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

Week three

Don’t fret, I’ll think of more interesting titles soon. The third week of the new year has still been mostly styled by pyjamas, and funky new cat slippers, but I have been able to do a few useful things.

I’ve applied for a grant to Arvon, which would mean I could go and spend a week focused on nothing but writing – no meals to try to cook, no house to try to clean. That sort of thing takes most of my energy, even when I’m less ill, so it’d be a great opportunity. I’ve never had any face to face teaching as a writer, and I’m keen to give it a try. Anther bonus is that therapy I had last year has helped with my social anxiety, so I feel confident that I’d be able to get the best from the week. Fingers crossed for the grant!

My second application is to Room 204, a writers mentoring programme run by Writing West Midlands. I applied last year, with no success, but I’m a glutton for punishment so I’m trying again. My application this time is more focused. I need help with the “business” side of things – what to charge if I take on a project, what to look out for when working with organisations, that sort of thing. My hope is to run writing workshops – especially in the community. Unlike so many other outlets for creativity, writing is essentially free (at least at the outset) which makes it more accessible, but there’s still a lot of fear around it as a means of expression. I’d love to match my experience tutoring and working with young people, with my skills as a writer. There’s so many “it depends” aspects – but I’m always one to dream. Especially when I’ve been bed bound for the best part of two weeks.

Finally, I’ve been really touched by the love that’s been sent my way, whether it’s kind messages, silly jokes or something more physical like my lovely handmade sun catcher. These weeks aren’t easy, but the kindness I receive helps me feel that I matter.

Love always,

Kathryn xx

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.

Relapse perhaps

Relapse perhaps

I’ve been dreading this. I’ve had eighteen months of being less ill. Not well but being less ill. I’d figured out how much rest I need to allow before and after doing stuff (one day for having my mom over to lunch, two days for going to see some friends, four days for something huge like a festival) and I’ve got to admit I felt like I’d found a balance. A new normal, as I’m fond of saying. I still had the odd curve ball, like needing to take a chunk of time out if I’ve washed my hair, and I still have to make sure I don’t get over confident and think I can do all the things I used to do but overall things felt more manageable.

Enter a random viral infection. An innocuous, if unpleasant, stomach bug descends, and I’m back to square one. Everything is harder than it was last year, I’m cancelling a quiet lunch with some very old friends, and a trip to see a band I love (frustratingly this one was a free visit because of feedback I gave the venue on their accessibility facilities). I’m back to dreading the shopping delivery because I don’t know how I’m going to unpack it, back to getting out of breath folding socks and back to being scared that I’ve finally pushed too far. It’s like living on a really dull knife edge. I probably won’t get cut to shreds, but there’s still a chance of falling to certain doom.

The big issue of course is my writing. I’m so grateful to my editor at Big Star for understanding that I can’t take on heaps of work at a time, but it’s beyond frustrating to have to turn it down. I’m hopeful I can carry on with my Secret Severn work, but each visit takes more recovery, and the week of the trail will be a bigger challenge than expected. I get in a vicious circle when these patches happen – I can’t carry out basic care like making sure I’m taking in good nutrition, so I can’t get my body stronger to recover. It’s a pickle, and I’m hopeful it’ll be short lived.

As ever, your kind support makes a huge difference, and nothing is nicer than a random “how are you” in my in-box. Thank you for you continued care and for making me feel valuable. It’s quite lonely in this pretty place. Despite the wonder of owning the fluffiest cat in the world.