Thursday, 8 October 2009

No writing

I feel as though I've taken all the years of teenage uncertainty and anguish and worked hard at scrubbing all of that out of me. But recently I've been feeling as though there's nothing left. I have been waiting for a while for the outward breath - the sigh of relief that makes space for something new. But instead I've got the scratched raw burning of overstretched lungs running on empty.

I have no writing in me at the moment. I barely have any person in me, it's like I'm nothing inside and I can't even quite recall if there was anything interesting in me to begin with.

I have gone too far into the quiet calm within myself and found nothing beyond.

Here, have a photo. It's all Ive got to give for now.

It's tea lights in coloured jars on a long exposure, I think they look like fairies.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


So instead of patchwork I decided to follow a Whip-Up tutorial to make tiny tissue-paper blossoms. I'm helping to decorate a friend's wedding and the flowers will do the perfect job for a certain part of that.
Here's the link to the tutorial I followed, I did it slightly differently in that I used crepe paper rather than tissue, it's a bit more durable, which is what I need. Here's how they turned out (they're a little paler in real life, they look just like cherry blossoms):

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Disastrous blackberrying

Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I decided to head out in my shorts for a nice blackberrying trip to get the last of this year's fruit. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the trip was more of a struggle through nettles and thorns with the occasional sighting of an out of reach blackberry.

The only blackberries left were in the woods, and the shaded slopes that the bushes clung to were so slippery that I fell down almost immediately, leading to this:

My favourite purple tights were ruined. I had to make the trip worth it and so I persisted my painful adventure through the woods to try and find some blackberries. The path I was on turned to nothing but nettles, so I headed along a smaller path that went directly up the hillside. That path petered out until it looked as though I was following a single person's tracks. But up above me I could see a huge spread of blackberry bushes that I was sure nobody would have picked.

The hill was steep, and I had to climb over the tangle of brambles and the enormous Himalayan Balsam, which I had to trample completely to get through. Now, I know that the Balsam is an invasive species and you should destroy it wherever possible, but that had not been the intention of my trip. Also, I ruined the effect of my accidental conservation work by popping the seed pods. I couldn't help it. They're like pebble-dash or textured wallpaper, they're designed to tempt my fingers.

The blackberries up at the top of the hill were huge and lovely. They were the sort that fall into your hand as soon as you touch them. Once I'd taken all that I could reach, I had to get to the other side of the bushes, which I knew take me onto a path that would get me home.

I went around the bushes and found myself stuck up to my bare knees in a patch of nettles. I almost cried then and wondered if Mountain Rescue would come out to a person who was stuck in nettles and brambles. But I knew that the journey back down had to be worse than the one up, so on I went. I got past the worst of the nettles and brambles, and between me and the path home there was one final obstacle, a wall of hawthorn bushes. Even the Prince in Sleeping Beauty got a sword to tackle his forest of thorns with. All I had was a carrier bag full of Tupperware.

In the end I got almost a kilo of blackberries and about 2/3 kilo of elderberries. I had no idea what I was going to do with the elderberries, but I decided to collect them in order to make me feel as though the trial of my trip was worth it. I've now made plans to use them for elderberry schnapps, which I'll take to Spain with me for Christmas.

The result of my perilous journey was hands that looked like this:

I'm not sure how much of that was berry juice and how much was blood, which is a sure sign that a blackberrying trip has gone very wrong.

I am covered from head to toe in grazes. They don't look very dramatic, but they made my feel like my skin was on fire all night. They're still sore, and so today I'm just going to do small relaxing things. I've been trawling through Whip-Up and I'm going to pick out a good project. I'm thinking of making this little house pouch:
And I'm going to do some patch-work. There's some great ideas in a round-up on Whip-Up. I'm especially loving this wreath, but I really want to make it smaller, like bracelet-size.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


I've been away...physically, mentally, and in other ways if possible.

But, I've freed myself from the clutches of my dissertation and I've got some time at home and I'm going to plough back into this long-neglected blog.

Unfortunately, I've been so busy writing recently that I've not got anything interesting to post about at the moment. I feel like I've written everything that's in me to write. The dissertation was only 15000 words, and at the beginning that sounded like so little, but somehow it took so much of me to write it.

I loved being out at the caravan, which is where I did the bulk of the writing. I took my camera with me and put the macro lens to good use shooting lots of bees on the beautiful thistles that had grown up around the van since my last visit:

Out at the caravan the only thing I did apart from write was read. One of the best things I read was Knut Hamsun's Hunger, which is incredibly compelling even though virtually nothing happens in it. I also started The Famished Road by Ben Okri, it's a big book and I've still not finished it, but it is absolutely amazing. The word choices are unbelievably peculiar and yet the sentence construction is so powerful that they seem normal in that context.

I've lost track of the blogs that I follow as well as the ones that I write. But I've had a chance to flick over a Yellow Brick Road post that quoted CS Lewis. I'd never heard of the particular quote before but I'm thinking of making it my new motto: "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

Thursday, 6 August 2009

My felt is now in John Rylands

My felt is finally for sale in a store near you (as long as you live in Manchester).

I have 4 scarves and 7 pairs of earrings for sale in the John Rylands library giftshop on Deansgate.

Above are pictures of the pieces that are on display there. I've not seen them in situ yet, but hopefully I'll be able to go in tomorrow to have a look.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Weird and wonderful is all I can do tonight

Crazy snail. I love it.

Intercity snail - maybe the best blog of all time. By slinkachu (has another great blog here on beautiful vandalism).

Friday, 31 July 2009

Etsy Treasury

I haven't done an Etsy treasury in a while. But today I happened to check on the treasuries and there was an opening within half an hour. That only happens every couple of days so I thought I might as well take advantage of it while I was on. I made one based around the colour purple:

It's got a scarf of mine in it, and it's only on for a couple of days, so check it out.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Pottery Corner

I've just interviewed for a job at Pottery Corner in Chorlton. I've wanted to go in and paint a pot there for a while so I'd love to work there. It's just part time, which is good for me at the moment, since I'm still doing my dissertation.

Aside from that, I've finished the four scarves I'm putting in the John Rylands Library on Deansgate. I'll put photos of them on here as soon as the weather is nice enough for me to snap them in natural light.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Back in the real world

I've been pretty holed up in my house recently, almost exclusively writing and felting. I feel that I've lost a little of my connection to the city and what's going on in it - I somehow missed much of the M'cr International Festival, even though I'd wanted to see the Marina Abramovic show for ages. I got to be part of the festival at the very end, with the Book Market, but everything else passed me by.

I'm wanting to get back into things - experiencing all the art that's on offer in Manchester, and I've just come across a site to help me with that. It's apparently aimed at the 'Creative Tourist', but it has info on loads of great stuff that I want to go and see/do that I don't have to be a tourist to be interested in. I'm especially keen on the new show at the Cube called City as Gymnasium, which is on until Oct 3rd. That's a pretty plainly descriptive title, but from what I've read the show sounds interesting.

One thing I have seen recently that I've found very inspiring and engaging is Gustav Metzger's Flailing Trees, which I saw in the Peace Gardens. There's an interesting recording of the artist describing the work on the Guardian website. There are a few other people on the recording giving their reactions to the work, and I was intrigued to hear them commenting on the relation of the work to the environment and conservation. I really didn't perceive the piece as having any relation to that in such a raw and direct sense. To me, it seemed to be much more about forcing observation through a perception shift, and it made me feel more aware of the world around me and the natural components of that. I felt that it wasn't really 'save the environment' as much as it was simply and honestly saying 'notice the environment'.

I really liked it, and not just because it's made of willow trees. One thing I found slightly distracting about it is that I didn't know how the trees were being kept alive. The piece is meant to be transferred to the Whitworth, but I didn't see how the trees could be maintained when they're kept upside down in concrete. I know that's quite a petty concern, I knew that even when I thought it while standing in front of the trees. But I thought it, and I couldn't help myself. When I got back I looked it up and found out that nothing is being done to keep the trees alive, so while they're very green and healthy-looking now (apart from the upside-down in concrete thing), they will die and dry out, and that is also part of the sculpture - it's a dying, rather than a living sculpture.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Bewilderbliss and now on to other things

Bewilderbliss issue #2 is out now, after a lot of work, so now I'll be free to get back to the rest of my life. At the moment that seems to include being dragged by Lucy into falling in love with the L-Word, struggling to write my novel (took me all morning to do 1000 words, though I feel that they were good) and finally getting to do the felting to go into the John Rylands Deansgate giftshop.

I'm really pleased with how Bewilderbliss is going, issue #2 is turning out to be even better and more popular than issue #1. I even got to do an interview with Jackie Kay, who was great - really supportive of the project, she not only did the interview, but she set the theme of the issue and put a poem into it.

I think that now I just want to get away for a while, at the moment there's always some e-mail to write or more usually something to feel guilty for not having got done yet. I think that soon I will go spend some time in a caravan in the woods and take nothing but a pen and paper, and books obviously, because other people write better than me. I have just started Deliverance and it is really good, but I think I'll have to get it done before I go to the woods, since I dont want a repeat of the fear I had last time when I was there and read The Road. I think that when you stay alone in a field enclosed by woods where nobody can hear you scream, you really dont want to read anything scary.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Anti-plagiarism Day

Friday July 17th is Anti-Plagiarism Day. It's not very official, since the date has just been hijacked for that purpose by the quite interesting How Publishing Really Works blog. However, it's quite an inspiring theme for a day to have, and the blog has put out a call for anyone interested in the topic to write about it on that date and raise awareness. You can either write a post about it on your own blog/facebook/twitter, or submit your thoughts to “hprw at tesco dot net”, with a subject line of “HPRW anti-plagiarism day”, and it will be posted on the HPRW blog. I think the line at which creative writing can be considered to be plagiarism can be a difficult one to find - who's to say what's simply drawn inspiration from something else and what's ripping it off. I'm going to have a think about the topic and hopefully I'll have something constructive to post on July 17th. It looks like there will be a lot of good things said about the topic, if the comments on the original blog post are anything to go by.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Knitted Poem

Oh, and also, I've just found out about this lovely idea. Join up to help knit a poem. Each person who takes part in the project with The Poetry Society knits a single letter of the poem. Even with my rubbish knitting, I think I might be able to contribute.

Another treasury

I've been busy making some new earrings to be sold in the John Rylands giftshop. But in the meantime, things are ticking along on Etsy. I've been included in another treasury. It's full of beautiful cobalt blue items. Have a look.

Monday, 29 June 2009

PS to the last post

The last item on the list should have been:

I have also been finishing my story for the next Bewilderbliss. It's inspired by my work with the archives, and since I had to write something as a product of that work as part of the internship, I was killing two birds with one stone.

As an aside, I like proverbs with animals in, they feel older and somehow truer than any others. Two birds with one stone is good. As is 'a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush'. They have one with an identical meaning in Madagascar, which translates as 'you can't catch two rabbits'. It obviously means that you can't catch two rabbits at the same time, and it's somehow better than the bird one. It feels more earthy and real, birds in hands and bushes seems a little too poetic by comparison.

I have been posting, but not here

This is not an excuse for neglecting my blog, but I have been posting to the new blog I have with the beautiful girl.

Though, in fact, I'm a post behind on that as well. But I have got in 5 posts this week, which is uncommonly good for me, and quite distracting.

As for other things I've been doing (in a list because it's that sort of mood):

I learned how to do some Scottish country dancing. It was at a party, I was drunk and won't be doing it again. I was not good.

I've been asked to sell my felt in the lovely gift shop of John Rylands Deansgate.

I've made a big to-do list to stave off the mental breakdown that came scarily close earlier this week.

I took a break from the excessively long We were the Mulvaneys to read I, Robot. The second of those was better, but did have some really really awful snippets of prose sometimes. It's interesting that even though it's incredibly dated (since lots of the 'future' is now in the past and we still don't have robots with positronic brains of hyperdrives to travel to the far reaches of the universe) lots of the issues it raises are still very interesting. I didn't realise it would be lots of short stories, but I liked it, I enjoyed the suspense of each story and I loved the ending of the whole thing. Read it.

I've cleaned the entire house. Don't know what's come over me. My dad's away and I tend to let the house get really messy when he is, but not this time. Weird.

I've booked my tickets to get to London for the Elaine Feinstein book launch next week.

I've been reading lots of stuff in the archives at John Rylands. I've been reading up on the past of Madagascar, there were lots of English missionaries there is the first half of the 19th century. They had some very funny ideas about primitive natives. But they are often useful as well - it's good to see the changes in the country, makes me feel a part of it and hopefully it will help me figure out the plot points missing in my novel.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Wilbur wants to kill himself

I had a wonderful day writing with the beautiful girl. It was one of those really amazing days where every time you look at the clock you're shocked to see how far its slipped forwards without you noticing. And because the sun was in the sky for hours, the day just seemed to last forever. A friend dropped by on us for lunch and another came by in the evening. It was one of those days when you think that if only every day could be like that then there would never be a single problem in your life. It's more than that as well, because while you're in the day you really do feel as though that is the sort of day that you'll have forever. It feels totally normal even though its really spectacularly rare and perfect.

When I got home, I felt like a sit down and a cup of tea before bed because I wasn't ready to let go of the day yet. I flicked on the TV and came across a film that had just started. I was watching it half-heartedly at first - just letting my brain wind down and collapse from the high of the day. But soon I found that I was watching the most startlingly incredible film. I'm sure part of my love of it was that I wasn't expecting anything from it, I was just going to watch a snippet and go to bed. But the film itself is genuinely great. It's called Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, and the best thing about it was the details. It was so quiet and understated and it was filled with all these quirky touches of dialogue and funny little actions. It was so sad, but genuinely so, there was no exaggeration and no punches pulled. And at the same time it was funny - not a fake laugh-out-loud hilarious, but the funny of the best parts of real life. It was the perfect ending to the day. I already want to watch the film again, but I also think that I might never watch it again - that I'll just keep it firmly tied to this perfect day and never let it become diluted or lost in the wrong mood.

It's been so long since I've had this desperate desire to just live in this one moment for the rest of my life. I'd almost forgotten this feeling could exist. This foolish sense of wishing that I never had to go to sleep and so the day could just go on and on. I remember reading that F. Scott Fitzgerald was once being driven through the streets of town in autumn and he was crying because he knew that the world would never get more beautiful than it was at that exact moment. That's how I feel now. It's a crazy feeling - the sort I only get at night when I'm alone. I even love the intensity of that pathetic feeling - the fabulous melodrama of it.


But I do have to sleep. That most ordinary way of spending a night. The default position.


My new blog for writing. Exercises between me and the beautiful girl.

Sunday, 21 June 2009


I went to an exhibition at Stockport college recently. It was the end of year show for the arts students, of which a friend of mine was one. The work there was really amazing and all the books that the students had made to show the development of their ideas were incredibly inspiring.

The students had to show some of the work that had influenced them and put examples of that in their books. This was a really nice way to be introduced to artists I wasn't familiar with.

A couple of artists really stood out to me:

One was Stephen Gill, especially the photographs of everyday scenes which were printed and then embellished with fruit and flowers and then photographed again. There were some really beautiful effects, especially one of a dump-truck pouring out a load full of dried petals.

Another one that I loved, though for different reasons, was Jenni Penni. She's kind of cute a quirky, I thought this one was really sweet and this one.

Thursday, 18 June 2009


I got my first sale on Etsy and I want to use that encouragement and roll it on to more pro-active selling. As part of that I've made a treasury - a sort of on-line poster of good pieces from Etsy on a theme, which includes a piece of my own. Check it out here. And my shop is here.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Catching up

The internship is over.....sort of. I have to go back into the library some time this week to finish cataloguing the last box I was working on. Then I will have done all the letters and magazines from the 50s to the 70s. And there is it, this complete phase of life that can only be glimpsed on the page. The letters are like butterflies pinned in a display case - merely specimens, only those few fragile samples that have been caught and kept.

Soon, the whole thing will go full circle and I will be inside the story. I'm going to Elaine's book launch, and the invitation will go into the special bottom drawer that forms my archive of sorts.

And I'm writing a piece, or maybe a couple of small pieces, inspired by the archiving to go into my magazine, Bewilderbliss.

This post is all very disconnected. I've spent the last few days catching up on things I'd let slide while I was finishing my masters essay and doing the internship. I've even squeezed in a bit of felting to make a commissioned piece for somebody and a scarf for a friend. Now I feel like I just want to sleep for a few days.

But I can't. I feel like I'm making progress with the novel after it had been lost for a while. I've got out several hefty books on Madagascar from the library so I can get totally immersed back into the subject.

The only problem as far as that goes is that the books I ordered last week have arrived (the Bananas anthology and the Tsvetayeva-Pasternak-Rilke letters that I mentioned here). They're very distracting and the summer sun is calling for me to sit in it and read by its warm light.

Finally, I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I have to point to Max Dunbar's blog. It is always interesting and hugely varied and even when I've got no time at all it somehow manages to suck me in.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Almost Over

So my internship ends tomorrow. I can't really bring myself to believe it. I've become so comfortable in the little closed and completed world that I've been reading about. Everything in there is knowable and interesting. Everything has already happened and waiting to be discovered.

For that reason I prefer to read about all the ups and downs of the lit mags from the 60s and 70s than deal with my own. I really should be sorting out the selling of ad-space in Bewilderbliss issue #2, but instead I've spent the day with my head stuck in the very curious English Intelligencer and the absolutely wonderful Cambridge Opinion.

I'm even interested in the adverts in these other magazines. Especially those in Prospect! It's 50 years since it was set up and I love to flick through the adverts for things in a version of Cambridge that's so different to the one I know. There was one (in Cambridge Opinion as far as I recall) for Gardenias guesthouse, which I'm guessing was the forerunner of the wonderful Gardies, source of so many late night kebabs. Another advert was for an indigestion remedy, the copy was so dated, it was something like 'It may seem like a good idea to hurry your meals inbetween lectures or over you essays. But it's not good for your digestion!' Below that was a picture of a neat-looking young man with a nice suit on and a perfect parting. I love that world. No, actually I love to feel nostalgic for a world that in reality never existed, but in my head is so delightful and proper. In that world, gentlemen wear buttonholes every day and they ask ladies to dance or escort them home.

The Cambridge Opinion I was reading today was Issue 14, the one that Elaine Feinstein edited. In it I've finally found where all her correspondence with the beat poets came out. There's a really wonderful piece she's written on all of them, and she quotes a bit of Ginsberg that really seemed to express its ideas so perfectly. It's about people:
'who cut their wrists three times successively
unsuccessfully gave up and were forced to open
antique stores where they thought they were
growing old and cried'

Another exciting thing I've discovered in my archiving is that the dozens of letters from some bloke who signs his name as Alan are actually from Alan Sillitoe. He has some really beautiful things to say about writing. One that I've made a note of because it seems significant to me and my problems with writing is:
'It takes real imagination to show reality and truth. You have to be capable of eating your own heart.'

I feel entirely inspired by my work with the archive. Now I just need time to get away and really intensify it all. I need to get away from worries about ad-space and uni work and anything that keeping me from being honest and real. I really don't know how Elaine has managed to be a writer on top of all her work on magazines and her huge amount of correspondence and raising three boys. I feel exhausted and spread too thin just trying to keep up a fraction of that. Well, I am going to the launch of her new book with Carcanet soon, so I shall have to ask her.

Finally, as a result of working with the archives I've had to expand my library. I've just purchased the Bananas anthology and a book of the Tsvetaeva-Pasternak letters that I mentioned in a previous post. It's probably a good job I'm finishing work there tomorrow or I'd bankrupt myself with new books....I say that as though that isn't the normal situation, as though I've never spent my last £3 on a book rather than food.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Listen to Elaine Feinstein

Joel Feinstein commented on the last post with a link to hear his mother reading. I'm re-posting it here for those who don't read comments. Click here to listen to Elaine Feinstein read her poems and a couple of her translations of Marina Tsvetaeva's poems.
I saw Elaine read a few months ago and she is absolutely wonderful. I'm much more of a prose person than a poetry one and I often find it difficult to get into that mode of listening to poetry. But Elaine's reading was so incredibly engaging that I was riveted. I enjoyed her reading so much that I bought a book of her poetry at the event. I never do that, I couldn't even really afford to do it then, but I was just so in love with the poetry after hearing it read that I couldn't help myself.
Do listen to her read by following the link. It is a real treat.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Penelope Shuttle

I'm still working away in the archives. I'm really loving it, especially today when I was cataloguing lots of issues of Elaine Feinstein's magazine from the 50s/60s: Prospect. It is my new favourite magazine, it had such great stuff in it, I wish I lived in a time full of that sort of stuff.

In the same box as the copies of Prospect was an issue of another magazine of the same era called Bananas. It's quite a rubbish name I think, and very misleading in that way because the work it contains is powerful and incredible. Bananas is one of those things that makes me entirely rethink the way I connect people in my head - associate editors include Elaine Feinstein, JG Ballard and Angela Carter. I can't quite imagine how they came to work on the same magazine.

The issue of Bananas I was reading was 'The Russian Issue', which contained too much good stuff to mention. I will just describe two absolutely great things I found in it:
- Marina Tsvetaeva's letters to Pasternak. He famously lost her letters (which were part of a rather unusual correspondence between those two and Rilke, none of whom really knew each other in real life, but they were very intimate in their letters), but thankfully she had drafts of them. The few letters that were in Bananas were beautiful and have made me desperate to get the full book of their correspondence. One part was just so wonderful I had to write it down:
'My dear Pasternak,
My favourite mode of communication is in the world beyond: a dream, to see somebody in a dream.
My second favourite is correspondence. A letter is, as a form of other-worldly communication, less perfect than a dream, but the rules are the same.
Neither can be ordered. We dream and write not as we want, but as they want. A letter has to be written; a dream has to be seen.'
She goes on to say that for this reason he should never feel guilty if he's slow in his response.
- A story by Ted Hughes (which seemed to have nothing to do with the Russian theme of the issue) called 'The Head'. It starts out with a line about his mad wife and I thought it was autobiographical, but then it went on to describe a trip to the woods with very scary results that are definitely fictional. It's not the sort of story I'd go looking for, but I loved it, perhaps even more because it surprised me and sucked me in despite me not really looking for it.

The other wonderful thing that happened today was that Penelope Shuttle came to visit the library. Strangely enough, I had just been reading an advert for a novel of hers in the issue of Bananas that dated all the way back to 1978. She had heard about the sonnet exhibition and wanted to visit it. And since she is a friend of Elaine Feinstein's, Stella thought that she might be interested in seeing the archive I'm working on and talking to me about it. Penelope Shuttle has the most wonderful presence, and it was almost like a part of the archive had gathered up its strength and appeared in corporeal form. It wasn't just that which was pleasing though, meeting Penelope Shuttle was wonderful in itself. She was so genuinely interested in everything I was doing and she asked just the right questions to make me feel comfortable and knowledgeable.

I can't believe that my work with the archive finishes on Friday. I really don't want to leave. Though now I'm a reader at the John Rylands I don't really have to leave, I can come and go as I please and read all the lovely archives every single day.

Oh, also, in my researchy travels I found this interesting interview with Elaine Feinstein conducted by Michael Schmidt, if you want to know more about Elaine. If you want to know more about Michael then you'll have to google him because he has just done too much interesting stuff to mention.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Orange Prize Review

The Orange Prize review that I did that went onto the Manchester Review website has also gone onto the Orange Prize blog. For some reason the titles say all the reviews are by me, but in fact you need to look at the bottom of the reviews to find out who they're by. Mine is the last one on the page.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


Curses to people who sign letters with their first names only!

I've spent all week trying to work my way through Elaine Feinstein's archives and I've hit a whole batch of letters that are written by people who have not used their surnames.

It's sort of fun because it's like detective work. I have to try and find bits in the letters that will lead me to understand who's written them. Lot's of it's guess work for a while. Like today I found a letter from somebody writing about poems in PR. I had to turn to the trusty book that lists all magazines and small presses in Britain that Stella's letting me use. I found a few options, but Poetry Review seemed best. Then I had to google around the editors that it could have been and confirm as best I could who wrote the letter.

I actually think I'm getting pretty good at this, and it's a very good way of getting all the people and their links stuck in my head. In fact I'm not sure there's any better way to learn about things than trying to work them out yourself from fragments.

The best thing I've found in the archives so far is a shaped-poem my Michael Horivitz about a cat and how difficult it is to draw one. Then by his signature he's drawn a cat, it's a sort of stylishly rubbish picture that I absolutely adore. That's probably not the best thing, but it's the one that makes me smile the most.

There's also a postcard that's made from a sugar puffs packet. It reads like it's written by two people, neither of whom have any regard for punctuation. Neither of them signed it, but after about twenty minutes digging around I discovered that one of them was the poet and film-maker Piero Heliczer. I am now crazy in love with Piero, who is intriguing in every possible way.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Tired eyes and book-smelling fingers

I spent my first day in the archives of the John Rylands today. I got to go into the super-secret store room where I passed stacks tantalisingly labelled Victor Hugo, LP Hartley, Carcanet....and on and on it went. The Elaine Feinstein section contains 174 boxes. Today I catalogued about half of one of them!
That half of one box contained letters from Beckett, Ginsberg, Pinter, Octavio Paz, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.......

It's harder than you'd think to read other people's letters, it's like listening to half a conversation. It was so rewarding though. I feel totally inspired. Also, I was the only person in the library reading room laughing - I felt awful for disturbing people but Ginsberg was to blame. His letters are crazy wonderful.

Finally, I reviewed one of the Orange Prize shortlisted books recently. My review is on the Manchester Review website.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Etsy Treasury

For anyone who doesn't know, on Etsy you can create a treasury, which is basically an arrangement of some of your favourite things for sale on the website on a theme of your choice. They're really hard to get but I finally snagged one and made a collection of lovely spring and summer themed items since the weather is so nice.

Check it out.

Also, while you're in the Etsy mood, check out my store.


I went to the John Rylands library last week to organise my work with the Elaine Feinstein archive. It was really exciting and I feel like I can do something good with it. I don't know why I never thought of archiving before, it involves organising papers and making notes and lots of stationary. Those are all things I secretly love. I'm also really interested in how people create archives and how different it is to creating a scientific taxonomy.
I'll be writing a lot more about this, and hopefully a lot more clearly, once I've seen the part of the archive I'm working on tomorrow.

So now I feel much more confident about that I've got something else to be nervous of. I'm interviewing Jackie Kay on Thursday for Bewilderbliss. Jackie is really supportive of new writers - she's even written a piece for the magazine and set the theme of the upcoming issue. I've met her a few times before and I know she's really nice, but I'm still worried that I'll have nothing interesting to ask her. Maybe I'll have to have a dig in the archives to see if I can find anything relevant that will make me seem knowledgeable.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Good Things

Good things I've done recently:

Finished my essay
Finished In Cold Blood
Made and listed some more earrings on Etsy
Learned how to make chocolates at Cocoadance
Got the internship in the archives
Finally had time to get back into working on my writing
Interviewed Jenn Ashworth
Had an impromptu sleepover with this beautiful girl
Bought three new dresses
Written my other blog as regularly as I'd aimed to

I've done most of that in the last week, and yet somehow it feels like I've done nothing. I'm sitting down today to do a big edit on chapter one of the novel I'm writing and I needed a bit of a boost. I started working on the chapter yesterday - just working out what needed doing - and there's a lot more work to be done that I'd previously thought. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Etsy update

I updated my etsy a while ago and forgot to post about it. I'm trying to keep everything together in this blog so I need to keep on top of that. Here is it:

Elaine Feinstein

I've just found out that I've been successful in my application to the internship at the John Rylands library this summer. I'll be working with the Elaine Feinstein archive for two weeks in June, and I couldn't be more excited at the prospect.

Lots of the archive is stored in boxes that haven't been looked through yet. I've seen some of the stuff that's already been archived and it was a book-geek's picture of heaven. Elaine Feinstein seems to have corresponded with every author you've ever heard of, and several that you haven't but you should have.

For my internship I get to pick a box of the unarchived stuff and work my way through it. It's like being invited to sit and browse in the best bookshop ever, and nobody's going to frown at you, or tell you to buy something or leave.

The internship was open to postgraduate creative writing students at UoM. The reason for that being that it's hoped that the archive work will inspire something creative. That's probably the part I'm most nervous of. I've never done anything like this before so I just don't know how this will inspire me. I'm already worrying that I'll be too overwhelmed to be able to get my head around writing something creative.

Wish me luck.

Friday, 15 May 2009


I've not posted in a while because I've been busy with my last masters essay and I hate writing posts about how I'm too busy to write a real post.

To distract from that I'm going to make this post actually about Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. The essay I'm doing is about historical fiction and a lot of the reading I'm doing is about the line dividing fiction and non-fiction. In Cold Blood is a book that sits right on that line, every detail in it is meticulously researched, right down to Capote having spent hours interviewing the killers. And yet the flow of it is nothing like non-ficiton. It seemed like an interesting idea so when I saw the book in mint condition in a wonderful little second hand store I couldn't resist.

I was already regretting reading it by page 11 - it was at that point I realised I'd fallen in love with the family, even though I knew they were going to die. The writing is just that good. It would be so easy to have made the book really dull and factual, but it reads exactly like a novel.

There are some stunning lines in it:
'It was ideal apple-eating weather' - that's such a clear and beautiful image
'The quietness of his tone italicised the malice of his reply'

The book is really powerful when read in big chunks, I read a little bit the other day while on the bus and it didn't have the same feeling as when I'd been able to give a whole evening to it. I'm looking forward to getting back down to it when I'm not so busy.

Friday, 8 May 2009


This is in response to the beautiful yrhandsmyknees:

Four am and being alone, the night going either way, the plunging feeling that's stronger than anything else. These are the two types of four am:

One: feeling lonely not alone, sitting under the table, holding tightly to a favourite book, no music because nothing's right, feeling the minutes waste themselves one by one.

Two: enough energy to paint an entire room, more thoughts than time to work them through, the blessing of perfect quiet, light swift steps so as not to disturb, the power to do anything.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Love Ugly

I'm having an ugly day today - none of my clothes seem to fit the way they normally do, my hair won't sit right and the mirror is hating my face. In celebration of ugly I'm loving this article from TrendHunter, which includes an ugly-pillow sex-aid, ugly dogs and an ugly modelling agency. Apparently ugly is the new black.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Simple Things

I think I've just seen God. He came in the miraculous form of a stop-motion film that has made me want to give up everything I'm doing and make a film myself.

The video came via the e-mails I get from the lovely people at Innocent Smoothies, and I watched it as a way to procrastinate. It starts a little slow, but then it just has some really great ideas and a funny little story.

I wish I was a musician and I could get this guy to do the video for my next single. I wish I had any way to give this guy a job. He's a genius who just made my day.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


I believe I'm probably the very last person on earth to hear about this, but I just learned about Librivox.

I'm a bad sleeper and I find that the only way I can drift off is to listen to an audiobook. I choose my book carefully - it has to be something I don't actually want to read (because I want to save those books to hold in my hands and curl up around their lovely printy inkiness) but it has to be something I would consider reading if I were very short of books and had no access to others.

It's a bit of a hassle to go to the library to get these and then again to return them, so I was quite excited at the thought of Librivox.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it - downloading the books is quite a slow process and the catalogue isn't that easy to browse. Most significantly though, the voices of the people who record the books are just those of regular folk. The readers change every chapter and they're of variable quality, which I think would annoy me if I were sitting and listening to the whole thing. But it is better than a computer generated voice, and it's very easy to access, and after all, I do just listen to the books in little snippets.

I have a recording of EB White reading his Charlotte's Web, it is one of the most pleasing and comforting sounds I know. So, while I think I'll find Librivox useful when the library is feeling very far away or their selection isn't inspiring me, I think that the power of a good voice reading a book very well will always be an irresistible lure to me.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I'm back

I've been away for a while - in the woods - living deliberately and sucking some marrow. I've got a good lot of writing done - the opening to the novel I'm working on. I also walked a lot and I can feel the muscles are more pronounced in my legs - it makes me feel a mixture of tired and invincible.

I got back to this new most beautiful of blogs by the most beautiful of people. It's just stuff apparently, but it's the best sort of stuff: THIS is STUFF.

I'm still in need of sleep, cold nights in the caravan left me with a lot of catching up to do. But it's nice to go to sleep in a world with such beautiful stuff in it.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

On-line magazine

Much as I will champion the cause of the printed magazine, I will admit that on-line stuff is easier to explore. Granted, most of the stuff you find is of questionnable quality, but once in a while you do find something good. The only thing that annoys me is that when I find the good magazine I wish I could have it in front of me - I hate reading on the screen, the computer is the place I come for work and correspondence, not where I come to relax with a good story or article.
There are a number of mags that come in the dowloadable PDF format, but it still somehow doesn't feel as good as a little bound magazine. I don't feel as though shuffling through pieces of paper or scrolling down a screen does justice to the effort that people have put into producing their work.
From the Manchester Lit List I found this great magazine: Incorporating Writing. Now if only I could have this bound up nicely to carry around or share with my friends then everything would be perfect.


I mentioned my Etsy shop below. As an extension of that I've joined an Etsy team, FeltingTeam, and I now contribute to their blog. It's got some really great felting info on there and some of my favourite Etsy shops are part of it. Hopefully the members will help me find a way to increase my profile and get some sales. My absolute favourite member is Arlene Watson, who does some incredible nuno-felting.

Saturday, 4 April 2009


I've been pretty busy recently, as well as making the cupcake purse I mentioned previously, I also had to make a new bag because my old one fell apart.

On top of those personal projects I've been knitting my stip for the ArtYarn project, which is based at the wonderful Craft and Design Centre in Manchester. For the project you need to knit or crochet a strip which is 7cm by 40cm and either take it in to the craft centre office on the first floor of the Craft and Design Centre or you can post it to Manchester Craft and Design Centre, 17 Oak St, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 5JD, England, UK.

People from all over the world are taking part in order to 'celebrate the many versatilities and techniques of knitting and crochet from around the world'. I've knitted my piece, and naturally its pink and fluffy - they do say 'the brighter and wackier the better'.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Whip Up

I love all sorts of crafts, possibly to the point of addiction. Blame it on my need to be creative when I have writer's block, blame it on my parents sending me to Brownies from age 7 - my brown owl was virtually a pusher when it came to crafts.

Anyway, whatever it is, I'm sick, I have a room full of millions of pretty papers, wools, yarns, ribbons, beads, and anything else you can think of to make things from.

I don't think I'll be getting better anytime soon because I had the good/mis-fortune to find an amazing craft website which has page after page of new crafty ideas. It's called Whip Up - only check it if you have a lot of time on your hands, or if you don't but you're sick like me.

I found the site yesterday evening and went straight to my craft supplies to make a super-cute cupcake felt purse. I know it's wrong, but it felt so good!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

I've been out and about all week gathering lots of inspiration from a wide variety of Manchestery cultural things. As well as the reading on tuesday I've been to the Cube gallery and the Whitworth. Not sure I can cope with all the excitement, I think I'm going to just keep my head under the duvet all weekend.

The Cube was yesterday, I went to the preview of their Capture Manchester exhibition. It was about 600 different people's views of Manchester. Naturally there were lots of images that were virtually the same, but there were also some amazing photos that made me want to find the part of town they're taken in. In the main part of the gallery as you walk in there's also an exhibition by John Davies of his spectacular landscape shots, including some around Manchester. Davies has convinced me that it actually is grim up north, but I still love it.

The Whitworth was the day before. I went with a photographer friend who wanted to visit the Subversive Spaces exhibition, I didn't really know what to expect but I was totally floored. It is really inspiring to look at the work of the surrealists and see how they focused their ideas into what they felt was the essence of what was important and then put that into their art. It really made me want to just sit down and think about what I'm doing with my writing and why. It features a really interesting piece by Gregor Schneider called Kinderzimmer which I don't want to say too much about because I think it's best experienced with no expectations. I loved it, my photographer friend hated it and the third person with us was somewhere in between. We all agreed that no matter if you liked it or not it really made you think.

Well it has been a busy week so now I'm off to relax with some Marxist literary theory and be lulled into a sense of gentle indignation about how bourgeois everything is, apparently even historical fiction.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

readings and felting

Something about writing

Last night was the March outing of the incedibly popular No Point in Not Being Friends. Thanks to Chris Killen we had a slot for readings from Bewilderbliss, which went down well. If you want to read more about the night visit my blog ManchesterWriting.

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Something personal

This is the first thing that I want to collect onto here - my etsy site:

I've been felting for about a year now and though I do a lot of crafts (to keep the creative part of my mind ticking over when I'm struggling to write) this one's my favourite. Maybe it's got something to do with how much I'd love to paint but how frustrating I find it to spend ages dabbing watercolours onto paper just to come out with something that looks like a five year old did it. Felting's a lot like painting in relation to the importance of colour and composition. It's also a lot more fun and hands on so I can work out the tension of writer's block.
If you want to know a little more about felting click here.