Preserve

A week ago yesterday school broke up. On that last day of term I took my eldest (youngest in tow, as usual) to school, and the mood in the playground was celebratory. Children, and parents alike, were glad that the holidays were almost here. Yet there were tears too.

On the way to school I had noticed a mother sitting in her car, having already dropped off her child, crying secret tears. I guessed that she had a child in the last year of primary school and that this could well be her last school run.

Sigh… the last school run.

The move from primary to secondary school is a big one. There are many such moves, or transitions, in life and for those of us blessed with a sensitive soul they can be particularly fraught.

For mothers these periods of transitions — milestones if you will — are another reminder of things past… a phase in our child’s life that will never be repeated. And as much as we rejoice in their achievements and look forward to the good times in the future it is bitter, this cup.

There are many times that I’ve thought that I’d like to preserve my children, just as they are, right now. I would like this moment in time frozen, preserved forever, like the swirl of glass in a marble. For a happy childhood is a jewel indeed.

Yet it is not to be. And it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. This is what it is to be human.

But still… I long for control; to be more-than-human, to have the ability to speed up, or slow, or freeze time.

Yet it is not to be.

I can no more preserve this moment in time than a glass-blower can produce a marble without heat.

 

Marble, by Marija Smits

Marble, by Marija Smits

 

***

With many thanks to Amanda at Writealm for continuing to provide this writer with inspiration :-)

And p.s. if you want to draw a marble like mine above, go check out: http://www.art-is-fun.com/how-to-draw-a-marble.html It is an absolute treasure-trove of useful art-related stuff!

 

A prizewinning week [or] subjectivity vs objectivity

Despite my husband being away last week, and so it being an incredibly hectic week, it was a good week. There was Sports Day and the local horticultural, arts & crafts show and the funfair and the local open arts festival… and I wanted all of us to somehow take part in all of these events. Thankfully, my mum came to stay with us for a few days so I got some much-needed (and greatly appreciated) help. While she played with my youngest I mounted and framed some of my pictures which were then ‘on show’ in the local open arts festival. I also entered a different set of pictures for the horticultural, arts & crafts show and I also encouraged my children to get involved by entering some of their own pictures.

Three pictures, by Marija Smits (entered in local open arts festival)

Three pictures, by Marija Smits (entered in local open arts festival)

It was all rather busy, but we had fun. My daughter came third in the beanbag-on-the-head race and fourth in the skipping race. My son came first in the toddler race. They both loved taking part – and I even ran in the mums’ race (while carrying my son!).

On the Saturday, before we went to the horticultural, arts & crafts show (via the funfair of course) to see if our pictures had received any prizes my daughter and I had a conversation about subjectivity and objectivity. We discussed how the judges of ‘creative’ competitions have a difficult task – they need to be able to take into account so many things in their choices, for example: the composition of the picture, the skill in the brushwork (or pencil marks), the choice of colour palette, subject matter etc. but ultimately it’s very much a subjective decision – one that is based on feeling and intuition, rather than facts. Judging a sports competition is easier since it is just about the facts. Who covered the set distance in the shortest time? Who threw the ball (or javelin) the furthest? At the end of a day, there is no right way to paint a picture, though there are of course various tried-and-tested routes to producing a picture which is realistic and pleasing to the eye.

My daughter was philosophical when her picture didn’t get awarded a prize, and she was generous in her ‘well dones’ when her brother and I each received third prize.

Then the very next day, at the local arts festival, my daughter received first prize for a photo she’d taken of her brother. She won a bar of chocolate and a Hobbycraft voucher (this is very, very welcome) and so we got to be generous with our ‘well dones’. It was a lovely way to round off the week, and the chocolate has been a big hit!

So although I’m not a big fan of ‘judging’ others’ creations (descriptive recognition is my big thing) I felt that overall it was worth taking part. It was good to feel part of a community sharing and enjoying each other’s creativity and I think that we all got enthused and inspired to produce more art for next year. I think that this has to be the ultimate creative goal, to simply make more because it is enjoyableand as a byproduct to ‘making more’ the artistic skills also happen to improve. Double bonus!

As for the chocolate, I swear I haven’t even had the tiniest nibble, although I have asked for a bit just the once or twice… ;-)

 

 

 

Clarity

Last weekend we didn’t really need to be anywhere, so we decided to catch up with the gardening. While the two little ones harvested strawberries and raspberries, waved bamboo canes around and dug holes in the soil I weeded, pruned and then thinned the carrots. This task – the thinning of the carrots — is a job I’ve done nearly every year for the past 10 years.

It’s one of those jobs that I don’t particularly like (and actually, I like most gardening jobs – especially weeding!) but as I was doing it I experienced a moment of clarity as I was struck by the thought that this task is a useful analogy for one of the major things going on in my life at the moment.

In case you’re not aware of what happens in the thinning of the carrots, it’s this: a row of small carrots (growing very densely) is thinned out by plucking out the majority of the carrots, leaving only a handful of carrots in the row. These carrots now have enough space around them to grow and thrive. I’m left with a mighty handful of small carrots which will die a death (of sorts) on the compost heap.

Carrot thinnings, photo by Marija Smits

Carrot thinnings, photo by Marija Smits

I have a lot going on in my life at the moment, and I’m aware that I’m becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I have to (or want to) do. It’s bittersweet – this realization that you can’t do everything, or see everything, or be involved in everything that you want to be. If you try to do everything it’s inevitable that many of the tasks you try to do won’t be done to the high standard you wanted them done. Or some tasks won’t get done at all. If all the carrots were left to grow I’d probably harvest a goodly amount of small carrots – not enough to make a substantial meal from, but good enough for a nibble. However, in all honesty, I want the big carrots (and no matter what funny shape they are!). I want to make a proper meal out of them.

However, I do find it difficult to pull out all those little carrots – they’re so full of life and potential – and yet if I don’t I’m not being fair on the others since they don’t get a chance to really thrive and grow and become something BIG. And then I worry; but how do I know that I’m getting this right? How do I know that I’ve plucked out the ones that should be plucked out? Maybe they’re the ones that would go on to do really well?

There’s no scientific experiment that can come to my aid. I simply trust to my intuition and go with what feels right. My eyes focus on one particular carrot and I just kinda know that it’s going to do well, and so I keep it in. Of course, when it comes to deciding on what to keep in or out of my life I spend much more time reflecting on the decisions I have to make, but ultimately, I still rely on my intuition. It’s hard to decide what you’re not going to do anymore. It’s hard to pluck those things out of your life. But ultimately, making those difficult choices brings clarity, and light, and space, and air to breathe and thrive and grow.

 

Thanks again to Amanda at WriteAlm for the writing prompts – they are much appreciated :-)

 

Sensitivity


Welcome to the ‘Look At All The Women’ Carnival: Week 3 – ‘The Eclectic Others’

This post was written especially for inclusion in the three-week-long ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of Cathy Bryant’s new book ‘Look At All The Women’. In this final week of the carnival our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘The Eclectic Others’ (the third, and final, chapter in Cathy’s new poetry collection).

Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.

***

Sensitivity by Marija Smits

Sensitivity by Marija Smits

 

Sensitivity

(a tanka)

 

Noise, movement, people,

chaos; my jangled senses

fret – rebel. I long

for quiet solitude, but

finding none I turn within.

 

MARIJA SMITS

 

When I used to teach biology at secondary school one of the first things I had to explain was ‘The 7 Signs of Life’. We used a helpful acronym – Mrs Nerg – to remind us of these 7 characteristics of all living things:

Movement

Reproduction

Sensitivity

Nutrition

Excretion

Respiration

Growth

I immediately picked up on the word ‘sensitivity’ – what a beautiful sounding word! But what exactly did it mean? Well, in essence, it means that all living things display sensitivity, which is the ability to detect changes in their environment. At the time I didn’t think much about how sensitivity applied to me (I was too busy explaining how bacteria and plants display sensitivity) but now sensitivity is something that I think about a huge amount.

After reading Quiet by Susan Cain, my amorphous thoughts on sensitivity became much more concrete. I wrote about my take on Quiet here, and how I found it to be a powerful read. In Quiet, the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron was referenced to quite a bit, and, thirsty for more information about sensitivity I bought it and am currently relishing every page. This is from the preface:

“Cry baby!”

“Scaredy-cat!”

“Don’t be a spoilsport!”

Echoes from the past? And how about this well-meaning warning: “You’re just too sensitive for your own good.”

Although the first three ‘echoes from the past’ weren’t a strong trigger for me – the last one was. After hearing this from trusted people on several occasions (and hearing it from myself too!) I was pretty sure that I was somehow ‘broken’. After all, the world is a tough place, and you just gotta toughen up. But Elaine Aron goes on to explain:

Having a sensitive nervous system is normal, a basically neutral trait. You probably inherited it. It occurs in about 15-20 percent of the population. It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sight and sounds until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way. Thus, being sensitive has both advantages and disadvantages.

So when I realized that it really is okay to be sensitive – that’s it merely about physiology I felt so much better. Understood. On a more even keel. It doesn’t take away the stress I feel when I do the school run or walk through a busy shopping centre or go to an event – all those people! all that noise! all that movement! – but it makes me appreciate the advantages – the fact that I am moved by the sun filtering through a canopy of leaves, a musical phrase, a line of poetry, a book, or even a bunch of coloured pencils (this really is incredible exciting to me at the moment!). It means that I can spot typos, concentrate for long periods of time and pick up on subtle nuances in the emotional state of my loved ones. So there are some benefits, right?

I think it’s important to point out that it’s not only women who are highly sensitive. BOTH men and women can be highly sensitive. Our western society seems to allow for sensitivity in women (to a certain extent) but in men it’s not so desirable. After all – the world is a tough place, and you just gotta toughen up.  

But here is my answer: NO. I cannot toughen up; I cannot make myself less sensitive, and I will not put on a constant persona to become the gregarious, social extrovert that society wants me to be all the time. Remember my wild woman post? Being wild is about being true to oneself, and this is me – often brought to tears over something sad, beautiful, or funny: often stroking my children’s hair – because, really, it’s just so beautiful with its fine texture, gorgeous smell and myriad subtle colours: and often in a dream world too, turning inwards to find the much needed soul-reflection which provides me with refreshment…

Of course I have strategies for managing my sensitivity and I admit that I’m constantly working on keeping my boundaries in place so that I give myself sufficient quiet time and room and space to be me, while ensuring that I put myself ‘out there’ enough to keep me stimulated, my ideas fresh and motivation high. I often have to remind myself that it’s okay to assert myself and fight for my own rights. But we all have our challenges, we all have to find balance in our lives. Just knowing that others (eclectic others!) are like me and experience similar sensations helps a lot.

If any of this makes sense to you in any way, please do let me know. But quietly. [Although you probably figured that out ;-)]


***

Book cover for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women is now available to buy from:

The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) – we can ship books around the world!

and as a paperback from Amazon.co.uk.

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

If you’d like to know more about Mother’s Milk Books — our submission guidelines, who we are and what we do — please find more details here:

http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/

Please take the time to read and comment on the following fab posts submitted by some wonderful women:

‘Heroines and Inspirations’— Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her own powerful, inspiring poems, and the stories behind them.

‘Sensitivity’Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person.

Georgie St Clair shares her creative female heroines in her post ‘Creative Others: Mothers Who Have It All’

‘The Eclectic Others – Or What Would I Have Been Without You?’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word a thank you to the women of literature and history who have been in her life, shaped her life, saved her life and gave her a future.

‘Barbie speaks out’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines shares a platform with feminist icon, Barbie.

‘Her Village’ — An older (much older than most) first time mother, Ellie Stoneley from Mush Brained Ramblings firmly believes in the old African adage that it takes a village to raise a child. To that end she has surrounded her daughter with the love, mischief and inspiration of an extremely eclectic bunch of villagers.

Survivor writes about the inspiring life of La Malinche and her place in Mexican history at Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters.

Sophelia writes about the importance of her community as a family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan.

The Cold Cup of Tea


Welcome to the ‘Look At All The Women’ Carnival: Week 2 – ‘The Mothers’

This post was written especially for inclusion in the three-week-long ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of Cathy Bryant’s new book ‘Look At All The Women’. This week our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘The Mothers’ (the second chapter in Cathy’s poetry collection).

 

Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.

***

 

'The Cold Cup of Tea' by Marija Smits

‘The Cold Cup of Tea’ by Marija Smits

The Cold Cup of Tea

 

An already-cold cup of builder’s-strength tea

is sat by the sink, and saying to me:

“I’m delicious, delightful, so drink me up, do!”

But I’m knee-deep in nappies, and children, and poo;

so call me again when I’ve sorted this mess

and have time to relax, and unwind and de-stress…

*

Later, much later, when the kids are asleep,

in my nightie and slippers I quietly creep

to the kitchen, and there is that cold cup of tea,

still delicious, still delightful, and still waiting for me…

 

MARIJA SMITS

(This poem was first published in Musings on Mothering, published by Mother’s Milk Books, 2012)

 

I wrote this poem about two years ago, when my youngest was still in nappies. Back then, every single day was hectic. It seemed as though no sooner had I dealt with one kind of bottom mess I had another one to deal with… The laundry machine seemed to be constantly on, with load after load of terry towels, nappy liners, wraps and body suits. As soon as I had met one child’s needs the other needed me. As soon as one household chore was completed another one needed to be done (and we’re not talking about fancy things like dusting ornaments but real heavy-duty stuff like cleaning very icky toilets!). When my youngest was hungry I could immediately satisfy him with a breast feed. When my eldest was hungry I’d rummage around in the cupboards hoping that some nutritious snack would be readily available to keep her tummy from rumbling. When I longed for a cup of tea and a little break… well, sometimes, I just had to wait until the end of the day when the children were asleep or when their dad (or their wonderful grandmas) could help me out.

It all sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? It was tiring, of course, but looking after two children is tiring (no matter how much support you get, or what your mothering style is) but when I was in the thick of it I had the help of the lovely mothering (and breastfeeding) hormones to keep me going, and going, and going…

Now that my two are older it’s all rather hectic in a different way. Yes, they are independent enough now so that I can (mostly) enjoy a quiet cup of tea when I want to, but the list of ‘other’ essential chores grows: the ferrying to clubs, providing a listening ear for when there are friendship troubles, helping with maths homework.

And alongside all of this are the rest of the never-ending household chores…

I’ve been a mother for 7 years now and it seems ridiculous to say this, but it is only now that I really – and more fully – truly understand the implications of having a child. For this mothering work goes on and on… It will, no doubt, ebb and flow in its intensity but I am in it for the long-haul and more aware – and so better prepared for – its many seasons. It is also now that I feel immensely grateful for all that my own mother has done (and continues to do) for me and my children.

Mothers, what you do is valuable, it is necessary. Go make yourself a cup of tea and take a well-earned break. Better still, get someone else to make you a cup of tea. I hope you get to enjoy it while it’s still hot ;-)

***

Book cover for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women is now available to buy from:

The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) – we can ship books around the world!

and as a paperback from Amazon.co.uk.

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

If you’d like to get involved in the ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival please find more details about it here:

http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/carnival-2/

Please take the time to read and comment on the following fab posts submitted by some wonderful women:

‘Moments with Mothers and (Imaginary) Daughters’ — Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares more poetry from Look At All The Women — her own version of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ and a poem inspired by her imaginary daughter.

‘The Cold Cup of Tea’Marija Smits shares some poetry that gives a glimpse into the everyday life of a mother.

‘Creative Mothers: You Need to Stop!’Georgie St Clair, shares an important reminder, that all mothers need to dedicate time and space to be creative.

‘The Mothers – Or Promises to My Future Child’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word what she has learnt from her own mother, and writes an open letter to her future child.

‘Bonobos are my Heroines’: Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines puts the nature back into nurture.

‘Baby Body Shame: it’s Time to Push Back’ — Stephanie from Beautiful Misbehaviour wants to challenge society’s treatment of the post-birth body.

Helen at Young Middle Age talks about finding strength from thinking about all the other mothers, during hard times.

The Walnut Hearts

Welcome to the ‘Look At All The Women’ Carnival: Week 1 – ‘The Lovers’

This post was written especially for inclusion in the three-week-long ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of Cathy Bryant’s new book ‘Look At All The Women’. This week our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘The Lovers’ (the first chapter in Cathy’s poetry collection).

 

Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.

***

Walnut hearts, photo by Marija Smits

Walnut hearts, photo by Marija Smits

The Walnut Hearts

 

And this is what I found within

the hard and secret shell:

two walnut hearts, identical

in substance, texture, taste.

 

They were as one, now cleaved in two;

their flesh exposed to air.

They wither, dry; time makes them weak,

their shells begin to crack.

 

And what of us, my lover, friend?

We must expect the same.

We live, we love, we age, we die;

yet still our hearts are twinned.

 

 

MARIJA SMITS

 

 

I’m not a big fan of ‘forever’ and ‘always’ and the idea that there is only one ‘right’ person for each person on this Earth, but when I wrote the above poem I felt it was right to include a line about ‘twinned’ hearts. My husband and I will be celebrating 10 years of marriage tomorrow so I can’t help but maybe add a touch of sentimentality to this post! My point is that by being together for 17 years (we were a couple for 7 years before we got married) we kind of are twinned – in the sense that we sometimes seem to read each other’s minds, and that whatever happens in the future, history will twin us. If our children go on to have children, and they go on to have children, we will be in their family tree – our names ‘forever’ beside each other. Separate, but together.

 

What strikes me about wedding anniversaries is how I often think about them in connection to the local news. Local newspapers often carry stories about couples who are celebrating their ruby or diamond wedding anniversary, and it’s a rare chance to congratulate these couples on the longevity of their relationship and to ask them what the secret of their wedded bliss is. Sometimes the answer given is: “Doing things together – having similar interests and hobbies”. Sometimes the answer is: “Laughing together” or perhaps: “Being able to compromise”. Undoubtedly these things are important – and hopefully there as a solid foundation to the relationship right from the start, but surely good communication has to be key to the growth and harmony of a relationship?

 

Becoming parents has certainly changed our relationship. How could it not? In her book What Mothers Do, Naomi Stadlen writes:

A two-person relationship is radically different from one of three people. A two-person relationship has a kind of elegant symmetry, whereas this three-person one is complex. It is not symmetrical. The two parents have a biological relationship with their child, but a consensual relationship with each other… …Additional children increase the complexity, but the change is not as great as the two-into-three change. This doesn’t necessarily drive a ‘wedge’ into the marriage. But it certainly changes it.

 

This change can be challenging, but clear communication can make all the difference. Talking, and really listening to the other person can help such a lot. Some days, for us, it goes like this:

 

After a long day of mothering all I want is a cup of tea and to be able to discuss my day with my husband. After a long day of working at a demanding job all my husband wants is a cup of tea and some quiet time. After a long day full of excitement, and discovery and play, all our children want is to talk to us! We used to snap at each other at the end of the ‘work’ day, which left all of us feeling unhappy. This snapping, though unwelcome, at least allowed us to realise that this time was an ‘emotional hotspot’. It took clear communication and a bit of creativity to help us get to a place where ‘daddy home time’ is now no longer so fraught!

 

Family life is busy. Sometimes conversations between my husband and I consist of five minutes of talking about bills before we go to bed. And yet family life is also fluid – we can often snatch moments when our children play together happily to have a hug and to ask each other that all-important question: “How are you?”. “Fine,” I might say. (More often it’s “Tired!”) But the other day it was “Fine. Looking forward to going out for lunch on our anniversary.”

 

Aw :-)
***

 

Book cover for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women is now available to buy from:

The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) – we can ship books around the world!

and as a paperback from Amazon.co.uk.

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

If you’d like to get involved in the ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival please find more details about it here:

http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/carnival-2/

Please take the time to read and comment on the following fab posts submitted by some wonderful women:

‘Fantasy, love and oddity.’ — Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her favourite poems about lovers from her second collection of poetry, Look At All The Women.

‘The Walnut Hearts’Marija Smits shares some ‘nutty’ poetry about love and reflects on the role good communication has on a harmonious relationship.

Georgie St Clair shares her feelings on why we should indulge our passions as lovers in her lighthearted post — ‘Creative Lovers: Not Tonight Darling’.

‘The Lovers – Or What I Don’t Know About Love’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word what she has learnt about love from story books, people watching and her own life and wonders if she actually knows anything at all.

‘Implicit v Explicit’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines considers literature’s role in teaching children about relationships.

My art ‘out there’!

So Facebook sent me an email the other day saying that my Facebook fans missed me.

(!)

I hadn’t posted anything on my Facebook page for a while so I guess Facebook got all twitchy and decided to send this message – devoid of all finesse – which was in fact just a simple, direct plea to my ego.

My fans! I thought. My fans!

But you know what, it worked ;-)

My ego got all puffed up for about 2 seconds, and then I remembered that it’s just me who likes to have a look at my Facebook page. Oh yeah.

Anyway, I decided that this message could still be useful to me – as long as I did have something to share, and if I did get around to sharing it…

And I do have things to share, but you see, I find the creative bit (the writing and the drawing and the painting) so much more enjoyable than the nitty-gritty stuff of actually sharing it, and I really do have lots of other things to do… (like wiping grubby faces, making food, publishing books and helping out with maths homework!).

So here is what I want to share – my art is finally ‘out there’ in the wide world. A picture that I drew of Alison Moore, the author, is now hanging on the wall of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. (That’s me, the bespectacled one, by the way.)

The fab Alison Moore alongside my art at The Nottingham Writers' Studio, photo courtesy Andrew Kells.

The fab Alison Moore alongside my art at The Nottingham Writers’ Studio, photo courtesy Andrew Kells.

It kind of feels strange to have some of my art properly ‘out there’ (although some of my images have already appeared in a couple of online magazines) but really, it’s no different to having my writing ‘out there’. I’ve sometimes heard writers and artists say that the reason they create is because of the desire to connect with other people – for their ideas and creations to touch others’ lives. Undoubtedly I feel a need for this too, but with the world (and online world) being so immensely vast I can’t really comprehend how far my work will travel, or whether it will, indeed, make an impression on someone. And this topic – of connection, of ‘making an impression’ – is just a bit too interesting to my ego who thinks that the idea of ‘connection’ is a good excuse to keep a beady eye on site stats and other things like that ;-)

But it’s a time sink – all this ego rumination. How much more interesting (and worthwhile) it is to create. Perhaps my work will connect with others, perhaps it won’t. I will potter on and continue, instead, to ruminate on the rather wonderful magic of creating a 3D image on a 2D surface with only a few layers of graphite. I probably know much more about the structure of graphite than I know about the complexities of portraying hair, fur, or skin (tricky stuff, skin!) in graphite. So I need to learn, I need to practise. So if I’m silent for a bit I’m sure ‘my Facebook fans’ will understand ;-)

Alison Moore by Marija Smits (based on a photo by Al Brydon)

Alison Moore by Marija Smits (based on a photo by Al Brydon)

Thanks to Andrew Kells for taking the photo at the launch night of The Nottingham Writer’s Studio new premises, and thanks to Alison Moore, of course, for being such an inspiration!