The last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster. The pandemic is starting to bite now. At the beginning of the month I found out I’d lost some steady and thoroughly enjoyable work in the form of my Yorkshire Life column. Then several live, paid gigs were cancelled. All the cancellations happened in a very short space of time and left me a bit lost. Although YL wasn’t great pay, it was steady income, and the other gigs were in the diary, making up my income for the year. In all I think, so far, my loss of earnings is around a quarter of a year’s income. I’m ok, though, I managed to increase work in other places to patch up the holes, I took on more editing and mentoring, which was, luckily available at the right time. It was one of those moments that feels like a door closing, but also an opportunity to reflect on what the next steps might be. I am enjoying running my Centre for Life Long Learning courses (find out more here: https://www.york.ac.uk/lifelonglearning/ )
My Thursday night students are a joy to work with and I’m loving being able to show them that you don’t have to have come from a traditional educational background (university) to find your way into poetry and make a go of being a published poet. I’m hoping to do more of these sort of courses next year. And I already knew that I wanted to run some longer, more literary courses of my own too (news of that in the next few weeks). But I wanted to use the moment of not quite knowing what was in the future, to slot in some of my longer term goals.
I got my trusty planner out ad started mapping out the things that would make me happy.
What I realised was that now was the time that I wanted to launch a biggish project, one that meant a lot to me, but wasn’t about building income. Since being editor for Dream Catcher, I’d been thinking about the sort of magazine I’d want to run, if there ever came the chance to do so. I’d planned the magazine out in my head numerous times, and even approached a couple of editors and type setters, publishers and freelancers for advice and quotes, but never quite had the nerve to take the plunge. It’s a lonely old business doing stuff on your own, with no one to tell you they believe in you. And then, life threw some challenges at me in the form of Chris’s stroke, the loss of earnings, the sudden realisation that again, life is short and you should do stuff that you enjoy. And, fortuitously I found someone who was looking for a side project and an opportunity to practice his tech skills, and that person was Steve Nash, and here we are, in a roundabout way, in a massive waffle, I get to the point. I have launched a kickstarter to raise the funds I need to launch the first issue of Spelt Magazine. You can read about it here, and what we plan to do long term. The crux of it is that we want to be more than just another literary magazine, we want to take workshops and conferences out of the urban and into the rural, we want to build on the platforms that have allowed us to bring poetry events directly into the homes of those who can’t travel – the disabled, the carers and yes, those folk who live rurally and have poor transport links. I want the magazine to speak about landscape and the interaction between creativity and landscape and those liminal places, those hinterlands of rewilded urbanity. I want poems that explore nature and landscape and creative non fiction that tells us what it’s like not just to observe nature, but to live within it. That’s my passion, that’s my dream. I hope you can help me get it off the ground. xx