Pen To Print

Monday Moments: Resilience

Introduced by Holly King

Holly King Monday moments

Are you a resilient person? Would that be a word you, your friends, family or colleagues use to describe you? It’s quite a compliment, to be called resilient, but what are the words that go along with that? ‘Bouncing back’, ‘Getting knocked down but getting back up again’, ‘Never stopping’, ‘Not letting things get you down’. Sounds tough, doesn’t it? So, there can be misassociation around the word ‘Resilient’: that you keep letting the pressure pile on but somehow never falter, or that you can always shake it off and wade through it.

Resilience to me is a quiet, but clear, inner voice. One that hears all the noise that comes with more pressure, stress, unknowns, responsibilities and deadlines and is confident in that you can handle it. The voice that lets you have a moment of panic, but doesn’t let that panic seep in. Perhaps resilient people are coated in a waterproof spray so the droplets slide over them instead of soaking in.

That voice isn’t always so strong. Sometimes, it can be hard to hear over the noise. Sometimes, the panic finds an unsealed part of you to seep into. But the resolve of the voice is always the same.

And if resilience was a colour, what would it be? My initial thought is that it would be a bold colour, one that resisted any trying to impose on it; a colour that stood out strong for everyone to see from miles away. But now I think perhaps it is a primary colour, one that can be mixed into different shades, pigments, even creating new colours, while always retaining its base; having the quiet resolve to know what its core is made of, and that no amount of additions or alterations can cause it to disappear.

I’ve got a great selection of writers showcasing how they’re being resilient, which I hope will inspire you to feel more resilient on a Monday!

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First up is author, tutor and lecturer Alex Davis:

New Times, New Outlets

Like many of you, the absence of writing workshops and events in the pandemic was a concern. As a tutor and lecturer, I’ve always enjoyed them massively and the interaction and excitement they bring. Equally, there was a sense of very much missing the events scene and hearing so many of my favourite writers speak and read. However, it’s been extremely heartening to see the way that the sector has resolved not to let this bring it to a halt, and all sorts of new ways of working have started to emerge.

My first personal experience of this was in my role at the University of Derby, where (like everywhere else) the change to virtual teaching came rapidly and required a lot of adaptation. I can’t lie – it was a shift that was nerve-wracking, and genuinely felt like a new world. But, with some great guidance and support, I was able to deliver my first session and think, ‘That wasn’t so bad’. Since then, I’ve really tried to embrace the whole idea of virtual workshops and activities; be it as an attendee, or as the person running them.

Still today, I find my virtual sessions more stressful than a face-to-face session. This might sound counter-intuitive, but once I’m in the swing I feel pretty happy talking to an audience all sat at home. It does require a different approach to your traditional workshop: discussion in a chat bar, tasks divided up into smaller chunks, everything on slides because it’s harder to branch off… I probably miss a whiteboard more than anything.

And while I’ve been doing relatively little over summer, they’ve been a huge boost to my self-esteem! I decided to serve them up on a ‘pay what you like’ basis, and it’s been really heartening how people have valued the sessions and the wonderful support they’ve garnered. It’s also a response to the times we live in: if things have been tough for you during this strange period in history, then pay nothing. I hope that’s made a lot of people feel more welcome than paying for tickets upfront through a booking page.

In my mind, literature has always been a resilient sector, and the last six months have proved it. We’ve seen not only online workshops but whole festivals and conventions switching to a virtual format, with panels, readings, talks, interviews and more. For many, like me, this is not something that will have come naturally. It shows courage to do something that is out of your comfort zone.

I’ll close with a rallying cry to audiences out there: at this point in time, festivals and events and organisations need your support more than ever. It might not be natural to you either, but there’s still plenty to be had out of these online activities. Anything new can be off-putting, but most of these events are literally a few clicks away. You don’t need to get out of bed, or get off the sofa, or change out of your pyjamas. And how many writing events can you say that for? And the bottom line is, you might just find something you like, and enjoy, and want to do more of. I’m even willing to bet that virtual events will stick post-pandemic, and be a great alternative for those who can’t make the real thing. A resilient sector needs a resilient audience and, if you haven’t given it a go, now is as good a time as any!

Connect with Alex on his website: https://alexdaviswriting.blogspot.com/

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Alex has a wonderful positive mindset, something that comes across strongly in his work. As a fellow writer, this helps put me back into the creative mood! And if you’re wondering where you can get your hands on some free online events, check out our very own digital ReadFest this September: https://pentoprint.org/readfest/

Next up is a poem by our Editor, Madeleine. I encourage you to read it aloud, or mouth the words; her use of assonance and poetic meter creates a wonderful mood to it:

Resilience

If a coward dies many deaths and a hero only one
Am I a Hero or a Coward for reaching for the sun?

The ground in which I’m planted
Is tilled and safe and steady
But growth can still be stunted
While I wait to be ready.

I reach and stretch.

 

Is a mistake of fortune the same as one I’ve wrought?
A circumstance of comfort – a given, or my fault?

Whether brown feet in brown dust,
Or feet of clay in Gucci
Clad in blood bespattered tatters
Or dye-besplattered Pucci

Still, we reach and stretch.

 

Is the sparseness of the widow’s mite
The same as every word I write?

Each drop of story in me
Is a mote in someone’s eye,
An itch that scratches constantly
That if not written, lies.

Still, I reach and stretch.

 

Must a risk be taken? Does not taking it mean death?
A little death that lingers on each and every breath?

I choose to risk.
The suffering and sorrow, the learning, the feeling, the changing,
the growth.
That is life.
As I write, I will be fearless in the face of happenstance,
I will dance.

And, this is why we reach and stretch.

(C) Madeleine F White, 2020

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Finally, we see the return of beloved Pen to Print alumni, Patsy Middleton. I was captured from the first line:

 

When my mother was seven months pregnant, she fell off a bus, which started her labour.  I was two months premature. And there my accident-proneness began.

My friend Mary always said I had round feet because I was always falling over. I wasn’t just accident-prone; I was always catching bugs. Whatever was going, I caught it.

It got so bad in my teenage years, that one day I said to the doctor, “Do you think I am a hypochondriac, Doctor?”

“No, you’re just unlucky,” was his reply.

At an early age, I realised that moping about being ill was a waste of time, so I resolved to be resilient. This attitude has served me well over the years.

I might have known that me having a baby would not be a straightforward experience.

With my first child, something went wrong. I had to have a caesarean and they pumped six units of blood into me. Baby number two wasn’t much better, as it took him three days to finally pop out. The last baby was another caesarean. So ended my foray into motherhood.

My ‘resolve to be resilient’ brought me through all this unscathed.

One thing, though: I always prided myself on never breaking any bones.

Well, I made up for that. So far, I have brokenc14 bones. They diagnosed osteoporosis. Resilience came to my aid again. The worst break was when I fell on the stairs and fractured two cervical vertebrae.

I do not advise anyone to do that. The pain was unbearable. They prescribed morphine.

It took the pain away but when my back was better, I had to wean myself off the morphine and that took three months.  I persevered and now I know what a drug addict goes through.

Again, resilience was called for.

And here we are now – in lockdown.

But the irony is, on the second of February this year, I fell over once again and cracked my left Tibia/shinbone. I couldn’t climb the stairs. So I camped in the living room on the sofa, with the TV in front of me and my computer on my lap.

By turns, I watched TV, edited my current book, and wrote the occasional poem. I also signed in on Facebook Messenger, where I played lots of silly games and video chatted with my friends.

Joy of joys, one day I managed to walk with only one crutch. But then, misery of miseries, I twisted my right foot, which put a strain on my right knee and an agonising pain exploded.

I haven’t been able to have it seen to but it is slowly getting better.

So, even if  lockdown hadn’t occurred, I would still be isolated in my little encampment, as I can only walk enough to get to the downstairs cloakroom.

Have you ever tried to have a bath in a sink 12 inches by eight inches? It isn’t easy. But I resolve to be resilient and manage!

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And so ends our Monday Moment. I’m feeling more resilient and able to tackle whatever this week brings, and I can’t wait to see what it brings for Write On! Extra. Be sure to tune in every day for fresh new colours and writing, and if you feel the urge to be creative, send me your stuff! Pop me an email at pentoprint@lbbd.gov.uk.

ReadFest is going Digital this year. Check out our 2020 programme and book your FREE tickets online: https://pentoprint.org/readfest/ 

And -don’t forget, Issue 5 of Write On! magazine is available to read online, just click here!

It’s quite a compliment, to be called resilient, but what are the words that go along with that? 'Bouncing back', 'Getting knocked down but getting back up again', 'Never stopping', 'Not letting things get you down'. Sounds tough, doesn't it?