Hello, it’s Wendy Pratt here, founder and editor in chief of Spelt magazine. You may have noticed that we are somewhat late getting this glorious issue to you, for which I apologise and also thank you for your patience. The print literary magazine community is full of fallen soldiers right now, with so many beautiful, interesting, necessary print literary magazines folding due to increased costs of paper, printing and postage and falling readerships. Spelt is determined to not be one of them, but we also don’t want to simply stay static and rely on the editors working for free, contributors not receiving renumeration for their work, or the magazine being sub-standard in terms of quality. A good lit mag should be something a contributor proudly displays on the bookcase, a rite of passage for writers on their journey to success. Right from the start, the aesthetics of the magazine, the colour and vibrancy and design that we are so proud of has been something we are unwilling to change. It is tough to keep a print magazine going in the current climate. We have been exploring funding options that will help stabilise and grow the platform and the magazine, reaching new audiences and really bedding into our mission which is still to validate and celebrate the rural experience across the board. Unfortunately we were not awarded ACE funding this time around. i should point out that the funding wasn’t to fund the magazine, but rather to give us help in building the platform to push Spelt further, diversify our audience and bring more underrepresented voices in nature writing to a wider community. We’ll try again, but it has been a blow. The problem with funding being that one has to stay in one place while waiting, unable to start new projects or move forward because future structures within the magazine core will change if that funding arrives. It’s by no means the end of the world, it just means that plans have now changed and we’ll be trying to fund differently, the building of the platform will take longer etc. We will try again and to be frank, there are worse things happening in the world.
Look out for some new projects starting and check out the shop where you can now buy PDF versions of the magazine, and PDF subscriptions. We have lots of other ideas for the future of Spelt and we are working very hard to maintain a good quality, interesting and innovative magazine. Thank you for your support!
Issue 08 is a particularly special one. It feels like we have fought to get it to print, and that makes me very proud indeed. Not only does it feature wonderful poetry and creative non-fiction, but it is the issue in which we say goodbye to our current columnists and start thinking about the next cohort. Thank you, Kiera, Elizabeth, Ruth and Andrew, for all your hard work. This issue also features an ex-mentee of mine, who recently published her first book. Victoria Bennett’s ‘All My Wild Mothers’ is a stunning debut and I feel honoured to have had the chance to work with her early on in the book’s development and to discuss it with her for the magazine. This issue also features our first ever poetry film, which you can watch by using the QR code. This is Helen’s first issue as poetry film editor, and I wish to extend a warm welcome to the team.
2023 is a fresh year, and a new chance to explore and grow and I look forward to bringing you four issues of the beautiful thing that is Spelt magazine, with the help of Steve Nash and Helen Dewberry, my brilliant co-editors.
Guest blogger and workshop facilitator Clint Wastling talks about the interaction between geology and poetry
I’m passionate about geology and how layers of rock create the landscape around us. Growing up in Scarborough with the freedom to roam the North Bay, framed by the castle to the south and Jackson’s Bay to the North, it was only a matter of time before I started to ask questions. I found shell impressions in sandstone, there was always quartz in its various colours and at low tide we’d clamber out onto the rocks and then the revelation – dinosaur footprints!
Now it might seem obvious that the rocks of the Castle Headland aren’t the same as those of the North Bay. They stick out into the sea, so must be harder than the surrounding clays. The castle headland isn’t a promontory of rock sticking out into the sea but almost like a slice of cake with its narrowest point facing the land. Perfect for defence. The rocks of the castle have been moved on a fault from higher up around Broxa several miles away. That must have been some earthquake! This hard rock is an outlier of Middle Jurassic sandstone.
At Filey, the rugged Brigg is a hard rock called a calcareous grit. It is late Jurassic in age. The Brigg is famous for its fossils, showing this rock was deposited in a tropical sea. Further south you can see the towering cliffs at Bempton which are Chalk. In between the beautiful sweep of bay is formed from soft shales and clays which are eroded faster.
This is not intended to be a geology lesson but to appreciate the rocks which make up the beautiful North Yorkshire coast can underpin our thinking and inspire our writing. It’s a way “in” and if you think only Dr Who travels in time, you’re wrong. We all can. You start 10,000 years ago in the Boulder Clay of the last ice-age at Carr Naze and if you walk the Cleveland Way, you’ll end up 200 million years in the past at Runswick Bay and Staithes! 200 million years of Earth’s history and mile upon mile of marvellous Jurassic Coast to enjoy! That’s my inspiration and the enthusiasm for it will be at the heart of my Spelt Workshop on Saturday 15th October
Jurassic Period 200 million years ago to 145 million years ago
Cretaceous Period 145 million years ago to 66 million years ago
To book a place on Clint’s upcoming Saturday 15th October Spelt workshop, click this link: Poet as geologist
This is the first blog I’ve written for quite some time, but with all the new initiatives happening at Spelt I thought it time to resurrect the blog, and make it a regular occurrence. Welcome back to the Spelt blog.
What’s happening at Spelt?
Spelt is now half way through its second year and going from strength to strength. The current issue of the magazine, issue 6, is for sale in the shop (link to shop) and you can also subscribe to the magazine and buy back issues there too. Subscribers are Spelt’s lifeblood. A subscription to Spelt allows us to plan and expand, bringing lots more ways to interact with the rural environment through creative writing.
Spelt Nature Writing School
Speaking of which, I’m pleased to announce the Spelt Nature Writing School. The school has three terms per year, each term is three months long and includes a range of four week courses, two hour workshops and morning writing groups. We’ll be bringing some live author events and masterclasses as well as some retreats soon too. You can browse all of the courses in the first term by following this link: link to writing school.
Our first four week course is with Electra Rhodes. You might remember Electra as one of our very first columnists. Electra Rhodes is an archaeologist whose short prose has been widely published, most recently in Parthian Press’ anthology An Open Door – Travel Writing for a Precarious Century. (Which I keep seeing in Waterstones and really must buy). Her current projects include a hybrid nature/family memoir and an intersectional biography of the British landscape.
El is a rising star, she’s a writer who has been longlisted for the Nan Shepherd prize and she’s one of the London Library’s emerging writers, which you can read about by following this link: London Library Emerging Writers.
It’s a genuine privilege to be able to welcome Electra back to Spelt to run our first Creative Non Fiction course. The course is zoom based and will run on Sundays 2-4pm (UK time) from September. Here’s a short description:
Real like the daisies, or real like I love you – writing your story for real
Over this four week series of workshops we’ll look at what makes for a good nonfiction story, column, or blog piece; use several starter prompts to draft the beginnings of a piece; explore some revision and editing strategies; and discover a range of venues for your work.
Focussing in on the fundamentals of character, events, voice and context, these online workshops will work for anyone who wants to write about their own experiences – travel, memoir, food, nature, media, place – in jump-off-the-page ways, whether you’re just beginning to write creative and narrative nonfiction or have thousands of words under your belt.
Over the series of sessions there will be opportunities to write, revise, ask questions, and share your writing. Come with a blank page each week, leave with several new drafts and plenty of inspiration.
This is a zoom based course which will run on Sundays 2-4pm (UK time) in September . The dates for this course are:
4th September 2-4pm
11th September 2-4pm
18th September 2-4pm
25th September 2-4pm
The cost is £70 for all four weeks of the course
This course has one bursary place attached to it for a writer in recept of benefits.
Spelt remains unfunded, but we are making a commitment to pay our facilitators properly, which means that if we don’t get enough bookings the course won’t run. If you know someone who might enjoy the courses, please share them so that we can reach a wider audience.
I’m going to be running the early morning writing sessions – The Dawn Chorus – a peaceful way to start the day and a good way to build your writing practice. Join me for an hour 7-8am –
The Dawn Chorus Writing Group
The Dawn Chorus is an early morning writing session with a nature theme which takes place once a month over five days. Sessions are run over zoom and all you need to take part is a zoom account and a desire to set some time aside to write. Sessions are just one hour long and are designed to keep your writing motivation ticking over. The Dawn Chorus is run by Spelt Magazine and facilitated by Spelt editor Wendy Pratt. Each session begins with an inspirational poem or extract of creative non-fiction and an optional prompt for you to use, but please feel free to work on your own long term project.
You will not be asked to share anything you are working on, but there will be five minutes at the end of the session set aside to check in and share if you want to. The aim of the group is community and pressure free writing in a friendly and supportive space.
You do not have to have your video or audio switched on, and you will not be asked to introduce yourself or perform any ice breaker or group discussions, this is purely a place to write in a community of other writers.
The Dawn Chorus runs once a month, usually at the beginning of the month, 7-8am, Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The cost is £7 and this includes all days within that week.
You are free to attend every day, or just the days you want to, the fee is the same and covers all five days. You do not need to send apologies if you are unable to attend, this is a relaxed, no pressure writing group.You can book your place by following this link: Dawn Chorus
I’ll also be running a two hour workshop in September, The Autumn Nature Table.
The Autumn Nature Table
In this two hour workshop we’ll be taking inspiration from the Autumn nature table – a selection of natural items that you might find on an autumn nature walk. Using these, alongside discussion around poems with an autumnal theme, we’ll be writing poems that reflect the seasonal change and how that change might be reflected in our own lives.
This workshop is open to any level of writer.
This is a zoom based workshop which will run on Saturday 10th September 11am to 1pm (UK Time)
And also in September we have co-ed Steve running a two hour workshop aimed at helping you improve your editing skills. We’re trying to include skills workshops along with our creative writing workshops, so if you want to polish your editing skills, come and join brilliant Steve for a couple of hours.
Editing Your Poems: The Basics
Join creative writing lecturer, poet and Spelt co-editor Steve Nash for a two hour workshop exploring the art of editing your poems. Steve will lead you through the basics of getting your poems from first draft to finished.
This workshop is open to any level of writer.
This is a zoom based workshop which will run on Saturday 24th September 11am to 1pm (UK Time)
The cost is £17.00
This course has one bursary place attached to it for a writer in receipt of benefits.
To view all of our courses for the September term, have a look at the Writing School page by following this link: link to writing school
We had a fantastic response to the Spelt competition. Judge Polly Atkin is currently reading submissions, but we’ll soon be able to tell you who has won. After doing the admin for the competition and seeing the quality of work sent in, I do not envy her, and I am really excited to see which poems she has chosen.
Welcome Helen Dewbery!
In other news we are absolutely delighted to welcome Helen Dewbery as our Poetry Film Editor. Helen Dewbery has taught poetry film extensively, in person and online. Her poetry films have appeared internationally at poetry festivals, where she has also presented talks and curations. For seven years she delivered a programme of poetry film events at Poetry Swindon Festival, including events in the community and an outdoor projection. Helen’s work has included the poetry film collection ‘Nothing in the Garden’, the Wild Whispers transnational project and the poetry film magazine Poetry Film Live. She is an associate of the Royal Photographic Society.
I can’t think of anyone better to facilitate this new area of the magazine and I cannot wait to see the submissions, which will open for our winter edition.
And that’s it for now, all news caught up. In the next blog I’ll be talking about Creative Non Fiction in the context of nature writing, subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss it!
This week we received the proof copies of Spelt magazine. It looks great and we really hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together. We’ll be sending contributor and backers copies out from today, and next week the magazine will be going on general sale through this website.
We’re also having a launch event, which you can come along to by booking a ticket at EventBrite. It’s a free event and you’ll get to see and hear some of the contributors from the magazine.
Here’s the link to EventBrite, hope to see you there!