Natalie Crick: 2020, A New Year for Writing

8th Jan Photo for Blog
Photo by Natalie Crick

Happy New Year to all of our friends, followers, and supporters.

The turn of a new year can bring new possibilities and challenges. For me, a new year is often a new start. I spring clean, put together new outfits, write lists of resolutions and I usually make plans to submit new drafts of poems to journals and competitions.

The Christmas period is a perfect time for writing when the air is cold, and we crave warmth inside our houses. Our thoughts are heavy with memory and hope that New Year can bring.

As January 1st dawned, I began to consider where to submit my poetry next. There are some exciting opportunities out there that might interest followers of Fragmented Voices.

I’m planning to submit poems to The Stinging Fly, datableed and Butcher’s Dog, and I’ve already submitted to Pain; one of my favourite new journals.

There are some great competitions open at the moment too – the Magma Poetry Competition 2019/2020 closes on January 11th…but maybe there is still time to write something before the deadline….

I find that the National Poetry Library website is a great source of information for magazines, competitions, and other creative opportunities. There are some great venues to submit to for prose-writers here too.

Thank you also for submitting to our new literary press, Fragmented Voices, if you have already done so. We are grateful for your support.

If you haven’t tried submitting to us yet, why not spend a few moments reading our submission guidelines at We accept creative work purely on the strengths of the work itself, as oppose to a writer’s CV or publication history. We’ve already had the pleasure of reading some wonderful submissions from all over the world, many of whom will be the first voices to represent our press. Keep following our social media pages over the next few weeks as we reveal the first gems of poems, prose, and essays that we have enjoyed reading.

We hope 2020 will be a special year for you and a time to celebrate your writing and showcase it to others. Find your voice.



Natalie Nera: The Floodgates Have Opened

Photo by Evie Shaffer on


After eighteen months of preparation, drafting and re-drafting our plans, discussing, debating, changing our minds, having to change the whole concept of our project because of my move to Prague, we have finally done it: we are open to submissions for our online literary blog.

We have received many submissions, including some proposals for books, and one of the things that is obvious – there are many incredibly talented people worldwide. The standard of writing is very high, so consequently, it is sometimes difficult to decide why we accept some contributions, whereas in other instances they get rejected. Sometimes the reason for rejection is as simple as the author not reading the profile of our small print properly therefore his writing is not a good match for us. In other words, rejection is not always a reflection on the quality of the work but it is still hard. We both recognise it as we both have suffered many rejections. They hurt even if at the same time on your desk you have a pile of successful publications and awards in literary competitions.

I thought it was important to mention it as we try to give every author the attention they deserve and the space they need.

It brings me to another idea that came to me in December when I was in bed with beautiful hallucinations caused by endless fevers. Only the third sort of antibiotics worked on my bacterial infection (a worrying trend these days), I was hours away from being hospitalised. Although not catastrophic, it was pretty bad. The upside was that when I was in my unconscious state, I had superpowers. I could fly and hover over the meadow full of blossoms. The sun was shining. I was also a figure skater, jumping salchows and axels. Fact check: I am a miserable skater.

One day, I even held a lecture in English on the topic of what makes a writer timeless. I was so brilliant! I had never been so clever, so witty, so knowledgeable! In my real life, I am full of self-doubt and only through a lot of self-training did I learn how to speak publicly without having a nervous breakdown each time. My recall is rubbish so oral exams or quizzes are a no-no. I usually get myself into a state when I don’t remember my own name.


However, in this dream-like, fever-induced state, I was so good with my arguments! Sadly, I can only remember mentioning Chekhov. Which brings me to my final point. We cannot do anything about the fact that the language mutates and changes. Our “normal” expressions will sound archaic in twenty or thirty years. Yet, someone like Chekhov seems timeless despite that. He is utterly modern, like he wrote his stories yesterday. I always learn something new from him.

Then you have another very good writer called Karel Čapek. I devoured every single published book of his writing when I was a teenager – his columns for newspapers, his short stories, his plays, his Letters from England. He was an exceptional person, too. He was a convinced democrat, a defender of democracy, hounded by the nazis in the late thirties to his untimely death in 1938.

Many of his ideas put in his writing are still valid – his satirical novel The War with the Salamanders was mocking the ascend of fascism but in many ways could be transposed to today. The search for eternal youth in the drama The Makropulos Affair reflects today’s cult of perfection, plastic surgery obsession, filtered Instagram images we have to wrestle with; the representation of an ideal unachievable in the real life. He gave the world one new word – a robot. He was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature many times but never received it. Yet, when you open his books today, yes, they have valid ideas but are heavily overwritten to the point when it is difficult to enjoy them.

Another example: whenever I happen to read some of the campus fiction created in the past forty years, I cringe. Yes, they are clever, the authors are skilled but they feel dated, slightly patronising towards the reader, which was presumably thought of acceptable and perhaps even funny at the time. Today, opening those books is like walking into one of those village or town museums where everyone is dressed in Victorian costumes. They feel more like a memorial that has been built to testify about the long-gone era than literature that can inspire.

So what is it that makes an author, poet or artist timeless? I am sorry but I cannot remember the clever and confident answer I gave in my dream. Over to you. Happy New Year!

Natalie Crick: Snow – A Writing Exercise for Winter


Winterlandschaft, Caspar David Friedrich, 1811


In this white time of year our thoughts drift out of the window looking for snowflakes. We rub our hands together for heat when our bones are cold and our minds are dark.

The stillness of winter and the quiet of snow can make us more receptive to new stimulus. The landscape is changing and there is a sense of anticipation in the air. A sense of waiting. Now is a perfect time to write.

Here are some ideas for triggering your winter writing. To me, winter is a beautiful but bleak time of year. I find this poem, ‘Winter’ by Billy Collins, very evocative of the bleak qualities of winter. This poem was published at:




A little heat in the iron radiator,

the dog breathing at the foot of the bed,


and the windows shut tight,

encrusted with hexagons of frost.


I can barely hear the geese

complaining in the vast sky,


flying over the living and the dead,

schools and prisons, and the whitened fields.




Having read this poem, you could consider these questions:


Does this poem stir any emotion in you? If so what kind of emotions?


Do you think Collins enjoys the winter season? If not, how does he view winter?


What do you think about the winter season?


Does this poem remind you of any memories in your mind from past winters?


What poetic devices does Collins use in his poem?


What poetic devices would best express your own winter memories?


To aid the drafting of your poem you could turn to visual inspiration. I often find that paintings or photographs give me more interesting ideas for poetry than words or memories.


This featured painting is Winterlandschaft by Caspar David Friedrich (1811)


What can you see in this painting?

Does this painting raise any questions in your mind?

Who is the mysterious character in the painting?

What might you feel, see, hear, smell or taste if you were in the painting?




Now write your own Winterland.




The Return of the Lost Daughter:  Live Your Anti-Climax


book book pages college education
Photo by Victor on


By Natalie Nera

Naturally, before you do that, you have to experience a climax. Mine happened last week when graduating from Newcastle University after two years of grueling years of hard work, victories, and disappointments (yes, why is my best, not the best?), I finally made it. And it was paired with our fabulous book launch of the anthology that we link with the support of National Literacy Trust.

My anti-climax were several comic relief moments of mistaken identities and failing to operate self-service machines at the Post Office with any degree of success. Then I arrived back in the beautiful city of Prague only to fall ill, instead of continuing with celebrations with my Prague family. The bottle of rosé bubbly still sits in the fridge, waiting for me to stop shivering and sweating, feeling achy and miserable.

As I try to recover from my viral infection, I ponder over the fact that it is sometimes good to go through these things even if they do not make for an exciting plot in a story. You have to live it to understand it. Then step back and become an observer who can entrust stories to paper.

Natalie Crick: Celebrating the Launch of Bridges Anthology 2019


Photos by Jiye Lee, Frances Mulholland and Natalie Crick


On Monday 2nd December 2019 we celebrated the creative work of students of MA in Creative Writing and MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University and Poetry School London, with the launch of the Bridges Anthology 2019.

The Bridges Anthology 2019 was edited by Rue Collinge and Fragmented Voices co-editors Natalie Nera and Natalie Crick. Rue Collinge designed the striking cover and typesetting inside the book. Newcastle University Fine Art students India Hibbs and Amy McCartney worked hard to create the beautiful illustrations for this anthology.

Contributors to the anthology, guests and students from various disciplines in the university gathered in the Old Library building to enjoy drinks, nibbles and a host of wonderful readings of poetry and prose from contributors to the book.

Each contributor was given a copy of the book and guests were invited to make a small donation to the National Literacy Trust upon purchasing the anthology. The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity working with schools and communities to give disadvantaged children the literacy skills to succeed in life.

Pippa Little, an award-winning poet, translator, reviewer and editor, wrote about the book: “This rich sparky collection showcases the best writing from Newcastle’s MA. It’s a delight to come across so many strong voices.”

Cherise Saywell, novelist, short story writer and winner of the V.S.Prichett Memorial Prize, added: “Ambitious in scope, at turns moving, disturbing, funny – the work anthologised here engages and delights.”

The Bridges Anthology 2019 will also be published with Bandit Fiction, a new voice in digital publishing with the goal of offering additional opportunities to new and emerging writers.

All profits raised from the sale of Bridges Anthology 2019 will go towards the National Literacy Trust charity.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event to launch this beautiful book with us, particularly the readers, illustrators, contributors and their guests; some of whom travelled from London to enjoy the evening with us.

The week was also a time to celebrate winter graduations for some of our writers. Huge congratulations to all MA Creative Writing and MA Writing Poetry students who graduated in Newcastle this week.









The Return of the Lost Daughter: Where Is My Home?

Haydon Bridge
I used to live in Haydon Bridge. Photo by Natalie Nera


By Natalie Nera


I have spent a life time of not belonging so when I became an immigrant in the United Kingdom, it was not a new experience for me. I spent years not fitting in, being different, not by choice but by the nature of my being, feeling lonely and unhappy, misunderstood.

It is not an act of self-pity; it is a statement of a fact. It is also the reason why my teenage years and my twenties were utterly miserable, the time I would not want to go back to. I understand today that I have always lived in exile of some sort, be it an inner exile or becoming one of the life’s nomads without a home. I also used to long for roots, for being accepted for I thought it was important. I believed you could not exist without it.

Jungian scholar Bettina Knapp[1] talks about two different types of exiles. Refugee writers are forced to leave, I never was. All of my exiles have been self-imposed although I could argue that in a way, I did not have much choice. This is who I am. I live in my head, exhausted from the effort of pretending. It is much more natural to be an observer, to watch and remain on the outside.

This week I am on my ‘return’ trip to the place and country that was my home for fifteen years, and these questions seem more relevant, still open-ended like an oozing wound.

Where’s your home, little swallow?
It’s with my husband and my kids.

I wrote these lines some years ago in my early attempts in English but they still hold true. I am home where the people I love are. It is all right not to belong, and it is pointless wasting years of pondering over the fact that you were born weird. Or at least I am. I am all right with it now.

I realise there is more significance to this journey than I originally appreciated. It has been six months since I became an exile in Prague, my home city, after twenty years of being “the foreign woman” in other countries. The collection of friends who were desperate to meet me upon my flying visit involve a German, a Spanish, an American, a New Zealander and about ten born and bred Brits.

Somehow, they all are part of my tribe, and we all belong to each other. My tribe has other people in Bucharest and Krakow, as well as Hong Kong. My friend Natalie Crick, the breathtakingly talented Newcastle poet you know from our blog posts, is a lot younger than me, she is English, yet, whenever we speak, it feels like we grew up together.

When you speak to most creative people, they will probably tell you similar stories of being the ones who do not fit. What I am trying to say is that it is all right to be that way because there are people out there who are just like you. They are your tribe so go and find them.

[1] Bettina Liebowitz. Knapp, Exile and the Writer: Exoteric and Esoteric Experiences: A Jungian Approach (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991)


P.S.: I apologise to professional photographers for the quality of the photo, yet it is dear to me. I used to live in Haydon Bridge, a Northumberland village who gave residence to two famous personalities of the creative world – artist John Martin and poet Philip Larkin. I snapped this on my mobile phone on the way from switching on Christmas lights, an annual event on the first Sunday of December, during which community gets together.


NATALIE CRICK: Publication of a Pamphlet; ‘Co-Incidental 5’

This month I was excited to read my poems published in a beautiful little pamphlet by The Black Light Engine Room Press, edited by p. a. Morbid, with co-authors Ceinwen E C Haydon, David Rudd-Mitchell and Richard Cooper.

Poems of mine which feature in the pamphlet have been written at various stages of my MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University over a two year period. The featured poems are all fairly surreal and sinister, with subjects of death, reincarnation, witchcraft and notes of violence throughout.

Upon reading the pamphlet for the first time at the weekend, it was wonderful to enjoy imaginative and diverse poems from my fellow writers in the pamphlet; Ceinwen, David and Richard. It was also nice to see subtle areas of comparison between our poems.

The pamphlet can be bought directly from the editor at

I will be reading some poems from the pamphlet this Saturday (30th November 2019) during the last monthly BLERoom night of 2019, at Off The Ground Coffee in Middlesbrough, which showcases other excellent performers including Ann Cuthbert, Julie Easley, Iulia Ioana Iliescu and Jane Curran.






The Return of the Lost Daughter: Why Poetry?

By Natalie Nera

fire and ice by robert frost
Photo by Ayat Zaheer on

If you ask me who I am as a creative beast, my answer would be “a prose writer”.  However, I also write a lot of poetry. I have read books on poetry writing. Why? What is the point if a) English is my second language and I know I am not a genius like Ilya Kaminsky or Kapka Kassabova, b) I will probably never be published?

The explanation is simple: poems teach me about the inner workings of the language, they teach me about its music and tonality. I play with words, I try out metaphors. I enjoy, rather masochistically, to struggle through the muds of natural rhythms. This seemingly pointless work later reflects in my prose pieces. The economy of expression in poems translates well into fiction, it helps me to create “verbal short cuts”.

Think of the nineteenth-century writers who needed pages and pages to create a dinner scene. Today’s writers need a paragraph, or sometimes only a sentence to achieve the same. They only spend pages on a particular dinner scene if there is a good reason for it. In other words, in modern fiction, less is more.

If you can weave images into your fiction, you spur the reader’s imagination and make them want more – the ultimate goal of every writer.

However, there is also a danger of overdoing it or overwriting if you like. It is a particular pain of mine that I tend to cram my early drafts with too many metaphors, images, likening this to that, thinking of clever words and expressions.

In the past, I tried to curb my enthusiasm for playing with words and sentences but it stopped me from writing at all. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from my creative practice is that it is all right to overwrite, it is all right to use flowery language (partly coming from my Czech background), it is all right to be sentimental, and it is all right to be wrong as long as you keep writing.

When you finish your first draft, you have succeeded. Now, the craft of a fiction writer begins with re-drafts. Is the structure sound? Have I kept the point of view? Is the story character-driven? Have I thought through the characters?

In the last re-drafts, it is time to scale down the language, remove all unnecessary decorations, simplify the sentences wherever you can. The remaining metaphors have to be spot on. They gain the power to shock, to surprise. The text is no longer overloaded and burdened with its own possibilities. Instead, the story is the star, supported by images, structures, and words.


Natalie Crick: Emotion


The Girl from the Woods[30059]
Jaco Putker, The Girl from the Woods, 2014



I choose extreme words to impact upon the reader. I am aware of the full magnitude of how a reader can feel when taking a poem in. The presence of a poem can be so physically and emotionally charged that we can encounter ourselves in response to it.


           Language is a living thing and it reciprocates when I flatter it with attention. I feel the suppressed strangeness swelling within me. My language has no life unless I give it my own.


I write poetry about the dead and the missing. My words and losses converge. To live with grief is to live with desire. Robert Hass in his poem ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’ writes: ‘Longing, we say, because desire is full/of endless distances’.[1]


I can see eternal spaces, gaps and holes. We can be almost removed from loss, it is rarely graspable. I struggle at times; my language choices have a powerlessness to express the indefinable.


A poem is different. It is a mother-root, or a thorn in the brain. You cannot ignore it or you could miss something significant.



Ilya Kaminsky asks me: ‘Why such intensity? Is it too much?’[2]


‘Think assailable thoughts’, writes Jane Hirschfield, ‘or be lonely’.[3] I think this statement is very true. I am naturally an introvert and a poet; both can be isolating.


Sometimes it is less threatening and more self-fulfilling creatively to be lonesome.

I feel I must be vulnerable to write successfully about vulnerability.


In his poem, ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’, Wallace Stevens celebrates the autonomy of imagination. I read his poem and notice that the narrator’s self-sufficiency is depicted as bottomless, evocative loneliness, which paradoxically deepens to his last statement: ‘And there I found myself more truly and more strange’.[4]



         I look at myself in the glass mirror.



        Ruth Pitter says: ‘our only obscurities ….should be those we are driven into, then a sort of blessing may descend, making such obscurity magical’.[5]



A poem is written.


[1] Robert Hass, ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’ in Praise (New York: Harper Collins, 1999), p. 4

[2] Ilya Kaminsky, ‘Of Strangeness That Wakes Us’, Poetry, (January 2013)


[3] Jane Hirshfield, ‘Sentencings’ in Poetry, 197.3 (December 2010)

[4] Wallace Stevens, ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’ in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), p. 72

[5] Ruth Pitter, Collected Poems (New York: Pan Macmillan, 1969), p. xii


The Return of the Lost Daughter: Over to You

person holding fountain pen
Photo by Janson K. on


Natalie Nera


I have been honest about my self-doubt, struggles with rejections, the thoughts that are destructive in any walk of life but especially when you are a creative beast.

We have to be sensitive and wear our hearts on our sleeves when we write, we have to do our research, study hard, look at what other writers do but when it comes to the other side of the business, we have to toughen up. Forget sensitivity, emotions, cry on your pillow or on your friend’s shoulder because of yet another rejection. Cry because someone was harsh in their critique but then wipe your tears and keep going. There is a pile of manuscripts that have been accepted, look at the successes not failures to find your strength. And then, with a clear head look at your failures to improve your craft, how to do it better.

Sometimes it is about sending your manuscript to the wrong publication at the wrong time. Sometimes you go through hard times that don’t allow you headspace for a lot of writing. It is OK not to be OK. That is life.

Now, it is over to you. Natalie Crick and I will keep producing our blogs but will happily replace it with observations and experiences from other writers. Moreover, we are also open to accept essays, prose, and poems, all of which can be previously published provided there are no restrictions on re-printing it online (some magazines and competitions stipulate that you are not allowed to use your work elsewhere for a period of time, so please check).

Here are our guidelines:

  • Send us a Word document to On the subject line please write “Submission” followed by the type of submission, i.e. “Submission Poems”. The usual formatting applies: 12 Times New Roman, spacing 2 for prose, essays, and blogs; spacing 1 for poetry.
  • Please include a brief biography, no more than 80 words. Do not forget your contact details.
  • Blog entries: on aspects of writing or writer’s life (including poets, scriptwriters etc.). Around 800 words.
  • Essays: creative essays or essays related to any interesting subject. Up to 3,000 words.
  • Prose: short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, creative non-fiction. Up to 3,000 words.
  • Poems: no more than 5 poems, up to 14 lines. Any topic.
  • Illustrations. images and photos: send in a format that is printable online.
  • Unfortunately, we are not able to pay for these submissions at the moment. This is not the rule for our book publications where the usual contract agreements will apply.


Many thanks. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Keep creating and keep smiling.