Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Reading, working with friends

Thursday evening last week, and a chance to read poetry with poetry buddy Caroline Davies at a rather terrific event in Bedford, called Ouse Muse. Organised by poet Ian McEwen, this friendly, well-supported event also is a chance for local poets to take one of the open mike slots available - and it was great to hear such a range of work. Poetry really is alive and kicking in Bedford!
Staying overnight with Caroline, in Wing, about an hour away - such an historic place - and spent a couple of hours the next morning running a creative workshop for members of her writing group who meet in the village library.
     I love this side of the writing life - sharing readings, sharing tips, giving permission to other writers to open up and enjoy their gifts.

The next event planned is this:

Niyati Keni is a terrific writer - her debut novel Esperanza Street (Andotherstories) is a beautiful, poignant exploration of a community in danger, in the Philippines. I know, I endorsed it! It is being launched in Brighton at a triple writer event also celebrating those works of art that inspired three novels - Esperanza Street,  my Coward's Tale, and Suzanne Joinson's 'A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar'. Look forward to this one very much!
It is free entry, with a cash bar - so if you are in Brighton - come along and say hello.

Friday, 2 January 2015

2014 round up, with special mentions.

From March onwards, 2014 was always going to be on the slow side writing-wise thanks to The Other Half becoming a High Sheriff - a great honour, but something which was going to impinge on our lives for a twelvemonth.  

Poetry seems to have taken a front seat, no matter how much I tried to ask it to move the back of the room.  Here then, a month by month look at the "quiet" year that was 2014...


  • Poem ‘Cenotaph’ up on Matter Press Journal of Compressed Arts: http://matterpress.com/journal/2014/02/03/cenotaph/#more-2952
  • Gladstone’s Library: my own writing for a whole ten days!
    I managed to 'finish' the second novel in a final blast of creative energy. It was great fun to research and write, and a brilliant challenge, while it lasted. However, ‘Kit’ is staying put for the moment - it’s not quite there.  
  • Oxted Book Festival, reading with Dan Powell, Alison Macleod and Tom Vowler. Nattering over tea.

  • Winner, Sussex Poetry competition http://www.bh-arts.org.uk/2013-sussex-poets-competition
  • A commission, together with a group of poets, to use a Royal Academy exhibition as inspiration, write and then perform a poem at The RA. The exhibition, Sensing Spaces, was a collection of monumental installations in all the exhibition spaces, created by eminent architects from all over the world. The challenge was to respond to one, some or all of these in whatever way we wished.  The brainchild of novelist, poet, actor and academic Emer Gillespie, and poets Catherine Smith and Abegail Morley - a team called Ekphrasis. This was a marvellous opportunity, one that came to life on the performance night - as we all interacted with the visitors, performing our poems in situ. The event was filmed, and a booklet was published - it really was the most extraordinary thing to do for a first poetry commission. Follow that, as they say. See here for the Royal Academy blog writeup: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/wandering-words
  • Interviewed by Bath Short Story Award : http://bathshortstoryaward.co.uk/interview/

Don't know what happened in April...

  • London Short Story Festival, a terrific series of events organised on behalf of London’s Spread the Word by Paul McVeigh.
    I ran a series of fun freebie writing thingummies in the basement of Waterstones Piccadilly and chairing a panel discussion: getting secrets out of publishers and agents...
  • Runner up in Adlestrop Poetry comp
  • Poems accepted by Onslaught Press for ‘Poems for Gaza’ publication
  • Gave a masterclass on character at Waterstones Piccadilly, and read ‘Dodie’s Gift’ for The Word Factory, alongside Carys Bray and Val McDiarmid. 

  • The Thirteenth International Conference on the Short Story in English, held for the first time in Vienna. I attended thanks to marvellous invitations to teach, to read, and to participate in a panel discussion.  To go to writerly receptions and readings hosted by the US Cultural centre, the Irish ambassador, the Canadian Australian and Austrian embassies.
    And what a joy it was to be with friends, to meet many new ones, and to spend the best part of the week immersed in talks, readings and discussions about one of the best forms of fiction.
    There was also a stonking great anthology!
    Thank you, thank you for an unforgettable week to Sylvia Petter.

  • Adlestrop poetry comp organisers to publish an anthology.
  • ‘Poems for Gaza’ poetry book published by Onslaught Press

  • Gladfest! Ran a workshop on running a writing group, and interviewed the marvellous Sarah Perry (above)  about her debut novel “After me comes the flood”. 
  • Judged Cinnamon Press’s short story competition
  • ‘Ed’s Wife and Other Creatures’ accepted for publication by Liquorice Fish, a new imprint  from Cinnamon. 
  • Joined the Board of Trustees of New Writing South 

  • 2-6 - Writers’ Pals trip to the Somme and Ypres, guided by the redoubtable Jeremy Banning. Two days on the Somme, one day visiting Loos and the Boar’s Head among others, and two days in and around Ypres. 
  • 9-17 - Poetry Masterclass week with Bernard O’Donoghue at Anam Cara. 

  • A prose poem ‘Ocean to Drop’ is published on Visual Verse http://visualverse.org/submissions/ocean-drop/
  • A poem “Stages of Remembrance” is published in the lovely print magazine Confingo, and read at their launch.
  • 11th: a great salon event at Brighton University, invited by writer-in-residence Clare Best, debating and mulling on the subject of Remembrance, Resistance and Writing, together with Neil Bartlett, followed by a smashing supper with all the creative writing staff - so good to catch up. 
  • 15th- a visit to Bristol for a special WW1 event, and the launch of  a very special project, a series of beautifully produced postcards - the culmination of a collaboration between two friends, battlefield guide and military historian Jeremy Banning and writer Tania Hershman. http://www.bristol2014.com/arts-projects/jeremy-banning-and-tania-hershman.html#.VKaIAVrKYzU
  • 19th” a lovely poetry event - a very impromptu last-minute arrangement, thanks to Sasha Dugdale, a poets’ walk from various points to the Chattri, the Indian memorial on the Downs above Brighton.
    Modern Poetry in Translation was focussing on the poetry of WW1 - and Punjabi Poet Amarjit Chandan was the guest of honour. He read a eulogy to the departed, and his translations of Punjabi songs written by those women whose men left to fight for us in the Great War.  Readings and soup!
  • 19th: Dinner at Nat Liberal Club to celebrate the winners of the 2015 Gladstone’s Library Residencies.
  • 20th: the launch of ‘Letters to the Unknown Soldier at the RCA, edited by Kate Pullinger and Neil Bartlett- such a good event - as many of the 120 writers as could make it - including several youngsters and their parents. My highlight was hearing a letter read out by Andrew Motion - to discover the writer was a besuited young lad aged about 10, knee high to the proverbial, parents proud as anything.  
  • 20th: The biggest surprise - The Half-life of Fathers was  reviewed, and included ‘among  ‘the best pamphlets of 2014’ by the TLS. 
  • 22: Fab workshop from The Word Factory at Waterstones’ Piccadilly by the unparalleled David Vann

  • Poem ‘Timeline’ accepted for publication by the print publication Acumen, in January.
  • Two poems accepted for Poems for a Liminal Age anthology (Sentinel, 2015).

One of the joys of this writing stuff is being in the company of others on the same but different journey. (They will know what I mean!)

2014 special mentions:

Andrew Marshall, hugely valued writing buddy, whose career spans so many facets. And Gail Louw, playwright extraordinaire and member of the same writing group - whose plays are now hitting the stage all over the place - UK, South Africa, USA. Amazing people both. 

Poetry buddy Caroline Davies, whose steady incisive feedback has been so valuable too, and with whom I’ve had such fun and interesting times this year, tracking down war memorials, among other things.

Sarah Hilary, the hardest working, most tenacious writer, whose debut thriller, “Someone Else’s Skin” has just been an amazing star, and it’s going to be on telly and everything! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Someone-Elses-Skin-Marnie-Rome/dp/1472207688 Sarah visited the blog here:

Sarah Perry, whose debut “After me comes the Flood” from Serpent's Tail is simply wonderful, storywise and writingwise. I was so glad to endorse it with a cover quote and then to interview her at Gladfest this year.  (see above) http://www.amazon.co.uk/After-Comes-Flood-Sarah-Perry/dp/1846689457

Sylvia Petter, the whizziest person I know,  and a fantastic writer, who organised the Thirteenth Conference on the Short Story (see July) with such aplomb, and whose company is absolutely magical, a stream of endless interest. 

Tania Hershman and her co-writer Courttia Newland,  whose terrific text book on writing the short story has just been published by Bloomsbury -http://bloomsbury.com/uk/writing-short-stories-9781408130803/

Sue Guiney, whose writing has led her down very inspirational paths. Her work among the young people of Cambodia is seriously changing lives : www.sueguiney.com . Sue is the founder of Writing Through Cambodia, a program which uses the creative writing of poetry and short stories to develop English fluency, conceptual thinking and self-esteem for Cambodian students and teachers.

Lane Ashfeldt, whose short story collection Saltwater was published this year by Liberties Press. The collection contains  a few prizewinners among its twelve stories and a novella.  Lane runs a rather lovely bookish B and B in Knighton, if anyone enjoys walking, writing, mulling. http://ashfeldt.com/shop/

Sarah Salway, who not only makes me giggle, but who (via Cultured Llama) published the most beautiful book I’ve read this year: Digging up Paradise http://www.amazon.co.uk/Digging-Up-Paradise-Potatoes-England/dp/0992648564

Clare Best and Catherine Smith, who, with the above-mentioned, made up the best company for a nutty foursome weekend writing retreat - and I do hope we do it again! 

That’ll do. 

Here's to a Happy New Year!