Welcome to the secret page of this blog, hidden in plain sight.
I think the time has come to put this blog onto pause.
See you in a bit.
I am delighted that a song that’s on one of my top five albums of all time has had such a brilliantly inventive new lease of life on the tv show, Stranger Things.
Haven’t got a clue what I’m on about? This is the clip but it’s not for children.
My vinyl copy of Hounds of Love from 1985.
Are you only a writer if you actually finish and publish something? What about all of those wips in the bottom desk drawer, ideas on your phone, post-it notes ideas and half-filled exercise books with random story plots?
I sent a few of my zines to Leicester Zine Library, who then wrote a lovely Instagram post about them. My writing is cheeky and fun, apparently!
Covid 19 halted or slowed down life as we knew it. Two years after receiving the go-ahead for publication of one of my short stories, I yesterday signed the contract for an anthology, due out in November 2022.
My poem, ‘Tales from The Cashmere Hotel is included in this anthology of an AWARD WINNING eco project. Buy it here.
I occasionally write reviews or comment on items online. I’ve never been a Guardian Pick before! I do love cashmere though! (Second-hand cashmere is softer than new.)
My eco poem ‘How We Used To Live’ was published by Pens of the Earth (Portsmouth UK). You can read it here.
I’m currently working with an editor on another eco-poem for publication. There appears to be a theme emerging in my poetry…
THINGS I DID IN LOCKDOWN (AN OCCASIONAL SERIES)
I spent a good few hours watching youtube videos of people walking around London. it’s a great way to get your bearings, you get to see hidden parts and best of all, it’s all from the comfort of your own home!
A found poem based on ‘From Compass’ by Mathias Enard.
By Nicola Humphreys
I sometimes had trouble understanding this,
a forgotten place, overlooked.
They must have played on this patio,
punctuated, a long time ago.
There was graffiti
and that now ending their days,
he managed apparent emotion.
He replied, “No, love,” or something along those lines,
that they had argued, “She had nothing to do with all this”.
A few went to greet them, and I realized
that no doubt soon
their lives had loved here.
I didn’t even take any trifles gently.
A revised/edited version of my poem, ‘One Day I’ll Hold Your Hand in Mine’ is now available in a chapbook, published by Liquid Amber Press.
I’m so pleased to hear a snippet of my poem, ‘Tales From The Cashmere Hotel’ as members of the Art and Energy Collective walked around the Kibble Palace at Glasgow Botanic Gardens. They’re doing a daily live update on their Facebook page every lunchtime.
This is the link. It’s at around 14 minutes in, where you can hear me say, “I rarely thought about moths before”.
I contributed towards a community poem for #librariesweek and #nationalpoetryday with the poet, Emma Purshouse and some new friends, in conjunction with Wolverhampton Libraries in a lovely zoom session.
This is what we came up with.
Here’s a peek at my first efforts at a merch stand. A shoebox and two pretty boxes that we so pretty (they originally contained socks), form the basis of the display.
Some good news – I have been asked to read out a story at a library event next month AND there is a fee. Now, all I have to do is figure out which story or stories to read, edit them and practice reading them out 100 times…
Story prompts come from everywhere…
Reader, I wrote that story. Not only that, but you can read it too, for it will be published in the forthcoming anthology, ‘Small Good Things’ later on in the month. Click here to purchase it.
You can catch me and the other ‘A Brief Pause 2021’ cohort at the online #SHORTSTORYSEPT festival on Satuday 25th September 2021. Click here for more details and tickets.
What would you give up for a bowl of salad?
I ventured further than the end of the street. My second excursion in 17 months! (The first was a couple of hours out of the house to go and film my bit of the community poem). Ah, Wales. I’ve missed you. There were motorways, mountains, and greenery. The sea and people. Lots of people. I’ve not missed people.
The admin of writing sometimes takes as long as the actual writing. The reading, writing, editing and submitting.
In the first half of the month I have edited two poems and sent them off. Proofread one story. One poem is marinating in my brain.
The second half of the month was taken up reading the proof of an anthology that I have a story in. More details coming in September.
I ventured for a rare trip out to see a screening of ‘The People’s Poem’ and other community video projects at Curve Theatre. Why have I blanked out the words to my poem that is on display in the mezzanine of Curve Theatre, Leicester? Well, a revised version of it will be published in an anthology of lockdown poetry in November 2021 by Liquid Amber Press.
My sci-fi flash fiction, ‘The Aspiration Project on Colony IV’ can be read in Issue 4 of Ab Terra’s online magazine. Click here to read it.
I attended some online workshops for people living in ‘Britain’s Most Locked-Down City’, where we each wrote a poem about ‘My Leicester’.
This is my Leicester.
One Hour, Six Minutes
Hidden in plain sight, in middle of the country, is a diverse yet green city. Where else would welcome you as you leave?
Bigger than its more famous neighbours, and older than spoken English, this unpronounceable place calls home to seventy languages. Hanging in the air are echoes from brave orators who dared to change the world. Gandhi, Mandela and Hawkins to name but a few.
Forty years after the first crackling local radio broadcast, the airwaves would be beaming messages to the far reaches of the galaxy.
At the Towns End you’ll find the road to London, but this city actually has a real street paved with gold, where visitors come from far and wide.
You might follow the footsteps of the very first holidaymakers and venture to Loogerbaruger. (aka Loughborough, but it’s a hard place to pronounce)
Close to where the King lays resting without his socks on, there’s a river that once ran pink. The Jester juggles balls for trophies now, but if it’s laughs you want, then the Comedy Festival is sure to please.
Be amazed, not afraid of a glacial polar bear, a risen phoenix and a blue boar. There’s a menagerie of fantastic creatures that lay claim to these streets – racing horses, quick foxes, strong tigers and a hungry dinosaur and don’t forget to look up for a fat turkey.
Picnic in the parks on pakoras, pork pie and packets of pickled onion crisps or save yourself for a curry.
So, please join me for the first time in raising the silver cup, and sit back to enjoy the fireworks.
But wait on a second! That wasn’t the only poetry video I was in this month.
I’m so proud of this community colab. You can hear me reading out the beginning of my lockdown poem, which is called ‘One Day I’ll Hold Your Hand in Mine’.
Yet, there’s still more! I also read out the full poem of ‘One Day I’ll Hold Your Hand in Mine’ for an Australian event, organised by Liquid Amber Press.
I’m still not done with poetry! I also wrote a poem (and recorded myself reciting it) about moths and energy for The Art and Energy Collective. It can be read and heard in November 2021 at Glasgow Botannical Gardens, Scotland. Hopefully, some delegates from COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference) will interact with the installation.
“Tales from the Cashmere Hotel’ will also be included in an anthology called ‘Moths to a Flame’, compiled by Matt Harvey and published in October 2021, ahead of COP26.
JUNE 2021 ROUND-UP
I’ve had quite a busy month. Lots of Zoom creative writing classes to help me hone my craft, as they say.
Poetry featured heavily – I actually left the house to be filmed reading my bit of a community poem, and also read out online. (tip – never watch yourself on screen!)
The University of East Anglia (Their Masters course is nirvana for writers) ran a fun workshop called ‘Where Do Stories Come From?’ with an experimental interactive, flash prompt format. This is my 10 minute story.
If you want to have a go yourself, then click here for the link.
Adds to Christmas list.
Almost everything I’ve written or had published since March 2020 has been apocalyptic, dystopian or covid related. I’m currently working in a couple of Arts groups to write and record community poems on the themes of ‘My Leicester’ and resilience/recovery after covid.
Watch this space for my 2020 Vision.
Listen to me here
Yeah, I guess my perception of the world isn’t the world. There’s a whole world out there I know nothing about.Kevin Shields, New York Times
Someone once told me that I use too many tea towels. I am no longer friends with them. Are the two things related? I don’t know. One of my favourite tea towels makes an appearance here https://myteatowels.wordpress.com/2021/03/16/tea-towels-and-lockdown-39/
Hey! I made the Apple moments/trend thingy and Instagram!
NEW YEAR’S DAY 2021
I’m taking a break from short-story blogging to concentrate on finishing a longer story, which I hope will eventually be published as a novel. It was originally called ‘Polytechnic’, but as it evolved, it became clear that it needed a different working title. ‘No 3 Angel Yard’ is a more fitting name for this story.
You may have noticed that there are some gaps in the numbering of the short stories on this blog. For various reasons, I remove one or two from time to time. I feel that some of the earlier stories were more ‘essays’ and are no longer relevant. Some were published elsewhere and I have reworked some into other stories.
I don’t know when I’ll be back (possibly in January when I have another short story published in an anthology) but please stay subscribed. You never know, I may have some good news very soon.
Here’s a picture of my desk at home
Ever wondered what lockdown would be like living with a sociopath? What happens to ordinary people when law and order no longer exists? Just how long would you follow the Government’s instructions? My story, ‘Hide and Seek’ is included in the apocalyptic anthology, Annihilation Radiation, published today by Storgy.
Buy it here.
Life has been a lot slower this year and many things have paused, but the pace of change has also happened at breakneck speed. Nothing will ever be the same again. There will be no ‘back to normal’. This is it. This is how we live now. Physically socially distant from each other, yet feeling connections to people online who we will never meet.
I had good news this week from my publisher. A short story I wrote almost a year ago may be in print in as little as a fortnight. Appropriately enough, it’s a grim tale of life during the apocalypse. Watch this space…
Some of you have asked where I got my header photograph from. I found an amazing artist called Alla Mingalёva on instagram. You can read more about her brilliantly funny work here
I’ve also seen these works attributed to Alexey Kondakov on Twitter.
First draft of my novel. There’s a long way to go yet before it sees the light of day.
This is a rejected submission for a 100-word story on the theme of ‘mango’. There is actually an Australian condition with this very name for when someone behaves irrationally due to excessive heat. Anything above 27 degrees and I want to be left well alone.
“ I can’t bear it in here. It’s oppressive,” he said.
“It’s easier for you. You get 10 hours of respite every day,” I said.
“You don’t know what you’re on about,” he said.
“I’m shattered all the time but I can’t sleep,” I said.
“I don’t want to be here anymore either,” I thought.
“You know when you get off the plane and the heat hits you and you can’t breathe? That’s what it’s like when I get home. Instant headache. Makes me feel sick,” he said.
“I wish I didn’t feel sick. I wish I would bleed,” I thought.
A peek at my Submittable submissions shows over 90 rejections so far to a handful of acceptances. I do not wish to dwell on the fails, as they will always be part of the process. Of those, I have felt the sting of disappointment only a couple of times. I’ve had ten times more praise for my work on this blog so the validation is a cushion. I want to celebrate the wins. Fail better, as they say. I can’t be a good fit for everyone. Just this week, I had some lovely, unexpected ego-boosting feedback from someone much bigger in the industry, saying my stories were witty, quirky and engaging. So, I’m going to keep doing what I keep doing.
My short stories of which I am most proud are those that took weeks, if not months to research, write and hone. I prefer writing to a specific brief as I have parameters to work within. However, my goals have shifted somewhat recently. I still have the ambition of my own novel (with a brilliant cover including incredible font) on the shelf, plus a separate collection of short stories, but I would love to hear one of my stories read out by a professional voice-over artist or actor. I think a couple of my stories would make great screenplays. There isn’t enough time to do everything I want, so I’m taking a break from social media to concentrate on reading and writing.
Click here for my Amazon Author page
I am delighted that my story, ‘Hide and Seek’ was shortlisted for the anthology ‘Annihilation Radiation’ soon to be published by Storgy.
Anyone who knows me knows I am OBSESSED with all things apocalyptic. Prepping, nuclear war, the end of the world etc. ‘Hide and Seek’ was written in November 2019 yet seems weirdly appropriate for the time we are living in now. Inclusion in this anthology is an absolute honour. It’s massive. But beware! It’s 6,500 words of brutality. Not for the squeamish.
My short-story, ‘Last Exit’ is released on 2nd June 2020 in the anthology entitled ‘Blood, Sweat and Fists. Stories From The Pits’. Published by Weasel Press
This is a sneak preview of the cover
Click here to buy
How exciting to be part of this nomination! You can vote here!
WE DIDN’T WIN, UNFORTUNATELY, BUT HOW COOL WAS IT TO BE EVEN NOMINATED?!
A viral post! Those friendly people over at The Museum of Ordinary People asked me if they could use my post (about keeping a journal for the #TheseTimes project) on their own blog.
November/December was spent writing and editing my longest short-story to date. Almost 6,500 words to a very specific brief, the topic of which has subsequently become more prominent in the world. Fingers crossed it makes it into the anthology. If not, then I will expand it into a novella. UPDATE – it did make it into the book. ‘Annihilation Radiation’ will be published by Storgy later in 2020.
I had a small operation, then recovered over Christmas and New Year. It’s true that time spent getting better from illness takes longer as you get older. I’m so grateful to have the NHS and people around me who care.
My Editor (how I love saying that phrase) has been in touch with a few grammatical amendments to a story to be published later in the year, and I’m working on a couple more subs. I’ve started to keep a book of thanks, so when I come to write my own acknowledgement page in my own novel, I won’t forget to thank anyone who helped me.
The novel-in-progress is ticking along nicely. 35,000 words so far. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t need to edit it as I go along. I just need to write it first.
I AM A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!
Three of my original short stories were included in three anthologies in 2019. Read about the book launches here.
My First Interview
I had read other women’s stories of their menopause symptoms, and as mine were mostly emotional, I jumped at the chance to share my own experiences with Laura at Marvellous Midlife
I strongly believe that perimenopause was the springboard that kickstarted this entire blog….
Attack of the giant business cards…
My story, ‘Minted’ has been selected for publication on the Dime Show Review website and possibly for print publication too.
‘Stand Down Soldier’ has been chosen for inclusion in the ‘Indivisible’ anthology, to be published by Commonword. The latest update is that it is due for publication in September 2020.
Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!
Ever wondered how or where writers get their inspiration?
My mum has told me many spooky stories of her childhood. I remembered a version of one of them and entered it into a twitter competition. I won! I later developed the anecdote into the ghost story ‘My Little Poppet’.
In a druggy, post-operative haze, I wrote a fairytale called ‘IV’
Thank you to The Drabble for reblogging it.
The original can be read here 85. IV
Once a goth…
A non-fiction account of my life as the girlfriend of someone who loved the mosh pit will shortly be published by Weasel Press
‘Last Exit’ tells the tale of one summer in the late-80s of my experience watching ‘Fields of The Nephilim’ at various venues around England.
The anthology, ‘Blood, Sweat and Fists’ is out in June 2020. Click here to buy.
One of my darker, more intense stories called Say When, was accepted by a literary magazine in the USA, for publication on New Year’s Eve 2019. Then I had to withdraw it…
The publication is early November, and the book launch will be at Nomad Books in London, which is very exciting!
Buy it here
Amanda Saint – Publisher at Retreat West Books said of ‘Say When’
“Very clever twist we didn’t see coming and great distortion of time.”
9th August 2019
It arrived! My story, ‘May Settle In Transit’ is on pages 62-9.
(‘An Attempt At Exhausting A Place In Leicester’ is available on Amazon and from the Tourist Information Centre, Leicester, UK)
There’s plenty of Yorkshire dialect in my story in the anthology, so here’s a crash course, in case you’re not familiar with the lingo. Leicester is a bit further south than Yorkshire, so the accent is quite different. My story is about feeling out of place…
21st June 2019
I get a mention in this new book! Creatures Give Advice Again
(I’m on page 50)
First peek at the anthology…
Proof stage so I won’t get a look for a couple of months yet.
6th June 2019
My post ‘I ♥️ My Dad’ gets a little mention on twitter and on this blog. lifewithcharli
I’m keeping busy, entering competitions to win fabulous cash prizes or inclusion in anthologies. Some of my posts have found a second life on the following websites – WhoSaidSheSaid and Writers and Artists
so please head over there and give them the thumbs up!
One of my three pieces reblogged over on ‘WhoSaidSheSaid”, entitled “Invisibility Cloak” was declined by another publisher, but their lovely feedback included the incredible praise that the piece was “a blistering response to being ignored.”
24th March 2019
I was quite emotional at this awesome picture, drawn just for little ‘ol me over on Roppotcha
21st March 2019
The anthology is on hold…
1st March 2019
One of my short stories called “May Settle in Transit” has been chosen for inclusion in the upcoming anthology, “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Leicester”. Out October 2019.
These things I cannot remember.
19th October 2018
I write, therefore I am, a writer.
The next step of my journey is towards a real, physical novel on our shared shelf.
My first paid experiences of ‘publication’ were in the early 80s, as a pre-teen. I discovered that comics such as ‘Bunty’ would send me a £2 postal order for every one of my letters that they printed.
I had a joke printed in ‘The Aero Book of Jokes’ in the mid-80s, but later realised that quite possibly everyone who sent in a joke, ended up in print. By rights, when I am published in a book, I can claim that “it is my second book!”
The late 80s and early 90s saw me writing terrible poetry and lyrics and performing them on stage to paying audiences. (See my All About Me page for a photo)
It never occurred to me that so many people would read my letter in ‘Empire’ magazine about the film ‘Trainspotting’, in the mid-90s, and I’d temporarily acquire a new nickname because of it. The only reason I even knew the letter had been published was when a colleague read the magazine aloud at the bedside of her comatose daughter, and came across my name.
The first website that I built was so well-received that it was proudly referenced on a well-known career networking site, under a colleague’s name as their sole work! Sigh. Note to self. Hindsight is a wonderful teacher.
5B46 on BBC 6 Music
A “5b46” dj slot for the Chris Hawkins show on BBC6 Music brought some of my writing (on the theme of female desire, with accompanying indie tracks) to an audience of tens of thousands, every morning, for a week last summer. It was for the #hearher project, so every track was by a female artist, or female-fronted band.
The tracks I picked were:
‘Hollaback Girl’ by Gwen Stefani
‘Stutter’ by Elastica
‘This is Love’ by PJ Harvey
‘You Know I’m No Good’ by Amy Winehouse
‘The Sensual World’ by Kate Bush
Somewhere in an attic of a house I used to live in, languishes my box of teenage diaries, letters, gig tickets, set lists, newspaper cuttings, home-made fanzines and old music magazines. I like to believe that they got lost in transit along the way, rather than thinking that someone burnt them or they got dumped into landfill. Very little, if any, of my writing has survived. Again, that is entirely my own fault, as it will be (I kept meaning to back up my work onto a memory stick) when there is a firestorm and the clouds are emptied.
Do books die? I don’t even have copies of the demo tapes of me singing in any of my teenage bands, ‘The Valentines’ or ‘Cherubim.’ Where they went to, I can guess, but I don’t want it to be true. That voice has long gone.
Me at the Reading Festival UK, probably around 1988. (Reading Rock in Reading, Berkshire UK not a reading books festival!)
This is me at a book festival, ahem… 30, yes, 30 years later. At Cheltenham Literature festival in Gloucestershire UK 2018. I’m standing next to the fabulous VW camper van that’s promoting Scarlett Curtis’ book, ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies’.
Somewhere in the mid-90s came along the Internet and I began writing online every day.
My hundreds and thousands of words, and more hours than I care to remember of my free daily content on forums, (remember Hole.com?) review sites, message boards, online newspapers and magazines comments sections, then later on, social media sites.
Online words just don’t seem to have the same longevity or validation as a book in a shop or library. Ironically, there are more than enough of my words online to fill several books. The intent was there, but the format was wrong.
So, this section of my blog is to highlight any of my writing that is chosen to be published by another company, either online or on paper. Hopefully, one day, there will be an actual physical book, that I did not have to pay to be printed, in my sweaty, chubby mitts, with an awesome cover and a marketing budget. Until then, I will continue plodding away, building a ‘brand’ (not out of vanity but because that’s what those in the business say I should do) and slowly improving. I have a long way to go and I am grateful for the feedback I have received from readers so far.
My characters keep me awake, they make me cry, I don’t want to leave them, yet they’re flawed and I wouldn’t want to meet some of them in real life. If they’re on the page, they can be free to live on in other people’s heads, and not just trapped in mine.
(Updated July 2020) To the FAQ, “am I in your book?” Well, you won’t know until you’ve read it, and by then, I’ll have had your time and got the royalties… Again, if you have to ask, then you probably haven’t read it, and so you don’t deserve to know. BTW, I don’t usually get free copies of the book, so why should you?
(Updated July 2020) I get asked why I called this blog ‘a rambling collective’ instead of my own name. Well, I wanted to write as if my mother wouldn’t read it, or anyone else who knew me. When I started it, I needed the validation of success to give me confidence in my own abilities. Don’t forget, I got an E at English Literature A Level (so no University for me) and my crippling anxiety/hypersensitivity to criticism plus a horribly cruel Art teacher (who hated all women, especially young ones) at Bretton Hall College (which has an incredible alumni of writers, so go figure what I could have won) left me deflated. Not deflated. Crushed. I couldn’t have this blog as another failure or what could have been…….
(Updated 2021)Over the years, there were A LOT of people who I worked with who wanted the GLORY of saying that they created a newsletter/magazine/website but could not be arsed to lift a finger beyond the meetings stage and actually do any of the work. Any old fart can start a magazine. How many can get to issue 10 or beyond? Unfortunately, me being eager to write, fell for that trick more than once. Never again. They can gtf, so the expression goes. Co-labs are all very well if you have the same agenda. Too many people only want your input for money, sex or power, and will lie to try to get it until they are found out, and they’ve always been found out. Then I see their true character, but it’s too late then because I’ve already walked away. (Yes, you are vain and this is about you).
I feel contented with where I’m going and grateful for the success I’ve already had, because I worked for them and did it all from scratch by myself.
(Updated 2021) When I thought about writing again, back in 2017, all I thought I wanted was to have a story published and create a comic with a friend. They draw. I write. Now I dream of the words “inspired by a short story written by Nicola Humphreys” on the screen. I still miss that friend. I have no idea where they went. Maybe that friendship was all in my head.
Watch this space…
Nicola Humphreys. Writer.
Are you still here? Well, you’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?