With the help of graphic designer Elaine Odlin, I’ve created an ebook with a selection of my previously published short stories, illustrated with my photographs. For a limited time, I’ll be giving it away for free if you sign up to my website newsletter. If you are already signed up but don’t have a copy, please email me and I’ll send it to you!
I’ve been a little quiet on here recently as although life has been busy, I haven’t had much writing news to share. I’m happy to say that that is about to change as one of my pieces, a short story about innocence and experience set in the eighteenth century (with more than a passing nod to Angela Carter) is coming out in print. The story will be available in Part 2 of the printed anthology, which is available in two parts – or you can buy the complete version.
I’ve always been fascinated by curiosity cabinets and I decided to use them as a metaphor for the idea of forbidden knowledge. This story was also long-listed for the University of Sunderland Short Story in Association with Waterstones Award in 2019.
I happened to see an email from Tower Hamlets Council asking residents to contribute to a recording, A Nightingale Sang in Pollard Square, run by Sam Lee of the Nest Collective. Every year Sam Lee records nightingales – which only sing between April and May in the UK – at night with the help of other singers and artists.
I wanted to write something for this performance (which was part of the celebration of St George’s Day in the borough) and was inspired by the fairy tale, The Nightingale, written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen about an Emperor who prefers the tinkling of a bejewelled mechanical bird to the song of a real nightingale. When the Emperor is near death, the nightingale’s song restores his health.
So many of us, including myself, have taken so much comfort from nature, including the birdsong we could suddenly hear, during the pandemic. The story of the nightingale that could heal the dying man is very relevant to us all in these strange times.
I tried to think of a way to retell this old fairy tale while reading about nightingales – which are now on the Red List – and ended up with a different idea: a nightingale in a museum, a holographic representation of the real thing, telling us how it became extinct. We need to save these amazing birds so that we are not left only with mechanical nightingales instead of the real thing.
You can hear my recorded piece just after the beginning of the video, and I’m honoured to be part of this beautiful recording.
What a draining and exhausting year it’s been. I am very grateful to have had my vaccine and to be looking forward to seeing my friends and family soon, but it’s going to take a long time to shake off the general feeling of dread that COVID brought with it. One thing that’s been really helping my mood is just getting out and about and looking at flowers. The photo above was taken on a wonderful holiday we had in Japan two years ago during sakura (cherry-blossom) time. I loved watching crowds of people just taking the time to admire the flowering trees.
Here in London the cherry blossom is not quite out but the blackthorns are in our local cemetery park. I walk there every day with our dogs and there is an explosion of colour from wild violets, daffodils, crocuses and grape hyacinth. With the clocks going forwards and the roll-out of the vaccines we’re all starting to shift a little from our winter lethargy and look forward to the summer. I hope you are too.
I have had some very kind reviews of two of my stories from Lisa Shea on her Youtube channel – she has reviewed Masquerade and Crow Girl. Thank you Lisa! I’m constantly amazed at how supportive the blogging community is to emerging writers.
Some reviews for The Abyss Within, a charity anthology benefiting Women’s Aid which features two of my short stories, Crow Girl and Masquerade, appeared recently as part of a book tour and I had to share a couple of them.
“This anthology is perfect for any “beginners” of the horror genre, wanting to dip their toes in these murky waters. Each story is quite short and makes for a fast-paced reading experience. Various tropes of horror are explored throughout these tales and I was particularly drawn to the weird and fantastical elements of some stories… The second story I’m going to highlight is my favourite of the anthology – “Crow Girl” by Tabitha Potts. This is precisely the kind of story I love. The story tells the tale of a young, deaf and mute orphaned girl who is taken in by a childless couple. When she falls pregnant, she is kicked out of her home and goes to live in the woods with her friends- the birds, especially the crows. Potts’ use of bird imagery is carried seamlessly throughout. There is a brightness present in this story amongst its horror. Potts writes how mother and child “spoke together with a language we invented ourselves.” This is a story to remember.”
Another great review by Read by Dusk said: “Tabitha Potts’ Masquerade describes a woman’s fight to survive an abusive marriage. The story is arranged in snippets of scenes which made for a cinematic read.”
Strange times continue, and we plod on trying to cope. I’ve been walking a lot, like I imagine everyone has, finding a lot of comfort in looking at the winter landscape, the sea and the woods. I’ve been taking a lot of photographs with my new camera, most of which I share on Instagram, trying to find a way of recording these landscapes which move me so much.
Photography shares some aspects with writing, in that you can see something very beautiful and satisfying and yet struggle to capture it. I think I’ve always understood that frustration was part of the creative process, as both my parents were writers (perhaps that’s why I took so long to commit to it). But I’ve also been trying to let go of perfectionism and fear and actually enjoy the process of writing again. As part of that, I attended an online flash fiction course run by Emily Devane and joined a Zoom writing retreat run by Sarah Dale. Both were inspiring.
Sometimes, you have to accept that it’s the wrong season for things to grow, and I’ve been feeling like that a lot last year when it comes to my writing. So I’m writing when I can, and just enjoying the scenery when I can’t. I wrote this poem, inspired by a witch ball that I was given by my mother Jocasta for my birthday, in one of Sarah’s retreats. It’s about superstition and how we surround ourselves with the little things that make us feel safe. I see it as a spell or charm. I hope you like it.
The last gift my mother gave me
Silver wind in the trees
Acorns on windowsills
Smoke in the night
We can see ourselves
A charm of protection
A caged cat
In the foundations
Of an old house
To keep the devil out
Recently I had two short stories published. One, Some Notes on Container Gardening During the Apocalypse, is a satirical short story I wrote at the beginning of the pandemic, and was published by the excellent American literary magazine The Disappointed Housewife. I knew it would be the right magazine for me to submit this story to when I read that it was looking for stories that ‘that strike us as different, always with that idiosyncratic touch. Iconoclastic. Kind of bent.’ Thank you to The Disappointed Housewife for giving my strange little story a home!
The second, The Sin-Eater, was written and workshopped during the Genre class in my Creative Writing MA and is set in a fantasy world whose inhabitants all experience life through synaesthaesia and whose skin changes colour according to their feelings and sensations. I think it’s one of my most original short stories and am very pleased with it. It was published by the UK based Fudoki Magazine which is an online magazine of myths, legends, fables, fantasy, folklore and fairytales. Fudoki captured stories that were passed down the generations in Japan and ensured they wouldn’t be lost.
Meanwhile our final short story of 2020 will go online tomorrow at Story Radio Podcast – thanks to all the writers, actors and producers who have so generously shared their work, especially to my extremely talented Birkbeck contemporaries Tatum Anderson (The Invisibles) who was Highly Commended in two debut novel awards this year, Miki Lentin (Persepolis, Meringues) who was a Finalist in the Fish Publishing Short Story Award and of course my fellow producer, Martin Nathan (The Edge, Mock Crab, The Vulnerable) who is on the shortlist for two international playwriting awards. I am privileged to have been able to work with all of them during this very difficult year.
I recently had two stories, Crow Girl and Masquerade, selected to be included in an anthology, The Abyss Within, by new UK publishers SmashBear Publishing. They specialise in fantasy and horror fiction and all profits from this anthology will be donated to Women’s Aid, the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. I’m proud to be part of this exciting new venture.
If you’d like to support this charity, have a look at The Abyss Within on Amazon (affiliate link).
The Elixir Magazine is one of the magazines that has frequently published my work. It was started in Yemen in the city of Sana’a, by a remarkable young woman named Esra’ AlNaggar. It gives a voice to women, in particular, who may not always have had access to a platform. The Elixir Magazine was launched on January 1st, 2019 and they have managed to create an international team via Twitter.
It’s a wonderful, hopeful and peaceful project in a war-torn country. As they say on their website: “We try to remind our audience that reading can be both entertaining and beneficial. Also, The Elixir acts as a platform for aspiring poets, short-story tellers, journalists and prose writers”. Have a look at some of the short stories they have published. Or if you’d like to support them, consider buying a copy of their Special Edition print magazine on Etsy. I have a short story in it (Hagstone).