Love is not worth the pain

Over two years, I have piled up thousands of words, mostly loud and incoherent, about what it has felt like to lose a relationship. What I’ve finally untangled from them is this:

‘Kindness,’ I said to Mother, ‘is not worth the pain.’

‘Kindness,’ she said, ‘is part of you, and you will give it again.’

The thing is, I loved him.

With rare and dizzying profundity I loved him, and his bereaved children. Together, we trawled the bluest depths of his grief. Everything that was mine was on hold, while I tried to hold him.

The times we came up for air were light-headed. This love was a pearl. The feeling, he told me, was mutual.

Almost two years passed. Then – he had to focus on himself, he said, himself and his kids; this was how it had to be. A future together he could see, but he didn’t know how far off it was, or what it would take to reach it.

Don’t do it, we’ll each be so lonely without the other!

The shell closed over the pearl, unyielding.

I would wait.

Too soon after, I heard he’d moved on with someone else; the barnacles of that early, raw grief nicely sanded down.

‘Love,’ I said to Mother, ‘is not worth the pain.’

‘Love,’ she said, ‘is part of you, and you will learn to trust in it again.’




This Is Your (Writing) Life

Clarice Lipspector

Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector circa 1950

I don’t know about you, but I always imagined the life of a writer to involve smoking Gauloises, drinking wine, and looking like the cone-breasted, immaculately-coiffed Clarice Lispector above. Oh, and churning out a few thousand words before breakfast.

While I still hold dearly to the vision of this existence, alas, my reality is far it. (Apart from the wine, of course – the contents of my recycling bin would make Bukowski blush.)

Most of my literary life is spent thus:

a) Thinking about writing

b) Looking for opportunities to sustain my writing

c) Thinking some more about writing

d) Checking terms and conditions on grant forms

e) Submitting grant forms

f) Waiting for a reply to grant form

g) Checking outbox to see if grant form has definitely sent

h) Tapping some words into a document

i) Deleting the words immediately

j) Idly watching pigeons

k) Reading a book I wish I’d written

l) Screaming into a dark hole of existential despair.

Occasionally, something from within the dark hole responds.

This time, the response came so long after I’d submitted the grant form I had forgotten I’d submitted it in the first place. But it was worth the wait.

It was a cheque from The Society of Authors to develop a piece of research I have been working on for Durham Book Festival. With it, notification that I had been elected to Membership of their hallowed institution (plus a cool widget for my website – yay!)

All this to say that writing is hard work – and that’s if you even make it to putting pen to paper. But don’t give up. I’m just off to buy my conical bra…

Durham Book Festival 2018


Photo credit: Keith Pattison


I am delighted to be on Durham Book Festival’s commission bill this year, with my project, The World Above. My research centres on the lives of four women, across three generations, living in a colliery village in East Durham, spanning 100 years.

The event on October 7th will be staged in the magnificent Pitman’s Parliament at Durham Miners’ Association.  It will feature a stunning projection installation designed by Newcastle-based production company Novak, a soundscape of women’s voices, and a reading from my creative piece, followed by a panel debate on the future of female activism in the North East of England.

Click here for more information and to book tickets for this very special event.

Northern Writers’ Award 2018 – Winner!


Fiction winners

Northern Writers’ Awards   Fiction winners 2018

I am so pleased to have been awarded a Northern Writers’ Award 2018 for my novel-in-progress The Song of Annie Chapman. Over 1400 writers applied for the Awards; my novel was one of three fiction titles to have been selected by judges Jonathan Ruppin and Kerry Hudson.

Ruppin describes the book as ‘a hugely immersive piece of writing that really captures the emotional rollercoaster of teenage life, with a claustrophobic and antagonistic friendship at its heart. It confronts the feelings of shame and exclusion forced upon children who grow up in poverty and the yearning to escape that this brings.’

I will now be developing the book with an editor and spending some time away to focus on the redraft, as well as taking advantage of ongoing guidance, networking and advice offered through New Writing North.

For full details of winners and more information, please click here: