When we launched Little Ms eight years ago – yes, really, that’s how long it’s been – email newsletters consisted mainly of clunky corporate offerings detailing the latest products and sales conferences, hirings, retirings and Employees of the Month, all rounded off with a fake signature and a photo of a smirking besuited CEO. They would alight briefly in our inboxes before being dispatched into oblivion with the delete button.
We wanted our Little Ms newsletter to be different, something people would read with relish, with nuggets of literary news, writing prompts, distractions, submission slots, jobs and competition deadlines. And they (you) seemed to like it – we even received fan mail from newsletter professionals, congratulating us on developing the kind of publication they’d been advocating for their clients for years.
Back then newsletters were quite thin on the ground. But these days you can barely click on a website without being urged to ‘sign up for our newsletter’ – even on sites for un-newsworthy items like cutlery or gear-boxes.
Aware that Little Ms was in danger of becoming a casualty of inbox overload, we decided to retire her while the going was good. Our hand-picked competitions and submissions deadlines are now in our new Writing Opportunities newsletter. The writing job vacancies are listed in the Library at the new Salon section of our website.
As for the rest – the writing prompts and procrastinations, treats and news nuggets – we’ve turned them into a sprightly 11-minute read we’re calling Elevenses.
Channelling Julie Andrews in uber-saccharine mode, Elevenses is ‘a few of our favourite things’ that we thought you might like too. We’re not including adverts or trying to sell you something – it’s simply the Mslexia equivalent of ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’. Think of it as the literary equivalent of a Millie’s Cookie (other cookies are available). In fact we’ve included a biscuit recipe in the very first edition…
If that sounds like it might be worth a taste, look out for a message from DebbieT in your inbox, dated 5 July – and don’t forget to check your junk folder too. If there’s nowt there, and you’re a kitten and cookie fan, let us know and we’ll pop you on the list. (You can de-pop yourself at any time.)
Meanwhile, here are some of our fave bits and bobs from Little Ms – plus our last ever (boo hoo!) selections from your Flash Card and Clerihew submissions.
Our literary menagerie is now complete, our ark is loaded and ready to cast off on its journey to Puntopia to be pampered and preserved for posterity. Here’s a sample of the unique threatened creatures you’d see if you peered through one of the portholes. Thanks to everyone who donated specimens.
The Gull with the Pearl Earring
(captured and donated by Xanthe Wells)
Captain Corelli’s Pangolin
(captured and donated by Beatrice Charles)
The Whippets of Eastwick
(captured and donated by Dorothy Burrows)
The definitive collection of writerly neologisms will appear on the website shortly. In the meantime here are a few essentials to relish. (How on earth did we manage without them?) Very special thanks to Dorothy Burrows, Julie Burke, Tracey Davidson, Patricia Lowther, Jennifer Moore and Barbara Young, who have thumbed tirelessly through obscure tomes and thesauri to unearth new items to add to this unique and invaluable reference work.
binopsis (n.), a flawed plot outline
brewcrastination (n.), delaying of a writing task in order to make a caffeinated beverage
calenderr (v. i.), to miss the closing date for a submission or competition entry
dejective (n), limp adjective
direlogue (n.), badly written conversation
impostrophe (n.), an apostrophe used instead of the correct item of punctuation
lackadatesical (adj.), lacking enthusiasm and effort when working on a writing project without a deadline
multiverses (n. pl.), poems performed by egotistical poet at an open mic session
odometer (n.), a device for poetry assessment
pendent (n.), mark left by handwriting on the page below
penury (n.), the state of being without a working biro
slush puppy (n.), unpaid work-experience volunteer or intern charged with reading unsolicited manuscripts
snackcident (n.), act of inadvertently eating an entire pack of biscuits when concentrating on one’s writing
Among the many witty, ingenious, excruciating – and, frankly, smutty – submissions for this regular slot in Little Ms was this little trio of gems.
A writer of romance from Reading
Sent her rejected novel for shredding.
Soon she couldn’t help feeling,
As it piled to the ceiling,
Like a gerbil with way too much bedding.
There was a young lady of Swaledale
Who courted her lover by snail-mail.
She was sorely perplexed
When he ditched her by text
And her mobile fell into her pale ale.
A footballing nun, Sister Patrick,
Takes a run up and strikes with a flat kick.
‘What a goal!’ the crowd roar –
And she shoots in two more.
‘Hallelujah!’ she says, ‘It’s a hat-trick!’
Kirsty Venters Marks
At age 80, famous feminist Gloria
was not yet ready for those crematoria.
Instead, she went to Botswana to ride an elephant,
and prove that being an ‘older woman’ is irrelevant.
Thanks to Alison Jennings for a fitting and uplifting end to our four-line poetic paeons.
‘OK, last one,’ said Rod.
He unscrewed the lid and held the vacant jar aloft. Slowly at first, then faster, the stars flowed from the sky like a flock of sheep towards a farmer rattling feed. They jostled into the jar.
When the last straggler had entered, Rod screwed the lid back on.
They looked around at the nothingness, checking that everything had been wiped. Life and landscape had gone. The whole universe had been cleared away.
‘So much for that experiment,’ said Rod, as the platform they stood on retracted through the open doorway.
The door closed. Darkness returned.
Thanks to Jane Dards for this apocalyptic take on our final Flash Card image.
We shudder to think how many minutes you’ve whiled away as a result of our monthly Procrastination temptations. Here’s one of our faves from early in the series. Yes, it's the Ross Sisters, with that timeless classic 'Solid potato salad'. (This just gets better and better, so make sure you stick with it for at least a minute. WARNING: Don’t try this at home. There are easier ways to improve blood-flow to the brain.)
And with that eye-popping finale, it’s goodbye from the Ross Sisters, and it’s goodbye from Little Ms.
Our thanks to everyone who has helped over the years, especially Francoise Harvey, Robyn Henderson, Martha Lane and Casey Spence.