LitCrawl London

Fans of literary bar-hopping please join us for free this Friday in Peckham!

LitCrawl was created by San Francisco’s Litquake Literary Festival in 2004, the idea being simply to turn a bar crawl into a scene of literary mayhem. Since then, LitCrawl has taken over neighbourhoods around the world London is no exception with galleries, cafes, bars, shops, restaurants, letting the literati loose, tramping their streets and becoming intoxicated by words.

This Friday, October 16th 2015, Unthank’s acclaimed short story collection UNTHOLOGY holds court at Petitou Café, 63 Choumert Road, London SE15 4AR. We’re in the first of the three waves of the evening from 7-7.45 (the audience has fifteen minutes at the end to choose and get to their next venue.)

Appearing and reading from UNTHOLOGY are:

Ruby Cowling. Winner of the Words With Jam Short Story Competition 2012, Highly Commended in the Bridport Prize 2012 and a Micro Award 2013 nominee her short fiction has appeared in various literary magazines including UNTHOLOGY 4.

Roelof Bakker. Founder of Negative Press and editor of STILL (2012) and STRONG ROOM (2014) a collaboration with artist Jane Wildgoose. Roelof has a set of three stories published in UNTHOLOGIES 5, 6 & 7 called RED, BLUE and GREEN.

Unthology 5

Unthology 5

Robin Jones. Co-editor of the UNTHOLOGY series and publisher of Unthank Books is standing in for Unthologist Elaine Chiew who has just won another short story competition and has to attend the award ceremony. (Congratulations Elaine!) Robin will read his current favourite from the seven UNTHOLOGIES so far, ahead of UNTHOLOGY 8 forthcoming in January 2016.

For more info visit:

The Life of ‘Country Life’ by Ken Edwards

Ken Edwards talks about his novel, ‘Country Life’, published by Unthank on the first of November 2015.

I started writing the novel that became Country Life nearly 20 years ago. I’d just completed my first successful (in my eyes) novel, Futures, which had suffered a series of publishing setbacks before I brought it out under the Reality Street imprint in 1998. Country Life was to have been the next one.

Instead, I got side-tracked – once again.

I started off as a fiction writer in the late 1970s, having a few short stories published here and there, inspired by Kafka, Beckett, Pynchon and others. But poetry kept sidetracking me and I also got disillusioned with the whole idea of fiction, characterisation, plot. And whereas I had few available peers or mentors in the world of contemporary fiction, there were a lot of people I knew doing new things with poetry that totally fascinated me, as did the world of small press publishing, where you could be your own master.

But my natural unit of composition was always the sentence, even when I was fragmenting those sentences beyond recognition. And I never let go of narrative –even when the narratives I was handling were similarly fragmented. Blowing patterns apart, then putting them together again.

Futures (still available) was the first extended, novel-length narrative I was totally happy with. And Country Life was to take it further. Except it didn’t. It wasn’t working, and I abandoned it.

About two or three years ago, I had another look. The thing was in pieces, but there was some twitching life in it. Music, my other passion, was there in theme and spirit. There was a musical structure underlying it, like Bartok’s arches: five sections, the central one being the pivot, and within each section, fractally, a similar structure – the hope was that this would challenge the classical “golden section” form (i.e. with the climax coming two-thirds through, followed by a resolution).

In a period when, having been made redundant in my day job, I was forcing myself to write every morning (the self-instruction was “write something – even just a sentence”) I set to rebuilding this abandoned entity. I rewrote or substantially revised those parts I’d already written, and little by little filled in the immense gaps. The arc of the plot had never been totally clear, but it began to reveal itself. And the characters.

Clearly, Dennis, the hapless young would-be composer, is a version of the younger me. He is basically an idiot, but he means no harm. Tarquin, his Marxist poet friend/nemesis, represents everyone who has been my nemesis, but also has components of myself in him. The enigmatic Alison, a.k.a. Wanda, while superficially playing the part of the unattainable woman (or the woman who offers attainability and then withdraws it), is actually someone trying to be something she doesn’t quite understand the implications of. Her rock musician husband, Severin, frightened me more and more as I wrote him. I think the frightening part is how familiar he became and how much I identified with him.

I think the main character, though, is the nuclear power station that looms in the background of this anonymous land-and-sea-scape. When I started writing the book, I was spending a lot of time in rural Suffolk, so the description owes much to Sizewell, though some is taken from Dungeness, about an hour’s drive from where I now live in Hastings.

There is non-verbal commentary throughout from denizens of the natural world, indifferent to the plight of the human characters.

Also, in a tribute to one of the worlds I inhabit, the fictional avatar of a literary hero of mine, the poet Tom Raworth, makes a cameo appearance in the final section. Tom is currently very unwell, but he’s a magnificent fighter. The book is also dedicated to him.

I was pretty satisfied when I finished it. Unlike many of my literary compositions, it is recognisably a standard-length novel, with characters that develop, and a plot. (I am so tired of being told my books are “unmarketable” because they don’t fit established niches.) Actually, the characters are all thwarted in various ways. What they do with this thwarting is up to them (except in the case of poor Severin). I tend to like the Seinfeld makers’ maxim: no hugging, no learning.

Despite one or two rejections, it wasn’t long before I got the thumbs up from Unthank Books, for which I’m very grateful. Soon Country Life will be out in the world and it won’t belong to me any more, which is always a relief. Books have to grow up and become independent, after all.

Pre-Order Country Life by Ken Edwards.

Belona Greenwood on Words and Women’s Third Annual Writing Competition

Words and Women Competition 2015 A4 full res copy (2)

Launch time and Words And Women’s distinctive posters are going up, flyers are being slipped into bags and books. Yep, it’s Words And Women’s third annual short prose competition open for entries and this year Emma Healey will make the final pick of the winners.

Author of the Sunday Times’ best-selling novel Elizabeth is Missing, and winner of the Costa First Novel Award, Emma is an alumna of the MA in Creative Writing at the UEA and this will be her first experience of selecting winning texts. It is a challenge she is more than happy to meet.

Emma will be looking for keen observation in the competition entries. ‘It is always wonderful to find a writer has described a sensation never put into words before, come up with a perfect metaphor for something, or created a stunningly vivid image in the mind of a reader. It’s also exciting to find the mundane transformed into the extraordinary or the extraordinary made to feel familiar.

‘I’d love to read pieces which say something about our time, or our location, stories which are striving for some kind of meaning, even if they are only asking questions for the reader to try and answer.

‘I’d like to find emotional honesty in the pieces, and writing which is full of bravery rather than swagger, by authors who aren’t afraid of exploring the feelings of their characters, or of letting the reader get close to the emotion of the writer.

‘Lastly I’m hoping to read pieces in which humour hasn’t been forgotten. That doesn’t mean the subject or situation has to be funny, but even a tragic tale can be lifted by a witty observation, a moment of hysterical hyperbole or even a straightforward joke,’ said Emma.


The competition offers a cash prize of £600 and publication in Words And Women: Three. Entry is open to all women writers over the age of 16 who live or work in the East of England. Short works of fiction, memoir, life-writing and creative non-fiction are all welcome. The anthology, published in partnership with Unthank Books will be launched on International Women’s Day, 8th March, 2016, Words and Women’s fifth anniversary, and the deadline for entries is midnight 15th November, 2015.

‘The competition is a wonderful opportunity for women writers in the region,’ said novelist Lynne Bryan, organiser of Words And Women along with scriptwriter Belona Greenwood. ‘It’s a great showcase and previous winners have gone on to secure agent representation and increased interest in their work.’

‘We are thrilled Emma Healey is our guest judge for our fifth anniversary year. Her input will help us to identify the strongest and most exciting writing by women in the East of England,’ said Belona. ‘We’ve come a long way in five years. Who would have thought that a simple public reading event in the Millennium Library would have led us through garden festivals, art exhibitions, warm and vibrant reading events, young women’s writing projects and Arts Council funded commissioning of new work for our ‘About’ project. Although the public landscape that women writers occupy is improving, there is still some way to go. As long as women feel they have to disguise their gender in order to be read by boys as well as girls, men as well as women, we’ll be around.’

So women writers please dig out that prose and send it in. See for details. Winners will be announced in January 2016.

9781910061015 GD-WW2

Words and Women: One and Words and Women: Two are available to order from the Unthank Cameo Bookshop.