New goals, new leaves, new logo, new resolution

I have a planner. I love the planner. I love making plans. I have not stuck to the plans and my planner has had a stern word with me.

This year has been a floundering year. I’ve pinballed around trying to take care of aging parents, trying to work enough to be able to afford to do all the things I don’t have time to do, trying to reconnect with all the people I haven’t been able to see , trying to carve out a way to actually make money from poetry rather than spending so much energy on copywriting, trying to create and publish Dust, trying, trying,trying,trying …

The result is, of course exhaustion. My body is showing various red flag symptons that it hasn’t shown for a couple of years, pain levels are high, and mental health has taken a huge dive. For a time, during the pandemic, I felt as though I was getting a little better. I realise that I simply wasn’t pushing my body and brain beyond their limits. And what of the planner? The planner has shown me how little progress I’ve made towards my goals, despite being performatively busy. So silly, and will I ever learn? The answer is I have to – if I want to achieve anything, I need to do less. How daft is that?

New goals

My first goal is quality rest. Whilst I kid myself that I take a day of complete rest each week, the reality is that day is spent online, organising bills, doing shopping, looking at things that are incredibly important…I don’t rest at all. Quality rest is my new watchword. It’s boring, I hate it but it’s the only way I can avoid the crushing exhaustion that plagues my days.

I struggle writing this of course, struggle with the thought that people will read this and think “it’s alright for her, lazy cow”. I know most people won’t but even after all these years I struggle to give myself permission to rest. I struggle to allow myself freedom to heal. However foolish it is I still get a kick out of burning the candle at both ends and love the feeling of having worked hard. I can still have that feeling , but only if I take more care of myself.

New writing

The truth is that writing is the most important thing I do.  I spent a couple of hours this morning working with notes on a new course from Wendy Pratt – and honestly it felt like I began to breathe again. The tension has washed from my shoulders, the methodical placing of letters and sound has created a calm that nothing else gives. I am in danger of focusing on the business of poetry, publication, making a living from it, being involved  and so losing the essence of why this matters, why it is so important.

News on Dust

My main focus this year has been Dust and the good news is that we’re very close to going to print. Proofs have been proofed, full stops have been agonised over, illustrations finalised (they are so beautiful) and this labour of love and sorrow is almost at an end. We have created a beautiful thing and I can’t wait to show you.

New logo

I’m hoping to relaunch my bespoke poetry business later this year. I love doing it and hope to expand my buyers from friends an acquaintances. As with everything, marketing is key, and I’ve taken a small first step by commissioning Saffron Russell to create a logo for me. I’m so pleased with it. Small steps.

New leaves

Several in fact. I shall protect my rest time, and protect my writing time. I’ll calm down and stop pushing, running around doing all the things. I’ll spend more time stepping back, reflecting and embracing the calm, quiet, caring nature that allows me to nurture myself and others. Self care, I think they call it. It’s hard to place enough value on myself to do it, but I’ll get there. One day.

The words do come back

For the first time in months I’ve woken with a poem in my head. It’s not terribly good,but it’s there, and now it’s tapped out into my noteapp waiting to be read.

This year has been strange. Much of it has been taken with trying to save an old garden opposite our houses – it’s a bit wild, and has been consciously neglected by the current owners to facilitate their somewhat ironic plans to build an eco house. The upside of this neglect created a home for such an array of birds and wildlife – it’s sad that it will be torn up under the cloak of sustainability.

Wild garden – soon to replaced by a house

Trying to save this garden has taken lots of time, lots of writing, lots of emotion and lots of the energy I usually use to write creatively. The decision has been made and the developers got their way. I am happy we tried our best to save it, happy we were on the side of good, and above all happy that my happiness does not depend on something that causes so much distress to the land and our village community.

So there’s been that. There’s also been the curious challenges associated with everything reopening. I’m thrilled to be able to see people, thrilled to go out but also really don’t want to get back on the merry-go-round of exhaustion and recovery. I seem to have forgotten how to modify and manage myself – interaction is so terrifying/exciting it sets all my alert sensors off and inevitably I end up completely floored. I need to go back to monitoring my baseline and careful planning….

I’m also in an oddly buoyant patch of copy and content writing work – this means my brain can barely find the creativity to read, never mind write. Where 5.30am starts were once for poetry and journalling,they’re now for product descriptions and web content. Work is wonderful, and the money is essential but I’m very much out of bakance. I’ve missed the calm of the last year, an realise how much I crave either absolute routine or absolute spontaneity. At the moment I’m in a limbo mix of the two that I’m not enjoying.

The words do come back

There’s a hazel tree in the woods at the back of the house that I sit under and it’s become a place to just be, and to let my mind wander and recover a little. The words are slowly coming back, the thrill at reading good poetry is returning and I’m starting to feel like myself again, to feel like my mind is my home.

Publications in June

Precious few subs have meant precious few pieces published (odd that) I do have two new pieces out this month. I am – the story of a tiger girl is part of Streetcake magazine and another due to be published in the amazing Sledgehammer Lit. Issue two of Spelt is due to land soon too – it’s going to be incredible and I’m still a bit giddy to be a regular columnist for them.

What’s next?

I’m setting aside a day for writing. I have a commissioned piece to finish, and perhaps a new piece to start. I’ve discovered some exciting new places to submit to too, thanks to a Twitter thread from Elizabeth M. Castillo. I don’t think I’ve given myself a day like this in months. It’s quite wonderful.

Writing poetry in a pandemic

I’m reading a great deal about how much harder this lockdown is – and it feels strange reaching the anniversary of what many of us believed might be a brief period of hibernation. This anniversary means that the reality of a whole year of living through a pandemic hits hard. For me it still feels almost dreamlike, and although my digital footprint continually reminds me of all the confusion and fear of last year, it still feels otherworldly.

The fear has faded – and taken the adrenaline and fervour with it. Hackneyed use of warlike language has abated, and ever more sensational the headlines are continually created to turn our minds to other issues. It feels a little as though we are trying to hide from the anniversary, the horrific loss of life  and the ongoing uncertainty.

This uncertainty that is the challenge. A string of unkeepable promises means the dates hung before us are no longer  something to look forward to, but something we gingerly hope may happen, and gingerly hope won’t cause further damage. Shifting sands and changing tales all cause a sense of needing to double check oneself, and needing to keep hope at bay.

Yet normal life continues. I enjoy a nice dinner, clear up the latest mouse head the cat has brought in, watch for the daffodils opening and the first shoots of early spring – the phrase “this time last year” reverberates, and there is a whiff of nostalgia for that feeling of being “all in it together”.  My anchors haven’t changed, but my need for them has increased immeasurably.

Music and travel all in one bag from Syd Records

Writing during a pandemic is hard

Writing is hard this year. I feel my work has gone backwards a little, and I don’t seem able to concentrate or focus. Maybe tiredness, maybe M.E. maybe just the culmination of a singularly peculiar year – where my normal stimuli of live music, travel and time by the sea have been curtailed. I’ve work forthcoming in some great spaces, notably The Dawntreader, as well as a poem in Louise Mather’s celebration of cats Feline Utopia and my column in Spelt magazine, but the sense of losing myself in writing, that fizz of excitement when something is really coming together is absent. Perhaps  just need to step back for a while – read more, listen to more, replenish my soul battery.

Thanks as ever for reading, stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands,

Kathryn

xx

The final gift of 2020

My news feed is full of folk feeling joy at “seeing off” 2020. I get it. The year has oscillated between terrible and banal, frustration and despair. People have lost loved ones in a way none of us would choose. Teachers, healthcare workers,retail staff, hospitality teams are all working to keep things running so we can keep feeling “normal”. The year has been hard, and the things that keep us going have, well, gone.

Christmas covid-style. Fire pit and family.

For me – it’s not been so very different. Being trapped at home is my “normal” and in many ways not feeling the pressure to socialize (one of my biggest energy sappers) has created a sense of calm. I miss people terribly, but I realize that the round of events I rope myself into does need to be managed more closely when we emerge from the constraints imposed by the pandemic.

We’ve had fun stuff too. Lockdown birthdays with Llama bunting, livestreamed gigs, a visit from friends complete with exciting trip to get a sausage roll from our local café. It’s been a year of thinking small, and learning what I really love.

This considered calm has meant more writing. I’ve developed so much this year. I think I’ve had more publications, including my pieces in Popshot and Paper Swans Press, I’ve launched my own bespoke poetry business and dipped my toes back into flash fiction.  More than this, I feel like something has shifted – I feel like I understand that I’ll never understand,that I’ll never feel like the world’s best writer, that my work may never be declaimed from the rooftops. And it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I write, what matters is that I think. I end the year feeling that small quiet strength that carries me through so many changes and challenges.



The final gift of 2020 came a few days before Christmas, when we learned our neighbours are planning to build a large house directly opposite our bedroom window. This means we may be facing a house move. This in turn means leaving a community we’ve been part of for twenty years, and losing the support, safety and calm I enjoy and rely on for my mental and physical health. It’s a blow, and has caused some distress during an already fretful Christmas,but I’m trying to keep my positive hat on and see this as an opportunity rather than a loss.

I’ve been lucky to have this view for 20 years. It seems my luck has changed.


Sending hopeful wishes and thanks for your support over what has been a most unusual twelve months. Here’s to more love, kindness and empathy.

Kathryn xx

What does it mean when people with myalgic encephalomyelitis (m.e.) talk about a crash?

First off,I’m writing this from bed, on my phone, so forgive any creative spelling or innovative phrasing.

How have the last few months been?

I’ve had a good run. Two, maybe three months where my routine (M/T/W rest -with at least one full bed day- Th/F/S/S dressed,do things) has worked. I’ve been able to find time to write both poetry and a daft story or two, amongst the stuff like housework, keeping the garden looking nice, cooking healthy food etc. I’ve even found time to do some paid work, and been asked to take on a permanent role with my copywriting agency (just 4 hours a week, but it feels amazing to be able to say “I’ve got a job”). Things have felt positive.

Despite m.e. I’ve had a good couple of months – this is from my birthday walk

What do you mean by a crash?

Like it says really. My body and brain have stopped. I am breathless when I walk (just from bedroom to bathroom) , I have this weird fizzing through my limbs, I sleep almost constantly and wake feeling like I’ve been run over. At the moment I can still read,but I suspect that will fade later today.

How long will it last?

This is the other joy. I don’t know. Experience tells me that three or four days is usual, but there is always the chance that this could be the one that tips me, the one I don’t recover from.

It’s a scary thing, and every time I crash I curse myself for becoming cavalier over my illness. I get so fed up of having to be careful, having to ask for help that I just plough through; and here we are again. Bed, very little writing, very little work no life – just the neighbours chickens and the cat to entertain me.

What happens next?

I wait. I try to rest. I get up too soon then have to come back to bed. I get cross and frustrated and sad. I dream of having a bath, washing my hair. The worst bit is when I feel a bit better – my brains working, but my body won’t. That’s when I’m most likely to push too far.

This is one of the reasons Covid worries me so (there are a million for everyone, I know). If I catch it, and survive, my body is likely to react the same way as it did when I got the strain of tonsillitis that kicked all this off. Bearing in mind this seems to be a much feistier beast, it’s almost certain that I will end up very ill. It’s important to understand that I’m not “better” I’m just better at managing my health – any change to the balance has a major impact. Contracting C-19 could be devastating.

Writing about m.e. always makes me nervous – some people I considered friends were so unkind when I was first ill (they’re not any nicer now, they’re just not friends) but I think it’s important to talk about. As we see more people struggling to live with long-term symptoms of Covid-19, which bear striking similarities to m.e., an increased level of understanding is essential. And kind.

What can we do?

Send flοwers, kittens, cake and a one way ticket to Abel Tasman. I’m joking (I’m not), for me it’s a case of waiting it out – I’ve a warm safe home to do this in, a very fluffy cat for company and a partner with a great line in fish finger sandwiches, jacket potatoes and mushroomy pasta, so I’m sorted. The hardest thing is understanding how I’m feeling, and not pushing myself to do more. It astounds me that even after seven years, the protestant work ethic is so ingrained that I still believe that if I just work hard enough I’ll push through. My body has told me time and time again this is not true. I need to believe it. And to live in Abel Tasman.

Thanks for reading, it’s good to talk, even if only on a virtual basis.

Keep safe, wear a mask, wash your hands

Kathryn xx

To find out more about Yes to Tigers or a bespoke poetry commission just follow the links or email kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

Treacle

This week has been a gloomy one. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the endless slew of injustice that is bestowed from those who are employed to care about us all, and especially the most vulnerable. I am privileged to be able to write this on my own laptop, at my own desk, with warm(ish) feet and a full stomach. But I feel powerless. Sapped of energy. It feels like a time when poetry and creativity is needed more than ever, to remind that there is beauty and good in this country. It also feels like a time when poetry and creativity is utterly banal and irrelevant. My mooching around my emotions, noticing the play of light on a rose, or the slow movement of spiders huddling away from the cold, is at odds with the sheer dreadfulness of day to day life that others are experiencing. It feels insulting to feel disappointment or frustration at my own concerns.

©kam

A development opportunity I’d set my sights on for next year is out of my reach financially, so I’m back to the drawing board about my next steps. I’m pleased with how I’ve responded though – I didn’t take it as a sign that I’m not good enough, or feel that I may as well give up. I’ve worked hard to reach the point where I am and I’m not stopping now. Development is not just about becoming a better writer, it’s about valuing myself, my work and believing in it. Being from good working class stock, a career in the arts still has an air of being fancy, of being somehow indulgent. This is borne from a deep desire for security – an avoidance of the challenges faced by those who’ve gone before. I can’t quite shake it. I still hear myself frame my writing as a hobby, and follow up any conversation about poetry with a assurance that  do  some “real” work as well. Sometimes this “real” work values each of my words at a penny, but somehow even this meagre pay is more credible.

Chilli lights make dark days better

I have a couple of things up my sleeve, I’ve applied for a bursary from Raven Studios a local group of creatives, sent my pamphlet submission and have a new prompt a day course starting in November, which should help reinvigorate a regular writing practice. I’ve also set up Poems from the Hare my brand new shop, where you can commission a bespoke poem (just in time for Christmas!) and buy a copy of my brand new zine, which will be landing in the next couple of weeks.

What about the treacle?

It’s how the week has felt. The grey days with whispers of gold from the trees, the weight of the sky. The mizzle or drizzle or full on rain. My endless doom scrolling in the small hours. My absolute inability to read, which inevitably affects my writing and the nag,nag,nag of pain that increases with each damp day. Wading through treacle. It won’t last, there is a way out and I am never not grateful for the fact that I am lucky enough to have these things as my worries.

Thanks, as ever for reading, hopefully next post will be all about me sending my zine into the world, and if anyone can recommend a book that is uplifting and rollickng good story I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask

Kathryn xx

Trees and unknown normality

I’ve found myself complaining a lot over the last few weeks. It’s not sitting well. Whilst I have bouts of gloom, I’m not generally a complainer. I’m a keeper of gratitude diaries, a giver of personal pep talks, a reluctant Pollyanna. Counting my blessings is second nature – I’m aware it’s not hard – I have food, warmth, safe home. Still these last few weeks I hear myself moaning about things that shouldn’t bother me – trees blocking a bit more light in my yard than I’d like (SAD begins to creep around at this time of year) envy of those with big skies and wide views, moaning about a misplaced sock or overlooked watering. I don’t like what I’m hearing.

Alongside this is an utter lack of creativity. Not a note, a scrap and scribble.  I can barely read let alone write. I’m not sure if my brain is just overwhelmed by the awfulness in the news (although that’s usually fuel not foe) or I’m having to readjust to being in social situations after several months of solitude. It feels like the good creative part of my brain has twisted shut, and all that seeps out are petty grumbles.

Perhaps I just need a change of scene – like many people I’ve only left my home county once since the beginning of March. It’s not a terrible place to be by any means, but think the fact that many of my anchors, the things that make me feel like me, have been removed has left me a little rudderless. I miss the rush and collectivism of live music; I miss travelling to different places and seeing the similarities in human nature as well as the vast differences in culture.  I miss the way the light falls differently, the new scents that characterise a country. I miss living.

Missing these things is a privilege in itself of course. It means I’ve travelled, been able to afford both money and time to enjoy music. It means I have a partner who genuinely loves the things I love. My normal doesn’t suit everyone, and the world’s normal certainly didn’t suit me. At the beginning of lockdown, I was of the mind that it was quite nice, having all these gigs streamed, and joining various zoom quizzes, being able to go to museums and galleries online – things that M.E. has curtailed in real life. Six months in I’ve realised that these things are only a sticking plaster. I need that feeling of being with people I feel myself with, that feeling of community, of a common love and it doesn’t happen through a screen. I know that the future is bound to be different, but I’m scared we are going to lose the things that make being human a rich and vivid thing. The curated perfection of a screen is no match for a flawed, emotionally charged performance, or that moment when I stand back from a painting in a gallery and feel my synapses fizz with excitement. It’s no match for sitting around laughing a daft tv program with friends you’ve not seen for years, sitting down to share food you’ve cooked together, no match for the excitement of walking into a dingy nightclub an hearing the music you love, knowing it’s going to be a good night.

I feel curiously better now I’ve written this – I’m not a complainer. I’m just struggling a bit with being in one place for six months and so everything from overgrown trees to misplaced socks is starting to feel too much too Pollyanna my way out of. Reading back, this seems like a normal enough response to a six month lockdown.

Hopefully creativity will spring back soon. Until then, wear your mask, wash your hands, read widely and critically.

My coronavirus case has a cherry pink lining

I’m nearing the end of my Telling your Story course. I’ve produced a sheaf of poems from over the last month, a couple that I really love, some that need a bit more work and some that are best left as they are – an simple expression of emotion. I’ll be sending several out for submission, but I thought I’d share this one with you – it’s very much of the moment. The prompt was to think about what we’d pack away as this first period of the pandemic seems to be reaching an end.

image courtesy of @tuckergood via unsplash

My coronavirus case has a cherry pink lining

I choose my favourite vanity case

vintage cream with cherry pink lining,

pounced on in that Liverpool charity shop.

I lay down casual chats with my neighbours.

I lay down having you here.

Eating, together, at one on the dot.





There’s a corner for beloved musicians,

beaming beautiful covers of beautiful songs

live from their room to mine. A corner for listening parties,

a corner for shared lives online.


I have to leave space for the wipes, for hand gel, for grocery fear,

Space for missed hugs and markers,

time ebbed away in untouchable blur.

I leave space for those lives irretrievably changed,

space for masks and falsehood and failing;

snake coiled round the handle will strike.





I lay down the regular contact,

as they slip back to the noise of their life.

I think I’ll keep this case beside me

unzip when my loneliness bites.

Managed May and the Ballad of the Bees

Just when I think I’m adapting to lockdown, another wave of grief rears up. I got very teary about not seeing my Mom and Dad, and May was packed full with gigs, family stuff, birthdays and general merriment. In hindsight perhaps a little too packed, and a bit of me is relieved to have the pressure taken off.

This mix of relief and grief is curious, and it’s directly related to having M.E.. May is M.E. awareness month, and it’s also my anniversary of falling ill. Seven years now – which I find baffling. I feel like I’ve learned everything and nothing. I push myself. I always have, and it seems that I always will. I have a brain that is always leaping forward or back, and a body that can no longer keep up. I suspect this aspect of my nature may be the reason I ended up with this dratted thing, along with our culture of “pushing through” any kind of illness or sadness. I’ve always lived at extremes and my response to M.E. is no different.  I’m either extremely busy, pushing myself, or extremely incapacitated. Over the last seven years I’ve learned to accept this. Adopting a measured, managed life isn’t likely to happen, and I’m coming to terms with the extremes, and coming to terms with the fact that every activity I throw myself into will have a consequence (usually in the shape of two or three days in bed). Giving my body time to recover is crucial, and perhaps this enforced return to simplicity is doing that.

The sharp eyed amongst you will notice this isn’t Yorkshire

May also marks the beginning of a new poetry course, Walking and Writing. As many of you know, walking is a challenge for me and I’ve not been able to do any sort of coastal or hill walks for the last seven years. I was disappointed when I read the title – assuming that I wouldn’t be able to take part and it was only reading a chance comment that made me realize I could. Our prompts are a mix of videos, articles and local legend, which we take and build into a piece of poetry or short fiction. This week we’re on the coast of Yorkshire, and spending a morning watching the sea whilst wondering about dragons has been marvellous. I can’t recommend Wendy’s courses enough – whether you’re a beginner, seasoned poet or somewhere in between you’ll find inspiration and a spark of joy. I’m back in love with writing again, and I’ve said goodbye to that square peg feeling of not being good enough for the poetry world. I’m still a square peg, but I’m learning to love my corners. On that note, here’s a poem I wrote as part of last month’s course, which was published on Pendemic. Our brief was to write a ballad, in response to the concept of telling it to the bees. I worked in the traditional ballad form complete with rhymes. This isn’t a fashionable form but I like the way it lilts along.

Ballad of the Bees


He said he knew how I felt

when I told how my world had grown small,

when I told of my fears, my guilt,

that I could have spread it at all.


He buzzed about days in the hive

when they realised all was not well,

described colleagues crawling with flies,

bouncer bees growing fierce with the bell.


He couldn’t explain where it came from,

he couldn’t explain what to do;

distancing wasn’t an option,

pollen can’t be gathered by few.


His buzz grew loud as I cried

for people I thought I might lose,

wondering whether my life

could return to be what I choose.


It grew louder as though there were thousands

hovering over his wake,

I looked on further horizons,

realised my part in his fate.


I accept that my world may be shrinking,

I accept change has to be made.

I’m embarrassed this bee has more inkling

of the collective impact we create.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading. Please comment (feedback is nectar to a writer) and please share this post wherever you’d like, just click the buttons below or to the side.

Kathryn xx

New poems, new short story and a bunch of thoughts

An early prompt on Staying in and writing it out was to create a piece of dystopian flash fiction. I have a reputation for being slightly contrary, and found myself writing a sort of dystopian rom com called Bread and Roses instead. Have a read and, if you fancy, leave some comments about it, (or anything else!)

At the moment, writing feels very odd, almost disrespectful.The gravity of the situation in the U.K. grows each day, and each day brings its own brand of strange awfulness. Did you imagine in January that the words “596 dead -see page four” would not only not be headline news, but reduced to some kind of “teaser” with fun splash graphics? Me neither. We had it on Monday from one of our most tawdry of papers. Social media is a minefield of opinion and accusation where anyone asking any questions is decried for not “being positive”, yet no-one seems to have any answers. So yes, sitting in my sunny room writing poems and silly stories feels pathetic, and entirely unhelpful.

What else am I going to do though? I’m growing vegetables and flowers (which also I do in non-pandemic years), I’m cooking, baking, cleaning, trying to make sure I take care of my health (which also feels disrespectful) and just, well, living. The discipline of daily prompts from my course means I can step into a different part of my head for a while, and stop obsessing about my next online delivery for at least fourteen minutes. I’ve written more this year than in the whole of last year, and that is good. I need to step away and redraft a some of the pieces, and disregard others, but it feels good to just be writing. The contradiction of this calm with the chaos I know is happening in wards just a few miles away is palpable but not writing will not curtail the pain of others. In all honesty, there’s no conclusion to this little piece. Here’s a link to another new poem, and I hope you’ve noticed I managed to write a whole post without using the word “unprecedented”.

Wash your hands, stay safe, ask questions.

Kathryn xx