Riverside Writers Summer Celebration – 13th July 2024

Riverside Writers Summer Celebration – 13th July 2024

Everyone is welcome to our celebration of Summer and creative writing this Saturday, 13th July, from 10am at Rochdale Central Library, Number One Riverside, Rochdale. There is no need to book, just come along on the day.

This free event promises to be both informative and entertaining and a great opportunity to talk about creative writing and find out more about our writing group.

We are delighted to have a special guest speaker William Pollard, the author of a book about Rochdale’s lost female author M R Lahee who wrote at a time when women were not generally accepted as authors.

Close up of antique bound copies of Rochdale News

There will be poetry from members of the Riverside Writers, music from the U3A Choir, Heywood Ukulele Group and the Rossendale Clog Dancers.

From 2pm we will adjourn to Vicolo Del Vino, The Butts, Rochdale, for meat and potato or cheese and onion pie.

During the afternoon we will be hosting an open mic session with plenty of poetry, spoken word and perhaps some tunes too.

Creating a poem

Creating a poem

Yesterday I submitted the final draft of a commissioned poem. This is a 3 minute film poem – I’ve done the writing and now it will be performed by a number of people at various locations and recorded by a professional film-maker.

It feels great to submit ahead of a deadline and I’m happy with what I have produced, but the reason for this post is to talk about what it takes to deliver a commissioned piece.

As I look back I find 10 pages of notes and plans, notes from two meetings, emails, index cards for some of my research, a good number of google searches and a dozen handwritten and word processed drafts.

A photo of a notebook and pens

Writing poems is fun and very rewarding. Occasionally a poem comes along without really having to work at it, for example one of my most recent was drafted, using my phone, on a bus and refined just a couple of times afterwards. Most of the time poems, even very short ones take a bit more development until they feel and sound right, and that development is a big part of the joy of writing poetry.

Once a commission is involved then things are a bit different, some of these are;

  • there will be a particular theme
  • the poem might be required for performance, for recording in audio of video media or it may be required to be printed in a particular format
  • there is usually a defined length in terms of lines, words or time
  • the commission will usually have a purpose which will define the mood or feel of the poem
  • there may be a requirement to collaborate with others
  • draft versions of the poem will generally need to be shared before the piece is finalised
  • there will be a deadline for the final submission
  • usually your work must not be made public until the time and place agreed with the comissioner

In short writing a poem for a commission is a project and needs to be planned and managed like any other project – but as a poet it is a really good discipline. Taking on occasional commissions is a great way to keep on developing your writing, it helps you to choose what messages a poem will end up giving and it helps you to keep your writing sharp and succinct.

Ideally it should also be financially rewarding. In the case of the recent poem I am pleased that the organisation commissioning it understand the work that goes into a three minute poem and pay a realistic rate.

Only in the creative arts are people expected to work “for exposure” and I strongly support the notion that artists should never be asked to work for free – exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

Latest Writing Projects

Over the next couple of months I’m excited to be involved in several writing projects in Rochdale borough.

Photo of Seamus with projection of Van Gogh painting


Firstly I will be working with Cartwheel Arts to deliver a project for Deeplish Community Centre as part of their 35th anniversary celebrations. I will be working alongside local artist Rahela Khan and am looking forward to seeing the work we can produce.

Secondly I will be delivering a workshop for a group of young people as part of the same project in Deeplish.

Thirdly I am starting prepations for some brand new creative writing sessions for young people aged 5 to 11 themed in the Paris Olympics taking place this summer. These will be delivered with Your Trust, and i will be bringing a completely new slant to the topic.

Finally I am working on a special commissioned poem for release in the summer – as yet I cannot divulge more, but it is Rochdale focused and I look forward to working with the commissioning organisation. Its a big one and I’m really excited to develop and share it when I can.

A busy few months but there will still be time to continue with my own writing projects and working with young people at Vibe Rochdale.

2023 was a year for….

Writing, Editing, Compiling, Drawing, Painting, Designing, Illustrating, Facilitating, Photographing and of course lots and lots of thinking.

Taking a New Year’s Eve look back at 2023, a productive year. Among the most memorable are the following:

  • Collating, editing and designing the anthology “Poetry in the Park” including illustration for the cover
  • Leading a series of workshops for “Poetry by the Canal”
  • collating, editing and designing the anthology “Poetry by the Canal”
  • Cover illustration and design for “As You Were” an anthology from Falinge Park Writing Group
  • Delivering 15 creative writing sessions, based around my story “My Wild Wolf Adventure” for children aged 5 to 11
  • Delivering a range of new creative writing workshops to local Creative Writing Groups
  • Selling art alongside my wife selling vintage at Hand and Treasure in Hebden Bridge Town Hall
  • working with young people to create new poetry at Deeplish Primary Academy
  • Creating graphics for use in an excellent short film by Harry Wheeler
  • Reviewing a range of events and performances for All Across the Arts
  • Writing and sometimes plenty of new poems
  • Working on a brand new personal project, a narrative book length piece regarding liminal spaces with poetry and illustrations – this may take some time….
  • Creating new artworks including, and sometimes combining, traditional and digital techniques
  • Supporting the creativity of young people with our recently registered charity Vibe Rochdale

Imposter Syndrome

What is it, why do we get it and what can be done about it?

Giclée print of Pelican - shown in frame for illustration only
Giclée print of Pelican – shown in frame for illustration only

Almost everyone will at some time suffer from the thing we call imposter syndrome.

In strict clinical or psychological terms it is specifically used to describe a situation where the person with the syndrome has a persistent internalised fear and it can often be accompanied by other mental health issues.

In common language the definition is not so rigidly applied and it is essentially the feeling that we are somehow not sufficiently suitable, capable or qualified enough for the situation we are in. Suffering from imposter syndrome makes you feel like a fraud. I believe that it is perfectly possible to feel confident and competent in some areas yet feel the opposite in others. This is the definition I am using in this article.

One of the side effects of this type of imposter syndrome is the need to excessively prepare; for example if you are going to make a presentation to a group of people you would run through it again and again, you might well practice later into the night to be sure you are ready, you might spend the journey to make the presentation running through it in your mind. You may be tired and stressed by all the preparation yet the presentation will still go well but you are then sure that it only went well because of all the preparation that you did.

At a lesser level the feeling might prevent you telling people what you can do. As a professional freelancer you need to tell people what you can do, you need to promote your own abilities; that is tricky when the syndrome keeps telling you that you aren’t good enough.

Among the wide variety of work I’ve done is SOME illustration. I’ve designed a handful of book covers, I’ve been commissioned to produce drawings, I’ve edited books, I’ve created illustrations for instruction manuals and for training courses ranging from photography, digital imaging to bicycle maintenance. I’ve made illustrations for cards etc. Yet when asked to make some illustrations for a film my head shouts at me “you’re not an illustrator, why don’t they get a real illustrator?”

So I tell myself that “people have paid me to do illustrations for them, I’ve made illustrations for various jobs, therefore I am an illustrator” but in my head that nagging voice stills says “What if you can’t do it? What if they find out that you are a fraud?”

Illustration for book cover

As a poet I’ve performed in little open mic venues and on festival stages. I’ve learned how to work the room, how to use a microphone and how to pace my performance. I have run numerous workshops for all ages from 5 to 80+, I’ve led poetry writing projects and produced books.

I’ve had poems published in books and online and I’ve been interviewed for radio programs. I’ve been commissioned to write poems and am paid at a proper professional rate. With all of that I can call myself a professional poet, BUT there is that voice again; “you’ve not had a book in Waterstones, you’ve not been on television, you’ve not Amanda Gorman, Tony Walsh or Alfred Tennyson….”

That voice is sometimes hard to ignore. That voice is the imposter syndrome.

Feeling the need to produce good quality work is not imposter syndrome.

Feeling pressure to do better is not imposter syndrome.

Wanting to be the best you can is not imposter syndrome.

Those things are about ambitions, but handle ambition with care because it can lead to making unhelpful comparisons. Every poet is different, we each have our own styles, our own interests and create our own unique work. Whilst ambition to be better is good, ambition to be the next Armitage, Sissay or Duffy is not so good.

I don’t want to be the next Seamus Heaney, I want to be Seamus Kelly. I want to write, draw and create as Seamus Kelly. One place where I cannot possibly be an imposter is in being Seamus Kelly.

You have to be yourself. You have to stop comparing yourself in a competitive way to others. You have to stop putting yourself down. You have to stop undervaluing yourself, your skills, your work and your creativity.

You have to do all that whilst that voice says “fraud”, and you have to credit yourself for successes. The voice may never shut up, but using facts, actual things you have and can do, to tackle it can make things better.

Don’t be the next Picasso, Mozart, Wordsworth or Neruda – be you, look for the value there.

I’m not suggesting its easy, or that it can be done without help. My help comes from fellow creatives and from my wife. It comes from the person who comes up to thank me after a performance because a poem reminded them of their mother, it comes from faces listening for the next words. It comes from the workshop participant eager to share what they’ve written. It comes from the requests for me to produce creative work. All of those things are needed to quieten that voice, to confidently say “I’m not a fraud”, (and at least most of the time to believe it).

Writing Workshop – Protest and Conflict

A selection of protest placards for tomorrow’s workshop.

Tomorrow I will be bringing a new workshop on Protest and Conflict to the Falinge Park Writing Group in Rochdale. The group meets every Thursday morning from 10am to noon at the Community Hub in Falinge Park. Everyone is welcome regardless of prior writing experience.

In this workshop we will look at the role of writing in protest and conflict and look at examples from history and more recent work. There will be a focus on poetry but those attending will be supported to write in whatever for they prefer.

The park is just a 15 minute walk from Rochdale Interchange, and for those driving, parking is available in the park for these sessions, just drive in through the gate at the bottom of Sheriff Street and follow the drive to the tarmac area in front of the house.

For more information please contact me on seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk or Eileen Earnshaw on eileen.earnshaw@yahoo.co.uk

Storytelling and Writing this week

My Pet T-Rex

Dinosaur picture coloured in by children using pencils.

This week I’ve had a great time running creative writing sessions for children as part of the excellent HAF (Health, Activity and Food) program with YourTrust Rochdale. The children in each group range from age 4 to age 12 and this week we’ve worked with my children’s story “My pet T-Rex”.

We talk about dinosaur facts, we look at my life sized dinosaur eggs and birds eggs for comparison before I tell them my story and then help them to create their own stories. The focus is firmly on creativity and fun and children are encouraged to use their imaginations.

Dinosaur picture coloured in by children using pencils.

some great examples this week have included;

“The dinosaur became sad because the people ran away. I gave him a flower to eat and it cheered him up.”

One girl told of an aquatic dinosaur that could take her under the water, “it was magical, I tell ya!”

A dinosaur as big as the the Leaning Tower of Pisa and another with square shaped eyes.

There were magical dinosaurs that could teleport, read minds, dance, sing and even one with an extendable neck. There were dinosaurs that went on picnics, went shopping or left a trail of squashed footprints through a forest.

Children at my sessions are encouraged to join in with actions and sounds but yesterday one group asked me if they could act out the story. At the end of the session I spent a few minutes working out how we could act out the story and we then had a performance with young people taking the roles of the dinosaur and the children in the story – they were fully engaged and had a great time.

Dinosaur picture coloured in by children using pencils.

When we’ve had our fill of talking, listening and writing there may be time for some artwork or creative colouring like the examples shown in this post. It has been an inspiring week of story telling, more dinosaurs, more imagination and more magic with children from some of the most deprived backgrounds.

if you’d like the children in your school or groups to experience this unique storytelling and writing session please email seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk

I also offer storytelling and writing sessions based on my original children’s stories covering topics including, an ocean adventure, a space adventure, wolves, mini beasts and forest friends. All of the stories have plenty of reference to science and nature, echoing my own interests and my degree in Ecology.

Sessions run for one to two hours and up to three sessions can be delivered during a typical school day.

Is writing really work?

An image of a heavy pen, perhaps writing in blood

Poets and writers; I’ve been thinking about what we do, is it really work?

Sometimes writing doesn’t feel like work. Sometimes getting the words down and shaping them is enjoyable and even relaxing. For many writers poetry is a kind of therapy or catharsis, words flow and at the end the poet feels somehow relieved or better.

But, sometimes the things about which we write can change that relaxing idyllic process. To nick couple of words from W.B. Yeats, the process is “changed utterly”.

Yesterday I started work on a poem, inspired by a single line by E Hemingway, “it was coming down the valley even in the early morning”. My new poem contains a few of those words, but the subject bears no other real relationship to Hemingway’s original writing. Thanks to Eileen Earnshaw for putting those words in front of me.

The subject I started writing about was complex, it was about migration and it was about the two-fold tragedies of a growing cultural attitude and the loss of life as people try to find new homes. The hard part is that the poet actually writes not simple statement of facts but expresses how they feel about them, deep down, inside. The first draft took maybe 20 minutes and a second draft started straight after that. After half an hour I was nowhere near finished but I felt completely “wrung out”.

Over the years I worked in many different jobs and I’ve done a range of sports, but rarely have I felt as tired and drained as after those 30 minutes with my fountain pen and a notebook.

The end of a week labouring on a building site, or teaching young people with behavioural issues, crossing the line of a 10k run or finishing a couple of hours training on the velodrome behind a motorbike; those things all feel near impossible to repeat, yet we go back and do them again when we’ve recovered.

So it is with writing. Today, feeling somewhat recovered, I’ve worked on further drafts and edits and have a version of my newest poem, called “Grains”. Once again I feel empty, hollow, my hands are no longer steady and even re-reading it just now is like being dragged out of sleep when you’ve just managed to drift off. To hear a powerful poem can feel like being punched in the senses, to write that poem the poet must keep on battering those senses until it is ready.

The poem is unlikely to be finished just yet (sometimes I think they never really are) but I might give it an open-mic test run on Sunday evening. It won’t be there to entertain, and I almost feel I should apologise to the audience (only almost though) who will end up feeling a little of what I’ve felt writing it.

So what am I getting at? What’s my point?

It is simply this: writing is indeed work.

If something really matters it may be harder it will be to write about. A poem being hard to write, however difficult it may be, is no excuse for not writing it.

What do you think?

What is the hardest to write?

Poetry in the Park – FREE Writing Workshops – 22nd April 2023

Choose from three poetry workshops running from 10:00am to 12:00noon

Poetry in the park logo

To reserve your place on your chosen workshop please email lizwhitecreative@gmail.com


Introduction to Poetry – Eileen Earnshaw

Rochdale poet, writer and workshop facilitator, Eileen Earnshaw, runs the Falinge Park Writing Group and has led several writing projects in Bolton after completing her BA Honours Degree in Creative Writing at Bolton University. This workshop is suitable for anyone interested in starting to write poetry and those who are relatively new to writing.

Eileen’s track record in helping new writers to gain confidence will ensure and engaging and inclusive workshop where everyone will leave with new knowledge and some new poetry.

Freeform Poetry – Gaia Holmes

Calderdale poet, Gaia Holmes, has won several awards for her poetry and was recently awarded a fellowship by the Arts Foundation Futures, for her place writing. Gaia is an experienced workshop facilitator who always brings positivity and fresh viewpoints to her sessions.

This Freeform Poetry session is aimed at those who want to develop their writing and look at new approaches to their poetry. Participants are sure to enjoy the session and leave with some new writing.


Polish and Perfect – Seamus Kelly

Littleborough based poet and artist, Seamus Kelly, has led a number of successful writing projects including the 2022 Poetry in the Park project in Littleborough with a series of workshops culminating in the publication of a large print poetry book of the participants’ work.

This workshop is suitable for those who have written some poetry and would like to finds ways to polish it and prepare it for publication or performance. The workshop will include techniques for using a microphone while reading your polished words.


Poetry performance – 12:00 to 1:00pm

Following the workshops there will be a performance session in Hare Hill House where participants, and perhaps workshop leaders, will share some of their words.


To reserve your place on your chosen workshop please email lizwhitecreative@gmail.com

Poetry in the Park – James Nash – 22nd April 2023

April sees a new, exciting, one day, poetry event at Hare Hill House, Littleborough.

The morning sees three FREE poetry writing workshops by published poets (further details to follow in my next post) plus poetry performance, followed from 2:00pm to 4:00pm, by an Afternoon with James Nash.

James, hailing from Leeds and Bridlington, is a popular poet, workshop leader and speaker with 8 collections of poems published so far and has been a frequent guest and host at literature festivals. James’ latest collection “Heart Stones” is his third collection of sonnets; information about the book is shown below, beneath the online booking link.

during the afternoon James will talk about his passions, his writing and will share some poems with the audience.

Tickets for this not to be missed event are available now on Eventbrite using the link below, or can be purchased from me in person for just £5.00 each.

FROM THE PUBLISHER

In his third volume of sonnets, James Nash examines urban and seaside environments in a Yorkshire he has known through fifty years living in the North. His sonnets soar over the land – from Leeds, a predominantly Victorian city, to the Wolds in the East Riding of Yorkshire, walking and cycling into the natural world with a pen and paper never far from his hand.

James openly shows his debts to the great poets and writers of previous generations, from Winifred Holtby to Philip Larkin, from Matthew Arnold to Dylan Thomas – and with this sparkling new collection, lays a fresh claim to be named among them. To borrow some of his ​own words, James’ gift is to be a “clear microscope” for our times, finding hope in the many “miracles of detail” that pass through his unwavering gaze; into verses that glow with warmth, insight and poignancy. He thinks his old English master would be quite proud.

Kodachrome to Monochrome – Writers on Tap – 2nd February 2023

Kodachrome to Monochrome – Writers on Tap – 2nd February 2023

On Thursday I will be delivering a brand new creative writing workshop, Kodachrome to Monochrome, for Writers on Tap. Formerly the Touchstones Creative Writing Group, the group now meet at The Medicine Tap in Rochdale on the first Thursday of the month from 2:00pm to 4:00pm.

A monochrome image taken inside chethams library in Manchester.

The workshop will look at tone, colour and details in creative writing with prompts and exercises to encourage some new writing. All are welcome and all genres of writing are encouraged. The picture above is one of a selection to be used as prompts.

Printmaking ready for Spring

After concentrating on writing and leading the project to produce our large print poetry book, Poetry in the Park, I’ve relished the chance to get on with some new visual art.

A handmade print of two cats is being peeled from the Lino block to reveal the image

I’m refining a Linocut of one of our local jackdaws with just a few final tweaks to the carving to make. Whilst working on the design I took the chance to create an embellished digital version as well.

An image of a jackdaw in black has grass, sky and paint splatter effects added digitally

A few months ago I bought Procreate to use with my Apple Pencil and iPad and it has been an opened up so many new techniques. I love to draw with fountain pens so a couple of weeks ago created some digital brushes in Procreate that mimic my pens and I’ve also created some to mimic the way my Lino cutters work. Now I can sketch by hand, refine it digitally and then hand transfer, carve and handprint from Lino.

The opportunities for illustration combining traditional and digital techniques though Procreate with Pencil and Photoshop with Wacom cintiq are really interesting. There are a few larger images that l am developing which I hope to have ready for print fairs around Easter.