Friday, 13 July 2012

Grit and Diamonds

It's been a while since we blogged, we've been so wrapped up in anthologies, performances, exhibitions, and our own private writing projects. This July we were a small group. Sometimes, as the group's founder, I worry whether it is still working, whether that old magic is there. And then we start to write, and all is well; I feel, as ever, thankful for that special kind of chemistry when creative people get into a room together and start to riff. . .

This time we did two lots of free-writing. The first, inspired by the theme of the next cafe evening at the women's centre – “jam night” (August 13th), a low-key evening where we can share music, spoken word, and art in a friendly environment. We gave ourselves 15 minutes to write from the source word “jam”. There were some fascinating results which we'll share in due course. I found myself in a vaguely Dadaist stream-of-consciousness word tumble. The joy of this group is to let myself go, uncensored and uninhibited by thoughts of markets, publishing, editing or “appropriateness”. This is the place to be free; that's why we call it free-writing.

We still had a little time left. We cast our eyes around the library we were writing in, and Nicki found the perfect source for the next free-write. A book entitled “Grit and diamonds” we didn't have long to write, about 7 minutes as I recall, but here, unedited, is what we came up with:

Grit and Diamonds


No-one ever says
"Grit is a girl's best friend".
Perhaps because all that determination
gets a girl nowhere in the end.

(Except up to her elbows in muck.)

Grit in the hoover, grit in the bath.
Grit spilling out of the fire to the hearth.
Grit in her teeth, clamping her jaws.
Grit all over her newly-washed flaws.

Yet, I'll go with the grit –
it's grounded and generous:
welcome everywhere
those diamonds don't fit.

Grit and Diamonds


the birds awaken
as does the sun
my eyes open
the day has begun
I drag myself
to kitchen sink
what to make for breakfast
I begin to think
the Lord and Master
awaits his feed
the work's to be done
the house is now clean
then I am free
I wash the grime
and grit from my hands
I leave the house
I go to the fields
I lie and look
at the stars
they are my diamonds
my precious jewels
I put my hands to the skies
my diamond rings sparkle on my fingers
then the clouds
take my diamonds
and to bed I must go
for tomorrow
I must cook and clean
then wait for my diamonds

Grit and Diamonds


You arrive every night at the same time, on the same arm, each time a different dress. You shine, you glitter, your smile bigger and brighter than a reclining quarter moon, your neck dripping with diamonds.

Each night when I turn and spot that smile, I shiver inside. I feel both attracted and repelled. From the corner of the room, behind the bar, I stay stunned momentarily, then look down upon my rough attire, my suit that by comparison seems to have risen from the dirt, and know that my heart is wasted hoping that you might notice me tonight, that I might rise from the grit below.

Grit and Diamonds


They’re under there somewhere;
that's my script.
My whole life looking
for diamonds under grit.

But oh what sparkles
when I see their light!
Oh what 75 carat brilliance!
And what joy at the sight!

They elude me, but
they’re there, I know
they’re there, waiting,
glinting, ready to show . . .

Ready to glow, to warm
me with their cold fire;
the scratches and dirt and choking worth it -
I have all that I desire.

Click here to read post in full..

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Big Tree is here! Our Sapphist Writers' anthology has launched

It's here, it's gorgeous, and it's a fabulous read through the multi-faceted lives and loves of lesbians historic and modern. With contributions of poetry, short stories and flash fiction from 10 members of the Sapphist Writers' group, you'll want to make sure you get your copy today, and help Nottingham Women's Centre continue to provide a focal point for women's ongoing stories. All proceeds from the £3 sale price (less any associated banking costs) will be donated to Nottingham Women's Centre (registered charity number 1105837).

Download the anthology now at:

The Big Tree is available as an ebook in either PDF format or as a MOBI file that is fully formatted for Amazon Kindle. Please select your preferred file format and follow the sales instructions at the Sapphist Writers download site. Your payment will be taken securely through Paypal. There is no need for you to have an existing Paypal account as you will still be able to enter your payment details securely.

By purchasing in this way, the anthology will be delivered to your computer for you to begin reading and enjoying immediately. Save the file to computer ready to open in your chosen ereader software.

PDF (personal document format) files can be read with the freely-available Adobe Reader software. The MOBI format can be read on Kindles or directly on a personal computer, mac or mobile device by downloading the relevant free application from Amazon. MOBI files can also be read on any mobile devices supported by MobiPocket Reader.

If transferring to a Kindle device, first connect your Kindle to computer via the USB cable. Your Kindle will be recognised as an external drive on your computer. Navigate to the drive named 'Kindle' and open the folder there named 'documents'. In order to transfer The Big Tree successfully to your Kindle, you will need to save the downloaded MOBI file to this 'documents' folder. To learn more about transferring files to Kindle via USB, see the guidelines at

If you need further help with the download, or want to find out how you can purchase the anthology by alternative means (ie. you don't wish to make an online transaction), please email us at

We actively welcome your feedback and reviews. Thanks for your support.

Click here to read post in full..

Sunday, 5 February 2012

just adding my voice

Sandy, thank you for the first post of 2012 and what an amazing thing to see ....
Over the last week weeks working both in person and in the ether with other Sapphist writers to produce this amazing collection has been a pleasure and an inspitation.
I feel very proud of us all.
Here's to the success of the anthology and to our continuing creative collaborations. Karen x

Click here to read post in full..

Friday, 3 February 2012

All Our Hard Work . . .

On 28th February, Sapphist Writers is receiving recognition at the LGBT Celebration Evening at Nottingham Council House. We've been quiet on the blog for a while, but don't let that deceive you; Sapphist Writers have been very busy people.

Back in October, a number of us participated in Nottingham Ladyfest 2011, a fabulous spoken word event, and since then we've been working hard on an e-anthology of our work so far. The anthology contains short stories, poems, and pieces of flash fiction that were often born at our regular monthly meetings, every piece carefully crafted and inspiring.

I'm always amazed at the hard work people will put in together to see a project come to fruition. Even the cover picture was a collaborative effort - an evening spent with paper, paint, scissors and glue; a lesbian edition of Play School. The anthology (£3, all proceeds to Nottingham Women's Centre) will be launched at the celebration evening, and can be ordered in person on the night, or there will be a link to buy it online here at this very site from February 28th. The blog moderator will be posting more information very soon, but for the mean time I just want to sit back and wonder at this marvellous group of women and what we have achieved together.

I've read the anthology, of course, and it had me laughing, crying, sighing and soaring. I know women will thrill at hearing these diverse voices. We don't often get a chance to see ourselves reflected honestly; only packaged, processed, stylised versions of ourselves we don't recognise. This anthology, as well as raising money to secure a women's space for all our futures, will I hope be a breath of fresh air for our community.

Click here to read post in full..

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The power of nurture

A billion realisations are running through my brain, and I think I need to share them; I’ve been trying but failing for some time to articulate something that feels really important to me . . .

When I set up Sapphist Writers, I had a very specific vision, and I think I’ve recently discounted my own voice and the power of that vision. Sapphist Writers was supposed to be something different, and its way of being, even though fluid and influenced by all its members had at its heart an important identity – part of which was not to be like other writer’s groups.

I’ve had a number of conversations recently, trying to get across something of what that original intention was, but I was struggling to articulate it. I spoke of wanting the group to be nurturing and supportive, but the counterpoint was ‘yes, but is that really any use to us in developing our writing?’

I realised that for such a long time I’ve been getting massive amounts of feedback on my writing from various other sources – from beta readers, from fellow members of my writer’s course, from tutors, from a particularly insightful partner, and even from other individual group members, so what was it in me that resisted the idea that the group as a whole needed to be more focussed on critiquing – that somehow without this, we aren’t sufficiently ‘developed’ as a group?

When I started the group I did extensive research, I had discovered that most successful writers discourage the joining of writers groups, and so part of what I wanted was not to be like those groups. How could feedback be more helpful? What is it we really need as writers? My attempts to express this have been woolly, and have left my fellow writers thinking I’m scared of feedback or wanting us all to “play nice”.

Then today I was talking about writing as something deeply personal rather than abstract, and I finally understood. Creative writing cannot be simply an intellectual exercise – we really do put a part of ourselves into our writing and it really is us that we’re putting ‘out there’ when we share our work. These parts of ourselves need, above all, nurturing and feeding.

My instinctive desire to create a space where women could come together and feel nurtured and free of judgement was spot on, because I know as a counsellor we only grow if we don’t constantly hit against other’s inhibiting conditions of worth. In counselling, many believe the safe space and the good relationship are necessary and sufficient for growth, and I’m not so sure things aren’t the same for writers, which is why so many successful writers try to discourage people from joining groups; an over-zealous group can quickly inhibit a burgeoning writer. As humans we tend to fall into the idea that to control and guide people is more essential than to nurture and love them, but this probably isn’t the case.

Recently somebody said to me ‘telling me my poem’s wonderful is useless to me’ and so it is. But telling somebody what’s really good about the way they write is probably a million times more valuable than telling them what’s wrong with it, because as we’re always being told, energy flows where attention goes, and who wants the focus of their work to be on what they do wrong? That’s not to say critical feedback doesn’t have its use or its place, but I guess for me, I’d unnecessarily come to feel the group I’d created was somehow lacking because this had not been the main focus or purpose of its meetings. Now I think differently – in a world where we’re constantly being bombarded with messages of how to be better, I finally see the immense power of a space that says we’re wonderful just as we are. In fact, that may very well be the scariest and most challenging feedback of all.

Sapphist Writers are wonderful just as they are and I’m finally realising my original vision was a worthwhile one, and worth preserving. And with this realisation comes profound love and respect for all the Sapphist Writers, past and present, who have touched my life so deeply.

Click here to read post in full..

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Writing's on the Wall

Yes, it's true - our words are framed and on display. In celebration of LGBT History Month, this week Sapphist Writers has an exhibition in Cafe Art at Duncan Macmillan House, Porchester Road, Nottingham. This is the headquarters of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust which is flying the rainbow flag for the whole of February.

Our writing is hanging on the wallIf you are able, please come and take a look. The exhibition has a theme of "Sexual orientation and mental health" and can be viewed during office hours from Monday 21 February to Friday 25 February. If you can't make it, don't worry, as we'll be posting examples of work included in the exhibition here, as well as new writing exclusive to the blog!

Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. Please help to spread the word:

Exhibition poster

Click here to read post in full..

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Where were you when...

*this is from a free writing we did in a group meeting, with the above title as our lead in*

I was in traffic. Not just traffic--people were sobbing over their steering wheels, ignoring the fact that they weren't moving, ignoring that people in other cars could see their red cheeks and snotty noses. The morning had started so cheerful, so quiet. Why hadn't anyone called? Why didn't anyone knock on the door to say, "have you heard?" No one did. And I was in traffic for three hours on the freeway, listening to radio announcers over and over and over again, and then screaming some more as a second plane careened through glass and metal, through bodies and hope.

I sat there, unmoving, knowing he was on that plane, he and his fiance'. For three hours, with no cell phone and no company but other drivers lost in their own misery and loss. By the time I got to work, frantic, there was already a message:

They missed the flight.

They were stuck in traffic, running late.

They missed the flight.

The boss said no one could take time off because the world went on. So tears were shed over the little black and white television in the staff room, screams bounced off sterile white walls as all that metal and glass came crashing to the ground, tales of desperation, of heroism, of loss, of hope, of confusion, of need, of help, of bravery filtered through the terror laden broadcasts.

I was stuck in traffic that day.


Click here to read post in full..