Journey to September - my first pamphlet
I'm absolutely over the moon that Offa's Press have chosen to publish my debut poetry pamphlet, September, and add me to their growing family of 'Offa's poets'. While I won't see the physical book for a couple of weeks, my excitement is growing, and sometimes I have to take five minutes to remind myself this is real, and look back at how I ended up here.
I've always loved writing, even when I was a very young child. The first job I ever said I wanted to do 'when I grew up' is 'author' - I can still see my 6-year-old handwriting in my primary school exercise book.
Throughout school, I always enjoyed creative writing, and relished any opportunity to explore it. I have a strong suspicion that the enforced word count now experienced by GCSE students doing their creative writing coursework at my secondary school may have resulted from the summer I spent writing a fantasy novella.
In my final year at school, I won a young people's story-writing competition in the local newspaper, and my prize was a course at Ty Newydd, the Creative Writing Centre in Cricieth, Wales. I found myself on a poetry course amongst experienced and very engaging poets. Despite feeling out of my depth, the tutors made a special effort to encourage me, and I enjoyed it so much, my Dad paid for me to go back six months later.
However, after this, I didn't really take writing very seriously until I was in my mid-twenties. I'd just moved back to the midlands after some years living in Yorkshire, and I was looking for opportunities to perform some of the rudimentary poetry I had written. I happened upon an event called 'City Voices' in Wolverhampton, and contacted the organiser, Simon Fletcher.
At the time, Simon was working as a Literature Development Officer alongside his role as Manager of Offa's Press, and invited me to meet him to discuss my aspirations. He advised me to join one of his writing groups, Blakenhall Writers, and when I went along, I met a group of like-minded people who were all keen on developing their writing technique and getting their work out into the public arena.
At the same time, I made the decision to change direction in the Open University degree I'd started before moving away from Yorkshire. While I'd started doing an English Language & Literature degree, it made sense now to focus on Creative Writing, so I changed my pathway and signed up to a Creative Writing module.
Over the next few years, I attended workshops and courses, went along to performance events, read literary journals and magazines, met other poets and writers, and received mentoring, until I was confident enough to start sending my work out to magazines in the hopes of being published. The first time I saw my name in print was a very special feeling, and I loved knowing people enjoyed reading my work.
Now I run Blakenhall Writers with my partner in crime (and all round Wonder Woman), Kuli Kohli, I graduated from my degree course in October 2018, and I've seen my poetry in a number of different poetry magazines, websites, and anthologies.
In November 2018, I'd been invited to 'do a turn' at Country Voices, the monthly performance event in Ironbridge, Shropshire, run by Offa's Press. Simon approached me afterwards and asked me to prepare a manuscript of approximately 30 poems for his review. Once he'd read through the poems, he declared that he would publish a pamphlet of my work in summer 2019.
I was overjoyed, as you can imagine! We met several times as we had to agree the contents, the cover design, the launch dates, not to mention the title! We both chose September as a choice, so we immediately knew that must be the title! It's the name of a poem in the pamphlet, and that poem seems to encapsulate something of the spirit of the book - loss, recovery, the changing of the seasons.
It's all been surprisingly smooth, and next week the book is being sent to the printer, so I'll soon be able to see how it looks in real life. I've had an absolutely humbling endorsement from poet and playwright Chris Kinsey (which you can read on the cover). I first met Chris on my first Ty Newydd course, and we reconnected a few years later, so it seemed very appropriate for her to review September. I'm so glad she agreed, and that she enjoyed it.
I'm really looking forward to sharing my work with a wider audience, but it's also quite intimidating. I suppose anytime you create something for public consumption, you're putting a piece of yourself our there, and you do so knowing it won't be for everyone. I hope those who come across it enjoy September, find something relatable in it, feel my passion for nature, or at least enjoy the messages and images.
You can see me perform from September at:
Tues 9th July 19:30
The Light House, Wolverhampton
£3 on the door
Sat 20th July 14:30
The Meadow Inn, Ironbridge
£4 on the door
Tues 23rd July 18:00
Shrewsbury Library, Shrewsbury
Free event (soft drinks provided)