Tuesday, 29 January 2013

2012 Round Up

Happy New Year!

Yes I know but better late than never ey?  What a busy year 2012 was and it became even more hectic in the last month or so.  So hectic, in fact, that my body decided to tell me to take it easy for a while and so that is what I did.  I therefore apologise for going a little quiet on you all but I am back now.  Here's what I did in 2012 in a nutshell:

Writing Workshops - 12
Writing Walks - 3
Public Readings - 20
Plays Performed - 2
Competitions Placed/Won - 2
Courses/Workshops/Other Attended - 12
Radio Appearances - 1
Work Exhibited - 2
Modelling sessions - 8

It doesn't seem an awful lot when I sum it up like this but there was a lot of planning/organising, etc. for particular events and worshops and things and I am still employed part-time elsewhere.  I can't say I've made any money from the 1st year but I wasn't expecting to.  The main problem I have encountered is applying for funding and writing opportunities.  I haven't been successful in the small amount of bids I've put forward but then there are a lot that I didn't actually try for.  This may be something I will look at later this year but for the first part of this year I am going to concentrate on my writing.  Poetry.  Plays.  Longer pieces of prose.  I've decided to do this as I have a few things to contend with outside of my writing life and would like these to settle down before I get stuck into facilitating workshops and other creative writing ventures.  I am however still continuing with my creative writing walks.

So, this is my new years update.  Short and sweet, just like me.  What do you mean by laughing at that?!  haha.

Until next time.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Painted Lady

The Painted Lady

When asked what animal I thought
I was most like, I wanted to reply
with those that I’d prefer to be
rather than ones that resembled me.
The lioness with her effortless prowess,
the shark with its sleek chic physique,
or the black bear for her ferocity.

I then decided I could be a hybrid breed.
A Frankenstein’s monster made up
Of many similes:
I could say I’m a skunk as when I drink
I drink like a fish and then I get drunk
and I’m always as bad as a dog the next day.
I eat like a pig when I’m as hungry as a horse
but when I’m not in the mood I pick at my food,
gnaw on it like a little mouse would do.
I can sometimes be as wise as an owl
but I can also be as dumb as an ox
or even as mad as a box of frogs if I fancy.
And when the time is right,
especially at night,
I can be a right foxy lady!
Most days I’ll be dashing around
as busy as a bee.
That’s when I long to be a sloth instead,
lazing in my warm soft cosy bed.
I’m a hard worker, just like an ant in an army,
team work is key, but then I have times
when I prefer it just to be me.
I laugh like a hyena, I get the giggles when I’m nervous
and I wriggle about and squirm like a worm.
I’m as gentle as a lamb, cute as a kitten
but if I am bitten, I will bite back.
I will smile and snap my jaws tightly like a crocodile.
Yet my tears are always real.
I get panda eyes when I cry.
I can hold a grudge, I’m as stubborn as a mule
and like an elephant, I never forget.
When I’m angry I’ll hop up and down on the spot like a kangaroo
but I wouldn’t do that in front of you.
I’d remain as cool as a cat until out of view.
I could even be part Magon the Dragon
as I too once lived by the sea
and my breath is often hot and fiery,
but nothing a Rennie or two wouldn’t soothe.

Now all this said and done I still had the desire to decide on
just one creature that shared my features
and it so happens that one day
the answer fluttered down in front of me,
and I realised how much it was like me.
At first it wasn’t something I’d freely admit to
but somehow this insect seemed to fit the bill.
It shows my traits I hate to display,
my softer side that I often hide away.
My gentle nature.  I nurture, I’m kind.
I have a vulnerable body and a fragile mind.
But it also reflects my ability to change,
to be plain or pretty
to blend in to surroundings.
To adapt to life by coast and county,
in town and city.
Free to roam wherever I choose
And settle in the place I wish to call home.
And that is why now when I am asked
what animal I think I’m most like, I reply,
I am Vanessa Cardui
commonly known as the Painted Lady.

Above you will find my signature poem introducing my new stage persona Vanessa Cardui, The Painted Lady.  I mentioned in my last blog that I was looking for a new name after being mistaken a number of times as a male poet.  Now, those people who know me would ask how on earth anyone could mistake me for a man, but on hearing my name people would automatically assumed Chris is a bloke.  At one venue I was even billed as the flare wearing hippy ex lead singer of band The Black Crows.  This is when I decided I either needed to change my name or start wearing flares with a pair of socks down the front.  What can I say?  I'm not overly keen on flares!

This poem was originally entitled Lepidopteran and did describe me as being a butterfly so all I've done is changed the title and amended the last couple of lines to fit.  Vanessa Cardui is the scientific name for The Painted Lady butterfly and is quite apt as not only do I have tattoos (and plan to have more done in the future) I am, again as previously blogged, an artists model and therefore a painted lady in more ways than one!

Vanessa will be appearing at a venue near you after November.


So, apart from the name change, what have I been doing September/October?

I've read at events in Teesside and Newcastle including the Black Light Engine Room, Laid Bare, Newcastle Central Library and Acoustic Circus.  The 2nd of my creative writing walks with Durham County Council happened earlier this month and one again proved to be a HUGE success with 15 people in attendance and the driest sunniest day since I studiply said I liked Autumn because of its nice crisp dry sunny days.  You know, my blog that came just before the floods and constant rain!  The walk was at Bishop Auckland and took 3 hours where I gave site specific writing exercises to get writers and walkers to create imaginative pieces of fantasy fiction using the world around them.  I received some lovely feedback from attendees.


What else?

The Brass Book exhibition is currently at Seaham Library but will soon be moving to its permanent home in London.  The pamphlet of nonsense poetry I'm working on with my friend, Nicola, is almost ready.  The next Blackhall Writers' Group meeting is tomorrow evening where I hope to be spooking up some stories.


And what will be occuring between now and the next blog?

I'm currently working on an exciting new project entitled Mythlesbrough, which involves lots of writing and the building of papier mache bridges and beasties.  This project will take up most of my time and will be ready for touring in the new year.  This is an example of the work so far:


So until next time, have a spooky halloween and a safe bonfire night.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Autumn at Last

I love Autumn.  It is most definately my favourite season.  It means that another disappointing summer is behind us and there's plenty to look forward to - crisp colourful days for walking and bike riding, cosy nights in in front of the TV (I don't have a fire), tasty slow cooked stews, BOGOF mini cruises to Amsterdam and warm, comfortable dark clothing.  It also brings the promise of what's to come with Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and my birthday (yeay!) just around the corner.

Having just been away for a week I am now fully recharged and once more raring to go with all things writing.

I haven't exactly been pushing to make money from my writing career since starting up.  I've had a few paid projects and have entered the odd competition but that's about it.  I think it's due to having a stable job with an income that pays the bills, with a little left over for a few luxuries each month, that I haven't felt the urgency to push my writing career and have allowed myself to just ease into it gently.  Now is the time to pull the preverbial sleeves up and make my own mark in the writing world.  I need a name, an image, a fan base.  I need to make some important decissions as to which path I would like to go down.  The problem with me is there are so many paths to take and I want to walk along all of them, taking in all of the scenery as I pass.  Decissions will have to be made though if I want to become a full time writer.  One way that may help me to achieve this is to take up some additional freelance work, not actually writing, but doing something that will allow me to pause, to contemplate, and to allow creative juices to flow.  This is something I have done in the past and something that I have recently taken up again.  Now, it is not for everyone but I love to do it for the reasons previously mentioned.  It can also provide material for new writing, epecially if you have had some of experiences that I have had whilst doing it.  Got you wondering yet?  I am an artisits muse (as one of my friends recently put it).  I am a life model.  Like I say, its not for everyone but if you do have the courage to try it, it is a good way to earn extra cash without taking away that time writers need to mull things over.

So, what have I been upto lately?  I hear you ask.  I've been writing more than anything else lately.  Writing poetry specifically for competitions, so I'm afraid until the competitions have closed and winners announced, I can't really share any of my recent work with you.
I've also been working hard to aquaint myself with technology.  A friend of mine kindly loaned me their digital recording device so I could record some of my poems and upload them to Sound Cloud.  Here's an example:


So what's coming up?

Poetry events -

* Tomorrow (eek!)  Friday 7th September, BLERoom, Coffee Beans Cafe, Middlesbrough.  I'll be doing a ten minute set there.

* Friday 28th September, Laid Bare, The Studio, Hartlepool.  I'll be there to do a 20 minute set.

* Thursday 4th October, Newcastle Central Library, National Poetry Day, 20 minute set.

Writing Walks (led by me, as part of Durham County Council's autumn/winter walks programme) -

* 21st October - Bishop Auckland

* 18th November - Durham

* 3rd Feb 2013 - Hawthorne Dene

(each walk lasts around 3 hours, is around 3 miles in length, is quite a gentle pace and is in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere.  For more details on the walks please ask me for details or see the DCC website)


Also, listen out for me on Literary Loiterings, CVFM on Tuesday 18th September between 12 and 2pm

Other News:
 - The Brass Book exhibition (mentioned in previous posts) has moved on to Bishop Auckland library and will be there for the rest of September.  Please feel free to go along and listen to the book.  Yes, I said listen!  This is an interactive exhibition created by Stevie Ronnie.  I have a piece of work recorded in the Easington Book.
 - Julian Stair exhibition at MIMA, Middlesbrough.  If you go along to see the exhibition please go to the balcony and have a listen to the recordings relating to the exhibition.  I have 2 poems recorded.
 - Next Backhall Writers group meeting at Blackhall Library, County Durham, 5-7pm on Monday 24th September.  All are welcome.
 - I've been working on a book with a friend and fellow MA student, Nicola Cameron so watch this space for more news on progress.
 - I've been approached to do some ghost writing.  This is all I'm giving away about this at present so again, watch this space for further developments.

And that's about it for this update.  I'll be back next month to give you all another interesting insight into my world of writing related wonders!

Ciao for now.x.

Friday, 13 July 2012

June/July Update

I have spent the last half an hour trying to think up a good title for this blog and June/July Update is all I could muster!  Well, I have been fighting off the lurgy this past week whilst attempting to keep to my normal pace of working so I'm sure you can forgive me for that.

It has been 6 months since I decided to make a living out of my writing and the going has been good, but nowhere near good enough to be able to give up the dreaded day job.  (I say dreaded but it isn't really that taxing having to talk to people about food and accompany them on the odd walk and gym session).  Funny I should mention taxing...this month I attended a free training session at the tax office at Middlesbrough.  It was really rather very kind of them to teach me, for free, all I need to know about completing tax returns.  (For anyone who doesn't know me, this is what my sarcasm looks like on the page!)

Anyone out there considering becoming self-employed can find info online at:

It saddens me to say that the projects I have been working on have now come to an end, including Shake the Dust, mentioned in previous posts, and most recently The Brass Book Project that I was working on with Stevie Ronnie, as a member of Easington Writers' Group.  Although this is over now and I won't be attending any more events, the Brass Book exhibition is ongoing and will be in the area for a while before moving off down to London so if anyone fancies visiting the exhibition you can find out more info about where it will be and when by clicking the link below:

(Photograph taken by Terry Dobson)

Middlesbrough Literature Festival (MLF)
MLF returned in June for the 4th year running.  Two weeks filled with readings, performances and writing workshops.  I managed to get along to a few of this years events including the Closing Ceremony, held on Saturday 30th at Middlesbrough Reference Library, where MLF Writers in Residence Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby presented Kids: a multimedia poetry performance based on Charlie Chaplin's 1921 movie 'The Kid'.  I had previously seen Kids when Bob and Andy performed it at Harlepool Library in its early stages and, although it was a joy to watch then, it is clear to see that a lot of hard work has gone into the performance since.  Hopefully they will be touring Kids soon but in the meantime, if you would like to see what it is all about you can buy a copy of their pamphlet Kids, published by Mudfog Press, 2012.  To buy a copy of the pamphlet or to find out more info about Kids please see links below:



And finally...

The pilot Creative Writing Walk I led in partnership with Durham County Council was a huge success and they have asked me to organise further Creative Writing Walks as part of their regular walks programme so the preperation for these walks along with other applications, submissions, competitions, etc. will keep me busy for the next couple of weeks at least.

Until next time,


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

May 2012


Its me again, back with another monthly update.  You know, it isn't until I do these monthly updates that I realise just how much I've done to warrant feeling the need for some well deserved R & R (which was in the form of a long weekend in Whitby this time around).

The WBN event at Blackhall Writers' went well.  There were 15 people in attendance which filled the small space in the library nicely.  We had refreshments, readings and gave away free books.  I received some rather pleasing feedback for my short story which I've now edited and am currently looking for an appropriate competition or magazine to submit it to.

May saw the final few weeks of the New Playwrights Lab I've been attending at ARC.  To finish off the sessions ARC held a short play festival where our 15 minutes plays were showcased to local audiences and a pannel of judges who were to select a winning play to be developed further.  Unfortunately my play was not selected although I wasn't too saddened by this as I have other projects that are going to take presidence over play writing in the next few months. 

I was invited to 3 events this month to read at.  The first was Tyne Rhyme and Wine, part of the Jesmond festival.  (I actually missed my own awards ceremony for this event  as Tyne Rhyme and Wine landed on the same evening as the awards for the Annual James Kirkup Memorial Competition 2011.  I came runner up in this competition, organised by Red Squirrel Press.  My poem 'Transported' is in the runners' up anthology).  The second was the Advanced Writers' Showcase at Middlesbrough Library where I found myself dressed up as a Suffragette demanding the vote for women in a polite poetic manner!  The third reading was at a new arts exhibition at Elliott's Cafe in Middlesbrough.

I've also still been working in the school for the Shake the Dust project.  The Shakers I've been working with have been doing extremely well and our team are just about ready for the regional final at ARC mid June.

The other biggy in June is the Middlesbrough Lit Fest.  There's loads going over the 2 weeks of the festival with workshops and readings and performances for audiences to enjoy.

And that's all I have for this month so its goodnight from me and hope you 'tune in' same time next month for another catch up.


Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Shrieking Wind

Yet another month over.  I swear we are stuck in a strange super-speed time warp!  Apart from the odd appearance, including an unexpected special request reading/performance for my fellow motorbikers at a recent weekend retreat, I have been concentrating most of my time on actual writing.  Here is a short horror story, written for an event I'm holding tomorrow on behalf of Blackhall Writers for World Book Night (which was actually a week gone Monday but I was already attending an event at Middlesbrough that night):

The Shrieking Wind

The wind had increased since that afternoon.  It thrust the wooden gate open, causing it to judder on old rusty hinges.  The wind carried on oblivious.  It rapped on windows as it scaled the shingle studded exterior wall, rattled along the slate roof tiles and dived down the chimney breast, coughing out a throat full of smoke as it landed on the hearth rug.  Torn pages from a baby memoirs book were nestled on the nest of tables by the worn leather sofa.  Tiny feet and hands shuddered as the cold breeze fanned them.  One sheet fluttered from the table.  The others leapt to its rescue.  It fell alone to the cold parquet flooring, the others stretched out hopelessly across the table.  The house lay silent, silent except for a low humming that came from the garage attached.  Unknown to the unmoving man that lay in a pool of red oily gloop, the garage was slowly filling with carbon monoxide.
            In the two bedrooms above two more bodies lay still.  Only one was breathing.  Marie lay on top of the bed sheets, her head resting on her plump pillow, her eyes closed, her ears picking up the low cry of the wind outside.  She slowly inhaled, relishing the stillness of the house, holding her breath in for as long as she could before releasing it.  In, and out, in, and out in slow controlled movements until she felt she may allow herself to drift off into the safety of slumber, but she didn’t want that.  She wanted to enjoy her new found solitude so she roused herself and stepped from the bed, her bare feet padding across the shadow streaked landing where darkness stained the walls and crept into every corner.
            The door to the nursery was closed tightly, concealing the cot that, at first glance, was occupied only by a teddy bear and a pillow matching that of the one Marie’s head had been resting on.
            The awaiting bath water was still warm yet the bubbles had disintegrated.  All that was left was a thin layer of magnolia froth that sizzled like a lit cigarette on bare flesh, a sound that Marie knew only too well.  Her scarred naked body penetrated the soapy film and as if by divine miracle the water turned into a rich claret.
            The body in the garage twitched ever so slightly.
Eyes closed, Marie ducked beneath the surface, allowing air bubbles to tickle her nose as they escaped.  She imagined she was a fish, a large grey scaly herring with fins and a tail instead of hands and feet.  Only when she attempted to breath in a gill full of water did she remember that she was not a herring at all and she raised herself, sloshing water about her as if in the centre of a stormy seascape.  She spluttered and slicked her long hair back from her face with the palms of her hands.
In the garage there was more movement as a hand slid slowly from pocket to face.  Blind fingers felt their way to the ninth button of a miniature oblong brick and tapped it three times.
Marie relaxed back, drowning the thoughts that started to swim up from the depths of her mind.  There was no urgent need to feed the boy, no reason to further fear the fist of the hand that fed her.  She allowed herself to listen to the voice that told her everything would be okay come daylight.  The forecast was in her favour.  She had some digging to do.
She allowed herself once more to relax into the stillness, to listen contentedly to the silence.  The wind outside was now nothing but an inaudible whimper.  Thoughts of violence were now someone else’s memory.
The woman listened carefully to the whisper at the end of her receiver as she typed the details into her computer.  She was calm and reassuring.  She promised to stay on the telephone until help arrived.
The water was now cold.  Marie’s fingers were like ripe leathery passion fruit skins.  She figured it must be around one in the morning as the owl in the conifer outside the bathroom window began to hoo hoo, as it did every night at around that time.  The conifer, itself, scratched at the glass as if wanting to be let in from the cold.  A tapping at the front door had startled Marie out of her trance.  She listened as the slow steady knock increased in volume and urgency but she made no effort to remove herself from the tub.
The engine in the garage had stalled after drinking up the last dregs of fuel from the tank yet the room was still foggy with fumes.
The baby with the blue lips remained peaceful in its cot in the nursery.  Nor the pillow or the bear capable of warming his icy stare.
The tap-tapping at the door was now a heavy thudding.  There was a crack like that of a head being whacked by a wrench as the door was torn from its frame.  The uniforms stormed the staircase.
In the garage, the body was beginning to stiffen.  In the pool of sticky blood that had poured out onto the concrete, a mobile phone gave out its terminal bleep.
The woman at the end of the receiver called out the man’s name but all that she heard in reply was the low humming of a lost connection.
Marie sunk her head under the ruby red in an attempt subdue the now shrieking wind.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Manic March

Another month has flown by in the blink of an eye!  This one jam packed with performances and stage appearances.  Venues include The Waddington Street Centre in Durham, Little Theatre Club at Middlesbrough, Stockton Library, ARC Stockton, Blu Bar in Middlesbrough, Trent House in Newcastle and tomorrow night I will be doing 2 x 10 minute sets at The Studio in Hartlepool.  I didn't mean to do this many performances/readings in one month and feel a tad tired, not only due to the travelling and socialising and fitting everything else in around these events, but also the amount of energy drained out of me from the high stress levels of actualy getting up in front of audiences.

I have more performances booked in for April but nowhere near as many as this month, thankfully!  One of them will be at Take Ten in Newcastle, where I performed in January and was asked to go back, so I'm looking forward to going there and trying out some new material.

I've realised that I need to find the right balance between applying for funding and opportunities and working on said opportunities, performances and readings and writing for submissions and competitions.  Easier said than done but with a little diary management, it can be achieved!

Here I am performing at Take Ten in Newcastle:


The other biggy for this month was my very first workshop as a proper paid professional writer!  The workshop was an intro to writing for theatre and took place at Middlesbrough central library.  It went very well indeed and there were 4 adults in attendance (considering how gorgeous the weather was outside that afternoon, this was a very good number!).

And....I finally got around to making my business cards.  They're pretty basic but smart and do their job nicely!

The Shake the Dust project is coming along.  I've now attended 4 sessions in the school I've been allocated.  The next 6 sessions will be held after Easter then the regional poetry slam will take place at ARC, Stockton.

So, just to sum up, everything is starting to fall into place just nicely.  I will continue to keep a watch out for opportunities and, as previously mentioned, I do have a few performances booked in but in April I hope to concentrate more on writing material to send for submissions and competitions.  I recently had word back from the James Kirkup Prize, informing me that I had been selected as a runner up in their competition that I entered.  My poem 'Transporter' will be published in an anthology with other runners up.  Yeay!!