Recent Reads, Smiling Friends, Pingu Random House and more

Collage of recent reads (from left to right): The Martian; The Word for World is Forest; Windhaven; Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness; What It Is; Art Matters; Sum; Forty tales from the afterlife; The Road; Open Water

Issue #19 of my fortnightly newsletter went out yesterday. It’s loaded with a wealth of great content, including what I’ve been reading, watching and some of my favourite things right now.

You can read it now on Substack and get future issues like it straight into your inbox by subscribing.


Redirecting my creative energy

After much inactivity, I finally managed to send out a new issue of my newsletter.

Here’s a general update taken from the newsletter’s writing report:

On Tuesday 12th July, I tested positive for COVID. I would continue to test positive until Sunday 24th. The illness and isolation, matched with that disgusting heatwave that hit parts of Britain with 40-degree temperatures, completely derailed my July.

I lost work. I lost what passed for a routine. I lost motivation. And at times I thought I’d lose my will to live.

The COVID symptoms were not so terrible, they were mostly gone after a week. But I was not prepared for how torturous the isolation would be.

During that time, I could not bring myself to blog, write fiction or poetry, or send out a newsletter. All I could manage was to write in my journal. Even if it was just to complain about my isolation. But amidst the whining, I found some clarity through thinking on the page.

A lot of creative energy has been misdirected towards the wrong kind of writing for me. I spend too much time thinking about what I can turn into short-form content, drafting and scrapping so many blog posts, rather than searching for stories. And telling stories is what I really love.

So, I’m going to spend August focusing on writing stories. I’m going to write some fiction, but I want to have a go at writing more personal stories too.


Winner of the Green Shoots Writing Competition 2021

On Sunday, I received some unexpected but wonderful news. It was announced that I had won the Green Shoots Writing Competition, run by the Essex Book Festival. And I’ve spent the past couple of days trying to put into words how happy this has made me.

The public announcement of the Green Shoots Writing Competition winner posted to Instagram by @essexbookfest.

For context:

The competition was open to writers between the ages of 18 and 28, who were asked to submit an eco-themed short story of no more than 2,000 words. All pieces had to be prose and were to be submitted with no identifying information within the document. Each story was then assessed on its own merits, their authors completely anonymous.