December Review of the Month

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Everything starts to wind down in my writing world during December, which is lucky as everything else winds up to Christmas and I think I would pop if something didn’t give.

Week 1: (which was only 4 days)

I put in a bid to review an anthology which a few poetry friends appear in, it looks like a great quality publication and I am gutted I knew nothing of the submission for it. I do not think my application was successful as they had the launch in December, but I tried.

I also went to Permission to Speak, Rob Francis’s night in Stourbridge at the Scary Canary. Rob booked Ash Dickinson as the headline act, it has been over a year since I’ve seen him perform.1 Ash DickinsonPerhaps longer. Last time was Digbeth, Birmingham. I was also doubly excited because he has a new book out and I was able to grab a copy – which I then saved to be my Christmas read, but also borrowed 3 Christmassy novels from the library and with actually celebrating festivities and catching up with family and friends, I ran out of time to read it. It has become my New Year book instead… now my January book. It is my next read and has overtaken a whole shelf of poetry still on my must read radar.

Thanking Jonathan Davidson for teaching me to support poetry by buying books (back in Sept. 2013), I would love time to read them all. One day I will have my landing book nook and an hour a day to indulge.

It was an exceptional night, (despite the mic stand completely playing me up). Part of my set was ‘Fragile Houses’ which is a serious book and it made Ash feel comfortable to step away to his more serious work too. Which went down a storm. So I was glad that my set persuaded him to mix his up a bit. Very brave.

What I did manage to do was re-read his previous collection – (bought last time I saw him in Digbeth), I love having the poet’s voice in mind as I read their words. I had forgotten how stonkingly good ‘slinky espadrilles’ was. It was a delight to hear some poems from this, his first collection at PTS.

adameve It was actually 2014 when I last saw Ash perform. How time flies when you’re writing poems. The photos I took of Ash are trapped on an old phone, so you can make do with a 2014 lazy Sunday version of me instead.

If you fancy ordering a copy of Slinky Espadrilles (2012), which remains one of the top selling titles, you can follow the links below. Or maybe you would rather treat yourself to the latest collection Strange Keys (2016) … both published by Burning Eye books.

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/slinky-espadrilles-by-ash-dickinson

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/strange-keys

A great night at ScaryCanary and I also picked up a copy of Rob’s new pamphlet ‘Orpheus’ published by Lapwing. It was his first reading from it. orpheus-1st-reading

I have since watched him perform from it at SpeakEasy and he has a few more dates in the Midlands, up North  and soon down South too.

28th Jan – Wolverhampton Literature Festival @ Wolverhampton Art Gallery
16th Feb – Stanza @ The Exchange, North Shields
25th Feb – The Black Light Engine Room, Middlesbrough

More dates may be added soon in Folkestone, Leeds and London

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Rob is also donating all of his profits for this book to charity. £25 was raised by initial sales for the village School feeding scheme in Namibia. I am not entirely sure if this campaign has now closed as the crowdfunding page has finished. Know that if you buy a copy, Rob has donated profits so far to this cause.

<Details to order Orpheus to be updated>

I also returned Heather’s projector which I had used for the Book Party event to show my Fragile Houses Poetry Films. Over Christmas I discovered my mum had been given a projector through a contact in education (they were upgrading), after it served no use to my mum she gifted it forwards – not releasing her poetry daughter was about to embark on Poetry Films… so if any of you know of anyone getting rid of a working projector at any point I would be very interested. My car has also gone over the clock (100,000) with all these poetry gigs, so if anyone has a decent 2nd or 3rd hand car to sell also let me know!

My friend Caution Poet had a couple of events at the Anchor Gallery, Birmingham where he was generously selling artwork and giving away copies of his latest collection of poems. On the same night there were Christmas Spoken Word events at The Ort. But my relatives were up from London and it was my Gran’s birthday so I missed all the poetry and went to celebrate with them instead.

I was asked to perform at the Mistletoe Festival in Tenbury Wells. In the end Myfanwy and Peter Sutton made it and I am in conversation about 2017.

I had my winter solstice poem ‘Burn All the Clocks’ accepted by Three Drops From a Cauldron at the end of November, but don’t think I mentioned it on the last review. It is going to be published in the Midwinter Anthology.

Week 2:

I continued to make Poetry Films and missed Hatstand – I have missed all the events hosted this year under this new night. I hope they continue in 2017 and that I may make them. Monday night is a tricky one with teaching the next day.

I worked on the Writing West Midlands December session, prep and planning. I missed Gary Longden’s Poetry Alight and Roz Goddard’s Stanza Christmas Party to go to Stirchley Speaks, which was a great night.

I also worked on two projects which at this time were in initial planning stages. The one has been signed, sealed and delivered and is already forging new developments into 2017. The other is ready to start in February, on a date that I have been asked to perform as part of a Peace Day at Coventry Cathedral. Both events are geographically too far apart to manage in the same day. I hope to get involved with Antony Owen’s next event in the summer. In the meantime I am writing poems to be read on the day.

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December sees the return of SpeakEasy at the beautiful Cafe Bliss and, to rid you of your Winter blues, we’re bringing along with us the wonderful Nina Lewis!

Nina has had poetry published in many publications over the years and has recently celebrated her first solo publication, Fragile Houses, published by V. Press. A wonderful poet with a back catalogue of hard-hitting and beautifully crafted verses, Nina Lewis is definitely an act worth seeing.

I headlined SpeakEasy in Worcester. It was a great night – there are some photos I need to track down. My non-poetry friends came to support me and Café Bliss was packed. It was a great night although one of the most nervous I have been (home crowd and all that) and there were about 8 close poetry friends (and regulars at this event) who couldn’t make it so I was supressing the paranoid part of myself for most of the evening. I did manage to enjoy the open mic spots and the atmosphere was brilliant.

My set went well and I sold quite a few copies of Fragile Houses. I even performed one of the poems I didn’t envisage ever being able to perform in public. That may be the only time I do. So for all the people who were there that was a first and last.

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As with all things the 8th December when I headlined clashed with other events, The Grizzly Pear where I missed Bohdan Piasecki and Leon Priestnall and also the Nine Arches Press Christmas Party.

On Friday I had one of the most exciting meetings of the year and some delicious cake! I missed Caution Poet’s second event and Clive Osman Performing from his new book ‘Happy’ at the P Café as I had a lot of writing work to submit and a WWM to prepare.

On Saturday we celebrated the end of term with a workshop on Fiction and a slightly Christmassy session for WWM. To prove how talented the writers are in my group there was an entire page of the plan I discarded as they were already there. Great when young writers don’t need all the input. They, like me, are passionate about learning the craft.

Week 3:

My final week of real world work and I booked workshops for the Verve Poetry Festival (Feb.) with Kim Moore and Sarah Howe, I met both these talented poets this year and cannot wait for this treat – which was a Christmas present from my Mum – even better when these experiences are free! I missed the booking at Swindon on Kim’s workshop due to getting a little lost finding the new venue. So I am doubly looking forward to the magic.

I helped organise accommodation for the Quiet Compere (January) Wolverhampton Literature Festival.  I started working on a collaborative project which will see 3 new poems written (and submitted) in as many weeks. I worked on general submissions, getting the last bit of writing done before the Christmas break.

I had also been asked (in October) to produce a writing prompt for Squiffy Gnu (an online writing/ poetry group). The deadline was the 14th and although it had been on my radar for a while I couldn’t start to work on it until after I had headlined SpeakEasy.

I am really proud of myself for coming up with an original idea and not copying someone else’s groundwork. I have yet to actually attempt the writing myself and have only read a few of the outcome poems, but again I plan to carve some time out to do this next month. It was fun to be a guest poet and an honour to be the last one of the year. Thanks to Chris Hemmingway for this opportunity.

I missed Luke Wright and Jasmine Gardosi headline at Howl, again next year HOWL is already in the diary for February, it has been a shame to miss this events as it is always a great night. Once again I will blame work and distance.

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There was a Christmas Party for the Walsall Arboretum poets which I couldn’t attend originally because of work. However, that day work was cancelled and I had hoped to make it after all. I was buried under a self created submission mountain though and it was in the middle of the day. I heard they had a good time.

Instead, the following day, I treated myself to the Poet Christmas Party (like a works do but better), just three of us meeting up for lunch and pretending it was our annual do really! I made the mistake of drinking a glass of wine as I wasn’t driving, but I had forgotten that I skipped breakfast and hadn’t yet lined my stomach. So I guess I was entertaining.

I missed Attila The Stockbroker and Caution Poet Man Down on Friday night as it was Stanza and I had missed the previous two months and really wanted to go.

It was a great and Christmassy evening.

Week 4:

Christmas and my hibernation from my poetry skin.

In the Greenwood Shade – my poem about the Frog Prince (initially started at a workshop with Angela France) was published by Three Drops From a Cauldron in the December Issue.

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Welcome 2017

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Welcome 2017

I think it is a little late to be wishing you all Happy New Year – so welcome to 2017, I hope it has started well for you.

I took my annual break over Christmas and although I still need to tie up some monthly reviews and pages there really was little action as everything calms down a bit in December. Poets, like bears, enjoy hibernation.

This year I am spending the majority of my time writing and promoting ‘Fragile Houses’. Three new exciting opportunities have landed on my lap and in addition to these some new Literature Festivals have sprung up that I am busy organising events for. I do not plan to do 107 gigs this year, but there are still several events a month to keep me in the performance circuit/loop.

I am very excited about 2017 and have harnessed the sense of ‘new dawn’ we all experience on the 1st January and I intend to keep it. Which is ironic as I have had some wobbles already this month. So running on the pure scent of the beginning of the year… let’s get stuck in!

Be brave

be bold

and keep writing!

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Week Fifty One: A thousand eyes

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Really delighted to be asked for a Guest Prompt on this writing project. I am pleased that I managed to create one from scratch and the resulting writing makes a great read!

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For his penultimate prompt, Squiffy welcomes the last guest prompter of the year: Nina Lewis.

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Image credit: Courtney Boydston (http://playalargoresort.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Photo-courtesy-of-Courtney-Boydston-Flickr-Creative-Commons-1024×683-1024×480.jpg)

As you read this week’s prompt most of you will be thinking about turkey and cranberries, do you need a festive break? What about pineapple…

We may know pineapple is not a single fruit but a group of berries that have fused together, but Squiffy has only just discovered coalesced berries.

Those berries got him thinking about fusion and so this prompt comes with a myriad of options all linked in some way to Squiffy’s recent discovery.

Use these ideas as a starting point for your writing:

the solid core,

impenetrable things,

fusion,

torn apart at the seams,

the power of stars.

Oddly enough some of these ideas bring you back to Christmas if you wish to stay festive.

Finally if you want another curve ball here is a retelling of…

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Transaction, poem by Nina Lewis (ME, IN A HAT Poetry and Prose Series)

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Recent submissions have been busy. This one flew and nested. Silver Birch Press.

 

Transaction by Nina Lewis When it all fell through I went shopping. The clothes store had a sale on and I found this hat, stared too long at the reflection of my head wearing it, mirroring thoughts…

Source: Transaction, poem by Nina Lewis (ME, IN A HAT Poetry and Prose Series)

Fragile Houses The Book Launch

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On October 3rd Fragile Houses, my debut poetry pamphlet was launched at Waterstones Birmingham.

It was a fantastic night and I felt like ‘Christmas Eve’, the next morning it felt like a dream. The morning after felt whimsical and I had to pinch myself to tell that I was awake. This is how a great book launch should feel.

I cannot believe I didn’t blog it straight away, that I didn’t show you all how I felt. That you have had to wait two months for this post.

There was a lot to do before the event and next year I will be blogging about this side of things as I found, through countless hours of research a gap on the practicalities of organising launch events.

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I got to Birmingham with a travel bag of books. I was a bag of nerves, but fortunately had Maggie Doyle and Spoz with me, taking my mind off it.

I wish I had taken a photo of the room and another of the audience. When I stepped into the space, my breath was taken away. We had four comfy, green chairs ready for us at the front (Hays Festival style staging) and more chairs had to be put out for the audience, always a good sign. There were over 25 people there and I was delighted that family and friends had also come to support me. There were three audience members who had seen the advertising and turned up for a free night of poetry and one of them kindly bought my book. So I was able to tick off the unwritten checklist of selling the book to a stranger on the evening of it launching. Happy dance.

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I had asked for Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker to come and read at the event. Claire started proceedings with a lovely set. I have always been a fan of her poetry (and Roy’s and Antony’s) – one of the many reasons I asked if they would read at the launch.

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My publisher, Sarah Leavesley was also there and made a short and delightful speech that I had to speak after (and she nearly made me cry). I read a selection of poems from the pamphlet, signed and sold lots of books and we all celebrated with wine and cake.

It was an incredible night. It still feels like a dream.

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Signing my first book. The books sold on the launch evening were all numbered as well.


 

Official Launch Photographs were kindly taken by Bernard Davis.

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Here is my post-launch social media message;

A very quick, adrenalin filled THANK YOU to everybody who came to celebrate the launch tonight. Family, friends, poets & general public. Couldn’t have asked for a better event. Room was perfect. Fell in love with that space as soon as I saw the backs of the chairs. Slightly awkward explaining to the general public, who had rushed in that the first half hour was mingle time. Poets never get to chat (learnt that if it is your launch you don’t get to chat either) but think I managed to hug and welcome everyone. Sold more books than no. of people in attendance, thanks for the generosity.

Huge, huge thanks to Claire Walker, Roy McFarlane and Antony R Owen who made me swell with heartfelt sets and lots of appreciated sign language from the green chairs. How ‘Hay’ was that?

Thanks to V. Press for publishing Fragile Houses & Sarah Leavesley for her generous words and all the hard work. I managed not to cry the poems, but after that speech it was hard to do the next intro.

Thanks to Maggie Doyle who had my camera and captured that magic writer- editor/ publisher moment, gave me a lift and has been there from almost the very beginning. Thanks to Giovanni Spoz Esposito for the extra lift relay, for supporting the launch and for the delivery of my words elsewhere. Hope they serve well.

Thanks to John who enabled me to tick ‘sell your book to a stranger’. Thanks to everyone. Next stop, headlining Stirchley Speaks tomorrow, along with the wonderful Carl Sealeaf, P Cafe 7.30pm. Signed pamphlets will be available, minus the free muffins & wine.

Also thank you to Waterstones Birmingham and Bernard Davis who stepped in to catch everything through his camera lens. I cannot wait to see the shots!

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As you can see from this photo – the pamphlet costs £5.50 and makes Christmas shopping REALLY easy.

V.Press have currently got Christmas bundles on SALE. Which means for just £7.50 you can be the owner or giver of two pamphlets.

Festive Offer 3: The way home

2 illustrated poetry pamphlets: David Calcutt’s The Old Man in the House of Bone and Nina Lewis’ Fragile Houses for just £7.50 (including P&P in the UK only)

Review of the Month – November (let’s get one blogged in time) UPDATED

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UPDATED

I cannot believe it is the end of November already. I have marked it with a great night in Worcester at an ‘Arthur Rackham’ themed 42. Great to see some new faces too.

This month has been abundant with opportunities and I am witnessing the domino effect. There is a lot to review and I am busy with end of month submissions, so this post has recently been updated and completed.

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REVIEW OF NOVEMBER

Week 1

I finally managed to get back over to Permission to Speak, where David Calcutt was headlining with his V. Press Pamphlet ‘The Old Man in the House of Bone’. d-cal-old-man

It was a great night and I performed some new work written from An Atomic Sun Workshop facilitated by Antony Owen that I attended earlier this year. Writing about Hiroshima takes time and finding places where it is comfortable enough to know you can perform it, is the next challenge. They worked. People were reminded.

Antony Owen and myself (along with many other writers) have work in a Shabda Press anthology. Accepted a while ago, contracts signed in Spring, we are happily approaching proof and publication and it should be out February time. There are big issues that we must not shy away from, but it can be a lonely place, it is great to meet like-minded writers. I have to say that Antony writes from the heart and everything he writes matters socially, whereas my political poems come and go.

Writing about such horrific histories can be hard without support of those around you.

I did lots of writing this week and with working, found I was too exhausted after October to manage evening events on top. I missed them. Forgave myself and spent time at the desk.

I had my writing group, which over the past fortnight has taken time preparing. I spent hours researching for topical writing tasks for the Writing West Midlands group and structuring the session and resources, they all seemed to enjoy it and we had some new members too. Even treated them to some time in the book booth windows to write outside of the space. My group discovered an interesting Jukebox on display and created all sorts of ideas about what it was really.

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Mr G. and I went to another big gig.

 

Week 2

I completed an interesting challenge set by Helen Calcutt and was rewarded with two new poems, one that stands out well, was performed at SpeakEasy and will be published.

I attended my first Birmingham Stanza at Waterstones, run by Roz Goddard. Jane Commane was the invited guest talking about publishing. It was an enjoyable evening and I was able to take another recently penned poem for some editing support. In fact I spent most of my week at Waterstones.

I missed HOWL as I was working and already had 48 hours with double events. Let me state – I am too old for double event nights!

I went to SpeakEasy in Worcester to see Ben Parker Feature and buy his new book. bp-seIt was a great night of poetry, thoroughly enjoyed and lovely to see Ben again. I missed the last chance to see him as Mr G and I were away when he organised his poetry event at the Swan Theatre, where he is poet in residence. I first met Ben at the end of his poetry residency at Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum at his Worcester LitFest event two years ago.

I cannot wait to read his new collection ‘The Amazing Lost Man’, which was released November 1st.

In this startling and energetic first collection, Ben Parker explores real and imagined territories and reports back in poems that are both darkly funny and vividly descriptive. Combing concision with a surreal lyricism, the worlds of The Amazing Lost Man are at once strange and familiar, while the central sequence of ‘Insomnia Postcards’ is a joyous clash of the quotidian and the bizarre. These poems have a subtle music, and a confident voice that draws the reader in. (cover)

cover_parker_1024x1024 I know the rule is never judge a book by the cover and I tend not to. Fortunately there is no rule about falling in love with a cover and I have. It is much brighter in reality – buy one and see. https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/products/the-amazing-lost-man

More from Ben here http://www.benparkerpoetry.co.uk/about

My recent poetry book buys have been piling up as I have spent the past few months invested in a crime novel with a bitterly disappointing ending (I still do not know who the murderer was)! Back to poetry for a while.

It is also good to hear when your poetry inspires others;

Big thank you to Suz Winspear, Nina Lewis and Lauren Hill. Those poems of heartbreak inspired me to write my first new prose in five months, while sat in the audience!

Afterwards I rushed out to the sticks to celebrate a friend’s birthday, made it in time for cake and just before the bar closed for drinks.

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The following night I went to the Poetry Business – Poet Laureate Choice Readings at Waterstones Birmingham. The Poetry Business publish under smith/doorstop imprint.

“One of the most vital and vitalising literature organisations in the country”
Andrew Motion
The Laureate’s choice 2016, picked by (of course) Carol Ann Duffy.
The four winning pamphlets are:
Geraldine Clarkson’s ‘Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament’
Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
Mark Pajak’s ‘Spitting Distance’
Tom Sastry’s ‘Complicity’
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I am lucky enough to know Tom through Jo Bell’s 52 project (2014) and have met Geraldine a few times since this new life started in 2013, although this was the first time we had properly met for some time. Nice to be remembered though.
It was wonderful to meet Mark and always good to expand the world of known poets, he was smashing to talk to and I will remember his early morning running and the bear. When in the states (Yosemite), 2015 I had a running mantra ‘Let me see a bear, let me be at a point of safety’… I did see a bear and her cub, I was on one of many transport buses at the time (thank goodness) – as up close and personal as I wanted to get!
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Zeina’s video performance from Dubai kicked off the evening, impressive, soul-driven poetry and from there we enjoyed a live set from the PB poets. It was a pleasant evening and they have since celebrated again in Bristol and I have only heard good things about that event too.
There is currently a special offer – just in time for Christmas – you can buy all 4 pamphlets for just £20.00
‘Geraldine Clarkson’s poems are musical, often playful incantations that delight in the power of words. Formally inventive and vivid with natural imagery.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
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Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
‘Whether drawing on myth or fairytale, or writing directly from women’s experience, these are powerful poems by a new writer with a remarkable gift for storytelling.’  – Carol Ann Duffy 
‘Mark Pajak’s skilful poems keep themselves open, especially to childhood and adolescent experience.  Even so, they are far from frail – their insight and imaginative verve make them robust as well as eloquent.’ – Carol Ann Duffy 
pb4© 2016  Robert Harper
‘Tom Sastry navigates the mysterious everyday in this honest and often funny collection, making friendships and love affairs new and strange.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
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Mark also won the Bridport Prize this year with ‘Spitting Distance’.
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After this event I rushed to the other side of Birmingham to perform from Fragile Houses, my own pamphlet at Spoken Word at the Ort. It was a fabulous night, run by Debbie Aldous. It always feels like coming home.

I am too old for consecutive nights of double bookings though.

The next evening I was back in Waterstones (told you I need a bed there) for a wonderful evening with Indigo Dreams poets, also doing a whistle stop reading tour.

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It was a fabulous evening and a pleasure to meet Kate, Mab and Bethany W Pope, all of whom I knew of but hadn’t met and the lovely Bethany Rivers, who I met at a Writers Network event hosted by WWM back in 2013 and know from poeting in Shropshire, where she does a lot of work. I can highly recommend all their pamphlets. I am currently reading ‘Off the Wall’ By Bethany Rivers.

This evening was delightful, a magical experience and a thoroughly enjoyable Q & A after the readings. Powerful poets doing what they do best.

I shared the evening with Claire Walker and Holly Magill and it was special.

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I also received news that I had won 2nd place in the Museum of Royal Worcester Poetry Challenge and I had to keep this a secret, even the judges didn’t know as it truly was judged anonymously by the panel. It was so hard not telling anyone and slightly awkward as I was going to see Claire Walker headline at Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham on the same night as the awards/reading. This wasn’t quite as hard as keeping my publishing opportunity quiet, but I just wanted to celebrate the success openly!

 

Week 3

I made some submissions, finally! And enjoyed Licensed to Rhyme, where Emma Purshouse was headlining.  She has just won a book award too.

I Once Knew a Poem who Wore a Hat Emma Purshouse and Catherine Pascall Moore
Lots of wonderful imaginative and outrageous poems in this collection which is full of the charms and idiosyncrasies of childhood.  It’s easy to see how children could love these breezy poems and become attached to them.  One could easily imagine them being learnt by heart and repeated in playgrounds.  The illustrations by Catherine Pascall Moore are quirky and appropriate.  The hints about, for example, the best way to learn a poem or how to speak a poem aloud, are unusual in a book of this sort and never patronising. 

 

A first was VIP invite to the Verve Poetry Festival Launch – I will be telling you lots more about the festival throughout the coming months. verve12 Luke Kennard

I love watching Luke perform, dynamic doesn’t cover it – you may notice a group of us chatting – we are not talking through his set – here he is preparing to dive in!

The event was everything I hoped my first VIP experience would be and along with brilliant performances from Luke and Amerah Saleh. verve11

I spent the evening eating divine V cakes and mingling with many people, also had the pleasure of meeting some people for the first time.

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The tickets were live within 24 hours and I have already bought my festival pass for February. I also plan on doing as many workshops as I can and all of this has happened just in time –  for Christmas I have asked for Verve to be gifted back to me… so although with transport etc. I will be running up a bill, the tab is already paid for. Result. verve5

Find out all about the festival and buy tickets here http://vervepoetryfestival.com/

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The night after this was the Poetry Challenge event at the Museum – Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum. Which was a lovely event facilitated by Suz Winspear (Poet in Residence) and the Museum.

cup Prize winning treats – unexpected and beautiful.

It was an absolute joy to surprise all the judges who had chosen the winning poems without knowing who wrote them. I was delighted to be placed and loved the fact the winner and my fellow runner up, Shelagh Wain (from Burton-on-Trent), were poets I did not know.

Georgina Byrne (first place – Winner) had never written a poem before. Here is the article Worcester News

You can read Georgina Byrne’s poem here http://www.museumofroyalworcester.org/winner-of-the-poetry-challenge/

paper-1100254_1280 The event was a lovely, relaxing evening of poetry and it was great to have the judges perform alongside the poetry challenge winners. The museum was also open to have a browse around, a treasure trove of porcelain. I love it there, it gives me the same feeling libraries do. (Imagine – chocolate cake…)

The next night was the Poetry Parlour at Waterstones, I had planned to go but after work and the busy month so far – I missed it. Roy McFarlane was the Poetry Parlour this month, once again I have heard positive reviews about this evening from the open mic-ers.

I spent time writing a current piece that cannot yet be disclosed. Looked over a manuscript for someone and finally, on Sunday went to perform at Open Poetry Walsall Arboretum. Which was a great way to finish a ram-packed week! Relaxing to poetry and afterwards having a quick drink in a pub with poets.

 

Week 4

Missed Shrewsbury Literature Festival completely having only found out about it a few weeks ago. I made it back to Poetry Bites which I have not been able to go to for a long time.

Prepped for The Book Party. Post-book launch open mic event where I showed 4 exclusive poetry films and one that has already been shared publically, from Fragile Houses. It was an intimate affair and a great night. Sadly a lot of people couldn’t make it in the end, but it was a perfect evening of poetry and friends. We all enjoyed each other’s poems and I am (as always) delighted when my poetry circles meet for the first time. Glad I have given some more people Lesley Ingram and John Mills and some more Worcestershire poets are now known to them.

a-fh I was touched by everyone supporting and participating in this evening of poetry, had a gorgeous bouquet (thanks Anne Milton), a poem written about Fragile Houses (thanks Charley Barnes) and good friends who travelled great distances to be there.

Suz Winspear & Mogs performing – photography Charley Barnes

The next night I had to miss Stanza (for the 2nd month running) as I was at  a Book Launch in Birmingham. For ‘Womanly Words’ an anthology of poetry (20 female poets) produced by Shakti Women.

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It was an incredibly absorbing evening – I missed a lot of readings whilst driving around in circles trying to park. A relaxed affair around a huge conference table laden with scrabble, sweets, cakes, champagne and soulful women. It was great that a people came just to listen and that so many of the 20 poets in the anthology were able to make the event. It was lovely reconnecting with everyone.

I was unable to participate throughout the year as much as I would have liked due to working on editing Fragile Houses. There are plans afoot already for 2017 though. It was great meeting some of my fellow anthology poets and just spending time chatting with like-minded activists.

I am a little in love with this book. Well done to Zara Walker for her impressive design work on this gem.

http://www.shaktiwomen.co.uk/

Siobhan and Cheryl even sent us away with goodie bags!

After this event, I was asked to do Radio (for the 2nd time this year), I would have loved to have read my poem on air, but after the excitement of this week’s events and my need to be at home and with Mr.G, added to the fact that it wasn’t local and everybody has started Christmas shopping on Saturdays, I sadly passed up this opportunity. I am kicking myself now a bit.

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I spent the weekend at home with Mr G and fitted in a little poetry writing and film making time.

I also received news of 2 exciting opportunities for 2017, that for now I have to keep quiet. (There is a pattern emerging here!)

And I have finished off the month at 42 with an inspiring evening of writing on the theme of ‘Arthur Rackham’s Brain’. Many of us had completed enjoyable research into the works of this artist. As a child I experienced his Wind in the Willows and my poems were written whilst considering his artwork ‘Mischief’, illustrations for ‘The Old Lady in the Wood’ and ‘Undine’. I was pleased with the resulting poems and had some positive feedback on them. A fabulous event to complete the month – literally – on the 30th!

 

 

 

 

Act of kindness #24: Kindness Advent Calendar

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It’s almost that time of year again… time to spread a little festive kindness. My Kindness Advent Calendar works just like a normal advent calendar but instead of the usual chocolate countdown, we …

Source: Act of kindness #24: Kindness Advent Calendar

Review of October

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Review of October

Week 1

Following advice I was trying to not be too busy pre-book launch but after a week off events I took my writing group for Writing West Midlands, watched all the poetry coverage on BBC2, missed another writing deadline and decided that I would drive to Cheltenham to Buzzwords and catch David Clarke and Cliff Yates (another new-to-me poet).

Buzzwords was great, I realised I hadn’t been for over a year. I had a fabulous evening and do not regret it, despite it being the night before my launch. I read my latest poem – a work on tribal philosophy and have some poetry drafts from the workshop to work on when I get a chance (Christmas holidays maybe).

I had imagined I would spend Monday getting ready for the evening – but in reality I missed writing deadlines, overslept, did everything I could to reduce the nervous anxiety of what if no-one turns up and finally at about 2pm started to get organised.

I am going to write a full post about the launch and some follow up posts about the organisation aspects, as there is a gap of relevant information in this area.

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Waterstones Book Launch for Fragile Houses in Birmingham with Guest Readers – Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker. It was a cracking night, the next morning I woke up to go to work and it felt like a dream.

The following evening I headlined at Stirchley Speaks. I have been headlining since Autumn 2014 but this is the first time I had a book to sell. I did leave home without them and had to turn back to grab the bag, I knew there was something I had forgotten. Since this night I have started using a large event handbag and always carry a couple of copies.

Stirchley Speaks was a great night and I sold lots of books, I realised at this point I had underestimated how many I should order. Taking advice from Jane Commane back in 2014 who said that audience doesn’t necessarily convert to readership. I was aware not everyone I know will buy the book. I have a list of people who want a copy next time I see them too.

It was good to catch up with everybody in the P Café and it was an incredible night of poetry.

The next day I contacted my publishers and ordered another box.

I hadn’t submitted any poetry for a while and had news of one of my poems being published in the USA. More on that when it happens.

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I treated myself to an evening off and a little rest before National Poetry Day, which is fast becoming one of my favourite dates on the calendar.

I collected my new batch of books and went to Suz Winspear’s NPD event in Worcester. As Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Suz is working hard this year in the city and found a brand new venue for the NPD Event. Berkeley Almshouses was the venue and some of the residents came to enjoy the event. It was a great evening and the old chapel had fabulous acoustics and suited Suz very well.

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This year’s theme was messages and I certainly sent a few texts whilst trying to track down the entrance to the venue. Great sets from everyone and I got to catch up with Math Jones (up from London) and Ruth Stacey. I even sold a book!

I spent the weekend Fri- Sun at Swindon Poetry Festival, it was 2nd year there and much as I loved it last year, this year was EVEN better! It deserves a full post and as I pretty much did everything on the programme, will certainly need one. A great way to finish an exhausting, fantastic week in my poetryskin!

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Other great news was Matt Windle became Birmingham’s new Poet Laureate and by the end of the week I had sold over 50 copies of my book!

 

Week 2

Started with a recovery day. I started to create Poetry Films, something I have got hooked on. Last year Sarah Leavesley kindly tutored a group of us in the art of production and I was inspired by the Poetry Films I had seen at Swindon. There are several poems in my pamphlet that I will rarely perform. These are all now Poetry Films.

On my recovery day I spent some INKSPILL admin time and rehearsed a set for Licensed to Rhyme. Roy McFarlane was headlining. It was a great night and I was allowed to sell my pamphlets, they had a table and everything.

The next evening I went to Ledbury to the Poetry Salon where Deborah Alma was reading and finally got a copy of her book, ‘True Tales of the Countryside’, a beautiful Emma Press pamphlet. deb-alma2

I unexpectedly performed in the open mic section. Fragile Houses reached Ledbury. It has since reached Palestine, Malta, Holland and Australia to my knowledge. It was a wonderful, rich evening and great to see Ledbury folk again.

This week was also Birmingham Literature Festival and due to work commitments and events was the first time since coming back to writing (2013) that I missed it. The night after Ledbury Liz Berry and Benjamin Zephaniah were performing and also Gregory Leadbetter had his book launch for ‘Fetch’ (Nine Arches) at Waterstones, Birmingham with Angela France and Jo Bell reading.

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© 2016 Nine Arches

I was gutted to miss both these events but with working and poeting I had no energy and if I remember rightly was asleep as soon as I had finished tea.

The following night Luke Kennard was performing in Birmingham and I missed it because it clashed with SpeakEasy, where I was already performing. Roy McFarlane was the feature and it was a joy to listen to him twice in one week.

Fragile Houses received a Chez Nous Review which I was delighted to discover came from Gram Joel Davies. He actually chose some of my favourite foods – go and have a read.

http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/chez-nous-recommendations-for-fragile.html

By the end of the week I was run down with illness and missed Holding Baby a play by Jan Watts and the rest of the Book to the Future Festival (again for the first time since 2013). I hope to catch the show another time, I have heard nothing but good things about it.

It was great to finish the week with a Madhatter Review http://www.madhatterreviews.co.uk/books–e-books.html

 

Week 3

Fragile Houses has positive reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.

I was asked to do something that I am really excited about, more on that next year. I spent days preparing for INKSPILL in shifts of 8 – 12 hours.

Mr G and I went to London to see Woven Hand.

I was too tired to manage Hit the Ode and Smokestack Poetry Evening event clash), both in Birmingham, both top nights. I also missed the Dylan Thomas Festival, running for the first year in Cheltenham. Unfortunately it clashed with INKSPILL this year.

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I signed up to an online course ‘Arts for Health’ and performed poetry for ‘She Speaks Her Mind’ Woo Feministas – alongside Suz Winspear, Charley Barnes, Claire Badsey & Holly Magill.

Then of course it was INKSPILL with Gaia Harper, Roy McFarlane and Deanne Gist. This was the 4th year for us and it was a success. I already have Guests and plans lined up for 2017.

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The Magnetic Diaries – which I saw in it’s infancy in Hereford last year was on at the MAC and although I couldn’t make the show I did make Sarah Leavesley’s workshop ‘Pain to Poetry’. I have some poetry notes and one poem so far from this and it was a challenging (emotionally) but not unpleasant experience. I also got time to reconnect with many poetry friends I have not seen in a while.

 

Week 4

I spent the early part of the week writing. I entered a few free poetry competitions. I took some bookings for next year and exchanged pamphlets with J.V Birch through the post. She is a childhood friend, now living in Australia and has also become a poet at the same time as me. It has been exciting to map and mirror each other’s journeys through this new world.

I dressed up for Halloween as a ‘Cereal Killer’ and went off to perform at the Halloween Special 42 in Worcester. Where (due to the wig) people didn’t recognise me. It was a fabulous night and a great excuse to dress up. Fantastic sets from everyone.

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photos by Liam Cortintias

The next day I had to do my best to get all the make up off and go to a workshop run by Angela France, the theme was Fairy Tales and I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and even sold a few books.

I listened to poetry on Radio 4 and missed my Stanza meeting to take part in a Charity Quiz night. All teams of 8 and due to circumstances we ended up with just 4 in our team. We were going for the Booby Prize but decided it was hard to share a bottle of wine and so started to get answers right. We came in 5th not too shoddy, somewhere in the middle. Over £1000 was raised for MacMillan.

I hoped to go to Lania Knight’s workshop, having missed her last one due to a crash on the motorway, but this weekend we celebrated a special family birthday.

 

September Review (better late than never)

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So the Christmas adverts haven’t gone unnoticed and I realise we are fast approaching the end of November, (I realise this as I haven’t started seasonal shopping yet)! It has been a really busy Autumn, which is great as this is the life I wanted… it does mean that my blogging time has diminished.

I have some great ideas how to utilise this blog in 2017 that will fit into the ever-increasingly busier patterns I now exist in. I will save the big reveal for the New Year whilst I focus on the backlog!


REVIEW OF SEPTEMBER

September was the most exciting month of 2016 so far, my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’ made it out of editorial and to the printers and I was able to get my teeth into something I do well, organising the Book Launch event and promoting.

fragile-houses-best I was always a little unsure how soon to the end of the process the book had to be before the promoting could begin. Hard work after keeping it a secret for so long. Frustrating though the length of time it all took was, I am glad we launched in October because it is close enough to still being NEW at Christmas! So if, like me, you haven’t started shopping yet…

The rest of September wasn’t too bad either.

Week 1

I finally managed to get back over to Permission to Speak, where Walsall Poetry Society had the headline slot. A collective of poets with a great range of work. Richard Archer – a poet from Walsall helped set this up. Richard has written 3 books of poetry and has performed his work on TV and radio. He describes his poems as a sideways look at life as he tries to dissect the world around him, failing or succeeding in equal measure.

Richard was joined by founding member Bryan Sydney Griffin a.k.a “LaGrif”, Marrianne Burgess, Paul Elwell, Ian Ward and Vicki MacWinyers.

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I was also delighted to see Steve Harrison there, our paths haven’t crossed in a while. Busy poets that we are, with a few Counties of separation. It was a good evening and it felt like coming home. Rob Francis is always so welcoming and it is a great venue to perform in with one of my favourite stages (because it is made out of old school desks) and features in one of my poems. It was lovely to share the evening with Claire Walker and Ian Glass.

I missed the Fringe Festival in Digbeth, as I was out celebrating my birthday (yes! It was in August), I like to party! It was at the expense of missing several submission deadlines this month though. I try to be kind to myself when that happens but the inner voice is screaming ‘GET ORGANISED GIRL!’

 

Week 2

I spent my time organising new term workshops for my Writing West Midlands group and sifting my way through the admin mountain.

I went to Waterstones to watch fellow V. Press poets David Calcutt, Kathy Gee and Claire Walker who have spent months planning ‘From Birth to Bone’, a scripted reading combining poems from all of their collections. I was a little gutted that Fragile Houses wasn’t out in time to participate, I have had conversations about collaboration for sometime. Still I have a few ideas to bounce around in 2017.

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It was a fabulous night and their work blended well. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a jolly good performance. The other thing I loved was the programme. Listed on it were all the poems and the relevant pages from their books.

What I did manage to do was speak to Stuart, as an Area manager and Poet himself he is fully behind events in Waterstones. I have over the year attended several, but from this point onwards the book shop becomes my second home! I confirmed my book launch was to take place in Waterstones ! Oh, my wake me up – I am dreaming!

I went to SpeakEasy in Worcester where the featured artists was a three piece, ‘Threezacrowd‘ – Michael Thomas on words and Campbell and Jan Perry on music. SpeakEasy tends to be poetry so it was different to have some music and singing. Mike Alma and Pip Barlow brought us guitar and voice the month before.

mike-and-pip-barlow-mary-davis Photograph – Mary Davis

The photo is from the August SpeakEasy, where I read some of the canal poems (still in draft form) from our poetry trip. I was wearing my Tiller Girl badge and Alan Durham wore his pirate badge.

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I spent the rest of the week planning and promoting my Book Launch, working for Writing West Midlands, wrote endorsements for ‘Birth to Bone’ and my pamphlets became real and reached the editor. I still cannot believe I waited to pick them up for several days as our schedules weren’t matching.

They were published in time for the London Book Fair, which was exciting.

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Week 3

Following some summer preparation, I started organising INKSPILL – our online writing retreat. Sending emails and making contact with writers was fun and in the process have pretty much organised next year’s Guest Writers too.

It was also the first ‘Licensed to Rhyme’ – my most local poetry night! Finally my hometown can offer something and what a something it is. Maggie Doyle and Fergus McGonigal ran SpeakEasy for a couple of years and both took retirement from it earlier in 2016. Maggie and Fergus worked hard finding the perfect venue and pricing and all the millions of behind the scenes work, we never really consider.

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Spoz co-hosts the event with Maggie Doyle once a month. This first evening was a great success and because the venue is an Arts Centre (Artrix) we have professional sound and sound engineers to boot. We walked on to ‘James Bond theme music’ and the atmosphere was electric. Which all helps performers to perform well. I had a 10 minute Guest Spot and Maggie mentioned my pamphlet was to launch in a few weeks too.

Even more exciting was finally meeting Dreadlock Alien, a man people have constantly spoken about since I hit the circuit in 2014. I knew some of his poems and have seen him perform online but to meet him was thrilling and it was lovely to see a lot of the Birmingham crowd over here too.

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I also worked on (for hours) a professional writing website where people can find me, book me etc. A space I can keep for promo and work. And guess what? I found the only web space that doesn’t link to SEO on Google searches etc. which means unless I send the direct link – you cannot find me. I am limited by free webpages at the moment and many of these need you to install all sorts. I am tempted to use WordPress and as I bought ‘A Writers Fountain’, 16 years ago, I know I can do it again, when money flows a little better.

I still haven’t sat down to work this out but will spend those post-Christmas moments on it, ready to hit 2017 hard.

Come and see it anyway – http://ninalewis.webs.com/ – save it to your favourites, it may be the only way to find it again!

This is the week term started and for this half term I faced a new challenge, I have taken on a 3 day week. Okay, that doesn’t sound a lot but they are full paced and challenging days in a block and I am still on medication. What it will mean is I needn’t worry about not having enough work and it will give me a chance to build up skills with individuals, which is half the battle at the chalk-face or whatever it is called now we are all fully interactive.

It was also super busy with Poetry Events, such as Roy McFarlane’s book launch for his collection ‘Beginning with your Last Breath’- Nine Arches. roy-beg-last-breath

A superb event that took place in Wolverhampton at the Arena Theatre. This was a night I did manage to blog about in real time and you can read the post here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/beginning-with-your-last-breath-by-roy-mcfarlane/

Hit The Ode was the next evening and I was just too exhausted by then to get myself back to the city, fortunately in a move of pure genius Carl Sealeaf was providing LIVE streaming, which was no way as good as being there – but was much better than missing it all. It also meant I had time for 2 hours worth of research and some book promotion work.

I also started to write properly again, something I haven’t really been able to do whilst the pamphlet was still in editorial.

I booked guest poets for my book launch; Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker. Delighted they all agreed to read.

This week didn’t stop. On Friday I went to Kenilworth to see a Poetry Reading at the Talisman Theatre, curated by David Morley. Just in the foyer alone I was excited to see so many people, many I had seen just a couple of days earlier at Roy’s book launch. By far the most exciting sightings were John & Liz Mills, I had no idea they were coming, we have already decided to make a reunion of it next year, treating ourselves to pre-show dinner, after show drinks and a hotel. They had booked a hotel, I live a little nearer so opted for a night drive.

I also saw Julie Boden and that was a treat. So glad that she made it to the show.

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The show itself was mighty fine. I loved meeting and hearing new to me poets – Luke Kennard, who I have missed every time the opportunity has arisen, Sarah Howe who writes beautiful, honest poetry and Claire Trévien, who loves language and was a joy to watch/listen to. I enjoyed the sets from the poets I do know David Morley, Jo Bell, Jonathan Edwards too. They promised a special evening – and it was!

I really wish I had blogged about it at the time, because so much has happened since, it was a wonderful evening and I remember it fondly.

http://www.kenilworthartsfestival.co.uk/events/poetry

I missed Jo Bell’s workshop on Saturday as I was going to Worcester Music Festival to see The Anti-Poet, after missing them at WLF (Worcester LitFest) in the summer. I loved it! It was a total nightmare to park, but well worth the agro. anti-poet-2

After this I finally COLLECTED my PAMPHLETS!

It was also London Book Fair and although I couldn’t make it this year and missed the opportunity to perform Ambiguous Answers for Paper Swan Press,

 

my book did make it and I got to follow it all on Twitter.

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And FINALLY on Sunday I headed out to the MAC where I watched the new version of Ten Letters. The original last year was crowdfunded, a project that was the brainchild of Lorna Meehan and Spoz. This year they have a few new performers, lots of new writing and media and have been funded by the Lottery and Arts Council.

I was also asked to appear on a panel of writers on Radio – which I was jumping about over, until I realised it was a work day and I wouldn’t be able to get to the studio. However, I have been booked to do this in January. Which hopefully will be an easier month on the calendar and I will be all fresh and ready.

Week 4

This is the week of the Poetry Festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon and I was gutted to miss every event I had hoped to get to. After typing week 3 for the past hour, I can see why I didn’t have the energy to work, play and drive all over the place. The final performance from all the resident poets, ‘Unexpected Encounters’ was something I really wanted to see, but had booked (way back in August) my final birthday meal with friends, where we got to cook our food on hot volcanic rocks and this was something that couldn’t be undone. It was a great night!

It was also Leicester Shindig and I hadn’t realised Claire Walker was featuring there, missed it completely. Leicester was the city I came out as a poet in and performed spoken word for the first time.

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I had several invites to events I missed this week – it was hard enough to stay awake and work without going out in the evenings. I was getting in and falling asleep. I did admin tasks, promotion online and booked tickets for Swindon Poetry Festival. I also managed to get to the local Stanza meeting as well as taking a Headline booking for Stirchley Speaks next month, the night after my Book Launch. I also took my first booking for 2017 and booked up October.

On Sunday I read at Open Poetry in the Arboretum, Walsall and promoted my forthcoming pamphlet. It was a lovely afternoon.

 

The last 5 days – no wonder this month seemed so long!

I continued Market Research, promoting and organising the Book Launch (1 week to go).

I missed some submission deadlines.

Took pre-orders for the pamphlet.

Missed Poetry Bites and the Open Mic at Waterstones, 42 and a Scratch Night. I was attempting to take my editor’s advice and take it easy the week before the launch. Which I managed ALL WEEK and then at the weekend (with 48hrs to launch) I broke my promise to myself.

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MORE ON THAT IN THE OCTOBER REVIEW.