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Okay, the truth can now come out: the night of my last post was the actual launch of Messages and Your Messages…only I couldn’t say it because the event was mega-oversubscribed and even one more person would have popped the place like the fabled ‘wafer thin mint’ (it would have).

What a night. Buzzy from start to finish, and the work was top notch: hilarious, thoughtful and moving by turns. Thank goodness I wear waterproof mascara, let me put it that way. I was particularly struck by the pieces read by Oz Hardick, Caroline Smailes, Bob (erroneously Bill!) Merckel, Clare Grant, Mary Rose Rawlinson, Gina Benson, Ken Elkes — and of course Alex Johnson (of shedworking)’s final Your Messages riff. And actually, now that I look at the book, I know there were others I thoroughly enjoyed, and many more fine examples held in the pages. Once again, well done to Lynne and Sarah. A hugely successful and generous project, a catalyst for so many.

Gina Benson had come all the way from TEXAS for the occasion. It was her first published piece and by common consensus, a doozie. She and her friend were wonderful, as was Bob M, another American…We exchanged home thoughts, raining-in-Britain observations etc, and, as always happens in these situations, my all-time favourite Texas bumper sticker spread itself across the backwall of my brain, like some kind of flypost. I saw it the last time I landed in Houston, on the freeway back to Beaumont:

Texas bumper sticker

As a native Texan, my heart thrills to this. It encapsulates everything but everything about that simultaneously overblown and self-deprecating state. Love it.

Night Train 5Some photos of the Night Train 5 launch have come through, and I thought I’d share them….As it happens, most of these are shots of some of the first cohort of the University of Kent’s MA in Creative Writing. (Except me of course, looking like I’ve just kissed a lemon. I’m from a different, altogether earlier cohort of an altogether different programme, though I don’t think this fact has anything to do with my expression…)

Thanks go(es?) to Maria McCarthy for use of the pics!

MariaFrancesJohn TMartineLuigiMe Kissing a Lemon

And hooray! Thrilled to discover over the weekend that one of my pieces has been chosen for publication in Your Messages. As some of you may remember (or maybe not…), the blast of doing it was long-lasting. When I was in the Lakes in late November, I felt quite bereft of the whole project, having wanted to do at least one a week to keep my hand in….Alas, to venture to Hawkshead and try to find a computer would have been breaking my pact with the Land of Long-hand. So I didn’t.

However. It’s turned out more than all right in the end. The launch for Your Messages goes like this:

Messages coverDate: Thursday 31 January 2008

Time: tbc

Venue: The Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, London WC1

I’ll be reading, along with maybe 20 others! Sounds fabulous. I’m very honoured. Thank you to Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway for thinking of it, and for running such a tight ship. A wonderful, enriching and utterly sound idea which created a strong community, and will produce a fine artefact. Not to mention make some good money for a more than fine charity. Hats off to you, ladies!

Well. All I can think of are lists this morning. Thanks in particular go to:

1) Tom, for arriving just as I sent a panicky message saying we’re going to have to take the kids with us

2) Sat nav

3) Crockatt & Powell, for opening their doors and keeping them open

4) Anthony Delgrado, for the book and the wine

5) Lynne Rees, for a blushingly lovely and funny and altogether warm intro

6) Nancy Wilson and Hamish Fulton, for their gift of these wacky and wonderful ceramic cups:

Nancy and Hamish’s cups

7) The charming, inexpensive Japanese restaurant down the street, the name of which I could not register by the time I reached itLosing You front cover

8) R, for making us laugh and laugh

9) Sat nav

10) Today being Friday

Did I mention I was still recovering?

As soon as we wake, we know it’s the sharpest frost yet this season. Just lying in bed, the air — or imagined air — feels like the holidays.

Of course, we have to struggle up and get E moving — a difficult job after many late nights of first play performances then yet another concert last night (samba band, choir, and wind band – heavens!). To his credit, by after breakfast he’s awake enough to notice the lightening sky, brushes his teeth looking out the new (lowered) windows, over the fields and out to Blean Wood. He stands at one, I stand at the other, and we don’t need to say much. Fine mist rises from the tops of hedges, and every branch and leaf, blade of grass, stands out in white relief. He’s out the door at twenty to eight, no doubt sliding first down, then up the hill to the bus stop.

Losing You launch tonight. Some long-standing friends will be there, some new ones, and doubtless others I’ve never clapped eyes on! Good. This morning I’m feeling thankful for all sorts of things.

Tree in winter frost

(image from a British wildlife site)

I HAVE MOVED

From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning

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Who am I?


A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.