#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Avocets – Week 33 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Raising money for the RSPB)

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

Shallow water waders,

elegant bills swiping beneath the surface

where pockets

of insects and crustaceans dwell.

————————————–

En masse, young fluff balls move in

on eager, clumsy feet,

shyly copying the unique motions

 of chessboard-coloured adults.

————————————–

Undisturbed this time,

unlike the morning’s encounter

with a web-footed trespasser,

audacious enough

to approach the wobbly learners —

a charge (or two) from furious parents

soon inspired adequate distancing.

—————————————

Centuries ago, daring fowls

were not the only ruffians these birds

had to handle.

—————————————

Facing drained wetlands,

marshes converted into farmland,

eggs stolen for breakfast,

feathers used to adorn ladies’ hats

and fashion fishing flies,

they lost everything

————————————-

and vanished

for a hundred years.

————————————-

Then came the sirens, shrieking warnings

of rigid spitting dragons.

Calling for blackouts, hastily built shelters,

and land to be strategically flooded.

————————————–

A ward against opposition, forgotten

after turmoil ceased.

Yet these new wetlands were not dismissed

by everyone.

————————————–

Drawn by their richness, avocets tiptoed back,

pale-blue legs

rediscovering the touch of home.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

Hello, My Name Is Dandelion – #52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 29

Let me start

by saying I sprout anywhere

that needs my help,

and I leave only when my job is done.

Fight me all you want,

I’m a stubborn one.

You might consider

calling me ‘Magical Nanny’ of flowers,

for all I do to help others;

my head of closely-packed florets

is plenty big enough to take the title.

Not convinced I deserve it?

Well, take a peek at my résumé.

Item One:

My tough taproot easily pierces

compact soil, splitting it apart like a geode,

loosening clumps, aerating,

making space for weaker roots

to settle in.

Item Two:

I can survive with few minerals –

in fact, when my leaves wilt

as I snuggle close to the earth,

they leave a healthy stock behind

so new seedlings

won’t taste hunger.

Item Three:

Every spring, up I pop,

(even if your soil’s a touch acidic),

offering both pollen and nectar

to ravenous emerging insects.

I’m quite popular with them, you know.

Item Four:

Though my blooms may close on chilly days,

waft some warmth my way

and I’ll stretch, blink open my golden lashes.

There, aren’t I glorious?

Item Five:

Need to make a wish?

Blow on my seed head, observing how many

fluffy white parachutes break away,

and it’s sure to come true.

(Okay, that one might be a myth.

But you’ve got to admit,

it’s a cool myth.)

Now, have I stated my case enough

for you to let me grow in peace?

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, social fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

books, Poetry

My two latest poetry books are now out!

Hi everyone, just a quick post to say I’ve had two more poetry collections published. Here’s a little information about each one, and if either (or both) strike your fancy, I’ll be delighted if you pick a copy up:

If We Could Hold Up The Sky (available here)

Love is malleable and comes in many forms. It can be shaped into bridges and carved into doorways. It can become a hand to hold up the sky when everything threatens to crash down around us. 

Inspired by personal experience,  If We Could Hold Up The Sky is a poetry collection revolving around the tale of two neurodivergent individuals who meet as colleagues, fall rapidly into an iron friendship, and gradually become romantic partners.

The collection also explores mental health, childhood, societal expectations, work-related stress, and how a solid foundation of support can make all the difference to overall wellbeing.

Magic! Hissed The Little Demons (available here)

Everyone has their demons.

From time to time, they’ll sneak up on us or run about underfoot. They’ll keep tripping us until we summon the one thing they can’t stand: magic. That igniting surge of self-belief that sends them crawling back into the shadows.

An imaginative and accessible collection of poetry, Magic! Hissed The Little Demons explores depression, self-confidence, friendship, and determination, blending the fantastical with the contemporary, and a hint or two of sass.

Uncategorized

My ADHD diagnosis

In my last update I mentioned I was waiting for my adhd assessment. Well, as the title of this post suggests, I got the diagnosis – and I’m so relieved that I did.

However, the assessment wasn’t easy, there were many tough and deeply personal questions asked, and though I was prepared to answer things about my childhood and school life, the ones that hit hard were actually nothing to do with those topics. I mean, I did cry when talking about my primary school teacher bullying me; for some reason, whenever I explain that to a doctor, the tears always appear. But I expected that, so after the influx of emotion passed, it was fine.

What got me was attempting to explain how, if I had ADHD and thus my concentration was so bad, did I manage to write books. Not only this, but the doctor (a psychiatrist specialising in neurological conditions) went on to ask how successful a writer I was, including how many books I’d sold. And considering I’ve had high imposter syndrome recently and have been questioning whether writing to be published is something I should even be pursuing still, it cut me deep.

Other questions that hurt were why I still had my birds when their sounds were distracting, why I don’t want kids, and how I knew I had something close to an eating disorder when I was younger (I didn’t have any diagnosis or records of one, but gosh did I have the mindset and sadly could slip back into it easily if I’m not careful). So, ouch, on all fronts, to the point where I completely broke down after the assessment was over.

But – as I’d also provided lots and lots of notes beforehand explaining my brain – I got my diagnosis then and there at the end of the session. Quickly, abruptly (as to my mind, things really hadn’t been going well. I’d been rambling and getting flustered, so it felt like my responses weren’t particularly coherent), and without much extra explanation. I was asked if I had any questions, but my brain was fried at that point, so any I had promptly left.

Fortunately, after emailing the head ADHD nurse, who I’d been in contact with during preliminary screening, I had a good conversation the next day with full permission to explain my feelings and rant as much as I needed to to get everything out. After that, she went through reasons why certain questions were asked, and went on to detail all next steps and options open to me.

Though I’ve been hesitant to try medication before, on the grounds that if I’m to have it, I want to make sure it’s the correct type for my neurodivergent brain and won’t simply cover up the symptoms of an underlying condition (untreated ADHD can often cause anxiety and depression, both of which I have), I chose to be put forward for ADHD medication. After a few tests at my GP surgery, which included blood pressure, pulse, height, weight, and an ECG, I received my first prescription of methylphenidate, which is a slow-release stimulant.

Now, medication isn’t for everyone, and there are lots of treatment options for the parts of ADHD that interfere with daily life. But, for me, I’m really pleased I made the choice I did. Within an hour of taking the first dose, a subtle, yet tangible change occurred to my thoughts. Usually, my brain runs off at top speed on anything and everything, flitting from topic to topic. But, though I still had the thoughts – meaning, I was still very much myself – I could choose to follow only the ones that were relevant to what I was doing at the time, and go back to the others later. When I explained this to my partner (who we also suspect is ADHD), he came up with a great metaphor: instead of everything being dumped in a box that I have to sift through to find something, I’d been given shelves where I could see everything individually and just select what I needed.

As of writing, I’m on day six of being medicated, which admittedly, isn’t very long, but it does appear that my ability to maintain focus on writing has definitely increased (the very fact that I’m writing this, after not posting an update for so long due to lack of energy and motivation, is good evidence of this). And the thing that’s most surprising is the realisation that the fatigue I felt from doing any kind of task was caused mostly by my chaotic thoughts, and now they have (slightly) more order, that fatigue is nowhere near as bad. I can feel it, but I’m not completely crashing anymore.

Sadly, my laptop battery is now fading, so I’ll have to wrap this up. Getting confirmation of my full neurodiversity (I’m autistic too, and yes, you can very much have both conditions), has allowed me to understand and accept how different, yet cool, my brain is. Even though I struggle with things on a daily basis because of it, I can see my creativity and ability to notice things few others do all stem from it and make my world brighter.

This process has taken, well, a lot of processing, but I’m getting there. And taking medication, despite all the controversy surrounding it, is no different to when I wear my ear defenders or sunglasses to help lesson sensory overload when I’m outside. It’s an aid to help me, and it’s not a bad thing. (I will point out, though, that I’m taking my medication exactly as prescribed by my doctor and I’ll be having strict, regular reviews with them to make sure it’s still doing what it should and nothing else.)

Lastly, for those interested or considering pursuing diagnosis, some key details. I’m in the UK and went through the NHS, so the process may differ considerably in other countries, but here’s the route I took:

In mid 2019, I spoke to a general GP at my local doctor’s surgery, explaining that I wanted to be referred to the ADHD service for diagnosis. I had a few notes with me on traits I resonated with so they could easily see my reasoning.

After that, I had a very long wait (possibly made worse by the pandemic), but eventually got sent some screening questionnaires to complete and send back. After that was done, a phone call was arranged with the ADHD nurse for an hour long further screening conversation, in which I had to answer a lot of personal questions about school, family, work, social life etc.

Determining that I was eligible for a diagnostic assessment, I was then given a virtual appointment and completed the assessment I’ve spoken in detail about above, and as mentioned, after diagnosis, I was offered options for treatment, which included various therapies and medication. I received very detailed leaflets on the option I chose, so I could thoroughly research before finalising my decision.

So, there we go. I hope this essay of a post has been interesting and/or helpful. Thank you for reading!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 26 – Weeds Indeed!

Minute purples, tiny blues, pins of white,

heads of bursting yellow.

Forget them, forget them not:

Wildflowers.

(Or the name you give them – weeds.)

Growing freely alongside the grass

of your untrimmed lawns, fields, verges;

these vibrant native nuggets pop

up each spring.

Cuckooflowers, dog violets, daisies,

primroses, cornflowers, cowslips;

hundreds more!

You call them unwanted, unnecessary, untidy.

But, what if, instead,

you were to think, ‘What a feast for wildlife!

Which species will my patch of green attract

if I let these lovely plants be?’

A tiny section of dandelions,

left to grow full manes,

can feed a myriad of insects:

our tiny heroes who pollinate crops

and break down waste,

meticulous workers pumping life

right up to your front door.

Surely that’s cause to leave

the weedkiller alone this year?

(Or better, discard it, safely, altogether.)

So, spare a thought to that patch of colour

you didn’t plant.

For all flowers are worthy;

all play a part.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, social fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Fundraising for RSPB with #52weeksofnaturepoetry: Week 25 – Wren

Stepping into the garden, noting the overcast sky,

my nerves tingle at an alarming sound:

toy phaser guns billowing out blasts.

I freeze, eyes sweeping the area.

Is some hidden group of mischief makers

playing tricks?

Little bigger than my thumb,

a dumpy ball of feathers darts from the tree to my left

and into the bush in front of me.

Slim beak opening wide, it punches a complicated trill

full of science fiction sound effects.

Definitely the phaser source.

Troglodytes troglodytes:

Third smallest native bird;

voice unmatched by even the big boys.

A myriad of notes crammed into each second

like some world record attempt,

except this is its daily go-to,

repeated powerfully every time.

A stylish performer

(check out that bright eye liner!),

with stamina enough

to last the whole day through.

No drawn-out interludes here.

In the distance I hear another, song just as loud,

followed by a third.

Their voices soundscape;

already, the clouds have cleared.

The poem below is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

(Also, please excuse the formatting. My poems are usually in stanzas, but WordPress always removes them.)

Uncategorized

Querying, rewriting and ADHD

Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything other than my fundraising poems, which, though I’d appreciate you all having a read of them and sharing, aren’t the sole purpose of this blog. I like sharing my writing journey and the struggles I have, in the hope that others currently struggling with writing (or anything, really) don’t feel so alone.

And wow, have I been struggling.

Last year, I did quite a few edits of older projects, drafted a new book — something I try to do every year — and starting querying literary agents for the…seventh time, I think?

Meaning that come New Year, I was quite worn out. Add to that a broken laptop, and work became rather hard, to put it mildly. (I’m currently still using my partner’s laptop, which I’ve grown used to and he’s more than happy to let me use for as long as I want, so I got over that hurdle pretty quickly). My focus, however, has been particularly bad.

I wanted to rewrite a project that, from feedback I got from agents, was about 15,000 words too short for the genre. As I never know how to relax and get bored between projects, I actually tried to start the rewrite just before Christmas, but then my laptop failed and it got put on hold until I could grab the files from the hard drive. (I’m usually good at backing up my stuff, but as I’d only started the rewrite about three days beforehand, I hadn’t gotten round to it. Naturally, the one time I delayed, ‘disaster’ struck.) When I did manage to get back to it again, despite engaging with the story and characters, it took hours to go over four double spaced pages. I tried repeatedly to go faster, to try and be more productive with my time, but it simply wasn’t working. By the time I reached the half-way point in the book, working on it felt comparable to digging a trench with a teaspoon, and I’m incredibly impatient with certain things.

Now, here I’m going to jump in with the ADHD part, as it’s likely relevant. I’ve been on the waiting list for assessment since mid 2019. I knew it’d be a long wait, just like for my ASD one, and when the pandemic happened, I resigned myself to an extra long wait. Several times I considered getting it done privately, but it does cost a lot, and as I get imposter syndrome, one week I’d be convinced I needed a diagnosis, the next I’d be unsure — I’ve heard this is common regarding ADHD in adults, particularly as it can present quite differently depending not just on age, but gender too. That aside, I was then super surprised when I got a phone call last month saying in-person assessments where I live were no longer supported due to costs, so the people in charge had decided to go with online assessments and mine wouldn’t be too far off. After another phone call and some screening questionnaires to make absolutely sure I’m eligible, I was finally given an assessment date. It’s early next month, and I am nervous as hell. But I already sent them extra notes, so hopefully it’ll go smoothly, whether the conclusion is ADHD or something else.

Anyway, back to writing talk. I’ve always struggled with focusing on and maintaining projects, but I’m stubborn and refuse to quit. So I ended up giving myself a tight deadline and marathoning the work until it was done. It worked, but as always when I do that, I ended up exhausted as it’s really not good for me. That’s the main reason I haven’t posted much lately. All my energy has gone to rewriting, recovering, or writing poetry. (I am happy with the way the rewrite tuned out though!)

As for querying, this round is going better than past attempts in that I’ve actually had a couple of full and partial manuscript requests, but not as many as I’d hoped. Which is disheartening and has led to many hours of ‘what if I never get an agent?’ thoughts. Of course, there are many options, one of which I’ve already pursued for my previous books — finding indie publishers. But the rejections piling up still hurt.

On a side note, though, my publisher recently informed me that two of my contracted poetry books are moving to the editing stage, so that’s something to look forward to (and also be anxious about. You may be thinking I’m anxious about a lot of things, and you’d be right. That’s just my brain.)

So, to bring this ramble to a close: if, like me, you’re a creative struggling with current projects, I see you and I understand. My family keep saying productivity shouldn’t be linked to self-worth, and while I get the idea of that sentiment, I haven’t yet found a way to make it stick. Even writing this post, which I could have left until I felt better and had more energy, is part of that. I didn’t feel like I’d done enough today, so words had to be written. But maybe someday, I’ll have a healthier approach to self-worth.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 14 – Winged Meetings

The field is a mix of green and grey-white;

the sign of gulls holding parliament

in their silent, watching way –

aside, of course, from latecomers

who announce themselves without shame,

wanting the whole neighbourhood to know

they’ve finally arrived.

These hardy birds don’t turn a feather

at the drizzle, droplets running down their wings and backs

just like the ones hitting our umbrella and bouncing off to soak

into the already sodden, boggish ground.

We speculate over their intent,

curious to see if they’ll partake in five-a-side,

or if the goalposts they’re huddling round

serve some other purpose.

Safe beneath a patch of leafless shrubbery,

three pigeons look on –

a stereotype of grandmothers cooing

about the sullen youth of today.

Above, the lone crow taking a moment’s rest

suddenly finds his peace disrupted

by a flood of hyperactive starlings.

Looping and twisting, the effortless mimics settle

 on his very tree, and the one next to it,

clouding the area with constant chatter.

Grudgingly, he mooches away,

only to receive backup seconds later

from a quartet of jackdaws,

ready to bounce the riff-raff along.

Below, the gulls’ meeting remains at a standstill.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise money for the RSPB . To find out more about the project and how to donate, please visit my Just Giving page here.

Sharing is also much appreciated, as I’m trying to raise as much awareness of our local wildlife as possible. The more people who appreciate nature, the more likely it can be successfully protected.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 10 – Living Grave

So many times, I’ve walked past. Seeing but not seeing.

For this giant’s footprint, this decayed and blackened skeleton

has long scuttled from my attention. But now I                  pause.

Vague architecture

ripples into sense:

Steps morph into centuries-old roots basking on the soil’s surface,

the ankle-high wall surrounding a stump-table

melts into remains

of an even larger trunk, worn smooth by time’s fingers.

Five of me could stand inside and still not knock elbows.

I bet

it was Lord of Trees once,

before disease or the elements or man

finally beat it down.

And though the realisation

that I’m hovering within its bones strikes hard,

I don’t mourn for long.

How can I

when this humble grave teams with life?

Fungi, lichen, moss –

they decorate its bark like the echoes of new growth.

Climbers and creepers seek its grain, grasping

it like a helping hand, a boost of support

for their own roots.

And here I am, connected to it all,

part of the quiet bustle that takes place despite winter’s clutch.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise funds for UK wildlife charity RSPB and to encourage an appreciation for nature. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it and/or donating to the RSPB via my Just Giving page here.

Help keep wildlife wild!

Uncategorized

My work caught up to me (as always).

It’s been a while since I posted something other than one of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry poems, so I thought I’d rectify that with a ramble about what’s been happening lately.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been busy with various writing projects this year – drafting, revising, going through major edits, most of which came back to back. In early November, I finally managed to finish the ‘final’ revision for the book I wrote last year in order to get it ready for querying (which I’m currently doing).

Shortly after completion, the weight of all the energy I’d used up doing everything hit me hard: my sleep, which has never be good, got worse, and I couldn’t handle much physically or mentally. I probably should have seen it coming, because it’s happened before, but even if I had, I’m not sure what I could have done about it. I’m terrible at taking breaks and resting. I’m not even sure if I know how to rest – no matter how hard I try, my brain won’t stop chiming in with all the projects I’ve got lined up, and if I don’t have any, it ‘helpfully’ comes up with some.

The thing is, the longer I put off resting, the worse my energy levels will be affected when I do get to it. So I had to force myself to slow down, because my body was telling me I had to. So I spent a while playing games, which I rarely do otherwise despite how much I enjoy them, went out for more walks, cared for and added (substantially!) to my houseplant collection, and only worked on my fundraising project.

This did work for a while, but then I got a few emails about being part of a story festival, which meant I had another project to prepare for. And it seems that, if I have any sort of deadline, no matter if it’s ages away, my brain will not let me settle until whatever it is is done.

I ended up doing it all as fast as I could so I no longer had to think about it, and I felt so much better afterwards that I even managed to do some small festive crafty things (I like the idea of making things, but generally I’m too impatient and get bored halfway through, which then means I end up resenting it while being too stubborn to give up. Conundrums, conundrums.)

But then I got the itch to rework an older book, and though in some ways, I probably would benefit from taking a few more weeks to recover, when I started taking a look at the story and began tweaking, I felt like I was achieving something again. It’s an odd headspace to be in – I’m tired as I’m still not sleeping well, and I can’t really handle more than one activity a day (I disregard general cleaning, as that’s part of my morning routine, and I get so badly thrown off if I don’t do it that it’s just not worth skipping it. Also, I have birds, and their care comes well before mine). Yet if I don’t have some sort of work on the go, apparently I feel unfulfilled.

I do wonder if other creatives, especially those who are neurodivergent, have the same problem?