Why do you write?
I am on the side of “Live, and then write,” rather than “Live for your writing,” but the reason I enjoy life, and writing, is the diversity of routes. We are all doing our best aren’t we? I ran away to London as a teenager, and got into London Contemporary Dance School, then joined a Dance Theatre company. Later I did a degree in sculpture at Camberwell School of Art, London. After living in Spain for six years I ended up in Manchester, following a psychotic episode, and encountered a vibrant performance poetry scene. I am in no way a performance poet, but I enjoy reading my poems.
What books do you read?
I consume novels, devour them. I love Dostoevsky, I love meandering big fat books. I love Thomas Pynchon, Don De Lillo, Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro. I am beginning to like short stories, though I haven’t found them satisfying in the past. I thoroughly enjoyed Lydia Davis collected works, because of the diversity of length of story, and the fact that they are often anecdotal. I like books with anecdotal ”nuggets,” not some fast paced page turning frenzy. I like to take time to know what is happening. I thoroughly enjoyed Angela Readman’s, “Don’t Try This at Home,” because things, words, phrases resonated.
What inspires you?
It feels more like having to empty my head. For me writing is truth, saying it as it is. As a dancer it was very abstract, very much about “feeling,” from the guts rather than cerebral. As a dancer I really did not want to face my thoughts, they were scary. The art, painting, sculpture, was nearer to the concrete, but the onion skin layers were firmly in place. With poetry, another layer is removed. Short stories feel even more exposed. I think I might be terrible at them, but I have just sent off a bunch, and it will be interesting to see what happens.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer, and when?
I have always written, always drawn, always dreamed, but only in the last four years has writing become my main “expression.” Only in the last year or two have I realised my work is publishable, and this is a great relief, because I do think any art form needs an audience, otherwise why bother?
How do you deal with rejection
Pretty damn well in writing, as opposed to in real life, with actual people, when rejection makes me shrivel and die inside. I think I have been fairly lucky in that I have had a high percentage of my work accepted, and when something is rejected I just send it somewhere else, and usually someone seems to like it. I am talking poems here, those short stories will probably all be thrown back in my face. If I send a poem somewhere and it is rejected it simply means they didn’t like it, not that it is rubbish. Why should they like it? I haven’t taken their advice to subscribe to their magazine in order to see what they like. I can’t afford to. If they haven’t put up some online archives of what they like, how can I judge what they want? The wise places either show an archive or are very specific about what they want, and don’t waste their time or mine. I find the process of submitting very difficult because of numeracy dyslexia, which is also a form blindness, so it is difficult for me to actually do the process. The ONLY reason I have been enabled is Cathy Bryant’s Comps and Calls, and some very understanding editors who have gently pointed out my failings in terms of the process, but not held it against me. Those people are out there. I will give a publisher two shots, and if they don’t like either of my submissions, fair enough, there are a lot of places out there, “prestigious” or otherwise, and I have moved on.
Who are some writers you admire?
I have already named some authors, including a couple of friends who have been supportive. And actually the writers I admire are people who are supportive, who take the time to encourage other writers, who realise the world is big enough for all of us. It is elastic.it expands. Encouraging other people in the field helps everyone. I am not a fan of celebrity. I met my ultimate hero Kate Bush when I was sixteen, and she is the loveliest most self-effacing person on the planet. Her lyrics saved my life. Imagine doing that?
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
Lucky me. I still paint. Painting is wonderful, and I can get drunk and blast out music, and dance around my flat and be full on when I do it. I need quiet to write. I shove in earplugs. My degree was in sculpture, because I got a bigger space and got to use a foundry, and pour metal, and weld. My MA was painting. I have just had some paintings exhibited in the Brighton Open, and I had work in the Art Trail at Pride last year.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Do not listen to the detractors. There are so many people out there who will be jealous of your ability to be happy and creative and make the most of life.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
There is no such thing as a “block,” you just need to live your life and let things germinate, Do not compare yourself to other people, and their progress. Do what is right for you.
What is your writing process?
Flexible. I totally get that people set parameters and goals. But my brain and my life do not allow this. I used to wake at four am and write, because I need quiet, and I need to read out loud to catch the rhythm. Then I got puppy one, and just when he was behaving reasonably I got puppy two. They think that as soon as my peepers open I should walk them. Then feed them. So my day starts later. I put in ear plugs. I did Napowrimo a month late, because I was moving house in April. I did it backwards. I did it in six days. I like prompts on occasions. I also like writing off the top of my head what I feel at that moment. I have enjoyed doing these questions. And I thank you for asking me to.