!” or adding to a project you’re already working on. You can’t get to grips with your novel/play/poem and you know that you’re capable of writing so Build your compost and stories will grow. beautifully, concisely, humorously... but it’s just 3) SANDY SAYS, “LET’S GET PHYSICAL!” not happening right now. Set it aside. If you’re Get musical. Play it loud and move all of your writing so badly then use this talent write another body. SWEAT. Dad-dance, robot-dance, dirty- story: The Worst Story In The World. Make it dance, goddess-dance... At home. In a bar. On the awful. Make yourself cringe. Fill three pages with beach. Wherever. Take heed of Gaga’s mantra and sloppy sentences, duff dialogue, dire descriptions, just dance. Remember what The Estefan said: ‘The and whatever else you consider to be appalling. rhythm is gonna get you!’ Let it. Feel the music Be bold, be brash, be bad. Your brain will want to and enjoy it. Your bones will sing with gratitude at correct you. Writing really badly is actually quite being released. The writer’s hunchback of misery a challenge but a fun one none-the-less. is not the look for you, and all spines should be respected.

7) ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE, DARLING!

You can be whoever you want to be so become Engage all of your senses in a peaceful and someone else for a day, a few hours or even half uplifting way, man. All five of ‘em. Cook a new an hour... Put your all into it! Be that strange but meal. Chop, blitz, knead, whisk! Create on a alluring character in your novel and do three tasks

4) RELAX, BABY...

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the old curiosity shop that they would do: undertake their role as a crazy genius, eat their favourite meal, write that lifechanging letter to their mother. Get some props. Acquire an accent. Create their signature. Stuck on that poem you set in Greece? Make yourself a goddess, god, fisherman, tourist, whoever... Wear a hat to write Flossie’s dialogue, indulge in complete and utter decadence to capture the atmosphere of the grand estate where you’ve set your flash fiction. Maybe allow yourself fifteen minutes every day to transform...It might just be the trick that connects you that bit more to your writing.

8) GOOD WRITERS STEAL...

Pick an author, any author and write THEIR way for one hour. Raymond Chandler, Anton Chekhov, Jane Austen, Anne Michaels, Patrick McCabe, William Burroughs... Anyone. Read a page of their work in your head, read it out loud. Look at their style, absorb it, and adopt it. Write a story, a poem, a shopping list, a letter of complaint, a morning after note, anything... It’s a great lesson in understanding the techniques other writers use, and in turn, the techniques that we use.

9) SPEAK UP!

You’ve got a voice so use it. The words aren’t magically flowing through your fingers so use sound instead. Dig out that old dictaphone. Record yourself on your PC. Write your story without using your hands. Maybe cast aside collecting what you say at all and just have a verbal chat with yourself and then see what you remember the next time you sit down to write. If you’re really struggling then take the time to listen to other voices and their stories. Radio plays, audio books, spoken poetry, and any other voiced forms of writing are great to listen to regardless of any blocks that you may have but they also highlight how important sound is to any story in bringing it to life. Of course the other benefits are that you can soak it all up in the bath

or multi-task if you feel that you can’t or don’t want to just sit and listen. I suggest the first option. With candles and a Lemon Zester bath bomb. Followed by fluffy towels.

10) ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, GO!

Grrrr! You need to write, you need motivation. Introduce an element of (fun) pressure and challenge to get you going. Meet with other writers, give yourself seven words that you have to incorporate into your writing, and give yourself ten minutes to write. Go! Change the rules. Jazz it up. Increase the amount of words, decrease the time. Set individual challenges for each other. Give each of you a different character but you’re all after the same goal for different reasons. Create a point system. Award prizes for the ‘Most Disturbing Response’, ‘The Funniest Flash’, ‘The Saddest Story’, etc. The most useful challenge you can set yourself is to make sure you just write for an hour every day and remember Paul Abbott’s famous words, ‘Writing is Rewriting’, and relax and trust that the best will come very soon. Enjoy. Trust. Laugh. Cry. Escape. Explore. Discover. Be with people. Meet new people. Learn a different language. Get with nature. Go to the city. Know that writing is more than the physical act of writing. It’s seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. Immerse yourself in life and all it has to offer. This is part of writing and therefore you are ALWAYS writing. And the universe is not a stick of Brighton rock and Prof Cox does more than practice star-gazer poses for the camera... Writing doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. Unless you really truly believe that’s the only way to create a story but then that’s your choice. I believe that writing csan be tough but that doesn’t mean that we have to stop being playful with it. Have fun and write; write and have fun. Good luck!

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the old curiosity shop

Curious Interviews ‘Stories are amazing...’ And so is Jill Harris.

F

rom channelling creativity to overcome challenge to writing crime novels and running novel courses, this woman is on a mission to use her wealth of writing in every way... Interview by Sandy East. Hi Jill! You’re working on various fiction and non-fiction writing projects at the moment, as well as promoting your new publication, The Wolf in Your Bed. Tell us about that. Hi Sandy! Yes, I do work on a lot of projects at once - too many sometimes. But The Wolf in Your Bed took eighteen months to write and rewrite and rewrite again. It was an amazing and difficult project of research and discovery, like uncovering a buried secret or something. I suppose that’s really what inspired the book. There didn’t seem to be much out there about certain kinds of unhealthy relationships and how to recover from them. When I started asking questions on the internet for information - I found very little evidencebased help for what is, in fact, a form of posttraumatic stress disorder. However, what I did find out was that it’s incredibly common. The stats are horrifying. So, I wrote the book I needed to read. We’ve discussed writing as therapy many times and I think we agree that there are some brilliant books out there that work on ‘freeing’ writers to write without feeling guilty. Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg spring to mind and the fact that texts such as The Artist’s Way and Writing Down the Bones are still used as much, if not more, today as they were ten years ago is a testament to the therapeutic benefits of those books. What I admire about The Wolf in Your Bed is that you’re encouraging people to use writing to focus on a specific problem in an attempt to ‘mend’. Did you always intend for this book to be so clearly directed or did the book write itself towards the issue of emotional abuse?

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You’re right Sandy, writing is therapeutic - most writers of fiction know this intuitively. I think it’s because storytelling is such a massively important part of how we make meaning of life, the universe and everything! I suppose, when I started writing the book, I knew it had to have writing exercises in it. This is because it’s such a simple way of engaging with the unconscious mind. I was curious to find out if there were any recent, good, reliable studies out there. When I discovered that great strides had been made in the world of what is now sometimes called ‘narrative psychology’, I was really excited about the implications from a recovery point of view. As I unravelled the causes and effects of emotional abuse, I began to understand why I felt so ill. The destructive aftermath of emotional abuse is a scorched earth of the soul. Yet, somehow, by reading back over the scrawling entries written late at night, I could see that by writing about it in my diaries, including stuff like dreams and the kinds of music and films I was drawn to, I was addressing it on all levels with more clarity than by just blabbering endlessly to my friends or, increasingly, my dog. Sorry, that was a bit of a long sentence. Long but useful! I think it’s fair to say that due to your extensive knowledge of psychology and academic and emotional understanding of the writing process that The Wolf in Your Bed delivers and supports its readers through a challenging journey carefully and honestly which makes me wonder if this book is the first in a series of ‘writing as recovery’ books? I’m not sure my knowledge of psychology is extensive! It’s an evolving science (and an art) and there are many niches within it that are separate and often, with fiercely opposing attitudes about what psychology actually is. However, in the subject of relationships - which is off-shoot of a branch of social psychology, it was the area I chose to write a thesis on at the end of my degree. I picked the opportunity to focus on a structured diary study, focusing on three areas of interaction in a family unit (mine: husband, two small kids, no money!). Then I analysed it and found that a lot of the interaction between the husband and wife


the old curiosity shop were fleeting and tense. The secret was to write quickly, let it rest for a few weeks and then read it back slowly. Much of the study on therapeutic writing I used as inspiration for the book, discusses the observation that the outcome of writing about traumatic incidents seems to be safe and productive. By safe I mean, no one recorded a negative effect and by productive I mean that most people reported feeling better, drinking less and working at a higher level - than before the study. I’d love to write a series of recovery books. In fact, I’ve got something brewing in the back of my mind. It’s something that springs out in the class on novel writing I team-teach with Jane Elmor. Basically, stories are amazing. They link into the hard wiring of who you are on all levels, conscious, unconscious, subconscious – the lot. There’s a thread of story-making that makes sense and satisfies the human psyche more than any other. It’s often called ‘The Hero’s Journey’. It’s a fantastic tool you can use to write plays, screenplays, novels - anything really. So I thought it might be good to have a book on using this template to write out a hidden or difficult or even joyous part of your life and make sense of it from a safe distance. Once again I’m going to use structured writing exercises aimed at creating a narrative of a period of your life that stands out for some reason.

the flashbacks, fears and the anger can be diffused through writing. Then start to see yourself being in control, taking care of things, making decisions and choices about how your new life is going to work. And when flashes of hope like that appear, everything starts to happen - recovery-wise. Now to your other projects... Tell us about those. Oh, well I’m trying to finally finish the novel I’ve been writing for the last two years. It’s a psychological thriller and the inspiration for it was the writing exercises I wrote for Wolf ! But it’s complete fiction and it’s been a really interesting and increasingly absorbing project. I’ve been teaching the Craft Your Novel classes with Jane and that’s been excellent fun all round. I’m working on a book of writing prompts - 108 Creative Writing Prompts for Spiritual Healing. Also, I’ve got other projects I’d like to start this summer. One is set in World War 2. It’s a tragic love story based on real people. And there’s in it about theatres of war in places and battles that are not commonly talked about. Also, I’m hoping to write a book with Jane. The novel writing course you teach, which has been a great success, must be incredibly useful in terms of helping you write your own novel? It’s been incredibly useful and inspiring. Watching the students really improving in their writing and understanding of the craft - as opposed to just the creative, arty bit - is a great feeling. I think it’s made me less disciplined about my own writing because Jane and I spend a lot of time planning the classes and designing handouts that provide a heap of extra information, quotes and tips. Also, we both do other work. Jane teaches at the OU and I work occasionally behind the bar at the Cheese and Grain in Frome! Bit of a difference, but both jobs feed our inner writers. I wouldn’t say it’s made me re-evaluate my work, but it has made me come to it with a new understanding. That’s another thing I love about creating and writing stories, it’s such a vast and complex process. There’s always more to learn about it, about what is going in your mind, your soul even, as your fingers flip around the keyboard or scratch across a page in a notebook.

You self-published The Wolf in Your Bed and from conversations we’ve had it seems to me that you felt that you had to get the book out there as soon as possible in order for it to fully serve its purpose, and that self-publishing was a part of you asserting your own strength and power – would you agree? Yes I self-published the book because I wanted it out there fast. Also, I wanted to see what it would be like to take complete responsibility for the whole task of bringing out what I’ve written. In many ways it’s a crazy thing to do! But I’m really glad I’ve done it this way. It’s unaltered by meddling editors so it’ll stand and fall on whether it helps people or not. I would agree that it helps to have a focus on work or a work project once your head starts to clear. It’s like turning off a whole stream of your own mind junk and getting some peace. Slowly, that peace becomes more regular. And you can track this progress in your writing Do you work in different ways depending on much better than by waiting until you feel good whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction? all the time. No one feels good all the time. But Yes and no. In fact, working on some non-fiction

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the old curiosity shop with Wolf helped me to focus on structure and progression – pace if you like, in a way I never did before. So, I found I had to plan the whole nonfiction book in detail, then change it lots. Then change the careful outline lots. Then write the book I meant to write in the beginning. Writing non-fiction taught me how I work as a writer. Wolf book was a mixture of creative writing bits, in the form of modern dark fairy tales I wrote to illustrate each of the different relationship dynamics that are present wherever there is emotional abuse. Then there’s all the technical stuff. When I come to write fiction I don’t bother so much with that. My approach is that I’ll do the research needed for authenticity (it’s police procedure at the moment), but I won’t shove it in the readers face. I want to tell a story, that’s all, not go off on a lecture no one wants to hear! Besides, in fiction, the reader works through the eyes of the main protagonist. Because of this, because you walk in the emotional shoes of someone who isn’t you - all that counts is your imagination and courage. I find novel writing tests me in a way that non-fiction doesn’t. But I enjoy writing both. Ok, rules and technicalities aside, what can’t you go without when you’re writing? Coffee. And tea. Lots. Who inspires you and your writing? Everyone who writes – with a few possible exceptions. I honestly feel inspired by everyone I read. Authors are all having a go. They’re having a go at exploring something – whether it’s a story or a factual subject or anything in between, and they’ve got a question or series of questions that they’ll answer for the reader. Most of them have some strengths to pick up on, whether it’s in plot or character development or dialogue. Non-fiction writers should offer understanding and psychologically healthy problem solving solutions. I’m not sure whether self-help books always do that - and I suspect that some people will get more out of my book than others. However, I’m inspired by people you’ve already mentioned. Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron are both brilliant. I also love Nikki French (a husband and wife writing team) for their tightly plotted psychological thrillers, Jane Austen for her total fabulousness and The Writer’s Journey by Vogel as a guide to the hero’s journey.

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What do you look for in good writing? I like stuff that moves me or makes me stop and think in a slightly off-beat way about something. I like to see smoothness and dexterity in the way some writers approach language. Jack Kerouac and Helen Dunmore for example. But usually, it’s good if the writing doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. Your voice as a writer should be tuned into the story or subject you’re looking at. In some sense it should be the book itself. So, I suppose I look for voice. But I will forgive most clunky writing if the plot is a cracker. The Da Vinci Code gave me many happy hours of fun, and I don’t care who knows it! In non-fiction, especially of the self-help variety (and I’ve read many!) I want something easy to read with some truly useful suggestions. What three suggestions would you make to anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of writing a novel? a) Stop writing the novel and listen as it calls you back. In the end, you’re desperate to finish that novel if it keeps on calling you. If it never does, then it was the wrong story. Without passion or fire for a story, I can’t write. It’s over! I have to find another one, dig deeper, excavate my own soul so I can reach out a story that might reach another. b) Write something that fascinates you to the point of distraction. To this aim, develop and fine-tune your sense of the fascinating. Be aware of those times when your attention is caught by that flash of beauty in a stark landscape, or an old woman stooping under the weight of her bags. Know that this fascination expansion experiment can only lead to one thing. Your friends (unless they too, are writers) will consider you to be certifiable. This is because you get so interested in certain subjects which sound weird when you talk about them out loud! For instance, I remember standing with a group of crime writers talking for hours about interesting and bizarre ways to kill people. Not the kind of conversation I would usually get really involved in for fear of appearing madder than a box of chocolates. c) Plan and know that your plans will change. You’ll only discover whether you can write better with or without a plot outline if you’ve tried, at least once, to write one.


the old curiosity shop Finally, tell us what writing means to you. It’s weird. I have a really close relationship with the act of writing, the art and philosophy of it, but not just that. The whole thing that planning or thinking about a piece of writing does to your mind - I love it. Writing is pretty much my guardian angel. Or at least a metaphor for such a creature if none existed. By which I mean I don’t always write morally acceptable stuff and I can’t write sentences any better than I can. But I do always try and write from the inside out. Jill Alison Harris (Bsc, PGCE, MA) has a first class honours degree in Psychology from the Open University. She is also a qualified teacher and has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. As a tutor in Creative Writing with the OU, she became interested in the beneficial qualities of writing as both an art and a craft. But also as a method of self-development. She has recovered from an emotionally abusive marriage.

B

iscuits, banjos, biology, and girl bands who don’t bake... These are the key ingredients for writing great books. Along with Dorothy Parker and sticktoitiveness. Meet the brilliantly funny Jane Elmor, author of My Vintage Summer and Pictures of You, who’s been described as a ‘Nick Hornby for Girls’ because, well, the boys love her books too, and ‘what’s not to love?’... Interview by Sandy East. Hi Jane! You’ve had two novels published now, My Vintage Summer and Pictures of You, which have both been well-received. Can you tell us a little bit about both of these novels and your style? Hey Sandy – well, I guess I’m pretty obsessed with the counter/sub cultures of this century, viewed through female perspectives. My lifelong goal is to write about as many as I can find, but I started with the one going on in my youth. So My Vintage Summer

The Wolf in Your Bed (Spiderwize, 2011)

How to use writing to recover from emotional abuse. Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format. COMPETITION TIME: To be in with a chance of winning of a signed copy of The Wolf In Your Bed we’d like you to share an experience of where you’ve used writing to overcome a challenge (300-500 words). Please send your piece to @Zzzzzandy on Twitter or to competitions@wtd-magazine.com. is set in the underground music scene of London in the 1970/80s, punks, rockabillies, psychobillies, mods, they’re all in there. It’s about an all girl band and a lot of other stuff to do with female identity, hopes, dreams, failures, loss, betrayals, strength, fragility, love, youth, sex, damage, age, unravelling . . . (it’s not autobiographical, honest.) And music, of course. Pictures Of You follows a female artist living, struggling, in Hackney, with flashbacks to her mum’s life on a hippy commune in the 70s, as well as a teenage mother caught in the present day underclass of drugs and poverty. About art, conflicting desires, success, motherhood, sex, passion, biology, fidelity, infidelity, love. And drugs, of course. Tell us about your writing routine? What are your rules? Your must-haves? I am always trying to find the perfect writing routine and always failing spectacularly. I am so easily distracted, I would rather do anything than write, even housework is suddenly appealing when facing the blank page and yourself. I have recently decided to learn to play the banjo, seriously, that’s how bad it is, I’ll do absolutely anything to avoid it. But I have learnt how to trick myself into it by fair

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the old curiosity shop means or foul – and have now discovered if I don’t write for a while I lose my mind, which is quite an incentive. So I make myself. Good tricks are writing with a friend who’s also a writer – actual real company that isn’t imaginary! Amazing! Doing timed writing in bite sized chunks, writing in cafes, writing in bed, writing when travelling, writing longhand in notebooks when you get stuck. Getting a netbook was a pretty good move, as it tricked me into thinking I was actually a writer, carrying it about everywhere. Oh, and playing the banjo does the job too. What do you look for in a good novel? Are there themes, behaviours, questions or any other aspects that you always try to incorporate into your work? I love characters that are outsiders in some way – sensitive or artistic or addictive or burning too bright or just being a bit mad, who somehow won’t fit where they’re meant to. Themes of identity, instability, and trying to deal with whatever the social expectations of the era are come up a lot. I’m really interested in how people deal with what’s chucked at them, how they struggle with right and wrong and loss and not getting what they want, and how they just get through their time in this crazy world. ‘Love’ is one of our themes for this issue of What the Dickens? magazine. Would it be fair to say that My Vintage Summer and Pictures of You both explore the theme of love in various ways? Yes, for sure. My Vintage Summer is primarily about love of music – real, strong, all-consuming passion for it, for writing songs and playing them, for the connection it creates between people. I also really wanted to explore that crazy love teenage girls can get for older, cooler girls, and for boys in bands And the reality of relationship compared to fantasy. Pictures of You started out about sex, but ended up being about family. (Like life, really, I guess.) What constitutes family, what sex is all about, and heads and hearts and loyalty and betrayal and ambitions and desires and biological drives. All loves, in their variety of ways!

in the form of music and art, in a touching, humorous way. Would you agree with that? Why, yes! That’s exactly what I meant to say. One of the inevitable questions that all writers are asked at some point, whether it’s a gift or a curse, is ‘Which other writers are you similar to?’ so... Oh you know, Jonathan Franzen, Donna Tartt, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Lorrie Moore . . . heh heh. Not really. But someone did say my stuff was like “Nick Hornby for Girls”. I quite liked that. Now, personally, when I look at the covers of both My Vintage Summer and Pictures of You I think that they don’t fully support the verve and atmosphere of these novels, and, it pains me to make such generalisations, but they seem very gentle & female-orientated, which is odd when I know that a lot of men love these books, especially My Vintage Summer, don’t they? Yes, of course they do, what’s not to love? They’re filled with blossoming full-blooded women having lots of sex. But apparently the “women’s fiction” market is a big one and so it seems publishers or marketing departments or whoever it is try to gear books by female authors (and male, actually! I’m thinking Douglas Kennedy, Patrick Gale...) to it. But yeah, a strange divide, I don’t get it. Most books are essentially about universal themes, human ones, that we can all relate to, aren’t they? Except the ones about weddings and shoes, I suppose. I know I can’t relate to those.

I was so looking forward to a big wedding novel from you, Jane... So, what advice would you give to other writers writing a novel? Sticktoitiveness is everything. You have to keep going, little and often is better than waiting for the perfect time (it’ll never come), and even in the times you fall out of love with your idea, remember that it’s only because you’re tired. Have a biscuit. You have to have faith in it, even when you don’t. Every writer is different, but I think it’s a good idea to have some kind of a plan, otherwise you could wobble off anywhere. But be open to new ideas along the way, as they’ll come to you, as long as you have your bum on the seat ready to receive them. First drafts are just that. Get it down and then get it good. Writing is rewriting. It seems to me that both novels explore the Hone every word, listen to the rhythm. Mainly, challenges of love through family, friendships, write from the heart about what matters. both biological and self-made, and creativity

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the old curiosity shop What have been the most useful lessons you’ve acquired throughout your writing career? Getting feedback on your work in progress is really helpful, even if it hurts at first. It will only make you better. Or make you give up. Both are options, choose the former.

love going wrong... Love of performing, love of attention, self love. Oh, and an actress who needs a break, and a Hollywood heartthrob who needs respect, and a stalker who . . . well, that would be giving it away. Shh.

What do you love about writing and why? Who are your creative heroes and why? I hate writing a lot of the time, to be honest, Sister Rosetta Tharpe for rocking out so because I fail to achieve what I’m striving for most outrageously when I’m sure she really wasn’t of the time, but what I love is when you sometimes, allowed to be. Joni Mitchell for the words of The sometimes capture exactly the essence of what it Last Time I Saw Richard. Lorrie Moore for Who is to be alive, in a sentence. Or two. That is truly Will Run The Frog Hospital. Dorothy Parker, lovely. That gives me a good night’s sleep, at last. for everything. Every sixties garage band that ever was. Especially the girl ones – weren’t they And which books are you loving at the moment? Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Caitlin Moran’s How supposed to be baking cakes or something? To Be A Woman and Emma Donaghue’s Room are You’re currently writing your third novel. Can all recent faves. we get a hint of what it’s about? It’s about love, of course! Obsessional love this Thank you Jane! time, stalking, unrequited passion, warped love, Thank you Sandy! Jane Elmor lived most of her life in London, where her occupations included playing in bands, dealing in vintage clothes, co-writing/producing a comedy musical in fringe theatre and composing for short films and TV... amongst many, many other things. She attended the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, where she began My Vintage Summer. She now lives in the West country, running novel writing courses and lecturing in creative writing.

My Vintage Summer (Pan, 2008) Meet Lizzie and Kim as they grow from small-town adolescents to women on the hedonistic stage of London in the early eighties. Available from Amazon in paperback, hardback and Kindle format.

Pictures of You (Pan, 2009) Luna, a 36-year-old painter, lives in East London with sculptor, Pierre. Driven by creativity rather than money, the couple have always been happy. Until now. Available from Amazon in paperback, hardback and Kindle format.

COMPETITION TIME: To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of one of these novels we’d like you to create a flash-fiction of 300 words that either celebrates a talent (music, art, comedy, dancing, sport, etc) or a heroine or hero of yours. Please send your work to myself @Zzzzzandy on Twitter or to competitions@wtd-magazine.com.

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Writing Tasks

subject or breath of an idea that comes to you is dull, boring, tired. And sometimes we just all need something new to take us away from the safe place and comfort of what we would ‘usually’ write ometimes our brains bubble, boil and spill about...Whatever you need, What the Dickens? over with too many ideas. Sometimes one is here to help. In each edition we will bring you image haunts you and that face, that place, that an array of tasks to get you started, rejuvenated, object is ALL you can write about. Sometimes experimenting... to get you writing! Please one idea whispers into your hair; runs a cool thin remember that all that has been offered up are finger along your collar bones; swells, flickers merely suggestions, so use these pages in any way and spits like a fire that licks the edge of your that you wish to. The intention here is simply to mind. Sometimes it seems as though every topic, encourage you to write and to enjoy the process.

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Dickens’ Word Den of Decadence, Debauchery and Desire Use as many of the words below to create a story, poem, play or any other form of writing.

ravish consume devour adore corset minx loins dangle amorous fondle unravel attire straddle bosom rouge

caress veil shadow mansion case trove lace ivory ornate stair marsh cobweb captain lord gin

graveyard

blacksmith

orphan

chalice

hat

poison candle chains ship

ghost curiosity dream iron chest cousin

writer ward cake fire locket knife rose clamour vestige vanity insects wood locks silk pins feather

villain ragged cloak dog cherry mead brawl ribbon hair smoke drizzle ash burning ale

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grope

watch


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Old and New... Use an aspect or scene from a Dickens’ novel or a love story and re-write it in any way that you like... Below are some suggestions:

CHANGE THE GENRE: Bleak House is transported to another planet. Romeo and Juliet becomes a detective short story. Enduring Love set in Jane Austen’s world.

CHANGE A CHARACTER IN SOME WAY: Bill Sykes becomes a softy (Oliver Twist) Fanny Price gets a sense of humour and learns to work her stuff (Mansfield Park) Blanche fights back and gets revenge on Stanley (A Streetcar Named Desire)

ADD ANOTHER PIECE TO THE JIGSAW: Write a ‘final’ chapter from the perspective of Rochester (Jane Eyre) Write a flash fiction from Estella’s point of view (Great Expectations) Write Peter’s story (How I Live Now)

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end in your responses to the various writing exercises and the strongest ones will be included in the next edition of What the Dickens? Please state which exercise inspired you along with your name and email address and send to: curiosity@wtd-magazine.com.

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Responses to writing tasks from Issue 1... The Time In His Hands By Angela Readman

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he shop usually looks closed. Clocks glare out of the window, pendulums sway to women walking past. Timepieces were once the shop’s speciality, but inside, it is now hard to tell. Vintage jewellery, weeping boy prints and lamps keep business ticking over. At five, Seymour turns the sign, retires to the flat and places his tea on the sideboard. In the drawer lies an array of broken watches, he picks up one, then another, time on his hands. Some of the watches are cracked, scratched glass. Seymour no longer sees all their faces clearly. He looks at them. They do not look back. Some of the watches are clearer, white leather straps still attached. He touches them and recalls tiny hands, girls he overwound. He recalls it was a Sunday, the first hour he stole. He pecked the cheek of the girl next door, then told her she stank. From his window, he saw her gaze up from the swing on the oak. Exactly, how many hours did she lose to him? Hoping, dreaming, then hating. He wasn’t sure. He just knew it made him feel alive. The next watch was digital. Time weighed heavy on thin teen wrists. Between the links of the metal strap is a strand of blonde, caught when Amy fidgeted with

Gone

By SJI Holliday

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randad Terry crawls out from underneath the bunk-beds. ‘It’s no good, love,’ he says, taking a scrunched up handkerchief from his trouser pocket and wiping the sweat off his forehead. ‘I can’t find the damn thing anywhere.’ His bones crack as he gets to his feet. ‘You’ll just have to tell them.’ ‘I can’t,’ I say. ‘They’ll be devastated.’ ‘I know, love. But they’ll have to find out some time. We can’t keep on pretending.’ ‘Maybe I can say he’s gone on holiday?’ I say, rubbing at my eyes and pretending I’m not about to cry. ‘Hmm,’ he says. ‘That might work. For a little while anyway.’ ‘Just until we can go to the pet shop…’ He nods. He doesn’t know I’ve already phoned the pet shop. They’ve only got pure white ones in. Morris is ginger with one white ear. They’re phoning round for me, trying to find one. ‘Can’t you just tell them the truth?’ ‘No!’ I shake my head, fast. ‘They’ll say it’s my fault.’

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her hair. Seymour told Amy she was special. He held her hand to look at her watch, running too fast. He told his friends she was easy and won the swim meet. He has made a life of loving girls like that, certain types of girl, for whom timing is everything. Their hearts quicken in the hands of the watch-maker’s son, disappointment shortens their lives for a minute, an hour. More. Seymour polishes broken watches, homed in his drawer. Hours of longing, cursing his name are a transfusion of time in his veins. He is old, but does not show his age. With enough love he could live forever, but things aren’t as easy as they were. Too many women live against the clock, he feels. Phones in lieu of watches, they give sore hearts a minute, before updating their status, clicking ‘like’ somewhere. In the small hours he holds a glass face to his cheek, courting women lost to him. Time, he thinks. He did not let them waste it. It was never stolen, but something they gave. Angela Readman won Inkspill Magazine’s short story competition. She has had stories in PANK, Metazen, Fractured West, Pygmy Giant and Southword. She was commended in The Arvon International Poetry Competition last year.

‘But it is your fault!’ Grandad Terry says, loud. Making me jump. Then he smiles and says: ‘Sorry, love. You know it’s not your fault.’ It is my fault though. He was sleeping when mum went out. ‘Look after the twins,’ she’d said, adding: ‘and your grandad,’ as she walked out the door, blowing me a kiss as she went. She looked sad. Grandad Terry’s told the twins she’s gone on holiday. I’ll just tell them Morris has gone to join her and they’ll both be back soon. ‘When’s mum coming back?’ I ask, feeling more tears getting ready to escape, trying hard to suck them back in. Grandad Terry just shakes his head. He looks sad now too. ‘I don’t know, love,’ he says. ‘I just don’t know.’ SJI Holliday is the author of a sheaf of short stories and is currently creating a crime novel. Her world domination via writing is limited only by time, motivational slippage and the perils of procrastination. She pins her ideas onto frames like dead butterflies. Does not bite.


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What the Dickens? Literary Quiz Do You Know Your Dickens?

1. What is the name of the Miss Havisham’s house in Great Expectations, and what does it mean? 2. In which Dickens’ novel would you find this line: “Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”? 3. What is the name of the long-running court case in Bleak House? 4. What is the character of Jack Dawkins otherwise known as? 5. What is the significance of the locket in Oliver Twist? 6. In Bleak House who is Nemo and what is his relationship to Esther? 7. In which novel does the character Solomon Gill appear? 8. In The Mystery of Edwin Drood what is Jasper addicted to? 9. In which novel does the man “with a great iron on his leg” feature? 10. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” is a line from which Dickens’ novel? 11. Name the work by Dickens that is said to be based on the Clayton Tunnel crash that occurred in 1861. 12. “He would make a lovely corpse.” is taken from which Dickens’ novel? 13. What was the name of Dickens’ London home where he first started writing Bleak House? 14. What is the name of the prison which features in Little Dorrit? 15. In what way was Dickens personally connected to the prison featured in Little Dorrit? 16. In which novel do the characters Mr Nathaniel Winkle, Mr Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr Tracy Tupman appear? 17. What was Dickens’ connection to Chatham Dockyard? 18. Restoration House in Rochester was the inspiration for which building in which novel? 19. Where did Dickens die?

20. What is the name of Oliver’s mother in Oliver Twist? 21. Which character constantly refers to himself as a “child” and in which novel? 22. “Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years it was a splendid laugh!” Name the novel in which this line appears. 23. Lady Dedlock appears in which novel? 24. Who does Bella Wilfer marry in Our Mutual Friend? 25. What does Fagin give the boys to drink to warm them in Oliver Twist? 26. What is the significance of Australia in Great Expectations? 27. Who is Mr Krook in Bleak House? 28. ‘Ours was the marsh country...’ is taken from which novel? 29. Coketown features in which novel? 30. Which Dickens’ novel begins in Marseille? 31. How does Nancy die in Oliver Twist? 32. What is Joe Gargery’s job? 33. In which novel does Little Nell feature? 34. Which character is commonly thought to be based on Charles Dickens himself and his own childhood? 35. Which novel begins on Christmas Eve in 1843? 36. Which Dickens’ novel features Trotty, bells and goblin attendants? 37. Which creature acts as a guardian angel to the Peerybingle family in which novel? 38. In which novel does Mr Langdale appear? 39. Which novel did Charles Dickens consider to be his best work? 40. What is Nicholas and Smikes’ intention when they head to Portsmouth? Get all the answers right and you could win a year’s subscription to Mslexia! See the Competitions page for details.

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Literary Word Search Find the love themed novels, plays, poems and films Q

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LOVE IN A BLUE TIME

LOVE OF FAT MEN

ENDURING LOVE

PHAEDRA’S LOVE

WOMEN IN LOVE

SECULAR LOVE

LOVE IN A TIME OF CHOLERA

THE LOVE OF STONES

BELOVED

LOVE’S LABOURS LOST

ALL FOR LOVE

CONJUGAL LOVE

THE FEAST OF LOVE

I SAID TO LOVE

LOVE STORY

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE

EAT PRAY LOVE

LOVE LETTER

HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

LOVE

LOVE BUG

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competitions

Competitions Lynn Shepherd Tom-All-Alone’s p. 6

To win a copy simply answer this question: Which Charles Dickens’ novel was Tom-AllAlone’s based on?

Curiosity Interviews, A Wolf in Your Bed, My Vintage Summer, Pictures of You, p.69, 71

To win a signed copy of one of these books, simply submit your themed writing (as detailed by Sandy) to us by the closing date!

What the Dickens? Literary Quiz, p75 Fiona Macdonald Charles Dickens: A Very Peculiar History, p.21

To win a year’s subscription to Mslexia magazine, simply send your completed Literary Quiz to the below address. Secret Top hat... p.?? To win a copy answer the following question: Name one other book in the ‘Very Peculiar’ series written by Fiona. To win a £10 National Book Token simply find the page number that is wearing a top hat!

Email all answers to: competitions@wtd-magazine.com

Please include your name and contact details. All entries must be received by 15th March 2012.

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art

Shannon Finch... I grew up in the wilds of the Midwest fending off monotony and the Michigan Militia by doodling the days away. I eventually sketched my way into the quasi-creative world of Women’s Footwear design and have been doing that to support my art habit for the past 15 years. shannanigan.com

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competitions

Competition answers from the last issue... Snow Quiz

B en Hatch – Are We Nearly There Yet?

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

Ben’s wife’s name is Dinah.

Anna, Andrei Rick Moody Japan invades China Amy Chust City (former Traction City) Markus Zusak; The Book Thief Cat’s Eye Feet are amputated James Joyce; Dubliners Michel Faber Neil Gaiman; Snow, Glass, Apples Margaret Lawrence Yasunari Kawabata The Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe The Snowstorm Lady Dedlock Charles Baxter; The Feast of Love David Guterson The Snows of Kilimanjaro A Wild Sheep Chase; Hanuki Murakami Copenhagen St John Rivers Neal Stephenson Cold Mountain

Submissions The next issue of What the Dickens? Magazine will be out on 1st April 2012. Next issue’s theme will be ‘The March Hare’. Full submission details are on our website: wtd-magazine/submissions.html

Gabrielle Kimm – His Last Duchess/The Courtesan’s Lover The Robert Browning poem that was the inspiration for His Last Duchess was My Last Duchess. Secret Santa hat Yes, it was hiding on page 24!

Congratulations to all of our winners; Caroline Auckland, Hannah Evans, Jackie Fitzmaurice, Carola Huttman, Rachel Quinn, and Liz Burton.

Credits Editor: Victoria Bantock Extra contributions: Sandy East Magazine & Web Design: Ben Ottridge benottridge.co.uk Advertising contact: advertising@wtd-magazine.com General contact: victoria@wtd-magazine.com

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Profile for What the Dickens? Magazine

What the Dickens? Magazine #2  

What the Dickens? Magazine. Bi-monthly magazine for writers, readers and all literary types. Issue 2: the Love Dickens Edition

What the Dickens? Magazine #2  

What the Dickens? Magazine. Bi-monthly magazine for writers, readers and all literary types. Issue 2: the Love Dickens Edition

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