Sharing My Joy

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Just popping back in here quickly to highlight that I’ve created a new page all about my practice of visual journaling. For the past 3 years, this visual and creative practice has been my lifeline. It has not only got my head straightened out but it has also been my playground where big dreams have been declared and explored and come to fruition.

I do look upon this practice as magical. And the special thing is, everything is inside me waiting to come out. Through the use of paints, images, photography, collage, drawings, stamps and stickers, I get to tap into the magic that is inside of me, all the time, each day. No wonder I go all evangelical when I start to talk about visual journaling and share this practice. As it has quite literally changed my life.

Check out the new page in the portfolio and keep checking back as I continue to update it as well as develop the new ecourse to go with it.

Everyone visual journaling here we come.

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Juggling Balls

A new month equals new focus. Reflecting on the month gone and planning for the month ahead. Already, I feel as if I’m juggling so many ball but I know I’ve been carrying them around for a while. And I do pick them up gladly, it’s just some days I feel a bit overwhelmed.
It’s sometimes difficult to keep a handle on everything, to engage and move things forward. It always cones down to time and never having enough of it to get everything I want done, done. And then when there might be a window of time, I don’t have the energy to complete any task. Times like these are about keeping the faith and believing in the process.

Projects on the go NOW: ( Part 1)

1. Arts Council Funded creative project with writers around the First World War.
2. Heritage Lottery Funded project with Muslim girls around the First World War.
3. Developing Living Wild Studios as a creative business. Need to update/ rejig the website first.
4. Facilitating a creative retreat in Iceland this June. Planning schedule and securing two more people.
5. Stocking Folksy Store to sell my paintings, prints and collages.
6. Complete the writing and developing of my first e-course around visual journalling.
7. Explore my Iceland landscape abstract photography and paintings.
8. Develop my self-portraiture project through further research and practice.
9. Return to my Flaneuse research to feed into an offering in Paris. Research trip needs to be planned.
10. Start the planning for a women’s gathering in The Highlands through a research/self-appointed residency in March.
11. Start responding to the writing prompts from Eat My Stardust.
12. Listen to the second recording from Liberated Lines and write.
13. Complete final draft of poetry chapbook and send to Culture Matters ASAP.
14. Start the research and writing for my next full collection around our relationship with the land.
15. Continue with my self-directed study around seeking the Goddess.
16. Complete my Creative Journey Facilitator Training with Lisa Sonora.
17. Return to my developing creative non-fiction memoir around death.
18. Complete research around further grants and funding for women’s well-being projects.
19. Continue research for social enterprise – air on skin (working title) to encourage more ethnic minorities to develop a relationship with Nature.
20. Start self-appointed residency – North Sea Writer-in-Residence.
21. Return to second recording of Wild Soul Woman Facilitator training and respond with notes.
22. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Get more exercise. Eat more greens.

Studios Notes: A Love Letter From Iceland

Hello

I write to you on a cold wintry night from a luxury hotel room in Southern Iceland.

A storm is raging outside my window, which overlooks the world-famous black-sand beach found just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

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The wind is lethal and the waves are hellish. But I wouldn’t want to be any other place right now but here. I’m back in Iceland completing the final details for the retreat in June as well as trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

There’s no chance of the Lights tonight not with this cloud cover and thick wet air. But I’m not complaining. I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful to be able to follow my dreams.

While here, I’ve been posting on IG about my adventures as I’ve been experiencing frustrations like mini geysers. But I’m looking at these as periods of growth.

 

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Did you check out the mention in the first paragraph of ‘luxury hotel’? This wasn’t the plan. I try to do the things I want to do within budget. This trip was conceived on the cheap with stays in hostels. While here, I got to thinking about going south, of returning to Vik about 180kms from Reykjavik.

I remember my first time here, back in May 2016. I was blown away by the black sand. I couldn’t get my head around it. And I just dug my toes in and giggled as I felt the cold rush of waves. I fell in love.

So I return. I booked a guesthouse for an overnight stay. Not even half way here, weather warnings go out. Storm coming in about 3pm. Okay enough time to get to Vik, this is 11.30am. Next stop, no. Storm coming in at 2pm. Still 80kms away from Vik. It’s just after 1pm. The pressure is on to get safely to my place of rest. The beach can wait until tomorrow, at this rate.

Trying to keep calm and focused, I drive on. The heavens open. The wind thrashes and I’m still driving. Fog moving in. I could start to panic right about now. But I keep my head.

I managed to get to Vik and locate the guest house. Has anyone seen Rising Damp? 70s British sitcom about lodgers in a rundown house with Leonard Rossiter as a vindictive landlord called Rigsby? Well that’s what this guesthouse reminds me of. Not sure about the landlady as I don’t hang around long enough to find out.

 

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Will I ever learn! Anyone who’s followed my adventures will remember a similar situation when I visited Malaga in 2016. Book a place, cheaper than the rest with good reviews but turns out to be useless. Hence, staying in a luxury hotel tonight.

This experience holds many truths and lessons to be learned.

One, it reminds me of a time with my mum, when I was returning back to London after Christmas. Mum came with me, as I had to find a new place to live after a breakup with a boyfriend. I was teacher training, so looking for a room in a house. While we looked, I booked us into a guesthouse. We ended up in a smelly attic, in a double bed and all I can remember is mum saying, Don’t let the covers touch your face, Sheree, for God’s sake, don’t let them go anywhere near it. I can still hear her now after 18 years dead. Mum booked us into a B and B for the following night with a shower and TV. We laughed hard that night.

Two, how I relish my solitude, my own space. So hostels are out if longer than one night’s stay. But I also have standards, something I keep forgetting. Or more profoundly, there must be something within me that believes I don’t deserve to have better than I‘ve been giving myself. Allowing myself.

Three, it’s a big risk and commitment, leaving home and coming to a strange new country. I suppose I forget this. I’m getting used to travelling to Iceland, to travelling internationally alone. I’m not sure when I started this habit. Maybe while completing my PhD (2004 -2010), I was invited to speak in New York, Boston and Leon etc. It’s a practice but performed over time.

I’ve been neglecting this fact. Other people, other women, might not be used to travelling alone internationally. Might not have practiced it as much as me.

Hence booking up to run away with me to Iceland for a creative retreat is a big ask. A big ask and a big risk which I haven’t really appreciated until now.

So I thank you for coming with me on my retreats and adventures. Your presence is appreciated.

Anyway, enough from me for now. There’s a bottle of beer and bar of chocolate with my name on. I deserve them.

Until next time

Love Sheree x

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My Creative Year in Review – Part 1

In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year will be split into two parts) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

January came in cold and dark. The ideal time to go deeper into my practice of hygge. During my winters walks #TheHealingPeopertiesOfTheSeas was conceived as a one day symposium all about our relationship with water. This has still to take place but the concept is out there and can be found on IG  and Twitter. Holding this idea throughout the year has meant that I’ve been curating short 10 second films around water. These will be available to watch and add to during 2018.

February was the beginning of my exploration of voice. Having been chosen to take part in an Arvon foundation residential course for writers wanting to make change happen, I met a whole heap of interesting people who supported me on my journey of claiming and using my authentic voice around the theme of my body in the environment. This led into further publications of my creative non-fiction poetic writing here. I was also exploring my voice through painting by completing Painting the Feminine with Connie Solera. This was another opportunity for me to embody my multi-layered identity, providing the tools and techniques to support my self-expression.

March saw me return to Iceland as part of a self-directed residency with The Westfjords Residency. To spend an extended amount of time in an isolated village miles from a major town was testing. I questioned what I was trying to achieve by doing this, in terms of my creativity as well as my life. It was unsettling to some extent as all my usual boundaries were missing and for a while there I did flounder. I also experienced some racial abuse while in Reykjavik which made me question my relationship with the whole country. March was definitely a learning curve which manifested in a deeper love of Iceland which meant before I left I made plans to share this love with my family.

April was another month of learning as I not only completed a Woodland leader training course in the Highlands of Scotland but I also went live with my new website and brand name Living Wild Studios. I’d procrastinated enough and it was time to be seen, showcasing all of my creative adventures under one roof.
It was a scary time but one that I wouldn’t change as I went with my gut and created a beautiful website I’m proud to call my home. It’s varied and dynamic and changing to reflect how I’m changing.

May seemed to have gone in a blur. I know it was a time of disrupted plans due to Alan’s mam being in hospital for an extended stay. It was a time of sticking close to home and putting my family first and foremost. But I did try to keep moving forward with Living Wild Studios as a business, extending my reach through social media. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this month as I was trying to operate in a way that wasn’t being authentic to me. I had to explore my relationship with social media, with the pubic arena at large and withdraw to do so. This was good for me, for my sanity.

I continued my social media hiatus into June. I felt I was just settling into my own space and voice by the end of May so wanted more time away from distractions to listen within. This was an important month for me to dive deep into the Creative Facilitator Training I had started with Lisa Sonora this year. I had been building up a resistance to the course as it wasn’t as I had thought it would be. I expected more. But then I realised that this is an experiential course and I get out of it what I put into it. All along I’m using myself and my experiences and beliefs as the learning examples so in order to learn and move forward I had to be more engaged. A light bulb moment which saw me returning at the end of the month to social media to share my visual journaling practice, the foundation of my creativity, much more extensively and thoroughly than before.

Shifting Loyalties

I’m getting ready for the off again. Remember my time in residence on a canal boat with idlewomen? I facilitated a visual journaling workshop for women while there which was really inspiring. Well off the back of that, I’ve been invited back as a guest speaker/ presenter at their informal conference for women in Lancashire next week.

Shifting Loyalties is a gathering of women. Establishing in 2016 in collaboration with Silvia Federici in 2016,
for a week we’ll be living together near Pendle, a place known for its persecution of women as witches in the 1600s, utilising the space to have critical conversations and self-organising against society’s treatment and representation of women. This is an opportunity to share stories and experiences at the same time as becoming empowered as a sisterhood to make change, internally and externally.

All week I’ll be sharing my visual journaling practices through workshops and a drop-in room hopefully inspiring and encouraging other women to explore and adopt this creative practice for self-care and self-awareness.

I’m pulling together my resources and materials, gathering journal prompts that I feel will be accessible as well as beneficial for us to dive deep within safely and effectively when I realise that I could be a witch.

Witch. I really haven’t considered it before but I’ve got witchy tendencies. I believe in the Divine Goddess. I worship the natural world; Great Mother Earth. I observe and honour the Wheel of the Year, sensitive to the seasons and rituals as we cycle through the year. This year, during Samhain, I spent time at my altar conversing with my dead ancestors.  I look upon this path I’m on as magical, empowering me to grow, change and heal.

I call myself a Wild Soul Woman who listens to the wisdom within; my intuition and instincts. This is where my power lies. Maybe this isn’t the mainstream way of thinking and believing. But this is my truth.

The Witch was feared because she ( and sometimes he) lived “outside” the natural order. They represented a different way of living that challenged the status quo. Self-contained and self-possessed, they were a threat that could not be explained  and had to be eliminated.

Unfortunately, witch hunts still happen today in such places as Africa and India where old women are killed on the mere accusation of being a witch.  It saddens me that women who know their own power and worth and self-determine their lives, are persecuted and destroyed.

I’m hoping that my time at Shifting Loyalties will clarify my thoughts and feelings around this realisation at the same time as strengthening my voice in speaking out. ‘shifting loyalties is another beginning…’

 

how to find your voice as a writer

One of my enduring memories of living in London, from my early teaching days, is the icon red bus. Coming up Streatham Hill and terminating at Telford Avenue, where I was lodging, would be the 59 bus, my lifeline in and out of the city, in and out of school in Lambeth Walk.

Those were my bachelor days. I had fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a teacher in an inner city London’s school where the kids were predominately black. I was giving something back to the system at the same time as changing kid’s attitudes about what they could become in life.

Today, I revisit London as a freelance writer and artist for a masterclass titled How to Find Your Voice, with Gary Younge, editor-at-large for the Guardian. I’ve been reading Gary’s articles for years, and have recently dived into his latest non-fiction book, Another Day in the Death of America. I’ve always admired Gary’s words because he doesn’t mince them. His writing is strong and bold. He has the courage to say what other people are not saying about a range of themes including race, America, killings, inequalities, South America, whistle-blowing etc.

I gave up teaching full-time, after coming back to the North-East, in 2003 to pursue a more creative life. In the short time I’d been teaching, the landscape changed so much that I wondered where the teaching had stopped and crowd control had begun. I fancied my chances in the creative wilderness so jumped without a net in sight. With nearly 15 years of hustling under my belt, I’m still questioning what the dynamics of my voice are. What is the purpose of my voice? Hence being drawn to this workshop with Gary Younge.

We do not have just one voice. We have a myriad of voices. Many voices for different contexts, shifting our register and tone depending on what we are trying to say; why we are saying it, when and to who.

Gary Younge recently interviewed Richard Spencer, leader of the emerging Alt Right in the USA for a Channel 4 documentary titled Angry, White and American. He received a lot of flak for giving this racist man airtime, people arguing that this interview was giving him a platform to spread his hate. Gary was of the mind that if you give this kind of man enough rope he’d hang himself. In his opinions, he thinks Richard brought the rope and gallows himself, exposing the absurdity of his thinking, forcing anyone thinking of joining his Nazi bandwagon to think again.

The workshop was illuminating. Things I knew already, but coming from Gary gave them added weight. We all have a unique voice and it’s our duty to bring it into the world. We should write what we want to write without thinking about what other people think we should write. We should get our voices out there and not even bother about checking back in with the reactions. Because we cannot control how anyone else is going to read our words, hear our voice. We can only control our voice; what we want to say and how we say it.

I had the opportunity to ask Gary what he thought was the purpose of his voice. His individual voice. His answer was simple and something I didn’t to hear. He said those words and they dropped right into my gut and got cosy and warm. As those words were welcomed home.

The purpose of his voice is trying to shift the lens. Simple. He’s in a position with a platform, which many people like him would not occupy. He uses his voice to shift the lens on the world to foster understanding and hopefully change.

Trust your voice. Trust your lens. I trusted myself when I left teaching and journeyed into the unknown. I’ve trusted my calling to becoming more creative everyday. Now, I’m getting out of my way to trust my voice.

Each day I am peeling away my former identity to live a more powerful, purposeful and authentic life. I’m a Goddess Queen holding a light, becoming self-aware and self-loving, becoming a wayshower for others.
The purpose of my voice is to shift the lens. It always has been since childhood when I questioned everything my father told me to do. I’ve known this but have been too scared to claim this. Thank you Gary for reminding me. It’s my voice and I own it.

“We younger negro artists who create, now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame,” writes Langston Hughes. “If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If coloured people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”

learning to change 


Over the weekend, our clocks went back. We lost an hour and gained the darkness. Usually at this time of year, I go into a bit of a slump. With the night’s drawing in so does my mind and emotions. I get a bit grumpy as this is the way I’m supposed to act. I’m not supposed to welcome the dark, to enjoy the dark, I should be reaching for the light, or so I’ve been lead to believe. But this year, I sense a change. 

This November I plan to go within, deep within. Cosy up and settle into my new home at the same time as explore my internal darkness. I’m looking forward to the rest, to the reduction in the pressures to perform and show up. I’m looking forward to just being. and don’t get me wrong, I’ll not be idle. I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy, to be getting on with behind the scenes. But allowing myself to rest and to take care of myself, is a change, is an advancement for me that I will continue to cultivate as I reap the benefits of such. But of course if these plans get disrupted, I have also learned to be flexible.

This time last hear, I was knee deep in curriculum planning, marking and examination preparations. Self-care amounted to getting to bed before 10pm and most nights that wasn’t achieved. Things weren’t really going to plan and I was constantly knackered. What I can take from that time now is my ability to be flexible, to not make a fuss but to just go with the flow because I learned that it was me and only me who was hurting. It was me and my unrealistic expectations that was causing the ruckus, not anyone else.

I carry this nugget of knowledge with me now, when my best laid plans go up in smoke because of unforeseen circumstances. I become disappointed and hurt and yet I also see that these things happen and I’m more adept at being centred, rooted in myself but still allowing my trunk to bend, and my branches to sway in an unexpected wind or storm. These things happen, it’s nature. It’s how I perceive and handly these changable circumstances is the development, is an indication of my growth as a human being.

years of marriage 

My husband, Alan and I have been together longer than I can remember, yet I’m still surprised by the turn of events, sometimes. At these points, I have to chuckle.
Alan, annoyed,  has said that I mine our lives for writing material but I do believe it’s not just my story to tell, so I do shy away from writing about our marriage as it is, while in the thick of things.
This relationship, when two individuals come together into a partnership, does play a significant part in my life and to not explore and reflect upon it in within my writing is denying a part of myself. As well as living a lie, as believe it or not, marriageland is not all hunky dorky.

During the years we’ve been together, Alan and I have experienced the rough with the smooth. They say a couple’s relationship changes when children come along. And that much is true. There’s had to be a lot more understanding and communication and patience. And sometimes it hasn’t always been there. 

I’m not offering marriage guidance here as I’m not an expert is marritable bliss. I only know what works and doesn’t work for me/us. So we’re still in the thick of moving house. This follows on the back of months of ill health, cancer treatment and hospital visits. You don’t realise the calm within your day to day until it is disrupted. You don’t realise the love and companionship and trust within your relationship until it has disappeared.
This isn’t a post about Alan and I spliting up, far from it. But it is a post about holding on and appreciating what you have when you have it. It’s obvious but sometimes we fail to acknowledge it, fail to act upon it, fail to live it. 

As we settle into our new home, the time and space has arisen to speak my needs and concerns to Alan as well as to check in with him about his needs and concerns. We’re still part of this dance, growing all the time as individuals and together. But it never ceases to amaze me as you hold a crystal up to the light the myriad of shapes and colours and delights that are revealed.

Sharing Practice

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For the past week, I’ve been sharing my practice of visual journaling on social media. I do this because I love to share what I do but also because I love to break down barriers, those obstacles we put up between us and our creativity.

If you take the time to watch these quick and simple videos, you will see that it’s easy to get beyond the blank page. That it’s easy to start getting our thoughts and feelings down on paper. All we need to do is DO IT! To make that start and see what happens. Not sure where to start? Watch the videos. I use craft paint or acrylics or even water coloured paints. Anything that gives the page an explosion of colour and moves me out of my critical mind and into my body, into the moment.

Here are the videos showing my step by step approach for getting from the blank page to a page of images and words that inspire me to keep dreaming on paper.

If you like what you see consider coming along to the next workshop that I’m running around visual journaling.

Visual Journaling 1

Visual Journaling 2

Visual Journaling 3

Visual Journaling 4

Missing Stories

You may have missed her story.
There’s a loud silence
when a black woman is brutalised/raped/murdered.
Front page headlines seldom carry outrage,
hardly carry a mention.
My heart catches fire every time
I have to decipher the details
through a pinhole of shadows.

I see her being followed home from that party.
Them two stalking her apartment
thinking she’s got money just by the way she holds herself.
Or at least her grandmother must.
They break in. Gag and tie her up in the basement
where they each take their time to beat and rape her.
What I remember from between the missing lines
is those bastards making off with a few dollars,
an iPad and a laptop after they set the house on fire.
You may have missed her story.
Let me tell you another story along the same brutal missing lines.