Cove Park & New Writers Award update

Balcony view


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.


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.

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.


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


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!

Adventures in Dublin

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Handsome S and I are just back from a cheeky Lion&Sloth trip to lovely Dublin last week. RyainAir tickets were going cheap so we impulse bought, and it was AMAZING!

Only there for 4 days but managed to have a bumper edition of outings:


Guinness storehouse & tour (sipping pints in the skybar with amazing panoramic views of the city)
Sweetman’s for craft beer
Bewely’s for coffees (the original one is shut for refurb so we went to the cafe on George’s street)
A couple cool bookshops / oxfam secondhand bookshop (Winding stair was lovely!)
Queen of Tarts (Amazing cakes!! The lemon meringue tart was fantastic!)
Porterhouse for dinner (Irish stew!) & more craft beers.


Slice (so lovely! good service, great wee cafe find on the way to the zoo)
Dublin Zoo (‘baby everything!’ as my pal put it, elephants, zebras, so many cute things. and SLOTHS!)
Phoenix Park (tea & cake at the cafe)
Jameson distillery
indie cinema to watch ‘It Follows’. So freaky!


We went to 7 markets. I’m not even joking:

  • Temple bar food market & book market
  • Frances Street antiques market (we couldn’t find a market per se but went into the shops)
  • Newmarket food market
  • Liberty market
  • Christchurch market
  • Flea Market by Ha’Penny bridge

We then had a picnic in St Stephen’s Green with our food-winnings from the markets!
Trinity College (saw some students playing rugby)
Science Gallery (and went to the Lifelogging exhibit… essentially what this blog has become!)
Peruke & Periwig for some drinks.
Murphy’s Ice cream (that was lovely! the girl let us try all the flavours!)
Elephant & Castle (buffalo wings & a massive burger I could barely finish..)
Leprechaun Museum – This Dark Land (the evening ‘scary’ show!)


Took the DART to Howth
Howth Market (bread & cheese!)
Took the coastal path to the Summit & had a picnic lunch.
A cheeky gelato on the seaside before getting the train back and heading to the airport.

I really loved all the street art and colour in the city. We were impressed by the number of craft ales and pubs with their own niche selections (we tried to taste them all!). Even from a tourist POV, there were loads of great accessible places to try ‘Irish’ food, but I was also impressed by the number of international food places. And Howth was such a great way to bookend our visit – a bit of a country feel so close to the city was a literal breath of fresh air.

I also loved that many of the touristy places we went to interacted with me on social media too! Makes me feel loved. =)

Thanks for an amazing time, Dublin! (and thanks to our colleagues and pals for all the wonderful recommendations!)


March in the garden
Chickens helping with the gardening

Other highlights of the month

  • Completed the Getting Started refereeing training course offered by basketballScotland. A good course for a wee taster of what reffing is all about! Give the referees more credit now that I know how hard it is to do actually…
  • Volunteered my last Saturday shift at the Scottish Poetry Library before they shut for refurbishment. *sobs* But then later volunteering at Caesura on a school night. Fun!
  • Saw Kate Tempest at Bongo Club was ace! Think I prefer her poetry to her music but it was great to be there for the last show of the tour. Hyped deserved. ‘More empathy, less greed,’ was the motto of the show – can’t go wrong with that!
  • We also went to beautiful Lismore and did basically nothing for 4 days. We were meant to do writing but my laptop crashed (surprise!) so instead we watched old dvds and went for walks and cozied up in front if the woodburner fire. #bestlife
  • And had a lovely dinner with S’s folks at Redwood Bistro, the California inspired restaurant down the road from us.

Looking forward

  • Cove Park retreat for New Writers Award. Excited!!
  • Handing in my second-last paper for my Marketing course…
  • The Chicken Behaviour class I’ve signed up for!
  • Jupiter Artland
  • Years & Years in Edinburgh in May
  • Full solar eclipse!
  • Parklife tickets (Manchester) bought!
  • And my mom’s planning her next Edinburgh visit. Miss my mama!

readingNiall Campbell – Moontide
Liz Berry – Black Country
Emily Berry – Dear Boy
Sinead Morrissey – Through the square window
John Burnside – All One Breath

Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Murakami – The Strange Library (this was a great find!)
And finished last audiobook of in Abhorsen series. Started on Sun Tzu’s Art of War! Required reading!


Kate Havnevik – Emperor of Nowhere
Sound Remedy – Victory (feat. Evvy)
Odesza – All We Need (feat. Shy Girls)
Odesza – Say My Name
XYLØ – America
Shura – 2shy (growing on me!)
Zella day – Compass
Zella Day – No Sleep to Dream

What’s next in store?!

Feeling nostalgic?: March catch-up