Submissions Call Issue 18 & Edinburgh!

Hello dear readers!
Just a quick one this time.
Here at Bunbury Magazine  we are, once again open for submissions! Want to find out how or what our guidelines are? Take a look at our Submit To Us section on our webpage.
This time, we’ve gone for the theme of ‘The Hunt’. We hope this will be a lot of fun so feel free to use it as a prompt but as always, we’re looking forward to seeing all of the different interpretations.
Also in the this issue will be the interviews from all of the fantastic performers we met at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!
Haven’t had a chance to read our last issue yet? Take a look here at issue 16 it’s packed full of the good stuff.

We hope to hear from you soon!
Get Scribbling,
Christopher & Keri,
Bunbury Magazine

Early morning writing classes

Write & Shine morning creative writing workshops take place online and in peaceful London locations.

For our next online course…

…we’ll use the theme of ‘Colour’ to inspire new poems, stories and life writing. From the darkest cherry red to a soft pale blue, colour is everywhere! Join Write & Shine’s four-week self-study online course on the theme of ‘Colour’ to discover all kinds of ways to add brightness your morning. From 24 August to 14 September, you’ll receive a set of vivid writing prompts directly to your email inbox each Wednesday at 6am (BST), ready to complete that morning. Only £15 for the full four-week course.

Our face-to-face workshops…

… continue on Thursdays in central London, starting at 7.30am and 9.15am. In each session, you’ll be set writing tasks which might include discussing poems and short fiction, examining photographs, sniffing lavender, reading that morning’s Metro, or playing with vintage Cluedo cards! It’s £12 each time, with drinks & pastries included. Next workshop is on Thursday 11 August, at Waterstones Piccadilly.
All sessions are open to new and experienced poets, short story writers, novelists, artists and makers—or anyone wanting to incorporate creativity into their busy working lives. Write & Shine classes are facilitated by writer Gemma Seltzer, a morning enthusiast!

Find out more at:

Gemma Seltzer | Write & Shine |
Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook

Early morning writing

Hello! Write & Shine runs weekly bright and early morning writing sessions in peaceful places across London. Ideal for short story writers, and writers those keen to progress their craft. We aim to boost your mornings with a burst of creativity….and provide you with coffee and sweet pastries, too!

Upcoming dates are below:

***Leicester Square***
Westminster Quaker Meeting House, Hop Gardens
Thursdays – 7.15am arrival for 7.30am-9am workshop
5 and 19 May (£10 per session)

Mezzanine Café, Waterstones Piccadilly, 203-206 Piccadilly
Thursdays – 9am arrival for 9.15am-10.45am workshop
12 and 26 May (£10 per session)

Can’t get to the sessions but keen to write with us?

Light – an online writing course to brighten your mornings
Tuesdays, from 17 May to 9 June 2016
£15 for an unique four-week self-study course, sent by email once a week.

At 6am each Tuesday, you’ll receive unique light-themed writing prompts straight to your email inbox. Set aside 60 minutes that morning to try out the ideas and brighten your morning with words—all from the comfort of your own home. Visit the website for more information.

Sunlight & water, moonlight & fire, flashlights & glitterballs, mirrors & metals, light is essential to our lives. With Write & Shine’s four-week self-study online course, you’ll find ways to brighten your morning with all kinds of writing on the theme of light.

Write & Shine is run by Gemma Seltzer, writer, facilitator and morning enthusiast!

Gemma Seltzer | Write & Shine |
Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook

Bunbury is back with issue 12 and some special announcements!

Hello to you Dear Bunburyists from all of us at Bunbury Magazine.

Is is too late now to kick this off with a Happy New Year? Hmmm, it is? Well tough! You’re getting one anyway. Happy New Year, dear Bunburyists, and welcome to the first Bunbury of 2016. Thank you for joining us once again as we explore some of the best writing and art from around the world, as well as speaking to some very exciting people. The theme for this issue is Self. Perfectly fitting. New year, new you and a brand new Bunbury. What could be better?

Well, what is better is getting your hands on it today. Click the beautiful picture below to download it. It is Pay-What-You-Like but we think £3 is a fair price for something so lovingly crafted!

Issue 12

Whenever we choose a theme for an issue, we try to pick something that can be interpreted in almost countless ways. We like to see a wide variety of beautiful, shocking, touching, scary (and many more emotions besides) creativity. Then we like to throw it all together – or more accurately, carefully and lovingly decide which to publish – in the magazine to create something that has something for everyone. What better theme than Self to achieve this?

The world is full of such diverse characters and, as we all know, creativity is driven by character. What we are goes in to what we create. There is something of us in the characters we create, the paintings we paint, the photos we take. For example, Stephen King spent an entire summer dressed as a red-and-white 1958 Plymouth Fury.

This Bunbury is packed full of everything you have come to expect from us. Top-notch poetry, short stories, flash fiction et al. We have also been spoiled with the art and photography we have received for this issue. As usual, on top of all that, we have very exciting interviews with Angie Belcher, whom we met in Edinburgh, about what she’s been up to and about to be up to. Also, Joz Norris about his web series and other things. And, because we love you, a third interview with Nico Reznick, a fantastic indie author you really need to check out.

We feel like we’re reaching milestone after milestone here, with the 3rd anniversary of Bunbury rapidly approaching. We like celebrating prime numbers so this year is a special one for us. To celebrate, we are launching our first physical product! We are deeply excited about this. It is a collection of the best bits of the first 12 issues. You can see where the anthology has been developed from by getting all our back issues, again on Pay-What-You-Like. Go on, treat yourself to some brilliant writing, art and interviews!

Issue 12 Spiral

As always, we know full well that without all your support, we would not be able to do this so thank you. Thank you to everyone who reads it and submits. Could we ask one more favour? Give us a share on your social media gubbins? The more people see this, the better we can make it for you all and our support network can grow. We want to make this platform for new writers and projects as expansive as possible. Click below to get to our Facebook and Twitter stuff.



One more thing and I promise we are done. We are still taking submissions for issue 13 of Bunbury. The theme is space and it is a little bit of a Bowie Tribute too! Click the picture below for details on how to submit.

13 Theme

Enough rambling! Once again, Happy New Year, Happy Valentine’s Day, Easter, Summer Soltice and…why not, might as well say Merry Christmas 2016 while we’re at it!

Keep scribbling,

Christopher and Keri.

P.S. – that thing about Stephen King isn’t true! We have nothing worth suing for!

Bunbury Magazine here with Crime, Space and World Cup of Authors!

Hello to you all, Bunbury Magazine here! Lovely to see you all again. We are here with some news and updates for your eyes.

First of all, we want to thank all of you that have downloaded Issue Eleven of Bunbury. The response has been absolutely brilliant. If you missed it, then do not hesitate any longer! It is our crime-theme bonanza. Not only that, but we have an epic (we do not use that word lightly!) feature on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015, packed full of interviews with some of the best performers that were up there, including Phil Jupitus, Wil Hodgson, Cormac Friel and Christian Reilly. It really is worth it AND it is Pay-What-You-Like. Click the pick below to get your digi-hands on it today.

Issue 11

We are also on a drive for submissions for issue thirteen. The theme is Space, in memory of David Bowie. We are looking for short stories, poetry, flash fiction, art, photography. Anything really! Here is another picture to click, this time to our submission guidelines!

13 Theme


At the start of February, we are having a bit of fun. We are running a World Cup of Authors. We have been through the Goodreads lists of best authors from 4 categories – Pre-19th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century and 21st Century (so far!) – and chosen qualifying authors. We want you to vote on who should reach the last 32 from each section. 4 from Pre-19th Century. We have another picture for your eyes now. It is the long lists of each category. Click on it to go to the tweet where you can vote for your favourites. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #worldcupofauthors.


Other than all that, keep your eyes peeled for a competition we will be running in the coming months. We are also starting our writing group up again. It is run in Bury, just outside of Manchester. It is a very welcoming group where you can share your work in a safe space and get some great feedback on what you are working on at the moment. We also run regular events with brilliant headliners. This year, we are also looking to start a poetry slam so it is well worth coming along if you live in the area. Full details on the group can be found here. (Yes, yes, another wonderful picture for you!


That’s it for now. Issue Twelve: Self will be out in February. We will speak to you all very soon. Take care and keep scribbling,

Christopher and Keri.


Bunbury Issue Eleven is Here! Crime and Edinburgh Fringe Special.

Hello to you, Dear Bunburyists!

It is really hard to believe that months have gone by since we last spoke, Dear Bunburyists, but Bunbury Magazine is back!. Two months since we last brought you some of the best writing and art from around the world. It’s almost criminal how quickly time passes! And this new issue is criminally good. 

Get your hands on the new issue right now on Pay-What-You-Like to see some of the best writing and art from around the world including our Edinburgh Fringe Special which features, amongst many others: Phill Jupitus, Aidan Killian, Dan Nichols, Gurpal Gil, Christian Steel, Joz Norris, Cormac Friel, Wil Hodgson, Daphna Baram, Clare Ferguson-Walker.

Follow this link right now, you lovely people!

Issue 11

Bunbury Issue Eleven

Well, the theme is crime after all! So what has changed in the past two months?

Well, we have experienced new levels of tired. August this year saw us make our now regular trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to do coverage of some of the most wonderful shows that make the Festival what it is. We started our preparations about one month before, hand-making interviews for the wonderful performers. After hauling ourselves, our necessities and 100 interviews over the border, we hit the Festival hard. In fact, we saw our first show before we had even checked in to our hotel!

Now, we know just how much work goes in to making each show and how hard and passionately everyone taking part in the Fringe works – and that goes on for them for an entire month. We say that because when we say we were up there for five days and felt like we had been trapped in a hurricane by the time we left. A hurricane filled with some of the most inspiring, entertaining and downright hilarious shows we have ever seen. Let us tell you now that it took us quite a while to recover afterwards!

The main feature this issue comprises of interviews with some of these comedians, poets, artists and pretty much every type of creative you can think of. It is genuinely our pleasure to be able to bring these people to you.

And that isn’t even everything we have this issue! As usual, the writing we have is simply outstanding. Everything from the poetry to prose and in between has been lovingly written, diligently sent in and carefully selected to bring you words of the highest quality.

As always, we love bringing this magazine to you all but we only exist through the love of our readers. If you like what we do, please share us with your friends, loved ones and anyone you think would like to read some mighty fine writing and experience the best in creativity from all four corners. You can find our Twitter, Facebook and other garb right here.facebooktwitter

We are also taking submissions for issue twelve of Bunbury. The theme is Self. You can submit your stuff to us on

Anyway, that’s quite enough of all that. Let us steal your time now and sentence you to another brilliant issue of Bunbury.

As always, keep scribbling!

Much love,

Christopher and Keri.

Bunbury Issue Ten: Politics Special!

Hello Dear Bunburyists! Bunbury Magazine is back!

Right, come on now. Settle down. This is no time for fun. Certainly not with the theme of this issue. A theme which speaks to us all on some level – from those who live, breath and eat it to those who feel the tremors rippling out from the epicentres created on its landscape. We are talking about Politics.

Get Issue Ten right here, right now on Pay-What-You-Like:

Issue Ten: Politics

Issue Ten: Politics

After the drama of the General Election in May, and the distinct lack of hat-eating afterwards, we invited our wonderful contributors to take on this oft murky topic and, as always, they did not disappoint! We are very proud to present some of the best writing around which takes on all aspects of politics, from voting itself to the somewhat darker, more controversy-strewn aspects of that which governs our lives, often very satirically but all with great poignancy.

You know the drill by now guys, ten issues in! It’s not just the best writing we have here at Bunbury, but art and photography too, and always in bundles! We have had the pleasure of having some great artists brand-new to us for this issue, from deeply experienced to teen siblings creating some of the most beautifully bonkers comics we’ve ever seen.

As well as all that, we always have a round up of the fantastic Deer Shed Festival, based in Baldersby Park, Yorkshire and interviews with some of the musical and literary highlights of the weekend. So strap in, now is the time for fun. Funbury! That’s too much isn’t it?

We are quite excited here. We headed up to Edinburgh last month to get interviews with some of the wonderful people who make the Fringe so awesome. Issue Eleven will have an absolutely ram-packed feature, full of words and faces, giving you the pick of our Fringe experience. Look out for that in two months’ time!

Also, issue ten! A landmark. Ten issues of what we believe to be a really important platform for emerging and established creativity. Thank you so much for being with us all this time and we’re sure we’ll be thanking you again in another ten issues’ time.

Our inbox is open for submissions for issue eleven of Bunbury as well! The theme is Crime and we are accepting everything from short stories and poetry to non-fiction and essays, art and photography and we are looking to interview some lovely talented people! One thing we are keen to do is use Twitch on the X-Box One to interview people while we play big ‘splodey games so if this is something you would like to do, get in touch!

To submit to us, drop us an email on

You can also get the entire Bunbury back catalogue. All of the nine other issues to date, full of some of the best writing, art, and interviews from around the world. It’s all on Pay-What-You-Like, so take it for free if you like or give a little if you can. The only thing we ask for sure is share us with your friends and family. Help us keep doing what we do and spread the word!


As always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook using the buttons below:



And that’s all she wrote, folks! There’s been a lot of info so thanks for bearing with us and  thanks for joining us and don’t forget, if you have any thoughts, feedback, ideas or just want a natter, drop us a line on!

Keep scribbling!

Christopher and Keri.

Shoreline of Infinity is open for submissions

Shoreline Issue 2 Cover 513x800Shoreline of Infinity, the newest British science fiction magazine,  is open for submissions until 31st March 2016. We’re looking for stories up to 5,000 words.

We’re  looking for a good science fiction story, something that gives reality a tweak on the nose. An idea that makes us stop and think. But don’t forget your characters: all the best stories are seen through the eyes of characters your readers believe in.

The best advice though is to read a Shoreline of Infinity for yourself to see the kind of stories we like.

Full details and submissions instructions are available on our submissions page.

Liberties Flash Fiction Competition now open!

Liberties Festival Dublin’s first flash fiction competition is now OPEN!

We want your best 50-300 words on the theme “Liberties”. We are looking for entries from anyone living on the island of Ireland. Email your entry in the body of your email (no attachments please) to by 13 July 2015. Full rules can be found here.

It’s free to enter – overall prize for best entry is a Kindle. Best entry about The Liberties area of Dublin wins two tickets to the Nighthawks event in Guinness Storehouse! Check out the festival programme, it’s going to be fun!

Cambridge Fiction Award – Just Launched

Cambridge_University,_King's_CollegeThe first Cambridge Fiction Award, a rolling monthly flash fiction competition, opened for submissions this month.

The competition is free and open to all with the aim of encouraging more writers to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard on a regular basis. Entries must be under 200 words which means you don’t need a huge amount of time to take part – perfect for your train commute or coffee break. Let your imagination run wild in a bite sized story.

If you have always fancied trying to write stories but don’t know where to start or if you love writing but need a bit of help finding inspiration each month, don’t worry, we’ll be providing a monthly writing prompt to get you started. Simply include the prompt word in your story and stick to the word limit – there are no other rules. The deadline for entries is the 25th of each month when the next prompt word will be announced.

This month’s prompt is our home town, the beautiful city of Cambridge. You could write about any time period, any genre, from any perspective, use the city as a setting or take inspiration from the amazing residents throughout the ages. It’s completely up to you.

Winning and runner up entries will be published on the Cambridge Fiction Award website.

This is a brand new competition and we’re really excited about the response so far – thank you Short Stops for telling your readers about us. In just a few days we’ve had some amazing entries from all over the world. Whether you’re an experienced writer or this is your first attempt we want to read your stories.

For more information and to enter this month’s competition visit and follow us on twitter @camfictionaward

Word Factory Short Story Competition: DEADLINE EXTENDED

Don’t miss the chance to win a year of entry to the Word Factory salon as well as online publication!


Word Factory will publish ten stories inspired by these opening lines, penned for us by Neil Gaiman. Along with publication, the winners can attend salons for a year for free. Stories will be published online and may be included in a future anthology. The competition will be judged by Toby Litt and Cathy Galvin.

Rules: Please use the opening sentence in full or as a springboard (i.e. use the fable as the platform to launch your ideas from, using your own interpretation of the fable) for an inspiring fable of 3000 words maximum.
Submissions deadline has been extended to 31st July. UK entry only.
You may send more than one story but the entry fee of £5 must be purchased for each story.
The stories will be judged anonymously so please ensure only the title and page numbers are included on your submission.
Submissions will be accepted in Word (.doc/.docx) or PDF (.pdf) format.

Submissions: Once you have paid your entry fee via eventbrite, the instructions for entry will be emailed to you.
The ten winning short stories will be announced at the September Word Factory Salon, and the winners will be contacted before the salon.

If you have any queries, please contact Alison via


Future Way: Call for Submissions

Calling all doodlers, ponderers, writers, poets and dreamers!

Submit a short story for a chance to be part of an exciting and unique, collaborative public art project in Redcliffe, Bristol.

Following the success of the Bristol Story Trail earlier in the year, get ready for Future Way brought to you by Dream of a Shadow, an online project bridging the gap between reality and fantasy through storytelling.

Working with The Redcliffe Neighbourhood Development Forum (@MoreRedcliffe), Future Way seeks to engage the people of Redcliffe and the wider community of Bristol through a playful and exciting exploration of the area using storytelling.

This is an amazing opportunity for published authors and budding writers in Bristol to collaborate with artists, architects and community groups in a first-of-its-kind, art project which challenges the way we view our city.

King of Christmas Steps

Contributors are encouraged to think about how Redcliffe may be used in the future and set tales within this. Because of the nature of the project, the brief is quite specific and submissions must meet the following criteria:

  • All entries must be set in the future Redcliffe area (how far is up to you)
  • All entries should be in 3-5 sections of 250 words (max) each, forming a trail through the area
  • Each section is planned to be tagged to a specific point within Redcliffe, i.e. a wall, lamp post, street, door etc.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 20th April 2015, so there’s plenty of time to get writing.

Please look at the website for the full brief before getting the pens out!

For any queries tweet us @DoaSLiveFiction and be sure to follow to stay up to date!

Happy writing and good luck!

Extended Submission Deadline for The Siren’s FUGUE II

The ship has not yet sailed if you would like to be part of The Siren Press’ second short story anthology FUGUE II, as the deadline for submissions has been extended to Thursday March 19th.

Following closely in the footsteps of its predecessor, FUGUE II is looking for short stories that are intelligent, amusing and dark in nature. The stranger and more surreal the better. For a taste of just what we mean, FUGUE included tales concerning a budding romance between man and machine, the unfortunate consequences of living in an adult anxiety dream, and a narrator living amid a melting city.

If you have a completed story or draft that you think would be perfect to add to our eclectic mix, please submit your work at : and quick!

The Siren Team

Bristol Story Trail Needs Writers!

Calling all doodlers, ponderers, writers, poets and dreamers!

Get ready for the Bristol Story Trail (starting 15th Feb 2015) brought to you by Dream of a Shadow, an online project bridging the gap between reality and fantasy through storytelling.

Dream of a Shadow is collaborating with published authors and budding writers in Bristol to map the city through the magic of storytelling in an event running alongside Bristol Storyfest 2015.

The more creative minds, the better. So we are currently looking for short story submissions from you – these can be as little as 50 words, or up to 1000 and should be based in Bristol (loosely in the area around Spike Island).

So take a moment and get involved in writing the city!

All stories submitted will be included in the Bristol Story Trail alongside several other writers as well as in exhibitions later in the year, with any contributors fully credited and promoted. For more information, or to email your submissions contact

Don’t have time to contribute? No worries – you can still get involved and discover the city of Bristol through some wonderful short works of fiction! Follow us on Twitter to find out how, and spread the word… @DoaSLiveFiction #BristolStoryTrail #WritingTheCity and keep an eye out for new stories on the Bristol Story Trail website


150206 Story Trail Poster

A site for sore eyes

I’m Bruce Harris and I’m now, I’m happy to say, a published writer of short fiction and poetry. My collection ‘First Flame’ was published in 2013 and includes twenty five stories which have all won prizes, commendations or listings in U.K. competitions, and last year this was followed up by an anthology of published and award-winning poems called ‘Raised Voices’.

I’m also the editor and compiler of Writing Short Fiction, which is aimed at helping people who are where I was when I first decided to make a serious effort at creative writing. The sore eyes in my title can be the lot of aspiring writers everywhere when they’re up against it, as it’s so easy to be in the writing business. I was already retired when I started seriously writing fiction; I’d written educational research-based articles for various papers, including a couple of national dailies, and I thought transferring would be not too difficult.  Ahem. I needed help, particularly when my first efforts were greeted with the blank silence which the internet can do so well. Few of us can do it all on our own, and the more help sites there are around, the better. The short fiction scene is not exactly awash with them.

This one, Short Stops, offers enormous amounts of stuff in all sorts of ways, and my heartfelt congratulations to Tania for putting it together. Thanks also for allowing me to mention another help site, with advice, resources, questionnaires, and most recently, prize-winning fiction contributed by eleven writers. There is also a Tips from the Top section, in which these writers offer their thoughts, techniques, exercises etc. in many different aspects of the short fiction genre. Worth a visit?  Why not?  It’s right there at Writing Short Fiction – no memberships, no passwords required. Be my guest!

Mark Watson’s Novel + 100 Stories – Read One Here!


Today, Picador publish Mark Watson’s new novel Hotel Alpha. It is set in an exclusive central London hotel against the backdrop of the digital revolution, beginning in the 1960s and ending in July 2005, the week that London won the Olympic bid and was hit by the 7/7 bombings.

Hotel Alpha has been written to be read in two stages: there is the novel itself and 100 stories which can be found on the website Both the novel and the individual stories stand alone and can be read in any order. Some of the stories are 1000 words, others a paragraph, some the length of a tweet but all shine an alternative light on the plot, solve mysteries, and give voice to some of the minor characters in the novel.

In his afterword, Mark Watson said:

‘Hotel Alpha is designed to be read in two stages. There is the novel which you have just finished and, I hope, enjoyed – unless you’re one of these people who always flick to the back first. Then there are one hundred extra stories which appear on a website: The extra stories span the same time period as the novel. They shine an alternative light on the plot of the book, show the hidden links between some of its main events, solve mysteries, and give voice to some of the thousands of minor characters and dramas which make up the life of the Hotel Alpha while the main story is playing out. They can be read in any order and in any quantity. Or, of course, you can ignore them altogether – it’s entirely up to you.

Everyone knows that human stories are always bigger and more complex than they appear – the relationships and connections between us all are infinite, and a book can only do so much. The internet, though, removes the physical limitations of the novel, opening up possibilities that have never before existed for readers and writers. We can now choose how much of a story we want to tell, and how much of it we want to know: in theory we can keep going forever. The one hundred extra stories of Hotel Alpha don’t quite go that far, and you as a reader probably have other plans for the rest of your life. But it’s a start. . . ‘


Story 55: Room 77, 1984

It’s not the first time Rachael has taken a babysitting job in a hotel. It is kind of unusual, obviously. Normally she goes to someone’s house. But people do stay in hotels with babies and sometimes they’re there for a few nights and they need to get out. It must be rough, always being tied down by a kid. The call came from the Alpha reception; she’s on the concierge’s list of Bloomsbury babysitters who can be called at short notice. It’s a good job; you don’t have to do anything, you just sit there. It’s a sight better than some of her fellow students, who work in noisy bars for two quid an hour and then are too exhausted to get their essays finished. She gets five an hour for this, and it can be more. In a hotel you never know. It might be a crazy eccentric couple who give you fifty because it makes no difference to them. Rachael has a mate who’s a waitress in the Café de Paris and once a film star left her a £100 tip, and the tips are all meant to go into the pot but she kept it and then she was terrified someone would find out, so she panicked and spent it all on crisps and chocolate on the way home, more than she could eat in a year.

The only tricky thing about sitting in places like hotels is that the baby’s often asleep in a cot in the corner, so it’s hard to watch TV or do anything that might make a noise. But she’s brought coursework to get on with, and a little torch. She might sneak something out of the minibar, or the woman might say she’s allowed to help herself. Maybe she could get room service.

Rachael takes the lift up and knocks on the door of 77. A woman comes to the door and Rachael gets an immediate surprise: she isn’t dressed to go out. She’s in one of those white hotel dressing gowns tied with a chunky cord at the front. She’s got frizzy hair and tired eyes. She smiles at Rachael.
‘Come in. Thank you so much for coming.’

Rachael comes in and stands awkwardly near the desk, looking at the unmade bed, trying not to seem like she’s noticing it. There are kids’ toys all over the floor, Lego or Brio or something like her nephew has. Big bricks. A police station. A model helicopter. Kids electric cars – Top9Rated rated to be safe for indoor and outdoor use. Books. It looks as if someone has deliberately emptied box after box of stuff onto the floor. There are no adult clothes around; no adult items at all, really. There is also no sign of the kid.

‘He’s asleep in the other room,’ says the woman, reading her expression in the way slightly older women always seem able to. ‘This is quite a big room. It’s got two bits to it.’

‘That’s nice,’ says Rachael.

‘I’m Roz, by the way.’

She licks her lips nervously. This is the worst bit of babysitting: the bit before they leave. She likes it best – any babysitter likes it best – when they bustle straight out of the door and leave you to it. It’s not much fun when you have to hang around as they get ready. They come out of the shower and they put their hair under the dryer and are scrambling around for a bra and spraying on perfume, and you have to pretend to read your book as if you haven’t noticed. But this lady seems nice. Something about the way she smiles at Rachael, almost shyly, though it’s Rachael’s place to be shy in this situation.

‘Now, I need to talk to you about something, if that’s … I’m sorry about this,’ says Roz. ‘Did you want to sit down, by the way?’

‘Sure,’ says Rachael, and goes over to a little two-person sofa. Roz Tanner keeps touching her unruly hair and she looks at the wall as she’s speaking.

‘The thing is, I feel so stupid,’ says her employer for the night, ‘but Chas … my son has been a bit poorly.’

Rachael feels a sinking in her chest. She knows what’s coming. A cancellation. At least she might get paid, still, if this woman’s got any decency. Or maybe get half the money. But it’s a pisser. She was kind of banking on that cash. She’s meant to be going out at the weekend, and …

‘So, but, I’ll still pay you.’ Rachael wonders if it was obvious from her face that she was thinking about money. ‘But the thing is … ’ Roz Tanner coughs. ‘I mean, you’ve probably come a long way. Did you want to stay and watch the telly? I don’t know if you watch … I was going to watch EastEnders. Sorry, is this incredibly weird? I don’t know if I’m being weird.’

Maybe it is, but Rachael finds herself filled with warmth for this stranger, who is at least ten years older than her and has a child and everything, is a lot further down the path of life, and yet carries herself in this rather apologetic way and addresses Rachael as if they were peers. Also, Rachael likes EastEnders: she was planning to watch it when Roz went out.

‘That would be really cool,’ she finds herself saying.

Half an hour later she finds herself on the sofa, holding a glass of wine. Roz is drinking Archers with lemonade. An hour later they’ve watched EastEnders and discussed various characters whose storylines are currently to the fore, and what they think of the actors portraying them, and what they themselves would do if they found themselves in those situations. An hour and a half later they’ve begun to discuss personal stuff. Rachael tells Roz about her course, and how she’s not sure she chose the right degree because translating is such a difficult career to get into, and even confides that she’s paranoid that Ricki is bitching about her, which wasn’t something she had acknowledged to herself until tonight.

Rachael finds out, in return, that Roz has been raising the boy on her own, that she and the father Tony split even before he was born.

‘He said, “I can’t live without you, Rosalynn,”’ Roz Tanner reminisces. ‘He didn’t mean it − he was drunk. A week later, he’d gone.’

And times were very tough for Roz after that, by the sound of it, but then the kind man who runs this hotel gave them this room to stay in till she got sorted out. ‘Which I’m in the process of doing,’ Roz added. And Rachael nods and says it must be incredibly tough, and that she thinks Roz is really brave, and she feels very adult for saying these things.

Eventually they open the bottle of red wine on the desk, and Rachael has her feet up on the sofa, and it’s hard to believe that she came here to do a job, that she hasn’t known Roz Tanner for years and years. She doesn’t care now whether she comes away with any money. It isn’t even on her mind. All she can think is how amazing it is that you can make a friend out of nowhere like this. When Roz asks her to babysit next week – she’s going to reschedule the event that didn’t happen tonight – Rachael doesn’t hesitate.

Roz goes into the bathroom. She feels a little drunker than she imagined she’d be. She stares at the tiles, alternating black and white, and looks at the row of little cosmetic bottles on the shelf next to the shower head, which the housekeeping woman kindly keeps replenishing even though she’s been here several weeks now. She wonders whether Rachael already knows that, when she turns up to ‘babysit’ next week, Roz will again find an excuse not to leave. And whether after that, she’ll need to go through the pretence all over again; or if at that point she can admit, without seeming too strange, that what she wanted, all along, was company, and this was one of the only ways she could think of getting it.

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Historic House Short Story Competition

The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine GaskinMy fiction imprint, Corazon Books, has partnered with the Historic Houses Association to launch a special short story competition with a unique prize. We’re inviting writers to submit a short story (1,500 to 2,500 words) which is either inspired by or set in a historic house.

We are looking for a compelling tale with lots of atmosphere. It can take place in the past or present, in either a real or fictional setting, so writers can let their imaginations take them, and us, whenever and wherever they wish!

The competition is being run to celebrate the publication of The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin. This modern classic by the bestselling “Queen of Storytellers” has recently been reissued by Corazon Books in ebook format, in time to celebrate its 40th anniversary. It is the first of Catherine Gaskin’s novels to be published digitally, under licence from her literary estate, The Society of Authors.
Historic Houses Association
The Property of a Gentleman is a tale of intrigue, mystery and romance, set in a fictional earl’s ancestral home, in the dramatic landscape of England’s Lake District, so the competition’s prizes are very much in keeping with its theme. The winning writer and a guest will be treated to a private tour and afternoon tea with the owners of Levens Hall in Cumbria. The winner will also receive a cash prize of £150, and a double Friends membership for the Historic Houses Association. Two runners up will each receive a double Friends membership to the Historic Houses Association. We also plan to publish an ebook anthology of the best entries, with each writer receiving royalties for their published story.

The competition is open now and runs until September 26th 2014. The winner will be announced during National Short Story Week (17th to 23rd November 2014). There is no fee to enter the competition.

You can enter now at and let other writers know about the comp on Twitter using the hashtag:  #historichouseshortstory

Good luck!

Ian Skillicorn

Adam Foulds, SAND Journal and unknown writers making it

This month is proving a very exciting one for Visual Verse contributors. As well as having Booker Prize nominated author Adam Foulds headlining on the site, we are thrilled to announce a collaboration with the Berlin based literary journal, SAND.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 16.10.09

More of that shortly, though. First, Kristen Harrison (Visual Verse curator) and I want to thank all the contributors who made the March Visual Verse our best month since we launched last November. Our image was by artist and illustrator Denise Nestor: a precariously balanced tower of birds who seemed to be sleeping, or dead. The writers loved it – so much so, we had 80 submissions in one month, which was unprecedented. Each piece was astonishing: carefully observed and written to make every word carry weight. The chapter as a whole is a thing of beauty in itself, it is fascinating to see how one image can bring so many responses.

Some of my favourite lines: ‘What does the sheep think of the sky?’ in Tristan Forster’s elegiac prose poem; Sarah James’ wonderfully  forensic piece, with the line,  ‘the delicacy of coiled intestines and death plucks song’ and of course our lead writer Adam Marek’s short story, with its simple control of voice: ‘The cheese was all prickly. Like battery tops. We fought the cheese was bad, but when we noticed the same taste was in everyfin, we realised it was our mouths.’

This month is lead by another Adam – Adam Foulds, whose Booker nominated ‘The Quickening Maze’ and ‘The Broken Word’ are poetry laced with violence and despair. The perfect choice for this month’s image, by photographer Marcus Bastel. I absolutely love reading all the submissions we get each day, and even more taking part in the conversation about them that is growing on twitter. I read and consider everything  – there are only a couple of rules – it must be 50-500 words, written in the space of one hour in response to the image. It should not have been published anywhere before.

Those who submit find new opportunities opening up for them too. I’m delighted to say that Berlin-based SAND journal will be featuring Visual Verse in their next issue. In consultation with us, they have selected four pieces to publish in SAND Issue 09, both in print and online. SAND exposes fresh literary talent from Berlin and beyond and we are proud to be featured in it.

I can’t wait to read what the month will bring. If you are thinking of submitting, the only thing I would say is  – you won’t regret it. Visual Verse is all about collaboration between what you see and how you write, you, us, our readers: art and words. The image is the starting point, the text is up to you. Enjoy!

Preti Taneja
Editor, Visual Verse


Smoke on the Water


Please note that the actual cover/title
will be finalised later!

Water. H20. Adam’s ale. We’ve all seen it, gathering ominously in puddles, bouncing from umbrellas and rolling off the backs of insouciant ducks. Water doesn’t just fall from the sky, though: there’s a whole mucky load of it flowing in a big trench along the northern rim of south London, thankfully steering a course between the buildings on either side. And rather smaller amounts trickling past the bottoms of back gardens out in the suburbs. Some people even believe in such things as lost rivers, underground streams and tadpoles. And let’s not forget the docks, the canals, the broken Victorian water mains.

In short, it’s bloody wet out there. Which is why we’ve decided to produce the Smoke Bumper Book of Water. Although it won’t actually be called that, for obvious reasons. Basically, a compendium of words – fiction, non-fiction, something-in-between – and pictures in which London’s water is the ruling element. If you’ve seen our first book, From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea, you’ll know the sort of approach we’ll be taking; if you haven’t, you’re a fool to yourself, but click on the title and scroll down for a sample pdf.

It’s a deliberately broad topic, and the focus might change slightly, depending on what arrives. There are plenty of other books out there dealing with the history of the Thames, for instance, so we’d prefer to meander more around such things as, say, the Dagenham Brook, the last remaining tidal streets in London, a riverside pub crawl, or the reservoirs at Tottenham. Back in issue 2 of Smoke, we published Seb Brennan’s marvellous London Shipping Forecast – a nightly bulletin to guide and protect those stranded on the city’s streets and lull those safely tucked up in bed – and that’s the sort of thing we’re after. The stuff we really want to avoid, I suppose, is anything too drily informative; if anything, we’re after the exact opposite: something wet and fanciful.

As with all Smoke books, successful submissions will initially also appear on the website as regular posts; towards the end, though, we’ll probably keep them for the printed version.

Deadlines and word counts

People always want to know how many words are needed, and our answer is usually “roughly half as many as you’re thinking of sending us, sunshine – go back and delete all the adjectives”. Basically, though, there are no real rules – just whatever seems appropriate. Bear in mind, though, that the longest pieces in From the Slopes of Olympus were around 3,000 words, and most were a lot lot shorter; shorter is always better. As for a deadline… shall we say the end of February?