Archive for November 2009

Small things that are not so small!

If you hear a thud, it’s probably me falling off my poetry high after the Derwent Poetry Festival  and Poetry Bites earlier this week! But while I’m up still here, I might as well enjoy it and it’s funny how small things can sometimes give one a big boost.

It’s not the best poem I’ve ever written but I was so – surprisingly – chuffed to hear this week that the head teacher at my son’s school is going to use one of my poems to open the school’s family Christmas services.  It is an adaptation of two stanzas of my poem that won the first writelink Yule Sing Me One Song contest with two new stanzas added. (Well, it’s environmentally friendly to reduce, reuse and recycle!)

It’s an end- rhyming poem – again not something I’d normally count as my strong suit – and this has set me thinking about children and poetry. Often, when you talk to adults who don’t enjoy poetry, they talk about having been put off by school and there seems to be a stereotype that this is, at least partly, to do with some draconian need for poetry to have end rhymes. Yet, working with young children, they expect, in fact love, their poetry to rhyme! I’m wondering if this is an age thing, and the horror of rhyme creeps in with teenage hormones (though look at the use of rhyme in many pop songs!). Or is it just the association of anything with school/enforced learning? Or is it simply that it is so easy to write bad poetry by sacrificing meaning etc to rhyme?

Anyway, while I’m still pondering this, a more important dilemma – namely, elf or Mary Christmas for my Santa’s Grotto storytelling? A red santa hat and my Robin Hood or red witch costumeswill become an elf or a Mrs Santa outfit, so which do I choose…Hmm, perhaps the elf option might be the safest, as I don’t know who Santa is! (No offence intended to Mr Claus, of course!) 😉

Add comment November 26, 2009


There’s nothing like challenging one’s own – and sometimes other people’s – comfort zone to get the endorphins whizzing.

It’s been a week of poetic fizz and firsts for me – and my friends!

Following on from the Derwent Poetry Festival at the weekend – a fantastic and entirely free event that I’d recommend for next year – I went to hear Angela France read from her excellent second collection Occupation at Poetry Bites in Birmingham last night.

It was a great evening, top atmosphere and some fantastic open mic poet-performers, including one of my friends who read for the first time. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I got a bigger buzz from seeing her get up and read her poem than I did from reading my own stuff! And she enjoyed it so much that she’s planning to write and perform some more!

I pushed my own boundaries too, by reading a poem still fairly fresh off the press – or in this case, loom as it was inspired by the Derwent Poetry Festival. At just 48 hours old, it’s the youngest I’ve ever presented one of babies to public scrutiny – a slightly uncomfortable but not totally unpleasant experience!

The evening was also a first for another friend, who came along just to listen – this time at least! She’s an artist and I get so much magic from her work that it was nice to share the magic of poetry with her.

Of course, the only problem with so much fizz and magic is that I’m now finding it hard to settle down to the more monotonous, yet essential, tasks of editing and proofing. I keep getting distracted by more creative things, oh, and this blog, of course… 😉 !

Add comment November 25, 2009

Fish and Chip!

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of what I’m going to call a visual irony. This plate, which I chanced upon while away in Matlock Bath this weekend, was on the wall of a café selling fish and chips…

I’ve had a great weekend at the Derwent Poetry Festival, both reading myself and meeting and listening to some other fantastic poets read. Today, I finally managed to get round the working textile museum at Masson Mills too. It’s really fascinating and a great atmospheric venue for a poetry festival. (I’m all out of energy to post them here but you can check them out on my Facebook page at

I’ve come back from the weekend with enough books to keep me going for at least a few weeks (!), a few new poems of my own and inspiration for an exciting new project. I can’t wait to get started on it – though I may have to wait until I’ve sorted a few bits out for my santa’s grotto workshops and my Circaidy Gregory collection Into the Yell!

Meanwhile, I’m now looking forward to hearing Angela France read from her collection Occupation at Poetry Bites in Birmingham on Tuesday night. I’m also hoping to take part in the open mic again, along with a friend who is planning to read for the first time. Exciting stuff!

PS Don’t forget to check out Stripe, Templar Poetry’s anthology of best individual poems from the Templar Pamphlet and Poetry Collection competition 2009 – including two of my poems!

Add comment November 22, 2009

Generating Poetry

Past and future generations and the future of poetry are very much on mind this weekend.
Firstly, in opening the Derwent Poetry Festival last night, Templar managing director Alexander McMillen spoke of the need to bring poetry to new audiences. My husband, who works in the library software business, is very concerned in the future of books and reading and often talks about the exciting opportunities offered by new technology.
Secondly, there is the rich and inspirational history to the setting for the festival at Masson Mills. We’ve yet to look round the museum, (it’s top of tomorrow’s list!) having been busy all day with some fantastic readings by some excellent poets, including Jane Weir’s poetic biography of two textile artists/handblock printers. I think I can feel the stirrings of my own poem inspired by this.
Thirdly, and sadly, it was my husband grandmother’s memorial service today. This made me think how lucky we and our boys have been to benefit directly from the wisdom and experiences of past generations. I knew all four of my grandparents and still have a gran alive today. I also knew and remember three of my great-grandparents, one of them, my nan, having survived into my teenage years. My children know and regularly see all four of their grandparents, spending a considerable amount of time with my husband’s parents. My elder son has known five great grandparents and my younger son three. Both are still regularly spoilt by two great-grandmas! We are so lucky to have so much to build on – both for poetry and in life.

And, talking of poetry and life, my poetry reading now over, I’m off to enjoy some life with my husband – a hopefully delicious meal out. Bon appétit!

Add comment November 21, 2009

The Fabric of Poetry

I’ve been having a great time soaking up the atmosphere at the Derwent Poetry Festival – fortunately not literally soaking up, despite the weather!
The poetry festival venue is Masson Mills at Matlock Bath – an old mill factory which has been converted into a shopping village and conference facilities. And it is full of character, as hopefully the pictures show!

Last night, the festival opened with readings by Pat Winslow, who is judging next year’s Templar Pamphlet and Poetry Competition, and a chance to meet and chat to some great writers. I also got to put up my stall promoting my collection (out with Circaidy Gregory next year).

Today , there are some fantastic readings lined up with Jane Weir, Dawn Wood, Nuala Ni Conchuir, Rob Hindle, Paul Maddern, David Morley, Maggie O’Dwyer and Nigel Mcloughlin. I’m also hoping to sneak in a little boot buying (I can’t resist!) and to look around the museum, which has working looms apparently.
Oh, and, of course, I shall also be reading myself in the 3pm slot, so a very busy but enjoyable day ahead.

Add comment November 21, 2009

Getting There!

Yes, finally I am getting there in terms of preparing for the Derwent Poetry Festival this weekend. I’ve just sent off my brief biog for when I’m introduced, I’ve sorted where the kids are going when, I’ve packed and we’re going to leave the sat nav to cope with getting there in terms of route!

Oops, just one small but important thing I just realise I haven’t done yet – and that’s practice reading my poems! Time to stop doodling with my crayons (yes, as you can see, I’m also getting there with my amateurish illustrations for my children’s Christmas story!) and go and exercise my voice. (Fortunately, not something I need too much extra practice at!)
Have a good weekend everyone!

Add comment November 19, 2009

Flare not flair!

That’s right – flare not flair. There’s an art to writing stories for very young children and I have no artistic pretentions when it comes to illustrations. However, having realised my ‘night before Christmas’ story to entertain youngsters waiting for Santa’s grotto next month might hold their attention more if it also had pictures, I had little choice but to pick up a pencil.

As you can see, the results are far from ideal – well, my friends already know about my sometimes bizarre sense of perspective! – but I’m hoping the amateur/childlike nature may appeal to youngsters. (And if not, I also have a teddy, some musical instruments and other sound effects to hopefully get them involved with the story.)

Of course, that still leaves the dilemma of how to amuse the younger children (under five/six) with this story, while also engaging the slightly older children with the other story I’ve written. Of course, I have plenty of colouring, bookmark making and writing workshop sheets, so there should be no shortage of activities. But there is only one me to help and lead them. I’m nervous already!

Add comment November 17, 2009

In the Picture

It’s been a surprisingly productive week. Not surprising because it was productive but in how it has been productive.
I had intended to concentrate on editing my collection Into the Yell and entering a few competitions but with an ill child to look after, these plans had to take back seat. Instead, however, I’ve got Christmas nearly all wrapped up both in terms of presents, cards and working on a new Night Before Christmas-inspired poem/story to use for my Santa’s grotto storytelling session.
I’ve also been discussing collection front covers with my publisher and playing with some visual posters for possible use publicising the collection (as the front cover’s not yet been agreed) at the Derwent Poetry Festival next weekend. (I’m trying not to get too nervous or excited about this.)
Anyway, as sick boy is now no longer sick – just desperately trying to fool us that he’s not well enough to go to school! – the only cloud on the lining is the news that the publication date for the collection will have to be pushed back if we want to try for Poetry Book Society selection. Still, I guess a few months’ delay isn’t very much given the creative time and energy that has gone into getting to this point!





2 comments November 15, 2009

Rolled In

“The sun rolled in/from a distant novel,” (‘Wine with Lunch’ by Richard Labram) and “sense how the fall of light/sings over curves” (‘Skull’ by Sylvia Oldroyd) are a few of the beautiful lines I’ve been enjoying in back eyes poetry (Earlyworks Press). I’ve only just dipped into this anthology of poetry and flash fiction and already I’m finding some fantastic pieces.

But if that sounds a little bitty as reviews go, well that is because a) I’ve not finished reading it all and b) it reflects my week! A sick child, my poetry collection, a new pamphlet, competition entries, Christmas shopping and wrapping have all been jostling for space and attention alongside the usual daily routines. And the week isn’t over yet!

Add comment November 12, 2009


Clichés get to be clichés for a reason. Though every cloud may have a silver lining, so does every silver lining have a cloud. It all depends on your outlook – of course!

My younger son being sick and therefore off school, I am now behind on my writing deadlines for this month. 😦

Fortunately, however, he is not very poorly (fingers crossed he’ll be back at school tomorrow!) and while editing and proofing are hard with a four year old around, wrapping is not. Yes, that’s right, I’ve made an early (exceptionally for me!) start on the Christmas wrapping! I’m also able to blog while he rests and have had the chance to finish to Sophie Hannah’s the other half lives. Hurrah!

This really is a fantastic read. I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who tends to read thrillers but picked this novel up after reading some of Hannah’s poetry. In fact, this book  is so gripping I’d even go as far as to say that I prefer it to her poetry. (Hannah’s Pessimism for Beginners has some fantastic poems in it but I personally found it a little too the ‘sameish’ to read from cover to cover in one go, unlike some of my favourite collections.)

The only question now – what on earth am I going to do/read next?

3 comments November 10, 2009

Previous Posts






November 2009

Posts by Month

Posts by Category