class="post-49226 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-opportunities"Emerging Poets Development Scheme launchedLogo for Emerging Poets Development Scheme

We are very pleased to announce that we are a partner with New Writing North on Out-Spoken Press’s Emerging Poets Development Scheme. The Scheme will offer targeted, integrated support and resources to three emerging poets over the course of a year — including regular one-to-one feedback, together with craft and practical resources — aiming to ready you for publication.

Early-career support is key to a vibrant poetry sector, and we are keen to establish an ethical space for this: providing both the craft and pastoral support to ensure your work reaches its potential and that you’re empowered to navigate and advocate for yourself in the industry.

We hope that this scheme will help create a meaningful practical opportunity to open up access to what may still feel like a ‘closed shop’ sector.

Who is it for?

The scheme is aimed at emerging poets. You must be at least 18 years old on the closing date of submissions. ‘Emerging’ is about where you are at in your career, not your age — there is no upper age limit. There is no minimum publication requirement but if you have previously published a full-length collection of poetry you are not eligible.

Of the three places, one will be selected in conjunction with New Writing North as part of the Northern Writers’ Awards, and two through Out-Spoken Press’s submission portal:

What does it involve?

The scheme will run from July 2022–September 2023 and will provide one-to-one craft development as well as wider resources to help equip you to pursue publication and develop your career, including:

We are keeping a close eye on Covid-19 developments and guidance. At the present time we are planning for all activities to take place remotely.

How can I apply?

Submissions will be open from 2 December 2021 and will close at 11pm UK on 17 February 2022.

The scheme is open to poets resident in the UK. You will need to provide a sample of your poetry, together with some further information about yourself, your writing, your aims and what you’d like to gain from participating in the scheme.

  1. Poets who live in the North of England (defined as the areas covered by Arts Council England in Yorkshire, North East and North West), should apply through the New Writing North Northern Writers’ Awards portal here: www.northernwritersawards.com and check the box confirming that they would like to be considered for the Emerging Poets Development Scheme. This mentee will be selected by Helen Mort and Anthony Anaxagorou.

  2. Poets who live in the rest of the UK should apply:

    (a) through Out-Spoken Press’s Zealous portal here; or

    (b) by downloading a paper form here and posting this to us together with your writing sample; or

    (c) by audio file, or as a video file if you use a BSL interpreter. Please contact Outspoken Press by email on press@outspokenldn.com if you wish to submit by audio or video file.

    In each instance you will need to provide a sample of your poetry (up to 5 poems or 4 pages of A4, whichever is longer). These two mentees will be selected by Mona Arshi and Anthony Anaxagorou.

For further details please read the Eligibility Criteria and Terms & Conditions and take a look at the FAQs here.

If you have any questions not covered in these documents, please email Patricia Ferguson on press@outspokenldn.com and she’ll be happy to help.

class="post-49113 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-blogs category-network-knowledge category-the-stories-we-tell-ourselves"Dear my past self by Shauna O’Briaina person with a mic wearing a cropped top

As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.

Writer Shauna O’Briain writes to her past self (content warning: suicide) 

Dear Shauna aka 15-year-old me 

I get that it’s dark right now
That you are locked in a chest under the sea without a key
The world don’t make sense
Looking out the window
With cockneys screaming into a void
Onto the blocks, small rabbit hutches
Squashed on a Camden estate 

That ginger woman
As she shouts
You’re Irish in her thick Dublin accent
I get you don’t know who you are here
Eldest of four siblings
the gay one and no one knows
Expression is dangerous in ends

But Shauna
Your mum did try by
Raising us here
And I get it
The beatings
The abuse
The addictions
karma we inherited from the roots of a rotten family tree
Followed us to England

Chained in poverty
Can’t even feed the ducks
So far under the bread line
Chest heavy under the weight of what is the point of this life
Those tiny bombs
You don’t take enough of them pills in front of you for them to detonate
Suicide isn’t your fate
You have life to live young woman

All your trying to escape is no longer here
The drink took Mum eventually
Yet
Her power lives through you
Shauna
Her creative spirit planted seeds for healing
You go on a journey, you’re a warrior of light
a child of the universe

You face your demons
With the sharp sword of your words
And it always hurts
You just learn to create joy in the pain
Releasing tears into rivers that cleanse trauma
Seven generations forwards and back
You’re who, your who your ancestors prayed for
Feel this 

turning your poison into medicine with poetry
found meaning in darkness
Carved it into stories you’re an artist
I promise you, it all makes sense one day 

Your anger is a force
You advocate for change
You challenge the system
You stand up for community
The tiny light you see
You turn it into a blaze
That sets many hearts alight with a passion for life
Just by being you 

You are a beautiful woman now
A rainbow goddess
You’re celebrated
For all that you are
Your road
It was not the easy road
But you’re on this path
You have purpose
Your life is connected to all life
As you change the world changes
Never give up 

And I know you can hear this
That’s why you didn’t find another box of pills to donate you off this planet
And I’m so glad you didn’t
Cause you are so precious 

Love Shauna aka 40-year-old me


Shauna O’Briain aka MC Angel is author of Moments of Significance, a non-linear memoir packed with poetry, prose, fragments of memories and mediations on life, philosophy and politics from an uncompromising voice. Told through Shauna’s personal experiences of growing up on an inner-city London council estate as a White Working Class Queer woman, Moments of Significance is an exploration of society and the political told through a very personal collage of experiences.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

#StoriesWeTellOurselves / #UKAUSeason

class="post-49110 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-blogs category-network-knowledge category-the-stories-we-tell-ourselves"Dear my past self by Rafeif Ismaila person with braids wearing glasses looking at the camera and smiling

As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.

Writer Rafeif Ismail writes to her past self (content warning: suicide) 

To You in the years Before: 

1997 

The security forces officers laughing outside your grandparents’ house fill you with a cold rage. You’re nearly four and wondering if you can somehow take their car and drive until you find your parents safe. It will not be the first time that you feel that afraid, but it is the only time you will ever pick up something with the intention of using it as a weapon.  

You survive. 

2001 

You learn how to run. Cairo will chase you for years to come but you get away. Physically. 

2009 

You try to make a bargain with the universe, willing to give anything for your mother to come back safe.

You begin to give up explaining your multiple worlds 

2014 

You stand at the edge of a platform at Flinders Street Station. It’s your first time out of Perth. You plan for an end, but see a child across the platform, you think of your earliest memories and can’t bring yourself to be the nightmare of another person. 

2015 

You stand on the edge of an empty train platform. A year to the day. Before you find your resolve, your mother calls. 

2018 

How can you think of an ending when your people are screaming/bleeding/breaking for their freedom? 

Protests 

Vigils 

Nightmares 

The litany of the names of the dead is a reminder 

the struggle is never over 

2019 

 Massacres

Revolution  

Maybe freedom? 

You begin to imagine going home again 

2020 

You make tally 

Of how many days you can go without someone you know dying

The longest is five weeks. 

2021 

Your suicide note reads ”Dear Future Self” 

You make a list of grief counsellors for your family and friends on Excel 

You drag yourself to see a psychologist 

And learn how to start living again 

Until – 

2021

There will come a time when you look at this fragmented timeline and wish that you could hold the younger you close. Every one of your breaths is an act of resistance. You’re finding joy in the small moments of life. You’re playing music again (you write terrible songs, they’re great). 

Here is a list of lessons learnt in these last few years: 

See you in another 10 years,

Love 

You, older but not yet wise 


Rafeif Ismail is an award-winning emerging multilingual storyteller and editor based in Boorloo, WA (colonially known as Perth). Rafeif’s work has been published in anthologies and literary magazines across so-called Australia and internationally, with a debut novel forthcoming. Deeply committed to creating diverse works, spaces and ethical storytelling, Rafeif is the current managing director of Djed Press, co-editor of Unlimited Futures: Speculative, Visionary Blak+Black Fiction (Fremantle Press & Djed Press, 2021), a participant in the 2020 AFTRS National Talent Camp and 2021 Equity Foundation Screen Diversity Showcase.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

#StoriesWeTellOurselves / #UKAUSeason

class="post-48830 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-blogs category-network-knowledge category-the-stories-we-tell-ourselves"Dear my future self by Alex Falase-Koyaa man on a yellow chair with a cat above his head

As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.

Writer Alex Falase-Koya writes to his future self:

“Is it worth anything? I know I’m skipping the small talk and pleasantries, but I know we don’t like that now so I’m guessing ten years into the future we’ll have even less patience for that stuff.   

So, once again, is it worth anything?  

I kinda need to know.  

I toil away at this. Late nights, early mornings. You know the drill.   

The price of writing can be measured in experiences I didn’t have. The person those experiences might have shaped me into is sacrificed at the altar of writing every day, and I’m okay with that.   

I understand that there’s a cost to all this and I’m more than willing to pay, I just need to know what I’m getting back.   

The sheer pleasure of writing? Sure, great, until we introduce a deadline and a third draft where the characters still make no sense at all. Let’s not fool ourselves, this still takes a lot of effort.   

Money? Sure, that’s always nice and very useful. But if you get into writing for the money, you’re probably going to be a little disappointed. Maybe you’re rolling in it, but I’m not.   

So, what else is being offered here? I have one other thing I can think of. The idea that we can change the world. The power of books to make the world a better place, a more equal place. Now, that’s enticing, isn’t it?  

Now I don’t know if anyone gets into writing because of it – I didn’t initially, but it sure can keep you going through the trials and tribulations. Keeps you warm on a cold night.  

I just don’t know if I believe it anymore.  

Bombs away, am I right? You want to talk? Let’s really talk.   

In this content-saturated world, what if all the books we write are just more content to be consumed? All the themes, life experience, and representation. All the things we write to push the world in a better direction. What if all that is just consumed in an instant before someone literally closes the book on all of that equality stuff and moves onto something else?   

We always talk about surfacing the right voices, making sure marginalised people get a chance to speak, but how often do we work on making sure that other people are listening? And I mean really listening.  

This is probably a distant memory for you now, but do you remember after the Black Lives Matter protests? Do you remember what happened?   

All those books about anti-racism were all suddenly at the top of the bestseller lists. But months later nothing really felt like it had changed – everything was still the same.   

If you were worried that there aren’t enough racism scandals nowadays, don’t worry the book industry still has you covered!   

You see why I’m here now, writing this.   

Is it worth anything? I need to know.   

I want to go on strike until you reply, to put down my pen, but I can’t. There’s a hope that keeps me going. I hope you’ll write back and tell me that of course it’s worth it, that I was silly for ever thinking otherwise. That my writing can be measured not in racists converted, but in courage stirred in the hearts of people who never got to see characters who look like mine and a writer who looks like me. I hope that’s how I get to contribute in my own small way to the changing of this world. I hope you tell me that’s enough. Maybe it is, for now.”


Alex Falase-Koya is from London. He has been both reading and writing children’s fiction since he was a teenager; anything at the cross-section of social commentary and genre fiction floats his boat. He was a winner of Spread the Word’s 2019 London Writers Awards for YA/children’s. In February Oxford University Press will publish the first two of six titles in a new early fiction superhero series, Marv, illustrated by Paula Bowles, as Alex’s debut. He now lives in Walthamstow with his girlfriend and two Kittens, and is also working on his YA debut.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

#StoriesWeTellOurselves / #UKAUSeason

class="post-48855 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-blogs category-network-knowledge category-the-stories-we-tell-ourselves"Dear my future self by Elle McNicolla person with long blonde hair wearing white trousers and a black strappy top standing in a bright aracade

As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.

Writer Elle McNicoll writes to her future self:

“It feels odd to write a letter to the future. I’ve never been able to visualise one. The present is consumed with work that I’ve waited my whole life to be able to do, and people who trample all over it in their eagerness to press their nose against the glass.

My past self is as much of a mystery to me as you are. My masked, carefully constructed former life seems like a failed experiment. She was cold in order to be hidden. And you would be saddened to know just how many people are drawn to coldness.

Coming out publicly about long-hidden secrets, while promoting a book during a pandemic, is perhaps not something I would advise – but it is now as inevitable as the words inside of said book. 

You were a stranger to yourself. For decades. There was a half-finished footprint on the sand before they washed it away. The shoes they made were ill-fitting. But you thought their only purpose was to look like everyone else, not to get you where you needed to be. So, you did not complain.

Time to complain.

Suppression with the aim of invisibility is not freedom. Tolerance is not the same as acceptance. Vulgar fascination and voyeuristic questions are not symbols of arrival. I hope you are existing in a future which values your work and respects your accomplishments, and that you are brave enough to say no when people only want your voice and presence so that they can collect you like some strange token.

I hope the story of the imposter will be done. The story you tell yourself every night before closing your eyes. The one where you accuse yourself of being a changeling.

You have not stolen a life. You have merely established one. And the work that you were afraid of for so long is now finally able to come out. The thing you were mocked and ridiculed for has grafted into a key which now unlocks something that will pull you out of the dark.

The work is more important than anything. They cannot take it away from you.  

Elle.”


Elle McNicoll is a bestselling and award-winning novelist. Her debut, A Kind of Spark, won the Blue Peter Book Award and the Overall Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, as well as Blackwell’s Book of 2020. She is Carnegie nominated, and was shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Awards 2020, the Branford Boase Award and The Little Rebels Award. Her second novel, Show Us Who You Are, was Blackwell’s Book of the Month and one of The Bookseller’s Best Books of 2021. She is an advocate for better representation of neurodiversity in publishing, and currently lives in East London.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

#StoriesWeTellOurselves / #UKAUSeason

class="post-48879 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-blogs category-network-knowledge category-the-stories-we-tell-ourselves"Dear my future self by Mykaela Saundersa person in a rural setting looking behind their shoulder at the camera with a confident expression

As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.

Writer Mykaela Saunders writes to her future self:

“Dear future Mykaela,

I’ve been asked to write a letter to you, asking you ‘who are we now?’. But this isn’t something I ever want to know for myself; I’ve never been keen on knowing my future, maybe because I’ve watched too many sci-fi horror movies that deal with time travel, causation loops, and the tyranny of fate. So, I do not want you to tell me any personal news from the future because that means I’ll spend all my attention on the lookout for clues—and that’ll stop me enjoying my life in the meantime.

But still, I have to ask you—who are we now? And I am not asking about myself. I am asking about us, as a people.

There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to know the future, for the reasons I’ve just touched on. But there’s another part of me that needs to know that the news is good. 

This other, hopeful part wants to know that corporations and their neoliberal enablers have been stopped from ruining our countries, and indeed our entire planet. But can you tell me that in all honesty?

Because I want you to tell me that. I need you to tell me that.

Because, what if these corporations aren’t forced to a halt? I just don’t know how I could live with knowing that. I don’t know that I could hold that knowledge in my body and still look our young ones in the eyes.

In 2014, in her lecture at Southern Illinois University, Angela Davis said that “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time”.

And god only knows how I could live if I knew that it wasn’t possible. 

My first impulse is to ask you to not tell me anything about how it goes either way, because if I only ask you to tell me the good news but hold off on the bad, then I’ll know it’s all bad news if you don’t tell me anything. And how could I find any joy in life then? How could I carry myself though life knowing nothing I do is good enough?

So instead, I am asking you to tell me the good news, whether it’s true or not. This is the only way I can proceed: by knowing if a well-loved planet and people is possible. Here are some things I want you to tell me—

So when you write back to me, make sure you tell me all this good news, and tell me more good things too, if you want—but make sure you tell me whether you mean it or not. Because, true god, absolutely everything depends on it.

Yours, in all sincerity,

Mykaela 

Gagabalingu, 2021″


Mykaela Saunders is an award-winning Koori writer, teacher and community researcher, and the editor of This All Come Back Now, the world’s first anthology of blackfella speculative fiction, forthcoming with University of Queensland Press in 2022. 

Of Dharug and Lebanese descent, and working-class and queer, Mykaela belongs to the Tweed Goori community. Mykaela has worked in Aboriginal education in various capacities since 2003, and at the tertiary level since 2012. Her research explores trans-generational trauma and healing in her community.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

#StoriesWeTellOurselves / #UKAUSeason