I hope you are doing okay at this very strange and difficult time in the world. I haven't posted on this blog in a while, as I am working on a new website, which I am looking forward to sharing with you. However, I want to give you an update of what I got up to creatively in 2020.
It was a very different year - certainly unique for me within my lifetime. The pandemic meant that I was unable to see many of my friends and loved ones, and there has been so much general fear and anxiety. The writing groups and spoken-word nights that I used to go to have either stopped or have been moved online. I have become very adept at using Zoom!
I am grateful to the people and groups that have really stepped up and have been there for me and many others at a time that would otherwise have been very lonely. Huge thanks to The Writing Squad, Out on the Page, The Poetry Business, Arvon, Sale Out Loud, LGBT Foundation, and AKT, as well as my personal social groups and Zoom quiz team.
A key achievement for me was getting through to the first stage of Penguin Random House's Write Now scheme, with my Young Adult novel-in-progress. It is a queer, coming-of-age story set in Salamanca, Spain, where I once studied. Through Write Now, I had a feedback session with Editor, Becky Brown, and I attended the Write Now Day, which allowed me to meet so many lovely people and make some friends.
I also achieved one of my dreams as a writer - being published in Popshot, both in print and online, and having my poem illustrated. "What I always wanted poetry to tell me" means so much to me, as it really is what the title suggests. I was overjoyed to be able to put that message out there and help people feel comfortable in their body and identity. Chu Chu Briquet did a gorgeous illustration to go with it.
This was one of several collaborative pieces I have been involved in recently, and I am excited by this trend. Through editing and illustrating Foxglove Journal, I have long been collaborating with writers. However, collaborating as a writer myself, with creators of other media, is something I had hoped to do more of, and I am very happy with how it is going.
I was delighted to be chosen to represent Manchester City of Literature in the Bus Poetry Project in Tartu, Estonia. My poem "Arrival" was selected to be translated into Estonian, and feature on buses in the city. I cannot wait to see the translation, and a photo of my poem on a bus, and to share it with you.
After a workshop with The Writing Squad and Manchester Poetry Library, I wrote the surreal poem "The goldfish library", which was published in Push. I was later commissioned by the Writing Squad for a special poetry project, which I will be able to talk more about in the future. I worked with brilliant Hannah Hodgson, who gave me feedback to develop two of my poems. They are about a cat and goslings - but also about so much more. I am looking forward to sharing them.
It was lovely to be selected for Yorkshire Dance's Writing Dance project, where a small group of writers and dancers worked together to create new work, experiment, and just get to know each other and have a really nice time. I found this experience very freeing, and it inspired work that I am looking forward to returning to and developing further.
My poem "Balloon Street" was published and illustrated by lovely Scrittura Magazine.
My poem "New Year" was published in The Gentian's Reflections Issue, as well as several of my photos - and I even provided the photo for the front cover, which is a new and exciting achievement for me. You can see more of my photos on my travel blog, and I provide all of the photos for Foxglove.
Irisi published four of my poems - "The first time", "Summer in Manchester", "Perfume" and "Star and bird and egg and rose" - as well as recordings of me reading them, and one of my photos, for their Hope issue. Creating this multimedia experience was really enjoyable, and I would love for you to have a listen or explore.
One of my proudest moments of 2020 was collaborating with Unheard Poetry to mark World AIDS Day. My poem "Beyond words" was combined with a beautiful visual, and many different voices, to create a powerful multisensory piece. Artist Clare Johnson also created an artwork inspired by my poem. It was such an honour to see the team work together to allow my poem to become so much more.
I feel I have got much more confident about raising my voice on issues I care about. I had two poems, "Silent" and "Return", published by adda to raise awareness of climate change. I was longlisted for the Quiet Man Dave Prize with my fiction piece "Waiting for Felix", about queer love and family.
I was Commended in The Bangor Literary Journal's 40 Words Competition with my poem "Stars", about mental health and loneliness, and I was Highly Commended in the Eighth Annual Bangor Poetry Competition with my poem "Something happened", about human connection and support.
I was part of two Manchester anthologies - Mancunian Ways from Fly on the Wall Press, which features my poems "Arrival" and "On this hot May afternoon", and The Buzzin Bards 2020 Anthology, which includes my poem "Farawayland". It is wonderful to be able to share my love for this city.
I also have three poems in the Hidden Voices 2020 Anthology: "Why I usually like being queer", "Feed", and "Céline at Cannes", the third, a celebration of filmmaker Céline Sciamma. Another poem inspired by Céline's Portrait of a Lady on Fire, as well as by the amazing queer women's community in Manchester, is "The ballad of the red plaid", which was published by The Writing Squad as part of the Staying Home project.
I had several poems published by Visual Verse in response to their 2020 image prompts: "Across the ocean" is about an American writer I love, while "Tracks" is about the ache of someone driving away from you, and having no idea when they will return. "At nineteen" is a sonnet on queerness and self-acceptance, "Salvation" remembers how I used to hatch ladybird eggs, and "Finding the yeti" is about airships, and believing in things. "My own valley" is a particular favourite of mine: a fierce cry of self-love after the end of a relationship.
I continued editing Foxglove Journal, and it has been a great way to connect with people around the world, and share their fascinating and diverse writing. I also published two of my own poems over 2020: "Octopus dusk" and "How it was", both inspired by my time living in Vigo, Galicia, with its hills and sunsets and foals and frogs.
I attended Arvon's Queer Poetry course with Caroline Bird and Richard Scott, which was amazing - I will probably write more on this soon. I also hosted a Writing Squad open-mic, which was great fun, and I have performed at a number of magazine, anthology and book launches, and at open-mics - particularly the monthly Sale Out Loud, which is such a warm and supportive community.
I will do another blog post soon, bringing you my 2021 news so far. Already, some lovely things have happened with my writing and creative projects, and I feel that my confidence is growing. Until then, I hope you have enjoyed this catch-up. Please do get in touch if you would like to collaborate with me, or float any project ideas.
Many thanks for reading,