Why do you write?
Because I enjoy it! That’s the simple beginning of it, anyway. In the same way that any interest begins, I became interested in the notion of it (through enjoying books and having an active imagination), wondered if I could do it too and decided to give it a try.
But it does, of course, go much further and deeper than that now. It’s now such a part of who I am that it’s my most natural way of communicating.
What books do you read?
I mainly read poetry books, although it was my New Year’s resolution to read more novels. I’ve just started reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, and it’s stunning.
I used to be a Sociology teacher and recently I’ve been missing the subject so much, so I’m reading sociological texts to kind of exercise that way of thinking again. It’s lovely to rediscover that passion for a subject. Plus it has sparked ideas for poems, so that’s an added bonus!
What inspires you?
People: the experiences they have, the emotions they feel and the way they interact with each other.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
I’ve always written (I guess most people answering this question say that!). As children, my sister and I spent a lot of time sitting at the kitchen table writing stories and I’ve done it (on and off) ever since, but it’s only when I started trying out poetry about four years ago that I actually really thought about ‘being a writer’ as such. It’s only then that I really thought ‘wow, this is what I want to do, this is what I want to learn’ and started to write more seriously, send things off to editors and so on.
I’ve had plenty of poems published in magazines and anthologies, but it’s only really since my pamphlet was published that I’ve had the confidence to think of myself as ‘a writer’ as opposed to ‘someone who writes’, if that makes sense.
How do you deal with rejection?
Mostly I’m pragmatic about rejection. I’m usually quite good at thinking ‘oh well, it’s nothing personal, it just didn’t fit the theme of the anthology / shape of the magazine’. I definitely subscribe to the view that, when a piece is rejected, you turn it round and send it back out somewhere else as quickly as possible. I think dealing with rejection is something you learn – I found it very dispiriting at first (and, don’t get me wrong, it still can be!), but I’ve come to realise that it’s all part of it and there will be an acceptance along soon to make everything right again!
Who are some writers you admire?
Lorraine Mariner, Matthew Dickman, Jacqueline Saphra, Taylor Mali, Hilda Sheehan, Ruth Stacey, Kathy Gee, Antony Owen, Frieda Hughes, Carolyn Jess Cooke, Catherine Smith, Kate Garrett, Angela Carter, Catherine Ayres, Clare Pollard, Simon Armitage, Maria Taylor, Jonathan Taylor. I could go on. And if songwriters count in this question – Neil Finn and Tim Finn.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
I used to play the flute – does that count?!
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Stop worrying about what other people might think of you.
Stand up for yourself – it’s ok to take people to task about things and give your own opinions (it doesn’t mean you’re rude if you do, and you’ll only end up regretting it if you don’t).
Live in the moment – don’t worry so much!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Take time, find your own way. It can be frustrating when you want to get to a certain point and there are all sorts of obstacles in your way (rejection, writer’s block, lack of time etc) but it will happen. You have to take time to learn your craft (and the learning never stops) – it’s not about the exposure from how many open mics you attend, or how many Facebook poetry friends you have, it’s about the way you use words. That is what makes you a good writer, not the fripperies.
Find people you trust to give you feedback on your work, it is invaluable.
Also, be glad for others when they have success. We are in this together!
What is your writing process?
I find that a difficult one to answer as I don’t know if I have a ‘process’ as such.
I used to write on my laptop on the sofa or dining table but a couple of years ago I got a proper desk which is very helpful as it means everything is there ready and waiting for me as soon as I come to start writing.
I try to write something every day, even if it’s only re-ordering a couple of lines in a poem, because it keeps me in that frame of mind.
I’m always thinking about poetry. The cogs are always turning, even if it’s only in the background while I get on with ‘real’ life.