Monday 9 January 2023

A big update on an exciting year!


I hope you are doing well. Here in Manchester, it is cold and wet. I am spending plenty of time with other people, and on hobbies, and this has helped me feel a bit warmer. I've been hiking, baking, playing the tin whistle in an Irish music group, and doing lots of reading.

Hiking at Tegg's Nose

I had ulnar (elbow) nerve surgery this summer, which was a huge challenge and life milestone, as I had never had surgery before. It went well, but did slow me down for a while. I'm sorry for such a big gap since my last blog update, but this one is full of exciting stuff. I hope you enjoy it!

'Happy Place' at Oldham Coliseum Theatre

I was honoured to be commissioned to write a new play for secondary pupils, as part of Oldham Coliseum's Secondary Partnerships Scheme. 

I wrote 'Happy Place', which follows a form on their first day back at school. They are faced with a Bake Off, TikTok dances, and an ABBA-tastic PE class. It was a joy to watch local schools, including an SEN school, perform my play at the Coliseum at the Inter-Schools Festival.

Workers' Rights Project at Islington Mill

As part of Islington Mill's heritage programme, I was selected for a creative writing commission on the subject of Workers' Rights. I researched the history of the Mill and its partial collapse in 1824, the evolution of trade unions, strikes and protests in Manchester and Salford, and the huge issues remaining within the global textile industry today. 

I wrote four new monologues: 'Strangers', 'Lofty', 'Fire' and 'Fast', and a poem, 'Falling'. In August, we shared this work at an event at the Mill, with actors Keziah Lockwood and Ross Thompson performing the monologues, and me sharing my poem. 

At rehearsals on the event day

It was a very sunny day, and an incredible evening - thank you to all who came.

Elliptical Readings at the Poetry Library

Artist Abigail Reynolds created the Elliptical Readings series, a live artwork which has had four instalments so far, in Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Plymouth, and Manchester. In each city, in a library, a small group gathers weekly for several months. They each read aloud from a book they love, the same book for the duration of the project. 

I was chosen for the group at Manchester Poetry Library, and my book was Mary Jean Chan's brilliant poetry collection, Flèche. Reading from the collection every week helped me connect with it even more deeply. The poems are queer and sensual, and look at home, language, family, and food. 

It was great to get to know my fellow group members, and the books they chose, which were all so different and intriguing.

My hand!

We even got special editions of our books, bound by Abigail with an image of our own hand! Mine is something I will always treasure.

Networking at the Poetry Library

I returned to Manchester Poetry Library as part of the Neurodivergent Poets Network. I enjoyed meeting new people, reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen for a while, and making zines.

I have also joined the Multilingual Poets' Network at the Poetry Library, and am really enjoying chatting about language and poetry. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how both these Networks develop, and what we can create together.

Portico Rewriting at The Portico Library

The Portico Rewriting project aims to make Manchester more accessible, by creating an alternative guidebook. I was commissioned to write about Partisan and The International Burgess Foundation. These are two places I know well, and I enjoyed writing my poems 'Electric' and 'After the rain'.

The finished zine is gorgeous. I have also recorded audio versions of the poems, which will be available online, and which I am looking forward to sharing.

Freelance Futures with The Lowry

I was happy to be selected by The Lowry to receive a bursary to attend Freelance Futures, a programme bringing freelance creatives together. I attended online sessions on leadership, working with organisations, and networking, and I heard from some really inspiring people. 

Performing at Pride, an Art Gallery, a Castle, and more!

In the spring, I was invited to be a featured performer at Whalley Range Pride, which was a real honour. I was very happy with my set, and the atmosphere at the Nip and Tipple was so cosy and supportive.

I represented the Writing Squad at The Portico Library, along with Lydia Hounat and Jay Mitra. It was really nice to spend time with them, and hear their work, as well as performing my own.

I travelled to Clitheroe Castle to perform with Northern Poets' Society as part of the new C-Arts Festival. A fun and memorable day out, and hopefully the first year of many for the Festival!

I also performed with Northern Poets' Society at Manchester Art Gallery, where we wrote in response to art in the Gallery, and then performed in front of that art. I wrote on Frank Dicksee's 'The Funeral of a Viking', as I am always moved by how water, flame, and movement are depicted.

I returned to Sale Out Loud, and made my first appearance at Long Story Short, Natter Bolton, and Salford Queer Open Mic. The North West spoken-word community is hard-working and supportive and kind, and I am hoping to get to even more gigs this year.

A pastel de nata at Natter!

Love and blackberries at Lumb Bank

In summer, I had an unexpected adventure at Lumb Bank, near Hebden Bridge - one of my favourite places - when a place opened up on a poetry course that had been sold out. I quickly packed, and travelled to Yorkshire, where I met a wonderful group of people. 

I learnt so much from our tutors, Jay Bernard and lisa luxx. I wrote a lot, stargazed, ate delicious food, picked blackberries, and played with Ted the Cat. It was very special.

Competition success

I had a lovely surprise in October, when I was one of the winners of the Lancaster LitFest Poetry Competition, on the theme of 'Environment'. I travelled to Lancaster for a cosy performance evening hosted by the amazing Clare Shaw, who also judged the competition. It was a moonlit night, and I fell somewhat in love with Lancaster.

You can read my winning poem, 'A kind of peace', on the LitFest website, along with two of my other environment poems, 'Sap' and 'Lavender', as part of the Poetry Mosaic.

My poem 'Carnival Octopus' was shortlisted for Black Cat Poetry Press' Sea Poetry Competition, and will be published in an anthology this year. Black Cat create truly beautiful books, and I can't wait to be part of one.

I was longlisted for the Rebecca Swift Prize, along with a number of my poet friends, which was fab. The support and congratulations I received on Twitter - especially as I was on my way to hospital at the time - was really uplifting. Huge thanks.

I was also longlisted for The Rialto's 'Nature and Place' Poetry Prize, with my poem 'Fish at the quarry', which has since been published by Ink, Sweat & Tears. I hope you enjoy it.

On the page!

It was an absolute dream come true to have a poem, 'The attic years', published in Magma Poetry, in Issue 83 on the theme of 'Solitude'. 

One of my favourite of my poems, 'The otter world', was published in the 'Under the Sea' anthology from Fly on the Wall Press, and I am really glad it has found such a good home.

I was published in Popshot for the fourth time, in the 'Roots' issue.

My story 'Blood and water' has been illustrated by Kyle B Solomon. I find moments like this, when someone creates something new and beautiful from my work, the very best part of being a writer.

Illustration by Kyle B Solomon

I have had poems in two zines from the ever-fantastic Coin-Operated Press: 'Spirits' and 'Meryn' in the Climate Action Zine, and 'Year of the Cat' and 'Memoir' in the Cats Zine.

I have had two poems published at Visual Verse in response to their visual prompts: 'Tunnelling' and 'Don't you remember? They are where we come from'.

Last but certainly not least, my poem 'Baptism' was published at The Mechanics' Institute Review.

I also have poems coming up in The Storms, the 'Trickster' Anthology from Ergi Press, the 'Under Your Pillow' Anthology from Victorina Press, the 'Bloody Hell' Zine from Bent Key Publishing, and the Changelings Annual. Very exciting times ahead!

Foxglove fabulousness 

It is really rewarding publishing Foxglove Journal's winter schedule of work - check out the website for some powerful poetry and short fiction. 

I did an interview about Foxglove for Fly on the Wall Press' In Conversation with Literary Journals, and appeared on the panel at the accompanying online discussion. Thanks for having me!

Out and about

I've had some really helpful poetry workshops from The Poetry Business, looking at themes including science, space, memory, and writing from trauma.

I've also been out and about with The Writing Squad, including spending a day writing at York Minster, which was a very moving experience.

We also had a Squad weekend in Leeds, where we created our own TV series set on a spaceship, in our mock Writers' Room. We had a delicious curry night, and Leeds felt very festive.

I enjoyed some phenomenal events as part of Manchester Literature Festival. 'After Sylvia' at Manchester Central Library was a great evening of poetry from contributors to the After Sylvia anthology. I also attended a special workshop and was delighted to get a free copy of the book.

The wonderful Rebecca Goss

I then had the honour of attending More Fiyah, a glorious evening of Black poetry at Contact Theatre, with so many of my favourite poets in one place, I couldn't quite believe it. I left with many wonderful books, and a new grasp of just what poetry can do.

The brilliant Kayo Chingonyi

Bakers with Pride!

It was great fun to walk in the Manchester Pride Parade with Village Bakers. 

It was the day I left Hebden Bridge, so I had a very early start! But I loved wearing my new Bakers t-shirt and apron, and waving one of our rainbow flags. I have a poem about this experience, 'On the sixth day', in our Autumn Newsletter. I always enjoy curating the Newsletter and interviewing our Bakers.

One of my recent bakes - mince-pie muffins!

Thank you for sticking with this huge update! I'm busy making a new website, where I can add news more easily, and I can't wait to share that with you.

Hope you have a great January, and see you in spring!


Wednesday 27 April 2022

A spring of writing, performing, and geese!


I hope you are having a nice April. I have been eating lots of Easter chocolate, watching spring arrive in Manchester, and hiking in the Lake District. 

Since my last blog post in December, a huge amount has happened in my writing life. From performing my first hour-long, one-person show at Hope Mill Theatre, to being accepted for Magma Poetry, to doing a residency at The Poetry Business, I'm really happy to be able to share it with you. 

The Reason for Geese at Turn On Fest

Last year, I was selected for the First Dibs programme by Dibby Theatre, and wrote my first one-person stage show, The Reason for Geese. I debuted an extract at Push Festival at HOME, where it impressed Superbia, the arts and culture branch of Manchester Pride. 

Superbia then sponsored me to debut the show in full at Turn On Fest at Hope Mill Theatre in February. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I worked with Greg Thorpe as my Director, to explore and develop the play and increase my confidence in performing it.

Going into rehearsals again was great - it is something I really enjoy. I also love that the theatre is by the canals where I was inspired to write the play - it felt like coming home.

It was good to be part of the festival, and to see two of the other shows - Dungeness and The Regulars, both of which were brilliant. On the day of my performance, I got to spend the day in the theatre - I had my own dressing room! - and it was really fun. 

Huge thanks to the tech crew, Tom and Fran, who were incredibly generous and patient, and helped me to get the lighting and sound effects as good as they could be.

It was a special evening, with my lovely friends coming to support me, and I'm very happy with how the play went. I hope I get the chance to do it all over again. Watch this space (and if you are interested in a queer play about time travel, mental health and geese, please get in touch)!

More scriptwriting shenanigans

I was very honoured to be asked by Oldham Coliseum to be one of the writers for their Secondary Partnerships Scheme, writing a short play for pupils to perform at the theatre in the summer. My play Happy Place involves music, baking, mental health, TikTok, and some very flamboyant teachers!

I also had a script chosen by In Parallel Productions for their Launch Night in January. The brief was for one-minute scripts, and mine, Strings, is a monologue from a character who finally feels that they have found a home, and have accepted their queer identity.

The Launch Night was really fabulous - Saskia Pay performed my script wonderfully, and I got to meet lots of new people. It was very pink!

Finally, I was surprised and delighted to be a winner of Ergon Theatre's Get Heard competition, with my monologue Batty, about climate change, bats and mental health. 

I had a lovely whirlwind of a day, working with the other four winners to professionally record our pieces at Contact Theatre, and then curate a radio show together, which aired on Earth Day on Reform Radio. You can listen to it here.

We also went to see Nora: A Doll's House at The Royal Exchange, which was a really intense and memorable experience. It was such a nice group, and the whole Get Heard experience was one of those unexpected magical things that can just come along sometimes - I'm so glad it did.

My residency with the Poetry Business!

I was thrilled to be invited to be Digital Poet in Residence for The Poetry Business for the month of February. 

I chose to use my residency to explore February as a time of change, a transition between winter and spring, as well as writing from my walks around the canals and industrial areas of Manchester.

My first post was 'Shadows and Sky', a collaboration with January's Poet in Residence, Jasmine Gray. 

I suggested we each send the other a photo we'd taken on a walk in nature. Then, we would write in response to each other's photos. From Jasmine's photo, I wrote 'Too much sky for the octopus'. From my photo (below), Jasmine wrote, 'I'm wondering who is wondering if I'm lonely'. 

The overlap in the themes we wrote about - isolation, existence, hope - was really interesting.

For my second post, I created 'Writing the Spaces Between', a series of writing prompts using my photos. These were shared on the Poetry Business' website, and on their social media. 

For my third post, I wrote a personal essay, 'Wandering and writing - What I've Learnt', sharing my experience in the form of writing tips. This one took me a while to pin down, and I'm proud of the final result.

My fourth and final post was 'My February Diary'.

I kept a nature diary every day, documenting signs of spring, from changes in temperature and light, to seeing crocuses, bats, and a heron. It helped me to be aware of my surroundings, and feel connected to nature, even in the city. I hope it inspires readers to try something similar.

On the page!

I have had to pinch myself recently, after being accepted in a trio of long-term dream journals - Under the Radar, Popshot and Magma - as well as a number of brilliant newer indie journals.

My poem 'Satisfied' was selected for Issue 28 of Nine Arches Press' Under the Radar, with the theme of 'The Elements'. It is a gorgeous publication, and I can't quite believe I am part of it. 

Rosie Garland also shared this poem on Twitter and said she is a fan, which is amazing.

Also on the elemental theme, my poem 'Fluid' was published in Issue 35 of Popshot, which is 'The Water Issue'. My poem explores fluidity of body and identity, as well as trying to find a place you belong. It was gorgeously illustrated by Esmé Alice Mackay. 

This is my third publication in Popshot, and I love the narrative of my trilogy of poems. The first was about accepting my queerness, the second about my future and the possibility of having children, and this third is about embracing my fluidity. I hope these poems comfort and inspire someone out there.

It is always an honour to be part of a project from indie zine-makers Coin-Operated Press, and seeing my poem 'Sky belly', and one of my photos, published in the Depression Walks zine, was very empowering. Walking is key for my mental health, so this was a zine I really hoped to be in.

I was in Queerlings last year, so to see that Poetry Editor, Scott Aaron Tait has started their own journal was very exciting. I submitted some poems to Powders Press, and was really happy to have two, 'What happened' and 'Strawberry', chosen for Issue 2, with the theme of 'Wasteland'.

'Strawberry' is a very personal poem to me, looking at my experience with PCOS, and 'What happened' is a very old poem I've recently reworked, about the environment, and I'm so glad they have both found this safe, perfect home.

Irish magazine Impossible Archetype has some really strong queer writing, and I had so wanted to see my work there - so it was wonderful to hear that my poem 'Hunger', about food, loneliness, and desire, had been accepted for Issue 11.

Another poem I wrote a while ago, 'The Road from Hebden Bridge', has been published in Untitled Writing's Voices Volume 4

It's especially nice that this is out at the same time as Gentleman Jack in the UK, as the poem tells the story of my visit to Shibden Hall, with someone who really helped me to accept my queerness. 

I've been responding to Visual Verse's monthly image prompts, and I hope you enjoy my poems 'Dawn', 'Here you are', and 'Red rock...'.

Finally, I was overjoyed to have my poem 'The attic years' accepted for Issue 83 of Magma - 'The Solitude Issue'. It really is a dream come true, and I'm so proud of how far I've come as a writer in the last ten years. The Solitude Issue will be published later in the spring.

On the stage!

I've had some great poetry outings this year. I performed for the first time at Word Central at Manchester Central Library, which was a nice, warm, supportive event. 

I also had my debut at Switchblade Society at The Peer Hat, a night where we perform both our own work, and each other's. It was a cosy venue, and I loved the range of poetry.

I travelled to Bolton on a gorgeous spring day to perform with Northern Poets Society at Breaking Barriers Café, with the charity Manc Spirit. 

I shared some poems, as well as performing an excerpt from The Reason for Geese, which went down especially well.

I then returned to Clitheroe Castle, having last performed there just before Christmas. Being there in April was lovely, and I heard work from so many poets I know, as well as some exciting new voices. 

I also just had to visit The Chocolate Works - my favourite place in Clitheroe!

I also visited Write Out Loud in Sale, which is always a special space. Jolivia Gaston guest-hosted fantastically, and we all got to know each other, and took turns sharing poems and stories.

Coming up: I have been invited to perform a ten-minute set at Pride on the Range in Whalley Range, Manchester on 6th May, and am looking forward to it. Do come along if you can!

Workshops and resolutions

I started the year with Kim Moore and Clare Shaw's Resolution/Revolution workshop series, writing for an hour every day in January. There were some days I couldn't make it, but I tried to do at least a third of them, and it helped kickstart my poetry for the year ahead.

I've also been enjoying Poetry Business workshops: writing about water with River Wolton, looking at prose poems with Suzannah Evans, being inspired by letters and correspondence with Liz Berry, employing animal helpers with Pascale Petite, writing from paintings with Phoebe Stuckes, and talking about trees with Laura Scott.

I had two really nice Writing Squad workshops at The Burgess Foundation - looking at semantic fields (and writing about Love Hearts!) with Keisha Thompson, and planning novels with Francesca Haig. 

We are still having some Zoom workshops, which is really good - we looked at sensationalism in the news with Gabriel Evans, and at the nitty-gritty of form with Lydia Allison. There were also some Squad panel events about self-employment, which were really insightful.

Finally, there are the Pathways workshops from Oldham Coliseum, where we read plays, do writing exercises, and just catch up every two weeks. It is a fab group of creative people - writers, actors, directors - and I'm learning a lot. I can't believe I only discovered the Coliseum last year - it has become such an important part of my life.

Out and about

I attended the Manchester Pride Conference at The Lowry in Salford, which was a really interesting day, and it was cool to catch up with so many friends who I hadn't known would be there.

I had a great time watching Box of Tricks' play Last Quiz Night On Earth in an actual pub - Derby Brewery Arms - and my team won! The way the setting and audience were integrated into the play was really well done.

I attended the launch of Rebecca Kenny's collection Crash and Learn from Bent Key Publishing, and enjoyed a fun line-up of poets. I was really happy to get a copy of the book signed by Rebecca, and am looking forward to reading it.

It was a real privilege to attend a potluck event at Islington Mill, to see two pieces of new artwork created to commemorate the Mill collapse in 1824 - a quilt by Sarah-Joy Ford, and a garment by Astarte Cara - and to hear more about the collapse from Greg Thorpe.

Finally, I enjoyed watching The Jungle Book at Oldham Coliseum with the Pathways group. The show was well-acted (with some impressive doubling-up, where I didn't realise it was the same person), and I particularly enjoyed the songs, which it was hard not to sing as I made my way home!

Baking, hiking and linguistic adventures

The Village Bakers have been meeting every month. This is my third year on the Committee, and I love writing the newsletter, meeting with the other officers and, of course, baking! Here are a couple of my recent creations - Jammy Dodger blondies and chocolate orange brownies.

I've also been doing a lot of hiking - I had a lovely weekend in the Lake District, and have had daytrips to the Peak District, Todmorden, and Blackburn. It has been really nice to meet new people with similar interests to me, and to get out and explore and be in nature.

I completed the Mandarin Chinese course on Duolingo, which I am very proud of, and I am hoping to sit a HSK exam soon, either Level 2 or 3. I achieved my Level 1 nearly a decade ago after three weeks studying in Beijing. It has been really nice returning to the world of Chinese this last year. 

I find language inherently fascinating, and I like learning languages with different writing styles and forms. To that end, while I am currently working on improving my Portuguese, I have also started Greek - I'm interested in its alphabet, and how it influences other languages. Wish me luck with it!

Many thanks for sharing my adventures. Have a lovely spring and summer.