Strength, achievement, and token gestures

Always worth a gander

The Petrified Muse

Phaedrus, a writer of fables in the style of Aesop in the first century A. D., tells the following tale (Phaedrus 4.17, transl. B. E. Perry):

De capris barbatis

Barbam capellae cum impetrassent ab Iove,
hirci maerentes indignari coeperunt
quod dignitatem feminae aequassent suam.
“Sinite,” inquit, “illas gloria vana frui
et usurpare vestri ornatum muneris,
pares dum non sint vestrae fortitudini.”
Hoc argumentum monet ut sustineas tibi
habitu esse similes qui sunt virtute impares

The Bearded She-Goats

When the she-goats had obtained, by application to Jupiter, the favour of a beard, the male goats were very unhappy about it and began to express their indignation that women had attained unto a dignity equal with their own. “Let them,” said Jupiter, “enjoy their empty glory and usurp your badge of service, so long as they are not your peers in stoutheartedness.”

This example teaches you to endure it with patience…

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Reading: February-March 2019

Stunning reading choices to add to my own. Thankyou, Thom.

Thom Sullivan

PSX_20190319_222320A few of the books I’ve enjoyed reading, or returning to, in February and March 2019:

  • Karl Ove Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family: Book I of the sixMy Struggle(MinKamp) novels (autobiographical novel: Vintage, 2009).
  • Ada Limón’s The Carrying: A follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed Bright Dead Things (poetry: Corsair, 2018).
  • JL Carr’s A Month in the Country: Published by Penguin as a ‘Classic’, and the source of a 1987 film starring Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh, in their third and second film roles respectively (short novel: Penguin, 1980).
  • WS Merwin’s Garden Time (poetry: Copper Canyon, 2016).
  • Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency(poetry: Grove, 1957).
  • Alejandra Pizarnik’s The Galloping Hour: French Poems: Patricio Ferrari and Forrest Gander’s translations of the French poems of Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik, who died in 1972 (poetry: New Directions, 2018).
  • Forrest Gander’s Be With(poetry:…

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A Seepage of Spirit . . . and other responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

Extremely grateful to The Poet By Day under the editorship of Jamie Dedes for featuring eight of my poems on the theme of the afterlife. Thankyou Jamie.

THE POET BY DAY

“If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.”  Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass



I think it was Sherman Alexie who said imagination plus anger equals poetry. Here we might be inclined to say imagination plus acceptance and a soupçon of humor equals poetry as Gary W. Bowers, Paul Brookes, Deb y Felio (Deb Felio), Jen Goldie, Marta Pombo Sallés, and Anjum Wasim Dar conjour their afterlives, their dissipation “Into the / Elsewhere” as Gary writes. The results are rather stunning. Two poems read like meditations. Paul imagines not just himself but others and even points to the degradation of earthly conditions, as does Anjum. Paul touchingly includes his son. It was not planned, but our theme comes on the loss of W.S. Merwin who famously wrote On the Anniversary of My Death. These are the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, Where the Wisteria Grows

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Lennart Lundh

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.

Cover 1-5

Lennart Lundh

has written sixteen books of poetry, two short-story collections, and five books of aviation history. His writing and photography have also appeared internationally in anthologies, journals, magazines, and articles since 1965. A resident of northeastern Illinois, Len reads frequently at venues in the Midwest.

Poetry and short stories are available at https://www.etsy.com/market/lennart_lundh

Aviation histories are available from https://www.amazon.com/

Photography is available through https://www.redbubble.com/people/lenlundh/shop

and https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/lennart-lundh/shop

A jpeg is attached of my annual project, Poems Against Cancer. This is an April fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s research into childhood cancers. Donors to the project on the Foundation web site receive a poem written by me for the occasion each day, and a limited edition chapbook at the end of the month. This year’s effort is the sixth in the series. For details, and to donate directly to St. Baldrick’s, visit

https://www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/mypage/3594/2019

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

There’s really a two-part answer, because I don’t see my poetry as entirely separate from the rest of my wordsmithing.

I started writing when I was four, imitating what I was reading in the Sunday newspaper’s comics section. It wasn’t much, just a child’s simple sentence: G I want to b a G man. It was the beginning, though, and the more voraciously I read (in the third grade, my parents and teacher had to argue with the local library to let me read books from the Juvenile and Adult shelves) the more I imitated and learned from what I was reading. Words were important.

By my sophomore year of high school, I was the kid who didn’t need a study hall to keep his grades up, so I had a permanent pass to spend that hour in the school’s library. Heaven at age fifteen. Five days a week when I could read anything that caught my eye. And I did: popular and scholarly history, literary and genre fiction. Lomax’s American musicology. There were no checks on my love of words gathered together. Anything was possible.

Including poetry. We didn’t study contemporary poetry in the early Sixties. Not that there’s anything wrong with Shakespeare, Wordsworth, et al. But I discovered the free verse writers, the experimenters. Sandburg, Pound, Whitman. Ferlinghetti and Corso. Once I realized form could follow function, that it was possible to insist on the right word instead of the one that merely fit, I was hooked as a reader, and on the path to being a poet with my own voice (which took most of ten years).

  1. Who introduced you to wordsmithing?

For this, I can only guess. That eight-word piece of micro fiction, a story filled with both hopeful longing and an uncertain future, is one of my three earliest reliable memories. The other two, also from the same period, are a cistern being removed from our then-rural yard, and of waking in the family car as we arrived home from Missouri after my uncle’s wedding (the only part of the trip I recall).

Since this was before I went to school — we had no pre-school or kindergarten in the early 1950s — I suppose my parents read to me from an early age, and aided my learning to read so young. Our house, it seems, was always awash with books, magazines, and newspapers, and I can’t recall a time they were off limits to me. Mix this with what my parents tell me was a native curiosity and spontaneous storytelling, and the result is, in my case, a word-nerd.

More guessing: Born a few years later, I might have been a visual artist (I did finally fall in love with photography and movies pretty simultaneously around the age of eight), but I come from the last pre-television American generation. The house was filled with conversation in English, Swedish, and Norwegian. We listened to the radio a lot, and it’s menu in the evening contained many dramas and comedies. All of these relied almost exclusively on words, either dialogue or narration. Fertile soil for a love of words and respect for their powers.

  1. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

Outside of school, poetry didn’t really exist in my world until 1963. Songs weren’t spoken of as poetry, limericks were bad jokes, and translations of Biblical verse were stilted and archaic. In the classroom, we pretty much only read dead white men, and a few dead white women, from seventh grade through undergrad lit. Once I discovered free verse, that changed for me on a personal reading level. Yes, Whitman was a DWM, but Sandburg, the Beats, Pound, Eliot — they were alive and writing. They spoke to me, so age or longevity weren’t considerations. Because I was writing but not trying to get published, dominance wasn’t an issue. I didn’t even qualify as a small fish in a big pond at that point, and I knew it.

Today? If there’s any dominance because of gatekeeper influence, it falls to poets in the mid-twenties to forties community. At 70, my generational peers are respected but not household or classroom names. And, while formal poetry is still “a thing” with strong adherents, the formal-free wars of the early 20th century are dusty history. I even heard a reading series host recently suggest “no room for rhyme” as a guiding principal. So much for old and traditional.
For the most part, I think the Web has fostered a certain leveling. While the academic world has its elitism, everybody else is able to read, and get published by, the abundance of small presses, both print and digital. The global exchange also facilitates the introduction of “foreign” cultures (new and old) into the “domestic” mainstream.

 

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

Once I realized I didn’t have the creative attention span to write a novel in my lifetime and returned to poetry, a daily routine became unnecessary. There are always submission call and housekeeping things to be done, but they can happen on a weekly, monthly, or sporadic basis. The only constant is playing with combinations of words in my head and making notes for further pursuit. I can’t escape the voices.

I mostly write poems three months a year. Each April, I do a donation-driven poem-a-day fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, with May given over to creating and assembling a limited edition chapbook of those poems and doing submissions of the individual pieces. June is a 30 poems/30 days participation in Lexington Poetry Month, hosted online by Workhorse Writers and Accent Press. Zoetic Press does Write Like You’re Alive in July, and again I commit to writing a poem each day. The June and July poems become chapbooks or a collection, and individual submissions, during August and September.

In and around this? Reading and re-reading other writers, both poetry and prose. Writing blurbs and reviews. Sharing info on social media about other poets’ events and new releases. One of my undergrad majors was History, and I still assist other writers in my field with research and gathering material. I’m also a fine art photographer, so there are day trips with a camera hanging around my neck, plus all the work that goes into submitting and marketing those images.

And, maybe once or twice a month, you’ll find me at an open mic, or sometimes featuring. I get out for these less than I used to — the closest mic that fits my home life schedule is an hour’s drive away through evening rush traffic — but they’re such an important part of my friendships in the Chicago-area poetry community.

  1. What motivates you to write?

Every October for the past seven years, I’ve been invited by the English Department at Lewis University to take part in their discussion and readings on the topic, “Why I write.” My answers, different each year, have included “because I love words,” “the voices insist,” and recalling Sandburg’s wish that he might one day in the future be a poet. None of them have been lies, but I still don’t think I’m finished trying to answer the question. It seems to be a moving target.

I know vanity’s not a factor. Writing, shaping my part of the conversation with the reader, is more emotionally satisfying than getting published — by the time words appear, in print or online, they’re old, finished business for me. We can forget money; I make less than $100 from writing in a typical year. Fame? Nobody beats my door down so they can get my autograph, or asks to teach my work. And, while it would be nice, there’s no promise anyone will be reading my words a month after I’m gone.
Perhaps I have congenital storyteller syndrome. My imagination has always sent my mind to strange, tangential places that I felt compelled to describe, first in prose, later in poetry. Wordplay is a constant (as is editing billboards while traveling), often reflexive thing that sometimes surprises even me. Or maybe the uncontrollable urge to write is a weird form of OCD that insists on the right words in the right order.

5.1 What do you write about?

Collectively, my poems are about, In a word, anything. Over five decades of poet-ing, coupled with my insatiable imagination and curiosity, have made the universe fair game. My overarching themes are love, war, and personal/communal ends of worlds, but those are so accommodatingly broad. The trick, for me, is to not write the same poem twice, so I rarely return to a specific event; one exception is a dead Marine in Vietnam who still haunts my nights.
“Anything” also applies to triggers/prompts. I happily fall down cyber rabbit holes. I eavesdrop in public. My friend, Mary Carroll-Hackett, posts daily mini-prompts on Facebook, along with frequent on-line collections of prompts of all shapes and sizes. Not being one to color within the lines, I’ll often make combinations of Mary’s offerings that together go in directions she might not have intended. Much of my work is ekphrastic these days, so I regularly spend time browsing and bookmarking images from Pinterest and Google that immediately strike a chord. Finally, yes, there are the “voices” — my brain seems to spontaneously gather words together for my conscious consideration.

5.2 How do you write?

Mechanically, I write with whatever’s available — pen and paper, computer, cell phone. I’ve tried dictating into a recorder, but it never really worked for me. The advice to slit a vein and let my blood flow onto the page is misguided and ineffective.
The predominant forms of my work really haven’t changed over the years: unrhymed free verse and prose poems, almost always left justified, carefully punctuated, conversationally rhythmic, and easily readable. With Oxford commas and single spaces after periods. When I was younger, I played with imitating Ferlinghetti and cummings; that was so much more fun in the days of Courier and typewriters. I never enjoyed reading formal verse, and have only written one, a Shakespearian sonnet as a competition requirement. Most of my work has been no more than two pages long, as I was counseled early against trying to be Walt Whitman or Bob Dylan by Max Parmley, a valued teacher in high school.
I’m a believer in form following function, and for me the number one function of a poem is to touch something mutual in a reader. (Or a listener. I like the dictate that a poem should, preferably, work on both page and stage.) To each their own, and those who treat writing as an academic exercise are welcome to it, but I’ll pass. The exact shape of a single poem, and the words chosen in the shaping, are intentional in communicating rather than fitting a space.
The verses in a “traditional” piece are thought blocs, the breaks between them a chance to breathe in what’s just been said. Line breaks are more arbitrary, based on the particular conversation; reading across the breaks is generally guided by punctuation.
By and large, my prose poems have become the text on the back of old fashioned postcards: paragraph-shaped, quick stories or observations that are more rhythmic than most prose paragraphs. They are, with few exceptions, based on found photographs, many of them uncredited and without accompanying histories. They’re also balanced precariously on the thin border between poetry and flash fiction. I’ve had editors reject flash fictions as too poetic, while others would only run prose poems I sent them in the fiction section.
In either form, the words chosen are intentional, precise for the moment of writing. It’s not unheard of for me to change them years later, as experience and time change what I want to say.

  1. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

They were teachers, every bit as much as my high school and college mentors, and the things I learned from them about good and bad writing have been absorbed to the point that any influence is now subconscious and automatic. The best of them, such as Bradbury, McKillip, Atwood, and Brautigan, taught me about both poetry and prose, regardless of which medium I read them in: how to create rhythmic lines/sentences without being sing-song; when to use dialogue or narration; allowing the reader to build images and backstory from a few careful words and their own imagination; how and when to turn a story or poem; when it’s time to shut up. Masters of those arts, they’re also still my go-to sources of pleasure reading.

7. Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I seldom think in hierarchies, and I’m honored by the company of too many writers around the world to try to name. Instead, here’s an unranked, probably incomplete list of groups involved in writing that I appreciate to the moon and back:
— Anybody who takes pen and paper in hand for others’ consumption. Neophyte or veteran word-wrangler, each of them adds something of incredible value to the present and future.
— Mentors and teachers. They give of their hours and hearts to help willing writers understand their chosen craft.
— Publishers, from the big houses to the home office pamphlet printers. Online or physical, their output broadens the reach of assembled words.
— Editors and proofreaders, without whom my failure to take Typing in school would be disastrous.
— The folks who organize readings, signings, workshops, festivals, and conferences. I’ve done this work in other fields; it really is a big deal.
— Readers and listeners. Reaching them, touching them, having conversations said and unsaid with them, is critical.

8. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

If they aren’t already writing fiction or poetry? I’d ask them why they want to before recommending them to the nearest community college counselor or poetry writers’ group. Thinking of “becoming” a writer as a career choice or lifestyle change is a good first step toward being a hack; the third step can be averted by a good reality check.

If they’re already writing, if they’re struggling to find their place, or want to improve? They already *are* a writer — probably have been since birth — and smart enough to want to improve, to boot. I’d give them the standard “read everything” lecture, with the caveat that reading isn’t enough; while and after reading, they need to wrestle with the what and why of their reactions, positive or negative, and compare those with other works they’ve loved or hated.
I’d tell them to attend every reading and signing they can afford and reasonably travel to, again with the caveat that reasoning through their reactions is essential. I’d invite them to bring their work to open mics that I attend or trust to be welcoming and fair, and suggest writers’ groups I also respect; trying to learn in a battle ground is a mistake that’s hard to overcome.
Would I point my newest writer friend toward a degree track? That I can’t answer. If the subject arose, I’d ask them if having a degree is in their budget, if they think it’ll make their writing better while still being in their authentic voice, or if they want an academic career. To each their own needs; I’ve just been asked to share my knowledge of possible paths to their goal.

9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Early in April, I’ll be one of the readers in suburban Batavia when Ray Ziemer launches his first novel, The Ghost of Jamie McVay; I’ve shared mics with Ray for five or six years, so this will be a real treat. I’m also scheduled for a poetry reading in Evanston the next day.

As mentioned before, I’ll spend April writing a poem each day to raise funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s research into childhood cancers (https://www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/mypage/3594/2019). As a great-grandfather, it’s a cause dear to my heart, and well worth the effort. There’ll actually be some two-poem days, since I’ll be on the road with my camera the last week of the month.

Workhorse Writers/Accent Press will release The River Singing later this year. This is a twenty-six prose poem chapbook, drawn from last year’s Lexington Poetry Month work. It’s the first book I’ve worked with them on, and I’m looking forward to the experience.
And that, I think, is it. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about this lovely madness we share!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Alicja Maria Kuberska

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.

Alicja Maria Kuberska

awarded Polish poetess, novelist, journalist, editor.

In 2011 she published her first volume of poems entitled:  The Glass Reality. Her second volume Analysis of Feelings, was published in 2012. The third collection Moments was published in English in 2014, both in Poland and in the USA. In 2014, she also published the novel – Virtual roses and volume of poems On the border of dream. Next year her volume entitled Girl in the Mirror was published in the UK and Love me (Not ) my poem in the USA. In 2015 she also edited anthology entitled The Other Side of the Screen.

In 2016 she edited two volumes: Taste of  Love ( USA), Thief of Dreams ( Poland) and international anthology entitled Love is like Air (USA).Next year she published volume in Polish entitled View From the Window. She edits a series of anthologies entitled Metaphor of Contemporary ( Poland)

Her poems have been published in numerous anthologies and magazines in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania, Spain, Turkey, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Israel, the USA, Canada, India, Italy, Uzbekistan,  South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Zambia,Nigeria and Australia.

She won : distinction (2014) and medal (2015) on Nosside poetry competition in Italy, statuette in Lithuania (2015), medal of European Academy Science, Arts and Letters in France (2018)), award of Cultural Festival International “Tra le parole e l’ infinito” Italy (2018) She was also twice nominated to the Pushcart Prize in the USA.

Alicja Kuberska is a member of the Polish Writers Associations in Warsaw (Poland) and IWA Bogdani,(Albania). She is also a member of directors’ board of Soflay Literature Foundation (Pakistan), Our Poetry Archive (India). She is Polish Ambassador of Culture of The Inner Child Press (the USA) and she belongs to Editorial Advisory Board of Sahitya Anand (India).

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

In the past I was more interested in my everyday life and career  as a worker at a bank. A disappointment in my life changed my attitude and it caused, that  poems had started to flow through my mind like a river of words. My poems were once just my dreams. Now poetry is a part of me. I like to read poems, especially written  by the best poets of the world. I learn a lot from them though I have my own style now. Reading is the best workshop.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

As a young person I was interested in business. I was a chief in a bank department. This occupation required a lot of time and effort. I was a very busy person in this period of my life. I changed my attitude when I realized that my life is too short to devote it to this career. Writing gives me pleasure. It is my  passion. I started to write in 2008.In 2011 I showed my poems to Mrs Barbara Mazurkiewicz, the famous Polish poetess. She found them interesting and she arranged everything. Mr Kazimierz Linda (also a poet and a big friend of beginners) published them. Now I can help young poets. I pay my debt back.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I had never been aware of anybody. I write because I love to do it. I do not care about fame. I am grateful if somebody devotes his  time to show me the weak points of my poems. I can concentrate on this verse and correct it. Older poets can help the younger ones. In my opinion everybody must learn all  time.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write when I want to tell something important to my future readers. Volume is not a diary. I do not write every day. I think, that words carry emotions. It is easy to find out which poem  is “ real” and which one is so called “paper poem”.

5. What motivates you to write?

I do not write every day.  It would be senseless. I write when I want to tell something important to my future readers. Volume is not a diary. Personally I do not like poems about nothing or poems, which are miserable copies of famous ones.

6. What is your work ethic?

I think, that a good poem contains a novel in a few stanzas. The means of expression and principles are different too. There are no doubts that a novelist must write more than a poet. My process of writing poems looks like that: I write a poem and  I “freeze“ it. That means – I write it in my computer and I forget about it. I return to it  in a few days or months. I think I have to be more censorial. I read  and correct it many times. It is easy to guess that I do not write many poems. In my opinion quality is more important than quantity in literature.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I started to write as a mature person.  I know what is important in my life now. The properly classified values are very important for me. Poetry is something more than a hobby – just a part of my perception of the world. It is very hard to explain. One word – poetry is a significant element of my everyday existence. I am Polish, so I learned a lot of from Polish poets. I like very much poems of Wisława Szymborska. She won the Nobel Prize in literature.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I like many, contemporary  poets, but  I do not have the favourite ones. I read a lot of poems ( I am editor of anthologies) but only a few works stopped  my attention.  There is a kind of “poetical flood” now. Many people write and they think their poems are perfect. Good poem must carry a kind of “emotion- energy”. Many poems are just  “empty”. I am also a translator. I have been busy translating a volume of Turkish poet Mr Metin Cengiz lately. I found in his volume some very interesting works, which I liked very much. I translated  poems of Albanian writer Mr Jeton Kelmendi, too. The poem about death of his father brought me to tears.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

In one of Wisława Szymborska’s poems she wrote, I prefer the absurdity of writing poems / to the absurdity of not writing poems. That seems to summarize my  attitude too. I am addicted to writing.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Everyone can be  a poet. We can all observe this volcano of emotions when people fall in love. I never expected to be a poetess. It has just happened to me.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I am currently working on several anthologies. Together with Izabela Zubko, we want to win the hearts of Ukrainian readers. Natalia Miżygórska and Margarita Szewernoga help us in this. Professor Dmytro Tchystiak (associate professor of the Department of Romance Philology at the Kiev University of Taras Shevchenko, International Secretary of Literature at the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters in Paris, coordinator of the series “Lettres europeennes” in the Paris publishing house “L’Harmattan”), whom I met at the award ceremony in Paris,  plans to translate Polish poetry into French in 2019. I had the pleasure to send him the works of several Polish poets. We are working on another project in Telugu language, too. Mr Lanka Siva Rama Prasad undertook to translate poems and publish them in India. Mrs Joanna Kalinowska wants to bring the poetry of Poland and Italy closer together. Mrs  Agnieszka Jarzębowska established cooperation on the poetic theme with Russia. We are currently at the initial stage of discussing this project.

I also translated a volume of Mrs Maria Miraglia from Italy. I plan to edit it. Meantime I am working on an anthology in Polish entitled Metafora Współczesności and an individual volume of Mrs Anna Czachorowska. I plan to edit my volume, too. Sometimes I feel like a spinner – I run from the spindle to the spindle and tie knotted threads. I am a very busy but happy person.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who are celebrating; Happy Green Everything Day to everyone

Ancestry DNA says I’m mostly Irish, yet so far cannot trace my Irish roots. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

THE POET BY DAY

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.
Attributed to St. Patrick



Okay, it IS St. Patrick’s Day, but the whole green thing, I made up. Why not? Celebrating green: as in the traditional color of St. Patrick’s Day; as in the Emerald Isle with its engaging traditions; as in a sustainable world; as in the lovely green eyes some people have; as in Christmas Trees, front lawns, and forests.

All over the world there are wonderful religious and cultural traditions around this day, which in Ireland is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, meaning attendance at Mass is required.

St. Patrick, a fifth century Roman, went to Ireland to convert its peoples from their pagan* Celtic traditions. He is considered the Apostle of Ireland, equal to the original twelve. He is revered by Lutherans…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Justin Evans

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.

Justin Evans

is a poet with four full length collections of poetry and four chapbooks. The chapbooks are Four Way Stop (Main Traveled Roads, 2005); Gathering up the Scattered Leaves (Foothills Publishing, 2006); Working in the Birdhouse (Foothills Publishing, 2008); and Friday in the Republic of Me (Foothills Publishing, 2012). The full length collections are Town for the Trees (Foothills Publishing, 2011); Hobble Creek Almanac (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Sailing This Nameless Ship (BlazeVOX, 2014) which was partially funded by the Nevada Arts Council in the form of a Jackpot Grant, and Lake of Fire: Landscape Meditations from the Great Basin Deserts of Nevada (Aldrich Press, 2015)

From 2006 to 2014 Justin edited the on-line journal, Hobble Creek Review.  He has a fifth collection of poems forthcoming this summer from WordTech, written with his friend, poet Jeff Newberry. He has had over a hundred poems published in peer review journals and a poem of his was recently anthologized in 99 Poems for the 99 Percent.

Born and raised in Utah, he joined the army at 19, served in the First Gulf War, returned to Utah, married, and received his education at Utah Valley University, and Southern Utah University, receiving his degree in History and English Education.  He has been a teacher in the small Nevada-Utah border (read gambling) town of West Wendover for twenty years.  He has a master’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, in Literacy Studies.  He was the editor the online literary journal, Hobble Creek Review, for its entire six year run.  My wife and I have three sons.

http://justinevanspoetry.blogspot.com/

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I think my initial attempts with poetry came as a result of my trying to address feelings and emotions which were new to me in my adolescence. What I know now that I didn’t then is that I am on the Autism spectrum, what used to be called Asperger’s. I was confronted with a lot of different emotions, which collided with my history as a child, and I think I attempted to write poetry out of a frustration and inability to express/address my emotions as I saw others doing for themselves.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I took to reading the plays of Shakespeare and the collected works of Longfellow, the only poetry books in my house. I had no idea that poetry came in any other form until I started paying attention in my English classes, and even then it was clear that if I wanted to read poetry it would be up to me.

I started writing poetry at the same time. I don’t think there was any thought that I had to learn anything, which was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, not seeking permission was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had made the decision to write, and I didn’t need anyone’s approval. On the other hand, I ended up writing way more than I read, which is a big problem.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I was aware of some very big names, like I had mentioned: Shakespeare, Longfellow, Poe, but as I started to get more serious about reading more as I was writing, I was very fortunate to stumble on some of the right names: Neruda, Pound, Ferlinghetti. I also picked up a habit of being economical with my money by buying poetry anthologies, which probably made me see a much wider scope. In an anthology, I read widely and I was getting some pretty good poems at the same time.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t really have a set routine. I don’t really know how to explain why a set routine doesn’t work for me when most everything in my life is based upon patterns I observed. Perhaps because writing is predominantly a solitary act, I actually never developed my own routine. I like to quote Bob Dylan — “I write ‘em as they come.” What I have learned is to have a pen and notebook handy no matter where I am because I do not know when a poem will come to me, and this I do know: I have to make a choice right then. I will not keep the poem in my mind. I either write it at that moment or I let it go.

When I do draft a poem, I need to do the drafting in one sitting. I can think of maybe half a dozen poems where I was able to write half the poem, quit, then return to it later. When I return to a poem it is for revision. I also draft poems rather quickly. Often a draft will take fifteen or twenty minutes, but there are times when a draft will be finished much faster. In this sense I prescribe to the idea of mysticism (think Rumi and Blake) where the poems are ecstatic expressions. Do I think there is some otherworldly muse whispering in my ear? Probably not, but the poems do come from somewhere, and often complete. I also like to address poetry prompts. I think of them as puzzles, and solving them has its own joy.

Once I have drafted a poem, I need to force myself to leave it alone for a few days so I can come back to it with fresh eyes and revise it with honesty. I love all of my poems and I have a real difficulty distinguishing between my successful and unsuccessful poems because if I finish a draft, I believe it was a worthwhile effort. If I can get a poem past the initial revision phase, I will start to submit it, toying with it if I think it still needs tweaking.

Above all, I do most of my writing with a manuscript in mind. Because of this, I often stop writing while I am working on a manuscript, and will not do any serious writing until I know the fate (whether it be publication or the garbage can) of the current manuscript. This habit used to frighten me, make me think I would never write another poem, but after 25 years and 15 years of having books published, I have come to accept it.

5. What motivates you to write?

My mentor, David Lee, is fond of calling poetry a participation sport, and I agree wholeheartedly. I crave the connections poetry creates, whether they be on a one to one basis with other poets, readers, or people in general. I want to feel that I am a part of something larger, and poetry allows me to feel as if I have contributed something, paid the cover charge, if you will. The act of creating poetry is a fantastic feeling. It is what I imagine weaving a spell must feel like, brining something into existence by sheer willpower and desire.

6. What is your work ethic?

My grandfather was fond of communicating the notion that if you can walk, you can work. I think it’s a holdover of the Puritan tradition in America. Most Americans are far too fond of work, and brag entirely too much about their work habits and I am no different. I am most productive as a poet when I am busy with too many other times. It’s almost as if the poetry leaks out because there is no place for it in my brain. I am driven to create, and once I have what I know is going to be the basis of a manuscript, everything else falls to the side of the road. That being said, when I am not working, I tend to be very lazy in my practical life and my artistic life. I gave up trying to meet the expectations of other writers a long time ago.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I write for them. Every poet has an audience, and I write for them. Of course the act of writing is a personal pleasure, but there are three or four poets I write for in my head, asking myself what they would say about the poem. I continue to read them. I go back to learn new things, which is a wonderful thing when it happens.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Just last night I learned of W.S. Merwin passing away at the age of 91. He will always be an phenomenal influence on my writing. In fact, one of his poems, “Just This” from his book The Shadow of Sirius (2009) inspired my book, Sailing This Nameless Ship. Literally. I mentioned my mentor, David Lee. His is an amazing body of work. Poets my age, or from my generation, who are very influential on me, include, Mary Biddinger, Kelli Russell Agodon, Collin Kelley, John Gallaher, C. Dale Young, Eduardo Corral, Diane Suess, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Brian Turner, Gary McDowell, Al Maginnes, Seth Brady Tucker, Ada Limón, Jenn Givhan, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Matthew Thorburn, and Jeff Newberry. I know that seems like a lot of names, but all of these poets have given me so much of themselves to teach me not just about poetry, but what it is to be a poet. If a person was to read a book from any of these poets, their lives would be enriched substantially. Some of them I only know through their work, but many I know by way of social media (I live quite rurally, and I do not teach college as most poets do) and I am blessed to have that interaction. I could list another hundred names with the same reasoning.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I have no earthly idea why it was poetry which caught my attention. I love the visuals of film, I love music, and I am now teaching myself to play ukulele and tenor guitar, but why poetry is my main focus is a very real mystery. My family have always been readers, but not poetry. Maybe it is as simple as when I was a teenager I wanted attention and poetry seemed to be a way to get it without having to compete with my friends and peers. Nobody I knew was writing poems, so maybe it helped me to stand out and then I fell in love with the process.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Read. You have to read. There are only two things you can do to learn how to be a better writer. The first and most important is to read. Read wide and deep. Read non-fiction, read fiction, read old encyclopaedias. Read poems. Carry a book with you at all times. That one is from Stephen King. He’s right. You never know when you will have a few extra minutes to read. Copy out poems you like by hand. Copy out poems you know are eluding you. Read and re-read. The other thing you need to do is write. Write by hand, write on a computer. Write essays, stories, and poems. Write late at night and early in the morning. Spend a few hours writing to see how it feels. My poem drafts may be quick, but that’s because I have been doing this for more than thirty years, and when I write prose, I can sit in front of a computer for hours and not feel time pass because I am so absorbed in the process. Make writing a tactile expression as much as it is an intellectual process.

Understand that your early efforts are going to be mediocre. It takes a long time to get better, and any writer who tells you they have mastered their craft to their satisfaction is either a liar or is afraid to admit the truth —that it takes a lifetime to be the writer you are supposed to be. I started writing when I was fifteen. My first poem was published in 1994, when I was 25. It was another three years before I had a poem published, then another three years after that before I started to see my poems find regular acceptances in journals. My first chapbook was published in 2005, and in the fifteen years since it was accepted to date, I have had three other chapbooks and four full length books of poetry published.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Right now, I am going through the proofing phase with my dear friend Jeff Newberry for a book of epistolary poems we wrote over the last three years. It’s coming out this summer from WordTech Press. I have always wanted to collaborate with another poet on a book of poems, and Jeff was very receptive to the idea. Jeff came up with the idea of writing letter poems to each other because we both admire Richard Hugo’s work. We seemed to arrive together in the early stages of the process that the poems we write should take on an aspect of faith and how we see ourselves as fitting in or not fitting in with worldly expectations. Jeff thought when we had enough for a chapbook, we would be finished and I said I had always intended to write a full length book. We kept on writing and ended up with a wonderful manuscript, naming it Cross Country, referencing both the theme of faith and that I live in Nevada and Jeff lives in Georgia. From there, we split the work load. I submitted individual poems to journals, and Jeff fashioned the manuscript and submitted it to presses. The book must have been a bigger hit than I thought because in a relatively short period of time, the book had a home. That is literally what I have going on right now, aside from the aforementioned tenor guitar and ukulele explorations.

The BeZine, March 2019, Vol. 6, Issue 1, Themed: Waging Peace

Stoked to have seven poems featured in the latest issue of” The Bezine.” Thankyou Jamie

THE POET BY DAY

The Mass of Humanity from the Fountain of Time Sculpture by Lorado Taft

“May there be peace in the heavens, peace in the atmosphere, peace on the earth. Let there be coolness in the water, healing in the herbs and peace radiating from the trees. Let there be harmony in the planets and in the stars, and perfection in eternal knowledge. May everything in the universe be at peace. Let peace pervade everywhere, at all times. May I experience that peace within my own heart.” Yajur Veda 36.17)



At The BeZine when we discuss Waging Peace, we mean radical peace. We mean putting down weapons and using words. We are realists. We don’t envision a utopia. We do envision compromise, an imperfect peace but peace non-the-less.

Some of our contributors rightfully see Waging Peace as a path that starts with inner peace. Others were moved to bear witness, to raise consciousness…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzy Conway

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.

Suzy Conway,

fell for poetry when she was introduced to Shakespeare by a nun exhibiting uncharacteristic passion for it. Her poems were published in medical journals and newspapers during her career, and once retired, she devoted more time to writing. A former medical librarian, originally from Minnesota, she finished her career at Countway Library in Boston, only to restart it in Nepal in 2002, creating a medical library for Kathmandu University. She resided in Nepal for four years.

In Donegal, Ireland, where she lived in 2006, horses manifested before her in uncanny ways as she rode her bike hither and yon. Back in the states, Secret Halo trotted into her life, and how things shifted into the most demanding and mystical schoolroom is a poem yet to be penned. Rilke wrote: The future enters into you long before you know it. In retrospect, it s right before your eyes.

Her brother once told her that she looked like her horse, which thrilled her. Now she endeavors to be like her horse: awake, aware, in the present moment. Her book of haiku, Lights Along the Road, debuted in Kathmandu in 2005, co-authored with Janak Sapkota. She lives, rides, and writes in Corvallis, Oregon.

The Interview

1. What inspired me to write poetry?

As a sensitive child my questions were these: Who am I? What am I doing here? Surely there’s got to be more. I got a hint to the answers when I learned to print my letters. If I was holding a pencil stringing words across a page wellbeing flooded my soul. It was the beginning of purpose, I got an inkling of how I would be able to stay, how I would cope.

I discovered the library as a young girl and found gold. I eventually became a medical librarian to quench a desire to serve, read, learn and publish. I worked in buildings that held the archives of famous writers, and minds. Libraries were my true north, my cave. I didn’t need a map to navigate them.

I was a seeker. In high school poetry was where I found beauty and truth. Poetry gave me some of the first bricks to a philosophical foundation of life. I loved school, but it lacked what I was specifically after which was a viable explanation to what I was truly doing on earth. Raised Catholic gave me the holy, sacred rituals to soothe myself but organized religion per se never got me to the crux. India got me closer to it. India ripped layers off and left me close to naked in the sense of shedding the false self. Surviving India was a breakthrough of massive proportions, I could almost hear the crash the masks made when they hit the ground. India will do that to you. Life shifted after that. In good ways.

When I read The Merchant of Venice, “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest…” I was on to something. I can remember the moment I read those lines, they gave me ballast to keep my head above water. I grasped poetry as one would grasp a life raft. A truth from the universe. A young woman’s philosophy began to form.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I was introduced to poetry by a nun in high school, who unlike most nuns from that era, showed a passion for what she was teaching. She was the Shakespeare teacher. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The poetry teachers in college bored the life out of me, except for one, the Chaucer teacher who I’ll never forget. In my mid-20s I began to read poetry with a vengeance. None of my family or circle of friends were into poetry, so it was a lone journey, but I bought a lot of poetry books, and I haunted a lot of bookstores.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Such a good question. I was aware of who was being taught in school, but other than that, I wasn’t aware at all, and in the scheme of things what was being taught in school was limited. I was quite sheltered, quite naive. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, 40s that I sought out those poets. I was working in libraries with poetry at my fingertips, so it was easy to gain momentum. I craved poetry that touched on the liminal, the ineffable, the mystical.

My therapist, who was a Renaissance man, turned me on to Rilke. I carried his books around the world with me for decades. His poetry was an elixir for my soul, and once I discovered Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, the Japanese haiku masters, (especially Ryokan) and other Zen poets, I was air born. In the old days, Howard Moss, poetry editor of The New Yorker, served up heaps of good poetry.

I wanted to be moved at the heart and soul level, wanted to be seismically knocked off my feet.

I had the great fortune to meet and become friends with Tess Gallagher. She influenced me greatly and still does. Ray Carver’s poetry and short stories brought me home and led me to her. I owe so much to Tess; her straight talk and generosity is engraved in my heart.

4. My daily writing routine.

To be open and prepared to meet the mysterious, I begin every day with meditation followed by a big pot of French press coffee. I get ideas, inspiration, whispers, points of view and guidance when I’m silent, and quiet, and still. Mostly out in the woods and forests.

I write and correct and edit and write and correct. I do this until I’ve aged the poem. Sometimes riding my horse or my bike, ideas fall into my head. Sometimes fixes come in. Sometimes entire poems spurt out of my pen with no effort.

I’m a morning person, I write when my mind is free of pesky thoughts, but if I’m on a roll, I’ll be up all hours. It depends on where my soul takes me.

5. What motivates me to write?

The need to be in touch with who I really am. That vast spirit tucked into my small physical form. I want to express that aspect of my identity, you know, the one that isn’t criticizing or judging or planning the future and raking over the past. The one who is the over soul, the one who is the observer, the one who is trying to be heard. I want truth. From another realm. And writing puts me in touch with that.

Janak Sapkota is a poet I met when I lived in Nepal who motivates me every day. His belief in me, his support is a kindness in my life. He and I published a book of haiku called Lights Along the Road when I was living in Kathmandu from 2002 – 2006. He is a gifted young poet, a beautiful soul and a unique voice. To find someone who believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself is vital to one’s ability to keep on writing.

6. Work Ethic

I was brought up Irish Catholic in a family where hard work, responsibility, good grades, and sticking with it were prized. On top of that I’m a classic Virgo which ratchets the intensity up considerably. Now that I’m older and retired and have had lots of therapy, (smile) I’ve morphed into a new sun sign. This one lets me relax more, trust more, and stay in balance, in harmony. I’ve freed myself to run amok in the best sense; to be wide open to whatever happens. To jump out of planes, to ride my horse in a pitch-dark forest, to know what the next step is and take it afraid or not.

My work ethic is more in balance because my worth doesn’t stem from it anymore.

7. Writers when I was young who influence me today.

What influences me from that time in school more than actual poets was experiencing the beauty of words. Rhyme captivated me. Iambic pentameter soothed me. A turn of a phrase calmed me. Poe captured my imagination with his dark longing, and desperation. Even though the feel of his poems was so disturbing, the beauty of them consoled me. More than anything, that’s what I took from the poets of yore. How language could soothe the broken heart, lift it even when it remained broken, transform something like loneliness into a beautiful work of art.

8. Writers I admire today and why

Wendell Berry
Robert Bly
Ray Carver
Tess Gallagher
Jane Hirschfield
Jon Loomis
Tom Lux
Sharon Olds
Antonio Porchia
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, Lao Tzu, Li Po, Ryokan
Antoine de St. Exupery
Edna St. Vincent Millay
William Stafford
Wislawa Szymborska
Sara Teasdale

Because they replace what I know with something I don’t.

9. Why Do I write

I am visual, and I was born with a fountain pen in my hand. Ink to paper is an orgasmic profound thing, and I’m sure in past lives I was a scribe or an illustrator or a writer or maybe just a fountain pen! I write to be in touch with my soul’s yearning to create and evolve.

10. How do you become a writer?

You become a writer by writing. Daily, often and frequently. Read. Take notes. Be aware. Observe.
Understand as best you can what moves you. We are not our bodies, thoughts and emotions. We are spiritual beings here to wake up to that. Wake up to the areas within yourself that need healing, the parts that need the light. Write about what makes you weep.

11. Writing projects at the moment

Since publishing my book of poetry Bringing In Horses, and two other books I wrote with my publisher Cheryl McClean, my interests shifted to short stories that have a synchronous point, the kind of stories I hanker to read, ones that illustrate a larger force at work. I trust that shift of focus after I put my life’s blood into Bringing In Horses. Writing the book took some courage and it put a lot to rest.

I help a friend, a German journalist, mountain climber and translator on occasion, and when invited speak at creative writing classes held in and around where I live. There is always enough to keep my soul engaged with its purpose, with what enlivens it. I have writing projects just for myself. I finish them and then investigate what to do with them. Answers always come.

I also collaborate with my older brother who acts as my muse. That close relationship inspires many creative writing projects and some of them have manifested as books. He is one of my strongest supporters.

Thank you so much for this beautiful opportunity to delve into these questions. I’ve never pondered them to this degree before, and by doing so have learned a lot about myself. My gratitude to you Paul, and to everyone who contributes to your site, everyone who is doused to the gills with poetry.

On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Martin Gore

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.
Pen-Pals-cover

Martin Gore

According to his website is:

a 61 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore his love of creative writing. In hid career he held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. He was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.

When he was nine year’s old he told his long suffering mother that as he liked English composition and drama he was going to be a Playwright. She told him that he should work hard at school and get a proper job. He says She was right of course.

He started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. He thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. Notably in the 1974 miners strike Jaguar were hit by the three day week and worked with lighting from a generator. The Jaguar factory which employed thousands of people in Coventry is now a building site, and the office in the Triumph factory to which he later transferred is now a MacDonald’s.

He has lived in the midlands, the south of England, and now in rural East Yorkshire with Sandra, his wife of thirty six years. He supposes that as such he has a reasonable perspective on our current difficulties as a nation. He takes the view that our current austerity is a consequence of our collective failings in the past rather than a policy, and that the lessons of our history shouldn’t be lost.

He believes we should have less class division in our country, which although less of a factor today still exists in too many areas of life. He think it is fair to say that his own journey from Office Junior to Boardroom could not have happened in his father’s generation, so with every generation we seem to make progress.

But in the seventies he also saw at first hand the damage done by politically driven Trade Unions and ineffectual class ridden management. This division wiped out much of UK manufacturing which is in his view is the root cause of the austerity we know today. He thinks it important to capture this in a fiction novel, and Pen Pals is the result.

The opportunity to rekindle his interest in writing came in 2009, when he wrote his first pantomime Cinderella, for his home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. He has now written seven, with the eighth, Beauty & the Beast, now in the works. He loves theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. His first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, had its first highly successful showing in January 2016, so he intends to move forward in all three creative areas.

Pen Pals is his first novel, The Road to Cromer Pier, his second.

He says:  “I’m an old fashioned writer. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending. When I write I seem to disappear into another world, and become completely self absorbed. It’s a great feeling.

Live performance is great as you get instant feedback. Sometimes an audience doesn’t find a line funny, and yet something else I write they laugh at. Actors make a huge difference too of course. Every audience has different tastes, some like visual humour, some verbal. Whatever it takes, making people laugh is a really great feeling.

If you are an amdram group looking for a pantomime script then why not get in touch? I only ask for donations to my favourite charity, the excellent Hull Children’s University, if you make a profit. My pantomimes are written for larger groups, but I’m happy to tailor the script to meet your needs, without any charge. Oh and I expect a couple of free tickets of course…

 

The Road to Cromer Pier will be launched on Friday 29th June, at the premiere of the 2019 Summertime Special Show, and available in paperback and ebook versions. Martin Gore’s website is http://www.martingore.co.uk and he is on Facebook, and Twitter @martingore

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write fiction?

My love of creative writing started at school, but much more in the line of writing plays. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be a Playwright when I was around nine year’s old. My father loved musical theatre, so I guess that’s where my enjoyment of live performance comes from. My creative side lay dormant for around thirty years, as I developed a successful career as a Finance Director, and my family grew up. We moved from Coventry to Kent, and then to Yorkshire during that time, so there was no time.

In 2000 I wrote eight chapters of a novel called The Road to Cromer Pier, but wasn’t convinced that it worked, and rather put it to one side.

I became involved in Amdram, as an actor in pantomime originally, and reworded songs to go in the show. Eventually I wrote my first pantomime in 2010, and have now written eight. The pleasure of hearing an audience laugh at what I’d written is just fantastic.

The group began to do comedy plays, and I wrote The Road to Cromer Pier up as a play, but it was heavily laden with characters and too unwieldy to really perform. To improve my skills as a writer, I undertook the Hull Truck Theatre Playwright programme, and in the course of which I wrote Pen Pals as a play. Again it was quite heavy with characters and I parked it.

My career reached a crossroads in 2014, whilst I was Director of Corporate Services at Humberside Probation, which faced impending privatisation. I had the opportunity to take early retirement, at 57. I took the plunge, developing a second career as a non-executive director. I now have three such roles, with the NHS, a major Housing Association and UK Anti Doping.

I’m delighted with my decision as it allowed me the freedom to travel, and to indulge my passion for writing. As I already had two plays, which could act as the framework for novels, I set forth to work these up. Pen Pals was published in June 2016, and The Road to Cromer Pier will be out at the end of June 2019.

2. Who introduced you to fiction?

I don’t actually read too much fiction, mainly biographies. I very much liked Arthur Hailey, because his subjects were so well researched and he really got under the skin of the particular industry that he was writing about.

I have read quite a few Nelson De Milles, Robert Goddard and Robert Ludlum too. I enjoyed Archer’s early stuff such as Kane and Abel, but tend to find that all of these writers become formulaic over time. If I’m on holiday I tend to write rather than read, a habit that I should change no doubt!

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older writers?

Not at all really. I’m not really into the classics, I read purely for pleasure, and rather like true stories, hence my fondness for biographies.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t write daily as I have no deadlines to work to other than those I impose myself, and I have my work commitments to manage. I’m writing to please myself, and as I’m an early riser I write quite sporadically but intensely. On a good day I’m so immersed in my writing that I suddenly find that a couple of hours have gone by, and I’ve almost been in another place. I write in silence, and have a writing shed in the garden, overlooking open fields. If I write on holiday I like to get up early and put myself in front of beautiful scenery. I finished one pantomime in an apartment with stunning views of Lake Como.

5. What motivates you to write?

Pen Pals was written with the underlying purpose of telling of our journey to austerity. Of class ridden managements and militant unions at each others throats, which collectively caused the decimation of thousands of jobs in our country. But it is hopefully written as a human story of the lives and loves of the characters featured, so making it a believable and enjoyable work of fiction.

But as with my plays and pantomimes my pleasure is in the audience reaction. One reviewer of Pen Pals was adopted, and said that I had captured the feelings of an adopted child towards a birth mother perfectly. That sort of comment really motivates me.

6. What is your work ethic?

In spite of writing sporadically I am very capable of setting myself deadlines and hitting them, because that was how I achieved a successful business career. But I do balance my writing life with my working life, and with being a Grandparent, combined with lovely holidays. But I am certainly striving for perfection in my writing, and providing the reader with something that makes them laugh or cry.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

As a child I liked Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and that sort of book, but never really read as much as my mother wanted me to.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I would pay tribute to Joanne Harris. Although she is a successful writer she take time to help developing writers. If you ask her a question on twitter she will always give you a reply. I’ve had several useful tips from her, and admire her for her willingness to help.

9. Why do you write?

I like living the lives of my characters, and putting myself in their place. I love the audience reaction to things I write. If I’ve moved them to think, to laugh or to cry then I’ve succeeded.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Well I guess you find a topic which you know about and have a passion for as a starting point. It must be easier to write from personal experience. If I write a play I start with eight segments, one for each scene, eight to a play, and scribble what happens in each scene, with any ideas for sub plot, characters etc. No idea too daft at this time. When the frame is finished writing up the dialogue is pretty easy I find. Developing from a play to a novel rather continues that process a stage further I think. More characters, more expansion of the plot, fleshing out the bones so to speak.

I did do some creative writing classes, but the class were mainly poets, and I didn’t think that I’d learned much. Only recently however, I have realised that I learned some very good stuff there.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

The Road to Cromer Pier has virtually completed an exhaustive proof reading process, and will be launched in late June, coinciding with the start of the 2019 Summertime Special Show in Cromer. I’m intending to undertake an intensive promotional campaign during the summer, so other projects are not the immediate priority.

I have refined the play version of The Road to Cromer Pier, which is now available to Amdram groups free of charge, so I’d love to see that getting performed. I’m also writing a pantomime version of Camelot in my spare time. I’ve been asked about writing a sequel to Pen Pals, but I’m not as yet convinced about that. I have another half written comedy play called All Inclusive in the works, and an idea for a novel called Last Hurrah, about a man retiring back to his childhood hometown.

As part of Hull City of Culture 2017, I founded a school’s project called Song for Hull, which resulted in a concert featuring the hospital choir with which I sing, seven primary schools and an audience of nine hundred. The concert will repeat in 2020 with fourteen schools and an audience of eighteen hundred. I intend that it will endure and promote aspiration and self belief in our young people.