There’s nothing quite like getting together with old friends. That easy intimacy of chatting with someone who you know so well – whose quirks, idiosyncrasies and history you memorized long ago – coupled with the joy of discovering how they’ve changed and evolved over time. It can be comforting – revisiting old memories, retelling the same stories for the hundredth time – yet it can also be disorienting, as you see how your lives have diverged. You learn they now have many stories to tell which you are not a part of. Yet, as someone who has been lucky enough to have two incredible groups of female friends (one from childhood and one from university), growing up alongside these women and now seeing them beginning careers and families has been one of the great joys of my life so far.
Long-term friendships are on my mind because I just spent four beautiful days in Lisbon, Portugal, alongside some of my closest university friends, celebrating the wedding of our dear friend – Mrija – to a Scottish gent – Hamish – who she met in St Andrews. The wedding and surrounding celebrations was definitely the highlight of my month and you’ll get lots of pictures of that below! But first, here are a few other updates about where my life and writing is at this month.
In fantastic news, I was shortlisted for the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. This is a poetry prize from Girton College at University of Cambridge, for poets under 30, and I was absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for it this year. Some of my favorite writers, like Jen Cambell, and my friend Katie Hale, have won the prize in past years, so it was extremely special to be shortlisted. I’d also recommend reading the winning entries here (especially Nina Powles’ poem ‘Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, 2016’).
Alongside this exciting news, I also received approximately a bazillion rejections this month (just kidding, it was probably more like ten). I know for some that might not be much, but I’ve been stepping up my game and submitting to more journals this year and so I’ve been getting more rejections than normal. There was one day this month where I received like three. IN ONE DAY. I might do a blog post about things that have helped me ‘overcome’ or get used to rejections (which will always be part of writing), so let me know if you’d like to see that!
As the PhD deadline in September looms, I have been working on finishing up the critical essays, which will be part of my final submission (alongside my historical novel). These are personal essays about how creative writers try to access the 18th century past. I’ve got one about using primary sources, one about reenactments (if you missed the blog post where I try on a corset, check it out here) and one about three fictional iterations of one 18th century historical figure. I’ve finished two of the three essays and am about to send them out for publication (fingers crossed), so I don’t want to say too much, but I’ll of course post here if they get picked up anywhere!
In addition to my trip to Lisbon, it was also my partner’s birthday this month, so we celebrated with a ‘Birthday Weekend’ including a day of strolls in Edinburgh – grabbing juices and burgers at a local outdoor market – and in Glasgow, where we met up with some friends at Platform.
And then, of course, there was Lisbon. Colorful, delicious, hilly, cobblestoned Lisbon.
Full of beautiful tiled buildings and fresh fish (which I ate plenty of). I spent the last few days of April there and I’m eager to return! During my trip, I snacked on Pastéis de Belém, custard-filled pastries with cinnamon on top, and explored a modern art gallery, The Berardo Collection Museum, before hopping on a yacht (!) with the rest of the gals for the hen party festivities.
The wedding itself was at a vineyard outside of the city and the venue was actually paradise.
The sun shone as the bride and groom exchanged vows in one of my favorite wedding ceremonies I’ve ever seen. Both the assembled crowd and the ceremony itself was a vibrant, international mix. There was poetry read in Scots, Vietnamese, Arabic, as well as touching advice from families of the bride and groom.
Then we enjoyed canapés while looking out at the verdant hills. Later, colorful lanterns swung from strings as we dined in a courtyard of the 17th century home, sipping the house wine.
Then, there was Celidh music and Bollywood tunes as we danced into the wee hours. All the while, my friend looked absolutely radiant. I was so happy to be there to celebrate with her and her family, as well as to reunite with old friends like my former flatmate Steph (pictured below in the beautiful gold sari).
It was a fantastic evening – joyful, personal and in a beautiful setting. Definitely a highlight of not just my month, but my year so far.
Finally, for upcoming events, I’ve been invited to perform some poetry at The St Andrews Alumni Ball in London on May 19. I’ll be sharing a special poem I’ve written about St Andrews, as well as some other poems.
I’ll also be selling copies of my poetry pamphlet and performing at the University of Glasgow Creative Writing Fair on May 23. This is an exhibition, fair and performance evening to celebrate the publications of MLitt, MFA, DFA, undergrads and recent grads of the university’s Creative Writing Programme. If you’re in Glasgow, come along and check that out. We do some pretty cool work at Glasgow Uni. It’s at 3 pm at the Queen Margaret Union.
Then, of course, there’s the Omohundro Conference in June in Williamsburg, Virginia, where I’ll be joining bestselling novelist Deborah Harkness, poet Chet’la Sebree, and Yale professor John Demos in a panel chaired by Jane Kamensky on creative writing and early American history.
I’ll actually be in the USA for most of June, in Austin seeing friends and family, as well as in Virginia for a few days for the conference. So this month, before I leave, I’ll be doing a lot of work on my novel (I’m on the third draft now!), getting it ready for the PhD submission.
In last month’s post, I said that I wanted to have a better work-life balance. This month, I think I achieved that. There was a lot of essay work, but there was also a lot of quality friend time, good food and travel. For now, back to the books!
Happy spring xx
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