Happy New Year!

IMG_2495An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in; a pessimist stays up to make sure the old year goes away. Whatever you do this evening, I wish you a very happy, healthy, loved 2020.

For anyone with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, life can feel as if we’re always navigating a tiny boat on a huge, turbulent sea. Occasionally we send up distress flares but usually we manage to keep smiling, keep going forward and to most other people, we look absolutely fine. That’s what we aim for anyway. This year has thrown some substantial CPTSD storms my way but it has also been one of glorious writing company and a lot of major steps forward for me.

Thank you very much to Dennis Greig of Lapwing Publications in Belfast who, in spite of his own huge health difficulties, published my Six-Count Jive at the end of March 2019. This book combines highlights from my already published 17s with a lot of new work, all combining to give a picture of my past ten years of CPTSD that has resonated far more widely than I could ever have dreamt. It has received outstanding reviews in The Lake Poetry magazine (the same review also appeared in High Window), London Grip, The Poetry Shed and Thanet Writers. Very many thanks to these reviewers who took the time to understand Six-Count Jive and write about it so sensitively.

To honour Dennis and Rene Greig and their decades of excellent work at Lapwing, poet Peter Pegnall organised two wonderful events in Belfast and I was honoured to be asked to read at both. Here is Peter introducing Dennis and Rene who both read from their own years of writing.

71928446_10158608514492835_2652162749324328960_oI have lived in England for most of my life but Belfast will always be my home city and these two events touched my heart in ways I didn’t expect. Together with a wonderful reunion with some of my school friends from Coleraine High, they left me a sense of belonging I hadn’t known for many years.

That said, I am hugely grateful to live among the marvellous writers of the north Kent coast. What a warm, exciting, uplifting bunch they are. Thanks and hugs to everybody who invited me to come and read this year, from Faversham to Margate via the Canterbury Festival, and for their own marvellous words. Thanks to everyone who came to read and listen at Words on Waves in Whitstable – now WORD OF MOUTH #WHITSTABLE at the Umbrella Café, especially our full-house Christmas party on 5 December, featuring poetry with an international flavour, a wonderfully spooky Christmas story and dance music from the marvellous Useless Pluckers. Our fabulous new line-ups for 2020, booked until May, are on the events page here.

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This summer I started a new writing group in Canterbury Waterstones – Rose Lane Writers – along the lines of the group I’ve been facilitating in Cambridge since early 2011. It’s inspirational to study our craft and scribble together among those packed book shelves ; all those published writers started somewhere. The atmosphere among the writers is generous and warm and I am thrilled to call many of them my friends. It’s always a pleasure to start my week with them.

The Churchill Writers at Churchill College, Cambridge have had an outstanding year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed rather than name potentially famous names just yet but there have been several big steps forward among the writers and leaps in confidence for those who are less experienced.

IMG_6918We had a week’s display of the group’s published material in the college library (thank you, Annie Gleeson) and have gathered writing together for our first anthology – it should be available by next March. I could not be more proud of these writers, many of whom came to my groups with no more than a passion to write. Their diligence and talent are outstanding. They are also wonderful company!

Poems of mine have been published in Words for the Wild this year, twice, on the Mary Evans Picture Library’s Poem and Pictures blog again and, if you scroll down, in London Grip’s new poetry for Winter 2019. I’ve continued to review some very exciting subject matter for London Grip too: you can find it here.

It’s time now for me to find that margarita with my name on it. I wish you a wonderful evening, whatever you do, and every happiness and joy with your writing in 2020.

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