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Regrouping

A few weeks ago I decided to let my work-in-progress hang for a while, which would give me time to settle into a new job, and allow me the distance to see the half-cut first draft anew. I still haven't looked at it, but in a couple of weeks I shall be joining a new, small and nearby writing group. This group is different from your regular writing group in that it is led by an experienced published writer and teacher. I know I've taught creative writing to others myself and even have a phd in writing, but one needs considered feedback and I'm hoping I'll find it there. And it's small enough for the focus. A regular couple of hours on a Saturday should also serve to more clearly demarcate the working week from the weekend and help me become more precious - or more wisely use - my free time. However, whilst not writing I am reading lots. I finished Charles Frazier's southern Gothic 'Nightwoods', which was taut and dark, yet with the right balance of light. I'm also close to finishing Gerhard Bakker's 'The Twin', which is a real gem, centring on the middle-aged Dutch farmer, Helmer, whose aged and bed bound father is shut upstairs. The father-son relationship is uncomfortable, cold, and at times cruel. Yet there is enough to attach to, emotionally.

I'm also close to finishing the first half of a manuscript by a man who has a real gift for description and emotional insight into his characters, and I hope, no, I'm sure, it will find a publisher. I'm racing ahead with both.

On my to-read pile is also the Booker long listed 'The Lighthouse', by Alison Moore, as well as The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, which includes work by many of the great Irish writers, John Banville, Roddy Doyle, William Trevor, and Joseph O'Connor.

Today I also bought the new work by poet Christopher Reid, 'Nonsense', which I'm expecting much from.

BBC's iPlayer now allows users to download programmes, instead of just watching them online. I had no idea there was a programme called My Life in Books and downloaded it. It featured the luminous 91-year-old PD James, and the rather puzzling radio presenter Richard Bacon. But more confusing for me was why the inanimate-faced Anne Robinson was chosen to front the show; she offered no bookish insight, and whenever she gave the noddies, I just kept on expecting a withering and yet unintelligent put down. This is the book show dumbed down; barely scratching the surface of anything remotely meaningful.

Location:Kew

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On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston University, without which postgraduate study of this nature would have remained firmly beyond reach - as it is - and becomes even more so - for countless others who would relish this hard, yet rewarding journey of growth.
Thanks are due to my brothers and sisters, particularly my older brother, Sean.

Behind this PhD candidate was a fellowship of brilliant friends, whose kind and wise words, often amounting to no more than 'keep going' encouraged me in the low moments. And, of course, to the spirit of Mary Burns (1822-1863) - no mere mistress.


No endeavour is the work of an individual.


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