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The Transformative Power of Tattoo

This collection of fiction, nonfiction and poetry brings together a diverse group of writers who delve into tattoos in terms of class, body image, history, empowerment and transformations. It's an investigation into why people get tattoos and how they transform a person's life.

Our 19 contributors are debut and award-winning. Their work includes memoir, transgressive fiction, horror, magical realism, sci-fi, literary fiction, poetry and personal essays. We have published a number of them in our previous anthologies including Liam Hogan, Karla Linn Merrifield, Claire Askew, Julian Bishop and Michał Kamil Piotrowski. 

We're delighted to share with you their take on the tattoo.

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An excerpt from Liz Beth Turner's intro to her poem FU:

“Growing up, tattoos, alongside piercings and brightly coloured hair, were absolutely anathema. The reasons were many and varied: I would be rejected by polite society; if I ever got arrested, I would be easily identifiable by the authorities; no-one would ever hire me; it would signify emotional instability and arrested development; I would be perceived as a n’er-do-well, a reprobate, a criminal; I should not disrespect my body in this way; it would attract the wrong kind of associates... I could probably keep adding to this list of introjects and conditions of worth that shaped my own distorted beliefs about tattoos for many years.” 

Contributors

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Claire Askew's books include the creative writing guide Novelista (John Murray, 2020); the multi- award-winning novel All The Hidden Truths (Hodder, 2018) and the poetry collection How To Burn A Woman (Bloodaxe, 2021), which was the 2022 Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year. Claire lives in Cumbria with her black cat, Winifred Sanderson.

(photo by Dominic Stevenson)

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Julian Bishop’s first collection of eco poems called We Saw It All Happen was published earlier this year by Fly On The Wall Press. The book asks whether bearing witness to the climate emergency is enough or whether it’s an excuse for disclaiming responsibility. A former environment journalist turned poet, he lives in Barnet with his family and dog and runs a small media company. He’s worked for many years as both reporter and producer with the BBC and also on ITV’s News At Ten. Contact: twitter @julianbpoet

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Valerie Bence completed a PhD in her late-fifties and a Poetry MA in 2018. Rembrandt is her muse and the subject of her first collection Falling in Love with a Dead Man — published by Cinnamon Press (2019) following a year’s mentoring. He is with her everyday, in the form of a tattoo. Overlap, her second pamphlet, was published in 2022 by the Emma Press.

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Harriet Bradshaw is a journalist and camerawoman, known for reporting on climate change and filming on the frontline of the Coronavirus pandemic. She started writing short fiction for her mental well-being, having lost her friend and grandad during lockdown. She’s currently finalising a novel, hoping to be professionally published one day.

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Maisie Brown is a hobbyist who thinks everything is interesting. Queer, sincere and wielding a degree in Archaeology and Anthropology. Composing articles, poems and stories on a range of topics: from nature to mythology; politics to pop- culture; working-class history to video games; Maisie sees the sublime and the ridiculous in everything.

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Meredith MacLeod Davidson is a poet and writer from Virginia. A graduate of Clemson University with a degree in English, her work has been published in The Bookends Review and elsewhere. Meredith serves in editorial roles for multiple literary journals, and is currently pursuing an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.

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Daniela Esposito is studying Screenwriting in Prague. She has been published in The Pomegranate London, Mono, Tears in the Fence, Bandit Fiction, the Templeman Review, Dream Noir, Writer's Block magazine and soon to be in Litro (US) and The Stand. She has been long-listed for the Bridport Prize and Brick Lane Short Story Prize.

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Callum Henderson is a 30-year-old writer currently living in London. An author from a young age, he followed his prevailing passion to study Creative Writing and Journalism at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. In 2010, he was one of the winners of the Scottish Book Trust's coveted 'Young Writers Award.' He has previously been published in their collection 'New Writing,' as well as in 'One Magazine' (2011), the literary journal 'Quotidian' (2016), and the anthology 'If Only You Could See Yourself (And Other Stories)' (2012).

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Liam Hogan is an award-winning short story writer, with stories in Best of British Science Fiction and in Best of British Fantasy (NewCon Press). He’s been published by Analog, Daily Science Fiction, and Flame Tree Press, among others. He helps host Liars’ League London, volunteers at the creative writing charity Ministry of Stories, and lives and avoids work in London. More details at http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk

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Erin Hosfield has been a tattooist in the city of Pittsburgh for nearly two decades. She has a BA in Fine Art from California University and she is a painter, writer, plant enthusiast, and Diet Coke addict. When she's not tattooing, she can be found in her garden, hunched over her keyboard, wrangling her sassy dogs, and creating far too many playlists.

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Maria Jastrzębska is a poet, editor and translator who came to the UK from Poland as a child. Her most recent book is Small Odysseys (Waterloo Press 2022). She co-edited Queer in Brighton anthology (New Writing South 2014). Her work is translated into Polish and Romanian. She was writer for ACE-awarded cross-arts project Snow Q.  www.mariajastrzebska.wordpress.com

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Di Lebowitz is a heavily tattooed woman and feminist from Hong Kong with a Hong Kongese mother and Ashkenazi Jewish father, raised by her maternal grandmother. She is a survivor of sexual assault and author of her debut memoir The Marks Left On Her. She is also a Krav Maga Self Defense Instructor based in London. 

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Dominic Lyne is a London based writer. Drawing from his personal experiences, his works of transgressive fiction aim to shine a light upon the darker sides of humanity and society. He has been published by Rebel Satori Press and HarperCollins, and is a frequent contributor to SCAB Magazine.

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Louisa Mastromarino is a certified counselor educator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, a Master of Science in School Counseling, and a post master’s degree in Supervision and Educational Leadership. Louisa is the author of several children’s books including Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Washington, D.C., Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to New York City, Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Brizzley Bear Loves Poetry.  www.LouisaMastro.com

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Karla Linn Merrifield has 16 books to her credit. Her newest poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, was nominated for the 2022 National Book Award. She is a frequent contributor to The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review. Her website is: www.karlalinnmerrifield.org and her blog is: karlalinnmerrifeld.wordpress.com

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Michał Kamil Piotrowski is a visual poet, text artist, and curator living and working in Folkestone, UK. He mostly writes experimental, visual, and technology-powered poetry. He enjoys making poetry interactive and he often works with found text. The themes he explores the most are technology, politics, love, and mental illnesses. His interactive book ‘The Cursory Remix’ (2021, Contraband Books) has been co-written by Google Translate. IG: @somecoolwords

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Emily Ricard was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1993 to French/British parents. Following her move to London in 2009, she was able to develop her creative interests academically and personally, which include museums, photography and writing. When Emily isn’t working on her debut novel, she enjoys travelling, volunteering with local charities, making Nutella crêpes and collecting taxidermy. She lives in London with her English bulldog Bianca. 

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Liz Beth Turner retrained as a therapist in 2017 and established a small mental health CIC on Anglesey where she lives with her husband, two rescue cats and a dog. She started penning poetry as therapy during serious illness in 2021 and now has established poetry therapy workshops. She writes about social injustice, human suffering and mental health inspired by existentialism, science and art.

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Sabrina Wolfe (she/her) is a writer who lives in London. She has worked as a journalist/editor for many years and been published in Time Out, The Simple Things and The Times, among others. Recently trained in garden design and horticulture, Sabrina can mostly be found writing at her desk, planting bulbs outside, or planning her next tattoo. ‘Skin Deep’ is her first piece of fiction to be published and she is currently writing a novel.

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