And oh how I’ve laughed when I look back at my plans for this year…. although actually there has been a lot of laughter in 2020. A lot of crying too. A lot of looking at the wall and wondering what it’s all about. A lot of putting down books because I just didn’t have the concentration. A lot of giving up. And a lot of hard work. A lot of hard writing. A lot of heart searching. And hurrah hurrah, a lot of getting better.
Perhaps most of all, an awful lot of ‘well, what a year’s’, and ‘unprecendented times’, and ‘in this strange period,’ and has that cliche of ‘take care, take safe’ ever meant so much?
Anyway normally at this time of year, I’m enthusiastic about looking back and making plans for the future. I’m a Virgo. Alphabeticised lists of goals are what we dream about, but somehow that seems a little rash at the moment.
But then I started to get a little sad about whether I’d achieved anything this year (apart from surviving my covid induced hospital stay back in March, of course) and it turns out I’m actually pretty proud of myself. My own field of research is the power invested in the stories we tell about ourselves, and that we let others tell about us, so it felt more than a little of a ‘physician heal thyself’ moment.
Imagine my surprise that it turns out this year has NOT been a total right-off. And I don’t necessarily have to remember it as just the year I survived Covid. I really do suggest you do something like this too – sometimes we are so focused on what we need TO-DO that we forget what we actually have DONE.
So here’s my DONE list. I’ve written about some of these before, so bear with, bear with… and do forgive me tooting my own horn a like this, it also gives me a chance to thank some of the wonderful people I’ve walked a little beside this year. These are in no particular order (see that’s me throwing caution to the wind)…
- I HAVE managed to get back to some kind of normality health-wise. And am so grateful to have a raft of people helping me – so here is my ‘team’ who all come thoroughly recommended: First of all, of course, the amazing staff at Pembury Hospital, who continued to keep in contact with me after my ‘release’, especially lovely nurse, Alice King. Then there’s Anja, masseur extraordinaire. Emma, Reiki master and friend. My therapist Rachel, who managed to move me from a place of extreme anxiety about nearly everything to being able to admit that I needed therapy, Helen, who kept me (sort-of) bendy, and lastly Uli, the homeopath who asked all the right questions and listened to the answers.
- I’ve written every week with two poet friends, Jill Munro and Sian Thomas. We’ve given each other the oddest prompts including tomato ketchup, Shepherd’s pie, running socks, and post-it notes – and still managed to make poems out of them. Many of mine have since even been published, including a highly commended in the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition (that prompt was Bubbles)
- I’ve had two books accepted for publication next year. Let’s Dance will come out with Coast to Coast to Coast in the spring – these are beautiful textile pieces of art, highly limited numbers, and I’m already in love with the gorgeous golden yellow silks my poems will be wrapped in (see below). Yum. And a book of very short fictions, Not Sorry, will come out next year with Valley Press.
- I was lucky enough to teach a four-week zoom course with one of my favourite poets, teacher and now friend, Holly Wren Spaulding, based around Joy Harjo’s book, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.
- My Reading Round group for the Royal Literary Fund has continued weekly on-line. The model is simple but so effective, I read out loud a poem and a short story I’ve chosen, and then we discuss. As one member said in quite possibly my favourite quote ever, ‘Belonging to the Groucho club could not compare with friendship from all the warm, clever members of the Lit.group.’ I agree.
- The artist Perienne Christian and I collaborated over zoom and emails right at the beginning of lockdown for the Alde Valley Festival.
- I contributed a module to The Literary Consultancy’s Being A Writer programme. This was on Dealing with Self Doubt and Imposter Syndrome – a subject I’m passionate about, so expect to hear more in the future.
- I’ve also taken loads of (for me) small creative risks – including hanging poems outside my house, writing about my experiences with covid, sending work to the New Yorker (I KNOW!), taking part in a wonderful on-line course on playwriting with Live Canon, and inviting my neighbours to dress up our frogs for Christmas (we live in Frog Lane)…
So what next? Do I dare… HELL YES, I DO. I have plans!!
First of all, this website is being revamped completely very very soon. I’ve been working with Kate and Hanna at BGSD who have created something very special. Watch this space. Literally this space…, the website address will remain the same. There will be free stuff too – including a 30 day prompt challenge to take whenever you want!
I am also missing teaching. As some of you reading this will know, the University of Kent shut the Tonbridge campus where I did most of my short courses, so I’ve been thinking about other options.
First off, I will be launching a newsletter through Substack which will be like a monthly workshop, with prompts, reading suggestions and writing thoughts. The first will be come out in the new year, and will be free with a turbo charged subscription open. Sign up details will come shortly.
And then all going well, I’m also moving house. Our new home is in need of some serious care right now so we haven’t moved in properly but it has the perfect teaching space. Look… and imagine… hopefully I’ll see you for a workshop there soon.