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I’m a nominee!

Try saying that after a glass of giggle juice…

I’m delighted to announce that my debut pamphlet Lost & Found has been nominated for the prestigious Michael Marks awards and submitted to the Poetry Book Society. The third poem in the sequence, ‘Social Distancing’ has also been put forward for the Pushcart Prize.

I’m grateful to Hedgehog Editor Mark Davidson for holding these poems in high regard and putting them out into the world. I’m heartily proud of this pamphlet, just for being born!

If you would like to order a copy of Lost & Found, visit my shop to buy an Ebook download (£2.99) or a deluxe first edition pamphlet with end papers (signed or annotated, if you wish). For a limited time, you can also enter any competition from Hedgehog Poetry Press with a purchase of the hard copy for FREE. So it could be YOUR collection on the shelf next year!

Many thanks to all who have purchased a copy of my pamphlet and supported me along the way. I’m extremely grateful x

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and tonight, your host will be… me?

I’ve attended my fair share of live events, open mics, slams and zoom poetry sessions, so imagine my glee when the fabulous and hugely talented Claire Dyer approached fellow poet Zannah Kearns and I to host Reading’s Poet’s Cafe? Of course, we jumped at the chance to be involved – it’s a fantastic event, always promising a diverse and rich array of voices. September’s night featured Angela France with her remarkable presentation to accompany readings from The Hill. We had a blast – overcame technological issues (thanks to the good grace of Angela), and managed to host a wonderful event with almost forty poets attending from as far as Canada, California and (ahem) Caversham.

So what next? We are delighted to be hosting Reading Poetry Jam – a wonderful evening featuring five dazzling poets to celebrate National Poetry Day 2020, and this year’s theme is Vision. Tickets are now on sale, with all funds raised going to support South Street Arts Centre in Reading. What a wonderful thing to be a part of on so many levels. But what’s really important to me is this opportunity to help bring together an event which shows poetry to be what is should be: accessible, entertaining, relatable, clever, diverse and inclusive. I really can’t wait to see such a promising collective of poets perform together for the first time – well – ever!

I am filled with gratitude to find myself in the position of hosting this kind of event – it reminds me how much I believe in the power of ‘the right words in the right order’ (thank you, Coleridge) to reignite a glow in the hearts and souls of those who wish to hear.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

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something exciting…

I have a grand (and very prickly) announcement to make, in that my debut pamphlet will be published by the wonderful Hedgehog Poetry Press later this year.

An amusing tale, the poems featured in this mini collection didn’t ‘fit’ into the main pamphlet I’ve been working on for a while, but when I put all the offcuts together, they told their own story.

As luck would have it, Mark Davidson (Hedgehog’s Editor) was publicising a competition for a short collection based around the idea of ‘a time to think’. Ironically, I didn’t really think there was much chance of attracting any attention, but a phrase keeps bouncing around my head of late – ‘in it to win it’… and so off I sent my little series of poems, expecting them to arrive back very soon with tales of their adventures, who they’d met and so on.

But – unbelievably so – it would seem they have found themselves a home! Yes, ‘Lost & Found’ will be made into a proper book, with an ISBN and everything(!) due to hit the doormats of those interested in October/November – which makes me feel extremely happy indeed.

Affirmation in a time of doubt, realisation that the dream could actually be a reality, the prospect that somebody somewhere might want to own some of my poems – all this equates to a big slice of YESSS which I will forever cherish.

Thanks goes to Mark, for such a wonderful opportunity. And if you’re reading this – to you too, for your support.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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I am officially a lover

What nicer news to receive on an idle Sunday than that you’ve been shortlisted for a poetry competition, only to then to be announced the winner.

This is a double joy for me – not only has the win picked me up and slapped me about the face a bit in the self belief department, it also means that my poem written for long-suffering husband gets an airing. So there, I AM romantic – let it be known!

This competition, the 2nd Annual Cupid’s Arrow Love Poetry Competition, really got me thinking about who we love, what we love about them – or perhaps just the little things we love about the everyday. This brought me back to one of our most successful Inkpot exercises: to list 99 things you love.

It’s that simple, and writing down all those things that make your everyday special has a profound effect on all who try it. There’s no need for poetics at this point, just a list. You will probably find some writing emerges in the process of the activity, but if it doesn’t, no matter – I can assure you, it won’t be wasted effort, as I’m lucky enough to have found.

Not only am I grateful for the kindness and generosity of Hedgehog Press Editor Mark Davidson, for the recognition at a time of self-doubt, but also for focusing the minds of all who entered on the positives in life, and showing appreciation for those we love. Hurrah, indeed.

For more info: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/2020/08/02/the-2nd-annual-cupids-arrow-competition-results/

Photo by KS KYUNG on Unsplash

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Poetry of the mundane

I was delighted to appear on BBC Berkshire recently as part of their Upload festival, reading my poem ‘Picking up my son before the Easter Holidays’.

It’s tongue in cheek, but not all of the poems I write about domesticity and family life are poking fun. The presenter asked me what I find interesting about the mundane things of being a stay-at-home-sort and in truth, I find SO much meaning and inspiration in the little trivialities of life – the fridge (see previous post), the bodged haircut, the melted Easter egg. As the old adage goes, it’s what you do with it that counts…

‘Picking up my son before the Easter Holidays’
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What are ‘Normal People’?

How apt, to have polished off Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ in a day of self-isolation.

How, indeed, do ‘normal people’ function in times like these? Do they shut off, in blissful ignorance of what’s going on around them, or do they sit at home in a sense of panic, washing their hands until they bleed?

I’m painfully aware that behind millions of doors, there are people alone and terrified. Whether they have cause to be, or not. There are millions more putting on a brave face, because they have no choice but to ‘get on with it’ – their ‘it’ being emptying hospital bins, delivering vital supplies or at the coalface of the checkout in Tesco.

Sally Rooney’s two protagonists are damaged, lonely and putting on a front in their own distinct ways. Their recognition of each other and of what it’s like to live in a state of permanent isolation, is what unites them and repeatedly tears them apart.

Central characters, Marianne and Connell, are both ashamed of their strange behaviours, their warped thoughts. Marianne, at one point ponders whether she has gone to far, is too obscene for anyone to love. The novel deals with what it is to spend your life worrying about what others think, to the detriment of your own happiness and of being yourself – truly, openly and honestly.

I think most of us can identify with the sentiments echoed there. Which is maybe why Rooney’s book has been so well received. And in the face of scary, strange times, where human behaviour and circumstance doesn’t resemble anything like normal life, it’s important to realise that whatever fears and worries you’re dealing with – be it a haunted past, an anxious future or worries for the here and now, you aren’t alone.

If there’s comfort to be had, it’s that there are no such thing as ‘normal people’. As a society we should stop punishing ourselves for consistently failing to live up to something that doesn’t exist and realise that, in more ways than one, we really are all in this together.

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Love me, love my poetry

I’m not entirely sure my husband thought about what he was getting himself into when he encouraged my love of poetry. But he certainly understands now, as my official muse (thanks to the Basingstoke Gazette) for a recent poem about living in lockdown with a significant other.

‘Married in Isolation’ started off as a bit of fun written somewhere around 2am during a period of lockdown-induced insomnia. But as I started writing my Pam Ayres-inspired whinge about adjusting to being in each other’s presence around the clock, I soon realised that the poem had to work its way towards a conclusion which had sincereity at its heart.

The main message was clear – if the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s understanding perspective. And so the poem works its own way through a number of different emotions, which has been a theme with which most viewers have been able to relate.

You can read the full article, and see just how used and abused my other half is, here.

Blog, Inkpot Writers Club

Inkpotters zoom!

Most Inkpot members would agree that our little group, which meets in a pub once a month, offers more than just creative writing. It’s an outlet, a safe space in which to express ourselves in confidence – to seek guidance, advice and more often, encouragement (and not just in our writing.)

So, when our group disbanded last month, we turned to ‘Zoom’ and had our second successful virtual meet last night.  It’s tricky to master, with plenty of stopping and starting, time-delay issues and people dropping off and dropping back in (plus refills of tea, wine and chocolate – oh yes!), but we did manage to share some pretty remarkable stuff.

Our homework included making a collage of words and phrases you find around your house. Two members created stunning pieces (one entirely from an issue of Top Gear and a glue gun). Another locked herself in her toilet (home-schooling drives you to it) and amused herself finding contradictions on labels of bathroom products. One lady metaphorically pulled apart common brand names and created characters in an operatic tale.

The second exercise was entitled ‘unpacking’. A teacher wrote about the bag full of marking gremlins which load him down as he arrives home in gale force winds (nice use of pathetic fallacy there). Others wrote of their fears about frozen food defrosting, social dilemmas, family issues – or just stuff

One member came to the group with a beautiful captured moment spent listening to a story with her young family in the garden, which is for the first time still and peaceful, owing to the reduction of traffic in the road which runs alongside them. The poem is gorgeous and lingered with me long after we’d finished up.

It was such a treat to enjoy so much creativity and be allowed just a glimpse into what matters to each of our members. I woke up feeling refreshed, invigorated, excited even – about possibilities, silver linings and how privileged I am to have this little pocket of escapism which I can delve into whenever the mood strikes.

For more information about Inkpot or starting a creative writing group in your area, do get in touch.

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Writing erotic literature

What better time to pen an erotic novel than during a global pandemic? Sounds tasteless when I put it like that. But if there’s ever an occasion where a need for escapism and distraction is imperative to one’s sanity, this might well be it.

Having had my third baby, I decided that aside from all the usual stuff mums do, I fancied some kind of challenge to occupy my brain in a healthy way. Prose has never been my forte – I’ve had a short story published (you can buy the excellent book in which is was included here (Write Short Stories and Get Them Published by Zoe Fairbarns) but other than that, I’ve never had much confidence with lengthy lit.

So, a novel it would be. But I panned all ideas for more serious war-torn love stories in favour of one of my favourite genres (which I refuse to call a guilty pleasure) and write my own work of erotic fiction.

Mills and Boon are the kingpin publishing house here and they offer lots of very strict guidance which I found helpful in pinning me down – ahem.

My target: 50,000 words

My deadline: yeah! [chuckles]

My story: landscape gardener and scorned beauty falls for millionaire Italian lothario. Except (and here’s the cunning bit) all is not as it seems (not actually cunning at all).

I had a lot of laughs at myself, but I REALLY got into it, and even started believing in my characters. I nibbled away at it, bit by bit, sticking to the allotted wordcount for each designated chapter, until I reached the target wordcount which fell neatly in line with the conclusion to my story. I then printed it (quite a tome, as it turns out – actually needed bulldog clips instead of staples) and put it in a drawer for a month. I then went back to edit. And far from being embarrassed and cringing at my own writing, I was actually pretty proud of what I created. I still am.

So I sent it to M&B, just for the rejection slip which I could frame and put in my downstairs loo. But what followed came an extremely polite email full of specific guidance, which I DID NOT expect. I agreed whole-heartedly with all the nice editor lady said, I made some notes and then I put it back in its drawer.

I plan to revisit my project at some point in the future. I don’t plan to hide it from my children, as filthy as it is in some places. I think they might get over any initial embarrassment to think it was quite cool that their mum decided to set a rather naughty goal and clearly have some fun in the process. Am I deluded? Probably.

But the point here is that I learned something from this:

  1. It’s good to set yourself a challenge
  2. It’s important to believe in what you are doing, even if you have trouble taking yourself seriously
  3. You don’t have to be the best at what you’re doing to enjoy the process
  4. Having fun is more important than anything
  5. Reading/writing erotic literature is something we shouldn’t be coy about. Forget ‘Fifty Shades’ (although cudos for getting the world to take notice), have a dabble with ‘The Story of O’ for something that’ll actually make you really sit up and listen. ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ (every teenager girl should know all about Ralph before they venture into the real world). There’s loads of brilliant literature in this genre, so have a dabble. Why not try writing your own scene? You can burn it after if you want to, but you might just find you surprise yourself during the creative process.

Now, go and wash your hands 🙂