from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday 26 June 2019

A June ragbag: trees, islands, pups, birds, vegan cheese and EMFs... & a poem


It was, after all, nearly the solstice; and the summer solstice in GB is almost always wet. 

The thing about the weather is that we can resist it, or we can accept it on its terms. So the at-times-heavy rain that accompanied my 'Tongues in Trees' poetry day in a wood on Dartmoor on Sunday could have spoiled the day. But when you're under a leaf canopy on which the rain plays such sweet music, you're engaged with trees in a wood called Druid - yes really – and you're on a quest for words, how can it be miserable? Especially, I should have added, when you have a campfire with two big kettles to huddle round. 16 writers joining me in the woodland to do what I love doing – spending time outdoors, and writing – was bliss. 

The yearlong online Tongues in Trees course I've been leading has been immensely rewarding: for me, and for the participants who have been in communication with me about it. Exciting times. I work with just a handful of people on a 1-to-1 basis, and am taking bookings for 2020 now.


You will remember how upset I've been about the absence of swallows, martins and swifts in our summer skies in Britain. The RSPB has confirmed that swift numbers are down by 50% odd; and far fewer of the other two than before. Insecticides and climate change weather conditions are part of the picture. I would still like to know how your hirundines are faring.

Meantime, I take consolation in the increase in bullfinches and goldfinches here. I've watched wrens, great tits and willow tits learning to fly at very close quarters. At the top of our small woodland we've a nest of sparrowhawks: wonderful to hear and watch them above us, though not without a pang because the land of which we are guardians is very bird-rich. (As I write this a green woodpecker is yaffling in the oak tree that adjoins my garden study.)


I was delighted that The Telegraph of June 8th 2019 included my Isle of Iona writing weeks in their ten 'world's best creative writing courses'. Next year will be my 20th of leading this course. Due to cancellations, there are just one or two places left on this September's week, and on the 2020 one.

Iona: The Glass-Blue Day

The way sky inhabits the creases

smears colour that steals your breath

The sand so pale it might be grains of light

The big Hebridean night that opens its arms

and drops its creel of stars
towards our upturned faces

© Roselle Angwin

If you would enjoy some intensive work on your poetry, including putting together a collection, in a stunning place this autumn, then you might want to consider my THE WELL OF POETRY weeks in the Cévennes mountains of southern France.


TM has been going round the place smiling a lot (he normally has a sober thoughtful expression). TM is a self-declared cat-man. The reason he's happy? Our two newish pups. Who'd have thought it?


You might remember the book I've been banging on about a bit, for a while, written partly (mostly) in and about a Brittany forest.

Sometimes it takes another to see what you can't. Or to ask the right question. A couple of weeks ago I was mentioning to a friend that I knew something was adrift with it, but couldn't identify it. 'What would you say to a student who brought you that problem?' she asked. No hesitation on my part. 'That you're writing three books.' So – yes. BIG rewrite.


Yes, I know that's a contradiction in terms. And I know that cheese is the thing I miss most, by a long way.

How wonderful, then, that I've found three new 'cheeses' – tasty; and what's more in environmentally-friendly packaging.

Tyne Chease makes solid 'cheese' in flavours like smoked (my favourite), mustard (2nd favourite), as well as pink peppercorn, Ethopian spice, and others. It's delicious, and packaged in balsa wood, waxed paper and shavings.

They also do a soft 'cheese' in a number of flavours – TM, who still eats dairy, likes this as much as dairy soft cheese. It comes in glass. No, it's not cheap. But neither is dairy cheese. I simply eat less.

New to me is Mouse's Favourite. Their camembert blue is amazing. Packaging is card and compostable wrapping.

And if you don't know Coyo yogurt, made as it sounds from coconuts, try it. Again, TM eats this in preference to dairy yogurt – and he's a big dairy fan.

The Guardian noted on 15th June that the number of Britons converting to plant-based diets has quadrupled between 2014 and 2018 to 600,000. That's a whole lot less animal suffering and carbon emissions.

Meantime, I've invented a delicious pickle to eat with your non-cheese.  I'll be posting it on over the next day or two, with a couple more recipes.

One of the things I'm most concerned about is electromagnetic frequency (EMF) emissions. More than 30 years ago a doctor (ie not a flaky hippy as I've been called) said to me that if EMFs were coloured we'd be a whole lot less complacent about the quantity we're putting into the atmosphere. As it is, we're actually complicit in frying ourselves – irradiating ourselves – for the sake of being permanently 'connected'.

We need to resist 5G (Brussels – the city – along with various other places has banned it). It's bad news not only to humans but to animals, birds, plants and trees too. Worse, as it will be beamed from around 20,000 satellites (I think), there will be nowhere on earth we can escape it.

Having a daughter who's extremely electro-sensitive has really focused me on the issue of human-made electromagnetic radiation and the thick 'soup' that we've created – so very many times more EMFs in the atmosphere in the last 50 years than the naturally-occurring ones.

Yes, whatever people (and the telecoms industries) might say to the contrary, they ARE harmful: to us, especially children; to animals and birds; to trees and plants. And with 5G there will be nowhere on earth to avoid them. 5G is orders of magnitude greater than 4G. And no, in case someone has said to you that non-ionizing EMFs are perfectly safe, that's simply not true from the research.

Please, people, inform yourselves. Get rid of your smartphone. Please learn about switching devices off and unplugging them when you're not using them, especially at night: mobile phones (If you look you will see that the phone's own small print, within the device, tells you not to hold it close to your ear, btw); tablets; computers; and if you have a clock radio in your room, try removing it.

Change your cordless phone for a corded one (better for you and also to help the nesting habits of house sparrows). CABLE your internet instead of using Wifi (switch the Wifi off. If you've a BT router you'll need to ask them to do that.) Oh yes, don't have a smart meter foisted on you, by anyone.

I've done these things: I'm sleeping better; my tinnitus is receding; I'm less dizzy and my heart arrhythmia is greatly improved.

If you want to follow up, look at Dr Martin Blank's 'Overpowered' (or for an easier layperson read that summarises all the research go for Nicholas Pineault's The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs – I actually really enjoyed reading it!).

Meantime, please do look at this link and sign and share (it's an international appeal to the UN, WHO, EU, Council of Europe and governments worldwide
from doctors and scientists who know that 5G will cause widespread harm).

Here's an excerpt:
'Despite widespread denial, the evidence that radio frequency (RF) radiation is harmful to life is already overwhelming. The accumulated clinical evidence of sick and injured human beings, experimental evidence of damage to DNA, cells and organ systems in a wide variety of plants and animals, and epidemiological evidence that the major diseases of modern civilization—cancer, heart disease and diabetes—are in large part caused by electromagnetic pollution, forms a literature base of well over 10,000 peer-reviewed studies.'

And finally, to end on a happier note, here's my 'Other Solstice Poem':

We have made this garden
but in the early solstice sunlight
slant to the brim of the courtyard
where it falls on the indescribable
blue, the ultraviolet blue, of cranesbills
and their neighbouring pot, the garden
and this light are making us.

© Roselle Angwin

Friday 21 June 2019

summer solstice 2019: 'In the Valley' (poem)

            Summer solstice 2019: In the Valley

Mid-year, and in early hazy rain
at sun-standstill I’m thinking of
our longago wedding; am walking
today with the lost and the dead.
The year’s high summer turning.
Dog roses let loose their hearts.
By the brook, the pups leap bramble,
nettle; foxgloves are taller than my head.
I think that the trees don’t mind
dropping and losing their fruit;
I think the plants don’t care how
many petals and leaves they shed.

© Roselle Angwin

Solstice blessings to you all.


Tuesday 18 June 2019

The indie author-publisher: guest blog from Isabella Muir

Among the eclectic range, from time to time I do actually posts blogs here on the writing process – which is, after all, how I earn my living.

Today's blog comes from Isabella Muir. I first encountered Isabella two or three years ago when I was tutoring novelists on an online forum for MsLexia magazine (some of you know that, in addition to my poetry and 'ecosoul' creative programmes, I've been leading novel-writing courses now for over 20 years. My first was given a whole-page feature in The Guardian in 1998.)

At that stage (my mentoring for MsLexia), Isabella had begun her first novel, The Tapestry Bag. When I met her face-to-face earlier this year on a course I was co-tutoring with Sarah Acton, she'd not only finished but published four novels. 

Here she describes why and how she chose to self-publish.

If you've completed a novel and might want to consider self-publishing, this is a helpful link.




I had written my first novel.  That in itself was a milestone.  But I was soon to discover that it was just the first milestone on my journey to becoming an independent author.

Along the way, at each T-junction and crossroads there have been decisions to make.  It is only now, some four years on, that I can see the route map that has led me to where I am now – a contented author of four novels, two novellas and a short story anthology.

Looking back to the first few steps on my journey I appreciate that the critical decisions I made early on are the ones that I have repeated throughout, in different guises.

Once I had completed my first manuscript – even before I decided whether or not to approach a literary agent – I needed feedback.  Did the story hold up, what about the characters and setting? Having completed my MA in Professional Writing with Falmouth University in 2015, I was fortunate to remain in contact with two wonderful emerging writers.  Christoffer Petersen, whose chosen genre is Arctic noir – thrillers and crime – and Sarah Acton, who excels in the field of poetry and nature writing.  Both were happy to work on my manuscript to provide advice and guidance by way of structural and content editing.  Having been a technical editor for all my working life, I felt confident enough to undertake the copy edit and proof-reading myself.  These early stages are vital, whether someone chooses to pitch to an agent or prefers to independently publish.  No reader wants to read a story full of plot gaps or grammatical errors.

Perhaps it was this ongoing connection with Christoffer Petersen (who had already successfully chosen the indie route) that led me to follow in his footsteps, or perhaps I was in a hurry to see my novel in print.  Choosing to break into the traditional world of publishing requires persistence and patience; it can be months, even years, before an author is accepted by an agent and the book is then accepted by a publisher. Once the contract is agreed it can take many more months while the manuscript goes through the editing and production stages and finally lands on a bookshop shelf. If I had chosen this route it would also mean I would need to relinquish control.  As someone who has run my own company for the last thirty years I’m not great at being told what to do!  The indie route meant I had control over every element of my novel: the title; the cover; the formatting, the pricing and the sales outlets.

Of course, it also meant I had another set of skills to learn and many more decisions to make.  Throughout my journey I have gathered some wonderful supporters.  I joined a local group of independent authors (CHINDI) each with their own chosen route to publishing.  Some have followed a similar path to me, doing much of the preparatory work themselves; others have enlisted the paid help of individuals or organisations to edit and format their text, design their covers and upload their novels to the popular outlets. 

I have always loved the concept of bartering.  Each of us has skills that may prove valuable to others.  I am so grateful for the chance to be able to ‘trade’ expertise with Chris. He creates all my design and artwork, for covers and marketing materials, and I edit his thrillers. It works well for both of us and I am sure will continue to prove an invaluable partnership.

I chose to use KDP, which is the independent publishing arm of Amazon, with your titles being automatically made available for sale in twelve different Amazon marketplaces worldwide.  Although the website is fairly hand-holding, I needed to learn about categories and tags and pricing. Amazon offers 60% royalties on sales of paperbacks and a choice of 35% or 70% royalties for ebooks (depending on your sales price).

Like any professional area there is some jargon associated with indie publishing.  I learned what it means to ‘go wide’, which is effectively deciding to publish on other platforms as well as Amazon.  There are many, including Kobo, Smashwords and Apple iBooks.  I also discovered that by uploading to Ingram Spark I had more chance of getting my novels into bookshops.

Once the books ‘exist’ in both paperback and ebook form, the next challenge is to let readers know about them!  Now a fresh set of skills is needed – marketing and promotion.  There are many routes, some paid, some unpaid.  Of course, there is paid advertising, but social media is useful and free, although it is not enough to plead with people in tweets and Facebook posts to ‘please buy my book’. Millions of other authors are hoping for the same thing.  Joining topic-specific Facebook groups can prove helpful, not least because it means you are widening your support network.  I have been involved in several blog tours whereby interested individuals receive a free book, in return for an unbiased review.  Having reviews on sites such as Amazon can help readers decide whether or not to purchase a book.  Remember, there is always the risk the reviews may not be favourable, but then as an author you need to be ready for criticism as well as praise!  Via the CHINDI network I have been involved in various summer fetes and festivals where I have had the chance to sell my books directly to the public.  I have also donated copies to my local library. In recent months I have gone on to organise audiobook versions of two of my novels, which has been really interesting and worth considering, as the audiobook format is a significant growth area among the reading public.

Throughout my journey I have come to rely on many different ‘resources’, among them my own set of developing skills and my increasing network of supporters.  The resource of time is, of course, also an issue.  Being an indie author is like running your own business.  In addition to the elements I have mentioned above, you need to set your own deadlines, monitor sales and keep a basic set of accounts.  All authors know the challenge of juggling time; there are so many distractions and never enough hours in the day for writing.  As an indie author, there is a whole other set of tasks to draw you away from that notebook.

It is also worth reflecting on your motivation for writing.  Whether you choose the independent route, or opt to seek out a traditional publishing deal, it is unlikely to result in you making a million!  After all, there is only one JK Rowling!  However, I do know indie authors who are able to earn enough to make it their full-time occupation, but like most things in life, such success comes from a mixture of hard work and good luck.  Choosing a niche genre can help, as well as being prepared to be quite vocal in terms of marketing and promotion.

The route to publication can be complicated and challenging, but for me – in the main - it has been joyful. I have only provided a snapshot here, but hopefully it is a useful ‘taster’ to tempt you to find out more.

Isabella Muir is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series:




And her latest novel is: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

She can be contacted via:

Or on Goodreads


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