My Writing

PosAbility magazine article

I have spent this evening curled up listening to the summer rain while drinking (decaf) coffee and reading through the 50th issue of PosAbility magazine.

This wonderful disability lifestyle magazine has been around for five years now. I’ve been a subscriber for part of that time and always enjoy reading each issue, from travel features to advice on disability related topics. This 50th edition sees the magazine have a total redesign, making it look much more modern and engaging.

PosAbility article

And I’m very happy to have a feature in this special issue of PosAbility! I talk about disabled student support (which seems to becoming my area of expertise!), reflecting on my journey from nervous fresher to completing my MA.

I write about disability a lot as it’s an area where I have a lot of lived experience to draw on, and I love sharing my experiences in the hope that they will help others who are going through similar things.

Uncategorized

A wonderful few days

I’ve had a very wonderful few days. On Saturday, after over a year of planning, I married Gary at a magical ceremony and reception at Drayton Manor. Beforehand Gary had been adamant he wasn’t going to cry, but as soon as I came down the aisle he was wiping his eyes – as was I. We’ve been together for nearly nine years and to have a day dedicated to us, shared with so many friends and family, was just perfect.

Wedding group

We had photos in the beautiful hotel grounds and then the two of us were whisked on a buggy into the theme park to pose on the carousel and by the lake as day trippers gave us bemused and friendly waves. After a lot of smiling for the camera and trying not to trip on my dress, we were back to the hotel and a delicious vegetarian three course meal, followed by speeches. I was impressed that our best man, Dan, managed to squeeze two Simpsons references into his speech – Gary and I are both big fans.

For the evening do, Gary’s band Skybald played a set that went down well with our guests, followed by a disco (that one of our guests declared had ‘the best set list ever’) and karaoke. We were fuelled by a pizza buffet and slices of our vegan wedding cake. The day went by so quick, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

It feels weird to think that the wedding is done, after such a long build up. Still, we have our honeymoon to Italy to look forward to, and I’m also very excited about receiving the images from our photographer in a few weeks’ time.

Caroline and Gary

Just four days after the best day of my life came another big event: my graduation. It has taken five years part time to get here, but I now have my MA in the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing, graduating with a Distinction. Staffordshire University hold their graduation ceremonies in the beautiful Trentham Gardens in Stoke-on-Trent. As it (mostly!) did for the wedding day, the rain held off and I was able to enjoy posing in the gardens in my cap and gown.

So that’s two major life events in less than a week! I’m now thinking ahead to my future – my future with my husband, my future as a writer, and my future academically. I have some ideas as to where I want to be, and I’m excited as I look ahead.

My Writing

Able magazine article

I’m happy to have an article in the July / August issue of the wonderful magazine Able. In the piece, I share my experience of being a disabled student and accessing support at university.

Disability is one of the key areas I write about. I am also passionate about higher education – I work in HE, and really believe in its transformative potential. I’ve written before about being a disabled student, and it’s good to be adding Able magazine to my portfolio.

You can read my article in the print magazine or their digital edition which is available here.

My Writing, Travel, Uncategorized

DadaFest Artist Development Programme and a day in Liverpool

Today I had a wonderful time exploring the city of Liverpool. I was there for a meeting with the disability arts organisation DaDaFest about being supported by their Artist Development Programme.

Blue Coat LiverpoolDadaFest are based at the Bluecoat creative hub in the city centre, in a characterful historic building. It was a really positive chat and I left feeling excited about what’s on offer, in particular setting up mentoring for me with an established writer to further develop my creative practice. I’ve now got some thinking to do around what support in particular I’d like from the programme to help with my writing career. This year I’m making a real push with my writing, and being part of DaDaFest’s Artist Development Programme looks set to be a big help.

My fiancé Gary and I then had a few hours to ourselves in Liverpool. I’ve only been once before, even though it’s not that far from Stoke, so it was good to have an excuse to explore. At Sam from DaDaFest’s recommendation, Gary and I headed to The British Music Experience on the Liverpool Waterfront.

The museum traces the history of British rock and pop from the mid-twentieth century through to the present day and has a whole lot of costumes, instruments and memorabilia, from the inevitable Beatles members’ guitars through to Geri Halliwell’s (in)famous union flag dress. Gary and I both love music and enjoyed exploring its history.

Caroline GuitarThe museum has selection of instruments for visitors to play, so Gary and I had a bit of time trying out various guitars. Gary showed off his shredding and serenaded me with songs from his band, Skybald (who have a gig coming up in Stoke, local music fans!), while I tried to remember the bit of Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day songs I learnt years ago (it’s a while since I picked up a guitar). We’d definitely recommend The British Music Experience if you’re ever in Liverpool.

There were several museums and art galleries that we didn’t get a chance to visit today, but we will definitely be returning to this vibrant city.

 

 

My Writing, Travel, Uncategorized, Workshop

A week at an Arvon course

Recently, I was lucky to spend a week away at Arvon’s The Hurst writers’ centre in the beautiful Shropshire hills.

As I sat in the bright book-filled lounge with eleven other writers who’d travelled from all over, including one from the US, I wondered whether I’d made the right decision coming here. A week dedicated to writing was a lovely idea, but would I find it too exhausting? Would I be able to make the most of my time, or would I run low on ideas? What would the people I’d be sharing this grand old house with be like?

The course was on writing young adult fiction, tutored by the wonderful authors Anthony McGowen and Sheena Wilkinson, and I knew it was going to be an intense week of workshops, tutorials and time dedicated to writing.

20190413_095338Of course, I needn’t have worried. Everyone – my fellow participants, the tutors, and the Arvon staff – were warm and welcoming.

Each morning we took part in workshops, led by Anthony and Sheena, from 9.30am-1pm. It sounded like a dauntingly long amount of time, but each session, covering topics as diverse as characterisation, dialogue and editing, was so engaging and enjoyable that they passed so quick. I filled my Moleskin notebook with notes and ideas generated from the writing exercises set by the tutors.

Our afternoons were less structured, with time to work on our writing, one-to-one tutorials with Anthony and Sheena, or walking in the grounds. The Hurst is set in beautiful woodland, and I took many opportunities to go exploring, both on my own and with fellow writers.

20190410_155428After a delicious dinner (cooked on a rota by participants), each evening held something different – readings from the tutors, a guest author, and a free evening on Thursday. All accompanied by copious amounts of wine and writerly conversation. The Friday evening was a celebration of our work, where we each read a five minute piece of our own writing. It was wonderful to hear everyone’s pieces, ranging from the humorous to emotional.

As I was waiting for my fiancé to pick me up on the Saturday morning (we did a trip to the historic town of Shrewsbury on the way back to Stoke), I couldn’t resist looking on the Arvon website to see what other upcoming courses they have. I know I will definitely be returning – whether to The Hurst or one of Arvon’s other centres in Yorkshire or Devon. I left Arvon with a renewed confidence in and love for my writing, and the promise to myself to dedicate more time to this passion.

My Writing

Article in Simply Vegan

Simply Vegan MagazineI’m happy to have an article in the current issue of Simply Vegan magazine about vegan friendly places to eat in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.

There’s nothing nicer than catching up with people you care about over food and a few drinks. I love going out for something to eat, whether returning to a favourite café for coffee and cake or trying out a new restaurant with my fiancé and our friends. I’m also passionate about good vegan food, so writing about vegan places to eat locally was an obvious choice.

The article gives my recommendations of several cafes and restaurants in the local area that are worth visiting for those interested in or following an animal free diet. It was hard coming up with a shortlist of places as there’s an abundance and ever growing list of great eateries that cater for vegans, so I tried to get a mix that showcases different types of food, from a Chinese restaurant that does amazing tofu dishes to a community café that serves cheap but delicious homemade vegan cakes. My aim was to write an article that features something for everyone and highlights some of the great vegan options out there in a part of the country I’ve been happy to call home for nearly nine years.

My Writing

Flash 500 long listed story

I’m really happy to have a short story, Two weeks after the world ended, make the long list for the Flash 500 competition. If you scroll down to the bottom of the results page, you’ll see my name!

Like many writers, I occasionally take a chance and enter my short stories into competitions. And, like many writers, results day passes by and I realise I haven’t been successful. It’s been a while since I entered a competition, partly because I came to believe it was a hopeless cause, so it was a lovely surprise to make the Flash 500 long list.

Flash fiction is a style of short story that I enjoy writing. Different competitions and publications have rules about the length for a flash fiction story. With Flash 500 the limit is, as the name suggests, 500 words. Some competitions have even shorter lengths, such as 300 or even 100 words. With so little room, when writing flash fiction every word really has to count and pull its weight. Sometimes writing something so short can be more challenging than writing a 4,000 word story.

This success with Two weeks after the world ended has given me a needed boost, especially in relation to my short story writing. Maybe I’ll start entering some more competitions. After all, you have to be in it to win it…

 

MA, My Writing

Handing in my final MA assignment

It’s taken a while, but I have handed in (well, emailed…) my final assignment for my MA in the Teaching & Practice of Creative Writing!

The assignment was really interesting to write. It’s a mix of my own creative work and research into life writing, especially in relation to mental health. I, like many others, find writing cathartic and it has helped me through some very difficult times. While working on the assignment I came across a word for this: “scriptotherapy” – the therapeutic value of writing about traumatic events, and crafting your own narrative to explore your life.

After doing this MA for so long, it feels weird to think that it’s done. It’s going to be a strange feeling no longer being a student – I have some thoughts about progressing further with my studies, but for now it’s a case of just waiting to see what happens. I’ve found that’s a common theme in a writer’s life: waiting. Waiting to hear back on assignments, on pitches, on submissions. Being a writer is a lesson in patience!

Still, if all goes to plan and I haven’t spectacularly screwed up this last assignment, I should be graduating this July.

 

My Writing

Guardian article on supporting disabled students

Today I have an article published by the Guardian where I share my experiences of being a disabled student.

One of my long term writing aims has been to be published by the Guardian so I was very excited when this piece got the go ahead! The article explores some of the challenges I faced and talks about what universities can do to better support disabled students, especially during their transition to HE and the first few weeks of student life.

My Writing

Setting writing goals for 2019

I regularly review my short term writing goals, such as planning to pitch an article by a certain date or to hit a certain word count on a longer piece of work. As 2018 ends, I find myself thinking about what I want to achieve in 2019.

Book SimonOver the holidays I’ve been reading The Positively Productive Writer by author Simon Whaley. It has been helpful in setting myself some pretty ambitious writing targets for the coming year. Unlike many of the writing books on my shelves, Simon’s isn’t about the art of writing itself but, rather, how to be a positive, productive and therefore hopefully more successful writer.

He covers areas such as how to set yourself a mix of short, medium and long term SMART goals, dealing positively with rejection, and organising your writing life. I really want to make a big push with my writing career in 2019, and this book has been useful in planning ahead.

My fiancé, Gary, and I had a wander around Hanley earlier today, weaving through the crowds of post-Christmas sales shoppers to go for a coffee and mince pie at Caffe Nero (it is honestly one of my favourite places) where we chatted about our respective resolutions for 2019 (his music, mine writing), followed by a browse around Waterstones. I picked up a copy of Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2019, which is an invaluable guide with lists of magazines, publishers and agents, as well as containing useful articles about various aspects of writing. I’m going to be making the most of the remainder of the Christmas break by reading through this book with a highlighter, finding inspiration for possible places to send my work in the coming months.

What are your writing aims for 2019? What helps you set them?