Loose Muse 10th anniversary – here’s to another decade! – part I

Sara-Mae Tuson, Loose Muse board member, holds up the new banner made by artist Catherine Tuson.

Sara-Mae Tuson, Loose Muse board member, holds up the new banner made by artist Catherine Tuson.

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The audience prepares to be wowed.

Agnes Meadows with the winning cake by Rachel Joseph.

 

Agnes Meadows with the gorgeous new commemorative banner made by artist Catherine Tuson.

 

 

Cake galore

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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past couple of months, you can submit poetry, short stories, flash fiction, a short play, or even an excerpt of your unpublished novel.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 (agnespoet@googlemail.com) 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 (orfray@hotmail.com) 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:

ONE MINUTE SPEECH CHALLENGE @ 2.00 p.m.

Saturday 22nd February @ Resource for London,

365 Holloway Road, Islington N7 6PA

For more information and how to register:

http://www.jeanmarcpierson.com/events/2014/2/22/the-one-minute-challenge

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.

Love,

Agnes

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.

Love,

Agnes

THINGS GOING BUMP AND OTHER PUMPKIN HEADS

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.

Love,

Agnes

THE NATIONAL HEALTH WAS NEVER LIKE THIS IN 1177

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.

Love

Agnes

 

TOMORROW THE WORLD!

 

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.

Love

Agnes

Some pics from the big event…

Art by Lorraine Clarke

Art by Lorraine Clarke

We all had a wonderful time at last night’s event. The Caribbean buffet and wine were flowing, the poets were reading from our outstanding anthology, and generally a fantastic time was had…

Thank you to everyone, and remember, if you’re a lady writer and would like to get published, come along to one of our Loose Muse events. That way, you’ll be eligible to submit and you too could be gracing the stage like some of the lovely ladies below.

Below:

Baraba-Aseka and the marvellous Lorraine Clarke (whose artwork is on the cover of the anthology)

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Amy Neilson Smith

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Sue Johns

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Camilla Reeve

 

 

 

 

Hilaire

 

 

Leila Segal

 

 

 

Cath Drake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivienne Vermes

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Kirsty Brook, who wowed us all as she performed her work ‘Life test,’ her first published poem.

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Hilaire

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Me reading Balaba-Aseka’s fantastic poems, as she was too shy this time. We’re working on her though…

 

A panoramic shot which came out er…smaller than anticipated.

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This is the last of this year’s funding from the Arts Council, we’ve really tried to help women writers develop and hope we’ve succeeded in promoting the work of all you marvellous ladies out there!

Lots of love from the Loose Muse team,

Agnes, Chikodi and Sara-Mae

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THERE’S MAYHEM IN THE TILTYARD

Why Are Men in Armor so Sexy?

Can’t believe how long it’s been since last I blogged, but August has been a helluva month.  I thought I’d have lots of time to sit and relax, think about my novel, do lots of writing…generally move things forward with the help of cake and no ‘day job’ work.  How dumb was that? Instead, it seemed to get fuller and fuller of ‘day job’ essentials.  And the fact I’m on various Boards of arts organisations doesn’t help either, as you’re duty bound to help if requested to do so.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play.  On the pretext of historical research, I finally managed to get up to Leeds to visit the Royal Armouries, to take a closer look at their collection of medieval weaponry and indulge in my passion for swords.  Yes, I have a small collection of sharps, gathered over the years since my re-enactment days; not a really serious collection, but I enjoy the look of surprise on visitor’s faces when I unsheathe one of them and start talking about the balance between blade and hilt etc. (Better stop now in case you all start thinking I really am bonkers!).

Anyway, there I was up in Leeds on a warm and sunny week-end mid-month and visiting the Armouries.  The actual content of this purpose-built museum was excellent – you wouldn’t expect anything else, really, would you? Considering how much Lottery money was spent on building it.  But the building itself was a total disaster…unquestionably one of the WORST designed museums I’ve ever been to, nationally or internationally.  Everything had been shipped up from the Tower of London and other Historic Palaces to this purpose-built black brick mausoleum in what had been a derelict industrial estate next to a scummy stretch of canal.  No signage outside meant you couldn’t find the entrance, and poor signage inside meant you could find anything inside either.  Plus, little real thought had gone into the mediocre shop, cafes and restaurant.  A classic case of corporate funding going hand-in-hand with unimaginative local authority planning, and coming up with the worst of all possible worlds. Which is a real shame, as it should have been world class instead of being world crass.

But it was free entry, and it being a Friday during school holidays there were about a million kids there  all having a great time at the Knight School (which cost extra), and at the Jousting (also extra).  Now, as some of you may know, I’m a proper sucker for a man in armour (yes, I know I’m weird that way) and LOVE Jousting, so happily paid my dues to watch the Red Knight fight the Green Knight to rapturous applause and much booking and/or cheering.

This was theatrical jousting, as opposed to Full Metal Jousting (see Challenge TV Mondays at 10.00 p.m.), which is much fiercer and more authentic judging by the injuries.  There was no un-horsing or blood-shed, but there was plenty of very fine horsemanship and some excellent trick riding.  And as far as I was concerned the Red and Green Knights were both sex on legs in their full body armor, so the expedition was not an entirely unhappy experience.

I also enjoyed the selection of weaponry on display from early Celtic onwards (though not interested in the guns or modern day machinery of war), plus items covering many different cultures including Japan, China and India.  The full-scale model of an Indian war-elephant covered in armor was truly impressive and certainly not the kind of thing you’d want to meet on a dark night in Leeds or anywhere else.

Fully armoured war elephant

Fully armoured war elephant

Apart from that I spent the rest of the weekend with my lovely friends, Olivia and Howard, eating too much, enjoying lots of great conversation, and loving being out of London for a change.

Now, it’s back to the grindstone of preparing for the first Loose Muse event of the year on September 11th, featuring a selection of members of Highgate Poets.  Check the events page for up-to-date information on that and also on the two Anthology launches.  Until then, enjoy the remains of the summer and the gentle drift into autumn, and…

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE GNOME

Gnome-ageddon is nigh!

If you’ve been watching tv over the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen the ad by a leading Scandi furniture store featuring the destruction of rampaging garden gnomes.  When it was first screened, it made me laugh, as I thought it was quite witty.  So imagine my surprise when I read there had been 50 complaints about this ad to the Advertising Standard Board saying it was over violent and offensive, and that some people had found it distressing.

Now, call me old-fashioned (I know my place!), but I find the idea that people were actually distressed at an ad where plaster gnomes (not real, live gnomes, but gaudy figurines made up of plaster-of-paris and painted in garish colours) were shattered by a woman wielding a garden sprinkler jet, is just plain bonkers.

Clearly, the complainers haven’t been watching the news or reading the papers.  The situation in Syria, where hundreds of people are being killed or made homeless every day is distressing.  A tornado leaving a swathe of death and destruction in the US is distressing.  Cuts in crucial services that leave the poor even poorer and thousands reliant on banks or the kindness of strangers is distressing. Female genital mutilation in girl children is very distressing indeed.  And a newborn flushed down the toilet and stuck in a sewerage pipe is inexpressibly distressing.  Gnome attack in a spoof ad just ISN’T, and if you think it is, you’ve not got enough to worry about.  Get a life and get a sense of humour!

Having said all that, I also love the fact that there are gnomes in the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time ever.  And even more, there’s a place in Western Australia called Gnomesville, in the Ferguson Valley, about a 2-hour drive south east of Perth, where there are thousands of gnomes from all over the world are on display dotted around the forest landscape. I love the quirky eccentricity of that.  But I still wouldn’t any of the plaster variety in my garden if I had one…give me a real life fairy or elf any day of the week.  I’ve always been a sucker for Otherworld Creatures.

Our next Loose Muse is on Wednesday 10 July and, as ever, we’ll have some cracking features. Remember to come early to sign up for the open mic session at the end of the evening (gnome caps are optional).

Come share the passion, share the joy,

Agnes

Write Out Loud talks us up a bit

Greg Freeman of Write Out Loud wrote a rather lovely piece on us about the Manchester Loose Muse. It’s great to see that our plans for ultimate world domination are on track 😉

Check it out here:

http://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=37394

Thanks go to Write Out Loud and Greg, for featuring us!