17 May 2013
There are a couple of new entries on the Events page. I am representing Cultured Llama on a panel of independent publishers at the University of Kent on 21 May, as well as taking part in an evening of poetry of music on 30 July, during the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Click here to find out more.
I know that many people follow the Chronic Fatigue page on this website. Please look at the latest update on appeal and claim for Employment and Support Allowance: The Kafkaesque World of Reassessment.
26 April 2013
This last month I have been laid low by a relapse of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I missed out on the Poets in the Orchard event, which I had organised; I gave away my ticket for The Staves gig in Ashford. Nothing to be done but rest and wait, take a little exercise when I could, and hand over some tasks to other people. It's hard to think that life goes on, events happen without you, but they do. And things can wait a while. As I was becoming more tired, before I stopped and rested, I committed to giving a talk at the July meeting of the Kent Writing and Wellbeing Network. The theme is to be writing with limited energy. At the last meeting of the network, the speaker, Reinekke Lengelle, asked us to write a question about a dilemma. Mine was 'How can I work in a way that doesn't drain my energy, creativity and my own writing? How can I get help to do this? How can I break the fear that work is going to be as horrible as it was before I got ill?' In writing my own presentation, I am coming to realise that I seldom follow my own advice. I still write until exhausted; I think I am the only one able to do certain tasks: sometimes I don't write at all when I could; I don't always ask for or accept help. It's an all or nothing approach to work, which perhaps led to my illness.
I am hoping to learn through writing my presentation, or to relearn and practise the things I already know. I am referring regularly to Michael Nobbs's blog: Sustainably Creative for tips on how to manage creativity on limited energy. And I have been offered help and support with the presentation by another member of the group, which I shall accept.
Thanks are due to my husband, Bob Carling and a few good friends (hello, Anne-Marie!) who have taken on some of my Cultured Llama tasks and kept me company during my recent relapse.
This post will also be archived on the Chronic Fatigue page.
25 March 2013
I was talking to a new writer the other day who was delighted that she had won another competition with United Press. I hesitated before warning her about them, without using the words vanity press. I said to beware of 'competitions' that have publication as the prize, but you have to buy a copy of the book in which your poem is published. I was caught by them early in my writing career. Like this woman, I was jumping up and down with glee when they sent me a proof page of my poem to approve, along with an order form asking for payment for the book. When the book arrived (and it was not cheap) the print quality was very poor, and it was clear from the content that they accept anything that is sent to them. I had submitted two poems, and a month or so later they sent a proof page for the other poem, which was to be published in another volume, so that they could get double the amount out of me, expecting me to buy another book from them.
I kindly said to the writer I had met, 'Be careful of them; they charge you for the book. You shouldn't have to buy a copy of a book that you're published in.' Particularly if they claim that you have won a competition to be published! These outfits prey on people's desire to see their work in print. Better disappointment now than be sucked in to getting a book of poems 'accepted' by them, and being drawn into paying hundreds of pounds to get it published. They do not market these books; the only people who buy them are the writers and their families. Far better to self-publish using a print on demand, or to enter genuine competitions such as those listed on The Poetry Kit.
The Spring issue of Message in a Bottle poetry e-zine is out now. Two of my poems appear, along with many others. Click here to read 'Death of a Poet' and 'Ladies Changing', and do scroll down the names on the side of the page to read others' work.
There have been some great events this month, the highlight being a reading my husband Bob and I arranged at The Chapel, Broadstairs, which is a bookshop and pub - the perfect combination. A cold, wet and blustery day it was, and the venue, whilst full of metaphorical warmth, was lacking in the physical kind. Still, we huddled together with our fine poems and stories to keep us warm. Andi, our trusty barmaid and helper, said it was the best event she had seen since she had worked there. Poets came from as far afield as Somerset and Swindon - something about the books and beer combo?
My next reading will be at a cherry orchard, in an effort to find the widest variety of settings for reading poetry. It's at Blossom Day on the afternoon of 14 April at Lynsted Community Orchard, Kent, and I shall be joined by Philip Kane, Barry Fentiman and Melanie Benn. Let's hope we have good weather and indeed blossom for the occasion.
15 February 2013
I know that many of my readers have been following my progress with my appeal against being placed in the Work Related Activities Group of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This week, I learned that the DWP has upheld their decision, six months after my appeal was lodged. My appeal has now been forwarded to the independent tribunal service, so another wait for that. Read more on the Chronic Fatigue page.
28 January 2013
The dark days of January are nearly over. We've had a mild spell, snow, and today the rain and wind are wuthering and whistling round the house.
This month, I've been editing a fantastic new poetry collection by Hilda Sheehan, due out in March, and took a week out to work on my own writing. The plan was to retreat to the writing shed every day for a week. I didn't manage every day - illness prevented me; snow most certainly did not - but I reworked some poems, filled many notebook pages with free writing, and read. The reading feeds into the writing, as does taking time to think and stare out the window.
My poem 'Travellers Welcome' and an interview with me by John Mackay are now posted on the Poems/Stories page. These appear by kind permission of 14 Magazine, as both were published in Issue 14, the final issue. It's a saucy postcard of a poem. To read it on the Poems/Stories page click here.
Three new events are coming up in February and March: a Valentine's Day poetry evening with Maggie Harris in Margate; the launch of 'Unexplored Territory' by Philip Kane in Rochester; and an afternoon of 'Unexplored Territory at The Chapel - a bookshop with beer - in Broadstairs. All have live music. Find out more on the Events page by clicking here.
4 January 2013
The first writing week of the year, and I was determined to beat the January slump. Some years, after a break over the festive season, I find it heard to get writing again. So this time I kept writing, slipping down to my writing shed even when we had guests staying. I also decided to make this week one for working on my own writing, rather than editing for Cultured Llama. Consequently, I have produced one finished poem, another poem in draft, wrote and sent off a review of Martina Evans's 'Petrol' to an e-zine, and submitted my story collection 'As Long as it Takes' to a publisher. I have had a rejection from one publisher for the last in the list, two more to hear from. This could take months. It's a waiting game.
Every year I type up a list of my writing achievements and stick it above my desk. This includes publications, readings, workshops and events. It's to remind me that I am not a rubbish writer when the writing isn't going well. 2012's list included rewriting Graham Gouldman's biog for his website. Yes, that's him of 10CC fame. My nephew hosts his website, and I pointed out that the biog on there was rather badly written (not written by Mr G or my nephew, I hasten to add). Graham Gouldman agreed that I could edit it, and you can read it here. Not all my words, but in a better order than they were before!
My last publication of the year was a reader's review in The Guardian's Your Books of the Year. It's the third year that they have printed my review, so I was especially pleased. Find out my top three reads of 2012 here. The reviews are alphabetical by reviewer's name, so I am a way down the page.