My Writing

Theatre feature in the Guardian

Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful, enjoyable time over the Christmas break. I met up with family, spent time cosying up with books and magazines, and – importantly – gave myself a few days’ break from work. It’s left me feeling refreshed and excited about 2022.

And I’m really happy to have started this year with a feature published by the Guardian – which you can read here. The piece is on my experience of watching a play – A Chorus Line, at Curve theatre in Leicester – with audio description, and attending a pre-show talk for visually impaired people beforehand. For years, I’ve struggled with theatre as a partially sighted person. I find it hard to follow the action on stage, and find myself getting frustrated as I lose track of what’s happening. I’ve been curious about trying an accessible performance for a while, so this was a really interesting commission.

Photo shows a row of people wearing gold costumes on a dark stage
A Chorus Line at Curve Leicester – photo by Marc Brenner

In the feature, I talk about the experience of the pre-show talk and audio description, and how it helped me truly enjoy theatre for the first time. I hope this article helps highlight to others that options like this are available, and also the importance of accessibility for disabled audiences. I’ve had a really lovely response to the feature from readers, which makes it all so worthwhile.

I’m hoping that this positive start to 2022 is a sign of how things will continue! I’m excited to be working on other commissions at the moment, as well as nervously waiting on news on some big projects (and trying not to obsessively check my emails hoping for updates…!). And, of course, I have plenty of PhD work, with lots to do as I write my memoir, as well as research around disability and life writing.

I’m feeling very fortunate to have so many lovely things to work on at the moment. I’m not a big winter person, so having lots of writing to focus on definitely helps me through the darker months of the year. I hope that 2022 is a good year for us all.

My Writing, PhD

End of another year

The Christmas tree is up, I’ve already eaten plenty of mince pies, and I have presents to wrap – all while keeping an anxious eye on the news. I’m sure most of us are feeling stressed and exhausted by it all, just hoping that things work out okay and that we can enjoy a safe Christmas with our loved ones.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, so I thought I’d do a post as we approach the end of another strange year for everyone.

Photo shows a Christmas tree

I’m lucky that I’ve had a range of articles published over the last couple of months since I last posted. This includes my first time writing for Psychologies, which is a magazine I’ve wanted to write for for a long time, so I’m really proud to be able to add them to my portfolio. The feature is on how we can rekindle friendships that we’ve let drift – something that seems particularly relevant with how the pandemic disrupted many of our relationships.

A lot of my article ideas come about when I ask myself a question. In this case, I was meeting up with a friend I’d lost touch with, and wondering why friendships sometimes slip and what we can do to reach out. I realised that this could be a scenario that others find themselves in, and so started developing a pitch for an article around it. It’s a useful way of coming up with ideas. I’m also due to have another feature published by Psychologies soon, which I’m really looking forward to seeing.

I’ve also had features in Happiful, who are one of my main clients and who I love writing for, and a travel feature in Motability Lifestyle magazine, on ideas for city breaks in the UK this winter, from Christmas markets to festive plays.

I love community arts, and so was really happy to have a feature published in Planet Mindful magazine about how we can all share our creative skills with others. I spoke about my experience and about the fantastic arts scene we have in my adopted home town of Stoke-on-Trent. It was lovely to speak to local artists Gabriella Gay and Penny Vincent about how they share their love of art with the community, whether being a poet in residence at a car boot sale or leading singing sessions for anyone to join. I hope the piece inspires others to get involved.

Photo shows a magazine that is open on an article called Sharing Creative Skills

I’ve also been doing lot of PhD work. There’s a lot of reading to do – I’m often very conscious of the weight of all the books I haven’t had a chance to read yet! It’s enjoyable reading though. I’ve been researching disability theory and disability life writing, as well as reading memoirs.

Yesterday I finished reading Letters to my Weird Sisters by Joanne Limburg, which is a beautiful book on autism and feminism. Limburg weaves her own experiences of being autistic into letters she’s written to four women from history, combining elements of biography with explorations of disability and feminist history and theory with Limburg’s memoir. It’s a really wonderful read, and it’s also helped me think through how experimental forms and structures can be used in life writing and creative nonfiction.

As we approach Christmas, I’m hoping to use the festive season as a chance to plan writing ideas for the year ahead. But I’m also planning to rest. It’s been another difficult year for us all, and while I’m very fortunate that I’ve had some great writing to work on, I need to take some time to relax and unwind, ready to go into the new year. I hope that 2022 is a kinder year to us all.

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.  

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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

Creative ways to stay in touch

The lovely Happiful have published my article “Creative ways to stay in touch” today – take a read here. It’s also in the June issue of the magazine.

I’ve always loved connecting with people creatively, and now more than ever, when we find ourselves separated from so many we care about, it’s a great way to reach out.

postcards
When writing the piece, I thought especially about how I’ve stayed in touch with a close friend who now lives in a different country. She’s a visual artist, and naturally we’re both drawn to creative ways to connect – though we do still embrace WhatsApp and Skype. I love it when a postcard from her lands on my doormat, or when I spend time handwriting her a card.

One of the ways I explore is through crafting handmade zines – something I’ve written about on this blog before. There are also suggestions for putting together a playlist, sending a gift box or penning a poem.

How do you like to stay in touch with people? What’s helping you right now?

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Getting through

Who’d have known, as we watched the New Year’s fireworks bringing in 2020 and thought to the year ahead, that we’d soon be living in such a different world, where phrases like “self-isolation” and “lockdown” dominate our newsfeeds and conversations?

I very much hope that you are keeping safe and well. My husband and I have been self-isolating for four weeks now (we started a week before lockdown officially began due to health conditions). The first week was undoubtably the hardest so far, filled with so much anxiety and fear and heartbreak and hopelessness at what was happening. While I’m still – as so many are – struggling with these feelings, I am at least a bit more settled now. I’m finding my coping mechanisms, from Skyping family, to not constantly checking the news, to reading every day, and these are making things more manageable.

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One thing I’ve not done a great deal of is writing. It’s not that I don’t have projects to work on, or ideas to develop, but my focus and energy hasn’t been there. When we started self-isolating, I thought, “Well, at least I’ll get to be really productive…”. But, bar the work I’ve done for my part-time copywriting job (that I’m very fortunate to have been able to do from home), that hasn’t happened.

I’m not the only one. Scrolling through Twitter, where I follow lots of other writers, it seems a common theme. I spoke to my agent on the phone a couple of weeks ago about my novel edits, and she told me how so many of her writers are struggling to focus on their work right now – and that there was no pressure to rush, that it was okay to not be feeling it right now, which was reassuring to hear. Usually, if I have writing to work on, I love to get started as soon as I can, and yet I haven’t touched my manuscript since that conversation.

I have found, though, over the past few days that I’m feeling calmer and less drained. My thoughts are starting to turn towards writing again, with more clarity and enthusiasm. I’m feeling – hoping – that getting stuck into my own writing might give me the positive distraction I need.

In ordinary times, I regularly make myself lists of writing aims for the coming week or so, but I haven’t done that for a month now. So that’s where I’m going to start. Not setting myself deadlines, not telling myself I’m going to produce a great body of work, but ideas of what to focus on. And, for the first time in weeks, I’m excited about starting to tackle my novel edits. I’m looking forward to planning some new article ideas too.

I’m also planning to add more content to this blog. A few months ago I posted a piece about finding inspiration for articles. Over the next few days or so I’m going to work on a follow up post with tips on how to research and analyse magazines, then later another about how to pitch articles to editors. The world of writing can be confusing to navigate, and I hope this series will help demystify the process of getting an article published. I’m also thinking ahead to what other advice and resources I can share on here – let me know if you have any thoughts on topics to cover, I love to talk writing!

While I’m glad to be feeling some level of creative energy again, I’m not going to push myself. I’ve seen a few posts on social media encouraging people to use this strange time to learn a new skill or to dedicate to a creative interest. If you have the energy and the focus, then by all means go for it. But remember that now is not the time to unfairly pressure yourself and feel guilty about not researching your business plan, writing a poetry collection, or learning to play the guitar.

Yes, I’m now hoping to get back into my writing over the coming weeks. I’m feeling in the right headspace for it. But that initial, “Well, at least lockdown will give me time to fully plot out and write my next novel” thought I had a few weeks ago is definitely not my approach now. It’s not about word counts or the number of pitches I send – it’s about enjoying it, about the little bit of hope I feel when I write, about getting, however briefly, lost in something I love.

Take care, and stay safe.

My Writing

Looking back at 2019

It’s that time of year where we aren’t quite sure what day it is, have eaten far too many mince pies, and are asking each other about our New Year resolutions over yet another glass of prosecco. As I think ahead to what I want to achieve in 2020, I find myself reflecting on this past year.

This time a year ago, I decided I was going to make 2019 the year that I really push with my writing. And I’m so happy with all that I’ve managed to do. I’ve had several articles commissioned and published in a range of places, including most excitingly the Guardian; I’ve had short stories long and shortlisted in competitions; I’ve edited my YA novel; I’ve begun work on a new novel; I’ve graduated from my MA; I’ve begun a copywriting job. I’m pretty happy with all that!

Another big thing has been around how I organise my writing. I now keep detailed spreadsheets (can you tell I used to work in admin?) of ideas and where I’ve sent my work to help me keep track, which has been a huge help. I’ve also been updating this blog more regularly, uploading examples of my work to my portfolio, and engaging with the lovely writing community on Twitter more.

One of my highlights of 2019 was my week at the Arvon writers’ centre. It really cemented my feeling that writing is what I want to do with my life. It also helped me feel more connected to the writing community. I’ve been looking on the Arvon website at all the courses they have next year and trying to decide which to book onto!

Another highlight is that I’ve been mentored by the wonderful author Kate Mallinder for the past half a year, as part of the Artist Development Programme support I’m getting from disability arts charity DaDaFest. Her guidance and encouragement has been so valuable and has helped me not only develop my writing but feel more confident about my abilities. I really enjoy our chats over coffee about all aspects of creative work and feel she’s been a huge help in me making progress.

I don’t know what 2020 will bring. I know I have a few articles due to be published which I’m excited to share with you and many more I plan to pitch. There’s a few things that I’m waiting to get decisions about in the coming weeks and months, which I’ve been trying not to worry about too much over the holidays but of course have been. Whatever happens, I hope that I build on what I’ve achieved this year and continue to develop as a writer.

My Writing

Flash fiction in Ellipsis Zine

Today I have a flash fiction story, “Two Weeks After The World Ended”, published by the wonderful Ellipsis Zine.

An earlier version of the story was long listed for the Flash 500 award at the start of the year, and I’m glad the story’s now found a home.

Take a read of it (and great stories by other writers) on the Ellipsis Zine website.