Plans for National Poetry Day? This Thursday, October 8th!

Live1National Poetry Day is nearly upon us! Thought I’d be a bit poetry-festive and make a day of it.

Here’s what I’m planning to do on the day (despite having to go to work, which isn’t even remotely poetry-related…)

Schedule

12:00am: I’m going to wake up at midnight and write until I have to get ready for work. Seriously. This is the plan anyhow, will keep you posted on when I actually manage to get up! Have a number of things I’m wanting to work on and the house is so quiet (the middle of the night after all). Fingers crossed. (Might take some tips from Michael if I get stuck.)

7:30am: Meant to be sunrise at 7:30 tomorrow, and as the theme for NPD this year is ‘Light’, I’ll head up to the local hill and watch the sunrise with a thermos of tea and something to write with! And an umbrella, this is Scotland after all…

9:00am: I’ve got to work, but can listen to music at my desk, so thought I’d keep it festive and have lined up a number of podcasts, recordings and such that I’ll listen to either live or backdated, including:

12:00pm: Lunch! Is there somewhere poetry-themed I can eat? The Blind Poet? Tips welcome!

  • Might peruse the Book Week Scotland schedule on my break & book in for some poetry events?
  • Definitely looking forward to seeing who wins the Big Words Edinburgh competition!
  • Will head out and see if I can find the Scottish Poetry Library’s poetry postcards around town.

5:00pm: Pass the time on my bus ride home with poetry apps (as usual?) – my go-to is the Poetry Foundation app which is available offline as well. Poetry Daily has a good app too. Poetry in your pocket all the time!

6:00pm: Poetry over dinner? I haven’t checked out the BBC’s Contains Strong Language, but looks like lots of great shows to choose from!

10:00pm: Poetry before bed! Will read from the bedside table pile until I zonk.

Other Activities in Edinburgh/Online

News & Resources

Have a fun and poetry-filled day!

Cove Park & New Writers Award update

Balcony view

Whirlwind!

Cove Park was like a dream. I can’t believe it happened to me.

As part of the New Writers Award (aside: applications have just opened for 2016! Go go go!), I got to spend a week in my own converted shipping container pod at Cove Park, with nothing scheduled except unlimited time to write as I felt like for 7 days. It. Was. Immense.

I’ve blogged recently for the Scottish Book Trust on ‘Where I write‘ (<– click click!), talking through my current writing method, which mainly includes using my phone to take down snippets and notes while I am in transit. But the root of the problem for me is that I devote very little dedicated time to writing. Very little time to ‘finish’ work, or edit or send material out. So I had/have a huge backlog of half-finished pieces and the Cove Park retreat proved a perfect opportunity for me to get down to work and get these pieces polished up and finished.

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It turned out to be a really good way for me to work. I think the prospect of unlimited free-time with yourself can be a bit daunting – left to your own devices to mull over your own thoughts, it can be a bit easy to go down a path of negative thinking, derailing. Also, without my partner for a week, without internet (or phone signal even), I was really worried I’d be lonely and idle and distracted. I knew (knowing myself) that I needed to keep my schedule full, and come with lots of material to work through.

So I did! I write so slowly normally – maybe completing one poem a month if I’m lucky? But I managed THIRTEEN poems in the week. A year’s worth of writing in a week! Again, it was immense. So #amwriting, which is a massive relief.

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I started the week by slogging through a sestina I’d been meaning to work on for ages. It was pretty hard-going but I finished it, which I am happy about (even if it never sees the light of day!). And then I whittled away at a few other bits and pieces I had been near completing for some time, reworked a few older poems, and bashed out a couple others inspired by the idyllic surroundings. There are a few magazines and competitions with themes I’d been wanting to write for so I worked on these too.

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I came back from the week totally zen, and really untouchable-feeling for about a week after (and still really quite calm and happy now, if I’m honest!). I think the pressure of so many unfinished pieces was weighing on me and the sense of completion has been really good for my poetry-morale.

I think I also maybe place too much pressure on myself to only produce ‘perfect’ poems, since I spend so little time in my normal life just-writing. So it was nice to free myself to write, exercising the muscle, and hopefully this will carry forward into my back-to-normal life too.

Get involved

For example, I added a poem to the Journeys project the Scottish Book Trust is running right now. They’re still taking submissions! Get your stories, poems, etc to them quick smart!

The poem I sent was about our ‘journey’ driving our pet chickens home, called ‘Bringing the Hens Home‘. It was stressful. Can you tell?

Bringing the Hens Home

Other notes / Top tips for Cove Park

  • The weather in late April was fantastic. The walk to the Nature Reserve and down to the water was perfectly serene. Bring a thermos. I made myself a massive thermos full of coffee every morning, and took this with me for impromptu coffee & snacks on a bench watching chaffinches and blue-tits, on a driftwood log beside the sea loch, on my balcony admiring the highland cow. Brilliant stuff.
  • Bring house slippers. Creature comforts! (Cold floors)
  • The kitchen was really well kitted out – microwave, toaster, mini-fridge/freezer, 2-hob stove, sink, kettle, french press!, and loads of pots and pans and dishes, etc. I could have probably packed more complex foods if I had known. But there’s nothing wrong with pot noodle!
  • It was really nice to meet up with my fellow-New Writers in the evenings up in the communal area. Hearing about what other people are working on, listening to them read their work, and generally speaking to other human beings after 10+hours on my own was really satisfying. Also, Claire makes a mean ratatouille. Saving up all my things-to-google until 7pm each evening was also a new experience. Power-interneting in full effect.
  • It is totally unscheduled the entire time. Bring something to do – I brought 8 books, audiobooks, movies to watch, hiking boots, and a pretty clear idea of what poems I wanted to work on and complete over the course of the week. The library in the communal area is good, but I had a lot of my own stuff to read. Go for walks and bring a lot of snacks. Don’t let yourself get cabin fever!

All in all, I feel like I’ve made a great push towards one of my new year’s resolutions:

5. Invest more time in writing

I’m looking forward to hunting out further residencies for the future. If you have any top tips of residencies that sound up my street, please get in touch!

 

General Updates

  • My Chicken Behaviour and Welfare MOOC is over now and was AMAZING! I learned loads (like did you know you can clicker-train a chicken? Operant conditioning!) and was so excited/proud to see the interesting research coming out of University of Edinburgh. (It also inspired me to buy a bigger run for my chickens and set up some perches, which coincided with an Omlet sale. VERY excited about this…). In other chicken-news, we got our first double-yolk egg which was MASSIVE (and kind of gross).
  • A colleague at my work did a charity bake sale for a group called Shelterbox who is helping in Nepal. I contributed some cookies for the sale but just wanted to leave that link there for others to check out. I hadn’t heard of this charity before and it seems pretty cool!
  • Celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary with Handsome S. Still handsome as ever, still my very best friend.
  • Basketball season is over for the year and my teammates kindly picked me (and Minnie) for co-MVP! Thanks grannies! (We also had our team night out on the town – glad to report no injuries there!)
  • Sad to pause volunteering at the wondrous Scottish Poetry Library but excited as ever for their refurbishment! Think the refurb donations are still open: Go go go!
  • Turned in the last paper for the CIM marketing qualification I’m taking. Sweet relief. Painfully interesting content honestly.
  • Our garden looks GREAT! Garlic, potatoes, spinach, mangetout. Strawberries, blueberries and gooseberries. The magnolias just finished, as did the camellia. The rhododendrons & azaleas are nearly there. And the peony buds are holding out until my mom comes; I’ve asked them nicely.

Looking forward

  • Parklife in Manchester
  • BBQ season!
  • S’s birthday!
  • Can’t wait for my mom’s visit in June. Her tickets are booked. Now we’re just trying to see if we can fit in a cheeky trip to France, around visits from transatlantic pals, a family wedding, roadtrips, etc. So much to get excited about!

readingNorman MacCaig – Many Days
Mark Doty – Theories & Apparitions
Frank Bidart – Watching the Spring Festival
Junot Diaz – This is How You Lose Her

Audiobooked Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which was great. And Andy Weir’s The Martian, also great! Working my way through Necronomicon, which I am not liking at all

soundtrack

Astr – Operate
Hudson Mohawke – Very First Breath
Tove Lo – Talking Body
Sander van Doorn, Martin Garrix, DVBBS – Gold Skies (ft. Aleesia)
Nick Leng – Inside Your Mind (feat. Carmody)
Ghost Loft – So High
Little Daylight – Overdose (twice as nice remix)
Vanbot – Perfect Storm album is AMAZING!

 

See you soon!

New Writers Award!

I can’t believe it’s been a week since the winners of the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awards for 2015 were announced. Moreso, I still can’t believe that one of the winners was me!

It’s really so, so incredible to have my writing affirmed like this, and I’m looking forward to the mentorship and the writing retreat immensely, as I think they will really push me to focus and improve my writing and technique.

About the Prize

From the SBT website:

The New Writers Awards are a fantastic opportunity for individuals committed to developing their writing.

Awardees receive a £2,000 cash award, allowing them to focus on their work, as well as a tailored package which can include mentoring from writers and industry professionals; training in PR; performance and presentation training; and the opportunity to showcase work to publishers and agents. The awards also include a week-long retreat at Cove Park. The retreat provides time, space and the freedom to create new work in idyllic surroundings

The prize is for writers who do not yet have a collection of poetry published (or a published novel, for fiction writers). You also cannot currently be a full-time student to receive the award. I had to wait until after I finished my Masters to start applying, and honestly, I’ve applied every year since. I think for all writers, submitting your work for publication or competition, only to have it rejected, and being rejected year after year can be demoralizing. I never really expected to win it – so I’ve certainly learned that sticking with it pays off! Keep at it! What’s for you won’t go by you!

‘I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.’ – Plath

The application process was very straightforward. It included contact details, a personal statement about how I would benefit from the award and a list of writing achievements (courses, publications, etc). I also submitted a sample of poems (10 pages max). And then I waited! I don’t think I could have been any more surprised when I got the call with the amazing news!

My Poem in the Times on Sunday!

New Writers

I was elated to have my poem, The Bean, (one of the poems I’d submitted in application for the award) published in the Times on Sunday online last week and to see the news about the award (and our lovely group photo!) included in the print edition. I was also elated that my writing sample was posted *above the paywall*, so anyone can read it! Very exciting! It pays to be an ‘A’?

The Times online posted the poem with a photo of Narcissus staring at his reflection, a link to the first line of the poem. But I thought it might be worthwhile to give a bit of context on what inspired the poem.

I wrote the poem after Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture, that sits in Millenium Park in Chicago. It’s a huge mirrored bean-shaped sculpture that reflects the city skyline. Do check out the link to Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate page which has loads of amazing videos of The Bean (as locals call it): some time lapse, some of the inside (omphalos! the belly button!), and many showing you the myriad people taking their photos in the reflection and touching the surface of the sculpture. You can also read more at Artsy’s Anish Kapoor page.

My poem is also available on my profile page on the Scottish Book Trust’s website: Aiko Greig

In the News

I’ve been so excited to see the award announced so widely, including at:

I’m also so, so grateful for all the kind words from my friends, family and colleagues!

So buzzing!!

Events

I anticipate this year is going to be wild with opportunities for me to engage with the literary community in Edinburgh and further afield. I’m looking forward to dipping my toe back into the ‘scene’. I think as much as anything, winning the award is also a sort of ‘public commitment’ to concentrating on writing, and I’m looking forward to stepping up to it! For a start, I can’t wait for:

Thanks again for all your kind words! I am so excited!