Category Archives: Books

Working on a Poetry Show 30-40-60

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Back in 2016 I was already planning collaborations to promote my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’, published by V. Press.

This year I had the opportunity to organise events for festivals and two of these included this body of work. Stourbridge Literature Festival saw a straight reading of pamphlets and collections that I organised with fellow V. Press published poets: David Calcutt, Kathy Gee & Claire Walker. It was fun to do and we sold a couple of books.

The next bid I placed was with Worcester LitFest, although I have been aware of the festival and participated in various events since 2014, I had never discovered the bidding stage. I wrote a synopsis for a collaborative reading.

We heard that our application had been successful in March and set to work on developing the show 30-40-60.

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We have had several meetings to script and rehearse the poetry side of things and have developed film work to enhance the experience, as well as promoting the show in hope of ticket sales. It is a something we hope to repeat at other festivals/events in the future as there has been an incredible amount of groundwork put in.

It has been one of the most pleasurable projects so far this year. The 3 hour meetings fly by and we have our fingers crossed now that we can make it a success.

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Worcester LitFest runs from 9th – 18th June and as you can see 30-40-60 is billed for the 11th June, do come along if you can make it to The Hive, tickets are a festival fiver and if you want to perform poetry, sign up for the open mic beforehand by emailing us at 304060[at]mail.com

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Litfest A5 Programme 2017 30-40-60 page

Review April 2017

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As always NaPoWriMo takes over April and makes it challenging to keep other blog posts up to date. I have made an effort to keep the blog NaPo intentionally this month with a few posts breaking the thread. I have had some amazing experiences this month which deserve a dedicated blogging. I plan to pepper them in throughout May.

 

WEEK 1:

I was asked to co-ordinate an event for a Festival I am already involved with – this task took the best part of a fortnight. But I am happy that it is all now booked and in place for this summer. I spent further weeks this month planning and organising the events for an Arts Festival in July.

I went to an editing workshop. Taking with me a poem from 2014 that has never fully worked. I can safely say it has the treatment now and just in time because it formed part of the set I performed at The Poetry Ballroom.

Poetry Ballroom

I experienced the Poetry Ballroom. Suz Winspear (this year’s Worcestershire Poet Laureate) organised this event in partnership with DanceFest. It was an amazing night. I will be blogging a full write up in May, I was honoured to be an invited performer at the event and had great fun writing some dance poems especially for it. The evening was a sound success and the dancers appreciated the theme of our poetry – not realising that we would focus on dance. As an ex-dancer, it was a pleasure.

I was asked to endorse a book (my 2nd one). The first book I endorsed is due to launch in May, more on that next month too. I am currently reading this manuscript and am delighted that the publishers thought of me.

I was asked to read at a Book Launch next month. I have spent some time this month penning new poems for this occasion. To be honest the poems were also part of NaPoWriMo, but why not make your projects work hard for you. Lots of prompts leant themselves to current project pies I have my thumbs in, so given half a chance…napo2017button1

I went to a reading at The Hive with Sarah Leavesley & Melissa Lee-Houghton. I was really excited by this. Ruth Stacey had arranged it for her students at university and just gave a bit of a quiet shout out. thehiveworcsorg

Being part of an audience of students, listening to their woes made me glad this wasn’t my life anymore. It is all to easy to glamorize the undergraduate/post grad life… but really… as much pressure as the real world.

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I loved hearing Sarah read from Magnetic Diaries again after all this time and it was a real treat to hear Melissa Lee-Houghton, as she sadly couldn’t make Verve festival in the end. It was a great evening and I am glad I managed the post work rush to get there. Had to drive a hire car too – as my window decided to malfunction and I spent over an hour finding a garage willing to help me so late on in the day. The window was stuck in the down position. My lesson: using air con is cheaper in the long run!

I spent time writing the brief for a 2nd poetry festival event, involving the other two poets. It is amazing how many days it can take 3 poets to come up with less than 3 lines!

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Back in February (my month of applications), I applied for Room 204 Writer Development Programme run by WWM. They had over 130 applicants this year for 15 places. I am delighted to announce the embargo has lifted and I can share this news. We had our first cohort meeting – what a great year to be in, so much talent. We had a photo shoot (one I wanted a haircut and weight-loss for) – neither happened in the days beforehand, but Paul Stringer is a talented photographer. It was a fun morning, we were all so excited to be part of the 2017/18 cohort and already good things have happened as a result. There is a whole year of mentoring and career development ahead, over £1000 worth. Priceless if you ask me.

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I am extremely excited to be part of Room 204, I discovered it back in 2013 and have been biding my time and developing my writing to the point I thought I was able to qualify for a place on the scheme. I am grateful my application was successful. That my writing stood up to the scrutiny and competition. Here’s the rest of this year’s cohort

https://www.writingwestmidlands.org/room-204-participants-201718/

I also reconnected with a good friend of mine afterwards and we plan to exchange books and do lunch next time I am back in the area. I used to spend more time in Birmingham than I do at the moment. I am spending less time on the road this year and more time at the desk, the natural pattern of a writer. It was good catching up.

WEEK 2

Went to an incredibly exciting meeting at the Custard Factory for this year’s Room 204 programme, which we were embargoed about. The news was finally released on the 11/12th. Rm-204-logo-final-solo-600x328

Started typing NaPo poems, I decided to write longhand this year, which gave me that workshop feeling as much of my writing is straight to screen nowadays. It meant I successfully completed the challenge with 97 poems by the end of the month, however I have typed about 10 to edit so far.

Made a promotional Easter video for Fragile Houses. I was reading advice on marketing and promotion and find it hard to detail what my pamphlet with give you beyond shared experience, memory and space to work through mirrored realities. Which all seems a high promise or at the worst an abstract manifesto. Then I thought about chocolate, the calories (personally delighted this year to have so many eggs and treats). easter Had another 3 eggs after this photo was taken!

I spent half a day making the video. Poetry – less calories than chocolate. Maybe I should have offered a free egg with every book sold.

I booked onto a Room 204 event for later in the month.

Started writing a book review and went to see Kate Bush tribute Cloudbusting with Mr G. katebush

I missed License to Rhyme again as the next day I was going to Swindon. Rick Saunders aka Willis the Poet was headlining and he was happy to take me on the road trip. It was a cracking night at Oooh Beehive – a night that Clive Oseman and Nick Lovell started a while ago. Swindon is quite a way on a school night and it was the early hours by the time I was home, but it was the Easter holidays and I am glad I managed it. Lovely to see Sam Loveless and Edward, who I met at the Poetry Festival last year.

I went to HOWL and watched amazing headline sets from Charley Barnes, Tom McCann and Rhythmical Mike. It was a great night and I was happy I made an open mic spot. It was fabulous to see everyone again. HOWL

I went to SpeakEasy where Gareth Owens was headlining. That was a good night too – rare these days that I manage 3 nights on the hoof like this. I spent the day beforehand making media for an upcoming festival shoe and dealing with programme copy.

It was nice to escape for a few hours and immerse myself in poetry.

The Beltane Anthology for 2017 was published by Three Drops from a Cauldron, which has my Rag Tree poem in it. I know you should never judge a book by the cover – but with this stunning design, who wouldn’t want to see their poetry inside!

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Featuring poetry and flash fiction by Jane Burn, Rhiannon Hooson, Alison Stone, Denise Blake, Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt, Eleanor Penny, Tom Moody, Bee Smith, Rebecca Buchanan, Rebecca Gethin, Nina Lewis, Wendy Mannis Scher, Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon, Sarah Hart, Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, Kitty Coles, Donald Illich, Dennis Trujillo, Lesley Burt, Cynthia June Long, Vivien Jones, Moyra Donaldson, Maggie Mackay, Bethany Rivers, Lewis Buxton, Carmina Masoliver, Nico Solheim-Davidson, R.M. Francis, Linda Goulden, Ilse Pedler, and Joanna Swan.

Edited by Kate Garrett, with the Three Drops from a Cauldron editorial team: Becca Goodin, Loma Jones, Amy Kinsman, Holly Magill, Penny Sharman, Grant Tarbard, and Claire Walker.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/kate-garrett/three-drops-from-a-cauldron-beltane-2017/paperback/product-23143262.html

It is now also available in digital copy.

https://threedropspoetry.co.uk/2017/04/14/three-drops-from-a-cauldron-beltane-2017/

Week 3

I had a free writing webinar with The Writers Academy & Penguin Random House, it was an interesting few hours, although I wrote copious notes not realising they were sending follow up information via email.

I had my first Room 204 1 to 1 session, we get 3 over the course of the year. It was useful and I have already started working on decisions.Rm-204-logo-WITH-WORDS

I spent an entire day co-ordinating and planning for festival events.

Holly Daffurn has started a new venture – at Bottles Wine Bar, ‘Uncorked’ an evening of Spoken Word, there were over 50 tickets sold and the night was divided into 3 parts with 5 headliners and open mic. Ambitious scheduling, beautiful venue and a stellar line up made for a perfect evening. uncorked

I performed on the open mic. Brilliant Headliners: Jasmine Gardosi, Casey Bailey, Holly Daffurn, Leon Priestnall & Joe Cooke

The Spring edition of Birmingham Literature Festival happened and despite a fantastic programme (all well received), I was unable to make it across to the city for any events. I even missed Cynthia Miller’s Primers Launch.

BLF Spring

I had my WWM group which meant I couldn’t attend some of the events/workshops on Saturday. The group went really well, we made our own magazines. I have since planned the final two session, so feel ahead of the game.

Week 4

I booked tickets to go and see Carol Ann Duffy in May, continued to organise festival events. The Stourbridge Literature Festival started. I went to see Emma Purshouse headline at Spoken Trend, saw Carla Rickets headline too. It was a great night, I even went home with 3 daffodils, now that is a good night.

I took a Napowrimo poem to Stanza and it was approved. I have written 97 in total this month as I have followed 2 main prompts, the main site napwrimo.net and joined Carrie Etter’s group where she provided us with 30 optional prompts. Beyond the poems, I have researched and stumbled into new project territory which is most exciting. Carrie’s group was amazing for comradery and support. Jo Bell spent the entire month posting poems for us to read as it is as important as writing and a sure way to learn/ learn about poetry. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the poems and discussions on her blog and will miss this daily ritual and ponder more than I will miss the onslaught of daily poetry writing.

imgID54935282.jpg.gallery I went to the first talk organised by Room 204 and now have a notebook full of information and ideas.

And the month finished with a flurry of PR for VOICES FROM THE MIDDLE at Stourbridge Literature Festival.

The first of 3 events I have been organising. A combined reading with: vpress sb I will blog about the festival/event over the coming days. Within 24 hours I will be promoting Cheltenham Poetry Festival and over the next 5 days working towards 30-40-60 the collaborative performance booked into this year’s Worcester Literature Festival.

I will not have time to be sad about the end of NaPoWriMo, but I hope to have time to type edit some of the work produced during April.

This was a GREAT month!

 

 

NaPoWriMo – Back On Track – Day 25

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Day 25

http://www.napowrimo.net/

This prompt enabled me to write a corker and I am delighted. I know that writing several poems a day for a month means that they won’t all make target, I can safely say they are all poems – but whether they are good poems or not (well I wouldn’t want to tell them – but even after editing next month some will be notebook bound forever), others like today’s may grow wings and fly.

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Our featured participant today is Tea Parties on Neptune, where the medieval marginalia poem for Day 24 involves some peculiar rabbits!

Our interview today is with Douglas Kearney, whose poetry often involves very visual, altered typography as well as onomatopoeia – poems meant to be seen and heard out loud. You can learn more about Kearney here, and read some of his work here and here.

And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). In 1958, the philosopher/critic Gaston Bachelard wrote a book called The Poetics of Space, about the emotional relationship that people have with particular kinds of spaces – the insides of sea shells, drawers, nooks, and all the various parts of houses. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that explores a small, defined space – it could be your childhood bedroom, or the box where you keep old photos. It could be the inside of a coin purse or the recesses of an umbrella stand. Any space will do – so long as it is small, definite, and meaningful to you.

I wrote about a print Mr G. bought me as a Valentine’s gift, my small specific place the poster tube that still houses it two months later. I am searching for the perfect frame!


Carrie Etter’s prompt was to write about a pet and show how the behaviour influences you, without naming the pet, leaving it to description to identify the subject. I have had pets – but we are currently pet-less, I wrote about a neighbouring creature instead.

Soaking up puddles of sun,

one stroke and your skin is raked.


Jo Bell encouraged us to read Why We Need Libraries by Ian McMillan. http://www.jobell.org.uk/ books-1204029_1280 

I moved around a lot and have always found my home in Libraries.


The Poetry School PS Napo offered

Day 25: It All Ends The Same Anyway

A fun task for today. I’d like you to write a poem in which every line ends with the same word. That’s it. It lends itself to comedy, but if you can make a tragic poem out of the prompt, I’d be dead impressed.

Paul Stephenson’s ‘The Apprentice’ is your example poem.

Paul’s pamphlet ‘The Days That Followed Paris’ was one of the Poetry School’s ‘Books of the Year’, published on our blog. You do read our blog, don’t you?

NaPoWriMo Day 10 – 1/3 Of The Way Through

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With a busy day ahead, I got my NaPo writing in early today. The prompts I follow from NaPoWriMo and Carrie Etter both feature people and I have enjoyed writing about Mr G and my newest nephew.

I cannot believe today we are all one third of the way through this year’s NaPoWriMo. Congratulations, that is a huge achievement.

http://www.napowrimo.net/day-ten-5/

Our featured participant today is Whimsygizmo’s Blog, where the nine-line poem for Day Nine tells us how to capture the moon!

Today’s interview is with former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. She has written four books of poetry, including Native Guard, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and a book of creative non-fiction, Beyond Katrina. Trethewey’s work draws from both her own family history and the history of the Gulf Coast where she was born. You can find a selection of her poems here.

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And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you. It doesn’t need to focus so much on what a person looks (or looked) like, as what they are or were. If you need inspiration, here’s one of my favorite portrait poems.

NaPoWriMo.net © 2017

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For this prompt I chose a holiday snap of Mr G and just started freewriting, I was trying to focus on the telling of the person rather than describing the photograph. I managed a short poem but found most ideas were coming just as one or two lines.

So, in the end I wrote a Haiku. I am unlikely to submit this little love poem anywhere, for the first time this year you can have the full poem.

You Look Away

Your eyes are speaking,

one raised eyebrow sends me love,

perfect half smile lips.


Carrie Etter’s prompt encourages a 2nd person poem where the ‘you’ addressed is a specific person.

I wrote about my nephew and his new tricks. It was an easy write that flowed and will need to be edited but it has legs.

‘Your new trick is aeroplane arms…

you twist your neck like an owl baby

send me another smile.’


Jo Bell posted A Blade of Grass by Brian Patten. http://www.jobell.org.uk/ a discussion about the poem and lazy critics.

Ultimately, nothing we write about captures the importance of the thing itself. The signifier never quite attains to the power of the signified. Jo Bell © 2017


The Poetry School 58d3e6b0bba6c-bpfullask for a letter poem and leave some fine examples. I know Bobby Parker and had the pleasure of meeting/hearing Melissa Lee-Houghton last week at the Worcester University reading at The Hive.

Dear poets,

Melissa Lee-Houghton is currently running a course on the epistolary poem for The Poetry School. As she has said, “sometimes all we need to be able to write the thing we most need to write is to know who it is we must write to”.

But it’s the young British poet Bobby Parker (whose latest book bears a cover endorsement from Melissa) who we’ve chosen as an example. See Heroin Lullaby (or Open Letter To My Wife Upon Our Separation).

http://thequietus.com/articles/14538-poetry-heroin-lullaby-poem-by-bobby-parker
Or, for something a little less intense, have a look at Elizabeth Bishop’s Letter to NY: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2006/07/22

Ali Lewis © 2017


Happy writing!

Fragile Houses Receives a Sabotage Review

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saboDelighted to share the review of Fragile Houses by Rachel Stirling on Sabotage Reviews.

http://sabotagereviews.com/2017/03/30/fragile-houses-nina-lewis/

 

March in Review

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March felt like a funny old month. The start of the month was rocky, the usual dips and peaks were replaced with a fairly big dip, which fortunately finished mid-March, the end of the month was full of highs and gathered rollercoaster speed, positively hyperactive.

I missed out on many events I wanted to attend due to lack of time, transport and energy. My writing schedule was full and I continued to work on organising festival events as well as time spent making exciting applications. Keeping my fingers crossed.

In addition to this – we have AN EMPTY ROOM, I managed (finally) to sort the smallest bedroom which is our first redecoration project in the house Mr G and I moved into the year I returned to writing (2013). If I wasn’t writing, I kid myself that we would have finished the entire house by now. But the thing I look forward to the most is nesting new writing spaces! The room has now been empty and awaiting action for three weeks, but in that time Mr G has transformed the front garden (much to the pleasure of the neighbours) and bought a sander in preparation for the next epic challenge- actually doing the room!

WEEK 1:

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V. Press collections: Career in Accompaniment by Alex Reed, Book of Bones by Kathy Gee, Fragile Houses by Nina Lewis and The Old Man in the House of Bone by David Calcutt, with illustrations from Peter Tinkler were reviewed by Sam Smith. You can read the full reviews here http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/

Sam Smith – Reviews in The Journal. http://thesamsmith.webs.com/

It was the final Permission to Speak on the 2nd, headlined by Pete the Temp (who I first saw at Verve).

Pete the Temp is a poet, educator and musician. His work has been featured on BBC radio and TV and in 2009 he became the National Poetry Slam Champion. Pete has toured theatres across England with his one man show ‘Pete (the Temp) vs Climate Change’. In 2015 he completed the MA Writer / Teacher Programme at Goldsmiths University. This led him to become one of the world’s first full-time spoken word educators to be embedded in a secondary school. He later went on to pilot the same work in a primary school. He was subsequently invited to do a TED Talk on the subject ‘Why Every School Should Have a Spoken Word Educator’. Pete has toured all over Europe with his art and now works as a poet and street performer. Rob Francis © 2017

We are all gutted that this event (of 2 years) has come to an end. The venue – which is one of the most amazing spaces I have had the pleasure to perform in, is closing. Rob Francis is extremely busy with writing and lecturing, maybe these things are sent by the universe as the timing seems right to free Rob up for other opportunities. He also got engaged recently, so I suspect there will be a busy non-poetry element going on in his life soon too. Fortunately I was tipped off just before the night kicked off, otherwise I would have been in floods when Rob announced it to the packed out room.

As always, it was a good night with an eclectic mix of open mics, poems, stories and extracts. It was fantastic to watch Pete in action again and I enjoyed his set immensely. Several lines have become ear-worms over the past month. I had an interesting conversation with him afterwards about poetry. You cannot help but be swept away on his passion-wave of enthusiasm.

Sadly I missed out on watching him perform again at the Artrix this week as I had a gig in Manchester the next day, work and lots of submission deadlines. If you get a chance to see him, you should grasp it for sure! ‘Keep it Lit!’

RELATED LINKS:

http://www.petethetemp.co.uk/

http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/numbered-boxes-by-pete-the-temp-bearder

numbered boxes People who have read this collection rave about it – it is on my list to buy.

I spent the majority of writing time organising, I am currently organising three events for festivals which is keeping me busy.

I also had an opportunity to create work for Mental Health Awareness Week (May). Sarah Leavesley has, for several years posted poetry related to Mental Health during this week. ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ deals with these issues and last year you may remember I attended a workshop at the MAC which was part of the Magnetic Diaries Tour. Sarah mentioned back then that we could share our workshop poetry. As with lots of things at the moment it fell into the ‘to do’ pile. My main focus currently is the house, promoting Fragile Houses and organising festival events. Anyway, long story short, I did eventually manage to create a new poem from the workshop and another written especially for the blog project. More on this in May.

I had a request for a poem and spent the weekend working on editing and writing. I have found this month that I am very last minute. I discovered a submission opportunity the day before deadline (always a challenge) and more recently discovered an entire festival I had missed, a great shame as there was a workshop I would have loved to have attended.

WEEK 2:

The week I forgot to live… so many events missed. I felt the dip this week – my body/mind reacts by sleeping. I spent my writing time beavering away at schedules, organising festival events and generally needed sleep before bedtime. I did wish to be a busy poet and I guess I didn’t consider that I would need to be grown-up with scheduling or with reacting to the events I miss. Be careful what you wish for!

I missed Stirchley Speaks, Headlined by Tom McCann, Steve Pottinger was performing in Ludlow at The Poetry Lounge, I missed Howl – there was a new event in Cannock – Speaking Out Midlands, where all performers were open mic, allocated 10 minute slots. Charlotte had invited me some months ago and then word was spread on social media and it attracted a great crowd and I have read some rave reviews.

It clashed with SpeakEasy and when I discovered Adrian Mealing (who I have not seen for years) was headlining, I knew that I was going to save the car some miles. I do not regret this decision, SpeakEasy was a good night and it was lovely chatting and catching up with Adrian. CONFAB Adrian Confab Cabaret with John Hegley (the last time I saw Adrian).

Suffering the dip, being in a familiar environment with people I know was preferable. I was revitalised by the end of the evening. There were lots of new faces and audience, incredibly positive for the LitFest team. Suz performed the Squid Ballroom, part of her Laureate event – more on this next month, I am one of the invited performers.

I spent Friday tying up loose ends and trying to write. I sent my poems to Rick Saunders the brainchild behind Rob’s PTS thank you gift. We (the collective at PTS) have sent writing to Rick who has printed a pamphlet (more like a book at 80 odd pages) to present to Rob on the final night – Permission to Shut Up – at the end of March. I sent my poem about the stage ‘The Secret of Scary Canary’s Stage’ and one I wrote especially for Rob all about what he has achieved with PTS and what it means to the rest of us, originally titled ‘Permission to Speak’. He should be extremely proud of his achievements and hopefully this isn’t the last we have heard from him.

spark I spent an entire evening planning a non-fiction session for my Spark Young Writers group (Writing West Midlands). Inspired by the Royal Society of Photographers exhibition I walked around last month I decided to do Science Journalism. The group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I am still wiping sweat from my brow – I was worried in case any of them chose to write about the bee’s anus. Which was an amazing piece of photography and incredibly fascinating to look at. I was amazed by the talented articles that came from this session. Some great writing.

It was also the DeMontfort Book Fair in Leicester – States of Independence, not something they hosted when I lived there for 5 years. Leicester is where I broke my performance poetry seal and will always have a little bit of a special place in my heart. Sarah Leavesley was there with her V. Press bookshop, she also launched her new book – a novella published by Mantle Lane Press.

http://www.mantlelanepress.co.uk/product/kaleidoscope available to buy for just £4.00

It always hurts to miss out on events, I dreamed of a busy writing life and I have one, but it means that sometimes I no longer have the freedom to march across the country to be a part of special evenings. There are also the inevitable date clashes where big decisions are made. Never have cloning and teleportation been so necessary in my life!

On Sunday I missed one of the best opportunities since the Verve Festival. Bang Said the Gun – which I have known about since 2014 and watched countless clips of online is touring and they kicked off in Stafford – relatively close (would be closer if the M6 ever flowed properly) with Jo Bell and Jonny Fluffypunk (two of my old time/all time favs) and I missed it! It was Sunday night, Week 3 and 4 are full in my diary, energy was low, as were funds and Mr G and I need to spend more time together and my car is the equivalent of an old broken pull along toy with some bits missing and broken/re-knotted string! I do not trust it on terribly long journeys or car park motorways where you hear it over heat within the first crawling 100 yards.

I missed an amazing night and an opportunity to see friends from that neck of the woods too. Gutted. I did go to check out tickets and look at the rest of the tour and this was the nearest and also had the featured artists I wanted to see. I would say there will be other times, but with something like this – there won’t be. Gutted with a capital G.

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Canterbury never had anything like this when I lived there either!

Week 3:

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I knew I would miss License to Rhyme at the Artrix, featuring Pete the Temp. I had to work and manage Manchester the following evening and I spent part of Monday choosing and rehearsing/timing my set. I also spent time with family, which I hadn’t planned much beforehand and this left me hours behind on writing time. Not that it would be any other way. Family comes first. It just meant the will I /won’t I… became a definite No I won’t!

Again I heard good things about the evening and am particularly disappointed that I missed Fergus McGonigal and Lorna Meehan performing.

I did receive some exciting emails which made a night in with my inbox particularly worthwhile. And have since taken action on these – fingers crossed once again!

On Tuesday I headlined alongside Becky Cheeriman and Mark Pajak in Manchester at Sarah L. Dixon’s Quiet, Quiet Loud. I have known about this booking at Quiet, Quiet Loud for months and the butterflies went tribal. Originally looking to headline in April or May, the gig was brought forward as Sarah L Dixon is on the move and this was to be her final event at The Llyod’s.

Rick Saunders had signed up for the open mic and kindly offered to chauffeur up the M6. Unfortunately, days before his car broke down and so we were left with some last minute arrangements. In the end we hired a car (scared that mine wouldn’t make a 200 mile round trip in a night). The journey there was fine, even passing a Willis milk tanker – Rick’s stage name is Willis the Poet…  we passed the time chatting about the spoken word scene and stopping just once for the most expensive bottle of service station water – I think it was made from diamonds or something! The journey back was horrendous, closed motorways, detours and a SATNAV that was convinced the motorway junction was still open.

The event itself was worth every mile of motorway network and it was a pleasure to headline at the final Quiet, Quiet Loud. You can read my full review here and Rick managed to post his the very next day. https://willisthepoet.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/quietly-does-it/

Huge thanks again to Rick for the lift.

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/manchester-quiet-quiet-loud-headline/

I spent Wednesday morning before work recovering, I found out about the Science and Arts Festival hosted by Birmingham University and a creative writing workshop that I would have loved to attend, although it would have been a lot before work to manage. I have pencilled it in for next year as there were lots of interesting events.

I spent Wednesday night working on submissions and on Thursday mum and I went to see Verve – Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Mr G bought us tickets for Christmas. Verve-web-8-crop-1876x1055

http://www.nscd.ac.uk/verve/

They made me want to dance again, to create dance poetry and to lose myself in costume and movement. The fact that my body could barely manage to sit through a 2 hour production tells me otherwise, but my soul is still very much committed!

I spent the weekend on things other than writing and chiselled out some time at the end of Sunday to write applications and work on my writing action plan. There are some intended submissions to create before the end of the month and three sets to plan for EarthHour (25th March), HerStory (31st March) and Poetry Ballroom (2nd April).

Week 4:

The week started with a flurry of activity organising poetry events and writing. February was a busy month for making applications and devising projects and this month sees more energy focused on these and some fruition.

I spent the first part of the week in rest (working, sleeping, living) and saving energy for a series of 3 days of poeting. Which was easy as only one of them involved performing. Although I left it somewhat late to arrange a set and fine tune the details.

I also agreed to hiding some GOLDEN TICKETS for Birmingham Literature Festival. It is the 20th Anniversary this year and the team have organised a Spring Festival to celebrate. They have sent out Golden Tickets to be found in local bookshops, Art cafes and libraries. I have taken two under my wing and let them fly (and hide).

https://www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org/2017/03/will-you-find-a-golden-ticket/

The lucky finder wins a free ticket (worth at least £10) to an event of their choice. I want to find one of these – but it may cost more petrol money than buying a ticket. Fun idea. Great one. One I may steal in the future! First time I have ever felt like Willy Wonka… it was a good feeling.

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On Thursday I saw Hollie McNish, I love Hollie…  it has been a while since I saw her perform and part of me knew that this book would be difficult for me for personal reasons, this is why I have not yet bought a copy – but watching her breathing magic into the tale and hearing such personal disclosure and truth was wonderful. hollie 2 The event had been organised at The Hive (Library) in partnership with Poetry On Loan – well done to Brenda Read-Brown!

I had been to the basement space once with my writing group and was amazed to find the event not in the studio – that was until I saw the size of the audience! Holly thought, it being a library gig in a small city there may be about 20 people! Multiply that by 10! A smashing night.

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/hollie-mcnish-nobody-told-me/

My review of the Verve Poetry Festival went live on Sabotage Reviews. http://sabotagereviews.com/

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Stanza happened on Friday – for the first time in months I thoroughly enjoyed it – and in a strange way all of our poems were love poems (but not the sort you imagine).

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Over the weekend I celebrated Earth Hour and Mother’s Day. Earth Hour was amazing, I went to the event organised by Worcester LitFest at Café Bliss. You can read the full review here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/earth-hour-with-wlf/

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Week 5

I spent the majority of my spare time writing and editing and planning how an earth I was going to manage this final week of performances and deadlines. The solution was an A4 checklist that I had very little leeway on.

I also had another poem published ‘Rag Tree’ which will be in the Beltane anthology by Three Drops. More news about festival events I am organising/performing in and events that I am just performing in. Future workshops to book and lots of potential festival tickets to be bought. I wrote new work and edited older poems.

Tuesday evening saw the final PTS – Permission to Speak become Permission to Shut Up – as it was a work night I was worried I may not last until the end, but scribbled a new poem especially for the last event (for now), the night before and got a short set ready. I was due to headline in May, potentially Rob may have a new venue by then, but I get the feeling that he needs/wants a mini-break and this would be the time to take it.

It was a great night, all in all and I will mark the occasion with a blog post as soon as I get some spare time. I took lots of pictures and stayed until the end to see Rick present Rob with his pamphlet.

42 in Worcester celebrated it’s 6th birthday and I took a newly scribed poem to celebrate. Rick Saunders headlined Spoken Trend on the same night, which I had to miss. Please someone clone me! Event clashes… every poet’s nemesis! 42 was fun and again, I will mark the occasion with a full blogpost when I have a little time. Polly made an amazing Black Forest Gateaux cake! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. All the performances were bang on and the celebratory air was sweet.

LINKS TO FOLLOW.

With two days left of March and Easter around the corner, you may think that was it… no, I am playing the game – How much can you pack into 48hours?

Thursday I gave myself a night off from performing/events – missing out on Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley again, I will get there. I spent the evening editing a new poem (my 3rd this week) and submitting work.

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I also received an exciting email from my publisher. Another review of Fragile Houses, this time on Sabotage Reviews. How wonderful to start and end the month with reviews. You can read Rachel Stirling’s incredibly intricate review here.

http://sabotagereviews.com/2017/03/30/fragile-houses-nina-lewis/

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I discovered Claire Walker and Holly Magill have embarked on editing a new Magazine ‘Atrium’, they have both edited for Kate Garrett at Three Drops recently and this new opportunity morphed from that experience. More on Atrium soon.

I saw Heather Wastie’s Nationwide advert – which was as equally exciting as watching Jo Bell’s and what made it special was seeing it first thing before work and in the final adverts before bed. Don’t ask me how I have time to watch TV and complete my mammoth writing tasks!

Holly McNish won the Ted Hughes award (one of the judges this year was Jo Bell – busy as always). Amazing news & recognition!

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/hollie-mcnishs-poetic-motherhood-memoir-wins-ted-hughes-award-518171

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/29/hollie-mcnishs-funny-and-serious-poetry-wins-ted-hughes-prize

I received news of another successful Festival bid for this summer. More on this soon.

I completed the month with a Woo Feminista event HerStory at Café Bliss. I will blog and link it up here as soon as I can.

And now I am ready for NaPoWriMo, Poetry Ballroom and a rather-already-regrettable booking of an almost full week of work! I booked Monday off as I have 3 consecutive events this weekend and will be typing until my fingers go numb finishing my writing tasks over the next 24 hours!

I hope you all had a good month too. Leave me some of your highlights in the comments, it would be great to hear from you.

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Keep Writing x

Hollie McNish – Nobody Told Me

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I have always been a bit of a fan-girl of Hollie McNish and it seems ages since I last saw her perform. I was delighted to discover that thanks to Poetry on Loan and Brenda Read-Brown, Hollie was coming to perform at The Hive in Worcester.

I always pick up the What’s On Guide and generally gleefully thumb through it… I forgot to have a proper look and only discovered this event in February! The tickets had been on sale for a while and after making enquiries at the library was not holding out much hope of snagging one. But I DID! And then I had to count down the weeks patiently. (I was not patient!)

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There were many things that Hollie McNish didn’t know before she was pregnant. How her family and friends would react; that Mr Whippy would be off the menu; how quickly ice can melt on a stomach.

These were on top of the many other things she didn’t know about babies: how to stand while holding one; how to do a poetry gig with your baby as a member of the audience; how drum’n’bass can make a great lullaby. And that’s before you even start on toddlers: how to answer a question like ‘is the world a jigsaw?’; dealing with a ten-hour train ride together; and how children can be caregivers too. But Hollie learned. And she’s still learning, slowly.

Nobody Told Me is a collection of poems and stories taken from Hollie’s diaries; one person’s thoughts on raising a child in modern Britain, of trying to become a parent in modern Britain, of sex, commercialism, feeding, gender and of finding secret places to scream once in a while.

Here for your pleasure is Hollie.

I have a copy of Cherry Pie and I knew that ‘Nobody Told Me’ would be hard for me but I also knew that it contained lots of personal writing and brilliant poetry by Hollie. It is a brash, wonderful, truthful account of motherhood.

I loved every minute of her performance and the fact that she expected about 20 people because it was a library gig. There seemed to be 200 chairs full but I think the official ticket number was 130 – mainly women, but some men too. An audience of Hollie fans and what I particularly loved was that I knew just 4 people there! So there are 100s of people who love poetry and will travel to Worcester to see it – this is good to know.

I chatted to the lovely strangers from Malvern that I sat next to before the event and did a little quiet promoting for SpeakEasy, Poetry Ballroom, Uncorked and WLF.

There was a great atmosphere in the basement – like we had all been invited to some secret club. I once used this space with my writing group, but I had expected the event to be held in the studio. The audience was too big for that space.

I queued up for ages afterwards to chat to Hollie, but unfortunately the majority of people in that queue were mums and there was only so much conversation I could take. Also it was the end of a long, hard week and bless Hollie, she was spending a long time with each individual. I also felt bad (although she told us not to) because I wasn’t buying the book. It is a brilliant book but it is a very tough subject for me at the moment so I know I wouldn’t read it straight away. I will buy it. It is packed full and a bargain on poem/story to £ ratio. But I wasn’t buying it right there. So I freaked myself out a bit in the line and decided to call it a night. I regret now, not waiting to chat with her as I have on previous occasions and it would have made my night to do so. On the flipside I got home really early and had the rest of the evening with Mr G.

It was a joy to watch Hollie perform and listen to the Q & A afterwards. Sharing her writing method and unedited voice was good to know. Witnessing her realising nobody has ever asked her for advice was as funny as hearing about her (pre- Mothercare) advice from her Grandmother. Loved it!

RELATED LINKS:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/26/nobody-told-me-hollie-mcnish-review-warm-poetic-motherhood-memoir

https://holliepoetry.com/

 

February in Review

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There were many exciting ventures this month including the second festival of the year. This time I had a festival pass (bought in November and reimbursed as a Christmas gift) and I intended to use it – and then use half term to recover.

There were also (as always) clashing events and those I missed out on. The dream of a helicopter, boundless energy and time or the ability to teleport, all somewhat in the future.

Week 1

After the madness of end of month submissions and a 16 hour after work stint on the laptop, the month started with a rare night off (which I mainly slept through of course)!

Then Permission to Speak, the wonderful spoken word event and brainchild of Rob Francis. Everyone was excited about Ira Lightman headlining, unfortunately he couldn’t make it. The night that unfolded was the first (that I know of) without a headline act, swiftly repackaged as a ‘Free For All’ with performers allocated more time. As always we were treated to a wide selection of novel extracts, short stories, music and poetry. It was really enjoyable, relaxing and a great tonic after one of the hardest work weeks I have in a while. We all missed Ira and hope he will be able to book in at the Scary Canary in the future. He really should treat himself.

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I spent my first writing day in a week, writing. I also caught up with family and almost burnt the midnight oil as a result. Two new poems, both need some time to bed down and then be mangled through edits, but I am happy with the initial results. It was a tense morning with an idling brain, so I am glad by the time my head hit the pillow, I had accomplished some work. I also discovered new opportunities, some marked for 2018 and some on my TO DO LIST – more on that in the future, especially if I am successful in my endeavours.

When my head hit the pillow I couldn’t sleep. So I treated myself to a poetry book. There are many in the queue and some were gazumped as I picked ‘Beginning With Your Last Breath’ by Roy McFarlane. I planned to only read a few pages. By page 3 my eyes started leaking surprise tears and by page 17 my breath was caught and I knew I would be reading this story cover to cover… and I did. Jolly glad I did too. I slept well afterwards and will be reviewing his debut collection shortly.

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On Saturday Antony Owen had organised a Peace Vigil at Coventry Cathedral, where invited poets were performing 15 minute sets. I was disappointed not to be able to make it as I had a prior booking in Cheltenham. It looked like an amazing experience and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can be part of another one later this year. I did have a couple of poems read on my behalf. I think it was one of those unique, special events that would have filled heart and mind to abundant levels and I cannot wait to hear all about it.

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Antony Owen was joined by invited poets: Mike Alma, Josephine Allen, Mal Dewhirst, Jacqui Rowe, Ruth Stacey & Janet Smith.

Antony said of the event it is an event for poetry to act as a witness to current world events and respond in acts of articulated remembrance.

antony-owen-by-mal-dewhirstMal Dewhirst © 2017

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Peace Curtain.

Janet Smith © 2017

Saturday night I missed Hannah Teesdale’s Special Open Mic Event in Birmingham as my brain and body had had a full work out and my little car had already driven to Gloucestershire. Both events had a lot of positive social media coverage and it would have been great to reconnect and catch up with people in Birmingham.

And I FINALLY started to read Ash Dickinson’s latest collection ‘Strange Keys’, which I had promised myself would be my Christmas book. I read three Christmas novels over the fortnight and ran out of snug time with poetry. Have made up for that since. Mr G bought me a couple of books for Christmas and I have spent the first part of the year battling through a novel. Which in concept was perfect and I see why he risked the gift. It was hard going both in terms of subject matter and chronology. Now I am on a book break for a bit unless the book contains poetry. I am too busy to catch more than snatches of time and poetry is perfect for that. I thought I had better read the collection before I see Ash again next week. Then I can delight in him performing from it.

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A conversation we had last month inspired an idea for a new poem that I managed to get to draft form this weekend. If I can work through it I think it will make a good performance poem. I love it when poets and their poetry connect to my mind in such a way that they just sow treasure. Plenty of wealth in my pad ready to go when I have a minute.

Week 2

Was set to be a corker. Poetry Alight in Lichfield on Tuesday night with Ruth Stacey (who I missed at the Cathedral) and Ash Dickinson, HOWL on Wednesday in Birmingham with Bethany Slinn, Sean Cottelli and Luke Kennard and SpeakEasy on Thursday with Matt Windle. Followed by important deadlines and Writing West Midlands.

It was a corker indeed. I had one main writing focus this week and all my spare time went into it, most of Monday, late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning before work. I managed to hit the deadline and now am keeping my fingers crossed.

Poetry Alight celebrated a 5th birthday, Gary Longden hosted an extra night this year to celebrate the 5th and the event took place downstairs in the back bar which was lovely. It was brilliant to catch up with everyone and watch in awe as Ruth Stacey and Ash Dickinson performed their headline sets. See the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/poetry-alight-happy-5th-birthday/

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I had a great time at Poetry Alight, fully absorbed and inspired to write more poetry and to edit the Funeral Pyre one.

HOWL was my next poetry feast, Wednesday evening. It was great to see lots of people I haven’t seen in a while and to watch incredible sets from Bethany Slinn, Sean Colletti and Luke Kennard. The night was on fire and made me feel like I didn’t want to ever extinguish the flame. Leon Priestnall was celebrating too. Howl’s 2nd birthday!

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Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/when-beat-poetry-howls-howl-8-2-17/

My poetry week was not done there, the following evening I went to Worcester for SpeakEasy, Matt Windle was headlining. The night was raucous fun. A wild enticing whirlpool atmosphere that in the end took everyone with it. Some great open mic spots and Matt Windle blew everyone away. He even brought a tear to my eye, a poem I had heard him perform before,  moved me so much tonight. Again a delight to watch the audience who hadn’t seen him before, enjoy his work. Poet with punch indeed, as I said on social media ‘ a w e s o m e – if you look carefully enough you will find Matt between those letters’. He is this year’s Birmingham Poet Laureate and it is great to see him back on the circuit.

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Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/speakeasy-with-matt-man-windle/

To complete my writing week I worked with Writing West Midlands, Spark Writers Group in Worcester at The Hive, where a new Assistant Writer joined us for a one off session, thanks Mollie Davidson.

I also FINALLY read Fergus McGonigal’s first collection cover to cover. It is a great read and it has made me look forward to his next collection even more. Fergus is back on the Spoken Word scene and I hope to catch him soon. fergus-mBuy your copy here.

http://www.burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/the-failed-idealists-guide-to-the-tatty-truth-by-fergus-mcgonigal

Fergus McGonigal takes Ogden Nash’s notion of a poem being an essay which rhymes and targets the unsentimental truth about parenthood, pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness and pomposity, and what happens when the idealism of youth has given way to the disappointment of middle-age. © 2015 Burning Eye Books

Week 3

Mr G’s birthday, Valentines and the much awaited (since the launch party in November) Verve Poetry Festival. verve-pass Unfortunately the weekend clashed with an event at the Swan Theatre in Worcester facilitated by Ben Parker (Poet in Residence). I am hoping he will do a third event as I had to pull out.

I missed Matt Windle and a plethora of other Laureates at the Artrix on Monday as it was Mr G’s birthday and we were celebrating in Birmingham. There were other events but with submission deadlines and an all immersive 4 day festival at the weekend I felt the need to pace myself this week.

I also missed a night of poetry at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham.

Thursday couldn’t come soon enough! After work I made my way into the city on the train and arrived at Waterstones for a perfect opening night of the Verve Poetry Festival.

Read the whole story of the Poetry Parlour with Daljit Nagra and Hit the Ode here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/verve-poetry-festival-opening-night/

I would love to stay in the city, but home really is less than an hour away and I want some book spending money. I want to suggest a poet basement next year though. Sleeping bags at the ready! I had a great night with poetry friends and had to wait less than 24hours for the top up!

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The top up came with a wonderful evening of poetry and a bizarre Dice Slam, I loved the concept of this slam. This is the kind of slam I would feel comfortable entering. You can read the full review of the Readings and Dice Slam here. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/verve-poetry-festival-day-2-part-1-kim-moore-mona-arshi-and-katrina-naomi/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/verve-poetry-festival-day-2-part-2-dice-slam-with-apples-snakes/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/verve-poetry-festival-day-3/

The weekend was immensely satisfying for my poetry soul and I will add more links when I have reviewed the events. An exciting opportunity arose from this experience too. I am writing a review for Sabotage Reviews. I have included events which I have not yet blogged about, this is another reason why I haven’t gone mad this week attempting to review the remaining events, that and I finally started work on the house. This needs to take priority this year, I will be busy as I started to organise events to perform at two festivals in January and this month took on some marketing/support for another two festivals.

Week 4

I finally read ‘The Glassblower Dances’ by Rachel McCrum, bought at Hit The Ode in 2014, I am slowly working my way through my poetry bookcase! The good news for you is it is back in print, so you could have a copy for yourselves, if you need more persuading it won the Callum Macdonald Award in 2013.

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http://www.kickingparis.bigcartel.com/ copies are just £6.00. I am hoping to write some proper reviews early summertime, so look out for those. I read some of it on the train to get my mind set for Verve.

A couple of treats to finish the month I was going to 42 in Worcester but I discovered Tom McCann (who hit the scene last September and is headlining in Stirchley next week), started a Spoken Word night in Kings Norton this year ‘Spoken Trend’. Jan Watts was one of the three headline acts and it has been forever since I saw her. She is busy producing her theatre performances of ‘Holding Baby’, widely acclaimed as brilliant and a must see. I headed over to Birmingham and performed on the open mic, alongside some well established poets and then sat back to enjoy the featured artists James Kearns, Clive Oseman and Jan Watts.

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It was a superb night. A definite recommend.

On Thursday there was a slam night in Dudley featuring Emma Purshouse and in Birmingham a reading at Foyles with Roy McFarlane & Gregory Leadbetter (which I had tickets for) and  Wine & Poetry Evening, the second of its type, organised by Emma Press & Cynthia Miller. In the end I didn’t make it to any of them, my car has been poorly for 6 months and is now finally fixed. I spent the day helping family, by the time I hit home it was gone 6pm and I was out of energy and time.

And finally, I mentioned the Nuclear Impact anthology by Shabda Press in my January Review, now it is available for you to buy. It is an amazingly huge collection of poetry and has been a real labour of love for Teresa Mei Chuc. It is available for $25.00 and proceeds will be donated to charity. If you are in America, there are book launch readings taking place all across the country, Philadelphia, New York and in California, check those out.

http://www.shabdapress.com/nuclear-impact-anthology.html

NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS
NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS $25.00 USD

Proceeds from sales of the Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands anthology will be donated to the Women’s Center in Downtown Los Angeles. www.downtownwomenscenter.org/
nuclear-impact-front-cover-final-cover-art-on-the-road-to-perilous-by-john-sokol

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There are talks currently for a reading in the UK, I will keep you posted.

I am already organising two festival events for V. Press poets and my next headline is in Manchester in a fortnight, plus I am working on submissions and reviews and in addition to all this am now rallying the troops for another Arts Festival happening in early Summer. Oh, and I may be marketing for another MAJOR festival soon too. So my plate is pretty full and I still have 8 lingering poems from my weekend at the Verve Festival to work on, (as well as a house to sort – note for Mr. G.) and it is back to work, work next week too!

I am happy busy but busy all the same. Blogs posts will be low priority now (with the exception of review posts for Verve and promotional drops) for a while, but there is plenty of historic posting in these waters so go and fill your buckets!

Keep writing!

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On Writing – Memoir

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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.

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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.

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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.