Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.

Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:

Visit the writers' development service I co-run at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

About Me

My photo
Leicester, East Midlands
As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring. In addition, I co-run The Writers' Shed, a service for writers, at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Polar Poets Summer Gig


First ever Polar Poets gig now Booked for this summer's festival - see:


see my sister blog for more details on the adventures of the 2 intrepid Polar Poets - myself and Susan Richardson - as we bring our new show Arctic-ulate to science festivals and other venues this year.

can't wait now to start rehearsals - somewhere in the ether between Wales and the Midlands ....

Sunday, 21 March 2010

States of Independence

I don't think I've ever been to an arts event quite so well organised as States of Independence at De Montfort University in Leicester yesterday. It came as something of a shock. A website that actually spelt out the whole programme in advance. Lunch vouchers for the stallholders. And for the punters - stalls by dozens of independent publishers, workshops, readings and book launches - all for FREE! I'm still pinching myself.

This event was a very successful collaboration by Five Leaves Publications in Nottingham and the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University. Let's hope we see more from this pairing. Ross Bradshaw, of Five Leaves, is a force of nature let loose in the regional world of literature. A force of something anyway. He also organises the Lowdham Book Festival in the summer. And this event has the same passion about it. Bringing together regional publishers, writers and readers in one whirl of excitement, the building buzzed all day.

Every meeting I went to was packed out and the bookstalls were thronging. I enjoyed the panel discussion by my own group, Leicester Writers' Club; the launch of the latest snazzy literary magazine, Staple; readings by two authors from Birmingham's Tindal Street Press, and an introduction to the work of Crystal Clear Creators, an innovative arts organisation promoting writers across a range of media. If I could only have cloned myself, I'd have sampled more. In between times, I met so many friends and fellow writers, followed up contacts and caught up on news from across the region.

And I got some free exercise carrying home a bag groaning with new books ....

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Word Count Funk

So I've just printed out my 2 copies of the finished story. My last writing session was spent revamping that crucial first paragraph so that I had an opening line with a hook to it. Amazing how one paragraph can use up several hours. Final tweaks done and I'm patting myself on the back for being well under the word count at 1878. I gather up my notes to file away and notice ...

word count is 1,500 max. - not 2,000. DOH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Talk about a nail-biting finish! If I ditch the marking I've a couple of hours before I'm in class.

How the heck am I going to lose 378 words? Time to slash and burn.


Whew - down to 1482 words. Tight as a drum now and just in time for lunch!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Babbling in Fog

I've been in a story haze this week since the Sunday crunch to meet a deadline. But three early mornings later, my rough draft is hammered into shape - still under the word count - and it's finished. Till the next time I look at it, of course!

This is my entry for Leicester Writers' Club's latest competition on the theme of Metropolis. Without these competitions, it's doubtful I'd ever get around to writing stories these days. I need the theme or genre and I need the pressure. Only that pushes me through the foggy stage of creation where all seems hopeless and contrived. I once heard a writer say, 'all that doubt and despair - that's like the weather - you just have to ignore it and get on.'

I've had to be obsessive and uncommunicative to get it written this week but there is also the pleasure of it. Discovering images that appear from nowhere and knit the story together. Finding it's taken you somewhere you never expected. Inhabiting the voice and skin of another person - who sees the world differently to me.

Once these stories are done for a competition, I'm very bad at submitting them anywhere else. So I was delighted to have one of my stories, The Chatterbox, selected for a spoken word evening last night. The Short Fuse monthly event at the Y Theatre in Leicester is great fun, a cocktail of themed stories in a cabaret setting with a live audience.

So - 4 storytellers babbling beautifully on the Babel theme & the Last Mango in Paris was superb - warm funny sad surreal endlessly entertaining - till the last train beckoned. This performer, Shane Solanki mixes song, stand-up, slides and banter to draw us into his stories of life on the cultural rift. Mad e-mails from relatives, India's top skin whitening cream Joleen and a mesmerising rap-poem all featured. Believe the hype - he's not to be missed!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Anatomy of a Short Story

I'm up against a deadline for a story. Four days and a bit to go and so far I've only typed about 150 words. I do have a pile of notes I've scribbled in bed during my recent spell of illness. Some sheets I've copied from my Google searches. Yesterday I cut out photographs from the local newspaper of faces that would do for my characters. Names from the captions and classifieds - I find names really hard. It must be nearly 2 years since I've written a story and I'm well rusty. But the clock is ticking. Can I pull it off and make the Thursday tea-time deadline?

The title, since you're asking, is 'Metropolis' and word max. is 2,000 words. Gulp! And today is the only full day of writing I can spare. So I need a rough draft by evening. In my early morning sessions before work, I'll then have to edit it. Find out what it's really about since I'm not yet sure. I have a mess of a plot and a heap of problems. The blu-tacked faces of my characters are staring at me from various corners of my computer desk. One is made of stone. Today I find out if their voices will speak, if they can shrug into the bodies I've assembled and walk into their own stories.

Hmm. I've gotten out a yellow highlighter pen and marked up the snippets of conversation and narration from my notes that most interested me. Trying to seek out where the energy of the writing is. I'll try typing these up and see where it goes. I'll let you know ...


So 979 words typed up and it's still a mess but there's sticky raw material. The characters haven't really taken off yet and the dialogue's very one-sided. I wonder if other people are as rubbish at writing stories but I also know that this doubt and fog is part of the process for me. Part of my difficulty was working out whose story it was. Two women on a bus. My narrator's story is missing so far and I think she's the one who's going to arrive somewhere. So she gets the afternoon. Let's see what boiled eggs and crumpets can do for my back-brain ...


Up to 1737 words on paper. A rough draft of sorts. Time to print it up, walk away from it and see if I'm any clearer tomorrow morning.