The Word For Freedom Anthology Contributors

The Word For Freedom Anthology Contributors

 

We have now made a decision on the stories that came through the open submissions process for The Word For Freedom charity anthology, which is raising funds for Hestia; and are also delighted to reveal the fantastic cover donated by Jennie Rawlings at Serafim Design. Out thanks go to Isabel Costello for donating her story, The Word For Freedom, which was chosen as the title of the collection as it sums up the ethos of it so perfectly.

I want to thank all of the writers who sent in an story for consideration. We really appreciate your generosity in being willing to donate your words to this anthology. Sadly we can’t include them all, and many of the stories that have not been selected are great and we’re sure they will find a home elsewhere.

The decision about what to include has not just been guided by the quality of the story but also by the feel of the anthology as a whole. We have included a wide range of stories with different premises and themes to ensure that the collection has a good balance in content, tone, style, word count, etc.

We are delighted to include the following writers and stories in this collection:

  • Brick by Rachel Rivett
  • Cover Their Bright Faces by Abigail Rowe
  • Counting For England by Christine Powell
  • Enid Is Going On A Journey by David Cook
  • My Mother Left Me For A Tree by Rosaleen Lynch
  • The Servitude Of The Sudaarp by Taria Karillion
  • Not Our Kind Of Girl by Anne Hamilton
  • One Woman, One Vote by Sallie Anderson
  • Out Of Office by Emily Kerr
  • Relevant by Anna Orridge
  • Sayyida by Katherine Blessan
  • The Colour Of Sunflowers by Kate Vine
  • The Mermaiden by Dane Divine
  • Those Who Trespass Against Us by Julie Bull
  • Women Don’t Kill Animals by Carolyn Sanderson

These stories join donated ones donated from several authors:

  • Tiny Valentines by Angela Readman
  • Below the Line by Victoria Richards
  • The Second Brain by Cath Bore
  • Myopia by Sophie Duffy

We have more stories to come from Angela Clarke, Anna Mazzola, Helen Irene Young and Karen Hamilton.

Delighted too (actually hugely overexcited!) that the amazing author, Marian Keyes, has also agreed to read an advance copy and provide an endorsement for us.

We’re very excited about these stories and the wonderful collection we’re putting together to support Hestia. Keep an eye out for more details of the anthology itself and bookish events we’ll be doing with Hestia both live and on podcast.

 

 

Cli-F Anthology, ‘Nothing Is As It Was’, cover reveal

Once again, a big thank you goes out to all the contributors of the forthcoming Climate Fiction anthology. ‘Nothing Is As It Was‘ which will be published on Earth Day, 22nd April 2018.  The book will be available through online retailers in both paperback and ebook and proceeds raised from the book sales will be donated to support the work of the climate action group, Earth Day Network.

The launch party is taking place on 2nd May 2018 and all are welcome. It will be in Reading in the Library room at Great Expectations, which is a hotel, restaurant and bar, where Charles Dickens held public readings. A blog tour is also running for 8 days around the launch where some of the authors will be talking about the inspiration for their stories.

Jennie Rawlings provided the beautiful cover design, shown above.  Thank you, Jennie!  Her social media details are provided further down, if you’d like to tell her how much you like the cover or see some of her other fine work.

The contributors are:

  • The Window Box by Stephen Connolly
  • Nothing Is As It Was by Nick Wright
  • The Goodluck Camera by Kimberley Christensen
  • The Arctic Commandments by Cath Barton
  • Blue Planet Collection by Jane Roberts
  • Mirror Image by Anna Orridge
  • Graduation Day at the Fishmongers’ Institute by Anne Summerfield
  • Healing Athabasca by Keygan Sands
  • Ophelia Rising by Elaine Desmond
  • The Other Side of Me by Norman Coburn
  • Hasta la Vista, Baby by Fee Johnstone
  • Deluge by Susmita Bhattacharya
  • Come and Gone by Angelita Bradney
  • Up Above the World So High by Rose McGinty
  • Portal by Philip Sobell
  • Airpocalypse by Rachel Rivett
  • Warrior by F E Clark
  • Walking With the Weather by Rob Walton
  • Sun by Wiebo Grobler
  • Thirst by Lorraine Wilson
  • I Am Stealthy. I Am Swift by CJ Conrad
  • Where Lies the Line by Jennifer Tucker
  • New Moon by Dave Murray
  • No-car by David McVey
  • Me on the Mountain by Vicki Ridley
  • Plenty More Fish in the Sea by Luke Strachan
  • The Warming by Karen Morrow
  • New Shoes by Charlie Hill
  • Too Late by Ros Collins
  • Bottleneck 2047 by Neil MacDonald
  • Fireworks by David Barker
  • Like a Captain of Old, Going Down With the Ship by Fiona Morgan

Seven additional stories will be published online. Starting later this month, they will be published on a weekly basis to help promote the book and raise additional funds for Earth Day Network:

  • The Extinction of Bognor Regis by Louise Mangos
  • Spark by Jackie Taylor
  • The Grey Seal’s Lament by Bayveen O’Connell
  • The Triumvirate by Sumana Khan
  • Carla Loves Frank by Rebecca Johnson
  • Silver Ghosts by Kris Faatz
  • The Flood by Olivia Sandwell

The anthology was edited by Amanda Saint and Gillian Walker.

Contact Jennie Rawlings (the cover designer) on social media
https://twitter.com/HelloSerifim
http://www.facebook.com/serifim
http://instagram.com/helloserifim

Learn more about Earthday Network:
https://www.earthday.org
https://twitter.com/EarthDayNetwork
https://www.facebook.com/EarthDayNetwork

Words for the Wild


I’m delighted to host a guest blog today from writers, Amanda Oosthuizen and Louise Taylor, who have recently launched the Words for the Wild project. They want your words for the website and a print anthology and I invited them here to tell us more….

 

These days it’s difficult to shout about the importance of the wild spaces in our world without coming up against charges of NIMBYism or, perhaps worse, being embraced as anti-immigration Little Englanders, looking up to pickle our “green and pleasant land” in aspic. We like to think we are neither.

Louise Taylor

Rather, we are two writers – Amanda Oosthuizen and Louise Taylor – who love the countryside and value it for what it offers to all of us, wherever we live. Of course, we need houses, and decent ones at that. However, all of us, wherever we live, need wild places. Not only do the trees and other green things that grow there oxygenate our air, they give us somewhere to wander, walk our dogs, ride our bikes, build dens, fly kites, learn to identify a bird by its song, and any one of hundreds of other life-affirming pursuits.

All of this is under threat in the urban area of Eastleigh, in Hampshire. One of its few remaining greenspaces is set to be devastated by an enormous house-building project, supported by the local Council in face of significant opposition, including from many well-known environmental organisations.

The 5,000 or so houses planned will not include any social housing and only 30% are to be affordable housing; in the

Amanda Oosthuizen

main, they will be executive homes, located far from any public transport. Inhabitants will need to use a network of small country lanes to access nearby Winchester and Southampton. Meanwhile, the homes themselves and the large new road that is to be built to feed into those little country lanes will devastate meadows, ancient woodland and parts of the River Itchen. The effects on wildlife are almost unimaginable. So, too, are the effects on human health and happiness.

It is the threat to this beautiful and precious area that has prompted us to set up Words for the Wild. Although we support the campaign against this particular development and will direct any funds generated towards it, we see our website as a space for writers to celebrate and share the wild spaces that are important to them, no matter where they are in the world. With this in mind, we welcome contributions from writers across the world.

We’re looking for poetry, short stories and flash fiction to post on the website and for a forthcoming print anthology. With no particular genre, form or style in mind, we are open to submissions of all kinds. The subject matter does not need to be nature or wild places, although of course it can be; all we are looking for is some acknowledgment of the natural world. Beyond that, we want to be surprised, delighted and transported. We don’t mind if you make us laugh, smile, sigh or even cry as long as you make us feel what you are feeling.

Our website has only been live since the New Year but already we have been thrilled and overwhelmed by the generosity of so many talented writers. However, we would like more! As we say on our website, our plan is to make a stir. We’d love it if as many of you as possible joined us.

***

Thanks for sharing your story behind the project, Amanda and Louise, and I look forward to reading more of the stories and poems you’re publishing.

If you’d like to get involved you can find out more on the website: http://wordsforthewild.co.uk/

You can also keep up to date with what’s going on through social media: https://www.facebook.com/WordsfortheWild/ and on Twitter @WordsforWild

 

Year of Indie Debuts: After Leaving the Village by Helen Matthews

For the latest indie debuts interview, I’m speaking with Author Helen Matthews about her novel ‘After Leaving the Village,’ published by published by Hashtag Press. I often ask authors about their journey to publication, because that’s an achievement in and of itself, but hers is a little different again in that she’s had support from the charity, Unseen, who work to end human slavery. I

Helen, how are you involved with the Unseen charity and how has it helped to create your novel?

To answer your questions about my involvement with the charity Unseen – it wasn’t a collaboration, as such, but came about by chance when I  decided I was going to write a novel about human trafficking and was looking for research material. I started writing ‘After Leaving the Village’ in 2013 and human trafficking was not a high profile news story as it is now. It was actually quite difficult to find material until I discovered case studies (survivors’ stories) published by charities, including Unseen. When I learned about their work, I became a supporter and began to make a monthly donation to Unseen to sponsor a hostel room for a trafficking survivor.  While I was writing the novel, I rang their office on a couple of occasions to ask a question and, when my novel was finished, their founder and director, Kate Garbers kindly agreed to read it through to check it was factually accurate. (Similar to when you’ve written a crime novel and ask a police officer friend to read it through).

Fortunately Kate loved the story and was sufficiently impressed with the quality of my writing to offer to write a Foreword for the novel. They’ve helped me to promote the book by featuring it on their Facebook page and in a newsletter sent to supporters. We’re also doing a joint fundraising event in the New Year. I decided to donate a percentage of profits from the book to Unseen to help support the fight against slavery. More recently, Unseen has appointed me an Ambassador for the charity and invited me to  a training session, so I’m now an accredited speaker and able to give presentations about their work alongside promoting my book.

That’s really interesting, and it must feel good to think your book is working to help people who’s real-life stories are like your main character, Odeta’s. You’ve written a book which is a good read first and foremost, even though it tackles some difficult subjects. How do you think a writer can balance the passion they have to draw attention to an injustice, with their passion to tell a good story?

It’s good advice, if not always practical, to write with your potential readers in mind. If I think about what I look for as a reader (and I read many genres, from commercial to literary), the books that satisfy me most offer something more than just escapism, convincing characters and a plot that rattles along. When I’m investing time in a book, I like to learn something about the world or gain an insight into human nature. In a contemporary novel, I love a ‘state of the nation’ theme (Ali Smith’s Autumn; Zadie Smith’s NW; Capital by John Lanchester).

While researching human trafficking, I discovered that the top country of origin of victims trafficked into the UK was Albania, so I decided this was where my character, Odeta, would come from. I’d never been to Albania and my initial research was from articles, travel guides, maps, Google Earth and watching YouTube videos. When my novel was at final draft stage I realised I’d have to visit Albania to make sure details were accurate. While there, I arranged to spend an afternoon visiting a family in a village (though not as remote as Odeta’s). Their daily life, their home and their approach to entertaining guests were uncannily similar to what I’d dreamt up in my imagination. They even owned a shop – though theirs sold hardware and auto spares, not groceries.

My major concern was whether young Albanians would speak more English than Odeta because this is an important plot point in my novel. Of course, the older generation learnt only Russian and, for decades of the twentieth century, Albanians weren’t permitted to travel abroad. I found that students and Albanians who’d travelled abroad did speak some English but I was relieved to find, once we left the capital, Tirana, even young waiters in a roadside café couldn’t understand my simple request for a bottle of water.

As a novelist you can’t overstuff your story with all the facts learnt from research, however fascinating. You have to let go and trust your characters to take the action forward so your story doesn’t buckle under the weight of research.

Well, your research paid off because your book is amazingly evocative, her village life is delicately and convincingly brought to life in your writing, which makes what happens to her all the more heartbreaking, and her inner strength all the more real. As you say, human trafficking, modern slavery, wasn’t well known about even just a few years ago, and it’s been the work of charities and campaigners which has shone more light on it. How did you first hear about it and decide to research it?

Unseen, the charity I support, has three main aims: supporting survivors and potential victims; equipping stakeholders, such as companies, police forces, health professionals, to recognise the signs, and influencing legislative and system change. Under this third remit, Unseen’s research was instrumental in inspiring government to bring in the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The reason we’re better informed now is because, when perpetrators are caught, they are charged appropriately and convicted of modern slavery offences. In the past it was often the victim who was charged with, for example, prostitution or immigration offences.

I’m continually developing ideas for novels and jotting down notes for the next one. My starting point of After Leaving the Village was Kate’s story – her anxiety about her son’s Internet addiction and somewhat radical approach to a digital detox. My working title was Disconnected. As I brainstormed ideas around disempowerment and exclusion, I thought about what it would be like to be forcibly cut off from everything. This led me to research human trafficking and modern slavery. With such a sensitive subject, I took care to honour my character’s humanity and make Odeta a fully-rounded ordinary woman – just like you, or me, or our daughters – rather than the shadowy one-dimensional victims so often seen in the background on TV crime drama.

Where does this in-depth research fit this into your process? Do you write the first draft and then research your hunches, or do you need to establish the research first and then build your story from that?

My starting point is a broad plot outline and an idea for my main characters before doing some initial research. I then write a few chapters to test out whether the characters will live and breathe on the page. Not all stories have legs and some plots fizzle out. Once I’m confident, I get stuck into more extensive research. I write a first draft, checking facts as I go along. I’d strongly recommend finding an expert in the subject to check your manuscript at the end of the process and I was very fortunate that Kate Garbers of Unseen offered to do this for me.

And I think anyone looking to write such an depth novel as this one, would do well to heed that advice! This has been a huge project for you, and of course is still on going as you try and get the word out about your book – but do you have more in the pipeline? Are you writing around the same area, or striking out in a new direction?

I have a new novel underway and an early draft has been read by two beta readers and critiqued by a writer friend, who was on the MA in Creative Writing course with me at Oxford Brookes University. She is a skilful and challenging reviewer and her suggestions involve structural changes. I’m itching to get back to working on it when the launch and promotion phase of After Leaving the Village calms down. The new novel has contemporary themes (my characters will potentially be affected by Brexit, for example), but it’s set in 2016 when the full impact isn’t known. It’s broadly in the suspense thriller category, like my current book, but I’m tweaking it so it will end up slightly closer to the psychological thriller genre.

Brexit  is a challenge for writers like everyone else, it’s an odd time to write near future fiction just because everything is so up for grabs! I’m working on one set in a post Brexit Britain too which is my first foray into urban fantasy – seeing as the possibilities right now seem multitudinous, if not all positive! I always like to end with a daft question – when writing, what’s your guilty pleasure reward for hitting your daily word count?

I’ve a terrible habit of hunching over a laptop all day, staring at the screen or the ceiling. Often, I look up to find it’s 4.00 p.m. and getting dark and I’ve not stuck my nose outside the door all day. So, I go for a walk or, perhaps, a swim, and my guilty snack of choice is Cadbury’s fruit and nut.

So, dedication to the art and craft of writing, proper research and fruit and nut – I think that’s a recipe for writing we’d all do well to follow. After Leaving The Village is a story which works on many levels and as well as being a deep commentary on the way we live now, is a good story too. I was struck by how the young people in the book are all chasing dreams seen from a far, hints of a golden life glimpsed through various social media channels, dream which all too often prove to be dangerous in so many ways. Please do buy a copy and read for yourself, both because it’s a good story with real characters, and because Unseen needs our support for the good work they’re doing.

After Leaving the Village is available in paperback and as an eBook by https://www.hashtagpress.co.uk/ Find it at Waterstones, Foyles and all good bookshops and on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2jaOVQb

To learn more about anti-slavery charity Unseen go to https://www.unseenuk.org/

To read Helen’s blog and hear about upcoming author events, visit her website https://www.helenmatthewswriter.com/blog

Author interview: Debi Alper and Stories for Homes 2

Today’s visitor to the blog, Debi Alper, has been here many times before as I have had the privilege of working with her on Retreat West competitions and retreats several times. But today she’s here talking to me about the wonderful Stories for Homes 2 anthology, which is once again raising funds for Shelter and helping to raise awareness of the homeless problem in the UK today.

 

Debi, can you tell us why you decided the time was right for SfH 2?

We always wanted to follow up on the success of SfH1 but struggled to find the time as it’s a huge commitment. It was clear that SfH1 had not only raised essential funds for Shelter but had also been the launchpad for several of our SfH1 authors. Mandy Berriman, for example, whose stunning short story A Home Without Moles was her first taste of being published, now has an agent and a publishing deal for the novel written in the same voice. Meanwhile, the housing crisis was becoming even more acute. Foodbank use was at an all-time high. Shoddy housing, unethical landlords, a lack of decent affordable housing – and all this before the Grenfell Tower tragedy – were impacting on more and more people. A few of our supporters were reminiscing on what a wonderful project SfH1 had been and, of course, Sally Swingewood, my co-editor, and I agreed. Before we knew it, we’d committed to doing it again.

What did you learn in producing SfH 1 that has helped to make the second anthology a more high-profile project?

The website has been spruced up by Rachael Dunlop, with lots of tabs added to make it a general resource on the housing crisis, as well as a source of promo for the anthology. We’ve also published a free story online every week over several months as part of an online anthology. This time, we had a lot of external help with the promotion, mainly thanks to Jacqueline Ward at Jel, who handled our social networking strategy, and we also had a multi-stop blog tour. High profile authors, Joanne Harris, Emma Darwin, Julie Cohen, Cally Taylor, Deborah Install and Tor Udall, gave us cover quotes. Thanks to the high standard we set with SfH1, many people were happy to endorse the new anthology, knowing the superb quality would be maintained. The cover, featuring original artwork by Sally, has been professionally produced by Head & Heart Publishing Services. And, of course, we had the same community of authors and supporters to help out with blogging, FaceBooking and tweeting, as well as all the practical work needed to produce a world-class anthology.

How did you choose the stories for the anthology and the running order?

With great difficulty! This is always the hardest part because, inevitably, we ended up rejecting some stories that were wonderfully written – many by published and/or award-wnning authors – but which we felt simply didn’t fit the anthology for a variety of reasons. We needed to establish a balance of light and dark (many of the ones we rejected tipped the balance into being too dark and we wanted the anthology to be entertaining, as well as thought-provoking). We also needed to ensure there were not too many that covered similar material. The original submssions were anonymised and once we’d made our first decisions and linked the stories with the authors, we decided we would only have one contribution per author.  We ended up with 55 stories out of 256 submissions. Deciding to have free stories on the website meant that we could use some of them there but that still meant saying no to some wonderful authors. We really hope those stories find homes elsewhere. With the running order, again we wanted a balance of light and dark, short and long, subject length, etc. We used index cards and smiley faces and spread them all out on the floor, moving them round until we felt we had the right shape for the book.

Do you see this as being an ongoing series to continue to raise money for Shelter for years to come?

I’d love to say I don’t think it will be neccesary but I doubt if anyone really believes that will be the case. We don’t have any concrete plans but I’m sure this won’t be the end of the SfH project.

Where can people find out about launch events and is there any other way they can support the project?

We have an events tab on our website: https://storiesforhomes.wordpress.com/events-2/ There’s a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StoriesForHomes/ and Twitter  https://twitter.com/storiesforhomes. Please come to our events, like our page and follow us. There’s also a donate button on the website for people who want to give their money direct to Shelter. And, of course, buy the book and tell everyone about it! In fact, why not buy several copies as the perfect seasonal gift? People like you are invaluable in helping us to spread the word. Thank you!

***

Thanks for coming, Debi. I hope the book is the huge success it deserves to be. I’ve already got my copy and there are some truly stunning stories in there. Please help support Shelter this Christmas and buy all the readers in your life a copy. They won’t be disappointed!

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Support for Beanstalk

Get great stories for a great cause!

Anthology raising funds for reading charity, Beanstalk

In May 2015 the anthology of winning stories from the 2014 short story and flash fiction competition, Inside These Tangles, Beauty Lies, was published as an e-book. The profits from the sales of this anthology are being donated to Beanstalks, a charity that helps school children with their reading.

I’m delighted to welcome Alexis Nielson to the blog today – she’s Beanstalk’s Individual Giving and Events Officer – to tell us more about what Beanstalk do and why it’s important. Over to you, Alexis.

Beanstalk works to recruit, train and support reading helpers who volunteer in local primary schools to provide one-to-one support to children who are falling behind with their reading. Each reading helper works with three children for a whole three terms, spending half an hour with each child on a twice weekly basis and giving them their undivided attention to help build their confidence and improve their reading attainment.

Their sessions are individually tailored to each child – by ensuring that the child finds the sessions supportive and fun, reading is able to become an enjoyable experience, and the child’s enthusiasm and confidence is able to flourish. One of the key areas of growth in the last two years has been Enfield, where shockingly over 500 children left primary school in 2014 unable to read to the required standard.

Thanks to the support of the community and local funders, Beanstalk are now supporting over 100 children throughout Enfield through the commitment of 34 reading helpers. This is a fantastic achievement, as they had very little presence in the borough three years ago.

Beanstalk’s Volunteer Support Worker for the area told the following story:

I visited one reading helper at an Enfield primary school for an annual visit, where she told me that one child she helped was a selective mute. The reading helper was completely unaware of this when she first started reading with the child as the child spoke to her (albeit quietly and not very confidently). One day the child came to the session having had a fall in the playground and hurt her knee so the reading helper informed the teacher/TA, who kept asking the reading helper how she knew and the reading helper kept telling the teacher/TA that the child had told her. It was only after quite a few sessions after this incident that the reading helper was told by the school that the child was a selective mute and would not speak to the other children or the teacher or the TA and only to the reading helper! At the reading helper’s annual visit, the child was happy to interact with me about the book she was reading and it was hard to believe that she was a selective mute.”

Beanstalk works with children who are already displaying the early signs of the short-term consequences of illiteracy and aims to help children overcome these problems. This is to ensure that more children leave primary school achieving the expected level in reading attainment and displaying a confidence and enjoyment of reading. They aim to prevent children from continuing on a path to long-term disadvantage and the negative long-term consequences of illiteracy.

Beanstalk recently launched their Annual Review and Impact Report for 2013-14, emphasising how specialist one-to-one support by reading helpers is able to transform the skills and confidence of thousands of young children throughout England. The report highlights how 93% of the young children supported by Beanstalk reading helpers during the 2013/14 academic year showed meaningful improvement in their reading level. Furthermore, the report also shows that 74% of the children supported improved their reading ability by at least two reading sub-levels, compared to minimal progress the year before receiving one-to-one support.

It is only through the kindness and generosity of supporters that Beanstalk is able to continue its work and achieve its goal of eradicating childhood illiteracy. So we’d like to thank Retreat West and all of the writers whose stories appear in the anthology for helping us to raise funds to continue our work.

If you would like more information or would consider becoming a Beanstalk reading helper, then visit beanstalkcharity.org.uk, call 020 7729 4087 or email info@beanstalkcharity.org.uk.

You can buy a copy of the anthology to help raise funds for their works here.