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Off the Shelf event, Monday 13 January

Strong Room debuts at Off the Shelf

Off the Shelf, Monday 13 January 2014

Engaging readings and plenty of debate yesterday at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain SHORT STORY AND THE IMAGE event for Off the Shelf at Blacks. Hosted by author Carol Topolski (left) with readings by Jan Woolf (second left) and fellow Strong Room writers Jane Wildgoose (far right) and Roelof Bakker. Some interesting new work was also read out by members of the Writers’ Guild.

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Strong Room debuts at Off the Shelf event, Monday 13 January

Roelof Bakker and Jane Wildgoose are delighted to take part with Jan Woolf in SHORT STORY AND THE IMAGE this Monday 13 January at Blacks in London’s Soho. Hosted by author Carol Topolski (Monster Love, Penguin 2008), Jan Woolf will be discussing and reading from her short story collection Fugues on a Funny Bone (Muswell Press) with accompanying images from sculptures by Richard Niman. Jane Wildgoose and Roelof Bakker will read from their collaborative artist book Strong Room (Negative Press London) out on 21 January.

Off the Shelf is part of a series of Writers Guild of Great Britain events at Blacks.

Tickets are £30. The event starts at 11am for coffee, with readings starting at 11.30, followed by a two-course lunch with wine and in the afternoon  readings from the audience.

There are a few tickets left, so if you are a writer or a visual artist, contact
now and reserve your place.

Monday January 13, 11am, Blacks Club, 67 Dean Street, London W1D 4QH.

Strong Room Roelof Bakker Jane Wildgoose

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‘Still’ | Shortlisted for Saboteur Indy Lit Award

Still is shortlisted in the Saboteur Indy Lit Awards for Best Mixed Anthology. Congratulations to all the talented Still writers and many thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of the book.

Readers are invited to vote for the book, details at Saboteur Shortlist

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Story | ‘ChristMist’ by Jan Woolf

A Christmas gift from Still contributing writer Jan Woolf.


‘What’s that, babe?’
June’s lips hardly closed on the ‘b’ as she looked up at the sky, thickening above the spires and turrets spiking into the dusk.
‘Can’t see anyfing, doll.’
‘Yes, Eddie, look.’ So they both looked. Something was there, and it was coming down, getting closer. They almost forgot the jingles blaring from the shops.

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
Better not part,
I’m tellin’ you why,
Christmas time is coming for you…

They’d been together forty years – June and Eddie – and as they peered upwards they recalled their Rupert Bear Christmas annuals; the fogs and scumbles of air on the horizon of Nutwood Hills, blowing in pixies and elves and strange weather. They felt as Rupert must have, anxious and excited at the same time. Bit like Christmas really, what with austerity – and Jennifer and the gran’kiddies coming this year. They’d never seen such a mist. Not quite grey, certainly not white. But a clotted mass of air.

‘Funny,’ said Eddie. ‘Nothing was….’
‘Forecast,’ finished June. Now the shops crooned

Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky little lamb,
Do you hear what I hear?

‘June what is it?’
‘Dunno babe but we’ve got to get two more things for Dwayne and Carlotta and the money’s all …’
‘Gone,’ supplied Eddy.
‘Yeah I know.’ As June rummaged in her purse clinking a few pound coins together, she thought they might get away with the free toys from their burger meal deals. Carlotta wouldn’t notice – Dwayne, now four, might. Jennifer was bringing them up nice and she did like a bit of quality, especially at Christmas. What to get Jennifer?

The power of lu -huv,
The power of…

They’d had so many Christmasses they didn’t know how to be in them anymore. It’s as if they’d got to the end of their own Christmases – with Morecambe and Wise on the telly – then they’d met, had Jennifer and had to start all over again. They got to the end of those and the grandchildren came. It felt as if the Christmas trees were spinning round and round like whirling Dervishes and those songs…the same every year, burrowing into your brain. They were drunk on Christmas really. Just when you’d got over one, another was on the way. Like that clotted mist. But they could always eat the dinner – could always do a posh roast. Except this year it had to be a processed turkey crown.

June looked up again. The mist had lowered. She imagined them both flying through it hand in hand, seeing the tops of the buildings peeking out like the lost islands of Xanadu. She looked fondly at her husband. Thick and thin they were.

You took your dreams from me,
When I first found you,
Merry Christmas you arse,
I pray God it’s our last.

‘That mist is coming down fast.’
‘Oo – er, so it is Junie.’ As it shrouded their faces they could see there was something in it. Like it was MADE of stuff. Not quite glitter but an iridescent porridge. Grey but pretty.
‘I love you.’
‘What’s brought this on, Ed?’ It’s not as if he’d even had a drink, thought June. As she stroked his arm it started to melt away, under his coat.
‘I just do,’ said Eddie as the mist ate June’s hand.
‘You soppy date,’ she said, and the mist enveloped them entirely.

The crowds shopped on, some of them stepping over two dull piles of clothes on the pavement as the traffic slithered down Poxford Street like a drowsy dragon.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light,
From now on your troubles,
Will be out of sight.

© Jan Woolf, December 2012.


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David Hebblethwaite’s story-by-story review of ‘Still’

DAVID HEBBLETHEWAITE is a renowned book blogger from Yorkshire, who reviews both novels and short fiction on his blog Follow the Thread. He also writes reviews for The Huffington PostStrange HorizonsWe Love This Book and Fiction Uncovered. He’s a big supporter of the short story format and since the end of September, he has reviewed every story that appears in Still – in chronological order. We’ve listed a brief excerpt from each individual review below, or you can read the full reviews here.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, Still in Anthologies

‘Still’ on sale at Foyles

And the ending is a real shock to the system. ‘Midnight Hollow’ – Mark Piggott

But, for those four pages, the author convinces you it’s all true. ‘My Wife, The Hyena’ – Nina Killham

I also love the way Blackman transforms the imagery of dirt trailing down a wall; the ending of ‘Sanctuary’ becomes as much a tableau as one of Bakker’s photographs. ‘Sanctuary’ – Andrew Blackman

Wyld  keeps the atmosphere suitably unsettling, and any hope she offers comes with its own nagging doubt. ‘Corridor’ – Evie Wyld

There’s a neat reversal in this story, and I like Frey’s use of the staircase as an image and venue. ‘The Staircase Treatment’ – Myriam Frey

The choppy rhythms of van Mersbergen’s prose underline the sense of unease, up to a rather chilling end. ‘Pa-Dang’ – Jan van Mersbergen

The titular rose acts a symbol of the family’s hope – something to keep growing in the garden, and not to remove, for fear of angering the landlord. ‘A Rose For Raha’ – Ava Homa

Royle tops it off with a dark twist at the end. ‘The Blind Man’ – Nicholas Royle

It’’s amusing to read, but also leaves one with the nagging thought of just how easily that sort of thing could happen… ‘From the Archive’ – James Miller

Details of ‘real’ life are heightened through their transformation into Hershman’s science-fiction idiom, and the ending is especially poignant. ‘Switchgirls’ – Tania Hershman

Rechner makes good use of sensory detail to convey the stuffy and intense atmosphere of the theatre. ‘The Playwright Sits Next to Her Sister’ – Mary Rechner

Hussein reveals the full possibilities only gradually, and even then keeps the truth ambiguous. ‘The Tree at the Limit’ – Aamer Hussein

Just as Beard’s piece blurs the line between fact and fiction, so it effectively portrays lifts as simultaneously useful and threatening spaces. ‘Life Under Inspection, Do Not Touch’ – Richard Beard

This is a nicely paced story, with an effective sting in its ending. ‘Odd Job’ – Preeta Samarasan

What follows is a snappy, rhythmic jaunt through the cacophony of modern life. ‘Noise’ – James Higgerson

 ‘A Job Worth Doing’ is more a celebration of what has passed. ‘A Job Worth Doing’ – SJ Butler

Rose captures a certain stiff formality in the voice of his protagonist; and the range of details focused on creates an effective sense of diffuseness. ‘Sere’ – David Rose

This piece is both a portrait of the emotional value that books can have to someone; but it’s also a poignant tale of loss… ‘Morayo’ – Sarah Ladipo Manyika

A well-constructed mosaic of events from Justin Hill’s life, with recurring themes of memory and going through doors. ‘Waiting’ – Justin Hill

What gives this story its edge is a clear sense that this is a false hope, and that the protagonist can’t move on in life because she won’t let go of the idea. ‘Ten A Day’ – Jan Woolf

‘Opportunity’ provides an elegant and broad examination of its issues. ‘Opportunity’ – Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Its supernatural twist gives this tale a very effective chill. ‘In the Dressing Room Mirror’ – Claire Massey

I like the ambiguity in the ending of this piece, and especially how it illuminates the narrator’s character. ‘The Owl at the Gate’ – Nicholas Hogg

Definitely a story that carries greater force than its length might suggest. ‘Still’ – SL Grey

This absorbing read takes a shocking turn. ‘How to Make a Zombie’ – Deborah Klaassen

A fine note on which to end the anthology. ‘Winter Moon’ – Xu Xi

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Photographs from ‘Still’ launch event, 26 September 2012 at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London

THANK YOU! Negative Press London says a BIG thanks to all the writers (reading/non-reading) who were at the Still launch event in the Gallery at Foyles, as well to all the people who came for what was a very lively entertaining literary evening.

The readings went down a storm and the audience really enjoyed the mix of writing and related photography. It was a special treat to hear the stories read out with such passion and panache. Q&As, discussions and mingling followed!

Thanks to the writers who were there: SJ Butler, Myriam Frey, Tania Hersham, James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen (thanks for setting up Facebook event), Claire Massey, James Miller, Jan Woolf and Evie Wyld.

And thanks to the writers who were there in spirit: Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Ava Homa, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Jan van Mersbergen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan and Xu Xi.

A big cheers to Paul Savage for a fantastic bar service and to David Owen at Foyles for five star help and organisation.

All photographs by Roman Skyva,

If anyone has any photographs they want to share, email to (max file width 1000px at 72dpi, if possible)

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‘Still’ exhibition at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London – until 30 October

The Green Room

‘Still’: an exhibition of photographs and excerpts from related stories

An exhibition of photographs from Still by Roelof Bakker has opened at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB.

Twenty large size photographs of vacated spaces at Hornsey Town Hall are exhibited in two separate spaces: the Café on the first floor and the Gallery on the third floor.

In line with the approach of the literary art book, each photograph is accompanied by a brief excerpt from the related story with the writer’s name and story’s title included.

With excerpts from stories by Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Ava Homa, Claire Massey, Jan van Mersbergen, James Miller and Evie Wyld.

With excerpts from stories by Richard Beard, SJ Butler, James Higgerson, Nicholas Hogg, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Preeta Samarasan and Jan Woolf.

Justin Hill, Waiting, from Still Negative Press London 2012

Excerpt from ‘Waiting’ by Justin Hill to accompany the print ‘The Green Room’

The book itself was launched at Foyles on 26 September in the Gallery with a literary event including readings by Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, James Miller (with Jan Woolf) and Evie Wyld as well as a screening of the video film from the project with other visuals.


Negative Press London and Foyles have also launched a short story competition.


20 C-type prints from negative film with film information borders, size 50cm x 50cm, framed. 20 plagues with story excerpts mounted on foam board.

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Q&A | Jan Woolf

Jan WoolfJAN WOOLF IS A WRITER AND REVIEWER WHO LIVES IN LONDON. Her first book Fugues on a Funny Bone, a collection of short stories, was published by Muswell Press in 2010. She’s currently putting the finishing touches to a novel based on the memoirs of a Polish painter. The story ‘Ten a Day’ revisits the concept of French Revolutionary Time.

How did you become a writer?
Writing took over from visual art in my 40s. I have to thank a Mr David Barnes – my secondary modern art teacher – for giving me the self-belief I could make any art at all.

Where do you live?
In London: everything is here. It’s a rough diamond and I love it: both for its stimulating subject matter and access to other writers. Most of our free public spaces have little clumps of writers in them, you see a group of people, heads down, talking earnestly, but they’re helping each other with their books.

Where do you write?
Depends on what else is going on and the time of year, and also what kind of writing (I also edit and publish). At the moment I write in bed on my laptop till 9am, then go to the allotment (I’m lucky to have one) with a notebook. I do ‘work’ type writing in the sitting room in view of the kettle, and sometimes take off to the FreeWord centre or the London Library.

If I’m stuck over something or need an idea – I find a moving train helps. I aways have a notebook for thoughts or observations – which means I’m never ‘off’ it. A bit tyrannical really.

The Committee Rooms (Screen and Clock) by Roelof Bakker

The Committee Rooms (Screen and Clock)
© 2012 Roelof Bakker

Why did you select this photograph?
I am drawn to clock faces, and there are fewer of their lovely faces around because of digital technology. I also liked the composition – like a moon over that slab of blue. Yellow and blue are lovely too.

What is the thinking behind ‘Ten A Day’?
The story leaked out of my psyche (if that isn’t too pretentious). Having chosen that image I was thinking about how we deal with time, and recalled a walk I was on with my walking group CLOG. We explored the Folkestone Trienalle last summer and I was struck by Ruth Ewan’s installation, where she changed 5 of the towns public clock faces to the old French republican 10 hour clock. My story – ‘Ten a Day’ –  tells the rest.

Do you work with visuals?
All the time. I went to art school and constantly key into the visual. One of my art heroes is Kurt Switters whose rips, tears, assemblages made such wonderful visual poetry. Its own language.

You’ve published a volume of linked short stories, Fugues on a Funny Bone. Is short fiction your preferred format?
I write short stories, as I thought I couldn’t handle the long haul of a novel. I prefer the instant ‘Gestalt’ psychology of visuals, haikus and the short form. Actually, its not like that at all, short stories take ages and you spend as much time reducing language as you take building it in a novel. But now, I’m writing a novel. Every idea finds its right form though.

Fugues on a Funny BoneDo you enjoy collaborations?
Yes, I do. I have done lots of collaborations: exhibitions against wars, collaborations in campaigns like the Free Museums Campaign, art auctions, benefits. This kind of work has a political edge and purpose and the camaradie is lovely, with egos tamed by the cause.

Writing stories and novels is solitary though, until I take knotty bits to one of my writers’ groups. Being in the Writers Guild is also important – as it makes me feel part of something much wider.

What are working on at the moment?
A novel based on the memoirs of a Polish painter. It’s taking so long, that new short pieces of work are forming in its slipstream. I nearly have a new collection ready. The first Fugues on a Funny Bone was published by Muswell Press in 2010.


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