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.
is a journalist and poet. In 2017/18 she was shortlisted in the Bath Novel Award and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, was highly commended for poetry in the Bridport Prize and came third in The London Magazine Short Story Competition. She was also longlisted in the National Poetry Competition.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
Having children sparked a burning need to write. I found myself turning to poetry at 3am, whilst feeding my first baby, at the time of night where it feels like you’re the only person awake in the world. I didn’t know where to put all of the intense emotions sparked by motherhood, and poetry provided an outlet.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I’d never written a poem before starting a creative writing MA at Birkbeck, University of London. I did a poetry module and was taught by the poet Martina Evans – and became instantly hooked.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
‘Poetry’, in the sense of the traditional canon, belonged to old, dead, white men – or so I thought from what I was taught at school. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. I am constantly overwhelmed by the dazzling talent from the growing cohort of contemporary poets: many of them young, female, from BAME or LGBTQ+ backgrounds.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I have one day a week set aside to write creatively. I do the school and nursery drop-offs first, then I head home to my ‘writing cave’ which is my special space. I might edit some poems, or start something new, or critique someone else’s work, or add something to my novel-in-progress. I work until 4pm, when I do the school and nursery pick-ups in reverse.
5. What motivates you to write?
Intense feeling: be it sadness, exasperation, worry or a dizzying sense of joy. When I feel something strongly, my first thought is to write it out. It’s both catharsis and a source of creativity.
6. What is your work ethic?
When I’m inspired by something I find it very hard to stop myself from working. This means that my writing routine is not entirely consistent – because I can go from ‘spilling out’ 20,000 words in one week, as I did while I was writing my first novel, to weeks where I don’t write but instead read and edit and wait for that burning desire to come back again.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I was a prolific reader as a child – I probably didn’t do enough playing outside, because I always preferred reading. I was a total bore on holiday with my family because I wouldn’t want to do any ‘beach games’ or sports… why would you, when you’ve brought 14 books away with you for a week in the sun?! I loved Christopher Pike and Stephen King. I don’t write horror, but reading that genre in my youth taught me about pacing and how to tell a great story.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I’m floored by Sally Rooney, whose astute observation of what makes us human shines off the page. Ditto Deborah Levy – I would read anything she has to say, be it a novel, memoir or short story. Both writers have the ability to bring empathy, understanding and pathos to every line.
9. Why do you write?
Happiness. For me, writing is crucial to being happy. If I can’t write – if I don’t give myself that head space to think creatively – I find myself becoming glum and irritable. It’s a ‘need’, rather than a choice.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
The first thing you need to do is: actually write. So many people say they’d ‘love’ to write a book, but the key is dedicating that time to doing it. Writing is a dream, but it’s also a discipline – and it’s hard work. There are days when the very last thing I feel like doing is writing, but I force myself to do it, to keep it all ticking along. Even if it’s only a few sentences. Writing competitions can also be a great way to get yourself on longlists or shortlists and to start getting noticed for your work.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’ve just had my first poetry book published by Nine Arches Press – I was one of three lucky winning poets selected for the Primers IV anthology. We have a programme of launches and readings taking place over the next few weeks, and the book is available here: http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetrycollections/primers%20volume%20four.html.
My debut YA novel is out on submission via my agent, Julia Churchill at AM Heath Ltd, and I’m working on another.