Books From The Pantry: Park Symposium by Claire Bassi


We played till daylight failed, left, hungry, wolf-eyed,
mince and mash on the breeze, street lamps coming on.
Shadows long and lawns damp, we wish for June,
the bread and honey months.


In my hands are chains, wearing hard
the skin of well-oiled palms.
I’m light, I’m plastic.
Pendulum timed in the beat of two,
soon to fall
out of sync. I’m pushed, I fall,
weightless in the wake of you.

Get your copy of Park Symposium

Inky Interview Special: Poet Ken Pobo From Pennsylvania

Tell us about your journey towards becoming a poet.

I didn’t start out thinking I would be a poet. I was a wannabe pop singer. My first poems were peace and love imitations, my own Crystal Blue Persuasion and San Francisco (Wear Flowers in Your Hair). I got bored with faux song lyrics—but not with writing. I was 15 then. I’m 63 now.

What is it you love about poetry?

Poetry is perhaps the place where I feel most free. A blank page never judges you, never says you’re doing it wrong. It just says fill me. Make a mess. Have fun. Cry.

Tell us about your book Loplop In A Red City, which was published by Circling Rivers.

Loplop is a book of ekphrastic poems. For years I’ve written poems connected with art, particularly paintings, and I began putting them together and seeing what would happen. I owe Art Historian Dr. Ilene D. Lieberman a great thanks because she introduced me to work by many surrealist and women artists. My life grew richer from this, and I think the poems did too.

What themes have you written about in your book of prose poems, The Antlantis Hit Parade, forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House?

Many writers debate the difference between flash fiction and prose poetry. These are shorter than many flashes, but I’m not sure that length is the deciding factor. The prose poems are often surreal in their imagery. Some of them take on topics of identity, particularly LGBTQ+ issues. I hope that humour appears throughout the collection. I didn’t have a special theme for the work. Voice and image, I hope, weave it together.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

LGBTQ+ rights. The environment (in praise of Nature, but also mourning for what we are doing to our poor, wounded planet). Flannery O’Connor says that a writer will have material for the rest of his/her life by getting to be 18 years old. I still investigate my childhood, the places and people who formed me. I’m never too far away from the planets. I see them as characters. I write often in character poems: Trina, Steve, Wandawoowoo, Dindi, Aaron, many others. Sometimes I prefer to think about their lives more than my own, though everything connects.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I’m a professor of English and Creative Writing. My day in the work week is classes, meetings, and grading. Exciting? At home, my husband and I are big gardeners. It’s May now, my favourite month, but an exhausting one. No matter what the day, music is a part of it.

You collect vinyl. Have you a favourite?

My favourite song of all time is from August 1967 (I was 12 when it came out): Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) by the Mamas and the Papas. My favourite band is Tommy James and the Shondells.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Hate. I want it to stop. It won’t but I want it to.

Who inspires you and why?

Poets of all kinds inspire me. Bette Davis films. Ingmar Bergman films. Anyone who works even in small ways to make us more kind and less selfish.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be so scared. Make mistakes.

Tell us a story in five words.

Naked, he answered the door.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Not in a formal sense but I’ve been writing since 1970 and it still feels like a great journey, full of surprises, a few hairpin turns. Unlike some car trips when I say ‘Are we there yet?’ I know there is no ‘there’ (apologies to Gertrude Stein). There’s another poem ahead.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Make time for your writing—which, I know, is easier said than done. Get off phones and Facebook long enough to have time to dream and meditate, and ‘bad’ poems can be our best help.

What are you reading at the moment?

Julia Baird’s biography of Queen Victoria. My favourite novelist is Thomas Hardy, and I want to know more about Britain in that time period. Recently I was rediscovering Gwendolyn Brooks. That was/is a pleasure.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

The plans I have now in terms of writing are not much different than at 15. Keep writing. Do what helps the creative fires to keep burning.

Ken on Twitter

Poetry Drawer: And Again by Kenneth Pobo

When I came out, well,
I came out and out and out
and out. It’s everyday
like breathing or taking a shower.

So many ways to do it.
Sex is only one. Sometimes
I’m asked what music I love. If I say
sixties bubblegum, oopsy daisy,
I get the are-you-crazy-but-
I’m-too-polite-to-say-it stare.

Or even books. How to admit
among English majors
I haven’t read Moby Dick.
Or Ulysses. Or Light in August.
Out comes that
you’re-a-fraud smirk.
I come out anyway. Closets—
claustrophobia lessons.
Many prefer my door locked,
I can’t breathe!
They turn up the TV,
do a Sudoku, clomp to
the fridge for a Coke. I’m out.

Again. And again. Just like
I’ll be tomorrow.

Poetry Drawer: Golden Giant by Hongri Yuan: Translated by Yuanbing Zhang

Hongri Yuan, born in China in 1962, is a poet and philosopher interested particularly in creation. Representative works include Platinum City, Gold City, Golden Paradise, Gold Sun and Golden Giant. His poetry has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria.

Golden Giant: Translated by Yuanbing Zhang

Who is sitting in the heaven and staring at me?
Who is sitting in the golden palace of tomorrow?
Who is smiling?
The golden staff in his hand
Flashing the dazzling light
Ah, the flashes of lightning
Inter-weaved over my head
I walked into a crystal corridor of the time
I want to open
The doors of gold
Lines of words in the sun
Singing to me in the sky
I want to find
The volumes of gold poems
On the shores of the new century
To build the city of gold.

Laozi with rosy cheek and white hair
Smiling at me in the clouds
A phoenix danced trippingly
And carried in a book of gold.

Lines of mysterious words
Made my eyes drunken
Countless giant figures
Came towards me from the clouds.

The times of seventy million years
Emerged leisurely before my eyes
The cities of gold
Surrounded with the crystals garden.

The sky of sapphire
Sent out the colourful miraculous brightness
On the green hills of jasper
Dragons and phoenixes were flying.

Exquisite pagoda
Majestical palace of gold
The airy pavilions and pagodas
Standing in the purple-red clouds.

The laughing girls
Riding the colourful husbands and wives
The propitious clouds
Sprinkling the colourful flowers.

I opened the door to a golden palace
Saw the rows of scrolls of the gold
A giant with the haloes all over his body
There was a golden sun over his head.

With smiles, he picked up the books of gold
Recited the sacred verses
I was intoxicated with miraculous wonderful words
Surrounded with the purple-gold flames all over his body.

A golden lotus
Bloomed beneath my feet
Lifted up my body
Wafted up from the golden palace.

The red clouds
Drifting by my side
Outside of the sky I saw
Another golden paradise.

The leisurely bells
Calling to me
The countless giants
Roaming in a golden garden.

The sky of the ruby
The rounds of sun
Like the golden lotus
Blooming in the sky.

The intoxicating fragrance of flowers
Like the sweet good wine
The golden trees
Were laden with the dazzling diamonds

The wonderful flowers
Bloomed for thousands of years
The land of gold
Inlaid with the gems.

The pavilions of gold
Strewn at random and overlapped
Someone was playing chess
Someone was chatting.

Quaint clothes
Colossal statures
Miraculous eyes
Happy and comfortable.

The white cranes
Flying in the sky
The husbands and wives
Crowing leisurely.

Beside the old man, I came
As if he was waiting for me
On the golden pavilion
He opened an ancient sword casket.

A glittering ancient sword
Engraved some abstruse words and expressions
Were clear and transparent like lightning –
A dimly glowing purplish-red pattern.

He told me a metaphysical epic
The sword came from nine billions years ago
Which, was made from hundreds of millions of suns
It was a sacred sword of the sun.

It could pierce the rocks of time
Open the layer after layer skies
Let the sacred fire smelt the heaven and the earth
Into the golden paradises.

The old man’s eyes were deep, archaic and abstruse
Dimly shone the joyful flames-
He let me take this sword
To fly towards a new golden paradise.

The huge golden lotus floated leisurely
I flew over the sky thousands of miles away
The huge pyramids
Impressively in front of my eyes.

The mountainous figure of giants
Walked about in front of the pyramid
The huge pyramids of gold
Were much taller than the mountains.

The giant trees of gold
Like a forest
Stood in the sky
Laden with the stars.

There in the multi-coloured propitious clouds,
Was a huge bird
In the silvery sky
Crowing joyfully.

I came to the front of a pyramid
A door was opening wide
A group of blonde giants sat
With smiles in the grand palace.

There as a holy great old man
reciting the singular language-
The temple was painted with magic symbols and
Giant pictures of gods

The palace was full of silvery white light
blooming with huge wonderful flowers
A peal of wonderful mellifluous bells
made the person suddenly forget all time.

I heard an immemorial verse
It was written hundreds of millions of years ago;
It related countless eras of giants
that created the holy kingdoms of heaven.

Their wisdom was sacred and great
and knew completely the past and the future of the universe
They flew freely in the sky
Landed on the millions of planets in the universe.

They made time change at your pleasure
Which could reach spaces
Make a stone turn into gold-
Make the gold bloom flowers.

They were like the round sun
Which could erupt the sacred flames-
Let all things blaze in raging flames
Turn into their imagination works.

They landed on the planets
Established the golden paradises
with their magic abstruse wisdom
and built the platinum cities.

I saw the gorgeous words
Flashing in the volume of gold
And the magical wonderful halos
Rotating like coloured lightning in the sky.

I came to another wonderful heaven and earth
And saw a huge edifice of platinum
The whole city was like a piece of work
Sending out quietly the brilliant white light.

A huge round square
Encased some unearthly works
The giants of great stature
Came and went leisurely in the street.

They wore singular clothes
Shone all over their bodies
With smiles on their face
Both men and women looked beautiful.

They spoke wonderful language
which was as intriguing and pleasant as music
Some of them run moved by
Spaceship flying around silently in the sky.

I walked into a huge edifice of platinum
Saw a magnificent hall
Platinum wall was inlaid with gems
There were also a row of unusual instruments.

Their eyes were like bright springs
They wore multi-coloured clothes
Some of them were operating instruments
Some of them were talking with each other, softly.

I saw a magical picture
With drawings of giant planets,
There the cities stood
And there also, were crystal gardens.

I opened a crystal door
Saw a group of happy men and women,
They were singing softly
The blinking books of gold were in their hands.

Both the clusters of flower and the glasses of golden wine
Were on the huge round table
The golden walls were sparkling
Carved with all kinds of wonderful pictures.

I saw a demure girl
The golden halo was sparkling on her head
She was dressed in a purple-gold longuette
which was as peerless as a sculpture.

The pages were marked with whimsical words
Like lines of ancient magic symbols
Each book was made of gold
Like a golden crystal.

I understood their euphonious songs
They were singing of the sacred love
They were singing about great ancestors;
they were recounting the civilization of the universe.

Their city had gardens everywhere
Surrounded with sweet rivers
The whole earth was a piece of jade
And the clay was a layer of transparent golden sand.

I saw some white-bright huge balls
Suspended high above the city
The giant balls were sending out dazzling light
And the heaven and the earth shone as bright as the crystal.

The towering great buildings stood in great numbers
As if they were carved by a whole piece of platinum
Both the doves and some colourful
birds were flying in the sky.

I saw a singular train
Flying swiftly forward in the sky
The streets were white and bright
And any moving vehicle could not been seen.

Their bodies were unusually strong
Playing a wonderful game,
They piled up the pieces of great stones
into some grotesque works.

Both like some giant eyes
And some ancient totems
There were also some strange birds
Covered with lightning feathers all over their bodies.

I saw a couple of tall lovers
They aviated a spaceship
Their eyes were quiet and bright
A colourful halo shone around their bodies.

The wonderful space was gyrating leisurely
Like a huge, resplendent crystal
I said goodbye to the unusual city
And moved towards a space of golden light.

The cities flashed in the sky
I flew over the layers of the sky again
And I saw a newfangled world-
A multi-coloured city of crystal.

The high towers were exquisitely carved,
Shining like multi-coloured pearls
The layers of eaves were painted with dragon and phoenix
There hung the singing golden bells.

The earth was a crystal garden
The palaces were limpid and crystal
Huge mountains were like transparent gems
Lined with the golden trees.

I saw tall giants
Wearing purple clothes
There was a round sun above their heads
And their bodies reflected a shining halo.

They sat up in the main halls
Singing a mellifluous song
Some were roaming leisurely in the garden
Some were summoning the birds in the sky.

The crystalline airy pavilions and pagodas
Were beset with jewels and agates
A huge jewel on the spire
Shining the golden lights.

I saw a holy giant
Sitting in the middle of a main hall
The purple-gold flame flashed around his body
Filling the whole majestic main hall.

Full-bodied fragrance filled the hall
Like a cup of refreshing wine
Solemn expression was merciful and joyful
A huge book was in his hand.

The hall was full of men and women
Listening quietly to the psalms of the saints
The lotuses were floating in the sky
where the smiling giants sat.

The golden light poured down from the sky
Bathing the crystal kingdom
The jewels above the giant
towers were golden suns.

The golden walls of a golden tower
Were carved with lines of flashing words
Flying around the dragons and phoenixes
as if they were intonating the inspiring poems.

The smiling giants had huge halos
That flashed around their bodies;
Each was dignified and tranquil
Floating in the golden transparent sky.

I flew over the crystal kingdom
And saw the vast golden mountain in the distance
That was sending out the brilliant lights in the sky
Where the propitious clouds were blossoming.

There was a golden giant
sitting in the golden transparent sky
His body was composed of thousands of millions of constellations;
the golden sun was rotating on his forehead.

He lit up the whole marvellous universe;
the kingdoms of heaven shone in the sky
Here there was not the sky or earth
The up-down four-direction were the lights of pure gold.

The smiling giants were sitting
on the gold-engraved pavilions
The pavilions levitated in the transparent sky
shining the layers of purple-gold light.

There were multi-coloured transparent mountains
Propitious clouds floated in the sky;
large wonderful flowers were blooming in the mountain peaks
And there were also trees of light.

A river flowed from the sky
and the bottom reflected a layer of golden sand
There were strange and beautiful birds and
the beasts were like some aerial phantoms.

This was a world of light
Everything was made of light
The divine light formed all things,
And the golden paradises.

The golden giant I saw was
Shining the kingdoms of heaven in his body;
I saw the cities of gold
brilliant and fascinating in his bones.

I saw lines of extremely large words
arranged into a huge book in the sky
It seemed as if they were the bright stars
constituted a wonderful drawing.

There was a golden pavilion in the sky
floating around with huge dragons and phoenixes
An old man with a whisk
waved to me and smiled.

I was attracted by the magical
Leisurely, I came to his side
He told me the golden giant
Was my great ancestor.

This was an eternal palace
With no sense of time
Holy light was God
What I saw was better than heaven.

He pointed to the huge book in the sky
and told me that it held the mystery of the universe
The book contained magical wisdom
and created the countless worlds of gold.

He pointed to a pagoda in the sky
Told me that was the temple of words;
the light turned into the sacred words
and the words created the time of gold.

He held up a very large pearl
In which flashed pictures
He told me that it was the future
It was all of the wonderful worlds.

He told me that it was another universe.
I wanted to go to the other paradises
He gave me the magical pearl
and said it would be my future guide.

I said goodbye to the holy old man
I set foot on a new road of the heaven again
I sat in a golden pavilion
Lightly flew to the distant outer space.



谁 坐在天上向我凝望

谁 坐在明天的黄金殿堂

谁 微笑着



































































































Yuletide Poetry: Last Night by Claire Bassi

Last night I slept, soft fists curled tight,

Oblivious of frosty night,

I woke to creak of garden gate,

Raced eagerly to fireside grate,

Plundered hanging pillow case,

Tore bows and paper in my haste.

My gifts –  doll babies, sugar paste.


Last night I slept around first light,

Pondering this frosty night,

I woke to creak of feet on stairs,

And listened for the paper tears,

The plunder of the Santa sack,

A tiny face in sea of wrap,

Their gifts, spilled out across the place,

My gifts – I pull to my embrace.

Inky Interview: Author Sheila May Blackburn

As well as being a primary school teacher you have written several children’s books, one of which is called Jazz. Can you tell us about them?

I began writing children’s books for reluctant readers at a time when there was very little material for children who wanted to read about football. Originally desk-top books, the twelve stories were backed by the Boots Company and printed locally. However, this involved a lot of marketing and selling and I was delighted when they were eventually taken over by Brilliant Publications. They were very pleased with the re-printing and asked me to write a Teachers’ Resource book. This was followed by the six Stewie Scraps Adventures and further resource materials, all available from the publishers.

I have written two novels for children: Long Dark Shadows is about bullying, both by adults and children. Jazz is the story of a boy who is helped to come to terms with the tragic loss of his father by the irrepressible character of Jazz. This is available on Kindle and I am looking to make it available through Print on Demand ahead of its sequel where Jazz is on a mission to help another child facing difficulties.

You have been published in My Weekly Magazine, written for Collins Educational and won the children’s section of the Cheshire Prize For Literature with your short story Cat’s Eyes. Congratulations! Have you any tips for writers new to submitting their work to competitions?

The world of publishing has changed dramatically since I started writing – thanks again to the internet. Self-publishing and marketing  is very much more accessible and a great way to test public reaction, as long as you are prepared to get out there at events and functions. Joining a writers’ group is helpful; in the meantime, competitions give a short-term “feedback”. Some offer a critique and there is usually a chance to read shortlisted / winning entries to understand what works. For me, short story writing for magazines and competitions has been a sensible way to use my writing time and I advise looking at competitions listed online and in writing magazines. There are plenty to choose from!

Who did the art work for your books?

Originally, my desk-top books were illustrated through a local contact, but Brilliant Publications arranged their own illustrators from a pool of artists, I believe. Stewie Scraps was illustrated by the amazing Leighton Noyes who captured the character and sustained him so well. Am still in touch with him – and very grateful for his work.

Do you write poetry for children?

Yes – but not as much as I would like. I have an assortment that I’ve used in school and for Assembly material. There are also some phonic poems that I used with good effect in lessons.

As opposed to writing for adults, how do you approach writing for children? Is it more difficult than people imagine, or more difficult than writing for adults?

I think that writing for children is a great challenge – my original books for Collins Jumpstart were eight pages, one sentence per page, 22 high frequency words and then CVC words – and please make it fun or give the story a twist! I loved it! Children’s material has to have variety – dialogue is essential to relieve long descriptive passages – you only have to try reading aloud to a group of children to understand that – it’s about what fascinates the audience and makes them amused as well as concerned and wanting more. However, it must also be rich in vocabulary and structure – I get very tired of “celebs” who think that their name alone makes them worthy authors… their books sell, so the publishers love them, but their writing doesn’t always move children’s reading on, nor challenge them as readers.

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?

I care about what makes ordinary people tick and the relationships in their lives. My adult short stories are about how people relate to each other and deal with the stuff of everyday life – it sounds mundane, but there it is.

Similarly, with writing for children – I’ve dealt with their interest in football and in making things (Stewie) and then added a twist at the end to leave the reader wondering. My other themes have been the tough stuff – bereavement and bullying. Hopefully, the stories give the readers a chance to think and perhaps an opening to chat about what matters.

Have you any books that you can recommend to any budding writers?

I started off with the Writers Yearbook, as I guess most would-be writers are advised to do. I’ve also been privileged as a teacher to know first hand what motivates children and what’s available. My advice would be to spend time browsing in good bookshops and spend time with children… one of my writing group friends has written great stuff for his own children based on those basics.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

To make it a fairer place. I can’t bear the idea of not having basic needs met and resulting struggles, pain and fear – and that goes for the animal world as much as people.

What are you reading at the moment?

Maeve Binchy and Joanne Harris all over again – ever my writing heroines.

What is your creative space like?

Cluttered!  A very busy place – ideally it’s be somewhere a whole lot more relaxing with a beautiful sea-view.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I’d like to write the follow up to Jazz and see more of my books in print. More time to meet like-minded writers would be goodBut I always have competition entries on the go and hope for the one lucky break… you never know.

Sheila’s Website

Facebook Page

Brilliant Publications

Inky Interview: Ian Cooper

You have written several great works that analyse cult films such as Witchfinder GeneralBring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, and Frightmares (a history of British horror cinema), as part of the Cultographies series by Wallflower Press. Can you walk us through your love of film and how you came to write for Wallflower Press?

Thanks for addding the word great in there! Only Alfredo Garcia was written for the Cultographies imprint, Witchfinder was one of Auteur´s Devil´s Advocates series (as is the upcoming Frenzy) and Frightmares was part of their Studying British Cinema series.

I´ve always been crazy about film, I got a couple of degrees in the subject, taught it at a series of colleges in and around London and then got the chance to contribute some entries to a Wallflower guide to contemporary directors. That led to me pitching them a Cultographies and that really got me going.

You are a scriptwriter, too. Are you working on anything at the moment? What other scripts have you worked on?

I´ve written a lot of scripts, mostly features, a few shorts. I´ve had some optioned, nothing made yet. It´s a very frustrating business tbh – the first feature script I had optioned, I thought this is it now, I´m a screenwriter. Then years went by, the film was cast, posters and storyboards were created, the option was renewed a couple of times – and after 8 years the project fell apart for good and I ended up with my script back.  Another project I had with a company, we met often and they always paid for long lunches in Soho, they gave me lots of notes, I dutifully rewrote and then again it ended up going nowhere. It´s the nature of the beast. I´m currently writing a script about serial killing and Satanism – I don´t really do light.

You are also writing a book on Charles Manson. How do you approach dark, fascinating subjects like this, in your writing? 

I like dark stuff, horror films, true crime, I don´t think too much about why, I´ve just always enjoyed things a lot of people find off-putting or distasteful. I´ve been interested in the Manson murders for a long time and writing a book about the influence they had on films and TV shows is a way to combine my interests in film and true crime.

Your study of Hitchcock’s Frenzy…tell us more.

It´s a making of/critical analysis. I didn´t pitch this one, I mentioned on Facebook that it´s the Hitchcock film I´d seen the most and John Atkinson, the owner of Auteur who´s become a friend asked me if I´d like to write a book on it. It´s got a lot of things I´m interested in – it´s a horror film, it references some real murders, it´s shot in London and it´s a black comedy.

What is your particular way of researching? Does it take up a lot of time and do you enjoy it?

A lot of it is watching or reading about films and I never get tired of that. The thing is, I´m not at all versatile so everything feeds into everything else – every book I´ve written is about one or more violent films so the same debates crop up again and again, often the same social issues too, censorship, moral panics and so on.

The internet has made researching much easier – I used to have to fly to London to look up reviews and articles in a library (very 20th century!)

For scripts, I don´t do any direct research at all, just let it all spill out and then rewrite it later so it makes a bit more sense. But the stuff I read does find its way in there. For example, I recently read a lot about Israel Keyes, a serial killer who buried ´kill kits` across the US and I´ve used this detail in my most recent script.

Tell us about a typical day in your world.

I get up soon after 6am, take my son to school and write until 1:00 then make dinner for the family. Then I do my best to squeeze in a bit more writing between taking my son to football or acting classes or what have you. In the evening, I watch a lot of films and TV box-sets.

One of the reasons I moved to Germany from London was so I could write full-time – my wife has a good job and I was going to be in a village with few distractions. But after my youngest son was born 8 years ago, I found I had a lot less time (for obvious reasons). Now I essentially work for half a day.

There are too many distractions for a writer these days. One click away from social media etc….how do you motivate yourself to write, or does it come naturally?

It was easier when I moved here – I didn´t have a radio or the internet, I didn´t know anybody and my German was terrible. Now I have to motivate myself a bit more – I´m online, I know people, I speak a mangled version of the language – but discipline is something you just have to learn if you want to write.

I like social media, it offers me a way to share my weird obsessions with like-minded people. I´ve also met producers through Facebook and that´s been useful.

The thing is, there´s a thin line between research and slacking off. I´ll go on to a website which lists missing people in the US, for example, telling myself it´s research and sometimes it is, I´ll read maybe 60 entries and one of those will inspire a strange story or something else I can use. But in all honesty, I´m mainly on that site for morbid curiosity.

What are you reading at the moment? Are you the type of person that has several books on the go at once?

I don´t have to time to read a lot of fiction, although I´m half-way through Just After Sunset, a collection of Stephen King short stories. I read mostly true crime, partly because I enjoy it but also because I can stea…I mean recycle details. I never have more than one book on the go at a time.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.

Whenever we travel or go on long walks, my son likes me to tell him tales, Twilight Zone episodes, short stories or real-life mysteries. He calls me his ´Telling Machine`. I´ve spend days wandering around the backroads of Italy and Spain telling him about Lizzie Borden or the Marie Celeste and they´ve been some of my happiest days. It´s especially important to me because he´s 8 now and I know it´s only a matter of time before he looks up from his phone, rolls his eyes and says, “Not the Zodiac Killer again!”

What is your creative space like?

I did have an office but that got turned into a child´s room, so now I share a desk with my wife, who´s a teacher. It´s not ideal, especially as I like a lot of stuff around me while I work – books, pages of notes, coffee cups, wine glasses – and she really doesn´t.

Have you any advice for budding writers interested in film? Have you any books or films to recommend?

Watch films, as many as you can. If you want to write about film or write screenplays, you have to watch a lot of films. The stuff that´s on YouTube alone is incredible to someone like me who grew up pre-VHS. I don´t read screenwriting books, I think they´ve been a malign influence on writers and producers. But when you´ve seen a lot, it gives you confidence. When I started to meet producers and directors who had a lot of impressive credits while I´d done very little, it really helped that I knew what I was talking about. So seriously, watch more films!

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I´m going to just keep at it. I´ve had a fair amount of critical acclaim – my books have all been well received – but earning some real money would be nice. Books are there, you can hold them in your hand but screenplays are a bit ephemeral, like blueprints for a building not built yet or a recipe for an unmade cake. So getting something filmed is maybe the most important thing to me.


Devil’s Advocates

Studying British Cinema

Inky Interview Exclusive: Award Winning Dramatist Lavinia Murray

Congratulations on winning the BBC Radio 4 Audio Drama Award for Best Adaptation with Émile Zola’s Blood, Sex and Money with your fellow writers Oliver Emanuel, Martin Jameson and Dan Rebellato. The ceremony was hosted by Sir Lenny Henry, who studied literature with The Open University, back in the day, like a lot of our Inky followers! Can you please tell Ink Pantry about the adaptation and describe a typical day with your fellow writers in adapting Blood, Sex and Money

Thank you! It was an odd thing, the Zolas. I met with my co-writers once and then had a phone conference with them. They had already written the first season and, although I was supposed to work with them on that, for some reason I was kept in the parking bay until Season 2. I like to think it was as their ‘secret weapon’! I’m known for being experimental in my adaptations, experimental not just in narrative but form and to also sling comedy into everything (the gentlemen were all a lot more serious writers than myself). Then a story arc was erected and the books allocated, a timeline worked-out, Glenda Jackson’s character, and the series narrator was given her own story arc and then we jumped in and wrote like scallywags. We only conferred when we shared a character between episodes, just to ensure that whatever liberties we took with that character were consistent with their behaviour in a previous episode. Otherwise it was Liberty Junction. As long as the spirit of the books were honoured, and there was basic agreement on what needed to happen to ensure the whole worked as a series, and as stand-alone, off we went. In Series 3, Money, I was given The Earth to adapt, the book that put Zola in court for obscenity (thanks for that). My adaptation was the sole episode that was broadcast prefaced by a warning and it is very visceral. It was the only episode, I think, to draw complaints about how upsetting it was. I offset it with comedy, the everyday intruding on murder, death and tragedy — and I’m proud of the script but sorry that it was too much for some listeners. (Guardian article: Blood, Sex and Money)

As a dramatist you have adapted many great works for radio. In 2002 you adapted Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for BBC Radio 4. Where do you start with such an undertaking? Did you have fun doing it? Have you any advice for budding writers who are interested in this field?

His Dark Materials, blimey, yes — when we were expected to cram big books into an hour each, then we were granted an hour-and-a-half. When we’d finished, we were asked why we hadn’t asked for longer! We did ask! It was an odd undertaking. The rhythm of the story, the pace and progress were all different because we had such a limited amount of time to set up characters and have them swept into the story. I was told to make one of the angels the narrator (fine and dandy) and to explain ‘Dust’ as ‘soul’, which was a trifle bizarre given the author’s atheism. I did my usual humour thing (throw it in, mix it up) which was also my way of coping with the project. It was, as they say, a poisoned chalice. Some people love the version, others wanted to kick me in the shins and nethers. I can’t say that the project was a joy. I didn’t sleep for five nights when it was broadcast and I also ritually smashed up my complimentary set of Dark Materials CDs when they arrived. Took a hammer to them. Broke ’em up on the doorstep. I wouldn’t wish to adapt anything under those circumstances again. No way. Very painful memories. As for advice to people interested in adaptations — they can be great fun (they are a glorified kind of fan fiction) — but go for books that give you, the dramatist, ample space to explore what fascinates you. The Zolas were great fun, but the adaptation I’m fondest of is The Anatomy of Melancholy (the commissioner gave me an hour for a book composed of nearly 1000 pages in tiny print) and Gargantua and Pantagruel. Be aware that some people will be annoyed with the choice you make and the liberties you take, but there’s no point in adapting a book for another medium if you’re going to lavishly copy the original. I also like my version of the (partly controversial) Ann Veronica by H.G.Wells — that airs on February 26th, repeated on March 4th.

One of your radio plays from 1997 is called Nietzsche’s Horse. Great title! What is it about and what themes does it touch upon?

Nietzsche’s Horse was my first ever radio play. It featured floating prostitutes. Of course it did! Nietzsche’s being followed by a horse as he discovers exactly what Universal Consciousness (the aim of his philosophy, in my humble opinion) entails. It was a comedy. It featured the famous horse in Wagner’s Opera explaining its poses, with the riposte, ‘And I never dunged the stage’. Happy days.

You have many books published, one of which is called Out Damned Spot; William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner. Another great title! What is the novel about? How would you describe your writing style, generally?

Out Damned Spot! William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner is about a latter-day William Shakespeare, a junior hospital doctor who’s bullied out of his job (nurses empty catheter bags filled with urine into his locker, midwives carve human placentas into his likeness, microwave them, and eat them in the staff kitchen, the fairies mess with his naval which becomes so enormous he’s diagnosed as acoustic) because he’s whistle blown about the hospital using occult practices, not medical ones. William walks in on someone running a Ouija planchette over a patient’s gelled abdomen, and the consultants all use the Great Western Pharma Tarot to diagnose and treat illness. He leaves and sets up in business as a crime scene cleaner, opting for ‘higher end’ crime scenes and cleaning up after the other William Shakespeare’s crime scenes depicted in his plays. He’s helped by nine bulimic cannibals, a Goth campanologist, a partially dissected cadaver, an ex hospital porter obsessed with sumo and Ann Hathaway Shakespeare, a free-diving, water-birth specialist midwife. They end up travelling in their own graves, stealing babies.There’s a flying human tongue (the Tonguebird) and nods to Lewis Carroll who was a Shakespeare aficionado. It should probably be a graphic novel, and I’m turning it into a performance piece and animation. There are also friars who anaesthetise poltergeists, enclose them in illuminated vellum tubes, and retail them as warheads. I drink far too much tea. I think my writing style shows that. I am a visual artist who accidentally ended up flinging words about. My work is driven by images and comedy. I do try plotting but no one believes me.

You have a ‘formidable grand dame’ of a pet crow. What is she called and how did she come to live with you?

Oh, my beloved crow Anne Bow! Out Damned Spot is dedicated to her for ‘noises off’. I thought she wouldn’t mind if nobody liked my book, she’d make her wonderful rude, raucous, hahahaha crow noises and she’d put the world to rights. Anne Bow is around 15 years old now and was born without true wings, a genetic defect that affects the Corvid family. We’ve had her living with us since she was a fledgling; she was a year old before proper flight feathers grew. Anne was found wandering about beneath a tree, her beak deformed, her throat filled with gape worm parasites and she had a severe chest infection, so she sounded like Donald Duck. Basically, she was going to be ‘put down’ unless she was offered a home with an aviary. It was hoped by the vet and veterinary nurses that Anne could be released once she had true wings, but the deformed beak never corrected itself, her crop is scarred because of the gape worm so she can’t store food, and she’s partially sighted and a poor flier, so would never have survived.  We’ve left the aviary door open in case she wanted to fly out and return at her leisure but she yells at us until we shut the door. The local crows come down to see her and feed with her. Basically, Anne Bow is the Boss.

You are a lady of many talents, as you are also a performance poet. Have you entered many slams? What do you think about the poetry scene at the moment? 

I love performing. It can be fun. I’ve tried my hand at local poetry slams but they’re far too serious for me. I am a giddy kipper. They seem to favour the one style of poetry, which is great if that’s your bag. I might be due a good shin-kicking if I say that the style of the ones I’ve witnessed verge on haranguing and in-your-face and, ahem, favour the overly macho and the immediately gratifying, but that might be just an accident of circumstance. The poetry scene is a rum ol’ world, some glorious pieces, some snobbery and bobbery and some grass-roots glorious, real, individual, wonderful, magnificent poems that are written because the writer needed to write them and remained playful yet true to their own vision.

Both your husband and son are also writers. What kind of things do they write about? Do you inspire each other?

We are a scribbler family for sure. My husband, Michael, is a poet and essayist (Michael’s essays Gifts of Rings and Gold ) He’s the real poet, I’m more an apple-bobber. His essays are brilliant, and he’s also just written two novels.

Our son, Alex, is a novelist, having completed his MA in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam, had a short story, Plankton, published by Galley Beggar Press (under his nom de plume Vienna Famous: he and I are forever name-shifting). He writes wild, comedic pieces. He went to Art School and did a series about how the female body is usually the one depicted as vulnerable or available. He’s very interested in culture/gender and even did an MA about that, too. When he did his BA in English Lit, he even won the Virago Essay Prize!

I consider Michael and Alex to be the ‘real’ writers in the family. I’m a wonky hybrid thang, a writer that craves images (and who often draws) and laughter. I accidentally fell into writing plays and haven’t been able to extricate myself. I got in trouble for telling the wonderful Society of Authors, who had given me a free year’s membership, that I wouldn’t join after the year was up. I found their wonderful array of support and workshops terrifying. Bless them, they are brilliant, but it was a case of, having been allowed through their door, I could see that I didn’t belong. I really, really do not feel like a writer. I use words, but not in a writerly way.

Did you grow up with a lot of books? Could you please describe your library? 🙂 What is your favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?

We didn’t really have books when I grew up. There was a set of encyclopaedias in the garden shed which I used to read (I dug holes in the garden and sat in them and read, or went in the shed to read if it was raining) and I came home from school to find my dad burning them. Heartbreak! Now I’m a book obsessive. We have far too many books. Not enough bookshelves. Books in stacks by the bed and in the front room. Books! I’m always reading any of the Harry Potters, P.G.Wodehouse, Mark Ryden’s Pinxit which is a collection of his paintings, The Can Opener’s Daughter, a graphic novel by Rob Davis, and all the Moomin books in rotation.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

It’s been pointed out that frozen embryos appear a lot in my work. I think that’s because I find the idea of them intrinsically funny. My zine’s called The Adventures of the Frozen Embryos. I suppose, like most people, the big things call out — love, kindness, life, death, imagination — satire is important as a means of working through the big questions. I’m vegan as a moral choice. I also realised, when I was doing an oral story-telling course, that I’m a trickster type.

Have you any advice for budding writers?

The only advice I can offer for budding writers is this; if it’s what you really want to do then never give up, never allow anyone to put you off, and just keep working, working, working. Don’t install other people’s criticisms in your head. Write because there’s joy in writing.

You have a great interest in Mentalism. Could you tell us more?

Mentalism, yes, that fits in with my trickster persona. I have lots of books on this, including early works by Derren Brown, and works on cold reading. It’s the storytelling, the narrative that I love, the fact that this kind of magic is sheer showmanship (show-woman-ship?) and, when done well, can amaze, perplex, startle, and it is intrinsically playful. It also renders the performer and audience equal partners in the effect.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

If I could change only one thing about the world? I’d ratchet-up the amount of empathy everyone was capable of feeling. Either that or inflate humanity’s stock of compassion.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

My next plan is to create graphic novels, cartoons, animations and wonky live performances that continue to explore the universe that is partly visible in Out Damned Spot. If I can escape writing plays, well, yippee! I did a scratch night at Salford Lowry Seeds in November and the audience feedback was terrific (someone described me as a ‘living Terry Gilliam cartoon’!). There have been offers of a possible director and rehearsal space to work out what it is I’m doing. That should be a hoot.

Buy your copy here of Out Damned Spot by Urbane Publications



Inkspeak: The Cusp Of What Is Blue by Mark Sheeky




We lie on the cusp of what is blue
up and round, to express
our hearts is destroy them,
and in understanding we gain a transient peace,
The forest is dark, the brown shack of
music glows with party dwellers.
It is warm here, the damp American rain,
the toads sing their heavy song.
It’s no wonder that this sound
was born here,
this cusp of what is blue.

Poetry-Prose Drawer: The Cardiologist’s Waiting Room by Faye Joy

Wartezimmer mit Bilderrahmen und Sthlen

A man walks out of one inner door, enters another. There’s a bundle of motoring magazines on a low table. For the six minutes I wait, I wonder what he is doing. I sense I am being watched. I look up to the ceiling – leak stains in dusty pink. I walk through the other door he has opened for me, tall man in grey suit. I sit facing him, look up to another dusty pink ceiling and across to a remote camera next to his computer. I see myself in pink lingerie reaching for a porno magazine from the pile on the low table. There are three others similarly dressed, watching me.