I have an essay in this, a feminist zine (i.e. an independently-minded, independently-financed magazine) called I HOPE YOU LIKE FEMINIST RANTS, edited by Abigail Tarttelin. It’s a platform for sharing feminist and women’s voices, and championing non-patriarchal journalism and art. Issue #3 is out this month, and available in London (Pages of Hackney), Los Angeles (Skylight Books), and Liverpool (News From Nowhere).
You can also order online using Paypal via email@example.com. All zines ordered this way come with beautiful stickers. Issues #1 and #3 are £4, issue #2 is a bumper issue on Motherhood and is £5. Please add post and packaging – UK £1, EU £2, International £3. Note your address and the issues you want in the notes section on paypal.
He says my flat is like the Tardis, loads bigger inside than it looks from the street. He’s right, too. It’s got a tiny doll house front door and a staircase that goes round and round and up in a barley sugar twist, my living room blooming high and wide as you go in. My rooms are pretty like a chocolate box, soft furnishings of quiet pastel; the porcelain figurines my Gran left me lined up in rows on the shelves and along the mantelpiece, and on the top of the telly.
He calls our Fridays date night, but we’ve never been on an actual date. No dinner in a candlelit restaurant, or necking in the back row in the pictures, no dancing hip on hip, and lip on lip. I’ve never put on a nice dress for him or painted my face, and gone walking into town holding hands. But, just look at him. Tall and lean, hair thick and clean and blond like the beach in holiday brochures; close my eyes and I smell the sea, same as when you hold an empty shell to your ear and the water laps on a shore, right there.
One Friday, I watch from the bedroom floor as he’s pulling his jeans back on. The belt buckle slaps against his thigh.
‘I love you.’ It’s a shock when he comes out with it.
He blinks. ‘I love you.’
My words whoosh out. ‘Me too.’
‘Really?’ More age slips from his face.
‘Of course.’ But my larynx sheds rust.
Air is snatched from my lungs as it hits me. I’m not in love, am I? I don’t love him, not at all. I don’t even bloody well like him. Not as a person. This isn’t what I want. He isn’t what I want.
I want to be in love.
I want to be happy, the sort I read about in books. I want to die of summer, feel the sun kissing my face more surely than he ever could. I need the feel of a firm hand curving my hip and pulling me close, lips resting softly on my temple, the small of my back moist and sticky, cheeks flushed and pink, my pulse racing in my wrists. I want it all, and more.
And yet instead, I gift him a shy smile. Coquettish and coy, I get up and walk over. He covers my mouth with his. As our tongues dance awkward and slow, bumping this way and that, moving out of time, the figurines around us, my figurines, curl their spines into round shells, strike a pose, and freeze frame. The pile carpet thickens under my feet and, the ceiling pressing the top of my head, it bends my neck crooked, the walls around me closing in.
(First published National Flash Fiction Day Flash Flood Journal, June 2017)
I will be giving a talk on fiction writing at the next Folken gathering in Liverpool on 9th December. Pronounced Fol-ken (not Folk-en, that sounds a bit rude), which means “people”, the event aims to inspire and create networks and links for those who want to do something a little bit different in 2017.
I chaired very cheery writers’ event at Nantwich Library this week.
Authors Nikki Ashton, Caroline James, Victoria Johns, John Paul Goss and poet Helen Kay spoke about self-publishing vs traditional publishing, writing practices and revealed (more or less!) all.
The Nantwich librarians kept us sustained with chocolate digestives and shortbread (we managed to ‘force’ them down). At the end, they said “tonight was like an episode of Loose Women”. We’re taking that as a compliment!
I loved this sign on the library’s toilet door. As soon as I saw it, a full episode of Seinfeld ran through my head:
And the stairs had a Vertigo/Hitchcock vibe to them…
I’m also on Instagram now, if you’d like to follow me on there.
For the past two years, the camera on the phone I had was rubbish. When it came time to upgrade in July, the man in the shop said, ‘Are you upgrading because the screen on your phone is cracked?’
I said, ‘No, it’s because it’s crap. It’s a terrible phone.’
So he did his best and found me a really good replacement phone with a boss camera, to make up for it. And since then I’ve been photographing more or less everything.
I took a snap of a pop group at the Liverpool International Music Festival three weeks ago. Stealing Sheep looked far too ace in white tights and glittery goodness to ignore. I was pleased because I got all three women in the shot, and please note the “HEEP” part of “sheep” is expertly included.
I put the photo on Twitter because I was made up with myself.
When I got home that night, I searched for Stealing Sheep on Twitter. To see how good my photo was compared to everyone else’s. I’m stupidly competitive that way.
It was then I saw it.
My photo of Stealing Sheep, used by another Twitter account.
It wasn’t a private individual, or even a local webzine getting carried away with my Mario Testino/Annie Liebovitz-esque photography, combined with festival fever. It was part of a large organisation here in Liverpool, and they’d nicked my photo.
My photo without my consent, crediting or even tagging me. This is not on.
To add insult to injury, they edited my beautiful work to make the colours “pop” more.
I’m not naming or shaming because of what happened to me last year which you can read about here, but without respecting copyright then as creatives we’re all banjaxed. To each and every one of us who make things for a living, copyright is how we earn our money. If we don’t own what we create – whether it be writing, or even photographs taken on a mobile phone on a dreamy Saturday afternoon, then why are we doing all this?
Why do people think we do all this?
I’m not known for exceptional photography, and I’m willing to accept this fortunate snap was a happy accident rather than skills-related, but even if it’s idiots like me taking photos, the shots shouldn’t be just nicked. It’s very bad form indeed.
And the thieves ignored my comminications over it too.
That’s just rude.
On a lighter note, the fabulous first issue of FWYL, edited by the fabulous Claire Biddles, is back from the printers, meaning it’s available to buy online now. It contains feminist essays on the glory of Matt Healy’s hair, straight girls crushing on gay popstars, erotic fanfiction (yep, that last one’s written by me, how did you guess) and loads more.
You can order it here, if you wish. This is the beautiful cover (photo by Claire Biddles):
Additionally, if you’re in Liverpool, I have some flash fiction as part of the ‘Women: Where Do You Find Yourself in the Arts?’ exhibition at the café in Constellations until the end of next weekend. And it’s free!
In the second year of English A Level class, at age seventeen, we were handed a book. A slim volume with The Critical Sense printed blandly on the over, our tutor warned us from the beginning, ‘this book is hell.’
And he was right. The most boring book ever written, instructing us on how to criticise poetry and prose. We had to pen essays on the bloody thing for the next eight months. Horrific.
Whether one can learn how to critique by reading and analysing a book is debatable (that might be one of the essays I wrote, come to think). Fact is, in 2016, a *few* years later, Amazon and the internet have made reviewers of all of us.
Authors need five star reviews on Amazon, and lots of them, to sell books. Fair enough.
Award under full marks and reprisals start bleeding through, naming and shaming the new sport.
Music reviews on blog sites and webzines are the same; everything must be declared ace or it’s sucked in cheeks, waggling fingers and passive aggressive sub tweets.
Reviewing is largely a thankless task. Reviewers are reviewed, critics critiqued.
As critics we can only say what we see, hear and feel. The last one is as important as the rest. Puff pieces simply won’t do.
Of course there are always those wanting to make a name for themselves by slaughtering sacred cows, nothing new about that. And giving one measly star on Amazon because a book took 2 days to arrive or you didn’t like the look the postman gave you when he delivered it, is plain daft.
Hey – everyone’s a critic these days.
It’s important that authors, musicians, actors and creatives know that we largely go in desperately wanting to be thrilled. I always want to fall in love.
A book or performance making me happy is one of life’s most beautiful things. I think that’s the same for all of us, pretty much, yes?