Here it is! Our first ever listen-along audiobook challenge.
Starting on Sunday 24 October, we’re inviting YA readers to listen to a section of the Zed and the Cormorantsaudiobook, every day for a week. Each day we will also release exclusive Zed-inspired creative activities – from word searches to author videos, book club questions to crafts.
Bookmark this blog post and follow @ArachnePress on social media for extra content too.
Day 1 – Sun 24 Oct: Listen to Chapters 1 – 4 (inclusive) of Zed and the Cormorants, then:
Zed loves making origami figures – to help her relax, as gifts and as decorations. An origami cormorant like the one below is quite a challenge, but you could try making some paper butterflies, usingthis simple YouTube tutorial.
Day 2 – Mon 25 Oct: Listen to Chapters 5 – 11 (inclusive) of Zed and the Cormorants. While you are listening, pay particular attention to the descriptions of the cormorants.
“Zed watched it untuck its neck and raise itself up through an ‘S’ bend to form one almost straight line from yellow beak to glossy black tail. Then, with a little shudder, its wings unfolded and started to pulse: huge black wings with three layers of feathers, the bottom ones spreading out like a fan. And it was off too, raising itself vertically before flattening out and beating its way across the river. One long black wing angled down to the water, where with every stroke it seemed to brush its grainy reflection.”
“Its body was so sleek it looked like it had been painted in jet black oil, with a sheen of metallic purple or green, depending on the way the light fell when it twisted his head. Its eye was definitely green though, a shiny emerald bead.”
To begin our Where We Find Ourselves blog tour, Arachne Press Director, Cherry Potts shares her thoughts on the theme of ‘Maps and Mapping’:
Maps are objects of pleasure and anticipation for me, promises of holidays and beautiful in their own right, but they used to be safety blankets – I went through a long period of agoraphobia and the only way I could take a ‘stroll’ in the countryside (or anywhere else, really) was if I knew exactly where I was going, what obstacles were along the way and how long it would take – getting lost was something I literally had nightmares about. I’m better at it now, but it’s always me with the map in my pocket, if no longer clutched in an anxious grip.
So when Laila Sumpton suggested ‘Maps and Mapping’ as the focus for our global majority anthology, Where We Find Ourselves, I said yes almost by reflex. As we settled into thinking about why, exactly, we thought this a good idea, there was a lot to cover. Arachne has a history with what is apparently called Psychogeography – not planned, but one of our books is on the reading list at a university, so I’m told – these were geographically rooted (routed?) books of stories set in London, and along the east London Overground. I like that sort of thing. But this was different. We didn’t want to over-dictate what our authors wrote about, and wanted to see what would come up. We were hoping for stories of home, belonging, leaving, journeys, identity, borders, invasion, exile … not of a particular place, but any place that the author or poet felt strongly about. And we got them, especially the search for places of safety – and we got a story about getting lost on a country walk, so that was my personal nightmare ticked off too.
Somehow this map idea morphed into an almost series. Not quite enough of one to say book one of… (although if pushed I will!) but four (so far) conceptually linked books.
About twelve years ago I studied Neurolinguistic Programming (one of the things that helped overcome my agoraphobia). One of the basic tenets of NLP is that people have a linguistic preference that reveals how they experience the world, showing itself in use of words to do with one specific sense. Most people are visual or kinaesthetic (touch, motion, emotion), far fewer auditory, etc; although the transmit preference may not be the same as the receive preference. I spent some time wondering if I dare stick my hand up and say what about people who don’t have access to all those things? I never did, I found the large group intimidating, but I spent a lot of time thinking about it. When I started learning BSL, my doubts were confirmed, and confounded as well. So when I was discussing the title of a book with movement as its theme (very loose connection to maps!) with editors Lisa Kelly and Sophie Stone, I was on about the language of movement or the movement of language, and Sophie entirely disagreed and said that BSL is a language of sight. In my kinaesthetically orientated way I had been thinking about transmitting communication and Sophie was thinking about receiving it. Which is how we ended up with the title What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective.
Alongside these two anthologies I had been talking to Ness Owen and Sian Northey about a bilingual Welsh-English poetry anthology for March next year. Sian came up with the brilliant idea of poems about/inspired by the iconic north-south route, the A470. Disclosure – my Welsh is limited to what can generally be found on a road sign, and saying hello and thank you, so an appropriate theme for me! Out came my maps – of course – and yes, I had driven bits of that road.
We won’t have to translate the title, Sian said. Wrong – because we’ve ended up with a subtitle, Poems for the Road/Cerrdi’r Ffordd.
Nothing screams maps more than a book about a road, and I spent a lot of time looking up places referenced in the poems, and getting to understand the topography of both road and poems. I can’t wait to drive it again, boring my wife silly as I point out places and say oh that’s in so-and-so’s poem. We have a fantasy about hiring a bus to do a book tour along the length of the road from Cardiff to Llandudno. The irony of this, in light of the next book, is not lost on me.
Before we get to the A470, we have another book – the Solstice Shorts Festival anthology, Words from the Brink out in December in time for the festival. Our initial call out had the loose concept of time is running out, and we wanted work that addressed the climate crisis.
At risk of sounding like a spare part from Dr Who, Solstice Shorts is always about time, and the festival has travelled around most of the UK, and even got to Portugal one year, so I thought we ought to be able to get a map theme into our overarching time concept. This year’s festival itself is still very much up in the air at the moment. Venues are difficult, and should we really be trying to have an in-real-life event at all?
Perhaps the link to maps is tenuous, except, actually, it isn’t. This book encompasses the whole Earth – viewed from space by acquisitive or curious aliens, in her personification as Gaia and in the microcosm of a single plant or butterfly. Our authors map their way through climate crisis to disaster, or renewal.
We are on the brink. A gnat’s wink in either direction can make the difference. Which direction do will we take?
You can follow the blog tour for Where We Find Ourselves until 30 October.
The tour will start tomorrow, Thursday 21 October, with a guest post from Arachne Press founder and publisher, Cherry Potts.
Out on 28 October, Where We Find Ourselves is an anthology of poems and short stories by nearly 40 writers of the Global Majority, from African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Carribean, South American, Chinese and Malay communities, writing about maps and mapping. In this book you will find stories and poems of finding oneself and getting lost, colonialism and diaspora, childhood exploration and adult homecoming.
Where We Find Ourselves is a book that is intended to start conversations and we can’t wait to hear what our reviewers and guest bloggers have to say.
Follow the blog tour on the schedule above to read reviews of Where We Find Ourselves, guest posts by contributing authors and exclusive extracts of stories from the collection.
You can find all the content from the blog tour here:
We’re excited to announce that our live event at Keats House to launch our Where We Find Ourselvesanthology is sold out!!! However, you can still join us to celebrate publication of this fantastic collection of stories and poems of maps and mapping from UK writers of the global majority at our online launch on November 4th. 7-9pm.
Be quick though – tickets are selling fast! Tickets available here.
Following hot on the heels of National Poetry Day, Arachne Press is delighted to announce we will be at Gloucester Poetry Festival later this month with a number of the poets we have published over the last 9 years. Join us for our showcase online to hear these poets read from their work, and a brief Q&A afterwards. Readings from (in order of appearance):
The event is free, but ticketed. You can register here. If you can only use a voice line to dial in, please see the Gloucester Poetry Festival page for this event (scroll to the bottom of the page), here.
to celebrate we have bundles of 3 books by the authors available until just after the event – take a look
One thing that really struck us when we first read Accidental Flowers, Lily Peter’s novel-in-short-stories, was the descriptions of the numerous canine characters.
As this week is #LondonDogWeek AND #NationalDogWeek over in the U.S, we asked Lily to rank her favourite dogs from classic and contemporary literature. Disagree? Tweet us @ArachnePress with your favourite fictional hounds.
An Author’s Best Friend – Lily’s Greyhounds
I wrote, illustrated and bound my first book when I was eight years old. Its main character was not a plucky young girl who dreamt of becoming a bestselling author, but rather a very lazy and quite fat Dalmation named Slobdog. Although for an eight-year-old, my spelling and grammar were excellent, there are, perhaps, superior literary dogs that should be celebrated:
To begin, let us put our paws together for Toto from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. A wise terrier, with a sensible aversion to tornadoes. He is the best friend a lost girl could have and has excellent people instincts (which I find to be true of most dogs), revealing the Wizard for the sham that he is.
Next, we have the entire cast of dogs present in Dog Boy, by Eva Hornung. The novel tells the story of abandoned, four-year-old Ramochka and his hero dog, Mamochka, who adopts him as one of her own. He grows and learns with a pack of feral hounds – becoming one himself. It is a beautiful story that celebrates the canine moral code and it has a growl of an ending that will not disappoint.
Then, of course, there is the heart-wrenching folk tale (folk-tail?) of Hound Gelert. In Welsh folklore, the story goes that Llewelyn the Great wrongly accuses his own faithful pooch of killing his infant son. As he administers a fatal blow to Gelert, he hears his son crying and discovers him safely hidden, beside the corpse of a wolf – whom Gelert had obviously slain. Realising his mistake, Llewelyn is doomed to forever hear Gelert’s indignant, dying yelp.
Serves Llewelyn right.
It is my firm belief that we humans don’t always deserve our dogs. And yet, they keep finding us and loving us with huge generosity. Many of my favourite characters share their fictional spaces with beloved creatures and nowhere is this more true than in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman depicts a world in which every human shares their living days with an animal extension of themselves, their Daemon. When we adopted our greyhounds, Jasper and Joni, I knew I had found my very own pair: long-legged busy-bodies, with a ridiculous love of salty snacks and an inability to cope with change.
In my novel-in-short-stories, Accidental Flowers, dogs abound. Abandoned, beloved or left behind, they pad their way through the stories, sniffing out adventure and love. I can’t pick a favourite. Perhaps Juliet, a ghost of a Jack Russell who haunts the pages of her story with her vital loyalty and companionship? Or maybe Boatswain, a greying lurcher and huge fan of the beach, so long as the sea stays where it should? Can either of them compare to Argos, whose friendship and quiet, fuzzy-eyebrowed understanding helps one protagonist discover their true self as the world lurches to a stop?
How can I choose?
Best to let someone else decide for me, while I take the dogs for a walk.
Today we are celebrating 100 days of100neHundred! Laura Besley’s second collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred explores a kaleidoscope of emotions through 100 stories of exactly 100 words.
We spoke to author Laura Besley and Arachne Press Director and Editor, Cherry Potts to bring you a behind the scenes look at the commissioning and editing process of 100neHundred and the particular challenges and joys of creating a collection of flash fiction:
Laura, can you give us a brief introduction to your writing career and where yourinspiration comes from?
Over the last 12 years I’ve been writing as much as time has allowed, around work and/or childcare. My writing journey started with literal journeys: travel writing about my time living and teaching in Germany and Hong Kong. Fiction writing soon followed.
I realised early on that I had plenty of ideas, but struggled to write more than a paragraph or two. Quite by chance I discovered Calum Kerr online (Director for National Flash Fiction Day at the time). He had set himself a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction (max. 500 words) every day for a year. I did the same. In that year I learned a lot about my writing, not least that I loved short fiction.
Cherry, when did you first come across Laura’s writing and how did the idea for100neHundred come about?
Laura was one of the contributors to Story Cities, our 2019 flash fiction anthology which explores (almost) every corner of urban life in anonymous cities. Her story Slim Odds was about estranged sisters sitting opposite each other on a train. It was deliciously off-kilter, and now I’ve read more, a typical Laura story. For our eighth anniversary in 2020 I put out an invitation to people who we had already published, looking for collections and novels. Laura was one of those who responded, with her concept in place, and a lot of stories already written. My initial reaction was that it was a little gimmicky, but would make it easy to market, but once I read the stories it was an immediate and firm ‘yes’.
Laura, was the idea of a collection of a hundred stories daunting? How many did you need to write and how long did you have in which to do it?
I’d amassed the 100 stories originally submitted over many years, so in that way it didn’t feel daunting. It just occurred to me at one point that I had enough to put together a collection and 100 stories of 100 words seemed like the best format. I submitted the manuscript of 100neHundred to Cherry in March 2020 and was delighted when she said she wanted to publish it. Things were a little delayed by the pandemic, but in September 2020, after Arachne secured funding from The Arts Council, I got the go ahead. However, there were 25 stories Cherry didn’t like enough to include. Over the next three months I wrote another 35-40 stories, finally both agreeing on the final one hundred stories to include.
Cherry, were there any particular challenges (expected or unexpected!) in editing acollection of stories with such a precise word count?
The predictable one was that they weren’t all exactly 100 words to start off with! And it wasn’t as simple as adding or subtracting a word here or there. Laura had played with the grammar here and there to hit the target, so I edited as though we weren’t aiming at 100 words, and then gave them back and said, now fix the ‘100’ thing. Taking the titles into the header so it wasn’t counted in the file helped! There were some stories that ended up turned inside out in order to get there. And some that we decided to lose because the 100 limit just didn’t suit them, they needed more room to find themselves.
I was afraid that it would get tedious, every story being the same length, (and remember I read a great many more than 100 stories, and all of them multiple times!) but it wasn’t the case – a lot of stories felt a lot longer, and some seemed to whizz by so fast I could barely catch them – 100 words is actually quite a generous limit, it allows for a lot of variety.
Laura, the stories in 100neHundred are divided into four sections, each named for aseason. Can you tell us a little bit more about that decision, and how you decided whereeach story fitted within the collection?
I decided to divide the collection up into sections to make it more appealing and manageable for the reader, thinking that being faced with a bulk of 100 stories, despite them being short, might feel a little daunting. The idea of seasons seemed, to me, the most natural step to take. Once that was decided I looked for obvious markers to place them within the different sections, like the weather, or people’s clothing, but also I looked at the mood of the pieces, as well as trying to strike a balance overall making sure that pieces, in style genre and content, were evenly distributed across the collection.
Were the any moments of disagreement during the edit, or stories that you each felt strongly about in different ways?
Cherry: Oh boy – not so much an individual story, but a thread of stories. With the initial 100 stories, I started a spreadsheet with a loose themes column. This was mainly because it helps me work out how to sell a collection if I can track the writer’s preoccupations, and also to check I wasn’t imagining a particular slant to the book.
There were an awful lot of deaths, dead mother/father/brother/sister/friend/child… children, one way or another. Maybe Laura as a young mum was working out her anxieties? I think I actually gave Laura a corpse limit. It was quite amicable!
Laura: Generally, there were no big disagreements (I don’t think!), but there is one story I can recall submitting in the new batch that Cherry said: “No, just no”. And I realised there was no point trying to persuade her otherwise. That’s fine – as readers, writers and editors we all have personal tastes and preferences.
The response to 100neHundred has been incredibly positive, from readers and reviewers alike. Why do you think these stories have resonated so much with people?
Cherry: I think the brevity and apparent simplicity of a 100 word story allows the reader to project a huge amount of their own interpretation onto the characters and situations, so that they relate to the story more than they would if there was extraneous description. The surburban houses are the houses in the suburbs you live in, or travel through, the men and women in the office are the ones you work with; particularly when you are given only a he or she to play with. I wouldn’t say the stories quite achieve universality, but there’s a huge stride towards it.
Laura: I’m absolutely thrilled with the positive response 100neHundred has received. It’s impossible, for me at least, to say with any certainty why these stories have resonated with people. I’m just extremely grateful that they have. Every kind word and positive response is so uplifting.
As a part of our 100 days of100neHundredcelebrations, author Laura Besley has shared an exclusive glimpse of her writing process
Earlier this year Laura spoke to blogger Elizabeth M. Castillo about writing longhand – “I always write first drafts on paper, so I have notebooks, pens and pencils all over the house, in bags, in coat pockets, etc.” – and we’re delighted to share a little glimpse of Laura’s notebook today, with a look at the first draft of her story,’Weekend Dad’:
Laura told us about the inspiration for this story: “I saw (presumably) a dad and his young daughter in a cafe and the daughter was talking non-stop like little children do. The thought crossed my mind as to what would happen when she was a teenager and, like most teenagers, goes through a silent phase and a time of not liking her dad. I imagined how they might be able to bridge that gap if they only met for an hour or two in a cafe at the weekend.”
Here’s the final story, as it appears in the finished copies of 100neHundred:
This Friday 3 September it will be 100 days since publication of100neHundred, Laura Besley‘s remarkable collection of 100 stories of exactly 100 words each. To celebrate we are sharing 100neHundred related content on our blog and social media all week.
It may be a little book of tiny tales but 100neHundred has had a big response from readers, reviewers and booksellers. We asked Laura Besley to share her 10 favourite reviews of 100neHundred with us:
“The book gives the reader the feeling of voyeurism as if we are taking a glimpse behind the curtain of lives unraveling, of decisions being made behind closed doors, of peeking at the most intimate of moments. It’s melancholic, heartrending, hard hitting and joyous all in one!” Ross Storgy
“Besley takes you through so many emotions in very few words. She also whipped the ground out from beneath me a few times, changing my expectations with the final line, which I enjoyed.” Goodreads, Reader Review
“Besley writes with sensitivity and an acute awareness of what to include in the frame and what to omit… Every story in 100neHundred is worthy of a re-read; the entire collection deserves many more.”Daniel Clark offers high praise in Briefly Zine
“This well-crafted collection tantalizes very quickly and delivers potent moments, creative economies, and clever tours of humanity.” Goodreads, Reader Review
If you already have a copy of 100neHundred but haven’t yet left a review on Goodreads or one of the online retailers, then please do! Reader reviews make a huge difference to both the publisher and the author:
“I recently told a friend, who was about to publish her first collection, that reviews will make you cry. Not just the bad ones, although they make you cry too, but the good ones. Especially the good ones. It’s nothing short of magical when you read someone else’s words about your words: sometimes they are kind, considerate and thoughtful, sometimes they are insightful, and sometimes they convey exactly what you were trying to achieve and it is this, all of this, that overwhelms you emotionally, because the hard work, the early mornings and late nights, the writing and rewriting, the editing and re-editing, is worth it for someone else’s enjoyment of your writing.” – Laura Besley
If you don’t have a copy of 100neHundred, you can buy one from our webshop here.