Aya Hastwell with some of her portraits of ‘Invisible People’ .

I first met artist Aya Hastwell at her exhibition ‘Invisible People’. I asked Aya about her growth as an artist and how she works on portraits of people who have been marginalised.

Leslie: Can you tell us, please, about the portraits you recently exhibited of elderly people, carers and people with mental health issues?

Aya: In 2013 I decided to do a series of portraits of the Service Users at Guideposts. A major reason why I started volunteering at Guideposts, by the way, was that my son is bipolar. I became a staff member a few months ago,

I suggested the portraits idea to the art group members I was working with and asked them to contribute to the project by designing and painting a background for their own portrait. The background had to reflect their personality, be it related to their mental health issue or to their memories or families, etc. Continue reading THE ARTIST AS CARER

Caroline Hagood – poetry as a walk on the wild side

Caroline Hagood

When I interviewed New York poet Caroline Hagood I asked her some very direct questions . Caroline’s answers were even more direct – full of wit, invention and surprises. As a teacher at Fordham University, Caroline has edited a multi-media graduate magazine, writes for The Guardian and Huffington Post and has two published volumes of poetry, Lunatic Speaks and Making Maxine’s Baby. In the words of Joan Larkin, Caroline’s poetry is about ‘the loneliness, wild creativity and valor of survival’.

Leslie: If you had to give a Ted Talk describing your writing to an unfamiliar audience, what would you say about it? Continue reading Caroline Hagood – poetry as a walk on the wild side


Science fiction isn’t all spaceships and star systems; it’s about the inner demons of the mind as wellDave Weaver.

Dave Weaver

After appearing together at Banbury Literary Live, I asked Dave Weaver, author of two science fiction/fantasy novels and three collections of futuristic short stories, if he would answer a few questions about his writing. Dave, who is chair of Verulam Writers’ Circle, describes his writing as ‘about the weirdness of everyday living’ and ‘a little on the stranger side of life’.

 Leslie: Your novel The Black Hole Bar has been compared to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or Boccaccio’s Decameron. Can you explain the similarities and the differences, please? Continue reading HOW DEEP IS SCI-FI?


President Obonjo
Benjamin Bankole Bello

I interviewed President Obonjo, who is a well-known, larger-than-life performer in alternative stand-up. As The President, he comes on stage in full uniform, requiring his audience to stand in his presence and listen to absurd tales of his iron rule over the ‘Lafta Republic’. Behind The President is a very different persona, Benjamin Bankole Bello, a quiet man whose identity has been stolen by The President and whose wife is in love with the other man.

Obonjo reached the finals of the New Act of the Year 2016 and received a five-star rating at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. He is currently through to the semi-final of the English Comedian of the Year. In the past he’s been Luton Comedian of the Year and winner of Beat the Gong, Beat the Frog, Bath Comedy Gladiators & Hastings Comedian of the month. He often plays to audiences of 150+ up and down the country.

Leslie: Where do you get your sense of humour from? Continue reading INTERVIEWING PRESIDENT OBONJO – WILL THE REAL COMEDIAN PLEASE STAND UP


Virginia King Writing in the Outback

I interviewed prolific Australian author Virginia King whose journey of discovery through publishing has led to her Selkie Moon Mystery series. Virginia’s CV includes being a teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Continue reading SELKIE MOON AND THE AUTHOR AS MEDIUM

Guest blog by Andrew Dillon: Rediscovering the Body in Auvillar, France

A summary of experiences at Virginia Center for the Creative Art’s 2014 “O Taste and See” workshop by Andrew Dillon.

Andrew writing the river.

It’s about 2pm in small-town southern France, what feels to me like early spring (although it’s mid-May), and I’m sitting with my back against a picnic table, facing the Garonne, growing frustrated. I’m cold because I only brought one pair of jeans and nothing warmer than a wind-breaker to Europe, but that’s not why I’m irritated. I briefly consider that I’ll never find in Knoxville a rosé better than the one I had with lunch, but that’s not it, either. I try hearing the river flow in this present moment. Just water. I shift forward, crane my neck, and swear. The reason I’m annoyed is that the damn river won’t say anything to me.

Dr. Marilyn Kallet, our literary leader and guide to Auvillar‘s food, wine, flowers, community, and other muses, has instructed us to “let the river answer.” The prompt plays on a line in Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’. Continue reading Guest blog by Andrew Dillon: Rediscovering the Body in Auvillar, France


The audiences attending the Something Rhymed Literary Salons about the problem of gender inequality in the literary world have experienced something special.

Held at New York University in London, a beautiful, high-ceilinged 18th century mansion in Central London, the discussions have been warm, thoughtful and full of insights into gender bias in society as well as in publishing. But they’ve also celebrated women’s successes as writers and their vital role as readers in supporting the industry.



Andrew Dillon

I interviewed Andrew Dillon, poet and former English teacher at the University of Tennessee about dreams and writing poetry. Andrew’s poems have appeared in several journals including, most recently The Human and Review Americana. He has been described by seventeen-times published poet/translator Marilyn Kallet as ‘a rising star’. 

Leslie: Do you use or record dreams to help your writing? Are there other forms of recording you use? How do you turn your records/sketches into finished poetry?

Andrew: I don’t exactly record my dreams. I don’t keep a dream journal; although, I do have a notepad and pen on my nightstand. Actually, I have notepads and pens everywhere: my nightstand, my car, my office, every bag or backpack I might carry – each has its own pad and pen. Continue reading ON DREAMS & WRITING POETRY

Author and Poet