Monday, 14 December 2009

Word Soup #8 'Old'

Lancashire Writing Hub is pleased to bring you Word Soup #8 - our last of the year, on the 22nd of December. Come and join us on a chilly winter's evening for an evening of writing, words and music. We start at eight, but if you fancy something warm for tea before hand, come early!

Special guests include Zoe Lambert

Zoe is a short story writer based in Manchester. She is published by Comma Press and her debut collection is forthcoming in 2010. She lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Bolton.

and Andrew Michael Hurley.

Born in 1975, Andrew was brought up in Preston. After living in Manchester and London he returned to Lancashire where he graduated from MMU with an MA in Creative Writing. He is the author of two short story collections - Cages and The Unusual Death of Julie Christie - and has had stories published in various on-line and print magazines. At the moment he is trying to write a novel about mistletoe, the Cold War and a boy with super-powers, and is a regular contributor to the Central Lancs Writing Hub.

We'll also be joined by sCribble, who'll be treating us to a showcase selection of writing from their members - some of whom will be making their very first forray onto the spoken word stage just for us.

Finally, you'll be hearing from poets Peter Crompton and Rachel McGladery. Rachael wowed us at the Word Soup #6 open mike, and we snapped her up for a turn as a booked performer.

Rachel has written ever since she can remember. She only began writing poetry early this year, although since she discovered open mike at Word Soup she has become tiresomely prolific and has had three piece published at Pygmy Giant. She also writes a family life column in her local paper and has just completed at 50,000 word novel written in 30 days with NaNoWriMo.

Peter Crompton has performed at Word Soup before - both on the open mike and as a booked performer. Peter has a profile and a blog on the Write out Loud site and a photography showcase here.

Musical interludes for the evening will come courtesty of the talented Karima Francis: myspace here.

As always, the doors open at 8pm and we'll be starting shortly afterwards, so come early if you want a seat because (as you regulars will know) we've been getting busier and busier.

If you want to sign up for open mike, come and find me when you get here, or speak to Robyn on the door who will be happy to sign you up for your three minutes of spoken word glory. The night will be filmed by You Tube Channel curator and digital archivist extraordinaire Norman Hadley, and hosted by me, Jenn Ashworth. You can listen along at home by following the #wordsoup hashtag on twitter.


Friday, 11 December 2009

Video Channel Expands North

You lucky, lucky people. Not only do we provide you with video clips of the finest writers and singers from the Prestonlands, but we will even venture north on your behalf, to gently lower our butterfly net over Lancaster's literary luminaries. That's right, the video channel that we set up last month (and has already had nearly 700 views) is expanding to include performances from Lancaster Spotlight. The content has nearly doubled and will double again over the weekend - a bit like the National Debt but in a good way.

If you're an event organiser, you can use this resource as a growing library of performers to fill your stage.

If you're a performer, feel free to embed clips in your site and blogs (only please drop in some kind words and some even kinder links about Lancashire Writing Hub).

Or if you went to one of these nights and just want to relive your favourite acts, you can do that too. And don't forget to keep supporting both Word Soup and Spotlight because performers need people to perform to.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Intermediate Creative Writing Course

Lancashire Writing Hub presents the Intermediate Creative Writing Course
- hosted by novelist and short story writer Jenn Ashworth. This short,
intensive course is aimed at writers who are working on short stories,
flash fiction collections or novels. Learn to structure and edit longer
pieces of work, receive feedback and develop your writing process from
initial idea to finished product. Three separate 3 hour sessions -
Saturday 9th January, Saturday 23rd January and Saturday 6th February -
all sessions 2 - 5pm in the Snug, Contintental, South Meadow Lane

Jenn Ashworth is an experienced workshop tutor and has had short stories
published variously in magazines both on and off line. Her first novel,
A Kind of Intimacy, was named as a Waterstones New Voice and shortlisted
for the Guardian's Not The Booker Award. She writes an award winning
blog, has just completed work on her second novel and currently hosts
the monthly live lit night Word Soup here at the Continental.

Cost: £70 for all three sessions (attendance at all three sessions is
required - fees are non-refundable)

Initial expressions of interest to

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Free Event from Chorley Writers' Circle

Writing Group Members! - Join us for the launch of Chorley Writers’ new book +

Entertainment from Poet Ann Wilson &

A great opportunity to meet other local writers

Tuesday 8th December 2009 @ 8pm

New Continental, Preston

Free entry (but you need to book your place)

Chorley & District Writers’ Circle would like to invite members of local writing groups to the launch of our annual publication Aware.

The event takes place on Tuesday 8th December at the New Continental in Preston and promises to be a great evening.

There will be entertainment from humorous poet Ann Wilson and her ukulele.
We will also be announcing the winners of our Poetry competition as well reading work from Aware.
Finally, we are launching a new online resource for local writers funded by the National Lottery.

The event is free and open to all writers – it’s a fantastic opportunity for local writing groups to get together.

Places are limited so if you would like to attend please email to make a booking by 2nd December AT THE LATEST.
We look forward to seeing you!


Chorley & District Writers’ Circle

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Interview with Mark Charlesworth on the publication of his second book of poetry, In Memory of Real Trees

It's 3pm and I'm standing outside Caffe Nero, waiting to meet Mark Charlesworth, the poet. Mark is also standing outside Caffe Nero, waiting to meet me. The only problem - as we eventually realise – is I am in Lytham and he is in St Anne's. 

One quick bus journey later we are ready to start the interview, no real harm done. It's an occupational hazard when there's a ubiquitous Coffee House on every high-street. We chose Nero because Mark is a vegan and here in Suburbia the major chains are the only place you can get soya milk. I say this because it seems typical of the myriad contradictory challenges of Modern Life which so fascinate Charlesworth: where we are forced into making bizarre choices between Veganism and Globalisation, or Fair Trade V Organic, Locally Available V Superfoods. Mark's poetry finds modernity confusing, worrying and often painfully self-aware.

I have armed myself with a Vegan-friendly green tea and a serious expression, but within five minutes of meeting, Mark has used the words 'warm and fuzzy' to describe one of his favourite poems, and concludes the interview with a persuasively positive slant on the recession.  While grappling with dark and socially aware themes, there is ultimately an irrepressible love of beauty throughout Mark's writing which makes both reading and listening to him a pleasure.


Daisy: The Central Lancs Writing Hub (formerly Preston Writers Network) focuses on the Lancashire literary community. Do you believe specific places can shape and inspire its inhabitants in unique ways and have any places particularly inspired you?

To an extent, yes. This latest book really began to take shape after I attended a wedding in Blackpool. After a while the music began to grate a little and my friend and I decided to go for a walk. It's weird because I've always slagged off Blackpool because of its seediness, its tackiness, and the commercial aspect of it, but we took a walk through all that, quite a way out onto the beach, and then we turned back to Blackpool... All the illuminations were sparkling, like Christmas lights, and it looked almost picturesque. We were seeing Blackpool from this whole new perspective. It started to rain then and the lights through the rain looked... fuzzy. [Laughs] - You don't get words like that in the book, 'warm and fuzzy', honest. 'Carnation' was the poem that eventually emerged from the contrast between the tackiness of the golden mile and the original seafront which attracted the Victorian tourists in the first place. It wasn't the first poem I wrote for the book, but it was the one which gave it structure.

I've also always enjoyed going to Leeds on the train, through the hills and the bleak industrial towns. Despite all the crumbling buildings, there's a beauty about them, set into the jagged hills, which Southerners might not get. The poem turns round the clichés and throws them back at the detractors. The picture on the cover of the book is of Fairhaven Lake, another inspiring spot.

Daisy: Could you tell us a little about your background?

I'm twenty-three, and a Northerner born and bred; I went to college at Cardinal Newman in Preston, before studying English at UCLAN. The course there had some optional creative writing modules, and while at college my English teacher always encouraged us to submit writing to him. I self-published my first book, Sunrise and Shorelines in 2008 and am launching my second book of poetry, In Memory of Real Trees, at The New Continental on the 28th of November. I feel the first book gave me the confidence to start down the road of self-publishing, and with the second I've introduced more of a theme and concept to the work.

Daisy: In terms of poets, who would you cite as influences?

That's hard, I suppose I haven't followed poetry in a linear fashion; Simon Armitage certainly, and Ted Hughes. I'm a big admirer of Baudelaire, especially his poem 'A Carcass' which is about this disgusting cadaver but somehow Baudelaire manages to make it almost beautiful... I think the first book displayed these influences more prominently, it was straight up Nu-Gothic – one reviewer called it that and spelt it that awful 'N-U' way! (Ed. Whoops so did I). Who else? I admire Roger McGough's stark, concise stanzas which somehow manage to contain so much emotion. Then there's our new poet laureate, Carol Anne Duffy.

[The interview here deteriorates into a discussion on the merits of Duffy who still brings back bitter memories of school and forced readings of 'Valentine' for me. Mark suggests I should revisit her as he didn't appreciate her work until he was older, and thinks teaching her in school is a mistake.]

Daisy: I'm interested in the distinction between music and poetry, are there any musicians who have inspired your poetry and to what extent do you think the two forms are interrelated?

I think certainly the line between poetry and music is blurred at best. I'm a big fan of The Smiths. I remember someone read some of the lyrics out in a presentation while I was at University and it was strange how un-lyrical they sounded read aloud. The magic takes place in the way he sings them, and so I suppose there is a distinction there. I also love Nick Cave - the way he constructs lyrics is so totally idiosyncratic, they almost shouldn't work but they do. I also like The Waterboys, especially their song 'Bring 'Em All In', which is extremely poetic.

In first book two of the poems are actually adapted from song lyrics we'd written, and in the new one the poem 'Bitterest Sin' also. It works both ways too, a friend recently read 'Second Hand Model' from the latest book and called me to say he thought it would work really well as a song. So that's a case of poetry inspiring music.

To diverge from the question slightly, I went to an exhibition earlier this year at the Tate Modern which looked at the connection between poetry and painting: Poetry is a snapshot of the world much like a painting is; it takes one concise idea and inspires a train of thought and emotion, and I thought that was a nice idea. In the book the poem '11 Self Portraits' was inspired by this.

Daisy: Are you PC literate? What forms of so-called 'social networking' do you favour and what have you found most effective in creating publicity and maintaining interest?

Yes I'm certainly part of the PC literate generation. But you have to pick and choose, because there are so many different ways to communicate out there that you can spread yourselves too thinly. I looked into various different options to publicise my first book and at the time the buzz about Twitter was just getting started. But Twitter really didn't appeal to me; I don't like the way it reduces everyone to soundbites, whereas with blogging you can actually construct varying arguments, and people can state their case and back it with evidence. I think this reduction of everything to mere soundbites is dangerous to society actually. To elaborate is in a writer's nature. So yes, I avoid Twitter but I do have a blog ( and I try to promote it on forums, link to MySpace, Facebook etc. I've found though that sometimes the old-fashioned ways work best. Last year while I was publishing the first book I asked anyone interested in hearing more to scribble their email addresses down – I ended up with a mailing list of over a hundred people. So I use that to update people and I've had a surprising level of responses – sometimes I think there's so much out there that things can sink and get buried. Communicating with people directly can be more successful. Obviously this wouldn't be possible for bigger writers, but I feel privileged to be able to respond to people individually.

Daisy: You've self-published your first two books, why did you make the decision to go down this road to publication?

Originally it was partly because it's much harder to pitch poetry to mainstream publishers. There's a lot of cliché surrounding poetry; people see it as dark and arty and they don't want to go near it. I think there's less of a commercial aspect. At the same time I think there's becoming more of a market for it. I also wanted to some extent to create and control my own reputation by self publishing poetry as a way to progress towards publishing a novel. One step at a time, you know, but I am trying to increase exposure and I have quite a fixed plan. The next book is going to be a concept book dealing with issues very close to my heart and so naturally I would like a wider audience for it. That will be my last book of poems. I don't want to be in danger of repeating myself...

Daisy: That's a very intriguing idea; the attempt to avoid repetition as a writer. Many of our best writers seem to return time and again to the same preoccupations. Some writers (and readers) embrace that and some try consciously to avoid it – do you think it's even possible to do so?

To go back to the previous question, Nine Inch Nails are a big influence, and I read an interview with them recently after their final tour –which was amazing- and they said they had bowed out because they wanted to end it while they were at the peak of their game. I'm hoping I have the willpower after this next book to say that's it for poetry and I'm moving onto prose. I'm not saying I won't return to it at some point in the future but I would want to put a lid on it for the time being. But I'm getting ahead of myself! I would like to get an agent at that stage anyway. I would want to ease up a bit if I were publishing a novel as I'm a bit of a control freak when self-publishing.

Daisy: You talked about the fact that poetry isn't very commercial – and I think the same thing is true of short stories, novellas – do you think the 'credit-crunch' has affected the publishing prospects for writers of these genres and would you advise writers who aren't currently getting offers from mainstream publishers to self-publish or wait it out until the economy has improved?

The society we live in now can be a bleak place sometimes, but there are hopeful things which come out of there: Although yes, this recession can mean mainstream publishers are clinging to their cash cows, it's possible to see it as a good thing because it leads people to take things into their own hands - not just in publishing, but big business and retail as well. 

In recent times we've seen a very corporate world in which people have had to ally themselves with a brand, or publisher, and ultimately they compromise their integrity to an extent, just to get their work out there. Now I think people are starting to realise they have to take personal responsibility for themselves and their lives. In a way I think we are witnessing the rebirth of the Age of Independence – not just in terms of writing but in the way people approach their lives; like renewable power, growing their own vegetables, self-sufficiency in lifestyles and business occupations. I think that's a very positive thing. 

Perhaps I'm being too optimistic, but it seems to me we're actually making poetry more commercially viable for the future. I'm certainly seeing more grassroots arts events out there recently [like our own Word Soup!] and then there's the web of course – there's a whole network of tools and resources out there for writers. I think in a way the recession or 'credit-crunch' has led to a widespread feeling of empowerment, and it's this sense of being empowered which will carry us into the next era.


In Memory of Real Trees can be purchased through Mark's blog and at the book launch this evening (Saturday the 28th) at The New Continental here in Preston.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The 4th edition of ‘Pinhole Camera’

the magazine from the University of Cumbria,

invites submissions for


Max word length: 2000 words or 40 lines of poetry

Writing can be of any genré or style but there must be a Cumbrian link with either writer or work.

closing date for submissions:


publication in April, 2010.

and, as an added bonus why not enter our ‘Flash Fiction’ competition too?

Tell us a story in no more than 100 words. All Flash-fiction entries will be posted on the up-coming website and the stories voted the best by our readers will get copies of the magazine and the opportunity to read out winning entries at our spectacular launch event in April 2010, date & Venue tba

go on, you know you want to!

Exposure welcomes entries by post or email:

to submit, or for more information contact:






Tel/Text : 07930 236 122

Monday, 23 November 2009

Central Lancs Hub

Those of you who are eager in your wishes to be kept updated with the best and most up to date literature news and events in Preston and beyond will already be subscribing to this blog in a reader... you sensible lot.

However, you might want to consider clicking through and visiting us at home just this once - as well as our well-furnished sidebar, offering you the very best in Preston Blog Directories, poetry, performance and literature links for our region and elsewhere in the UK, you'll also want to come in and see our brand new title.


Up there. ^^

There you go.

We are no longer the Preston Writing Network. Exciting things are afoot. We are expanding and extending in our endeavours to bring you high quality news, reviews, events and information. For the time being, we're going to be called the Central Lancs Writing Hub - reflecting our tendency to take in events and information that extends beyond the boundaries of the city of Preston.

Shortly before Christmas we'll be changing again, and moving house to a brand-new website comissioned by They Eat Culture. The new website, swish, sophisticated and still-in-the-making, will be called The Lancashire Writing Hub and will include The Central Lancs Hub and our new, currently in development, West Lancs Hub.

Don't get scared. It sounds complicated, but really it isn't. Stand by to change your feed, subscription or bookmarks, and come with us to our new address - launching just before Christmas. We're excited. You should be too.

If you have any questions or comments or want to join our merry band of volunteer bloggers (especially if you're West Lancs based) email me at

Word Soup #7 'Home'

Our regular Word Soup reviewer, the lovely and talented Mel Webster, had the cheek to go away on her holidays so it's only me this time. Apologies for inaccuracy, misspelling, dearth of good jokes and lack of insightful yet witty comments about shoes in advance...

Our seventh Word Soup took place, as did the previous eight, in the Continental Events Space. A slight change to our usual format meant we missed out on our popular open mike section (sorry guys) and instead hosted Bewilderbliss - a Manchester based creative writing magazine. But more about that later.

Our first performer was Mark Charlesworth - a Preston based blogger and poet who's been featured fairly regularly on the PrestonWN blog by our in-house reviewer Andrew Hurley, as well as at previous Word Soups. We were pleased to welcome him back for a selection of Home themed poems that acted as a preview to his new poetry collection, In Memory of Real Trees. Mark will be launching the collection here at the Continental on the 28th November - the event is free and all are welcome. We'll also be reviewing the collection here very shortly.

Paul Sockett made a much welcome return to our stage all the way from his home in Great Harwood with a collection of poems that examined just what 'home' actually means - emphasising that home is not always a safe sanctuary with a chilling and disturbing poem titled 'One Thousand'. Paul's a confident, charismatic performer and certainly one of Word Soup's best discoveries - an actor by profession, he prefers to be called 'an actor who writes' rather than a writer...

Rounding off the first half, we were especially pleased to welcome West Lancashire novelist Carol Fenlon - who read from her award winning debut novel, Consider the Lilies. Structured as a series of diary entries from an unusual and isolated woman living in rural West Lancs in the 1960s, her writing had the whole room enthralled - one audience member visiting from south Manchester commented that he really got a sense of a Lancashire voice from Carol's work.

After a short break and a wee bit of music from Kevin Wilkinson, we returned to the main stage with a set from Bewilderbliss. Curated by the magazine's editor Jon Davies, we heard from magazine contributors and Manchester students Holly Ringland, Mathew Hull, Valerie O'Riordan and Jonathan Davies himself. The guests went down a storm, with a varied collection of pieces that showcased the best of Manchester writing. You can read Valeries' account of her first ever live performance at her blog - here (clicky clicky).

Bewilderbliss have their own website - do pop over (but please come back) to read interviews and reviews and find out more about their magazine - now open for submissions. They accept poetry and prose and aim to showcase the very best in new writing - it would be great to have a Prestonian featured there... all issues are themed and all submitted pieces should be on the theme 'untruthful' - a theme set by yours truly. So get submitting, and tell them we sent you..

Our final two performers were certainly worth waiting for. Mollie Baxter travelled to us from Morecambe. A very experienced musician, writer and performer with pieces published by Lancaster based publisher, Flax - she treated the audience to a short story first published in Before the Rain with an alternative ending written especially for the evening - and followed up with an account of a flat that had many members of the audience nodding in recognition.

Last up we had Thomas Fletcher - Thomas is an accomplished writer and poet based in Manchester, also published by Flax and with his first novel, The Leaping, forthcoming in 2010 by Quercus Books. His editor Nick Johnston has said Tom's work

'speaks for a generation that's got the highest level of university education in history, but has largely found themselves trapped in mind-numbing temp work. He's perfectly captured the fear and violence that lurk beneath the surface of our society.'

Fear and violence were certainly in the offing for the last story of the night - an uncanny, almost supernatural tale of a woman pursued by a mysterious entity called 'home' - observed by her husband who can watch, but do nothing to help her. This was an unsettling tale - playing with our assumptions about 'hearth and home' and undermining our expectations at every turn. Tom's deadpan, highly controlled delivery perfectly suited the subject matter, and left the audience wanting more. Watch it for yourself here:

And that's all for Word Soup in November. With, as always, our thanks going to Daisy Baldwin who researched and created our performer profiles, and Norman Hadley who filmed the clips you see here, and the addition clips of the night which you can view at your leisure on the Lancashire Writing Hub YouTube Channel.

We'll be back in December with Word Soup #8 - 'Old' with appearances from Zoe Lambert, Rachel McGladdery, Peter Crompton and a showcase spot from sCribble - as well as a return to our much missed open mike section of the night. See you there!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Review of Trades of the Flesh by Faye L. Booth

Following the success of Cover the Mirrors (2007), Trades of the Flesh is the second offering from North West novelist Faye L. Booth and concerns the fall and rise of pauper Lydia Ketch who turns to prostitution and begins to use the lucrative and exploitative trade to her own advantage, effecting her escape from a self-destructive underclass. Her way out comes initially in the form of Henry Shadwell, a young surgeon, who Lydia happens across whilst plying her trade in The Old Bull. Little by little Lydia is drawn into Henry’s world of amateur pornography and, more alarmingly, grave robbery.

Writing historical fiction is always a difficult task and it is a skilful author that can make the reader believe they are seeing into a much older world without having to shoehorn in the clichés of the time (to create the 1970s, for example, all you need are Space Hoppers, kipper ties, Smash, Clangers, tank-tops, flares and three day weeks). The problem is that we want to have our cake and eat it with historical fiction. We want characters to have similar concerns to ours, but also be different enough to seem as though they belong to a bygone age. In the same way there are always complaints that the characters in BBC costume dramas seem ‘too modern’, we are hyper-sensitive to anachronisms of behaviour and speech mannerisms in prose that can burst the bubble of plausibility. There is also the problem that as readers we have so many preconceptions about particular historical periods that the writer, in creating an authentic past world, has to walk a fine line between tapping into those ideas we already hold and challenging them.

For the most part Booth deals with these issues deftly. Despite the dark and often tragic events, the story is told with gallows humour, the characters are engaging and familiar without being stereotypes, and there are some weird and wonderful originals – like the beggar who tries to trick Lydia and Mary into thinking he is diseased by making weeping scabs out of soap and pigs’ blood and the strange bunch of trainee surgeons Henry instructs using his purloined corpses.

But although the novel is clearly well researched (Booth admits to walking the streets of Preston - so to speak - and scrutinising old maps to understand how the city might have looked and felt in the nineteenth century), I found myself wanting this dark Preston to be rendered a little more tangibly. Though this may have been because I am a native Prestonian and I wanted from the novel the same pleasurably disorientating sense of familiarity and otherness I feel when I look at old photographs of a city I know well. Booth has simply chosen subtlety when it comes to describing place, making the characters and their lives the focus. Lydia’s world is, in fact, fairly small – her employment restricting her to the main thoroughfares of Friargate and Fishergate.

Lydia and Henry’s lusty exploits would not look out of place in Onan and The Gentlemen’s Review, but there is more to this novel than just trashy erotica. It is about female empowerment as much as it is about sexual liberation. While many of the men come across as either violent, arrogant or with sexual tastes way beyond weird (see the man who is aroused by girls pretending they are consumptive) women, on the other hand, are nearly all strong willed and intelligent. Kathleen Tanner who owns the brothel where Lydia works and Mrs Bell, her landlady later in the novel, though worlds apart, both run successful businesses. Lydia teaches herself to read and write well enough to publish a ‘gentlemen’s’ paper of her own – The White Flowers Reader - and as a result of her business acumen is eventually able to move out of the ‘introductions house’. She outgrows the need for Henry’s financial assistance and becomes truly independent.

The corset on the book cover will probably mean that Trades of the Flesh is stacked on the shelves in Waterstones with the Black Lace Quickies and bondage anthologies, but don’t be shy, go over, take it away from all that and put it with the literature.

Faye L. Booth was interviewed by PWN last month and has already completed her third novel, which is set at the turn of the century. You can follow her progress on book number four by reading her blog.

LancashireWritingHub - New Youtube Channel

This week sees the launch of Preston Writing Network's shiny-new adventure in multimedia webtertainment. We've set up our very own youtube channel called Lancashire Writing Hub, where the writerly folk of Ribbleland can have their performances captured for the grateful benefit of posterity.

We've already uploaded some archive clips from Word Soup on Tour and Word Soup 6 so it's far from an empty jam-jar. As today progresses, new clips should waft in from the floatier recesses of cyberspace, depicting the brave souls who read, sang, strummed and hummed for us at last night's cracking Word Soup 7.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Blog Roundup

It's time for us to take a stroll once again in the land of local blogs. With winter drawing in, bringing with it its cold and its rain, this is an apt time of year to remind ourselves of the more positive aspect of nature, wildlife and the great outdoors in general.

First up, is Save The Ribble, a blog whose aim, in the words of the blog itself, is to preserve 'the beauty of the River Ribble, and opposing the Riverworks 'vision' to build a barrage on our River and develop on our riverbanks, floodplains and green spaces, causing damage to wildlife and the environment and increasing the risk of flooding to our homes.' Active locals and regular visitors to the blog will know it has already been successful in preventing the Ribble's riverbanks and South Ribble's Green Belt from being 'developed', and also in forcing the council to abandon plans to build a barrage across the Ribble.

Save The Ribble is part of a wider campaign to protect local nature, the Ribble and the surrounding area in particular. A campaign which includes Along with Ribble Cycle Diaries, a sort of companion blog, which, after contributing to the victories against local council plans, continues to promote local cycling, currently recommending the Ribble Coast And Wetlands Walking Festival, and features some plain ol' lovely pictures of the Ribble.

Wildlife pictures abound on Brian Rafferty's blog. Brian is a photographer and uses his blog to showcase his stunning wildlife pictures. It's a truly absorbing portfolio with close-up and crystal-clear shots of all the birdlife the region has to offer, with a brief but illuminating accompanying texts. One of the joys is that, although we're currently entering into the grip of bleakest midwinter, you can still see the natural world of the summer: a spotted flycatcher here, a bittern there. Or, if you like, you can marvel some of the current climate's miracles of the nature, such as this flock of starlings.

Continuing the bird-theme, Ribble To Amazon! is another birder-blog, this time taking in the birds of Latin America alongside those found in Lancashire, as Colin Bushell documents his travels through the exotic climes of Peru and Brazil, and through the marginally less exotic climes of Cumbria. So, as well as our native Shore Larks and Egrets, you also get to gander at Brazilian Red Crested Cardinals and Peruvian Wire-Crested Thorntail Hummingbirds.

Finally, African Brew Ha Ha, another travelogue blog, this time beating a path via motorcycle from Lancashire to Cape Town, South Africa. Although Alan Whelan, the author documents customs, cuisine and an unfortunate incident in which he crashed his Triumph and ended up in hospital, the main focus of the blog is the unifying, human powers of a cup of tea. Although the adventure came to an end last year, Whelan continues to add posts about all of these topics and a book based on his experiences is forthcoming in April next year.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Mollie Baxter at Word Soup 7 November 17th 8pm

Mollie Baxter is a lady with many feathers to her cap; a creative writing tutor at the University of Cumbria, she also manages to find time to be a musician, writer, performer and presenter! Phew! And we here at PWN sometimes have trouble eating breakfast while reading the paper!

She graduated from the MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University in 2003 and since then has seen her work published in The Quiet Feather, Scribe, Pitch, Litfest Flax, and on She recorded the album Hating Baby in 2000.

In a recent interview with PWN's own Norman Hadley, Mollie discusses what motivates her to write:

"Most people don't like to be preached at. I do think, though, a lot of writers, myself included, write to work something out – and in both senses – 'work out' as in get out of the system, but also as in to come to a new understanding. I think good writers are generally very good worriers".
 As a woman who personifies what the Americans call a 'triple threat', we don't think Mollie has anything to worry about.

Watch this:

Read this:

& Listen to this:

Oh, and be sure to come along to this Tuesday's Word Soup to see Mollie in action!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Word Soup 7: November 17th 8pm

It's almost Word Soup time and this month the theme is: (there's no place like) HOME (sweet home) 

Joining us will be:
Carol Fenlon
Novelist and member of Skelmersdale Writers 

 Paul Sockett
A Blackburn based actor and performance poet 

 Mark Charlesworth 
Local poet and previous Word Soup open micer. 

 Mollie Baxter 
Poet, performer and musician

 Thomas Fletcher 
A poet and novelist.

Tom Fletcher writes about the dark corners of our lives and environment
with unerring and unnerving authenticity, and a natural gift for evoking
feeling through language. His work is the real deal. 
Nicholas Royle 
Writer, critic and blogger

AND a very special appearance from Bewilderbliss. A

Manchester based magazine with four 3 minute slots from
contributors to the latest issue of their magazine. Copies will be available to purchase on the night

That date, once again, is November 17th 8pm - 10.30pm. 
£3 on the door or block booking discount for groups of 10 or more - contact for details

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Workshops and Surgeries in Lancaster

Courtesy of our friends over in Lancaster, here's news of three workshop and surgery opportunities taking place during November.

Words & Music Collaborations workshop.

10.30am - 4.30pm on Saturday 14th November 2009


The Storey Auditorium
Meeting House Lane, Lancaster
The aim of the workshop is to enable

six writers and six musicians to work in
collaboration experimenting with the combination of
text and sound -
stretching the boundaries of music and using words
and sound in abstract/atmospheric ways.

As places are limited to six writers and six musicians
they will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

If you would like more information or
please e-mail:

Please note: this is not a 'songwriting workshop'.

Facilitators: Ann Wilson and Shaun Blezzard

Ann is a writer and performing poet based in South Cumbria. Her poetry features on The Resting Bench which is free to download from Earth Monkey Productions at Thanks to fabulous sonic artist/producer Shaun (Clutter) Her poetry collection Synesthetic is available at The Tinners' Rabbit Bookshop, Ulverston, Cumbria or direct from Ann at gigs.
Check out her website:

Shaun is a community based audio/visual artist who lives on Barrow Island in Cumbria,UK. He has worked as an artist, musician, producer, composer and workshop leader for the likes of Sonic Arts Network, Welfare State International, The Sage Gateshead, Youth Music, Whitewood & Fleming, Age Concern, Grizdale Arts, Shoreline Films, The Ashton Group, Connexions, The Word Hoard and Barrow Borough Council. He is also an experienced live sound technician and sound recordist and runs Earth Monkey Productions - a non-profit making net label specialising in experimental electronic music, sound art and spoken work.

Performance Writing Workshop

Friday November 20th 2.30 - 4.30pm

at The Storey Creative Industries Centre,
Meeting House Lane, Lancaster LA1 1TH

Facilitator: Ann Wilson -

Ann is the regular host of the Spoken Word open mic at Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, Cumbria. She has performed her poetry in pubs, cafes, and theatres, on the radio at festivals and on the street since 1992.

Fee: £5

To Book or for further information email:

Writing Surgeries: Work In Progress

Whether you are just starting out
or have been writing for some time...

Whether you write for performance or the page...

Would you like to get some creative feedback on your writing?

Then come to a One-To-One 20 minute Surgery
with Spotlight Organisers Ron Baker and Sarah Fiske.
@ The Gregson Centre, Moor Lane, Lancaster.

The Next Surgery will be held on:

Sunday 22nd November 2009 - 7 - 9pm

Fee: £5

Places are limited and must be booked in advance -
To sign up for a 20 minute writing surgery
or for Further Information e-mail:

Feedback From Recent Surgeries

Thanks very much for the helpful feedback at my writing surgery. It definitely boosted my morale and made me feel it was worth keeping going (not that I'm in danger of stopping writing, but it gave me the hope that someone other than myself might at some point like to read what I've written!!). Thanks for making the surgeries happen and for the sensitive and encouraging way you commented on what I'd written. I'm plugging away at writing something longer and will edit, edit and edit again when I've got it all on paper.

Rob W. - Following your advice last November I sent copies of the first three chapters of my book (and a summary), to several publishers. After two rejections the editorial team of a publisher in London has now asked for the completed manuscript for consideration. Needless to say I am now working hard to complete it.

Matt T. - I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the constructive and supportive comments you made about my poems and about writing in general. I came way energised and inspired.

Peter B. - I would like to thank you for your encouragement and positive advice at the Writing Surgery last Sunday. It is greatly appreciated. I'm sure it will help me in the future.

Pamela P. - Let me thank you for the opportunity to have my work critiqued. I found the comments invaluable and greatly appreciated the time spent in giving me feedback.

Elisabeth D. - Just a short note to say 'thank you' for your help with my writing. Your comments were perceptive and helpful. I was impressed that you had taken time to read it so carefully. But it was just what I needed. I will take all to task in the New Year. Thank you again for your helpful suggestions, your time and your encouragement.

Bill D. - A brief note to thank you very much for your help. I've done a bit of re-drafting and feel stimulated and encouraged to progress my novel, 'Mad World'. It was nice to meet and talk with you.

Monday, 2 November 2009

FREE Adoption Week Poetry Competition

From Adoption Matters Northwest, some last minute news about a FREE to enter poetry competition for unpublished poems...

We’re offering a creative challenge for adults and children of all ages across the North West to prepare and submit a poem of 20 lines or less in any format or style on the theme of ‘Family’, reflecting the importance of family and family life.

This competition is running across Cheshire, Merseyside, Manchester and Lancashire with the contributions to be judged in two age groups – over 18s and 17 years and younger.

Winners for each area and each age group will be chosen for creativity and content by a panel including local representatives for each area such as Cheshire’s current Poet Laureate, W Terry Fox

Each lucky winner will win £50 in high street vouchers, get their poems published on our website, and submitted to the local and national media as part of the National Adoption Week (9-15 November) media campaign.

Highly commended entrants will also be invited to a VIP invitation-only poetry evening in Chester during National Adoption Week to hear selections of the poems entered in the competition read out by performers and listen to the first public performance of a poem written specially for the event by W Terry Fox.

Closing date for the competition is Tuesday 3 November. Entries can be emailed to or posted to:

Adoption Poetry competition, De Winter PR
Fidelity House
12a Stocks Lane
Chester CH3 5TF

Please make sure that all entries are clearly marked with the writer’s name and contact details and that they are happy to be involved in publicity activity. For further details, contact Emma on 01244 320677.

NB Poems can be in any style and should be under 20 lines in length. Contributions must be previously unpublished.

Group Profile: Fylde Brighter Writers

Steve Brodie from Fylde Brighter Writers talks to the PrestonWN about his group, and their latest competition - open to all writers. Read on for details...

Fylde Brighter writers were formed in 2006 following the closure of a creative night school class we attended the previous year. We still wanted to write and to keep in touch so decided to form our own writing circle. Once we got our own website up and running, other writers contacted us and we have a healthy core of around ten and a number of occasional visitors and affiliates. After a nomadic couple of years wandering from venue to venue, we're now settled in the County Hotel pub in Lytham and meet every Thursday evening.

Three of our members, Jackie Blake, Lauren Huxley-Blythe and Christine Axon are featured in the latest Leaf anthology, 'Ada and more Nano Fiction' and Eleanor Broaders has a poem in 'Openings 26', the 2009 anthology of OU poets. Eleanor also has had poems published in many other anthologies. Karen Pailing has won poetry competitions in Writers News amongst many others. Steve Wilson set up the Lancashire Writers Blog and his 'Caught in the Act' is on the BBC Lancashire web pages. The rest of us gamely plug away.

We've just launched our latest competition, the snappily titled 'Fylde Brighter Writers Short Story and Poetry Competition 2010'. It's open to anyone anywhere apart from our members and our relatives and it also has an Open theme. The top Prizes are £200 for short stories up to 2,500 words and £100 for the poetry prize and there is no length limit to the poetry. No one has entered a saga yet. There are runners up prizes too and small but beautifully crafted trophies for the winners. It cost £5 per short story or £10 for three stories and £3 per poem or £5 for three. We have postal and on-line entry options and the closing date is 27th February 2010.

(if you're interested in entering this competition, there are more details and contact information via the Brighter Writers website, here)

We ran a successful competition in 2008. We judge it ourselves, gradually whittling down the entries to the top ten which we then read out, debate, argue and champion our favourites over a couple of evenings (with wine) until we arrive at our winners. It's a lot of work but we feel it helps create a proper identity for the writing circle, it shows us the standards we need to reach to win other competitions and it can be great fun to do.

Why join a Writing circle? I greatly admire people who can sit down and rattle off fabulous stories in isolation from the rest of the world but I find the support of a Writing Circle invaluable. For natural prevaricators (such as myself) it's a constant dig in the ribs because I need to write something every week to take with me otherwise questions are asked! Constructive critques by the members of work is also useful. We had one member who changed her writing style after being asked to try something different by another member and now writes in a beautiful languid atmospheric way that she didn't before. We all bring hints tips and competition ideas in with us to the meetings and the collective sharing of information is something that you couldn't get on your own.

We've also published a couple of books via Lulu. 'Girl on the Bridge', a story of a, well, a girl on a bridge, seen from the perspective of other people looking at her in a park. We wrote a chapter each in this and found it to be a great collective way to get a story written. We published our anthology 'Coming Around' last year. It contains our competition winners and a couple of pieces - stories or poems - from each of us. It's available, for £3.99, from, via our own website and from in the US. I'm not quite sure how it got there, I think Lulu put it forward!

We will be producing another anthology in 2010 following the competition. Lulu is a great way to get your work quickly and cheaply into print. we find, and we're impressed by the quality. A few of our people have produced their own work for family and friends on Lulu and I'd recommend it anyone.

PrestonWN is always pleased to hear from you about your groups, projects and publications. If you have news about competitions, writing or reading opportunities or you'd like us to promote your group, event, book or workshop, get in touch with us and let us know.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Review of Sunrise and Shorelines by Mark Charlesworth

Sunrises and Shorelines is the debut poetry collection from Prestonian Mark Charlesworth, who you may have seen reading at the recent ‘Word Soup on tour’ bash in Blackpool. Arranged in chronological order, the poems span some seven years, from 2001 to 2008, and touch upon a range of personal crises, global events and dark, imaginary tales.

In his foreword, apart from confessing the collection to be sincere rather than sophisticated (a noble bit of honesty, I thought), Charlesworth also admits that he was probably too young to fully understand the enormity of 9/11, which was his prompt to start writing. Yet, the first poem, America Under Fire, written when Charlesworth was still at high school, whilst being a powerful, raw response to the events of that day is also well considered enough to see the attacks a crucial moment in American history. Amid the “fire, chaos and tears”, the poet asks “Is the enemy within or on the out?” America is “desperate and broke” after living so long in “false realities”.

Many of the poems are based in the natural world – familiar territory for the poet of course, but Charlesworth often leads us through the kinds of lonely, perverse, abandoned places of dark gothic fairy tales – woods, bloody tombs, stormy seas and so on. The Revolt of the Trees, an interesting counterpart to America Under Fire, is a fable about greed and selfishness in which a unscrupulous woodcutter is turned into a tree. The setting of The Magnolia Room wouldn’t look out of place in an H.P. Lovecraft story. And the more light-hearted Tall Tales, blends Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall – “I saw a cat’s tail / curl round the moon...I saw a tall tree / telling a tale / to a broken man / at his own wake.”

Charlesworth seems comfortable speaking with the kind of language you might expect to find in much older poetry and some poems are full of the introspective longing and desperation reminiscent of, say, Christina Rossetti. Possessed and The Wanderer are harrowing sketches of loss, whilst in Alone the narrator yearns for love but finds nothing but emptiness: “I stand in autumn stillness / and strum a sombre tone / I watch the stars, take in their beauty / inertia creeps, division grows.”

There are whispers of an earlier Romanticism also in Dead Leaves and A Weary Night. The Final Days of Summer sounds like Keats edited by Emily Dickinson with its stark, often esoteric observations – “The hallows harvest / the fields are still / the black crows circle / the silent hill”. The Forest Awakened is full of landscapes not dissimilar to Coleridge’s Kubla Khan – “The hills in the distance / ran with rivers of ice”, “Somewhere, here and there / blackness crept in / mere shards of light / as though the darkness could sing”.

Yet, Charlesworth does not confine his poems to this beautiful and terrifying natural world – there are people adrift in urban landscapes too. End of the Earth and Kendal Castle blend the archaic and modern – “Sirens scream down silent streets / and tear the night apart...figures rise, entombed from the past / the devil’s dance, a raucous laugh.”; “Now shadows fall in Kendal town, / a world weary folk tale as the castle looks down, / where red wine’s split instead of blood long ago, / the bustling streets and the cigarette smoke...”

In domestic settings, Charlesworth seems to sense the same kind of futility as Philip Larkin. The objects in Buried Things – like the sheet music in Larkin’s Love Songs in Age – become symbols of lost love and the naivety of youth. Alcoholics’ Corner is rife with gallows humour and Their Home and This House is sad and poignant without being sentimental.

It is a brave poet who is willing to publish early work alongside later, more controlled pieces, but in Charlesworth’s case it shows a writer searching for a form and for voices which will speak accurately and powerfully. I’ll admit that some of the more meandering, surrealist poems – Coming Back to Life, Home by the Sky and The Forest Awakened, for example – I found a bit shapeless and in want of a decent pruning, the rhyming a little clunky in places – but then the collection is as much about the learning process of writing as it is about end product.

For me, the strongest pieces are those in which Charlesworth writes with economy about the specific rather than the abstract, and some of the later poems such as Sail Away, A Weary Night and Their Home and This House are extremely moving and memorable – “Theirs was a home to a family, but the clocks have all stopped / this house a museum, now that her heart is lost.”

This is a collection that is much more complex than it might at first appear and well worth reading as a curious, intriguing anthology on its own and as a prelude to Charlesworth’s second collection In Memory of Real Trees, which he will be launching at The New Continental on 28th November.

You can read Mark Charlesworth’s blog here and purchase copies of Sunrise and Shorelines.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

In Conversation with Norman Hadley...

Norman Hadley is a Garstang based poet. His second full collection, Stinging the Sepia is launching at The Corner Bookshop on Saturday 7th November at 3:00.
Jenn Ashworth: Finding a reader or an audience is important to most writers. You're a published poet and author as well as an experienced performer. Which way of communicating your words to others do you prefer, and why?
Norman Hadley: Performing live is a syringeful of Sunny D - it should definitely be a banned substance. The feeling of human connection when you get an audience on your side is intoxicating and I can easily understand why musicians keep gigging four decades after they were rich enough to retire.
I like experimenting with different voices and gauging reactions, so I can do shouting-at-pigeons crazy for one poem and see the audience do the step-away-from-the-loony routine. Then I can do a whispering-Ted-Lowe delivery for the next piece and it's great when you can see people leaning forward and engaging with the ideas.
That said, I'll never be a full-blown performance poet. If I ever came on like a dumbass white rapper, the audience would likely wet itself with derision. In any case, I'd like to think there's enough fibre in my poems for a second and third chew so that's where the books come in.
JA: What's the thinking behind selecting poems for a collection? Can you give poets who might be reading this, and who have a whole shoe-box or hard drive full of poems, any insight into the process you went through in making the selection, and deciding on the order, and so on?
NH: My poems range from syllabub-light rhymers all the way through pensive haiku and sepulchral free verse. I especially like to conceal stones in tissue paper; to convey a serious message in a playful vehicle.
I've tried to make all three collections as eclectic as possible. I measure everything on the axes of length, seriousness and form and aim for a broad spread of those parameters. Even the Pendle Hill collaboration; although all six pieces are ostensibly 'about' the same subject, they're all very different in form and voice.
Selecting pieces is akin to deciding which toes to cut off. People tell you to murder your darlings but I've got a whole mausoleum of darlings in my hard disc. As regards running order, Stinging the Sepia has been broken down into chapters by theme, such as Landscapes and Portraits. That's as sophisticated as it gets.
JA: How far do personal experiences inform the poetry you write, and how far is it invented, or fictional? (I know this is a horrid question - but people are always interested)
NH: I'm quite fortunate in that a fair chunk of my material is a response to landscape and landscape never feels hurt or betrayed. Or if it does, it never says. When I do stray onto matters of the heart, I go to inordinate lengths to protect those closest to me, even if it misleads the reader. No, I'll rephrase that, especially if it misleads the reader. I actively want to indulge the belief that this Norman Hadley character has dated an F-M transsexual, had an illicit flirtation in Tangiers and eavesdropped on middle-aged women getting frisky through a party wall. Once I've set up a canopy of the fantastical, I can slip in genuine autobiographical details under cover, like the Radio Four panel game "The Unbelivable Truth"
JA: As well as an active writer and performer you also work hard to support other people's work - through making their performances available on you tube, to writing reviews on The Lunecy Review. Do you think this is important? Is there a real writing community in lancashire? What are the benefits of being part of it? Is 'joining in' essential? What about if you're a loner, or very shy?
NH: I'm a recent convert to the joining-in philosophy. By nature, I am the shy loner your question envisages - an introverted, engine-designing robo-geek. Until last year I was pretty garret-centric; just idly monitoring my own glacial progress towards an unmarked grave. Yes, I'd toddle along to Spotlight as a spectator and occasional performer, but it didn't occur to me that the local arts scene was something I could contribute to.
But I've been inspired by people like Ron Baker, Sarah Fiske & Kevin McVeigh; people who are pursuing their own writing whilst finding time to give others a platform. And look what's happening here - you're days away from finishing your second novel, getting the small fry through her first school term and preparing to get hitched yet you've found time to talk to me.
I'd encourage anyone to get involved. Sure, it's knackering, there's very little recognition and there are brickbats a-plenty if someone doesn't "get" your review. But it puts you in touch with hordes of inspiring folk and if enough people chip in, it'll spread the load.
The videos are my pet project, even though I curse the amount of work I've lumbered myself with. I want to build up a library of North West performers, whether they're big names or open miking for the first time. They can send the links to their mums, embed them in their blogs or watch them obsessively to hone their acts, like aspirant dictators. And anyone who couldn't get a babysitter can get a glimpse into what they missed. I like to think it's added a new dimension to Lunecy and Preston Writing Network.
I've done some writing for review sites, too. I'm insanely proud of my interview with the fabulous Moll Baxter and I'm hoping this becomes a series of interviews with Lancaster's literary luminaries.
JA: Tell us about your experience with creative writing groups. Is it something you'd recommend? How should a poet or writer go about choosing a creative writing group?
NH: My experience is perhaps atypical in that I've only been involved with one group and it chose me. Monkeyrack is by invitation; it sounds deperately cliquey, I know, but it wouldn't work if it grew any larger. Now it may not bear comparison with marrying my wife or raising my daughter, but those events aside, joining Monkeyrack was one of the best things I've ever done. It's invaluable to bounce ideas off people who understand the vital distinction between 'complacent' and 'complaisant'.
If anyone's looking out for a group, I'd advise them to find people with writing styles very different from their own; if you specialise in floaty poetry, it's worthwhile to get the reaction of someone ploughing a different furrow. In Monkeyrack, I get interesting angles from crime specialist Jo Powell and resident horror dude, Simon Kurt Unsworth. As regards uber-poets, there's the exceptionally talented Ron Scowcroft.
I think the secret behind these groups is to be as honest as you can. If I've written something crap, I want to know that it stinks and why. I'm a patchy writer at best and often overreach myself. Feeling your ego's been masticated by a water-buffalo is worth it to improve your work.
JA: What does 'being successful' as a poet and a writer mean to you? What's your ambition for your creative work?
NH: Right now, success would mean the cheerful toot of the cavalry coming over the hill. Everything thus far has been an exercise in exhausted auteur-ship. This is against the backdrop of a day job that accounts for fifty-five hours of the week. I would weep salt tears of gratitude if someone, somewhere, would take some of that burden away so I could just write. After that, the laureateship, obviously. Only another nine and a half years to wait.
JA: What's next for you? More performances? Another collection?
NH: All of the above and more. I'm fumbling around for a new voice at the moment, because I want the next collection to be qualitatively different from its predecessors. I'd like to do more collaborative work with people using different media, like the Pendle Hill book.
I'm also building up an armoury of short stories. Whenever I have an idea I can't think of a rhyme for, I knock it out as prose. Some time next year there might be enough to cobble together a collection.

Anyway, I've seen those chat show thingies with Ricky and Judith so now's the bit where I recline expansively on the sofa and hold up a book to camera, right? The launch (did I mention I'm having a launch?) is at the Corner Bookshop, Garstang at 3 pm on Saturday the 7th. All PWN readers, their partners, children, aunts, friends and hamsters are welcome. You can browse in the shop, I'll read a bit, talk a bit and flog some books. Nothing complicated.