At a Shoestring Press celebration in Nottingham a couple of weeks ago, I read a poem from my early Flambard collection, Secret Villages. ‘Off the Planet with Luminous Joy’ features in a new anthology, Strike Up the Band, which outlines just how diverse and longlasting the Shoestring ‘stable’ has turned out to be. There’s a Youtube video of the whole event (it should be findable under Five Leaves Bookshop or David Belbin) where you’ll also hear Roy Marshall, Wayne Burrows, Kathryn Daszkiewicz, and lots of other luminaries of the East Midlands scene. This latest collection marks John Lucas’ 80th year, and it was edited by Merryn Williams, who also had a success with Poems for Jeremy Corbyn recently.
Apart from that it’s a solid few weeks of tapping the keyboard as I make best use of my term-only job by working on scripts when it’s not a term any more. Like anyone else, I can’t always tell whether my work is any good; I’m experienced at poetry, but this doesn’t mean to say that any other kind of work is publishable, and I’m often not the best judge of my own writing. Over the past six months I’ve been working as a volunteer script reader for the Valley Press imprint, and it’s curious how often people send out scripts that are simply not ready – either inadequately checked, or not fully realised as literature. It’s made me sharpen up my own act and look again at things I was trying to send out for competitions in the past – and sure enough, I can see that I exhibited some of the problems which I now observe coming at me from the Valley script pile!
I’m almost at the end of drafting the third installment of the Vicarage trilogy: the first installment is trailered on here, while the first and second parts are still available on Kindle ebooks. I know what my overall narrative arc should be, but it’s still difficult, steering that runaway trolley through the narrow gate towards completion. I worry about all sorts, everything from wordage to descriptions to whether characters are funny in the right way, or unfunny in the wrong way…. it’s never-ending. Ultimately though, any writer needs to call a halt, close the file, and put it out there. With any luck, some feedback will happen at some point in the future, and I’ll be able to revise the work until it fits the space it was meant for.