Mollie Sambrook is a young writer from Margate, England. She has a degree in English Literature from University of East Anglia and a Creative Writing masters from Manchester Metropolitan University. She has recently self-published a collection of poetry: ‘A Brief History of the oVERSEsensitive’.
When did you start writing and what got you into it?
I’m not 100% sure when I first started writing, but my mum has a few of my old notebooks from when I was little that are filled with stories about fairies and teddies and a main character called Mollie that are all about mundane things that capture a child’s attention such as having a bath or going to the beach. She likes to embarrass me with those when I bring my friends to visit. I’ve loved reading since I was a kid and got told off frequently for devouring Jaqueline Wilson books under my covers until the early hours of the morning but I think what properly got me into writing was reading the Twilight saga. In year 8 we were asked to write a 50 word flash fiction for an anthology of stories from kinds in all the schools in the area and of course mine was about a vampire. It wasn’t until the end of Sixth Form that I realised that writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and if I could make a career out of that, I’d be able to have a profession that I enjoyed and was passionate about.
You recently self-published a collection of poetry. How did you find taking on the roles of poet, editor, and publisher?
The whole self-publishing ordeal was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. There are many websites that help authors to self-publish so it was more about choosing the right website for me. Once I found which site would help me produce the collection the way I wanted to it ran pretty smoothly from then. The editing was a little laborious but I’m a perfectionist so I enjoyed doing it myself as I was able to make sure the font, spacing, ad the way the illustrations looked on the pages was exactly how I wanted. Being the poet comes naturally to me but now that I’ve seen how easy self-publishing can be, my fears and nerves over publishing have been squashed.
Was there anything you wish you had known when you first decided to self-publish your work?
I wish someone had told me that it was easier than I thought it was and the hardest part is actually letting go of your own writing. It’s daunting having it out there in the world, in other people’s hands. I, also, wish someone had told me how rewarding it feels to hold a book that is solely your own creation. I think I would have produced it years ago if I’d realised.
How did you decide which poems to put into your collection?
I’ve been posting my poetry online for six years now so it was a process of deciding which ones were my favourite and which ones seemed to get good feedback from other poets and readers. I wanted to create something full of poems that those following me had enjoyed but that I was also proud of and thought deserved a physical space. I spent a long time putting the poems next to each other to see what fit where and what kind of story they were telling in which order. In the end, I could see that certain poems in a specific order felt as if they were growing up alongside of how I was myself. So, I wanted to keep that feeling of coming of age in the collection.
You often write poems in second person, directing them at ‘you’. Do you find it easier to write a poem when you have a specific person in your mind that it is for?
Being a poet means that you’re consistently opening up and revealing something that you wouldn’t necessarily share out loud- it’s a vulnerable art. So, I think using second person is a way to distance myself from it a little… even though it simultaneously makes it more personal as it is directed intensely at a specific “you”. Coming to terms with my sexuality has also meant that the pronouns in my work were becoming interchangeable, therefore by using a “you” it can be anyone’s “you”. Although nine times out of ten I have a specific person that I am writing about or to, this way it can resonate with so many other people as anyone reading it will also have a specific “you” in mind. Second person should definitely be used more in writing!
Is there anything you hope your readers gain from your poetry?
When I read a piece of poetry that speaks to me, it’s really like someone has cracked me open and said “here you are” so I guess that is what I want from my own writing. For someone to read some of my poetry and see themselves in it or to relate to it deeply.
This is a bit cliché, but I have to ask who or what inspires you?
I’m always inspired by other internet poets as the quality of writing and talent that some of these writers have, despite not being published, is amazing. I’m inspired by specific but also random things. Anything from jewellery left by the bath or a snip it of a conversation can inspire me. I’m most interested in intense and intimate conversations that can happen between friends/lovers/family that aren’t necessarily obvious to others but I’m interested in what isn’t being said and what a simple sentence can really mean if you look deeper. The way other people’s minds work fascinate me so I like to try and imagine what is going on in another person’s head and use this to write poetry. But if you want the cliché answer, then other poets that are inspiring me at the moment are Richard Sicken whose poetry never fails to make me cry and Emily Dickinson whose recovered scraps of poetry have caught my eye recently just purely because of how much of it is missing and what this does to the poetry that is left.
What advice would you give to poets who are just starting out?
I think I would just say keep writing and don’t stop. We writers are our own worse critic and the only way we can better ourselves or evolve our writing is to write as much as possible. (A feat which I am finding increasingly harder and harder at the moment.) Other people’s opinions are just that and if you’re writing something true from your heart then you are making art and the world needs more of it.
Do you have any plans for future writing?
I would love to collate another book of poetry, as well as feature in zines and fiction magazines. Mostly, I am working towards finishing the draft of my novel in progress- When Life Meets Death.
If you want to read Mollie’s poetry, you can buy her collection at https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/868010346/a-brief-history-of-the-oversensitive?ref=shop_home_active_1&frs=1&crt=1
You can also find her work on Instagram and tumblr: @ColdFeetOnTheKitchenFloor
It’s a Sin, the new drama from Russell T. Davis, has already took the U.K. by storm and I’m sure it’s arrival in the U.S. will make the same waves. It is a dark, honest, loving, brutal, sporadically funny, take on three young men growing up in 1980’s London with the shadow of the AIDS epidemic encroaching on their lives. It begins in 1981 and runs through the crisis to 1991. The decade exploration covers the spread of the virus, the misinformation, and the tragic effects that AIDS had on the LGBTQ+ community.
Russell T. Davis, the writer of Doctor Who and Queer as Folk, has once again created a masterpiece. Despite Queer as Folk being set in the 90s, it never explicitly mentions the AIDS crisis once. There were whispers to characters dying but nothing is said in the show about AIDS explicitly. Whereas Davis is now bravely placing AIDS at the centre of his new drama and It’s a Sin is being heralded as the first U.K. drama to directly follow the crisis as it spread over the country. Davis has already come forward and said writing so in-depth about this subject was something he has always wanted to do and, only now, he felt like an experienced enough writer to tackle it and do the people and situation justice. The viewer sees his abilities in his writing and he even offers his long-term fans a Doctor Who call back in the series which put a smile on my face.
The backdrop of England in the 1980s is a common setting for dramas and has offered great cult classics such as This is England, Billy Elliot, and Pride. It offers a plethora of wild fashion and brilliant music. It’s a Sin is no exception and takes full advantage of it. The characters are believably donned in mohair jumpers and bold print shirts. The crew worked hard to create an authentic setting to the show and builds the realistic nature of the story. The aesthetic is vibrant and immersive. Some of the locations were filmed around Manchester, Stockport, and Liverpool and despite having lived here for most of my life, it was only when re-watching was I able to begin to recognise the buildings.
What It’s a Sin does so masterfully is offer the viewer well-rounded, individual characters. We are introduced to Ritchie, Colin, and Roscoe at the beginning of their adulthood. The viewer is shown all they want to achieve with their potential. They acquire themselves a chosen family and the actors marvellously portray the bonds, inside jokes, and nuances that real friends hold. Interviews with Davis has informed us that there are biographical elements which adds all the more to the visceral portrayal of the characters. It is a show about the LGBTQ+ community with a big focus on ‘community’. We see our beloved characters build themselves, their family, their home- their very own Pink Palace.
The director, Peter Hoar, also exercises his mastery over creating the episodes. It is filmed, in the most part, like a standard drama. However, there are certain standout scenes where he plays around with the form, having scenes that break the fourth wall or cutting from trauma to joy with a blink of an eye. In one crushing scene, he keeps the viewer unable to look away for a second, following one character moving throughout the scene. We aren’t offered any respite from the character’s emotions, but he keeps us closely with her as she falls through many different reactions in a matter of minutes. It cleverly mirrors the unescapable grasps AIDS had (and still has) on an individual.
While the show offers such loveable, funny characters, the devastation of AIDS is kept at the forefront of the show. It offers the viewer the shocking truth of how AIDS patients were treated by society. The 80s were an abominable time for the LGBTQ+ community where people could be sacked for being gay, let alone being public about their HIV/AIDS status.
The beginning of the show mention AIDS in whispers and tiny articles in a newspaper as the government tries to brush it away. Of course, they are unable to ignore AIDS as it continues to spread, but what is even more damaging is the lack of help they offer. No information, no helpful medical assistance. People left scared and vulnerable. This is the driving force of the show. The vulnerability and shame take centre stage and we see the character’s banding together to try and process what is happening.
People were stripped of basic human rights and the dignity they were denied is not shied away from in this show. Patients were left locked in hospital wards by staff leaving the viewer screaming at the screen for the injustice of it all. It, also, addresses how undertakers and crematoriums wouldn’t even take the bodies of people who had died of AIDS complications. Whether that was because of prejudice or because of ignorance. Because knowledge of how AIDS was transmitted had been hidden for so long, people were both ignorant and prejudiced. It was commonly believed that individuals were able to catch it from the body and it left people without proper funerals. It’s a Sin doesn’t shy from the trauma people endured throughout that time and addresses it with a truth and tact that I think will make it a timeless watch.
Shocking scenes illustrate the desperation people felt surrounding the AIDS epidemic. You watch as some of your favourite characters try random and dangerous ‘cures’ with the hope they are preventing AIDS developing. They ranged from drinking raw eggs to drinking battery acid. It showed how the lack of information and help offered to them by the negligent government only led to more damage.
The timely nature of It’s a Sin being released now allows the viewer to draw links between then and now with the dangers of misinformation. Fake news seemingly didn’t start from an old, orange man shouting it through a screen. In fact, this show tells us how it has always been a prevalent and dangerous issue. Moreover, the current pandemic, like the AIDS epidemic, is still having the most damning effects on marginalised groups. Old, rich, white people are being protected first and foremost with those less fortunate being cruelly left behind. History seems to be repeating its darkest moments.
Covid-19 is spoken about as a once in a lifetime historical event, and while that is true for the younger generation, it is actually the second devastating virus in some peoples’ lives. What we mustn’t forget is the massive impact AIDS had on a whole community.
2020 was a miraculous year in HIV/AIDS history with the first person being cured of HIV. Moreover, the stigma and lies surrounding the virus are being quelled every day. Celebrities like Jonathan Van Ness are doing their part and coming forward as HIV positive to raise awareness and destigmatise this virus. However, Russell T. Davis is worried that because HIV is becoming more manageable, people are becoming complacent about the dangers of the virus. It’s a Sin hits the viewer over the head with the devastating history that the LGBTQ+ community had to face alone, without help from the government- perhaps to encourage a much more serious and mature attitude to the HIV and AIDS.
I believe this show should be a must on everyone’s watchlist. It is informative, beautiful, funny, and tragic. It shows not only the importance of a chosen family but has key characters working hard at being allies to the community. It can be a hard watch at times, but I believe it has left me with a greater knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community to which I belong. That moment in history was so important to a whole generation and I think it is integral we learn from them.
The amazing artwork was provided by Charlotte Pole.
She can be found on Instagram: @gimmethatprint
Her prints are available to purchase on https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Gimmethatprint
When looking at the massive steps that feminism has taken throughout history, there has been an undeniable and constant silencing of Black women throughout. Unfortunately, 2021 hasn’t brought an end to this. I want to use this blog to shed light on the particular issue of one Black woman who is being silenced and ignored. Her name is Chidera Eggerue. The issue is that her original ideas have been stolen and white people are profiting from her own work. I wanted to write on it because it seemed like the people around me had no knowledge of the struggle Eggerue was facing. I hope the platform this blog has can spread awareness of her story and offer the spotlight to Eggerue and her work. You are able to read Eggerue’s complete response to this on her Instagram (@theslumflower) where she has a highlight running through the situation in her own words.
Eggerue rose to fame when she started #saggyboobmovement to encourage a love of one’s skin. She has taken leaps and bounds in her career, publishing two books (What A Time To Be Alone and How To Get Over A Boy) and speaking out in various interviews and on her social media platforms encouraging a movement of self-love and inclusive feminism.
What has recently been brought to light is another white author is profiting from Eggerue’s work. Praise is being sung for the white feminist, Florence Given, and her book ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. This book is very similar both aesthetically and with the content to Eggerue’s ‘What A Time To Be Alone’ which was published two years prior.
Eggerue and Given both worked with the same management- Diving Bell Group- who seemingly saw no plagiarism and no issues between the two books. When Eggurue first spoke up on Instagram explaining her mistreatment and the blatant plagiarism, she posted screenshots of her management who were merely watching her stories and neglecting to speak or rectify things with her. After days of silence from the management, they emailed her to notify of her immediate termination. Eggerue had previously handed in her three-month contract explaining that her needs have changed and how she no longer wanted white people making money off Black people’s resistance to white supremacy. With this, they had agreed to terminate the contract mid-January 2021. Yet, since her vocalising the mistreatment, they emailed her a blunt instant termination. She has made both interactions public on her Instagram.
Eggerue has been honest throughout and has highlighted how she initially endorsed Given to publish her book when she had suggested her ideas. Eggerue believed Given was creating an anthology covering the experiences of women in her audience, not forcing her voice onto Eggerue’s original ideas and profiting off them.
However, since realising the similarities that had been stolen from her original work, she contacted Given in June 2020 about how she was uncomfortable with her ideas being stolen. As nothing changed from the conversation, she is now speaking publicly about it. Eggerue has been transparent- posting conversations she’s had with people and making her side explicitly clear and public.
While Eggerue has been very earnest about her experiences, Diving Bell Group and Given have released formal, cold statements about the situation. Given believes that she was merely *inspired* by Eggerue and believed crediting her in ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ was fair compensation. However, the weight of it being a Black woman having her ideas and work be taken credit for from a white woman laces the situation with an added degree of insidiousness.
Given also brought to light in her statement that she regularly donates money to various charities such as Black Minds Matter as though she is able to pay off her racist actions. Black Minds Matter have since spoken up about how Given and Diving Bell Group should try to compassionately resolve things with Eggerue. It seems very performative to imply that she isn’t racist by donating money to Black charities when we have learnt that being anti-racist takes a lot more than that.
While Diving Bell Group released a shorter, but equally formulaic, statement, they also removed the BLACK LIVES MATTER landing page from their website. It’s indicative of performative racism from their part. Through removing the landing page, it highlights how their support of BLM was only when it was easy for them and not a belief they sincerely uphold.
Eggerue put it perfectly in her book when she wrote ‘Quit over-explaining. The world is still going to judge you.’ The statements from Given and Diving Bell Group are over-explained rather than either party taking any responsibility for their actions or actively trying to make things better. Their (lack of) actions speak louder than their words.
There is another dark aspect to this story based on the marketing of the two books. It brings to light the issue of the very white, very middle-class industries of publishing and marketing. Eggerue has pointed out that she only receives £1.60 from her £12.99 book. It is concerning to wonder who is really making the majority of the profit from her work.
The marketing of the books has also illustrated the inherent racism of the industry. Before Eggerue spoke out, I had seen very little promotion of ‘What A Time To Be Alone’ asides from her speaking about it. Given’s book, however, was everywhere. It was all over social media and in every bookshop.
There have been numerous accounts of people going into bookshops finding Given’s book everywhere but when asking a member of staff, finding that the shop didn’t stock Eggerue’s book at all. This is clear erasure of a Black voice- the Black voice who said it first.
Moreover, when searching online for Eggerue’s book, Given’s is often the second book suggested. (Even, in some cases, the first.) It would be easy to blame this on *the algorithm* but blaming the algorithm feels like a cop-out. If everyone directs their anger to some techno jargon that barely anyone understands, then that misdirects the anger onto a faceless concept. It means the people who are responsible for putting down another Black, female voice are off the hook when they should be held accountable for this being able to happen.
I had seen Given’s ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ all over my social media for a few months. Every platform was promoting it despite me not following Given, herself. When I saw the initial statement from Eggurue, I bought and read both in order of publication. My take-away was that the books are undeniably similar- even the title of Given’s book is a phrase reworded from ‘What A Time To Be Alone’- ‘I do not owe anybody “pretty”’. Reading one after the other was a weird feeling. Like finishing one book and picking up the sequel where the author just repeats the plot of the first in a less eloquent tone.
One of the most ironic parts of Given’s book, I found on the back. The words ‘the game-changing book that every woman needs’ are embossed on the back. The irony is palpable. ‘Game-changing’- I was confused when I read that because the first page of her book mentions not only Eggerue but also the other women who ‘inspired’ this book. It is not game-changing, it is standing on the shoulders of numerous Black women who changed the game first.
However, one difference I found between the two was the effect they had on me. Eggerue’s book felt like a warm, maternal hug that was deepened by her mother’s sayings peppered into the pages. It was inclusive, understanding, and powerful. I came away from reading that book with a better understanding of feminism and of myself. It helped me to recognize my own actions and the actions of others.
Given’s book took a harsher stance which I felt was rooted in second-wave feminism. Second-wave feminism came about in the 1960’s and encouraged women against being housewives and living off their husbands’ money. Often women were brought up believing being a housewife was their only option so second wave feminism fell on them like a tonne of bricks saying the only way to be a feminist was by fitting in with their particular criteria. Feminism has adapted since with the idea that women can of course be housewives- the important point being that they choose to be.
The strict rules of what feminism is, is something that I felt when reading ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. When writing about the change feminism has on peoples’ lives, Given states ‘one minute “chick flicks” are your favourite movies, the next they’re the stereotype-perpetuating garbage that you blame for making you crave male validation.’ I appreciate that rom-coms aren’t cinematic history and it is important to know that often they don’t portray healthy, functioning relationships but I think it unfair to write them off when people get somewhat harmless enjoyment out of them. In comparison, action movies aren’t particularly cinematic films either, but they’re projected more for male consumption so is that why they’re not torn apart as much and still consumable for feminists? I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but it was something that really stuck with me when reading her work.
The most important thing that I want you to take away from this blog is what Eggerue has said she wants to happen. She has been clear that we can support her in numerous ways. The first of course, would be to read in her own words on her Instagram about this situation. Another, is people are sending money via her paypal link in her Instagram stories. They are sending the equivalent of buying one of her books thus ensuring all the money goes directly to her and stops white people profiting off her Black story.
Her most recent post on Instagram is about the reparations she deserves. Considering Eggerue is the one who has been wronged, it only makes sense for these to be on her terms. She is asking for the royalties of her work to be returned to her.
It may seem an obvious solution but Given has retaliated by hiring lawyers (Law being another dangerously white industry) in what can only be viewed as an attempt to scare Eggerue into being silent and complicit. Thankfully, that didn’t work.
Eggerue also spoke about how difficult it is to navigate this situation alone and has highlighted how people who she thought would stand by her, haven’t. We need to do what we can to support her. She has stood up for herself when she has been wronged. Her work opened the door for so many and she needs to be celebrated for this. She deserves better. She deserves the mic back.
Winter is usually a busy and hectic time of year. It is often the most frantic period for businesses, and schools and universities are often run off their feet with exams. I knew I wanted to write an article about this time of year but my plan for it changed so many times (sorry, editors!) and I think that reflects how unsettled this winter will be compared to previous ones.
Normally, I spend December rushing around a cafe serving coffee to disgruntled Christmas shoppers while trying to fit in seeing all my friends and family. Then, for the rest of winter, I am left catching up on everything I put off over the festive period. This year I am probably doing neither. At first, I was looking at this situation from a fatalistic point of view- that there was nothing I could do to change this and that I should direct my energy towards making the most of a relaxing, much more chilled out winter.
I am still clawing at keeping that mentality but in the U.K, the rules seem to be constantly changing. Christmas, for example, was pretty much cancelled leaving me a little setback. My plans had to change again- I was no longer able to see some of my family that I have spent every Christmas with up till now. I am not alone in this. It has been hard to see so many families who had to quickly rearrange their plans and work hard to stick to the rules. It left many people I know stranded in cities and unable to visit any family at all.
In the U.K., our Prime Minister ordered a hasty change to the restrictions over Christmas. He had initially released a set of rules to be put in place to slightly relax the constraints that allowed three households to mix over five days for various Christmas meetups. These rules were announced weeks ago, and people made plans accordingly. Since, he has backtracked and changed those rules almost completely. The new orders vary depending on the place in the U.K. where you live. Regardless, there are restrictions across the board. The execution of the latest announcement ran parallel to when Boris Johnson effectively cancelled the Eid celebrations back in May, mere hours before it was meant to begin.
Of course, the restrictions for a lockdown are understandable and everyone wants to see the end of the spread of Co-vid 19. However, to create such strict rules with little notice ignores the fact that people have already been preparing for Christmas, similar to the way people had prepared for Eid. There were stories from May of people who had already arrived at family houses for Eid before it had been cancelled. It is difficult to prepare for the rules when they seem to be able to change at any time. At this point, it just seems cruel to have dangled that five-day grace period, to then take it away just days before the event. I am confident that these rules will continue to adapt to the situation, as they should, but I find it difficult to prepare mentally for an unforeseeable future.
I have found that this year my winter will undoubtedly be different. There have been so many changes already. While there are aspects that I have missed, there have also been many parts that I have enjoyed that I wouldn’t have done without these restrictions. My Christmas was spent mainly on my laptop speaking to family members I never usually get to spend that day with. Normally, Christmas is an intimate affair with my immediate family and the days leading up to and following on from are spent visiting other members of the family. However, this year I spoke to nearly all of my family in one day. I still got to share it, to a degree, with people very close to me. It was a unique experience that I will cherish.
I’ve often found kindness and patience to be the answer to most problems. (Although, my inner feminist wonders if that is just how I have been conditioned to think, as a woman.) I think they are two things that everyone could benefit from especially at this time. It is impossible to know what is ever going through someone’s head, but it is undeniable that no-one is in the situation they thought they would be this time last year. So, kindness and patience are something I’m taking forward these next months.
The future is very much uncertain. While the new restrictions have been a blow to me, I am trying to see that I have to make the most of what I do have (even if it is different). Change encourages us to live in the moment. Or it reminds us that even if things aren’t quite as we want them to be, it won’t stay this way forever. I guess what I’m trying to say is, no matter what situation you’re in at the moment, it won’t be this way forever. We either make the most of the joy or we sit tight and wait for things to move on.
Everyone has collectively experienced some degree of restrictions from the pandemic and it has drawn a connection between everyone. From me writing, to you reading, we have made it through 2020. Who knows what 2021 will bring, but we will make it.
My hometown of Manchester, England, has always been known as a friendly city, but it is so much more than that. It has always been one of England’s most progressive cities and is populated with people brave enough to stand, protest, occupy when there is mistreatment. This has been the case since the early 19th century when Manchester was the backdrop for The Peterloo Massacre. What began as a peaceful protest for the vote to be allowed to more than just the wealthy, landowning citizens, turned into a brutal attack to those who were protesting. While this historic event was a tragedy, it is recognised as a powerful movement for democracy in this country. Since then, Manchester has been the base for numerous protests and the people of the city have upheld the legacy. One of the most notable and widely watched protests currently happening in the city is a group of students from the University of Manchester who have previously occupied one of the university buildings due to the dissatisfaction with the way the university has treated them.
The students have already had a significant win. After a two-week occupation in a university building, they were awarded a 30% rent reduction for all students in Halls of Residence. To put this in more visceral terms, that is a six-week rent repayment for the students. However, the occupiers weren’t taking such actions for a rent reduction alone. Their demands are:
As distressing as this is, it is unfortunately not a standalone case of the university’s mistreatment. The students who occupied the Halls have been voicing the issues for most of the academic year, whether it is fridges breaking , heating not working, or (the worst, in my opinion) rats and other pests infesting the flats. There have been multiple reports of students having to sleep on the floor after accommodations had flooded. These poor living conditions are where students have been forced to spend all their time when in-person lectures were cancelled very early on in the academic year.
There was another awful incident on the university campus in early November where a young male student was racially profiled by a security guard who believed he was a drug dealer. The occupiers were quick to use their growing voice to speak out about the injustice of the situation and the impact it has on the students who live there. The Vice-Chancellor, Nancy Rothwell, decided to speak to national news rather than address and reassure her students. She claimed, on television, that she had written to the student to offer her apologies. When the occupiers brought to light that this was a lie, she had to come forward and admit her mistake. She sent out a relatively emotionless video to the students and wider public admitting that she had lied. What this shows is how her public image outside of the university appears more important than the welfare of the students who are paying and funding the organisation.