For the love of letters: my 5 stand out moments

My five stand-out moments from sorting through three decades of correspondence.

Having been housebound this week with a chest infection, I’ve ended up sorting through the large stack (one picnic hamper, two storage boxes) of correspondence I’ve accumulated over the past three decades. 72 hours later I’ve finally run out of lemsip and I’m coming to the end of my stocks of rubber bands.

I didn’t re-read everything, just opened envelopes and took gut decisions on whether it was a keepsake or binnable, sorted wedding invites, christening orders of service and funeral cards into a separate folder, put my husband’s cards (no letters! Not a single one!) into a separate pile and tidied everything to be sorted by sender at a (long distant) time. But it was enough to get a poignant overview of the highs and lows, bring back to light things i’d completely forgotten and to make me think as well as giggle. Here are five stand-outs:

  1. The first letter: a card from a friend on a writing retreat who received the letter i’d posted for her to find on arrival, saying that this is the first time she’s ever seen my handwriting. The impact of digital on new friendships…
  2. The handwriting: almost always distinctive and personal, with exceptions: i) all teenage girls, ii) my cousin and my uncle, ii) two of my university friends, who i think share many other similarities.
  3. The sadness: reading cards sent as support for tough times (illness, bereavement, break-ups) brought those times back. And they were often from surprising people- people who’d heard from other sources and who reached out to cheer me up. Thank you, for making that effort – I hope i’ve managed to pass on some of your kindness during my good times.
  4. The teenagers: All letters from teenage girls are about who they fancy, who you told them you fancied, lists of what they got for birthday/christmas presents, protestations of affection and begging for you to write back soon. I apologise to everyone who knew me during my teenage years.
  5. Cats can’t write: as a pre-teen I had a prolific series of pen-pal discourses on behalf of my cat. With other peoples’ cats. In fact, mainly with stranger’s cats through personal ads. There is probably a good reason I’d suppressed these memories but, alas, they are now all flooding back.


Happy-news *blows kisses* #anchoredterset

Thanks to all you amazing people being generous with your support, Samantha and I won the People’s Choice Award category of the New Media Writing Prize for our iPad app, Recollections: 12 vignettes from Lashihai.

Coming from the same quarter, we’re in the final stages of publishing a limited edition printed version of the app – complete with Chinese translation – supported by Lijiang Studio. Pre-order details going out on the two.5 email list soon, sign up here to be kept informed.

If you’re feeling lucky (or have just finished editing a damn fine piece of writing), Josh Turner has listed some upcoming writing competitions over on his blog. And if you’re looking for some creative inspiration consider Sarah Salway’s suggestions for setting Artist Dates (& follow Sarah’s dates on her blog).

For a short, 3-word poem, the anchored terset is the opening to an enormous can of worms. On the other hand it really is just three words and a full stop.

When not bed-ridden with flu this week, I’ve been distracted online by some beautiful things. One I think deserves to be sent around as wide a reach as possible to spark discussion is Lisa Matthews’ creative residency focusing dyslexia, inspired by her own experiences, which has led to her invention of the ‘anchored terset’. You might already have come across it on The Guardian this week, but if not then read up on the Northern Poetry Library’s website and have a go at your own. Here’s mine for the w/e:





Part Two of my interview on ‘This is How We Make It’

I don’t think writing ever gets any easier; it does get more interesting.

… and the second half of my interview with on This is How We Make it is now live. My partner has more or less forgiven me for telling the world in Part One that he called me a bitch, so hopefully everyone else can forgive my obsession with making them cry.

Flashing around: June 2014 round-up

Mildred passed Ernie the small silver jug of cream and he attempted to balance the blue cup and saucer on the thick ridges of his corduroy trousers.

extract from ‘Things We Do Not Talk About’

Continue reading “Flashing around: June 2014 round-up”

This is what a feminist looks like


I converted back in 2007, over a conversation with my friend Sian in a youth hostel in Canada where I used the phrase ‘I’m not a feminist but…’ so many times I’m surprised she didn’t just punch me.

Continue reading “This is what a feminist looks like”

February writing round-up

Interior of the Barbican


We have a new piece up on The Peripatetic Studio: Laura Davidson talking about hunting for plug sockets and dystopian adventures at the Barbican centre in ‘Tethered to the Barbican‘. Continue reading “February writing round-up”

NaNoWriMo and beyond

Having been cheerfully defeated by NanoWriMo for the second year running, I’m now dusting off my pom-poms to cheerlead for the lovely Gina Hepburn‘s novel instead. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo and beyond”

General update- April 2012

As you can see from my more regular blog about my Leverhulme Residency at the School of Informatics, Edinburgh University the last couple of months have been busy like unto a bee. I’m particularly delighted to have been selected to take part in the World Event Young Artists showcase in Nottingham this September, an event which brings together 1,000 artists aged 18-30 from over 100 countries for a festival programme that will stretch across artforms, from live music to dance performances, theatrical installations to spoken word, film to visual arts exhibitions and gastronomic events. Continue reading “General update- April 2012”

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