Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Would You Know Your Own Child?

Imagine my surprise when I realised the hard-to-believe premise of Deceptions, by Rebecca Frayn, is based on a true story. If your son disappeared at the age of 12 and returned a few years later, would you be able to recognise him with certainty? Would you know if the returning prodigal was an impostor, and if so would you pretend not to notice?

It really doesn’t matter whether this is credible or not, or that we can ruin part of the plot by reading about the story that inspired Deceptions in the back of the book. The character who fascinates the reader isn’t Dan, the 12-year-old who vanishes without a trace, or his widowed mother Annie, whose obsessive search is completely understandable. Our attention is all on Julian, the man who had moved in with Annie and had just asked her to marry him when Dan set off on his bike to school one morning and didn’t come home again.

Frayn has taken a real risk with Julian, and so has the publisher. Not so long ago aspiring novelists were told main characters had to be likeable, and Julian certainly isn’t able to get our sympathy at any level. Annie wants to be totally politically correct, with her left-wing views, her relaxed attitude to parenting, and her determination to live in a poor area and send her children to the local failing comprehensive.

Julian is an art specialist and valuer, pulling on his hygienic white gloves to study and evaluate fakes and masterpieces in the art world. The comprehensive school is disturbing to him, with the sound of lower class accents and children of diverse nationalities. There’s an undertone of racism and snobbery running through his first person narrative.

We don’t feel we can believe what he says because he’s so unsympathetic to us. As his dislike of Dan becomes more apparent, together with his resentment of Annie’s continuing love for her son, we do wonder if he knows more about this disappearance than he’s telling us. Annie’s daughter is quite different, seen as delightful and intelligent by him, and he likes to take her for long walks. We don’t quite trust him alone with her either.

The character of Julian is so well drawn that we can’t tell if he’s the good man he makes himself out to be, devoted to Annie and her daughter and just repressed and lacking in social skills, or if his dislike of Dan’s lack of intelligence and poor grammar is part of a dangerously abusive hidden side. Even Dan had started to be embarrassed by his mother’s Guardian on the table and had stopped bringing friends home, so it’s up to the reader to decide exactly what’s going on and who to like, if anyone.

Before Dan’s disappearance, Annie and Julian liked to joke about their different personalities, enjoying the roles of ‘right-on parent’ and ‘old fogey’. After Dan goes, their personalities force them apart, as Annie sees her engagement to Julian as the reason he ran away – if he ran away. From his lonely new bachelor flat at a distance, Julian sees the shabby residential area as a kind of utopia he wants to return to.

It’s a pity the book blurb informs us that Dan is going to turn up again as this could work well as a surprise. But is it really Dan? Can we trust Julian who has lost all respect in the art world by calling a genuine painting a fake and losing a client a small fortune? Would he not want Dan to return and convince himself any pretender to his place with Annie was an impostor? He certainly kept hoping she would forget Dan, and this insistence ruined their relationship. Or would Annie be the one to delude herself?

There are all sorts of questions in this book that keep us reading on, not least the difficult problem of how we can fit a new relationship into an established one parent home.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Poem For My Father

This morning my brother called to say my father had died in his sleep during the night. It was exactly how he would have wanted it, after a day helping the neighbours to keep their radiators working well. He was the oldest of the neighbours but he never stopped with his DIY and wanting to spend time with others.

When my mother died five years ago he moved up to a place near Edinburgh in Scotland to live next door to his closest friend. So I know he was happy, in company, and was active and enjoying himself right up to the last day. His unusual silence this morning meant he was missed immediately and he was found in his bed as if he had slept without knowing a thing about his passing.

Here's a poem I wrote for him a few years ago, and my thoughts also go out to everybody who has lost a father this year or other years, especially at this time.


Each night my father –
a one-time sparks
on Greek merchant ships –
sent us off with
Da-dit-dit-dit, dit, da-dit-dit,
or Adi ypnos
which even the dog understood.

When arguments loomed
he de-stressed, a teenager again
on stage at Drury Lane
in bell-boy uniform,
ukulele in hand,
Leaning on a Lampost
or Mr Woo.

He parted his hair in the middle,
crossed his eyes
and found jokes to punctuate
attempts at conversation –
like The only head bigger than mine
is Birkenhead
, and Why
do giraffes have such long necks?

But when he spoke of his past
he only said it once.
How, in storms at sea,
he cupped his soup-bowl in one palm,
then swayed it like a hammock
so the spoon never lost a drop –

that the eeriest place on earth
is a hurricane, the silent eye,
where the sea surface is oil smooth
and the only way to safety
is to leave this haven,
hold on tight,
confront the battle raging
through its troubled tail.


Sparks - radio operator
Da-dit-dit-dit, dit, da-dit-dit - morse code for B-E-D
Adi ypnos - My father’s Greek for go to sleep

Saturday, 11 December 2010

A Pageturning Novel About Alzheimers?

Pageturner, alzheimers and novel aren’t three words you’d normally expect to see in the same sentence, and yet they go together to describe Still Alice, the debut from Simon & Schuster by Lisa Genova. When I saw the blurb I was a bit reluctant to start reading, thinking the subject would be depressing and stressful. How wrong I was.

Still Alice is a remarkable novel that will change the way you view alzheimers and the way you respond to people with this condition. It will change the way you think about alzheimers if you are ever diagnosed with it, and will certainly influence the way you relate to people close to you if they become affected. If you are already living with alzheimers, as a patient or as a friend, relative or professional, Still Alice is a novel you should take a look at.

Genova puts us right inside the experience of alzheimers by telling this story through the first person narrative of Alice, a university professor who is just 50 when she gets her diagnosis. She knows exactly what this will mean because, like Genova, she is a neuroscience specialist. The novel opens with Alice at her most capable intellectually – known in academic circles for her amazing ability to remember the detailed facts of her subject, including where precisely to find the quotes to reference research papers.

Alice relaxes by jogging round her town, knowing the map of the area and loving her independence. Admired by her colleagues and loved by her husband and daughters, she’s the type of career woman and successful family organiser many would aspire to emulate. Like us, she puts the first signs of memory loss down to trying to do too many things at once, but the diagnosis comes quite early in the novel. After that, due to her professional expertise, she knows how to recognise and chart her own progress into alzheimers and how she feels she should prepare for what is to come.

This knowledge also lets her find strategies to cope with each stage and to plan for what she wants to do when it goes too far. She knows she won’t be able to remember how or why she will want to end it all at a certain stage, so she leaves instructions for herself that she hopes she will follow regardless. Her Blackberry soon becomes her way of giving herself a To Do list to follow, as memory fails, and it has one important instruction of how to find the means of suicide on the day she can’t remember the answer to a few simple questions.

Once she no longer remembers simple information about her family she feels it will be time to use some items she has prepared to kill herself. Many of us would feel we would want to do the same. But as the story progresses, as we really feel what it is like to be Alice, will we still want her to commit suicide at that key moment or will we see alzheimers in a different way? Will Alice manage to go through with her initial plan right to the end?

I won’t spoil Still Alice by giving you the answers to this. All I can say is that suicide won’t be a plan I’ll be making if I ever get this diagnosis, and I’ll remember Alice if ever those close to me are affected by alzheimers. I will never see this condition in the same way again, and that’s a remarkable achievement by a novelist writing about such an important subject. On a purely stylistic level, Genova never swerves from her course of only seeing this through Alice’s eyes, and once we start this experience with her we can’t stop reading until we see it through.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Winner of the Support-A-Bookshop Prize

The winner of the Support-A-Bookshop prize is Wayne Rattle. One of the Ward Wood books will be on its way to Wayne once he selects from our first authors or one of our New Year launches.

Thanks for supporting bookshops by ordering over the counter. High street bookshops have been surprisingly easy to approach and have helped Ward Wood Publishing get started by stocking our books. They also provide some of the best venues for launches and book clubs.

I know many of you can't order through a local bookshop, particularly from overseas, so I'll be announcing another prize soon for those who order online.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Support a Bookshop and Win a Book

Ann Alexander’s poetry collection Too Close arrived from the printer today, so it joins Sue Guiney’s novel A Clash of Innocents as the second book from Ward Wood Publishing. With Mike Horwood’s poetry collection Midas Touch due out in a few weeks we’ll have a small but select set of books on offer by Christmas. So, it seems like time for a competition to support local bookshops and give readers a chance of winning one of these books.

If you buy from a local bookshop rather than buying online then send me a message by posting a comment here or by Facebook message. You can also contact me via the wardwoodpublishing.co.uk website. I’ve found local bookshops supportive and you can already buy our books off the shelves in some branches of Waterstones, Daunt Books and from the independent bookshop Sandoes. I know there are copies in stock in the Hampstead Waterstones, and also Daunt Books Marylebone Road.

These might not be close to you, so the best way to support a local bookshop is to go in and order books through them. This helps the bookshop, helps the publisher and author (as online booksellers often ask for a large discount and are sometimes unreliable – especially the main one!) and it helps buyers as there’s no extortionate postage. You also have the pleasure of going into a real bookshop for a browse and to enjoy the look, smell and feel of books!

If you order one of our books through a bookshop then let me know and you can choose one of the other two books to get your name in a prize draw. Let me know which bookshop you ordered from, and also let me know where you see our books on the shelves so we can name and promote local bookshops. If you already bought one of our books from a bookshop you can also tell me that for a chance to go into the draw.

I know this competition might not be possible for everybody – although it would be interesting to try ordering the book through bookshops in other countries. We’re certainly supplying a bookshop in Cambodia so I know it can be done. Not to worry if you can’t do it – I’ll have a different competition for another book next week.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Support a Bookshop on National Poetry Day

I'm stuck at home with a cold and cough this year and can only remember how much I enjoyed National Poetry Day in the Southbank Centre last time. My thoughts have drifted to how I can enjoy National Poetry Day at home and also champion poetry.

Here's what I've come up with. Let's go and order the next poetry collection we want from our local bookshop. This not only costs less than paying the exorbitant postage charged by Amazon, it also gets poetry into the bookshops.

I've had a heartening response from bookshops recently, and notice that they often order a few copies of a book rather than just one. This doesn't only support the bookshop, it also results in a higher percentage going to the publisher and consequently also supports the authors. Online booksellers can ask for a discount of up to 60%, which is incredibly hard on publishers and their authors.

Added to that it's a real pleasure going into bookshops. If you want to join me today by going into a bookshop and ordering poetry then I'd love to hear feedback on how it was for you.... Did it feel good? Does your bookshop have a cafe, readings and events? Maybe a book club? I think it's time we got back to the bookshops, those of us who have got used to shopping online.

I have nothing against online booksellers. In fact I often complained about bookshops not stocking poetry and was delighted when Amazon and others appeared to make it easier to get the books I wanted. The internet also lets us order direct from publishers, or find the authors on Facebook to see if they'll send us a signed copy.

A casualty has been the high street bookshop and I find I have a sudden longing to do my shopping there. I've been in touch with bookshops since the first Ward Wood book by Sue Guiney was launched, and this has reminded me of all those enjoyable times browsing among actual shelves rather than webpages.

Waterstones and Daunt Books also surprised me by being so willing to talk and order books, and there were even bookshop managers at Sue Guiney's event. Bookshops also welcome signings and other events and don't charge - publishers and authors just take the wine along! So they're extremely important at a time when it's hard to meet costs for publishers specialising in non-mainstream forms.

If you order poetry (or anything else) from a bookshop, please give some feedback on how it went. And perhaps some tempting descriptions of those bookshops too....

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Birth of a Publishing Company 6: Teamwork with Google Wave

As our first book goes to press – the novel A Clash of Innocents by Sue Guiney – I can reveal that an experiment I have attempted with Google Wave has proved a definite success. Google Wave is collaborative software so I wondered if it could help Ward Wood work as a team, letting the authors take more of a role and helping us all to communicate regularly.

If you haven’t seen Google Wave and ‘collaborative software’ sounds tricky, then don’t be put off. It’s simple to register with Google Wave (I invite authors by email) and after that it’s as easy as using message boards or email for communication. The benefit of Google Wave is that you invite the people you need to communicate with on a specific subject, and all of the messages on that theme will be kept neatly together in that ‘Wave’.

For example, for Sue’s novel I invited her and my colleague Mike Fortune-Wood into a Wave. This Wave is now a string of messages containing everything we need to work on her novel. We’ve passed the Word file to each other throughout the editing stages, and all the versions of the file are there in the Wave so it’s easy to see how it progressed and which is the latest version.

We also passed photographs of the authors and ideas for the cover design. ‘All very easy to do by email’ you might say, but it’s such a nuisance hunting through emails for a bit of information you know you’ve received. Scrolling back up through a Wave of messages is much easier. As Sue, Mike or I had extra ideas we could post them on the Wave, and even if they weren’t ideas that could be acted on for weeks they were still there for later action.

Using Google Wave definitely made my work much easier. As I was editing and needing answers to questions I could put them in the Wave then carry on working. By the time I looked at the Wave again, Sue had usually answered, and if I needed to go out of the office for a few hours I could do that knowing that I could come back and find some responses on the Wave. It did make the editing process more efficient, and I’ve edited a good number of books in the past so I know how different this feels.

Apart from all of this it also keeps authors and publishers more in touch than they have been traditionally. I’ve worked as both editor and author, and I know how frustrating it can be for authors to wonder if a long silence means we’re being neglected, or if it means the publisher is busy on our book. With Google Wave the author could stay well informed and see how the book was progressing throughout the various stages.

At the same time it felt as if we were staying in touch and was more friendly than working on files exchanged by email. Other Waves were set up with information for everybody, so our first three authors were invited to participate in those discussions. One of our authors is in Finland, one is in London, and one is in Penzance, so a way of letting them ‘meet’ and share ideas on book launches and other subjects should help create a sense of getting to know each other.

We often say that writing is a solitary business, and so is editing. With Google Wave this has felt quite different, and once we were working on the cover, book design and production with Mike Fortune-Wood it did feel as close as it could to working in the same office. His final files could be posted in the Wave and viewed using Google Documents.

There are many more features to Google Wave that I haven’t had time to try out yet, but it certainly streamlines the types of communication I need in order to work well. Apart from the message-board look keeping all information on each subject neatly together and the ability to add various files, including text and pictures, it also lets you edit or delete each post in the waves to keep them concise and tidy. It’s also possible to start discussing with the others live if they come online at the same time.

Anyone who works in publishing will know that it’s not just about editing, book design and production. At the same time as all that we need to be thinking about author reading tours, book launches, arranging distribution, and communicating with the press and media. Each of these elements has to be dealt with at exactly the right time so that everything happens at the relevant moment.

Google Wave has a scheduler to help me see what I need to do in order of priority, and it has really been a help feeling that I can unload that from inside my head to let the ‘Google brain’ worry about remembering it all! Submissions waiting to be read are also stored in their own Waves and scheduled for their turn in this priority list. If this all makes me sound extremely organised, then you haven’t seen the usual disorder in my office! Many of us in publishing store much of our ‘to do’ list in our heads and it can get incredibly busy in there. With Google Wave I find I can switch off when I stop working, knowing that nothing will be forgotten.

On top of all this it’s nice to know that even in cases of computer crashes, and wherever we need to travel in the world, we can find all the files and info we need in our virtual office on anybody’s computer. This is how it feels to me on the publishing side and I’d be interested to hear from the authors if it helps them feel better informed and more involved as we go through the process with each of their books.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Carol Ann Duffy Judges International Poetry Pamphlet Competition in Aid of the Homeless

There’s a chance to have your poetry published in a 20-page pamphlet while also supporting the homeless, with the added benefit of being selected by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. The Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition is unusual as the entry fee per poem is just £2.50 to make it possible for everybody to have a try. The winner will also be selected on the basis of just one prizewinning poem (maximum length 40 lines), so you don’t have to submit the whole pamphlet for a chance of being published. If you want to submit more poems there are discounts, with 6 poems costing just £10.

This is the first year for the Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition and it’s the initiative of poet Ruth O’Callaghan, founder and organiser of the Camden and Lumen Poetry Series. This popular project supports the homeless in the Cold Weather Shelters in the Camden and Kings Cross areas of London, and all income from the competition will go to support the same cause. None of the people involved in organising the competition will take any income from it, so it’s set to give a real boost to the amount donated by the project every year.

Poetry is really making a practical difference in helping the homeless thanks to Ruth’s tireless efforts and wonderful new initiatives. The Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition will not just benefit the people in the Cold Weather Shelters, but it will also help a poet to get their pamphlet into print. With entries invited from all over the world there will be poets of all standards joining in to help raise money for charity while competing for the prestigious prize of being selected by Carol Ann Duffy, patron of the Camden and Lumen Poetry Series.

The winner will receive 50 copies of their pamphlet to keep, sell, or give to friends. They will also be invited to read at the regular Lumen and Camden venues, if they can make it and would like to, and their pamphlets will also be offered for sale online and at the twice-monthly events. All money raised from pamphlet sales by the publishers and by the Camden and Lumen project will go to the Cold Weather Shelters.

The closing date is early next year on February 14th, but it’s never too soon to enter. Entry fees received from now on will go towards helping the Cold Weather shelters as winter approaches. The pamphlet will be published by Ward Wood Publishing, and full details on how to enter are on the website http://www.wardwoodpublishing.co.uk

You can enter by post by sending your poems and a cheque to Ruth O’Callaghan, or you can send the poems by post and pay by Paypal if you prefer. For international and other entries it’s possible to enter by using Paypal and then either posting the poems or sending them in an email. Regulars at events can hand their entry to Ruth, who will pass them on to Carol Ann Duffy. Full details are on the Ward Wood website.

Do join in and also post details about this competition on your own blogs and websites as the competition is likely to raise a substantial amount to help the homeless while also giving a poet a highly desirable prize.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Are 15-Year-Old Girls Children?

This is the question at the heart of Stephen May’s TAG, the novel that was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year before going on to win the Media Wales Readers’ Prize as the one most readers thought should have won. How should teacher Jonathan Diamond see his difficult pupil Mistyann, and how should he behave towards her? Politically correct answers become more difficult when he has to travel alone with her to an isolated manor house in North Wales for a special course aimed at helping Talented and Gifted children.

From the start May lets us know things are going to go wrong: we’re just waiting to see how badly he could fall, or if it might all be a comedy of errors. We know Diamond has ended up in disgrace, so we’re with him at every moment hoping that he won’t do anything too drastic, and for a middle-aged man alone with a precocious teenager that’s nerve-wracking. At forty-one, and almost good-looking with some sort of resemblance to Tom Cruise, he’s obviously not of the right generation to be a friend to Mistyann. But he’s a recovering alcoholic who could be stressed into taking a drink and he was also gifted in his youth, a musician who underachieved, so his empathy is with her rather than with the other staff. He’s noncomformist enough to identify more with Mistyann than the system and the rules of behaviour that could protect them both.

The characters are drawn so vividly that readers will remember them as real people they watched through this darkly comic drama. It’s not surprising to find that May is also a playwright, and he has obviously studied teenagers to create Mistyann and the others on the Talented and Gifted residential course. The chapters are written in first person narrative alternately by Diamond and Mistyann, and it’s quite an achievement how May can make us believe it’s a 15-year-old girl talking. She’s no Lolita, as teenagers in this millennium happily call out ‘perv’ or ‘paedo’ at the first sign of any suspect behaviour, and in this book they often do.

While Diamond bungles step-by-step towards the court scene we hear about in the early chapters, we meet more characters drawn with the playwright’s penetrating vision of human behaviour. The American ed-psych guru Ariel La Rock is almost too easy a target, and the couple running manor are beautifully brought to life – the feeble and boyscoutish Ray who has brought back a feisty Asian wife called Susie from extensive travels where he was ‘finding himself’.

It’s not easy to write well about teenagers, and the other students invited on the course are as believable as Mistyann. Clearly chosen for politically correct criteria rather than for purely academic reasons, they include the selection of races and the boy in the wheelchair that might mark them out as the ‘right sort of characters’ for an all-inclusive children’s book these days. As they get to know each other teenage sex is soon on the agenda and, again, May manages to write these scenes incredibly well. Being explicit while still avoiding the pitfalls is a challenge and it takes a brave writer to confront it.

Bringing teenage sex in also raises more discussions, such as why we should consider Mistyann a child but still feel it’s right and normal for the kids to have relationships between themselves. The lovelessness of these relationships is also moving and made me step away from the book to think about our society – and I love it when a book makes me take time aside to meditate on the themes. Another question is about why it feels so troubling that Diamond is at risk of overstepping the boundaries with Mistyann, while somehow it’s just comical if a young female teacher gets involved with a teenage boy.

There’s so much more in TAG: the family Mistyann comes from with the serial relationships of her mother and the way responsibility for looking after the children and cooking has fallen to her. There’s a whole vision of the way we’re expecting teenagers to live today, not to mention the confusion of the adults. May never comments on any of this: he just brings it to life and different readers will draw different conclusions to me, but it will make all readers think.

Is a 15-year-old girl a child? Yes, she is, even though the explicit sex and the risk of pregnancy show she’s old enough to be a mother, and she’s also a better mother than her own one as we can see when she looks after her siblings. Are most men attracted to 15-year-old girls as a group of highly intelligent men in a book discussion group told me recently? Possibly. If so May is brave in revealing this when he does cross that line at times to show us what Diamond finds himself thinking, almost despite his conscious decisions. May pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable in this novel, in a way that few novelists do when talking about underaged characters. But sometimes you have to push that boundary to raise the discussion of how we should look after these children. The portrayal of how good a teenage mother could be was also welcome.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Birth of a Publishing Company 5: The Website Goes Live

It’s a sign of the times that the day a website goes live feels like the day a venture really starts. It seemed particularly apt that my business partner Mike Fortune-Wood contacted me to say the Ward Wood Publishing website was about to appear online just as many of my American friends were celebrating the 4th of July. I’ve just finished the edit of American novelist Sue Guiney’s book A Clash of Innocents and we’ve been planning the launch, so it seemed like a good date to celebrate a British-American collaboration!

It really helps to get some financial support at the outset and we’re grateful to the London School of Journalism who have sponsored the costs of the website. I hope we’ll be able to work with them in more ways in future, and in the meantime take a look at our site on www.wardwoodpublishing.co.uk but bear in mind that the payment options and some pages (anthologies and short stories for example) aren’t live yet.

So much work has gone on privately that it felt exciting to reveal some of it publicly via the website at last. Along with information about Sue Guiney on the Novels page, the Poetry pages are also live with information about Ann Alexander and her collection Too Close, complete with prizewinning poems including the Mslexia one. You can also find out about Mike Horwood, a poet you may not have heard about as he’s been living in Finland for years. His book Midas Touch will be out in November, and Ann’s collection is due for publication in October.

Some of the pages aren’t live yet, so don’t be frustrated by the inactive links. We’ve been busy planning book launches, bookshop signings and reading events with the authors and the Events pages will soon be filling up as we add the details. I’ll save information on the events we have lined up for future blog posts along with information on how to arrange reading tours and launches.

I’m especially pleased with the logo Mike Fortune-Wood has created: he suggested the design intertwining the twin initials from our surnames. I’d like a brooch made with that! The logo was the first idea we worked on for the website and it then took some time to come up with the right colours. With feedback from others we tried to find colours that were easy on the eye and clear to read, bearing in mind the difficulties people can have with some combinations due to colour blindness.

I’ll let the website speak for itself, and as more pages become live our aim is to make it a place where authors can interact by promoting events they arrange as well as the ones we’re planning for them. There will also be links to the authors’ own websites and blogs. The authors stay in regular contact with us at Ward Wood so all of this is working as a collaborative effort, and we’ve used Google Wave to make this possible. Google Wave has been a real asset in helping us to work as a team and to share information in a way that I’ll describe in the next article.

Friday, 18 June 2010

From Pain to Paint to Poetry: Pascale Petit

I looked forward to Pascale Petit's launch of her new collection 'What the Water Gave Me' so much that I thought I may be disappointed, but in fact it was even more stunning than expected. There was standing room only in the unusual venue - a basement in the converted Horse Hospital near Russell Square.

Audience members were shoulder-to-shoulder, leaning close to hear each other in an excited buzz of conversation before and after the performance, but when Pascale read the silence was filled with the thrill her poems inspire. Each of the poems in this collection is inspired by a piece of art by Frida Kahlo, and Pascale describes this artist as having turned pain into paint.

Pascale has taken this one step further and turned pain into paint and then into poetry. The poems are in the voice of Kahlo, and some give voice to the paintings, while some are 'parallels' as Pascale called them. It's not a simple task writing a poem based on a painting as most poets have discovered at one time or another. And yet somehow Pascale has found a muse in Frida Kahlo and writes poems that come from one work of art to create another.

Kahlo's paintings have a visceral effect on those who are most taken by her work, and Pascale's poetry also inspires this response in a reader or listener. I've heard some people tell me they 'just don't get it', but if you do respond to Pascale's poetry it's electrifying. When I discovered Pascale's poetry through her collection 'The Zoo Father' I knew I had found a poet who could create a passionate response in me, as Roddy Lumsden has recently described the effect some writing can have on us.

The amazing thing about 'The Zoo Father' was that every poem had that effect. Sometimes a moment here or there in a poem can 'give us that whoosh' as Andrew Motion puts it. If a couple of poems in a collection can do that then I'm pleased to have read it. But with 'The Zoo Father' this happens in poem after poem. That kind of consistency isn't often achieved, and shows poetry that's on another level.

I did wonder if 'The Zoo Father' was so exceptional that it wouldn't be repeated, but 'What the Water Gave Me' proves that the consistency isn't just from poem to poem, but also from collection to collection. It was a special treat for the audience in The Horse Hospital to hear Pascale read some of these poems, accompanied with a visual display of the Kahlo paintings.

I do wonder sometimes if I should tone down my admiration for Pascale's work, but, having thought about it, I decided to write this blog to say how wonderful it is now to have women poets who can inspire us with this standard of writing. When I was starting out as an aspiring writer in my teens it was very different. There seemed to be so few women poets in anthologies, nobody as a role model because Plath had writing of a high quality but wasn't somebody I wanted to emulate. Plath was the only recent woman writer I saw in books, and even she wasn't alive by the time I was reading anthologies.

There were plenty of women poets in Victorian times and into the early part of the Twentieth Century, so it's not true when some people say there were 'few women poets pre 1960s or 70s'. For some reason we seem to have stifled them just at the time I was looking for women writers as inspiration, and I won't go into the reasons for it in this blog.

Perhaps Pascale Petit is the most inspirational for me, and perhaps for others it's one of the other excellent women poets we have at the moment, which isn't to say men can't or don't enjoy their work! But I don't think men might understand what it was like for some of us as teenagers to be writing poetry and sensing an absence of women in poetry.

Frida Kahlo has given inspiration to Pascale Petit, and in her turn Pascale passes that inspiration on to many more of us. We're so lucky now to have such an active circuit of poetry readings and open mics, which also wasn't the case when I was starting out. Pascale teaches poetry workshops in the Tate, and other well-known poets also give workshops. So we can meet these figures in a way that wasn't possible when I was younger, and I really recommend taking advantage of the opportunity.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A Chance to Read at Open Mic Alongside Three Major Women Poets

On July 13th there’s a chance to read at open mic after three of our best-loved and strongest women poets: Elaine Feinstein, Mimi Khalvati and Fiona Sampson. The atmosphere in the room at our Lumen venue is sure to be electric, so try not to miss this one. With such a wonderful event it’s sure to bring together all the regulars plus plenty of newcomers, so the poetry will mix with a chance to socialise over wine and soft drinks with friends old and new.

If you’re new to the Camden and Lumen Poetry Series then the format is that booked poets are invited to read in the first and second half, with an interval for wine, soft drinks and chat in the middle. Poets from the floor are called up by our organiser, the poet Ruth O’Callaghan, so if you’d like to read then bring along one poem of up to 40 lines. When you come in you’ll be able to put your name on a list to be called, and if you leave a copy of the poem with your contact details it will be sent to the editor of next year’s anthology for consideration. All proceeds from entrance, drinks table, and book sales (the books have been generously donated by publishers) go to support the Cold Weather Shelters for the homeless.

What a wonderful line-up there is for this event from 6.30 – 9pm at Lumen, 88 Tavistock Place, within walking distance of Russell Square, St Pancras and Euston stations. Full details are on the Events page on http://www.camdenlumen.wordpress.com and you can also find the Camden and Lumen group on Facebook to be kept up-to-date on the twice-monthly events.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Birth of a Publishing Company 4: The Authors

The contracts have been sent out and arrived back signed this week so I can talk about the first three authors on the Ward Wood Publishing list. I'm thrilled by the thought of these books appearing in September, October and November this year as they're all so strong.

If you're reading my posts to find out how to start your own publishing company and want to know how to arrange a contract then you'll find the Society of Authors offers model contracts. We were lucky enough to be able to base a contract on the one Mike Fortune-Wood already uses for Cinnamon Press.

If you want some ideas about how authors are chosen then the selection of these authors should give some tips. While the company is getting established I did need to select authors who were previously published and had the kind of skills needed to help us promote. As time goes on this will help me to reach further out to discover and encourage new talent.

The first book due out in September is by the author Sue Guiney, an American who lives in London. Her novel is called A Clash of Innocents and is set in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It's narrated by a strong American woman who left the US thirty years before and is running an orphanage together with the Cambodian girl she has adopted. I won't ruin the plot, but this completely believable character gradually reveals why she left the US and why she's so distrustful of the volunteers who arrive and may damage the children she is determined to protect.

How did I select Sue? I had come across Sue online and noticed that she was always among the most active when Facebook and blogs were being used to resolve problems in publishing. With publishers closing down during the recession she was there taking part in trying to find ways for authors to move forward. She arranged the get-together for authors who had been left isolated by the demise of Bluechrome, and I also heard her read at the Camden and Lumen Poetry Series one day. She felt like a good person to approach with my ideas about a new company and her response made me realise it would be well received by authors. She also told me she had a new novel and asked if I'd read it. When she posted it to me I couldn't put it down - a sure sign that it was a good choice. It was also extremely well polished and ready for the editor's desk.

The second author I selected is Ann Alexander, who sent me her latest poetry collection called Too Close. Those of you reading this on the internet will be glad to know that Ann is also somebody who came into contact with me online, this time only via Facebook. I have no idea how we became Facebook 'friends' but I hardly knew Ann before the start of Ward Wood Publishing led to some talk between us and the submission of her manuscript.

Ann had also lost her publisher, Peterloo, who brought out two previous collections. I'm pleased we can help authors of this standard carry on in the knowledge each of their books has an outlet. It's so important to be able to keep writing without having to worry about finding a publisher each time, and that's why I want Ward Wood to publish fiction, nonfiction and plays as well as poetry. It gives authors a home for all of their work if they want that.

Poets who have won prizes and appeared in good magazines and broadcasts can tempt a publisher, although this isn't necessary if I see a good collection submitted. Ann has a more impressive track record than most editors could hope for. She took first prize in the Frogmore, Bedford Open, and Mslexia competitions, came 3rd in the BBC’s poem for Britain (2003) and 3rd in the Peterloo poetry competition.

Again it struck me immediately as a book I couldn't stop reading, each poem so direct and readable but with disturbing depths. It's about the everyday, based on Ann's life as an outsider who has settled in Penzance, but the troubles beneath will hit the nerves of her readers. Ann and Sue are two incredibly strong female voices who will appeal to men and women alike.

When I saw Ann's submission it was clear that time and effort had gone into perfecting the poems, choosing the right order, and making it all work as a collection. Like Sue's book, this one was more than ready for the editor's desk. If there's a hint I could give to writers who want to submit to publishers, it would be not to send your manuscript too soon. Others will be sending writing that shows how hard it has been worked on so it's vital to do the same.

Ann's book is scheduled for October, and in November we have a poetry collection coming out from Mike Horwood, a name less familiar to audiences at UK readings. This is because Mike has lived in Finland for years, and being away from the reading circuit can isolate a poet if we think of poetry as 'a small world where everybody knows each other' as I've often heard it called. In fact Mike is an excellent reader of his own work to audiences if people get the chance to catch him on one of his visits.

Mike has one previous poetry book out - a translation of the work of the Finnish poet Martti Hynynen which was published by Cinnamon Press and is called island, nameless rock. Ward Wood will be bringing out his debut collection called Midas Touch, and I'm familiar with many of these poems as his poetry drew my attention when I saw him workshopping it online. You'll have realised by now that the internet has played a large part in these first selections!

The unusual characteristic about Mike's poems is that they create an atmosphere rather than telling us about the author, or passing on a message or set of ideas. For this type of poetry to work, the atmosphere must really captivate us, and with Mike's poetry it does. The poems create a strange feeling of heightened perception, like a room or forest setting which the poet lets us see at those times when nobody is there.

What does a room feel like when nobody is around, or a clearing in woodland with only an animal in it, or nothing sentient at all? Mike puts us in that odd crystal-clear atmosphere: the narrator of these poems is there, but effaced. The effect can also be that any characters who do come into the poems seem to be separated by glass, as if true communication between people can never really be achieved.

Mike's collection was not just highly readable, but also presented in a way that will only need tweaks if tiny errors are spotted at the editing stages. The poems had each been worked on and then put into order in a way that made the whole selection chime together. Working on the correct order for a collection is one of the most enjoyable tasks for a poet, along with knowing the moment when one set of poems feels complete as a book so that we can close the cover on it and place the next poem in a new folder.

These are the first authors on our list and so much work has been going on in the background before I could name them publicly: reading a number of manuscripts, settling on these ones (which jumped out quickly as great choices), and dealing with the many other tasks a publisher needs to handle at the same time as doing the editorial work. More about those other tasks in future posts, but just one more comment is needed before I finish.

Some of you will be reading this and thinking that it seems difficult to be chosen by an editor in the face of such competition. You don't need to have previous publications or contest wins to be selected, but you do need a manuscript that works and that has been polished to the highest standard you can manage. You don't need to read at open mics, although that's one place you could be talent-spotted. You do need to be sharing your writing in some way that gets you noticed, and this can lead to you being invited to submit by editors even if their website says 'Closed to submissions for the present.'

There are also other submissions that come to an editor's desk that show potential. The authors may even have good books already published, or they may not. These potentially publishable books take longer for an editor to accept or decline. Perhaps the author has sent them too soon and it's possible they just need more work. Whatever the reason, either an editor will just decline them, as there's so much work to be done to edit, publish and promote the accepted books. Or the editor may feel like giving feedback and reading the books again once they have been worked on.

In either case it means that these books will be set aside and will be prioritised during gaps in the editor's work, so it's worth writing and rewriting to the highest standard you can. That's the best tip I can give, along with sending them off at some point and not making the mistake another friend of mine makes because she's too much of a perfectionist!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Birth of a Publishing Company 3

Today is the day we've been working towards with excitement and also much preparation. You always need to be ready for a birth, and this morning our new publishing company was born. After much discussion between the eager couple a name had been settled on in readiness for the big day and it's Ward Wood Publishing.

Of course the mother and father of this new publishing company aren't a real couple: we're business partners, so the important step we needed to make involved signing a partnership agreement. I was delighted to sign my name under that of Mike Fortune-Wood, who brings years of publishing experience to the new company.

I have long admired Mike's expertise with graphics and web design as well as the production side of publishing. He's also the business manager and particularly easy to work with. The book covers he designs are admired by many, me included. I'll be in charge of all things editorial and dealing with promotion, and we'll both be involved in book launches and events.

The company is new but Mike has experience with Cinnamon Press and I've spent my whole working life in writing and publishing, so we're far from new to the business. The signing of the partnership agreement should have been followed by a champagne celebration - a champagne breakfast at that time of day - but Mike was driving back to Wales and I didn't want to risk losing him straight away! So instead there was a good deal of chatting, laughing, and discussing ideas without alcohol in the London sunshine.

Those of you reading this to find out how to set up a publishing company will want to know how to arrange a partnership agreement and author contracts. We had author contracts which we could modify as we have both worked for publishing companies before, but you can get a model contract from the Society of Authors and tweak it for your own needs. There are partnership agreements available online but most are too complex and would need a lawyer to sort out any amendments. Mike purchased a more simple partnership agreement suitable to our needs.

Soon our website will go live and the first three authors are looking at their contracts as I write this. I'm pleased with the first books we'll be aiming to bring out this autumn and can only let you all guess how it makes me feel to have made this step today. It's the realisation of a long-held dream now that Ward Wood Publishing is born.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Birth of a New Publishing Company 2

I promised to keep you all informed about the stages in setting up a new publishing company, and although things may sound quiet we've been extremely busy behind the scenes. By later this week I'll be able to issue a press release to give details about the company, the co-owners, and some information about the first authors.

The reason it all seems quiet is that so much needs to be done privately to set up a publishing company before the public launch. We've put together a partnership agreement and also an author contract (more about how to do this in future posts in case you're thinking of starting a company yourselves). My business partner has been working hard at designing a logo and building the website offline.

All of this takes time and good collaboration, and I'm pleased to find we work really well together. My partner is in charge of the website, graphics, production and the business side of things. I'll be dealing with the editorial side and promotion, and we'll both be involved in book launches.

So what have I been doing all this time? The first thing I needed to do was approach authors as the first submissions have been by invitation only. The authors have been incredibly discreet, waiting for the public launch so they can tell others that their books have found a home.

I was delighted to find three exceptional books by three strong and original voices which will start our list. As you can imagine I've been reading manuscripts and working with the first authors selected to edit their books where necessary.

This means that when we sign our partnership agreement tomorrow we shall be ready to launch the company with authors already selected. I can't wait to give you all more details and it won't be long now.

In future posts I'll be talking about how I selected the authors, which should be helpful to writers seeking a publisher. Apart from pleasing the editor there are production factors to take into consideration, such as why some publishing houses ask for books of specific lengths.

So watch out for The Birth of a Publishing Company 3 (it's starting to sound like a movie)!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Shuttle and Sampson Support Homeless Charity Anthology

I had two bits of welcome news to make up for the election chaos this week. One is that I have poems in the Seeking Refuge anthology and will be reading them at the launch this week. The other is that my old tutor Andrew Motion got married on Saturday, so all good wishes to him and his wife.

Andrew was a fabulous tutor and one of those rare life-changing people who cross our paths. He gave me belief in myself as a writer and helped me identify the strengths and weaknesses of my own style without trying to change how I wrote.

Penelope Shuttle and Fiona Sampson are two of the well-known poets supporting Seeking Refuge, the latest anthology from the Camden and Lumen Poetry project in aid of the homeless. Each year Ruth O’Callaghan organises regular open mics with all proceeds going to the Cold Weather Shelters, and readers can submit the poems they perform for inclusion in this prestigious anthology.

Jan Fortune-Wood selected the best poems from last year’s open mics and edited Seeking Refuge, which has been published by Cinnamon Press this year. The standard of the poems is high, and the collection also makes poetry accessible, so the anthology is a perfect gift as Jan indicates: ‘This is real poetry with a real purpose – accessible, entertaining, varied and able to make a difference. Seeking Refuge is both a great way to get into poetry and a fantastic way to support an essential charity housing London’s homeless.’

Seeking Refuge is already available from Inpress Books, and as all proceeds go to the Cold Weather Shelters it’s worth getting a copy and a few extra to give as gifts. The launch, on May 9th in the Lumen venue, is sure to be a vibrant and sociable event, with the selected poets reading their Seeking Refuge poem, and copies available for purchase.

Please share this information and review the book on your websites to raise as much as possible for the Cold Weather Shelters. This project supports two worthwhile causes – poetry with the open mics, and the homeless in the shelters. It’s also good fun to come along and read and you can submit poems to be considered for next year’s anthology. Every penny raised at events and with the anthology goes to the homeless.

You can find the Seeking Refuge anthology on Inpress Books here http://www.inpressbooks.com/seeking_refuge_jan_fortunewood_i020914.aspx and you can see more about it and also find how to take part in the open mics if you look at the Camden and Lumen website here http://www.camdenlumen.wordpress.com Hope to meet some of your there.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Monique Roffey: A White Woman, A Green Bicycle, and the Orange Prize

It came as no surprise to me to hear Monique Roffey had been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for her novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. As soon as I received it for review I knew I was in for a treat and I wasn’t disappointed. Roffey is surely one of the best women novelists around and this tale of Trinidad is as irresistible as her earlier work.

Her first novel, Sun Dog, tempted me to buy it after reading an excerpt. It’s not easy for a debut novelist to have this effect, but there was something about her fragile anti-hero as he discovered his body was changing with the seasons, sprouting buds between fingers and toes in Spring. I just had to read more and find out about this shy young man working in a delicatessen and rebelling against the commune upbringing he’d had with his hippy mother.

The White Woman on a Green Bicycle tempts the reader just as Sun Dog did. The lush landscape of Trinidad makes us feel we’re right there, or want to be there. In fact the green hills of Trinidad come so vividly to life that they actually speak to the characters and seduce them or inspire their envy.

It might be hard to imagine why one of the main characters, Sabine, doesn’t want to live there and craves the London suburban home her husband promised her if she would spend a bit of time in Trinidad while he establishes himself in his job. But, from the first days, Sabine is sensitive to the feeling that Trinidad doesn’t want her, doesn’t want the white people still living like the colonialists of the past. She’s both attracted to Trinidad and its people, and also pushed out due to her compassion and awareness. She agrees with the Trinidadians but she isn’t one of them so can’t rebel alongside them.

Her husband George is different. Like the other men sent there by businesses he can be important in Trinidad, can have a decent job, buy land and build his big house, and move on from the strong love he feels for his wife at the start through a series of affairs as the decades become more permissive. Gradually Sabine realises he will never keep his promise to take her home – this is his home. Her children are Creole and love the island, and she’s the only disappointed one: the one who doesn’t ever feel she fits in.

Roffey’s expertise is in telling this story from the point of view of both characters, Sabine and George, and keeping the reader’s empathy for both of them. In fact, we can tell that their love for each other has somehow survived. At the start of the book they’re both old and resigned to what their life has been, having given up on what they had hoped for, so I’ve given away none of the plot.

Instead of making the reader wait to see what happens we start at the end of their lives and the book lets us see back into various details. The first half of the novel is from George’s perspective, as an old man, wanting somehow to redeem himself in his wife’s eyes. The second half is told by the young Sabine from the time of her arrival on the island through the first decades of their marriage.

I particularly enjoy a book that tells me about the history of a country that I hadn’t known about, and Roffey does this in a masterful way. Not long after Sabine and George arrive the Trinidadians are roused to support the charismatic leader Eric Williams who promises to free them from the remnants of colonialism. Sabine is metaphorically seduced by him, empathising with the people, and is emotionally and physically aroused by the atmosphere he creates. I’ll say no more, and leave you to discover how Roffey weaves politics, landscape, the personal and the public figures so that the bigger picture and the smaller picture somehow work together.

If I have a criticism it’s that at times Roffey’s style can follow the day-to-day in such a realistic way that it’s possible to leave the book down and pick it up again weeks later. This happens in some chapters during the first half where we see George’s view of the marriage and Trinidad. Having said that, even his account is interspersed with vivid scenes including the beating of a black teenager by the local police that had me on the edge of my seat.

Once the story moves to Sabine’s perspective I couldn’t get enough of it. There’s always a risk when a novelist tells a story through two different viewpoints that the reader will prefer one to the other. Roffey has imagined life through the experience of both George and Sabine so well that it still feels like a major achievement, and no doubt many male readers will empathise more with George.

Compassion is a quality I look for in a novelist and Roffey certainly has it. She has written so that we can understand the history of Trinidad and this particular marriage, and she has done it without allocating blame so that we understand the reasons for the failures of individuals and even Eric Williams. The characters come to life in our minds and we remember them as if we knew them, and it’s as if we’ve been to Trinidad or want to go. It’s a novel that will stay in the mind like a memory of a real experience, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, 2 April 2010

NaPoWriMo is Here - Time to Write a Poem a Day

April is National Poetry Writing Month - or NaPoWriMo. I'll be attempting to write a poem a day, and not doing any editing or rewriting once I move on to the next day. Impossible to write a good poem like this? Well, it's how Robert Browning wrote Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. During a period of writers' block he decided to write a poem a day and this fabulous poem came in the first few days.

I've registered the Written Word Ning as an official NaPoWriMo group site so people can post their daily poems on the Forum there. Some are already posting and it's a helpful way to share and encourage each other through NaPoWriMo. You can also register yourself individually with the website where you'll be posting poems, or you can do it more privately.

It's helping me to get some poems out there which have been brewing in my head a little too long. So many other vital tasks take all the hours in the day and those poems linger inside. I'm glad April will be a month to prioritise poetry, and if you'd like to join in on the Written Word to share your daily poems you'll find it on http://www.writtenword.ning.com Click Forum on the toolbar and you'll see the NaPoWriMo poems.

I'm off for a break by the sea for a while and will post all my daily poems when I get back.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Start of a New Publishing Company

In these days of social networks we’re in the habit of saying what we’re doing each day, so it feels especially hard to keep a big secret. Every day my news is that I’m working on a new publishing company due to be launched, reading the submissions, making decisions on which will be the first books to be launched and really enjoying reading the fiction, poetry, short stories and nonfiction sent to me.

But of course I can’t say who the first authors are until we sign the contracts. I shouldn’t even say the company name or who my business partner is until we’ve signed that partnership agreement. It’s all imminent and I’m on all my social networks waiting for the moment when I can reveal all. That moment shouldn’t be too long.

It may seem like an unusual time to start a publishing company, with the recession affecting the business so seriously. There are reasons why I’m doing this now with my partner (I always feel I have to add ‘professional’ to that these days as the word has been given such a different meaning). It has long been my plan to start a publishing company, so when I was approached by a partner with many years of experience and skills I particularly admire I knew it was time to move ahead and do it.

There are other reasons why I would have thought of starting a publishing company now, even if it hadn’t been a plan I’ve been formulating for years. With the recession authors are being left without outlets for poetry and short stories as well as fiction, nonfiction and other forms. Even established authors have lost their publishing companies. This can’t go on.

Authors need to find a publisher and then concentrate on working on their next book knowing that it has a home. They can’t be struggling to find a new publisher when their efforts should be going into writing. The publishers are doing a fantastic job, but we need more outlets as the companies all seem to have long waiting lists of two or even five years.

Of course this means that, as publishers, we need to be able to keep going so that we can offer a secure place. My partner is keeping me to a strict business plan and I know we can go forward and offer this outlet to authors. He also has excellent experience on the production side and his graphics are wonderful. This leaves me free to do what I do best, which includes editing and finding talented authors.

This week I’ve been reading the novel and the poetry collection which should be our first two books, both by authors who have been previously published and whose work I have long admired. I couldn’t put their books down, which is a great sign, and can’t wait to see them launched so that others can enjoy them.

This is the realisation of an important dream for me and fills me with excitement. That thrill is tempered by the need to work on this professionally, to progress with my partner at the type of work we have both done for years. This way authors will have a place for their poetry, short stories, fiction, nonfiction and plays, and readers will be able to get their hands on some excellent books. We aim to publish 10 books in the first year and submissions are mainly by invitation at the moment while we cope with the task of setting it all up.

I’ll be adding blogs about the steps we’re taking as it will be of interest to many of you to hear about the birth of a publishing company in detail.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Camden and Lumen Poetry on Facebook

There’s now a Facebook group for Camden and Lumen Poetry. This has been set up in response to feedback about the website, because people said they liked to be able to keep in touch online between events. This is particularly important for participants who enjoy the project but live all over the UK and beyond, and might not be able to get to London regularly.

The Facebook group will also let other people find out about Camden and Lumen Poetry and all members will be able to invite people from their contacts list. It’s such a worthwhile project to champion poetry and to help the homeless, and this should help spread the word. Of course, you're also welcome to join in with discussions on the Facebook group even if you can't get to Camden and Lumen events so long as it's all poetry or fiction-related.

It’s also possible to leave comments on the Facebook group page, and there’s a discussion forum if you’d like to raise some topics for debate. It doesn’t all have to be serious. Just introducing yourself and putting a link to your website is a great idea. Although many people at the events know each other well, a website link helps newcomers and let’s us all pass an enjoyable time reading each other’s work.

To get to the Facebook group go to the Camden and Lumen website on http://www.camdenlumen.wordpress.com and click on the link on the left of all pages. Alternatively you can search for Camden and Lumen when you’re on Facebook. Let the conversations begin!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

I Am The Webmeister for Camden and Lumen Poetry

I was pleased to be asked by Ruth O'Callaghan if I could create a website for the excellent Camden and Lumen Poetry project. We were chatting after a really fun and well attended open mic yesterday where I sloshed out the wine and I was really pleased to meet a poet friend called Peter who I have only 'met' online before. He gave a great reading of his poem Jazz Sax, which will go forward for consideration for the next anthology published by Camden and Lumen. If any of you can get to these events in London I'd love to meet you.

The website is very new as I've been building it this morning and doing all the writing for it so far plus adding photos! You can see it on http://www.camdenlumen.wordpress.com and I'd appreciate a bit of feedback in the comments on the site. Forthcoming events are listed there.

Camden and Lumen Poetry is a project organised by the poet Ruth O’Callaghan. The project not only supports poetry: all proceeds go to help the Cold Weather Shelters in Camden and Kings Cross. Regular poetry readings are held in the Camden and Lumen (Kings Cross) venues, with well-known authors appearing alongside new and unpublished poets.

Publishers and magazine editors present their writers, published poets make appearances, and the events include the opportunity for audience members to read at least one poem. Poets from the floor can submit the poems they read to be considered for an annual anthology published each Spring. This gives poets at all levels the chance to appear alongside the famous names in each anthology.

Carol Ann Duffy became a patron of Camden and Lumen Poetry in January 2010, adding extra prestige to this well-established and well attended project.

The events have a warm and friendly atmosphere, with wine and soft drinks, a raffle to win a surprise parcel of books. There are also books available to buy, including some available at discount generously provided by publishers. The price of entry, the drinks bar, the raffle and other fundraising activities all go to support the Cold Weather Shelters.

Both of the venues, Camden and Lumen, have the readings in the same place where people sleep in the Cold Weather Shelters, making it a particularly special place to attend and to support poetry.

The addresses for the venues are:

Camden Poetry – Trinity United Reform Church, 1 Buck St, Camden Town, London WC1

Tube: Camden Town

Lumen Poetry – Lumen, 88 Tavistock Place, London WC1

Tubes: Russell Square , Kings Cross, St Pancras.
Web Statistics