The Most Glorious CakeFest Ever!

Agnes with the winning cake made by Rachel joseph

Hi gang,

Yeehaa! LM celebrated it’s 10th birthday on 10th September, and at last am able to write to you about it.

It was a mega cake-fest, enough cake to make your heart and veins whimper in despair. Ironically, Sara-Mae Tuson, my incredibly hard-working fellow editorial group member, had texted me that afternoon to say she was worried there wouldn’t be enough cake. She’d spent the day baking cupcakes (which were absolutely delicious by the way…I had two and could easily have scoffed half a tin full without a qualm!). I had wanted to bake something, but spent the afternoon in total despair because there was no electricity in my block between noon and about 4.00 p.m. (don’t ask!!). So couldn’t log on or print anything out, or do any of the things I wanted to do ….aaargh! I had to go to M&S and buy two cakes instead.

As all of you who were there know, there was enough cake to feed an army of poets for a month. Even though we ate vast quantities, gave away as much again to everyone who would take it, I still had to take a stupendous amount home and was therefore eating cake for a week. My teeth and gut still haven’t stopped protesting, and I haven’t been able to look at anything remotely cake-like since then – though this will pass, I’m sure.

The night was a stupendous success. Sara-Mae and Chikodi Nwaiwu had both come earlier that evening and worked like Trojans to set everything up and make the room look a bit special. I love them both, and it would be absolutely true to say the night wouldn’t have been what it was if it hadn’t been for their hard work. We also unfurled the fabulous Loose Muse banner, which had been designed and made by artist Catherine Tuson. It looks amazing, so a massive thank you to Catherine, even if she wasn’t able to be there on the night to see the unveiling.

Sally Spedding had come all the way from Wales to be the other feature – she was totally fab. She’s a novelist whose work concentrate on the dark and dangerous, definitely right up my street, and a truly lovely, lovely person. She’s keen to help me set up LM Wales in the New Year, and has been talking to venues. A lot of women writers seem very keen indeed to get something going there, so watch this space. And as always there was an incredibly strong open mic with 16 readers sharing their poems and short stories with an enthusiastic audience. They had come from Cornwall, Winchester, the south coast, NYC, and Spain – lots of old friends as well as some new faces, all joined by the desire to see women’s writing get the credit and credibility it deserves.

I got flowers and pressies and had the satisfaction of a lot of people telling me how much they valued LM and everything it stood for/represented, which was extremely gratifying. It’s always nice to know that what you do has value beyond anything you imagined.

And so we go from strength to strength. The next LM event in London is on October 8th and features novelist/poet Fathieh Saudi and award-winning poet Malika Booker – there won’t be any cake, but it promises to be another exceptional night. So why not join us then at the Poetry Café…

Come along and share the magic.

Love

Agnes

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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

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

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 www.wordsandwomennorwich.blogspot.co.uk

 

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 – www.inktears.com/Inktears/WritersNewWritersContest.html

 

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 www.theploughprize.co.uk

 

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: www.wordsforthewounded.co.uk

 

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 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

 

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

Where are all you short fiction writers?

It’s wonderful that we always have so many great poets coming to the Loose Muse events. Every month, lots of women step up to the mic to blow our minds with their lyrical verse. Having said that, we really don’t want anyone to think that we exist for poetry alone. At Loose Muse we encourage ALL women writers (including playwrights, script writers, flash fictioners as well as short fiction and novel writers) to come and perform. We would love to have even more great short stories submitted, for example, to the anthology.

Here is a great short fiction competition which you still have time to enter if you hurry. You can win up to £1000. Anthony Howcroft, the director of InkTears, is looking for writers who have, ‘enough quality short stories’ to publish a collection. Alternatively, they are looking for writers whose work may go into an anthology. So you could enter a competition and find yourself publishing a collection at the end of it!

It sounds like a great opportunity, so don’t miss out. http://www.inktears.com/Inktears/WritersNewWritersContest.html

Elsewhere, Cinnamon Press has some great poetry collection, novella or short story competitions that are still open.  Go to http://www.cinnamonpress.com/competitions/ to take a look.

Book trust is a great website for listing competitions, so do take a look at that as well, although I’ve often found it slightly annoying that they don’t organise the competitions by date relevancy. No one likes clicking for ages to find out that a competition happened back in January!

So all you short story writers, before you send our your brilliant prose to these great competitions, why not come along to Loose Muse and try them out on an audience?

Love,

Sara-Mae

Loose Muse one-off free open mic event…

 

Hi gang,

Well it’s Anthology time again and the submissions for the next Loose Muse Anthology are piling up very nicely, thank you.  This will be the last anthology that the Arts Council of England grant pays for, as the grant that was given to develop Loose Muse over the past couple of years has now been used up.  I think we’ve done extraordinarily well in growing things, and certainly we’ve been able to make sure that women writers are given a platform to produce and explore new work, and to share experiences and expertise.

The Anthology launch date is set for Thursday, 19th September, and will be held at Cotton’s Caribbean Restaurant – the room downstairs we’ve used for the last couple of launches, and which everyone loves – at 70 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QP, 7.00 p.m. for a 7.30 start.  So put that into your diary at once whether or not you’ve actually submitted work for inclusion, as it’s always a fabulous night, and it’s FREE, always a bonus.  Who knows it might inspire you to take up the pen yourselves, if you haven’t already got the bug.

But before then, there’s an EXTRA LOOSE MUSE EVENT IN AUGUST. 

Yes, even though we’re usually dark in August, and start again in September, this year I thought it would be a good idea to have a SPECIAL OPEN MIC EXTRA EVENT to celebrate all those writers who want to share a bit of their work with us.  Each one will be getting at least 5 minutes, so put this in your diary as a MUST DO event:

LOOSE MUSE AUGUST EXTRA

Wednesday, 14 August – 7.00 p.m. for 7.30

All OPEN MIC for anyone who wants to share their work.

L’Osteria 57 (downstairs) Wine Bar

57 Grays Inn Road

London WC1X 8PP

A £5 donation towards Loose Muse expenses in the autumn would be gratefully received.

L’Osteria is only a 5 minute walk from Chancery Lane tube station, and on several bus routes, so is very accessible.  And, as it’s an Italian restaurant, the food is good and reasonably priced.

Do come along and bring something to read, or just come and listen, have a pizza/pasta and be part of the action.  Go on…you know you want to.

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