This is the first time I’ve made a retrospective over my year in writing. I feel that despite how momentously terrible 2020 was (possibly the worst year in living memory), with the pandemic at its height. I don’t think I need to get much into how difficult COVID-19 has been for everyone. I am incredibly lucky that neither I nor any of my loved ones caught the virus or suffered financial hardships as a result of isolation. Although, I didn’t get to see my friends often outside of Discord servers or Zoom nights, I did get to spend time with most of my family in person sometimes. I can’t really complain too much. One of the reasons I have my website is to track my writing publications and achievements. I accomplished quite a lot this year even with a pandemic to contend with, and I felt it was worthwhile putting it all in a blog post.
Poetry and Words and Music
Words and Music moved from the Tinhut to MILK Café. The Tinhut weren’t able to stay open on Tuesdays, when we were gathering and we were warned in advance that we may have to move. With the help of my mother, we found MILK. It was perfect for us. It is a small, cosy café with great coffee, cake and soup. There were some new faces who came along and gave us some amazing performances.
One of the things that hit me hardest during the pandemic was the disappearance of the poetry scene. Most of the events stopped completely, and there were very few still kicking around Zoom and Facebook to keep the lights on. (Although we did see the formation of some new nights via Instagram live, which I'll probably post about another time.)
Words and Music was at first hosted through live posting on the Facebook group, where people would send us videos of their performances or text files or post them onto the group’s discussion page. My captions would function as a compering introduction, and people could comment on the posts as they came up. It wasn’t great as Facebook isn’t great for getting engagement and it was pretty tiring for me honestly. I’ve archived each night on the group via tags, so we can look back on them. We’ve had some great performances and poems so it would be a shame to lose them to time.
In January 2021, we started hosting Words and Music on Zoom. Our Zoom link is here.
Meeting ID: 824 8307 6196
I feel Zoom's far more fun medium for us during coronavirus times, as we can actually talk to our performers and audience members. We hope to be back at MILK Café when the poetry scene opens up again, but we will keep you posted on this. You can get updates about Words and Music from the FB Group.
Keep On Spinning
My debut chapbook was published in October 2020 with Dreich Publishing. It won 3rd place in last year’s chapbook competition. I cannot thank Jack Caradoc, the chief editor, enough for giving me this opportunity. I'll talk more about Keep On Spinning and what I learned from it in a future blog post.
One idea that I had to promote my chapbook was to reach out to places who would review it. Not many places review chapbooks, so I limited my search to those who would consider them. Out of the 11 I reached out to, a few places got back to me. Some said no outright due to short staffing, but three magazines/blogs said yes, and gave Keep On Spinning a review, and I am incredibly grateful for their feedback.
Awardwinning Irish magazine, Headstuff reviewed it in November 2020. They also interviewed me in March 2021, click here to read! I had a great time working with them, it's worthwhile submitting your poetry and/or articles to them.They've got some great reads, so I reccomend you take a browse through their stuff.
Scottish poet Peter A Writer reviewed it not long after the book came out in October 2020. Among many other places, he's been published in a few other Dreich Publishing, including his own debut chapbook, Art of Insomnia.
Student magazine, Qmunicate gave it a review in October 2020. I later met Hannah George at the Sapphic Writer's zine launch on Zoom. She's super lovely and I hope our paths cross once more.
It was surreal having my work reviewed for the first time. I was nervous about the constructive criticism and the inability to edit the book after they pointed out things I had to improve on. However, they were very nice. Some people saw my poems in completely different ways that I did, and their insight was really sweet and interesting. Thank you so much to everyone who has bought and read my chapbook, I really appreciate it. You can buy the chapbook from my website or from Dreich's Publishing's website.
Some of these poems have been published in other magazines/anthologies, where you can read them for free:
Jupiter and Collective (GUM Journal)
The Rover (Headstuff)
(Nature’s) Ultimatum (Federation of Writer’s Arbroath anthology)
Mercury (Adjacent Pineapple)
Thank you so much to the editors of these magazines/anthologies for letting their readers look at my poems. If you liked these poems, I highly recommend you buy my book. I’m really proud of it, and I hope you will enjoy it too.
Other Publications and Competitions
I started my own 100 Rejections challenge in March 2020, where I aim to submit my stories and poems to enough submission calls- magazines, anthologies, competitions and whatnot- to gain 100 rejections. I wrote more about this in my blog post for Outlet Publishing’s Diary of a Young Writer blog, here.
Because I have submitted my work more, I have had poems published in various places this year:
I was published in the two Poetry In The Time of Coronavirus anthologies, whose profits go to Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health. My set staple “F*** Today” features in the first (click here) and a new poem “Look Within” features in the second. (click here). You can buy them on Amazon by clicking the links in this paragraph.
My poem “Getting Out Is The Hardest Part” was published in Sapphic Writer’s Zine Issue 2: Calm After The Storm. You can read it for free (with suggested donation) here.
“In Praise of Wickedness” and “Remembering The Golden Days” were both published as part of Acumen’s Young Writer’s Showcase. You can read them here.
Some of the pieces I have submitted for this challenge are still to be published, so I will let you know about these in next year’s retrospective.
My microfiction, Braineaten made the long list for Streetcake’s Experimental Writing Prize. It’s not been published yet, but fingers crossed for next year. They gave me some incredibly valuable feedback which I have taken into consideration in further edits. I’ve entered the competition again with a different piece, so I hope they like my entry.
I'm incredibly grateful to all the editors who read and enjoyed my work, and I didn't expect to see so many of my pieces published. As much as the 25 or so rejections emailed to me sucked, and each rejection afterwards will too, I'll always hold onto these acceptances and keep plugging away.
Blogging and Diary of a Young Writer
I started writing for Outlet Publishing’s blog again in September 2020. I took a break in February 2021 to focus on my studies and came back in late July 2021. It feels really good to be back. They're very flexible with me and let me really express myself in my blog posts. I did tend to talk a fair bit about my "failures" last year, not because I hated myself but because I felt it was worth talking about. There's a lot of emphasis on being successful in this media landscape, but not enough about people learning from what hasn't quite worked out. Still, I don't want to harp on about it too much, so I'll try to pivot more towards advice and success posts going forward.
You can find my portfolio of blog posts here. I talk more about the past year or so in more detail, like the 100 Rejections Challenge and my ‘failure’ of Camp NaNoWriMo in July 2020.
My last year at university was spent online. Although the open book online exam in the last semester of 3rd year suited me, I really missed going to in-person classes and to the weekly screenings for Film & TV Studies. I missed seeing my friends and classmates on campus and going to the library. Although facilities on campus opened up more later on in the year, I didn’t feel comfortable going into them. The Zoom classes were fine. There was something nice about going to class in your pajamas, but I missed connecting with people in person.
I'm really proud of myself for getting through my degree with good grades. I got mostly Bs and Cs acrossmy four years at university. When I was diagnosed at 2 years old, I was told I wouldn't be able to speak or go to a maninstream school. I've well surpassed the expectations of that doctor, that's for sure! I struggled a great deal, and needed short extensions in almost all my assignments but I got them all done. Despite how poor my mental health has been, I managed them all. I probably won't do a postgraduate as a lot of my friends are, as I don't think academia is for me, but I did enjoy the experiences I had there a lot. I enjoyed most of my classes and what I learned in them, making friends at student events, getting very rich coffees at the student unions during the day and going to parties at night.
Because I asked for extensions on my final coursework for August, I’ll be graduating in December 2021, and I’ll be talking more about my experiences at university and what I learned from them in my Diary of a Young Writer blogs.
This year has been good for me all things considered. My mental health was very rocky, but then most people’s mental health took a real hit this year and my bipolar means that I’m usually prone to breakdowns and burnout. I’ve managed to get through, and have survived well. We should all give ourselves more credit for getting through this pandemic, even if we’re not out of the woods yet. I’ve taken a bit of time to pat myself on the back.
For me, this post isn't really about to brag and I apologise if it comes across that way. It's honestly been an act of self compassion for me. It's very easy for most people, especially those who struggle with their mental health, to forget all the good things that have happened to them and what they've achieved. It'll be nice for me to look back on this when I'm plagued with self doubt and depressive storm clouds. It makes life so much more bearable to give yourself some praise every now and then, even (and especially for) small wins. It’s been a journey, and it still is.
In any case, here’s to a better 2021 for all of us!