We want to believe that the creative industry operates within a meritocratic framework because it paints a nice picture of reality. But it also happens to be a lie — a harmful one, because it implies that marginalised members of a given industry are the ones to blame for the lack of opportunities, the double-standards, the misrepresentations, the prejudices they face. That BAME authors aren’t getting the recognition and the same opportunities as white authors because they haven’t earned it is a dangerous misconception.

Moreover, there is a tendency in fiction to confuse diversity with identity. People who aren’t part of a given minority community can, of course, write about marginalised characters all they want, but what we, as an audience, really want is accurate representation.

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The CCBC recently released the statistics on diversity in children’s books that were published in the US in 2018. Out of all the children’s books published in that year, only 23% were about children of colour. And it turned out that there were actually more books written about animals than about BAME people. 1% of children’s books were about Native American characters, 5% were about Latinx characters, 7% were about Asian characters, 10% were about African/African-American characters. But 27% of children’s books published in the US in 2018 were about animals. 27%. That’s more than all of the books about BAME characters combined.

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Stories taught me how to live — I learned from books how people interact, how they think, how the things they feel translate into body language (for instance, a person who clenches their fists is an angry person, and a person who keeps checking their watch is a person who needs to be somewhere else). The questions I’ve had growing up, the answers I’ve revised repeatedly over the years, the lives I’ve lived in the pages of books have shaped me into the person I am today.

I write for children because I know how hard growing up can be. When you are young, everything you feel, see, hear is so much more immediate, so much more vibrant, and as exciting as that sound, it can also be equally terrifying. Your life changes every single day when you are young — at every new fact you learn about the world, at every new street corner you discover; a lake is as big as an ocean, and a walk in the park is never just a walk in the park. I write for children because I want to be there for them. Stories were there for me when I had nothing else.

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Anti-climatic, cacophonous, inconclusive. Life is just bad fiction.

I once had a dance trainer who was kind to me on some days and cruel to me on other days. I’d known him since I was fourteen years old, and we grew apart half a decade later. My memories of those turbulent years are hazy, muddled with gaps in the chronology, perhaps due to my wish to forget.

For the most part, L– was a kind and talented choreographer from South Korea, and while his Thai and English skills left most of his students struggling to communicate with him, I was one of the kids with whom he had no difficulty communicating. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I had never been very great at understanding spoken words anyway. Perhaps I had grown up used to reading the body language of others because I understood early that people don’t usually mean what they say.

Our teacher-student relationship continued for five years. After he left L— D— Studio, I continued to take private lessons from him, sometimes at a rundown studio in T— T—, other times at a more expensive venue. But I’d always remember that cramped, rundown studio and, eventually, the new dance trainer, J–, who came to replace L–.

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Summary: After an alchemy experiment gone wrong, a boy and his pet-god end up in twenty-first century Europe. Length: ~2,600 words.

 

Thump. Morgue leans back in his grandmother’s rocking chair and watches the world spin. It has not stopped since Lugnor hit him with a spade. “A test of mortality,” Lugnor said, “if you can get hurt, perhaps, so can I.”

Thump-thump. Dust motes circle above Morgue’s head like millions of little diamonds which glitter at odd angles then disappear. When he makes a grab for them, his hand comes back with nothing. Thump-thump-thump. The sound of Lugnor stamping up and down the stairs is beginning to grate on Morgue’s nerves. Breathing in deep and closing his eyes, Morgue tries to remember a time when Lugnor did not irk him like this.

At the beginning of the last century, Lugnor’s visits to the mortuary were the highlight of Morgue’s second life. Living as a revenant had taken some getting used to: the voicelessness, the unbeating heart, the whispers in his head that used to keep him up at night, the not-being-alive yet somehow alive enough to disqualify him from claiming afterdeath benefits. Aside from the goodly mortician, who had signed the adoption papers, Lugnor was the only bright thing in Morgue’s deathless life. He can still remember, even though it makes him cringe now, how embarrassingly smitten with Lugnor he was.

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This year has so far been a blur of out-of-reach ambition, sucky time management and an onslaught of illnesses. I am racing against time to make a name for myself before I graduate — an extremely understated summary of the laundry list of requirements needed to be considered for a Tier 1 Visa. My goal is to be able to stay in the UK without having to forever juggle between academia and career — without having to be treated as a subnormality whose credibility must be accounted for by a Nine-to-Five tyranny. Gods know what morally depraved ‘unforgiveables’ a female mammal from a high risk country might get up to if she’s left to her own devices.

Getting a Tier 1 Visa right now seems like an impossibility. I am required to win awards like BAFTAs or the Man Booker Prize etc. And that’s on top of having to be famous and critically acclaimed in at least two countries. RIP. Continue reading

i already feel like a fraud every other day, living in and breathing in and feeding on my insecurities and worries for the future. i feel like i will never make anything out of life, never reach my full potential, never become who i am supposed to be, who i want to become.

my ambitions are driven by fear. i want to make something for myself. i want to live like i am capable of living. but i don’t know how. there are moments where i sit in front of the screen or a notebook and all i can feel is the panic welling up inside me, the frustration over my own incompetence, because i can’t get the words to make sense, i can’t get myself to make sense and i want to cry. but, there are also moments where i laugh at my own words, where i think myself a genius because all the plot points are coming together, and in those moments, i can believe whole-heartedly that my ideas are beautiful. but it’s like striking a match in the dark. it flares and flickers out.

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Bruce Frederick Cummings (MS Trust)

 

‘And so you read Pragmatism,’ he mused, ‘while the fate of the Empire stands in the balance.’

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘and the Paris Academy of Sciences were discussing the functions of θ and the Polymorphism of Antarctic diatoms last September when the Germans stood almost at the gates of Paris.’ (1948, p.199)

Armed with the flippancy and intellectual conceit which were second to none, W. N. P. Barbellion recorded a future ceaselessly spurned by sickness and circumstance. Born in 1889 in Barnstaple, he aspired to be a naturalist and began keeping a diary at the age of thirteen. His lust for life antagonised by his social class and ill health stationed him at a uniquely tragic standpoint from which he witnessed fin de siècle.

The Journal of a Disappointed Man vividly highlights the universality of human suffering during one of the greatest and most devastating turning points in history. By pitting his own ambition against an increasingly industrialised world, Barbellion’s diary poignantly portrays the economical, sociological and political climates of the years leading up to the First World War.

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