Competitions & Commissions

It has been a while since I last blogged…but it means I have lots of exciting news and projects to share.

Firstly, I’m delighted that my poem Waiting/Outlook has won first prize in the 2020 Waltraud Field International Poetry Competition!!!

From the Art Gallery with Love x Commission

My other big news is a successful proposal for From the Art Gallery with Love x project. My commission for Worcester City Art Gallery includes creating A Modern Mosaic of Worcestershire using photographs for the tiles, a hypertext poem and a poetryfilm. All three parts of the project are inspired by the gallery’s painting A Prospect of Worcester from the East (c. 1750 and attributed to John Harris the Younger). The project is very exciting, and I’m really excited to share the results with people. More about my commission can be found here.


I’m absolutely delighted to have my poem The Cat Cafe longlisted in the Write Out Loud Covid-19 competition to raise funds for NHS Charities. It will now be published in an anthology of 100 poems selected from the more than 2,000 entries. This Write Out Loud Beyond the Storm competition anthology can be ordered here. (After covering unit costs and administration costs, Write Out Loud will give also be giving all surplus from anthology sales to the charity.)

Below, you can hear me reading the poem for the Poetry Archive.

Not our neighbours’ place (poem) longlisted in Penfro Poetry Competition 2020 in Aug 2020;

More than ‘Structurally Unsafe’ (poem) published in Words for the Wild New Build issue in Aug 2020;

Marcasite (poem) published in London Grip in Sept 2020;

Orbiting Redditch and While Visiting (poems) in New Towns anthology (Wild Pressed Books) in Sept 2020;

Knot Me, Hedgehog Pinball, Anything but E.C.T, Mâché and “One Wild And Precious Life” (poems) published in The Mountains You Cannot See an anthology of poetry about metal health (Slice of the Moon Books) in Aug 2020;

Clotted Moons (flash) published on Fictive Dream on 12 July 2020;

The Dream Machine (flash) on Every Day Fiction on 17 Aug 2020;

Wrecked (flash) shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre Flash Fiction 101 July competition in Aug 2020;


I was delighted to be the judge for Gloucestershire Writers’ Network poetry competition 2020 with a theme of ‘My World’ and had a delightful start to August immersing myself in the entries. The results have now been announced and can be found on the GWN website here.

My big congratulations to the winning poets and fiction writers, and to everyone who entered in a year where Covid-19 has had a massive effect on us all. I’m very much looking forward now to the winners’ anthology. (And very delighted too to have been asked to contribute a couple of poems myself.) I’m also very much looking forward to hearing the winners and reading some of my own poems for this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival event on Sunday, October 4 at 5pm. Details of this and tickets here.

I have been slower than usual in keeping up with blog news. (2020 has been that kind of year!) But some weeks back, I was delighted to hear that one of my In the Booklight interviews had been referenced in The Telegraph as part of a piece about Geraldine Clarkson’s wonderful new collection Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh (Nine Arches Press). The Telegraph article is here, and my interview with Geraldine about an earlier poetry pamphlet here.

I was delighted too to see my poetryfilm ‘And his open mouth is an olive grove’ included in Helen Dewbery’s wonderful article about poetryfilm for The Blue Nib. You can find the article (with link to ‘And his open mouth is an olive grove’) here.

The Sunday Tribune online has also run a fantastic article about my Arts Council England funded multimedia hypertext poetry narrative > Room, that you can read here. A podcast interview with me about > Room, poetry and living with diabetes has also just been released by Spoken Label here.

I’m delighted to have a poem The Two-Metre Mantra accepted for a fundraising pandemic anthology project set up by Z.D. Dicks. More details about this and The Crowdfunder page for it can be found here. I’m very pleased too to have been invited to read at the launch of Z.D. Dicks’ latest poetry collection Vexed on Monday, 14 September 2020. More about the collection and launch can be found here.

Add comment September 6, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Clotted Moons

Fictive Dream

by Sarah Leavesley

The young woman in front of you is a conundrum. Normally, you can tell a person’s fate well before you read their tea leaves: you sift the dregs already knowing what you’ll find there. But clipped-moon clots of soured milk spinning on an untouched cup isn’t usual, and it isn’t good.

‘The girl who pours the right tea will see stars.’ You try to sound mysterious, as you turn your attention from the cup to me, a teenager you don’t recognise.

‘Of course.’ I sip obediently, seemingly oblivious to the unappetising flotsam swirling in my brew.

You observe me. I’m waif-like, narrow-faced with wavy ginger hair, windblown fringe, cropped pale green T-shirt and tight black jeans. I look fifteen, maybe sixteen. You can identify with the ginger ninja gene; in many ways, I remind you of yourself at a similar age, slightly hesitant, but mostly defiant, trying…

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Add comment July 12, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Poetryfilms, the BBC & other webs of lockdown light

A Plague On All Our Houses is a lockdown poetryfilm collaboration with filmmaker Andrew Curtis. It’s based on a short poetry sequence – a lockdown Romeo and Juliet – written especially for Andrew to use for the film. I also have a slightly longer page-poem version of the whole sequence featuring emails between the two characters who live in different cities, so have to isolate separately during the pandemic.

Although created as a poetryfilm, I’m absolutely delighted that the audio narrative A Plague On All Our Houses was also broadcast on BBC Radio Gloucestershire Evening Show with Jon Smith on Thursday, July 9. This is available to listen again online for around three weeks here. The first part is at 3hrs 10 mins in and the second part just before 3hrs 22 mins.

Covid-19 and lockdown haven’t been easy. I’ve been very lucky personally that none of my loved ones have caught the virus. It almost seems frivolous to write or worry about anything else at the moment. But work, life and writing are still there – if cast in an entirely different light and perspective by everything that is going on in the world right now. A small sliver of my personal experience of the past few months, including time, nature and the nature of time can be found in my article The Writing Mind’s Underlands and the Perspective of Time on The Blue Nib. This also takes in lockdown lethargy (writer’s block), my collaborative poetryfil lockdown love story, acute and chronic projects, and reading Robert Macfarlane’s amazing Underland and Alison Brackenbury’s beautiful Skies.

On the BBC

I was really delighted to be invited onto BBC Hereford & Worcester’s The Evening Show with Kate Justice for a short interview and to share two of my poem. I had a really lovely time chatting with Kate, and it was great to perform People Scare Me Because… and Doing the School Run with Freud for her and The Evening Show listeners. You can listen to this here. I’m on about 3 hrs 24 mins through, and then again around 3 hours 42 mins. (The replay should be available for about 3 weeks after this blogpost.)

Other poetry news

Not quite vintage (poem) wins fourth prize in the Evesham Festival of Words Poetry Competition 2020 with its theme of Thinking outside of the box in June 2020.

Singing Everyone a Home (poem) published in DOORS anthology in aid of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees in June 2020 and is available on the BRWR website here;

I’m delighted to have some haiku featured in an Ingestre Orangery inspired poetryfilm ‘missive voices.’ by Mal Dewhirst.

My review of Hush by Majella Kelly (Ignition Press) for The High Window can be found here.

I’m also pleased to have a poem, Twist, accepted for 14, a poem, In the Dream-Catcher Hung by a 40th-Storey Window at Fallsview, Niagara for Kissing Dynamite‘s anthology PUNK (due out later this summer), and another poem, Perturbing Paws for Thought, accepted for Purr Fect Poems anthology (Dream Well) in support of Stafford & District Cats Protection.

Fiction news

I’m chuffed to have a flash, After, longlisted in the Reflex Fiction Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Competition. It will be published online some time over the summer and also in the Reflex Fiction anthology next summer.

I’m very happy too to have a flash, Shipwrecked, longlisted in the Lightbox Originals photo-inspired 100-word story competition.

Add comment July 12, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Reviews: Malone, Lauder, Kelly, McCullough

Add comment June 29, 2020 sarahjameswrites

This is a poetry film version of my poem Singing Everyone a Home (poem) published in DOORS anthology in aid of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees in June 2020, available on the BRWR website here.

A longer launch video featuring several poems from the pamphlet can be enjoyed here.

Add comment June 20, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Prize delight, ACE funding & other publication/competition/judging news


April was a cruel month here on the writing front as well as Covid19. On the poetry front at least, May and June have come in delightful contrast.

I was stunned and over the proverbial moon to win the open category of this year’s Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Although my poem People Scare Me Because… isn’t directly about my diabetes, it’s about some of the psychological effects of this chronic condition/my diagnosis with this disability.

The 2020 Hippocrates Prize Anthology is available on the Hippocrates Prize website here and a video of me reading the poem below.


I’ve also asked for some of my prize money to fund a limited number of free entries for the Hippocrates Prize for writers on low incomes (one poem each for 10 poets in the Hippocrates Prize Open Category and 10 poets in the Hippocrates Prize Health Professional Category). So please do look out for that when the 2021 prize opens for entries.


Room 38 tope layer

My Hippocrates Prize news also leads indirectly into the fabulous news that I’d been successful in getting Arts Council England funding for a collection-length hypertext multi-media poetry narrative > Room. It’s been a lot of work but also a lot of fun busy working on this, and can your explore the results here.

These poems are particularly close to my heart as living with type one diabetes from the age of six hasn’t been easy – for me, or those around me!

> Room hasn’t long been live but already I’ve had feedback about its accesibility, interactiveness and labyrinthine qualities. It’s early days, but other descriptions have included ‘exciting’, ‘thrilling’, ‘moving’, ‘powerful’, ‘inventive’ and ‘intriguing’. What do you think? If you have a chance to explore it, I’d love to hear how you find > Room.


Holiday Lets commended in The Beach Hut Coastal Writing for Wellness Competition in May 2020;
Stargazing in the Waiting Room highly commended in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin’s Poetry Competition in celebration of Poetry Day Ireland 2020 in April 2020;
Beside the bed selected for PITTOC Volume Two anthology in May 2020. Proceeds from this volume of PITTOC (Poetry in the Time of Conoavirus) are to benefit Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health. My link is for UK amazon, but it’s also available on


This poetryfilm is also featured, with my poem The lockdown school day, on Bromsgrove council website here, along with poems from other local poets;
The lockdown school day on Pendemic in May 2020;
The day we disappeared (flash with a hypertext twist) published on Ellipsis Zine in May 2020;
In hollowed oak… (art) and Writing Life and More than snapshots (poems) published in Irisi Hope issue in May 2020;
The Changing Landscape (poem) published on Poetry in Public in May 2020;
Along our coastline (poem) on The Beach Hut in May 2020;
Knives and Forks (flash) published on Fragmented Voices in May 2020;
Katherina’s Hair Chronicles (poem) in Abridged 0-19 Eris in May 2020;
Still a chance (drawing) and Altering the light (photo) in Flash Frontier in May 2020;
Churning Perspectives (poem) on The Glow of Emerald Light photo challenge 2 in May 2020;
Strange Orbits (poem) on Atrium in May 2020;
The Rising Sun (poem) published on The Poetry Village in April 2020;
Doing the School Run with Freud (poem) published in About Larkin in April 2020;
Sudden and Not Mercury (poems) published in Unpsychology 6 The Other-Than-Human anthology in April 2020, pages 134 and 135, available here.
Unpsychology 6 v1


Other new advance publication news includes my review of Hush by Majella Kelly (Ignition Press) for The High Window this autumn.

I’m also delighted to have acceptances for:
two poems (on Redditch and Welwyn Garden City) accepted for the Wild Pressed Books ‘New Towns’ anthology, edited by Rob Francis;
five poems for the climate change/eco anthology Earth, We Are Listening (Slice of The Moon Books);
five poems for the mental healthy anthology The Mountains You Cannot See (Slice of The Moon Books);
Clotted Moons (flash) on Fictive Dream on 12 July 2020;


I am delighted to be the poetry judge for this year’s Gloucestershire Writers’ Network 2020 Competition, supported by The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. The theme is ‘My World’ and the deadline is early July 2020. Full details about the competition and how to enter can be found here. Please do follow the instructions carefully, particularly making sure your entry is anonymous.

Add comment June 14, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Black Lives Matter: What Can I Do As a Writer?

via Black Lives Matter: What Can I Do As a Writer?

Add comment June 3, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Strange Orbits – Sarah James/Leavesley

Strange Orbits

Another alien sky. Wrapped in mist,
the pale sun turns to ghostly moon.
Five months, four weeks, two days and still
everything is strange: sleep rains
nightmares; his face and 100-watt shadows
orbit the long waking hours.

My non-stop mind churns white noise.
The radio headline that crackles through
is a fire at Chester Zoo…animals missing.
Missing, miss him. Words spin
like his anti-crease shirts playing
at white clouds in our tumble drier.

Meanwhile, me, driving, and more driving –
a thick-windowed metal beast charging
the road’s jolting hum and jumbled horizons.
Avoiding home. My thoughts flock
like sheep rushing an upturned trough.
His silhouette dominates every skyline.

“Let me write it down in case.” Last words
are stones skimmed across an endless lake,
the tarmac’s unrelenting grey, the deep
emptiness inside me, my heavy bones,
these restless limbs. When the phrase sinks,
and memories rise, I feel…

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Add comment May 29, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Knives and Forks by Sarah Leavesley

Fragmented Voices

Red_in_the_Morning Red in the Morning by Stela Brix, 2018

“There’s no milk!” Luke slams our fridge door closed, then tips his bran flakes back into the packet as noisily as feet stomping on shattered glass. “Didn’t you sort the shopping?”

“Oscar had two bowls of Cheerios this morning. I thought I’d get some on my way back with the kids, as I’m dropping and picking up again!” I try not to shout but my tone is unmistakably barbed. These days whenever we talk about money, work and chores, simple sounds, letters and gestures are suddenly as sharp as knives, pierce like forks.

Luke growls, then clunks two slices of bread into the toaster, clangs the cutlery drawer open and loudly pulls out a knife for the margarine. The kids have finished that too, I think. Though neither happening is my fault, that doesn’t stop the sliver of guilt, as I gulp…

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Add comment May 22, 2020 sarahjameswrites

COMMENDED ~ Sarah James

Add comment May 7, 2020 sarahjameswrites

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September 2021