16 November 2006 Entry: "A New Direction?"
Julia and I discussed the future of Diamond Twig intermittently over the years of our collaboration, knowing that sooner or later I would be faced with running it on my own. I tried to be realistic about what I might be able to achieve. To close the press altogether seemed negative; we’d been an inspirational team, bouncing ideas around, Julia always bold and positive, anything seemed possible once we’d set our hearts on it, and we made things happen. And it was always huge fun.
How on earth was I going to be so bold on my own?
Julia always believed in me, even when I didn’t. I tried to be clear and honest about what my abilities and commitment might be, and we’d already begun to talk about a new strand to the press. I was becoming more involved and interested in writing for children. There were few publishers of children’s literature in the North East, and we had Seven Stories just opening its doors, creating a focus on Newcastle. Perhaps this was a gap we could slip into in some way? We began to hatch an idea to test the potential market - a collection of poems that addressed young people and their concerns. We were impressed by Bloodaxe’s popular anthologies Staying Alive and Being Alive. We wanted to do something similar for teenagers.
Teenagers are often reluctant readers, especially of poetry. Yet it is a time of trying on new identities, questioning the world they are about to inhabit as adults and a period of intense and uncertain emotions. At such times, people turn to poetry for answers, for comfort or to reflect back to them their own concerns. We believed it would be a positive step to try and create such a book. It wasn’t so far removed from our original policy of encouraging new women writers and readers. It would be encouraging new young men and women readers and writers. Because our new anthology would be a book with blank pages beside the poems for the reader’s response. A book you could read and write in. Now it’s on the first step to becoming a reality. Whoopee.
I still miss Julia’s smiling face, her scurrilous humour and unfettered laugh, her pooh-poohing of difficulties. I wish she were here to hold my metaphorical hand. But I keep her in mind when I make decisions, her memory makes me bold. As Julia wrote in the introduction to The Poetry Cure, ‘Poetry is essential.. Poetry can save lives!”