I hated Record Breakers. It was incredibly dull (except for the domino challenges), and all that wholesome patience grated on me. It still does, even more so now I know it’s true.

Getting work published takes a long time. The first step is research. Which journal is most likely to like my work? Where’s open for submissions? Who’s judging competition x and have I read enough of their work to know their style and interests? Next, you submit. Follow the guidelines about word count, number of lines, preferred font. Write a good cover letter (not too long, but enough to show you’ve read the journal). Then you wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. I’ve had responses in a week. I’ve waited over six months. Some places accept simultaneous submissions, many don’t – so my work sits and waits too. It’s a frustrating process, but since many indy presses are run by tiny teams or volunteers, it’s understandable. The thrill of having something accepted is wonderful. Even a kind rejection (where they ask to see more work soon) is ok. The waiting is tough, but the best way to get round that is to throw myself into something new.

Cat is waiting to hear about his poem “Why do the mice all run away?”
Attingham park looking moody

I’m looking forward to Autumn now – although I miss the light terribly- it’s a time for squirrelling myself away and writing. Obviously Secret Severn work takes priority, and my goal is to get drafts done by Christmas. I’ll put them away for a while, then revisit and revise in the spring. I’ve got an urge to write stories again too, so I’m hoping to spend time with writing prompts and get some of these floating ideas down on paper. It’s a time of watching the garden fade and prepare itself for next year, reading all the things I’ve not got round to reading, and maybe watching a bit of Record Breakers*.

Thanks for doing such a great job last week, after my slightly awkward plea for interaction with my social media pages. If you’ve chance to do the same again that’s ace – plus I really love talking to you !

Click to read my published poetry or published flash fiction. You can read old drafts and work in progress by following the links on the menu.

*I’m probably not going to watch Record Breakers.


Wild (ish) words

My latest publication Maiden Castle features on Words for the Wild    ,a gorgeous site brimming with poetry and short fiction devoted to the magic of the countryside. There are some wonderfully rich pieces of writing on this site, and I’m proud to be featured alongside them.This poem is one of the first I produced as part of Remi Graves’ The Decisive Moment Studio with Poetry School and one that is close to my heart for many reasons.

It’s such an odd feeling publicising publication; it’s necessary because I need to build an audience, but it feels alien to everything I have learned about not being boastful, and that favourite adage of pride coming before a fall. On the other hand, I tell other people to believe in themselves, and encourage them in their achievements, so shouldn’t I practice what I preach ? Who knows what the answer is. Possibly to stop overthinking and enjoy someone liking what I’ve written….

Please pop over to Words for the Wild and have a read. I’d love your feedback. And if you’re a social media type liking, and especially sharing is a great way to support me. Thanks as ever and happy Wednesday x


Futuristic zombie poems* and some new friends**………

July seems to be as positive as June.

I’m delighted to have been invited to work on another major project with Big Star Copywriting. I was feeling pretty low about my health and circumstance at the start of the year, so naturally having my commercial writing sought out, and getting good feedback is a big boost. My only caution is that my natural work ethic means that I tend to put paid work first. This is right and proper, but it does mean a lot of micro-management and balance within the life of someone who has M.E. I’m doing okay with it, but I do need to remember it’s permissible (and wise) to say no.


Primers is my current creative focus. Thanks to the care and time from my lovely Beta readers, I have two poems I will definitely submit and two I’m almost sure are ready to go. There are two that need to be hatched… deadline is July 22nd, so I need to get cracking this week .

I started a very short online course with The Poetry School, called Archiving the Self, looking at our every-day lives and how we could write about them. It seems ideal for me because my life can be quite static at times. Learning how to respond to my world, however limited means I feel less trapped by circumstance. I’m hoping working with other poets will bring a new dimension to my work too. My plan (if it works) is that this course will contribute to the last two Primers poems.


I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of fitting in lately, it’s a state I’ve never been lucky enough to inhabit and one that has never really worked if I’ve tried to move in to it. With writing (and any creative activity) it is a tricky subject. Talking with my writers and readers group last night** it was clear that responding to the needs of agents and publishers can be a creative challenge. I’m nowhere near that stage and I’m kind of glad, although there is an element of coherence required when submitting for competitions and magazines, after-all It would be pointless to submit my best futuristic zombie poem* to a magazine that specialised in post-Freudian theory. I planned to do a great deal of research on this over the summer, but things are taking a different turn. Hopefully it will be something I can focus on in the autumn, once I’ve submitted my assessment work.

Here’s hoping the positive trajectory continues. As ever I couldn’t do any of this without the care and support of those close to me, and without the interest and enthusiasm of everyone who reads, shares, follows or gives a cursory glance to what I’m up to. Happy Tuesday !

*I don’t have a futuristic zombie poem. Yet.

**I’ve joined a group of like-mined people, who love words. Several are proper published and everything. I was terrified to go to my first meeting (social anxiety is not a good companion) but they’re a kind and interesting bunch. I’m glad I was brave.

Endings and beginnings


Ah, I feel light and breezy unlike the weather at the moment. Why so cheery Kathryn ? How kind of you to ask. The reason for this uncharacteristic jollity is that I’ve sent my final OCA assignment. I couldn’t be more relieved. I mentioned in earlier blogs that I felt I was increasingly working to fulfil learning outcomes and holding back on what I produced so that I’d meet the criteria for showing I can redraft my work. I  felt about as creative as a dishcloth. I’ve loved having feedback and learning new techniques and I’ve enjoyed working to deadlines. I’ve hated knowing that whatever I produce has to tick a set of boxes to meet guidelines and funding requirements. This is the nature of education and it is utterly unavoidable but my desire for a good mark was superseding the desire to produce good work. I will still enter my work for assessment  because I dislike to leave things unfinished but mentally I’ve moved on.


Now the real work begins. I shall spend June putting together a collection of poems to submit to a mentoring and publishing program as well as creating a super complicated submissions calendar. It’s a bit like creating a revision chart, full of good intentions which may or may not be fulfilled. I feel excited and a little giddy which is something I haven’t felt for a while. I’ve already submitted to Bridport and to Mslexia’s themed writing and whilst I may not win a thing, I may win a tiny-weeny prize or I may win the biggest prize of all. One thing I am certain of is that the process of revising my work, researching publications and prizes to see where it will fit and learning to cope with the inevitable rejections will make me a better writer. I’m half-way through 2018 and don’t really feel I’ve got a hang of the year yet but I’m confident the last half will be productive and exciting.


Read, like, share and please subscribe so that you keep receiving my updates. I love to hear from you too, it gets kind of lonely here sometimes. Charley gets a little bored of my ramblings. img_2449

How to be a contented writer-seven top tips.

img_20180427_075404_217923183536.jpgWriting can be a lonely old business. Sometimes it feels like little more than shouting at the sky . A big part of writing is perseverance. A bigger part is confidence and having enough of it to see me through the moments when writing seems like a terrible way to spend my days.  Here are seven tips that keep me working even when I feel I’m wasting my time.

  • Read

I read as much as I possibly can. I read within my genre to see how it’s done, make notes of what moves me and how, make notes of what leaves me cold and why. I read outside your genre to spark my ideas and give me the ever elusive inspiration. If I’m struggling I find local newspapers have the quirkiest stories that demand that I ask ‘why?’

  • Write

Even when I don’t want to. Especially when I don’t want to. Write about why I don’t want to. I whinge, wail, write all the things I can’t say. If nothing else I feel less furious, plus despite myself, I’ve written something.

  • Grammar

Grammar helps my reader understand what I am trying to say. All those annoying rules are signposts that help them hear the tone I hope to create and read at the pace I intend. I’m surrounded by poorly written content on enthusiastic blogs and it’s easy to think grammar is outdated. It’s not. It’s what makes quality work stand out.

  • Use “How to” guides

There are dozens I’ve dipped in and out of but these are three I return to.

The Creative Writing Coursebook Julia Bell

Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg

and latterly How to be a Poet Jo Bell and Jane Commane.

These three give me a good balance of step-by-step guide, a little bit of hand-holding and a decent amount of “just get on and write.”

  • Talk to other writers

I’ll admit I struggled with this. I’m a solitary soul and the thought of discussing my work with peers filled me with horror. I took part in an online workshop at the start of this year and can honestly say I gained as much from that hour as I did from six months of formal study. The wealth of knowledge and generosity in sharing that knowledge within the writing community is a wonderful thing. I’m gradually getting more involved with writing groups online and am even venturing out to a Poetry Breakfast at a local bookshop. A big step for me, but I know it’ll be beneficial. I might even enjoy myself!

  • Write anywhere and everywhere.

I love stationery and I have many beautiful notebooks. I never have one with me when I need it. Hospital waiting rooms are my current favourite writing space. Lots of time, lots of people and no internet. Perfect. I have numerous scribblings on the backs of receipts that are the basis of some of my favourite pieces.

  • Read

No, this isn’t a brain fog moment. It really is the most valuable thing I do to support my work.

There we have it. Seven writing tips that keep me moving forward. Now it’s time to get on with a bit more work. I should have news of competitions and submissions by next week, so watch this space!

Thank you for reading, as ever please like, share,shout from the rooftops it all helps.

A change……

is as good as a rest.


As it happens I’ve had both. It is wonderful how a break from the microscope of daily life has shown me a way to feel a little less trapped. Being awed by extraordinary natural beauty, has left me hungry for the world away from this corner of Shropshire, and shown me that perhaps I can escape. After a week I was able to feel myself breathing more confidently, moving assuredly away from worrying whether Mrs Miggins down the road thought I was a bit of a lazy madam and moving away from trying to squish and squash myself to make myself more palatable to others. The need to be liked is a powerful one but I have been at my most miserable when I have allowed it to dominate my behaviour. It doesn’t seem to matter quite so much when I have other things to look at.  What to do with this new found sense of freedom ? Not a lot. Just try to turn the mirror outwards, consider my behaviour in terms of how it makes others feel instead of being tied up in how I think they make me feel.



What I write has improved too. I have enjoyed seeing new things and seeing different people, from so many countries and cultures. Perspective is a curious thing that shifts and shimmers and I’m never sure my view is quite true. Being jolted from the norm has been a good thing.

I’m still obsessed with poetry and have countless scribblings on napkins and receipts and there are some that I think may bloom. I’ve given myself a week to recombobulate and trawl through my eight-hundred and ninety-seven photographs before starting a more structured writing schedule next week. I have the last part of writing short fiction to finish, and a raft of material to fashion into submission worthy poems. Conveniently my next chapter in How to be a Poet  bears the title On Submitting to Magazines and Journals:The Patented Jo Bell Method. It has tables and whatnot, plus SEND THE BLIGHTERS OFF written on the first page.

Watch this space.

One year on……..

It’s my anniversary. Twelve months since I started putting thoughts on paper and sending them out to be read. By rights I’d like to be shouting about my acheivements. I’d like to be telling I’ve been published or that I’ve won twenty seven competitions. After all there’s no point in all this if I’m not successful is there?

But there is. And I’ve only just realised it. You see, I’m the kind of person who says nothing unless spoken to. The kind of person who gives little away unless I’m asked a question. I am someone whose voice is crowded by those who are confident,those who are noisy and those who simply can’t bear silence. It’s not a trait I like, and I find many social occasions leave me frustrated and cross with myself. I am used to it and I am happy to be a listener for eighty percent of my time. I just long for the chance to be heard in that other twenty percent.  This is what I have here. It’s not a particularly loud or flamboyant voice, or place but it is a voice nonetheless. Realising that is my success.

I believe am writing some of the best work I ever have. It’s not visible, mainly because I can’t afford to enter any competitions at the moment and I really want to save the work for when I can. I think I’m afraid I’ll never write anything else half decent. The down side is that I’m experiencing brain fog more powerfully than I ever had. Writing creatively seems to exhaust a whole new element of me. Interacting with people is becoming harder and my body is not in a happy place. I’m resting my brain, as advised by the two people closest to me. They also have the dubious accolade of being possibly the only people that I’ll actually listen to. Don’t tell them .

I am still working on my OCA work, but not at such an intense rate. I was rushing to finish, rather than working to learn. My intention is to have a body of work ready for submission to comps and publications by summer. This gives me time to research my market which I find incredibly challenging. Perhaps I’m just a bit intimidated.

A year on I haven’t hit dizzy heights. I don’t even feel that great about the prospect. I’m not going to stop though, and anyone who knows me knows that is a sign that I think there’s something worthwhile ahead.

Thank you for reading. Please follow my blog on here and please, like and share on Facebook. They’re mucking about with the settings again, so make sure you’ve clicked the button at the top of the page that says you would like notification when I post. If you could invite your friends to like my page, that would be absolutely tremendous.

Peace and kittens x

Missed me ?


Ooh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been doing birthday celebrations, which have been marvellous, but leave few spoons* for creativity, productivy, or any sort of ivity you care to consider.

Things have been happening in the background though. I’ve had feedback for my second piece for writing short fiction. It was a tricky one for me to write, simply because it was in danger of becoming autobiographical and taking the whole “writing as therapy” thing too far. I trimmed and trawled and wrestled it into a piece that I felt was useful for others to read. Two lines stood opt for me from my feedback. The first was. ‘Your narrator tells this story without mawkishness or self-pity. ‘I was so pleased about this. Mawkishness is the exact thing I strove to avoid in this story, I felt I owed it to the character to create a realistic account, not just a cry for sympathy.  The second sliver of joy was in this comment ‘Your character Tina stays with me.’ As my tutor accurately said, this is the exact response I want in a reader.

There are lots of areas for improvement. The narrative voice slips occasionally to sounding too sophisticated for a child, and my punctuation is still rather excitable. I’m so frustrated with the part of me that rushes the proof reading. I find it difficult, but  more than that there is an element of me that just wants to get the thing sent and get the feedback. By the time I submit a piece I’ve been working on it for a while, and am keen to move on to the next bit. But, and it’s a big but (I cannot lie), proof reading is an incredibly important part. If a competition judge or submissions editor has two pieces of equal creative merit, how will they choose? On technical skill and precision of language. Therefore, I’ve buried myself in Strunk and White and found the most flamboyant notebook I own to turn into a grammar guru. I hate it. But I need to do it.

Punctuation is more fun with Flamingos.


In other news, I’m loving my current studies, all about Flash Fiction and I’ve had some cool information from Dynamo, but I think that is for another post.  Apologies to all my lovely Beta readers, I have been woefully slack in sending you work. It will be on its way soon, followed by a flurry of flash fiction for feedback. I do love to alliterate.


Thanks for reading, send me your grammar tips and please sign up, follow like and share on Facebook. Your support, interaction and feedback is invaluable.

*find out about spoons and being a spoonie here. I hate labels and little gangs,  but this is a handy way to explain an unexplainable life.

The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino


New things I’ve learned

SAMSUNG CSCIt’s nearly time to submit my second assignment for Writing Short Fiction. I am enjoying this course so much! I’ve learned a few technical terms which is always something I enjoy, mainly because it makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about. Many of the terms in creative writing have pleasingly dramatic names, In Medias Res for example, starting things in the midst of things, plunging us as readers right in to the action, or Deus ex machina , is a plot device where a new character or situation appears and resolves a tricky plot. A particular favourite is pathetic fallacy not just because it doubles as a marvellously plosive insult but because it’s something I’ve enjoyed before I knew what it was. Ruskin used the phrase as exasperated in reaction to the poets of the nineteenth century and their weaving of nature and emotion. The term is pejorative, but the technique can be beautiful. I’ve been reading much more short fiction, and the use of nature to mirror emotion is a subtle way of creating depth and resonance. When every word has to count, a device that works with experiences that the reader is likely to have experienced is invaluable. Not sure I’d say that to Ruskin, obviously.

The work I’ve been reading has been a revelation. I have an odd relationship with short fiction. Until I started studying, my experience had mostly been short stories in my Mum’s copy of Family Circle magazine.Later on when I tried to read more literary pieces, I found myself oddly dissatisfied, and quite anxious. I didn’t want to invest time in a character who was going to disappear in a pages time. Even once I began studying I found myself overwhelmed with reading competition entries from my peers which were dense, obscure pieces that I didn’t completely get and that left me a little cold. I thought this was how I had to write to be considered good. One of the main things I’ve learnt is that fancy words are just that and the true skill is describing people,situations and feelings in a way that is authentic and good to read.

Happily, there is a middle ground between Family Circle and forced academia.I’ve loved the work of Margaret Atwood since I was seventeen, but avoided her short stories for all the reasons I’ve talked about.Big mistake. They’re as amazing as you would expect, showing the worst of human nature in a way that sits and stirs and stays with me. My tutor has introduced me to other writers too, who create tiny snapshots of life that make me think and make me wish I’d written them. I suppose it’s like food,sometimes a tiny canapé with zingy sharp flavours is more pleasing than a hefty meal. I’d just been tasting the wrong things.

As I’m enjoying reading them, so I’m enjoying writing them and can feel a difference in how I’m thinking. Each draft becomes more focussed on capturing the essence of the story, rather than the whys and whats. My writing is very different to my first “official” attempts and I feel it is improving. Being able to feel I’m progressing is great. I’d like it to quicker but the fact that I’m persevering despite daily frustrations is something I’m pleased with.

If you’ve enjoyed this would you do me a favour ? Liking the post on Facebook or Twitter means that more of my friends and yours will subscribe to this blog and my page. Sharing it means that even more people will get to see it. If you could do one, or both I will be a happy as a happy chicken. Which is very happy indeed.

I’m a serial comma splicer

Who knew ? Certainly not me. You may have guessed I’ve had feedback on my first piece for Writing Short Fiction. Apart from my habit of distributing commas as though they’re sweets for bribing children, the feedback is actually very good. Possibly the best I’ve had for an assignment and certainly the best I’ve had for the first assignment of a course. Seeing the words “I enjoyed it” and reading that my tutor has understood the character I created is an amazing feeling. Being given concrete examples of how I can improve is fabulous too and it makes me keen to continue. Regardless of my feelings about last year’s assessment, I’m certain that I will learn a great deal this year. I might even get a bit more confident.

A big thing for me to understand has been the concept “write what you know”. It’s something that has haunted me a little through this course. My life is quite narrow. I don’t meet the sheer variety of people that I did when I was working, and I certainly don’t have the range of interactions with others to draw on. “What I know” is my house,my cat and my husband. When I go out, I am so dazzled by the outside world it’s quite overwhelming. And a little terrifying. So how can writing what I know possibly be interesting ? Quite simply, I need to remember this quote from Nathan Englander

“Write what you know isn’t about events. It’s about emotions. Have you known love? jealousy? longing? loss? Did you want that Atari 2600 so bad you might have killed for it? If so, it doesn’t matter whether your story takes place in Long Island or on Mars – if you’re writing what you know, readers will feel it.”

Using my experiences,views and emotions can create a character who is interesting to read about and crucially, feels authentic. Truly understanding this phrase has been a release for me.

I’m starting my next project with excitement, a little more self belief and hopefully fewer commas.

If anyone would like to read my latest complete short story drop me an email using the contact form on the menu. Unfinished work can be found in the tab “A few things I’ve written”.

For those who are kind enough to be my beta readers, have a peep in your inbox, there’s a new tale nestling in there .

I love to get feedback, it helps me see what works and what doesn’t and to understand what people enjoy to read.