Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
Mslexia – Bella Editor Impressions
Mslexia magazine, the respected champion of women’s writing in the UK and beyond, features a selection of New Writing( including short stories and poetry) in each issue. It also holds competitions with prizes for creative writing. Their latest competition, Women’s Poetry, will be judged by Carol Ann Duffy. Every quarter, many authors (both wannabees and pros) await the delivery of their ‘bestie writing mag.’
So what’s in it and is it any good? Well that, of course, depends on who the reader is and each one will have her own ‘take’ on it – a subjective response. One reader (your Bella Short Stories Editor!) picks out her personal highlights and the few lowlights from Mslexia’s pages:
A Page Which Tempted Me to Time-Waste
The Letters Page! If there’s only one thing which comforts those thrice-rejected girl writers whose self-esteem is on the floor – it’s reading about some other poor girl somewhere who is having it even worse. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure is intriguing to read about other girl writers’ hints, woes and ‘Thanks but No Thanks‘ letters.
One Which Didn’t
This was an article on Interior Design Magazine Writing. I ‘Didn’t Go There.’ This, understandably, is niche-writing outside my field of interest. However, I did read the useful tips at the end. These pointers could spring-board non-fiction design writers into journalistic success within their field.
One Which Taught Me Something I Didn’t Know Already
The author interview filled a gap in my knowledge. “Who is Scarlett Thomas?” I asked my teenage daughter. She, and Mslexia, needed to put me straight as I don’t read contemporary novels. The interview with the author of “The End of Mr Y” stayed true to the writer’s gritty nature. Informative and warmly personal, the interview seemed to lose none of the natural pithiness of expression exhibited by Scarlett Thomas herself.
One Which Made Me Laugh
Ditto. A genuine ‘LOL.’ This novel writer’s brutally honest confidences outlining the heinous violence she would have liked to perpetrate on a TV interviewer who made a banal remark about her work, were as funny as they were shocking. It was the same with her writing tips “101 Ways to Write a Book.” Here she advised would-be writers not to bother with writer’s workshops!
One I Took Issue With
Bernadine Evaristo and I were always going to have to agree to differ on her article on “Imagery and the Imagination.” Brought up on the short stories and poems of Hardy and Lawrence and the poetry of Ted Hughes and Yeats, I was never going to take kindly to the work of Derek Walcott. Evaristo extolled the virtues of her favourite poet but I shook my head. Neither “A blizzard of heavenly coke hushes the ghettoes” nor “this Spanish port, piratical in diverseness” could ‘do it’ for me. The examples of his work left me cold – his laboured use of imagery I found to be over-designed and contrived. Still, that’s the great joy of literature – no two readers experiences are the same – it’s all ‘grist to the mill!”
One Which was more of a ‘Black Hole’ than a Gap
I would like to see a regular slot for short stories collection reviews and author interviews. For many writers, this genre is their first foray into the big, bad world of submitting to presses and publishers. Although the genre did have general exposure throughout the magazine in terms of competitions, new writing and events, I would like to have seen a higher profile.
One Which Disappointed
This was the ‘New Writing.’ I wondered whether it might be cheeky to have youngsters choosing these! The choice of the submissions which ‘make it’ is down to a different, successful, mature woman writer each issue. I applied my ‘acid test!’ Which pieces would I remember the next morning?
Answer came there none – this time. From a personal point of view, a successful short story or poem is one which permeates the consciousness – “you have to let it linger.....” A successful piece should follow the reader around like the aura of a dream, all through the next day, like Seamus Heaney’s ‘Mid-term Break’ or Doris Lessing’s ‘Flight.’
I also wondered about the New Writing submission theme idea – ‘Gloves’ in this issue. Does this make the pieces more likely to be strained? One or two pieces previously featured by Mslexia did indeed leave an impression, notably the achingly engaging ‘The Windbreaker’ and the dead-pan hilarious poem ‘Ice Breaker’ which had my teen daughters in stitches!
One I wish I’d Written
Flash Fiction - ‘Electricity.’ This reminded me of my own ‘shorts’ but with that vital ingredient – humor! I do however, shudder to think what would happen if some readers didn’t ‘get the joke.’ I wondered what they might make of a small daughter taking an axe to her Mom – and an electricity cable!
Mslexia’s pages may hold goodies in store for readers and writers who feel that ‘Sisters are Doing it For Themselves’ but still need a little help now and then. Others may miss the male perspective and ‘frissant’ that may breeze through the pages of less targeted publications. Either way, all will love the ‘freebies’ as Mslexia offers valuable, professional advice articles for improving writers.