Category Archives: monthly review

Monthly Review December 2020

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We had a day of snow shortly after Christmas, a good thick layer to enjoy, enough to take our minds off things for a while. Christmas was different for us all this year, but through the powers of technology we managed to see/hear each other, it felt even more special to share parts of our day. Last year we were lucky enough to share a big family Christmas, like those we remembered from childhood – reflecting back on the few days we all spent together was a pleasure.

Today we are all looking forward to seeing this year out – we have fireworks to look forward to, but no parties, which means no sore feet tomorrow though!

December was a month with very little work, I delivered my last Star Centre Workshops in the series and attended lots of events. We had the final Dear 2021 session with Nik Perring, more on this when the work is realised. One of my poems made it into the book which was produced as part of this project. I completed my Beta-Reader task, attended a Mona Arshi reading delivered by the University of Worcester, it was a cracking event, it has been years since I’d seen Mona and I admire her work. https://monaarshi.com/

I enjoyed the last two Poetry Workshops with Sara-Jane Arbury & Ledbury Poetry Festival and a special poetry event at The Hive facilitated by Amanda Bonnick & Polly Stretton, a Poetry Bubble online event. Hoping they have more in the future. It clashed with the Forward Reading, organised by Cath Drake. I have since discovered it’s available on YOU TUBE, as Cath wanted to share the event with her Australian audience too. And Mr G. (as is tradition) gifted me The Forward Poetry Book 2021 for Christmas!

A LIVE recording of a selection of poets Highly Commended in the Forward Prizes, included in the 2021 anthology, who launched a book our during this pandemic year:

Colette Bryce reads from ‘The M Pages’ /Matthew Francis reads from ‘Wing’ /Maria Ferguson reads from ‘Alright, Girl?’ /Mina Gorji reads from ‘The Art of Escape’ /Cath Drake reads from ‘The Shaking City’ /Katherine Horrex reads from ‘Growlery’ /Shane McCrae reads from ‘Sometimes I Never Suffered’ /Abegail Morley reads from ‘The Unmapped Woman’ /Julian Stannard reads from ‘Heat Wave’ /Maria Taylor reads from ‘Dressing for the Afterlife.

‘The Poetry Oscars’ – The Telegraph. Buy your copy here.

https://www.faber.co.uk/catalog/product/view/id/7724/s/9780571362486-the-forward-book-of-poetry-2021/

Treat yourselves to watching this incredible collection of poets reading their work at the very least!

I managed to get to another Creative Writing workshop with Sheffield Libraries and have since discovered they have purchased a copy of Patience for the library, which is great news!

We had Birthdays to celebrate in our family in December, I saw my Grandma (socially distanced/ I was outside in the garden) for her Birthday – first time I have seen her since March! And Emily Dickinson celebrated her 190th Birthday at the Museum with an epic programme of events which I was still watching in the early hours. I spontaneously shared two short poems I wrote during the Tell It Slant Festival earlier this year, it was a great night. https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily-dickinson-birthday-december-10-2020/

I managed to get to the USA to catch Julie Danto‘s Book Launch and reunited with some of the Worcester County Poetry Association (WCPA) poets in Massachusetts, who I created A Tale of Two Cities with a couple of years ago.

And I managed a couple of workshops with Rakaya Fetuga again. I watched the Michael Marks Awards and enjoyed Jessica Mookherjee and Sean Wai Keung at Cafe Writers, I got to the Room 204 Christmas Party and have a little catch up and a bit of pre-Christmas cheer. WLF had SpeakEasy featuring Raine Geoghegan and it was a magical Christmassy event! The next one is in February.

We had a reading to celebrate the end of the Ledbury workshops, it was a treat to hear everyone. I had some studio time in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom at the Museum, it is my 2nd visit there this year. Something very calming and slightly magical about this space.

Words Stafford had a Tanka competition – which I couldn’t resist – I love writing short form poetry. The theme was Steampunk, my research was fascinating and inspiring. 10 of us had poems chosen and were able to read at the event, sadly mine were not in the Top 3 (Prize Winners) and I love the Anti-poet, the prize was Paul’s Steampunk novel The Periwinkle Perspective – The Giant Step – Volume 1 by Paul Eccentric. It was a fun night and the winning poems were fantastic!

In the final week before Christmas I completed some Christmas writing with Nik Perring and spent an amazing night at Cheltenham Poetry Festival enjoying John Hegley and making up captions for one of his sketches, a new talent discovered (not John – I knew he drew), it was a perfect Christmas Party and not a photocopier in sight!

This week I wrote a couple of applications and I finally made some end of month submissions (NY Resolution started early) and enjoyed a night of Disquieting Christmas stories and poems with Polly Stretton at Worcester, 42.

I hope you all managed to have a good Christmas despite restrictions and the state of our world at the moment.

Be kind to each other and stay safe.

Flashback Autumn (Nov)

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November finally saw a return to work after 8 months, an anxious time but also a great relief! It was a busy month on and offline. I had more medical appointments and another hospital appointment. But the balance was a month packed with Poetry / Literary Festivals!

At the end of October and beginning of November I enjoyed Dodge Poetry Festival and the packed programme of poetry. I shared a sea theme poem at Wirral Poetry Festival at an evening featuring Philip Gross, watched Andrew McMillan at Todmorden Book Festival, saw Padraig O’Tauna read several times. Watched Sandwell Stories, enjoyed Ankh Spice back in action at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, HAY had a WINTER Festival Weekend. I joined the final weekend of Culturama.

I had the opportunity to watch Heidi Williamson in action again at The Oxford Centre for Life Writing, Worcester University have also brought part of the Creative Writing Readings online and I managed to catch Hannah Lowe in action (it has been many years since I last saw her read). I caught an event at the Uni of Oxford with Rishi Dastidar on The Craft – a book he wrote a few years ago.

I enjoyed the tail end (dog pun) of Matt Black‘s Book Launch – ‘Sniffing Lamp-posts by Moonlight’ A fundraising book of dog poems.

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I did a workshop with Lansing Poet Laureate, Laura Apol, I attended more Creative Conversations at Glasgow University, I enjoyed events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, continued with Ledbury Poetry Festival workshops, Poets in Motion and Food for Thought and Grief workshops, we had an open mic to celebrate the end of the Hybrid Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle – a relaxed and fun affair!

I did a Nevada Hall of Fame workshop and a personal highlight of the month was the George Szirtes workshop thanks to Artful Scibe, Mayflower 400 Celebrations in Southampton.

I got involved writing for the Rebellion series with Sheffield Libraries and Nik Perring and started work on his Dear 2020/21 project in association with the BBC/Novels that Shaped Our World and Sheffield Libraries. More news to come. Room 204 provided a special workshop with Thomas Glave, in which we reflected on 2020.

I forgave myself for the deadlines whizzing past and focussed on the successes.

I was a featured poet at Virtual Voices Offa’s Press (10th Nov.) alongside Kenton Samuels, Keith Rogers, Santosh K. Dary and Jeff Phelps. I read at the Reimagine Festival (USA) as part of Redwing’s Poetry for Healing group.

I was one of 11 poets in the Royal British Legion’s 11/11 Challenge for The Poppy Appeal – organised by Leena Batchelor, Worcestershire Poet Laureate. Find out more here https://worcesterlitfest.co.uk/2020/12/16/wpl-poppy-appeal-continues/.

I ran a series of Workshops for The National Star Centre, my gratitude to Ruth, Paul and the team in Cheltenham and to Cheltenham Poetry Festival. These were rewarding mornings where inspiration travelled in both directions!

I was published in the BLER Light Anthology (Black Light Engine Room), had two poems published in Corona, an Anthology of Poems – Edited by Gayl Teller in USA (more on this soon), I had a Renga accepted for a collaborative project in the US, I had two poems published in Geography is IrrelevantStairwell Books http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/geography-is-irrelevant/. This anthology includes International Poets who were active online at events in the UK during 2020. More on this soon and a poem accepted for the Dear 2021 Pamphlet produced for the Year of Reading/BBC/ Novels that Shaped Our World with Nik Perring.

Like many of us I wrote about the pandemic in the end (resistance was futile, especially as I self-isolated and had a limited palette of outside life experiences) -not that inspiration was lacking, with all the workshops and 5 notepads of ideas… anyway, I wrote Covid poems and didn’t submit them to any of the Lockdown projects or websites collecting such things. I am grateful that there were a few options left at the end of the year, places to to share them. Now, like the rest of 2020 they can be released!

Flashback Autumn (Oct)

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October the 1st was NPD (National Poetry Day) and there were many exciting online events to bite into and for once I could use the entire day for poetry, as no work came through in October either! I joined other local poets celebrating poetry and favourite poems on Worcestershire Libraries website for The Hive.

If you use #ShareAPoem you should find lots of videos on You Tube, here’s mine – a poem from Fragile Houses (V. Press, 2016), written during Jo Bell’s amazing 52 Project in 2014/15.

#ShareAPoem

Lots more can be found on the National Poetry Day channel, like this one by Malika Booker.

I enjoyed a creative writing workshop with Sheffield Libraries, sharing our favourite poems on the theme of vision (NPD theme), followed by Heather Wastie‘s Book Launch ‘To the Future, Love Cropredy’ is a collaboration with boat-dwelling visual artist Louise Regan. After I caught the Nine Arches Press and Birmingham Literature Festival event The New Romantics: A Poetry Cabaret With Gregory Leadbetter, Rosie Garland and Maria Taylor, which was superb! Later I went to a Reading at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst Arts Night Virtual Reading with Taylor Johnson, Brionne Janae and Rage Hezekiah.

In between I enjoyed NPD unrolling on the main site and even joined in on Instagram. A month of poetry in one day! I managed to watch the other events featured above the next day.

I attended PPP events Yes We Cant, Live from The Butchery Helen Ivory & Martin Figura as well as events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. I continued with Redwing’s workshops, Poets in Motion and Hybrid Experimental Memoir classes. I managed to get back to Oooh Beehive, Poetry Cafe, Cafe Writers and Worcester 42.
I did a workshop with Marcus Jackson, hosted a Mental Health & Wellbeing Event for WLF, went to Goldsmiths Readings, Jerwood Fellowships produced more Poetry Take Overs and I joined some community workshops offered by Ledbury Poetry Festival, facilitated and created by Sara-Jane Arbury.
The University of Glasgow offered Creative Conversations and I was able to catch some of them, Sheffield Libraries offered more workshops with Nik Perring and Utopia Theatre offered workshops too.

I joined in the EmeryArts 2020 with an Ekphrastic workshop with Sarah Kobrinsky, which led to a performance this month (more below) and publication. I met a poet working in the 90s who knew poets I am friends with, from way back in my fledging days on the circuit. They appeared in the UK after I left for Kent, so we never met. Missed each other – funny to fill the circles in decades later!

Bountiful month for Festivals including: the Red Line Book Festival, Lyra Festival Bristol, Toronto International Festival of Authors (a fantastic programme), Manchester Literature Festival, The Stay @ Home Fringe Festival had a second run, Birmingham Literature Festival ran from the 1st– 17th October and Cheltenham Poetry Festival continued to run fantastic online events. I saw Sascha Akhtar and Juliette Van Der Molan (the next Virtual Poet in Residence).

I attended the Book Launches of Z. D DicksVexed (Hedgehog Press, 2020) https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/2020/10/11/pre-orderzddicks-vexed/

Gregory LeadbetterMaskwork (Nine Arches Press, 2020)

Ian McMillanYes But What Is This? What Exactly? (Smith|Doorstop, 2020)

And Zoe Brooks Owl Unbound (IDP, 2020) https://zoebrooks.blogspot.com/p/owl-unbound.html a wonderful evening of poetry and a Cheltenham Poetry Festival Event.

I featured at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, a brilliant evening! Then I pretended my lounge was an airport lounge and settled down for an hour on the settee before heading back online in the early hours of the morning to be part of the EmeryArts 2020 Reading. You can watch it here https://www.emeryarts.org/poetry.

I was asked to headline Virtual Voices Offa’s Press, this was one of the many real bookings that was lost to 2020. I created an event inspired by the alternative/gothic/sci-fi nights atWorcester 42. The Story Salon is designed to feature short stories which are too long for an open mic. The Halloween edition was called Jack ‘n’ Gory (a take on Jackanory, which was a favourite story time TV show in the 80s). An audience of fearless listeners were treated to a short performance from Suz Winspear. It was great and gave us all an excuse for Fancy Dress.

42 is where I traditionally don my Halloween costume, but the day after was a very special Birthday for a relative this year who I had no wish to shock with left over Halloween make-up, especially as I had not seen her since the start of Lockdown in March.

I also took part in some filming – more on this project soon.

Traditionally I have held INKSPILL in October. The last one was in 2018, it was ready to go before I ended up in hospital – there is a lot of work behind offering a retreat for a weekend and unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough last year and this year there was so much offered online it didn’t seem possible. I am hoping next Autumn we may have another one.

Flashback Summer (July)

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By July so many events had moved online that there were diary clashes, just as there always has been in real life. I also tried to have a day off screen. Things were still on Lockdown in the UK and although restrictions were eased, I stayed in. I was not working until the Autumn and as someone unable to work outside the home I didn’t think taking the risk to do anything else was sensible either and by now our county area had high percentages of cases and at the centre of that was my hometown, so staying in seemed like the brightest idea!

More wonderful festivals were enjoyed: Ledbury Poetry Festival (which is always amazing) had a weekend at the start of the month and a packed programme, thoroughly enjoyed. I enjoyed Melbourne’s Spoken Word Festival.

Over the summer months I also took advantage of programmes offered by several museums. Some fantastic virtual hikes and lots of historical research of two of my favourite poets from before my time. Walt Whitman (who I only discovered 7 years ago) and a lifetime favourite, Emily Dickinson. Being involved in these programmes has been a joy.

I took opportunities with Wendy Pratt, huge gratitude for The Sea, The Sea – a wonderful course of prompts which gave me lots of new work and PPP started their ‘Arses from Elbows’ weekly sessions, which were great fun and covered a lot of ground. I started Rakaya Fetuga’s Spoken Word workshops.

I took Arts funded workshops with Jemima Foxtrot, Anthony Anaxagorou and Alarum Theatre and got heavily involved with Sheffield Libraries and the programme they have delivered for Reading & Writing during Lockdown. I was also lucky enough to have a 1 to 1 with Anthony, which was superb.

I watched lots of readings including readings from Helen Mort, Ledbury Salon Readings with Romalyn Ante and Liz Berry, online readings from Billy Collins and Carol Frost. Billy has been posted weekly FB videos of readings throughout Lockdown. A real gift to us all. I heard Hannah Stone and Becki Cherriman at Leeds Library.

I started on the Connect Dudley commission.

The Hive Worcestershire Libraries Call out for Poetry Videos, many local poets can be viewed on the channel. Here’s mine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhCKnVQyU0w

It was the end of Malika Speaks and a relaunch for 62 Gladstone as another business moved wholly online. I read at the the Launch event. https://62gladstonestreet.co.uk/

I was a Guest Poet at Perth Poetry Club – which was a joy! I appeared there in person in 2018 when I was an International Guest Poet Perth Poetry Festival and it has been amazing to reconnect to the Perth crew over Lockdown.

I entered a poem for the Stourbridge Leg of PPP’s Stay Up Your Own End.

Patience received a new book review by Phoebe Walker on Sabotage review – you can read it here.

AND I finally submitted some poems!

Apologies for any formatting issues there have been problems with WordPress this weekend. This post has taken over 4 hours to format and deliver!

Flashback Summer (June)

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For some reason I attempted Yoga again this month, Lockdown has made us all a little crazy, I think I did a fusion of Yoga and Pilates, basically the warm up and then filled in most of the class with exercise my back could manage.

I saw my first human being other than my mum and Mr G. since the beginning of Lockdown. It was my eldest nephew’s birthday. I stood in the garden, he stayed inside. It was the hardest not-hug to give/not give. Delighted I saw him. He couldn’t believe he was only the 3rd person I had seen since the end of March! By the end of the month I shared garden coffee with a few friends.

My actual travel/ life may have diminished to something which resembled 2019 (without the pain) but my screen life was exploding. I stretched my Zoom poetry wings further into Australia, out to New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, America and Coventry – if you have ever driven the route from here you will understand why I include that UK destination in amongst my international travel. Other local events found the wonders of Zoom and FB and moved events online. Library services also extended online content.

Poetry and writing has gone Global this year, writing is also (like baking, making sourdough, planting, painting and photography) one of the hobbies/ escapes people turned to. Even people who never appeared online have probably scribbled journals or feelings down at some points in this Lockdown. There have been wonderful local/ national/ international community projects popping up all over the place. Letter writing has become fashionable again, or at least it did before people realised the dangers of post. The world has creatively adapted. We have held each other (metaphorically) up in a year that made us all feel like we no longer had bones!

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The other thing which began to take seed was the funding artists had applied for through the Arts Council. With this emergency funding came a flurry of projects and workshops. Funding was also received from other revenue sources.

PPP (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) celebrated the Black Country/ Lockdown and isolation with Stay Up Your Own End – which offered people both a microscopic and magnified view of their locales as seen through the eyes of people with pens. It encouraged people who had never written before or never openly written before to pick up a pen and write. It was set up as a round of competitions, prizes included a video film produced & £25.

The judges/prompt writers for each round were local favourites of the Black Country poetry scene Richard Archer, Rick Sanders, Roy McFarlane, Kuli Kohli, and Heather Wastie.

PPP were commissioned by Creative Black Country to run a series of online poetry activities across the region.

Read more about it here: https://www.pandemonialists.co.uk/stay-up-your-own-end/

Louise Stokes provided bi-weekly writing classes under the ‘Let’s Write’ project. http://www.louiseland.co.uk/

I did workshops with Anna Saunders, Adam Horovitz, Liam Brown, Zena Edwards and joined Malika Speaks and Poets In Motion. I went to Book launches including The Estate Agent’s DaughterRhian Edwards (Seren), Wild PersistenceKatrina Naomi (Seren), Pack of LiesRoz Levens (Black Pear Press)

More Festivals and Events: ART IS… Festival, Trim (Ireland), Own It! Online Festival, Wirral Poetry Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Kit De Waal Creative Writing Wonder Women, Ledbury Poetry Salon with Philip Gross & Lesley Saunders. Sarah L. Dixon moved The Quiet Compere online and created a series of reunion shows. I made video poems for Wordcraft, PASTA, performed at Fire & Dust, 42, That Poetry Zoom, Perth Poetry Club, Poets’ Cafe and watched Dear Listener. Oooh Beehive, Run Your Tongue, Yes We Cant and others. Room 204 continued to support us with opportunities.

Personal highlights for the month (other than braving the company of friends) were:

A reading for the end of Writing to Buoy Us – Reading to Buoy Us with Cath Drake. The courses drew both established and new poets in from across the world.

Read all about it at Cath’s website here.

It was an uplifting event which featured both class groups and Australian poet Mark Tredinnick as the Guest Reader.

Writing and creativity are how most of us are continuing to process this pandemic 6 months later, the connectivity shared at this time was invaluable. It was special.

Cath Drake
Mark Tredinnick
Nina Lewis

Poetry Film Live Relaunched their website and featured one of my animated Poetry Renewed Films ‘Tailspin’ to Launch it. Like every business Elephant’s Footprint have adapted during this pandemic and shifted their courses online.

Exciting talks started with the committee about moving WLF online, we were holding off in the hope the postponed annual festival (mid-June) could be pushed back to early Autumn, by this time it became apparent that Covid was going to be with us for some time.

I took part in my first online SLAM (I don’t really do the SLAM poet thing but this was in Australia and I couldn’t resist). My poems appeared in the keepsake gift book the Art Is Festival released.

I wrote down submission opportunities and promptly missed the deadlines. Seems like I have the horse ready but a little unsure of getting back on!

Flashback Spring (May)

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If I thought April had been a whirlwind, I wasn’t quite buckled in for May!

I was enjoying off screen time in the garden, had already taken photos of the blossom and enjoyed the early Spring flowers.

You know it is easy to misremember how it was? I closed the last flashback with the realisation I had not travelled more than 1.5 miles from my home – actually my perimeter was a lot smaller in April. I hadn’t started walking outside of my home and the supermarket is not that far away so thinking back, the frame of my life was caught in a circle of 3 roads, just one small block of life!

This was the month it expanded to 1.5 miles.

I do remember I stayed in, if I wasn’t in the garden I was in the house. Most of the street were out in the back gardens, enjoying the sun, building new sheds, cabins, garden furniture, slides and swings whilst I was indoors fighting the good fight for Furlough or burying my head in the sand of a writing world that became my Narnia.

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May started with more festivals: Avon Book Festival, Stay at Home Fringe Festival (organised by the Students/graduates of Glasgow Uni), The Urban Tree Festival and of course HAY (which I managed to blog in a timely fashion). Huge gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to give creatives access to platforms and festivals at this time.

Big gratitude to Julia Webb for the prompt/course she ran this month. To Kim Moore for braving the online world of workshops and furthering my year of learning. To Carys Hannah who started a Golden Girls Watch Party, which reminded us what laughter is and made us all hope we get to grow old.

To Anna Saunders and the team at Cheltenham Poetry Festival for delivering a feast of poetic pleasure with numerous events and a great line up of poets. To Seren for creating a series of reading events, AWP for giving us a night with Joy Harjo (Poet Laureate of USA). For the universe for keeping my neighbour safe the morning she climbed up on our conservatory roof to clean and I couldn’t stop her!

Thanks to Helen Ivory & Martin Figura for events at the Butchery and to Jinny Fisher for her Poetry Pram Party. Thanks to Jane Commane at Nine Arches Press for videos, live readings and Book Launches, to Emma Wright at the Emma Press for Book Launches and webinar readings/Q&A. To Phillipa Slinger and Chloe Garner who moved Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Salons online.

This month I also enjoyed the Saboteur Awards and Book Launches for The Unmapped Woman by Abegail Morley (Nine Arches Press), Dorothy by Briony Hughes (Broken Sleep Books), Apple Fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond (Against the Grain).

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And I finally realised online events meant we could travel after all… and travel I did, first stop back to Australia. I headed back to Perth and Freo. Thanks to all at VoiceBox. I reunited with some of the Perth crew at Zoomouth, which was brilliant!

I finished the 6 weeks Writing to Buoy Us course with Cath Drake and writers from Europe and Australia. I started a Hybrid Experimental course with Tawnya Renelle https://tawnyaselenerenelle.com/ , who I also met through the Stay at Home Fringe Festival. And who also needs a huge shout out of gratitude. I was glad to help where I could at the beginning and have loved watching the take-off!

I completed work on the animations for Poetry Renewed with Elephant’s Footprint and wrote lots in journal form and a few poems. Covid had crept into the writing and I was attempting to not write about it in the beginning. And the BIG conservation started about the artists place in all this, whether it is our job or not to almanac the times (which is what a lot of writers/artists do). I believe most of us do, but also agreed that writing books about it probably wouldn’t even make it to the slush pile, of course I am sure there will be some, there already are. But I’m still processing last year and things which happened at the beginning of this one (pre-Covid).

May was the month: I realised my back can’t manage Yoga and gracefully I saluted the sun for one last time, started to walk in nature, used my walking stick for the last time (hadn’t needed it for 3 months), I blamed the yoga but looking at this it was more likely all that sitting at the desk! It marked the milestone of my first submission in 5 months! I have been very slow to get back on that horse!

Flashback Spring (April)

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April was Napowrimo and those of you who follow this blog will know I have done it every year since I discovered it existed (2014), this year – for the first time ever – I was home every day of the prompts and managed it without falling behind. As is tradition, by the end I was left with about 5 decent poems and another 5 to work with. Lots of new notes and scribbles, I did write 32 poems over the month but some are no more than a warm up exercise, you can whittle on after April and collect yourself a good batch of 30 decent poems, but as with all workshops some prompts will speak louder than others. There were some areas I continued to research and develop and other scrap poems I abandoned. Nothing wasted though.

Napowrimo was also the last time I was properly active on the blog. The Stay at Home Lit Festival continued (it was a glorious 2 weeks). I continued to enjoy events which moved online more from the PPP (Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists) team, as another of their brilliant nights Yes We Cant happened online and PASTA (usually at the Wolverhampton Arena Theatre). 42, Worcester and Run My Tongue were other open mic events I joined.

I signed up to Caleb Parkin‘s Napo group and enjoyed weekly sessions with other poets (some of whom I knew) doing Napo. These groups were great fun. Huge gratitude to Caleb for creating such a pleasant space to create from.

Another huge gratitude bundle goes to Cath Drake, who I discovered at the S@HF. Her first collection The Shaking City (Seren) was launched in April. https://www.serenbooks.com/author/cath-drake.

Cath started a writing course for poets in Australia (her homeland) and UK (her home). It was incredible and again I will be posting separately on Writing to Buoy Us.

Discover more about Cath and her work here https://cathdrake.com/.

April was the start of crazy, for me it was a coping mechanism and also I was coming from that post-book release-writing-slump https://ninalewispoet.wordpress.com/books/, which followed on the back of the medicated break from writing, which I was convinced (at the time), had broken the camel’s back, so a certain amount of my packed scheduling was a liberation, a dance with words. It was also a sure fire way to bury my thoughts from what was really happening for a few hours most days. I was also trying to get over having to cancel all my real life bookings for a 2nd year running.

I read a lot, every writer should. But I have to say 2020 has opened me to more new writing and new to me poets than any year so far. So readily accessible at a touch of a button. The whole world at my writing desk.

Sarah L. Dixon needs another shout out of gratitude, she started to run workshops online, which were always fun and successful for me – as in I would always have a nearly completed poem by the end of it – I may have even submitted some of these out to the world and I have barely submitted anything anywhere since 2018.

A big shout out of gratitude to Zelda Chappel too – who it has been a pleasure to reconnect with. She offered a series of wonderful prompts which in the beginning refreshed my love for this gift of writing and over the weeks gave space for some different writing.

A big shout out to Mab Jones too who created Lockdown Writers’ Club and provided us all with in depth prompts and created a creative community.

I went to the book launch of Play – by C. S Barnes, The Shaking City by Cath Drake and Mutton Rolls by Arji Manuelpillai.

I started doing Yoga with Allison Maxwell who is another gratitude shout out, I helped people and artists learn how to use Zoom effectively, we celebrated the first birthdays online, never expecting we would still be doing the same by the end of the year! I started doing my pilates classes at home.

I finally joined INSTA as there were poets I admire doing things on this platform. My INSTA account is still nothing to shout about and I probably won’t be joining the INSTA Poetry movement anytime soon, but it is a great platform for short video/ workshops and has been fun exploring this year.

I took opportunities offered by Room 204 on developing characters, huge thanks to Stephanie Hatton for letting us be your guinea pigs, I hope the roll out went well. I enjoyed the National Ballet online, a workshop with The Poetry Business and started recording video performances for events. And I discovered the Cuirt Festival of Literature AND more importantly an Irish poet I had read in my teens, Michael Gorman – it was like being reunited with an old friend.

I also had the pleasure of watching Kei Miller and Carolyn Forché with Poets House and Roger Robinson with Writing East Midlands, all poets I have read and admire. I’m lucky enough to have seen Kei and Roger in action several times. These three poets started the pack of recurring poets who became a big part of my lockdown.

I was also working hard completing an animation commission from Elephant’s Footprint for the Arts Council funded ‘Poetry Renewed Project’. I wrote a poem for Rick Sanders PoARTry/ the digital version of his project. My ekphrastic poetry response was based on an artwork created by Alan Glover. I watched most deadlines zoom past and wrote covid and non-covid journals.

It was an action packed month which taught me: I was happy we’d had haircuts the week before the news of Lockdown, the forever-wanted GHDs probably weren’t going to be the most used Christmas present, that I was unlikely to run out of notebooks for a while, that the world is trying to hold itself together, that a smile goes a long way, that facetime and online platforms are a great way to stay connected, what it feels like to spend 5 weeks travelling no more than 1.5 miles from your home.

Review September 2018

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autumn autumn colours autumn leaves beautiful

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September – that rolled around quickly!

This has definitely been a month of admin tasks and preparation, also finding my feet again since coming home to UK soil. It took a while for my head to leave Australia after my incredible summer trip to Perth Poetry Festival. It has also been a month filled by projects, book launches and celebrating successes – other people’s as well as my own.

Week 1 

Kicked off with being the Half-ender at YES WE CANT in Walsall. The gig I returned to the UK for! It was a cracking night and a pleasure to have been asked to perform.

PPP Perf

rob barratt YWC

It was great meeting Rob Barratt and on top of that I had a winning Lotto ticket (£1 – before you all get too excited) and an order for a fab new Poetry T-shirt… looks like Mr. G will have to get me something else for Christmas this year!

Read a full review here YES WE CANT

I had 3 poems published in a new project – which you can read more about in Week 4 of this review. One of the poems was a piece I wrote in Australia, so it is exciting for me to see it already out there.

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I arranged meetings and made festival bids for ATOTC and 30-40-60. I was invited to a European Arts Festival in France. I looked at several applications, which I subsequently decided against for now.

I was busy managing INKSPILL, working with our Guest Writers. INKSPILL is our FREE online annual writing retreat which always takes place on the last weekend of October.

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Look out for more NEWS on this coming soon!

I had a meeting about Poetry Projects for October and performances in November. I have been asked to take part in two Remembrance events this year, which is an honour.

I went to a Workshop delivered by Emily Wilkinson who is working on The Ring, 21 Miles project. It was a wonderfully creative afternoon which gave me inspiration for poems, so far I have managed to create a poetry film of 9 Haiku which is currently entered in the 21 competition.

 

A new project LitWorld2 Journal – Pic a Pocket Poems and Flashes is underway. Created by Sarah Leavesley it will feature a weekly poem which has been produced with an image, photo poetry and flash fiction. I am curating the Facebook side of the social media campaign. I created the Facebook group ready and Sarah has worked on a publication schedule. It launches before the end of the month and posts will appear on Fridays.

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I am very excited about the overall project and delighted to be able to support Sarah on it.

Unfortunately by the end of the week I was quite unwell but I did manage to get to Birmingham for Helen’s Book Launch.

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Friday saw the first of this month’s Book Launches. Unable Mother By Helen Calcutt – published by V. Press was launched at Waterstones, Birmingham. It was a deeply moving experience, one you can read all about here UNABLE MOTHER

I had a well deserved (and needed – ill) rest over the weekend with Mr. G. Although I was still at the desk proofing an article and dealing with another which had gone to print. I also worked on some poetry for a project which has been simmering away for a while and needs to be sent next week.

Week 2: 

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I was still ill – so much so that I visited the Drs. & got meds. It meant I was not well enough to go to Licensed to Rhyme who were celebrating a 2nd Birthday, I didn’t make it over to Brum Stanza for Jacqui Rowe or PTS for Nellie Cole or SpeakEasy for Kevin Brooke or Hereford for H.Arts Gallery and new exhibition by Molly Bythell (my Ledbury PoArtry partner). Failed on five fronts but was successful at getting better. I spent some time in bed, in lots of pain but resting (which is unusually sensible for me). It was a shame to miss so much poetry but I couldn’t have managed any of the journeys getting across to any of these events so had no choice.

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Some exciting news hit my inbox, something starting in November and something else that I am in awe of and still grinning from.

Saturday saw the launch of ‘Don’t Oil The Hinges’ the new WPL collection from Heather Wastie. It was a great night and having missed 4 poetry events really made up for my week out in ill-health limbo! You can read all about it here Don’t Oil The Hinges

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On Sunday I attended a workshop in Birmingham Waterstones, The Accidental Memoir. It was interesting and gave me two new poems, one new technique and another book for the bookshelf/reading pile.

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The Accidental Memoir workshop was taken by Anthony Cropper and we worked through several exercises in the book he co-produced with Eve Makis.

The Accidental Memoir truly is for all: writers and non-writers, teachers and students, the perfect book for anyone seeking inspiration or imaginative ways to explore their own life story.

This innovative concept was developed as an Arts Council project to help people tap into their own lives. Working with diverse groups from refugees to the elderly and prisoners, it has been a resounding success in unearthing stories that otherwise may never have been told.

Harper Collins © 2018

https://www.harpercollins.ca/9780008302030/the-accidental-memoir/

 

Week 3

This week I missed several Book Launches and Free Verse (London Book Fair), which I read at last year with Stephen Daniels for V. Press.

A lot of groundwork for INKSPILL started this week. I had an invitation to be part of a panel which I really wanted to do but the date in October is already booked up, I am hoping to be considered for the next one. I still feel angst when dates clash, October is an exceptionally busy month in the poetry calendar and there are several overlapping events.

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I worked on promotion for the American A Tale of Two Cities reading, happening at the Sprinkler Factory, Massachusetts on Friday 28th. Very excited to hear how it all goes and hopefully by next year there will be some bigger plans in progress for this project.

I had several project poems to complete and managed to meet deadlines on these. We have all seen the workings of the next part of this project and I will be sharing it with you when I can.

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I also did a lot of editing and FINALLY made some submissions. I made the first of several films creating a montage of the Perth Poetry Festival, which will go live before INKSPILL (27th/28th October).

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This week also saw my Jinney Ring Sculpture Trail Workshop. This is the 2nd year I have facilitated poetry on the Trail and with some exceptional sculptures our inspiration was easily tapped.

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Unicorn – Priscilla Ham

It was a great morning and the techniques/forms I chose to explore were enjoyed by participants. We are now working on our poems for two months and the next stage will be preparing an exhibition at the Jinney Ring which will be up by December.

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An invite to perform next month dropped into my Inbox.

I spent the weekend writing to deadlines and working on the next new project for October.

Week 4:

Another week of preparation for INKSPILL and other writing deadlines and missed events like Poetry Bites. I started to promote National Poetry Day (4th October), I am sad to miss an event in Birmingham with Liz Berry, Roy McFarlane & Jane Commane.

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This event is also the night the new Birmingham Poet Laureate will be appointed. Still cannot believe Matt Windle has finished this two year role, but we all know how time like this flies! Birmingham Literature Festival National Poetry Day

I am delighted to be booked to perform alongside former and current Worcestershire Poets Laureate, as part of the Autumn Malvern Festival for National Poetry Day.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/national-poetry-day-2018-change/

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Back in July I had an invite to read at Livres à vous – A Festival of the Arts in Voiron, France. I wasn’t sure it would be possible and it took a while to make the decisions about travel. Coach and train is fairly cheap but takes a long time and I have to be available for work most days. Today I booked my tickets to fly.

When I was Worcestershire Poet Laureate I completed a project called Twin Town between Droitwich and Voiron and some of the poets involved in that will hopefully be there. I am looking forward to it.

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My poetry film entry for The Ring was found and several poems Unlocked and .. submitted for the competition. You can see all the entries here https://thering21miles.wordpress.com/.

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A last minute booking came in to work with Year 7 pupils at Blessed Edwards in October,  fortunately I was free to accept. This will involve 4 poets looking at 4 elements and group writing with the pupils. I am doubly excited as I got FIRE! My Leo-heart burns!

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The first week of October is looking packed. A week of several double bookings another event I was invited to do A Night with… panel interview/performance/ relaxed Q & A which looks really good – I hope to make it on a different date. This in turn clashed with a book launch and that isn’t viable either. I have an open mic with an amazing headline/line up and the NPD and Swindon Poetry Festival to look forward to.

This week I wrote 4 new poems based on Masks and performed them at 42.

I took another 2 bookings for December. Wrote lots. Edited lots. AND…became the newest Director of Worcestershire LitFest! WLF Welcomes a New Director

LitWorld2 Journal was also released. This is Sarah Leavesley’s Photography/Art/Poetry Project and the first poem to be published is by Kathy Gee.

I followed up the USA performance of A Tale of Two Cities – there was certainly a lot of pre-event news coverage and it seems to have gone really well.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/a-tale-of-two-cities-worcester-usa-uk-a-poetry-event-at-sprinkler-factory/

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I also got organised for Swindon Poetry Festival next week! Whoop! Ready to run at October full pelt now!

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Review August 2018

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Well this is the first post this month online but August was packed, PACKED with poetry. I am still catching up on some blog posts from June-July and now will be adding August to the pile.

Here’s the month in snapshot!


Before Perth Poetry Festival I blanked my diary out as much as possible and missed some fine Midlands poetry events.

Week 1: 

I did a lot of research for Perth Poetry Festival and signed up to an anthology which I was lucky enough to be online for when the thread was posted, a project that is so popular it has a reserve list (more on this later).

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The main event this week was a Book Launch in Cheltenham for a charity anthology that I was fortunate to have the shortest poem (apart from short form) I have ever written included in it. The event at Hatherley Manor was dreamy and wonderful and the book raises funds for the cat rescue charity New Start Cat Rescue Centre, Huntley, Gloucestershire.

I will be creating a full blog post soon (and link back here when I am done).

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This anthology ‘All a Cat Can Be’ was the brainchild of Sharon Larkin and I am privileged to be involved. It would make a great Christmas gift for any cat lover.

 

https://www.poetrybooks.co.uk/products/all-a-cat-can-be

“This book is as gloriously varied as the beloved cats it celebrates. Here you will find poems which are witty, thoughtful, moving, and light-footed. ‘All a Cat Can Be’ offers something to please every reader, while helping cats desperate for a good home. And the photographs are irresistible!” – Alison Brackenbury

Edited by Sharon Larkin and Sheila Macintyre.

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I also sent a poem to Lucy Dougan for her Monster Field Workshop.

Week 2 & 3

I started working on INKSPILL – annual online writing retreat right here on AWF. More on this soon. Secured this year’s Guest Writers and started research.

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I worked tirelessly for a fortnight attempting to get the final issue of Contour Poetry Magazine live before flying off to the Southern Hemisphere. I was at this point still waiting for copy, so did what any good editor should do and contacted the poets who had successfully made publication and shelved the remaining editorial until my return.

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COMING SOON!

And then I flew to Perth, WA.

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Where I had an incredible time (lots of posts to follow). It was an amazing festival and I did as much of it as I could!

 

Week 4

Was mainly jet lag and editing… not a workable combination.

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I managed to get myself back into Birmingham – it has been too long – over 12 months I think. I went to the Big White Shed Brum night and it was packed with poetry – wall to wall and heart through heart.

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I am going to write the evening up over the weekend if I have a chance but it was a special night. The fusion of East & West (Midlands). There is a cracking poetry scene in Nottingham and this evening was proof of fine work happening in the region.

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A soft spot for me as I started Spoken Word in the East Midlands in Leicester.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/cheltenham-big-white-shed-brum/

And I tie August up nicely with a night at Stanza.

I cannot believe the summer holidays are nearly over!

Review July 2018

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July

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Week 1:

July – the season of Festivals. Ledbury Poetry Festival (30th June – 8th July) kicked off with a weekend of events I had hoped to manage. Work has been exceptionally busy and I have grabbed any time I can at the weekend to just recoup a little. My Ledbury Saturday (which was also a reason I couldn’t make this year’s National Writing Conference) was much diminished.

Sunday saw the morning at Evesham Festival of Words and Polly Stretton’s final Poetry Walk Event. It was lovely that she acknowledged those of us who have managed all three of these. It was also great that I had time to stay for the extra reading which takes place in the Almonry Gardens after the walk. http://www.almonryevesham.org/

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/evesham-festival-of-words/

I booked events for the Autumn and promoted several current projects. I also started firming up plans for Australia and the Perth Poetry Festival in August.

On Tuesday I went to Ledbury to the Homend Poets – who were launching the 11th anthology and a small collective of PoARTry poets promoted the Launch (11th) by reading some of our exhibited poetry. It was a great night – slightly soured by the M50 slip roads being closed for Roadworks and adding time onto my journey home. I had recorded the match (World Cup) and had to avoid using the radio and sadly, the 1.5 hour round the rigging route home meant I was met by revellers leaving the pub and rather giving the result away! I did witness an amazing sunset with the Malvern Hills which I would have missed if the roads had been open.

I managed to secure at least one musician for our Launch event. Bonus.

Much as I wanted to go to Ledbury for Pascale Petit and Tishani Doshi*  I had no energy after work for a mid-week jaunt across for an hour. *Tishani was part of the inspiration behind one poem in my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’.

I also wanted to go back the following evening to see Martin Figura –Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine. I spent a few days buckling down promoting events and organising shows and magazines from my desk in the evenings.

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The week finished with a rehearsal for our poetry show 30-40-60. Which was brilliant and made the three of us want to do this show again. None of us can quite believe it has been a year since the premiere event at Worcestershire LitFest 2017!

 

Week 2

Much as the first week of the month work kept me busy with report writing and assessments. I received an exciting invitation for November, more news on that once plans get firmed up.

My main focus was PoARTry at Ledbury. We had our launch night on Wednesday 11th July (another England World Cup game… this time slightly given away by the raucous cheers from the pub next door)!

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© Rick Sanders

It was a great event, mainly the Artists and Poets attended but some of us brought guests so there was an audience. The Exhibition itself did really well.

A more detailed review can be found here.

Thursday saw Ben Banyard Headline SpeakEasy in Worcester, a poet (from our 52 gang) who I wanted to meet and hear in person. It was a great evening in a new venue and the first time this event has been hosted outside. The garden was set for a wedding the next day and was beautiful. It was a fun night! Read more here.

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© Kathy Gee

Friday saw a staff meal (nice to be invited) and then Saturday there was a workshop I wanted to attend in Walsall but after a full week of work and 3 nights out on the trot I needed a breather before Charley Barnes’ Book Launch in the evening.

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I was delighted to be a Guest Poet alongside Claire Walker, Sarah Leavesley and Holly Magill. As it fell during Droitwich Artsfest they advertised it as an Artsfest event. It was well attended and an exceptional evening. A pleasure to welcome Charley to the V. Press family. Read more about this sparkling evening here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/a-z-hearted-guide-to-heartache-by-charley-barnes-book-launch/

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I had the day off on Sunday – except I didn’t – I spent 6 hours sorting and editing film for our 30-40-60 performance. As well as working on a current Stanza project, sorting Issue 4 of Contour and organising paperwork for the trip to Australia.

 

Week 3 

On Monday night I spent another 5 hours in the cutting room, editing the new film for our event the next day.

On Tuesday 17th July Kathy Gee, Claire Walker and myself performed 30-40-60 in St. Andrew’s Church as part of the Artsfest. We had a small but mighty audience, it was a wonderful evening and lovely to hear people on the Open Mic and see poets visit Droitwich for the first time. Lots of people commented on the venue and of course the show.

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Read more about it here.

Also if you missed it – there is a review here. With thanks to Mad Hatter Reviews.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/30-40-60-performance-review/

One of the exciting things about an International Guest Poet is I get to attend plenty of workshops throughout the festival. I have had the schedule for a few months but now the programme is out was able to book into them. I am as excited about this as I am about being part of Perth Poetry Festival!

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I also had more exciting news – again under wraps for now.

Work finished – another splatter of excitement after a 3 month lock in! It was lovely working with such a great team. As everyone met in the pub to celebrate I stayed in and got an early night because my weekend was a wild one! Poetry WILD that is!

ArtsFest traditionally have a poetry day and for the past 2 years I have had the honour of organising it!

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We started at 2 PM with Poetry in the Square – my guests this year were John Mills and Liz Mills, two poets I met through 52. They put me up for the night before Stafford Festival – it was a welcome return to Stone for me – I lived there for a few years – and we have been friends ever since!

They are also brilliant poets and between us we managed the 2 hour stint in town.

Then I rushed off to Worcester to Guest Poet at Kieran Davies’ Book Launch for Legacy, published by Black Pear Press. Which was a great event, a true celebration – read more about it here.

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Then back to Park’s Cafe for Poetry Extravaganza and the first UK reading of ATOTC. It was a delightful evening of poetry.

ATOTC ME © Rhys Jones – Droitwich Arts Network

Read about it in full here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/artsfest-2/

 

Week 4

At this point my diary suggested (because I pencilled it in – in May), taking the first 2 weeks of my summer holiday off from poetry events and prepare for Australia… to a certain extent I have missed events I would have otherwise attended, but as always there were some which slipped through that I couldn’t possibly miss.

The week started in Ledbury collecting work from the Exhibition. PoARTry was a great project and I know I will be staying in touch with my artist, Molly Bythell.

I got everything organised for my trip except money and mini-toiletries! It took a while to find cabin luggage small enough for the airline restriction and a while longer after that to choose just 1 piece! I also invested in a large but extremely lightweight suitcase… mine date back to when wheels were first introduced and the handle extends only 6 cm from the corner… they work like a supermarket trolley with a wonky wheel and have mainly been used for storage. Travelling with soft bags and backpack ever since! However, I am not backpacking and the last time I used that on Long Haul it caused a few problems, so decided to do the respectable suitcase thing!

Tuesday saw Poetry Bites at the Kitchen Garden Cafe with Jonathan Edwards and Holly Daffurn headlining. 

Thursday I was in Stratford at a workshop and Friday I went to Stanza, where there was even more exciting news.

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This weekend I received my copy of Hex – by Jennie Farley, published by IDP Indigo Dreams. Jennie was kind enough to ask me for an endorsement. It is the third book I have endorsed and it was a pleasure reading it. It is a mesmerising collection and I look forward to the official Launch in December!

Hex – Jennie Farley IDP

I also approached Guest Writers for this year’s INKSPILL online writing retreat and both have confirmed (exciting), so I spent a little time on this promotional film to encourage you to book it into your diaries NOW!

Find out more INKSPILL 2018.

I am now spending the rest of the month working on 3 writing projects, editing and organising myself ready for Perth!

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