Dark Angels Note 81

Dearest Friends,

Hello to you and to 2022. We have lots of winning and wonderful writing experiences for you to try this year online, offline and down the line.

We’re also continuing with our spotlight focus on our own DA community. This week sit back and enjoy the words of Jeannie Maclean.


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

I have been writing pieces of memoir for some time, and the pile of pieces grows ever larger. Somehow, I want to contain these pieces within a very old house I inhabited for 30 years to create a memoir for the house too. I have another pile of pieces about the house and spend a lot of time figuring out how it will all fit together. Pretty soon I will have enough pieces to wallpaper a whole room! Interestingly, there is a corridor at the back of the house with one wallpapered with sheets of newspaper from 1956, with tantalising headlines like, “In the darkness a shadow overtook her…..”


2. Can you recommend something for us to read?

I read a lot of memoir. I have recently read The Winged Seed: A Remembrance by Li-Young Lee. Li-Young Lee is a poet, born in Jakarta, brought up in Macau and Hong Kong until the family settled in the United States in 1964. This lyrical remembrance touches on his cultural heritage, his ancestors in China, his father’s Christian faith and its impact on the family.

In the forward Lee writes,
“This sadness belongs to Someone Else. Sad because he’s forever somebody else”

In that moment of aloneness, he offers the sublime beauty of the line,
“And when I’m not myself, I’m usually the wind.”

Do read it, it doesn’t always make immediate sense, but it is beautiful.


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

I’m going to cheat and give three because I am always collecting pieces of advice.

“Use your best words,” from John Simmons. This pops into my head often and brings delight as I search for a ‘best word’.

“Always listen for the sheer gorgeousness in the writing,” from Kirsty Gunn, author of The Big Music. Such useful advice when editing.

The other day I found this one in an article in The Times about sincerity by James Marriot in which he quotes a Victorian writer, Leslie Stephen: “The ultimate aim of the poet should be to touch our heart by showing his own.”


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

I walk. I am lucky enough to live somewhere where I can go out of the door and walk for miles in open countryside. While I walk I think about anything but what I’m trying to write. (I do have a notebook with me though just in case of a ‘great thought!’) Quite often, on my return, I find that somehow the ‘stuck’ seems to have unstuck itself. Must be the increase of oxygen to the brain with all the fresh air!


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

South, by Sir Ernest Shackleton. All my life I have been obsessed with the stories of the great explorers of Antarctica. Shackleton’s South is the account of  the ill-fated Endeavour expedition, the loss of the ship, and the extraordinary rescue of the crew from Elephant Island. The account is not Shackleton’s alone, he has drawn on the diary entries of crew members too which gives the narrative an immediacy as the story of such fortitude unfolds. Reading this on my desert island will ensure any difficulties I may encounter fade into insignificance.

Before being cast away though I intend to post excerpts from this book to friends e.g. the message to Shackleton from King George V, “Rejoice to hear of your safe arrival in the Falkland Islands and trust your comrades on Elephant Island may soon be rescued.”

I am hopeful that someone will be inspired to say, “We must mount a rescue operation immediately to bring Jeannie home”.  I hope they don’t wait longer than a fortnight, I don’t thrive on being alone!


Thank you, Jeannie. Now we know the code, you can rely on us to alert the appropriate authorities and whisk you back to safety.


Arvon x John Simmons Masterclass in Copywriting
Online Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 11:00 GMT

With the republication of John Simmons’ influential book, We, me, them & it  reaching its 21st anniversary edition, John is leading an online masterclass with Arvon that workshops many of the book’s principles so prevalent in Dark Angels courses. Bring pencils, laptops and brains for a lively and enlightening session. Sign up here


John & Jamie In Conversation (Save the Date)
Online Thursday, 3rd March 2022

If you don’t make the Arvon workshop (or even if you do), join us for an online conversation with John Simmons and Jamie Jauncey. Exclusive to Dark Angels, this will be a convivial gambol around the challenges, questions and stories that lie behind John’s book. More details to follow.


Weekly Tuesday Gatherings
We’ll be resuming our Dark Angels gatherings this Tuesday. It’s a lovely hour of reading, writing and communing. Everyone is welcome; in fact invite a friend along. We meet at 7pm UK time. To join us, click here on the night. There’s no need to register in advance and we’ll be using the same link every week from now on. 

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

From everyone at Dark Angels


Also published on Medium.