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Lulu UK Blog

Welcome to the Lulu UK Blog where we look forward to chatting about our services and the publishing industry and writing in the UK and Ireland.

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Jenny Gaitskell

On the Threshold by Jenny Gaitskell
My-Wife B&W

 

My default state is daydreaming, and some days I have to go to work and pretend to be sensible, but I write stories whenever possible. While I’m writing, I can go to places I’ll never see, travel in time, meet impossible strangers and be somebody else for a while. When the stories are published, my hope is that readers will imagine something new too. I blog about daydreaming, my creative brain (who calls herself Gonzo) and the unexpected encounters which inspire me. If that sounds like fun, have a look on jennygaitskell.com, or come and say hello on twitter @jennygaitskell.

When I wrote , I’d woken up into one of those mornings when everything feels impossible, even making stuff up. Under those circumstances, obviously the best thing to do was mess about on the internet, and that’s how I found the theme for this anthology, Everyday Epics. Yup, I thought, each day’s a toughie. My page was blank and my mind was blank, except for a woman stuck behind a door. I asked myself, if she could only make herself take that first step, out into the world, what might she try next?

Extract from On the Threshold

On the threshold, Emily told herself: you can become the version of you that’s needed, send another letter, take one more step forward. She took it, and closed her front door quietly behind her, for the sake of neighbours who’d never noticed her. Once again, the street smelled of last night but the sky was pink with possibility. Passing across the square, she recognised, from identical mornings, another early riser. He didn’t see her smile, was too busy examining the inside of his frown. There is always tomorrow, she thought. She was right on time for the park, and ready for the dog walker’s half-hearted salute, which might really be no more than a shaking of the leash. She threw her first ever greeting, but it fell short. The walker didn’t turn to pick it up, didn’t wait to see what might happen next. But a word had been spoken, and that was better than yesterday.

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Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition winners announced

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com are delighted to announce the four winners of the ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition which took place in May over the Brighton Festival celebrations. The standard of the entries were all very high and it was certainly a difficult choice to come down to the final four writers. The lucky winners will have their stories combined with the stories from the Storytelling army into the Everyday Epic anthology and published by Lulu.com.

The winners are:

Protected Housing by David Benedictus, Hove
On the threshold by Jenny Gaitskell, Lewes
Nice Light by Saba Sams, Brighton
Together we can by Beki Turner, Brighton

The judges all felt that these stories captured the spirit of the ‘Everyday Epic’ and really make the reader stop and think about how even the smallest event can be epic and life affirming or changing.  Well done to all four winners and we hope that they continue to write stories to share.

If you want to read all the winning stories and the stories from the Storytelling army once the book is published you can buy copies from http://www.lulu.com bookshop and other good retailers. To find out when the book is available to buy please follow us on our social media channels.

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition shortlist announced

Lulu.com, Brighton Festival and nabokov are delighted to announce the shortlist for the ‘Everyday Epic’ short story telling competition which took place in May during the Brighton Festival.

The shortlisted writers are: 
Protected Housing by David Benedictus, Hove
In the slave room by Norman Miller, Brighton
Master of the rolls by Michael J Fleming, Eastbourne
On the threshold by Jenny Gaitskell, Lewes
Nice Light by Saba Sams, Brighton
Together we can by Beki Turner, Brighton

The four lucky winners, who will have their stories combined into the Everyday Epic Anthology and published alongside the Storytelling Army’s stories,  will be announced tomorrow!

Brighton Festival and nabokov Storytelling Army, sponsored by Lulu, picture gallery

Below are some great pictures of the Storytelling Army (pictures by Adam Weatherley) out and about in Brighton telling their Everyday Epic stories (you can find more pictures on our facebook page LuludotcomUK). We can’t wait to read some of the stories in the Everyday Epic short story anthology we are publishing for them!Storytelling Army-5029Storytelling Army-5057Storytelling Army-5960Storytelling Army-6036Storytelling Army-6406Storytelling Army-6288Storytelling Army-6328Storytelling Army-6381Storytelling Army-6424

The real story behind the Everyday Epic Storytelling Army Brighton wall mural, sponsored by Lulu.com

A Tiny Gesture with a huge meaning! meet the young woman whose story has inspired Brighton’s new graffiti!

Reproduced from B Journal 30th May, interview and photos by Laura Bohrer

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It is her face that you can see in the centre of the new graffiti on the back wall of Coffee @ 33 in Trafalgar Street because her story is so inspiring. Having moved here from Bournemouth almost a year ago, Charr regularly goes to Cascade Creative Recovery meetings and that’s how she ended up joining Brighton Festival’s very own Storytelling Army. We met Charr after her final storytelling performance on Sunday and she told us what her story is about and what it was like to be part of this exciting project.

So, you are a member of the Storytelling Army. Can you tell me a bit more of what you have been doing there?

We had workshops every Saturday for the last ten weeks, so we have been working with different artists, poets, spoken word artists… I have basically never done writing before, only a tiny little bit. So we have been learning how to write, how to sort of bring things out and how to create a story and how to do a performance with that.

Ok, so you have worked with many different artists. What was it that you liked most about it?

Just the whole experience really. We learned so many different things. We learned about free writing, that’s when you write and you don’t stop to think about what you are writing. I usually overthink and over analyze everything but that sort of turned my brain off. I was struggling to put my story down and then I used the free writing technique and just wrote and that’s how I ended up with my story.

So, all of you wrote stories. Can you explain to me what the stories you wrote were about?

All the stories that we wrote are what we called our everyday epic, so things that people don’t normally stop to think about. Sometimes, people don’t realise that the easiest things can be the hardest. Everyone is always rushing to get somewhere and they don’t stop to think about what’s going on and what things mean to people. We are hoping that by using the everyday epic, we make people realise that.

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And what is it that your everyday epic is about?

My everyday epic is about getting a coffee or tea. I am not used to people’s kindness. So, when someone offers me something, I don’t know how to cope with it and it brings up a lot of emotion. So yeah, that’s what my everyday epic is about, getting a cup of tea or coffee and what it means to me.

Has that happened very often to you, that people offered you a cup of tea or coffee?

Yeah, when I was younger my grandmother used to offer me a cuppa and that meant that, when I was there, I was safe and that I was welcome and that I didn’t have to worry about anything. And until recently that hadn’t really happened with anyone that wasn’t family, but in the last few months especially, people have been offering me tea or coffee and yeah, it means a lot. I have got no self-esteem and I don’t feel worthy of people’s kindness. So, it is nice to know that people care.

When these people offered you a coffee, did you get involved in a conversation with them?

Yeah, I even made life-long friends through that one simple gesture. I have met my best friend through this situation, a couple of them actually.

That is amazing! And during the workshops for the Storytelling Army, did you also get closer with the other participants?

Oh yeah definitely. We all got to know each other a lot better through this way. It was really a brilliant experience and I am really glad to be a part of it.

So, do you think you will pursue the writing?

Yes! I have been bought a notebook, a big notebook, so I will definitely continue writing because of this experience. I haven’t got any ideas yet for what I will write about but I will definitely pick up paper and pen more often.

 What kind of writing do you like most then?

Poetry. I have only ever written a couple of poems but I really like poetry. There are so many different forms. So, even if you are not good at writing normally when it comes to stories, poetry seems to draw something out of people from their lived experiences. For me, poetry seems to be the easiest form of writing.

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So, was your performance for the Storytelling Army also a poem?

No, it wasn’t. I was thinking too much about it, so I just wrote my story out as it is and performed that by just reading it out to the audience.

Was it difficult to perform your story in front of an audience?

The first time, it was really hard because I only finished it that day when I first performed it, so I was still very emotional about it and I was struggling to perform it without crying because there is so much meaning attached to it. Telling people what it means to feel like that isn’t something you do every day. But with every performance I have done, it’s getting easier to perform.

You say you were really emotional. Was that also the kind of reaction people in the audience had when they heard your story?

The first time I performed it, someone came up to me and offered me a cup of tea. That was lovely. And a lot of people have said ‘That’s my line if you would you like a cup of tea!’ It’s lovely that it makes people feel like that. So I really got good feedback on it and I got a free cup of tea out of it which was nice.

So what do you prefer, tea or coffee?

It depends on my mood, but generally a coffee. Black coffee, no sugar, no milk.

And what are your plans for the future?

I am not sure, to be honest. There is a creative writing class at Cascade on Wednesdays, so I think I’m gonna start attending that and get more involved with writing. I am also involved with drama at Cascade. We have done a few plays there, like one for the Brighton Fringe Festival, and we will probably do another performance in the near future but I am not sure yet what that will be. So yeah, it opened up a lot of opportunities for me that weren’t there a year ago.

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

The Balled of Edward Lasalle

Heart pounding, he fell into a hunched run, low over the rocky beach. Dropping to all fours LaSalle moved like a panther, squat and predatory, slipping clandestine across the greasy pebbles until he was straddling the granite protrusion. Ignoring the searing pain in his hip, LaSalle closed the gap on the bird as it dared to fawn over its illicit catch. Catching sight of the hunched octogenarian, the bastard gull started, black and beady flecks darting as it sensed near moral danger. For once in his life, the old man was the quicker, and buoyed by decades of welling frustration he leapt; bony fingers summoned the remainder of their strength as they closed upon a pristine white throat. Shrieking with rage and surprise the bird took flight, launching backwards off the stone.

LaSalle rallied, each dilapidated sinew straining against its muscular predetermination as he held tight to the gull’s retreat. Amidst frenzied squawking he rose unsteadily, eyes blazing, sandwich all but forgotten. It was the last straw, destined to snap the proverbial camel in half. The creature’s malevolent irises met his, and with a start the old man realised just what he was doing, several feet out amidst the crashing waves with his hands wringing tight around a seabird’s neck. As the fingers relaxed, the gull let out a howl of defiance and came at him, razor beak thrusting ever closer to those grey and cataract-inlaid irises. LaSalle’s trailing leg slipped free from its footing, and he fell.

For one unabridged and inescapable moment the world ceased to turn. Both man and beast shared one final glare that crossed that last Darwinian divide. If truth be told, LaSalle had hoped to exit this mortal coil in a far more heroic manner. And yet, his heavy metallic watch flashing bright in the opportune lustre of a lightning bolt’s momentary flare, he saw no mean feat or life-defining moment. There were no witness present, no poem penned. Just one old man’s hand around a seagull’s brazen throat amidst the all-consuming fury of the English Channel – and a thousand Argus headlines, dreamt up long into the night.

(Jake, Hove)

The Merry-Go-Round

Tonight it seems like pure torture! I’m trying so hard not to stare, but I can’t stop, it’s like they’re calling to me. Perhaps I shouldn’t bottle this up; perhaps for once I should let it all out? I’m confused; it’s too much to cope with tonight. The tears start to well, my heart is racing and every irrational hormone is surging throughout my body. Bail, bail, bail! I’ve got to go!

I tried so hard to maintain a smile whilst I struggle to my feet and then it happen, something I’ve wanted for years, waited so patiently for. “Peggy” I flinched as I heard Ms Bateman’s niece call my name. “Yes my dear” I managed to force out. “Would you like a chocolate?” The tears instantly breached and flooded down my face, I smiled from the bottom of my heart “Thank you, I would so love one, it’s been so long since I tasted the delights from a chocolate box”. Mrs Bateman’s niece couldn’t miss my tears so she turned, hugged me and handed me the whole box. “Please Peggy, these are yours. I will bring more for my aunt tomorrow”.

That single expression of kindness and compassion stayed with me until my dying day, as news of my misfortune whispered from resident to visitor and I often received a box of delights to savour and finally silence the taunting.

(Suzy, Worthing)

Everyday Epic

Gav

Gav is drunk.

You can see it in his ordinarily militant body; His usual brash march is more of a meaningful flounder as he meanders across the pebbles.

Gav opts for an unnecessarily loud and exit from the blaring serenity of Brighton beach, striding past the bank-holiday families with their middle-class picnics. The hipsters with their disposable barbeques bought with their disposable incomes.

They are all being circled and Gav ruffles the seagulls’ feathers as he strides noisily past them.

Tourists and locals huddle round tables drinking premium beer from flimsy cups as the sun starts to set.

Gav turns back to look at the glitter-bomb ocean. The sky is as beautiful as a Bierstadt.

Gav breathes in the wafts of charred meat, cigarette smoke, aftershave and salt. He listens to the voices shouting over the deafening base lines and the sirens overhead.

He pulls his last can of lager out of his pocket. It’s still perfectly cold.

He holds the can for a moment, feeling it penetrate his hands and enjoying the sensation. He cracks it open and takes a swig.

The beer simmers in his mouth and the taste is wondrous. And at that exact moment, Gav knows it’s a good time to die.

Katie

Katie quickens her pace along the seafront. Edie’s hungry and she’s all out of snacks, and the need-food-now-meltdown of a toddler is the last thing Katie needs.

She’s about ten minutes from home, except she doesn’t call it home because it’s a dump. Katie weaves Edie’s pushchair in and out of the obstacle course of tourists and mobs of language students who are literally everywhere. She’s an absolute pro at this and is practically sprinting now. Most of the human obstacles back away or stand completely still as they see her coming towards them, which pleases Katie enormously.

Katie stops momentarily to catch her breath, then distracted by the sunset. The backdrop to the litter-covered beach. An absolute mess. Just like her life. The main difference being that there won’t be people in high vis jackets coming to pick up the pieces of her life in the morning.

She starts to run again, committed to getting Edie fed and put to bed so that she can finish her short story which needs to be submitted by tomorrow evening. It’s for a competition.

She probably won’t win though, she thinks.

(Beki, Brighton)

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

Behind the Door

The inmates inside were a complete mixed bag of creeds and races. Some guys were pretty big and terrifyingly intimidating. Some were overweight and kept their heads down. A few were old and grey, again, my heart went out to these old men, they looked lost and out of place. Some were like me, average height, skinny and wondering what the hell went wrong with their lives to put them in such a place.

Thankfully, I was amazed to see queuing going on. Queuing I thought, the first sign of mutual respectfulness and courtesy. This was a good sign. It reminded me of a wildlife documentary I watched once where all the animals on the African plain were suffering with a two-year long drought and as they all gathered around the last watering hole no animal was harmed or killed. I prayed this was the case in this watering hole.

Each time a shower became free, the man next in line would quickly undress and jump in, and he’d hurriedly lather up his head with shower gel and then with a flannel use the froth to clean the rest of his body. This whole process took approximately sixty seconds. He was soon, in his track suit, sopping wet and leaving through the door back onto the wing.

Razor looked at me and wordlessly nodded me over to the farthest end of the room. I gathered that being nearer to the end of the shower-room his back would be covered by the wall and he could see anyone and everything that was going down. Men stepped out of the way and let us both pass without so much as a comment or a sneer. The king of the jungle has come to the watering hole and even though there was an unspoken truce, the other animals didn’t push their luck.

(Jai Byrd, East Sussex)

 

The Silver Bracelet

I left the bracelet in the bird’s nest and began my descent which was much more difficult than the climb because you can’t see where you’re going.   After a final undignified slither I was safe on the ground, brushing off the green mould.   Veronica held out her hand.   ‘My bracelet please.’   I shook my head and shrugged.   ‘I told you.   If you want it back you can go up and get it.’   She thought I was joking. ‘Now don’t be stupid Jim. Give it back to me.’   I threw my arms apart.   ‘I haven’t got it.   Search me if you like.’   She still thought I was joking and patted my pockets. ‘Where is it then?’

‘In an old bird’s nest at the top of the tree.’

‘Well you can jolly well climb up again and get it.”   Her eyes were blazing, and her hands were clenched.   I waited for her anger to turn to laughter but it didn’t. So I went back to the tree.   ‘All right then.   Keep your hair on.   I only did it for a joke, like.’   I began climbing when she called out: ‘ no – don’t bother.’   She was smiling now.   ‘I didn’t like the rotten thing anyway.’

‘If you want me to I’ll go up and get it’

She shook her head.

The church clock was striking and it gave me an idea. ‘Today is the twenty seventh of October.   Suppose we come back in twenty years’ time and day at exactly four o’ clock and I’ll climb up and get your bracelet.’”

(Maurice, Horesham)

Nabokov’s Storytelling Army, supported by Lulu.com, hit Brighton Festival 26th-28th May telling their ‘Everyday Epic’ stories.

Storytelling army boardIf you are visiting Brighton this week you are in for a real verbal story telling treat as the  #storytellingarmy will be out in force popping up all over Brighton to tell their everyday epic stories to anyone who will listen. This is an amazing celebration of verbal storytelling and Lulu are delighted to be able to transform some of these stories into the written word as part of the Everyday Epic short story writing competition. You can find a storyteller by looking out for the distinctive board shown above!

social_merchTo celebrate the event we are running a chance to win some great Lulu branded goodies. All you need to do to stand a chance of grabbing one of these great give-aways is look out for one of the storytellers. Once you spot one please tweet a picture, the location you spotted them at, and your feedback on their story on our twitter page @luludotcomUK or visit our facebook page luludotcomUK and message us.

Need a coffee when you are ‘on the spot’ for a member of the storytelling army? Don’t forget to visit the fantastic wall mural on the side of Coffee@33, Trafalgar street and admire the creative handy work of some of the children from local schools. Wall Mural full

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

How I became a closet nutter

I can’t say for sure when the journey to Friern began, but two dates that spring to mind are July 5th 1957 and Friday April 13th 1972.

My memory of that day in July starts with (not being allowed to go swimming with dad and George) two policeman coming into our flat and talking to mum. Shortly afterwards she became distressed and began to cry. I ran over to comfort her and wrapped my arms around her legs, being only five at the time. Later on I learned that the policeman had told mum that dad had drowned having one last dive at Highgate pond. He must have hit his head on the bottom.

My brother George, twelve at the time, had been with dad. When dad failed to surface George ran all the way home, about four miles. I shudder to think of the impact this must have had on him. As for me, being only five I couldn’t understand what was happening. All I can say is that to this day I have no memories of my father’s physical presence, perhaps because I chose to forget what was painful and inexplicable to a young mind.

During childhood, I suppose I could have taken a variety of different routes that would have taken me far away from Friern Barnet. But after starting work on building sites at 15, I thought ‘fuck this for a game of soldiers, I can’t handle this for another fifty years’ and began the ever quickening march to Friern, the beat of the powerless thought ‘something’s gotta happen’ keeping me company. On the Friday the 13th of April the march became a mad dash.

 (Terry, Brighton)

Things Happen

Every Monday Elsa would take the tram to the square and walk down the Koenigstrasse. She would stop at the flower stall at the corner next to Café Ludovic, and buy a small bouquet which she then tied on the railings near the spot opposite St. Agnes Lane. Facing it was a bench where she would sit. That had been her routine for nearly five years, but this day was different. The moment she left the stall she could see them. There. By her spot on the railings. Bright yellow flowers. Gaudy. Most unlike the subtler reds and blues of her bouquet. She hurried along and peered at them. No note. No explanation. Just a large bunch of bright yellow flowers, wrapped in expensive shiny gold paper, tied above the withered remains of her last offering.

She started to tie her own fresh bunch to the railings below those of the intruder. But a surge of indignation stopped her. This was her place. So she fixed them above the yellow ones. For a moment, she even considered removing the others.

A coincidence, she thought. Another death. An accident perhaps. But not the tragedy she had faced. Her son murdered. His character maligned. Elsa wiped her eyes. Unusual nowadays. Her tears had long run dry. Her pain was now held tight inside. She found herself wondering about this other victim. A young man perhaps. Like her son. Pavel had lived life to the full. Girls, football, politics and motorbikes. She wondered whether this young man had also had a motorbike. An accident. That had always been her worry. She had feared that one day she would get a call to say that Pavel had come off his bike.

 (Roger, Hove)

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