Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Louise G. Cole

The 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.

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Louise G Cole

Originally from Worcestershire, but now living in rural Ireland, Louise G Cole writes short stories and poems. She won the Hennessy Literary Award for Emerging Poetry in 2018 and was then selected by UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy for publication of a poetry pamphlet in February 2019. In 2015, she was shortlisted for a Hennessy award for a short story, and that year won the HE Bates Short Story Competition and the Hanna Greally Literary Award. In June 2019, one of her short stories won the New Roscommon Writing Award and a story was selected for publication in the Cork Libraries anthology, ‘From the Well’. Louise was one of 12 poets chosen for a Poetry Masterclass with former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins at the John Hewitt International Summer School in July 2019. She has been published in various anthologies, newspapers and literary magazines, including the Irish Independent, the Irish Times, Crannóg, From the Well, Stony Thursday, Skylight 47, Ropes, the Strokestown Poetry Festival Anthology, Poetry Ireland Review and the Ogham Stone. She blogs at https://louisegcolewriter.wordpress.com/ where she explains the ‘G’ in her name is there to avoid unnecessary confusion with an underwear model.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve always loved writing, but I only recently (five or six years ago) discovered writing poetry was a way I could put words together for someone else to appreciate. I’m inspired by family, the environment, nature, annoying people in the bank queue, charity shops, grief, flashers, knickers, heck, there’s no end to what has inspired me to write.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

That would be a teacher at primary school, Mr Simance, who read us Charles Causley and Longfellow. And my mother, who could recite verses she learned as a child. She was still word perfect from memory well into her 90s.

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

It was difficult not to be aware of the older poets when my mother was reciting Keats, Kipling, Wordsworth and the like. And studying involved reading poetry by DH Lawrence, Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost. All men, of course. I didn’t get into older female poets like Emily Dickinson or Christina Rossetti until I’d finished studying.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Sadly, I don’t have a daily routine, although I do snatch a few minutes at the end of every day to write in a journal, which is a way of unscrambling my thoughts. I always carry a notebook, so whenever I have the chance, I write. I am lucky to get away to a writer’s retreat several times a year, which is productive, non-stop writing for several days at a time – bliss, but not a sustainable pace, way too intense.

5. What motivates you to write?

Writing is a compulsion and after a while you need third party validation that what you are writing is worthy of an audience. The ‘success’ then becomes addictive too – I get a great buzz from hearing complete strangers tell me they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written. That thrill is a great motivation to keep going.

6. What is your work ethic?

In a nutshell, hard work usually pays off. I’m someone who slogs away at trying to get it right. I’m always attending workshops and masterclasses, following the lead of writers whose work I admire. And I’m a dedicated re-writer. My first drafts are only ever that – I can turn out 20 or 30 drafts of a poem or a story before I’m happy.

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

Probably not a lot. I was weaned on Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie, but I became a voracious reader of all styles and genres. I believe only by reading widely can a writer experience style and form and thereby find their own voice. I think I’m getting there, writing with my own distinct voice, but it has taken a long time to get to this point.

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

Where to start? There hundreds – no thousands – of good writers out there. Some tell a good story, but the style is not to my taste, others write beautifully but haven’t got much to say. Rarely, the stars are in alignment and you get both, substance and form (and I’m talking everything, poetry, fiction, essays and memoir here). I’m always keen to read anything by Anthony Duerr, Jess Kidd and Kevin Barry. Then there’s Billy O’Callaghan, Claire Keegan and Danielle Mclaughlin who write short stories to take my breath away. My tastes in poetry veer to the accessible styles of well-established poets like Billy Collins, Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke, all of whom I’ve been fortunate to work with. Ireland has shedloads of wonderful modern poets I admire – I daren’t name one for fear of missing out others.

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

I write because I feel I have to (see above), but also because a looming deadline is a great excuse for getting out of other chores. I mean, I haven’t time to mop the kitchen floor if I’ve a writing project to finish by midnight, have I?

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

Pick up a pen, grab a notebook and off you go – write! Stop talking about it and get on with it. Join a writers’ group, but shop around until you get the right fit, a small group of like-minded folk who are supportive and encouraging. Start your own if you have to. And enter writing competitions and submit to magazines and journals to get public validation, there are plenty out there to try. Alongside all that though, develop a thick skin and don’t be discouraged by people trying to put you off. Having said that, if the process creates grief, give up and take up knitting or sky-diving, or something else to fill your time. Writing should be (mostly) fun.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am working on a new poetry collection and I have a book of short stories already out there looking for a publisher. I’m also 100,000 words into a novel I’m enjoying writing for pure escapism. I’ve completed seven novels, the first five being unpublishable drivel, but a satisfying exercise in how (not) to do it. The two others still need some work, but I’m not in a hurry. I’m also involved in leading two local writing groups and we’ve a words and art project under way where we’ve swapped words and images with an art group to give each other inspiration. That culminates in a public exhibition soon, which is very exciting. I’m always keen to do public readings of my work – that’s how you get to connect directly with readers and thankfully, is usually a great experience.

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