Wednesday 29 August 2012

‘Everything Must Go’ By Rosie Garland - new poetry collection

‘Everything Must Go’
By Rosie Garland
Published by Holland Park Press
RRP £8.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781907320224
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

Wow. ‘Everything Must Go’ is breath-taking in its laid-bare honesty. Rosie Garland’s poems tell of her battle with cancer from the moment she’s told until she receives the news its in remission. It’s not a pitiful or melodramatic narration, or even negative – Rosie expresses her experiences; her initial numbness and shock, her hair loss, her sickness, the wanting to disappear, the hospital, the pain and weakness, the treatment, the loss of her feminity – it’s heart-breaking but Rosie is so strong in her poems that’s it’s somewhat uplifting. My personal favourites from the collection are ‘Camouflage’ and ‘Dignity’. Quite stunning and bought a tear to my eye.

Highly recommended.

Visit Publisher's Website

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Poetry Writing Workshops for Teens with Mental Health Problems, Guest Blog from Neal Zetter

I run poetry writing workshops for just about anyone – 5 to 105-year-olds of any background or level of ability or need – but I find that by far the most rewarding group to work with are teens with mental health problems and I am fortunate to have done so in numerous settings over the years.

Most recently I finished a 10-month project with a London-based special school for such youngsters (a client of mine for the last six years) that was funded by a major UK charity. It is likely to be re-funded next year as the results were so impressive despite the fact that the teens' problems include self-harm, suicide attempts, anorexia, manic depression, schizophrenia etc and they come from backgrounds where they have normally been seriously abused physically, emotionally and/or sexually.

So how do you get some of the most challenging young people to produce something as 'uncool' as a poem? I'd like to offer some suggestions by outlining what works for me and perhaps could work for you too:

1. Be yourself. Don't try and 'get down with the kids' as it just doesn't work as they spot any attempt to be cool a mile off!

2. Don't be nervous about their conditions or situations. The young people are generally very aware of their issues and discuss them amongst each other. So if you feel someone cannot produce a poem because they are not up to it mentally at the time of your session, don't avoid them – ask them how they feel and how you can help.

3. Don't be too 'teachery'. If you run workshops of course you ARE a teacher of sorts but worksheets, whiteboards and detailed discussions about metaphors and similes do not work for me with these young people. Be far less structured and more informal.   I find many such teens incredibly intelligent, full of ideas and frequently excellent at expressing themselves. BUT what you need to provide is the motivation and inspiration to get them moving and then to see there work through. My style is comedy  poetry – that helps too as comedy is a great ice-breaker.

4. Concentrate on you performing, them writing and then sharing together. Although very expressive with words on paper some of the teens are far less vocal when it comes to sharing or performing poetry as what they produce is often deeply personal and their conditions also may hold them back when it comes to reading aloud. But DO try it – sit in a circle, go round one by one and don't apply any pressure, only encouragement. If someone wants to opt out then ask them again when you complete a second lap of the circle. Don't get them to read each other's    poems as they normally cannot put them across in the correct way and often stumble to read the writing. And if you step in to read one of their poems they will ALL ask you to read their work!

5. Get staff to help. Staff will know the students better than you so get them involved one-to-one with some of the most challenging ones so you can circulate and help everyone (inc those in the one-to-one). If staff have time to write poems too that's great as them leading by example always helps your cause and will motivate the students.

6. Timing is important. Many of these young people will find it hard to wake up in the morning, especially if on heavy medication or very depressed, so 10am is a good time to start or just after a lunch, but not too late as they will tire by the end of the day. 60-90 mins is the ideal session length – no longer. Speak to the staff too about cigarette breaks for them as many will be smokers and need time out to help their mental focus.

7. Pick your theme. I never ask people with mental health problems to write about their conditions. Like most people they have opinions and wish to express themselves on a huge range of topics and are probably fed up discussing the state of their mind. Keep the topics broad and let them interpret them as they want. They WILL often bring their mental health issues into their writing even on the most seemingly unrelated themes but when they chose to do that it's fine as writing for them can be extremely theraputic and a way for them to crystalise the many conflicting emotions and thoughts they hold in their heads.

8. Taboos. I have only one explicit no-go area: no writing about anyone in the school/unit whether staff or pupil, even if the writer thinks it is a positive comment. However, you need to recognise that, due to their backgrounds and more so then regular teens, they might wish to test your boundaries with sexually explicit terms, bad language or overtly violent themes. You need to judge very carefully what is a genuine sad tale that needs to be told as opposed to something that is tokenistic and done for effect to shock you or others. A word with staff before the session is the best way to handle this so you can know what to expect. I have never had a problem here as a result.

So I hope that helps you. Naturally I would be keen to hear any comments from anyone with experience in this area or people who wish to venture into it. Thank you. 

© Neal Zetter 2012

Friday 24 August 2012

Out Of Bounds - London Launch at The British Library

Monday 3rd September
6:30pm - 8pm
Price: £7.50 / £5 concessions
For tickets and information visit: Renaissance One 

Join some of the finest British poets working today - JOHN AGARD, CAROL LEEMING, GRACE NICHOLS and DALJIT NAGRA - for an alternative A to Z of the nation.

All our guests feature in the new anthology Out Of Bounds (Bloodaxe Books) a newly-charted map of Britain, as viewed by its black and Asian poets. It takes the reader on a riveting, sensory journey through Scotland, England and Wales, showing the whole country from a fresh perspective.

This extensive and ground-breaking anthology stops off in the Highlands and Islands, skirts the North East coast from Whitley Bay to the sands of Bridlington, wanders lonely through the Lake District and Yorkshire, climbs the mountains of Wales before descending to the Black Country and Southern England. Along the way it takes in lochs and landmarks from Glasgow's George Square and the Angel of the North to the London Eye and the Long Man of Wilmington.
John Agard is the multi-award winning author of numerous publications and is widely regarded as a national treasure. A champion of reading and literature and a former librarian, journalist and teacher of languages. His work has been taught on the GCSE syllabus since 2002.

Carol Leeming is a Leicester born, poet, playwright, singer and songwriter. She has performed her poetry at festivals, regional theatres and on BBC Radio. Carol curates poetry for performance, digital installations and writes for local and national arts cultural magazines.

Grace Nichols is a multi-award winning author and poet born and raised in Guyana. Nichols' publications inlcude poetry and novels for adults and story books for children. Her poetry is featured in the English/English Literature GCSE anthologies. 

Daljit Nagra comes from a Punjabi background. He was born and raised in London then Sheffield. He has won several prestigious prizes for his poetry, including Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem and Best First Collection. 

'Out of Bound's is a definitive anthology that brings together new and established black and Asian writers and places them firmly on the map of what is great and not so great about Britain. Edited by Jackie Kay, James Procter and Gemma Robinson, other contributors include Shanta Acharya, Patience Agbabi, Moniza Alvi, James Berry, Jean 'Binta' Breeze, Vahni Capildeo, Merle Collins, Fred D'Aguiar, David Dabydeen, Imtiaz Dharker, Bernardine Evaristo, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tariq Latif, Sheree Mack, Jack Mapanje, E.A. Markham,  Louisa Adjoa Parker, Michelle Scally-Clarke, Seni Seneviratne, John Siddique, Lemn Sissay, Dorothea Smartt, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott and Benjamin Zephaniah.

Presented by renaissance one in association with The British Library. This event is supported by Bloodaxe Books. 

Source: press release

Thursday 23 August 2012

Winnie the Witch Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Winnie the Witch and her black cat Wilbur have been delighting children with their magical capers for 25 years. The fun, and often chaotic, stories by Valerie Thomas are illustrated in immense detail by the brilliant Korky Paul. Thus creating a collection of stories that delight young readers and entertain them for hours.

Winnie the Witch is available in 12 original fantastic picture books (written by Valerie Thomas), plus 3 treasury collections, a sticker book and special 25th anniversary edition of the first ever Winnie book, ‘Winnie the Witch’. There are also 15 young reader fiction books (written by Laura Owen), both series are illustrated by Korky Paul. The Winnie the Witch series has sold over five million copies worldwide and has been translated into over twenty-five languages.

I have a 4-year-old daughter who adores Winnie the Witch picture books and it is quite usual to return from the library with every Winnie the Witch book they have on the shelves! And she asks to read them with us again, again and again. It’s just brilliant, as a parent, to see the enthusiasm, the laughter and pure enjoyment my daughter gets from the Winnie the Witch series. She also refers to her auntie’s black cat as Wibur now too!

Due to my daughter’s obsession with Winnie the Witch, we have read all of the Winnie the Witch books, including the treasury editions!:

Winnie the Witch
Winnie’s Amazing Pumpkin
Winnie’s New Computer
Winnie Under the Sea
Winnie Flies Again
Winnie’s Magic Wand
Winnie’s Midnight Dragon
Winnie in Winter
Winnie at the Seaside
Winnie in Space
Winnie’s Flying Carpet
Happy Birthday Winnie!
Winnie’s Magic Moments (Treasury of Winnie’s New Computer, Winnie’s Magic Wand, 
Winnie at the Seaside)
Winnie’s Madcap Mishaps (Treasury of Winnie the Witch, Winnie Flies Again, 
Winnie in Winter)
Winnie’s Crazy Capers (Treasury of Winnie’s Midnight Dragon, Winnie’s Midnight Dragon, Winnie’s Flying Carpet)

Each story Winnie utters her famous spell-cast of ‘Abracadbra’, which usually sees chaos ensure! Not only are the stories great and easy to follow, the illustrations completely transform the stories to a new level. They are so detailed, from Winnie’s hairy legs and washing line on the roof, to the millions of items in her kitchen or flowers in her garden. The ‘end papers’, (the pages that come before and after the story) are always drawn by children and are based on the story of the book they appear in. It’s a lovely touch, and my daughter enjoys looking at these and explaining the pictures to us!

It would be great to see Winnie the Witch merchandise available, and of course more Winnie the Witch books! We’re excited to hear that ‘Winnie’s Dinosaur Day’ (ISBN 978-0-19-279403-1) is due out in March 2013 (picture book).

For all the teachers out there the publisher, Oxford University Press (OUP) offer a free Winnie the Witch teacher resource pack for both picture books and the fiction series. You can download the pack here


For fans of Winnie the Witch, you can visit Winnie at to find out about the authors, the books and much, much more!

Here’s to 25 more years of Winnie the Witch and her black cat Wilbur.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Durham Book Festival Unveils 2012 Programme

The annual book festival returns with guests including PD James, Nick Robinson, Ian Rankin, Jack Straw, and Kate Mosse, and a new version of Rapunzel by balletLORENT, written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
The programme for the 2012 Durham Book Festival was unveiled at a launch event at Crook Hall in Durham on Wednesday 15 August, which included a special appearance by Rachel Joyce, whose recent novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, has just been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
This year’s festival takes place from 13th-30th October, in venues across Durham city and county.
Among its varied programme of prose writers, politicians, poets and philosophers, Durham Book Festival is proud to be hosting the world premiere of Rapunzel, written by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. Carol Ann was commissioned by New Writing North, on behalf of Durham Book Festival, to write a new version of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale for the modern age, which has been made into a new show by award-winning choreographer Liv Lorent and her company balletLORENT. Following the premiere in Durham, the production will tour the UK and play at Sadler's Wells in London.
Authors appearing at the festival include Carol Ann Duffy, Anne Stevenson, Val McDermid, PD James, Ian Rankin, Gavin Esler, Kate Mosse, Roger McGough, Gillian Slovo, Pat Barker, Ruth Padel, Sophie Hannah, Ann Cleeves, Lorna Goodison, Nick Robinson, Jack Straw, Ben Miller, Chris Mullin and Cressida Cowell. This year we are proud to welcome authors from Canada, China and the US.
Durham Book Festival is the North East's biggest annual celebration of books. The festival is produced by New Writing North for Durham County Council and supported by Durham University and Arts Council England. This year the festival welcomes on board a host of new supporters including Banks Group, Eversheds, Muckle LLP, Redbox Design Group, Dickinson Dees, Sunderland University, Swinburne Maddison and Northumbrian Water, and retains its partnership with the Radisson. 
A full programme of events and booking details are at

Source: Durham Book Festival Press Release

Tuesday 21 August 2012

New Spoken Word show from Dominic Berry

'The Dragon Who Hates Poetry'
Written and performed by Dommy B
Created with support from Grants for the Arts / Big Lottery Fund

Saturday 20th October - 2pm
At Z Arts, Hulme, Manchester
£2 adults / children get in free

There is no dragon scarier in any Earthly place.
His face looks like his bottom and his bottom like his face.

Dommy B (aka Nuyorican Poetry Cafe / UK Superheroes of Slam winner, Dominic Berry)
presents a work-in-progress performance of his debut show for children and families.
Fast-paced, funny and full of audience participation, Dommy B needs your help to bring
this fearful dragon’s reign to an end!
For further info please visit 

'Fire Spell' by Laura Amy Schlitz: Book Review

'Fire Spell’

By Laura Amy Schlitz
Published by Bloomsbury, 13th September 2012
RRP £6.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781408826218
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

Set in the 1860s, this charming tale of magic, tragedy and unlikely friendships, is a fantastic story that will enthral and delight.

Grisini is a conman, puppet-master and magician, though he uses his magic for wrong-doing. He’s a cruel and greedy master. He ‘adopts’ Parsefall, an orphaned boy he ‘rescued’ from the workshouse and Lizzie-Rose, the orphaned daughter of an actor and actress. They live in squalor in a London boarding house, where the kind but drunk Mrs Pinchbeck looks out for the children. Grisini has taught Parsefall how to steal, pick locks and to work the puppets. Parsefall is uneducated and fearful of his master. Lizzie-Rose is a young lady, well bought up and educated but fallen on hard times with the death of both her parents. She plays the music for their travelling puppet show and keeps an eye on Parsefall, who she cares for like a brother.

When Clara Wintermute asks her parents for the puppet show to be bought into their house for her brirthday, they finally reluctantly agree. They have lost 4 children to Cholera, with Clara the only surviving child, and their house has been in mourning ever since. Little do they know that Grisini will kidnap their child, turn her into a puppet and steal her away.

If that’s not enough to be going on with, there is then Cassandra or ‘Madama’, a powerful witch, whose power comes from the fire opal – yet this power is set to destroy her, as it has those before her who owned the wishing stone. All destroyed by fire. The only way to free herself from its curse is to have someone steal her stone. Madama knew Grisini along time ago and as she is more powerful than him, she calls Grisini to her as he always wanted the fire opal for himself and his own dark ways. Grisini is too smart to steal it himself, so suggests she invited the children to come and stay at her huge home in Windermere. They’ll steal it he assures her, thinking he’ll have the power of the stone without the curse.

The children have discovered Clara’s puppet in their master’s absence, and still reeling from the shock that he hit them and then fell down the stairs, to what they thought was his death. They wonder about Grisini, how bad he actually is and when a letter from Madama arises inviting them to her home as she’s dying and looking to leave her worldly goods to them, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall make the journey to Windermere, not realising how much this will change their life, and Clara’s …

This is a spell-binding tale, wrought with tragedy and triumph. It’s refreshing to have such an exciting story told in one novel – no sequels, no waiting to find out what happens next!

Fantastic and highly recommended for readers aged 10+

Monday 20 August 2012

Nominate the books you want to see on the World Book Night 2013 list

It's now nearly four months since World Book Night 2012 and we're turning our thoughts to plans for 2013. We want to know which books you want to see featured as next year's World Book Night books.

Like last year the final list of books for 2013 will be decided on by an independent editorial committee made up of representatives from booksellers, libraries, the literacy sector, authors, and journalists, and will this year be chaired by Mariella Frostrup. 

The committee's choice of titles will be informed by the hundred most nominated books so be sure to tell us what books you want to see featured.  You have until
August 31 to nominate your books and you can see a live and constantly evolving top 100 now.

This year we really want you to think about the books that you think will make those who don't regularly read fall in love with reading as well as the books that you love the most.

What are we looking for?
  • Quite simply, great books that make you fall in love with reading (and what we think makes a book great is quite different to what academics or critics might)
  • Any genre of book – fiction or non-fiction, crime, thrillers, romance, sagas, sci-fi, fantasy, classics, literature, poetry, biography, young adult – anything! But we are looking for 'best in class' in each area
  • They have to have a story (so any non-fiction has to be narrative driven)
  • Not too long (though we will never rule against a book based on length but shorter books are more accessible)
  • Must have been published in paperback in the UK
And please don’t nominate books or authors that were featured in World Book Night 2011 or 2012. You can see the 2012 list here and the books that featured in 2011 here.

How do I submit my favourite books?
1. Go to
2. Sign in or register via our homepage
3. Go to 'nominate books' under the 'books' tab and type your favourite book by title or author in to the search box.  If your book doesn't show please double check that you've spelled it correctly.  Books that are out of print or aren't available in paperback won't come up when you search for them
4. You can keep an eye on the titles you selected and view a live, interactive list of the top 100 here

Happy voting!

© World Book Night

(Please contact World Book Night Organisers with any queries you may have, thanks!) 

Thursday 16 August 2012

Man Booker Live: An evening with the 2012 shortlisted authors

Via satellite from the Southbank’s Festival Hall in London

Man Booker Live is an exciting new initiative for 2012. The Man Booker Prize for Fiction has partnered with Picturehouse Entertainment to broadcast ‘Prize Readings,’ an evening with the 2012 shortlisted authors at the Royal Festival Hall at London’s Southbank Centre on Monday 15th October.

Taking place on the eve of the winner announcement, the shortlisted authors will be reading and discussing their work in front of an audience hosted by one of the UK’s favourite broadcasters, Radio 4’s James Naughtie.  

Tickets for Man Booker Live will go on sale this Friday, 17th August, at cinemas across the UK.
For the first time booklovers nationwide will be able to enjoy and participate in the shortlist event at their local cinemas. For avid followers of the Man Booker Prize and bookgroups everywhere, the evening promises lively discussion and a unique opportunity to see world-class writers the night before the winner of the £50,000 prize is decided.

Ion Trewin, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, comments: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Southbank and Picturehouse and to be able to share, for the first time, the occasion with readers all over the country.”

The shortlist of six will be announced on 11th September from a longlist of 12 authors, announced on 25th July. The longlisted authors are: Nicola Barker, Ned Beauman, AndrĂ© Brink, Tan Twan Eng, Michael Frayn, Rachel Joyce, Deborah Levy, Hilary Mantel, Alison Moore, Will Self, Jeet Thayil and Sam Thompson.  For up to date information on the Man Booker Prize please visit

Man Booker Live is taking place at cinemas across the UK, for more information and tickets please visit:

For more information and tickets to ‘Prize Readings’ at the Southbank Centre please visit:
Source: Press release

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Exclusive Guest Blog with Dugald A Steer, Author on the Appeal of Dragons in Fiction

© Dugald A. Steer

I grew up among dragons: they were my playmates, my antagonists, the object of my expeditions to abandoned train tracks and chalk pits. I thought about them, dreamt about them and, when I decided that I was definitely going to be a palaeontologist around the age of eight, it was thanks to my love of dragons, and not the other way around. Oh, alright, perhaps it was a trip to the British Museum of Natural History to see the T. Rex skeleton but still, my love of dragons went right back to when my mother would hum 'Puff the Magic Dragon' and I would wish that I could go to Honalee and never grow up, just like Puff. 

I thought I was lucky: there were plenty of books with dragons in them, from the Ice Dragon in 'Postgate' and Firmin’s 'Noggin the Nogg' sagas, to E Nesbitt’s wonderful 'Book of Dragons', to Smaug, of course, in Tolkein’s 'The Hobbit' to Eustace Scrubb, who turns into a dragon in C.S. Lewis’s 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader'. As soon as the first boxed set of rules for 'Gygax' and Arneson’s 'Dungeons and Dragons' became available in Britain my dragon-loving friends and I became avid fans, designing and dungeon mastering our own intricate realms full of quests and fantastical beasts. 

All of this, of course, set me to reading the timeless myths and legends about dragons: from the battling red and white dragons found my Merlin under Vortigern’s castle, to Saint George, to Perseus and all of the Greek sagas, to the mighty Beowulf, and many more. So what is it about these creatures? Why did I keep wanting more of the same stuff? Was I nuts? After all, things called dragons don’t even share the same traits. They are mostly scaly, usually winged, almost always fire-breathing, come in all sorts of colours, usually have one head, sometimes have four legs, and a lot of them live in caves, hoard treasure and have bad attitudes. For me I think it was all about seeking out the miraculous and magical, of escaping from the every day into worlds that might exist, just around the corner, full of good and bad. And dragons might sometimes be good and wise, but they can certainly be bad in ways that must have impressed the earliest stone age hunter gatherers, and they probably took a lot of impressing. After all, it won’t have been long before mere lions, tigers and bears ceased to be an everyday threat to our ancestors. There’s a man-eating lion or tiger around? We’ll round up a posse and bring him back on a pole before sundown. Lions, tigers and bears must soon have learned to respect puny but clever humans with their spears and irritating traps and projectile weapons. But dragons? Think again. Gigantic, muscular, powerful, avaricious, they burn down homes with fire, pillage treasures, steal princesses, and they had insatiable appetites, like a terrible incarnation of an entire invading army. Brave but hopelessly outmatched posses would wiped out in a few minutes, leaving no option but to draw lots to see who gets eaten first, and hold out for a hero. Stirring stuff indeed. 

Dragons, like all worthy storybook enemies, are clever, powerful, almost impossible to outwit or defeat, so that you stand very little chance of surviving an encounter with them, then even less chance right up until the final last minute when suddenly some tiny thing goes right — you remember they have a weak spot, you are saved by an unanswerable riddle — and defeat turns to victory at last. Which leads me to a final consideration: I thought I was lucky as a boy that there were so many wonderful books featuring dragons. How much luckier, then, are the dragon lovers of today! They have all the books I had, but they also have Rowling’s 'Harry Potter' books, Jasper Fforde’s 'The Last Dragonslayer' series, Chris d’Lacey’s 'Fire Within' books and Cressida Cowell’s 'How to Train Your Dragon' among many, many others, most of which have very clever twists on the old formula. There is scant evidence that the everlasting appeal of dragons is on the wane. On the contrary, for a dragon-lover, now is probably the best time there has ever, ever been!


‘The Dragon Prophecy: The Dragonology Chronicles’
By Dugald A. Steer
Published by Templar June 2012
RRP £9.99 (hardback)
ISBN 9781848772144

This is the much-awaited final instalment of The Dragonology Chronicles. Fans of the series – which has sold over 350,000 globally, will be gripped by the mystery that Dr Drake and his apprentices Daniel and Beatrice have to solve. Age-old rivalries rear their heads, battles between the powers of good and evil are fought and the protagonists find themselves in grave danger as they strive to save the dragons.

Enjoy the thrilling adventure, the gripping action and the brilliant story-telling!

Highly recommended for readers aged 10+


A huge thank you to Dugald A Steer for his fantastic guest blog for us. If you'd like to find out more about The Dragonology Chronicles please visit Templar Publishing.


7.30pm til 10.30pm
13th September 2012
(and then every Thursday, every week, until 6th December 2012)

 Old Nags Head
 Jacksons Row
 (off Deansgate)
 M2 5WD

£5 / £3 concessions (concessions = anyone skint)

Each week there will be a different special guest head-liner poet and on Thursday 13th September the head-liner is the awe-inspiring ... Mike Garry!



"Genius" Peter Saville

"Gritty" John Cooper Clark

"Top Manc Street Poet" Shaun Ryder

Author of recent BBC commission poetry collection 'God Is A Manc', Bang Said The Gun: Manchester are proud to be kicking off the start of their second season of dates with the true poet laureate of the north.


with hosts Dominic Berry, Kieren King, Rod Tame, Dave Viney and Benny-jo Zahl.
If underpants, sex, gravy and Keith Moon giving the Queen Mother drumming lessons are your thing, then this could be the verbal romp you’ve been waiting for ...

Bang Said The Gun in London is considered one of the best poetry nights in the country and has recently been reaching over 4 million viewers on Channel 4’s Random Acts.

Repeating this winning formula, its Manchester’s first weekly poetry night celebrating the best in local and national poets as well as offering audience members the chance to compete ... for the coveted **Golden Gun prize** in the Top Banana Open Mic!

Each week's Golden Gun prize winner is offered a guest set at a future Bang Said The Gun: Manchester! First come, first on open mic so get down early if you wanna be on. Or, just come join the crowd to listen and cheer for a top notch night out.
© Bang Said The Gun: Manchester

Monday 13 August 2012

Gordon Hodgeon: Still Life free poetry book launch

The Hawthorns Care Centre, Peterlee, SR8 5UP: Tuesday 4th September 6pm-7.30pm

Few people can have worked so hard on behalf of literature and poetry in the north-east region as Gordon Hodgeon, or for so long. Gordon is a former chair of New Writing North, as well as having served as chair of the literature panel of Northern Arts, and vice-chair of Cleveland Arts, not to mention his work at NATE, Brotton Writers, the Writearound Festival, Hall Garth Writers, and Mudfog Press.

Following a series of unsuccessful spinal operations in 2010, Gordon was confined to bed and wheelchair, unable to move his arms and legs and unable to breathe without the help of a ventilator. Coming to terms with a gradually narrowing view on the world, he began writing a new book of poems. Some were dictated to visiting friends and to staff in the rehabilitation unit in Peterlee where he has spent the last two years. Others were typed using Dragon voice-recognition software.

A new collection, Still Life, is the result. It is partly a study in disability and mortality, partly a praise-song for the ‘paralysed jellyfish’ of the quadriplegic body. It is a book about learning to live in a new element, about helplessness and loss. But it is mostly a book about living, a wonderfully energetic and sharply humorous celebration of the fact of being alive – the birth of a granddaughter, the slow changing of the seasons through the hospital window and the strange music of the ventilator filling and emptying his lungs through the night.

Admission to this event is free. Still Life is available from for £7.95.

Friday 10 August 2012

Book Review: 'After' by Morris Gleitzman, 4th book in award-winning series

By Morris Gleitzman
Published by Puffin on 2nd August 2012
RRP £6.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9780141343136
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

‘After’ is the fourth and final title in this gripping, harrowing, award-winning series. Following on from ‘Once’, ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, ‘After’ takes us back to when Felix was 13 in 1945. We join Felix hiding from the Nazis under Dom the horse’s stable floor in a hole for 2 years, cared for by Gabriek who brings him food, water and things to ‘educate’ him. After 2 years and 2 months Felix staggers from his hiding place to save Gabriek from harm … this leads Felix into the secret and dangerous world of the Partisans. After passing their initiation he joins them in their attempts to kill and destroy the Nazis. The books ends with Felix in a concentration camp, as a medical worker helping those who’ve been left to die when the Nazis fled after they’d lost the war. Felix, again in ‘After’, makes friends and loses them, sees, hears and does things that no one, especially a child, should ever have to.

This whole series is gripping, they are difficult to read as the subject matter is very real, but they should be read. They educate the reader and at the same time tell a story in way that is accessible to children. The books are written beautifully, you share Felix’s passion, heartache, terror, losses, you completely empathise with his character and respect his courage, bravery and will to survive despite the horror and trauma he’s had to endure for the last 6 years.

The books are written so you can read them as a ‘stand alone’ story, or in any order. Definitely read all 4 to get the full understanding of Felix’s story. It is after all our history and it’s a part of history that should never be repeated.

Highly recommended for readers 9+


Every year on 27th January, the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). Holocaust Memorial Day provides an opportunity for everyone to learn lessons from the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides and apply them to the present day to create a safer, better future.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is a charity which works to raise awareness of HMD. You can find out more about they do by visiting their website.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Opportunity Knocks for Illustrators (of all ages and abilities)

Being a children's author, I, Eric Pullin, am always on the lookout for special illustrations for my works.

Special doesn't mean technically perfect or stunningly beautiful, it means innovative, different, eye-catching, exciting. It doesn't matter whether you are a professional illustrator, an up-and-coming artist, a student, a kid, if you can draw - read on.

About 8 years ago I met a young art student who was taking part in a competition to become the illustrator for my, now popular, "Why Series" bedtime stories. One day he showed me a portfolio of his work. His speciality was drawing human hands - which, I am told, are very difficult to draw well. The pictures that he showed me took my breath away.

I was so impressed with his work that I offered to write a special piece for him to illustrate - a story about "hands". I wanted to give him a platform to show off his amazing talent.

It took me a while to come up with an idea for my story, by which time, the competition to become my "Why Series" illustrator had finished. He had not been the winner.

I finally found the inspiration for my story about hands and I began writing a poem for children about a fantasy world called "The Land of the Hand". Once I had completed the first few verses I took them to him to read. He seemed thrilled at the prospect of illustrating the poem and I left him to work on his side of the project.

Several weeks later, having not heard from him, I went to his college to find out how he was getting on with the illustrations. There I found that he had given up his college course and that no one knew where he had gone. His tutors told me of personal problems that he was wrestling with but that his leaving had been a complete shock to them.

My poem had lost its illustrator and so it was decided that a class of students at the college should illustrate "The Land of the Hand" as part of their course work. I finished writing the story and they set to work.

Though that group of students produced some beautiful work for me, there was nothing that compared with the pictures that I know would have come from the intended illustrator.

"The Land of the Hand" was put onto a shelf to collect dust.

Since that time, I have used the story in many of the schools that I visit each year. Children seem to love the story and I am constantly asked when or if it will be published.

See what you think - this is "The Land Of The Hand" ...

The Land of the Hand

There’s a far off land
The land of the hand,
Where bodies and heads
And arms and legs
Have ceased to be,
Quite naturally,
In this far off land,
The land of the hand.

In the land of the hand,
You understand,
Socks and shoes
Have all been banned.
The people there are well equipped
To walk around on finger tips.
For socks and shoes there’s no demand
In the far off land,
The land of the hand.

In the land of the hand
The hands are wise 
And they watch and learn
Through searching eyes. 
Each has a mouth, a nose and ears. 
Each hand can talk and smell and hear.
And everything they do is planned
In this far off land,
The land of the hand.

In the land of the hand
You’ll see such things
There are flying hands
With giant wings,
And hands that swim,
And hands that crawl,
Then, hidden in amongst them all
Are those who simply sit or stand
In the far off land,
The land of the hand.

In the land of the hand
Is a mountain high,
And if you’re ever passing by
Your eyes will be drawn to its very peak, 
Where rocks and clouds play hide and seek,
And there you will see
A palace grand,
Where lives the King
Of the land of the hand.

The King of the land
Wears a jewelled crown,
And he sits on his throne
In a velvet gown.
Each of his fingers
Is ringed with gold,
And he spends his days,
Or so I’m told,
Teaching the children to understand
The ways of the land,  
The land of the hand.

In the land of the hand
There are plants, you know,
Where lollipops
And ice creams grow.
And the early morning dew is made
From tiny drops of lemonade.
There are giant chocolate trees that stand
In the fields of the land,
The land of the hand.

In the land of the hand
For a thousand years
There’s never been
The need for tears,
For every single hand is blessed
With endless days of happiness.
It seems quite hard to understand
Why we all can’t live
In the land of the hand.

But the land of the hand
Is just a dream,
Where no one’s ever really been.
Yet, if you snuggle down at night
And close your eyelids really tight
And think of that King
In his palace, grand,
Perhaps you’ll find
The land of the hand.

And if you do,
Make no mistake,
You’ll only stay
Until you wake.
But all of the wondrous sights you see
Will seem as real as reality.
Into just one night
A lifetime’s crammed
When you visit the land,
The land of the hand.
© Eric Pullin 2012.
(Please do not use without the poet's permission.)

I would love to turn this story into a picture book. I believe that an illustrator can find a wealth of interesting images within these words.

So here's the challenge -

If you can draw and would like to have a go at illustrating my story I'd love to hear from you. If you would like to take any of the verses of "The Land of the Hand" and come up with your illustration for that verse, I would love to see it. There are no guarantees attached. but there is an opportunity.

If you are 8 years old or 80 years old it doesn't matter. Maybe it would be good to have this story illustrated by a very young artist - maybe a professional illustrator could turn these words into a beautiful picture book. I have no set idea as to what I am looking for. Style, size, medium, - it's up to you. Take my breath away again with something special.

You can contact me at

I hope you'll have a go - I'm waiting for your pictures.