Sharing the joy

Many, many moons ago, when I left the safety and security of my teaching job to test the fantastical idea that I might be able to write a book, I looked for help. In my nearest town, Huddersfield, I discovered an organisation called CIDA (Creative Industries Development Agency). CIDA offered mentoring and support including training to people in or hoping to work in creative industries. Who knew such places existed? Along with a few useful courses, they assigned me a mentor by the name of Adam Strickson.

Adam Strickson is a playwright, poet and occasional visual artist. He’s done some amazing things in his life and I am very grateful for the time and advice he gave to me. I’m thrilled to be able to share my joy over his continued success and let him tell you what he’s up to ~

Adam S pic The dramatic cantata, ‘Sailing to the Marvellous’, which I initiated and have composed the libretto for, will be taking place at Bridlington Priory on Saturday October 19th at 7.30pm, with choirs, professional soloists and 100 children.

 Sailing to the Marvellous is a dramatic cantata for choirs, instrumentalists and child actors commissioned by Priory 900 from the Wingbeats team who created the operas Flight Paths and Amy’s Last Dive, the East Riding’s official contribution to the Cultural Olympiad.

The cantata tells a powerful present-day story. Runa, a young Christian woman from Iraq, flees persecution. She meets a group of children who have escaped from the wars of Africa, and together they travel to England in an old fishing boat. Eventually the boat reaches Bridlington where, like many before them, Runa and the children seek sanctuary.
Tickets are £5.   Tel 07583432163
On Saturday Nov 9th, I’m appearing at Manchester’s Poets and Playersat 2.30 pm at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate. There will be music and live poetry from the film I made with Lucy Bergman, ‘I am the ferryman’, about my relationship with Benjamin Britten’s music and his with the landscape of Suffolk. Musicians are ‘Our Liberated Winter’ (Robin Bowles and Simon Prince) and there will be a showing of the film.


A pilot programme for an exciting new venture at Bradford Cathedral on Wednesday December 4th at 7pm, ‘Air on Brontë Moor’. This is a new collaboration with film-maker Simon Warner and saxophonist David Wilson. We’ll be presenting films of the landscape the Brontës were influenced by with live saxophone and poetry from the sisters, plus poems by Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Charlotte Mew and and a performance piece from me in response to the Brontës. We hope to tour this next year. Tickets will be £5, available from Bradford Cathedral from the middle of this month.      BD1 4EH     Tel: 01274 777720


Writing from the other side

Bitten CoverA Writing Perspective from the Other Side of the Fence

A Guest Post by Dan O’Brien

Life as a writer can be hard sometimes. Success is elusive; fans shift as often as a summer wind. Yet, we persevere, writing into the late hours of the night and waking in the early hours of the morning to log the hours and enter, for a time, the worlds we create. When I first started writing, more than a decade ago, it was because I loved the idea of immersing myself in a place where I could construct the narrative; walk through dense forests and to the tops of mountains. Over time the process became more about writing as a tool to move through emotions and languishing memories that required catharsis.

Writing takes on many forms, for many different writers, over the course of our lives. For me, the process is the reward. I love to write.HOBBES

When I ask myself that silly question of what I would do if I had all the money in the world, the answer is always quite simple: write. Now more than a decade later, I have a renewed sense of purpose and have become quite adept at balancing the spinning plates of responsibility.

Cerulean Dreams CoverRecently, between being a full-time graduate student and writer, I joined Empirical magazine as an editor – among other responsibilities. A national magazine similar in spirit to Harper’s or The Atlantic, the magazine is firmly rooted in a West Coast sensibility. There is a little something for everyone, and honestly, the hope is that everyone will take a look. Contributors to the magazine come from around the globe and cover everything from politics to fiction.

Working at a magazine, especially at this point in its maturation, is a wonderful experience. There are so many moving parts that enliven your day. Sometimes I spend the day sorting through fiction and poetry submissions, searching for that piece of prose, or perhaps a stanza, that ensnares my imagination. Other days I am editing, constantly referring to the Chicago Manual of Style to ascertain the correct usage of an archaic sentence structure. As a writer, the prospect of editing and rummaging through the work of others might not sound exciting, but there are some wonderful consequences:

  1. You learn to become a better editor of your own work
  2. You begin to recognize redundant sentence structures and overused phrases
  3. Your grasp of language grows exponentially

However, the most important component for me is:

  1. You get to help others bring their work into a public forumLost Sock Army

For many writers, and certainly for me early in my writing career, the notion of being picked up by a magazine or a small press was foremost in my mind. It was that distant promise of publication and everything that goes with it that pushed me forward. When I got rejection letters, most of which lacked a personal touch, I would get down on my writing, denigrate my ability.

The years passed, during which thousands of rejection letters amassed, and I realized that the pursuit of writing for a purely extrinsic reward was dooming myself to Vegas-style odds. It became clear to me that I needed to write because I loved it, and then find a way to share it with others – even if it was not through traditional routes. I found that I was more comfortable with my writing when I did it for the pure joy of it.

MWM_RhysNow that I am on the other side of the fence, so to speak, I have noticed a few myths about submitting to paying publications that otherwise mystified and frustrated me prior to becoming an editor and being responsible for interacting with first-time and established authors.

I have decided to provide a humorous, but serious, collection of things you should do and things you shouldn’t do when submitting and entering into a discourse with a publication – sprinkled, of course, with some anecdotes. And without further ado (or perhaps slight ado if you count this sentence here):

Things You Should Do

  1. Read the publication you are submitting to before sending an email. This one sounds obvious, I know. However, it happens so often that it warrants mentioning. If you have written a brilliant piece of prose that is about zombies, it is quite likely that Popular Mechanics will not be that interested in it. Pick up an issue of the magazine you are interested in submitting to and familiarize yourself with the kinds of stories they publish. The next part is the hardest part: be honest. Does your piece fit with what they publish?
  2. Read and follow the submission instructions. Again, a no-brainer. If you are thinking that you don’t know where to find the submission instructions and you just have an email address, be prepared for disappointment. Your email might go to submission purgatory with a one-liner response about having received your correspondence – if you’re lucky.
  3. Address your submission to the appropriate person. If you are thinking that I am giving you the obvious pointers, then you are quite right. With that in mind, imagine that I still receive hundreds of emails a month that manage to ignore these simple suggestions. If you are writing a stunning expose on corporate greed, the poetry editor is probably not the best destination for your work.
  4. Edit your work. I tell this to students a lot, so I will mention it here as well: spell check in Microsoft Word is not sufficient. I am not saying that you need to be a copyeditor to submit to a magazine, but do yourself a favor and read it out loud. If something sounds funny when you read it, you can only imagine how it will sound to an editor who is choosing among thousands of articles and stories to determine what goes to print.
  5. Be cognizant of turnarounds. By this I mean, the amount of time between when you sent in the work until you hear back from an editor about the status of your submission. Nothing will send your work to the bottom of a slush pile than to send a follow-up email the day after you submitted, wondering whether or not you are going to be in the magazine. Most publications will post how long it takes to hear back from them about the status of a submission, and an amount of time after which you should contact them if you haven’t heard from them.

Things You Shouldn’t Do

  1. Send an email telling an editor that they would be stupid not to publish your work. It always surprises me when I get an email telling me that I need to publish a story, poem, or piece of nonfiction because it is the next best thing. Top this off with letting me know that I would be a fool not to accept it, almost guarantees a trip to the trash can.
  2. Send a photocopy of your story by registered mail.  If you want to have your story in a magazine, start by giving it to editors in a format that they can actually use. By sending a faded and blurry photocopy of your forty-word poem and declaring that it is a soul-searching masterpiece does not inspire as much confidence as you would think.
  3. Contact an editor on a frequent basis about the status of your submission. I have to sort through hundreds of emails a day, edit for the current issue, and work on editing an anthology; not to mention a thousand other intangibles. We posted a time table about getting back to you for a reason: read it.
  4. Be discouraged by a form rejection letter. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many writers. They think the form rejection letter means that the editor didn’t read their work, or simply had things already planned and was stringing writers along. The reality is on any given month I send out hundreds upon hundreds of rejection letters. There is simply not enough time in the day to offer feedback to every single person. This not to say that I do not offer feedback, or that editors do not offer feedback in general, but instead the process is streamlined so writers can be responded to in a reasonable amount of time.
  5. Call the magazine to find out about your submission. This is subsumed by not contacting an editor about the status of your submission before enough time has passed, but I thought it warranted a special mention considering it is really going the extra mile in terms of being an irritation. If we haven’t gotten back to you yet, calling us is not going to suddenly make us more accessible.
  6. Send another email with corrections. Read twice, send once. If you don’t think what you sent is ready for publication, then please don’t send it. You get one chance at a first impression, and nothing speaks to being underprepared and unprofessional than sending a draft and immediately following up with another draft. If your piece needs work, note that in your submission, but don’t send a series of emails chronicling the different stages of the edits for that story. The exception, of course, is if you have already been accepted and you have been asked to make edits.
  7. Contact the magazine to air your frustrations about not being selected. I say this with all seriousness. It is very likely that you got rejected because the piece was not a good fit and not that the magazine has decided to order a hit on your writing career. Please don’t treat it that way. Lashing out at a publication for sending a form rejection letter, or passing on a piece you have written, reeks of a lack of professionalism and could impact your ability to publish elsewhere. Many editors are friends, especially in the digital age, and word spreads fast.
  8. Contact the magazine to ask if you think a story you are working on would be a good fit elsewhere. I can appreciate the sentiment. A lot of editors are writers themselves, and they love talking about the process and the product. I find myself building friendships with writers, those we publish and those we do not, and often I will give them suggestions about their work. However, if you don’t know me personally and have never been published or solicited in any way to use me as a sounding board, then do not contact me and ask if a poem or story would be a good fit at another magazine. If you think it is ready for publication, then submit it here. An obvious exception would be if the writer knew the story would not be a good fit and asked because they were uncertain in venturing into new territory.

I could probably keep listing things you shouldn’t do, but I will wrap it up there. I The End of the World Playlist Coverencourage you to keep trying and keep writing. Things only get better with time, and time is all we really have. I love to hear from other writers and potential readers, so please stop by and say hello. 

SONY DSCBio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, Dan has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here:

The Journey CoverThe Path of the Fallen CoverTwins

Adventures in Poetry

Rossetti was interested in figures locked in e...

Chris Huck has a PASSION for poetry. Combining that passion with an extensive knowledge, incredible artefacts and the team work of other authors creates magical adventures the first Saturday of the month in a little room on the Huddersfield University campus. I’ll let him tell you all about it:


Holmfirth Writers Group runs an Open Poetry Day every month. This comprises of a session where we study a particular poet or group of poets; these have included, Sappho, Emily Dickinson, The Metaphysical Poets, William Blake, the Imagists and Sylvia Plath. Most recently we looked at Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market 



After coffee we write till lunch time. After lunch we have a review period where we read and discuss poems brought in by those attending (bring 10 copies), please note that we only use constructive criticism.



We begin at 9.30 with a break for lunch at midday and we finish around 3pm. Tea and coffee are free. The venue is Huddersfield University room HWG 07 just beyond the main entrance, ask at the desk. Parking is free, just say ‘Poetry Day’ at the barrier. The cost is £12 waged £8 concessions, which pays for the room.



This is a stimulating day for anyone with an interest in poetry and the Holmfirth Writers, who are the core group, are bright and friendly. Please leave a comment, if you’d like more information.





Dark Horse Theatre Premiere

Dark HorseInspirational playwright and director, Vanessa Brooks, gave a talk and ran a workshop for the Holmfirth Writers’ Group last night. She is currently the artistic director of Dark Horse Theatre company, a leading vocational trainer of actors with learning disabilities, developing skills in preparation for work in the industry at the highest level. She is very excited about their current play. This is what she had to say,

“SING SOMETHING SIMPLE is shaping up to be a terrific comedy. We begin rehearsals in just over a week,  three terrific London based actors will join Dark Horse actor Joe Sproulle to work on a show that’s all about love, life, friendship and happiness and its’ so good to be working on a piece that makes you smile! I hope lots of people come along, enjoy a cracking plot which goes at a lick and some fabulous physical sequences worked up to Easy Listening classics such as ‘Volare’ ‘The Party’s Over’ and ‘I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’!  SING SOMETHING SIMPLE is a comedy for everyone seeking an antidote to troubled times and I just know its going to be a great night out at the theatre.”

GroupAlbertHall frame

 Sing Something Simple






Spencer’s Mum is a jazz singer, his best friend Bonnie plays the mandolin and his brother Kit is heading for pop stardom. Craving the spotlight Spencer goes on his own quest for musical fame which leads all the way to the Royal Albert Hall, inspired by his granddad the legendary Gerry Parkin, session singer extraordinaire.

Surprising, warm, laugh out loud funny and packed full of wonderful live and recorded performances of everyone’s favourite songs like that’s amore!, the party’s over, I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts and spread a little happiness this wonderful comedy is a bright and fizzy antidote to the winter blues.

A full length play written by well known playwright Vanessa Brooks, with set and costume by Pip Leckenby who has designed on Broadway and stunning digital projection by Tony award winner Mic Pool this is a world premiere not to be missed.

Subsequent to the show opening for the very first time at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield the production goes on the road to selected venues nationally for it’s UK world premiere tour.

Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

Date Wednesday 6th March at 7.30pm–Thursday 7th March at 1.30pm and 7.30pm

Box Office: 01484 430528

Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

Date Friday 15th March at 8.00pm–

Box Office: 01892 678678

The Cockpit, London

Date Wednesday 27th March at 7.30pm–Thursday 28th March at 7.30pm

Box Office: 020 7258 2925 (From noon, Monday to Saturday)

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Date Wednesday 3rd April at 7.30pm–Thursday 4th April at 1.30pm and 7.30pm

Box Office: 01723 370541

For further information, photographs and interviews with Writer, Director, actors and production team call: 01484 484441.

Fishcake Publications ~ the story

Fishcakes Logo copyI’ll let my guest, Martin Rothery, tell us his story.

The Birth of Fishcake Publications.

It all started when I was made redundant in December 2011 and I thought ‘Oh no, what am I going to do now?’

Firstly, I didn’t panic.

Secondly, I was relieved, as I’d been miserable in that job anyway.

Thirdly, I took stock of my life, looked at my skills and ambitions and made the big decision – I was going to work for myself. But doing what?


A big leap, I know. So how did I come up with this fantastic plan?

Well, I’d been laying the foundations for a few years. I’d started writing in 2008, attending creative writing classes through adult education. I’d attended various workshops over the years to get a feel for all types of writing. I’d joined the Holmfirth Writers’ Group which provided a great support network, and where I was lucky enough to spend some time as treasurer. As a group, we’d also launched two anthologies. This provided some great experience.

But most importantly, I’d written a book that was ready for publishing and so I had something to act as the launch vehicle for my business. However, I found writing was the easy part. Starting a business is scary when you’re unsure what you’re doing. Luckily, I found plenty of free business courses and the most useful ones were run by Her Majesties Revenue & Customs, which was quite handy since these were the people I feared the most.

Cows! Front Cover

So, in February 2012, Fishcake Publications was launched with my first book, COWS!. Initially launched as an eBook, a printed copy soon followed. This has now sold over 110 copies in the UK and the USA, which I’m quite pleased with (although I’m striving to sell more!)

I have also released a book called Nonagenarians in memory of my grandparents and containing poetry written by them. This is currently free on Smashwords, as I wanted to share this with as many people as possible. It was also produced in a small booklet which raised over £140 for the Parkwood Methodist Old Folks Luncheon Club, a cause close to their hearts.

Souls_Of_Darkness_1400 (Cover_b)Fishcake’s latest release was a book called Souls of Darkness and was a collaboration between three authors (me being one of them).  I am currently marketing and promoting this and, hopefully, there will be a printed copy available soon.

At the end of last year, I was also very pleased to launch my own website (of which, I am proud to say, I did all the work myself). I now offer my services to the public in general. I am especially keen to help new unpublished writers, as I believe every new writer needs a step up the ladder and if someone’s taken the time to write something, it deserves to be read. I have received a few submissions over the last few months that I’m very excited about, and I hope I will be able to bring to the world in the near future.

After doing all this, my advice to anyone nowadays is, if you believe in your ideas, don’t be afraid to give them a go.

Amazon Kindle links:


Souls of Darkness


Smashwords links:


Souls of Darkness


A Christmas treat or two

Holmfirth IMG_3464m

Holmfirth IMG_3464m (Photo credit: Philip Talmage)

At our recent Holmfirth Writers’ Group meeting, Mary Walker lead us in a “fan-ficwriting workshop. Richard Raby wrote this wonderful story, as a result. I know you’ll be able to guess which classic fiction it was based on!

“Bump, bump, bump . . .

“What’s that big thing Poet?” said Playwright.

“It’s the Writers’ Block said Pooh and we’re going on an Expedition to get rid of it”

“What’s an Expition, Playwright?”

“It’s when you go off in search of Inspiration”, said Poet, “and we are going to go together to find it.”

“What does the Inspiritatioin look like, Poet?”

“Nobody knows, but when we find it we’ll know we have.”

“How will we know?”

“We’ll know because it will creep up behind us and suddenly strike us”, said Poet.

“Oh dear, Poet” said Playwright, trembling a little. “I don’t want to be striked by the Inspiritatioin”

“Come along”, said Poet, “you’ll be safe with me”.

Playwright felt a little better for this. “Where shall we start looking, Poet?”

“We’ll go and ask Christopher Author because he’s big and clever and knows everything”.

So, off they went through 100 Page Wood to look for Christopher Author and when they came to the bridge which crosses the Stream of Consciousness Poet said “We’re going to play a game which is called Poet Sticks. We’ll throw the Writers’ Block into the stream then run to the other side and the one whose Inspiration appears first wins the game”.

But the block just sat in the water and the Inspirations didn’t appear so they forgot about the Expedition and went back to Poet’s house where he remembered he had some jars of brandy.

And as they went Poet hummed a little hum to himself: “Isn’t it dandy how a Poet likes brandy – wiz, wiz, wiz, I wonder why that it is?

And Playwright was happy and said “Will we find the Inspiritation tomorrow?” And Poet said “Yes, or another day  . . . because some days it doesn’t want to come, and if it doesn’t want to, you can’t make it”.

“But it will come, won’t it Poet?”

“Oh, yes – it always comes – and if we wait together it will be better than waiting not together because the Inspiration knows how to hide from people who are looking for it the hardest. So we’ll go and hum a ‘We don’t mind if we find you or not’ sort of hum and then it will think we don’t care about it and it will come to us because even the Inspiration wants to be friends sometimes.”

“But we’ll always be friends, won’t we, Poet?”

“More than always” said Poet “because being friends is longer than forever and better than best”

“That’s good”, said Playwright.

“Yes”, said Poet, “isn’t it?”

Breaking is now up and running. It’s a brand new website to help readers find new books to match their reading tastes. And authors, why not add details for your books?

  • Book It! (

Book It!

Sine FM

Sine FM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely Sheila North, presenter of Sine FM, came to my house. Both Americans who’ve made our homes in England, we had a lot to talk about. We walked the dog, had an ice cream at Yummy’s, tea at The Sovereign and then she joined in with the Holmfirth Writers’ Group. She also interviewed Joyce, Martin and me for Book It! 

Book It! is a monthly programme for book lovers and writers around the world, and is available on on the last Saturday of each month at 10 am BST.  Check out the latest edition at to hear those interviews.

Sine FM, Doncaster’s local radio station, is the first not-for-private-profit station in the area.  It was launched in January 2007, and provides a platform for creative expression and a distinctive, accessible community radio service, celebrating the diversity of Doncaster.

The station has more than 90 local presenters playing great music every week, and reaches over 116,000 households and 7,100 businesses, whilst the website receives 1.65 million hits monthly.

Sine received its FM Broadcasting License in December 2007. The station ran several trial broadcasts before launching full-time service in September 2009 on 102.6 FM acrossDoncaster,alongside its internet radio station / online media service.

A typical edition of Book It! features an interview with a published author, book reviews by our panel of reviewers, and stories or poems read by featured writers. Previous guests include the American poet Thomas Lynch; best-selling novelist Joanne Harris; historian George Goodwin, author of ‘Fatal Colours’; new novelists such as Richard Pierce, author of ‘Dead Men’; Barnsley author Milly Johnson; Michael Stewart, author of ‘King Crow’, and many others. Book It! is produced for Sine FM by Sheila and David North, with frequent contributions by author Stephanie Cage, and members of Doncaster Writers.

For more information on Book It!, contact Sheila at

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