Archive for October 2019

Because it will be gone in a flash…

My life has never been very still, much though I enjoy brief moments of peace when I meditate. The past few months, like the past few years and much of my life has been filled with both low points and highlights. I’m going to focus on the highlights because the disappointments have already had more of time and energy than I’d like! Plus I also have lots of gratitude and thanks to the editors, festival and event organisers who have made all the fabulous things below happen!!!

October started with the National Poetry Day launch of the Poetry on Loan poetry postcards, including my poem ‘And counting…’ The picture below features some of the poetry postcard poems on display in poster-form at Hereford Library for the launch reading.

Poetry on Loan pom postcards 2019 DSC110

My next publication excitement was ‘Stopping for a Coffee on Drury Lane at Dusk’ (poem) published in Domestic Cherry 7. The launch was at The Big Poetry Weekend, Swindon – big thanks to Hilda Sheehan and all for a fun, characterful and memorable evening! I also had a festival reading and publishing panel event. All three were great fun, as was the whole of my time at the festival. The atmosphere and setting (at Richard Jeffries Museum) were magical, friendly and warming. I also got to meet, hear, chat with and pick up pamphlets from some amazing poets, including Julia Webb, Olivia Tuck, Fiona Benson, Michelle Diaz, Alison Brackenbury, Claire Crowther (my fellow reader and panelist) and more! Hats off to all involved, especially Carrie Etter and Helen Dewberry. I’d really recommend these poets and the festival – I came back feeling re-energised and inspired!

20191026_191823 Sarah at Gloucester Poetry Festival 2019

On the festival front, I was really pleased to be a Guest Poet with David Ashbee, Sharon Larkin, Roger Turner and Derek Dohrenat for The Gloucester Poetry Festival’s Echoes event this weekend. My family on my father’s side hail from the Gloucestershire-Wales border and Forest of Dean areas, so it was great to read some of my Gloucestershire poems. The evening was wonderfully wide-ranging and I’ve come home with some fabulous books to read. Big thanks to Ziggy Dicks and all involved in organising the event and festival. (The festival runs until this Thursday, so do check out The Gloucestershire Poetry Society on Facebook for more events!)

I’m also delighted to have had a haibun ‘The last red phone box’ published in Ripening Cherries (Offa’s Press) and my poem ‘The First Secret’ published in Confessions, an anonymous prize anthology judged and edited by Worcestershire Poet Laureate Charley Barnes. I’ve a short poetry sequence ‘Speaking with flowers’ and ‘Pressed Beauty’ forthcoming in the Black Pear Press Pressed Flowers anthology commissioned by Charley Barnes and Polly Stretton. This is being launched at one of my favourite poetry venues, Park’s Cafe in Droitwich, on Wednesday, November 13 – 6.30pm for a 7pm start. I’m looking forward both to reading and catching up with friends I’ve not seen in a while – do join us if you can!

I’ve also have a poem ‘the glass impressionist’ accepted for the next issue of London Grip New Poetry, in December.

On the art and photography front, I was delighted to find my photo ‘Knowledge Decay’ was in the Top Five of the Borderlines Carlisle Book Festival photography competition 2019 for images with a theme of change. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it up to Carlisle in person to see it on display in Tullie House, but the festival team kindly took a picture for me.

Bordelines book festival top 5 photo credit Borderlines Carlisle Book Festival - Copy

Seasonal Adjustment Order‘ (flash fiction) published on Words for the Wild in September.

The Dream Dresser‘ (flash fiction) published on Literally Stories in September.

I’ve also had my micro ‘In the Days of Automata’ accepted for Ellipsis Zine 6: 2119, which is due out soon. Meanwhile, I’m really happy and grateful to have another micro fiction, ‘Summer Joyrides’, taken for the next Flash Fiction Festival anthology.

While I’m writing about this, I also have to give a shout to Kathy Fish for her fabulous fast flash fiction course. I’ve literally just finished this and found the ten day online couse simultaneously challenging, intensive and totally AMAZING!!! To put this in a more concrete context – I’ve more flash fiction drafts from this course than I’d normally manage in 6 months to a year! (The next step for me, of course, is revising, redrafting and then submitting some of the pieces. But I’ve already had one micro-fiction started on the course, ‘A Cacophony of Lovers’, accepted for Bending Genres issue 12, out in December.)

This leads me into another piece of news. I love running V. Press but it inevitably takes a lot of my time and energy, meaning my personal output, submissions and publications often takes second place to press demands. I do need to create myself though, and in particular to write and find new creative challenges, in order to rebuild the energy needed to do everything else. I’m not just an editor or publisher, and one of the things that I’ve realised over the past year in particular is that I do need to be able to make and maintain some kind of space for me as a writer. As part of this, I will be taking a month away from V. Press at the end of next year, for a residency by the Baltic Sea in Latvia. Although that’s still a while off, I’m excited already – and knowing I have that lined up is also revitalising in itself!


I will be judging this year’s Against The Grain Poetry Press poetry competition. You can check out the rules and enter here. (And my Against The Grain Poetry Press chapbook How to Grow Matches is available from the press here. Or drop me an email on if you’d like a signed copy posting out.)

October 29, 2019

Against the Grain Poetry Competition 2019 – Judge’s top tips for your entries

Abegail Morley

COMPThe very talented poet, short story writer and editor, Sarah James, is judging this year’s competition. Check out details of entering HERE.

She is passing on some top tips to help you on your way for entering this year’s competition. I posed a few questions to Sarah to find out what a judge wants from a poem and also what the poet can do to ensure their poem gets further and further up the shortlist pile.

What do you look for in a poem?

I try to come to poems openly and with as few expectations or pre-conceptions as possible, particularly as a competition judge. In terms of what I’ll be looking for in this competition, I’m only really going to be able to answer that afterwards. Things that I might anticipate finding in a poem I’ll love include striking imagery and lines that resonate long after I’ve read them…

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