When I slowly began to get well from a crippling mental illness that led to a chronic drug and alcohol addiction, I wanted to reflect on how I came to get myself into such a situation. As a performer of poetry, I set about making a show that told my story. To me, it was a simple process, write about what actually happened, engage a director to make sure that I did not fall off the stage, book some venues, and hey presto, theatreland (arts centres and rehabs really) here we come! And that’s what happened, more or less. It was a great and liberating experience.
But I could not stop writing about it all. Not just about my own fall from grace and subsequent recovery, but also the plights of others too. I began to write poetry about places, historical events and people who had either succeeded or failed. Hurricane Katrina, the Hillsborough disaster and the Miners’ Strike for example. I accumulated a substantial body of work and felt that I had enough to submit to a publisher. Who though?
I’d known the work of Jamie McGarry and his independent publishing house, ‘Valley Press’ for a few years, mainly for the high-quality product that he produced and the excellent writers who had found a home with him. I sent him the manuscript for his open submission call not really hoping for much back, everything is a punt, isn’t it? But the book got whittled down into his ‘possible’ list and then finally, just before Christmas last year, I was offered publication. It was a happy time for me, especially when considered all that had gone before.
The process since then has been thrilling. Working with an editor (the great Emma King), seeing the design of the book, appearing at events and readings, talking to the press etc. This has and continues to be an exhilarating ride. The book has just been published and I hope the readers of the book benefit from it as much as I have writing it. To be honest, it has helped save my life.