As editor, I’m able to control a lot of what goes into Mslexia. But I can’t control exactly what our regular columnists are going to write about, nor what our guest judges will select from all the submissions we send them. But sometimes it feels as though many of us have been tapping into the same niche of the zeitgeist. And in this issue, that niche is occupied by benign paranormal influences.

Introducing the poems and stories on the ‘ghosts’ theme in Showcase, Rebecca Tamás comments that the phantoms are mainly sad or loving, or simply lost – not frightening at all (p36). And what could be more benign and paranormal than the new genre of ‘romantasy’ – a combination of fantasy and romance – that’s making waves in the publishing world (p28)?

Kathryn Wheeler and Elizabeth Kim both write about the mysterious influences of the moon’s cycle on our creativity

(p57 and p53), while Jenny Moore has fun imagining a feminist ‘nan in the moon’ (p74). And in her witty subversive fable, Debbra Mikaelsen writes of the resolve a mother experiences as a result of the irrepressible spirit of her unborn baby (p73).

It’s this mysterious and inspiring spirit that we’ve tried to reflect with our gorgeously spooky cover image.

DEBBIE TAYLOR is the founder and Editorial Director of Mslexia. She has written for Oxfam, UNICEF, Anti-Slavery, WHO and others about women and social issues. Her many books include My Children, My Gold (Virago), a travelogue about single mothers, and The Fourth Queen (Penguin), a novel set in a harem in 18th-Century Morocco. Her latest novel is Herring Girl (Oneworld), a paranormal historical murder mystery.


‘as a country, we are constantly brushing the shameful bits of our history under the carpet’ LIZ BERRY P23

‘in a story, you have only a very few brushstrokes, and they have to be precise – it’s hard’ STEPHANIE BOXALL P16

Forum 5 Mslexia poll;

Writing nest; Bear necessities; Blogability 6 What you’re saying;

Mslexia Salon 7 #amwriting: Amélie

Padfield on writing with grief Agenda 9 Breaking through:

Katy Guest on the democratisation of literature Craft 15 Writing exercises

and warm-ups; It works for me with V V Ganeshananthan; Poet Laureate 16 Does size matter?

Stephanie Boxall on short stories vs novels 18 The story of your life

with Catherine Cho 19 Poetry challenge,

selected by Linda France 20 Timepiece; Flash

challenge with Meg Pokrass; Editing a

poem by Hannah Lowe Interview 23 Polly Clark talks to

Liz Berry Reading for writers 27 Breaking the mould

with Yvonne BattleFelton; Books about writing 28 The Knowledge:

‘Romantasy’ with Julie Vuong 30 What’s new in

poetry by Ellora Sutton 31 Indie in the news:

Arachne Press 32 What’s new in short

stories by Terri-Jane Dow 33 Indie in the news:

Galley Beggar Press Showcase 36 Rebecca Tamás

presents her selection of poems and stories on the theme of ‘ghosts’ Creativity & Wellbeing 53 Occult inspirations

with Elizabeth Kim; Stef Penney’s

Achilles’ heel 55 Memoir and self-

healing with Lily Dunn 56 Writing lifebelts with

Anna Vaught 57 Go with the flow:

Kathryn Wheeler on creativity and menstruation Career 59 Social media muses

with Alice Slater 60 The right retreat:

E R Murray helps you choose the best one for you 62 Proud to place

with agent Sophie Lambert; My portfolio career 63 Orna Ross on

creating high-quality books in different formats 64 Noticeboard Opportunities 66 Open for

submissions; Insight: Searchlight

Writing Awards 67 Three of a kind:

running magazines

69 Insight: The Drusilla

Harvey Access Fund 71 Insight: Kate Shaw’s

manuscript wishlist Off the page 73 The world’s wife;

Eyeverse 74 Bedtime story;

Breaking the mould with Cecilia Knapp; Mslexia moths with Molly Naylor 76 Screen shorts, with

Lucy Rose Events 77 Events and courses 78 Getting a gig: Word

Space And finally 81 Andi Oliver’s bedside

table 82 Submitting and

subscribing to Mslexia

98 c o n t e n t s

3 CONTENTS / Mslexia / Jun/Jul/Aug 2023

‘many studies have found a rise in self- esteem and confidence at this stage in the menstrual cycle’ KATHRYN WHEELER P57

‘some writers achieve impressive wordcounts while others experience a complete brain freeze’ E R MURRAY P60