Are we there yet?

July has been a blur of time with friends and family, adventures including a visit to the Norfolk Broads as well as putting the finishing touches to Dust. It’s been a challenging month healthwise, but goodness all the ups and downs and careful planning have been worth it.

The big writing news is that Dust is ready to go. Sample copies have been pored over, final edits made and we’re ready to press the button and order our first batch of copies. It’s exciting and terrifying all at once. As you know, this is a hugely personal project and one that has taken heart and soul as well as a far bit of courage to produce. I’m thrilled with the final result, and I hope you will be too.

Live reading

A happy side quest has come up in the form of my being invited to read some of my work at a local event to support world suicide prevention day. I’m honoured to be invited to be part of this event, and whilst I know it will be nerve-wracking it feels right as a next step for the story of Dust.

Competitions and funding

I’ve avoided competitions this year. My focus has been firmly on fundraising and finalising the pamphlet but this month has brought a couple of opportunities I don’t want to miss. The first is the annual Spelt poetry competition. I love the magazine so much, and whilst I know the calibre of entries means my chances of winning are small, it’s good to feel part of something I respect. The second entry is to something even more daunting – the first ever Ironbridge Poetry Competition. The fact that this is local makes me feel under huge pressure. With most poetry competitions, few people have heard of them, and fewer still are terribly interested – a local event is a little different. Watch this space.

I’ve also made my first foray into funding applications. Like many things this is an area of creative practice that is new to me and one that I’ve shied away from – asking for help rarely sits easy. Nonetheless, the simple fact is that extra financial support will buy not only time to write, but other things like access to education, mentoring and workshops to further improve my skills.

Website upgrade

I’ve made a couple of changes to my website that I hope will make it easier for people to buy my work and to commission bespoke poetry. On my homepage you’ll find three new buttons that you can use to pre-order Dust, buy a copy of Yes to Tigers or simply buy me some writing time. Let me know if they work!

So that’s it for this month – fingers crossed next month will bring news of a firm publication date and news of new projects and exhibitions.

Thank you, as ever,

Kathryn xx

Would you like to read three pieces of good news?

Of course you would and it just so happens three good things have happened this week.

First of all, the Poetry for CALM crowdfunder raised £1018 in direct donations and cash contributions. I’m amazed and humbled at people’s generosity, especially in such challenging times. The amount going to CALM and SOBS will continue to grow as copies of Dust go on general sale later in the summer.

Our goal is to have them ready for Raven Studios open days which are part of Shrewsbury Arts trail in July and August – we’ve a fair bit of work to do before then, but fingers crossed we’ll make it. The bursary from Raven Studios was instrumental in helping this pamphlet come into being so it feels right that this is where it begins its journey into the big wide world. I’m so pleased with the look and feel of this little book – Saffron has taken such care to respect the words, and there’s a sense that she genuinely values the project. It’s been a joy to work with her. 

So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that I’ve been asked to lead a couple of poetry workshops. Now obviously my first thought was “I can’t do that” but then I remembered I have over 15 years of experience in training people to be excellent optical assistants, as well as a good few years of being part of poetry workshops. I’m confident I can combine these skills to create a really enriching experience. I’ll be working with subjects that I genuinely love too, and for organisations that I really admire. It’s exciting, and lovely to be asked. 

Finally, I’ve had some great news from one of my copywriting clients. I’ve been asked to take a role in planning and organising content, as well as simply producing it. It’s a great feeling to have someone say “we really love what you’re doing”. If I consider what a convoluted journey I’ve had to carve out this tiny career (I say career, I still only manage a few hours a week but it’s something) I’m amazed. I’ve taken a chance and it’s paid off. I’m thrilled to be able to work in a field that I genuinely love, and I appear to be reasonably good at it too. 

Good news is especially poignant since this week marks the anniversary of my diagnosis with M.E.. It’s been nine years now. Choosing to rediscover my writing , and finding ways to work despite my poor health has been a bright spot in the face of losing all that I knew as normal. I’m delighted to have found these opportunities, but not a day goes by that I don’t wish I was well, so I could do as much as I’d like to.

Today is about good news though and the truth I have discovered is that there is always hope, small as it may seem.

Thank you for reading, as ever. 

Kathryn xx

Read poems – save lives. Project update.

I’m almost a week in to my crowdfunding project and things are going well. Funding is coming in slowly and it seems like there will be enough interest in the book for it to go to press.

I’ll be honest, this is hard. It’s so much more than a book of poems I suppose. It’s a stage of grief – I won’t say final because I suspect it never ends. It’s part of my goodbye to my brother and part of my learning to live with the jumble of shame, sadness, anger and guilt that weaves through the very real fact that I don’t have a brother any more.

I have spent the last week wondering if I’m doing the right thing, if I should just do a sponsored run (!) whether that would get more money. It probably would. But this isn’t just about money. .

Until we start talking about suicide, about the impact on those left and the things that lead people to decide the world will be better without them then this will keep happening. The work I’ve written is honest, brutal and suffused with love. These are poems that will start conversations. Framing this work as a fundraiser places this work firmly in the poetry with purpose category. And I suppose this is another way of absolving the never ending “if onlys” that pepper my thoughts each day. It’s difficult to revisit all those feelings, but the support and care I’m getting is so helpful. Thank you.

Over the next few days I’ll be writing more about the charities, and about the look and feel of the book. In the meantime to find out how to support the project financially head over to my crowdfunding page.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/poetry-for-calm—help-prevent-suicide

Publicity is king in this hideous world of algorithms, so even if you can’t donate, please interact with and comment on any posts you happen to see xx

I have a bunch of poems to publish

I feel a bt proud of myself. Those of  you who spotted last week’s blog will know I felt pretty hopeless about the whole poetry business and the malarky of “getting somewhere”. Yet writing poetry is what is love and writing poetry is how I function at my best. I have given myself time this week to actually look at the work I’ve written over the last couple of years. I’ve collected work that fits three interlocking themes. I can see where my strongest work lies and I can see the points where my voice is most powerful.

What will I do to get these poems published?

I have a framework. I know I need to work on my titles (thankyou Wendy Pratt!) I know I need to polish and refine my punctuation, and I know the areas that I want to explore more to build a more substantial body of work. Above all, I know that I can do this. I know that I want to do this and goodness I hope that I can carry on and reach the next goal.

Over the next month or so, in between everything else of course, I will refine and polish as well as researching and approaching potential publishers. I also want to do some recorded readings to hone my style, so watch this space for the odd video clip.

I still have my first pamphlet in circulation too, and I realise I was waiting to hear about that before I began work on anything else. The old need for validation I suppose. I’ve realised I don’t have to do this. I also recently learned that pamphlets and collections do not have to be made up of all new work. The poems I’ve had published in journals and anthologies can be included. What a revelation.

Thanks for sticking with me xx

In praise of understanding

I’ve had so many kind responses to my last post – it’s very much appreciated and heartening to know how many people want me to keep writing. The critical voice is strong (does that sound a bit Star Wars?) and the downside of increased socialising means she has so many more things to pick to belittle me about. Tools and tricks are there to be used though and I’m going back to basics in terms of managing my mental health. One of these days I’ll learn to take care before it reaches this point. 

Writing is a big part of this of course. Other than gardening and cooking it’s the only thing I know – the only thing I feel right doing. I wish I felt more certain about my skills, but I guess, unlike gardening and cooking, writing is incredibly subjective. I know if I’ve cared for a plant well, because it blooms, sets seed and continues its life. I know if I’ve cooked a meal well because it pleases my taste buds – and hopefully those of others. I deal with failures in gardening by learning how to do it right next time, I deal with failure in cooking by learning how to do it right next time. I don’t feel torn up, distraught or as though I never want to cook or garden again. Why so? 

The simple fact is that it’s really hard to know if my failures are because I’ve made a colossal mistake, or just because I’ve not tickled the metaphorical tastebuds of the editors or competition judges. There’s no-one saying – “oh it’s so close but a bit under seasoned” or “what the blazes made you put chilli oil in the rice pudding?”. It’s a simple thanks but no thanks and on you go. This, of course, is no fault of the many long-suffering lit mag editors. Many decline work in the kindest, fullest way possible. A few give what reads as a very formulaic response, but hey, these are busy, unpaid people wading through a colossal amount of work to find the perfect fit for their magazine. 

I’ve realised I need to wean myself off the dopamine rush of having work accepted. I love the thrill of opening that email, expecting rejection and reading that my work will be published. I love shouting about it all over the socials and getting the flurry of interest and interaction. It feels nice. It feels like I’m worth something. And it’s as addictive as all the other addictive things. 

I planned today as a poetry day. This is a luxury I rarely afford, and something I usually crave, like a warm bath, or a hot buttered toast. A poetry day usually makes me feel better. Today – oh how I wanted to roll over and ignore the alarm, How I wanted there to be some ad hoc freelance work that was just too good to miss. I felt scared. I felt as though I was setting myself up for more failure and more sadness. Today I sat and looked at my work and wondered why the heck I actually do this? Is it to make people like me? Is it to give myself status? Is it to justify my place in the world? Yes. Of course it is. But writing can’t only be about these things. It can’t only be about making myself feel better about not being who I feel I should be. For me, writing has to be about making a difference. It has to be about forging a connection and showing a way for people to feel less alone. It has to have a purpose beyond my personal vanity. 

So this feels like a point of maturity. I intend to step away from the submissions treadmill for a while and work with the work I have produced over the last few years. I’ve spent time today looking at the themes in my work (sadly there isn’t a strong theme of fluffy bunnies) and intend to spend a little more time with the poems, redrafting and wrestling them into a series of pamphlets, before approaching some of the people who showed interest in being a mentor to me and my work.  Above all, I’ll spend more time reading and listening to poetry, more time absorbing and enjoying, and less time listening to that critical voice. Honest. 

Money makes the world go….

round? Well yes it does I suppose. Food, heat, light,time to write. All the essentials. I send out a lot of invoices for writing work, and it still gives me a bit of a thrill (people pay me to write ). Today I sent out a slightly different one – to my local bookseller, The Ironbridge Bookshop. They stocked my poetry zine last year and have just sold the last one. Now I’m not going to be retiring to the Bahamas (after commission and the graphic designer’s fee I could just about get a day out in Brum) but this does feel special. There’s something about the fact that someone has walked into a shop, seen my work and liked it enough exchange some of their hard earned cash in order to take it home. It feels like validation I suppose – as though there is a market for my words, and that it genuinely connects with people.

I’ve spent my earnings on two more courses. One is with Spelt magazine all about how to submit to magazines, which I’m obviously doing but I feel I could perhaps do better, with a bit of practical help. The other is a workshop which sounds right up my street both in terms of method and subject. I’m not great in a classroom situation (thank you repressive girls’ school) and struggle to contribute but this workshop seems like it might be just the right balance of contribution and contemplation. My experience on my York CLL course has really shown me how much I learn from a workshop style, and how it builds on everything I’ve read about poetry in the last couple of years.

Things feel good at the moment. I mean obviously everything is terrible, but this tiny poetry aspect of my life feels like a refuge, rather than yet another point of worry. And refuge is, after all, one of the reasons I write.

You can buy Yes to Tigers from Ironbridge Bookshop, or direct from me – just email kathrynannawrites@gmail.com x

How is it the end of August?!

I mean – how is that possible? This month has meandered away under a cover of cloud.

The end of summer usually makes me sad – warm weather means less pain for one thing. I miss eating outside, watching the swifts and martins overhead and the general floatiness that comes from spending every day in long skirts and flip-flops. Autumn is beautiful, of course, and winter is pleasingly austere but summer ? Summer is for smiling and pretending I live somewhere altogether less stoical.

I feel different this year. Perhaps it’s because much of summer has been taken up with house renovation, perhaps it’s the insistent gloom of the skies over Coalbrookdale. Perhaps it was that glorious week on the Welsh coast. I don’t feel as bereft and wary of winter as usual.

It could also be because I feel I’ve regained some equilibrium. I’m writing more mindfully, rather than scribbling from a turbulent mind, which inevitably means work that is more poem than outpouring – ultimately, work that is better.

I’ve also been more proactive with submissions – looking at my Trello page and seeing I’ve only three pieces in circulation was a bit of a shock . I spent some time reviewing, redrafting and refining some of the poems I’ve made this year as well as seeking homes for them. Always nerve racking. Always exciting. Always full of “why can’t I just be happy with gardening instead of putting myself through this”.

Camping at Caerfai seems like years ago

Good news too – I’ve had a piece of flash accepted for publication by Sledgehammer Lit. who are fast feeling like my poetry-spirit home. I love what they publish and I love that they seem to like my stuff. This piece is one that I love and that I’ve found hard to home – so I’m thrilled it’s going to be part a journal I admire. A couple of poems were declined – but that’s how it goes.

New projects are brewing too – a couple of gentle collaborations with friends whose art I adore may be coming to fruition in the not too distant future.

I seem to have a new direction in terms of how I want to write. My aim is to set aside a week – autumn I hope – and do my own mini writing retreat. I’ll have to stay at home obviously, but I’m going to try to minimise other work and manage domestic duties so I can focus on reading,writing and exploring new directions. Or I might go and make furniture in the Scottish Highlands like Cate le Bon.

So summer is closing, with a whimper or a bang remains to be seen, but I feel positive about my work, and positive about where I’m going – slowly, as ever, but I’m moving. And that’s what counts.

If you’d like to comission a poem, for yourself or as a gift then you can ! I love to create bespoke poetry – it’s a privilege to be asked to express people’s love and care for each other. If you’d like to find out more just click on Poems from the Hare at the top of the page, or send me a message kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

Fallow? Or just exhausted?

I always know when my writing needs to take a back seat. My brain simply ceases to play ball. I grasp for words – and find them – but the fizzy excited feeling has faded. I’ve lost my oomph.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not writing. It means I have to turn my attention to being able to pay the bills – so my writing energy is spent on creating killer product descriptions, and beautiful web content. It’s still writing, I still enjoy it – but poetry is dormant. For now.

That said, I’ve a few pieces due to be published soon, in places like Sledgehammer, The Dawntreader and Streetcake, and they’re poems I’m really proud of. I’m also immensely pleased with the writing I’m producing for Spelt – it’s an honour to be part of this growing publication.

I’m very aware of how my style has grown over the last six months or so. I really believe in the work I’m submitting, and feel confident that they are worth reading. The need for approval ebbs and flows, of course – I’m putting my heart on a page but I feel my words are more authentic.

I’ve also realised what kind of creator I am. There are some who are market and money focused – a place I dipped into – and some who are not. This is encapsulated by an experience with a local artist who was just delighted to have found a home for a piece she’d done. This doesn’t mean she didn’t charge for her work – it means there was a genuine warmth and love for both the sketches and the recipient.

The whole experience was joyful. I have never been avaricious, and the times when I’ve been least happy have been if I try to force myself that way. I write for money, because it’s my living, but I create for the sheer love of creating, and because I have something to say. And that is when my work is at its best.

So is this a fallow period? Who knows – the warning signs that I’m pushing too hard are nipping at my ankles, and I’ve made the decision to withdraw from my York CLL course, just to recover a little breathing space. If I know myself at all, in a week or two I’ll get that naggy feeling (usually as I’m dropping to sleep) and the words will return.

Thank you – your support and interest is invaluable to me.

Kathryn xx

Cool poetry pamphlet news

Pamphlet Update

You may remember from my post Three great things that have happened in 2021 that I have been lucky enough received a creative bursary from Raven Studios. I’ve used this to help me towards publication of my first poetry pamphlet. I’m delighted to say all the poems are complete, and I’ve a tentative feeling that I’ve created something I can be proud of. Before beginning the inevitable round of submissions – and possible disappointments – I’ve used a small amount of my bursary to employ the services of an editor.

Why use an editor ?

Quite simply, engaging the services of an editor means giving my work an extra polish. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Olivia Tuck before, and knew she’d give top quality feedback and suggestions as well as offering advice in a kind and sensitive way. She’s an incredibly talented writer, and I feel privileged to have had her input. The suggestions and tiny tweaks have really made my work sing – it’s amazing what the addition of a carefully placed full stop can do.

What happens next?

I need to do some homework – finding a place for poems is the hardest part, I think. It relies on more than just the quality of the work; it relies on an understanding on what the world of publishing is looking for, a touch of insight into the mood of readers and more than a sprinkling of good old fashioned luck. I really believe in these poems and am excited to have them out in the world. I just need to find a publisher who feels the same – and believes there is a big enough audience to make it viable. I’ve a couple of  ideas – but taking the plunge is a big step.

Other successes

You’ll have seen on my Twitter feed that I’ve had a couple of other happy scraps of news. I was longlisted for Mslexia’s poetry 2020 poetry competition (a huge thrill) and I also have a poem forthcoming in Feline Utopia – Louise Mather’s anthology about the wonderful world of cats. My submission is a cheerful, uncomplicated piece and I’m glad to have a happy poem out in the world.

There can never be enough pictures of this fellow

My biggest challenge at the moment is time. My freelance work has increased ( a good thing, of course) but this means my usable time has decreased. I’ve a bunch of work ready to send out, but precious little time to do the necessary research and submit correctly. I’m hoping things will calm down a little in March. The big hope of course is to be well enough to do that little bit more….

Hope all is well wherever you’re reading from. Take care, wash your hands, wear a mask

Kathryn

xx

Anniversaries, new roles, new homes

It’s around four years since I began this blog, published my first tentative post. I feel like I’ve come a long way – not in terms of whistles and bells but in terms of belief in and acceptance of myself. This is a decent place to be – there are wobbles of course, some startlingly dramatic, but I’m proud that I’ve stuck at this, despite the knock backs, and ups and downs of exposing my work (and my heart) to the world. This aspect will always be unnerving, but as I said in my very first bio I’m a better person when I write, and for me, writing comes alive when it is read by others. There is no better feeling in the world than someone saying they love something I have written. Writing helps me manage change, clarify emotion and tap into my absolute love of sound and rhythm. It also taps in to

I’m writing this looking over my beloved patch of woods that may soon be someone else’s view. This is a sad feeling but change is sometimes essential, even if it is forced by the actions of another. Fingers crossed where ever we go next will be as full of passerine chatter and eerie night screeches.

Woodland complete with cat.

Slivers of sadness are tempered beautifully with excitement at a new role. I’ve been appointed as a columnist for a new magazine called Spelt, the brainchild of the wonderful Wendy Pratt. Here’s how she describes it

Spelt Magazine is on a mission to celebrate and validate the rural experience. With four seasonal print issues per year, we aim to provide a platform for rural writers and to those creatives exploring nature, landscape, the interconnected nature of creative writing and the natural world and the liminality of natural areas within the urban landscape.

Wendy Pratt – Founder of Spelt Magazine

This ties in with a nagging feeling I’ve had for some time – that writing about rural life is somehow unfashionable, that real poets write about gritty urban landscapes and lives lived with theatrical edge. Whist this pattern of thought says more about me, and that I need to have respect for my own writing, I have a strong feeling that Spelt is going to chime with many people who feel a little alienated by the popular portrayal rural existence – and hungry to tell of it’s  reality. The content of my columns has to remain secret (how exciting!) but it’s fair to say this is a wonderful opportunity to be part of something I really believe in.

This past week has brought a little more regular writing too – I’m taking inspiration from Susie Dent’s Word Perfect a fabulous book that brings a new word to each day. Every morning I encounter a new word and write a small, possibly (definitely) silly poem. It’s a fun, brain oiling, start to the day.

I’m trying to develop a strong routine which allows balance between paid work, poetry and managing my health – it’s going ok; I’m breaking my work down into smaller chunks, and trying to be strict with myself about keeping one day aside for all things poetry related. Early starts are my friend and give me more workable hours. At the moment I’m gathering a few poems for submission to magazines, and anxiously waiting to hear about my pamphlet, as well as spending my day-to-day writing copy for various agencies and companies.

It almost feels as though I may actually be able to call myself a writer. Which is all I’ve ever wanted to be; I just never knew what it looked like. Turns out it’s someone who writes.

Sending hopeful wishes to all – spring is round the corner.

Kathryn xx