Tag Archives: walking

Be Inspired!

I was going to write a considered post about Wilfred Owen and Edith Sitwell. Wilfred Owen was killed on the 4th of November 1918, almost a hundred years ago and seven days before the Armistice. His poetry still haunts us today with his depictions of the horrors and waste of war. Edith Sitwell (daughter of Scarborough) was instrumental in having his first collection published after his death and it is mainly thanks to her that we can read his poems today. However, since I have got my nose stuck into rewriting my fifth novel, No Justice, I haven’t got the creative energy to do anything else considered. So you can catch up with Edith and Wilfred in Richard Greene’s excellent biography Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, English genius (https://amzn.to/2zhuSDE)

Meanwhile, I invite you to be inspired by the changing seasons. Go out for a walk in some nature if you can. Notice the nature around you, open all your senses to it. Also notice what is going on in your body and your emotional state. I say notice, do not judge, merely notice. Then take fifteen minutes to free write – write quickly without thought to purpose, construction, spelling etc. Unhitch your internal critic as much as you can. If you want to, use this free writing as the basis of a short poem or a piece of flash fiction.

Feel free to ‘publish’ it in the comments section of this post, I would be interested to read what comes out. But make it short!

Here’s one I prepared earlier:

Aspects of Autumn

Season of mellow mists and after damp,
joint between fecundity and decay,
you’re the rusted hinge, the balanced moment
before summer green becomes winter grey.
Your turned leaves are brazen in their dying,
firelit, their brassy tones trumpet their end,
they only fall to nest the ripening
kernels, torn from their cradles by the wind.
Your clods of decomposing foliage
remind us of our oozing hours,
your fruitfulness recalls our barren endeavours
to do, to strive — vanquish the final toll.
So then, only let your splendour fill us —
allow it to give us pause. Let us be still.


Talks, Ideas, Inspirations

Vanessa Bell’s cover for Virginia Woolf’s novel ‘To the Lighthouse’ British Library collection.

A Book By Its Cover

Do we make judgements about what book we want to read from what’s on its cover? I love books. I love reading them. I love writing them. I love the feel of them. I love the smell of them. I love book covers. I became more interested in book covers when I volunteered in the library here in Scarborough and picked for clients of the home library. I became more aware of how the book cover influenced my decision over whether a certain book would be suitable for a certain reader. My interest was further developed when I became involved in designing covers for my own novels.

the idea of having an illustrated cover came slowly. Right through the 19th century books were sold with ‘dust jackets’ but these were merely to keep the book clean, were usually made of stiff brown paper and were thrown away once the book was taken home. It would be into the 20th century before this dust jacket would be routinely illustrated. By 1911 a writer was complaining of a new commercial turn, publishers being “convinced that a book, like a woman, is none the worse, but rather the better, for having a good dressmaker”

What to learn more? Come to my talk on Book Cover Art which I will be presenting at various venues in April:

Saturday, 7th April, Scarborough Library, Vernon Road, 1045-midday for Friends of the Library (all welcome).
Tuesday, 17th April, Woodend Creative, The Crescent, Scarborough, 1-2pm. Ticketed event. Please call: 01723 384500.
Monday, 23rd April, Filey Library, part of World Book Night. 6pm-715pm. Please call: 01609 53 6608

The Human History of Walking

Women walked in protest to get the vote.

People have walked because they had to, to get from one place to another, to explore, to go on pilgrimage. And they have walked as protest. If we look back at a revolutionary time in the UK’s history, the 17th century, when we beheaded a king and, for a brief time, had a republic, pilgrimage and protest became intertwined. 

It’s 1655, two women are walking the muddy bye-ways towards Salisbury. They are wearing plain dresses and bonnets, stout boots, a warm cloak. They are the itinerant Quaker preachers Katharine Evans (my namesake) and Sarah Chevers. They believe – as preached by George Fox – that God’s light is within them, as it is within everyone. It is a type of pilgrimage, but it is also a protest. A protest against a church where the power rested in the hands of a few rich men. A protest against a religion which said God’s words had to be mediated through a male priest. A protest against a church which gives divine authority to unjust wars and injustice in society.


Some 18 years ago, I was in the grip of a severe depression. I had always enjoyed walking, but during that time, it became a necessity, it became a way for me to untangle some of the mess that was in my head. Since then, I have become more interested in how walking is essential to wellbeing and to creativity – which is, in itself, nourishing of wellbeing. 

I am a writer and walking has become an intrinsic part of my writing process. In September 2015 I walked St Cuthbert’s Way with my sister, a 100km route from Melrose in the borders of Scotland, to Lindisfarne in Northumberland. This long-distance walk also gave me an opportunity to experience the intertwining of walking and writing.

Want to learn more? Come to my talk on Tuesday 24th April, Woodend Creative, The Crescent, Scarborough, 1-2pm. Ticketed event. Please call: 01723 384500.



The Long Distance Writer – the return home

bootsI have completed my St Cuthbert’s Way – walking from Melrose in the Scottish borders to Lindisfarne in Northumberland over seven days with my sister. I’ve been back home for a week and, though I took copious notes while I was away, I have found it hard to sculpt anything into a post. The many enquiries of, ‘How was it?’ from friends have mainly been met with numerous ‘um’s followed by a bland ‘fine’.

Perversely, given my passion for writing, I found I was afraid of trying to put my experience into words. I was afraid I would lose the essence of what I’d lived through. It was unexpected. I’d not come across this reluctance before. I’d even submitted (and had accepted) an idea for a series of posts for Mslexia on walking and writing (https://mslexia.co.uk/ six posts from October to December). I thought I’d be excited to get writing, instead I was hesitant.

Polkinghorne says: ‘The realization of self as a narrative in process serves to gather what one has been, in order to imagine what one will be and to judge whether this is what one wants to become. Life is not merely a story text: life is lived and the story is told. The life story is a redescription of the lived life and a means to integrate the aspects of the self.’ (Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. State University of New York Press p. 154.)

I did not want to move from the life lived to the redescription, in doing so I felt I might mislay something essential. Yet in order to integrate my experiences into my life (let alone communicate them, however imperfectly, to others) I have to find the story to be told, or rather, the stories. And there are many. For instance, there is: the description of the landscape; the meetings with others on the path; the sparks of imagination ignited; the narrative of my relationship with my sister; the story of my body; the encounters with histories. There are the stories which have, as yet, not presented themselves to me.

Each story-thread chosen will give me a different perspective, a different way in, a different reveal. I hope in the coming weeks on this blog and also in the posts I do for Mslexia, to unravel some of these yarns and find the means to do at least some of them justice.

During those seven days along St Cuthbert’s Way my sole focus became the walking. It even cherviotssurprised me when my sister described me to someone as a writer. I thought, I’m not a writer today, I’m a walker. I did not dwell on the past, nor look to the future beyond the walk. There was a freedom about this, as I put one foot in front of the other, the dry grass whispering against my boots at every step, the expansive sky and hills all about me. It is one of the aspects of the life as lived I would like to hold onto as I creep towards its redescription.