Wednesday, 19 September 2018


The weather has definitely switched to autumn here, lots and lots of rain, temps cool enough to put on the heating, a desire to light a fire and wrap up in blankets. So it feels like time to start making plans and preparing. Harvest time.

Halloween is the end of the old year in the pagan calendar. I'm not a pagan, but I've always like this idea. My birthday is near Halloween so it's always been my new year point as well. For me autumn is a time to take stock, to prepare for the new year, to gather in resources and provisions for the winter. To finish old jobs and start new ones.

Life has given me a jolt and I've needed some time to curl up and reevaluate things from a distance. The same applies to my writing. The last week was quiet, but now I want to really begin to move forward.

I'm hoping the new course will give me lots of new poems to work with in October, but I also want to look at my Finnish poetry collection at terms of how I can start shaping it. I have enough poems as the moment for a full collection, but I need to reassess it in terms of theme and direction. See if I need to fill in any gaps or start from a new direction.

I'd like to read through the first 8 chapters of my second novel, the point where I've reached with my writing group, and see if it flows coherently. There's a worry from my writing group about pacing and development, so I need to look into that.

With my first novel, I need to brave looking at it again. I set it aside after rewriting the beginning as it needed time to set in my head. Now I need to read through it and see if it works and go forward with the rewriting if I'm happy with it.

So I'm taking small steps forward and it feels right for where I'm at just now. 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Slow Week

I'm still here. 

I haven't written in days, things have been chaotic, my brain hasn't been able to stay focussed on anything. 

I've signed up for Wendy Pratt's new poetry course which should get me back on track in October. Autumn is my favourite season, so hopefully I will find some inspiration in her prompts again this time. 

In the meantime, I'm taking it slow. Working on my fiction for the writing group, submitting work to magazines.

Hopefully I can turn this down time around soon. 

In the meantime, here's a magazine that's included my work in their first issue. Nitrogen House

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Face the Darkness

It's starting to creep in, that darkness, sliding into my poems. It wants to be heard and as much as I don't want to allow it in, I'm opening myself up to it. It hurts, it's hurtful. I'm not sure if it's helping yet, but maybe it will in the long run. 

I know if I hold it in, try to resist it will build up and hurt more. It's a fine line to tread. I'm not sharing my work with those it affects, just the anonymous people on my online course. It feels a bit like letting go of a held breath, just a moment's release of tension.

My poetry course has finished and while I've found it hard to keep up with all that's going on, it has been good for me and for my writing. An external focus, a way to keep moving forward. I still have a few prompts I haven't written anything for, so I'll try and catch up with those over the next week or so. Or let them simmer in the background to see if anything comes of them in the future. Wendy Pratt is offering another course in October on autumn and aging, so I will probably sign up for that as well.

I do need to get back into my fiction. But to be honest I have no enthusiasm for it right now. I took the next section to my writing group and got decent feedback that gives me some direction with which to edit it, but I have set it aside. Usually I come back from the group and start working on it right away. I'll look at it again during the week when the house is quiet.

There's no rush and no need to beat myself up if I just want to leave it, do the bare minimum to keep taking chapters to my group, but to focus on poetry for the most part. Sometimes it's useful to have several projects on the go, if you go off the boil with one you can pick up another.

So I'm treading soft, allowing the writing to take me where I want to go. It's scary, but also feels very grown-up, trusting myself and my art.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Working Through It

Another tough week. I've tried to focus on the daily writing prompts as a way of getting through it. Some days it worked because the prompt clicked with me, other times I couldn't see past the fog to focus on the prompt or anything at all. But I'm trying to be present at my notebook and computer every day possible. Even if I scratch nothings before giving up. 

I haven't been able to write much about the things going on lately, even in my journal, but I see it sneaking into the poems I'm writing. I'll let it simmer, reach out tendrils when it needs to as I try to work my way through it, in my head and in my writing. 

I have written 20 new poems this year, 12 through this poetry course with another 7 still in progress. That's one more than last year already. So I'm considering the course a success. For a tenner, it's been totally worth it. I will probably take the next one in October which will possibly be about autumn and aging which feels appropriate for the turn in the weather and my emotional mood. I feel I've aged a lot this month. 

I need to get back into my fiction, however. All this focus on poetry has slowed down my work on my current novel. But my writing group is back to a quieter, more serious venue, so I hope to return to bringing my novel sections rather than poems which seemed more appropriate for a busy cafe. Unfortunately, most of us are working on novels or longer fiction, so getting through 4 or 5 pieces in a night is difficult. Poems are quicker to discuss and they're getting better at it as most of them are not comfortable with poetry. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Step Back or Set Back

Sometimes when the writing is going really well, flowing along, life intervenes with a hard smack. I had been writing every day furiously, almost completing a poem a day, working on the fiction as well, but something bigger and more important came up and I had to stop without warning. It felt like all my momentum came smashing up behind me and dropped into emptiness.  

There are times you have to stop and turn your focus away from your writing. There's no point in beating yourself up and adding to your stress. Step away, put your energy where it is most needed. Using regular writing practice as a way of waking yourself into writing means you have the skills to pick it up again. It may take time to bring yourself back up to a good speed, but a break doesn't have to equal an end. 

Writing can also be a way to deal with these big problems life throws at you. I'm not ready yet, but writing out throughts can help sort through the various sides of dilemmas. You can address letters, rants, poems to your present or future self, to the issue itself, to the other people involved or keep a journal of the difficult time. You can also burn everything afterwards if it's too much to hang on to or face again. 

I'm slowly crawling back. I've written a few poems, but some mornings I just sit and stare at the screen with this darkness of the other thing overwhelming me. But I know the words are in me and they will wait until I am ready and they can help pull me through.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Poetic Migration

I went into Wendy Pratt's poetry inspired by nature course wanting to write poems about our recent trip to Scotland. I wrote one poem on that subject and then one on a biology teacher from 30 years ago, one of squirrels, one on a moose loose in Helsinki. An ancient olive tree, a university building, a beach and a house from my childhood. My poems travel from the US, Scotland, Norway, Iceland, Greece, Finland, just as I have. And now strangely enough the prompt for today is to write on migration and our connection to it.

My poems trace my travels, my settling in places, my growing and adapting to fit those new locations. Finding a creature that fits my migration pattern is impossible: US to Norway and back. To Scotland and then Greece back to Scotland and then Finland. An animal that starts off alone but creates a family along the way, who settles for long periods and then picks up again.

I've already written on the barnacle geese that migrate from Finland. I love monarchs and their mass migrations 'blackened embers weighing down branches' and as the prompt also wants a strong sensory feeling I love humpback whales for the iconic sounds and movements 'slip slow motion, booming and humming their song'. And the reindeer migrations also mean a lot to me. I don't know which way to go, maybe incorporate all of them.

I'm enjoying the process, how sometimes I really have to think and plan and other prompts just spark something within me right away and I can just scribble something down and it coalesces into a poem. I return to old memories and haunts, greet faces I haven't remembered in decades. I never know where I'm going to end up or find my inspiration from.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Back in the Groove with Poetry

Obviously what I've been needing to get my poetry writing going again is daily prompts and rough deadlines. One week into Wendy Pratt's online poetry course and I've written five poems. Almost a poem a day which is unhead of for me. They're coming together quickly and solidly. The prompts aren't earth-shatteringly complicated or different from ones I've done in the past. They're all focused around nature and our place within it and relationship to it. Some ask for a specific structure or form, others don't. There's no problem if you go off topic or don't follow the form. The main goal is to get us writing.

We can if we choose, post our poems on a secret Facebook page and the feedback is mostly positive with a bit of critical suggestions. The writers are all of varying level, so we're mostly trying to encourage. I'm missing more critical feedback, but that's what I thrive on. There's over 40 people on the course and you're lucky to get 5-7 comments, including Wendy's. I'd maybe like the opportunity to submit one poem for finer feedback from Wendy, but in reality she'd have to charge more than a tenner for that, just for the time it takes, time forty students. So for what it is, the course is good value for money. Some of these poems I wouldn't have written without the course, others I had in the back of my mind and I found a prompt to fit. All new writing is good.

Can I keep this up after this course finishes or should I sign up for Wendy's next course, which she's hinted will be on age/aging? I'm not sure. In theory, she's not offering anything I couldn't do myself. A daily prompt and some basic feedback. I can find a prompt from my books or my head, I can use my writing group more for poetry which I did do last week. But there's something different about someone else taking the lead, coming up with the prompts, setting a deadline, a group atmosphere even if it's unlikely that anyone would notice if I didn't post a poem. 

And it's obviously working for me. I'm enjoying the pressure and challenge and I even like some of my poems, others I will continue to work on.

The University of Iowa fiction course continues to flail. This week's section again has issues with the discussion questions. One question is pasted in 3 times. But I have enjoyed the most recent podcast I watched, the author actually had a bit of a screen presence and was discussing problems similar to what I'm having in my book. I've written that difficult scene and am now moving on to editing the following one, so that's a good thing. I'll keep pushing on.

My youngest went back to nursery on Monday so I've had a bit more time to work in the mornings, almost interruption free as the older kids either go out or disappear in the house with their books or toys. I'm trying to write my poem, do a chunk of the fiction course in the morning and then proof my and post my poem online in the evening and hope for feedback. 

Write on.