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

Permission to be a poet

Self-belief is both nectar and poison.  Too much – I risk being seen as arrogant, pushy or proud, too little and I remain shadow side, whispering about the things I like to do and *might* be good at. Self-belief is not for people like me- female, working class background, chronic illness. Self-belief slips through my fingers at every turn.

And yet it must be there. There must be something that wanders in to my mind and tells me that I have something to say, and people to hear it. A poetry tutor saying “You’ve a voice that needs to be heard” took my breath away. I mean, everyone needs to be heard, but I think this was meant in a positive and particular way.

Yet still I wrestle with myself – to grow courage to join in with the group, to speak in class, to read what I’ve written during an exercise. Yet I feel wonderful once I’ve done it, once my breathing has calmed, my heart has slowed. Once I learn to quiet the voices that mutter of the fool I have made.

Reinvigorate your writing

My third workshop with Nine Arches was led by Ian Humphreys. Ian’s book Zebra was one of the first books of  modern poetry I read from cover to cover, and one of the first that showed me that poetry does not have to be a puzzle. The concept that poetry must be oblique, must be something to “get” is one I was taught, and one that leaves many people thinking poetry is not for them. Popular poets are derided and sniffed at, well-known poets are seen as somehow letting the side down. The idea that poetry is not for everyone is perpetuated.

Back to the workshop. Yesterday’s session was all about writing poetry in a direct manner. Reading for the session included work form Andrea Cohen, Collette Bryce, Hannah Lowe, and a stomach twisting performance piece by Lily Myers. It is the kind of work I love to read, and the kind of work that I seem to write.

Giving my self permission

I’ve long worried that I’m not “poetic” enough. I use the all the tools, love to play with rhythm, repetition, white space. I love the way imagery insinuates itself into my work without my really knowing and I love that these tools work to create a connection with other people. Reading and hearing work from people that write in a way that is direct, that is pointed, makes me feel there is a place for my less than pretty style.

Another point made by Ian was to embrace the power of the new – to push out of what makes us comfortable. Again, this requires confidence but what I love about taking part in a workshop is the sense of immediacy. There is little time to mither and fret – the focus is firmly on writing and embracing the now for that workshop moment the words come and knit themselves together – and later I will remove the fluff.  Above all, the time spent yesterday helped me feel there is a place for my writing, and a reason to keep trying. That’s got to be a good thing.

Wintering and waking -gentle steps into poetry for 2022

The first blog of 2022. A slow start for me –I’ve noticed I tend to hibernate from around the beginning of December. Logical me says it’s because my M.E. addled brain can only cope with so much and the machinations of Christmas preparation and production are quite enough. I do continue to journal, and I do write the odd scrap, but very little else. Less logical me imagines that I’m secretly part tortoise and really should be tucked away in a hay-filled cardboard box like Freda from Blue Peter.

The first couple of years this “wintering” happened, I felt an odd combination of worry and guilt – almost as though poetry was a needy puppy that requires constant attention to function well. I think poetry is more cat like in nature. It simply exists and will manage well alone – but will blossom into something quite wonderful when proper care and nurture is given. I have learned to wait for it to unfurl and whisper words in the early hours, draw me back to work. It’s a delicious feeling and something that signals the start of my writing year.

My trusty planner and two grand new notebooks for this year

With that in mind, I always try to have a couple of courses booked for the opening months of the year as way in to writing again and to give me the structure I need. My first one began this week my bursary place on Recharge Your Writing from the wonderful Nine Arches Press. I love Nine Arches approach to poetry. They were the first indie publisher I encountered and their fresh, no-nonsense approach was a revelation. They offer a catalogue of publications that swoop through so many subjects and styles, underpinned by an authenticity and quiet fury. I’ve also enjoyed using two of their books “How to be a Poet” and “The Craft” guides for self-study, so I was really looking forward to this course.

I wasn’t disappointed. Led by the inimitable Caleb Parkin, our group of sixteen poets spent two hours exploring all the ways to play with language and poetry. I discovered a host of online resources including word generators, title-o-matic and a fab site that takes you anywhere in the world at random. We wrote together and individually, plus we made use of breakout groups which meant I was actually able to speak – talking to one person is a lot less scary than talking to 16. I’ve come away with a sense of play, a sense of joy about writing, a whole heap of inspiration and a new poem that I think may develop into something good.

What I’m reading

Every year  I want to read more. It’s something that I need to do to improve my skills, and also to calm and balance my mind. Brain fog makes it hard. Scrolling makes it harder – especially with all these cheese and wine parties to unravel. From next week I intend to create a reading half hour at the start of each day. It’s something I did on and off last year, often with a little journal and reflection on what I read. I wrote more, and better and I noticed a sense of grounding. I thrive on routines, small things that I do each day that make me feel I have a framework and structure – safety points in the chaos of my brain I think.

I’ve started the year with non-fiction. Scoff is a fabulous book that deals with two of my favourite things – food and social history. I’m tumbling ideas for a new set of poetry that I think will consider food and its role in mental wellbeing, so this book is a solid background.

I also took advantage of Nine Arches sale and bought two new books – Be Feared by poet and artist Jane Burn, and What Girls Do in the Dark by Rosie Garland. I’ve had my eye on both of these for a while, and I’m excited to dive in.

My hopes for 2022

My biggest goal for this year is to get my pamphlet published.  I feel like I can’t move on until this one is out. I’ve spent time crafting and redrafting and have absolute confidence in the poetry – the challenge is finding a publisher who feels the same. I only realised at the end of last year that most publishers are happy for simultaneous submission of longer work, which, when I consider the average turnaround time is several months makes absolute sense. Fingers crossed I’ll have news soon.

As well as brewing a new set of poems, I’ve also been given the opportunity to run my first workshops. Of course, my immediate thought was “I can’t do that” but then I realise I spent ten years designing and delivering training for people on subjects far less beguiling than poetry, and for classes where a good percentage had no interest in being there. I’m very excited and hope to have more news about this soon.

So that’s it. The first blog of 2022.More positive, despite everything, and with a strong sense of looking forward, becoming better and relishing the fact that I have this wonderful thing to enjoy as part of my life.

Thank you, as ever, for reading,

Kathryn xx

Birdsong and bursaries – poetry happenings of 2021

Writing a round up of my writing year comes with the twin mean girl whispers of  “who’s going to care” and “don’t blow your own trumpet”.  Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to many people, and it’s a lot easier to hide behind a wall of coyness, and hope that someone else will do the praising. Being self employed means telling people about what I do falls squarely on my shoulders though, so here we are –  a round up of this year’s adventures in poetry.

My overriding sense of this year is one of moving forward. Despite the pandemic, despite fluctuating health, I’ve done a lot of things that scare me. I’ve given poetry priority,  I’ve attended more interactive classes, and carved out specific time to read, write and journal – even if that time is before I start work at 6am.

Fierce Wren – inspiration for a poem that will be published in by Lighthouse early next year. Image courtesy of Bob Ford

Selected and rejected – poetry submissions

This shift of attitude has paid off. I’ve had the confidence to send work to several print journals that I thought were too good for me and finish the year with work selected for publication in The Dawntreader, Dreich, and Lighthouse. I’ve also been brave enough to send out some of my less conventional pieces. Sledgehammer Lit has been a great joy both to read and submit to, and Streetcake gave a home to one of my favourite pieces from this year. I’ve also had work selected to be anthologised – one for Louise Mather’s charming Feline Utopia, and another for Broken Sleep Books Anthology of new Eco-Poetry.

In total I’ve sent 28 pieces out for publication and had 16 published – which I think is around a 60% selection rate, as well being long listed in a few competitions. Is this good? I’ve no idea. What is good is that I’ve sent out more work that I truly feel is “mine”. I’ve grown a little more confidence and a little more belief in the fire in my belly – the thing that keeps me going despite the knock backs and false starts, the sheer terror of placing my heart on a page and sending it out to be judged.

Rejection is hard and it is horrible, but whereas I used to sulk and think “well I can’t submit to them again” I’ve reached a point where I take the poem, look at it, see what can be improved and send it right back out. I cringe at the terrible errors and have learned that some pieces are just not meant for the light of day. Rather than seeking constantly validation from others, I’ve worked on being honest with myself about what’s not working, and being honest enough to say what I think is good. False humility is taught to many of us from a young age, and it’s a tricky one to shake off. It’s taken a lot of work to reach this point, and it’s my no means a permanent state but I feel I’ve taken a step forward.

Bob Ford’s beautiful Spiky Starling graced the Free Little Gallery this summer.

What has been different about poetry in 2021?

I began this year in a state of dilly dally, unsure, feeling defeated because my pamphlet submission had been rejected and in the usual January slump. As always, I had a new course lined up for the start of the year but unusually, this one had real time interaction with other poets. Actual speaking and reading aloud. From schooldays I’ve always been terrified of speaking in even the smallest groups. I sit, mull on what I want to say, try to find the courage to voice it and then either someone says it before me or simply speaks over me. So I shush, and say nothing and feel a bit disappointed in myself.

Now, ideally I’d be saying all that’s changed and I’m a vibrant and lively contributor to group discussion. I’m not. I still find it all excruciating and still feel endlessly frustrated with my lack of input. But – and here’s the thing – the positives of these courses have dramatically outweighed this negative. I’ve learned a huge amount from other’s suggestions during workshops, listened to some fantastic work being read and …drumroll please…read my own work aloud.

Reading poetry aloud

And this is the big thing, Not just because I think that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do this in real life one day, but because of how it’s helped me understand my work. Reading aloud is the greatest way to understand what works and what doesn’t. Reading to a workshop group helps me understand what chimes with others, what I’ve expressed well enough to make that connection, that bridge.

One of my real “pinch me” joys this year has been my column for Spelt Magazine. I was amazed and terrified to have my pitch accepted. As ever Wendy Pratt (editor of Spelt and poet extraordinaire) gives the kind of feedback that makes my heart sing and I hope the columns have been as enjoyable to read as they were to write. It’s been a great project to work on and left me full of ideas for other pieces.

Local folk have come up trumps for me too. Raven Studios gave me a small bursary which allowed me time to write and hone my pamphlet, as well as funds for professional feedback from Olivia Tuck. The pamphlet is out at a couple of places and I hope to have news early next year…Even more local was my first poetry exhibition in the Coalbrookdale Free Little Gallery – a very cute bus stop at the bottom of my lane. Six pieces, along with photographs from myself and the exceptionally talented Bob Ford were on display. It feels good to have put something out in the community, and to gain an idea of the various themes that run through my work.

Finally, and completely out of the blue, I have been given a bursary place on an absolute dream of a course from Nine Arches Press. Being part of Nine Arches Dynamo mentoring scheme in 2018 gave me the courage to start on this poetry adventure, and this festive surprise cements the feeling that someone believes in my work. It feels like Christmas already and I can’t wait to start it early next year.

Poetry 2022

Next year? I hope to have homed my first pamphlet. I also want to explore more commercial opportunities – poetry postcards and bespoke work. I like the idea of placing poetry in the day-to-day lives and am plotting and planning ways to be more active in my lovely community.

I will read more, my aim is three poems each day and of course I will keep writing, keep submitting and maybe, maybe have pulled to gather of a full collection by the end of next year.

Thank you so, so much for reading, for being interested and for caring about what I do. It means the world to me.

Kathryn xx

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

Three great things that have happened this week

Having an illness like M.E. creates many unexpected twists* and forces change. Losing social life, the security of regular work, the simple convenience of popping to the supermarket to get a few bits for tea creates a sense of disorientation and a whisper of fear.

These are things I’ve spent the last seven years adjusting to and things that are now “normal”, and perhaps not unexpected.

What I didn’t expect was that having an illness like M.E. would create opportunities. I certainly didn’t expect those opportunities to be quite so close to being what I’ve always dreamt of.

Columnist for Spelt Magazine

Opportunity number one is being part of Spelt Magazine.This morning I had my first meeting with editor Wendy Pratt and I’m just fizzing with excitement.

Spelt sets out to do something different – it seeks to capture  the brilliance of the natural world, but also the reality of living in a rural environment. From our chat this morning it’s clear this is going to be a magazine that amplifies the voice of those who don’t feel part of the edgy urban scene, but certainly don’t identify with the cosy lifestyle version of the countryside presented by other magazines. It’s something that excites me, something that I think is valuable, and somewhere that I think I fit – which is a wonderful thing to be able to say.

I’m not going to say too much about the column, other than I’m hoping to create something uplifting that brings a smile on gloomy days and gives a window into tiny joys.  

I’m so excited about this new role – I’m even using my beloved Ciak notebook. Makes a change from recycling envelopes.

Bursary from Raven Studios

My second opportunity comes in the form of a bursary courtesy of Raven Studios in Shrewsbury. Raven Studios is an incredible organisation that offers creative space and support to all manner of artists. My bursary is essentially buying me time to write – as you know M.E. means my physical and mental resources are limited and often writing to pay the bills takes precedent over creative work. My goal is to give around the 5 hours a week to developing poetry for a pamphlet that explores mental and physical health – it’s still in an embryonic stage, but I’m excited to have a new project to work on, and to have support from such a vibrant group of artists.

Learning how to be a better poet

You may remember I had to curtail my formal study with OCA – for many reasons it just wasn’t working, plus the fees proved to be overwhelming. What I have discovered is the wealth of courses available to help me develop as a writer. These range from simple prompt-a-day courses (I say simple – they’ve been the single best thing I’ve done), to more involved courses like those run by the York Centre for Life Long Learning or Poetry School. Thanks to a gift from Santa, I’ve been able to enrol on three courses this year, one looking at women writers, exploring body and illness and one looking at how to put together a themed collection. The last two are particularly exciting given my new project with Raven Studios.

So, here ends the post. It’s a grim month after a grim year, and the day to day is hard. I miss all the things! Despite the many lacks, I’m so excited about what the next few months will bring. More than anything I realise how much I’ve learnt since my diagnosis in 2013.

As ever, thanks for reading

Kathryn

xx

*my less than accurate tying created the phrase “M.E. creates many unexpected twits.” I’m not entirely sure that was a typo.

What I love about poetry prompts

This year has been one of my best. Ok, so that’s not entirely true – what I mean is, this year has been one of my best as a writer. I’ve been longlisted and shortlisted in several competitions, had various pieces published including one in actual print, which always feels super special, plus I’ve published an illustrated poetry zine. Compared to the gloom and despondency I felt about my work at the start of the year, I finish the year feeling positive – about writing at least- and I put it all down to poetry prompts.

Why do poetry prompts help ?

For me it works in two ways. Firstly, it’s the element of playfulness. A prompt kick starts my mind, starts the language and rhythm circling. It may not be a subject I like or would consider, but once I give the words time, often something good emerges. Often something terrible emerges too and that’s also cool. It’s all writing and it doesn’t all need to be seen.

I’ve learnt that I either write something super quick, like my shortlisted 100word poem/story for Lightbox Originals winter competition, or I need to spend several weeks thinking, tweaking, revising. I guess this is true for most writers. I think the greatest thing that working with poetry prompts has given me is a sense of fun and possibility. I love writing again in a way that seemed impossible at the beginning of the year.

My prompt a day notebook – I’ve almost filled it this year

Where do all these poetry prompts come from?

Ah now this is my secret weapon. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I’ve taken several “prompt a day” courses, created and run by Wendy Pratt. It’s a simple idea with immense results. I benefit from the discipline of daily prompts. I also benefit form being part of a very kind online writing group that’s associated with each course. I’m not a great group person, but I’ve felt welcome, safe, and confident enough to share my work  and seek feedback.

The other aspect of this is that I’m reading countless poems each day, understanding what works, understanding how a quirk of word or comma can completely change the feel of a poem. I’m also learning what a huge range of responses a small group of people will have to a prompt. There’s no sense of “getting it wrong”. A lot of this has to be down to the attitude held by Wendy herself – even the simple fact that she allows some of us to pay a little less for the courses (and gives excellent way of self-assessment) shows an understanding that this sort of thing really is a luxury and helped me feel there was a place for me here. It’s a good feeling.

As the year draws to a close, I feel aware of myself as a writer.  My work has grown tremendously over the last twelve months; I see a stark difference between what I’m writing now and the work in Yes to Tigers for example. I seem to have a bit more confidence, and I’m definitely having a lot more fun.

Oher news

I’ve given my site a bit of refresh – I’ve a dedicated page for  my published work, as well as an updated “Why this all began” page.  News on my pamphlet submission will be coming in the next few months (and I am hating waiting – this is one of the biggest things I’ve done so far) plus I’ve the usual round of competition and journal entries.

By far the best news is that my recent ill spell seems to have passed and I’m relishing having two or three days a week where I feel able to write and work and feel very slightly free.

Wash your hands, stay safe, eat a  mince pie, and read your favourite books. Maybe try a poetry prompt too.

To a commission a poem, piece of short fiction or buy a copy of Yes to Tigers email kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

You can find  out more  about Wendy Pratt’s poetry,the courses she offers and her brand new magazine Spelt here

What is micro fiction?

If you follow my social media you’ll have seen my delight at being shortlisted for Lightbox Originals‘ 100 word story . Being shortlisted for anything is always exciting and this is no exception – especially because it’s a genre of creative writing that I adore but can find somewhat challenging.

Back to the matter in hand. Put simply, micro fiction is a very, very, very short story. It has a beginning, middle and end like any other story, but unlike any other story it has very few words. This particular competition set a limit of 100 words. Not many at all.

Very happy to be shortlisted for the #100words story competition from Lightbox Originals

Is micro fiction like poetry?

For me it feels like it is. I use rhythm and pace to create atmosphere, and every word has to count – there’s no room for waste. I’m not a chatty sort of soul and I think this is why I enjoy working with so few words.

I’m also aware of a change in my understanding of poetry. Reading more widely has helped me to see that the work I really love is the work that tells a story – takes me somewhere. I’m seeing a change in my recent work moving away from description and introspection towards more imaginative work. I think it’s a sign of personal development (remember all that therapy), as well as the improvement I’ve made as a poet,largely through the excellent prompt a day courses courtesy of Wendy Pratt.

Isn’t that a bit of a big headed thing to say?

It certainly feels like it is; I’m part of the generation that has the phrase “pride before a fall” running through my veins, for whom thinking I am good at anything is worse than being good at nothing.

Despite this I’m sticking my neck out and saying I am a better writer now than I was this time last year. I can see how I’ve progressed – both in poetry and in my paid work as a copywriter. I think that’s ok to say. Actually, I think it’s essential. If I never see that I’ve improved, where is the impetus to continue ?

Reading more and more poetry this year like this gorgeous book from Robert McFarlane

Can you really tell a story in 100 words?

You can tell a story in six. Maybe less. It all relies on understanding that the story is in the reader – they bring their experiences to match with your words. The result may be a quiet ding or a church bell level resonance, but the meeting is there and that’s what makes the story, however many words there are. The skill lies in having something to say that others will warm to, and saying it well. The best writers have an extra bit of magic that I haven’t figured out yet.

When will you know the results?

The results are announced next week. It would be amazing to be placed but, honestly, just entering is a huge achievement never mind getting to the shortlist. Putting work out is always scary, and knowing it’s being judged is extra scary. I’m quite matter of fact about losing and getting rejections these days – it’s a side effect of trying I suppose – but it’s always an absolute joy to gain a glimmer of achievement.

Thanks for reading – I’m much better this week, and hoping I can fully regain some balance to my health soon. Your support means the world!

Stay safe, wash your hands etc.

Kathryn

Xx

My illustrated poetry zine inspired by work from artists around the Severn Gorge is available through Etsy or by emailing kathrynannawrites@gmail.com.

You can buy #YesToTigers in my Etsy shop or by emailing kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

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.

Tigers and knife angels

Images from British Ironwork Centre

I did it. I went to the workshop, I participated, wrote two poems and …read them out. I’ve not been in this sort of environment since becoming ill, and I felt incredibly awkward, shy and slightly foolish (what the hell am I doing here?). Three things happened. Firstly, the fellow running the workshop Steve Pottinger had the kind of relaxed manner that instantly made me feel at ease, he asked questions and listened to my answers, which is always a winner with shy folk like me. Secondly, EMDR therapy has vastly reduced the symptoms of anxiety. I felt nervous, but the breathlessness, twitchiness and feeling of blind panic were nowhere to be seen, considering these used to happen just going to the co-op, I was amazed and delighted. Finally, my sheer joy at being out, being focused on a subject that fascinates and moves me and being encouraged to write about it was irresistible.

It wasn’t plain sailing – I mumbled my way through reading my work, struggled to contribute sensibly and by the end brain fog had pretty much taken over so I ended up going full-on Moose Allan by the time I said goodbye. I lost the evening, and I suspect I’ll struggle with stamina this week, but I am so glad I’ve done this. I feel more positive about my work, and more joy in it than I felt for the whole of last year. If you’re interested to see what came out of the workshop, I’ve put my drafts on my work in progress page and I’d love it if you’d have a read.

Ironbridge tigers

But what about the tigers? Aha – the prompt for Mslexia’s themed writing is wildlife. Oddly, this has spawned two pieces of work about being in tiger disguise. One of these is a sestina, a delightfully complicated way of constructing a poem, which I thoroughly enjoyed creating. More revision and work is needed for both before (if) I submit, but again, the overwhelming feeling is that I am enjoying writing. The need for validation is still huge (and always will be I suspect) but that magic feeling of almost tasting the words as I write them is back.

The knife angel is in Southwater until the end of March, and there are poetry workshops for young people running this week at Southwater. It’s brilliant to have this on my doorstep, and I hope there will be more to come.