Lakeland Book of the Year Awards

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Evening everybody.  In an attempt to not do a mammoth post on Sunday I’ve decided to do a mini update about the week so far… It’s been absolutely full of poetry, which, as you all know, is how I like it.

On Monday, I did my first poetry workshop at a secondary school in Rochdale – invited by a friend of mine, Michael Conley, who was a couple of years below me on the MA at Manchester.  He is an English teacher at the secondary school but he is also a very good poet, and in fact I have used the opportunity to appropriate a poem from him as a Sunday Poem.

I love working with other teachers – both in music and poetry settings – I feel like I learn a lot from watching how other teachers work – and although Mike was supporting the workshop rather than doing any active teaching – I learnt a lot from him – he had a very calm manner with the teenagers.  He moved amongst them when they started writing, and they obviously trusted him, and wanted to show their work to him.  One of the Year 10 boys decided to write a poem entitled ‘What Mr Conley sees at night’ instead of, for example, ‘What the Cat sees at night’ but Michael diffused the situation with humour and took it as a joke, but then shut it down before it got out of hand.

So, I enjoyed delivering the workshops – the Year 10’s were brilliantly behaved and we found a way of sharing their work without embarrassing them – a variant on the ‘Secret Poem’ exercise! And it was great seeing Mike working as well.

So that was my Monday – and then Tuesday I was off to the Lakeland Book of the Year awards.  There were four categories, and I was on the shortlist of three books for the Art and Literature category.  To be eligible for the award, your book had to be about or based in Cumbria.

I was the only poetry book on the shortlist – and it felt kind of cool to be being judged against novels and glossy photography books and guide books and all sorts of other things, and my little pamphlet managing to hold its own.

The nice thing was that the judges said a bit about each shortlisted book, so even though I didn’t win, I had lovely things said about my poems and Eric Robson (of Gardener’s Question Time fame) read one of my poems out!  I went up and got my certificate and it was all quite nice, and then the judges announced that there was an overall shortlist for the Lakeland Book of the Year, drawn from the winners of each category, but because of the high standard this year, they had five books on the shortlist, and my poetry book was one of them!  So that was even nicer – I nearly crawled under the table when Hunter Davies, one of the other judges, said his favorite poem was the one rude poem in the pamphlet – and then proceeded to read the one rude line out at the very posh awards ceremony.

It was good for sales anyway, because I sold ten copies of my book so although it was mortifying at the time, it was also quite funny.

On my table there were some lovely people – a lady called Ros and her husband who has the most brilliant idea for a book that I’ve heard for a while – she was given a bursary from the Lakeland Book of the Year to help her write it- and Chris Stanbury, whose book ‘Wainwright’s Secret Lakeland’ was longlisted for the award, and Chris’s friend Stan, who took the photographs for the book and lovely Pauline Crossley, one of the lovely organisers of the Lakeland Book of the Year…

The winner of the award was Stephen Matthews for his book ‘Lazy Tour in Cumberland’.  I haven’t read it yet, but I’m planning too!

I then made my way to Grasmere to see Simon Armitage read – not much to say about it, except he was very good, very dry and funny, but I was so tired I scarpered off pretty quickly after the event finished…

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