Posts Tagged Jo Bell

The Poetry Pharmacy, Bishop’s Castle

Poetry Pharmacy Bishop's CastleOn holiday in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire, I discovered the Poetry Pharmacy run by Deborah Alma. It’s part cafe, part poetry bookshop, part events space and part therapy; the latter via an appointment with the Poetry Pharmacist.

We’d been walking as part of the Bishop’s Castle Walking Festival and needed coffee and cake when we found the Pharmacy. It doesn’t do the usual lattes, cappuccinos etc. Instead the waitress recommended one of the different coffee blends and then delivered a glass flask of black coffee plus a jug of warm, frothy milk on the side. Similarly, she recommended a tea blend for my husband. We sat for a long time in the quiet, peaceful space, leafing through poetry books and magazines which centred around the calmer side of life. Afterwards, I treated myself to a copy of The Emergency Poet edited by Deborah – and, unusually, the book was cheaper in the Pharmacy than on Amazon. It’s a volume full of poems designed to destress and improve the reader’s state of mind. I will be sharing some of the poems with my Shared Reading Group soon.

Still on the subject of poetry, I’ve come across three competitions open for entries:

The Winchester Poetry Prize for poems on any subject and in any form or style. First prize is £1,000. Entry fee is £5. Closing date is 31 July 2022. The judge is Jo Bell, whom I recently had the pleasure of interviewing about her role in compiling the book On this Day She: Putting Women Back into History One Day at a Time for an article in The People’s Friend magazine.

The Writers Bureau Platinum Jubilee Poetry Competition. This is FREE to enter but you need to be quick: closing date is 31st May 2022. The prize is publication on The Writers Bureau’s website and a course or place on a Zoom workshop of the winner’s choice.

Ironbridge Poetry Competition 2022. This competition welcomes poems on any and every subject. First prize is £300 and the closing date is 31 July 2022. The judge is Simon Fletcher, who is widely-published as a poet and lives in Shropshire. He’s also the manager of Offa’s Press.

Poetry Pharmacy Menu

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Writing Poetry in Castleton

“When you write poetry, imagine looking through a small window. Focus on just one aspect of the scene,” advised Alison Riley on a recent  ‘Poetry Stroll and Write’ which I stumbled upon whilst on holiday in Castleton, in the Peak District.

, viewed from the edge of Castleton (Derbyshir...

As I’ve said before, I am not a poet but anything remotely writing orientated always grabs my attention, so whilst my husband took himself off for a walk, I joined the poetry session.

Alison was full of good advice.

Whenever I attempt a poem I immediately start worrying about its form – rhyming? free verse? sonnet? etc.  Alison suggested that I forget all of this and instead let myself go with some free writing about what was around us.

“Don’t worry about form or rhyme,” she said. “That can all come later.”

I managed some disjointed phrases about the mountain rescue van parked nearby. It definitely wasn’t poetry but Alison reckoned that with a bit of polishing it could become a reasonable poem.

Alison then showed us the poem ‘Resolution‘ by Jo Bell. It’s about Castleton at New Year and, sitting there in the quaint old village where it was written, it was extremely evocative.  I began to feel that maybe I too could write a poem and, back in our rented cottage, I did. It’s about the ‘coffin route’ from Edale to Castleton (before there was a church in Edale, the corpses had to be carried over the hill into the next town for burial) – at the moment it’s just a rough version in my notebook but maybe one day I’ll dare to bring out into the light of day…

Thanks for the inspiration, Alison!

Alison Riley organises the Derbyshire Stanza of the Poetry Society.

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Real Writing Lives

Image of a modern fountain pen writing in curs...

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There are as many different methods of writing as there are writers. There is no ‘special’ method that brings fame and fortune with it – we all have to find our own way of creating literary masterpieces whilst paying the mortgage.

At the annual Writers’ Toolkit event in Birmingham, three writers gave an insight into their working days.

Jo Bell is a poet but most of her days are filled with other activities to keep the wolf from the door. Amongst other things, she is a freelance organiser of literary events, teaches creative writing, gives readings and does book promotions. When Jo checked her diary, she had only 3 days in the next fortnight available for actual writing.

She wisely told us that we shouldn’t look upon the essential but non-writing stuff in our lives as an obstacle to being creative – instead it should be seen as something that enables the writing to happen.

Jo also advised, “Work out what you want to do and then go out and find it. This might mean knocking on doors and suggesting workshops or offering yourself as a writer in residence. Above all, make sure you get paid because otherwise you devalue Writing as a whole.”

Mike Gayle is a full-time novelist but doesn’t believe that having all the time in the world is an effective way of writing. He wrote his first book whilst still earning his living elsewhere and looked forward to his snatched periods of writing time.

“But as a full-time writer I found there was a tendency to take a whole afternoon to eke out one paragraph,” he explained, “and it’s easy to feel removed from the real world and ordinary people. This means there’s no ready raw material to feed the fiction.”

Having discovered he’s a morning person, Mike now squeezes his writing day into 9am – 1:30pm, giving himself a structure within which to work.

Chris McCabe writes novels under the pseudonyms John Macken and John McCabe.  He is also a full-time Professor of Molecular Endocrinology at the University of Birmingham. He writes during his lunch hour and from 8:30 – 10:00 in the evening. He has no time for writers’ block and has to make the most of every minute.

Chris did try taking a year out from his ‘proper’ job to concentrate on writing but it didn’t work for him.

“Even though I hate gardening I found myself doing it to avoid having to write,” he said. “I need a time a shortage to get me going.”   

So, giving up the day job and writing full-time might not be the best option. Most people need a little bit of time pressure to make them effective and we all need outside stimuli to feed our work.

Today’s writing prompt is:

A Last Will and Testament – who inherits what is up to your imagination.

P.S. If you fancy winning a great bundle of writing books, nip over to my writing buddy Helen’s blog and enter her (very easy) competition. 

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