Poetry – something ordinary and rare?

It’s been a while since I posted, partly due to a disc in my back which insists on playing up. But I couldn’t resist sharing this latest review of Sometimes A River Song from poet  Gillian Allnutt – whose words feel to me like a precious gift.

Listen to Aiyana. Let her voice take hold of you, hypnotic and insistent as the river, as ‘the lull and rock of moving water’. Let her telling take you to the end of this, her own unanswerable story – unanswerable as truth is and as full of event as the river is ‘full of catfish and bream, turtle and gar’.

            She’ll make you think, without trying to, about the way we treat the earth; about what’s wrong with it. She’ll make you think again as from the heart. She’ll make you think, perhaps, that poetry is something ordinary and rare as grandma ‘singing to the corn while she hoe’.

            Listen to her.


Sometimes A River Song – Trailer

This is the trailer for my novel, Sometimes A River Song. It’s not easy capturing a book in so few words – but I think Linen Press have done a great job. Let me know what you think?

If you’d like to read the reviews so far you can find them HERE

You can buy your copy HERE for just £7.99

On kindle HERE for £4.74

Sometimes A River Song, Now Available

Great News! Happy Days! Sometimes A River Song, is NOW available in paperback from Linen Press HERE

On Amazon Kindle HERE


‘… one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time.  The narrative itself is song-like in the way the prose moves.  It reminded me initially of Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’, mainly because the narrative voice of the girl is so distinctive and haunting…definitely her best.’ Kathleen Jones (Read more here)


We Are Called To Rise – Laura McBride

We Are Called to Rise is one of those books that demand to be read all in one go. Once I started there was no stopping. I barely came up for air. It was compelling and engaging from the very first page – I guess it helped that Avis, a woman of a certain age, rooting in her sexy underwear draw, comes up with a gun.

18271235But this novel is about much more than Avis, her underwear or guns. It is about three lives, three families colliding, bound together by a mistake made in a just a split second. It is about the fate of a clever, sensitive child.

So why did I love We Are Called to Rise, so much? Here are some of the reasons:
It’s rooted in place, in Las Vegas, the author’s home town, the town it would be impossible for me to know from any tourist guide or holiday visit. Mc Bride shows us what this desert place is really like for the people who grow up there, who live there. We feel the heat and the dust.

Continue reading

Walking and Writing

I need to walk more. Or so my oesteopath tells me. I know he’s right, too long spent in a chair reading, or at the machine writing has not helped my back. I’m thinking of having an imaginary dog to pull me up from my seat and force me out walking. Why don’t I go more? After all I know what an inspiration walking can be for a writer.

I Google walking and writing and see that I’m not alone in finding inspiration when I’m out walking. But what is it about walking that’s so creative?

‘Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move,” wrote Henry Thoreau, “my thoughts begin to flow.” So it is with me. The minute I begin walking a vein of creativity opens up and ideas come flooding in. I think this happens by sleight because I’m not really thinking and perhaps that’s the key. The mind is free to wander.

There is also the sheer physicality of it: ‘Poetry is written from the body as well as the mind, and the rhythm and pace of a walk can get you going and keep you grounded. It’s a kind of light meditation.’ The poet Edward Hirsch. Read more of his wonderful piece on walking and writing HERE

For me being alone is also a key factor. Being alone is a gift to a writer, there are so many possibilities in the space that aloneness creates.

There is also being outside and the inspiration of the natural world or of the city. It’s all too easy to get hemmed in by weather, illness, difficulty, whatever, but walking especially in sunshine can mend most things.

below – the Canal du Midi – one of my favourite places to walk when I’m in France


Canal du Midi

Pre-order Sometimes a River Song

Available NOW for pre-order with Linen Press

An amazing, beautiful book with echoes of Eimear McBride. Avril Joy knows how to draw you into the story, right into the soul of the narrator…  Kathleen Jones, author of A Passionate Sisterhood: The Sisters, Wives and Daughters of the Lake Poets

A tour de force…original and beautiful – Sharon Griffiths, author of The Accidental Time Traveller


The Floating Photographers – Hugo and Gayne Preller

OK, so I know it’s just not possible for me to flee the country and arrive in Arkansas in time for the opening on April 8th of A House of Light exhibition, in the Historic Arkansas Museum, Little Rock. But I can always dream.

The exhibition features the largest existing collection of Arkansas Delta photography.  80 original works from the archive of floating photographers Hugo and Gayne Preller, whose work spanned more than half a century, from 1895 to 1950. This unconventional couple sailed down the Mississippi River in their floating portrait studio, creating a visual history of the delta community, which has been preserved and curated by Chris Engholm and Gayne Preller. You can hear Chris talking about the journey from discovery to exhibition HERE.

I don’t quite remember how I first came across the ‘floating photographers,’ but when I did I knew they would have to be part of my novel – Sometimes a River Song. Their photographs inspired me, as did the idea of a photographic studio sailing down the river. My later correspondence with Chris proved generous and encouraging.

I hope very much I’ve done the Prellers justice. I wish the exhibition every success and a great opening night – read more about it HERE.


I call out, ‘Morning, I hope I ain’t disturbing you none.’

She stop washing pots, stand up tall and look out at me on the bank. The man act like he ain’t heard.

‘I am wondering if you might take my photograph? I got money with me.’

She nod, dry her hands on her apron, ‘Come aboard.’ I step up onto the long plank, from riverbank to boat. She lift a curtain at the door and show me the way through. Is a small room. Got a chair and the camera all set up, cotton sheet pinned on the wood, blue curtain across the window, sun shining at its back.

‘Sit there, child, and rest your hands in your lap.’

Is peaceful, boat shift in the tide, spill water rising. Specks of dust floating like silk in the air.

Sometimes a River Song – pub April 27th Linen Press

The Northern Short Story Festival

What a brilliant idea – our very own short story festival here in the North! And why not? So often short story festivals, celebrations or salons happen, socialmediasharefurther south, frequently in the capital. Yet we have great short story writers in the north – like winner of the Scott prize Carys Bray who will be  reading from her work and answering your questions at the festival on Saturday June 4th at the Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds – not to be missed.

The programme is exciting and eclectic (see below) and places are filling up fast, so book now to avoid disappointment.

I’m proud to be a part of the festival. My session – Workshop Success in Short Story Competitions, is just an hour long. This won’t give us the luxury of getting to know each other well or workshopping individual stories. I’m thinking of it as more of an interactive talk. I talk and you interrupt and ask me all the questions you’ve always wanted to ask, whatever they are. Having only an hour in which to help you find success in competitions leaves me with the dilemma of what to put in and what to leave out. But that is, or should be, a familiar dilemma for the short story writer. Less is often more, as I explain in this previous post

So without giving too much away what will I be offering? I hope to give you the best possible advice about the competitions out there, where to find them, the process of entering etc but mostly I want to talk about the story that makes it through to the judges ‘likepile’ (I’ve been a judge too) and hopefully beyond. Why does this story shine through? What are the elements of a great short story? And how can you make your story the best it can be?

I will share with you everything I know and have learned along my way and because time is short I will definitely be around after to answer any further questions or just for a cuppa and a chat. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned campaigner you are welcome.

Really looking forward to meeting you on 4th. In the meantime keep writing and if you need weekly inpsiration and competition details then do sign for my free weekly newsletter, where I go on endlessly about writing and the writing life!