Category Archives: Lockdown

Saboteur Awards Festival 2021

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Saboteur Awards Festival 10th-15th May

So the Stay at Home! Lit Festival is over – but there was no festival slump!

Saboteur Awards Festival (10th – 15th May) The team have been working hard to adapt the awards to a digital platform for the 2nd year and have introduced the Saboteur Awards Festival -a Panel Discussion, Workshop, Reading Series ‘specifically to promote work that had been impacted by the pandemic and/or the various lockdowns throughout the UK’.

At the end of the festival this year’s winners will be announced and then you can look forward to the Spotlight Winners Series running throughout May and all the way into July. There is a lot on offer on the You Tube channel.

I was super excited when I discovered Rose Condo was one of the performers on offer. I felt extremely lucky to finally catch Rose Condo’s reimagined show The Empathy Experiment. Amazing how she managed to deconstruct the 2019 show to bend around the global experience of 2020+ and I think probably makes it even stronger.

“An example of why we so desperately need to campaign for the survival of the arts.”

Northern Soul review of online performance for Bradford Literature Festival

I met Rose back in about 2015, when she Headlined Hit the Ode in Birmingham and I was first introduced to her little red dot. I knew I wasn’t going to see The Empathy Experiment in Edinburgh (Festival) – for one thing I was still hobbling around on a stick! But I had hoped to catch her last year, online at Bradford Festival, so I am glad that she is still performing this reimagining of The Empathy Experiment.

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The Carcanet Reading was highly enjoyable and great fun with a range of poets. I enjoyed readings from Katherine Horrex, Joey Connolly, Mina Gorji and Victoria Kennefick. I know the work of some of these poets and had most recently enjoyed Victoria Kennefick at the Stay at Home! Lit Festival. All of them were utterly brilliant and are on the Birthday list!

You can purchase the books by clicking the links beneath the covers.

Growlery by Katherine Horrex Debut Collection

Horrex – whose poems found an enthusiastic readership via Carcanet’s New Poetries series – unpicks the illusion that order upholds society and reveals the true ramshackle complexion of things. Her debut collection reimagines the ‘growlery’ of Dickens’ Bleak House by looking at the concept of internal space in a twenty-first century which is both connected and disjointed.

Long Pass Debut Collection

‘Ach! I misspoke. What I mean to say is this …’ In Long Pass, Joey Connolly’s first collection, the poet – in love, in puzzlement, in frustration or in elegy – keeps catching himself out, starting again. He wants to speak truthfully. He wants to say things simply. But nothing is as simple as it seems at first. Nothing strikes the interlocutor quite as he intends. Ach! He goes back. Deflections, tangents: the long pass, the long unfolding sentence, the growing sequence, move away from what they intend to say in order at last, wittily, angrily, ironically, to swerve in and say it.

‘...This is a serious attempt to write philosophy as poetry, to render complex arguments about nominalism and epistemology in verse without losing sensuality’s boom boom.’
Will Harris, Poetry School

Art of Escape

Among Mina Gorji’s poems in New Poetries V (2011) was one about Houdini entitled ‘The Art of Escape’ which returns here as the title poem. This colourful and vivid first collection continues the course of Mina Gorji’s meticulous explorations of ‘the strange and sometimes darker side of nature’ and the different forms and meanings of escape: dandelions crossing the ocean, the journey of a gall wasp from Aleppo to England, the transformation of an armadillo into music. These poems shift by degrees until new patterns and sounds emerge, transforming the familiar into unexpected configurations. Art of Escape is a wonderful casting off into the complex waters of adult life, in which change has become the constant.

Debut Collection

Victoria Kennefick’s daring first book, Eat or We Both Starve, draws readers into seemingly recognisable set-pieces – the family home, the shared meal, the rituals of historical occasions, desire – but Kennefick forges this material into new shapes, making them viable again for exploring what it is to live with the past – and not to be consumed by it.

©2000-2021 Carcanet Press Ltd

I was lucky enough to grab a workshop ticket for the weekend with Rose, which was a fantastic way to start the weekend (after a much needed – real life working week- lie in)! It was a great group, I knew a few of the people who came to the workshop. I wasn’t sure what to expect… but ‘Have a (Kind) Word with Yourself’ is never going to be a bad experience. It was joyous, there was a lot of laughter and writing too. No pressure and very relaxed. I don’t want to give details away as I know Rose plans to repeat the show and workshop. You should definitely book on when you see it!

The festival experience led up to the most exciting part — the announcement of the 2021 Saboteur Winners with some special new graphics especially for the 2021 Ceremony!

Check out Saboteur Awards Results, follow across social media and look out for bountiful readings on the You Tube channel as they Spotlight the winners from the end of May (26th) until July (4th).

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival – Week 2 – Part 4 – The 2nd Weekend #SAHLF 2021

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Saturday 8th

Poems for the Planet

Julian Bishop, Maggie Butt, Sarah Doyle and Cheryl Moskowitz are four well-published and prize-winning members of Poets for the Planet, who have come together to perform climate emergency poems and publish a pamphlet ‘Poems for the Planet’ (2020) with all profits to eco-charities.

Author Bio

Julian Bishop

Julian Bishop is a former television journalist living in North London. He was longlisted in this year’s National Poetry Competition and won the 2021 Poets and Players Competition. He’s also a former runner-up in the Ginkgo Prize for Eco Poetry.

Maggie Butt

Maggie Butt’s sixth poetry collection is everlove (The London Magazine Editions 2021) and a novel, The Prisoner’s Wife, under the name Maggie Brookes was published internationally in 2020.

Sarah Doyle

Sarah Doyle is a poet and PhD researcher. She is widely placed and published, with a pamphlet of collage poems inspired by Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals – Something so wild and new in this feeling – published by V. Press in March 2021.

Cheryl Moskowitz

Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet, novelist and creative translator. Together with composer Alastair Gavin she runs the poetry and electronics performance series, All Saints Sessions, http://www.allsaintssessions.uk. Her recent pamphlet, Maternal Impression, is published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.

© Stay-at-Home! Festival

This was a great reading from a book which got swallowed a bit by the pandemic, like my pamphlet ‘Patience’, this collective of poets also saw the readings they had lined up for the promotion of this publication cancelled. This is an important book – as all books are- but the message here is even more believed from the year we have all just experienced.

Sunday 9th

Write a Book in 10 Easy Steps!

Blank page and no idea how to begin? This practical hour-long workshop is guaranteed to kickstart your inspiration. We will explore the nuts and bolts of what a satisfying story needs. If you want to write commercial fiction that readers will adore this workshop is perfect for you!

Author Bio

Cesca Major is a novelist and screenwriter. She writes books based on mysterious events and The Thin Place is based around the sinister happenings at Overtoun Bridge in Scotland – a place where dogs have been known to leap to their deaths. Cesca has presented shows for ITV West and Sky Channels in the past. She enjoys hosting or speaking on festival panels and films vlogs about the writing process. She runs writing retreats twice a year in the West Country and teaches creative writing courses for the Henley School of Art. She writes uplifting books under other names and currently has a TV series in development. Cesca lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and twin girls.

© Stay-at-Home! Festival

This was an incredible workshop to finish my festival experience and a true lesson in how much can be packed into a one hour session. Busily scribbled notes throughout and it was a delight to hear a truthful, honest account of a career writer. Lots of insight into the process of simplifying the big obstacles that stop people from completing projects.

Huge gratitude to the SAHLF team for making Spring 2021 slightly less of a weight to bear. This has been pure escapism and I have enjoyed every session I managed to attend.

Pulling off online festivals is no mean feat and you have, once again, been incredible.

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival – Week 2 – Part 3 #SAHLF 2021

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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.

Thursday 6th

Layers in Flash Fiction

A writing workshop on imagery and structure, with Anita Goveas and Farhana Khalique.

Author Bio

Farhana Khalique

Farhana Khalique is a writer, voiceover artist and teacher from London. Her stories are forthcoming or have appeared in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021, Leicester Writes Short Story Prize Anthology 2020, Reflex Fiction and more. Farhana has been shortlisted for The Asian Writer Short Story Prize, and she has won a Word Factory Apprentice Award. She is also the editor of Desi Reads and a submissions editor at SmokeLong Quarterly.

Anita Goveas

Anita Goveas is British-Asian and based in London. She’s on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction, an editor at Mythic Picnic’s twitter zine, and she’s an editor for the Flash Flood. She is one of the teachers on Dahlia Publishing’s 2021 ‘A Brief Pause‘ writer’s development programme. Her debut flash collection Families and Other Natural Disasters was published by Reflex Press in Sept 2020. © SAHLF Programme

This was an amazing workshop, I signed up with the thought of getting back into Flash Fiction writing and these two certainly spurred me on. This was an excellent workshop, they managed to squeeze so much into the hour. I didn’t really know what to expect. They made me think about writing in a fresh, new way.

Thank You for The Small Things: Poetry Workshop with Nadine Aisha Jassat

A workshop with award-winning writer Nadine Aisha Jassat on using poetry to help give thanks for the small things. This gentle workshop will feature prompts to reflect and write on, suitable for folks writing for the first time or those who write regularly, and will make use of some zoom features including the chat box.

Author Bio

Nadine Aisha Jassat is an award-winning writer and the author of Let Me Tell You This (404 Ink). She has been published widely, including in It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race (Picador), Nasty Women (404 Ink), Staying Human (Bloodaxe Books) and more. She has performed her work internationally and has drawn significant acclaim, including receiving a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and being shortlisted for the prestigious Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, and was recently named by Scotland’s Makar Jackie Kay in her International Literature Showcase selection of 10 Compelling ‘BAME’ writers working in the UK, with Kay writing: ‘Hers is a powerful, unforgettable new voice.’ © SAHLF Programme

SAHLF Bookshop here

This was another incredible workshop, one which warmed all our hearts and again, so much packed into the hour. I got some writing done and have useful ideas to run with in the future. This hour was a pleasure and a joy and I am SO GLAD I didn’t miss this!

Friday 7th

Friday was exceptionally busy so I didn’t make it to the festival until the evening.

Solace in Sound – Three Bloodaxe Poets Explore the Landscape of Grief

Join a trio of Bloodaxe poets whose recent poetry collections span Scotland, Ireland, England and Estonia. Each shares a powerful sense of their formative landscapes; whether farmland, forest, mountains, estuaries, rivers or beyond. In poems that consider the impact of loss – of friends and friendships, parents, or a communal event of the most traumatic kind – these collections foster sympathy and strength. The poets will read from their own work, and also from each other’s, creating a unique conversation about memory and resonance in the landscape.

Author Bio

Jane Clarke

Jane Clarke is the author of two poetry collections, The River and When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books 2015 & 2019), and an illustrated chapbook, All the Way Home, (Smith|Doorstop 2019). Four of her poems feature in Staying Human (Bloodaxe Books 2020) and one of the poems from When the Tree Falls was selected for The Forward Book of Poetry 2021. She grew up on a farm in Co. Roscommon and her work explores enduring connections to people, place and nature. She lives in Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow where she combines writing with teaching & mentoring creative writing.

Philip Gross

Philip Gross, born in Cornwall, son of an Estonian wartime refugee, has lived in South Wales since 2004. He won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2009, a Cholmondeley Award in 2017, and is a keen collaborator – with artist Valerie Coffin Price on A Fold In The River (Seren, 2015), with poet Lesley Saunders on A Part of the Main (Mulfran, 2018) and with scientists on Dark Sky Park (Otter-Barry, 2018). His latest collections are Between The Islands (Bloodaxe, 2020) and Troeon/Turnings (Seren, 2021) with Welsh language poet Cyril Jones. A new Bloodaxe collection, The Thirteenth Angel, is due in 2022.

Heidi Williamson

Heidi Williamson grew up in Norfolk and spent many years living in Central Scotland. Her first collection, Electric Shadow, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. The Print Museum won the 2016 East Anglian Book Award for Poetry. Return by Minor Road, published in 2020, revisits her time living in Dunblane at the time of the Primary School shooting and its aftermath. She is an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and also works for the Poetry Society, Poetry School, National Centre for Writing and The Writing Coach.

© SAHLF Programme

I did not want to miss this reading. I saw Heidi last year at the SAHLF and have been fortunate enough to attend several of Philip’s readings. This was an hour filled with incredible poetry. It’s always interesting to hear how themes from different bodies of work can chime together.

SAHLF Bookshop here

The FINAL weekend of the Festival post – COMING SOON!

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

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Wednesday 5th

MeToo / #Us Together

Three years after the emergence of the global #MeToo movement, we revisit the poems (and poets) behind the #MeToo Women’s Poetry Anthology. Poets Jill Abram, Deborah Alma, Kim Moore, Wendy Pratt, Victoria Bennett, and Jhilmil Breckenridge discuss breaking the silence, whether there is still hope for change, and what needs to happen next for survivors to be heard. Any donations contributed during this event will be given to Women’s Aid.

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SAHLF Bookshop

The proceeds from this event and all proceeds from the book go to Women’s Aid – a charity supporting women in crisis.

Author Bio

Jill Abram

Jill Abram is Director of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, a collective encouraging craft, community and development. Publications include The Rialto, Magma, Under the Radar, Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems, and Harana.

Deborah Alma

Deborah Alma is a UK poet and teacher. Deborah is editor of #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology. Her first full collection, Dirty Laundry, is published by Nine Arches Press and she now runs the Poetry Pharmacy in Shropshire.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015) won the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second collection All The Men I Never Married will be published by Seren in October 2021.

Wendy Pratt

Wendy Pratt’s latest collection When I Think of My Body as a Horse won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet award. She is a poet, author and workshop facilitator and the creator and editor of Spelt magazine.

Victoria Bennett

Her most recent poetry pamphlet, To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2020, and is an invitation to witness to the intimate moments of dying, telling the story of a relationship between women that is transformed through grief.

Jhilmil Breckenridge

Jhilmil Breckenridge is a poet, writer and activist. She is the founder of Bhor Foundation, an Indian charity, which is active in mental health advocacy. Her debut poetry collection is Reclamation Song.

© SAHLF Programme

#Me Too was first coined in 2006 by New Yorker Toronto Burke. In 2017 following major press coverage (Harvey Weinstein) the # was used over 12 million times in a couple of weeks. Deborah Alma, after following the news, put out a message on Facebook asking who HADN’T experienced… and only 3% hadn’t. And actually in further conversation, this 3% had as well. The book was published in 2018 (Fair Acre Press), in a time when the #me too movement was hitting everyone’s radar.

Sadly, it is still a necessary message to get out to the world. More so since Lockdown.

I went to a few #Me Too readings when the book was launched. My submission didn’t make it between the cover there were hundreds of submissions and the book couldn’t accommodate them all, so Victoria Bennett stepped in and published them on the Wild Women Press website (mine can be found here along with many others). It was also included in a body of work exhibited as part of the ASKING FOR IT exhibition in 2019.

It was hearing Kim Moore read from The Art of Falling, which enabled me to find the strength to write it into existence in the first place.

This, I knew would be a brilliant reading and it was with lots of Q&A too and because of the weight of the subject matter they finished the event off with a touch of self-care. A question to every member of the panel.

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SAHLF Bookshop
SAHLF Bookshop
SAHLF Bookshop

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When Pain Doesn’t Define Your Story

Explore the ways fiction writing can be used as a powerful distraction to help manage chronic pain in this one-hour workshop led by Gillian Shirreffs, a writer who lives with multiple sclerosis.

Author Bio:

Gillian is a Glasgow-based writer with a doctorate in Creative Writing and a background in teaching. She uses fiction to explore the world of illness and the essay form to examine hidden medical places and spaces. Her work has appeared in The Interpreter’s House literary journal, thi wurd fiction magazine, the anthology, Tales from a Cancelled Country, and the medical humanities journal, The Polyphony, amongst others. She’s led workshops that explore the way fiction writing can be used as a distraction to help manage chronic pain for Glasgow Women’s Library and The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland. © SAHLF Programme

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This was an incredible workshop and I am so glad I didn’t miss it! If you suffer chronic pain and are a writer, go and watch this session if you can.

I can finally see why 2019 was NOT a creative year for me.

MORE COMING tomorrow!

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

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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.

Monday 3rd

Monday was a Bank Holiday here which meant Mr G. had a rare day off work and we spent it not online much. I missed a good programme of events today but actually ended up going to the open mic as well, which I hadn’t anticipated.

The Pleasures of Detail

Join writer and University of Glasgow senior lecturer Elizabeth Reeder for a short workshop about gather original details – and how to them as a driving force in your writing.

Elizabeth Reeder, originally from Chicago, now lives in Scotland. She writes fiction, narrative non-fiction and hybrid work that creates spaces between forms, subjects and disciplines. Her work explores identity, family, illness and grief, creativity and landscapes. She has published two previous novels, Ramshackle and Fremont. Her latest novel, An Archive of Happiness, was published by Penned in the Margins in September 2020. microbursts – a collection of hybrid, lyric essays about the places between life and death; memoir and poetry; making and letting go – is a collaboration with artist Amanda Thomson and is published by Prototype Publishing (Feb 2021). She is a MacDowell Fellow and a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at University of Glasgow. © SAHLF Programme

This was a brilliant hour, lots of advice and thoughts on editing. People are still talking about this session *and we are on the last weekend of the festival now. I am not surprised, it was great. We did a short writing exercise from multiple angles, a useful take on the ordinary.

SAHLF Bookshop

* Longlisted for the 2020 Highland Book Prize*

Open Mic Night!

The online literary salon where writers and guests come together to read, listen and encourage. Prose, poetry and pleasant surprises welcome.

Author Bio

Janet Floyer holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. She is inspired by the quirky side of family life and fully embraces the term creative non-fiction. You can find her work in From Glasgow to SaturnRandom Reject Project, and languishing shyly on her laptop. Floyer’s monologue ‘Can you See Me?’ was performed in November 2020 by Rachel Ogilvy for Hidden Women online at In Motion Theatre. She facilitates creative writing workshops for people in addiction recovery, and writers about town who need a little extra inspiration and encouragement. Since 2019, Janet has been opening her door for literary salons both at home and online including the #Stay-at-Home-Literary Festival and the #Stay-at-Home-Fringe in 2020. Janet lives in Malaga, Spain with her husband, daughters and miniature schnauzers. So far, they’re all still speaking to her. © SAHLF Programme

It was a fun hour and lovely to put names to faces from the INSTA sessions.

It was so successful and popular the SAHLF team have added a 2nd one, where people can share writing they have completed during the festival.
Tuesday 4th

Kathryn Koromilas

Join Kathryn Koromilas for a daily morning meditative writing session. In this calm and mindful session, we’ll meditate – in writing – with a poem. The intention of meditative writing is to help you remove mental obstacles, encourage mindful concentration, enhance your creative practice, and just generally supercharge your day. Sessions will be streamed live on Instagram, every morning from 9:15am to 9:45 am for the duration of the festival.

Author Bio

Kathryn Koromilas is a creative writer, a teacher & a gentle, joyful Stoic! She uses ancient wisdom and writing practices to help reignite creativity, reimagine purpose, and foster a thriving writing practice. © SAHLF Programme

I have been joining in with these sessions on IGTV but TODAY I made my first LIVE session. They are a great way to start the day. Most of the recordings can be found on the SAHLF Instagram, a few had technical difficulties and unfortunately are not available.

The basis is meditative writing from the starting point of copy work. I have enjoyed this practise and have also found some of my own writing completed in these sessions has some gold within it too.

On top of that, these sessions are relaxing and fun.

Claire Dyer on Instagram Live

Poet and novelist Claire Dyer reads from Yield, her new poetry collection. In Yield, the the eponymous verb is repeatedly redefined over a poetic odyssey that sees a son becomes a daughter as the mother becomes a poet, only to see the daughter follow suit.

Claire Dyer’s poetry collections are published by Two Rivers Press, her novels by Quercus and The Dome Press. Her novel, The Significant Others of Odie May, is forthcoming in 2021. She curates Reading’s Poets’ Café, teaches creative writing and runs Fresh Eyes, a mentoring, editorial and critiquing service. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Berkshire. © SAHLF Programme

I was lucky enough to be at the Launch of Yield, but these poems do not lose their power the more you read/hear them.

I was glad to listen in again to this short reading from Yield.

Anthony Anaxagorou: A Workshop on Strangeness and Associative Logic in Poems

Acclaimed poet Anthony Anaxagorou reads from his collection After the Formalities and leads a workshop on strangeness and associative logic in poetry.

Author Bio

Anthony Anaxagorou is a British-born Cypriot poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher and poetry educator. His poetry has been published in POETRY, The Poetry Review, Poetry London, New Statesman, Granta, and elsewhere. His work has also appeared on BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio 4, ITV, Vice UK, Channel 4 and Sky Arts. His second collection After the Formalities published with Penned in the Margins is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the 2019 T.S Eliot Prize. It was also a Telegraph and Guardian poetry book of the year.

In 2020 he published How To Write It with Merky Books; a practical guide fused with tips and memoir looking at the politics of writing as well as the craft of poetry and fiction along with the wider publishing industry. He was awarded the 2019 H-100 Award for writing and publishing, and the 2015 Groucho Maverick Award for his poetry and fiction. In 2019 he was made an honorary fellow of the University of Roehampton. Anthony is artistic director of Out-Spoken, a monthly poetry and music night held at London’s Southbank Centre, and publisher of Out-Spoken Press.

© SAHLF Programme

I was fortunate enough to attend a few of Anthony’s workshops in the first lockdown and even had a 1 to 1 with him in 2020, I was delighted to have another opportunity and was excited to discover it wasn’t a repeat class.

It was great, a reading and lots of thoughts on writing as well as a chance to do some writing of our own. If you get a chance to catch this, please do.

SAHLF Bookshop

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival finishes today – a brilliant fortnight of bookish (and beyond) events & opportunities from Carolyn Jess-Cooke & the SAHLF team. But fear not… next week I will continue blogging about it and I believe the You Tube channel will be open for donations to watch replay/catch up of some of the Festival Events.

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021 – Week 1 -Part 5 #SAHLF2021

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Welcome to the 5th part of Week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021. Full Author Bios can be read on the SAHLF website.

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

Sunday’s programme was fantastic, I only had chance to get to a few events.

Sunday 2nd

Learning Your Inner Witch: a Poem-Spell Writing Workshop

Join author Alice Tarbuck for a relaxed poem-spell writing workshop to learn about your inner witch, and to find words for reconnecting with the world. You don’t need anything more than something to write on and something to write with.

Alice Tarbuck is an award-winning poet and writer. She has taught Creative Writing at the University of Dundee, and was a 2019 Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Awardee for poetry. Her debut non-fiction book A Spell in the Wild: a year (and six centuries) of Magic is published by Hodder & Stoughton. She works as a Lead Reader for literacy charity Open Book. Additionally, she has taught workshops for the National Library of Scotland, the Scottish Poetry Library, the University of Edinburgh and further afield. She has chaired events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Dundee Literary Festival and at bookshops around Scotland.

© SAHLF Programme

Alice also received a special mention the day before in the Witches of Scotland podcast – Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi event.

It was going to happen at some point and unfortunately it happened here… my very old and in need of being replaced tech let me down and it was a 20 minute voyage to get into the workshop, so I missed introductions and the initial exercise – I arrived full of tech-rage and stress…

and within less time than it took to get in to the workshop – I was calm! This workshop was magic!

Not only was Alice Tarbuck an incredible workshop facilitator but the activities were terrific and some of the writing which came and approaches and thoughts that surfaced will definitely be pursued. It got me to consider magic in a different way and I even left pages in the notebook -a good sign because it means I plan to go back and repeat or extend.

I am SO glad my tech didn’t let me down totally and I managed to join in with this amazing group.

SAHLF Bookshop

Earthed: A Courageous Memoir for Our Uncertain Times

Join Rebecca Schiller as she reads from Earthed: A courageous memoir for our uncertain times. A story of living in both an unfamiliar world and a volatile mind, Earthed explores how a place has the power to transform us and how the land can be both a dream and a nightmare.

BIO:

Rebecca Schiller is a writer, journalist and the author of Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan (Penguin Life) and Why Human Rights in Childbirth Matter. She is co-founder and trustee of the human rights charity Birthrights and a regular contributor to the Guardian. Rebecca and her family raise a motley crew of goats, geese, ducks and chickens. They work their small plot to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers and restore wildlife to the land.

© SAHLF Programme

It was an interesting interview, hearing Rebecca Schiller’s writing process and how the book changed over time, her natural inclination to find patterns and the life of goats and ducklings as well as extracts of the book and a discussion about neurodiversity.

SAHLF Bookshop

‘ A beautiful memoir of one small plot of land and one complex human mind; a story of our interconnection and an ambitious search for the truth.’ Amy Liptrot

‘A stunner. Full of wisdom about the world we are all looking at with new eyes.’ Emma Freud

The Importance of Uplit

Writers Tim Ewins, Victoria Dowd, Gill Harvey, Matson Taylor, Nicola Gill, and Cat Walker discuss the emergence of Uplit fiction, why lighthearted and heartwarming stories are important, and how anyone can channel their inner comedian.

Cat Walker

Cat Walker was born in the sunny seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire. The Scoop is her debut novel. Cat also writes poetry and co-wrote and directed (probably) the world’s first lesbian field hockey musical which sold out performances in Brighton, Eastbourne and (pretty near) the West End of London. During lockdown Cat unexpectedly became a bestselling poet when she was published in Poems for a Pandemic (HarperCollins) alongside Darren Smith’s powerful ‘You Clap for Me Now’.

Victoria Dowd

Victoria Dowd’s debut novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder, was In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel’s Book of the Year 2020 and is short listed for The People’s Book Prize and TCK’s Reader’s Choice Awards 2021. The second book in the series, Body on the Island, was released in February 2021. Her books are a modern, darkly comic take on Golden Age crime fiction. Victoria was awarded the Gothic Fiction prize for short fiction in 2019.

Gillian Harvey

Gillian Harvey has written comment pieces and features for Guardian, Telegraph and Independent, and regularly writes features for magazines including People’s Friend, Woman’s Weekly and Reader’s Digest. Her ‘Under the Covers’ column takes a sideways look at life as an author. Gillian’s first novel, Everything is Fine, was published with Orion in May 2020. Her second, Perfect on Paper, is due for publication in May 2021.

Tim Ewins

Tim Ewins has previously written for DNA Mumbai, had two short stories highly commended and published in Michael Terence Short Story Anthologies, and had a very brief acting stint (he’s in the film Bronson, somewhere in the background). We Are Animals is his first novel.

Nicola Gill

Nicola Gill lives in London with her husband and her two sons. At the age of five, when all of the other little girls wanted to be ballet dancers, she decided she wanted to be an author. Her ballet teacher was very relieved.

Matson Taylor

Matson Taylor enrolled on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel.

© SAHLF Programme

This panel was a fun watch. I had not come across the genre term Uplit – it’s a fairly new literary term and they played Romesh Ranganathan’s game –one of the panelists is not wearing trousers – we were invited to guess who.

It was entertaining and delightful. A great way to finish the first festival weekend!

All books available at the SAHLF Bookshop

A wonderful tale of journeys, both geographical and emotional, that will keep you entertained at every turn… Cat Walker is a brilliant storyteller. Zoe Lyons

‘Charming and relatable’ SOPHIE COUSENS
Totally relatable, totally uplifting, totally a must-read’ TRACY BLOOM
‘Brilliantly funny and engaging’ NICOLA GILL
‘The perfect escapist read’ EMMA MURRAY

‘Poignant and wry up-lit at its finest – Nicola Gill is a talent to behold!’ LAURA JANE WILLIAMS , bestselling author of Our Stop
‘Warm and witty – I quickly grew to love the characters.’ BETH O’LEARY , Sunday Times

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!