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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.


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 🙂