My short story, Even a Monkey Can Fall from a Tree, can be read in this, new anthology, Showtime 2023, but there’s more to it than just that.
Every year, Newham Writers Workshop publishes an anthology of its members work, and I’m member of them and this is the fourth anthology I’ve had work published in. But I’m also now part of the editorial team that published it.
I had the easy job. My fellow writers, Belgin and Paula, had the hardest task. They proofread and edited all the submissions and they did a wonderful job of it. They captured those annoying repetitions, corrected those silly spelling mistakes we all make and helped the writer to clarify what they were writing. Editing is not my strong point and I’m so grateful for those who can do it well.
My role was the formatting of the manuscript, uploading it to Amazon and promoting it online (Which this blog is the first stage of). I had to format it into eBook and paper back book formats. This wasn’t too difficult, except the writer who had their work in a strange format and screwed half the book’s formatting (!!). Martin, my partner, helped me with the cover. The cover picture is Alphabetti Spaghetti by Alex Chinneck. This is a series of sculptures, of post boxes tied into a knot, placed across the country. There is one just down the road from us, its also a piece of public art in the London borough of Newham, which is a theme we kind of fell into for our cover illustrations.
The anthology is a showcase of our members work, hence the name, and it contains so much good writing, a chance I got to experience formatting it, and that writing is so varied. There is poetry, short stories, memoirs and a memorial essay. A lot of current poetry I find dense and difficult to understand, but I’m happy that I can’t say that for my fellow writers here. Many of the poems here are lyrical, painting wonderful images with their words, others use words to take an aim at their subjects. Beautiful-Words by Deborah Collins, Noise by Paul Butler, The Tankard’s Mahogany Bar by George Fuller and Resignation by Catherine Daniels are all fine examples of the poetry here.
There is a richness of prose here too, and on such a diverse range of subjects, challenging subjects, not simply cosy and safe. Ros Allison gives us another short story about female friendship. Sarah Winslow, Nicola Catton, Dharma Paul and Belgin Durmush all have written short stories that use fantasy themes, ranging from light and whimsical, to dark and memorable. These stories include meeting your hero, strange events in a coffee shop, through meeting yourself and a very dark story about a house that suddenly appears on a hill.
My own story, Even a Monkey Can Fall from a Tree, is about a young man who catches Monkey pox (Mpox). Through this infection he finds himself on the receiving end of a world of judgment and homophobia. The inspiration came from reading about different men’s experiences during the outbreak of Monkey Pox in the summer of 2022. As I read their experiences, I felt such an echo of the homophobia circling around HIV in the 1980s & 1990s. It was disturbing to hear all that homophobia resurfacing again. It shouted out to me to write about it, to explore the cost of it.
There is also non-fiction in this anthology, personal essays that draw on universal experiences. Dave Chambers’s essay, Uncle Bob, is about how he moved away from and then left the Catholic Church through his relationship with his uncle. Frank Crocker’s essay is about loss, first experienced as a child and then much later as an adult.
The last piece in the anthology is also one of the most poignant pieces here. It is a memorial essay about our former treasurer, Margaret Griffith. Margaret died suddenly and unexpectantly in August 2022. Her death had surprised and shocked us all, she had been our longest serving member. This essay, drawn from the eulogies at her funeral, is a way of us remembering such a prominent member of our workshop.
This anthology is a showcase of the work coming out of our writers workshop, the original and different voices producing work in East London. You can get a copy of it here.