Monday 21 April 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I was nominated to take part in the blog tour by Heidi-Jo Swain.

What am I working on?

I have recently finished putting together my first poetry collection with the help of my rather marvellous mentor Pascale Petit - I was lucky enough to get some funding for this from 

I was recently shortlisted for The Poetry School Pighog Pamphlet Competition so I have been making a smaller pamphlet sized collection from my larger one - which is not as easy as it sounds - I want the poems to work together as a whole with themes running through, not just be the best poems of the full collection. 

Right now I am working on a sequence of poems based around numbers. The poems were sparked off by a prompt on Jo Bell's 52 blog. Each week for year Jo, or a guest blogger, posts a writing prompt along with links to poems to read or listen to. It has been surprisingly inspiring and last week's prompt found me frantically writing almost an entire sequence. 

I am also in the process of co-editing issue 5 of Lighthouse along with prose writer Anna de Vaul - a process complicated by the fact that she is currently on the other side of the world with a patchy Internet connection! As well as that I am supposed to be writing a book review for Ink, Sweat and Tears.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

That's a tough question to answer - and of course there are those who would argue that there is no such thing as an original idea. I like to think that I use language in an original way and that I look at familiar subjects (such as family, household objects etc) from a slightly different viewpoint to other people. I am very much taken with Viktor Shklovsky's ideas of ostranenie or making strange - making familiar objects appear unfamiliar. This is something that Getrude Staein also liked to explore and I found her prose poems in Tender Buttons particularly inspiring. 

I like to have an element of realism in my work too - combining real life experience with fiction and a hint of oddness to try an create something unique but believable - as in my series of prose poems about a dysfunctional religious family.

I am sure that there are some similarities between my work and other writers. And of course I think that when we are often, whether consciously or unconsciously, influenced by what we are reading especially if it is really inspiring. 

Why do I write what I do?

I love both poetry and fiction - I am a great advocate for the ability of literature to change peoples' lives for the better, and I have always written (and read) both poetry and prose. In fact in my early 20s I wrote a book of short stories that was rejected by several publishers. When I came to do my creative writing degree in 2006 I thought that I would be concentrating on prose,  however what actually happened was that the course (and the tutors) rekindled my love for all things poetry, and I subsequently went on to do The Poetry MA at The University of East Anglia (UEA). 

I write because I have to - I have a compelling urge to put pen to paper - and I would still write even if there was no chance of ever making it into print. I think it is my way of making sense of the world - and I hope that in some small way it can help other people make some sense of it too.

How does my writing process work?

I tend to write sporadically and manically. I may go for weeks where I don't write much at all, and then an idea will seize me - this is happening at the moment - and I will be scribbling away at every opportunity. I think one of the reasons I don't write all the time is because I am busy, and everyday life has a habit of interfering with the creative process. A couple of years ago I had some money and I took myself off to a house near the sea for a week. Removed from all my usual distractions (internet, phone, work, emails, Facebook, household chores, teaching...) I found that I became amazingly productive and I wrote a whole sequence of poems that has since become the final sequence in my collection.

I do try and do things that encourage my writing practice. I aim to write morning pages every day - although in reality I manage about three to four days a week. I read both poetry and fiction (although I have discovered that if I read too much prose I stop writing poetry), I belong to a critquing group and I also try and get along to readings and other literary events. All this feeds into my writing practice. I write long hand into lined notebooks, then edit on the computer. If I am feeling really blocked a train journey always seems to free me up - I start writing almost as soon as the train sets off!

I am not so good at editing though and I often put it off for weeks - sometimes even months. Sometimes I will take my lap-top to a cafe when I need to get some editing done - it is amazing how much work one can get done without having the Internet as a distraction! Deadlines too are good for making one work harder.

I hope you enjoyed this stop on the blog tour - please check out the blogs I have nominated next week.

Helen Ivory

Helen Ivory was born in Luton in 1969 and began to write poems at Norwich School of Art in 1997, under the tuition of George Szirtes. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 1999 and then disappeared into a field in the Norfolk countryside to look after two thousand free-range hens. When she emerged ten or so years later, she had two collections with Bloodaxe Books and had helped, with her own bare hands, to build several houses.
She is an experienced creative writing tutor and workshop leader and has taught both undergraduates and in adult education for around ten years. She has also run workshops in schools and is a freelance tutor and mentor. She is currently an Editor for The Poetry Archive,  Editor of the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears, and Course Director for Creative Writing for Continuing Education at UEA. Her fourth Bloodaxe Books collection is Waiting for Bluebeard. (2013)  She is Co-editor with George Szirtes of In their Own Words: Contemporary Poets on their Poetry (Salt 2012)

Meryl Pugh was born in 1968, in Ely, East Anglia and grew up in Wales, New Zealand, Suffolk and the Forest of Dean, where her family settled. Educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge and the Institute of Education, London, she has a Distinction in the MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths College and is currently studying for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at UEA.

Her first pamphlet collection, Relinquish, was published in 2007 by Arrowhead Press. Selections of her poetry have appeared in four anthologies: Goldfish 3 (eds Maura Dooley & Blake Morrison, Goldsmiths College, 2011), Reactions 5 (ed Clare Pollard, Pen & Ink Press, 2005), Promises to Keep(ed Dean Parkin, Jerwood/Arvon, 2004), Entering the Tapestry (eds Mimi Khalvati and Graham Fawcett, Enitharmon, 2003). Reviews and poems have appeared in many print and online journals, including Horizon ReviewNew Welsh ReviewPoetry LondonPoetry ReviewPoetry Wales andThe Rialto.
Pugh divides her time between Norwich and Leytonstone, East London (her home for the last thirteen years).

Rosemarie Blackthorn

Details coming soon...