Monday, 28 March 2016

INK: The New Writer’s Festival

Michelle Sewell writes about INK and the free playwriting workshops which she will be offering as part of this fabulous Festival:

"As a playwright based in East Anglia, the opportunities to develop and share work are somewhat… well… dull… compared to the spotlight promised by London... although that comes with quite a hefty price tag! Which is why opportunities to see and be part of new writing festivals in East Anglia are so valuable. INK Festival, based at The Cut Theatre, Halesworth, is one such event that inspires audiences to come see professional emerging writers, directors and actors create new work. 

The Festival itself is led by a determined team. Emma Struthers, the Festival director, and Julia Sowerbutts, the Artistic Director, are two kick-ass women who form part of a team which has created this Arts Council Funded event with their own set of awards and further development and networking opportunities for artists in the region. The INK Festival is dedicated to promoting new work in the East Anglian region. Fifteen short plays will be performed, numerous short films will be screened, there will be poetry, music, talks and workshops led over a weekend- all dedicated to the notion that theatre is alive and well in East Anglia and we need not look so far to London for a little light in our aspirations to be on the stage.

Michelle Sewell
Last year, my play, Write Into A War, was performed at the INK Festival. It was such an incredible opportunity to see my play performed in front of a full house. This experience led me on to be a writer on attachment with Arcola Theatre, Menagerie Theatre and the North Wall. It inspired me to write plays that have been on in festivals around the UK, such as my play, The Tinder Game, which has been published and performed at The Hotbed Festival and is currently in development for a tour to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. My play that will be performed at INK this year is Border Control. It’s a post-dramatic performance that scrutinises a relationship from the point of view of workers at the UK Border Authority. 

For two days of the Festival, I’m proud to be hosting a series of free creative writing workshops. They have been designed especially for INK; where professional and aspiring writers- or even those who just love to write- can come and share a bit of what they know and learn a bit from others and hopefully gain a little bit of craft from myself. I’m currently a script reader for Theatre 503 in London and so I hope to share a little knowledge from the point of view of a writer and reader for a professional theatre and share tips on how to get past the first entry gate and get your script on the stage!

Playwriting can be such a lonely and difficult art form, and it’s a form that requires the assistance of others to bring it to life. INK Festival is being led by some truly inspiring women in East Anglia who are paving the way to a brighter future for theatre in the region."

Come along to watch new performances by artists in East Anglia:
Where? The Cut Theatre, Halesworth
When? 8th-10th April;  11am-9.30pm 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Thanks to everybody who came along to our IWD event.

We had a great time at the Norwich Arts Centre on the 7th March and we wish to thank all our volunteers, readers, performers and musicians for their contributions, and to all the generous people who came along to hear them and to join in the celebrations. We launched our third anthology in style and at the same time managed to raise £300 for Women for Refugee Women and £100 to go towards future Words And Women projects. Below is our packed house! More images can be found on our dedicated blog page IWD16, and some time in the near future we hope to post a film of the event on this blog too. 
(c) Moyses Gomes

Thursday, 10 March 2016

In Praise of Prizes

Anthea Morrison writes about the value of winning prizes and finding a writing community:

In December, my story You Have What You Want, published in Words and Women: Two last year, won the Margaret Hewson Memorial Prize. The award is open to all students on the Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway University, and was set up by literary agent Johnson and Alcock in 2010. Margaret, quite a character by all accounts, was joint-director of the agency before she died in 2002, and the prize was established in 2010 to honour both Margaret and her firm belief in encouraging new writers. In January I went to collect my cheque for £500 from Anna Power and Ed Wilson at J&A, still very much in a state of shock.
When Anna came to talk to us on the MA course about the process of submitting to an agent, and what they are looking for, she made it clear that it was much harder to sell a debut collection of short stories from an author without one or two published novels under their belt. Although it doesn’t follow from this that they would choose a novel extract over short fiction for the prize, I still felt disheartened and nearly didn’t bother entering my work. As it turned out, Anna said that all the judges were ‘won over by your clear, spare prose,’ and she and Ed have offered to read my work and mentor me as I progress towards producing a collection of short stories.
The prize means a lot to me for three reasons. Firstly, it fulfilled its aim of providing encouragement, as it came at a time when I was struggling to motivate myself to start the dissertation for my MA, and keep producing new work. All but the most confident of writers seek validation in some form, and it really has helped me to keep going. Secondly, although there is absolutely no implication that J&A will sign me up, it does mean I have a relationship with an agent, someone I can ask for advice and guidance, and this is something I feel lucky to have when it’s so hard to get a foot in the door with an agent. Thirdly, when so many competitions or journals do not offer payment or prize money, £500 is a very welcome reward. I decided to spend the money on furthering my writing, so what better than an Arvon course, especially when I found one for short-story writers called ‘Working Towards A Collection.’
I spoke to two earlier recipients of the prize, Judi Sutherland for her poetry submission in 2012, and Nora Gombos for her novel extract in 2011, to see what winning the prize meant to them. Judi told me:

‘It was a great boost at the time but I don't think it has made any difference to my writing life. I'm primarily a poet, but getting published as a poet is difficult, especially if you are a middle-aged woman with no track record; the poetry world is crammed with people like me, although I flatter myself that my work is a bit different. I still don't have a book out, largely because poetry books make no money.’

Nora Gombos said she felt that winning the prize validated her writing, but she feels that the submissions from the MA are so varied in style and genre,  that the choice is necessarily a very subjective one.

“Although it was great to win the prize, I think the annual course anthology (Bedford Square, published by Ward Wood Publishing) is equally important as agents get to see everyone’s work. In fact, most of the students in my year were contacted by agents on the back of the anthology, including myself. Johnson and Alcock had also offered me representation, and while I was very flattered, I decided to wait until I have finished the novel before signing with anyone.”

Nora has stopped working full-time in order to focus on her novel, but she is well aware of how hard it is to get published, even if an agent does sign her up. Whilst it may be even harder to publish a full collection of short stories or poems in book form, there are at least endless competitions and journals to submit single short pieces to, which, if accepted, can help establish a track record for a writer that might attract an agent’s attention. By comparison, competitions accepting novel extracts are far fewer.
As well as having individual poems published online and in magazines and anthologies, Judi has taught poetry, and set up an online poetry journal, The Stare’s Nest. I asked her if this involvement with the writing community has in any way compensated for her frustration at not getting a poetry collection published:

“I agree that it's great to be part of a writing community, but every day I see poets getting book deals and I'd like the same. Magazine publication once felt great, but now I've got a few under my belt it isn't enough. This leads to a sort of bipolar life - being convinced your writing is great, because your friends tell you so, but actually it can't be, it must be bad because nobody wants your book... I think that is a very common anxiety, not being able to judge whether your work is good or not. I really do want a book published. In February, eight of my poems appeared in a tiny chapbook alongside eight from another poet, in a series called "Dark Matter", which is a start. I'm not going to give up but it is a hard slog. Onward and upward!”

Nora says she doesn’t currently have any involvement in a wider writing community, and that she is focusing all her energy on completing her novel:

“I will probably enter the novel for some competitions when I’m closer to finishing it and I feel it’s ready. Prizes and awards seem to have become more important now that getting a book deal is so hard.” 

            Personally, I am under no illusions about the likelihood of getting a debut short-story collection published, even if I can write one that is good enough. That still feels more like a dream scenario, one that could come true, but a dream nonetheless. And while I’m dreaming, I take a lot of pleasure in smaller publishing successes, and involving myself with a community of writers. I can understand the need for writers working on a novel to lock themselves away in order to give themselves the necessary focus, but writing is such a solitary pursuit that I find I cannot do it in isolation, especially as my job as a freelance copywriter means I work from home.

 I am lucky enough to belong to the Angles writing group in Cambridge. Several of us have studied for an MA in Creative Writing, and the quality of both the submissions and the critical feedback is high. As well as critiquing each other’s work, the group provides vital support and encouragement. This might be advice on how to respond to an agent’s request for revisions, listening to someone rehearse for a public reading, or recommending places to submit work. We bolster each other when self-doubt creeps in, we share our rejections as well as our successes, and just meeting with committed writers each week gives us a sense of being in it together. Former Angles members Guinevere Glasfurd and Penny Hancock are now published novelists, other current members are signed to agents, and many of us have had poetry or short fiction published online. Oh, and we’re rather pleased that three of our number made it into the Words and Women: Two anthology in 2015.
I have helped organize and promote the last two Words and Women events to launch the anthology in Cambridge, and have found this voluntary work to be another positive way of supporting and being a part of the writing community. Other voluntary work that Angles members take part in include teaching extra-curricular creative writing groups at school, stewarding the Cambridge Literary Festival, and for Angles chair Leigh Chambers, being Writer in Residence at Cambridge’s Rock Road Library.
Maybe Judi is right, and once I have a few more stories published I won’t float around on Cloud Nine for weeks after one is accepted. When (or if) I have a collection I can’t find a publisher for, I may well share her frustration. But for now, a book deal is not the Holy Grail of writing. For me, writing is about more than that. It’s about collective and community endeavour and support, and advancing each other’s work. I am pleased with my online publishing successes, thrilled that my story made it into the Words and Women anthology, and proud of my Margaret Hewson Prize. All of these have introduced me to new people in the writing community, opened my eyes to other opportunities, and helped me to do what we all struggle with at times, to just keep putting those words on the page.

You can find links to Judi Sutherland’s published work at

Angles writing group meets in Cambridge on Wednesday mornings and occasionally has spaces for new members – contact Leigh Chambers at and find out more about the group at

Anthea Morrison grew up in Hertfordshire and has lived in London, Cambridge and New York, where she first realised her passion for creative writing at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Now back in Cambridge, she is an active member of the local Angles writing workshop. Anthea is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Last but not least...

We want to introduce you to Louisa Theobald who will compere our fifth anniversary celebrations tomorrow at the Norwich Arts Centre. Have you bought your ticket yet? 

Louisa is a fabulous  actress and comedian. She's been a semi-finalist in the 'So you think you're funny' and 'Funny women' competitions and won the Guardian newspaper's 'Reader's stand-up' contest. 
Louisa Theobald.
'Loveable daftness': The Guardian

The main event starts at 8pm with readings from our third anthology introduced by prize-winning novelist and guest judge of our prose competition Emma Healey. Kimberley Moore will also be singing and Louisa will seamlessly provide the links. At 9.20pm there will be stand-up comedy by Louisa followed by music from the incomparable Sink Ya Teeth, Emily Winng and Karen Reilly. Tickets cost just £5 and proceeds will go to further Words & Women projects and the charity Women For Refugee Women.

There is also a free warm-up event in the bar at 6pm run by Books Talks Back and featuring the short story writers Eliza Robertson and Philippa Found.

Please come along and support us. It promises to be a great night!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Emily Winng and Karen Reilly to perform at our fifth anniversary celebrations!

It's time to introduce Emily Winng and Karen Reilly of The Neutrinos who will also be playing at  our fifth anniversary celebrations on the 7th March at the Norwich Arts Centre, along with Sink Ya Teeth and Kimberley Moore. Here's some info about these amazing musicians. 
By the way, all of our performers, writers and musicians are giving their time for free on the night, in order for us to raise funds for future Words And Women projects and also the worthwhile charity Women For Refugee Women which challenges the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK. We can't thank everybody enough. It promises to be a fantastic night. Please come along and support us all. Tickets are a snip at £5 and you can order them in advance from the NAC website

Emily Winng

Emily Winng is one quarter of Sargasso Trio, going solo-ish for a while. Expect songs of heartache, revenge, and just some bloody bad language. Throw in a bit of beer bottle percussion and some good ole hollerin and wailin and you got yourself a set of ramshackle crazy woman songs.

Karen Reilly (c) Lisa Stirling
Karen Reilly is a member of The Neutrinos, a blues-art-punk band, touring and inventing since the turn of the century. In Toronto, Karen was hailed as a saviour to women in rock, "What Courtney Love should have done... She'll blow your ears out and scare the hell out of you." Torontowide Magazine. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Kimberley Moore and SinkYa Teeth will perform at our anniversary celebrations

It's time to introduce the musicians that will be playing at our fifth anniversary celebrations on the 7th March at the Norwich Arts Centre. We have four amazing acts: Karen Reilly from The Neutrinos, Emily Winng, Sink Ya Teeth and Kimberley Moore. Here's some info about Sink Ya Teeth and Kimberley. More about the others to follow!
All of our performers, writers and musicians are giving their time for free on the night, in order for us to raise funds for future Words And Women projects and also the worthwhile charity Women For Refugee Women which challenges the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK. We can't thank everybody enough. It promises to be a fantastic night. Please come along and support us all. Tickets are a snap at £5 and you can order them in advance from the NAC website

Sink Ya Teeth are Norwich-based two-piece, Gem Cullingford and Maria Uzor on bass/guitar and drums/keyboards respectively. Formed at the tail end of 2015 from a mutual love of late 20th century pop culture and a desire to create songs that you can dance to, the pair have coupled the uniquely unsettling vocals of ex-Girl In A Thunderbolt Maria with the heavy bass lines of ex-Kaito Gem to form a powerful and mesmerising two-piece, minimal in sound, but with a crystalline primal ferociousness that reflects the band's name.

Kimberley Moore sings beautifully, performs, creates and facilitates. From the depths of Suffolk Kimberley writes serious (ish) lyrical songs that will touch your hearts and take you on a journey of surreality.