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My Writing, Travel

Lots of articles!

It’s been great over the past few weeks to see several of my articles published!

I had a first for me – three articles in the same issue of a magazine. My articles on zines, talking positively about your achievements, and using creative activities to plot your life are all in the September issue of the always wonderful Happiful magazine. They are also all available to read on the Happiful website.

Photo shows an open magazine on an article about zines

I loved writing this piece on using gratitude lists for wellbeing, for Stylist magazine. I interviewed two writing for wellbeing practitioners to share their insights on how we can all use this creative activity to reflect on the positives in our lives.

I used the Hitched website loads when planning my own wedding a couple of years ago, so I was thrilled to write an article for them on how to organise an accessible wedding. From getting the lighting right to physical venue access and catering for everyone, there’s lots that can be done to make it an inclusive day for all. The best thing about writing this was thinking back to my wedding day and remembering all the excitement of wedding plan (me? Nostalgic for my wedding?). One of my best friends is getting married this autumn and she very kindly read through a draft of this article to see how the advice resonated with her as a bride-to-be. And I’m very excited for her wedding!

Photo shows a man in a suit and a woman in a wedding dress standing together on a carousel

National Geographic Traveller UK is one of my favourite magazines, and one I’ve dreamed of writing for for a long time. It’s perfect for travel inspiration and imagining trips to beautiful places. I have an article in the current issue in their ‘Stay at Home’ section – and the best thing is it’s about my adopted home of North Staffordshire. It was a joy to write about Trentham Gardens, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, The Roaches walk in the Peak District, and other wonderful places we have here.  

Photo shows the front cover of National Geographic Traveller magazine

So yep – a bumper crop of articles! I always get excited to see my work published, so I’m really happy to have so many to share from the past few weeks!

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Better World Festival

I love exploring where I live in North Staffordshire. Last weekend Gary and I went along to the Better World Festival in Hanley, which is Stoke-on-Trent’s city centre.

Photo of a sign giving details about the Better World Festival

The festival saw live music, an artisan market, inspiring talks on social issues, and lots of other family friendly events taking place throughout the city centre. We braved the rain and watched several bands over the weekend, only occasionally having to shelter from the weather!

My highlight was watching the wonderful local musician Julia Mosley and her band perform on the Sunday. She has an incredible voice, and the music has a dreamy ethereal feel. Since watching her live, I’ve been listening to her music on Spotify – my favourite is ‘Obsession at Night’.

Photo of a band with four musicians performing on an outside stage.

It was great to see lots going on in the city centre. It worked well having one of the stages on the popular Piccadilly area, where there are lots of restaurants and bars with outside seating. We enjoyed al fresco dinner while listening to one of the bands on the Saturday evening. Gary commented that it would be great if there was live music on Piccadilly every weekend, as it would give us a reason to visit regularly and give the area a really lovely feel.

Photo of a woman sitting outside a restaurant on a street with a drink

I loved being back in the city centre and seeing people having a good time. A couple of weeks ago we also enjoyed the fantastic Your City Festival in Hanley where lots of local bands performed, including Gary’s own band Skybald. Then on Friday 27th & Saturday 28th August, The Big Feast, organised by arts organisation Appetite, will see the city centre filled with fantastic creative performances.

I’m really looking forward to experience more great events in our vibrant city.

My Writing, PhD

Sunshine, writing, and reading

It’s the kind of weather this week where I don’t know whether to be celebrating the sunshine or desperately hoping for it to cool down!

I’ve had two more articles published in the past couple of weeks. The first is on mental health support at work, and is available to read on the Stylist website. I interviewed two experts for advice on what our rights are at work if we have a mental health condition, and the article covers everything from deciding to disclose to your boss to what reasonable adjustments you can get and what to do if you face discrimination.

Having a mental health condition myself, I know that navigating this at work can be a challenge. It was a really interesting piece to research, and I hope that this article helps others get the support they need and deserve.

Photo shows the front cover of Oh magazine, with an illustration of a bird and a vibrant summer garden, with a pink and orange sky in the background.

The other piece is a feature in the always lovely Oh magazine. It’s on the disability arts movement, and how art can be used to explore and celebrate our lives and challenge ideas about what it means to be disabled.

I was lucky enough to speak to two talented artists, Anahita Harding and Nina Thomas, for the article to share their insights. I also reflected on my own experience of writing about disability – how writing allows me to, quite literally, take authorship of my experiences. I love how the feature is illustrated in the magazine with photos of Anahita and Nina and their artwork.

Photo shows an open magazine showing an article. The article is called Every Body. There is a photo in the magazine of a woman in a wheelchair sticking the wheelchair symbol onto a wall.

I’ve also been focusing on getting more reading done for my PhD this week. I’m currently reading The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur Frank, on life writing and illness. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but already I have pages and pages of notes on his work.

Focusing on anything for too long is hard in this heat, but I’m glad to have been making progress and having exciting projects to work on.  

My Writing

Reclaiming my story

I’ve not been as good as I’d like at keeping my blog updated recently! It’s been a busy time with lots of writing and PhD work.

Today I’ve had an article published by the Wellcome Collection. It’s called Reclaiming My Story and is available to read here.

The article is about how I’ve used my lived experience of mental ill health as part of the service user movement. I talk about how I share my story to help improve mental health services, and also how this helps me make sense of my experiences and feel a sense of taking ownership of what I’ve been through.

It’s a little nerve-wracking having something so personal published. But I feel it’s an important piece, and I hope it helps highlight mental health, and is helpful to others reading who may have been through similar.

My Writing

Learn to love where you live

I love spring. I love that the tree outside my window is in blossom, and the pot of daffodils by my front door are so vibrant, and the unexpected patch of bluebells that has appeared in my garden. I love sitting outside to eat dinner, walks in the warmth… I’m definitely a spring / summer person!

Photo shows yellow daffodils

Maybe my good mood today is also because the latest issue of Happiful magazine hit my doormat this morning. It includes my feature “Learn to love where you live”, which is about how we can connect with our local area, from learning about local history and walking heritage trails to getting involved in community projects or cooking up a meal celebrating our local cuisine.

As well as being in the May print issue of Happiful, the article is also available to read on their website.

In the article, I talk a bit about my experience of discovering more of my Staffordshire home, like taking part in a ceramics class and enjoying the wonderful delicacy that is the oatcake. As we continue to emerge from lockdown, looking at what we have locally is a great way for us to get out again, and I hope the article helps inspire others to explore their hometowns.

My Writing, PhD

Writing about difficult experiences

It’s been a strange couple of weeks for me. Some days I’ve been really productive, others I’ve wondered what I’ve even achieved. But I guess that’s part of the reality of our lives right now. With being home all the time apart from when I venture out for a daily walk, it kind of makes sense that my energy levels are a bit all over the place.

I’m excited to share I have an article in the current issue of the fantastic Writing Magazine. My article is called “Dealing with Difficulty” and is all about how as writers we can draw on our difficult life experiences in our work in a way that’s relevant, sensitive, and powerful. My own experiences are a huge influence on my writing, so this was a topic I’m really passionate about. I talk about things like how to keep your reader in mind, how to include details to make your writing evocative, and how to set your own boundaries and take care of yourself when writing about challenging times.

Photo shows the open pages of Writing Magazine with the article entitled 'Dealing with Difficulty'. There is also a green notebook and a pen.

Disability in particular is a topic that I write about a lot, and where I draw on my own experiences. Our life experiences can be a great source of inspiration for our work, and be used in a way that helps our readers or offers a new perspective. I hope this article helps other writers in deciding if and how they can draw on difficult experiences in their writing.

I also have a feature in the current issue of Oh magazine, which explores witchcraft and how we can all weave it into our daily lives, like celebrating the changing seasons or mindfully meditating. I loved writing this feature, and interviewing the wonderful author Alice Tarbuck for it, who was a joy to chat to. Oh mag is one of my favourite magazines and I’m really pleased to have had another feature published by them.

The past couple of weeks I’ve also been focusing on my PhD. Although I do other writing, day to day my PhD has to be my main focus. Recently I’ve been doing some reading on models of disability and thinking how my creative work can explore this. Yesterday I had an interview with two assessors as part of my mid year review – 45 minutes of answering questions about my research. It was intense but I think I dealt with it well, and it gave me ideas about what I need to do moving forward with my PhD.

Over the coming weeks I’m looking forward to hopefully getting outside more as the weather improves. I also can’t wait until we can start having friends over to sit outdoors and enjoy a barbecue or drinks together. Recently I’ve definitely been feeling the need for a change of scene and to see other people. Hopefully as spring unfurls and lockdown lifts there will be plenty of chances to go out more and see others. And always, there is writing to do.

My Writing

Use Your Voice article for PosAbility magazine

I’m really happy to have an article, “Use Your Voice”, published in the current issue of the always wonderful PosAbility magazine. It’s also available to read on the PosAbility website here.

Photo shows the front cover of a magazine

The feature is about how disabled people can use our experiences of living with disability, whether campaigning for policy changes or blogging about what it’s like to live with our conditions. I talk about my role as a member of mental health social work charity Think Ahead’s Service User and Carer Reference Group, where those of us with lived experience of mental ill health are involved in the recruitment and training of future mental health social workers. I’ve been a member of SUCRG for around two years, and it’s really rewarding to be able to share my experiences to help improve services. I always enjoy our meetings and getting involved in teaching activities with Think Ahead. I also talk about how I started a group for disabled students when I was an undergraduate, and how we campaigned for change on campus and made sure disabled student voices were heard at the university.

Photo shows part of the page of a magazine article, called "use your voice", with some of the text visible and an illustration of a person using a megaphone.

As well as talking about my own experience, the article gives examples of how disabled people can find opportunities to get into a variety of lived experience work. We all have something valuable to offer by sharing our stories, and I hope that this article inspires others to get involved.

My Writing, PhD

A walk through other people’s expectations

Anyone else feeling relieved that spring is nearly here? I’ve been loving the fresh smell in the air and the sight of crocuses and daffodils on my daily walks. I love that it’s lighter each evening, and the increasing warmth each day brings.

I’m excited to share that I’ve had an article published today by the Wellcome Collection, entitled “A walk through other people’s expectations” – it’s available to read here. The article is structured around a hike up Loughrigg Fell in the Lake District and weaves together two of my interests, disability and hiking, in an exploration of what it means to be a visually impaired walker.

A photo of a view from a mountain walk, looking down at a lake

This was such an enjoyable commission to work on. The ways disabled people often have to navigate other people’s perceptions and expectations of us is something I’ve been acutely aware of for many years as a visually impaired person. It’s also an important theme emerging in my PhD so far – the idea that societal expectations of disability affect how disabled people feel and behave, like feeling apprehensive about using a white cane or other mobility aid.

I hope the article resonates with other disabled people, as well as giving an insight to nondisabled people about this topic.

Photo shows the view from the summit of a mountain, with a man holding a map and looking ahead

It was also lovely to be writing about my favourite place, the Lake District, in this article. I can’t wait until I’m able to visit again and go fell walking, and maybe even dinner and live jazz at the wonderful Zeffirellis restaurant in Ambleside…

I’m really lucky to have other articles due to be published in the coming months that I’m excited to share, and other writing I’m working on, as well as of course my PhD. Lockdown is a challenging time for everyone, and while, of course, I completely agree with the restrictions, it is still hard being away from friends and family. My mental health was really affected in the first lockdown last year, and I’m glad to say that this time round I’ve found it easier to manage. Maybe it’s the spring-like weather, but I’m feeling cautiously hopeful about the future. I can’t wait until we can safely meet up with loved ones again, sitting out in the garden in the warmth. Until then, I’m fortunate that I have plenty to keep me distracted at home. I hope that more good times are ahead.

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Artist one-to-one session with Appetite

Earlier this week I had a really useful 1:1 session over Zoom with Kat, the Producer for Appetite. Appetite is an arts programme, funded by Arts Council England, that aims to get more people in Stoke-on-Trent and the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme to experience and be inspired by the arts. Over the past eight years they’ve led a host of cultural events, from vibrant street performances in the city centre to the current Familiar Faces project that was created to capture the familiar faces and the unique welcome of Newcastle town centre through the power of photography.

Photo of someone typing on a laptop

Appetite are currently offering 1:1 artist support sessions with local creatives as an opportunity for us to talk about our ideas and get guidance on next steps around making cultural projects happen in our communities.

We had so much to talk about in the hour-long session. I chatted about my creative career so far, and what my hopes are going forward. Kat gave some really great guidance on how to think about community engagement, and we talked through some rough ideas I have for projects. I’d like to build on my experience of running community writing workshops, and I left the session buzzing with ideas, my notebook full of thoughts to develop further.

I’d really recommend other artists in Stoke or Newcastle-under-Lyme to get in touch with Appetite for a 1:1 session. Whether you’re just starting out and want to get a better sense of the local arts scene and how you can get involved, or already have an idea for a cultural project that you’d like some specific advice on, it’s well worth getting in touch. You can find out more about the artist 1:1s here.

My Writing, PhD

Winter thoughts

Like much of the country, there has been snow here in Staffordshire the past couple of days. But despite the cold, there are signs of spring emerging. I’m lucky to be getting out for a daily walk around my neighbourhood, enjoying the daylight and the frosted trees, looking out for snowdrops peeking through the frozen grass.

Photo of snowdrops in the grass

I’m fortunate that I’ve had a lot of writing to keep me busy over the past few weeks. The main focus in January was preparing for the mid-year review for my PhD, which involved submitting a sample of my writing and a research statement outlining my project so far and how I hope for it to progress. Thankfully I got that all submitted in time for the 1st February deadline. In a few weeks’ time I’ll have a mini viva interview to assess my work so far and check I’m on track. I find talking about my research can be really interesting, but I still feel at the stage where articulating it all feels challenging! But I am enjoying my PhD, and have been doing some really interesting reading for it this past week, exploring published mental health memoirs, as well as doing my own creative work. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to focus on something I’m so passionate about.

I’ve also had a few articles to work on recently, as well as seeing ones that were commissioned towards the end of last year being published. My feature “Art in the Everyday” is in the current issue of the absolutely gorgeous Oh magazine. I love the front cover of vibrant daffodils – I can almost feel the spring warmth and scent of flowers just looking at it! My piece is about how we can all make art and poetry out of the items we’re surrounded with, drawing on the idea of found object art and movements like surrealism and dadaism. It was a fascinating feature to write, and I’m so pleased to have it published in such a wonderful magazine.

Photo shows front cover of Oh magazine with an illustration of daffodils

There are a few more articles of mine due to be published in the coming months which I’m excited to share. I also submitted a draft of my new novel to my literary agent recently, and I’m nervously waiting to hear her thoughts. She really gets my writing and always has valuable insights into how to make it better, so I’m confident that her feedback will be so useful.

I hope that you’re doing okay in this difficult winter lockdown, finding ways to get through. I can’t wait until the evenings are light again so I can go on an after dinner walk. And, of course, I can’t wait until things are safer and lockdown can start to ease. I hope things will get brighter soon.