Tag Archives: Mental Health

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!

Mental Health Awareness Week – With You in Mind Anthology

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Back in 2015 I became aware of ‘The With You in Mind’ anthology that Sarah James compiled from her website, where she shared poems for Mental Health Awareness. That same year she produced The Magnetic Diaries, a poetry-play based on her collection of the same name, for the Write On Festival at The Courtyard Arts Centre, Hereford.

Since then the show has developed and toured. The ACE-funded tour included performances at Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Bristol Poetry Festival, Hereford’s Chapel Arts Centre, FEAST festival at Malvern Cube, mac birmingham and London’s The Vaults. It was also a Highly Recommended Show at Edinburgh Fringe 2016, where it had a two-week run at Aviary at ZOO Venues. © 2016 Sarah James

Alongside the touring show, Sarah facilitated Pain to Poetry workshops, one of which I was lucky enough to participate in at the MAC.

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This year Sarah added to the collection during Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14th May) with poems produced as a result of the Pain to Poetry workshops.

My initial idea was to re-blog the posts/poems as they came in throughout the week (but due to technical issues, we were offline).

The week started with Hide and Seek by Louise Stokes. If you would like to read the daily posts then follow this link and click the ‘next post’ button at the bottom of each page.

http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/?p=8080

Alternatively you can use this link to the updated ‘With You in Mind’ anthology and read the poems from 2015 and 2017.

http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/?page_id=5639

My own poems – Anchored and Hallmarks can be found here Nina Lewis

I am grateful for the opportunity to share work on this subject, especially as I know that without suffering depression I may not have found my way back to writing.

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RELATED LINKS:

http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/?p=5670

http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/?page_id=6732

http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/?p=8073

The Magnetic Diaries

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

‘Break on Through’

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It has been over a week since my last blog post, I come to write this post on loss and find that the programming has been updated and content looks completely different for us on WordPress. I wish there was an option to use the old format, but alas, as with life things move on.

A lot has happened in the poetry world, my world and the world since I last posted and although I tend to steer clear of media stories, I cannot let the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman go without a mention.

I discovered Bowie as a teen, music first, then ‘Labyrinth’ years later, even tried my hand at creating the jacket worn by the Goblin King and definitely copied the eye make-up! As for Alan Rickman, as I was training to be an actress, he was someone I felt even closer to. First discovered in ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ – what an actor, what a presence, what a voice.

It is a sad loss to the Arts that these two stars have been extinguished at just 69, both dying from Cancer. May they Rest In Peace.

Rachel Green Sammy

Closer to home, the poetry community was rocked on the 5th January by the sad news that a wonderful poet, Sammy Joe, was no longer with us. The outpouring of love since has been amazing, I only wish she could read the heartfelt words. All the events I have attended in the past week have offered words in her memory and I know we will get to celebrate her life sometime in the future.

Lots of people are grieving and my thoughts are with her daughter, Rosie and the family. We (the poetry community) have shared compassion in grief. It has shaken all of us and it is almost impossible to imagine the world without her. It will be a long while before we realise we will not see her again, she isn’t going to turn up at events. It has also made us all wake up and appreciate what life is and how we need to let friends know they are in our hearts.

Which is where Sammy is now, Rest In Peace, my friend. x

bakehouse Photo Credit Janet Jenkins

I struggle to write about how it feels. Helen Calcutt has written a blogpost, shared across social media http://helencalcutt.org/2016/01/06/words-will-safeguard-the-spirit-eternally/ so I am sure she won’t mind me posting it here.

All this loss so early in the year, not to mention tales of friends and families who have lost loved ones over the Festive Season. It has been hard to keep buoyant New Year hopes alive with all this bigger things happening. Sometimes I feel guilty for pushing on regardless. It is what those of us left on the planet have to do though.

Headstrong fragility is the state I wear this week. There are many of us walking in this daze.

Take care out there and tell people that you love them! x

 

The photographs were taken on a poetry day last summer. Walsall Arboretum/ Bakehouse Workshop – Walsall Arts Festival and in the evening Pre-launch event in Birmingham for Arts all Over the Place. Sammy Joe did a lot of work with 1 in 4 Drama Group, like myself she was a poet and dramaturge.

 

Reading, Writing, Submitting, Organising, Celebrating

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A week of reading articles, catching up with writing and ordering poetry books (well I was online buying Mr G’s Birthday presents). I missed a submission which fell on Valentine’s Day. Mr G celebrated his birthday on Friday and then Saturday was busy celebrating Valentine’s, so any writing that wasn’t finished by the weekend didn’t get written at all.WP_000735

Writing diaryI spent yesterday writing – for about 5 hours, I am working on some performance poetry about Ghosts – which is hard for me as I tend to avoid this subject, in fact whilst I was immersed in YouTube research I started getting chest pains, that was a tad scary. I have yet to finish my poetry for this set at the end of February, but I am glad I attempted the challenge and have written some poems which wouldn’t have existed otherwise. I was also working to a submission deadline. I like to find opportunities to support and promote Mental Health, after what I have been through, part of my goals is to use writing as healing with others at some point eventually. I wrote a couple of poems for the rethinkyourmind, they should be live on the website in a couple of days, I will let you know.

Rather excitingly I ordered 2 new poetry collections, I bought Maps & Legends in Nine Arches Press sale at the end of January, my Forward Poetry Collection arrived on Saturday, just 2 days after I ordered it – along with Mr G’s presents. I have treated myself to a short bed-read on my first day off and am now online preparing for some writing time before I go out.

© 2015 Forward Arts Foundation

© 2015 Forward Arts Foundation

It is important for writers to read and keep up to date with current trends. Treat yourself, if you can’t see it as research.

I also completed some research on events and venues. Jill Peers asked me to be part of Malvern’s Mad March Book Promotion Event- 11 days of events happening around Malvern EVENTS I have finally decided however tempting other venues and days were that I am taking part in a weekend event so I am still free to earn money in the week.

It will be the same day that I am working for Writing West Midlands, but Malvern is no further to Worcester than my hometown, so I should be able to do both. More about this closer to the event (14th March) and after. Come along if you can, enjoy yourselves, most events are FREE. WWM

Daniel Sluman has been interviewed exclusively for AWF and I am delighted that the interview will go LIVE later today.

Sonia Hendy-Isaac © 2014

Sonia Hendy-Isaac
© 2014

EXCLUSIVE DANIEL SLUMAN Interview COMING SOON!

 

From the Desk & Endgame for the Allotment

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I am fortunate that work hasn’t really started, I am on call but the 1st few weeks can be slack as no cover is needed. This has given me a couple of clear days for writing. This week I found out about an exciting new opportunity to present work or possibly even a workshop for a mental health festival. I am writing my bid today. Yesterday I researched some Lit Magazines and read some informative articles which I will link you up to during INKSPILL. Then the wireless connection started unfriending me and I spent time writing with ink and preparing my set for the Poetry Lounge.

Today I am working on a couple of submissions and having come home with a scribbled list of ideas after last night’s event would like to get some writing done too.

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This evening is our last time up the allotment, we are emptying the shed, digging up the rhubarb and carrying long beanpoles (bamboo canes) home and then we are handing the land back to the council. It is quite sad, we have had the allotment for 5 glorious years and it has been a big part of our story (me & Mr G) …I plan to pay tribute to the past half a decade of hard graft and bountiful harvests, through poetry. This year will be the FIRST year we don’t carve our own HOMEGROWN pumpkins for Halloween.

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We are growing in our garden and still expect to fill the Christmas Dinner plates with homegrown wonders though.

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© A.Cooke 2013

© A.Cooke 2013

 

 

When the Going Gets Tough!

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This post is for everyone who has a DAYJOB and is also trying to forge a writing career.

This is probably how your mind feels most of the time.

Culinary disaster

©EmmaC 2014

 

I promise you this is not my culinary disaster (and although my friend posted it on social media, she probably didn’t expect it to be used on my blog!) – this is what happens if you don’t prick potatoes before cooking them.

Today the stress in my head (at the day job, from the day job, from thinking about the writing life I would rather lead, in trying to imagine the evening before it was even lunchtime!) built up to this explosive point… I felt like these potatoes…

If you have ever felt the same read on.

roses

©N Lewis2014

Even these beautiful roses have sharp bits.

No-one can have a perfect life, there are always sharp bits! I know a good few people lucky enough to be full time writers, they no longer have to balance that life with a dayjob, and even they still have sharp bits.

Remember living the life you dream of doesn’t mean you will lead a stress free, smooth edged life.

Dream, of course, but keep your head somewhere in reality.

 

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Learn your triggers and have a mental list of how to get over the stress once you have made it home. Any way you can relax and let go of it is good. Here is a list of things that work for me;

 

  • Reading a book
  • Having a lie down/power nap
  • Taking a bath

 

      • Working out (I rarely do this in the face of confronting my stress – but it always works when I do)
        • Rage it out in a free write
          • Phone a friend and have a bit of a moan

 

  • Chill out with a magazine and a cuppa
  • Watch a film
  • Go for a walk

 

And remember why you are in this dual/ split life place to begin with.

motivation closer

 

 

 

 

Another idea is to visualise (and manifest) sometime in 2013 I created this board of dreams, actually a board of what I wanted my life to be – not dreams but reality! Some of these aspects are already coming true, it serves as a visual reminder….

 

visual

©N Lewis 2014

 

Almost central are the words THE SMARTEST DECISION I EVER MADE…

giving up my full time career after 14 years and with it the salary and the pension is okay, it is just that, the SMARTEST and BRAVEST decision I have ever made. And no matter how bad my day has been by 5pm or 6pm at the latest, IT  — IS — OVER! Whereas before there  was barely time to grab dinner before working away for another 5 or 6 hours. That 60-80 hour relentless working week is not sustainable – it is why so many teachers took strike action yesterday.

Finding time to write can be a challenge, if you do find time keeping energy up can be hard, but how worth it – think about how writing makes you feel. Better than most things in the world? Then keep going!

Try to hold onto the good days and let go of the bad – in the same way we let go of rejections and celebrate our publishing successes!

Just keep going!

motivation auth

 

 

Black Dog – A Wonderful Advert: World Health Organization

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We do not talk about our black dogs – these are the kind of pets that society doesn’t accept easily, it is easy to feel alone. You feel like you are the only one on the planet with a black dog, but they breed widely.

This is an amazing awareness video from the World Health Organization and timely viewing, speaking with my doctor yesterday he said if more people could recognise the trigger he could help recovery quicker. It is hard to know sometimes though…. What I thought mine was wasn’t really it in the end.
Watching this this reminded me of how it used to feel 2 years ago, how I felt. It is incredible how far I have come. I want to thank my Black Dog though, because without him my life wouldn’t have changed beyond recognition, it was from my mood journals, gratitude journals and depression diaries that the writer in me re-emerged.
I am grateful – because I know rock bottom and I realise the only way from there is UP!