Able in This Diverse Universe writing competition – Call for Creative Writers

Able in This Diverse Universe writing competition

ASLI Managing Director Charlotte Farhan has been selected as one of the Judges for the Able in This Diverse Universe writing competition alongside Karrie Higgins, Professor Dr. Kwame Brown and Jacqueline Cioffa.

Winning essays will be featured in ASLI magazine following first prize winner’s publication on A True Testimony and 2nd and 3rd prize winners will be featured too, alongside over a 100 of our ASLI artists from around the world.

 

Find out about the other judges of this very important competition by clicking the link: Meet the Judges for Able in This Diverse Universe

Able in This Diverse Universe Essay Competition

So how and what is this all about?

“Established essayist and word-mage Karrie Higgins invites you to participate in a nonfiction writing competition on the themes of ableism, disability, access and overcoming. All submissions fees benefit the training and care of Noah Ainslie’s future Autism service dog, Appa. This competition will also serve to raise awareness of invisible illness and ableist bias.

Noah’s neurodiversity often manifests as sensory overwhelm. He has been learning coping mechanisms for six years, but still visibly struggles when it comes to conforming to neurotypical standards. He is high function on the spectrum which means he doesn’t “look like” he’s disabled. He is subjected to ableist expectations, often very aggressively and in public.

With Appa’s help, Noah will have access to the public spaces his anxiety prevents him from entering. More importantly, Noah will have a companion who loves him for who he is and does not judge his inability to conform to ableist public standards. To learn more about Noah, visit his GoFundMe page.”

Thank you from Appa and Noah.
Thank you from Appa and Noah.

Follow this link to enter the competition:

https://honeyquill.submittable.com/submit/50077

To enter this competition, please use the following guidelines for all submissions.Your work should be:

  • nonfiction
  • no more than 2,000 words
  • in PDF or docx format
  • without identifying information in your document as judging will be blind 

This competition is open worldwide!

All entries are require a $15 submission fee which will directly benefit Noah and Appa. You are welcome to enter as many times as you want.

This competition will run from December , 2015 – February 29, 2016. Winners will be notified March 31, 2016.

The winning essayists will receive $250 cash, and publication on Karrie’s website, A True Testimony. Winning essays will also be featured in ASLI magazine following first prize winner’s publication on A True Testimony and 2nd and 3rd prize winners will have a full featured articles.

Four Paws for Noah
Four Paws for Noah

We at ASLI urge you all to get involved, in whatever way you can.

You can:

enter the competition

donate to the GoFundMe page

share this post with friends and family via social media or email

This is such an important cause and the issues we are asking you to address, affect so many, including Charlotte Farhan.

Who is also in the process of getting a service dog for her agoraphobia and PTSD.

Charlotte Farhan says

“I live in an able world where I too have been rejected and expected to “fit in” or expected to accept defeat, so please for people such as myself and Noah, support this with an open heart and mind.”

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Debs Carter wants to help women share their stories with one another, as she has about her struggles with depression, connecting each other through her amazing organisation The Touch Network.

Debs Carter wants to help women share their stories with one another, as she has about her struggles with depression, connecting each other through her amazing organisation The Touch Network.

Debs Carter, 36, Southampton, UK describes herself a lover of people and her favourite thing to do is sit down with a cappuccino with her husband or friends and discuss the world, life and everything in between. Debs is also expecting her first child with her husband Phil and is a charity freelancer and the founder of The Touch Network.

Debs states she is not an artist but is very creative and uses her creativity to think up new projects and strategies for charities as well as her own creative writing, where she is a true storyteller with a focus for real life.

We invited Debs to our last event for this campaign “mental illness, health and recovery” so that she could engage with people at the event and get them to possibly sign up for sharing their stories via the Touch Network. It was a successful day for Debs as she acquired many sign ups and a few from the ASLI team itself.

So we decide to interview Debs and find out more about her and this important project:

Click link for full interview:

Debs Carter wants to help women share their stories with one another, as she has about her struggles with depression, connecting each other through her amazing organisation The Touch Network.

An Open Letter to My Friends and Family: I Am Surviving

I want to tell you that not all anxiety is the same, and I know the difference. But most of the time my anxiety rides me like the tearful child on my back who just scraped her knees. Who needles me between my shoulder blades where I can’t reach. Who I am trying to comfort as she squeezes my neck. Who is pushing me down and pulling me close and nestling against me to stake her claim over who I am to her.

Source: An Open Letter to My Friends and Family: I Am Surviving

WANTED!! Bloggers to write for our blog – Recruiting Now! Interested in being a monthly guest blogger?

Would you be interested in being a monthly guest blogger?

With your very own blog as part of ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL?

 

ASLI QUOTE

 

We are looking for enthusiastic, creative and compassionate people to join our team as monthly guest bloggers/feature writers. We want you to be an author on our website with your own login, author name and in charge of your very own blog on the following subjects (listed below) with the artistic freedom to make it your own! If you think this opportunity is something you may be interested in, keep reading…

Remember when we say ART we mean all artistic expression, visual art, photography, creative writing, dance, theatre, film, poetry, music, crafts, anything under the umbrella of “the arts”.art quote ASLI

The blogger topics we are looking for are:
Reviewers and Critics of the following subjects:
A music reviewer
A visual art reviewer
A poetry reviewer
A film reviewer
A photography reviewer
A theatre reviewer
A dance reviewer
A literature reviewer
We would want you to review at least 4 artists in your chosen category each month, they would need to be representative, inclusive, in-keeping with our mission and inspiring. You will need to interview artists you are reviewing via email, phone, skype or in person.
Local Artist (Portsmouth/Southampton areas) reviewer 
This would be either for both areas or we could have two bloggers for the separate areas. We would want you to review local artists from all artistic disciplines, abilities and would need these artists to be interviewed and reviewed.
Women in art 
A blog about women in all artistic disciplines from all over the world, showing women using art and creativity to better women’s rights and the world we live in.
Men in art
A blog about men in all artistic disciplines from all over the world, showing men using art and creativity to better men’s rights and issues and the world we live in.
Save the world with art
This would be for the eco-warrior blogger, we want you to talk about the issues facing our planet, what can be done about it and artists of all disciplines who use their art to educate and engage others about this issue.
Animal Rights and Activism through art
This is for the animal lover, campaigner and activist. We want you to discuss how we can all (not just vegans and vegetarians) become cruelty free, more aware of animal rights and what animals face in the world today and find artists discussing this through their artistic expression.
Art Therapist Blog
We are looking for art therapists and creative therapists who can discuss the benefits of art for better mental and physical health, with exercises, tips and guidance as well as all the latest news in this area.
Art as Activism
We want a blog which simply finds all manner of artists who use their art as activism to better the world in any
way.
Political and Satirical Art: Comment on the world
We would like a blog written about current political issues around the world and the artists that use their artistic expression to inform, educate, engage and express this.
Comic strip artist
We would love a few comic strip artists to create a specific comic strip for ASLI
Artist Tips and techniques
We would love artists who would like to blog about their skills and techniques used to create art. In a kind of how to or workshop style, this can also be a vlog (video log) which can show a demonstration on a specific skill, such as photography, pottery, painting, drawing, journalling… If its creative we want to learn how to do it!
Art Journalling
We would like to types of art journalling blogs, one by an artist who would share their art journal and progress and secondly a “how to” art jornal blog, with tips and ideas on how to journal with art.
Your countries art scene
As we have a large international following from all over the world we would love people who are from countries other than Britain to blog and write articles about their own local art scene in their country. We would also like bloggers in other languages too, so we can share your blog with our English speaking followers and engage NEW followers from your country.
ASLI QUOTE
We would send you an authors invite to our website/blog and then we would pick a date you publish on each month and this would be your deadline, then you can upload it and publish it yourself on our blog.
You can then link your own stuff, such as website and social media links to our site.
This is obviously a great opportunity and great for the CV, especially if you are a budding blogger, journalist or just love writing and wish to make this into a career.
As a non-profit organisation this would be a non-paid voluntary position.
But with our large following, subscribers and supporters you would have a keen audience.

How to apply for this position:

  • Send us an original article or blog post you have written before and then a second article/blog post about the chosen subject you wish to be a guest blogger for.
  • Send us any links to your websites, published works and social media sites
  • Tell us why you wish to be involved with us and our mission (no more than 100 words)
  • Tell us a date within a 30 day month that you wish to have as your deadline and publishing date
  • Send us a relevant CV
  • Send everything to MD/Editor and chief Charlotte Farhan at artsaveslivesinternational@gmail.com
  • Set up a wordpress account and send us your username so we can invite you as an author if we choose you. (if you do not have a wordpress account this is OK, we can still consider you, but you will have to be published though one of us (ASLI team members) as you will not be able to have your own log in)

ASLI QUOTE

We look forward to receiving your applications and thank you for engaging in our mission and aim.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask?

Also please share this with anyone you feel would like to get involved.

Create Change and remember art saves lives! 

 

 

 

Durinda Montoya-Cearley has written an empowering children’s book which tells little girls they can be anything they wish to be.

Durinda Montoya-Cearley has written an empowering children’s book which tells little girls they can be anything they wish to be.

 

Durinda Montoya-Cearley
Durinda Montoya-Cearley

 

Durinda Montoya-Cearley, 54, Fresno, CA, U.S. talks to ASLI about her children’s book which has a powerful message; that girls can grow up to be anything they wish to be. Addressing the issue of stereotyping girls at a young age and how important it is to educate boys and girls that gender is not limiting nor exclusive. .

Throughout my childhood, like gypsies, my family moved frequently.  After high school, I joined the Air Force. Four years later, I then served in the DIA, which allowed me to travel & live overseas. Finally, I moved and settled down in San Luis Obispo, where I pursued a career in law enforcement and acquired a 2 year degree in Special Education and a B.S. degree in Anthropology/Sociology and Writing. I now call Fresno home and actively pursue numerous forms of artistic expression, from poetry to visual art and music.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of breaking free of female stereotypes in your art?

I was looking for a children’s book for a little girl that communicated that girls can be whatever they want to be when they grow up.  Being unsuccessful in finding such a book, I decided to create a picture book that expressed to little girls that they “can be anything they want to be, just wait and see.”

Tell us why you chose this submission?

“What In This Big World Can You Be?” breaks female stereotypes by letting little girls know that they can choose a career that would not be considered a typical career for a female.

 

What in this Big World Can You Be? By Durinda Montoya-Cearley
What in this Big World Can You Be?
By Durinda Montoya-Cearley

 

 

In days of yore, long before, a princess you would surely be, but times have changed and for you there are many more opportunities and much to see. For your dreams can take you and your adventurous bear  here, there and everywhere!
In days of yore, long before, a princess you would surely be, but times have changed and for you there are many more opportunities and much to see.
For your dreams can take you and your adventurous bear here, there and everywhere!

 

As a veterinarian, you could help giraffes, monkeys and elephants who may feel a little blue,  because animals need doctors too!
As a veterinarian, you could help giraffes, monkeys and elephants who may feel a little blue,
because animals need doctors too!

 

Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

I choose a picture book format to express a positive message in hopes it would be an easy and short book for parents to share before bedtime.  I hope the rhythmic rhyming storytelling style and simple artwork will attract young readers and help them to remember the message.

What is your process when creating?

For writing, the creative process comes in bits and pieces.  I always keep a pad and pen with me, because I never know when the fire of inspiration will spark the creation of the next verse or picture idea.  Then, I look at all my notes and organize them, then re-organize them until the story flows.

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

I am and was influenced by numerous experiences in life and by strong female role-models in history and those involved in current events.  Such women as Condoleezza Rice, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Katharine Hepburn, Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Elizabeth I.  Inspiration to create a painting, a musical composition, poetry, and writing comes from an active imagination that has remained with me since childhood.  For me, I must create, as it is who I am.  I have to have and thrive on artistic expression.  My current job and past positions do not define who I am, my art does.  I work a 9 to 5 job in order to create art.

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

For me, feminism means being strong and confident and to venture off what is considered by society to be the normal path (for a woman).  And, balancing that independence and strength with a gentler side that does like doors opened for me, despite the fact I can open the doors myself.  Knowing I have a voice, I have an opinion, and knowing that voice and opinion is important and is not something to be ignored or silenced.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

There are so many countries even in today’s world where women struggle to have a voice, and where that voice is silenced by inherent beliefs or cultural influences, which are imposed by male governed societies.  These women are denied a voice.  Also, there are too many animals harmed and destroyed throughout the world.  These animals have no voice.

 

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

I feel women do have to struggle to break from social norms and stereotypes, and in some countries, this struggle is tremendous.   I have been fortunate, although I have entered careers that years ago were considered predominantly careers for men, my abilities and knowledge were not questioned and if they were, I was unaware.  But, I know I am an exception.

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

No, I do not think women and men are equal in a number of societies around the world. My degree in Anthropology/Sociology and Writing taught that there are a number of countries where women struggle for not only equal rights, but fundamental rights as a human being.

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc …..?

Issues I am passionate about are environmental issues, as these issues affect everyone worldwide. I am also passionate about children who live in impoverished communities, as their struggle to break free of that environment is great, and children who live in abusive family situations.  I graduated high school at the age of 16 and signed up for the Air Force immediately.  I did this to escape from the instability of a home environment of living with my mother, who was neglectful and abusive or living with my father, where I struggled to fit into a Hispanic community I knew nothing of and avoid the gang influences.  Additionally, I am concerned about saving wildlife and affects devastating ecosystems have on indigenous species.  I believe there exists a false impression that it does not matter to humans if ecosystems and the creatures that those systems sustain are destroyed.  We, earth, cannot lose more species than what we already have.  Even within this last decade, animals have gone the way of the Dodo bird, including the Baiji Dolphin, an intelligent mammal.  It makes you wonder, what did that last dolphin think while it swam alone in the Yangtze River looking for a mate.  Did it die a natural death or from loneliness.

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

Art has always been part of me.  As a young child my imagination and art allowed me to escape the abusive and harsh world around me.  I spent most of my childhood and teen years secluded in my room, a safe haven, where I would draw or write about imagined places and secret worlds.  It saved me from the reality that existed beyond the bedroom door.

Art Saves Lives also means artist can convey important messages to those who may be unaware of certain situations or give encouragement to others to act to change a negative situation they know exists, but have ignored.

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

I hope my art, whether it is a song or poem I wrote, a picture I painted or a picture book I wrote for little girls can have some positive change or touch someone; to whatever small degree.  Some songs/poems I have written have deep, personal messages about life struggles and overcoming those, maybe someone will look at a painting I created and feel the depth of emotion expressed on the canvas, or a little girl somewhere reads a short picture book entitled “What In This Big World Can You Be” and be inspired to pursue her dream of becoming a marine biologist.

What are your goals as with your art?

Regarding creating on canvas, my goal is to one day have a small studio, where not only my work can be displayed but that of other artist who also create to express emotions that  communicate to others.  One series of paintings I am working on centres on Breaking Free; Breaking Free can have many meanings – for one person it can mean breaking free from society norms, for someone else it can be breaking free from his or her past, it can be whatever someone wants the meaning to be.   Concerning writing, I hope to continue to create songs and poetry that conveys a message.

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

I would like to start working on writing and the artwork for another children’s book that expresses everyone is different and that’s okay.  I also have a concept to write a picture book about feelings and everything, every creature feels, no animal wants to be hurt or experience pain.

And is there anything you would like to add to your interview?

I hope, my creations, whether read (such as a picture book), seen (something created on canvas) or heard (a song or poem), can bring about some positive change, which is what ASLI is all about.  Thank you.

If you would like to know more about Durinda Montoya-Cearley please follow these links:

Website

Facebook Page 

Facebook Profile 

 

 

Poet Laura Taylor “If I can use my own hard times to make art, and share that widely, then that multiplies the cohesion, makes us all stronger”

Poet Laura Taylor “If I can use my own hard times to make art, and share that widely, then that multiplies the cohesion, makes us all stronger”.

 

Laura Taylor
Laura Taylor

 

Laura Taylor, 47, St Helens, Merseyside, UK.

Laura is from a village called Rainhill, which is located in between St Helens and Liverpool. Having been born into a working-class family Laura has retained the values of that upbringing. Material gain is not a high priority – happiness, harmony, love and equality are.  Laura identifies herself as a Socialist, a feminist, and says she has challenged arbitrary forms of authority all her life.  

I do not believe in hierarchies. I have no ‘art background’ as such, I’ve never studied creative writing.  I just started writing poetry in 2010 for the first time.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of writing for revolution/unsolicited advice in your art?

Write for Revolution’ was about seeing a female poet perform, and being so emotionally overwhelmed by her words that I went away from that experience thinking that I had things to say, too.

The poem starts with dancing alone, and ends with ‘and now there’s more of us’, writing our lives for whoever is reading/listening, and connecting with them.  When I get up on a stage to share my experiences in the form of poetry, I know from experience that there will be other women who will identify with it, and they will feel less isolated as a result.   

‘Unsolicited’ is based on all the unwanted and unasked-for ‘advice’ that I’ve received over the years on what it is to be a woman – or rather, a ‘lady’.  It basically amounts to a list of things you can and cannot do – mainly the latter. Everything in that poem is based on true events in my life.  I have spent long periods as a single parent, and know what it is to be demonised by the media and the government.

I am acutely aware that as women age, opportunities close down. In my life, there are jobs I’ve not been allowed to do, behaviour that I have been strongly discouraged from; I’ve felt the weight of societal disapproval for just being me and it’s suffocating.

Tell us why you chose this submission?

I have performed both poems many times, and without fail, I have had women laughing, nodding their heads in recognition, and thanking me for articulating their own experiences.  If I can use my own hard times to make art, and share that widely, then that multiplies the cohesion, makes us all stronger.


 

Write for Revolution  

We danced alone on wooden floors.

Volunteers making noise.

In later days, I heard that you had

swallowed lumps for breakfast.

 

I sat in darkness, closing throat.

Felt my own lumps swimming up.

Listening and wondering

of spun-out olive branches.

 

I went away and thought about

all the sorrow, all the fear,

all the tears we’d shed so far

and wondered,

could I help?

 

Could I stand up to make a change?

To help one woman in the world

feel less alone, less isolated.

Could I?

Well…

 

I tried.

I wrote.

I told about

 

little girls

and bruises,

loneliness and solitude,

rapture and revulsion,

teenage isolation.

Violence, injustice;

politricks, hypocrisy.

Endless fights

for equal rights;

kissing girls and

loving christ.

 

And now there’s more of us.

Northern girls with tales to tell.

We reap and sow the seeds of change

and write our lives for you.

 

We write

for revolution.


Unsolicited (1968 – 2015)

 

You’re Not Allowed

 

to cry,

in here,

this room, this bar,

a pint, on deck,

to fight or sulk,

or answer back,

to join the local snooker team,

to bare your legs

or armpit hair,

express yourself

or sleep around,

to shout or swear,

to wear short skirts,

to wear short hair

 

Grow it, tie it, perm it, dye it, never cut it short

 

to be the boss,

come more than once,

to suit yourself,

to wank, to sweat,

to smell, or fart,

to bleed,

release a stream of pee

outside of

chambered secrecy,

be clever, proud,

sarcastic, loud,

tell dirty jokes or pick your nose

 

That’s not very ladylike

 

to flirt, to age,

to speak your mind,

to even show your knicker line,

bring up a child

all on your own,

expose your breasts,

express your milk

so publicly,

to smoke, get drunk,

get up the duff

without a band of gold.

 

Single mothers are to blame for all the world’s depravity

 

UNSOLICITED!

 


Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

Purely by accident. As mentioned, it was the experience of another woman’s poetry that spurred me to write my own.  I’d never really read any before, and thought I didn’t like it. Thought it was elitist, and ‘not for the likes of me’. It’s hugely addictive though! And I’ve discovered that it’s the perfect art form for me.

What is your process when creating?

I’ll start with a word, a phrase, a memory or a feeling that sparks in my mind. Sometimes that can be just out of the blue, sometimes I’ll deliberately set out to write about something that I feel strongly about, or wish to express.  I will then just sit and type out as many associations with that as possible.  Just let it flow, don’t even think about shaping it. It’s important to squeeze every last drop of what you think, how you think, how you feel, and how you can possibly express that.

Sometimes I’ll do a little research about ideas or words in the poem, which can then sometimes completely change the course of it!  Then I read through the notes and associations, mull it all over, leave for a few days.  Then and only then do I start to structure the poem.  The title is almost always the last thing to be written.  

I will work on the poem a little bit each day, working towards that sweet moment when it just ‘feels right’. When I get a feeling inside that this is the most perfect way to express how I feel.

I can spend ridiculous amounts of time worrying about punctuation too! Because it matters. Every single thing in there – each word, line break, spelling, grammar, punctuation, flow – everything counts in a poem. It’s a condensed piece of writing, a means of communication, so it all matters.  I will spend a lot of time editing, and be quite severe with myself. Then I show my poems to my partner, who is a wonderfully supportive constructive critic and will, without fail, pick up on any tiny thing that I think may need changing.

This is the usual process. Every now and again though, a rare delight will happen and a poem will plop onto the page almost perfectly formed!

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

I can honestly say that I have not been influenced by any poet or poem, as such. I don’t write like anyone else or attempt to emulate styles. I didn’t read poetry, didn’t think I would like it, thought it was not for me. As for inspiration – that initial time seeing the female poet perform. That’s what kicked all this off.

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

Feminism is really quite simple – it is just about being fair, and everyone being treated equally, regardless of sex or gender. There are lots of strands of feminism, with differing ideas about the roots of female oppression and various resolutions to that, but ultimately it’s about fairness and equality. Yes indeed, I do consider myself a feminist. I am not a separatist, I simply want to be treated as an equal. Whilst I recognise that men too are manipulated and shaped by our culture, still to this day women are not treated equally, and so I will continue calling myself a feminist until we are.  It would be lovely not to have to, not to have the same arguments, the same struggles, over and over and over again, but the plain truth is that we do.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

I was intrigued by the theme of your call-out for art in celebration of women, and identify strongly with the emphasis on giving voice to the silenced.

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

I don’t think women can win either way to be honest! You can conform, you may gain approval, but will that mean you are taken seriously? No, not in my experience.  It just allows for more opportunities for continued oppression. Conform and you will be treated as the type of person society thinks you should be, ie, passive, submissive, and second-class; more concerned with minutiae than the state of the world. Rebel and you’ll be a ‘troublemaker’, or worse. All you can ever do is keep yourself strong inside and out, and stay true to yourself and your beliefs. Educate yourself, keep your own counsel, and connect with others. Strive for equality.

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

No. 

Yes, I realised very early on that men and women were absolutely not treated equally. I was constantly reminded that my behaviour and clothing were ‘unladylike’, that there were a whole raft of petty rules that only applied to me and not the boys around me.  

When I was growing up, I was told in no uncertain terms that I should not try to get the job I wanted, as a long-distance lorry driver, because I would be ostracised and given a hard time by the male truckers. I wanted to join the Royal Navy to travel the world like my Dad had done, but was told that women were not allowed on board ships – I could have a ‘nice office job’ in Germany if I wanted to travel. Constantly asked who I was going to marry when I grew up – not ‘was I interested in the idea of marriage’, just presented with that assumption, aged 5!  I was not allowed to join the local pool team because I was female, despite being as good as the other players. I was refused drinks served in a pint glass and given two half glasses instead. I have been asked if I was pregnant in job interviews and whether I planned to get married.  

I have been physically intimidated in working situations, disregarded in others in favour of a male colleague, and inappropriate and offensive suggestions made to me by male colleagues and bosses. I have been inappropriately touched on countless occasions – this is still considered ‘normal’ behaviour by many in our society.  

I have been told how to dress, what to wear, how to wear my hair, what to put on my face, how to sit, walk, speak, and what to say/not to say.  I am often referred to as ‘feisty’ – a term only applied to women with strong beliefs, never men.

There are lots of (derogatory) words for women that have no male equivalent.  I see double standards and inequality etched into the very core of our society.

I continue to experience casual sexism on a depressingly regular basis, with the odd high-impact encounter.  And that’s the tip of the iceberg, in the Western world only.  I am painfully aware that for women in other parts of the world, life is so very much more unequal, difficult,  oppressive, and in many cases physically dangerous and life-threatening.  

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?

Domestic violence, Socialism, political apathy, social inequality.  I have recently joined the Green Party, as their policies are people-centred, striving for equality.  I’m committed to standing as a candidate for them in the upcoming local elections.

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

It means connecting – people, thoughts, ideas. It means strength in unity. Art can do this and you don’t even have to be in the same room, never mind the same country. Once it is documented in some way it can then be shared.  As a deeply unhappy teenager, I found solace in the words and music of Janis Joplin. It felt like she was singing directly to me, for me, and expressing how I felt. In the pits of depression, I felt that I was not alone. And that’s a really common experience, in all art forms. That moment when the light-bulb flashes and we think “Oh! It’s not just me!”.  Humans are sociable beings – even when we’re introverted, we still thrive on a certain amount of contact, of identification with others. Art is a way of doing that.  

Music is invaluable in the care of people diagnosed with dementia. Research shows that the experience of listening to music stimulates all areas of the brain simultaneously. People who no longer communicate will smile, stand up, waltz around the room, loving the music, remembering words and melodies. It’s quite astonishing the impact this art form has on people’s lives.  

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

I perform my poems regularly, at various venues and locations, and I’ve been widely published – see my earlier comment about documenting art, so that it can be accessed by all. I write about a number of issues, and know from the reception of my performances that my words have touched people, made them think, feel, cry, laugh, get angry.  They have CONNECTED with them. I also know that I have inspired other people to start writing, or start writing AGAIN after a long break, raising their own issues, and sharing them with others to identify with.  Art creates unity, solidarity.  One of my poems about the effects of Thatcherism on our household was published in a magazine, the proceeds of which go to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, which is working to get justice for miners who were the victims of police brutality, lies, and cover ups at Orgreave in 1984.  

Do I want art (mine or others’) to create change? Yes, absolutely I do.  It’s one of the best forms of awareness-raising that I know of – it creates change via this process. I believe the arts to be as essential to our understanding of the world as the history books, politics, and the media. Let BOTH sides speak, not just the side with power.

What are your goals as with your art?

To keep writing, keep performing, keep reaching out. To keep enjoying what I do, and to give pleasure and comfort to others. Simple as that.  It would be nice to scratch a living from it, but extremely unlikely!

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

I’m in touch with a publisher who is interested in publishing a collection of my poems next year, which is very exciting. I’m also working on publishing a book of ekphrastic poems with some friends.  One of them is a talented photographer, and 3 of us poets have been so inspired by his images we have been writing poems based on them. We’re hoping to bring out a quality ‘coffee table’ book of the poems and images, as well as an exhibition of them. We’re all from working-class communities – poetry wasn’t ‘for the likes of us’.  Except that it is, and more people like us need to know that.  

And is there anything you would like to add to your interview?

I believe that engaging with the creative outlet/s of your choice brings a wealth of benefits – mental stimulation and stability, pure joy in the incomparable experience of the creative process, the connection to other human beings.   

Art doesn’t ‘just’ save the lives of others, it can save your own too. The often-cathartic processes involved make it your very own personal therapy, and one which I wish everyone would try at least once.  

Bang a drum, pluck a string, sing a song, have a dance, write a verse, paint a picture, and enjoy.  And when you find something you love doing, that stokes your soul and makes you smile, just keep doing it.

 

If you would like to know more about Laura Taylor follow these links:

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Chelsea-Anne Hipwood “I wrote “Delphine” to focus on a woman’s fragility and to remind myself as well as readers that we should never be too proud to ask for help.”

Chelsea-Anne Hipwood “I wrote “Delphine” to focus on a woman’s fragility and to remind myself as well as readers that we should never be too proud to ask for help.”

Chelsea-Anne Hipwood
Chelsea-Anne Hipwood

 

Chelsea-Anne Hipwood, 25, London, was chosen to be featured by us at ASLI as we felt Chelsea was an inspired writer who needed the boost of being selected so to ensure more confidence and hopefully for her to engage in more creative writing. As someone who is only starting to build their portfolio of work and their on-line presence and profile we saw Chelsea as a must. A powerful voice from a young woman who we believe is going places. Here is our interview with Chelsea:

My mother is Indian and my dad is mixed with Indian, French, English, Scottish & Italian, he’s a real cosmopolitan. In school I enjoyed all of the creative and expressive subjects i.e. Performing Arts, English Language & Literature; Media Studies. I then did Media for my bachelor’s degree and shortly after I tutored English students briefly for their GCSE’s. I have always exercised creative writing in my spare time, mainly poetry, but this is the first time I have decided to put my material out there. I’m quite shy and critical of my work and I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to read it.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of Severe Post Natal Depression in your art?

When I started writing ‘Delphine’, I didn’t actually have a clue where the story was heading. Initially, I envisioned her as a bitter woman scorned by an ex-lover. With this said, as I started to develop her character I realised that she was an extremely fragile and lost soul and that her discontentment with reality was far more complicated and tragic than a mere breakup . I had to ask myself, as a woman, what the most painful loss in life would be and the answer of course, was a child.

Tell us why you chose this submission?

Admittedly I was looking at on-line e-competitions where you can get paid for your work or receive some kind of physical reward, but I had put off submission because I felt that ‘Delphine’ needed to be edited at least twice more before it reached my level of satisfaction. Not sure whether it was fate or coincidence, but a week later a friend of mine posted the ASLI Call for artists link and it was the last date to apply.  As soon as I saw that it was “Celebration of Women’s Month” I knew that Delphine had found a suitable home. Delphine is all about a woman who is lost in despair, her character longs for acceptance and understanding around her deepest and darkest mistakes. I know a lot of women who put on a brave face and feel too embarrassed to ask for support where life is getting on top of them – I wrote Delphine to focus on a woman’s fragility and to remind myself as well as readers that we should never be too proud to ask for help.


 

Delphine

By Chelsea-Anne Hipwood

Delphine felt plagued with fatigue. Her body refused to hold her upright – her shoulders slumped, her back curved. It had been two months since she had last heard from him and she was grateful. He had left her in a numb state and her thoughts were now illogical, more a mesh of suppressed images and feelings, damp smells and a stomach churning repulsion. The memories of his depraved ways scathed her like the hot steam which danced towards her from the door ajar – bath water running; it invited her in. Delphine wondered how much water and pearl scented soap she would need before she would be a clean girl again, perhaps she’d have to exfoliate so that a full layer of skin came off, leaving her body raw and pink. Standing up, her body swayed like a dandelion in spring, her prominent spine and rib cage bulged beneath the white of her dress; it had been days since she’d last eaten.

She used the tip of her foot to tease the surface of the water; she gasped, but felt that she could suffer the heat.  Edging herself gently into the pool of fire, she sang softly, to distract herself. Once in, she began to relax. She admired the ivory lace curtains, parting with perfect symmetry and mirroring her hairline. The soap on her skin felt pleasing; it slid gently along each limb and reminded her of him. She pondered the affectionate and gratifying times – the careful times, before he lost himself in her. She let the soap fall in to the bottom of the tub and prayed that it would melt. Outside, the sombre sky seemed lonely, with neither a star nor a cloud in sight and just a vast, empty vacuum of black. Delphine identified with such a sky completely.

Over the next few days, Delphine found herself examining every corner of her home. Some days she would stare for hours high at the high ceiling, examining the accumulation of cracks and cobwebs and accepting that, besides her, they may be the only signs left of life. Whilst she preferred to forget, memories reminded her of when the house had been vibrant and full. The sound of laughter, orchestrated music, clinking glasses and scraping cutlery to plates hounded both her reality and her dreams –they were the leftovers of what had been her normality. It had never dawned on her that she was once so privileged and possibly even contented. Albeit empty; without a family portrait in sight, her home was astonishingly rich. The floors were glossed and marbled, windows stood taller than trees and velvet-plum curtains draped before spiral-golden staircases. Delphine found it ironic, that her safe haven of luxury had now become a burden, too enormous to bear.

It had been several weeks since Delphines families’ disappearance – an encounter of mysterious devastation which she knew nothing about. She had no inclination of why or how it happened, just that it happened, and that she was alone. Delphine pondered and grimaced, had it not been for him, constantly whining and whining, along with her tireless efforts to placate him and love him, then perhaps she too could have disappeared. Delphine breathed deeply; the scent of cloves and boiled milk passed through the air like a brief visitor. It made her want to heave.

For the first time since the tragedy, Delphine allowed herself to think about food – though she did so with resounding guilt. She remembered being a fuller and flamboyant seventeen year old, with an appetite for life and all its accompaniments – she had spent her weeks in gluttonous indulging.  The first man she’d ever brought home had been surpassingly nervous, his eyes focused mainly on the floor and his hands shook, to her greater amusement. Nevertheless, they sat devouring the fine spread set in front of them and then he proceeded to devour her.

Delphine flitted through her cupboards in anxious desperation, as if weeks of self-neglect would magic up something edible. Aha! She thought, lifting herself heedlessly onto the counter and grazing both knees. She reached towards the back shelf, sweeping the dust with her palm as she went, and managed to find one rusting can of condensed milk. This typically, he would have ravished. Delphine scowled and hesitated, but as her stomach moaned like frozen wind pipes she convinced herself to drink. Jumping down from the counter, white dress greying, she removed a fork from the rustic draw. SLAM!  She pierced the can with an unknown force, just missing the crescent of her hand and watched the liquid seep from the lid like water rising from a blocked sink. Delphine held the can to her lips and began to guzzle; initially she choked, but drank anyway. The thick, fluid yellow escaped the corners of her mouth and trickled past her ears, finding its way to her locks of entanglement. The sight was repulsive, and it was clear that the lady once so refined and demure was as absent as the pictures which hung on the walls.

At 4 o’clock that afternoon, Delphine found herself on all fours, investigating a red spec on the floor.  She licked her thumb and exasperatedly tried to remove it, but a faint brown stain still remained. With much frustration, Delphine began to pick at the marbled floor, hoping that her long fingernails would be strong enough to chip the solid floor. Her nail broke, and a drop off blood fell onto the white shiny surface – defeating the object of her intentions. “Ah!” she exclaimed, placing her finger in her mouth. At that moment, there was a faint knock at the door. Delphine’s head darted up, wide-eyed and startled, and she scurried towards the front door like a frightened field mouse. Listening intently, it knocked again, a bit louder, making her flinch in unknowing fear.

Delphine opened the door very slightly, revealing just the darkness of her iris and looked down. Standing before her was a small child, a girl, with a round face and ginormous eyes. “Yes?” asked Delphine, surprised to hear the softness of her voice having kept silent all these weeks. The girl showed hesitation, pouting her mouth and quickly darting her eyes away from Delphines.  “May I help you?”  “Umm….” The girl replied, clearly frightened by Delphines’ savaged appearance. “Excuse me, Miss Deveux. I’m locked out of my house, my violin class was cancelled and my parents are not home. I live at number seven”.  A paranoid Delphine squinted at the girl, she had never seen her before, but widened the door as if to say “come in”.

“I’m Gabrielle” said the girl, walking ahead of Delphine and into the lounge. Having seemed to be invited in, she felt bolder. Gabrielle felt that Delphine was far from a threat as she appeared so frail; she could probably blow her over in one swift breath. Gabrielle plonked herself onto a cream chaise longue and began to open and close her mouth in boredom. Delphine watched the child as if she were an extra-terrestrial, but sat on the floor a few feet in front of her, ignoring all available seating. Gabrielle looked about seven years old; her cheeks were plump and she had short brown hair which cupped her face with precision. She wore a gigantic white ribbon, which was practically the size of her head. Delphine found the sight of her rather ridiculous.

“I’m hungry” said Gabrielle, now flicking the base of her chin. Delphine stared vacantly, feeling neither guilty nor ashamed, “I have no food”.  “My mother says that in order for a house to be both practical and welcoming – the host must always feed her guests”. Delphine blinked. Her mother – who had always been house proud and hospitable – would have thought the same thing. Gabrielle spotted something crawling along the floor and gasped; she leant over, pressed it with her thumb and popped it in her mouth. Delphine just stared. “My father told me that in the most exotic countries, where they walk without shoes and all sleep in one room, the people will eat anything without so much as a single complaint.” Delphine’s head began to throb, she wondered if all parents repeated the same spiel and whether any of it was true.

“Miss Devaux, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but your house smells rather peculiar. Have you thought about opening the windows? I’m suffocating”. Delphine sighed and lay on her back; she outstretched her arms and legs and lay there like a starfish. “Don’t be angry, Miss Devaux. It’s not that bad. If you ever need a window opener – I’m the girl from number 7! I don’t charge much. I’ll even give you the first session free!”  Delphine straightened her whole body and sat up fast. Without warning, she threw back her head and began to cackle in a somewhat demonic frenzy. Most people, in particular the superstitious, would have hidden in fear or summoned a priest. A little startled by the whole spectacle, Gabrielle cupped her hands over her mouth and protected a shy smile. Her smile then erupted into a burst of laughter and before she knew it, her tears were hitting the ground like a holy water blessing.

Upon a return of calmness, Gabrielle proceeded to ask: “Where are your family?” Delphine jutted out her bottom lip, her eyes kept to the floor she offered a lazy half-shrug. “If my mother were here, she would make you change your dress immediately. She would brush your hair and make you a nice hot soup. Do you like hot soup, Miss Devaux?”  Delphine remembered her supper of condensed milk and gagged. “Oh Miss Devaux, I don’t think you are well. You should get back into bed and just sleep for a while”. Gabrielle stood up; the setting sun was a good time indicator – her visiting hours were finally up. Edging towards her, she leant over and threw her arms around Delphine. It was an unexpected embrace, and though un-reciprocated, Delphine’s whole body relaxed into hers. “I like you Miss Devaux” said the girl. “I like you very much”.

That night as Delphine slept, her subconscious re-encountered many of the faces she’d seen over the years. In reality, she was unable to accept their conformist views and ideals, meaning her own personal boundaries had left her isolated and ironically, rejected. Her explorative thoughts were suddenly awakened by a faint sound of rustling and, in a startled haze; her thoughts returned to him. Delphine sat up, her pale legs dangling from the bed like frozen icicles and with a gripe in her chest which twisted and turned she could hide from him no more. Her body left the bed in a beckoning spell and she found herself at the door of the cupboard. Turning the handle she was greeted by a high pile of linen: white and cream mounds which she had used to cover up own denial, as if they could truly hide her conscience. One by one she began to remove each sheet, growing increasingly manic with every forceful tug and toss. She looked down. One thin layer of sheet left, delicate enough to provide a human shield for the body of an infant child. Delphine kneeled before the sight and prayed that if the floor were to crack in half and drag her into the depths of hell that it’d grant her at least five minutes with her son. Tenderly, she removed the sheet, hushing her own sobs and questioning her negligence. The stillness of his tiny, bluing body made her weep in despair as she kissed the ends of his fingertips and pulled him to her chest. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” she whimpered, her body shaking violently. Delphine clung to her child in desolation and without the intention of letting him go; she cradled him into the lounge and purred lullabies, until the sun came up.

By 6am the sky was a picture, depicting shades of violets and blues.  The forgiving sun radiated a faint orange hue into the room of Delphine and her child, where she had swayed him tenderly all  night. As opposed to the sky, tiredness dawned and she took her boy back to the bedroom  for them to rest. With no intention of returning to her bed, Delphine entered the cupboard and held her child with weightless arms,  pulling the door in on them both. Delphine acknowledged that amidst her heinous crime, she had loved her child more deeply than her heart could ever withstand. She knew that the world would never forgive her; after all, she was just an abandoned young woman who’d had a child out of wedlock – what did they care she was unable to cope? Delphine leant her head against her babies soft hair, she welcomed his stillness and gave into the comfort she’d struggled to provide. Knowing very well that the world would continue to revolve beneath them, Delphine kept her baby as close to her as physically possible and with closed eyes they slept…and they slept…and they slept.


 

Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

At present, writing is my main creative outlet. I feel like it is the best way for me to process negative thoughts, disturbing dreams, moments from my past etc. In a way, it’s like a form of therapy. Writing poetry often gives me the closure and clarity I need regarding various personal matters, whereas writing stories allows me to create and explore fictional settings and characters.

What is your process when creating?

I tend to create when I feel most inspired – usually I’m falling in love or intensely sad about something – I allow myself to process these feelings through written imagination. Sometimes my work is factual and sometimes it’s fictional but it’s always combined with elements of truth. Very rarely do I have a plan, I don’t use a standard format of “beginning, middle and end”, I just start writing and see where things take me – often I surprise myself.

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

Whilst we’re on the subject of women I think it’s safe to say my biggest influences and inspirations are the women I’ve grown up with; my mother, my stepmother, my grandmothers and my closest friends. I think everyone has a story to tell – when I compare my mother’s upbringing  to my own I am left in awe. I won’t get too much into it, but the physical and mental suffering she has endured in her lifetime (based on social taboos, differences in culture, feelings of shame etc.) leaves me utterly speechless. Sometimes I find it hard to comprehend how much pain and suffering a person can withstand and still have the ability to work on themselves and grow into a strong, stable and loving human being. Even my best friend inspires me, having a baby at a young age and going from a care-free party animal to a responsible, nurturing, hard-working and doting mother. These are the women who influence me and I feel lucky to call them my own.

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

Feminism for me is a movement (ongoing) where a group of remarkable and brave females have fought for our equal rights and continue to make sure that we do not go unseen or unheard in a world which is not on always on our side. The Western world has travelled leaps and bounds in terms of a woman’s rights, we are entitled to equal pay, we can live independently, we can push the boundaries as far as we want and people are less reluctant to see such change. With this said, other parts of the world have barely budged an inch regarding a woman’s treatment; in some places women are believed to be breeding machines: here to give birth, work like slaves and receive no pleasure. I want to say that I’m not a feminist and that I’m in favour of the human race as a whole, however this is difficult with the knowledge that women are in fact quite vulnerable. We have female mutilation, human trafficking, young sex workers, children being forced in to marriage, unsolved rape cases, unreported sexual and domestic abuse cases and it happens all over the world – if I think about it too much I want to weep. With this said, amidst these frequent and devastating occurrences,  I have to accept that we are magical beings – our bodies can physically carry, protect and nurture a child; we are all that child knows for the first 9 months of its life. Whoever decided that this is a “man’s world” is obviously confused.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

Probably being human; thinking about the world and worrying about the world. Education is so important and really is the best tool to eliminate ignorance and start to spread awareness. I always feel guilty for being too complacent to help with humanitarian matters – I feel this is a tiny step in the right direction.

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

I remember my mum telling me to sit with my legs crossed at the dinner table and “eat like a lady” – as I got older this was a concept she completely abandoned and said “Chelsea – I was wrong – so long as you’re in trousers – sit how you want”. Perhaps physically I conform to a female stereotype in the sense that I am extremely image conscious and try to appear as “feminine” as possible in order to not be labelled as “ugly”, “fat” or “undesirable”. I’ve worked in places where the men have completely ignored me with my hair up, looser clothing, no make-up and then the moment I’ve spruced myself up I’ve been asked how I am,  whether I’m enjoying the job and what my future plans are. In this instance, it was as if I was only worth engaging with being a depiction of media-based femininity and “beauty”. On top of this, his interest was probably only led by ulterior motive…such a shame.

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

I don’t think men and women are equal in today’s society. I think there is a significant improvement in Western parts of the world, countries which are privileged enough to have an educational system. However poorer parts of the world tend to have more stereotypical and dangerous views. Sexist views are culminated by environmental upbringing, so it really does depend on the “teachers” knowledge and how they raise their sons and daughters. I am fortunate because the “inequality” I have experienced living in London has been far from unpleasant; for instance, men often offer their seats, hold doors open, occasionally insist on buying the drinks. I understand that by accepting such gestures I can’t really call myself a feminist, I am also fully aware that some men feel more self-gratification with the belief that a woman is dependent on them in some way.

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?

I’ve volunteered for Hounslow Disability Network & attended Interpals ‘Freedom for Palestine’ event which helped me gain some insight and awareness around very painful and sensitive issues. This June I’ll be going to Thailand and I’m planning on visiting some orphanages and spending time with the children. In the future I wish to help young girls abroad who have been forced to work in the black-market sex industries, as I feel this is a subject where I would help to my highest ability and offer whatever support that I can. It’s a reality that I cannot comprehend or accept, and therefore I feel very strongly about it. Even if I can help to educate them regarding safe sex and provide them with that extra bit of precaution I will feel like I am doing something small to help aid a problem which is insufferable.

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

I think the benefit of Art works in two ways; the audience experiences pleasure and/or receives education from the artist’s material and the artist is able to express themselves by having a creative outlet. I read books and watch films mainly for pleasure; however personally I find there is no medium more empathetic than music – music can really relate to whatever mood I am in. I wouldn’t say it has “saved” me but in times of need it has certainly helped.

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

Hopefully my writing will offer an understanding and awareness to its readers. Also, I want the people who read my work to find it engaging and interesting – the last thing I want to do is bore readers to tears. With ‘Delphine’ my intentions were simply to spread awareness regarding young women who find themselves in situations where they cannot cope. Human nature can be cruel in that we judge people who behave differently compared to our social expectations. I think when we don’t experience something ourselves we don’t always know how to relate to the sufferers and as a result give them little support and understanding. Again, it comes down to a lack of education. I didn’t want readers to judge Delphine; I wanted them to feel for her and try to understand her erratic behaviour.

What are your goals as with your art?

In an ideal world I would be working as a broadcast journalist and writing poems and stories on the side. I am very interested to learn about the different people of the world and would like to contribute in exposing and celebrating their differences. For now, I will continue to write and eventually build up a portfolio big enough to take to appropriate action and find my way from there. I am only at the start of my journey and still deciding where I would like to go.

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

I found writing ‘Delphine’ really extremely upsetting and I had to take a break from writing when I’d finished it. I questioned my “dark” imagination but then I realised that the world is full of pain – we need to give as much love and support to the people who need it in order to prevent more tragedies from happening. I plan on building up a series of short stories, potentially with a running theme i.e. mental illness, however I feel like my next story needs to be a bit lighter otherwise I’m going to drive myself into depression!

And is there anything you would like to add to your interview?

That I’m extremely grateful and excited to be featured within your organisation and that I’m also looking forward to assisting you with future projects.

If you would like to know more about Chelsea please follow these links:

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