Launching ‘Hearth’ at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival

Last Sunday, Sarah JamesAngela Topping and I arrived at The Playhouse in Cheltenham to launch their pamphlet of poetry duets, Hearth. Although we had a small audience (the clash with Wenlock Poetry Festival no doubt decreasing numbers) they were a great audience. They listened to Sarah and Angela’s poetry reading with appreciation, and then afterwards the Q&A discussion about creative collaboration, motherhood and how to find time to write amidst busy family life was lively; in fact, we nearly ran over our allotted time slot!

As the publisher of Hearth (and as a reader for one of the parts of their collaborative poem, ‘Crow Lines’) I got one of the best seats in the house – right beside the poets. For me, it was brilliant to actually hear these poems being read by their creators. As the publisher, editor and typesetter I knew these poems well on the page, but when they were read they somehow flew and further life was breathed into them. And when I heard two of my favourite poems from the pamphlet, ‘The Washing Line’ by Sarah James and ‘Hooam’ by Angela Topping being read, I felt a tingle of magic running up and down my spine.

The Washing Line

The sister I never met hangs out my sheets,
pairs socks, dries my husband’s shirts
— sails smoothed towards the sun.

Sleeves brush against sleeves;
their unfleshed white flutters free.
Dropped pegs scatter on the grass.

I clip three together: a plastic family.
That’s Mum, Dad and me;
pinched tight without her.

She has polished the kitchen surface.
My unwashed potatoes
are peeled moons in her hands.

Her cheese soufflé rises from liquid velvet.
Always ready, the ghost of her absence
blurs my face from our photos.

Her dead baby lungs filled with water,
my chest aches where they buried her smile;
its sickle scrapes my ribs.




Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!
                      Thomas Hardy

Me mam’s clatterin in ower kitchen
me dad’s at work. Am on me tod
playin in living room. Fire’s in.
Ah sit on floower, spread farms
on carpit, cows n pigs n sheds
all mine t’ rule ovver an all.

Now ah’m grown, owen haaus to rule ovver
me dad’s gone, so’s me mam.
Bring em back, yem days, gimme back
yon carpits, gawdy nick-knacks,
an brassoed stuff, fireplace an all.

Gimme dem days back, ‘ow it was
an me not seein it were passin.



After our event I was busy with our bookstall – all those in the audience came to buy a copy or two of Hearth, which was really lovely. Then, the poets for the next reading came in to set our their books and to mingle and chat. There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere – with many of the poets being firm friends and I must admit that I felt quite at home!

Sarah, Angela and myself then attended the next event – a reading by poets Adam Horovitz and David Morley. This was pretty packed, and I sensed a crackle of excitement in the air. Adam and David, very different poets, were absolutely riveting. And just as with Angela and Sarah’s reading, their poems seem to fly off the page and swirl around the room, coming to rest in the audience members’ hearts and minds.

I am absolutely convinced that anyone with an interest in poetry would love to come to an event like this. These poets showed me that poetry is very much alive and well, and absolutely itching to be discovered and shared.

After the event and packing up the bookstall, Angela, Sarah and I (as well as Angela’s lovely, supportive husband) enjoyed a pizza and talked more about poetry. All in all, it was a great day, and I am already looking forward to the next time I get to go out on a poetry ‘junket’!

We currently have a limited number of copies of Hearth (18 at the moment) that have been signed by Sarah and Angela in our online store. Do snap them up before they all go!

p.s. I’ve already got an eye out for another brilliant pair of poets to come together for another pamphlet of poetry duets. Please do check out the submissions if you’re interested. And if you’d like to suggest any pairings, please do leave a comment on this blog post. Thank you!

The origins of The Forgotten and the Fantastical

Welcome to ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ Carnival This post was written especially for inclusion in ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of their latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience: The Forgotten and the Fantastical. Today our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘Fairy tales’. Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.


I haven’t written anything new for this blogging carnival, and yes, I’m aware that potentially it may look as though I’m taking a little creative holiday… but right now my creativity has been called elsewhere (I’m currently designing the cover for our next publication – a pamphlet of poetry duets by Sarah James and Angela Topping called Hearth) so I thought that in the absence of fresh words I would fall back on some ‘older’ ones. I read an extract from my Introduction to The Forgotten and the Fantastical at the launch of the book at Nottingham Writers Studio on World Storytelling day (20th March) and as it seemed to go down well then, I thought I’d do the same here.

I would like to add though, that I was really pleased with how the launch went. There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere, and the glow from the dimmed lamps and fairy lights made for a cosy environment. I’d put together a slideshow of some of the images from the book (each image was accompanied by a quote from the relevant story) and what with the wine, cake and fabulous readings from Becky Cherriman and Lisa Shipman (as well as gorgeous music from The Green Children on the DVD player) all in all it was a rather magical evening… Thank you to all those involved who made it possible. And not forgetting my wonderful children and husband (and mum) who supported me throughout those moments when I was a rather cranky and super-distracted person!

Becky Cherriman, me and Lisa Shipman

I hope that gives you a flavour of the launch and I hope you enjoy the rest of the carnival! Oh, and don’t forget that we’re open for submissions for the next in the series of The Forgotten and the Fantastical too…


I have always been fascinated by fairy tales, particularly when I learnt that my name, Teika, means ‘fairy tale’ or ‘legend’ in Latvian. I loved everything about the classical fairy tale books I knew as a child: the intriguing titles of the stories, the short, pacy narrative, the characters and the happy endings… I adored too the beautifully-drawn illustrations that accompanied the stories – the heroines and heroes were nearly always dressed in incredible finery. I had to wonder if clothes so beautiful could exist in real life. No doubt inspired by these books and my love of all things fantastical I set about making my own collection of fairy tale books.

            The first book I remember making consisted of a small wodge of thick, shiny pieces of paper that were stapled together and illustrated in felt-tipped pen with pictures of characters from Star Wars. (Young as I was, it was clear to me that Star Wars was basically a fairy tale set in space. It had a princess, for goodness sake!) On the reverse of the pages there were images of computers that controlled paper-making machines; my father worked for a company which manufactured these futuristic-looking machines, and the paper must have been advertising material. On each page I’d drawn a character accompanied by a few wobbly-looking words. I even threw in the odd joke. I must have been about five or six years old at the time.

            Fast forward thirty-three years… I still had this passion to produce a marvellously fantastical book. Thankfully, other writers shared my passion for the fantastical too, so my call for submissions for the first ever fairy tale collection to be published by Mother’s Milk Books was met with great enthusiasm!

            I was, as ever, humbled by the quality of the submissions. What I love about this collection of stories is the depth and range of writing on show. I feel that these diverse voices, each with their own unique style, complement each other beautifully, giving the reader an insight into the storyteller’s psyche. For it is in the nature of fairytales to connect with their audience on an emotional level. There are some powerful connections to be made here.

            What I love, too, about this collection is the fact that there are no passive princesses here. Strong women, real women, are a feature of the book and although there may not always be a happy ending for them, we can at least give witness to their trials and learn from their tribulations.

            I really enjoyed putting together this collection, so much so that my intention is to publish a series of these ‘modern fables and ancient tales’.

            We are all in need of a little magic these days, and I sincerely hope that this book will provide some escapism; a flight, if you will, into the world of… the forgotten and the fantastical.

Teika Bellamy, Spring 2015

Taken from The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2015

The empty storytelling chair at Nottingham Writers’ Studio


The Forgotten and the Fantastical is now available to buy from The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) and as a paperback from Amazon.

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

Any comments on the following fab posts would be much appreciated:

In ‘Imagination is quantum ergo fairies are real’, Ana, at Colouring Outside the Lines, explains why we should all believe in fairies and encourage our children to do the same.

‘Wings’ — Rebecca at Growing a Girl Against the Grain shares a poem about her daughter and explains the fairy tale-esque way in which her name was chosen.

In ‘Red Riding Hood Reimagined’ author Rebecca Ann Smith shares her poem ‘Grandma’.

Writer Clare Cooper explores the messages the hit movie Frozen offers to our daughters about women’s experiences of love and power in her Beautiful Beginnings blog post ‘Frozen: Princesses, power and exploring the sacred feminine.’

‘Changing Fairy Tales’ — Helen at Young Middle Age explains how having young children has given her a new caution about fairy tales.

In ‘The Art of Faerie’ Marija Smits waxes lyrical about fairy tale illustrations.

‘The Origins of The Forgotten and the Fantastical — Teika Bellamy shares her introduction from the latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience published by Mother’s Milk Books.