Cheltenham Literature Festival: Bernadine Evaristo, Sebastian Faulks and More…

Bernadine Evaristo introducing Judith Bryan, Jacqueline Roy and Nicola WilliamsThe highlight of my day at the Cheltenham Literature Festival was seeing Bernadine Evaristo and Dawn French in conversation, but I must admit that I was too tired to take proper notes by this point (and too busy laughing!) so I can’t report all of what was said. It felt good, after the last two years, to be part of a live audience again, and it was fascinating to hear them discuss their own careers and compare writing techniques, both coming from a background of theatre and performance. They also discussed the controversial topic of white writers writing black characters, agreeing that so long as the characters are fully rounded, well-researched and well-written, it is good to create diverse characters in order to reflect the society in which we live.    Continue reading

Reading Poetry in August – The Sealey Challenge Days 21 to 31

Poetry books for the Sealey ChallengeI have completed the Sealey Challenge, reading a new poetry book each day for a whole month! Though I spent 3 days on one book (an anthology) and only dipped into some of them, that still means I have read at least part of 29 different poetry books over the last 31 days. And many of them have inspired me to write my own poems, so it has definitely been worthwhile. I’ve read several books that were simply sitting on my shelf un-read, as well as a few new ones ordered specially for the occasion, and some old favourites, plus a couple of poetry magazines. Here are my highlights from the final 11 days…   Continue reading

A Creative Writing PhD – The Second Year

notebooksMy first year as a creative writing PhD student was fairly eventful, with a pandemic taking over every aspect of life from March onwards. Looking back, I think the routine of PhD work, with the opportunity to immerse myself in research, was the main thing that kept me going through the lockdown. The second year has included teaching online, running workshops online, organising a conference (also online) and plenty of reading, mainly from the comfort of my own home. For obvious reasons, I don’t have many photos!  Continue reading

A Storytelling Festival at Dynefwr

Beyond the Border festival 21I have just spent three glorious days at Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival. It was all outdoors, in sunshine and rain, beneath the towers of Dynefwr, a ruined Welsh castle. The atmosphere could not have been more fitting for my first post-covid literary event. Numbers were limited, of course, and there were social distancing rules in place, but it still felt truly magical.    Continue reading

Llais Newydd: A New Welsh Poetry Press

llais newydd

Llais Newydd is not your average poetry press. The name means ‘new voice’ in English, and it was set up by Dee Dickens and Joe Thomas to provide a platform for marginalised voices. Each of them knows from personal experience what it feels like to be outside of the norm, and they are both poets themselves. I interviewed Dee to find out more about how this new poetry press came about…

 

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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