Published by Retreat West on 1 November 2018
Available to buy in ebook and paperback
I’m delighted to be included for the blog tour for The Word for Freedom. My thanks to Anne Cater and Retreat West for the invitation and to Katherine Blessan for providing the guest post.
| About the Book |
A collection of 24 short stories celebrating a hundred years of women’ suffrage, from both established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories, whether set in 1918, the current day or the future, focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.
A clerk of works at the Palace of Westminster encounters Emily Davison in a broom cupboard; a mermaid dares to tread on land to please the man she loves; a school girl friendship makes the suffragette protests relevant to the modern day; a mother leaves her child for a tree; an online troll has to face his target; and a woman caught in modern day slavery discovers a chance for freedom in a newspaper cutting.
These stories and many more come together in a collection that doesn’t shy away from the reality of a woman’s world, which has injustices and inequalities alongside opportunities and hard-won freedoms, but always finds strength, bravery and hope.
Through this anthology Retreat West Books is proud to support Hestia and the UK Says No More campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Authors that have donated stories include:
• Sophie Duffy, author of The Generation Game
• Angela Readman, Costa Short Story Award winner
• Anna Mazzola, author of The Story Keepers and winner of the Edgar Allen Poe award
• Isabel Costello, author of Paris, Mon Amour and host of The Literary Sofa blog
• Angela Clarke, best-selling author of the Social Media Murders series
• Karen Hamilton, author of The Perfect Girlfriend
• Helen Irene Young, author of The May Queen
• Victoria Richards, journalist and award-winning short story writer
• Cath Bore, feminist short story writer and broadcaster
Beauty out of Ashes
by Katherine Blessan
They talk about compassion fatigue. I’m not sure I know what that means. For me, compassion plus its counterpart anger are fuel for action. When I hear real life stories about situations of social injustice – especially ones that nudge closest to my heart such as the oppression of women or refugees – it frequently inspires me with fictional story ideas. A simple case of life inspiring fiction, and fiction reflecting the reality of the world, yet with the meaning and shape that narrative provides.
‘Sayyida Nanda’ is a case in point; it was inspired by the real-life story that a friend of mine told me about being a child bride. Originally, I was going to write her story as a memoir, but due to my friend’s personal circumstances, this ended up not being ethically appropriate. Yet the imaginary character of Sayyida kept playing in my mind, and a short story was birthed instead; it was spawned out of real life but had its own narrative force.
After my second child was born, I was in a good deal of pain recovering from a tear and episiotomy. Whilst still being unable to sit comfortably, I watched a powerful documentary called The Cruel Cut about female genital mutilation (FGM). On the knife edge of pain myself, I found myself able to relate to the excruciating pain that many girls and women have to suffer against their own will and felt incensed by their suffering. Out of this mixture of documentary information and a lived experience, I wrote a short story about a mother-daughter relationship affected by FGM.
As a writer who touches on social issues, the proudest I feel is hearing that my story has moved readers to action in some way. Four years ago, my debut novel Lydia’s Song (Instant Apostle, 2014), which explores the reality of child-sex trafficking in Cambodia through the lens of hope was published. I am most encouraged by readers who tell me that my novel spurred them on in some way – eg. one lady told me she wanted to go and work and a charity like the one in my novel, which rehabilitates girls who have been rescued from prostitution.
As fiction writers, we cannot and should not write polemics. We are first and foremost story tellers, using words to make beauty out of the world around us. Nevertheless, stories speak powerfully to the human heart about the way life is and frequently fill us with a yearning for the way things should be. So, their function as instruments of change should not be underplayed.
It is well recognised that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1850s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin had a part to play in the American Civil War. Whilst it was not by any means a direct cause of the war, as a bestselling novel it helped to impact American hearts and minds with the brutality of the system of slavery, and made the public more inclined to support the war against slavery.
So, resist compassion fatigue. Instead, follow current affairs and use the anger that you feel to sear onto the page and forge beauty and purpose out of the ashes of social injustice.
| About the author |
Katherine Blessan is the author of Lydia’s Song: The Story of a Child Lost and a Woman Found (Instant Apostle, 2014), a hope-filled story about sextrafficking in Cambodia. As well as writing her second novel, Katherine is a screenwriter and short story writer. She lives in Sheffield with her Indian husband and two children where she works as an English tutor and examiner.
| About the Publisher |
Retreat West Books is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks.
Founder, Amanda Saint, is a novelist and short story writer. She’s also a features journalist writing about environmental sustainability and climate change. So all Retreat West Books publications take advantage of digital technology advances and are print-on-demand, in order to make best use of the world’s finite resources.
Retreat West Books is an arm of Amanda’s creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs fiction writing retreats, courses and competitions and provides editorial services.
Initially started to publish the anthologies of winning stories in the Retreat West competitions, Retreat West Books is now open for submissions for short story collections, novels and memoirs. Submission info can be found here.