Monday, 18 June 2018

You do not have to be good

Kamsin Kaneko has just started a new poetry prompt over on her blog HERE, and for the first one she chose this poem, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver, to provide inspiration. I hadn't come across it before, but it's widely available on the internet, here it is again for you, if you've not had the pleasure:

Wild Geese - by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

For her prompt Kamsin has asked us to use some of the words and structure from Mary's poem to write our own.

I wouldn't normally share this because I think Mary's poem is stupendous, and I am in a dark wee world at the moment, noticing the edges of things, but I want to support Kamsin and join in the conversation, so here we go. BTW I do like working in a library - honest!

I'm trying different things with line breaks, I have a feeling this isn't the final draft of the poem (tbh it's never the final draft!).

You do not have to be good

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to smile at the people as they call you girl.
You do not have to fit yourself into anyone else's space or form.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body be soft
be vulnerable, know when it needs to hide the soft places
pulling the curtains against the world.
You do not have to be hard, or strong, or anything that isn't you.
You can be you, now.
Meanwhile when I click the green flag begin a forever loop
bring the books in take the books out shelve the books
remember your alphabet, love the stamping, close the loop.
Meanwhile the toilet floor will not clean itself.
Meanwhile he will take water and music and more water later.
Meanwhile it will not matter that she never finds a job in this life
if she finds a place in heaven.
Meanwhile nothing will stay this way though it seems it never changes.
They will not always call you girl and then what will you do?
The world flows as your place flows and for all your jobs in this world
there need be no heaven.

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 18/6/18

Wednesday, 23 May 2018


The above quote comes from a writing exercise provided by the Glasgow Women's Library at their most recent, online, Open the Door event. The exercises were inspired by the work of Muriel Spark who was born 100 years ago, so I'm guessing it is a quote from one of her works. 

This is from the first exercise. You have to use one of the quotes provided to start a story, and just keep going until you're done. You can have a go too, you'll find the exercises here.

This is mine (with links to The Literary Gift Company and Etsy stores to buy the things in my imagined shop). Let me know if you do one of the exercises too, I'd love to see it.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Fantastic Poetry

A lot of people tell me that they don't like poetry, and to be honest, I get it. I was at a thing at the weekend where a bunch of people were sitting around sharing poems and lots of those poems were by dead white men and although I could say they might have had literary merit they were for the most part old and stale and boring (sorry, dead white men).

The thing is that there is a massive explosion of poetry going on right now, that isn't stale, that isn't particularly male (although you wouldn't know that looking at some publications ahem), and that isn't always pale.

At the thing I was at at the weekend only two people (both of us women) read poems by women and I was pretty fed up about the whole thing. I didn't want to just stamp my feet and tell the men to read more women, more living poets, just something new! That's only going to prove to them that women aren't particularly reasonable, so I figured I would do something positive instead.

That's why I've set up an Instagram account to share some fantastic poetry. You can expect lots of women, because that's mostly what I read, and I'd appreciate it if you could share with me anything that really speaks to you, because obviously I can't read everything, and I would really like to have lots of different poets there.

I'm not going to promise a poem a day, but I'll try, and I'd love it if you'd join me HERE, dm me on Insta if you'd like to tell me about a poem, or contact me in the comments below (if you can).

There's some fantastic poetry out there.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Peeking Cat update

Hi all

Just to let you know that the May edition of Peeking Cat magazine is now available (with one of my tankas in it). It's not yet on their website (here), although you will find details there for submissions to their 2018 anthology (poetry, flash fiction, and artwork/photography). You've got ages to put a submission together as the window closes on 31st August.

You can buy a hard copy of May's Peeking Cat magazine for just £2.99 from here, OR you can download it for free from here. It's got a gorgeous wee cat on the cover too.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

May Sun in Scotland

Yay! Sun! I always have the notion when the sun appears that perhaps it's time to put the gloves and hats away, but Scotland has had me in training and so they are all still out... They'll go away for a bit come June.

May Sun in Scotland

Then came the sun and,
desperate for light we
threw our bodies in its path,
heedless of the wind;
relentless giver
of goosebumps on our bare flesh.

We went outside and
talked with our neighbours,
swapping the pent up stories
for what seemed to be
the first time in months.
Stories come out in the sun.

All that was held in
through the long dreary
months: of grey, khaki, and brown;
of the world rubbed out
by gathering cloud;
of the tears that fall in rain.

But the wind still chilled
and killed the new blooms
and it would not fucking stop.
And then this: It did.
We had sun and warmth
and bare skin and barbecues

for at least two days.
Three perhaps, if you 
count the day the rain came back.
But it did come back,
the world rubbing out
and washing the warmth away.

And, like the woman
in the weather house
we went quietly inside,
covered up in clouts
we had not yet dared
to cast. For May is not out.

Safe in our houses
the stories build up,
ready for the next sunshine.
But now we huddle
and greet with the words
"that's our summer: we've had it."

© Cara L McKee 18/5/16

Writing Bubble

Friday, 27 April 2018

Web-logging - April 2018

April! Thank goodness that the rain seems to be sputtering out! I wish I didn't have to live in Scotland through the winter, but perhaps it makes the bright days better?

Right now I'm:

Sitting by myself at the kitchen table. I'm enjoying the stillness. I've just finished reading Mary Beard's Women & Power, which was excellent and raised really interesting questions. The cats have just gone out for their evening stroll, the boy is watching part of a Marvel film before bed, my husband is just home from working away (yay!), and he's just put the girls to bed. I'm about to nip up an kiss then goodnight.

Currently reading:

My attention span is not all it could be at the moment, so as well as reading Mary Beard's book (which is a really quick read), I'm dipping in and out of things I've read before. Right now on my bedside table are two books I'm revisiting: Nasty Women, and The Forgotten & the Fantastical 2. Nasty Women is short essays and Forgotten & Fantastical is short stories so they're both awesome for a me with very little brain (if you do see my brain, let me know). They're also awesome because of the content. These people can write!

Listening to:

I've had trouble with my phone data storage lately, so am currently only able to listen to podcasts and whatever I've downloaded from Amazon.

Five of my favourite podcasts just now are:

  1. The Guilty Feminist
  2. Best of Today
  3. The Week Unwrapped
  4. Grown Up Land
  5. Books and Authors (BBC)
Looking at those when I went to get you the links I noticed how white and male the people doing most of them are. There are exceptions, thank goodness.

And my five most recent downloads from Amazon are:
  1. Immigrant Song (yup, I finally watched Thor) - Led Zeppelin
  2. She's Kinda Hot - 5 Seconds of Summer
  3. Riptide - Vance Joy
  4. You Want it Darker - Leonard Cohen, and
  5. In the End - Black Veil Brides
I'm pretty sure I've shared the video of In the End before, so today I'll share this one:

As I write this though I'm not listening to any podcasts or music, because I can't concentrate when I'm listening, even when it's something as simple as that... instead I'm listening to my daughter reading a book about Vikings, and trying to keep her on track.

Having fun:

I am not having fun with the homework! But lately we've had a good Easter break despite mainly rubbish weather, with lovely visits from my sister and my Mum. We went through to Edinburgh with my sister and visited the Camera Obscura and World of Illusion (more on that coming soon to Scotland 4 Kids magazine). Below are my sister and the weans in the Ames room. 

We took my Mum (who is adept at avoiding cameras to Wemyss Bay's gorgeous train station, where we found one of my poems as a poster on the platform (thanks Poetry on the Platform!).

We also went for a walk at Lunderston Bay but it was chuffing freezing! The photographic evidence is below though, and you can see my Mum (with her pink hair). I think my lovely husband is telling everyone where a power station that never worked used to be. Exciting stuff.

Now the weather is getting better and it's freaking marvellous to be going out and about again. My husband has been working away a bit and today he had the day off and we meandered down to town for a real treat of a lunch. AND the weather gods dried all the sheets I stripped off all the beds this morning. It's the little things!

The guinea pigs are happier too - getting out on the grass way more often, although Scruffy's nails need cut and he's a vicious little thug when he wants to be 😒 Wish me luck!

On Instagram

I was taking part in #Aprillove2018 led by the fabulous Susannah Conway but as part of my general distractedness lately I keep forgetting about it. Just looking at it now I wish I'd got as far as dinosaur, so I could share my dinosaur tanka, but we're nearly out of April already! Well Allison Sadler is starting a new photo prompt thing in May, and hers are always quite open and lovely so I'll do that one instead, and I'll just share with you my dinosaur tanka:

Obviously this tanka is about a blue plastic dinosaur, but the reason I wrote it was that although my kids have had plastic dinosaurs, none of them were blue, they were all the greeny/mud kind of colours that little plastic dinosaurs you get in toy shops generally are these days... but, I'm sure that this plastic dinosaur (which has disappeared again, but will come back) came out of a cereal packet when I was little. That's ages ago, and I might be mixing my own life up with Charlie and Lola, but it's got to have come from somewhere! Right?

Perving over:

I'm free of individual pervations just now, but totally loving the Goth look - the pretty Goth look, with a lot of clothing, black hair and perfect makeup. I haven't been to Whitby Goth weekend for aeons but I'm loving getting a glimpse of it from these pictures in The Guardian. You'll need to follow the link for bigger images, but I'm including a couple of wee ones just to give you a hint of the gorgeous textures this chap has used, and echoed in his hair, with beautifully understated red eyeshadow and an immaculate beard (his girlfriend also has a rather nice velvet coat, and lovely matching lipstick). And if you get on to picture 5 forget what I said about wearing lots of clothes. Is it hot in here?


We're getting excited about our forthcoming summer holidays and about a guest who's coming to stay with us in the academic new year.  


I'm really inspired by what Mary Beard said in Women & Power. I do feel that efforts for equality have done a lot to bring women out of the private realm and into the public which used to be reserved for men, but there are still the dishes to be done, the project isn't complete until we can improve the status of work that's traditionally been considered women's, and bring men more into the private sphere. Not so they get congratulated for looking after their own children, but so no-one bats an eyelid about it.

Also, Mary pointed out that our power structures were designed solely for men, just letting women into them may not be all we need to do, perhaps they would have looked different if women had been in power? Perhaps we need to change the fora? Are women really more discursive? More collaborative? Or have we learned to be that way from a position of powerlessness?

Less politically, we've briefly got Netflix, which it seems is sooooo much better than Amazon Prime, but maybe that's because we've only got it for a month? What's your experience been? Right now I'm binge watching Jessica Jones (about to start S2) and Stranger Things (finished last night - didn't like S2 as much as S1, and the whole running away bit seemed a little pointless - is that just seeds for spin offs?).

  • See above - Jessica Jones & Stranger Things
  • I got sucked back in to America's Next Top Model. I really like Law, and I love Khrystyana - who, BTW is amazing on Instagram. I got spoiled on who won 😔 so I haven't watched the last ep yet, but it's waiting for me.
  • The Good Fight. I miss The Good Wife and this will have to do. I know Alan Cumming is busy doing some other American programme, but there's room for Eli Gold on The Good Fight. COME BACK ALAN!


I'm working on a lighthearted Scottish history book for kids. This is a crackers thing to decide to do, but I couldn't find the one I wanted and I'm loving the shed loads of research that's taking over my life. Is it weird that I want to re-enact history through the medium of The Sims? Oh! I could totally create Sims characters from Scottish history and make them available to other weird obsessives. Taking it too far?

I did just tell someone the other day that I don't do kids books. It feels more like this book is doing me. Hopefully I'll bring it together and find it a wee home that will work better than my previous book-length attempts. If not, I'll just make The Scottish Sims and they'll be fabulous.


lower dining hall
Everyone has now moved into the new school. It hasn't been easy for the girls who are still in primary and have merged with another school, got new teachers and loads of new classmates, along with the new school. It's been stressy, very stressy at times. But the facilities are amazing, new friends are being made, and apparently the teachers aren't totally terrible 😉 Things are still getting worked out, and lunchtime still needs to improve, but it's getting there. My boy is in the Academy and the only things that have changed for him are that now he's in a fabulous building with amazing facilities (and stairs, a LOT of stairs, he's going to have amazing thighs).

I got to go on a tour of the new building this week, and I would love to work there, it's such a useful space, with places to work all over the place, so you're not tied to being in a classroom (and that includes the teachers). The lighting is like daylight - bright and clear and so far removed from horrible strip lighting. The kids are still getting used to the building, and there is the occasional traffic jam, but I'm sure that'll get ironed out.

Also, you should see the school library, it could be bigger, but I would love to work in that library (if anyone was looking that is!).

That's me for April, getting in under the wire! What are yous up to?

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Good News poetry updates, plus tips for getting poems published.

Hello all, thought I'd share my good news with you this morning. 

First up... I've managed to get a poem into the prestigious online poetry magazine, Ink, Sweat & Tears. It's called Before the Weighing, and it's inspired by Jane Hirshfield's poem, The Weighing, which is all about the idea of weighing your soul against a feather to see if you're fit to enter heaven. I totally had the scene in American Gods (here's the clip, watch out for fruity language at the end) where that happens in my head when I was writing it, even though that was missing the lioness, can't imagine why. Anyway, the poem is there TODAY, so grab it while it's hot, HERE.

Another place I've been trying and trying to get a poem into is the fabulous Picaroon Poetry and on what was going to be my last attempt I got in! Not only did I get in but it's with a poem which I wrote at a mini poetry retreat with my late friend Rose, who gave me so much inspiration to believe in my writing. I really liked this poem back when I wrote it, but it's taken a while to find a home. You'll get to read it when it comes out in September, but in the meantime check out the back issues of Picaroon Poetry, available on their website.

I've also recently had a poem accepted for Peeking Cat magazine (May edition), which is a super cute magazine available in hard copy to buy, or for free online. It's got cats on it (rather like the kitchen table I'm working on), and some smashing poetry in it too. Check out their website because I note that submissions are now open for their 2018 anthology. 

I've been working in my local library since October, it's great fun and only part time but it's had a massive impact on the time I'm spending doing writing stuff - who knew I was getting so much done!? So I've been submitting less poems lately, but I'm still going, and I thought I'd share a few tips with you for getting your poems published:

  1. Get to know the place you're thinking of sending your poems - it'll help you find great poetry and work out what of your own work you might want to send them.
  2. Follow their submission guidelines. Pay attention to themes they're looking for and make sure your poem isn't too long or short for them. There is no point in sending what they don't want. Also there's no point in sending your work outside of the deadlines. It won't get read.
  3. If at first you don't succeed try again, but sometimes your work won't fit. That doesn't mean it's bad (although it might be - worth checking), you might just need to go somewhere else. There are so many places to go.
  4. Submit as many poems as they want. If they say 1-4, try to send 4. It gives you more chances. Also I find that it's usually the last poem of a batch of poems I send that gets chosen. I reckon that's because you've eased them into your style with the first few so that the last one totally fits with what they're thinking of as poetry. That idea may be nonsense, but honestly, the last three batches of poems I've sent out, they chose the last one. What if I'd sent one less?
  5. Try to make friends and connections. I find this so hard, but talking to other poets will make your work better, by giving you new things to try, and will help you make the connections you need to get published in other places. Join a good writing group, go to readings and talk to people, be a total fan girl/boy/person. Even if it doesn't go brilliantly, it's useful.