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Poem-a-day-for-four-days - 4

Elaine Walker

Tumulus An unobtrusive mound, just off a road too small to

number, surrounded by rowan trees – ah, druids – symbolism – ritual – but they

weren't there twenty years ago so a deep ancestral meaning

seems unlikely.

From time to time earnest types with round

spectacles and backpacks drive up to stand by the gate - nodding - then

duck back inside their cars out of the hanging cloak of damp

mist, pausing only to wind down water-speckled windows and ask if there's a

pub nearby.

I look at the tumulus and see a bump in a field – maybe

beneath its neat hummock, instead of bones and slabs of

slate, there are old engines and worn out tractors like there are in the cleft of

the valley below, where the rushing water has washed away the earth used

to cover their passing.

But walking home under a blood moon, I watch the

dark shape on the skyline and remember how the old lady at

Dolau claimed to see, on nights like this, long-haired

warriors dancing, casting shadows around its

echoing silhouette.


A poem-a-day-for-four-days - number 3

Elaine Walker

My third poem was written on the day my beloved Appaloosa X Welsh Section D mare joined my herd. Her registered name is August Serenity but this poem is about the way she came by the name I call her.

Autumn Horse 

Against the fading brightness of a bank of mountain ash,

with the burned brown ends of last year’s reeds beyond, she

surveys her surroundings. Behind her, a crown of red berries, a wreath

of golden leaves, a swathe of crisped and faded purple heather. Her black

and white spotted rump is round as a full moon floating across the tired-moss

field. Her finely shaped head is alert, the arched-bow neckline echoes the curve

of the moor against the muted sky. She plants her neat hooves evenly with each

step. She is interested as she explores her new field, keeping a distance

from the unruly geldings crowding along the fence to call her. She does not

trouble with them. A whole day, she wanders ground that’s strange beneath her,

smells air that’s damp and rich with loam and tastes grass that’s a new texture

in her mouth. She is thoughtful, cautious but not overwhelmed. She will breathe

the peat-soaked air from the moors until the rhythms of her blood are attuned

to this place and she blends like her patterned coat into the russet background of

the rippling valley. By evening I have named her ‘Rowan’ and

the colours of autumn have gathered around her.


Author talk for Booka plus poem-a-day-for-four days (2)

Elaine Walker

Today I will be joining my friends, writers Alison Layland and Martine Bailey,Writers in Conversation poster_1 at The Willow Gallery in Oswestry to give a talk on the way we work as an informal group to develop our writing. The event will be hosted by Booka as part of Independent Bookshop Week. We will each talk about our own work and then have a group discussion on the way we use the resource of working together to help refine and develop our writing projects.

I will be explaining the way my poem, Davey Sings, which is the second of my four poems (below), became a song, which is part of my set as Jude Lane, my singer/songwriter alter ego.

There is a recording of the song Davey Sings on my Soundcloud EP 'Snowbound' which I recorded with the help of my sound engineer son, Chris Walker, last Christmas.

Davey Sings

Davey sings of love and family, strumming the guitar his dad

gave him. Under the harsh spotlight masquerading as

atmosphere, the cracked veneer hums. He closes his eyes and

lifts his chin to let the unravelling knots in his chest

slither free between his vocal chords. His fingers ring the

harmonics of moments on the resonating strings and he forgets

the restless crowd, good-humoured but rowdy,

waiting for the rock band to come on.


Davey sings for himself and his cautious steps forwards, bold

yet scared, fending off the past with a plectrum and the scrappy

card he’s supposed to hand in at the clinc, but he’s written a song

on the back so he’ll just say he’s lost it and maybe

he doesn’t need to go there again anyway.

A poem a day for four days

Elaine Walker

I was nominated by a friend on Facebook to post four poems - as I'm so tardy at adding material to this site, I thought I'd post them here too. The first was inspired by the landscape around my home. I read this poem aloud this week for the first time in a while, when I took part in The Watchman's Walk as part of Denbigh Midsummer Festival.

Moors Weather

The moors stretch flat into the distance, until your struggling feet learn that flat is a relative term, that small undulations, deep holes and hollows, sudden crags and thigh high bogs make A to B the tiring route. There are no straight tracks on Mynydd Hiraethog.

‘Hiraeth’ – longing, yearning, an ache in the heart - they are like that, these flat, not-flat peat moors, worming their way under your reluctant skin while you think of softer places to live.

Places where the wind stops thrashing occasionally, where winter is over before June and summer extends beyond July. Places where trees are many and stand straight, not leaning alone, weather-crippled like Wordsworth’s leech-gatherer.

Then moors weather closes in to offer a damp embrace. The hills leap closer with mist hovering at their shoulders and each sprig of heather stands out clear below. Every lush and lethal bog shines bright green, and moisture soft as breath soaks you bone-deep in moments.

Moors weather, when blizzards rage for two days straight, making you seal your family, home and animals safe inside as best you can to wait, and wait, and wait for the silence. The utter silence.

Then you venture out into a strange world of snow gate-high, swept into waves and billows, filling the lane and the yard, burying cars and human things. Reclaiming the land as wild, destroying fences, phone-lines. Isolating you in white too bright for seeing.

Except when fox-cubs catch your eye playing in the drifts, or rabbit tracks or badger prints remind you of the secret lives, unseen alongside yours.

So you stay a little longer, brave a few more winters – long winters, short summers, no blissful spring or fruitful autumn.

Just moors weather, under your skin, niggling at your heart, defining home.




Christmas offer on 'The Horses'

Elaine Walker

As the festive season is upon us again, I have a special offer on The Horses with the idea of a Christmas gift for friends who love horses, or reading - or both! During December, every copy of The Horses comes with a mane/hair decoration and a gift-tag bookmark.

Each one is different - a few examples are below.

The price is £13 inc. UK postage

The novel is suitable for older teenagers and adult readers.

Reviewers say -

‘…a compelling hybrid of realistic family drama and ecological fable set on a remote Scottish croft….An uplifting and open-hearted novel’

‘….a book for aficionados of magic realism and lovers of horses .... a story of environmental disaster and recovery exhibiting a true storyteller’s sensibility. Reading this novel is like eating a really enjoyable meal.’

Books can be ordered through this website using the contact form or my facebook page: [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form] 



My Writing Process Meme

Elaine Walker

I've been invited to take part in a blog tour passing from writer to writer, to gather an insight into individual ways of working, connected by the tag #mywritingprocess. First of all, thanks to my friend, Martine Bailey, for inviting me.

Martine's debut novel, An Appetite for Violets (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) will be launched on May 22nd. It is an evocative tale of food, felony and finery with strong characters and an expertly realised historic setting.

You can find out more about Martine here –


I have invited the following writers to carry on the #mywritingprocess meme:

Rob Mimpriss:

Rob is writer of short stories, with two collections Reasoning: Twenty Stories and For His Warriors: Thirty Stories. He has a recent story in New Writing:

Gill James:

Gill writes fiction for children and young adults and flash fiction and short stories for adults. She's a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Salford and her latest publication is The House on Schellberg Street,

She keeps several blogs, two of which are aimed at writers and those learning or teaching creative writing at university.


Allene Nichols

Allene is a poet and playwright currently working on a book of ekphrastic poems about feminist art. She’s also working on her dissertation, which is about the representation of the witch in feminist poetry and popular culture.

Gill and Allene were two of the contributors to my collection of exercises and ideas, Teaching Creative Writing: Practical Approaches (Professional and Higher Partnership, 2012).

Making contact with other writers is always interesting as most of the time writing is a solo activity - so here's my contribution to the meme.

My writing process - Elaine Walker

1. What am I working on?

I am working on songs at the moment. Singing and playing the acoustic guitar gives me an immediacy I enjoy.








I can perform something I'm working on, then revise it, polish it and work it  up to a final version through playing it live.

That's very different to writing for publication. Song writing requires me to be concise, a great discipline while voice, situation and mood need to be created in just a few words.

I'm lead singer with a band and run an open mic night and small music events too, so live music is a big influence on my writing all the time.

I've also just finished working with Rob Mimpriss - one of the writers I've tagged above - as part of a project using the records of the North Wales Hospital, a place with a long and complex history, perhaps better known as 'Denbigh Mental'. My story, 'A bridge to Puffin Island' will be online soon on the project website. I've also written a song with the same title and have two more underway based on the records.

The final stages of an essay on my old friend, William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle and his horses, for a new collection from Brill need completing, but I've finished the actual writing.











The editor is doing the hard work of compiling the completed essays now so  all I have left to do is send the images when he's ready for them.

This will be the second collection of essays on the Duke from Brill that I've been part of. The first was The Horse as Cultural Icon (2011) - it seems that whenever I think  my work on him is complete, something new comes up.

In the last year, I've written short fiction, an academic essay for a collection, a full-length non-fiction book, songs, copy for the Royal Mail, a couple of talks and conference papers, as well as teaching materials so I'm often working on several things at once.

2. How does my work differ from others?

I'd like to think it differs from others because it comes through my own way of looking at the world.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I'm intrigued by odd connections and 'what ifs?' and this is probably why magical realism is my genre of choice for fiction. I like to be able to follow those connections and push at the boundaries of the everyday world without stepping across into other-world fantasy.

I write poetry and song lyrics when something small captures my attention - moments that are best explored in isolation, rather than part of a much larger piece of work.

Non-fiction on the horse in cultural history has become my academic speciality through just the sort of surprising connections that interest me.

I have ridden and kept horses since I had a riding lesson for my 5th birthday but they became part of my writing by happy accident. While I was doing an MPhil on the poetry of Margaret Cavendish, I came across references to her horseman husband, William, first Duke of Newcastle.

His two horsemanship manuals of 1658 and 1667 had received little academic attention at that time and became the subject of my PhD and later my book, To Amaze the People with Pleasure and Delight (2010). Through that, all sorts of unexpected commissions, talks and additional books came about, so an investment in odd connections seems to work for me.

 Both William and Margaret Cavendish were famously flamboyant so they form yet another connection between horses and my love of the fantastical.

4. How does my writing process work?

I tend to have ideas cooking, often for years, which means I have a lot of snippets and incomplete pieces. But, if they are worth bothering with, they will niggle at me and one day I'll return to them. When an idea takes off, I work very quickly, but it can take a while to reach that point!

I work well with a deadline in mind and my most recent book (The Horse, Parragon, 2014) took less than six months from the email asking if I'd like to do it, to proof-reading the final layout. This was a rapid process, given the two-year turnaround that is fairly standard, but it suited me well.

Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, it's usually an idea or a phrase, a photo or a picture, that sets me thinking.










Once that process is underway, it's important to get out of my own way and just let it happen.

Elaine Walker - my-writing-process-meme - April 2014




The Working Horse for the Royal Mail

Elaine Walker

This time last year I was working on a presentation pack for a new book of stamps for the Royal Mail on The Working Horse. The stamps were released last week - this is something I am very pleased to have be involved with as the final results are both attractive and useful in highlighting the contemporary importance of the horse beyond the leisure industry.

Latest news and Christmas offer

Elaine Walker

I've been busy with a variety of writing projects this year - my excuse for not updating these pages more often, of course, but also true! I've given a talk for readers of Your Horse magazine at Bolsover Castle and attended the opening of the new Line of Kings exhibition at The Tower of London, for which I was a consultant.

I've also written the presentation pack for a new book of stamps on 'The Working Horse' for the Royal Mail's Special Collections for 2014 and just completed my fourth book on horses, which will be out next year. The title isn't settled yet so details of that are still to come.

I'm currently working on a collection of songs and a short story for a project based on the archives of the North Wales Hospital (Denbigh Asylum) for the North Wales Mental Health Research Project - no horses at all this time, which does make a change.

For more on the project, see:

I'm also working on a chapter for a collection of essays on the Duke of Newcastle, so the horses come galloping back pretty quickly.

And suddenly it's Christmas again, so I am offering 3 copies of 'The Horses', for £25 including postage this festive season.

I have a small stock of Horse and To Amaze the People with Pleasure and Delight for horse-lovers and also Teaching Creative Writing and Steve's Band - if you'd like to make up a package including one or more of these titles, please get in touch via the Book Sales page, and I'll give you a discounted price.


Late Night Live - Australian Radio Interview January 28th.

Elaine Walker

Towards the end of last year, I was approached by Ann Arnold, producer of Late Night Live, a popular radio show in Australia from ABC News, hosted by Philip Adams. The show has been running a series of features on animals which drew on the Reaktion Books 'Animal' titles. When they reached the horse, they asked me to be a guest, along with Karen Jones and Monica Mattfeld from the University of Kent, and Helen Thomas who, as well being manager of ABC news, is a journalist with a special interest in horse-racing.

I went to the BBC Studios in Wrexham and, spread widely apart, we made what's known as a live recording. This means that although it isn't broadcast live, it's not an edited show and the discussion goes out pretty much as it happened.

The programme will be broadcast tomorrow, January 28th, at 11 am UK time/10pm Australia time (repeated 4pm Australia time on 30th) and also be live-streamed through the show's website and available afterwards as a podcast.

During the discussion I will be talking about stories from Horse, how I came to write The Horses and my work on William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle.

On a more surreal note, I will also be debating with Philip Adams whether or not King Arthur actually had a horse, based on evidence to be found in Monty Python and the Holy Grail - not something I anticipated when they asked me to take part!

Tales of Horses and Humans -Late Night Live with Philip Adams


Christmas Wishes

Elaine Walker

It's several years now since I spent Christmas in Canada with my husband and son, but the experience of some serious snow, which is what we went looking for, has fed into several stories and poems. Here's my own favourite, with all my good wishes to everyone out there for a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Christmas in Quebec


Icebergs float swift and sharp along the

St. Lawrence, calved upstream or formed from the

pressure of the wind against water already

shuddering with cold. The river has miniature

landscapes in crystal shards, scooting alongside the

road as though caught up in the early evening

rush for home.


High above, fairy lights shimmer red and green on the

knee-deep snow and shoppers slither well-wrapped

on icy pavements. The funicular railway lowers itself with

care down the steeply inclined drop to the old town. We watch

the ground rise to meet us then step out into gripping air,

hurrying between the huddled shops to order hot chocolate

in stumbling French, laughing because our eyelashes are frosted

and freezing breath has rimmed our lips with ice

like the shattered river.


Teaching Creative Writing Book Signing

Elaine Walker

I will be signing copies of  my first major editorial project, Teaching Creative Writing: Practical Approaches, along with some of the other contributors, at this year's National Association of Writers in Education conference on November 10th in York. The forty two contributors come from across all five continents and they came up with a great range of ideas. While the book is aimed primarily at writers working in Higher Education, it would be equally useful to anyone working in school or community settings, and also to writers working alone.

It is available in three formats (ePub (2012): 978-1-907076-15-2; PDF (2012): 978-1-907076-48-0; Hardback: 978-1-907076-12-1) and is shortly due out in simplified Chinese.

Interviews with some of the contributors are on the Professional and Higher Partnership's Webpage.

This was a good project to work on -  being editor to such a large group was a little like herding cats, as someone said, but they were amenable cats for the most part!

Virtual Writing Residency - week 3

Elaine Walker

For my third week as Writer in Residence for Jane Badger Books, I've posted two poems about my own horses.

Both of them appear on these pages - the first, Rowan, is the blanket spot Appaloosa x Welsh cob, and the second, JB, is the little grey cob - he was a blue-and-white skewbald in his youth.

He died around this time last year at the age of 27 - a wonderful old horse who baby-sat any youngster who joined the herd and also many novice riders.

We still miss him, but Darius and Topaz, the other two Appaloosas in my photos, have taken over as uncles to my latest newcomer, Ruby, a Quarter Horse x Appaloosa.


Staroak American Blues aka Ruby






Herd interaction always fascinates me and the way Darius, not a tolerant horse generally, and Topaz, who is a real softie, are patient with Ruby is a treat to watch. Rowan, who's still only five herself, has made friends with Ruby but makes no special allowances for her!

Writing residency

Elaine Walker

During October 2012, I am Virtual Writer-in-Residence at Jane Badger Books . Jane specialises in out-of-print pony books, so this will a very horse-based residency.

I'll be posting once a week on reading and writing about horses, the links between fiction and non-fiction in my own work and also including a couple of poems inspired by my own horses.

I am hoping this may lead me to post regularly to my own blog - I work better to other people's deadlines than my own but let's see!


Elaine Walker

The Professional and Higher Partnership Ltd., publishers of my next book, Teaching Creative Writing: Practical Approaches, are running a series of interviews with authors they have worked with. Mine is the first of the series - find it on their Creative Writing Studies pages.

While aimed at those working in education, Professional and Higher's pages are useful for all writers - well worth following!



New review of 'The Horses'

Elaine Walker

There's a new review of The Horses by Dr. Robert McKay, Director of Teaching and Learning at the University of Sheffield, on the Book Reviews page. Dr. McKay featured The Horses as a core text on his 'Animal Writes' undergraduate English Literature module, with Horse also on the reading list. I went up to Sheffield to talk to his students about the intersection between fact and fiction in my writing earlier this year.

He's currently working on animals in film and is keen to hear from anyone who shares his interest - there's a contact link under his review.

You can also find The Horses on Facebook - I added it to my books list on my personal profile, as it seemed a little short-sighted to recommend only other author's books!

Then, of course, I had to make a page to go with it.



Elaine Walker

Welcome to Elaine Walker's wordpress pages! You will find information on my books and the interests that feed into them here.

Copies are available from the publishers or on Amazon and Inpress. If you prefer a walk into town, then they're in Waterstones.Or contact me and I can supply them directly and offer special prices on multiple copies - see the Book Sales page.

 I don't only write about horses, though it may look that way at first! I write about music and the moors where I live and anything that catches my eye.

I hope you enjoy looking around.

Elaine Walker