My Writing Life: Week 9

Posting a day later than usual this week, due to a slightly hectic Sunday. (For ‘hectic’, read: writing a scene of a play, completing two funding applications and working on the bar at Box of Tricks’ Theatre Company’s show, Chip Shop Chips.)


Which pretty much sums up the whole week, really. In the best possible way.

As well as the Sunday madness mentioned above, this week has seen: a meeting in Kendal for some work I’m doing with Curious Minds (through New Writing Cumbria) – followed by a chai latte at one of my favourite Kendal Coffee shops, Brew Brothers; a comedy night at Penrith Old Fire Station to raise money for Cumbria Flood Appeal, ft. Rory Bremner, Justin Moorhouse, Fred MacAulay and Wendy Wason; a trip to Penrith’s independent cinema to see the NT Live broadcast of the National Theatre’s As You Like It; a very successful meeting at Clifton Primary School to talk about Arts Award; a trip to Carlisle to visit Prism Arts’ Creative Arts & Conversation group; cooking this week’s communal lunch at Eden Arts; writing a couple of new scenes of a play; and another funding application.


And you know what it’s made me realise? That I don’t do enough.

No, I don’t mean that in terms of work. In terms of work, I don’t really stop. This is because I’ve spent several years cramming all of my writing and my freelance work into my spare time. So now, having freed up a lot more time for writing and freelance work, I should have lots more spare time. All that time that used to be writing time should now be free.

But there’s a problem: I no longer know how to spend free time.

I know that sounds stupid. But seriously: I had a couple of hours the other day and I seriously couldn’t work out what to do with them. It’s like I’ve forgotten what to do with time that isn’t spent reading or writing.

So that’s one of my targets: to reclaim my free time. More particularly, to reclaim my weekends. (Getting out of bed on a Monday morning is so much harder when you’ve just spent the whole of Sunday working flat out.)

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with this free time that I’m determined to make. Something non-word-based. Maybe something outdoors-based? I think I’d like to get back into photography. And maybe do more crafting as well – something I’ve done very little of so far in 2016.

But something that doesn’t let me suffer from creative burnout.

Watch this space!

The week in pictures:

My Writing Life: Week 8

There are good weeks, and there are bad weeks. This week has probably been a bad week.

It started well, with me finishing a scene I’d been struggling on. It ended well, with me finishing (a draft of) another scene I’d been struggling on. The bit in the middle was a little bit less of a cause for celebration.

What can I say? Sometimes, no matter how hard you work at getting words on the page, what you produce just isn’t right. This week has been one of those.

But, as today is Sunday and Monday is all about starting the ball rolling again, I’m determined that next week will be much more productive. (She says, trying not to look at the appointment-packed week ahead of her…)

In other news, tonight I watched the series finale of Dickensian. (IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS, STOP READING NOW!)

Dickens character sketches at Withnail Books, Penrith
Dickens character sketches at Withnail Books, Penrith

Have to say, I was quite disappointed in it. My favourite thing about the show (apart from Tom Weston-Jones, who, by the way, I’ve recently discovered is a fellow Royal Holloway graduate) is the concept of putting all of Dickens’ fantastic characters into a big melting pot and letting them bump up against one another, to who knows what ends? A mixing together of novels to create a new plot entirely: something that the Jacob Marley murder investigation was a brilliant tool for.

Unfortunately, with the murderer identified, the characters seem to have not only retreated back into their own books, but also to be following their own plot-lines.

Not letting Little Nell die earlier on in the series felt like a promise that the stories wouldn’t come to their expected conclusions, yet now at the end of series one, we’re left with Miss Haversham abandoned on her wedding day, refusing to take off the wedding dress or let anyone touch the cake. Big surprise. Oh, and what have they done to set us up for the next series? Showed us Scrooge about to be haunted, and Oliver hanging out with the Artful Dodger. Not exactly what I’d call an original plot…

Don’t get me wrong, though, I’ll still watch it if/when it returns to the screens, if only so I can desperately hope that they haven’t completely done away with Tom Weston-Jones!

But enough Dickens. It’s also been a week where I’ve rediscovered my love of jigsaw puzzles and read a couple of books:


The week in books:

  • Jackie Storer, Hidden Stories of the First World War
  • Pat Barker, Regeneration

Reading-wise, it’s been very First World War-based this week. Hidden Stories of the First World War is a library book, as, yes, I’m very proud to say that I have got back into the habit of taking books out of my local library. Particularly references books. Novels, poetry and plays I tend to get attached to, and want to go back to time and again, so I like to have copies on my shelves.

One book that I’ve revisited a number of times is Pat Barker’s Regeneration. I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I’ve read it (I think 7, although it may just be 6). Re-reading it this week, I realised that it may have, very quietly and without me noticing, become one of my favourite books. It’s just such a good mixture of plot, characters, history, poetry and good writing. I’m sure I’ll end up re-reading it again at some point.

The week in pictures:

Here’s to a much more positive week ahead!

My Writing Life: Week 7

You know those weeks where you think you’ll take it easy and focus on one thing, then by the end of it, you’ve created two new arts projects, drafted three new poems, written 25% of a play, read four books, kept up to date with all your admin, and somehow managed to find time for a bit of a social life as well?


Well this week has been one of those.

The ‘one thing’ I was planning to focus on was the play, so actually 25% is slightly (though only slighlty) under what I wanted to write of it this week.

But, as seems to be my new norm, I’ve been slightly distracted by the poems clamouring for space in my head. I tried (not entirely successfully) to save up the poetic energy till yesterday – when I took part in Kim Moore‘s Barrow Poetry Workshop. As always, I came away from the workshop with something that I want to work on. Poetic energies = successfully channelled.

As for my other artistic energies?

As I was driving home from a busy day at Eden Arts on Tuesday, I started thinking how it was over 2 years since I’d done any guerrilla poetry style projects (the last one being Beneath The Boughs at Lowther Castle in 2013), and how I should probably think about doing another one in the next year or so. By the time I pulled into my drive, I had fully planned not one, but two, new arts projects. By the time I’d made and drunk a cup of tea, I’d ordered all the materials for one of them.

Project 2 is still under wraps for now (though if you have an unloved teddy bear you want to donate to it, drop me a line), but I launched the first project today:

Poetry Plaster Packs aim to spread a little poetry, joy and healing. Each one contains:

  • a plaster (for the literal cuts and scrapes)
  • a cheerful little poem (for the figurative ones)
  • a little gift – because let’s face it, who doesn’t love a present?

Today, I left 40 little Valentine’s Poetry Plaster Packs around Penrith: under car window wipers, stuck to ATMs and inside phone boxes, on dryers in public toilets, and stuck to parking meters.


I’ve already had a couple of lovely comment from people. One recipient tweeted this:

While someone else emailed me via my website: ‘With my 3 year old daughter and locked my keys in the car.. your little plaster pack brightened up my day.. and the sweets kept my daughter entertained until the spare set got to me about 40 minutes later. So thank you.’

So far a success! Definitely more Poetry Plaster Packs to follow…

In other news, the Cumbrian weather finally feels like it’s turned (though I’ll say that cautiously, because I don’t want to jinx it). At least, it’s currently snowing, which makes a change from rain, and we’ve had a couple of sunny days, which have meant I’ve been able to go for little strolls along the lanes whenever I’m struggling with a piece of writing: something that never fails to help me find a solution.

The week in books:

  •  Duncan MacMillan, Lungs
  • Nick Payne, Constellations
  • Zinne Harris, How to Hold Your Breath
  • Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden

A week of theatre this week, in an attempt to keep myself in the playwriting zone. Death and the Maiden has been sitting on my bookshelf for sometime, just waiting to be read, so I figured it was probably about time to give it a whirl. Definitely a good decision to read it.

The other three are more recent plays, and are the three that I (perhaps rather extravagantly) bought last week at the National Theatre bookshop. But money spent on books is never a bad thing, and these three were all such great plays that I’m not sorry at all. How to Hold Your Breath is particularly one that stayed with me; after I read it on Tuesday night, I had a really unproductive morning on Wednesday, as I just couldn’t stop thinking about it! Definitely the mark of a good play.

The week in pictures:

My Writing Life: Week 6

It only feels like a day ago that I was writing last weekend’s blog post, and yet, it also feels like months ago… One of the sure signs of a busy week.

Busy, yes, but also satisfying, hugely enjoyable, and out of the ordinary. In fact, I’m beginning to think that this new life doesn’t have an ‘ordinary’ at all…


It’s been quite exciting admin-wise. During my day a week at Eden Arts, we set up and organised a monthly wordy open mic night, Word Mess, which will start in March. I’ve also been handing out leaflets and posters for the Three Inch Fools’ Easter Shakespeare workshops.

Aside from that, it’s been almost a direct split between writing and relaxation.

I spent a couple of days in London, staying with the lovely Supal for a much-needed catch-up and a wander round the capital. We spent a good deal of time in independent book and coffee shops – including the delightful Primrose Hill Books, where I impulse bought a book called The Penguin Lessons (about a teacher at an Argentinian boarding school who rescues a penguin from an oil spill and takes it to live on his terrace at the school). Because let’s face it: who can resist a book about a penguin…? Certainly not me!

I also finally made it to the Attendant Cafe. Attendant is an underground cafe, created in an old public toilet. I’d heard about it ages ago on a couple of travel blogs, and couldn’t wait to visit for myself. (I have a bit of an obsession with toilets; when I was travel blogging I used to publish a ‘Loo witha View’ series, of unusually beautiful views from toilets from my travels). Fittingly, then, this trip to Attendant also doubled up as a chance to chat about blogging and travelling with Supal, who runs chevrons & eclairs.

But London wasn’t all coffee and sightseeing. I also spent some time sitting in one of the work spaces in the National Theatre, via spending a little more money than intended at the National Theatre Bookshop. As you may guess from this week’s reading list (below), I’m currently in playwriting mode. I couldn’t think of a better place to work on a play than in a quiet corner of the National Theatre itself.

Back up north, I spent a day at a poetry workshop at Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery. Tullie House are currently hosting the National Portrait Gallery’s Picture the Poet exhibition. As part of the exhibition’s outreach programme, they’re working with Apples & Snakes to run poetry workshops (leading to a showcase) for groups around Cumbria. One of these groups consists of Tullie House Youth Panel, along with one of my young writers from New Writing Cumbria’s Rabbit Rabbit (rabbit) group. They’re working with poet Jenny Lindsay, who ran a fantastic worksop, as part of a series that will eventually lead to all of the young people writing an individual poem and a group piece.

Needless to say, I took advantage of the workshop and drafted a poem of my own. I may be attempting to focus on playwriting, but somehow poems just keep popping up in my head – and who am I to deny them their existence?

The week in books:

The week in books

  • Sarah Corbett, And She Was
  • Mark Ravenhill, Shopping and F***ing
  • Sarah Kane, Blasted
  • Tom Michell, The Penguin Lessons
  • April de Angelis, Plays: 1 [Ironmistress; Hush; Playhouse Creatures; The Positive Hour]

This week has been largely about drama. It’s been a mixture of re-reads (Blasted, Shopping and F***ing and Hush) and new reads (Ironmistress, Playhouse Creatures and The Positive Hour), which has been both fun and refreshing.

I also read Sarah Corbett’s And She Was, which has been sitting in my car for the past few months, begging to be taken inside / into a coffee shop and read. I saw Sarah perform at Ilkley Literature Festival, and got her book (along with Mona Arshi’s Small Hands, also published by Pavillion Poetry) shortly afterwards.

There was also, of course, the book about a penguin that I picked up in Primrose Hill. Because, once I’d bought it, I could hardly resist reading it, now, could I?

The week in pictures:

A little bit of everyday life this week, from insightful passages in books, to cafes, to birthday cake: