Lyrical beauty, decomposing poets and butterflies

The New Mills Poetry Trail Open Mic Event – The Butterfly House at The Torrs, New Mills, by Nicola Hulme

As the setting sun filled the evening sky with a spectacular orange glow, I drove through the Derbyshire lanes to a small town nestled against the dramatic backdrop of the Peak District. I was on my way to celebrate the New Mills Poetry Trail with an evening of open mic poetry.

The residents of New Mills extended a warm welcome to the “outsiders” from Stockport’s Write Out Loud group; they even extended their arms to a poet from who hailed from the far reaches of Glossop, such a friendly bunch.

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Held in the beautifully ornate Butterfly House at the Torrs Hotel, poets spilled out into neighbouring rooms such was the amazing turn out. It was heart-warming to see so many people of varying ages and backgrounds coming together to share in their passion, to hear and be heard. Remarkably, for such a large gathering, the atmosphere still remained intimate, reminiscent of stories told around the fireplace.
Published poets, new poets, experienced performers and those, like I, who still shake inwardly when approaching the mic, came together in a shared appreciation of the spoken word. Topics conveyed ranged from the pastoral pleasures of a slow canal walk, the heartaches of unrequited love, through to the surprise of eight family members surviving their first holiday together without anyone’s demise! For our delight we were told how Wordsworth’s decomposing body made fine fertiliser for the daffodils and allotment gardeners cried out for insect genocide, namely the extinction of the Cabbage White. The strength of Manchester was praised in a salute to the bees and conversations overheard at Costa were mulled over between drinks.

It was interesting to observe how we write as introverts, cocooned individually honing our craft, yet, on nights such as these, when we share our lines a new beauty emerges. Like a butterfly spreading its wings for the first time verbalising our humanity, vulnerabilities, passions and fears we create something new and more captivating together. We create a place of trust, empathy and support where smiles, nods and applause say “Yes, we understand, we have experienced the same and can relate to you.”

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IPhones, technology and social media may play a huge part in our daily life but it’s reassuring to know the poetry scene is very much alive and well, uniting communities. On this night the people of New Mills and the surrounding areas turned their backs on box set binging and X-Factor warbling, preferring to spend time with friends in a lyrical wonderland.

I’d like to say thank you to Randy Horton and his team of volunteers for organising the Poetry Trail and the open mic evening. Thanks also to the shopkeepers who supported the event by allowing poems to be displayed in their windows and of course to the people of New Mills for coming together and making it a night to remember. I hope we can do it all again next year.

Review is about New Mills Festival Poetry Trail Round Robin on 26 Sep 2018 (event)

Visit @writeoutloud for details of your local poetry groups.

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I feel immortal

Yes, I feel immortal… this morning I opened Twitter and there staring back at me was a quotation from an interview I gave a year ago, and underneath was my name Nicola Hulme…  I had to read it twice to make sure it was really me..it also carried the hashtag #wednedsaywisdom

I ask for no more, I am immortal, I have a quote as had Ghandi, Martin Luther King,  Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah Winfrey, CS Lewis, Terry Pratchett…

I feel complete. My job here is done.

How bizarre!

OK so I’m not a superhero, but it just shows that wonderful things do happen and can happen for everyone. It’s something I believe in very strongly.

PS. I my job as writer will never be done, I have opened the gateway, I have let in the light, I will write until I have no more words. It isn’t a job, it’s a passion, perhaps an addiction.

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Poetry is for sharing; The Washing Line

It’s my very strong belief that poetry and prose is for sharing. Once written, it should be shared so others can take pleasure in it or perhaps receive a degree of relief in knowing others have felt the same emotions or had the same experiences. This sudden declaration comes after receiving an email from a friend, asking permission to read my poem out loud to her mother who suffers from dementia. She believes this poem would make her smile.

Concerned about copyright, she sought permission and asked if she could also read the poem out loud for another group she attends, who have members of retirement age.

This made me think. To protect our rights to “maybe one day” be published, we cling to copyrights and legal protection – but surely this is all going too far? What happened to sharing tales around the fireside for pure enjoyment? I’m saddened to think we have moved that far away from those days…. here is the poem requested, feel free to read / delete / critique to your heart’s content.

The Washing Line

 

Down dark cobbled back streets, clothes lines stretched

across cohorts of back yards, on Washing Day.

Regiments of white bed sheets hoisted high

flapping like flags,  in threatening skies

supported by proud,

immoveable clothes props.

Garments not daring to fly loose,

straddled by dolly pegs

forced down hard.

 

Above boiling bleach buckets,

malevolent steam swirled, silently seething,

polluting the air with pungent peroxide.

The back door was wedged open, windows wide,

but still its clammy fingers clung to high corners.

 

Seized shirts submerged in the twin tub

were dragged out of the simmering broth

by oversized wooden tongs, grinning

toothless crocodiles.

 

A solitary circular spinner flipped its lid

with brutal force, revealing a gaping hole

that gobbled up garments,

before firing it’s jet engine

at the press of an oversized button.

A bright warning label spelled danger but,

I was more afraid of grandma.

So I did as I was bid

and stayed two full steps back,

watching a steady stream of captives

being fed into the rollers of the mangle,

pulled out prostrate, straight jacketed,

lobotomised on the other side.

 

Winched up on a maiden, by rope and pulley

squealing like a stuck pig, screaming in protest;

corsets and bloomers were discreetly dried.

Ponderous drops dripped

onto the oilcloth floor beneath

missing expectant open mouthed buckets.

 

Hugging the gas fire, a burdened clothes horse

promised more than it could deliver.

A metal mesh fireguard, kept long after toddler years,

lent its flat roof to dry despondent socks.

 

From picture rail gallows, lifeless forms hung

closing in on the living,

One by one they were gathered,

folded and locked away in the airing cupboard

guarded by a gurgling old boiler in his

pillar-box red padded jacket.

 

Paroled for ironing; creases were pressed out

and forcibly pressed in.

Under a hellish red hot iron

wet handkerchiefs hissed and spat.

The board creaked and groaned,

along with grandma as she held her back.

 

Finally, the ordeal was over.

Clothes were locked into looming tall boys

with the turn of a tiny brass key.

 

The line stretches through time

from dolly tub to auto scrub.

My laundry is gently taken

from a silent washer,

that soaks and spins on demand,

conditioned smooth and wrinkle free

without need of an army of machines,

lightly clipped by brightly coloured pegs.

Still, I discreetly throw my underwear

into the dryer and smile

“What would the neighbours say?”

 

Mine is an easy load.  My line marks the ages

of my babies as their clothes grow.

Our tired old favourite t-shirts

out of shape and faded,

hang comfortably together, blowing in the wind.

Billowing white sheets release

their bouquet of jasmine and lily.

The sun warms my face,

the breeze caresses my skin

like the palm of a hand against my cheek,

or a kiss on the forehead from grandma.

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How Portia The Pear Found Her Publisher

A friend I met at a writing workshop, asked me recently, how I became published after writing my book. This is a question I’m asked frequently and if this interests you, put the kettle on, get comfortable and I’ll tell you the story of… Portia The Pear. I have to tell you the whole story, because there is an element of luck, fate, or maybe serendipity to this, or perhaps I was ready and willing when the opportunity arose? I’ll let you decide.

I had rediscovered my passion for writing, and fell in love with the craft all over again. I’d also discovered a new level of proactivity, which I’ll discuss in a future blog. With this new energy, I sought out and found a local writing group, Stockport Writers who meet at The Hatworks once a month. I also joined a local poetry group, Write Out Loud, who meet at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery once a month. With the support and encouragement I found discussing writing with like-minded people, my confidence grew and so did my level of passion for the subject.

With this confidence, and heightened awareness of all things literary, I spotted a postcard on a noticeboard at Bredbury Library. It advertised a writing group which met in Marple, every Thursday night called The Storytellers Place. I went along. I was cramming in as much writing, reading and group work as I could, enjoying every minute.

As any woman knows, you share everything with your hairdresser; it’s the law. At each appointment I was babbling on about the writing groups and how fascinating it was and how I wanted to write bedtime stories for children. It was at this point where the magic started to manifest. At one of my appointments my hairdresser gave me a leaflet from Tatton Park advertising their 100 years celebration of the work of Roald Dahl, saying “I saw this and thought of you”. As part of the events taking place, there was a creative writing workshop to be held, called “How To Write Like Roald Dahl”, run by a lady called Joy Winkler. It went on to describe how Joy was Cheshire’s Poet Laureate in 2015. A poet discussing children’s books, it sounded perfect for my master plan of writing a bedtime story. When I looked into the event in more detail I found it was affordable but would mean I needed to book a day’s holiday from work. Up until this time I had always booked days to be off with my children, covering school holidays. However, I was so intrigued, I book the day off and booked myself onto the course whilst feeling like a naughty school girl playing truant!

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On the day, I drove over to Tatton Park in glorious sunshine, arriving for a 10.30 am start. I then spent the morning with the inspirational Joy Winkler as she taught the techniques for writing for children and exploring how Dahl created his fabulous characters. At lunch time we were sent into the kitchen gardens with the instruction of spending two hours developing characters and writing a story that unfolds in the gardens themselves.

 

The first sight to greet me, as I walked outside was a beautiful row of pear trees trained into perfect lines with the most sumptuous fruit hanging neatly from the branches. I had a closer look and saw each tree had a different “name” and most names were female. A very knobbly pear then caught my eye. It was all scrunched up and had dark freckly skin unlike the rest of the fruit. The shape and twists made it look like a sad face, and I knew immediately that this was my character. I sat quietly and wrote and two hours later read out my story to the group. It was well received and Joy suggested I submit it to a publisher because it had a strong voice. I hope you are paying attention because this is the part that truly is magic.

The very next day, an email popped up telling me that a Children’s Publisher was coming to The Storytellers Place to talk about Independent Book Publishing in the following week. I quickly “Googled” the publisher and found their submission guidelines. I checked that my story was in the format they wanted, a word document. I checked and re-checked it for spelling mistakes and grammar, then drafted a cover email, attached Portia and pressed send. All I had in mind at that point was to ask for some feedback and pointers on what could be improved.

Two gentlemen from Tiny Tree Children’s Book Publishers delivered a presentation to my writing group and nervously I hung behind to speak to them after everyone had left. I then told them I had cheekily submitted my book and asked if they could tell me what they thought. The reply was that they hadn’t read it yet, they had been very busy. “That’s a ‘no’ then” I thought. I went home dejectedly and had a sulky early night.

The very next day, an email popped up this time from the publishers, telling me they loved the book and asking if I could call to the office to discuss it with them. After bouncing around my office like Tigger, I replied and agreed to the meeting.

For what happened next you can read my blog “Feedback and re-writes” dated March 6th 2017 followed by “Validation and Illustration” dated March 13th 2017.

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So what do you think? My hairdresser told me of a writing workshop, where I wrote a story and was encouraged to submit it. A writers group introduced me to a publisher, who said “yes”. Was it luck, serendipity or fate? Or was it the amount of work learning the techniques in the months before, that meant I was ready with an almost finished piece of writing when an opportunity arose? I am unsure. I worked hard and put in long hours, but surely the email arriving the day after writing my story announcing a publisher was coming to me, suggests more powerful forces were in play, doesn’t it?

Fate or luck, one thing is certain, to be published you must have first written. As Joy Winkler emphasises “you must sit and write” and who knows where it will lead you, if you do? A great quote from Stephen King sums this up “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

If anyone has any questions on creative writing, the process of being published or simply what to expect at writing groups, please ask. This is my passion and if I can help in anyway, I’d be glad to do so.

Good luck and happy writing.

magic quote

 

 

The Sycamore Prince

Slender branches silhouette

beneath his golden crown.

Sparks thrown out by the silver sun

ignite his flaming hues.

The autumnal prince towers above

ethereal mists, caught between earth and sky.

In a final flourish, passionate embers

of saffron and copper smoulder.

Only to cool as the light fades

and chill winds blow.

Each yellow fingered leaf, I mourn

as it falls and returns to it’s roots.

I will his warming glow to remain

to comfort my spirits during

November’s nip and winters depths.

Knowing my protests cannot halt

ruthless frosts from calling “time”.

November 2017

Portia The Pear – the book launch.

 

book launch signing

Portia The Pear, my first Children’s Picture Book, was launched in September this year and is now on sale in bookshops, on Amazon and even in the gift shops at Tatton Park in Cheshire.

 

The launch party was an amazing event with more people attending than I ever imagined. Book sales were crazily high, I couldn’t move from the signing table. Children were busy sticking, painting, and creating at the craft tables. Those with more energy bounced on the bouncy castle and chased balloons. There was even a music maestro playing acoustic guitar in a quieter area for those who preferred to stay out of the mele.

book launch peopl

I can’t thank enough, the team of people who helped me to organise and manage the event. I had volunteers in the kitchen, help setting up the buffet, friends supervising the crafting and one dear friend even took charge of meeting and greeting. What a bunch of superstars. The day’s success was all down to their fantastic spirit of “all hands on deck” – angels every one!

book launch craft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here is a link to find my book, which makes a superb Christmas present for little ones. Book reviews can be found on Amazon, to see what people think so far.

amazon

To any budding authors out there, be ready to take part in marketing events organised by your publisher. My feet haven’t touched the ground since launch day. I’ve been as far south as Foyles in Chelmsford and I’m on my way north to Barrow-in-Furness next, with Apple Day Festivals in between and pit stops at libraries it takes a lot of energy to support your book, so be prepared!

book reading

I leave you with a link to the book and the publisher for more information …… did I say Portia makes a great stocking filler????

https://matthewjamespublishing.com/product/portia-pear-nicola-hulme/

christmas portia

 

 

From new girl to “writer”

A creative breakthrough at my local writing group; promotion from “new girl” status to “meeting chair” albeit for one session only (for now, but I can dream!)

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Is this validation that my writing and knowledge has reached a point worthy of sharing with other writers? If so, couldn’t be more thrilled!

Last year, I joined a writing group; Stockport Writers, based at the very beautiful Stockport Hatworks Museum. We meet once a month to write with various prompts to help stir the creative juices. 

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One of the charms of this writing group is it’s ever-changing attendee list. Some group members have been attending since the group first formed, others have joined over the past year; some new members are just beginning their writing journey.

Each writer has their own unique skill set, genre, preferred writing style. From the impact of short stories, to the challenge of a novel, everyone has their own path. Whether editor or poet, college student or student of life, who writes purely for the pleasure in doing so, all are welcome. It’s a magical mix.

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Each month, a writer leads the group through the session; from free-writing warm up, to a reading of last month’s homework (or any other piece) through to the use of prompts, followed by more readings, and finally the closing prompt or exercise to close.

When I was asked to step up to the role at next month’s meeting, I was honoured to do so. It’s an absolute privilege.

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Now all I need to do is come up with a plan of what topics we can cover. Errrrmmmmm…

Any ideas from fellow writers? 

I’ve just got back from meeting my publisher…

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I like to say that.

I will take every opportunity to say that.

I do not apologise for being ecstatic that I can say that!

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During a very civilised conversation over a cup of tea at the fabulous Cloudberry Cafe, Marple, my publisher and I

(oops! I did it again) discussed the upcoming marketing strategy for my new book. 

 

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I am so excited I may spontaneously combust – stand well back!

Talking for 2 hours about all things bookish, is an absolute pleasure. 

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Watch this space over the coming weeks for details.

My face is literally aching from smiling so much.  

I will be ordering my own book from Amazon because I can.

I will be ordering my book from Waterstones because I can. 

Ouch! My cheeks hurt.

I have “blurb”!

Today, I contributed to and approved,  the blurb that will be issued to the trade when describing my first Children’s Picture Book. It may even appear on the back cover. (I won’t dwell on how the word “blurb” frustrates me when the words “a brief outline of the story” could be used, this is not the time to be picky.) Today is the day to celebrate and be excited by the fact I have my very own blurb. I have blurb about a book that I have written. Me. My book. My blurb. Happy. 

Nine Fine Lines of Rhyme

It’s Sunday. I’ve been to my local writing group, and perhaps due to the habit of Napowrimo, I wrote poetry there, instead of my usual prose. It must be rubbing off on me.

After group I had a quick shopping trip then returned home to the waiting in-laws, followed by an impromptu visit from my sister-in-law’s family. It’s been a hectic but sociable Sunday. As for Napowrimo… I’m playing catch-up yet again.

Not shying from the challenge, I answered the prompt quite literally. Here is my response to the prompt: Because today is the ninth day of NaPoWriMo, I’d like to challenge you to write a nine-line poem.

Nine Fine Lines Of Rhyme

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Today I write a poem in rhyme.  

Today I’ll try not to post too late. 

The poem must have nine structured lines, 

Not 12, not 10, not a mere 8.   

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I’m happy I’ve written the first four.   

There is the fifth. Here is the sixth.    

I’ve never written in nines before. 

I hope the rhyming doesn’t get mixed,   

although I’m sure it’s easily fixed.