“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” #Arachne5

As part of our Arachne 5th Anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked all of our authors to come up with a blog, that might have something to do with writing or anniversaries. Some of them responded! This one is from Jacqueline Downs who we published in Stations – her story She Didn’t Believe in Ghosts is set at Crystal Palace.

 

On September 23rd 2016, I received a birthday gift: a five-year diary.

Instead of acting as a repository of my thoughts and feelings about pop stars and boys and fallings out with best friends, this diary has a different function. Each day, year by year, this diary requests that I respond to a question or statement. The idea is that over five years I will be able to see how my answers to the questions or statements change, or don’t change. Prompts range from the profound and potentially distressing (‘Who loves you today?’, ‘What have you got to lose?’) to the seemingly more trivial (‘Write down the last text message you sent’, ‘What is your favourite item of clothing?’). Whatever I am asked, my response will reveal something about how I am thinking or feeling at the time; how I view myself on a given day in a given year.

One of the things that makes it so challenging and interesting, is that it also serves the purpose of acting as a series of miniature writing exercises. You may need to be descriptive (‘What’s the weather like where you are right now?’) or imaginative (‘Where do you see yourself this time next year?’). You may have to negotiate your emotions (I’m always going to give the same answer to ‘When did you last speak to your parents?’ – 13 February 1979 and 12 May 2009 – and that is always going to be sad).

There isn’t much space to write, but within those confines I can answer with a couple of words or an untidy and ill-fitting paragraph. The best thing is, it gets me writing every day.

The challenge on the day I received this gift was: Write a quote for today.

I was able to answer immediately, as a writing group friend had helpfully written something apt in his birthday card to me:

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

     Thomas Mann

I’m a writer. I don’t earn my living from it, but it’s who I think I am; it’s what I say I am, if I’m asked (although out loud I will always add the caveat ‘and editor’).  I put off writing a lot of the time, I get a slight homework-style dread when I know I have a deadline. But once I start, even if it’s just typing or scribbling, I feel happier. And then when typing or scribbling becomes actual writing, I feel a kind of lightness inside, there’s a taking off.

In the five years since Arachne Press started, I’ve taken off a little more. My first anthologised story was in Stations. Since then I’ve had stories performed at live literature events, published in other anthologies and online magazines, and written a screenplay based on another published short story of mine. This screenplay is with a producer who is trying to get a director on board, raise money, get the words off the page and onto the screen. I’m under no illusion about how long this process could take.

But with luck – and it will take a lot of luck, now that the hard graft of several drafts is out of the way – when the diary next asks, ‘Where are you right now?’ my answer will be ‘backstage at the BAFTAs’.

Because if you want to really take off, you have to aim high.

Jacqueline Downs is a writer (and editor). She blogs infrequently at Jacqueline Downs is Reading and Writing

Significance #Arachne5

As part of our Arachne 5th Anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked all of our authors to come up with a blog, that might have something to do with writing or anniversaries. Some of them responded! This one is from  Sarah James whose poem and flash fiction we published in  Shortest Day, Longest Night.

Significance

Is the number five more or less significant to a writer than anyone else? Five fingers for writing. Five senses we can use to make that writing as atmospheric as possible. Five days to the working week…or, at least, there used to be.

Working hours have shifted for everyone in our always switched-on society, but writers have never really had a day off as such. As a poet and fiction writer, my subconscious is always busy –  listening for stories, rhythms, the sounds of words.

Maybe I’m trying too hard here to find symbolic links and connections to the number five because Arachne Press is celebrating its fifth birthday. But this is what language and writing are all about – evocative symbols that we use to make connection between us and other people, the page and the reader, the performance and the audience.

In any case, all of these observations filter one way or another into the writing of my poem ‘At the Hotel de la Lune’ and short story ‘Cut Short’ in the Arachne Press anthology Shortest Day Longest Night.

The man in 512 is trying to sleep
but he can hear his ex’s breath
in the air conditioning’s webs…

(From ‘At the Hotel de la Lune’)

There is a phrase ‘If the walls had ears…’ that sums up both part of my writing process and the background to ‘At the Hotel de la Lune’ in particular. The poem hangs on the passing flow of visitors through the hotel and all the stories they bring with them, if only the hotel rooms could pass these on. The beautiful thing about being a writer rather than a wall is that I not only have ears to hear but also a tongue to speak and hands for writing or typing. As writers, readers and audience, we also have something else that’s even more important – imagination.

These aren’t real stories, only stories that could be real. The hotel is a fictitious place conjured up by my mind. Each of the rooms , with its characters and its stories, is a room inside my head. Each character in this poem also has their own rooms inside their heads, with their own stories, hopes and dreams.

But who is in charge of all these rooms? Is it me as the writer/dreamer? The night porter, Billy – a potential modern-day Shakespeare (in his own head at least) – who aspires to theatrical stage stardom? Or the spiders and bugs that scuttle in the mind’s shadows and across this poem’s mundane yet nightmareish everyday stage?

Perhaps the ultimate control is actually with the reader or individual audience member – choosing how to interpret the words and scenes that they’re presented with…

“Damn, late again! I fidget with my car keys, a reflex action, as I’m tempted to bail on lunch. Sundays should be the longest day – lazy sex, coffee in bed, newspapers, novels, Netflix, not getting dressed until three, if at all… Ever since university, I’ve made it my personal quest to stretch these twenty-four hours of the weekend as far as humanly possible. But not today…”

(From ‘Cut Short’)

While ‘At the Hotel de la Lune’ is infused with a touch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream madness, my writing approach for the flash fiction ‘Cut short’ is more inspired by Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage,| And all the men and women merely players” (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII) .

The family politics and matriarchal power dynamics in this short fiction are ones most likely being played out in homes across Britain even as I type this.  At one level, the plotline is a small almost invisible everyday drama. Yet it’s one that moulds the very

personalities of every character in the story and, by extension, wider society.  What can the young woman in this story do to change things? And what will happen if she does try to rock the existing structure?

Tradition and innovation

It might sound like an overly grand aim but in many ways literature as a whole is constructed on two principles brought to a head in this flash fiction – building upon the existing tradition while simultaneously reacting against and rocking it.

This brings me back not to ‘five’ but to ‘thrive’. As a poet, my most immediate response to the word ‘five’ is how close it is in sound terms to ‘thrive’. As words, these are similar yet different. As a writer what I strive for is to create pieces that are both similar (to real life, existing exemplars…) yet different (innovated, unique…). And, of course, yes, I also want my work to be strong, to thrive.

Five years of publishing is a strong stepping stone on thriving’s path. I hope this is a word that will keep resonating, both through my own writing and Arachne Press’s work ten, 15, 20 years from now.

Image: ‘Handling artistic imagination’ by S.A. Leavesley

Come to the 5th anniversary party!

Anniversaries, war and diaries #Arachne5

As part of our Arachne 5th Anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked all of our authors to come up with a blog, that might have something to do with writing or anniversaries. Some of them responded! This one is from Jill Sharp whose poems we published in The Other Side of Sleep and Shortest Day, Longest Night.

August 17th 1944

‘There are moments when I would give anything just to get into a car and drive home, saying I was fed up with the whole show and they could look for someone else to fill my job. The making of plans is child’s play as compared with putting them into execution.’

 

It may be the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, but for me it’s been a summer of war, reading the edited WWII diaries of Alan Brooke. Brooke masterminded the very tricky retreat of the British Expeditionary Force to Dunkirk, and then oversaw Home Defence during 1940 when a Nazi invasion seemed imminent. For the last four and a half years of the war, he was at Churchill’s right hand day and (often) night, advising on military strategy as Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

The diary was written as a daily note to his wife back in Hampshire, about events at the decision-making hub in London, and became a safety-valve for a man experiencing almost unbearable stress and responsibility. Reading it, you’re closer to the uncertainty, fear and anxiety of the lived experience than any detached historical account can provide. It demonstrates the value of an immediate record, both as a historical source and also as an insight into the individual human psyche during momentous events.

I’ve been deeply impressed by Brooke – a man who managed to negotiate tricky human situations as well as military ones. It was a revelation to me how much skill was needed to steer Churchill and our American allies, let alone to devise overall military strategy.

Because the US had the greater number of allied forces in 1944, Brooke was passed over as Commander of Overlord in favour of Eisenhower. In his diary, he expresses deep frustration and concern at the American general’s often hesitant strategy, feeling the war in Europe could and should have been concluded that autumn, with a very different outcome for the political map of Europe.

March 5th 1945

‘Breakfast with Ike and another long talk with him. There is no doubt that he is a most attractive personality and, at the same time, a very, very limited brain from a strategic point of view… He only sees the worst side of Monty and cannot appreciate the better side… I see trouble ahead before too long.’

Brooke may have received all the official honours due to him, becoming Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. But this modest man, whose name, I feel, should stand as high as Nelson’s in our national consciousness, had to sell his beloved collection of bird books after the war, when his military pension was insufficient to support his family.

I’m grateful that Brooke finally agreed to make public what is a very private and personal document. So many similar texts are destroyed by their authors, out of consideration for their own reputations as well as others’. But what a unique form of writing a diary is, when it’s done with such non-self-regarding honesty.

Come to the 5th anniversary party!

Interview with Ghillian Potts – Early Writing

Ghillian Potts, author of Brat and The Old Woman from Friuli bravely shares her adolescent poetry, which got her out of housework! (Photos from the family archive.)

We would like to invite you to a very informal launch reading at Eltham Centre Library, Archery Road, Eltham SE9 1HA on 7th June at 1.30 for Brat and 3.45 for The Old Woman from Friuli. Both readings will be performed by Carrie Cohen.

Further readings are at

BrockleyMax Art in The Park, Hilly Fields Park SE4 on 10th June 2017 at 2.30pm; (Old Woman From Friuli read by Katy Darby)

Stanmore Library, 8 Stanmore Hill, Stanmore, HA7 3BQ on 8th July 2017 2pm (Old Woman From Friuli read by Lisa Rose)

Osterley Library, St Mary’s Crescent, TW7 4NB on 22nd July 2017 at 2.30pm (Old Woman From Friuli and BRAT read by Carrie Cohen)

If you run a library, bookshop or school and would like us to visit you with a reading, get in touch.

The Old Woman from Friuli Launch, Tour and author interview

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with author Ghillian Potts

Events

A very informal launch reading at Eltham Centre Library, Archery Road, Eltham SE9 1HA on 7th June at  3.45  read by Carrie Cohen.

Further readings are at

Art In The Park Story-telling tent on Hilly Fields, on Saturday 10th June at 2.30, when Arachne stalwart Katy Darby will be reading

Stanmore Library, 8 Stanmore Hill, Stanmore, HA7 3BQ on 8th July 2017 2pm read by Lisa Rose)

Osterley Library, St Mary’s Crescent, TW7 4NB on 22nd July 2017 at 2.30pm (Old Woman From Friuli and BRAT read by Carrie Cohen)

(Illustrations Ed Boxall)

Crowd funding rewards for writers part 2

Pledge £50 or more to help us support new and early career writers with our book and exhibition tours and new books

Fiction Critique from Katy Darby

Katy Darby is co-editor of our Three Lies books and runs Live Lit event Liars’ League. She will give you a professional critique of your fiction at £50 for 5000 words – (Electronic delivery ONLY, please don’t send paper) so if you want her to critique something longer, pledge more times!

OPTION: personal face-to-face critique (30 min) in London for an extra £25 as an add-on: you can pledge more than the £50 through the site, just let us know that’s what you want.

(Katy will not be available to do this until mid/late August.) https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1477491501/beyond-solstice-shorts/

Crowd fund reward for writers

Crowd funding… how I love it… not. It’s a slog and it’s very uncomfortable asking for money, but we have expenses we need to cover if we are to get all our books out in the fresh air and into your hands and onto your shelves, and generous though the Arts Council is, they like to see us find some of the money we need elsewhere.

So, here is something for the WRITERS amongst you.

Have your writing edited by us

Cherry Potts copyright Tom Dingley 2014

Cherry Potts copyright Tom Dingley 2014

Have your short story or 1st chapter of your novel professionally edited and critiqued by Arachne Press editor, Cherry Potts. Maximum 5000 words, sent electronically only.

Estimated delivery: Jun 2017

Limited reward (5 left of 5)

Pledge £100 or more here

 

 

 

 

Is it worth giving us your money?

Here’s some feedback from our tour date in Bath…

  • a really excellent variety of pieces, and wonderfully read
  • inspiring and entertaining
  • I shall look out for future events
  • a very enjoyable event
  • completely gripping
  • Brilliant reading by Nick Rawlinson
  • a break from reality – lovely
  • Bookish whirlwind of tales and poems that provide thought-provoking insight into the writers’ minds
  • Liked the stories in particular – Cherry’s especially loved the weirdness, strange and spooky!
  • Live Loud and Varied. an eclectic mix of poems and prose that veered from tragic to whimsical.
  • an excellent evening with an inspiring mix of poem and stories. Poignant, witty, intelligent work well supported by the incomparable Cherry Potts who does such crucial work in supporting and developing opportunities for writers.
  • A big Shout-out for Arachne Press!

 

Lester Simpson Winter Folk Song Workshop for Solstice Shorts

You can now book for Lester Simpson’s Folk Song Workshop on 26th November – our Solstice ‘Advent’ event! 12.45-5.15 pm, £25lester1sml.
Come and learn around 5 acapella songs in 3 or 4 part harmony, from Lester Simpson an international recording artist, and member of the renowned Coope Boyes & Simpson, who also runs community choirs. Informal but intense, lots of tea and biscuits. Access to sound files after the event. St Hilda’s Church Hall, Courtrai Road, Crofton Park SE23 1NL

Advance booking essential!

NEW lottery_Logo_White RGB

Book for Lester Simpson Folk Song workshop

How to be a really successful writer- A biased view from a small publisher

I’m a writer as well as a publisher, and when I had my first work published I was dreadfully naïve and thought the books would sell themselves.

After all, I’d written it, and someone liked it enough to publish – my work was done!

Really, not.

Now, three books in, and running my own micro-publishing company I am a bit wiser and a heck of a lot more cynical.

The statistics on the number of books published every year don’t bear thinking about – how on earth can you get noticed? Especially if you haven’t been snapped up in a bidding war between the big publishing companies who have an army of publicists on their payroll?

You have to be prepared to get into the limelight and tell the world how fantastic and fascinating your writing is, and what a wonderful charming person you are.

I know.  You’d sooner walk across hot coals and sell your child/cat into slavery.

Well, nonetheless, the books don’t sell themselves, and being prepared to get out there and meet the public in all their various guises really helps, whether that is in person, touring your work round bookshops and libraries, or setting up a blog, or being interviewed on your local radio station. THIS is how books become word of mouth best-sellers.

I have cast iron evidence. My first book hardly sold at all, because I was too frightened to do the publicity my publisher wanted from me. The second book pretty much sold out because I did it anyway, fear not withstanding… and I ENJOYED it. (not a lot, but it was bearable and I discovered I LIKE talking about my writing.)

The popular image of the writer, secluded in her attic/ the library with her notebooks, gazing at the view from her window or the riveting ancient text that has inspired her work, is desperately out of date, but some of us (me included) would MUCH rather be doing that, than spending time on Facebook/ Twitter/ Tumblr/ Whatever, inviting people to make contact and talk about their work and READ it, and the idea of facing a microphone or camera and having to SPEAK…

How to cope? Why would you want to?

How I did it is: I thought about who I needed to be, and in what circumstances I can pull that off, and I wrote myself a character who is the relatively thick-skinned, witty, charming, outgoing person, I can be when I’m really comfortable, and I put her on, coat-like when I need her. She’s been really useful for my publishing face too.

That doesn’t help with the white noise that hits when I’m asked a (to me) stupid question live on air. What does help is preparation. Interviews are fairly predictable, you will almost always be asked – what do you write/ where do your ideas come from/ what’s this book about? Although you might want to respond – haven’t you read it? Your interviewer is actually trying to help – the viewer/listener/reader hasn’t read your wonderful scintillating work, and the interviewer is getting you to persuade them to do that. If you do get asked something that throws you – say what a good question (flatters the interviewer gives you time to think) then answer as gracefully as you can, and don’t be afraid to say I hadn’t thought about that, or I don’t know!

Why am I explaining all this?

I’ve made the difficult decision that I won’t publish people who won’t support their work. I haven’t the time or energy (or money) to promote every book as though it were my own. If you can’t get behind your book, why would I? With an anthology it’s not so bad because there will be 20 or so authors to spread the load – although it’s hardly fair on those who will schlep around libraries reading to expect them to support those who won’t.

How can I support the diffident writer?

I really do get it! As I said, that was me once upon a time. That’s why I’ve got Arts Council funding for a series of workshops for writers, that aren’t about writing – you’ve missed the performance one, but…

FRIDAY 23/9/16 (that’s this week!) 2-4pm Canada Water Culture Space £12  we have: Handling the Media with Rosie Wilby, who broadcasts at Resonance FM, and is also a comedian.

SATURDAY 24/9/16 at The Albany, Deptford, 11-1 we have marketing for writers basics, and 2-4pm marketing for writers advanced, with Yen Ooi of marketing for creatives specialists Think Create Do.

These workshops are heavily subsidised, you would expect to pay £35 or more on the open market. At the moment we have no takers for the basic marketing, so we are cancelling it if we don’t get at least 4 bookings by midday Thursday. Tell your friends! (if we get 3 bookings, we’ll transfer you to the advanced course, or return the booking fee) The other courses have some space left, but if you want to come, you need to get booking.

 

 

 

 

Coming up: Workshops for Writers

Join us in South London in September for workshops for writers that aren’t about writing! (All workshops are being run only once, £12)

What’s on offer:

katy-moby-medium

Performance for Writers – reading your work aloud is a near inevitable part of success. learn how to do it with conviction and have fun in the process. Lead by Katy Darby. Wednesday 7th September 2-4pm at The Albany, Deptford SE8. (max 20 places)

 

 

yen ooiMarketing for writers (basic) – Not sure if you need a website or social media presence? Are you spending your time effectively online? Learn what your online priorities should be and how you can leverage your online presence to build on your writer profile. Lead by Yen Ooi
Saturday 24th September 11-1 pm at The Albany, Deptford SE8. (max 10 places)

Marketing for writers (Advanced) – Are you effectively leveraging your online presence to improve your writer profile? Do you know what your brand values are, what messages your want to promote, and the new audiences you want to reach? Lead by Yen Ooi.
Saturday 24th September 2-4pm at The Albany, Deptford SE8. (max 10 places)

46 Rosie WilbyManaging Media for Writers Once you get published, your publisher is going to want you to talk to the media if they have the slightest intention of selling your book (we do anyway!). This can be quite intimidating, and it’s easy to get cross with silly questions. Comedian and broadcaster Rosie Wilby will help you sort out what you want to say and how to handle tricky questions, and where to look if a camera is involved.
Friday 23rd September 2-4pm Canada Water Culture Space, SE16. (max 20 places)

BOOK HERE