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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

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 8

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Day Eight Click here for the full post.

Today, our featured participant is Uncle Phil’s Blog, where the Shadorma/Fib prompt for Day 7 led to a very funny shadorma indeed.

Our featured reading for the day is pre-recorded, so that you can watch it whenever you like. It features the poet Denise Duhamel, reading at Arizona State University.

Our prompt – I call this one “Return to Spoon River,” after Edgar Lee Masters’ eminently creepy 1915 book Spoon River Anthology. The book consists of well over 100 poetic monologues, each spoken by a person buried in the cemetery of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, like the gentleman who ran the shoeshine stand, or one of your grandmother’s bingo buddies. As with Masters’ poems, the monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems.

Happy writing!

PROCESS NOTES: Watch out for the not-really-Rabbit-Holes!

Welcome to the 2nd week of NaPoWriMo! I found today good fun, hope you do too. I started with the featured participant I LOVED the coffee poem, both poems followed form. The Shadorma about family was intriguing – I know the Shadorma was promoted as funny (it can be read this way) < see how subjective poetry is? When I read it – Uncle Pete caused concern and then later in thought perhaps sympathy – the fact we don’t know why he is left out is a little sinister, or perhaps just brothers who have fallen out, there’s lots to unpack for such a short form – clever writing.

Today was a day of 100s of poems! I listened to the Denise Duhamel Poetry Reading at ASU. Denise Duhamel Poetry Reading at the Arizona State University “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.”

Denise Duhamel earned a BFA at Emerson College and an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Citing Dylan Thomas and Kathleen Spivack as early influences, Duhamel writes both free verse and fixed-form poems that fearlessly combine the political, sexual, and ephemeral. Duhamel has published numerous collections of poetry, including Kinky (1997), Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (2001), and Ka-Ching! (2009). Her honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been included in several volumes of Best American Poetry, and has also been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Bill Moyers’s PBS poetry special Fooling with Words. An associate professor at Florida International University, she lives in Florida.

It was a great reading, amusing and a fantastic companion to my morning coffee and at 20 minutes more manageable than some of the featured readings offered. The story behind her Sestina to Sean Penn is brilliant! Delta Flight 659 for Sean Penn. I will watch/listen/share this reading.

Photo credit: Gary Lanier

If you want more than 20 minutes of poetry you can let Vimeo deliver the rest of the “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference” videos to your screen, most of them are from 2012 Conference.

I listened to Sally Ball. – Not exactly a rabbit hole because I wasn’t seeking it – glad I caught her reading though.

Sally Ball reading from “Annus Mirabilis” at the Arizona State University “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.”

Sally Ball is the author of Annus Mirabilis, which was selected by Ellen Bryant Voigt for the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize (NY: Barrow Street, 2005). Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Ploughshares, Slate, Threepenny Review, Yale Review, and other journals, as well as in the Best American Poetry anthology. Ball is the associate director of Four Way Books, an independent press based in New York City. In 2007 she was the Margaret Bridgman Fellow in Poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, where she teaches poetry workshops, courses in modern and contemporary American poetry, and a literary publishing and editing class. She also offers internships with Four Way Books to students in the MFA Program for Creative Writing.

2012 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference
Feb. 23-26 • ASU Tempe campus

I also read more of Denise Duhamel‘s poems on Poets.org – again notreally-a-rabbit-hole as it was on the same page as the NaPo link and I have only just discovered Denise today and loved her work. Rabbit Hole in time though. I have stored a few for later.

NaPoWriMo often send gems of ebook resources, I didn’t read all of the Spoon River Anthology but I have saved the link on my NaPo resource list. A free book, always a bonus!

Today’s prompt meant that I returned to the book with a 2nd cup of coffee to read a few poems. I have only ever written one dramatic monologue – they were a popular form here on the spoken word circuit about 5 years ago, especially amongst students studying creative writing. Of course they have been in vogue for years and used by Wordsworth, Browning, Tennyson, Eliot and Yeats, to name a few. They are sometimes referred to as persona poems. I have a background in theatre and drama so at one point in my life knew more monologues than poems. The poetic form is a little different from the dramatic form.

I know this prompt is one I shall start this morning and carry with me before I sit to write it out. Especially as I have my first walk in 2021 Walk in Nature planned before lunch. It won’t be far because of the leg/back recovery but it will be OUTSIDE and although cold the sky is blue, there is no sun and the sun is SHINING! Scarf and boots ready. Also it was around this time last year in the 1st UK Lockdown when I felt brave enough to venture outside of my home range for a walk. I saw three fields over the course of 2020 grow through a cycle that let me know some of our world still works as it did. There are geese, ducks, birds of prey and the hills in the background and in a socially distanced way, my mum (who has been shielding so we have big gaps of time where we didn’t see each other off screen).

The walk was a joy! The sky was big.

PROMPT:

read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead… perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, … a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy.

Read from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters.

I only read a few of the poems from Spoon River, Cassius Hueffer explores the idea of people’s idea* of us and our real selves can be different. *I like the idea that it may not be the truthful version of what people think anyway but the gravestone is not the place to write a harsh truth. I know whatever comes in the next few hours will stem from this poem.

Dramatic Monologues:

The basics of a dramatic monologue, demonstrated through the poems collected in the Spoon River Anthology:

Single person speaking/ opinions not necessarily those of poet (assumed character)/ – which creates a distance between the reader and the writer, /it is dramatic (like the theatre- settings/character/conflict) so is spoken to/assumes a listener or is addressed to another character.

M.H. Abrams says; “The main principle controlling the poet’s choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker’s temperament and character.”

What came out was a two page poem about a friend we recently lost to suicide. In his voice. Free written, typed at speed. I won’t share an extract but I feel him with me, in my heart.

WOW. Today’s Napo is powerful and not necessarily pleasant in the end, give yourselves self-care if you have written about … or found this traumatic or difficult, this prompt could unpluck a lot of people. Take care. x

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 6

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Day Six Click here to read the full post.

Our featured participant for the day is woodyandjohnny, where the container-based prompt for Day 5 gave rise to a poem full of strange language and tonal shifts . . . which might not be surprising, given that it was based on a poem by the Serbian avant-garde poet Vasko Popa!

Today’s featured reading is pre-recorded. It features the poet Nikki Giovanni reading at Emory University back in February of 2020.

Finally, here’s our daily prompt. Our prompt yesterday asked you to take inspiration from another poem, and today’s continues in the same vein. This prompt, which comes from Holly Lyn Walrath, is pretty simple. As she explains it here:

Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

Happy writing!

©napowrimo.net

PROCESS NOTES including a rabbit hole or two!

I started at the participant’s site and read the poem. I found the intentional surrealism difficult, following the context was hard on first read. I was interested to see if they had pulled from the theme of the original content as stimuli. We are not going to understand everything we read, nor like everything, poetry is subjective. In Writing Development wide reading is encouraged, be in contact with both poetry you are drawn towards to and that which is challenging or beyond your personal taste and read poems over and over. Revisit them.

I was interested to see the original and am unsure I have found it here as the lettering doesn’t match, this may be because the poet has a different translation, I have the wrong poem or the poet has amended/erased some lines / played with the constraints, all of which are fine. I checked another site and found the same translation. So my guess is the poet chose to amend/cut lines or the Charles Simic translation is different. I have always enjoyed poetry in translation, the bends in the language it produces.

As I read and re-read the poem the shape of it revealed itself. I picked up on the possibility this was a bi-lingual poet and also thought there may be a nod to the original in as far as Vasko Popa was a Serbian Avant Garde poet. Hallucinated Ambush certainly has some surreal qualities. Barbara may be a fan of French surrealism. The poem has a narrative and definitely created a scene in my mind. There may be some call to Eve and the Snake. Some of the lines were beautiful:

fish-eyed

asps curled in bracken shade

thoughts fragment half-cut jewels

dust binds dubious truthes

another ache a splinter borrowed

I did a bit of a tour of the website intrigued by my earlier realisation that I mistook the site name as part of the title (I hadn’t slept much, I even copied Day 5 NaPo not 6 this morning) and searched not for Race but for Woody & Johnny took Race by Vasko Popa, which worked for me as a title. Many bloggers do not reveal identity or use an alias, when I started blogging I was the same, I linked wordpress to the non-named account and kept identity concealed then after a while I realised people searched for me and this place wasn’t linked to those searches and at some point (probably in the promotion of poems, used my own name). Part of me is detective, (Mrs Marbles, is one of many of Mr. G’s nicknames for me – see what I mean about concealed identity…) anyway, it was easy to discover this site belonged to Barbara Turney Weiland (Home button profile & comments < in case you want to be detective too).

I discovered a second blog barbara turney wieland poetess, I am considering this my first NaPo rabbit hole (even let my coffee go cold)! I explored the second site and discovered Barbara is an artist who had, at the time of posting, been writing poetry for 5 years, I read her published work and thoroughly enjoyed these two poems published in Shadow Kraft – a Bilingual Literary Webzine.

UPDATE Day 20

I have to consider closing the Detective Agency or rebrand as a Tech Editing Co. instead. Johnny got in touch (the same day) to explain the process and it is wondrous what Woody and Johnny have achieved.

So just to clear it up I will leave this note here for you to read as I go and hang up the Trilby and shades (YES! Miss Marbles had retro style).

All we took for our prompt on Day 5 was the first letter of each line and noted the shape of the poem. The poem was written by Woody & Johnny before the translation by Simic was read.

Really appreciate your thoughts on our tandem writing though! Thank you. Johnny (of Woody & Johnny).

I watched today’s reading. I spent some time online at Emory University this year at events. They have had some amazing poets read… just listen to the introduction. I have also read some poems by Nikki Giovanni since Lockdown. I have discovered lots of incredible American Poets in this Pandemic year. 

Acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni Feb. 22, 2020, at the Schwartz Center on the Emory University campus.

Giovanni is known for her activism poetry, especially concerning race, gender, self-pride, and love. Giovanni has been an English professor at Virginia Tech since 1989 and has been a university distinguished professor there since 1999. She has received an honorary doctorate from more than 27 colleges and universities. The event was hosted by the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library as part of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series, now in its 15th season. The reading was sponsored by the Hightower Fund, with support from Emory Library and Information Technology Services (LITS), and the Creative Writing Program at Emory.

© Emory University

This video is very much an address, if you want to hear more poetry, listen to this too. It is not a perfectly clear recording, but the vinyl crackle is authentic and won’t worry some of us from the pre-digital age.

The prompt is one I have tried before. Like yesterday’s prompt it give rise to poems which are different to your natural voice. Which is always fun. I was excited for the results of today’s write.

In the full instructions Holly Lyn Walrath considers the issue of plagiarism;

The truth is, it’s a common practice in poetry to draw off of other’s work. Using other people’s work in this way is a time-honored tradition. It’s been debated recently but it’s obvious that as far back as Christopher Marlowe, writers have been referencing each other.

Holly also mentions a Jericho Brown workshop (which I was lucky enough to attend) and the mirror prompt is definitely worth a try – if you fancy writing more than one poem today! There’s always the Golden Shovel a form devised by Terrance Hayes in response to a Gwendolyn Brooks poem. So you actually get two extra prompts from this page. Worth adding I discovered the poetry of Jericho Brown through NaPoWriMo a couple of years ago. Count how many new favourite poets you have at the end of these 30 days. Treasure.

I have come across Holly Lyn Walrath and her medium.com site before today, worth a read. In having a read-about today I fell into my 2nd Napo rabbit hole! I read many, many articles following links all around the internet. The funny thing was a website I found last year entered my mind and I found it this morning through one of these adventure links!

Eventually I went off to find my line and start my poem. I took a line from the first book I plucked off my shelf and settled down to free-write, the poem came out quickly.

I feel like no extract from Shush will give you a feel for the lamentation I have written today. I played with white space and changed some of the word order. Trying to format even a few lines to WP platform is a challenge. Definitely needs a screen shot! I let the poem free write itself out and as NaPo is not about editing just placed it/ pegged it to the page. But it is marked as *one to go back to in the summer. So one day you may see it in full.

I writhed in the agony

>

>

of not

>

……………………………………..knowing

World Poetry Day 2021

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World Poetry Day is like Christmas Day for poets, usually lots of events on offer. I am usually involved in organising something special but with the plates I am spinning it crept up on me this year, so I spent Friday night panning for gold.

This is what I came up with:

Apples & Snakes organised 3 international workshops which have been productive and I even have a poem I am fairly happy with to work on.

Jean Atkin has collaborated with artist Katy Alston and they have their Fair Acre Press Book Launch today with John Sewell, Carl Tomlinson and Steve Griffiths.

Later, the wonderful Rose Condo has organised 21 poets from all over the world to perform for a special event to mark World Poetry Day.

The poems I have read today come from my current read, The Mizzy by Paul Farley.

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe 2021

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A brand new website for Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe. Find out about all the 2021 competitions, join in with virtual open mics at SpeakEasy (9th April) and coming soon announcements for Worcestershire LitFest 2021.

YOUNG WRITER COMPETITION

7-17 years old/ FREE entry/ International

FLASH FICTION COMPETITION

300 words £4 or £10 for 3 entries/ International

And if you are a resident of Worcestershire, for £5 you can enter the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition.

International Women’s Day 2021

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There are many online events marking IWD – there are always Spoken Word and Poetry events that mark this day, the joy of this year was discovering the Creative Profiles on the main IWD site include poets.

Almost too many choices happening this evening, but you will find there are events throughout the week for IWD. I booked a ticket for an event tonight a long time ago, so haven’t even explored other events as I know I won’t be able to make them and then that just makes me feel frustrated.

All information and images below are ©International Women’s Day/IWD2021 (unless otherwise stated) and the text is from the official website.

IWD 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge

A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.

#IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

For full information on Women Creatives click here.

Firstly, a poet I was lucky enough to meet and hear during the first Lockdown, Sharena Lee Satti. She has been snapped up by Verve Poetry Press.

Sharena Lee Satti is an independent spoken word artist, author and workshop facilitator who writes with her emotions to the fore, her heart at the centre, and a power that can leave peopple breathless. 

“My poems are real, raw and honest – addressing issues like survival, cultural-identity, life’s battles, self-love, body dysmorphia and many subjects people struggle to speak out about,” says Sharena.

Writing has never been optional for Sharena Lee Satti. Like eating and breathing, it’s something integral to her existence. Everyday she is thankful to be able to make a small difference to society, sharing something she is deeply passionate about.

©www.sharenaleesatti.com

When you choose to challenge… through spoken word poetry

Anisa Nandaula is a very talented spoken word poet, play writer, educator and published author

Spoken word is one of the most powerful forms of poetry because it passionately expresses the poet’s deepest thoughts while simultaneously engaging and inspiring listeners. So, spoken word poetry seems a perfect medium to reinforce and amplify this year’s International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge theme. Spoken word poets from around the world are stepping forward in solidarity to choose to challenge. 

Anisa was born in Kampala, Uganda and later moved to Australia at the age of 8. Growing up in Australia, Anisa observed the vast distinctions between these two countries and the fundamental difference in living standards sparked her passion to use her voice to articulate her thoughts on social justice. Her poetry explores issues of race, feminism and politics – while employing her talent and wisdom to educate and engage people to have difficult and challenging conversations. Her often controversial work explores the complexities of being a child of diaspora, history and the importance of philosophical questioning. Anisa’s soulful and passionate performance style is incredibly moving.

Some of Anisa’s most influential poems see her confrontationally and powerfully explore concepts of identity, violence and worth.

Anisa has received a multitude of accolades, appeared at numerous high-profile events, and performed upon many prestigious stages including at the Sydney Opera house.

Anisa discusses her passion, struggles and inspiration

“I guarantee there are going to be moments where you want to give up – where you don’t think that you’re good enough or your ideas are good enough – but you have to be resilient enough to keep going…There are going to be days when no one believes in your idea but you, but you have to have belief in what you can see and what you can be in yourself,” says a young Anisa.

Aminah Rahman is an award-winning British-Bangladeshi poet and spoken word artist

Aminah Rahman is a 17-year-old award-winning published poet and spoken word artist born and raised in Cambridge, UK. She is a third-generation British-Bangladeshi with over 60 years of family history in Cambridge. She has been writing poetry since she was eight years old. Most of her poetry focuses on fighting racism and celebrating who we are as individuals. 

To support the International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge​ theme and to call upon further spoken word poets to step forward and use their voice to influence positive change, Aminah crafted an inspiring poem “Changing the Future”.

Aminah Rahman

Aminah’s mission is to break down any barriers that could stop people from reaching their potential, and she hopes to connect to the souls of many people who draw comfort from her words.

“I believe that it is important to be there for one another. I remember when I wrote my first rap ‘Accept Me Please’, after hearing stories about tackling racism. I ran up the stairs, taking two steps at a time as so many ideas came flooding in to me, and then I put pen to paper,” she explains. “I had never written so quickly! It was an incredible feeling knowing that I had my first rap right in front of my eyes. Poetry has enabled me to learn about the world around me and most importantly who I am as an individual.”

Winner of prestigious awards and accolades

Aminah wrote her first poetry collection Poems by Aminah in 2016. She then wrote Soul Change, her next collection of poems about social issues that affect humanity today. Five of Aminah’s poems have been published in Young Writers UK anthologies. Aminah is featured in the June 2020 edition of Writing Magazine, the UK’s biggest and bestselling magazine for writers, where she talks about her passion for poetry. Aminah was also recognised as one of the ‘Top 6 Most Influential Muslim Youth’ in Hayati Magazine, Nigeria’s #1 Muslimah fashion and lifestyle magazine.

She was the winner of the Young Muslim Writers Awards Key Stage 2 Poetry category in 2015. In 2017, she was the joint winner of the Cambridge News and Media Education Awards: Pupil of the Year award. She also took part in the BBC Upload Festival 2020, a festival that showcases talent from across England and the Channel Islands. Aminah represented Cambridgeshire with her poem ‘Please’. She has spoken at numerous events, actively promoting inclusion and diversity.

Using poetry to understand the people and the world

Aminah Rahman

Poetry can be a powerful mechanism for change. For Aminah, it is the heartbeat for change.

It helps her to understand and appreciate the way the world is today. Poetry is a form of expression that helps her to process her thoughts and feelings. Writing and reading poetry helps her to see things from a different perspective.

For Aminah, words are the best reflections. “Poetry helps me to empathise with others and it leads us to love. It also helps me to understand my own identity. My journey has helped me to discover my own voice. Poetry is a powerful gift because it addresses feelings which can be hard to describe. Poetry brings us together,” she adds.

©International Women’s Day/IWD2021

I will be celebrating with some women I know this evening.

And I couldn’t post IWD without a link back to one of the many anthology collections I edited/curated as Worcestershire Poet Laureate in 2018. This one came from a Mini Workshop I facilitated in The Hive, based on the wonderful exhibition they displayed to mark 100 years of votes for women/ the Suffragette Movement. Those women certainly chose to challenge! #ChooseToChallenge.

Suffragettes Anthology – Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2018

I was the 7th WPL and the 4th woman to take the role, my plate was very full 3 years ago, so for IWD I created this call out IWD which resulted in this brilliant post all about female poets and inspirational & influential women. Many listed are friends of mine and poets I know, I have now (in the past 3 years read all of them), maybe you will find a new read somewhere in there and they are all STRONG women!

I couldn’t quite leave it there – I created this post with the former female Worcestershire Poets Laureate – Maggie Doyle (2012-13), Heather Wastie (2015-16) & Suz Winspear (2016-17) celebrating their work and influential women in their lives.

It’s IWD – it can’t pass without another watch of Amanda Gorman!

And, from the power of performance through words of wisdom, we reflect on that moment when our spirits were ignited across the world by the stirring call from Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman who delivered her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. An American poet and activist, Amanda Gorman’s work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization. © International Women’s Day 2021

#IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

I have always been a letter writer, at 13 I had 33 International pen-pals and many of us wrote well into our 20s and have since found each other via social media! Lifelong friendships. I used to love receiving post… nowadays it is mainly business and bills but occasionally someone sends me gold. I was overjoyed to see this… although (typically) it is a no-post day for me. A wonderful gesture from the Royal Mail.

Millions observe Royal Mail’s significant #ChooseToChallenge awareness raising efforts

Thank you to the UK’s Royal Mail for celebrating International Women’s Day, raising community awareness, and amplifying the call-to-action to #ChooseToChallenge. ⁠

Royal Mail’s special #IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge postmark is being applied to millions of stamped mail items over three days of the International Women’s Day period. 

Important support for women’s empowerment

Royal Mail’s special moment-related postmarking provides an important opportunity to amplify key messsages, mobilize positive action, and engage communities.

Not only will women appreciate the organization’s support in reinforcing equality, but the #IWD2021 #ChoooseToChallenge postmarking is relevant to all genders inviting people to courageously step forward and call out stereotyping, bias and discrimination. 

© The Guardian 2014

An iconic organization where women choose to work, Royal Mail is one of the oldest organizations in the world, and can trace its origins back over 500 years to 1516.

They are also one of the UK’s largest employers and mantain a solid focus on diversity and equal opportunity within its workforce.

Royal Mail Group has a strong community engagement focus which provides an important opportunity for its people to interact and build relationships with the communities they serve – and this is of benefit to both parties. The organization’s ongoing commitment to community engagement is significant.

© Alison Evans @artsyalisondesigns

Typography From the Creatives IWD.

Alison Evans is from Sacramento in California, USA and her design focuses on challenging and calling out gender bias and inequity. ” I love the empowerment in the message and knew I had to create something that not only celebrates the day, but shows solidarity with the mission,” she says.

“I like to serve up positive, uplifting art with a side of feminism and pop culture. The main focus of my work is based on my own personal experiences with mental health, feminism and being raised by the television screen. While most of my work is focused on illustration, my main inspiration and motivation is typography, lettering and calligraphy.” 

“My concept behind my IWD design is that I really wanted to embody the celebration of women’s achievements and promote a sense of inclusion and togetherness. Hands are something I gravitate towards illustrating, so I thought that holding hands would be a perfect depiction of that idea. I also wanted to incorporate the international symbol for women, and decided to include that with the background pattern.”

“For the process, the program I use for all of my lettering/typography/illustration is Procreate. I started with the message: ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ and decided I wanted to have that as the biggest element in the design. I sketched the lettering out first and realized that I had a blank spot underneath the lettering portion. As mentioned, I enjoy drawing hands so I thought this would be a perfect addition to the design at the bottom. I sketched those until they fit how I wanted them to, then went back and lettered the writing, and designed the ribbon-like texture to it. After that, I finalized the hands and colored them in. I always have a problem selecting colors, so that part took a long time, but I finally settled on a darker background so that the messaging popped.”

“When it comes to IWD, I believe that as a society we need to celebrate women’s successes and stand up for gender parity in every aspect of life. Although I would love if everyday could be International Women’s Day, it is nice that we can set aside one day where we can focus our efforts on raising awareness about equality and come together for a common cause to celebrate the achievements the world has made in the goal of gender equity and inclusion.”

© International Women’s Day 2021

And finally pop over to this post to read some inspirational quotations from more authors.