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

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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, 2 January 2018

A Writers' New Year Workout

Okay, 'tis the season of lists and resolutions.  Let's limber up to answer the Call of this year's Writing Adventure. We're a sedentary bunch, us writers, so here's an 8-step workout to try from the comfort of your desk – or bed even. Pick a few exercises and don't sweat it.

    1. Warm-Up: Review 2017

    Feeling a bit sluggish post-Christmas? Sometimes it's a morale booster just to recognise the time and effort you've invested in your writing practice over the past year. If you don't already keep a running list of acceptances, successes, publications etc. it's a good habit to get into. However small or great, these are worth recording. Very handy when you have to put together a biography for a submission or if you find yourself applying for funding or a writing-related opportunity. Note the month and which publication or event you were involved in. And give yourself a pat on the back for getting your work out there.

         2.  Set Timer for 2018 

       First up, fish out that new calendar, (courtesy of Leicester Writes website), and plot out those key dates. East Midlanders like myself live in a region absolutely packed with writers' events. But your area will have its own highlights. In March 2018 alone, I've just pencilled in the WEM Writers Conference 2018 (3rd March), States of Independence Indie-publishers' fair (10th March) and Cultural Exchanges festival (26th Feb - 2nd March). Then there's monthly dates for LeicesterWriters' Showcase events, as well as Novel Exchanges, and Shindig and WORD for the poets amongst you. And don't forget the Writers' Shed programme of Saturday Masterclasses kicking off again in February 2018.

    1. Running on the Spot: Your Process

    Every writer does it differently – but YOUR PROCESS is the one that gets the job done for you. If someone was to interview you and ask you how your writing happens, what would you say? Do you make a date with your writing everyday for however long? (a very good tip a writing friend once gave me.) Is there a time of day that works best for you? Or is that determined by work routines, family commitments etc? Is there a place or ritual that gets you in the frame of mind to write? Maeve Binchy lights candles. Some people put on music. Others prefer the bustle of a busy café. Know your own process and nurture it. It's where the magic happens.

    1. Star Jumps: Your Brilliant Career

    Maybe you're already published and you're managing the expectations of editors, agents and readers, whilst staying true to your own interests and writing passions. Or maybe, your family and friends think of writing as your little hobby. If you've committed to a writing practice, take the time to consider where you want to go with it. Be your own coach. Jot down where you'd like to be with your writing in a year's time. And in 5 years' time? Start to set yourself some goals for the next few months and ease yourself in with smaller targets for January. 

    Talk to your writing friends about these goals - and if you don't have any, find some on-line or join local writing communities. I've benefited hugely this year from attending groups like Leicester Writers' Club, The Speculators and Poetry Stanza. Leicester Writes is an open friendly group that meets once a month in a city café and welcomes new writers for chat and networking. On-line, The Writers' Shed is happy to talk to you about your goals and how you can move towards them.

    1. Skipping: Current Writing Projects

    Take a good look at any current writing projects you're pursuing. What's working well, what are the stumbling blocks? Is there any research you need to do – whether on-line or visiting places or ordering new resources. If you're quite advanced with a project like a novel or screenplay or poetry chapbook, you might benefit from the input of other writers. See step 4 for writing communities. Consider working with an experienced mentor in your field. WEM has a scheme for writers to apply for or you can talk to people at The Writers'Shed about your goals and needs. The Writers' Shed also offers manuscript critiques for that book you're honing. At the same time, it's good to keep yourself open to potential new projects – jot down ideas that have been kicking around in your back-brain for a while.

    1. Forward Lunges: Up-skilling

    No writer has to do it all alone. Why re-invent the wheel when you can borrow the expertise of people who've been there already? One thing you can do to take your writing to the next level is invest in a course that addresses writing skills you're trying to improve. These could be one-day courses, weekend retreats or a longer course, such as:
    • Arvon Retreats have a good reputation. They offer tutored retreats for 4 or 6 days. Courses are also available. Look at who the tutors are first. They're not cheap but you can apply for a grant.
    • WEM – Writing School. This writing school has been running in Leicester for over 60 years with an excellent track record of supporting developing writers. It now runs courses taught by published professionals in Nottingham too. I'm teaching a 6 week course on 'Building Your Poetry Collection' from mid-Feb. 2018 onwards on Sat. mornings in Leicester. But there's something there for everybody whatever your genre. 
    • The Writers' Shed is a new service for writers, based both on-line and in the East Midlands. Pitched at writers who are wanting to take their work to the next level, we offer manuscript critiques, one-to-one mentoring and a series of Saturday masterclasses on key skills to build towards publication. There are also free on-line resources to dip into. Pop in and browse our shelves. 

    1. Dumb-bells & Resources

    Yes, your shelves are groaning but there's always room for one more essential writing guide or must-read book. If you appreciate the craft of modern short stories, I can recommend the sumptuous anthologies produced by Dahlia Publishing (who are also running the Leicester Short Story competition again this year.) On my own wish-list is a new 'How to be a Poet' handbook from Nine Arches Press editor Jane Commane and the inimitable Jo Bell. If you're wrestling with novel plotting or screenplays, I'd always recommend Robert McKee's 'Story' and a friend has lent me Christopher Vogler's classic study of  The Hero's Journey. 

    Of course, January is the month of overdrafts and tax returns. So this month, I'm also hoping to dip into on-line resources from authors including Niki Monaghan, Damien Walter and Rod Duncan. Duncan is offering free pod-casts on 'Selling Your Novel' covering everything from cover letters to synopses. Find links to these at The Writers' Shed. And don't forget, apart from the world wide web, there's your local library. I happen to know Leicester's Central Library has an excellent creative writing section. Use it while it's still there!

    1. Cool-Down with a Good Book.

    Well, that's the heavy lifting done. Now for that tottering pile of To Read books by the bed. Two favourites from 2017 I'd recommend are the gorgeous 'What We Thought We Knew' by Mahsuda Snaith and Jeanette Ng's delicious gothic fantasy 'Under the Pendulum Sun.' And I can't wait for a new Gas-Lit Empire novel from Rod Duncan, 'The Queenof All Crows', out this month. Why not get a bit of light exercise re-shuffling that pile and then curl up with a book you'd quite forgotten about? It's what the dark days of January were invented for. 

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