Saturday, 23 May 2015

Come along to the Cambridge launch of Words And Women: Two

Melody Causton
The event is free and there’s a great line-up. We have music by highly acclaimed local singer-songwriter Melody Causton and readings by a brilliant array of women writers who live in or near Cambridge. Hear Anthea Morrison and Louise Ells, Lora Stimson and Melissa Fu read from their stories included in our second anthology of prose writing, hear the exciting work of Patricia Debney and Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown who both have books coming out this year and next. Leigh Chambers of Bookmark on Cambridge 105 is compere! See below for everybody’s profiles.

The event takes place on June 2nd at Hot Numbers Café, on Gwydir Street.  Doors open at 6.30pm, and there will be opportunities to meet the writers and enjoy a drink at the bar before the readings at 7pm.  Everyone is welcome, and copies of the book, praised as ‘an excellent anthology of imaginative and superbly written pieces’ (Eastern Daily Press), will be on sale.

Our writers and performers on the night:

Melody Causton has released her first EP, supported a number of respected folk acts such as Megson and has won 'Best female solo artist' at Cambridge's NMG awards for the last two years running.
Leigh Chambers
Leigh Chambers hosts the fortnightly radio show, Bookmark, on Cambridge 105 and also a mid-morning show. Last year she signed with DHH Literary Agency and is currently awaiting news about her first novel, Scapa Flow, set in 1940s Orkney.
Patricia Debney
Patricia Debney’s recent publications include Gestation (Shearsman Chapbooks, 2014) and a collection of prose poems, Littoral (Shearsman Books, 2013). Her first collection, How to Be a Dragonfly (Smith Doorstop Books), won the 2004 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition; her next collection Baby is published by Liquorice Fish Books in 2016. A former Canterbury Laureate, she is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Kent.
Louise Ells
Louise Ells has a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University and is now pursuing a PhD at Anglia Ruskin University.  Her thesis comprises Lacunae, a collection of thematically linked short stories, and a critical commentary examining Alice Munro’s revision strategies in Dear Life.  She’s recently had stories published in The Masters Review and Harts & Minds.
Melissa Fu
Melissa Fu is writing a collection of memoir-style pieces based on growing up in the Rocky Mountains. She is an active member of the Angles writing workshop, based in Cambridge.  In 2014, she started leading and facilitating Writing Circles, small writing groups in Cambridgeshire designed to create community and cultivate writers' voices. 

Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown
Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown’s short fiction has appeared in Mslexia, The Scotsman and in a collection from The National Galleries of Scotland. Her first novel, The Words in my Hand, which won the 2014 Pen Factor Award, is out in Germany in September and January 2016 in the UK. The novel tells the story of the secret love between French philosopher, Rene Descartes, and Dutch servant maid, Helena Jans - a story kept hidden at the time and almost lost from history since.
Anthea Morrison

Anthea Morrison grew up in Hertfordshire and has lived in London, Cambridge and New York, where she first realised her passion for creative writing at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Now back in Cambridge, she is an active member of the local Angles writing workshop. Anthea has had stories published online, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University.

Lora Stimson
Lora Stimson studied creative writing at Norwich School of Art & Design and UEA. She has published stories and poems with Nasty Little Press, Unthank Books, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Streetcake Magazine. In 2014 she was mentored by novelist Shelley Harris as part of the WoMentoring scheme. Her first novel, about sex, grief and model villages, currently hides in a drawer. She has higher hopes for her second novel, about twins, which received an Arts Council England grant and is now in its final edit. Lora won Words And Women’s prose writing competition 2014/15.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Come along to the Cambridge launch of Words And Women: Two

Tuesday June 2nd sees the Cambridge launch of Words And Women: Two, the second
collection of short prose by women writers in the East of England, featuring the winners of our annual prose competition and four commissioned scripts for ‘About’, our project on women and place, supported by Arts Council England.

The free event at Hot Numbers Café, on Gwydir Street, organised by Words And Women supporters Anthea Morrison and Leigh Chambers, features an exciting and eclectic line-up of contributors reading from the anthology, with live music from highly acclaimed local singer-songwriter Melody Causton. 

Doors open at 6.30pm, and there will be opportunities to meet the writers and enjoy a drink at the bar before the readings at 7pm.  Everyone is welcome, and copies of the book, praised as ‘an excellent anthology of imaginative and superbly written pieces’ (Eastern Daily Press), will be on sale.

The event will see overall prize winner, Lora Stimson, reading her short story ‘Cornflake Girl’ as well as women writers who live in or near Cambridge.

‘We had such great feedback from last year’s event when we helped to launch the very first anthology that we couldn’t wait to help celebrate Words & Women: Two. The standard of writing is incredibly high and there’s something very special about hearing writers read their own words. We’re also so pleased to have local singer songwriter, Melody Causton, performing at the event. The evening will be a real celebration of women’s creativity,’ says Leigh Chambers.

Entry to the annual competition is open to all women writers over the age of 16 who live or work in the East of England.  Fiction, memoir, life-writing and creative non-fiction are all welcome. Entries should be no longer than 2,200 words.  This year’s competition will be open for entries from September. Keep checking this blog for details.

Further information about the writers appearing at our Cambridge event will be posted here in a week’s time.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Daisy Black: writing and circus performing

(c) Johannes Hjorth
It is midnight in Paris and I am cleaning broken glass off the soles of my bare feet.  I’ve just danced a tango on a bed of broken bottles. An hour before the show, I could be found on the rooftop smashing bottles wrapped in a gingham table cloth with a lump hammer (bottles and hammer kindly provided by the bar – the Eurostar do not take kindly to this sort of equipment – transporting my hula hoops is difficult enough).  Freshly smashed glass is very sharp. I get changed quickly. Next up: hula hoops.Tomorrow, or next week, I will be in a different city, with different people. 

I started performing during my time on the Creative Writing MA at UEA.  I have performed in sumptuous mansions, famous Wintergartens, the world’s largest green house (in Vienna), and alongside some incredible and inspirational artists. At festivals and cabarets all over Europe, from the dingy to the breathtaking. My dressing rooms have been everything from a leaking, muddy tent or a disabled loo with no light bulb, to an eighteenth century bedroom with silk wallpaper, or an exquisite library filled with tame owls.

Between these sojourns, back at home I’ll make breakfast for my five year old and do the school run. I marvel at these different versions of myself, these skins, jostling up against each other. Back at the house, I traverse the steep ladder (far more death-defying, with a cup of scalding coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other, than the feats I perform in my other skin) to the attic, my eyrie, and write.

I realise now that whether it’s staring down a blank page, wondering how a collection of words can be made transportive, or holding onto a rope seven metres in the air, while it bites a tightening tourniquet around your thigh, plucking up the courage to let go - the discipline required is the same. It is about pushing mind or body to its limits, to where you are not sure it’s safe to go, or not sure that if you do return, you will ever be the same. It’s also about training; most mornings I train intensively, not only flexing familiar muscles and rehearsing, but also pushing myself. Then I close my laptop, get changed and head to my training space, and do the same with my body. Learning circus as an adult has been a challenge: the body isn’t as forgiving, and the mind interferes –overthinking when what you need to harness is the childlike willingness to try something without judgement.

(c) Neil Kendall
When inspiration (though the word is not visceral enough to convey the sensation) flows through you, as when the light is perfect and the painter must put oil to canvas, it can flow. Whether it’s circus performing, writing, music, or oil paints – to me, all these mediums are different outlets for the same outcome: you strive to connect, to elicit an emotional response. But you won’t always feel inspired. I saw a picture recently: on one end of the spectrum, absolute narcissism; on the other, crippling doubt. And in the centre: Art.  A large proportion of the battle to succeed in any art form is just carrying on. My 500 words a day are my training. I won’t necessarily use what’s in them, feel like writing them, or even like them, but just like when I’m having an off day training, or tired or injured it feels futile, I just have to trust that my body is remembering, my muscle memory is percolating: it is a process of accumulation.  A very good friend of mine recently asked me why I forgive myself more in the process of physical learning than in writing: I may get frustrated when I keep dropping the hoop when learning a new trick, but I understand that dropping it is part of the process. We accept that there is gravity: sometimes, you will drop the hoop. It took me much longer to understand this in relation to writing, but learning the process through which physical skills, and performance skills, are attained has made me better at the process of writing. You let go of the rope and after some freefall, you know that it will catch you because you trust yourself.

Performing; this is a different beast. At the moment my book exists in solitude, and when it is published, whether I write another book or not, I will be judged by it again and again. When I perform, it lives and dies in the moment. We connect. I tell my story. The feedback is instant. It is over. And tomorrow I’ll do it again, and it will be entirely different, even if it’s the same act. This is where the road forks.

I grew up surrounded by a family of artists. My mother has quietly accepted that I appear to have chosen just about the most ostensibly unstable career path possible. Not just one of them, but two of them. And did I mention that my partner Alex reads minds for a living?  You can imagine the conversations we’ve had when applying for a mortgage. 

In 2012 my partner Alex and I created Gossamer Thread’s Vaudeville Co. Both of us foster a love for the era of vaudeville; the aesthetic, the variety, the stories. As well as our individual disciplines, Alex and I perform double-acts and we are working on a full two-person show. We also produce sell-out circus and cabaret shows, predominantly at the Norwich Arts Centre (“Quite simply the best show in town’-Marc Gracey, Future Radio). I want the audience to never know what they are going to see next, but when they do to feel it is so right that it couldn’t have been anything else. Much like plotting a novel.  Each act tells a story. The next show is ‘Gossamer Thread’s Kubla Khan Cabaret,’ 12th June, based around Coleridge’s poem. We book performers from all over the country. Alex and I often create bespoke new acts: favourites of my own have been a conjoined twins aerial hoop act and an aerial silks act in which I was Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole – narratives, journeys.

I have found a pattern which works: five hundred words every morning; training in the afternoon. Then teaching circus or performing in the evenings. Our son has seen us both perform; he is surrounded by a network of family and friends.  I want him to see that it is possible to do whatever he wants to do.

Daisy Black  (aka Daisy Bourne) is freelance circus performer based in Norwich. Co-director of Gossamer Thread’s Vaudeville Co., she performs aerial hoop and silks, hula hoops and sideshow. She is also a producer and teaches circus skills in Norwich. She writes short stories, and is working on two novels, the current one is about the ‘father of modern circus’, Philip Astley. She graduated from the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia in 2013.
Tickets to Gossamer Thread’s Kubla Khan Cabaret are available from the Norwich Arts Centre website:

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Reading In Public

Lora Stimson, our 2014 prose competition winner,
reading at our IWD event this year.
Do you worry about reading your work in public? It can be a huge challenge.  In a poll of 2,000 people, two thirds revealed that they feared speaking in public more than dying.  But all that terror can be re-routed into a useful form of alertness by following the advice below.

Be Prepared

Please plan your reading so that you don’t go over the allotted time. Select an extract – ideally one with its own beginning, middle and end; and which involves some action or a turning point. - and time yourself reading it out. You may find it necessary to edit the extract to fit the time slot or rewrite part of it, specifically for the reading. Don’t be shy of making your extract work for you within the reading timescale.

The reading should include a short introduction to yourself and should place the extract you plan to read in context. Don’t leave this to chance.  Write it out on your reading script.  You can think you know exactly what you want to say but it is so easy to leap off your prepared version and flounder.

Double space and use a clear font so you cannot lose your place on the page.

Practice reading your extract to an imaginary audience. Note places to pause.  Decide if you feel confident enough to use different voices. There is a trick of turning the head in a different direction to visually signal a different voice in the text.  Slow down.  You cannot read too slowly but you can definitely read too fast.  Look up now and again, and practice doing this. Always focus on a point above your audience’s heads at the back of the room or reading space. 

On the Day

It is worth warming up.  There are actors’ exercises which involve rapidly firing one’s way through the alphabet.  Sing a song alone in the bathroom, use your voice before setting foot on the stage. 

If you are using a microphone, arrive early and try it out. Try to relax, remember the audience will be on your side.  They are excited about what they are going to hear. Breathe slow and deep.  Determine to enjoy the experience. Believe in your words.

Holly Dawson on the Thresholds website has written a detailed, practical blog on reading aloud.
We hope you find it useful.