Hey there. It’s been a while. After a sleepy start to the year, things have really picked up over the past three months, and now I’m not sure I’ve ever been busier. In a good way, though. Mostly.
Multiple deadlines have come at once. A couple of different bits of funding came through for different projects. And some pandemic-cancelled things have finally been able to happen.
So what’s been going on over the past few months?
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been on two writing residencies – both of which should have been last year, but were postponed because of the pandemic.
The first was at Moniack Mhor, in the Highlands of Scotland.
At the start of 2021, I was shortlisted for Moniack Mhor’s Jessie Kesson Fellowship. I didn’t get it – but instead, they very kindly offered me a place on one of their retreat weeks, which I was finally able to take them up on in April. I spent the week sitting in the traditional straw bale house (affectionately known as the Hobbit House), drinking coffee, basking in the heat of the log fire, and finishing the next draft of my second novel.
What made this experience even better, was being able to tag it onto the end of a two week holiday – driving Scotland’s North Coast 500, wandering along beautiful white-sand beaches, and wending between snow-capped peaks.
The second residency took me even further afield – to the Writers’ House in Tbilisi, Georgia!
In 2021, one of my short stories was shortlisted for the Desperate Literature Prize. Desperate Literature have a partnership with the Writers’ House – which means that one of the shortlist wins the Georgia Writers’ House Prize, and is awarded a ten-day residency in Tbilisi!
The residency space was stunning – but even more beautiful was the courtyard at the back, which was filled with trees and greenery, and dozens of little tables where I could sit and write. Which was perfect, because…
Over the past couple of months, I’ve had two major deadlines: at the end of April, I sent my second novel to my agent; at the end of May, I finished my first poetry collection.
In some ways, having two such massive deadlines back-to-back was stressful (especially with all the other work that’s been going on). In some ways, though, it’s been useful. I actually love editing. I think it’s much more straightforward to take something you already have and, like clay, to mould it into something better. I think it’s much more stressful starting with a blank page – and I also think it takes a different kind of thought process. It’s been useful being able to be in ‘editing mode’ for a while, even if it is for two different projects.
That said, the freelance life is all about juggling projects, right? And it isn’t like I haven’t also been in all those other modes over the past couple of months as well…
Ragged Edge Audio Adventure:
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with Ragged Edge Productions, on an audio adventure project. The project involved conversations with people from Ewanrigg estate in Maryport, facilitated and recorded by Stefan Escreet – which I then used as inspiration to write the commissioned poem. The poem, sections of audio, and music sung by the community choir were then combined with a walking route around the estate, and community performance along the route.
It was such a lovely project to be a part of – and I can’t wait to share the online version once it’s up and ready.
Kendal Poetry Festival:
This is probably the big one, which I’ve been working on a lot over the past couple of months. As well as being commissioned to create the annual Guerrilla Poetry strand, this year I’m also working as Festival Coordinator, supporting festival directors Kim Moore & Clare Shaw to deliver the festival (which runs 23-26 June, so if you haven’t already got your tickets, get them quick)!