Dark Angels Note 73

Dearest Friends,

Welcome back to our weekly Dark Angels Note.

This week we focus our lens on the multi-talented writer, naturalist and budding photographer, Michelle Nicol.


1. Tell us about something you’re working on right now. 

I never feel like I’m working on anything long term. The Dark Angels weekly gatherings on Tuesday evenings introduce me to some wonderful poetry and provide little patches of writing time. Sometimes I go back to my notebooks and tidy bits up.

Over the past three years, I’ve been privileged to be part of nature writing projects with 26 Characters and the Wildlife and Woodland Trusts – 26 Trees, 26 Wild and 26 Habitats and Pledges. I’ve enjoyed learning about the spindle tree; fallen head over heels for the pangolin and spoken up for the bog.

Doing the research, working to a brief and meeting a deadline is something I’ve done all my working life, so I love doing that with creative writing projects that also connect me to causes that I care about. My ideal job would be to write more stuff like this.


2. Can you recommend something for us to read?

I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan. I love that he writes different genres, from graphic novels to screenplays, young adult fiction to poetry and I particularly enjoy his eclectic short story collections.

Here are a couple of things that feel right for this time of year:

  • October Tale from the Calendar of Tales available in the collection Trigger Warning
  • The Graveyard Book – this is pitched as a Young Adult novel, but there’s so much in it to admire, not least because each chapter is like a short story in itself.

There’s a wonderful 10-part recording of the author reading it available online if you prefer to listen to a story.


3. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever read or received? 

‘Admire but don’t envy’. A wonderfully succinct piece of advice given to me by Jamie Jauncey on a Dark Angels course, when I was feeling overwhelmed by all the incredible voices I was hearing. I learned that my own voice is different, but can be just as powerful.


4. Share one thing you do when you get stuck.

Go for a walk or change my perspective. That’s something John Simmons encouraged me to do when we first talked about writing. When I used to work in a big corporate office, I found lots of places where I could sit with my notebook and sometimes even the act of walking to the end of a corridor could give me a fresh idea.

I’m lucky that I can walk to my local park or a nearby beach when I really want to clear my head or connect with nature.


5. What’s your desert island book and why? 

If I knew I was going to be stranded, I’d be tempted to take something like a Ray Mears survival guide as I’m not a naturally practical person in the wild.

But if we’re talking books to feed my mind and soul, it would probably be one of my oldest friends, a Dickens, Bronte or Austen novel. These are stories I’ve read time and time again and found different things in them at different times in my life. But which one? I’d find it hard to choose and may end up blindly grabbing something from my classics shelf. And I could happily spend a good few years in the company of Anna Karenina…

Lovely. Thank you, Michelle. Anyone not already a member of 26 can sign up here. It’s a terrific organisation.


Seasons’ Greetings

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is coming. And Thanksgiving, and the new year. There’s always a seasonal occasion to celebrate and here is a Dark Angels book for all the months of a year.

‘Seasons’ Greetings’ is a book of poems written by Dark Angels’ co-founder John Simmons over the course of the last year, luxuriating in the comfort of nature through the confinements of the pandemic. There is a range of poetic forms – from haikus to sonnets to villanelles – all beautifully illustrated by Jenni Wallace and designed by Mark Noad.

It’s a book for every Dark Angel to treasure for yourself, to give as a gift, a special book for a special person and time. In a limited edition, numbered and signed, for £40. You can get your copy here.


Dark Angels Gatherings

Our Tuesday night gatherings are off and running once again. Same time as before (7.00-8.00pm in the UK), but with a new Zoom link. If you fancy an hour of connection and reflection in the company of other Dark Angels, you’d be very welcome; bring a friend too.

Be well, keep reading, keep writing and know that we’re always here..

From everyone at Dark Angels

Also published on Medium.