It started with anthologies.
Once upon a time, and a very good time it was too, John Foster was busy producing lots of anthologies for Oxford University Press. Somehow, I was included in them. From then on, whenever I heard of an anthology, I sent in my contribution. Bit by bit, I built up a body of work until … anthologists started to approach me.
Then lo! I was asked to edit an anthology. I was to be the anthologist and I had freedom of choice. I decided to focus on performance poems.
I put together a collection for Belisha who were publishing four anthologies – one by Brian Moses, one by Pie Corbett, one by Valerie Bloom and one by me.
I called mine Words to Whisper, Words to Shout and it, briefly, did very well indeed. It was shortlisted for the BBC Blue Peter Book Award (to this day it remains the only book of poetry to be shortlisted for this award). To be part of such a very small group of shortlisted titles was an honour.
There was no poetry section in the competition. My anthology was included in ‘Books to Read Aloud’. The award was voted for by children – and the competition was stellar.
On the TV awards show – in those days broadcast from London from a theatre populated by an audience of Brownies and similar, I got my Blue Peter Badge.
Happy days – or day – because in no time at all the publisher was taken over. So the book went out of print.
In 2016, I put together another collection, Wonderland: Alice in Poetry.
It was shortlisted for the CLPE poetry award. It was followed by Reaching the Stars: Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls (with Liz Brownlee and Jan Dean) which won the North Somerset Teachers’ Award.
Anthologies continued to amass. I had many hundreds of poems scattered – in USA, India, parts of Africa and of course the UK.
The result was, at the end of an author event, I was unable to offer one volume containing all the poems I had shared with the audience.
It was time to put together my own collection – and that is what I am now doing.
I have 30 years of my poems to choose from, Janetta Otter-Barry to publish them and the marvellous Nick Sharratt to illustrate them. It will take time to produce and publish – so nobody should hold their breath – but I will eventually have a legacy, and something to offer at every event. No more wondering how to find that poem you have just enjoyed.
There is something very appealing about corralling my free ranging poems into one collection. I have decided to call it All Together Now because the poems will at last be all together. Audience, apprentice writers, workshop leaders and poets, are now released and encouraged to join in, write together, listen together, perform together, enjoy together.
My aim is to have a volume to simply enjoy but also to encourage the readers to take that step … into being writers.
I share the secrets that contributed to the poem and include hints and tips to help readers take those extra steps in creativity. The collection can be a read alone – or give teachers and class a workshop.
The selection process is arduous. I will include the ones I frequently use in school visits and events, but I also want to add a few surprises. After all, at this stage in my life and career this may well be my last collection.
My swan song.
So it has to be good!
Michaela writes poetry, picture books, fiction and non-fiction. Her poetry is widely anthologised and she is responsible as writer, editor or co-contributor for: Words to Whisper Words to Shout, Wonderland: Alice in Poetry (shortlisted for CLPE’s CLiPPA Award) and Reaching the Stars – Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls with Jan Dean and Liz Brownlee.
For teaching, she has also written the popular Poetry Writing Workshops (ages 5 to 9 and 8 to 13) published by David Fulton Books/Routledge and recently reissued in a revised and extended third edition.
She is currently working on her collected poems All Together Now and working in Edinburgh as Royal Literary Fellow at Queen Margaret’s University.