I had expected the summer months to be quieter and less busy, but with two books now on the go this was always going to be unrealistic! I have been working with Helena Nelson from Happenstance Press on my first poetry chapbook, and we have finally decided a title ‘Slug Language’. The process has been one of very fine tuning, looking at grammar, imagery and finding the exact words for poems. I have also continued to work with Ian Daley from Route on ‘Some Girls’ Mothers’ – a collection of non fiction on the theme of mothers and daughters. It is now flowing in a good order, and is ready to be proof-read. A cover has been discussed and I have had the difficult task of writing an introduction and blurb for the back of the book.
Helena Nelson shares Ian Daley’s attention to detail but the process of working on a poetry collection as apposed to creative non-fiction feels very different. There is less emphasis on narrative, more on concise use of language, and rhythm. I have enjoyed both processes immensely, and both have been very personal because of the subject matter of my poetry and the story I have written for ‘Some Girls’ Mothers.
I have always been a very visual person, as interested in art as in writing, so looking at images for the cover of both these books is something I relish. It feels like they suddenly acquire their own place in the world and are much less attached to me!
I have been working in the North West for the National Year of Reading this month, running reading workshops and creative writing workshops on the theme of well being. I have met some fantastic readers and writers, and have been greatly encouraged by asking readers what they got out of coming to a group. Their replies were very varied but many people said the experience extended their reading habits and that they would now try a whole range of new fiction.
I have been finishing a story for a new collection of pieces on the theme of mothers and daughters that I am putting together with five other writers and found it a challenge moving from poetry to prose. I have been working on how to get dialogue to sound authentic rather than stilted, and also how to structure a story in a balanced way. I have also been writing a new series of poems exploring old fairy tales, such as the six brothers who got turned into swans, and poems from the point of view of animals. I have been reading a number of books about wilderness – including WildWood by Roger Deakin (which is inspirational), Alice Oswald’s book of poems, Woods etc and The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane whose prose is like drinking spring water. Why this theme? My good friends Karen Smith and Helen Beale pointed me in this direction, knowing my interest in contemporary ways to write about ecology and the natural world. I think I also have a bit of cabin fever, so have been vacariously travelling in my head by reading this selection of books.
I have been reading a fantastic book edited by Paul Munden over Easter called Feeling the Pressure, and published by The British Council in Switzerland. It includes new work on the subject of climate change interspersed with scientific fact and thoughtfully put together in a series of subject headings – such as Extremes and Impacts. I recognise many writers in this collection but had not read their work on the subject. I particularly enjoyed Neil Rollinson’s poem Amphibians which takes human beings in full circle and imagines them becoming toad-like again. The poems’ language is very guttural, physical and full of the sound of rain. I also love the front cover of the book which features a very tactile barometer.