18 November 2013
Authors for the Philippines is raising funds for the Red Cross by authors offering services in return for a donation. Offers range from mentoring to having your name as a character in a forthcoming book. I have offered a critique of 12 pages of poetry or up to 10,000 words of short stories. Bidding ends at 8.00 pm on Wednesday 20 November. Bidders must provide proof of their donation before receiving their services. You can bid for me here, and do browse the other offers while you're there.
5 November 2013
Over a month since my last post, and what a month it has been. Being a super-organised Virgo, I had cleared my diary around the due date of my first grandchild in December. Baby, however, had different ideas, and decided to arrive five and a half weeks early, delivered by C-section on 1 November, after my daughter developed pre-eclampsia. This is a potentially dangerous condition where the mother's blood pressure is very high, and the only solution is to deliver the baby early. Caitlin Eva Morris arrived safely, weighing in at 3lb 14oz. She is in special care, and expected to do well. Congratulations to the proud parents.
Rachel Morris, Caitlin's mother, was going to be singing at Gordon Meade's book launch this Saturday, but will now be otherwise engaged. The event takes place at The Chapel, Broadstairs on 9 November, 2.00 - 5.00 pm with Gordon reading from Sounds of the Real World plus guest poets Mark Holihan, Michael Curtis, Bethany W Pope and Philip Kane. Music by Sienna-Janae Holihan and Bob Carling. The event is free, but there will be a collection and £1 from every book sold will be donated to the Oliver Fisher Trust, which raises funds for the Oliver Fisher Neonatal Unit where baby Caitlin is being cared for. More info about the launch of Sounds of the Real World on the Events page.
3 October 2013
The Good Book (as mentioned in the previous post) now features on the website of Just About Right Productions. You can watch The Good Book and link to the text of the poems that feature in the film, including one of mine, by clicking here.
Gordon Meade will be launching his poetry collection Sounds of the Real World on Saturday 9 November at The Chapel, Broadstairs, 2.00 - 5.00 p.m. It will be an afternoon of poetry and music, featuring many poets who are published by Cultured Llama and music from Bob Carling, Sienna-Janae Holihan and Rachel Morris. I shall be MC for the afternoon and reading some of my poems. The event is free, and there is an open mic for poets. Full details on the Events page.
16 September 2013
I spent the weekend at the Wise Words festival in Canterbury. One of the things I did was staring into a stranger's eyes in a yurt. Read more about this, and how having chronic fatigue is like being pregnant, on the Chronic Fatigue page.
The Good Book, a film by Escott and French about the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury, was premiered at the Wise Words festival on a pedal-powered cinema. The film features poems about the physical book, including mine, 'Preparation for Reading', which is the second one read, about five minutes into the film. Watch it here.
29 August 2013
I was pleased to have a poem selected as one of five to be recorded as part of a film about the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury. I wrote it really quickly, in about an hour, when I realised the closing date for the Wise Words competition was the day I started writing. My process is usually a lot slower - labouring over single verbs for hours, leaving poems untouched for weeks or even months before revising them. I came up with another new poem for an event during the Whitstable Oyster Festival. This one, too, was written quickly. But then I noticed that the seeds of each of these poems had been with me for years. I had tried working with the material before, but the time wasn't right, the memories and objects that had haunted me had not found a right home until I came to write these poems. So, maybe, rather than writing them fast, they took longer to write than any other poem.
The lazy days of August are coming to an end, and there are loads of events coming up in the new few weeks. You can find out about the Poetry Book Fair in London on 7 September, the Wise Words Festival in Canterbury which runs from 13 to 15 September and two days of writing workshops during the Canterbury Festival by going to the Events page.
8 July 2013
Success! My benefits appeal has been decided in my favour in advance of the tribunal date. There is a short update on the Chronic Fatigue page.
24 June 2013
Please take a look at my story 'How Beautiful' on the website Writers' Hub. This is a dark satire inspired by the current welfare reforms. Read it here.
And for the real life inspiration for this story, follow my benefits battle on the Chronic Fatigue page, and the creative response by Poets Against Atos - Fit to Work.
20 June 2013
I feel I have been neglecting this site - one of the reasons is that I have fallen out of love with the design of it. I started it in 2008, and it does need a more contemporary look. But I do know that I have some regular customers (if they haven't given up on me!), so I am posting today. One of the most popular pages is the Chronic Fatigue one, and I have written a brief update of my benefits battle. Read it by clicking here.
I have been writing mainly poems recently, my story-writing ventures being more rare. However, I am pleased that Writers' Hub has accepted a story, which is my first effort at Sci Fi. I shall post a link once it is published. I am going to be leading a workshop called 'Getting your stories in shape' during the Canterbury Festival (for Save As Writers), so I am glad that my credentials as a story writer are up to date. You know how it is for writers - previous success can make you feel that you will never write something that good again!
Talking of stories, my collection 'As Long As it Takes' will be published in 2014. I have one launch date fixed already, and hope to have another on St Patrick's Day, as the stories are on the theme of Irish women living in England. The stories will be published by Cultured Llama, after a long trail round other publishers. I had some very encouraging rejections 'very good, just not quite what we are looking for' and the like, and one publisher said he was interested, held on to the manuscript for three months until I pushed him for a decision, at which point he said he didn't love them enough, though his other readers did. I do know that a lot of these decisions come down to personal taste as well as marketability. I have to say, though, that I prefer people to give me an outright rejection rather than keep me dangling, as this publisher did. Anyway, the book is edited to the gills (does that analogy work?), so Editor Bob will make it all look lovely and we shall search for a cover design.
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.