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…

Continue reading

Hay Festival 2019 – Myths, Heritage, Landscapes, Stories & Maps

Hay Festival signI’m writing this from the sanctuary of my own home, after what has been an incredible yet exhausting few days at Hay. The sun did come out yesterday afternoon, and I did enjoy sitting in a deckchair, reading for a bit, but this year’s festival has been more of a challenge than in previous years, due to my lack of energy and a general lack of sunshine, and I am grateful for some much-needed rest.

There were two events that I found particularly fascinating over the last couple of days, both relating to the historical landscape, the way in which we ‘read’ and interpret the past, and the importance of maps and stories…   Continue reading

#Unafraid: Mental Health in Words

Christina Thatcher reading her poemsPoetry is not just for ‘arty’ types, it’s for everyone, so it’s good to see scientists and creatives working together. Last week I attended an event organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to celebrate their work with Patrick Jones, their current artist in residence. The event also showcased the work of other poets who have written about mental health issues, as well as patients who’ve benefitted from the therapeutic aspects of writing, but its main focus was as a starting point, a bringing together of psychiatrists and poets in the same space, to enable discussion and debate about what more can be done…   Continue reading

Writing on a Global Scale: An Interview with Dylan Moore, Hay Festival International Fellow

Dylan Moore - writer and Hay Festival International FellowDylan Moore is a writer, editor, critic and English teacher living in South Wales. His first book Driving Home Both Ways was published by Parthian in 2018, and he was named as the Hay Festival Creative Wales International Fellow for 2018-19.

Dylan and I met a few years ago, when he happened to marry one of my close friends, and I was chuffed to hear that he was given the Hay Festival Fellowship, a programme that allows a writer from Wales to participate in international Hay Festival events throughout the year, in Colombia, Spain, Peru and Mexico as well as Hay itself. I thought it would be interesting, as he nears the end of this momentous year, to find out how it has shaped and developed his work as a writer…    Continue reading

Three Years of Blogging – Part 2: Poetic Moments

Amanda Rackstraw reading at the Edward Thomas 100 event

It’s three full years since I first launched my brand-new book blog, and I’ve been looking back at all the fantastic books that I’ve reviewed, the fascinating people I’ve met, and the incredible events I’ve been able to attend during that time. In fact, I’ve published a total of 218 posts, including interviews, features and reviews.

I decided early on to include fiction and poetry on my blog, and it was the right decision, reflecting my own interest, and allowing me an excuse to review and post about the books I enjoy, whatever the genre. I’ve heard hundreds of poets perform their work, and had the privilege of reviewing 28 poetry collections, many of which have inspired my own writing.

So, as I celebrate my three-year blogaversary, here are my top three ‘Poetic moments’ from the past three years, along with my top three Poetry Reviews…

Continue reading

Three Years of Blogging – Part 1: Fiction & Festivals

Created to Read logoI launched this book blog on 18th March 2016, with no idea where it would lead me. Looking back over the last three years it’s hard to believe all that has happened in between. Reviewing books written by other people gave me the courage to look back at my own writing again, after years of relegating it to a dusty shelf, and to send it out into the world. So, to celebrate my three-year blogaversary I’ve picked out some of the posts I’ve most enjoyed writing, including my top three fiction reviews and my top three literary festivals…    Continue reading

A Poet in the Making – Finding Inspiration at Tŷ Newydd

Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre Last week I was invited to the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in North Wales as one of 10 writers selected for the 2019 Literature Wales Mentoring Scheme. After several months of ill-health I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to attend, but the week turned out to be beneficial in more ways than one – providing not only inspiration and development for my writing, but also some much-needed rest and relaxation in a gorgeous old house on the Llŷn Peninsula.    Continue reading

Translation, Interrogation, Spoken Word and Collaboration: Highlights from the Seren Poetry Festival

Poet Amiina Mohamoud

Despite being unwell I was determined to enjoy at least a few of this year’s Seren Poetry Festival events. Highlights included a fascinating insight into the complexities of translating poetry from Welsh to English, exceptional spoken word from up-and-coming poets Amiina Mohamoud and Umulkhayr Mohamed, an unusual two-way collaboration between visual artists and writers, and a frank and open discussion about the ‘BAME’ label and the need for change within the publishing industry…   Continue reading

Looking forward to Literature Festivals in Wales – 2019

rhiannon hooson poet

Wales is full of literary events, book fairs and writing festivals, from the very small to the very large, celebrating literature in all its forms. So here’s a list of all the literary / book festivals taking place in Wales during 2019…

Please use the comments below to add information about any literary festivals which I have missed out, and I’ll continue to update this post throughout the year.

Continue reading

Literary Highlights of 2018

exhibition - made in roathLooking back over the last year makes me realise just how priviliged I am to live in a country where so many literary events and opportunities exist, and I’m especially grateful for the small community of writers in Cardiff who continue to run free, or low-cost workshops and open-mic nights on a regular basis. I’ve continued to enjoy running my own ekphrastic writing workshop, and have begun the second year of my part-time MA in Creative Writing. There have been plenty of literary highlights over the past few months, including the thrills of the Hay Festival, but here are my top four…   Continue reading

Book Gifts for Christmas – Something for Everyone

christmas book-gifts

Christmas is coming (along with a good month or so of packed out shops and traffic jams) so this year I have five book gift suggestions for you – something to suit everyone, including some historical fiction, an exceptional thriller, and the perfect book-shaped stocking filler.

Let the book buying commence…

Continue reading

Poetry in Three Languages – Irish, Welsh and English

multi-lingual poetry event poster

A Guest Post by Ailbhe Darcy

On Monday 3rd December, two Irish poets, Aifric Mac Aodha and Celia de Fréine, will read at the Flute and Tankard in Cardiff alongside the Welsh poet Llŷr Gwyn Lewis. Poet and academic Ailbhe Darcy explains why she’s organised this multi-lingual event…    Continue reading

The Problem of Reviewing Poetry

reviewing poetry - notebook

Someone asked me the other day how long it takes to write a review, and it occurred to me that the amount of time and effort spent on reviewing a poetry collection goes far beyond common sense. Fiction is easy in comparison. A novel feeds slowly into your mind in plot form, with characters and subplots, ideas and comparisons already made and constructed in such a way that your subconscious does most of the work behind the scenes. You read, and then you write about what you’ve read. Simple.

Not so with poetry. I find myself taking a deep breath, and setting aside a period of uninterrupted time as I open up a new poetry collection, ready for an adventure as yet entirely unknown. It is better, often, to just delve in and begin to read, without glancing through the carefully crafted quotes on the back, or reading the blurb. Poetry is best taken neat – without any pre-conceptions. I look at the quotes later on, to see if they match up with what I’ve discovered. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Continue reading

Seeing, Writing & Responding for madeinroath 2018

madeinroath arts festival logoWhen you move to a new city, you never know what kind of place you’ll end up living in. Nine and a half years ago I spent an exhausting weekend traipsing through the streets of Cardiff, searching for a place to call home. Roath was the last place I looked, and it felt just right – a suburb full of life, but safe too, and welcoming. Little did I know that it was a breeding ground of artistic creation, or that the annual madeinroath arts festival would become one of the highlights of my year.    Continue reading

Cardiff Book Festival – Highlights from 2018

Poet - Rhys Owain WilliamsNow in its third year, the Cardiff Book Festival is not only a great platform for local writers and authors from further afield, but also a catalyst for debate on all sorts of issues. There were plenty of workshops too, aimed at writers perfecting their craft, and this year I ran my own event on the subject of blogging.    Continue reading

From Book Blogger to Published Writer: Looking Forward to Cardiff Book Festival 2018

How to Start a Book BlogI have a particular reason to be looking forward to this year’s Cardiff Book Festival, as I’m running a masterclass – An Introduction to Blogging on Saturday 8th September. I launched this blog back in 2016, and never imagined that it would lead to publication (not only non-fiction but poetry too) as well as the production of a book – How to Start a Book Blog: A Step by Step Guide – which contains all the advice I collected during my initial research, as well as some lessons learned along the way.   Continue reading