Welcome to Moira Andrew's News Page.
Hello and welcome. So what's new? My most notable achievement to date is that I have finally completed my first adult novel, 'Taste of summer'. The joy - and sense of loss - in typing that last sentence is incredible. After all, I've lived with these characters for two years, on and off. The story centres round two people who meet on a summer school and fall in love. The consequences spill over, involving not only their nearest and dearest, but others in their immediate orbit. The latent artist in Julia comes to life and overwhelms her wife and mother image, with disastrous results for the family.
I invited a fellow writer to read the first chapters, huge mistake, as he dismissed it as a well-written woman's book. When I thought about it later I recognised it as fair criticism - that's exactly what I intended. Of course, 'Taste of summer' might never see the light of day, but at least I've finished it.
I'm also currently involved in a Lapidus project, 'Working with children in long-stay hospital care'. The Lapidus motto is 'Words for well-being' and the aim of involving the children in poetry and artwork is to create a world in their imaginations that takes them away from their hospital surroundings - even for an hour or so. The trouble is that it is difficult to plan ahead as I don't know who I'll be working with - it can be any child from four to sixteen. Much depends on scans and injections, their illness and wellness. It keeps the teacher in me on my toes!
If you have enjoyed reading this page, or have questions to ask, please get in touch by email. The address is email@example.com. I hope to update my news page soon.
This has been a busy month for AGM's. As I am secretary to two societies, my fingers have been hot on the keys of my word-processor. Minutes are not as easy as they look. First, you have to listen and write at the same time - and second, you have to make sense of what has been said. Not many people speak in whole sentences. It gets even more difficult when you want to make a comment yourself, but, with a bit of imagination and a lot of luck, the minutes finally appear.
Yes, you say, but which societies are you on about? The first is the Falmouth Poetry Group, (FPG) a motley group who meet on the second Monday of each month in the Falmouth Library. Each poet has an opportunity to read his/her poem aloud, the others following on printed copies. The golden rule, seldom adhered to, is that while a discussion on the poem takes place around the room, the poet keeps quiet. It's amazing how often the listeners are baffled about what the poet means to say - or sometimes about the content of the poem itself! After five minutes of discussion, the poet is allowed to speak and all is revealed. The standard of poetry produced from month to month is exceptional and I find a constant excitement in the not-knowing what my fellow poets will produce this time round. I love the element of surprise.
The FPG is hosting a prestigous festival on Saturday 25th April in Pendennis Castle - an amazing venue. If you'd like to take part or simply come along to listen and mingle, get in touch by email on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
And the other society? I belong to Lapidus, a group mainly consisting of writers, whose motto is 'Words for well-being'. The hospital project described above is a partnership between Lapidus and RCH Truro. Our Lapidus AGM was held last Friday evening in Babahogs Cafe, Falmouth. This was an interesting venue, quite informal with comfortable sofas and organic tea and coffee on tap - to say nothing of the delicious home-made cakes. Victoria, our treasurer, had brought along her little dog called Poppy. Poppy is usually very well-behaved, but she was thoroughly distracted by a number of noisy budgies in a cage just above her nose-height. The ensuing 'conversation' between birds and the dog made a lively background to our discussion. The highlight of the eveing was a presentation by one of our newest members, Robin, who told us of his ongoing project working with difficult or damaged children through music. Few of us will forget listening to Molly's dream sequence and Robin's sympathetic accompaniment. It was one of the most memorable AGM's I have ever attended.
31 March 2009
Back home from a busy day in a delightful school, Stithians Primary, here in Cornwall. As a member of the Great Trees of Cornwall group, I was invited to the school to work on appropriate poems with the children. I was introduced as 'the tree lady' - that was a first, I'm usually classed as either a poet or a teacher, sometimes both, but a tree lady, never.
The children quickly became involved and produced some fantastic poetry linked to artwork. In the Y4/5 class the children drew bare tree outlines and wrote at least seven mini-poems round the tree. The work was both successful and colourful and the mini-poems were most imaginative. It will make a terrific display.
In the afternoon, I worked with Y5/6. This time the children wrote about an enchanted forest, one in which they imagined being lost and alone. More incredible work - all the poems were framed inside a forest scene and again, I can't wait to see the finished display.
I never tire of this work. Although I've introduced these ideas many times, I'm always amazed at the original and perceptive work each group of children produces. At the end of the day, we, the teachers, the children and me were well-pleased one with the other. It was a good day.
12 April 2009, Easter Day
The sun is shining, the day full of promise and the garden, tired of daffodils, is gearing itself up for a new springtime colour scheme.
Last Wednesday I worked at Trebah Gardens. Trebah is a mysterious place, dense and green and criss-crossed with steep paths which lead down to a hidden crescent of sandy beach. It is a wonderful world for children with its rocky trails and easy-to-climb trees. It has a deep pond full of fish where ducks lead a line of ducklings across the water. In Trebah the changing seasons are always in clear focus. It is a place of rest for the spirit for the older generation and of adventure for young people - an ideal background for work based on Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Lost World'.
In co-operation with a storyteller and an arist, I was based in The Vinery, a studio in the garden, our task to encourage children to think about 'The Lost World'. The children were a drop-in group, choosing to write, paint or listen. Kate, the artist worked on mapping and glitter designs. I intended to offer the choice of a lost world within a frame, dinosaur recipes and poems written inside an opening dinosaur egg (as usual, I link the written word to artwork.) The dinosaur egg won hands-down. The poems were lively and imaginatively written and the cracked eggs beautifully designed.
OK, so the 'Dinosaur's Egg' is usually presented as a 'Dragon's Egg', but what's the difference among keen young poets? And the resulting effect of both is quite magic. It's amazing what children can hear and see when they put an interesting pottery egg to their ears and let their imaginations go into overdrive.
Another interesting day working with children - and the weather did us proud.
30 April 2009
Last weekend, we of the Falmouth Poetry Group, held our prestigious Orta poetry event in Pendennis Castle. It could hardly have taken place in a grander venue as the castle stands high above the estuary with views across the Docks to Falmouth town, up the Fal and across to Flushing and St Mawes, out over the beach with its hotels and promenade to great ships laid up on the horizon.
The previous week was bathed in gentle spring sunshine and we imagined our guests from Italy, India and across the UK marvelling at the panorama of waves glinting in the sun. No such luck! As I picked up my house-guest, Joan Poulson, a fellow-poet, from the station in Penryn a soft drizzle dampened the evening. And, from there on in, the weather worsened. We had a full-on storm battering on the conservatory roof as we renewed our acquaintance over a meal and a glass or two of wine.
Next morning wind and rain drenched our guests and blew them across the castle forecourt as we struggled to book them in and attach the correct name-badge to the right person. 'Real Cornish weather!' one of our speakers commented. So, our dream of sun-drenched views from every window died a death.
Despite the storm, the event itself was a great success. Our guests were welcomed by a table set with tea and coffee, juice, bottled water and great bowls of fresh fruit. Michael Swan, the first speaker had to do his headmaster act to get the hubbub to die down - it takes authority to silence a group of forty-odd poets let loose together in one large room!
The day began with a lively discussion on 'Where is contemporary poetry going?' It even managed to stretch the combined talents of Jo Shapcott, John Hartley Williams, Penny Shuttle, James Byrne and Sandeep Parmar, but eventually an optimistic concensus of sorts was reached.
We listened to Gabriel Griffin, Michael Swan, James Byrne and Sandeep Parmar read from their recent work before breaking into mini-workshop groups. During lunch, a beautifully-presented meal, the noise level rose several decibels.
After lunch, readings by Penny Shuttle and John Hartley Williams, were followed by Gabriel who gave us a guided slide-show tour round Orta and the beautiful island on which she lives, whetting our appetites for the annual Poetry on the Lake workshop and festival. Caroline Carver and Vivienne Tregenza read their 2008 winning poems. They were fantastic in English, but hearing them read later in Italian gave the words a further magic element.
The day finished with a mesmeric reading by Jo Shapcott and a round-up of the mini-workshop ideas. And still it rained.
In the evening, a group of us gathered in Pizza Express, overlooking the harbour in Falmouth. But the weather wasn't finished with us, not by a long chalk! During the meal the door on to the restaurant balcony blew open with an almighty crash and rain flooded the floor, causing minor panic among the guests and a waitress to drop her tray of glasses. It took the combined strength of the manager and a couple of waiters to close the doors against the storm. We, the poets, loved the drama of it all.
The event was a magical experience for everyone concerned - speakers, guests and listeners - poets all. We hope it can be repeated at some future date - this time with sunshine.
03 May 2009
A momentous week for women's poetry, Carol Ann Duffy installed as the first woman laureate - well, we've waited a very long time, since 1668, so the historians tell us. I have never met Carol Ann, but I have enjoyed her work for years. The first poem that made a deep impression on me was 'Head of English' - it's so true. It begins, 'Today we have a poet in the class./ A real live poet with a published book.' I know, I know, it's the way we're all introduced, silences the children a treat! I find that I get over their apprehensiveness by retreating into teacher-mode. That they can deal with. And the end Duffy's poem again hits the nail on the head, 'Lunch/in the hall? Do hang about. Unfortunately/I have to dash. Tracey will show you out.' Another way of saying, 'I'm on playground duty. So sorry. Can you find your own way to the staffroom?'
The weekend's sad news is the death of UA Fanthorpe. I first met Ursula at the Cheltenham Festival over twenty years ago at an event to celebrate the life and work of Laurie Lee. It was my new husband's introduction to my 'arty' world. We were treated to a sumptious buffet and Laurie Lee spent his time enthusiastically kissing all the women poets in the room. Before we poets were ushered on to the stage, Allen was invited to escort Ursula's partner Rosemarie to the upper circle. 'A delightful person,' he told me afterwards. On stage, set up as a bistro with round gingham-covered tables, glasses and bottles of wine, (the real stuff!), I sat with Ursula waiting for our turn to read. As my name begins with 'A', I was one of the first up. When we reached 'F', Ursula's poem took the theatre by storm. It was the original outing for 'Dear Mr Lee.' Unfortunately Ursula and I lost touch, but I have continued to read and admire her work. Who can match the wit of 'Not my best side' and 'The wicked fairy at the manger'? We will miss you, UA Fanthorpe.
19 May 2009
They say no news is good news - not so, as far as I'm concerned. I injured my right knee back in April, (over-enthusiastic gardening) and the pain has grown steadily worse and much more demanding. Finally, I was diagnosed with a damaged cartilage and have to undergo key-hole surgery on Thursday 21st May.
Sadly, work in schools has been out of the question for the past month. I had much been looking forward to visiting several schools in and around Penzance as part of the Rotary-funded 'Poems & Photographs' initiative, but pain won the day and I have had to cancel/postpone my visits.
Writing, however, is still a possibility and I've worked on several poems - deadlines are a dramatic spur to getting on with things! I'm also more than halfway through 'The Dream Thing', a novel aimed at the teen market. With any luck, I might have completed it by the time I'm mobile again. No luck yet with 'Taste of Summer', my novel for adults. It's currently with an agent, but as we all know, they are snowed under with manuscripts. Hope is the emotion that writers feed on - that and a great dollop of luck.
Hello and welcome to the last day of 2009. I've been very lax in updating this page, but my New Year's resolution is to keep it current - I hope!
'Taste of Summer' is still going the rounds but, despite some welcome comments, the manuscript keeps winging its way back like a homing pigeon. Patience, patience, I know.
At long last, my teenage novel 'The Dream Thing' is finished and my hopes are currently fixed on its fate. The novel features Marigold (the first chapter reveals how she came to have such a wacky name) and her nearly-boyfriend, a part-time angel who walks out of her dreams. At first Marigold refers to him simply as 'The Boy', but later learns to call him Luke. The story is set in Cornwall, where the teenagers have a number of adventures, including rescuing Marigold's love-lorn Dad from the top of Truro Cathedral. The final chapter centres on a T-in-the-Park gig which is held in the Lost Gardens of Heligan. There's more, but you'll have to wait to read the book - that is, if it ever gets published.
I'm still working with children in Treliske Hospital, on a voluntary basis at the moment, as the research cash has run out. However, I thoroughly enjoy my involvement.
I'm also taking part in a Lapidus-inspired bibliography project, 'Words & Minds' in Truro Library. This involves reading aloud in a group and talking about the issues the book throws up. I have chosen Laurie Lee's 'Cider with Rosie' as each chapter can almost stand alone. It encourages the participants to think and talk about their childhoods. This project is taking off slowly, but four of us, all Lapidus professionals, have forty weeks to make it work.
Wishing everyone a happy and successful 2010.
New Year's Eve
A thread of time between
today and tomorrow
a sigle digit separating
this year from next.
A razor wind, yielding neither
to light, nor any
vestige of warmth.
Waves munching on rocks,
from leaden skies.
A solitary walk, rusted ferns,
black rocks, old-gold weed.
Passing strangers, heads-down
into the blast, mumble
Tomorrow will snap the thread,
a nine will become ten,
daffodils will open
their goldeen mouths
and hours will be gulped down
minute by minute.