Charlotte L Oakeby

Fiction & Freelance Writer

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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Take a Bow: Now Published in The Woven Tale Press (NY)

My piece of short fiction titled 'Take a Bow' is published in The Woven Tale Press' Vol. VIII #3 edition. Register and read today by clicking this link

This piece was a delight to write. It's a blend of dry humour, feistiness and feminist stoicism, with a female protagonist who rejects a lifestyle of self-effacement. I hope you can enjoy it as much as I did writing it. 



Saturday, 18 January 2020

Capsule Stories 2019 Edition Publication: 'There's Lipstick on Your Collar'

'There's Lipstick on Your Collar' is now published in Capsule Stories' Frozen in Time Winter 2019 Edition! Print copies can be purchased from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

This piece will always have a very special place in my heart, so I am forever grateful that it is in print for others to enjoy.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Publication Announcement: Take a Bow

Exciting news! My piece of short fiction, 'Take a Bow' has been selected for publication by The Woven Tale Press, (Long Island, New York).

Monday, 9 September 2019

LiveWriteThrive Publication: Five Submission Tips from an Editorial Reader

Based on my experience reading for the award-winning literary magazine based in Florida, 805Lit, I
decided to share some of my submission tips with other writers. I am constantly sending out cover letter after cover letter--it's a draining process, and it would be selfish to keep my new-found submission secrets under lock and key!

A huge thank you to C S Laskin (Susanne) for publishing my work.

Read my article here on LiveWriteThrive.

Friday, 6 September 2019

There's Lipstick on Your Collar

Published in The Haloscope Review, September 2019
Charlotte, North Carolina

‘There's lipstick on your collar,’ I’d told you. 
Do you remember? Of course you do. 
I’d cleaned the whole house that day – just for you. I’d scrubbed the kitchen floor until my knuckles were red raw and bitter fumes of bleach stung the back of my throat. I’d ironed your ties, hung them back up on their silver hooks and polished your leather loafers. An Argentinian steak sat on the table, drizzled with béarnaise sauce, ready and waiting to be devoured. I’d hoped I did enough to please you.
‘Is there?’ you’d replied, the tone of your voice gradually escalating. E, F-sharp, A-flat.
‘Don’t worry,’ I’d said, forcing a soft smile onto my lips. ‘I’ll put it in the wash.’ I saw your shoulders fall with the relief of knowing you’d gotten away with it -- or so you thought. You unbuttoned your shirt, exposing the walnut-coloured skin of your chest and the thick, dark hair that covered it, reminding me of your Turkish heritage if you ever did forget to mention it.
Once you handed over that dirtied shirt, I sat cross-legged on the bathroom floor and studied it carefully. I didn’t doubt for one second that the offending stain had belonged to another woman’s lips only a few hours before. It was a deep red. The colour of roses and romance. Blood and betrayal. Was it Chanel’s Rouge Irrésistible? Or, perhaps it was Dior’s Désir? I couldn’t tell. Either way, it was a pretty shade. I could picture myself wearing it. If I gave you some hints, would you buy it for me as a birthday present?
‘That wasn’t lipstick on my collar,’ you’d responded. ‘Don’t worry, my darling. Your eyes are deceiving you! It’s just a food stain or some pen marker. Don’t be silly now.’
I nodded vigorously and said, ‘Of course! I was just kidding.’ I giggled, jabbing your arm playfully and glancing into the pupils of your chocolate eyes – I loved how they flickered with passion. Or was it panic?
I’d been alert for months, searching for more clues, my radars fully-functioning. I had known for a while, of course. Your golfing weekends away with people I’d never met before and receipts of room service in expensive hotels told me all I needed to know. A cup of black coffee – times two; a fruit platter – to share.
You’d arrive home at quarter-past eight every evening, swing your tailored jacket over the banister and toss your keys on the table. And that was my cue. In I came, enter stage left, an apron tied around my waist and ready to nestle in your arms like the perfect housewife you knew me to be. Then, I’d recite my lines: How was your day? I missed you lots. Dinner’s waiting on the table. I’d inhale deeply – was that perfume I smelled? Did you notice? Or, did you just think I couldn’t bear to leave the comfort of your embrace?
I could remember the first moment we met as if I were still living and breathing it. ‘Come over here and meet my work colleague, Dominic,’ said the person who’d taken it upon themselves to play Cupid that night. ‘It’s good to meet you,’ you replied, placing a wet kiss on my powdered cheek. I’d seen you repeat the same routine countless times that night to every woman present: wide smile, eyes locked, hand offered, lips pouted and gently placed on cheek. You knew exactly what you were doing, and so did I. Yet there I was, held in your palm like some sort of doll– your doll.
‘I’ve got to leave in five minutes, but first, I’ll grab my coat and also your phone number,’you’d announced at the end of the night, with so much confidence it made my heart flutter. The hours I’d spent painting my face with make-up and trying on low-cut dresses were worthwhile. I’d impressed you. 
I received some strange looks from the other guests once I’d spoken to you, but I put it down to jealousy. Everyone wanted Dominic, the most handsome Turk in London. But now, I understand what they really meant. They were looks of sympathy, or warning perhaps – fleeting moments of despair that signified another woman had succumbed to the charms of somebody others had learnt to be wary of. My obliviousness proved to be my first mistake.
Stop. Don’t fall for him. Look what he’ll do to you, I’d tell myself. So what? my internal voice would retort. I had already fallen for you, Dominic, and it was too late to catch myself. Everything was perfect – from our beautiful townhouse in Knightsbridge, with its wrought iron fences and buckets of white roses sitting on its marble steps, to your handwritten love letters that I bundled up and tied with red ribbon. I was beyond besotted.
Do you remember the argument we had after Jane and Peter’s wedding? About you flirting with that tattooed waitress – the one who seemed to be glued to your hip the whole evening, always ready with a tray of fresh cocktails and a pout on her silicone lips? You slapped me around the cheek. 
‘It’s a shame I had to do that, my sweetheart,’ you told me the next morning, over steaming coffee and fresh pastries. ‘You must be severely insecure to accuse me of something like that. I had to slap some sense into you.’
Then, I knew. I knew what those strangers had been trying to tell me.
You believe I can cope with it, the lipstick on your collar. All I have to do is sit pretty and do nothing – I’ll leave all the doing to you. I’ll forget I ever saw a thing. 
Or so you think.


Thursday, 22 August 2019

'The Clocks Are Still Ticking': Locations of Print Copies

Print copies of my latest article, The Clocks Are Still Ticking, can be found at the following locations:

The Hawth Theatre, Crawley
Borde Hill Gardens
Clair Hall, Haywards Heath
Burgess Hill Theatre
Mabel's Emporium


Friday, 16 August 2019

Hi, Rejection - How Are You?

My article, Tips for Handling Rejection, was published late last night on The Daily Positive. Based on my own experiences in the literary sense and beyond, I write with nothing but honesty. Rejection should, and will always be, a common occurrence within every aspect of our lives and normalising it must be step one. Draw something positive from the pain.

As always, thank you to Bernadette and everyone over at The Daily Positive. I love writing for you and I'm grateful for these continued opportunities.

Click here.



Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Clocks Are Still Ticking

The greatest comfort of all is knowing that even when you feel your life is falling apart, its walls of sanity crumbling to rubble, the rest of the world is still moving. The Earth is still rotating; the clocks are still ticking. The sun will still rise, and set, and rise, and set again. Everything will stay just how it was before. 

During challenging moments, you must firmly ground yourself and recognise stability, even when it seems non-existent. Put on your pair of rose-coloured glasses. Make a daisy chain for good measure. It’s easier said than done, and I know this first-hand.

I'm an overthinker. A dramatic overthinker. Although I know the sky won't fall down anytime soon, (well, fingers crossed), my mind constantly bunny hops from worry to worry and I simply lose control. It feels as if life itself has placed me in its palm, spent a while deciding what to do with me, and then tossed me head-first towards a traumatic situation. It's even worse when a situation changes in a split-second. I halt both mentally and physically - I'll just freeze.

The last time this happened, I was having a driving lesson. A middle-aged cyclist, dressed up like some Power Ranger in his too-tight lycra and chunky red helmet, appeared out of nowhere and nearly clipped my wing mirror. I had no idea what to do. So, I did nothing. Quite literally, not one thing. If it weren’t for the dual controls and my exceptionally-calm instructor who later told me, ‘no, Charlotte, you can’t just lift your feet off the pedals and hope for the best’, I can’t bear imagining what could’ve happened. My lightning-quick reaction to not react at all serves to be proof that sometimes, we just cannot control what avenue our body hurtles down when trying to protect us. It’s the fight or flight mechanism - a raw and animalistic function embedded within our cores. We cannot suppress it.

Once the cyclist had vanished, and I saw the other cars humming past and the dog walkers with their mackintoshes and the gardeners shearing the street-lining evergreens, I was surprised to see that everything was normal. I’m not sure what else I was expecting. My mind had sent me to this outer-worldly dimension of irrationality, and I needed to (kindly) get a grip.

Everyone possesses their own toolbox of recovery remedies, but if a specific method has failed to bring about improvement, it could be time to shake things up a little. I'll use myself as an example. Months ago, amid a storm of panic and paranoia, I tended to trap myself in my bedroom, staring at nothing but my laptop screen and the four walls around me. I really was pressing the 'self-destruct' button without even knowing it.

Now, whenever I encounter a slight obstacle, I’ll go anywhere but my bedroom. I want to be out in the open and surrounded by fresh air, or I’ll gravitate towards busy environments, where my natural curiosity towards everything around me steals my attention. Subtle people-watching, (for innocent purposes, mind), can encourage you to live in the present - always be mindful of your surroundings and ground yourself among them. Noticing little details can help ease that mad frenzy, but recognise things on a larger scale, too. Put your problem into perspective. Ask yourself, will the world end because of this?

Distraction works wonders temporarily, but suppressing your emotions will only make that inevitable explosion ten times bigger. Because of this, I’ll lend my destructive thoughts a few moments of awareness, rather than ignore them completely. If I told you to think of anything but a pink elephant, what’s the first thing you’d picture? Exactly. A pink elephant. The more you tell yourself not to think of something, you’re immediately giving it priority in your mind. Don’t give it that privilege. It doesn’t deserve it. 

Throughout our lives, our hearts don’t stop beating and our lungs don’t stop breathing because we’re supposed to be alive. That’s our purpose. If we were to stop in our tracks every time something went wrong, we’d barely move. We’d be slower than Southern Rail. 

Of course, there are many occasions when we need time out; time to just be. Focusing on the present and firmly grounding yourself is vital. As humans, we're tiny, tiny cogs in an extremely large machine - this machine is life, and it's constantly in motion and moving forward. So, we must move with it. We have no other option.


Friday, 21 June 2019

The Golden Rules for Gratitude: The Daily Positive

I’m delighted to say that my article, The 5 Golden Rules for Gratitude, is now published on The Daily Positive. It’s based on the recent loss of my father, and how I attempt to overcome any inevitable brewing anger and replace it with gratitude. It was lovely to connect with Bernadette Logue, the life transformation coach behind The Daily Positive, and I’m honoured to have the opportunity to reach out to their audience of 1.6 million (gasp)!

Truthfully, I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to this article. I tried to be as raw as possible, which, although making my article an honest one, means I’ve exposed a little of the pain I normally hide so well. It was worth it. I’m so touched to have received messages of thanks from readers, and I appreciate those who are sharing the article, whether that be with counsellors or on social media.I’d love you to give it a read if you haven’t already. Thank you for all your support!

Click here.


Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Gordon Square Review Editorial Mentorship

I'd just received my first ever acceptance letter for Forever Yours, Mr Carter, and in a spontaneous burst of motivation, decided to start right away on my second piece. I knew from the get-go exactly where I was going to take it, which is a rare occurrence and also a blessing. A doll, I thought, will definitely have to ruin someone's life. Isn't that what all dolls do?

Somehow, it took me just three days to write my original draft, make any last-minute revisions and send it off to publications. I'll be incredibly lucky to have a turnaround as quick in future. Originally titled ‘Farewell, Elizabeth’, the piece slipped out of my mind whilst it mulled in inboxes. For my previous piece, I’d spent every minute of every day checking its progress, but this utterly drained me.  I forced myself to sit back and relax. If you know me well, you’ll know this is something I rarely do.

It reached the end of March and Laura Walter contacted me. Her email promised not only publication in Issue Four of her journal, the Gordon Square Review, but an editorial mentorship on top of that. Editorial mentorships are offered to three writers during an issue's submission period - with an editor, you work together to polish up your draft and you’ll learn a hell of a lot during the process. Not only was I extremely flattered, but utterly shocked. I wasn't expecting it at all. I cried a little that night.

The mentorship lasted for just short of two months, and my word, have I taken a lot away from the experience. I was surprised that little change was required within my piece - we just added a few sentences here and there, supporting the transition from scene to scene and the overall fluidity of the piece. Reflections, being as short as it is, didn't take too long to 'perfect' - (I put 'perfect' in quotation marks, as my piece is literally based on the idea that nothing can be just that).

The ending was something that took me a lot of time to feel happy with, though. I originally cut it off too harshly - in the first draft, the last sentence was just 'Farewell, Elizabeth', hence its previous title. When I first wrote the piece, I think I rushed things a little. I didn't want the ending to drag on or lose its impact. Quite possibly, I may have been excited with its progress and I just wanted to send it off. So, I just whacked a snappy sentence on the end and hoped for the best.

Laura suggested we change the title, as it would give away the plot before the piece had even been read. I am partial to a bit of a twist, let's say, so it was vital I corrected this. I wanted the reader to feel the full force of the tale playing out before them, and so, we eventually settled on 'Reflections'. This ties in with the mirror imagery found throughout the whole piece. It links more to the narrator than the doll - although it may appear Elizabeth is the subject, she's really not. She's that factor that brings the harsh reality to light, but it's the narrator who bears the brunt of this. There's a scene in the piece that tells of the narrator looking at herself in the mirror, comparing her looks to Elizabeth's. This is a key metaphor, ladies and gents. Take note.

I suppose the whole purpose of this story is to highlight the damaging ideals currently weaved throughout society. My generation, in its mad social media storm, seems to be obsessed with visual perfection, disregarding substance and all that makes up a person. It'd be hypocritical of me to say I don't take care of myself; I eat well, wear make-up and practically live at the gym. However, it's when these ideals are taken too far, stretched beyond their limits, that real individuals and their fragile feelings get damaged beyond repair.

I wanted to take the narrator on a journey, from being an innocent girl to an insecure, self-aware one. It's inevitable that every single child will meet the darker side of the world at some point, and in this case, Elizabeth was the catalyst for the narrator's awakening. The doll, being a symbol of fake beauty, invades her world, forcing her to question herself and everything that makes her her. Elizabeth isn't real, though, and this is what the narrator simply doesn't understand. Elizabeth's been designed, crafted and painted. Her beauty is not real!

I'm grateful that as a 2002 baby, I was able to live my childhood in pink tennis dresses, collecting My Littlest Pet Shop toys and prancing about with imaginary friends. I narrowly missed the social media craze - it only hit me when I was around thirteen. Just as Elizabeth is the tool for the narrator’s bittersweet revelations, social media is ours. It’s toxic. End of.

In my first draft, I deliberately made the narrator destroy Elizabeth as a symbol of her overcoming the jealousy she felt. After working with Laura, however, I came to understand that this wouldn't be possible. Something as jarring and traumatic would not be able to leave you so soon. What’s more, you wouldn’t have the capabilities to do so. And so, I felt it was necessary to show how the narrator continues to be affected by her encounter with the doll for many years to follow. Her experiences unleashed both physical and mental reactions she never expected to meet, and again, this is part of growing older. I don't think others fully appreciate just how hard this can be.

Since publishing Reflections, many have commented on how dark the piece is and how shocked they were at the narrator's actions. This was music to my ears! The piece was supposed to have an underlying tone of suspicion - it all sounds too good to be true in the first couple of paragraphs. By using the end scene, I'm able to show the narrator's pent-up hatred in a way that translates it clearly. It makes you think how many young children are fiercely envious of the dolls they’re playing with right now. Scary, no?

I was reading through some other mentorship essays in the Gordon Square Review and picked up the idea that many were concerned how much their piece would change. This was never an issue for me. Still being in education means that my work is constantly critiqued, and I seek out constructive feedback rather than hide from it. Laura taught me to look at my finished draft in a different light, and address things I'd neglected before: transitions, parallel imagery, hidden metaphors. The list goes on.

I'm so thankful to Laura, of course, for being quite possibly the best mentor I could've asked for. I also thank the Gordon Square Review and everyone behind the scenes of this publication, including Literary Cleveland, for making this possible.

Read Reflections in Issue Four of the Gordon Square Review.

                                                                          Image: Pixabay

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