Friday, 6 March 2020

Reading at the Red Shed




A brilliant evening at Wakefield's Labour Club last night - the last of the legendary Red Shed Readings for this season. A huge thank you to John Irving Clarke and Jimmy Andrex for inviting me to read alongside the marvellous Roy McFarlane.

Me outside the legendary Red Shed

It was my inaugural visit to the Shed, and it coincided with the release of my debut poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, so it was a great chance for me to read a few poems from the collection for the first time. It was a packed house, and I got some really positive feedback from the friendly audience, and was especially chuffed that Roy McFarlane said he loved my short story, 'Part of Sami, Part of Malik'. 'Part of Sami' was a story I wrote for the A Thousand Word Photos project in aid of the charity Stroke Interact. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to hear it read out in the Arcola Theate in Dalston by the wonderful actor, Andy Lucas, as part of an event to raise funds for the charity. I don't think my own reading was a patch on his - I was a little nervous (of course!) and rushed it too much at the start - but I still enjoyed reading it.

A rather blurred me - the strange angle makes the room look almost empty, but I assure you it was full!
I need to take some tips from Roy McFarlane - he's a fabulous performance poet, full of fire and passion, and it was great to hear him read. Roy was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2018 and is a previous Birmingham Poet Laureate. He entertained us with poems from his two collections, The Healing Next Time and Beginning With Your Last Breath.

Roy McFarlane


The open mic session was a joy too - so many marvellous poets, each one a gem. And brilliant live music as well! All in all a brilliant night - and always a joy to spend time with like-minded people ;-) It may well have been my first visit, but we'll be certainly be going back to listen to more in the autumn.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Interview on Tim Taylor's Blog

There's a short interview with me over on Tim Taylor's blog today - with a poem from my forthcoming collection (out 28th February). The poem, The New Knowing, was part of the Northern Poetry Library's Poem of the North.


You can read it HERE

And here's an excerpt from Amanda McLeod's review:
 
Amanda uses beautiful metaphors to bring the losses back to life; the sea and birds are two motifs that appear repeatedly throughout the collection. The imagery these create builds stunning visual pictures of each poem. Sensory detail is essential to these images and Huggins makes bold and effective use of these, from the thump of a sparrow against a car windscreen to the sunlight trapped beneath glass flavour of a tomato to the faint heartbeat of a beloved pet. These images are served well by lyrical language and gentle turns of phrase that add a truly musical quality to the poems. Occasional slant rhyme leads the poetry back towards traditional forms in some areas without seeming trite or cheesy, and there is a pleasing variety of form. Huggins uses line breaks to suspend phrases, allowing them to hold multiple meanings until the reader arrives at the next line and this pulls the poems along, encouraging the reader forwards without seeming frantic. This tone suits the subject matter perfectly.
The Collective Nouns for Birds is a delicate balance of pain and peace. Amanda Huggins reminds us all that loss is a part of the cyclic nature of life, and that we can look back without becoming mired in grief. Those moments weave into our hearts and become a part of the fabric of ourselves – we need not cling to them tightly to keep them with us. This is an accomplished debut.

You can read the full review HERE

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Northern Writers Reading - June 10th, Marsden Library





 It's a few months away yet, but I'm already looking forward to this event at Marsden Library in June!

You can get all the details HERE


Thursday, 6 February 2020

Review of The Collective Nouns for Birds


The Collective Noun for Birds Amanda Huggins
A lovely review from Ali Thurm for my debut poetry collection. Here's a taster:

In this beautiful, very accomplished first poetry collection, Amanda Huggins demonstrates a range of concerns, from growing up to love and loss all interlinked by the sea.  Whatever theme she is examining her language is precise and evocative with no word wasted.
Out Chasing Boys focuses on that innocent time of adolescence when ‘we revered those rake-limbed lads / … as though they were gods’, and in The New Knowing there’s the sense of expectancy and hope which is so acute at that age, when the narrator and her friend know that ‘life will be good and worth the wait.’ Again, in Dizzy With It, she evokes an intense feeling of life opening up to all kinds of possibilities – if they practise playing their instruments enough she and her friend are convinced they could become rock stars, while the reader is aware of the limitations life imposes.
The Collective Nouns for Birds is a very accessible and enjoyable poetry collection which will also withstand several re-readings. Amanda Huggins’ poems are technically proficient, sensitive and full of pathos. A strong first collection.

You can read the full review here

Friday, 31 January 2020

One Scheme of Happiness by Ali Thurm



One Scheme of Happiness is a dark and unsettling tale exploring themes of obsession, jealousy, deceit and desire. It is a beautifully written novel, well-paced, with a strong and atmospheric sense of place.

Helen has always been the shy one, the one who stayed behind in her hometown and cared for her sick mother. When her friends return to the quiet seaside town, Helen’s repressed emotions are unleashed. She becomes embroiled in Sam and Vicky’s unravelling marriage and complicated games, yet at the same time she is playing a game of her own. As her uneasy friendships with Sam and Vicky become mired in deceit, Helen starts to make bad decisions and destructive choices.

The novel explores what happens when someone will do almost anything to get the thing they think they want. What appears to be a straightforward love triangle turns out to be something much more complex and much less predictable - no one is who they first appear to be - and Helen’s life spins out of control as she begins to self-destruct.

One Scheme of Happiness draws you in from the start and doesn’t let you go. A confident and accomplished debut.

THE BLURB:

"It’s funny what you remember about childhood games.

Helen was always the wallflower at school, while Vicky and Sam were the golden couple. But as time passes, and the teenage sweethearts’ relationship begins to falter, Helen faces a choice – will she help her friends rekindle their marriage, or will she help herself to the man she has always loved?

You know what they say...it's always the quiet ones you have to watch."


You can buy a copy here 

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Interview with fellow Maytree poet, Tim Taylor


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I'd like to welcome poet and novelist, Tim Taylor to my blog today. Tim will be reading from his poetry collection, Sea Without a Shore and his novel, Revolution Day at Denby Dale library at 7.30pm on 31 January.


Welcome to Troutie McFish Tales, Tim!

Many thanks for hosting me, Amanda! 


How long have you been writing poetry?
 

Since I was a child. I still have a folder of poems I wrote at primary school! I drifted away from it a bit as I got older, though still wrote the odd poem from time to time.  I’ve been writing poetry more consistently for about the last ten years.

How did you get involved with Maytree Press?

 
There is a lively poetry community in Marsden, just down the road from where I live in Meltham, and there have been various events associated with the ‘Poetry Village’. I got involved with some of those, and since I was looking to publish a collection at the time when Maytree emerged from that scene, it seemed natural to see if they would be interested in publishing my poems.


Do you prefer writing poetry or fiction?

 
That’s a difficult one. I enjoy them both in different ways. For me, poetry is more sporadic, as I feel I need an idea to work with and when I get one there can be a frantic burst of activity; whereas writing a novel is a steadier long-term process of developing themes and characters and weaving them together. Both can be very satisfying.  


Who are your favourite poets and authors, and which of them influence your work?

 
Picking out a few names from the huge list of writers I like I would mention: 


Poets: Wilfred Owen, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas;


Novelists:  William Golding, Haruki Murakami, Ursula Le Guin


I try not to write novels that draw directly on other authors, though I’m sure the subconscious influences are there.  The same is partly true in poetry, though I have sometimes written poems that were explicitly influenced by a particular poet (including those mentioned above).


And if you weren't Tim Taylor, who would you like to be?

 
I think I’d just like to be me, but better!


Finally, would you like to share a poem?
 
The Old Couple

When they were young
their love was a thing of flame.
Colliding like two asteroids
they were magnificent
but sparks would leap from jagged edges.
Incandescent, they would fly apart,
only to spiral inwards once again.

Look at them now,
sitting to watch the sun go down,
still warmed by the embers of that ancient fire.
She leans on him, and he on her;
time has smoothed their curves and hollows,
sanded them to fit each other
like pebbles rubbed together by the sea.



Many thanks to Tim for answering my questions, and for sharing that wonderful poem.

You can also find out about Tim and his writing on his Facebook Author Page here

And if you'd like to read more of Tim's poetry, here's some further information about Tim's collection:

sea-without-a-shore (3).png


Sea Without a Shore
In his debut poetry collection, Tim Taylor explores the transformative effect of the wild Yorkshire landscape he now calls home. He expertly immerses the reader in the landscapes and history of the South Pennines before challenging our senses with brave new perceptions from house plants to outer space. Set in two distinct parts, this is a debut pamphlet that takes the reader from the dark peaks of Bleaklow and Black Hill (Ungrimming) to the far reaches of our solar system (Pioneer) and back to the living room (The House Plant). Poetry at its very best, highly-innovative and effortless; a feast of words to transform your day.

You can buy a copy here


   


Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Book Review - Maggie of My Heart by Alison Faye

I read this novella in one sitting - a short and pacy slice of sleaze-noir! 

 

This gorgeous slice of noir would make a wonderful TV drama. A tautly-paced page-turner that demands to be read in one sitting. With pitch-perfect writing, and each character a gem, Maggie of My Heart draws you into its gritty world and doesn’t let you go until the last page. Maggie is a wonderful character, strong and yet vulnerable, a woman who has escaped a life of crime and sleaze only to have it rear its ugly head again in the form of her erstwhile lover, Johnny. I was rooting for her every step of the way with my heart in my mouth.  

You can get a copy here

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

No Good Deed Anthology - Review by Judy Darley


No Good Deed: Short stories raising funds for Indigo Volunteers by [Harvey, Clare, Huggins, Amanda, Pokrass, Meg , Bhattacharya, Susmita, Sheehan, Hilda, Garland, Rosie, Campbell, Joanna, Mangos, Louise]
A lovely review of No Good Deed from Judy Darley. Thrilled that she enjoyed my story, A Longing for Clouds:-
A Longing For Clouds by Amanda Huggins is redolent with aromas that weave through the passages, evoking the rich, sensual squalor of heat, from “the pungent scent of overripe mangoes” to “sandalwood on warm skin”. Huggins’ story is a masterclass in engaging the senses, as she evokes scenes vivid with jewel colours, textures and flavours, overlaid with a yearning nostalgia.
“The only sound she could hear was the faint tinkle of the tiny bells on the women’s bracelets and ankle chains. The noise reminded Maggie of the dress she wore to Deepak’s wedding; cerulean blue with bells around the hem. It conjured the warmth of the soft Jaipur dusk; the air heavy with incense and sandalwood attar, the gate adorned with flowers. Bright saris, silk scarves billowing like jewel-bright parachutes. The bride, nervous and pale, beautifully gift-wrapped in red and gold.”

Monday, 2 December 2019

Book review: Unprotected by Sophie Jonas-Hill


Image

What the publisher says:

“She's fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save herself?

Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia's life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she's hiding from her hurt and loss in rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.

As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.”


My review:

Unprotected is an unflinching and powerful story of the complexities and frailties of relationships in all their guises, of family secrets, of love, heartbreak and grief, of addiction, loyalty and betrayal. Lydia is a compelling character – mixed-up, messed-up, startlingly honest, filled with anger born of grief, yet still determined to save everyone else.

The story gallops along at a unrelenting pace, keeping you hooked until the end, and even though this is far from an easy read, there is hope as well as darkness.

Jonas-Hill’s style is bold, vivid, sensitive, raw and beautiful, and Unprotected packs a real punch – I can’t wait to read more from her.


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Illustration Copyright Sophie Jonas-Hill








Thursday, 21 November 2019

COVER REVEAL TIME!

I'm so excited to share the fabulous cover for my poetry chapbook, coming soon from Maytree Press.  

Huge thanks to Alice Parker for this beautiful illustration.


Reading at the Red Shed

A brilliant evening at Wakefield's Labour Club last night - the last of the legendary Red Shed Readings for this season. A huge tha...