Member news: May 2024

My debut chapbook was published! Titled “Songs For Wo(Men)” it’s the first in award-winning Canadian publisher Gordon Hill Press’ The Sheffield Chapbooks series.

“Songs For Wo(Men)” incorporates drama, prose and poetry. The chapbook begins with an epigraph, written by the brilliant Somali-Canadian: spoken word poet, multidisciplinary artist and community educator; Timiro Mohamed. Its overarching narrative is based on true events, when I was stuck in an unwanted conversation with a man (named Dick in the chapbook) who started and continued the conversation unprompted. Dick expresses his astoundment over the way I’m dressed, as well as unsolicited and invasive queries into my: cultural background; disabilities; sexuality; dating history; invades personal space on multiple occasions and attempts to pass on misogynistic and violent ways of approaching women, much to my chagrin. The overarching narrative is interspersed with break out pauses of poetry and prose; to illustrate moments of self-reflection during an unwanted conversation.

Thematically, the chapbook discusses: toxic masculinity; gender identity; life in the diaspora; self-love; code switching; grief; addiction; belonging; neurodivergence; exoticism; being disabled in an able-bodied world; sexuality; catcalling culture; consent; black women femicide; sexual assault and physical abuse. Content warning for everything listed prior.

Please support by purchasing a copy of the chapbook via this link!

– Mugabi Byenkya

I was born in London, grew up in London, always lived here. It seems slightly unfashionable to say I love it and always have. We’ve just moved from our house of 38 years, into a temporary flat in Primrose Hill near where I grew up and worked for years. I am really enjoying the reconnection with places full of memories and with the best view of London. My London holiday until we move back to Muswell Hill in three months’ time.

– John Simmons

I’ve announced the next edition of my Writing the Occult virtual events, this time looking at Connections to the Land.

It’s that time of year when the land is in flux. In the northern hemisphere, we’re blooming, growing, getting ready to bear our fruits; in the southern hemisphere it’s the time of waning, harvest, and preparing for the long winter ahead. This is the time of year where folk horror stories live and breathe, when mythology takes over, when ritual and spiritual practices thrive.

And it’s the time when we are, all of us, connecting to the land in some way.

What does that mean for us as writers and storytellers? That’s what we’ll explore in this fifth edition of Writing the Occult: how writers can connect to the land for inspiration, for plot, for creativity, for character, all timed for the week of the solstice.

We’ll look at connecting to land myths, ritual landscapes and spirits of place. We’ll use our land to spark fantasy creations, and land in general as a driving force in your story. We’ll look at not just the beauty, but the hostility, too. And we’ll ask how the climate crisis is impacting the writer’s connection to land—and what we can do as writers to raise awareness of climate needs in a responsible and ethical way—with a special panel featuring climate fiction writers. And finally, we’ll bring it all together with a generative writing workshop so you can go forth into Solstice week with sparks of your own new land connections.

Speakers include esteemed druid Penny Billington, folklorist Caroline Wise, academic Dr Kevan Manwaring (who has literally written the book on ecofiction), writers from the Sauuti Collective – African creatives who work in a shared SFF universe steeped in African mythology – plus authors including Ally Wilkes, Eve Smith, Lindz McLeod, Tiffany Morris, Shona Kinsella, Kerry Hadley-Price and more.  

Early bird ticket prices are just £35+bf, and that gets you access to the whole day online plus recordings of each session. Full event details at; tickets from Eventbrite, here.

– Lauren McMenemy

Most of my freelancing is for a little opera company called Wild Arts. We’ve just started touring England with our Opera Evenings (75-minute selections of opera and musical highlights), and we start rehearsals this week on The Magic Flute, before premiering it at our Essex Summer Opera Festival at the stunning Layer Marney Tower in mid-June.

The basic principle of the company is this: what if we took the crème de la crème of performers and creatives from the Royal Opera House, English National Opera (or what’s left of it), and Glyndebourne, and sent them to places that wouldn’t usually go? (Mostly barns and outdoor spaces, the occasional theatre to prove we can!)

We’ve cut the set and doubled down on the costume and the music, with an incredible group of singers and a chamber orchestra. It would be lovely to see some 26-ers in the crowd!

– Max Parfitt

My “been up to” things… Firstly, I’ve been keeping up with my monthly local poetry group as much as possible. Here’s a short I wrote recently:

No Name

No name I have
for this

(though I’m sure 
there is one)

when the scent
of the air 

carries me back 
to the past.

Secondly, just over a year ago, I started teaching myself to draw. Well, going though Sketchbook Skool and signing up for a class. It’s a skill anyone can learn. I’ve filled four sketchbooks (my sketchbooks do double duty as a journal), drawing mainly artwork I’ve found online that inspires me as well as everyday items and things I come across. This video shows highlights of my fourth sketchbook, and also can be viewed here

– John Jordan

I have just started writing the final chapter of a short story about two children exploring a fantasy solar system. I’ve been working on it for a year and a half and I’m hoping to finish the first draft by the end of this summer, because I am very eager to start the joyous task of writing the second draft.

– Harry Ashton Key

My poem “The Serpent’s Shiver” appeared in acumen and I’ve blogged it here

– Aidan Baker

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