Glorious Bodies: Menopause The Anthology Review and Interview

Nov 24, 2023 | Reviews

There are times when you read something that just sings off the page. The passion, intimacy and honesty found in Menopause The Anthology is wonderful. Coming from Arachne Press, I was expecting something good anyway, but I wasn’t prepared for how various this collection of short fiction and poetry is. We are far away from the standard cliches trotted out about women in a certain time of life, perhaps because the voices writing them are so diverse. Let’s not forget that menopause can be brought on medically, and that non-white and trans voices are very rarely heard when we talk about this stage of women’s lives.

At times joyous, at times despairing, at times hilarious, the stories and poems in the anthology felt, above everything, genuine. As someone who has all of this in her not-so-distant future, it was inspiring to hear from so many who had expereinced this huge life change that is so often brushed under the carpet. An inspiring, innovative collection.

You can buy the print book here or the ebook/audiobook here


I talked to the editor, Cherry Potts, about how the anthology came about and asked her for some expert editor advice for writers. Read on to find out more.

I love the idea of gathering together a book about menopause from a variety of voices. Where did the idea come from?

We were preparing to publish a lot of older women last year, and decided an anthology to complement the poetry collections was appropriate. I was already thinking maybe a menopause book when Catherine Pestano pitched the same idea. It felt meant – there was a lot in the media at the time, but we were both frustrated at the way the story was being told; overwhelmingly heterosexual and white, and even though the message there was mainly about work, there was still the not-so-unspoken message that somehow menopause and the loss of the ability to bear children was a primary connection – neither of us felt that that was what our experience of menopause was about.

The writing is incredibly diverse and I particularly enjoyed those that had elements of magical realism or moving into unusual or experimental forms. Why do you think the subject lends itself well to experimentation?

Arachne Press has always published fantasy particularly in short stories, it’s a rare anthology that makes it out the door without something ‘weird’. I do think, however, that the one unifying force in anyone’s experience of menopause is that it forces you to question what you are doing with your life, who you are, even. (What are you going to do with all those days that used to be wrecked by PMT or whatever?)

How did you find all the writers for the collection and what was your criteria for including them?

We had an open call, to everywhere we could think of – we have regular places like the ACE website, our newsletter, socials etc, but we also did a lot of promotion and media work about our existing older women writers, which I hope made writers understand we really meant it, not just jumping on the bandwagon. We really wanted to include as many global majority and LGBTQ+ writers as possible, which turned out to be harder than we anticipated. LGBTQ+ writers are well represented, but global majority writers less so, (we did try! Hard!) which was a shame as it’s a documented fact that global majority women get a much poorer gynaecological service than their white sisters, so we were pretty sure that applied to menopause care too.

We ran some workshops so that writers could meet us and explore what writing about the menopause could mean for them. I also did a last-minute sweep through our existing authors asked them if menopause was relevant to them and whether they had written something already, or would write something for us. We were aiming at everyone who was in the book having experienced menopause for themselves – I think one person snuck through who hadn’t, but she did a persuasive job, so I’ll let her off. We also vetoed anything that was factually wrong – that may sound weird in a book that includes so many fantastical elements, but we wanted any medical information to be right, and any misinformation the poems and stories were reacting to, to be seen as such.

What do you hope to achieve with this collection?

Oh goodness! Achieve? If books could change the world… Catherine is a Menopause activist and advisor, so she knows what she’s talking about. I was along for the ride on that aspect. I’ve never read a menopause book in my life, but I’m more than happy to read poetry and fiction, and I learned quite a bit along the way editing this one.

We want the book to be approachable, and for women to read the stories and poems, and recognise themselves, in the rage, in the humour, in the frustration, in the relief, and use this book as a (I was going to say non-confrontational, but it isn’t) way of having conversations with people they need to have conversations with. We’d like them to use the humour and creativity of the book as a less clinical way of learning and retaining information they might need. Will that change the world? Just… maybe!

What are the principles of Arachne Press and what is your advice for aspiring poets and writers?

I set Arachne Press up to be the publisher I wanted as a writer, one that takes marketing the books seriously, produces beautiful looking, well-made books, pays royalties, does events…  We are an inclusive publisher and we specialise in publishing LGBTQ+ and disabled writers, and are working on publishing more global majority writers. We try (when we have funding) to include BSL versions of the work either live interpretation or translations, and have published an anthology of poetry and fiction from Deaf and hard of hearing writers. Again, when we have funding, we create audiobooks so that people who can’t read text can still have our poetry and stories. We want there to be as few barriers as possible to readers experiencing our books. I aim to create a community for our writers, for them to make connections with each other as well as me. Not all of them want to engage, and that’s fine, but others have organised events in their area, been guest editors, helped shortlist competitions, become ambassadors for us, helped with crowdfunding… Over lockdown they were interviewing each other over zoom! I have regular conversations with some of our authors, looking for opportunities for them to raise their profiles, which is where the guest editing started. We do as many events as possible so that writers can meet each other, and we and they can meet their audiences.

In terms of advice, join a writing group, try out different styles of writing until you find those that suit you (there may be many!) Get yourself active as a writer on socials, keep that separate from your personal accounts. (I don’t mean share your work on social media, but talk to other authors, find out what’s going on, go to events, workshops, open mics that sort of thing, whether online or in the flesh). Submit often and widely, to publishers you would be proud to work with and read the submission guidelines! Keep track of what you have sent where. When the time comes, read the contract!

1 Comment

  1. Gail Aldwin

    Fascinating! Thanks for posting, Sarah.


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