Book Review – The City in the Middle of the Night

I’m having a sick day today, having acquired a slight cold. All I had out in the world today were a couple of meetings, both of which can do without me, and both of whose attendees will doubtless be grateful not to be given any germs. The upside of this is that I have been able to read and write.

So firstly you are getting a review of the new Charlie Jane Anders novel, The City in the Middle of the Night. It is a fascinating book that I expect to see people writing political analyses of in the near future. You can find that review here.

I have also finished the new Gareth L Powell novel, Fleet of Knives. That will be harder to review because it is the middle volume of a triology, but I’ll get onto that next.

Twitter followers will know that I have also read the new Guy Gavriel Kay book, A Brightness Long Ago. I have written a review of that, but I’m sitting on it for a while as the book isn’t due out until May.

And currently I am reading The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by one of my favorite new writers, P. Djèlí Clark. I need to have read that one before giving a paper on decolonising steampunk later this week.

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An Ireland Adventure

This year’s invitations to do talks for LGBT History Month included one from Queen’s University, Belfast. I’d never been to Belfast before, and had a friend who teaches at the University who was able to put me up for the night (thanks Danielle!) so I said yes. It turned out that the cheapest way to get there was to fly to Dublin and head north from there, hence this little travel adventure.

Thursday started badly with heavy fog over Darkest Somerset. When I got to Bristol airport flights appeared to be coming and going OK, but mine wasn’t. I think the problem was that the likes of a 757 were OK, but the little turbo prop that Aer Lingus was using for my flight was too small to risk it.

I got re-booked on a later flight, but there was no time to fulfil my plan of going into Dublin and catching the train to Belfast. Instead I booked myself on an express bus from Dublin airport to Belfast. Thanks to Jon Turney for the travel advice. I normally travel very badly on buses, but this one was motorway pretty much all the way to Belfast. I actually ended up feeling much more sick on the short hop from plane to terminal at Dublin because we had a shuttle bus driver who thought he was in a rally.

The other reason I survived the bus trip was that I slept most of the way. I woke up when we got to Ulster and started making stops. We arrived in Belfast just before 17:00 and looking at the traffic I figured we’d be stuck, but there is a secret bus-only route that takes you right into the city centre. I’m impressed, Belfast.

By the way, that did mean that I was asleep when we crossed the border. There was no passport check at any point on the journey. That ease of travel will probably go away post-Brexit.

Having made it to Belfast on time, I did my talk. Huge thanks to the lovely students in the Queens LGBT+ group. We also had a great meal at a local Nepalese restaurant. There seems to be plenty of good eating in Belfast.

On Friday morning I was able to check out the trains. I caught a commuter service from where I was staying into the city, then the Enterprise down to Dublin.

It is worth noting that the main station for Belfast city is Great Victoria Street. However, the Enterprise leaves from Lanyon Place which is smaller and in a commercial/industrial district. The bus station is next to the Great Victoria Street station.

It is also worth noting that the train is much more expensive than the bus. I paid £30 for a Belfast-Dublin ticket on the train, and €8 for a Dublin-Belfast single on the bus. Of course I my case I can work on the train. On a bus I can only sleep or be sick. So the extra cost is worth it. Also the train has free wifi and a food & drink service, which the bus does not. The journey time is about 2 hours on the train. It is also 2 hours from Dublin airport to Belfast, because the airport is north of Dublin right on the motorway. If you get the bus from central Dublin you need to add at least an extra half hour to get out of the city.

There were no passport checks on the train either. I knew when I crossed the border because my phone told me that I had switched from a UK service to a (free) roaming provider. The free roaming will go way after Brexit too.

The other way that you can tell whether you are in Ulster or the Republic is the signage. In the Republic it is all dual-language. In Ulster it is defiantly English-only.

Having got to Dublin I spent an hour or two wandering around taking photos of things of interest close to the convention center where Worldcon will take place in August. I tweeted the photos, and you can find the thread here.

I also got into a lengthy conversation with a lovely Croatian woman who was working at the Tourist Information Office in Dublin. She gave me a lot of advice about places to visit (most importantly whiskey distilleries). But I’m saving that up for another post.

Thankfully my trip home was a lot smoother than the outward leg.

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Book Review – Black Leopard, Red Wolf

It seems like a long time since I did one of these things. I got out of the habit while I was on the Tiptree jury because I wasn’t allowed to review any submissions. Hopefully I can get back into the habit again. Certainly I have a lot of great books that I want to tell you about.

Reviewing Black Leopard, Red Wolf was a little complicated because there’s so much I would love to ask Marlon James about the book. There’s not a lot of information about African culture available online. I’m hoping to get a word or two with him when he gives the Tolkien Lecture in Oxford next week, but as the book appears to have been released a couple of weeks early in ebook I figured I should get something out there.

Anyway, there may be a follow-up once I know more. In the meantime, the book is out there, and it is a lot of fun (unless you are a homophobic white surpemacist, in which case what are you doing reading my blog?). For the review, click here.

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New Book – Contains Romance

The above book is due out tomorrow, though you can pre-order it now from you know who. I’m writing about it now because tomorrow I’m traveling to Belfast via Dublin to give a talk at Queens University.

The book is an anthology of queer love stories, and it is being published on Valentine’s Day because queer people deserve love too. (Why yes, I did get a card. Thank you for asking.) The editor is Farah Mendlesohn. One of the stories is by me.

This is something of a departure for me, because it is a love story between two women. I haven’t written one of those before. However, not much else has changed. The story is set in the ancient world on the island of the goddess, Calypso, where Odysseus spent many years on his way home from Troy. I should note that, because this is the ancient world, many of the characters are bisexual, so I hesitate to call this a lesbian romance. It is what it is. I hope some of you get to enjoy it.

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New Book – Lyda Gets an Omnibus

Now that I have the Wizard’s Tower bookstore open again I have been able to do something I have wanted to do for a couple of years: offer omnibus editions of some of the books we publish. The Tales of Einarinn omnibus is doing very well. This month it is the turn of Lyda Morehouse and the AngeLINK books.

Back when I was doing Emerald City, the AngeLINK books were one of my favorite discoveries. We are used to queer SF now, but back in 2002 it was much more revolutionary. How could I not love books featuring a transgender archangel?

These days the books seen scarily prophetic. The USA has been taken over by religious fundamentalists who are using the internet as a means of social control. One of the main characters is a Muslim hacker, because who else is going to save the world from the Apocalypse? Well there’s the Antichrist, of course, but whose side is she on? And what about Michael? What is more important to him: his job as commander of God’s legions, or the human woman that he loves? This series is a tremendous ride.

If you haven’t read them yet, the omnibus edition is now available as an ebook. Because we love you, it is on sale until the end of February. It is also available on Kobo, but the sale price won’t kick in until tomorrow as with Kobo you are not allowed to schedule a sale to start on the current day.

I might be able to get the book up on Google, but their site has been balky with the Enarinn book. It will not be on Amazon. Besides, Lyda gets more money if you buy direct, so please do so. If you don’t have GBP, PayPal will do the currency conversion for you.

Oh, and don’t those Bruce Jensen covers look great together? I’m so pleased that we got a new cover for Apocalypse Array so that the set was complete.

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New Book – Contains Me

This is going to be a very busy week for book announcements. We’ll have something coming from Wizard’s Tower tomorrow, and an anthology I have a story in is being published on Thursday. Before that, however, there is this book.

As you can see, it is not by me, but I do have a short essay in it. The book covers a wide range of trans issues, including history. I get to write about transgender Romans. In a proper university text book. How cool is that?

Huge thanks should go to Ardel for including me. We met at the Moving Trans History Forward conference in Victoria, BC in 2016. As Ardel teaches in San Francisco, Kevin and I immediately bonded with them. We were all there again last year, and this year Ardel is over my side of the pond. We’ll both be on a panel about trans history at the Outing the Past academic conference at the end of March.

Anyway, enough about us. You want to know about the book. It is available now in the USA. It is very reasonably priced for an academic textbook. And you can get 30% off with the special offer mentioned here. UK people, you can probably buy from the publisher too, but postage may be an issue. The paperback won’t be available here until March 5th, but the Kindle edition is available now.

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Trans History Workshops in Bristol

An exciting opportuity for young trans people is coming up in Bristol in March. As per the flyer above, there will be a series of workshops looking at the history of gender and science. The fabulous Jason Barker from Gendered Intelligence will be involved, as will the lovely people from the Rethinking Sexology project at Exeter University. The Wellcome Trust is providing the funding.

Given that this involves trans history, you might have guess that it could involve me in some way. You’d be right. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing yet, but I have definitely signed up to help on the workshop on March 16th.

More information will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. Also Jen Grove from Exeter Uni should be at the LGBT History Month event I am curating at M Shed on the 16th to promote the workshops. In the meantime there’s a schedule and an opportunity to register interest here.

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Congratulations, Neil!

I’ve tweeted about this last week, but I wanted to do a proper blog post as well. Neil Clarke, of Clarkesworld Magazine, is to be one of the recipients of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award at this year’s SFWA Nebula Conference. The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award is given by SFWA for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community, and his many years of editing Clarkesworld certainly qualifies Neil for that. Not only has he massively raised the profile of short fiction, he has also done wonderful things for SF in translation. I’m very pleased for him.

This year’s other Solstice recipient is Nisi Shawl who, as well as being a wonderful writer, has done great work through the Carl Brandon Society. I don’t know her as well as I know Neil, but she is a very worthy recipient.

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Today on Ujima – #LGBTHM Special

The whole of today’s show on Ujima was devoted to LGBT History Month.

I began with some interviews I made at the event in Taunton on Saturday. These were with Steven from the Taunton Gay Group Alex from Somerset Libraries, who organised the event; and finally with Caroline Paige, an absolutely amazing lady who transitioned while serving as a pilot in the RAF and continued on active service after her transition. Anyone who flies helicopters in a war zone has my utmost admiration.

For the second half of the show I was joined in the studio by two guests. Firstly there was former Bristol MP, Stephen Williams. We talked about his time as one of the few openly gay MPs, and also about our shared love of LGBT History. The blog post on LGBT+ heritage sites that he talked about is here.

Stephen will be the headline guest at our LGBT History Month Event at M Shed on Saturday Feb. 16th. The full line-up of speakers is available here.

My second guest was author Alan Robert Clark who has written a novel about Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Eddy, who was involved in a gay sex scandal. There’s a bit more about the book, Prince of Mirrors, on the OutStories Bristol website.

You can listen to the show for the next month via the Ujima Listen Again service here.

All of the music for the show was by black LGBT artists, except for the new Saara Aalto single which I played because it is a charity fundraiser for Mermaids. Here’s the playlist:

  • Titica – Ablua
  • Andy Allo – If I Was King
  • Prince – I Would Die 4 U
  • Jackie Shane – Walking the Dog
  • Tracy Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You?
  • Saara Aalto – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
  • Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel
  • Labi Siffre – Sparrow in the Storm
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Dirty Computer & The Hugos

Yes, it is that time of year again: Hugo neepery time. Over the past few days I have seen several people talking about nominating Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. There has been much confusion over categories, so I’m here to explain.

As with the clipping material that was on the final ballot for the past two years, Monáe’s music belongs in the Dramatic Presentation categories.

The dividing line between Long Form and Short Form in these categories is 90 minutes (as stated here). So Dirty Computer is definitely Short Form, no matter which version you nominate.

Which version? Ah yes, here is the difficulty. “Dirty Computer” is the title of two different things. There is Dirty Computer the album, which is composed entirely of music, and there is Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture, which is a short film about an android called Jane 57821, and which features most of the songs from the album.

One of the things about the Hugos is that Hugo Administrators very rarely make public pronouncements about eligibility. That means we have to second guess them. I’m not privy to the inside of Nicholas Whyte’s brain, but I am fairly sure that he will view these two versions as separate works. One is solely a piece of music, the other is a film with a script and actors. They are both eligible in the same category.

Now of course you could always nominate both of them. You have six slots, after all. But if you are also filling your ballot up with episodes of Supergirl and a whole lot of lesser TV series (me, biased, surely not?) then you might not have space for both.

I’m going to ask you, if you only have space for one, to nominate Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture. Why? Because I think it has wider appeal than just the album. Fans of the music will love it regardless, and those who want something more substantial than a concept album will have the movie (starring Monáe and Tessa Thompson) to consider as well.

Your ballot entry should therefore be for: Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture; Janelle Monáe, Andrew Donoho & Chuck Lightning; Wondaland.

Donoho and Lightning are the directors, Monáe wrote all of the music and, as far as I know, the script as well.

On, and if you want to watch the film before making up your mind, you can find it on YouTube. It isn’t embeddable so you’ll need to click through. And you’ll need to log in to see it because it contains naughty words and sexy stuff.

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Crawford Award 2019

In addition to the Locus Recommending Reading List, the other thing I do a lot of reading for each year is the Crawford Award. That is for a first fantasy book. This year it has been won by RF Kuang’s widely lauded The Poppy War. That’s hardly a surprising winner, but those of us involved in the process had many spirited discussions about other books, some of which have not had so much publicity. The short list is well worth checking out as well. Here it is:

  • The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Breath of the Sun, Rachel Fellman (Aqueduct)
  • Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield (ChiZine)
  • Half-Witch, John Schoffstall (Big Mouth)
  • Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

I should also add that it was an absolute pleasure to work with Mimi Mondal. I have learned so much about India and the Indian literary scene from her.

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This Week’s #LGBTHM Events

The event in Taunton on Saturday went off very well, and we are now full steam ahead into LGBT History Month. Here’s a reminder of what I’m doing this week.

On Wednesday I will have an LGBTHM special edition of my radio show. That will include interviews from Saturday (one of which is with Caroline Paige), gay author Alan Robert Clark, and former Bristol MP Stephen Williams.

Later on Wednesday I’m going to talk to civil servants, but that’s not open to the public.

On Thursday I will be at the University of Bristol (35 Berkerly Square HWB, Room 2.26) from 14:00 to 15:00 talking about Hadrian and his times. The talk is titled: “At the Court of the Rainbow Emperor: How gay, lesbian and intersex people flourished under Hadrian’s rule.” Free tickets are available here.

And on Saturday I will be at the Senedd Building in Cardiff with the Amazon Horde. I note that Wales are playing in Italy late that afternoon so some rugby-watching is likely to happen after the event.

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Locus Recommended Reading List

For those of you who missed all of the excitement on social media on Friday, this year’s Locus Recommended Reading List is out. There are some fabulous books on there, and I am proud to have been involved in the creation of the list. You can find the full list here. And don’t forget to vote in the Locus Poll (once they fix the IT issue which is still ongoing as I type).

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Clarkesworld Does Translated Books

As you may know, Clarkesworld magazine has been publishing translated fiction as a regular part of the magazine for some time. Neil has now decided to ramp that up by publishing printed books of translated fiction. The first of those will be A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight, a short fiction collection from the wonderful Xia Jia. There is a Kickstarter campaign running to fund the book. I’m definitely signing up for this one, and I hope that it leads to many more books of translated fiction in the future.

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The 2019 #LGBTHM Tour

February is almost upon us. Here’s what I think is my final(-ish) schedule.

Friday 1st: Flag raising at City Hall in Bristol, followed by a reception in the Lord Mayor’s Chapel. All welcome.

Saturday 2nd: An event at the library in Taunton. I will be talking about Spartans. The OutStories Bristol traveling exhibition is on display, and my colleague Robert Howes is speaking as well.

Wednesday 6th: I’ll be doing Women’s Outlook on Ujima. It will be an LGBTHM special and will feature former local MP, Stephen Williams, talking about being gay in Parliament. I’m also doing a talk about Michael Dillon for some civil servants in the afternoon.

Thursday 7th: I’m doing a talk about Hadrian and his time at Bristol University. Not sure if this one is open or not. Update: yes it is. Also via Eventbrite.

Saturday 9th: I will be at the LGBTHM event at the Senedd Building in Cardiff, talking about Amazons.

Thursday 14th: I will be at Queens University, Belfast talking about trans people in ancient Mesopotamia. (And for potential Worldcon attendees, I’m traveling via Dublin and the Enterprise.)

Saturday 16th: The LGBTHM event at M Shed in Bristol. Full line-up here. I will be talking to performance storyteller, Rachel Rose Reid, about the Romance of Silence, a mediaeval Arthurian tale featuring a non-binary protagonist. If all goes well, Rachel will be performing part of the story in Bristol that evening.

Thursday 28th: I’ll be attending a book launch at Exeter University. The book in question is Sculpture, Sexuality and History, edited by my ear friends Jana Funke and Jen Grove. There’s also a mini academic conference that includes Mara Gold talking about actual Lesbians (as in ancient Greeks from Lesbos).

In amongst all of this I’m also attending Farah’s Historical Fiction Research Network conference in Manchester where I’m talking about steampunk.

I’d like to say that I will be spending March lying down, but LGBTHM has a habit of scope creep and I’m definitely planning to be in Belfast on the final weekend for the Outing the Past academic conference, always assuming that the country isn’t under martial law at the time, which is starting to look increasingly likely.

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Story Sale

This one appears to be official now. At least one of my fellow authors has written about it. So I guess I can celebrate too. I am delighted that I will be having a story in Rainbow Bouquet, an anthology of queer love stories to be published on Valentine’s Day. The editor is Farah Mendlesohn, and one of my fellow authors is Sarah Ash, so I’m in excellent company already. Here’s the full ToC:

  • The Man of My Dreams by Harry Roberts
  • Proof of Evil by Ed Ahern
  • A Hatred of Wednesdays by Victoria-Melita Zammit
  • Ubytok — umu pribytok by Erin Horáková
  • The Poet’s Daughter by Cheryl Morgan
  • Duet for Piano, Four Hands by Sarah Ash
  • Stronger Than Death by Kathleen Jowitt
  • More than Starlight, More than Rain by Sean R. Robinson
  • O’Canada by Garrick Jones
  • Firebrand by MJ Logue

I can tell you that my story is not trans-themed. I also note that the publishers, Manifold Press, specialise in queer historical fantasy. No more clues.

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Fringe Tomorrow: Mark Lewis & Peter F Hamilton

I will be hosting BristolCon Fringe again tomorrow night. The readers will be Mark Lewis, an experienced short story writer, and Peter F Hamilton, who needs absolutely no introduction.

As ususal the event will be at the Gryphon pub (in the event space upstairs) on Colston Street. People will start gathering from around 7:00pm and the event is due to start at 7:30pm. Full details here. I hope to see some of you there.

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Gaming for Mermaids

As many of you will know, I am a big fan of an organisation called Mermaids. They are a support network for trans kids and their families. Just the sort of thing I wish had existed when I was young and struggling with my identity.

Over the past few months they have come under intense attack from anti-trans extremists who have tried to paint them as a cult that is pushing children to transition. They have also been horribly misrepresented in the media. Recently the Daily Malice was actually forced to apologise because they had edited a comment from Mermaids. The original said that waiting times for medication caused distress to young people, but the Malice ran it as saying that it was the medication that caused distress. That was so blatantly dishonest that even the normally tame and toothless media regulator, IPSO, called for a retraction.

Before the Holidays news broke that Mermaids had been awarded £500,000 by the Big Lottery Fund. This was met with outrage by anti-trans extremists who organised a campaign to bombard the Fund with complaints, as a result of which the grant has been suspended pending investiation. I don’t hold out much hope because if there’s one thing that bureaucrats hate it is negative publicity. I suspect that it will be almost impossible from now on for a UK-based charity to get a grant for work with trans people.

The problem is, of course, that anything the anti-trans side does will be front page news in the national media and discussed in pearl-clutching tones on the BBC, whereas anything trans folks do, even if it has massively more support, will be ignored. But we do have support, and that was proved this weekend.

A wonderful young man who goes by the name of Hbomberguy has been playing Donkey Kong non-stop on the gamer streaming service, Twitch. I think he’s done his bit now, but the fundraiser he set up for it is still going. Thus far he has raised over $160,000. That’s incredible. Mostly it has come in small donations from thousands of people.

While the money is hugely welcome and will be put to very good use by Mermaids, the campaign is also enormously valuable for the morale boost it has given the trans community. We’ve taken an incredible battering over the past year. The Times and Sunday Times alone averaged almost one anti-trans article a day in 2018. The toll this has taken on trans people’s mental health has been very obvious. To wake up this morning to parents of trans kids saying how happy what Hbomberguy has done has made their children has been hugely heartwarming.

The campaign on Twitch is still running and will be open for several more days if you want to contribute. Alternatively you can donate direct to Mermaids here. And of course there may be trans groups local to you who are desperate for funds.

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Article on Vector Blog

It being that time of year, I was asked to write a review of 2018 thing for Vector, the British Science Fiction Association’s journal. Being me, I chose to have a feminist focus for it. There are lots of books that I loved mentioned, and you can find it here. Enjoy!

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Trans Bare All Anniversary Book

The lovely people at Trans Bare All are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. Normally I would just point you at their website, but they are dealing with a little malware issue at the moment so I have just linked to their Twitter so you can see who they are. This is what I wanted you to read:

We want to mark the occasion by creating a book of art and writing that reflects some of what TBA is all about, and, as it is all about our community, that means we need you.

We are welcoming submissions of original writing and art on the theme of TBA and gender (perhaps what TBA means to you), or on gender alone, and we actively encourage not only those of you who regularly write or create art, but also those who might need a little encouragement.

You can write in any form you wish (poetry, prose fiction, life writing non-fiction etc) and, if your submission is accepted, you will have the chance to work with an editor to polish your piece for publication in the book. We are also welcoming submissions of visual art that explore the themes above – please see below for image specifications.

The workshop plan below will guide you step by step towards a piece of life writing with a creative approach, and you can also use these workshop exercises to generate ideas for a visual art piece.

Submission eligibility:

  • Following the TBA age limit, you must be 18 years or older by the submissions deadline
  • You do not have to have attended a TBA retreat or party before
  • You do not have to live in the UK

Submission guidelines:

  • Please submit your original work to book@transbareall.co.uk
  • You must include the following in your covering email, as it helps us understand our community better and make our work more accessible:
    1. the name you want your piece published under
    2. your gender
    3. your ethnicity
    4. if you consider yourself to have a disability (no need to state what it is)
    5. your age on the submissions deadline
  • Deadline for submissions is 11.59pm Friday 8th February 2019

For writing:

  • submit your piece as a fully compatible Word document, or .txt if .doc is not possible
  • 2000 word limit for prose (fiction and non-fiction)
  • 80 line limit for poems (including stanza breaks), with maximum 60 characters per line (including spaces)

For visual art:

  • Submit your piece as a high quality JPEG or TIFF file that is
  • Sized for A5 publication, so 154mm x 216mm portrait, with no important images within 15mm of each edge as these may be trimmed off in print
  • 300dpi (dots per inch) so it is at print-quality
  • If text is incorporated into your piece, please ensure that it is legible at A5 size
  • Please contact us if you need more detail about image requirements

FAQ:

  • You can submit more than one piece of writing or art or both, and, if selected, our editors will choose their favourite piece for the book
  • Submission does not guarantee that your piece will be included
  • All submissions will be notified of our selection decision within eight weeks of the deadline. Please be patient – we are volunteers!
  • if you want your piece attributed to ‘anonymous’ then please state this clearly in your covering email
  • All accepted submissions will undergo an editorial process with our editors and designer
  • All submissions must be free from publishing restrictions for the next two years. If your piece is currently published or under consideration elsewhere, please contact us to discuss.
  • As we are an unfunded volunteer-run organisation, unfortunately we cannot offer a fee for accepted submissions; however, all contributors will receive a copy of the finished book!

There you go. Obviously a charity project, but hopefully some of you will take an interest. Good luck if you do.

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