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.


Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Autumn, Arvon, and adventures in theatre


I hope December is treating you well. Here in Manchester, we have had some snow, some sleet, and some beautiful blue-sky days, great for walking in the hills and by the canals.

 Since my last blog post in summer, so much has happened - I have made my acting debut on both stage and screen, attended a brilliant Arvon course, performed at a castle, and been meeting up with the Village Bakers in-person again - so, eating lots of cake! 

 I hope you enjoy learning more about my autumn, and thank you for sharing my writing life with me.

First Dibs - The Assembly

The First Dibs programme has been a huge part of this year for me. Dibby Theatre selected me back in March as one of five queer writers to take part, developing our skills, and writing a new play.

 I have written The Reason for Geese, a one-person show about time-travel and finding yourself, set around the canals of Manchester. I portray all of the characters - geese, swans, a cat, a bee - using my own body and voice. It has been a new challenge for me, and I am so proud of what I have achieved.

 We shared our work at a showcase event, The Assembly, as part of Push Festival at HOME. The week leading up the The Assembly was intense but incredibly rewarding, as I worked one-to-one with Leo Skilbeck as my Director, at The Edge in Chorlton, and then at HOME.

 Leo is amazing, and really helped build up my confidence in my work and in myself. The First Dibs writers also had a photoshoot with Jordan Roberts, and I love my photo!

 The night of The Assembly was one I'll always remember. I loved being in the theatre, working with a group of other people, sharing the adrenaline, and celebrating together when we had finished. I made some great connections and friends.

 I got some lovely feedback for The Reason for Geese, and am excited to share it again in January, as part of a very exciting opportunity. I am looking forward to letting you know more, so watch this space, and keep an eye on my Twitter!

Advent at Oldham Coliseum

I was commissioned to write two of Oldham Coliseum's 2021 Advent plays - and then I was asked to act in one of them! It was a really fun experience, and I hope you enjoy watching them.

 'Christmas Octopus', brilliantly acted by Brianna Douglas, is about an octopus costume, finding and accepting friendship, and understanding yourself.

 'Truffles', performed by me, is about food, family, and adventure.

 I have another project with the Coliseum coming up, that I hope to share soon. This theatre - both the physical space and online community - has become so special for me, full of warmth and magic, and I'm so glad I found it this year.

Autumn at Arvon

I was over the moon to be able to attend Arvon's 'Poetry - Expanding Your Reach' course at Lumb Bank, near Hebden Bridge. I last stayed there in Summer 2019, and it was a life-changing experience. Now, I returned in autumn, and the hills were full of orange and red trees. It was gorgeous.

 Our tutors, Mimi Khalvati and Katrina Naomi, were both fantastic, and helped to focus me on what I need to do next with my poems. Leo Boix was our guest poet, and I loved his work. As a linguist, I was especially interested in his thoughts on, and stories about, literary translation.

 I loved being part of a little community, in our cottage in the countryside. The food was glorious, and I enjoyed taking my turn at cooking, helping make vegan butternut squash risotto (it was amazing!). Our nights chatting by the fire are something I'll really miss. I've definitely made some friends.

Out and about with my poems!

A lot of spoken-word events moved back to being in-person during the autumn, and it was nice to catch up with friends, and travel a bit, even just to Salford or Sale! However, Zoom events have their own advantages, and I hope that organisers will keep doing them, as well.

 I was invited to perform and run a workshop at Fatty Acid, a queer night at Partisan Collective. I had a really nice group for my workshop, and I'm proud of the work we produced. I then performed at the cabaret, in a line-up of incredible and unique acts. It was fabulous, and I felt such freedom and pride. The queer community is amazing.

 I then took a tram to Sale, for my first-ever in-person visit to Sale Out Loud. It was lovely to see the brilliant Sarah, who hosts the night, and to finally meet some poets I had only seen on a screen. We sat in a circle and took turns reading our poems, and it felt very cosy and equal and supportive.

 I then made my return to Verbose, now in the upstairs room at The King's Arms in Salford - such a cool space! I shared some poems, and enjoyed some really dynamic and diverse performances.

 Next, there was the Young Identity Christmas party - a great evening, which really refreshed me. I performed at the open mic, enjoyed some excellent cake, then walked home, through the Manchester Christmas lights, feeling positive and hopeful. 

 In the virtual realm, the Writing Squad held another Home Concert, and it was a calm, safe space to share our work, both poetry and music. One of my favourite things is to listen to people play guitar and sing, so it felt like I was getting a free gig, and it was lovely to be able to contribute.

 Finally, one of the most unusual, but most brilliant gigs I've done - I was invited by Northern Poets Society to perform at Clitheroe Castle! 

 It was very cold, but the atmosphere among the poets was so special. It was an adventure, and definitely a highlight of my poetry year.

On the page!

I had an exciting delivery - a batch of copies of Not About Now, the Writing Squad anthology in which I have two poems. If you would be interested in buying a copy from me, do get in touch!

 This was a really nice project - it was funded by Simon Armitage and, at a time when I think a lot of us felt pressure to write directly about the pandemic, we were told that we didn't have to. Hence, Not About Now! I wrote about goslings and cats and helicopters, but also about loss and hope.

 I am also proud to have one of my poems about PCOS - 'Why we wait to find out why I am bleeding again' - published in Kissing Dynamite Poetry

 Be aware that this poem has medical themes, but it is told through metaphor, without anything spelt out.

 I have continued to take part in Visual Verse's monthly writing challenge. In September, I responded to the below image by Vika Wendish, with my poem 'Analysis'.

 In November, I wrote 'Eve', in response to this image by Frederick Cayley Robinson. I found this one really interesting, and I definitely want to further explore the world I created.

 Most recently, I wrote 'Os cabalos', inspired by this image by Monica Silva, as well as by the horses of Vigo and Galicia, and my time living there.

 Coming soon: I have a poem, 'Satisfied' in the upcoming issue of Under the Radar, which has been a dream journal for meI can't wait to share it!

Workshops, shows, friends and fun

I have had three lovely Writing Squad workshops in person. We looked at writing the invisible with Andrew McMillan here in Manchester, and I took the train to Leeds to look at metaphor with Francesca Haig, and myths with Malika Booker. 

 On the day of Malika's workshop, it was extremely windy and snowy, and it was a real adventure getting there! I'm very glad I did.

 There have also been some great Squad workshops on Zoom - these are usually on a Thursday night, and are a nice, relaxed way to spend an evening. We looked at writing the taboo with Jenny Danes, settings and senses with Aoife Inman, and rituals with Georgia Affonso. 

 I attended online Poetry Business workshops with Ann and Peter Sampson, Malika Booker, and Suzannah Evans. These are usually in the mornings, and help me get into a poetic frame of mind for the rest of the day.

 I enjoyed two shows at Oldham Coliseum - Gypsy Jam, a passionate, musical coming-together of cultures that was an honour to witness, and Love n Stuff, a play with many characters, amazingly acted by just two people. My brain was constantly tricked into thinking there were more people on stage! 

 With Dibby Theatre, I attended an early table reading of Chris Hoyle's play-in-progress, The Alleyway of Dreams, which was fascinating to be part of. I also saw Nathaniel Hall's First Time at Contact Theatre - having studied the text, finally seeing it performed was a really special experience.

Baking, crafting, candles and community

The Village Bakers have been meeting in person again, which has been fabulous. And I was able to make my famous Biscoff Banana Bread once more! 

 As always, I really enjoyed curating our Autumn Newsletter, with news, delicious bakes, and an interview with one of our lovely Bakers, Andrew. I hope you enjoy it.

 I have enjoyed getting out and about to other LGBTQ+ events, too, from making a clay octopus, to weaving a rainbow bracelet.

 I enjoyed decorating some candle jars for this year's World AIDS Day vigil in Sackville Gardens, which was an extremely moving and powerful event.

 I am still learning Mandarin Chinese, working on my guitar skills, and baking. I am also trying to do more cooking, and have got back into watching The West Wing, which I was a big fan of as a teenager. I am very ready for a Christmas rest, and lots of reading!
 Thank you so much for visiting my blog, and being part of my creative journey. I hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable festive season, and that 2022 brings some hope and happy times.

 Warmest wishes,

 Liz x