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It’s over ten months now since the first lockdown in the UK heralded a new reality of masks and handwash, shielding and quarantine. How has it affected us as writers? That’s what the Agenda in this issue aims to explore (page 9).

It’s been hard, very hard, for many of us – and continues to be so. But for one woman’s experience of gradually resuming her writing whilst suffering from ‘long Covid’, turn to page 7; and for a new mum’s experience of maintaining her creative mojo – and her word count – whilst in lockdown on her own with a newborn, turn to page 58.

In a sense this issue is all about healing and new beginnings – from Gilli Fryzer’s extraordinary winning short story about sin-eating in Wales (page 37) to Jill Dawson’s robust challenge to critique-based creative writing teaching (page 52); from Sarah Moss’s cathartic jettisoning of four entire novels (I kid you not, see page 51), to Stacey

Halls’ bestselling success with the help of a ginger cat (yes, really – see page 16).

While Mslexia Towers remains closed and we’re all beavering away in our solo bothies, it’s been bracing and comforting in equal measure to read the work you’ve been sending in to our 21 submission slots (most of them listed on page 82) – and to know that you’re all still out there, still reaching out, still writing.

DEBBIE TAYLOR is the founder and Editorial Director of Mslexia. She has written for Oxfam, UNICEF, Anti-Slavery, WHO and others about women and social issues. Her many books include My Children, My Gold (Virago), a travelogue about single mothers, and The Fourth Queen (Penguin), a novel set in a harem in 18th Century Morocco. Her latest novel is Herring Girl (Oneworld), a paranormal historical murder mystery.

I PUBLISHED FOUR NOVELS AND PRACTICED THE SHORT FORM FOR TWO DECADES BEFORE I GOT ANYWHERE CLOSE TO QUALITY SARAH HALL, P35

Forum 5 Mslexia poll;

Writing nest; Bear necessities; Submission stories; Blogability 6 What you’re saying;

What’s on Mslexia Max 7 #amwriting: Camille

Parke on writing while suffering from long Covid Agenda 9 The return of the housewife: Debbie Taylor looks at the impact Covid-19 is having on women’s writing Craft 15 Warm-up; Seven plots; Poet Laureate 16 Cat woman: plotting with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat by Stacey Halls 19 Grow your own poem with Kate Clanchy 20 The story of your life with Catherine Cho 21 Poetry challenge,

selected by Linda France 22 T is for...; Flash

Challenge with Meg Pokrass Interview 23 Rachel Holmes talks to Melissa Benn Reading for writers 27 Breaking the mould with Yvonne BattleFelton; Books about writing 29 The Knowledge:

Cosy crime with Julie Vuong 30 What’s new in poetry by Stephanie Sy-Quia 31 Indie in the news:

Nine Arches Press 32 What’s new in short stories by Alice Slater 35 Indie in the news:

The Emma Press Showcase 35 Sarah Hall introduces the winners of the Mslexia Short Story Competition 46 Ingrid Jendrzejewski presents the winners of the Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition Creativity & Wellbeing 51 Brain gym with Lucy

Corkhill; Sara Moss’ Achilles’ heel 53 Crafting a cure with

Victoria Field 54 A spoonful of sugar:

challenging the teaching model for creative writing by Jill Dawson 56 It works for me: Nikita Gill; Lapidoptera, interview with Kiz Bangerh Career 57 What’s new on

Instagram with Bethany Rutter 58 Bottling it: Laura

Steven on writing with a newborn 60 Proud to place with agent Joanna Moult; My portfolio career 61 Self-publish your middle-grade fiction by Debbie Young

62 Noticeboard Opportunities 64 Open for submissions 65 Insight: Bath

Novella-in-Flash Award 66 Three of a kind: pets 67 Insight: The White

Pube Writers’ Grant 69 Insight: Stevie

Finegan’s manuscript wishlist Off the page 70 The world's wife;

Eyeverse 71 Playmaking with

Margaret Wilkinson 72 Bedtime story;

Breaking the Mould with Cecilia Knapp; Mslexia moths with Molly Naylor Events 74 Events and courses 77 Getting a Gig: Story

Strumpets And finally 81 Emma Kennedy’s bedside table 82 Submitting and subscribing to Mslexia

88 c o n t e n t s

3 CONTENTS / Mslexia / Dec-Feb 2020/21

In terms of caring and domestic responsibilities, a woman’s work is never done DEBBIE TAYLOR p9

Was it just forgetfulness? Or an inability to hear the praise in the first place? JILL DAWSON P54

‘I wanted to put those figures back into the story, to recover a history that was suppressed’ RACHEL HOLMES P23

I was afraid that if I felt like a milk cow, I might end up resenting my son LAURA STEVEN P58

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