Symbiosis

Hi all,

Just had a little nature inspired, creative non-fiction essay published on the fantastic lit mag website The Sunlight Press.  If you fancy a quick read, here it is:  https://www.thesunlightpress.com/2018/06/17/symbiosis/

I’ve had several pieces published on this site in the past couple years, and have to say, to anybody wanting to submit work, they are a wonderfully supportive and professional literary website.  They accept all types of writing, and even photography, and unlike most places, they pay for work.  I’ve found them to respond quickly to submissions and give excellent editorial advice.

As a writer, it’s often difficult enough to find the time to write, to come up with good ideas, then to have the confidence to send out work.  You can then often come up against a brick wall with regards to magazines and websites.  It can be very disheartening to new writers.  But when you come across a website such as The Sunlight Press, run by two great editors and writers themselves, you really appreciate the effort they put in to make writers feel they respect your work; regardless of whether the work submitted is accepted or not.

If you’ve come across any similar wonderful resources, please share!

Best,

Kate

 

 

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Running Girl

Running Girl

The girl glides across the track, feet barely touching dried-out summer turf –

feet like ice slippers.  The woman recalls the speed –

heart-beat racing, efficient legs, the sense of flying.

The girl tries to out-run narrow boundaries –  

it catches her; inescapable.  

The woman, still running, but slower,   

smells the dank river, hears its gush,

breathes oxygen, feet on soft damp turf, wet leaves.  

A heron glides, seamlessly, landing to perch on a high branch;

sunlight filters through trees casting long shadows across her path.

A thrush parts its tiny beak, shattering the stillness.  

We Need To Talk About Social Media

OK, it’s a blatant play on the words of Lionel Shriver.  But it got your attention, so that’s great.

Listen: I know it’s becoming fashionable to bash sites like Facebook and Twitter, and I don’t want to add to the noise of all that.  I’m not a campaigner, or zealot, all about simple living meaning not having a computer, living like a Luddite, and basically hiding in a cave.

Though sometimes that’s quite an attractive idea.

I’m just worried.  And afraid.  Afraid of how we’ve all been led down a path of over-sharing and self-promotion.  Take for example “the selfie”.  A perfectly harmless bit of fun, whereby (just in case you have been living in a mountain-top cave for the past few years) you take a picture of yourself and post it online for your ‘followers’ to ‘like’.  Perfectly innocuous, you might say.

Consider this idea though: pre-social media and Smartphones, would you have taken a photo of yourself, sent it either by post or handed it to somebody you knew (or even didn’t particularly know) and said ‘look at me’?  My guess is not.  In fact, this idea, I’m sure you’d agree, is perfectly laughable.  Yet – isn’t that what we are doing online, really? Aren’t online platforms just a way of self-promotion and ‘look-at-me-ness’?

And yes, including this blog.  I started this blog as a way to follow my writing life, for myself, but also hopefully for others to read.  I opened a Twitter account for the same reason: to promote my writing and to find out about writing opportunities.  But tweeting one day about how awesome I felt at getting two pieces of writing accepted, a virtual high-5 kind of tweet, it struck me how empty I felt.  How I was, in real life, quite shy about talking about my writing, yet I was quite happy to post to anybody who followed me that I had been published.  Yet more proof to me that the persona I was building online wasn’t necessarily the ‘real me’.

Consider another situation I heard this morning regarding the selfie.  On a radio show, a young woman was talking about her Facebook page, where she would often share selfie’s of her day, perfectly innocent pictures of herself, as pretty much the entire youth of the world do all the time.  Unfortunately, a particularly unsavoury follower of hers, (who was a relative, which makes it even worse), chose to take those innocent pictures and upload them to a porn site.  They are still there.  Despite her constant efforts, they are ‘unable to be removed’ by the site.  Now, when she Googles her own name, links to that site and other undesirable places come up, leaving her anxious for the future of any new relationships she may have, or jobs she may interview for.

This young woman was still at school when some of those selfies were taken.  Does this not fill you with fear for yourself or your own children? It does me.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not trying to live like a Luddite.  I get that it’s hard out there, trying to promote your creative work.  And I get that the world has changed and technology brings exciting new possibilities. But it also brings new challenges, and I think we all have to be more aware of these in future.

 

 

 

Balance

Trees.  I love them.  I’ve probably banged on about my affinity with all things natural and simple on here before, but once I started to take notice of the natural world around me, I kept seeing similarities and connections everywhere.  As I’m typing this blog post, for example, BBC Radio has just mentioned that my home city has the most trees of any in Europe.  See?  Coincidence.  Connections.

Take the Banyan tree, known as ‘the tree of many feet’.  This is because of the way its many roots spread.  Sacred in Hinduism, the Banyan is grounded, fixed to the earth by a multitude of connections.  For this reason, it is often seen in images reflecting practises from the East, such as Yoga.

When I began a regular Yoga practise, I felt like I had finally come home.  That sounds like something new-age-y, I know, but it was the truth.  It was like I had turned a switch and finally realised what I should have been doing with my body for my whole life previously.  I very much define my life and my body in before Yoga and after Yoga terms.

It wasn’t just the Yoga itself, but that once I started on that path, I began to look at every area of my personal being.  My attitudes to ageing, to health, to my writing life.

Or there’s the cherry blossom.  The Japanese see cherry blossom as representing the passage of time, transcience, impermanence, and mortality.

I recently wrote a piece on here about facing the changes brought about by my eldest going off to university.  I’ve also just had a birthday, which always beings about a bit of internal reflection.  It can often feel disheartening when another year passes and we maybe feel we haven’t achieved goals we may have set.  I should have finished that manuscript by now…I hoped to be earning more from my writing by now… and so on.

The Danish have a phrase which is considered a high compliment, manhviler sig selv, which means someone who rests in him- or her-self.  Essentially being happy in one’s own skin.  Maybe being happy with the type of writer I am, appreciating the successes I have had and seeking out more, but in my own time and my own way.  It’s all about balance, about the harmony between what we want and what we need.

It used to bother me that there were grey hairs beginning to appear, and that lines were creeping around my eyes when I smiled.  Yet, spending more time in nature has made me look anew at the negative way we assimilate women’s looks and women’s lives.

Then I read about the Silver Birch.  These trees have smooth, perfect trunks when young saplings.  Their barks grow rough and broken when mature, however, just like our own skin can do.  Yet, we don’t pull them from the ground, assuming them to be of no more use.  We cherish trees and woodlands the older they get.

In this, as in many ways, we maybe could learn important lessons from the natural world.

Kate  xx

 

Distraction=Procrastination

“Distraction is a form of procrastination”.

I read this quote online this morning, posted by @TheMinimalists and found it interesting.  It’s something I’ve been grappling with for a while now; a consideration of the multitude of distractions surrounding us.  I spent much of the summer reading books by people like Cal Newport, reading around simplicity and focus and finding a deeper life away from the modern world’s distractions of smartphones and social media.

The truth is, places like Twitter offer a writer a place to share work, to get feedback, and to connect with other people who are engaging in the often frustrating and thankless task of putting words down in some kind of coherent order.

But then there’s the distraction.  And the enemy of getting anywhere at all: Procrastination.  Sometimes, intending to work on a writing idea, I’ve lost countless minutes to responding to a thread on Twitter, only to look up and see my time is up, or my focus has gone.

So this autumn, I committed to making some changes.  I took the app off the phone; I stopped receiving email notifications; I upped my security settings.  I tried to block out the online world and live more in the real one, to allow some breathing space.

Inevitably, I still log on, to share work or to read the work of others.  But I’m finding that I will only do that once I’ve checked in with myself first.  When I’ve walked and breathed.  When I’ve tasted my strong morning coffee and made conversation with real life people.

When I’ve sat at my desk and written something, anything, that might just count toward the work I really want to do.

Kate xx

Oh yes…I also had some work published over the past few days…here are the links, in case you might want to have a read : )

Fairy Tales

http://thresholds.chi.ac.uk/stitching-feminism-and-fairytale/

 

 

Forest Bathing

This morning, I got deliberately lost.  I allowed myself to wander off the beaten track and lose myself in the woods.  Phoneless.  Contactless.

How often these days do people allow themselves to get lost, in this age of sat nav and Smartphones?

I read a book recently about a Japanese practise known as Shinrin-Yoku.  It translates as ‘Forest Bathing’.  It’s the practise of wandering into the forest, noticing and bonding with nature, for the purposes of your own health.  It’s meant to be healing for both body and mind.

Both nature and technology can have a certain allure.  We can find ourselves drawn to, and mesmerised by, either.  Stepping away from the ‘Ping’ of Smartphone notifications and social media updates can allow us to reconnect with nature, allowing us to notice more.  To slow down.

Noticing is what we as writers need to do in order to put words on the page.

Reconnecting with nature can help us to find life more interesting.  To feel part of a whole again.  To maybe become a little bit more interesting (and interested) a person.

Taking the opportunity to notice more, to slow down, to step away from technology and go out and get lost: these things will, I think, feed into our writing and our lives,  making them richer and more meaningful.

Kate x

#ICYMI, I have a little piece of creative non-fiction flash in this lovely magazine: http://www.dnamag.co.uk/issues/issue-two/ called ‘Part-Time Vegetarianism’

 

 

 

Tips to Getting Through Exam Stress

The exam period can be a difficult and stressful time – for teens and parents.

I’m particularly finding that this year as my 15 year old daughter is taking her all-important GCSE’s, and I’m finishing off a BA in English Literature. I’ve been studying part time, and it’s finally coming to an end with an exam on Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets in June.

I was tentative about starting a degree several years ago, alongside running a business with my husband and taking care of two young children. But I can honestly say – it was one of the best decisions I made.

On the whole, I’ve enjoyed the excuse to read, read, and read some more! Although, some of the tomes the course developers chose weren’t necessarily what I would have gone for… but there have been some wonderful discoveries I might never have found, such as The Awakening by Kate Chopin, an essential early American feminist text. The course has also re-awakened my interest into issues facing women: the course has a large focus on gender issues running through the selected texts, and this has re-invigorated my sense of injustice that still exists.

So, as both my daughter and myself are poring over our books of an evening, testing one another and panicking together, (as she keeps reminding me, I’m only taking one exam to her 16, but as I keep pointing out, it’s been a loooong time for me, honey), I have put together a little list of ideas for keeping those teens in your house going, (as well as any slightly older study buddies…);-

1. The Food of Love It might seem like a simple point, but just like you probably debated about whether breast or bottle milk was the best start for your tiny baby, giving your teenager (and yourself) the right nutrition during this stressful period is paramount. Food fuels the body as well as the brain, and a meal or snack made up of both complex carbs (whole grain pasta, rice and cereals), together with protein and healthy fats (such as eggs and nuts), will supply your teenager’s body with the fuel they need. During the revision time, when they might get in the habit of eating high sugar snacks and carbs constantly, make healthy options easily available. For example, some good crusty wholemeal bread toasted with peanut butter will give them a shot of protein as well as energy. Even a quick homemade pizza can be healthy and sustaining; try making your own wholemeal bases, or buy these in health stores, then top with goodies like tinned tuna fish and lots of tomatoes and brightly coloured peppers, to keep up the Vitamin C. A good option on the morning of the exam is a hard- boiled egg with wholemeal toast, as this provides Vitamin B to keep them going through the hard slog.

2. Keep the Water Flowing Just like food sustenance, teenagers need a regular supply of fluids to avoid dehydration, especially as exams are often at the hottest time of the year. A lack of water can also lead to lack of focus, concentration and confused thought – the last thing they need in the middle of an exam. Try to encourage plain water, as many fizzy drinks and fruit juices contain high levels of sugar, which can actually cause impaired concentration.

3. Sleep and a Good Routine Again, this might seem like a no-brainer, but your teen needs lots of sleep to keep them re-energised for the next day. Often, if they are getting study leave from school, the temptation might be there to stay in bed until lunchtime, then stay up late studying. It’s much better to try to get them to stick to a regular routine during this time, and to get to bed at a reasonable hour too, especially if they have an exam the next day. Also, it’s a good idea to encourage them to come off any electronic devices, laptops, etc, at least half an hour before going to bed. This is because the light emitted from these devices causes a chemical called melatonin, which allows the brain to relax ready for sleep, to be suppressed, making it much more difficult to sleep.

4. Physical Exercise Aerobic exercise, where the heart pumps blood around the body, creating a healthy flow to the brain, is a great idea before a revision session. Just 20-30 minutes walking, cycling, running or swimming will do. Exercising outside also stimulates the production of endorphins, so where possible, this is a good option, as it will help to lift their mood. Another good option is to encourage meeting up with friends to engage in team sports. This keeps them in touch with their peers who are going through the same experience, as well as getting the heart pumping. Or what about just taking a walk together? It will do you just as much good as them!

5. Breaks and Leisure Time Don’t forget to let them have some fun! This is a hard time for them, and probably the first time they really feel the pressure to perform well at something which will inevitably affect their future. Rather than a punishing schedule, encouraging them to take regular breaks, perhaps taking a walk or meeting up with a friend, will help them to stop feeling overwhelmed. Work with them to build a realistic schedule before they start, ensuring they can identify where regular breaks and leisure time feature. In this way, they are much more likely to work hard in their allotted times, knowing they can enjoy their time off when it comes.

And lastly – Good Luck to all teens and Mature Students out there who are taking exams!

Kate x