The Spectre of Abandonment

Loose Muse Anthology Autumn 2013

Hi gang,

I am soooooo excited!! This week is going to be a truly amazing one, because I’m one of the artists involved in Lorraine Clarke’s ‘The Spectre of Abandonment’ exhibition, which opens on Tuesday 9th and runs until Sunday 14th September at Candid Arts.

All of you who’ve bought one of the Loose Muse anthologies will have seen Lorraine’s truly awesome work because she’s allowed Loose Muse to use her art work for the covers of all five anthologies. And if you’ve ever been to her studio in Tottenham, you’ll know what an extraordinary artist she is.

Anyway, a few months back she and I were talking, along with fellow writers Sue Johns and Sarah Reilly, and all agreed how much we’d like to do a collaborative project together thus ‘The Spectre of Abandonment’ exhibition was born. Sue, Sarah and I have written new poetry/prose inspired by some of Lorraine’s existing work, and Lorraine has produced new art work inspired by the poetry of us three writers. She’s also included new sculpture with her own poetry…must be hell to be so talented!!!

As Lorraine says in the exhibition’s publicity, “Spectre of Abandonment” is ‘an exhibition of installation and sculpture exploring how the art forms of fine art and poetry can interact’, and it’s alrady attracted a lot of interest which is marvelous.

We’ll be doing readings of the poetry we’ve written each day of the run, with all three of us writing at the Private View on Tuesday 9th September – open 6-9.00 p.m., readings 7-9.00 p.m. One or more of us will be reading each day between 7-9.00p.m. (I won’t be there on 10th as I’ll be hosting the Loose Muse 10th Birthday event at the Poetry Café on that day).

All of us will be reading on Saturday13th, and finally again on Sunday 14th with readings from 2-4.00 p.m. So there are lots of opportunities to come and see us all strut our stuff, and the best thing is it’s FREE so you’ve no excuse not to be there. Candid Arts is at 3-5 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ, which is literally right next to Angel Tube, so it’s easy to get to. If all of this is confusing you, just look at for a full list of opening and reading times.

I’m really excited about working with such a talented bunch of women, and having had a bit of a preview of some of the pieces Sue, Sarah and Lorraine have produced as a result of our collaboration, I know the creative breadth of the work is incredible. Hopefully you’ll agree when you come along and see the end results.

See you there I hope…




A Different kind of X Factor – Part 1

Hi gang,

I know I’ve not blogged for ages, but have been so embroiled in trying to get my novel finished almost everything else has taken a back seat for the past few months. No wonder novelists tend to oddness – they live in their heads and forget to have a real life! But enough of that!!

This September 10th we’re celebrating Loose Muse’s 10th Birthday with an event that includes birthday cake galore…please all of you who are coming, bring a literary-inspired cake to share…it’ll be London’s biggest sugar rush and we’ll all probably be wire to the moon for a fortnight. But cake AND good writing – what’s not to like? We are keen to have cakes decorated in a literary fashion, so if you ice letters onto them or full colour portraits of your favourite icon, its up to you…

We’re not saying you have to create tiny books out of icing, but we’re not not saying that either.

We’ll also be unveiling the beautiful new Loose Muse Banner, especially designed and made by fantastic visual artist Catherine Tuson, who has gifted us her talent as a gesture of solidarity and also because she’s a pretty amazing human being. Now we’ll have something stunning to hang up at Loose Muse events in London and anywhere else I’m able to get to whenever there’s a LM event.

As well as the Loose Muse name and dates, the banner will also display the name of ten iconic women writers, chosen by me and the other members of the Loose Muse Editorial Group. After a lot of thought, between us we chose our Top Ten Women Writers – those women who we all agreed had made extraordinary contributions to world literature through the quality and uniqueness of their writing, often under difficult circumstances. Although the days are long gone when women had to hide behind a male pseudonym so they didn’t bring shame and disrepute on their families, women writers still often don’t get the credit or the recognition they deserve (which is one of the reasons I set up Loose Muse in the first place).

So, who have we included on this list. Well, it was incredibly hard to choose just ten women writers from all those writers who through the centuries have made a genuine and far-reaching contribution to the world’s literature. Our list may or may not be controversial – certainly we hope it will engender discussion as well as inspiring people to put their own lists together and possibly read authors whose work they don’t know.

Our Top Ten Iconics (in no particular order) are:

  1. Jane Austen – one of the most widely read writers in the English language.
  2. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) – leading Victorian writer and author of seven novels.
  3. Charlotte Brontë – whose novels have become classics in English literature.
  4. Sappho – the first recognized woman poet.
  5. Maya Angelou – one of the most influential and multi-talented African-American writers.
  6. Agatha Christie – still one of the world’s best-selling authors.
  7. Vera Brittain – outstanding contributor to the literature of WW1.
  8. Mary Shelley – novelist and dramatist, best known for her gothic novel ‘Frankenstein’.
  9. Margaret Atwood – Canadian poet and novelist, best known for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.
  10. J K Rowling – who inspired whole generations of children and adults to read.


We found it so hard to restrict the list to just ten, we’ve also got another ten – numbers 11-20, also all fulfilling the criteria of quality, uniqueness and contribution to world literature…but I’ll write about them in my next blog.

In the meantime come along to the Loose Muse 10th Birthday celebration event on 10th September, at the Poetry Society as usual. Features will be me (doing a full set for a change!). Plus the amazing novelist Sally Spedding, who’s coming all the way from Wales to be with us that night.

So come share the passion, share the joy.




Vote for your top 10 female literary icons


Hello everyone,

Here at Loose Muse HQ we are loving the weather (albeit in the sense that it is really being brought home to us that we are 65% water, or is that 65% sweat?). In the midst of writing projects and overseeing two sparkly new free events coming up soon (see the events page), we are also planning a lovely special event to celebrate Loose Muse’s 10th anniversary.

It is going to take place of September 10 and it will involve literary cupcakes(!). If there are any bakers out there who wouldn’t mind bringing a tray of cupcakes with letters on them, that would be very much appreciated…

We would also like to make a quilt which is to have 10 squares on it, each with a short quote from a literary icon.

So, we need your votes. Here are some suggested candidates, in no particular order:

Jane Austen
George Elliot
Charlotte Bronte
Virginia Woolf
Margaret Atwood
Georgette Heyer
Doris Lessing
Maya Angelou
Harper Lee
Emily Dickinson
Silvia Plath
Carol Ann Duffy
Zadie Smith
Anne Sexton
Nadine Gordimer
Arundhati Roy
Edith Wharton
Ayn Rand
Iris Murdoch
Christina Rossetti
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
JK Rowling
Hilary Mantell
Danielle Steele (yes, we mean anyone who you think is an icon)
We would love to have your input into who should get the top 10 spots. It’s INCREDIBLY hard to choose, so we need your help.
Here is a link to some great female poets as a memory-jog  (I can never think of the names of the people I like until I see them in front of me).
Please either comment at the bottom of the page, or email or

Lots of love,

Agnes, Sara-Mae & Chikodi

Want to get published? Submit to the Loose Muse anthology…

Look how beautiful it is!


Hi all,

Just a quick reminder about our deadline for the next anthology. We’ve already published a number of these gorgeous collections, and if you want to get your work published you’re in with a great chance. As you know, you have to have attended at least one LM event to be eligible, but with our *new* Manchester and Cornwall based events opening up the pool of writers, we’re expecting some fab new work to start pouring in. So why not get in there early?

Deadline for Submissions for the next Anthology – 7th March.

If you have attended any Loose Muse event at any time during the past couple of months, you can submit poetry, short stories, flash fiction, a short play, or even an excerpt of your unpublished novel.  Email me ( your submission or give a hard copy to me, Steph in Manchester or Angela or Fiona in Penzance.  Launches for this new Anthology will be held in all three places late April.  It’s going to be the best yet!

Fancy using your writing skills to raise money for charity?

Jean-Marc Pierson ( is organising a public speaking/spoken word contest to raise funds for UNICEF – with special thoughts for the children of Syria.

Find five friends who would be prepared to give £5.00 each – then register to take part in the:


Saturday 22nd February @ Resource for London,

365 Holloway Road, Islington N7 6PA

For more information and how to register:

A great cause, and an energetic social afternoon to help the children of Syria.

So that’s the latest update. Here’s hoping this awful weather will let up and spring to start boinging about like Tigger.



Finding inspiration in the bleak mid winter


The view from my window… I wish.

Hi gang,

Now that Christmas is well and truly over and 2014 has got off to a wet and windy start, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I’d like to accomplish in the New Year. M OK, OK yes, top of the list is regaining my girlish figure…again!!  But much more important, and more likely to be achieved, is the following 5-point plan:

  1. Given The Famous Novel (working title ‘The Book of Betrayals’) is in the last stages of first draft completion, I want to start planning the sequel, provisionally called ‘The Book of Journeys’.  This will tell how my heroine goes back to Constantinople, journeying across a Christendom tearing itself to pieces on the eve of the 3rd Crusade, to reconcile her past with her future.  More research I guess, but hopefully it’ll be worth it when it’s done.
  2. Start writing my next book, NOT historical, but a fantasy novel, working title ‘The Conference of Dragons’.  This will be about…yes, you got it…dragons.
  3. Spend a lot more time lazing on a Greek beach and remembering how much I love Greece and the Greek people.   It really is one of my favourite places, and always makes me feel as if the Greeks really have got the meaning of life absolutely nailed.
  4. Spending a lot more time with friends, especially those I’ve known for most of my life and whom I’ve neglected shamefully over the past few years.  We always think that those we love will almost be there at the end of the phone whenever we want.  But having lost a few old friends in the last 12 months, I know this isn’t true.  I’ve reached the age where people I’ve known for a long time are dying, which is a sobering thought on so many levels.  This novel-writing lark has turned me into a proper recluse, but that’s no excuse to forget about the people who love me and not to be in touch more.  We are all mortal, and life’s too short for ‘”If only I’d taken the time and trouble…..”.
  5. And lasting, organize a few more Loose Muse events + get more funding for it, so I can spread the net even wider, both in terms of sister-events in other parts of the country, and also getting a wider spread of writers to feature.  I’d also really like to strengthen the publishing element of Loose Muse so that I can publish pamphlets and collections by women writers who haven’t yet had a collection published. I can think of lots of incredibly talented women writers who fall into this category, and want to get those off the ground once I’ve been able secure funding to make it happen.  So definitely watch this space for this idea.

And talking of Loose Muse, the event on February 12th is already looming on the horizon.  February features will be novelist Sally Spedding coming from Wales, and the multi-talented Hilaire.  So join us on February 12th at the Poetry Café.

Come along and share the magic.



Tis the season to be do-lally

She found them eventually and when she did, it wasn’t pretty…

Hi Gang,

With the year galloping headlong towards the 2013 finishing line, and Christmas a stone’s throw away, it’s the time I often get nostalgic about Christmas Past.  Now I know the whole spirit of the season is more about giving than receiving, but I couldn’t help reflecting on some of the truly atrocious pressies I’ve received in the past, making me dive head-first into the chocolate truffles and Christmas pudding with brandy butter and full-fat cream to compensate.

One of the worst had to be the year I got a box full of brown and turquoise striped stretch terri-towelling knickers 2 sizes to small….these from a man who professed to love me.  Needless to say the relationship didn’t last (tho’ that was more to do with the fact he hit me a few times before I hit him back and left!).  Another doozy was the gift from an ex-friend who refused to buy me book tokens because ‘they were too boring’, but instead got me a heart-shaped broderie anglais scatter cushion. Noooo!

My mother (God rest her soul) was supremely unimaginative in the present-buying stakes.  She often got me something she really wanted herself, which was about a million miles away from anything I might actually like.  One year it was an electric frying pan, another year a yoghurt maker, neither hitting my internal Yule Tide button.  Well, I’m so not a domestic goddess, that a kitchen appliance would never occur to me as a present to die for.  Although it fairness, I still have the electric frying pan and still sometimes use it, and think of my Mum every time I do.

She was terrible at Christmas time, always wanting to know what my brother and I had bought her, and going on and on about it for weeks.  And of course we’d tease her mercilessly, which drove her ker-razee.   It got so bad one year I got home to find her attacking the suitcase in my bedroom  with a carving knife to find the presents inside. After that, we left Mum’s gifts with the next door neighbour to make sure she didn’t do either herself or the furniture lasting damage.  Bless her.

Anyway, with only a couple more weeks ‘til the 25th, there’s still the December Loose Muse to look forward to and add a touch of inspiration to the Christmas Season.  It’s on the 11th, featuring Rebecca Audra Smith and Clair Dunn.  As usual it should be a good one, so hope you can make it to listen, share some of your own work in the open mic, and indulge yourself in the festive chocolate I’ve promised.

Come along and share the magic….and I hope you all have the Christmas you wish for, filled with grace and fabulous friendships.



Feeling competitive? Get your work out there…

Hi gang,

This month instead of blogging about life and the meaning of the universe, I thought I’d highlight a few writing competitions, and give people a chance to enter if they wanted to.  I get information on all sorts of different comps and don’t always have the chance to pass the information on, or even to enter myself, so the least I can do is make a list of some of them here.


Words and Women – A new prize for writing women in the East of England

1st Prize – £600 – winner and runners up feature in Words & Women’s flagship anthology.

Deadline: 30th November

Judges are looking for distinctive work, crafted, strong, creative and adventurous.  Open to all women living in the east of England, over the age of 16 – short fiction, memoir, life writing and creative non-fiction, up to 3,000 words.  For more information go to


South Bank Poetry – 2nd SBP Poetry competition

1st Prize – £200, 2nd £125, 3rd £50. 4th Prize a 2-year subscription to SBP mag, 5th 1-year subscription + all published in the SBP Edition 18 in 2014.  Judge – Clare Pollard

Deadline: 30th November

Entry fee £3 per poem.  No entry form required, send 2 copies of each poem, one anonymous, one with name & e/contact details to: Peter Ebsworth, South Bank Poetry, 74 Sylvan Rd, London SE19 2RZ. Cheques/postal orders payable to Peter Ebsworth.


Ink Tears Short Story Competition 2013

1st Prize – £1,000, runner up £100, 4 Highly Commended £25 + the chance to have your collection of short stories published by InkTears.

Deadline: 30th November

Submissions must be 1,000-3,000 words in English, on any theme.  Entrants must be 18 years or over. Each submission must be accompanied by £6.00 entry fee, payable via Paypal.

Full entry Rules on –


The Plough Open Poetry Competition 2013

1st Prize – £1,000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250.   Judge – Sir Andrew Motion

Deadline: 31st November

Submissions no more than 40 lines, typed single-space in standard 10-12pt font, one-sided on A4 with no identifying marks.  Entry fee of £5 per poem, cheques in stirling payable to The Plough Arts Centre.

An entry form must accompany each entry downloadable from


Words for the Wounded Writing Prize

1st Prize – £250, 2nd £100, 3rd £50 + all winners published in Writers’ Forum.

Deadline: 11 March 2014

Words for the Wounded is a charity for the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen & women.

Write no more than 400 words of fiction, or a real-life tale, or poem, on the theme of The Journey, a physical or emotional journey.  For more info look at:


I know there are lots of writing competitions happening all the time – maybe it’s about time Loose Muse started its own in 2014 – but these are some to get you all writing, and maybe it’ll be a Loose Muse supporter who actually wins.  Hooray.


Next Loose Muse is on December 11th, with Manchester poet Rebecca Smith and romantic crime novelist Claire Dunn, so it promises to be another good one you’ll be sorry to miss.

So come along and share the passion, share the joy,

Love – Agnes


The pumpkin decapitator strikes again!

The lights were low, the atmosphere was spooky, and the stories and poems were straight out of the Hammer Studios.  No, not a scene from ‘Britain’s Most Haunted…’, but the Loose Muse Pre-Hallowe’en Special Gothic Open Mic Night.  Well, being a closet Goth, what else was I going to do for an extra Loose Muse event at the end of October but add a dash of Dracula and the chance to hear some truly horrible writing in the run-up to Hallowe’en.

And we had a good night with lots of variations on the dreadful, the doom-laden and the down-right scary.  For my money Niki Aguirre’s nightmare short story about a woman who dreams of being followed by a faceless Man In Black was one of the high spots, although it did mean I slept with the light on when I went to bed.  That’s the trouble with having such a vivid imagination (and having trained as a psychic…yes, really!), it means every creaking floorboard, cold draft and odd noise in the night freaks me right out.

Having said all that, October is still my favourite month, and Hallowe’en one of the celebrations I enjoy most.  Just to set the record straight for those who’ve been led to believe it’s a night of unparalleled evil and devil worship, Hallowe’en has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which was a celebration of the end of the harvest season, and a preparation for the darkness of winter.  It is an ancient festival when the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead are at their thinnest, and the passage between the two worlds is easiest.  It was also a way for people to celebrate their ancestors and to get in touch with those who had passed over.  So yes, it was sometimes on the scary side (imagine sitting on a hillside in the October darkness centuries ago, with midnight approaching, waiting for that doorway to open and reveal….well, you get the picture!!).

But it had nothing to do with vampires, evil hauntings or devils waiting to snatch your soul away.  That came much later with the church’s hunger for control and power, plus the commercialization that have turned it into what it is today.

When I lived in Canada (about a million years ago), my pals and I had a great variation on the ‘trick or treat’ game where children would knock on your door and ask for sweeties.  Instead, we went ‘trick or drinking’, so every door we knocked on in down-town Vancouver was offered the chance to give us a drink or be ‘tricked’ in some way.  Of course, we didn’t really trick anyone, and by the end of the night we were absolutely plastered.  But we had a great time, and everyone we had a drink with thought it was as much fun as we did.  It’s a different world now of course; if a bunch of strangers turned up at my door one night demanding alcohol, I’d probably call the police!  Aaaah…the innocence of youth.

Anyway, only a few more days to the November Loose Muse, which will be held on the 13th, and feature poet Jacqueline Gabbitas and writer Leah Thorn.  It’s going to be another good one – when are they not – so I hope you can come along and share some of your work with us, be it ghostly, ghoulish or just plain great.

So come along and share the passion, share the joy.




You’ll never look at this the same way again…


As any of you who have ever tried writing a historical novel will know, you have to do a truck load of research to make sure you get all the dates, facts and figures right so your story is as accurate and colourful as possible.  This is both a pleasure and a problem.  A pleasure because you learn an awful lot more about the era your story’s set in and the characters living at the time.  A problem because:

a)    it’s never ending, and

b) you also unearth some truly weird, wacky and wonderful stuff – thus the subject of this blog, specifically stuff relating to health and medicine.

My novel’s set in the 12th Century (it opens in 1177) – a time of supreme brutality, violence and weirdness.  If I had a £5 note for each time something I had read in the course of my research had made me exclaim out loud ‘Get out of here. No way!’ (or mother colourful words to that effect), I could go on a long holiday somewhere warm and sun-kissed.

I’ve already blogged about weasel testicles being used as a method of contraception, but check these facts out:

  1. To ward off plague, tie a shaved live chicken to the groin.  It doesn’t say whether you could eventually eat it with roast turnips, or how long you were supposed to keep said chicken tied to said groin.
  2. The church decreed sex was not to be indulged in for pleasure even within marriage, and people were not allowed to make love on Sundays, Holy Days, Feast Days, or during Lent, pregnancy or menstruation.  If these rules were disobeyed, deformed children or lepers would result.  Which explains a great deal about the state of the nation!!
  3. To cure toothache, the ancient Egyptians suggested you should cut a mouse in half and place the half rodent on the afflicted tooth.  It doesn’t actually say which half, but I suspect this tip probably worked because you’d be vomiting so much you’d forget all about the toothache.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to put you offer your dinner so I’ll stop.

My aim was to get this novel finished by Christmas and so far I’ve finished just over 100,000 words, and it looks as if I might actually achieve my goal.  Hooray!!! I’ve become such a recluse while writing this novel, I’m surprised people still recognise me on the rare occasion I turn up at gigs.  And I’ve hardly written any poetry in the past year…too busy living in the 12th Century with my head in a totally different place.  There are other things I want to write, including my fantasy novel ‘The Conference of Dragons’ which has been smoking away on the bookshelf of my imagination  for a long time now…so, as usual, watch this space.

In the meantime, don’t forget we’re having a Special  Pre Hallowe’en Gothic Loose Muse Open Mic at the L’Osteria Restaurant in Greys Inn Road, London on Tuesday 29th October – 7.30 p.m. £5 donations would be very much appreciated to keep things moving until I can get some more funding.  And the next Loose Muse is on November 13th and features Leah Thorn and Jaqueline Gabbitas.

So come along and share the passion, share the joy.






Amazing! That’s the only way to describe the Loose Muse 4th Anthology launches in Manchester (on Sept. 17) and in London (on Sept. 19).  Two brilliant nights that totally underlined the amazing talent of all the women writers whose work was included in the anthology, as well as the enthusiastic support of everyone who came along.  It’s brilliant Loose Muse now has a sister event in Manchester, with another gig planned for early 2014.  And massive thanks for that goes to the fabulous Steph Pike, because without her hard work and passion, Loose Muse Manchester would never have got off the ground.

I still have feelers out to start other LM sister events in other parts of the country, with things possibly happening in Penzance and Surrey next year, and also still working on something at Loughborough Uni. Ultimately I’d like to get a circuit going where various LM events can cross-fertilize and writers from within those areas can visit each other and circulate talent and share skills.  Imagine that, if you will…I think that’d be fabulous, and hopefully more funding from the Arts Council (and other sources) will enable the dream to become a reality.  Any help any of you out there can give to make it all happen, just get in touch and let’s talk.

In the meantime, the 2nd year of the ACE grant has enabled Loose Muse to feature 22 writers and 7 special guests over the past 12 months in London alone.  And there have been hundreds of writers/supporters attending events and taking part in the open mics.  Yes, most of them have been poets, but we’ve also had playwrights, novelists, short story writers, and others mixing their writing with other creative skills.  That includes writers from Spain, Germany, Holland, Greece, USA, and France, as well as home-grown talent from many parts of the UK, including all the new Manchester faces – there are 5 writers from that fair city included in the 4th Anthology.

I’ve also been able to give 4 commissions – 3 for short stories and another one for poetry – this year.  The idea has always been to stretch writers so they come out of their comfort zone and try a new genre.  This has been tremendously exciting and the excellent results appear in anthologies 3 and 4.

I have so many more plans for the future of Loose Muse and ways in which it can develop and grow, I daren’t event begin to write about them or I’d be writing all day and night.  All these plans and ambitions will take funding, so I’ll stop now so I can plan a few more funding applications and get the ball moving on inspiring more interest in the project.  And of course without everyone who comes to Loose Muse events and makes them so successful and such a fabulous night for anyone interested in writing, none of this would be possible anyway.  Just keep on coming, keep on writing, keep on telling your pals about Loose Muse and encouraging them to come along as well.

Don’t forget we’re having a Special  Pre Hallowe’en Gothic Loose Muse Open Mic at the L’Osteria Restaurant in Greys Inn Road, London on Tuesday 29th October – 7.30 p.m. £5 donations would be very much appreciated to keep things moving until I can get some more funding.

So come along and hear some truly horrible writing…share the passion, share the joy.