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Cover of Even the Ants Have Names

Even the Ants Have Names short story anthology,
cover photograph: Sally Mundy Photography
ISBN 978-0-9539196-3-5

a new anthology of short stories

These are exciting new stories from women to watch: their work has won prizes, been anthologised and broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

In other lives they've been model and motor-biker, actress, social worker and organiser of the UK's only Creative Writing Festival for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals, but they all have one thing in common: a serious commitment to writing and a distinctive voice.

Each writer has two stories included to give a better sense of their style and range.

Guest Editor - Gerry Wardle

More of a sweetie than square meal, the short story - the novel's less-read relative - can be worth savouring. And this offering of midget gems from the excellent Branchlines series comes in a bite-sized A6 format you can slip in your pocket for the journey to work. Starting with the coach trip from hell up the M1 to Glasgow (Linda Leatherbarrow's outstanding Ride), and terminating at Newcastle's Central Station (Betty Weiner's funny, touching Deaf, or What?), the anthology features five writers, who in the main come from Newcastle, to give the writing a distinctly regional feel.

The anthology runs with the idea of small, yet significant, lives: there's Mary Lowe's poignant title story, from the point of view of eight-year-old Eva, who wants to become The Great Adolfo "dressed in a bearskin, scooting over a line of barebacked ponies". A father and son pay a troubled visit to their wife / mum in a care home (Her Favourite by Janine Langley McCann), while teenage Euan finds himself guest of honour at a mystery funeral (Susannah Rickard's Beau de L'air). There are 10 stories in all, each with its own peculiar flavour: why not suck them and see?

Mslexia editor Melanie Ashby, writing in The Crack


What They Did Next

Linda Leatherbarrow

Linda Leatherbarrow is three times 1st Prize Winner of the London Writers Competition. In 2001 she won a Bridport Prize and an Asham Award. Her stories have been published in magazines including Ambit, Cosmopolitan, Mslexia and Writing Women and in the anthologies Even the Ants Have Names, Harlot Red, The Nerve, Signals 2, Sleeping Rough and The British Council's New Writing 8. They have also been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. In 1995 she set up the Haringey Literature Festival and co-ordinated it for three years.

She sent us this update:

"I was delighted with my Diamond Twig publication Even the Ants Have Names which I thought very stylish. The response to this was very positive. My story Ride is being published in Norway by Cappelen in an anthology of British writing for students of English literature and language. This is my first overseas publication so I'm very pleased.

"I had another story, Shush, published in Mslexia magazine, issue 16. I'd love to have a collection of my stories published but in the current climate this is difficult, especially as my stories are not linked or themed, each one being different.

"I haven't been sending work out lately as I'm currently writing a novel and busy earning my living through teaching. I teach on the MA Writing at Middlesex University, at the Mary Ward Centre and also at the City Literary Institute, all in London."

Mary Lowe

Mary Lowe

Mary was born in 1959, in Bath, Somerset. She grew up in South London / Surrey and went to a Girls' Grammar school and the University of York to study history. She has been a teacher, a trainer, a Nursing assistant and a Health Promotion Officer.

Mary has had short stories/articles published in City Secrets ed. Cathy Bolton and P-P Hartnett (Crocus), Long Journey Home ed. Caeia March (Women's Press), Fruits of Labour ed Penny Sumner ( Women's Press), Even the Ants Have Names and other publications. A play for children, Rap up the Planet was performed by Bruvvers Theatre Company in Primary Schools throughout the North East of England.

She adds:

"What have I done since two of my stories were published in a Diamond Twig anthology? Listened to a lot of Radio 4 burbling away in the background... cringed at the torrent of smugly spoken drivel, about WMDs and roadmaps and all these duplicitous phrases that thinly conceal a tissue of lies. YUK, what times we're living in.

"But at the same time the sun is shining and I've just come back from London where I was whisked around Spitalfields market and Brick Lane like a proper tourist, buying some Fentiman's Ginger Beer in an English Speciality food shop (the word contradiction springs to mind) and everything was suffused with buzz and light. Things are good on the whole and I've just read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebald which is a beautiful life affirming book that makes you want to hold every moment and savour it, not get bogged down in Radio 4 sludge.

"Since last Autumn when Even the Ants Have Names was published, a lot has happened in my life. I've moved twice, bought a car and have calmed down hugely on the tricky topic of how to make a living. E.T.A.H.N was a good confidence boost. There was the reading in London where the biggest thrill was standing next to one of the other readers, the actor Tracey Wilkinson who plays Di Barker from Bad Girls. (I love crap telly, my fave programmes are Richard and Judy and Bad Girls). The Newcastle launch at Live Theatre was good too, despite the noisy fridge. The launch events and the whole process of being published seems to make the impossible, ie making a living through writing, seem a dim possibility provided I'm committed to it enough, can put up with the slog and repeat to myself the necessary mantras that allow me to continue rather than shove the whole lot in the bin.

"Now I know that when I'm feeling relaxed and confident I'm able to write in a way that I enjoy. Encouragement through being published has been v. important to me. I'm currently writing a novel, I've written about 25,000 words and I have to keep telling myself that it's OK to stumble in the dark, my novel will hardly arrive neatly chapter after chapter in the way that I want it. It's slow hard work.

"And at the moment I'm taking a short break as other things are filling my time - work, deadlines. I organise a writing festival which begins at the end of the week and it's difficult to concentrate on anything else; also I might be moving again. Uncertainty and risk is in the air. Maybe one day my writing will become an anchor, a place of refuge but at the moment it still feels uncomfortable and a little ill-fitting, like a pair of tights that I have to keep pulling up..."

Janine Langley Wood

Janine Langley Wood

Janine grew up in Leeds. She is 43, divorced, and the mother of two. Formerly a model, a sales manager and owner/manager of her own business, she achieved an MA in Creative Writing at 41. She now lives in Whitley Bay and is a teacher of Creative Writing.

In 2003, Janine received a Northern Promise Award to complete her first novel. Her short stories have been published in various literary journals and, under the name Janine Langley McCann, in Even The Ants Have Names. Here she writes about her experiences:

"Since you were kind enough to publish me in Even the Ants Have Names, I have to say I've had publishers ringing me up 24-7 and I'm pretty sick of it by now. No, but really, have had some feedback, mostly from people who know me, who have been good enough to go out and buy the anthology. Some have had difficulty in getting their hands on it, I have to say. For instance my sister tried to order multiple copies for Christmas presents through Waterstones (Leeds) but was basically told the amount was small potatoes and she's have to wait indefinitely. She did eventually get them, but not in time for Santa. Never mind though, apart from my occasionally being referred to as a dark horse the feedback overall has been positive. The anthology is obviously a good read.

"I think that the biggest benefit for me - beside being published in the first place - is that it spurred me on to apply for a Northern Promise Award, which I did get - by gum. And as well as my astounding work I'm sure that inclusion in a Diamond Twig anthology would have been a definite plus with the judges. So thanks again.

"So I'm cracking on with the novel basically. I was given money, which has helped of course, but also a mentor in Sara Maitland. Having a mentor is proving to be a positive and motivating experience for me. I wasn't sure that it would be, to tell the truth, (writers are so touchy), but I'm now up to 32,000 words and on a roll. I'm looking forward to meeting with Sara again this week (early June 2003) and hope to have a completed first draft of the novel by the end of this summer.

"As for bread and butter money, I'm still teaching Creative Writing part time at F.E. and H.E. levels for Newcastle College. I like teaching (what I see as) my own subject, and also find that this encourages me as a writer to read more and to think about structuring work; so a good all round job that one. I also teach Key Skills but I don't want to talk about that.

"I suppose what I am doing now that is different from say a year ago is constantly planning my time ahead as a writer; learning to think of it as what I am rather than something I do. Zealous about my writing time, I've even turned down a little work, but then an award enables such luxuries."

Betty Weiner

Betty Weiner

Betty Weiner came to England in 1939 with her family, as refugees from Austria. She grew up in North Wales, studied English and German literature and met her husband, Robert, in Birmingham. They married in 1958 and lived in London and in Yorkshire. She focused on family and work (social work) until her retirement in 1993.

Betty remembers writing her first short story on a bus at the age of nine, and has been enthusiastic about writing and about theatre ever since. She reads detective fiction for relaxation. She adds:

"I was delighted to be published by Diamond Twig and grateful for the encouragement always given by Ellen and Julia. The stories have been well received. The only drawback of the publications is that they are not easily purchased over the counter - I have had several requests for them. I do have some reservations about the final formats in the 2002 collection and in the Blue Room Anthology - but maybe this is endemic among writers!

"From time to time I send a piece to Mslexia and I usually have a dozen or so pieces out - stories, monologues, short plays - at small presses or, more likely, competitions. I call these my 'homing pigeons'.

"In view of the burgeoning oldies population, I am trying to counter today's 'youth culture' with a collection of short stories featuring older people! Two of these stories were in the Diamond Twig volume. I have recently sent some more to a publisher as a 'short collection'.

"Otherwise I am working on plays, mainly sketches and one-act so far but also a longer work. I have been helped in this latter piece by the Modern Drama tutor at the class I attend at Newcastle University, and extracts from this play will be used and discussed during one of the classes.

"I am retired so, in principle, could spend all my time writing. In fact I share my spare time between this and other compelling interests. Apart from which I'm brain-dead after about 3pm!"