On not completing poetry and the near future…

So, didn’t quite achieve a poem a day like last year. Partly because I’m writing up, partly because of the onslaught of bad news, partly because I didn’t have a solid theme. I will do better next year!

Follow the route against the current. (River Goyt through Woodbank Park, Stockport, Greater Manchester.)

Follow the route against the current. (River Goyt through Woodbank Park, Stockport, Greater Manchester.)

All concentration is now focussed on finishing my PhD thesis – not as easy a task as it sounds. Writing up various notes, editing bits that – whoops – are currently ropey and need smoothing and/or expanding. And I’m thinking of the future. I was worried last September that time had zoomed by and that I would be unemployed/underemployed/unemployable by October 2017. Basically, I love this job. I love the mix of outreach which has incorporated teaching/tutoring creative writing, the research, and writing. Statistically, however, I may not be able to break into an academic role. I’m not as worried now, though; I’m sure that I can use this academic knowledge to share skills in different, possibly unorthodox ways! I am confident in my skills as a speaker/teacher, even with some “stage fright” at conference times. (Anyway, public speaking is just acting, like creative writing is acting.) While my research is niche, I do have publishing ideas with the work I’ve done so, hopefully, I can get that out there when I’ve finished. Finally, being “Doctor B” will be awesome (no, not that sort of Doctor but I can pop you in the recovery position if need be).

So yes, there will be more poetry/writing but it may be after I’ve finished this 80,000ish word document!

And with that – back to writing Rochdale.

The research rollercoaster – final year of phd

Second year turned out to be a mixture of doubt and epiphany, success and strife. There were many moments of joy; I won a couple of prizes, I’ve run workshops, I’ve developed a bond with the borough of Rochdale, and I feel like I know the shape of my thesis even though I’m struggling at times to find the words.  At the same time there have been moments of family illness, random events, relationship tension, that seasonal sadness that bites in November and will not unclasp its jaws until March.

Those elusive words, sliding along the tracks, their sounds captured in the clouds.

Those elusive words, sliding along the tracks, their sounds captured in the clouds.

And this summer too has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Not a smooth rollercoaster, more like a Blackpool rollercoaster; sometimes fun, sometimes whiplash inducing painful.  It’s been hard to summon up the “WOO!” at times. And often I feel like I’m falling or failing, the lap bar barely keeping me secure.

Negotiating the metal tangle: materials that endure, some have been there before and will remain long after.

Negotiating the metal tangle: materials that endure, some have been there before and will remain long after, all will be ephemeral.

The research rollercoaster is an intriguing ride – possibly white knuckle – but ultimately the aim is to not only improve my own skills (I love learning, a little unsure as to whether I’m any good at it but I love it) but also to add to an argument, to try, in my own small way, to make a positive difference. It seems that there is a common assertion, or assumption, that a PhD is an isolated experience. It’s really not. Yes you are becoming a specialist in your own niche of a niche, but you do so in collaboration. If it were not for the encouragement of Dr David Cooper and the rest of my fantastic supervisory team (Doctors: Rachel Dickinson, Julie Armstrong, Kirsty Bunting and Jane Turner) I think I may have given up, accepted defeat. And I owe it to a borough – messy, weird, wonderful, challenging, complex – and the people within it who have been so generous with their time. And I owe it to my friends, all those loved ones. The shoulders of many, many giants giving me that boost and view (and what a view). Yes, a PhD represents your hard work, your figuring out, but no: you are not alone.

OK final year, I’m ready for you. Bring it.

*Clanking up the lift hill, arms in the air, ready for the drop*

Clanking up the lift hill, arms in the air, ready for the drop.

Read & Feed: research meets real life

Over August I’ve been involved in Smallbridge Library’s Read & Feed project. As it pertains to Rochdale there’s more about this on the Writing Rochdale blog. It’s not strictly PhD related – although I will be reflecting upon all work I’ve been doing over the last two and a bit years in the borough – I thought I’d mention it here too! It’s been an absolute privilege to share my practice and learn from the young people of Smallbridge.

First blog: reading, writing, social justice and sandwiches.owlSecond blog: Don’t call me Miss.

Dragon graphic novel

The final blog will up be after the celebration event on the 2nd Sept so keep an eye out!

Sunday Funday!

Click the picture to go to the MCBF website.

Click the picture to go to the MCBF website.

“Louder!” shouted the King of the Sea, “LOUDER!”. So Sadko plucked the strings of his gusli as hard as he could. Then the sea creatures joined in the party: the crabs started to pinch in time with their claws, the swordfish span and become a huge swirl of silver, clams cracked and snapped their calcified lips together. “Faster!” demanded the King of the Sea, “FASTER!” So Sadko played faster, and the creatures danced wildly. Suddenly, Volga Matushka shouted,”Stop! Stop! Sadko, can’t you see that the music is making a giant whirlpool and all the ships sailing across the world are caught in it? If you don’t stop they will surely be pulled down to the bottom of the ocean.”

In action: Sadko is seasick! Storytelling in the cosy Manchester Children's Book Festival Story Tent. Picture taken by Kaye Tew of MCBF. 17th April 2016.

In action: Sadko is seasick! Storytelling in the cosy Manchester Children’s Book Festival Story Tent. Picture taken by Kaye Tew of MCBF. 17th April 2016.

On Sunday, I told a tale based on a traditional Russian ballad of Sadko the musician and his unrequited love for Volga Matushka – the mightiest river of Russia, the longest river in Europe, one of the most beautiful of all rivers AND the daughter of the party-loving King of the Sea!  I was so chuffed to be invited by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival Team to share this story and sing songs with the children (and their mums and dads).

We had some good sea sick wobbling, loud partying, banging of musical instruments by the audience as we all tried to make sure that the King of the Sea was obeyed!  Pinguino, the penguin from Antarctica, got a few hugs as well.  (He’s quite a daredevil penguin and told me in secret that he loved the cuddles from the girls and boys and their parents. So, shhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you…)

What a lovely day and such a fab audience!  The event was well organised and I’m looking forward to popping into the next ones as a punter and will bring at least one of my army of nieces along :-)

This event is one of many leading up to an absolutely marvellous and magical looking Children’s Book Festival for June.  The Children’s Book Festival Fun Day on Saturday 25th June looks absolutely super!

Look what I found drifting in the waters of the Volga...

Look what I found drifting in the waters of the Volga…

Huge thanks to James and Amy for being the river Volga and to Stu from Hobgoblin Music Manchester who fixed up Sadko’s gusli!  There are a few versions of this story and mine was a combination of the story retold by Aaron Shepard and snippets from Baba Yaga stories (in my story – it is the Baba Yaga who curses the King of the Sea).  The lyrics and the song I sang were based on ‘The River Flows’ by Coope, Boyes, and Simpson.

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo #1 – Hollingworth Lake

The first prompt from NaPoWriMo’s is to write a poem of negation. So, here goes…

Hollingworth Lake, image from Friends of Hollingworth Lake (links to website).

Hollingworth Lake, image from Friends of Hollingworth Lake (links to website).

Hollingworth Lake

It will not drain the sun,
nor spill over from the moon.

It’s not made from your heart
nor from your darkened lungs,

the cillia fanning out
drifting in a flesh vacuum.

The breath from your body
doesn’t even leave a ripple.

Its tide is not pulled by birds
and words are not enough to make it

language is not deep enough
to skim the bottom of the lake.

Happy May & next poetry event

Summer’s a coming in! After Beltane, the festival of bright fire and fertility, it’s May day. It’s a day of tradition in the UK – of old pagan ritual, of celebrating workers’ rights.

And to welcome in the summer further, and to celebrate women’s rights and writing, the next event that I’m doing is the Loose Muse Anthology launch at 3 Minute Theatre in Manchester. I’ll be reading the two poems that were accepted for this book: ‘Polar bear hunting’ and ‘The Owl and the Raven: an Inuit legend’. I’m a bit excited by this.

If you can make it, do come along; 3MT is a lovely, quirky venue nestled on the ground floor of Afflecks Palace.

The spring has sprung & events have been updated!

Happy Vernal Equinox, the day where light is equal to darkness. As the spring rain tips down in Manchester, one of my beloved cats wanders in damply, she shakes her beautiful tabby fur and makes a weird gutteral mewl; she is not impressed!

Although my feline friends don’t realise that, as the leaves continue to uncurl, in my more human world I’ve been plotting, planning, scheming and scribbling. Have a look at the Upcoming Events page on this website for more information. I’ll be adding more performances and workshops over the next month or so.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of that cat I mentioned. I need to nip to the shop and I think she’d like to help me!

Willow wonders if she can come too...

Storytelling at Willow Grove – 9th November

Willow Grove Cemetery Heritage Open Day

www.willowgrove.org.uk

I will be telling tales of Reddish, a small village in Stockport. I’m very excited about this; the cemetery opened in 1877 so the stories will be Victorian themed!

I’ll be leading three storywalks around the cemetery. Come along and learn about the cemetery as I bring some of the cemetery’s residents back to life through retelling their stories.

For more information on Willow Grove Cemetery, go to www.willowgrove.org.uk.

Next session – Saturday 31st August, 1- 3pm

Wild Writes! is a series of workshops for families during August. All sessions are run from Reddish Vale Country Park in association with the Friends of the Vale group.

This Saturday we’ll be doing a storywalk, looking at the nature in an area of the park and trying to find some special guests who may be hiding! Then families and children will have the opportunity of making their own storywalk and leading other people on a magical trip.

1pm – Storywalk and story hunting in Reddish Vale Country Park
2pm – Making our own stories – families and children have the opportunity to write and map out their own tale


Maybe we’ll see sand martins and bees, but will we find the goblins here tomorrow?