Team Charlotte?

Carys Davies poses an interesting theory. You’re either Charlotte or Emily. Brontes, that is. Do you side with the aching plain Jane, or crave the tortured passion of Cathy and Heathcliffe? Maybe Red Room (ed by AJ Ashworth who made it all happen) will change your mind!

Throwing new light on the fictions that introduced many of us to reading and words we needed to look up, Red Room humour, pathos and contemporary reflections on the sisters’ work.

(That’s the only bit of me in my story, Behind all the Closed Doors, by the way, where the young boy is checking words in a dictionary – there’s always something, right?)

Carys’ story Bonnet gets me every time I read or hear it and in this Lancashire Launch of Red Room I also got to hear Elizabeth Baines reading her whole piece, That Turbulent Stillness – and the ending fishtails nicely.

We had a lovely welcome from Blackburn library and it was great to see a new generation of Bronte Lover in her Wuthering Heights t-shirt (the wearer is not Team Emily I don’t think, having heard her talk about it afterwards). Lots of books were bought which happily helps the Bronte Trust.

You can get Red Room here. Published by Unthank Books.

Now, lots of lovely photos below, courtesy of Darren Lee Poole.














Guardian masterclass, Manchester

Just a little plug – I’ll be teaching on this course in Manchester on November 30th. Details and other tutors are below – there are a few places left. It’s a day event and my section focuses on structuring narrative and the editing process.


See link below for details:

Course content

The masterclass will cover:
• The book marketplace
• The economics of self-publishing
• The publishing process
• Selling your book


Dr Alison Baverstock

Edward Peppitt

JD Smith

Sarah Dobbs

Nick Sidwell

Project U 2 (not the band)

So Unthology 4 and Red Room were launched on 7 November. I had a ‘nice’ drive down to Norwich to celebrate and do a little reading alongside some of the other wonderful writers in the collections.



It was brilliant to finally meet some writers whose work I already knew – Sarah Bower who is jetting off somewhere special to complete her third novel and Rowena Macdonald whose collection Smoked Meat was short listed for the Edge Hill prize. Both great stories too in Unthology 4 and Red Room respectively. Sarah’s spanning a whole lifetime of a marriage and Rowena’s updating the friendship between Ginevre Fanshawe and her tutor. Hilariously delivered. I also really enjoyed Ruby Cowling’s story with its lovely ending – I won’t spoil it. Turns out Ruby used to be my manager at AQA and has a file on me. (Not really) Yet evidence of small world syndrome.

Then there were writers who were celebrating first time publication. One of my favourites was Marc Jones’ story Murder of Crows. Compelling and quietly written – I need to finish.

Red Room and Unthology 4 are out now. Submissions are being accepted for Unthology 6. See





Hope Fades for the Hostages – 3am Reading at The Bluecoat

This was a lovely night of readings from Ailsa Cox with her story that was commissioned for the anthology, Hope Fades for the Hostages. Told in three distinctive voices (student readers were brought in to give this sense on the night) it considers the moment of 3am for people in other places. I found that really intriguing. 3am here, that old and lonely none-time when you somehow feel the world is quiet, and yet are somehow more aware of the rest of the world.

Alongside a beautiful stage which my photographs don’t do justice (a hung crescent moon and stars) students read poetry and fiction, written themselves or by old favourites. I read a tiny extract from Behind all the Closed Doors (Red Room) which I hoped was fitting, as it’s about the moment a young boy’s mother dies in the night.

The wind raged outside, perfectly (I thought) and we ended on a suitably biblical note. All in all, really good.

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Here’s a great review of Ailsa’s collection The Real Louise

Plus a link to one of Ailsa’s stories  –  No Problemo