Anthology Cover Art

Who’s excited for the release of our very first Mum Life Stories anthology? I know I am. If all goes well it could be released as early as January, but there is a lot of work to do till then.

I’ve began the process of compiling all the wonderful stories into a masterful book that not only reads inspiration but looks it as well. I’ve been creating the cover art and want to get your opinion, since many of you either have stories in the anthology or are looking forward to reading them all. 

Please take a look at the following 3 covers and let me know what you think of them and which one you’d like to see as the cover for our first anthology.

Cover Art #1

This cover is based on the Mum Life Stories website, the photo is the same photo that is on our front page and of course the title and slogan are the same. Just quietly, I think this one is my favourite.

Anthology cover draft 1

Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

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Cover Art #2

This one is sweet but I wasn’t sure if people might mistake it as an anthology of stories about pregnancy.

Anthology cover draft 2

Photo credit Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash


Going Short book cover

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman


Cover Art #3

I love the colours of this one. I’ve removed the slogan ‘Every Life Story Begins With A Mum’ but of course can include it or remove it from any of the covers.

Anthology cover draft 3

Photo credit Marcelo Silva on Unsplash


Thoughts

Let me know in the comments section below if you have any thoughts on any of these covers, i.e. would you like to see the slogan on there, or not? Should I include the number of stories? Should I include my name as the editor or compiler, etc? It would be nice to have my name there but not at all necessary as I do not want to take anything away from all the very talented writers who’s stories made this anthology possible. The book will be available through Amazon and all writers names will be in the description as well as in the book of course. 

Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. If you’d like to submit a story for consideration of publication, please visit our submissions page. 

Sign up HERE, or fill in the form below if you’d like to receive a notification when the anthology is due to be released. You will also be added to our email list and receive all the latest news, stories and promos (including giveaways and competitions) as well as a FREE Ebook exclusive to our email subscribers.

Alternatively, go to our COMPETITIONS page for info on the latest competitions!


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Micro Fiction Writing Competition Winners: Round 6

Thank you to everyone who entered our 6th and final round of the Micro Fiction Writing Competition. As always, the entries this month were all outstanding. Picking just 3 winners was a an agonising task to say the least. I’d love to make everyone a winner but alas, it wouldn’t be a competition then, would it? Congratulations once again to all our shortlisted stories this month. If you missed the previous post containing the shortlist, you can find it HERE or just see the list below.

  1. Beans, ROSALEEN LYNCH, United Kingdom
  2. Herb Garden, MARTHA LANE, United Kingdom
  3. Mother Teresa, CLAIRE TAYLOR, United States
  4. My Patchwork Heart, LAURA TAPPER, Great Britain
  5. Never Forgotten, DANIELLE LINSEY, United Kingdom
  6. Some Superheroes Have Freckles, NICOLA DAVIDSON, United Kingdom
  7. Susan is There, RACHEL O’CLEARY, Ireland
  8. Swings and Roundabouts, ALYSON HILBOURNE, Great Britain
  9. The First Child, DENNY JACE, Great Britain
  10. When Nobody Came to Stay, DETTRA ROSE, Australia
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Winners

And here they are, our 3 winners. Congratulations to you all, you should be very proud!

1ST PLACE ($50 prize, printed copy of anthology + a digital copy)

‘Beans’ by Rosaleen Lynch, United Kingdom.

What we liked:  Even though the length is a little shorter than our other stories, we love how unique it is, in the way it subverts form to its own nonstandard purpose, deliberately running the whole story on a single sentence in order to give a convincing voice to emotional confusion/dislocation/turmoil. A perfect example of a story that breaks the rules of writing for a definite purpose–and accomplishes that purpose. We felt it spoke volumes about the intricate relationship between a foster mother and foster child and the processes they must employ to draw kids out of their isolated inner world without causing further damage.

Bio: Rosaleen Lynch, an Irish youth and community worker and writer in the East End of London, loves stories conversational, literary and performed. Words in Jellyfish Review, EllipsisZine, Fish, The London Reader, Mslexia and other lovely places. Find her on Twitter @quotes_52 and 52Quotes.blogspot.com

Author’s Statement: I wrote ‘Beans’ to celebrate the work of foster carers and the importance of giving young people a voice. The inspiration was – security in turbulent times – emotional security and food security. My mother, to this day has to have a tin of beans in her cupboard, a hangover from when money and food was scarce – she will never eat her last tin of beans! As a mum, a youth and community worker and teacher, I’ve seen how patience, consistency, and re-framing the narrative can move us through relational difficulties and how many young people’s coping strategies involve pushing up against boundaries to make sure they are intact and keeping them safe and secure. The way the beans touch everything now, can be resolved, like the problems in Casablanca, so they won’t amount to a ‘hill of beans’ in the future. This hope is why I’m a youth and community worker, why I’m a teacher and why I write.

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Photo by Deepansh Khurana on Unsplash

Beans

I don’t speak for three whole weeks, she doesn’t mind she says, she likes the quiet, so I put her video of Casablanca on and keep playing it all day and night, there’s not much on telly any more she says, it’s nice to have a soothing sound, put it on again if you like, so I turn her record player up until the sound breaks up and she says, we’re lucky the house is insulated and detached, make it louder if you like, so I open all her windows to let the cold in and the sound out and she says it was stuffy before and the neighbours could do with waking up, shaking up, we could have a street party if you like, so I knock over all the bins on her road and watch from her doorstep the scavengers, from cats to dogs to foxes, spread the rubbish wide, and she says to look just how much people could be recycling, and stops herself, saying she shouldn’t judge, though I could if I like, when I’ve been through what I have and that I must be hungry using all that energy, and then goes in to put on the tea, and a mug and fry up, from nowhere lands on the doorstep beside me with a knife and fork, bacon, sausage, eggs, fried tomato, mushroom, and beans spreading on the plate and touching everything and I feel her behind, looking down on me so I leave the plate and knife and fork and spoon in my mug of milky tea, stand up, turn around and on tiptoes, so l’m almost in her face, I scream, I hate beans and she says, right you are Love, nice to meet you at last, as long as you’re not vegetarian we’ll be alright.


Going Short book cover

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman


2ND PLACE ($20 prize + digital copy of anthology)

Susan is There’ by Rachel O’Cleary, Ireland

What we liked: We felt drawn into the story, as though given the privilege of an insider’s view, of the characters intricate relationships and felt the story communicated very well, the variety within the fostering world, e.g. that many children in care are still having some contact with their biological parents. The writer manages to juggle three distinct female characters without misleading the reader, even whilst quite delicately crafting the subtle confusion in the girl’s mind between her foster-mother and biological mother.

Bio: Rachel O’Cleary studied creative writing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She is a recent winner of the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition and has a piece of microfiction appearing in the forthcoming Battery Pack IV. After several years teaching English in Poland and France, she now lives in Ireland with her husband and three children, writing mostly very short fiction in between school runs. She occasionally tweets @RachelOCleary1.

Author Statement: A born bookworm, I have been writing stories since I could pick up a pencil. Like most writers, I am fascinated by people and our complex relationships. I have always been interested in how people choose to treat others in small everyday moments, as well as in times of great strain or suffering.

This theme spoke to me as I worked, in a former lifetime, as an advocate for children in care. The sincere love that these children feel for their birth parents and their foster parents was at the centre of my inspiration for this piece. The best foster parents are those who understand and respect that it can be a confusing situation for the children, and who support the child they care for by allowing them to love and be loved by as many people as possible. I wanted Susan to be such a foster mother, and to demonstrate how that steadiness and support is so important, even when it goes unacknowledged in the moment.

 


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Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

Susan is There

Mum is late as usual, so Susan and I sit in the car listening to the radio. I tap my toe against the plastic floor mat and stare out the window.

“Do you want to talk?” she asks.

“Ugh. No,” I say, suddenly worried she’s going to try to have some kind of awkward-arse heart-to-heart with me, like this is a Hollywood movie.

In the Hollywood version of my life, Mum would probably never show up at all, and I would cry at first, but then Susan would hug me and I would magically forget all about Mum and live happily ever after in an immaculately clean house where dinner is on the table at six on the dot every night.

In this version, I bite my fingernail and glance sideways at Susan.

“She’s not a total loser you know,” I say. “It’s just that she can’t leave work until her replacement comes in, and sometimes her car doesn’t start the first time. It’s not…you know.” I wave my arm at the plush seats of Susan’s SUV.

“I don’t think she’s a loser,” she says. “I’m sure she’s trying her best.” Susan is especially calm on visitation days. Like she’s trying to make up for how Mum will be when it’s over, always crying and pulling me back for one last hug. It’s not that Susan doesn’t care, but she’s not really my Mum, is she? When she drops me off, she just smiles encouragingly and waves goodbye. Although, she always stays to watch until I’m gone.

I keep staring out the window. Breathing the soft lavender of Susan’s perfume. I need to see Mum before she sees me. The thing is, It’s been a while since our last visit, and I keep trying to picture her face, but it never looks quite right. Like her eyes will be blue instead of hazel, or her crooked smile will be replaced with straight white teeth like Susan’s. And every time, I know something’s wrong, but it’s like I can’t put all the right pieces of her face together at one time.

Then I see her. She’s walking towards us, wearing a pink coat.  I scan up and down. She’s pulled her dark hair back in a tidy ponytail and her trousers look clean and pressed. I exhale, and I can feel my shoulders relaxing. I turn to Susan.

“Thanks for waiting. I’ll see you this afternoon.”

I go to open the door, but she reaches over and squeezes my hand in her soft pink palm. Waits for me to look up.

“I’ll have my phone on,” she says.

“I know,” I tell her. “Thanks.”

Then I’m walking toward Mum. She looks nervous, but she’s smiling, and when I hug her she smells familiar, like oranges and vanilla. I look over her shoulder and see Susan smiling and waving through the car window. As Mum and I walk away, I turn and glance back. Susan is still there.


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3RD PLACE ($20 prize + digital copy of anthology)

When Nobody Came to Stay‘ Dettra Rose, Australia

What we liked: Who doesn’t like a happy ending story? This one certainly felt satisfying in that department and was well executed and convincing, with its strong point-of-view and poignant imagery (“bag of bad dreams”).

Bio: Dettra Rose writes flash fiction, articles and tiny poems. Dettra’s flash pieces have won and been shortlisted/longlisted in a number of esteemed competitions, including: Bath Flash Fiction Award, Reflex Fiction, Retreat West, the Australian Writers’ Centre and TSS Publishing. At the moment she’s trying very hard to finish her novel but keeps getting distracted by her
addiction to flash. A born-and bred Londoner Dettra now lives in Australia; she calls both places home. Find her at Dettrarose.com

twitter @dettrarose

Facebook – Dettra Rose

Author’s statement: The ‘Foster Mum’ theme stoked my curiosity and inspired my piece. I read a little online about foster kids then started playing around with ideas. I liked what emerged with Emile’s ‘surgically attached’ soft toy and how he was able to express his needs by giving his tiger a
voice. As I wrote about Emile and Nobody, they blended more and more. I really felt for Emile and wanted him to give him a secure home and not another heartbreaking experience.

Since I started writing I’ve had heaps of rejection. It goes with the territory and its part of
putting myself out there. I’ve noticed success and failure often roll in waves. Sometimes I
can get placed three times in one month, and that’s very uplifting.
But then there are the darker times when everything I submit sinks. Though I’m used to it
now, a big run of rejection can still derail me and steal my confidence. I tell myself it will
turn around even if it feels like it never will. Strength and determination are a writer’s
muscle as much as crafting words.

Being part of a writing community on Twitter has really helped me see firsthand that all
authors go through fallow and disappointing times, even writers much more published than
me.

I love writing – it gives so much back rejection and all.


 
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Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

When Nobody Came to Stay

Emile was the pass-the parcel-gift nobody wanted to end up with. He arrived with shadows under his eyes and a bag of bad dreams. The sun was melting the bitumen outside, but Emile was zipped up in his anorak.

‘Would you like to take off your jacket, Emile?’

He shook his head. A grubby plush tiger peeped over the top of his coat.  

‘What’s your tiger’s name?’ I asked.

‘Nobody.’ He hid its head with his palm.

‘Hello, Nobody. Would you like to see the rest of the house, Emile? Shall we look at your bedroom?’

Upstairs we unpacked his things. I asked if he liked the sea-blue of his room and the park view from the window. He pressed his lips, then said. 

‘Nobody wants a glass of milk.’ 

‘Okay, let’s get him one.’

In the kitchen, Emile drank three glasses and told me Nobody was very thirsty.

‘Would you like something to eat, Emile?’ I opened the fridge. ‘Sausages?’

‘Nobody wants peanut butter and bread.’

I cut it in little squares, just like Nobody wanted me to.

For weeks, Emile showered then sheltered back inside his anorak. Nights were often a stream of tears and wet sheets. Feathery dreamcatchers soon hung like planets in his room. My head felt like woolly socks, eyes gritty with fatigue.     

Almost daily, Emile draped my much-loved tiger print blanket over the dining table.

‘Come in the cat-cave,’ he said.

In I’d go, then he’d crawl around with Nobody.

‘You be the mummy tiger and we’ll be the babies.’

Only then would Emile cuddle up with me.     

Over the months, I shopped for animal print clothing: long socks, hats with ears, gloves. We were a tiny zoo in the cat-cave. Emile giggled at our zebra torsos, leopard heads and lion’s paws.

Then it happened. Nobody lost his tail. We searched the house, street, school. Emile’s face was a swollen burning red ball.  

‘We’ll make him a new one, Emile. I’ll get material tomorrow.’

‘NOW!’ he shouted. ‘He needs it now!’

I cut a piece from my tiger blanket, sewed it, stuffed it, and stitched it onto Nobody. While he watched, Emile’s chest heaved and he told me Nobody needed warm milk and chocolate biscuits.

We ate them in the cat-cave. Emile didn’t crawl around this time.

‘Nobody needs a forever-home.’ He said.

I nodded. In fifteen months, there had been no adoption offers. For the first time, with the exception of tail surgery, Emile handed me Nobody. His tiger was flat, letter-thin. Having lived between Emile’s heart and a zip all his life, it wasn’t surprising. 

‘Here.’ Emile said. ‘Nobody needs a forever-home, here.’

I smiled and said. ‘I’ve grown very fond of Nobody. And what about you, Emile? Do you need a forever-home here?’

He blushed, scratched his chest, then put his fingers in his mouth. 

‘Emile?’

He looked at his feet and nodded a tiny yes.   


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Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. If you’d like to submit a story for consideration of publication, please visit our submissions page. 

Sign up HERE, or fill in the form below to be added to our email list and you will receive a notification when future competitions begin.  You will also receive all the latest news, stories and promos (including giveaways and competitions) as well as a FREE Ebook exclusive to our email subscribers.

Alternatively, go to our COMPETITIONS page for info on the latest competitions!


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Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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Going Short by Nancy Stohlman: A Mum Life Success Story

I must say I’m very excited about this particular Mum Life Success Story. I’ve had the pleasure of featuring some truly beautiful, amazing and inspiring Mums through these Mum Life Success Stories and each one of them has had a unique and special story to tell, but never have I featured someone as well-known and accomplished as Nancy Stohlman.

I have to admit that when I received an email from her publicity manager, about promoting her new book Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction I didn’t actually know who she was. That is due more to my lack of time to read and search out great authors (because I’m busy with work, family and this blog) than it is about Nancy’s reputation. Once I googled her name, and announced the upcoming interview on twitter etc, I realised that Nancy was fastly becoming a household name.

After just a little research I discovered that Nancy was not only a talented performer, writer and professor, but that she was juggling it all with motherhood and so naturally, I had to request an interview for the next ‘Mum Life Success Story’ feature. Nancy happily obliged and answered all my probing questions about life, success and family and how she navigates it all. I was truly inspired and knew without a doubt that all of you would be inspired too. If by some off-chance you don’t know who Nancy Stolman is, let’s start with a bit of backstory direct from her publicity manager.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra charge to you) should you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.


Who is Nancy Stohlman?

Nancy Stohlman

Nancy Stohlman is the author of four books of flash fiction including Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (a finalist for a 2019 Colorado Book Award), The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), and The Monster Opera (2013). She is the creator of The F-bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series and FlashNano in November. Her work has been anthologized in the W.W. Norton New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, Macmillan’s The Practice of Fiction, and The Best Small Fictions 2019. Her craft book, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction in 2020. She teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado Boulder.

When she is not writing flash fiction she straps on stilettos and becomes the lead
singer of the lounge metal jazz trio Kinky Mink.  She lives in Denver Colorado and dreams of one day becoming a pirate.

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction is Nancy’s latest contribution to the world of literature. Writer and Teacher Kathy Fish describes it as “The definitive, and appropriately concise book on the flash fiction form”. I have read some of the book myself and I can say Kathy is right, If you’re a writer (as many of my readers are) or want to start writing, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction is a resource you want to have on your bookshelf.


Mum Life Success Story

With Nancy being the seasoned writer that she is and needing no help from me to tell her story, I decided to publish this feature in interview format rather than the story form I usually employ. First I asked Nancy to tell us a little bit about her family.

Tell us a little about your family?

I have two kids—Maiya is 22 and just got her first apartment; Felix is 15 and just got his learner’s permit (yikes!). My partner Nick and I have been together almost a dozen years. We’re all creatives: Nick is a classical pianist and Maiya is a visual artist, so I’m proud to have passed down a family value of artistry. My own parents were also creative; I remember musical jam sessions, a lot of clowning in my household growing up.

When did your love for writing begin?

I remember I was 10 years old on the bleachers at a soccer game when I announced I was going to become an author. I was a voracious reader, of course. I grew up on military bases overseas, so books were my constant friends through all the moving and the various cultural and language barriers. After my author announcement my mother let me use her electric typewriter and I wrote a musical: Superman, The Musical (ala Christopher Reeve). I felt so important as I sat there clicking the keys, feeding in the paper. I don’t know what happened to the musical, but I still feel the magic when I sit down to write.

What inspired you to write your upcoming publication ‘Going Short’?

I was inspired to write Going Short about 10 years ago, when students and fellow writers kept asking me to recommend flash fiction craft books. I didn’t know what to recommend—there were almost no craft books aimed at this growing genre (nor by women). So I decided to take it on myself. I thought it would be easy, something I could write in a year or two. Ha. It took me almost 8 years! But I’m extremely proud of the result—I hope this book becomes a friend to the writers and readers who fall in love with flash fiction.

Are there any major obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are now?

Oh yes. Self doubt. Fear. Creative deserts. Jealousy. Self-sabotage. It’s not easy to go for your dreams. There’s so much risk. Every step you think you might be crazy. Every step you expose yourself to…all of it. Not everyone is rooting for you, so you have to cheer yourself on no matter what. It’s not always easy. It takes courage and bravery, not just one time but every time. Over and over. So my challenge is to reach deeper and keep finding that courage. It’s either that or give up—which keeps me motivated on the hard days.

Are there any funny, intense, or inspiring stories you can tell us about your experiences in writing and/or publishing?

For years I fantasized of spending “three weeks on an island all by myself just writing.” Sounds magical, right? Then, last year, I decided to do it. I was already in Italy co-hosting a flash fiction retreat (so amazing), and when it was over I found a super remote island in the Adriatic, rented a renovated wine cellar for $150 a week, and went on my own sabbatical. And I wrote every day. Every blissful day. I mean, I woke up, I wrote, I walked to get coffee, I wrote. I ate gelato, I walked to the empty beach. I wrote. It was magical, and I discovered what I call Holy Boredom. And because of it, I finished this book.

What would you say is your biggest challenge with balancing family life with your career? How do you find balance (if you do)?

Funny, but I think this question is part of the challenge—if I were a man I would likely never be asked this question. Because I’m a woman, there’s an expectation (even from myself) that I can and will do it all: be a loving mother, chef, teacher, partner, friend, housekeeper, nurture all my relationships…oh, AND write books, teach on campus, run retreats, and attempt to dream my own inspiration into being. And, because all women are amazing, we do it. All of it. But I like to envision a world where men are asked this question, too.

The short answer of how I balance it all? I fail. I succeed. Then I fail. I do my best. And sometimes I schedule a weekend to myself and that’s important, too.

How does your experience as a Mother help with your writing and vice versa?

Once I had kids I knew the luxury of waiting for the muse, was over. If I really wanted to be a writer, I had to begin now—there was a little person watching me. So I wrote during nap time and in the evenings after bedtimes. I mean, I wrote entire books during nap times, during pre-school. Later I wrote on trains and buses while commuting to campus. I learned to seize THIS moment, imperfect but available, because the perfect moment is just an illusion. So in a very real way my children forced me to get serious and make it happen.

And writing makes me a better mother, too, because I’m honoring that creative part of myself. I’m more present for my family when I’m present for myself. Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others.

What advice can you give to other women (mothers in particular) wanting to chase their dreams of becoming a professional writer?

Just begin. The perfect time, the perfect location, the perfect idea—you could be waiting forever. The real day-to-day of writing is messy—there is nothing idealized about it. And yet, allowing yourself to be creative is amazingly, imperfectly perfect. On a good day, it’s still just as magical to me as that first time at my mom’s electric typewriter.

Plus, the very best thing you can do for your children is to show them what it looks like to not give up on yourself. They will be watching and learning from your actions far more than from your words.


More Mum Life Success Stories…

If you’d like to read more Mum Life Success Stories, simply click on one of the titles below.


Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog, if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

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