Spring brings with it your latest mini-Mslexia, in all its bookish and bodelicious glory
little ms, brought to you by Mslexia

Bonjour, mes petits choux-fleurs

Spring is well and truly sprung, the April sun is glinting off Mslexia Towers, and we greet you in the second week of National Poetry Writing Month (that's NaPoWriMo for short), the month when poets – and poetry virgins – challenge themselves to write a poem every day.
If you've missed the start, it's not too late to join in – just write two a day and you'll soon catch up. Or begin today and carry on until 9 May instead. To speed you on your way, we're posting an exercise every weekday until 30 April – and three every Friday to tide you over the weekend.
We have a fresh challenge for prose writers too. Our nobbly pals over at Nature's Path have stumped up a prize pot of £350 for every Flash Fiction piece we publish in little ms, plus a hamper of gluten-free goodies. Good an' good fer ye, as they say in Texas – and a toothsome £3.50 per word.
If we still haven't rocked your boat, check out our updated contributors' guidelines, where there are 16 more ways you can contribute to Mslexia.
Debbie T and the team

Coming Soon 

As soon as the spring issue had sprung off her plate, Debbie found herself sipping fizzy water at St Pancras (as you do) discussing pitches for features in the summer issue (see our website for how to pitch to Mslexia). Seated opposite was Janey Fraser (aka Sophie King, aka Jane Bidder), proud champion of commercial women's fiction, crime fiction, magazine journalism, feature editing, you name it – whatever the literary genre, Janey will have given it a go. Check out our blog to find out what she eventually decided to commission.
Meanwhile we're chuffed as chips to announce that our annual unpublished book competition this year is for memoirs by women – so dust off those old diaries, look out for a new series of workshops on our website from May, and the prize of £5k could be yours.
This year we're also inaugurating a brand new £1k prize for unpublished women poets, as part of our annual poetry competition, judged by the brilliant Wendy Cope. So if you've yet to see your work selected for print or online publication, this is your chance to be noticed. (For full details of this new prize, plus our annual poetry pamphlet and single poem competitions, click here

APRIL Procrastination

Xena or Buffy?

Take this quiz to see which fierce fictional female you most resemble. Technically this is character research, so there's no need to feel guilty.


Grammar-savvy Mslexics will have spotted the rogue grocers' apostrophe on the cover of our Spring edition. (On the cover, no less. Our blushes are still contributing to global warming.) Here's how it happened... I was late finalising the cover, which meant it was proof-read in-house (instead of by our usual proofer) by our already very busy production team. That's how it was missed initially. It was missed again when the magazine's page proofs came back from the printer – because the courier delivered them to the wrong address, which meant we received them four hours late, so had four hours less time to do the final checks.
However, NONE of this would have mattered if I hadn't inserted the little blighter in the first place. In case you're curious, sack-cloth really itches.
Thanks to everyone who forgave, and also shared your own moments of syntactic shame - now available for your viewing pleasure on our blog.

In the Know

Best jackets 

‘You should never judge a book by its cover’ – the Academy of British Cover Design swept that old adage under the red carpet with its inaugural awards last month. Open to any book published in 2013, there are ten categories, including children's, sci-fi, fantasy and crime. Our faves are Sharon King-Chai’s hand-drawn wolf for Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn and Jon Gray’s mischievous double-entendre buttonhole that adorns Alissa Nutting’s Tampa. Take a look and judge for yourself.

April Inspiration

Say a little prayer

This is the ninth in a series of 30 NaPoWriMo exercises, one for every day in April. (Here's where to catch up.) This one is adapted from an idea by the peerless Margaret Wilkinson of Newcastle University.

Writing in second person – i.e. addressing the reader, or someone else, as 'you' – automatically engages the voice gear in a writer, which is a sure-fire way to engage the reader. One genre that always uses second person is the prayer. To create a 'prayer poem', you need two ingredients: a deity and a desire. You could choose to address the Christian or Muslim god, or any one of the many Hindu gods – or do a bit of research and seek out a more obscure or exotic deity. Maat, the Egyptian goddess of truth, used an ostrich feather in a weighing scale to weigh souls. Silvanus, the Roman god of wilderness, had to be propitiated by farmers tilling new land. Now select a desire, the favour you are requesting from your deity of choice. The result could be an unusual poem of yearning.

What they're saying

...about JK Rowling (again) 

Disgruntled crime novelist Lynn Shepherd has begged JK Rowling to stop writing – just for a few years – in order to give newer, lesser-known names a bite at the publishing cherry. Shepherd is peeved because the bestselling children's author appears to have chosen crime as her genre of choice, following her bestriding of the children's market. To be fair, Rowling did attempt to level the playing field by adopting a pseudonym – it was a publishing mole who leaked the truth when the uncannily reclusive Robert Galbraith's debut The Cuckoo's Calling failed to garner sales. Maybe Shepherd is right to raise the point – but if she hadn't targeted JK, would she have gained the exposure that she did?

APRIL Flash Card

Winning submission by Frances Gapper

King Bear
I was hiking along a mountain trail with my boyfriend John when the bear attacked us. It tore out John’s shoulder blade and killed him. Be my wife, it growled. I said yes and so now I’m the Bear Queen. I wear silver anklets, my feet are stained red. The bear is usually off on one of its journeys. For consolation I pluck a bone harp, carved from John’s remains; longingly I await my husband. We’ll embrace, rough pelt against naked skin. Then I’ll lie open-eyed in the huge bristly darkness, listening to his snores like underground rumblings.

Flash fiction competition

Here is the first in a series of flash fiction competitions, sponsored by Nature’s Path. Send your responses to the image above (up to 100 words) to be in with the chance of winning £350 and a hamper of organic breakfast goodies, including the truly scrumptious Nice and Nobbly granola. Send your entries to before 7 May

Who said that?

(Find out if you're right further down)

a) 'As far as I am concerned, being any gender is a drag'

b) 'The trouble with [writing] courses is that people would like a golden key or magic shortcut to make everything fine - and there aren't any'

c) 'I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married'

In the know

Dick lit

With 'women’s fiction' now a fully fledged category in bookshops, journalist Jamie Fewery accuses publishers of ignoring the needs of young men. Though every recent survey confirms that women buy more books than men, and far far more fiction, is that because men are simply not interested in the genre – or because they can't find an easy, man-friendly read for the journey home? Back in the 90s the likes of Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons captured the mood of the 20-something man-on-the-Clapham omnibus. Perhaps it's time for would-be chick-litters to adopt a male pseudonym?

Lit critters

Fifty Shades of Grey Seal

Thanks (we think) to Ann Regan for this vision, brought to life by our in-house Photoshop pixie. Send your zoological puns for a similar treatment – and a £20 prize – to

What they're saying

On the Mslexia blog

'I was a mother now, and I had a strong sense that that meant I should be tough, and brave, and definitely not in need of my mum'
Carolyn Jess-Cooke
'So far very little has changed in my life, save for the fact that in faraway Hollywood some wonderful people are toiling on a script deadline'
Nina Antonia
'That’s where I think my writing focus needs to be at the moment, not about achieving a goal, but about writing when it helps make life feel easier'
Alison Clayton-Smith
Though we're made of stern stuff here at the Towers, Carolyn's blog moved us to tears this week. Find out why by heading on over

april haiku


She gets out of bed,
Grey silk spreads over green rug;
Trees in her mirror.

by Carol Kuhlmann

The theme for May’s haiku submissions is 'egg'. Submit your haiku to by 7 May

In the know

Guess which country reads most

Germany? Sweden? No, the biggest bookworms in the world, by a hefty margin, are in India. According to the NOP's World Culture Score Index, people in India read for an average of 10.7 hours a week. Second is Thailand at 9.4 hours, followed by China at 8 hours, completing an all-Asian top three. At just 5.3 hours a week, the UK limps home in 27th place (worse than Egypt but better than Korea).

In the know

How to read a book a week

Do you ever stare at your bookshelves and Kindle index and sigh for all those tomes you haven’t read? Bestselling author Julien Smith felt exactly the same so challenged himself to read a book a week for a whole year. Not only did he meet the challenge, he bloody loved it. For top tips on how he did it (e.g. 40 pages a day with your breakfast coffee) plus advice for backsliders, check out the article. Smith says it's 'made me a much better, more complete, and happier person'. What better way to inspire your own writing?

What they're saying

…about creative writing courses

Hanif Kureishi hit the headlines by questioning the worth of creative writing courses. Apparently there are too many teachers, what they teach is a waste of time and storytelling is a skill 99.9% of his students don’t have. With tuition fees rising, might we be better off simply reading a lot (see above), writing a lot and getting feedback from peers in our writing group? In the spring issue of big Mslexia we offer some new evidence to throw into the ring. According to research by Katie M Anderson, a creative writing MA does increase the likelihood of publication.


Judging a short story prize

Exclusive for Mslexia, judge Sarah Hall gave us the inside gen about judging the Sunday Times Short Story Prize this year. 'The short story is its own form,' Sarah told us. 'So I was pushing for stories that embodied the form's compression and dynamic – you'd be surprised how many lovely pieces of prose were really excerpts from a novel.' Here are some of the 'technical elements' Sarah was looking for: 
  • a complete work of fiction
  • with an unusual character and/or setting
  • that takes you on a journey
  • and roughs the reader up a bit along the way
Not literally, obvs. But you get the general idea. You can see what she meant, read the shortlisted stories, or download a special e-book, here. You can also read more about the outcome of the competition here

Who said that?

a) Patti Smith
b) AL Kennedy
c) Elizabeth I


What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?

I don't know, and I don't care.


We hope we've helped you to shake away those winter cobwebs and put pen to paper this month. Remember to let us know if you do give NaPoWriMo a go, or if you discover any top tips to share with your fellow Mslexics.
May your creative juices forever run clear.

Alba, Debbie, Isabel, Martha, Robyn, Sarah, Victoria
(with a little help from our friends Izzie, Kay and Kate)
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We'd love to hear from you. But if you'd prefer not to hear from us in this way, you can opt out by using the unsubscribe link below. Don't worry, your subscription to big Mslexia will not be affected if you unsubscribe to little ms. If you don't subscribe yet, but would like to, please get in touch.
We have a bundle of new-to-market creative writing titles to give away, courtesy of Palgrave Macmillan. You can choose from the following:

Writing a First Novel by Karen Stevens
The Road to Somewhere: A Creative Writing Companion by Robert Graham, Helen Newall, Heather Leach, Julie Armstrong and John Singleton
Inside the Writers’ Room: Conversations with American TV Writers edited by Christina Kallas
Creative Writing and Stylistics by Jeremy Scott

To be in with a chance, tell us who said: 'A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Email your answer to Robyn (include your book of preference) before 7 May

Reading workout

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley
Because it has gorgeous prose and cinematic imagery, and a storyline that will stay with you for a long time

deadlines digest

Bridport Prize Poetry Competition offers £5k, £1k and £500 and the chance to be published in the Bridport Prize anthology. Entry fee £8. Deadline: 31 May

Bridport Prize Short Story Competition offers £5k, £1k, and £500 as well as the opportunity for your story to be read by leading London literary agents and submission to the BBC National Short Story Award. Entry fee: £9. Deadline: 31 May

Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition offers £500 plus publication in Fiction Desk anthology for stories of 2-5k words. Entry fee: £7. Deadline: 30 May
Frome Festival, Short Story Competition offers £525 in prizes. Winning stories will be read by a leading London literary agent. 1-2.2k words, any theme or genre. Entry fee: £5. Deadline: 31 May
Bristol Short Story Prize offers £1k, £700, £400 for a story up to 4k words, any theme, subject or style, including graphic and verse. Entry fee: £8. Deadline: 30 Apr
Almond Press Short Story Competition offers £100 plus publication for vivid and imaginative dystopian portrayals of mankind’s future, up to 5k words. Entry is free. Deadline: 1 May
Criminal Lines Competition 2014 is a new crime-writing prize for unpublished novels from debut authors currently without agents. First prize £1k. Shortlisted authors can discuss their work with AM Heath literary agents. Send the first 15k words plus a synopsis of up to 800 words. Deadline: 5 May

The Biographers' Club, Tony Lothian Prize 2014 offers £2k for first-time writers working on a biography. Submit a proposal of no more than 20 pages, including a synopsis and 10-page sample chapter with CV. Entry fee: £15. Deadline: 31 Jul

Writing Historical Fiction Competition offers £150 for evocative historical pieces of no more than 1,000 words. Competition open to all ages. Entrants must only submit one entry. Entry is free. Deadline: 11 May

Rhys Davies Short Story Competition 2014 offers £2k, £800 and £400 for stories up to 2,500 words on any subject, in any style. Entrants must have been born or currently live in Wales. Entry fee: £7. Deadline 16 May
The RSL Brookleaze Grants are currently open to submissions, aiming to buy time for writers with pieces of work already in hand. To be eligible, applicants must have had their work previously published by a UK trade publisher and be a resident of the UK, Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland. Deadline: 30 Apr

Reading Chillout

Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Because she had a unique way of combining the gut-wrenchingly poignant with the hilarious and wise. The recipes are fab too


Anthem Press are offering internships in Editorial, Marketing, Design and Publicity in London. Send CV and letter indicating what type of internship you’re seeking. Deadline: rolling
Essex Book Festival 2015 is looking to recruit an exceptional individual as director to program and deliver the March 2015 festival in venues throughout Essex. The job is 24 hours per week over nine months, Aug 2014 - Apr 2015, £33k pa pro rata. Download an application form online. Deadline: 16 May
Pannett Art Gallery are looking for a Poet in Residence, Aug-Dec 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War One. The job would include creating new works, giving readings, working closely with the Curator and more. £15-£20k pro rata. Email to apply. Deadline: 25 Apr
Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) are looking for a Library and Information Manager for managing and developing Iniva’s Stuart Hall Library and its collection. Salary will be £28k. Job pack and more information online. Deadline: 16 Apr
Jane Austen’s House Museum is looking for a Poet in Residence to develop their programme of literary events. Minimum contract of 30 days, May-Nov 2014, based in Hampshire. A successful candidate will develop new work in celebration of Jane Austen, create online presence and form a legacy for the museum in the form of a poetry installation or publication. Total fee £10k. For more info and application pack email. Deadline: 16 Apr

The Good Housekeeping Institute needs a Junior Researcher to join its consumer team for the exhaustive testing of consumer goods and food. Candidates must be enthusiastic, with consumer science-related degree. Email CV, cover letter and consumer feature. Salary depends on experience. Deadline: 26 Apr 

Slamseys Art are searching for a local Creative Writing Tutor to devise and lead workshops in Braintree, Essex. A successful candidate should have experience with working with groups. £10k-£15k pro rata. Email contact details, profile, fees, and workshop outline in PDF format. Deadline: 1 May
Seven Stories are looking for an Exhibition Assistant to provide practical and administrative support to their exhibition team. The role will include liaising with tour venues, the installation and de-installation of venues of exhibitions, checking loans, arranging transport and insurance. £14-16k pro rata. Email Liz Paton. Deadline: 25 Apr
Travel Weekly are looking for a News Editor to join their London team. The successful candidate will be responsible for all print and news output, both in print and online, liaising with reporters and running editorial projects. Email Chloe Berman with CV, letter and cuttings. Salary depends on experience. Deadline: 18 Apr
To advertise your job in this space, email Robyn

Catch this

The 2014 Dylan Thomas International Summer School, May-Jun 2014, is an international residential summer school being organised by Dr Menna Elfyn, with two weeks of lectures, events and excursions dedicated to Thomas' life and work. Sun 25 May 2014 - Sat 7 Jun 2014. For more information, click here

Web writing and blogging courses to send your writing career sky-high and ahead of the competition in 2014. You get a free 60-page manual, web writing templates and free post-training support. No technical skills are required and you work on your website during the course. Booking details here

Writing Historical Fiction workshop is run by Celia Brayfield and Sarah Dunant, designed to guide you through the challenges of writing and researching historical fiction. 27 May, 6-8.30pm £30, 50 Bedford Square, London 
Art, Gardens and Words at the Plantation Garden Words and Women host art, literary readings, music, refreshment and more in a secret Victorian garden. 24 May, 11am – 6pm, £4, Earlham Road, Norwich
Poetry Butcher Clare Pollard wields her razor-sharp critical expertise. Intrepid poets, bring along one poem (up to one page of A4) and book a 15-minute feedback session by email. 26 Apr, 12-5pm, Royal Festival Hall, London

One on One Poetry Surgery offers a relaxed but in-depth analysis of your poems, with tutor Judy Brown, to identify strategies for further development. 26 April 10.15am - 12.45 pm, £55 (£45), Advice Suite, Derby Centre, Derby
Publishing Industry Day, this annual all-day event offers writers the opportunity to meet key members of the publishing industry, develop essential skills and discuss issues with literary agents, publishers, authors and e-publishing experts. 26 May, 10am - 4.30pm, £50 (includes lunch), Jubilee Library, Brighton
Tracey Chevalier author of Girl with a Peal Earring will discuss newest novel The Last Runaway as part of the events hosted by Hexham Book Festival. 28 April, 7.30-8.30pm, £9 (£7), Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham.
Words are Birds, is a fun night of poetry and rhymes for all the family with live performances from Paul Lyalls and John Hegley. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance. 1 May, 7pm, 60 Farringdon Road, London
Short Stories at the Southbank, authors Helen Simpson, AL Kennedy and Sarah Hall question what it means to be human, to live, to love, to fall ill and to even change species altogether. 23 April, 8pm, £10, Southbank Centre London
Grimm Tales journeys through Phillip Pullman’s versions of classic fairytales performed in the cellars of Shoreditch Town Hall, which have been transformed into an exquisite shambles of fairytale lore. Until 24 April, £35 (£19.50), Shoreditch Town Hall, London
Bookmark Festival, Evening with Carol Ann Duffy accompanied by acclaimed musician John A Sampson. They’ll be creating a unique collaboration harmonising verse and music into a lyrical muse. 22 April, 7-9pm, £8 (£5), Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre, Oldham

To promote your event in this space, email Robyn
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