Then


the colour on my pregnancy test
was the most beautiful shade of pink I ever saw
and, at the time, there was so much more
to the word
positive

Margaret Timlett



Dusty Road

December morning traffic jam,
shop fronts giddy with news of reductions,
head picking over the remains of three days’ drink.

The passenger seats are occupied by carrier bags,
and car lights flicker from snow white
to Father Christmas red.

Then a break in the stream of shoppers.
The package in the next car is long and wooden,
and the vehicle that follows is full
of the knotted faces of the mourners.

A third car completes the dark visitation,
and Christmas seems for a moment as unwelcome
as it must have done for Herod.

Joe Caldwell



The One Where

“That’s it, the final straw, I’m leaving” cried Ross as he
slammed his too-full wine glass down onto the table,
expensive white wine sloshing over his pizza, salad and
sides. No sooner than the base of his glass had touched
the table he began to wonder; what was the final straw?
What was just said? Why am I leaving? But he did not
voice these thoughts, instead pushing his chair back, it
screeching across the marble flooring. “You can make
your own way home!” once again a cry, too loud for their
restaurant surroundings. He turned on his heels and left.

“You forgot your bag!” came another raised voice from
behind him as he departed the restaurant, wobbly and
several steps at a time. Thud. Something collided with him,
just where his neck ceased to be his neck and started to be
his back. Something heavy. Several more steps flew past
and he met the cobbled street below with his forearms and
his elbows and his face. “Fuck!” He scrambled to his feet,
tripped and then scrambled to his feet once more. “You
absolute bitch!”

Rachel had thrown his over-full, over-priced, over-the-shoulder
bag that she had bought him for his birthday
out of the restaurant after him. The bag was heavy,
filled mainly with books about dinosaurs that had been
purchased throughout the day, some with his debit card
and some purchased with hers, in between the purchasing
of beer and wine and then lunch (this time just her debit
card) and then more beer and wine.

“Why did you do that!?” Ross shouted, his voice echoing
around the Victorian arches and the narrow, cobbled
streets. “Well, why do you have to humiliate me in public
like this!? Always drunk and yelling for no reason,” Rachel
responded. “Humiliation!?” Ross yelled, his voice louder
now, beginning to break, a break that was emphasised by
the echo “I’ll show you humiliation!”

Ross clenched his fists, squinting his eyes. His cheeks
began to flush and redden and then a sharp rasping sound
bounced across the cobbles, through the Victorian arches
and down the street. Ross had shat himself directly in
front and in full view of the raised, glass fronted restaurant
which sold expensive wine and expensive pizza and
expensive sides. The tables lining the windows were full; all
reservations had been met.

Stephen James

Middlesbrough


A gadgie slept slumped out the library, bloody automatic doorclamps kept a gonging on his conkbox. Like a scarecrow stuffed with spam chunks, oozy belching out his chin schism, face flaps all a dangling, pulseless mulchy pulp pomace. I gipped a bit in me sleeve, long night, and dialled an ambulance.

Pigeons shifty scuffle foraged crumbs in bus stop yup stubble. A cabbie done the finger at a Volvo, which was parked. Mucky skip fox snickered biscuits into polystyrene chugmug. Parademics clambered on the corpse, took off their gebs, said “morning Gary”.

Longtom Richardson



Nereid

Today you taught me about circles
iridescent silver in sunsettingsaffron
take the lining wrap it round our bodies
did you know that our truths mask with sadness
that the punctured light behind those twig weaved trees
is fading out like the tide
we are deepening as shadows into one another
held together held apart by circles
vying against the high ebb unbranching streamlets
the sandshore dusks its cloche pressing against the chalkcliffs
what we feel swells baby chicks in eggs nesting on the cliff face
in the intricate patterns of your necklaceshell heart
glinting coils of bone against bone flooded
tear water blood water washed up Nereid
hair circles water ripple ring circles
goose barnacle blue windows
sprawled dots filled with sea empty fingers.

Vera Fibisan



Northern Writers Awards

northernwritersawards.com

There are awards of between £500 and £5,000 that support writers to complete books and collections of work. These awards are open to applications from emerging and established writers. Some are listed below. Visit the website for a full list.

New Fiction Bursaries

In conjunction with The Literary Consultancy, new novelists are offered an in-depth editorial report on their novel or work in progress worth up to £300 each.

New North Poets Programme

Bursaries of up to £1,800 will be awarded to up to six poets to enable them to participate in the New North Poets programme, delivered in conjunction with The Poetry School and led by a leading poet.

Andrea Badenoch Award

This £2,000 award is supported by the friends and family of the late writer and was established in her name. It’s for first-time female writers over the age of 42, the age at which Andrea published her first novel.

Cuckoo Young Poets Award

This award, worth £300, is for a young writer aged 14-18 who is writing poetry, prose or creative non-fiction.