What I did in 2018

Looking through my notebooks I see that I spent a great deal of 2018 writing poems for The Magic of Mums, my forthcoming sequel to The Dictionary of Dads which will be published in 2020.

With The Dictionary of Dads I was able to slowly build up poems on different father characters over a number of years until I had enough good quality poems to convince a publisher to print it. On this occasion I am working to a much tighter deadline, but as I approach 2019, I have at least 80 poems about various Mum characters from which we will choose about 50.

My work on the book received a great boost with the award of an Society of Authors grant in August. As well as giving me more time to write, it will also pay for two school visits where I can try out my work in progress and offer workshops to help children write about characters from their own real or imaginary families.

2018 saw the debut performance and subsequent extensive touring of my new spoken word theatre show Young Herbert’s Horrors. Debuting at Half Moon Theatre in January, I have now performed the show on over 40 occasions to audiences, including theatre venues in Spalding, Birmingham and Southampton. I have also taken the show to library venues as part of SPINE, Apples and Snake’s London Library Festival and The Spring Arts Beyond The Walls Tour in Havant.

It was also the last year for touring Boys Don’t, Papertale Production’s ensemble show about the challenges boys can face in expressing their emotions. Along with my fellow performers Steve Tasane, Hadiru Mahdi and Tanaka Mhishi, we took the show into schools in Tower Hamlets and to Once Upon a Festival in Suffolk, finishing our run with the High Tide Festival in Walthamstow. The show received many fantastic reviews and we were delighted to have been nominated for an OFFIE (an off West-end) award.

There’s still been time for plenty of school visits and Able Writers Workshops with Authors Abroad. And in the summer holidays I decided to try out a new version of the Are We Being Silly? show I wrote last year, touring the updated script to libraries in Ealing and Southwark. I’m really pleased that one of the poems from the show - Knock Knock - has been accepted for publication in Joshua’s Seigal’s exciting- looking anthology “I Bet I Can Make You Laugh”.

One of my favourite community challenges this year was to visit Chatham and write and a poem in a day reflecting residents views of the town, which I then performed to a large crowd in the town centre. But perhaps my favourite honour of the whole year was being invited to re-open my very favourite independent children’s bookshop Jacqson Diego Story Emporium, a beautiful shop (and just up the road from where I live!) which stocks a wonderful array of children’s books, including an extensive array of poetry.

Finally, I’ve been working with the creative genius behind Jacqson Diego, Jacqui Johnson, through a Metal Time and Space Residency, spending time in Chalkwell Park in Southend, on a new innovative multi-artform project. Watch this space!

Justin chambers-coe