Saboteur Awards

I had the best Sunday EVER!

To start, I have to go back a week to the Sunday before. etch theatre approached me to write one of their Daily Plays. The concept was SIX writers, SIX days, SIX plays. Each writer is given a day, a paper, and twelve hours to write a play inspired by an article in the paper. I got Sunday and the Daily Mail.


It was the morning after Eurovision so I started a bit late, and also bought a massive pack of loo roll to hide the paper! Flicking through was a chore in itself, but then I found this gem:

The Dalai Lama has announced that he wants to return as a ‘mischievous blonde woman’, as his official reincarnation looms (he is 80 in July).

Mail on Sunday, pg. 31

And that sparked my play INCARNATE. Six hours later, I sent the script to actor Meghan Treadway and director Bella Loudon. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it down from Oxford to see the rehearsals on Monday, but on Sunday I was lucky enough to catch the dress rehearsal. I was incredibly nervous – this is only my second play, and the first I’ve seen performed – but within a couple of lines I relaxed. Bella and Meghan had done an incredible job. I actually really, really enjoyed it and it’s given me a lot of confidence in my playwriting. Here are a couple of pictures from the dress:


Then Tom and I had to dash off to the Saboteur Awards. As I’ve been incredibly lax in my blogging, you won’t know that the magazine run by my poetry publisher, Lighthouse, was shortlisted for Best Literary Magazine, OE was shortlisted for Best One-Off Event, and The Charnel House and Furies were shortlisted for Best Anthology. The event itself was held at Vout-O-Reenees, an amazing basement bar that did a mean Old Fashioned.

It was lovely to meet up with friends, and also put actual faces to Facebook friends and twitter handles. And even more wonderously, Lighthouse won its category, OE came first runner-up to the phenomenal 52 Project, Furies was runner-up in best anthology and The Charnel House WON!


I am beyond proud to have been involved in all these events/publications, and especially proud of Tom de Freston, who is the most innovative person I know, as well as talented and so supportive of art in all its forms. If you haven’t read the (award-winning!) The Charnel House, click here.

The rest of Sunday was spent trying to steal Tom’s champagne, and drinking celebratory martinis with my parents. I’ve come down with a stinking cold (my body shuts down if I have too much fun), but it was utterly worth it. Full list of winners here:

Sabotage Reviews (which runs the Saboteur Awards and was founded by the glorious Claire) is a web-based platform that seeks to give innovative/unusual poetry/ poetry formats, short stories and novellas etc a space to shine. Basically everything that doesn’t ‘fit’ in mainstream media criticism. It’s one of the most exciting places on the internet and I fully recommend it.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

I just loved that game. I’m still not sure where she is, but I’m here! And I have a lot of catching up to do.

The main reason for the hiatus is five letters long and sounds like my soul dying. Yep, e-d-i-t-s.

I have done two big reworks of THE CARTOGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER since my last post in December – one ironing out plot kinks and pacing, and another making a last minute, massive stylistic change that I will tell you all about when it’s been signed off by my American editor at Knopf. It was a stressful few months, but I really think I’ve ended up with a story that’s tighter, more engaging and just plain better. Line edits up next!

It’s so odd looking at past drafts. The main thing that has improved is the consistency of voice. Before it was a mash up of mannered/poetic/twee/contemporary, and showed clearly I was a first-time novelist learning on the job. I am so grateful that various people saw enough in these drafts to work with me, rather than leaving me to it! Now, edging towards TCD’s final incarnation, I can finally stand back and see it as a story that will exist in book-form, not just a manuscript stitched together by hopes and dreams and bad syntax.

So, apart from editing, what have I been up to?

Poetry things have been going excellently. So far this year, poems have appeared in Room, Shearsman, The Irish Literary Review, Oxford Review and the anthology Raving Beauties (Bloodaxe Books). A couple of those were ‘bucket list’ publications, so it’s great to tick them off. Best of all is to have the affirmation that my new work is…working.

The new work is all poetry in Eurydice’s voice. I mentioned Œ a while back – the retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice in collaboration with the musician Max Barton and artist Tom de Freston. In January, we put on a work-in-progress performance alongside an exhibition, at 47/49 Tanner Street (now Ugly Duck). I found it strangely emotional, inhabiting Eurydice’s skin and story. We got a lovely review in Trebuchet, and here is a trailer of the evening, filmed by Mark Jones:

Πat 47/49 Tanner Street from Unmarked Films on Vimeo.

It’s been incredible working with Max and Tom so far, and we are in the middle of deciding our next steps. Ugly Duck are helping us to find a location suitable for a longer run, so stay tuned!

The three of us are also at the start of a new project in collaboration with a lecturer at Birmingham University and the Other Place at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, I can’t reveal too much about it at this stage, but suffice to say my poetry hat has not been neglected during my editing frenzy. I’m love writing across genres – it keeps me balanced and I’m definitely never bored.

Finally, I turned 25 three days ago. And my cake was epic:


Who’d’ve thought THE CARTOGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER merchandising could be so delicious?

Time to be an adult I suppose. Must floss teeth, recycle, and update blog more regularly.


Aisha Farr on œ


Millwood Hargrave’s poetry was a real strength of the performance, the writing containing an awareness of its literary context, acknowledging and playing on this deftly, never labouring the point. The voice of the poems (mostly Eurydice, with some choral poems) had a directness that at points was striking and beautiful. She shortened the protagonists’ names to ‘o’ and ‘e’, turning Orpheus and Eurydice into modern shorthand, ciphers for sound even, as highlighted vowels that resounded through the poems.

The most memorable poem was ‘Host’, in which swans nest beneath Eurydice’s scalp, leaving her ‘brain full of eggs’. The images stuck afterwards, and the vividness of natural imagery brought back Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to the point where I confused one with the other until I looked them up.

In Book XI, Ovid similarly describes nature’s relationship with the mythical characters, here in grief:

“The trees that often gathered to your song, shedding their leaves, mourned you with bared crowns” (A. S. Kline’s translation)

‘Like light,/it is only at a distance/this place holds any shape’

from the poem Sapling seems to shine with the ‘light’ motifs in the paintings, positing the idea of the particular clarity the myth takes on from the viewpoint of today, so distant from its origin.


Full review here:

Writer, Writing

Forgive me blog, for I have sinned. It has been forty-four days since my last confession blog post.

And a lot of things have happened, as things tend to do.

Firstly, I had my first editorial meeting for The Cartographer’s Daughter at Chicken House. My editors are Rachel Leyshon and Barry Cunningham. I’m head-over-heels. I already feel that mix of trust, respect, abject terror and awe that is essential in the writer-editor relationship.


It was lovely to visit them in Somerset. The company is based in a beautiful old Georgian-style (or maybe even Georgian full stop?) house, all books and high ceilings. They made me flapjacks and I made nervous small talk, but it soon became clear that this is going to be a fun, challenging and exciting experience. We have a more in-depth, all day session coming up in November, once their other projects have come to an end and I have finished my WiP (so very nearly there!) I should be working with my US-based editor at Knopf-Random House by then, too. Hero-agent Hellie is checking in regularly to make sure I’ve not lost it, and I’m so grateful to have her on my side.

I’m slightly less there with BOAT – my erstwhile debut play. The brilliant director/dramaturg Max Barton, whose work I have followed from Cambridge’s ADC to the West End, is guiding/cutting/keeping my feet on the ground. We hope to take it to Edinburgh next year, so I suppose I’d better get on with it! He has asked me to collaborate on a stage adaptation of a film – in fact, one of my favourites – too, but I can’t say which just yet.

Max must be on a mission to infiltrate my writing life, because I am also working on another project with him in his capacity as a musician, and the artist Tom de Freston. I can’t reveal too much right now, but we are converting an ancient myth into a poetry/music/live art performance for 47/49 Tanner Street, and I’ve got a very, very good feeling about it. Hopefully the performance will act as a launch pad for bigger things, and we have an amazing producer on board to help us with promotion and funding. Here is a little taste of one of my Chorus poems for the project:


Which leads nicely onto one of the most exciting anthologies I have ever contributed to. Published by For Book’s Sake – a premier e-zine of writing ‘for and by independent women’ – Furies consists eighty-one pages of startling, angry, beautiful poetry. Silenced or misunderstood women from history and myth rise from the pages in a cacophony, accompanied by striking line drawings. Other poets include Helen Mort, Rebecca Goss, Malika Booker and Patience Agbabi. It’s a lovely object, but the contents cut like a razor on the tongue. I’m reading at the launch on the 1st October, more details here.


And lastly, I handed in my MA thesis. I also declined my PhD offer. As well as bringing my twenty years in education to a close, this means that I am now a full-time writer.


Did you get that? A Full-Time Writer.

Six months ago, that sentence would have evoked a wistful sigh – ‘maybe after the PhD’. A year ago, I was trying to finish my first book. Two years ago, I was wedded to poetry and therefore had no illusions that such a thing may be possible. Three years ago, it was hit-and-miss whether I would feel up to getting out of bed that day. Four years ago, I would have swatted you aside with disdain – because four years ago, I wanted to be a lawyer, and was working (very briefly) for an asset management firm in London.

But now, I’m a writer. I’m paying taxes, filling out scary forms, signing contracts, actually saying what I do for a living to people without hiding behind student status or qualifying it with a self-deprecating quip.

My point is, things happen. My point is, for the first time in my life, I know where I want to be in a year, two years, four years’ time – writing, in whatever genre will have me.

And hopefully, remembering to update my blog more often.


Poetry Corner

If you are here for news of the prose ilk, I apologise – today’s post is a deviation into my other life as a poet. There are lots of photos to keep your attention!

Two days ago, I got back from Tuscany. Tom’s parents have just bought a house in Orciatico – it’s beautiful and amazingly located, forty minutes from Pisa and an hour and a half from Siena. I completely fell in love with the latter, and have an idea for a new story set there…it’s an excuse to go back more than anything! Just look at this library, in the cathedral:

IMG_4732I want one!

The view from the house looks like this:


And only this afternoon I was walking the Long Mynd, Shropshire, which looks like this:

IMG_4963Spot the difference.

 The similarities are striking. I love that lush green, especially when it’s mixed with heathery shadows. I’m here in Shropshire for the Much Wenlock Poetry Festival, and thought this was as good a time as any to talk about ‘the other woman’ in my life, which was the only woman until The Cartographer’s Daughter came along. In fact, to use my friend Sarvat’s analogy, I suppose poetry is my ‘wife’ discipline, and prose my ‘mistress’. I’ve been writing poetry for about four years now, and you can find out all about my publication etc in the relevant section on my website.

Recently, there have been a few exciting developments and occurrences that I wanted to share. First off, over the past two days I’ve read at two brilliant festivals. My poor brother John is my chauffeur for the weekend, as I cleverly made his birthday present a trip away with me. He got me back slightly by dragging me up a rather large hill in rain:

IMG_4952Not my hat. Not happy.

But I intend to make up for the summiting with a very large meal this evening:
IMG_4971Thinking of all the food I will eat.

Last night, I read at ChipLitFest, Chipping Norton’s celebration of all things word-y. I was invited by Dan Holloway, author, poet and someone who has been instrumental in in my own development as a poet, and performed alongside Vanessa Kisuule. She is quite simply a revelation. I’m going to ask her for permission to reproduce a poem on this blog, because her work really is something else. The lovely Helen of the T’ai Chi Room sponsored the event, and the audience were great:

IMG_4937(l-r): Dan, me, Vanessa, Helen

I managed an hour of after party with Dan, Vanessa, and Rohan Quine, before John and I got incredibly lost driving to our hotel for the evening, the lobby of which looked like this:

 IMG_4934Thanks Mum!

Then we were up bright and early to get to Much Wenlock. The reading came courtesy of Andrea Porter, fellow Gatehouse Press poet and all-round superwoman. She won the Much Wenlock Poetry Prize last year, and kindly decided to share her reading with Sarah Law, Andrea Holland and me. It was a real pleasure to hear them all, and I’d really recommend checking out their work. The Pottery was a very atmospheric venue, and what’s more I spotted Daljit Nagra in the audience:

IMG_4942(l-r): Andrea P, Sarah, me and Andrea H

Also, I found out I have poetry accepted to Cake Magazine, and Lighthouse, but most excitingly of all, my retelling of the Eurydice myth, Splitting the Seed, has been shortlisted for the Café Writers and Ink, Sweat & Tears Commission! It’s an ekphrastic collaboration with Tom, and has become a bit of an obsession. We’re up against stiff competition, including Canal Laureate Jo Bell, but I’m keeping everything crossed.

1881048uObligatory crossed-eyed Spangles image

I hope you haven’t minded the poetry trespassing. I may make poetry corner a monthly occurrence – let me know what you think!