Monday, 30 August 2021

A summer of writing, pride and magic

Hello!



I hope you are having a nice summer, or whichever season it is with you. This has been a unique few months for me - very, very hot and sunny, with some incredible experiences, and moments of real magic. I have grown in confidence, and know myself better. 


 I enjoyed some big writing moments, from being published in Lighthouse and reading at the launch, to being featured on the Eat the Storms podcast, to taking part in Writing Dance and getting braver and freer when it comes to moving my body.

 There is so much more that I am proud of - read on to learn more!

Grants and commissions

My DYCP grant from Arts Council England is allowing me to spend some quality time on my poetry and performance skills. I have had my first sessions with each of my mentors, Caroline Bird and Rommi Smith. They have been really helpful, and I am excited to see what I can achieve in the coming months.

 I am enjoying working on my piece for Dibby Theatre's First Dibs project. Our Monday night study sessions have come to an end, and we are busy preparing our work for the showcase, The Assembly, which will take place in November, at HOME. Do consider coming along!

Writing Dance

Last year, I was selected for the Writing Dance project with Yorkshire Dance and The Writing Squad. Back in December 2020, we did some Zoom sessions, exploring writing and movement. My article on this experience, "Teamwork, freedom, and surprising myself", was published by Yorkshire Dance.

 After working virtually, it was really special to be able to meet in person for a week in July, at the Yorkshire Dance studios. Travelling to Leeds every day was a big change, and an adventure. 

 In time, I felt really at home at Yorkshire Dance - one memorable lunchtime, there was a thunderstorm outside, and I felt so cosy and safe in the studio. 


 I met lovely people, and was able to work in several different pairs and groups, to create a series of really diverse mini-projects. I enjoyed exploring new ways of moving, and I'm looking forward to further developing some of what I wrote.


 Overall, the Writing Dance week was, for me, a successful return to in-person collaboration, and I left feeling hopeful and empowered.

Proud publications and podcasting!

I've been part of a number of publications - and a podcast! - this summer, and I love that there has been a running theme of Pride and queer celebration.

 Exploring my identity, comforting readers who may be struggling, and fighting for justice and acceptance - it is so important, and is what I want to be doing as a writer.

 My essay "Becoming myself in the city" was commissioned and published by Aurelia Magazine, as part of their Future Hope series with Manchester International Festival. 

 In the essay, I look back over my time in Manchester, my coming out, and how walking in the city has helped me to take back control and work out what I want in life. I hope you enjoy it.

 A dream came true when my poem "The second time I am diagnosed with PCOS" was published in Issue 22 of Lighthouse, a magazine that had been on my radar for many years.


 I performed at the launch, which was a really nice evening. I am really keen to raise awareness around PCOS - especially as a queer voice.

 It was lovely to have my short story "Siren" published in York Literary Review 2021, and to attend the launch night. "Siren" is a coming-of-age story inspired by some of my own experiences, and my love of the Indigo Girls.


 My poem "Footseeds", about accepting both my height and my queerness, was published in the Pride issue of The Adriatic, with a perfect illustration by Kelsee Porter.



 My poem "This Pride" was published in the gorgeous A Pride of Lines zine from Coin-Operated Press. In the poem, I think back on my first two Manchester Prides (2018 and 2019), and the huge difference between them.


 I was delighted to have three poems - "Fishtails", "Like Christmas", and "Encore" - and a fiction piece - "A starfish is rejected" - published in Giving Room Mag, in their Queer Nostalgia issue. 

 I also have three poems in the first issue of with confetti. I hope you enjoy "Argo", "I've learnt I love women", and "Relief"


 It is an honour to be here at the beginning of this new queer platform, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they create next.

 My poem "Tomato season" was published in July's Visual Verse. I responded to the below image by Maria Victoria Rodriguez. and also thought about growth, and how personal and individual it is.

 I also have a poem in August's Visual Verse. "The sherbet day" was inspired by separation, distance and memory, as well as by this image by Veronica Lissandrini.

 I have enjoyed curating Foxglove Journal, and sharing my poem "Carnota", about one of my favourite places. 

 I visited when I was living in Galicia, and it was so beautiful there. I hope to return one day.

 Last, but very much not least, it was great to be invited to be a featured poet in the Eat the Storms podcast, and especially the Pride Party issue

 I enjoyed sharing my work, hearing friends read, and discovering some queer writers who were new to me. It was a warm, gentle evening.

 Coming up: I have a poem about desire and loneliness in the next issue of Under the Radar, which I can't wait to share. Watch this space!

Workshops and events

As well as the Lighthouse launch, I attended Sale Out Loud and shared some of my new poems with the lovely, supportive crowd there.

 I attended a fascinating Writing Squad workshop by Lenni Sanders, where I was introduced to flarf poetry, and we worked on a group poem about tadpoles, which was really fun.

 I attended Poetry Business workshops with River Wolton - who combined poetry with meditation, Suzannah Evans - who had us thinking about the future, and Andrew McMillan and Warda Yassin, who had us focusing on everyday objects and memory.

 I'm looking forward to an autumn of more Writing Squad and Poetry Business workshops. I am also hoping to run more workshops myself, so if you would be interested in attending, or in hosting me at a group or organisation, please do get in touch!

Baking, theatre, and languages

The Village Bakers had our first social back in-person, in Manchester Gay Village. It was wonderful to see many of my friends again, as well as some new faces. 

 I loved writing about the social - and many other exciting baking shenanigans - in our Summer Newsletter. It also includes my poem "Donuts at Southport".

 I also had a great time touring Oldham Coliseum Theatre as part of the Pathways creative group. It is a beautiful building, and I hope to stay involved in projects there.


 A languages update: I am enjoying refreshing my Mandarin Chinese on Duolingo. At the moment, I am working on subjects such as shopping, food, and hobbies. I am looking at hopefully taking the HSK Level 2 exam soon (I did my Level 1 a few years ago following my visit to Beijing).

 Thank you for sharing my writing journey with me - I hope you have enjoyed this update! 

 Hope you have a nice September.

 Speak soon,

 Liz

Monday, 21 June 2021

Exciting news and cool collaborations

 Hello!



I hope you are well. I have been enjoying spring - it has been lovely to see friends for the first time in a year, have picnics, and go for walks. There has been blossom, fluffy goslings and cygnets, bees and bluebells, and I have been feeling hopeful and positive.



Grants and commissions

Amazing news - I have been awarded a DYCP grant from Arts Council England, to develop my poetry and performance skills. My focus will be on really embracing and owning my queerness in my work, and I will be mentored by some fantastic poets. I cannot wait to get started.

 At the end of March, I delivered my "The Little Things" commission for Beetfreaks, and we had a lovely presentation evening. I performed my spoken-word piece, "Rockpools", which looks back over the first year of the pandemic, and how different communities supported me. I am currently working on putting together a film version to share on here, so watch this space!

 The First Dibs theatre-writing course is going well, and I am building up my spoken-word show. We have had guest workshops from Leo Skilbeck, Louise Wallwein, Cheryl Martin, and Scottee & Friends. I am enjoying the course literature - Temi Wilkey's The High Table and Philip Ridley's Vincent River were especially moving.

Teaching

I work as a languages tutor, and I had been hoping to start tutoring poetry as well. So, it was brilliant to deliver my first solo poetry workshop, to Durham Poetry Society. Entitled "The magic in the mundane", I crafted the workshop around finding moments of magic in our daily lives, at a time when travel, adventures and excitement can be limited. 


 I also led a segment of the Writing Squad's "Workshop workshop", which was a series of mini-workshops led by different writers. My section looked at mythical creatures, exploring them in new ways, and using humour. The writers came up with many different characters, with drafts involving centaurs, gnomes, mermaids, flower fairies, and more.

Publications and collaborations

My favourite thing as a writer is working with other people to create something amazing, and there has been so much of that recently to creatively fulfil me. I hope that this continues.

 Firstly, my poem "Whale baby" has been published in the Growth Issue of Popshot, and illustrated by Simona de Leo. Her artwork is perfect for the poem, and makes me happy whenever I look at it. 



 My poem explores different options that I have considered for having a child as a queer woman, as well as the equally-valid option of not choosing that path at all. That this poem has found a place in such a widely-read magazine feels really empowering, and I hope that it will reach and comfort people.


 Secondly, Unheard Poetry have made a gorgeous film from my poem "The frog pool" - you can watch it by clicking the orange title. The poem is also below.



 "The frog pool" is part of the Dreams for Green series, which is a celebration of our planet and a call to protect it. I feel incredibly strongly about this, and write about it often. So, I was really happy to be part of Earth Zine from Coin-Operated Press, with my eco-poem "How to draw a fish".



 The poem was then also featured in the Press' 2020-2021 Annual, which was really cool.


 More excitement came when my poem "Winter blazer" was chosen for the first-ever issue of Skirting Around, a magazine exploring clothes and identity. 


 My poem tells the story of the first time I bought and wore a "men's" suit blazer, and the range of emotions that it made me feel. I filmed myself reading the poem for the website (wearing the very blazer!), and also read live at the launch, which was a really fun evening.

 Three of my poems were published in the Amy Ray Zine. Songwriter Amy Ray is one of my biggest inspirations, in my writing, activism, and being comfortable with my identity. It was an honour to be part of the zine, which was created to celebrate Amy on her birthday in April.



 It is also lovely to have two of my queer poems in Issue Three of Queerlings - I had hoped to be part of this journal for a while. I hope you enjoy "My other half" and "Indigo nights".


I am also pleased to have three poems - "Imperfect days", "The player", and "Why you should exist" in the She Speaks anthology from Tipping the Scales. You can read it online here, or buy the paperback here.


In May, my poem "Risen" was published in Visual Verse. We were challenged to respond to this intriguing image by an Unknown Artist.


I also have poems coming up in Lighthouse, The Adriatic, and Under the Radar, and my queer coming-of-age short story "Siren" is going to be published in York Literary Review. I can't wait to share them all with you.

 Finally, as always, Foxglove Journal publishes a poem or fiction piece every week - I love editing and taking the photos for Foxglove, and am proud of how the site has grown. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Spoken-word, events and workshops

I was a featured act at Open Dyke Night, run by LQW, and performed five of my most passionate and rallying poems, addressing queerness, self-love, belonging, and the environment. The audience were warm and supportive, all the acts were brilliant, and it was a very special evening.

 My poem "Pilot" was showcased by Young Identity for Earth Day, with a film of me performing it. It is so important to me to keep sharing this message - we need to reduce waste, stop polluting the oceans, and protect whales and other animals. 

 I shared a film of my poem "What I always wanted poetry to tell me", to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. You can also read the poem at Popshot, here.

 I took part in two editing workshops, one with The Writing Squad and Charlotte Wetton, and one with Fly on the Wall and Nikki Dudley. They were quite different, and it was interesting to get new perspectives. I certainly feel that I have more tools now for editing my poems.

 I have also enjoyed workshops with Andrew McMillan and Sarah Fletcher through the Poetry Business, and with Rachel Long, Steve Dearden, Sian Meades-Williams, Jamal Gerald and Keisha Thompson through The Writing Squad. Having access to these organisations has been so helpful to me throughout the pandemic.

Baking, languages and other fun

It was lovely seeing many of my friends from Village Bakers in person for the first time in over a year, when we met for our socially-distanced Spring Picnic in Heaton Park. I enjoyed discovering a rainbow ice-cream cone!


 You can read all about the Picnic, and much more, in our Spring Newsletter, which I curated as Head of Media and PR. It features delicious bakes by our members, an interview with lovely baker Sakander, and my poem "Apple crumble", which talks about baking and mental health.


 I am very proud to have completed the Irish course on Duolingo, and I am now continuing my work on Mandarin Chinese, as well as starting Finnish. I will let you know how it goes.

 That's all for now! Many thanks for reading, and for sharing my writing journey. I hope you have a lovely summer - or winter, depending on where in the world you are!

 Liz x

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Spring is coming! News and poems

 Hello!

 I hope you are doing okay. A lot has been happening, and the world can seem so tiring and frustrating - and yet there are so many beautiful things in it. I have found comfort in community: the groups of women, queer people, writers and/or artists I know, who are doing amazing things to help others. I am very thankful for their friendship, support and inspiration.

 This has been a time of change in my life, as I have been making the transition from working full-time in marketing, to being self-employed as a tutor and writer. It is a less steady and predictable life, but I know that it has been the right decision for me. Working more flexibly has really helped my wellbeing, and some positive things have already begun to happen.

 On my birthday in early March, I received some amazing news - I have been selected by Dibby Theatre for the First Dibs programme for LGBTQ+ writers. I will receive training and financial support to develop my spoken-word show-in-progress. My show will bring together my poems based around water - from a queer mermaid, to sea otters, to pilot whales. 

 It has been lovely to meet my four fellow First-Dibbers, and the team at Dibby Theatre. I am really looking forward to continuing this journey together.

Our first session!

 I have also been commissioned by Beatfreeks for their The Little Things project, and I have created a spoken-word project thanking the people and groups who have helped get me through this difficult, different year. I am excited to debut my piece next week.

 I will also be leading a workshop "The magic in the mundane" for Durham University Poetry Society on 3rd April. I am very excited to create and share this workshop, and would love to see you there.

 I have recently had a number of poems published that are very personal to me. "The golden hare", inspired by my long-distance birthday surprise for my Mam, was published by Ink, Sweat & Tears.

Graphic by Ink, Sweat & Tears

  "The Mint Lounge, Manchester, December 2018", celebrating a pivotal night out for me in embracing my identity, was published by Severine.

Me at the Mint Lounge

 My poem "Lost in a jumper", about body image and self-love, was published by Selcouth Station in their Winter 2020 issue

 My poems "Release", "What I have to say", and "Creation" have been published by Visual Verse, inspired by the project's monthly image prompts, as well as by themes such as mental health, queerness, fertility, finding my voice, and coming of age.

 I love working with indie zines, and have been part of two recently. My copies of both zines arrived in the same post, which was pretty cool. My poem "One day" appears in Butch, curated by Carson Wolfe, and "Honey Clove and Sea Jasmine" was chosen for Relationships from Coin-Operated Press.




 One of my main aims at this point in my career is to collaborate in new ways; trying to be as innovative as possible, and making my work accessible to new audiences. A great example was to be able to share my poem "Pilot" for A Tale of Cork for St Patrick's Day. 


 "Pilot" is the real story of a pilot whale that died after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags, and the poem is a call to better respect our planet. You can hear me reading my poem in the film above, at 09:47. The poem recordings will also be heard through an art/sound installation in Cork city centre, which is a really exciting way to have my poetry shared and experienced. 

 You can also read "Pilot" in the GASP anthology here.

 I was thrilled to be part of the International Women's Day show from Open Collab. I performed my poem "You are warm", about accepting my queer identity, and musicians Charlie and Jake transformed my words into a rich, magical soundscape. 

 They added in words from poet Mary Olive who, like me, shared her experiences of queerness and the importance of role models. Hearing the two together, with the music, was so, so special. The gig is below, and you find our part here.

 I attended the GM4Women conference, and learnt about some of the issues and inequalities that women are currently facing in Greater Manchester, and the work that is being done to improve things.

 I shared my poem "Célines at Cannes", which was inspired by queer female filmmaker Céline Sciamma, and the ten-minute standing ovation she received at Cannes for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a film with an entirely-female main cast. Whenever I watch that moment - below - I feel so empowered.

 I was showcased by Young Identity for World Poetry Day last weekend, with a film of me performing my poem "Arrival".

 I love attending open-mic nights: I perform at Sale Out Loud every month and, in March, I paid my first virtual visit to Testify, which was a cosy, supportive evening. 

 The Writing Squad and Louise Essex hosted The Home Concert, and I felt so honoured perform alongside some incredibly talented people.

 I also love workshops, and attended one celebrating long, sprawling poems with Laura Scott and The Poetry Business. I have also enjoyed a wide range of workshops from The Writing Squad: Malika Booker on poem sequences, Andy Owen Cook on experimenting with media, Gregory Kearns on the use of number in poems, and Stevie Ronnie on ekphrastic writing. 

 I guest-hosted the Writing Squad's Poetry Goals group, and enjoyed getting to know my lovely fellow poets even better.

 As part of an LGBT Foundation workshop led by Seleena Laverne Daye, I created this zine, inspired by my sense of fluidity in my gender, body and identity:





 Foxglove Journal had a recent open submissions period, and I am currently reading some really exciting writing, which I can't wait to share. We showcase a new poem or story every week.

 I was overjoyed to be re-elected as Head of Media and PR for the Village Bakers, and I look forward to bringing you more newsletters - you can see our last one here. This group have been brilliant for me, bringing me confidence in my baking and my queerness. 

 I am also enjoying being a Young Ambassador for AKT, and have been doing some leadership training through them.

 I took part in a really useful and fun theatre course with Oldham Coliseum, and have now joined one of their social groups for writers and creatives. 

 I have also completed a cooking course with Cracking Good Food, and am proud of what I have created.

 This feels like a time of learning and exploring for me, and I am living day by day, appreciating where I am and who I have in my life. The future is uncertain, but there are some bright, hopeful things ahead.

 Thank you so much for reading, and sharing my journey.

 Speak soon,

 Liz x