Reading and Writing, Writing and Reading

A few weeks ago, when I was in the thick of my separation and wondering how I was going to get through the rest of 2020, I made a commitment to myself to designate October as a creative retreat month. I’m not going anywhere, but I am protecting my time to retreat from the world and outside commitments in order to focus on my creative practice.

Due to circumstances, I’ve allowed things to get lost in transition. Focusing on what brings me joy, like reading and writing and creating haven’t been top of my list for ages, it feels. So protecting October, my favourite month of the year, my birth month, as time and space to re-engage with my creative projects and start some new ones felt right for me.

Only a few days into October, and I was inspired in a poetry workshop to attempt #thesealychallenge. This challenge is to read thirty-one poetry books or chapbooks in the thirty-one days of August. I know it’s October but I’m coming late to the party. But I feel this is just what I need to relight my fire, put pen to paper and write poetry.

So far this month, I’ve read 5 poetry collections and chapbooks. What I’m doing while reading is also collecting words, single words which I like the sound of, or I find are being used in new and usual ways. Words that stir my interest and create a reaction.

What this reading is doing is inspiring me to write again. So from just reading other people’s work, immersing myself in the world of poetry again, I’ve created 6 new poems. So I’m going all the way this time, and trying for 31 poems by the end of the month; 31 poems in 31 days.

This has already gotten me through a block, a fear that was starting to take hold of me that I might be only able to write while in crisis, while in an unhappy state. But by producing something over the last few days, I’ve now put that fear to rest. I’m back, reading and writing, writing and reading.

May Readings

This month was a hard month to concentrate on any longer reads. My reading was bitty and more about current affairs with The Guardian newspaper getting many hits. Other featured websites were The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Orion and The New York Times.
The readings was what it was, what it needed to be to get me through each moment, each day.
The one book I read, while I started many, was A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson. A poetry collection exploring the Grenfell disaster intimately which went on to win the T S Eliot Prize in 2019.

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March Reading

March has come to an end. Even though it’s felt like the longest month from hell, someone on twitter mentioned 36 years and 9 months in length, my reading hasn’t been as steady as I’d like.

Please excuse me if my mind has been otherwise occupied. If news bulletins and articles and live updates were in book form then this month I would have consumed thousands of volumes as I seemed to have taken up residence at The Guardian news website. It is constantly on refresh. I’m taking care of myself though by having days when I do not consume the news, I stay away from social media and literally inhale positive, feel good art and literature and music. I highly recommend it during these troubling times. anyway, on to what I have read.

Completed March readings include:

1. Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, poems by Jake Skeets

2. Swims by Elizabeth Jane Burnett

3. There are more beautiful things than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

4. Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson

5. Splinters are Children of Wood by Leia Penina Wilson

6. Life without Diabetes – Roy Taylor

7. Fleshing Out the Narrative – Marielle S. Smith

 

Ongoing March reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Blue Mind by Wallace J Nichols

5. The Northumbrians by Dan Jackson

6. 8 Master Lessons of Nature – by Gary Ferguson

Sharing Your Work – 002

“ I think deep down we know that our creativity is not just for us. The creative power flows through us and it’s not meant to stop there. We need to keep the faucets open and allow the gift of creativity to circulate, so that it can touch other people. So it can grow beyond our own limited reach. “ Anna Lovind, The Creative Doer

Spreading the Joy

January Book Review

So the book, I’d like to talk about is Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek. I think I was first alerted to this book while watching Game Changers on Netflix. If you didn’t know, I’m vegan and I’d heard a lot about this film, debunking the old myth about vegans not getting enough protein and ‘real’ protein can only come from animals; meat.

So even though I’d adopted a vegan diet at the back end of 2018, I’ve still got a lot to learn and was interested in athletes that are vegan, their training and good sources of protein.

Anyway, on Game Changers, Scott Jurek is featured as a record holding ultra runner and how he’s done it all while vegan. Even during the programme Scott’s fixing to break the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Record. And in 2015, the ultramarathoner completed the supported trek in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes, at the time a new record.

I’ll say it now, Scott interests me becuase one of my dreams is to complete an ultramarathon. There I’ve put it out there.
In the past, I’ve ran 3 marathons the last one being in 2014 in London. After that last one, even though I smashed my previous time by an hour coming in just over 6 hours, I fell out of love with running. And really not done much since. 2020 saw me lace back up my trainers and start at the beginning again with Couch to 5K. And as usual, I’m taking it slow and steady but enjoying the buzz. I’ve got a place in the Great North Run, running for the charity, Mental Health Foundation.

Anyway, Scott roused my interest because he runs and runs long and hard on a vegan diet. I’m fixing to do the same so bought his book to find out how it’s done. And I totally enjoyed it as it’s a mixture of memoir, training manual and recipes. His drive for running springs from personal pains and the struggles he went through for a long time in his life. His friendships developed through the love of running are amazing and heartfelt. The recipes included such as lentil mushroom burgers and apple cinnamon granola sound delicious and are totally doable once I get my finger out. But the idea of carrying hummus tortilla wraps on long runs instead of these energy gels and bars just sounds heaven to me. And of course, Scott didn’t always get it right and failed but kept going, year after year, perfecting his training, his mind and body and nutrition.

Eat and Run was a good read not only because of its hybridity or because of its details about different ultramarathons but because the reader is taken on the many journeys with Scott, almost running along with him as he becomes a record breaking ultramarathoner again and again.

January Reading

I didn’t set out into 2020 with a reading goal. I didn’t set any numbers but I did say I wanted to read more. Vague I know. And not the ‘proper’ way to set goals that you want to succeed at but at the time it was enough for me. And it’s been working.

January saw me curled up with actual books and the iPad sporting the kindle a lot more times than I felt I did at the back end of 2019. Could I say the whole of 2019? I’m not sure. Maybe my memory fails me here.

But the reading habit, the muscle memory of turning off all distractions and getting lost in a good book, fiction, non-fiction even poetry, seems weak in relation to the last couple of years to be honest.

Hopefully, with January now behind us, I can say that the drought is over as I hurtled through a number of books this month. I’m pretty proud of my numbers but also about how expanded I feel in terms of ideas and language and joy. The joy of reading has paid a long overdue visit and I want it to continue. So look forward to a monthly round up of books read each month. You might even find a book you’re interested in reading along the way.

I’ll list the books read and then give a review or details about just one of the books, as if I did it for all of them read this month, we’ll be here all day and come on, it’s the weekend.

Completed January books include:

1. Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek ( started in December and completed at the beginning of January)

2. Turned Out Nice AgainOne Living with the Weather– Richard Mabey

3. Heavenfield – LJ Ross

4. Angel – LJ Ross

5. High Force – LJ Ross

6. Cragside – LJ Ross

7. Dark Skies – LJ Ross

8. Seven Bridges – LJ Ross

Ongoing January reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Blogging Basics For Authors – Nina Amir

Book review in the next post. Thanks.

Dear Strong Black Woman

I finally got around to buying Jennifer Sterling’s book, Dear Strong Black Woman: Letters of nourishment and reflection from one strong black woman to another. And beginning to read it.
I think I’ve been reluctant to read it as I was thinking it wouldn’t tell me anything new. And I think I was also not in the right place to face it, to face a big chunk of harsh reality.
I know what it’s like being a black woman in a predominately white world. In a world where my worth is questioned and examined daily and always come back wanting.
I’m a strong black woman and have had to become this way or live this stereotype for good reason. For survival. And being vulnerable and showing my weakness or even asking for help has been for decades non-negotiable. Not happening.
But I was wrong. This slim but powerful book is just what I need right now. As it speaks to my soul, it speaks to my suffering. It legitimatises my experiences and struggles. It’s a witness and a testimony to my existence. And I thank Jennifer for writing these letters to me and to other strong black women like me.
As hard as some of these letters are to read, they are the balm I need to keep moving through this world, strong but also vulnerable, open hearted and beautiful.