Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Sarah L Dixon
lived in Chorlton for 12 years. She moved in May 2017 and is currently based in Linthwaite, Huddersfield and tours as The Quiet Compere.
Sarah has most recently been published in Marble, Confluence, The Interpreter’s House, The Lake, Obsessed with Pipework, Troubadour and Curlew. She had a poem published on a beer-mat and her pamphlet, The sky is cracked was released by the same press in November 2017 (Half Moon). Sarah’s second book, ‘Adding was patterns to Wednesday’ is due out late in 2018 with Three Drops Press
Sarah’s inspiration comes from many places, including pubs and music, being by and in water and adventures with her eight-year-old, Frank. She is still attempting to write better poetry than Frank did aged 4!
Frank’s line, aged 4, was “Is your heart in a cage so it doesn’t fly away?”
The Quiet Compere | is Sarah L Dixon
When did you start writing poetry?
Hi Paul, I wrote poetry as a teenager to make sense of the world. I left it for a bit and came back after failing the first year of a science degree, getting lab assistant job in NHS and completing OU degree while working full time. Degree was in social science and economics. Last two years was economics diploma and lots of hand-drawn graphs and tables. After this tight way of writing and proving I wanted to go back to freer creative writing and found a ten week subsidised course with the NHS run by Philip Davenport. I then found a Writing for Pleasure Course at Cheadle Library hosted by librarian, Mary Bland. When I wanted more constructive feedback I moved on to Wordsmiths run by copland smith
2. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I worked with medical and surgical consultants in PA roles and was often picked on at school. I got used to letting things go over my head. I treat everyone as equal and in a way that means you also judge yourself as equal so do not get intimidated. One of the reasons I decided to tour as The Quiet Compere was to give people who might not get guest spots a chance to read. One of my first decisions was that every performer would get the same length set and the same fee. This was important to me.
3. What is your daily writing routine?
Honestly, I don’t have one. I occasionally challenge myself with month long daily prompt workshops. I enrolled on Wendy Pratt’s online Wild Within workshop in August and am joining this group again for Season of Mists in October. I run a writing workshop at a local pub on a Monday which gives me time to write (and we alternate between prompts and critique). I find I am more likely write poems in snatched minutes or they wake me up at 6am demanding to be written. If I have hours stretching out where I could write it doesn’t usually happen. I had a time after my first book came out where I was occasionally writing but hardly liked anything I wrote for about nine months. Wendy’s workshop and a week in Whitby by myself helped me get back to somewhere where I liked my writing. I have an eight year old and we use the mile walk to school and back to play with words and ideas. The other day we were inventing words and sometimes Frank asks me questions like ‘where do the shadows go at night?’ that prompt me to write poetry later. Always have notebook with me.
4. What motivates you to write?
Anger, sadness, reminscence, nature, being in and by water, my son, Frank (by the way he sees the world and the questions he asks me about things.)Writing is one way to make sense of things or tie them down to make them easier to face and process.
5. What is your work ethic?
Work ethic? Not sure. Try to keep enough time and space to not suffer from recurrent tonsillitis. Between school runs and day job and freelance things. I run on adrenaline so I suppose the question should really be Do you stop enough? I write when the words wake me or come and don’t worry too much when they don’t for a while. Not sure I have answered this question…
6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Richard Layman. Short sentences to build tension. Darkness and seventeen years in NHS admin roles including Oncology and Post Mortem secretary all feeds into this. Magical realism too. When something just doesn’t feel quite right. Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, Wind in the Willows, Alice in wonderland, (Quentin Blake illustrations) – all darkness but with a sense of play too. I read The Iron Man and The Hobbit voraciously in my reading space on the top stair. Poetry wise we had to read Larkin at school and it took me a long time to come back to an appreciation of him. First few poets I remember reading and enjoying: Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti, Roger McGough. Brian Patten is a more recent and happy discovery.
7. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Clare Shaw – just everything about her. She is the only person who makes me go fan girl. Her words, her accent, her delivery, her height, the way she is with the audience – everything, really. Ciaran Hodgers – such understated, gentle delivery of important issues delivered in a way that convinces. Wendy Pratt, poetry of nature and loss and hope. Loving her online workshops too. Angela Readman and Joanne Key for their explorations of darknesses. I could list hundreds but will leave it at these.
8. Why do you write?
To make sense of people, places, situations. Because my mind makes me notice and record the details, to communicate. To explain how I feel, how I see. To play.
9. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would say to get feedback and listen to critique, explore things you might not usually write about, accept challenges (I recently wrote a poem for an endangered bird – birds had only been incidental in my poems until then) and challenge yourself. Find people you trust to tell you if you can do better and be honest about what doesn’t work. Online groups are good if you can’t always get to workshops in the real world. Know there will be writer’s block and the words will probably come back, just live so you have things to write about. Read a lot. Listen to poets tell you their poems online or at readings. Work out what you like and don’t like and why.
10. And finally, Sarah, tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I was a volunteer manager and helper for six days at Poetry Swindon. I had a guest spot and hosted there on National Poetry Day. I have a book coming out, ‘Adding wax patterns to Wednesday’ with Three Drops Press with a launch on 30th November. I have a vague theme of inbetweens for my next book and have enrolled on Wendy Pratt course ‘Season of Mists’ with the theme of change and a prompt a say for October. I also have poems coming out in Endangered birds, Play and Outsiders anthologies in the next month.