Winchester Poetry Festival

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Sep 132014


Yesterday I took a trip to Winchester Poetry Festival. It is on for the weekend, but I could only go for one day. I was interested to see how it was run and, of course, hear some new poets.

In the afternoon, I went to the student slam which was sixth form students from local schools/colleges competing in a poetry slam. I was really impressed, not just with the poetry, but the passion and enthusiasm. Who says poetry is a dying art?! I do think spoken word poetry (the mot du jour it seems) is on the up and, perhaps, for the younger generations adds the ‘pazazz’ which page poetry doesn’t always deliver. In the foyer, I chatted to the man from Magma about it and we agreed that a lot of spoken word is either rap or comedic and it would be interesting to see a wave of more serious, less rhythmic spoken poetry. Not that the other should be negated – definitely not – but I noticed some of the students ‘performed’ their poems (thrusting arms, Del Boy neck movements) in a somewhat formulaic manner. Interestingly, the winners (who, thankfully, I had picked out too) were more sedate, eloquent and still in their delivery.

IMG_5643In the early evening I went to ‘Hogwords’ which celebrated Hampshire poets and I heard seven local poets read their work (Robyn Bolam, Stephen Boyce, John Haynes, Joan McGavin, Nick MacKinnon, Maggie Sawkins and Julian Stannard). I must admit, I had never heard of any of them but they have a fine pedigree between them and Nick MacKinnon won the 2013 Forward Prize. It was good to hear poets/poems I would have never experienced had I not been there and also which ones appealed and which didn’t. This is, of course, no reflection on their merit, but on my taste and I think it is healthy for a poet to acknowledge that some poetry, no matter how acclaimed, simply doesn’t do anything for them. Nobody is wrong, it is just not their thing (like my dislike of Oasis – despite acknowledging their success and Noel’s talent, I just can’t bear them). I think, sometimes, we poets feel we must be oohing and aching about all poetry; it’s as if when we verbalise our dislike of a poem, somewhere, a puppy dies.*

Anyway, had I not had a big spend up in Waterstones beforehand, I might have bought Maggie Sawkins and Julian Stannard’s books. They were a bit more edgy and my taste is definitely more edgy and less ‘behold the fields of scattered dawn’ (none of them wrote that, I did, but you know what I mean…).

It was a positive trip and I got to meet one of the poets we have published through Paper Swans who was managing the event. There I was, scoffing a KitKat, drinking tea and trying to write something for the Magma competition and she was, ‘Sarah Miles!’ Always lovely to meet people in the flesh. She was Madelaine Smith and doing a fine job of organising everything!


* this is (a) not true and (b) a borrowed (bastardised) anecdote from a lovely fellow poet/writer.

 Posted by at 7:14 pm
Jul 212014

imustwritemoreIt’s been a while since I have blogged on here and (it feels) even longer since I have written anything of any calibre. I could blame not enough time: I have three kids and a job to maintain on top of all the work I have been doing for Paper Swans. I could blame not enough inspiration: but inspiration surrounds me in jottings made in notebooks, on serviettes and on my iPad. I could blame not enough focus: yet I am driven. So, I find the only thing left to blame is myself. There is simply not enough of me to go around. I have spread myself thin, like marmite on soldiers, and I have been consumed. My brain feels saturated with thoughts, ideas, things to do, emails, deadlines; life. Somehow, the precious writing time I used to find for myself has disappeared and I am not sure where, when or how, but I feel bereft.

I think writing can be perceived as a selfish thing. One cocoons oneself in a bubble of words and expression and the outside world is cut off, which can really piss them off. Excuse my crudity, but it fits. If it were work emails I was battling with or a Waitrose order to feed the hordes, well, that’s OK. But it’s not either of those; it is poetry.

And that doesn’t seem to count.

It’s not worthy enough. It’s a waste of time.

Or, that’s how I feel. Guilty. For writing.

So, I figure, if I already feel guilty, I may as well have an affair. I need to find Mr Write. We can spend hours together; words and emotions, spilling into the wee small hours and finding that connection, that spark that makes it all worthwhile. I want my time back; those precious minutes of sanctuary, when I write because I need to – that urgency to get the words down lest they disappear in a mist of hubbub and noise and demands. That rolling wave of precious syllables which crashes through my mind and heart and is desperate to spill onto the paper.

This is a lot of lamenting. I’m just in one of those places. Come September, my youngest child starts school and I will have a day and a half each week to myself. Since I finish teaching at 1pm on a Wednesday and don’t get the kids ’til 4pm, I plan to ensconce myself in a cafe while I wait and write, write, write.

It’s a start.

Meanwhile, I have a late night affair to begin…

Apr 202014

Last week I travelled north on the train to Edinburgh and spent Saturday lunch with some lovely friends who, thus far, I had only met online and via google hangouts for Open Mic nights. There are a lot of people I know who are striving to be a novelist, but not so many poets and it was so thrilling to finally share a glass of wine with Stephanie, Ellie and Helen.

As Ellie said, it was so lovely to have a conversation about writing without somebody blanking over as soon as you mention the word ‘poetry’. We chatted, we laughed, we read, we edited, we planned, we ate, we drank, we smiled. The lunch ended too soon (even if it was about 4 hours later!) and I wish we all lived nearer. Ellie, Helen and Stephanie all live in Scotland and I live just about as far south as you can get from Scotland.  However, we talked of a writers’ retreat and I hope we can organise ourselves a weekend away, somewhere halfway between Dundee and Kent, where we can carry on chatting and writing. Lovely, lovely ladies, all very talented poets and I am looking forward to the next Open Mic night (this Thursday!).



Writing-wise I have recently had work published by  Word Bohemia and a few weeks ago I won the poetry challenge over at Poetry Space. I have also been mulling over what direction to take next and have decided to have a go at some collected flash fiction. I am not sure if that is even a ‘thing’ but it will, hopefully, read as lots of little pieces of flash fiction which make up a bigger story. I say this with ‘new idea confidence’. Ask me in a month..

So, that’s me. Never enough time to write, but stealing moments here and there, usually very late at night when the house is quiet and my mind is bubbling over with words and ideas. Ever the night-hawk and definitely not a morning person!

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 19.58.46

Feb 272014

It’s been a busy few weeks and my writing time seems to be bearing the brunt. These things happen and I usually enjoy writing late at night when the house is asleep and it’s just me, my macbook and a glass of wine. However, hectic days lead to tired eyes and my bed has called me. So today when I woke up with a rush of Spring in my step I suddenly felt the unfamiliar catalyst of energy which has prompted me to clear my desk and start scribbling down some ideas.

On the topic of doing something, I have recently re-ordered some business cards and thought I might share them with you. I decided that if I was going to get the word out, I might as well do it on my cards, so I have designed some little cards from with quotes from my writing on the front. I was rather pleased with them and Moo have sent me a link which gets new customers 10% off their order and also gives me some credit, so if you are thinking of getting some cards printed, click here. Nothing sponsored or anything, but just a discount from (in my opinion) and excellent company and with lots of conferences etc coming up I think it’s good to share…

Let’s face it, nobody else is going to do it for you!


On Tuesday, once again, I took part in Stephanie Arsoska’s Open Mic Night. It had been a looong day and I am half asleep but it was great to get the opportunity to read some stuff out loud. Even if my last one did go on a bit…sorry about that.

Feb 072014

It has been one of those weeks where I’m not sure where the time has gone. Is it really Friday again so soon?  I don’t seem to have had any ‘quality time’ to sit and write this week and have, instead, tapped out a few poems and lines in between cooking supper and marking books.

The week started with two shakes of the head. The Emma Press did not accept any of my poems for their Motherhood anthology (although I was unsurprised at this) and I also did not get anywhere with the Magma poetry competition I entered (again, not surprised – I entered a 3-liner!). So, all a bit of a no-no…

However, I have written some poems that I was pleased with and have the bones of others to chew on.

snoopy rejection letter

I did, inadvertently, teach myself a valuable lesson today. I recently had a conversation with Michelle at The American Resident about the differences between British and American writing and set myself the challenge to write like an American. I should explain, each week I enter a flash fiction competition run by an American site and I have noticed that the winners each week are quite similar in writing style and decided to have a go at writing in that same style and see if it improved my chances of accolade.

I tried my best and was pleased with my finished piece, ‘Ta-da!’ I thought, ‘I’ve done it!’. Until I re-read it later for editing and realised it is, undoubtedly, in the same style as my other pieces. The lesson that I learned was not about flash fiction or how to write more descriptively but that I have a style. And I like it. Useful as it is to practise different ways of writing, in the end your style comes through. It may not be to everyone’s taste, it may not be accepted for submissions or win competitions (harumph), but it is yours to treasure, to develop, to keep.

I am looking forward to a weekend of reading Amanda Jennings new novel, The Judas Scar.  I am lucky enough to have the gorgeous Amanda send me a proof copy. When I read her first novel, Sworn Secret, I literally could not put it down. I perfected the art of making tea one-handed and persuading my husband to put the kids to bed while I ‘finished my chapter…’. So I am desperate to read The Judas Scar and it has been sitting on my bookshelf for two days now, taunting me. I knew I did not have the time to surrender over the last few days but, yahoo!, it’s the weekend and tonight I plan to drink wine and read, read, read….

Linking up again with Beautiful Misbehaviour’s Writing Warriors.

Jan 302014

Tonight I participated in my second ‘Open Mic Night’ organised by Stephanie at Beautiful Misbehaviour. I read two pieces, ‘Fighting the Thaw‘ written especially for the evening’s theme and ‘The Hangover‘ written as a prose piece as a follow-up to Dinner.

As ever, it was a very fulfilling night and amongst the lovely poetry was some very real, very honest discussion about writing, life and love.

If you are interested, why not watch or listen as you busy about your day?

Jan 242014

I am struggling to write at the moment. I have lots of ideas and have even been organised enough to jot a few of them down, but the actual writing is like sludge; it’s there but is grey and cold and struggles to take form.

Much of this is due to time. Work is demanding and creeping more and more into my evenings and weekends. The kids are arguing a lot, which I find wearing, and there just seems to be SO much to do. The list grows like ivy over my days and suddenly I find it has taken over and feel strangled by it.

I feel guilty setting myself aside time to write when I ‘should’ be attending to other things.

I also feel physically run down. As I write this it is 1pm and I am exhausted. Really, I could lay my head on the table and sleep and sleep. My skin looks dull, my nails are splitting and I seem to have a constant headache rumbling around my skull like a thunder-cloud in a valley.

I am not sure what the answer is; time, I suspect. That precious commodity that eludes so many of us.

I am linking up with Stephanie from Beautiful Misbehaviour who has launched Writing Warriors for people like me who have to fight for their right to write (rhyme, homophones and alliteration all in one sentence!). A chance to re-group each week and spur each other on. I also promised I would include a picture of my desk where I try to write although, truth be told, a lot of my writing occurs in the kitchen which is my little sanctuary. If it was big enough I would move my desk in there and be very happy.

my desk

Dec 162013

IMG_1601Christmas seems to have come early for me this week. When asked (which is not often) what I would like for Christmas the mind automatically jumps to material things. Tangible items to wrap and nestle lovingly under the Christmas tree.

You can’t wrap winning a writing competition, but if you could I want slap the biggest bow ever on top of it and give it pride of place under the branches. Actually, that’s not true. I would give it a good feel and try to peek though an unwrapped corner…

You get the picture – I was beyond thrilled this week when my entry ‘Dinner’ won the Mumsnet writing competition. At Blogfest there was a writers’ panel which boasted names like A.L. Kennedy and Lionel Shriver. Each was asked to give the worst opening line to a book and Lionel Shriver chose the opener from Herman Koch’s book ‘The Dinner’ which was…”We were going out to dinner.”

You could pick any genre but that had to be the first line, and I chose a piece of flash fiction, written in courses.

Anyway, it’s made my Christmas. Certainly can’t buy that. Even in John Lewis.

My Prize!

No Comment

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Aug 092013

no commentYou may (or may not) have noticed that I have decided to stop comments on this blog.  Not that I didn’t appreciate all the lovely comments that people made, but I think it’s difficult to comment on something somebody has written creatively. Creative writing is so personal, so precious to the author, full of so much thought and passion and hope that it is quite an ask to get somebody to comment or crit it.  So I have decided I am not going to. If you feel strongly enough, you can always tweet/email me about it and I would love to hear from you, but in the meanwhile I have left a like button which you can click or not as you see fit. And I think that is probably just enough. Did you like it? If yes, then just click – no pressure to effervesce. If no, then don’t click. Simple. If you really liked it there are a few more buttons for you to tweet/fb it or the one place you can leave a comment is on my About Me page. I can’t decided if I am being selfish or selfless but it’s done now.

Update: Due to, ironically, comments on social media I am enabling comments for certain posts like the 100WC for example. I have a feeling I might be eating my words too at some point…not literally, I hope.

My Thing

In previous posts I have spoken about the ‘thing’ I was planning. Well, now it is complete I can tell you that I have entered a competition which, if successful, will result in some of my poems actually being published.  Now, I am a dreamer but I have the Jack Russell of reality nipping at my ankles so I know it is unlikely that I will be embracing the shelves of Waterstones any time soon BUT if you don’t try, you never know. We had to submit poems on a specific theme and, as you might guess, mine was about a modern love affair strewn with old-fashioned love. So that is why so many of my recent poems have been on that theme. No doubt a few more will sneak in now and then because I do like to write about love but I am now itching to try some new things.  I have a half-written short story to finish and I am keen to try some different types of poems too. And one of my favourite things to do (I equate it to doing the crossword) is to take part in the 100 word challenge. I have abandoned it of late and intend to send a little TLC its way.

In Other News

A small nugget of excitement (for me) is that finally, after 10 years of trying, I might finally be joining a book club.  I did sort of invite myself (desperate? moi?) so it may not come to fruition, but hey – you never know.

And finally, I have been included in this month’s Britmums Poetry and Prose Round-up. Many thanks to Helen at All at Sea for including my poem.

And finally….

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Jun 242013

Britmums Live 2013 Bib AwardsIn my heart I knew I wouldn’t win, although my head was telling me it was quite possible, that I had just as good a chance as the other five finalists. But, as you may know, I am someone who listens to their heart not their head. And it turns out I was right to do so.

Friday night was the awards ceremony for the Brilliance in Blogging Awards, held at The Brewery in London. An apt location for me if ever there was one. A bit like the fact that my daughter’s nursery is situated in a vineyard. But I digress.

Supper & Syntax was a finalist in the Writer category but, alas, that is where it remained. I was more disappointed than I thought I’d be, but unsurprised. Never mind, eh? Earlier in the day I attended a seminar at the conference which addressed getting published and then subsequently a ‘conservation with a literary agent’.  Both sessions were informative, encouraging and fanned that little spark in me that thinks perhaps I should try. What have I got to lose? What I learned above all is that anything is possible, there is no ‘right’ way to do it (but there are strongly suggested guidelines) and literary agents are not as scary as I had presumed they would be. We chatted with Luigi Bonomi from the LBA Agency. He reminded me a little of Phil Silvers to look at and actually he seemed just as amiable.  Certainly he was fair, honest and not dismissive of bloggers. In fact, when I asked him, he confirmed that bloggers were writers and writers are his bread and butter. So what’s not to love? (He didn’t actually say it like that, but that was the gist of it.)

So, even though it was not my name that was read out as the winner, my determination was already off the blocks in a kind of ‘sod it, I may not be at peak fitness but I’m going to run in this damned race if it kills me’ kind of way. Plans were hatching in my mind and metaphorical crocodile clips were being snapped onto the wires of ‘perhaps’.

Glory may not be mine but I thank everybody who took the trouble to vote for me and yes, I will be pestering the crap out of you next year to do the same. In the meanwhile, using the words of a great friend of mine (and Churchill, of course), I will keep buggering on.