Bees and bursaries

Tiny hiatus this week – my course with Wendy Pratt has finished, and I’ve a small break before my next course with Poetry School starts. I’m so grateful to be able to do these – funds aren’t abundant, and poetry is definitely a luxury, but both Wendy and the Poetry School offer discounted courses that mean I can take part in something even though getting out is tricky. I’m good at self-study, but there’s nothing quite as fab as getting feedback from other people and being able to read what other people are producing. I can’t recommend Approaching your writing with a beginner’s mind enough – it’s been a great start to my writing year.

I had applied for a bursary to do my dream course at Arvon, sadly I didn’t get it (there was one bursary and many applicants), but I’m still glad I applied. The hum of disappointment is never far away it seems – just minutes before I got the news, I’d come out of a meeting where three poems have been accepted for something fab and exciting that’s happening later this year. It’s hard to keep up with the sudden changes of emotion to be honest.  I’ve set myself up for another barrage of bad news by sending out a new set of submissions today too, which means I’ll spend the next few days refreshing my inbox, before getting a rejection in about six months’ time.

All the business stuff is done for a week or two though. I’ve snuck a day from writing about cleaning and car grilles to grab some time for going through my notes from Approaching your writing with a beginner’s mind, and frantically trying to finish The Ode Less Travelled. I’m looking closely at form at the moment, and I love the puzzle and challenge of matching structure with meaning.  In the interests of efficiency, and even fun, I might experiment by trying to structure some of fledgling poems. Anyone for a villanelle about a pyjama party?

I’m finishing my week by going to a real live workshop. It’s free, it’s just for a couple of hours, and it’s in  the local library which somehow feels less intimidating – I don’t feel like there will be loads of “proper” poets there. My first ever workshop. I’m scared, but so excited. I’ll report back next week.

In the meantime, here’s a poem that’s far too silly to submit anywhere, but it makes me giggle.

Bee Poem

First bee rings the bell of my window,

two notes to say he’s arrived.

I shout about rain,

he says that’s a pain,

shows me his furry behind

Year seven, week two

What does M.E. feel like? Like a holiday. No, seriously it does. Like a holiday where you’ve gone down with the food poisoning the guide book warned you about, and you’re bravely/bitterly waving everyone off to climb up a hill or eat some delicious food.

I’m clinging on. Physically I wake up feeling a little worse each morning. My arms, legs, feet all have a dull ache and weirdly limited range of movement. I sat at my desk this morning, full of grand plans to apply for some more freelance work, and

get another batch of submissions in. I managed one before my brain slowed and fogged. Without work there’s no spare money to study, or enter competitions, or go to readings or buy the magazines I want to be part of.

You get it, I know. You’ve been following this blog, and you’ve read it all before. It’s groundhog day. Dull, tedious and repetitive. I’m striking things out of my diary, missing birthdays, wondering if I’ve been overambitious in my plans for the year, wondering if I’ll be well enough to get the seeds sown or the garden tidied, or sort out my desk. My world is a small white room and it’s getting smaller.

Year three

I’m at the start of my third year of writing “seriously” and my seventh year of having M.E.. I feel less than terrific about both of these things. If I compare to this time last year, when I was merrily writing travel pages, and confidently submitting here, there and everywhere, things feel considerably less buoyant. I feel considerably less buoyant. Sinkable, in fact.

I’m trying to muster positivity, but the bare fact is M.E. is limiting my life. It feels kind of good to say that out loud.And kind of awful. I try to downplay the impact and try to “be positive” but my reality is that I have about four useful hours each day. I frequently go over those, sometimes deliberately, sometimes through guilt, and very occasionally because I’m having too much fun to stop. Then my body makes me. No option. I’m on day five of my post Christmas crash. This year’s festive period was particularly tricky, and I’m not surprised I’m so ill. I’m just sick of being sick. There’s so much I want to do, and so much that needs to be done to try to make things better, lying at home feels both privileged and pathetic.

How to regain hope then? I’m struggling to find the answer. I’ve a nagging feeling that I need to calm down, stop pushing and start enjoying the minutes of wellness that I have. Ha. It’s impossible. I love the ups and downs and adrenaline. Recognising what is important is the hardest thing. Perfection is subjective, and my lens changes every five minutes. Mostly I need to rest, but while body has a way of just “stopping” my mind won’t quit, and I can’t even divert myself by reading or watching a good film. Or a terrible film. Even Gone with the Wind has failed to distract.

I usually end these moany posts with a flash of perkiness, but in all honesty I haven’t got one. I am writing again. I just need to regrow my skin.

Thanks for reading, and any hints and tips are gratefully received x

Two steps back

Reasons M.E. sucks number 76

It stops me doing stuff. Sometimes, it’s because I’m too ill to get up. Sometimes it’s because my brain won’t work. Sometimes it’s because I’m in too much pain. Sometimes it’s because the sheer effort of planning enough rest before I take part in anything, and the fear of consequence, is overwhelming. I deal with these things every day, and have kind of come to accept them.

This month, a new obstacle has raised its head. I’m going to have to step down from my role as poet in residence. Not through lack of skill, or lack of interest from the talented people in Secret Severn, but because I can’t manage public transport on my own, which means I can’t get out to see the artists at work in their studios.

An invisible aspect of M.E. is brain fog. Brain fog feels as though someone has reached in to your mind and twisted up all the normal paths of thought. This happens when I overload and it’s pretty unnerving. I get confused and can lose track of where I am. This means using public transport alone isn’t safe for me and I have to rely on taxis for getting around. Taxis cost money, and purse strings have been pulled, so there are no longer funds to support my role. I’m incredibly sad, frustrated and unsure what to do next.

Undoubtably, the work has taken it’s toll. Producing good posts, editing photos and seeing folk takes time and energy and I’ve been ill since my last visit. The thing is, I’ve loved stepping up to the challenge of meeting so many new people, and even enjoyed my spell as an emergency steward in the gallery. The positive feedback from everyone was a tremendous boost, both as a writer, and personally.

Sadly, any future visits to artists studios have had to be cancelled, as well as my fledgling plans for plunging in to giving a reading or two and running a workshop as part of next year’s trail. Having to lose all this for the sake of a few pounds dispiriting.

There are still poems to be written, based on the work I’ve done so far, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to continue working with the lovely people I met. Right now, this change of plan, as well as the general low that comes from being ill is tricky to deal with. My confidence is pretty dented, and I’m finding it hard to find resources for rebuilding.

Sometimes it feels like it’s time to stop trying.*

* I pride myself on positivity, and am an expert blessing counter. I am having a day off today. Normal service will resume shortly. I hope.

Feeling like a tortoise

As well as my Secret Severn research, I’ve been polishing my competition submissions. I’ve had to pare back my entries this year, partly because of cost, and partly because I’ve tried to adopt a more intelligent approach.

When I first started entering and submitting, I was so nervous I just pinged poems to every publication that came up. I had some success, but this year I’ve tried a more measured approach. I suppose I’m seeking quality over quantity. I’ve also got over that first rush of excitement about having work published, and moved back to being focused on creating work that I feel proud of, and that I need to write.

I’ve been struggling to write anything new, partly because I’ve been busy, and partly because my brain is having one of its tired phases. I recognise the signs now and know that it’s just the M.E. rather than anything else. Now I’ve got my submissions off, I’m taking a week or so away from it all, before refocusing on Secret Severn for the rest of September and into October. It’s time to read my favourite chilled out writers, maybe dip in and out of some new poetry I’ve got on my bedside table, and spend a bit of time in fields listening to new music.

As ever, getting people to engage with what I write means a lot – if you’ve read this far thank you!

I’d love it if you’d like the post on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KathrynAnnaWrites/
and if you’ve a moment to comment on any of my social media posts, it increases visibility.

Thank you!

Planning is for wimps….

It’s not. It’s for the sensible and measured, neither of which are natural to me. I love a good list, but only so I have a target to beat.

I’ve foolishly (joyfully) undertaken two festivals in two weeks. Dafter than daft in many ways. I’m lurching from delight to despair and then hopefully to recovery. A lot of the physical side is helped by the Attitude is Everything organisation who work with event hosts to make things more achievable. Accessibility measures mean no queuing, no endless walks from the car-park and provision of viewing platforms where I know I’ll be able to sit. It all makes a huge difference. I’ve a lovely group of friends who subtly take care of me, as well as a wonderful husband who takes on the lion’s share of prep and practicality, under close supervision of course.

I have built self-care in to the weeks in-between. I’m ignoring the mess of the house, and food is simple but high in nutrients. Another part recovery is taking a break from writing. I’m still scribbling the odd thing and have a small copywriting project but that is that’s all at the moment.

Essentially, two weekend festivals mean taking a two week break from routine and that’s ok. My occupational therapist has almost given permission to have these foolish times by helping me see that life will be like this sometimes and all I have to do is figure out how to make it work.

This isn’t ideal and I’d rather be able to do all the things that need to be done (my wilting tomatoes make me sad) but it’s not possible. I’m learning to inhabit the middle ground, a most unnatural state, but it means for these two weeks I can spend time in my favourite places, discover new music and gather new thoughts.

Whilst all is quiet for writing at the moment, there is exciting news on the way. In the meantime I shall continue to admire my sparkly docs, and to enjoy sitting in various fields.