Friday, 19 May 2017

For the Guardian: A moment that changed me

I wrote an essay for the Guardian series A Moment That Changed Me.

It's about the experience of moving in on my own.

Have a read.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Endings - a poem

Last year I wrote a bunch of poems and two of them were published (Blue and Notte Rossa). 

This one was my favourite, though, and because it's the ending of my residency, and the poem is called Endings, I thought I'd share it. 

Endings

When you told me:
"You're no good at endings."
and I cried.
My face pressed up against the bobbled grey sheets
of another borrowed bed.
The city outside 
with its heaving multitudes 
doesn't exist. 
But we can't contain our whole existence 
in this:
a borrowed room. 

I'm no good at endings.
And so I don't know how to end this; 
our holiday. 
I leave it to you
to leave me instead. 
I stand,
naked, framed by door.
You, half
nude descending a staircase. 

Is it because I'm no good at endings
that I cry when the plane takes off?
The air stretching vertical between me
and the place that still holds you.
Alarming the correct couple sat beside me
as they reflect on their holiday photos,
first on one lit screen,
and then on another.
The sunflowers that had bobbed in welcome,
only visible from arrivals. 

I go to funerals on my own.
I wake, panting, from a nightmare.
These moments when I wonder if it's worth not being
alone.
If it's worth having someone
to stand, tear-wet hand-clasped with,
at funerals.
Someone to smooth your hair when a ghost lifts you up 
unexpectedly 
in sleep.

I get drunk under a blurry sky.
I flirt with a Frenchman,
and then I flirt with
another Frenchman.
He pokes my stomach.
My mouth a moue. 

It all seems such a waste of time
when the end result is not
you. 

There must be a reason for me to stand:
naked, framed by door,
my body a strobe in black.
A white flag in the dawn dark.
Watching your back move away from me,
again. 
Like I watch the towns escape one by one behind me
on the train home,

like I watch the Alps shrink beneath me,
my nose pressed against a postage stamp of white light,
until they are reduced to 
papier-mache proportions. 
The heel of my hand is wet with
wiped-away tears.
The couple beside me say:
"It's so much easier to go on holiday now the kids are grown."



One day I'd quite like to collect all the poems I wrote last summer into a pamphlet. But who knows...


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Four months in Spike Island

Four months ago, I arrived at Spike Island’s residency studio - the days and weeks gloriously stretched out in front of me full of opportunity for writing and events-organising. It felt like four months would last forever and yet today I have to pack up my little room and wave goodbye to the most wonderful time of my life. 

I’ve done a lot in four months. Here’s a few of my highlights. 

Writing

The aim of the residency was, of course, to do some writing! And my god, write I did. There was something transformative about having the physical space to work in - physical space that opened up mental and emotional space within me. I edited another draft of my Paris book (The Red Deeps) so that it was ready to send out to agents and publishers. And with that done, I turned my attention to a new project, a new idea - rattling out the first draft of a new novel exploring issues around refugees and migration. It’s rough, it’s messy, but it’s a first draft and I have high hopes for its development. So, how about that? Two books under my belt, one (pretty much) complete and one about to go on a re-drafting, re-editing journey. 

Plus I wrote a few articles too, for the New Statesman, politics.co.uk, and Open Democracy. I even squeezed in some freelance copywriting too, and have a short story coming out on 3am magazine in the next few weeks. 

Salons

One of my main aims for the residency was to find ways to bring together established and emerging talent into Spike Island. With my salons, I was able to invite some of my favourite writers and invite open mic attendees to share their work too. 

The first one in February featured Shagufta Iqbal, Vera Chok and Miles Chambers.



Then in March I invited Tania Hershman, Bidisha and Holly Corfield-Carr.



And yesterday I was joined by Eley Williams, Amy Key and Ben Gwalchmai. Yesterday was also the first time I shared work from The Red Deeps. It was a real joy for me to read from the Paris book in my wonderful studio. 



Workshops

Looking up to see 25 children aged 5-12 expecting me to teach them creative writing was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life. It went well though - with the amazing children of Bristol learning to tell stories with the help of multi coloured cardboard squares and felt tip pens. 

This was followed by 25 adults engaging with Lubaina Himid’s exhibition to write poetry and short fiction. 

And finally on the sunniest day of the year so far, 12 intrepid writers chose to sit in a windowless room to discuss redrafting techniques and share our ideas and thoughts on how we approach editing. 

I also worked with three schools - delivering workshops on how to write dialogue (with the help of Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants) and on feminism, gender and the media. 

Mentoring

Collaborating with Rife magazine, I had the brilliant opportunity to work with Kaja Brown. Kaja’s a fantastically talented young writer working on a novel trilogy. Together we looked at her manuscript and explored ways of editing it. Kaja also came to the second salon event to perform her short story during the open mic. It was the first time Kaja had read her work in public and I was super proud of her. She has a bright future ahead. 

1920s Paris

During the residency I ran an online reading group featuring work from my favourite writers living and working on the Left Bank in the 1920s. I also published an e-book of essays about the remarkable women who made their own literary and artistic community during this fascinating period. 

Press coverage

I got lots of press and publicity for the residency, including in:


And I think that’s it!

It really has been the most wonderful, exciting and inspiring experience of my life. I have to pay a massive tribute to the team at Spike Island - Helen, Georgia, Lizzie and Jane - who have been so supportive and kind throughout the four months and in the run-up too. I know we will be working together again in the future. 


Thursday, 27 April 2017

For politics.co.uk: a vote for Theresa May is not a vote for women

I had a look for politics.co.uk at Theresa May's record on women's issues - including her and her government's work on male violence against women, reproductive rights, poverty and refugee rights.

I was not impressed although there is some good stuff in there.

Have a read.

Friday, 21 April 2017

For OD 50 50: The Things I Would Tell You review

I reviewed The Things I Would Tell You, ed by Sabrina Mahfouz, for OD 50:50

Have a read.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

For politics.co.uk: The good side of a bad policy: Harsh migration law blocks forced marriages

I wrote for politics.co.uk about how the minimum income requirement on the spousal visa law could be having an impact on reducing forced or early marriage.

Have a read.

Monday, 17 April 2017

For the New Statesman: How Romania's feminists are fighting back

Check me out - lead story on the New Statesman website!


Yes, I wrote about the feminist movement in Romania with particular focus on the fight back against a rise in anti-abortion rhetoric.

Have a read

Now to find someone to commission me to write something big on feminism in Romania with a fully expenses paid trip to Bucharest...