Ten Years Learning How To Be A Poet – Part One: Submitting And Publishing

2022 marks ten years since I first read my own poetry in front of a live audience. I was lucky enough to be invited to respond to the displays at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery in Shropshire. My poem ‘The Boats’ was perhaps one of the shortest pieces on the launch night, and I was also horribly late due to a misread signpost, but it was a fantastic experience and one that pushed me towards open mics. I will not sure share the bio that I wrote for the Shrewsbury Museum, as quite honestly, I reread it and cringed. I was far more confident as an eighteen-year-old than I am at twenty-eight, which raises the question of what else may have changed about me and my poetry since then. What have I managed to learn over ten years of writing, performing, and publishing? More importantly, would it make a good series for my blog? Somewhat wonderfully, I have poetry on display in a museum again this year, this time in Nantwich, Cheshire. It seems like a very good point to pause, and take stock.

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Carol J Forrester lives in Cheshire with her husband and their fish. She wanted a dog, she got koi instead. After growing up in the glorious greenery of North Shropshire, and spending her childhood exploring the countryside around her parents’ farm, she moved to Bath for university, then to Crewe to live and work. ‘It’s All In the Blood’ is her first full poetry collection, and covers topics such as family, ancestry, feminism, mythology, mental health, and how a rural background can shape you as a person.

“These deftly written poems cover all aspects of life in a farming family from the hardships of lambing and the contradictions of relationships, to a world of Bic razors, children’s games and old teapots. The poems are vivid and confidently crafted, including effective use of myths and legends which counter the muddy boots of everyday survival. A most promising debut collection.”

Helen Kay The Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry’ (Indigo Dreams), ‘This Lexia & Other Languages’ (V. Press)

A bold, brutally honest and dazzling debut collection that insists on being read. Forrester tempts the reader with arresting and hypnotic poetry that leaves an urge to research and ponder each subject she touches upon: Poseidon, Persephone, the literary flowers of Offred and Mrs Dalloway, farming ancestry, death, female identity. The whole rainbow of emotion is explored. The title alone of ‘Zeus Is Spear Fishing Over Stranraer’ is a whole poem in itself. Beautifully written and a voice to watch out for.

Deborath Edgeley ‘Testing the Delicates’ (Amazon), Wilkommen Zum Rattenfanger Theatre’ (Amazon)

New Year, New Decade, So What’s The Plan? #WeekendCoffeeShare

A few years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to bother making New Year’s resolutions anymore. The fact was that whatever I ‘resolved’ to do, I always ended up feeling like I’d failed by year end. So instead I set myself a number of goals that I wanted to achieve at some point in the year, and then periodically I would sit down and review my progress towards those goals.

CoverThis year I had a few things that I really wanted to achieve, number one on that list was publishing my poetry collection ‘It’s All In The Blood’. The collection launched in November and is now available to purchase through Amazon, so I’m counting that as goal achieved.

It’s even had it’s first review:

Quietly powerful, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time

I’m quite chuffed with that as far as reviews go.

My other main goal for the year was to complete my AAT exams, and on the 19th December I found out I’d achieved 87% on my Personal Tax exam which means that I’ve passed all my level four assessments! Now I’m just waiting for my work experience submission to be reviewed as part of my application for full membership to the AAT.

So what now?

The next step on from AAT will be CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) but I’ve decided to hold off for a few months and focus on my writing and my drawing. The last couple of years I’ve been trying to juggle study, writing, and a social life with varying success. For a couple of months I want to work on finishing the draft of my novel, improving my sketching skills, and writing some new poems. At the start of December I decided to have a go at a few of the DoodleWash December Prompts and I’ve been pretty happy with how most of them have turned out. I’ll admit that I didn’t draw ever day but I’ve been drawing a lot more than I was so that’s the main thing.


A new year also means a new monthly speculative prompt. Some of you might have noticed that there wasn’t one for December. The official reason was ‘a Christmas break’ the unofficial reason is ‘oops, I forgot.’ However, the January prompt is now up and ready for you all to take part.

Self-Publishing: Planning A Launch, Holding The Proof

Back in June I talked about my plans to self-publish my poetry collection, in a post I called To Self-Publish Or Not To Self-Publish? That Is The Sleep Depriving Question. In all honesty, it really was a tough decision to make, and I questioned myself every time I told someone I was self-publishing because I almost always got the same response.

‘Oh, why have you decided to go down that route?’

At that point in the conversation I could point them towards the blog post where I list all the reasons I decided to go down that route.

Of course it wasn’t all smooth sailing from writing that post to finalising the manuscript. There were moments where I wondered if I was making a huge mistake and if I had made the right decision to following this path. However, today I finally felt that it was all worth it. Today I got to hold the proof copy of my poetry collection in my hands.


There are still a few tweaks to be made before I’m happy to hit that publish button. The font for the page numbering needs adjusting and I want to give all the poems one last run through for typos, but overall I’m really happy with how this book has turned out.

I have to say a massive thank you to Caroline Layzell for designing the cover, and to Helen Kay for helping to edit the collection and Deborah Edgeley for helping to blurb it.

Now I’m moving on to planning the launch night (November 30th) and finding poetry events to read a few of the poems at. The book itself should be available to buy from the 30th November onward.

It’s real, I’m holding it, and I’m very happy that I did decide to go down the route of self-publishing. I’m not losing sleep anymore.

A Girl Called Spider #ThrowbackThursday

She sat smoking three seats away from the door, cigarette pinched between black talons as she waited for the boy in a green apron to bring her coffee.

‘There is something of the devil about that one,’ whispered an old woman standing in line. She leant in so her companion could hear. ‘Something unnatural.’

The pair twisted to stare; peering over round spectacles to examine the girl in black leather and brass buckles.

‘Very unnatural,’ hissed the old woman’s companion. “Not the right sort at all!”

The girl sighed, pouring the smoke from her lips. She smiled at the old women and stabbed out the cigarette on the table-top.

‘Problem ladies?’ she asked.

‘This is a no smoking zone!’ squawked the first, pointing a shrivelling, stumpy finger at the no smoking sign just beside the door. ‘You are no supposed to smoke that,’ she pointed at the crushed cigarette, ‘in here.’

The girl smiled again, teeth bone white against ebony gloss.

‘I must have missed the sign,’ she said, curling her lips back further.

The old women clucked.

‘Smoking in public places is banned completely!’ said the second, shuffling her shoulder and readjusting the fold of her collar. ‘Do you not watch the news?’ she demanded.

‘Not particularly,’ replied the girl. ‘It’s always so depressing. All that death.’

She winked, still smiling as the boy in the green apron scurried over to her table, miniature coffee cup balanced on his tray.

‘Double espresso?’ he asked, trembling as the girl lifting an arm to pluck the drink from its saucer.

‘Exactly what I need,’ she purred, eyes trained on the boy’s face.

He blushed, stepped back and tripped over a table leg.

The old women watched him fall, hands clasped to mouths as they cooed sympathetically. The girl laughed, the sound spilling into the room like ice. The boy shivered as he scrambled to his feet.

‘The poor lamb,’ said the first old woman, placing a hand over her heart.

‘The poor dear,’ added the second.

‘Fool,’ said the girl, grinning.

She threw back the espresso and stood. ‘But just what I need.’

‘Need?’ the boy stammered, clutching the back of a chair for support.

‘Yes, need,’ repeated the girl. ‘I need a distraction. I suppose you could say I’m recovering from a bad break-up of sorts.’

It wasn’t a complete lie. The boy had certainly broken when he hit the street sixty-six stories below.

She slid out of her seat and stepped forward, closer to the boy in the green apron holding the empty tray.

‘Call me Spider,’ she said and caught his cheek in her palm. ‘You and I are going to have some fun.’

Image By Antonia Brennan

Back in June 2013 (that’s around five and half years ago if you can quite believe it) I wrote a short story ‘A Girl Called Spider’. It was then posted here on Writing and Works.

Now I’ve redrafted and re-posted poems in the past as my poetry has improved, but I have never really gone back to the flash fiction pieces that I wrote ages ago. Part of the reason is perhaps that my formatting style changed after studying creative writing at uni and editing through all the annoying format based niggles in a pain in the bum.

However, it seems a shame to leave these stories to rot in the archive so I’ve decided to go back and dig them out. Each Thursday I’m going to re-post a reviewed, redrafted, and edited piece of flash fiction from back in the day with the aim to collate all the pieces into a PDF that I can then put up for download at the end.

The PDF will be completely free and mostly just a way for me to try and create a sort of anthology of my flash fiction stories. I’m hoping you lovely readers will also enjoy it and like the chance to download a collection of stories which you can carry away on your kindle, or phone, or whatever portable electronic machine you find yourself tied to.

Please let me know if you like the story, if you like the PDF idea, or if you also have a back-file of stories you wrote years ago just sitting on your blog with little to do but collect cyber dust.

Look out next Thursday for ‘Lost: One Bench’, one of the oldest stories that I had on this blog, revamped just for you guys.