Category Archives: A Writers Fountain

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival – Week 1 – Part 4 – The Weekend #SAHF 2021

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Welcome to the 2nd part of week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.

NaPoWriMo drew to a close and May began, so too the first festival weekend. With a list of many great events programmed for the SAHLF.

All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.

Saturday 1st

What We Do to Get Through

Q and A and discussion with author and editor James Withey about his new book What I Do to Get Through: How to Run, Swim, Cycle, Sew or Sing Your Way Through Depression, with writers Orna Cunningham and Georgina Woolfrey.

I remember James Withey from last year’s SAHLF. As I have already mentioned in these review posts, dealing with Mental Health and Wellbeing are essential movements in my life. When I suffered clinical depression (8+ years ago), I (like James) could not read, I couldn’t do anything for a long while. Due to being heavily medicated I mainly slept and even as I progressed with treatment it was a long time before I could look at words. I wanted there to be books to help, had there been it may have been a swifter recovery (but possibly not) and in truth, I will always be on this road. I did eventually find black rainbow by Rachel Kelly and that saved me, I blogged about it a lot and the book itself was one of the few available at the time from the perspective of a person who had suffered. I met Rachel a year later – there are some old posts about it all here:

Approaching the New Year (2015)

A NEW YEAR Message – Inspired by black rainbow by Rachel Kelly (2015)

Meeting Rachel (May 2015)

Not SAHLF/Bookshop Merch

Anyway, this long preamble is to say that these books, this issue are so IMPORTANT. I was amazed and heartened by the attitude towards the audience as this being our space, our time and how willingly people joined in the conversation. Brilliant to see as everything took a lot of guts and courage.

The impact of this session on me cannot really be placed within the framework of words or emotion. Those of you from here will know why.

What I Do to Get Through: How to Run, Swim, Cycle, Sew, or Sing Your Way Through Depression

SAHLF BOOKSHOP

Author Bio

James Withey

James Withey is author of the bestselling book How to Tell Depression to Piss Off: 40 Ways to Get Your Life Back, published by Little, Brown in 2020. The follow up book How to Tell Anxiety to Sod Off, will be published in Jan 2022. He is the founder of The Recovery Letters project which publishes online letters from people recovering from depression, addressed to people experiencing it. He is the co-editor of The Recovery Letters book which was a World Book Night title and selected as a Reading Well title. Cosmopolitan magazine named it as ‘One of the 12 mental health books everyone should read’.

What I Do to Get Through: How to Run, Swim, Cycle, Sew, or Sing Your Way Through Depression, was published by Jessica Kingsley in Feb 2021. James lives in Hove with his husband and emotionally damaged cat.

Orna Cunningham

Orna Cunningham is an editor, illustrator and designer. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, she has been based in her adopted home of Toronto, Canada, since 2015. She has worked for titles like the Irish Independent, The Daily Mail, The Irish Sun, and Russia Today. She is passionate about destigmatising topics surrounding mental health, and apart from her work as a journalist, writes short stories, personal essays, and poetry, and presents the occasional podcast.

Georgina Woolfrey

Georgina Woolfrey is a writer and Spanish teacher from SE London. Her writing journey began in 2015 when her debut blog post, ‘My journey to hell: how depression hijacked my soul and how I finally wrenched it back’ gained thousands of views overnight, leading her to write for Mind, Thought Catalog and HuffPost. Her blog, ‘Wolves’ Wit and Wisdom’ gives readers tips based on her experiences of overcoming depression, anxiety and SAD. What I Do To Get Through is Georgina’s first work in print, and combines her two loves of singing and writing. © S@HLF Programme

It was interesting to hear the genesis of this book and to listen to how various hobbies and the act of doing something helps manage this deep illness. Also loved the fact that James told us all about an Avocado he planted/nurtured and the next day it appeared on his Twitter feed.

Georgina told us the writing which was viewed over 90,000 times was written to try and explain to her friends and family how and where she was.

Home in Our Bodies

Was an incredible powerful event, a reading and a workshop activity. It was joy to discover the brave, honest voice of Aoife Lyall and the equal depth of Victoria Kennefick’s poetry.

Her first collection Mother, Nature (Bloodaxe Books, 2021) has been described as ‘crucial’, ‘daring’, ‘heart-rending’ and ‘staggeringly tender’. 

Aoife Lyall

Aoife Lyall (née Griffin) was born in Dublin in 1987 and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. Awarded an Emerging Scottish Writer residency by Cove Park in 2020 and twice shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards, her poems have also been shortlisted in the Wells Festival of Literature Open Poetry Competition and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. She was longlisted for the inaugural Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize in 2018. Her first collection, Mother, Nature, is published by Bloodaxe Books in 2021. She has worked as a guest curator for the Scottish Poetry Library and as a guest editor for Butcher’s Dog. Her reviews have appeared in Browse, The Interpreters’ House, Poetry London and PN Review.

Victoria Kennefick

Victoria Kennefick’s first collection, Eat or We Both Starve, is published by Carcanet Press and a selection of her poems appear in the Carcanet New Poetries VIII Anthology. Her pamphlet, White Whale (Southword, 2015), won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition and the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Work has appeared in Poetry, The Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Ambit, PN Review, Prelude, Copper Nickel, The Stinging Fly and elsewhere. She is an Arts Council of Ireland Next Generation Artist. © S@HLF Programme

The writing points produced some page surprises for me, not least as I chose a different focal point for the first one and then discovered this had been chosen for the 2nd exercise, so I reverted back to the initial prompt for my second one.

This evet was a dream, if you have a chance to catch these two talented poets, please do.

SAHLF BOOKSHOP

Witches of Scotland Podcast – Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi

Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi talk about their Witches of Scotland podcast and their work to secure a national monument and apology for those accused of witchcraft during the Scottish Witch trials.

Claire Mitchell

Claire Mitchell studied Law at the University of Glasgow and was called at the Scottish Bar in 2003, having been a solicitor in private practice since 1996. She specialises in criminal law and criminal extradition. She has built up a strong Appeal Court practice, with an emphasis on constitutional, human rights and sentencing questions. She has attended the Privy Council and Supreme Court on a number of occasions in relation to cases of general public importance to the law of Scotland. At the 2013 Law Awards of Scotland, she received a “Special Recognition Award” for her contribution to legal thinking over the previous decade.

Zoe Venditozzi

Zoe Venditozzi is a writer and teacher who lives in Scotland with her husband and various children. She works as a Support for Learning teacher and also teaches Creative Writing in various settings. Her first novel Anywhere’s Better Than Here won the Guardian newspaper’s Not the Booker popular prize and she has just finished writing a book about madness and psychic phenomena.

© S@HLF Programme

This was a fascinating talk. One thing which amazes me is how much local history/National History we never hear about. I knew about the Witch Trials but had not realised just how many lost their lives in Scotland. In other countries, these trials form a central part of the area, here it is hidden, swept shamefully away.

And in the next event, I laughed for practically the full hour. Helen Lederer, I love you!

This was just a stunning, hilarious and insightful three-way conversation/ interview and reading. I am SO glad I didn’t miss it!

How to be Funny When the World is Far From It

Join the founder of the Comedy Women in Print prize Helen Lederer and witty authors Lucy Vine and Abigail Mann to talk about funny fiction, what it’s been like writing comedy when the world doesn’t seem funny, and whether humour has the power to unite us.

Helen Lederer

Helen began her career in stand-up comedy at London’s famous Comedy Store, as part of the early 80s comedians including French & Saunders and Rik Mayall. She wrote her first play aged ten and was an avid diarist which served her well when asked to reveal them in BBC Radio 4’s My Teenage Diary. On television, Helen is possibly best known for her role as the dippy Catriona in all five series of ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. She has written and performed several one-woman shows- ‘Still Crazy’ a sell out at the Edinburgh Festival in the 90’s, ‘I Might As Well Say It’ was a sell out in 2018. Books include, Coping with Helen Lederer (Angus and Robertson), Single Minding (Hodder and Stoughton) and Finger Food (Accent Press). Her comedy novel, Losing It, published by Pan Macmillan was nominated for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. She founded the Comedy Women Print Prize to celebrate witty writing by women in 2019.

Lucy Vine

Lucy Vine is a writer, editor and the bestselling author of novels, Hot Mess, What Fresh Hell, Are We Nearly There Yet? and Bad Choices, out 10 June 2021. Her books have been translated into ten languages around the world, with Hot Mess optioned for a TV series in America. She’s been twice longlisted for the Comedy Women In Print Award and also hosted the podcast and live event series, the Hot Mess Clubhouse, celebrating funny women. Her journalism has appeared in the likes of GRAZIA, Stylist, heat, Fabulous, New, Now, marie claire, Glamour Online, COSMOPOLITAN, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Sun and The Mirror.

Abigail Mann

Abigail is a comedy writer living in London and surviving on a diet of three-shot coffee, bourbons, and vegetarian sausage rolls. She was born and brought up in Norfolk, which she says is to blame for the sardonic humour that runs through her novels. Abigail was the runner up in 2019’s Comedy Women in Print award for The Lonely Fajita and has recently published her second book The Sister Surprise. Abigail takes inspiration from unconventional cross-sections of modern society and the impact this has on identity and the relationships we create. When she’s not writing, she teaches creative workshops.

© S@HLF Programme

SAHLF BOOKSHOP

Malika’s Kitchen

Readings from Katie Griffiths, Arji Manuelpillai, Courtney Conrad and Janett Plummer, introduced by the Director of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, Jill Abram. Malika’s Poetry Kitchen (aka MPK, aka Kitchen) is a writers’ collective founded in Brixton by Malika Booker and Roger Robinson in 2001. It nurtures the writing, performance and careers of poets by emphasising craft, community and development.

Malika’s Poetry Kitchen (aka MPK, aka Kitchen) is a writers’ collective founded in Brixton by Malika Booker and Roger Robinson in 2001. It nurtures the writing, performance and careers of poets by emphasising craft, community and development. Jill Abram has been the Director since 2010. Under her stewardship the group meets for workshops on Friday evenings (the saying goes that, as MPK members give their Friday nights over to poetry, we must be very dedicated). Some sessions are led by members of the collective, others by guest poets from the UK and beyond, such as Kei Miller, Mona Arshi and Olive Senior. MPK Alumni include Inua Ellams, Warsan Shire, Kayo Chingonyi, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Nick Makoha and Aoife Mannix. This lively, London-based community of dedicated poets has inspired similar Kitchen models to be set up worldwide, from Chicago to Delhi, creating an international MPK family.

© S@HLF Programme

I’ve known about Malika’s Kitchen for years (since 2015), I have seen a few live events with members of the Kitchen and watched countless interviews (well, I could count them, less than 10) with Roger Robinson, Malika Booker or Jill Abram. I was not going to miss this event and I am glad I didn’t.

It was lovely to be reminded of the whole story, to be introduced to the newest member, Courtney Conrad and one of the original poets, Janett Plummer and to see and hear poets I know and or/have met and those I don’t know. A great mix of work in this reading. And I have to mention – Janett’s amazing balloon arch!

I recently attended Kate Griffiths Book Launch (and have seen her read over the years) and Live from the Butchery (Helen Ivory, Martin Figura & Kate Birch – IS&T) had a Malika’s Kitchen reading in March with Malika Booker, Jill Abram and Fahad Al-Amoudi – I have watched Jill and Malika reading many times over the years at various festivals and had caught some of Fahad Al-Amoudi’s work. In Lockdown1 – 2020, I was fortunate enough to be led back to Wayne Holloway-Smith and through him discovered Arji Manuelpillai just in time to make his book launch for Mutton Rolls.

SAHLF BOOKSHOP

So I was excited by the line up and knew this was going to be a golden event! And I was not disappointed!

As well as enjoying and listening to a variety of readings, Jill Abram introduced this new book, (which I was aware of). It is packed with poems from Malika’s Kitchen members, the title is how poets in this group were viewed 20 years ago. You can pre-order this book. Inside there are more than 60 new poems from members.

PRE-ORDER here

The poetry collective and I discovered this through a session Malika led and also a Poetry Society event, is international. Similar groups in this model have been set up and there is a section of the book where Malika Booker talks to this.

Published 5th August 2021

Again – if you missed this event, go and find it on the channel after the festival, treat yourself!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021 – Week 1 – Part 3 #SAHLF2021

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Welcome to the 3rd part of week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.

All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.

Friday 30th – Cont’d

Rejection and Building Resilience

This was a fruitful session, as one may expect. I have been writing for 7 years (*I subtract 2019) and in that time have learned the art of resilience. We all experience rejection, my success to rejection is about 50/50 which I discovered is higher than the average. Of course if I sent more work out that would vary, maybe up – maybe down. Generally it stays about the same between a yes or no. I appreciate submitting poetry is different to finding an agent for your book.

I trained as an actress originally and if you want an artform to teach you how rejection feels – become an actress. It stood me in good stead for this life. But it never hurts to hear about building resilience.

For twenty years Jenny Knight kept writing, through industry close-calls and other brutal experiences. She finally secured an agent–but, even then, the near-misses kept piling.

Rejection is a painful, but unavoidable, part of every writer’s life. Join Jenny as she teaches the tried-and-tested methods – from utilising a writer’s “toolkit” to building a community – that have helped her and other writers cope with the inevitable. © S@HLF Programme

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

BIO: Jenny Knight is a prize-winning writer of short story, fiction and memoir and a contributor to Kit de Waal’s celebrated Common People anthology. Her writing on writing and the publishing world has appeared in Book Machine, National Writers’ Centre and Restless. She was selected for Penguin’s WriteNow 2018, a 2019 ACE/TLC Award, is a National Centre for Writing Case Study, has won or been listed in competitions including Bridport, Fish, Arvon, ACE/Escalator, Yeovil, Riptide and SWWJ and published in several anthologies. A freelance editor and copywriter, her publishing clients, including Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Routledge, and she assesses manuscripts for Jericho Writers. Her agent is Jo Unwin.

She’s also taught creative writing in prisons, for the UN/Comic Relief in Somalia and Kenya, spoken on panels and held workshops about writing, getting agents, rejection and resilience for PrimadonnaFest, Stay-At-Home-Fest 2020 and Litro. She has a degree in English Lit & Drama and studied Creative Writing at UEA. © S@HLF Programme

It was great to hear Jenny Knight’s story – the honesty of failing and eventually coming back to writing, reaching a point where she felt she could try again and hearing the results of strength (that comes from feeling your life has been totally destroyed).

It was interesting to discover the statistics of success rates and to hear Knight talk of rejection as an ‘apprenticeship for our writing’, which makes sense. Any writer who has just edited a manuscript or had to rework a failing one will inevitably write better. You only have to look at a piece of work you did 3/5/10 years ago to see this.

Refreshing to hear someone saying let yourself feel the pain of rejection. And also to acknowledge this pain doesn’t seem to lessen over time or experience, just maybe our learning of how to deal with it.

I could go on, but don’t want to spoil it for anyone who would like to watch the post-festival videos and I would encourage you to do so! Visit the festival YouTube and arm yourself with some new/fresh outlooks on rejection.

Blueprint Poetry Press Showcase

Blueprint Poetry Press, established in 2019, is the brainchild of poets Jo Colley and Julie Hogg. We believe that poetry pamphlets are a thing of beauty in their own right and not just a springboard to a full collection. We publish short, coherent sets of poems which may also include illustrations, from published poets. In 2020, we published Paul Summers (the dreamer’s ark) and Angela Readman (Cooking with Marilyn), and in 2021, Matthew Caley (Prophecy is Easy), Bernadette McAloon (A Queen of Rare Mutations) and Degna Stone (Mrs Stone’s Diaries). © S@HLF Programme

I remember Jo Colley from last year’s SAHLF talking about this new press, so it was great to see this year they were here with poets. This was a reading I was looking forward to, discovering some new-to-me poets.

\slight tangent/

I admire the Press point of view that a pamphlet is a thing of beauty, a body of work in itself. It is true, in 2018 when I submitted my last manuscript, I had been imagining it as my first collection (and there were enough poems to make it so), but I felt the subject matter in such an extended format would feel too relentless.

After careful consideration – it was submitted and published as a pamphlet, Patience, which came out at the tail-end of 2019. I will eventually carve time to update AWF to include it! Patience can be bought here.

Paul Summers – the dreamer’s ark

Paul Summers is a Northumbrian poet & artist who lives at the mouth of the River Tyne. He is currently obsessed with liminals & the littoral, making a daily pilgrimage to the river’s rocky shoreline almost every day since his return from Australia five years ago. His poems have appeared widely in print for almost three decades. A founding co-editor of the ‘leftfield’ UK magazines Billy Liar and Liar Republic, he has also written for TV, film, radio, theatre and collaborated many times with artists and musicians on mixed-media projects and public art. His latest book is straya, published by Smokestack Books in April 2017. Previous collections include: primitive cartographyunion (new & selected) Three Men on the Metrobig bella’s dirty cafe, cunawabi and the last bus. © S@HLF Programme

the dreamer’s ark features three of Paul’s beautiful artworks and is based on his daily walks to the beach, the changes over time. He talked about the magic of fog, this geographic region is not going to avoid bad weather, so it needs to be embraced. He talked about the act of collecting things on his walk and how the house has become filled with these. The affection Paul Summers shows for place was as captivating as his poems.

Matthew Kelly – Prophecy is Easy

Matthew Caley’s Thirst (Slow Dancer, 1999) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Subsequent collections are The Scene of My Former Triumph (Wrecking Ball Press, 2005), Apparently (Bloodaxe Books, 2010); his lost second collection, Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011); and his fifth and sixth collection, Rake (Bloodaxe Books, 2016) and Trawlerman’s Turquoise (Bloodaxe Books, 2019). His work has been included in many anthologies, and he also co-edited Pop Fiction: The Song in Cinema with Stephen Lannin (Intellect, 2005). He lives in London with artist Pavla Alchin and their two daughters. © S@HLF Programme

Matthew talked about how the poems in Prophecy is Easy were written in a short space of time, in March 2020, he wrote in bursts and how at the time he couldn’t see the pandemic and lockdown in them. For me I was still being carried into more oceanic scenes (here in the Midlands many of us we feel the tug of the ocean, despite being or perhaps because of our geographical distance, we are the furthest distance from the coast of this island)!

The stories behind Matthew’s poems, the reference points were great to hear, as enjoyable as the poetry.

Bernadette McAloonA Queen of Rare Mutations

Bernadette McAloon is the recipient of a Basil Bunting Award and the Flambard Poetry Prize. She works as a creative arts therapist and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. A Queen of Rare Mutations is her debut poetry pamphlet. Her work has appeared in many magazines: Butcher’s Dog Magazine; Drifting Down the Lane: Art and Poetry Explorations edited by Harriette Lawler, Agnes Marton (Moon and Mountain); Flambard Prize Winners’ AnthologyMslexia MagazineOfi Press Online Magazine; One Planet, Newcastle University’s Alumni Online Anthology; Rowing Home, Cruse Bereavement Care Anthology and The Rialto Magazine. © S@HLF Programme

It was a great reading from Bernadette, her poems cover an array of themes and reach deep levels with ease. History, memory, lives and love all heard in the few poems she delighted us with. Bernadette didn’t talk much about the poems, reading them was enough – allowed us the space around them we needed and they deserved. It was beautiful.

Degna Stone

Degna Stone is a poet and editor living in the north east of England. She shares her home near the River Tyne with her husband, two teenagers and their chihuahua. Her work has appeared in The Book of Newcastle (Comma Press), Ten: Poets of the New Generation and A Mighty Stream (Bloodaxe), Writing Motherhood (Seren), Urban Myths and Legends and Some Cannot Be Caught (The Emma Press), Crossings (Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts) and Filigree (Peepal Tree Press). © S@HLF Programme

Degna’s pamphlet (The Port in the Darkness*) is forthcoming from the press. These poems came from a traumatic experience and hold power beyond words. Unflinching and honest poems, that capture the hopelessness and helplessness of the situation. These were poems Degna Stone wrote without thinking they would be seen/read. To write brutal truths masterfully is extremely hard, this award winning poet has certainly done just that.

*This title may not be accurate, I can’t read half of my scribbled notes from this session and haven’t been able to confirm with online searches.

Writing Happiness Workshop With Elspeth Wilson & Rachel Lewis

In this workshop, we will be exploring how we can write about joy and happiness to develop our own writing and support our wellbeing.‘ © S@HLF

This event was held in partnership with Middlesbrough Libraries and 50% of donations were split between charities Saheliya and Beat.

Saheliya (a specialist mental health and well-being support organisation for black, minority ethnic, asylum seeker, and refugee women and girls in Edinburgh and Glasgow) and Beat (the UK’s eating disorder charity. Their mission is to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders.)‘ © S@HLF

Rachel Lewis

Rachel Lewis is a poet, facilitator and editor. Three Degrees of Separation, her debut poetry pamphlet exploring joy in recovery from mental illness, won the 2019 Wordsmith Prize and was published by Wordsmith HQ. She is currently working on a second pamphlet on her Jewish family history. She regularly facilitates writing workshops, and is a member of the Wriot poetry collective and Covent Garden Stanza.

Elspeth Wilson

Elspeth Wilson is a writer, researcher and poet who is interested in writing about health, disability and sexuality. Their work has been shortlisted for Canongate’s Nan Shepherd prize and Penguin’s Write Now Editorial programme. Elspeth is currently working on their debut novel and also regularly facilitates accessible creative workshops. When they aren’t writing or reading, they can usually be found near the sea or spending time with their elderly dog. – © S@HLF Programme

Last year I attended Elspeth’s SAHLF Nature writing workshop and it was great, so when I saw she was doing another one this year, I knew I wanted to be there.

A series of short writing exercises were delivered in turn by Elspeth and Rachel, there were take-aways and future ideas generated and all in a fast paced yet comfortable atmosphere. It was freeing – no pressure.

I felt uplifted by the noticing where we can find happiness and as well as feeling good I got some writing done to mine for threads later.

Look out for Week 1 Part 4. COMING SOON!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021 – Week 1 – Part 2 #SAHLF2021

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Welcome to the 2nd part of week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.

Thursday 29th

All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils

This was my introduction to David Farrier, he is an award-winning author and Professor of Literature and the Environment at the University of Edinburgh.

In 2017 He received the Royal Society of Literature’s Gules T Aubyn award for non-fiction. Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils has been (or is in the process of being) translated in seven languages.

I admire Robert Macfarlane‘s writing and was excited to watch David Farrier discuss his book with Esa Aldegheri. We saw a short promotional video about the work the book covers and then an in depth interview covering everything from how will we be seen as ancestors by our descendants to future fossils, single use plastic and the attempt to imagine that which is actually beyond our imagining.

Footprints is a book which deals with how we get a sense of what our impact is going to be in the very long term on the planet and the people who will come after us, which is an issue that has entered global consciousness during the pandemic. Ironic when you think of what all the scientists, environmentalists, conservationists, ecologists and Eco activists have being telling us for decades. Finally people can see the result of human impact on our world. The planet has shown us.

Many of us see these issues from our present moment but in the opening paragraphs of his book Farrier writes: the fact that we also inhabit the flow of very deep time and he also references Percy Shelley (and Aristotle). Any author who cites a poet wins me over instantly.

Later in the conversation Aldegheri mentions the enjoyable use of poets being quoted in Footprints -Alice Oswald, Derek Walcott and Shelley. Farrier teaches English Literature and knows poetry can help us make sense of things that seem too big for our comprehension, poetry can change our perspective, give us multiple meanings.

I got a real taste of this book from this presentation. The Q&A included some brilliant questions from the audience and we got to hear about Farrier’s sabbatical research.

Creating The Perfect Page Turner

Thriller writers Penny Batchelor and Louise Mumford as they reveal the tips and tricks they use to keep readers obsessively turning those pages.

This was another great session, thoroughly enjoyed listening to the conversation between these two authors. They covered the usual ‘What If’ Pitch and 3 Act Structure, then went on to discuss how to use misdirection, characters and the art of keeping your reader engrossed. It was a joy to listen to and Batchelor and Mumford also generously threw in some book recommendations.

Penny Batchelor

Penny Batchelor is an alumna of the Faber Academy online ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She is a freelance journalist, a former BBC content producer and website editor for various educational institutions.

Her journalism has appeared in numerous publications including The Knitter, Vintage Life, Mollie Makes, Travel Africa, The Simple Things and Pretty Nostalgic magazines; and BBC Ouch!, money magpie.com, welovethisbook.com and The University of Warwick’s Knowledge Centre websites. She is the editor of her award-winning knitting blog A Woolly Yarn, which is now solely social-media based on Facebook and Instagram.

Author Interview – Yorkshire Times

Louise Mumford

Louise Mumford studied English Literature at university and graduated with first class honours. As a teacher she tried to pass on her love of reading to her students (and discovered that the secret to successful teaching is… stickers! She is aware that that is, essentially, bribery.)

In the summer of 2019 Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival.

Her debut thriller, Sleepless, was published by HQ on 10th Dec 2020.

The Circle meets Black Mirror in a thrilling, plausible and gripping debut. Frighteningly inventive.’ John Marrs, bestselling author of The One

Friday 30th

Remember me telling you in Part 1 I wasn’t going to bed down at the festival this year? Well, by the weekend I was dragging my sleeping bag in! So much so, I am even reviewing an event I didn’t manage to catch…

I was gutted to miss Dogged: Working Class Women with Emma Purshouse after being treated to a short extract a week ago at Paul Francis’ Book Launch where Emma was a guest reader. I know Emma and her work well and am delighted that she has successfully transitioned that broad water between poetry and novel.

Aside from face to face work during the first 3 months of Lockdown 3, I stay in. I take an occasional nature walk, a weekly supermarket drop in and the odd trip to the Drs/hospital or petrol station. And on Friday I braved the world and met a friend in her garden for a coffee and a catch up. This is the first time since December I have been out.

I had hoped to be back for Emma’s Midday event, but had a second cup (this was the first time since December I’d been out – and once out…) and on the way home had a run in with a huge silver van on single track country lane, delaying me further. Those of you who read AWF regularly will know that my poor laptop is struggling on and so even though I hoped to catch the second part of this event, the tech took another 20 mins to log in and clear itself onto Zoom, I missed it!

I know Emma will be doing more readings and promotion for this book and I will look out for those.

Set in the city, Dogged is the story of two working-class women in their 70s. Funny, warm, dark, and beautifully written, the novel has received rave reviews and has been described as “unputdownable”.

Emma is a working-class performance poet and writer, and the current poet laureate of the City of Wolverhampton. She was part of the ‘Common People’ anthology, edited by Kit de Waal, and is also part of Portopia which is a brand-new writer development project set up to increase working-class representation in screenwriting.

Emma Purshouse

Thanks to Ignite Books I did find this recording of an extract. Enjoy!

BIO: Emma Purshouse is Poet Laureate for the City of Wolverhampton. She is a poetry slam champion and has performed at spoken word nights and festivals across the UK – Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Latitude, and WOMAD, among others – often using her native Black Country dialect in her work. Her most recent poetry publication, Close, (Offa’s Press, 2018) was shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award in 2019, and her children’s poetry collection, I Once Knew a Poem Who Wore a Hat, won the poetry section of the same award in 2016. In 2019 Emma was one of writers included in ‘Common People’, the anthology of working-class writing edited by Kit De Waal. Her debut novel, Dogged, (Ignite Books) was launched early in 2021, to critical acclaim.

The Millstone and the Star: Mental Health, Mental Health Problems and Writing

Mental Health and wellbeing (and writing through it) has always been important to me. Not least of all because I came back to writing (after a 15 year gap) after suffering from clinical depression. It is something I live with and know well the power of writing out.

This was an interesting presentation, an honest, brutal (at times, we were warned) and necessary. Sadly a fallout of pandemic life is people have experienced isolation on a level as never before and the loneliness and lack of human contact has increased mental health concerns globally. So this field is even more essential than it ever was – and it always was.

Somehow I had it in mind that this was a workshop, so I was surprised by Anna Vaught’s presentation, but it was /felt interactive and soothing to hear another person’s experience and learn about the work she does and of course the Millstone and the Star.

The programme demonstrates the positivity Anna Vaught searches for and despite the subject, this was an uplifting session to be part of.

How might writing help boost our mental health, and how might we write about and draw on the experience of mental health problems and mental illness in our fiction and non-fiction work? Sometimes, we carry a heavy weight and perhaps we cannot ever be mended – that is the millstone. Yes this does not mean we cannot nurture our creativity and produce fine writing; create something beautiful: there is the star. – © S@HLF Programme

BIO: Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, short fiction writer, editor and a secondary English teacher, tutor and mentor, mental health advocate and mum of 3. 2020 saw the publication of Anna’s third novel, Saving Lucia (Bluemoose) and a first short story collection, Famished (Influx). Anglo-Welsh, she splits her time between Wiltshire, Wales, and the Southern US. She is currently editing a new novel, writing a novella and working on her first non-fiction book & a second short story collection. Anna’s essays, reviews, articles, and features have been featured widely online and in print. She is represented by Kate Johnson of Mackenzie Wolf Literary Agents, in New York City.

Part 3 COMING SOON!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival – Week 1 – Part 1 #SAHLF2021

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The S@HLF programme is extensive (80 events)

Unlike last year I am not trying to bed down for the entire festival… but here are some bitesize clips from some of my festival experience.

MONDAY 26th

Documenting the Past: Neema Shah (Kololo Hill) in conversation with Catherine Menon

Here is an author who proves you CAN come to writing after/during a career, you can write if you haven’t chosen an academic route into it, you can write a book and still work full time (many authors prove this) and you can get a book published (via Agent) within 5 years! Not only that but this first novel was also shortlisted for several prizes.

It was a fascinating conversation both in terms of the book itself and the writing process.

Set in Uganda in 1972, Kololo Hill (shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award and the First Novel Prize) tells the story of one family’s escape. From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s debut explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones. © Stay-at-Home! Festival

Neema Shah

S@HLF Bookshop

‘[An] incredible debut’ Stylist

‘Shah is excellent on the theme of home . . . an absorbing storyteller’ Daily Mail

Catherine Menon

S@HLF Bookshop

***ONE OF TELEGRAPH’S BEST NOVELS OF 2021***

‘Supple, artful, skilful storytelling – it takes an immediate grip on the reader’s imagination and doesn’t let go’ HILARY MANTEL

The Scene of the Crime: William Shaw, Rebecca Wait and Nina Allan

This panel was a great discussion between several crime writers looking at how their work addresses similar themes and how it is approached differently. I enjoyed the discussion over various planning (or not) approaches, hearing about research and how their novels developed.

William Shaw

Grave’s End

S@HLF Bookshop

The brilliant third book in the DS Alexandra Cupidi investigations.

‘If you’re not a fan yet, why not?’ VAL MCDERMID

‘A superb storyteller’ PETER MAY

With meticulously realised characters and a brooding setting, Grave’s End confronts the crisis in housing, environmentalism, historic cases of abuse and the protection given to badgers by the law.

Rebecca Wait

Our Fathers

S@HLF Bookshop

A gripping, tender novel about fathers and sons from the highly acclaimed author
A Guardian crime and thriller book of the year 2020


This is a beautifully realised novel, touching on the fallibility of memory and the unknowability of families, and gripping in its intensity. Outstanding’ Mail on Sunday
‘ A spectacular novel’ Spectator

Nina Allen

The Dollmaker

S@HLF Bookshop

THE BEWITCHING NEW NOVEL FROM THE AWARD-WINNING GUARDIAN FRESH VOICES AUTHOR

‘A fantastic book’ Andrew O’Hagan
‘Wholly original – worthy of a modern Grimm’ Andrew Caldecott, author of Rotherweird
‘A masterful and multi-layered haunted toyshop of a novel’ Tony White, author of The Fountain in the Forest

Tuesday 27th

Are You a Leaf or a Tree?

This was an intriguing title for a workshop, that was enough for me to sign up! Amanda White will be known to many of you as the founder of THE DAILY HAIKU, a group which now has over 5800 members. This was a fun creative writing workshop and not only did I produce two haiku but I found lots of surprises writing themselves into my notebook too.

Turns out I’m a leaf from a Canadian Red Maple tree, who knew!

Amanda also posts daily writing prompts on the festival’s INSTAGRAM.

Hidden Gems from Novel Research

One aspect I love about writing is research. One thing I love about Literary Festivals (and the list of loves is long), is discovering new-to-me authors but equally exciting is finding one you admire or have read on the bill! To hear they’re writing a sequel?! How much could my heart take! I was super excited even before this panel started.

I was enthralled by: Kerry Postle’s insight into what is hidden, the historical information Ali Bacon provided us on early photography and the woman behind it all, Heather Child’s delve into Quantum physics and Jean Burnett’s exploration of quirky historical facts.

The programme suggested we would be sure to learn something new and I certainly did – about 4 pages worth. This was a fun session where each Bristol novelist offered us three gems from their research.

All available at the S@HLF Bookshop

In the Blink of an Eye is a reimagining of the life of the Scottish painter David Octavius Hill from the moment of his encounter with Robert Adamson, a pioneer in the use of calotypes – pictures made by the light of the sun – until the day when his great Disruption Painting is unveiled. 

In the words of competition judge Nick Bellorini, “These are exquisitely rendered tales which reveal their truths with all the delicate resonance of the art they celebrate.” © Linen Press

Taking in London, Paris and Brighton, Who Needs Mr Darcy? details the charming, lively and somewhat dastardly further exploits of the youngest Bennet sister. Pride and Prejudice this isn’t, and Mr Darcy certainly won’t be rescuing her this time . . .

‘High-spirited, great fun and full of racket Georgian atmosphere’ DAILY MAIL

‘The plot romps along in this funny and charming novel . . . a perfect book to curl up with as the evenings draw in’ BRISTOL MAGAZINE

WHAT IF YOUR LIFE HAD AN ‘UNDO’ BUTTON?

‘Brilliantly twisty, thought-provoking stuff – such enjoyable reading’ Jenny Colgan

‘A moving time-slip romance . . . The Undoing of Arlo Knott is a triumph’ Guardian

Inspired by a heartbreaking true story, this stunning and evocative novel is perfect for fans of The Sapphire Widow , Beneath a Burning Sky and The Emerald Affair .

Wednesday 28th

I would have loved the workshop with Jen Hadfield, but I had another workshop to attend. I did manage to hotfoot it across to S@HLF in time to see Rachel Bower and Jay Whittaker. Rachel’s readings at last year’s S@HLF were amazing and I was looking forward to hearing more.

Two Poets: Rachel Bower and Jay Whittaker

A great event where we were not only gifted with readings from these two talented poets but also a generous and wonderful Q&A.

Rachel Bower

Rachel Bower is an award-winning writer based in Sheffield. She is the author of Moon Milk (Valley Press, 2018) and a non-fiction book on literary letters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Her poems and stories have been widely published, including in Anthropocene, The London Magazine, Magma, New Welsh Reader and Stand. Rachel won The London Magazine Short Story Prize 2019/20 and the W&A Short Story Competition. She edited the Verse Matters anthology (Valley Press, 2017) with Helen Mort and she is currently editing an anthology with Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber). Her new poetry collection, These Mothers of Gods, will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in July 2021.

Jay Whittaker

Jay Whittaker is an Edinburgh-based poet. Her second poetry collection, Sweet Anaesthetist, was published by Cinnamon Press in September 2020. Her debut collection, Wristwatch, was Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2018 in the Saltire Society Literary Awards. Both Jay’s books are accessible poetry collections on the themes of resilience, grief, living with cancer, family secrets, and LGBT+ lives (including her own). She prioritised her writing after her personal annus horribilis, during which her civil partner died and she started cancer treatment. Her poems are included in the 404 Ink anthology We were always here: a queer words anthology and in the new Bloodaxe anthology, Staying Human.

This S@HLF Jpeg says it all…

Wednesday was so busy I had to rewrite my schedule on a large post it (the almost A5 ones) and cover over the scribble on my diary page. It meant that this wondrous reading was the only part of the S@HLF I managed to get to. It was a great programme of events I missed out on but it brings me joy to know thousands of others didn’t!

Look out For Week 1 – Part 2 COMING SOON!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival #SAHLF2021

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Last year the The Stay at Home! Festival/S@HF was one of the early highlights of Lockdown.

Schools were still open and the UK was not on Lockdown when the festival’s initial conception happened on Twitter, (great festivals start this way, Verve is another started by a conversation on Twitter), I missed the call outs for events as I was working full-time (and good job too because the following 10 months have been beyond rotten). I fortunately discovered it was happening before it started and was proud to be a Showcase Poet along with Kate Simpson, Sophie Dumont and others.

S@HF 2020: 145 events, 220 authors,
15,000 attendees!

An Incredible Experience

By the start of the festival, we were in Lockdown, which meant we had to STAY HOME – but it also meant I could overindulge in the programme (and there were a massive 145 events)!

I basically attached the laptop to my body for a fortnight, (which is one of the reasons I didn’t have time to blog it until afterwards). It was great to see and attend workshops with many Literary folk, some of whom I know and some I met – which is always a festival highlight. It’s where I first came across Cath Drake who also had a big part to play in the first Lockdown.

Somehow, Carolyn Jess-Cooke & her small team really made the online festival work on so many levels: it was a really positive, friendly space to be involved in. Many attendees acknowledged that it was like attending a festival in person as far as the positive feelings it created in us, both in events and that buzz of after – and that is no mean feat online!

Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

Zoom was still new to many of us, despite being used by the business world since 2011. My first 3 Lockdown notebooks were full by the end of the festival. And I managed to balance the first 11 days of NaPoWriMo happening at the same time. In fact I remember there were several online offerings happening in April/May 2020. The Stay at Home! Festival itself made a slight name change this year and I suspect this may be because a Stay at Home Festival which is music based existed and was in flow shortly before the S@HF 2020 took off.

Following the S@HF 2020 a long succession of incredible festivals and programmes hit our screens as many of the writing community took technological strides into a new online space. A year on we are all hoping this gives rise to Hybrid events where global access is still viable. Anyone who went, has spent the past year hoping there would be another S@HF.

Dee Daaa – and there is! S@HLF 2021

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021

There was a call out that I didn’t miss this year but was working in the real world and like many other spring deadlines it whooshed past. Delighted the team have managed to get AC Funding and sponsorship this year and have created another fantastic programme for us all to enjoy. This also means they have been able to offer it FREE of charge and keep it really accessible. Of course donations are always welcomed.

So here we are #S@HLF2021 – 26 April – 9 May 2021.

The Story Behind S@HLF

This video showcases founder and SAHLF director Carolyn Jess-Cooke in discussion about the origin of the festival.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is an award-winning poet and novelist published in 23 languages. Her fiction is published under CJ Cooke, and her latest book in THE NESTING (HarperCollins [UK], Penguin [US] 2020). She is Senior Lecturer at the University of Lecturer, where she convenes the MLitt Creative Writing by Distance Learning. In 2020, she founded the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival.

SAHLF relies on the ongoing support of our audiences and donors to bring readers and writers together, telling stories, sharing new perspectives, and celebrating writing in all its forms. If you’d like to make a donation, please visit: https://www.stayathomelitfest.org/don…

26 April – 9 May 2021

And if this is the first you’ve heard of it – it’s not too late – it goes on until May 9th. Find out more and look out for some new blog posts soon. Book on through Eventbrite.

Find out about the festival here.

#SAHLF2021

Inclusivity and diversity have been important to this festival and this year the research continues. The events are mainly webinar which offers better security for users and many are also live streamed on the S@HLF You Tube channel, all events are subtitled. They are also using Instagram Live and IGTV, Instagram Reels, TikTok and Soundcloud are also being used.

Recordings of some of the events are available on a catch up service on a pay-what-you-can donation basis.

And for those with no access to the internet:

The Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival is committed to accessibility, inclusivity and outreach, and this year we’re partnering up with many wonderful libraries to ensure that the festival is experienced and enjoyed by as wide a community of people as possible. © Stay-at-Home! Festival

Featured on Ink Sweat & Tears

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I realise despite writing 38 poems in the past 4 weeks for NaPoWriMo, you haven’t seen any of them – so I can treat you all to a full poem today care of IS&T who kindly published ‘Where We Begin’, it is the featured poem today.

Much of the poetry I wrote in 2020 (beyond my own ongoing projects), was as a result of fantastic, generous workshops. When I reminded myself of the origins of this poem I knew I needed to add thanks to Zelda Chappel.

Zelda ran several classes/workshops throughout Lockdown. This poem came from the Week 1 Writing in New Spaces, so thanks Zelda for making me write in the fresh places.

https://news.wttw.com/2020/04/14/more-magic-skies-planets-and-moon-align-show-week

It was written over a year ago, a few weeks into the 1st Lockdown, it reminds me how far we have and have not come.

With gratitude to IS&T and Helen Ivory for considering this poem.

Keep safe all of you.

x

RELATED LINKS:

Moon sweeps close to three planets.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/apr/12/starwatch-social-distancing-heavenly-bodies-moon-mars-saturn-jupiter

NaPo Wrap

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Well throw yourself an after-party! Well done whether you have written 10 poems or 30 you found your way, created something new!

My favourite parts of our final NaPo week/9 days:

Favourite Readings:

Day 24 Reading Ross Gay.

Day 26 Brenda Shaughnessy.

Day 29 Victoria Chang.

I also discovered that I admire Adra Collins’ poetry (live event posted on Day 27).

Favourite Resources:

Day 22 Poets & Writers’ “The Time is Now” column

Although I knew pw.org I hadn’t visited the site for a while and was unaware of this column. You never know when you will need a prompt to get you writing.

And one I will return to over and over Day 27 Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

Favourite Prompt

Day 24

Find a factual article about an animal. Now, go back through the text and replace the name of the animal with something else – it could be something very abstract, like “sadness” or “my heart,” or something more concrete, like “the streetlight outside my window that won’t stop blinking.” You should wind up with some very funny and even touching combinations, which you can then rearrange and edit into a poem.

I have managed to write 38 poems, I am happy with quite a few of them, although I realise they all need a little work. I usually leave them for a month and then look again in June, choosing a selection to work on.

It’s exciting to re-read once you’ve left them rest. Especially with the varied prompts we have just worked through.

Whatever you decide to do with your Napo words, GOOD LUCK!

NaPoWriMo 2021

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So Long Until Next Year Click here for the full post.

We did it, everyone! We got through yet another Na/GloPoWriMo. I hope you enjoyed the prompts, readings, and featured participants this year, and that you have a crop of drafts to work over during May (also known — to me, at least — as National/Global Poetry Revision Month).

Our final featured participants for the year are Hues n Shades and MellowYellow.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who participated… It heartens me every year to see how friendly and supportive Na/GloPoWriMo-ers are of each other’s efforts.

Thank you all, and until next year — happy writing!

So these are the last featured poems for the year. I read Hue n Shades first, Deepa Gopal’s poem intrigued me, I wondered if it was an apocalyptic place/ a war torn city or a fictional place. I liked the atmosphere of it and these lines stood out to me:

Past those fences that align the periphery

Of the lost, discarded city

*

tiny treasures

*

A sapling in the crease of the dilapidated

Second-storey

*

The children of tomorrow

The faded aroma of the spices that once was held

In flamboyant hues arranged on wooden palettes

All that leads to the middle mansion

Where dreams grow in bundles

*

Disbursed in tiny totems

*

Life moves seamlessly in all directions.

*

There were plenty of sensory details and a strong end line.

Next I read the final featured poem. I love the title – Directions to a Dream Life – I knew I was in for a treat.

cut back the Hawthorns

of Romantic Disappointments

*

will hand you a Certificate

of Complete and Utter Rejection

*

you can now take the red boat

and row across the Trials Cove

*

And a satisfyingly positive ending:

as it bubbles, it spills

just slightly over the lip

come here Dreamer – take a sip

It is fun, surreal and captures dreamy well with lots of great specific details.

In coming to post this I remembered about the Sam Sax reading, which I am delighted to say I managed to catch.

And that’s it for another year.

Enjoy your editing!

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 30

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Day Thirty Read the full post here.

Our featured participants today are Amita Paul, who brings us a poem about a porthole, and Anna Enbom, whose response to the “in the window” prompt is filled with a sense of lingering threat.

Today’s featured reading is a live event that will take place tomorrow, May 1, at 3:30 p.m. eastern. Poet sam sax will be reading for The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey.

Today’s prompt is based on a prompt written by Jacqueline Saphra, and featured in this group of prompts published back in 2015 by The Poetry Society of the U.K. This prompt challenges you to write a poem in the form of a series of directions describing how a person should get to a particular place. It could be a real place, like your local park, or an imaginary or unreal place, like “the bottom of your heart,” or “where missing socks go.” Fill your poem with sensory details, and make them as wild or intimate as you like.


Happy writing!

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

PROCESS NOTES:

I can’t believe the last day of Napo is here and I have a schedule which keeps me in other pockets of the internet, so I checked this morning read the prompt page and have just come back to it now. I was really excited to see Jacqueline’s name – she is a brilliant poet and lovely woman and I shall add a bit more about her and her work here in this post. In case you have not been lucky enough to find her poems for yourselves yet.

I also love The Poetry Society – they are incredible and one year even offered a NaPoWriMo month of prompts and community. I have looked and used this resource before – but years ago and I am a different person/poet now (so just like when Jericho Brown repeated a masterclass and I rewrote the same work 6 months later there was change and it was exciting to go and find the Autumn notebook and compare the work) so don’t be put off if you are repeating a prompt. Remember you come to the page as a different person.

I started (as always) with the feature poems and loved the fact that I had a porthole on my list as well – and with the second poem that sense of threat matches my poem becoming threatening – I suppose looking in on a space does this to the writing.

I can’t sign in to leave a comment for Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia as my inbox is full and I can’t verify myself. I enjoyed this poem, the flow of it seemed to be rhythmical taking me up and down on the ocean and into the same trance observed in View Through a Port Hole.

It was a fifteen day sea voyage
From Mumbai to Mombasa

Love we are set in place straight away especially as it is a poem exploring the relentless view of sea – which when in the middle of the ocean it does feel you could be anywhere.

And watch the foam forming and dissolving endlessly
On the restless tireless blue waves
And now and then a flying fish

I thought the blue days at sea would never end

I was glad to see landfall
Too much sea can kill the soul.

It was a beautiful poem to start the day with, even though it drives to the madness of being stuck with just the view of blue, for me – so far from the coast it was a much needed visit to the ocean.

Anna Enbom’s poem That window – the second part of this poem really got me. I liked the exploration of coming through the gauntlet of our lives.

Brick buildings though, with kids’ paintings taped to the inside of

the glass door, still makes my thoughts stop and fall


I am often stressed about the years passing, things I have not done

yet and the fact that my death is less distant for every year
But when I think about that window, I know time passing is good
I am not there anymore

This poem holds so much life and emotion, so many stories of lives connecting and crossing and I love that line ‘still makes my thoughts stop and fall’.

I had a look at the featured reading which I should be available to watch tomorrow (although last night I fell asleep in the late night for us USA reading). I looked up Sam Sax and thought he was new to me – but when I read a selection of his poems I came to Prayer for the Mutilated World – and realised I had read his work before.

The prompt today also offers a whole sheet of other prompts – which is great if you are thinking you may have withdrawal symptoms – just visit and do one a day and that will settle you right into May.

I don’t need to write lots for you all about Jacqueline Saphra as she has a brilliant website which will show you all I was going to say.

I was fortunate enough to meet Jacqueline back in 2016 when I read at the London Book Fair, I actually met her on a busy London crossing when I had skipped out for a walk/break/air. I have attended her readings ever since and in 2017 she was one of the Poets in Residence at Swindon Poetry Festival so I got a complete Saphra fix.

Her books are amazing her poetry is incredible and if you don’t her go and spend time on the site. There were many poets who joined Jacqueline writing a sonnet a day and it was a pleasure to read them in the original form and watch them being shared.

Jacqueline’s Lockdown Sonnets of 2020 are bound into this beautifully produced Nine Arches Press book One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets, now available as paperback, the original was a gorgeous hardback – 100 copies were made and the books helped raise the £2000 target for the Trussell Trust Charity. More than half the cover cost went to the charity with every edition sold.

It was certainly exciting to be at the launch of this work and to hear the poems I had read in progress. Plus seeing her guest poets many of whom are on my favourite poets list (the one in my head) And LOOK – you can watch it all here!

The online launch of Jacqueline Saphra’s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. With guest poets Anja Konig, Miriam Nash, Jacob Sam-La Rose, plus recorded readings and messages from Ian McMillan and Naomi Shihab Nye.

About this Event:

Launching the publication of One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets by Jacqueline Saphra. A poetic journal that chronicles the personal and political upheavals and tragedies of the Covid pandemic. Written as a daily sonnet throughout the first lockdown, Saphra’s unique, candid and revealing sequence is a record of strange and unparalleled days.

The one hundred poems are published by Nine Arches Press in a limited edition of just one hundred hardback books, marking their 100th publication. Sold in aid of the Trussell Trust which supports a nationwide network of food banks and campaigns for change to end the need for food banks in the UK. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraisin…

Jacqueline Saphra is joined on the night by guest poets Anja Konig, Miriam Nash and Jacob Sam-La Rose who will each share a poem of their own and one of Jacqueline’s sonnets. We also have recorded messages and readings from Ian McMillan and Naomi Shihab Nye.

Jacqueline Saphra is a poet, playwright and tutor based in London. All My Mad Mothers was shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot prize and was followed by Dad, Remember You are Dead in 2019, both from Nine Arches Press. A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller (2017) and Veritas: Poems after Artemisia (2020) are both published by Hercules Editions.

Anja Konig grew up in the German language and now writes in English. Her first pamphlet Advice for an Only Child (Flipped Eye) was shortlisted for the 2015 Michael Marks award. Her first full collection Animal Experiments (Bad Betty Press) was selected as one of the best 2020 collections by the Daily Telegraph.

Miriam Nash is a poet, performer and educator. Her collection of poems All the Prayers in the House (Bloodaxe Books, 2017) won a Somerset Maugham Award and an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Her latest book, TheNine Mothers of Heimdallr (Hercules Editions, 2020) is a giant, matriarchal re-telling of the Norse creation myth. She leads online poetry workshops at Lightkeepers.co.uk.

Jacob Sam-La Rose is a poet, editor, artistic director and educator, deeply invested in supporting emerging voices. His collection Breaking Silence (Bloodaxe Books)is required reading for an A’ level syllabus. He is a poetry professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, poet-in-residence for English Heritage, and directs the Barbican Young Poets programme.

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. She began composing her first poem at the age of six and has published or contributed to over 30 volumes. Her works include poetry, young-adult fiction, picture books, and novels.

Ian McMillan is an English poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster. He is known for his strong and distinctive Yorkshire accent and his incisive, friendly interview style on programmes such as BBC Radio 3’s The Verb. He lives in Darfield, the village of his birth. You can donate to the Trussell Trust at our fundraiser page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraisin…

Thank you from Nine Arches Press and Jacqueline Saphra

PROMPT

I thought I would really struggle with this one and have already scribbled a few poems about the infrequent lockdown walks and decided I didn’t want any mention of caged freedoms. So in the end I sat quietly and not much time later had my AHA moment. A journey I did 100s of times in 2019. A journey which should take 5-10 mins and was taking me 30-40 at least means that the specific details of this route are well settled in my mind.

I just do what I have done for the past 30 days and freewheeled a poem out from somewhere. It has legs (which a poem about walking probably should) and after a bit of editing may shine up well.

I had great fun writing it.

Appreciate the bravery of the particular red

they have used to coat their front door.

ENJOY your last day of NaPoWriMo! YOU DID IT!

April 2021 Review of the Month

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Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Finally, a few weeks off, I plan my first walks this year in nature and some Easter eggs as well as settled down to the extremely long TO DO list and some writing, having missed deadlines for months! When the sun joins us, I shall enjoy the garden and I am looking forward to mornings which start after 6AM! It is also the beginning of the Spring/Summer Festival season and I have an international Book Launch reading, the second one in as many months. Also planning a workshop booked for next month. So lots of busy but also some much needed rest, recuperation and reconnection.

WEEK 1:

NaPoWriMo 2021 kicked off with some great resources. Every year AWF is a participating site and I try to post daily whilst following the month of prompts. I love NaPo and also get some decent poetry from it every year.

I tapered off on events at the end March, mainly due to workload, exhaustion and needing time offline. I proposed to do fewer this month so I could get some work done. The diary still looks very full!

The weekend was full of words. I listened to a panel craft talk from Chicago University ‘Literary Arts Lab’ on long form writing. It was interesting and inspiring with great insight and generous Q&A chaired by Rachel DeWoskin award-winning author of five novels: Someday We Will Fly (Penguin Random House, 2019); Banshee (Dottir Press, 2019); Blind (Penguin Random House, 2015); Big Girl Small (FSG, 2011); Repeat After Me (The Overlook Press, 2009); and the memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing (WW Norton, 2005) and Creative Writer Lecturer.

Ilya Kaminsky, Cathy Park Hong, Julie Iromuanya, Lina M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Rachel DeWoskin & Stephanie Soileau

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of the  widely acclaimed Deaf Republic (Graywolf, 2019), a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry, Poems from Deaf Republic were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize.

Cathy Park Hong is an award-winning poet and essayist …she offers a fresh and honest perspective on race and Asian American identity, discusses how poetry and writing can be a means for understanding ourselves and our world, and comments on the ways politics and culture are influenced by art—and vice versa.

Julie Iromuanya is the author of Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press), a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the Etisalat Prize for Literature (now 9 Mobile Prize for Literature), and the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize for Debut Fiction. 

Lina M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas is the author of Drown Sever Sing… Don’t Come Back is published by Mad River Books, an imprint of The Ohio State University Press (January 2017). Ferreira is a recipient of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award.

Rachel DeWoskin received a National Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Book Award, an American Library Association’s Alex Award, and an Academy of American Poets Award, among others. Two of her books, Foreign Babes in Beijing and Banshee, are being developed for TV. Two Menus, published by the University of Chicago Press’ Phoenix Poetry Series in 2020.

Stephanie Soileau‘s collection of short stories LAST ONE OUT SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS is forthcoming from Little, Brown & Co. in Summer 2020. Her work has also appeared in Glimmer Train, Oxford American, Ecotone, Tin House, New Stories from the South, and other journals and anthologies… has taught creative writing at the Art Institute of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of Southern Maine and the University of Chicago.

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It was the one year anniversary for Food for Thought and we had a special session where we all read a poem written in sessions this year. This group was founded on the principles of poetry for healing and has been an exceptionally important group for me to be part of. I have been attending these sessions since 2020.

We were treated to the delights of Patrice’s playing her harp, readings and even squeezed in a one minute write. An exceptional evening which brought peace, tears and smiles. The emotional connection despite the screens and 1000s of miles between us, amazes me. We are bonded.

Huge gratitude to Judith Redwing Keyssar, Gayle Kojimoto and everybody in this group. What a year we have held each other in.

 Using poetry writing as self-care and explore our feelings, fears, and hopes…

Part of me feels I should have stayed in the glow of this event but I was intrigued to attend the Close Reading in a Virtual Space with Mónica de la Torre. This deep dive into Cesar Vallejo’s “XXXVI” came from NaPoWriMo Day 1 resources. It was an interesting discussion.

I spent most of the Easter Weekend offline reading, writing and researching poems. Rakaya Fetuga’s CARAF Centre Writing sessions have finished but the group enjoyed them so much they have carried on, each taking turns to lead. It was lovely to see them all again on Saturday. I will try to attend as often as I can. On Sunday I attended an event advertised by NaPoWriMo P&P Live Sandra Beasley & Teri Ellen Cross Davis sharing their new poetry collections.

Sandra Beasley is the author of four poetry collections, including I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. Honors for her work include a 2015 NEA Literature Fellowship, the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, the John Montague International Poetry Fellowship, and four DCCAH Artist Fellowships. She is also the author of the memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Find her collection here.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/sandra-beasley

Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She is a Cave Canem fellow and a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. She has received fellowships to attend the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Hedgebrook, Squaw Valley Community of Writers Workshop and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work can be read online and in many journals, including Academy of American Poets, Harvard Review, and Tin House. She is the Poetry Coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and her new collection, a more perfect Union, publishes this February.

Find her collection here.

https://poets.org/poet/teri-ellen-cross-davis

It was an enjoyable hour listening to two American poets not known to me.

If you missed it you can watch it here.

I spent Monday catching up with writing, being mentored, Beta reading and our final class with Tawnya Renelle where I tried out something completely different to anything I have ever done before! And Cafe Muse with Margaree Little and Joseph Ross.

https://www.margareelittle.com/

https://josephrossnet.wordpress.com/

I had a great night at the Poetry Bubble work on the theme of Freedom after Lockdown (which is still only imagined), saw Holly Wren Spaulding in conversation with Sejal Shah. WLF had SpeakEasy which was a great International night of poetry, I enjoyed Caleb Femi at Manchester Literature Festival.

WEEK 2:

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I was comfortably into my Easter break by the 2nd week of April, madly falling behind with NaPoWriMo prompts, attempting to get some new writing done and trying not to eat chocolate. I took some nature walks and read.

I had the joy of getting back to events with Sheffield Library and enjoyed another night at Poets Cafe Reading. I took part in a great NYC Public Library workshop with Ravi Shankar, one I thoroughly enjoyed. Cheltenham Poetry Festival Launched the Frosted Fire Firsts Prize Winner collections – David Luckens and Lee Potts. It was a wonderful evening. It clashed with ATG Arrival at Elsewhere NYC Launch – which I managed to catch a few readers at. Live from the Butchery was brilliant.

It was also Sierra Poetry Festival, I managed to attend a few events over the weekend.

Despite trying to cut back – I had a full week. NaPo is partly to blame with Live events included as readings this year. Don’t get me wrong I love NaPoWriMo.net and the resources I yield annually are worthy and often incredible, the poetry community embraced the online world at the start of the first Lockdown and it has brought many people joy and solace throughout this exceptionally hard time. It is only right to include online events – it’s just my diary was full already!

In writing this blog post I realised I just missed the John Godfrey NaPo Reading!

I enjoyed Cafe Writers and The Gathering – which Apples and Snakes organised on the back of the successful World Poetry Day events, Workshops with Jack Giaour & Arya Samuelson, Caleb Parkin at the Lyra Festival, the launch of the Poetry Review Spring Issue with and my introduction to the amazing power of Hanif Abdurraqib, a tour of the Emily Dickinson Collection at the Houghton Library and my 2nd workshop with Jericho Brown (which was the same as a the one he presented in last year).

WEEK 3

I finally caught up with NaPo, enjoyed the Lyra Poetry Festival and Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival (now in the 2nd year), I performed at the Walt Whitman Birthplace as part of a spectacular Book Launch. Over 35 poets who appear in the Corona An Anthology of Poems (Edited by Gayl Teller) read, it was well hosted by events director Caitlyn Shea and presented by Gayl Teller. There are some incredibly powerful poems included, as you can imagine and it was an emotional evening.

I look forward to receiving my copy.

I was one of the Guest Readers at Jenna Plewes’ wonderful launch of A Woven Rope. I also enjoyed the end of and then rewatched the whole Bloodaxe Launch with Dom Bury, Jenna Clake & Tishani Doshi. I went to a session about confessional poetry and enjoyed some sessions at the Creative Writing Spring Symposium with the University of Glasgow.

Week 4

I have been busy with a project and Napo which leaves a scant blogging schedule, I will do some Flashbacks for some of the experiences April has offered.

I had a workshop at the Lyra Festival with Malika Booker which came as a great gift/surprise from a friend. It was a wonderful workshop, I met Malika at Ledbury Poetry Festival some about 6 years ago. I have read her work, watch her read and tuned in to some seminar/ Q&As provided by Arts groups in 2020 but had not had the ABSOLUTE PLEASURE of writing under her guidance. Amazing experience! I caught a Denise Duhamel reading — having discovered her work during NaPoWriMo and missed her last 2 readings.


I finished the weekend with the lovely experience of Paul Francis’ book launch for Rescue From The Dark with Fair Acre Press. I will definitely write more as I owe a blog about another of the recent books from Fair Acre. It was a marvellous celebration.

I have attended readings and workshops at The Stay at Home Literary Festival – which is in the 2nd year and last year saved mine (and 1000s of others) 2020 lockdown. I also had the pleasure of Sue Burge’s Book Launch for Confetti Dancers (Live Canon), a Joy Harjo reading – I will never get enough of her work, a Natalie Diaz reading, a reading with Rita Dove and one with Claudia Rankine. A wonderful interview with Elizabeth Gilbert and most recently a wonderful reunion with Andrew Fusek Peters at a Yew Tree Press Showcase. We were treated to his incredible photography in his new book Flight, Imogen Harvey-Lewis treated us to her new books ink illustrated Lockdown experience, the clever use of words in her art really hit the points home, Diana Humphrey read from Remnants her brave new pamphlet touching on her experience of losing her daughter. These words will be helpful to many. And JLM Morton & Susie Hetherington marvellous pamphlet exploring nature which is an incredible product.

A lovely way to complete the month.