Man Booker blues, sugar daddies and a cross-dressing hubby – but it’s still (mainly) about writing
little ms, brought to you by Mslexia


There were whoops and squeals here last week at the Towers as wor Robyn pressed the button (or something) to go live with – *drumroll* – our brand new website. It’s bright and tight and breezy, like the mag in website form. We’re still loading the info, so do check it out and let us know what you think. Meanwhile… you wait years for a new member of staff, then three come along at the same time. Our final new arrival is techie editorial whiz Francoise Harvey (is it just us, or does her name sound like a smoky French chanteuse?) who was set to work on the March mag before she’d even got her coat off. 

Team Mslexia x

Coming Soon 

Deb’s looking a tad frazzled this week, fine-tuning all the new regulars as well as getting the main features onto the page. The March issue looks set to pack a real punch, with Pascale Petit on using poetry to exorcise her abusive mother, Jennifer Hodgson on her astonishing research into writers’ inner voices, Cath Nichols on disability in literature, and an interview with YA witchfinder sensation Sally Green. Not to mention the unveiling of the winner of our Memoir Competition – and if you thought our cat-with-jam cover was a goodie, just wait till you catch an eyeful of the March cover.

February Procrastination

Here's a wordiferous quiz to expand your vocab. Make friends and influence people by casually dropping one of these into your conversation. It’s a load of old tommyrot and trumpery.

In the Know

Man Booker elitism 

The Man Booker Prize has revised its eligibility criteria for 2015 and narked off most of the book industry in the process. Only ‘literary’ titles are now considered, thus cold-shouldering anyone flirting with crime or sci-fi. Small presses are sidelined by a new eligibility requirement to produce at least two ‘literary’ novels a year, and self-publishers won’t be considered at all. Booksellers are incensed too, because all longlisted novels must now be made available in e-book format, thereby threatening their sales. Simon Key of the The Big Green Bookshop comments: ‘It’s not for booksellers, it’s not for authors – it's for publishers’. 

February Inspiration

All change

If the special short story workshops on our new website don’t get your grey cells buzzing (did we mention we have a new website?), here are a few ideas for shaking up an old story you can’t bear to look at any more. First, add some extreme weather: a snowstorm, heatwave or flood. Second, catapult the action forwards or backwards in time at least 100 years for a quick injection of sci-fi or historical flavour. Third, bend your genders, so the women become men and vice versa. Try 'em all at once – there’s still loads of time before the 16 Mar deadline. 

What they're saying

...about the BBC's book coverage

The BBC is under fire for its lack of real book coverage on TV. In comments made at the 2014 Costa Book Awards, author Robert Harris called its current efforts ‘an absolute disgrace’. The Beeb has defended itself, pointing to its range of radio shows, documentaries, adaptations and the BBC National Short Story Award as evidence of its support for the written word, but the cry has been taken up by other industry figures, who agree that ‘we do need a dedicated book show’ on TV, but are divided as to how the ideal show would be formatted.

February Flash Card

Nancy don’t believe in curses. 
‘No such thing,’ she says. ‘Look. It’s just a chair.’
That’s how I know she’s not a proper South Plainer. She don’t have the stories running through her blood like me. She don’t hear the scratchy-scratchy voices calling in the mist; them strange noises crackling through the skeleton bracken like Papa’s old records – you know, the ghost bit after the music dies. 
But then Nancy don’t believe in ghosts neither.
‘I’ll show you,’ she says, striding through the field towards the Killing Seat, whistling as she goes.
Me? I’m already running the other way. 

Well done to Jennifer Moore who has achieved little ms publication fame, and scoops a crisp £20 too.



Send us your responses to this image for the chance to win £20. Email us up to 100 words before 8 Apr

Who said that?

(Find out later on)

a) 'My mother says I was writing before I was crawling. I wrote in the dirt with a twig.'
b) 'For me feminism is just fucking obvious. It is not an ideological or a political thing. We’re half the population. I don’t even see it as a cause: it’s just fucking obvious!'
c) 'Writers I know are really miserable because they haven’t won the Booker. My sister did and I hoped it would make her a happier, nicer person.'

In the know

The anti-slouch shirt

According to ‘inventor-preneur’ Neda Naef we’re a nation of slouchers. As you’re probably reading this hunched over a tablet or computer, she’s probably on to something. But a remedy is at hand in the form of Naef’s patented Up T-shirt, a new slimline t-shirt that uses cutting-edge textile technology to make you sit (or stand) up straight. An elastic resistance band along the upper back of the t-shirt encourages the shoulders into a straight relaxed position that Naef has dubbed ‘dream posture’. The Up-T-shirt comes in a choice of six colours and will set you back a cool €127. Maybe we’ll try balancing a book on our heads instead…

Lit critters

The Gull with the Dragon Tattoo 

Caws of applause (and £20) to Barbara Trevitt. Email your cringeworthy puns to Robyn before 8 April

What they're saying

..on the Mslexia blog

‘Walking down the road with a husband in a dress is one thing; introducing that husband to people as ''Amanda'' is another’
Sarada Gray

‘This new law has a massive human cost. Many people running these tiny businesses are women, caring for young children or elderly parents, or have physical or mental health issues. That’s why we’re working online’
Megan Kerr (on new VATMOSS law)
‘After seven years of sharing mics, please take this as a fact. The more you share, the more likely you are to catch something! I was ill after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (at least 30 mics utilised)’
Mab Jones

That’s what they’re chatting about this month. See what’s going on, and tell them what you think


...about sugar daddies

Do you ever wonder how, when the median income of a writer is less than £4,000 per annum, some people can still afford to write full-time? Author Ann Bauer invited an open discussion on writing, money and privilege when she admitted that she can only write thanks to her husband’s financial support. Frustrated by the ‘masquerade’ of the privileged few who are subsidised by their well-heeled spouses, Bauer declares: ‘We do an enormous disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed’. Many agreed with her. What do you think?

in the know

How to get your book into bookshops

David Faulds from London book-hub Dulwich Books has written a practical guide for self-publishers on how to get their books onto crowded shelves. First, send a proposal email – don’t turn up unannounced – including a short synopsis, a brief biog, plus info on the book’s format, cover price and why it will appeal to the local community. Faulds advises authors to attach a cover image, but don’t hyperlink it to Amazon (booksellers hate that). New writers are often launched at the beginning of the year, so consider your timing. And if your book is stocked by a trade supplier, such as Gardners or Bertrams, Faulds says you’re ten times more likely to be considered. 

February haiku


Snake coiled roadside
trucks roaring past unaware
of his tick tock head

by JV Birch

The subject for the April haiku is ‘dance’. Send your poems to Robyn before 8 April

What they're saying

…about ‘acorn’ versus ‘analogue’

28 authors, including Margaret Atwood, have signed an open letter criticising the newest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. The letter calls recent alterations to the dictionary ‘shocking and poorly considered’ because words associated with ‘interior, solitary childhoods’ have replaced those reflecting ‘natural play’. Publishers Oxford University Press, who stuck to their guns when criticised for similar changes in 2008, says its dictionaries are ‘designed to reflect language as it is used’. OUP has had a rough month. It was also slated for supposedly banning mentions of pork, sausages and pigs from its internationally published children’s books to avoid offence to Muslim and Jewish communities.

In the know

Black is back

Black ink that is, in the form of the humble print book. True, it never really went away, but since the e-book explosion that started in 2010 doomsdayers have predicted the demise of paper. 2014 has put that argument to bed, according to Nielsen BookScan, with the number of p-books sold last year up 2.4% on the year before. E-books have by no means sheepishly withdrawn to the corner, however. The Association of American Publishers report an 5.6% increase in sales last year, which equates to just over a quarter of all book sales. Can these upward trajectories continue in 2015? 

Who said that?

a) Alice Walker
b) Helen Mirren
c) Margaret Drabble

In the know

Open submissions to mainstream press

Headline imprint Tinder Press launched with a bang in 2013 with Maggie O’Farrell’s acclaimed Instructions for a Heatwave. Now, to celebrate two years in publishing, they’ve opened their submission doors to unagented manuscripts. Joining forces with national charity The Reading Agency, Tinder’s Mary-Anne Harrington wants to discover ‘the freshest literary voices’ in the hope that ‘we’ll find an author we can go on to work with in the future’. For a limited time only (2-15 March) unpublished authors are invited to submit the first 50 pages of a finished manuscript, plus a synopsis and author biog.


‘Do you have any chapstick?’ asks the duck.
‘Sure,’ says the chemist.
‘Great,’ says the duck. ‘Just put it on my bill.’


We’ll be back in April, with more stuff and nonsense. Meanwhile, while the weather’s crap and you’re stuck indoors, it’s time to hunker down with your writing. As Stella Duffy says in the March mag, ‘five minutes is all you need to make a start’. Ready… steady… go… 
Anna, Caroline, Debbie, Fran, Helen, Isabel, Kay, Robyn, Sarah, Victoria
(with a little help from Kate R, Kate S and Lois)
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Yoo hoo

Short story writers…
Thanks to our pals at Bloomsbury, we have a pair of tickets to their fantastic Short Story Evening with Jon McGregor, Eliza Robertson and Lucy Wood (25 Feb at the Bloomsbury Institute in London) to give away. To enter, answer the following question: Angela Carter’s short story collection is called The Bloody what? Answers to Robyn before 20 Feb.

Reading workout

The Children’s Book by AS Byatt… because it’s an incredibly dense novel packed with intricate details from the turn of the 20th Century. Dark but compelling.

deadlines digest

Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition 2015 offers £500, £250, £100 for paranormal tales of 1k–5k words. Entry fee £8. Deadline 28 Feb

Exeter Writers' Short Story Competition offers £500, £250, £100 plus an additional prize for Devonians, for stories up to 3k words in any genre, except children’s. Entry fee £6. Deadline 28 Feb
Tartan Treasures Dear Diary Competition invites diary entries about a treasured memory of Scotland. Under-16 category: 200-400 words (prize Kindle Fire); 16 and over 400-800 words (prize B&B voucher). Deadline 20 Feb

Cinnamon Press Mini Competition invites submissions in poetry or prose (up to 500 words) on the theme of ‘winter present’. Entry fee £3; 4 for £10. Deadline 28 Feb

Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Competition invites compelling stories up to 300 words, any theme or styles. Prize €1k plus publication. Entry fee €14. Deadline 28 Feb

Hour of writes is a weekly online competition (prize £50) which gives you 1 hour to write your story, without pauses or restarts
Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition is for stories up to 1.5k words on any topic. Prize £800. Entry fee £10. Deadline 31 Mar
Short Fiction Prize is for online stories up to 6k words on any theme. Prize £500 plus publication. Entry fee £6; or 2 for £10. Entrants also get free copy of an online issue. Deadline 31 Mar

Fire River Poets invites submissions of up to 40 lines per poem, any style, any subject. Prize £200. Entry £4; £10 for three. Deadline 20 Feb
YorkMix welcomes poetry submissions of up to 40 lines on any subject. Entry fee £5; £10 for up to 5. Prize £400; Deadline 28 Feb

Sentinel Literary Quarterly invites entries of up to 1.5k words for short story competition. Prize £200. Entry fee £4; £10 for three. Deadline 28 Feb

Nature Poetry Competition welcomes submissions of up to 40 lines on the theme of nature. Judge: Simon Armitage. Prizes £1k, £500, plus place on creative writing course. Entry fee £6; £3.50 for each subsequent poem. Deadline 1 Mar

Freight Books invites submissions of fiction and nonfiction up to 3k words, inspired by relativity, for a Theory of Relativity anthology I Am Because You Are which will celebrating Einstein’s revolutionary work. Deadline 28 Feb

Reading Chillout

Yes Please by Amy Poehler ...because I LOVE HER. 
… because it’s a rare case of a celebrity memoir being candid, self-deprecating and just plain hilarious


BYG Systems Limited need a graduate scriptwriter for a role that demands creative thinking and writing skills, as part of an Instructional Design team, collaborating with specialists in design to create original learning solutions. East Midlands, £15-20k. Deadline 28 Feb

Elektra Media are looking for an experienced Admin Assistant to join their team in Altrincham, Cheshire. Duties include minute taking, diary keeping, data entry, invoicing, reception. Previous publishing experience would be an advantage. £13.5k. Deadline 20 Feb

The British Council are seeking a Literature Programme Manager (6 months maternity cover). You’ll need a network of contacts and good knowledge of the UK lit scene. Strong project management skills and budget planning experience are essential. £25k plus London allowance. Apply online. Deadline 16 Feb
Arvon Foundation writers’ course providers need a Director for their Lumb Bank centre, near Hebden Bridge. You’ll need to be flexible, passionate about writing, experienced in management and programming. £31.6k. Closing date 9 Mar
Cast, a performance venue in Doncaster, need a Marketing and Communications Officer. You’ll need to be self-motivated, have two years experience in marketing, strong communication skills and a demonstrable passion for the arts. £18k. Deadline 23 Feb

Scottish Book Trust are looking for creative writers for their Reader in Residence programme in Scottish libraries. Readers spend nine months at a library delivering innovative projects shaped by the local community the library serves, then three months on their own creative work. £10.8k for 2.5 days/week (1 year fixed term). Deadline 13 Feb
Edinburgh International Book Festival need a responsible highly-organised Box Office Manager to oversee the busy festival. Duties include recruitment, training and managing daily operations. Experience within a demanding environment is essential. £20-25k. Deadline 18 Feb
Oxford University Press offers unpaid 8-week summer internship opportunities to those with a genuine commitment to a career in publishing. Daily expenses of £56 will be provided. Recent graduates with strong interpersonal and organisational skills are invited to apply online with CV and cover letter. Deadline 1 Mar

University of Manchester are recruiting two part-time lecturers in Screenwriting for an ambitious new Screenwriting MA programme. You’ll need to be an experienced and successful screenwriter, script editor or producer, with recent direct experience of the UK film and TV industries. £34k pro rata. Deadline 24 Feb

To advertise your job in this space, email Robyn

Catch this

Prison Writing launch with Meg Rosoff English PEN presents the launch of the 2015 collection, judged by bestselling YA author Meg Rosoff, and will include performances of the prizewinning entries and distribution of free copies of the pamphlet. A panel discussion follows on the importance of access to books in prison. 25 Feb, 6.30-8 pm. £4. Free Word Centre, London
JIBBA JABBA performance poet Jenni Pascoe, with support from Apples and Snakes, presents a night of quick-fire spoken word inspired by music, comedy and poetry. Guests include poet, playwright and performance artist Chanje Kunda, and French MC Dizzy Lez, plus open mic jam. 26 Feb, 7.30pm. £4. Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

Mara Bergman, Mslexia’s 2014 Poetry Pamphlet Competition winner will launch her winning collection The Tailors Three Sons and Other New York Poems in London’s Rada Bar. 24 Mar, 6.30pm, Gower Street, London

SPINE Festival celebrates literature and culture and aims to inspire and engage young people with spoken word and storytelling and encourage schools’ connections with local literary culture. Based at Waltham Forest Libraries in association with Apples and Snakes. 5-15 Mar

Next Generation Poets will read their work at the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts. Evening event includes Hannah Lowe and Alan Gillis, with special guests Bill Herbert and Jake Campbell. 3 Mar. 7.15-9 pm, £2/4/6. Culture Lab, Newcastle University
Mslexia’s own editor and founder Debbie Taylor will be reading from her recent novel Herring Girl (now out in paperback) with Newcastle-born Emily Woof, who will be reading from The Lightning Tree. This is a NCLA event. 26 Feb, 7.15-9pm, £2/4/6. Culture Lab, Newcastle University

Costa Book Award winner Helen MacDonald will be appearing at the UEA’s Spring Literary Festival, discussing themes of life lived, life mourned and nature. 25 Feb, £7. UEA Lecture Theatre One

Mouthy Poets are visiting Mansfield with a spoken word production exploring (inter alia) how to open a can of fish, how the night was made, how gender and waddling ducks make us stronger human beings. Film, music and movement from the collective of 50 poets, plus free Mouthy workshop before the show. In association with Apples and Snakes. 21 Feb, 11am. Free. Mansfield Library
Jenni Murray, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour will be at the York Literature Festival to discuss her life in broadcasting. 21 March, 7pm. St Peter's School. Tickets via York Theatre Royal Box Office.

Elif Shafak will be chatting to Rebecca Abrams about her latest novel The Architect's Apprentice at this year's Oxford Literary Festival. 26 March, 6pm. £12. Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Bestselling author Kate Mosse will be appearing at the 20th Independent Bath Literature Festival anniversary, where she will be talking about her love of adventure fiction. 28 February, 7.30pm. £9 (£8). Guildhall, Bath

To promote your event in this space, email Robyn
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