Hello 2016! Looking Forwards: Counting Back.

It's New Year's Day and I've managed to crawl up to the computer to post a few words.  A combination of post-flood stress and a horrid coughing bug (thank you Santa!) have laid me out for a week, wiping out any festivities, but I'm beginning to surface and count blessings.

2015 was a very mixed year with lots of highs and lows.  Going to Haida Gwaii was one of the most memorable experiences - some of the wildest beaches on the planet. This is Balance Rock at Skidegate.

And there was  a feast of Haida Art, including this Bill Reid sculpture of Raven discovering the first humans hiding in a clam shell.

It's been a good year to be a writer too. Being part of the 'Women Writing Women' Box Set was a big high, with wonderful fellow authors Orna Ross, Jessica Bell, Jane Davis, Joni Rodgers, Carol Cooper and Roz Morris.
We were a formidable bunch, especially when we got together at the London Book Fair, sadly minus Joni Rodgers who was across the Atlantic in the USA and Jessica Bell who couldn't tear herself away from Athens! L to R Kathleen, Roz, Carol, Jane and Orna.

Other wonderful moments have involved spending time with the youngest members of the family.

But there have also been quite a few lows, some of them involving the economic and political instability of our planet at the moment and the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.  Personal lows featured water - too much of it.  This is the ground floor of our home disappearing beneath December's flood water - and not for the first time. We flooded on Christmas Eve too.

The end result looked like this.  Total wreckage filled a large skip, which is still sitting outside in a sea of mud. We are rather shell-shocked and don't know quite how the coming year is going to work out.

I've been doing a lot of writing in 2015, so not as much reading.  Favourite books included Naomi Klein's 'This Changes Everything' - a very scary look at climate change and its relationship with our economic system. Novels I loved included Niall Williams 'History of the Rain' (how was I to know the title would be ominous!), and Jane Davis' 'An Unknown Woman'.  I didn't know just how close the latter would come to personal reality. Natural disasters like fire and flood make you think hard about what you most value.  It's easier than you think for a normally sane and secure person to unravel.

In the field of memoir, Jay Desind's 'Lost in Language' - a gay man's search for love in a foreign country - was very moving, particularly as Jay had experienced a 'significant moment' when he found one of my poems on the internet.  As a writer you simply don't know how your words are going to touch other people's lives when they go out into the world.
My favourite thriller was a lighthearted but expertly plotted novel about the murder of an author at a literature festival.  'Fest' by Mark McCrum was surgically accurate about festivals, organisers and authors. Despite the author's reputation and high profile, this novel is an indie publication. More evidence of the madness of corporate publishing.

But it was a year for short stories and poetry - a rich horde of publications.   Kim Moore's 'The Art of Falling' has been winning well deserved awards, so too has Pascale Petit's 'Fauverie'. I love them both, but the poems I keep coming back to are in Margaret Atwood's collection 'Morning in the Burned House' - published years ago, but a recent discovery for me.  I also really love Jo Bell's collection 'Kith' for its direct, compassionate and inherently humorous voice.  Like the poet herself.
Short stories are also a genre much neglected by main-stream publishing.  One of my favourite collections, 'The China Factory', by Irish writer Mary Costello was published by the small Stinging Fly Press in Dublin.  Avril Joy, winner of the prestigious Costa Award for short fiction, launched her collection, 'Millie and Bird', with the northern Iron Press this year.  It's brilliant!

Here's to much more good writing in 2016 and an ardent hope for peace and prosperity for all people everywhere.


  1. Your book about Haida Gwaii is going to be very good. I recommend it/

  2. Thank you Kathleen. How true it is that you, as a writer 'you simply don't know how your words are going to touch other people's lives when they go out into the world'. I will pick my next subject with greater caution!


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