Jul 042017
 

Tonight I went to a local debate, hosted by The Women’s Equality Party, about women’s rights in Britain’s future. Let’s just say, I didn’t leave doing a little sidekick in the air and whooping. I left feeling unusually pessimistic.

Amongst the panel and audience where people ‘in the know’. One had come fresh from a House of Lords meetings on the ramifications of (women’s) rights if/when Brexit happens and it wasn’t terribly reassuring. Her questions to the House of Lords were along the lines of, ‘What will happen to our rights when we leave?’, ‘Who is overseeing this?’, ‘Who is mediating this?’. ‘How many involved in all of the above are women?’.

Most of our employment rights in the UK (including equal pay and time off for maternity appointments) are because of the EU. The rights are in secondary legislation, which means the government, and not through debate, can decide what happens to them. What if they decide to roll back these laws, as has been done many times before in other countries when significant change has happened. They may promise them at the time of Brexit, but what about a month later; a year; two?

We remain hopeful that this won’t be the case, but there are no guarantees. Headlines were quoted; large corporations vilifying pregnancy rights and equal pay.

I left unsettled, with a fear of what might be. Overreacting? Maybe. But, look at the last 12 months in politics, not just in the UK, but globally. Anything could happen and who is going to stop it? And, how?

The mere possibility reiterates the ongoing inferiority of women in our society, that 100 years on from women’s suffrage, we are still fighting, still being labelled, still ‘the shrieking sisterhood’.

Keep shrieking, sisters. Keep shrieking.

 Posted by at 9:56 pm
Jun 112017
 

A friend of mine may well read this with all due smugness. I have been liberal in the circumlocution of my life as a ‘Bash the Rat’ activity; one things springs up and as I bash it down, another three pop up.

‘Bash the Rat?’, says he.

Yes, yes.

Do you mean Whack-a-Mole?

No, Bash the Rat. That’s what we’ve always called it.

Are you sure?

YES!

 

No. He was right. I meant Whack-a-bloody-Mole.

Anyway, that aside, it IS what my life has been like for the past few months. I seem to thrive on taking on more and more and it’s all got a bit frenetic, tbh. Wouldn’t have it any other way, of course, but it’s like dodging Nerf bullets…every so often, one hits you right between the eyes.

I won’t bore you with all the ins and outs, but the planets have definitely aligned to ensure my home, work and poetry life are all in a state of mania.

So, the highlights are that Paper Swans is publishing its teen poetry anthology next month, which is just brilliant and something I really want to build on.

On a personal note, a community project I am part of has its exhibition at The Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells in a couple of weeks time. Really proud to be part of this and it’s ongoing; we’ve already started the second cycle. If you’re local, do pop along.

Meanwhile, there’s the day job to keep up with and…oh, what’s that thing that occupies all your time called?….Ah, yes — life!

 Posted by at 6:30 pm
Feb 102017
 

So, yesterday, it was brought to my attention that my website had been hacked. A new one on me and I’m not sure how, but it’s alway unnerving when someone accesses your privacy. Luckily, they just put up an anti-isis post and ran away; my site seem to be in tact and nothing lost. However, I’ll only be convinced of this when nothing else pops up or comes to bite me on the bum in a few weeks/months time.

Conversely, I was anything but hacked off last night as I was at The British Library seeing Carol Ann Duffy. I bought her book, Rapture, over 10 years ago and it was the first poetry book I remember buying for a very long time and I loved it completely. I brought me back to reading and writing poetry and made me fall back in love with love. So, it was such a privilege last night to meet Carol Ann and have her sign my copy. Funny how a signature can mean so much, but it was a beautiful personal touch to a book that means an awful lot to me.

carol ann duffy rapture

This weekend I am speaking on a panel at The Only Way is Indie at The Nottingham Writers’ Studio. Nothing like being a panel to bring out one’s imposter syndrome. Maybe I should go on like Sia, in a big hat so nobody can see my panicked face! Actually, to tell the truth, I’m rather looking forward to it and with these things, all you can do is be honest and offer your opinion. Some will take it, some won’t and some may do a bit of browsing before they decide.

Masses to do this coming week with Paper Swans too, sending out final proofs, sending out acceptances/rejections and picking another fight with photoshop. I’ve yet to win the war with that one…

 Posted by at 2:28 pm
Jan 012017
 

If ever there was a year that I was glad to see the back of, it was 2016. Along with a great swathe of the world’s population, I suspect. However, I don’t want to reflect on a bad year, but look ahead to a new one. As well as my usual resolutions, this year I have decided on a 2017 bucket list, too — things I would like to do in the coming year. Nothing terribly exciting, I’m afraid and I’m sure I’ll add to the list as the months come and go, but I plan to start the year by making marmalade, mainly because Seville oranges are in season and I’ve alway wanted to make it. Largely because I love the stuff. Call me Paddington.
Paddington Marmalade

I will also be straight into ‘Dry January’, which will be a challenge. Stupid month to do it, really. I have always thought January to be the bleakest of months: the come-down from Christmas hullabaloo, grey, cold weather and half the population trying to lose weight/stop drinking and feeling crotchety all the time. I suppose, we can, at least, all be crotchety together.

Poetry-wise, it looks like an interesting year; publishing with Paper Swans and (hopefully) getting some more of my own poems published. Also, I will be speaking at a poetry event in February about publishing and the poetry world, so that’s very exciting. February is pretty jam-packed of exciting things, actually. I have been booking things up right, left and centre, not least attending the Gin Festival in London. Hurrah!

gin bottles

So, here’s to 2017! Happy New Year, whoever and wherever you are x

 Posted by at 12:04 am
Dec 202016
 

resolution

rɛzəˈluːʃ(ə)n
noun
plural noun: resolutions
  1. a firm decision to do or not to do something.
  2. the quality of being determined or resolute.

I’m guessing you know where I am going with this. As, what can only be described as the most sh*tty year I can remember, draws to a close, my mind turns to what 2017 might have in store and what I can do to make it better than this one. Anything, really. Surely, it can’t get much worse?

I do believe that, to some extent, you make your own luck. You can’t sit back and expect good things to fall in your lap, you have to shake the tree a bit first. Down will come a lot of foliage to fight through, a few rotten apples, but also will fall fruit that is juicy and sweet and whose seeds, when planted, will grow into wonderful things. Excuse that terrible metaphor, but you get the idea. My brain has given up on anything more eloquent for today.

This year has been the year of Brexit, Trump and endless celebrity deaths. It has seen the rise of racism, sexism and hatred and witnessed the endless killing and destruction of Syria and its people. The list could go on and it’s a struggle to glean anything positive. On a personal level, I have separated from my husband and that has had a huge impact personally, financially and geographically. There are silver linings, of course. There have to be, else the world would be too much. We have to cling to the positive, lest it disappears altogether. What’s worse is that I don’t even think I’m being a bit morose, I think I’m just being realistic.

Bugger off 2016

So, 2017. I have some poetry courses lined up and two Paper Swans anthologies to publish. I have plans afoot for Paper Swans. Each year I like to push the boundaries, see what we can achieve; shake things up a bit. My poetry writing is still something I enjoy very much and some recent publications of my work implies I am getting better at it too! I have found myself missing blogging — the ultimate free-writing! I think I miss the informality of blogging and waxing lyrical, so I may well do more of that too. It’s a way off letting off emotional and mental steam. It’s good to talk — even if it’s just to the internet!

I am determined to keep pushing the ‘healthier living’ campaign I set myself in the summer — I’m getting there. There are the inevitable slips, but I have joined a gym (so I am exercising), I am drinking less and eating better food. I can still do more in all of these areas and I fully intend to. I’ve signed up for Dry January and intend to dust off the cookery books and fan my enjoyment of cooking again. I have given up on weight targets as I find them mostly demoralising and I don’t have bathroom scales any more, which is quite a liberating feeling to one who has been a slave to dieting for most of her adult life.

So, no resolutions as such, but a re-think, a positive attitude and some personal goals.

In the meanwhile, there’s Christmas. I’m not sure what to expect and, anyway, I always get ‘the morbs’ at Christmas, for some reason. Somebody recently told me that my expectations of life are too high and, unsurprisingly, I get distraught at its reality. Yeah, a bit. But the dreaming is worth it, on the whole; the possibility, the maybe, the what-if? I think I’d rather believe in something and find out there’s nothing than the other way around. Never was particularly nihilistic.

Sorry, Nietzsche.

 

 

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Jul 252016
 

I haven’t blogged for a very long time. No time. No energy. No time…

However, I have made some ‘life’ decisions (stay with me) and, as I already share far too much on Facebook as it is, I thought I would expunge my need to share in a blog post instead.

I reached a point a few months ago where I wanted to change my lifestyle. Too much wine, no exercise, not enough sleep etc. And, a few weeks ago, I decided to do something about it. I have also had a few inner turmoils to deal with and, finally, I think I might have the better of them.

Nothing I am about to say is any great shakes in the whole scheme of things, but for me I am putting some things to bed and waking others up. So, my plan is to on a six week lease. I am giving myself until the end of August to see a change and make that change happen. The plan is:

° Go back to being vegetarian. I was a veggie for 18 years before I started eating fish again. Every time I eat it, the taste is tainted by my brain thinking of it as an animal (don’t tut at my classification). Fish is lovely, but I don’t want to eat it any more. I was  never a pescatarian; I was a vegetarian who ate fish. For a while.

° Run a mile a day. Or, a mile and a half, as it turns out. I started today and, apart from the 10 minutes where I couldn’t talk and just wanted to climb into the fridge (midday run — duh), I have felt great all day. I like that my legs hurt and I like that I have no excuses not to allow 20 minutes a day for a run and to exercise my dog. He’s my official running buddy (and general shadow).

° Cut back on the wine. Don’t need it and the less I drink, the less I want to. Pure habit and the perpetuation of ‘wine o’clock’ on social media makes you think it’s OK. It’s not.

° Read more. I always feel guilty about reading. It’s such a selfish activity and it feels self-indulgent to allow myself the time to do it. Note to self: be more selfish.

° Write more. (see above)

° Eat healthily. No brainer really and, to be fair, I eat pretty well. I don’t like cake, not fond of chocolate or puddings but do have a penchant for nuts and crisps. They can go. And carbs need to go. Not in a manic Atkins style, but my body doesn’t like them and punishes me for eating them. Worth it? Probably not. I’m not ‘going on a diet’. To be fair, I’ve pretty much been on a diet since I was 17, as my school-friends will testify. I just want to eat when I’m hungry and (luckily) I love veggies (hate fruit — bleugh). As an aside, why do we indoctrinate children to finish your plate? No! If you’ve had enough, stop eating.

° Ballet. Always loved it. As a child, *whispers* GCSE Dance, at drama school. So, I’ve signed up for an adult ballet class, starting in September. Please God, don’t make me wear a leotard.

 

There are some other decisions to make too, but these are enough to be getting on with. And I feel good about them, they don’t seem onerous or a chore on the never-ending ‘To Do’ list. Which is good. Do-able. Possible.

 Posted by at 8:34 pm
May 132016
 

Once again, I was invited, by Nacera Guerin, to take part her poetry evening, as part of The Henley Arts Trail.

It was lovely, if nerve-wracking, to read some of my own poetry, and I had some great comments afterwards, which is always reassuring. We poets are sensitive souls at the best of times, let alone when we lay our words on the line, so to speak.

It was great to see Claire Dyer again, especially as she wrote the endorsement for Paper Swans’ Schooldays, which has been shortlisted for ‘Best Anthology’ in the Saboteur Awards (vote HERE – please!)

I went with two great friends and poets, Jill Munro and Jess Mookherjee, who also read. Thankfully, nobody took pics of me, but here’s some pics of Claire, Jess and Jill reading:

 Posted by at 1:56 pm
Mar 062016
 

IMG_3483Last night, I had the pleasure of attending Alice Ekphrasis at The British Library, an event conceived by Abegail Morley, Catherine Smith and Emer Gillespie

An ekphrasis is (in my very basic terms) when one piece of artistic work is based on another, in this case it was poems written in response to the most renowned work of Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but with the given line up of poets, I knew it would be good. And it was. Mona Arshi started us off with Alice “shaking her anklets” in a wedding dress shop in Pune, India and (by way of the Head Teacher’s office, Instagram and a nightclub) we ended with Alice “off her head” and endlessly waiting…(Luke Wright)

The poems challenged and probed into areas not trodden and I was particularly struck by Sasha Dugdale’s The Ballad of Mabel, which explored an unseen character, mentioned by Alice and who she fears she is becoming. Dugdale allows us to see why this “stain from the inkbottle” unnerves Alice and, in doing so, also unnerves the reader. Poor Mabel, indeed.
Another poem that sticks with me is Abegail Morley’s Daisy Chains and Downers, particularly the line “Walton Road parts its lips, exhales|I slip down to the unwelcome place”. Alice is falling, but not as we know it.

After the readings, I had the pleasure of a quick chat with the lovely Hollie McNish. I love her poetry and first saw her in Edinburgh with my poetry pal, Stephanie Arsoska. I recently chose her poem Mermaids to read at my poetry group and her poem last night, Shrinking, about a waitress in an Alice costume at an airport Wetherspoon’s was just brilliant. She captures people and society so perfectly and so poignantly.

There is also an exhibition at The British Museum about Alice and Lewis Carroll to celebrate 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland, which is open until 17th April and I would definitely encourage you to treat yourself to a copy of the Ekphrasis book while you’re there. I always carry a poetry book around in my handbag and for the next few weeks, there will definitely be an Ekphrasis in there, nestling amidst unposted letters and yesterday’s receipts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

N.B. The clarity of photos are due to the lighting and absolutely nothing to do with Jess Mookherjee making me drink absinthe beforehand, as we channelled our inner Byron and went down the rabbit-hole…

 Posted by at 1:43 pm
Feb 102016
 

brain-is-fullI am home this week as my youngest daughter has chicken-pox. I can’t say I mind. I’ve been waiting for her to get it (she’s 6) and next week is half term, so it minimises my time off work slightly.

I have taken the opportunity to do a bit of spring cleaning. At the moment, my head feels like I have too many tabs open and everything is grinding to a halt. I am finding it hard to get on top of things and have had a few bouts of insomnia to help it all along. While I have been physically restricted in getting some things sorted (not being able to leave the house ‘n all), I have had a virtual clear out (deleted LOADS of old files, crappy poems, random photos and sorted some websites out), I have had a actual clear out (keep, charity shop, dump) and I am having a bit of a spiritual clear out too.

Lent starts today and I have given up alcohol at home (I know, *slight* cop-out) and bread. How very Eucharistic of me. I might not be into starving myself and self-flagellation, but I do like to take the opportunity to think about ‘life’ and reflect on doing some things better. Most of the time, this involves not getting quite so cross about being responsible for, what seems like, everything and trying to spend more time with the kids.

Tomorrow, I am planning a mental clear out. Shutting down some of those tabs and trying to get my head sorted out. No doubt, there will be lists. I do love a list.

I started the day feeling a little overwhelmed, but have spent much of the day conquering the poetry mountain (mine and others) and suddenly, at about 4 o’clock, I got all proactive which has made me feel much better. I wrote things, sent things and wrote some more things. I planned and schemed and, even more than lists, I like a plan. Or two.

If only I could celebrate with a nice glass of Chablis and a piece of toast…

 Posted by at 5:58 pm
Jan 222016
 

It’s been hectic for months now and the wealth of submissions Paper Swans Press had for its latest anthology meant that we were late in replying to those who had submitted (which made me tetchy) and also meant it was a much more difficult job then we had anticipated. We have, finally, selected the pieces for the book and I am confident it is going to be a interesting, cohesive collection. As an editor, I then had the job of letting people know our decisions. Sending acceptance emails gives you a warm glow. Knowing that you’ve just made somebody’s night and, as a poet myself, also knowing how elating that can be.

However, with every high comes a low, and I felt really sh*tty sending the rejections, especially as some of them were to people I know and respect. Actually, I still feel rubbish about it. I *know* that we all get rejections and it’s part of the game, but it’s still a kick in the teeth and, with bad timing, it can really knock you for six. I hate being responsible for that. But, editing has taught me a very valuable lesson, that it really is not necessarily down to the quality of a piece, but how it fits with the collection, both in subject and tone. A Picasso doesn’t work in an exhibition of Constable, but it doesn’t mean it’s no good. And whether you like either or both of them at all is down to that other editing gem: personal taste.

Further to this, I think (I hope) as poets/writers, we can acknowledge to ourselves pieces that need work and those that are ready to go to a good home.

Anyway, I wanted to get that off my chest. I can’t give individual feedback to submissions but I did want to voice my personal thoughts on the general highs and lows of editing. rejection-letter

 Posted by at 12:57 pm