#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Corvids by the Sea front – #52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 27

Daisy-like blooms hug the cliffside,

neighbouring thicker bushes and brambles.

Roaring nearby, the ocean leaps

onto the wall, spittle flecks

dousing passers-by,

including ink-cloaked crows and rooks

scanning the area for nibbles.

Affronted by the water’s threatening stance,

these birds take wing,

flapping energetically, gaining hight,

                                                                                          soaring.

Gliding like delicate ice-skaters.

(Except their ‘lake’

is the gusting open,

limitless save for the air’s thinness

and cool touch

if one ventures too high.)

To save energy, they clutch

at ridges on the rock face

with their capable feet,

used to perching

in rough, uneven places.

There they wait in silent council

until the ocean quietens

and the footfall of tourists returns,

dropping stray chips and ice-cream cones

as markers of their passage.

Eagerly, the corvids dive,

snatching what they can

before the gulls gobble up the rest.

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.)

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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 20 – Ladybirds and Harlequins

A red pin rests on a board of greenery, tucked in so snug it can only be seen from a certain angle; by chance, that’s where I’m standing. The breeze rattles the branches as I stoop to identify:

Is it? Could it be?

Cherry wing casings, dark head, three black dots on either side, one split between. A true seven-spot!

Years have passed since I’ve seen any in person (though they peppered my childhood generously), and yes, perhaps I’ve been particularly unlucky until now, for they are about. But often, they’re shunted aside by rowdy bullies, such as the non-native harlequins.

While just as striking, the harlequins guzzle and gulp down aphids all day long. Voracious eaters, they leave little to spare, and our humble ladybirds regularly find themselves wanting – and then where do they go?

I’ve heard they stay in bug hotels, grand establishments set up in wild gardens. Surrounded by local species; glorious bushes, trees, shrubs; these little havens sound delightful, the perfect places for a touch of respite.

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, ‘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!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 17 – First Sighting

My cheeks are pink; the wind delights in pinching them as we push against it, determined to reach the quayside. Overhead, spilled milk decorates the sky. No heavy rain clouds in sight, yet droplets defiantly needle through the air, fine prickles at first, then heavier.

We huddle under the bridge, watching black-headed gulls (wearing their winter plumage, aside from a few brave individuals) circle and dive as a family attempts to offer the ducks afternoon treats. The ducks barely get a look in and the pigeons, ever wisely, stay well away until the screech retreats and they can pick at the crumbs.

Something large torpedoes along the river, leaving its shadow dancing on the surface. Charcoal wings outstretched and neck long, beak kissed with hints of orange; this pinch of midnight is magnificent against the gulls’ luminous whites and soft greys. A mirage, I wonder? A trick of the eye?

Later, I consult my bird guidebook: a cormorant, it says. Warm sparks ignite in my chest at the discovery – to my knowledge, it’s the first I’ve seen. Pulling the memory close, I clutch it like treasure and mount the scene lovingly in my mind-album, there to look back on whenever I need to.

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, sport-style 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!

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Isle of Wight Story Festival 2021 17th – 20th Feb

Hi everyone, just a short post to say I’m part of this year’s Isle of Wight Story Festival. I’ll be giving a reading and mini workshop based on my book Nekromancer’s Cage, and reading some of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry poems.

The festival is completely online this year, as most other literary festivals have been, which means it can be enjoyed by everyone. Along with myself, there’s plenty of other authors taking part plus oodles of fun stuff going on including shadow puppetry, story telling, arts and crafts, nature themed workshops and much more.

If you’ve been home schooling, tuning in to the festival would be a great way to keep kids excited about learning during half term!

All events can be found on the festival’s Youtube channel here, and below is the complete programme:

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 16 – Jelly Ears

Jelly-like ears cluster on trees,

livening up dying lower branches.

The latest fashion, you might think.

Beech, sycamore, ash – they all wear them,

but elder sports the most.

Legend has it

that for elder, the ears represent Judas’s tormented soul.

But perhaps the hardwood simply delights

in listening to the varied sounds of its woodland home

and so wished to collect more of them;

those reddish-brown kidney beans,

with their translucent undersides wrinkled into veins,

clinging to bark like folded ribbon.

Ruffle-tastic.

When the frosts arrive, they freeze solid,

becoming sugared sweeties in an elaborate window display.

Then, as they thaw, their cells jump into action

and off they go:

growing, growing, as if the pause button

had never been hit.

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 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 13 – Underfoot

Soil has often stained my hands and feet.

But unlike the residue left after holding sticky buns

or picking up used teabags after they’ve rolled off the spoon

and splatted to the floor,

it doesn’t make them feel unclean.

Yet repeatedly, I hear it called dirt.

Or mud.

Such a dull, heavy sound.

Undesirable, wash it off quick.

Barely a thought for what it actually is, or does, or harbours:

Miners. Millers. Munchers.

Decomposition prize-winners, aeration champions, turnover challengers never beaten.

And the fruit of these creatures’ toils

is that this common, brown mix –

yes, this loamy, bouncy, often fudge-like earth –

can refuel itself and chug along

supporting life.

Not lightly does soil

wear the crown of Natural Carbon Sink,

gulping down each course with

the tantrums of rivers

so everything can be still, held in place, secured.

Yet lately its hunger has soured,

its minute workers fatigued and growing scarce.

Hit with pesticides, bad land management and neglect,

every day a sliver more

of its vitality blows away in the breeze.

But we can drip feed it, nurture it,

with innovation and determination

so that maybe, perhaps, possibly,

it’ll rebuild its underground cities and again burst

with diversity and good health.

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.

The RSPB is also running the Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of this month, which you can also do in parks if you don’t have a garden. The aim is to collect data on garden birds to analyse their numbers to see if particular species have declined or recovered since last year’s survey. It only takes an hour, so if you have chance, please do check out the details here.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 12 – Not So Grave

The stones are leaning, broken, face down. Grass hides the boundaries but also shelters little pockets of shoots. Snowdrops. Daffodils. Soon a clump of crocuses or two. Arthritic trees pop with new growth; tendrils sprouting straight from trunks, left to thrive and wild despite the careful manicuring of shrubs and hedges elsewhere on the plot. Buds collect on arms like dew, promising, teasing: soon, soon. Branches wave, collecting birdsong with the same enthusiasm as dry earth awaiting rain. The birds themselves are tiny, specks of brown-grey, black, yellow-green, and blue; mingling and chattering on, heedless of the slumbering residents grinning up at the daisies.

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, sport-style 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!