Abergavenny Small Press: A New Welsh Publisher

Abergavenny Small Press logoBack in July, as lockdown began to ease and things started to happen once more, Dogs Darnborough launched a new independent publishing house: Abergavenny Small Press. They plan to publish one or two books each year, and the inaugural issue of their journal has just been published online (featuring two of my poems). I thought I’d interview Dogs to find out a bit more about this new publishing venture.    Continue reading

A Creative Writing PhD – The First Year

notebooksI began my PhD last autumn with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I was going back to study full time, to focus on creative writing – the subject that had thrilled me as an undergraduate thirteen years before. And what a year it has been, with so many unexpected challenges! But it has been fascinating too, and even though the last few months have not been easy, there have been plenty of highlights along the way.   Continue reading

Book Review: Behind the Mask

Book - Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask: The NHS Family and the Fight with COVID-19 documents the impact of Coronavirus on the staff and patients of one small hospital in South Wales. It is a simple, short collection of photographs and quotes, yet it reveals the incredible determination and hard work of those staff who have been, and still are, working on the front line, donning PPE every day in this hot weather, and persevering in the face of physical and emotional exhaustion.

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Celebrating Poetry Pamphlets

Poetry pamphletsI have a small collection of poetry pamphlets (called ‘chapbooks’ in the US) that I’ve acquired over the last few years, so I thought I’d select just a few of them as a kind of mini celebration of the versatile and the short – a space where poets often take a few more risks, try out new forms and link their poems in more obvious ways than they could in a full collection. The definition of a pamphlet is debateable, but they are generally much shorter than a full collection, and can often be read in one sitting.   Continue reading

Poet in Residence at the Cynon Valley Museum

poet in residenceFor the month of June I’ve been writing and posting new poems on the Cynon Valley Museum website, responding to their online art exhibitions, and artefacts from their collection. I was privileged to work at the museum for a few months last year, before starting my PhD, and was impressed by their high quality art exhibitions, some of which you can now see online.    Continue reading

Hay Festival 2020 – Digital Highlights

Hay Festival 2020 - digitalI plucked up the courage to attend the Hay Festival on my own for the first time ever in 2016, and I’ve been addicted ever since, so I’m glad that, despite financial uncertainty and the impossibility of running live events, the organisers have managed to create the next best thing – Hay Festival online. And there are benefits – no queueing for the toilet, no stampede in the book tent, no backache from those awkward plastic chairs, and easy access for so many who would normally miss out. But I really do miss the buzz of literary excitement, the roar of applause at the end of an event, and the delicious taste of Shepherds ice cream in the sun.

So here are a few of my highlights from Hay Festival 2020, celebrating the legacy of Wordsworth, the beauty of language, the culture of China, and the relaxation of reading…   Continue reading

Interview: Creating a Book Blog in Lockdown

MeganThe other day I was delighted to hear from someone who had read my book How to Start a Book Blog: A Step by Step Guide and used it to create their own brand-new book blog, making the most of the lockdown, and the extra time they’ve had to spend at home over the last few weeks!

So here’s an interview with Megan, creator of the ‘Behind her Books’ blog…

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Volunteering at The Wordsworth Trust

Dove Cottage - the view from my bedroom window

Dove Cottage – the view from my bedroom window

On this day, two hundred and fifty years ago, the poet William Wordsworth was born. And in 2006, fourteen years ago, I began a seven-month stint of volunteering at The Wordsworth Trust. It is a museum based at Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived from 1799 to 1808. I had just completed my BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, and this was to be the beginning of a career in museum work, though it became far more than that…

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Virtual Literature Festivals – Celebrate Literature from your Sofa!

literature festivals online

My blog was originally created to review, celebrate and promote literary festivals and events, as well as posting book reviews, and this has been a challenge in recent times – everything has been cancelled! But people are attempting to make the best of this situation, transferring their events online, so here’s a list of the virtual literary festivals and events still taking place…

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#Instagram #Instapoetry #Instaart – Engaging with Visual Culture

Image Works - Instagram Symposium

What better thing to do on a stormy Saturday than consider how Instagram might be influencing our perceptions of ourselves, our art or culture? The Image Works symposium provided an opportunity to do just that. And it’s also made me realise just how versatile social media can be, as a platform for artists, poets and researchers to engage with and potentially subvert social norms in an interactive digital space.

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Highlights from the Cardiff Poetry Festival 2020

Tony CurtisNow in its third year, the Cardiff Poetry Festival (run by Seren Books) has moved to a new venue. The Temple of Peace is a strange looking building, a cross-between a war memorial and a beacon of hope – it looks rather grim on the outside, especially in this weekend’s torrential rain, but it is quite magnificent on the inside. The festival itself included a mix of poetry readings, workshops and talks, but the highlight for me was Cherry Smyth’s performance of an incredible poetic sequence which evokes the horror and hunger of the Irish potato famine, accompanied by jazz singer Lauren Kinsella.    Continue reading

Looking Forward to Literature Festivals in Wales – 2020

Hay Festival sign

Here’s my annual round-up of all the literature festivals taking place in Wales in 2020. From the smallest of bookfairs run by local communities to the most popular literary festivals on a monumental scale…

Please use the comments below to add information about any literature festivals which I have missed out, and I’ll continue to update this post throughout the year. I should also add that some of the organisers are not able to announce their programmes until later in the year, so you may need to check back for further details.

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What makes a good book blog?

How to Start a Book BlogWhat makes a good book blog? That’s the question I asked when I decided to create a book blog of my own, and to celebrate the beginning of a new year I’m giving away two free copies of my book ‘How to Start a Book Blog: A Step by Step Guide’ which is full of tips and advice for anyone interested in book blogging (see details of how to enter this giveaway below). Of course everyone will have different ideas about what makes a good book blog, but here are my top five…   Continue reading

Last Minute Book Gift Ideas for Christmas

christmas book-giftsIt’s nearly Christmas, and there’s no better gift than a book! This year, more than ever, it feels like there has been so much change and uncertainty in the world. Reading is a great way to pause and reflect, and to understand how other people see things in different ways. So here are five book-gift recommendations, just in case you need some last minute inspiration – four fiction books and some poetry…

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Inspiration from the Hay Festival Winter Weekend

Hay Festival Writers at Work signI’ve become a Hay Festival addict over the last few years but, until this week, I had never been to the Winter Weekend – a miniature version of the Hay Festival which takes place at the end of November. This year I’ve been involved in the Literature Wales mentoring programme for writers, which includes the opportunity to attend ‘industry days’ at Hay. I’ve written about the experience for the Hay Festival International Writers’ blog – click here to read it, and I’ve also included a few more photos and comments below…   Continue reading

Poetry – Feedback, Submissions and the #100Rejections Challenge

notebooksHow do you decide which poems to submit to which magazines, and when? How do you cope when your poems get rejected? And how do you respond to critical and constructive feedback? These three questions are ones which I’m sure every poet grapples with, and I’ve certainly had my fair share of grappling this year. It’s helpful to pause and look back every now and then, so here are my reflections on taking part in the #100rejections challenge… Continue reading

Diary of a Creative Writing MA Student – The Final Year

MMU Creative Writing Summer School - coping with setbacks as a writerThere’s something inspirational about spending time with other writers, sharing a mutual interest in words and stories, poems and punctuation, and last week I attended the MMU Creative Writing Summer School – the perfect finish to my MA, after two years of study and creativity. I just have one final assignment to complete – a collection of 300 lines of poetry – and that will be it! I thoroughly enjoyed the summer school, and am now feeling re-energised and ready for a final burst of creativity over the summer…    Continue reading

Hay festival 2019 – The Novels That Shaped Our World

BBC Novels that shaped our world

Hay Festival event, photo by Chris Athanasiou

Last week at the Hay Festival I attended the BBC launch event of their new project – Novels That Shaped Our World. It marks the 300th anniversary of the English language novel, and involves a panel of six people (Mariella Frostrup, Zawe Ashton, Syima Aslam, Kit de Waal, Stig Abell and Alexander McCall Smith) selecting 100 novels for this impressive list. I thought this meant selecting novels that have shaped the world, but at the event, they made it clear that it is much more personal than that, and the idea is to spark discussion and debate…

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