Wednesday, January 30, 2013

special january feature: nina milton

Today we are excited to feature an extract from a new e-book for children by writer and OCA creative writing tutor Nina Milton. It is called Tough Luck, is available here from Amazon, and, in my opinion, is a very enjoyable read, full of links between past and present, and lively characters.

...I began skating round the edge, keeping with all the other skaters. Every minute or two, I passed the café window, right under the noses of the gang just the other side of the glass. I wanted to keep their minds off Helen.

It’s funny, but when I think back to that time, the five or so minutes I spent doing my impression of a goldfish on blades, I always think of Jake Silver. Which is very odd because I’d never heard of Jake then.
I think it’s because we had to make him up, partly, fill in the spaces of his life by imagining it, like doing a jigsaw where a lot of the pieces are blank, tossing ideas between us, trying to work out what it would be like to be Jake.
      He’s standing on the dockside. People walk round him, eye him up, check if his teeth are sound. He doesn’t exist for them, except as something that might be of use.
      When Helen and I tell each other Jake’s story, I remember the ice rink and think; that’s how they looked at me through the glass, eye-balling me with a look of possession, as if they could pick me off a shelf, something to buy and enjoy later.
      They looked at me as those slave masters must have looked at Jake and right away I knew how must have he felt. I knew that he wouldn’t look back at them, just stare down at his feet and shiver as the breeze blew through his thin clothes. There was no point in trying to run away. That look tells you – they’ll get you in the end.

When the slush-machine cleared the ice, I knew I’d have to act quickly. I got off at the very other end of the rink, so they wouldn’t spot me in the crowd. For a bit, I thought I’d fixed them. I headed for my locker, the key in my hand. I slipped into a bog and changed my skates for trainers. Then I stood on the toilet seat to see if the coast was clear.
     I took a couple of deep breaths before bursting out of the toilets, out of the locker room, along the rink side and out through the heavy glass doors. I was three flights up from the street. I looked across the concrete banister over the city and suddenly had this silly wish that I could fly – just take off – sail homewards. I’d never longed to be at home as much as I did then. I raced down the steps, turning corners like I was at the Olympics. I was almost at the bottom when I heard a cry from above.
     “That’s him! Down there!”
      I shot into the street as if the steps had spat me out like a gob of phlegm, and pelted in the direction of the Centre. The Centre was where my bus stopped. It was also a nice, busy place on a Sunday evening.     
      I might have made it, if I’d gone a better way. But there’s a bit of old Bristol between the ice rink and the City Centre, a maze of narrow lanes filled with tall, elegant, houses with tiny railings at the front. I was beginning to get lost.
      They were gaining on me. Each time I reached a corner, their footsteps were louder – footsteps that rang on cobbled stones. A shiver went across my back like I’d fallen on the ice rink.
They were not wearing trainers.

Nina blogs at the delightfully named Kitchen Table Writers. I highly recommend her site to anyone seeking motivation or tips, as well as good recommendations of writers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

poetry snapshots: vicki bartram

The Melancholy Death of Marriage

We live in the attic

between boxes of love,

bagged up memories,

nestled next to forgotten dreams,

sleeping silently beneath

creased seams.

We live in the attic

shoved between reminders

of what should have been,

fluttering like lashes

in the first light of morning.

We live in the attic

laid here by accident

during a spring-clean.

Once we danced in orange light

now dust lays thick

on gravelled tongue.

Placed 3rd in the NAWG Open Poetry Competition (adjudicated by James Nash)

Vicki Bartram is a writer based in York and is currently studying Creative Writing and English Language at University.

Her work has appeared in Indigo Rising US, Soundsphere Magazine, Pastiche Magazine, Turbulence Magazine, and the Scottish Metro. She is also due to appear in Beautiful Scruffiness and The English Chicago Review in 2013. Her poetry has been highly commended in the York Writers Open Poetry Competition 2012 and she was placed 3rd in the NAWG Open Poetry Competition 2012.

She currently works with Stairwell Books; a small (but growing!) publishing press based in York where she manages the submissions for Dream Catcher Magazine. She recently became the co-editor for the poetry submissions at Indigo Rising UK.

Her interest in the supernatural and unconventional relationships slips into her work regularly and her work has been described as having “a sense of knowing, an insight into that which I have never experienced first-hand” – James Nash.

As well as writing poetry, short stories and music articles, she is also planning a creative non-fiction book with a cheeky twist, so watch this space! Vicki has a blog and is also on Facebook and Twitter: @vickibartram

Saturday, January 12, 2013

new year poetry snapshots: john drew

We are starting 2013 with a bang by featuring new work from one of my fellow OCA creative writing tutors, poet John Drew.
I'm currently enjoying John's collections The Lesser Vehicle (Bloodaxe, 1986) and In the Temple of Kali (The Cambridge Poetry Workshop, 1991).
The two photographs below were taken in Mumbai when John and his wife Rani (also pictured) visited as writers. John has also read with a distant relation of mine, the famous Indian poet Nissim Ezekiel.


The Earth shook and the skies grew dark in Mirandola.

A cathedral wall fell and a town hall. Also in Modena.

Never before such an earthquake in the Emilia Romagna.

The pigeons sigh in the pines, oregano, rosemary hang on the air.

The old hawk is not to be found in his high square tower

Singing praise of his sister as a partisan in the War.

We loved him as he sat frail at a last grand feast,

Able to eat little, glass raised in defiant toast,

Nodding off as if in sleep as a man past living must.

What force then lifted his hawk-like face and drove his voice

To speak of each of us there with such a precise grace?

What more can we ask of this world before we pass,

As he does now, out of it? Only the lilt of his voice

Remains, along with his empty glass and a rind of cheese.

From the very gates of the Underworld, he sent us his messages.


She was sitting up top on a bus out of Hackney,

The young woman with spiky hair

and glitter all over her face.

She was reading a book, putting it down

every few minutes

To primp the spikes in her hair.

No, she wasn’t reading the book

as part of a course

(A presumptuous question, you silly old fool).

A Swedish friend had recited,

We live, as we dream, alone,

And she just had to read such a book.

Had I seen Apocalypse Now?

And what of the war on Iraq?

Her face had a glitter all of its own

As she spoke of dishonesty, empire and lies.

The last I saw of her, she was a whirl of hands

Among a row of heads on top of the bus

As it beat upstream into Euston.

York Literature Festival HUB 2018 event, Tuesday, 20th March

I'm looking forward to my first event for absolutely ages - at the York Literature Festival HUB. Many thanks to YLF and Valley...