Tuesday 14 March 7- 9pm
The Library at Deptford Lounge, 9 Giffin Street, SE8 4RJ Writing Stories, Making Senses
Using physical and sensory experience to evoke setting, character and emotion and creating 3D scans to further explore the body and inspire creativity. With author, creative writing tutor and Liars’ League host, Katy Darby
Saturday 22 April 2 – 4pm
Manor House Library 34 Old Road, London, SE13 5SY Memoir and Monologue
Using memory and humour to create a short piece that has the potential to be
performed. With author, comedienne and Polari Prize judge, VG Lee.
Saturday 13 May 2 – 4pm Catford Library 23-24 Winslade Way, Catford Centre, SE6 4JU Exploring Creativity
Using visual and physical prompts related to the body to spark ideas. Particularly, but not exclusively, open to anyone thinking of submitting to Arachne Press’s LGBTQ+ poetry anthology Joy//Us. With author and editor/publisher at Arachne Press, Cherry Potts.
Book on this link or in person/by phone at the relevant library
The Library at Deptford Lounge 020 8314 7299
Manor House Library 020 8463 0420
Catford Library 020 8314 8816
You might have seen us in The Guardian online this weekend – in a piece about older women writers, the work that Arachne Press does to seek, support and promote older women’s voices, and the gradual sea change that we can see happening in the publishing industry as a whole. We were delighted with the article, but it is only the beginning of the conversation. Here Cherry Potts, owner and founder of Arachne Press, shares some more extensive thoughts about publishing talented, witty, clever and creative older women writers:
In the 10 years we have been publishing we have seen a noticeable shift in all kinds of diversity publishing with specialist publishers such as Incandescent, Jacaranda and Peepal Tree that I’ve not seen since the 80’s. We at Arachne are not specialist in our diversity aims, we are inclusive, and that includes older women. We have always actively sought, supported and promoted older women, and valued what they have to say. The existence of women’s writing networks and magazines like Mslexia (which has been there for 24 years) have made it easier for older women to find publishers like us. It started with independent presses, like us, who intentionally hold space for writers from underrepresented communities. We have always filled gaps we see missing in the commercial publishing industry; the ripple from that has been working through to the industry as a whole, it’s a steady improvement but there is plenty of room for more.
For many women it is impossible to focus on writing until later in life, women’s lives are trammelled with work and caring – children, if they have them, parents almost inevitably as they get older, it takes a strong woman to say no to looking after elderly parents – or a rich one – grandchildren… the list goes on; and battering away at the glass ceiling (should we be so lucky as to not be working in some less inspiring job just to make enough to live on, as the gender pay gap still exists, with all that implies) there isn’t a lot of time for writing or pursuing a publishing deal. Sadly these responsibilities do still fall to women, and because they are usually earning less, they are less able to provide paid for alternatives, and are more likely the one in a heterosexual couple to give up work to care for whoever needs it.
Our open anthology calls consistently attract older women, but we’ve noticed an increase over the years, which led to the idea of our menopause anthology, collecting stories and poems from women in peri/post/menopause exploring the massive changes in their lives that occur as a result. (We will be announcing the contributors on 8th March, International Women’s Day.)
For women who were children during World War II, teenagers in the 50s, young wives or career women in the 60’s, feminists in the 70s, peace campaigners in the 80’s and so on (and some still campaigning!) there is so much they have to bring, and living in their women’s bodies, and coming to terms with all the changes that involves. They are looking back at those changes with the eye of experience and aren’t squeamish about talking about it, as many younger women might be.
Now feels like the right moment for taking all women writers seriously, refusing to conform to the traditional packaging of ‘women’s fiction’, and actively promoting radical, edgy writing – and forms of writing – from a demographic that has a tendency, in the face of the evidence, to be seen as a bit safe, perhaps even cosy. Our older women writers are far from cosy, and they aren’t just old; they are lesbians, (Kate Foley & Jane Aldous) they are disabled (Kate Foley, Jane Aldous and Jennifer A McGowan), they started their lives in this country as refugees (Anna Fodorova) they live somewhere isolated (Clare Owen, Ness Owen, Jackie Taylor) and are (increasingly) from the global majority (Anita Goveas, Seni Seneviratne, Yvie Holder, Victoria Ekpo, Lesley Kerr, Lorraine Mighty). These are just the tip of the iceberg.
Often we are publishing women in their 60’s plus, who are still writing, or just beginning to write, or more specifically just beginning to publish, having written all their lives. These women are not coming straight into a publishing deal from an MA in creative writing, or off the back of a career writing in TV, or film, or radio, or journalism where they have already have the right contacts to find a deal and get a raft of reviews (and more power to those who do). We are talking about the women who are onto their nth career (Kate Foley worked as a midwife, a cleaner, and an archaeological conservator before finally publishing (as I did, with Onlywomen Press), and won a prize with her first book. In fact I read Kate’s first collection in manuscript! When I started Arachne Press it was with the hope that I would publish writers like Kate, and hers was the first poetry collection we published. We have just published her eleventh collection, Saved to Cloud, having published two previously The Don’t Touch Garden and A Gift of Rivers.
Saved to Cloud
The story here isn’t really that we publish older women (why wouldn’t we?) but that they come to us. It isn’t about debuts, many of the poets (particularly) whom we publish are award winning writers with several collections to their names. But they still send work for our open call anthologies, and that makes space for the debut writers to be published alongside them, and for us to make discoveries.
It’s about women writing quirky, difficult, often angry poetry and short fiction.
It’s about the writers choosing to send us their work because they recognise that we will find a way to overcome the difficulties they face with time and mobility and geographic isolation and anxiety – or whatever it is that gets in their way. We have worked hard at creating a community for our writers, putting them in touch with each other, inviting them on writing weekends, asking them to be guest editors, running workshops, and enabling them to run workshops and panels to discuss what matters to them, work together, explore, make friends, raise their profile… and confidence, if they need it. We don’t start from the assumption that older women (or anyone, even debut authors) need support, but it’s there if it is.
We don’t just publish the anthology, if a writer engages with us, we take an interest in who they are and what they do – their multifaceted careers have found us translators and cover artists among our writers, and anyone who really impresses us gets ‘the email’ saying what else do you have?
We are proud to be one of the primary presses publishing older women and their incisive, imaginative and glorious stories.
We are celebrating our 10th Anniversary by exploring our back catalogue and inviting you to do likewise with special offers on books celebrating their anniversaries in each month.
So for FEBRUARY we have a voucher, ARA10FEB, to get 50% off the following books
With Paper for Feet
the first few books are poetry, the last is an epic lesbian fantasy novel.
The Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee – a book that didn’t really get its moment in the sun, being published just as we went into lockdown, explores feminism and the refugee experience in sharp, effective poems.
In Retail by Jeremy Dixon tiny poems originally written on the back of till receipts behind the counter of a high street pharmacy.
Foraging by Joy Howard poems of natures and bereavement
With Paper for Feet by Jennifer A McGowan takes on Shakespeare’s women, witches, and folk tales from around the world, served up in witty pithy angy poems.
The Dowry Blade by Cherry Potts described by another Arachne author as Game of Thrones with lesbians and without dragons.
All you need to do is use the code ARA10FEB at the checkout when you buy any or all of these books – you can only use the code once, so we encourage you to buy in bulk!
A reminder that this anniversary festival is all the work of our authors, from making suggestions as to what they would want to attend, to putting together the events. We just promote and host!
I thought it would be useful to give you all a bit more detail about the authors who have put together our amazing, eclectic anniversary events.
For our fourth week we have events on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday (two events)
Tuesday Jan 24, 2023 6pm The Business of writing– The Society of Authors This is very kindly being run for us, by two of the coordinators of the Society of Authors Poetry & Spoken Word group: Johanna Clarke and Mathilde Zeeman
Johanna Clarke has been an advisor at the SoA since October 2021. She advises writers on publishing contracts and issues, and works closely on their outreach programme. Johanna is one of the coordinators of the SoA’s Poetry and Spoken Word Group.
Mathilde Zeeman joined the SoA in 2022. She recently transferred from the Membership team to the Advisory team where she will continue her work advising writers on publishing issues, and is a coordinator of the SoA’s Poetry and Spoken Word Group.
Nikita is a writer, poet and social commentator who advocates for an intersectional lens and approach to be utilised – she is committed to spotlighting the ‘other’, those who are chronically unheard and underrepresented within society. Her poetry focuses on the experiences of the South Asian diaspora, mental health and identity. Nikita’s poem Jallianwalla Bagh appears in our anthology Where We Find Ourselves, and she chaired our Writing the Diaspora panel. Nikita is also a patient voice advocate, lead facilitator and speaker for Cysters (a non-profit that specialises in supporting marginalised people with reproductive and mental health problems. Instagram: @nikkaayyy_c @didacticdiaspora @cystersgroup
Seni was born and raised in Leeds, of English and Sri Lankan heritage. Published by Peepal Tree Press – Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin (2007), The Heart of It (2012), Unknown Soldier (2019). She is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and has collaborated with film-makers, visual artists, musicians and digital artists. She is one of ten commissioned writers on the Colonial Countryside Project: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted. She is currently co-editing a Bloodaxe anthology of post-independence Tamil, Sinhala and English poetry and working on her fourth collection. She lives in Derbyshire and works as a freelance writer. Arachne published Seni’s poem,Triptychs Without Borders, in our Global Majority anthology, Where We Find Ourselves, and Seni took part in our writing the Diaspora panel.
After working as an actor and arts administrator in London, Clare married a boat builder and moved to Cornwall. She promptly had three children and set up an improvised theatre company, re-enacting the stories of their audiences around the county. More recently she has co-written and performed with the all women ensemble, ‘Riot of the Freelance Mind’ and she regularly reads her short fiction at spoken word events and local festivals. Her first YA novel Zed and the Cormorants, was published by Arachne Press in April 2021 and is the winner of the Holyer An Gof YA prize and the Ann Trevenen Jenkin cup. Clare also had a story in our anthology, An Outbreak of Peace, both the short story and the novel explore various aspects of mental health through the lens of a young adult protaganist, and the way the natural world can help.
Kavita A. Jindal is an award-winning poet, fiction-writer and essayist. Her novel Manual For A Decent Life won the Eastern Eye Award for Literature 2020 and the Brighthorse Prize. She has published three slim volumes of poetry: Raincheck Accepted, Raincheck Renewed and Patina. She served as Senior Editor at Asia Literary Review and is co-founder of The Whole Kahani writers’ collective. Kavita’s workshop is aimed at short fiction and poetry writers, and is about harnessing emotions for creativity. She says that her story Cocoon Lucky in Where We Find Ourselvescame out of anger, and I can relate to that, as it was temper that created Arachne Press!
On Saturday 21st our first event is at 12:00, when we have the first of our looking after yourself as a writer sessions, Resilient writers with writer and coach Neil Lawrence.
Neil taught Wellbeing Education in secondary schools for 25 years. He is now a Life coach and Organisational Consultant. Keenly creative, he is a musician who has performed on the acoustic circuit as well as being an impassioned writer.Neil sent this little video to explain his workshop.
We had a huge BSL translation project for What Meets the Eye, and the conversations between writers and translators were fascinating and I really wanted to share them, so this is our first attempt at that. this workshop will be conducted in BSL with english interpretation and auto captions
DL is a deaf queer poet fluent in British Sign Language and English. Working with such different languages has inspired a deep interest in translation and how her work can be made accessible to signing and non-signing audiences. They have performed around the UK including at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Millennium Centre and the Albert Hall, as well as in America and Brazil.
Lisa Kelly has single-sided deafness. She is also half Danish. Her first collection, Lisa is co-editor of The Deaf Issue, Magma 69. She has been shortlisted four times for the Bridport Prize, longlisted for the National Poetry Competition in 2016 and 2018 and won the 2016 University of Lancaster (MA) ‘Reading’ Prize. In 2019, she read at Poetry International, Southbank Centre for d/Deaf Republic: Poets on Deafness. In 2020, she was commissioned by Nottingham Trent University in partnership with the Science Museum to create a film-poem in collaboration with other poets responding to telephony from a d/Deaf and marginalised perspective. She is currently studying British Sign Language, and is a freelance journalist writing about technology and business. Her latest pamphlet, From The IKEA Back Catalogue, is published by New Walk Editions 2021.
Mary-Jayne is a theatre maker and workshop facilitator. She is passionate about deaf / disabled theatre and empowering people through the use of theatre and drama. Mary-Jayne has a degree in Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies from the University of Reading, and since graduating in 2005 has have worked as a freelance facilitator, scriptwriter, BSL storyteller, actor, stage manager, ambassador, director and BSL poet. She has taught BSL poetry, with a focus on poem translation from BSL to English rather than English to BSL.
And finally (for this week) Sunday at 6.30pm, a second looking after you workshop, What’s it about? Synopsis and Pitch with Katy Darby. Katy has co-edited several of our anthologies, teaches creative writing at City, University of London and co-runs London Live Lit series Liars’ League. I’ve heard her accurately reduce a doorstop of a book to 9 words, so she knows what you need to pitch and write a synopsis, difficult tasks at the best of times.
Jennifer has been published by us consistently, from a single poem in our very first poetry anthology The Other Side of Sleep, to her first full poetry pamphlet With Paper for Feet and her most recent collection, How to be a Tarot Card, (or a Teenager) which we published in October. Jennifer lives in Oxfordshire. She has been a semi-professional mime and performed in five countries as well as more traditional work as researcher, editor, and writer for a strategic management company. She has taught both at several universities, in subjects as varied as English, history, and heritage studies. Jennifer is also an historical re-enactor who disappears out of the 20th Century for weeks at a time. Jennifer was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome at age 16, and has had long covid for most of the past 2 years, and can still come up with a snappy and beguiling title for a workshop!
The root cause of our bilingual anthology, A470 Poems for the Road/ Cerddi’r Fforddwas realising there were Welsh poets writing (beautifully) in English, who weren’t confident enough in their Welsh to write poetry in their native language. If ever there was an overhang of English cultural imperialism, there it was staring me in the face, and I was outraged. You can’t get specific grants for translation into Welsh, only out of it. I was more outraged! So I decided to do something about it. So this workshop is very much in the same mode of enabling people in their goddess given right to write in their native language. My welsh is limited to Diolch (Thank You) Bore da (hello) and what I read on road signs – appropriately – and I’m very grateful to Lowri for taking it on!
Lowri is a Creative Writing graduate from MMU, nature writer, and bilingual poet for BRAG magazine. She loves the sea and spends her spare time surfing at Porth Neigwl. During the evenings she’s a cocktail bartender who enjoys drinking Margaritas with her aunt. Lowri’s poem in A470 proved very useful when I was driving up and down that very road, touring the book to bookshops and libraries – here’s why. I pretty sure she’ll be great company for the workshop!
We’ve published Elizabeth in our 2018 women only Liars’ League anthology We/Sheand our 2019 Solstice Shorts anthology Time and Tide, and our 8th anniversary anthology No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book.
Outside Arachne publications, Elizabeth has written loads of stories which have been published in anthologies and magazines. More recently she has published three books of revisionist mythology, Asexual Fairy Tales, MoreAsexual Fairy Tales, and Asexual Myths & Tales.
Later in the day at 3pm, we are introducing the call out for Joy//Us, an anthology of LGBTQ poetry, which will be presented by Arachne editor Cherry Potts and Poet, Jeremy Dixon who will be the co-editor; and poet Rick Dove. We publish lots of LGBTQ writers but it feels like time to actually showcase that, and give a bit of focus to the work we are creating with our LGBTQ authors and poets.
Cherry Potts (me!) is the founder/owner of Arachne Press, which she started in a fit of anger after a fall out with her then publisher (a case of I could do it better myself... which I could, but my goodness, I didn’t realise it would be such hard work). She has published an epic lesbian fantasy novel The Dowry Blade and 2 short story collections Tales Told Before Cockcrow and Mosaic of Air, and has numerous stories in anthologies and magazines.
Rick Dove is joining us to give an additional example of our existing cohort of LGBTQ writers. We published a poem by Rick in Where We Find Ourselves, a long three part family history, which so delighted me I went in search of a biography of Ricks Great Aunt, the first black woman to sing on the BBC!
Rick is a mixed-race, London based poet whose work draws narratives, and styles, from wide influences, always takes a keen interest in both societal and personal change, and how these cardinal forces interact as we grow. A regular performer on the London poetry scene since 2015, Rick has been published in numerous poetry zines and the national press. His first pamphlet, Haigha’s Noosphere Canticles, was published in 2017 by William Cornelius Harris Publishing, and his debut full collection Tales From the Other Box, was published by Burning Eye in 2020. In July 2021, Rick became the UK Poetry Slam Champion for 2021.
I thought it would be useful to give you all a bit more detail about the authors who have put together our amazing, eclectic anniversary events.
Tonight, our Three Takes on Place, started as three separate event proposals, perhaps given our propensity for what is apparently known as ‘psychogeography’ (not entirely sure what it is, but if the cap fits…).
Diana Melissa & Sherry
We’ve published all the authors in at least one of our Solstice Shorts anthologies, and Diana is also in our bilingual Cymraeg/English poetry anthology A470. They all have work forthcoming – Melissa Davies’s The Arctic Diaries in April this year, and Diana Powell’s Ravellings and Sherry Morris’s Another Motherland on a promise for our next-but-one funding bid.
The writers live in Cumbria, Wales and Scotland, and Melissa (Cumbria) writes about Norway, and Sherry (Scotland) writes about her native America, Ukraine (where she lived for a while) and her adopted scotland, and Diana writes about Wales. And I don’t mean travel writing, I mean poetry and mythology and humour and that weird stuff that we are so fond of that is hard to categorise. With such a wide ranging spread of places to write and talk about, I asked how they felt about collaborating, even though it would mean whatever fees they made would be shared.
They have put so much work into this event, and decided to make it a donation option, so its as cheap as you need it to be.
There really is something special about our authors, they are so keen to share their ideas and generous with their time.
Week 2 of the festival, continuing our author-led readings discussions and workshops, and this week we have online events on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday afternoon and evening.
7.30pm Three Takes on Place
readings and discussion from
Diana Powell, Melissa Davies & Sherry Morris
free/donation details and tickets
11:00-13:00 Tales of Transformation: Bisclavret workshop
£8 details and tickets
and at 3pm
Joy//us – LGBTQ poetry reading, open mic and discussion
Jeremy Dixon, Rick Dove & Cherry Potts
free/donation details and tickets
11:00-12:30/13:00 14 great pickup lines, a poets guide to sonnets workshop
with Jennifer A McGowan
£10 details and tickets
and at 3pm Barddoniaeth Cymraeg Gweithdy Cyfieuthu/Welsh poetry translation workshop
with Lowri Williams
participatory workshop on translating Welsh poetry into English
Nod y gweithdy hon yw cyfieuthu cerdd Cymraeg i fewn i’r Saesneg, drwy trafodaeth/cyfieuthu mewn steil grwp
pay what you can £3/5/8 details and tickets