Tag Archives: Lemn Sissay

Autumn editing etc.

Novel update

Autumn is upon us at last and with it, my novel editing has begun and is indeed, ongoing. I’ve already completed round one of this on my hard copy printout but have yet to transfer the changes onto the computer. Best get on that!

In my defence, I’ve been hard at work ghost-writing a biography, which has been very interesting and a project I’ve much enjoyed, alongside all my copywriting work, but this also gives my manuscript space to breathe and allows me to approach it with fresh(ish) eyes once I get back to it. All the better for the editing.

I have, however, scribbled out a poem since my last blog and some bits of a new short story (abandoned at the moment but there to return to at some point), so the creative juices are still flowing.

LemnLemn Sissay book event

I did mean to post about this before now (!) but I very much enjoyed attending a reading and discussion event with Lemn Sissay at the Black Box in Belfast on Friday the 13th (lucky for some!), to mark the publication of his memoir, My Name is Why. Always the performer, Lemn kept the audience (it was a sell-out event, might I add) entertained with his witty asides, but also reined in the focus as necessary when discussing the harrowing accounts in his book, which explain how he grew up in care in England, despite his mother wanting him back when he was a baby …

My advice? Go read it, as it’s a powerful book and is peppered with Lemn’s beautiful poetry, which appears at the beginning of each chapter.

I got my copy of the book signed, of course, afterwards and was surprised but pleased when Lemn immediately remembered where we’d met before (at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry) before I could even open my mouth. 🙂

Giant’s Causeway Book ClubKelly Creighton GC BookClub

I attended Lemn’s event with my friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, who was also our guest at the GC Book Club in September, where we discussed her novel, The Bones of It. We had a very interesting evening, with a reading from Kelly and then a Q&A session and chat. The book clubbers scored the novel afterwards, giving it a very respectable 8/10. Again, this is another one I recommend reading, if you haven’t already.

Our October book choice is The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley and we’ll be meeting a week earlier this month, as our regular spot clashes with Hallowe’en night itself and, well, the ghouls among us have things to be up to that evening! So, come along to the Causeway Hotel on Thursday, October 24 if you want to discuss this one… I haven’t started it yet myself, but plan to get stuck in this weekend after I finish my reread of the His Dark Materials trilogy (which I’m rereading ahead of the BBC 1 TV series and am very much enjoying again).

mindful-movement.jpgMindful movement 

Aside from all of that, I managed to skip away for an hour on International Mental Health Day on October 10 as the National Trust was hosting a ‘mindful movement’ session at the Causeway Hotel, led by one of our talented book clubbers, no less, Ettaline Hill. Ettaline is a Shiatsu Therapist and Qigong Teacher and she taught us some moves which I have to say definitely left me feeling more relaxed but also energised afterwards. It was a very busy week for me that week, but it was well worth taking time out, especially on that particular day.

Anyway, I think that’s my lot for now. More as I have it. 🙂

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All aboard!


In an attempt to convey a slight sense of what yesterday’s lunchtime poetry performance with Lemn Sissay was like, I have decided to compare him to a steam train (bear with me on this!)

He began with a loud welcome whistle, at times chugged calmly along, at other times, blew off a little steam (as all good engines inevitably will). He rattled along the tracks at speed, slowed for a few unexpected bends and deftly followed forks as and when they appeared en route. All in all, Lemn Sissay (‘Sis-say’) took us all on a rapturous, rambunctious and most enjoyable journey in the Verbal Arts Centre’s Blue Coat Room – a performance to remember.

For anyone not aware of his story, everything you need to know is here, including some recordings, for I think this is a poet you really have to see in action. Everyone reads poetry differently but in no way was I expecting to hear poems read as they were yesterday, which, for me, only goes to show that there’s nothing better than experiencing a performance poet’s work direct from the source.

I can’t remember every single poem read but we began with a lively, energetic performance of a poem about rhythms, which sparked the session off like an exploding firework. There was also a love poem, I think entitled ‘Invisible Kisses’ (‘everything that happens during a poetry performance is part of that performance – for example, I read a poem about love and three people walk out’), a poem about hanging on to what you believe about yourself when all others are trying to make you let go (then you realise you were actually growing wings the whole time and can let go anyway and still be yourself), children’s poems, a poem on war and myriad others. It’s just a snapshot of the sheer variety of work produced by this great poet.

But then, do we actually believe we’re all that great if we have no-one to be great against…? As he said himself, Lemn has appeared A LOT in the national press and yet, even when adorning the front page and labeled a magnificent success, it didn’t necessarily mean what one might have expected it to mean to him, given his history of living in care.

Throughout yesterday’s performance, there were many fluctuations between the poems, including snippets of Lemn’s personal story, anecdotes and asides, but, although he said it was a little more disjointed than his usual sessions, in my opinion it made the event no less enjoyable and heartfelt. One particular thing I liked was when a student asked him at the end who his favourite writer was. He did give an answer after some thought but then said that in actual fact, despite reading many writers, he can just never seem to pluck a name from his head when posed the question. I loved this, as I’m exactly the same – I can read books until they come out of my ears but, asked to pick a favourite story or author and my mind goes completely blank! And then there’s the literary snobbery that often goes with this loaded question… are you reading the ‘right’ authors – the best books for this circle of people to admire…?

Anyway, I would seriously recommend looking this guy up – you might just be inspired.

And by the way – angry people are people looking for love and children in care are super-heroes.


One more thing from Thursday… it having been day 18 of Image and a day for a poem beginning and ending with the same word.

Picture 1


If words and ‘why’ were clouds and sky

and letters fell like rain

I’d scoop them up (in my favourite cup)

I’d take a gleeful, gulping sup

and saturate my brain.

For writers rightly ravish rain refreshingly resplendent

with dark, descriptive diamonds dripped deliciously dependent.

If this indeed did happen

people wouldn’t sneeze and sniff,

Instead they’d watch and wonder

they’d think and ask and ponder

and look both here and yonder

and ask – perchance, what if…?


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