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

What the Dickens? magazine

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Issue the pumpkin edition


Front cover illustration by Aaron Jasinski – ‘The Clock Strikes Twelve’

Aaron Jasinski’s paintings have shown across the US, and internationally. His paintings often features musical, pop-culture, and nostalgic references peppered with social commentary and whimsical creatures. Aaron resides near Seattle Washington with his wife and 4 children. aaronjasinski.com


editorial Hello! Issue 6! We made it to Issue 6! We had an absolutely huge impossibly brilliant task this time around and somehow – WE MADE IT! So much sweat, tears, graft, hours and late night coffee drinking has gone into making this fabulous magazine over the last year and we all still do it out of our own time and for absolutely nothing! It’s hard to believe I know, but very much true! This issue’s theme is all about pumpkins, things transforming, and that is exactly what has happened to WTD. We’ve altered, amended, re-designed, pimped, made pretty and tried to make it better and better. Not only has the magazine transformed but so have we along with it as more and more ideas, opportunities and possibilities spring out and about from all that we do. Anyone who has read and submitted to the magazine has hopefully been transformed in some way too as this is really what this magazine is about. We want to inspire people and encourage and promote all kinds of creativity. I think those that do use it in that way benefit the most, seeing positive changes along the way. There is so much to be gained by doing a creative task, reading a recommended book, playing with photos or even writing us a letter. By joining in and engaging we then kind of become a little community and this is where stuff happens and those opportunities abound. So what now? Well, we want to get it printed, it deserves to be! We worked like mad to do Issue 7 alongside this current one so we could take it to crowd funding with many brilliant people doing double the amount of work so this could happen. We also needed a film to go with our funding request so we whispered, planned, and then begged a whole load of people to be in our great film and mostly everyone said yes! Saying yes is also where stuff happens! Ben composed and recorded the music and I can’t wait for you all to see it as it is all just tremendous! So much creativity, generosity and warmth are contained in those 3 minutes of footage and so please please keep an eye on our website and watch the film! And obviously donate if you can! Everyone who donates comes away with something and as well as the magazine itself there will be some fab goodies available too. If you haven’t already then do subscribe to keep up to date with everything. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the next time you read one of these, it will be in the glorious printed form as it was always meant to be.

Victoria Editor

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

Contents Letters & Jokes......................................4 Art – Lauren Jonik..................................5 Author Interview – Graham Joyce.......6 The Life in the Name.............................7 Make Your Own....................................8 Behind the scenes of a writing website..10 Art – Donna Staveley............................11 Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid... .................12 Desert Island Reads..............................14 Wall of Wisdom....................................15 The eBook Extraordinaire...................16 Social Media Review............................17 The Muse – with Pumpkinseed............18 My Life in the Theatre...........................19 LiteraryUK......................................20 A bit of shopping with.......................22 Pumpkin Writing..................................24 The Godmother’s Bequest...................46 Art – Ben Ottridge.................................47 The Old Curiosity Shop.......................48 Help! The dog ate my manuscript!.......77 Art – Lauren Jonik.................................78 A Writer’s Diary....................................79 Reader Review.......................................80 Book Reviews by Lois Bennett............81 Book Reviews by Alison Bacon...........84 Listings.............................................86 Competitions.......................................89

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letters

Letters & Jokes STAR LETTER

Dear What the Dickens? Magazine

I’ve just stumbled across your magazine, from a link on Twitter tweeted by Paragraph Planet (proof, if any were needed, of the power of social media for promoting writing). With many of the mainstream opportunities to submit stories shrinking in favour of monotonous updates on the lives of so-called celebrities, it’s great to see a new creative magazine taking its first steps. The fact that your magazine focuses on creative outputs, rather than salivating over salaciousness, fills me with hope for the future of writing and magazines.

Dear Ellie, I hope you have had lots of fabulous entries for your inspiring project. Here are my moments of creativity. Not sure which came first the books or the paper choice. Anyhow I hope you like my paper rose bookmarks. Kind Regards Caroline Auckland. p.s looking forward to the next activity.

I hope that you’re able to develop WTD? into a print edition – it’s always nice to have a hard copy magazine to read. Here’s to many more editions of What the Dickens? Magazine – long may you thrive! Yours Matt Reilly Twitter: @Mr_Matt_Reilly

#wtdzine Send us your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag above!

What did the detective do when he didn’t believe the librarian’s tale? He booked her!

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Star letter each month receives a £10 National Book Token!


art

Based in Brooklyn, New York, Lauren Jonik is a freelance writer and photographer who specialises in nature, landscape and cityscape photography. Her work can be viewed on: shootlikeagirlphotography.com and you can find her on Facebook here: facebook.com/ShootLikeAGirlPhotography.

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author interview

Author Interview Graham Joyce

Graham Joyce is an English writer of speculative fiction and the recipient of numerous awards for both his novels and short stories. He grew up in a small mining village just north of Coventry (his father was a coal-miner). After college he settled in Leicester. He worked as a youth officer for the National Association of Youth Clubs until 1988, when he quit his executive job and decamped to the Greek island of Lesbos, there to live in a beach shack with a colony of scorpions and to concentrate on writing.

What is your writing background so far? I have published twenty books, mostly novels, plus a fair number of short stories. Other stuff includes a sporting memoir, computer games writing, film scripting and lyric writing with Emilie Simon. How long does it take you to research and write a book? It’s about a year all told. I can turn out a first draft in forty days if I want to push it, but it just means more fixing, more drafts than if I take more time initially. I make several re-drafts before I’m happy. Was the road to publication bumpy or smooth? I got published with the second novel I’d completed. I’d written a fair few short stories before that. I gave up a job and went to live in a shack on the Greek island of Lesbos so that I could really focus. No TV, no internet. Not much of anything really, to get in the way of writing. What inspires you? Inspiration comes many times a day. It’s having the time to convert inspirations into stories that’s the problem. I’ve got more ideas than I have time to work on them. I have no idea where my writing will take me from one day to another. I start out with what I think is an interesting situation and try to tell a story which explains how my characters got into that situation and how they get out of it. I know some writers who plan everything out before they write but if I try to do that the process goes flat on

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me. I don’t know why. If it’s all figured out I lose the motivation to write it. Plus I’m exploring a subject rather than reporting on it. There is a big difference between those two things. Which books have influenced you the most and why? I’m an eclectic reader. So I don’t know whether to cite the Dr Strange comics I read in my youth, or whether to bang on about Shakespeare and Dickens. I’m a fan of all of these. I love highend, canonical literature and I love popular fiction just as much. (Though I admit to feeling alienated from much Booker-type fiction: there is junk ‘literary’ fiction just as much as there is junk popular fiction). I’m a narrative fiend. If the narrative is weak I can’t be bothered, even if it’s written in the tongue of angels. But to name just a few inspirations I would say Jonathan Swift, Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens Robert Louis Stevenson, George Orwell, Shirley Jackson, Flannery

O’Connor, Graham Green, Anthony Burgess, Angela Carter, Carlos Castenada and Dr Strange. Where and when do you write? I have a converted attic at the top of my house, with a lock on the door that was put there to stop my kids coming in when they were very small. Now that they are teenagers they come in and mess everything up. Why do you write? Because this experience of life is so overwhelming I have to tell someone about it. Do you indulge in any other creative activities and if so what? I play the guitar. I’m really bad. You wouldn’t want to hear it. What are your plans now and what’s coming up next? I’m in the middle of a novel based on some experiences I had in the 1970s.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale (Gollancz, 2012) Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a very English story. A story of woods and clearings, a story of folk tales and family histories. It is as if Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris had written a Fairy Tale together.

We have a copy of the book to give away! Head to the Competitions page for full details.


the life in the name

The Life in the Name Caroline Auckland The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer

T H E P U M P K I

Travel writer, a joint novel with John Mortimer With Love and Lizards (1957). Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay of The Pumpkin Eater. Early life in Wales, born Penelope Fletcher, the daughter of a vicar. Penelope Mortimer 1918-1999 Author of The Pumpkin Eater. Unpublished works include volume 3 of her autobiography entitled Closing Time. Autobiography – published – two volumes published About Time (1979) [Whitbread prize for biography (1980)] and About Time Too (1983). Mother to six children. Motherhood and marriage heavily influenced her novels. Persephone Books re-published Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting in 2008, originally published in 1958. Kensington, London, her last home. Isolation of the female in marriage and society, sterilization and abortion key themes explored in her novels.

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Nine Novels published in her life-time: Johanna (1947), A Villa in Summer (1954), The Bright Prison (1956), Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (1958), The Pumpkin Eater (1962), My Friend Says it’s Bullet Proof (1968), The Home (1971), Long Distance (1974), The Handyman (1983).

E A T E R

Education – Several places including: Rhyl, Croydon High School, St Elphin’s School for Daughters of the Clergy, The Central Educational Bureau for Women, University College London. Anne Bancroft played the central character of The Pumpkin Eater alongside Peter Finch and James Mason in the film of the book Two husbands, Charles Dimont and John Mortimer with whom she had children and two extramarital relationships with Kenneth Harrison and Randall Swingler with whom she also had children. Employment as a Journalist, Biographer and Novelist. Film critic of the Observer, Agony Aunt for the Daily Mail under the name Ann Temple. Also worked for the Sunday Times. Published many times in The New Yorker. Rhyl- Wales, her birthplace.

References: The Guardian Obituary by Giles Gordon , published 22/10/1999. Valerie Grove: Preface to Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting published by Persephone Books 2008. Caroline Auckland: Communication Studies B.A.(Hons). Blogs a little: newtonhouseltd.blogspot.co.uk writes a lot, reviews books and loves words and tells stories with photographic imagery, can be contacted on carolineauckland@btinternet.com.

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make your own...

Make Your Own... Prosperity Pots

There Is ALWAYS Enough: A Thriftress’ Tale of Triumph and Transformation! Sandy East

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ama East and I will never agree on many important lifechanging topics in life such as politics, media, religion, and her insistence that I marry a man from her list of carefully selected Hollywood actors: Mama: But why not, dear? He looks LOVELY! He was marvellous in that film. And you really can’t afford to be fussy... Me: Because I don’t want to? He’s married? Mega talented? Rich? I don’t know him? He’s ridiculously handsome? Mama: Oh darling. That self-esteem of yours... I sigh. Mama: Don’t do that to yourselfMe: I’m being realistic. Mama: So am I. If you keep sighing like that then those lines are going to turn into wrinkles you could carry borrowers in, before you know it. And that will reduce your chances even more. Chin- Chins up, darling! However, one thing, Mama and I are hands-held-high-in-the-air-togetherunited about is RUBBISH and whether it is actually rubbish at all. Because everything and everyone in this life has a use in one way or another. We are Leaders of the Thiftsterhood and Mistresses of Thrift. We are, dear reader, Thriftresses. And you can be too. And you may refer to yourself as ‘Thriftsters’ if the term ‘Thriftress’ doesn’t sit quite right with you. Together, of course, we are all very simply and very beautifully, ThriftStars. Yes. That’s right. Let’s turn the contents of your bin into glorious gifts of win! Sorry.

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WHAT IS A PROSPERITY POT?

Prosperity Pots aren’t just pots to fill with money but if you manage to pack them with big gold coins, fifty pound notes, and diamonds then good for you. They can be a place to fling and zing your wishes into – we all need some magic, you cynics, we do. They can store jewellery, buttons, badges, beads, and BORING NECESSITIES OF LIFE and then you’ll remember EXACTLY where the safety pins, batteries, stamps, and condoms are after all that time. They can be WORD-POTS from which you will build beautiful stories, poems, songs and art. They can be used for anything and the gorgeousness and greatness of Prosperity Pots is that they are completely recycled... apart from some glittery parts because sparkle can never be secondhand, darlings. There are laws. Prosperity Pots are here to help you prosper in every way and to remind you and me that we always, regardless of the moth-zoo in your purse, the bird-nest-hair, and the holes in your pants, have enough. They are fun and so, so, so easy to make.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

Scissors Craft glue Pots with lids of any kind Images from magazines (and calendars and diaries if you have them) Ribbons, beads, buttons, jewels, stickers.

STEP ONE: BRING ME YOUR BINS!

People, I am absolutely in no way suggesting that you take over the local tip, hijack a dust-cart or get overfriendly with your neighbour’s bin and start trawling through mush for objects to use. Grab your stash BEFORE it heads recycling bank or binwards. And what you need to grab first are JARS, BODY BUTTER POTS, WASHING POWDER TUBS, COFFEE CONTAINERS and the like. Any kind of storing device with a screw or pop-on-pop-off lid. Grab yourself a lemon because when life gives you lemons not only do we make lemon-flavoured refreshments


make your own... but we use any excess juice and squeeze it into a sink or washing-up bowl full of hot water and cleanse our pots for about an hour. Lemons are mighty. They smell good, they’re summery all year round and they’ll shift the smell of coffee, gherkins, vinegared cockles and mussels with gusto. LOVE YOUR LEMONS. FOR THEY WILL SERVE YOU WELL. AGAIN AND AGAIN.

filled bead-making sets and jewellery boxes IS an option here. Start noticing the materials around you can use and asking for what you can’t seem to find. Asking works.

STEP TWO: WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT AND ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED...

pots or not is up to you. You might find that keeping that layer on acts as a good surface to stick your images to. You will be layering up your pots so that there are no gaps and so that your surfaces are fairly sturdy for sticking buttons, jewels and stickers too. If your pages are thin then add more to bulk out the surface. Next decide which colours you want to work with. I always set out to have two main colours so there’s a stark contrast or I go with a theme such as sunflowers, jungle, outer space, etc. Just go with what feels right and enjoy it. Layer up and stick all of your images (using a craft glue) so that they are flush to all edges. Don’t cover the bottoms of your pots as they will become unbalanced and no-one will see that part anyway! Cover all of the main surface and the lid of your pots and leave them to dry. Choose five or six distinct images to stick on afterwards like a flower or a bird or a lion and make sure that before you’ve stuck these on that you’ve left a cm or so around the image and that that you’ve trimmed them neatly. The eye always wants to find distinct visual points so it’s important that these parts look neat.

While your naked pots are enjoying their citrus bath you’re going to dig out those glossy magazines crushed in your bag, and weighing down your newspaper rack, and you’re going to get snippy. If you have the super-smoothshiny-print magazines then great. The photography and illustrations in these prints are often stunning. Look to fashion, home and horoscope pages in particular for striking images and cut them out. Cut out any bold chunks of colour and group your images and shapes into different colour groups as you go. Also look to old diaries and calendars for great art-work you can use on your pots. Again, these are usually glossy so great for gluing. If the only images you can find are on a thin print then worry not. We can use those too. Next, go in search of any ribbon, buttons, flat-sided jewels that you might have lying around the place. Ribbon? Jewels? I don’t have that kinda stuff in my manly/minimalist/noncrafty house, you say. And I say: YOU DO. You’ll often find bits of ribbon attached to gift boxes of toiletries, pyjamas, cooking utensils, letterwriting packs, etc. Any kind of gift especially at Christmas time normally has some sort of decorative feature especially ladies’ stuff so nab it and use it. As for buttons and jewels, you’ll find these on old clothes, bags, and I will bet good money that someone you know has a great dust-covered supply of these sort of things in a sewing basket that they’ve never quite known what to do with. Ask around and you’ll soon have a wealth of material to work with. Also, doing trade-offs with children with over-zealously

any sticky-backed jewels to cover over tatty edges and to add more definition to your pots. You can use buttons too but I would advise you to use these on your lids or attach them to fabric rather than print as they’re less likely to fall off.

STEP THREE: STICK AND COMMIT. STEP FIVE: ROUND IT It’s time to dry your pots. Whether you peel off the old labels from your ALL OFF...

Rounding off the greatest action you can take when working with anything crafty. So often people battle to create impossibly straight edges and then it doesn’t look that good afterwards anyway. Make your shapes more curvacious and everything will look better and it’ll be less stressful for you. Use your ribbon to cover the bottom and top edges of your pots (go easy on the glue) as they’ll make everything look neater. Also attach a strip of ribbon around the edge of the lid if it’s thick enough. If you can choose colours that enhance the colours of your pots. You can also add extra decoration to the ribbon if you wish to. How you design your Prosperity Pots is meant to be fun and flexible. They’re meant to look bold and playful, not pristine and perfectly patterned. Go with what feels right and spruce your pots up in any way you like!

STEP FOUR: DAZZLE ‘EM!!!

A great and cost-effective material to use are glitter sheets. You can get a pack of five different colours for a £1 and it will last you ages as you will only ever use a small amount on each pot. Long thin strips of glitter along with curves and swerves stand out and they’re not tricky to cut out so easy to do too. You can also use them to emphasise parts of an image on you pot. For example if you’ve got a bird on your pot then add some small pieces of silver to extend the wings. Create shapes from glitter strips and place them around certain edges. Also use any sticky glitter to cover any botched bits. Use

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behind the scenes of a writing website

Behind the scenes of a writing website Richard Hearn

Part 6 – Coding

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ast issue I discussed a new writing website called writing-workout. com. I outlined the concept: writing exercises against the clock designed to be seen by the writer only, encouraging a rough experimental draft. I also plumped for a logo, with the name of the site forming the bar of a drawn dumbbell. This issue, I wanted to talk a little about the coding. Yes I know this is a column in a writing magazine, but I’m appealing to your natural curiosity. A little knowledge about your raw materials. After all, wouldn’t Daniel Defoe be interested in the particular bird his own quill had come from? If you’re a blogger or ever been published on a website, think of this as the digital update. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wade through too many odd symbols and actual lines of code, it’s more a brief overview, of the languages and pages that a website is made up of, and why I need to consider this when structuring Writing-Workout. So here’s my very basic guide (no pun intended – er, that’s a computing joke, BTW). Expert web developers should look away now. A very simple website is like a set of Word documents saved in a folder. When you’re in Word, you might choose fonts, make certain text bold, align stuff in a specific way and even insert images. For a website, you use a simple text editor and the formatting instructions are specifically written in a language called HTML (Hyper-Text

Mark Up Language). When you open those same documents in Internet Explorer or Firefox, the browser makes things look how you want them to look. HTML also allows you to put things in a table format, do simple forms, and link between pages. Let’s pause for breath on the coding. I’m explaining this stuff partly to emphasise that how you set up a new website can make things easier in the long run. I wanted to learn from my other website Paragraph Planet’s – let’s not call them mistakes – but ‘Decisions That Could Have Been Different’. And some of that was how it was set up. So let’s talk about styling, a method of defining how things look on your page. Rather than stating which size or font a particular sentence should be each time, you can define your styles once for the whole page. The same applies to stuff like borders or the colour of links. More significantly, you can separate this out into a separate document. These are called CSS, Cascading Style Sheets) and the reason why these are useful for someone indecisive like myself, is if you change your mind you’ve only got the style sheet to change. Still with me? Whereas CSS is about how things look, Javascript, which you can insert into your HTML, makes your pages ‘dynamic’ based on information about your visitor computer. (This is called client-side programming.) A simple example, which I did use in Paragraph Planet, is grabbing the day

of the week from the user’s computer. The home page then displays a corresponding image, and this will vary depending on whether you’re visiting from Australia or Aberdeen. My final mention this issue, fundamental to the concept of Writing Workout is PHP. Essentially this is a language described as a ‘partner’ to HTML, assisting with server-side programming. This has been probably the biggest recent leap for me, with strict rules and an unforgiving nature. If you get HTML wrong, it’ll look odd in the browser but you can often diagnose what’s gone wrong. Wrong PHP and the screen just goes blank. I needed PHP for one key task. When a writer tries out an exercise, I wanted their own writing to be displayed back to them on a new page without being sent to anyone else (I.e me). It seemed important that they could relax into their writing, experiment more, work quickly, and this was my promise, if you like. It was for their eyes only, and I needed to learn PHP to achieve this. If you heard someone banging their head on a desk in Brighton, that was probably me, but I did finally get the PHP working. That‘s enough coding information. You can relax now. Go read some poetry.

Richard has written for magazines including Prima Baby, The Artist and Car Magazine. He recently had a short play performed in the Brighton Fringe and writes the Distracted Dad column for Brighton magazine, Latest Homes.

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art

Donna Staveley: 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. Twitter: @doonakebab

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be afraid, be very afraid

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid, Bridget Whelan,,,, Novelist Bridget Whelan teaches creative writing in Brighton and London. Here she explores the horror genre and shows how to raise the hairs on the back of a reader’s neck.

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orror writing comes in many flavours. Subgenres range from the psychological to vampire and cyber punk (think gritty low life in a futuristic high tech society), but first, last and always it is about making the reader afraid. Karl Albrecht writing in Psychology Today in March 2012 described five basic fears from which all our other fears stem. Extinction – fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This can include a fear of heights etc. Mutilation – including the fear of being invaded, taken over. It also includes phobias about animals and insects. Loss of Autonomy – fear of being paralyzed, restricted, imprisoned, smothered – physically or emotionally Separation – fear of being lost, abandoned, rejected, fear of losing respect And finally... Ego-death because the worst thing that can happen to us isn’t always something we can touch or see, but how it make us feel. This includes fear of disgrace, shame, of being unworthy, unlovable. Ok, that’s the material you are working with, but to create genuine fear the story has to be real to the reader. That’s not the same as saying that it is has to be realistic, you can allow your imagination to roam free but to capture a reader a horror story needs three essential ingredients – suspense, atmosphere and the right subject.

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SUSPENSE is created when: 1) The reader knows what to be afraid of (radio reports of a mad axe murderer, for example) 2) The reader understands the danger (the hero is alone in an isolated house) 3) Expectations are created (help is on the way, but prevented by numerous obstacles) 4) There are a series of small incidents or mini climaxes that heighten tension and then offer a moment of relief. (The scratching at the window isn’t the axe man trying to break in, but the branches of a tree knocking against the glass; the shadowy figure in the porch turns out to be the vicar rattling a collecting tin). 5) Expectations are realised. The final tap-tap-tapping at the front door is a man swinging an axe with a smile across his face and blood dripping from the blade. Converted into bullet points this seems very trite and formulaic, especially with the hokey House of Hammer examples I’ve chosen, but if you add characters with whom you could identify and writing that puts you inside that house it is the stuff of nightmares. The first Alien film is an excellent example of suspense. Remember when Sigourney Weaver’s character, the last surviving crew member, is about to blow up the space ship and escape in a pod? When we watched it for the very first time we might have glanced at the clock at that point and realised that the film was going to end soon. We sat there secure in the knowledge that her plan was going to work and all would be well.

And then she decides to go back for the cat… At that point even ardent cat lovers must have been screaming: No! Save yourself ! In a beautifully executed final mini climax, she does rescue puss and blow up the ship and together they head back to the safety of earth …only not on their own. The best way of thinking about how techniques like this can be applied to your own writing is with a pen in your hand. For that reason, I’ve devised a suspense template that I often use in writing classes at this time of year. I’ve done the opening line for you. Notice that although it dives straight in without any explanation, it does suggest danger is very near.

SUSPENSE TEMPLATE STEP ONE She hurried down the path. She had to get away. STEP TWO Describe who ‘they’ are. STEP THREE They are getting closer STEP FOUR Closer still STEP FIVE She hides - they miss her STEP SIX It seems safe STEP SEVEN It isn’t. She is nearly caught. STEP EIGHT She runs again STEP NINE Safe. (Or not – you choose.)


be afraid, be very afraid ATMOSPHERE

CHOOSE YOUR SUBJECT CAREFULLY.

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tmosphere is a real test of a writer’s skill. Without spooky music or special effects, with words as your only tool, you have to build tension within the reader so they are constantly looking over their shoulder. A scary place helps. It can be a deserted Gothic mansion, but it could just as easily be the waste ground at the back of a housing estate where brambles grow through builder’s rubble, or a deserted train station just after the last express pulls out. Use your notebook and find three (potentially) scary places within 10 minutes of where you live or work. Imagine what they like at different times of the day or night and in different weather. Jot down five words or phrase about each place. Back home you can build that into sentences, maybe even into a story. Weather can play a big part in creating atmosphere. Do research. Go out in bad weather with a notebook. Don’t imagine how it feels, feel it. Here’s a few jottings I’ve made in the past. ...Heavy clouds hanging over a crazy sea, frothing in anger. …Cold thin rain, needle sharp, carried by an east wind with the chill of the Alps on its back... Be economical with description and give special attention to verbs – they can punch above their weight if used properly. Think of the difference between: The wind blew across the graveyard. And: The wind knifed across the graveyard.

ou can loot fairy tales and fables for inspiration, create dystopic tomorrows and fantasy worlds, but remember that one of the differences between fiction and real life is that in fiction things happen for a reason. If you are interested in writing a ghost story Susan Hill’s advice is helpful. Author of probably the most successful modern ghost story The Woman in Black, she says that in fiction the ghost must have a reason to appear. It may be seeking revenge or want the truth to be uncovered, it could even be altruistic and want to warn the living. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is something they want to do, say or make happen. Without that you may have a ghost but you haven’t got a story. For a contemporary horror story without paranormal elements, choose something you are afraid of and then push the idea and keep on pushing. It doesn’t have to be a big fear. A bit icky about the things that live in the flower bed? Think of the slugs in Shaun Hutson’s novel of the same name eating anything gets in their way, including people. Read Cuckoo by Julia Crouch if you’ve ever been nervous about a controlling best friend taking over. Or think of a social problem and add your own a twist. What if you had a violent boyfriend and no one believed you? I’ve just read Elizabeth Haynes’ first novel Into the Darkest Corner and, although it is firmly in the crime fiction genre, any writer wanting to scare readers should have a well-thumbed copy on their bookshelf. My final horror writing exercise comes with a health warning. Students have told me that they’ve had nightmares after completing it in class. Jot down somewhere you personally (not a character – you) feel safe and secure. Maybe it’s even a bit dull. It could be the local library, at home in bed, driving along the coast road singing a duet with the radio…

Illustration by Joe Whelan

Next shut your eyes and select at random one of the five fears listed in Psychology Today. Pick up your pen. Your task is to find some way of connecting the fear and the situation. If you can scare yourself you know your reader is going to be terrified. Sleep well. Follow Bridget’s blog at bridgetwhelan.com

Grab the reader with a story line that’s full of suspense

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desert island reads

DESERT ISLAND

READS

with Elizabeth Haynes Each issue Bridget Whelan asks a guest writer to recommend eight books that they have read, re-read and would willingly read again. ELIZABETH HAYNES is a police intelligence analyst and lives in a village near Maidstone in Kent. Her first novel, Into the Darkest Corner, was Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011 and became a New York Times bestseller. It has been translated into 30 languages. It was originally written as part of National Novel Writing Month, an online challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Her second novel, Revenge of the Tide, was published by Myriad in March 2012 and her third novel, Human Remains, will be out in January 2013.

I

f I was only to be allowed to read eight books for the rest of my days, I would be the least unhappy about having these… (although I’d quite like to have the Collected Poems of T S Eliot as well, which surely wouldn’t count as a ninth book…?) The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury I started reading Ray Bradbury’s short stories when I was a child and loved them. They challenge me to stretch my imagination and this collection is my favourite – every story is different, and clever, and tied neatly together with a vision of Bradbury’s speciality – small town American. The Still Point by Amy Sackville I read this book last year and was overwhelmed by it – the descriptions of the Arctic are chillingly beautiful, enough to make you shiver on a hot day. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver Also set in the Arctic, this is a ghost story that I found so deliciously terrifying that I had to go and watch Bridget Jones in the middle of the night the first time I read it, just to calm myself back down again.

14 ~ what the dickens?

Lonely Hearts by John Harvey Hard as it is to choose a favourite crime writer (I have at least ten whose novels I read and re-read), the one I recommend most often is John Harvey. His police procedurals are the best I’ve read, and this is the first Resnick novel so a great place to start. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch I was recommended this by a friend and since then I’ve been obsessively c o n s u m i n g everything I can read about PC Peter Grant. It’s an accurate representation of what it’s really like to work for the police, with the twist that the main character can do magic. As if that isn’t genius enough, all three books so far (this is the first in the series) are wonderfully funny too. The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton Britton’s revealing account of his work as a forensic psychologist on some of the UK’s most high profile murder investigations has been heavily criticised on Amazon following the acquittal of Colin Stagg for the murder of Rachel Nickell, but it remains a compelling if disturbing read, and one I’ve returned to many times.

The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick I always like to be surprised by a novel, and this one surprised me all the way through. The writing is beautiful and immersive, the plot is clever and full of twists, and the characters in it completely real. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes This is a fictionalised account of the relationship between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a young Anglo-Indian lawyer accused of a series of hideous crimes in Edwardian England. The best books for me are always the ones you’re not expecting to enjoy, and yet end up recommending to everyone you meet – and this is just such a book.


be afraid, be afraid wallvery of wisdom

Wall of Wisdom

the pumpkin sunflower edition edition ~~ 15 15


the eBook extraordinaire

The eBook Extraordinaire Ben Ottridge

H

ello and welcome to the revamped digital section of What the Dickens? Magazine. I remain your host; for those of you returning once again, hi there! If you’re new here, my name is Ben and I intend to be your guide through these murky digital waters. We’ve decided to have a bit of an overhaul so that instead of rabbitting on about what I think are the current issues, you can ask me what you want to know and I shall answer. And our first two questions take it right back to basics this month for a new fresh start. If you’ve got any questions of your own after reading all this, the address to get in touch with me is at the bottom of the page! Onwards…

What is an eBook?

W

ell I guess we’ve got to start somewhere! In its simplest form, the term ‘eBook’ (as far as I am concerned it is ‘eBook’, not ‘ebook’ or ‘e-book’, anyway…) refers to a digital version of a book, in various different formats, to be read on a computer or – increasingly these days – an eReader or tablet such as a Kindle,

iPad or Nook. There are, or have been, a number of competing eBook formats to contend with but right now there are only two that you need to worry about. They are Mobi – which is used by Amazon Kindle – and ePUB, which is used by everybody else (and is also the format of choice for the International Digital Publishing Forum, the IDPF). Both formats do similar things and reproduce all the text and images in HTML code, much the same as you might do with a website. There are just specific ways of coding and organisation that enable them to be ‘packaged up’ and read by the right software or tablet. There is a lot more to it than this but that covers the basics. Moving on…

What is an extraordinaire?

E

xtraordinaire means ‘outstanding or remarkable in a particular capacity’ and I guess when it comes to eBooks, I do have a particular specialty! I first entered the publishing industry back in 2006, upon answering a job advert at Summersdale Publishers

• • 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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in Chichester for a trainee typesetter. Once I started though, it became clear that taking over the fledgling eBook part of the company was a much better plan and so I gradually built up my skills over the following four years until I left in summer 2010 to move to Brighton and finish off my degree (which is in Music Production, but never mind…). I continued working for Summersdale on a freelance basis though, along with finding other clients on the way and sometime after finishing at University I realised that there was a space in the market for a royalty-based self-publishing company. Smashwords seemed to have it sewn up in the USA and I couldn’t believe that no-one was doing it here! And lo, SelfSelfSelf was born. So here I am, two years after leaving full-time work (and with a year out {ish} as a student) I’ve managed to remain self-employed and still haven’t had to go back and get a ‘proper’ job yet. I count myself very lucky that I’ve managed to find a career that balances well with my other interests and I look forward to sharing my expertise with you!

S SELFSELFSELF


social media review

Social Media Review Victoria Bantock

Twitter

T

witter, as many of you are aware, is an online social media website which allows users to send and receive text based messages called ‘tweets’. Each tweet can be up to 140 characters long and include links should you so desire. Launched in July 2006, this little micro blogging site lends itself well to general statements about your day or what your dog is wearing; to the helpful re-tweets that others may post that your followers might like to know about; links to things ‘on the outside’ and of course it is very much useful to promote yourself and what you are doing out in the big wide world. Twitter is undoubtedly a very handy marketing tool. Here are a few tips and tricks:

#1 Chat a little

You can’t possibly just use Twitter to tell everyone about you, your stuff and you some more. You can drop it in once in a while where appropriate but it is generally considered bad form to purely talk about yourself and not mix with the crowd. Look through the updates and see if there is anything happening you might like to join in with. Being genuinely interested is always always best and you’ll get much more out of it too so try not to fake it!

#2 Make Lists

Before the amount of followers you have gets wildly out of control (of course it will, you are great!), it could be an idea to set up some lists and add people to them as you go along. You can label them such as: Writers, Readers, My Fan Club, Weirdo’s and so on. They can be set to either public or private so don’t worry. These can be very useful if you want to catch up with certain groups of people at a time.

#3 Build Followers

If you are friendly and chat a little, you will naturally gain more followers. You might join in a conversation and then end up following others who are also joining in. You can follow certain streams in Twitter such as #amwriting or #amreading and make new friends that way or check out other people’s lists (or your own) and look for new people to follow which might be your kind of people!

#4 Hashtags

Don’t forget to include #hashtags in your tweets. Make sure you don’t overdo it though, up to three is probably ok and leaves enough room for you to say your thang which is kind of the point. Many people do follow certain streams like the ones mentioned above. There are probably certain ones for your particular area of interest so do find out what they are. You will also find some on certain days such as #FF which is Follow Friday which you can join in with.

#5 Linkage

When you’re not being the fantastic social party person that you are, entertaining the marvellous masses of Twitter fans you have gained, don’t forget to occasionally link to your other stuff. Once we have got to know you a bit better, we want to find all this stuff out so do shout about it and be proud! Put in a link to your business, goods, blog posts, Facebook page and anything else you want to scream about!

the pumpkin edition ~ 17


the muse

The Muse with Pumpkinseed

E

very issue we will be featuring a new or undiscovered band whose music inspires us in some way, whether it ties into our theme or on a deeper level. This time we have Pumpkinseed, from Canada. You can listen to Pumpkinseed now on our website.

P

umpkinseed is Tracy Ashenden and myself, Mark Rand. The project began by picking up a couple of acoustic guitars and having a few beers in our Peterborough Ontario apartment. Tracy and I have been dating for the last 4 years, and we’ve been friends even longer. Seeing as we’re both musicians, it only made sense that we’d eventually start writing songs together. I’ve spent most of my life playing in punk rock bands, and Tracy has spent most of her life involved in local punk rock scenes. Although the music we play may not come across as typical ‘punk’, I think the influence of punk rock is pretty easily detected within the country/bluegrass sound we create. We’re definitely not the first punkers to pick up acoustic guitars. Artists like Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry, Greg Graffin, and Mike Ness have all created amazing country/folk/bluegrass records with roots in punk rock, and their music has been very influential to us. We are also very influenced by Ontario’s distinct seasons, our friends, cheap beer, and never having much money. Because both Tracy and I sing and write lyrics, our inspiration comes from different places. Tracy creates intricate and poetic imagery through her story telling and beautiful voice, where my simple and honest lyrics are delivered in a hoarse bark. Anything I write is usually completed in about half an hour, but Tracy takes her time to carefully craft her poetry. This dynamic is important to our sound, and keeps our material appealing to both whiskey-drinking punk rockers and wide-eyed, folk-leaning, artistic types.

18 ~ what the dickens?

The creative process usually begins with Tracy or myself having some beer, and writing some parts on an acoustic guitar. If I feel that my vocal style is suited to music I’ve written, I’ll start writing lyrics. Otherwise I take the music to Tracy for her to sing over. Other times, Tracy will develop the song, usually working through lyrics and melodies at the same time as guitar. Once the skeleton of the song is created acoustically, I’ll pick up different instruments and come up with complimentary parts and arrangement ideas. Once we had a few songs written, we decided to expand on our ideas through recording. Tracy and I both went to school for music production/ engineering, so our apartment just happens to be full of recording equipment. The album that we created was c omp l e t e l y written, recorded, produced, and mixed in our small spare room. I tend to record my parts quickly and without much care, where Tracy will spend hours perfecting a few lines. The idea was never to become rock stars or anything like that.

Because we do all of the recording and producing ourselves, we don’t feel any type of pressure or time restraints. We write and record songs during days off from work or school, and always enjoy some adult drinks in the process. We coined the term ‘cottage-punk’ to describe our sound, as the songs are well suited to an Ontario camp fire on the waterfront. We hope that people enjoy the music we make, but we mostly just do it for each other.


my life in the theatre

My Life In The Theatre Beyond the Proscenium Arch Sarah Quinney

I

t seems a lifetime ago that I wrote my first musings on my life and role at work. Ten performances into the tour, 1000 miles in the van, six venues later, I am much older and slightly wiser. It’s exhausting and exhilarating every day, and there have been tears already, but also a lot of laughter too. The show has been a sell out success and it meant a great deal to me to actually get a review of my lighting from the performance at The Lowry in Salford. I usually work on the assumption that no one will notice the lighting if I have done my job correctly, so it is extra special to have someone notice my efforts in a positive manner. Today I find myself in Deal, having a night off. My team are in another hotel up the road, and my leading lady is staying with friends. I wrote last time of the crippling loneliness one can encounter on jobs like these, and yet tonight I find myself happily tucked up with a large glass of wine, Eastenders on the television, completely alone. I suppose I am a contradiction of myself, but I value these evenings. After a day travelling in a van with two men, the peace, quiet and time alone to catch up with friends is wonderful. It is a taste of normality in the maelstrom of touring life. Having good friends who are there for me, wherever I am geographically, is a brilliant thing. People that take their time out of the day just to text me to say hello or ask how I am, and more importantly, don’t get upset when I don’t reply until 0200 (if at all). Being the ‘boss’ of a tour like this one can be quite isolating, and there are times when I am sat doing paperwork at 0330, because I simply haven’t had time during the day with the rest of my schedule. It’s a delicate juggling of roles between Production Manager,

Lighting Designer, Company Stage Manager and Van Driver. If I have had a tough day with my staff, it is so difficult to find a healthy outlet for the frustrations. Social networking is my outlet, and something that keeps me sane. I know that my real friends are at the end of a Tweet or a Facebook status, and will reply whenever they can. The role of Company Stage Manager (CSM) is the hardest one. To keep three other people healthy, happy and arriving in the right place at the right time is tough. Everyone has their quirks and foibles to accommodate, including my own. Coming from a lighting based background, and never having trained in stage management makes it even tougher. There are the constant insecurities about whether I am doing and saying the right thing, or worrying if everyone has eaten and rested. Once at the theatre, I settle into my comfort zone and know exactly what I am doing with the lighting and sound. Designing the lighting for the show myself is also a great help, as it is much easier to adapt a design you know so well, and not having to represent another designer’s work. I am not arrogant enough to believe that I am indispensable to the performance, as this show would be a sell out success just with 60 watt light bulbs. Every performance is a masterclass in character acting, and no one can leave the theatre without feeling that they have truly experienced a once in a lifetime event. Miriam Margolyes is

an absolute treasure and a delight to work for, and it is a privilege to share personal times with her away from work, hearing her talk about her life. She has taken me into her confidence and heart, and that is a true honour. The biggest excitement of today was hearing about impending foreign travels and my first long haul flight to San Francisco. Little things in touring life please me, like finding a Travelodge in Northampton that has TWO plug sockets next to the bed (that was a delightful find) but to hear that I am being met at the airport by a driver holding a card with my name on it truly thrilled me. I am 33 years old and have never had my own driver. I am going on a double decker plane. I have a 90 minute drive through San Francisco to the venue in Santa Cruz, and I am filled with childish glee at the prospect. I have been told that my life is very glamorous and exciting. I have been told that I’m doing a terrific job. I can’t see it myself. I’m just doing my job the only way I know how. I forget to eat. I’m exhausted and grumpy. But the show always happens and the audience love it. Job done.

the pumpkin edition ~ 19


literaryUK

LiteraryUK

Michelle Goode

Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire

I

remember visiting Manorbier Castle as a child and being enchanted by its position; nestled in a small village not far from my nan’s and overlooking the Pembrokeshire coastal sea and stunning cliffs. Of course, Pembrokeshire has many magnificent castles, but it wasn’t until I was a little older that I realised just how much I adore Manorbier. It may not be the most complex or the most preserved castle (Pembroke Castle is pretty impressive in this respect), but Manorbier Castle has a certain charm, not to mention a rich literary history.

20 ~ what the dickens?

It’s funny how you can be so familiar with a place, yet not realise until much later on just how relevant it is to you and your interests. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realised the castle was the location for one of my favourite TV adaptations: The Chronicles of Narnia. The castle was used as Cair Paravel and The White Witch castle. The excitement at discovering my favourite character, Aslan, was brought to life animatronically in ‘my’ castle was hard to inhibit. How did I not know?! I’ve since gone on to discover that the 2003 movie I Capture The Castle was also set there. The story follows an eccentric family with money troubles who reside in the castle. Bill Nighy stars as none other than a struggling writer!

Other literary connections include the castle and coastline’s influence on Virginia Woolf who, in 1903, decided to become a writer whilst walking along the seashore; and Siegfried Sassoon, a poet who, in 1924, penned a poem called ‘A Ruined Castle’. These days, the castle is open to new, aspiring or established writers, encouraging personal development through its writing courses which take place in the castle itself. I can’t think of a better place to be inspired and to write than within Manorbier Castle’s historical walls or beyond on the beautiful beaches and in the lush countryside.


literaryUK

Literary Festivals OCTOBER Appledore Book Festival (Devonshire) appledorebookfestival.co.uk

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival (Suffolk) aldeburgh.co.uk

Bath Festival of Children’s Literature (Somerset) bathkidslitfest.org.uk

Belfast Festival at Queens (Ireland) belfastfestival.com

Beverley Literature Festival (Yorkshire) beverley-literature-festival.org The British Library (Victoria Bantock)

Brighton and Hove City Reads (Sussex) cityreads.co.uk Canterbury Festival (Kent) canterburyfestival.co.uk Chester Literature Festival (Cheshire) chesterliteraturefestival.co.uk Exeter Poetry Festival (Devon) exeterpoetryfestival.wordpress.com Guildford Book Festival (Surrey) guildfordbookfestival.co.uk Lancaster Lit Fest (Lancashire) litfest.org

Virgina Wo olf’s bedro om (Victoria Bantock)

NOVEMBER

Bridport Literary Festival (Dorset) bridlit.com Chorleywood Literature Festival (Hertfordshire) cwlitfest.org Cambridge Wordfest (Cambridgeshire) cambridgewordfest.co.uk Dublin Book Festival (Ireland) dublinbookfestival.com Folkestone Literary Festival (Kent) folkestonebookfest.com Lennoxlove Book Festival (Scotland) lennoxlovebookfestival.com Linlithgow Book Festival (Scotland) linlithgowbookfestival.org

Literary Dundee (Scotland) dundee.ac.uk/literarydundee

Literary Leicester Festival (Leicestershire) www2.le.ac.uk/institution/literar yleicester

Morley Literature Festival (Yorkshire) morleyliteraturefestival.co.uk

The London History Festival (London) londonhistoryfestival.com

Scottish International Storytelling Festival (Scotland) s cott ishstor ytel lingcent re.co.u k/ festival/scottish_storytelling_festival. asp

Newcastle Winter Book Festival (Northumberland) newcastlewinterbookfestival.co.uk

Warwick Words (Warwickshire) warwickwords.co.uk

Petworth Literary Weekend (West Sussex) petworthfestival.org.uk

Wigtown Book Festival (Scotland) wigtownbookfestival.com

Richmond Upon Thames Literature Festival (London) richmondliterature.com

Wolds Word (Lincolnshire) woldswords.org.uk

Wordpool (Lancashire) blackpoolwordpool.wordpress.com

Ashdown Forest (Victoria Bantock)

the pumpkin edition ~ 21


a bit of shopping with...

A bit of shopping with...

The Chronicles of Narnia Decadence Bookpurse £62.34

Frankenstein Literary Quote Brass Cuff Bracelet £25.45

Amanda White Autumn Evening, Haworth Parsonage (with geese) A4 print £10.18

22 ~ what the dickens?


a bit of shopping with...

Snow White Mug & Coaster Tin Set £12.99

Alice in Wonderland Shoulder Bag £19.99

Cinderella Shoe Motif – Bronze Earrings £4.00

The Nightingale Birdcage – Bronze Necklace £7.00

the pumpkin edition ~ 23


pumpkin writing

Pumpkin writing Squashed Only a month into our love affair and he called me ‘Pumpkin’ - replaced my name with an ugly, stringy, bland term of endearment. I stoically ignored it, my jagged smile worthy of a winning halloween lantern. A word couldn’t ruin our blossoming allotment. But it happened again the P word added to simple requests used to veil criticism, and worst of all entertained in public. Doubts grew and a lack of oxygen dimmed my candle. A month of calling him ‘shitake mushroom’ pushed him into the arms of a cupcake ‘designer’ - an ardent vegan. A simple trick and treat. Nina Pandey Nina Pandey is a poet disguised as a sandwich maker from Hertfordshire. She is studying Freelance and Feature Writing with the London School of Journalism and has ambitions beyond the bread industry. She has written a blog, challenging conceptions of mental illness. This is her first published poem. pifpafpoof.wordpress.com

24 ~ what the dickens?


pumpkin writing

Carving Out the Future by Cathy Lennon

A

t first, I don’t realize the hunched pensioner in a fluffy beret is me. ‘Look at the posture on her,’ I tut to myself, lifting a tinned pie off the shelf. On the CCTV, the woman’s arm moves exactly as mine does. Slowly I reach out again. The woman does the same. I stand, blinking up at this picture of an old me. It must be a full minute I stare at myself. When you are younger, you spend a lot of time in front of a mirror. I used to see my daughter, Deborah, standing in the hallway, parting and re-parting her hair, peering at every inch of skin, testing different profiles, different expressions. ‘Get that muck off your face.’ That’s what Lance used to yell at her. She’ll be nearing fifty now: crows’ feet, sagging eyelids, coarse hairs sprouting daily. Probably quite wrinkly, if all that Australian sun has got to her. I try to remember when I last really looked in a mirror for the whole picture of me. I know exactly when I last saw Deborah. ‘Alright?’ smiles Mr. Patel as I slide my wire basket onto the slot by his till. ‘Getting cold out, innit?’ I like Mr. Patel. He has a good heart, for a retailer. When I had a bit of a turn a few months back, over by the freezers, he was very solicitous. He shouted his wife from the back and together they helped me to a seat behind the counter. I caught a glimpse of his family, squatting around a plastic cloth on the floor, eating in front of the TV, before a shy girl, eyes big as coals, covered her face with a scarf and closed the door. He passes his bipping gun over my few bits and pieces and waits while I ferret around inside my purse. A plastic witch’s mask is stuck on the back of the till above a crate full of pumpkins. He sees me looking. ‘Halloween special, two pound fifty each.’ I pass him a folded ten pound note. ‘We never did Halloween when I was a girl. This time of year it was all “penny for the guy”.’ ‘These pumpkins make good lanterns’ he says, scooping coins from his drawer. ‘Have you ever tried carving one?’

I look at them. ‘I once carved a turnip, when my daughter was small. Like bell metal it was.’ He chuckles and passes me the change.’ These pumpkins are soft and hollow. Like slicing butter. Make a healthy soup with what you cut out. Healthier than those pies!’ We have a little joke between us, about the pies. He reckons they’ll block my arteries. When I had my funny turn he said, ‘that’s what comes of eating too many pies.’ He doesn’t know the pies are for Lance’s arteries, not mine. I’m still waiting for him to have a funny turn. Been waiting nearly fifty years. Every other male in his family died young, forties, fifties. Not him. ‘A lot of people put them in their window, you know.’ Mr. Patel explains about the pumpkins. ‘Tells the kiddies it’s okay to knock for treats.’ I shake my head. Lance would do his nut. He bows his head and smiles a farewell, turning his attention to restocking the scratch cards. Just across the road from the library there is a new place open. It is full of young girls with long, straight hair and long eyelashes and long fingernails. They sit at little desks and other young girls with long straight hair and long eyelashes and long fingernails go into the shop and sit opposite them. They chat while one of them paints the other’s nails. It is obviously some sort of commercial arrangement but it just looks like young girls doing what they do in their bedrooms to me. I wonder if Deborah’s daughters go into places like this. Do they have places like it in Australia? I suppose teenage girls are the same the world over, given the chance. In the library I settle down with the newspaper for half an hour. I unwrap a butterscotch. You can’t beat a sweetie for giving you a little boost. I keep a packet stashed in my trolley where Lance won’t look. He’s never liked me eating toffees and cakes. He always made a point of sneering at ‘fat cows’. His own mother grew so large after his father died that she gave me her best ring as a wedding present. Couldn’t fit it on her swollen fingers any more. I thanked her for it but I’ve never worn it. Too big and showy for me. A proper ruby, she said, but I don’t like red. It’s been in my bedside drawer for years. I watch the librarian shelving books. It looks such a restful, ordered kind of job. I would have liked a job like that.

I did have a job for a few years once. I worked in a textile mill, packing bandages. It was alright really. We used to have a bit of a laugh. Then I met Lance and before long I was pregnant with Deborah and that was that. I wanted to be a dinner lady at the school when she was little but Lance put his foot down. Didn’t want me mixing with other women and getting ideas, he said. I don’t need to mix with anyone to get ideas, I wanted to say. I’ve got plenty of ideas myself, just no money to do anything about them. I look at the young girls now. It was different then. A young mum sits down in the comfy chair across from me and takes the coat off her toddler. The little one staggers off, all nappy and bow legs. Her older sister is already sitting in one of the little plastic bucket seats, flipping her way through the bin of picture books, rattling away to herself. I don’t often let myself think about children, grandchildren that is, but these are such a bonny pair. ‘I give it thirty seconds,’ their mother says. ‘Pardon?’ I say. She has a ring through her nose and purplish hair, this young woman, but her eyes are kind. ‘Before they start fighting.’ ‘Oh. Yes.’ ‘We’ve come for the Halloween costume session.’ I put the newspaper down and give her my full attention. I know what it is to feel the need to talk to another person. ‘They do allsorts at libraries now, don’t they?’ She nods, her attention on her two little girls. ‘They’re very good here. I don’t know what I’d do without this place.’ I know how she feels. I try not to think about the article I saw in the paper, about the council wanting to close some libraries because of the cuts. Instead I look up at the dangling witches on broomsticks, product of some recent craft session. ‘It’s a big thing these days, isn’t it? Halloween?’ The girl smiles at me. ‘It’s actually Celtic New Year. Samhain. It’s been around since long before all this American imported stuff.’ I look at her in surprise. ‘I never knew that.’ She nods. ‘In ancient times it was all about remembering loved ones past and looking forward to the future.’

the pumpkin edition ~ 25


pumpkin writing ‘What have all the witches to do with it then?’ I ask. ‘Ugly hags in hats? I suppose that’s just another way to have a go at the power and wisdom of older women. You know, mocking them and turning them into monsters, putting them in prison, burning them at the stake. Men have tried to do that for centuries, haven’t they? Still, it’s different now.’ A gasp and a brewing pause across the room and she’s up and across the carpeting like a flash before the scream has a chance to really kick in. The wailing is subsiding when I exit through the sliding door, wheeling my shopping trolley. The young mother looks up from the story book and mouths a goodbye. The little girl looks up too and her mother says something to her. She waves at me and smiles. I smile back and head quickly up the road, towards Mr. Patel’s and the Post Office. ‘Where the bleeding hell have you been?’ Lance shouts from the living room. I slip my mac onto its peg in the hall, pop my hat on the shelf. ‘Busy at the shops today. Halloween.’ ‘Halloween? What’s that got to do with anything? I’m starving. You get my pie?’ I wheel my trolley through into the pantry. When I open the flap, the pumpkin blares its orangeness into the kitchen like a sun. I almost want to cover it again, as if he could hear it. I flick on the gas, fill the kettle. ‘I’ll have a cup of tea while I’m waiting, being as you took all day about it.’ The voice cuts in above the background burble of what he recorded on telly last night. He doesn’t watch daytime programmes because

they’re for brain-dead housewives and the work-shy. His eyes never leave the screen when I carry his plate in. Automatically he folds his newspaper and lays it across his lap, moving his arms out of the way so I can put his food in front of him. He weaves his head around to maintain eye contact with his programme. I slip out again. My kitchen knife is no great shakes. It takes a fair bit of hacking to get the top off the pumpkin, despite Mr. Patel’s assurances. Inside it’s mostly hollow with pale strings of pulpy, peachy mess and hundreds of seeds. I swap the knife for a spoon to scoop them out then return to the blade to begin on an eye. I’m quite enjoying myself. He bellows my name and the knife slips, blood welling from the pad of my finger. Sucking it I go into the front room. ‘You can get rid of this plate…what you doing with that knife?’ he asks, peering round the headrest. ‘Carving a pumpkin.’ ‘Do what?’ ‘You heard me the first time.’ His arm comes out with surprising speed and punches me in the stomach. ‘Don’t talk to me like that. What you doing with a pumpkin?’ For a funny second I think about fairy godmothers and coaches and then I look at the knife and another vision comes to me, but that’s a fairytale too. ‘It’s for Halloween,’ I say. ‘I’m carving a pumpkin to put in the window.’ ‘Wasting the housekeeping more like. What’s your game?’ I suck my finger, rotate the knife handle, palm itching. ‘I just fancied having a go.’

Pumpkin

‘She’s fit. Got eyes like you. That’s a quid for the melon. Cheers.’ And he puts the earpiece back in. I forget him until I am hacking through the gnarled layers to reach the soft fruit. I am old enough to be his mother. The thought distracts me and it is a shock to see that the pumpkin is stained with blood. Rinsing my hands I look up and meet my eyes in the bathroom mirror. Both of my mouths break into a smile.

by Carina Barnett

T

ony isn’t at his fruit and veg stall today. Kidneys, apparently. Doesn’t look good. The boy working there has hair slicked across his temple in a greasy V and a wire plugged into one ear. He drums on the carrots with a pencil. I hand him the pumpkin and a fiver. He pulls the earpiece out ‘Cas. What a voice.’ I have no idea who he is talking about.

26 ~ what the dickens?

‘I’ll have a go at you in a minute, bloody idea of it. No more money for you this week. Bloody pumpkin.’ I lay the knife on the plate and pick it up; it rattles along with his cutlery as I carry it back to the kitchen. For a minute or two I stand over the sink with my finger held high in the air and my other arm across my belly. He’s watching Top Gear now. Over on the table the pumpkin winks at me with its one eye. After I’ve put a plaster on, I pick up the knife again. I finish the other eye and then I cut a wide, curving grin. There’s a candle end in the odds and sods drawer and I manage to settle it into the base and light it. Then I put the pumpkin on the kitchen window sill and sit back down. With the light inside, the pumpkin glows like a big sun. It’s their summer now, in Australia. I think about the passport application in my shopping trolley and I think about his mother’s ring in my bedside drawer. I think about loved ones I haven’t seen in a while and I think about looking forward to the future. Pretty soon there are two of us smiling in this kitchen. Cathy lives in the North West of England and works in academic research and administration. She has recently had work published online on 1000words and SixWordsMag and a short story is appearing in an anthology of Modern Fairy Tales currently with Comma Press in Manchester. She has written a couple of romance novels, so far unpublished, and is at work on her third... I don’t have a blog or website, but you might have come across me as @clenpen

I’m Carina. I got my English degree and planned to spend my days writing. Real life intervened and writing got sidelined. I was ill, now I’m well, I had babies, now they are in secondary school. No more excuses. I can only call myself a writer if I write.


pumpkin writing

Pumpkin Patch Such perfect skin, ripe for picking A flawless canvas for the carving The first that I took From my pumpkin patch Piercing flesh, I create the eyes Slit the nose, score the mouth Give the face the devil’s grin Grim welcome to my nightmare house The surplus body I discard Corpse tossed upon the compost heap Blood christening the crop that sleeps Food for the worms that crawl beneath Don’t trick or treat at my door The game you play could be your last Another canvas, lantern lit By the reaper of the pumpkin patch. Stephanie Ellis I am a Humanities Honours graduate, currently working as a teaching assistant in a Southampton secondary school. I’ve had poems published in both local and national press and have been short-listed in Writers News/Writing Magazine competitions. Previous success in this magazine has led me to try, try and try again.

the pumpkin edition ~ 27


pumpkin writing

Autumn Holiday by Jean M. Cogdell

A

wave, a flick of the wrist and in the blink of an eye everything changed. Josh struggled to secure the flapping banner across the gazebo. Casey’s excitement grew as she shaded her eyes admiring the black and orange letters glistening in the afternoon sun. The festival would be the biggest yet for Washburn Hollow and she’d accomplished so much without giving in to temptation. ‘Careful Josh!’ The ladder rocked teetering on one leg as Josh stretched. Casey reached out, the ladder landed on solid footing and breathing heavy, Josh leaned against the gazebo. Her left hand grasped the offending right one hiding it behind her back as Casey moved into the shade trees keeping her eyes fixed on Josh. He only seemed relieved the ladder had righted itself as he climbed down smiling. Casey had made it almost a year without tripping up, until now. She knew taking on the festival, this Halloween would be risky, but it’d been so much fun, people stopping by the antique shop, asking about the holiday, or to volunteer. Josh jogged over to Casey under the big oak. ‘Man! Did you see that? I almost bit the dust!’ Josh let out a nervous laugh, as he turned to admire the banner. ‘You like it?’ ‘I love it! I can’t thank you and David enough.’ ‘Hey, that’s our business.’ ‘Yes, but you’re not making a penny on this job, so thank you.’ ‘You’re welcome. It’s the least we could do. But, I’d better go, Dave will be wondering why I’m not back yet, helping with the money-making jobs. I’ll see ya tonight.’ That’s how it’d been with the various needs of the festival. The small town had pulled together in ways that still surprised Casey. All she had to do was ask, and everyone seemed more than eager. If she didn’t know better, Casey would think they were helping because of her unusual talents. Her eyes trailed Josh as he walked to

28 ~ what the dickens?

the other side of Main Street. The coast was clear. Maybe, she’d gone unnoticed. Everything looked fantastic. Pumpkins scattered with the hay bales, cobwebs, and balloons hung from the gazebo. Of course, no Halloween festival would be complete without a witch, so in the middle sat a big cauldron. The mayor had asked Casey to play the part, she declined, the role hit too close to home, and the interpretation, a bit insulting. The wind began to pick up scattering leaves around her feet in a small whirlwind as Casey walked across the park. She gazed at the sky; dark clouds gathered overhead, Casey hoped the weather didn’t spoil the fun tonight. She pulled her light jacket closer and glanced at the Blue Ridge Mountains shadowing the small town. Weather was so unpredictable here in the valley. She crossed her fingers; even her powers couldn’t control the weather. An old-fashioned bell jingled overhead as Casey entered A Place in Time, the musty smell as welcoming to her as that of fresh baked cookies. She loved her antique shop. Every piece inside dusted, polished, and repaired, by her, sans magic. Jacket in hand Casey stepped toward the coat rack and almost tripped over Casper winding in and out of her legs. When Casey reached down to pick him up, he darted across the room and perched on top of a cabinet. She glanced up at the black cat with his funny white face. No one had wanted the kitten, but for Casey, it’d been love at first sight. She’d toddled over to the basket, and clutched the funny, looking kitten in her chubby hands and refused to let go. Her mom teased the cat would stand out like a ghost so the name stuck. Even though, Casey had given up practicing her craft, for the life of an ordinary citizen, she wasn’t insane, no witch parted with her familiar. ‘What’s gotten into you?’ Casey hung her coat on the hook behind the counter. She hoped the gathering storm clouds might be the reason for Casper’s odd behavior. She locked the door and pulled the shade. ‘Okay, what’s wrong?’ From his perch, Casper sat licking his paws totaling ignoring her, then with a giant leap landed at her feet. ‘Did you think I didn’t feel your magic today? Hmm…’

‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about, I…’ Casper turned, swishing his tail as he walked away from her. ‘Don’t give me that, you used magic, and if I know, others do too.’ Casper pranced to his basket and curled up in a black ball of fur. However, Casey could tell he wasn’t sleeping. ‘It happened so fast, I didn’t mean... Josh could’ve fell, I acted on pure instinct.’ Casper opened one eye and yawned bored with her excuses. ‘I’ve always thought it foolish that you put your powers in cold storage.’ The lights blinked. Casper stood and arched his back. Casey backed up against the wall. ‘How quaint.’ ‘Quaint, maybe to you, Carina. More like peculiar if you ask me.’ In the middle, of her antique shop, her cousins appeared; Casper hissed and landed at Casey’s feet. Casey followed the sisters as they walked among her antiques, cringing as they touched her things. ‘You found me.’ ‘Were you lost?’ Cora settled in the chair at Casey’s desk. ‘Good one Cora.’ Her sister Carina turned from an antique mirror after brushing her dark hair from her eyes. ‘What do you want?’ Casey turned to Cora waiting. ‘The High Council insists you come home.’ ‘This is my home.’ ‘You can’t live among humans and use magic to your advantage. You knew the rules. Besides, you’ve been summoned.’ As Carina spoke she reached out to touch Casey’s shoulder, Casper hissed and leaped into the air. Casey grabbed him. ‘I didn’t…’ ‘Yes you did. We felt it and so did others.’ Cora frowned as she stood. ‘You didn’t say. How did you find me?’ ‘The Council has always known where you were Casey. They watch after their own, but now they’ve sent Cora and me to bring you home.’ ‘Holiday’s over Cuz, time to go.’ Cora walked around the desk, to stand next to Carina. ‘Listen I’ve worked hard on this Halloween Festival. Why don’t ya’ll


pumpkin writing stay for the fun? We’ll go later after it’s over, please?’ Casey could tell the sisters were thinking over her idea as they looked at each other. She decided to push the point. ‘What’s a few hours gonna hurt? We’ll have some fun. You can stir up some costumes. No one will see you in here; it’s just the three of us. When’s the last time you had any real fun on Halloween?’ Casey saw the light twinkle in Cora’s green eyes as she nodded her head. ‘Why not? Magic’s already been used today, might as well.’ Casper let Casey know he thought it a bad idea with a scratch on her arm and she dropped him with a thud. Later Casey came out of the back room dressed as a Fairy Godmother, crown, sparkles, and glitter galore, ready to bestow wishes. She found her cousins all decked out as wicked witches. ‘I should have dressed as Dorothy!’ ‘Cora thought we should have a little fun with humans and their stereotypes for the holiday.’ Smiles broke out as the three girls admired each other’s costumes. So far, no rain had fallen from the clouds that still darkened the sky. Casey kept her fingers crossed as she glanced out the front window. ‘Cora, is the only reason the Council wants me home because of the little bit of magic from today?’ She noticed her cousins exchange a quick sidelong glance before Cora answered. ‘I’m not sure; I think it has something to do with the New Republic of Wiccans in the mountains.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Cora, I’m not sure we should say anything.’ ‘Why not? Besides, I’m sure the Republic sensed your magic today. A few years ago, a group split from the Council and moved into the mountains. They believe that witches should be free to practice witch craft at the expense of humans.’ Cora shrugged as she turned toward Carina. ‘That’s not all; rumor has it, they have something special planned for tonight, All Hallows Eve. Your little town is closest to their group so I wouldn’t be surprised if those dark clouds aren’t compliments of the Republic.’ ‘I can’t leave until after midnight. These people are my friends.’

Casey jumped from the sting of Casper’s sharp claws when he lashed out at her ankles as they stepped into the night and headed for the center of town. The festivities had already begun; the music and bright lights pulsated through the night. The girls stood at the edge of the park and pulled wands from the folds of their gowns. ‘That yours or a toy from the costume store?’ Carina nodded toward Casey’s hand her perfectly arched eyebrow raised in question. ‘What do you think?’ Their giggles echoed, mingling with the laughter of children running about, as they stepped into the light. The evening wore on with everyone having a blast, and no real villains in sight or so Casey thought. She couldn’t be sure with everyone in costume. Her cousins seemed to be enjoying themselves, dancing and keeping their spells to harmless ones. She caught Carina filling a toddler’s goodie bag to overflowing with candy, to the delight of the blue-eyed beauty as she ran off in search of her mother. Her cousins stuck to parlor trick magic, nothing to worry Casey. The dark clouds continued to threaten, and late in the evening, trouble arrived. Whether, drawn by the magic or by the festival Casey had no idea. The pumpkins turned to frightening jack-o-lanterns floating in the air. At first, everyone thought all the commotion part of the entertainment, but then the pumpkins exploded, unexplained fireworks set fires, fights broke out, and the banner fell. Casper tripped Casey to get her attention. ‘The witches from the mountain are here. Find your cousins.’ Casey rushed to find Cora and Carina. They were already chasing the troublemakers. Her cousins were weaving spells to bind, as Casey watched them neutralize the dreadful witches and warlocks. She felt helpless, no idea what to do, she’d let her craft become rusty and useless. Casey realized her friends would’ve been hurt, if not for her cousins. One by one Cora and Carina flew by chasing the Republic witches from the festival and back to the mountain. Casey helped where possible, by following their instructions. The town’s people were buzzing in confusion as they rushed to put out fires and clean up the all the mess. Weary the girls

returned to the antique shop. Casey closed and locked the door just as the town clock chimed midnight. She ran her hands over the ruined costume now covered in dirt and soot. ‘What do I tell everyone?’ ‘Nothing, they’ll not remember anything tomorrow other than a wonderful festival interrupted by a few hoodlums.’ Carina nodded in agreement with her sister. ‘Are you ready to go home now cousin?’ ‘What about my shop?’ Casey looked around, tears forming. It would be hard to leave. ‘It will be here when you return to visit, and so will Josh.’ Casey’s blush her only response to the comment regarding Josh. Cora went on to explain the High Council would be sending Casey’s Great Aunt Margie to look after the shop. The Council wanted someone in place, to send reports regarding activity on the mountain. She assured Casey the town would think nothing of an elderly aunt coming to mind the store. The air shimmered and grew warm as the three began to fade. Casper leapt into Casey’s arms and then they were gone. As she held Casper tight, Casey began to make plans for her return, after she’d learned everything she needed to keep her friends safe. Jean M. Cogdell born in N.C., and grew up in a small town in S.C. She has short stories published in the WTD Magazine, Anthology Once Upon A Time, YAREAH, Flash Fiction World, Squawk Back, and Angie’s Diary Online Writing. She currently resides in Texas with her husband. Jean’s Writing @ jemcogdell. blogspot.com.

the pumpkin edition ~ 29


pumpkin writing

Turnip Head by Bill Curran

A

w, look, Mam. They’ve got those things they make the monster’s heads out of. The what? You know. You take them and carve them up and stick a light in. Come on. We’ve shopping to do. Can we get one?....Pleeeease.. What? Can we get one? One what? A head thing. Over there. You carve a head. An ugly face or a funny face and stick a light in it. The Americans do it. For Hallowe’en and that. Can we get one? A pumpkin you mean? One of those. Yes. Jack o’ lantern. Huh? The head. It’s called a Jack o’lantern. Whatever. Can we get one? When I was a girl we made them out of neeps. Neeps? Yes. Heads must have been awful wee. We didn’t have pumpkins then. Back in the dark ages? There’s a soft mist coming in off the sea. A haar. Soon, Kirsty wouldn’t be able to see the croft house. Nay bother, though, it was only a few hundred yards on a well worn track, worn by the sheep, besides, she was already on her way back, driving her few geese home from the gleanings where the oats had been harvested. They were threshing the oats now, Dad and her brother, Willie. Willie was the eldest. He was thirteen this year. A teenager. Her other brother, Sandy, was eight, just over a year older than Kirsty herself. There was Thomas, as well, but he was a baby and didn’t have any age yet. When Mam and Dad brought the baby home, they gave Kirsty a swing. They said Thomas brought the swing with him as a present for his sister. They must have thought she was daft. Mam’s belly had been big, but it would have had to be like Mary Poppins’ bag to fit a swing in there with her brother. That was a great day out. They’d all gone to see Mary Poppins at the pictures in Thurso and had a fish supper on the

30 ~ what the dickens?

way home. Mam, Dad and Willie had a supper each. Kirsty shared with Sandy, but the others had to give Sandy a few chips each because he kicked up such a fuss. Mam couldn’t finish hers, even though she was supposed to be eating for two. We brought the leftovers home for the geese and chickens to eat. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Kirsty, Sandy and Willie had learned the song to sing for Mam’s birthday. It was fine when they were practicing, but, when they were singing at the party, Willie’s voice had gone all funny and crackly. He couldn’t carry the tune in a bucket so she and Sandy had finished on their own. Willie’s voice was fine now. He sounded a bit like Dad. Kirsty knew more about babies than they thought she did. She’d seen the ram with the ewes and Magnus’ bull, next door, with his heifers. Anyway, Willie had told her all about it. Not that she believed him, at first, but she watched the ram in the Autumn and now she thought Willie was telling the truth. There’d be no ram this year, though. They’d put all the sheep off to market before the harvest. She’d cried a bit when she said good-bye to the lambs, especially the orphans that she’d taken turns feeding. Lots of things were going to be different this year. Mam said they were moving into the village. They were leaving the croft to go to a council house with electricity and running water. Kirsty had said that they had electricity and running water on the croft, but Mam said that it wasn’t the same. The electricity came from a dirty diesel generator and the water had to be pumped up from the well. If the generator didn’t work, we got no water either. Besides, there was no living to be made on the land any more. Dad was going to start a new job as a groundskeeper at Dounreay. He’d bought a car to get to and from the new job. Bought it with the money from the sheep and lambs. He’d already started teaching Willie how to drive. Dad could drive ‘cos he learned it in the army. National service. He drove big wagons all over the place. The haar was getting thicker, but she could still see Sandy on the back of their old horse, Rosie. Sandy was riding Rosie round and round in circles. Rosie was in harness, driving the shaft that turned the gear that worked the threshing machine.

Kirsty wondered what would happen to Rosie when they moved. What would happen to the threshing machine? She thought that there would be a garden at the new house. Mam had said they could keep a couple of the chickens for eggs, but the geese would have to go. Well, one of them would be going this week end. For some reason, they always had a special dinner near Hallowe’n. Maybe it had something to do with the Harvest. Mam and Dad just said it was their anniversary and we shouldn’t ask any more questions. Dad had helped her and Sandy to carve their Jack o’lanterns to take to school. There was a competition every year for the best fancy dress and the Jack o’lanterns and orange squash and jelly and things. They decorated the schoolroom to look like a spooky castle and told ghost stories and talked about witches and goblins and things. Older boys, teenagers like Willie, went out in the dark, guising, playing tricks on the neighbours. It was really just Dad who carved the neeps for the Jack o’lanterns. Kirsty and Sandy drew the face on it that they wanted and dad did all the work with the knife. They’d be having mince with tatties and neeps for tea tonight. Kirsty liked mince and tatties, especially when the days were getting shorter and it was a bit cold out. She liked all her food. Mam said she was a really good eater. Mostly she liked the things they had in winter. Thick soups and stews and boiled bacon and ham and sausages and vegetables straight from the kaleyard. Leeks, tatties, sprouts. Well, maybe not so much the sprouts. She hoped the new garden would have room for a kaleyard. It would soon be time for the pig to be cut up. It had to be really cold weather, Dad said, or the meat would go off before we had chance to salt it down or make the sausages. Would there be anywhere to hang the meat in the village house? Maybe they’d get a freezer. She’d have to ask Mam when they got in. So many things she’d have to ask Mam about moving to the village; Rosie; the freezer; the kaleyard. She’d better make a list so she didn’t forget. There’d be other things too. Maybe they’d get a new television. They wanted a new colour one, but, the black and white one they had didn’t work most of the time, so there was no point and anyway, there were hardly


pumpkin writing any colour programmes yet. Dad said the telly didn’t work properly because of the hills all around them. Magnus’ telly worked fine because he was at the top of the hill. Kirsty thought the village was at the top of a hill. You could see for miles from the end of the village. You could see right over the sea, all the way to Hoy. They couldn’t see the village from the croft. Today, she couldn’t see the end of the croft from the croft. This was really thick fog. Sandy and Rosie had disappeared now. Kirsty could hear the water in the burn, just ahead of her and a few seconds later she was on the little bridge that crossed it. She knew exactly where she was. She looked up and a little to the left and could just make out the glow of the light from the window at the back of the house. The window was in the larder. Mam would be getting something out for tea. Kirsty couldn’t hear the threshing machine or the sound of Rosie’s hooves. They must have finished. Maybe she couldn’t see Sandy and the horse because they’d already gone in. She made sure that all the geese were still with her then turned in the direction of the barn. She could just see the corner of the gable end and a few steps later, she could see the stones that the wall was made of and the thatch on the roof. As she got closer to the corner, two of the geese started squabbling over some tasty bit of food that one of them had found and Kirsty had to move quickly to escape the beating wings. It was this commotion that gave Sandy his chance. He’d seen Kirsty returning in the fog and had been waiting for her, at the corner of the barn, since he’d finished with the threshing.

As soon as Dad had said they were done, he’d unhitched Rosie and taken her to her stall, stripping the harness off her like lightning and throwing it on its peg. Then, he’d gone into the house, got his Jack o’lantern and a candle stub. He lit the candle and put it in the neep then went back to the barn to wait for Kirsty. She had to come back that way to get the geese back in their pen for the night. Sandy heard the awful commotion set up by the geese, saw Kirsty move quickly toward him and jumped out with the neep at head height, moaning like a ghost in a story and saying Kirsty’s name. Kirsty screamed. More spooked by the fog than she thought, but also really scared by the horrible, glowing face just in front of her own. She jumped back and, in so doing, bumped into one of the geese that was squabbling for the food. The goose, thinking she was being attacked, struck out with her beak at Kirsty, but, because Kirsty was moving, the goose missed her and grazed Sandy’s leg instead. Now, it was Sandy’s turn to be startled. He jumped and dropped the Jack o’lantern. The candle went out but the carved head fell over the Goose’s head like a mask. The goose must still have thought she was under attack and have been able to see through the holes carved in the neep. She ran after Sandy as he tried to get away. He was shouting and kicking up a fuss. Get this stupid goose away from me! Kirsty call her off ! Get away! Kirsty had recovered from her own fright and could see what was happening. By then, the goose had its beak out through one of the carved eye holes and had caught hold of the button on the back pocket of Sandy’s shorts. She

Autumn

what inspire me. Reds, orange, brown and gold. The thought of a beautiful sparkling winter approaching. I still relish the thought of carving out a pumpkin but where once I would screw my little nose up in disgust at the vegetable smell, now I make a pumpkin soup. Flames are another orange to add to the season. Bonfire night, bringing people together. Smoky burning scents mingled with gunpowder from the fireworks of November the fifth. The perfectness of temperature in Autumn, not too cold, not too hot.

by Grace Frean

A

utumn has always been my favorite time of year. As a small child I would always kick and crunch the golden leaves beneath my feet. As an adult, I still do. I watch as they swirl circles in the breeze. It is the time when I rediscover my herringbone stitch scarf for the slightly chill evenings and watch as the nights draw in. The colours of autumn are

would not let go. The more Sandy ran and shouted and twirled, the more excited and nasty was the goose. That’s what you get for guising me when it isn’t hallowe’en! Mam! Dad! Willie! Come quick. Sandy’s getting goosed by a turnip. She laughed and laughed. What’s funny, Mam. Why’re you laughing. Nothing, Love. Just reminding. Remembering. Go and get your pumpkin. But what’s funny. Next time you see your uncle Sandy, ask him about when the turnip bit his bum. That’s just daft. How could anyone get bit by a turnip? You’ll just have to ask him. Hmm…. OK. What size of a pumpkin will I get? Big as you can carry? Where will we put it? In the trolley. No. Where will we put it when we get home? When we’ve carved the monster head. We should put it in a window. So people can see it when they come to the house. Exactly. What kind of face shall I make? Do you know what a goose looks like? I live on a croft in Caithness with my wife, Hazel. We are building a new house on the site of the former croft house, reusing the original stone. I’m also studying for a BSc. with the Open University. I’d welcome feedback about the story. Email: thearaig@hotmail.co.uk

Hello, my name is Grace Katherine Frean and I am about to embark on my final year of a creative writing degree at the University of Winchester. I mainly write historical fiction, creative nonfiction and small snippets of things! I jumped at the chance to submit something on the theme of pumpkins as I find Autumn to be the most beautiful and inspiring time of year. gracekatherine1881.blogspot.co.uk

the pumpkin edition ~ 31


pumpkin writing

If pumpkin is a pantone If pumpkin is a pantone And pantone is a mug It’s no wonder drinking coffee Acts like such a drug. Senses can distort things Take you to another place Drink with your eyes and nose All it needs is just a taste. Caroline Auckland Caroline is a graduate in Communication Studies B.A.[Hons) and previously a buyer for Marks and Spencer in publishing. She is a member of Tunbridge Wells Writers’ Circle. She is currently working on a collection of photographically illustrated short stories for adults and young people and also her first novel. She also writes an online blog: newtonhouseltd.blogspot.co.uk and can be contacted on carolineauckland@ btinternet.com

32 ~ what the dickens?


pumpkin writing

Dark Hair by Isabel Miles

‘Y

ou have to be on your own or it won’t work, you daftie!’ Ellen laughed. ‘OK, you go first then.’ Kirsten waited, her feet among Ellen’s wee brother’s toys. Inside her friend would be looking into the mirror nervously. It was Halloween and if she brushed her hair by candlelight in an otherwise dark room, the face of her true love would appear over her left shoulder. That’s what Ellen’s Auntie Betty had said and she should know. She’d been married three times. Ellen came out, trying not to laugh. ‘Robbie Williams,’ she claimed. ‘Your turn now.’ Kirsten went into her friend’s room. It looked different by candlelight, smaller and older and there was a musty smell she’d never noticed lurking under Ellen’s L’aimant. No way would Kirsten have done this in her own bedroom. Her own reflection looked weird and she stuck out her tongue at herself then started to brush her long, dark hair. She hadn’t straightened it yet and the waves gleamed. Her reflection remained alone in the mirror and Kirsten relaxed, slightly relieved. A tangle slowed her brushing and she caught her breath. Was that a mark on the mirror? As she watched the haze above her left shoulder take shape and strengthen, Kirsten felt her heart jolt with fear but she continued to brush automatically. Narrowing her eyes she observed the misty greyness thicken and assemble until she was gazing into Eric what’s-his-name’s face, into eyes she’d never noticed were brown. She dropped the brush and turned. Of course there was nothing there and she twisted back to her solitary reflection. By squinting slightly she could make the flowers on the wall paper behind her look like faces. She breathed again and almost laughed. So much for magic. Weird how she’d imagined him though, when she’d been thinking about Laurie, not some harmless loser with chain store trainers and unfunny one-liners. Maybe tonight would be the night she’d finally pull the coolest boy in school, clever but not a geek, captain of the rugby team. Still, she wouldn’t have picked up that brush again for a thousand pounds. She hurried out, calling, ‘Nothing! Looks like I’ll be an old maid.’

Three years later, Ellen hadn’t married a rock star and Kirsten had never been so happy. How could she ever have thought Eric Hornby was too short, too ordinary? Watching him scrabble over the slippery, seaweedfestooned rocks towards her, she smiled at her foolishness. Now those gentle, melted-chocolate eyes, those terrible puns, that so, so, touchable, soft, dark hair were hers. For ever and always. ‘Look.’ She raised her voice above the wind and the calls of gulls and pointed to the delicate red tentacles of the sea anemone. Hunkering down with both arms round her, Eric shielded her from the cold blast of midsummer Fife while, for several minutes, they regarded the little creature in silence. ‘I wish I wasn’t going,’ he said. ‘You’ll be back soon,’ she replied. ‘Just long enough for me to choose my wedding dress.’ ‘For years this was all I wanted. Fully trained and off to Afghanistan. And I am excited. It’s just now... I hate to leave you. Promise you’ll stay exactly as you are.’ ‘All right,’ Kirsten laughed, shaking dark tendrils from her eyes and nuzzling his ear to whisper, ‘I swear I won’t start straightening it again.’ ‘And you won’t worry?’ ‘Of course not.’ Ten minutes into their first date Kirsten had known she wanted to spend every day of her life with Eric. The thought of him going terrified her. ‘I promise,’ she said. ‘ Since I’m marrying a soldier I’ll have to content myself while he’s away. Besides,’ she added mischievously, ‘it’ll give me time to go clubbing!’ ‘Don’t you dare. Tall handsome strangers are strictly out of bounds.’ ‘Can’t happen.’ She twisted round so she could squint up at him without loosening his hold on her. ‘Have I ever told you about that Halloween, at Ellen’s?’ she asked. ‘No.’ ‘Her Auntie Betty told us that, if you brushed your hair alone by candlelight on Halloween, you would see your true love. I expected to see nothing. Or maybe Laurie McCallum.’ Kirsten grinned. She enjoyed teasing the fivefoot ten love of her life about her sixfoot three ex-boyfriend. Then, fearing a trace of genuine dismay, she kissed him. ‘Idiot,’ she said, pushing his sleeve back and gently stroking his forearm, feeling the soft skin, the hard muscle

underneath, the tiny hairs. ‘He was just… I don’t know, someone to be seen with I suppose. Nice enough but so..o bo..oring. Of course then, I hadn’t met a real man yet! Anyway, when I looked in that mirror I saw you. Honestly. OK... it was probably the wallpaper pattern, but I thought I saw you. That proves that you’re my one true love. We’ll get married, live happily ever after and have seven children.’ ‘No we won’t.’ Her face fell and he tickled her, almost toppling them into the rock pool. ‘We’ll have at least seventeen!’ Kirsten had found that perfect wedding dress but it had never been worn and five years later she’d chosen another one, one that would do. For ten years now she had been learning to live some kind of life without Eric. Most of the time she managed to avoid remembering the best and worst year of her life, the one that had started with an engagement ring and ended with a union-jack draped coffin. Now Kirsten McCallum sighed, pushing away the memories as she pulled back the heavy velvet curtains and looked down on the street. Good there was Laurie at last. From the window she watched her husband walk past their neighbours’. He paused to look at the pumpkin lanterns on the ivy-covered porch of the big, old house that mirrored their own. It was a windy night and somewhere above Kirsten old rafters creaked and shifted so that she was glad to hear Laurie’s key in the lock. Her arms ached from a long day blow-drying and she was looking forward to a glass of wine and a bath. ‘Hi, love,’ she called, but Laurie started straight away. ‘Did you see Ellen? ‘ ‘Yeah, she popped into the salon. We had coffee. ‘ ‘When’s the baby due?’ ‘I’ve told you a million times, Laurie. In February. So how was your day?’ Kirsten watched Laurie hold a desiccated orchid under the gleaming brass tap. He’d bought the plant for their last anniversary. She should have taken better care of it. ‘Fine,’ he said. ‘Have you thought about it?’ ‘About what? Oh that. No I haven’t. Just give me some space. Please.’ ‘You’ll be thirty-two next year.’ ‘Thanks for reminding me! I’m not quite menopausal yet!’

the pumpkin edition ~ 33


pumpkin writing ‘You’re young and beautiful. You always will be.’ ‘Yes, and I’m sure you’ll make a very handsome father. One day.’ It was true. His blonde hair was thick as ever, his even teeth as white. He was a good kind man. She shouldn’t find him irritating and he wasn’t boring, not really. He couldn’t help being the wrong husband. ‘Look, I need to feel I’ve really lived myself first.’ ‘For Christ’s sake, Kirsten, this is life, us, this house. We can afford children. They’ll complete it. Why isn’t that enough for you?’ ‘I want... not just to be a hairdresser and wife, then a mother then a corpse. I want to see things. Do things. Feel really alive.’ ‘Like you used to you mean? Like I don’t make you feel.’ ‘Oh for Christ’s sake.’ He shook his head as if to empty it. ‘What’s for supper?’ Kirsten ditched her plan to cook his favourite biryani. ‘Search me,’ she said. ‘Why is it always my responsibility?’ ‘I’ll get a takeaway. Your usual?’ He looked tired and when he’d gone she felt guilty. But he’d started it, going on day after day, month after month just like when he’d convinced her to marry him. But she wasn’t giving in on this one. Babies were too important. Maybe one day. Maybe not. Sometimes she thought it would be fairer if she just left. He was young enough to find someone else. But the one time she’d broached that, he’d frightened her. How quickly the confident Laurie she knew, had dissolved! Kirsten couldn’t stand to see tears in those handsome, reliable eyes again, to glimpse the void behind them. Better to endure. A soak would calm her. She lit the rose candles and soon the bathroom smelled like an August garden after rain. Breathing deeply she switched the light off and undressed. The water wasn’t hot enough and she adjusted the taps before picking up her hairbrush. As she glanced in the mirror, her

34 ~ what the dickens?

heart stopped and so did her hand. She peered at nothing, remembering it was Halloween. But that was nonsense. Wasn’t it? Kirsten resumed her steady brush-strokes, hoping against reason, fearless, thankful that for once she’d lit candles. A face gathered itself from the mist on the mirror. Of the man he would have been if he’d lived. Did he? Might he? Could she touch that velvety, seal-dark hair? Willing herself to believe, she brushed the hair he had persuaded her to stop straightening. For the first time in ten years she felt lovely. Her senses were flooded with the tang of the sea. ‘Hello sweetheart,’ she murmured. Laurie was angry at himself for being such a fool. Jealous of little Eric Hornby, who had about two friends, who couldn’t score a goal to save his life. That had been an aberration on Kirsten’s part. Laurie had been there first and he’d been there afterwards, when Eric didn’t come home. Kirsten was his. A very small, very pink fairy, trick-or-treating with her vampire brother, brushed past. Maybe they’d have a daughter just like that, blonde like him with a brother as dark-haired as their mother. He grinned at the children. ‘Great costumes,’ he shouted, and when they turned he searched in his pocket and found a couple of pound coins. ‘Watch you don’t blow away,’ he said as the girl clutched at her sparkly head band. Laurie helped her secure it and strode off, his usual confidence restored. Kirsten would come round. One day he’d carve lanterns for his own kids. By the time Laurie left the takeaway, rain was biting in on an east wind and had driven most of the little witches and wizards home. A gust threw gritty, dead leaves into his face and he made his way home, half-blinded. Nextdoor’s lanterns had blown out. ‘I’m back, darling,’ he called. ‘Hurry up before the food gets cold.’ He put the crispy beef in the oven then poured

some Shiraz and carried it upstairs. She never locked the bathroom door. It was one of the things he loved about her. Water was seeping out, onto the landing carpet. ‘Bloody hell, Kirst. The bath’s overflowing,’ he shouted, bursting in. Clammy vapour filled the room, obscuring the flickering flames at the end of the bath. As Laurie groped to turn off the taps, he knocked over the candles and they guttered out on the wet floor. Somehow the door had closed behind him and he felt his way towards it. Unseen strands of mist brushed over his face and he heard breathing, perhaps his own. At last, gratefully, he flicked a switch and electric light flooded the bathroom. It was empty and the only sound was the ivy rattling at the window. A discarded hairbrush lay on the floor and he picked it up and wiped it on the towel. He took a slug of wine. ‘Kirst,’ he called, heading for their bedroom. It was empty and silent. One by one, he checked the empty rooms, those intended for little blonde girls or dark-haired boys, the empty study, the whole bloody empty house. She must have been furious to pull a stunt like this. Twice before she’d gone to her mum’s but those times she’d at least said she was going. A wave of self-pity hit Laurie. He did his best. He really did. Familiar and senseless, jealousy resurfaced. But what was the point of being jealous of a corpse? Laurie shivered as he drew the curtains. A furious wind was hurling leaves against the window. It had turned cold. Isabel Miles lives in the North Yorkshire Moors where she writes and walks. Fulltime writing is a recent luxury and she has just completed her first novel and is seeking a publisher. She also writes short stories and poems and is half-way through an Open University course in Creative Writing.


pumpkin writing

Pumpkin He doesn’t sleep that night knowing that downstairs the smile is slipping. It’s been days since the lantern face was lit and he’d gathered sweets for trick or treat. Now the orange face with toothy grin is wearing thin and collapsing in on itself. Joey said that when the lips meet he will come to suck the life out of him. But what does Joey know? Even so, as he climbed the stairs tonight he saw the gash receding in the fading light and wants to ask his mum to throw the pumpkin out before it finds him asleep and its orange flesh creeps over his cheek, over his neck and that tooth digs in to his white skin and sucks the life right out of him. Heather Walker I live in the suburbs of London with my husband and two adult offspring. My poetry has been published in Reach and Areopagus, Sounding out Heaven and Earth (anthology) and Short Cuts Poetry. I avoid housework by reading and blogging at storyandverse.blogspot.com (though it’s 99% about verse!).

the pumpkin edition ~ 35


pumpkin writing

Jackie Oh! by Sallie Durham

Y

ou may remember a while ago – long before you, or your greatgreat-great-grandparents were born – how Stingy Jack met the devil in a pub in a village in Ireland. (Let’s call it Comber because that was my ma’s name.) Well, Jack said he’d give his soul for one last drink. Then the devil appeared and bought Jack a pint of Guinness. While the villagers trembled in their boots, Jack, bold as anything, got the devil to change into a coin to pay for the drink. Crafty Jack slipped the coin in his pocket with a silver cross – and trapped the devil inside for ten years. One day the devil escaped and ran up an apple tree. Jack carved crosses on the trunk and made the devil promise not to take him to hell. The devil made the promise and Jack let him down. After meeting the devil you’d think Jack would change his ways. Then you’d be wrong. He was bad through and through. One night Jack stole some silver candlesticks from the vicarage. As an afterthought he added a cockerel to the sack – big mistake, but it was typical of Jack, he never thought things through. The cockerel set up such a racket that soon everyone was chasing him into the forest: the butcher; the baker; the candlestick maker; the vicar (naturally); the village whore with her petticoats up round her knees and a couple of spotty kids hurling knives. Jack ran like the wind until, feeling a sudden sharp pain in his back, he stopped for a moment – and that’s when the devil jumped out, all pointy swishing tail and glow-in-the-dark eyes. Jack dropped the sack; that cockerel went cockadoodling through the fog, signalling to the vindictive villagers his exact whereabouts. So this devil, casual as anything, leant against a tree sipping Guinness from a silver tankard... ‘Evening, Jack. Remember me?’ ‘Er ...’ Jack was feeling a little woozy. He’d had a bit to drink, but there was that pain. ‘Oh, come on. Don’t you remember making a complete arse of me?’ ‘Well, I ...’ ‘Ten long years, Jack, inside someone’s pocket. Imagine. Then

36 ~ what the dickens?

being stuck up that apple tree. How’s your memory?’ ‘Ah’ Jack said, wondering how he’d outwit the devil again. The devil wiped Guinness foam from his top lip with the back of his hand, and stared hard at Jack. ‘It’s payback time.’ ‘What do you mean?’ The devil grinned, showing his grey teeth. ‘You’re a dead man, Jack.’ ‘Pardon me?’ ‘You just died. Now I’m on your tail. Forever.’ Jack spun round; sure enough he saw his body on the ground with a blade between the shoulders; the black, sticky shine of his own blood dripping on the soil. Through the dark trees shapes were edging slowly forwards. ‘Oi!’ Jack shouted, ‘which one of you halfwits has killed me?’ The devil spoke softly. ‘They can’t hear you Jack, but if they did they’d say good riddance to bad rubbish. They don’t want you here. They won’t want you in heaven, to be sure.’ Jack crossed his arms. ‘We’ll see about that. My ma went to heaven. She’ll be waiting at the gate.’ The devil shrugged. ‘You won’t get past Saint Peter. He’s very particular.’ ‘My ma will put in a word for me. Wait and see.’ But Jack was turned away from Heaven’s Gate with a surly, ‘On ya bike, scumbag!’ and a kick up the backside, which the devil thought was hilarious. ‘I don’t see what’s so funny about purgatory,’ Jack said, sulking. ‘Pity I can’t take you to hell,’ the devil laughed, ‘but I’ll enjoy watching your worthless wandering soul. Here. You’ll be needing this.’ He tossed Jack an ember he’d fetched from the fires of hell. Then the devil vanished, and Jack was left holding something like a glowing coal that nearly burnt a hole in his hand. He chucked it on the ground and stamped on it in a rage – but the ember kept burning. In the morning it was still glowing where Jack had dug a hole and buried it. Sitting down with his head in his hands Jack thought long and hard. He had the whole of eternity to think, after all, so it was good to get in some practice. Afterwards he stole a turnip from somebody’s garden, carved the devil’s face onto it and tossed the ember inside. When the turnip shrivelled and burnt he used a pumpkin instead.

And that’s how he came to be known as Jack O’ Lantern. Anyway, I’d like you to know Jack had a twin sister. Me. Are you surpised? My name’s Jackie Oh! because everyone thinks it’s shocking how my poor soul has to follow my brother through purgatory. The idiot got us barred from heaven, but didn’t have the decency to go to hell himself. Let me tell you I was nothing like him. First of all, I was studious and kind; second, I was a good cook and could make an Irish stew as good as my own ma’s. Third, I never got into any kind of trouble until that business with Jack and the devil. But Jack tricked the devil twice and I guess I’m part of Jack’s payback. Jack never changed. In fact, he’s gotten worse. He has no remorse. He carries that crazy pumpkin about and hangs out with the most unsavoury crowd you’d imagine. He’s every child’s nightmare – grinning through windows on dark nights, pinching toes. He pilfers and harms. You lost a wheelbarrow? It’ll be at the bottom of the hollow. Your cat gone missing? You’ll find him strangled under the willow tree. Your wedding gown got a gash in it? Our Jack’s been busy with the knife. So what’s a good girl to do? Mostly I pick flowers for my ma’s grave, and think of the pa I never knew, or the worthy man who would have married me for those Irish stews. If you ever see a wandering, sad thing with a shawl about her shoulders, her hair long and wild, her eyes haunted... it’s probably me. Sometimes you’ll see a ball of light – the thing they call Will o’ the Wisp – and that’ll be me escaping a vampire. Looking for a sweet place to rest. Say a little prayer to get me to heaven. Won’t you, please? Sallie Durham teaches English to all sorts of people. She has a lifelong addiction to writing, and loves zumba dancing. Sallie’s poem, Festival, was published in the winter issue of The New Writer magazine. She also recently won first place in the short poem category of the Plough Prize,


pumpkin writing

Props

by Pat Phillips

N

obody ever asks the props people what they think. Well not till they want something. Usually something outrageous that Set Design, Jim Rafferty and that Karen, haven’t managed to come up with. Then it’s a very different story. Then you might actually see his high and mightiness, Sir Ralph the Musical Director, come back- stage. He turns on the charm then all right. ‘Enid,’ he’ll wheedle, with his wolf ’s smile, ’we’ve come to talk to the expert.’ The mountain has come to Mohammed, he means. His teeth flash. Completely false of course, they weren’t that white twenty years ago. I don’t make it easy for him. ‘What about Jim Rafferty?’ I’ll say, ‘Isn’t he Set Design? I’m just Props, what does little old me know?’ I make him turn on the flattery. And does he lay it on thick. He must think we’re stupid. It’s as if we don’t exist back here for the rest of the time. They call us when brew time is nearly done. But we can see them, round the urn, high and mighty Ralph and Jim R hovering round that Karen like stags at bay. What they see in her… well, apart from the obvious. The older a man gets the more he’s led by the…, you know what. I wouldn’t mind but Karen’s husband, Bill Warren, is sitting there through all this. He’s oblivious. Looks at the score as if he can actually read music but everyone knows he can’t sing a note unless he’s wedged in with the bass section so he can mimic it from either side. Well this time it’s a delegation. Ralph, Jim R and Karen. As if she could help to charm the underlings. They’re not happy with the pumpkin. Cinderella wants it to actually turn into a coach. On stage! I felt like saying, ‘This isn’t Phantom of the Opera, love. Can you see Lloyd-Webber anywhere?’ She’s not one of our members, Cinderella. She’s been roped in from Wigan. Explains a lot. They’ve got a budget for a start. Shoe-string isn’t the word for what we’ve got. I said I’d think about it. They threw things in about films and backdrops. Someone mentioned CGI. I laughed. I really did. Said I’d ring Walt Disney and get back to them. CGI. And they didn’t even know Walt Disney’s dead.

Bill Warren turned up to help with the pumpkin. ‘Aren’t you onstage talent?’ I said, but he’s all right. Stays round here with us now, when they’re not singing. We have a laugh. He’s a good mimic altogether it turns out, can do a brilliant one of Ralph in full flow. He’s got the bow tie and everything. Jim R and Karen have been ‘supervising’ the new coach but it’s really my and Bill’s idea. Those two spend a lot of time in that little back office going over plans. Its put Ralph in a right sulk. He made the chorus do ‘Someday my Prince will come’ seven times the other Thursday. When he told them they were rubbish for the seventh time Cinderella threw a tantrum, the chorus got their coats on and the Prince said he’d strangle Ralph with his bow tie if he didn’t treat Cinders with more respect. It was quite exciting. I noticed Karen was very touchy-feely with Ralph for the next two weeks so it was all much calmer. Bill just re-did his Ralph mime to include a Hitler funny walk. He’s a scream. The pumpkin coach is starting to look magnificent, though I say it myself. One good thing in a tense week. Rehearsals every night and Jim R and Karen are never where they should be, Ralph’s like a bear with a sore head and he’s got the musicians in tomorrow. But me and Bill are chuffed with the coach. The idea is that the real pumpkin sits in a basket on stage; the fairy godmother comes in on a wire, just as they pump in the dry ice. She picks up the pumpkin and then there’s a flash and the coach comes in on the runners. It’ll have to be pulled from the other side but it should work a treat. That’s if we can co-ordinate the idiot boys who are meant to pull it. Never let the kids of cast members onto the set is my motto. It’s not as if they’re not too daft to know it’s because mum can’t get a babysitter for the week. I don’t know how we’re going to get fifteen crinolines past them for the ball scene either. There’s no room to swing a cat round here. And if one of those buggers lets the mice out of the cage again, I won’t be responsible. There’ll be a murder, I’m telling you. Though it was funny seeing Karen screaming at the top of that ladder. Apart from the usual last week hysterics, things are coming together nicely. Well, Ralph threatened to sack Set Design, Jim R’s wife keeps turning

up with the kids in tow, Karen’s looking martyred and red-eyed and they can’t get the oboe here for orchestra rehearsal, but apart from that… I made Bill one of my apple pies. He said it was wonderful; I could give Karen lessons any day. Said I was spoiling him. But he’s worked so hard. I thought we’d lost him to Costumes last week. He was helping tweak the wig designs but he was soon back. More fun back-stage with us, he said. He brought us a job lot of fairy-lights for the coach so it will be magical. We just need to work out the electrics. I had to laugh when he suggested a car battery inside the coach. There’ll be just about room for Cinderella when she gets her outfit on. Men have no idea how much space a farthingale takes up. Last minute and we’ve got a health and safety issue about the flash. Typical! That’s the trouble with using council property, but Bill’s sure he can manage without the fireworks. Told me not to fret, he’d sort it. He’s so dependable. ‘It’ll be all right on the night,’ he said. He was so absorbed he didn’t notice Karen sneaking out with Jim R again. The wife and kids have come down with the flu, apparently. It’ll be disaster if the cast come down with it. Only two days to go. *** Well, a disaster indeed. We’re still in shock. Bill’s devastated, but everyone’s rallying round. You know the saying, ‘The show must go on’? It didn’t. We had to close, that much was obvious. As a mark of respect. And you can’t do Cinderella without a coach. But the police are investigating so the council shut things down straight away. Said there was a lot of smoke damage. The police asked if anyone knew about any hanky-panky with Jim R but we’ve all closed ranks. He’s sedated anyway after that scene shouting ‘murderer’ at poor Bill. That was ridiculous. Cinderella should have been the one to cop it. It was just lucky for her that she didn’t come for the tech rehearsal. Had some hoax call saying her mother was ill, she said. Come to that, it was me that asked Karen to try it with the wig. ‘Go and get Karen,’ Bill said. Lovely wig; silver and gold wire, positively shimmered in the first flash. And Bill’s not an electrician. How could he know that

the pumpkin edition ~ 37


pumpkin writing plugging the flash box into the mains would make the whole coach live? That happened when the wig touched those contacts in the roof. And that was the problem. No-one could get near. The whole thing crackled and flashed and Karen just jerked about with everyone screaming until one of the techies thought to get to the fuse box. No-one

knows why it didn’t just blow the fuse to start with but the council will be checking that out. They’re worried Bill could sue. I’m taking him a casserole later. It’s all very sad. It was a beautiful coach.

Pumpkin Soup

Josh was barricaded up in his room, doing goodness knows what. His door had a Bio-Hazard sign taped to it, with a single home–made poster. The unambiguous message read ‘Keep Out’. My husband Tom was working late – again. I turned on the television. Lady Somebody Smug was drifting around her immaculate kitchen, twinkling at the camera. Before I could obliterate her with the remote, I heard the magic words: ‘Pumpkin soup.’ Pumpkin soup! A home-cooked, wholesome meal for the whole family. We could sit round the table together. We would have soul food! ‘I’m popping out to the shops, Becky. Want to come?’ ‘Bye, mum.’

by Kate Allan

M

y first fantasies of family life were shaped, perhaps unhealthily, by over-exposure to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and, my forever favourite, that endless television series Little House on the Prairie. In reality, I grew up in a flaky, shaky world. My charmingly chaotic artist parents failed to live up to any of my pioneering heroes in even the most marginal way. I was determined to create a secure and happy home as soon as I had the chance. My family would be relentlessly upbeat in the face of freak accidents, financial ruin and failed crops. We would always care and share and be fair to each other. We would sit round the big kitchen table every night, delighting in the joyful details of each other’s days, celebrating our small triumphs and sympathising with any tiny set-backs. That wooden table would always be there for projects and painting and pottery. We would eat the warm, nourishing food we’d cooked together, with the little ones taking a turn to stir the pot and set out the cutlery. And, while our children slept peacefully, my handsome husband would stroke my hair as we sat on the old porch-swing, and tell me how lucky we were. Together, we would be the perfect family. My daughter’s face was hidden by a curtain of hair, as she tapped on her Blackberry. ‘Shall we do something together tonight, Becky? Something nice …’ She stared at me with icy disdain. Her look could stop an axe-murderer in his tracks. ‘Together?’ She rolled her eyes, shook her head, and shrugged in that single dismissive movement perfected by teenagers.

38 ~ what the dickens?

‘I’d like a pumpkin, please?’ The flint-eyed organic grocer smiled his cheesy customer-grin, and put a monstrous orange specimen in a carrier. As usual, I’d left all of my many bags-for-life at home. ‘Anything else?’ ‘Er … onions? Some carrots?’ I was less sure now. ‘A few potatoes …’ The price was jaw-dropping, but I thanked him profusely. He handed me the carrier and I nearly yelped as my shoulder seemed to wrench from its socket. I thanked him again. I piled the vegetables on to the kitchen table. ‘I’m making pumpkin soup,’ I announced proudly. ‘Disgusting. I’m so not eating that.’ Have you ever attempted to peel a pumpkin? The blade juddered as I pierced the skin, and bent dangerously when I tried to pull it out. I’d forgotten the cream, and we had no fresh herbs, just an ancient pack of yellowing oregano in the cupboard, way past its sell-by.

My name is Pat Phillips. I am a freelance lecturer and oral historian living in Greater Manchester, with a PhD in oral history from Manchester University. I am currently doing the MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam and enjoying the chance to finally write short fiction

I put the potatoes in the oven, and sighed. Maybe there were some sausages left. I was emptying the freezer in the garage, making yet another mental note to label everything in future, when Tom snuck up behind me. I hadn’t heard him come in. ‘How’s my gorgeous girl?’ He nuzzled my neck. I couldn’t help it. I sniffed, and unexpected tears came. ‘What on earth’s the matter, honey? Are our hideous children being vile again?’ ‘I wanted to make pumpkin soup…’ The rest of my words were drowned out by his laughter, until I had to join in. ‘Pumpkin soup!’ Tom spluttered. ‘No way! Pumpkins are only good for one thing.’ I sat at our messy kitchen table while Tom carved a scary grin on the pumpkin. Josh was burning the sausages and Becky was lighting far too many candles. ‘Our lantern looks just like that spooky grocer,’ said my daughter. I sipped my hot chocolate and smiled at my practically perfect family. Later, after our not quite wholesome supper, I would tell all of them about the new baby. Together. Kate Allan is an active member of Rottingdean Writers’ Group, and enjoys experimenting with different styles of prose and poetry. This year she gained with a first class Open University degree, with a distinction in creative writing, and, even better, got married to Jay. She’s never made pumpkin soup!


pumpkin writing

Pumpkin a hollowed out rictus grin placed prominently at this liminal time a curious crossroads of old and new with but a cursory nod to the peaceful host frail shelter from this Samhain storm a rail of russet leaves and borne the broken limbs of oak and scorned behind a membrane of glass a solitary cupped flame dying deep within the bleeding ink of an obsidian heart Andrew Murray Andrew James Murray is a forty year old teenager in denial. He is a father of four who lives on a Manchester housing estate. He writes poetry, fiction, and endless to-do lists. He has a collection of poetry entitled One Man’s Meat. andrewjmurray@gmail.com

the pumpkin edition ~ 39


pumpkin writing

Haywards Heath I was always bad at bowling – chose the too-heavy ball, my thumb a slippery fit in its hole, the slow roll off-course – so here I am, the midwife palpating to say: This baby is by no means small I bounce on the fit ball. A birthing pool waits footlit, but my cervix refuses to play. This whole town is shut down. I walk the hospital grounds like a puzzle, hit the same corridors over again, pain pinballing. Soon they’ll shove the next grubby coins in. Then I hear you say This place is neither here nor there, somewhere to pass through on the train not be born in The cab rolls me home like a pumpkin. I pocket gulps of air smooth as aramith. The night ahead is so long and from where I’m sitting, gripping the backseat like some holy Mary on a fairground donkey, I don’t know the ending. Anna Kisby Anna Kisby is an archivist with three children, living in Brighton. Her poems have been placed in competitions and appeared in magazines including Magma, Mslexia, Poetry News and The Interpreter’s House. She was winner of The New Writer Poetry Prize 2011.

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pumpkin writing

She Cries Behind the Veil Body cloaked, veil on your face wandering through the market place woman grown but still a girl born into an ancient world You drop your eyes and twist about as if you were the primal sin to keep the eyes of others out to keep your hungry spirit in You cry behind the veil and wonder if your life is real You cling onto what love you feel, but the one you love can’t touch your wounded heart Moon grown cold in the morning sky you walk the path on sandaled feet to escape the cut of the village eye you pace the lanes of the city street A manikin dressed from another world is that what it means to be a girl? see your image in the polished glass hurry back home to your solitary mask 2 When will your dawning come? When will your brilliant spirit show? to light the world you left in darkness freedom lost so long ago The world longs to hear you laugh to see you smile, to hear you sing the wisdom of your silent years raven locks loosed in the wind Stretch your wings on the mist of tears fly away from the man of stone. He also longs to be reborn the tears you shed are all his own You walk your kingdom underground a helpless goddess in the night Persephone on your somber throne what god would ever hide your light? Does anyone know you’re just a girl? You weren’t born to be a slave not a dream, not a ghost, not a mystery not a poppy sewn shut on a desert grave. David Krusell David Krusell... Since retiring from teaching in Cordova, NM. two years ago, I have experienced a flurry of writing--short story, screen play, poetry, and song. “She Cries Behind the Veil” started as poetic verses but expanded into a song, which I soon realized I could not not produce. The female vocalist is my wife, Mary. Enjoy. cdbaby.com/cd/DavidKrusell

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pumpkin writing

The Disappointing Tale of Sour Peter by Jacqueline Pye

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t doesn’t take a genius to guess how Sour Peter got his name. No-one in the village knew how old he was, not even Peter himself, and his birth did not appear in the parish records so he can’t have been local. Some guessed sixty, others much older since it must have taken decades and many of fortune’s slings and arrows for him to become such a gnarled, miserable and mean old man. To give an example, there was only one time that anyone could remember, when he’d given anything to anyone. He’d been trudging back to his scruffy, rundown lodgings when a young woman bravely stood in front of him. ‘Collecting for the poor, good sir.’ She was ready to dodge if he went for her. But two of the locals overheard, and stopped to witness what they thought would be another stream of invective from the old man. They, however, later vouched for the fact that he took a silver coin from his pocket and dropped it into the box. No-one knew why, and speculation was rife. Had he been wealthy in happier times? Had he just come into some money and kept the knowledge to himself ? Or could the comeliness of the young lady have made him forget himself ? All they knew was that, as he dropped in the coin, he was heard to mutter, ‘There you are, Annie girl. That’s for your poor. Now be off.’ Annie was known locally as a good, kind and god-fearing young woman who had lived on her own since her mother died. She kept a tiny but clean house, lived modestly, and paid for her groceries on the nail. She earned just about enough by doing laundry for the better-off people who lived in large houses just outside the village, and mending shirts and petticoats for those who couldn’t afford to buy new. The results of her occasional fundraising efforts were always given to the poorest people who had no income and no skills to earn any. Following the silver coin incident, it did not go unnoticed that Sour Peter often happened to be hobbling along the roadside when Annie was returning home from collecting laundry from the outsiders. Although she was easily the

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more fit, once in a while he would offer to help her carry some of her load as far as her door. He seemed to carry on conversations at times, but no-one could catch what was said, however hard they tried. And they did try. In time, she started to invite him in, and he would disappear for a few minutes before emerging with various very small packages under his arm. Probably half a loaf, or even a cake, they thought. Peter’s visits to Annie became more regular and were lasting longer. The locals swore they could hear the occasional rough chuckle as well as the tinkling laugh they knew well, and the ‘friendship’ became the talk of the village. Then the scandal – it seemed to the others that Sour Peter had moved in with Annie! The more generous said they hoped it would make him a more friendly, approachable figure but the less kind thought it a shocking thing to happen and they worried for Annie’s immortal soul. Either way, Sour Peter’s ramshackle home was going to rack and ruin while no-one thought it worth saving. Annie was seen less and less around the village. She did her shopping in fewer trips with bigger loads, reduced the money collection rounds, and was less ready to offer sewing skills to her previous customers. Sour Peter himself was rarely seen, but they knew he was still there because his croaking voice and rasping cackle could still be heard. Then some shock news spread quickly around the village. First, another young woman had been collecting and delivering the laundry from the outsiders. And not only that – Annie’s alms to the poor seemed to have dried up, leaving them fretting about their next meals, not to mention their futures. And yet, said the villagers, we’re sure she’s been out collecting. One of the previous beneficiaries plucked up the courage to knock on Annie’s door. She swallowed her pride and asked if, by any chance, there had been donations recently that could help her out with some food for the children. Annie’s curt reply shocked all who heard about it. After a day or two, one of the village elders decided to investigate. He knocked on the door and asked Annie if she could mend a tear in his best shirt, since she had sewed other garments for him quite beautifully in the past. When the door opened, the elder tried to peer

into the house; as he saw Sour Peter in an armchair he could smell the smoke from a pipe. When Annie realised he was prying, she slammed the door. Soon, Annie was haggling with the shopkeepers to try to reduce their prices, and the gossips whispered that she was starting to develop unflattering lines on her once-lovely face. The draper caught her trying to push a couple of reels of cotton into her basket without paying, too. And when one of the village girls stopped her to ask for a contribution to the orphans’ fund, she sailed past without replying. How different to the old, generous and friendly Annie. Then, one day, a crowd started to gather around the house as word spread that the undertaker was about to call. A cheap pine coffin was borne in, and the door closed behind it. Everyone held their breath – they had no idea which of the two occupants had their name on the box, and of course it would not be proper to ask. They would just have to keep their eyes open and wait. Three days later, the undertakers returned and the coffin was slowly and solemnly carried out and placed on a cart. It was evidently heavier than when it went in – but perhaps not by much. And behind it came … Sour Peter. There was a collective gasp. Poor Annie was buried in the churchyard with most of the villagers watching from a distance. Sour Peter, seemingly quite calm, threw a handful of soil onto the coffin and the reverend made the shortest of speeches. Then the curious group parted to let Peter through, but remained silent. They waited for him to reach the late Annie’s house and shut the door behind him, then they slowly edged nearer until some were just a yard or two from the window. They heard the unmistakeable sound of the raucous chuckle, followed by a strange song that was almost merry in nature. One of the villagers dared to peer in through the window, to see a gnarled old man dancing a jig around the dining room table. Jacqueline has been a prolific writer for many years, mainly non-fiction in magazines but now concentrates on fiction. Recent publications include flash fiction, poems and short stories. She’s a member of SoA and Southampton Writing Buddies and has four entries in their anthology Wordfall. Her first children’s eBook is published. jacpye.com jacpye.blogspot.com


pumpkin writing

The Farmer’s Daughter So they were talking about pumpkins which made me think about squash and how she always grew Big Mamas because they were good keepers – the kind with rind so thick she’d need to split them open with an axe; they’d last past winter still hard as stone, but I got soft in storage – my skin was thin. 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 6 years ago, after a hiatus of 30 years or so.

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pumpkin writing

Once Upon a Pumpkin by Connell Regner

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nce upon a time there was an unpretentious young man called Vincent Charmaine. Vincent always walked to and from work to save the bus fare. He worked in a dull 9:00 to 5:00 job in a small mailroom of a small company licking small stamps to stick on big envelopes, and not only that, he did it all day! One morning he walked to work as usual and noticed pumpkins were on sale at the local fruit and veg shop. Vincent hated pumpkins, but sent his mum a text message to get some if she wanted. He knew his mum loved them. Later when he got to work the office conversation was buzzing about pumpkins, the price, colour, texture, the taste and everyone was exchanging recipes. They talked about pumpkin futures and investing in this year’s crop. ‘They’ve all gone pumpkin mad’ he thought. In the mailroom there were other surprises. There were pumpkin posters and pumpkin stamps for him to lick. He thought he must have died and gone to pumpkin heaven for all the focus on pumpkins around him. That night when he left work he noticed Jack O’ Lanterns in all the windows of the cottages as he walked past. It was starting to creep him out. There were even Jack O’ Lanterns on the fence posts lining his way home smiling with their unholy grins. Then he heard the thunderous roar of a wagon or something similar hurtling along the road. He spun around and managed to jump clear of a carriage as it swerved to miss him. As it swerved the footman fell off the back hurting his leg. The carriage screeched

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to a stop. The footman was in pain, but said, ‘I’ll be fine. I’ll go home across the field’. The carriage driver shouted, ‘You there! You can take his place. Anyway, it was your fault’. Vincent offered no argument and climbed up and off they went. He looked back, but could only see a rat scurrying into the field. They continued along the country lanes like some kind of maniac express until the road widened and there before him was the most magnificent castle imaginable. The castle was lit up and there looked to be a party going on. The carriage door opened and the most beautiful woman he had ever seen stepped out. ‘No, no’, he thought, ‘It can’t be’. He thought it had to be a dream or he’d been hit by the carriage and was now delirious at the side of the road somewhere. She looked down at him as he helped her out, smiled and then continued into the party. Cinderella was not even a story he liked as a child. He only knew it, because his sister liked it. Stepping back from the carriage to get a better look, it was indeed pumpkin shaped. ‘I’m definitely in purgatory or maybe even hell’, he said to himself. He thought he’d go home, but wanted to see how things turned out, fully suspecting of course how it would end. He wasn’t disappointed. At midnight on the dot she came running down the outside stairs of the castle losing a glass slipper on the way with the prince in hot pursuit. By the time the prince picked up the glass slipper he was left scratching his head while his princess was safe and sound back in her carriage. Vincent decided to walk from the castle as he knew what would happen next and didn’t fancy the idea of falling off the back of the carriage when it changed back into a pumpkin or being turned into a rat for that matter. Sure enough when he got to the gates the transformation was taking place. The carriage driver became

a rat the princess turned into a dirty chimneysweep and the carriage turned into (you guessed it) a pumpkin. That could have well been the end of the story right there and then, but it wasn’t. He looked over at the girl and realised he knew her. He ran over to her and asked ‘Aren’t you Cindy Fella from the village next to mine? I didn’t recognise you all dolled up like that’. ‘Is that you Vince?’ she asked, I haven’t seen you since our team whipped yours in last year’s comp. ‘I’ll walk you home, if you like’ Vincent said, and as they walked to her home they hit it off and they both actually enjoyed each others’ company. When they got to her house Vincent asked, ‘How was the prince? Because you know how this’ll all end with him getting everyone to try on the glass slipper’. ‘He was an arrogant stuck up jerk to tell the truth and when he tried to kiss me ...…… I had to get out of there quick smart’ Cindy replied. ‘Well then if you’re not doing anything Friday night, I’ll meet you at the Winchester,’ Vincent said as he watched her walk the last few steps to her front door. ‘Good night Vince Charmaine,’ she said as she chucked her remaining slipper into the wheelie-bin in front of her house. ‘Yes!’ Vincent said in a muffled voice as Cindy smiled and closed her front door. The next day Vincent had a spring in his step as he walked to work. He noticed artichokes were on sale at the local fruit and veg shop, but that’s another story. The End! Hi, I’m Connell Wayne Regner. I’ve been teaching ESL since 1987 and come from a linguistic background at University. I always like having fun with language and serendipitously found myself writing stories for my children, which are a blend of reality and fantasy, but always fiction. Contact: cwregner@ hotmail.com


pumpkin writing

Pumpkin Smoothie for Writer’s Block It was a day as dull as can be, All morning I had stared at the wall, Inspiration would not come to me, I just couldn’t work – not at all. Lethargic and frustrated I drew, Doodled rather, I’m no artist you see, And scribbled and scrawled in blue, Till the page was more like the sea. ‘I can’t stand it!’ I jumped up in a huff, Not a word had I written that day, And I’d just about had enough, For a solution to the kitchen I did away. After rummaging in fridge, cupboard, drawer, An idea began to take shape For a delicious, refreshing cure, To have my mind jumping like an ape. In a blender went steamed pumpkin, cold, About 75 grammes I would guess, A small tub of plain yoghurt, not old, And a spoonful of water (more or less). On went the machine in a flurry, A kitchen appliance version of my brain, But by this point I was not in a hurry, Writer’s block doesn’t cause physical pain. Once the contents were smooth and well blended, I removed the lid and peered in, It looked and smelled rather splendid, After sugar, nutmeg and mixing. I poured my new concoction out slowly, And revelled in the simplicity of it all, In five mere minutes I had surely Made a drink to inspire and enthrall. As I drank it I began to feel lighter, A new energy had arisen within, I skipped back to my desk like a fighter, Sitting down on my chair with a spin. Within seconds the letters were flowing From my previously unyielding pen, And admiring my work, I sat knowing I would certainly have pumpkin again. Amina Hachemi Amina Hachemi holds a BA from Paris-Sorbonne University and an MA in Translation, Writing and Cultural Difference from the University of Warwick. A passionate linguist, she enjoys exploring cultural experiences and perspectives through her writing and translation. ahachemi. weebly.com – Twitter: @ahach

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pumpkin writing

The Godmother’s Bequest by Caroline Auckland

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he was her mother’s daughter. Breastfed jealousy and then spoon fed bile, she had grown into adulthood a spiteful spinster. A perfect example of the cliché ‘you are what you eat’.

What would she have become if she had been nurtured with kindness, sprinkled with love? A Mary Poppins moment of ‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down’ flickers across my mind and I form a plan, an open letter or spell if you wish. Because I am watching her, closely. My blue eyes, still, but I do not miss a moment. ‘My dear, I can offer you gifts of forgiveness wrapped with the ribbon of understanding and tied with a bow of affection. All can be accepted and unwrapped carefully, or they can be torn apart, ripped up and discarded. Dolls have a skin-like texture, I know you know this. Dolls with perfect complexions without freckles or moles are especially attractive to our family. They do not display publicly their gifts from the darker side. It has not escaped my attention that you conceal stolen items from your victims in the clothing or hair of dolls that you place on your bed. I looked closely at the pillows and I was sad when I observed the detail. I know that you plot and scheme in your night time dreams sending forth nightmares to your victims. I observe the black cat earrings, the jumping hare brooch and the broken china foot and shudder. I know that in the days to follow I will hear talk of lost cats and rabbits and broken ankles from too high shoes. Like you, I too, like pumpkins, you carve wicked scary faces with ghoulish grins to be lit by candle-light on dark, stormy nights when the winds of evil blow the clouds of protection from the night sky. I prefer to place their luscious orange bodies in displays of plentiful harvest. I prefer my pumpkins to be objects of beauty, their colour reflecting the bright, burning sun, a symbol of fairy tales and pumpkin coaches rather than portents of evil. However, because I am a white witch, I cast spells in the daylight and work with potions, charms and chakras. I prescribe gentle remedies for your soul to be taken when appropriate, because there is always an alternative approach. Ignatia for your sensitivity and your torments, pulsatilla for your neediness and sepia for your negativity and sulkiness. Really, deep down I know you feel worse in the dark of night. I do hold the key to your future. It is a physical key that will go with me to the flames. Witches are always burned at the stake so the cremation is just another form of internment. The key around my neck is the key to your heart and your soul. It is the key to the case which holds the perfect doll dressed in perfect white that you have always admired. I bequeath her to you knowing that as the flames consume they also cleanse. I own the key like a chatelaine and it must go with me. You will own the doll for your lifetime on earth, you will never be able to touch her, but her benevolence and kindness will now belong to you. Her qualities will transmit beyond the glass and reside in you. This is my gift to you, a lock that can never be opened, a spell that can never be broken, a gift from your godmother, your soul sister. White is stronger than black, even though it has to work harder and longer to erode the strength and depth of the darker shade. It’s luminosity will win through.’ Will love from your Godmother, your silent partner.

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art

Ben Ottridge is a freelance digital publishing chap and the man who designs this very magazine. He does write songs though and has also had one flash fiction piece published on Paragraph Planet. “We made these pumpkins last Halloween and were very disappointed to discover upon returning from an excursion that the sicky one had been kicked down the road by some evil person...�

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the old curiosity shop

S

hazam! There have been times over the past two months when I have prayed for a bit of magic, a few miracles or at least some sort of magic dust to smear all over myself to numb out the eye-throbbing, yawning and involuntary slumping that’s overtaken me, and to try and make the process of getting What the Dickens together, easier and quicker and more breezyCinderella-ballgown-swirling-kindaway... It’s been TOUGH. Not only have VicStar, who is a GODDESS for keeping going despite technical travesties, dastardly deeds, and life getting busier and busier and busier for her, Ben, who is a man of great, great patience and huge brains, and myself been compiling TWO issues of the magazine (the next issue is THAT special issue which will be out on Dec 1st) and a small film together (along with a team of phwoarsome-swoonblush-and-heart-pounding-inducinglovely-people), but we’ve also done that thing that we do every time of trying to make the magazine even better. And you know what? I think it’s worked... Readers and believers, you will have already found an array of treats throughout the magazine,

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and now you’re at The Old Curiosity Shop and it is packed full of goodies for all your creative needs, wants, and desires! Our brilliant Curiosity Super Stars are back. Naturally. They are my children now. They must and they will stay here FOREVER... Which is good for them and good for the rest of the brood, which now includes a former Curious interviewee in the shape of the quite lovely and always inspiring, musician and writer, Mr Freddie Stevenson as he shares a little about the process in a new section called The Curious Creative Life. And he’s in fine company with the wonderfully funny and generoushearted Ms SJI ‘Susi’ Holliday who is not only a brilliant writer and regular contributor to What the Dickens but also sharp, insightful and mightily disciplined about writing and here to give her side of events regarding the perils and pleasures of getting words on the page. We also have a new section called Curious About... which focuses on screenwriting, radio and theatre. Each issue you’ll find articles and interviews with professionals to guide

you on your way to writing the plays you want to write. Michelle Goode will be providing you with a wealth of clear, sound, and thought-provoking advice regarding scriptwriting and, trust me, this is one lady who not only knows but loves her work, and so of course she fits in beautifully. In this issue we also have a great interview with award-nominated radio dramatist Julie Mayhew as she shares all that she knows – and it is a lot – about making bloomin’ good, funny, tug-at-yourheart, powerful radio drama. Her play, A Shoebox Full of Snow, caused a big stir and with good reason. Do check it out if you can. This is one very talented and focussed writer. Next up we have the writer-director team behind a small play with a huge heart and a lot of big questions, Blink. Meet Soho Six playwright, Phil Porter and nabakov’s director, Joe Murphy as they discuss the journey of the play from page to stage and you, yes YOU, take lots of notes. Not only are they generous and honest, they’ve won awards, and you know that with these two there is so much more to come. And then of course we have our Curious Interviews. Passion is the


the old curiosity shop word that lights up every time I try to describe what our Curious Interviewees have in common. Passion of the most glorious, heart-stirring, I-wish-wecould-talk-all-night kind... Meet the lovely Jen Campbell as she discusses her beautiful new poetry collection The Hungry Ghost Festival, the brilliance of books, and inspiration. Next we have Kate Cann, a pioneer of sorts for YA fiction, young people and all writers, and a rather fabulous lady who talks us through witches, her writing life, and workshops. Then it’s the sensational Sinéad Matthews, who delivered one of the best performances of 2011 for me in Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, and who’s shared

with us a gorgeous thought-provoking insight into her acting life and the way in which plays have changed her and how she sees the world. Lovely stuff. Lastly but by no means least, we have a ‘King’ amongst men, a theatrical stalwart, and bloody good bloke, Jamie Parker, who allowed me to bend his ear for longer than I deserved and who left me with brain-ache of the best possible kind. I asked a lot of questions and Mr Parker more than delivered...

Creative Tasks

In the words of Nora Ephron: “Be the heroine of your life, not the victim...” Do something special, do something new. And tell the story of all that you achieved and overcame in the way that feels right.... Poem? Monologue? Flash? Go for it...

TASK ONE: Pass It On...

You gather in a group with friends/ writers/comrades. Chuck your names and addresses in a bag. Do a lucky dip. All of you send a favourite book of poems to the person you choose. All of you indicate your favourite three (three is a magic number) poems. Read. Write something in response. Focus on a line, image or event from each poem as a starting point... Share the poems you made and make a collage of them.

TASK TWO: We Don’t Need Another Hero!

And then to round things off quite nicely we have Alan Fitzgerald and Caroline Auckland sharing some very unusual Pumpkin inspired memories

TASK THREE: Heroes Word Pot: CAPE FLIGHT BATTLE MOUNTAIN SKIES VALOUR STRENGTH RESCUE IDOL WHOOSH KERPOW DREAMY LYCRA PUPPY COURAGE BRAVE VASELINE

Yes, we do. And that hero is you. Perform a small heroic act every day.

The Alcott Rocks Challenge – Rachel Quinn

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n August the lovely Sandy East and I decided to set ourselves a challenge of writing every day for the month on just ONE project. We’d set this challenge for ourselves because we were both guilty of starting projects

but rarely completing them. Our project had been inspired by Louisa May Alcott who apparently wrote Little Women in one month so that she could save her family from poverty. Impressive stuff ! Whilst my August of writing about just one project was successful, I did not finish the work I had been so focussed on. If my family had been dependent on my creative work they’d probably be dead by now... Initially we were very excited about our challenge and set up a blog and twitter account, eager to fill both with links and blog posts galore! However

that are ever so magical in their own unique way... But first we have the creative tasks for you. These are designed to coincide with National Poetry Day and our theme for issue 8 which is HEROES... And, yes, it has pained me greatly not to write an entire magazine about how many of you are heroes for all that you’ve shared and helped us with over the past year and, in particular, our very special film campaign. You know who you all are. And you know that I’m having a bit of a sob because of how brilliantly supportive you’ve been and you are and – Enough now. To business...

TASK FOUR: Meet Your Hero.

Bring back the dead and greet your ghosts... Choose a ‘hero’ that’s passed on and let them live again in another place and another time and in another way... Think Marilyn Monroe, Vincent Van Gogh, Buddy Holly. Where will you take them? How will you save your hero’s life?

TASK FIVE: Hear me now.

Discard pens and pencils. Use your voice, your breath, your rhythm and record a poem or story. Don’t write a word. Just let your tale be completely guided by sound. Think folk tales and performance poetry and see what comes...

as we got started the reality set in. Yes we could write every day and yes we could fit it in around our busy lives, but blog and tweet about this thing too? No way! I feel a little disappointed that neither Sandy nor I could write as much about writing process as we would have liked. I really wanted to write and to have time as well to reflect and think about how things were going. However for me this project is not over. I’ve decided that every other month I’m going to focus on just one writing project, so over time the Alcott Rocks blog and twitter page will get well utilised and hopefully it will also reveal any trends

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the old curiosity shop or problems that I regularly encounter. All of that said, this first Alcott Rocks challenge did teach me some important things about my writing process and I can confidently report the following: I write best in the mornings. It seems that writing without thinking (I tend to be in sleep auto-pilot in the morning) works really well for me. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I can write loads in the morning without becoming too analytical or dwelling too much on what I’ve written. Later in the day and I’m easily distracted by anything and everything; I should trust my instincts and NEVER use common sense or logic (in writing!). In August I opted to work on something that was more developed and had a clearer story. But my instincts were telling me that I should work on another project I had in mind which was less developed. I’ve been working on this other project since August finished and I’m utterly addicted! Not to mention that

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structure and development which it initially lacked is now all worked out, I just needed to get on with the writing... Making headway in one writing project makes me happy. Need I say more? With an additional note by Sandy East. -> ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW IS THIS: 1) LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DID NOT COMPLETE HER MASTERPIECE IN THIRTY DAYS. WHAT?! Nope. That earnestly-devoted-to-bothfamily-and-art-prolific bastard did even better than that and completed her noble deed in twenty-one days instead. She also sung lullabies to squirrels with nut-rash of the mouth and mange-tail, housed woundedwinged birdies in her hair, and breastfed newborn abandoned kittens throughout the entire process of writing Little Women. And obviously baked all of the incredible food she was able to buy for her family so that they

didn’t starve. I am happy for Alcott. Little Women is cracking chick-lit yarn about stroppy, sickly, spoilt, and sometimes savvy sisters, bad hair days, and a wimpy boy full of lolz and blubs. And Susan Sarandon is my favourite literary ‘Mom’ of all time and WinonaOh alright, I’ll stop now. Alcott did and does ROCK officially. She set herself a great challenge and she kicked literary ass. And one day Rach and I WILL do the same. We will... WE WILL. 2) You’ve just gotta write, dudes. Yeah. Write. Write every day. Write every other day. Write in the time that you need. Write whenever you can. Wherever you can. Write what you want to write. Write what you love to write. Write what it unnerves you to write. Write what it hurts to write. Write small. Write big. Write from the Earth. Write beyond the moon. Write to wherever you want to go. And write with all of your heart and all of your bones. Just write.


the old curiosity shop

The Curiosity Super Star Reviews: Celebrating All Areas of the Arts The Midnight Garden

Michael Rowland

This section is all about literature written for children and young adults, and it’s a very biased collection of personal favourites from my own childhood. Each issue, I am going to be dredging up a favourite book I read as a child that has, for one reason or another, stayed with me. I will attempt to say a little about the story, and why in my opinion, it is such a classic. They may be well known or fairly obscure, but every book I discuss will be one that shaped a childhood – my own. So, wait for the clock to strike thirteen and have a wander through the shadowy garden of the past… The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – Alan Garner

Y

ou often hear children’s authors talking about how important it is not to patronise children. They also talk about not being afraid to push children into the shadows to confront their fears. No one does this as masterfully as Alan Garner. He is, in my humble opinion, our greatest

living children’s author. He has been cited as a direct influence by writers like Philip Pullman and Garth Nix. He is also a fascinating man in his own right: extremely private, he lives in a very tucked-away part of Cheshire in an ancient house. He has written and spoken movingly about his struggles with bipolar disorder, and of his rich love and knowledge of the wild landscape of Alderley Edge, where his first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (published 1960) is set. My first experience of Weirdstone was in either late primary or early secondary school. I had been given a book token by my school and took it into the bookshop to find something. I was a difficult child to please, which made me an ideal Alan Garner reader, although I didn’t know it yet. I finally heaved off the shelf an omnibus edition of three of his novels – Weirdstone, its sequel The Moon of Gomrath and the later Elidor, which was made into a TV adaptation a couple of years later. I opened the cover at home, and began a lifelong affair with the stern prose and black-as-midnight themes of Alan Garner’s work. It was the landscape that stood out more than anything at first. It is

referred to constantly – it becomes not just a setting but the spirit of the book. The main characters, brother and sister Colin and Susan, are staying with local farmer Gowther Mossock and his wife Bess when they land themselves in the middle of an age-old struggle between good and evil. They are threatened by dark figures while out on the Edge, and find themselves rescued by the legendary wizard Cadellin Silverbrow. The ensuing campaign to keep the sacred Firestone safe from the clutches of the morthbrood had me spellbound as a child. What really enchanted me was the unrelenting dark tone of the narrative – the villains aren’t just a bit nasty, they are evil personified. What is most unnerving is that many of them walk abroad as everyday people – often well-respected locals. This bleeding of timeless supernatural evil into the modern world became something of a signature of Alan Garner’s work, and can be seen in both Moon of Gomrath and Elidor. I always seem to come back to Weirdstone, however, because it is the first Garner novel I read. That and it has the only passage in any book I have read that made me hyperventilate with discomfort even when coming back to it as an adult – read it and you’ll know exactly which part I mean!

Mike Rowland used to be a teacher but now he’s a student again. He loves reading (obviously) and occasionally doing his own writing. He also loves food, drink, walks, films, museums and art galleries, the city and the countryside, and sudden bouts of energy followed by long periods of hibernation.

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A Staged Affair Donna Staveley

This section is about some of the plays and musicals I’ve seen and will hopefully cover some shows you should recognise, as well some lesser known and new pieces of theatre. You may not agree with what I have to say, but this is nothing more than my personal thoughts, why I enjoyed them (or indeed not!) or found them particularly memorable or moving. So shush now, the lights are down, the curtain has gone up and the overture is starting...

Wicked

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urely almost everyone has seen The Wizard of Oz and is familiar with the mean, green Wicked Witch of the West, who makes poor Dorothy’s time in Oz a complete misery. But what if she really wasn’t like that...

Wicked is a musical based on Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. It’s the story of the Witches of Oz; Glinda (Good Witch of the North) and Elpheba (Wicked Witch of the West). The show focuses on Elpheba’s story and portrays her as someone trying to do the right things for good reasons, though ultimately being misunderstood. The show starts with the people of Oz rejoicing the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, as explained to them by Glinda. The tale is then told in flash-back form from when the witches first meet at the Shiz University, where pretty, popular Galinda (as she was then known) is forced to have the reviled, greenskinned but magical Elpheba as her room-mate. A somewhat unlikely friendship develops between them and, as things unfold familiar characters from The Wizard of Oz are introduced. However, their stories are shown from a different perspective, things are not what they seem to be in the film and the things for which Elpheba is deemed as being evil are shown as the actions of someone trying to do the right thing.

She is encouraged to develop her magical powers and is granted an audience with the Wizard, as he wishes her to help him with some of the bad things happening to the people of creatures of Oz. However, his motives are highly questionable and once Elpheba realises that he is behind what has been happening, she is forced to flee. By the time Dorothy arrives, you are firmly on Elpheba’s side in wanting her to have the ruby slippers back! By the end of the show there were a series of wonderful ‘lightbulb’ moments where you can see the audience piecing things together with the events from The Wizard of Oz and realising, for example, who the Cowardly Lion really was, why the Tin Man had no heart and why the Scarecrow wanted a brain. At the heart of the story is that good and evil may not always be what they seem and a reminder that we should know the full facts before making up our minds about people. However, it’s also a delightfully clever take on a classic story and I loved it!

Theatre-whore (will go anywhere to see anything with anyone), reader of books (avid); giver of hugs (real and virtual); maker of cakes (and eater); believer in unicorns (they DO exist); drinker of wine (explains the unicorns); incessant chatterer/giggler (honestly, never shuts up); far too easily amused by most things (especially herself ); sharer of words and stuff (novice). Can be found wittering on Twitter as @doonakebab.

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Do Look Now Rachel Quinn

In ‘Do Look Now’, I’ll be writing about some of my favourite films, which will be connected (sometimes loosely) to the What the Dickens? theme. As well as looking at films from the past, I’ll also be looking forward, to future releases I’m excited to see.

“Break the glass Ripley. Break it, break it!” Newt (Carrie Henn), Aliens.

realise there were no women for me to look up to on the television or cinema screen. I guess I could have looked up to Princess Leia, but she seemed naff compared to my beloved Han Solo. It took until I was seven years old to find a female role model that was worthy of my adoration and she came in the form of Ellen Ripley. My parents were quite lax as to what my younger brother and I could watch and often as a family we would watch completely inappropriate films together (in addition to Aliens, watching Fatal Attraction as a family sticks in my mind – eek!). So at the tender age of seven I watched Aliens with my family. Obviously it terrified me. I watched a lot of it from behind the sofa.

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hen I was little, I was quite the tomboy; I loved Star Wars, The A-Team and most of all, Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was my childhood hero and all I wanted when I was a little girl was to grow up and be as cool as both Indy and Han Solo. I had no concept of gender and my aspirations to grow up to be Indiana Jones seemed perfectly acceptable to me. Looking back I

Despite the terror, the woman power in Aliens got through to me. I loved Ripley’s transformation from the terrified victim to the Alien-destroying heroine (Sigourney Weaver received an Oscar nomination for the role). She faced her demons and burned them. And Vasquez was way cooler than Han Solo! She was a bad ass! She didn’t listen to authority and was braver than most of the male soldiers in her unit. And there was Newt, the little girl, who was the sole survivor of the Aliens’

massacre of her colony. Aliens gave me several female characters to look up to, none of whom were glossy princesses. The majority of film fans I know prefer Alien over Aliens, however I’ve always preferred the latter. As I grew up in an army town, the military ‘grunts’ that feature in Aliens are very believable to me. The inappropriate humour about colonists’ daughters, that delicate balance between macho and psychopath and the big guns; they are all things I’d observed in my home town. I also prefer Aliens because I think the supporting characters are more compelling than those in Alien. Ash, for example, is highly disturbing as the clinical, cold android in Alien; but I find Burke’s willingness to turn a profit at the expense of his fellow humans more disturbing. Ultimately I prefer Aliens because it transformed my world at an important and impressionable time in my young life. If somehow you’ve missed it, I implore you, see it! I was delighted last year when the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton held a late night showing of it. But I assure you it is just as scary watched on the sofa at home. Just be sure to have a cushion at the ready to hide behind... You’ll need it...

Rachel Quinn works in Higher Education and lives in Brighton. When she’s not working, Rachel pretty much lives in the cinema, occasionally venturing out into the light to read, drink coffee and to write. She rambles on about films and posts lots of bunny pictures on twitter at @ ginquinn.

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Lost & Found Paul Hirons

Where the brilliant books you might have missed are given their time to shine. This edition: Not The End Of The World, by Kate Atkinson.

Short story collections can, by their very nature, be hit-or-miss affairs, frequently consisting of repackaged and haphazardly-assembled juvenilia jostling for space with unconnected newer work. Tonally eccentric, thematically disparate, their patchwork nature is understandable but often frustrating for the reader. Not so with Not The End Of The World, whose component tales are so cleverly assembled that they almost – almost – form a complete novel.

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onsider the work of Kate Atkinson and you’re likely to think firstly of the bigger hits: the gorgeous and heartbreaking Behind the Scenes at the Museum, for instance, or the BBCadapted, genre-busting Jackson Brodie novels. But nestled among the Yorkshire author’s back catalogue is the lesserknown Not The End Of The World, a compendium of short stories that may well blow your literary socks off.

Moving away from the real-world situations around which her novels are largely based, the tales in Not The End Of The World are nonetheless vintage Atkinson. Her trademark razorsharp dialogue is here in abundance; her ability to maintain a sense of playfulness while taking us to some incredibly dark places is unwavering. And the stories themselves are a joy. Frequently bonkers, always engaging, our protagonists range from jolly Charlene and Trudi, playing out the mundanities of everyday life against a barely-acknowledged backdrop of all-out Armageddon, to the frustrated mother of “gormless”, fish-obsessed Eddie, forced to indulge her son’s predilections by spending day after

day at Deep Sea World. Existing in a universe where men turn into cats, pharmacology students stumble unwittingly upon the secret of eternal life, and middle class mothers are unexpectedly undertaken on the M9 by Hades’ chariot, they’re a broad bunch of misfits, disconnected from the world, and from each other. Or are they? As ever, Atkinson’s strength lies in her subtlety, her ability to combine literariness with readability. Hers is an authorial touch so deft, you won’t realise how the stories hang together until you’ve read them all, at which point you’ll want to return immediately to the beginning to uncover all the clues you missed the first time around. Playful as they are erudite – where else would quotations from Virgil sit so comfortably alongside references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer? – the stories are, without giving too much away, obsessed with metamorphosis and mythology. Physical, spiritual and psychological transformations abound, and with a knack for merging a delicately-constructed metaphor with an entertaining yarn, Atkinson keeps us beguiled throughout. It’s Not The End Of The World; it’s the doorway to a completely new one.

Devourer of books and seasoned cat fancier, Paul Hirons can often be found slumped in a skip round the back of Twitter, surrounded by empty gin bottles. Contact him at @PaulHi – he’d love to hear your Lost & Found suggestions.

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Waste Not, Want Not Jen Hammell

Design is everywhere. Each day is a series of experiences occurring in and influenced by the various spatial environments we encounter. In this section, I’ll share my thoughts about the different people, places, things, and even concepts that inspire the creation of those spaces and/or the buildings they inhabit. Join me in exploring what sparks the creative process of spatial design and its influence on our daily lives. Wander into my mind’s eye and pull up a comfy chair.

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’ve always been a bit of a ‘secondhand Rose’. Growing up in a lowermiddle income family in a middle/ upper-middle income neighborhood, finances were always tight and ‘buying new’ was rarely the practice. Visiting the Salvation Army when we needed ‘new’ furniture was a bewildering experience of expansive, slightly under-lit rooms full of incoherent merchandise. While dreaming of shiny, new clothes in the Montgomery Ward catalog, I still got secretly excited when the box of hand-me-down clothes from my cousins would arrive, just before school started each fall. And I can still hear the hum of the cathode tubes when our old, (inherited from the grandparents) 4-channel black and white television fired up (although I was quietly enchanted when visiting a friend’s house where their full-color TV sported so many channels the set needed two dials). With my early, intimate rapport with thrifting and ‘recycling’ out of necessity, I find ironic joy in the relatively recent popularity and reputable distinction the ‘re-use’ industry is experiencing, especially in the architecture/design industry. A few organizations, in particular, have garnered my attention for their pragmatic and social sustainability practices. A longtime forerunner, Habitat for Humanity’s founding mission of providing “decent, safe and affordable” homes derived a compelling side business of selling salvaged just-abouteverything. Twenty-five years later, 825 Habitat ReStores (US/Canada) offer a myriad of discounted items, from lumber to hardware to housewares and more. habitat.org/restores/default.aspx

Here at home, the Chicago Rebuilding Exchange diverts deconstructed materials from landfills and offers them, at great discounts, to the general public. They are committed to providing job training and education for “hard-to-employ” individuals and offer hands-on workshops to the public. They also sell their own “RX Made” line of merchandise, featuring re-furbished or upcycled items created with the donated materials. rebuildingexchange.org.

Serving Washington, D.C., the sprawling warehouse at Community Forklift not only houses diverted deconstruction items for resale at a substantial savings, but also a variety of surplus materials. And in response to local historical preservation needs, their fantastic Salvage Arts section features unique antiques and delicious vintage delights. Mindful of community responsibility, they also offer Sustainable Business Internships where college students and career changers learn the re-used material business onsite and through local community events. communityforklift. com/index.cfm.

In Detroit, where the city continues to take down hundreds of empty houses, the Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit is mitigating that effort by saving as much viable building materials as they can. Part of their profit supports historic preservation projects and provides training and job opportunities in the burgeoning field of deconstruction. aswdetroit.org.

Socially conscious organizations giving second life to salvaged materials while breathing life into the moral fiber of their communities. In this climate-challenged, often socially discordant world, this business model should become more of ‘the norm’. They’ve inspired me to explore the salvage market for an upcoming mini-makeover of my own kitchen. It’s good design practice, good for business, good for the earth and, most importantly, it’s good for the soul. roadkillrescue.net diyinspired.com instructables.com funkyjunkinteriors.net

Jen Hammell is an Interior Designer who has been practicing professionally in the industry for over 10 years, as well as teaching and being involved with design-related charities. She is currently exploring ideas for a Social Enterprise to promote positive change in urban communities.

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The Art of Devotion: Inspired Arts to Lift Your Soul Sally-Shakti Willow

Ancient associations with the verb ‘to inspire’ include ‘to breathe life in’ and to suggest by divine influence. So the act of creating something beautiful, whether it be architecture, artistry or alchemy is a process of inspired transformation. This section is dedicated to exploring the creative arts that open a door to eternity... Weltethos: Jonathan Harvey

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ack in June, before the lotusblossoming fantasia of the Olympic Opening Ceremony held the world in a collective breath of wonder, the London 2012 Festival was launched in Birmingham with the UK Premiere of Weltethos, a six-movement symphony by contemporary composer Jonathan Harvey. The piece is based on the idea that all religions contain a universal and unifying message of peace and love at their heart and combines words and scripture from a variety of traditions set into evocative world music. The libretto was written by Swiss theologian Hans Kung. I listened to it on the radio and I’ve booked tickets to see the next performance in London in October. Critics’ reviews focus rather bluntly on

the prosaic ponderousness of Kung’s words and I have to say I agree with them on that. Kung’s principal, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions” led him to write his combination of spoken word (Sam West at the Birmingham performance) and choral libretto, which was then set to music by Harvey. On first listening, the simplifying and often patronising attempt at communicating a sublime message through words which hit you like rocks as they were flung about by the children’s chorus (“We humans should be more human!”) seemed to stilt the movement of a well-intentioned spiritual exploration. It felt… forced, didactic. What would Harvey have made of this journey on his own, I wonder? Harvey is “probably the most spiritual of our British composers,” according to Sir Simon Rattle, Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker, which first performed the piece in 2011. His music transcends the boundaries between ancient spirituality and modern sound, taking listeners on a voyage into the deep mysteries of life. Harvey combines orchestral and electronic

sound to create the hauntingly ethereal effect of voices arising from the heart of nowhere, such as in Vivos Voco and Speakings. These pieces, without words, transport us into the mysterious and transcendent realm of sounds as they emerge from the silence beyond our knowing, play tantalisingly in the space within and around us, then recede once more into the dark otherworld just out of reach. Without the encumbrance of any (or all!) world religion, Harvey’s compositions speak to us directly of heavenly realms outside our understanding, and bring those veiled and shadowy regions into the spotlight of our human experience for a fleeting moment. So, why am I going to see the clunky Weltethos performed again? Because, Harvey’s sound and music – in places – capture that magic and bring it to life through a cultural collage of the world’s great religions; and because in setting Kung’s words to a children’s chorus he understands that the truth is often simpler than we expect it to be: our future as a people depends on love.

Sally Willow lives and works within the cradle of the South Downs. She is a teacher, writer, storyteller and workshop leader. For more information, please visit innernature.org.uk.

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The Curiosity Super Stars’ Creative Tasks:

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nce again the Curiosity Super Stars are here with a brilliantly delicious and diverse selection of creative tasks for you to undertake. Enjoy!

MIKE’S CREATIVE TASK:

Alan Garner is a master of writing about darkness and shadow. He places his characters either underground or outside during the night for most Weirdstone. Build up a word bank of words to describe darkness in as many different evocative ways as you can. An interesting way to approach this might be using kennings, the old Norse practice of fusing words together to create a richer sense of description, as you find often in texts like Beowulf. There are some examples below to start you off: Curtainfall – Starstrangler – Moonhood – Shadowveil – Nightstalker

DONNA’S CREATIVE TASK:

The events in Wicked look at the Wicked Witch of the West and show that the things she did were not intended to be evil; knowing more about her story before The Wizard of Oz began explained things. Think of a character from a well-known tale and write their ‘back story’ to explain

their actions in a different light. For example, what could have happened in Voldemort’s childhood to make him behave as he did to Harry Potter?

RACHEL’S CREATIVE TASK:

Aliens clearly had quite an impact on me as a little girl and transformed my world. Who transformed your life when you were little? What or whom would have the power to change your world now? Write a story about this grown up superhero and how they could rescue you. Alternatively write a story from a child perspective about a grown up or character that is changing their outlook for the worse. If you are looking for inspiration I’d recommend checking out the films Son of Rambow or Lars and the Real Girl. Alternatively you could read either Naive, Super by Erland Loe or All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman.

JEN’S CREATIVE TASK:

Find an object that you’re likely to get rid of in the next 6 months – an old chair, a sweater, a bottle, anything. Visit one or all of the links below (or share, if you know others) for inspiration and think of a way to re-use or repurpose that item (or some portion of it). Share your findings.

SALLY’S CREATIVE TASK:

Inspired by the work of Jonathan Harvey, explore the range of sounds you can create using unusual or everyday objects. Can you make the objects “speak” to you? What are the stories they tell you, and do their voices whisper secrets of another world?

PAUL’S CREATIVE TASK: Write three short stories that appear disconnected, but are tied together by the denouement of the third.

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.

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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Curious About...

Screenwriting Michelle Goode

Introduction to Screenwriting

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ver thought of trying your hand at screenwriting? As writers, we’ve all got good imaginations and visualisation is often a key part of planning our stories and their narration. So what if you translated these scenes into a visual-led format which would allow your stories to play out like they would on the screen? Could your short story idea work as a short film? Could you write the next award-winning TV drama or a blockbuster movie?

How to write screenplays

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irst things first – we need to know how to write a screenplay. If you’ve only ever written in prose, there are a few key differences (and similarities) in the approach to writing that you’ll need to keep in mind:

How do you format a script?

• Use free software like Celtx (celtx. com) or paid software like Final Draft. • Use a script template in Word – can be searched for on the Internet. • In general: 12 point Courier, 27mm left margin, 25mm right margin. • Slugline in capital letters, left-aligned, only write day or night (not dawn, etc). • Action descriptions normal case, present tense narration, to-the-point. • Characters introduced with age, character names in capitals, central. • Dialogue normal case, 88mm from left margin, not beyond 35 characters across. • Brackets only used when absolutely necessary to describe how something is said.

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• Descriptions are used differently. Whilst they still evoke the genre/ setting and introduce characters, they’re far more elementary – they describe what the scene looks like and what’s happening to the characters. They’re not used for lengthy back story or character thoughts... Think of yourself as a director.

information and will always leave the reader/viewer wanting to know more.

• Dialogue takes up a lot of the page (unless you’re writing an artistic/silent film or there’s a lot of action sequences) and must have context. Conversations (much like descriptions) which don’t tell us anything about the characters or move the story along aren’t required.

“Protagonist has a problem/need/ want/goal, but something (opposition) gets in the way. An inciting incident provides a catalyst for change, during which protagonist makes a decision under pressure and embarks on a course of action. There are more problems/ turning points along the way, leading to a crisis, climax and resolution.”

• Scenes, like chapters, need to drive the plot. They’ll launch straight into the action, convey key

• Scripts as a whole need to be structured to be effective. They can be linear (told in order) or non-linear (think Pulp Fiction) and will, in general, go something like this...


the old curiosity shop Top tips...

• The first ten pages – or 10% equivalent – are crucial in setting up the genre, location, protagonist and their issue. • Make it interesting to read – a bit of colour, wit or humour in descriptions can sometimes help the flow and keep a reader’s interest. • Use subtext – don’t be too literal, especially with dialogue. What are characters hiding? • Is it Maria or John who we need to be wary of ? We don’t know... yet. Always create tension and intrigue. • Get feedback, be it from peers or professional readers. Writing is rewriting. If you have any questions about screenwriting, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at writesofluid.com.

Screenwriting Advice

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creenwriting can be an exciting and fascinating way of storytelling, allowing you to present your story in a dramatic way. Not only can you play around with different forms of narration and explore different characters’ points of view and events in a visually implicative way, you can also have fun with the type of media you are writing for, such as screen (TV or cinema?), animation, web series, graphic novels or live theatre performances. Join me as I discuss all things screenwriting, from how to do it to how to do it well, what happens next and everything in-between.

Transformation

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his issue’s theme is “transformation”, so I thought I’d talk a bit about adaptation; transforming your stories from one format to another. If you’re already a

short story or a novel-writer and my introduction to screenwriting whetted your appetite, you might like to consider the challenge of adapting one of your existing stories into a screenplay.

This doesn’t mean that you need to completely change your story – but it’s these sorts of things that you’ll need to keep in mind when choosing how to adapt it for the screen.

Adaptation can be a daunting task, and as an author of a piece of work you’re very proud of, you might find it difficult to change it. We’ve all been to the cinema to see an adaptation and been miffed to discover it’s different... “It wasn’t like that!”, we moan.

• What’s the most dramatically appealing part of your story? Whose story/what character? What problem? What’s in their way? Whose point of view?

Unfortunately, most stories that originate in prose just won’t be suitable for the screen if transcribed without due thought given to how the story works in screen format. The reasons why adaptations have subtle (or sometimes big) differences from their paper counterparts are because: • The story needs to fit into screenplay convention; structurally and contentwise. It may work better dramatically if told through a different style of narration or with a different structure. • The spine of the story – the most dramatic and appealing plot thread or view point – may be different to that which was intended in the original. • The protagonist may change – what was the mother’s story about the quest for justice may in fact be better told from the point of view of the murdered son’s brother. • Introducing the murderer as the antagonist could give another dimension to what may have originally been a novel solely from the mother’s point of view.

• Can your story be told in a more dramatic way? Does it rely too much on inner thoughts? What physically happens that could play out well on screen, or could more happen to represent the problem? • Are there characters or things that happen that are inert; characters who have no real role or scenes which aren’t necessarily needed? • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Add a new character? If the story’s simple, complicate it. If it’s already complicated, can it be simplified? What effect do you want to have on the viewer? How can you achieve this? Will the setting be more dramatic elsewhere? Remember: when reading a story we are inhibiting the character (unless told in third person with multiple protagonists). When watching a screenplay we are observing. Could your story reach a wider audience as a screenplay? Give it some thought. And above all, have fun!

• The setting may need to change for the screen – a story set in the past may better target a visual audience if made contemporary.

Michelle Goode is a script reader, editor and writer who operates from her little online empire; writesofluid.com, where she compiles writing resources, writes her blog and offers her services. When she’s not creating fictional worlds through scripts and prose or writing articles, she’s helping strengthen the work of others or assessing scripts for production companies, competitions and initiatives. It goes without saying that Michelle loves reading, watching TV and films, and likes nothing more than to snuggle up with her ginger tom cat Monty to do so. Follow her adventures on Facebook: facebook.com/michellegoodewriter and facebook.com/writesofluid, and on twitter: @Sofluid.

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Curious About...

Radio Julie Mayhew

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eet the award-nominated radio dramatist, Julie Mayhew, as she shares her insights on what makes a great radio play, how to create your best work, and what and who makes radio drama so exciting for her... Grab your pad and prepare to take a LOT of notes.

Julie, you act, write short stories, novels, theatre plays and, of course, radio plays. What is it that makes radio drama special for you? What does it offer that those other forms don’t? As a listener, I like how you can be doing something else – cooking, driving, decorating – yet still be submerged in this other world. It takes you out of yourself, on a journey. And as writer, I like how you can take people on this journey very simply by using just words and sounds, trusting that their imagination will do the rest. Can you pinpoint what it was that inspired you to start writing radio plays? Was there a particular dramatist, producer, director or play that made you think, ‘Yep, I want to do this’? Or was it more organic than that? I got into writing radio drama after having my first son. I was home alone with a baby and craving the voice of another grown-up so I started listening to Radio 4 all day. I’d worked in commercial radio as a journalist and presenter before, but this felt like learning a new language. I was just really eager to test it out. Can you tell us which three radio dramatists and three radio plays you admire and why? I enjoy the themes Mike Bartlett tackles in his work, Katie Hims is really skilled in getting you to experience the emotions of her characters and Murray Gold writes amazingly bonkers dialogue that just sparks. I also make sure I tune in to a drama if it is produced by a company called Holy Mountain (directed by Boz Temple Morris). They always stretch the boundaries of what you think a radio drama should be.

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I assume that because you’re an actress, this MUST have influenced your decision to write radio plays, and that you feel more of an affinity with creating drama because you know the positions of both performer and writer. Do you feel more confident writing in these mediums? My experiences as an actress have really informed my drama – absolutely. I want to write characters that are exciting for actors to play, and create moments of conflict and change that you can feel physically when you’re acting them out. Writing drama seems a very free and fastflowing process compared to writing a novel, but I find that if I spend too much time in one medium I’m craving the other. I like shifting from the internal world of fiction, to the mixture of drama and thought that radio allows, to the immediate, interactive world of theatre, and back again.

then I dug it out when I wanted to tackle something dramatic for Radio 4. All of the characters experience the most exciting parts of their lives in their heads, so it works perfectly as audio, because I could dive in and out of people’s minds. A Shoebox Of Snow began with the characters Albert and Renie, an elderly couple who live an isolated life in their flat of hoarded things – inspired by a friend’s eccentric neighbours who had kept every copy of every newspaper they’d ever bought. I was motivated to develop it further by the Nick Darke Award – a writing scheme that encourages plays and films about the environment. I realised that Albert and Renie had emerged from my desire to write about things and our attachment to them – Why do we hoard? Why do we feel the urge to throw so much away? It was shortlisted for the award and then I met a producer (via Twitter) who wanted to know if I had any ideas for radio on the go. It turned out she was similarly fascinated by the themes I wanted to tackle in Shoebox.

My experiences as an actress have really informed my drama – absolutely. I want to write characters that are exciting for actors to play...

Your radio plays, A Shoebox Of Snow and Stopgap aired last year and were both warmly received by listeners and A Shoebox Of Snow was nominated for Best Drama in the BBC Audio Drama Awards – congratulations! Tell us about the process of creating those plays. I started writing a few scenes of Stopgap – which is about office life, temping and lives on hold – when I was doing my first temp job out of university. It sat around in a drawer for years and

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of how you go about writing a radio play. What do you focus on first? Plays for me always develop from one scene – a conversation or a moment that comes to mind and feels exciting or important and the start of something bigger. It’s at that point that I need to


the old curiosity shop think whether it’s a book, or a play, or a short story or a piece of radio. It’s usually quite obvious which medium it fits. You just sort of sense it. If it blends the dramatic with the internal, and has some magical sense to it, it will usually be a radio drama. In regards to time do you tend to thrash out a first draft until it’s ‘done’? Or do you work to a scheduled number of hours and accept however many pages you write? I’m not the kind of writer who sets themselves a daily word count. It’s quality not quantity! And time spent doing other things is often really productive thinking time. I will do a first draft that involves lots of going backwards and smoothing things out, so that a first draft always feels relatively polished. Ok, you’ve got a first draft in your hands... What are you looking for to tell you that you’re on the right track? What are the essential ingredients for a successful radio play for you? If it’s successful, it will just feel satisfying. If you’ve sat on the shoulders

of all the characters as you go through you’ll know if they’ve ended up where they should be. It will feel resolved. I don’t mean that all your ends are tidied up nicely, because I don’t think drama should be like that. Life isn’t, after all. But by the end of draft one, I should feel like I’ve said what needs saying. I always give it a read out loud at this point so I feel the flow of it and hear it happening.

and will feel like it is ready for the input of other people – actors, a sound designer, etc. That’s a really exciting moment, because you know it’s about to transform into something else. I will always expect to tweak scenes during the recording too though, so I guess, in that sense, it’s never really finished. Even when I’ve heard the first edited version I’ll have an urge to rewrite certain parts!

How early on do you look to other people’s input in the development of your radio plays? After I have a complete first draft I’ll get the producer to read it and feedback on the bits of plot that don’t add up, faults in character’s journeys, etc. – generally the stuff that makes sense in my head but hasn’t translated onto the page.

If you could provide a set of tips for creating a successful radio play, what would they be? Listen to lots of radio drama. Pinpoint, as a listener, what works for you and what doesn’t. Choose a topic to write about that keeps you awake at night, that always grabs your attention in the press or gets you talking passionately to friends. Don’t guess what producers will find popular or cool – enthusiasm will out. Test out a few scenes, submerge yourself in the world and ask yourself, what are people saying in this world? What can I hear?

You’re at that stage where your radio play is almost complete... What’s that part of the process like for you? Do you have a routine that you go through until you reach that ‘PING! My work here is done...’ moment? By a third draft I’ll usually have answered all of my producer’s queries

Julie is an actress turned writer who still acts but mostly writes. Her most recent play for BBC Radio 4, A Shoebox Of Snow, was nominated for Best Audio Drama at the 2012 BBC Audio Drama Awards. Her short stories are published in the UK and US, and her collected stories have twice been short-listed for the Scott Prize. Julie’s debut novel, Red Ink, will be published by Hot Key Books in February 2013 and she was recently awarded a place on the coveted Arvon/Jerwood Mentoring Scheme to work on a second book. Julie grew up in Peterborough, and originally trained as a journalist, putting those skills to excellent use in her first job as a ‘Black Thunder Babe’ breakfast presenter for local radio. She has since written extensively for the national press. Home is now Hertfordshire. She is mum to two boys. She is quite good at ice skating.

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Curious About...

Theatre Phil Porter and Joe Murphy

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Phil Porter

Joe Murphy

eet Soho Six playwright, Phil Porter, and nabokov director, Joe Murphy, as they discuss the journey from page to stage of Blink, a delicate, dysfunctional, darkly funny and fragile play that has charmed audiences and left them lingering for answers to questions about coincidence, chance, love and life.

Congratulations on Blink. It’s a gorgeous, tender, wobbly-nerved, thoughtful, funny play with a huge heart. Tell us about how the play first came to life. PHIL: The Soho Theatre invited me to become a part of the Soho Six, a group of writers attached to the theatre that meet up roughly once a fortnight, and as part of the project I was commissioned to write a play. I wanted to write something small but with big ideas. Also, after listening to Steve Marmion (Artistic Director) talking about how he wanted the comedy, cabaret and theatre at the venue to relate and respond to one another, I thought I’d try writing something where the actors directly addressed the audience - something I’ve not done much before. Blink was the result! JOE: Well Phil has been writing the script since 2011 but I came on board this year. I directed a rehearsed reading of the play in March this year, and fell in love with Phil’s unique, beautiful and disturbing way of seeing the world. So my company (nabokov) teamed up with the Soho to co-produce the play, and the rest is history! What’s that next part of the process like when a play first moves from page to stage? Who comes onboard next? What are the main priorities at that point? Casting? Staging? PHIL: I guess it varies a bit every time. Once you have a script that is good enough to produce (or that everyone is confident will become good enough), that’s when a director is likely to become attached. Then a big part of their job is to put together a team of designers, actors and other skilled people to make the thing happen, and this can happen in pretty much any order. Various meetings with various combinations of

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these people help to firm up everyone’s sense of what they’re trying to create, and then, once rehearsals begin and the set is built and props gathered or made, that’s when it all starts to become real. Blink is unusual in that I wrote one of the parts with a specific actor in mind (and thankfully he said yes to the part), so that bit of casting happened quite early. But apart from that things have happened in pretty much the standard order. JOE: Once we’d committed to the play the next stage was to get a designer and cast sorted out. For the designer there was only ever one choice for me, Hannah Clark. Hannah has designed a few of my shows (and one of Phil’s) and is quite simply brilliant. I knew that we were going to need a designer with a strong aesthetic sensibility and ability to manipulate space. Luckily Hannah agreed and I think she has done a beautiful job. Then casting. Phil had written Jonah with Harry in mind so that was a no brainer. I directed a one woman show a few years ago with Rosie and I’ve always thought her extraordinary. From that I experience I knew she was very strong with story-telling and direct address so she seemed perfect to me, and after an audition Phil agreed! We then completed the creative team with Jack Knowles, lighting designer, and Isobel Waller-Bridge, our sound designer and composer – both of which were instrumental in creating the world of the play. Once the team was assembled we moved in to the rehearsal room. The world is in the words obviously but in terms of creating that space on stage and welcoming an audience what kind of stance did you work from? By which I mean do you start pinpointing striking visual moments

and using them as prompts? Or are you more focused on verbal transitions? Or was it more organic than that with Blink? PHIL: Our starting point was the image of the bed in the garden. It felt quite natural to foreground this image because it’s not just an interesting picture but also the climax of the play. And it is the most real moment of the play, so I guess we (myself, Joe and Hannah the designer) felt it made sense to make it physically real. Then we had various practicalities to consider (where will props be kept?) and more abstract questions about the nature of the play to address (who are these people and why and how are they telling their story?). We decided they should be sitting at desks. There was something about the strangeness of sitting at a desk in a garden that felt right. JOE: We started with lots of conversations between Hannah, Phil and I as to exactly how we saw this play working. When you read the script on its own it’s beautifully open to ideas for staging as it in no way prescribes how it should be done. We knew that the connection with the audience was the heart of the play and that the production had to capitalise on that. We also knew we needed a convention for the other characters. In my memory there were three main breakthroughs that lead us to this production. The first, from Phil, was that this was Jonah and Sophie’s version of their own story, they were in control of the storytelling, almost like the audience were at a lecture they were giving. This changed the way I thought about the play. Then I proposed the idea of microphones, as a way for Sophie and Jonah had invented to communicate other characters. Finally Hannah came up with putting


the old curiosity shop the garden at the heart of their story, but making it synthetic and recreated in doors. Hannah also proposed the idea of the desks, enhancing the idea of a lecture, or presentation. From these points the play grew! So I guess to answer the question, we started with the text, always the text, and tried to figure out it’s mechanics and who these two people were, and what they are trying to say, and built out from there. What and who were your main influences on shaping Blink? PHIL: I wanted to achieve the kind of playful but unpandering relationship with an audience that comedian Stewart Lee so deftly achieves. I’ve heard it compared several times to independent films but I wasn’t consciously influenced by anything like that (we talked about Wes Anderson films as part of the design process, but I’d finished writing it by then). JOE: Wes Anderson! I thought – and forgive me if I’m completely off the mark here – that the music, the lighting, and the use of colour gave the play a wonderful autumnal/wabi-sabi feel. That all those elements echoed these characters being constantly stuck in the midst of change, and loitering on cusps of innocence and knowledge. Was it always the intention to create that tone from the start? PHIL: I’m not sure. I completely agree that this is what comes across but I think I’d be lying if I said that I consciously aimed for that in the writing. There is a line near the end of the play: ‘It’s autumn, not spring, everything’s dying.’ When I wrote that I definitely felt it worked as a line, that it was very in tune with how the play should feel at that moment. But I can’t say I ever really articulate what I’m trying to say or achieve, even in my own head, while I’m writing. I just think about telling a good story and

then, once it’s done, I can identify the themes and ideas embedded in that story retrospectively. JOE: That’s really lovely to hear. It was all totally planned that way. Haha sorry no, that was a joke. The truth is that I find it very hard to plan those kinds of outcomes. I work more from the inside out so try and build up a production one bit at a time, maintaining a logic and creative integrity, then look back at what we’ve got and go, “oh, that’s interesting”, or “oh dear, what have I done!?” This is born out of a trust in the writer and the script: I firmly believed in what Phil had written and was trying to do, so I just tried to follow that and do my best to illuminate it for an audience.

as the production is built on a live, direct address, relationship with the audience it had to be open to develop and evolve as the actors got to know the characters and audiences better. So yes, it has fluctuated and developed as the actors have become more empowered and ingrained in the show, but it was always conceived to do this as a production. I guess we tried to give the actors a blue print (I’m very sorry for this pretentious analogy) with which they could just keep building. Creativity and spontaneity within a nuanced structure, that was the plan!

The beauty of live theatre is that you can change it and evolve it. How much has Blink changed from when it first started? How do you feel you’ve made it stronger? PHIL: I made a few small changes in rehearsal, some because I changed my mind on hearing stuff and some to support unforeseen but excellent production choices. But I haven’t changed anything since the play opened. But of course the play is different every night. Each audience brings something new, laughs at different moments, offers up a different energy. And the actors, because they’re brilliant, manage to take that energy and make it part of the show. It’s fascinating to watch the show after a week or two away and see how it’s developed.

If you could give at least three pieces of advice to any playwrights and directors working together to bring a play to life what would they be? PHIL: My tips for writers: Before rehearsals begin, spend time with the director talking about stuff other than the play. It’s important that you build a bond of trust. If you think the director is making a mistake (rather than just a choice you didn’t foresee) talk to them about it. If they’re a good director they’ll want to hear your opinion. Try not to give actors too many specific notes in the first couple of weeks of rehearsal – it’s much better for an actor to play a truth they’ve discovered themselves. Be prepared to let go of any specific design ideas that you have. It’s exciting to see your storytelling imagination refracted through someone else’s brilliant visual imagination. So basically, be open to other people’s ideas. But don’t be a doormat.

JOE: The DNA of the production hasn’t really changed, but as you will have seen, the play is basically one long scene for an hour and a bit - so the actors are totally in control of its rhythms and pacing from one section to the next, which is quite rare, but often I find my favourite theatre is when the actors are in control. Also,

JOE: Trust your writer and script. Trust your actors. Try and take your ego out of the equation, I always think directors are there as the audience’s representative in the room, so I would say put them at the heart of the work and make sure that the decisions you make are about them and their experience.

Phil Porter won the Bruntwood Playwriting Prize for Cracks in my Skin and the Arts Council’s Children Award for Smashed Eggs (Pentabus Theatre, Sulis Theatre & Theatre Royal, Northampton). Porter’s other recent plays include Alice in Wonderland (Royal & Derngate); The Tempest (adaptation co-written with Peter Glanville for the RSC) and Beauty & the Beast (Unicorn Theatre). Joe Murphy, nabokov Artistic Director and Soho Theatre Artistic Associate, has been nominated for an Off West End Award under the category of Best Director for his work on Blink. His previous credits as director include Young Pretender (Edinburgh Festival/ UK Tour); Bunny (UK Tour, Soho Theatre & 59E59 New York Brits Off Broadway Season ‘11); The Boy on the Swing (Arcola Theatre). As Associate Director: Henry V (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre); Punk Rock (Lyric Hammersmith/ UK Tour); The Laws of War (Royal Court) and as resident Director Ghost Stories (Duke of York’s, West End).

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The Curious

Creative Life Freddie Stevenson and SJI Holliday

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rom songs that stay in your head, having the power to change and move you, to the challenges of having too few words to play with versus too many, singer/songwriter Freddie Stevenson and writer SJI Holliday offer up their personal thoughts and insights on the creative process in their own distinct ways...

Reflections on Creativity: Transformation Freddie Stevenson

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’ve recently come to realize that songs are alive. Sounds obvious, but when you think of the creative process as an attempt to satisfy the urge to objectify the subjective experience of being, it starts making sense. Some songs wake you up with a kiss at midnight and whisper: “Come with me to the water, there’s something I want to show you.” You follow them into the night, all the way out of town, down to the edge of the ocean. “Look here, in that rock pool...” they say. You kneel down and look but see nothing, it’s too dark, it’s night after all and there’s no moon. “What am I looking for?” you ask, but the song has gone. It’s left you there. You might weep a few romantic tears into the dark rock pool then go

home, watch something comforting on television instead of listening to that song again and fall asleep. Or you might remain there until the tide comes in and you drown. Some songs, when they lead you to the rock pool, don’t abandon you there, they stay with you. They get stuck in your head, you hum them on the bus. And what’s more they glow, they shed a little light so that you catch a glimpse of your own reflection in the rock pool. If you keep coming back to the song, if something in it makes you listen again and again, if you stay kneeling at the rock pool, the water may still, just for a moment when the wind dies, and you see how astonishingly beautiful you are and you cry out, “How have I never before seen how beautiful I am?” but the song doesn’t answer, it’s gone. You may remain staring at your reflection until you become aware of the emptiness behind your back and come to the conclusion that it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, you know you are beautiful, and the next morning as you prepare for the day you look in the mirror as you brush your teeth and remind yourself of it. Or, like

Narcissus, you stay transfixed until the tide comes in and you drown. Your coffee tastes funny because you just brushed your teeth and you’re sitting on the train going to work or to the park or to visit your grandmother and you don’t really want to listen to that song again, you’re a bit bored of it. Maybe one day you’ll hear it by chance and smile because it reminds you of the person you were when you first heard it. But you’ve changed. So you scroll around your iPod looking for something to listen to, you don’t know what, but something to listen to as you kneel at the rock pool and beyond your reflection you notice some little fish darting about and maybe a sea anemone, the whole thing is teeming with life, and there is also the moon and beyond it the stars. Something to listen to as the tide comes in and you drown.

Freddie Stevenson is a British/American singer/songwriter from Edinburgh, currently living and working in New York. Playing guitar and writing songs from an early age, he trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He has released three studio albums, the most recent being ‘The City Is King’ 2011. A collection of fifty of his songs, recorded during periods of transience and given away for free online, have been published as the songbook ’50 Songs’ 2011. He performs with a variety of musicians in different ensembles including the Dirty Urchins who can regularly be found busking in Central Park. His collaborations as a songwriter include work with Mike Scott of the Waterboys. His band, the Midnight Crisis, perform regularly in New York City.

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Reactions to Creativity: Transformation SJI Holliday

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’ve been struggling to write lately. The reason being, I have decided to put down my short stories and flash fictions for a while to focus on what I really want to write, which is a crime/ horror novel. I told a friend I was finding it very difficult to shift from telling the whole story as concisely as possible, to spinning it out to a novel length effort. Considering some of my flash fictions are only 100 words long, writing 100,000 is quite a daunting task. It’s a completely different discipline. I’ve trained myself to be economical with words, to make every one count. To hone descriptions to less than a sentence – sometimes just a couple of words. Making characters and settings come alive in the cramped

bedsit conditions of a short story is completely different to letting them roam around freely in the mansion that is a novel. His answer was simple: just keep writing short stuff then – maybe that’s your niche. PAH! I said. No. That’s not my niche. I don’t have a niche. I am a crime writer! This has been my plan all along. It got me thinking though. Maybe I’m not cut out for the long form. Or maybe it’s because I am inherently impatient and I like to see results immediately. Also I find it almost impossible to ‘write it forward’ and not edit as I go. I am a perfectionist. I feel sick at the thought of a typo or a grammatical error – yes, even in the first draft (I am a Virgo… it’s an astrological affliction.) He’s not the first person I’ve spoken to about this. The general advice from all writers I’ve asked is ‘just write it’, ‘get the first draft down’ etc, etc, etc. It’s meant to be the vomit draft (Thank you, Mel Sherratt). It’s SUPPOSED to be crap. So with this in mind, I started on yet another first chapter using my latest brilliantly original idea (it must be noted that I have a new even

more brilliantly original idea every time I put fingers to keyboard to try and get one finished). By the time I’d reached chapter two, I’d lost my mojo again. Idea not strong enough, characters not interesting enough, something just wasn’t right. Still that issue with making it long but not boring. Trying to stop myself from telling the whole story in less than 2,000 words and wondering what to do about the other 98,000. Wondering yet again if maybe I could make an interesting short story collection out of my 100 first chapters. I would call it ‘One’… it would be avant-garde… This transition from short stories to novels is not going to be an easy one, but I stubbornly refuse to give up. I will not accept defeat. I will not put myself in a box. I will be a novelist, goddammit. No one puts baby in the corner.

Originally from Edinburgh but now lurking around the peripheries of London, Susi ‘SJI’ Holliday is a reader and writer of crime, horror and quirkiness. She has short stories and flashes scattered across the web (at places such as 5 Minute Fiction, Six Words Magazine, The Rusty Nail and Ether Books) and in print anthologies (Jawbreakers, Off the Record 2: At the Movies, Crime Factory: Horror Factory) and is currently sweating over her first novel. You can find out more at sjiholliday.com, or at twitter/facebook where she sometimes rants and generally avoids doing any work. P.S. Also has a day job.

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Curious Interviews by Sandy East

Jen Campbell

“There are so many great things out there, waiting to be discovered...”

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utterflies, owls, ghosts, mermaids, and bees are just some of the delightful finds in Jen Campbell’s mind, her approach to writing, and her highly praised new poetry pamphlet, The Hungry Ghost Festival. Meet one of the most exciting and freshest voices in poetry as she talks oddities of the body and the power that fairytales and myths provide us with, the joy of scattering words, and urges all writers searching to write their own stories to read, read, read... Jen! You must be heart-skippingly excited about the release of your gorgeous new poetry pamphlet, The Hungry Ghost Festival? Can you give us a brief description of the collection please? Hello! And thank you. I’m very excited indeed! For me, in The Hungry Ghost Festival, poetry is tied up in place and folklore. It’s about the riverside and rumours in the hills, and falling in love

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with someone you’re not supposed to be found with. It’s about the beach at night, and owls flying into windows. It’s about the past’s presence in the present. And it’s also about whatever you want it to be about. Ghosts, family, childhood, wonder, adventure and discovery are all big, beautiful themes within The Hungry Ghost Festival. Was it always your intention to focus on these areas? Who inspired you? I didn’t do it deliberately at first, no, but I started to realise I was collecting a lot of poems about the north east of England, where I grew up, so I then started to focus on that area more. I probably was reading Andrew Motion’s poems on his childhood around that time, so I suppose that was a bit of an inspiration. Poets, in general, that I worship are: Tim Atkins, Terry-Ann Thaxton, Ted Hughes, John Berryman, Ryan Van Winkle, Michael Ondaatje... oh the list could, and does, go on! Transformation is the theme for this issue of What the Dickens and it’s a theme that is very much there in the lives of these people within The Hungry Ghost Festival. Would you agree? Transformation definitely plays a theme in two ways: one a shift from childhood to adulthood, and another in the sense of fairy tales. There are a few poems in the collection which deal with the idea of morphing: a mermaid being born in the Tyne, and then a ‘real life mermaid’, a girl born with her legs joined together. Having EEC (rather crudely known as ‘lobster claw’), I’m fascinated by the way myths and fairy tales may well have been born out of disability. There’s a discussion to be had about that being empowering. How much has creating this particular collection transformed you as a poet? I’m guessing that you must feel a change of sorts in your approach,

voice, use of shape and structure… Publishing is a long process, and the poems I wrote for The Hungry Ghost Festival are now perhaps between a year and three years old. Now, I’m working on a full-length collection dealing with what I’ve mentioned above (toying with the titles ‘How to Weigh Nothing’ and ‘The Day I Ran Away from the Circus’). Having The Hungry Ghost Festival published has been amazing, and wonderful to know that someone has faith in your work like that. It’s also interesting when sending work out to literary journals to see what tends to work best, and what doesn’t; all this helps shape future work. As I write, I do find that I’m adapting all the time, not only through practice and my own experiences but through what I’m reading, too. Philip Pullman’s advice is ‘read like a butterfly; write like a bee’ – and I think that’s very sound advice indeed.

What has writing this collection taught you? Strip things back. Twist things you half-remember into something different. Don’t be afraid. I’m always a bit baffled when I meet people who are ‘terrified’ of writing poetry as I feel as though it’s the most


the old curiosity shop open form of writing… Do you feel more freedom with poetry? What is the process of poetry writing like for you? Do you have hard and fast rules? Who are you heroes in the poetry, or indeed the WHOLE writing world? Ah, I already listed some poets above, but heroes in the whole writing world? Well, that has to include Ali Smith, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, Philip Pullman... I do feel more freedom in writing poetry (free verse, that is), because the whole page is mine and I get to scatter words across it how I want, and then rearrange them and change them until I’m happy. I also do lots of other types of writing: script writing, non-fiction, short stories and novel-writing. Script writing I find almost as freeing as poetry – almost – but in a different way. I don’t find novel-writing ‘freeing’ at all. I find it terrifying. Poetry can be terrifying too, if you’re stuck in a rut (shudder), but it’s a great way to play with ideas, and have lots of different things on the go at once without tying your head in a knot. Can you imagine scribbling ideas for four novels down and then trying to understand them all at once? That can be panicking in poetry, too, but at least it takes a much shorter time to unpick and set up the framework.

Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops has been and is still being loved hugely. You must be absolutely thrilled. Am I right in thinking a follow-up is in the offing? Tell us about that. There is indeed! Very different to poetry, obviously, so it’s rather a nice break (from each of these things) when I switch between the two. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops came out in April (it does what it says on the tin), and it’s it out in America this week too, which is both exciting and scary. I’m currently writing the sequel, which is very cleverly named More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops; the deadline for the manuscript is the 1st December, and it’ll be published next year. It contains such quotes as: Customer (holding up a book): What’s this? The Secret Garden? Well, it’s not so secret now, is it, since they bloody well wrote a book about it! -Customer: I had such a crush on Captain Hook when I was younger. Do you think this means I have unresolved issues?

Customer: Pride and Prejudice was published a long time ago, right? Bookseller: Yep. Customer: I thought so. Colin Firth’s looking really good for his age, then. Ah. I do love customers. You’re a prolific writer, a passionate reader and you’ve created a great poetry collection with The Hungry Ghost Festival…What’s your best advice for our readers trying to make their own way? READ. Read everything you can find. If you won’t make time to read, then forget about the writing part, especially when it comes to poetry. I meet so many people who say they write poetry, and want to be published, but don’t have a clue what’s being published at the moment. I want to shout at them! It’s not only a shame because reading benefits writing, but it’s a shame because there are so many great things out there, waiting to be discovered. As I said, or rather as Philip Pullman said: ‘read like a butterfly; write like a bee.’

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Jen Campbell grew up in the north east of England, and graduated from Edinburgh University in 2009 with an MA in English Literature. She now lives in London, where she works at an antiquarian bookshop. Her first book, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops was a Sunday Times bestseller, and her first poetry collection The Hungry Ghost Festival is published by the Rialto. Twitter: twitter.com/aeroplanegirl Blog: jen-campbell.blogspot.com The Hungry Ghost Festival: therialto.co.uk/pages/pamphlets/the-hungry-ghost-festival Signed copies: jen-campbell.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/hungry-ghost-festival-available-for-pre.html

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Kate Cann

“Teenagers are an absolute gift to the writer of fiction...”

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nd SSBA award-winning author, Kate Cann, is, undoubtedly, a gift for numerous teenage readers of fiction in return... Meet a writer who loves nothing more than a great “leap of faith” and who decided to take a huge jump herself and write the stories of adolescent adventure that she wanted to read, and, as it turns out, masses of teenagers (and adults) wanted, and love, to read too... From the gothic to the ghostly, to feminism and “finding out who you really are” this is one author who is determined to take her readers on an emotionally exhilarating escapade, and she’s loving every minute of it. Hello Kate! You’ve just released your eagerly awaited new book Witch Crag which I know you’re very excited about... Yes, I did get very excited writing this book! I loved the idea of inversion; of rigid beliefs being turned upside down, and of someone taking a huge risk, a leap of brave faith, like Kita has to do to escape the dull hill fort. Witch Crag is a dystopian tale that ends up with the promise of utopia to come. I hope it’s feminist and free-thinking and a rollicking good adventure too. I’ve loved witches since I was a child – I always wanted to write about them. The witches from Witch Crag are women possessed of special skills, fleeing from persecution. They’re not good or evil – they’re human, strong and fair, and if they’re attacked, they bite back. Men haven’t been sidelined in the book, though. The developing love between Arc and Kita is central, and I got goosebumps writing it.

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The theme of this issue of What the Dickens? magazine is transformation and some might say a huge transformation takes place during the process of writing a book... Can you describe what the journey of writing each novel is ‘generally’ like for you? I think I’d talk in terms of development, growth and discovery, rather than transformation, in writing a book. Transformation is what I earnestly hope I show happening to my characters! Over the years I’ve learnt to let go a bit, and trust that things will evolve as I write. The subconscious can play a big part in story telling. For example, in Possessed, I described a weird, pagan looking fireplace before I knew what it would be ‘for’ – it played a big part in the story later on. It’s thrilling and a bit eerie when that happens. And writing Witch Crag, I felt like the story was unfolding and fitting itself together in front of me - a delicious experience. I think if you’re having to plug away too hard to make something work, you’re maybe on the wrong track. Transformation is a key theme to nearly all Young Adult fiction due to these stories usually being told by teenage narrators sometimes dancing and often wobbling on that cusp between naivety and knowing more than they should... Would you agree that creating characters with such a precarious sense of knowing is one of the best gifts for a writer dramatically? Absolutely. That fluidity, that openness to ideas, that vulnerability, rawness and passion - teenagers are an absolute gift to the writer of fiction. They make such exciting, volatile characters. Thank you, teenagers! Having run writing workshops with you for a LOT of teenagers, who were diverse in their academic abilities, attitudes to reading, and willingness to be impressed by anyone, and seeing how all those young people engaged with you and your novels such as the Moving trilogy, I’d say you’ve got a strong handle on recreating the trials and triumphs of adolescence. How do you stay connected to that age group, those ‘I’m the only person who’s ever felt this way’ type teenage emotions, and keep it relevant and fun? Well, thank you, Sandy – but you did the lion’s share of work in those

wonderful workshops! I love writing from a teen perspective, for all the reasons I’ve outlined above. And also I think because I was born into a restricted, dysfunctional family and my teens were when I broke free and fully became ‘me’. A huge, recurring theme in my books is - find out who you are, truly are, and then live it. I don’t write contemporary teen fiction now - I’ve got no teen at home to eavesdrop on. But those themes of finding freedom and of self actualization are always there - they’re absolutely key in Witch Crag.

The transformation from child to young adult is gothic in itself due to the physical and emotional changes experienced and the gothic is a big theme in many of your novels. Leaving Poppy, Possessed and Fire all deal with darkness, mystery and ghostly happenings and they’re bloomin’ scary in parts (I became terrified of attics after reading Leaving Poppy). How much fun do you have creating such disturbing stories? What is it that you love about the gothic genre? Ah yes, teenagers have a real rapport with Gothic, and I had a very distinct Gothic Phase! I loved exploring it all. I’m interested in the psychological, metaphorical side to gothic writing, if that’s not too pretentious. I love the idea of bleak windy weather and creaking doors and guttering candles mirroring what’s going on in a character’s soul. Ivy Skinner, the grisly ghost in Leaving Poppy, works as a metaphor of the twisted, narrow home life that Amber is fighting to get away from ....I hope she also works as a bloody good scare!


the old curiosity shop Place plays a big part in your novels from a historical and social aspect, doesn’t it? Do you often start your stories because a location has inspired you or do you tend to create your characters first and think ‘Right, where can I send this person to that’ll cause them to gasp a lot whilst clutching at their overpalpitating hearts as they veer from sweating and shivering profusely every ten minutes?’ Ooh Sandy, I am pleased I scared you so much! Sorry, that sounds mean. I was lucky enough to spend a day and a night in a haunted mansion, before I wrote Possessed and Fire. I’m not going to name it because the owner was miffed with me for turning his ancestral home into a centre for ancient evil! But it was one of the most terrifying nights of my life, and it was rich fodder for writing. But it’s the characters who come first for me, always - that and an idea of plot. And so to a sense of physical and mental place for you as a writer... Where do you write? What kind of environment do you need? I can write just about anywhere, but I prefer to be alone. Cafes would send me crazy. I don’t have a desk or a special room. I write in front of the stove in the winter, on the garden swing in the summer... I rather like hotel rooms, too. No distractions. Walking is a

vital part of my writing day – lots of writers say this, walking can be very meditational. We’ve moved to the country, and walking in all seasons, experiencing all the changes in nature, is meat and drink to me. You became a writer after you became fed up of reading an array of teenage books that you felt just didn’t convey adolescence effectively or convincingly – it sounds like that experience was a big time of transition for you? More like a bigheaded blip of “I can do better!’ I was copy-editing teenage fiction and I hated the way they dealt with sex. The ‘literary’ books were dark and depressing – rape, incest etc. – while the lighter books were hopeless, fluffy candyfloss. I wanted to explore a first sexual relationship as a powerful, transforming time in a way that was both positive and serious. That’s where the Diving In trilogy came from – and I still get emails about Coll and Art! And finally, it’s that magical, beastly, eerie ‘winter is slowly creeping towards us’ time of year and you’re about to release a book called Witch Crag which sounds perfect for the season! Tell our readers why they should be snapping up a copy as soon as they can! Playing witches was my favourite game

as a child. Many years later, a feminist friend told me that was healthy – witches meant female power. That idea of power stayed with me. And then I discovered something intriguing about the witch hunts that swept through Europe in the seventeenth-century. In Poland, apparently, women accused of witchcraft would flee to a certain stark, forbidding mountain. Then, to keep themselves safe, they’d spread dark rumours about the evil hags who lived there, and the mountain became a place of terror. I loved that idea. You’re coming after us because you think we’re dangerous? Fine, we’ll play it your way. We’ll create a myth about ourselves so terrifying you won’t dare come anywhere near! So Witch Crag was seeded. I’d always wanted to write a book about witches. I’m not going to take on the might of Harry Potter here, but to me – witches aren’t male. And they don’t go to school. They’re wild, anarchic, female forces of nature, awake to senses that are dull in ordinary people. They’re not evil but if you threaten them – they bite back. Anger is a significant part of Witch Crag – anger that can transform into a force for good. While I was writing Witch Crag, the Arab Spring was bursting forth. That fed into the book too – the young thinking freely and throwing off the corrupt practises and domination of the old.

Kate Cann did two English Literature degrees, then worked as an editor before trying her hand at writing. She has written over twenty books for young adults. She has a grown up son and daughter and lives in the Hampshire countryside with her husband. Visit her at katecann.com.

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the old curiosity shop

Sinéad Matthews

“It is the challenge that makes it all worthwhile... And with each challenge that comes your way, you learn a bit more about people, life, art, and yourself.”

S

ensitive, sparky, sunny and sharp, and forever charging towards new challenges, Sinéad Matthews is an actress who could teach us all a thing or two about just going for it. And some day soon she’ll more than likely write a story about just that... Along with a few other stories she’s got planned. However, right now, allow yourself to picture a sky full of stars illuminating a stage as Ms Matthews tells you about magic, battles, heroes and heroines, and how the time is never right to say no to a great part... Sinéad, from playing teasing, charming and acidic-witted Restoration heroines to devoting and inspiring as the ultimate muse, it seems that 2012, in particular, has been a non-stop adventure for you? Is life treating you well, career-wise? Life is treating me very well, careerwise! I’ve just reached the end of an incredibly long run of theatre jobs, starting way back with The Glass Menagerie, then straight onto Ecstasy, finishing with The Master and Margarita, and let’s not forget The Way of the World thrown in there, somewhere in the middle. Now

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I’m currently filming a series for the BBC. It’s a nice change to be doing screen work. I did a bit of filming on something for Channel 4 the other day, it’s been so long since I was on a set, I felt like I was in a dream, like I wasn’t really there. By the end of the day I didn’t want to go home. I’m looking at Sinéad Matthews’ CV and I’m thinking this is an actress who simply doesn’t do the easy, lightweight option. From the linguistic gymnastics of Congreve’s complexly plotted The Way of the World to the stark, alcohol-smothered despair of Mike Leigh’s comical tragedy Ecstasy to Tennessee Williams’ play of abandonment and loneliness, The Glass Menagerie. You seem to be an actress who thrives on testing yourself in every which way... What’s interesting about the parts I’ve played is that nearly all of them have been offered to me, so I haven’t really gone looking for them, so to speak. In a way, they have come looking for me. And yes, they have all been pretty challenging in their own ways, some more than others. But it is the challenge that makes it all worthwhile. The joy of rehearsing a part is the exploration and discovery, and the more intricate it is, in my opinion the more fulfilling it is. Plus also, I think it’s just who I am, what I attract, what attracts me. I enjoy a challenge. I think I would be like that with whatever I did in life. And with each challenge that comes your way, you learn a bit more about people, life, art, and yourself. I think, like in life, people are ever changing, they are movable, and so when you are doing a play, you are in charge of looking after that particular person/ character, for a certain amount of time, I will never reach a point where I think, “Ah yes, that’s who she is...” Challenging characters will always keep you on your toes, keep you moving, keep you contradicting, and keep you questioning. Touring in Complicite’s The Master and Margarita was a hugely exciting part of your life this year, time-wise, creatively, and emotionally, wasn’t it? What was it like working with Simon McBurney? And how much did that experience teach you and change you? You know, when I first was thinking about doing The Master and Margarita

with Complicite, people said to me: “It will change your life” and “It’s a completely once in a lifetime experience”. I really had no idea to what extent this would be true when I began. It’s a very different way of working, you are joining together to create a piece of theatre from scratch. It’s a very very long and winding road, with many many bumps, and many many breakdowns, (I had to call in the AA a number of times) to get to the end result. Once we were there, and the show became the big breathing animal that it is, we could then start to ride it. And it was quite a ride! But getting to that point was a battle. Now when I say battle, I mean that in the best possible sense. It was never going to be easy putting the novel of The Master and Margarita onto the stage, but we all knuckled down and jumped into the pit. What Simon McBurney has taught me is invaluable, the experiences that he has given me are second to none, he said things to me that a lot of directors would never say, and I will never forget. I will also never forget performing at the Avignon Theatre Festival. To play in an outdoor medieval, iconic palace, under the stars, to 2000 people, was overwhelming, every night. It was magical, for some reason, because we were not in a normal theatre, it took on its own reality and therefore it became even more real, the story became even more tangible. Some nights, the wind was so strong our props were flying everywhere, I felt like I would fly away like a feather, but it didn’t matter, it became part of it. And I can think of no better stage, for a company like Complicite, to perform an epic story like The Master and Margarita. It was truly, a once in a lifetime experience. I always think of you as a theatre actress primarily and I apologise if that offends you… Am I right in thinking that theatre is where your heart lies? And ultimately where the more energetic, rich, intriguing roles for actresses, in particular, are? You would be right in thinking that I am primarily a theatre actress as that is what I’ve been doing for the past four years straight. Ultimately that is where the work has been. Like I say, when I was doing the play Lulu at the Gate Theatre I knew that I had The Glass Menagerie and Ecstasy lined up afterwards, so I was never available to audition for


the old curiosity shop screen work, and one thing I’ve learnt is that you need to make yourself available for auditions for film and television. For me the time was never right to say no to a great part on stage to make myself available. I think you have to take the opportunities when they are there, as it may not be like that forever. I’ve had some really interesting parts on screen too, and loved every second of doing them; I hope more will come my way. At the same time I don’t like to think too much about the grass being greener on the other side. That is not healthy and ultimately this precious life is too short for those worries. Of course you don’t only work within theatre but, very successfully, on screen and radio too. Which roles have you really loved within TV and film and why? And which roles would you love to undertake, be it in a long running series, film, adaptation or whatever? One of my favourite screen jobs was doing Vera Drake with Mike Leigh. It was my first job out of drama school and it was just so pure. I felt very safe, and the purity of the story telling and film-making was beautiful to watch, to be around, and to be creative in. There are many many roles I would love to undertake, many of which have not been written yet. I’m excited by the possibilities of what the future may hold, with this job you really don’t know how it’s going to be played out. I would love to do more films, and hopefully one day will bring my own projects to life. I’m desperate to tell my own stories through cinema; it’s just a matter of time really. That and a rather tedious thing called money. Who really inspires you and why? There are so many people, stories, music, objects, films, plays that inspire

me. Human beings, they all have a story, or a great secret. I’m obsessed with non-fiction, I find it very hard to read a fiction novel. For some reason I get very easily distracted. People really do fascinate me, I think that goes for a lot of actors. I’m hugely inspired by my family, if I’m honest. They are an extraordinary bunch of folk, living very ordinary lives, having come from extraordinary circumstances. They are a continuous inspiration to me. And so to co-stars… Who are some of the most exciting and challenging actors you’ve worked with and why? And who would you love to act alongside? Who sets the standard for you and makes you think, “Yep, they’ve got it sussed and they’re damn good at what they do!” Who spurs you on and makes you go “Yep, I wanna do that!”? When I think about actors who inspire me, I think of Maxine Peake; not just for her ability as it’s more than that. It’s how she has carved her career, the choices she has made and how she is most definitely her own woman. I saw her on the cover of a magazine recently, and it was so refreshing to see her telling a story, rather than just playing “I’m an actress and I’m sexy” which I get so bored of seeing everywhere. Instead she was so bold, she looked incredible, this bright red hair, holding these flowers, looking straight to the camera square on, she had a strength within her. She was telling a story, using herself. It was beautiful and sexy without trying. It was unique and different. And it wasn’t about how good the clothes looked on her, or whether her make-up looked amazing, it was so much more interesting and imaginative and I liked it. I’m terrible at getting my photo taken for things to do with press, it always looks so contrived. My

boyfriend Leo Bill inspires me, and has done since we were sixteen. He had a quiet confidence when I met him, that I didn’t have, and he had the strength to be who he wanted, even at sixteen. I’d never seen that before in someone so young. And especially not a boy. He still inspires me today. I think he is one of the funniest people alive, and one day he will make the world laugh. You’re bright, bold, generous and hard-working and you’ve worked with numerous writers, actors, directors and producers – who should audiences be paying more attention to and saluting? Who, in your opinion, is someone really special? Anastasia Hille is someone who I feel should be held a lot higher in this industry. The first time I saw her, I was sixteen and it was at The Globe theatre. She was playing Rosalind, it was raining, and I didn’t really like theatre then: I was very fussy, and very critical, in that way that sixteen year olds are, but she took me to a place that night. I believed her. I wanted her to win. I laughed with her, right to the very end. That had never happened to me before in a theatre. She was exciting to watch as well as being deeply truthful. And then I got the chance to work with her on Women of Troy, and she blew my mind every day! I don’t know how she does what she does and I certainly do not know why she is not ‘saluted’ more by the powers that be in this industry. And so to conclude, a little bit of Matthews’ wisdom if you will: Acting is… ...What I do to understand the world and the people who live in it.

Sinead Matthews trained at RADA. Theatre: The Way of the World (Sheffield Crucible); The Master and Margarita (Barbican/Tour); Ecstacy (Hampstead Theatre/West End); The Glass Menagerie (Young Vic); Lulu (Gate Theatre/Headlong); Eigengrau (Bush Theatre); Our Class (National Theatre); His Ghostly Heart/Little Dolls (Bush Theatre); Women of Troy (National Theatre); The Wild Duck, Winner of the Ian Charleson 2nd Award for Outstanding Newcomer (Donmar Warehouse); You Can Never Tell (Bath/Tour/West End); The Birthday Party (West End); The Mandate (Royal National); The Crucible (Crucible Theatre); Spoonface Steinberg (GBS). Film: Wreckers (Wreckers Ltd); Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (Working Title); The Boat That Rocked (Working Title); Spring of 1914 (Praxis); Happy Go Lucky (Thin Man); Pride and Prejudice (Working Title); Vera Drake, Winner of the Golden Lion Award, Venice Film Festival, 2004 (Thin Man). Television: Men Are Wonderful (BBC); Half Broken Things (ITV); Ideal Series 5 (Baby Cow/BBC2); Trial and Retribution (La Plante Productions); Who Gets the Dog (Company Pictures); London (BBC); The Hogfather (Sky); Viva Las Blackpool (BBC); He Knew He Was Right (Deep Indigo Productions).

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the old curiosity shop

Jamie Parker

“Theatre should be profoundly significant and meaningful and give you a sense of what it means to be alive...”

F

rom a nerve-charging, heartstorming performance as Henry V to taking on the role of the haunted, broken Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Jamie Parker is an actor who is commanding attention for all the right reasons. Intelligent and inspiring, this is a man who thrives on the importance of telling stories well and how influential the theatre can be. Sometimes pragmatic, sometimes philosophical, yet always passionate, Mr Parker discusses his career and contemplates a few big questions... Henry V is a poignant play for lots of reasons. What was it like playing Hal? Especially as he’s a leader and serves his men so well... I see Richard II through to Henry V – obviously they’re four completely distinctive plays and individual in tone and ambition – as essentially that one story and I am fascinated by the context of the play as coming as the last of the histories. It’s difficult to look at the play without our own modern rationalism, politic and cynicism and post-monarchial secular view of it and so there’s much of the play that’s written off as propaganda or jingoistic. I find it fascinating after seven plays of going to hell, Shakespeare dared to write a play about things coming together. It’s very juicy when you realise that in many ways he’s writing

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a depiction of an ideal. It’s a very ballsy thing to do because like Virginia Woolf said ‘Virtue writes white’ and to try and write a play about perfection means you risk not having any drama if everything is already perfect. It’s interesting to look at Henry as a flawed fallible corruptible human being who is trying to live up to an ideal and in every scene he’s having to overcome his own shortcomings in order to reorient himself in the direction of this ideal. Of course that ideal doesn’t sit that comfortably with us today but that to me that’s part of trying to meet the play on its own grounds. Some people aren’t born to follow Henry. They will just never buy into him. They will never be enchanted by him. It’s just not in them. By the same token it’s not in me to be cynical about Henry. I just can’t do it. I’ve been in love with him since I was eight. That’s got to help: the fact that you love that character, this person, so much? Yeah but that can get in the way. Certainly Dom (Dromgoole), the director, had to negotiate some scenes due to twenty-five years of me wanting to do it and that’s not that easy to do all the time. I’ve been thrilled to be here. A dream come true and I can’t believe it’s ended. To be part of something you’ve loved and that’s been so successful and in The Globe, which is such a fantastic space... You don’t want to do it anywhere else. It’s ultimate. This entire job was the dream for me. It’s the exact thing that hooked me on the idea of storytelling and of a life in storytelling in the first place. It’s the contract the chorus lays out for the audience right at the beginning about that collaboration saying, ‘We don’t exist without you’. Are you willing to be re-enchanted? Are you willing to suspend your reality and look at something which is just pieces, just props, just costumes, just actors, and just a play, and you are just people who have parted with your hard-earned cash to be bored by Shakespearian actors for three hours? Or are you willing to see something more? Because if we all agree to go there then the next three hours could be very exciting...

I used to bring KS5 students here and you ‘teach’ Shakespeare but they have to experience it in the ‘right’ space. Every time after they had seen a play they’d say, ‘Actually, Miss, that was amazing!’ and young people won’t let you know that they’re impressed easily. It shows the power of The Globe... Absolutely. They are the acid test. If you can catch that wave, that wind, then young people are the best audience in the world because they’re just entirely with you. What you’re hoping for is for an audience to surrender with child-like attention so if you have an audience of children or an audience that is still youthful and you can tap into that, then you’ve got it right there. You don’t have to have to reignite a pilot light in the first place. It’s magical really...It’s a naff word but... Yeah it is magical. Alchemy. Henry V is all about alchemy. You take this base material and turn it into something that is golden. It has a heart of gold. Being in touch with nature may be a prerequisite of being attracted to Henry. He is fertile. I’m completely preoccupied with the allegory of his story, the symbolism behind it. He rises ‘from the ground like feathered mercury’, ‘he’s a minion of the moon’ ‘he comes in thunder and earthquake, like a Jove’, ‘he assumes the port of Mars’. These aren’t idle phrases, they’re specific images and symbols that have a lot of detail and baggage that come with them, so when he employs them he’s saying something very particular about the kind of influence he’s under at that time in his life or the way that he’s being perceived by other people about what he’s trying to say to the world. Underneath all of it he is a ‘largess universal, like the sun’. He says it in his first scene and he is the allworshipped male, he is the sun. To see the rising of that... No-one can really hold a torch to Henry, and fertility and nature and all of that absolutely ties up with it. The only way to get a grasp on how awesome he is, is to stand at a sunset or sunrise and watch the sun until you’ve forgotten about everything else and just reflect on the sheer mindblowing power of it and everything that stems from it... And that’s what he’s trying to get a handle on and trying to communicate in a way... Oh shut up, Jamie!


the old curiosity shop No! Don’t shut up. Tell me about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I loved the chemistry between you and Sam Barnett, the charge of information and wit... I wasn’t that fond of Chichester Festival Theatre before that but that play transformed that space for me... It’s a difficult theatre, there’s no getting round it. That production was a privilege to be in. Sam and I were bosom buddies before we started and we were thick as thieves by the time we ended and part of that was because we encountered a lot of challenges during that time at Chichester with how that play was received... This is a great example of that audience contract. The thing about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is that it’s very much a young person’s play or very much for the person who’s young in mind. It’s being attracted to those kind of pyrotechnical displays of wit and that kind of stimulation and if you’re not interested in that and you have a very fixed idea of what good theatre entails, in the sense of a beginning, middle and end and other fixed ideas, then Ros and Guil isn’t going to deliver for you and you’re going to sit in the audience and not be contributing. And if everyone in the audience is on that page then you don’t have a play on your hands. What you have is two and a half hours of two actors dying on their arses... The nights when we had a younger audience in you could feel a naughtiness in the air and it was utterly glorious and it was all for the taking. All we had to do was say it out loud because they wanted it, they knew Hamlet well enough to take the piss out of it and to enjoy that kind of stimulation. When you had people who’d just bought a ticket for a West End show and the sort of thing they want to see is Wicked or they don’t know Hamlet or they don’t speak English or any of those options... When that disconnection with the play took hold of the majority of the people in the room, then there was nothing Sam and I could do and it was horrendous. A horrible feeling. It was a classic case of a brilliant play requiring something more from the audience. Tom is dismayed at the idea that he’s written a play that requires former knowledge from the audience. To an extent he’s actually right, and in a way it’s win-win because in the set-

up of Elizabethan theatre it talks of the play as existence, and the playwright as an invisible creator and actors as a creation in themselves but then what does that make the audience? A kind of pantheon of demigods who hold sway and influence over aspects of our lives. You have to please them in order to have something cooking even though they don’t have the power of creation. If you displease them you have a nihilistic, meaningless experience. And if you do please them then you have a vivid, fertile, imaginative exciting time... And, well, Ros and Guil was quite hard at times. Well, I loved it and I didn’t know that play before, but surely an audience has to be open because otherwise you’re missing out on the theatrical experience? Absolutely. There’s no point you being in the same room if you’re not open. If it’s a just a commodity you’ve paid for, then you’re not taking part and it is a conversation. If you’re not taking part in the conversation then there’s no point to you being there. If you’re not interested in being part of this contract and you’re not willing to participate, then please leave. And have no idea what the rest of us are getting up to because it will be incredibly exciting and if it’s just a play to you, and that’s all it is, then please leave. There have been nights at the theatre when I wish I could have given everybody their money back. However when you get into a run you can also have nights when it feels as if the audience has clicked together into another level of intensity and you can feel that an alternative reality has been breathed into existence. It’s a testament to the power of the collective mind and everybody agrees that this is so, and it is sublimely powerful. It feeds everybody who witnesses it. It’s a buzz. All those senses are heightened. It’s also addictive and you keep coming back to the theatre in the hope of having that experience all over again. That’s also extremely rare. What you pay great actors for is their strike rate; actors who can tap into that ability to enchant people. I don’t know where my strike rate lies. I’ve had nights when the audience have completely been there with me but what you realise when those nights happen is actually how rarely they happen. And that it

actually has very little to do with your ability or skill on those evenings. It’s just about getting out of the way and letting Stoppard and his audience have their conversation and it’s not about anything you’re doing. It’s about the play. On those other nights it is about you, to the extent that you have to come up with something and hope that you’ll nudge it into that place where the audience is with you. There have been nights when it’s all been clawed back in the last fifteen minutes and suddenly it almost glows and the audience is back up for it. The number of variables you can encounter during a performance technical crashes, illness, weather - are incredibly large and they can change the play in a number of ways and it’s beyond your control... Is that quite exciting too? It’s incredibly exciting. It depends where you set your bar, of course. With Ros and Guil, I had friends who saw it on ‘Death Nights’ and others who saw it on ‘Flying Nights’ and you couldn’t convince either side that they’d been to the same play. I’ve had friends who avoided my gaze after the play until I’d bought them drinks to try and recompense them being bored for two and a half hours. And I’ve had other friends who’ve bounced all the way to the pub having had some of the most fun they’ve ever had at the theatre and when I tell them the horror stories, they didn’t believe me! “That was one of the best times I’ve ever had in the theatre! How can you tell me you didn’t get one laugh?” However, even if it’s 99% brilliant, the idea of 1% of people going home feeling they just had their life ticking away for however long the play lasts, just makes my skin fold inside out with embarrassment. It is just one of the most humiliating experiences because it’s been meaningless and insignificant and that’s not what theatre should be. Theatre should be profoundly significant and meaningful and it should give you a sense of what it means to be alive and even a vague instinct for what it may mean to be dead. Not just ‘When the fuck can we get out of here? Are those two actors still talking?” I’ve been to the theatre under duress and had a great time. I’ve also been to the theatre and completely up for it and had a shit time. It happens.

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the old curiosity shop I always feel relieved when people say they enjoyed a play. It’s not so much about euphoria and despair anymore. It was when I first started out but now it’s about relief...or release. When you have an unbroken line of music running from the middle of the play until the end or at least a key passage and you feel something communal has taken part, that’s a release because you can take your hands off it. You achieve a balance but you’re not doing anything but you’re being whisked along on a journey and that’s what it should be and that’s what I think a lot of people search for in their daily lives. A kind of flowing? Yeah, being in the moment. That’s what theatre is there for. To rejuvenate that sense and that sensitivity to that state of being so that you can carry that out into the world. It’s transient but it feeds you for X number of duff performances until you get so ground down and exhausted that you take your hands off the steering wheel again and that’s when interesting things start to happen... Do you find that when you’re that exhausted that your performances are sometimes better because you lose the ego, you’re on an edge, and you just go for it? You’ve hit the nail on the head. The paradox of theatre is that it is about dissolving the ego. For the audience it’s about forgetting about life, time passing, the world and all those things. The paradox for the actors is that you have to simultaneously advertise the fact that you’ve dissolved the ego. It’s what Richard Eyre calls ‘The audience being knowingly seduced.’ There’s an element of ‘Look how I’ve dissolved my ego. See how I’ve become this character’ because this isn’t just reality, it’s more than that. And exhaustion can be a part of that because you’ve emptied your mind and suddenly you’re just there on the stage. Gambon says it takes twenty years to relax on stage and that’s probably true in order to be able to do it consistently. The History Boys – can you compare what it was theatrically to film for you? Film is an unashamedly literary medium and theatre isn’t. I think the film is a good film and it’s remained

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popular and kept the story alive now and I’m very proud of it. I found it odd filming the classroom scenes because in the theatre you have the audience with you and they’re complicit with all the ‘Hectorisms’ and the way in which those seventeen year old boys talk so it gives you more freedom. When we filmed it I had the audience in my mind and I found the absence of that presence quite distracting but it was the first film I’d ever done and I wasn’t particularly comfy in front of the camera back then. I’m still more comfortable in a theatre now. Also the film is a lot shorter than the play... It was a big part of my life. We enjoyed a lot of freedom with the play and on the film. There was a lot of bonhomie and relaxation and we were just loving it. I think charm is a big part of the appeal of The History Boys. They’ve got their flaws and their strengths and they are endearing. Quite where that charm comes from, I don’t know. There’s an element to which they’re all competing for attention but not to be alike. There are eight distinct silhouettes in those lads and nobody was really like each other and that allowed individual personalities to shine through. Whatever charm that might have held might have come individually. Bennett’s sense of inevitability, that whatever success or failure they meet is going to be quite rueful, is charming. Perhaps more to the English psyche than anyone else’s but we had great success with it in Australia, Hong Kong, New York and we weren’t expecting that. Bennett’s work has those darker tones within it but they’re dealt with in a subtle way and they’re not ignored. It’s funny but there’s that lace of vinegar there... Yeah, there’s nothing comfortable about it. Alan Bennett has got a very distinct voice as a writer. You always recognise an Alan Bennett script because of his cadence. Every word is worth saying and has its place. Especially in scripts and something I missed in the film was the narration. I really enjoyed narrating the play. I enjoyed having those long Bennett sentences and just remembering to breathe properly through them and there was a joy in witnessing the audience hearing those sentences accumulate and finally reach

their conclusion and then hearing the audience laugh. There’s a thrill in maintaining people’s concentration just long enough to complete. It has that in common with, I suppose, restoration comedy and I’m not sure you can do that on film in the same way as you need to have the sense of people listening to you. You’ve worked with many actors. Who challenges you the most and why? In terms of Shakespeare I learnt pretty much everything I know, if I’ve learnt anything at all, from Mark Rylance and Roger Allam. I saw Hamlet when I was at college and Mark single-handedly turned everything I thought I knew about performing Shakespeare on its head. Roger has a meticulous architectural skill in terms of transmitting the most complex of texts. I got to listen to his Falstaff every night and I would sit off stage and I’d never miss his speeches and he punted it out of the ground every time. And the same with Frances de la Tour delivering to the audience every night and I’d think, ‘How are you doing that?” Working at The Globe I’ve noticed the success of Mark and the success of Roger and they’re completely different actors. Mark is like a puppy; he craves attention. It doesn’t matter what it is, he pounces on it and plays with it which terrifies me because I’m not like that but you can’t work at The Globe and not have that switched on or you’ll close off and that won’t work in this space. Roger is meticulous in working out how those complex prose passages work and he finesses it every time. They couldn’t be more different but they arrive at exactly the same place. I’ve never worked with Mark and I’d love to as it would be an incredibly rich experience but I’m probably more suited to Roger in approach. I also love watching Sam. He was brilliant in Ros and Guil. There were nights when he was just fucking hilarious and I was just laughing at him and I couldn’t stop. Richard Griffiths, Frankie de la Tour... I’ve been very lucky. They’re all so good. Anybody can inspire you. Even mediocre actors have nights when they’re on fire and you’re going, “You’re a terrible actor. How have you just done that?” There are actors


the old curiosity shop I’ve seen time after time being really rubbish and then they do something really good and I find that annoying. It proves that nobody knows what they’re doing, they’re just making it up. And then I can watch a terrible film and still be moved so where does that leave you? Tell us about in Parade’s End. How much fun was that to make? Great script, fantastic cast. Susannah White directed it and she’s fantastic – I’m a big fan of hers. It was a lot of fun to do. I didn’t really see anybody else apart from Rebecca Hall because most of my scenes were with her and she’s gorgeous and lovely. It was great fun to do. You can see my performance from Jupiter though. I went along to ADR and my head sank into my hands. It’s quite a camp performance! I loved working on Parade’s End. Which writers and directors have you learnt the most from? Who would you love to write a part for you? No idea! I’m indebted to ALL writers I’ve worked with. Dead or alive. And I would be trepidatious about wanting a writer to write for me. Someone’s idea of what a part for me should be like and my idea of what it should be like and what that part should be...That’s quite difficult to marry up.

I worked with Laurie Samson, who is a brilliant director on a David Hare project. It was an incredible role in a very messy, brilliant play and I hadn’t quite seen it coming. I didn’t expect the intensity of the experience. I don’t think any of us did. We all found ourselves highly tuned with that play and it was a difficult play that we wrestled to the ground night to night. God that sounds pretentious. Sorry! But that was the experience we had. It was an intense, bleak play and we had to establish a high level of trust working on that. I’d bite Laurie’s hand off to work with him again, and I like David Hare because I felt at home in his prose and I like his mind. I enjoyed the challenge of his writing. In Racing Demon I had these passages of evangelism and I really enjoyed the challenge of those. There are roles that I want to play but I’m loathe to chase after them because I’ve started to understand that things happen at the right time for the right reasons. I could have made Henry V happen straight out of college. I could have raised the money and found the theatre and the director but I’m very glad that I didn’t because it would have been shit. Ok, moving on... Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – congratulations! Thank you very much. I love the play

and I’m terrified of doing it because it’s a big one and I’m not nineteen anymore and life has moved on. There’s an element of raking shit up to play this. I’ll miss Henry because he’s got a grip on his life in the face of all the difficulties and Brick doesn’t. Generally speaking you’re always playing people who don’t have a grip on their life because that’s where the drama is to be found. What have been three major defining points for you in your career? Henry V... My Zinc Bed... And Gondoliers. It was one of my first summer out of college and it’s where I met my wife and we had a dreamy, dreamy summer in Chichester. It was the campest production of Gondoliers that you’ve ever seen in your life. Enormous fun. I’m still in rose-tinted glasses about that one... And any advice to anyone starting out... Don’t do it! Only because that was what I was told by people I still respect and the point is if you’re going to do it anyway then no amount of people telling you not to do it is going to stop you. There ain’t any money in it. But if you gonna do it then you’re gonna do it.

Jamie Parker: Film: Le Weekend, Valkyrie, The History Boys TV: Parade’s End, Silk, The Hour, Burn Up, Horne and Corden, Imagine... Van Gogh, Silent Witness, Maxwell, As If, Wire in the Blood, Foyle’s War. Theatre: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – West Yorkshire Payhouse; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead –Theatre Royal Haymarket/Chichester; A New World, As You Like It, Henry IV Parts I & II, Henry V – Shakespeare’s Globe; My Zinc Bed – Royal Theatre Northampton; Racing Demon – Sheffeild Crucible; Singer – Tricycle; The History Boys, Revenger’s Tragedy, King James Bible – National Theatre; Holes in the Skin, The Gondoliers – Chichester Festival Theatre; After the Dance – Oxford Stage Co.

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the old curiosity shop

Memories of Pumpkins Y

ou’ll be pleased to know that you don’t have to endure my only pumpkin-related memory which involved a vegetable being wedged to my head. Instead you’ve got the rather lovely and playful memories of Alan Fitzgerald and Caroline Auckland. Allow yourselves to be taken back to your childhood when everything and anything seemed magical...

A Ten Year Old Boy’s Halloween Epiphany...

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here’s a saying “never do anything by halves”... Yet growing up in my family we made an art form of doing things by halves. Take the time my brother and I joined the Cub Scouts. Every year our “Arkala” threw Halloween parties and gave prizes for the best fancy dress costumes and jackal lanterns. After promises from my dad to get me a huge pumpkin to carve, he came home on the day of our party with a medium-sized swede. Carving pumpkins is tough; carving a raw swede is impossible. As my mum conjured up the costumes for me and my brother, my dad took over the carving of this “jackal lantern” of ours. Our hopes of winning any of the prizes on offer were very short lived as I trundled down our stairs with a bed

The Fairy Godmother and the Three Pumpkins.

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nce upon a time there were three little pumpkins. They spent their childhood in the vegetable patch being fed on horse manure. As they grew fatter and fatter their little faces beamed at the sun. The baby pumpkin was shy though and worried about his appearance and so hid behind the others. In the dusk of an autumn twilight amongst the fallen crunchy leaves, their Fairy Godmother came to visit. ‘I can grant you three wishes,’ she said. ‘I am too fat!’ said the largest pumpkin.

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sheet thrown over my head & a plastic skeleton mask strapped to my face (bizarrely, under the sheet?) while my brother made his way down in a pair of my neighbour’s daughter’s borrowed red tights and red leotard with a wire hanger used as a tail, along with a plastic devil’s mask. Thankfully the masks hid our expressions as my dad proudly presented us with our jackal lantern swede. Carving had proved too difficult for him so he had taken to it with a black marker pen. Smiley face and all. So we took our “pumpkin” jackal lantern to Cub Scouts in our bed sheet & tights, ready for the biggest humiliation of our lives, but it turned out ours was not a unique family & our swede came runner up to a grapefruit while my brother walked away with a prize for his fancy dress costume (sympathy vote, obviously).

However, it was about then that I learnt not to take myself too seriously. You miss all the fun waiting for things to be perfect.

‘I would like to be lighter so that I can model.’ ‘I don’t like my face’ said the middle pumpkin, ‘I would like a nicer smile.’ ‘I would like to be a dog,’ said the smallest pumpkin. The Fairy Godmother smiled, benevolently covering them with a shower of leaves to cover the rather disagreeable smell, so that they could have sweet dreams whilst she worked her magic. Being a Fairy Godmother from the 21st century she believed in delegation and equality, so she called upon Prince Charming. Whilst she was wicked with pen and ink, he had true talent with graffiti and knew how to carve out a niche for himself.

The weight loss was dramatic, the smile illuminating and the baby pumpkin became, well - a dog!

Alan Fitzgerald Alan Fitzgerald lives in Guernsey and possesses an alter ego, also called Alan. We don’t get on. He’s trained as a tattoo artist, but prefers the medium of pencil & paper to crying humans & ink. Has the memory of a goldfish and the attention span of a… erm, something with a low attention span. Reads biographies until the cows come home, but finds it hard to read fiction. See attention span comment above. Close friends feel I’m a little “touched” in the head at times, but I blame him… you know, THAT Alan.

They modelled their new personas for the autumn collection of the October Edition of the magazine: Halloween and Home.

The End Caroline Auckland


help! the dog ate my manuscript!

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

Should 1000 words of fiction be considered a short story or flash fiction?

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here isn’t an agreed definition to the length of flash fiction although most markets require flash fiction to be 1000 words or less. Some on-line magazines stretch the limit to 1500 words and others require a minimum word count of 500 words. Some effective pieces of flash fiction comprise as little as six words, think of Ernest Hemingway’s famous example, ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’. It’s generally accepted that flash fiction should be a complete story, containing all the elements of a longer narrative but written in a way that offers hints rather than filling-in all the details. I sometimes think of flash fiction as a mosaic, where the whole effect provides a complete story, but when the individual tiles are examined, the joins in the pattern leave room for the reader’s imagination. The rise in the popularity of flash fiction, it is argued, relates to the frenetic pace of contemporary life. There isn’t enough time in the day to sit down and read for extended

periods and while this doesn’t predict an end to the popularity of the novel or longer stories, flash fiction provides an alternative. Nugget-sized stories can be read during a taxi ride, while having a coffee break, when a child naps. They’re small enough to read in one go, and give a satisfying break from everyday life. In terms of how flash fiction is written, Calum Kerr, the director of National Flash Fiction Day (first held on 16 May 2012) suggests that it should be written ‘in a flash’, completed in one sitting, and usually stimulated by a writing prompt, such as a image or quote. David Gaffney, on the other hand, suggests writing it long, then paring the story back: ‘create a lump of stone from which you chip out your story sculpture’. There are no hard and fast rules with flash fiction, try the different approaches and see which suits you best.

used. In women’s magazines, story lengths are dictated by the size of the page. Some magazines have what they call ‘coffee break tales’ that fill one page and are around 700-800 words. Two page short stories can be from 10001200 words, four page short stories are considerably longer. For full details of fiction guidelines in submitting to UK and overseas women’s magazines, please see: womagwriter.blogspot. co.uk. Writing competitions requesting fiction entries of up to 1000 words use various descriptions including short stories, shorter short stories and flash fiction. In view of this, perhaps the choice of writing category for 1000 word stories should be left to the author.

Getting back to the question posed, it depends on the market as to whether the term short story or flash fiction is

Gail Aldwin’s blog can be found at gailaldwin.wordpress.com and she’s on Twitter @gailaldwin

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

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art

Based in Brooklyn, New York, Lauren Jonik is a freelance writer and photographer who specialises in nature, landscape and cityscape photography. Her work can be viewed on: shootlikeagirlphotography.com and you can find her on Facebook here: facebook.com/ShootLikeAGirlPhotography.

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a writer’s diary

A Writer’s Diary Rebecca Jones

A Work in Progress: Finding a Fine Young Cannibal ‘The wind blows in from the sea, wet and salty, and strands of her dirty, damp hair cling to her face like the tentacles of a kraken. There is something monstrous about this seven year old, spectral and alone on the bank next to the rain-muddied track. Hair of snakes and face contorted in horrific wailing, she’s the bait in the Beane Clan Game.’

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izzie Beane is one of the many daughters of Sawney Beane, a cannibal who has abandoned his respectable beginnings in East Lothian to create his own incestuous, medieval micro-society of man-eating, thieving, cave-dwelling highwaymen on the Galloway coast. The Beane clan are a real macabre treat for the literary ghouls amongst us, but there is complexity beneath the horror – where it comes to character dimensions, Lizzie Beane is far from straightforwardly ghoulish. The story follows Lizzie over twenty highly formative years from this point, witnessing a wide sweep of character definition and development. Establishing Lizzie’s worldview as a seven year old girl is a comparatively light part of a weightier task; I also need to ensure character consistency as she gets older, while allowing for the impact of events on her attitude and actions. Consider, too, the perversely exclusive world in which lives the seven year old girl we meet at the start – Lizzie lives in The Cave, with only a strictly limited body of company and range of experience. I don’t always write chronologically, so making sure that the narrative is consonant with the space and time can be challenging.

Lizzie is basically conscious of a world outside of her own, but to what extent does she really recognise that her own life is different? How does she view the openly incestuous behaviour of her parents and older siblings? Does she play games? Does she know that the meat she eats is human flesh? What is her concept of life and death? I make a habit of revisiting these same questions at regular intervals during my writing and editing. Lizzie’s answers often provide the ‘green shoots’ of new settings and subplots. As she moves into adolescence, I discover that Lizzie begins to resent the constant darkness of The Cave. Her overwhelming desire for solitude and light allows me greater insight into the overcrowded, dark and oppressive way in which her family actually live, and provide the drive for what happens to her as her story progresses. Later in her life, Lizzie’s exposure to incestuous sex, and an inevitable lack of sexual privacy, mean that she confuses and misinterprets her interactions with men and boys with disastrous consequences. Despite the fact that her story is told in an omniscient third person, it is the firstperson aspect of Lizzie’s answers to my questions that decide on plot direction.

Her worldview and self-image help to decide what will happen to her, and what is and isn’t ‘possible’. I have page upon page of backstory for Lizzie, some of which, I’m sure, is not destined to make it into the finished narrative. However, this does not necessarily render the information irrelevant. My multi-dimensional understanding of Lizzie can mean the difference between her serving the story, and the story serving her. I’ve heard many writers talk about their characters surprising them by ‘deciding’ the direction of the plot, as if by their own free will. A thorough knowledge of one’s character is, after all, essential if the writing is to become anything more than a projection of a personal worldview onto a blatantly fictional construct. I find that revisiting Lizzie’s background, and reaffirming her context, are helpful ways of ensuring that the direction of the plot is satisfying her needs. In fact, talking to her is my preferred way to work towards a whole which is engaging, authentic and credible. Backstory, even when apparently invisible or inessential to the plot, is the essence of character.

Rebecca Jones is a freelance writer, journalist and blogger. She provides writing services to businesses, students and individuals and, after many years of writing short stories and historical non-fiction, is working on her first novel. You can find out more about Rebecca on her website, missrmjones.com.

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book reviews

Reader Review By Aliss Langridge

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

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eborah Harkness’ Shadow of Night is the second book in the spellbinding All Souls Trilogy following A Discovery of Witches. This original story is of epic proportions both in length (it’s over 500 pages) and with Harkness’ recreation of a variety of Elizabethan England settings including Oxford, London, Scotland and France. Diana Bishop, a historian who has descended from a line of witches, and Matthew Clairmont, a scientist and fifteen hundred year old vampire, travel back to 1590 to find the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, which contains ancient secrets about witches, vampires and daemons. They also plan to find a witch who can help Diana to use her magical powers effectively. The story begins in the thick of the action having continued from where the first book left off – having ‘time walked’ the pair have just landed in sixteenth- century Oxfordshire. Harkness has also created a large gallery of characters both fictional and based on historical figures such as Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe who is known to us as the author of Doctor Faustus, murdered in a bar brawl but here he is also a troublemaking daemon who’s suspicious about Diana from the start. Other figures include Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh but one of the most enjoyable characters has to be Phillipe, Matthew’s father, a complex, powerful character. I was drawn to A Discovery of Witches by the title and the magical elements which the book promised. The second instalment in the series does not disappoint – the different adventures, places and characters encountered by Diana and Matthew kept me gripped until the end of the novel. It’s also a refreshing change from gritty thrillers which seem to bombard the bestsellers lists at the moment. Harkness combines unique storytelling with a historian’s attention to detail in her writing. The richness of the prose is both detailed and descriptive, making it highly enjoyable to read. Recommended.

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book reviews

Book Reviews By Lois Bennett Senses & Secrets: Across A Bridge of Dreams by Lesley Downer

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was intrigued by this novel’s premise, as I love historical fiction and love Asia, although the two had never met much before in my reading. Most HF novels I read are British or American, so it was brilliant to see the past from a fresh perspective and immerse myself in such a different culture. From the very first sentence, I was there in Japan and all my senses were engaged. I could smell the food, see the textures of the clothes, hear the busy chatter and feel the excitement that was hovering in the air. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. Nobu and Taka are the main characters who meet and fall in love, though many obstacles amass to keep them apart. Perhaps the biggest of these is that they are from two opposing clans and war is coming, the north against the south - Nobu’s people against Taka’s people. Nobu is instantly likeable, which makes you empathise with Taka even more as she falls more deeply in love with him. Likewise, Taka is one of those characters that you instantly care about. Despite how bleak and hopeless things seem at times, you desperately want them to find a way to be together. This is the first novel I have read by Lesley Downer, and I was delighted to discover such a talented and vibrant writer. Her vocabulary is always apt, using vivid words to engage all your senses, and alliteration to lull the rhythm into a captivating pace. She also employs very effective use of senses - you don’t just imagine what’s happening - you can see it, feel it, hear it, taste it and smell it. Colours, scents and sensations are mingled expertly throughout, and it is this rich, evocative detail that makes it easier to identify with the characters, because you really do feel that you are there alongside them, experiencing everything that they are. Across a Bridge of Dreams is rich with Romanticism. Not in a predictable or far-fetched way, though - there is gritty realism intermingled with it, and the feelings and questions that it raises are gut-wrenchingly honest and accurate. Clearly, everything has been meticulously researched - the historical details that the story brings to life are fascinating and accessible. Even if (like me) you come to the novel not knowing much about Japan or its history, you never feel as though things are going over your head. Flowers, ink paintings and costumes - everything that Westerners associate with Japan are all woven into their subtle, appropriate place, and the descriptions of the food are phenomenal. You can smell it, taste it - you really just want to eat it! It is a novel full of twists and turns - ‘Oh, no!’ moments and ‘Yay!’ moments - that keeps you guessing right to the end - even when you think you have it all figured out. The story and characters lingered with me between readings, and I simply could not wait to pick the book back up to find out what would happen next. When I had finished, I closed the covers with the lingering regret one feels when leaving a place one loves and will miss dearly. This novel is a work of art, and Lesley Downer is one of the most gifted authors writing today. If books were paintings, this would be the crowning splendour of any exhibition.

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book reviews

Danger & Duty: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

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he Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a startlingly superb novel - I was utterly captivated, and the truths and observances within its pages thoroughly resonated with me. It is – and will remain – a cherished favourite. Prior to this, I had only read some of Anne Brontë’s poetry in a book of the sisters’ collected verse. Charlotte and Emily seem to have overtaken Anne in popularity, even with Emily only having written one novel, where Anne has written two. But quality, not quantity is more important in literature, and after reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I can say without hesitation that Anne, in my opinion, truly is the best of the Brontës. I think it’s horridly unfair that she is so often relegated to the bottom of the list when the sisters’ works are discussed (which is more than likely due to Charlotte’s own refusal to permit the reprinting of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall after Anne’s death, simply because she thought the contents were too vulgar). The story of Helen Huntingdon (the tenant of the book’s title) is a brutally honest illustration of the dangers and consequences of Helen’s marriage to Arthur, a thoroughly nasty man whose repulsive habits and attitudes only fully surface after they become man and wife. Despite this, she faithfully devotes her love and energy to him, hoping to influence his morality for the better, but to no avail. To protect her child from further violence and debasement, she flees to her childhood home, Wildfell Hall, and in so doing, risks everything. In Victorian times, when the laws of the land were vastly different to those in existence now, Helen would have been guilty of kidnap, as her son was the legal property of her husband, and she could not even earn her own living without breaking the law, as every penny that she gained would, in effect, belong to her husband. Knowing this, she still escapes and paints landscapes to provide for herself and her son, whilst sheltering him from the cruelty and debauchery they have both been subjected to. Then, she meets Gilbert, a neighbouring farm owner, who is different from Arthur in every way. A mutual fondness develops, but Helen’s strong convictions of right and wrong will not allow her to act on her feelings. When Arthur falls ill, Helen, faithful to her duty, returns to him to care for him. I cannot imagine any reader, especially any reader who loves classic fiction, who would not yearn to know the outcome of this situation, and I could not read the pages quickly enough to discover it myself. Anne Brontë’s faith is evident in many parts of this novel, and I deeply admire her for taking such a stand in speaking ‘an unpalatable truth’, as she herself puts it in her preface. This is a novel that everyone should read, and in so doing, redress the balance that has been leaving Anne Brontë’s work in the shadow of her sisters.

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book reviews

Instructions & Idioms: Write It Right by Ambrose Bierce

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s an ardent lover of words and history, I was delighted to find this gem of a book. Bierce writes intelligently, with great wit, and the fascinating thing for me was to see just how much the rules of language have changed since 1909, and, how much they haven’t - after all, good grammar is never out-dated! There are many valid lessons to be learned, despite how few pages there are. These are delivered in Bierce’s droll and sparkling style, such as: ‘Fail: ‘He failed to notice the hour.’ That implies that he tried to note it, but did not succeed. Failure always carries the sense of endeavour; when there has been no endeavour there is no failure. A falling shoe cannot fail to strike you, for it does not try; but a marksman firing at you may fail to hit you, and I hope he always will.’ This book could be used as an excellent resource for writers of 19th century, and even early 20th century, historical fiction, as it gives a then-contemporary insight into the acceptable vocabulary and grammar that would have been in standard use.

YOUR GUIDE TO LITERARY PLACES & EVENTS TO VISIT IN THE UK Coming soon at: LITERARYUK.ORG the pumpkin edition ~ 83


book reviews

Book Reviews By Alison Bacon

eBook Round-up September 2012

This month literary fiction rubs shoulders with a comic novel. Please note that the price of eBooks can vary from day to day. I was delighted to see Truth Games by Bobbie Darbyshire issued as an eBook because although I suspect I’ve read novels written in 1975 I don’t think I remember one set in the year when, according to the blurb, ‘the newest game in town was sex’. The book starts with a great hook as Hugh, seeing his young wife Lois growing bored with married life, gives her leave to go elsewhere for sex. How he lives with the repercussions is one of the main themes of the book. Soon we also meet the couple’s friends, newly single Ann, married couple Jack and Tessa, and Ann’s new colleague Zoe. Ann already hankers after Hugh, Jack is in an affair with Pam, while Zoe is bored with a conventional husband. Tessa, Ann and Zoe’s jobs in market research provide plenty more potential partners and so the dance, or the merry-goround, begins. The period feel is faultless: Zoe aspires to a Habitat sofa, Jack has problems with squatters. The out-door parties in the long hot summer, the smoke-filled rooms and the new foodie culture all feel real, but for me not all of the characters came alive. Of those who did there were few whom I liked, with the possible exception of Hugh and Zoe’s lover Mick, both of whom retain some dignity, however skewed the moral compass has become. But if you fancy a literary novel pitched somewhere between Mad Men and This Life, this is well-written and well-observed and really does encapsulate a moment in time. Literary fiction: Rating 8/10 Kindle Edition, Cinnamon Press, £5.14 By contrast, Can’t Live Without, by Joanne Phillips, is bang up to date, and although romcom isn’t usually my choice, I really liked the opening of this one in which single mum Stella finds herself homeless after a house-fire. When the shock wears off, Stella makes a list of the things she can’t live without and top of the list is her pride and joy, a double fridge-freezer. But Stella has more than white goods to worry about. There’s the stroppy teenage daughter, the problems of returning home to live with her spendthrift mother and the distracting reappearance of her good-looking ex. It doesn’t take long for us to work out what (or who) Stella really can’t live without, but the author makes an excellent job of keeping the starcrossed lovers apart until the very last minute. If I have a quibble it’s that the main players are all rather too good-looking (or ‘eye-poppingly gorgeous’) to be true (or maybe I move in the wrong circles!) but Stella and her daughter are both great characters who in the course of the book learn a lot about themselves and each-other. This novel is clever and funny without skimping on the complexities of family relationships. Well-executed and engaging. Romantic Comedy: Rating 9/10 Kindle Edition, £1.92

Alison Bacon was brought up in Scotland but now lives in the West Country where she reads, writes and reviews. Her debut novel A Kettle of Fish will be published this autumn by Thornberry Publishing. Read all about her at alibacon.com or follow on Twitter @AliBacon.

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help! the dog ate my manuscript!

v

THE NEW WRITER

What the Dickens?

thenewwriter.com

Also available on

The magazine you’ve been hoping to find

Spring 2012 issue now available!

magazine

the pumpkin edition ~ 85


listings

Listings

Listing in this section is FREE. Visit the ‘GET LISTED’ tab on the website for more details. All details are correct at time of publicaion, however do check individual websites for the most up to date information.

each receive a year’s mentorship from an established professional writer, introductions to agents and publishers and invaluable assistance and advice on applying for an Arts Council Grant. Escalator Writing Competition really helps writers advance their careers, making it a unique competition and an invaluable opportunity! Closing Mid November (exact date TBC)

Competitions

Visit the Writers’ Centre Norwich website for more information:

The Salt Prizes

writerscentrenor wich.org.uk/ Writing_Competition

The Short Story Prizes. 1st PRIZE: £1,000 plus publication in The Salt Anthology of New Writing. 2nd PRIZE: £500 plus publication in The Salt Anthology of New Writing. 3rd PRIZE: £50 book token for use in Salt’s online shops plus publication in The Salt Anthology of New Writing. SEVEN RUNNERS-UP: will be published in The Salt Anthology of New Writing. Closes October 2012 saltpublishing.com/priz es/shor tstories/index National Poetry Competition Prizes: First Prize: £5000, Second Prize: £2000, Third Prize: £1000, Seven Commendations: £100. The top-three winning poems will be published in Poetry Review. The winner is also invited to read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2013. Up to 150 entrants will also be offered a discount on selected activities from the Poetry School. Winning and commended poems will be published on the Poetry Society website when the competition prizes are announced in spring 2013. Closing date 31st October 2012 poetrysociety.org.uk

Escalator Writing Competition

This year’s Escalator Writing Competition opens in mid-October to entries from writers across the East of England. This year, we’re looking for entries from genre writers, or those who experiment with genre mash ups. Escalator is a writing competition with a difference – ten winning writers

86 ~ what the dickens?

The New Writer Prose and Poetry Prizes 2012

from The New Writer magazine – closing date 30 November. Now in its 16th year, one of the major annual international competitions for short stories, microfiction, single poems, poetry collections, essays and articles; offers cash prizes as well as publication for the prize-winning writers in The Collection, special edition of The New Writer magazine each July. thenewwriter.com/prizes

5 Minute Fiction

Check out our new short story competition @ www.5minutefiction. co.uk/Xmas-competition.html £2 entry. 100-1500 word short story on th theme of Christmas. Check out the submission criteria on the website. Great prizes to be won. Closing date 18.11.12 5minutefiction.co.uk

Darker Times Fiction

Darker Times Fiction is host to a monthly short story competition open for stories up to 3,000 words on the theme of ‘darker times’. Entries cost £5 each and can be paid online via paypal. The winner will receive a percentage of the money raised by entry fees, plus they will get their short story published in one of our Darker Times Horror Anthologies. darkertimes.co.uk

Rattle Tales

Rattle Tales, regular short story night in Brighton. Encouraging authors to stand up and read their work and then answer questions for the audience. Provides football rattles! Publishes an annual collection. Submissions of full short stories between 1,000 and 2,000 words via the website: rattletales.org

Courses

South West WEA (Workers Association)

Educational

A WEA Class, Inspirational Dialogue – a story writing class. Will take run at Winchcombe, Gloucestershire on tuesdays from 9th october to 20th November 7pm – 9pm. A course of creative exercises for writers – focusing on the short story. Inspiration, practice and theory in a friendly workshop situation. Suitable for beginners and improvers. To enrolments: wea-sw.org.uk To find out more: cathum. wordpress.com

South East

Submissions Miracle e-zine

Miracle e-zine is a bi-monthly magazine for young writers by young writers. It seeks submissions in poetry, fiction, art/photography and nonfiction occasionally. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, if you write, then this is the magazine where your talent will shine. miracleezine.wix.com/miracle-e-zine

Writing for Teenagers and Beyond with Penelope Bush

Chichester Copywriter presents: Writing for Teenagers and Beyond with Penelope Bush Cobnor Activities Centre, Chidham, nr Chichester, West Sussex Saturday 10th November, 2012, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm This one day, intensive course should act as a creative springboard for writers, beginners and those with some experience, to go on and develop their own work.


listings Through a series of exciting and enjoyable exercises, Penelope Bush will use her experience as a successful writer of teen novels to encourage you to think about plot, character and voice. While the course focuses on fiction for the Young Adult market, the skills developed will easily translate into other areas of fiction writing. chichestercopywriter.co.uk

Story Scavenger presents: Waterstones Writing Workshops – Brighton

FREE monthly writing group run by Wendy Ann Greenhalgh – AKA – Story Scavenger. Join us for fun and inspiring creative writing games and exercises – all linked to a monthly theme. All writers welcome, whatever their level of experience – absolute beginners to Nobel Laureates! No need to sign up or register – just turn up with paper and a pen. Workshop first Thursday of the month – 5.30-7pm in Waterstones Cafe. storyscavenger.com

Creative Writing introduction

an

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written since school – come along and discover the writer within on this confidence building 10 week course on Monday mornings starting on October 1st 2012 at South Portslade Community Centre. Tutor: Bridget Whelan.

on November 7th 2012. Tutor: Bridget Whelan

literary events, please follow us on Twitter @sjbwrites or visit us at:

portslade.org

loveofbooks.co.uk

Help! I want to be Published!

A short course for aspiring fiction and non-fiction writers that combines practical guidance on the nitty gritty of getting published with advice on how to make your writing stand out for all the right reasons. Starting on November 6th at the Friends Centre, near Brighton Station. Tutor: Bridget Whelan friendscentre.org

London The 60-minute Writer

Fit creative writing into your busy day in central London. A relaxed, informal rolling programme for writers of all levels of experience who enjoy being thrown new ideas and experimenting with poetry and prose. This Friday lunchtime class starts on October 5th 2012 at City Lit in Holborn. Tutor: Bridget Whelan citylit.ac.uk

Writing Your Family Biography

A non-fiction course for students who want to learn how to use writing techniques to transform the bare bones of family history into a gripping read. This Friday afternoon course starts on September 14th 2012 at City Lit in Holborn. Tutor: Bridget Whelan

portslade.org

citylit.ac.uk

Creative Writing – advanced

Ways into Creative Writing

An imaginative 10 week course designed to offer support and inspiration to the emerging writer. Morning and afternoon sessions available starting on October 4th 2012 at South Portslade Community Centre. Tutor: Bridget Whelan portslade.org

Writing from Nature at Foredown Tower

Take inspiration from the natural world, and look at the familiar in new ways at this unique site on the edge of the South Downs. This is a short Wednesday morning course starting

An imaginative and supportive course covering prose writing and poetry – suitable for the beginner. This Friday evening course starts on September 14 2012 at City Lit in Holborn. Tutor: Bridget Whelan citylit.ac.uk

East Anglia For The Love of Books

For The Love of Books offers services as diverse as creative writing workshops to private coaching. We also offer proofreading, ghost writing and give talks to groups and clubs about creative writing. To find out about our regular

Groups

South East Tunbridge Wells Writers’ Circle

&

District

The circle holds monthly workshops in Scripts, Novels, Short Story and Flash Fiction. A friendly circle where writers can meet and share their writing experiences and receive valuable feedback on their writing. tunbridgewellswriterscircle.co.uk

South West The Steady Table

The Steady Table is a writers’ group that provides a regular time and space in which to write. There are no requirements for joining, just come along on a Tuesday between 6pm and 9pm (email steady table@yahoo.co.uk for up to date venue information), bringing your current work in progress. We don’t do critiques or exercises, we just get on and write!

Online Book Club The Sunday Story Society

A new online book club for short stories. We discuss a different short story every fortnight; future selections include pieces by Angela Carter, Kevin Barry, and Jose Saramago. @SundayStorySoc davidhblog.wordpress.com/sundaystory-society

Writing Magazines Miracle e-zine

Miracle e-zine is a bi- monthly magazine for young writers by young writers. It seeks submissions in poetry, fiction, art/photography and non-fiction occasionally. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, if you write, then this is the magazine where your talent will shine. miracleezine.wix.com/miracle-e-zine

the pumpkin edition ~ 87


listings The New Writer

The magazine you’ve been hoping to find. It’s different and it’s aimed at all writers; anyone with a serious intent to develop their writing to meet the expectations of today’s editors. Launched in September 1996, in every issue you’ll find original short stories, a showcase for new poetry, articles, book reviews, market information, news and readers’ views. thenewwriter.com

of aspiring writers and established authors. The site also includes interviews with published novelists, a writing group map and blog directory. paragraphplanet.com

Writing Workout

Tone and hone your writing with a range of fun exercises against the clock. Kickstart new projects and work on existing ones with your results being available to work on at leisure. writing-workout.com

Writing Websites Paragraph Planet

Flash Fiction website which publishes one 75-word short, short story (or novel extract) every day. A mixture

Retreats Brook Farm

Brook Farm at Berrington is a peaceful

place where writers can find space to think. A retreat, an inspiration and a cat to cuddle. (The cat’s optional) Writing Workshops and Ecotherapy Weekends planned for 2013. For more information visit our website: brookfarmberrington.com

Blogs of Interest English Historical Authors Blog

Daily posts on British historical topics written by historical fiction authors. Weekly giveaways of British historical fiction. englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com

Get Listed! Visit the ‘Get Listed’ tab at wtd-magazine.com and see if you fit the bill... It’s free!

88 ~ what the dickens?

Fiction


competitions

Competitions Graham Joyce, Some Kind of Fairy Tale, p6 To win a copy of the book, simply answer the following question: Which Greek Island did Graham hide out on to concentrate on his writing?

Congratulations to our competition winners from last issue: Marilyn Jelly, Matt Reilly and Mike Barnes

Credits Editor: Victoria Bantock

Submissions We are now looking for submissions for Issue 8, which will be out on 1st February 2013. The theme will be ‘Heroes & Idols’. ALL SUBMISSIONS MUST BE IN BY MIDNIGHT, 15TH NOVEMBER 2012! Full submission theme details are on our website: wtd-magazine.com Keep a special eye out for details of how we are going to crowdfund the next issue of What the Dickens? Magazine into print...

The Old Curiosity Shop: Sandy East Extra contributions: Gail Aldwin, Caroline Auckland, Ali Bacon, Lois Bennett, Michelle Goode, Jen Hammell, Richard Hearn, Paul Hirons, Susi Holliday, Rebecca Jones, Aliss Langridge, Rachel Quinn, Sarah Quinney, Michael Rowland, Donna Staveley, Freddie Stevenson, Bridget Whelan & Sally-Shakti Willow Magazine & Web Design: Ben Ottridge benottridge.co.uk Advertising contact: advertising@wtd-magazine.com General contact: victoria@wtd-magazine.com The Old Curiosity Shop: curiosity@wtd-magazine.com

the pumpkin edition ~ 89


book reviews

There is some magic in it... How else are we going to turn a pumpkin into a coach? Paolo Montalban

90 ~ what the dickens?

What the Dickens? Magazine - Issue 6: The Pumpkin Edition  

What the Dickens? Magazine A bi-monthly magazine for all creative folk focusing on literature and the arts. Issue 6: The Pumpkin Edition. IN...

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