Choosing To Do It Alone : Self-Publishing My New Book

Why I Went It Alone

Asking for help isn’t something I’m particularly good at, especially when it comes down to self-publishing my books. The moment I’ve asked someone for help with a project, I feel vulnerable, small and very much aware of my shortcomings. (Or rather, what I’ve thought in the past were my shortcomings…)

It’s quite a pressurizing thing to do – ask for help. Especially when you’re asking for help with something that is practically your baby, and especially when you’re an anxious introvert.

I know that in the past when I’ve had help putting together a book, I was forever asking myself questions like ‘shit, would they be angry if I emailed to see how things are going?’ or ‘am I going to be happy with how everything looks when they send it over?’ or ‘is something more important going to come up for them, and they’re going to have to ditch the favour they’re doing for me?’

I’ve had two poetry collections published traditionally by Mudfog Press and Nordland Publishing, and I’ve self-published five. My Father The Wendigo is the fifth, and for all expect this one, I’ve reached out for help with moving it from manuscript form in Microsoft Word to an actual, tangible book.

While I’m hugely, and I mean HUGELY grateful for every second anyone has devoted to my creative cause, I find that the older I get, the more involved and responsible I want to be for every stage of the publishing process. When I’m responsible, I’m on my clock, nobody else, and I don’t have to put anyone other than myself under pressure to get a project completed.


There are times though, as someone trying to make their living from their creativity, when I really do need to ask for help. In the instance of my Patreon page, for example. I still struggle to talk about my Patreon page, and always hesitate before writing about it. But I’m teaching myself to relax. I’m teaching myself to be okay with asking for support with making a living as a writer.

With My Father The Wendigo, I decided I needed to stop umming and ahhing over whether I was going to ask for help, and instead teach myself everything I needed to know to turn the document that had been hanging around on my desktop for months into a published book.

From Microsoft Word Document To Tangible Book

After my sister had proofread my completed manuscript (frugal writer tip: get a member of the family who excels with spelling and grammar to do your proofreading!) I taught myself how to insert a contents page on Microsoft Word (took me a while because of pregnancy brain. I also couldn’t have done it without the help of YouTube) followed by a triple check of the document just to be sure.

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I’ve used Create Space before – though not with a book from scratch – so I already had an account set up. It was quick to log in and before long I was comfortable again with my surroundings.

The first two steps were simple enough – logging my title and ISBN information.

Note: Create Space offer you a free ISBN so don’t go buying one!)

Then came the interior step.

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I chose the colour of the paper I wanted (white) and the interior type (black and white) and the trim size. I’m terrible when it comes to measurements, so I spent about half an hour checking out my previous books to ensure that I was going for the right size.

Then I uploaded my manuscript, and Create Space gave me back a formatted document to make any necessary changes to. One of the first things I noticed about the document was that the font style I’d used for the cover page, contents page and poem titles wasn’t the Casablanca Antique style I’d initially used, but a standard font instead. Create Space helpfully left a message saying that to be able to use Casablanca, I’d need to download it to my Microsoft Word program. Did it and thus fixed the issue.

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I re-uploaded my manuscript and it went through the Create Space print check, coming back to me with no issues. (You won’t know how amazing it feels to have ‘no issues’ with your project until you’ve worked with Create Space!) The next step was to upload the cover.

To make my cover, I used Canva, a thoroughly excellent graphic design website and initially, my cover looked like this:

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But I had a change of heart, and started over with a new image and layout at the last minute. (Another reason I think it’s better I work for myself.)

With a Canva For Work account, you can upload your own font and get access to dozens more features than aren’t available when you have a regular account. Though the regular free account does the job too, really, really well in fact.

I uploaded the same font as I’d used on the interior – Casablanca Antique and found an image that worked much better with the premise of the collection (The previous image had been my own, and while I liked it…I had a hunch that it wasn’t quite right.)

Once the front cover was completed, I moved onto working with the back cover and the spine. Now, I’ve only ever given the thumbs up or thumbs down when it’s come to the design of back cover and the spine, so it was new territory.

I decided to go minimal, and started off with a black spine and back cover, but something about it wasn’t working for me. So instead I opted for a clean, white colour and on the back cover featured only the name of my newly established press, Katie Untamed Press and a link to the website.

I went back to Create Space and accessed their own cover designer. They have about twenty of so themes to choose from for your book cover, but I opted for one of the two themes that enables you to upload your cover, front and back, as JPEG images.

Now, the cover designer on Create Space does feels a bit dated. Okay, a lot dated. Like it’s exactly the same as it was back when it was first launched in the early 2000’s. But it does the job, so I can’t really complain.

I chose a matte finish over glossy. Something about matte just really works. Self-published books with a glossy finish, I think, look self-published, and while your book is self-published, you don’t want people to think it is.

Note: If you’re going to self-publish, do try and create your own cover, try and avoid going with a Create Space already made template as they look badly put together and old…like those self-published books of eons ago.

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The next step was to choose the channels through which I wanted my book to be distributed, how much I wanted to sell it for and the description. The description is probably one of the most challenging parts of the process because you want it to be spot on. I can’t remember how many edits I did of the description…but it borders on fucking ridiculous.

Note: I highly recommend that you spend some time working on a description for your book before you begin the publishing process on Create Space. Make sure you have a short author bio ready too. It’s a great thing if you have a few reviews from folk from which you could extract some choice lines and put them in after the description.

As you’ll be able to see above, Create Space does have an excellent Project Homepage with an organised list showing you where you’re at with the process, so it’s easy to keep track of what needs to be done.

It’s a pain in the arse having to wait for your book to go through it’s final review before it’s ready to be printed – usually about 24 hours – but it’s oh so worth it.

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While preparing my book for publication was easier than I’d expected, there were struggles and there were mistakes made and there were delays, but I reached the end of the road a more learned and content woman, glad that she’d decided to bypass asking for help and instead learn to do it her bloody self.

I know now that, when it comes to sharing my books with you, the only person I need to rely on is myself, and that’s a deeply satisfying thought.

Through this post, I want to encourage self-publishing authors who haven’t before tried to put their books together from scratch, to give it a go. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need, so that if you decide you want to rely on yourself to put your book together, then you’re more than capable.

My book My Father The Wendigo is available to buy now. If you find yourself with a copy, I’d love for you to get in touch and let me know your thoughts on it.

*I will be doing a giveaway of My Father The Wendigo over on my Instagram page in the coming weeks, if you’re interested in potentially nabbing yourself a free copy.

*I will be doing a slightly more personal post over on Patreon about self-publishing my book My Father The Wendigo. If you would like to read it, all you need to do is sign up and become a Patron for as little as $1 a month.


My Mother : The Tender Warrior

Where do I even begin when it comes to talking about the miracle that is my mother? The most tender warrior, the most patient teacher, the most generous heart.

I don’t believe in Mother’s Day really (it lands on the 11th of March in the UK). I believe in celebrating our mothers no matter which date is up on our calendars. And when I say celebrate, I mean gestures like a smile instead of an attitude problem, I mean dinner prepared when she imagines she’ll to have to do it, I mean a call  when she isn’t expecting one. Something to make our mothers conscious that they aren’t invisible, that they have a value that nobody else could match up to.

Since moving to Sweden, I often replay times in my head when I was an absolute shit to my mother. When I made her life painful and sad and difficult. And I feel this heavy ache in my rib cage. I feel this overwhelming need just to hold her and tell her ‘mum, you’re fucking remarkable, do you know that? Thank you for always getting back up after you’ve been knocked down. I love you. I really, really love you.’

The majority of the time, I’ll cry a little bit, because I can’t just run into the next room and see her face. I didn’t think my mother could become more precious, but nowadays, I soak up the time I get to be with her – on the phone or when we’re in the same country – and it gives me more life that I had before. (I’ve just got off the phone from her where I was complaining about my hands smelling of the falafel I cooked for dinner. She told me to wash my hands with a spoon and the smell would go. Unsurprisingly, she was right.)

I know a lot of strong women, I do, but my mother has this almost inhuman ability to cope with situations that would leave many others running for the hills.

When I was a child, she worked three jobs so I could go to a good school. She nurtured my creative, hungry spirit with almost daily library trips. She read bedtime stories even when it wasn’t bedtime. She made everything into an adventure; a trip to the supermarket, a stop off at the second hand store, an hour long drive to visit grandparents. She encouraged me to pursue every phase I went through, with no judgement. She said yes more than she said no, but she didn’t take any shit.

When I was anorexic teen, my mother was always present, always trying to guide me in the direction of recovery. When I was admitted into hospital she visited every Thursday and gave me every single one of her weekends. She gave and gave and gave herself, putting her own life to one side to concentrate on helping me to recover mine.

When I was diagnosed with bi-polar and psychosis in my twenties, she let me come home. She let me sleep in her bed when I was adamant I was going to die. She drove me to the pharmacy at midnight on her birthday when I needed a sedative medication to calm me the fuck down. For weeks while I could hardly get out of bed, she stroked my hair and cooked my favourite food and made me tea and read to me and massaged me and had patience enough that no saint could ever hope to compete.

Now, as I sit here typing this with a baby blooming in my belly, I know all she has ever done, since the moment she found out I was curled underneath her ribs, was give her purest love. The most important love. Love I will never feel like I’m without.

Why I Changed The Name Of My Blog

Swedes have this way of being direct. I’d go so far as to say sometimes they can be TOO direct. But t’other day I appreciated my man’s directness much more than I usually do. Why? Because he was talking about this blog.

‘You know…’ he said, swiping through my photographs on my Instagram, ‘when you come to a page that says Untamed Homemaker you expect most of the content to be about the home. You expect DIY and furnishings and that sort of stuff. Your page is just all, well, winter selfies.’ (It’s not ALL winter self-portraits, but annoyingly I could see where he was coming from.)


After spending two or three mortified minutes staring at my hands, I probed him to talk more, and sat quietly while he did just that. I swallowed my difficult to ingest pride and took on-board his constructive criticism.

My blog isn’t all about keeping home, as you’ll see if you look back through the dozen or so posts that I’ve birthed. It’s about unconventional living. It’s about being imperfect and, importantly, being unapologetic about being imperfect. It’s about frugal living and mental health and writing and crafting and motherhood and environmentalism and travel and food and relationships and mindfulness and what inspires me and what infuriates me and offering advices and all the rest of it. And there’s a LOT of ‘the rest of it’ because no one day is the same.

This blog isn’t about just one part of life, it’s about EVERYTHING LIFE. And the title I had chosen, Untamed Homemaker wasn’t doing my space and the work that went into it justice. I’m madly curious to know how many people haven’t bothered to check out what I do because they’ve thought all I talk about was home furnishings or whatever.

One of the first thoughts I had was ‘for fucks sake, who is going to take me seriously as a blogger now? I mean, I’ve only just set up this blog and I’m already changing the name? Maybe I should just stick with it and save myself the embarrassment.’

But I did that thing again that most of us need to do more often – I swallowed my pride. I reminded myself that I’m not perfect, that growth is about change, that I don’t have to say sorry to anyone for modifying my online presence. This blog is one of the creative acts in my life,  and, like the brilliant Julia Cameron says in her book The Artist’s Way…

‘….creativity lies not in the done but the doing.’

It took me a hell of a long time to come up with Untamed Homemaker – like over a week – but it’s taken me a hell of a long time to come up with a title for all the blogs I’ve had over the years. And there’s been quite a few.

I decided I didn’t want to spend weeks pondering over the name change for this blog, primarily because it was literally impossible to blog when I had the task of finding a new name pressing down on me.

Thankfully, Katie Untamed came to me pretty quickly, as did the tagline.  There was a lot of umming and ahhing over whether I should use Katie in the title or not. I didn’t feel that using my full name would be enticing enough for readers at all, but Katie Untamed, well, there’s some intrigue there. I feel that what I have now reveals my blog’s identity for real and I think I’m going to be happily stuck in love with this one for years to come.

Things To Do Before My Daughter Leaves The Womb

I literally have no idea where the past eight months have gone. I feel like I need another eight to prepare for daughter’s arrival because it doesn’t seem like I’ve been pregnant the way a woman should be pregnant, if that makes sense. I feel as though she deserves to live in my womb a bit longer, so I can get my motherhood shit together before her arrival.

My belly was so small for so long (it was probably normal, but you know…) that it felt surreal to say I was pregnant to anyone, and it was too easy to forget sometimes, because I just wasn’t used to having a little somebody growing in my belly.

Then suddenly my thigh gap disappeared, I couldn’t see my feet, my heart was burning, I wanted to chew tyres and it was becoming more difficult to do everyday stuff, like jump up from bed, shave my legs or eat just one piece of chocolate. And she started to move. To make herself known.

I feel like there’s a hundred thousand things I should have done and didn’t. And I feel guilty about it. I should have talked to her more regularly, I should have taken more photos of my changing body (for the physical photo album, not Facebook or Instagram), I should have eaten more organic sweet potatoes and drank more water from mountain streams and done my pelvic floor exercises in the sun…

But there’s still a month to go and time for me to better prepare myself and our home for the arrival. At least I hope so…


Things That Need To Be Done In March

Hospital Bags Packed

I’ve spent a ton of time looking for the right bags to bring with us to the hospital when the time comes (one for me, one for baby) but none I’ve found are working for me. They’re just bags, I knowbut then again they’re not just bags. They’ll be the most important bags I’ve ever packed. I want them to be right.

In each bag, there needs to be more pockets than I can count, and enough space to hold a small planet. I want them be canvas or leather or something sturdy enough that I’ll feel like an actual adult who’s in control when I carry them.

Visions of us cramming everything into plastic carrier bags and my totes made from old band t-shirts have been haunting me, and that’s not how I want it to be. I want to go into this prepped as fuck with bags that says ‘I’m prepared for anything, especially having a baby.’

I’m giving myself one week from today to find the right bags and get them packed and ready with the following:

For Me

  • Maternity notes, birth plan, ID, European Health Insurance Card
  • A dressing gown, preferably to my ankles and with a massive hood
  • A few pairs of knee high socks because giving birth doesn’t mean anyone needs to see my swollen feet, plus my circulation is shitty so they’re always icy cold
  • Old, oversized t-shirt of a band I don’t care for much anymore to give birth in
  • Half a dozen lips balms because lip balms like to hide
  • Gallons of Oatly in the little cartons with the straws
  • Several lunch boxes of energy balls and flapjack that I’ve handmade at home, plenty enough that Sebastian doesn’t have to leave the room to go hunting for food
  • New books that I’ve bought especially for the occasion
  • Notebook and about a hundred pens because pens are even worse than lip balms for hiding
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • A change of clothes
  • Camera and all of my memory cards
  • Nursing bra and breast pads
  • Comfy pillow
  • Maternity pads
  • Toiletries including deodorant
  • The cleanest towels we have
  • Medication

For Baby

  • A couple of sleepsuits
  • Baby blanket
  • Cuddly polar bear
  • Nappies
  • Muslin squares
  • Socks and booties
  • Hat
  • Going home outfit
  • Baby car seat
  • Snowsuit because I can bet it’s still going to be freezing when she arrives

Breathing Exercises

I thought I would get offered ‘how to breathe when birthing’ classes pretty early on in my pregnancy, but as yet nothing has been spoken of. Instead of being proactive and asking about them, I’ve just waited and waited and waited for the midwife to say something. Now I’m counting on YouTube to be my guide. But it’ll be fine.

Storage Solutions

I’ve been fretting over our storage issue for a few months, but in the next week I’ll be going from room to room, accessing the wall and floor space for what we can bring home to store all of the new baby stuff that’s started pouring in.

Once there’s some sort of a plan mapped out, we’ll launch ourselves at the nearest IKEA, and stalk the second hand stores for shelving, little drawers, under-the-bed storage boxes…and all the rest of it, until I’m satisfied everything has a place to live.

Good Food In The Freezer

In two weeks from now, the freezer will be packed to bursting with homemade lasagna, soup and pizza, enough to last at least seven days after we’ve brought baby home.

Clean The Home

The last deep clean I did was at the beginning of the year, when I could still move relatively quickly, and vacuuming the apartment didn’t give me horrendous back ache. This next deep clean will done for baby ASAP, before she grows much more.

This apartment is going to smell good, look good and feel good when we bring her home. I’ve been efficient, since the last deep clean, of keeping on top of things…mostly that is. Mostly because dust is a bastard to maintain any form of control over.

Drink More Water

Drinking enough water has been something I’ve struggled with throughout my whole pregnancy, and I feel awful about it. I’d good days, where I’ll be all efficient and drink until I could hear it sloshing in my belly. Then I’ll have a few bad days where I’d only remember to drink water when it was time to go to bed. I’m making a sign to go on the fridge – seen as though that’s where I spend most of my time these days – telling me when I should be filling up with the pure, cold stuff.

Stock Up On Books, Notebooks and Craft Materials

There’s going to be a lot of sitting with baby for the first few weeks, while she does newborn baby things. So I want to have a new stack of books to read through, a few dozen notebooks because I’m lost without them and craft materials so I can make little things like a dreamcatcher for the window or a headband made from old t-shirts.

Talk More To Baby Bump

When I talk to baby, it’s usually when we’re outside and navigating the ice and snow. I tell her everything is going to be ok, that we’re not going to fall, and that’s she’s all protected. I do it really, really quietly though. Speaking out loud to my belly has felt a little bit weird. I do have a plan to make it easier though, and throughout March will read one children’s book a day to her, one day in English, the next in Swedish. Today I owe her two reads.

Wash Baby’s Clothes And Bedding

As much as it feels odd to wash clean clothes, I’d rather spend a few hours washing to ensure that everything is safe and soft for baby than see her flare up in rashes. Plus, I think hanging up little baby grows to dry will really bring it home that I’m going to be a mamma.

Learn How To Install The Carseat

This is probably the thing I’m least looking forward to doing. Me and carseats don’t get along. Though I think, once I’ve mastered it (I have no idea how long that’s going to take me…baby might be two before I can take over from her Pappa) I’ll feel capable of pretty much anything.

Decide On A Name

I was under the impression that choosing the name for our baby was going to happen so easily, so naturally, so soon, but it’s hard. I didn’t realise how picky I was until I’d looked through thousands of names, and none of them cut it. But, I think we’re pretty close to making a decision now…after 8 months of indecisiveness. Sweet.



Short Hair : My Verdict

It’s been just over a week since I went ice blonde Pixie. I’ve had time to live with my new hair, to wash it, style it (sort of) and leave the house with it. And there’s been no wet faced moment of regret, where, with a cracked voice, I’ve whispered into the mirror ‘what the hell have I done?’ No, instead I love it, I love it, I love it.


Going from black to blonde – despite the trauma of bleaching and the persistently damp locks (it became too porous to dry properly) – has helped me to, step by step, re-discover myself and what I’m about. This week, for the first time since I had my hair dyed black when I was 16 did it hit me like an asteroid, that long, black hair wasn’t my everything.

Before the cut, I was carrying around dead weight which, if I’m being honest with myself, never would have magically come back to life to make me happy again, no matter how many intensive conditioner treatments I slathered onto it, or how often I tenderly fondled my matted hunk of hair and begged it to come back from its bleak and broken state.

It just had to go.


I’m usually indecisive as fuck, and can take eons to make a decision about sometime as important as my hair…so when I decided to get it (pretty much) all off, I felt PROUD of myself. So proud.

I can’t say I’ve felt in control much mentally when it’s come to my hair. Over the past 15 years or so I’ve let my anxiety take the reins whenever I’ve had so much as a fleeting idea about making any kind of change.

I’d have ridiculous thoughts such as ‘you can’t cut it, you won’t be weird anymore…long, black hair isn’t only your thing it’s your identity…you can use it to hide your moon face…you need it to hide your moon face…if people are looking at your hair, they’re not looking at your moon face…don’t get it cut, don’t get the colour changed!’

Going Pixie has meant that I haven’t been able to hide my face like I’m used to, and I’m not going to lie, on some days that’s been hard. But slowly, slowly I’m adjusting to having my face ‘out there,’ and I’m trying to accept that maybe other people don’t see the moon shaped piece of meat that I’ve come to view it as. In the past when people have asked me ‘what’s wrong with your face?’ I’ve almost felt like they’ve been taking the piss...that they know exactly what’s wrong with it.


Before it was gone, I would sometimes put off washing my hair for days because it was just too much to deal with. But now I’m done in lightning time, and from the looks of things, a bottle of shampoo will last me about 12 months.

In the past week and a bit, I’ve had to do things I never, ever expected I’d do, like go to YouTube to watch videos on how best to blow dry short hair and use wax to style. By going Pixie and ice blonde, I’ve ventured into territory I’ve never before charted, but my instinct tells me it’s the best thing I could have done for myself. And I believe it.

For those of you who have a Pixie or are thinking about getting a Pixie or are just curious about the Pixie, I’ve made a board on Pinterest where I’m gathering all sorts of inspiration.


Honing My Craft : Mslexia (The Digital Edition)

As a writer, there will never come a time when I’m not honing my craft. There will never come a time when I’ll ‘know all there is to know.’ There will never come a time when I can, or will announce, ‘I’ve written everything I have to say, there is no more…’ Because there is always, always, always more. And I think that’s extremely fucking exciting.

While putting words down is fundamental to my development – you can’t hone if you have nothing to work with – reading is the second most important form of action I can take.

I make time for it every day (I’d be so out of whack if I didn’t) and I choose my reading wisely. (If we’re not counting memes that is…or scrappy pieces of click bait that manage to snag my attention before I’ve had time to shout DON’T YOU DARE! at myself.)

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made when it comes to reading on writing was to subscribe to the print edition of Mslexia almost a decade ago. This UK based magazine for women who write is dedicated to supporting female writers on their creative journeys, and I believe, hand on heart, that other than writing her heart out, joining the Mslexia movement is one of the smartest things a female writer can do for herself.

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Mslexia tells you all you need to know about exploring your creativity and getting into print. No other magazine provides Mslexia‘s unique mix of debate and analysis, advice and inspiration; news, reviews, interviews; competitions, events, courses, grants. All served up with a challenging selection of new poetry and prose.

Mslexia is read by top authors and absolute beginners. A quarterly masterclass in the business and psychology of writing, it’s the essential magazine for women who write.

We are a vibrant, ambitious and growing organisation, commissioning work by prominent authors as well as talented newcomers. We aim to provide a high-profile platform for new and established voices with every copy of the magazine. Since the magazine was launched in 1999, Mslexia has become the magazine for women writers to submit to. If you want to take your writing more seriously – or have some serious fun with your creativity.

I stopped subscribing to Mslexia a while back, when I needed to save pennies for my move to Scandinavia, and how I mourned it. My mum would send over my old copies and they were the greatest source of comfort and inspiration.

It was towards the end of 2018 when I thought it was about time I invest in my craft again. But the subscription was that little bit too much. I believed I’d need to pull back, and try and accept I’d continue having to do without. Then I realised there were digital editions available, and I could purchase single issues for £5 a pop.

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At first I ignored this opportunity. I’ve never been much of a fan of reading magazines online, always preferring the printed option, but after a couple of weeks, I couldn’t stand to know there were issues waiting to be read, knowledge waiting to be gathered and connections waiting to be made.

So I ordered a copy, the latest one (Issue 76). A code and password were delivered immediately to my inbox, and a few minutes after buying, I was reading the editor’s letter from my laptop screen.

I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to concentrate, but as it turns out, I was just as focused on the digital edition as when I used to read the print version. If not more so. I felt like I’d come home, albeit to a slightly more technologically advanced home.

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One of the most fabulous things with Mslexia is their use of space. They use all of it. I’m not a lover of magazines where there’s too much white space. I see it as a waste.

Mslexia always promises pages dense with really good stuff which makes opening a copy that much more thrilling…knowing there’s a mountain of text waiting to be conquered. The only place you’ll find white space is where it’s really needed, for example the Showcase section featuring the prose and poetry of Mslexia readers.

Mslexia is an intelligent, no-bullshit, consistently engaging read, and it isn’t afraid of approaching controversial or touchy topics. For example, in the latest issue there’s a feature on the dangers of writing tuition, as well as a piece on continuing on after rejection. In every issue there’s always plenty of room for readers to share their voices and be discovered in dozens of different ways.

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Each issue is eclectic in the subjects it tackles, and gives as much attention to poetry and short stories as it does to more mainstream literature. And, importantly, it’s always bang up to date with what’s happening in the writing and publishing world – it’s been this way since I first started reading almost a decade ago.

It’s so hard to choose a favourite section of the magazine because it’s all useful, but there always seems to be a feature which feels it was written just for me. The creative exercises always help me to get out of rut. And the creativity and publishing news brings me right up to date.

One section which always sees my marker pen, is the Open For Submissions section which lists publishers and magazines which are open for writers to submit their work.

In Issue 76 here’s some of what you can expect to find:

  • Writing in the world: cancer, with Susmita Bhattacharya
  • Noticeboard
  • Spread the love: writers’ collectives
  • Get creative with podcasts
  • Blogwatch
  • Creativity news
  • Writing exercises
  • What’s the point? Karon Alderman on why she keeps writing in the face of rejection
  • Musical theatre: Susannah Pearse on putting on a show
  • Poetry challenge: specular poetry, selected by Linda France
  • A visit to nowhere: Sita Brand on how meditation can aid your writing
  • Début author: Chitra Ramaswamy
  • Six best women in translation
  • Books about writing
  • Fiction issues: fairy tales by Zoë Marriott
  • Short story news
  • Short story review by Alice Slater
  • Short story heroes: Sarah Hall

While Mslexia is published in the UK, its pages are open for women across the world. It would seem just as many women from abroad submit as women from the UK. Moreover, all of the content in the magazine is relevant and valuable, in some way or another, no matter which continent you live on, or in which field of writing you’re working in.

If you want to buy the digital or print edition of Issue 76, purchase other issues or sign up for a subscription, you can do so here.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been a long-term reader of Mslexia, or have recently discovered it. Leave your thoughts in the comment box below!







Some Truths From The Third Trimester

uh 10

  • Getting anywhere takes fucking ages.
  • Putting on my socks is like a full on workout.
  • When I get into the shower, I need to hold onto the wall.
  • I don’t wear anything on my feet when I go out other than snow boots. Partly because they keep my feet warm, and me and baby safe as the grip on them is epic, and partly because I’d need to bend down too far and tie laces if I wanted to put anything else on, and it just isn’t worth it.
  • I can no longer see what I’m supposed to be shaving, so I just blindly attack and hope for the best.
  • I’m just as picky about what baby clothes I buy as I am about the clothes I buy for myself. Probably even more so.
  • I worry that I haven’t done enough to celebrate my belly.
  • I sometimes mourn my thigh gap.
  • Regularly it’ll happen that I’ll shave one underarm and forget to do the other because I get distracted by something, like the baby kicking or a thought about what I’m going to eat next.
  • Getting in/out of bed, the car or the sofa gracefully is a thing of the past.
  • I literally cannot stop thinking about tyres, their smell, their texture and how much I need to chew one.
  • Getting dressed/undressed is mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Sometimes, I’ll go to bed in my clothes because I’m just too knackered to get undressed.
  • A dog just has to walk by for me to burst into tears. At this point, I want to adopt every neglected animal in the world.
  • If I nearly slip over on the snow/ice my head screams T H E  B A B Y!!!!!!
  • If I forget to wash an apple/pear/carrot before eating it, I think ‘FOR FUCKS SAKE! I’ve really screwed up here. She’s going to be irreparably damaged now from all those chemicals!’
  • I want my mum close by all the time, so she can feel the baby moving and give me all her wisdom.
  • I regularly feel depressed that my mum and I can’t go baby shopping together, and that it’ll have to wait until little one gets here.
  • I want my dad close by all the time too, so he can feel baby kick and reminisce about when I was a bump .
  • It’s a very rare day that my legs, ankles and feet aren’t swollen and hurting. I treasure those rare days.
  • Having my feet massaged while on the couch in the evening is probably my favourite part of the day.
  • My life has started to revolve around vanilla milkshake. I used to frequent McDonalds (I know I’ll be damned for it) for my fix. But, as the Swedish ‘large’ is actually a medium size at best to the rest of the world, I’ve started making my own at home where I’m solely responsible for the quantities.
  • Heartburn, I’ve come to learn, takes pity on nobody, no matter that you’ve just eaten an apple and should NOT be experiencing heartburn in the first place.
  • Peeing is pretty much my life now. There is often more pee after I thought I’d finished peeing.
  • Before I leave the house to go anywhere, I don’t need to crap. I make sure I don’t need to crap. Five minutes after I’ve left the house and it feels like baby is thoroughly massaging my bowel, but I can’t go anywhere other than home because it’s a pregnancy crap and they’re about as unpredictable as you’re going to get and it isn’t fair to put unsuspecting strangers through that.
  • Sleeping through the night is now a thing of legend.

But it’s all totally worth it to be carrying around two hearts.


The Saga Of My Hair

For my 16th birthday, I had my hair dyed black. I was Goth to the bone back in those days, and my hair needed to be midnight black. I’d experimented minimally with my locks up until that point – a semi-permanent purple colour at 13 and the odd red henna application every now and then in the years that followed.

I don’t think my dad liked it much, he thought it made me look ‘hard’ and ‘severe,’ but my parents were free with letting their brood express themselves. I see that in itself as a blessing. Back then, I felt the black hair completed me. I was finally my ‘truest self.’ I suppose that’s what every Goth kid thinks when their hair finally matches everything else in their life. I vowed I’d never go back, that I’d ‘be black haired forever.’

And for a long time, it looked like it would be that way. My hair was, for years, my armour, my confidant, my everything. I felt I was truly a part of something…I was ‘one of the others.’  I was adamant that my hair was very much a part of what defined me. My entirely black ensemble and darkened interests were what people knew me for. I embodied my (old) email address – morbidmaiden.

Having long hair meant I wasn’t able to dye it myself – nor did I dare. And so my mum was my go-to. Up until recently, I’ve had her say to me, “This is the last time I do this!”

She’d been saying that line for over a decade, but still put up with my whining about needing my roots doing, and still she put up with having black hair dye splattering the bathroom walls and floor and shower curtains, and still she put up with having to do her job as a masseuse with stained fingers and nails.

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I was 25 when I tried, for the first time, to go blonde. I don’t know what it was in me that wanted it so much. But it didn’t go well. I ended up coppery and after just 8 weeks, I was back to black. Not having black hair felt almost like an out of body experience. I was worlds away from myself. It wasn’t until I was black again that I could breathe. While I would cut my hair a bit in the years that followed (and always regretted it) I remained black, telling myself that it was for life. Really for life.

But then 31 came and it dawned on me just how horribly bothered and concerned I was by what other people thought about my appearance. And it made me feel sick and angry and oh so fucking foolish. My black hair, once my soulmate,  was suffocating me. And I started to think about doing away with it in the most radical way possible…

I mulled over the thought of getting a chop and going for another colour  for months before it finally happened in early December 2017. When it did happen, it was over so quick – the chop I mean – that I didn’t have time to get sentimental. I asked to keep it, my hair. I still have it now, in the plait it was formed into on the day. After 6 hours in the salon, my black hair was gone, and I was left with a soft brown shade to my shoulders. It was the beginning of my re-birth.


But while the hairdresser had said I ‘needed to take it slow,’ it quickly became apparent that the brown just wasn’t enough for me. I tried making it more vibrant with copper…but it became dull after a matter of weeks. I considered going back to black, to my safe zone, but abandoned that plan of action…thankfully.

Desperate to feel that my hair was ‘enough’ I watched dozens of YouTube videos on bleaching, and went against the hairdressers advice of getting it done at a salon. All I wanted to do was make room for a vibrant copper shade…or, if it worked well, go with dying it blonde right away. While I no longer had black hair, having hair that I felt proud of was, like for everyone else I imagine, intrinsically linked to my confidence.

But despite all of my research and planning, it didn’t work and, in practically one swoop, my hair was ruined. My roots were a spectacular ice white blonde, but the rest of my hair was orangery yellow and matted together like sodden fur. It wouldn’t dry after being washed because it was so porous. I couldn’t run a hairbrush through it because it just came out in massive wads. For two weeks I would always have my hood up when I went out.


And now I am here

All the while, I tried to console myself, by holding a Facebook counsel with my friends on what I should do next…I wanted the mess gone, and had it in my head that an ice blonde pixie cut would work, despite what I’d been told previously about it potentially looking too masculine because of my jawbone.


On the Monday just gone, I ended up at Salong Cut & Style, a hairdressing salon in Borås, desperate to be rescued. A few hours later, I was back in the salon for my appointment, and the tragic mess that was my hair was falling away past my ears. I didn’t feel scared, I didn’t feel like I’d made a big mistake…I felt like I was re-shaping my life all of my own accord, and I’d never felt freer.


Three hours later, and I was wearing the shortest hair I’d ever had, and an ice blonde colour that was, I’d thought, only ever going to make an appearance on my head in my dreams. There could be no more hiding and that was okay, that was good, that was what I needed. I felt unrestricted with my new style. I felt beautiful. I felt free.


Winter Walks & Musings With My Daughter

I didn’t think it was possible to love winter more, but this year it’s different. This year I’m carrying a child, and winter, almost as if it knows, keeps giving and giving and giving. I can’t stop smiling. I’ve actually started to say ‘thank you’ to the sky whenever it drops its crystals. I’m exactly the same as I was when I was a kid – running to the window in the morning to peer outside and see if  it’s still there.


Sure, the snow and the ice makes walking to the store a risky, polar-like voyage where I have to be extra extra extra careful, and I can’t ride my bike because I don’t have the same ‘don’t give a shit if there’s three foot of snow on this footpath lying atop a thick layer of black ice, I’m riding my bike’ Swedish attitude. But it’s so worth it.


This winter, I started to obsessively check the weather. I’ve never really done that before and think that I’m getting to that age now where knowing what’s happening weather wise is really bloody important. But maybe I won’t give a damn when winter is over.


I check the weather all the time nowadays because I want to know for how long this cold fairytale is going to last. I want it as much for my daughter as for me. Sharing this season with a baby in the womb is magic. Feeling her settle as we move through the snow not yet trodden, then feeling her wake up and turn when we arrive and stop by a furiously gushing determined-not-to-be-frozen stream is so peculiar and beautiful and unexpected I just want to cry, because I don’t know what else to do with my emotions.



If sharing winter with an unborn is magic,  I don’t think my heart will be able to take sharing winter with an actual breathing, seeing, listening, babbling baby. I think about it. I think about what it will be like all the time, and when I go out for these walks, I wonder to myself ‘I hope I’m already installing in her a love for this season that will rival mine.’


I hope that, through the winters we’re going to share, she will want to touch the snow and smell it and eat it and take it home with us. I hope that she will want to hug the trees, and know how old they are. I hope that she will want to stroke both long and tiny icicles, and sit for hours watching as they glimmer in the sunshine and catch the drops of melt water as they thaw.

Mamma To A Little Girl

It was on Fettisdag – the sweetest day in the Swedish calendar – that we found out the gender of our baby. On Fettisdag, everyone in Sweden eats semla, a soft wheat flour bun, flavoured with cardamon, and filled with almond paste and whipped cream. It’s a day when everyone is smiling with a sweet taste on their tongue.


Sebastian had told me, when we first became pregnant, that in Sweden it’s common not to be told the baby’s gender until the birth. And, if I’m being perfectly honest with you, I felt a real hesitation to tell us from all three doctors who performed our three separate ultrasounds. As in, none of them asked ‘would you like to know the gender?’ Growing up in England, I’d always thought that it was a natural part of the proceedings.

When I asked to know, I needed to repeat myself several times until they actually actively looked. I don’t know if it has something to do with Sweden’s fixation on gender equality or something, but it doesn’t make for a comfortable situation when you have to ask and then ask again and then ask again. I felt like I was being a pest and I worried that they would think it was the only thing that mattered to me.

But all that aside, when we were told there was a girl dancing in my belly, my body was overcome with this soft, warm wave of bliss. (Very much like how you feel after taking that first bite of a semla.) A daughter. I was going to be the mamma to a daughter!

It felt like the greatest privilege and a blessing. A very real blessing. When I was a starving teenager living on bedrest in hospital, I was told having children wasn’t going to be in my future if I didn’t eat.

I suppose that makes finding out about my daughter (still haven’t got used to saying that…) on a day when a whole country indulges in something sweet and decadent without bad feelings, makes this valued, delicious celebration in February even more cherished and loved than it already was.

*If you want to read more about Fettisdag, check out my blog post here.