Not quite the Last Word by Natalie Nera

Our second season is nearly done and dusted, and I can’t help but reflect on the challenges we have faced in the past year and a half. “Hang on a minute!” I hear you say. “You have a job, you live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – what challenges are you talking about?”

            This makes light work of what has been a challenging time for all of us – those in caring professions, children and teenagers, mums and dads, older people, (though I prefer “people of significant life experience”… Ha!) It isn’t natural to sit at home, starved for the chance to touch or see each other.

            Fear is an everyday companion, and so is the reality of our own mortality and helplessness. Nearly everyone has lost someone. I am not just a writer, or a creative, or editor. I am also a mum of two young school kids and a teacher, and I have seen what this pandemic has done to our young people, how it affects them – and have discovered how hard it is to teach your own children while working full time!

            After one particularly painful afternoon of wrestling with maths, my older son blurted: “You’re not my teacher, you’re my mum!” How right he was! The impossible confusion of mixing work and domestic life could not have been summed up better than by my eight-year-old.

            I have struggled more and more to answer submissions on time, which brings me to my next point: if you are currently waiting for a response, I will get back to you within the next month. Please accept my heartfelt apology for the delay!

            And yet, there is so much to celebrate! In the midst of this mad year, despite a global pandemic, we have grown and we have achieved so much. Crick, Rue and I have enjoyed our own creative successes, as well as transforming our small press into a community interest company, which perfectly fits our mission: connecting creative communities everywhere, building bridges between people through their creative output, and offering a platform to those niche and unheard voices if and when we discover them.

            Our experience keeps growing, our friendships remain intact, and our determination to forge ahead is as fierce as ever. After the astounding success of our debut publication, The Language of Salt: Poems on Love and Loss, we are thrilled to announce we will be creating another anthology this year. Keep your eyes peeled for the callout once our reading window closes! If you haven’t yet got your hands on The Language of Salt, it’s now available from our online shop, and we hope to have a second print run before long as well as an official publication for Europe.

            So, what’s the moral of the story? It’s not important if you fall. The important thing is to get up – and it looks as though we might be getting pretty good at it.

About the Author

Natalie Nera is Prose Editor and Co-founder of Fragmented Voices.

2020: A View from the Editors

To start a new season in Fragmented Voices, we looked back at the past year….  

Rue Collinge

What a year! I have been researcher, editor, performer, teacher, financial director… like many of us, I have become used to a never-ending carousel of hats – many of which I did not expect. 2020 yielded opportunities I couldn’t foresee, even as my crammed diary of planned projects and contracts dissolved.

I was commissioned by the NewBridge Project to research the experiences of asylum seekers in lockdown last summer, and respond with a spoken word piece writing into the gaps. I contributed to Poetry NI’s global poem ‘Covidioms’, as an international community wrestled to come to terms with a world on fire. Most recently I have been shortlisted for the East Riding Festival of Words Poetry Competition, and published in two anthologies. Overwhelmed by how beautiful, diverse and intimate the global poetry community has become, as even competition moved to virtual platforms. I was crowned Oooh Beehive UK Slam Champion in December, and have performed in online gigs as opposed to pubs, concert halls, and parks! My teaching and literacy work has moved online, and involves 100% more sock puppets, to the delight of my students.

Through it all, our little press – humming with potential, the joy of working with close friends and colleagues, and navigating the complexities of an international company in the middle of Brexit. Our anthology, which celebrates so many voices, was an unexpected treasure in the chaos.

I cannot wait to see where 2021 will take us.    

Natalie Crick

This last year has been different in so many ways to any other year, most certainly challenging and at times devastating as Coronovirus has touched all of our lives to varying degrees and extremities, but it has been an exciting year for Fragmented Voices. For one, we have seen the introduction of a third team member, Rue Collinge join our original Natalie duo. A host of wonderful writers have been published online at our new beautiful website. We have seen the publication of our first book in print, a poetry anthology of love poems. As poetry editor, I was delighted to select 50 beautiful poems for this book. The isolation of the past months has been fruitful for my own creativity. In the lonely warmer months I found inspiration from the outdoors, and more recently from inside the seclusion of four walls of my apartment and from my head, as the weather has become colder and darker. This past year I have had new poems published in various literary magazines online and in print including Stand, The Dark Horse, Poetry Salzburg Review, Orbis, Agenda and The Interpreter’s House and elsewhere. I have poetry forthcoming in The Poetry Review. A short piece, ‘Acute Admissions Ward’, was commended in the Verve Poetry Festival Competition 2020 on the theme of diversity, which I read from the pages of the competition anthology at the festival in Birmingham. I was awarded second prize in the Newcastle Poetry Competition 2020 with a poem on the subject of coercive control, ‘Girlfriend-Watch’. I was thrilled when a little poem received a special mention by judge Ilya Kaminsky in the Poetry London Prize 2020. In recent weeks I achieved a high commendation in the Folklore Poetry Prize with my poem, ‘Sister is Still and Light’.

Communication has transitioned to an online setting in many spaces, and I have participated in and enjoyed viewing countless literary events online during long nights in lockdown. My work as a creative-practitioner-in-residence at the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University is continuing, with regular zoom meetings and socially distanced project meetings in the park between myself and the artist I am collaborating with, MA art student Lorna McKay. I am into the second and final year of a creative writing MPhil at Newcastle University supervised by Bill Herbert and Tara Bergin, writing to define a poetry of violence in the work of Simon Armitage and Pascale Petit, whilst drafting a sequence of poetry, ‘Lee’, to narrate a pathway to violence in the life of a male from childhood to early adulthood.

I feel that 2021 will be a good year: hope is in sight. Reading the creative work that enters our inboxes brings genuine interest and light to our days and nights as editors, and I look forward to enjoying more poetry subs and giving a voice to many more writers and artists.    

Natalie Nera

Without a doubt, last year was challenging: stress, isolation, uncertainty, bad news, worse news, dreadful news, Zoom fatigue and simple physical and mental exhaustion… I made more mistakes than I can count, which I would not have made otherwise. The new year with its promises brings only a glimmer of hope – and that is one of the things we want to go against in Fragmented Voices. Let us overcome obstacles. Let us celebrate what goes right and learn from those things that go wrong. Let us bring down borders and bring people together through creativity and arts. Our first publication came out in December and we hoped to launch our CIC simultaneously. However, we did not anticipate the bureaucratic difficulties to open a business bank account. Who would have thought that as a UK non-resident, you can register a business, but most banks do not want you at all, or you have to produce an outrageous amount of money (we are talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds) to be eligible? Now, we have got one (thank you, Rue Collinge) and we can hopefully grow, transform and gain more support for our small press.

But all this time, Natalie Crick, Rue Collinge and I have remained close friends who support each other through highs and lows, who celebrate each other’s achievements (we are all working authors as well as editors and publishers).   I am very happy to say that not only was I recognised internationally for my writing last year (The Selkie or High Commendation in the International Proverse Poetry Competition to name but the few) but in January 2021 I was honoured to be invited to join the Czech Centre of the Pen Club International, which I happily accepted.    

We Are Back!

 

writer working on typewriter in office
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The summer has nearly gone, autumnal rains and morning chills penetrate my skin. We, in Fragmented Voices, have spent it trying to update our website –   work which has been started but not finished yet and will be continuing throughout the year.

However, much of our summer months have been devoted to the love poems anthology, something we are already proud of it. I hope that you will feel the same once the book is out this year.

We have also made changes to our online magazine. What can you expect? It will be out twice a week from September till about mid- December and from February till May. In that time, you can expect poetry (Wednesdays), and prose, creative non-fiction, essays or visual art (Fridays). Once a month we are going to introduce some exciting new authors in translation. This 2020/2021 season we have Romanian and Moldovan poetry as well as Czech poetry.

I hope that you will like our changes and updates. We made them after careful consideration that reflects our experience from last year’s season.

What does not change is that we are still looking to discover new talent – illustrators, visual artists, poets, fiction and non-fiction writers. When you decide to submit, please read our guidelines carefully, otherwise, it can lead to rejection on technical grounds, i.e. submitting outside our submission window. Also, before you write THAT angry letter (to which we never respond), please take a few days before you press the SEND button. I am the first one to admit that I have done it in my life more than once and always when I was in a raw place. Trust me – it is always a mistake.
I look around and see the world in chaos. Globally, we live in uncertain times, we live in stressful times. I believe creativity and art are one of the few things that connect people everywhere. I do not think that I can change the world’s problems at my desk by typing my lines but I believe that our work can make it a bit more hopeful place, a place where things are possible.

 

Natalie Nera