I wrote the title of this post some time ago, meaning to come back to it, and now can’t quite remember what it was I was going to write about. Something, I think, about a different kind of blog post, or maybe a different kind of writing…
The question remains, though. At the start of the year, not long after my birthday, having put behind me – or thought I was putting behind me – the pain and difficulty of the last year, I found myself looking at the shape of this year. Already it’s been different: this time last year I was doped up on painkillers and hardly able to go out because of the excruciating pain in my back. This year getting out and about hasn’t been a problem: I’ve been to Dartington gardens, to the sea and up on the moor, as well as on a writing retreat in rural Gloucestershire. I’m not as miserable as I was then, either, and seem to be getting things done, writing proper ‘to do’ lists and enjoying crossing things off. I’ve edited a newsletter, entered some poems for competitions and begun to plan workshops that I hope will run – though with workshops there’s never a guarantee that people will book. One of them, on Focusing for writers, will definitely run in April, and will bring together the two spheres of writing and self-exploration – not that they have ever been entirely separate.
It’s strange to think that this time last year I had hardly begun to think of myself as a poet, even though I’d been writing poems, off and on, for many years. I was finishing Roselle Angwin’s Elements of Poetry course and just thinking about trying to get some of my poetry published. I hadn’t yet joined 52, which has been such a life-changing experience. Now, a year on, I’ve had poems published in magazines and a couple of anthologies, been longlisted in a couple of single poem competitions and, even better, shortlisted (in a rather long shortlist) in a pamphlet competition. And a poetry publisher is interested in considering a longer manuscript, though not till next year. In other words, I’ve now got some poetry credentials, which I never imagined myself getting. I can say I’m a poet these days without feeling so squeamish about it.
The writing retreat in Gloucestershire was with my lovely prose writers’ group, who got together at the end of the Bath Spa MA and have been meeting monthly ever since. Several of them are now published writers (two were already), one a best-seller, and their standard is formidably high. I felt inspired to do some more work on the novel that I sent to rather a lot of agents, and have been busy recasting it from first person to third, trying to get more distance from the main character. I don’t find editing and rewriting fiction easy – a poem is much easier to rework – but it feels good to be having another go. I’ve thought of myself as a fiction writer for so many years that it’s hard to give up on it, and I still love making up stories and characters. I’ve got another novel started and left on the back burner, and I may well return to that one soon. Whether my novel-writing will ever appear in print is of course another question, as is whether I could manage to be both a poet and a novelist – seemingly some people can and some can’t.
The wonderful 52 – from which I’ve lapsed rather in the past few weeks – is finishing at the end of April. After that I’m not sure where I’ll be going poetry-wise, though the poetry scene is so active here in the South West that there’ll be no shortage of festivals and workshops. And on the prose front I’m sure my Bath Spa group will continue. I’m very fortunate to feel so much a part of these different communities of writers, the quality of whose work inspires me to do the best I possibly can. This year will undoubtedly be different from last year; the ways in which it’s different still remain to be seen.