Jackdaws

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Storm Arwen came and stripped the cover off my rabbit enclosure. It sucked two plant pots off the small wall between the patio and the garden, and smashed them to bits. Other than that, we didn’t do too bad. Even the dilapidated fence stood surprisingly firm and I was relieved to see the very old willow at the end of the village had survived. Scarborough had a lot of trees fall and someone in Filey had their car crushed by a falling tree. It was a bad one. I woke at five to the booming wind that sounded as if it wanted to rip the room straight off. But it didn’t. The next morning it raged on, the rabbit enclosure roof finally gave way and I decided enough was enough and the rabbits would have to come in. So with one soft white body under each arm I wrestled my way up the garden and shoved them in one of the larger indoor hutches. Reader, they are not happy. The outside rabbit enclosure is 16 feet by 10 feet. They did not want to leave it. Still, sometimes these things are necessary and I think they might have literally been blown away if I hadn’t got them in. The trees are bare now, winter has landed. We even had snow. Usually we avoid snow when the rest of the country is knee deep, on account of being on the coast, but not this time. As I sit here writing this it is all gone, leaving a slimy mush of leaves.

It would have been the perfect time to light the log burner, and I nearly did, except that I’ve got two massive holes in the upstairs chimney breast because a couple of weeks ago a jackdaw got trapped in the chimney. I was sat at my desk, in my office upstairs, when I heard the sound of scratching and frantic wing beats. It sounded like it was just behind the wall, like the house had developed its own heart, had grown something into itself. In the silence of the mid afternoon I listened to it scrabbling about and to the other jackdaws up above calling down to it. I feel like I have a relationship with the jackdaws. They’re a constant, a background to my work. I watch them arrive from their tree roosts on a morning to settle and squabble on the roof top, they nest in the chimneys during spring and summer and in the evenings one of my favourite sights is them returning to the trees, calling and cawing. Occasionally I will look up and see one leaning over the guttering to stare in at me. I watch them attempting to drive the seagulls away, having arguments with the local crows. One crow (is it the same one each time?) likes to creep up on the jackdaws and pull their tails. I watch them moving around the village, living their lives. They have their routine, I have mine. Occasionally I’ll throw food for them onto the shed roof, in the hope that the cat won’t get up there and go for them, because I think he would. He’s a bit of a bruiser. There wasn’t much I could do about the bird in the chimney, to start with. My first thought was to phone the RSPCA but they wouldn’t come out for it, and then I had to teach, so the day got away from me. I realised as I was teaching that I hadn’t heard it for a while and hoped it had managed to get out on its own. Earlier, when I’d gone outside to see what the other jackdaws were doing, I could see them calling down and even dropping bits of bread down to it. They’d been calling back and forth during the day, but then while I was on zoom there’d been nothing. Silence. By the time I’d finished teaching it was dark. The roof jackdaws had returned to their roosts. I switched my computer off. Sat silently for a minute. And then I heard it calling softly. I put my ear to the wall and listened, barely daring to breathe. I could hear it moving about, and then, again, that soft call. It was quite heartbreaking.

The next morning as soon as the sun was up, the jackdaw was moving about and its family were back, calling down to it. I realised they were making the same sort of calls that they make to chicks when it is fledging time, and I guess that makes sense. They were trying to fledge their friend from the chimney, encouraging it to fight against the bricks and twigs and get out into the air. I rang my dad for advice, and rang the Whitby wildlife centre, who were great. But the only real option was to tear a hole in the chimney breast to get to it. Lots of people kept telling me there was no option but to leave it to die, and I couldn’t understand that, or rather I could imagine understanding it, but couldn’t imagine myself doing that as, clearly, there was an option, it just meant making myself and my poor husband uncomfortable and destroying a part of the house. My dad came up with his tools (despairing of my lack of tools), and he knocked a massive hole in the chimney breast upstairs, and the chimney breast was full up of fallen nesting materials. So we started gently pulling it all out as fast as we could until we realised there was no bird in the chimney. The bird, it seemed, was on the other side, in the chimney breast that ran through the other bedroom. My dad had gone home at that point, and I was clearing up the mess. Initially I thought it might have gotten out by its own accord, but soon it became apparent that it was, in fact, still there and not in the chimney in my office, but the chimney in my bedroom. I live in an ex council house. I’d never thought about the amount of chimneys it has before. It has a lot. My dad came back, which was very good of him, (though I do think he likes knocking big holes in stuff, especially if he’s not doing the cleaning up), and we knocked another massive hole in the other side of the chimney and went through the same process of pulling stuff out and then, suddenly, there was the jackdaw, both matt and silk, claws and beak and eyes tight shut. It must have died just before we got to it. I had the chance to look at it up close. Female, I think, not as big as a male, its neck was ruffled, its feet were beautiful, slate clay and each toe ending in a serious hook of claw. It was not in great condition and I wonder now whether it hurt itself trying to get back out, whether it was poorly. I’d used gloves to handle it and disinfected them thoroughly. What strikes me most is how fragile it was, how strange it was to see this vital, clever, sociable creature so still, screwed up tight against what must have been terrifying banging and noise in its last minutes. It made me incredibly sad. But I did the best I could and feel happy about that. My husband is a very understanding person. He says he likes that I stick to my principles. I hid the worst of the chimney holes with bookcases. All pain can be alleviated with books, in my world.

Amongst the detritus of the nesting materials that I pulled out of the chimney I found sticks, lots and lots of sticks, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream containers (yes, plural), raw hide dog treats (plural) rabbit fur My efforts to give the nesting birds the rabbit grooming fluff has paid off), a hair brush (not mine), wrapping paper, white paper, newspaper, feathers, the bones of what might have been another bird, pebbles (how?), hair ties, a part of a cat toy, twine that I recognised as coming from the bales of hay I order for my rabbits, moss, shiny paper, shiny ribbon. There was something quite moving about the amount of non twig material. I could imagine the group moving about the village, collecting the items, studiously examine everything then dropping these treasures down the chimney. I have left bread out for the jackdaws almost every day since, as a kind of apology, an offering to the god of birds. They didn’t return to the roof for a few days, but now they are back, all seems to be forgiven.

The jackdaws matt black shapes are finding their way into the poems for the new collection. I am beginning to find my feet with the new poems and am enjoying that feeling of sinking into them. All is good.

Until next time

x

The Winter Writing Retreat

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The nights are definitely closing in now. I’ve just come back from lunch at our village pub where the log fire and hand pulled Guinness were very welcome. The pub is just over the road, so hardly a trek away, but still- that whipping, biting wind, the bareness of the trees, the general dark cold days that have appeared without warning, somehow taking us from autumn to winter like a shutter coming down- Brrrrr. It’s Sunday and I’m working a few extra hours as the latest issue of the magazine I edit alongside Steve Nash just come back from the printer’s, so there are launches to organise and copies of the magazine to post, publicity stuff to organise etc. etc. and that has to be done around my work commitments. Running Spelt rarely feels like a chore, I love the energy behind it and I’m proud of the values we’ve built into the magazine. I feel like we are really doing something about the need to articulate something about real rural voices, real experiences. This issue has been a challenge, I’ve had a lot of work on, so has Steve so we’re a bit behind. But I think that makes me even more proud, because we put the effort in, and the magazine looks amazing as ever and it’s a genuinely good feeling to give back and provide a platform for these poems, these creative non fiction pieces, these voices. I love that feeling, it’s addictive. You can buy or even subscribe to the magazine here and if you want to come and celebrate with us, the launch tickets can be obtained here. We’ve got Caleb Parkin reading from his Nine Arches Press collection This Fruiting Body and our Spelt Competition judge, Maggie Harris is reading too. It’s going to be a really nice evening, and it’s a Friday so no work the next day!

This week I’ve been busy setting out my stall with all the courses I’m running over the next few months. In January I’ll be using my Society and Authors Grant to dig into the new collection which means everything has to be set up and laid out now, so that I’m not using writing time to do anything but work on the poems. It’s a complicated business being self employed, I have to think three steps ahead of myself all the time and that sometimes feels exhausting, but I also love my work so can’t really complain. I’m living the life I want to and that means that work is on my own terms. The thing about being self employed is that nobody tells you to get out of bed in the morning, no one is going to tell you to go to work or to push yourself, no one’s got your back, but also no one’s on your back. No one is going to sort out all the niggling tech stuff, or answer emails for you or sort out your taxes, that is all on you. And that takes a certain mind set, I think. But also, I have absolute freedom to be who I want and to make my life the way I want it. And that is absolutely priceless. I can work anywhere, I can set my own work schedule. and now I’m starting to get more writing time, more blocks of time to settle into projects and it feels amazing.

The first of my ‘courses’ is the Online Winter Writing Retreat. It starts on the 6th December to 10th December inclusive and it is a chance for participants to write and reflect during these dark wintry days. It’s on zoom, which makes it easier to access the events around your own life. This is the first retreat I have run and I’m really excited about it. I have just five places left on it, plus one fully funded place for a writer of limited means. Drop me a line if that’s you! (wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com). I’m undoubtedly running a lot of the retreat but I also have the wonderful Jonathan Davidson running both a workshop and giving a reading. AND I have the brilliantly talented Gill McEvoy running a workshop and giving a reading, and last but not least my co-ed at Spelt Steve Nash will be running a workshop.

Here’s the full schedule, it is jam packed with workshops and writing events but with enough time away to prevent it from being overwhelming. I think there is something for everyone.


Monday 6th December

9am-10am Meet and Greet

Your chance to meet with other participants, introduce yourselves and find out about the week. Don’t worry if you can’t make it, we’ll get to know each other the curse of the week. 

11am-1pm A Walk in the Woods: Writing Workshop with Wendy Pratt

Using a series of videos as inspiration we’ll be writing winter themed walking poems, using metaphor and simile to explore the sensory experience of being in nature.

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

Tuesday 7th December 

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am – 1pm Winter Ekphrastic Writing Workshop with Wendy Pratt

In this two hour workshop we’ll be looking at winter themed art and writing poems in response to it. There’ll be a chance to read some ekphrastic poems for inspiration and discuss art, poetry and the ekphrastic style, as well as getting down to business and writing some poem drafts. 

2pm-4pm Finding the Line: a Steve Nash Writing Workshop

Join celebrated poet and performer Steve Nash for a workshop exploring the fine line between personal expression and universal engagement. In this session participants will be introduced to some key critical theories of writing and practical exercises while exploring ways that writers tuned into their own unique ways of seeing the world produce metaphors that speak to a universal human experience.

7pm – 9pm Evening Event – Wendy Pratt reads from her latest collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse plus Open Mic

This evening event is the perfect end to a day of writing. Sit back and enjoy the reading, then join in at the Open Mic. Bring your own bottle for maximum enjoyment!

Wednesday 8th December 

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am-1pm A Light in the Dark Writing Workshop with Wendy Pratt

In this two hour workshop we’ll be looking at poems that bring hope in dark times and poems about ancient traditions. We’ll be writing poems to prompts based on the theme in a friendly and relaxed environment. 

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

7pm – 9pm Evening Event – Gill McEvoy reading plus Open Mic

This evening event is the perfect end to a day of writing. Sit back and enjoy the reading, then join in at the Open Mic. Bring your own bottle for maximum enjoyment!

Thursday 9th December

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am – 12pm A New Language for Winter? Writing workshop with Gill McEvoy

Join celebrated poet Gill McEvoy for this hour long workshop. Participants will be encouraged to think about what their local winters have been like in these days of changing climate and consider how we can write about that, and to imagine how winters may change in future years if nothing is done to delay climate change.

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

Friday 10th December 

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am – 12pm Hearing and Writing – writing workshop with Jonathan Davidson

Join celebrated poet and author Jonathan Davidson for this one hour workshop. How poems sound is important. The silence wants good words! Learning to listen intently and reading aloud with confidence can help us as poets. This one hour workshop will include listening to exquisite poems and writing responses that are satisfying to hear and to read aloud.  

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

7pm – 9pm Evening Event – Jonathan Davidson reading plus Open Mic

Our final event of the week and the perfect way to round it off. Sit back and enjoy the reading, then join in at the Open Mic. Bring your own bottle for maximum enjoyment!

Workshop Facilitators and Guest Readers

Jonathan Davidson is a poet, writer and literature activist. He lives in the English Midlands but works internationally. His poetry has been widely published and he has also written memoir and criticism. His radio dramas and adaptations have been broadcast by BBC Radios 3 and 4. Much of his work is focussed on how writing – especially poetry – is experienced by readers and listeners. His most recent collection is A Commonplace (Smith|Doorstop, 2020) and was included in The Morning Star’s best poetry books of 2020 and has been widely reviewed, including in Under the Radar, TLS and Racine. His previous book, On Poetry (Smith|Doorstop, 2018), a combination of memoir and manual, was included in The Guardian’s Top 10 Books About Creative Writing 2020. His blogposts about poetry and the poetry sector are at www.jonathandavidson.net.

Gill McEvoy lives in Devon, belongs to Simon Williams’ Company of Poets in Totnes. She has had 3 pamphlets published by Happenstance Press, one of which “The First Telling”won the 2015 Michael Marks Award. She is a Hawthornden Fellow (2012). Two collections from Cinnamon Press. Recent collection “Are You Listening?” from Hedgehog Poetry Press and in 2022 Hedgehog will be publishing a “Selected” collection of her work. She is about to start a regular poetry reading group here in Devon, from September onwards. Other than that she is involved with Bee-wild, a group focused on rewilding parts of the village where she lives. She is also  a member of YEG, the village Environment Group

Wendy Pratt is a poet, author, mentor, and workshop facilitator living and working on the glorious North Yorkshire coast. Her latest full collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse, was one of the winners of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition 2020. Wendy is also founder and editor of Spelt magazine, a magazine dedicated to celebrating and validating the rural experience through poetry and creative non-fiction.

Steve Nash is a writer, performer, and musician, born in Yorkshire and raised on army barracks across the UK and Europe. A widely and internationally published poet, in 2014 Steve won the Saboteur Award for ‘Best Spoken Word Performer’ from a shortlist that included Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish.


There’s an emphasis on quiet, friendly creativity and the use of ‘retreat’ in the true sense of the word: as a place to back away from the busy pressurised world, the rampant consumerism that defines Christmas and the business of life in general, and to come and reconnect with yourself and your writing and, I hope, with nature too. It’s a bargain at just £125 and you can book your place here.

I have no other news this week, except that life is good, that I’m still here, still writing, still absorbing the world quietly and I genuinely hope you are too. Remember to take some time for yourself this week. The dark can feel claustrophobic, but it can also feel cosy.

Until next time

x

Nature and Nurture

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Nurturing Myself

What a week it’s been.

For the last twelve weeks, every Sunday, I have been checking in with Ricky Stewart, who has been helping me to improve my health. This is a completely different process to anything I’ve done before: not a diet, not a health plan, not a boot camp, just someone who has helped me to look at my own behavioural cycles around food and alcohol, cycles that I felt trapped in, and who has helped me to escape that trap. I don’t want to get all evangelical about this, but I genuinely feel like I have walked through a doorway and seen this amazing life in which my life’s purpose is not to be on a diet and lose weight, and in which my answer to stress is not a bottle of wine. It’s very difficult to put into words exactly what the transformation is, without making myself sound like a raging alcoholic, which I wasn’t, but I was definitely someone who used alcohol as a crutch and made light of it, a lot. I figured it was probably something that needed addressing when I was aware I was very quietly putting bottles into the recycling bin, so the neighbours didn’t hear the clang and smash and notice how many bottles there were. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t drunk a bit more than usual over the plague years, and I’m not embarrassed to say that over working, husband having a stroke etc within the context of the plague year probably pushed me over what was acceptable. But, I now drink much less. And it’s brilliant.

It sounds like it should be simple to achieve, drinking less booze, and it was in many ways, but addressing it, facing the anxiety without a couple of glasses of wine was not simple. I now drink less, which means I get to buy the nicer wine. I drink less, which means I get to enjoy the wine, really enjoy it. It is not the main focus of my evening, it is now an occasional part of my evening. I haven’t had a hangover for twelve weeks, I haven’t lost a weekend to recovering from Friday’s wine consumption for twelve weeks and guess what, when they tell you that alcohol makes your anxiety worse IT IS TRUE. I live with quite bad anxiety, all the time. It doesn’t go away and it’s just one of those things that if you have it you know what a challenge it is to just get through the day sometimes. My anxiety is still there, cutting back hasn’t been a miracle cure, but it is so much less now, without alcohol magnifying it, that I am able to put myself forward more, I am able to go places on my own more, do stuff I really want to do, I am enjoying my life again, probably for the first time, if I’m honest, without having to get through the anxiety to get to the enjoyment.

I’ve also stepped out of diet mentality and pretty much just eat what I enjoy now. I didn’t know what it was that I enjoyed for such a long time, having been literally on a diet since I was thirteen. Turns out I like cheese, a LOT. (but now I make adult decisions around cheese and anyway, Chris won’t let me have just cheese for tea) But I also really like a properly done salad, one with nuts and avocado and a salty, oil dressing, with little snips of sweet pomegranate undercutting it all. Yum. Ricky is a personal trainer and yoga teacher and I met him at my local gym. He’s now left the gym and is going it alone, this sort of one on one cycle breaking is part of what he does.Ricky is patient, calm, funny and encouraging and that was exactly what I needed to help me to be honest about my health and to actually do something about it. He understood that, for me, most of what was happening was a reaction to stuff in my life and he gave me permission to look at the stuff (work mainly) I was doing that wasn’t making me happy, and to change that. I highly recommend him. We worked via face time appointments, I didn’t even need to leave the house. I finished my last session with Ricky last Sunday and now I am on my own, and for the first time in a long time, I am ready to fully embrace the future and prioritise my life, drink healthily, eat the things that nourish me and write the things I am passionate about.Which leads me quite nicely to a little announcement.

Nature Writing: The Ghost Lake

Last week I found out that I am one of eighteen writers longlisted for the Nan Shepherd Prize . I’m completely over the moon about this. The prize is a book deal with Canongate with a £10,000 advance. There were 123 entries into the prize. Entry involved sending a book proposal, chapter example, chapter breakdown and a cover letter with biography, just like submitting a non fiction proposal to an agent. I am so excited about this book. It’s wonderful to have a non fiction project recognised like this. Here’s a short blurb about the project:

The Ghost Lake is an exploration of landscape in the context of rural experiences and working-class identity. The ‘ghost lake’ is Paleolake Flixton, an extinct lake in North Yorkshire which was created by glacial movement. Inhabitation of this lake goes back thousands of years, with internationally important archaeological discoveries at sites around its shores. The lake has gradually soaked away into the earth leaving only a watermark, a ghost of itself. Using specific landscape points around the lake, the reader is taken on a walk which explores concepts of belonging through landscape; destruction of ecology; how we live with our ancestry; farming and biodiversity from a working-class perspective; examining the difficulties of coastal towns; alcohol and opioid addiction and despair; reduced life expectancy and how rural communities face these challenges alongside the joy of being deeply connected to a place of incredible natural beauty. The ancient lake people live on in The Ghost Lake, and the lives of the modern-day lake people are absorbed into that slow moving river, that body of stories that exist just under the surface. 

The shortlist will be out by the end of the month, winners announced in December. Just being longlisted is a prize in itself. It means that if it goes no further in the Nan Shepherd, I can put this in my bio and talk about the response that the longlist has had, when I start submitting this proposal to agents and publishers. Prizes like this are few and far between and the absolute quality of the longlist; the variety of perspectives around nature from under represented writers is phenomenal. When I read through the list I was blown away, there is not a single book on that list that I wouldn’t buy and read. I feel honoured, humbled to be among them and proud of myself for putting this together and getting this far.

I am now looking forward to 2022 as a year of writing about the stuff I’m obsessed with, the landscape I live in, the past and the present and the way they merge and flow together, how we are rooted and unrooted, how we belong to ourselves, to the world, to the past and the present.

I wanted to tell you about the jackdaw and the chimney breast and my walk in the fields with the blown pumpkins, but that will have to wait until another blog.

Until next time

x

Beach Walking with Toby

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve had a week of transition this week. I’m rethinking pay structures and the courses I run, again. And I’m sitting on some news I want tell you, but that will have to wait.

Right now I don’t want to talk about anything except my dog. Today I went down to the beach with Toby, my thirteen year old springer retriever cross. Over the bonfire weekend we realised Toby must now be profoundly deaf as well as slowly losing sight to cataracts, having a heart problem and quite bad arthritis. We are entering that time of life in dog ownership when the deal that you struck when you brought home a puppy has to be paid out. We will lose him, he has aged, has reached the last part of his life, he is now elderly. He will die soon. That’s the thing about pet ownership; you sign a pact with death when you take a pet on, knowing that at some unknown point in their life, your life, you will have to let them go, relinquish them to death. It never seems fair, but it is the price you pay for a very special kind of friendship.

The realisation that Toby, a dog who went so completely to pieces when fireworks went off, even just last year, now can’t hear them at all is incredible, another little flag that tells us that the inevitable is on its way. In some ways it’s great that he now isn’t the shivering, barking, crumpled wreck that fireworks made him, but also, oh, my boy is deaf, he is now living in a muffled world, away from our voices. He did hear some particularly loud bangs that seemed to shake the windows and did have a bit of a grumble and a perturbed bark; puckering his muzzle up the way he does when worried, but he was easily distracted by a Kong Toy filled with peanut butter. Otherwise he slept through the whole thing. These days I have to wake him up on a morning, and sometimes when he is asleep next to me on the sofa and dream howling, when I try and wake him from the dream his head goes slack in my hands and he doesn’t come back to us. It takes coaxing for him to slowly open his eyes and remember where he is. One day, he won’t come back at all and I feel like I am already grieving for him.

Of course, the reality is that we could have him for years yet, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. I’ve decided to make a real effort to fill his days with the things he loves – walks, toys, cuddles, being with me. Today it was so bright and sharp and autumnal I decided to down tools (working the weekend, again) and take him down to Filey bay. We’ve not been down to the beach together for over a year as I wasn’t sure his back legs could cope with the hill. I keep him on an extended lead these days because he’d run off if I let him, and not being able to see me or hear me calling him back would be a problem. His recall was never great, now it is non existent. On this cool autumn day with the sand blowing up the beach and the light landing pink on the waves he was reborn, as a young dog, prancing and galloping and into everything. When I was crouched looking for fossils he came and knocked me over, snuffling into my hand to see what I had. He played with other dogs, said hello to children, snuffled at pockets and dug in the sand. He had a good day. Only one time did I feel we might have walked too far, and that was when he fell backwards trying to jump out of a stream, his back legs failing him at the crucial moment, and then he simply stood looking confused, waiting to be rescued. We made it back up the hill slowly and he was still able to get back into the car. He’s absolutely wiped out downstairs now, fast asleep on the sofa.

Being out in the sunshine was wonderful. The beach was busy with folk enjoying the late autumn light, the sound of the waves on the beach. I felt suddenly very lucky, privileged to have a body that allows me to do this, to live here in this beautiful place and to do the work I do and to have the opportunity to write sometimes, and also to have this home and my husband and my animal friends, especially Toby. We have a very close bond, Toby and I, we are together all day and I feel like we know each other’s movements and habits and likes and dislikes. I can hear him shuffling about downstairs while I’m working upstairs and if I stop for a cup of tea, there he is. He likes to be with me, like right next to me, most of the time, but also likes to stretch out in the sunbeam that crosses the living room floor. Toby is still naughty, still a terrible thief and a dustbin, but these days he’s easier to catch in the act as he can’t hear me coming up behind him. These days I am also more likely to catch him and cuddle him, because he’s my boy and I want him always to know happiness and love.

There is something special about humans having friendships with animals, especially dogs. We’ve been doing it for a long time, we’ve had them beside us for many, many years, thousands of years. You would think they would have evolved to live longer, to stay with us. But in some ways the knowledge that they haven’t, the knowledge that you have a tiny slice of this utterly joyful friendship, makes it so much more valuable. I hope I get a bit longer with him.

Until next time

x

Walking into the New Collection

Yesterday I had the most amazing news. I’ve been awarded a Society of Authors Foundation Grant to help me to develop and work on my new poetry collection. I’ve been working on the collection here and there for a while. Just last week I had a look through my files to see how many poems were suitable for it and found, to my surprise, that I have between fifteen and twenty poems that fit into the concept that I’m working towards. Are they any good? hmmmm some are, some aren’t. I’ve begun to realise of late that my own writing process has changed considerably over the last couple of years. I used to write a lot of poems, I used to have fits of writing that were like purges, poems flowing out of me. These days the process is much slower, much more like waiting for something to grow and quietly feeding it; mushrooms, perhaps, or lichen or moss. I like the idea that the things that I do in my everyday life – reading, contemplating, walking – feed these poems and that my writing process involves trying on lots of different poems before I find the right one, something like burrowing into the poem to find the source.

Between working on poems I’ve been working on the novel a lot, which is a slow business. I invariably have several projects on the go at any one time. I know other writers do this too. I also have a non fiction project which is on the back burner. Sometimes working like this feels a little chaotic, but what I’m learning is that this is my process, this is how I work, other people work in other ways, and that’s OK. I don’t work on all three projects at the same time. It’s more like I have periods of excitement about a project and wear myself out with it, so work on another project for a while; thinking differently, writing differently. Like using different sets of muscles in a workout.

I have a couple of nice poetry commissions to complete before December, commissions which sort of tie into the collection concept, which is good, so my writing time will be taken up with those, and then in January I’ll be starting work on the new collection for real. I have cancelled some of my teaching responsibilities for January and am working out how I will physically fit bits and pieces of work around my writing time. I have got my planner out and I’m planning the collection, loosely, looking at where I want to explore, what topics I want to investigate through poetry. I like to start with a mind map, with the central concept in the middle, and all the things: places, events, people, etc I’m interested in, all the themes I’m interested in writing about, radiating out from that central concept. I then create webs that link these ideas together. This plan isn’t the writing, it’s the concrete block on which I will tie the balloon that is my creativity to, it will stop me wandering off on a tangent, though some evolution and change of the initial concept is to be expected. My main process with the new collection is being inside nature: walking, visiting, existing, revisiting some childhood haunts, being physically present in certain situations, reconnecting to events. These things, these personal poem prompts will go in the time plan for the grant, so that I can use the time as effectively as possible. I am a chimera poet: half crazed and uncontrollable writer driven by the blood jet of poetry (Happy birthday Sylvia!), part scientist, stationery obsessed, spreadsheet wielding planner queen. Reader, the combination works.

I feel empowered by the grant, recognised. The content of my last collection When I Think of My Body as a Horse was challenging. It made it difficult to promote it in the way that I have with other collections. I did some readings, little bits here and there, but I am happy knowing that the book did well, won a big competition, and more importantly it was a book that I needed to write, for myself, for my daughter. I sometimes think people have an idea of me as a writer who is bleeding the subject of the death of my baby dry, using that loss to promote myself and push my career. The truth is, it’s what I’ve needed to write about, I’ve examined that loss in different ways and now, I am done examining it. And that’s OK. I’m not a one trick pony. This is the way I work. But I sort of feel I need to write the new collection almost to prove that to myself. That’s one of the reasons the grant feels so significant and means so much to me, because I didn’t win that grant on the shock factor or sob story of my daughter’s death, I won that grant by persistently putting myself out there, developing my voice, and creating a solid, workable concept for a new collection of poetry. And I intend on making this collection something I can be proud of.

I feel energised, like a ‘proper poet’, whatever that means. The grant will allow me to work on the collection in a focused and productive manner. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a collection that touches on rural working class identity, nature as a lived environment. The grant will allow me to leave my desk and go out into the weather, to go to museums and to take some mentoring from a poet who I respect. I have been granted enough money to give me two days per week to work solely on my poetry, for twelve weeks. I think, alongside the few hours I am managing to carve out every week for writing, and some hours on the weekends I will get this collection written, within six months, I hope.

This feels like coming home.

Until next time

Wendy

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A Teaching Prep Week

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This week I have done almost zero writing. Instead, I have been focussing on getting ready to run the courses I have planned for October – two with the York Centre for Lifelong Learning and one under my own ‘brand’. One of my York classes is accredited, and it will be the first time, except as a day retreat tutor, that I have taught an accredited course. I’m a bit nervous about it, but also very excited.

I did all of my degrees part time, two of them distance learning. I was a mature student when I studied for, and obtained, my degrees. I worked full time around my degrees. I come from a working class background and working while studying isn’t an unusual thing. I found my way into poetry and literature through the fantastic Open University and I did my Masters distance learning at Manchester Met. I think it is important that high quality learning opportunities are available for people who work full time and/or are coming to literature, poetry in this case, later on in life. Part time learning shouldn’t be any less quality than full time education and I try to keep that in mind when I am putting course content together. It sometimes means working more hours for less money, because freelancers in teaching tend to be paid fairly crap wages. And that’s possibly why the literary arts and teaching are not areas with strong working class representation, but that’s a soap box for another day. Teaching and workshop facilitating take a lot of time and preparation, so this was a week I was happy to give over to that work, in the hope that when I start teaching again next week I’ll be prepared enough that I can carry on writing on a morning and working in the afternoons. Ha! Famous last words.

This week I received this thing of beauty in the post:

Which I have a poem in. It’s going to be in the Natural History Museum shop, which is super exciting for a nature/science/history nerd like myself. And even nicer, I got paid to be in this anthology. Another example of when artists are respected and paid for their work. Ana Sampson is really lovely to work with too and look at the book! It’s so beautiful! One of the highlights of my year this one.

This week I also picked up not one but two commissions to write poems for events around December, which is really nice. I was also offered an in school poetry job, which I’ve had to turn down. What’s nice about that is that I was flagged as a potential candidate for the job by another poet friend, and I in turn flagged someone else who is a fabulous poet for that role. It’s so nice to be able to pass opportunities on, and that was a well paid one too, so even better. Commissions are great because I get to be a paid poet, something that doesn’t happen very often. But it’s meant making a decision to cut back some of my other work again, to fit the commissions in, which is disappointing, but also good for me, because I need to manage my time better, and being a writer is what I want to do, and this is paid writing so must be prioritised. I have to keep telling myself that. I’ve also offered to write a poem for my parent’s wedding anniversary, another kind of commission and probably the hardest to write as there’s so much judgement lurking from family isn’t there. My Dad has specifically asked for ‘not your usual stuff, though, Wend, we like good poetry with rhymes’.

Bless him. Everyone’s a critic.

And that’s me done for the week. I’m pleased to be back blogging regularly, even if it is only an insight into freelancing as a writer who is trying to write more and freelance less. I guess it’s probably useful to someone out there!

If you fancy joining my next online course, it starts on Friday this week and I still have some places left. You can find details here.

Take care, catch you next week.

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On Sabbatical: Week Two

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This week was, again, a week of surprises as far as the process of writing the novel is going. After a good break away from it over the weekend, I swung back into the novel on the Monday only to find myself blocked. My book is historical fiction featuring some very well known actual people and places, so needs to have a basis of fact onto which I can build the story. A lot of what I have been doing is finding anchor points for the fictionalised stuff, in the factual stuff. And on Monday I was searching for a place to fit a particular scene that would link two big chunks of plot together smoothly. But because there are several people, many animals, several places that are all part of the story at different time points, it becomes quite complicated. I became quite frustrated because I just wanted to write the story, and felt like I was stuck in a place of constantly referring to different texts and never quite finding what I needed. Cue an avalanche of self doubt over whether I can actually do this and complete it, whether this genre is too challenging, whether I should have just stayed in my poetry lane. In the afternoon I found my inbox beginning to fill with stuff I needed to work on, in particular planning for courses starting at the end of the month and the beginning of next month, editing jobs that people are waiting for, mentoring stuff that I’m behind with. It became a bit of a vortex in which I was being sucked, with the usual frustration of not feeling that I can put my own work first. (#writerlife)

On the Tuesday it rained. I went through my morning routines of journalling and reading etc, while in my PJs and wrapped up in a big fluffy cardigan and feeling all cosy and autumnal with the rain falling down outside. I sat down at my computer and whatever had blocked me the day before, lifted. I found the factual platform to build my scene and I stayed at the computer for almost the whole day, in my PJs, wrapped in my fluffy cardigan, writing and drinking cups of tea, looking out at the rain and then writing again. It was brilliant. I got nearly 6000 words done that day, tied two scenes together, opened the door to a sub plot and also solidified one character who was a bit wispy and 2D. That was a good, good day. Because I’d done so well on that day I decided that the next day I would do some cleaning and decluttering and let that block of work rest until I could return to it with fresh eyes. The rest of the week was spent editing that block, refining it and tidying it ready to move the story forward next week.

I’m starting to panic that I won’t be prepared for the courses and classes I’m teaching, but that’s really just an anxiety thing. I had some training this week on a new teaching platform that I’m not familiar with and got a chance to chat to my supervisor about the new class and how nervous I am about it, and actually feel a bit better. I’ll be fine once the first one is out of the way and I know who I am working with, their experience level and what their needs are, so that I can tweak the learning resources and make sure that I address those needs.

I got my planners out this week too and started to think about how I can continue working on the novel once I ‘return to work’. It became clear when I was working out the next few month’s work that I am still taking too much work on, and I intend on doing more cutting back. How on earth have I managed with the level of work I’ve been doing??!! Oh, I remember… I DIDN’T. All that work coupled with a pandemic and a poorly husband tripped an underling heart problem, pushed me into becoming too reliant on friends to support my mental health melt downs, caused me to not look after my health; relying on booze as a way to relax, and stopped me from enjoying my life.

I am determined to cut more work back and have three mornings a week working on the novel, from day break to around 11am. I deserve to be healthy and happy and working as a creative.

This weekend I dug out my non fiction project and started tweaking it for entry into a big competition. Just like other freelancers, I always have to think about the next job, the next project and how to fund it. This particular award is a good cash award that would in effect fund the writing of the non fiction book, which would be the next project after the novel. I actually had some interest from an agent with this project a while ago, but they wanted to see virtually the whole thing and I just did not have the time to put the research in (not research I can do from my office, unfortunately) and the writing time, so I had to shelve it until I can get to a place were I can afford to spend time on it. So this is something I want to make a good job of, and I do find that having a deadline focuses my mind and makes me think about what is an isn’t important to me. The flip side of this is that I am usually fairly gutted when I get turned down for funding etc because A. it takes so much time and preparation and B. it is such a game changer for a writer to have a project funded, it’s the dream really, and when you don’t catch that dream you feel a bit shit about yourself and your work, like you’re not good enough.

I am sad that my writing month is slipping away and I won’t have the time to work on any of the projects the way I’d like, soon, but the experience has been something that has enabled me as a writer. I feel like a door is opening in terms of me respecting my own process and making the changes in my work-work to enable more creative practice.

Other things I did this week included cycling down to the beach, which is much quieter since the children went back to school. It was wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed that trip, even with the big hill to climb. And I am pleased to say that I am still sticking to my cut back alcohol programme and healthier eating, and loving it. I’m starting to see a real difference in my health and well being and my mindset around taking care of myself.

I think I will look back on this month as a time of genuine happiness, in all aspects of my life. I really hope I can hold onto it. I feel like I have put some real work in lately, work on myself as well as on the book. I have taken my current favourite mantra to heart:

Everything in your life is a reflection of the choices you have made. If you want different outcomes, make different choices.

Thanks for reading my rambles.

Until next time

x

On Sabbatical: The First Week

I’m not really sure who I’m writing this for. People like me, I guess, who find it useful to see other people’s writing practices. I’ve just finished my first week of a writing sabbatical paid for with a small bursary from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. It is making so much difference to my work and my self esteem as a writer.

Right now, I genuinely feel like I am living the life that I want to live. Despite having to do some work in the afternoons, I have stuck to my original plan and I am in a good routine. Currently my day looks a little like this:

6.10 alarm goes off

6.20 at my desk ready to work while watching the sun come up from my office window

7.15 dog walk down the village and out into the countryside

8.00 coffee on, sort out my husband’s medications and feed all the animals (dog, cat, 5 guinea pigs, 3 rabbits)

8.15 coffee and reflective practice. Since going on holiday in Great Ayton in June, where I enjoyed breakfast outside every day, I have taken to having breakfast on the patio, or in the conservatory daily. Last year I cleared all the old hutches (remnants from my small animal boarding business days) off the patio to make somewhere nice for Chris to sit while he was recovering from the stroke, but I’ve actually ended up using it more myself. This year I cleared the conservatory of, yes you guessed it, lots of cages and hutches for my own animals, cleared the brick shed of all the old junk and old hutches (I was hoarding a lot of hutches, maybe something to do with my anxiety around failing in my current career and needing something to fall back on) and moved my own animals into there, creating a slightly cluttered, but no less lovely conservatory oasis so that I can continue my peaceful morning routine throughout the year, even when the weather is rubbish. I open the doors even when it’s raining to hear the outside sounds and it is a calm, peaceful way to start the day.

My reflective practice begins with me writing my journals. I have two journals at the minute – one in which I record my everyday life and observations, one in which I make notes specifically on the novel and also reflect on my own feelings and thoughts around it. Because I really, really struggle with anxiety and, where writing is concerned, this manifests as imposter syndrome, this journalling around the big project I’m working on helps me to pour out all the angst and address it with my rational brain, before I spiral into a proper pit of anxiety. I then read some buddhist lessons or texts (I’ve just finished re-reading Zen Mind, beginner’s Mind) , then I read at least five poems from whatever poetry collection I’m reading and a chapter of whatever novel I’m reading at that time. I drink my coffee, I eat my marmite on toast. Usually there is some chasing of the cat down the garden at this point, trying to extract some poor dead creature from his mouth.

9.00 Back to work, starting with whatever I wrote yesterday/in the earlier writing block and readjusting to address plot problems, voice, style etc. At the minute I am in the ‘Don’t Get it Right, Get it Written’ stage of writing the novel, but because it’s historical fiction, I also need to be spot on with some of the details, a small mistake has the potential to derail the book later down the line. So a lot of what I am doing is reading, researching, asking questions, writing, re writing. At some point I will have tortoised my way to the end of the first draft of a whole book, and then the editing starts.

12.30 My husband comes home for lunch, I eat something that is usually a just a vehicle for cheese consumption, and we watch bargain hunt together and shout at the people who think scent bottles and trench art are good buys. Reader, they are not. Every day we consider applying to bargain hunt, but secretly we feel we may not be the antiques aficionados that we think we are.

1.30 I decide what work jobs need doing – endorsements, planning of courses, Spelt work, editing, mentoring and set to work for a few hours.

3.00 At this point I do my daily meditation. Sometimes I do this on a morning, which is my favourite time to meditate, but I think possibly that’s not the mot helpful time, it is more beneficial to meditate when I am feeling any frustrations from the day. Before I can get down to my zafu for zazen I have to stretch my hamstrings out and my knee and my back because I am old and fat AF which is not conducive to the lotus position*

3.30 I start to think about tying up my day now, and what jobs on my list I can let go. It would be really easy to start panicking about the work that builds up, and get anxious about it, but at the minute I am super aware of this and don’t let that happen.

5.00 I take a bike ride or a walk or do something not related to writing or work.

*I do not get anywhere near the lotus position. I do get both knees on the floor and a good straight back though, which I am pleased with.

One day this week I did not manage to write anything at all, I just arranged and rearranged post it notes. It knocked my confidence a bit because I can feel the month slipping away from me already and I want to make the most of it. The next day I managed 2000 words, so it all evens out. Writing a novel is not an A to Z process. But I am loving it. I am LOVING it. My anxiety is vastly reduced, I feel content and happy and like I’m ‘working well’. When I get into the writing groove in a project it is a phenomenal feeling. It’s like my brain has been working on this project for a good long time and now it’s ready to bring it out from the bottom of the cupboard to show me. I would not change this for the world. And, weirdly, I find myself more productive on the other work stuff I’m doing. I’m enjoying it more because I am being true to myself, I am prioritising my own creative practice and putting my faith in it.

I’ve also taken my first research trip, to Haworth. We had a great time. I didn’t write, but I did record, explore, note, read, walk and think and that bled into the work I am doing. It was very successful and I managed to get everything i wanted as well as meeting some friends for dinner. I will definitely be going back at some point.

The other difference to my life and work that I have made lately, and something that I am certain has helped me to stay calm and bright is that I’ve been working with a health coach to help me to address my appalling habits around alcohol (I use it to counter anxiety) and bad habits around food. It’s working. I have a video chat once a week in which the coach is mostly subjected to my anxiety around the book and we set a small, manageable target each week to help me to improve my health without tripping my heart into a weird rhythm. I have cut my alcohol consumption down, but don’t feel restricted, at all. I feel like I am finally, finally enjoying my work and my life and myself.

Oh, one more thing, the other thing I’ve done since 1st September: I stopped checking my emails and social media on a morning. I don’t engage with social media (except Spelt) until five pm, and I don’t check my emails until around 1.30 pm, after I have finished the bulk of my writing work for the day. The out of office response on my emails is a game changer too because it seems to have put a wall around my own time, around which I can peek, unnoticed, to see if I want to address the stuff that streams into my inbox daily. I can feel the anxiety rise when I check social media, so am mostly avoiding it, apart from TikTok which does nothing except make me laugh, which I love.

Congratulations on getting to the end of my happy ramble!

Until next-time

x

The ‘Out of Office’ Response is On

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And suddenly there is nothing standing in my way, not even me.

For the last four weeks I’ve been on a mission to get all of my work shuffled away in the hope that September, thanks to a bursary from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough (added to some of my own money), would be a month totally devoted to writing the novel. This sabbatical isn’t just about the work that I want to get done; the luxury of having hours at a time to settle in, sink in to my work without distraction, it is also about having the chance, perhaps the only chance I’ll ever have (not everyone makes it to being a creative writer full time) to be a writer for a month. To indulge myself, to do the things I have been moaning about not being able to do, in the name of my own art. (Pretentious, moi?) What I mean by that is that this writing month will be about more than just getting the word count up and banging the novel out, I will have the time to think, to reflect, to position myself in a place of peace so that I can get my best work done. I want to experience the particular type of calm where I find I write best.

My plan is to spend the mornings writing, from day-break to lunchtime, Hemingway style, though without all the excessive booze. The afternoons are for reflective practices – beach walks, research, journalling, reading, looking out of the window, absorbing, being. I have never been in a position to do this before. Like most writers I’ve always shoe-horned writing in at five in the morning before work starts, after work, in five minute breaks between work. So I don’t know how well I’ll do with it, it’s a different way of working, a method that puts me and my practice first, as the priority; something that the voice of imposter syndrome is not liking. Oh no, that bitch is Up. In. Arms. I’m not listening to her. I’m doing it anyway.

I’m making an effort to drink less too, so that my head is clear for my morning routine. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drink martinis with my morning marmite on toast, but I do find that I drink more than I should, reaching for a few glasses of wine almost every night. I won’t be checking my emails either, until tea time and I won’t be on social media before five pm. That’s the real killer. I am addicted to Tok Tok, which is quite the time suck. I love (and also hate) social media and feel slightly queazy thinking about being without my online community. Without the on line community, there is just me, my office and my work. I feel I might find it quite difficult to miss out on the trends and chatter, to not be a part of it. But like I said in an earlier blog post, there has to be a time when I make that next big step towards the dream, which is to be a writer who teaches sometimes, rather than a teacher who writes sometimes. The only way to do that is to put my work first. It’s done, for this month anyway, and now the only thing getting in my way is my fear of failing. I’m not going to let that spoil this for me.

I chose September for my writing month because it is the time of year when I feel most at peace, before the melancholy of winter. As I sit her now, the clouds are low, the light is fading and there is a chill to the evening air, and yet earlier I wore sandals and no cardigan to walk the dog. The scent of straw and hay and harvest is lingering on the breeze, the swallows are leaving, the swifts have left and the geese are starting to fly over the house, heading south along the coast line. What a beautiful, still, time of year, what a perfect tome to be creative.

The out of office response is set, all I have to do now is write.

Until next time

x

A New Venture for Winter 2021: My First Online Writing Retreat!

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Next month I start my month long ‘writing retreat’ using a bursary given to me by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, which will help me focus on writing my novel. I’m adding a chunk of my savings to the bursary and taking the month away from all work except Spelt magazine, to concentrate solely on my own creative practice. I am ridiculously excited about it.

While I’ve been getting the next lot of online courses outlined and opened for bookings in advance of my retreat (find out all about October and November courses here)I’ve decided to take the next step with the online courses and launch my very first online writing retreat!

Online Winter Writing Retreat

An online, five day, poetry writing retreat

6th December 2021 to 10th December 2021 Inclusive

Brand new for 2021 this online poetry writing retreat features workshops, hosted writing challenges, prompted group writing time, evening guest readings and open mics. All from the comfort of your own home. The week is carefully scheduled to provide space away from the computer to write, as well as having plenty of stimulating events to inspire and encourage. Each day includes morning and afternoon activities, with evening events three times (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) over the course of the week. I’m delighted to include guest readings from Gill McEvoy and Jonathan Davidson who will both be running workshops as well, as part of the retreat’s activities. 

Price: £125

Guest Readers

Jonathan Davidson

Jonathan Davidson is a poet, writer and literature activist. He lives in the English Midlands but works internationally. His poetry has been widely published and he has also written memoir and criticism. His radio dramas and adaptations have been broadcast by BBC Radios 3 and 4. Much of his work is focussed on how writing – especially poetry – is experienced by readers and listeners. His most recent collection is A Commonplace (Smith|Doorstop, 2020) and was included in The Morning Star’s best poetry books of 2020 and has been widely reviewed, including in Under the Radar, TLS and Racine. His previous book, On Poetry (Smith|Doorstop, 2018), a combination of memoir and manual, was included in The Guardian’s Top 10 Books About Creative Writing 2020. His blogposts about poetry and the poetry sector are at www.jonathandavidson.net.

Gill McEvoy

Gill McEvoy lives in Chester where she runs a poetry reading group (The Golden Pear) and a workshop for practising poets (The Poem Shed). Her first HappenStance pamphlet (Uncertain Days, 2006) dealt with difficult territory: her own diagnosis of cancer, and the disabling illness and death of her husband. Her second, The First Telling, won the 2015 Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets.

Wendy Pratt

As well as organising the course and facilitating the schedule, I’ll also be giving a reading of my own work.

Wendy Pratt is a poet, author, mentor and workshop facilitator living and working on the glorious North Yorkshire coast. Her latest full collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse, was one of the winners of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition 2020. Wendy is also founder and editor of Spelt magazine, a magazine dedicated to celebrating and validating the rural experience through poetry and creative non fiction.

Further Details

Who is the Retreat Aimed At?

Anyone interested in writing poetry, from beginners to the more advanced will enjoy this week of wintry writing.

What Do I need to Take Part?

  • You need access to a computer, laptop or iPad (you should be able to take part using a mobile phone, but the quality may not be as good).
  • A desire to enjoy a week of writing and stimulation

Payments and Refunds

  • Payment is in full. Refunds will be given up to 30 days before the event, if requested. 
  • I am able to offer one fully funded place on the retreat for a writer in financial difficulties. Please message me if you are in receipt of benefits and unable to otherwise afford to take part in the retreat. wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com
  • I am also able to offer two reduced price places for writers in financial difficulty. Please message me to enquire about this. wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com
  • If Paypal is not possible, please get in touch for bank transfer details. Wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com
  • Please let me know if your PayPal email address differs from the email address you would like links and information sent to.
  • Places are very limited due to this being a zoom retreat. Book early to avoid disappointment.
  • If you’d like more details please get in touch wendyprattfrelancewriter@gmail.com
  • Please let me know if you have any disabilities which may effect your enjoyment of the course, and we will do our best to support you.

Payment:

elegant composition of teapot and cup placed on bed with book

One place on the Winter Writing Retreat

6th – 10th december inclusive

£125.00

This is a completely new venture for me, and one that I am very excited about. I hope you will join me for a wintery writing week in December. It’s gong to be great fun.

until next time

Wendy

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