If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.

My ‘Create a Life you love this year’ 2020 diary….

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.
Some of the golden colours for my forthcoming collection, Let’s Dance
  • 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.
  • 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)…
Freya the Frog relaxes in her finery outside Nash House

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.

Sarah’s studio

I have news…

After months of hearing, thinking and talking about only the one thing, it is completely wonderful to be able to share some good news with you.

Firstly, I’m delighted to be one of the winners of the Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition with my manuscript Let’s Dance. This is the brainchild of poet and artist, Maria Isakova Bennett and her books are a little bit special, as they are all handstitched in silk covers.

coast to coast

And also this feels even more of a celebration because some of the poems in Let’s Dance began last year as part of a writing residency at the Alde Valley Spring Festival, and this year I’m very proud to be part of the Summer Festival there too, working with the artist Perienne Christian. Her work is stunning so I’m already inspired, and hopefully we will be able to meet in person at the Festival in Suffolk later this year. The Alde Valley Spring and Summer Festival is a very special event, and this year it has gone online so do take a look. Here’s a memory of writing at that time…

A third thing to say is something that has been so important to me that I want to mention it now but come back to later as I’ve so much to say! It was a real honour to be asked to write a module for The Literary Consultancy’s Being a Writer programme. My module centred around Dealing with Self Doubt and Imposter Syndrome – something I wonder if writers ever get over. Perhaps not as this quote from John Steinbeck illustrates:

I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.

There are things we can do though to help us keep going, and it was so interesting to explore all these, and to work out which were the best ones to fit into the programme. It was fabulous to work with the team at the Literary Consultancy, and I quickly found out how much they cared about the whole project so I do hope it helps people. If you have done the course, do let me know how you got on with it, and if you haven’t, it’s here! 

And lastly, one of the ‘other’ things on my mind recently, as I’m sure it has with you, are the issues raised by Black Lives Matter. It really is a time for me to listen and read and learn more. Here are just some of the books I’ve been turning to, and would recommend:

However, as this great article shows, there is a danger that ‘When black people are in pain, white people just join book clubs” so I’m also happy that, through a favourite ex-student at the LSE, I’ll be mentoring two black students on their academic writing. I’m lucky that I have transferable skills, but also fully intend that any mentoring is two-way.

It’s a privilege to be able to write all of this post, but also it’s important for me to recognise that I’ve been working hard to get to this position. One of the things that being in hospital and yes, recovering, has shown me is that I need to do what’s important to me – poetry, words, art, nature, sustainability, learning and being part of helping everyone reach their potential. I’ll be learning to say NO more this year if things don’t feel right.

Oh, and I forgot cake. Here’s another reminder why I’m so happy to be part of Alde Valley again this year…


Poems, poems, flying everywhere

If you’ve been walking round my town recently, you may have seen poems like bunting hanging outside a particular house. You may have been one of those I’ve overheard saying, ‘What are these?’, or even, ‘Only in Tunbridge Wells!’


Well, I’ve been very proud to have been that ‘mad poetry lady’ in the ‘mad poetry house’ and thanks to all my other mad poetry friends for letting me put their poems up for everyone to enjoy. I lost count of the photographs taken, people stopping to enjoy them, and even an impromptu reading as one woman read them out via Facetime to friends in Spain. I was particularly touched by one couple who said they came by every day to read one poem a day.


Funny how these things happen. I knew when I came out of hospital, I wanted to do something positive and as a writer, words are what I can use. And then one day, I wrote this poem (below) which was actually inspired by a yellow postcard I do have stuck rather inelegantly above my computer. It was only when I read the draft back that I realised I was telling myself what to do! It’s like the old saying has it, ‘I write to find out what I think’.



The poems are coming down tonight so I wanted to write this post, not just to find out what I think but to remember it too! (Thank you to fellow poet, Jess Whyte, some of whose photographs I have stolen to use above.)

Sarah Salway

Today I wonder whether to hang
bunting on the railings outside my home,
each triangle a dot or a dash
for passers-by to read in any direction.
I’ll watch them through my window,
see how their faces change as they realise
it’s a code that only some will break.

Above my computer is a yellow postcard
of a letterpress Morse alphabet.
Sometimes I tap words out with my fingers,
and as my hands remember the dance
of when they’d waltz on my old typewriter,
even my sleek silent keyboard shudders along
with every swing and ding of the carriage return.

We don’t catch strangers’ eyes these days
and it’s this I miss, those snatches
of conversations that won’t even take place
until later, in my mind, I fill in the gaps,
I’ve never told anyone this before but—

Something to do….


‘If  one day, you have no companion…’ That sounds such a sad phrase, but was probably one of the reasons why I loved this book, Something To Do, so much, I think. It never presumed you were going to be surrounded by friends. Most of the activities are quiet and creative. I wonder if this is why when I posted this morning on Facebook about it, so much of the love has come from fellow artists and writers? Personally I’m sure it helped to build my curiosity and ‘can-do’ muscles.

It’s based round the months of the year (think Lia Leendertz’s Almanac but with more games) and  has a special place on my desk bookshelf. I’ve been reading it again recently for a larger – secret – project I’m involved with. And you know what? It’s still brilliant. I’m not surprised that on my Facebook people have been been citing pages and activities they particularly liked and remembered. So here, for Frances and Hilary, is the fudge recipe (obviously I’d cooked it a bit messily several times) and ‘something to do with cotton reels’…


What a lovely thought that you might just have a wooden kitten needle and two spare cotton reels just hanging around!

It’s part of what makes this a highly comforting book: even though the authors, Septimus, are anonymous, they give the impression that they all hang out in each other’s kitchens (probably drinking gin and bitching about the kids, but who cares?), and the illustrations are by Shirley Hughes – how young must she have been then?


But it’s also full of facts about nature – I actually remember going out with this drawing and identifying buds…


… and it’s got poems in it – not as a chore to learn but offered as a possible pleasure!


In fact, I might just try to grow myself a pineapple plant this weekend…


Who else had it? And what do you remember doing from it?

News flash!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written flash.

Actually that’s a lie. I always write flash, even when I’m writing novels, especially my first Something Beginning With which was written as a form of alphabetical flash!

Better then to say that it’s been a long time since I sent my flashes out as possible little sparks rather than keeping them tucked up in my journal so it’s been lovely they have been finding homes. And to have the further good news that two of them have been chosen for both the forthcoming 2019 Best Microfiction and 2019 Best Shorts anthologies.

Here are those stories if you’d like to read them, thank you so much to all the editors for picking them:

I’m also really happy that another story, Safekeeping, will be in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, and will appear there for its first time.

A special thank you to the legendary Meg Pokrass for helping me get my Flash mojo back and being so encouraging.

In other news, I’m getting ready to be one of the writers in residence at the Alde Valley Spring Festival next month. If you’re in Suffolk and visiting the festival, do get in touch to say hello. It looks completely magic and I am counting the days.

But before that, there are still a few places left in my writing workshops on Sunday 5th May at Chiddingstone Literary Festival. The castle is another beautiful writing home, bursting with inspiration for us all. The books at the top are from the library, where the workshops will take place.

And of course, if you haven’t seen it, my TEDx talk is now up – In Praise of Every Day Words – it’s written especially for  all of us word geeks and dictionary nerds.

Lighting a candle for spring….

I’m so proud to be part of the Blackthorn Trust family as a trustee. This charity, situated in Barming near Maidstone, has been called an ‘oasis’ or ‘sanctuary’ for people at points of crisis in their life, whether that is mental or physical.

And as it’s based on Steiner principles, celebrating the change of seasons is important to us. This morning we celebrated Candlemas, that time halfway to spring, by gently lighting up the soil to wake the garden. The gardeners had dug a hole…


Which we – staff, trustees, volunteers, co-workers, friends – all then filled by going round in a circle ladling in hot wax…

Our ‘earth candle’ will be lit this afternoon and will burn for several nights. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the light returning and acknowledge stirrings in the soil, and as always the importance of rituals.


It’s also exciting to see the stirrings in the garden as our beautiful physic garden, designed by Marian Boswall, is coming into fruition. It will be officially opened on June 8th, and you are all invited. Come and celebrate with us!