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



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


A few English haiku about faking bravery on the back of a vespa in Saigon

Exactly what the title says. Hope you enjoy them. If you get to the end there’s a short poem about a journey on an ox cart too.

Haiku after faking bravery on the back of a Vespa in Saigon

My helmet alerts
I am tourist, in letters
and mew fear of death.

A thousand thousand
drawn to this neon white noise
cloud promise of life.

I almost hear air.
Knuckles tighten, grip safety bar
metal slick with fear.

Street lights beckon you
hey, why not cross? Scooter horn
says hi. Heels are silent.

From an ox-cart in Cambodia

Wood on wood on earth
rings bells of then.
Hear “hello”
we forget
to respond
in Khmer.

Shropshire hills, and swans in Prague – a visit with Maggie Humphry

I’ve admired Maggie’s paintings for several years, so I was really excited about the chance to spend some tine with her. Maggie’s studio is unassuming and bursting with beautiful work. She showed me her huge range of styles, moving from vivid, almost abstract pieces to delicately detailed country scenes and charming festive illustrations.

Two of my favourite pieces are in this downstairs gallery; a piece based on her experience of a choral rendition of A.E. Housman’s Blue Remembered Hills, and Shadows of Moon a swirling image of the hills. Both of these pictures make me feel as though I’m travelling through the landscape, and give a sense of there being a world waiting to be discovered beyond the frame.

Shadows of the Moon

Maggie explained that her career began as a ceramicist and she has produced many ceramic murals all over the country, including the fabulous blue dragon that welcomes visitors to the Dragon Theatre in Barmouth. Working with clay takes it’s toll however, and Maggie now works with oils, as well as creating detailed line drawings and illustrations.

One of Maggie’s many ceramic murals

I also spent a little time in Maggie’s beautiful garden, which is a paradise for bees and nature as well as humans. She explained that she loves to be here in the early hours – that secret time of day before people are up and about.

Next, it’s up the stairs to Maggie’s work room, past a mural of geraniums that covers a patch of less than perfect plaster. There’s a sense of energetic chaos in the room, enhanced by a soundtrack of Mahler, which Maggie described as mirroring her work with its combination of movement and precision. Maggie showed me some of her most recent pieces, based on a friend’s memory of seeing swans in Prague. I really fell for these, and Maggie was kind enough to let me spend some time just sitting with the paintings.

Newly completed Swans in Prague.

There’s a mystical, magical quality to Maggie’s work and it’s this that I find captivating. As we talked about various pieces, she explained how they evolve and develop, and create their own dialogue. This chimed with me as a writer – creating a poem or story is very much about allowing the words to emerge, and allowing the poem to breathe itself into life. There is an idea and an inspiration, but there also has to be a sense of trusting the work itself.

You’ll be able to see Maggie’s work as part of Secret Severn Art Trail in the Footprint gallery at Fusion, where she will also be Artist in Residence, no doubt wearing a marvellous hat. To find out more about her work, visit

Kathryn Anna Marshall is poet in residence for Secret Severn art trail. Find out more at or on

Visit for a map of the trail, as well as details of open studios and workshops.

We’re making progress

Coo, I can’t believe it’s nearly a month since I last posted. I’ve had a decent sized paid project for most of the month, which has been enjoyable, plus a couple of smaller ones that have been a little odd; writing umpteen business descriptions for funeral companies is a somewhat challenging. I still enjoy it though, and like the fact that I’m supporting independent businesses, and maybe doing a tiny bit to make a horrible time easier for people. Words are important, however insignificant they initially seem.

Creative work has been productive too. I adore my new poetry school course. I’ve learnt to write in trimester, spondee, trochee and everyone’s favourite, iambic pentameter. I’ve also learnt that it’s spectacularly difficult to do well, and dangerously easy to do badly. It almost feels like writing music (I imagine), which makes absolute sense given the name of the course. I am learning so much, and love the discipline of writing in structured meter.

My fortnightly feedback course is better too; I’ve revisited a selection of work that I write on my bed days, all based on the view from my window. They’re not as dull as they sound, I promise. The work has had good feedback, and I’ve had some great input for improvements too. I almost feel as though I’m gathering a themed collection, which is what I was missing last year.

Getting a bit organised and understanding how to find a home for my work has been tricky, but very much worth doing.
It’s hard to accept the limitations of my energy sometimes (all the time) but I am getting better at realising that if I stop when my body is telling me to – before my brain physically hurts- I will be more productive in the long run. Not ideal for an inherently impatient character like myself…but essential if I’m going to achieve my goals.

I have publication news too; three more pieces have been accepted for inclusion in various online and printed lit mags. This is marvellous of course, but my goodness it takes a while for them to appear. I am learning patience is an intrinsic part of this, and quite often dates will be delayed or moved. I am learning to be more chilled. Honest.

Something I’m often asked is if I get paid for the work I have published. The answer is it varies. At this stage, I’m very much an unknown, and very much finding my way in a bewildering market. Bigger presses pay a small amount, but they attract the big names too- so competition is stronger. Smaller outfits still attract what I refer to as “proper” poets, ones with books and pamphlets published by fab indie presses and sold out slots at literary festivals, but they cannot afford to pay, until they start making money themselves. The reality is that any money is made from speaking, teaching, community projects and residencies, but of course to do these, one has to have a track record of publication, and be a poet who people respect and want to hear more from.

At this early stage I am building up a reputation and gaining a presence and identity for my work. It’s especially challenging to do this within the confines of M.E. I can’t nip off to one of the countless poetry festivals or offer to work alongside poets who work in local schools and community groups. I never say never, though, and for now the online poetry community is a wonderfully supportive and inspiring place to work, even if the accolades are slightly quieter.

Rest assured, as soon (probably to the minute) as my work is available on any platform I shall be relentlessly tweeting, instagramming and facebooking the links so there’s no chance of missing them (I know you were worried).

Thanks as ever for reading. One of the best ways you can support me – until such point as I have dozens of books to make you buy – is to repost, retweet, sign up and comment on everything you see. It makes social media think I’m popular,which means it’ll show folk my posts.

Happy vibes to you all xx

Slow and occasionally steady…

January is over half-way thorough and I feel as though I’ve done nothing, mainly because this last week has been an enforced bed week. These weeks are incredibly dull and always a little worrying. The thought is always at the back of my mind as to whether this push will be the push to far, the one that tips me into never being able to push again. Balance has never been natural to me, and it’s unlikely it ever will. I’m hopeful that my current pattern can sustain me. I’m still hopeful it might go the other way, and that one day I won’t crash. One day.

What of writing though ? I have had an enjoyable copywriting project, based on travel which I always love. The only problem is it makes me want to go to the places I’m writing about; some of them anyway. I’m working on my skills in structured poetry, delving into the world of sonnets and sestinas, which I find fascinating, like completing a jigsaw with words.

I’m also preparing for my next two Poetry School courses, one which is purely feedback, so it’s a chance to untangle some of my work that I’ve been wrestling with for a while; poems that I think have something, but I can’t quite make them work. I’m not precious about my writing and will happily abandon work that is overblown or simply terrible, but there are some pieces that just need a fresh viewpoint. Something as simple as altering a linebreak can make all the difference.

My second course is all about crafting musical poetry. I’m so excited by this one, I’ll be looking at sound,pacing and tempo which I hope will mean I create pieces that are truly ear-pleasing. One of the downsides of working alone is that I rarely read my poetry to others, so I don’t get feedback on how it sounds. I’m hoping this course will help my understanding, and perhaps give me confidence to begin to read in public. Not randomly, you understand, I shan’t start declaiming poetry in my local. Not for a while, anyway.

So, little has happened in January, other than a little physical and mental recovery, but I am hopeful that my work over the next couple of weeks will begin to bear fruit.

Thankyou for reading, please follow, and if you’ve found this through my Facebook page, please like,share and comment so that others will see it.

Time to wrestle with a sestina I think.

It’s kind of like a drug…..

……this writing lark. The more I do the more I want to do and the more my brain pesters me with ideas and random sparks of  sentences. I’m obsessive by nature, and easily become fixated on things. Sometimes my brain actually hurts (you’re allowed to think of the Gumbies) and that is when I have to stop, and that is when it gets really frustrating. I suppose it’s like a runner pulling a muscle. 

What has caused this fizz of enthusiasm ? I think it’s partly time. I’ve been hibernating, not gardening, not going out and not seeing many people at all.  I’ve had the luxury of waking up with nothing to do but write. Admittedly, a good chunk of that writing is about sofas and storage lockers, but it’s still writing. And it still makes me happy. 

I’m having a good creative spell too though. The Short Short Fiction course from Poetry School  has produced a tangible improvement in my flash fiction, which has had the happy effect of inspiring me to sort and collate my poetry from the year. I’ve realised a key failing for my Primers application was that there was no real theme. It’s not that I have to create a collection of poems based on my love for toasters or the like, but there does have to be a thread of commonality. Obviously I didn’t have a clue about this at the time, I just put together six poems I didn’t hate. This is where the hard work I talked about in my last post comes in. Research, reading, and really understanding what I’m submitting is crucial. The time I spent today has illuminated my themes, however subtle, and moved me towards creating a considered collection, rather than a random assortment.


Submissions are happening. I have to wait until January at the earliest to get feedback. It’s a pest, but it’s how it is. I read a tweet from a fellow poet today that he has had 90 rejections and 17 acceptances this year. That’s a sobering percentage. The reality is that my focus and joy has to come from creating pieces that I love. If others love them too, then that is a bonus. 

Thanks as ever for reading, please do comment, and if you can take a second to like and share on one of the social media platforms, it really helps support me. 

Being bold

My favourite pieces to produce are the ones I just write. These are the ones that come out in a big old rush of emotion, driven by anger or sadness or even joy. These are the times when I have a feeling of having to write something, rather than working towards a prompt or structure.These pieces are the ones I love. 

It’s easy to imagine writing is all about wafting around waiting for the muse and staring wistfully into the future but (as I was disappointed to discover) the reality is hard work. From researching where and what to submit and understanding how to improve, to reading enough to maintain my own love of language and understanding form the amount of time spent writing can feel uncomfortably small. My nature is that I distract myself with order and find safety in structure so it’s easy for me to become more planner than poet. The result of this is that I get a little lost in terms of what, and indeed why I write, so my work feels like it belongs to someone else. This isn’t about refining and editing, those are part of the joy, it’s more about finding my place in the machine, and as ever, trying to make myself fit. I think that is part of the wobble in confidence I spoke about in my previous post.  

What about those moments I spoke of at the start ? Those are the crunch to the crackling, the extra cheery robin at the backdoor. They are why I keep working. I’ve had good feedback on two pieces of work recently,one from my peers as part of my Short Short Fiction course with Poetry School, and one from a random act of kindness via Twitter. Feedback from real, (and in my mind proper) writers is a grand thing and is welcome encouragement, especially when a pair of poorly weeks have limited my working capacity. I think I’m starting to find confidence in my style, that ever elusive voice. This is a big step, and a positive one. 

Something else I’ve realised is the sheer amount of patience that is needed. The time from submission to response is anywhere between two to six months. That’s a long time for a praise-hungry writer. Feedback is important to me, although as part of my online Short Short Fiction workshop, our tutor Tania Hershman  gave a different slant, saying that she essentially writes herself stories and the fact that anyone else might enjoy them still seems somewhat miraculous.  This is a liberating departure from the constraints of writing towards a degree qualification, and gives me back a little freedom to think, and above all enjoy writing.

I move towards the end of the year feeling more balanced about my work. The high of having something published is addictive. Publication will always be my formal goal, but I think I have allowed myself to become distracted by the end result rather than the pleasure of the process, and of getting that fizz of feeling when I know I’ve written something good. I shall write myself poetry and flash fiction in the hope that someone else might enjoy them, rather than trying to meet a particular style or tone. 

As ever, thank you all for reading, following and feeding back.* Your comments are so valuable, and help me feel I’m not just whispering to the sky. I’m embroiled in my next round of submissions over the coming month, so hopefully there will be good news come the new year. 

*Extra special thanking to those of you who always like and share on social media. You make me feel good, because I know someone is reading, and make a difference to how many people see what I write. 

Reflections and autumn and all that.Taken at Lower Slaughter 

Tiny specks of joy

This has been a decent week. I’ve spent a bit of time with friends, and found myself feeling safe and happy with them. This is an unusual occurrence. It’s quite simply about being able to be honest and say how things are (without fear it’ll come back to bite me). People I can do this with are rare and cherished.

Now, what has this to do with writing  ? Or indeed M.E. ? Quite simply it’s about energy levels. Being on guard in case I say the wrong thing takes a great deal of my resources. Working hard to say the right thing takes a few more, and dealing with the fallout of rigorous assessment finishes them up.  It’s not a happy outcome and leaves little room for anything else. By contrast, being with people who gently care and listen rather than judge , is an uplifting and affirming experience. I spend less time ruminating, which means more time for other things, like writing.

I’ve moved on to my second assignment for the Poetry School. I’m enjoying the course a great deal. It’s a challenging theme, but the process of writing and feeding back works well,and helps me develop courage as well as writerly skills. Go to Poems (work in progress) to read more. 
 Your feedback and comments are very welcome.


A quiet week in many ways. But a positive one. The sun is shining, and my dear cat is still impossibly fluffy. img_20170329_112323216