Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bye Bye....

We're no longer posting new content at this blog. If you want to keep up with us, come and join us at our new website - the Lancashire Writing Hub.

We're going to have the same information, news and reviews as always but instead of focusing just on Preston, we're blogging about events and opportunities that are taking place all over the county.

Our blog posts and reviews are still written by a dedicated volunteer team - but we're looking to expand that team with new writing opportunities for West and East Lancs bloggers.

Our links list has been expanded to an all singing, all dancing Lancashire Writing Directory - with a special section for bloggers across the county so you can network with other bloggers to your hearts' content. Email us, as always, if you want listing or spot a dodgy link.

Our new big projects for the site is the 'Your Writing' area - sign up and in exchange for not one of your English pounds, you can join a community who will read your work and give feedback on it - and be able to practice giving your own feedback and suggestions. This community is moderated by a panel of peer experts drawn from creative writing groups in Central and West Lancashire so you can post safe in the knowledge that feedback will be constructive, relevant and useful.

Otherwise, you can still contact me at


Thursday, 14 January 2010

2010 in 2010!

Just two months ago, we launched our own youtube channel, Lancashire Writing Hub, featuring a broad and broadening cross-section of North-West performing talent, with novelists, short-story writers, poets and musicians captured in all their stage-strutting glory. The channel is intended as a definitive archive of live-writing performance for the region and will continue to swell with material, including a fresh slice of clips from tomorrow night's Spotlight club up at Lancaster.

In those two months, the response has been extremely heartening - I've just looked at the visit-o-meter and it has just passed 2,010.

Norman Hadley

Monday, 11 January 2010

Word Soup: Jan 30th

Word Soup: Sophie Hannah and Martin Edwards - a discussion and panel event hosted by Jenn Ashworth
Ormskirk Library - FREE

There will be dark literary deeds occurring at Ormskirk Library on Saturday 30th January from 1pm as two leading crime fiction writers visit to read from and discuss their work. The names Sophie Hannah and Martin Edwards should be familiar to many a crime fiction aficionado and this is a rare chance to meet them in person and find out just what makes them tick.

Organised by Lancashire Writing Hub, the literary arm of emergent arts organisation They Eat Culture, the monthly ‘Live Lit’ event, ‘Word Soup’, has been a fixture at Preston venue The Continental since last April. These evenings have gone from strength to strength in this time and Word Soup has quickly established itself as one of the North West’s friendliest and most relaxed Live Literature Nights. Past events have featured spots from such luminaries as top crime authors Nicholas Royle and A.J Duggan, Doctor Who scribe Rob Shearman, and Steven Hall, cult author of The Raw Shark Texts.

After a successful Word Soup library event in Blackpool last October, Ormskirk Library is the latest site set for a visit with two first rate crime fiction authors in tow; Sophie Hannah and Martin Edwards.

Sophie is a best-selling crime fiction writer and poet whose books, Little Face, Hurting Distance and The Point of Rescue, have sold over 300,000 copies in the UK and have also been published in a number of different languages around the world. Sophie’s fifth collection of poetry, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the 2007 T.S. Eliot Award, and in 2004 she won first prize in the Daphne Du Maurier Festival Short Story Competition for her suspense story, The Octopus Nest. Sophie’s poetry is studied at GCSE, A-Level and degree level across the UK.

Martin Edwards’ latest novel is Dancing for the Hangman, a fictional take on the Dr. Crippen case. His first novel, All the Lonely People, introduced the character of ‘Harry Devlin’ to the world and was nominated for a Crime Writers Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best first crime novel of the year. Since then, Martin has published six further Devlin novels, the highly popular Lake District Mystery series, featuring DCI Hannah Scarlet and historian Daniel Kind, and a stand-alone psychological suspense novel set in London called Take My Breath Away.

On top of all this, Martin has somehow also found the time to edit sixteen collections of crime fiction, publish seven legal books, as well as over 800 articles for newspapers and magazines as diverse as The Times, Good Housekeeping, International Management and Amateur Gardening.

Martin and Sophie will be reading and talking about their work and answering questions from the audience at the event, which, as with the Preston and Blackpool editions, will be hosted by the Preston author and blogger Jenn Ashworth, who was herself shortlisted for The Guardian’s ‘Not the Booker’ Prize last year for her own acclaimed novel, A Kind of Intimacy. A bookseller will also be in attendance, to provide those all-important copies for signing!

Word Soup: Sophie Hannah & Martin Edwards takes place at Ormskirk Library from 1pm-3pm on Saturday 30th January. Entry is free.

Ormskirk Library

Burscough Street Ormskirk

L39 2EN
Tel: 01695 573448

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Free Creative Writing Workshop

Are you interested in creative writing?
Here is a great opportunity to work with internationally published, prize winning, professional writer Kevin McCann and get your work published in a professionally produced publication.It is a creative writing project in which original historic documents and archives about Blackpool will be used as the inspiration for new pieces of writing. There will be an introduction led by archive professionals from the Lancashire Record Office exploring the history of Blackpool through archives. The project will also be supported by professional writer, Kevin McCann, who will be on hand to help, guide and advise on the creative writing process. At the end a professionally designed and produced publication of the finished pieces will be produced.When is it?

The project will run from Tuesday 26th January 2010 to Saturday 27th February 2010 with a special launch event on Tuesday 30th March. Please note participants will be expected to attend all the sessions.

Where is it?

6pm-8pm 26th January

Blackpool Central Library

Introductory Session

6pm-8pm 2nd February

Lancashire Record Office, Preston (help with transport if required)

A chance to see behind the scenes of the Record Office

6pm-8pm 16th February

Blackpool Central Library

Advice Session

11am-4pm 27th February

Blackpool Central Library

Half hour bookable 1 to 1 session with Kevin to discuss final editing

6pm-8pm 30th March

Blackpool Central Library

Celebration and book launch

How much is it?

The project is FREE OF CHARGE to all participants.

How do I get involved?

Places are strictly limited to 12. Places can be booked on a first come first served basis by emailing

Please ensure you are available for all the session before booking your place.

University programme offers path to literary success

An initiative to support emerging literary talent is being launched by
the University of Bolton in collaboration with the Chinese Arts Centre
in Manchester.

The Writers' Pathway starts in February 2010 and is aimed at new
writers, of Chinese descent. It will provide a 14-week programme to
develop the writers' craft through professional supervision and distance
learning with the help of a professional mentor.

The programme opens with a five-day residential workshop at the
prestigious Arvon Foundation Lumb Bank Centre in Hebden Bridge,
Yorkshire, and culminates in a showcase of practitioners' work at the
Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

Poets, novelists and playwrights can submit samples of their work and a
panel, comprising professional writers and University tutors, will make
the final selection for the 12 places available on the programme.

Rebecca Albrow, Project Manager, said: 'For someone still in the early
stages of their literary career, this programme could be the catalyst
that enables their talent to flourish and grow. Those taking part will
have the opportunity of working with renowned writers including experts
from BBC Writersroom.

'We're delighted to be working with the Chinese Arts Centre on this
project and looking forward to nurturing the careers of new North West
literary talents.'

For further information about the Writers' Pathway initiative please
or email

For further information please contact:

Rebecca Albrow
Creative Industries Project Manager
School of Arts, Media & Education
University of Bolton
Deane Campus
Room T4-076
Deane Road
Bolton BL3 5AB

(T) 01204 903332

Review of In Memory of Real Trees - by Mark Charlesworth

In Memory of Real Trees is the follow up to Mark Charlesworth’s debut poetry collection and, once again, there is much to recommend. Landscapes familiar to Sunrise and Shorelines are revisited but with a much keener eye. A gothic gauze is once again laid over the world in Dark Forest, Cemetery Song, Bitterest Sin and Anatomising the Killer, but there is progression from the first collection; Charlesworth has moved on from the musings of a younger poet and speaks with conviction about love, desire, hope and fear.

In many of the poems, love often fails to thrive, or if it does it is inextricably bound up with despair and death: “Love is a parasite deep in the grave”, says the narrator of Victims of Love. Love brings no happiness, only horror, as the macabre conclusion shows:

“There are times in life when we will always feel
Just like little dead girls lying on the beach.”

Even in the more hopeful love poems – Ghosts #2 and How to Stop Time, for example – Charlesworth brilliantly communicates the paradoxically insubstantial and yet permanent feelings of love:

“One second’s intensity can burn an imprint on time
-fleetingly seen from the corner of an eye-
Forge two ghosts together in inseparable binds.”

In Attic Room and Heart-Shaped Hole, however, the tone is less embittered, and a yearning honesty seeps out in the end of the latter. Behind all the nightmarish images, lies a simple human desire for companionship, the narrator saying that the simplest, throwaway pleasures

“would feel a little more extraordinary
With someone else there by my side.”

Interspersed with these seemingly personal concerns are sketches of other lives, damaged and loveless. Second Hand Model and Love Song focus on the mutability and superficiality of youthful beauty, while Collateral for the Company tells the story of a lonely man who is literally worked to death.

One of the strengths of In Memory of Real Trees is the way in which personal and global hopes and fears are interwoven, as demonstrated in the two poems which bookend the collection. The individual anxieties in Damaged Goods in Transit are writ large for all humanity in the aptly named Decision Time. Individual crises parallel the predicament we face as a species.

“Do you feel vulnerable dark and cold?
Too tired to sleep,
Too empty to weep...”

evolves into

“And if we settle for a doomsday scenario
On whose shoulders will rest the blame?”

Like love, a utopian society is possible, says Charlesworth, but not without effort and pain. We first have to walk a road “marked by repentance, recant and repair / or broken bones, regrets and mistakes”. Urban landscapes are as blighted as inner worlds. The city is a dark, bewildering, dangerous place and produces fractured, alienated people, with the opening stanza of Ghosts #1 echoic of both Blake’s London and Eliot’s Wasteland:

“A multitude of drifting shadows
Moving through the city street abyss
Forever haunt the same street corners
Where unseen ropes bound lifeless wrists”

Similarly in Early Morning Commuter, the narrator’s mindscape is mirrored in the world beyond his train window – the “tide of pollution”, the “rain-swept” tower blocks and the “dampness of a disconnected world” all driving him to find escape, both physically and mentally, in “a field of daffodils” where he “begs to be devoured”.

Like those in Sunrise and Shorelines, these are complex poems and demand to be read and re-read. Many of the pieces are dreamlike in their structure, making the world of the collection disorientating and obscured. As readers, as in life, we long for the world to make sense and inevitably it doesn’t; something which is captured well in these poems. Indeed, many of the poems are about the almost impossible task of finding a calm, meaningful space amidst the maelstrom. That aside, Charlesworth’s linguistic inventiveness sometimes gets a little lost in the whirling disorder and so, for me at least, the longer poems are not always as engaging as the shorter, crystallised observations.

There is evidence, though, of a poet finding his voice. Shipwreck, Bees and Bernese Winter are amongst the best in the collection because there is a more judiciously structured progression of ideas, the reader is drawn into the narrative, and there is a more accomplished control of images:

“The frozen green river was picturesque for a while
before absent festive ice-skaters left it still.”

“...the shop-keeper traipses to a cellar store,
cutting spectrums of fabric, lace strands and silk,
in burgundy, violet, thunder-sky-scarlet,
stoking incense, candles and spices enticing...”

Remarkably, Charlesworth has suggested that this will be his last collection of poetry. Personally, I think this would be a great shame as there is obviously so much potential here for him to become an excellent poet. He is clearly prolific and watches the world carefully. If more work emerges from Charlesworth, it would be nice to see a shorter, more thematically-focused collection which will allow the reader to savour the richness of his language and the poet to cut the skin of a particular aspect of human experience sharply. In the meantime, it is well worth reading In Memory of Real Trees. These poems deserve your time.

You can keep up to date with Mark Charlesworth’s writing at