Our Books (in chronological order of publishing date)
From the back cover of Oy Yew by Ana Salote:
‘Lay low and grow,’ is the motto of the waifs of Duldred Hall. The only way to escape their life of drudgery is to reach the magical height of 5 thighs 10 oggits. But Master Jeopardine is determined to feed them little and keep them small.When the master’s methods grow more sinister the waifs must face their doubts. What is kept in the Bone Room? Why is Rook’s parlour locked? A new waif arrives and the fight for survival begins. But this child brings another mystery: who is Oy?
The waifs will grab your heart from page one and not let go. This book entertains on so many levels. Charles Kinglsey meets Jasper Fforde with shades of Gormenghast.
Fiona Faith Ross, author
Destined to be a classic. Jeopardine’s decline into horrific madness offers readers of all ages the same thrill as Dahl’s Child Catcher.
Helen Baggott (read-reviewed.com)
Oy Yew (RRP £7.99) can be ordered from our store here
Chapter One of Oy Yew, by Ana Salote:
Chapter 1 Caught
Oy was slight, weakly, overlooked. He had thought himself some sort of ghost, till one day, when he was about seven (he guessed), someone saw him.
‘Oy, you,’ said the girl. Startled, he had slipped away, through a gap, into a yard, through a hole, into the innards of a half-collapsed shanty. There he survived on crumbs and smells until, some years later, he was seen again.
He was in the alley behind the bakery when the waif-catchers netted him. He fed daily on the smell of bread, letting the vapours swirl around his brain and conjure of themselves a high-risen floury loaf. He would seize it with his two hands, break open the crust, and inside would be fluffy and white with a puff of steam, and he would scoop out the new bread and eat. That warm salt vapour would feed his mind for hours, but his body did not know bread.
Only other children were fast enough to catch the waifs. It was popular sport and paid well. The Affland girls who flanked Oy were tall and strong, and so explosively alive that Oy could hear their blood thundering. His feet pedalled air as they carried him to the office of Mrs Rutheday.
‘We got another one for you,’ they said, lifting him onto a block so that he could be seen through the hole in the wall.
Mrs Rutheday turned showing her face. The wall had more feeling in it. She might have been scoured from stone, her mouth was a ruled line and her hair was like iron wire.
‘Family name?’ she asked. Oy was in shock like any wild thing when it is handled. He could only pluck at his rags and gape like a fish.
‘What is your surname?’ she asked again.
One of the girls poked him.
‘What does it mean?’ he said with effort. He had picked up some stilted language but it was strange in his mouth.
‘Your second name, noodle. It comes after your first.’
‘You,’ said Oy.
Yew, Mrs Rutheday wrote. ‘First name?’ she asked.
‘Oy,’ he said.
The girls spluttered.
‘You’ve caught us a joker,’ said Mrs Rutheday. Then she looked at his pale vacant eyes. ‘No, there’s not enough brains in there to joke with. Oy Yew it is then. What is that thing he’s wearing?’
‘Old flour sack, ma’am.’
‘Alright, take him up.’
They pushed him into a room so long that its eight rows of benches disappeared to a point. Behind every work station sat a child, and each child was possessed of a pair of eyes, and each pair of eyes looked at him.
‘Who wants this one?’ shouted the eldest of the two girls.
There was no answer.
‘Name of Oy Yew,’ said the other girl to breaking laughter.
A faint, croaky voice came from somewhere far down the hall: ‘Here, he can sit here.’
The girls craned to where a shy hand waved and shoved Oy towards it. Oy fixed his eyes on the fuzzy, white head of Linnet Pale and stumbled down the aisle.
So Oy went to bench 54, to sit by Linnet, and to be trained by her in assembly. They had no idea what it was they assembled, only that they strained their eyes over sixteen tiny screws, and that the part thus assembled was passed on to the next bench, and from there to the next, till the thing was much increased in size, whereupon it was loaded onto trolleys and taken through the arches where there were flashing lights and sparks and a smell of burning rubber.
Linnet had no pigments in her skin or hair except for a stain on her temple. The other waifs said it was the hole where all her colour leaked out. Oy thought she was perfect. At first he was alarmed to have someone evidently seeing him, constantly speaking to him and even caring to know what was in his head. Once he got used to it though, it was exciting. It unsettled and warmed his insides, this business of having a friend.
To start with the conversation was all one way. What language Oy had was buried deep. He had always thought in pictures, pictures as vivid as life, but with Linnet’s help he began to speak. Neither had known there was so much to say. Oy especially, as he learned more and more words, had seven or eight or nine years (who knew) of thoughts all stored up for telling.
The talk fell naturally into the great rhythm of the factory.
‘Where did you come from?’ asked Oy, his voice climbing above the tapping of a hundred little hammers in the rows behind them.
‘To begin with? I came from Poria on a raft, of course.’ Linnet shouted over the strikes and clattering.
‘What a raft?’ Oy shouted back.
Linnet looked puzzled. ‘You know, a flat boat. Sometimes it’s just a few logs tied together. We’re all raft-children aren’t we? Can’t you remember? You were too little I expect. On fair days the beaches were all dotted with seeing-off parties. All the way down the coast you could see them, loading the rafts with spares like us. It’s not something you forget easy, sitting on that bit of wood, and all that mass and slap of water and the sea smell, and your family getting smaller and smaller as you’re sucked away and away, all the way down here to Affland – that’s if you don’t drown first.’
Oy stared at her with wide, empty eyes.
Linnet leaned towards him. ‘Are you listening?’ She looked into his eyes then pulled back fearfully. ‘You was more than listening. You was right inside my head.’
‘Is it wrong?’
‘Not really. I just ain’t been listened to quite like that before.’ She shot him little sideways glances, then smiled. ‘Go on, tell about what you ’member.’
‘I can’t remember no sea trip,’ Oy replied. ‘I can’t ’member nothing before the bakery. I just sprout there, like weed I think – live off crumbs and sour dough slung out back. I watch and hear through windows and in the alley but no one sees me. So I wonder what I am. Am I a ghost p’raps?’
‘That’s silly,’ Linnet giggled.
Oy had always wanted to try laughing, so he copied her. This tickled Linnet even more. Then the noise from the steam room swelled and swallowed all.
At night in the waif sheds, while others slept, they talked on, as though they knew their time was short.
‘Tell me about your home in Poria. Why did you have to leave?’ Oy asked.
‘Us Porians, we generally don’t talk too much about that.’
‘You weren’t to know. Oh, I’ll tell you anyway. My family…’
‘What a family?’
The boy in the next floor space twitched and pulled his blanket over his head.
She lowered her voice to a croaky whisper. ‘My family kept me for as long as they could, but I was always expecting to be sent away. I knew it was my time when the harvest failed second year running and then my mother’s belly started to swell…’ Oy looked confused. ‘With a baby – that’s a sign a woman’s going to have a baby. That’s when my father started to build a raft.’
‘Did it make you very sad?’
Linnet shrugged. ‘Ain’t no point being sad about what can’t be helped.’
Like a duckling that takes for its mother the first object it sees, Oy took for his friend the first person to really see him. The endless assembling, all the endless hours of endless days, did not bother him. Hunger and hardship were only what he’d been used to, but now everything was shared, and that put a shine on it. Linnet was just as pleased. She had only ever been looked down on, never looked up to.
‘Linnet,’ said Oy, some weeks later, ‘if I am a person do you think I had a mother?’
‘Yes, you must have had a mother, just like I had, even if it wasn’t for long.’
‘Do you think she forgot about me then, put me down somewhere and never bothered to pick me up again?’
‘No, there’ll be more to it than that.’
Linnet patted Oy’s arm. Oy hadn’t been patted before. He looked at his arm curiously, then started. He felt three sharp knocks on his backbone and cold metal pressed to the corner of his mouth.
‘Poker faces, poker backs.’ Mrs Rutheday looked down at him.
She had no expression. She could not read expressions, so she hated to see them, especially smiles. In fact she did not like curves of any sort.
‘Are you making your quotas with all this chatter?’ Her voice was grittier than the sanders.
Oy tried to answer but found that he had forgotten how.
‘Yes’m,’ Linnet butted in, ‘we’ve never missed.’
‘Mr Gurney had better raise them then, if you’ve got leisure to talk.’ All the time she appraised Oy, making him want to hide. ‘Stand,’ she ordered. Oy stood. She tipped her head. ‘You’ll do. He likes them small for the house. Be ready at six tomorrow for the cart to Duldred.’ Linnet began rising from her seat in protest, but Mrs Rutheday’s frozen face weighed her down again. ‘What, you want to go too? Attached to this one are you? None of you lot are pretty but the master wouldn’t want anything as plain freakish as you at the house.’ She turned to Oy. ‘Mind what I say. Front gates, hour of six.’ Mrs Rutheday moved away, knocking kinks out of spines with her poker as she passed between the benches.
Linnet sat back staring at her hands.
‘What did she mean?’ asked Oy.
‘You’re being sent to the big house, to be a house servant for Master Jeopardine.’
‘Is it near?’
The noise from the steam room grew loud again. Linnet shouted. ‘Fifteen miles or more. But not allowed out. Like here. Work, sleep, work, sleep.’
For the rest of the day they chose their words carefully, knowing that there were few left to them. That night, as they found their spaces under the high windows of the waif shed, their faces were passive but their eyes were busy storing friendship.
Oy Yew (RRP £7.99) can be ordered from our store here
From the back cover of Hearth by Sarah James and Angela Topping:
In Hearth, prize-winning poets Sarah James and Angela Topping join forces for an exciting sequence of paired poems which echo and interrogate each other, finding shared ground and surprising connections.
Home, memory and commonality are explored through objects that often surround our living spaces, our hearths, our hearts. Opening and closing with collaborative poems, the poets’ two voices come together, part and come together again.
From old fires that ‘spark and flame’ to ‘the heart of a secret’ and ‘silenced tongues’, the sequence picks out the people, places and things that shape our lives. The dialect of everyday jostles alongside the influences of Shakespeare, Ted Hughes’ Crow and Mrs Beeton. There are shared words, music and dancing, but beware also of the sharp sting of pins, ‘shadow wolves’ and falling.
Sarah and Angela’s jointly-written poem ‘Crow Lines’, taken from Hearth, was highly commended in Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Compound Poem competition. (2015)
James’ and Topping’s poetry duet explores ideas of home through memories and objects from childhood. Crows, sewing and laundry lines are recurring images; “The sister I never met hangs out my sheets” (The Washing Line, James) and “small acts of love, pinned up with such hope of drying” (Spring Lines, Topping) with a nod to Larkin and Hughes, amongst others...
…These poems conjure safe, hard-working family childhoods. There is nostalgia but not the syrupy it-was-all-rosy-then nostalgia. It’s the sort that says we are older but we carry memories to pass down; a solid ground from which our families spring upward into a future distance far beyond us…
…Hearth is a gentle, accurate, evocative duet…
Myfanwy Fox, Fox Unkennelled
Hearth (RRP £5.00) can be bought from our store here
From the back cover of The Forgotten and the Fantastical, edited by Teika Bellamy:
In this beguiling collection of fairy tales for an adult audience there is both the familiar and the unfamiliar. Here you will find modern twists on old favourites such as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘The Dream of Akinosuke’, as well as reinterpretations of ‘The Mermaid of Zennor’ and Arthurian legend. Original fiction has its place here too, with characters so vivid that they will continue to haunt you long after their stories have been read.
Features new writing by:
Rebecca Burland, Becky Cherriman, Tomas Cynric, Barbara Higham, CM Little, NJ Ramsden, Lisa Shipman, Marija Smits and Lindsey Watkins.
‘Enchanting, fascinating, alchemical - writing that pulls at the threads of well-known stories. But these are not just the familiar tropes, tales of morality, or social commentary: these are symbolic events that are transformed and empowered by writers who have allowed the story to filter through their own experiences. These stories bring the tradition of oral storytelling onto the page - and into the present.’
The Forgotten and the Fantastical (RRP £8.99) can be bought from our store here
What is this all about?
To celebrate the launch of The Forgotten and the Fantastical, edited by Teika Bellamy, we’re organizing a blog carnival. We’re aware that getting to a bricks-and-mortar launch isn’t a possibility for all our authors and supporters, so a blog carnival is a great way to get involved with the launch of the book – but without having to actually travel. We’d love to get as many creative folk involved as possible, in order to share poetry, art or prose on the theme of ‘fairytales’.
What should I write about?
Here are some ideas for blog posts…
- Favourite tales
What were your favourite fairy tales as a child? Are they still your favourites? How has adulthood/motherhood changed your opinions of those tales? Do the classic fairy tales disempower women? Is there a need for more feminist fairy tales? Which fairy tales do you like to read to your children? Which literary fairy tales do you like to read? Who are some of your favourite authors of ‘modern’ fairy tales?
- The art of fairy tales
Should fairy tale books be illustrated? Or should the writer be the sole artist in creating pictures of the story in the reader’s mind? Who are your favourite illustrators of fairy tales? Please do share some of your own (or other artists’ images).
- Real fairy tales
Has anything ‘fairy tale-like’ happened in your own life? Or have you learnt any emotional truths from fairy tales which have stuck with you? Please do share some of your own ‘real’ fairy tales!
The carnival will be happening on the one day: Tuesday 31st March (posts need to be up by midday GMT)
Deadline for submissions: Sunday 29th March midday GMT
We will need your submission in advance of the carnival date – they won’t be edited, merely checked for suitability.
How do I sign up?
Please visit this link here to get signed up to the carnival.
Thank you for considering sharing your thoughts and creativity :-)
From the back cover of The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize Anthology 2013: PARENTING, edited by Teika Bellamy:
This anthology of poetry and prose brings together all the winning and commended pieces of the 2013 Mother's Milk Books Writing Prize. It features winning writing from: Stephanie Arsoska, Alison Bond McNally, Cathy Bryant, Anna Burbidge, Dawn Clarke, Jordan Clarke, Lanora Clarke, Clare Cooper, Susan Cooper, Jan Dean, Helen Goldsmith, Barbara Higham, Sarah James, Kimberly Jamison, Alison Jones, Sharon Larkin, Helen Lloyd, Rachel McGladdery, Alison Parkes, Julia Prescott, Lindsey Watkins, Abigail Wyatt.
It is fantastic to know what a fruitful subject parenthood can be and also to read so many beautiful poems which include breastfeeding and its joys.
Poetry judge, Angela Topping
A fabulous collection; all the pieces sit beautifully together. -
Prose judge, Susan Last
The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize Anthology: PARENTING (RRP £8.99) can be bought from our store here
From the back cover of Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant:
Look at all the women! What a waste of time / life would be without them.
Women are everywhere and doing everything – fighting the Nazis, breastfeeding babies, falling in love (or at least tripping over it), feeling embarassed, inventing new passionate positions or, in our myths, flying to the moon or singing sailors to their doom. These poems capture their voices in a variety of forms, sometimes with bite and sometimes with a gleeful grin.
Witty, tender and sometimes outraged, Cathy Bryant’s second collection tackles the way women are treated in today’s society. Heroines are singled out; the various stages of womanhood celebrated. Bryant enjoys using rhyme to emphasise a point but is equally at home in free verse. Her work is accessible, unafraid and engaging.
Angela Topping, poet, literary critic and author
Cathy’s poetry does a double-take on the world, with humour and always with compassion.
Rosie Garland, poet and author
Look At All The Women (RRP £8.99) can be ordered from our store here
More praise for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant:
I have just had a nasty dose of sunburn and I blame Cathy Bryant. You see, doctor, I was sitting in my garden after a vigorous bout of weeding and decided to flick through her latest book of poetry while enjoying a cup of tea. Ninety minutes later I was still there, tea undrunk and shoulders stinging after reading from cover to cover...
...It needs to be read aloud. I started by muttering it in my head but finished by reading it loudly enough to alarm my cats, who came over to see what was up. And if you ever get a chance to read out a poem yourself, can I suggest you have a go with the title work which closes this collection, ‘Look At All The Women’. It will go down a storm (even if only cats are listening).
Judy Gordon, Write OutLoud
This is a truly wonderful book from a poet whose work has been aptly described as “Carol Ann Duffy crossed with Spike Milligan”.
Sue Barnard, Ink, Sweat and Tears
What was this all about?
To celebrate the publication of Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant on 28th May 2014 we organised a 3-week long blogging carnival. We were delighted with the level of interest shown and seriously impressed by the quality of writing produced. In total 10 different bloggers produced 20 blog posts, that were all incredible.
Each week there was a different theme to be inspired by – each theme ties in with one of the chapters of Cathy’s new poetry collection. The three chapters are: ‘The Lovers’, ‘The Mothers’ and ‘The Eclectic Others’.
So here are the summaries of each of the 3 weeks of the carnival. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by and have a read, please do so. They’re all fantastic!
A big thank you to everyone involved for making this happen.
Week One: The Lovers
'Fantasy, love and oddity.’ — Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her favourite poems about lovers from her second collection of poetry, Look At All The Women.
‘The Walnut Hearts’ — Marija Smits shares some ‘nutty’ poetry about love and reflects on the role good communication has on a harmonious relationship.
Georgie St Clair shares her feelings on why we should indulge our passions as lovers in her lighthearted post — ‘Creative Lovers: Not Tonight Darling’.
‘The Lovers – Or What I Don’t Know About Love’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word what she has learnt about love from story books, people watching and her own life and wonders if she actually knows anything at all.
‘Implicit v Explicit’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines considers literature’s role in teaching children about relationships.
Week Two: The Mothers
‘Moments with Mothers and (Imaginary) Daughters’ — Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares more poetry from Look At All The Women — her own version of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ and a poem inspired by her imaginary daughter.
‘The Cold Cup of Tea’ — Marija Smits shares some poetry that gives a glimpse into the everyday life of a mother.
‘Creative Mothers: You Need to Stop!’ — Georgie St Clair, shares an important reminder, that all mothers need to dedicate time and space to be creative.
‘The Mothers – Or Promises to My Future Child’: Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word what she has learnt from her own mother, and writes an open letter to her future child.
‘Bonobos are my Heroines’: Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines puts the nature back into nurture.
‘Baby Body Shame: it’s Time to Push Back’ — Stephanie from Beautiful Misbehaviour wants to challenge society’s treatment of the post-birth body.
Helen at Young Middle Age talks about finding strength from thinking about all the other mothers, during hard times.
Week Three: The Eclectic Others
‘Heroines and Inspirations’— Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two powerful, inspiring poems, and how they came into being.
‘Sensitivity’ — Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person.
Georgie St Clair shares her creative female heroines in her post ‘Creative Others: Mothers Who Have It All’
‘The Eclectic Others – Or What Would I Have Been Without You?’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word a thank you to the women of literature and history who have been in her life, shaped her life, saved her life and gave her a future.
‘Barbie speaks out’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines shares a platform with feminist icon, Barbie.
‘Her Village’ — An older (much older than most) first time mother, Ellie Stoneley from Mush Brained Ramblings firmly believes in the old African adage that it takes a village to raise a child. To that end she has surrounded her daughter with the love, mischief and inspiration of an extremely eclectic bunch of villagers.
Survivor writes about the inspiring life of La Malinche and her place in Mexican history at Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters.
Sophelia writes about the importance of her community as a family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan.