Interview with author Richard Chizmar

Despite its many negatives, social media can be very useful. I found this out the day I sent Richard Chizmar a tweet asking to interview him. I was skeptical of receiving a response from the popular American author of Gwendy’s Button Box who has co-written with Stephen King. Imagine my surprise when he replied only two minutes later!

Interview: El Barham

How and when did you start writing creatively?
I started writing stories when I was very young. Maybe eight or nine years old. I would sit at my desk in my bedroom and write them longhand in a notebook. Usually monster or war stories. Then I would illustrate them.

Are there any books or people who inspired you to write?When I was younger, comic books and scary movies and the old Alfred Hitchcock anthologies inspired me to write my own stories. When I got a little older, writers like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury made me want to grow up to be an author.

Who are your favourite authors and what are your favourite books?
My all time favorites are IT by Stephen King, BOY’S LIFE by Robert McCammon and LORD OF THE FLIES.

What’s the reason you write?
I’ve always been drawn to writing as a way to help make sense of the world around me and as a way of simply entertaining myself.

What inspires your work?
I find inspiration everyone around me. Whether it’s a person, a place, a particular moment in time…if it intrigues me, makes me think, or have a strong emotional reaction, I like to write about it.

Have you had any formal training in Creative Writing and is it useful?
The only formal training I’ve had is a single writing class in college. Great instructor who taught me a lot. Other than that, I’ve learned on the job — by reading everything I can get my hands on and writing as often as possible.

Did you always want to be an author and if not, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I was a kid. By the time I hit my teenage years, I wanted to write and create my own worlds. This has all been a dream come true for me.

What is your writing process?
I’m pretty busy helping to run Cemetery Dance Publications and being a dad to two boys, so my writing schedule fluctuates from day to day. When I’m deep into a story, though, I try to knock out as much as I can in the morning and early afternoon. Those late night writing marathons are a thing of the past for me.

Presumably you’ve never caused mass destruction with a button box, but do you write from experience?
I write a lot of stories based on real life experience — not the Button Box, thank God! — but other tales regarding everything from loss and regret to misadventure and cancer.

How do you create such vibrant and compelling characters?
When it comes to characters, I simply try to crawl into their skin and see the world from their eyes. If I can do that, I can understand how they think and talk and act.

And finally, what advice do you have for young writers?
Best advice I can give is to read a lot and write a lot. And embrace rejection and failure as part of the process. Consider it you earning your way.

Big thanks to Richard Chizmar – find out more at:

In my Words Project – Creative writing & wellbeing (Barnsley)

Female? 15 to 25 in Barnsley? Boost your mood and be creative!
In my Words Project – Creative writing for wellbeing
In partnership with Creative Minds

Sometimes, as the saying goes – life gives us lemons! Come along to these fun sessions as part of the In my Words project, and boost your mood while being creative as a way of helping you to better tackle life’s lemons, stresses and strains.

All abilities & interests welcome. You don’t have to think you’re a great writer to come along. It will be a supportive, fun and relaxed group. The project runs from July 2018 and will end in autumn with a book launch showcasing some of the work produced on the project – so it’s a chance to get published too!

Sessions will take place in Barnsley town centre once a week/fortnight. We are currently gathering interest so we can decide when and where so please get in touch soon!

Contact Vicky at – or if relevant, ask a support service you work with to get in touch for you. You can download a flyer to print here

In partnership with Creative Minds
Creative Minds is all about the use of creative approaches and activities in healthcare; increasing self-esteem, providing a sense of purpose, developing social skills, helping community integration and improving quality of life. We develop community partnerships to not only co-fund but also co-deliver projects for local people.

Hive festival coverage from Write Radio!

The wonderful crew at Sheffield Live Fm’s Write Radio – Sez Thomasin, Wilson and Spleeny – have produced a wonderful show around Hive Young Writers Festival that took place on 14th April 2018 with lots of great interviews and performances from young writers they found milling around on the day. Check out the part 1 and 2 links broadcast on Friday 11th May here. And if it’s disappeared into the ether, you can relisten below! Big warm thanks to the Write Radio crew for coming along and picking up some fab sound bites, poems and the general good vibes of the day! And do go and check out Sheffield Live for all kinds of great shows.

The show features words from Eloise Unerman, Fionn McClouskey, Johny A, Dom Heslop (Devoted 1), Beth Davies, Kirsten Luckins (Apples & Snakes), Molly Ridley, Salma Lynch, Isaac Stovell, Jazz Walton, Jess Connelly & more, with shout outs to Gorilla Poetry, Suzannah Evans Confusion Species and others!
Part 1

Part 2

Festival thank you!

We just want to say a massive thank you to all the wonderful writers, partners, volunteers, creative professionals, and young writers that made Hive Young Writers festival a truly wonderful day on Saturday 14th April 2018.

Hive Young Writers Festival was a jam-packed day of word-based happenings for young writers (14-25) from across Yorkshire and the North attracting 100+ young writers. There were workshops, panel discussions & advice sessions with a wide range of writers, novelists, poets, playwrights and industry professionals.The festival was a chance to network, hear from professional writers, meet like-minded young writers, perform & of course, write!

This list of thanks may take some time because there were so many wonderful people in the mix, and every one of you helped to make a very special day happen!

Firstly a shout out to all the morning writers doing workshops, talks, or speaking on the panel, or doing both! (some of whom were also afternoon writers), to Dan Powell, Testament, Suzannah Evans, Steve Dearden, Lydia Allison, Dan Loops, Desiree Reynolds, Reece Williams, Kate Garett, Kirsten Luckins and Helen Johnson.  And then joining us for the afternoon – Clare Fisher, Andy Craven Griffiths, Billie Meredith, Bobby Anderson, Tim Leach, Stacey Sampson, Adam Lowe, and Laura Lindsay. What a smorgasbord of workshops and talks you offered! We know it’s rare to have that much choice under one roof, and even though nobody could be in several places at once, we hope what many young writers experienced has motivated you/them to seek out future opportunities to build skills and experience new insights into writing.

For the panel, lots of people asked questions I wouldn’t think of. The workshops were brilliantly led, with examples and stimulus. Hearing others inspired me so much, especially knowing that we all came from different backgrounds. 18, Doncaster

A huge thanks to all the writers who gave advice sessions on the day, to Desiree Reynolds, Kate Garrett, Stacey Sampson, Dan Powell, Kirsten Luckins, Apples & Snakes producer in the North (who also kindly chaired the morning panel), all for being so generous with your time, and to all the other writers who fitted chats in around workshops and lunch – and that was pretty much every writer who was there. You all cared so much and we thank you. Everywhere you looked young writers were sat talking to, and learning from, established writers and it was a joy to see.

Big thanks also to the advice and insights from our publishers Suzannah Evans (representing The Poetry Business), Jamie McGarry (Valley Press), Adam Lowe (Vada Magazine and Doghorn Press), & Brian Lewis (Longbarrow Press)

Further and massive thanks to Brain Lewis for manning a fabulous bookstall for the day and for somehow keeping track of it all with writers and publishers dropping books through the day and keeping a perfect tally of it all. Creatively energising thanks to Charly Calpin (Freehand) for her wonderful zine chill out zone, which was a lovely haven for some thinking and musing time.

Big thanks to the media people buzzing around, to broadcast journalism student Xanthe Palmer, Doncaster young writer, Isabelle Osborne (who managed to bag an interview with journalist Helen Johnson off the cuff on the day!), to young photographer, Caitlin Taff, and to the wonderful Spleeny, Sez and Evie from Sheffield Live FM’s Write Radio (hopefully there’s a show to follow).

I really enjoyed the workshops, they put me on the spot and made me write in a way I never have before. As someone who is new to creative writing (although I am nearing the upper age bracket), I found it very inspiring and motivational to see all the younger people expressing themselves, and at how skilled they were at their craft!  24, Hartlepool

Heartfelt thanks for the continuing support of our partners Grimm & Co, and to Steve Dearden and The Writing Squad for contributing funding and background support for the festival. Also to Andy Hill from First Story for run up support, and to Ilkley Lit Festival, and Apples & Snakes for letting us have Kirsten Luckins for the day! And just to say – If you missed the chance to go and experience Grimm and Co at the festival, do get in touch as they are keen to hear from young writers and creatives wanting volunteering experiences (see here).

And to the team of amazing staff and volunteers who were the backbone of the day – Core staff were the mighty Kiran Malhi-Bearn (front of house), with Vicky Morris, and Nik Perring (hosting), and their amazing team –Dominic Heslop (who also manned a wonderful warm and encouraging finale open mic), Zoe Cox, Michele Beck, Jen Booth, Marcus Grindlewald, and Mark Innes (who kindly manned the advice session timetable). All of you were an amazing and awesome support and as cliché as it sounds, yes it’s true – it simply couldn’t have been done without you!

I think it’s important because it has given me the advice I will need to start my career, and it has really inspired me as a young person. An event like this would awakens and helps out so many young people. Also, I think it’s great that there are no more opportunities for people in the north.   16, Ilkley Young Writers

Thanks also to Dan Ryder, Megan McCart, John Greaves (Rotherham Libraries), John Stocks, and Bri Staton who were on standby as support volunteers, and to Don Jenkins (Born Lippy open mic Newcastle) who came and supported last minute! Thanks also to the schools, colleges, individuals and young people bodies who encouraged young people to come along who might not have come without that encouragement.

Oh dear, who have we missed?! There is bound to be someone, because as is evident, many hands made this day and we do hope nobody has been forgotten! For more details on the writers and creative bodies who supported the day, click here.

Last but not least! – a gigantic thank you to all the young writers who attended bringing so much energy, creativity, curiosity, determination and bravery (particularly those reading their words to an audience for the first time). Congratulations again to all our competition winners who received prizes at the festival (look out for the Hive anthology they’re in soon!), and thanks to our partners at Arvon for anthology book donations.

It was also so wonderful to have young writers from further afield join us on the day include from: Bradford Young Writers, Ilkley Young Writers, Manchester’s Young Identity, Dove Cottage Young Poets (all the way from Cumbria!), and White Peaks Writers – thanks for the efforts you made to come and be part of the day.

Hive is a small project, so, to say a final time, we couldn’t do an event like this without the generous support we had from so many people. Many writers and professionals did the event voluntarily, or for a small fee, and we can’t thank you enough. All of you are aware of the impact of enthusing a future generation of young writers. The day was a celebration and coming together of the energy, diversity, happenings and talent abound among young writers and supporting bodies in the north and we salute every single one of you and hope the day has generated something positive in you all!

We’ll be adding a photo gallery below. See Facebook gallery here 🙂

Hive South Yorkshire is funded by Arts Council England
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Find out about festival happenings!

With less than 2 weeks to go, Hive’s Vicky Morris talks to Sleeny at Sheffield Live Fm’s Write Radio about all things festival!
Festival links: About the festival | Festival writers & who’s who | Festival Programme | Get tickets | Getting there

Thanks to Spleeny
Track: Easy J ‘Better Dayz’

Interview with Lowkey

Hive writers, Warda Yassin and Dominic Heslop, were lucky enough to bag a brilliant food-for-thought interviewed with English-Iraqi hip-hop artist, Lowkey, on his fleeting ‘In conversation’ visit to SHU uny recently.

Lowkey, whose real name is Kareem Dennis, is not only known these days for his powerful tracks that pack a social and political punch, he’s also a thought-provoking and vastly knowledgeable public speaker and activist.

Unsurprisingly, this is a richly layered delve into everything from language as an emancipatory tool and how its etymology can trace a different story of historical power in the world, to classism towards rap as poetry, and the responsibility of writers. Lowkey also discussed the tracks Ahmed and Ghosts of Grenfell

“When it gets to the point where you realise people are listening to you… Talib Kweli  has the lyrics – What you gonna do when you gotta face the manifestation of the words that you put in space – we can’t underestimate the power of mood music and cultural ambience.” – Lowkey

Big thanks to Lowkey for making time for us! And to the wonderful Bob Jeffery and Abdullah Okud at Sheffield Hallam University, and to Warda Yassin and Dominic Heslop for a wonderful interview and conversation, and to young photographer Oscar Barnes @oscargottalens

Young Writers’ Competition Results

We are delighted to announce the results of our inaugural Young Writers’ Competition!

Open to young writers aged 14 to 25 across the South Yorkshire region, the competition spanned short story, flash fiction and poetry. We were amazed to receive a whopping 250+ entries – for this our first ever competition – that got young writers scribbling from the near and far reaches of Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and everywhere in between!

Novelist, Kate Long, and poet, Catherine Ayres, described judging the competition as ‘a delight and a pleasure’, and both relished commenting on each of the winners and those commended.

If you entered the competition, and weren’t placed in the below list, don’t be disheartened. Keep writing! We’re looking forward to hearing from you again next time.

14-17 Age Category (with judges’ comments)

I’m thrilled to have won 1st place and have my other entries placed too. It’s really boosted my confidence as a writer! Thank you Hive!
Lauren Hollingsworth-Smith

1st: Mourning by Lauren Hollingsworth Smith: ‘A beautiful poem, which describes the bittersweet pang of passing time.’
2rd: The Boxer by Lauren Stockley: ‘Superbly realistic dialogue and control over mood.’
3rd: Daffodils by Abby Jessop: ‘A hymn to childhood trust, incredibly moving and with terrific use of detail.’

Highly Commended 14-17 (in no set order):
Last Notes by Maya Knight: ‘This moving poem slips through time and loss in a subtle, startling way.’
Inspiration by Ellie Wright: ‘A clever evocation of a muse that put me in mind of Ted Hughes’ The Thought Fox.’
Justice by Tim Pikin: ‘Powerful, masterly build-up of drama.’
Memories by Ella Cudmore: ‘Superb control of mood and structure.’
My Shadow is Looming by Lucy Kelly: ‘A terrifically chilling voice; a genuinely unsettling story.’
The Visitor by Caitlin Hardware: ‘A strong sense of fear, vulnerability and pathos.’
Welcome to Rapture by Harry Bickerton: ‘A creepy dystopia, so convincingly drawn.’

Commended 14-17 (in no set order):
Asylum by Isabelle Osborne: ‘A mounting sense of dread and tension until the final hysterical moments.’
Cold Case by Jay Lindley: ‘So neatly done; a study in cool prose.’
The Day the Moon Whispered in our Ears by Rose Holmshaw: ‘A surreal, dark, apocalyptic vision.’
Adam Street by Georgie Woodhead: ‘Fantastic attention to detail and some surprising and unique imagery in this mysterious poem.’
The Field Mouse by Lauren Hollingsworth-Smith: ‘A delightful and refreshing comic voice.’
Whisper in the Wind by Ellie-Mae Britton: ‘A terrific opening line – one of the best I’ve read!’
moon [uncritically examined] by Ben Horton: ‘Unique and startling imagery in this poem, which really made me see the moon differently: “Bold and bright and unashamed, despite the acne” is wonderful!

18-21 Age Category (with judges’ comments)

‘I’m so grateful to be named as one of the competition winners, and to receive such lovely feedback from the judges feels incredible.’ Amy King

1st: Losing by Amy King: ‘The beautifully-timed, casual tone of this poem charts all the little things that make a love story. It’s incredibly moving.’
2nd: The Same Bruises by L Worthy: ‘A very moving tale of family bonds and of unexpected salvation.’
3rd: Mornings by Louisa Rhodes: ‘An assured use of metaphor and simile to describe the depth of the ordinary in this clever poem.’

Highly Commended (in no set order):
Mother Knows Best by Katharine Swindells: ‘A dose of magical realism that becomes a dark fable on the theme of patriarchy.’
Unsettled In by Louisa Rhodes: ‘An intriguing story that feels like the first episode of something longer.’
Youth by Louisa Rhodes: ‘A bold and confident vision of a grim future.’

Commended (in no set order):
Five Things about the Curtains by Maia Mchugh: ‘The title alone deserves a mention! The curtains in this poem are used to describe a life, and I loved that.’
Reflections by Rachel Irving: ‘Well-crafted and memorable imagery in this startling poem about physical and metaphorical reflections.’
The Hitchhiker by Katharine Swindells: ‘A poignant tale of human loneliness.
Natalia by L Worthy: ‘A marvellously powerful sense of place.’
The Glass City by Maya Dodsworth: ‘dream-like and disturbing in the way it shifts between two worlds.’
Grandma’s House by James Sunderland: ‘A heart-warming tale of family ties and the strength we gain from ordinary, everyday love.’

22-25 Age Category (with judges’ comments)

‘It’s amazing to have my work appreciated, let alone be picked as a winner.’ Jordan O’Shea

1st place winner: Bathing Suit by Jordan O’Shea: ‘Here’s a writer with total control over the music of language, crafting a story of aching loss.’
2nd: listen, right, we know that look by Katherine Henderson: ‘I loved the tone of this poem and the reversal of power it described. It really stayed with me after I’d read it and I kept coming back to it.’
3rd: Like Home by Lois Cuckson: ‘A touching, tender and quirky romance, beautifully explored.’

Highly Commended (in no set order):
Home By Sarah Jane O’Hare: ‘You can read this poem on many levels and it contains some beautiful imagery “You are the stars wrapped in skin”.’
The Drip by Jack Nuttgens: ‘Extremely clever social commentary, written in an entirely believable voice.’
Waiting without Direction by Hannah Thorpe: ‘Hugely atmospheric, almost haunting in its mood.’
The Tear Jerkers by Jack Nuttgens: ‘Almost painful comedy, and brilliantly observed, offbeat characters. Wonderful!’

The Walk Home by Ellie Jones: ‘I loved the change in this poem and the description of the secret, after-school life of a girl.’

Both judges chose Bathing Suit by Jordan O’Shea, as the overall winner of a Kindle Fire HD! ‘One of the best things I’ve read for a long time. I think the author is extremely talented.’ Catherine Ayres.
1st, 2nd & 3rd place winners will receive writers’ kits/goodie bags. As an option, all winners will also receive a free read/edit support and the opportunity to be published in Hive’s forthcoming anthology. Highly commended entries with also be offered a free read/feedback and a writing related treat.

Big thanks to: Our judges Catherine Ayres & Kate Long, the photographers who allowed us to use their images as writing inspiration, and also thanks to the wonderful Reading Agency for book donations to contribute to prizes. Also thanks to Jemma Fisher, High Storrs School Sheffield,  Ashley Meakin, Wickersley School Rotherham and Amy Harkins, Horizon School Barnsley and Helen Daly, Kalk Balk School, Barnsley, for taking the time to send student entries. 


Catherine Ayres is a poet and teacher from Northumberland. Her poetry collection ‘Amazon’ was published in 2016 by Indigo Dreams. She has been published in many print and online magazines. In 2015 she came third in the Hippocrates Prize and in 2016 she won the Elbow Room Poetry Prize. She teaches English and is about to start a PhD in Creative Writing at Northumbria University. (Photo: Phil Punton Photography)

Short story/Flash fiction

Kate Long is the author of eight novels, including Sunday Times number one bestseller The Bad Mother’s Handbook, which she also adapted for ITV. Her stories have been read on Radio 4, and she has written for national newspapers and magazines such as the Telegraph and Good Housekeeping. She runs regular writing workshops for young people in the West Midlands.


Annabelle Pitcher Advice for Novelists

The lovely staff at Sheffield Hallam University welcome Hive young writers to appropriate writing masterclasses at the uni, and what could be more appropriate than a talk by young adult novelist, Annabel Pitcher!?

Annabel’s first novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantel Piece, (which she wrote while on her honeymoon – it was an extended one!), bagged her a two book deal. It’s been translated into over twenty languages and the film rights have recently been sold.

Annabel is now on her 5th novel, and with that comes a huge amount of wisdom that she was generous enough to share in very candid detail, from the letter that got her her agent, to the lies she felt she had to tell to move forward as a writer.  SHU degree students and 5 slightly late and flustered Rotherham and Sheffield young writers were riveted by her story and advice.

“I tried to copy other writers and it was never right but this felt like my thing. I didn’t worry about if it was sellable, or there was a gap in the market for it, or if it was the right thing to be writing. I just felt I had to tell this story.”

Advice from Annabel:

  • There is no right way to write – trust your own process
  • Only occasionally you’ll experience flow – the rest of the time it will feel like hard work
  • Hard doesn’t mean wrong or poor writing. Getting stuck, rethinking and rewriting is part of the process
  • Know when to refill the creative well. Don’t feel guilty for stepping away for a few hours or days
  • See the whole and not the hole – think twice when you’re tempted to delete stuff
  • Remember, writing is the reward!
    More writing advice from Annabel here

Young writer thoughts on the talk:

Maya: I loved that it was very honest. I was interested in how she doesn’t plan in a conventional way. What she does is thematic planning (which feels a lot more creative).

Jade: I really liked what she was saying about getting a character’s voice to lead rather than coming up with a plot, and that being more important, the character being in the story and making decisions inside it.

Molly: I liked that she mentioned it’s really hard work to write a book and not always as much flow as people think it is. But she sees writing as a reward and that’s a great way of looking at it.

Lauren: I really like how horrible she made writing seem! It was more realistic because sometimes we think it’s going to be all perfect and it’s the worst, and it was a reminder of that, but that it’s worth it. She really broke down some barriers and ideas about authors being perfect and even though she was talking about difficulties, it made it feel very possible to write a book.

Mia: I loved how honest she was, and about how you’d think an author had to be really organised and she was completely different and her writing was just… all in the moment.

Young writer, Lauren Hollingsworth will be interviewing Annabel soon for her Arts Award in Writing. If you’re a young writer with a question for Annabel, drop us a line by 1st March and we’ll see if we can squeeze it in!

Big thank you to Harriet Tarlo & colleagues in the English department at Sheffield Hallam University who continue to support Hive and young writers in the region. 

My week at Arvon Lumb Bank

In December 2017, I was lucky enough to go on a writing retreat in the far reaches of West Yorkshire. A place unfamiliar to me that would be my home for the next week. Arvon was like another world. Here’s a little about my experience and why other young writers might consider an Arvon course in the future.

Arvon are known as the leading UK charity for retreat and residential writing courses. And as I’d previously taken part in a city Arvon and got a lot out of it, I knew this course: Fire in the Flint, being more specific to some of my writing interests, while being immersive, was something I wanted to experience.

The retreat, led by Jacob Sam La rose and Amanda Dalton, was unique in that it combined both performance and teaching, (both of which I want to develop in), and so I was thrilled to learn that I was selected for a bursary scheme to get on the course.

I was looking forward to staying in a big beautiful country house and the opportunity to write in a focused environment whilst soaking in the scenery views. This after all, is essentially what Arvon is about. Knowing that the house previously belonged to Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath added a relevant history of the place and set the tone for the week.

It was all a bit eerie and dark when I arrived down the narrow lane to Lumb Bank, so I couldn’t really get my bearings. On the first morning, the peeling back of my curtains was greatly anticipated and the view did not disappoint – Lumb Bank was back dropped by a dramatically breathtaking valley.

At the centre, I felt part of a privileged elite who had a passcode to this massive house and was made welcome by all the friendly staff. I was surprised by how well stocked the kitchen was! They even had almond butter! I had my first taste of Molasses (by recommendation of one of my peers). And let’s just say it’s an acquired taste (one I don’t possess).

The house is remote with no TVs (even in the bedrooms), which shocked me a little at first. But knowing that the spirit of Arvon is to get away from distractions, I took a vow to boycott social media. I found this easier than expected and even when I slipped up and found myself scrolling down a timeline, it was distinctly less satisfying than at home.

I expected a group of younger writers, but I found myself to be one of the youngest there. It was comforting to see the familiar face of Sarah, a member of The Writing Squad, who I knew from a previous writing residency. Our status as writers varied widely – some already had careers in writing and directing, others were studying creative writing at university. We even had two women from a radio station in Manchester. What we all had in common, aside from a passion for writing, is being from the North of England.

We were privileged to have tutors whose focus are in different forms of writing. Each’s work is extensive and inspirational. Both Jacob and Amanda actively listened and accommodated our various needs. They offered us the option in workshops to focus more on either poetry or script-writing. I valued the opportunity to explore both. They also gave us the choice of having workshops assigned to facilitation, or writing.

There was a lot packed into the week, between workshops in the mornings, tutorials and performances in the evenings, the course was intense. But whilst there was structure, we still had the freedom to do what we wanted and many of us went for walks into the woodland, or to the nearby shops at Hebden Bridge, a quirky place with only one chain shop in the whole town – Co-op.

I personally found myself waking early to write my morning pages. I committed to them every day, and even though we had an early start for workshops, I sacrificed the extra sleep to write. This is a discipline that I’ve since continued.


Arvon courses are always going to be intense. After all, it is grouping together random people, having us live and work together, granted like-minded individuals, but strangers nevertheless. I personally struggled with social anxiety. It effected my confidence a lot. And I found it difficult to bond with my peers because of these difficulties. There was one occasion where we had to create a workshop exercise in pairs and I struggled to perform well in front of the group.  I think the break from my usual routines meant having to deal with myself in a different way. I couldn’t, for example, distract myself and escape using social media. I found this difficult and overwhelming.

I also felt something that I often feel when I go to places that aren’t traditionally working class spaces – like I didn’t belong. And looking around the group, my cultural baggage was further compounded by being one of the only woman of color, from a working class background there.

I know the creative sector has a long way to go to bridge the gap and foster a truly inclusive culture, where voices from diverse backgrounds are more widely published and celebrated, but hats off to Arvon for doing a great job at facilitating writers with mental health issues with sensitivity, and in reaching out to enable a wider group of people – as mentioned before, I received a bursary to attend the course via Hive and without it, I wouldn’t have been able to apply.

#Learning & gratitude

I am grateful for the tutors’ encouragement, the bursary which promotes inclusivity, and the overall journey I went on. Both tutors, were incredibly supportive, approachable and generous with their time (often running over in tutorials where needed). I found it helpful talking about my issues with them and on a positive note, I thought of an interesting theme to explore in my writing, the idea of ‘occupying space’.

I also appreciated all of the brilliant and diverse exercises that I will borrow from for my own workshops in the future. Before this course, I’d mostly experienced being an attendee at workshops, so when Jacob and Amanda would get us to question, as facilitators, how we can take an exercise further, this offered valuable insight, which has better equipped me to lead workshops of my own.

Overall, I feel validated that I’m on the right path. The feedback on my work was heartening, such as Amanda’s thoughts on my novel’s dialogue, also her advice on not falling into modes of procrastination, such as busying myself with editing bits of work I already have and putting off writing new pieces. You can either make a whole table in your first draft, and polish it after, or if you keep stopping to polish the table top – you’ll be left with only a top and not the whole table! This is something I now implement in my writing practice. And also Jacob’s recommendation of the book ‘The War on Art’ and our conversations on how to decode poetry further, through noting the imagery in a poem.

Lastly, I learnt that workshop facilitation is a self-employed profession (for the most part), and I must keep in mind that that means networking to get my services known and to gain more experience.

Although I struggled on some levels, the fact that I continue to pursue these opportunities, speaks of my resilience. I’m only more certain in my ambition to becoming a writer. One whose voice will be celebrated as a proud working class, woman of color.

Salma Lynch

Young Poets Writers’ Day: Putting together a pamphlet

Young Poets Writers’ Day: Putting together a pamphlet submission
Saturday 3rd Feb 2018 – 10.30 to 4.30pm at The Poetry Business, Sheffield
Application deadline: Midnight Monday 15th January 2018

Are you a young poet in South Yorkshire, between the ages of 17 and 24?
Do you have a number of strong poems that you’d like to shape into a pamphlet submission for the New Poets Prize, but feel unsure how to go about it?

Hive have teamed up with purveyors of fine contemporary poetry, The Poetry Business, to offer a writing and editing day for young poets in the region at a stage where they would like to take their poetry further.  This is an exciting opportunity to help you shape a body of work and receive expert advice and tutoring from poet and co-director of The Poetry Business, Peter Sansom. The intensive day will involve looking a previous pamphlets, discussing existing poems, and writing new work. You’ll be given an introduction to The Poetry Business and tips on strengthening and building on a potential pamphlet submission.

Participants will receive a free Poetry Business Pamphlet in the run up which they will be asked to read to feedback on as part of the day’s activities.
For more about the New Poets Award (deadline 1st March 2018), click here.

Cost: The day costs just £6 included refreshments (but not lunch), and a free Poetry Business Pamphlet worth £5. This fee can be reduced or waived if it is in any way a barrier. Places limited.

Who can apply?
You must be between 17 to 24 years of age on 1st March 2018 (the deadline for the New Poets Prize), and living, or with a parental home address, in South Yorkshire. (If that’s not you, but you live elsewhere in the North and are interested in this kind of opportunity, do get in touch anyway, in case we can signpost you to futher opportunities in future.)

We are always keen to hear from young writers from diverse backgrounds, and those who feel they wouldn’t normally access this kind of opportunity. If you are unsure whether you’re at a stage where you’re ready to apply, drop Vicky a line to discuss, at:

To apply:
Send 5 to 7 of your best poems of any length (in one word document), each starting a new page, with a statement of interest on the first page – no longer than 400 words, including why you would like to be considered for this opportunity, your experience of poetry so far, any writing aspirations you’d like to share, and anything else you’re like us to know.

Send your application to by midnight 15th January 2018

peterThe Poetry Business publishes books, pamphlets and audio under the Smith/Doorstop imprint, and new imprint The New Poets List. They also publish literary magazine The North, and run Writing Days, the Writing School, and the original Book and Pamphlet Competition.

Peter Sansom is a poet and tutor, and co-directs the Poetry Business along with his wife, the poet Ann Sansom.  He has published six books of poetry include On the Pennine Way (Littlewood, 1988) and Careful What You Wish For (Carcanet, 2015). He is also the author of the influential book, Writing Poems (Bloodaxe 1994).  Peter co-edits The North Magazine and Smith/Doorstop Books. His poetry commissions include work for The Guardian, The Observer, Radio Three, and a billboard in the centre of Lancaster.

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