Saturday, 9 July 2022

Animating Fool's Paradise

I have joined forces with animator John L Wilkinson to create this: the first of a series of short videos of sections of Fool's Paradise. The other artist involved is my dead Czech friend Hannah Kodicek, who as I was writing the poem created a series of dynamic prints in response to my words and images. The videos are designed to work on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), hence the portrait format. More videos in the series will follow.

John also has a line in graphics about folklore etc. See for more


Tuesday, 14 June 2022

“Can you tell me how you get invited to read at festivals please?”


A few days ago Helen Ivory posted this question on Facebook. There was a flurry of responses, none from a festival, nearly all saying they didn’t know the answer.

I wondered about replying as I am one of the three members on the Cheltenham Poetry Festival (CPF) management team, but I decided to write this blog post instead as I can give a longer and more considered reply.

The first thing to say is that this post is my personal take on the question and is limited to one poetry festival.

Considerations in booking poets

We book poets, who will be attractive to our audience or should I say audiences. We have a 10-day event this September in Cheltenham. The audience for this is different from that for the year-round online festival we run. We can be more adventurous with the online festival. But with both in-Cheltenham and online festivals we are looking for poets who can read their poetry in a way that reaches out and engages our audience.

There are other considerations when we book poets. The first is financial and of course is related to ticket sales. We don’t have a large budget and we have to make it balance at the end of the year/festival. It means we can’t book all the poets we would like. Sadly issues such as the size of the fee, costs of travel and accommodation, all play a part.

Does the poet’s work fit with the programme? We want our programme to be diverse, in all sorts of ways, in subject matter, poetry style and form, ethnicity, poet’s age etc. We usually have a minimum of two poets reading per event, do they complement each other, maybe they are dealing with the same theme but in different ways?

So how do we find poets?

Poets are constantly approaching us, far more poets than we have slots. A polite email is the best option, rather than messaging us. Do read any information we have on the website about when and how to apply.

We are also proactive in looking for poets. We read poetry books and magazines, go to poetry events especially online ones. If we find someone who excites us and fits what we are looking for, we may approach them or keep them in mind until we can.

The open mic slots at our online events are really important to us. Open mics is a way of performing at the Festival that is open to everyone, not just for newbies but also established published poets. We do sometimes offer a headline slot to someone, who has come to our attention via the open mc.

So what can you do to get a headline slot?

  • Have a published poetry book (not self-published)
  • Attend CPF events, it may not be possible to attend the in-Cheltenham Festival, but if you are interested in performing with CPF attend some of our online events
  • Learn how to communicate your poetry to an audience (open mics are great for this)
  • Take part in online events.
  • Talk to your publisher – CPF sometimes has publisher showcases, where a number of poets from one publisher read together.
  • By all means send us a polite enquiry email
  • Remember we are three volunteers with limited time, running a festival because we love poetry. Poets who give us hassle and/or extra work aren’t likely to be booked, or if booked won’t be booked again.

In conclusion

I hope this post helps. As a fellow poet I know how hard finding readings can be. Good luck.  

Cheltenham Poetry Festival website now has a "Take Part" page and  a dedicated contact form for poets to join a special mailing list. The page is here

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Publication Nerves


It's the publication date for Fool's Paradise. I'm sending the preorders out this am and feeling horribly nervous as I do so.

This book means a lot to me for a number of reasons, not least because my late friend, Hannah, loved it so much. It's her artwork on the cover. We talked about publishing a limited edition of the poem illustrated by her prints, but she died before it could happen.

When I worry over the book and wondering whether I should have changed this word or whatever, I should remind myself that she believed in it and me. I should remind myself of Alison Brackenbury's and Fiona Sampson's words of approval on the back cover. Plus my publisher's excitement about the book. My insecurity is the reason I didn't publish anything for years, it's the reason I have such problems promoting my work and I must overcome it and I will.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Fool's Paradise coming out 19th May


I'm delighted to announce that my new poetry book Fool's Paradise will be published by Black Eyes Publishing on 19th May. 

I'm rubbish at bigging up my poetry, so I will let two great poets do it for me:

This is an extraordinary piece of writing: truly compelling.   Alison Brackenbury.

Fool’s Paradise is a dive into the uncanny: into that rich heritage of myth in which we find ourselves both far from home, and simultaneously at home.   Fiona Sampson

There's two special offers on the book at my bookshop  I am offering the book £2.50 off for preorders. Plus if you are interested in also getting Owl Unbound you can buy the two books at £20 (£2 off) plus free p&p. Or you can get the same deal on Fool's Paradise from my publishers Black Eyes Publishing. 

Fool's Paradise will be launched online at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival on 24th May at 7pm when I will be joined by Angela France, Ben Ray and Adam Horovitz. Get your free tickets here:

Friday, 27 August 2021

Isabelle Kenyon - Promoting A Book


Isabelle Kenyon

I do not find self promotion very easy. In fact I cringe and procrastinate everytime I have to do it. Yes, I'm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the first more so than the others, but it is not enough. And my publishers have a right to expect me to do some book promo, afterall they have invested time and money into making my book a success and so should I (time at least).  So about six months ago I decided I would invest in some book promotion. 

I turned to Isabelle Kenyon to act as publicist for me, on the recommendation on Anna Saunders. Over 3 months Isabelle got me 7 reviews with more hopefully on the way, a spoken word event, a blog interview,  youtube feature, 2 radio appearances and a podcast appearance. 

I was delighted with Isabelle's hard work. Of course Isabelle has a great list of contacts, which would take me ages to achieve and then I would need the temerity to approach them. But Isabelle also gave me the confidence to relax and focus on what I was good at - reading at open mics and giving readings. 

If you are interested in using Isabelle's services, I recommend them - you can find out about them here: 

For people who are perhaps earlier in their writing journey and are experiencing financial difficulties there are still a few free places on a workshop Isabelle is leading for the Cheltenham Poetry Festival next Tuesday available here

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Performing Poems from Owl Unbound

I thought I'd bring you up-to-date with what I have been doing and what is coming up. In these pandemic days I have been busy performing poems from my collection Owl Unbound online

The video above of my poem The Gypsies in the Room is one which featured in the Dialect - Supporting Rural Writers Women's Day events

Most recently I read at the Gloucestershire Poetry Society's Crafty Crows alongside the wonderful Adam Horovitz. GPS have now posted a film of the event (shared above) on their Youtube channel. My reading starts at 24.18. 


I also took part in Raised Voices, the GPS's International Women's Day event, which they have also posted on their channel. The event featured 16 Gloucestershire poets, including Angela France, Sharon Larkin, Maria Stadnicka, Tish Camp, and Belinda Rimmer. But mostly I have been enjoying reading at Open Mics at a wide variety of poetry events which have taken me to the Netherlands, Scotland, Wales and all places in between.

I was delighted to take part in Damien Donnelly's excellent poetry podcast Eat the Storms 

Readings Coming Up

12th May at 7pm at the Evesham Festival of Words I will be reading poems on the theme of Home and Away alongside Anna Saunders and Ben Ray.

16th June at 7.30 at Fenspeak, I will be reading a personal selection of my poems

7th July at 7pm  at the Wirral Festival of Firsts I will be reading with Anna Saunders (again) and Simon Griffiths on the theme of  The Wild and the Urban.

20th July at 7.30pm at Poetry Teignmouth at the Mill

10th August at 7.30pm at Flight of the Dragonflies 

18th October at 7pm at the Gloucester Poetry Festival I will be reading alongside Josephine Lay and Stuart Carswell

And there's more, but I am not yet allowed to go public about them yet!

Monday, 7 December 2020

Buying books in this time of COVID

Here in England bookshops have been categorised by the UK government as "non-essential". Some people, myself included, would disagree with that categorisation, but that's how it is. The impact of the categorisation has been that when we were in lockdown physical bookshops had to close, leaving the way open to Amazon.  

Now the restrictions have lifted and some (but not all) local bookshops have opened. I know many of you will be heading to your local bookshop to buy your books and in so doing support the shopowner. That is not an option for all of us however. So what else can we do?

In the first instance if you want to help your local bookshop, but can't get there for some reason, you could phone or email them and see if they will supply your books directly to you. That way they get all the profit from the sale. Some bookshops have a website of their own (check Google for details). 

My local bookshop has remained closed, due to the owner having to shield a vulnerable family member. Early on in the pandemic I tried to order books from her, but she was unable to supply them. She recommended using Hive  - an online bookstore where you can nominate your local bookshop to receive a minimum 10% if bought online (UK standard postage is free). So I did and have done so several times since. However Hive does not stock everything, only what their wholesaler, Gardners, supplies. 

The same is true of, which arrived this year with a great fanfare. With the stated aim of "supporting local bookshops", offers two ways of supporting bookshops: a) your local bookshop might have a shop page or b) you can nominate your bookshop as you would on Hive. However when I looked at my local bookshop's page, there were only 31 books to choose from. There has been a lot of excitement about this "alternative to Amazon".  But more recently there have been some critical voices, suggesting that this gifthorse needs to have its teeth examined. 

Remember neither nor Hive will supply every book that is published - my collection is not supplied by Gardners and so it is one such book. But you don't just have a choice between the Amazon big bad wolf and Bookshop or Hive. 

For many of us Waterstones is our local bookshop and it has an excellent online presence I would say that - they stock my book! As does Foyles also has an online website

But there are other places to buy books. For starters you could buy from the publisher or the author. This is especially true of the specialist presses and markets, like poetry. You may not be supporting your local bookshop, but you are supporting the people who create the books. 

When it comes to online bookshops, if you want to avoid buying from Amazon also avoid Abebooks and Bookdepository as both are owned by the American giant. Books etc. on the otherhand is British and has a huge selection of books both new and old and is nearly always cheaper than Amazon. 

There is an online marketplace to rival Amazon: Ebay. You'll usually be dealing with a small bookseller on, but some of the bigger online booksellers are also there, e.g. World of Books and WorderyIt is always worth looking there, especially if the book you want is hard to find. And yes, my collection is available there - new - from a bookseller who is able to offer it on Ebay in Australia and the US. 

These suggestions are just based on my experience of bookhunting. Do you have any alternative suggestions? What about good booksellers outside of the UK? Please add your comments below.