Thank you, London Grip, for this wonderful review of Six-Count Jive

Some writers (actors, musicians, artists) say reviews don’t matter. They never bother to look because what’s important is the work and not being deflected from that. But a review is posted today that understands not only my poetry but my life so deeply and sensitively that I am moved to tears.

London Grip has posted Stephen Claughton’s wonderful review of Six-Count Jive here.  Enjoy!

You can find other reviews of my writing here.

Fancy getting hold of a copy to see for yourself? This link will help you.

A couple of thoughts, by the way:

Is each page of Six-Count Jive a single poem? The sequence consists of 93 little stanzas of seventeen syllables each. Mostly they’re grouped three to each page, until the last page where there are four. This was purely by chance. While my publisher Dennis Greig and I were putting the proofs together earlier this year, he started off putting six to a page – in deference to the title, he said, but I suspect he was trying to save paper too. I thought that these intense little pieces needed more space to breathe and managed to persuade him that three on a page would work better. There’s a place in my heart where I would love to see a copy where each 17 has its own page 🙂

Claughton mentions a note in Bittersweet Seventeens. This beautiful, little note, called The Ginger Jar, explains haiku and whether or not my seventeens fit the genre. Some readers have assumed that I wrote it but it was by Dennis, my publisher. At the time, I tried to persuade him to take the credit but he’s too modest and left it anonymous.

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Happy reading!

Rose Lane Writers start soon at #Canterbury Waterstones

Since 2011, I have been running informal writing groups to share the tricks and skills I’ve picked up through more than twenty-five years of published novels, drama, humour, journalism and poetry. Several of my ‘alums’ have become full-time writers, some are working with agents and publishers, others have successfully self-published and many of them are proud to have finished drafts for the first time in their lives.

Are you longing to write a book and have no idea where to start? Have you stopped and would love to find your way again? Are you well on your way and would just love some writing company and a few tips? You will be welcome to join me in ROSE LANE WRITERS.

Who is welcome?

Everyone.

Cost?

The sessions are free.

Where?

This new group will meet in the café on the first floor of Waterstones in Canterbury, Kent, UK.

When? 

We plan to meet between 10am and noon on the 2nd Monday of each month, starting on Monday 8 July 2019. You needn’t bring anything but your imagination and favourite writing materials. There will be a break at half-time for tea and coffee.

What will we do?

We start with a bit of free-flow writing to get us limbered up. This can be tremendously liberating, no waiting for inspiration, no redrafting, who cares if it’s a bit rough. Like all creativity, writing combines adventure with planning and the quality of what we write in short bursts often surprises us. Something magic happens and our writing takes off in its own intoxicating direction. Come and try with us and you’ll soon know what I mean.

I do all the exercises alongside you, by the way, and sometimes we read aloud what we’ve written, sometimes we don’t. There is no need to read aloud if you don’t want to. Sometimes, even if you have all the confidence and experience in the world, an exercise can bring up something that should stay private. My advice is to write it as honestly and deeply as you can and decide later if you want to reveal it to anyone else. Your privacy is sacrosanct.

We study the craft. Each session has a theme designed to help you avoid pitfalls I’ve learned the hard way. I guide discussions about where to start your writing, how to develop characters, how to find your theme and throughline, whether to self-publish or find an agent – that sort of thing. Coming up to the summer, we concentrate on tricks of the craft like the best uses of point of view and dialogue. Our sessions in the autumn are usually about getting deep into our fictional characters. Spring is one of my favourite times when we look at classic plots and genres.

Our exercises and discussions help writers of non-fiction as well as fiction. It’s all about how best to engage our readers and hook them in with good narrative drive.

Each session has a workshop element too. You are invited to bring about three pages (max, 1500 words please) of your writing to read to the group if you’d like to. It doesn’t have to be the best piece you’ve ever produced – work in progress is fine – and I make sure that feedback is positive, constructive and relevant. I do not permit feeding frenzies of criticism in my groups.

Writing and imagination are like muscles. If they are flexed and enjoyed often, they get stronger and will reward you in more ways than you ever dreamt possible.

If you would like to come, please let me know first – rosiejohnstonwrites@gmail.com or through Facebook. Thank you. 

See you soon!

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Words on Waves – Thursday 4 July at Harbour Books #Whitstable

Our next Words on Waves, Thursday, 4 July 2019 (6.45pm) is a wonderful collection of local talent of all kinds. One of the beauties of these evenings is we never know whether we’ll hear fiction, memoir, drama, poetry, music or a fusion of everything. This month we will hear singer-songwriter Jacqui Selby’s brilliant songs performed with her usual verve, and writing from Nick Hayes, Hilary Rouse-Amadi, Louise O’Connell, new poet in residence of Apotheca, Faversham – Melinda Walker, Pauline Holmes. and artist and poet Clair Meyrick

Our AUGUST Words on Waves – on Thursday, 1 August – will be an OPEN MIC WITH MUSIC! For just £3 each as usual, including wine, you are welcome to come and hear open mic readers alternating with musicians between 7pm and around 10pm. Would you like to read? You’ll be very welcome! Please

  • sign up on the evening
  • to read for up to five minutes.
  • All genres are welcome! Why not give it a go?

Words on Waves is a series of monthly spoken word evenings at HARBOUR BOOKS, WHITSTABLE. Tickets at only £3 each include Prosecco and I am your host. You can book your seat by phoning 01227264011 or calling into the shop.

If you would like to showcase your writing for ten minutes at a regular Words on Waves event, please contact me rosiejohnstonwrites@gmail.com or staff at the shop – we’d love to welcome you.

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Thank you, Thanet Writers, for this great review of Six-Count Jive

This morning, I woke with Nina Simone in my head – ‘It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling … ‘ – you know the rest 🙂

Then, with my first cup of tea of the day, I found myself directed to the website of Thanet Writers and this marvellous review by Kent poet, Setareh Franklin. Franklin writes:

As a reader I could feel the protagonist’s desperate exhaustion at their abuse and its repetition, as well as the contrast of their light-feeling liberation when they become free from it.

This collection would be very supportive and immediately understood by anyone experiencing or anyone who has experienced abuse. However, due to the accessible layout of the writing and the way that this allows you to really concentrate on what’s been written, as well as the considered, beautiful, delicate language and imagery used, there is plenty for any reader to take away. 

The sparseness of language in this collection contrasts with, as well as helps to reflect, the heaviness of the subject. Subjects that are so hard to understand because they are so awful, like abuse or war, can be hard to write about because they can feel so overwhelming that there’s often no language to convey how terrible they are. Therefore, trying to write about them can become a secondary frustration, however the silence left by Johnston’s light touch reflects the corrosive silence present in abusive situations, allowing the subject matter to speak for itself. There is a fragility to the images used within Six-Count Jive, as well as natural imagery. One of my favourite lines within the collection is an example of the latter, when Johnston writes, “She lives in a glacier,” which perfectly reflects the main character’s isolation.

Six-Count Jive creates some order in writing out of the chaos of life. It also feels very healing, as writing often can be. It’s good that this collection came out of such a subject matter. It was brave of Johnston to write this collection. The lasting image of Six-Count Jive, the title idea of the jive—mentioned twice in the book—is its final, strongest, parting idea; despite everything covered in the collection, the reader is left with the idea of a dance, something joyful and freeing.

Thank you very much, Setareh Franklin, for your sensitive appreciation.

Six-Count Jive is above all a story of healing and freedom. If you or anyone you know would like a copy, you can get hold of Six-Count Jive here.

Have a happy day!

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‘From the edge’ poetry magazine

Today is doubly exciting – an extract from my latest book Six-Count Jive (published by Lapwing Publications in March this year) is in Fiona Sinclair’s new ‘From The Edge‘ online poetry magazine. These are some of the darker stanzas about my PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that I do not usually include in readings, in keeping with the magazine’s wish to give:

a platform for poetry that has something authentic to say. Whose subject matter is honest and perhaps gives voice to those at the edges of human experience. 

We want poetry that is not safe or contrived, that does not follow fashions or trends but is committed to the writer’s craft and exhibits a virtuoso use of language. 

Congratulations, Fiona Sinclair, on giving breath and space to poetry like this.