Diffusion of Knowledge

Excellent things have been going on lately! I’ve been made student editor of Diffusion: Journal of Undergraduate Research at UCLan, and chaired my first meeting last week. The launch of Volume 3 was held at UCLan Book Exchange in the Student Union on 6th October. A journalist came around to interview us, and we’ve ended up taking over UCLan’s front page! (see here)

This is great publicity for the journal, as well as the univeristy, so I’m very pleased!

Also, I entered a poetry competition with United Press last month, and have won first place! It was a lovely surprise, so I wanted to say thanks to the United Press team.

Jake Hope, Head of Children’s Books with Lancashire Libraries has been in touch and I’ll be helping out at some of the children’s events in the area. Very excited about the Hoghton Tower event. If you’re interested in helping out at children’s library events in Lancashire, or are just looking for more information, send me a message and I’ll pass on your details.

Now… must find motivation to write my essay. Library times it is then.

LitFest, competitions and readings!

There seems to be an influx of art events this month, and I’m not quite sure where to begin!

I’ve recently put my name down to help at the Lancaster LitFest (14th-23rd October 2011). Volunteers are always needed for distibuting leaflets, ticket-selling and ushering at front of house. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and get yourself involved. There are some great events this year, and I’m particularly looking forward to the debate on controversy in children’s literature with Adèle Geras, Melvyn Burgess, Celia Rees, and Paul Magrs (3:30 pm, Sunday 23rd Oct). Tickets are £7.50/£6 (concs.) and can be bought here under “Pushing Boundaries”.

Red Squirrel Press, of Newcastle, have announced their 2011 James Kirkup Memorial Competition. You can enter one poem of up to 40 lines, the deadline is 31st December 2011, and the prize is the publication of your own poetry pamphlet. Entry is free! This is excellent, and I’ll be thinking long and hard about my submission. More information here.

The Preston Mental Health Forum are working hard to promote positive mental health in the Lancashire area, and have arranged an evening of poetry readings at The New Continental, in Preston. Information about the event can be found here, as this is a great chance to do something to raise awareness, and get your own poetry heard.

This is just a selection of upcoming events, and I’m so glad that Lancashire is doing it’s bit to promote the Arts. Well dones and back-slaps all around.

Refresh, Revamp.

So, my blog has been left dejected and rejected for too long. Time for an entry!

I’ve been busy writing my novel, which is going well, but I must keep at it. The story is taking shape and it is looking to be a YA fantasy. I’m hoping to have a browse through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook for publishers who look for teenage fiction. Anyone with any info about companies/publishers/YA fiction, please feel free to give me a message with your ideas.

However, my poetry is lying discarded in a dusty Word document which desperately needs to be opened…

Today has been a great day, as I finally started my Writing for Children MA at the University of Central Lancashire: lovely people, fabulous nibbles and a talk by Melvyn Burgess (I had an “is-he-really-in-this-room-oh-my-gosh” moment). I’m very much looking forward to this year and getting to know everyone better. Anyone wishing to know more about the MA can click here, as it is well worth looking into.

This year, UCLan plays host to the first ever Jacqueline Wilson Festival, which everyone here is very excited about. Jacqueline and illustrator Nick Sharratt will be coming in to give a workshop and conference from 18th-20th October 2011. Over the summer, the university ran competitions with local and nationwide primary school children to write stories and illustate book covers. The winners will have lunch with the author and illustator. I think this is going to be a great success. Information about tickets is available on the website above.

I have a new job, new flat, and some new motivation. Very positive.

 

Of Mutability

First of all, I’d just like to say a big thank you to those who’ve subscribed to my blog! It makes me feel all fuzzy inside when you click the follow button.

Secondly, I’ve now reached 8,000 words in my novel, which I’m very pleased about. This seems pitiful when Google tells me that the average novel is 60,000 exquisite words… My excuse is that I’m easily distracted, primarily by cake, thinking I have emails when I don’t, doodling pictures of sheep on my notepad and pretty much everything else in the world. So, 8,000 words deserves a nice pat on the head for me.

In other news, yesterday I was scouring the streets of Liverpool for some inspiration and came across News From Nowhere on Bold Street. This is an alternative bookstore with a vast supply of feminist, LGBT, political, social and poetry books, which left me drooling all over the place and attracting attention because I wouldn’t leave. This is an amazing place!

I was browsing/caressing the poetry shelves and came across Jo Shapcott’s Of Mutability (which I know is already famous and she is a goddess), and fell in love with it.

I’ve not been able to find my favourite online, but here is another from the collection which I find brilliant:

 

Procedure

 

This tea, this cup of tea, made of leaves,

made of the leaves of herbs and absolute

almond blossom, this tea, is the interpreter

of almond, liquid touchstone which lets us

scent its true taste at last and with a bump

in my case, takes me back to the yellow time

of trouble with bloodtests, and cellular

madness, and my presence required

on the slab for surgery, and all that mess

I don’t want to comb through here because

it seems, honestly, a trifle now that steam

and scent and strength and steep and infusion

say thank you thank you thank you for the then, and now

 

Whenever I read Shapcott’s work I find it faultless, so this collection has now been added to my wish list.

 

A Refreshing Whiff of Old-School

I have been reading Emergency Kit: Poetry for Strange Times (ed. Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney: Faber and Faber 2004) and have come across some poets that I probably would never have found out about otherwise. Overall I found the collection quite hit and miss – some of it really wasn’t for me. However, there are a few good’ns that need your full attention.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (does anyone have a pronunciation guide?) – I found her work refreshingly traditional in terms of imagery, with simple structures and narratives that fly me to Ireland and peaceful villages. I found her work very soothing at a time when I’ve been trying to write poems which are as abstract as possible! This poem in particular stuck out as something great:

Swineherd

When all this is over, said the swineherd,

I mean to retire, where

Nobody will have heard about my special skills

And conversation is mainly about the weather.

 

I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well

As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen

And polish the brass fenders every day.

I want to lie awake at night

Listening to cream crawling to the top of the jug

And the water lying soft in the cistern.

 

I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines

And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks,

Where it gets dark early in summer

And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.

*

I have spent the last few weeks trying to diverge from my own style as much as possible; experimenting with new and interesting ways of writing poetry (e.g. some of the John Cage I’ve been getting my teeth into). However, it was great to see Chuilleanáin’s simple style and appealling imagery still offering so much originality in a time when poetry has to be cut-up, layered and run through by a lawn mower to be taken notice of.

Hermione Granger: Feminist Icon

Having staggered home from the cinema in tears twice this week, I have finally ‘accepted’ that the Harry Potter franchise has reached its final film installment.

Harry Potter has played a massive part in my life, and ultimately helped me start writing. My undergrad dissertation was on feminism in children’s literature, including Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (don’t get me started), and much to my glee, The Goblet of Fire.

Earlier this week I came upon this article on Hermione Granger and thought it raised some very interesting points.

In my essay I focused mainly on the patriarchal hierarchy of the school and the times Hermione is seen as having “wept”, “squealed” and “cried” – weak actions in a very masculine setting. However, the Ms article really made me think of the possibilities that the character of Hermione has opened up to a generation of young women. She is described here as a “prominent social-activist”, a “passionate” woman and working in “true feminist fashion”. J.K. Rowling has helped create a feminist ideal where equality is the top priority: in interviews Rowling has stated that after Hogwarts, Hermione enters a career in Magical Law Enforcement, specialising in the equal treatment of muggle-borns and all magical creatures.

Perhaps I’m being nostalgic about my favourite childhood character, but I think that Hermione sticks out as important figure in a world populated by Bella Swans and Sleeping Beauties.

Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of her age: I salute you!

Calling all confused Creative Writing students!

I was talking to a Creative Writing student from a nearby university yesterday about his course. We were comparing poetry and I noticed a greater variety of styles in his than in my own. Puzzled and with the molten pangs of jealousy I asked him about this. Throughout his course he had been reading, “Poems for the Millenium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry (Vol: 2)” ed. by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris.

This book is now open on my desk and I can’t put it down. It covers so much that I wish I’d known throughout university.

You must own this book! My friend will have to prise his copy from my rigoured fingers…

Bad to Verse…

For those who follow the poetry news, it seems things aren’t going to plan at The Poetry Society…

However, I’m seeing this as an incentive to get writing!

I’m just printing off my poem, “Craft”, for the Elmet Trust poetry prize (closing date 15th July) and hopefully can send off a poem for the National Poetry Competition later today.

The National Poetry Competition is judged by Colette Bryce, John Glenday and Jackie Kay and closed on 31st October 2011 (see details on site above).

It’s looking like it’s going to be another gorgeous day – even if we all nearly melted onto the tarmac yesterday – so it seems like an opportune moment to gambol in the fields and write a poem, if you can get past your hayfever.

My Love is like…

Love poetry: I can’t stand it. I can’t read it and, try as I grudgingly might, I can’t write it either.

However, I came across something on my internet ramblings that struck me as something quite genius-like! This poem won joint-second prize in the 2010 National Poetry Competition.

Wish” – Josephine Haslam

I give you my wish; my half of the bird’s
fused clavicle picked clean of flesh. I give
you its winged thinness and its seed head curve
to stand for everything I own and love.
And though I want it most to be the one
that brings you back as surely as the bird
that turns for home, it isn’t that.
Nor is it the unearthed bone from Grimm
that speaks the truth and knows its provenance;
but only what we’ve taken from the supermarket hen
we cooked for lunch. Still, it’s this
they say will bring you all you long for.
But if that doesn’t happen, know that every bone I have
is for you a wishing bone and every wish,
for you, the best there is. And if
when it comes down to it and we’re all done
the bone is all that’s left, I’ll give you my tibia
and fibula, the femur, knuckle, pelvic girdle, skull,
this finger with its ring on, spine that holds me up,
every part in fact of the empty cage that’s held
the inner workings of the heart, the breathing lungs.

The bone metaphor is so simple and yet grows and gathers momentum as the poem goes on. Not only is the poem something external, a symbol looked at over dinner, but also a bodily structure and a metaphor of sturdiness and even life after death.

Lately, my metaphors and limited symbolism have been flying a little skew-whiff. So I am going to try and follow Haslam and stick to one idea throughout – maybe overcoming my nausea towards love poetry?

The Big One: The Bridport Prize

Time to enter one of the most prestigious writing awards in the UK is running out! 30th June will be the last day to enter The Bridport Prize this year, so get sending!

Poetry should be no more than 42 lines, short fiction no longer than 5,000 words, and flash fiction no more than 250 words.

Entry fees range between £5 and £7 per submission.

Judges include Carol Ann Duffy and A.L. Kennedy.

The top prize is £5,000! Definately one to put on your resume…