About Cherry Potts

Cherry Potts is a publisher/editor. fiction writer and teacher, event organiser, photographer, book designer, NLP master practitioner, life coach and trainer. She sings for fun. Through Arachne Press she publishes fiction and non fiction and runs spoken word events and cross-arts workshops for writers at interesting venues. Always interested in new opportunites to perform, write or explore writing.

Lesbian Visibility Week

Phew, a bit late in the week, but let’s fly the flag here, before I go back to the emergecy fund application to ACE, refreshed with reminding myself why I do this.

We publish everyone. (Except people who aren’t writers, obviously).

But my first publications as a writer were with a lesbian press, and while we aren’t a lesbian press we are a lesbian-owned press, and we can still use that visibility.

So in celebration, here are our lesbian authors and poets, together with the books they are in, all of which are available from us direct, and from intrepid bookshops, and as ebooks from your usual supplier. There are probably more, but if they don’t tell me, I can’t celebrate them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Interviews: No13 Emma Lee interviewed by Michelle Penn

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Emma Lee (The Significance of a Dress, The Other Side of Sleep, Story Cities, Time and Tide, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book)

Interviewed by Michelle Penn, (Dusk, Noon, Time and Tide)

Photograph by Andrew Tobin/Tobinators Ltd

Michelle:     You wear a lot of hats: teacher, reviewer, flash fiction writer, poet, film-poet creator… (feel free to add more). How do these various roles feed your creative work? 

Emma:     The best way to learn something is to teach someone else: it makes you realise where the gaps in your knowledge are and having to think about explaining a technique or aspect of craft in a way that makes sense to someone else gives you a deeper understanding. I always recommend that people read as widely as possible. Prose writers can learn about brevity and musicality from poets and poets can learn narrative techniques from prose. Reviewing also exposes you to books you wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to read. It’s easy to say ‘I only write x so I’ll only read x,’ but you’re closing yourself off to diverse experiences and new ideas that can stretch your own creativity.
Around ten years ago there was a trend for book trailers, a short film advertising a book. Most poetry publishing is done on a shoestring with little budget for marketing so I thought I’d give making a trailer or some film-poems a go. I’m not really a visual person – I once wrote a poem because I couldn’t be bothered to rummage through a rucksack to find a camera to take a photo – so the film-poems have been very low-tech and few and far between. I started blogging in 2007 and my blog has been regularly updated ever since. I like being busy.
My day job, the one that pays the bills, is copy writing. It’s a mix of disciplines, the brevity of poetry, the creativity of fiction and factual needs of non-fiction. The form I come back to is always poetry, but occasionally I’ll have an idea or a set of characters that won’t be strait-jacketed into a poem so I’m forced to write a story. I think poetry’s advantage is its musicality, that idea that a poem can communicate even if it’s not fully understood, and you can still pick up an image or a mood if you don’t fully follow what’s being said.

Michelle:     What role does politics play in your writing?

Emma:     That’s an interesting question, because I don’t see myself as a political poet. However, I do explore the effects of imbalances of power and wealth. Many of my poems bear witness to domestic and sexual violence and the situations of refugees who’ve not only fled traumatic experiences but are experiencing ongoing trauma while stuck waiting for their asylum applications to be processed.

Michelle:     What’s the most surprising thing you learned or discovered while writing The Significance of a Dress?

Emma:     That occasionally I can do humour; or at least a dry, wry look at a situation. The poems in ‘The Significance of a Dress’ aren’t all about the refugee situation. I had a moment of panic when Cherry Potts asked if I had some ‘happy’ poems. I didn’t think I wrote any (my excuse is that if I write miserable poems I can be happy but if I write happy poems, I might end up miserable). But I found How Rapunzel Ends about a jilted boyfriend who thought he could win his girlfriend back by setting up a piano in a busy city centre (he was a professional musician) and serenading passers-by and When Your Name’s not Smith about a bank teller who confidently tells a customer he knows how to spell her name until she comes to sign the form he’s completed, and it turns out he can’t.

Michelle:     What’s your most interesting quirk as a writer?

Emma:     This is a difficult one to answer, because writing to me is as natural as breathing and I tend not to think of breathing as quirky and you don’t tend to watch yourself writing. To different people, it might be different things such as my ability to sit and write in a crowded, noisy room, that I’m willing to try different types of writing or that I always read a piece aloud. Reading aloud enables you to hear things you miss when you read silently from a page, such that tongue-twisting second sentence or accidental rhyme in stanza three or that the rhythm changes when you get to stanza four.

Michelle:     What’s the most challenging aspect of your writing practise?

Emma:     I don’t really have a writing practice. If a poem or story needs to be written, it gets written. I used to tell stories and write them down as a child but was too scared to share them, so I tended to sneak off to a spare classroom during break times or keep a low profile during class so I could think through a story’s plot. This habit hass carried over into adulthood so I can write pretty much anywhere on any device, whether that’s a laptop, phone or paper notebook and can write in the morning before work, in lunch breaks, in a cafe or in my car because I’m good at being early and often find myself sitting in my parked car waiting for the right time or for somewhere to open. I think the trickiest thing is interruption: as a parent, you don’t get a solid block of time to write or plan, so you have to find ways of making the most of smaller chunks of time.
Michelle:     We’re living through difficult days. Do you have a go-to book that helps you through tough times?

Emma:     I do still keep going back to Sylvia Plath’s poems. I know her death overshadows most people’s reading of her poetry but she had some excellent maternity poems and the sheer joy and exuberance of You’re always brings a smile.

Michelle:     What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

Emma:     I am taking part in NaProWriMo so trying to draft a poem a day for April. I’m also reviewing. Some of the readings and events around the launch of The Significance of a Dress were cancelled, so I’m making plans for replacement events for (hopefully) later in the year, when restrictions due to the coronavirus are lifted.

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary!

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Black Duck and her Eggs a Guest Blog/Story from David Mathews

Earlier in the lockdown,Arachne author David Mathews told us about his friend Jorge, and his dislike of spiders, and how he, David, was apologising for bringing the matter up by writing a story about the creature of Jorge’s choice.  Here it is!

David Mathews20200412_092644_Burst02

Black Duck and her Eggs

Easter is a dodgy time for fowl. Let me show you.

Come to a country garden, scruffy and large, full of hidden corners, on the bright, spring evening of an Easter Saturday. A family, three generations, has arrived at their customary gîte, an old farmhouse, and unpacked. Adults and children are making themselves at home in their various ways. Bottles are opened, and children are told to play nicely.

In her nest, well back from footpaths and the rowdy children, in a hollow in the roots of a willow, Duck sits on her eggs, fourteen of them. She laid the last ones four days ago. Next month, she will take her ducklings to swim on the millpond, calm these days, and a short waddle away. For the time being Duck simply needs to guard her eggs and keep them warm, easy enough when she is not disturbed. Duck’s eggs are white. Duck is black, mostly. Her drake is black all over. He comes and goes, but it was he who saw off a weasel at dawn two days ago, having got lucky with a beak in weasel’s eye.

The children, seven of them, in and around the house, not counting the baby, are used to feeding ducks and counting how many ducklings have been born each time, knowing that mother ducks can count them too, and never lose any, not through their own fault.

The older children, like the grown-ups, enjoy a duck egg for breakfast, on special occasions.

Tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, will come the Easter egg hunt. Where will Grandpa hide the chocolate eggs this year, on his own, without Granny for the first time? Where will the children search; how daring will they be? The children huddle to rehearse their plans in whispers, and trade chocolate futures.

‘If I find three, you can have one.’

Odd one out in a generation of daughters, the boy plots alone, almost.

‘I know how the game is played,’ the boy says. ‘They hide the eggs in the night, and then we look for them in the morning. And you keep the ones you find. And you eat them.’ The baby girl, to whom this intelligence is addressed, gurgles.

‘But if you go out in the dark, you get first dibs. And I’ve got a torch.’ Baby hiccups in response to his whisper, then burps.

The boy has brought his catapult, though he was told not to, not after last year and the squirrel and the woodpecker.

The sun drops behind the low distant hill. Long shadows vanish, and Duck stirs herself, needing to drink, eat and poo before dark. She arranges grass and down over her eggs; instinct tells her that will keep them warm enough for a while. Duck heads for the water, pecking at beetles and grass as she goes.

She drinks, steps into the water and bathes in her element, ducking and tumbling to wash dust from her feathers. On land she stretches her wings, and water droplets fall. Now she feeds in earnest, fast and catholic, among grass and weeds, but never out of sight of the tree beneath which her clutch lies warm. When she returns to the nest, she has been away 30 minutes, not that she knows this. She simply knows to settle over her eggs once more, her need to do so greater than her taste for more insects and seeds.

As the light fades, the children are called in for supper. The garden quietens to the evening song of birds’ nesting and asserting their territory. Near Duck, mice and voles rustle, but nothing larger, except for the drake who comes by. He quacks at Duck, feeds, swims, then flies beyond the millpond – to another duck.

Time passes.

Under a crescent moon, and among the willow’s roots, Duck and her eggs vanish into the dark. With her head tucked in, Duck’s few white feathers are hidden, and her eggs completely enveloped.

From the house comes a tall figure, bearing a basket.

‘No, I’ll be fine. I won’t be long,’ he says to someone indoors.

He moves around the garden, pausing, bending, reaching; he makes more noise than all the night creatures combined. As he comes closer, Duck draws her head in tighter. Her defences are stillness and her black plumage. At the base of the tree the man stops and tucks a silver egg into the tree roots, inches from invisible Duck, and another into a low fork in the branches.

He bends to float a toy boat on the millpond, attaches a mooring string to a reed, and sends a cargo of three eggs shining across the twinkling, moonlit water to the shadow of low bushes. When he stands, he clutches his back, and winces. For long minutes he gazes across the pond. He lets out a deep, deep sigh, wipes his eyes, and returns to the house.

The windows go dark, downstairs first, then upstairs.

A distant bell chimes twelve.

A beam of light sweeps back and forth at the side of the house, and advances towards dense shrubs. When a torch is placed on the ground, the searcher is revealed as a boy, the only boy. He tuts, having found nothing, picks up the torch, and sweeps the beam again, now higher in the air. The light reaches the willow tree.

‘Yes,’ says the boy, and he swishes through long grass towards where he has seen the glint of silver among the fresh green leaves.

Duck wakes, alert to coming danger, but she does not move.

The boy stands on tiptoe to reach the wedged egg in its silver foil, which he does, just, with his fingertips.  The egg slips. He grabs at it a second time, but drops the torch, which lights the egg that Grandpa placed among the roots. Eager, he reaches for the second egg, and Duck, mistaking his quick movement for attack, pecks his reaching hand.

‘Ow,’ says the boy, and sucks the back of his hand.

He sees Duck’s eggs, remembers a breakfast last year, kicks out at Duck and stretches towards the nest.

Duck has no notion of escalation, not in the way of a military commander, but nevertheless attacks the boy’s hand and bare legs as if her previous peck were a mere warning, and this now is all-out war. She lets loose quacks of panic and rage that bring her drake flying across the millpond, equally vocal. Between the two, they raise the household, and, black fiends in a dark night, chase the boy into the arms of his mother.

Surely his fright will elicit sympathy?

‘You little sod,’ his mother says. ‘That’s why you went to bed with no fuss. Give me that egg. And frightening that poor duck. You should be ashamed of yourself. What will Grandpa say?’

The lad’s booty is confiscated, and the family members retreat into the house.

Duck and her drake still quack, though more grumbling than urgent now, and find their way back to the nest and the fourteen eggs, still safely warm. Duck settles. Drake flies back to his other duck, whose fresh-laid eggs will, late on Sunday, be plundered by Grandpa for his traditional Easter Monday scrambled duck eggs and smoked trout with fresh squeezed orange juice and Blanquette de Limoux, Brut.

 

David has two stories in our forthcoming eighth anniversary anthology No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August 2020

 

Lockdown Interviews: No12 Helen Morris interviewed by Joan Taylor-Rowan

Helen Morris (Solstice Shorts: Sixteen Stories about Time, Liberty Tales, Departures, Five by Five, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book) interviewed by Joan Taylor-Rowan (London Lies, Five by Five, Stations)

Joan:          I love the specific details in your stories, the visual metaphors are so strong. What do you do to capture the visual detail in your stories – do you keep notebooks, diaries?

Helen:      I am no way that organised!  I do have a very strong visual memory to the point where I can recreate a scene and wind it backwards and forwards in my mind.  I am naturally quirky so see things aslant and if you send me a photo I’m always the person zooming in on the background detail not the thing you’re trying to show me.  I like the less trod path.  I do love metaphors!  They are the tangy brown sauce on the sausage of a story.

Joan:        In two of your stories , Simon le Bon Will Save Us and Telling the Bees, you write in the voices of young people – in the first a pair of wild teenagers, and in the second a much younger child. In both the voices are very strong and authentic. How do you manage this?

Helen:      Goodness me.  The wild teenagers were easy because I can remember those times so clearly.  Bunking off school to smoke Marlboro in the park.  Being insanely in love.  Obsessing over the Top 40.  So I just had to transport myself back and there it all was at my finger tips.  Molly the young girl (she’s not named in the story, but that’s her name) was much harder.  I didn’t want her to sound twee.  Or like an adult trying to put on a child’s voice.  She was based on my sons who lost a karate friend of theirs very young to leukaemia.  Watching them grieve was very powerful.  The ‘people should die in age order’ logic was a direct quote from my middle son who was eight.  And the youngest one who was six wouldn’t go to sleep because ‘Josh had died in his sleep’. But they still retained a very powerful connection with Josh and often talked about him as if he was still here.  I drew on that to bring that authentic voice to Molly.

Joan:        You are particularly strong on conveying emotions.  I am particularly thinking of the heartbreaking Telling the Bees. You convey grief and numbness, in a range of sensory ways, but unusual ways too. How do you achieve this?

Helen:      When I was growing up my family were respite foster carers for children with disabilities.  I got to meet some great people.  But many of them died very, very young.  And some of them having never experienced eating or sexual love or many of the things we take for granted.  I used to share a bedroom with them when they stayed and it had a profound effect.  I very much carry them all with me.  I am also MASSIVELY emotional myself as anyone who knows me will tell you.  A right proper drama queen.  I laugh very loudly and snortingly.  I do big snotty crying at the drop of a hat.  I am very passionate.  And I put the warrior in social justice warrior. I am also neurodiverse so I see and experience the world quite differently to neurotypical people.  So I think I often write in a way that is distant but parallel to real life but touches it enough for us to recognise the experiences and see them afresh.  So I lend you my brain for a bit.

Joan:        Classic question: what inspired these stories? They are all so different, a fantastical  LOL, a fable in Troll, a recollection of childhood in Simon Le Bon will Save Us ( a great title by the way). What were the sparks for these stories?

Helen:      Pretty much all of my stories start with me thinking ‘what if’.  What if a Twitter troll was a real troll?  What if I tried to write about a very short time period in real time (Memories).  Simon Le Bon was written for an 80s New Year’s Eve Party! So it was soundtracked as it was read which was glorious. It’s dedicated to my sisters who were massive Duran Duran fans.  The other stories again are ‘what ifs’.  What if the menopause was a trigger for something unexpected?  What if the internet developed into something we hadn’t foreseen?  They’re often quite twisted – just like me!

Joan:         Describe your writing process, are you what my college tutor refers to a s a “pantser” or a “planner”. Do you plan everything in advance or set off, and wing it… work by the seat of your pants?

Helen:      I am the biggest panster in the world!  I never plan anything.  Winging it all the way!  I squeeze my writing in between work, a family and a lot of swimming so if I tried to plan it would never happen.  Some stories I start and then stop and then have to come back to.  Some I write all in one go.  LOL I wrote without the sub plot and then I remembered Blake’s 7 always had two plots going on (one on the Liberator and one on whichever planet they were on) so I added a second!  I love Blake’s 7.  It was the first programme I really became obsessed with as a child.  The complexity of the themes were fantastic.  And not at all heroic and saccharine.  Dark and morally ambiguous.  Delicious.

Joan:        Which authors do you like to read. Which was the last book, or collection that knocked your socks off?

Helen:      I always come back to Louis Sachar’s Holes as the book that totally astonished me.  It is just like nothing I’ve ever read.  It’s got a beautiful symmetry and is hugely original.  It also has a grand redemption arc and the baddies get their come uppance (yeay!).  It’s very funny and hugely sad and air punchingly satisfying. I was also totally blown away by Watchmen by Moore, Gibbons and Higgins.  Again it’s a work of spectacular originality and the graphics are wonderful.  I am quite eclectic in what I read.  I do love Frankenstein and Moby Dick and I also love His Dark Materials.  A bit of a magpie.

Joan:         Now we’ve all been thrown into this sci-fi novel which is covid 19, do you think it will feed into your work, are you already imagining your post-covid stories? In fact are you able to write much at the moment? How do you find it is affecting your creative life?

Helen:      I’m not writing at the moment.  I used to try and write weighty and meaningful stories but I think what I actually enjoy most is funny stories where the world ends up as it should do.  There is always a lot of humour in times like this and that’s one of the ways we pull through, but it’s still too close to write anything and there is too much tragedy.
Joan:         Can we expect a novel, or are you in love with the short form. What is it about the short story that attracts you?

Helen:      I don’t think I have the attention span for a novel!  Also as a pantser I think novels are much harder work in many ways and you have to do research and serious writerly things and I’m just never going to do that!  Short stories are the perfect length for me.  You can cover the ground you need to but it’s never a huge chore or epic voyage.  I’m much more into the quick win! So I guess what attracts me is they’re low effort and high reward and that will frankly do for me!

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary!

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Audio File: Tymes goe by Turnes read by Math Jones

Math Jones has very kindly recorded for us the poem Tymes Goe by Turnes by Robert Southwell, which is the starting point for this year’s Solstice Shorts Festival.

Math Jones - Geoff Robinson, photographer

Lovely, isn’t it!

Find out more about this call for submissions, and please tell your musician and writer friends.

 

 

 

Lockdown Interviews: no11 Elizabeth Hopkinson interviews A. Katherine Black

 

A. Katherine Black has a story in No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book

as does her interviewer, Elizabeth Hopkinson, who we also published in We/She.

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August 2020 for our eighth anniversary!

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

 

Lockdown Interviews: No10 David Mathews, interviewed by Jeremy Dixon

David MathewsDavid Mathews has stories in Solstice Shorts: Sixteen Stories about Time (Wednesday Afternoon was one of the judges’ five favourites),  Liberty Tales, Shortest Day, Longest Night, DUSK and Story Cities.

Jeremy Dixon

David is interviewed by Jeremy Dixon,  author of In Retail Jeremy also has poems in The Other Side of Sleep, Liberty Tales, Dusk.

 

 

 

JEREMY:       You have a couple of stories in the forthcoming Arachne Press book No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book. Could you tell us about them, what was the inspiration (apart from spiders!) and how did you develop the idea into a story? And how did you know when it was finished?

DAVID:          I already had a spider story, set in space, outer space. I’d made a couple of kind of newsletters – ‘Stories of sorts, all short’, I’d called them – and one had a spider in a heroic role, if you like. I know next to nothing about spiders, but I like how hugely varied they are in appearance and, especially, how they work, as it were. So after I’d written my new spider story for Cherry, I risked sending her this old bit of nonsense too.
As for the one I wrote specially, I was keen to avoid anthropomorphising spiders. I don’t know how a spider thinks. What’s their consciousness? No idea. But how might a spider behave in a situation where things could go well or badly? Get the reader to wonder. Spider doesn’t. Spider just does her thing. I did learn how spiders are adapted to detecting vibration, and that ability gave me some real spideriness in the story. The thread, you might say. Sorry.
And you asked when it was finished? When all the changes I was making were reversions to earlier words or phrases. That and Cherry’s deadline, of course.

JEREMY:       What influence, if any, does your personal history have in writing a short story?

DAVID:          No big single way, but in lots of small ways, I suppose. For example, I was a work psychologist, and part of the job was to describe people’s work in very exact and concise ways. The habit of choosing words for that exercise is bound to come through in making short stories. Maybe it was a good training. Trouble is, it also makes me rather intolerant of novels. Most of them seem to me to need a damn good edit, though I’ve read some brilliant exceptions recently.
And then, where I come from matters. I grew up in Barry, not far from where you now live, Jeremy, and many of my stories are set in Wales. Can I put my finger on the precise difference that that makes? Not just like that, but I do feel that the English suffer from a kind of imperial condescension towards Ireland, Wales and Scotland. I’m also in many ways quite shy, which is not a problem for writing as such, but it’s there. So, for example, how much does, for example, my sympathy for my characters stem from Welshness, or from having been a psychologist – or is it just me?

JEREMY:       Has the lockdown had an effect on your writing or your writing routine?

DAVID:          Not too much. And in any case, ‘routine’ is rather a strong word for what I do. ‘Habit’ would be a better word. I do miss being in cafés, and miss walking whenever and wherever I like, for the relaxation and time away from the keyboard. And casual conversations. And overhearing people talk.

JEREMY:       Can you share any details of what you’re working on currently?

DAVID:          Two stories. One about a search for perfection. A woman trying to make the perfect pot. Then there’s Mrs Cadwallader, landlady in the Vale of Glamorgan, and fierce opponent of three boys, becoming young men, who feature in several stories. There’s one in Liberty Tales. Via the boys I’ve been pretty hard on Mrs C, and I feel I should make it up to her. Her dead husband was a sailor. In May and June 1966 there was a seaman’s strike, and that becomes her moment. Working title, ‘Mrs Cadwallader rides again’.
And something that will probably end up as a chapbook. Thomas à Becket was killed in Canterbury Cathedral 850 years ago come December. I’ve drummed up a few friends to write some ‘Beckets’, stories between 1118 and 1170 words long, inspired by the drama, the man and all that followed, like pilgrimage and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Working title ‘Thomas à Becket’s Cat’, so you can see it’s not meant to be pious or devotional. I’m wondering whether the cat should be called Julian.*

JEREMY:       What advice do you have for any new and aspiring writers who may be reading this?

DAVID: I should be asking you that, on account of your booklet on writing tips, Allow Your Pen to Lead the Way? I can’t imagine that anything I could say would be of any use to anybody. But – and this is dodging the question of course – show me a story, and I would certainly have something to say. I am wary of generalisations, because we learn more from specifics. When I was in my first job, back in the dark ages, my boss called me in about the first significant report I had put in. On her coffee table was my document, covered in red ink. Seeing my face, she laughed. Don’t worry, she said, if it was no good, I wouldn’t have done that. Perhaps that’s advice in a way.

JEREMY:       You have a history of working with Arachne Press as a publisher, are your experiences with them different to other publishers you have worked with?

DAVID:          Two stories in particular would not have been what they are if Cherry had not got her hands on them. ‘Mouse’, my Longest Night story was decent, but Cherry’s guidance made it sharp. I wouldn’t have got there on my own. I’ll tell you a secret, if you want to know where stories come from. Read Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, then read ‘Mouse’.
And then there was the first story of mine that Arachne published, Wednesday Afternoon (in Solstice Shorts, Sixteen Stories about Time). I’d got the story sorted. It’s based, very, very loosely, on a real, long-term liaison. But I had told the story from my perspective, reporting what someone else told me. Cherry cut straight through that. She made my informant the narrator, and introduced a device to give credibility to her knowledge of the intimate details of the two lovers – the narrator and the woman of the couple routinely sharing a glass of Muscat. I did the rest, of course, but what a difference that made.
And then Cherry asked Carrie Cohen to read it. I’d never heard anyone read a story of mine in public before, so on the day I was pretty anxious. It was a thrill. And it was hilarious. And she’d found in the story nuance that I had barely recognised myself.

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you. Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary!

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Watch Carrie Cohen read ‘Wednesday Afternoon’ at Solstice Shorts 2014 on YouTube

www.davidmathewsstories.com

*Is this a reference to Julian, the Arachne Press chief editor? [ed]

Lockdown Interviews: no9 Elizabeth Hopkinson answers questions sent by Rob Walton

Elizabeth Hopkinson (We/She, Time and Tide) answers questions sent by fellow author Rob Walton (An Outbreak of Peace,  Stations , Time and Tide, Dusk)

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Virtual Launch, Time and Tide: Ness Owen reads Sea Lessons

Ness Owen reading from her home on the island of Ynys Môn, at the rapidly put together online launch of Time and Tide. We had a week’s notice that we had to move the launch on-line. Our authors pulled out all  the stops, learnt new skills and we launched on 21st March on our Facebook Page with Live recordings. We didn’t really have time to promote, so we barely sold any books… We’d love you to buy a copy of this EXCELLENT book, available in 2 editions!

Guest Blog: Margaret Crompton Script in Hand – A Web of Lives, Interrupted

Margaret Crompton is one of the authors featured in our forthcoming Eighth Anniversary anthology, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book. Finding herself, like us, bereft of an event she was expecting to take part in, she relates how her theatre group, Script in Hand got started, and the stories they have told so far.

There are tentative plans for Script in Hand to do readings from No Spider Harmed in the Late Summer/Autumn

 

April 2020: Katherine Swynford and the Countess Joan
Katherine Swynford and her (uppity) daughter, the Countess Joan, are no longer treading the carpet in the County Assembly Rooms this spring. Brought back to vigorous life by Script in Hand, Katherine and Joan had been enjoying a tomb-break with friends and relations, until interrupted by the invisible intruder, unknown among the plagues of their own day.

Script in Hand is both title and description of a group of actors who perform plays with, yes, script in hand. I’ve written and directed all our productions, so far. We have no auditions, membership, finance, booking, or scenery. We give one another energy, adventure and delight.

2018:  The Sellwood Girls
Our first play was The Sellwood Girls, about three Lincolnshire sisters. Emily married Alfred Tennyson, and Louisa married his brother Charles Turner. The play grew from my sequence of poems Lost Lady Found, written to give Louisa a voice. Our performance, in the Church of St Mary Magdalen, Lincoln, raised funds for annual British Federation of Women Graduates grants to female students in our two local universities. Actors were drawn from church members, family and friends. Some were experienced actors, others had never acted before.
This was my first experience of both playwriting (other than Usurper Usurped for my school Junior Dramatic Society – a lively plot but, then as now, I had no idea how to develop action) – and directing. Now 77, I was directing my husband and friends in my own play.
The Sellwood Girls established what would become our pattern. The ‘stage’ was the paved area between chancel steps and congregation. To be heard and seen, actors stood opposite the central aisle. The cast was seated on-stage throughout the performance, moving to and from that position when speaking. I learned that such constraints are a director’s blessing.
Actors developed their own parts, each portraying a whole, convincing individual. In an early scene, the three sisters are schoolgirls. The actors needed no ‘special’ voices to represent the children. Costume was full length black, with coloured shawls for the women, although ‘Alfred’ supplied a top hat, ‘Charles’ his own dog collar, and ‘Hallam’s’ sleeveless pullover and tie channelled Alan Bennett. Experiments with head coverings demonstrated that 21st century hairstyles did not accommodate 19th century lace or caps. We needed neither scenery nor props.

2019: Anne Askew
Although we had only contracted for this one performance, we’d formed such close bonds that in 2019 we performed Anne Askew: a woman of courage in Tudor Lincolnshire, which I’d written some time before, and adapted for the group. Now we needed a name: Script in Hand exactly describes our style. An actor invited us to the County Assembly Rooms, where we trod not paving but carpet. Experience from The Sellwood Girls transferred easily, so that actors sat on stage throughout and spoke from the space opposite the central aisle. Costume was black skirt or trousers with a differently coloured top for every actor, providing both uniformity and variety.
There were innovations and challenges. Cast processed along the aisle, to be greeted and introduced by an actor in role. Period-appropriate music was played by a flautist accompanied by my debut on tabor. An optional episode of mime, with the flute, was developed by the cast. Anne Askew was played by two actors. Feisty Anne (2019), conversed with Eve, a woman of our own time. Anne (1546) read from her own writing*.
We chose The Shannon Trust, a small charity promoting literacy in prisons, as the beneficiary of ticket sales – Anne Askew had illegally read the Bible in Lincoln Cathedral, and in 1546, was burnt in London as a heretic, caught up in a conspiracy against Queen Katherine Parr. In prison, she wrote accounts of her interrogations. Contributing to literacy education seemed a fitting memorial, and we continue to support the Trust. A representative attended the performance, bringing a display of the excellent reading scheme and other materials.
There is no memorial to Anne Askew in the Cathedral, nor would I (nor Anne) want one, and few people have heard of her. But now, her story is included in the new Visitor Centre exhibition.

2019: When Queen Victoria Came to Tea
Our next appearances, both in 2019, came from my idea that SiH might be invited to offer smaller productions, between annual performances. A conversation in the OXFAM bookshop led to When Queen Victoria Came to Tea, a companion piece to The Sellwood Girls for four actors, written with my husband John. The space at the back of the shop was cleared, chairs borrowed, and re-filled with the audience who braved the rain, bought books, and donated to OXFAM funds. Later, we were invited to perform at the British Federation of Women Graduates Christmas party, and were grateful for an unexpected donation to The Shannon Trust.

2020: Katherine Swynford and the Countess Joan         
I wrote Katherine Swynford and the Countess Joan for Script in Hand.  We thought our audience would be attracted by further material about local people. But I was running out of ideas. Anne Askew had been set in the Cathedral. Who else was there? I reviewed my sequence of poems Women of the Cathedral, which gives voices to those silent women in stained-glass windows, carvings and statues, in ornate tombs and under heavy slabs. Katherine Swynford, whose tomb is end-on to that of her daughter, had always eluded me. Then, thinking about that mysterious arrangement, I found my play. Just as the other plays are ‘out of time and space,’ Katherine and Joan rose from their semi-detached post-mortem accommodation and were joined by friends and relations. And before too long, we all hoped, by an audience.

I thank Script in Hand. I haven’t mentioned any one by name, for everyone contributes and creates this wonderful adventure. Did I mention that most of us are over 70, and several over 80?  When I asked their permission to write this, everyone responded, with warmth, encouragement, jokes. So I close this scamper through our story so far with one actor’s comment:

 Script in Hand – it’s just a Web of Lives.

 

*Anne Askew: The Examinations of Anne Askew. Ed Elaine V Beilin, 1996, Oxford University Press  (1st published 1546 & 1547. Copy in the Wren Library, Lincoln Cathedral).