Time Hop and Comics

Whenever I get the chance to sit down and write something here it always strikes me how long it’s been since the last one and how time seems to be speeding up. Time’s a funny one. One minute it’s December and you’re in hospital, then next it’s approaching Halloween and you’re old.

I’ve been doing lots and lots of cool stuff and things, including making protest poems and stories for Never Such Innocence/The Invictus Games (I’ve just come back from a brilliant afternoon near Leyland doing just that). I’ll post some photos soon.

Over the summer I spent time working with Barnsley Libraries at the Lightbox, their brand new, stunning new home, and in the Civic with Hive running TimeHop workshops, taking inspiration from Anita Corbin’s Visible Girls exhibition there – which was amazing (people photographed in the early 80s, and then, a second time, all these years later). We had a terrific time, writing stories and poems – even constructing 3D human photographs.


Another summer highlight was making comic strips with some younger writers and illustrators for Sheffield Libraries, and I LOVED it. I spend so much time saying to people that there are so many different ways to enjoy stories (and tell them) – doing it with pictures is among my favourites. We were there for two hours and it we did so much (something I’m trying to apply yo my own writing – you can do a lot in a short period of time if you’re prepared, 1200 words in Stoke train station on Thursday proved that) — we came up with ideas, turned them into stories in a way no one had been used to – planning them into panels. Then we took those and we wrote them and then copied them up neatly and illustrated them. And they look amazing.

And writing’s been happening as well, and that’s always a good thing when you consider that, really, writing is what writers do. Hopefully more on that soon along with some great things I was involved in in London. This is probably long enough for now though.


Thrilled to do that thing I do on occasion – handing the blog over to someone who’s got something to say that I think’s interesting enough to want you good people to know about it. This time it’s Kayleigh Campbell who’s here to talk about her debut pamphlet, Keepsake, and to talk about motherhood. The book looks ace and I’m looking forward to digging in myself…

Keepsake: Motherhood & Me

By Kayleigh Campbell

Firstly, I’d like to say thank you to Nik Perring for inviting me to feature on his website. As an emerging writer, support like this is invaluable. My debut poetry pamphlet collectionKeepsake has just been published by Maytree Press. Perhaps I am a little biased, but it looks beautiful; better than I could ever have imagined for my debut. It’s a very personal collection of poems, which mainly focuses on motherhood, and the many highs and lows that come along with it. Maytree describe it as “a haunting debut collection, vividly illustrating the journey of a young women into parenthood. Themes of loss, love, anxiety and transition are underscored by the brutality of post-natal depression and family break-up.” which I think sums it up pretty well.

I am a mother, but I’m also a poet, a PhD researcher & freelance proofreader. As much as my days are filled with thoughts of my daughter – is she happy? is she eating enough healthy food? isn’t she just so beautiful? – they are also full of poetry musings and anxieties about life. I have countless notes recorded on my phone; snippets of ideas which I have to save until the bedtime routine is complete, providing she goes to sleep when she should do. Sometimes I forget to write ideas down and they are lost in the abyss. Sometimes I am so tired and desperately want to quit. But writing is my escape, my therapy and always has been. It was a mindful process to channel my anxiety, happiness and sadness into these poems. It’s a vulnerable endeavour, sharing personal moments, feelings and memories with strangers and those who you know. But, as much as this was a cathartic experience for me, I hoped that others would be able to relate to what they were reading. To understand how tenderness and sadness can exist in a moment. To know that, despite how much you love your child, you want to run away sometimes. To know people are not alone in anxiety and depression; we face similar mountains.

Being a mother is wonderful, and also very difficult. Being a mother, an emerging writerand a hopeful academic certainly has its challenges. In one sense, it’s easy. Easy because I am a very organised person and very fortunate; I live a comfortable lifestyle and have support around me. But, it’s also extremely challenging. It can be very lonely; being at home with a tiny human who can’t talk/really understand you can be oddly isolating. It can be quite boring. I need stimulation, I like to be busy and productive, artistic where possible. Being a mum means that some days are just filled with chasing your child around with several intervals of Peppa Pig – this isn’t always fun, surprisingly. I look forward to afternoon nap time, then feel guilty for wanting time to myself. This is the time of day when I can enjoy my lunch in peace, when I can lay for a moment or two. When I can write poems and read books, all whilst little snores drift downstairs. Those are precious moments for me. I want to be nestled up in the library at university, or attending poetry events each week. I want to feel like I’m still part of the world, not just the world within my own house. I want my daughter to stay young forever, to love me the way she does now.

I wanted Keepsake to tell the truth. To show the infinite love I have for my daughter and to show the days where I can’t cope. To tell the truth about anxiety. To show the transition, the journey into motherhood. To be honest about the past, to connect it to the difficulties I have faced. And through all of this, I could work towards peace and perhaps others reading will see a little bit of themselves somewhere along the line. I will end with a poem from the collection; one of my favourites.


The nurse, a gloved hand
and a sympathetic look.
Tremors continued to wreak havoc
on my body;
the richter scale broken.
And you were still,
awaiting extraction.
Blood seeped from between my legs, then came the shit;
infantile as I edged towards motherhood. An audible pop
and the holy water came.
You followed, head first.
I looked out over the rooftops of the city; your skin on mine,
even after all this time.



New Story: Feast.

I’m delighted that the terrific Short Fiction Journal have published Feast. It’s been one of my favourites to read out for a little while (and I know it’s scared a few people, which is good too) so I’m even more pleased that it’s going to get itself a wider audience. It’s just a shame the theme feels pretty pertinent right now.

I hope you like it.


And I love Rebecca Cottrell’s artwork commissioned to go with it. All of my books are illustrated and keeping that tradition makes me very happy indeed.


So much seems to have happened since I last came on here it feels like I’ve forgotten big chunks of great things and stuff that I really should be talking about. If you’re on Twitter or Insta you can check in to what’s happening with me in sort of real time.

A few highlights…

Absolutely thrilled to bits that two Hive writers, Lauren Hollingsworth-Smith, and Ciah White did so well in the Northern Writers Awards. They’re both terrific writers and very brilliant people and I’m over the moon Ciah won, and Lauren was Highly Commended, and both thoroughly deserved it.

I was invited up to Hull’s Big Malarkey Festival with First Story to run a couple of workshops and to compere some readings from young people in First Story’s programme, and it was one of the best things I’ve done all year. The festival is absolutely wondrous – and it’s HUGE! Workshops aside, which were terrific fun (and forgetting getting stuck on a train for an extra forty minutes on the hottest June day on record) the readings were just brilliant. And to top it all we found out that the brilliant and very ace Leah O’Connor, from Melior Community Academy, was a WOMEN OF WORDS competition winner with one of the most affecting poems I’ve seen from a young person. The shortlist was bursting with quality (two other Melior writers were on it too) and there was plenty of really amazing stuff that I know didn’t get anywhere (judging’s so difficult and such a personal thing) but I was super pleased to see Leah winning. Here’s her poem…

Leah O’Connor (13 years old)

I am from North Lincolnshire.

I feel happy.

I am wishing my cousin Hannah was here

because we were

basically sisters.

I am a practising gymnast.

I hate death.

I love sunflower by Ed Sheeran because it is my cousin’s funeral song.


I think we were comparing First Story Tees….

Talking of judging, I had the agonising job of picking a winner (and runners up) from the Streetcake Experimental Writing Prize. Winner’s will be announced in September at an event in Whitechapel and I can’t wait. It is such a difficult job picking one winner from a quality shortlist and, while I love the winning piece, I loved so many of the others too and it’s an important thing to remember that, though they might not have won (it was SO tight) it’s just my opinion. Any one of the shortlisted stories would have made a very worthy winner. You know, if I asked you to list your top five, ten, even fifty books or films, I can guarantee there’ll be some amazing work you’d leave off – I wouldn’t have War and Peace or Emma in there – doesn’t mean they’re rubbish. So if you do find yourself not winning things, take heart: neither would Austen.

National Writing Day also happened and that was a wonderful thing too. I was in Leeds (at Leeds West Academy) for that, and then in Bradford (At Belle Vue) doing my best to not get in the way of the wonderful Khadijah Ibrahim. And it was a pretty amazing thing to be a part of something that was trending #1 worldwide.

And I think this is probably an appropriate time to give love to all the people who make things like this happen. Us writers get the easy job – we get to go in and do cool stuff and look amazing (or at least try) but there is so much work that has to happen to make these things happen. Teachers, librarians, people giving up their time and genuinely working tirelessly at it for months. I’ll not name them but they know who they are and they are very, very appreciated. Thank you.

There is more – much more, and I’ll talk about those things in greater detail soon (I’m aware this post is getting pretty long).

More soon…

Good Films

Despite my best intentions, I wasn’t able to get to the pictures to see the last Avengers film. Or Captain Marvel. Or pretty much anything since, possibly, the last Star Wars film (and I’m not even going to go there because I’m still furious with 1) a rubbish story, badly told 2) that someone thought it was a good to idea to throw out everything we know about certain characters and the whole franchise to date and 3) that someone seemed really, really desperate to be the one who got to kill Luke – well done, you!) – that’s a cinema demon that definitely needs exorcising, and one that I’m sure I will if I ever manage to get a chunk of free time when I’m not sleeping).

And, breathe.

But! I have had a cold and that’s meant I’ve taken the foot off the gas a little and I’ve watched stuff.

Prospect was great (and low budget) sci-fi fun.

Green Book was absolutely magnificent. I adored it. You’re welcome.

still grumbling: bloody Rian Johnson.

Experimental Writing Deadline

The Streetcake Magazine Experimental Writing Prize’s deadline is fast approaching so there’s still time to enter something, poem or prose, for the chance to be mentored by a professional writer (I’m one!). For me, ‘experimental’ can means anything you like – it doesn’t have to be whacky or weird (it can if you like!). We experiment, I think, every time we write something and that’s what I’d like to see when I’m reading the entries. I like it when we do something different, put a different slant on a familiar theme, offer an unexpected perspective. It’s up to you how you approach it – tell a story backwards, show us something we might not have noticed before (there’s a brilliant thing Margaret Atwood says about re-telling Little Red Riding Hood – why not start with It was dark inside the wolf).

So, don’t be daunted – embrace the opportunity to explore whatever you fancy without any restrictions. Surprise us! We’re (all the judges) looking forward to working with one of you soon…

Teen Music

You’re the most malleable and open as a person, I think, when you’re in your early teens. That’s the place where you’re wanting to expand beyond what’s familiar, when you’re the most curious about the world (and able to explore it and process the things you see) and when you’re able (sometimes because of you £10.60 a week paper round) seek more truths. And, I guess, it’s when art’s the most accessible and when it can affect you the most.

I’ve spoken here before about how studying First World Way poetry in English alongside The Great War in history made me want to be a writer. It’s one of the precious few things I’d thank my school for. And it must be one of the main, driving reasons I think working with young people’s so important (and why I love it so much). This is the time to give them things that could shape their lives – be it Owen’s poetry, Buddy Wakefield’s spoken word, Aimee Bender’s short stories, novels, films, and music.

In 1994 I was a very wet behind the ears lad who’d (thanks mum) already had a reasonable musical education. When I found people like The Clash, Nirvana, Therapy?, Terrorvision (so many more, but I’m knackered and nursing a cold so that’ll have to do for now) – everything changed because these were normal people making this fantastic, noisy, angry music that was good. And when I look at what The Clash did for me, in terms of a political and societal education – well, I don’t know who I’d be without that. Their message was good: it was left wing, it was inquisitive, it was about being angry at injustice – anti-facist, anti-racist – embracing all colours and cultures. And looking pretty fucking cool doing it. (With pompadours.)

And in 1994 I remember watching MTV’s Headbangers’ Ball’s coverage of the Monster of Rock festival at Donnington Park. The video will still be at my mum’s. The Wildhearts blew me away. It was like finding a sort of home. They were this brilliant mix of Motorhead and Metallica and The Beatles. Loud and angry but their songs were so brilliantly crafted. And Ginger’s always been a wonderful lyricist – funny, angry, and able to hit the nail squarely on the head (I still love the anti-abuse words of Give The Girl a Gun).

Since the turn of the year I’d been listing to them again, and then: boom! New album was a comin’. I bought it the night it was released and listened to it like we used to listen to new albums – when they were an event.

It’s brilliant. Every song is brilliant. It’s not a collection of things, the album, itself is something to listen to in its entirety (and I don’t think people do that as much as they used to). It’s heavy (production-wise, it might be their heaviest as a whole (forgetting individual songs like Chutzpah! and the like) but now, along with being pissed off with the right things (sexism, homophobia, the state of internet bullying, the pharmaceutical making billions as a priority over helping people, mental health – not giving time to w*****s (did I blog about that…?)) there’s a real wisdom to the words. I don’t want to sound patronising and say ‘social responsibility’ but I just did, so tough luck.

Renaissance Men (click to buy) is the best album I’ve heard in years. It sings and it soars and it’s as catchy as hell and honest – and you know that they mean it. And it feels like owning a new album used to feel: anticipate, wait, order, buy, play it to DEATH. Buy a band tee. Pray that they’re touring. (They were – well they are – and seeing them at The Stylus in Leeds was everything you’d want from a band – I don’t think there’s a band better at what they do, and I mean that honestly.)

Go, listen to them. Go, see them live. Google them. Find them on Youtube or Spotify or – better – buy their records (it does make a difference – we all need to eat). And, if not them, do me a favour and find someone new. Get a different perspective or find someone who reaffirms your own, or someone who might get you to question things. It’s a big world out there, with a ton of ideas: let them into your mind through your ears, or your eyes. You don’t know who you’ll end up being if you don’t.

National Writing Day, 2019

My Worlds

And a quick postcard of lovely before the long weekend… Melior Academy’s School Winner of First Story’s 100 word competition, now freshly printed and glorious. Congrats, Mia!

Hive, Hull, Huddersfield, and Somewhere Not Beginning With H

Typically, it’s been a break-neck, non-stop, busy few months. I’m still writing and working on something I seem to have thought I’d have finished by the end of the month every month since February but these things take time and I’d rather end up with something really good than something quickly. In incidental, Nik news… I have bought a hat and a dressing gown. It works for late working nights like this. I have not drunk beer this year. And I have been watching a lot of things about art – most of them, not literature which is cool because I think forms feed into forms. I’ve been reading more science-fiction than I have in a long time, too.

More more excitingly…

The HIVE YOUNG WRITERS’ FESTIVAL IN THE NORTH happened and it was incredible – even better than the last. Hats off to the team (99% Vicky Morris) for pulling of such a jaw-droppingly awesome (and I don’t use that word lightly) day. We were in a state-of-the-art building at Sheffield Hallam University, there were workshops from pretty much every angle: page and performance poetry; novel, horror, comedy, historical fiction, plays, gaming, short story (hello), zine-making, song writing – even a little something on comic books. One to one sessions with industry pros, a booming open mic. And a good lunch. It was a sell-out. There is nothing like it, I swear. I know everyone will have their own highlight, but I loved chairing a panel with the brilliant Simon Bestwick, And Other Stories, Oz Hardwick, and Bluemoose Books. You can read all about, and see the pics, here.

I took a train up to Hull University, and then Huddersfield for two First Story events, and they were brilliant too. More young people, more celebrating stories and poems and teaching and the wonderful things they made. I loved it. You know, writing’s a strange old thing in that you can be as euphoric and proud of something someone else has created and been brave enough to share as you get about your own stuff. It’s cool that you’ve helped facilitate it but, for what it’s worth, I think the best things you can give anyone wanting to write are confidence and audience – even if that’s only a pair of eyes or ears. Of course, I think you have to know a thing or two first, but I seem to be getting by okay… It’s a privilege (I can never spell that) to be asked and to be involved. (And I’m waving at the Zelazny Girls – hello Anna and Lizzie!)

And the other highlight (these are in no order at all) was the launch of Melior Academy’s anthology launch. I was in Scunthorpe, as writer in residence, until 9pm last Thursday feeling absolutely humbled by the quality and the passion and the kindness of the young writers there, the audience, and the school. I even got my own tee, with the cover on its front (which was designed and illustrated by a super talented year 7).

I am tired now and, of course, there’s been loads and loads of stuff that I’ll come to later, or that I’m not allowed to talk about, or that’s boring, or that I just don’t have time to share (remind me to talk about the autism dog buddy moment one day) but let’s just say it’s been a brilliant few months and it’s a pleasure having a hand in good things and sharing space with so many talented and generous people. You can’t fake quality and you can’t fake commitment for the right reasons – and they’re the things I want to be involved with. Good, supportive, inclusive, nurturing things – with neither ego nor arrogance – are what moves the world towards being a better place, and what helps the people in it shine.