In January, she becomes the fourth and final judge for the MyVoice Creative Writing Competition. We sat down with her recently and asked her who inspired her to write, her top tips for writing, and the piece of advice she’d give entering the competition…
Who inspired you to write stories?
Whenever I went to stay with my grandparents in Worksop, my grandma would always put a cassette tape in the player which would be of some actor with a creamy voice reading stories. I loved the comfort of it but never knew it’d be my thing. It wasn’t until my GCSEs, or the run up to them I suppose, that I realised creative writing was my thing. Whenever my English teacher would set a creative writing task I’d notice myself being really into it, and sort of itching to share my work. By the time my GCSES wrapped up, an examiner wrote to the school to say how impressed they were with my creative writing piece and my teacher, Miss Hill, read it out! I was beaming, but it still took me another … 4 years or so to realise I was a writer!
What was your route into getting published?
I haven’t yet had a full collection of poems published, but have had some good luck with single poems being accepted by magazines such as The Rialto, or appearing in anthologies and so on. I’m really working on it though. I’m currently at the editing stage with my first manuscript (with thanks to my mentors Caroline Bird and Andrew McMillan, plus ACE for the funding). It’s really exciting (and hard!). I can’t wait to see what I’m left with at the end of all the work.
I didn’t know I’d be into being published to be honest. I came up into poetry through spoken word and the stage. I’ve been gigging for 7 years now, and for a while thought that publishing was elitist and out of reach, but I’ve done a bit of growing since then!
What does social justice mean to you?
You know, the world is changing so fast right now and it’s hard to have anything stable to hold on to, and that includes concrete definition and understanding. I feel like my views on most things change and grow with every new piece of information or view point brought to the table. Saying that though, I saw an illustration of 3 people watching a baseball game over a wall; each were varying heights and so the smallest got two boxes to stand on to see over the wall, the middle-sized person got one box, and the tallest person didn’t need any box because they could already see. I think that’s the purest example of social justice I’ve seen, and I hold on to that when I hear about the social injustices we’re seeing now. It shouldn’t matter who you are or where you’re from or what you’re doing, if you need a box, you should get the bloody box!
What are your top five useful tips to help young storytellers along the path of their creative writing?
- Yeah, as they say, ‘write what you know’ for sure, but don’t be afraid to bend and twist that into new realms and realities.
- Read, listen, watch, both in and outside of your genre as much as you possibly can.
- Find a group, mentor, class, something or someone who can critique your work; take it on, kill your darlings.
- Save up & invest in you. Look for any opportunity to be taught – the poetry school online do some incredible classes. New teachers bring out new parts of you that you didn’t know were there, so learn from whoever you can.
- Don’t feel pressured to do the cool thing, be in the cool crowd or whatever, if it isn’t serving you. Find YOUR thing, the thing that makes you fall in love. For me, it’s reading a good collection… be it on the bus, at the hairdresser, on the sofa while dinner cooks.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone entering the MyVoice competition?
Pour yourself into your piece; spend time working and re-working and reading aloud and trust your instincts. Once you do that, you’re free to push your boundaries and take the story, the world your making, to surreal and exciting new places.