Why do you write?
I do wonder sometimes but when it’s going well it’s an incredible buzz. I find it easier to express what I’m feeling or thinking in writing. I find it easier to tell a story or a joke in writing. I hate telephones and I’m not great at talking about things apart from with a chosen few. I like that writing can be a solitary activity and I don’t have to worry about being heard, as it’s whether they can be bothered to read. I can’t perform or entertain, it goes very wrong if I try. So I write it all down. If you’re a bit of an introvert, it keeps you sane if you can express yourself in writing.
What books do you read?
It never feels enough. There’s a mountain of books on my ‘to read’ pile at the moment. I have to ‘get’ every single word of everything I read and I have to finish every book I start. I currently have two books I started two years ago sat on the side. I keep looking at them, then the books I want to read, and it’s a right pain in the arse really. But the short answer is, right now, poetry, because that’s what I’m trying to write right now. I generally read poetry collections I’ve enjoyed at least twice. In the last year I’ve only started to skip pages of one poetry collection and not felt bad and gone back to it, but of course, I’m not going to say what or who that was. Now I feel I must try it again of course. Agonising really isn’t it? I’m currently reading: Mostly Hating Tories by Janine Booth and Slant Light by Sarah Westcott.
What inspires you?
Music, dreams, life and intuition. Sounds a bit fluffy doesn’t it? I sometimes have weird dreams then pull a few tarot cards and fingers crossed something happens. That overlaps with reality obviously. I use music too much, so much I have to watch out that song lyrics haven’t snuck in to something I’m writing by accident. Equally though, I love it when I read a short story, novel or poem and I see someone else has done the same. But yes, music, I think probably inspires me more than other writers.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
Very young, but my career advisor muddled it up with journalism. I did work experience on a local paper which when you live on an island, was excruciatingly boring. I actually fainted in the heat at the opening of a steam railway and I swear it was the most exciting thing that had happened at the Southern Evening Echo for decades. I then went on auto pilot into a media studies course along side A-levels, did a degree in English, walked out of a job in publishing, fucked about working in a bookshop (my favourite job ever) then became an English teacher, a mother and then after writing kind of sat in the shadows of life for many years, I started to do it again. But very low key. I started a blog reviewing things at first then I thought I’d try out poetry. I had a bit of beginners luck as the first one I sent out was published and they said I should have a facebook account so I reopened an account in August 2014 after a four year break from social media. I’ve got a couple of things published since that…and bags of inspiration from all my new writery facebook friends. I still find it hard to say I’m a writer though. I write stuff of course, ‘writer’ feels a bit grand.
How do you deal with rejection?
Badly. I don’t have much experience of it as I don’t submit very often. But, yes, badly. To be honest, I don’t submit stuff very well either. I’ve had to ask someone else to press the ‘send’ button before. Even when something is accepted, I panic and think it was a mistake. Self promotion will never be my strength. But laid bare honesty, with rejection, I go through a spectrum of panic, why did I bother, panic, oh god everyone knows now, more panic, anger, I will show them, I will just kill them, madness, panic, cries myself to sleep then denies it ever happened. I do that for a week then get over it. I wrote off a poetry competition recently as a bunch of incestuous lizards infiltrating freemasonry arseholes. I’ve heard some writers talking of finding their poems ‘homes’, that’s a good way of putting it. Keep sending them out and if they return, they’re just not ready.
Who are some writers you admire?
I could be very predictable here and bang on about my love for Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and all the other women that wrote about invisible women, and the men that tried to write about invisible women but I will say my favourite book is Matthew Lewis ‘The Monk’, it just has everything you could want in a gothic novel, religion, incest, murder, rape, witchcraft, Satan, imprisoned nuns, trickery, disguise, and general debauchery, maybe too busy for some, but I love it. That will change next week though, depends what mood I’m in. I’ve discovered a lot of new writers and indie publishers via my Facebook friends list. A few that have stuck with me have generally inspired my own writing, a story I read in a collection a year ago inspired a poem of mine that’s just been published, another collection got me listening to jazz music and some short stories I read recently sent me into a deep depression, always a good place to start scribbling. I like the dark side of humanity, I find it more interesting.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Big spoiler for a poem I might write one day. But I suppose in a nutshell, don’t listen to your career advisor, they generally think writing is a hobby. Or the lady at the temping agency who tore your C.V up in front of you saying a degree is pointless and ‘writer’ is sandcastles in air, then said ‘there’s an esoteric bookshop in Covent Garden, try there’ as you tried to not burst into tears doing a typing test. The agency has been replaced with a café, I still cackle when I walk past it twenty years later. Believe in what you want to do.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
I’m a recorderist and flutist that can bring a tear to a grown man’s eye playing Olde English folk tunes. I’m pretty good at applying ‘winged’ eyeliner in extenuating circumstances too, in a moving car, walking the dog, feeding a baby; it was the talk of a toddler group once.
What is your writing process?
I basically write something a bit rubbish in a note pad, then keep re-writing it until I think it passes as something I would enjoy and would share with others. I always write ‘draft’ or ‘work in progress’ at the top to take the pressure off a bit. This isn’t a perfect system though when you go to submit a poem and it has ten different drafts and you forgot that the final version was headed ‘work in progress’. I usually write at night as I have a busy household and a brood of kids that I home educate so I do have a few issues with finding the time. I get my eldest two boys to read poems when they’re finished, shining light bulbs into their eyeballs. Not that teenage boys are my audience particularly, but they know me well and are very honest. I have a couple of more experienced writer/editor friends that offer to run an eye over things sometimes. I don’t take these offers up enough really. I don’t have a zone, or special ritual, I’ve tried that and it hasn’t worked. I could be at my desk, on a sofa, in the garden, wherever really. I wrote a poem on my mobile in the early hours last week as I couldn’t reach my pencil or laptop without getting out of bed. The process is hit and miss, fits and starts.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Singing lessons. Billy Bragg was a poet, realised nobody was going to come to his poetry gigs so picked up a guitar. (I heard this on 6Music so it must be true) JUST KEEP WRITING. And never delete anything. Keep submitting things even if they’ve been rejected and I am leaning towards ‘choose competitions carefully’ but my view on that changes depending on whether the moon is waxing or waning. I’m at the beginning really with only a few things published, dotted about, so not sure I’m the best person to ask advice. I suppose a big one I feel though now is be kind to other writers, editors and anyone else in the industry, as credit for your work seems sporadic and this sometimes causes in-fighting that doesn’t help anyone. The support within the writing community, even online, is helpful when doing a job that’s so often valued by non-writers by how much you got paid, which is never the most helpful question. My anthem when feeling low about it is Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel singing ‘Don’t Give Up’. The kids hide in their bedrooms, the man cracks open the gin, the dog starts howling, the cats throw themselves at the windows. It works a treat though.