I've always said that writing is a journey. Whether that's a blog post like this one, or a novel like Heartbound, writing has given me a lot over the years. Now, I'm adding a poetry collection to the list of journeys.
That's right, my first ever poetry collection is now available! To celebrate the release of Dark Nights into Brighter Days, I'm going on a launch tour spanning three cities; Worcester, Leicester, and Coventry.
At the time I was focusing more of my writing on my novels, especially Heartbound, which came out in 2015. However, I did try a few poems just to get down all the negative thoughts swarming around my mind, though it was only when I moved to Worcester in 2017 that I decided to take poetry further.
I quickly realised that performing poetry about mental health was really helping me in my recovery.
So, after performing at open mic events around Worcester and asking the advice of the supportive circle of poets in the city, I thought to myself, "Why not go for it? Why not make a collection of poems to help other people who are struggling?"
Enter Dark Nights into Brighter Days!
With Brighter Days, I hope to build understanding and empathy around mental health, as well as showing people who might be struggling that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it takes great strength to say to someone else, "you know what, I'm not okay."
I'll also be donating a portion of my royalties to Rethink Mental Illness, a charity which works tirelessly to encourage people to seek help if they need it and ending the stigma which is still prevalent in today's society despite greater awareness and campaigns from celebrities, charities, and the public.
I should also warn you that the poems in Brighter Days are intense. One in particular, The First Time, was especially hard for me to write so if you start to feel triggered at any point, please turn the page.
After countless counselling sessions back in Leicestershire, many messages to friends, and talks with my family, I began to turn a corner. I was starting to rediscover that spark I thought I'd lost and taking pride in my achievements again rather than dismissing them. Crucially, the counselling sessions have enabled me to build four pretty strong defences which admittedly I'm still learning how to use effectively but they're certainly helping!
And that discovery has come thanks to the move to Worcester. Sometimes we need to get away in order to gain clarity and perspective on an issue, and that's certainly the case with Worcester. I've learnt so much about myself in the year and three months I've been here and have gained so much confidence thanks to my poetry performances.
Each of the three launches will be exciting and emotional in equal measures! The Worcester launch will also double up as the 'official' launch party. All three will also feature performances from fellow poets and friends, who have helped me along the journey I've been on, and naturally, I'll be selling and signing copies of Brighter Days myself.
Worcester's launch will take place at Paradiddles Bar in the city centre on 28 July, Leicester's will take place at Fearon Hall in Loughborough (about 15 minutes outside the city centre) on 4 August, and Coventry's will be at the Shop Front Theatre in the city centre. The doors open at 6pm for all of them for a 6:30pm start. Drop me a message if you'd like some further information.
I'd like to wrap up this post by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey through mental health. It hasn't been an easy one that's for sure (hell, it's been the hardest one I've ever gone on) but I'm now moving forwards into those 'brighter days'.