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.
As part of the exhibition, we have two LIVE IN PERSON events at the gallery
Tuesday 7th February 6.30 BSL interpreted curator tour with Cherry Potts and Deaf artist, Nina Thomas.
Recently, we have been choosing cover artists who share the experience of our authors, and for our Deaf anthology, What Meets the Eye, we asked Nina Thomas to provide the cover. Her complex, multi-layered photographic creations perfectly captured the theme of Movement that we chose for the book.
Join us for a BSL interpreted wander around the exhibition and find out about books, book covers, art, and putting on an exhibition.
Tuesday 9th February 6pm Routes, Imagining the Diaspora with artist, Suman Gujral and poet, Rhiya Pau:
Suman and Rhiya met when we chose Suman’s Story Plate for the cover of Rhiya’s poetry collection Routes. Both are inspired by their families’ journeys and the diaspora more generally.
Join them for a poetry reading, art sharing, discussion of where their work intersects, and a short hands-on workshop making poetry boats, which you can take home, or leave to be displayed in the gallery.
You might want to bring a favourite pen, relevant newspaper articles or family photos printed onto (both sides of) paper that will easily fold. Free tickets
NOTE!! Stephen Lawrence Gallery is in STOCKWELL STREET, not to be confused with Stephen Lawrence Centre or Building also in Greenwich.
Arachne Press has long been a champion of LGBTQ+ writers, but we’ve never before published an anthology of LGBTQ+ poetry. That is all about to change. The title of our forthcoming book is Joy//Us, because we want to publish your joyful poems, ones that celebrate all that is best about our community/ies and lives. This is not an ‘explain it to the straights’ book, this is for us. We want LGBTQ+ readers to be able to open the book at random and find a moment of poetic queer joy for themselves, however big or small.
This is a call for poetry by LGBTQ+ poets, for LGBTQ+ readers. If you don’t identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, then please do not submit. We are not looking for sexually explicit or derogatory poetry. Nor are we looking for poems about trauma or distress (we recognise it is out there and needs writing about, but this is not that book).
Send us your unpublished poems, in English (or Welsh, with a translation*). This is a UK/Republic of Ireland only call, but within that, we want to see as many submissions from poets from the global majority as want to be published by us. Send us up to 5 poems – we will consider a maximum of 3 for publication. Poems can be any length, but think first, do you really need all those words? Send us your best!
Submissions are open from 1 February 2023 (for the start of LGBT History Month) until 11 October 2023 (National Coming Out Day) and will only be accepted through Submittable.
The book will be published to coincide with IDAHOBIT on 17 May 2024.
*The poet must submit their work, not the translator, so if you have not translated your own work, the translator must give permission, and must be credited.
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
The Significance of a Dress
With Paper for Feet
The Dowry Blade
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!
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.
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
We’ve teamed up with Lewisham Libraries to run a couple of In Person workshops for writers as part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations. Both are linked to upcoming anthologies, and we are hoping that participants will be inspired to submit (deadline 31st December 2022).
Saturday 12 Nov 3-4.3pm Catford Library 23-24 Winslade Way, Catford Centre, SE6 4JU Off the beaten track with Cherry Potts
In preparation for an anthology of poems and short fiction Byways – which will be published in Spring 2024, Arachne Press editor Cherry Potts is running a writing workshop for anyone who is interested in the ideas behind the book.
A byway is a right of way that you can’t take a vehicle on – so think alleys, snickets, ginnels, bridlepaths, greenways, the highwater line on a beach, mountain passes, desire paths, tow paths… shortcuts or the scenic route, the path to somewhere else, the familiar and the uncertain.
Are there local paths you always take, or avoid? Come and write with us, and perhaps start something that could end up published! We’ll bring examples and writing prompts, you bring pen/paper or laptop, and… maybe a map? free tickets
In preparation for an anthology of poems and short fiction inspired by the menopause, which will be published in October 2023, Arachne Press owner Cherry Potts and co-editor Catherine Pestano are running a writing workshop for anyone who would like to get involved. Our anthology call out is aimed firmly at older women, lesbians and women from the global majority. Our theme is the menopause, and we are looking for stories, flash and poems that go waaay beyond the empty nest and feelings of sexual redundancy, so come along and explore. We will provide playful writing prompts, examples and discussion including some useful facts about the menopause, you provide the imagination. Bring pen/paper or laptop. Free Tickets
Catherine Pestano is a menopause activist, social worker and community musician based in Croydon, South London and offers services through her community interest company Creative Croydon. Key areas of interest include and the use of music and arts for wellbeing & social justice, Mental health and LGBTQ support. She is lead adviser for the national Song Therapy training and is a long-term member of the natural voice network.
Cherry Potts is a writer and creative writing tutor who runs and edits for Arachne Press.