NaPoWriMo 2021 and the Value of Writing Communities

Last year I planned to take a break from #NaPoWriMo because I thought I’d be busy promoting “The Significance of a Dress” (still available as a print or ebook from Arachne Press). However, the pandemic led to cancellations so I ended up doing #NaPoWriMo, finding art an inspiration to compensate for the lack of planning. This year, I thought I’d take the break I’d planned last year but I found myself writing a poem on 1 April. Call it habit or discipline, but April seems to be a month for drafting poems.

It’s also a good month to start new habits. The drear, winter mornings have gone, clocks have gone forward an hour on to British Summer Time so the evenings are staying lighter for longer and the outdoors is looking greener with plants coming back to life. For me its also the month before hayfever really starts, a breathing space before outdoors becomes hellish. There’s a plus to having to wear a mask. I rarely bother with new year’s resolutions, but when I do I usually see January and February as planning, thinking months and get resolutions underway in March/April as the season turns. January’s a horrible month to start anything: there’s that post-holiday lull, the weather’s discouraging and it’s still dark at beginning and end of the day.

During the pandemic, I have been relatively privileged: classed as a keyworker but able to work from home with enough space to set up an office-at-home that’s not in my living area. Since my writing has always happened in the gaps around everything else, it still happens in the gaps around everything else. I don’t have a routine: a poem wants to be written, it gets written, a short story haunts me, it gets written and I’ve always got something to review. I think my breathing would have to stop before the writing does.

Fortunately the writing groups I belonged to have moved online. Yes, things have changed and members have had to adapt, but it’s worked. I’ve not lost the sense of belonging and community. Moving online has opened up other opportunities too. Normally, I would never attend a poetry magazine launch in Australia, but, thanks to Zoom, last year I did. I’ve also been able to attend other poetry events that I wouldn’t have ordinarily got to and met some social media friends and followers virtually. The monthly Broken Spine readings have included UK poets as well as poets from Nigeria and the USA. The world has felt closer and less distant. I hope that when events are able to go ahead in real life, the virtual events won’t be forgotten and organisers will continue to find ways of combining both whether through recording the live event and uploading the recording on a video channel or enabling a Zoom component to festivals, combining living readings with online readings/workshops.

Normally March sees States of Independence take place at De Montfort University, billed as a book fair in one day, it hosts book stalls from regional independent publishers and writers’ groups along with talks, readings and panel discussions from regional writers, publishers and organisers. Last year’s States of Independence, which I was due to read at, was cancelled. This year’s will be virtual. It’s free to register to take part and website has a Festival Book Hub with links to independent publishers and writers involved, plus writers’ groups and DMU’s Centre for Creative Writing Resources. If you can’t make it on the day, the website is live now and worth checking out. I am taking part in two events:

1 – 2pm Rise Up: Building Resilient Writing Communities Networking Event with Farhana Shaikh of Dahlia Books. Leicester Centre for Creative Writing and Dahlia Books invites you to Rise Up – an open meeting for writers, publishers and creative practitioners. Rise Up is an opportunity to network, exchange ideas and showcase your talent. In this roundtable discussion led by publisher Farhana Shaikh we will reflect on the past year, discuss the impact of the pandemic and consider the importance of our communities to help us move forward in tumultuous times.

4 – 5pm Poetry Cafe with readings from Anthony Joseph, Rennie Parker, Michele Witthaus and me. I’ll be reading poems from “The Significance of a Dress”.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.

The Significance of a Dress banner displayed at launch
The Significance of a Dress banner