After months of hearing, thinking and talking about only the one thing, it is completely wonderful to be able to share some good news with you.
Firstly, I’m delighted to be one of the winners of the Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition with my manuscript Let’s Dance. This is the brainchild of poet and artist, Maria Isakova Bennett and her books are a little bit special, as they are all handstitched in silk covers.
And also this feels even more of a celebration because some of the poems in Let’s Dance began last year as part of a writing residency at the Alde Valley Spring Festival, and this year I’m very proud to be part of the Summer Festival there too, working with the artist Perienne Christian. Her work is stunning so I’m already inspired, and hopefully we will be able to meet in person at the Festival in Suffolk later this year. The Alde Valley Spring and Summer Festival is a very special event, and this year it has gone online so do take a look. Here’s a memory of writing at that time…
A third thing to say is something that has been so important to me that I want to mention it now but come back to later as I’ve so much to say! It was a real honour to be asked to write a module for The Literary Consultancy’s Being a Writer programme. My module centred around Dealing with Self Doubt and Imposter Syndrome – something I wonder if writers ever get over. Perhaps not as this quote from John Steinbeck illustrates:
I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.
There are things we can do though to help us keep going, and it was so interesting to explore all these, and to work out which were the best ones to fit into the programme. It was fabulous to work with the team at the Literary Consultancy, and I quickly found out how much they cared about the whole project so I do hope it helps people. If you have done the course, do let me know how you got on with it, and if you haven’t, it’s here!
And lastly, one of the ‘other’ things on my mind recently, as I’m sure it has with you, are the issues raised by Black Lives Matter. It really is a time for me to listen and read and learn more. Here are just some of the books I’ve been turning to, and would recommend:
However, as this great article shows, there is a danger that ‘When black people are in pain, white people just join book clubs” so I’m also happy that, through a favourite ex-student at the LSE, I’ll be mentoring two black students on their academic writing. I’m lucky that I have transferable skills, but also fully intend that any mentoring is two-way.
It’s a privilege to be able to write all of this post, but also it’s important for me to recognise that I’ve been working hard to get to this position. One of the things that being in hospital and yes, recovering, has shown me is that I need to do what’s important to me – poetry, words, art, nature, sustainability, learning and being part of helping everyone reach their potential. I’ll be learning to say NO more this year if things don’t feel right.
Oh, and I forgot cake. Here’s another reminder why I’m so happy to be part of Alde Valley again this year…
We are talking about earthquakes
when we pass the waterfall of foxgloves,
I’m sure they weren’t there before, you say,
pausing to take a perfect Insta shot
and as I imagine red shadows slinking by
with freckle splattered purple hands,
I’m about to tell you how Shakespeare’s father
was a glovemaker, when you hand me your phone
and I take it without thinking – your phone
in my bare hands. Was touch once this easy?
I watch your face catch my expression.
Our weekly walks meander on paths
around every topic, with shortcuts
to those things we don’t share with others.
How many times has this very phone
spilt out its secrets to me but still you lean
across our safe distance to snatch it back,
you even pretend not to see the care I take
to wipe my fingers, the foxgloves waving
at us like tiny megaphones as we walk on.