Monthly Archives: December 2016

A year of artists dates

A year of artists dates
A year of artists dates

Last year I put up a post about artists dates, and listing 52 possible ‘dates’. It was based on Julia Cameron’s definition:

“a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”

I was so pleased the post hit a nerve, and to hear what other people have been doing over the year. BUT I’ve just had possibly the best artists date of the year for me – going through my photos to see my own dates. Not least because it’s a reminder that what is fun for me may very well be your own personal hell, and that just doesn’t matter. It certainly has helped me focus on what spikes my attention as a creative person. So what have I done…

I’ve been to exhibitions I wouldn’t have gone to without this impetus – on my own, wandering round and spending hours in certain corners, often ignoring the publicised ‘greatest hits’ and finding new artists for myself.


I’ve made small corners of comfort – to daydream, hide books I love away in, DVDs that make happy.

Done quite a lot of this…

Laughed with beautiful new friends…

Played with flowers…


Learnt new ways to tie scarves (a surprisingly popular artists date!)


Made lots of discoveries…


Mucked around outside and in nature (A LOT)…


Had my own perfume blended just for me…

Made visual images of favourite poems (here’s Edwin Morgan’s Strawberries)..


Pondered the important questions in life..

Written a bit and drank a bit….

The funny thing is I wouldn’t have remembered half of these things if I hadn’t have written this post, and looked out all these photographs. When I started my blog – WAY BACK IN 2004! – I saw it as my own writing journal, a place I could keep all the things I wanted to remember and work out for myself through writing what my world was like. And it still feels like this. Today I’ve realised all over again that I keep this blog because I really love doing it – finding out new techniques like the collage editor I’ve gone a bit overboard with, and other ways of getting information across. But then I’ve always been the one in the corner, sorting out how the latest gadget works. That’s the way I can really get my artist excited.

And for this year, I’ve been given a new resolution by someone I respect – so I hope I keep it up. It’s to record a weekly encounter with a stranger – a different one each week, I’m not going to start stalking… so here’s one from last year. Being challenged to table tennis in a gallery in Colchester…







Resolutions for 2017 – a poem

Resolutions for 2017 – a poem

A Never-To-Do List


by Sarah Salway


This year, I’ll have my accounts ready
by the end of April, lose two stone;
not only will I run a half marathon
I’ll collect all my sponsorship money.
I won’t purchase new clothes
but adapt existing ones
to fit new trends, clean my oven,
my fridge will be sparkling too,
full of natural yoghurt, salads, tofu
and champagne I’ll keep for something special
not just open because there’s nothing else left.
The Gilmore Girls won’t be on permanent repeat –
in fact, I’ll watch only documentaries
and every time I click on Daily Mail Online
I’ll send a cheque to the charity
they hate the most. I’ll open my doors
to neighbours, smile at children,
meditate, be the person I always knew
I could be, not the one my mother feared,
I’ll buy no more books until I’ve read….
Wait. What?
I’ll go on orgies of book buying,
enter bookshops with my wallet wide open
and, even if I die pinned under toppling shelves,
let me always be reaching out
for just one more, last, story.

The Christmas reading party

The Christmas reading party


Inspired by this news story of how books are given – AND READ – in Iceland on Christmas eve, we had a different ‘Secret Santa’ at the Christmas party for my writing group this week. Every one picked a name of another writer from the group out of the hat, and bought a book especially for that person. It was a chance to read something different – and show me any writer who doesn’t like to get a new book! Also, as is traditional, everyone also brought along something they had written themselves to read out – we had songs, poems, bits of novels, short stories… it was a treat.

BUT this is possibly my favourite photograph of the whole year. And all the better because it is absolutely not staged – I took it just after everyone had opened their book. A perfect five minutes of silence as we read quietly on our own. My perfect party, in fact!


But that’s not to say that reading is all the writers I’m lucky enough to work with do… this year has been a bumper year, with pamphlets, books, publications and shortlistings and competition prizes. I forced some of the writers to pose with their books recently, and under the picture are some of the links to books published by these talented writers… STILL TIME TO BUY BEFORE CHRISTMAS!!


Please note, I’m not taking credit for these books – most of the writers I work with are far more talented than me and ALL the hard work is theirs BUT they come and sit round my table on Wednesdays to write with me so that means I’m allowed to shout about how great they are!

Mary Smith, A Schoolgirl’s War – this is a really lovely account of Maidstone Grammar School during wartime – with photographs, first person accounts of girls (now women!) who were there at the time, and some really wonderful paintings by the art teacher at the time. A gem.

Jess Mookherjee, The Swell – if you’ve read any poetry magazines this year, you will probably have seen Jess’s poems in them. This is her first pamphlet and it’s beautiful.

Steve Walter, When The Change Came – This is actually Steve’s third book, and he has performed his own show in both the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringes, but it’s his first poetry collection, and like Jess’s, it’s personal, interesting and brave.

Ellen Montelius, Rock Paper Scissors – Ellen is a graphic artist, and her presence in the group has shown us all that sometimes the hardest stories can be told with very few words, albeit carefully chosen ones…

And there are more books and publications in the pipeline…

BUT hopefully for the time we are writing together we are not thinking about publication, or book contracts, or glory. And of course we are not thinking about NOT getting any of those things either. It’s just a case of putting one word in front of the other, searching for the best word to say what we mean, finding the courage to look a little harder at what it is we want to get across, and supporting each other by listening – HARD – to what we all have written. The exercises I give are often mad, hopefully surprising, and sometimes difficult but the wonder of all my writing groups happens when everyone is generous enough to give it a go, and the energy in the room just fizzes. No wonder sometimes we need a night off just to read…