Hello and Updates

Has it been a year already? Seems like a good time for a blog post. A few updates then.

On my book project:

A year ago today, I set off for the University of East Anglia to be the David T.K. Wong Fellow for 2018-2019. I took with me a big stack of paper that I called my ‘zero draft’ of what I hope becomes my first novel. The fellowship was an incredible experience. I loved the opportunity to focus on one thing instead of twelve. I loved the imaginative space that opened up when I concentrated deeply on a project. But most of all, I loved the chance to take myself and my writing seriously enough that even when I entered new territory as a writer, I trusted that if I kept writing, something would become clear. On days when the writing was difficult or slow, there was still joy in the process. It was a gift to learn what it feels like to have such a deep allegiance to a story. It’s a new feeling for me, and one I have come to treasure.

Collection of gaiwan (three piece tea cups) and a qin (string instrument) in Ciqikou town near Chongqing, China

Collection of gaiwan (three piece tea cups) and a qin (string instrument) in Ciqikou town near Chongqing, China

Through the year, I worked through that draft and wrote, wrote, wrote. I also travelled to the US for family reasons and to China and Taiwan for research. At the end of June, on the last day of my fellowship, I printed out another big stack of paper, which felt like an ‘almost draft’. Very few of the words from the first stack were the same as the second stack, but I think that’s how it goes sometimes. Through July and August, I worked on that draft, taking down scaffolding and filling in holes, and on 31 August, I sent a ‘I don’t know what to do with this anymore and I’m going cross-eyed draft’ to my agent. I have since met with her. Now, invigorated by her questions and feedback, I am at work on the next draft.

On my other writing:

Towards the end of last October, while on the fellowship, I got the very exciting news that a poetry pamphlet I had submitted to a contest with Hedgehog Poetry had won! The prize included publication and a chance to participate in Sue Burge’s The Writing Cloud online workshop. Sue offers great monthly prompts and wonderfully sensitive and helpful feedback. If you’re looking for an online workshop, do check her out.

AND, as winner of the inaugural Nicely Folded Paper competition, my poetry pamphlet, Falling Outside Eden, will be released on October 14th. If you’d like to order a copy, you can do so over here in my shop. In March, I had a micropamphlet published as one of Hedgehog Poetry’s Sticklebacks. You’re welcome to download it here (where you can also see all the other Sticklebacks) or buy a hardcopy in my shop. Postage and packaging are free for both UK and US orders over £5 until 25 October. Here’s a peek at the front covers:

My micropamphlet of prose poetry,  String and Circumstance,  and my pamphlet,  Falling Outside Eden.  You can buy them separately or as a bundle  here in my shop .

My micropamphlet of prose poetry, String and Circumstance, and my pamphlet, Falling Outside Eden. You can buy them separately or as a bundle here in my shop.


On my Writing Circles:

A few people have asked if I'm going to be leading any Writing Circles this year. Sadly, I have to say I won't be for the foreseeable future. When I lead groups, I do so wholeheartedly and with deep creative attention. I wouldn't bother otherwise. But at the moment, my wholeheartedness and deep creative attention are on my manuscript.

I must say, though, that in preparing this blog post, I had a look through the photos of previous Writing Circles. I miss them. The communities that we grew and the ways we supported one another are rich and meaningful. I will be leading them again, I just don’t know when. But I’ll let you know when I do. And if the time is right, I hope you’ll join us.


Spilling the Ink on Hiatus until Fall 2019

Update July 2018: Spilling the Ink is on Hiatus until Fall 2019.

Hello! I've recently had some good fortune for my own writing that I'm delighted to share: I've been awarded the David T.K. Wong Creative Writing Fellowship at the University of East Anglia for 2018-2019. Among other things, this means that I'll have the time and space to write, write, write. My project, which I hope becomes my first novel, is about a family of civil war migrants and refugees who left China for Taiwan in the 1940s.

I'm so looking forward to this opportunity to immerse myself in novel-writing and the evolution of a book. I wonder how the experience will inform my future writing and teaching.

AND, even though I'm not running my courses, YOU can still spill your own ink. Keep writing! Join groups! Listen to readings! Find a writing buddy! Fill notebooks! Believe in your stories! I hope to hear all about them soon.

Supporting the Inaugural Cambridge Short Story Prize

Have you written a short story you're proud of and would like to enter in a brand new contest? Send it to the Cambridge Short Story Prize. Organised by TSS Publishing, stories are welcome from all over the world. Submissions are open until 31st October. And here's something special: Spilling the Ink is sponsoring a local prize for the best story from a Cambridge-based writer! The local prize is a choice of either a place on a Writing Circle course or a 3-session writing coaching package.  Here are a few details about the contest and a link for submissions:

    • SUBMISSION PERIOD: 1st September – 31st October 2017
    • WORD LENGTH: 1,500 – 3,000 (including title)
    • ENTRY FEE: £8 (Via PayPal only)
    • PRIZES: £1000 (1st)  £300 (2nd)  £200 (3rd) & Local Cambridge Prize
    • PUBLICATION: Anthology publication for the winners and shortlisted writers

    Even if you're not sure about entering, do have a look at the TSS website. It is a treasure trove of interviews, short fiction, and writing resources. They have a fabulous chapbook subscription programme with short stories printed in charming A6-sized chapbooks that are delivered straight to your door. Check them out!



    Curious about Online Spilling the Ink? Try a taster workshop!


    If you’re curious about Online Spilling the Ink, but not sure about the technology or what it will feel like to write with other people online, I understand. Taking a writing course is a big enough leap in itself, let alone taking it online with new people and a new technology. It’s a big commitment of time and money. So, I’d like to invite you to come to a free taster session. You’ll get a sense of who I am and what Spilling the Ink is about. In addition, you’ll see what it’s like to use the technology and can ask any questions.

    I’m offering two free workshops during August and September: 

    • Sunday 6 Aug, 16.00 – 17.30 UK time

    • Sunday 10 Sept, 16.00 – 17.30 UK time

    (Here’s a handy time-zone converter to work out when those are for you.)

    Why am I offering online workshops? 


    Online courses appeal to me for several reasons: they are a way to be a part of something without needing to travel far, they offer a chance to define ourselves in a way outside usual routines, and they have resulted in wonderful friendships. Depending on how we navigate it, the internet can be a place of contact or isolation. For me, small online courses have created sacred spaces in a rather busy virtual world.

    Since last August, I have been running online, live writing workshops and have so enjoyed the opportunity to bring the faraway nearby. Each time it feels like we open unexpected and welcoming windows. Initially, the workshops were an experiment. Now I feel they've grown to be another way of having my Writing Circles bring more people together.

    Why is it a live workshop? 

    While I’ve enjoyed each online course I’ve taken, the ones I loved most were the ones that included an opportunity to meet in real time, such as a live phone call or an active Facebook group. The act of coming together during our writing or discussion, even if miles and time zones apart, was the glue that combined our separate experiences to create community.

    Creating community is at the heart of my Writing Circles. I love creating spaces where we can witness and support each others’ writing. My many years in the classroom have taught me to value what participants can offer each other in addition to the structures I create through facilitation. There is a special alchemy that arises when we come together to write that brings out ideas and voices in a way I haven’t found in courses when there is no live connection or when working solely one-to-one.

    What about the technology?


    In order to bring Spilling the Ink online, I use a reliable technology that allows us to meet while being in separate places. The video application ZOOM has proven to be versatile, stable and user-friendly. Through the year, we've had well over twenty sessions, sometimes supporting video feeds from writers on opposite sides of the globe. There have been very few technical glitches and many wonderful connections.

    Before the course starts, I send instructions on how to download ZOOM(it’s free and I’m happy to guide you through it with via phone). You can use ZOOM on a computer, ipad/tablet, or smart phone.The main requirement is to have some sort of video capability. During each session, we spend a little time working out the bells and whistles of the technology and a lot of time writing, sharing, and responding.



    Name *
    Which Online Taster Session? *
    Select the session you'd like to attend. (There’s a handy time-zone converter at the top of the page to work out when those are for you.)




    How Does Your Garden Grow?

    Our metaphors matter

    I believe our metaphors matter. They are the ways we can explore our work from different angles, they provide outlets and inlets that we might not find if we only looked at writing as a work of pen and paper, screens and word counts.

    The metaphors I avoid are ones that narrow my focus - I tend to raise a sceptical eyebrow at the language of targets, goals and finely-tuned machines. Those metaphors feel constricting, too slick, too focused, not open for accident and wayward inspiration.

    When I look for a metaphor, I search for one with the potential go wildly astray. In the past, we've had good luck with journeys, maps, forests and landscapes. This January, we started Continuing the Craft with the metaphor of gardening.

    How does your garden grow?

    I'm not much of a gardener. In fact, I find it completely mysterious that things grow from the ground. That from small seeds in dark deep earth, green hope arises. It seems to me that mystery is a good starting point for metaphor. At our first meeting, I asked the writers in the group about their writing gardens, and what they needed for their writing gardens to grow. What would be the soil, the sun, the seeds, the water? What about tools, weeds, fruit and flowers?

    A peek at some of the Gardens

    You can have a little look at what they did. You'll see that some took the metaphor to heart and others wanted to draw pictures of cake. That's fine. Mavericks keep me on my toes. A rogue rose is always welcome to bloom in my garden. If you click on an image, you can see an enlarged version.


    Now we are 5 weeks in. We are tending our settings and characters. We have thought about crucial moments like big storms. Each week, the plot that holds our stories changes just a little bit, grows a bit more. Here's what word gardening looks like:

    Today, one of the writers brought us all a little something to keep us going: small spider plants and house leeks, ready for potting up. Perfectly timed! I tried to take a photo of the plants at the Writing Circle - if you look carefully in the photos up there, you might catch a blur of green. It's tricky to get a good action shot of a growing plant. 

    When I got home, I put mine in pots and hope to give them the light, water, and space they need to thrive. Perhaps I'll even read my stories aloud to them. 

    Spring Writing Circle plans are sprouting. Subscribe to Inkblots for early notification and a discount coupon for when registration opens. Courses to run from late April - mid July.