Tuesday, 29 June 2010

#43 Dear Yeuchy Day

Dear Yeuchy Day

I screw up my nose and stick out my tongue to you. Yeuch yeuch yeuch. Gr. Ugh. I'm not sure exactly why you've been so unnecessarily difficult. Coud be this warm sticky weather, or my hormones, or that I planned too many things for too short a time, or maybe I just need a good night's sleep. But anyway, you won't beat me, yeuchy horrible day, ha!


Sunday, 27 June 2010

#42 Dear Little Harvest...

Dear Little Harvest,

It really was lovely picking, cutting and digging you up at the allotment today, while other people were watching a dismal game of football. It was so lovely to bring you home, and then chop you up and make you into this scrumptious lunch.

You were rainbow chard, spinach, onion, radish, little gem, mizuna and rocket. Now you are homemade rainbow pie and salad. Yum.

Thanks, you made my day perfect

A x

#41 Dear Lady Sat Next to Me Yesterday in St Ann's Square

Dear Lady Sat Next to Me Yesterday in St Ann's Square

I think you were in town shopping, and you stopped for some food at one of the stalls in St Ann's Square and then discovered that there were poetry readings. I was one of the readers, although you came along after I finished reading so you might not have realised. I want to say how impressed I was by the way you talked with the man who came along shouting about Jesus in the middle of Alicia's poetry reading. I thought he was quite rude the way he just started shouting scriptures, and even security found it hard to move him on. But you just quietly spoke to him, and said that you were a Christian but you wanted to hear the poetry. You were very respectful and he listened, and moved away somewhere else. Your patience was inspiring, and I wish I was a little more like you, because my first instinct was to shout back,

Anyway, Thanks and I hope you enjoyed the poetry


Saturday, 26 June 2010

#40 Dear Friends Who I Used to Work With

Dear Friends Who I Used to Work With

It was lovely to see you last night, even though I was a bit tired and really didn't feel like socialising. You always make me laugh and feel good about myself. There is something sad about the way we are all slowly disbanding and moving on to new jobs, almost like a family breaking up, and even though it's been nearly a year, I still miss going into work and seeing you all every day. I love the way that we pick up where we left off when we get together, I guess that's what friendship is, even if it's been a while, and some of you I know better than others. It was a real one-off, a unique workplace of people that are now here, there and everywhere, an era in our lives that has passed, but which meant such a lot to all of us. I think you're all fab, and I hope the changes we've all been through, still going through and the ones to come are positive for us.

Big Love
A xxx

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

#39 Dear Manchester

Dear Manchester

Oh, I do love you, honest I do. You are my city, the place where I've lived for such a long time, place of many memories. And I love so many things about you, the mix of cultures and artsy everything and history, and even though you're ugly in many ways you can be so so beautiful as well.

But I have to admit, it's a bit disappointing coming back to you after being in Italy. I mean, back to the ordinary, back to work, back to English men exposing their bellies just because the sun's come out.


AC xx

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

come to a reading or two...

First, this Saturday in St Ann's Square in Manchester... Manchester Book Marketis taking place all weekend. 12 til 5 on Friday and Saturday.

I will be there reading some poems along with Nick Royle, Kim Wiltshire, Zahid Hussein, Eleanor Rees, Gift Nyoni, Chris Jam, Conrad Williams, Alicia Stubbersfield, Tim Lees, Nabila Suriya, Nick Murgatroyd, Akiel Chinelo, Edmund Prestwich, Marvin Cheeseman, Steph Pike, Lula Bruise, Polly Atkin, Conor Aylwood, Fergus Evans.

Some lovely poets, writers and performers of all kinds. We will be hanging out, reading and browsing bookstalls. All the lovely shoppers will hopefully hang around too, and listen to some brilliant writing.

This year, I'm planning to make my reading a little more child appropriate (I think I might have read some kind of abuse/drug use/swearing literature, not thinking that there would be children around!)

Come along.... This was how it looked last time*.

The second event is the launch of This Road We're On, a digital short story anthology by Flax Books, containing three of my tiny stories. The launch is at The Storey in Lancaster, and there will be me and four other writers reading our stories. Flax always have lovely launches, very relaxed, a little drink, some mingling, some readings, free postcards scattered around including one of my teeny tiny story Behind the Apollo where love meets biro.

Here is a picture of the audience having a lovely time at another Flax launch some time ago...**

Both events are free. Please come and say hello if you see me, as I will be there on my own and a little chat will be quite lovely.

* I didn't take this picture, and it rained on the day I read last year, so fingers crossed for sunshine!

**I didn't take this picture either, you might just be able to spot me at the back. Just look at how much everyone is enjoying themselves!!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Annie Italia

I could tell you about Casa di Maio, with its orange walls and green shutters and the four lazy cats that slept in various hiding places around the garden.

I could tell you about breakfast on the terrace, breakfasts in pyjamas, breakfasts with jam and toast and cheese and ham and banana pancakes and maple syrup and fruit and croissants and spinach frittata.

I could tell you about being surrounded by vines, winding and crawling their way across every hillside

village after village

on every hilltop, castelli and chiesas, a scatter of red tiled roofs

cobbled streets

ornate doors and gateways, climbing roses, pots of geraniums, the beautiful sweet smell of jasmine almost everywhere.

And then of course, weddings. I could tell you about my beautiful friend getting married in a cathedral with ornate painted ceilings. The atmospheric thunder during the service, vows in both languages, and rain, rice and rose petals all showering down.

It was just perfect. Everything. A wonderful experience to be there to see her marry the man she loves and who so clearly adores her. Sigh.

Food, food, food for hours and hours, course after course of gorgeous food, the best speeches and toasts, more food and drinks (of course) and a very funny and touching story from the groom about how their love grew, with pictures, songs and a 'gorgeous' rendition of Amore. Then laughing, talking and dancing to the groom's friends brilliant band who played rock and spandau ballet!

It was lovely. My first time in Italy, and with my lovely sister, crazy-driving along Italian roads with no indicating and lots of veering and tail-gating, and convoys of cars as we drove from airports to towns to villages and back again. Aperitivos and pizzas, new friends and old friends, people I met many times or just once years ago.

Big sigh. Back home now with my thoughts, too many to describe.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

#38 Dear Love Handles

Dear Love Handles,

Where did you come from? Last time I looked in the mirror there was no sign of you and then today, DA DA, love handles. I'm not quite sure how I feel about you. It's as if I've been holding you in for all these years and suddenly one day you just decided enough is enough, and out you pop.

So, How long are you going to stay? Because if you're here for good, then it might take a bit of time getting used to you. And right now, there's not a lot of love going on, actually no love, so you are a lot more handle than love. And you make me look fat in a bikini.

hmmm, it's not really a letter of gratitude, more an acknowledgement that I have noticed you are there,


Sunday, 13 June 2010

#37 Dear Eric

Dear Eric,

Just want to say thanks. For the borlotti bean seedlings. For the coriandor which is growing like crazy in a car tyre. For helping me make raised beds by hammering 6 inch nails into scaffold boards. For teaching me how to plant out leeks. For letting me sit in your meditation hut even when I'm sure at times you want me to bugger off. For making the best scarecrow I have ever seen. For always being positive even when you are pretending to be a grumpy bastard or telling me off. For teaching me how to kill a man with one blow. For sellotaping magnets to my shoulder blades. For always being up for a cup of tea. For doing qi gong practice with me today, even though I have the stamina and attention span of a gnat. For helping me shovel horseshit in the snow that time. For finding me a roofer, even though I sorted it out myself in the end. For telling me about the day you had your vasectomy, which made me laugh so much. For great hugs.

You're brilliant,
A xx

Friday, 11 June 2010

#36 Dear So Bloody What

Dear So Bloody What,

I wanted to write you this blog because of the hole in my roof that still isn't fixed, the roofer who didn't have his own ladders, and for still not having a roofer who can guarantee he will actually turn up and sort out the slates. And also because of a particular man who never seems to notice that I am really quite nice, like beyond-friend-nice, like really exceptionally lovely when I want to be (and still single). And for the fact that I am approaching 37 in a couple of weeks and am becoming more and more creased and curved in the wrong places.

I want you to deal with these things in your own So Bloody What way,

A xx

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

#35 Dear Qi Gong

Dear Qi Gong

I'm sorry that I neglected you this week inbetween classes. I know I should have been practising every day. It was really good to have my one to one class tonight, I really enjoyed doing the six cycles and all the lovely movements I am learning that have funny names so that I can get the energy flowing in the right ways through my body. I like the way that your name kind of roughly translates as 'energy practice', I like the idea that I am practising my energy. I think qi actually means something like 'vital energy' or 'life force'. And actually gong is more like 'cultivating' or 'gathering skills'. So now that I have started cultivating my energy, I want to do it more regularly. It's just sometimes very hard to find the energy to cultivate my energy, if you know what I mean. Hm. This week I will try harder, because you are a really cool way to spend time,

thanks for being so relaxing, for balancing my energies, and for helping me to build my inner strength,

A xx

Monday, 7 June 2010

#34 Dear Tears for Fears

Dear Tears for Fears,

I just want to say a very belated thank you for the song 'Shout'. I am listening to it now for the first time in YEARS. For me it just captures something beautifully electronic, gutsy and harsh about the 80s as I remember them. The lyrics are brilliant, I mean, there is no better way to say 'shout shout let it all out these are the things I can do without'. Also, the words'in violent times, you shouldn't have to sell your soul' are amongst the truest words I can think of right now. Anyway, I want to say thanks so much, listening to you again gave me one of those strange very physical feelings when I hear something that takes me right back to another era, almost as if time travel really was possible, and it made me feel a little emotional to be back there for a short time.

I also want to say that I adore your song 'mad world', because I really think it is. And your song 'Head over Heels' is gorgeous too.

Thanks for the memories,
A xx

Sunday, 6 June 2010

help wanted/ the 80's/ my novel....


I've made a decision, that I am writing about here in order to commit myself.

After six months of pondering, wondering, not writing and not thinking about writing apart from in a tiny place way back on a dusty shelf in my brain somewhere, I've decided to go back to my novel.

The birth of the idea of this novel was so long ago, I can't remember the exact starting point. It evolved and evolved mostly in thought but also in about fifty thousand words of confused writing. I went on an Arvon course on novel writing with the brilliant Suzanne Berne and Marjorie Sandor, and really got to grips with what I wanted the voice of the novel to be, the issues, the confict, and half an idea of what the resolution might be. I started writing the novel over again, with all this progress behind me.

And then I made a mistake. I went on an advanced fiction writing course that was really not suited to my style of working, my levels of confidence or the stage I had reached in my writing. I felt as though I was being told a lot of 'do it like this', 'you should do this', and in fact, probably don't bother because it's so hard to get published that hardly anyone succeeds anyway. I tried hard to feel as though I belonged there, but in truth, I think I felt like a rabbit in the headlights and the progress was undone. I left the course midway through and haven't looked at my novel since.

Ha. That's a bit of a story. It was also quite a few years ago. Of course, I kept writing short fiction, flash and prose poetry, and that's been fun. But, the main character from my novel still speaks to me from time to time. I still think about her and her story. The themes are very important to me, the bedrock of my writing to be honest. It's not autobiographical, but I guess I have lived some of the issues in a very different way, there are elements of different characters that are me, and the setting is not georgraphically real, but is real to me in a strange imaginary way.

So, I am setting up my spare room as a study.

I am gathering past drafts of my novel, research notes, books, and other material that will help me get back into the novel's world again.

I am going to set aside time to write. It doesn't sound a lot, but I'm going to set aside an evening each week to start with. I don't want to overkill. If I want to write more, I will. But I want this to be enjoyable, not a second full-time job. So, I want low expectations of myself so I can achieve or exceed them, rather than feeling as though I'm failing before I begin.

I am going to start my reading chapter one and see how it reads now all this time has passed. And start from there.

Gosh. Wish me luck.

I really want to get into the social setting of the novel - a working class family living in a northern town in the early 80's. I won't say more than that. But if you really want to spur me on, then I have a request. I want to surround my writing desk with objects, photos, postcards, whatever that get me into that time - the kinds of hair/clothes/cars/what was going on in the streets/schools/TV.

I have already collected some personal things that take me to that time, my school reports, train tickets, some grainy looking photos, some postcards of the strikes, my collection of very 80s looking badges, an ultravox 7" single sleeve, my address book from the 80s, a gold heart shaped pendant...

But, I would love it, if people want to send me something that I can add to my collection. It might be a sweet wrapper, a cinema ticket, a photo, a newspaper clipping, a postcard, I'm not sure exactly what, but something that might immerse me in that time/place/class. If anyone has got anything they want to send me, then drop me an email and I will send an address. I will care for it, return it if you wish, and be very grateful for the inspiration.

So, deep breath. This time next week, I am going to sit down and have my first date with my novel, and am hoping, really hoping that this time I can do it.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

#33 Dear Mr Perring

Dear Mr Perring,

I had a lovely time at your book launch tonight, thank you very much for inviting me, especially as Not So Perfect is one of my favourite books. It was lovely to meet some of your friends although a little disconcerting as several already knew my name and I think you must have secretly told them to come and talk to me because I was on my own wandering round Simply Books with a glass of water in my hand. Thanks for the free chocolate brownies, and for reading not one, not two, but three, four, five of your gorgeous little stories (and thank you for not reading the one that made me cry, because I might have been a bit embarrassed if it happened again). I liked it that I met several people that I have seemingly met before but none of us could remember, I liked it that I am now the proud owner of a signed copy of your book, and I liked it that I met you again, although briefly and possibly less unusually than last time. I sincerely hope I didn't do or say anything silly this time. I think your book is stunning, and as already discussed I would like to set up a self-help group for your characters that you are very welcome to come along to, I hope you enjoyed yourself lovely, because you deserve it, and I hope everyone I know buys your book

A xx

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

#32 Dear Dress

Dear Dress

I hate shopping. I had such a horrible day shopping for you on friday, and I wish that really I didn't need a dress, and that I could just wear what I wear, and if this is a dress then it's a dress, but not a dress like you, a dress for a special occasion.

I tried on many dresses, and you were the first dress I tried on. Only a lady in the changing room said you were too ordinary, so I went and tried on all the other dresses, the swishy dresses, the ones with bold colours and net underskirts, and flouncing and all the time I felt like crying because I don't feel like a flamboyant, flouncy person.

I bought you, and then got bossed around into buying pink shoes and pink bag and bold jewellrey, and came home feeling unhappy, and even though you are a nice dress, a load of people have told me to take you back, that you are too plain and I should go and buy one of the flouncy dresses with their frills and slinky fabrics.

So now I want to take back the dress and the shoes and the bag and shawl and bangles and hide away in my hoody and jeans, and then I can say yes I took back the dress, I took back the dress, and another ordinary girl can buy you and hopefully she will have nice friends who will say, you know what, that dress is just you, just pretty in a quiet way, and we like you just as you are....

A xx

I'm a writer, so where's the writing?

I decided that I might write about my writing, seeing as this is a writing blog ha (despite my uncertainty about whether I can still call myself a writer.)

So, it is June. I have officially written nothing outside of this blog for 5 months. I have not opened my notebook, considered an idea or worried about it, frankly. I'm not sure how long this will persist, but while I feel no angst about it, I figure it's not a problem, the world keeps a-turning, and I have other parts of my life to focus on.

However, it might be argued that being a writer is not just about the writing, and I have been busy with the non-creative side of writing.

I have been reviewing. My latest review is in the May issue of The Short Review. A beautiful anthology of prose poems called The House of Your Dream published by possibly the best prose poetry publisher, White Pine Press.

If you love prose poems, or are new to them and want to read some, I say, grab a copy of this book. It's very good.

I have a couple of other forthcoming reviews from The Short Review (short fiction), Bookmunch (non-fiction) and Sphinx (poetry chapbooks) and will post links as and when they appear.

As well as reviewing... Literature North West recorded a number of videos of writers from the lovely North West of England recently, little introductions from the writers followed by a reading of a poem or extract. You can see all the videos on You Tube including mine (I have got over the trauma of seeing myself on film eegh eegh eegh). I urge you to watch some of the vids (especially mine!). There are some interesting writers featured, and the more hits the vids get, the more likely Literature North West might get further funding to run this project again for other writers (very good way for known and lesser known writers to find a wider audience, promote their work, and promote writing from the region)... As part of the project, we also had professional photographs taken. I will give you a little sneak preview once I have my own photos through (I sense another trauma ahead.. oh no, wonky teeth, bad hair, funny look on my face, is that me?). Here's the Literature North West site, if interested - lots of info on writers, books, publishers, events up here in the NW of England, which I modestly think is afire with creativity.

What else?

I've been submitting writing here and there. Not widely, but selectively. And I'm dead pleased that three of my very short stories are going to be published by Flax Books, in their latest digital anthology. I have no info on the other writers involved yet (there are usually about five or six writers). All I know is, the launch is 30th June 7pm at the Storey Institute in Lancaster, and the anthology will be published online the same day.

There are always lots of little treats for readers with Flax's anthologies... profiles of the writers, including photos and links, mp3 recordings of each of the writer's work, and they are usually most beautifully designed, easy to browse and gorgeously varied writing. I was published in their last short fiction anthology too Unsaid Undone if you want to get a little flavour of what their anthologies are like.

I am doing lots of urging today, but again I urge any NW writers to submit for their latest call for submissions, this time for poets, and later in the year for single author chapbooks. It is a wonderful experience being published by Flax: writer development opportunities, coaching sessions, and they really promote their writers with things like postcards, readings, and such like. I met Sarah Hymas the editor yesterday to do further edits of my work and record one of them for the website. It was a very good editorial experience, discursive, useful. So, submit submit submit. I want to read some fantastic NW poets in the next anthology...

As for other writing things, I have a few irons in the fire... an important submission that I am keeping my fingers crossed for, a reading at Manchester Book Markets at the end of June, more reviews, a few other mysterious possibilities...