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inspiring creativity and the arts

ISSN 2051-5111

What the Dickens? magazine


Issue the heroes & idols edition

Front cover illustration by Josh Mirman – ‘Bruceman’

Josh Mirman is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. See more of his work at or catch up with him on Twitter @joshmirm. He is also the artist and creative force behind the ‘Bruceman’ collaboration with this month’s ‘The Muse’, Gunday Monday. Go check them out on page 18!

editorial Welcome all to Issue 8 ‘Heroes & Idols’. I have BIG NEWS for you. As many of you know, we raised funds to print Issue 7 and what a glorious thing it was. When I set out on this journey back in 2011 that is exactly what I was aiming for. Having reached that milestone I have had to think long and hard about the next step forward. I had planned to continue printing but decided at the last minute that I really needed to stop for a moment and take things a bit slower in order for it all, and myself, to be the best that it can be. So, Issue 8 will not be printed. Instead it will be going online for free once again. But then we will stop a while. All this time the magazine has been made due to the time and generosity of many people. In order to go forwards, I need to go back a little. I need to get out there, meet people and raise awareness. I have other projects I want to get going which all link in with the magazine and I hope to either fund the magazine that way or raise money from grants and such like in order to bring it back in the future. For now, the website will become the magazine. There are many sections available and I welcome everyone to join in and become a contributor. It is a great opportunity to get yourselves out there and add to your portfolio. The website already received a couple of thousand hits a month and is growing every day! Do visit the website now and take a look around. I am going to be building this up into a creative community and will be opening up the Facebook group soon so we can share and support each other. I’m not sad or disappointed but happy and elated as we have come thus far and it is a massive achievement. All things must grow, evolve and change and we just have to roll with it. That is the nature of it all. Many huge thanks for all your support!


Contents Letters Jokes................................................................4 Art – Madame Tussaud..............................................5 Author Interview – Pete Maguire...............................6 The Life in the Name..................................................8 Behind the Scenes of a Writing Website...................9 Make Your Own... Gift Tags....................................10 Write Drunk, Edit Sober..........................................12 Desert Island Reads.................................................14 Wall of Wisdom........................................................15 The eBook Extraordinaire.......................................16 Social Media Review – LinkedIn............................17 The Muse – Gunday Monday...................................18 My Life in the Theatre..............................................19 The Artist’s Studio – Georges Braque....................20 Heroes & Idols Writing............................................25 In the House With... Raymond Langford Jones.....39 The Old Curiosity Shop...........................................41 The Curiosity Super Star Reviews: Celebrating All Areas of the Arts..............42 Curious About... Screenwriting..................47 Curious About... Radio................................48 Curious About... Theatre.............................50 The Curious Creative Life..........................52 Curious Interviews Kerry Howard..................................54 Jonathan Pinnock............................56 Rebecca Front..................................58 Julie Mayhew...................................59 Olivia Colman.................................60 Help! The dog ate my manuscript!.........................62 A Writer’s Diary........................................................63 Film Review...............................................................65 Pen Pusher.................................................................66

Twitter @writersgifts

eBook Round-up......................................................67 Astro Creativity.........................................................68 The Creative Directory.............................................70 Listings – Mar/Apr/May...........................................75 Stockists, Submissions & Credits...........................77

the heroes & idols edition ~ 3

letters & jokes

Letters Jokes

A customer walks into a bookshop. ‘Do you sell stationary?’ he enquires.

Whats the difference between a fisherman and a reluctant schoolboy?

‘Not always,’ says the bookseller, ‘sometimes I skip about a bit as I ring things up.’

One baits his hooks and the other hates his books.

Where does success come before work and after idleness? In the dictionary.

We had a surgeon in the bookshop the other day. He was browsing through a book but when he got to the end he got very concerned... Apparently he didn’t like the look of the appendix.

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

Write to us! Send your letters to: Star letter each month wins a £10 National Book Token!

4 ~ what the dickens?


A trip to Madame Tussauds in London found two heroes of this very magazine... Dickens and Wilde, together at last! Photo by Victoria Bantock

the heroes & idols edition ~ 5

author interview

Author Interview Pete Maguire

Pete Maguire was born in Dublin in 1969. He grew up in Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, and at eleven was sent to a secondary, catholic boarding school in Dublin. He cracked on turning 17, at which point he enlisted the services of an escape team (friends), pilfered a few pennies from the school(all’s fair, the amount I paid in fines...), and escaped to New York where he lived illegally for two years. Via Amsterdam, Dublin, London and Brighton he ended up in Lewes. On his journey to writer-dom he has endured 65 jobs. The perfect time to retire really.

What is your writing background so far? I have recently finished my debut book, Dr Neon and Mr Scram. Prior to that I ran a free magazine in Brighton, Escape Literature, published a few short stories and won a couple of writing competitions. Many years ago I published poetry in the small press and still perform spoken word. How long does it take you to research and write a book? Two of the main characters in my book – Dr Neon and Linda Kalom – have come from short stories that I have written. But it was only when I decided to see how they would meet, that an entirely new direction emerged. The process of writing the book seemed to marry with a two year Creative Writing course I did at Sussex Uni, so two years really, although finished is a very dangerous word...

sensation inspires me; sunshine, leaves, birds and the wind. A reader of my book commented that it brought to mind the Keats quote ‘O for a life of Sensation rather than of Thoughts’. And poets do feature large in my inspiration, especially the romantic poets; the crystalline steams, ancient mariners and other thieves of fire. I attempt to throw poetic sublimation all over my writing in order to conjure up the spirits of experience. Psychology, philosophy, social surrealism; all of it gets poured in. I don’t believe anything should be left after writing, not a single thought. It is the great dance with the mirror of life, so you don’t want to miss a trick.

Was the road to publication bumpy or smooth? So far the road to publication is bumpy, nay rutted, in fact I may have to build the road myself ! I have had interest from agents, but ultimately I am still knocking on the castle walls. It has been suggested to me that self publishing may be the way ahead, as my book is left of centre, two steps back and left again. I think breaking rules is important and self publishing is fast becoming the new punk DIY of literature.

Which books have influenced you the most and why? The book that actually inspired me to write my present book was Virtual Light by William Gibson. The funny thing is though that it wasn’t that I loved it, I felt that it started with excellent, poetic, postmodern intent, but ultimately failed to deliver. Also Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night, figures large because of its lacerating insights and immaculately portrayal of the folly of human spirit. I like the Russians, Gogol and Dostoyevsky for their relentless truth. Victor Pelevin’s, The Clay Machine Gun, which I started to read while I was writing my book, excited me no end with its wild creativity. It encouraged me to throw all caution to the wind and let rip.

What inspires you? Every person I have ever talked to inspires me, the very experience of

Where and when do you write? I always wanted to be a nighttime writer, but I am actually an early

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morning writer, 5:30 is perfect; the night is leaving after having its fill and the hungry dawn is arriving. I balance between the two. As my book developed though, I found it easier to break into the creative mode. I guess I recognised it more and knew where to go. My partner, an angel, arranged for me to have a week alone in Portugal and that was a revelation! I wrote 25,000 uninterrupted words there and experienced euphoric moments of being drenched in creativity. I guess a satori in Lagos. Why do you write? I write because I hear. It’s the voices... but it is really because I hear everything around me and in order to get close to it, I find I have to throw words down, but then the words demand shape, meaning and impetus. So I have to craft them, work them together into little tribes and then the tribes demand places to live, so I build these. Then others arrive; sailors, explorers, friends, lovers, enemies and even stranger folk. This all builds up, so I build cities, and the cities are on planets. Then of course there is the solar system, so each planet has to have an orbit. Round and around they spin; the planets, the cities, the people, the voices, the words, the thoughts... And then with the most delicate precision I try to pluck out the triggers of experience that will reach out to the reader. Do you indulge in any other creative activities and if so what? My book is concerned with electromagnetic art (the lead character is possessed by a praying mantis and

Copyright © Dan Johnson

author interview

gets to avail of the bug’s senses), so I experiment with drawing and painting. I do this without recourse to any training or tradition. The results I care little about, but the doing, the passion, the mingling of oils together, that is the bliss!

What are your plans now and what’s coming up next? I am writing poems and short stories at the moment, but most of my energy is focused on getting my book out. I have a lot of helpful readers and I am compiling a list of repeat offences which I am addressing. So far, I am

going to turn all passive sentences active, accept that I might have to get rid of my weirder similes, demonstrate why Victor Scram is the God of the City, and then see where that leaves me – either self publishing or repeated assaults on the established markets.

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the life in the name

The Life in the Name Caroline Auckland


am always fascinated how time and history makes Heroes and Idols from individuals in the past. In their lifetime, they may have been revered, feared or just loved as part of a patriotic duty. Seen as a hero for being a leader of men, it is social circumstance that may defer heroic classification. It is often death that transforms the person into an idolatry status especially if that person died young, ‘before his/her time’ and even more so if that person was attractive.

H E R O E S & I D O L S

Henry Frederick Stuart [1594-1612] referred to by a recent exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery as THE LOST PRINCE. He was the heir to Jacobean England and Scotland. Eldest son of James 1 of England and James V1 of Scotland and Anne of Denmark. There was huge expectation surrounding Henry’s future accession to the throne of a United Britain. Robert Peake [1551-1619] painted many portraits of Henry, depicting him in an heroic role. Two examples of which are below. His work was prolific in symbolism. They reflect a revival in chivalry and a renaissance in the arts. Oatlands Palace at Walton-on-Thames; this was where Henry formed his first household. He also had a large collection of artwork here. Henry was separated from his parents after his baptism and remained in the care of the Earl of Mar. His whole education was devoted to the development of princely virtues. Henry was interested in exploration and sponsored an expedition to find the Northwest Passage and became a patron of the Virginia Company. He loved exercise and the kingly pursuit of horse riding. He became a great collector of sculpture and art. Stirling Castle, Scotland, the place of Henry’s birth and his baptism. The baptism and encompassing celebration cost £100,000. Here he was separated from his mother at a young age and his education began. Admired, Adored, Athletic achievement, Arthurian Myth, Armour, Art collector. Isaac Oliver painted several miniature portraits of Henry, his most famous is shown below. Its iconography is very telling (It forms the poster for the 21st century exhibition about his life at the NPG). It depicts Henry wearing knight’s armour with a military camp behind him. So he is presented as brave, noble, athletic, intelligent and serious. All combine to present an image of this prince as an idol. Died in 1612 of a fever. There were rumours of poisons and malpractice and so an autopsy was ordered. However, it was later proved that Henry died from typhoid fever. His last words were ‘Where is my deare sister?’* Oberon – The Faery Prince, New Year 1611 saw celebrations of Henry’s appointment as Prince of Wales. Inigo Jones [15731652] the famous architect was also a designer of stage sets and costumes for court masques. Below is the drawing for his design to be worn by Prince Henry for his part of Oberon, designed with classical influences it depicts Oberon/Henry as a hero. Literature and letters. Henry had a huge interest in literature and amassed a large library including works of drawings by Hans Holbein. Many of these drawings are now in The Royal Collection. There has been a huge amount written about the death of this iconic historical figure. Ben Jonson , John Donne, Thomas Campion were among the poets and writers who produced elegiac works. More recently Roy Strong [1986] ‘Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance.’. Siblings; Princess Elizabeth who later became Electress Palatine, Henry’s brother Charles became Charles I after Henry’s premature death, Charles adored Henry but adoration was not enough to secure the hearts and minds of the British people. Henry now became a prince of mythical status and Charles could only ever be in his shadow. There were four other siblings who died in childhood. Songs of Mourning. There was an outpouring of national grief at Henry’s death with poetry and music being written. His funeral took place at Westminster Abbey, whilst there were also funerals held in Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford. A wooden effigy of the Prince was made for the coffin by Richard Norris and Abraham van der Doort. A part of this effigy was on display at the NPG.

The exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery may be over, but the gallery still retains some of the paintings included. It is well worth tracking them down. There is also the excellent book which accompanied the exhibition: ‘The Lost Prince, The Life & Death of Henry Stuart’ by Catharine MacLeod with T.Wilks, M.Smuts and R.MacGibbon. * N.E McClure ‘The Letters of John Chamberlain [A.P.S. 1939] Caroline Auckland: Communication Studies B.A.(Hons). Blogs a little: newtonhouseltd. writes a lot, reviews books and loves words and tells stories with photographic imagery, can be contacted on

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behind the scenes of a writing website

Behind the Scenes of a Writing Website Richard Hearn


ith this month’s issue written way in advance, I’m calling this my Message in a Bottle column. If you see something bobbing about on the water, you probably want something romantic or adventurous; instead disappointingly, I’m releasing my To Do List. Sorry about that. To me, it’s going to be very useful, it’ll work as a kind of checklist. On publication day, I can sit down with a red pen and mark my way through the list below. For you, the reader? Hopefully, it will still be interesting as a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into how improvements are considered, and what might be on a digital snagging list.   I’m going to be covering both Paragraph Planet ( and Writing-Workout (writing-workout. com ) so in case you haven’t read my previous columns, a brief elevator pitch of the two sites: Paragraph Planet publishes a piece of (exactly) 75-word flash fiction every day, and also has author interviews and a writing group map. Writing-Workout is a set of timed writing exercises to help you kickstart new or existing projects with sections including character, location, and dialogue.   Let’s start with Paragraph Planet.  

Change link buttons

I chose to have the buttons as images to have more control over the look. The big downside is that they take longer to load. Now that I’ve learnt that little bit more about styling, I feel that I


should move back to text. All I have to do now is change the code on every page, including all 48 monthly archive pages...

Cascading Style Sheets

Linked to this, and a concept that I referred to in the last column, is adding code on each page so that the styles, such as border thickness, link colour, or choices of fonts, hark back to an external – and importantly, single – style sheet. That way I just have to change one page to update the look on the whole site.

A better links page

This is my Picture of Dorian Gray page, ageing badly while everything gets refreshed. It’s a page that’s got neglected, with mentions of the external world being scattered through other pages instead. Loads of writers, magazines and publishers have mentioned the site; it’s time to make sure I’m up-to-date returning the favour.

Writing group map

This is my marketing and admin task. I feel the map is a good idea, and there’s quite a few writing groups on there, but I just need to get the message out, and make sure the groups are placed on. It’s a little fiddly to update, but hopefully it can become a really useful resource.

Email the sender back a copy

This is needed for both Paragraph Planet and Writing-Workout. For PP, I want to email back a copy of each

person’s submission. It’s almost more vital for Writing-Workout, however, as the promise to them is that the fruits of their exercises shall be For Their Eyes Only. Surely, getting this piece of code working is not too hard, is it?

Writer’s Block Interviews

As the site is all about kickstarting the muse, I’ve already asked a number of published authors their take on writer’s block. There’s some real variety in the responses and some great tips. All I need to do now is publish them on the website!

Expand, expand, expand

Writing-workout needs lots more exercises. I wanted to get the structure right first, so by the time you read this, hopefully I will have added a load more. My motto? More is more. I think it might catch on.

More tactile

This is my word for those little moments – when you press a button, move through the site – and how you make the whole experience that bit more pleasurable. This might be to do with the speed of fade, the way a button seems to depress, or how the page interacts with movement. I’ll try and consider this alongside developing the iPhone-friendly versions. Oh. That’s another one to add to the list. Wish me luck.    

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.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 9

make your own...

Make Your Own... Gift Tags Joseph Larkowsky


scanner does not close due to the height of different items, lay a plain white cloth or piece of paper over the items on the scanner to help the scanner pick up the images.

o the festive period is over, gifts have been given and joy has been spread. However, the one thing we all find out when giving gifts is who was ‘born to wrap’ and who should have spent a little longer in the giftwrapping line at the department store. Seeing a beautifully wrapped gift is half of the joy of receiving a present from a loved one. Here are a couple of tips to make the other celebrations throughout the year be met with as much joy as the holidays. Firstly, wrapping is fun. You just have to think of different ways to spice it up. The untold beauty of the Financial Times is the perfect paper for Dad’s tie on Father’s Day, or Granddad’s book for his birthday. Try using a bag filled with tissue and the petals of a rose for that special Valentine’s gift or maybe the simplicity of “brown paper packaging, tied up with string” (Julie Andrews’ favourite) for the lovely macaroons you give your parents on their anniversary. The nicest thing about using these materials is that they are cheaper than fancy wrapping paper, which means you can buy a few extra bows or some ribbon.

Step 1: Collect your things.

Unless you’re Yoko Ono, everybody has clutter. Most of that clutter is actually special and means a lot to its owner. To start your personalised gift tags you need to gather a few items which either mean a lot to you and the person the gift is for, or just something that may link to the reason for the gift (a new baby or a get well soon gift). The only rule is that the items MUST be flat, or flat enough to scan.

Step 3: Print Out the Images.

If you have a scanner and printer combo it is easier to begin with, but if they are separated, you can actually see which of the items didn’t scan too well! Flatter items (like the zebra, the Postit or the dressmakers’ pins) scan much better but tricky items (the batman toy and the perfume bottles) are not picked up as well as they could be. This is where Step 4 comes in.

Secondly, if I see one more measly little gift tag on a present I may scream. You can’t put all this effort into beautiful wrapping and ruin it with a boring label. Here is A Six Step Guide For Making Your Own Personalised Labels: YOU WILL NEED: • An assortment of clutter • A scanner/camera • A printer • Good quality paper • Scissors • A scalpel/hole punch • Items to attach your tag. (ribbon, string, tinsel etc)

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Step 2: Lay your Items on the Scanner

Make sure the items (if doing multiple tags at once) are far enough apart and not overlapping so you can easily differentiate each tag. It is good to scan in as higher quality as possible. Also, if the lid of your

Step 4: Photography gives the same impression.

The point of these custom tags is that they are personal to the gift receiver.

make your own... Don’t be alarmed if your trinkets and ‘bits-&-bobs’ don’t scan properly as you just need to make them a flat image. Take a clear, simple picture on a plain surface, load it up to your computer and print it out on your fancy paper just the same as you would if you had scanned them. The photography method works well for things like shells, bulbs, sports equipment even, just make sure you don’t print that out full-size!

want to place your thread or string, etc. Try and make it cohesive with the actual item, i.e. not in the middle of a teddy’s head. For example, with the nappy pin I scored it where the thread would actually go.

Cut out each of your items carefully. If on a plain white background it makes it easier and makes the finished item more professional. After they are all cut out, score a little mark where you

You may also notice, with the teabag (for those mothers who love a good cuppa) I used the original string from the bag I scanned, It brings a very life-like touch to the tag, and just adds a little more thought and love into your present. With 6 easy steps and a lot of “meaningful stuff ” it’s easy to personalise a gift for any occasion, and it makes unwrapping it one of the best parts.

Step 6: Matching Up the Present and Tag. Step 5: Cut and Paste Time.

WITHOUT actually reverting to a Post-it.

Wrap, wrap wrap away! If you have chosen wisely from your clutter, match up your new tags with the presents. I used the nappy pin design for a present to a new mother, the bandages make a brilliant “get well soon” label and the simplistic “I Love You” on a Postit note is just a very simplistic way to show your loved one how you feel,

Joseph Larkowsky is a fashion illustrator who is currently in his second year of a BA Fashion Illustration course at the London College of Fashion. Since launching as a commercial endeavour Joseph has received commissions from Drapers Magazine, Oscar De La Renta, William Tempest and River Island, and worked with William Vintage, Oxfam and Razan Alazzouni. His work has featured in publications including The Hunger Magazine, The Times, Stylist, Twenty6Magazine and will soon feature in Grazia, Glamour and Vogue. Joseph accepts commissions and private requests. Visit Jlarkowskyillustration. com for more information and to view his work.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 11

write drunk, edit sober


Write Drunk, Edit Sober Bridget Whelan

Novelist and creative writing tutor Bridget Whelan looks at Ernest Hemingway’s advice and in the first of two articles examines ways of defeating writer’s block.


ournalists self edit as they write. It’s an ability that is part of their professional tool kit and allows them to produce fluid prose on time, on subject and within the word count. The creative process isn’t quite so straightforward for fiction writers, however, who are often trying to breathe life into imagined worlds at the very same time as a mean-spirited, steely voice whispers: it’s all rubbish and the bits that aren’t rubbish have been done before. That’s the voice that stops the creative writer from writing. That’s the voice that has to be silenced if you are going to become the best writer you can be, if you are going to be any kind of writer at all and get the stories out of your head and down on the page.

Alternatives to Alcohol

The Artist’s Way

A lot of artists, musicians and writers recommend Julia Cameron’s method for overcoming creative negativity, the feeling that you’ve written yourself out and there’s nothing left to give. The American novelist first developed it over 20 years ago and you can now study it in classes, online at or by reading her international best selling book. This is my boiled down précis of two key elements

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The Morning Pages

Julia Cameron thinks of the morning pages as a form of meditation and suggests you start doing them as part of a 12 week program. Here’s the instructions: 1. Write three A4 pages longhand, first thing in the morning. It helps if you can keep a notebook on your bedside cabinet. 2. Don’t think about it – just write. Don’t cross anything out. Just carry on until you’ve done the three pages. 3. For the first week at least don’t read back what you’ve written otherwise that voice in your head will be shrieking how bad you are, how you’ve got nothing to say… and you can’t even spell. 4. Tear the pages out of your notebook and put them in a big envelope (or even throw them away, but as a writer I can’t bring myself to recommend that).   The Morning Pages don’t have to make sense or be written in full sentences. It’s top of the head stuff – you could write about the cobweb hanging down from the ceiling or the dream that’s still clinging to the edges of your mind. Julia says it’s a way of getting rid of all the mental clutter we collect during the day and clearing the synapses. I’m not convinced that it is all clutter. The semi conscious mind can produce interesting ideas and connections that you might be able to use later, so I would be very reluctant to suggest you chuck .  

Many readers may groan at the sheer impossibility of even contemplating such a task early in the morning. Getting up 20 minutes earlier than strictly necessary might be one way around the problem or perhaps it makes more sense to leave for work earlier and stop off at a café. Or do it straight after the kids have gone to school. Or when the baby has her mid morning nap. However you fit it into your daily routine try it for a week to see if it feels right for you. It is something that many creative people dip in and out of, but it has become a way of life for some.

The Artist’s Date

This is nothing to do with romance, but Julia’s way of promoting the idea that we need to give ourselves permission to nourish the creative side of our lives. She argues that it needs feeding regularly. It’s not something that you can leave to chance because unless you plan some activity once a week – the “date” – it will be shelved while you get on with the business of earning a living, making sure your home is more or less as tidy as everyone else’s and that you have enough clean clothes to go out without anyone looking at you sideways and backing away… The date could be a visit to an art exhibition or allowing yourself half an hour to go on a walk for no other reason than to notice the way the afternoon sunlight filters through the leaves on the trees.  


The acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month (November) and began

write drunk, edit sober Writing by its very nature is a solitary activity but in many regions NaNoWriMo introduces s a supportive social element with games, competitions, parties and pub write-ins. Last year I joined the Kent NaNoWriMo branch in a weekend retreat and while I didn’t ‘win’ by reaching anywhere near the target word count, I did resolve a plot problem and wrote two new chapters while staying in an enchanting country house mixing with like-minded people.

life in San Francisco in 1999 when 21 people got together and decided that they were each going to write a novel. In a month. They were looking for quantity not quality and with a daily target of over 1500 words they was no time to polish or edit. Participants discovered it was a case of getting your head down and writing regardless of what was going on around you and how ill or hung over (or, indeed, drunk) you felt. NaNoWriMo is now an international event and in 2012 more than 3440,000 took part across the world: 38,000 reached their goal of writing 50K words.

Check out the website at nanowrimo. org for more information and to find out what happened in your area last November and what could be coming up. It’s all free and all run by volunteers. I wonder if Hemingway would have approved. Participants write in a kind fever which he would have understood, but I suspect he would never have wanted to be part of a crowd, no matter how extraordinary.  

Just do it!

The often controversial Booker prizewinning novelist James Kelman has little time for the concept of writer’s block. In an interview in The Guardian newspaper he explained that the economic reality for most writers is that they are forced to give the best part of their day to their employer. So, as he sees it, there is only one solution.

“… if you start work at 8 o’clock in the morning, you should be up at half past five in order to do two hours before you go.” In other words, if you are a writer you write. Somehow you find the time. What though should you do if you have managed to squirrel away two precious hours from a busy life and you find yourself sitting with hands posed over a keyboard and your mind as blank as the computer screen? Kelman’s answer is just write anyway. Write that you don’t know what to write. Write that you can’t stand the colour of the wallpaper or the noise coming from next door. The mind abhors a vacuum and pretty soon you will be describing the next door noises and wondering who is making them and why. And that could be the start of a story or a novel…. inspiration comes when you are hard at work, not when you are staring into space.   Next issue: sobering up and switching on the mean-spirited, steely voice in your head by getting into editing mode.  

Follow Bridget’s blog at Full of news about writers and writing, she starts the week with a creative writing exercise on Monday mornings and ends it with an inspiring, amusing or plain daft quotation about the writing process.

My Creative Hero is... Simon Pegg went from doing stand-up to becoming a sitcom star to a film star, and he did it all by being proactive. He wrote his own material, stand-up, Spaced, Hot Fuzz... The list goes on. People like him really spur me on. You you can have a certain amount of control of your career if you create. Plus, he is bloody funny. Kerry Howard, actress and writer.

the the heroes heroes && idols idols edition edition ~~ 13 13

desert island reads



with Edward Milner Each issue BRIDGET WHELAN asks a guest writer to recommend books that they have read, re-read and would willingly read again. EDWARD MILNER is a professional ecologist and film-maker who used to work as a TV producer for BBC and then for his own Production company Acacia Productions (acaciaproductions. His documentary Vietnam after the fire about the long-term effects of the Vietnam War won several international awards, as did some of his other docs and news reports about the environment. His ‘Trees of Britain and Ireland’ was published by the Natural History Museum in 2011 (see He has published two short stories and is working on a novel drawing on his experiences in BBC and in Africa. He is married to Nikki, has two grown up daughters, supports Liverpool and lives in north London.

I’ll start with the science! The Song of the Dodo David Quammen This is a fascinating exploration of the threats of extinction to our wildlife, written by one of the best writers and most interesting thinkers about the natural world. Definitely worth rereading and pondering his ideas. The Lost Steps Alejo Carpentier (translated from Spanish) I have read this wonderful novel three times (at least). It traces a journey into the remotest jungle of south America (probably Venezuela but it could be Peru), and is one of the best evocations of the rain forest and the wild rivers of that continent, but which also explores the conflicts between modern life and the experience of indigenous communities.   which naturally leads on to... Memories of Underdevelopment by Edmundo Desnoes (also translated from Spanish) Another excellent thought-provoking novel about a

14 ~ what the dickens?

conflict of cultures, about rich and poor. Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll I could survive any desert island if I had this wonder of whimsy; I find one of the best moments of being a parent is reading Alice to one of my daughters.   Devil in the Flesh Robert Radiguet For pure mischief, this novel takes some beating – written as it was by a teenager. Hilarious, beautiful, outrageous and sad.   Man’s Estate Andre Malraux Some of the best stories are wrought from the most tumultuous events; this is set in the Shanghai Rebellion of 1927 and has some of the most brilliantly–imagined scenes of political action; this is another novel I have read several times. The Quiet American Graham Greene Graham Greene’s novel of the folly

of American intervention was written before the US-Vietnam war actually started, but he manages to show how the inadequacy of understanding blunts the effect of any so-called ‘intelligence’. One wonders what he would have made of ‘the war aagainst terror’. Intercom Conspiracy by Eric Ambler Another I have read three times! Such a wonderful take on the spy story; a brilliant – so cleverly imagined. The Museum of Unconditional Surrender Ugreska Dubravka I wondered about the title until I got to the end; if you want to learn about the human impact of war (Bosnia), this is so beautifully and sensitively rendered that it remains with you forever.   Stillness of the Sea Nicol Ljubic The ramifications of violent events are captured in this wonderful (recent) novel (also about Bosnia) which seems to have been completely neglected by the critics (apart from the Guardian, the only place I’ve seen it reviewed).  

write drunk, sober wall edit of wisdom

Wall of Wisdom


the the heroes heroes && idols idols edition edition ~~ 15 15

the eBook extraordinaire

The eBook Extraordinaire Ben Ottridge

Publishing an eBook: Where do I start?


he problem with this sort of thing is that because the barriers to entry have been lowered for everyone, eBook self-publishing is sometimes seen as the easy route. Much as the arrival of the mp3, cheap digital recording and iTunes revolutionised the indie music industry, the same is now happening to publishing. It used to be extremely difficult to get your book widely distributed without some sort of book publishing deal. Now, with Amazon Kindle and the like, you can upload and distribute your book worldwide in minutes. This is generally an extremely good thing, in my opinion. However, before you rush out and sign up, there are things, as an author, that you should really consider. First of all, is it really finished? I mean, really finished? Have you gone over your work multiple times, re-drafting, re-working, crafting and polishing the dialogue and the language until it sparkles? A first draft is not ready to publish! (For spot on advice about the drafting process, as well as many other aspects of writing, I can highly recommend How to be a Writer by Stewart Ferris, former contributor to this very magazine).

Having done this, have you considered hiring a professional editor to go over your work? Even the best writers will work closely with an editor on every book. An outside opinion can really help you push your ideas and produce the best version of your work that there can possibly be (not for nothing will you consistently see the editor’s name pop up in the Acknowledgements page...). Maybe your budget can’t stretch to that, so at the very least get a friend, someone you trust, to read your work and give some thoughts. They don’t have to be professional or know the book industry inside out, but even uninformed opinions can push you off in new directions. At the very least, find someone to proofread it for you. You’d be amazed what errors can slip through when you’re so familiar with your writing that you can’t see the wood for the trees. So, your masterwork is ready for publication. But you still need a good cover. Do you? Should you ‘never judge a book by its cover’? Not entirely accurate I feel. Yes, a bad cover may be hiding the most extraordinary piece of literature and we’ll all miss out, but if you want your book to sell then you need something extra, something eyecatching, something that will catch peoples’ eye amongst the millions of

• • 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?


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. 16 ~ what the dickens?

titles out there. Even if you haven’t been able to use an editor, consider investing in this and watch your sales soar. Take a look at lousybookcovers. if you want examples of what not to do... Finally, you’re ready to go. You have a sparkling manuscript and a fantastically-designed cover. So what now? You need to decide how you’re going to go about it. There are now various options for digital distribution. By far the most wellknown is Amazon Kindle, however you will need to be able to convert your document to a suitable eBook format. There is software out there to do this (I tend to use a combination of Mobipocket Creator, Calibre and KindlePreviewer), but it may be easier if you are less technically-minded to sign up to an aggregator such as Smashwords, Lulu, or indeed my own company SelfSelfSelf (shameless plug over!). These companies will take your original document and convert and distribute for you, usually taking an upfront payment, or a sales royalty. It’s worth really digging into the terms and conditions and seeing which service – and there are many more – is the one you want to be dealing with. I wish you good luck!



Social Media Review Katy Lassetter

LinkedIn for Creatives


inkedIn may be regarded as the more formal social networking platform – onesie-wearing Facebook’s tweed-clad aunt, say – but it can be used to showcase your skills and portfolio whatever your profession or persuasion. Whether you are an artist or Zumba instructor, you can think of LinkedIn as your easy to use and easy to share online CV. It is the place where you can let contacts, associates and prospective clients know all about your current projects, previous jobs, education and interests. They can view your profile, decide if you are their type of person and send you an invite to connect. In addition to its uses as an online CV, LinkedIn offers myriad discussion groups for creatives to join, including those for aspiring writers, designers and photographers. Here are some top tips to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is getting you the creative kudos that you deserve:

How to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile

#1 Picture perfect – Always upload a profile picture; there is nothing more off-putting than checking out a profile and seeing that faceless, grey head and shoulders pop up. It suggests that you have either not put much effort

into your profile or that you have something to hide, neither of which are images that you want to portray to professional contacts! You do not have to use a photo where you are suited and booted, as long as it is a good photo (preferably professionally taken) and not a holiday snap or a Show me the Way to go Home moment from a night out then it will do just fine. The best photos are those that reflect your personality and profession so you could use something arty and moody or something bright and welcoming. See my profile ( katylassetter) for an example. #2 Flaunt those skills – While I thoroughly recommend detailing your Background, Experience and Education, not everyone takes the time to read reams of information in the first instance. The strength of keywords is alive and well and this is where LinkedIn’s newer Skills and Expertise section comes into its own. Make sure to list all of your Skills and Expertise – whether they are fiction writing, tightrope walking, ceramics or all three – so that people can see your assets instantly and decide whether you are someone that they would like to connect with. Contacts can then endorse those Skills and Expertise which they have experienced, adding more weight for when prospective contacts view your profile.

#3 Speculate to accumulate – You might find it tiresome when people request your recommendations but these little beauties are actually very useful. That is, when you recommend a colleague you will often find that they will return the favour. Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile allow people to view the lovely things that people have had to say about you and your work. But please only recommend people whom you have genuinely worked with, inventing recommendations just to make your friends look better is not in the spirit of keeping things real and acts to dilute the impact of true testimonials. #4 Personality power – LinkedIn may be the Midnight’s Children to Facebook’s The Gruffalo but this does not mean to say that you should leave your personality out any more than you would leave it at the office door. When social networking, you should act no different than you would when networking face to face; remember your Ps and Qs and be yourself. Many people do not bother to fill in the Interests section but this is your chance to let people know that you love searching the streets of London and Brighton for Banksy’s offerings or attending the cinema to check out the latest novel to screen adaptations; these are the things that make your creativity shine!

Who is Chichester Copywriter?

This Social Review is brought to you by Katy Lassetter of Chichester Copywriter. Based in West Sussex, Chichester Copywriter has an impressive portfolio of clients throughout the UK, including University of Cambridge International Examinations. Chichester Copywriter offers a wide range of creative yet professional marketing services, including: copywriting brochures; copywriting blog and news articles; copywriting for websites (Search Engine Optimisation); proofreading and copy-editing; social media marketing and marketing consultancy. Katy has provided social media marketing consultation services to a number of authors, including; Jane Rusbridge, Penelope Bush and Mary Atkinson. This service includes Katy setting up and optimising Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn accounts and blogs. She also provides creative professionals and businesses with tailored tips on how to use social media effectively to build their brands and communicate with customers. Discover more at: or contact Katy on 01243 533421 or at: to arrange a free consultation.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 17

the muse

The Muse

with Gunday Monday


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 Gunday Monday, from Michagan, USA. You can listen to Gunday Monday now on our website.



his album was a huge collaborative undertaking between a dozen remotely located people. Josh Mirman (the artist and brains behind the story) lives in New York, the voice of Bruceman goes to college in Indiana, GundayMonday operates near Detroit, Rick Johnson’s recording studio is a four-hour drive away in Grand Rapids, and Bora Karaca finished the final album mastering in Los Angeles. While making the album, I had never met Josh in person, and the majority of our communication happened over email and Skype calls. We started the project by mapping out the story we wanted to explore in the music. Josh had this brilliantly long and complicated manifesto with 20 different characters, with no way in hell of fitting into our budget. So the first challenge was to cut it down to what we actually could do. We divided the story into different key moments, which then turned into individual songs. I wrote out chiptune versions of each song to give Josh an idea of how they would flow and get feedback (which we liked enough to turn into another album). Once the music was established, Josh and I agonized over

18 ~ what the dickens?

the lyrics. We tried to make something more like the old timey super hero radio shows, but still wanted it to be fun and catchy. Don’t tell Josh, but the entire story is also a metaphor for bands trying to make it. Every detail was carefully scrutinized, and took quite a bit of time to get right. Once we had everything written out, the band went to work learning each piece. This was definitely the most complicated project we’ve ever recorded. Each character has a specific feel in the music, be it a particular key or a percussive style. Additionally, the song structure tends to jump around making it very tricky to memorize. When we were finally ready to lay down the music tracks, we hopped in the van and drove to Cold War Studios in Grand Rapids where we spent 3 days recording all the music. I think most songs had 14-20 separate instruments and I’m honestly

surprised we got it all done. Over the next few months, we recorded vocals in hijacked-studios while the music was mixed, and built out a variety of sound effects. Every punch, yell, and laser-blast on the album probably took at least an hour to create. We eventually built these out into specific instruments like what radio DJs use for cheesy sound effects. I have one where each key is a different groan as a character gets punched which I still enjoy from time to time. This project was a huge undertaking that took 1 year to complete and I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out. The internet liked the album and it was the #1 punk, ska, and metal album on Bandcamp for 4 months after release (both humbling and awesome). Now we patiently await Josh to finish Bruceman’s story on He’s currently up to track 8!

my life in the theatre

My Life In The Theatre

Beyond the Proscenium Arch Sarah Quinney


o, we come to the end of the tour and back to normality. North America is a distant memory, and feels literally and figuratively thousands of miles away. My body is still not quite sure which time zone it is now in, and coming back to London (albeit briefly) felt like I was seeing everything for the first time During my time in Canada I suffered quite a serious concussion and have never felt further away from home. Being in a different timezone to my nearest and dearest when feeling so ill was horribly tough. I reached a point where I just wanted to come home, thinking that no job was worth the intense heartache of that kind of nonsense. And yet, something stopped me from pressing that mouse button and confirming a flight back from Vancouver. I realised that I owed it to myself to see this thing through for the remaining three weeks. This time, I could walk away with my head held high, knowing that I had done my best. I may have made many mistakes and not handled situations in the best ways at times, but I always tried my hardest. To quit would have almost been like saying to myself that I wasn’t good enough, strong enough. And I did survive; I did make it through to the end. I can say that I am proud of myself. If I had walked away in Vancouver and come home, I would have regretted it.

It lead me to thinking about an interesting conundrum with theatre. No job in the world is worth making yourself ill over, or should keep you from your loved ones in times of yours or their need. It’s just a show at the end of the day. No one dies if that performance does not go ahead. Or, more usually, the show can go ahead without you, no matter how indispensible you may think you are. But on the other side of the coin, sometimes you need to ride out the bad situations and come out the other side better and stronger for that experience. Sometimes feeling like that you are doing the wrong thing can ultimately prove to be the best decision. We cannot grow and develop as individuals without those moments. That week was one of the hardest I have ever been through in my working life, but the sense of achievement at the end of it, when I knew I had not been beaten by life and everything that had been thrown at me, was one that I will always treasure. So, taking this lesson with me, I begin a new chapter of my life. No more touring, coming home to the same house every night, walking to work and having my evenings and weekends off. Things that so many people take for granted and don’t appreciate. I don’t know how I am going to begin to fill these times, but it is going to be fun finding out. For too long my existence has been about working, being everything to everyone else, in pursuit

of professional gain. I have been to some amazing places, and seen some things that I never even imagined that I would, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities that life has given this rather ordinary girl from deepest Yorkshire. However, this next phase of my life is about personal gain. Work does not seem so important now, but finding a home, interests away from the day job, and going beyond living to work, are the important things now. The moment I read the job description for my new role at the University of Chichester, I knew that it was what I was looking for, without ever really having known what would fill the void. Even when initially I was turned down after my interview, I somehow knew that I would find my way to that job. I may initially be bored, going from such a full on job on tours, where every day is consumed with thinking about the next venue or unpacking at the fifth hotel in as many nights. Lessons learned from the last 10 weeks. That I am stronger and braver than I ever thought I could be. That work is not what defines me, but my actions are, and the choices that I make. And that I have an entire future to fill with anything that I want. And that is the most exciting adventure of all.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 19

the artist’s studio

The Artist’s Studio David Rowland

The Braque on the Wall


raque, Georges 1882-1963, modernist painter. The dates could say it all really, Cubism, Modernism, Surrealism, ism upon ism and so on throughout the twentieth century. He was moderately famous once, though the first I heard of him was in 1969. I was 16 years old. By then Cubism, as an avant-garde art practice, was a thing of the distant past, something invented in Paris in the years before the First World War. What was Cubism? It was supposed to be a more honest way of representing the multiple perspectives of a three dimensional reality on a two dimensional surface. Braque’s 1910 painting ‘Violin and Candlestick’ is a good example. Take it or leave it, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. I first came across the name Braque whilst listening to an early Bowie song called ‘Strange Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed’. ‘Now you run from your window To the porcelain bowl And you’re sick from your ears To the red parquet floor And the Braque on the wall slides down your throat And eats through your belly’   Not everybody’s cup of tea either, I dare say. Fortunately for me, the Phillips record company had seen fit to reproduce the lyrics of the songs on the inside of the album cover, otherwise I may never have realised the word was not ‘brack’ but ‘Braque’ with a ‘B’. Maybe it was a painting, a photograph, or something like that, presumably by someone called Braque. Then I found myself wondering if perhaps I should

20 ~ what the dickens?

have known who Braque was; after all I had an O level in art, a Bowie LP, an American coastguard jacket, a scratchy beard, and collar length hair. I was cool. But I didn’t know what a ‘Braque’ was. There was no internet back then, only a thing called the public library or the local bookshop and it was there, whilst mooching about the high street one Saturday afternoon and trying to look like an intellectual, that I came across a large book entitled ‘Braque’ The cover showed a detail from one of his paintings: a strange painting, fluid shapes, flattened perspectives, fractured objects. The colours were bold and the image deceptively simple. Curious, I leafed through the book, browsing in the old fashioned way. Strange paintings abounded. There was some quasi-academic text with words like ‘Fauvist’ and ‘Cubist’ and a mention of Picasso. At least I’d heard of him.   The second half of the book contained coloured reproductions of various paintings from the artist’s long and apparently distinguished career; then, near the end of the book, was a painting labelled ‘Atelier V’. The title meant nothing to me but the image was compelling; a darkened room with a patterned curtain, vertical lines, objects and assorted clutter. I could make out a vase on a table, another vase on another table, an artist’s palette and then, as if woven through this cramped interior space, the crook-necked shape of a great white bird in free flight. It was what my parents called ‘Modern Art’. No doubt about it.   But what did it mean, if anything? I read the text. I have since learned that

this is rarely the best way of responding to a piece of art but, in this case, I did learn two useful facts: that word ‘Atelier’ meant ‘studio’ in French and Braque had painted a series of paintings based on the interior of his studio of which this was number five. The date was ‘1949-51’ which seemed a long time to be painting one picture but he was nearly seventy by then so maybe he’d lost it and was seeing things. Long story short, I bought the book. I still have it and a lot more besides. I bought the book because of the painting. And that book, that painting, led me on to other books and other paintings. They made me think more, about art, about the process of creation and the nature of reality. I decided to be an artist. I went to art college and there I learned that, whilst I was no great shakes as an artist, I nevertheless understood something of what a ‘proper’ artist, like Braque, was trying to achieve, or at least I thought I did. This is what Braque said about his studio series. ‘Studios are always cluttered, full of things, teeming with objects. In this painting I was assailed on all sides by these objects and the different planes they created. The objects suddenly developed lives of their own, each one different, none matching the next one. My aim was a unified painting, not one of different parts’.

the artist’s studio

No mention of birds, but that was back in the early nineteen fifties. Before a place called New York stole the idea of ‘Modern Art’, before all those books were written about ‘The Analysis of Culture’, before we learned about other ways of seeing, before a French intellectual announced the death of the author and before a new generation of artists and ‘lefty’ cultural analysts had deconstructed modernism, declared it dead and buried, before it became complicated to talk about ‘meaning’.   All that need not concern us now. Atelier V is still a very good example of European post war modernist painting and as such worth oodles of cash. Never lose sight of that. Perhaps it is true that there is no message beyond the message the spectator brings to the event despite what the artist may, or in this case, may not have said. Braque never ‘explained’ the bird other than in terms of an ‘accident’.   In what passes for reality in Braque’s world the bird is just a painting on an easel. What else would one expect to see in an artist’s studio? At the time Braque was working on a series of images of a bird in flight. But this particular bird is more than just another painting within a painting. It is the summation of a life’s work.   Braque is showing us what the old man can do. See, I can manipulate space. I can arrest your eye. I can deform and re-define reality. I can move you

without you knowing quite how the trick is done. In this rectangular space I have created something compelling and unique. I am a magician. This was, this is, my job. To tell the truth, I was never much taken with his early work, the stuff he did with Picasso, the stuff that changed the world; it’s the interiors, the billiard tables, the studios and beaches that speak to me. The early work, the ‘little cubes’, had to be done of course, but I see them as pieces of research, a series of working diagrams and blueprints, preparation. The artist is learning how to see, how to play his game.   That is what painting is, a game played out on a flat surface within the confines of a rectangle. There have been many attempts to break away from the rules. That is what rules are for. But it always comes back to the rectangle and how to present the image within in such a way that the spectator will be moved to some response. It may not be the response the artist intended but as a rule of thumb, the more competent artist will produce the most complex responses. When it comes to representing ‘reality’, Braque

would say: ‘A thing cannot be both true and an exact replica’ – but then he was French. And where would art be without France?

And where would I be without art? Painting has, in one way or another, enhanced and brought meaning to my life. It would be nearly thirty years before I actually saw Atelier V but, when I finally achieved one of my lifetime ambitions, at a ‘major retrospective’ in London, the experience was, unsurprisingly perhaps, somewhat different from my imagining. There were so many other people, all talking, walking about and looking at my picture, intruding on my special moment. The painting hung there on the perfect white wall of the museum along with several other paintings from the Atelier series. Apparently, there is now some dispute as to whether ‘my’ painting is really Atelier V or in fact, Atelier III – Braque was never that good at dates – but, with all due respect, who but an academic, gives a tinker’s cuss? I saw a great bird about to escape the confines of the image within an image and take flight, a moment of epiphany any artist writer or poet might recognise. But it was not like looking at a picture in a book or a reproduction, or the image of the painting I carry in my head. I had to share the moment and I did not want to. Some people just walked by with scarcely a glance; others stood in my way. I read my catalogue, t h o u g h t about the strengths and weaknesses of cultural analysis and something Braque had written a long time ago, ‘In art only one thing counts: that which cannot be explained’.  

David Rowland is a retired psychiatric nurse who lives in Praze an Beeble, a village in Cornwall. He has a Masters degree in art history. He has also had a few short stories published on the web but currently spends more of his time writing songs and playing guitar.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 21

heroes & idols writing

Heroes & Idols Writing Reluctant Hero I did not ask to become your hero, Turned into something I could never be, By the idolatry you forced on me. As all now fell for this fraudulent show, Bathed in the light of a rose-tinted glow, I tried to tell you, make you really see. Yet your delusions would not set me free, My truth you buried in dark and shadow. The life I live now I can never own, Although the cracks appear beneath my feet, Where I tread your path of lies and deceit. I have had enough of this gilded throne, Gladly I would fall, my destruction meet, To become once more whole, once more complete. 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.

22 ~ what the dickens?

heroes & idols writing


by Pete Warwick


i. Pleased to meet you.’ The handshake was firm, one I would have associated with a far younger man, rather than the slim grey haired septuagenarian who half rose from his seat to greet me. At last, I was face to face with my earliest boyhood hero. Here was the man who more than any other of his day was the defining creative force behind pop music, both past and present. Despite his seventy six years, and over fifty years in the business, there was still a youthful gleam to the eye, a spring in the step and a warm smile. The Texan drawl had not been lost, despite living in New York for the last forty five years, and if he had been wearing his iconic horn-rims in place of the thin wired trendy frames he now sported, the last fifty years would have vanished in an instant. ‘Mr Holly,’ I replied. ‘This is a real honour, and I am so glad you can spare the time in your busy schedule.’ ‘No problem.’ He smiled. ‘The fans in Britain have always been particularly loyal to me; I regard it an honour that they still wish to read about me in your magazine. Oh, and please, call me Buddy.’ I was here to not only to try to gain some insight into the man who inspired such greats as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but to satisfy a personal longing that had stuck with me since my early teenager days. Charles Hardin Holley, known to the world as Buddy Holly. I often feel sad for modern youth, when everything is on tap, with instant gratification. Want to hear a new song or artiste? Simple, just click the computer mouse, watch them on Youtube, download the latest hopefuls offerings in a moment, and forget them just as quickly and completely in a couple of weeks time when the latest hyped sound is declared the latest newest thing. Where is the excitement, the anticipation, the sheer mystery that existed back in the fifties and early sixties, long before computers and MTV intruded into our lives. We would scan the latest issue of Disc magazine, to discover who had a new single out, then tune in the radio that night, fingers crossed that the weather would be kind and that Radio Luxembourg would not fade too often. Oh, the joy on hearing the first rendition of Peggy

Sue, in muddy analogue sound, and the agony as interference replaced the guitar break in the middle. We knew so little about our pop stars in those days; only what the record company chose to tell us. Any unsavoury facts about our heroes were well hidden; they were idolised from afar, virtual deities to a fourteen year old boy in the 1950’s. And what man of my age cannot remember the almost euphoric experience of taking that 45 single out of its fresh cover, the exhilarating smell of new vinyl, and then the anticipation as the Dansette lowered its stylus on to that gleaming black disc for the first time? This was not the first time I had been face to face with Buddy Holly. The last had been in 1958, in a show at Portsmouth Guildhall when he had toured with The Crickets just months before that fateful crash, and the world held its breath whilst it waited to find out if we had been deprived of one of our greatest talents. Despite misleading news reports, it transpired that Buddy Holly had not died that icy cold February night in an Iowa field. That night had been shrouded in mystery for years, why did Buddy not take the flight after hiring the Beachcraft? I was hopeful of some answers from the man himself. We started the interview by discussing his latest project and the reason for his visit. The autobiographical Stratocaster Hero had been the title of Buddy’s mid seventies tour de force, the album that had restored him to his rightful place in the public conscience, containing such iconic songs as ‘Lubbock Wine Drinker’ and ‘Waylon’s playing bass for Elvis’. A film had followed, then a Broadway musical that had been playing to full houses for the last two decades. The show was now moving to London, and if the clamour for advance tickets was anything to go by, it would run here for the next twenty years. ‘Guess what. I’ll give you a scoop here. J.I. is coming over for the launch night! I’m really excited about that. Things have been much better between us lately.’ J.I. of course is Jerry Allison, founder member of the iconic Crickets, and instigator of the break-up of the group when Buddy decided to settle in New York and leave his Texas roots behind. The Crickets of course, have been touring relentlessly for the last fifty years, enjoying themselves on the nostalgia circuit, whilst Buddy

wanted to be more experimental with his music. Who can doubt he was right. Fifteen Gold and Nine Platinum albums with total sales exceeding 150 million plus a half a dozen Grammys, his own recording label, studios and video company, and a proud grandfather to boot. Who can doubt he has had a successful life. Yet it could all have been so different if fate had had its own way on that cold night in Iowa back in 1959. This is what Buddy told me. It was a bitter cold night in Clear Lake, Iowa. Buddy was touring without the Crickets, despite new bride Maria Elena being pregnant and alone in New York. His record company were insisting on it, and Buddy had reluctantly agreed, despite the punishing schedule. The tour group were spending countless hours driving from town to town in freezing conditions, often grabbing the only sleep they could on the seats of their tour bus before the next concert. Nine hours travel was not unheard of, and Buddy’s drummer Carl Brunch had already been hospitalised with frost bite. ‘Our next stop was Fargo, North Dakota. You know, we were all so tired, the tour bus had broken down, so hey, damn the expense. I rang the local airport in Clear Lake and chartered a four seater Beachcraft Bonanza to fly me and my back up boys there.’ Buddy paused, his lips compressed as he gazed out of the hotel window, lost in the memories of that night. ‘You know, fate surely is a funny thing. Whole lives changed that night, families devastated, and all on the toss of a coin!’ Buddy’s eyes were moist as he shook his head. ‘There again, you could say that some guys were really lucky, because they lived. And I count myself amongst them! Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings were to fly with me. J.P. ‘Big Bopper’ Richardson and young Ritchie Valens had been sharing the billing with me on the tour. J.P. was a great character, kept us all smiling when things got tough, and as for Ritchie, he was a real sweet boy. Only seventeen…’ Buddy shook his head slightly, as if to clear his thoughts. ‘So, what happened was that J.P. asked Waylon if he could have his seat. He had a touch of the flu, and wanted

the heroes & idols edition ~ 23

heroes & idols writing to get to the next hotel real quick so he could get nights sleep in a proper bed. Fate was sure kind to Waylon that night when he gave his seat up. Look at the career that followed! Anyhow, as soon as Ritchie heard that J.P. was flying, he started badgering Tommy for his seat. Well, Tommy wasn’t to keen at first, but in the end decided to toss a coin for the seat. As we all know, Ritchie won the toss. Considering that Ritchie hated flying, he seemed desperate to leave Iowa that night.’ Buddy stood up and walked across to the window, and gazed out across a wintry London. It was February, and had been snowing, so perhaps the view was too harsh a reminder of that night. ‘Just before we were due to board, our tour manager came hurrying to the airport, and told me that Maria had been desperately trying to get hold of me. Well, I knew I had to talk to her first, she was pregnant with our son Luis and she was on her own back in New York.’ Buddy came and sat down opposite me.

‘I told the pilot to go on without me. There was a snowstorm working itself up, and he wanted to get off before visibility was too bad. I stood and watched as they taxied out, one seat now empty, before returning with the manager, to make that long distance call. It was something or nothing. Maria was worried, said she was getting a real funny feeling about me, that something terrible was going to happen and she just had to talk to me.’ Buddy gave me that little half smile he is famous for. ‘So, it was a night on the tour bus for me after all, only to be greeted by the news at Fargo that I had died in an air crash. They had three bodies, but of course, one of them was the young pilot, who was the same age as me, and everyone just jumped to conclusions. I couldn’t get on the phone quick enough to Maria. It was touch and go for a few days as to whether she would lose the baby. You see, she had been already informed that I had been killed, and

then me calling her, well, you can imagine the shock!’ ‘You know, that’s the first time I’ve spoken about that night. I guess I always try to forget it, but I know I never will. I’ve lived a full life, a successful life, and I thank God for that every day. It’s become something of a cliché now, but believe me, on that day the music really did die.’ As I left the hotel, I thought how tenuous our grip was on our fate. Buddy had co-written that great song in the seventies with Don Maclean, about the tragedy of that night, and I wondered how the words of that song would have changed if Buddy had filled that empty seat.

A Meer Idol

‘I don’t mind. I think it’s funny.’ ‘You won’t be saying that when he tears it in two.’ ‘He wouldn’t do that, would he?’ ‘He might. You know how much he hates insurance.’ ‘But it’s not their fault. It’s all a misunderstanding.’ ‘Do you remember what he said about the opera singer?’ ‘That’s different. I’d punch him too if I got the chance.’ ‘Kirsty!’ ‘What? He deserves it. No-one has a moustache like that. No-one!’ ‘And no-one fails to spell the word market accurately either, do they?’ ‘Mummy! Don’t say such things!’ ‘Are you really covering his ears?’ ‘He shouldn’t have to listen to such blasphemy.’ ‘Blasphemy? Kirsty, do you know what you’re talking about?’ ‘I know, Mummy, that a parent is supposed to do whatever it takes to make their child happy and yet I don’t see you getting your purse out.’ ‘Oh? And where did you hear such an idea?’ ‘Jeremy Kyle.’ ‘Jeremy Kyle? When did you watch Jeremy Kyle?’ ‘At Sarah’s. She’s got, like, every episode ever saved on her Sky box.’

‘Is that so?’ ‘Oh yeah, Kyle is her absolute idol. The wisest man in the country, she calls him.’ ‘Well, I never.’ ‘I think she’s right. If he were here now, he’d agree with me.’ ‘Kirsty, you can’t make every decision based on what you think Jeremy Kyle would say.’ ‘I won’t. Just this one. Come on, Mummy, do you really want to make me unhappy? I’d tell everyone.’ ‘I suppose you learned blackmail from Mr Kyle too, huh?’ ‘Oh no, Mummy. I learned that from you.’ ‘Did you really?’ ‘Oh yes, you’re my absolute idol. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve learned from you.’ ‘Look. If I give you the money, can we leave then?’ ‘Blasphemy, blackmail and bribery. You see, Mummy. You’re the best.’

by Sam Lenton


hat one. It’s perfect!’ ‘Hmm.’ ‘Please, Mummy?’ ‘Well, where would you put it?’ ‘Loads of places. It’s just what I wanted.’ ‘Can’t you just worship a pop star or something?’ ‘But I wouldn’t be able to touch them, would I?’ ‘We could buy you a poster?’ ‘I want that one.’ ‘I’m all for having idols – Brian Wilson, Jude Law, Uncle Ben – but they should at least be real, Kirsty.’ ‘But it is real. I’m holding it in my hands.’ ‘It’s a stuffed toy.’ ‘It’s still real, isn’t it? Here. You take it and try telling me it’s not there.’ ‘Look, I’m not touching it and you shouldn’t either. Not until we decide if you’re having it.’ ‘I am having it, Mummy.’ ‘Your daddy won’t be pleased.’ ‘I know. It’s perfect!’ ‘You know what he says when he sees them on the TV. Do you want to hear that every time he comes into your room?’

24 ~ what the dickens?

My name is Pete Warwick. I am retired, but find there are not enough hours in the day! Apart from stories and novels, I am currently trying to master the piano. Have had short stories and articles published, and one novel, Walton Drive, is available on Kindle. WTD published my March Hare story last year.

Sam Lenton is a novelist and scriptwriter. In May 2012 I released my debut novel Accidental Crime, which is available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback from I blog regularly at and am currently completing a diploma in journalism alongside my day job as a sixth form English teacher.

heroes & idols writing

The Half-God’s Grief He gazed across at where the young man lay, Smiling, breaking from tireless rowing; His blond curls sparkled against the dark hay, And beneath the sun, his skin was glowing. Upon shore, he took his bronze pitcher, and Touching his love lightly, left for water. Hercules waved absently from the sand, Where he stood—until he heard nymph laughter— Followed by a hoarse, unmistakable scream— Wild-eyed, he raced into the dark wood, And thought he must be in some wicked dream: Only the pitcher lay where his love should! He clawed through the quaking trees, chasing sounds That were only echoes—his love was gone. Sickened, he fell, his form shaking the grounds, His sobs and shouts mocked him—he was alone. The crew found him quickly—“Where is Hylas?” His helpless face told them all enough. He Made them search for days without sleep; alas, His young love could still not be found. The sea Beckoned them on; their journey lay ahead— Stricken, he stayed behind, searching, seeking The one who was his heart—who lay drowned, dead In the stream’s rocks—as his heart was breaking. Sara Schmidt Sara Schmidt is an award-winning writer from Missouri. Also a homeschooling mom, artist, wife and activist, her first novel will be out this November. Sara has written for dozens of publications both on and offline, including Life Learning Magazine, Teaching Tolerance, Short Fast and Deadly, Daily Kos, wiseGEEK, Blink Ink and Ecorazzi.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 25

heroes & idols writing

Fallen idol. In revolutions statues fall to murderous applause. The loud crash of a sometime king drowns in the sound of cheers and the stamp of a thousand feet as he hits the street, head first. Under the heel of an angry passer-by a kingly ear, delicately carved is crushed on the bloodless pavement and fragments of the body bigger than an ordinary man’s fly off into the raging gutters of a city in turmoil. Disillusion has the power to break up stone and hatred smashes marble with its ball and chain a crushing force that pounds the finer details of the idol’s likeness to an insubstantial powder. And what remains of a vain and powerful man rains down from his white pedestal to settle on the ground, a heap of dust and rubble. Some kid, excited by the crowd and by a new pair of boots kicks his sovereign in the face and a student of literature bends over double to pick up a severed hand so that he might use it as a bookend on the shelf he calls his library. Taken by surprise, a woman who was used to arranging flowers at the feet of the tyrant on ceremonial occasions crosses herself and crosses the street in a hurry while a quiet man at the outer edge of things measures the pedestal with a long look and thinks about installing the next great idol. Olga Pavlinova Olenich Olga Pavlinova Olenich is a widely-published writer whose poetry, stories and articles regularly appear in Australian and overseas publications. Her work has also been broadcast on National Radio and appears online.

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heroes & idols writing

The Even Newer Testament by Vanessa Cutts


rancesca had arrived early in life, born in the car on the way to hospital. Mrs Rowland’s body clock was running fifteen minutes fast, her amino acid mechanism that had the ability to anticipate changes and regulate a host of body functions had hit babies. Mr and Mrs Rowland had been under the misconception that the IVF treatment would take about six months but it worked straight away and the years flew by. Francesca grew up like most normal kids on Child Support with birthday parties that had to make a jar of Marmite and Shipham’s Fishpaste go further by spreading it really thinly, and birthday parties with brightly coloured jam tarts and ‘dilute to taste’ squash. The ‘dilute to taste’ always sounded a bit odd to F who thought it meant it tasted of nothing until you added water but in actual fact it was neat and tasted really strong. Other drinks didn’t give you this advice and people usually asked your preference. Strong or weak tea, single or double? Well done or medium rare steak ? There might, however, be someone on the planet who drinks their orange squash neat and ignores the advice written on the label for their taste preference. When Francesca was ten her ginger hair was really long, nearly down to her bum. Francesca hated school, but liked most of her friends. It was a miracle that she never caught measles when it was going around her class, she read every Dodi Smith book and hung out with a real Charlie Brown Schultz gang who knew all the cartoons and laughed at Snoopy’s jokes. According to Francesca, teachers either inspired or not. They had notable personal mannerisms and some had a disagreeable appearance – Mr Cleave was boring and fat and Mrs Mandy was old with glasses – this was then picked on and the cause of dislike, disinterest, general time killing like waiting for the bell, being late through alternative and more important activities

like discussing who was on Top of The Pops last night and somehow encouraged less attention to trying to do satisfactory homework. Dancing to and knowing all the words to David Bowie and Marc Bolan was much easier than school work. Knowing the exact chart positions and who was No.1 and for how long each week was essential knowledge that didn’t need a brain like maths did. Following rules and not straying from the path was important to older people who seemed to inspire ways of getting round them once discipline was given. No matter how tempting running in the corridors, chewing gum and passing notes might be, apparently they were wrong when someone older was in charge; passing notes and chewing gum was fine as long as it wasn’t in a school building. The round silver wall clock in the kitchen ticked loudly as usual. In the same way you add hot water to the bath some noises you get used to like becoming accustomed to the radio volume and turning it up, you don’t want the ticking to get any louder but it gets louder when the volume of silence goes up. The wall clock only ever needed its batteries changing once as far as Francesca remembered, and it played a big part in daily life. 7.30 am breakfast, 12.00pm news, 2.45pm Mrs Rowland’s exercise programmes, 9.15pm Francesca went to bed. Mrs Rowland’s exercise programme was part of her fat farm routine that also adopted other attempts at copying role models, running with a name and goal in mind, or motivated herself to fit into a dress she had bought in a smaller size. She tried making a pact with someone then she couldn’t let them down. Running mantras included “I’m going to look like an actress idol mantra” and the more motivational and hateful – “I can do better than someone else mantra”; then there was always the doing the opposite to someone idle instead of having the sports idol. Telling someone your goals made them real, they said, made you be honest with yourself so that when your will power went you were actually kidding yourself. If it was out loud like reading a school essay or a publisher’ submission then if it didn’t sound right you had to do something about it because it was real. Me says this, I says this and myself says this. She also tried notes chiselled into the

fridge door saying ‘though shalt not eat’. Francesca, who was thin as a rake, had to ignore the cult like behaviour of the figure worshipping women in tracksuits that her mother hung out with from Weight Watchers and aerobics classes. The person who first said thin as a rake had probably never used one because the phrase has nothing to do with its combing and collecting action and could equally be said of a broom handle. Maybe there wasn’t a broom around at the time unless of course they were referring to the other type of rake – someone habituated to immoral conduct, but why they would be skinny was beyond Francesca, unless it was just someone this person knew who was also thin. Mr Rowland, short of wearing a colourful cape and lycra suit with a meaningful letter on it and mask was the faceless, selfless, superhero and a self-gratifying martyr to salvation. He had altar egos and alter egos to suit whatever event life through at him. He was also as thin as a broom. Mr Rowland supported United and worshipped football at every opportunity on the TV. He made match pilgrimages about once a month with his friends and wore the appropriate attire covering his head and neck with a scarf and hat in the stadium. Removal of footwear was not considered necessary in football temples. Francesca often heard him talking to the birds on the bird table in the garden when he was pruning the roses, she never heard exactly what he was saying but didn’t really want to know. When she was fourteen Francesca had developed far more comedy and literary heroes, her romantic heroines, however, were limited to an odd collection of Hans Christian Anderson and vampire slayers. Today’s kids probably have a more sophisticated range of culinary idols as every other programme is Masterchef or features a foodie celeb. Where did all the food come from to take up so much programming time? Alternative foreign muck presumably other than traditional British meat and two veg, casseroles and suet puddings served up by Fanny Craddock and the Galloping Gourmet. What viewers take a while to realise is the meat and two veg just has a different name like Beouf

the heroes & idols edition ~ 27

heroes & idols writing Bourguignon or a fancy sounding sauce other than Bisto. For some reason these dishes are then elevated to chef food status because the meagre Shepherd’sPie-and-Cottage-Pie-loving Brit only associate foreign food with restaurants. With the advent of convenience pizzas, pasta and curry sauces we are now rediscovering traditional British fare left behind by the supermarket take over. Francesca grew up thinking all Africans lived in the desert because they were the only ones on telly apart from the ones in sitcoms and most second hand spoon-fed TV experience had a detachment that would gradually piece itself together in a real life jigsaw with personal points of reference. Francesca made cupcakes and muffins, boiled eggs and soldiers and occasionally her culinary expertease stretched to spaghetti bolognaise. When Francesca was fourteen she tried her hair slightly shorter, she used a brush to dry it straight with a thick straight fringe or left it in a big red afro ball. She hated school knickers and found that Calvin Klein kindly included grey in his range and that they could pass as school regulation grey at a stretch. For her birthday party Mr Rowland turned the house into a Halloween haunted house by covering the lights with sheets and making cotton wool cobwebs; everyone had to come as someone dead and he nailed some Katherine wheels to a big cross in the garden and gave everyone a sparkler. Every Saturday Francesca and her friends bought Lottery tickets, choosing the numbers at random as if a divine message had come from somewhere and they would

28 ~ what the dickens?

definitely win. When after a few weeks nobody won they decided to choose birthdays and lucky numbers based on other successful events. Coincidence was, however, spooky sometimes so Francesca and her friends decided to try and make fate by eating nothing but Cheerios for breakfast in an attempt to make a weird link with the South American city, you never know one day the Olympics would be held there because of them and she would win in the 100m final and be able to tell the commentator it was all due to her breakfast cereal and the sponsorship deal would be phenomenal. When she was sixteen her gorgeous red hair was long again. She dated several boys and followed her horoscope religiously believing in the signs of new beginnings and love improving. This manifested itself in a boy kissing her at the school ball. It was very romantic because she had a new dress on and her hair tied back in a bun. After he kissed her he told her that John Lennon had told him he was Jesus in a dream while he was on the bus to school. She didn’t believe him and reckoned he made it up but thought he was funny, confident, eccentric and really impressive. She told him she wanted to own her own hair salon; she had a part-time job washing customer’s hair and sweeping the cuttings. It would be a French salon with elegant ladies and they would do catwalk shows and styles and have a beautician. She dated several boys after that but went out with the boy from the disco for about a year until she saw him with another girl and split up. He had promised her the world and even

wanted her babies. A friend of hers said they were all like that, so she went out with someone else and made sure he knew. Gossip spread like a preacher converting thousands of natives in an African mission, saving their souls and offering them salvation. It turned out that it had been a bit of a mistake and so the boy who John Lennon told was Jesus in a dream rose again and had a second coming. Francesca had prayed for it to work this time and pretended she was going out with Luke Skywalker to avoid getting hurt. Her complex genetic internal body clock was busy regulating lots of new behaviour. She didn’t think her boyfriend looked like Jesus and doubted there was any truth in the Bible. She decided the Bible was an analogy for a tragic and failed relationship that someone made up, making a fresh start and learning from hindsight and experience. Other explanations for the Universe were much more believable. According to the wall clock it was 12.45 am. I have recently won a prize for the Birkbeck Alumni Travel Writing Competition 2012 to add to a Richmond Upon Thames Arts Council Young Poet’s Prize win and young play writing performed at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford. I have a degree in Graphic Design and my writing has evolved from experiences working in a large London advertising agency as a Graphic Designer, travelling the world and more latterly studying Journalism and PR. I have one self-published novel.

heroes & idols writing

Mistaken Heroes At Claros, by the riverbed, bones bleached by exposure were collected by emperors, held, honoured and glorified, provoking stories, proving surely that Orestes once lived, that gods had walked this earth as spoken in the oracles. And believers worshipped these heroes, claimed these Pleistocene dinosaur bones as theirs, offering libations and supplications in religious rites and awe. Heather Walker I live in the suburbs of London with my husband and two adult offspring. My poetry has beeen published in Reach and Areopagus, Sounding Out Heaven and Earth (anthology) and Short Cuts Poetry. I avoid housework by reading and blogging at (though its 99% about verse!)

the heroes & idols edition ~ 29

heroes & idols writing

Loving Edward by Rebecca Stonehill


lease. Go. Away. Hot, small, angry little words. But I don’t leave, of course. How can I possibly go anywhere? The first time we meet is on the tube. The northern line, to be precise, down in the murky depths, Morden-bound. He gets on at one of the Claphams – I wish I could remember which one – and pushes himself deep into the grimy blue and off-white checked seat. His fingers, long and elegant, reach up and rub his temples and I wish, suddenly, that my fingers could replace his and smooth over the gentle lines of his face. I suppose a person knows when they’re being stared at, because he looks up and, as our eyes meet, he smiles. That smile – how to explain – it fades everything around us into dull tones of black and grey and there we are, just he and I, illuminated. It makes something inside me lurch as violently as the sudden shift of the tube. I find that I am holding my breath and I ease it out in small, painful staccatos. Balham: my stop, but I don’t move. He’s not looking at me anymore, he’s sensitive and modest – I like that – but he knows there’s a connection too. The tube doors hiss open and everybody else in our compartment is swallowed into the outside void. I allow myself an indulgent little smile. Fate, of course, has set all this in motion so that it can be just the two of us, alone. He swallows a yawn and I watch as his adam’s apple bobs gracefully. Look at me again, I will him, look at me. I am waiting for you. When his eyes finally graze my face he smiles again, but this time with a puzzled expression. It’s hard, I know, it’s hard when two souls conjoin so momentously to take it all in. I raise an eyebrow at him, but he’s already looked modestly away. As we approach Tooting Broadway, he starts fidgeting and I know what this means. I will follow him, wherever he goes, but I have no real plan. Not yet. The tube is slowing and he stands, his frame broader and fuller that I first imagined. Strong forearms. Hair the colour of autumn leaves. He is fumbling with his bags and I am about to stand up too. As the door slides open, he hurries to gather his

30 ~ what the dickens?

belongings and, as he steps over the threshold, the small square item drops from his coat pocket. His wallet. I stoop to reach it. Stand clear of the doors please. The doors haven’t closed yet and my mouth opens, to call to him, Stand clear of the closing doors, but he is receding, and the doors have shut. With my mouth still open, poised, I am left standing as I am sucked deeper towards Morden. Over the following week, I feel that sweet flush of fresh love as I become acquainted with Edward Dryden. Born: 1975. Occupation: Graphic designer. PADI divers license, Blockbuster video card and membership at the Lotus Gym. His sort code with Santander Bank – and this is what I love about him the most – is almost exactly my birth date. I don’t go out much this week, I want to be at home, alone with Edward Dryden. I hear the banging, the swearing, the noise filtering through the crisp-thin walls but this week I don’t care. I lie on my bed listening to the distant, syncopated drip of a tap and I imagine him on top of me. His hair bristles against my cheek as he pushes further, harder, deeper. I laugh as I pull him into me and feel the taut muscles in his back. Edward Dryden. And then, one week to the day that our eyes first meet, I call him. I have memorized the number from his card and when he answers, his voice is exactly as it should be. ‘Hello?’ ‘Hello.’ My heart is crashing wildly and I have to pause a moment before I can continue. ‘Is that Edward Dryden?’ ‘Speaking.’ ‘You lost your wallet on the underground last week. I’m keeping it safe. I would have called earlier but I’ve been… busy.’ ‘You’ve got my wallet?’ His voice is elated, like a small schoolboy and I imagine his adam’s apple bobbing. ‘That’s fantastic! I really didn’t think I’d see it again. Why don’t I give you my address and you can send it to me? I’ll compensate you, of course, for postage.’ No. I feel myself panic. No, I don’t want to do that. I take a deep breath. ‘Or perhaps I could give it to you in person? I wouldn’t trust the postal service these days.’ ‘Oh,’ he pauses. ‘You’re probably right. Well, I live in Tooting Broadway, is that anywhere near – ‘

‘Tooting Broadway,’ I repeat. ‘I do, too.’ That’s great! You just tell me what time and where and I’ll work round you.’ Tooting Broadway. I scan my memory. Sainsbury’s. One time I bought a banana from there. ‘Why don’t we meet tomorrow, midday, Sainsbury’s entrance?’ ‘Perfect. And give me your mobile number in case I can’t find you.’ ‘I don’t have one.’ ‘You don’t?’ he asks blankly, and then: ‘It doesn’t matter, what do you look like?’ I sink into the settee, grizzled with crumbs and old plates. ‘I look like…’ I hesitate. ‘Hair colour? Height?’ ‘Dark. Not tall.’ Short, nervous laughter. ‘Well I’m sure we’ll find each other.’ ‘I’m sure we will. Goodbye Edward.’ What to wear? What to wear to a meeting with a man whose future has wound its way round mine. Here’s the truth: to say I’m not tall is a huge understatement. I’m very, very short. As soon as I get off the phone, I hurry to my local charity shop and there, thankfully, they have a pair of heeled shoes in my size. They are red and sparkly, the kind you see women wearing in those adverts for razors and Special K. I hand two pounds fifty over and, as I do so, feel a laugh welling up in my throat and have to stuff my fist into my mouth to stop it. Back home, I rummage around in a bin liner on top of the cupboard and find a pair of black trousers that I wore as a teenager. They are tight as a fist and I suck my belly in and yank them up. The top button springs off like a startled rabbit, but no matter if I wear a long top over the trousers as he won’t see the missing button then, unless of course…This time I allow myself to laugh out loud with wild abandon. I pull a long mauve jersey on – my favourite, with the butterflies at the sleeves – and stand back to survey myself in the mirror. Yes, I think to myself, a little lipstick, some rouge perhaps and you’ll do very nicely. I arrive an hour early to Sainsbury’s and as I stand there, my feet throb and I decide to buy a banana. The woman at the checkout has frizzy hair and spectacles and she looks at me over

heroes & idols writing the top of them. ‘We don’t sell single bananas, love. Did you pull this off a bunch?’ I glare at her. ‘Last time I came here I just bought one. It cost fifteen pence.’ She mutters and shakes her head, tapping something into the till and pushing the banana through the checkout. I grab it and hurry off, remembering that I’m wearing heels and must move slowly. I sit in the café by the window and unpeel my banana, easing my feet out of the heels. It’s a good spot as I’ll be able to see when Edward arrives. He’s early – five minutes – and I stare at him through the glass. He’s wearing a leather jacket and jeans and he’s talking on his mobile phone. Occasionally he pauses and laughs and I catch a glimpse of his teeth, white as freshly boiled rice. One day I’ll make you laugh like that, Edward Dryden. I take a deep breath, ease my feet into the shoes and walk outside towards him. ‘Hello, Edward.’ He turns to look at me. ‘Hi…are you…’ His voice trails off. ‘Sorry, I didn’t ask your name on the phone.’ ‘Meryl. Yes, it’s me.’ ‘Meryl.’ He extends a hand. For a minute I think he’s going to hug me, and then I realise he wants to shake my hand. His fingers are warm, even though it’s a cold day and I tighten the pressure before we separate. His forehead creases. ‘How did… you know it was me?’ ‘We met on the tube.’ He looks confused. ‘We did?’ ‘Yes, third compartment, where you dropped your wallet last week.’ Edward coughs. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t remember.’ I smile at him enigmatically and push my weight from one foot to the other, hoping that he’ll look down at my shoes. ‘Anyway…Meryl. This is extremely kind of you, to bring me my wallet, but I’ve got a busy morning.’ No. Our meeting shouldn’t be over yet. I stand there, rooted to the spot and notice I’m holding the empty banana skin in my left hand. I look

at him with pleading eyes, trying to recreate that magic we experienced on the tube, but it’s not happening this time and I just don’t understand why; what I’ve done wrong. ‘My wallet?’ Edward asks quietly. I change the banana skin to my right hand and push my left hand into my pocket, pulling it out. ‘Can I…’ He’s fishing through his wallet. ‘Can I give you something for your trouble?’ He pulls out a ten pound note. ‘No, thank you.’ ‘Sure?’ I hesitate. Ten pounds. That would buy me twelve cups of tea at Neville’s café. Or sixty six bananas from Sainsbury’s. ‘Well,’ I say as I take the note from his hand, ‘that would be quite nice.’ ‘Thanks again, Meryl.’ He is fidgeting again, that fidgeting I know so well and I’m thinking of some way, any way that I can keep him here. I open my mouth and close it and he’s muttering goodbye and I’m losing him to the crowds that flood down Tooting High Street. No. It shouldn’t happen like this. I start walking in the same direction as Edward and luckily he’s tall so I can keep sight of him. The heels are hurting like hell now so I kick them off and throw them into a bin with the banana skin. Much faster now. He weaves in and out of people then turns off the high street. I flatten myself against the wall and peer round. He doesn’t look back, he has no idea I’m following him. Minutes later, he walks up steps to a house and puts a key in the door. At the same time, a tall blond woman leaves the house and, as they pass each other on the doorstep, he kisses her. And with the door still open, I see it all. The two children hurling themselves on him as he play wrestles them. And now I understand, now I see. He is married. The fucking, fucking bastard. Edward Dryden is married. How could he betray me like this? I am standing some distance away but I feel a choke and a sob rising in me and I stuff my fist into my mouth and double over, tasting bile. The woman has gone, pattering down the street

with her long hair swishing behind her and Edward has closed the door. Once I feel calmer, stronger, I take decisive steps over to the house and ring the bell. It takes a while for him to answer and when he does, one of the children is clinging to his back, an ugly little toad. He stares, confused. ‘Meryl… what…?’ ‘Edward,’ I say, not quite knowing what I will say next. ‘What are you - ?’ ‘Edward. Did you know that the sort-code on your Santander card is the same as my birthdate?’ ‘What?’ He narrows his eyes and suddenly looks furious. He puts the little toad down and tells him to go inside, then pulls the door behind him. ‘Don’t you think that means something, Edward?’ His voice is low. ‘I’d like to say this only once, alright? Please. Go. Away.’ And then he walks back inside and closes the door. But I don’t leave, of course. How can I possibly go anywhere? I sit on the wall outside his house. I sit there as it grows cold and starts to rain. I sit there and watch the bitch return, and the curtains being pulled shut and then twitching every few minutes. It takes longer than normal for the police to arrive. I know this one, John, I can’t stand this one. ‘No shoes again, Meryl?’ he asks. ‘Fuck you,’ I snarl as he opens the car door. As I get in, I turn to look up at the window and Edward’s eyes and mine meet. And I think to myself, it could have been so wonderful, if you’d only given me the chance. Your loss, Edward Dryden, your loss. Rebecca Stonehill (35) lives in London with her husband and three kids where she teaches piano and dreams of the day that somebody accepts her novel! She has had several short stories published before, most recently in Magic Cat Press, Prole Books and View From Here.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 31

heroes & idols writing

Heroes The world is growing colder every day, Because, they say, your heroes are all dead. “They are your enemy – you’ve been misled.” They tell you this so that you are aware. “The world is in a state of disarray, But we will help protect you, dear. We care.” But that is wrong. They’re leading you astray And down a path it’s dangerous to tread. They spin their tales to get inside your head: They tell you this to play on your despair. And though they can seem sometimes far away, I promise paragons are still out there. Each syllable they feed you is a lie: Your heroes are not dead – they cannot die. Penny Gotch Penny Gotch was born in Luton in 1991. Raised in Essex, she now lives in Folkestone, where she is studying Creative & Professional Writing. She self-publishes her poetry on Tumblr (, and her poem “Of Another World” was featured in Asperger United magazine. She enjoys reading, baking, and video games.

32 ~ what the dickens?

heroes & idols writing

The Walthamstow Superman by Fiona Peel


t was one of those shiny wet days, thick as liquorice, that only ever occur in Autumnal London. Charlie, fed up with poking his fingers through the pages of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ stared through the dark window at the ‘phone box on the pavement outside, its dirty yellow light glowering sullenly in the dark. He watched as the heavy door opened and a skinny man, his pale face waxy in the darkness, edged his way in, looking furtively around. It was difficult to see what the man was doing, but he appeared to be taking his clothes off. ‘Mummy, that man is taking his clothes off,’ he cried. But Lydia, his mother, could not hear him, as June the hairdresser was rinsing out the shampoo and she had her head bent backwards over the sink. Plus the fact that on the local radio station Bob Marley was singing ‘No woman, no cry’ quite loudly. Charlie wiped the steamy window with his sleeve and peered into the dark. The man in the phone box was now struggling to get a pair of red shorts on over his blue tights. ‘Mummy, Mummy, look, it’s Superman!’ No reply. He pressed his face up to the window and squinted into the darkness. The phone box opened and the man stepped outside, his red cloak caught the wind and billowed out behind him as he disappeared off down the street. ‘Mummy, did you see Superman? He must be out shopping ’cos he’s just gone down there.’ ‘Superman wouldn’t go shopping in Walthamstow, now would he Charlie. You’ve been spending too much time with your dad looking at his stupid

comic books again.’ Replied Lydia, as June rubbed her hair dry. Sirens warbled as a police car wove its way through the afternoon traffic, somewhere nearby an alarm sounded shrill in the darkness. Not a flicker of interest from any of the shoppers, cocooned against the cold and wet, each in their own little bubble of reality. Charlie clutched his mother’s hand, running along beside her as she pushed her way through the crowds of people. The alarm got louder as they went up the street, sounding out above their heads somewhere. A police car was skewed across the road in front of Barclays Bank, and a small knot of people huddled on the pavement, nobody seeming to know what was happening. As they got closer, a pale, skinny man dressed as a superhero pushed his way through the crowd towards them. No one seemed to mind, least of all notice his unusual appearance. ‘Mummy, look there’s Superman again. Can I ask him for his autograph please, Mummy, please may I,’ pleaded Charlie. ‘Hey Mister Superman, can I have your autograph please’. He cried, tugging at his mother’s arm as the man came closer. Arthur stopped and looked down at the little boy with the huge chocolate eyes, imploring him to sign his autograph. ‘Charlie, you can’t just stop strangers in the street and ask them for their autograph,’ cried his mother. ‘I’m so sorry, he’s got a vivid imagination, gets it from his father,’ she said to the man. ‘But Mummy, he’s not a stranger, he’s Superman’. ‘That’s right son, I’m Superman. Now, I’m in a bit of a hurry so if you’ve got a bit of paper, I’ll just sign it and go’. ‘Here we are,’ said Lydia, rummaging in her handbag and handing over a biro and notepad. All the way home, Charlie was so excited that he bounced along the pavement beside his mother, clutching

the piece of paper with Superman’s autograph tightly. Once they got home, he insisted that his mother put it on his bedroom wall, attaching it firmly with bluetak. It had to be somewhere he could see it when he went to bed. ‘Dad, Dad, look I’ve got Superman’s autograph,’ cried Charlie proudly, as his father came in from work. ‘We met him when we were out, and I saw him go into the ‘phone box outside the hairdressing shop to change!’ ‘Wow, really! That’s amazing’. He replied, glancing over at Lydia. ‘Don’t encourage him’ She mouthed at him. ‘Mummy put it on the wall for me so’s I can see it in bed’. Charlie was finally asleep in bed, he was so excited it was past nine o’clock when Lydia and Mickey at last managed to sit down and watch the news. ‘And now over to Jackie Khan, our North London reporter with the latest on the bank robbery that took place this afternoon. Over to you, Jackie.’ ‘Thank you, Peter. At about four this afternoon, a man dressed as Superman staged a daring robbery on the Walthamstow branch of Barclays Bank. He apparently used this telephone box outside a hairdressers to change into his home made costume before staging this audacious act. He was last seen walking away from the scene through the tea time crowds towards the tube station. Police are anxious to trace a woman with a small boy who apparently stopped to chat to him as he fled the scene. And now back to the studio’. My name is Fiona Peel, I am 54 years young. I have had a very peripatetic existence, never having lived anywhere for longer than 10 years. I am a freelance artist, photographer and writer of short stories. In previous incarnations I have been an Art and Craft Gallery owner, Bookseller, Librarian, Pharmacy Dispenser and occasional busker.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 33

heroes & idols writing

George and the dragon On a sunny day, George was out in town. Cars were gleaming, buildings shining. He’d visited M & S, large bag in hand. Sauntering along, His thick hair tousled, a woman stared admiringly. He blushed, bemused. Another passed, two children in tow. One crying, scared of something he’d just seen? He saw a crowd ahead, loitering in the sunshine, on the cobbled streets. In the centre of the crowd a green dragon. Juggling. With fire. Quite casually, a bit too laid back? Suddenly, children screaming, dragon costume on fire, people running. George leapt in, new duvet cover to the rescue, put out the flames. Dragon costume ripped off, the man inside was staring, scared. Shocked. But unhurt. An eventful day in town, Fire and screaming. And George had saved a dragon. New duvet cover? Could wait until next time. Nina Lenton Nina Lenton has been writing blogs and articles in her spare time for a few years and started dabbling in creative writing in 2012. Her work has been featured on the flash fiction website Paragraph Planet and she posts a selection of short stories and poems on her website

34 ~ what the dickens?

heroes & idols writing

Fab Five: Beatles Limericks These four the original tops that sport the original mops, mouth open, head shaken, that screaming’s mistaken but takes them to Top of the Pops. You’re tripping along Penny Lane believing She Loves You again the Day’s a Hard Night Hey Jude get it right; the Strawberry Fields still remain, but some of their stuff got quite arty their fan-base went right-off-the-charty that fame’s hard to handle, it can be a vandal but it’s Ono who breaks up the party – and with Lennon, before he was shot slept in, which the press found quite hot two fantasies split when one bullet hit now Yoko is all that we’ve got. Then George, till he died, was sublime with Krishna allied for a time the fab Bangla Desh was more than a sesh till cancer committed its crime and poor Ringo, reduced to narration; a job far below his old station, but still Thomas the Tank puts more cash in the bank than the Beatles: ironic equation. And what can we say about Paul? With Linda his wings couldn’t fall but after she died, he went silly inside and couldn’t stay married at all. So these days, we’re left with the odds – the less talented half of the quads; it’s finished for sure, no re-forming the Four; cos the good ones died young, but they won’t be unsung: though time lessens the pain, still the Beatles remain my heroes, my idols: my Gods. Sarada Gray

the heroes & idols edition ~ 35

heroes & idols writing

A Nice Cup of Tea with Dickens by Sarada Gray


o here you are: you’ve waited, you’ve sweated and now you’ve arrived; you’re at the book launch – and first in line is a sweaty, ponytailed man, a glass of what looks like pee in his fist. You’ve avoided the Chardonnay, thankfully. ‘Hi, I’m Gary,’ he says, and holds out a damp paw. ‘There’s the 99% perspiration,’ you think as you give it a shake, afterwards surreptitiously wiping your hand on your trousers. (Those are for the wash: you make a mental note.) But he’s not finished: ‘Gary Baldy!’ he goes on, in a drum-roll sort of way, and pauses for effect. You look blank: he’s not in the

Instructions to a Girl Hero byAngela Readman


ut your hair, nothing must move in the wind. Feel your neck. Don’t look at curls on the floor, soft sandy peelings, all those tangles Mother combed, hours, cut. Forget Mother’s weeping. The plane will be landlocked with its weight. Fly on the memory of Father, cigarette in hand sending smoke signals, one pat on your back like son. Close the door. Leave no footprint in the snow. Fight commanders in small ways. That smirk on your face, the peroxide smuggled in your pack. Paint your lips in beetroot. Wash your face. Lose the habit of thinking of yourself as a girl. Hold a bullet in your hand, fits like lipstick. Shoulder the rifle. Fire. Fire away. Hit the target of every boy with a smile you couldn’t snipe. Think of your

36 ~ what the dickens?

least bald, though the front is receding a little, perhaps to compensate for the length of that ridiculous pony-tail. He waits for the joke to sink in: it doesn’t. ‘Like the biscuit!’ he says eventually, with the air of an actor doing an encore. You still look blank – but no matter: he’s done the prologue and now he’s off. ‘I’m doing a thesis,’ he announces happily. ‘Oh?’ The sound could not be less encouraging. ‘It’s on the favourite biscuits of Dickens’ characters.’ And before you can stop him, he’s thundering into his soliloquy. The connections are obvious: there’s David Copperfield and the ginger nut (ginger equalling moral vigour); the childhood Pip and jammy dodgers, the adult Pip and Bourbons; Oliver Twist and Bath Olivers (just for the name, you assume); Bill Sikes and the pink wafer (you look startled and he explains that Sikes is clearly a closet homosexual) – in fact, whether you want to or not

(and you don’t) you learn that there are at least six hundred and forty-two references to biscuits in Dickens; ‘not all of them obvious.’ You don’t say. You close your eyes and then open them again. ‘Would you like me to sign your book now?’ you ask.

family, that bullseye you never quite hit. Fire. Fire. Look at the photo, crease a brow with a fold. Look again. Nothing but you and snow. The crunch of boots is a traitor. March softly, alone. The photo’s good company. Know the marks face like the back of a beloved hand. Fall in love. Fall out. It’s all about surprise, like falling in love you may suppose, killing. And escape; carve every slither of winter light between the trees into a door. Find your stillness, hold your breath, tatters hung in the cold like parachutes in a tree. Wait. Find hiding places in open spaces. Check your pockets, the cyanide like a breath mint, should you need it – another door. Steady the rifle. Stuff your ears with laughter, the camp’s songs. Everything sleeps in the end. Sleep is not your friend, nor the ice on your gloves. When you have been ready, then are not sure, the one comes, weaves through the clearing not wearing the medals on the picture. Watch.

So pink, don’t be shocked if he whips out his thing, pisses dints in the snow. You may stare at it, this thing a man has, even a leader, the pinkest thing you ever saw, so raw in the snow. Everyone will have many disguises. This man whistling softly, pissing, whiskers blonde, won’t look like the same man. Picture him in the other hat, the crinkle folded onto his brow in the photograph. Look. Perhaps you could fall now, so cold. Perhaps he’d kneel, ear to your lips, fingers on cold wrists so warm they leave scars. Don’t. Trigger, finger. Run. Disappear. Eat the photograph. Sleep when you can, picture only Mother Russia holding you, rocking you back and forth in her arms.

Sarada Gray was originally named Elizabeth after the Queen and chose the pen-name Sarada because it means ‘goddess of wisdom and creativity’. She grew up in London - hearing the near-continuous noise of planes from Heathrow airport - in a large Victorian vicarage which might easily have featured in a Dickens novel. Perhaps the large gloomy house and its huge garden complete with mysterious airraid shelter, inspired her as a writer, for it was there that she began her first novel at the age of 8. She has always made up songs and poems, but only recently, after a long career as an adult tutor and home educating two children, has she been able to write full-time. She writes poems, short stories and novels and lives in Leicester with her philosopher husband and two teenage children.

Angela Readman won Inkspill Magazine’s short story competition. She has had stories in PANK, Metazen, Fractured West, Pygmy Giant and Southword. She was commended in The Arvon International Poetry Competition in 2010.

heroes & idols writing

A Hero’s Heart A hero’s heart kept bleeding, bleeding, bleeding A hero’s heart kept bleeding, under a moonlit night Drops of blood kept falling, falling, falling Drops of blood kept falling, staining the snow so white And I, I just kept watching, watching, watching And I, I just kept watching, watching this dreadful sight But the hero he was fading, fading, fading But the hero he was fading, bringing stillness to the night The coldness of his eyes just staring, staring, staring The coldness of his eyes just staring, then covered with a sheet so white As he died his heart stopped beating, beating, beating As he died his heart stopped beating, I will never forget that sight There was no time left for thanking, thanking, thanking There was no time left for thanking, for saving this wretched life Connell Regner

the heroes & idols edition ~ 37

heroes & idols writing

The Ripping Yarn of Harry the Hero by Connell Regner


arry was a couch-potato, plain and simple. He watched football on TV, watched his neighbours mow their lawns and put out their rubbish. He loathed to exercise, had a bit of a beer gut and was basically a slob to look at. To top it all off his hair was scruffy and he never seemed to clean under his nails. Now you might be wondering from the title and this introduction ‘How on Earth could a slob like that end up becoming a hero?’ Well, to understand that we have to go back in time. Let’s go back say twenty years. Here we see a younger Harry sitting on the couch watching football on TV, watching his neighbours mowing their lawns, and putting out the rubbish and ‘yes’ even then he loathed to exercise, had a bit of a beer gut and was basically a slob to look at. We won’t talk about his hair and nails this time. Some people might say, ‘So nothing has changed’ Oh contraire; he was younger and fitter not fitter from exercising mind you, but fitter by virtue of being younger, which is a crucial part of this story. I doubt he would’ve been able to move a heavy dumpster, if he’d been twenty years older. In those days Harry loved boutique beers and used to scour the countryside far and wide to get just the beers that had the right head, aroma and taste. Some might have easily thought of him as a professional beer taster and indeed he did have a job as a beer taster for a short time until he was found to drink far more beer than he ever tasted in stark contrast to the other tasters that is. Anyway, he liked fine beer and he often went to extraordinary lengths to get the best, like the time he went to the Ukraine to get a dozen bottles from a little known backyard brewer called Yatse. Unfortunately Yatse died shortly after his visit, from alcoholic poisoning, so Harry wasn’t able to buy

38 ~ what the dickens?

anymore of that fine brew. It wasn’t until a year later that Harry heard that Yatse’s daughter had found his recipe and started to produce the beer herself. It was just like heaven for Harry. He ordered a crate straight off the bat and thought even if it was only half as good as old Yatse himself made, it would still be twice as good as most of the beers on offer in his neck of the woods. Harry often ordered his beer through a local brewery called Beer-Slops as boutique breweries tend to help each other out especially with importing and exporting their product in reciprocal arrangements that are beneficial to all parties. Harry had been informed that his beer had arrived on Wednesday with the next deliveries being sent out on Friday. He would have his precious beer very soon and right on time for the weekend. It was Thursday and Harry could hardly contain himself until great jubilation turned to grim horror. Never far from the TV, he heard the terrible news that a fire had broken out next to Beer-Slops. He had waited more than a year to try this beer again and he wasn’t going to let a little fire no matter how big it was get in the way. He raced to his car and sped off to the brewery. When he got there the brewery section was in flames and the fire crews were doing their best to contain the blaze. Harry drove to the other side, to the warehouse side. It was just a matter of time before the flames would engulf this side of the complex as well. Then he saw smoke coming out from under a roller-door. Now he had to think fast. He thought of driving his car through the rollerdoor, but that would have been a little extreme even for him. He looked around and found a heavy dumpster that could do the trick and pushed it up the hill. Then he charged down the hill pushing the dumpster as fast as it could go bang into the roller-door ripping it half off. There was a gaping hole and as soon as some of the smoke had cleared kids, hundreds of them, came flooding out. Harry pushed past them to get inside. He jumped on a forklift near the door, drove it to where he spotted the crates, saw a crate with ‘From the Ukraine’ stamped on the side, picked it up and saw some kids coughing behind it. ‘Get on the back if you want a ride

out’ he quipped, ‘I’m not waiting here all day’ and with that he drove through the roller-door ripping it completely off this time. Fresh air rushed in and those who had collapsed near the door revived enough to crawl out. By that time the fire crews and the media were already there to see him crash through the roller-door with the kids in tow. No one died that day, the kids on excursion were OK, their teachers were OK and all the management and staff at the brewery were unharmed. Harry was a hero, a real life hero and everyone saw it on national T.V. However, the police also saw him a short time later putting boxes of beer into his car. He was just about to get arrested and handcuffed for looting when the owner of the brewery looked across and shouted, ‘Don’t arrest him. He can take whatever he wants. That man’s a hero’ and so it was. A ghost writer wrote about that day for Harry which made him millions, the owner of the brewery gave him a lifetime supply of any beer he wanted and because he saved the crate of Yatse beer, and it also got televised all over the country, it started a craze with everyone wanting to try it. This led to Yatse’s daughter finally meeting Harry which in turn led to the both of them falling in love and getting married. It was inevitable really, she owned a brewery and he smelt like one. ‘A match made in heaven’ people were heard saying years later. So as far as beer slops and slobs are concerned Harry lived happily ever after. If there’s a moral to this story, and I seriously doubt it, it’s this, ‘Even the most repugnant among us can be a hero. So the next time you are repulsed by someone in the street or by someone living near you just remember that it might be someone’s unsung hero you’re disgusted by.’ THE END! Connell Wayne Regner comes from a linguistic background and believes that his fiction should not only taste good, it should be good for you. Serendipitously he started writing for his children’s amusement. Now he writes for his own, but not always. Contact: cwregner@

in the house with...

In the House With

Raymond Langford Jones

Interview with Playwright Raymond Langford Jones as The New Cavendish Club launch a Nursing Memorial Appeal and Raymond’s play All the World Away is performed to launch the appeal.


ometimes, there is a certain symmetry in life. Following an afternoon of tea and cakes at Persephone Books discussing ‘Neglected fiction and non-fiction by twentieth-century [mostly women] writers,’* Raymond and I repair to Vats Wine Bar in Lamb’s Conduit Street to discuss his new play All the World Away about VADs, the forgotten heroines of two World Wars. Congratulations on your new play All the World Away to be premiered at the New Cavendish Club London. How did this play come about? This is really a play within a play. It is part of a dramatic entertainment ‘No Way Back’ presented by The Virtual Theatre Company: ‘Making a Drama out of an Event’. Last year my play Earnest Endeavours was staged by Theatre 62 in Kent , based on The Importance of Being Earnest it transports Oscar Wilde’s Cecily and Gwendolen into the chaos of WW1 .It caught the attention of John Drewry, who was writing No Way Back to highlight the history of VAD’s and he asked me to script a play based on my source material. VAD’s are the Voluntary Aid Detachment unit, they were founded in 1909 and were formed of women who provided nursing and general welfare services in the two World Wars, often serving on the front lines travelling all over the World. The play is being premiered at The New Cavendish Club in London, as this was formerly the VAD’s Ladies Club which was established as a meeting place for VAD nurses. What was the inspiration for the story All the World Away?

This play was inspired by Rouen, the poem by May Wedderburn Cannan. Extracts in the play are included with the kind permission of her granddaughter and literary executor Clara May Abrahams. It is a descriptive piece about VADs times in the war and how it has shaped the lives of those who survived, changing their life stories for ever. Based on the relationship between two sisters it gives a snapshot of a VAD’s experience and reflects on events in wartime nursing. It is a welcome opportunity to reconsider this powerful poem from those times. A full version of Rouen is published in The Tears of War, edited by Charlotte Fyfe and includes the following quote: “Philip Larkin chose this poem to be included in The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse [first published 1973]. He wrote: ‘found it in the Bodleian... and immediately knew that this was something that had to go in. It seemed to me to have all the warmth and idealism of the VADs in the first World War. I find it enchanting.’”** Do you regard the VAD’s as forgotten heroines? Yes, we have many memorials to men’s achievements and losses in the two major World Wars. But I cannot think of any just for the women. For many this was; ‘The most exciting time of my life’, they would be taking men’s roles, travelling with war work. The ones that came back were absorbed into domestic life many becoming housewives. Many did not survive, dying alongside soldiers in their front line work. Being

* Persephone Books ** The Tears of War Edited by Charlotte Fyfe. Cavalier Paperbacks.

bombed or taken prisoner and tortured on the frontline. Tell me about the Nursing Memorial Appeal. This is a belated opportunity to recognise some of the work that they did. My play is part of a series of events to raise money to honour the lives lost in the two World Wars of the nurses who laid down their own lives on a public memorial at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire and to establish an annual scholarship for a nurse to train in a particular discipline of nursing. The website address is nursingmemorialappeal. Who were the real life inspirations for the story? Did it take you long to research and write? Unfortunately there are not that many survivors around due to the time scales involved. However, through research of primary sources such as memoirs, historical research, literature including Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth and other texts such as those by Mary Borden and Naomi Mitchison, I was able to form a detailed picture. I also was advised by Nicola Beauman of Persephone Books. A lot of the work had already been done for the first play Earnest Endeavours. One of the texts I referenced is “It’s a Long Way to

the heroes & idols edition ~ 39

in the house with... Tipperary”: British and Irish Nurses in the Great War by Yvonne McEwan., How are you finding directing a play that you have written; do the two roles sit comfortably together? Possibly not, It maybe that someone else would bring more to it. I prefer to get the play right. There is a little conflict and tension involved in this aspect. But as the play evolves, it is not rewritten, just the occasional line. Directing is very intensive, writing is more natural form of communication for me. But I enjoy the immediacy of dramatic performance. Who is in No Way Back and All the World Away? The play is presented and played by Eunice Drewry, Suzanna Rickman, Diana Scougall, Zoe Teverson and Malcom Banham. What other plays have you written? I use the name Ned Hopkins for my plays, it has a more edgy feel. The Portrait of a Lady – Ned adapted and directed the Henry James novel at Bromley Little Theatre (2003) Senior Moments – four monologues for the Third Age – three have been premiered in 2009. Maggy, Franklyn and Ted. Pull was written in 2009 and this has been reworked into Dangerous Thing, a contemporary play for 3 men and a woman . After Life – this is a short twohander, produced by the Virtual Theatre Company in 2008 as part of the Sevenoaks Arts Festival 2008, and by the Green Room Company in 2009 Earnest Endeavours, an awardwinning full-length comedy-drama I caught up with Raymond again after the first performance of All the World Away. He modestly said: ‘We did the best with the space, time and information provided, and at least

using characters from The Importance of Being Earnest with music composed by Rowland Lee. The play transports Wilde’s Cecily and Gwendolen into the chaos of WW1. Originally presented by Theatre 62, Bromley, in February 2011. Do you write in any other medium? Sardines – the magazine for amateur theatre as an editorial contributor. I have a regular feature called ‘Strike up the Band’ this provides news about professional music theatre in the UK. I also write features on professional and community drama. I have carried out interviews with Sir Ian McKellen, Stewart Nicholls, Bonnie Langford, Nigel Harman and Ray Cooney amongst others. I use Raymond Langford Jones for this theatre magazine. Where and when do you write? I have always written; even as a child I would write and perform plays.

40 ~ what the dickens?

Which writers and playwrights inspire you? Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Victoria Wood. My ambition is to have a play at The Royal Court or The Donmar. What’s next? A Lot of it About. A play going to Manchester based on Sexual Aversion Therapy. Due to be performed in April 2013 at The Lowry Studio, and followed by a fringe tour in the North West, it is being presented by Organised Chaos Productions .

it’s for a very worthwhile cause and was a jolly occasion.’

of how it ‘would have been for me’ is just that – a thought and not a reality.

As part of the audience, I would like to add I found it thoughtful, insightful and poignant. I am so glad that the thought

As the donations flood in , I hope the stories also follow and that we can all learn from them.

Interview by Caroline Auckland Writer, blogger, loves turning fact into fiction. Blog:

I suppose you could say I was a ‘Pollyanna’, I love to create, it drives me. So it was natural that I would do a degree in the Arts, specialising in Drama. I also trained as a teacher in the Dramatic Arts. I tend to ‘Kleenex write on the back of a serviette’ as it pops up to meet an immediate requirement. Sometimes, romantically it can be a song lyric: I wrote the words for a pastiche Gaiety show on a scrap piece of paper whilst walking from Farringdon to the Barbican which was then set to music by Rowland Lee for my comedy-drama Earnest Endeavours. I write anywhere on trains, park benches, St Paul’s Churchyard Covent Garden, Costa... In hospital, I wasn’t going anywhere, so I would write and later transcribe it onto the computer. It is spontaneous. I enjoy writing but like to refine it, to get it right, tighten it up. It is like a mosaic. I also write articles for magazines, based on a given subject matter. In the past I did a lot of ‘continuity’ material for hastily devised entertainments. And as a teacher I would dash off stories for the kids.

the old curiosity shop

We Could Be Heroes...


s a child I felt traumatised by anyone ever dismissing the artists I loved. Feeling a sense of wow and pow after screeching along to angry thrash/a great musical number, or weeing my heart out through my eyeballs after watching a nerve-churning performance by a brilliant actor made me feel glorious. As a deeply sensitive, and sometimes solitary, teenager (I was known to abandon friends when out shopping and head for the nearest public toilet so that I could lock myself in and finish reading my book) I loved having heroes, and I needed my heroes to succeed because then maybe I could too.

theme is set, I see it everywhere I go, I breathe it in, and my brain gobbles it up. And I’ve gotten to thinking a lot about how we make ourselves the heroes and heroines of our lives and our creativity... (I will accidentally fart out a self-help book one day, no matter how hard I tried to contain it.) We work together, we support each other, but ultimately to be a hero or heroine, we, you, and me have to go it alone. Only one person can play your part, sing your song, write your story, and if you’re going to set out to do any of the aforementioned then you have to do it as honestly, fully, and uniquely as we can. You don’t just follow a path, you make/carve/dig/claw/bite out the path, because it is one that you must create and journey along alone...

Now as a ‘grown-up’, I still feel the need for my heroes and idols to triumph. I think we all do. I want them to rise up. To soar. To shine. However, these days I’m also cool with seeing them, sometimes, fall too. To know a little of their struggle. To see them gather themselves up and start again until they get it right. I’ve learnt a lot about heroes recently. As is always the way when a

So after you’ve read all of our Curiosity Super Stars’ heroically-thematic reviews, and helped yourselves to our Curious About...Screen’s Michelle Goode’s magic juice for creating heroes and journeys on TV and film... And after you’ve marvelled at the heroic dedication and drive of Theatre503’s literary manager, Steve

Creative Tasks

b) The lion tamer who no longer trusts his lions. Or himself.

THEME: THE CIRCUS for Issue 10 1) Create a character who has become afraid of what they love. Sprawl out ideas with words and images. Imagine them in the worst and best case scenario of their dilemma and build a story from these foundations: a) A trapeze artist has developed a fear of the high wire.

c) The sword-thrower’s wife sees his hand tremble... 2) Use the following lines as starting points: a ) One day I’ll run away and join the circus... b) All I ever wanted was to be loved by a Strong Man. In every way possible.

Harper and The Wireless Theatre Company’s Mariele Runacre Temple in making great art happen, and then bathed in the gorgeousness of Freddie Stevenson’s reflections of the hero’s journey and chuckled at SJI Holliday’s hero-memory-association logic... And then when you’ve finally read all of my Curious Interviews with a fine band of heroes who come in the form of: the fiercely funny and fast-rising actress and writer, Kerry Howard, who needs to be on all our screens so much more; the ‘surprisingly’ prolific, prizewinning, humorous and humble author, Jonathan Pinnock; the fabulous, aweinspiring, award-winning actress and writer, Rebecca Front; the mighty Ms Julie Mayhew, a writer of all genres who seems to be running in every race with persistent pace, grace and charm when it comes to delivering great stories including her latest novel Red Ink; and finally, but oh my goodness me, not by any means least, the queen of all heroes who has the ability to tear up your heart in one performance and leave you beaming with her loveliness in another - I’m still weeping into my pants with joy about this lady - I give you: Olivia Colman. After you’ve absorbed all of that, just breathe... Then maybe fan yourself a bit, and have a good long think about all things heroic, and, most importantly, think about the story that you have to tell. The one that you wake up thinking about. The one that makes certain words rattle in your head. The one that is your obsession. Use the tasks below in any way you choose and make those words appear on the page, the paint stick to the canvas, the music fill the silence... and begin or continue your story. YOU are the hero of your creative life because you are about to create the story that ONLY YOU can tell. Go forth, brave ones. Your time is NOW:

c) It was never the flame-thrower’s intention to set the tent alight, but more of a wish. 3) To overcome a fear, we must face a fear. Write the one story you are most afraid to tell. Charge at the thing that truly scares you and look it in the eye. Now, write. And if you can’t find a fear then maybe use one of the prompts below: Clowns

Tigers Restraints Knives


That person in the crowd...

the heroes & idols edition ~ 41

the old curiosity shop

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

Bitch Boxer


saw Bitch Boxer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. It stood out for me as it was the first play I’d seen where a sole actor has to hold the attention of the audience. Written and performed by Charlotte Josephine, it’s the story of a 21-year-old London girl like any other – except that Chloe Jackson is a boxer and needs to win one more fight to realise her dream of being picked to represent Great Britain at the London Olympics.

Chloe was a delightfully endearing character. I was drawn into her artless tales about her Dad, her trainer, her boyfriend, getting locked out of the house when she needed her kit bag to go training, climbing over various neighbours’ fences and having to climb in through an open bedroom window. But just as everything seems to be going her way, her world falls apart and she is left emotionally rocked by the death of her father. But Chloe was a fighter and she dug deep to pull things together. Stood on a stark stage in her gym kit, with just her bag and a chair beside her and steam rising from her sweaty body, Chloe talked through her emotional turmoil and I found myself rooting for her, desperately hoping things all worked out. Rarely have I wanted to rush onto a stage and hug a performer when that moment of happiness is revealed at the end.

London 2012 Olympics were the first in which female boxing was a competitive sport and I emerged from Bitch Boxer to the news that Nicola Adams had just won the first gold medal. Perfect timing to crown the show! Charlotte Josephine had spent months training at a boxing gym to prepare for the show; she had the physique, the moves and she was utterly believable. Bitch Boxer will be touring venues around the country from February for several months and if you can get to see it, you should! On a side note, whilst trying to decide what to write about this edition I read back through the list of all the shows I saw in 2012. When I went to see a West End revival of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off on the 3rd January I set myself an idle challenge to see the equivalent of a show a week... I ended the year on 63!

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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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…

Tales of the Greek Heroes Roger Lancelyn Green


ne of the first obsessions I ever had was Greek mythology. I was fascinated by the gods and goddesses, by the stories of people turning into animals, monsters, flowers, all the flora and fauna of our world. I would spend Monday mornings at primary school, when I should have been swimming at the local pool with the rest of my year group, writing stories about what the gods were up to in my version of

Olympus. I seem to recall it was quite a stormy place – someone was always getting thrown off the top, and there were always monsters lurking about. The upshot of it was, I never really learned to swim, but I did learn to read, write and imagine with my whole heart, and much of that is down to the ancient Greeks. Roger Lancelyn Green’s collection, entitled Tales of the Greek Heroes was originally published in 1954, but remains one of the standard texts recounting the legends. This is undoubtedly because it is one of the best. The language is clear and unfussy, but has an addictive music to it that caught my ear as a chlorine-fearing child. The book covers most of the standards, from the arrival of the gods on Olympus, to the life of Hercules and so on. Jason and the Argonauts make a thrilling appearance, as does one of my favourite tales, Theseus and the Minotaur. It’s very difficult to pick a favourite story, of course. I love them all. In thinking about it, I’ve flitted like a discontented little bird across all of them. Theseus has always been a favourite. I love the ingenuity of the ball of thread, and the thought of being trapped in the labyrinth waiting

for death scared me witless as a child. Sometimes having an impressively vivid imagination had its pitfalls. I’ve settled eventually for one that has always stuck with me – Perseus the GorgonSlayer. Once again, ingenuity is a major factor in the tale: the burnished shield in which Perseus views the hideous monster Medusa so as to avoid being turned to stone by her gaze is simple but brilliant. There is something about looking at the world in reflection that seems common in literature – think the Lady of Shalott – and there is always an element of tragedy inherent in it. It is almost as though those of us who look at life in a mirror rather than in the face will survive but never really live. There’s also something delightfully perverse and deliberately cowardly about refusing to look your monster in the face. Perseus was the sort of hero I could identify with as a weedy child too scared to get into a swimming pool. I never had much time for Hercules. I thought he was a bit of a meathead really. Lancelyn Green’s book is still widely read today and has gone through several editions, which is unsurprising really. His retelling of tales that have been told over and over for centuries is fresh, poetic and deeply inspiring.

Mike Rowland used to be a teacher but now he’s a student again. He has recently finished his MA in Literature at the University of Sussex, and has now started his PhD in eighteenth-century literature. 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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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 monthly 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.


(Sssh, Kick-Ass, Thor & The Dark Knight Rises). But my favourite film from this superhero glut is Super. Super also makes me feel guilty. I recommended it to my best friend, whom after many years of friendship trusted my judgement in films. The day after she watched she called me to tell me how much she hated it! It disturbed her and she couldn’t understand how I liked it. So let me start this review by saying that Super is very wrong. WRONG. I don’t want to give away too much but be prepared for violence, ickyness and a bit of gore... Super is also tragic, touching and very funny. And there are bunnies. Honestly!


or the Heroes and Idols issue of What the Dickens, reviewing a superhero film would be a natural fit for the theme, particularly as over the last few years there has been a deluge of superhero films. Comic collections have been raided and pillaged. Remakes have been replaced by reboots. Superman, Spiderman and Batman should have restraining orders against filmmakers. However, amongst the zillions of C-List superhero films released, there have been a few gems worth mentioning

Super is the sad tale of Frank (Rainn Wilson) who falls in love with and marries Sarah (Liv Tyler). Sarah is depressed and a recovering drug addict who soon falls off the wagon. Sarah leaves Frank and starts dating her drug dealer, Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Frank begins to have a strange series of religious visions which lead him to believe that he should become a superhero, The Crimson Bolt. Frank does not have any special skills when becoming The Crimson Bolt, apart from the ability to pulverise criminals with a wrench... Super is in a similar vein to Kick-Ass, however this is a more genuine story of a normal person donning a cape

trying to become a superhero. Without ever explicitly saying so Super is about mental illness and there is no Hit Girl to save Frank when inevitably things take a darker, nastier turn. Having disturbed my best friend, I have to say that Super will not be for everyone. But if you have a dark sense of humour and can stomach a few gruesome scenes you will be rewarded with a film that is very different to the generic 3D-six-pack-mad-scientistmonster-superhero films out there. There are great performances in Super, particularly from Ellen Page, who is brilliant as the unhinged Boltie. Firefly and Buffy fans, watch out for Nathan Fillion! And so, looking forward... NO MORE SUPERHEROES PLEASE HOLLYWOOD! PUT DOWN THE COMICS! There are so many great comic series that could be adapted that don’t feature a man in spandex and a cape... Plus where are the ladeez? I have to say, unless there are more superhero films like Super I’d rather not see any for a couple of years at least... Oh, except Kick-Ass 2, plus Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish’s Antman (if and when that ever gets off the ground!). Hmm, a superhero detox could be tough. What do you think is the best way to suggest to Hollywood that it has a superhero enema?

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

Sifting through the detritus of modern literature to uncover the gems you might have missed. This edition: The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier.

The Parasites

Daphne du Maurier


t’s unlikely to have escaped your attention that this month’s What the Dickens is devoted to heroes and idols. In keeping with the theme, Lost & Found focuses on one of the lesserknown works of my personal idol: Her Royal Highness, Lady Daphne of du Maurier (‘Daffs’ to her mates).

Dark, funny, surprisingly near-theknuckle, 1949’s The Parasites is a glamorous, sexy novel, focusing on the lives of three half- and step-siblings, the children of two superstars of 1920s theatre. Through a series of long, brilliantly-realised flashbacks, we learn that Maria, Niall and Celia have spent their lives in the shadow of their flamboyant, demanding parents. Equally indulged and neglected, the three brats have become damaged, co-dependent adults, labelled parasites by Maria’s long-suffering husband. Yet as we discover more about their past, the three ostensibly unlikeable protagonists – self-absorbed, materialistic, frequently openly malicious – are developed beyond nightmarish celebrity offspring caricature. Their aborted attempts to live as rounded, successful adults are laced with a degree of pathos that makes them almost bearable, with putupon youngest sibling Celia emerging as the most human, if not the most fun. One genuinely hilarious sequence in which Niall and Maria attempt – and fail – to look after the latter’s crying baby for a single afternoon is undercut by a constant thread of tragic

desperation. Remember the photos of Peaches Geldof tipping her offspring out of its pram in the street? It’s exactly that, but with added wit. Ultimately, The Parasites is a tale of unresolved – though not, perhaps, unconsummated – incestuous love, with occasional swearing to boot. It’s du Maurier (clearly having a field day) at her edgiest, not least in her avantgarde approach to narration. “It was Charles who called us the parasites,” reads the opening line, yet the subsequent third person description of each of the siblings means the identity of the narrator becomes impossible to ascertain. It’s a bold approach, one that du Maurier returns to throughout, but in context makes total sense; the Parasites are at their most insidious as part of a hive mind. They complete each other’s sentences, know each other’s thoughts. That the narrator is at once each, none and all of them is in total keeping with the novel’s themes. Challenging at times – the plot lacks the drive of Rebecca or the sweeping romance of Jamaica Inn – The Parasites is nonetheless a champagne-soaked gem, glittering darkly in the du Maurier back catalogue. Hunt it out; you won’t be disappointed.

Paul Hirons will one day spearhead a campaign forcing the entire nation to read Enid Blyton’s The Secret of Moon Castle. Until then, he can be found on Twitter at @PaulHi

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

Fairy tales can give us glimpses into our own interior world through the imagery of the forest. Peeking between the branches, we’re shown exactly what we need to see – although we may not know what that is. The value of a fairy tale can be found at its heart, as well as in the enjoyment of a well-told story.

Grimm Tales for Young and Old Philip Pullman

own collection of tales inspired by the Brothers Grimm at the end of 2012. Grimm Tales for Young and Old is a faithful retelling of fifty personallyselected stories from the Grimms’ collection. Pullman’s stated intention in retelling these tales was to “try for clarity, and stop worrying about it.” He achieves this, with swiftly-moving stories that flow like water. You step into the world of the tale, through that eternal gateway, “Once”, and your feet don’t touch the ground again until you’re home, dry and happily ever after at the end. Phew.


ho are the heroes and icons of the fairy tale world? The Grimms, of course. Just over two hundred years ago, they collected what have now become perhaps the most widely read fairy tales in the western world. The Grimms’ collection of tales grew up from the forests and folklore of Germany; the embedded imagery is iconic of the fairy tale genre itself, and speaks to our subconscious in ways both powerful and disturbing. So, to celebrate the fathers of fairy tale, Philip Pullman published his

The stories themselves, however, are sometimes disappointing. I say that with reservations and qualifications. What I found most disappointing was that some of the stories almost seemed to be transcribed word for word from other versions of Grimm previously published. I found this particularly in Rumpelstiltskin and Little Red Riding Hood. I know, he was going for clarity and staying faithful to the text. But, as a storyteller, it felt like he was speaking with someone else’s tongue too often. It’s difficult to achieve the balance with a written story – to bring it into your own voice and leave behind the words you’ve read before. And I don’t think he was trying to “re-write” these stories, just to re-tell them. He adds value and appeal to many of the stories, by making little improvements and adjustments; blending the various

versions of a tale into one. Where he does this, a spark of Pullman the storyteller (rather than story re-teller) emerges, sometimes into a flame – especially in Cinderella and some of the lesser known tales like The Three Snake Leaves. The real beauty of this collection is in the tales themselves – timeless and tantalising – and in the notes and commentaries Pullman gives us to open up those worlds. His introduction gives a history of the Grimms and how their stories came to be collected. He debunks the myth that their tales were transcribed “word by word” from the peasants of the fields – in fact, many have a very literary, middle-class heritage. He explores the fairy tale genre and its peculiarities, showing that – as ever – his research and attention to detail in creating this book have been second to none. A unique feature of this collection is his commentary after each tale, exploring sources and variations to send the ‘fairytaleophile’ (like me) scurrying in all directions under leaves (of paper) and over stumps (of piled books) to check out those links and connections. It’s a gem of a collector’s item. He says it himself, though, “it’s probably impossible to achieve” a completely clean version of a fairy tale, and there’s just enough of Philip Pullman mingled with the roots of these stories to make the collection as a whole one to treasure.

Sally-Shakti Willow lives and works in the cradle between the South Downs and the sea. This magical landscape and her interest in fairy tale and folklore permeate her writing, workshops and teaching. You can follow Sally on twitter @innernatureSW. 

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the old curiosity shop

Curious About...

Screenwriting Michelle Goode

Screenwriting Advice


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.

Heroes and Idols


n a screenplay, the protagonist is often called the “hero”, but they’re not always the type of caped hero I’m sure you’re all imagining. Nevertheless, our hero goes on a journey and usually comes out triumphant in some way. You may have heard of the “hero’s journey”; a way of looking at the structure of a story. Penned by Joseph Campbell in 1949, it’s described by Wikipedia as “a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world”. A Google search will provide you with many descriptions and diagrams of the hero’s journey, but it’s mostly about a protagonist’s call to adventure and how

they deal with it. Check out my article in the “Journey” issue (issue 7) for more information.

goes on. The question is: how do we ensure that our hero gets the most out of their adventure?

The words heroes and idols suggests characters who can be admired; those you might aspire to be like. However, heroes come in many forms and our perception of a character’s worth will often be based on the journey they have undertaken and what they and the audience have learnt from it (a theme or meaning, perhaps).

One of the best pieces of advice I heard recently was at the London Screenwriters’ Festival in a session by Julie Gray entitled “You ARE the hero of the journey”. If you can understand your own personal psychology; what you fear and what stops you from reaching your goals, you’ll be better informed when giving your characters flaws and conflicts and will be able to push them through a tough journey.

Let’s remind ourselves of the basic journey: “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.” Character journeys happen in two ways – inner and active journeys. Inner journeys are what the character goes through emotionally; facing conflicts and perhaps changing as a person throughout the story. The active journey is what physically happens – the environment, conflicts and the path the character is taken on. Both types inevitably influence each other. The plot – inner and outer journeys – is the “adventure” the “hero” (protagonist)

We draw on our personal experiences in order to inform our characters. We don’t learn about ourselves if we don’t experience pain and suffering of some sort, and neither will our characters. Julie also pointed out how we need to fall in love with the hero at the end of their journey and not the beginning, therefore it’s essential we don’t paint a picture of the perfect person in the script’s opening. You can check out more of Julie’s advice on her Just Effing Entertain Me website. Take time to put yourselves in the shoes of your character/s. BE the protagonist. Use YOUR emotions to help inform their actions, allow them to go on the most gruelling journey/ adventure possible and to become a “hero” we’ll all admire.

Michelle Goode is a script reader, editor and writer who operates from her little online empire;, 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: and, and on twitter: @Sofluid.

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Curious About...


The Wireless Theatre Company

“It’s all about working with and learning from people you trust to create a project together. It’s amazing what people will bring to the table if you allow them...”


nd Mariele Runacre Temple, founder of The Wireless Theatre Company, an organisation that is developing and delivering brilliant new radio drama created by new writers and new actors to the masses, has brought a variety of “amazing” ideas to many a table herself. Meet an actress who when the chips were down decided to turn things around and create the opportunities she and others wanted, whilst getting the iPod generation reconnected to the power of audio plays along the way... Want to get that radio play made? Read on! Interview by Sandy East Hello! Please tell us about The Wireless Theatre Company, how you came to life, the work you do, and your ethos... I launched The Wireless Theatre Company in 2007, while working as an actress in London. I had become frustrated at the lack of audio work available to me since I had graduated from drama school, and it seemed that the internet and iPods were a natural new home for radio drama. Wireless Theatre is specifically designed to bring original writing and acting talent to a new generation of listeners – the idea is simple, you log on, download to your iPod and listen. Theatre in your pocket, so to speak. We’re determined that radio drama has not had its heyday and with companies like ours growing in popularity all the time, we think it’s got a whole new lease of life. You’re growing in reputation as an exciting, adventurous platform and space in which diverse, challenging and great quality radio drama is made. Share with us some information about a few of the projects you’ve developed recently to give our readers an idea of the work The Wireless Theatre Company are creating.  Well, we record two new dramas a month – this goes across all genres, we have short plays, long ones, comedy, sketch, drama, sci-fi, serials, poetry,

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musicals – pretty much anything, we try not to limit ourselves at all. We particularly enjoy doing our live recordings, basically we take a script and record it in a theatre (we’ve used The Leicester Square Theatre, The Pleasance, The Roundhouse, The New Diorama, The Lost Theatre and The Etcetera Theatre so far) in front of a live audience. We have live SFX, live performances, live music – but we also have lighting, costume and staging as well, combining live theatre with radio drama. We have had so much fun doing these shows – all the thrill of live theatre, but with extra pressure as we’re also creating a recording that will be listened to all over the world – pushing the boundaries of what people expect from radio drama, as well as really pushing ourselves. Recently we recorded six live radio plays over three nights at the Roundhouse. All different scripts, with different directors! It was a mammoth project with over 40 people involved, but it was amazing! Next we want to do a live recording experimenting with projection and film, all whilst recording a top quality radio play. Aside from that, we have been experimenting with “visualising audio”. This is a tool to encourage our new, more visual generations to be interested in radio. Creating short films or visual stories to accompany your audio play. We’re doing various

bits of film through our new sister company – which is a transmedia theatre company – all very futuristic! And of course, we have our kids website AND our voice-reel department - recording top quality voice-reels for actors at a price they can afford. You’ve worked with some brilliant dramatists and actors, haven’t you? If you could pick out 3-4 people who you’ve worked with that have you really stood out, who would they be and what makes them so special? Yes, we have been really lucky. We’ve worked with over 250 actors, we try to work with at least two new performers on every play. Some of them with huge amounts of experience and some with slightly less – all have been amazing of course. For us, working with Prunella Scales was a time that we learned the most in a short space of time, we were still quite a new company back then, experimenting with our own methods of recording in the studio and she really gave us so many tips (ie: holding your script so it doesn’t pick up on the recording, technical tips to help with diction) and supported us on quite a few projects. We also owe a lot to our patron Nicholas Parsons, who has always been so supportive and kind to us, giving up plenty of his time for us and some invaluable lessons.  We have so many regular performers

the old curiosity shop and writers who are amazingly skilled at audio work, versatile and professional with a clear understanding of the differences between radio performance/writing and other mediums (of which there are many). I can’t mention them all, but some are: Ashley McGuire, Adam Hall, Susan Casanove, Ceri Gifford, Jack Bowman, Ben Whitehead, David Beck, Neil Frost, Josephine Arden, Mike Garnel…. The list goes on! And of course, I can’t not mention Stephen Fry. We only worked with him for an hour or so, but just watching/hearing him in action was amazing. He was a little under the weather when he recorded with us, but as soon as the tape was rolling he was so focussed, funny, professional and interesting to work with – giving all sorts of variations on lines. We couldn’t believe our luck! Collaboration is a hugely important part of creating thought-provoking, entertaining radio drama that stays with the listener long after the final scene – would you agree?   Absolutely. We work hugely collaboratively. I think the days of working strictly under one person’s idea of a vision without any input from others are over, it’s all about working with and learning from people you trust to create a project together. It’s amazing what people will bring to the table if you allow them. We have a huge team, which is always growing, and I am sure that’s partly because we’re really keen to try people’s ideas out and go with suggestions just to see how they work.

Ok, so a radio play lands in front of you. What is The Wireless Theatre Company wishing, hoping and wanting to find in that script? What is going to excite you? It’s actually quite difficult for us to choose the plays we put on. We’re lucky enough to receive a HUGE number of submissions on a monthly, even weekly basis – all of them very different. We only have a small team of readers, so there are certain things we require before we even consider the actual story. Firstly, it needs to be a radio script. The writer needs to understand the medium they are writing for. So often, we get scripts that are clearly stage plays, not even adapted, with endless visual stage directions, set descriptions etc. If you think you have a stage play that will work as a radio play, it’s not up to us to adapt it, that’s your job. It’s not just the format though, it’s the style as well – the way of talking, the pace, the storyline. Some things just don’t work for radio – the writer needs to HEAR the play they have written, if they can’t hear it, we certainly won’t be able to! In terms of content, we really have very few guidelines. We pride ourselves on having such a diverse selection of plays – there isn’t a single topic we wouldn’t consider, if it’s well written. We have had a lot of success with our comedies and our serials – so we’re often looking out for that kind of thing. We like strong characters and interesting dialogue. We like writers to have had a listen to some of our catalogue, so they can see what we have already done. We don’t want to make anything too similar to what we have done before. Radio is so great because, for a fraction of the budget of film or TV, you can transport your listener absolutely anywhere!

Finally, for our potential, budding, and, our already thriving radio dramatists, share with us a set of tips for creating great radio drama. Let’s call it The Wireless Theatre Guide to Great Radio Drama... • Create strong characters and dialogue • The joy of radio is that you can write about any subject and set your play anywhere you like. The past, present or future, but do try not to cram too much in – remember with no visuals, you’re relying on your audiences’ imagination. • Write a good START. The start of your play is what will make your listener decide whether to keep listening, or to turn off. Make the start of your play great and they’ll be hooked. • Atmosphere. With radio drama, you can layer your soundscape to set the emotional spirit of the play. Your atmosphere determines whether your listeners believe in the world that you have created. • Use your sound effects well. Too little and your play will sound flat, too much and it’ll be distracting and confusing. • Make sure you create a professional, enjoyable and RELAXED environment in the studio. It can be really nerve wracking once the actors get into that live room, you can hear this immediately in the voice – the more they enjoy themselves, the more they relax, the better they perform. • EXPERIMENT! With music, sound effects, voices. • Think about your audience. What do you want them to get out of your play? How old are they? Where are they listening to the play? Do you want them to be thinking about the production even after it’s finished?

The Wireless Theatre Company is an online audio theatre company launched in 2007 by actress Mariele Runacre Temple, designed to bring cutting-edge new audio comedy and drama productions to the iPod Generation. The company releases at least one free original radio play a month, including radio drama for children, live recordings and studio based productions. WTC actively encourage new writing and acting talent and have worked with over two hundred and fifty new actors and writers from across the world - including Stephen Fry, Nicholas Parsons (patron), Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Linda Robson, Lionel Blair, Abi Titmums, Julian Glover, Matthew Kelly, Ray Galton, Richard O’Brien and more. All Wireless Theatre content is distributed through the company website and iTunes. In 2011 WTC won Best Entertainment Producer and Best Multi-Platform Creator at the Radio Academy Production Awards and is the first ever British audio company to win the US Mark Time Ogle Award (2012). WTC is also on the preferred suppliers list to BBC Radio.

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Curious About...

Theatre Steve Harper

“...Write the stories you want to see on the stage, write the stories you feel should or need to be seen on the stage, write for the stage. Learn about craft, purely so that you can choose to use it or throw it away at will, but understand what, and why you are doing either...”


ntelligent, inspiring and insistent on developing the very best new writing whilst exploring some of the best stories that have gone before, Theatre503’s Literary Manager, Steve Harper is a man that, if you have any interest in creating great drama, you should be paying attention to. Prepare to take notes as Mr Harper shares his thoughts on the power and importance of theatre for everyone, how creative practitioners should all be connecting and supporting each other on the creative journey, and what the Battersea theatre has in store for audiences this year. Interview by Sandy East

Hi Steve, tell us about your role within Theatre503, and the ethos and the drive for Theatre503 please... I am the Literary Manager of Theatre503, a 63 seat theatre above the Latchmere pub in Battersea. We are a theatre dedicated primarily to new writing, but as of February we are also extending our remit and launching our ‘Second Look’ strand of work which aims to shine a light on what we consider to be forgotten classics from the last couple of decades of the last century. Our primary focus however remains on new writing, and we aim to continue to cement our reputation as London’s premiere new writing theatre, one which is writer-centric, open to all at a grass roots level, and the one at which as a new writer you have the best chance of being staged. In order to move forwards, we often need to look back... If you could pick three stand-out successful transformative moments of 2012 for Theatre503 what would they be? And how have they fuelled the decisions you’ve made for new Theatre503 projects in 2013? I absolutely agree that we need to be mindful of the past in order to move forward, and the ideological underpinning of the work we are aiming to do in the coming years stems from a belief that new writers and the new

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writing landscape can be enhanced by bringing the present into direct contact with the past. This is not simply by presenting ‘second looks’ alongside our new writing programme, but by having established writers such as Howard Brenton, Caryl Churchill and Timberlake Wertenbaker present work by new writers they admire in our ‘A Playwright Presents’ series, and by creating group shows that enable new writers to work alongside more established ones at every level of our programme. But to return to the most transformative work we have done in the past year or so, I think I would have to say, The Girl In The Yellow Dress by Craig Higginson or The Swallowing Dark by Lizzie Nunnery, our co-productions with Salisbury and Liverpool Playhouses respectively, which illustrated how as a small, unfunded theatre, we are capable of producing work of an exceptionally high standard. I would hope that anyone who saw those shows would have come out both emotionally moved by the plays, but also amazed and assured by the production values, that when we claim we are able, at our best, to produce work as significant as anything produced in other theatre’s of greater size or stature in the country, we are not lying. Secondly Life For Beginners our full length, multi-authored show, that brought together five of the writers

that we had premiered, and who had in some way defined the theatre over the preceding five years. This was a challenge to all involved, in terms of creating one complete show from five individual voices, and the outcome, thankfully, exceeded even our own expectations and the feedback we got from audiences was incredible. Finally if Life For Beginners was the end of an era, then launching the 503Five with their event Shhh... was the beginning of another, and it was a great pleasure to see all of the five – Gemma Langford, Brad Birch, Charlene James, Chris Urch and Jon Brittain, all excel themselves in creating and producing an event of an exceptionally high standard, that made us think more about what constitutes the short play night, and the short play in itself. Can you give us a summary of sorts of what Theatre503 have got in store for their audiences? What new projects are you excited about developing and delivering this year? Well, Paul Robinson has opened his tenure as Artistic Director with a beautiful play by a truly astonishing artist, Ailis Ni Riain called Desolate Heaven which has a wonderful cast including Brid Brennan, and is a poetic journey into the emotional heartland of two young girls as they struggle to

the old curiosity shop fly free from the harsh realities that ground them. Later in the year we will be premiering the debut work of one of the 503Five which is always very exciting. We have a couple of other plays I genuinely feel are ground breaking which I can’t officially talk about yet and the ‘second looks’ I mentioned earlier. You’re massive champions of new writing and Theatre503 has a brilliant reputation for supporting and creating opportunities for playwrights. First of all, what events should our readers and writers be looking out for at Theatre503 this year? Well, the aforementioned 503 Five play, the launch of a brand new, new writing award, that will be production focused, our LabFest season showcasing full length work, 503 Futures, a two week celebration of the new and the undiscovered, a season of International work focused primarily on Brazilian new writing, and on a regular basis, our ongoing Rapid Write Response series which I always feel, personally very enriched by. And what actions and efforts should writers and directors be taking and making to improve their chances of getting their work staged? They should be coming down and getting to know us. We are strong believers in the benefit of building relationships with all practitioners, which does not mean, come and say hi and we will put your work on now, it means, come and say hi and let’s do our best to support each other on a long journey, building deeper relationships, the fruits of which we may not be aware of for years. Which writers, actors and directors are really impressing you at the moment? What sets them apart? And what do you think others can learn from them? In terms of new writers I am going to have to say I feel very strongly that the five writers that make up the 503Five are all potentially world class, and over the next

few years what may now be unknown names to you, will become very familiar to you indeed. Outside of those, Jimmy Osbourne, the writer of Meat, which we co-produced last year, has an amazingly sparse and concise style of writing, and his ability to hone his work to say a lot with very little, I think is a great skill that a lot of writers would benefit from developing. Alice Birch, quite simply one of the most beautifully poetic writers I have had the pleasure to work with. In complete contrast to Jimmy, Alice’s work has the flourish of a great poet, aligned with the craft of a great storyteller and I can only hope that her slightly left field voice is allowed to develop at it’s own pace and avoid being crushed by some of the more conformist tendencies of the industry. Arinze Kene, Lizzie Nunnery, Carla Grauls, and someone I have most recently enjoyed reading is Ella Greenhill. Directors... well I love the work of Simon Evans, Anna Mors, Tinuke Craig, and Jessica Beck to name but a few. The actors that impress me are the numerous people, some well known, who continue to support the development of new work. I see them constantly at 503 and elsewhere, and they are doing that work, not as a means to an end in a career sense, but because the work enriches them and gives them a greater understanding of the art, and of the importance of bringing new work to life. If you could give a set of tips for writing great plays what would they be? What vitals do they need to contain and what do they need to be sending out into the world? There are no set tips for writing great plays. Or arguably there are millions. I would challenge anyone to look at the plays out there, read the plays of the past and see the plays of the present, and then tell me what exactly the tips are that they have all followed? If I have to give any sort of answer to this it would be, write the stories you want to see on the stage, write the stories you feel should or

need to be seen on the stage, write for the stage. Learn about craft, purely so that you can choose to use it or throw it away at will, but understand what, and why you are doing either. Write, re-write, write more. There are no time limits on when your work will find success, just believe in it, and keep writing. Our theme for this issue is Heroes and Idols – who are your heroes and idols within theatre and what can we take from them? Well my true heroes in any field would always be what you might call the mavericks, if you take that to simply mean, those able to retain the ability to follow their own paths, irrespective of money, fame and narrow-minded opinion. Those with a clear sense of voice, intent and care for the work, but seemingly very little interest in the nonsense that can surround it, or the worries about what people might think of it, and to be clear, that is not the same as saying, not prepared to listen and be open to other opinions of it. Edward Bond, Caryl Churchill, David Edgar, Howard Barker, Debbie Tucker Green, Anthony Neilson, Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Dennis Kelly, Martin Crimp, Katie Mitchell... there are many and they know who they are! Finally, tell our readers what makes Theatre503 so special and why we should all be making our way there pronto... Hopefully I have already managed to convey many reasons that make Theatre503 special and for why I will be seeing you there very soon, but on a wider note, please just keep on getting out there and supporting new work wherever it may appear. It is not about new writing against devised work, or devised work against stand up comedy, and arguments of the like that I hear cropping up, it is about supporting the development of great new art, that in its turn, will be the backbone of the future.

Steve Harper is Literary Manager of Theatre503. He has previously worked as a freelance theatre director, running his own new writing company ‘Perfect Ambiguity’ and been a Programming Director and Literary Co-Ordinator for Theatre503. He has worked at Paines Plough, the National Theatre, the Young Vic and is the production consultant for JAY Records, a musical theatre recording label. His directing credits include ‘For Once I Was’ by Jon Cooper at Tristan Bates Theatre, the London Premiere of Edward Bond’s ‘Have I None’, ‘Stars Fell All Night’ (503), ‘Sleeping Around’ (Jermyn St) ‘Half Life’ (Blue Elephant), ‘Random Acts Of Malice’, ‘Breakdown’, ‘Tube’, and ‘Camp’ (Union), as well as numerous readings and workshops.

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The Curious

Creative Life Freddie Stevenson and SJI Holliday


rom going on a journey and letting go of everything that you know, to gathering all that you can along the way in the hope that a line, or an image, or a moment will remain and resonate for you and your reader... Freddie Stevenson and SJI Holliday discuss the Holy Grail, gifts, gumption, and grafting for a pasty from Greggs amongst other things as they explore the heroic journey of the writer.

Reflections on Creativity: Heroes & Idols Freddie Stevenson


he hero can be defined as: someone who sees that there’s something missing that the world needs and so leaves the world to find it and then brings it back to the world. First, comes the call. The hero to be, a normal person like you or me going about life minding their own business, one day comes to realise, usually in a dream or by some magical means like a talking bird, that the world’s sick and that it’s entirely up to he or she to heal it. No one else will do, every event in the hero’s life has conspired to condition the hero perfectly for the task. It’s like being plucked off of your sofa one afternoon and plonked at the starting line of a marathon. “But I haven’t trained for a marathon!” you protest. “Oh yes you have, you just didn’t know it. On your marks, get set, go!”

Then, comes the journey. The journey starts with goodbyes; everything that the hero has known must be left behind. Along the way, there are kindly elderly couples who put the hero up for the night and provide food and sagely advice, but there are also hucksters and cheats who trick the hero out of money. Gradually, the night gets blacker and the road rougher and the hero starts passing the broken shapes of those who have gone before and fallen along the way. Still the hero presses on, broke and hungry, further into the unknown. At some point, the hero is bound to meet someone or something who informs him or her that he or she is walking straight into the jaws of certain death. Yet not even this can stop the hero, knowing as he or she does that what they seek lies at the centre of that absolute darkness, beyond the edge of the world. And so, then comes the heroic act. Only the hero knows what happens here. If the hero survives it and returns to the world, they will never speak of it. Because it’s not of this world, it’s impossible to explain it within the context of this world. If you ask me, the heroic act is the hero’s confrontation with himself or herself. After all

the fears are conquered and all the dragons slain, the hero is left with a clear view of himself or herself which is perhaps, t e r r i f y i n g l y, nothing at all. In the furnace of that terror, the hero’s old self is burned away and he or she emerges clutching the Holy Grail, the hole in one, the great song, the final touchdown or the new way of looking at a river. Finally, the hero returns and brings their unique gift back to the world; everyone goes crazy and starts idolising them. They get showered in riches, feted from shore to shore and, if they’re really unlucky, the people will claw away at their humanity in a desperate effort to get closer to whatever quality the hero possesses to make them heroic; that special something that sets them apart. But it’s really nothing, the idol is hollow. If we want to know, we have to go there ourselves.

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, was published as the songbook 50 Songs in 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: Heroes & Idols By SJI Holliday


here is nothing to writing,’ some bloke called Hemmingway once said. ‘All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed…’ Anyone can write a book… everyone’s got a book in them… I’m sure you’ve heard them all. Well, here’s a newsflash, people. IT’S ALL LIES. Question: who are my heroes? Answer: anyone who has written a book (yes, even a crap one…) The ideas are easy. I have ideas every day – they come from life: from the news, from random mutterings overheard on the train. As someone who writes crime fiction, I already have a long list of people to kill and I know how to get away with it (on paper! In fiction! Honestly…) But there’s more to writing than ideas. There’s the discipline of sitting there and scribbling it all down

and trying to make sense of it all. It’s the ‘Yay, I’ve written a thousand words,’ thing – except you have to do that a hundred times… then you have to read it, realise most of it’s rubbish and end up re-writing most of it. And repeat. Then you get your mum and your gran and your mate who reads Dan Brown to read it… and they love it… except for ‘Wasn’t the dog’s name Barney in chapter three?’ and ‘I don’t really get why Zachariah was in London at the end when you said in chapter seven that he lived in Cardiff and he couldn’t even afford a half-price pasty from Greggs so how did he buy the train ticket that he inadvertently wrote the murderer’s phone number on the back off ?’ and… Aaarghh! And just to contradict myself, it’s actually not just the slog and the determination. Yes, if you finish writing a book, then you’re my hero. If you go on to get published – even more so. If you write another one… and get that published too… then you’re definitely an idol. If you’re a bestseller? Then, wow – you’re the Madonna of authors, the most revered of them all (unless you’re purposely trying to remain

unpublished and poor so as not to compromise your ‘art’, although I am suspicious of anyone who tries to genuinely claim that they do it solely for themselves… don’t we all want adoration? Just a little bit? And some cash for that pasty from Greggs?) The ideas do matter – not all novels are created equal. You can write ten, twenty, a thousand, if you have the gumption. But what really clinches the whole thing for me, is not just the finishing and the publishing and the selling – it’s also about whether I remembered anything you wrote after I read it. The image I remember more than any other thing I’ve read is from a short story. It’s by a massive hero of mine, a chap called Stephen King (he’s written a few books… you may have heard of him…) and it’s called ‘The Moving Finger’. I read that story twenty years ago and remain deeply suspicious of plugholes.

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, or at twitter/facebook where she sometimes rants and generally avoids doing any work. P.S. Also has a day job.

My Creative Hero is... Ai Wei Wei. He is fearless. He is working as an artist for the good of the world and, in particular in the country which he was born. I believe he is using his creativity in the best possible way. The way that the best artists in the world do: to educate, challenge, and to try to change the world in which we live. He is willing to risk his life to do so. This makes him the ultimate creative hero in my eyes. Christine Bottomley, actress.

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Curious Interviews by Sandy East

Kerry Howard

“You can not be precious about your talent, be it acting or writing... Don’t run away at the first criticism or be blind to it, take it on board and fix it.”


fter a long time spent crying alone into the mirror, clearing up crap as an extra in Casualty, and chasing what she thought was an “impossible dream”,  Kerry Howard  successfully secured her perfect part in  the  BBC’s Him and Her. Riotous, rancid and resplendent in her role as “ugly sister” and “monster”, Laura, Ms Howard, now, due to a peerless performance, is very much a firm favourite with audiences... Which is exactly as it should be.  Read on as the affable and assured actress and writer tells us about the highs and the lows, comedy gold, and how, one day, she’d love to play an action hero...    Hi Kerry, looking back over the past year you must be pretty happy.  Him and Her, was once again brilliantly received, and quite right too. How much fun is it working on  Him and Her? I freaking love working on the set of Him and Her, mainly because the cast are so talented and bloody funny. Whenever we have a chance to goof around we do; we’re a bunch of show offs.  Russell is soooo funny. We often improvise musical theatre shows, and

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they tend to be very dark. Sarah is like a big sister to me, even though I’m older than her (not by much). She’s really caring and super smart. I love Camille, she’s a real kindred spirit, and me and her have a right laugh off set. Ricky constantly raps these beautiful poems all the time - I know random, right? sometimes I’m like, “Yeah that’s really clever, Ricky...Now can you shut the fuck up please?” It’s a very open environment. No one watches their p’s and q’s. Especially Camille, she is full of filth. In a good way though. Joe is so kind and can be quite reserved, but he does come out with some belters. I think the crew like our banter... Sometimes I feel like we’re in a crèche and the crew are our carers. Is doing dolphin impressions whilst squatting really funny? As the shoot goes on, our banter standards dive down to just noises and farting. We really are a talented troupe. A huge part of the success of Him and Her  is due to Stefan Golaszewski’s brilliant writing and his ability to capture the unnerving, uncomfortable, hilarious, and, often, surprisingly touching nuances of everyday life, and present them through characters that we probably shouldn’t love as much we do. They’re pretty selfish, unmotivated, and lost…  Why do you think viewers have warmed to these characters so much?  Because they’re relatable. Especially Steve and Becky. We’ve all been there, in a relationship where all you see in life is each other. Yes, the main characters are unemployed and don’t do much, but there is an active love at play. They have this ‘Looking Through The Keyhole’ chemistry that is so watchable. You don’t see two actors pretending to be in love, you see Steve and Becky, and no matter how many times Dan interrupts them, or Laura and Paul annoy them, they never tell anyone to piss off. Which makes them hugely likable. They could quite easily just not open the door to these pricks on the other side, but they do. I think it’s the empathy that makes the viewers warm to them. The show would be pretty hateful without Steve and Becky. That said, Shelley and Dan’s love affair during this series has been beautiful to watch and has given both  characters real strength

and depth. They’re more than comedic turns. I think that is why Stefan is such a good comedy writer, because he doesn’t just write funny characters, he creates fully formed characters who happen to be funny. The funny is more of a side effect. The character of Laura who you play, I think it’s fair to say, we should hate: she’s cruel, manipulative and a thief, but brilliantly funny and when she turns up you know that there’s going to be trouble and someone’s going to be left in pieces afterwards. Laura’s a fabulous character. You must want to kiss the scripts when you see some of the lines you have to deliver. What’s it been like playing her? Well, she has changed dramatically since the pilot. When I first read for Laura, she was very simple to understand. Obviously she has ‘Ugly Sister’ syndrome (when you’re cast opposite Sarah Solemani, you know you’re not the pretty one), and is in a crap relationship where her boyfriend constantly cheats on her. So, at first I thought ‘victim bitch’, but as the scripts developed she became more outspoken and slightly racist, less victim and more bitch. She has turned into a monster. I love playing her, because she has killer lines which I have to forget are funny when we film otherwise I would be winking at the camera constantly and shouting “BOOM! I’m here all week, bitches!” I’m lucky that Richard Laxton, our director, pushes me out of my safety box of comedy and gets dramatic performances out of me. Richard is all about the truth which is why him and Stefan are a perfect team. Comedy is, obviously, in your genes.  How much of an impact has your family had on you becoming an actress? Were there regular Howard comedy skits being played out during your childhood? I recently watched some old home videos of us when we were little and all three of us, me, Daniel and Russell were not shy in front of the camera. If my mum and dad were in the business we would have been child stars, and probably dead now. So, it’s a good thing that we were allowed to just play and act like kids. My brothers tended to play together more, although

the old curiosity shop they would let me play in goal. I thought I was very good in goal... Years later I learned that they were actually aiming the ball at me. Brothers! Oh, there’s a film of us doing a mock interview and Russell is the director, Daniel is the comic gold, and I’m just trying way too hard. I haven’t changed. I’ve always wanted to be an actress, I grew up watching old films and doing am drams. Unfortunately we had no showbiz connections, so for most of my life, me wanting to be an actress was like me saying I wanted to grow up and be an elephant. It was an impossible dream back then, as I was a bit of an airhead and away with the fairies. I think my family thought I would give up and work for my dad as an I.T. consultant.  Let’s talk inspiration. Who from the ‘comedy world’ has been a big influence on you and your work? What d’you feel they’ve taught you or spurred you on to do?  The first comedian that blew my mind away was Lee Evans. He was introduced to me by my older brother. Russ would be in control of the remote and would rewind any moment and we’d howl out and Russ would then mimic Evans’ set, whilst me and Dan would laugh. I’d then go into the kitchen and do a Lee Evans’ impression to my mum. It was that sense of focus and concentration we gave to his stand up videos, that have definitely informed they way we perform.  My brother, Russell, has a huge influence on me and every job I do. I care deeply about what he thinks of it, because he is a student of comedy, he knows everything about comedy. Plus, he’s a very talented comedian and he is my brother. It’s weird how successful he is, I don’t think anyone would have thought he’d be playing the same arenas as Lee Evans before he was thirty! Wow!  French and Saunders have had a massive input into my style of comedy. They are balls out funny, and they’re not afraid to look bad. I love that there is no vanity in their performances. I also love clowns. Physical jokes can reach anyone and be timeless. Satire is in the moment and then it’s gone, and it’s old hat. I like my comedy to have staying power. And so to writing. First of all, can you tell us what you’re working on and with whom?  Yes, I’m working on two projects at the moment. One is a sketch show with an objective, and the other is a sitcom pilot at the BBC. Both are solo projects, which is terrifying but also amazing. I have written and filmed my own sketches

before so I’m pretty confident with sketch writing, although you never stop learning. Sitcom is a harder beast to tame. Next up: writers. Which scribes do you feel sure you’ll love until the day you die? And which writers would you love, love, love to create a part for you and why?  Lena Dunham who has written  Girls. I think she is incredible. I love that show, it’s like Sex in the City but with less lip gloss and soft camera work and it’s more gritty, clumsy and honest which makes it so funny. I love seeing complex female characters, and not just pretty dumb girl characters. Tina Fey is a brilliant writer. She just is balls out funny. If any of those lady scribes wanted to write me a part, you know, I’m available.  Speaking of parts, which role(s) would you love to play? What other genres would you love to explore? And which actors would you love to work with? I would love to play an action hero. I’m not being funny, I’m deadly serious. I’d love to film a shot of me being flung in the air whilst having to kick some bad ass in the face, then flee from an exploding building, and land on the ground with all my limbs intact and my hair looking impeccable. But alas, that is not to be, as I have one of those faces that you either want to laugh at or punch, so I’ll probably end up in a Steven Seagal movie as a snotty air hostess who gets killed in the first five minutes. Although I would love that too. I haven’t done a death scene before. I’m not in my sixties yet, and I hear from older actors that from then on, you just rehearse your death over and over. Fun, huh?!  I would love to work with Kate Winslet. I think she is incredible and that I could learn a lot from her. And I want to work with Julie Walters, I think she’s wonderful. I love working with actors, especially ones who don’t take themselves too seriously and really like to play.   When I asked you what we should discuss in this interview, you listed knitting, running, and Jack Russells amongst other things. Naturally I’m assuming that these are just some of the key components that help Kerry Howard maintain a routine of sorts and a sense of calm in the unpredictable world of acting - what helps keep you grounded?  My family. For them I guess it hasn’t really kicked off for me yet... I’m referring mainly to my teenage cousins, who think

if you’re in NOW magazine and you have coffee with a member of  TOWIE, then you’ve made it. So, I think they are a bit puzzled that I’m on the telly but I’m not a celebrity. But everyone is happy for me as long as I’m happy, and no one is that fussed about my career. The main event of my life is when I got married. I have a very traditional background and most of my cousins have babies and work as nurses whilst I flounce around on set pretending to be real. I think the main thing that keeps me grounded really is the fact that I didn’t get my first professional gig until I was twenty-seven. I spent a long time trying to get into this business. I was an extra for two years until I realised no one was going to do a spin off about the girl holding a shit pan in the background of  Casualty. I was that naive. So, I’m still very close to that feeling of not having broken through. I have to pinch myself very hard sometimes. It is crazy how far I have come in such little time. And I also have to remind myself of what I have achieved on the days I’m not working. I have massive lows because I feel like I’m playing catch up on everyone who has been working longer than me. I need to chill out. It’s a hard business because it can be full of hot air and bullshit and then nothing, and no one calls for ages... It’s scary how unpredictable this job can be.  Finally, what are the best tips you could give our readers in regards to acting, comedy or writing, or indeed life in general. Your genius, please.  Never give up! Even if everyone around you is telling you to join the army (that was my twin’s advice). Be proactive. No one is going to give you a break if you’re sat at home crying into the mirror. I tried that for years, it didn’t work. I started out on the fringe, doing plays and sketch comedy. I even dabbled in stand up, but it was too lonely. Know that you will not be a millionaire in your first year of trying, the first five or ten years will be either unpaid or paid badly, but you have to suck it up because at that beginning stage you’re easily dispensable. Harsh but true. You cannot be precious about your talent, be it acting or writing. Someone who has more experience than you will tell you at some point that you’re shit. Don’t run away at the first criticism or be blind to it, take it on board and fix it. There is always room for improvement. No artist is the finished article; that is what so exciting about this world. I started in sketch comedy but I could end up playing Lady Macbeth one day.

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Jonathan Pinnock

“I have no discipline about writing whatsoever unless some external agency forces it on me...”


hoever the “forces” are, worldly or other, that are making Jonathan Pinnock  write against his will or lack of, they’re obviously doing something very right. Meet an author who took on Austen with aplomb, aliens, and an array of twists-in-the tale in his last novel; and who recently released an award-winning collection of stunning short stories, Dot Dash, to rave reviews, as he discusses his writing life and how “it’s nice to have plans...”    Your new book, Dot Dash, is a collection of 58 short stories that features tightrope walkers, ducks, interviewees, elephants, graffiti artists and a whole host of other characters making their way through the normalities and the absurdities of life. That’s quite an array of tales you’ve created there. Tell us how Dot Dash came together. Dot Dash is a collection of stories mainly written between 2007 and 2010. It was one of the winners of Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize in 2011, although publication was delayed until 2012 to avoid confusion with Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens. Half of the stories are very short (the “dots”) and half are more normal length (the “dashes”). The two types of story alternate in order to give the collection a kind of structure. Up until 2007 my writing had been pretty sporadic and I’d pretty much assumed it was never

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going to go anywhere special. However, I thought it was worth one last push, so I threw myself into it, entering all sorts of online challenges and competitions and somehow that managed to unlock something in me. I love short stories and flashes; to me they seem to be the perfect form due to the lessons in brevity and enormous emotional scope that they offer - do you agree? Why do you love short stories so much? And why do you think Dot Dash will appeal to readers?  Yes, and the other thing is that they sometimes allow the writer to try out some things that might not necessarily work in a longer piece. That’s probably what I love about short stories in general, actually - both as a reader and as a writer - the sheer variety of themes and emotions that you can find in a good collection. I hope that readers will find that kind of variety in Dot Dash. There are stories that will make you laugh as well as ones that will make you cry. There are one or two that – I hope – will make you do both.   Despite my declaration of love for short stories and my belief that their social, cultural and emotional pertinence serves the modern reader so well I still can’t believe that here in the UK this form still needs to be defended so much. Even after the stoic efforts of so many writers – and particularly online and on social networks such as Twitter – to celebrate and share short stories in various ways, I find myself explaining to people that, ‘Yes, the short story is just as powerful, if not more powerful than many novels!’ and that I don’t know why some big movers and shakers in the book and drama industry shy away from creating the space and attention it so deserves… It’s odd, isn’t it?  It’s very odd. But I know quite a lot of people who say that they don’t read short stories and I’m not really sure why. It’s hard to believe that it’s not that long since Roald Dahl’s short stories were adapted for prime time television, and I’m sure I remember Dahl himself discussing where he got his ideas from (yep, that old chestnut) on Parkinson. It’s also easy to forget that, round about the same time, Ian McEwan made a seriously big name for himself with his

first two short story collections before he abandoned the form in favour of novels. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong, really. Maybe it’s because of marketing, in that books tend to be sold on theme rather than author - so a book with lots of different themes isn’t going to fit the template. Undoubtedly a collection like Dot Dash will garner great reviews and draw more focus to the short story in general so that’s good. And Dot Dash really is quite an incredible collage of narratives due to the vast terrain it covers in terms of content. You clearly are a writer who enjoys a challenge – Mrs Darcy Verus The Aliens with its huge ideas and numerous story strands is testament to that - would you consider creating another collection like Dot Dash? I think (although I haven’t actually checked) I’ve got enough stories for maybe half another collection, with the provisional title Dip Flash (one for the Wire fans, there). However, I can’t see that making an appearance until 2014 at the earliest. I do have another book in the can, so to speak, and it’s doing the rounds right now, although I don’t want to say too much about it now other than it’s a non-fiction memoir-ish type of thing. I have committed to someone to produce the first fifteen thousand words of a science fiction novel by - well - some time soon, so I’d better get cracking on that, on the off chance that it captures their imagination. And some day I really would like to do that sequel to Mrs Darcy – the first one was so much fun to write. Finally, I’ve probably got enough poems knocking around now to put together some kind of collection - although finding a publisher for that could be something of a challenge. Whether any of these will actually happen is decidedly moot, but it’s always nice to have plans.   I’ve mentioned the bold, brilliant and brain-testing Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens already and I really feel that you should tell our readers a little bit about this novel. Austen and aliens – how did that idea start to form itself in your mind?  Ah yes. Well, it began in the course of a slightly drunken post-writers’ circle pub adjournment, when I was describing the book I was reading at the time, Jonathan Strange and Mr

the old curiosity shop Norrell, to a friend, who summed it up as “basically a Regency novel with added wizards”. From there it was but a short step to a Regency novel with added aliens, at which point the title Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens appeared as if by magic. I then had to write the thing, of course, a process that was massively confused by the sudden and unwarranted appearance of what we in the Pinnock household refer to as “That Zombie Book”. I’d like to think that there’s a little more to Mrs Darcy than the average mash-up, because it does launch off into a number of other completely unexpected areas. Alternatively, you could view it as a complete self-indulgence. Looking at Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens and Dot Dash I’m making a huge assumption that structure and plotting must be two of your favourite elements of writing? Do you find it a comfort, or even a thrill, piecing a narrative together? Is that part of the process a sense of grounding as you carve out characters and ideas from the wilds of your imagination? Structure, yes. Plotting, hmmm. In many ways, structure was what made plotting Mrs Darcy relatively straightforward. I’d never actually managed to finish a full-length novel before (apart from a 40K kids’ book back in the 80s, and that doesn’t really count). But the fact that I ended up writing it as a series of 600-700 word blog posts forced me to impose a kind of structural discipline on the thing. Five of these sections made up each chapter, and each section maintained one consistent point of view and had to end on some kind of punchline or cliffhanger. The last section in each chapter was always supposed to contain a more significant cliffhanger,

although I didn’t always manage this. Having established this structure, all I had to do was set a number of different threads running at the start, so that I could chop and change between them as the story developed. I also had a number of set pieces planned at various points throughout the book (the initial confrontation at Rosings, the Pemberley Midsummer Ball, etc.) which also gave me something for each of the threads to work towards, so that some or all of them could tie themselves together briefly before splitting up again. So the answer to your question is... yes, it was quite thrilling - and frequently quite surprising - to see it come together, and yes, it did help to ground the characters and maintain some kind of discipline. What’s the Pinnock Writing Process like? Are you of the “I write a little every day, without hope, without despair” school of Dinesan thought? Or are you more of the Bradbury persuasion and staying “drunk on writing” so reality can’t destroy you?  I have no discipline about writing whatsoever unless some external agency forces it on me. Most of the stories in Dot Dash were written to competition deadlines – the kind of thing where you have a limited time (from a couple of weeks down to an hour) to write something to a specified prompt. Mrs Darcy was written to a self-imposed schedule of two blog posts a week, followed by a frantic panic edit when I got the e-mail from Proxima saying they were interested in seeing a revised version. A lot also depends on what the day job throws at me. Finally, who are your heroes in the writing and arts world and why? And what one piece of heroic wisdom

can you, Mr Pinnock, share with our readers about writing? My literary hero is probably Boris Vian, who not only wrote the definitive surrealist classic L’Écume des jours (translated variously as “Froth On The Daydream” and “Mood Indigo” – both sadly out of print, with the much better former version ruinously expensive secondhand) but also the pulp masterpiece J’irai cracher sur vos tombes (literally “I Spit on Your Graves”). Even better than that, in later life he became a successful singersongwriter and also worked on an opera with Darius Milhaud. Basically, he was someone who’d not only have a go at anything but do it well to boot. My piece of heroic wisdom about writing? However weird the world you’ve built, however bizarre the situation you’ve contrived, never forget that your characters are real people with all the capacity for generosity, venality, brilliance and utter stupidity that entails.

Jonathan Pinnock has had over a hundred stories and poems published in places both illustrious and downright insalubrious. He has also won a few prizes and has had work broadcast on the BBC. His debut novel Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens was published by Proxima Books in September 2011, and his Scott Prize-winning debut collection of short stories, Dot Dash, was published by Salt in November 2012. He blogs at and he tweets as @jonpinnock. Mrs Darcy has her own website at, and there is more about Dot Dash at

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the old curiosity shop

Rebecca Front “It certainly has been busy... I’ve had a lovely time!” 


f anyone deserves “a lovely time”, it’s Rebecca Front. Meet one of our best loved actresses, and one of the most recognisable and successful faces of British comedy, who, at long last, has a Best TV Comedy Actress award tucked under her arm, and her feet still very much on the ground. From discussing co-writing, heroes, and how to approach different roles,  Rebecca Front  is a woman with a clear focus, great sense of fun and gratitude; and some fine pieces of advice for you. From saying farewell to the hugely successful, deliciously satirical,  The Thick Of It, to starring in series 2 of the fiercely funny  Grandma’s House, to penning and portraying a number of Incredible Women in a radio series you created with your brother, Jeremy, along with a number of other great projects, I’d say 2012 was a pretty good year for you... It certainly has been busy, which is the way I like it. And there’s been a great variety of work, from  Thick of It  straight into  The Spa − a new, big, broad comedy for Sky from the writer of Benidorm. I’ve had a lovely time. Any year that gives you the chance to run amok in a zip-up portable sauna one day and then chat on a discussion programme with the Prime Minister on another is a year to be savoured!  

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You’ve worked with a variety of writers such as Simon Nye, Simon Amstell, Armando Iannucci, and Tony Roche amongst others, on projects that have been quite different in terms of set up, theme, and tone. Which writers have taught you a lot? Well Armando has obviously been a hugely influential figure for me. I love working with him, and I love the kind of work he creates - so intelligent and challenging. The Thick of It  writers are all rather amazing, because they all bring a completely different style and sensibility to the scripts, and yet what you’re left with at the end feels completely cohesive. One of the writers I’ve learned most from is Samuel Beckett. I’ve only done one Beckett play -  Happy Days, as a student - but I’m really keen to do more. He writes what looks and sounds like poetry, but it is eminently speakable, it feels curiously natural, and it’s also truly and unexpectedly funny.

We’ve talked about various writers you’ve worked with and your writing. Which writers would you love to write with in the future or have create a part for you? Oh, I’d love to work with any of the Thick of It  writers again, with Simon Amstell and Dan Swimer who co-wrote Grandma’s House, with Simon Nye who adapted Just William... All the writers I’ve worked with really. If they could all write something for me I’d be very chuffed.

Tell us about the radio series  Incredible Women  you created with your brother, Jeremy. Where did the idea first come from, and how much fun was it to make? Many years ago, Jeremy and I were asked to do a spoof documentary feature as an April Fool’s joke for Radio 4. What emerged was something that we both thought was one of the best and most enjoyable things we’d ever worked on. So that was the starting point really: to see if we could do a whole series along the same lines. Each week Jeremy spends 24 hours in the home of a woman he regards as ‘incredible’, and who genuinely is incredible in the literal sense of being unbelievable, as they’re all fictional and I get to play them all!

You’re a brilliant comedy actress and you’ve been involved in some of the best British comedy in recent years and worked with some fine comic actors, writers, directors and collectives. What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned about comedy? 1. Don’t approach a comedy character differently from a straight one. It’s tempting to play a type and stand in judgment on the character. Don’t!  2. Be confident. Suggest things. They might just work.  3. If at all possible (and often financial demands make it impossible) only do stuff you find funny. 

What’s it like collaborating with Jeremy? Is it safer? Or is it more challenging? What are you planning to work together on next? Jeremy and I have a very similar sense of humour, and of course we have a great fund of shared experiences. So it’s always a real pleasure working with him. He’s a very clever man, and terrifically experienced as a writer, so I feel much safer working with him than say, trying to write on my own.

As you know the theme for this issue of What the Dickens? magazine is Heroes and Idols. Who are your heroines in the Arts world and who would you love to work alongside? My favourite actresses - there are too many to mention. But certainly Judi Dench, Julie Walters, and my two close friends Samantha Spiro and Morwenna Banks would be in the list.

You’re hard-working, admired and grounded. It must be, due to the long hours and oddities of working in a profession that’s scrutinised so much, be a tricky balancing act to stay steady and focussed. What are your rules for survival that you can share with us? It’s quite a simple message really: have a life. Your family, your friends, your home and your health are all more important than what’s going on (or what isn’t) in your career

the old curiosity shop

Julie Mayhew “Novels are definitely the marathon running of writing. They teach you to be tenacious and focused and keep going...”


f anyone knows anything about determination, discipline and driving on when it comes to writing, it’s Julie Mayhew. Passionate about the shape and space stories take in our lives in every sense, she’s doing a fine job of creating an array of drama for radio and stage, and, most recently, fiction in the form of her highly-praised new novel, Red Ink. Sit back and enjoy as Ms Mayhew  discusses her latest work, a story of young girl making her way in the world after the story of her own life changes massively, and shares with us a few of her obsessions, and writing recommendations amongst other things. Hi Julie. Your new novel, Red Ink, has been described as ‘a blackly comic coming-of-age tale about superstition, denial and family myth’. It tells the story of a teenage girl called Melon trying to find her way in the world after her mother dies and all that she experiences along the way… Tell us about Red Ink.   I’m really interested in the stories that families tell each other - a kind of shared history that isn’t always accurate. Stories evolve and get twisted the more they’re told. Sometimes stories are used to manipulate. That’s what I wanted to explore. The book is partly set in Crete and a trip there gave me the first spark for the book. I saw a farmer driving a truck piled high with a pyramid of melons. Nothing was holding the fruit in place;

he was just driving very, very carefully. This image then melded with a short scene that I wrote in a writing workshop about a London teenager trying on bras in a changing room with her eccentric and irritating Greek mother. From there, Red Ink grew. In terms of creating characters, who were your main influences? Did you base your heroine, Melon, on someone in particular or was she a mixture of different elements of people? And did you always have a very clear idea of the journey she would go on? I think when you write in the first person, which I usually do, your main character tends to be a part of you. I don’t mean that Red Ink is autobiographical and that Melon is me as a teenager – she isn’t. But she is definitely a part of my psyche that I wanted to pick apart. Oddly, I was in an airport a few months after writing the book and I saw Melon and Maria. There was this beautiful, petite mother with her awkward teenage daughter waiting for their suitcases at the carousel. They were absolutely the characters from the book, physically and in their behaviour. It was the freakiest experience. You’re a prolific writer who works in a variety of genres, and firstly I’d like to know what writing Red Ink taught you? Do you agree that creating in a different forms strengthens your writing structurally, linguistically, and imaginatively?  Novels are definitely the marathon running of writing. They teach you to be tenacious and focused and keep going. I find that quite hard. My head is always being turned by other projects – a radio play, a stage play, a short story. But I suppose the pay-off is that when I return to the novel each time I’m revived and full of fresh ideas. I never get bored. And yes, working on plays and short stories informs the style of my novels. I see chapters as self-contained scenes with their own individual theme and journey.   Do you find that whether you’re writing a short story, a play, or a novel like Red Ink, that certain themes always weave their way in to your work somehow? I’m obsessed with  stories we tell ourselves, particularly the ones we tell to make things feel OK when they’re not.

That’s a theme I keep coming back to. I’m really interested in children’s fairytales too – these seemingly little stories with big morals and huge consequences. Legacy is another intriguing theme for me – how the things that happen to us, particularly when we’re young, go on to inform our lives. And the biggy -  I am always writing about death. Although I don’t always deal with it in a dark way. It can be a great source of comedy. I don’t belong to a formal religion so have no beliefs to explain what happens when we die. Is it just a full stop? I’m always trying to figure this out in my writing. The theme for this issue of What the Dickens? is Heroes and Idols. Who are your writing heroes? and I’m assuming that because you write novels, plays, short stories, and radio drama that your list will be huge… Which isn’t a problem at all! Who? Why? Which works? I grew up reading Sweet Valley High, Margaret Atwood and Stephen King. A very weird mixture but I think you can sort of tell in my writing now. I admire the work of Nora Ephron, her essays and screenplays, and literary journalist Joan Didion is a big hero too. I think Miranda July’s short stories are weird and beautiful, and Martin McDonagh is easily my favourite playwright. If I ever get to work in film, I’d aspire to write something like Goodbye Lenin, Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind or Volver. All three films are near perfect. And who are your other non-writerly creative heroes and idols and why?  I think Damon Albarn is a true artist – in that he is always looking for the new, isn’t scared to switch form, takes risks, asks questions. Looking back to when you first started writing to where you are now and all that you’ve achieved, what are the three best pieces of advice you could offer to our readers?  You are good enough. Accept any feedback with good grace – it is gold dust. If you want something, you have to ask for it.

Red Ink by Julie Mayhew is available to buy NOW from Hot Key Books, £12.99

the heroes & idols edition ~ 59

the old curiosity shop

Olivia Colman “I like  actors.  I don’t think  I’ve met one of the massive ego ones yet. I’m not sure if they exist, or if it’s all stuff of legend. I’ve almost always loved who I’m working with.  That’s pretty good odds innit!”


nd it’s “pretty good odds” that all of the many brilliant actors - including the “proper giggler” that is Anne-Marie Duff, he of the “anarchic twinkle”, Bill Murray, and the “goddess” that is Meryl Streep - who’ve worked with Olivia Colman have loved her just as much...if not more. For, Ms Colman, quite frankly, is not only an awesome award-winning astonishingly versatile actress but pretty damn amazing all round. Readers, you are in for the most terrific treat as one of Britain’s brightest stars talks Twenty Twelve, Tyrannosaur and Tennant to great writers, brilliant scripts, useful tips and heroes, and so much more... WARNING: It’s not “pretty good odds” that you’ll fall in love with her after this interview, but an absolute dead cert.    Olivia, this is the first interview where I feel stumped as what NOT to ask. It feels as if the last two to three years in particular have been really exciting for you... Yep, the last 2 or 3 years have been a dream. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve always managed to find work, but recently it’s been even more varied, which is exactly what you hope for as an actor.

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You’ve been a key part of some of the best recent British TV comedy such as Tom Hollander and James Wood’s Rev and John Morton’s Twenty Twelve, and powerful UK TV and film drama in Jimmy McGovern’s Accused, Abi Morgan’s The Iron Lady, and, of course, Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, and you’ve received great recognition for your performances in all of the aforementioned. Due to the quality, emotional range, and the array of genres of those projects, you must have been in your element as an actress? Yes, to have such variation is of course what one hopes for.  If the variation comes with the opportunity to work with amazing people, then that’s the best possible thing.  I met some people that I never thought I’d meet, and to actually say stuff on screen with people like Meryl Streep, is pretty bloody cool. I can’t quite believe my luck. Tyrannosaur though, that’s the thing that meant the most to me.  Being directed by Paddy Considine is the best working experience I have ever had. That’s the film I’ll be most proud of ‘til I die.   You’ve worked on scripts penned by some of the best writers around such as John Morton, Jimmy McGovern, and Abi Morgan…  Let’s discuss writers: who do you feel has helped you to develop as an actress? A good writer makes all the difference. If the script’s not good, I don’t think it matters who is on board cast or director wise - it’s not going to work. You can’t polish a turd! Although, some say that you can roll  it in glitter.  And the opposite is probably  also possible -  bad actors,  directors  and  producers can  roll  a brilliant script in poo so it looks  like a turd  (but  that’s probably about as far as you can take the script/ turd analogy). Anyway,  the script is the first thing that you get to see and  you  know if you can say those words with ease or if it’s going to be a struggle.  All of the writers you’ve mentioned above are a joy.  Jimmy McGovern writes so brilliantly. It’s so easy to learn dialogue like his,  because  it’s instinctive. And Paddy’s writing is similarly instinctive, in fact,  so many people have asked me if Tyrannosaur was improvised

and that’s a sign of bloody amazing writing. To write that realistically is extraordinary. Same with John Morton, every stutter and hesitation in  Twenty Twelve was scripted.  Abi Morgan is so prolific, and takes such a range of different subjects; she’s always an exciting prospect to work with, and it’s exciting to watch her work. And she’s a very lovely woman.  You’ve worked with some fine actors such as Peter Mullan, AnneMarie Duff, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray...  Who’s been a real thrill to work with and why? Oooh,  they’re all so different, and all heavenly to work with. Peter Mullan is one of the most generous actors ever. He goes the extra mile when  the camera is on you  so you can give the best you can. Meryl Streep is a fucking goddess; she’s the nicest woman you could meet, and  you  really up your game in the presence of someone like that. I had a complete girl crush on Anne-Marie; I’ve always watched what she does in awe. She’s so warm, and again so generous to work with.  She’s also a proper giggler.  And Bill  Murray! He’s amazing, he’s got such an anarchic twinkle, it was a thrill working with him. I like actors, I don’t think  I’ve met one of the massive ego ones yet. I’m not sure if they exist, or if it’s all stuff of legend. I’ve almost always loved who I’m working with. That’s pretty good odds innit!  If I don’t ask you about Tyrannosaur, our readers will be very unhappy. You’ve, quite rightly, received high praise and awards galore for an utterly heart-achingly brilliant performance. What gifts did it provide you with as an actress when you were playing the part of Hannah, and what gifts have stayed with you longterm as an actress? I could talk about Tyrannosaur for days on end, I’ve never had  such a perfect filming experience.  We all felt so committed to the story of Joseph and Hannah, we all wanted Paddy to feel proud,  and we all  got on with each other.  Paddy was always able to make you feel very safe  and  therefore made you feel able to do anything. We only filmed for four weeks. I feel a little  more fearless after working with Paddy. He’s my complete hero.

the old curiosity shop Keeping on the theme of heroes. Which actors made you want to become an actress and why? Who would you love to work with in the future? Bloody hell, we could be here forever. Immediately springing to mind are Julie Walters,  Kathy Burke, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench. They are all women that made me want to try and do what they could do  when I was a kid. I now have many more heroes that I’ve worked with. You’re, without a doubt, one of the country’s best-known comedy actresses and you’ve starred in brilliantly successful shows such as Green Wing, Peep Show, and more recently, Bad Sugar, which you also developed with Julia Davis and Sharon Horgan. Who in the comedy world inspires you? Sharon and Julia are two more of my heroes.  I love them. And Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong who wrote Bad Sugar and Peep Show, amongst a load of  other amazing things.  Sam and Jesse are  such workers, they really get stuff right,  and they’re so deliciously humble.  Julia’s Hunderby just made me howl; she’s so inventive and close to

the bone. Bloody brilliant. I also love David Mitchell and Robert Webb, but then I’ve known them both for nearly 20 years now, so they can do no wrong in my book. What have you got planned in terms of developing your own projects? Is there a story that you’re itching to tell? I suppose I’m not alone in having the daydream that I could have  a bit of control and come up with a brilliant idea for a film that  I could  write  and be in, and get all my mates in. No ideas yet.  Bum.  But if you or any of  your readers have any ideas, I’d be happy to hear them! You starred in Noël Coward’s Hay Fever last year... Can we expect a return to the theatre soon?  NOOOO! I find theatre terrifying! Loved the  rest of the cast, we had a little too much fun possibly.  Would have to be a really special play to tempt me back. And so Broadchurch with Mr David Tennant. How was that? I LOVE DAVID TENNANT! Possibly the nicest man in the world. Every

moment on set with David was a joy. He’s also bloody brilliant. Heartbreaking to watch. Can you share with us a little about what else we’ll be seeing from you in 2013?  Umm,  there’s a series of four stories called Run coming on to Channel 4 at some point.  Loved that. It’s directed by Charles Martin who went straight up to join my  list of favourite directors.  It’s written by two young first time writers, Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith. It’s so exciting what those two are going to do in the future; their script was brilliant. I would have begged them to let me do it. Finally, it’s a rule at What the Dickens? magazine that we always ask our interviewees for some pearls of wisdom regarding their craft...  Oooh, crumbs.  Umm, if you’re just starting out, make sure you’re ready for the unfairness of it,  and beyond that,  always be on time, always know your words, and don’t be a dick. There are ten others just as good as you to take your place.

What the Dickens? magazine

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the heroes & idols edition ~ 61

help! the dog ate my manuscript!

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

What is the point in continuing to enter writing competitions when I never win?


t can be distressing when stories keep bouncing back from competitions and the best advice is, to try not to lose heart. The world of writing is incredibly competitive with lots of stories worthy of publication continuing to miss the mark. Stay positive and avoid investing too much emotional energy with each entry, that way you’ll enjoy the opportunity to contribute and become part of the writing community by entering the competition. As a writer it’s wise to be generous, congratulate the winners and read their work. See if you can identify the qualities in the writing that mark the work as worthy of winning. By understanding the type of writing that appeals to certain competition judges, you may gain an advantage the next time you enter a competition. While there is always the chance that you may win when entering a competition, continuing to submit has other advantages. Competitions are brilliant at providing deadlines to work towards. Try to have a first draft completed in plenty of time so that you have the opportunity to revise and improve the work before submitting. Some writers leave finalising their story or poem until the very last minute, thriving on the adrenalin of entering online just before the deadline. Postal entries require more time to reach their destination and you’ll save a bit of money in postage if you allow a minimum of three working days following posting for second class mail.


Competitions with themes frequently provide a new stimulus or challenge. It is worth writing outside your comfort zone in order to experiment in different genres. You may find you have a natural talent for a style of writing that you’d never considered before. Competitions with themes also have the added advantage of generally attracting fewer entries than open competitions, so your chances are improved. Take pride in being short-listed, celebrate any commendations that you receive, enjoy being placed. These are all markers on your road to improved writing and although you may not win first prize, every acknowledgement signifies your growth as a writer. Some competitions provide feedback as part of the entry fee and this is usually well worth receiving. Take the advice onboard, consider whether it resonates with you, and make the changes you feel are necessary then resubmit elsewhere. The more competitions that you enter, the more you’ll get a feel for the territory. As you gain experience as a competition entrant, you’ll better able to predict where a story is more likely to succeed. There are several highly prestigious writing competitions each year that attract thousands of entries and the cost of entry can be high. To make submitting worthwhile, you must be selective and choose your very best work. Seek comments on your work from other writers, read your work aloud and develop an ear for

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

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strengthening your writing. Only submit your entry when you are satisfied that there’s no further room for improvement. Even if the work doesn’t gain any recognition, you will know you submitted your very best writing and there’s satisfaction to be had in that. Keep a record of the stories that you’ve entered for competitions (creating a spreadsheet is a good idea) so that you can track your work. Some competitions allow simultaneous submissions, and you’ll need to be able to advise competition organisers if you’ve won or been placed elsewhere. Always read the competition rules thoroughly so that you present your work in the required format, by the correct date and with the right entry fee.   Free to enter competitions are always worth considering. If you have a piece of work tucked away, check it for revisions then send it in. You’ve got nothing to lose. And, if you’re an unpublished writer, keep a look out for special ‘new writer’ competition categories. That way you’ll be judged against other writers with similar experience, giving your work that chance to stand out.  

a writer’s diary

A Writer’s Diary Rebecca Jones

Idol Chatter... riting can feel like a very lonely and isolating pursuit. Access to a ‘room of one’s own’ can tempt us to close the door on everything else, and to run the risk of becoming entirely too inwardlooking. As a freelance writer working from an office at home, I know I am guilty of this response from time to time. For unpublished writers, that sense of detachment and absence of collaborative support can be aggravated by the lack of validation afforded by publication. I try to attend as many lectures and writing workshops as I can, if only to avoid a sense of creative isolation. Opportunities for discussion allow me to share the influences of others, and


the motivations for their work. Social media has also allowed us to engage in conference and communication which isn’t quite so at the mercy of geography and time zones. Not only is all this literary gab really interesting (and I am, of course, extremely nosy) but, at times when my own creative motivation and confidence are flagging, I find the insights of other writers deeply reassuring. A particularly fruitful meeting of minds leaves me feeling refreshed, and ready to look again at that condemned draft I’d convinced myself should never again see light of day as long as there was a human alive who could possibly be exposed to it. It’s the much-needed ‘step back’ – but one that safeguards that spark of creativity, rather than

stripping everything down to the mechanical. I mean, is there anything that extinguishes the flame of creativity quite like reading one of those writing manuals which, rather than getting you thinking, simply point out all the ways you’ve been ‘doing it wrong’? For our ‘Heroes and Idols’ issue, one of my favourite authors of historical fiction, Harry Nicholson, agreed to share with me a few thoughts on his own motivations and influences, and those of the titular character of his first novel, Tom Fleck. The novel is set in northern England, around the events of the Battle of Flodden on 9th September 1513.   Here’s what Harry had to say:

When did you start writing? What made you want to write? In 1994, I spent four months living high in the Spanish mountains with twenty-three other men. We had few distractions other than our minds, as it was a Buddhist retreat – and we spent the first month in silence. We lived in huts amid storm, sun, and wilderness. Nightingales sang each dawn from the roof of the meditation hall and eagles circled the crags. I walked those crags on most days and began to write – it was as though poems dripped from the rocks. I’ve continued to write poems, and short stories, since. You’ve written historical fiction as well as poetry. Do you have particular influences or favourite authors? I’d like to think the fine muscularity of language and the imagery of Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney have been an influence, and for even greater, wrenching verse, I go to the Great War poets, particularly Wilfred Owen. Much of my poetry is concerned with the passage of time and the shaping of our world. When the idea for a novel

came, it seemed natural to set the story in history. Even though Rosemary Sutcliff wrote historical fiction for children, I admire the vigour and sensitivity of her portrayal of ordinary folk and of their spirit. In her novel, ‘The Shield Wall’, she tells of how the inhabitants of Cumbria spent years holding off the Norman invaders. That story has stayed. Tom Fleck is set around the Battle of Flodden in 1513. What were your reasons for choosing this time period and event? The novel’s main character, Tom Fleck, is the sort of cowed young man who would have watched aristocrats come and go. I wanted to show how he lived, rebelled, loved beyond his class, and broke free from servitude. I chose the dramatic year 1513 for his story, as it was the year of the Battle of Flodden on the Scottish Border, where ordinary men, of shared background, were thrown against each other to preserve the frontiers of great lords. In this tumultuous year, Tom unearths ancient gold from his native Yorkshire

hills, learns to read, and finds mentors. The characters are a simple but thoughtful soldier, a sophisticated foreign merchant, a king’s herald, and a strange woman. Do you have any historical heroes or idols from the Tudor period? I’m drawn to the figure of the Renaissance Man, the cultured individual of broad knowledge and ability – such as Leonardo da Vinci.   As his creator, you know Tom’s character better than anyone. What are his influences? In the story, Tom Fleck’s innate curiosity responds whenever he encounters learning and intelligence. Naturally, as this is my first novel, Tom’s character tends to have some of my own biases and drives! I was startled to discover this phenomenon early in the writing, and had to make an effort to keep Tom’s character distinct from my own. Writing is an insightful pursuit. Here is one of my earlier poems, which I really feel is a precursor to Tom Fleck:

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a writer’s diary Bearing Arms

No longer do the heralds appear with fanfares at the gates on their infrequent Visitations to cold, northern manors. They came every few generations across the Tees, hawking noble phlegm into the mist – braving the kine-clagged yards of armigerous yeomen.   Having supped, enquiries were made: ‘Who was the first born son of your grandfather? Did he leave legitimate issue?   Only maids you say? Then, we have to declare the line extinct, the ancient blazon ended – except under certain circumstances.’   Afterwards – in the rain outside – the descendants of Oswy’s warriors lean upon their mattocks and gawp with tamed, pale blue eyes   at the gorgeous, glutted cavalcade that clips and clops its way down the hill. A bent old man grunts: ‘me grandfetha used to tell aboot last time yon crowd ganged this road.’  

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I was encouraged to learn that Harry identified with (and had overcome) a dilemma I often face – keeping my own “biases and drives” in a creative holding pen in order to hold fast to the credibility and depth of my characterisation. Good historical fiction (or any fiction, really) requires characters who are not just believable and viable in and of themselves, but also within their socio-historical contexts.

Perhaps we can’t always help projecting twenty-first century mores and concerns onto our characters, especially when they exist within modern worlds. But if our characters are living and breathing in 1513, this can really muddy the waters of their point of view. As readers, we’ve all felt resentful of authors who present us with improbable characters, then expect us, as readers, to do the legwork involved in imagining those characters into life. As writers, none of us want to be accused of doing the same.

Harry reminds me why it’s so important to share and confer and simply engage with other writers. We all have something to offer one another, and I’d really urge working writers who find themselves flagging to seek out workshops and seminars in their area. Check out the blogs and websites of other authors (published or not), and get in touch – or take a wander around the Twittersphere and find out what people are up to. You’ll find that your fellow readers and writers really are a living organism of heroes and idols.

Rebecca Jones is a freelance writer, journalist and blogger, and is currently working on her first novel of historical fiction. She lives with her partner, Frazer, cats Fliss and Roger, and puppy Dougal in Glasgow. Harry Nicholson is a novelist and poet, currently based in Eskdale, North Yorkshire. You can find out more about Harry’s work on his website,, where the first chapter of Tom Fleck is available to view. Tom Fleck is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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film review

Film Review By Harriet Matthews Fight Club Anyone reading Mr Walker’s opinion for the first time now, more than a decade since the film was released, may be surprised at the amount of bile he saw fit to spew in Fight Club’s general direction. People love this film; they watch and re-watch it, they memorise and quote it, they argue and philosophise about it. The idea that the film was in any way meant as an incitement to hatred, or as a propounding of Nazi values, would knock these cinéastes for six.


his is what Alexander Walker of the London Evening Standard was moved to write about David Fincher’s 1999 film, Fight Club; “It is an inadmissible assault on personal decency...This film is anticapitalist, anti-society, and indeed, anti-God.” In his short review he went on to rip Fight Club a proverbial new one, equating it to a ‘toxic experience’, referring to the fight scenes as ‘pornographically amplified’ and accusing the film of repeated and unashamed Nazism. His review became instantly infamous in critical circles.

The theme of this issue is heroes and idols. With the whole of cinema to draw from, I was spoilt for choice. Heroes and idols, protagonists and antagonists, cowboys in black hats and white – the movies have them in spades. In the end, I picked Fight Club. I picked Fight Club because, as Alexander Walker discovered, you can’t pigeonhole the Narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) just by the colour of their hats. These guys don’t wear no stinkin’ hats. Edward Norton plays a nameless office drone slowly losing his grip on reality. He spends his free time buying things for his sterile apartment, or attending support groups for illnesses he does not have. While on a business trip, he meets a charismatic soap salesman

named Tyler Durden. Upon returning home and finding that his apartment has mysteriously blown up, the Narrator calls Tyler for help, and ends up moving in with him – but not before the new friends decide to get into a fist fight for the sheer visceral joy of it. The two share a rambling abandoned house on the edge of an anonymous city. By day the Narrator still works his job, but by night he, Tyler, and an ever growing group meet in basements to attend Fight Club, where they beat each other to a pulp in order to break up the numbness of their existence. Under the leadership of Tyler, Fight Club gradually becomes more and more extreme, eventually morphing into Project Mayhem, an underground guerrilla movement bent on the destruction of the corporate world. The Narrator finds himself pushed to one side as Tyler takes control, before suddenly disappearing. As he hunts for Tyler, the Narrator is shocked and confused to discover that everyone seems to think he is Tyler. Tyler reappears and explains matters to the Narrator, upon which we are treated to one of the most perfectly executed ‘big twists’ in movie history; the Narrator and Tyler Durden are the same person. Watching Fight Club is a true cinematic ‘experience’; the film seems to infiltrate and take over the viewer, as Tyler takes over the Narrator. A harsh electronic soundtrack from The Dust Brothers is combined with jarring, selfreflexive editing techniques (including subliminal images), and topped off with the intense onscreen partnership of Norton and Pitt. In view of the fact that our two protagonists are actually one protagonist, the convention of hero vs. villain is entirely negated. On

the heroes & idols edition ~ 65

pen pusher the other hand, it is also intensified beyond all measure. The classic concepts of hero and villain are snatched away from us, but the conflict remains; the Narrator must continue to fight Tyler both physically and metaphysically (Fincher admirably accomplishes the difficult task of filming somebody having a fist fight with themselves, making use of clever cuts and CCTV). The viewer is forced to consider the more profound possibility that ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ have not been snatched away at all, but have all along been one and the same – in the way that the Narrator and Tyler have been one and the same. The Narrator finds the pointless monotony of his everyday existence unbearable, and therefore creates an idealised version of himself in Tyler. Tyler looks, speaks and acts the way the Narrator wishes that he could, paving the way for him to break out of his old life. This is all well and good, in a manner of speaking, until the monster begins to turn on Frankenstein. Psychoanalyst Gustav Jung described internal conflict in this way: “Nothing... is so apt to challenge our self awareness and alertness as being at war with oneself. One can hardly think of any other or more effective means of waking humanity out of the irresponsible and innocent half-sleep of the primitive mentality and bringing it to a state of conscious responsibility.” To read a Nazi analogy or an approbation of mindless and random violence into the ethos of Fight Club is to misunderstand its core meaning. Tyler favours self-destruction over selfimprovement, which he dismisses as mere ‘masturbation’. If we agree with Jung, we agree that to be at war with ourselves is a crucial aspect of a fully formed and functioning psyche. In other words we, the narrators of our own lives, must be both hero and villain. Mr Walker was right when he called Fight Club ‘toxic’. It is. He was right when he called it ‘pornographically amplified’. It is. He was also right when he called it ‘anti’ pretty much everything under the sun. He was wrong when he called it ‘inadmissible’. As Tyler Durden might say, you are not the films you like.

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Pen Pusher with Lois Bennett

Greetings one and all, and welcome to my brand shiny new column! What’s it all about, I hear you say? ‘Tis in fact a hearty blend of the experiences and challenges we all face as creative freelancers, with a hefty dose of motivation and encouragement to help you to actually get stuff done. Working from home might have initially seemed like an ideal situation, but for those of us who are ‘living the dream’, it probably didn’t take very long to realise that without a bit of discipline and drive, it’s all too easy to lose the ‘working’ part! That’s where Pen Pusher comes in handy, with pep and enthusiasm to get you back on track. Think of it as a text-based training session... a workout for your work of art! For those who’ll miss my book reviews (surely there must be someone?), never fear – you’ll still find the odd one or two from time to time in future issues, but for now, Pen Pusher will be pushing you to new heights of achievement and creativity. Now, before you think I’m one of those people who effortlessly writes 3,000 words a day before breakfast, let me assure you – I am not the most organised or productive person you will ever meet. Really. However, I do want to be more productive, organised and focused in my freelancing. Plus, I have more than enough enthusiasm to share with

other creative types who want those things, too. Always adamant that the glass is half full, I’m here to pour that enthusiasm into ideas, tips, resources and motivation to boldly proclaim this: we can do it! Let’s begin with a pretty easy challenge. Try to complete it before the next issue. Challenge: Find a quote or picture motivates you to get on work-from-home creative picture for mine!) Can’t Make one!

that really with your work. (see find one?

Feel free to send your findings and fashionings in (lois@loisbennett. and you might see them in print next time! I hope you’ve enjoyed this introductory column – join me in the next issue for a full-force motivational


eBook round-up

eBook Round-up By Alison Bacon

This month a best-selling Hampstead romance and a glimpse into 16th Century Scotland. Please note that the price of eBooks can vary from day to day.

Thursdays in the Park With Thursdays in the Park, Hilary Boyd has achieved fame and fortune by depicting romance for the over-sixties, and since I’m fast heading that way myself, I decided to take a look. Jeannie is facing her sixtieth birthday but ten years ago her husband George withdrew from sexual relations with no real explanation. Jeannie now gets her kicks from running an up-market deli and looking after her cute grand-daughter Ellie. On a trip to the park she bumps into Ray, of similar age and status in life, dashing and desirable in a new man kind of way, and they are immediately attracted to each other. As a romance this ticks all the boxes. Family commitments keep the lovers apart and Jeannie’s career-minded daughter and her sly husband provide additional plot-fodder. There’s also a bolt from the blue in terms of George’s personal history which ekes out the suspense until the happy ending sails (literally) into view. There is an escapist element (lots of lovely houses and no money worries) which is fine for this genre, and I found the depiction of Jeannie’s love for Ellie realistic and touching. I wasn’t so sure about troubled and troubling George, or Jeannie’s difficulty in talking about the sex issue with either him or her feisty best-mate. And considering neither Jeannie nor Ray are exactly geriatric, I found the bedroom scenes disappointingly bland. Is there really a dearth of romantic fiction that centres on older people? Bearing in mind recent cinema releases, I’m not sure there is. But if we’re talking chick-lit, it’s certainly no bad thing for grannies to get their share. Commercial fiction: Rating 7/10 Kindle edition Quercus, £0.20

Turn of the Tide The reign of Queen Elizabeth is favourite territory for novelists but how much do we know of Scotland at that time? Interested in finding out more, I thought Margaret Skea’s novel Turn of the Tide took a little while to get going. But its appeal crept up on me and by the end I loved it to bits. Following a horrific massacre, the young King James of Scotland asks that two warring factions of Scottish gentry – Cunnighames and Montgomeries – should end their long-running feud. The reader is quickly introduced to leading characters on each side and it’s clear the ensuing truce will be fragile to say the least. The jockeying for position at court is fascinating, and there are great set pieces like the hunt arranged for the king and a frost fair on the Clyde. The author also shares her empathy with the women left at home, particularly Kate Munro, whose husband owes allegiance to the Cunninghame clan but is gradually drawn into friendship with the Montgomeries – with disastrous consequences. The depth of research shines out in the details of costume, cookery, agriculture, childcare and the role of women, bringing the characters and their lives to shimmering life. This is a fascinating and engaging read with great visual effect. Literary historical fiction: Rating 9/10 Kindle edition, Capercaillie Books £4.62  

Ali 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 was published as an eBook in 2012 by Thornberry Publishing. Read all about her at or follow on Twitter @AliBacon.

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astro creativity

Astro Creativity Pisces, Aries and Taurus Morgan Nicholls


ello! I’m very excited to be writing a column for ‘WTD’. I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember and a yoga teacher, healer and training astrologer for several years. In this space I will share with you tips on how to capitalise on your particular Sun Sign’s creative attributes; yogic practices to unleash the creative force within; and the creativity of tarot cards. Note: Astrology works best when your complete birth chart is calculated, which shows not just your Sun Sign but also your moon, ascendant and the position of the other planets. I offer full birth chart readings to gain insight into your personality, strengths and weaknesses and the life paths that will lead you to fulfillment. For more, see

Pisces: Feb 19th – March 20th


isces sun signs are some of the most naturally creative people around. Sharing your sign with musician and former Beatle George Harrison and groundbreaking physicist Albert Einstein, you are often drawn to creativity as an outlet for the intense emotions you experience as the most sensitive, compassionate sun sign of the zodiac. Your intuition is your greatest ally in your creativity, allowing you to sense the hidden shades of meaning and the deeper wells of beauty in a piece of writing or art. You are a sponge for everything around you, and can draw others’ emotions and stories to feed your own creativity. However, there is always the danger of becoming awash in a sea of impressions, not knowing how to sift them from each other. So many creative ideas occur that it is hard to know which ones to anchor in practical action, and you may lose interest once a project has progressed from the creative inspiration stage to mundane maintenance. To help with structure and completion, build some accountability in your life: perhaps take a course with regular deadlines, or, as creative writing guru Natalie Goldberg suggests, make a weekly date

68 ~ what the dickens?

to write/draw/create with a friend at a cafe at a particular time. Even if the friend doesn’t turn up, you will turn up to the page. Taking time to be alone is essential to balance yourself and stay centred, separating yourself out from those around you – whose problems you tend to take on – and hear the still voice inside. Meditation is invaluable to keep your energy clear and to tune into your own intuition, even for just a few minutes a day.

Aries: March 21st – April 19th

Those in your circle – particularly partners – might at times feel a little neglected because of your selfabsorption when you’re in full flow with a particular project, but this is only because of your amazing ability to focus single-mindedly on a task and follow it through with determination. Try to stay aware of both the bigger picture and the details of your life as well – you might need to delegate some of your tasks to others when you are in a particularly visionary phase. Some Aries manifest the ‘sheep’ side of their symbol, the ram, and can be leaders in disguise as followers, but they will never truly be content without letting their pioneering nature find expression, even if in a small way.


ries, as the first sign of the zodiac, is associated with spring and new beginnings. You are ‘the initiator’, carrying the as yet unseen creative potential with many possibilities of manifestation. As an Aries sun sign you will not be lacking in enthusiasm, drive, passion and energy, but the downside is a tendency to impatience. Boredom can stalk you if you stay in comfortable, familiar waters for too long. You can use your impulsive nature to your advantage, by starting and exploring new artistic forms, taking risks with your work and in finding new audiences. Avoid getting into ‘analysis paralysis’ or letting other more cautious people hold you back too much – go with your energy and see where it takes you.

Taurus: April 21st – May 20th


ules by Venus, Taureans often have a great love of beauty which manifests as a slowburning creativity, finding expression in a variety of forms. Your creativity is often earthy, sensual, tactile and speaking to our deepest desires and felt experiences. Creative colleagues and friends need to approach you in just the right way – if there’s any hint that they might be telling you what to do, you can dig your heels in to an astounding degree. Dependable and

astro creativity loyal, you can be a solid anchor for others in a creative project, quite often as the background support who makes it all possible. You can be incredibly dogged and determined, sticking with a project through thick and thin – but sometimes you don’t know when it is a good time to let go. To shift from a stuck position can be a challenge for you. If you find yourself with writer’s block or staring at a blank easel, don’t despair; inside you are indomitable reserves, but sometimes you need to take a step away from the daily routine and grind to access them. Try a regular artist’s date a la Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way – go for a walk in an area you’ve never been before, visit a littleknown art gallery, browse through an antique shop. It could be nothing to do with your art form, but the point is to fill your well of inspiration and let the winds of change blow out any stagnant energy.



he tarot is a powerful way of looking at ourselves and our lives in terms of ancient archetypes that can help us to see where we’re going and how we could improve things. Many of the cards can give us clues to our creative potential and, in a tarot spread, can show us where we can bring new creative approaches to different areas of our lives.

The Empress


he Empress is the queen of creativity. Often physically pregnant in the pictures on tarot cards, she represents fertility in every sense – overflowing, abundant, and flowering with all that is good. When the Empress appears in the tarot reading of an artist or writer it can

indicate the birth of a new ‘creative child’, and can also show that following a creative path will lead to material abundance. The energy of the Empress is of a kindly, supportive mother; a creative mentor can fill this role for the artist or writer. In fact, some argue that it is impossible to be fully creative without this kind of support – which many of us particularly need if we have had an upbringing that did not value an artistic career. The Empress’s form of creativity is an earthly, grounded one, and is about using our instincts to be creative, rather than our busy minds. It is only by going beneath the surface of our thoughts and accessing what Natalie Goldberg calls ‘first thoughts’, or ‘wild mind’, that we can experience the full flow of our creative gifts.

Yogic Breathing for Creative Vitality


tress is the hidden saboteur of our creativity. Often we don’t even get on the starting block because we are too busy running around like headless chickens trying to get everything done – and always thinking two steps ahead. There is no space for our creative spirit to live within this scenario. Taking some time out to breathe consciously and

to strengthen our nervous system, so intricately linked to our stress response, is very effective. Once we master these breathing techniques, we can start to incorporate awareness of breath into our everyday life, becoming mindful within each moment instead of generating more stress by endlessly thinking about our to-do lists.

Put your fingers at this point, and feel your breath going in and out. As you inhale, expand your belly out, and as you exhale, pull your Navel Point up and in towards your spine. Breathe through the nose, relax your shoulders. Start off at whatever speed feels natural – perhaps 40-60 breaths per minute at first. Your inhale and exhale should sound about the same. See for my demo. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop and go back to normal breathing for a few seconds until you feel ready to try again. Yoga is about union, not battle, so go easy on yourself !

Breath of Fire is a powerful breath used in Kundalini Yoga which can clear the mind and relieve stress as well as help to detoxify our emotions and physical body. It uses the Navel Point, which can be found two fingers below your belly button and is the meeting point of thousands of nerve channels affecting our whole being.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour through astrology, tarot and yoga as tools for creativity. In the next issue I will look at Gemini, Cancer and Leo creativity, the Magician Tarot card, and a Kundalini Yoga meditation for a calm heart.

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the creative directory (limited number) available on a first come first coached basis. South East

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.

Book Clubs Online 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.

Book Services

Berforts Information Press We are a specialist book printing and self publishing company. Producing thousands of books in both hard and soft back for both authors, publishers and writers groups.

Chichester Copywriter Writers’ Retreats and interactive Creative Writing Workshops run by published authors and industry professionals in the inspirational location of Chichester Harbour, West Sussex. You will get the chance to take in the stunning coastal and countryside surroundings, enjoy the fresh air and get that pen to paper.

Cobbe Place Creative Writing Cobbe Place plays host to a Creative Weekend with well-known, published writers Araminta Hall and Lizzie Enfield as tutors. As well as offering practical help, advice and inspiration on aspects of novel writing, this weekend will get your ideas flowing, shape your story and help you move forward with confidence. Shy beginners and the more experienced are both welcome. Weekend package includes two nights’ luxury accommodation, delicious meals, group and one-to-one tutoring in front of roaring log fires and optional holistic treatments.

Courses Online

The Lit Garden Online courses in memoir writing, online workshops, editorial services, MS appraisal & proofreading available. One on one literary coaching positions

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The Writers’ Room: Creative Writing in the Heart of Brighton The Writers’ Room offers short, fun writing courses from a cosy log cabin in a secret garden in the heart of Brighton. Meet fellow local scribes, hone your craft & take part in practical

exercises. Much tea & cake imbibed. South West

Creative Writing Matters CreativeWritingMatters offers short courses and author-led workshops in Exeter. Online manuscript appraisal and mentoring available. Annual competition for 250 word flash and from 2013 an unpublished novel competition. Wales

Manorbier Castle Manorbier Castle Writing & Creative Courses for Creative Writers, Amateur Writers and the Novelist Beginner. The writing courses based at Manorbier Castle, Wales are designed to guide writers under the tutelage of a published author. The courses vary according to the genre of writing being taught whether short stories, poetry, essays, food writing or memoir. The courses are led by an author, with workshops in the morning and tutorials in the afternoon. There are study areas in round tower rooms, the old guard room and chapel, while accommodation is in the lodge within the castle walls, which was converted from a 16th century barn in the 19th century. Manorbier is imbued with a powerful spirit of place and has had an enduring influence on writers over the centuries. Virginia Woolf decided to become a writer aged 21 whilst walking along the seashore. Siegfried Sassoon penned his poem ‘A Ruined Castle’ in 1924.

the creative directory Regular Night Out South East

Rattle Tales Rattle Tales holds a regular short story night in Brighton. Encouraging authors to stand up and read their work and answer questions from the audience. Provides football rattles! Publishes an annual collection. Submissions of full short stories between 1000 and 2000 words via the website.

will convert and upload to lots of great places including Apple, Amazon and Kobo meaning we get to concentrate on more writing and promoting the book instead of worrying about file formats! Plus, it hasn’t cost us anything! He then just keeps a small royalty of 15% of the net sales price as and when you make a sale giving you the other 85%. Do go and look at his website now www. and start uploading those books! You have nothing to lose!

Publishers Independent Bookshops

eBook Publishing

SelfSelfSelf You may or may not know that the fabulous Ben who designs What the Dickens? Magazine and makes an online and kindle version, has his own eBook publishing service for writers called SelfSelfSelf. The great thing about it for us writers is that we can just sling our file to Ben for no money at all and he



Creative Enterprises

The Willoughby Book Club The Willoughby Book Club is an online ‘book a month’ gift service. We sell a range of book subscription packages – including gifts for babies, children, adult fiction fans, cookery buffs and gardeners. Simply choose your package, tell us a little about the person you’re buying for and we’ll send them a handpicked book once a month for 3, 6 or 12 months.

books, including an extensive selection of books of local interest. Founded and run by Paul and Inge Sweetman, the shop is on Western Road, in the Brunswick area of Brighton and Hove and has been shortlisted twice for the ‘Independent Bookshop of the Year Award’. City Books organise regular literary evenings, which are usually held at the Old Market next door.

Foxed Books Situated on the Gloucester Road, the shop stocks an eclectic but carefully chosen range of old books, a selection of new books and classic reprints from interesting small publishers, a range of unusual artists’ cards and exciting literary gifts. It also provides a showcase for Slightly Foxed: The Real Readers’ Quarterly.

Cold Moon Press In the light of a winter’s night, you’ll find Cold Moon Press. Read tales of the suspenseful, the magical, the chilling. Curl up under a warm blanket, brew a cup of tea, and save the longest nights of the year for our books.

South East

Skylark We are the only independent seller of books for both adults and children in Lewes. We also stock a wonderful range of fair trade and local jewellery, cards, prints and crafts.

City Books Arranged over two floors, City Books has a large range of carefully selected

Holland Park Press We accept literary fiction in the form of a novel, novella or collection of short stories. We also welcome poetry collections. We accept unsolicited manuscripts throughout the year. SilverWood Books SilverWood Books: helping writers get their work into print. Have you written a book? Are you considering selfpublishing? Work with our friendly, supportive team to produce a high quality book that can be confidently marketed in bookshops and online. We offer a full range of professional publishing services including print on demand and eBook conversion.

the heroes & idols edition ~ 71

the creative directory Overseas

ThornBerry Publishing UK ThornBerry Publishing is a rapidly growing, independent royalty paying eBook publisher bringing innovative and exciting ideas to the world of publishing. We believe good stories deserve to be read and good authors deserve to be given a chance in what is fast becoming a heavy populated, competitive market. Visit our website to learn more.

The Lutterworth Press The Lutterworth Press is one of the oldest independent British publishing houses. We have been trading since the late 18th Century, and have built up a worldwide reputation for publishing books of high quality by authors of distinction. Originally founded as the Religious Tract Society, we started as publishers of religious and children’s literature but over time our list has expanded to encompass everything from fine art and antiques to biography, science and maths. We also publish a number of educational, reference books and eBooks. We aim to present the best of non-fiction so if that’s you aim too, get in touch!

Anam Cara Writer’s & Artist’s Retreat High on a heather-covered hillside awaits Anam Cara,* a tranquil spot set apart to nurture and to provide sanctuary for those who create. Whether you come to work on a writing or artistic project of your own or as part of a workshop or special interest group, you will find support, creature comforts, and peace – all you need to produce your best work.

Retreats Compass Books Opportunities for writers As a writers’ resource imprint, we are particularly interested in how-to submissions from author-tutors in the genres of the MB&S market, children (different age groups), historical fact and fiction, thriller/chiller, sport, gardening, comedy, scriptwriting, food, fantasy and science fiction, with plenty of writing exercises included in the text

James Clarke & Co James Clarke and Co Ltd was founded in 1859 in Fleet Street, London, mainly as a magazine publisher. It produced the highly influential religious magazine, Christian World, which by the outbreak of the First World War was selling over 100,000 copies a week, and was the leading nonconformist weekly. Today we are known worldwide as publishers of academic, scholarly and reference works, specialising in theology, history, literature and related subjects. To survive so long in such a niche sector is a skill and if you’d like to make use of it, get in touch!

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Retreat West Retreat West 1-day writing retreats in Exeter. Join us on the second Sunday of the month to up your word count, eat cake and meet other writers. The short story competition also offers chances for publication.

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.

Arte Umbria Inspirational painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture and creative writing courses

Chez Castillon Creative Courses Chez-Castillon Writing Courses in the beautiful Dordogne. Is there a book in you? 27th April to 3rd May 2013, with novelist & experienced writing tutor Jane Wenham-Jones. For anyone who longs to be published whatever stage of the journey they’re at

the creative directory Theatre Companies

Chapterhouse Theatre Company A professional touring theatre company with many productions each summer including Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet and Sleeping Beauty. Performances are at a variety of glorious venues such as Woburn Abbey, Guildford Cathedral, Nymans and many more!

Writing Groups North East Cleckheaton Writers Group Cleckheaton Writers Group (CWG) meets every two weeks on a Monday evening 6-8pm at Cleckheaton Library. Next meeting 15 October. New members welcome and ‘minutes’ of meetings listed on my blog after the meetings. Come along or check out the CWG posts to see if it’s the Writers Group for you. South East

Rottingdean Writers’ Group We are experienced writers with a range of genres and publications between us. This friendly group runs on cooperative principles, with the ‘chair of the month’ choosing topics for creative writing. We are participating in Brighton Fringe 2013 with two exciting interactive events on 22 and 24 May in Palmeira Square, Hove.

Tunbridge Wells & District Writers’ Circle 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.

South West Storyslingers Storyslingers has grown into one of Dorset’s most happening writers groups. We meet twice a month at Shaftesbury Arts Centre to read and critique our stories, have discussions, mini workshops etc. Past events include; Dorset’s first story slam, a fictional map making competition, prose poetry & music nights, etc. New members welcome. Southampton Writing Buddies Southampton Writing Buddies is a group of writers, both published and not, who meet on the 1st Friday of every month at The Art house Cafe, 2pm. Meetings are informal and involve wide-ranging discussion of writing-related topics, though not reading out work. New members very welcome. pennyleggswritingbuddies.blogspot. 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 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!

Opportunities Write This Moment is a membership website for writers seeking paying writing jobs and opportunities. No matter where you are in the world, we aim to provide a valuable resource for finding writing jobs, markets, commissions, publisher requirements, writing prizes, and other writing related projects. We find the opportunities so you can focus on your writing.

Book a Poet Book a Poet Ltd is a dedicated team of experienced writers and editors, passionate about poetry. At Book a Poet we provide poets with a professional and varied platform to perform their poetry - from school workshops and festivals, to readings and residential teaching. Working closely with our poets allows us to provide a comprehensive resource for organisations and individuals to book a poet or poets.

Scottish Book Trust Scottish Book Trust is the leading agency for the promotion of literature, reading and writing in Scotland, developing innovative projects to encourage adults and children to read, write and be inspired by books.

Writing Magazines Fractured West Fractured West is a new literary magazine for flash fiction, prose poetry, microfiction, sudden fiction, vignettes, and short short stories.

The London Magazine The London Magazine is England’s oldest literary periodical, with a history stretching back to 1732. Today – reinvigorated for a new century – the Magazine’s essence remains unchanged: it is a home for the best writing, and an indispensable feature on the British literary landscape.

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the creative directory issue you’ll find original short stories, a showcase for new poetry, articles, book reviews, market information, news and readers’ views. New Mercury Press With stories from steampunk to sci-fi with a gumshoe detective thrown in just for fun, New Mercury Press is a new online magazine of original short stories and illustrations. The Factory The Factory for new writers is an online magazine dedicated to showcasing new work not just from writers but artists and creative people of all stripes. Visit our submissions page for details! thefactor yfornew writers.blogspot.

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.

Writing Websites

ARDOR Literary Magazine ARDOR is a new, online literary magazine publishing short fiction, nonfiction, poetry and artwork three times annually. We’re proud to be a paying market for writers and are currently reading work submitted through our online submission manager. We consider submissions year-round. 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

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The Story Shack The Story Shack is an online daily flash fiction platform that offers work from collaborating writers and illustrators. Our Call for Submissions is open, and all selected work will be illustrated. Please visit us at:

The BookShed A place to read the latest publishing news and updates on competitions and writing ops. Plus a forum where you can post work for peer review.

Writesofluid Writesofluid offers monthly #wordsaday challenges; prompts for every day of the month to help the creativity flow. Write as little as a sixword story or a logline, or as much as a short script or story. Share your work using the #wordsaday hashtag on twitter and be in the running for prizes if you complete the challenge. A #wordsaday publication could also be a future consideration for the evolution of the challenge. Most of all: Be inspired, get involved, get creative.

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.

Paragraph Planet Flash Fiction website which publishes one 75-word short, short story (or novel extract) every day. A mixture of aspiring writers and established authors. The site also includes interviews with published novelists, a writing group map and blog directory.



March/Apr/May Competitions Cornerstones Cornerstones, the UK’s leading literary consultancy, is coming together with a panel of top UK agents to hunt for an adult and children’s debut writer with the ‘Wow’ factor. Agents will choose two winners from the shortlist to receive a critique from Cornerstones (retail value £400 and upwards) including a brainstorm session with the editor afterwards, potentially leading to agent representation. Entry fee is £10 and is open to writers over 18yrs in the UK and abroad. Manuscripts must be complete, and the author unagented; self-published writers may also enter. The initial submission will be the first five pages and synopsis; a longlist of twenty writers will then submit the next 20 pages, from which a shortlist of six writers will have their full MS read. One adult and one children’s writer will then be selected for the prize. Email for guidelines before applying, with the subject line, WowFactor. Competition entry ends 29th March 2013. Miracle E-zine Miracle E-zine is now launching its first worldwide Poetry Competition and cordially invites all lovers of poetry to participate in this worldwide event of poetry! Closing date: 15th April. Storyslingers Map Making Competition Every story is set somewhere. How are we to write convincing worlds if we do not know our way around them? We challenge writers to draw a map of their fictional world. Email your map to zomzara@ with Map Making Competition as the subject. Closes May 21. Free entry. More info at map-making-competition-ii.html

Submissions Darker Times Fiction We currently run for UK and international writers, all on . You can take this as straight up horror, or you can interpret it in any creative way you wish. Entries for all competitions cost and can be paid via paypal. The winner of each competititon each month will receive a by the entry fees for their particular competition (a minimum of £15 / $24), plus and in an upcoming (available both as an ebook and as a paperback). Runners up and honourable mentions will receive no cash prize but will also be included on the site and in an upcoming publication. Each writer will have the opportunity to provide an to their website/blog; we want to promote new writers as much as we can! Fractured West Fractured West seeks stories of myth, journeys, strange futures and apocalyptic beauty for its 5th print issue. 500 words max, new and emerging writers particularly encouraged.

Courses & Workshops South East Writing Workshops for Mothers An invitation to explore your experience of motherhood through the medium of the written word and discover your writing voice. No writing experience necessary, pre-walking babies welcome,tea & biscuits provided! Thurs 21st Feb, 21st March, 18th April(1:30-4:00 pm) @ MumaBaby Sanctuary, 32 Cliffe High St, Lewes BN7 2AN. Exchange: 20 pounds. m or g an c n i c h o l s . w ordpre s s . c om / writing-workshops-for-mothers Creative Future Creative Writing – Free drop-in classes: 8 & 22 Feb and 8 and 22 Mar: 2-4pm, 79 Buckingham Road, Brighton. Experiment with prose, poetry and scriptwriting in a safe, supportive environment. Drop in group open to all levels of ability. Focuses on different writing exercises and you can join the group at any time.

Who the course is for: For those disadvantaged by disability or other socially excluding circumstance, such as homelessness, long term unemployment, mental health problems etc. Rottingdean Writers’ Creative Writing Workshops We are hosting two creative workshops ‘Writers Allowed’ at Brighton Fringe on 22 and 24 May 2013, tickets £6/5 where the first Sussex Poets’ competition will be launched in partnership with Brighton and Hove Arts Council.

Retreats Anne Allen In conjunction with the management of Herm Island I’m offering Writer’s Retreats on the following dates: 15-22nd March, 6th- 13th May and 12th – 19th October on this beautiful Island Paradise. For more information please check the Writer’s Retreats page on my website: Chichester Copywriter’s Writers’ Retreat II Saturday 6th April – Sunday 7th April, 2013: Cobnor, nr Chichester, West Sussex Do you want to inspire your creative writing this spring? Come along to a writers’ retreat where you can experience creative writing workshops and informative talks with published authors and industry experts as well as plenty of free writing time in an inspirational location.

Events & Talks Pitt Rivers and Natural History Museum Oxford Showcasing all the talented staff ’s art work form the Pitt Rivers Museum and The Natural History Museum. The staff is made up off all types of artists from sculptors, film makers, textile crafts, photographers, painters, poets… the list goes on. The staff works or worked in the museum in the years 2010, 2011 and 2013.

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stockists, submissions & credits

Stockists/Subscription What the Dickens? Magazine is currently available in print from:

The Needlemakers West Street Lewes BN7 2NZ

23, Western Road Hove BN3 1AF

Credits Editor: Victoria Bantock The Old Curiosity Shop: Sandy East Published by V. Bantock, Lewes, UK ‘Heroes’ background, ‘Art wallpaper’ background, ‘Art frame’, ‘Wall of Wisdom’ background, ‘Wall of Wisdom nameplate’ and ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ background Copyright © Shutterstock 2012 Book and film covers are copyright of their respective owners and are reproduced under Fair Use terms.

Extra contributions: Gail Aldwin, Caroline Auckland, Ali Bacon, Lois Bennett, Michelle Goode, Richard Hearn, Paul Hirons, Susi Holliday, Rebecca Jones, Katy Lassetter, Harriet Matthews, Morgan Nicholls, Rachel Quinn, Sarah Quinney, David Rowland, Michael Rowland, Matt Sever, Donna Staveley, Freddie Stevenson, Bridget Whelan & Sally-Shakti Willow Magazine & Web Design: Ben Ottridge Advertising contact: General contact: The Old Curiosity Shop:

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help! the dog ate my manuscript!

A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men. Plato

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What the Dickens? Magazine Issue 8 - The Heroes & Idols Edition  

In this issue: Publishing an eBook: Where do I start?; Social Media Review: LinkedIn; Write Drunk, Edit Sober: Defeating Writer’s Block; The...

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