Category Archives: Articles

February Review 2018


Love Promo 2

Week 1: 

I started the month with my editing hat on. Submissions closed for Contour (digital WPL magazine), the 2nd Issue – ‘Love’, scheduled for release 4 months after the 1st Issue ‘Place’. My plan was to have 3 to 4 magazines during my tenure. I will successfully manage that, there is a Special Edition coming in April for the ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ Project and then in June on the day I hang up my Laureate crown and watch the new Laureateship launch, I will release the final issue.

It has been a steep and brilliant learning curve and a real pleasure. It has been a great opportunity to discover talented poets on a National and International level too.

Whatever else I think, I can rest soundly knowing that I promoted poetry and offered abundant opportunities for writing during my year. I have 3 months (I like to say a quarter of a year because it sounds longer) left, but already the competition is open to find the next Laureate and the feelings of being bereft are already settling. I shall find ways of dealing with this. Such as embarking on International Poetry Adventures and writing my first collection. But I am sure it will feel a little strange.

I also spent an incredible amount of time on the ATOTC project, which again has been a huge bite to chew, but I have loved every minute. It has certainly taught me a thing or two. The Response poems are coming in and it is wonderful to read the interpretations of the Call poems. I am slightly worried that the whole project may total over 200 pages… certainly enough reading material to keep you busy on a rainy day!


ATOTC is my main WPL project and it has certainly been the biggest. I am incredibly excited by the next stages of the project and the plans I have for it beyond that. It is going to be magnificent!

I edited some poems which had been waiting patiently in the wings and finally started working on my own response poem for ATOTC. I wanted to get it cast to paper before the weekend as I have a chance to edit it.

Things are intentionally quiet on the performance front with most of my attention set for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival in Birmingham, mid-February. Other than this I am busy with desk tasks and workshop preparation.

This week I prepared for a meeting for a Gifted and Talented Workshop I am doing, I am excited as it involves multiple local schools.

I also prepared for my final session/workshop at Rugby Library as the Reader in Residence.

I attended an editing group at the weekend where my ATOTC was fine tuned and is now a strong pastiche of Linda Warren’s poem. Look out for the Special Edition Contour in April to read our Call & Response poems.

I took a booking for National Poetry Day. (4th Oct.) after which I will be heading off to Swindon Poetry Festival.


Week 2

A very busy start to the week editing Issue 2 of Contour Magazine, working out the running order and formatting. It took an inane amount of time (roughly 3 days), lots of difficulties on the technical side of desktop publishing – but the results were worth it.


I had a meeting regarding school workshops booked for March, which was fabulous. I am very excited about this workshop.

bromsgrove school theatre Andrew Haines © 2017

The following day I drove to Rugby Library for my final Reader in Residence workshop. It was a small group but a wonderful morning and those in attendance enjoyed it.

rugby wksp

I am writing a Guest Blog Review for the library and will link it back to AWF. My Residency finishes in March and I hoping for one last trip to the library for something special, more on that soon.

rugby lib

I planned my Suffragette Workshop for Saturday at The Hive, started work organising the poetry events for the summer ArtsFest in Droitwich, sent emails to successful contributors of Contour and took a booking for Brum Stanza.

I also started prep for Verve Poetry & Spoken Word Festival (15-18th Feb.). This year I am the Official Festival Blogger, last year I blogged about most of the events and attended pretty much the entire festival (which is no mean feat – with a packed 2 day weekend programme, workshops and events on the preceding evenings), worth the exhaustion though and I also wrote a full review for Sabotage Reviews. This year, I have arranged to write the review for them again and have booked my workshops (one of which I won by coming 2nd in the Haiku Slam at Grizzly Pear) and have my new Kindle Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Christmas present) all ready. Look out for lots of updates, I shall be sharing from the Verve official site.

verve 10

Thursday I went to SpeakEasy which was Headlined by the wonderful Jenna Clake and I enjoyed her set from Fortune Cookie, which won the 2016 Melita Hume Prize for Poetry . It was a vibrant evening of poetry and even though I was shattered, I had a great night. I shared a couple of city poems and it was good to catch up with Jenna before Verve.

JENNA SE Watch out for an Interview with Jenna Clake in the Contour Issue 4 (June).

You can buy a copy of this award winning debut collection published by Eyewear here.

jenna clake FC

Friday it snowed (which is as exciting as anything writing related), I was working in a school on the hills and was slightly concerned about getting home, but it had melted by then!

I also had Stanza where I took my Contour Love Poem for some editing treatment, it was a lovely evening, filled with poetry and critique. It was good to reconnect, I missed our December meeting due to being too tired after work and January from ill health. It was good to be back. Also a new exciting opportunity was discussed.

Saturday was a busy writing day, I had my WWM group in the morning, who used the Royal Society of Photography Science exhibition to inspire Science Fiction writing.

2018-02-10 11.28.47bubble

This was followed by my Suffragette Workshop in The Hive, Worcester. The workshop was attended by 11 people and I was happy to see a mix of friends, strangers & people who have followed my WPL projects online. It was an informal, whistle stop creative session of just an hour (which worked particularly well for those who left partners in the Hive’s cafe). It was fun and I have already started to receive work for the anthology.

The exhibition runs until 23rd February and can be found on Level 2.

chalking pavement

Mr G. and I went to see Cloudbusting (Kate Bush Tribute band) again, the 4th time I think, this time they had a full stage with Media show, which we had not seen before! The next day I was busy editing Contour Magazine – YES! For the WHOLE day!


Week 3

My first full writing day in over 2 weeks and I planned a whole list of writing tasks (none of which were actual writing)… however, I spent another whole day on the magazine. It was finally live by the evening.

With a reach of over 600 readers already (in less than 24 hours). Issue 2 has a fine collection of love poetry, a load of Interviews with Pete The Temp, Jeff Cottrill, Amy Rainbow and Sharon Carr and a list of Top Poems voted by the public and is well worth a read.

Please share the link.

Contour Issue 2

I also booked my flights to Australia – where I am an International Guest Poet at the Festival in Perth (August), this made it very real! I also shared this news, which I have been sitting on since November.

I shared the next stage of the Suffragettes Poetry Project with workshop attendees and attended a Worcester LitFest Committee Meeting. There have been many changes to the team since I took up the Poet Laureate post, it was an agenda packed evening. It also helped me finalise plans for World Poetry Day (21st March) my official Laureate remit event. It should be great.

I have since worked on publicity and marketing but as ever with organisation, need to wait for one confirmation before I can go live!


I have been busy working through Response Poems (ATOTC), dreading the proofing stage with over 40 poets… but we have a good stock of coffee and I plan to use Half Term to get the majority ready.

I received my copy of mind anth a wonderful book, brainchild of Isabelle Kenyon. I have yet to read it in full. I have dipped in. A great collection of poems and funds raised with be donated to MIND – Mental Health Charity. I will be writing a full blog post soon to promote this project.

I had my BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio Interview with Tammy Gooding and this month it was a slightly extended recording due to us discussing love poetry and the work of Pablo Neruda! It was fun and I shared the love poem recently published in Contour.

_46552672_sticker_localradio_hereford From 1:52 & 2:20

All performers confirmed World Poetry Day & marketing & promotion was set to GO!


The deadline for ATOTC response poetry was 15th February & knowing what a huge undertaking it is the proof copies are already leaving my inbox… about 10% proofed & approved in 2 days.

I finished my 3rd book endorsement and am very excited to read a bound copy of this collection soon.

And then there was Verve!

verve v stick

Verve Poetry Festival (with links to my official blogs)

I spent 5 glorious hours in Waterstones, 15th Feb. then 6 hours writing & editing the official blog reviews.

After very few hours sleep I was back at the Festival on Friday night

And then spent my entire weekend there.

Since this wonderful festival full of verve… I have been busy writing the official blog reviews which are being drip fed onto the official blog.


Read more of them here

Week 4 

Started with jet lag, which is the only way to describe the post festival haze of Verve. Wise to this, having attended the full programme last year too – I made sure the diary was empty and the bed was full! I slept, I ate my first meal for 5 days and I hit the desk.


Writing Verve Reviews, sending proofs for ATOTC, working on bids, sent promo for an event I am part of at the end of end of April, Bohemian Voices organised by Steve Soden and slept some more!

Fortunately it was half term this week so I didn’t have to juggle work into the equation. I mainly worked on proof copy for ATOTC Special Edition Contour magazine and had meetings.


Starting with Room 204, one of the main attractions is the 1 to 1 mentoring with Jonathan Davidson. It was a productive and useful meeting and I have come away with a page of tasks to incorporate into my work and gold-dust that I needed to acknowledge.

I met with Carolyn Baldwin at the Jinney Ring to finalise the exhibition of our sculpture trail poems from the workshop in September. The poems will be on display in the restaurant for the whole of April. Wonderful news AND even better news for me I have secured future Sculpture Trail workshops. So there will be a new one in September! Carolyn also sent me home with a generous portion of cake! Always a bonus – perfect meeting requirements I would suggest.

A New Design (5)

On Thursday I met with Stephen Evans, one of the DAN artists involved in the Hanbury Hall event. My poem has been displayed alongside his artwork in exhibitions in January and now this month too, so far it has been part of Maltstones Exhibition, an exhibition in the Library and now in Parks Cafe.

Stephen showed me a family album from WW2 at the reading event for Hanbury Hall Poets back in November. I used it as primary source inspiration and managed to write 4 poems or so but it is a precious object and I feel much happier now he has it back.

Thursday Night I went to support Claire Walker who was headlining at The Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley. Ian Glass and I found ourselves unwittingly signed up for the slam. I don’t Slam.

It was a fun night and a great little cafe to be in on a cold night. Ian smashed the slam and won! He goes back in April to perform a 10 minute set.


He also won the Xylophone of Mirth, but as he had driven us all to Dudley he wasn’t able to play it all the way home!

Jean Atkin was facilitating a workshop at the Bishop Castle Artsfest that I had hoped to attend, but our boiler is broken and I had to be home for the engineer. I spent most of the day at the desk writing for Verve, the boiler is still broken.

On Saturday I had a workshop with Angela France, it was a great session and I managed at least one poem and have a page of potential other poems.

On Sunday, whilst writing a poem for a Festival Anthology (more on this soon), I unearthed another line of writing I want to pursue, I have 3 pages of notes to return to at a quieter time (perhaps 2019). The exciting element is they balance something I am already working on.

The Extra Days

On Monday (after turning up for work and discovering I was a day early) I went home and wrote copy for a Worcester News Article promoting the Poet Laureate competition. Jess Charles jumped on it and it was live by the afternoon.

wpl worcs news

I also worked on my first ever Grants application and booked a workshop in May.

Tuesday work was cancelled, it started to snow (we have no working boiler) and I spent 14 hours completing my application. 14 hours. A steep learning curve – on evaluation I will give myself a month to complete the forms next time!

I took on a temporary teaching position for a fortnight (just in time for World Book Day) and drove in the snow! I went to see the Royal Ballet Live Screening of The Winter’s Tale (one of my favourite Shakespeare plays), a present from Mr. G’s mum for Christmas. It was amazing!

royal ballet

And a special way to end the month.





INKSPILL 10 Inspiring Women Writers


Copy of Event Flyer (1)

10 Inspiring Women Writers

Every writer is encouraged to read, to read widely and to read often. Sometimes despite the library, internet and our own over burdened bookshelves we wonder what to read next.

I love it when someone points me in a new direction – this is why reading groups are such a good idea. Since starting my WMRN Reader in Residence role I have reignited my fascination for a reading list.

Here is a link to The Culture Trip website where Lani Seelinger focuses on 10 inspiring women writers (in case the title didn’t give you enough ‘in’). You may not agree, you may have read some of the titles. Let us know what you think in the comment box and if a title jumps out at you send a note to yourself (or write it down), read it and let us know what you think after.



Originally posted November 2016


On Writing – Memoir


WWM I have worked for Writing West Midlands since 2014 and (as with all things in life), changes have been embraced. This year a decision was made to make all groups 2 hour sessions (mine always were). We are still more creative than academic curriculum education, although there has been a realisation of fair access. So for the first time, all groups are following a theme of genres. We can still approach them in any order and we are all still planning and sharing ideas for our groups, every group is unique in that sense.

Next month my group are tackling memoir and I thought it would arouse a quiet murmur of excitement (I think maybe it is just adults that enjoy writing about themselves). Instead it got a less-than-responsive response.

creative commons travel write

I dug deeper and found out this is the current topic for many of them at school. So I  finished with the promise that it will be greater than Literacy (and as a Literacy specialist, am confident delivering on this)!

I have already pulled hours of research to lift this session out of the greyness and I think they will all enjoy it.

creative common writing

Every writer knows the richness of recycling, so here in this post I am sharing the bits that I won’t be using or showing the group. No need for ADULT WARNING. < That may have been one!

In this video Mary Karr talks about her first book launch (where only 3 people turned up… not sure how true this is), but if you ever feel a pang at a small turn out – think of this audience.

She discusses Memoir (‘knocking yourself out with your own fist’), how we connect to readers, tattoos, spirituality, therapy, writing prompts, the difficulties of feelings and memories, things that people don’t talk about, Helen Keller, Maya Angelou, the beginning of compassion, developing a voice – ‘lowering your voice into the head of the reader’, delusions, looking for evidence and truth.

It is just over half an hour and I think you should treat yourself to watching it. In listening to Mary, I jotted memories of my own that I wouldn’t otherwise have remembered. Yes, I wrote them into my notebook for future fodder. ‘Hard seeds of memories, growing into vines.’

Beginning in 1995 with ‘The Liars’ Club,’ Mary Karr’s three critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs are credited with sparking the genre’s current renaissance. She has also taught writing for thirty years and in her latest book, ‘The Art of Memoir,’ now available in paperback, she synthesizes her fields of expertise in a funny, heartfelt and uniquely insightful guide to the mechanics of personal narrative. In Strand’s Rare Book Room, the award-winning author and professor shares the secrets of her craft.

Blog Void


I promise I will do better (next year), well we all need a resolution don’t we. I realise that I have committed the ultimate sin, I haven’t abandoned this blog (I never will… slightly concerned about what happens when all the data is used up, but am WAY off that eventuality), however, it looks abandoned. So I started to rectify this by listing all the posts I owe the blog and promised to people. These will be posted by the end of the month.

In the meantime here is a whistle-stop breakdown;

October End

Post- INKSPILL (which was our amazing online retreat) I needed some time to recoup energy. During this weekend I was also scheduled to perform and attended a deeply moving workshop.

I had a week off work where I tried to catch up with real-life, family/friends, chores etc. Worked on writing projects, having only just found the ability to write returning after working on the manuscript for 18 months. I also performed and workshopped, took bookings for 2017, raised money for charity at a Quiz Night, celebrated family birthdays and entered some poetry competitions.


Started working on a new project, performed poetry, entered a competition, completed research, took writing groups, missed birthday parties, had a bonfire party, went to a gig, wrote new poetry, had work published, bought poetry books, met new to me poets, went to readings and had a few exciting invitations/ opportunities.



Over the next few weeks I will blog about lots of these things. In the meantime, I share an interesting article written by Sarah James. Reblogged here Reaching Your Audience


INKSPILL – Fiction Rules for Writers


Fiction Rules for Writers. We all need to know this, we are always curious to discover people’s thoughts on this area. As far as people go this list of established writers is not to be sniffed at.

Follow the link to 10 Rules for Writing Fiction published in The Guardian (2010)

Writers include; Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James & AL Kennedy.

The second part of the article includes; Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters and Jeanette Winterson

and can be found here


ENJOY! Happy writing x


INKSPILL Successful Writing Habits


Welcome back. To kick start this afternoon take a few minutes to watch this video.



  1. Write everyday
  2. Write first thing in the morning
  3. Turn off your inner critic
  4. Let other people read your work
  5. Rituals


We are certain many of you can tick off this simple checklist. We would love to hear about No.5 # so tell us about your own rituals.


A Year of Learning Curves


2015/16 have been eye opening years for learning. At no point have I thought staying in my comfort zone was a good idea, in fact I don’t think I have found a comfort zone yet. The whole idea behind this leap of faith was creativity and adventure and I expected (sought and found) abundant amounts of it.

I jump from learning about the lengthy editing process to marketing books. I am glad I didn’t look down. I have researched and actioned so much in the past few weeks that it has been hard to keep track of all the avenues. The most important lessons will not be lost though, I plan to share some of my new found knowledge with you. Hopefully the next person with similar Google searches will find more answers with less time and energy used that I expended.


Bruce Elkin © 2016

The one thing I will mention is how much fun this hard work has been! After decades working (extremely hard) for someone else in a thankless profession, I relish the idea of freedom as much as I love experiencing it. The hours used researching and networking to market my book, Fragile Houses fragile-houses-best By Nina Lewis, Published by V.Press, have been an absolute pleasure.

Of course, there is always the possibility that I am driving people mad with social media updates. With a week to go and today being my last day of freedom to drive the PR machine, I am in fifth gear.

The good news is there are pre-orders both for mailing and for signing. The fear that no one will want to buy the pamphlet is a thing of the past. The fear that no one will turn up for the Book Launch, a fear of the past. Now the worry energy can be converted into real energy as I attack the final full day pre-launch TO DO list. A day to remember.


A week Monday will be a day I never forget too.

NANO: No Time for NaNoWriMo? Try FLASH NANO instead


I did NaNoWriMo in 2013, the year I started writing again, the year I started blogging. I completed the Spring and Summer Camps as well as the main event. 2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner

This year I thought about dipping my toes in again, but I am working on several poetry projects and know that I don’t have time to complete 50,000 words. Tonight I decided to spend some time browsing my reader as it has been 10 months since I looked at blogs out here. I discovered a post and a challenge that might match my schedule and give me more to work with in the future.1 nb

Nancy Stohlman is posting prompts for flash fiction, which I do have time for.

Imagination Rain.eps I headed over to and signed back in. I headed to the Pep Talk page which has a lot of good advice and encouragement for a positive mental attitude, which believe me all NaNo-ers need! See what Gene Luen Yang has to say here

I am unlikely to reach the 50,000 word count by writing incredibly short, short stories but I will hopefully end the month with 30 new pieces and if I can I might mix it up with some poetry too.

So let’s get started!

Good luck to everyone making NaNo part of their November.


INKSPILL Programme 2015


INKSPILL 2015 Programme

inkspill pink

Having given yourself the gift of a writing weekend, I am sure you are eager to see how it pans out. Timings are given in GMT, posts will remain active beyond the weekend and can be commented on at any time.

We dream of conversations between participants on threads, do make the virtual seem real and join in actively throughout the weekend.

  • Participants without WordPress accounts can sign in as a ‘Guests’.

Throughout the weekend if you prefer, you can email directly to:

awritersfountain[at]hotmail[dot]com or join the closed Facebook Group

If you want to share work that you are considering submitting you can share it on the closed Facebook page and it won’t be considered published. Let us know you have done that with a link back in the comments box, so we can find and read your work.

Please appreciate that I may not have time for individual responses over the weekend.


SOCIAL MEDIA – Share links throughout the weekend across social media.

INKSPILL – The Programme 2015

creative commons park Howell Storytelling1


DAY 1 inkspill pink

9:00 Coffee and a writing challenge


10:00 WORKSHOP: Exploring Self


11:30 Introducing Our Guest Writers Alison May, David Calcutt and Daniel Sluman.



Inspirational writing video By Rae Dover

Discussion on writing on the hop and how to deal with rejection.

CC sitting-group-1

inkspill pink Opening of the INKSPILL SHOP inkspill pink


12:30 LUNCH – after lunch we start back with a short excerpt from an Amy Tan interview (2008), you may be interested in watching the full interview (1hr 23 mins) if so, maybe view it with your lunch.

13:45 INTERVIEW short video an interview by Roger Rosenblatt with Amy Tan (2008)


14:30 GUEST WRITER Interview with David Calcutt





16:40 GUEST WRITER Interview with David Calcutt Part 2

17:40 GUEST WRITER Interview with Alison May



18:00 Free time to spend on your own writing from this retreat or projects you are currently working on.

19:30 Poetry Film ‘The Beach’


Followed by another


21:00 Night Write challenge


And for those of you who do not wish to sleep, links will be shared from the 2013 INKSPILL retreat to keep you busy!


DAY 2 inkspill pink

9:30 Coffee and a short film.

10:00 Beautiful Ugly Writing Challenge


11:30 GUEST POET Daniel Sluman Interview



11:50 Free time to spend on your own writing from this retreat or projects you are currently working on.

12:00 Lunch – As it is Sunday, take a break.

13:30 How not to Waste Time – Article & discussion


14:00 WORKSHOP Weather and Folklore


16:00 REFUGEES – An exploration of poetry, writing and person.

CC books-759 Johannes Jansson

17:30 Explore the Archives, including Guest Posts from 2014


20:00 Evaluation & Ending – this will include a quick and easy click poll (rather than a 2 sided sheet of A4 evaluation), please take a few moments to leave your mark. Thank you.

A BIG Thank YOU post


CC Nick Papakyriazis The INKSPILL posts will remain active – the LIVE element is over. There will be no more INKSPILL related posts until next 2016.

Thanks for coming!

*Over the following week this programme will have active links embedded and be posted to the top of the blog roll to help you navigate to specific parts of the INKSPILL programme.

If after that, you wish to find retreat posts use the keyword INKSPILL in Categories at the bottom of the page OR click 24th or 25th on the OCTOBER calendar to the right of the screen.

INKSPILL PROGRAMME 2015 inkspill pink


SAT 24th Oct SUN 25th Oct
Writing Challenges

In Nature

Night Write

Writing Challenges

Beautiful Ugly


Meeting Guest Writers FREE TIME TO WRITE

Exploring Self



Weather & Folklore

Video & Discussion

On writing & rejection

Poetry Films & Shorts


How Not To Waste Time


With Amy Tan (2008)

David Calcutt Guest Writer

Alison May Guest Writer


Daniel Sluman Guest Poet



Historical Research

Writing Historical Fiction

How to Write a Short story

The WHY Technique

Archive INKSPILL 2013 





How To Get Rejected

Making Time To Write

Writing Doctor Who

What You Get From Writing


Archived Links


Stephen King On Writing


On Her Writing Journey

Editing A Poem

Histrionic water

Spaghetti hoops


William Gallagher Guest

Writing Motivation

You vs Yourself


Thoughts on Writing & Editing Part 1

Thoughts On Writing & Editing Part 2

INTERVIEW: The Quiet Compere – Sarah Dixon

INTERVIEW: The Quiet Compere – Sarah Dixon

I am delighted to share this interview with Sarah Dixon, The Quiet Compere. Ever since I caught the Birmingham leg of the tour last year I have wanted to post an interview with her on the blog – and wishes DO come true, you have known that since my first jump, right?

I asked her all about  The QC – her Arts Council funded project, now in its 2nd year with a possible 3rd year ahead.

It is an inspiring interview and I always feel we can all learn a lot from people who are already out there doing it (Art/ Creativity/ Poetry) – so here is the gold-dust!



The Quiet Compere National Tour 2015 – Stop 6

@ The Hive, Worcester

Featuring: The Quiet Compere, Mike Alma, Catherine Crosswell, Myfanwy Fox, Hayley Frances, Jasmine Gardosi, Neil Laurenson, Nina Lewis, Adrian Mealing, Carl Sealeaf, Claire Walker


Or you can book directly with the venue;

Fri 10th July at 7:00pm

thehiveworcsorg© 2014 thehiveworcsorg


QC tour

1) How did you come up with the Quiet Compere (TQC) concept?
My local night in Manchester started life as Lead Poets (in 2008) started off as a night where whoever turned up did a spot if they wanted. Slowly a regular audience developed and numbers were usually between 30 and 40. At this point I limited the number of readers to ten and adopted a 10 poets x 10 mins format (I have since been informed that there was a night called Take Ten in Newcastle about the same time – I was not aware of this at the time).
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
2) How did you approach/research grants from the Arts Council?
I thought the format and the chance to invest in poets in so many regions would appeal, but that it would also need enough planning in advance for any funding body to invest in it. I had a small track record of running events around Manchester, at local festivals and in Cheltenham and Leeds. Having no funding track record it was difficult to obtain match funding from councils and other bodies. I booked all the venues and half the poets before I pressed the SUBMIT button on the bid. This took around 35-40 hours and any work carried out before acceptance on the bid cannot be deemed payable.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
3) How long was the process, what was the toughest/ easiest part?
35 hours advance planning. Submit button. Then the wait – six weeks for a decision. The hardest bit is the waiting. Easiest bit: Deciding to put together a bid.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
4) How long have you been creating the QC tours?
This is the second year. Last years was a tour of the North, though weirdly Birmingham sneaked in (as it feels close – I never realise how south of the north Manchester is 🙂 The National tour is happening in 2015 and the Worcester event on 10th July will be the half-way point of this tour.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
5) What aspects of QC Tours do you find most rewarding?
Smooth-running events and I find if you keep venues and performers fully-informed and have the right people and venue the event should feel like it runs itself (but this is because of all the background admin work beforehand).
Bringing together poets from different groups who may not have met/or heard each other perform before. I make a concerted effort NOT to pick the same ten people who perform alongside each other at every local night in the area. I want to find the open miccers who are brilliant but haven’t had a chance to prove this in a ten minute spot, the members of groups who are the ones overlooked and a good dose of regulars on the scene. I attempt to mix performance and page (but this sometimes depends on the poetry dynamic in the area – in Cumbria performance poetry seems to be less of a thing, whereas in Manchester a high number of poets seem to straddle the line between page and performance and their is an audience for both poetry styles).

Bringing people back together. I have overheard conversations that start “I haven’t seen you for years, loved hearing your new stuff…” hoping this might rebuild some poetry bonds and new friendships and connections might be forged and old ones rekindled. This adds a bit of romance to the tour 🙂

Low advance sales are nerve-wracking, but after the Blackpool event I panic less about this. We had sold 1 until the day before, then 5. We sold out a 50 seater venue on the night. The buzz of that relief and the elation that there was a full-house.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
6) How were/ are poets selected?
The tour was in the North of England last year. I find a high number of poets in the North, especially the North West happily travel 1-2 hours to see a line-up they are excited by or to support quality nights. This meant I already knew a vast number of poets in the areas I was going to. I asked my contacts in the areas to recommend poets in the area, with a mix of age ranges, styles and themes in mind. I also searched ‘York – Poets’ online and checked out videos and links to poems by poets from the areas. Having been a part of the poetry scene for thirteen years I have built many contacts I know I can trust. Social Media plays a big part in promoting the tour and keeping everyone updated. I book poets who are not on social media, but it is more difficult to find ways to contact them, so is likely that I have been given an email address by someone I do know (in reality or virtually).
Since I have been planning the 2015 tour I have been part of a number of online communities (where I can get a feel for a poets style over several weeks or months of poems). I am thinking mainly of Jo Bell’s 52 poetry sharing and critique group (which numbered 650) and last year the tour included 30 or so poets from this group, all booked before the group existed. This year around half of the poets booked are from this group. Having access to several examples of the material of the poets makes it easier for me to balance themes, styles and other factors across each event. Also through workshops I have attended at Sheffield Poetry Business Writing Days, two Arvon weeks and Manchester Cathedral Poetry Business days among others.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
7) What are the future plans for QC?

I am presently pulling threads together in an attempt to get a bid in for next year – the final and third Quiet Compere tour – 2016 – the places she missed.

Possibly to set up a quarterly Manchester poetry writing day as I feel there is a demand for this.

For Sarah L Dixon: Getting a pamphlet published and recognition in reputable and/or popular poetry magazines.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
8) What has been challenging/ spectacular about expanding QC beyond Northern regions?
Less knowledge about the area and the audience and the poets/performers and local press outlets.
I have solved this in some cases by teaming up with a local co-host or performer who already knows the area and venues and can suggest some places to search for poets online from the area. 

The sells-out gigs. The more unusual venues this year – The Old Cinema Laundrette in Durham, The Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Oxford. The venues provide a different backdrop and a more intimate and cosy feel to them than a pub room or a featurelss arts centre space. The venue in Ulverston a week ago had striking curtains. I enjoy anything that links the photos to a place rather than the ‘could be anywhere’ feel.

The chance to meet and bring together some people I feel I know/know each other well from virtual groups and share each others pieces and time
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
9) Why 10 poets?

Why 10 minutes? I found the leap between 2-4 minute open mic to full 15-30 minute guest spots was massive and the longer slots terrified me. At open mic nights I often wanted to hear more pieces by each poet (and found that as I was settling into someone’s style the night shifted and another poet took to the stage. My local night now has 3 guest spots and 5 support poet spots (6 mins each). I changed the format because I wanted to be able to charge a door fee and pay guests with a drink and a 6 minute spot for one guest if they want. None of the performers pay an entrance fee.

Why 10 poets? I think the attention span of a poetry audience starts to wane around two hours in (with a short break) and 10 x 10 had a ring to it.

10) How has facilitating tours developed/supported your own life as a performing poet?
It has meant I have been offered guest spots I may not otherwise have been offered – because I am more visible. 
I have learnt a lot about Press releases, interviews and how to use Twitter.
I have learnt the value of a colour-coded spreadsheet can also be applied to poetry tours – not romantic, but true. Running the tour has meant I have had more time to write, submit, polish and run workshops and attend workshops as I can carry out the tour admin in my own time.

I have been able to do school drop off and pick ups of my son, Frank, 4. This means we often get 7 hours together each day and a high number of my poems are not about him, but from a phrase he says or a way he views the world that I might have missed had I been working and commuting and not had the opportunity to be with hi, so much 🙂

I have become strict with myself about time-keeping and not spending too much time woffling on Facebook. 

 QCM Sarah L Dixon
11) Can you tell us a little about the rest of the tour this year?
  • Worcester 10th Julynext Friday – Almost on us. Advance ticket sales going well.
  • Hull 4th Sept and Exeter 12th Sept are both at the point of sending flyer details to designer and printer.
  • Camden, Hackney and Norwich – I will be confirming the poets for these events in the next 6 weeks.
  • Cheltenham is the final gig of this year and is the night before the stunning Medicine Unboxed Conference curated by Samiir Guglani. This year’s theme is Mortality. QC HIVE
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
12) Being away from home is….?
…refreshing, different and exciting, 
    Being away from home is… lonely, strange and scary.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
13) Where do you stay on tour?
Last year I felt cheeky asking acquaintances for somewhere to stay, but after a few nights sharing the poetry buzz with a mini bottle of Sainsburys Prosecco (£3 for 20cl), the cast of Eastenders and a cheap B and B room I decided to be cheeky and ask poets if they would be willing to put me up and sharing poetry buzz is lovely, though still for half the dates on the tour this year I feel I don’t know people well enough in area to ask for a room/floor/bed.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
14) What advice would you give to poets who yearn to complete a project?
a) Plan a lot in advance of appoaching any funding body. Prove that you will run the project efficiently and have thought it through (I did at least 35 hours on each bid before submitting).
b) Approach local councils for match-funding. possibly easier after first project when you have a track record.
c) Detail is important. Keeping poets/venues/funding bodies informed at all times.
d) Thank the people who are part of your project as cohosts, venue teams, performers, poets who help promote and thank them personally not in an impersonal message. Let them know you listen and take notes so you can thank them with a few lines of poetry you enjoyed or a particular touch that made the venue unique and memorable.
e) Detail is key to building reputation and brand.
quiet compere 2015 T
15) What are the biggest lessons you have learnt?
a) Don’t cut corners – I am sometimes tempted not to thank poets individually. Thanking ten poets takes between an hour and half and two hours to do this they way I do it. I could cut corners and send a generic message, but it is not my style and detracts from the everyone being treated equally and valued ethos of the tour.
b) I’ve learnt a lot about the importance of press releases and interviews to the get the tour info out there.
c) I find typing up the blogs boring, but necessary.
d) You can’t thank people too much. Thank them on the night. Follow this up with email or message.
e) Remind poets to stick to time at the point you send running order out (7-10 days before).
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
16) Is the 2015 tour different to the 2014 tour? How? Why?
I suppose, because some of the dates are further afield. In tour of the North I had often met at least half of the line-up, if not more. I know a lot of poets virtually, some through 52, but not their performance style. I have found that now people have heard of The Quiet Compere and it has become a bit of brand I find people approach me to get on board (often at the point when I have already confirmed the line-up and sent flyers to print).
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
17) Who do you read – which poets do you admire/ read?
Magical realists – and this is relevant to my poetry. It is where the weird and dark sneak in and unsettle both me and the audience. Magnus Mills, Tom Holt, Jasper Fforde.

I am presently reading books on an 18th century cholera epidemic and The Black Death and epidemiology and real life murder books fascinate me. Yes, the weird and the dark again.

Poets: My favourite performers at the moment are Clare Shaw (I love her delivery style, her themes and the words she chooses) and Rose Condo (who I saw win a Manchester Poetry Slam final in 2014 by taking us with her into a story and weaving words around us rather than firing them at us – this was my first slam (as audience member) and I didn’t know what to expect).  The list changes every week. I discovered Brian Patten in the last year and love his stuff.

 QCM Sarah L Dixon
18) How did you get into writing poetry?
I wrote as a teenager to make sense of the world. Then thought I had the world figured out. After six years of working full-time and studying for an OU degree part-time in Social Science and Economics I returned to poetry via an NHS-subsidised Arts and Health Creative Writing Course for Staff run by Phlip Davenport in 2002.
 QCM Sarah L Dixon
19) What do you miss the most when your touring schedule is over?
I miss the structure and the fact that I am always in three different stages for three different events.

At present I need to thank four more poets from last week’s Ulverston gig and I put the piece of paper with notes of their lines down when distracted by a thunderstorm last week. One of my jobs this week is to find this and thank these poets.

I am in the middle of a last promotion push for Worcester in 5 days time and going to send out the running order either tonight or tomorrow.

I am trying to confirm a last couple of poets for Exeter and Hull and getting the flyers to printer hopefully in time to take them to a 52 poetry picnic on Saturday 11th July, as a lot of the Exeter crew will be there. 🙂

 QCM Sarah L Dixon
20) If you weren’t the Quiet Compere, who would you be?
If I wasn’t Quiet Compere would still be Frank’s Mum, zumba enthusiast (not necessarily good or rhythmical ;)). I told Frank my super power would be not being clumsy – had a clatter on Thursday on cobbles – classic scuffed knees and elbows.  Frank said I can’t have that power as then he would be clumsy all by himself. 
© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

© Sarah Wilkinson 2014

MANY THANKS TO YOU Sarah for taking the time for this interview, I cannot wait to see you and the other 9 QC poets on Friday and GOOD LUCK with the rest of the tour!