The thing about finding a partner to share the intricate and often messy process of life and or creation with is that there has to be a level of mutuality that bends and blends with something that could be conflicting but ultimately becomes complimentary to the other’s process. We come together to share and intertwine ideas to make new colours in life and in art. Colours that would never be without the other. The coalition becomes a new entity separate from the singular. And it thrums to its own drum, which exists inside each of us. Sending electrical impulses of ideas that invade our dreams as we (attempt to) rest and seize our minds at the most unexpected moments. We have much work to do, and the muse grows each day.
I’ve always been fiercely private when I’m ‘creating’. Yes, I was that child in nursery who would hunch quietly behind the easel with one arm hiding my recycled, crunchy foolscap paper. I didn’t want or be copied, ridiculed or questioned. What if they saw something through paint strokes that I don’t want to share? What if someone took a piece I wasn’t ready or willing to give up?
I’m not original. We’re all just unconscious copies, in a way. I know many of us have that feeling I had back then and carry it somewhat into adulthood, especially if we continue on or rediscover a creative path—a fear of being unpicked and someone else discovering something or disappointment of there being nothing. Exposure or emptiness?
With my BFH sister, Ruthann Jagge, I have found that I’m no longer anxious and scared of either of these things. I share my creative process with her as if we cohabit the same space. (I’m not embarrassed by the mess I make as we build.) Because of this, we are creatively bound for as long as that mutual muse whispers and screams—and oh, the muse certainly does that! Sometimes I can’t get the words down fast enough. Honestly, I never thought I could do that with anyone. It’s an intimacy that supersedes the distance—the sharing of minds, passions, drives, triggers, ideas, and art!
It’s still new, and it’s all so exciting! For updates on our first release and those that follow, tune in to Brazen Folk Horror.
I’m not going to blame social media—thats just a channel of increased visibility for that desperation. Where people drag others down to try to elevate themselves, it really can be a toxic, stinking cesspit. Too many unchecked egos, or it’s where ego can be worn unfiltered. Feeding the insatiable beast.
The writing industry (specifically in the Horror genre) seems to be on an endless stream of needless drama lately. And little gatekeepers running rampage with their thumbs. Is it attention-seeking?
I think, in part, it probably is. A clambering of voices and opinions striving to make noise, be noticed, relevant, screaming for validation. Am I doing the same in writing this?
First off, everyone is fucking offended online all the damn time. Perhaps, as I’m Scottish and we’re known for having crass, sarcastic, satirical and ‘offensive’ senses of humour, I find it pretty absurd. Getting upset over memes or something written in fiction and then having a gripe online. Gate keeping art? What is this supposed to achieve other than ‘awareness’ of your delicate sensibilities? Art and humour shouldn’t change because someone doesn’t like it. Regardless of what that art or humour may be poking fun at. Is comedy dead?
Don’t read it.
Don’t view it.
Keep calm and scroll on.
Also, I will never understand the utter desperation to be validated by a publishing house, whether small press or traditional. I’ve read plenty of books I didn’t enjoy that have been self-published, small press, and traditionally published. This also goes to the point mentioned above about bringing down others based on such a false idea that one is better than the other. Talk about arrogant and pretentious. Unfortunately, a common trait I’ve noticed over the few years I’ve been involved in the sector. These apparent ‘discussions’ and ‘queries’ within online writing community groups are pointless. But then, doing a bit of quiet, independent reading doesn’t stir up attention.
‘An indie author is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry books who self-publishes their own work and retains and controls their own publishing rights.’
Small (Independent) Press/Publisher
‘Smaller publishing company which, like the big conglomerates, commission books from authors and publish at the company’s expense. If very small, they are called micro-publishers.’
‘-a particular kind of publishing service, that licenses publishing rights from authors and handles the publication tasks in return for a large percentage of the revenue.’
‘-combines elements of trade publishing and self-publishing services in the same contract. Hybrid publishers have very varied business and publishing models but most function like trade publishers, except that their authors subsidize publishing costs.’
The fog has been rolling in thick with sundown; an exchange as Summer’s end meets Autumn’s wake. Shards of blinding light dance with strips of darkness. The days cycle in stark contrast; bones are chilled through dawn, the heat rolls in, the fog resides, and it’s roasting until dusk again. It’s no wonder plant life and migratory patterns are in a state of confusion. I’ve been battling this myself. We’re no different, no better. We are as connected with nature as the beating wings riding the air currents and the falling leaves.
The song ‘Wake me up when September Ends’ rings through my head, but September feels like a new beginning. Don’t wake me up. I want to be mesmerised by the changing colours and hear the music of the leaves fall. I want to dance in the rain and wash the pains away.
Don’t wake me up.
Spending time in the village today. Perhaps you would like a peek?
I’m sweeping the circle. The bones and remnants of word fusions are being expelled to make way for new spells. This collection is set for release in Hogmanay 2022. The preorder is live now.
Digital ARCs will be available well in advance of release, if you are a reviewer who’d love a first look at Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my mailbox is open for enquiries to be added to my priority early reader list.
Synopsis (subject to tweaking)
Do readers buy poetry from undead poets?
There’s nothing quite like picking the prose and verses of the dead like vultures. There’s freedom in that unpicking, with no one alive to contest, at least not the mind which birthed them.
Sinclair consumes written and spoken as she does in its lyrical form, dressed in music and paint. Dancing to the beat or screaming into the voids of despair. Here, Sinclair presents Clan Witch: Found Shadows, no music, no paint, just words. A mix-tape of drabbles and anarchic free verse poetry..
The writer still lives. Perhaps you’ll read her unruly verse before the witch is dead.
Talk about curveball 2022! Another year of madness! There were plans. Big beautiful plans! And while those plans still exist, there has been movement because of those unexpected transitions life has her way of throwing. Personally, I’ve had some family upsets which I predominantly have to deal with and process alone (my partner, of course, has supported as much as one can). I’ve angered, been frustrated, hurt, grieved, run myself in circles, hurt some more, and accepted. Because sometimes that’s all we can do. Accept to find crumbs of peace and carry on. It just takes a little time. It’s a process many are familiar with. It’s been heavy.
Following the acceptances of a triple-pronged hit, I’ve another unexpected ‘bump’, who made himself known in a dream. My kids are excited about another sibling to teach and get up to extra mischief with. Since I have complicated pregnancies, and this one has already given us some wobbles, I’m (again) doing everything within my control to keep this little one inside until late 2022, ideally early 2023. My cervix needs a mantra, and this is the last! The instant physical hit means I’ve been heavily fatigued, and as of that wasn’t enough, I’ve been hammered with mine and the kids’ second bout of Covid of 2022. Because I wasn’t wiped enough by the heavy graft underway in my uterus, I am zapped because my lungs are in battle, and my body feels like it’s been used as a punchbag.
Moving in from all of that, onto the writing front update:
My sassy, immensely talented, and inspiring co-author, Ruthann Jagge and I launched our website, BrazenFolkHorror.com, for our upcoming 2022 release, Delevan House and future projects. Ruthann also released her fantastic solo debut novella in January 2022, The New Girls’ Patient; if you haven’t read her, this is an excellent example of her extraordinary work that should be on any horror fan’s reading list.
I’ve still been editing work for other writers and publishers via Word Refinery and also published poet Rafik Romdhani’s collection, The Crash of Verses.
I am working on my degree course too.
The latest developments has zapped my study schedule. I hope to recover enough to make up for that soon. Deadlines are looming! Anthology wise, unlike in the previous two years, I have not responded to any open calls. My dance card has been packed. I have gratefully received several invite opportunities but unfortunately had to decline several. One that I was able to submit a piece to was with KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Nightmare Edition, which has just been released. It’s the biggest collection of the twelve-book series and worth picking up for a good flavour of many popular independent horror authors currently putting our new materiel.
More still to come for 2022, and 2023 is also beginning to fill up with a couple of accepted invites, continued work with my brazen co-author in crime and at least one (hopefully two) solo release(s). One of which will be a collection of poetry and drabbles, Clan Witch: Found Shadows.
At first, I didn’t know that inventing short songs and humming them in the fields of wheat and barley while stumbling behind my parents was what would, later on, develop into a form of writing. Writing has already been there in such funny songs I used to create out of the blue and sing in Tunisian spoken language (i.e. an amalgam of Arabic, French, and Barbarian) at the age of ten. I remember myself once beading words into smooth-running utterances and reciting them before a group of gleaners at tea time, which made everyone around express their admiration and admit that I am a gift to them to while away the tedious hours. Putting pen to paper and speaking my mind began later as I fell in love with Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, taught by Mustapha Dhaya, our teacher of French when I was a student at secondary school. I started writing short poems in French and Arabic between 1994 -1999. But I have indulged in penning and rhyming in English since 2000 because I found English a musical language that matches my yearning for singing. Words in English felt like ways into poeticizing life in a much more inspiring way. In this regard, the English language acts like an inspiring realm in itself, not to mention Nature and life experiences which have become not apart from living. Still, a kind of double living lived within the English language.
2: What are the primary themes in your work?
I am of the opinion that themes can’t be mapped out for or prepared beforehand. But I think they are born or at least are struggling to be born during the writing activity itself. The primary themes in my work include the question of time, Man’s existential worries, and the notion of love as a raison d’être. The theme is the underlying message that every artist or writer wants to convey. Themes can vary across poems which cover a wide variety of topics. Still, the primary ones are usually the common ones like the human versus the natural, Good versus Evil, the metaphysical versus the physical, and so on. The Crash of Verses teems with themes that overlap and intermingle in a way that it is difficult sometimes to privilege a theme over another.
3: Would you ever co-author a project? If so, who would your dream co-writing partner be?
Well, in truth, I am a believer in collaborations and working with other poets. Poets could inspire one another avowedly or unavowed. For instance, a poet’s word could be the seed of another’s poem. For the time being, I am co-authoring and working on a third collection with my fellow poetess, Genevieve Ray. The title of this anthology, made up of about 120 poems, is Breath of Distance. The work is still under scrutiny and hasn’t been published yet. I would always love to co-author new projects because I think working with another poet is enriching, and we can learn different styles and discover different ways of thinking and interpreting the world around us. My dream co-writing partner would be someone like Paul Muldoon, for example.
I crave Muldoon’s poetry because it is challenging enough to be interesting, and it is known for its use of paradox. Muldoon’s poems are playful but serious, elusive but direct, innovative but traditional. In addition, they push far beyond the surface level. To my way of thinking, Muldoon is an interesting and convincing poet who uses traditional verse forms such as the sonnet, ballad, and dramatic monologue but alters their length and basic structure and uses rhyme and meter in quite innovative ways. This implies that he looks into the old with new eyes, which interests me and pertains to me a lot.
4: If you could have a dinner party with five writers (living or dead), who would they be?
I am going to assume that all of them would love to have typically Tunisian Kuskus for dinner and that there would be no language barrier, and all the invitees would be able to communicate with each other and myself.
I would invite:
1. Edgar Allan Poe
2. Herbert Zbiginiew
3. Mahmoud Darwish
4. Paul Muldoon
5. Charles Baudelaire
These are amongst the most influential and interesting poets to me. If I were to invite another important figure for a mouth-watering dish of Kuskus, I would think of Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish-American poet, and I would ask him to join us. The reason I would invite them for dinner is that I am their biggest fan. They must have different definitions and conceptions of poetry.
A dinner party with the five of them will not only be entertaining but highly insightful. Perhaps on occasion like this one, I might be able to understand what poetry means to them and what inspired them to become such great poets. I guess the one who would like my poetry the most would be Edgar Allan Poe.
5: What book had the most significant impact on you (either as a reader or/and as a writer)?
I can remember the first book that had a significant impact on me. It was a book entitled Mother written by Maxime Gorky and which I came across in the secondary school library when I was a student at Raccada secondary school. It wasn’t easy and challenging at first though the version I read was in French. But after reading it twice and looking up many of the difficult words in the dictionary, I came to grips with the encrypted messages and deeper meanings there. Gorky’s mother is a book in which Paul, the main character, reads forbidden books discreetly, which is why I liked this novel a lot. Another reason behind my being affected by Mother is that it deals with the hardships of life under the yoke of which factory workers were straining.
I felt like those characters were combatting manual back-breaking works in a similar way to mine while working under the scorching sun in the fields. As far as poetry is concerned, I think that Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil affected me the most as it paved and blazed the way for my writing career.
6: What is your favourite poem, and how did it affect you?
My favourite poem is Pessoa’s “The Tobacco Shop” (Tabacaria), in which the speaker finds himself torn between the abstractions of the mind on one hand and the mysteries of reality on the other. This is what I often feel whenever I try to idealize reality because everything at the end of the day is driven “down the road of nothing”, as Pessoa puts it. Reality itself does not seem to be authentic and concrete enough. Therefore, this poem made me rethink and re-imagine the outside world around me by re-inventing myself through the lens of poetry. After all, ‘the real’ is not necessarily what is not inside us.
7: Being multilingual, what is your favourite language to write in and why?
I am of the mindset that English is best for writing poetry because of its musicality, rich vocabulary, and easy-going flow. However, I think Arabic and French are better for spiritual and philosophical concepts. I love to write in English and think in English though I draw on writers who are well known in the French-speaking world and the Arabic-speaking one. This does not mean that I am not inspired by famous poets like the ones I have previously mentioned. English makes it easier for me to know which side my bread is buttered, as they say. It is the language that exceeds its circumstances, defeats distance and outgrows its native speakers.
8: If you could read your poetry anywhere in the world to an audience, where would you most like to go?
My dream literary destination where I would most like to read my poetry would be The UK. Who on earth doesn’t want to recite their poetry in a country where interesting literary figures like William Shakespeare, William Blake, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, and John Donne were born. So, if I could read my poetry anywhere in the world to an audience, I would, without a doubt, choose the United Kingdom.
9: Does any of your pieces require research before or during the creation process? If so, how do you go about that?
In truth, all of the pieces I wrote are built upon a sudden incident or happening. Sometimes a word that I catch in a song or that my eyes set upon at first glance can develop into a poem. If there is any research required during the creation of the process, it is certainly meditation and deep reflection. I don’t think a poem requires research, apart from trying to put it in its historical or cultural context. But from my experience, I believe that the most difficult thing in the creation of imagination is the choice of a suitable title to go in tandem with what I wrote.
10: Being a teacher and writer, your schedule must be very demanding. What do you do to relax?
Well, I am a poet by passion and a teacher by profession, which is why I seem to be able to reconcile the two. I feel like teaching is harder and more demanding than writing poetry. I often do my utmost to be successful in both of them. To be a poet and a teacher simultaneously is like being trapped in a catch-22 situation. But the good thing with poetry is that it relaxes me from the two tiring missions ( writing and teaching). In other words, relaxation and relief could be in pressure itself because what I do to relax from writing poetry is paradoxically writing more poetry. That’s the same thing that refreshes my mind when I get burnt out from teaching twenty hours a week. Poetry is a safety valve.
11: How would you describe your work to a reader who hadn’t yet read you?
The Crash of Verses is a smorgasbord of poems with disparate but interrelated themes, wittingly or unwittingly. This collection is necessitated by experiences and circumstances which never occur in the form of poetry. So, there is a need to poeticize the world that surrounds us. The Crash of Verses could be understood as a journey of self-reinvention and rediscovery. It is a work of art that reports the conversations I had with Nature, with the desert and the sea, with the metaphysical and the invisible, with what sees through my eyes and speaks through my mind.
Each poem in this book has an architecture of its own, and it is a realm of its own that resembles a box of music in that it re-imagines and rethinks life in a new way. The entire collection is dotted with bright spots despite the deep sense of emptiness and loneliness here and there. It’s worth noting that The Crash of Verses connects with the past to make sense of the present. It goes beyond the superficiality of things and digs deep into Man’s inner workings of the mind, acting life as a reckoning mirror that exudes the smell of the soul.
In truth, I don’t think I can privilege one piece over the other ones simply because the question of what a poet’s favourite poem is from his collection sounds like asking a parent who his favourite son or daughter is. I fear the fall into unfairness towards the pieces in The Crash of Verses. But let me tell you that there are a few poems at least that I find the closest to me, namely “Life Goes on,” “Revolution,” “My Heart Was Cut in Two,” “The Genes of Poetry,” “Passing,” “A Descent on Chests,” “In My Country,” and “Poetic Blood”. Personally, it is too hard for me to identify a poem as a number one poem given that I indulged equally in ruminating about each idea and have given much of myself into each piece. Therefore selecting the best poem would be the task of the reader, I guess.
13: Finally, what are you working on now, and what can readers expect from you next?
For the time being, I am working on an anthology with my fellow-poetess Genevieve Ray, who is from Great Britain. She is a very kind and collaborative person.
Our styles are certainly different, but there are common themes in our work. Each one of us deals with them in his way. I hope we won’t change this anthology’s title, The Breath of Distance. I find it classy and very symbolic.
I also have a project in mind with Sinazo Crystal Ngxabani, a poetess from South Africa, and we talked about that a few days ago. We admire each other’s poetries, and we are glad that we represent our continent as two artists, one of whom is from South Africa and the other, i.e. myself is from North Africa (Tunisia). We got the ball rolling, and we started writing new poems for our project and sharing them. It’s a true pleasure and great honour for me to work with rising names in the world of poetry like Genevieve Ray and Zoe (Sinazo Crystal Ngxabani).
I wrote my first short story of 2022 and submitted it to a publisher at the weekend.
My aim this year was always to pull away from short story writing (and submitting) to focus on longer works, my coursework and editing.
And I’ve stuck to it pretty rigidly, even when declining offers is painful! But spreading oneself too thin degrades everything.
I’m not going to go into the details of this short story, but I will say that its content, along with recent conversations with other writers, got me thinking; If I had a higher readership, I’d be cancelled.
I know there are many faux pas and taboos that change over time, and my work constantly bears the weight of uncomfortable themes. Horrifying right? One of the reasons I now include content warnings is to support readers sensitive to particular themes. It is not a poor taste marketing strategy. It is genuinely to deter readers that could feel hurt by my work. If I’m doing my job correctly, my work (in horror particularly) should be uncomfortable.
Over the last few years, there has been a notable request for ‘diversity’ from publishers demanding representation from marginalised groups — in a writer’s personal circumstances and in the characters we create to tell our stories. In this quest, many are outright discrimination, the very thing they claim to be trying to ‘correct’. ‘We demand diversity and representation unless you’re a cis white male’ being the most prominent. How dare they! On top of that, these diversity thumpers are dictating the presence of character archetypes in a creative’s work! ‘No LGBTQI+ representation? Better squeeze one in there, to keep everyone happy.’
Well, quite frankly fuck that! I don’t fall in line with any dictatorship! And it has zero place in art of any kind!
I am anti book banning.
I am anti art burning.
I am anti-censorship.
I am anti-dictatorship.
If you don’t like an artist’s material — don’t buy a ticket, don’t read their work and don’t dictate how anyone else should feel about it! Such arrogance is deeply misguided and kills art. It doesn’t promote it; it doesn’t promote equality or diversity. You’re foolish if you think that it does. The great tapestry of creative output is the very definition of diversification and multicultural without a pre-set dictated agenda!
A couple of years ago, I put in the work and opened an Etsy store. However, I closed it quickly — before doing any marketing — due to other commitments that took priority over maintaining a wee shop.
This year, I’ve rejuvenated the storefront and opened the doors. It’s a far more efficient way for customers to access books that I have in my stock and other specially designed book merchandise available only via Clan Witch. So rather than posting availability on the socials, Etsy will be the go-to place. Books will still be available across the usual retail channels such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Waterstones etc. But Etsy is the place for merch, out of print versions and signed stock.