class="post-18952 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news tag-creative-writing-futures-in-the-making tag-lgbtq tag-olumide-popoola tag-residency tag-the-future-is-back tag-writing"Announcing the Future is Back writers 2019

Earlier this year we opened for applications for The Future is Back – Olumide Popoola’s creative writing scheme for LGBTQ+ writers. The quality of submissions was extremely high, demonstrating a rich variety of talent across London. We’re delighted to share that the writers selected for this scheme are: Sabah Choudrey, Sam Hampson, LiLi Kathleen Bright, Sukh Brar, Leon Craig, Anna Lewis, Alan Ward, Kieron Blake, Gabrielle Johnson, Lena, Amie Taylor and Archanna Seker.

These writers will attend a series of creative writing workshops led by Olumide Popoola, an invitation to attend two special guest sessions: ‘Writing for Performance’ with Namita Elizabeth Chakrabarty and ‘From Activist Poetry to Eco Poetics’ with Saradha Soobrayen. They will also be invited to attend 1 zine making workshop,  access expert sessions (covering publishing, university and funding), gain feedback on their work and have the opportunity to share their work at a live showcase.

In addition to this, last year’s cohort from ‘Futures in the Making’ were invited to apply for paid writers-in-residence positions, to be mentored by Rachel Mars, Rikki Beadle-Blair and Olumide Popoola. The three writers selected for this opportunity are: Elizabeth Lovatt, Olivia Ouwehand and Cecil Fenn.

Congratulations to all the writers! You can find out more about them and their writing below…

Sabah Choudrey is a reluctant activist on most things trans, brown and hairy. Co-founder of Trans Pride Brighton in 2013 and proud trans youth worker since 2014. Their top three passions right now are: carving out spaces for queer and trans people of colour, making friends with cats, and taking selfies from bad angles. photo credit to Sayf Taj 

Sam Hampson grew up in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, reading tales of the faeries and witches that live there. Later, he read modern European literature at King’s College London and the University of Cambridge where he specialised in ecoliterature and ecophilosophy. Sam’s fiction writing returns often to the theme of ecology whilst also exploring related questions of queerness and topography.  

LiLi Kathleen Bright has  loved writing for as long as they can remember. They love stories that centre marginalised folks. Their main project is about a scientist and a dragon. They write poetry, fiction and non-fiction too. Herbal teas & trees hold a special place in their heart. 

Sukh Brar is a writer from East London, working on a novel and a short story collection. His fiction focuses on community, belonging, and the immigrant experience. One day, he hopes to teach creative writing. His short story ‘This Home’ appears in the Aesthetica Annual 2019. He tweets @cagepatterns 

Leon Craig is a writer from Camden. Her reviews have been published in the TLSAnother Gaze3:AM MagazineReview 31 and the Brixton Review of Books. Her fiction is available to read on Storgy.com, Berfrois.com, Litro.co.uk and the White Review website. She co-edited Thousand: An Anthology of Very Short Fiction and tweets at @Leon_c_c.

Anna Lewis writes short stories about the uncanny and unexpected, ranging from sci-fi to magical realism. She is also working on a play about queer utopia. She works at a science magazine and (when not writing) you’re likely to find her on the football pitch or at the bouldering wall. 

Alan Ward lives in London, works in digital marketing and writes both fiction and poetry. Some of his poems and short stories have appeared in magazines, most notably Magma and Popshot. In his spare time he volunteers for an LGBTQ+ listening charity.

 

Kieron Blake was born in North West London in 1983 to Jamaican parents. He has a degree in Politics and Social Policy and enjoys playing football and rugby. He likes reading, keeping abreast of current affairs and travelling the world. He also likes to engage new cultures and traditions, whilst meeting people from different walks of life. His favourite authors are Andrea Levy and Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, as their books (Small Island and Tourism), inspired him to write.

Gabrielle Johnson moved to London in 2015 to study English Literature at SOAS. During her degree Gabrielle founded Agenda, a collaborative online magazine that explored the 21st-century perception of gender and sexuality. Having now graduated, Gabrielle works in publishing and is writing her first novel which examines identity, family and mental health. 

Lena is a London-based writer who explores gender, religion and generational trauma in her work. She has spent the last six years working with faith-based charities on racism and Islamophobia, specifically supporting women and LGBT people. 

Amie Taylor is a writer and theatre maker. She founded and is an Editor of The LGBTQ Arts Review, and is passionate about platforming and raising the lesser heard LGBT+ voices in Theatre. She makes puppets and have made two LGBT+ children’s shows for 3-7 year olds. She now working on my first novel. photo credit to Naomi Waddis 

Archanaa Seker is a feminist, writer, researcher and rights activist from Chennai, India, currently pursuing the MA Gender Studies programme at SOAS, University of London. The scope of her work includes homelessness, mental health, disability, human and political rights, environmental justice, corporate accountability, gender, sexuality, labour, media, arts and culture.

Elizabeth Lovatt is a writer of short fiction and creative non-fiction living in London. Her work has been featured in Popshot Magazine, City of Stories and 404 Ink, among others. She is also the creator of ‘the tiny narrative’, a bi-monthly newsletter for narrative obsessives and is currently on the Editorial Board for The Mechanics’ Institute Review.   

Cecil Fenn is a writer, theatre maker and creative technician. A New York native, they studied at Trinity College Dublin before settling in London. They write literary fiction, stage plays and new media work. 

 

Olivia Ouwehand was born in Islington, London. Her writing has been published in Consent magazine and Brainchild’s Thousand anthology. She works with The Proud Trust.

 

Published 24 May 2019

class="post-18854 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news-opportunities category-opportunities tag-community tag-free-space-to-write tag-room-9 tag-writing"ROOM 9:
A free writing space for London writers

If you’re a writer or creative group based in London and are looking for a free space to write, create or work on projects in a friendly and supportive environment, then we’d love to offer you our Room 9 as a free space to write.

Based at the Albany, Room 9 will be available to use every Thursday from 10am-5pm, throughout June-August. The room’s capacity is up to 8 people and whilst the room is free to use – spaces will be offered on a first come, first served basis. Dates are listed below and will be updated when fully booked. The room has wi-fi, plug outlets and kitchen utilities such as a small fridge, microwave and kettle. Room 9 is also a wheelchair-friendly space.

If you’d like to book yourself in to use Room 9, please contact our Communication and Projects Assistant, Aliya Gulamani who will confirm your booking request: aliya@spreadtheword.org.uk.

Details on how to find us are here.

DATES

Thursday 6 June
Thursday 13 June – FULLY BOOKED
Thursday 20 June
Thursday 27 June – FULLY BOOKED
Thursday 4 July
Thursday 11 July
Thursday 18 July
Thursday 25 July – FULLY BOOKED
Thursday 1 August
Thursday 8 August
Thursday 15 August
Thursday 22 August
Thursday 29 August

Published 22 May 2019

class="post-18879 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview category-network-knowledge"Interview with Life Writing Prize Highly Commended writer Helen LongstrethHelen Longstreth

Helen Longstreth was Highly Commended for the Life Writing Prize 2019 for The Joy of Cooking.  Life Writing Prize 2019 Judge Inua Ellams said: “I was grabbed completely by this story.” Judge Colin Grant described the piece as: “a beautifully crafted memoir”.

In this interview, Helen shares how she came to write The Joy of Cooking, the mixed emotions in achieving a commendation for a piece of writing so personal and how her greatest inspiration is her Mother.

How does it feel to be highly commended in the Life Writing Prize?

As a writer just starting out, it is hugely encouraging, especially bearing in mind that it was on a subject so close to my heart, and so difficult to write. At the same time it feels strange winning a commendation for a piece that came out of my dad’s struggles with alcoholism. In writing it I wanted to try and understand him better – to paint a picture that held together all the tangled strands of love and pain, the good with the bad. So I’m glad that in doing this I’ve written something that speaks to others and hope that it also does him justice.

Can you tell us a little about your highly commended piece, ‘The Joy of Cooking’, how you came to write it, what the challenges were in writing it and why you chose to enter it into the Prize.

I came to this piece wanting to write about my dad’s struggles with drink and depression, It started with a few scraps that I wrote for the life-writing workshop on my creative writing MA, but I wasn’t sure how to make sense of them, or him. It was only after noticing that everything I’d written revolved around food that I found the heart of the story. After that I sat down with my sister and we spoke about more episodes and recipes we remembered. It was my sister who said it was cooking for his family that got him through the day and allowed him to give something back no matter the way he felt inside.

Focusing on food allowed me to illustrate my dad in all his moods and quirks in a more tangible way, and also brought some humour and lightness to a piece that would inevitably be very sad. I felt like I was working things out along the way which also meant it was a challenging and emotionally draining piece to write. It was hard to know how much to say, or what spoke for itself. I tried to simplify my dad’s history to give more space to the food, but I would have liked to include more meals, more episodes, and more of the family here and in America. Most of all I wanted to create a fair and real picture that brought him to life – which proved very hard for someone so complicated and who changed like the weather! I know there is still a lot of the story missing, and a lot more to write.

Tell us about your writing; how long have you been writing for, why do you write?

I’ve been writing most of my life in some kind of way (most of it badly) but have only taken it seriously over the last few years. Now I write because I’ve got to the point where I don’t know how not to. Often it’s a pain and seems a bit of an odd way to be spending so much time. At the same time it’s a wonderful way to live and navigate the world and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Do you have any tips for budding life writers out there? 

I don’t feel like I have much authority but I learned from my tutors and other writers not to shy away from the subjects that are difficult or hurt – that seems to be where the most interesting or compelling stuff comes from. Be open to being wrong or learning stuff along the way and be nice to yourself, especially when the writing sends you into dark sinkholes!

Are you working on anything at the minute?

I’m working on a novel or something like that, though right now it feels like more of a fragmented mess. But I’ve got to a point now where the writing is going well and I’m enjoying letting whatever it is flow out.

Who are your writing inspirations? 

I get new obsessions all the time, particularly with short story writers but I go back Lucia Berlin, Lorrie Moore and Grace Paley often. I love the way each of these writers finds a unique way to depict the humour and tragedy (and hope!) at the heart of everyday life. At the moment I’m completely absorbed in Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive. Overall, though, I’d say my greatest inspiration is my mother – a wonderful writer and teacher and a daily inspiration, in life and in writing!


Helen Longstreth is a writer currently living in London. She studied previously at the University of Manchester, The University of California, and recently completed the MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths where she was awarded runner up for the 2019 Pat Kavanagh award. She has worked as the assistant editor for the online magazines POSTmatter and Motherland, and is now working on a novel. You can read her highly commended piece The Joy of Cooking, in the Life Writing Prize showcase here

 

Published 20 May 2019

class="post-18749 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news-opportunities"Life Writing Prize 2019 Results

The Spread the Word Life Writing Prize, in association with Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, supports emerging writers and celebrates and develops life writing in the UK. 

Selected from nearly 1000 entries by 2019 judges Colin Grant, Inua Ellams and Ros Barber, the 2019 Life Writing Prize winner is  Charlotte Derrick for The Lady in Black. The announcement was made at Goldsmiths, University of London, at a special Prize event on Wednesday 15 May. 

The 2019 judges commented:

I loved, loved this… I haven’t heard a voice as clear and as sharp as this in a long time.” Inua Ellams

“The piece is full of ‘Wow!’ moments: sentences and phrases that smack you in the face with their skill and directness.” Ros Barber

“There are unexpected qualities and turns throughout the piece which has the power to pull you into lives and experiences that feel almost too raw and tragic to venture into.” Colin Grant 

The Prize rewards the winner with £1500, an Arvon course, two years membership to the Royal Society of Literature and development meetings with an agent and editor. 

The Lady in Blackwas initially written as a way for Charlotte to process the grief of her partner’s suicide. She had no intention of showing it to anyone until a friend found it on her laptop and insisted she submitted it into the world because of the lack of writing about losing a same-sex partner.  

Charlotte said: “I’m still in shock that I’ve won. I’m not someone who has a lot of confidence in their writing. There are so many talented writers out there. How am I supposed to compete with that? But winning the Prize has helped me realise that I’m just as capable as those writers, and I can’t express how grateful I am for that.”

Two writers were highly commended for the Prize: Alison Marr for Fat Baby, and Helen Longstreth for The Joy of Cooking. They will each receive £500, a writing mentor and sessions with aagent and an editor.

Alison Marr said: “It feels gratifying to be highly commended for the Life Writing Prize – writing is hard, lonely work, beset with constant doubt so it’s great to be validated.”

Helen Longstreth said: “As a writer just starting out, it is hugely encouraging, especially bearing in mind that was so difficult to write, and on a subject so close to my heart. At the same time it feels strange winning a commendation for a piece that came out of my dad’s struggles with alcoholism. In writing it I wanted to try and understand him better – to paint a picture that held together all the tangled strands of love and pain, the good with the bad. So I’m glad that in doing this I’ve written something that spoke to others and hope that it also does him justice.”

Three shortlisted entries were:
This is the house my father built by Sulaxana Hippisley
William and the Ham by Laurane Marchive
When Silence is King by Oluwafunmilayo Adewale. 

Six longlisted pieces were:
Hometown Legacy by Aisling Twomey
As Expected by Madeline Cross
Undertow by Roisin Maguire
neater by K Devan
Four Memories of a Berlin Summer by Sam Hampson
A Secondary School Education by Leke Apena.

All the top twelve entries are available to read online in the Life Writing Prize 2019 Showcase. You can read an interview with Life Writing Prize winner Charlotte Derrick here, and highly commended writer Alison Marr here.

Spread the Word is grateful to our Life Writing Prize donor, Joanna Munro, for making the Prize happen, to our partners Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, to the top twelve writers for sharing their personal stories in such surprising and engaging ways, and to everyone who entered the Prize this year.

The Life Writing Prize 2019-2020 will open in November 2019.  

 

Published 15 May 2019

class="post-18754 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview category-network-knowledge"Interview with Charlotte Derrick,
winner of the Life Writing Prize 2019Charlotte Derrick

Charlotte Derrick won the Life Writing Prize 2019 for The Lady in Black, a piece of life writing that explores grief with an astonishingly powerful narrative voice. Life Writing Prize 2019 Judge Inua Ellams said: “I loved, loved this… I haven’t heard a voice as clear and as sharp as this in a long time.”

In this interview, Charlotte shares her thoughts on her writing, how to write about grief, and how she hopes that her writing will support queer people experiencing bereavement.

How does it feel to win the Life Writing Prize?

Honestly, I’m still in shock that I’ve won. I’m not someone who has a lot of confidence in their writing. It’s friends and family who’re always pushing me to enter my writing into competitions, magazines etc. I never expect to hear back. There are so many talented writers out there. How am I supposed to compete with that? But winning the Prize has helped me realise that I’m just as capable as those writers, and I can’t express how grateful I am for that.

Can you tell us a little about your winning piece, The Lady in Black, how you came to write it, what the challenges were in writing it and why you chose to enter it into the Prize?

Initially, I wrote The Lady in Black as a way for me to process my partner’s suicide. Every year, I write at least one poem, short story or memoir piece about Eileen. I’ve kept up this tradition for almost six years. At first, I never wrote about her death. I wrote about her as if she was still alive. But she’s not. It took me four years to accept that, but once I did, I finally allowed myself to write about her suicide and how I felt about it, and that’s how I came to write The Lady in Black.

I didn’t intend to show it to anyone, let alone enter it into a competition, but then a friend found it when she had to borrow my laptop and insisted I submit it somewhere because there wasn’t much out there about losing a same-sex partner. If you look up, say, “lesbian partner died,” the first article Google shows you is about “lesbian bed death” (I’ll let you find out for yourself what that is if you don’t know already). There was only one article about spousal loss. This wasn’t a Google search I made years ago; this was a search I did yesterday.

That’s why I entered The Lady in Black into the Life Writing Prize. I want people to acknowledge the need for more resources for queer people experiencing bereavement and I want those who are going through this bereavement to know that they’re not alone. That’s not to say that their grief is like mine. Grief is individual to the person, so I’ll never know exactly how they feel, how they process it, etc. But I have some sense of what it’s like, and if someone can take comfort in that, then I’ve done something right.

Tell us about your writing; how long have you been writing for, why do you write?

At risk of sounding clichéd, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had severe social anxiety and I used writing as a way to communicate what I was thinking/feeling/etc. I suppose I never really grew out of it.

Are you working on anything at the minute?

I’m working on too many things right now. There’s a short story about the events that happened after Eileen’s funeral, there’s a poem about when I discovered Bran Flakes for the first time (which is a lot more interesting than it sounds), there’s a piece about my mum’s time working at a juvenile delinquent centre (although I haven’t decided whether I want to write it as a poem or a short story). There’s always something in my head I have to get down on paper.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Brendan Behan, Patrick McCabe, Irvine Welsh, Janice Galloway, James Kelman, Alison Bechdel, to name a few.

Do you have any tips for budding life writers out there?

Have fun with it. I always thought life writing had to be written a certain way (i.e, memoir can only be written in the first person – turns out second person works equally as well). Once you get rid of those notions, you might write something you never thought you’d write.


Charlotte Derrick is an emerging prose writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is currently on the MA in Creative Writing at Queen’s University Belfast. Her work has been featured in The Honest Ulsterman and Coming Out. You can read The Lady in Black in the Life Writing Prize showcase

Published on 15 May 2019

class="post-18807 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview category-network-knowledge"Interview with Life Writing Prize Highly Commended writer Alison MarrAlison Marr

Alison Marr was Highly Commended for the Life Writing Prize 2019 for Fat Baby.  Life Writing Prize 2019 Judge Ros Barber said: “Here is a Northern Ireland full of magic and mystery that was seemingly obliterated in the Troubles” and judge Inua Ellams said: “I was completely swept up by the black humour of this vividly written and rich take on the story of the troubles in Northern Ireland.”

In this interview, Alison shares how she came to write ‘Fat Baby’,  how she got into writing and her top tips for aspiring life writers.

How does it feel to win the Life Writing Prize?

It feels gratifying to be highly commended for the Life Writing Prize – writing is hard, lonely work, beset with constant doubt so it’s great to be validated.

Can you tell us a little about your highly commended piece, ‘Fat Baby’, how you came to write it, what the challenges were in writing it and why you chose to enter it into the Prize?

I sent ‘Fat Baby’ to the Spread the Word Life Writing Prize twice before without any luck so I decided to rewrite it. I wrote it as a memoir and managed to cut it from ten thousand words to five thousand. The main challenge was in trying to balance the child’s voice with the adult’s who had the benefit of hindsight.

Tell us about your writing; how long have you been writing for, why do you write?

I have always written stories and poems but only really applied myself when I studied Creative Writing at the Open University, where I learned how to edit which was the most valuable lesson. In my youth I was the lead singer of a folk/pop band so I concentrated on music rather than my writing. I have always devoured books – it is a passion for me.

Are you working on anything at the minute?

Recently I get prompts from an online writing group and I find wonderful and bizarre images on Pinterest that kickstarts ideas & stories. I have fifteen years of material, mainly short stories and poems that could be cut, shaped & polished up.  Since learning that part of my prize was getting to meet an agent & publisher I have been writing furiously and have 30,000 words of a novel of speculative fiction about an obsessed King.  I am also a third of the way through another novel – about squatting with a vampire in a long-lost briar covered library in Camberwell.

Who are your writing inspirations?

My literary heroes are Edgar Allen Poe, Mervyn Peake, Hilary Mantel, Angela Carter, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde … there’s so many…

Do you have any tips for budding life writers out there?

My advice to aspiring writers is to read and read and read and never give up when your work is rejected. It’s all subjective, keep going and try and write every day and be true to yourself.


Alison Marr, originally from Northern Ireland, is a musician and songwriter based in London. She studied Creative Writing at the OU and writes short stories and poetry and is currently working on a collection of fairy tales set in Kilburn. When not writing she plays jigs and reels on her mandolin. You can read ‘Fat Baby’ in the Life Writing Prize showcase here

Published 15 May 2019