A Short History of Synchronised Breathing – ‘quirky blueprints for getting by’

October 19th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

A Short History of Synchronised Breathing and other stories, by Vanessa Gebbie, has been reviewed in the lovely Frogmore Papers (a favourite litmag at Cultured Llama HQ). Here is what Charlotte Gann has to say:

These stories are elegantly varied while strangely united. Peopled by characters living in some degree of dislocation or isolation, they’re funny, serious and compassionate. (I’ll remember the divorced taxi driver, Frank, carrying his fare without direction.) Often surreal, many contemplate past relationships, especially marriages, and are riddled with irreverence, ribaldry and flights of fancy, as well as reflections on the process of writing. Overall, they seem to me quirky blueprints for getting by – most, arguably, more sustainable than a nationwide programme of synchronised breathing!


A Short History of Synchronised Breathing and other stories costs £12 plus [email protected] Order two books or more and post and packing is free.

Readers have great things to say about The Lost of Syros, stories by Emma Timpany. An anonymous reader says:

This short story collection is a joy to read. I had a sense of the generosity of the writer, as I entered each story and found it to be a different world. In a strange way, the experience was somewhat like the satisfaction I had reading ‘The Examined Life’ by Stephen Grosz (a brilliant, heart-warming book), because what Emma gives the reader is a series of insights into very varied lives. Emma Timpany is a writer’s writer: one of the best. Her style is unobtrusive, but lyrical. Often I don’t read every story in a collection, but with this one, I found each one had something very different to offer. These stories are revealing, intriguing, funny at times and shot through with beauty.

Victoria Field adds:

Accomplished and riveting short stories mostly centred on the experiences of girls and young women, always vividly located in a specific place. There’s a sense of loss and confusion, of things not always being what they seem, a kind of fugitive grief., even if as in one story, there’s a happy ending when the lost child is found. I loved this book.

The Lost of Syros costs £12 plus [email protected] Order two books or more and post and packing is free.

Poetry of hope – Hearth, by Rose Cook

October 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

Rose Cook’s Hearth has been reviewed on Literature Works:

From the outset of this powerful collection, there is an inescapable warmth of feeling which is clear and consistent in the poetic voice. As one delves deeper into it, every passing poem causes one to consider that term ‘hearth’. There is a real sense that these are poems to be shared at the epicentre of one’s home considering as they do matters of life, death, togetherness, loneliness and what it means to be alive.

Sandra Tappenden says:

I needed this book, and didn’t know until I’d read it. It’s a mindful, sensitive collection of poems that echo life’s hidden work, where fracture is a constant threat but wholeness is promised through reflection. It’s poetry of hope, and how good is that?

Buy the book for £10 plus p&p: HearthAdd in Rose Cook’s Notes from a Bright Field, also £10, and get free post and packing, as you will when you buy two or more books from this website.

Frances Gapper – one of the most exciting imaginations producing fiction today

September 13th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

We knew we had chosen well when we tracked down Frances Gapper and asked her to submit her stories for publication. Now, Rachel Fenton has described Frances Gapper as ‘one of the most exciting imaginations producing fictions today.’ Here is what Rachel has to say about the title story of Frances’ new collection, ‘In the Wild Wood’:

The story details the metamorphosis of a mother into a child due to the symptoms of dementia, but really what’s being described is the fear of a child forced to become a parent to their parent, the grief of losing their own life to the shepherding of the person whose care consumes them. Old age, filtered through a child’s lexicon, is made new, a contrast symbolised beautifully by the cover illustration for In the Wild Wood, an original artwork by Jane Eccles that evokes Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” for me.

Read Rachel Fenton’s review of In the Wild Wood on snow like thought

To celebrate the publication of In the Wild Wood, Frances Gapper visits Jessica Patient at her imaginary bookshop, on Writer’s Little Helper.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
My bookshop would be very different indeed from all the other ones. The emphasis would be on relaxation. Women over 60 would be invited to stay over free of charge for as long as they liked in private book-lined bedrooms with large bathrooms and writing tables.

Order Frances Gapper’s story collection for £12 plus p&p at the link: In the Wild Wood.

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books

While we’re on the subject of stories and fiction writers, Nigel Jarrett is interviewed by Rupert Dastur on The Short Story. Rupert asks if Nigel has a favourite story in Who Killed Emil Kreisler: 

I don’t have one! But in the opening story, Old Roffe, I like to think that I managed to combine big themes –  human innocence, human frailty, and our relationship with the animal kingdom – in an almost minimal style […] Affairs of the heart confuse Evelina the zoo keeper but she alone is privy to the amazing behaviour of Roffe, the aged but delinquent gorilla. The story is set at a failing zoo in Sweden for no reason other than that creating a variety of geographical settings is my way of dealing with universals: it could happen here, it could happen there, it could happen everywhere.

Who Killed Emil Kreisler is reviewed by Katie Witcombe on The Contemporary Small Press:

Jarrett’s most successful stories, and the ones that burrow deepest under the skin, are those concerned with the ghostly traces we leave behind after we’re gone, like fingerprints on a windowpane […] One of his narrators asserts that ‘So much dies of us when we die’, but many of the characters in these stories leave indelible traces which reach out to warp and stain the lives of others, like watermarks on a page.

Order Nigel Jarrett’s story collection for £12 plus p&p at the link: Who Killed Emil Kreisler 

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books

Noticing the beauty in ordinariness: There are Boats on the Orchard

July 12th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

I am coming out from behind my usual, third-person editor voice for this post; for I, Maria C. McCarthy, am the author of the poems in There are Boats on the Orchard. These poems began as a filler of time, after I had finished the final draft of my story collection As Long as it Takes. I was bereft, having lived with those characters for so many years, and spending time in my writing shed, staring out of the window, or walking the orchard that I could see outside. So I started writing about what I could see: the bunting I had made dripping in the rain, then drying; the arrival of boats, parked by the dead tree near our fence; a woodpecker in the snow, as I sat at my desk with a sleeping bag wrapped round me for warmth; local children trespassing, bouncing on a trampoline left out by the orchard owner after a family party.

I went away on a residential writing weekend with Lynne Rees, showed her some of the poems, and talked about my feelings of bereavement after As Long as it Takes was finished. Lynne was encouraging, and I kept going, observing and writing and walking the nearby orchards. Lynne is also an orchard walker, observer – in fact an orchard owner –  and I am delighted to read her review of There are Boats on the Orchard, alongside her own thoughts on the changing face of orchards, and how humans deal with change.

And it’s the themes of ‘endings’ and being poorer for what’s lost that percolate McCarthy’s collection: disappearing cherry orchards, the loss of an inspiring view, the absence of seasonal visiting sheep, and the urbanisation of green fields accompanied by the inevitable decline in wildlife: rabbits, woodpeckers, kestrel. So the threads of resentment and sadness throughout many of the 25 poems are to be expected. In ‘Eden Village’, a housing estate built on a former cherry orchard, the children do not play in the natural paradise suggested by the title but “are in their rooms playing games.” In ‘Strange Fruits’ the hedgerows are littered with “Stella cans, a Co-operative bakery wrapper/”. 
But despite this tone and detail I do not leave this collection feeling bereft or hopeless and that may well be down to McCarthy’s lyrical language and syntax which, like the pheasants in the previously mentioned poem, are often “Joyous miracles.” 
In her previous urban home, “The quarter hours chimed with stolen light.” (from ‘Prologue’ p.1). Her home-made bunting survives, “Rain and shine, rain and shine;/ washed and dried, washed and dried.” (from ‘Drought’ p.11). And I’m particularly comforted by the poplars in the final poem, “Last” that “shush as they bend.” 
Because isn’t this how humanity moves forward with grace? By noticing the beauty in ordinariness? By accepting what cannot be changed? By bending but not breaking? And by celebrating and commemorating both past and present, its joys and griefs.

Read Lynne Rees’s review here.

I’d long wanted to work with an artist on these poems, and was delighted to find that Sara Fletcher, whom I knew as a friend of a friend, had wonderful skills in sketching. We walked the orchards together last autumn, which turned out to be our last year living in the house that backed onto the orchard. Sara’s drawings have made There are Boats on the Orchard a beautiful thing, as has Mark Holihan’s design work.

On the day that There are Boats on the Orchard was collected from the printer’s, news came through of plans to build houses on the orchard that I thought of as mine. I am glad not to be there to see this happen, but happy to have the poems and images in this pamphlet to chronicle the years of living next to the disappearing orchards of Kent.

You can only buy the pamphlet from this website, for £7 plus p&p:There are Boats on the Orchard 

The Hungry Writer by Lynne Rees is also available from Cultured Llama.

There will be events to launch There are Boats on the Orchard some of them in orchards. See Events.

Frances Gapper’s In the Wild Wood, where the mundane is made magical.

June 19th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

A couple of years ago, Frances Gapper won the Save As Writers’ Short Story Prize. Cultured Llama editor Maria C. McCarthy had judged the prize, and loved the winning story, ‘Broken Thing’, so much that she tracked down Frances Gapper, and asked her to submit a book proposal. Maria says, :”I was surprised that a writer this talented had not had a collection out for some years. Why hadn’t a publisher snapped her up?” The other publishers’ loss is is our again, and we are delighted to present In the Wild Wood.  Dear Reader, you are going to love it.

To walk In the Wild Wood is to enter worlds where the mundane is made magical. Loss of memory and self are rendered in dreamlike stories that owe as much to the lived experience of dementia as to fairy tale. In other tales, we learn of Sister Joy’s obsession with spiders, or a funeral parlour worker who collects false teeth from the dead. Poignant, funny and astonishing, this collection showcases Frances Gapper as a storyteller working at the peak of her craft.

978-0-9957381-6-4. Cultured Llama. PB. 203×127mm. 212pp. June 2017. Short Stories. £12.00 

Read a conversation with Frances Gapper, on the short story, on Alison Lock’s website.

Read more about Frances Gapper’s new collection, and order the book for £12 plus p&p: In the Wild Wood.  

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books, so why not add another story collection to your order? Find books by Maggie Harris, Anna Maconochie, Vanessa Gebbie, Nigel Jarrett, Emma Timpany and Maria C. McCarthy on the Stories page.

David Cooke in the Poetry Shed

June 15th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

David Cooke features on (or should that be ‘in’?) Abegail Morley’s Poetry Shed, with two poems from his new collection, After Hours. Read ‘Le Nu Provençal’ and ‘Ornithology’ here.

After Hours is also The Poetry Kit‘s book of the month for June 2017, and has received a glowing review, by Emma Lee, on London Grip.

Emma Lee quotes from ‘Last Orders’, a poem about a 1970s home bar that belonged to David Cooke’s late father-in-law:

Embalmed in a gloopy coat of varnish
that set to a brittle sheen, it lacked retro chic,
scuffed down to the wood along its edges,
its surface crazed with memories.

In days when family came to stay
it placed him centre stage, measuring out
precisely his perfect Irish coffees
or each medicinal dose of whiskey.

And yet, for all its high stool bonhomie
we dumped it, an eyesore for the viewers –
then missed a convenient shelf, sorting mail
that even now in his posthumous life

makes him offers he can’t refuse.

Read the full review here. Buy the book, for £10 plus p&p here: After Hours

Postage and packing is free if you buy two or more books via this website.

The Short Story explores internet dating and Flamingos in Thanet

June 14th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

An interview with Anna Maconochie appears on The Short Story, exploring Anna’s debut collection, Only the Visible Can Vanish. Charlie Parry asks Anna about the recurring themes of internet dating and the digitised world:

I’m not much of a tech person but I thought there’d be more writers out there writing about the NOW. When else in history have we been able to google our lover and find out she’s married, as Jeremy does? There’s this assumption that anyone who writes about internet dating will be writing their car-crash stories but the reality is far more complex, rich and sometimes banal. In Future Digital I wanted to get across how fifty-fifty Tara felt about Pete after their internet date. An agent told me that writer’s fear their work will sound dated eventually if they mention technology but nothing will stand in the way of a timeless story. And I think Google is going to be around for a while, so you may as well mention it if you want to!

Read the full interview here.

Buy Anna Maconochie’s debut story collection for £12 plus p&p here: Only the Visible Can Vanish 

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books from Cultured Llama.

The Short Story has also reviewed In Margate by Lunchtime by Maggie Harris.

Maggie Harris

‘The Year The Flamingos Came’ is one of a number of stories telling very personal stories about the struggles of everyday life. Harris has a keen eye for people’s struggles, especially those of women, and manages to create a series of memorable characters.

This is definitely a book worth checking out, for the sheer beauty of the writing and the engaging and lively sense of narrative around Harris’s favourite corner of the country.

Read the full review here, and an interview with Maggie Harris here.

Buy Maggie Harris’s short story collection for £12 plus p&p here:In Margate by Lunchtime

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books from Cultured Llama.

A big win for Rosie Jackson; ‘Light, love and quite a bit of kissing’

June 8th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

We are delighted to announce that Rosie Jackson’s poem ‘The Heaven that Runs through Everything’ won the 1st prize of £2,500 in the Stanley Spencer Poetry Competition 2017. The poem can be read on Rosie Jackson’s website.  Rosie has also been awarded 3rd prize in the Hippocrates Open competition for her poem  ‘A Ward Sister Remembers the Spencers’.

The lives and art of Stanley Spencer and Hilda Carline, Spencer’s first wife, have proved a rich seam for Rosie Jackson’s poetry, as Graham Burchell remarks in his review of The Light Box on Ink Sweat and Tears. 

There’s also wonderfully rendered ekphrasis, with particular emphasis on the work of British artist Stanley Spencer to begin each of the six sections, and the collection ends on a high note with an angle on one of Spencer’s Resurrection paintings with ‘bodies that cannot have enough of each other,/ this love that is always being made.’

Many other artists provide inspiration for Rosie Jackson’s poems in The Light Box, and other figures such as Margaret Thatcher feature:

Other characters are placed in unlikely settings or considered in suprising ways: Mrs Thatcher leaves her body and meets St Francis, Demeter takes up embroidery and Persephone blames the dress, but these are effective routes to exploring and keenly observing. We see Mrs Thatcher, her mind uncoupled, rising up from her sceptered isle, becoming unsettled, ‘till the light feels more like darkness,/ coal dust,’. So much depends (not on a red wheelbarrow), but­ on the richness and the weaving of Rosie Jackson’s own myths and inventions.

Burchell ends his review:

Stanley Spencer said he wanted to put himself in his work, and as an obvious enthusiast for this twentieth century artist’s life and paintings, Rosie Jackson likewise puts herself into her poems. They are deft, have a strong voice, and if reading extraordinarily good poems full of light, love and quite a bit of kissing, appeals, then ‘The Light Box’ comes highly recommended.

A glowing review of The Light Box appears in Poetry Salzburg Review. Speaking of the final poem in the collection, ‘Resurrection’, Danielle Hope writes:

The poem is an exemplar of the haunting yet light touch of Jackson’s writing. I started reading and couldn’t stop. She has a gift of turning the ordinary into enchantment with her writing. Her poem made me look again at Spencer’s painting. The allotments, gardens, “lamps pooling light over dinner” arise in Jackson’s writing, making everyday living suddenly an incredible and exciting gift.

You can buy The Light Box by Rosie Jackson for £10 plus p&p. Please support our small press by buying direct from Cultured Llama.

Pints of Guinness like priests – poetry by David Cooke, After Hours

April 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

In After Hours, David Cooke returns to the theme of the migrant Irish, visited in his earlier collections, as well as poems of travelling, the passing of cultural icons of the 20th century, and his love of music. Just published by Cultured Llama, here is an extract from the title poem from After Hours. The collection is dedicated to the memory of John Durr, David Cooke’s father-in-law:

5. Fathers

If mine had survived
they might have had some sessions,
the union man,

the ganger, their red
and blue dissolving somehow
into shades of green.

6. A Quiet Pint

Our pints of Guinness
look like priests. Eyeing them up,
we drink them slowly.

7. Laid Out

He has scrubbed up well.
His daughter pins his relic
onto his lapel.

There’s holy water
sent from Knock, the set of beads
his cold hands fumbled.

Find out more, and order After Hours for £10 plus p&p, here.

If you order two or more books, post and packing is free. Why not add a copy of There Are No Foreign Lands by Mark Holihan? Or Zygote Poems by Richard Thomas?

Surprising and unsettling; black holes, worm-holes, and quantum vacuum; masters of the genre – Short Fiction reviewed

April 24th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Share Button

Three of our short fiction collections have been reviewed recently. Tim Love’s piece on A Short History of Synchronised Breathing, by Vanessa Gebbie, is in his style of ‘notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces’. 

“Captain Quantum’s Universal Entertainment” (subtitled ‘an expanding story, with no boundaries’) never sags, though it’s long. It’s my favourite piece – a tour de force. No surprise that it’s already been printed elsewhere. A reporter (with a recorder – this is the quantum world) visits a fairground, shown around by the “Most Qualified Guide to the Fairground”. “Captain Quantum” is the ring-master. “The Great Maximilian” (a juggler) and “Lucille, The Incredible Shrinking Bearded Lady” are the star turns. It’s their last show, and perhaps the universe’s last too. The piece is replete with scientific allusions that like their quantum counterparts, flicker in and out of existence. In the extracts below I detect black holes, special relativity, space-time curvature, epicycles from a bygone age, black holes, worm-holes, and quantum vacuum.

Read more on Tim Love’s Litrefs.

Buy A Short History of Synchronised Breathing for £12 plus p&p (postage and packing free if you buy two or more books).

The Lost of Syros by Emma Timpany is reviewed on New Zealand site Flaxroots.

… all 16 stories are worth reading as their author shows herself to have mastered the genre.
They are well constructed, the situations and observations perceptive, and the writing is well-judged – not verbose or overdone. Word use is well chosen to reveal scenes and evoke thoughts and memories in the reader.

     The diagnosis is pleurisy. Outside, a gorgeous spring’s dispensing its own medicine, a string of warm blue days. Katie’s told to rest and eat, and do nothing else. I fill her room with bluebells. She says they smell like honey. An elderly maid, her skin as crumpled and brown as a walnut shell, brings Katie gooseberry jam on thin slices of buttered bread cut into little triangles. Food to lure fairies from their lairs, Katie calls it.

Buy The Lost of Syros for £12 plus p&p (postage and packing free if you buy two or more books).

Jeremy Page reviews Only the Visible Can Vanish, by Anna Maconochie, in The Frogmore Papers:

The stories in Anna Maconochie’s debut collection are feisty, well-observed chronicles of what it means to inhabit the 21st century. She has the disconcerting habit of leading the reader up the garden path to all manner of improbable destinations, demonstrating the capacity to surprise and unsettle in equal measure. An impressive debut.

Buy Only the Visible Can Vanish for £12 plus p&p (postage and packing free if you buy two or more books).