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Myths of the Near Future The NAWE Young Writers Hub

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The NAWE Young Writers’ Hub Myths of the Near Future Series One, No. 1 © Myths of the Near Future 2012 and contributors

Published and distributed in association with DEAD INK Publications and the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) Editor: Hannah Pollard

Patrons: Alan Bennett, Gillian Clarke, Andrew Motion, Beverley Naidoo

Submissions should be sent as an email, with a jpg portrait and brief bio of your writing life to myths.youngwritershub@gmail.com

Only very exceptionally will be consider work that has already been published elsewhere. Translators themselves are responsible for obtaining any necessary permissions. Contributors should be aware that works published by Myths may also appear on our website and may be made accessible to subscribers online. NAWE is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales No. 4130442

Membership As the Subject Association for Creative Writing, NAWE aims to represent and support writers and all those involved in the development of creative writing both in formal education and community contexts. Our membership includes not only writers but also teachers, arts advisers, students, literature workers and librarians. NAWE, PO Box 1, Sheriff Hutton, York YO60 7YU Telephone: 01653 618429 Website: http://www.nawe.co.uk

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Contents

7 8 9 10 12 13 14 15 19 20 21 22 27 28 31 33 41 42 46

Editorial: Hannah Pollard Hattie Grunewals Clara Valentine A.L. Michael Jess Angel Owen Harry Adam Durrance Louis McDermott Rachel Woodbridge Ben Briggs Anthony Sproson Max Brown Oliver Nejad Interview: Helen Mort Abigail Andrews Sophie Taylor Samatar Elmi Contributor Bios Get Involved & Podcast

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Introducing the inaugural issue of Myths of the Near Future. We are a fanfare to the imminent, the almost, the unheard-of. We believe in young writers, and we believe in writing that is still young. To the future!

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Editorial Hannah Pollard

Myths of the Near Future, for so long an almost mythical beast itself, is here at last, andit is my absolute pleasure to be its Editor. In this, our very first issue, we have delicate poetry from Hattie Grunewald, Samatar Elmi, and Rachel Woodbridge; moving short stories from Sophie Taylor and Louis McDermott; and intense prose pieces from Clara Valentine and Abigail Andrews. The writer Helen Mort answers our questions on poetry, sincerity and neuroscience. A. L. Michael has practical words of advice for modern writers, while Anthony Sproson offers a neat trick for those just picking up a pen. Adam Durrance and Max Brown explore fame; Jess Angell questions our consciences; Owen Harry tells us to be afraid of the dark; and Ben Briggs and Oliver Nejad provide moments of poetic reflection. We hope you’ll agree it’s a beautiful collection.

I would like to congratulate and thank all the writers who so generously sent their work in, and made our job of selecting pieces such a delightfully tricky one. In the end, we set a course for variety, for quality, and for je ne sais quoi – I hope everyone will find something to give them a moment’s pause. I know that Myths is going to thrive because the breadth of talent we have seen already is astonishing, and I know there’s so much more out there that deserves to be read.

To the future!

Thinking of submitting to Myths? We accept work of any genre and length from writers aged between 16 and 25 (or thereabouts), and there’s no deadline. Have a peek at our facebook page for the full submission guidelines. Myths of the Near Future is brough to you by the Young Writers’ Hub, part of the National Association of Writers in Education. Find out more here.

myths.youngwritershub@gmail.com www.facebook.com/mythsmagazine www.twitter.com/@mythsmagazine

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Hattie Grunewald Little Sister

Brother, today I pressed my spine against where your growth marked notches on the wall. I could see paper gulls in our garden, chained to the notions of their species; because they cannot think, bird-brained.

My skin is rebelling against me, it has stretched away from these ballerina bones; it swells and sobs red tears. I can scream all I like, it won’t listen. I wake with a mouth full of pillow.

Next summer I will go to China and teach children to sing the weather. If you tell them to speak out because their voices will be heard, you will be deported for your lies.

I splay my hand against the window and leave a ghost there. Brother, you are so tied up in spidersilk and shoe laces, I don’t think you have noticed how big your little sister has become.

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Clara Valentine Satisfied

He’d asked me to wake him when it got to midday. Gently shake him, whisper softly that it was time to move, go inside, away from the sun’s piercing gaze. His skin the colour of porcelain, his chest sprinkled with freckles. I watched his fat belly rise and fall as he breathed. We had been reading in silence, the only sounds made by the pages turning. But now he lay still and I watched him. The sky was cloudless, empty of any character, with only the vile yellow torch penetrating my eyes. However, my skin was tanning smoothly. I watched his lips trembling and heard the distant rumbling begin. I shuddered with contempt, clawing at the baking skin on my legs. We were alone on this stretch of the beach, hidden by the giant black rock which shadowed the back of our heads. The rumbling had moved from the depths of his belly and up towards his chest. I could almost see it travelling, wide eyed, manic and ready to torment. It was usually dark when this occurred, both lying under thick sheets, curtains drawn shut. For once I could see his face contorting as his mouth slowly opened, revealing a void which erupted into waves of snorting, gurgling sounds. I took one last look at him as I collected my towel and book off the sand. And there I left him, the monster, to get a taste of his own medicine. The next few nights would be peaceful, for me anyway, as he tossed and turned on what would feel like hot coals. His skin was already peeling.

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A. L. Michael Mixing Business and Pleasure: A Writer’s Duty?

When I decided to do a Masters degree in Creative Entrepreneurship instead of Creative Writing, I knew I’d face questions. A lot of them. Did I think I was too good to keep honing my craft? Did I suddenly think I was a ‘real writer’ instead of a mere novice? And what on earth is Creative Entrepreneurship, anyway?

These were the most common. And at the beginning I didn’t just feel like a novice, I felt like a fraud. Having done three years of an English Literature with Creative Writing degree, and your mum thinking you’re ‘quite good’ doesn’t really define you as a professional writer.

That’s where the entrepreneurship part comes in. It’s a course for writers, visual artists, musicians, actors, anyone trying to make it as a freelance artist. It’s not about selling out, but about using your greatest talent - your art- to get what you want. Preferably a five-book deal, a hefty advance and a flat in Kensington. But we live in the real world. So we’re aiming for survival.

Writers (and other artists) often get so bogged down in their craft, their message and context and themes, that they forget to be aware of the business side. Don’t make that face, writing is a business. It’s not just about the beauty of prose, or the perfection of a line of poetry. What’s the point of crafting an excellent piece of work if no-one’s going to see it?

So as well as being a writer, editor and critic, we also need to be an advertising exec, PR wizard, accountant, social media expert, bookings agent, secretary and business manager. I hate to be the one to say it, but writing is not merely an art. It is a business. You have skills, and they should be earning you some money.

We make our own jobs now, instead of fitting into roles that already exist. With the recession and the Arts Council cuts, being dependent on funding is no longer an option, we have to examine what transferable skills writers have, and find an application for them.

Obviously, most of you are already doing this, by working in education. You’ve already realised that money doesn’t always have to come from the words on a page. But you probably never considered yourself a creative entrepreneur before, did you? Entrepreneurs are rich business people in suits who own yachts, and sit on panels judging other hopeful people in suits. Except that a creative entrepreneur is anyone who is surviving, making the art they 10


believe in. Whether you’re living day to day, waiting for the next freelance article, or school workshop, if you are surviving as a writer today, you are a creative entrepreneur.

So when people ask me if I’m a writer, and I rattle off my less than dazzling credentials, at least I can tell them I’m a creative entrepreneur. And if that doesn’t impress them, it at least confuses them enough to shut them up.

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Jess Angell We forget

We forget because it’s easier, or because we don’t care. Yet those who recall the pain will soon be gone, Ending a life of suffering, anger, sorrow and hope. What will we do when their voices end? Who will remember their stories? Numbers without a name, figures without meaning. Try to feel or understand the people behind the facts.

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Owen Harry Night-time

When we were children the night brought an end To all worldly happenings, though we’d often pretend That underneath the streetlights were witches and trolls And ghosts that would chase us and rip out our souls.

We feared for our lives in the silence of our beds And hid from the monsters who lived in our heads But come morning we knew of our own silliness: Imagination had coloured the harsh, dark recess.

Little did we know that the monsters were real, And as we grew older the night would reveal All of those things of which we were afraid Would rip out our souls on our dusk escapades.

The sin that we saw and the sin committed Would ransack our lives in a takeover bid When we were children, we never really knew That so much could happen by the light of the moon.

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Adam Durrance carneys

away, but not too far, from Hollywood blvd. breakfast/lunch/dinner in a stranded train. left roadside END OF THE LINE. headed west seeking new opportunities. the bright lights of the floor bounded stars glimmerings. shining out of the pacific coasts chest(s somewhere along venice beach). led astray, waiting on tables and the big break probably the best chilli dog in the world. (at least in L.A.) someone give him a shot.

outside, but not too far. hot air rises. buoyant on the dreams that surround us all. rising higher and higher. carefully tracked by two big HollywOOd eyes. they see all. only with no lips to seal. your secrets safe with Hollywood. where actors and actresses line every street/bar/restaurant/bed/head. here, there. everywhere.

morning cappuccino for the man in white. seated pavement-side. best view in town for those in rush-hour traffic. morning profanities for us all to hear. DON’T YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM 9am phone calls. and the first tourist-bus of the day. he takes a stand. and begins his monologue:

HEY. HEY ALL YOU. TAKE MY PICTURE. IM A DIRECTOR. ISNT THIS A BEAUTIFUL LOS ANGELES MORNING. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR YOU ALL. HAVE YOU BEEN DOWN HOLLYWOOD YET. IVE GOT A BIG MEETING TODAY ABOUT A FILM. I MAKE MOVIES. YOU LIKE MOVIES DON’T YOU. HAVE A NICE DAY EVERYBODY.

failing asian translation, keep up the LA pace. this is america please speak english. he takes a bow. gathers his papers. and heads off into the sun. film star ending. spread the word. the good word. a director a preacher a savior. the savior. our savior. may god bless your soul.

looking for the moon in a moon-colored sky the smell of smoke

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Louis McDermott Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests

Hugh locked the front door and turned the collar of his coat up to the rain. He was relieved to feel cold metal in his pocket; it meant he had something to put in the collection plate. He took it out to count. Only eighty pence. He was well dressed, at least, so people probably wouldn’t even look. And if he dropped it in with a bit of force, it would sound like it was more anyway.

He didn’t usually go to Saturday evening mass, but the Old Firm kicked off at midday on Sunday and he’d be at the social.

Hugh checked his back pocket for his wallet, and made sure he had his bus pass. The new family that had moved in two doors down had a neon Father Christmas climbing the chimney of their house, and a sign by the door that said Santa Please Stop Here.

At Christmas, Hugh usually wrapped the flower trellis at the front of his house with coloured lights, but he hadn’t got round to it yet this year. It was all he really did for decorations since Máire died. He didn’t bother doing up the inside, but having the lights meant he wouldn’t stand out.

He breathed out through his mouth as he walked down the street to the main road, trying to make rings from the breath he could see.

The number Sixteen was busy, which he’d expected being a Saturday. He took a seat by a woman who was rubbing a scratch card. She had four more on her lap, and Hugh watched her do them all. Each time she got two in a row. Never a third. She swore quietly at her final defeat and threw them into her open handbag, before pulling out a purse and inspecting the damage. The voices on the bus were excited and loud enough to mostly drown each other out. A cheap beat was coming from somewhere behind him, and an empty can rattled on the floor every time the bus turned a corner. He wondered if he should have taken the car, but at least this way he could pop in for a couple somewhere on the way home.

It was still raining when he got off at Malvern Street, but not heavily. Hugh didn’t mind that there was no hood on his coat; when he got to St Bernadette’s, his wet hair would look like he’d gone to some trouble to get there.

The church was on the other side of the town centre, and cars slushed by as he made his way down the high street. There weren’t many people outside, but the voices and music coming in waves from his left told him nowhere was empty. Three young women were coming towards him, sharing an umbrella and almost running. Two were 15


wearing short black dresses; the other one was in jeans. He looked at them as they passed but they didn’t look at him back.

‘You should have just put a towel down first, that’s what me and Jacob always do.’

They were behind him before he could hear what came next, but the laughter at whatever it was filled the moment.

He turned into a cobbled alleyway, and the wet ground stopped shining orange. The dark passage was thin, and the walls on either side were covered in graffiti. It was slippery and he had to be careful. He was sure to feel a stone push in to the arch of his foot with each step, and he thought it was strange that the Council hadn’t taken the cobbles out by now.

Hugh came out onto a new street and the orange returned. He checked his watch. Quarter past seven. He was making good time.

There were five or so young men up ahead, all wearing button up shirts. Two with ties. They had stopped to wait for one of their group, who was using the cash machine and wearing a navy blue sweater. Three of them had their arms around each other and were shouting the lyrics to Fairytale of New York, while another was pointing his mobile phone at them and laughing. On the opposite side of the road a hooded homeless man was sitting under a dark blanket and leaning against a window, partially covered from the rain by the sign above a shop entrance.

Hugh slowed down as he got closer to the group. The boy returned to his friends from the cash machine. ‘Eh, you best not have got too much money out, Al,’ said one.

‘Why’s that?’

‘’Cause if you’ve failed last semester you’ll either be signing on or sharing a crusty blanket with this cunt.’ He pointed at the homeless man across the road. They all laughed.

‘Get to fuck. I could withdraw more than you can count, mate. Watch. I’m Father fucking Christmas.’

The boy in the sweater took one of the new ten pound notes out of his back pocket, waved it to the group and crossed the road towards the homeless man. 16


‘What the fuck is he doing? Are you filming this Tobe?’

Hugh came to a complete stop. He was only yards away from the group now, but was unable not to witness such a bewildering act of generosity. There was no face through the darkness of the homeless man’s hood. And he didn’t appear to move as the boy in blue approached him. Reaching the pavement, the boy turned around to his friends.

‘We wish you a merry christmas,’ he began to chant, holding the ten pound note above his head. ‘We wish you a merry christmas.’ The rest of the group joined in with him. ‘We wish you a merry christmas...’

The boy in the blue sweater stopped singing, and as his friends finished the verse, turned his back on them. Standing over the man he flicked a cigarette lighter, and put the money in to the flame. When about half of it was gone, the boy shook it out, crumpled it and threw it on the floor in front of the man.

The homeless man didn’t react. And there were a few seconds of silence. Then laughter. ‘Oh my god, man. You fucking legend.’

The boy turned and grinned at the group. All of them laughing. He made his way back towards them, brushing ash off cashmere. ‘Stick it in your stocking, mate, we’ll call it a fiver,’ he called back to the man. More laughter. Hysterical.

‘You fucking monster.’ One of his friends managed through a choke.

‘Dirty bastard would only roll it up anyway.’ ***

Hugh and the homeless man were the only ones on the street.

The man was probably looking at him, but he couldn’t tell, and Hugh was glad he couldn’t see his face through the hood. 17


Hugh took his hands out of his pockets. The fingers of his right hand were sweaty and marked from squeezing the coins. The metal felt hot on his palm in the cold air. It was still raining, but not heavily. He checked his watch. Still okay for time. He put the money back into his pocket and turned up the collar of his coat.

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Rachel Woodbridge The Lady Icarus

It is dangerous to leave the ground, To leap from folly to icy grips, And catch one’s limbs upon the shards, Of broken wings and broken things.

To soar is perilous and fearful plight, A doomsday flutter amongst deep skies, It rips the heart through bone-dense cavity, Tears the soul to jagged marks.

From arctic crisp to stunned red furnace, Those waxen wings slice up and through, And battered by the shattered wind, Climb rippling into skyward haze,

The beating of the feathered frenzy, Pounds deep in pulsing waves, The struggle grips as knowing death, Holds minds oblivious abyss.

And though the molten wax may sting, The blistered skin may creak and crease, Jump through the burning mask of pain, And keep the torch within sharp gaze. For when the heartbreak fall does come, And when the wings do wither and fail, Hold in mind that fingered touch, Of sun and sky and hope.

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Ben Briggs Mary J

She tears the bud from its stalk. Plump, sanctified, as if the herbs parting breath held ideas from Aristotle’s bin.

The gob she musters is just enough, cementing the well-worn path of the rizla paper. Its clockwork twist to a pole, is her whole life, cast taut around the stupor.

She ponders the complexities of that bit you can’t quite see, one branch offering the visions, another taking the strings that held her up.

The promise, the chimera, kept her oxygen flying like dopamine. Action, reward, with each cloud swallowed, until her candle burns out, to the smoke of her empty room.

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Anthony Sproson Kissing the frog: A simple route to creativity

The problem with imagination is that sometimes it can hamper a writer’s true ability or talent, simply because when given free reign, imagination is limitless. The hard part is turning that into something readable, something relatable. But by introducing a realm to work in, suddenly you can fit your imagination into a box and then work within those confines, but the box has to be sturdy – because it doesn’t take long for imagination to burst at its seams.

So what makes a sturdy box? A good place to start is simplicity. Simplicity gives the writer a fighting chance of actually completing a piece of writing, instead of creating a vast web of plots and sub plots that invariably snares them and leaves them confused or with too many outlets to write about. But this doesn’t mean that the story has to remain simplistic for very long - the most important thing is to get an idea of where the piece is going and why. When you have understood that, you can build on that and increase detail – but the core idea always has to be simple, because this gives you the space to be creative.

A good example of simplicity is fairy tales. Naturally, because of its intended audience, the plots aren’t all that complex. This makes the genre the perfect site upon which to build – an ideal place to explore your understanding of narrative structure.

We all grew up with them and we all know the core fairy tales that are a part of our society, such as Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and so on. They are a fantastic way to begin creative writing because they are generally short and have a three stage structure: a beginning, middle and an end. A simple and interesting way to begin on the creative writing journey is to simply rewrite a fairy tale that you like. Rewrite it in modern language and nothing else; it won’t take long as fairy tales rarely come close to one thousand words. Then go back over it, you might notice the main characters don’t really have any depth, and that the sub characters are nothing more than cliché’s (such as the Prince being implausibly flawless.). Try making the Prince into Henry VIII, turn the Princess into a gold-digger. It is little changes and expansion of details that unlock creativity and open up whole new ideas to explore, and that is why rewriting a simple piece of literature is good for someone new to creative writing, or struggling to write creatively. By doing so, you begin to understand how to develop characters, plot and the story itself.

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Max Brown The Emperor

On the 14th February 2011 I left London, the city I had for ten years called home. Although in actual fact I never called it home, or even thought of it as home. Nor did I ever feel any connection to it or fondness for it. Nevertheless I was most certainly there for ten years and on that day in February I most certainly left.

I first arrived at the age of twenty-two, full of hopes and dreams and delusions of grandeur. If that sounds pathetically clichéd it’s because it was. I aspired to be a great and famous actor and to my mind London was the place where such things could be achieved. You may wonder why someone as naively optimistic as my young self didn’t commit fully to the fantasy and fly straight to Los Angeles. The thought did indeed cross my mind, but I dismissed it fairly quickly. Literally and figuratively America was the other side of the world and London, as well as not being somewhere else to such an intimidating degree, seemed ludicrously alluring in its own right.

Whenever I imagined it, and I imagined it frequently, I pictured artists and politicians and poets against a backdrop of glass buildings and attractive faces, climbing all over each other in a sprawling sophisticated mass. And people in vintage sunglasses and suits drinking champagne and laughing in an art galleries lit like nightclubs. This is how my life would be once I made the move and became the most celebrated actor the industry would ever know. Needless to say it was not quite as I expected it. Still, it took a while for the novelty to wear off. After the excitement of stepping off the train for the first time, I continued to find the city stupendously glamorous for several months. It may seem odd that it took such a long time for my giddy enthusiasm to wane, but then you must bear in mind that prior to arriving I had spent the majority of my life in Aberdeen. Not that I’m not fond of Aberdeen you understand, if I didn’t fully appreciate it then I certainly do now, but it’s hardly the thriving cultural hub that I longed to exist within when growing up. And no matter how many times one describes it as ‘The Silver City’ there is no escaping the fact that it is dully uniformly grey. But I digress. London’s charms began to wear thin when lack of money forced me to relocate from my hostel near Piccadilly Circus to a musty flat in Tooting Broadway, after which they abated entirely. Swiftly it changed from being the place I had always wanted to be to being just another place that I was. I didn’t hate it or anything so drastic; in the entire time I was there I don’t think I ever felt hatred towards the city, rather I felt almost completely indifferent to it.

Perhaps predictably given that I came from a far smaller town I also found it to be impersonal, a blank-faced community that didn’t seem to want to commune. It’s true that the palpable unfriendliness was balanced by a vibrant cosmopolitanism the like 22


of which I had never properly experienced before, but this became an increasingly unimpressive trade-off.

At least it was a change from the norm, or it was until it became the norm. I ended up where I did after following the advice of an American who worked in my hostel. She worked in exchange for accommodation, I think she might have been backpacking around Europe, but she’d been in London a while and knew people who lived in Tooting. ‘The food’s great and rent’s cheaper south of the river what with its being kind of scummy and all,’ she told me one afternoon. I moved there the next week. The flat was okay; old carpet, old bed, old wallpaper, but okay. I got a job in a coffee shop next to the tube station and went about trying to kick start my actual career, quickly discovering that a drama degree that wasn’t from a very specific handful of schoolswas of little use. Even so, things didn’t go as badly as they were statistically likely to go, thanks mainly to a man named John Hough, who had been a young and enthusiastic teacher when he taught me drama in my teens and was now an older, slightly less enthusiastic teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama north of the river. He introduced me to some people who arranged auditions for me, mainly for productions that were staged in the sorts of theatres that occupy the spaces above and below pubs, and several of these auditions were successful. Because I am good, you know; I may have been overly ambitious in planning the domination of the acting world but I wasn’t completely delusional.

Considering the vast amount of would-be actors in vast London, I took it to be a good sign that I had appeared in four plays within a year and a half of arriving. Obviously these weren’t particularly great, staged in the kind of underwhelming venues already mentioned and poorly attended in any case, but it was a foundation upon which I could build and build I did. Work was consistent, reviews that ranged from kind to approving appeared, and after a short while people from organisations I’d actually heard of wanted to meet me.

‘It’s not what you know but who you know,’ someone in a suit said to me over coffee during that fruitful early period. If the meeting hadn’t been important I would have rolled my eyes.

‘Apparently so,’ I replied.

I won’t bore you with the details of the next eight years. If you’re really interested the work still exists, the big roles on television and the small roles in films recorded somewhere in some form or another. A scrapbook of the better theatre reviews is all I’ve kept to remind myself of that happy, ignorant decade. I imagine that most people would claim that my smooth rise to semi-fame was a matter of luck. I prefer to think that it was because of my ability, but I’ll settle for its being a combination of the two. 23


That being said, I freely admit that my being at the BAFTAs in 2011 was a complete fluke. I had put in a good performance certainly, but in any other year it would have been forgotten amongst the many good performances that are overshadowed by the truly great ones. It just so happened that there was a dearth of these by the time the 2011 awards rolled around and so by chance my name ended up in the final five. I’m not sure that I was fully aware of this when the nominations appeared in January; despite a number of unsuccessful attempts at a really significant breakthrough I had had enough work over the preceding ten years to still be fairly convinced of my own brilliance and I naturally assumed that my prospects of winning were good. I was mistaken of course, excessively so.

My memory of the evening is somewhat selective. I was sat at a table with my agent and a lady friend (by which, I mean merely a friend who is a lady, more’s the pity) and a few others who’d worked on the film, wearing a suit that I’d rented from somewhere or other and feeling nervous and drunk. Given the intensity and tedious length of the ceremony I had managed to achieve a heightened version of the kind of subtle drunkenness one usually slips into at a dinner party, when food and chewing the fat has distracted you from the amount of booze you’ve been consistently consuming. I was following the course of events but they had become muted by a surreal haziness. I was in a kind of limbo between bored and excited; the glamour of walking the red carpet hours before was largely forgotten, but my category had not yet been arrived at so I was unable to relax completely. I certainly couldn’t participate in proper conversation, so instead I stared towards the stage and adjusted my collar, cufflinks and whatever else could be found to fiddle with.

I’m not good at building tension, not with words anyway, nor do I wish to wring as much drama as possible out of one of the most decisive points of my life. The proverbial moment of truth eventually arrived; Deborah Whatever or Sandra Something-orOther appeared on stage, read out the nominations for best actor in a leading role and then announced the winner. And I hadn’t won. This though, was not the problem, not precisely anyway. I’m sure many of you remember what happened when John SmithJones went up to accept the award for his role in The Emperor, smiling his famous smile. ‘I’d like to thank everyone for this award,’ John Smith-Jones said, looking out sincerely at the cornucopia of faces and clapping hands. ‘But, I should point out that I wasn’t actually in the film The Emperor.’

He paused to adjust his tie and allow quiet bemusement to ripple across the room. Smiling again, he continued. ‘You see, The Emperor isn’t a real film.’

There was a silence, an impressive one considering the amount of people there assembled. This gave way into what can literally be described as a murmur of confusion, as if everyone in attendance had begun to hum softly, which grew louder 24


until it dissolved after a good twenty seconds into rapturous applause. Because he was right: there was no film called The Emperor.

How I felt at that moment can’t really be described. I daresay that was the case for everybody in the room, as well as those watching at home and all those who had it brought to their attention in the days that followed. What I realised, what we were all realising, was that for a year (or longer? It was difficult to tell) John Smith-Jones had been playing a part, the part of a person who starred in a film called The Emperor. But everyone had seen that film. It was a hit...

It had been showing in every cinema in the country for months, had received rave reviews throughout the media, and posters for it had been plastered all over the place, on billboards, in train stations, on the sides of buses. It was directed by that man, it had also starred that woman... Though, now it came down to it I was struggling to remember their names... And now I properly thought about it, I realised I had never actually gotten around to seeing it. Did I know anybody else who had? I had definitely heard lots of people talking about it...

Now I was having difficulty picturing that poster that had been everywhere for so long. All the reviews had been full of praise, but had any of them actually mentioned any plot details? Or indeed any details at all?

No. There were no details. And the really gruelling part of it was how utterly obvious it now seemed. Of course it wasn’t a real film...

John Smith-Jones left the stage. I left the next day.

I suppose that seems childish, and perhaps it was. I think that if someone could have told me in advance how the evening would play out, I couldn’t have understood the impact it was to have upon me. In the past year or so, during one of the frequent moments when I wonder if I made the right decision, I have attempted to console myself with the thought that even Nicholson, Hoffman, Olivier and Brando wouldn’t have stood a chance, but it hasn’t helped to soften my resolve. And I know that, by my own admission, I stood very little chance of winning even under normal circumstances. Somehow that isn’t the point. Without meaning to be deliberately nebulous, something changed for me that evening. Whether it was my perception of the ‘industry’ and how I stood in relation to it or my sense of self-confidence or something else entirely I’m not sure, but I felt almost immediately that it was not going to be the same, couldn’t be the same, and I wasn’t going to be able to make do.

***

Standing in Kings Cross station the day after the ceremony, ready to leave London for 25


good, I was approached by a man with short, tightly curled brown hair and a battered leather guitar case. ‘Hi,’ he said, in an American accent.

‘Hello,’ I replied. ‘How are you?’

‘I’m... well, I’m okay.’

‘Good.’ He glanced down the length of the platform, then up at the ceiling and then back at me.

‘How are you?’ I asked after he’d stood, silently staring at me, for what felt like a while.

He smiled. ‘You know, ten years ago I had a dream about this exact moment.’ He paused for a second and looked around again. ‘I was in this station, on this platform, and you were standing right there.’ I frowned. ‘I’m sorry, what?’

‘Yeah, you were standing there and I knew, just knew that I should say ‘hi’ and ask you how you were. So I did. Then you said you were okay and you waited, then you asked me how I was. And right when you said that I knew, and again somehow I just knew, that I was supposed to say something very specific back to you, and when I did it would change everything.’

He paused again, scratching his beard and looking at me intently. ‘But you know what?’ he said. ‘What?’ I said.

‘I’m not going to say it.’

He walked away. I watched him go, and then stepped onto my train.

26


Oliver Nejad Pick a Spirit The night strays Into a dream,

A retreat: A wall, On which I lean When under throws Of volleyed wants and drowned woe, To stolen escapes, Beneath the wet. To smoke, To dwell. To taste regret.

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Interview Helen Mort

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985. Her collection 'Division Street' is forthcoming from Chatto & Windus. She has published two pamphlets with tall-lighthouse press, 'the shape of every box' and 'a pint for the ghost', a Poetry Book Society Choice for Spring 2010. Five-times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, she received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. In 2010, she became the youngest ever poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere and is judging the 2012 Foyle Young Poets Award with Christopher Reid. You are judging the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition in 2012. What do you look for in a poem?

Great poems come in all shapes and sizes, but the poems I like tend to be the ones that creep up and moveyour chair when you aren’t looking, or seduce you then do a runner with your wallet. Poems that surprise the reader and have obviously surprised the writer too. I also value sincerity in poems. That doesn’t mean they have to be true, because often the ‘truth’ of an experience or feeling is best captured by a kind of pretence. But they should come from the heart. As Ted Hughes said, it’s important as a writer to distinguish between things you’re merely curious about and things which are a deep part of your life.

When – and why – did you start writing poetry?

Apparently I dictated a poem about trains to my mum when I was a kid, so I started experimenting with words at quite a young age! Or else I was just a really annoying, gobby child. I took it more seriously after I was lucky enough to win the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition aged 11. That was the first time I thought anyone might be interested in the things I wrote so, it’s a real privilege to now be judging the same competition that started me off. Why is started is more difficult to pinpoint, I suppose. As a child I was really shy on one hand but, secretly, I was a bit of a show off on the other. I think there’s something about writing that offers an outlet for that ‘showing off’ whilst allowing you to remain quite introverted at the same time. Like many writers, I think I’m pretty bad at expressing myself a lot of the time when I’m talking to other people, so it’s only in my writing I manage to say what I really mean.

What is your writing process like – do you have any habits or tricks? Do you write poetry and plays differently? 28


I write my best poems almost entirely in my head – taking a line out for a walk (or sometimes a run) and seeing where that leads me. The lines I can remember when I get home are usually the best because they’re more memorable, dictated by rhythm and sound. I only pick up a pen when the poem feels quite fully formed already. When I’ve dabbled in writing drama, the process has been quite different. I get an idea for an overall plot first and then I let the characters ‘talk’ to me, I listen to those voices for a few days before I sit down and start writing. This can be quite distracting – I wrote a short play about a pair of quarrelling climbers and had to put up with ‘hearing’ their slanging matches for days. I’d be sitting in the pub or walking in the park and one of them would just start yelling at the other…

A lot of our readers might be looking for new writers to explore – whose writing has inspired you? Who (or what) do you most like to read?

The poet I’ve got the most joy from in recent years is Norman MacCaig, because he’s so clear-sighted and he manages to fully inhabit the scenes he writes about (particularly animals and the natural world). I’ve taken his Selected Poems on many trips to different places and he always makes the landscape outside the window seem more interesting. He’s also very sceptical about the notion of ‘ownership’ when it comes to landscape and I find that outlook inspiring in itself. Apart from that, I’m constantly inspired by the work of my friends, people whose writing I’ve been lucky enough to see in development – a kind of sneak-preview!

Your work on poetry and neuroscience sounds fascinating, can you tell us more about that? Does it influence the way you write or read poetry?

I’m studying for a PhD at Sheffield University on the links between poetry and neuroscience. In particular, I’m interested in whether poetry has anything interesting to say to neuroscience as well as vice versa. Poets and neuroscientists are often (indirectly) grappling with the same philosophical issues, I think, and poetry’s way of looking at these ideas is no less valid than science’s. So, whilst I’m interested in poetry and the brain, my interest is quite an abstract one – I don’t think wiring poets up to brain scanners and asking them to write a sonnet would tell us anything useful about the human condition. There are lots of interesting parallels between the two disciplines, so sometimes ideas I come across in the work of scientists prompt me to look at old favourite poems in a new way. Your poem sequence ‘a pint for the ghost’ was developed into a theatrical show and performed at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe, and you have performed your work at Latitude Festival, among others. Do you find your poetry is different in performance? Do you ever write with performance in mind? 29


I think performing is a very different skill from writing, and I’m by no means a master o fit! Going to the Edinburgh Fringe was great fun and taught me a lot about my inexperience as a performer. I think poets who write primarily for the page can learn a huge amount from poets who specialise in spoken word: I know I have. There’s certainly a difference between what works well on the page and what works well off it, though I do find the best poems usually still have an impact whether they’re read on the page or aloud. I’ve written occasional commissions with performance in mind and I pay much more attention to making things clear and immediate – the audience hasn’t got as much time to puzzle them out. Sometimes, that means when you’re performing it’s tempting to go for laughs all the time, but I’m interested in performative work that doesn’t rely on humour for its effect. Perhaps that’s just because I’m not very funny!

Do you have any advice for the aspiring writers reading our magazine?

Focus on your writing, not the notion of being a writer. Be open to feedback from others (writing’s a form of communication after all) but be honest with yourself first and trust your own instincts. Only listen to people who have your best interests at heart. As Bukowski said, “stay away from the cocktail parties.” But above all, have fun with your writing – words are exciting, after all, and writing is a great and unusual kind of freedom.

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Abigail Andrews Tsunami Dreams

We are speaking with quiet voices because on the London Underground conversation is only allowed in this way. Even though the screaming carriage will override every other sentence. I am telling Jacob about the Tsunami dream in starts and pauses. ‘I’ll find myself on a beach. The beach is transplanted on to somewhere familiar, like last night it was outside Mom’s. It’s always very crowded and I’m always with people I know.’ ‘Am I in it then?’

‘You’ve been in it a few times. Yeah it’s always crowded and it’s always noisy. But the sound slowly fades out, like an audience hushing in a theatre. Everyone turns to look out to sea. Nobody knows what they’re looking at, at first, but everyone looks because everyone else is looking. There are never any seabirds. Then this giant wave starts to build.’ (Pause for screaming)

‘You know tsunamis don’t really look like that?’

‘Whatever smartarse. Anyway nobody says anything, they just look at this giant wave.’ ‘More like fast tides.’

‘Okay, it’s just a dream. So I feel nervous and excited. When it gets really close everyone breaks out into movement, trying to find things to cling on to. People hold on to the weirdest things, like dune grass and small rocks.’

In the dream I’m always certain that if I cling to something bigger than me, I’ll be fine. The trees on the road to my house would be good for this, I think this every time I see them. Their roots swell up through the concrete and I always trip on them. Before the council cut off the branches the trees made a canopy over the road.

Now they’re like twiglet fingers, contorted with rheumatism.

‘Then everyone inhales simultaneously. But I don’t know what happens after it hits us because I always wake up.’ ‘Crazy. What do you think it means?’

‘Apparently lots of people have really similar dreams. I read it’s supposed to mean 31


something monumental is about to happen in your life. People were saying they’d had the dream then someone died, got a divorce... stuff like that. But that’s a load of crap, I have this dream like I say once a week, and nothing ever happens.’

I notice the woman sat across from us unconvincingly reading the newspaper. She hasn’t turned a page in a long time. She could have had the same dream. Maybe this was something that people were collectively dreaming, brought to the surface from a shared unconscious realm. I wondered if she’d been a stranger on my beach, if all the strangers have the same dream, and I’m on their beach.

The carriage picks up its screaming so I pause in what I was about to say to Jacob about Carl Jung and his collective unconscious. I watch another girl at the end of it, stood in front of the open vent, as her long hair gets whipped forward and waves like flailing arms. She is laughing at her hair. A few people smile.

The screaming always makes me nervous, even more so when I look around and people go on like there is no noise and I worry it’s just in my head. The woman with the paper looks up too, reassuringly mild panic in her eyes. We catch each other looking and my mind jolts for a second, touching on paranoia, on bombs and peak times and 7/7. She looks away.

If a tsunami came here we’d be screwed. Stuck underground underwater. Even if we broke out of the carriage we’d only end up pressed against the ceiling with the rats.

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Sophie Taylor New Year’s Eve

She spits out her cigarette.

Tinsel is still hanging around her neck. She swats it off.

She pretends there is hope; some stranger will light her up; she will spatter Christingle tangerine happiness all over herself. If only, she realizes, the world was made of fruit, and people wax. She spits on the floor.

The dark sky is spilt mulberry wine. She thinks of her mum, the staggering Stonehenge fury in her. Now they will all be sitting around a table, the TV blaring, watching fireworks clamour around a Japanese, American, Australian sky. She will be tipping Baileys into shandy glasses.

She had seen the stranger before, and blanked him out hours ago. She is sure, if she tries hard enough, she can do it again. ‘ Big Issue, ma’am?’ He tried, only the finest toothpick of desperation in his voice. She didn’t even look at him; she waltzed on by. Politicians were supposed to sort out these people. ‘You alright?’

She glares.

‘I didn’t come here for company.’

‘Why be alone?’ She turns away.

‘Okay,’ he allows.

She shuts her eyes. She feels a little sick. It occurs to her that Gemma bought these boots, whined all the way on the bus that she can spent a week’s worth of wages on the best Christmas present in the world – she will be mad, now, if she ruins them. 33


She turns and pukes over the side of the bench, and the boy selling magazines with his strange church sadness leans over to hold her hair back.

‘You okay?’

She wipes her mouth.

‘Why are you being nice to me?’ She spits. ‘I ignored you today. Why are you talking to me, now?’ ‘It doesn’t work, holding grudges,’ he says. ‘Not at this time of year.’ She looks at him.

‘How old are you?’ ‘Seventeen.’

‘What are you doing here?’

‘Same as you, probably.’

She glares further, realizes, there’s a kind of wildlife in his eyes. She wonders what he is doing here, after all she has done. Endangered species type kindness, sitting here with a teenage girl with holes instead of eyes, puking. ‘ Don’t you have a home to go to? Parents?’

He shrugs.

‘Kicked me out.’ ‘But-’

‘I left,’ he says, and looks up. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ He whirls. ‘You’re not like me, are you?’ She looks around. ‘I-’

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‘No,’ he says. ‘I just meant - your clothes – you do have a home. So why?’ ‘We had a fight,’ she says. ‘And I walked out.’ He is silent.

‘But, surely,’ she says. ‘They want you back, and-’ ‘I’m a horrible person.’

‘No, you’re not,’ he quips, instantly. ‘You-’

‘I’m smoking,’ she says, and pulls out another cigarette from her bag, and lights it. ‘Mum always tells me off about it. She says I’ll get lung cancer.’

He nods.

‘Well,’ he says. ‘Nicotine.’ ‘I left you, today,’ she snaps. ‘It’s snowing and freezing and I left you to sleep out here, I didn’t even give you two bloody quid to get a coffee, I really am a horrible person.’ ‘You’re not-’

‘I’m pregnant!’ She shouts. ‘I’m pregnant, and I’m smoking! So I’m a horrible person!’ He stares.

‘Are you sure?’

‘I had sex!’ She sucks her cigarette. ‘Because he said otherwise he would leave, and now my period hasn’t come. So, yes, I’m pretty damn sure. Unless I’ve hit menopause. But that,’ she seethes. ‘Seems unlikely.’ She turns, and throws up again.

‘Morning sickness,’ she heaves. ‘It’s nearly midnight.’

He reaches out, and holds her hair back. He notices the ladybug hair band and the 35


streaks of pink, the ridiculous little-girl ballerina colours. The deflated bouncy castle of her face, the ruined sandcastles. ‘I told my mum,’ she says. ‘And she didn’t take it well.’ ‘Did she know? About the whole-’

‘Sex?!’ She fills in. She shrugs. ‘She wouldn’t let him in the house. I don’t care.’

‘So… the dad?’

‘I told him,’ she says, and looks down, bites her nails. ‘He told me it wasn’t his.’ She stops.

‘Like I’d throw it around,’ she whispers, and hiccups. ‘Like it wasn’t special. He said he would marry me,’ she trembles. She blinks. ‘He promised.’ He looks at her.

‘You’re better off without him,’ he says. ‘Your baby, too.’ ‘It’s not a baby,’ she hisses. ‘Not yet.’ ‘What are you going to do?’

‘What can I do?!’ She shrieks.

He looks at her, her hair in pig-tails, no make-up on her face. And the dismayed Santa hat, on her head. Fireworks tremble in the sky. They lean back.

‘Happy new year,’ he says. ‘You too.’

‘But maybe no more cigarettes, for a while?’

She stubs out the lighter.

36


‘I guess.’

‘Your mum,’ he says. ‘She’ll help you, won’t she?’ She shrugs.

‘Maybe she just misses you,’ he says. ‘Maybe,’ he hints. ‘The best way to spend new year’s eve isn’t on a park bench, when it’s snowing?’ His laugh tilts. ‘With the Big Issue man?’ She watches him. ‘I guess not.’

I should offer him a bed, she realizes, after all he has done for me. This can’t be karma, it occurs to her – it never occurred to me turning down a two-pound magazine, laughing at someone, could cause someone such an apocalypse. But that isn’t an excuse, she knows. She should’ve thought.

But what would Mum say?

Oh, you’re bringing another man home, are you now, dear? Shouts, glass hitting the ceiling.

‘I raised you better than that!’ She shrieked, battered, hitting the wall. Egg-shell shatters. Swallowing. ‘How could you do this to me?’

But she was not talking to her, no way, she was standing on the sofa, smashed, spitting at God. It’s snowing. Come on. No one gets pregnant on New Year’s Eve.

She looks at him again, his Frosty-The-Snowman magic hope in him – nowhere to go, nothing. And still, here he is, offering kindness out like fudge, Turkish delight, Christmas cake. She looks at him.

37


‘I should go,’ she says, and stands up. She holds her tummy. He nods.

‘Good luck,’ he says, and she turns to leave, but then stops.

‘What’s your name?’ She says. ‘And if it’s a boy, I’ll name him after you.’ He smiles.

‘Jack,’ he says, and she smiles one more time, and begins to hiccup home.

In the morning, her tummy is cramped, her feet ache, and her head splinters like a cracked playground. She groans, and rolls over.

Her mum is waiting by the door, with a cup of tea. Not enough sugar, as always, or she will get diabetes and die at forty-one.

She pulls herself up.

‘Darling?’ Her mum says, raises her hand to her head. There is still a sea-saw of love rocking her, and she knows it takes a lot, being here, looking after her daughter, even after what she has done.

‘I need to call Gemma. I need to go-’ ‘You won’t be able to,’ she says, wiping her eyes, hurriedly blinking. ‘It’s too far to go the long way, and you can’t go through the park.’ She stops. ‘They found a body. A boy. Frozen to death.’

She stops.

And she blinks, once.

And she thinks about the lost fairytale in him, the collapsed wishing well mouth and the broken glass eyes. She swallows. And then the awful smashed possibility last night when she stared puking.

‘No,’ she says, and she stands up. ‘What?’

38


‘How?!’ She shrieks. ‘How did it happen?’

‘Hyperthermia, I suppose, it was freezing last night, but darling-’

‘This is terrible,’ she says, squeezing her eyes shut as curtains fall in her head. ‘This is awful.’ ‘Yes, I know-’

‘This shouldn’t be allowed to happen!’ She shrieks. ‘People can’t just die like that. And they shouldn’t die cold, alone. It-’ ‘Darling--’

She starts to shout.

‘We shouldn’t have let it happen. None of this, it doesn’t need-’

‘Darling, calm down.’

‘Do you even care,’ she hisses. ‘At all?’

‘Sit down!’ Her mouth shouts. ‘I know you’re upset about everything, but there’s no need to be unreasonable-’

‘Do you even care?!’

‘I’m just thankful you’re here, alive, even if-’

‘What?!’ She whirls around. ‘Even if I’m pregnant?!’

Her mother looks away.

‘You don’t need to be so crude about it,’ she snaps.

‘I’m going out.’

‘No,’ she shouts. ‘You can’t do this anyway, you need to grow up-’

‘A man just died!’ She shouts, and clutches her tummy, all the tiny flyaway pains kicking against it. So maybe reincarnation does exist, maybe now Jack is happy and safe and warm and loved. ‘And you don’t even care! If that’s growing up, maybe I 39


don’t want to!’

‘Maybe you don’t have a choice!’

But she is not listening. She is already storming down the stairs, clutching her tummy and thinking of the beautiful boy she left to die in the snow. And the new mountainpure life bubbling in her tummy; her baby boy Jack. She will teach him.

She watches the strange crystallised snow tears the sky weeps, watching them, as she realizes they are desperate for redemption.

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Samatar Elmi Egg and Spoon Race

At the starting line – a pool of orange a mother rushes with a spare but its too late the race is over. I remember one kid turning up with a tea spoon ‘sall me mam ad in’ the silver bowl invisible beneath a dinosaur egg. Next to him, the custom-made rowing paddle, one for Goliath - an egg-craft carrier. And he still kept dropping the bloody thing lucky he brought his butler catching and replacing the egg - “Sir that’s Faberge!” Most of us had table spoons if you were smart you boiled it first Lethem glued his down. Some were born to run rare, balanced kids shifting their weight like ostriches. But others thought ‘fuck it’ and threw down their eggs, or ate them or tried to interrupt the race by swerving into other lanes. The pissed off parents could never understand the impulse.

I was more about the egg than the race, its sensuality strength and fragility an oval in the space between life and death its suitability for metaphor.

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Hattie Grunewald

Hattie Grunewald is 19 years old and comes from Barnsley, South Yorkshire. In 2009 she was a Foyle Young Poet winner, and in 2010 she was one of three winners in the Young Poets on the Underground competition, with her poem published on tube trains throughout London. She is currently studying English and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she is secretary of the Creative Writing Society. Her work has previously been published by YM.

Clara Valentine, 17

I have enjoyed writing ever since I was a young child, when I was given my first notebook with comical cartoon horses on the front. This inspired me to scribble down an entertaining short story about a girl with a lot of horses - I think it was a hint to my parents - and from then on I have always had a story on the go. Along with writing many short stories, I have written two novels. At the moment I am doing the Start Writing Fiction course with The Open University which I feel is helping me to be more critical of my work. My ambition is to become a published author one day, and at the age of seventeen, I am still optimistic of becoming successful in this competitive industry!

A. L. Michael

I'm a fiction writer and creative writing workshop tutor. Having graduated with a BA in English Literature with Creative Writing, and an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, both from the University of East Anglia, I have written a novel, started a company that runs workshops (The DumbSaint Project) and write articles on various topics. I tour around festivals with my workshops, and now write children's fiction.

Jess Angell, 17

I've never really written anything for others to read before (unless you are counting college essays), but I hope to learn more about the skill involved in writing and maybe one day gain more confidence to undertake further writings of my own.

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Owen Harry, 19, South Wales

I am currently attending Bath Spa University and am studying English Literature & Creative Writing joint honours. As part of a Creative Project I am currently compiling an anthology of poems based on news events of 2011. This will be published and distributed at the Bath LitFest (2nd-11th March 2012).

Adam Durrance

I am an artist, I am currently studying at Goldsmiths university in London. I am still really unsure where writing lies within my own practice and within the world. But I am a firm believer that as a human being I am required to use language, so I should at least attempt to discover a way to manipulate it towards something that I believe to be a more true (?) incarnation.

Louis McDermott

I am a 21 year old student in my third year at the University of Nottingham studying Creative & Professional Writing. The content of my stories intends to provide a cross section of society. I focus on the hard truths, alienation and inertia suffered by many on the periphery of society. The stories are about capturing small, specific moments. I attempt to portray an insight in to the abnormal situations that occur behind the closed doors of ‘normal’ people. My work is stylistically minimalist both in content and language. Everything is stripped back and all redundant detail is removed. I hope to allow the readers to interpret my writing themselves rather than being spoon fed meaning or values.

Rachel Woodbridge, 21

My writing life is a rather short one, I've only recently come back to it and largely indulge in short stories and prose, however I've started dabbling in a bit of poetry. I write on almost any theme; I have yet to refine to any particular style or technique and so much of my work is experiment or just for fun. Due to the nature of my degree I have developed an interest for literary analysis and review.

Though I enjoy just writing for myself, I would really like to become part of a wider (maybe...one day...published!) community and I want to take the opportunity to spread some of my things around, for better or for worse. 43


Ben Briggs

I am a second year creative writing student at Liverpool John Moores University. I have been entering competitions for art criticism and enquiring about local work experience opportunities in Journalism. I have always written and enjoy poetry, prose and reviewing chiefly. I admire socially conscious writing that can bring you into its world perception.

Anthony Sproson, 20

‘I had written poetry for most of my teenage life, but had always struggled to write meaningful prose. At university I took a module that was based on fairy tales. I struggled at first, but as I read more fairy tales I grew to understand how they worked and how they were structured - and within a few days I learnt how to write short stories, fairy tales and eventually, longer prose pieces.

Max Brown, 23

I’m a student at the University of Aberdeen, currently in my third year of an MA in philosophy. Whatever I end up doing in the ‘real world’, I strongly hope that it involves writing as this is something that I’ve always loved. Throughout my childhood I tried to write all sorts of different things, and even now I find writing essays to be by far the most satisfying and rewarding aspect of university. Hence I’m trying to write whenever and whatever I can, be it essays, articles, short stories or the food blog I’ve just started (http://dinneronaplate.tumblr.com/) in the hope of honing my style and making writing something that I could do for a living.'

Oliver Nejad

Oliver Nejad has published two volumes of poetry with erbacce-press, ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ and ‘Sentiments’. His poetry has also appeared in two Forward Press Regional Anthologies, and he was a Commended Poet in the Foyle Young Poet of the Year 2008.

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Abigail Andrews

Author bio: I am a second year student at Goldsmiths College in London, originally from the Midlands. I study BA English with Creative Writing. I am currently setting up a blog and small magazine centred around poetry and prose with students on my course and others from different disciplines at the university who also write. This is the first time I have presented my work outside of my writing workshops.

Sophie Taylor, 15

I am fifteen years old and have been writing since I was about twelve. I am part of the New Writers Portsmouth Squad, and I've been published before on the blog of literary agent Sarah Lapolla; my novella has been published in RS Secondary News when I was fourteen. I'm a vegetarian and I hope my writing will reach out to people.

Samatar Elmi

Samatar Elmi is a poet and a playwright of Somali heritage. He is the current poetry editor for Helicon magazine and also runs the Bristol Poetry Stanza. He has been mentored by Dorothea Smartt for three years on the prestigious Young Inscribe programme. An experienced workshop facilitator, he has performed and taught creative writing in schools, youth clubs and for the Arvon foundation. Poems have been published in the Young Inscribe Anthology, Scarf, Decanto, and Exiled Writers Ink. Samatar also translates Somali poetry, especially the work of Osman Gabyaee.

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Get Involved

NAWE is the one organization supporting the development of creative writing of all genres and in all educational and community settings throughout the UK

The NAWE Young Writers Hub is a resource for writers, publishers, editors, and literature people under the age of 25. We offer news, advice, a weekly E-bulletin, the chance to develop an online audience and produce a bimonthly online magazine of writing by the under 25s called Myths of the Near Future and our young writers' podcast. You can listen to our monthly podcast by clicking here.

The Hub supports members in a number of ways. Including: NAWE Student & Young People (£20)

• E-membership gets you a weekly bulletin of the latest opportunities • Discounts on workshops, NAWE conference and other events • Ongoing Support on getting started as a writer • Editorial Feedback on your work • Build an Online Presence with a writer profile page • Free Copy of our bimonthly magazine for young writers

You can find out more about being a Student or Associate member of NAWE here. Benefits include full access to the website, the opportunity to create a personal profile, discounts for our events and workshops, and specialist advice from the Young Writers' Co-ordinator. For more information and to get in touch with the Young Writers’ Co-ordinator, Wes Brown, email him at w.brown@nawe.co.uk

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Myths of the Near Future Issue 1