Small Acts of Kindness and a new bookclub

The lack of an address is all too often barrier to accessing public services, which further disadvantages the homeless. However, Leicester City Council’s Westcotes Library were willing to allow a homeless man, Lee, to borrow books from the library despite his lack of address, even helping him discover new science fiction books and extend his reading.

Lee has now created a book club based at Westcotes Library where others, homeless or housed, can drop in, discover and discuss books in a friendly atmosphere and get a hot drink.

Fuller story available on the BBC website: Books send homeless man into a different world.

Leicester statues – no poets found

The Leicester Mercury, asked their readers to vote on which additional statue should be added to the list of Public Art, according to which Leicester has statues of Gandhi, Thomas Cook, Arthur Wakerley, King Richard III, William Shakespeare, Cardinal Wolsey, John Wycliff, Hugh Latimer, John Biggs, Robert Hall, John Henry Manners and a statue depicting three sportsmen (Sporting Success). There’s also a statue to Queen Ethelfloeda (in the Guildhall courtyard), The Little Seamstress (a generic statue representing the textile industry) and Lady Liberty with one of Alice Hawkins about to be unveiled. Leicester city won’t accept nominations for statues of living people.

The Leicester Mercury options were David Attenborough, Richard Attenborough, Martin Johnson, Kasabian, Daniel Lambert, Gary Lineker, Nelson Mandela, Claudio Ranieri. Their article was closed to comments so there was no option to nominate alternatives or ask why there were no women on the list. I’m still waiting for a response from my letter to the editor. I’m not holding my breath and suspect if a response is ever forthcoming it will be suggested that the poll was a “bit of fun.”

So as not to starve Leicestershire’s daughters of ambition, here are some nominations (to conform to Leicester City Council’s stipulations, all are no longer with us):

Agnes Archer Evans – educationalist (aka Agnes Archer Kilgour)
Caroline Ashurst Biggs – academic
Mary Attenborough – founding member Marriage Guidance Council, Kindertransport supporter
Anne Ayre Hely – nurse
Ruth Banton – social worker helped form Women’s Labour League, involved in Highcross St Infant Welfare Centre & promoted a Municipal Maternity Home
Diane Battenham – sports
Anna Chrysogen Beale headmistress Belmont House School
Mary J. Bell-Richards – Board of Guardians, secretary NUBSO
Kathleen Benson – social worker chair of City Health Committee
Susan Bird – Leicester Hosiery Union, city councillor Humberstone ward
Evelyn Carryer – secretary of the Leicester and Leicestershire Women’s Suffrage Society, founder member of the WSPU in Leicester.
Agnes Spencer Clarke – suffragette and novelist.
Bertha Maria Clarke – founding member of the local WSPU
Doris Connolly – founder member of New Parks Residents’ Association. Connolly Close named after her (and her husband).
Dorothy Davis – teach, sered on the education committee of city council; rebelled in support of Ugandan refugees.
Sarah Louise Donaldson – involved with the formation of the Leicester Health Society, suffragette
Betty Driver – actor
Charlotte Ellis – anti-slavery campaigner on Leicester Board of Guardians
Jennie Fletcher – sports
Emily Comber Fortey – first woman elected as a Labour Councillor in Leicester.
Elizabeth Rowley Frisby – councillor Knighton ward and JP in 1927
Fanny Fullagar – Poor Law Guardian & councillor
Mary Catherine Gittins – secretary National Union of Women Workers, suffragette
Edith Gittins – artist (exhibited at Royal Academy), founded Leicester Women’s Liberal Association, suffragette
May Goodwin MBE – President Leicester Women’s Branch of the Boot and Shoe Union, city councillor
Maggie Gracie (aka Maggie Nandy) – secretary Leicester Campaign for Racial Equality, founded Inter-Racial Solidarity Campaign, teacher
Adelize Grandmesnil (wife of Hugh Governor of Leicester in 11th century)
Elizabeth Heyrick – writer
Violet Holmes – chair Public Baths & Cleansing Committee
Catherine Irwin – JP, Board of Guardians
Constance E. Jackson – city councillor Lord Mayor 1963
Marjory Kempe – Christian mystic
Maria Leafe – first secretary Leicester Railway Women’s Guild, counciller (Aylestone)
Lilian Lenton – suffragette
Mary Linwood – needlewoman
Sarah Eveline Lines (aka Eva Lines) – teacher, suffragette
Isobel Logan – suffragette
Ada Lovelace – mathematician/coder (lived at Kirby Mallory)
Kate O’Mara – actor
Lily Marriott MBE, JP – councillor Abbey ward served on Rent Tribunal, Hillcrest Hospital Committee, Social Serices Committee, Public Assistance Committee. Lord Mayor of Leicester 1975
Phoebe Mason – secretary Seamers and Stitchers Society, first woman delegate to Trades Council in 1875 and first woman to address the TUC (1877)
Bridget Paton – first woman officer Amalgamated Union of Enginers (1975)
Marina (May) Peach – founder member Labour League of Women, helped form Leicester Health Society (1905)
Edith Rimmington – painter
Deborah Ross – suffragette, secretary Leicester Secular Society
Mary Royce – doctor
Agnes Scott – ran a leper colony, thought to be a source of Black Annis myth
Janet Setchfield – councillor North Braunstone, served on Environmental Health and Public Control, Estates and Finance Committee, governor of several local schools and of Southfields Further Education College and was a member of the Leicestershire Health Authority. Lord Mayor 1985 (County Council)
Ellen Sherriff – suffragette
Annie Stretton – National President Railway Women’s Guild, founder member Woman’s Labour League in Leicester
Sue Townsend – writer
Susanna Watts – writer
Mrs Catherine Willson – social worker, executive member Infants’ Nursing Home, secretary Leicester District Committee of Cooperative Guilds
Elizabeth Willson – first woman to sit on Executive Council of NUBSO, co-founded (with Alice Hawkins) Independent National Union of Women Boot and Shoe Workers.

This list is not comprehensive and further suggestions are welcome.

The Institute of Physics Flash Fiction and Poetry Competitions

Open to any writer resident in the UK for a piece of flash fiction or poem of 500 words or fewer where the theme involves physics or a physicist. If you’re not sure if your idea qualifies, email writingcompetition2017 [at] Entries restricted to one per person per competition so you can enter one poem, one flash fiction or one poem and one piece of flash fiction, but not two poems or two pieces of flash fiction. Full rules from the email address given.

Prizes in each competition: First Place £100, Second Place £75, Third Place £50.

Closing Date 31 October 2017. Free entry – entries to be sent to the email address.


  • Aspect of a physicist’s life or work
  • Fictional physicist makes a discovery or invention
  • Group of scientists working at a facility such as CERN or an Antarctic base or the International Space Station
  • A real-life physics-related event
  • A technological utopia or dystopia
  • Environments such as space, the deep sea, etc
  • Change a law of physics – what happens?

Judging Panel includes a physicist and fiction judge. I will be the poetry judge.

Leicester Writers Showcase Ella @ 100

Don’t blame the medium – Daniel Radcliffe is sending mixed messages about social media

In a recent interview, actor Daniel Radcliffe seemed to suggest that celebrities using social media can’t expect privacy in their personal lives, particularly if they are tweeting fairly regularly. In the same interview he also said that actors should be prepared to attend events such as film premieres to help generate interest.

Daniel Radcliffe was fortunate enough to land a role in a film that had Warner Brothers’ publicity machine behind it, so didn’t need to do much in the way of personal promotion himself. But few artists get such a huge break at the beginning of their careers and so most have to promote their work. Social media is just another medium for doing this. It’s no more or less public than giving an interview, doing a photo shoot or a question and answer session at a book signing.

It’s not the medium that’s the problem, it’s the way it’s used. And it is possible to use social media and guard your privacy, just as it’s possible to give an interview and guard your privacy.

Tips for Guarding Privacy and using Social Media

  • Ensure your social media platform is about your work, not you
  • Blog about the subjects in your books or how you wrote a poem, not what you did last weekend
  • Tweet about promotional events you’re doing, not about what you had for breakfast
  • Create a balance between tweets/status updates about you and giving links to interesting articles, a book review you came across or more information about a topic you’ve written about, don’t just focus on you
  • If you receive questions about your work via social media, answer them. It’s courteous and shows you’re not just using social media to broadcast and promote yourself.
  • If you receive questions about your private life, don’t immediately answer but think about whether you’re happy for the answer to be in the public domain. A question about whether you enjoy the same breakfast as one of your characters is innocuous, but questions about your daily timetable might not be.
  • If you post photos, think carefully first. Photos taken at promotional events or promotional publicity shots were intended to go in the public domain. Selfies might show you’re human. But photos that include others who didn’t plan on the photo being made public might lose you friends. Would you be happy for any photo you’re about to share to be reprinted in a newspaper? If not, probably best not to post.
  • Think about your timing. Rather than posting at random times, consider creating a regular slot (at your convenience) when you update your blog or when you’re on a social media network. You can always post articles or updates in advance and schedule them to conform to your regular social media slot. This way you manage expectations about when you’re available so you won’t feel you have to be online 24/7 and people won’t expect you to be.

The big advantage in social media is that it’s your platform and you are in control of not only what you use it for, but when you use. Make it work for you.


Related Topics:

Social Media Marketing for Writers

Does a Writer need a Social Media Platform?

Should Writers use Social Media?

Twitter Etiquette

A Poem a Day in September 2013

September was also a month for writing a poem a day, although via a closed poetry group on Facebook, unlike the international NaPoWriMo in April. I took the challenge on and have listed the titles of my poems drafted during the month below.

Do any of the titles grab attention?

01 Soar Valley Way
02 I’m tired of the colour orange
03 Stationary Transports
04 Why schedule road works for the school holidays?
05 Anniversary by an Oak
06 Querying a Birthmother’s Catechism [nothing to do with Carrie Etter’s similarly titled poem]
07 [Untitled] – this won’t be its final title, just an indication this poem is still a very rough draft and so doesn’t have a title yet
08 It’s a café window with frosted glass
09 I won’t do the interview you requested
10 I am developing an envy of the doormat
11 Sunburn on an Overcast Day
12 Things I learnt on Pinterest
13 Movements in Scarborough
14 Narrow Gauge
15 So an American singer bought a ring belonging to Jane Austen
16 Exhaust
17 She’s published her story
18 Smile, Baby
19 A Blackwork Heart in Coral
20 On hearing the theme tune to “Dallas”
21 Approaching a Second Anniversary
22 In a conservative meeting room
23 The Replacement Sofa (working title, likely to change)
24 At Scarborough Castle
25 I woke up in someone else’s life
26 The Magpies Lied
27 Ghost Dance
28 She hated talking about the old days
29 Mark Darcy had to Die
30 The Rabbit Hole, wherever I find it

Now I have a pile of poems to edit… and my blog posting schedule might become more regular.

The advantage of doing this as a closed poetry group was the opportunity to workshop the poems without the poems being considered published (and therefore not eligible for submission to poetry magazines or entry to competitions).


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Stop Twittering and Ask the Trolls

I blogged previously about how the London Review of Book’s “complications” in finding women reviewers was largely down to a problem in breaking the tradition of how they approached commissioning reviews. If commissioning editors are genuinely interested in presenting a certain type of review, they have to find and ask the right type of reviewer. If you want to find a poetry reviewer, find a poetry reviewer to ask.

If you want to get your writing published, do your research and find an editor who publishes writing like yours. A poet who wants to get their sonnets published is asking for rejection if they approach a magazine that focuses on experimental poetry and whose editor hates sonnets. The poet would need to find and approach a magazine editor who will include sonnets.

If you want the right answer, you need to ask the right question of the right person. Anyone who’s used a search engine or tried doing research of any kind knows, or soon finds out, that a great deal of time and effort can be wasted shifting through irrelevant results if the wrong search terms are used or the wrong question asked.

Children learn to ask the right question of the right person quickly. They soon learn which parent is more likely to say yes to certain requests and will direct their request at that parent. At nursery or school, they will ask the nursery nurse or teacher for help rather than the child nearest them. But as children grow up they learn that parents and teachers don’t have all the answers. A friend might give a white lie rather than the rather more unpalatable truth to questions such as “Does this outfit look OK?”

A rejection might be avoided by sounding out a friend to find out what the opinion of a person you want to ask a question is. “What does he think of me?” might be masking the real question, “If I ask him on a date, how likely is he to say yes?” It’s easier to indirectly ask a person whom we think will give a positive response than directly ask someone whose response is unpredictable. It’s easier for a commissioning editor to commission a review from a reviewer they’ve used previously than approach someone new and risk them saying no.

It’s much easier to avoid directly asking someone whose response is likely to be abusive and unpalatable.

This has been the problem behind the question “How do twitter users stop other twitter users sending abusive tweets?” By abusive I don’t mean tweets that contain insults. I mean those tweets that threaten serious assault or suggest bombs have been planted: tweets that actually break the law and are subject to an ongoing police investigation which has already resulted in arrests. Fortunately those on the receiving end of such tweets have spoken out, primarily as a way of highlighting the problem and encouraging others to report abusive tweets to both twitter and the police. Speaking out also triggers a debate about the problem and asks what can be done about it.

There has been debate, but it’s faltered around the key question of why the perpetrators did it and what can be done to stop them. The victims are a key part of the debate and have rightly spoken out. But they are not the right people to ask, why did this happen and how do we stop it happening again?

It’s easy to speculate that the perpetrators see words on a screen and overlook or forget that there’s a real person behind the avatar they are targeting, that these are disenfranchised loners who feel that their standing in society has been eroded so attack others with displaced aggression. But not all the identified perpetrators so far fit that profile. Not all of them belong to one gender either.

Whilst the debate has been a useful source of support and sends a message that abusive behaviour is not acceptable, it won’t provide answers. We need to start asking the perpetrators why they do this and what would have stopped them. They may not provide answers and, where provided, those answers will be unpalatable, but the questions have to be asked.

By Twitter: @Emma_Lee1.

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Why cheap shots at the Duchess of Cambridge’s “morning sickness” say more about the “joker” than the Duchess

Sylpled and Swelled
(HL stillborn 3.1.93)

Hyperemetic, her mother
as she swelled
in the womb
we were told
could not carry her.

She cohabited
with endometriosis,
stretching her arms with indolent ease
in the scan’s convex negative.

Parted from her placenta
she still had to be born,
emerging purple against
the white the midwife
wrapped her in.

She was long like me
had her mother’s face.

Published in “Us: who made History” (Original Plus, 2012).

I never met HL’s mother, but knew her father and the grief her father still felt at HL’s death. I’m not for a moment suggesting the Duchess of Cambridge’s hyperemesis will end in such a tragedy. Hyperemesis is rare and causes persistent vomiting and nausea, putting the mother-to-be at risk of dehydration. If not treated, it can lead to complications in later pregnancy. It is not morning sickness, where no matter how nauseous or how sick the pregnant woman is, she can still keep fluids and food down. But it is a reminder that not all pregnancies have a successful outcome. How quickly some commenters seem to have forgotten Savita Halappanavar’s avoidable death.

The maternity mortality rate in the UK is 8.2. The stillbirth rate is 5.2 per 1000 births (in 2009) in the UK. When you factor in neonatal deaths, that’s 17 babies lost per day. The loss of a baby feels like a double blow: the loss of the baby and also the potential adult they will never become. HL, had she survived, would be 19 today. The everyday miracle of a healthy baby should not be taken for granted.

It didn’t help the Cambridges that the media called the Duchess’s condition “morning sickness”, “acute morning sickness” or “severe morning sickness”. But, post-Leveson, did some really assume the Duchess was too posh to suffer morning sickness at home “like the rest of us”? Social media commentary suggests so and I doubt a lot of commentators thought about how those comments might be viewed.

I won’t be joining those who seem to think that just because the Duchess of Cambridge can afford private care and that her baby will be one of the most photographed children on the planet, that her hyperemesis is somehow less severe. Privilege might make dealing with the condition more comfortable but her agony is no less real.


Deadlines and Consequences

A deadline is a time limit and usually imposed to ensure a project is completed in a timely manner. Missing a deadline always has consequences.

Failure to deliver a manuscript on time could mean either a delay in publication or rejection. Failure to send in a poem by the competition’s deadline means the poet forfeits their entry fee and their poem will be disqualified. Failure to fit a carpet on time leaves a customer with furniture stacked in the wrong place, the problem of accommodating a new fitting appointment in an already full schedule and knock-on problems in completing the project. Hence no blog post on 31 October.

There’s also (a probably unintended) consequence… Missing a deadline doesn’t just cause delays and headaches but also suggests a lack of respect for the person who either set or needed a project completing by the deadline.

• How valued a customer did I feel when the carpet fitters failed to fit their carpet?
• How valued does an editor feel if you miss their deadline?
• How professional do you look?

The carpet fitters have lost a customer. The problem wasn’t the faulty carpet, although that was annoying, but the way the problem was dealt with. Promising to call and then failing to do so and leaving a customer chasing a response is never good. Dealing with each issue as a one-off instead of seeing the cumulative effect of a chain of problems is how to lose customers.

Relying on others to have a Plan B in case of your tardiness is not a professional way to behave.

If it’s unavoidable, as soon as you know you can’t meet a deadline, get in touch and explain why and show that you’ve thought about the consequences so can suggest ways of mitigating the problem.

There are occasions where unforeseen events will get in the way of meeting a deadline, but the more notice you can give, the better. Leaving it until the day of the deadline, or worse, waiting for the deadline to pass and letting your customer or editor chase you up, doesn’t inspire confidence and you may find doors start closing.