Lovely new commissioned article

There's nothing better than the moment someone commissions you to write an article you just hoped you would get to write, is there?
I adored Way Of The Morris. It was beautifully shot, sensitively put together and featured a place and a subject very close to my heart. I loved it so much that both my husband and my parents bought me a copy, and I've lent them both out to friends so now I don't have a copy at all. Need to recall those, while I remember...
Anyway, I was delighted to learn that Tim Plester and Rob Curry have got a new full-length film on the horizon, about the legend that is Shirley Collins. I know, I know, 'legend' is too easily bandied about, but when so many musicians and influencers from a genre cite the same name over and over again... well, it becomes a term that seems very real.
The funny thing about Shirley, though, is that few outside of the folk world - another ridiculous phrase, I know - have heard her name at all. The cult of Shirley?
So imagine my glee when Canadian music magazine, Penguin Eggs, asked me to give the filmmakers a call and find out what they're up to. Every question I was dying to ask!
Admittedly, I'm not so gleeful now; now that I'm having to edit dramatically as I've gone way, way over the word count. Still, I can just tell it's going to be an eye-poppingly gorgeous film, even if we are a couple of years away from being able to witness it.

In the mean time, take a look at the off-cuts from Way Of The Morris. I'm a proud North Oxfordshire-ite.

Right, anyway, back to the edit before English Folk Expo 2014 beckons!

A rare Saturday in by myself

I feel like a cold is around the corner - my tongue is metallic and my throat prickly, my eyes watering behind my new glasses - but I've ignored it for just enough time to listen to two CDs and write their associated reviews for English Dance and Song.


You're only a writer when you write.

Like many emerging writers, I think about writing every day but I don't always write every day. And there's no question about it - I should. To build up a writing practice, a writing habit, is to make for better writing. It means confidence grows and projects are actually finished.

I've been fortunate recently to combine my love of writing with my day job, and myself and the Creative Concern gang have had the pleasure of working with Rebecca Evans, a literature consultant, to develop Write-Track - which has just gone live.

Write-Track is a writer-specific app, which encourages writers to set goals and dreams for their current writing project and then track against them. Users are able to follow the progress of other writers on the site, which fosters a lovely community feel and, most importantly, motivates.

Writing motivation comes in all shapes and sizes. I was motivated recently when I was shortlisted for the Ideastap/Writers' Centre Inspires mentoring project - I didn't go on to win, but I was so grateful for the kick up the... - and I finally finished writing up the longhand for a project which has been hanging around for ages. A natural pause in my ghostwriting, while I collected new material, allowed me to think about my fiction and I ended up writing four short stories based on original songs by one of my favourite singers - another unexpected motivation.

I've been using Write-Track in a testing capacity before the launch, but I've found that as a motivational tool, it's really, really helpful. It's a lovely feeling, ticking an item off the to-do list, and this is what Write-Track apes: users draw up their own personal writing to-do list, and bit by bit, we can cross it off, give it a lovely exaggerated tick. I've done it.

Rebecca Evans adds to this through her blog and newsletters, interviewing writers about their motivations, and posting about habit-making theory. Check it out, and see if it can be the kickstart you need.


It's been a crazy year so far: a very busy day job, beginning work on my new ghostwriting commission... and then there was a very lovely wedding and honeymoon, too.

But now, I'm back at my desk – both during the day and in the evening – and I am delighted to say that I've been shortlisted for a national creative writing mentoring programme, through Ideastap and the Norwich Writers' Centre.

Of the 270 writers who applied, 77 have been shortlisted and invited to a writing 'masterclass'. I'm going along to the Manchester installment this Saturday with Emma Jane Unsworth and I can't wait - although I'm a little terrified, too, if I'm honest. The masterclass will include writing 'exercises' and I've never been one for witty, off-the-cuff, instant genius. My writing brain is a slow cooker, where characters, scenes and themes are scooped off the scum over long periods of a rolling boil... Still, even if I make a complete fool of myself at the masterclass, I'll have spent the day in the company of other writers and getting my brain ticking, and that's always a good thing.

Then, from those 77, 10 writers will be awarded a six-month programme of mentoring with established novelists. This will be announced in August, and I am keeping everything crossed. It would be an amazing opportunity... confidence-building, motivational, network-expanding, a real 'take-myself-serious' moment. But I'm also not getting over-excited. There's a long list of names there, many of which are (apparently!) full-time creative writing students who may be looked upon more favourably than those who have to juggle full-time jobs. We shall see.

Some recent reviews

The Furrow Collective were pretty special. And I've never seen anything quite like The Lock In.

The Folk Awards - and the first three chapters

Last night was the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall. I didn't go this year, but I did tune in to catch the marvellous Martin Carthy receive his lifetime achievement award. I can't imagine what it must be like to speak to a capacity audience at one of the UK's best known venues - after receiving an inexplicably special award from Jarvis Cocker - but Martin did it with grace, humour and style (he was particularly pleased with his shirt). Later, he and Eliza played together beautifully. I really can't wait for their first album together. It's coming out in May.

But last night, I also finished the first three chapters of my new ghostwriting project, along with the proposal letter and chapter plan. They're with the subject now, and I'm feeling nervous all over again, like the first time Eliza read my writing. And that's before we begin the long, winding road to finding representation or publication (preferably both!) Fingers are well and truly jammed entwined for the next couple of months now.

Bring on Kate Tempest's Brand New Ancients on Saturday. That will be just the motivation I need to keep going.

Judging a book by its cover

I know you shouldn't, but there's nothing better than when you do - and it turns out to be a corker.

As soon as I saw Salt House's new album, Lay Your Dark Low, I had to like it. It was that peeling paint, the kind that gets under your nails when you just brush past. I hoped the music would get under my nails, too.

And then I found out that Salt House is Siobhan Miller and Lauren MacColl's new project, along with two Ewan/Euans with whom I wasn't familiar. Understandably, with those two ladies at the helm, it's a lovely record.

I was delighted to be able to speak to Siobhan this week for a piece on Salt House for Penguin Eggs, so keep your eyes peeled.
The editor of Penguin Eggs, Roddy Campbell, is in awe of Lauren's Fair Isle jumper - and I can see why! If anyone knows of any reputable Fair Isle jumper outlets in Canada, please let me know and I'll pass it on to Roddy :)

Happy new year!

Happy 2014. A much nicer year in number than 2013 - I'm stupidly, irrationally superstitious - but I hope 2014 brings more of the nice things that occurred last year. So just a quick writing update, as it's already become a busy month...

My first piece for Canadian magazine, Penguin Eggs, is out now: a profile of the vocally sublime, fiddly-fantastic, Jackie Oates. I'm so chuffed to be invited to write for the magazine, it's a good one.

I've also been a busy interviewer, with profiles on Rowan Rheingans and Hannah Martin for future issues of FiddleOn, and a piece on Gren Bartley for fRoots. I'll let you know when they're out and about.

And then I've been working away on my ghostwriting challenge. To be honest, I wasn't sure how tricky I'd find it - writing from the viewpoint of a man leading a very different lifestyle to me - but I'm absolutely loving. It's the chance to take on a persona, try something out. I've written nearing 40,000 words now, so time to get back down to West Bromwich for more interview. Then it's a case of approaching agents and publishers. Fingers crossed!