Writing the Book: When I Think of My Body as a Horse

I received my author copies of the new book last week. Except for sending some copies out to the people who endorsed the book and a couple to friends who had been particularly supportive whilst I traversed the long journey to completing the book, I haven’t touched them. They are on my bookshelf, their lavender spines pleasingly neat. Next month the book will be launched officially, and I will begin selling some signed copies and it will be the end, properly the end, of me owning this story; the book will go out into the world and strangers will read it and form opinions on it, it will be reviewed; positively or negatively, it will be judged in competitions and will either be successful or not. The poetry, the stories, the craft in the book will be reimagined inside other people’s heads. They will connect with it, or they will read it and decide it is not for them. I have received a couple of bits of feedback from the people I’ve given it to, so far so good.

This is the part of the publishing journey where I begin to talk about the book in detail, whilst trying not to give too much of the content away. One of the pieces of feedback I received this week was from one of the people who endorsed it. She said (I’m paraphrasing) it was a story of love. I’ve also heard it described as a ‘survivor story’. It is both those things, I guess, in a lot of ways. But I have always been keen to ensure that it is a story of love, not loss, that the poems within it did more than just describe the trauma of losing my baby daughter. She died in 2010, during an emergency cesarian, a crash cesarian for which I had been anaesthetised. She was alive when I was rushed into theatre, dead when I came out and though I think about that moment, those moments, a lot. But the book is not about that. The book is really not about her death, or about the trauma of living with her death (an investigation revealed clinical negligence as partly to blame for her death, something that has been difficult to live with). I wanted to use poetry to describe something else, to draw associations between instinct, motherhood, grief and body ownership.

I don’t know what it is like for other poets, but when I write poetry, my own process is always to try to locate the thing that is beneath the words. What do I mean by that? For me poetry is the thing that emerges from between the lines, from between the thoughts that are created out of a need to define or rationalise life. Poetry is a translative process, part of our big brained human evolution. We need creativity to manage our thoughts, we need that translative device to make sense of the instinctive animal part of us which sits below the higher thinking, problem solving part of us. Poetry, then, sees the animal that is the instinct beneath the skin that is higher thinking self, it sees the truth beneath the words, the truth of ourselves. That’s how I see it.

I wanted to capture that instinctive self that we so rarely see. The places where we see it most are in the experiences of love, of grief, the experiences that cause us to transcend from the neat lines of humanity and function on and in the state of instinctive behaviour. Pregnancy can be one of those experiences. Not for everyone, of course, but my experience of pregnancy was one of experiencing the nature of my body. What I mean by that is that my body became a natural thing, a strange machine of cells and blood and instinct for which I had no control and didn’t need to control it. My body built another body, without me having to intervene in any way at all. It still amazes me to think I built an entire other person, once. I’m thinking of the instincts in pregnancy, which have to run alongside the mix of emotions and thoughts that the higher thinking brain gives us: the insecurity, the feelings of being overwhelmed of not knowing what we are supposed to do, the newness of knowing you are looking after someone else, before they are even born. This is a strange land, where the instinctive behaviours of pregnancy share the same space as the higher thinking brain. I’m thinking of cravings and an old friend who, whilst pregnant, was cutting the stems on daffodils to put in a vase. She’d had a craving for celery whilst pregnant and whilst cutting the daffodils she had had to step away into another room and call her husband to bring her celery because she was certain that she would start eating the daffodil stems otherwise. My cravings were for vinegar. I made excuses to leave my microbiology bench and go and buy packets of Tyrols salt and vinegar crisps which I would eat, hurriedly, secretly, in an ecstasy of craving, behind the door in the cloak room. There was no way I would be able to manage without the vinegar. I ate jalapeño peppers straight from the jar. I soaked sausage rolls in vinegar. I can still feel that intensity of craving.

I wanted to capture that, in the book. And I wanted to capture the doubling up of the instinctive animal of, for want of a better term, motherhood, with the instincts of grief. And I wanted to talk about the body and how women in particular are shamed or sexualised, how we never quite own our own bodies. All of that. Mostly, I wanted to tell a story about an alternative version of motherhood, a version that captures the grief and love of losing a baby, and of not having the rainbow baby; of accepting that whatever journey you are on, it has relevance, it has value. To lose a baby is not a failure. I am proud of the person I have become, not despite this long, long journey through grief, but because of it. this experience has changed everything in my life, has changed me, but my daughter was a gift to me, the experience of loving someone so much, almost in an entirely instinctive, animal way, allowed me to grow as a person and allowed me to accept the instinctive part of myself as not something to be repressed, but something to be celebrated. It has led to an interest in the instinctive nature f grief, of shared grief, of burial practices and archeological landscapes which are informing my current work. I wanted this book to be my story, but I didn’t want it to be a series of events depicting that story. I didn’t want it to be a Tragedy Thy Name is Wendy story, I wanted to use my experience to explore the nature of instinct in relation to pregnancy, motherhood, body ownership and the grief of baby loss. I wanted to offer this experience up to a wider conversation and, for me, poetry is the way to do that. I think I have succesfully done this. I am pleased with the work I have produced and I guess, once it is out there, once other people begin to translate it and own it, they will tell me whether I have been successful in their view. It won’t matter, though I’ll try not to be crushed by negative feedback. I know I have done what I needed to do here. I hope you enjoy the book.

You can pre order the book here: https://poetrybusiness.co.uk/product/when-i-think-of-my-body-as-a-horse/

Stay Safe

x

That Was One Hell of a Ride: the End of the Year Round Up 2020

Photo by Dana Cetojevic from Pexels

Well now, where to begin…

The other night, Chris and I watched a TV programme about 2020, a comedy. Every few minutes we’d exclaim ‘Oh wow, I’d forgotten that happened too’ or ‘was that this year as well?!’ What a year. The year started off with Australia burning; the world watching as scorched koalas limped out of ruined forests. An incessantly angry toddler squatted in the white house, there were storms, flooding, a world wide pandemic, life on Venus? (I missed this one, it must have been buried under covid news: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02785-5) hope for a vaccine, an actual vaccine, eat out, stay in, drinky winky, cheeky pint, oops, covid’s up again, open the schools, shut the schools, the ‘drive up to Barnard castle on one tank of petrol with a toddler who doesn’t need to wee on the way’ challenge, tik tok, dancing, clapping, screaming, dying, bodies being shuffled into mass graves in New York, cuddly pandemic bugs, Jo Wicks, window visits, nurses with red marks across their faces, nurses crying in their cars because of food shortages, the great bog roll stockpiling, thank god for wine clubs, the privileged flying to Switzerland for a jolly and sneaking back in the dark, rainbows and NHS ribbons in the village windows, a pebble on the pub’s doorstop painted with ‘stay happy’, people making masks, people sewing PPE, people stepping up, covidiots, riots, singing, OAPs learning to use FaceTime, elbow bumping, online open mics, online everything. What a year. My husband had a stroke and I thought I’d lose him. I sat in the car park of the hospital facing the hill beneath which my daughter is buried. This was the same hospital who had been held responsible, through clinical negligence, for her death. I had to trust them with my husband. He cried when he phoned me to tell me it was definitely a stroke, that he was being taken to York. I couldn’t comfort him. I went into survival mode the full year and properly came apart, burnt out and exhausted in the week my husband caught coronavirus, a couple of weeks ago. It still wasn’t, personally, the worst year, that will always be the year my daughter died, but it came right up there.

But….

In 2020, I survived. My husband survived. And being forced to confront my fears and go and sit in the car park of the hospital, to deal with staff there, to entrust my husband’s care to them has helped to fix something, I think, that was broken in me. Or at least it has allowed me to prove to myself that I can do it, that the fear will not envelope me entirely.

In 2020 I was one of the winners of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition. I have a full collection being published in 2021, it will be a real thing next year. This collection is about survival and acceptance and it feels right that next year, whether by zoom or in real life, I’ll be reading from it, launching it, celebrating it.

In 2020 I decided it was time to start my own magazine and successfully raised the amount I needed to get the first issue of Spelt started, it will launch in March, all being well, and I am already proud of what’s been achieved with my lovely co ed and technical wizard Steve Nash. You can find out about Spelt here: https://speltpoetry.wordpress.com

In 2020 I read so many brilliant books, I can’t name them here. I really ramped up my reading and started telling writers when I’d enjoyed their work. It became a satisfying, life enriching thing to do and next year I’m setting myself a target of reading 52 books.

In 2020 I met and worked with many, many wonderful course attendees, and mentored some truly exceptional writers. I worked on a memoir of a Scarborough fisherman and absolutely loved helping him tell his story. I critiqued a novella which I enjoyed so much I forgot I was supposed to be critiquing and just read it.

In 2020 I leaned to use a strimmer and a petrol mower, and surprised myself by how much I loved hacking back the massively over grown back garden. I also finally got around to sorting my patio out, I smashed the old hutches which had been part of my old life as a small animal carer, to pieces and it felt cathartic and deliciously unhinged to be battering the hell out of a rotten hutch with a sledge hammer. I made a good job of the patio, planted bamboo and ferns in pots, made it a little oasis of calm and when Chris was still in the early stages of stroke recovery, we’d sit outside in the evening with a glass of wine and listen to the blackbirds.

In 2020 I got over my fear of zoom, and I taught for York Centre of Lifelong Learning. I can honestly say my Thursday writing group was a real tonic, they were so enthusiastic it made me enthusiastic. I have more courses lined up for next year (link here: https://wendyprattpoetry.com/readings-courses-events-stuff/) and it made me want to run some more smaller writing groups via zoom.

In 2020 I lost work: my column, my play, live gigs, readings, paid opportunities, face to face teaching. I ramped up all my other work and worked myself to exhaustion, alongside the stress and anxiety of Chris being poorly. But being over worked to burnout has allowed me to reflect on how I can avoid doing the same thing again and I have designed an annual leave system for myself that ensures I take time off. If it’s in the planner and ‘officially booked’ I am more likely to take the time off. I’ll keep you posted on whether it works. I’ve looked at the work I enjoy and lost the work I don’t and started charging a more realistic fee for mentoring, meaning I can take less mentees and take them over a longer period of time. I’m already enjoying this system and have felt energised chatting to my new mentee who starts in January.

In 2020 I set up my office, my ‘room of one’s own’, though it is yet to be decorated. I sat in my office and watched the trees turn and watched the geese flying over. I’m watching the setting sun burning the tops of the trees as I am writing this, right now. It has helped me to take myself seriously as a writer.

In 2020 I talked to bird watchers and nature enthusiasts in the lanes where they walked during lockdown. In 2020, people who had never read, picked up books. I watched theatres fighting to save themselves, and each other. I watched people wanting to help and not knowing what to do and they did what they could. People volunteered. I ended up volunteering for vaccine trials, but was never selected. I feel better knowing I offered, at least.

My memories of the pandemic are of the anxiety, of the climbing numbers, of the post apocalyptic feeling of queueing outside the supermarket, but also of the way that people started to say ‘stay safe’ to each other, and really mean it.

And so ends my rambling reflection. Thank you to my brilliant course attendees, to my mentees, to my colleagues and the poetry community, thank you to friends who didn’t judge me for late night drunken emails and texts, thank you to the people who brought us shopping and to my bestie in particular who brought me Prosecco and Christmas tree shaped crumpets when we were self isolating. Thank you to the people who made me laugh, and those that made me emotional with their stoicism, their ingenuity, their kindness and compassion.

Stay Safe

x

January Online Course: Beginnings and Endings with All new prompts!

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Beginnings and Endings

In January I will be re-running my popular course: Beginnings and Endings, with all new prompts and two open mic/get together sessions via zoom.

What’s it About?

January is the start of the year, a time to refocus and look at what we want to achieve over the months to come. This course will encourage you to think about how your work begins and how it ends: first lines, first paragraphs, first stanzas, last paragraphs endings and that crucial last line. It’s all about the hook at the beginning and the punch at the end. But we’ll also be reflecting on, and writing about, your own personal beginnings, your first times, the endings in your life that have meant something to you as well as looking outwards to the beginnings of civilisations, the ends of eras and the way we, as human animals, process the grief of endings.

How it Works 

Starting on January 1st, this course will run until 31st of January. Each week you’ll receive course notes that explain the theme for the week, and five days a week, Monday to Friday, you will receive a brand new prompt, delivered straight into your email box, aimed at getting you putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard to get a first draft of a poem, a piece of fiction or a piece of non fiction written. There will be two friendly open mic./ get togethers during the course too. This is a no pressure course. You don’t have to produce anything if you don’t want to and we all know how life gets in the way sometimes so there is no need to post anything in the closed facebook group, which you will automatically be invited to.

The course is aimed at any level of writer, from beginners to more experienced writers. You’ll be able to join in discussions in the closed Facebook group, which will be moderated daily by myself. The group is friendly and welcoming and you’ll receive basic tips and advice from myself alongside lots of encouragement.

notebook writing pencil start
Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop (follow this link:  https://wendyprattpoetry.com) where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com. To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great Christmas gift that would be! If you are a writer who would not be able to partake in this course due to financial difficulties, drop me a line at wendyprattfreelancewriter.com for details of available sponsored places. You’ll not be interrogated.

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60 plus a special £90 option which entitles you to more detailed editing suggestions on up to four pieces of work at the end of the course. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else (Christmas, birthdays etc).It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can.I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value of £20 in relation to  food and alcohol for some reason:

Sponsored Place – 

If you would need to make a choice between the course and essentials like food and electricity, then you are most likely entitled to a sponsored place.  Get in touch at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com for a chat. I don’t interrogate, this is an honesty system and giving writers a leg up is important.

£20 

If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.

£40

If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.

£60

If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.

YOU CAN SPONSOR A PLACE

Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

Friday Writing: Another Brand New Zoom Based Writing Group!

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As well as my prompt a day courses, half day workshops and courses for the Centre of Life Long Learning York, AND the Wednesday Writers Group, I’m going to be starting another new group in January. My centre for Lifelong Learning course, Becoming a Published Poet has now ended, and it feels like there is still more to do, learn, explore and share. There was a good response to the launch of the Wednesday group, but a few people have asked if I might run a day time group for those who can’t make the evening groups. So I have decided to start the Friday Writing group. This group will be quite different to the Wednesday Writers, so don’t worry about anything being repeated if you want to do both! This is a zoom based workshop style writing group which will run every other Friday from 8th January. Booking in advance is essential as numbers will be kept to a minimum for this group to give individuals the attention that their work deserves.

Friday Writing is aimed at writers wanting to improve their editing skills as well as wanting to keep the motivation to write going. Each meeting we’ll look at a published poem in some depth to help improve our analytical skills, there will be a writing exercise based around the poem we’ve looked at and writers are encouraged to bring a work in progress for group critique. 

Friday Writing is a no pressure group for writers of all experience levels, from those beginners wanting to see what they are capable of, to those experienced poets wanting to be prompted to write and submit.

Friday Writing will be a fun place to share news, gather with like minded people and push yourself to improve your own work as well as creating new written work, so why not make a New Year’s resolution now to priority your writing in 2021.

The two January dates are now open for bookings, but places are extremely limited due to this being a zoom group. You can book your place by following this link to my online shop. I can’t wait to bring in the new year with you and share your writing resolutions!

Friday Writing

Every other Friday. 

First Two Groups 8th January and 22th January 2021

Both Groups now sold out, sorry!

10am to 12pm

Book your place by following this link: https://wendyprattpoetry.com/shop/

Wednesday Writers: A Brand New Zoom Based Writing Group

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January Wednesday Writers has now sold out, but look out for something new for Friday mornings coming soon!

As well as my prompt a day courses, half day workshops and courses for the Centre of Life Long Learning York, I’m going to be starting a new group in January. My centre for Lifelong Learning course, Becoming a Published Poet is drawing to an end, and it feels like there is still more to do, learn, explore and share. So I have decided to start the Wednesday Writers group. This is a zoom based workshop style writing group which will run every other Wednesday from 6th January. Booking in advance is essential as numbers are very limited and there is already a lot of interest in the group.

The Wednesday Writers will have a focus on becoming published as well as producing new writing. Wednesday Writers is a no pressure group for writers of all experience levels, from those beginners wanting to see what they are capable of, to those experienced poets wanting to be prompted to write and submit. Each session we’ll look at a magazine, journal or competition in depth: we’ll look at the mission of that magazine, who and what sort of work they publish, who the editors and judges are and what we might put in a cover letter to those publishers. We’ll also have a prompted exercise with the ai of getting notes or a draft to polish up and send to that publication.

Wednesday Writers will be a fun place to share news, gather with like minded people and push yourself to write and submit your work, so why not make a New Year’s resolution now to priority your writing and aim to be published in 2021.

The two January dates are now open for bookings, but places are extremely limited due to this being a zoom group. You can book your place by following this link to my online shop. I can’t wait to bring in the new year with you and share your writing resolutions!

Wednesday Writers

Every other Wednesday.

First Two Groups 6th January and 20th January 2021

7pm to 9pm

Book your place by following this link: https://wendyprattpoetry.com/shop/

Lives Lived in the Dark

I’ve swapped my afternoon ‘nearly finished work’ dog walk for a morning ‘before work’ dog walk. Partly because I always seem to mistime the darker evenings, meaning a rushed dog walk out of necessity, rather than something to enjoy. I am feeling the short days, feeling quite crushed by the lack of daylight and this week, the coldest so far of autumn, with my circulation struggling and the cold in my bones, and work piling up and, of course the anxiety of the pandemic in the background, I started to feel a real struggle to get up and get on in the morning. I imagine everyone, the whole world, is in pain, is struggling. Of all the bleak winters, this is up there. But I’m also aware that on a personal level, for us, this is not, not by a long shot, the bleakest winters we’ve faced, even with Chris’s stroke, and the pressure to make a living as someone self employed in the arts, and the fear of the pandemic, this is not the bleakest winter. The bleakest winter was 2011. I’ve talked about it before, but to sum up Christmas 2011: daughter dead nine months, crashed the car and wrote it off on Christmas eve, found out Christmas day the next IVF had failed, heavy snow, no transport, no money and if I remember rightly, a broken boiler.

This year we have so much to be happy about, so much to be grateful for, and the knowledge of those who are really suffering, have suffered, will suffer during the pandemic brings home that need to be grateful. But still, that darkness knows no rules and I am back to counteracting it with friends willing to listen to me while I whinge on about not feeling like people respect my work, not feeling like a ‘real’ writer, feeling like I’m being laughed at, willed to fail, feeling outside of the groups and gangs and cliques, feeling embarrassed that I ever thought I could do this…I can imagine there are a lot of people who feel the same and it doesn’t take much to have that overcome you, if you’re already a bit low.

So out I go, into the fresh air, into the fields and lanes with my old dog. And it is perfect weather today; mild enough that I’m too hot in hat and gloves, a gentle breeze, the valley strung with bare branched trees.

I look for the signs of life around me: the tunnels made by animals through the hedges, the curlews in the field; their long lonely calls. Greylag geese, Canada geese, blackbirds taking the last berries in the hedgerow, the soft hop and rise of a crow. Half way around our route we come across a murder scene:

In a moment of hemetomancy I see the future: a deer, trees, a sledge, a doorway opening, light. There is a trail of blood, small drops, and then this, then a trail of blood becoming lighter. I deduce that this is a small killer, a stoat, a weasel, and that it has killed a rabbit and here is where it lays it down briefly, because it is small and the rabbit is big, before it picks it up and drags it through a holloway in the bottom of the hedge. Yes, I see the curve of the rabbits back, the way a rabbit scrunches up as it dies, the way a predator carries prey, not unlike the way it might carry its own babies.

We walk on, and I’m surprised by a pile of feathers, two in fact. Are they related? Are they related to the blood, to each other? My first thought is Sparrow hawk, but this is not a sparrow hawk kill. I have seen those plenty of times, they are a bloody, fleshy body with the breast plucked out, not this mystery of feathers. I decide they are not related, that this scene is two different events. Two different kills.

I like to see what the night has left behind, I like to imagine the lives being lived in the dark; the hot hearts and thoughts going on in the world that I am not aware of. I tell myself I do not need to know about everything, I do not need to know the story behind everything. It is enough that I am present within that story and a part of something bigger and wilder and that I want to capture that in writing. I return to my house and my office and the view of beech trees and jackdaws from my office window.

December Workshop Klaxon!

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How is it that time of the month, again?! November is slipping away like an arctic hare over a snowy hill and we are almost entering the dark tim: winter.

Next month I have not one but two lovely treats for you.

The Week Long Winter Poem Prompt-a-Day Workshop

All new prompts!

It’s exactly what it says on the tin: A one week prompt-a-day winter workshop. Open to all levels of writer from beginner to the more experienced poet. Every day for seven days you will receive a prompt directly to your email box and you’ll also have access to the online, closed, Facebook group where you can share your work and join a lovely warm community of writers. This is perfect for writing personal poems for Christmas cards or for that round robin Christmas email.

Come and join me for a week of poetry hygge from the comfort of your own home in a supportive environment.

Starts: Monday 7th December 2020

Price: £10

2.

A Light in the Dark: Half Day Poetry Workshop

Now sold out, sorry!

A Light in the Dark

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I’m just back from an evening dog walk. I say evening, in fact it was afternoon, but the nights draw in so early now and it is currently so misty that it might as well be evening. The air was thick with water, heavy with the scent of woodsmoke and bonfires. There was no one about and no breeze lifted the branches or rattled the crisped autumn leaves against each other. The lane was wet, the fallen leaves beginning to stew together to become mulch. The dog and I got lost in the moment, as one does when one is walking and thinking and listening to the damp drip of water running down trees and riddling through the verge to the stream. The lights at the railway crossing were bright and warm and seemed so solitary in the dusk.

This is my favourite time of year. It switches something on in my brain that makes me want to try new ventures, but also makes me want to disappear into a story or a poem. It makes me want to write. I think it’s the dark, and in the countryside it is dark, dark. It makes the whole world drop away, and leaves me unobserved, yes, I think that’s what makes me want to write more; it’s the idea of the darkness as a place where others can’t see you. It frees me to write without judgement. Last Thursday, bonfire night, I sat in my office waiting for my seven pm writing group to arrive for the course I’m teaching, which I’m teaching via zoom this semester. The trees that I could normally see through the window were gone into the night. I could see nothing of the fields and fields, the rise to the wolds. And then someone, probably in the next village along, lit a bonfire. It flickered between the unseen tree branches, a feathery amber spot in the total black. There were a couple of silent fireworks, the type I like, the ones with the big plumes of colour but no terrifying of animals. That would come later. My poor twelve year old dog was turned inside out with anxiety, his little face puckered and worried as he ran round the house protecting us and warning us about the loud bangs. No, at this point it was beautiful. I thought of the people who lived here thousands of years ago, those people who lived on the banks of the long gone glacial lake, the lake people. There is no longer a lake, of course, just a great black swathe of darkness and damp. Still, this fire in the darkness of this season, the flickering light seen from miles around, the knowledge of others out in the darkness. I had the same feeling when Biden was finally declared as president of the USA last night, in the middle of this bleak black time, something happened, a light, that helped connect us.

There were bats in the lane, sharp angled shapes against the indigo sky which darkened around us. Then we returned, in almost darkness, making our way through a bank of bonfire smoke, then up into the street lights of the village, the rectangles of warmth from the windows, the slow rise of woodsmoke, the fresh wreaths on the village war memorial.

I love this time of year.

x

Spelt Magazine

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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

November Course Klaxon: The Wild Within Returns With All New Prompts and Zoom Get Togethers

It’s that time of the month again!

In November I’ll be re-running the very popular Wild Within month long poetry course with all new prompts and a couple of zoom meet ups.

This poetry course is designed to be accessible, both financially and artistically, meaning that anyone who wishes to write can get something from it; whether you are new to writing and would like some guidance, or you’re an old hand who perhaps wants a bit of affordable motivation to get the creative cogs rolling. The theme is The Wild Within and the course will look at poetry of nature, place and self, our connection to the living world and how poetry can not only be a way of noticing and describing the world we live in, but can be a way to evoke change within ourselves, and change in the outside world. You do not need to live ‘in’ nature, to be aware of it, it is there whether you notice it or not. This course is designed to help you notice and write about your own connection to nature. We all have a wildness inside us that connects us to the world.

Quite often, the ‘nature poetry’ as a genre is seen as a bit old fashioned and unconnected to the poetry which deals with personal issues or world problems. But we forget that we are living, breathing, biological organisms, we are automatically a part of nature, because we are animals, we are nature. Come and join me for four weeks of looking at the world in a different way. Over the years that this course has run, I have received some wonderful feedback, which you can see here: Testimonials 

How the Course Works

The course will last the full month of November. The format is: five prompts a week, delivered Monday to Friday on a daily basis, weekly notes and poems, videos, links and other relevant material included as examples of the themes we’ll be covering, all of which is delivered directly to your email inbox. There’s also a closed facebook page where course attendees can share their work, give and receive feedback and interact with other course members. The whole thing is moderated by myself and I interact with the group daily. For this course there will be two zoom sessions, in the middle and at the end of the course, where course members can chat and share their work. Also new to this course is the option to receive detailed editing suggestions on up to four pieces of work, at the end of the course. See the payment section further down for details.

Who the Course is Aimed at

The course is aimed at beginners through to established writers, there’s something for everyone. We’ll be working mainly in poetry, but there will be the opportunity to try your hand at fiction, creative non fiction and even some script writing. Whilst you are encouraged to push out of your comfort zone, you can stick to the style of writing you prefer, if you want to.

The No Pressure Style

This is a no pressure course in which you do not have to produce anything, nor do you have to comment or even join the FB page. It is much more important to me that you relax and enjoy the course, enjoy the prompts and enjoy engaging with the course materials.

Sounds good doesn’t it! I’m really looking forward to having you on board.

How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop, (follow this link: shop) where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials (and your facebook group invite) sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com.

To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great  gift that would be!

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60 and a new option of £90 to have included in the course detailed feedback given on up to four pieces of work produced on the course, at the end of the four weeks. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else to pay for (Christmas, birthdays, car repairs, house repairs etc).It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can.I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value of £20 in relation to  food and alcohol for some reason. This is just a rough guide designed to help you think about your own expendable income.

£20 

If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.

£40

If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.

£60

If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.

YOU CAN SPONSOR A PLACE

Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. You might be god like in your altruism and sponsor a place with feedback on poems for £90. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

What Happens Next

Once you have paid by PayPal (please drop me a line if you have paid in another way, I may miss your payment otherwise) I will use the email provided to invite you to the Facebook page. I will also use this email address to send a welcome letter to confirm that this email is working.

Places are limited, so please book ASAP to avoid disappointment!

Thanks for being a part of this adventure!

Wendy

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