How is it the end of August?!

I mean – how is that possible? This month has meandered away under a cover of cloud.

The end of summer usually makes me sad – warm weather means less pain for one thing. I miss eating outside, watching the swifts and martins overhead and the general floatiness that comes from spending every day in long skirts and flip-flops. Autumn is beautiful, of course, and winter is pleasingly austere but summer ? Summer is for smiling and pretending I live somewhere altogether less stoical.

I feel different this year. Perhaps it’s because much of summer has been taken up with house renovation, perhaps it’s the insistent gloom of the skies over Coalbrookdale. Perhaps it was that glorious week on the Welsh coast. I don’t feel as bereft and wary of winter as usual.

It could also be because I feel I’ve regained some equilibrium. I’m writing more mindfully, rather than scribbling from a turbulent mind, which inevitably means work that is more poem than outpouring – ultimately, work that is better.

I’ve also been more proactive with submissions – looking at my Trello page and seeing I’ve only three pieces in circulation was a bit of a shock . I spent some time reviewing, redrafting and refining some of the poems I’ve made this year as well as seeking homes for them. Always nerve racking. Always exciting. Always full of “why can’t I just be happy with gardening instead of putting myself through this”.

Camping at Caerfai seems like years ago

Good news too – I’ve had a piece of flash accepted for publication by Sledgehammer Lit. who are fast feeling like my poetry-spirit home. I love what they publish and I love that they seem to like my stuff. This piece is one that I love and that I’ve found hard to home – so I’m thrilled it’s going to be part a journal I admire. A couple of poems were declined – but that’s how it goes.

New projects are brewing too – a couple of gentle collaborations with friends whose art I adore may be coming to fruition in the not too distant future.

I seem to have a new direction in terms of how I want to write. My aim is to set aside a week – autumn I hope – and do my own mini writing retreat. I’ll have to stay at home obviously, but I’m going to try to minimise other work and manage domestic duties so I can focus on reading,writing and exploring new directions. Or I might go and make furniture in the Scottish Highlands like Cate le Bon.

So summer is closing, with a whimper or a bang remains to be seen, but I feel positive about my work, and positive about where I’m going – slowly, as ever, but I’m moving. And that’s what counts.

If you’d like to comission a poem, for yourself or as a gift then you can ! I love to create bespoke poetry – it’s a privilege to be asked to express people’s love and care for each other. If you’d like to find out more just click on Poems from the Hare at the top of the page, or send me a message kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

Fallow? Or just exhausted?

I always know when my writing needs to take a back seat. My brain simply ceases to play ball. I grasp for words – and find them – but the fizzy excited feeling has faded. I’ve lost my oomph.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not writing. It means I have to turn my attention to being able to pay the bills – so my writing energy is spent on creating killer product descriptions, and beautiful web content. It’s still writing, I still enjoy it – but poetry is dormant. For now.

That said, I’ve a few pieces due to be published soon, in places like Sledgehammer, The Dawntreader and Streetcake, and they’re poems I’m really proud of. I’m also immensely pleased with the writing I’m producing for Spelt – it’s an honour to be part of this growing publication.

I’m very aware of how my style has grown over the last six months or so. I really believe in the work I’m submitting, and feel confident that they are worth reading. The need for approval ebbs and flows, of course – I’m putting my heart on a page but I feel my words are more authentic.

I’ve also realised what kind of creator I am. There are some who are market and money focused – a place I dipped into – and some who are not. This is encapsulated by an experience with a local artist who was just delighted to have found a home for a piece she’d done. This doesn’t mean she didn’t charge for her work – it means there was a genuine warmth and love for both the sketches and the recipient.

The whole experience was joyful. I have never been avaricious, and the times when I’ve been least happy have been if I try to force myself that way. I write for money, because it’s my living, but I create for the sheer love of creating, and because I have something to say. And that is when my work is at its best.

So is this a fallow period? Who knows – the warning signs that I’m pushing too hard are nipping at my ankles, and I’ve made the decision to withdraw from my York CLL course, just to recover a little breathing space. If I know myself at all, in a week or two I’ll get that naggy feeling (usually as I’m dropping to sleep) and the words will return.

Thank you – your support and interest is invaluable to me.

Kathryn xx

Cool poetry pamphlet news

Pamphlet Update

You may remember from my post Three great things that have happened in 2021 that I have been lucky enough received a creative bursary from Raven Studios. I’ve used this to help me towards publication of my first poetry pamphlet. I’m delighted to say all the poems are complete, and I’ve a tentative feeling that I’ve created something I can be proud of. Before beginning the inevitable round of submissions – and possible disappointments – I’ve used a small amount of my bursary to employ the services of an editor.

Why use an editor ?

Quite simply, engaging the services of an editor means giving my work an extra polish. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Olivia Tuck before, and knew she’d give top quality feedback and suggestions as well as offering advice in a kind and sensitive way. She’s an incredibly talented writer, and I feel privileged to have had her input. The suggestions and tiny tweaks have really made my work sing – it’s amazing what the addition of a carefully placed full stop can do.

What happens next?

I need to do some homework – finding a place for poems is the hardest part, I think. It relies on more than just the quality of the work; it relies on an understanding on what the world of publishing is looking for, a touch of insight into the mood of readers and more than a sprinkling of good old fashioned luck. I really believe in these poems and am excited to have them out in the world. I just need to find a publisher who feels the same – and believes there is a big enough audience to make it viable. I’ve a couple of  ideas – but taking the plunge is a big step.

Other successes

You’ll have seen on my Twitter feed that I’ve had a couple of other happy scraps of news. I was longlisted for Mslexia’s poetry 2020 poetry competition (a huge thrill) and I also have a poem forthcoming in Feline Utopia – Louise Mather’s anthology about the wonderful world of cats. My submission is a cheerful, uncomplicated piece and I’m glad to have a happy poem out in the world.

There can never be enough pictures of this fellow

My biggest challenge at the moment is time. My freelance work has increased ( a good thing, of course) but this means my usable time has decreased. I’ve a bunch of work ready to send out, but precious little time to do the necessary research and submit correctly. I’m hoping things will calm down a little in March. The big hope of course is to be well enough to do that little bit more….

Hope all is well wherever you’re reading from. Take care, wash your hands, wear a mask

Kathryn

xx

Anniversaries, new roles, new homes

It’s around four years since I began this blog, published my first tentative post. I feel like I’ve come a long way – not in terms of whistles and bells but in terms of belief in and acceptance of myself. This is a decent place to be – there are wobbles of course, some startlingly dramatic, but I’m proud that I’ve stuck at this, despite the knock backs, and ups and downs of exposing my work (and my heart) to the world. This aspect will always be unnerving, but as I said in my very first bio I’m a better person when I write, and for me, writing comes alive when it is read by others. There is no better feeling in the world than someone saying they love something I have written. Writing helps me manage change, clarify emotion and tap into my absolute love of sound and rhythm. It also taps in to

I’m writing this looking over my beloved patch of woods that may soon be someone else’s view. This is a sad feeling but change is sometimes essential, even if it is forced by the actions of another. Fingers crossed where ever we go next will be as full of passerine chatter and eerie night screeches.

Woodland complete with cat.

Slivers of sadness are tempered beautifully with excitement at a new role. I’ve been appointed as a columnist for a new magazine called Spelt, the brainchild of the wonderful Wendy Pratt. Here’s how she describes it

Spelt Magazine is on a mission to celebrate and validate the rural experience. With four seasonal print issues per year, we aim to provide a platform for rural writers and to those creatives exploring nature, landscape, the interconnected nature of creative writing and the natural world and the liminality of natural areas within the urban landscape.

Wendy Pratt – Founder of Spelt Magazine

This ties in with a nagging feeling I’ve had for some time – that writing about rural life is somehow unfashionable, that real poets write about gritty urban landscapes and lives lived with theatrical edge. Whist this pattern of thought says more about me, and that I need to have respect for my own writing, I have a strong feeling that Spelt is going to chime with many people who feel a little alienated by the popular portrayal rural existence – and hungry to tell of it’s  reality. The content of my columns has to remain secret (how exciting!) but it’s fair to say this is a wonderful opportunity to be part of something I really believe in.

This past week has brought a little more regular writing too – I’m taking inspiration from Susie Dent’s Word Perfect a fabulous book that brings a new word to each day. Every morning I encounter a new word and write a small, possibly (definitely) silly poem. It’s a fun, brain oiling, start to the day.

I’m trying to develop a strong routine which allows balance between paid work, poetry and managing my health – it’s going ok; I’m breaking my work down into smaller chunks, and trying to be strict with myself about keeping one day aside for all things poetry related. Early starts are my friend and give me more workable hours. At the moment I’m gathering a few poems for submission to magazines, and anxiously waiting to hear about my pamphlet, as well as spending my day-to-day writing copy for various agencies and companies.

It almost feels as though I may actually be able to call myself a writer. Which is all I’ve ever wanted to be; I just never knew what it looked like. Turns out it’s someone who writes.

Sending hopeful wishes to all – spring is round the corner.

Kathryn xx

What’s good about 2021?

It’s hard to know how to pitch these posts at the moment. There is so much that is grim, and so many people dealing with truly awful things that my tiny life, in a tiny corner of Coalbrookdale hardly seems relevant. It’s not – but then of course it is. These tiny things are what keep me going, and what give me hope. As you read, know I’m not ignorant of the wider issues, I’m just guessing if you wanted to read about them you’d go to an expert. There is enough talk and bluster scattered across social media without my adding to it.

Early morning in Coalbrookdale

Caveat laid, I’m going to confess that my year has started well. I have lots of copywriting work, a calm Christmas means January is free from its usual stuttered start, and despite everything I feel ok. Sometimes even happy. Part of this is the years of training in loving the small things – seeing thrushes and finches from my window, squealing with delight at a swoop of long-tailed tits or relishing friends’ wonderful photos of frosty mornings are enough to brighten a moment and a day. I’m writing again, after a small hiatus driven by the shock and upset of the potential build opposite, and as you may have seen on my social media pages, I’ve had some great news about a submission.

Winter light at Wenlock Edge

What’s the news?

At the end of last summer a small publishing house put out a call for pamphlet submissions, with a special call for newer writers – ones with a smattering of publication but not much more. Whilst Yes to Tigers was an interesting project, and I learnt a lot, it didn’t quite feel like my work. This opportunity presents something different – a chance for publication by an actual poetry press. I’m on the longlist, which means there is a way to go before I know if my work will be published, but getting this far is a great feeling, especially with a set of poems that means so much to me.

Why is having a poetry pamphlet published such a big deal?

Essentially it’s the next step – it means I have a collection of work that I feel confident enough to send to a publisher, who will decide if they think enough people will buy it to make it worth printing, marketing and all the other elements that go towards making poetry publication. It means I understand how to put together a set of poems that link and flow, and that I can see how the order might be, and understand a reader’s point of view. I may not get any further than being longlisted (which will make me sad, of course) but that just means I have a bit more to learn. If I compare with how I felt about my writing this time last year, this is a great place to be.

What am I working on at the moment?

This time of year is a good study time for me – no gardening means more time and energy. As well as various courses, including one on women writers, which I’m ridiculously excited about, I’m delving into How to Grow Your Own Poem by Kate Clanchy – it’s a collection of exercises, poems and prompts and is just what I need to coax my poets brain out of December. In terms of submissions and the like I’m holding back a little – my poetry brain needs a bit of time to just enjoy writing, although I’m hoping to reopen my for comissions at the end of the month.

Right now though, it’s time to just enjoy writing.

Thanks for reading, and I hope bright things happen for your day, however tiny.

Kathryn xx

What I love about poetry prompts

This year has been one of my best. Ok, so that’s not entirely true – what I mean is, this year has been one of my best as a writer. I’ve been longlisted and shortlisted in several competitions, had various pieces published including one in actual print, which always feels super special, plus I’ve published an illustrated poetry zine. Compared to the gloom and despondency I felt about my work at the start of the year, I finish the year feeling positive – about writing at least- and I put it all down to poetry prompts.

Why do poetry prompts help ?

For me it works in two ways. Firstly, it’s the element of playfulness. A prompt kick starts my mind, starts the language and rhythm circling. It may not be a subject I like or would consider, but once I give the words time, often something good emerges. Often something terrible emerges too and that’s also cool. It’s all writing and it doesn’t all need to be seen.

I’ve learnt that I either write something super quick, like my shortlisted 100word poem/story for Lightbox Originals winter competition, or I need to spend several weeks thinking, tweaking, revising. I guess this is true for most writers. I think the greatest thing that working with poetry prompts has given me is a sense of fun and possibility. I love writing again in a way that seemed impossible at the beginning of the year.

My prompt a day notebook – I’ve almost filled it this year

Where do all these poetry prompts come from?

Ah now this is my secret weapon. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I’ve taken several “prompt a day” courses, created and run by Wendy Pratt. It’s a simple idea with immense results. I benefit from the discipline of daily prompts. I also benefit form being part of a very kind online writing group that’s associated with each course. I’m not a great group person, but I’ve felt welcome, safe, and confident enough to share my work  and seek feedback.

The other aspect of this is that I’m reading countless poems each day, understanding what works, understanding how a quirk of word or comma can completely change the feel of a poem. I’m also learning what a huge range of responses a small group of people will have to a prompt. There’s no sense of “getting it wrong”. A lot of this has to be down to the attitude held by Wendy herself – even the simple fact that she allows some of us to pay a little less for the courses (and gives excellent way of self-assessment) shows an understanding that this sort of thing really is a luxury and helped me feel there was a place for me here. It’s a good feeling.

As the year draws to a close, I feel aware of myself as a writer.  My work has grown tremendously over the last twelve months; I see a stark difference between what I’m writing now and the work in Yes to Tigers for example. I seem to have a bit more confidence, and I’m definitely having a lot more fun.

Oher news

I’ve given my site a bit of refresh – I’ve a dedicated page for  my published work, as well as an updated “Why this all began” page.  News on my pamphlet submission will be coming in the next few months (and I am hating waiting – this is one of the biggest things I’ve done so far) plus I’ve the usual round of competition and journal entries.

By far the best news is that my recent ill spell seems to have passed and I’m relishing having two or three days a week where I feel able to write and work and feel very slightly free.

Wash your hands, stay safe, eat a  mince pie, and read your favourite books. Maybe try a poetry prompt too.

To a commission a poem, piece of short fiction or buy a copy of Yes to Tigers email kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

You can find  out more  about Wendy Pratt’s poetry,the courses she offers and her brand new magazine Spelt here

Popshot and positivity

Would you like to hear some positive stuff? Amongst the disruption of Covid, and fear around curious political manoeuvrings, 2020 has been challenging to say the least. In amongst all this, there have been some personal positives. This has been my best year so far in terms of publication, with work appearing in high profile online journals, being placed in Paper Swans Press single poetry competition and now appearing in Popshot- which feels like a big achievement. The feeling of holding something in my hand which has my words inside is hard to beat.

 I feel a little awkward about the poem – it’s about something that makes me uncomfortable, and something that I rarely talk about (put paid to that haven’t I?) but issues around body image follow many of us throughout our lives. I thought I was fat when I was seven stone, I thought I was fat when I was nine stone (a fact reiterated by a helpful GP) I’ve never felt comfortable with my body, the responses it elicits and the assumptions that are made. I’m an average size now, to go with my just over average height (and gosh I hate to be average anything) but I still long to be tall and interestingly skinny. Preferably adorned with a permanent pair of Magenta de Vine style sunglasses.

This issue of Popshot is about freedom, and being free from my body is a curious hope, (especially now M.E. means I can’t even enjoy a simple walk – it’s like a prison on some days)  but this poem represents that freedom, as well as touching on the power and promise of the ocean. I’m angry that we are so manipulated into believing we have to present our bodies in a certain way that we’ve damaged our digestive systems with endless diets, spend thousands plucking and colouring and poking to meet some ideal that no one really understands any more. I’m not angry with the fact that people do these things, I’m just frustrated that we are so trained to dislike ourselves that looking like someone else feels like the only way to be happy.

Aha I promised positivity didn’t I? I think being able to talk about this is positive – chats with colleagues and friends about diets have always brought a feeling of absolute inadequacy, and a huge sense of anxiety. Enjoying food in front of others is always tainted by wondering  what assessments are being made and I always long to be the person who fulfils the stereotype and orders proper ladies’ food like a dainty salad* just so I can avoid the feeling of being judged.  I never do and always end up in a pull of pride at not bowing to convention, and an overwhelm of self- loathing. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Writing this poem is a bit of battle cry, a bit of determination not to be bowed down by convention. Will it make a difference to how I feel? Who knows, but I hope reading my poem brings a spark of positivity and more than that I hope freedom begins to move beyond the waves. The fact that it has such a powerful, apposite illustration courtesy of Shut Up Claudia is the icing on the, ahem, cake.

You can buy Popshot from leading news outlets like WHSmith, or via the Popshot website. The Freedom issue is full of work that is funny, moving and challenging and I’m proud to be part of it.

*no disrespect to those who order a dainty salad.