Stephen Payne’s publication story

I wanted to share with you this great post on Fiona Moore’s blog about how Stephen Payne came to publish his debut collection with HappenStance.

Pattern Beyond Chance has just been published, nine years after Stephen first emailed HappenStance publisher, Helena Nelson, with a tentative enquiry about critiquing his poems.

It’s fascinating to read how Stephen developed a professional relationship with Helena, his reflections on and appreciation of the editing process, and his literary progress over almost a decade.

I first met Stephen about three years ago at Hilda Sheehan’s book launch in Swindon. We’ve stayed in touch ever since, we’ve become poetry friends, and Stephen was one of the people I sent the manuscript of my pamphlet to, once tall-lighthouse had offered me publication.

Reading Stephen’s story has made me really look forward to hearing him read next Monday at Toppings, Bath, where he’ll be launching the book.  Might see some of you there but enjoy the blog post, in any case!

Aldeburgh Ten

After the Aldeburgh Eight Seminar 2015

I’ve been back in Wiltshire for over a week, after three days at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival and five days on a rural writing retreat at Bruisyard Hall in Suffolk, as one of this year’s Aldeburgh Eight.  I had an amazing time, I’m so glad I applied for a place, and I’m still processing the whole experience of my eight day poetry bonanza.

be happy

I’ve read some wonderful blogs about the Festival by Robin Houghton, Fiona Moore, Chrissy Williams and Maria Taylor which will give you a flavour of what it was like.

Here are a few of my many highlights. Continue reading

My bags are packed for Aldeburgh!

So, farewell then, readers.  I’ll be back after 13th November.

bags packed for Aldeburgh

Hope to see some of you in Aldeburgh this weekend for the Poetry Festival.  Then I’ll be with my fellow Aldeburgh Eighters on our rural retreat!


On not spending money (to learn to write poetry)

One of the comments from my previous post about writing workshops has prompted me to say that you don’t need to spend money in order to write.  I’ve sung the praises of workshops on this blog – and I am a fan of them – but don’t kid yourself that you must go to workshops in order to get better at writing.  I know, or have heard of, plenty of successful poets, published by prestigious presses, who’ve never attended a workshop in their lives, although they now sometimes run writing workshops themselves.  In this post, I’ll look at some alternative, minimum or no cost means of developing your writing.


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Ideas and prompts for NaBloPoMo

I won’t be around for the whole of November (I’m going away for eight days) otherwise I would’ve been tempted to join in with National Blog Posting Month and publish a blog post a day for the whole of November.  However, if you’re on a NaBloPoMo mission and are looking for some inspiration, here are some ideas for posts:

  • Post a picture – Autumn is incredibly photogenic.  No need for any words so a good one to post if you’re pressed for time!

autumn park

  • Take a series of photographs from all the windows in your house.  Again, no words necessary although you might like to describe and explain who/what is out there.  Introduce your readers to your neighbourhood!  I based a post around this photo I took one night when I couldn’t sleep.
  • Interview yourself.  What makes you tick?  What are your dreams?  What’s your daily routine?  Where do you live? Where do you work? Why do you blog? Think up a list of questions and conduct an interview.
  • Find a child’s drawing – either something you drew yourself when you were a child or one of your own children’s/relative’s/friend’s drawings.  Write a short post about the picture.  Here’s a post I wrote about a picture my daughter drew when she was four.
  • Write about three blogs you follow, say why you follow them and include links to the sites.  I wrote about some favourite blogs here and here.
  • Write a review.  A book review (here’s one I’ve written) or a review of a show, film, exhibition, event – whatever you’ve been up to, review it.
  • Write a poem or flash fiction.  Either post the poem on its own or explain how/why you’ve written it.
  • Write a post about what you’re currently reading.
  • Write about something you’ve never written about on your blog before – a hobby, a favourite recipe, a description of where you live or like to walk – here’s your chance to show another side of yourself to your readers.
  • Write about someone you loved who died.  Here are posts I wrote about my mother and father.
  • Write about who like to follow on Twitter and why.  Include some of their tweets to back up your opinions.
  • Ring the changes with a video post – keep it short and snappy.  Ideas – read a poem, sing a song, give your opinion about a news item.  I cringe to watch this, but here I am on film reciting a tiny poem.
  • Record something on Soundcloud.  I posted a recording here of me reading some poems.

That’s probably enough for now.  Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section below and, Good Luck, if you’re aiming for a month of blogging!

Win £2,000 and a week’s residency at Charles Causley’s house

Charles Causley

 The Charles Causley Poetry Competition 2015

Closing Date 3rd November 2015

Entries by post.  Entry fee £7 per poem.  1st Prize 2,000 plus one week’s residency at 2, Cyprus Well, Charles Causley’s house. 2nd Prize £250. 3rd Prize £100.

Now in its third year, with poets Jo Bell and Angela Readman the previous winners, there is still time to send your poem to this competition and be in with a chance of winning a substantial cash prize and (new this year) a one week’s residency at Charles Causley’s house in Launceston, Cornwall.

Rules of entry here. Download an entry form here.

More details at The Charles Causley Trust, including news of Isabel Galleymore’s appointment as Poet in Residence in 2016 and Jennifer McDerra’s appointment as Development Officer for the Trust.

All proceeds from the competition are donated to the Charles Causley’s House and Writer in Residence projects in Launceston.  Jennifer McDerra has said there will be more plans to offer further residencies at 2 Cyprus Well next year so keep an eye on the website for news.  Follow the Trust on Twitter @causleytrust.   And send in your poems!

Thoughts about workshopping poems


As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been selected to take part in this year’s Aldeburgh Eight Advanced Seminar. In just over two weeks I’ll head off for three days at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, followed by five days living at Bruisyard Hall with the other seven people in my seminar group and our two tutors, Peter Sansom and Jackie Wills. I’m increasingly preoccupied with thoughts about eight whole days of poetry and feel excited and quietly terrified in equal measure.

In order to be gain a place on the Aldeburgh Eight Seminar, prospective candidates were asked to submit six (or was it eight? I forget) poems to the selection panel at The Poetry Trust, along with a personal statement about why we wanted to take part. So the people at the Poetry Trust, and our two tutors, already have some feeling for our writing since, of course, they read our submissions. Last week, we were asked to submit eight poems to be circulated to the others on the seminar so that we can now get a feel for each other’s work in advance of our eight days together.

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Ten Thoughts on a Friday Evening


  1. Sipping a glass of wine when you’re cooking is one of life’s pleasures.
  2. Making a big fish pie and adding leaks, sweet potato and spinach, (it’s scrumptious, truly), and asking your 14 year old son to wash up while it’s in the oven, means that there is a delicious, nutritious meal on the way and there’s only one big dish and four plates to clear up after.  Thank you, Johnny, by the way.
  3. Emily Berry’s book, ‘Dear Boy’, is a book I carry around with me and read and re-read again and again. It is possibly one of my favourite poetry books.  Never mind possibly, it is one of my favourite books.  I resisted buying it for about one whole year after it first came out.  I hated all the publicity it received (why? I don’t know!  I suppose it’s because I really DO NOT LIKE being told what to do) and I felt determined not to be persuaded to buy it just because it was all over social media.  Even when it was nominated for and won awards, I resisted.  Eventually, I gave in.  I can’t remember why.  And I’ve been reading and re-reading and thinking about it and going back to it for help when I’m writing poems, ever since.
  4. I recently asked my daughter, Kitty, who’s 16, which poems she remembers from when she was little and she told me she remembers the ones that made her laugh,  especially Michael Rosen’s ‘Chocolate Cake’, Benjamin Zephaniah’s ‘Talking Turkeys!!’, Brian Patten’s ‘The Race to Get to Sleep’ and Spike Milligan’s ‘On the Ning-Nang-Nong’.  I’ve been thinking about writing for children and doing some more writing workshops in schools.  I ran some poetry workshops for children a few years ago, and wrote a poem called ‘I Sat in a Quiet Classroom and I Heard…’ which was a group poem made with the participation of about 90 children! (how did I manage that?)  I’d like to do more of this kind of thing next year so I’ve been reading children’s poetry recently (in between the Emily Berry – I always have about half a dozen books on the go, don’t you?) and beginning some drafts of new poems for children.  And I’m remembering what Kitty said about laughing.
  5. I don’t know if this list is a good idea.  I’m already onto my second large glass and the fish pie is almost ready.
  6. Twitter has been awfully quiet today.  Is it because Twitter is on the way out?  I read somewhere that that’s a possibility.  Or is it because it’s Half-Term in the UK and everyone’s gone away on holiday or is just too busy?  Is it because everyone’s busy doing far more exciting stuff than I am?
  7. Are you ?!? And have you noticed that Twitter is quiet or is it just me?
  8. I’m reading ‘King Lear’.  (In between Emily Berry, Michael Rosen,…. etc.) This is because a) I’ve never read it. b) My daughter is studying ‘A’ Level English Literature and reading ‘Wuthering Heights’ and told me she’d read, in a critical essay somewhere, that ‘Wuthering Heights’ was influenced by ‘King Lear’.  I suddenly realised how badly-read I am.  No suddenly about it, I’ve known for years I need to read more.  I left school so early, worked for 12 years and went back to full-time education as a mature student.  I haven’t read enough and I’m going to make up for it now.   Anyway, I’m reading ‘King Lear’, I’m enjoying it, I like it, I don’t always understand it, it has interesting themes, I love the language, and, yes, I can see how it influenced ‘Wuthering Heights’.
  9. I’ve been thinking recently about kindness.  I’m so blooming placid and easy-going.  I really loathe confrontation.  But there have been a couple of things I’ve seen which I haven’t liked. One was someone posting a really mean review of someone else’s work. Neither the reviewer,  or the poet being reviewed, big poets, neither published by a mainstream publisher, and the poet being reviewed somebody starting out, published by a small press.  I thought about confronting the reviewer but then remembered how I hate confrontation.  So,  instead, I unfollowed the person on Twitter, and I unfollowed a few people who showed they were in agreement with the review, (go me, so passive-aggressive – but that is my way!) and I’ve decided never EVER to post anything mean about another person.  Not that I write many reviews but if I ever do, and someone gives me a book that I don’t think much of, I will choose, instead, to turn down the review, to say I can’t find in the book much of merit, which itself would be hard for a writer to hear, without resorting to vitriolic comments posted on a blog for all to see.
  10. Is a third glass wise?  I’m not sure it is, but Andrew is home from work, eating the fish pie, it’s Friday night, the clocks go back this weekend, summer is most definitely over, our family is all together for the weekend, I’m verging on being tipsy, I have a new poem on the go (that’s apart from my poems for young people), I’m grateful to be alive, do please let me know anything you’re up to yourself, what you’re eating, reading, thinking about, planning, even if it isn’t a list of ten things.


Launch of ‘Cur’ by Martin Malone

Just to say I’ll be reading a poem or two at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop (34 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AA) in Oxford this Friday, 16th October, 7pm, for the launch of Martin Malone‘s new book ‘Cur’, fresh off the press at Shoestring Press.

Cur by Martin Malone

Other poets reading include Hilda Sheehan, Richard Skinner, Roy Marshall, Robin Houghton and Siegfried Baber.  And maybe a few more!  Would be lovely to see you there.


In other news

I’ll come right out and say that my husband, Andrew, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. We’ve known for a short while and have been coming to terms with the news.  I’m not going to go into all the personal details but I will say that I married a beautiful man, full of love, energy, laughter and strength.  This is Andrew’s situation, certainly, although of course it affects me and our children, and all of Andrew’s and my family and friends.  This isn’t my first experience of cancer – my mother died of cancer of the colon in 1974 – and I know that many of you will also have been affected by the illness, in many different ways.  Whatever you think you know about cancer, whatever kind of cancer, it’s different for every person.  No one’s situation is the same.  You probably already know that.

Me and A 1 Me and A 2 Me and A 3

We’ve gradually been telling people that Andrew has cancer.  He didn’t mean to make a big announcement but he’s signed up for Movember – being sponsored to grow a beard or moustache in November to raise funds for research and support into prostate and testicular cancer and men’s health –  and shared his page to social media so a lot of our friends and family have now found out.  To be honest, it’s a relief to be able to talk about Andrew’s cancer and it’s typical of him to want to do something that might help other people, to be positive and upbeat about what he’s going through, and to understand that I need to talk about it, too.

We’ve already been given a lot of love and support from family, friends, our children’s school, and friends in the writing community I’ve mostly got to know through social media.  Thank you, you know who you are.

Life is carrying on.  I’m still going off to Suffolk in a few weeks to take part in the Aldeburgh Eight Advanced Seminar – Andrew wouldn’t have it any other way.  I won’t be going into every detail of Andrew’s illness.  It’s in the early stages, he’s still deciding what course of treatment to undergo, and this isn’t the place to be discussing any of that. Thanks for your understanding.

So now you know a bit more about me. And him.

Andrew’s page at Movember.