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.
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).
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).
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.
“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.
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.
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.
And then I flew to Perth, WA.
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!
Was mainly jet lag and editing… not a workable combination.
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.
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.
A soft spot for me as I started Spoken Word in the East Midlands in Leicester.
March felt like a funny old month. The start of the month was rocky, the usual dips and peaks were replaced with a fairly big dip, which fortunately finished mid-March, the end of the month was full of highs and gathered rollercoaster speed, positively hyperactive.
I missed out on many events I wanted to attend due to lack of time, transport and energy. My writing schedule was full and I continued to work on organising festival events as well as time spent making exciting applications. Keeping my fingers crossed.
In addition to this – we have AN EMPTY ROOM, I managed (finally) to sort the smallest bedroom which is our first redecoration project in the house Mr G and I moved into the year I returned to writing (2013). If I wasn’t writing, I kid myself that we would have finished the entire house by now. But the thing I look forward to the most is nesting new writing spaces! The room has now been empty and awaiting action for three weeks, but in that time Mr G has transformed the front garden (much to the pleasure of the neighbours) and bought a sander in preparation for the next epic challenge- actually doing the room!
V. Press collections: Career in Accompaniment by Alex Reed, Book of Bones by Kathy Gee, Fragile Housesby Nina Lewisand The Old Man in the House of Bone by David Calcutt, with illustrations from Peter Tinkler were reviewed by Sam Smith. You can read the full reviews here http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/
We are all gutted that this event (of 2 years) has come to an end. The venue – which is one of the most amazing spaces I have had the pleasure to perform in, is closing. Rob Francis is extremely busy with writing and lecturing, maybe these things are sent by the universe as the timing seems right to free Rob up for other opportunities. He also got engaged recently, so I suspect there will be a busy non-poetry element going on in his life soon too. Fortunately I was tipped off just before the night kicked off, otherwise I would have been in floods when Rob announced it to the packed out room.
As always, it was a good night with an eclectic mix of open mics, poems, stories and extracts. It was fantastic to watch Pete in action again and I enjoyed his set immensely. Several lines have become ear-worms over the past month. I had an interesting conversation with him afterwards about poetry. You cannot help but be swept away on his passion-wave of enthusiasm.
Sadly I missed out on watching him perform again at the Artrix this week as I had a gig in Manchester the next day, work and lots of submission deadlines. If you get a chance to see him, you should grasp it for sure! ‘Keep it Lit!’
People who have read this collection rave about it – it is on my list to buy.
I spent the majority of writing time organising, I am currently organising three events for festivals which is keeping me busy.
I also had an opportunity to create work for Mental Health Awareness Week (May). Sarah Leavesley has, for several years posted poetry related to Mental Health during this week. ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ deals with these issues and last year you may remember I attended a workshop at the MAC which was part of the Magnetic Diaries Tour. Sarah mentioned back then that we could share our workshop poetry. As with lots of things at the moment it fell into the ‘to do’ pile. My main focus currently is the house, promoting Fragile Houses and organising festival events. Anyway, long story short, I did eventually manage to create a new poem from the workshop and another written especially for the blog project. More on this in May.
I had a request for a poem and spent the weekend working on editing and writing. I have found this month that I am very last minute. I discovered a submission opportunity the day before deadline (always a challenge) and more recently discovered an entire festival I had missed, a great shame as there was a workshop I would have loved to have attended.
The week I forgot to live… so many events missed. I felt the dip this week – my body/mind reacts by sleeping. I spent my writing time beavering away at schedules, organising festival events and generally needed sleep before bedtime. I did wish to be a busy poet and I guess I didn’t consider that I would need to be grown-up with scheduling or with reacting to the events I miss. Be careful what you wish for!
I missed Stirchley Speaks, Headlined by Tom McCann, Steve Pottinger was performing in Ludlow at The Poetry Lounge, I missed Howl – there was a new event in Cannock – Speaking Out Midlands, where all performers were open mic, allocated 10 minute slots. Charlotte had invited me some months ago and then word was spread on social media and it attracted a great crowd and I have read some rave reviews.
It clashed with SpeakEasy and when I discovered Adrian Mealing (who I have not seen for years) was headlining, I knew that I was going to save the car some miles. I do not regret this decision, SpeakEasy was a good night and it was lovely chatting and catching up with Adrian. Confab Cabaret with John Hegley (the last time I saw Adrian).
Suffering the dip, being in a familiar environment with people I know was preferable. I was revitalised by the end of the evening. There were lots of new faces and audience, incredibly positive for the LitFest team. Suz performed the Squid Ballroom, part of her Laureate event – more on this next month, I am one of the invited performers.
I spent Friday tying up loose ends and trying to write. I sent my poems to Rick Saunders the brainchild behind Rob’s PTS thank you gift. We (the collective at PTS) have sent writing to Rick who has printed a pamphlet (more like a book at 80 odd pages) to present to Rob on the final night – Permission to Shut Up – at the end of March. I sent my poem about the stage ‘The Secret of Scary Canary’s Stage’ and one I wrote especially for Rob all about what he has achieved with PTS and what it means to the rest of us, originally titled ‘Permission to Speak’. He should be extremely proud of his achievements and hopefully this isn’t the last we have heard from him.
I spent an entire evening planning a non-fiction session for my Spark Young Writers group (Writing West Midlands). Inspired by the Royal Society of Photographers exhibition I walked around last month I decided to do Science Journalism. The group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I am still wiping sweat from my brow – I was worried in case any of them chose to write about the bee’s anus. Which was an amazing piece of photography and incredibly fascinating to look at. I was amazed by the talented articles that came from this session. Some great writing.
It was also the DeMontfortBook Fair in Leicester – States of Independence, not something they hosted when I lived there for 5 years. Leicester is where I broke my performance poetry seal and will always have a little bit of a special place in my heart. Sarah Leavesley was there with her V. Press bookshop, she also launched her new book – a novella published by Mantle Lane Press.
It always hurts to miss out on events, I dreamed of a busy writing life and I have one, but it means that sometimes I no longer have the freedom to march across the country to be a part of special evenings. There are also the inevitable date clashes where big decisions are made. Never have cloning and teleportation been so necessary in my life!
On Sunday I missed one of the best opportunities since the Verve Festival. Bang Said the Gun – which I have known about since 2014 and watched countless clips of online is touring and they kicked off in Stafford – relatively close (would be closer if the M6 ever flowed properly) with Jo Bell and Jonny Fluffypunk (two of my old time/all time favs) and I missed it! It was Sunday night, Week 3 and 4 are full in my diary, energy was low, as were funds and Mr G and I need to spend more time together and my car is the equivalent of an old broken pull along toy with some bits missing and broken/re-knotted string! I do not trust it on terribly long journeys or car park motorways where you hear it over heat within the first crawling 100 yards.
I missed an amazing night and an opportunity to see friends from that neck of the woods too. Gutted. I did go to check out tickets and look at the rest of the tour and this was the nearest and also had the featured artists I wanted to see. I would say there will be other times, but with something like this – there won’t be. Gutted with a capital G.
Canterbury never had anything like this when I lived there either!
I knew I would miss License to Rhyme at the Artrix, featuring Pete the Temp. I had to work and manage Manchester the following evening and I spent part of Monday choosing and rehearsing/timing my set. I also spent time with family, which I hadn’t planned much beforehand and this left me hours behind on writing time. Not that it would be any other way. Family comes first. It just meant the will I /won’t I… became a definite No I won’t!
Again I heard good things about the evening and am particularly disappointed that I missed Fergus McGonigal and Lorna Meehan performing.
I did receive some exciting emails which made a night in with my inbox particularly worthwhile. And have since taken action on these – fingers crossed once again!
On Tuesday I headlined alongside Becky Cheeriman and Mark Pajak in Manchester at Sarah L. Dixon’s Quiet, Quiet Loud. I have known about this booking at Quiet, Quiet Loud for months and the butterflies went tribal. Originally looking to headline in April or May, the gig was brought forward as Sarah L Dixon is on the move and this was to be her final event at The Llyod’s.
Rick Saunders had signed up for the open mic and kindly offered to chauffeur up the M6. Unfortunately, days before his car broke down and so we were left with some last minute arrangements. In the end we hired a car (scared that mine wouldn’t make a 200 mile round trip in a night). The journey there was fine, even passing a Willis milk tanker – Rick’s stage name is Willis the Poet… we passed the time chatting about the spoken word scene and stopping just once for the most expensive bottle of service station water – I think it was made from diamonds or something! The journey back was horrendous, closed motorways, detours and a SATNAV that was convinced the motorway junction was still open.
I spent Wednesday morning before work recovering, I found out about the Science and Arts Festival hosted by Birmingham University and a creative writing workshop that I would have loved to attend, although it would have been a lot before work to manage. I have pencilled it in for next year as there were lots of interesting events.
I spent Wednesday night working on submissions and on Thursday mum and I went to see Verve – Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Mr G bought us tickets for Christmas.
They made me want to dance again, to create dance poetry and to lose myself in costume and movement. The fact that my body could barely manage to sit through a 2 hour production tells me otherwise, but my soul is still very much committed!
I spent the weekend on things other than writing and chiselled out some time at the end of Sunday to write applications and work on my writing action plan. There are some intended submissions to create before the end of the month and three sets to plan for EarthHour (25th March), HerStory (31st March) and Poetry Ballroom (2nd April).
The week started with a flurry of activity organising poetry events and writing. February was a busy month for making applications and devising projects and this month sees more energy focused on these and some fruition.
I spent the first part of the week in rest (working, sleeping, living) and saving energy for a series of 3 days of poeting. Which was easy as only one of them involved performing. Although I left it somewhat late to arrange a set and fine tune the details.
I also agreed to hiding some GOLDEN TICKETS for Birmingham Literature Festival. It is the 20th Anniversary this year and the team have organised a Spring Festival to celebrate. They have sent out Golden Tickets to be found in local bookshops, Art cafes and libraries. I have taken two under my wing and let them fly (and hide).
The lucky finder wins a free ticket (worth at least £10) to an event of their choice. I want to find one of these – but it may cost more petrol money than buying a ticket. Fun idea. Great one. One I may steal in the future! First time I have ever felt like Willy Wonka… it was a good feeling.
On Thursday I saw Hollie McNish, I love Hollie… it has been a while since I saw her perform and part of me knew that this book would be difficult for me for personal reasons, this is why I have not yet bought a copy – but watching her breathing magic into the tale and hearing such personal disclosure and truth was wonderful. The event had been organised at The Hive (Library) in partnership with Poetry On Loan – well done to Brenda Read-Brown!
I had been to the basement space once with my writing group and was amazed to find the event not in the studio – that was until I saw the size of the audience! Holly thought, it being a library gig in a small city there may be about 20 people! Multiply that by 10! A smashing night.
I spent the majority of my spare time writing and editing and planning how an earth I was going to manage this final week of performances and deadlines. The solution was an A4 checklist that I had very little leeway on.
I also had another poem published ‘Rag Tree’ which will be in the Beltane anthology by Three Drops. More news about festival events I am organising/performing in and events that I am just performing in. Future workshops to book and lots of potential festival tickets to be bought. I wrote new work and edited older poems.
Tuesday evening saw the final PTS – Permission to Speak become Permission to Shut Up – as it was a work night I was worried I may not last until the end, but scribbled a new poem especially for the last event (for now), the night before and got a short set ready. I was due to headline in May, potentially Rob may have a new venue by then, but I get the feeling that he needs/wants a mini-break and this would be the time to take it.
It was a great night, all in all and I will mark the occasion with a blog post as soon as I get some spare time. I took lots of pictures and stayed until the end to see Rick present Rob with his pamphlet.
42 in Worcester celebrated it’s 6th birthday and I took a newly scribed poem to celebrate. Rick Saunders headlined Spoken Trend on the same night, which I had to miss. Please someone clone me! Event clashes… every poet’s nemesis! 42 was fun and again, I will mark the occasion with a full blogpost when I have a little time. Polly made an amazing Black Forest Gateaux cake! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. All the performances were bang on and the celebratory air was sweet.
LINKS TO FOLLOW.
With two days left of March and Easter around the corner, you may think that was it… no, I am playing the game – How much can you pack into 48hours?
Thursday I gave myself a night off from performing/events – missing out on Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley again, I will get there. I spent the evening editing a new poem (my 3rd this week) and submitting work.
I also received an exciting email from my publisher. Another review of Fragile Houses, this time on Sabotage Reviews. How wonderful to start and end the month with reviews. You can read Rachel Stirling’s incredibly intricate review here.
I discovered Claire Walker and Holly Magill have embarked on editing a new Magazine ‘Atrium’, they have both edited for Kate Garrett at Three Drops recently and this new opportunity morphed from that experience. More on Atrium soon.
I saw Heather Wastie’s Nationwide advert – which was as equally exciting as watching Jo Bell’s and what made it special was seeing it first thing before work and in the final adverts before bed. Don’t ask me how I have time to watch TV and complete my mammoth writing tasks!
Holly McNish won the Ted Hughes award (one of the judges this year was Jo Bell – busy as always). Amazing news & recognition!
I received news of another successful Festival bid for this summer. More on this soon.
I completed the month with a Woo Feminista event HerStory at Café Bliss. I will blog and link it up here as soon as I can.
And now I am ready for NaPoWriMo, Poetry Ballroom and a rather-already-regrettable booking of an almost full week of work! I booked Monday off as I have 3 consecutive events this weekend and will be typing until my fingers go numb finishing my writing tasks over the next 24 hours!
I hope you all had a good month too. Leave me some of your highlights in the comments, it would be great to hear from you.
Everything starts to wind down in my writing world during December, which is lucky as everything else winds up to Christmas and I think I would pop if something didn’t give.
Week 1: (which was only 4 days)
I put in a bid to review an anthology which a few poetry friends appear in, it looks like a great quality publication and I am gutted I knew nothing of the submission for it. I do not think my application was successful as they had the launch in December, but I tried.
I also went to Permission to Speak, Rob Francis’s night in Stourbridge at the Scary Canary. Rob booked Ash Dickinson as the headline act, it has been over a year since I’ve seen him perform.Perhaps longer. Last time was Digbeth, Birmingham. I was also doubly excited because he has a new book out and I was able to grab a copy – which I then saved to be my Christmas read, but also borrowed 3 Christmassy novels from the library and with actually celebrating festivities and catching up with family and friends, I ran out of time to read it. It has become my New Year book instead… now my January book. It is my next read and has overtaken a whole shelf of poetry still on my must read radar.
Thanking Jonathan Davidson for teaching me to support poetry by buying books (back in Sept. 2013), I would love time to read them all. One day I will have my landing book nook and an hour a day to indulge.
It was an exceptional night, (despite the mic stand completely playing me up). Part of my set was ‘Fragile Houses’ which is a serious book and it made Ash feel comfortable to step away to his more serious work too. Which went down a storm. So I was glad that my set persuaded him to mix his up a bit. Very brave.
What I did manage to do was re-read his previous collection – (bought last time I saw him in Digbeth), I love having the poet’s voice in mind as I read their words. I had forgotten how stonkingly good ‘slinky espadrilles’ was. It was a delight to hear some poems from this, his first collection at PTS.
It was actually 2014 when I last saw Ash perform. How time flies when you’re writing poems. The photos I took of Ash are trapped on an old phone, so you can make do with a 2014 lazy Sunday version of me instead.
If you fancy ordering a copy of Slinky Espadrilles (2012), which remains one of the top selling titles, you can follow the links below. Or maybe you would rather treat yourself to the latest collection Strange Keys (2016)… both published by Burning Eye books.
A great night at ScaryCanary and I also picked up a copy of Rob’s new pamphlet ‘Orpheus’ published by Lapwing. It was his first reading from it.
I have since watched him perform from it at SpeakEasy and he has a few more dates in the Midlands, up North and soon down South too.
28th Jan – Wolverhampton Literature Festival @ Wolverhampton Art Gallery 16th Feb – Stanza @ The Exchange, North Shields 25th Feb – The Black Light Engine Room, Middlesbrough
More dates may be added soon in Folkestone, Leeds and London
Rob is also donating all of his profits for this book to charity. £25 was raised by initial sales for the village School feeding scheme in Namibia. I am not entirely sure if this campaign has now closed as the crowdfunding page has finished. Know that if you buy a copy, Rob has donated profits so far to this cause.
I also returned Heather’s projector which I had used for the Book Party event to show my Fragile Houses Poetry Films. Over Christmas I discovered my mum had been given a projector through a contact in education (they were upgrading), after it served no use to my mum she gifted it forwards – not releasing her poetry daughter was about to embark on Poetry Films… so if any of you know of anyone getting rid of a working projector at any point I would be very interested. My car has also gone over the clock (100,000) with all these poetry gigs, so if anyone has a decent 2nd or 3rd hand car to sell also let me know!
My friend Caution Poet had a couple of events at the Anchor Gallery, Birmingham where he was generously selling artwork and giving away copies of his latest collection of poems. On the same night there were Christmas Spoken Word events at The Ort. But my relatives were up from London and it was my Gran’s birthday so I missed all the poetry and went to celebrate with them instead.
I was asked to perform at the Mistletoe Festival in Tenbury Wells. In the end Myfanwy and Peter Sutton made it and I am in conversation about 2017.
I had my winter solstice poem ‘Burn All the Clocks’ accepted by Three Drops From a Cauldron at the end of November, but don’t think I mentioned it on the last review. It is going to be published in the Midwinter Anthology.
I continued to make Poetry Films and missed Hatstand – I have missed all the events hosted this year under this new night. I hope they continue in 2017 and that I may make them. Monday night is a tricky one with teaching the next day.
I worked on the Writing West Midlands December session, prep and planning. I missed Gary Longden’s Poetry Alight and Roz Goddard’s Stanza Christmas Party to go to Stirchley Speaks, which was a great night.
I also worked on two projects which at this time were in initial planning stages. The one has been signed, sealed and delivered and is already forging new developments into 2017. The other is ready to start in February, on a date that I have been asked to perform as part of a Peace Day at Coventry Cathedral. Both events are geographically too far apart to manage in the same day. I hope to get involved with Antony Owen’s next event in the summer. In the meantime I am writing poems to be read on the day.
December sees the return of SpeakEasy at the beautiful Cafe Bliss and, to rid you of your Winter blues, we’re bringing along with us the wonderful Nina Lewis!
Nina has had poetry published in many publications over the years and has recently celebrated her first solo publication, Fragile Houses, published by V. Press. A wonderful poet with a back catalogue of hard-hitting and beautifully crafted verses, Nina Lewis is definitely an act worth seeing.
I headlined SpeakEasy in Worcester. It was a great night – there are some photos I need to track down. My non-poetry friends came to support me and Café Bliss was packed. It was a great night although one of the most nervous I have been (home crowd and all that) and there were about 8 close poetry friends (and regulars at this event) who couldn’t make it so I was supressing the paranoid part of myself for most of the evening. I did manage to enjoy the open mic spots and the atmosphere was brilliant.
My set went well and I sold quite a few copies of Fragile Houses. I even performed one of the poems I didn’t envisage ever being able to perform in public. That may be the only time I do. So for all the people who were there that was a first and last.
As with all things the 8th December when I headlined clashed with other events, The Grizzly Pear where I missed Bohdan Piasecki and Leon Priestnall and also the Nine Arches Press Christmas Party.
On Friday I had one of the most exciting meetings of the year and some delicious cake! I missed Caution Poet’s second event and Clive Osman Performing from his new book ‘Happy’ at the P Café as I had a lot of writing work to submit and a WWM to prepare.
On Saturday we celebrated the end of term with a workshop on Fiction and a slightly Christmassy session for WWM. To prove how talented the writers are in my group there was an entire page of the plan I discarded as they were already there. Great when young writers don’t need all the input. They, like me, are passionate about learning the craft.
My final week of real world work and I booked workshops for the Verve Poetry Festival (Feb.) with Kim Moore and Sarah Howe, I met both these talented poets this year and cannot wait for this treat – which was a Christmas present from my Mum – even better when these experiences are free! I missed the booking at Swindon on Kim’s workshop due to getting a little lost finding the new venue. So I am doubly looking forward to the magic.
I helped organise accommodation for the Quiet Compere (January) Wolverhampton Literature Festival. I started working on a collaborative project which will see 3 new poems written (and submitted) in as many weeks. I worked on general submissions, getting the last bit of writing done before the Christmas break.
I had also been asked (in October) to produce a writing prompt for Squiffy Gnu (an online writing/ poetry group). The deadline was the 14th and although it had been on my radar for a while I couldn’t start to work on it until after I had headlined SpeakEasy.
I am really proud of myself for coming up with an original idea and not copying someone else’s groundwork. I have yet to actually attempt the writing myself and have only read a few of the outcome poems, but again I plan to carve some time out to do this next month. It was fun to be a guest poet and an honour to be the last one of the year. Thanks to Chris Hemmingway for this opportunity.
I missed Luke Wright and Jasmine Gardosi headline at Howl, again next year HOWL is already in the diary for February, it has been a shame to miss this events as it is always a great night. Once again I will blame work and distance.
There was a Christmas Party for the Walsall Arboretum poets which I couldn’t attend originally because of work. However, that day work was cancelled and I had hoped to make it after all. I was buried under a self created submission mountain though and it was in the middle of the day. I heard they had a good time.
Instead, the following day, I treated myself to the Poet Christmas Party (like a works do but better), just three of us meeting up for lunch and pretending it was our annual do really! I made the mistake of drinking a glass of wine as I wasn’t driving, but I had forgotten that I skipped breakfast and hadn’t yet lined my stomach. So I guess I was entertaining.
I missed Attila The Stockbroker and Caution Poet Man Down on Friday night as it was Stanza and I had missed the previous two months and really wanted to go.
It was a great and Christmassy evening.
Christmas and my hibernation from my poetry skin.
In the Greenwood Shade – my poem about the Frog Prince (initially started at a workshop with Angela France) was published by Three Drops From a Cauldron in the December Issue.
On October 3rd Fragile Houses, my debut poetry pamphlet was launched at Waterstones Birmingham.
It was a fantastic night and I felt like ‘Christmas Eve’, the next morning it felt like a dream. The morning after felt whimsical and I had to pinch myself to tell that I was awake. This is how a great book launch should feel.
I cannot believe I didn’t blog it straight away, that I didn’t show you all how I felt. That you have had to wait two months for this post.
There was a lot to do before the event and next year I will be blogging about this side of things as I found, through countless hours of research a gap on the practicalities of organising launch events.
I got to Birmingham with a travel bag of books. I was a bag of nerves, but fortunately had Maggie Doyle and Spoz with me, taking my mind off it.
I wish I had taken a photo of the room and another of the audience. When I stepped into the space, my breath was taken away. We had four comfy, green chairs ready for us at the front (Hays Festival style staging) and more chairs had to be put out for the audience, always a good sign. There were over 25 people there and I was delighted that family and friends had also come to support me. There were three audience members who had seen the advertising and turned up for a free night of poetry and one of them kindly bought my book. So I was able to tick off the unwritten checklist of selling the book to a stranger on the evening of it launching. Happy dance.
I had asked for Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker to come and read at the event. Claire started proceedings with a lovely set. I have always been a fan of her poetry (and Roy’s and Antony’s) – one of the many reasons I asked if they would read at the launch.
My publisher, Sarah Leavesley was also there and made a short and delightful speech that I had to speak after (and she nearly made me cry). I read a selection of poems from the pamphlet, signed and sold lots of books and we all celebrated with wine and cake.
It was an incredible night. It still feels like a dream.
Signing my first book. The books sold on the launch evening were all numbered as well.
Official Launch Photographs were kindly taken by Bernard Davis.
Here is my post-launch social media message;
A very quick, adrenalin filled THANK YOU to everybody who came to celebrate the launch tonight. Family, friends, poets & general public. Couldn’t have asked for a better event. Room was perfect. Fell in love with that space as soon as I saw the backs of the chairs. Slightly awkward explaining to the general public, who had rushed in that the first half hour was mingle time. Poets never get to chat (learnt that if it is your launch you don’t get to chat either) but think I managed to hug and welcome everyone. Sold more books than no. of people in attendance, thanks for the generosity.
Huge, huge thanks to Claire Walker, Roy McFarlane and Antony R Owen who made me swell with heartfelt sets and lots of appreciated sign language from the green chairs. How ‘Hay’ was that?
Thanks to V. Press for publishing Fragile Houses & Sarah Leavesley for her generous words and all the hard work. I managed not to cry the poems, but after that speech it was hard to do the next intro.
Thanks to Maggie Doyle who had my camera and captured that magic writer- editor/ publisher moment, gave me a lift and has been there from almost the very beginning. Thanks to Giovanni Spoz Esposito for the extra lift relay, for supporting the launch and for the delivery of my words elsewhere. Hope they serve well.
Thanks to John who enabled me to tick ‘sell your book to a stranger’. Thanks to everyone. Next stop, headlining Stirchley Speaks tomorrow, along with the wonderful Carl Sealeaf, P Cafe 7.30pm. Signed pamphlets will be available, minus the free muffins & wine.
Also thank you to Waterstones Birmingham and Bernard Davis who stepped in to catch everything through his camera lens. I cannot wait to see the shots!
As you can see from this photo – the pamphlet costs £5.50 and makes Christmas shopping REALLY easy.
V.Press have currently got Christmas bundles on SALE. Which means for just £7.50 you can be the owner or giver of two pamphlets.
2016 my first Olympic year milestone. I know generally people have a ‘5 year plan’, but I decided in 2013, when I gave up a full-time career (at a current loss of about £60K – what is money…) and embarked on my creative life instead that I would use the Olympic model. I was inspired by London 2012 and listened to many successful athletes talking about life before the Gold medal. For many this was their 4th (and last) games and winning has an almost entirely invisible to the public trail behind it.
Part of the ethos of the blog is honesty, to share the rejection as well as success, expose the hidden underbelly creatives face daily. The theory behind the Olympics was my imagining but I have learnt in the past 3 years of networking that many of the poets and artists I admire are about 16+ years in. It is entirely possible. I believed it and now I know it is true.
2013 – Learning
In the first year I built a steady foundation. I used to write, was published in anthologies as a young writer and performed into my early 20s. I trained in Creative Writing on a modular writing course facilitated by (famous) professionals, in Leicester and lived a creative life (until I couldn’t afford to eat).
It has been over a decade since I last wrote and the writing world had changed, I was out of practise and out of touch. Workshops and writing classes were an important initial investment. It took me 10 months before I wound my way back to poetry, which although one of the smaller writing markets, has always been my natural home. I can write, but I am a poet.
I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, Spring and Summer and the official NaNoWriMo in November. I spent the words on a Non-Fiction manuscript I have been writing (mainly in my head) on and off for the past 13 years. It was the last thing I worked on in 2002, the year my writing stopped. I blew the dust off and picked it up again this year in Nano. I also worked on some short stories.
My main focus was to establish this blog and I spent hours typing away thinking ‘what if I actually used this time to write?’ I have no regrets though, this is an award winning, well established blog with lots of traffic and steadily increasing statistics.
My first public performance was in Leamington at Julie Boden’s Spoken Word night, where I met Dave Reeves. Within 2 weeks of finding myself back in the heart of poetry I met the local poetry scene and volunteered to work for Writing West Midlands. I performed at Birmingham Book to the Future Festival, in Stratford-Upon-Avon at an Emma Press Book Launch and Worcester.
I submitted some prose work and had a poem published.
I established INKSPILL – an annual virtual writing retreat. It was important to keep it FREE, catering for all those people who want and need it, but cannot afford it. In future years this may change, but now in its 4th year it is still FREE and accessible to anyone, although I do encourage a FOLLOW to the blog as a thank you. The initial idea came from an email I received about Iyanla_Vanzant’s Wonder Woman Weekend, which I couldn’t attend as I couldn’t afford to get to America.
I went to the Birmingham Literature Festival and Book to the Future Festival.
2014 – Performing
After returning to performing poetry at the tail-end of 2013, 2014 became my touring year. Whatever I earn from writing will just about cover my 2014 fuel bill!
I became an Assistant Writer for Writing West Midlands and performed in over 107 places, I started taking bookings as a Headline performer. I also worked on commissioned projects, some for established festivals. I realised that as an artist, I enjoy doing unusual things with my writing and sought opportunities to do more than perform and write words.
I sent a pamphlet out and got rejected. Unlike 2013, where my focus was learning, this year was performing. I was writing lots and submitted a lot more work, with a clearer recording system. I had many individual poems placed and published and enjoyed celebrating the successful year in an event called ‘One Year a Poet’. 6 poems appeared in 3 anthologies, 2 poems were published in magazines, 4 poems published online. I had a poem on the Poetry Fence at Acton Scott Farm, another on the Wenlock Poetry Trail, Wenlock Poetry Festival 2014, 21 Haikus were used in an installation at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), another was displayed in a local library by an Arts Network. That’s 36 poems out there in the real world. In August I decided, incredibly last minute to submit my pamphlet to V. Press. My hesitation was having to deal with rejection again.
Performance highlights include; performing in Worcester LitFest alongside Adrian Mealing for the first part of Jonny FluffyPunk’s show. My moustache poem had been written with him in mind, so it was great to perform it in front of him.
The moustache poem was part of a set with other work being collaborative between myself and Tim Scarborough. This duo experience was sadly short lived, as he fell in love and focussed on his drumming business. But if we have time in the future, it is not a closed door.
I opened the Arts All Over the Place Festival, in support of Mental Health. A cause close to my heart as it was through suffering depression that I made my life changes and found myself picking up my pen again.
I performed at Worcester Music Festival.
I did some 1 to 1 Mentoring for Writing West Midlands and promoted Daniel Sluman’s second collection ‘the terrible’ (Nine Arches Press). I reviewed this poetry book, loving hand made and a joy to read, for Sarah Hymas.
INKSPILL included Guest Writers; William Gallagher, Charlie Jordan & Heather Wastie.
I went to Wenlock Poetry Festival, Worcester LitFest, Birmingham Literature Festival, Stratford Literature Festival, Arts All Over the Place, Book to the Future, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Worcester Music Festival.
Who could forget this was the year of 52. A poetry year created by Jo Bell, with weekly prompts and over 500 people taking part. An incredible project to be part of. I am so glad that Jo Bell invited me to take part. I also told several local poets about it and they have since had great success from work produced during this time, as well as forming friendships with many poets across the UK and beyond.
My poetry pamphlet was accepted by V. Press, which has to be my biggest achievement so far. 14 months after embarking back on my poetry path, I had the opportunity to publish my first book.
V. Press have worked hard in creating a strong debut pamphlet and I had my first experience of professional editing, lots of changes were made to the content before the editing process could begin. I dreamed that my pamphlet would be published in 2015 alongside, Jacqui Rowe, David O’Hanlon and Claire Walker. This was not to be and although I found this difficult and even harder to see each book since, I know that my own pamphlet needed time to germinate.
11 poems were published online, 4 poems were published in anthologies and 3 poems were published in poetry magazines. I mainly worked on my manuscript poetry. I had one short prose piece published too. 18 pieces of work flying around in the real world and a pamphlet in the pipeline.
I continued to get bookings as a Headline/Guest Poet, including Cheltenham and Shrewsbury, performed in London for the first time at HARK Magazine launch, performed at Charity Fundraisers, entered Worcestershire Poet Laureate and was a runner up, became a Lead Writer for Writing West Midlands, took part in Caldmore Community Garden Poetry workshops with David Calcutt (Poet in Residence), was booked as one of ten poets for the Quiet Compere Tour, Midlands leg (Sarah Dixon), went back to London to perform at The Poetry Café for the Paper Swans Press launch of Schooldays anthology, commissioned for National Poetry Day Light and Shade event and took part in my first Poetry Brothel event, organised by Caged Arts for Halloween and performed at Waterstones.
INKSPILL had guest writers; Daniel Sluman, David Calcutt and Alison May.
I went to Wenlock Poetry Festival, Worcester LitFest, Birmingham Literature Festival, Stratford Literature Festival, Walsall Festival, Arts All Over the Place, Poetry Festival Swindon, Book to the Future, Ledbury Poetry Festival.
2016 – The 1st Games – Writing & Editing
This year’s story cannot be written yet, but I am still Headlining and have finally finished the pamphlet. It is to be published by V. Press, date yet to be announced.
I am delighted to mark the Olympic year with something so massive!
I am currently organising INKSPILL, guest writers will be announced in the Autumn and I am incredibly excited.
Festivals have taken a backseat this year, so have performances as I tied myself to the desk to finish writing and editing.
Submissions started well – since April I have not submitted anything as I have been attached to the manuscript and at times attempting to detach myself enough to see what is for the best. I am neglecting the end of July’s submission window as I want to focus on the current project. ‘Operation pamphlet’. Contracts have been signed and it is beginning to become real.
4 poems published online, 5 published in poetry magazines, 3 poems published in 2 e-books, 1 poem in a chapbook and 5 poems in 2 anthologies and the pamphlet soon. 20 – 40 poems flying around in the world. A grand total of 95 poems. I know I can smash 100 before the end of this 4 year marker. I don’t hold a number as a target. I just write and keep my eye out and when something takes my fancy I aim and fire. I have a long list of rejections as well. Learning what publications, journals and editors want and like is an ongoing process and involves reading and subscribing and supporting the poetry market. It is fun and I look forward to more training and success.
February has been an amazing month. I love writing in the start of a fresh year, seems that all possibilities are achievable and the cold air is enough to keep me chained happily to my desk/dining room table.
I continued to write new material and submit work this month, although I did overload my Action Plan and found it quite unmanageable. A lesson to take forward now into March. There were a few opportunities I didn’t feel ready for that I hope will come up again next year and will fit in more with what I hope to be doing by then. It is hard to make such decisions but I have learnt that it is important to objectify and consider what you can gain and what will be the challenge in choosing that path at this moment in time. It is wisdom that comes with growing older for me as I have always taught myself to say YES, YES, YES!
This month I have headlined, performed poetry sets, done open mics, written new material, researched, edited, submitted and been published. I have run the full writing gauntlet and occasionally felt the pummel sticks.
It was also Sammy’s funeral, I have written about this at the end of the review.
Daniel Sluman Book Launch
Emma Purshouse/ Open Mic
WWM Young Writer Group
National Libraries Day – Liz Berry
I sent a poem to Emma Press for approval for the Waterstones Love Poetry Night, supported WWM promoting the Worcester Writing Group.
Headlined Stirchley Speaks at the P Café along with the wonderful Mark Kilburn and Alisha Kadir. Booked onto a workshop.
Went to Daniel Sluman’s Book Launch for ‘the terrible’ and finally met him and Emily in person. I had a superb evening and was able to enjoy the words of Angela France and David Clarke, two poets I admire greatly, all published by Nine Arches.
After the book launch I hotfooted it back across to the Black Country to catch Emma Purshouse in action at PTS Permission to Speak, although I arrived in the interval the 2nd half was long and jam packed full so it was worth the extra miles to get there and I did get to watch Emma – it has been too long. It was good to be back in Scary Canary as it has been a while since I have been able to attend Robert’s night due to double booked dates.
My three romance poems written in January especially for a brief of how we love in the 21st Century were all accepted for publication by New Ulster.
My two Spider poems written for the Maligned Species Project were published in e-book form. You can buy your own copy £2.99 Spiders E-book Fair Acre Press money raised goes to local wildlife charities as stated on the Fair Acre Press website.
My Writing West Midlands Young Writer group worked on our book focusing on an alternate history (AH). It was a great session, we hope to have the work finished by late Spring. The group has grown recently but we still need to secure new membership – 12 to 16 year olds if you know of any in the area looking for fun creative writing/hobby.
I just had time to get home and eat before rushing back out to celebrate National Libraries Day with an evening of poetry from Liz Berry, which was wonderful. Her work fills me with spirit or the spirit of her work, the essence leaves me within a cradle of positivity, I just feel younger afterwards and full of that hope, that a younger me felt.
I spent the last day of the week writing and creating my overly ambitious action plan.
I heard last month that Fair Acre Press had taken both my spider poems for publication in the maligned species e-book series, this week they released the Grey Squirrel E-book with another of my poems included. Squirrel E-book £2.99 You can buy a copy here, the price point is to keep it affordable for all, the content of each collection is outstanding, it truly is a bargain and you are making a charitable donation at the same time.
Nadia Kingsley and all her commissioned poets and eco-experts have worked tirelessly for months on this project and it would be great if the response for the e-books was as strong.
I submitted a poem to Visual Verse based on the American Gothic and from writing this poem built up a body of research I would like to explore further when I have finished working on current projects.
I booked a place to perform at the Feminist Fundraiser to raise money for Refugee Action.
I went to Sammy’s funeral. Later that evening a few of us went to HOWL at the Dark Horse in Moseley, we were still pretty much propping each other up but I think Sammy would have approved. I performed my valentine poem, the one about the volcano and the whales.
I missed the final SpeakEasy with Maggie and Fergus at the helm because I was one of 10 performers sharing the stage before Liz Berry took us through her heart-warming set of love poetry and more. It was great to perform at Waterstone’s in Birmingham and to meet new to me poets too, not to mention listen to Richard O’Brien read from his pamphlets and Liz Berry of course. Phenomenal as always.
The next day, inspired I sat down at my desk after work and researched and wrote new poetry. Now with the submission fairies.
I am amazed that I survived these two weeks as well as I did as I was also working full time for the first time in years too. At the end of the 2nd week it was also Mr G’s birthday and Valentine’s, so I had to schedule collapsing for Monday!
I did a lot of desk work (writing) as it was Half Term. I have been working on and editing my manuscript (that was left to settle with time at the end of 2015) since January and this week my main focus was to pull it together and resubmit. This is a long process and not only takes time but the brain needs to be fully immersed and engaged too. I tend to be a little flighty at the best of times, so I really forced myself to settle down with tasks and deadlines. I even cancelled a workshop because I needed the time, that and I didn’t feel 100% and the thought of driving and thinking about something else was not appealing.
I booked a spot at The Black Country Museum next month where I will be part of a PTS showcase sharing work at Dave Reeves open mic night, featuring Jan Watts.
I finally made it to a Crunch Workshop at the P Café and came away with one or two ideas I need to log. The traffic and weather were awful though, so it put me off venturing out again for Poetry For Lunch, besides I am still trying my best not to over-do it on the gigging front.
I saved my energy for Millie Morris and her Fundraising event for Refugee Action at the Ort Café, a night of Feminist Poetry (not everyone stuck to the theme) but when the soapboxes came out the crowd responded appropriately. Lots of difficult subjects were covered and many people had to stand the whole night (venue was packed), it was a buzzing night and a successful fundraiser too. It was very brave and inspired for Millie to host such an event and it was rocket fuel for minds and hearts, everyone got something back in return for turning up, being there.
I was back to work this week and it also my younger brother’s birthday. I had my poem ‘Restraint’ published on Visual Verse.
I researched the Valentine Day Massacre, another notebook filled with promising poetry ideas for the future, although beyond macabre. I was writing the poems to perform at 42, there were a few of us who took the theme literally.
I did battle with the end of my action plan – which was so complicated I copy and pasted a new end of the month list. I submitted some poetry and wrote a new poem in my lunch hour to take to Stanza.
I had the lovely surprise of post that wasn’t bills but my contributor copy of the gorgeous Abridged Floodland issue magazine.
The weekend saw me make a few last minute submissions and thereby avoiding all household lists of things I need to do, (now added to the March plan)!
And on the extra leap year day, I did not propose to Mr G, to be honest I forgot I could until we were chopping up veg for our amazing tea. I didn’t write a new poem. I worked hard and kept my temper around youngsters who were losing theirs, I marked books and smiled impressed by some of the detail. I drove home through road works, caught up with some telly. Prepped that meal that Mr G made and caught up with this blog.
Sadly, February also saw our goodbyes to Sammy Joe (Samantha Hunt), her funeral was on the 10th February.
A day of reflection and tears, helium hearts and balloons released to clouds as people from all walks of life (friends) and family laid her to rest. Sammy kept all her circles separate but a good deal of cross over occurs. I knew it would be a sad day (total understatement – as I still can’t really find the words) but I hadn’t prepared myself for how I would feel afterwards.
There is not a day that passes without me thinking about her. Sometimes not thinking, but I see her face right there even as my mind focuses on a computer screen or making the dinner.
The day of the funeral the weather had been forecast as rainy, overcast. Usual for the time of year. The sun shone, brightly and despite some darkening clouds not much rain fell and nothing but sunny skies for the duration of our time at the Crematorium.
To lose a friend at any time of life is horrible, to lose them unexpectedly is even worse and to have mixed feelings about their passing, knowing they should still be here on earth makes it feel unbearable.
When that person belongs to a community it makes it easier because you have each other to reach out and share grief together. So a big thank you to poetry friends (nowadays just called friends, I think) who have carried me through this difficult time.
I first found out about this project in September 2015 when it was launched by Nadia Kingsley of Fair Acre Press, I waited patiently for the podcasts and website to develop to get an understanding of what they were after and then… I waited… until my pen was pressed up against the deadline nearly 5 months later. With a last minute push on social media, word spread and the competition was fierce.
With lots of entries to sift through and chose from the e-books were organised to be released in a cannon throughout February. It was certainly exciting waiting for the results and discovering who shared the virtual pages.
What a strange start to the year, so much change and loss. I do not feel that I can write a review of this month without a mention of Sammy Joe, who sadly passed away on the 5th January. Events that I attend weeks later are still making tributes to her and many of us still cannot believe that she has gone. Her funeral is early February and a donation page has been set up to raise money for Mental Health Charities.
Many of us (artists and non-artists) suffer mental health issues from time to time or all the time, it is the nature of using our minds, the depths a creative soul can rise and fall. Anyway instead of flowers some of us are pledging a donation in the hope that other people can experience a better kind of care and understanding.
I for one find it difficult to imagine not seeing Sammy at an event again, my thoughts are still very much with her family and close ones, her daughter and everyone who has known her. Whether you knew her for a few years or more, she will have touched your life in some way either through her brutally honest poetry or through conversation or her cuddly hugs. I wish I had known her for longer than I have, I feel good to have known her and thank her for all our heart to hearts.
This month also saw the end of Mouth & Music for a while, back in 6 months time hopefully.
SpeakEasy will still continue as it is part of the Worcester LitFest but after two years at the helm Maggie Doyle & Fergus McGonigal are retiring from organising and MCing the event, the last chance to catch them hosting will be next month.
JANUARY – BACK TO WRITING
For me January was the month I learnt to swim again *not literally. The end of 2015 from November onwards saw a slow decline in productivity, I found I was unable to write, by December I was barely trying. I had the weight of other things crowding my mind and the ‘love of writing’ spell broke for a while. This deflated me, as it was the first dip I had felt since embarking back into a writing life. It usually makes me feel great, even during periods of editorial rejection or non-submission, but by the end of 2015 I had ground to a halt. I knew I would pass GO again, just wasn’t sure when. I tried not to worry, but wasn’t happy with the negative projection I was giving writing.
I knew I would still carry on with this dream, but was dreading January becoming another winter month of no writing.
Fortunately the month kicked off a few days in with a Claire Walker Workshop, in which I managed to write a poem and faith was restored. The action plan was drawn up and I organised 4 writing days this month as well as working evenings and weekends to get everything done. There has been a lot of editing too.
I wrote over 21 new poems and submitted work to 9 different places. See I told you I meant business. It still amazes me that organising submissions can still take 3-5 hours even when the material is ready. A few revision lessons in not leaving things to the last minute, have managed that well as everything to be sent by 31/1 was actually out by 3oth! Leaving me a whole day at the end of this month to get ready for February. Yes the Action Plan is already saved.
This is my year of WRITING (I keep telling myself).
2013 the year for (re)learning and finally finding poetry
2014 the year of the gig, festivals and commissioned work
2015 the year of headlining and writing my first chapbook
2016 the year of editing/writing
I have had poetry accepted by I Am Not A Silent Poet, Abridged, Maligned Species Fairacre Press. A total of 5+ poems out there for eyes to read. That’s smashing. I will write more about these publications next month.
Your Sentence of Non-Guilt
Poems for Ashraf Fayadh published in I Am Not a Silent Poet
Expectation – Abridged Floodland Issue
Quantum Wonderment – Fairacre Press, Maligned Species Project Spider E-book
I also discovered the poetry of Patience Agbabi. I went to watch her perform at The Hive. I enjoyed a night at the 52 Launch this evening and will blog about both events next month.
Workshop – with Claire Walker, new poetry written, performed at The Ort, booked Headline slot for February.
Booked tickets for Patience Agbabi & Liz Berry, performed at Mouth & Music & SpeakEasy, went to Poets by the Lake to watch Sarah James, Bert Flitcroft & Roy McFarlane – an event facilitated by David Calcutt, submitted poems, wrote new ones – including some I performed in my set at SpeakEasy, Daniel Sluman invited me to his book launch in February.
Wrote and submitted more poetry, published on I Am Not A Silent Poet, thanks Reuben Woolley, I read a lot about Ashraf Fayadh and watched other poets and politicians performing his work, there was an online event on the 22nd in support of his release but I was working my day job and unable to participate. I received a nice rejection email from Little Lantern Press, I had sent work for the next anthology on Loss back in 2015. I started to research modern love and wrote a poem about pearly presents which I took to Stanza.
I did a lot of research for the Maligned Species Project which was released by Fairacre Press back in the Autumn and naturally I left it until the last week to work on submissions. It is a really interesting project which again I will blog about in more detail, I have had 2 poems accepted for the spider e-book. I am delighted to have a poem published in the next issue of Abridged too, I was accepted 3x on Friday night – that was a buzz and shows what an activated action plan can achieve!
I am still working on my manuscript and have by-passed 2 self imposed deadlines. I know the editor would rather have a manuscript that is ready though, especially after all this time. It has been on the top of the desk this week and I am part way through.
I was sent an email which made my day/year – someone on twitter had tweeted that in the whole of Paper Swans Press ‘Schooldays’ Anthology the end line of my poem was their favourite line in the WHOLE book! I have read it (RECOMMEND) and know how good the poetry is!
I made more submissions and received another rejection from a magazine I have tried to break since 2015 – does one give up or keep going?
I watched Patience Agbabi perform at The Hive – wow – wowed!
I signed up for a Warwick University course Literature & Mental Health – which starts in February. I started using my Kindle Fire *Thank you Mr G – Christmas pressie!*
I have just come back from the launch of the 52 Prompt book at the MAC, more on this soon.