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Conversations with Writers

Presents interviews with writers, publishers and literary activists

Updated: 2017-06-17T00:59:42.323+01:00


Journeys in Translation — an International Translation Day and Everybody's Reading 2017 celebration


As part of events to mark International Translation Day 2017 and as part of Everybody's Reading, Journeys in Translation will be hosting an event at which 13 poems will be read in English and in translation. Posters showing the poems alongside the translations will also be on display. The event will be held at the African Caribbean Centre on International Translation Day which, this year, falls on Saturday, September 30.The poems, from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) have been translated into more than 16 other languages, among them, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, German, Hindi, Italian, Shona and Spanish.The event is free and open to all.If you cannot make it to the September 30 event in Leicester, you could:translate or encourage others to translate as many of the 13 poems as possible,share the translations and reflections on the translations through blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends and on social media, and/ororganise a related event in your locality at which the 13 poems and translations will be read and discussed and let us know how the event goes.Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan. The anthology is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).*See also:[1] How Over Land, Over Sea came about[2] Interviews with Journeys in Translation poets and translators[3] The 13 Journeys in Translation poems:[a] "but one country", Rod Duncan (Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge, Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.123[b] "Children of War", Malka Al-Haddad (p.119)[c] "Come In", Lydia Towsey (p.16)[d] "Framed", Marilyn Ricci (p.114)[e] "Song for Guests", Carol Leeming (p.92)[f] "Stories from 'The Jungle'", Emma Lee (p.85)[g] "The Humans are Coming", Siobhan Logan (p.79)[h] "The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel", Ambrose Musiyiwa (p.1)[i] "Through the Lens", Liz Byfield (p.121)[j] "Waiting", Kathy Bell (p.62)[k] "What's in a Name", Penny Jones (p.5)[l] "Yalla", Trevor Wright (p.94)[m] "Dislocation", Pam Thompson (p.120)[...]

Interview _ Grant Denkinson


Grant Denkinson is an Open Access and Research Data Advisor at the University of Leicester's David Wilson Library. He is also a qualified psychotherapist and is one of the contributors to Purple Prose (Thorntree Press LLC, 2016), a new book about bisexuality in Britain.In this interview, Denkinson talks about writing, sexuality and Purple Prose: How would you describe Purple Prose?Purple Prose presents different forms of writing about various aspects of being bisexual, such as being a bi person of faith and so on. Each chapter curates a number of personal experiences, collected thoughts and even tentative advice, together with quotes, cartoons and poems.The chapter I co-curated with Juliet Kemp covers bisexuality and non-monogamy. The bi community I've been part of has been talking about how you can be bi and happily monogamous, non-monogamous in various ways, or not in relationships at all. Relationships of all kinds we could think of are spoken about in Purple Prose.We make no argument for one shape of relationship being better than another, just that different ways to love and relate might work better for different people.How did the book come about?Kate Harrad decided a book about bisexuality in UK should exist and then made it happen and edited contributions from the UK bisexual community into Purple Prose.While there has been an active bi movement in UK for many decades, there has not been a UK book by and about bisexuals since Sue George's Women and Bisexuality from 1993.There have been some excellent academic works and some books from US. However, the UK is a significantly different context and we wanted something for everyone that speaks to personal experience rather than as part of the academic debates.What are some of the other ways in which Purple Prose is significant?I'd like this book to be part of making the whole world a better place since bi people are everywhere. We'll only be a small part, but we can play a part.More specifically, there are a lot of people who, over their lives, have loved, fancied or had some form of sex with several people where those people were not all of the same gender. Many people in UK have had such thoughts or experiences. It seems important to me that there is at least one book out there that says people in this situation are not alone, which acts like a conversational prompt, which mentions aspects of the joys or stresses that they might have, and which comes from a place similar to home rather than from thousands of miles away.I've met few bisexual people compared to how many there probably are.Purple Prose is significant because a book can be a private experience. You don't need to be out to anyone to read a book. Books are portable and can be sent and read anywhere. Books last and are preserved in libraries and on bookshelves and can be quoted from and loaned to friends. Also, many people know others who may be bi and who perhaps they want to understand better without needing to ask intrusive questions or treating one person's experiences as the same as many people's experiences. To gain this understanding, they can read autobiographical journals on-line and articles and news. They can listen to partners, friends and acquaintances. They can pick out films or listen to interviews on the radio or find a podcast. All these things are important but none of them offer the experience that comes from a good book on the subject.How long did it take to the book together?The process from conception to launch was a couple of years. Many of the writers met at events and we mainly collaborated online.A number of UK publishers considered bisexuality too niche a subject despite recent surveys which show that around half of young people do not identify as gay or straight.It was important to us to have the book properly produced to high quality while keeping the price aimed for the mass market. We therefore crowdfunded to cover the costs of producing the first print run of Purple Prose with Thorntree Press, a small publisher in U.S., wh[...]

Leicester Libraries to host Poetry Translation Workshops during the 2017 Festival of Learning


Do you live in Leicester or Leicestershire? Can you speak more than one language? Or, are you learning another language? These free, poetry translation workshops taking place in libraries, from May 23 to May 27, are for you. Journeys in Translation and the Leicester Library Service are holding a series of poetry translation workshops as part of the 2017 Festival of Learning.The workshops are open to all and will suit anyone who is bilingual, multilingual or who is learning another language. They offer participants the chance to read, discuss and look at how 13 poems from the anthology, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) might be translated from English into other languages in an informal, relaxed and supportive atmosphere. No prior translation experience is required. The workshops will be held on:May 23 at St Barnabas Library, from 1pm till 3pm, May 24 at Belgrave Library, from 11am till 1pm,May 26 at St Matthews Library, from 11am till 1pm, and May 27 at the Highfields Library, from 1am till 3pm.The workshops will be delivered by Journeys in Translation coordinator, Ambrose Musiyiwa who is also the co-editor of Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016), a poetry anthology that explores what Leicester means to people who know the city well.Ambrose Musiyiwa says:Estimates suggest over 40% of the people in Leicester are either bilingual or multilingual. Other estimates suggest more than 100 languages are spoken in Leicester every day. Through translating poems, the workshops are an opportunity to celebrate the multiplicity of languages in Leicester and the richness they bring. It will also be interesting to see what happens when a poem migrates from one language to another.Journeys in Translation encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual or who are learning another language to have a go at translating 13 poems from Over Land, Over Sea from English into other languages and to share their translations and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, on social media and at poetry and spoken word events.The 13 poems have, so far, been translated into at least one of 17 languages that include Arabic, Bengali, British Sign Language, Chinese, Farsi, Turkish and Welsh. All 13 poems have been translated into Italian, 10 into Spanish, and 10 into German.Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017.During the event the original poems and translations are going to be read and discussed. Posters showing the original poems and translations will also be on display.Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.Development Librarian, Matthew Vaughan saysWe were really excited to be offered these workshops as part of our Festival of Learning programme of events.The workshops are highly relevant to both libraries and multicultural Leicester. They will appeal to anyone who speaks more than one language or who is learning another language and are not to be missed."Notes:[1] For more information on Journeys in Translation, contact Ambrose Musiyiwa, Email:[2] The translation workshops are free and open to all. Booking advised. Participants can book a place by calling the libraries the workshops are being held at.[3] Copies of the 13 poems will be available at the respective libraries on the respective days. Anyone interested can also join the Journeys in Translation Facebook group where the 13 poems are available for download. [4] The Festival of Learning runs from 22 - 27 May and features a variety of events, workshops and information and learning sessions across a number of libraries and community centres.[...]

Interview _ Kathleen Bell


Kathleen Bell is a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at De Montfort University.Her poems, micro-fiction and short stories have been published in magazines and journals that include PN Review, New Walk and Under the Radar and in anthologies that include Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016); Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) which she co-edited with Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan; and A Speaking Silence (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2013).Her poem, "Testament: in an Embankment Garden" won the Nottingham Poetry Society’s 2016 Open Competition which was judged by award-winning poet Liz Berry, and her poetry chapbook, at the memory exchange (Oystercatcher, 2014) was shortlisted for the Saboteur awards. In this interview, Kathleen Bell talks about poetry, micro-fiction and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the writing that you do?I can’t remember a time when I didn't write so I suppose that writing is a way in which I need to respond to the world around me and to interact with it.I write both poetry and prose fiction and sometimes the border between the two is pretty blurred. For instance, I’m not sure whether "Waiting", in the anthology, Over Land, Over Sea, is poetry or micro-fiction, and the same is true of another piece, "In The Tunnel" which was published as a poem in the Eyewear pamphlet, Refugees Welcome. I've never cared too much for borders so the definition doesn't trouble me much.Apart from that, I do a huge range of writing.In poetry, I like working in strict form when it suits the subject but I’m also happy to work in a more allusive and fragmentary way – I like to have a repertoire of methods. And, as well as short stories, I've written two unpublished novels which are still in need of yet another edit. I think novels are more different from short stories than short stories are from poetry, so that’s another kind of writing ... And then there are reviews, academic essays, Facebook statuses (and rants), tweets and other odd forays …Who has had the most influence on you as a writer?I assume by this question you mean other writers. As a reader I’m pretty omnivorous and I’m still learning – I hope I never stop.I wrote my PhD thesis on Auden so of course he influenced me, as did the Greek poet Cavafy, and various Latin and Ancient Greek authors including Sappho whose surviving fragments do so much in so few words. I had a phase in my teens of being influenced by the satires of Alexander Pope.Another day I might come up with a different list – and I’m carefully avoiding mention of any living writers. There are also many I admire who don’t influence me as a writer because I know that they do something that is very different from the ways in which I write. At most, I might observe a useful technique in a single poem and find it helps me years later.Kathleen Bell's poems have been featured in anthologies that include Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016).How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?I grew up assuming that writing was a natural and normal way to respond to the world.My parents encouraged me and my brother to enjoy all kinds of reading and cultural experiences, without the sense of hierarchies that middle- and upper-class people impose. So, we went to the theatre (in the gods, as we called the gallery benches) to see everything from Shakespeare to musicals and read all sorts of things from the popular magazine Tit-Bits to Plato and Borges. This isn't what people expect of working-class families in council estates but it’s what my family was like. I still remember Mum coming home with a Penguin of Borges’ Labyrinths and telling us that we must read it because it was amazing, and my brother and I, both in our teens, loved it. We also shared an enthusiasm for the volume called The Last Days of Socrate[...]

Interview _ Pam Thompson


Pam Thompson is a poet, performer, reviewer and university lecturer.Her poetry has been published in a range of small press magazines and her publications are: Spin (Walden Press, 1998), Parting the Ghosts of Salt (Redbeck Press, 2000), Show Date and Time (smith|doorstop, 2006), The Japan Quiz (Redbeck Press, 2008), and Hologram (Sunk Island Publishing, 2009). She is one of the organisers of WORD! at The Y Theatre in Leicester.In this interview, Pam Thompson talks about poetry and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe your writing?Very varied. I supposed a lot of my poetry is disguised - or not so disguised - autobiography. I experiment formally a lot and I enjoy it when something unexpected arises from those experiments.I agree with the poet C. D. Wright who said: "Poetry is a necessity of life, it is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so.”Poetry is about connection too. I like the fact that writing poetry you immediately establish yourself within a wider community of poets. There is something very comforting about that.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?There have been so many influences. I read a lot of poetry and I have written it since my early teens and was encouraged by certain teachers. Poets who particularly influenced me back then included Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, T. S. Eliot and Ted Hughes. I began to enter competitions in my late twenties onwards and had some successes, and began to get published in magazines. I can't speak highly enough of certain Arvon courses and my tutors on them -Michael Longley, Carol Rumens, Simon Armitage, Glyn Maxwell, Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke. Since then I have been on many courses and have attended - and run - writing workshops. Being involved in organising WORD! at The Y in Leicester has been an enormous influence too because it demonstrates the strong hold that poetry and its public expression have on people's lives. It reinforces the need for a safe space for people to read their work and a supportive community to receive it. That's why we are thrilled to be nominated for a Saboteur Award - if we won it would help us enormously to develop WORD! even more.How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?Greatly - I think it's inevitable that this will happen with any writer. They are often disguised though and filtered through other voices. What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far? I was pretty thrilled to be a winner of the Poetry Business Poetry Competition in 2005 with my pamphlet Show Date and Time, judged by Simon Armitage. Also winning the Magma Poetry Competition Judges Prize, (judge - Jo Shapcott) in 2014/15 and, recently, 3rd prize in the Poets and Players competition, judged by Michael Symmons-Roberts, was pretty special. They are all poets whose work I really like. I have recently passed my PhD in Creative Writing (poetry). That is probably the toughest thing I have ever done writing-wise.Pam Thompson's poems have also been featured in anthologies that include Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016).How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?My poem 'Dislocation' was included in the wonderful anthology Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge. Subsequently, it was one of the 13 poems offered for translation and, amazingly, has been translated into Italian, Spanish, German, Shona, Chinese, Finnish, Bengali, French, Turkish and British Sign Language, no less!How did "Dislocation" come about?It was part of that group project ... of poets responding to a humanitarian crisis and taking action to encourage artistic responses and to find a means of publicising these, and the cause, more widely. Writing about a humanitarian crisis is necessary but the results will always be inadequate. I’m not undergoing the pain of[...]

Interview _ Cynthia Rodríguez


Cynthia Rodríguez is based in Leicester and regularly performs at spoken word events that include Anerki, WORD!, Find the Right Words and House of Verse. She had also performed at Poetry is Dead Good, Too Deep for a Monday, Write Minds Wiff Waff, QTIPOCALYPSE at Rough Trade Nottingham, Coventry Pride, The Chameleon, and the LGBT Laureate night at The Phoenix in London.In addition to spoken word, Rodríguez has collaborated with musicians such as David Dhonau and the BootLeg Jazz Trio, and has performed as a featured act at Moonshine Word Jam, the jazz and spoken word evening hosted by Mellow Baku and Lydia Towsey.Her work has been published in zines that include the Mouthy Poets Queer Zine edited by Dean Atta; the anti-xenophobia Do Something edited by Selina Lock; and Anerki and Sean Clark’s Interanerki. In late 2016, two of her poems were included in Welcome to Leicester, edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa for Dahlia Publishing. Rodríguez is also a singer and a songwriter at the queer noise girl band ANATOMY, where she plays alongside singers and musicians, Adrienne Jones, Emily Rose Teece and Leonie DuBarry-Gurr.In this interview, Cynthia Rodríguez talks about poetry, writing and Journeys in Translation.When did you start writing?I started writing when I started learning how to write.It started a bit like private street art, writing the name of my celebrity crush on my living room wall when I was two years old. When I was four, I started to write and tell short surrealist stories about the people and places I knew or imagined. I would write, for instance, about a girl coming from Mars who ate bolts and screws and used apples as petrol for her spaceship. Like my now deceased aunt Adriana, there was a time I would write calaveras ... rather morbid poems about living people and the ways they would meet The Ripper, a Mexican folk tradition for Dia de Muertos.Since then, I’ve been dancing between short story and poetry/songwriting, but been more steady on the latter for the past 18 months.How would you describe the writing you are doing?Intersectional and interdisciplinary. I tend to write about the experiences people live from the margins and at the crossroads. Identity plays a huge part in my work, particularly as a queer fat foreign brown woman with mental and chronic conditions.Recently, I’ve been playing around with more artistic disciplines as well as writing, such as film and music, and I have been exploring the musicality of the spoken and written word. Cynthia Rodríguez performing at Anerki, a spoken word, poetry and music event that is held monthly in Leicester. Photo by David Conrad Dhonau.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?Life and art. My life, the lives of loved ones and those around us. Art, in its audiovisual and performative ways. People like Laurie Anderson, Penny Broadhurst, Pete Um and Saul Williams. Spoken word and interdisciplinary collectives in the East Midlands such as Anerki, Mouthy Poets, House of Verse and FAG. The spirit of the times.How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?A lot. No two life stories are alike, so it is necessary that we tell our own stories and perhaps find a common ground.English is my second language and I still enjoy exploring it and setting myself challenges to learn and expand. Britain is still quite new to me even if it feels like home, so writing is a bit like trying and testing plugs and taps around a fully furnished house I’m still paying mortgage for, stumbling upon a loose wooden tile under the carpet and discovering a neverending basement underneath full of positive and negative surprises.What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?Discovering an extensive network of people who love writing and art as much as I do. It has been amazing and truly, emotionally and professionally rewarding getting to know these people, sharing words of advice, c[...]

Interview _ Tony R. Cox


Novelist and short story writer, Tony R. Cox was a reporter at the Derby Evening Telegraph in the 1970s, and a Business Editor at the Nottingham Evening Post in the late 70s before moving to public relations and running his own business-to-business consultancy.He is the author of the crime thriller novels, First Dead Body (The Choir Press, 2014) and A Fatal Drug (Fahrenheit Press, 2016), both of which are set in Derby. First Dead Body has been described as encapsulating "the life of 1970s reporters when lunches were often long and liquid and it was the norm to meet contacts in pubs like The Dolphin, The Exeter Arms, The Wagon and Horses." While in First Dead Body, the action takes place in Derby, in A Fatal Drug, an investigation into the discovery of a mutilated body reveals a spiral of gangland drug dealing and violence that stretches from the north of England to the south of Spain.In this interview, Tony R. Cox talks about his writing.When did you start writing?I was editor of the school magazine; a regional journalist for 15 years; 25 years in public relations, mainly writing for newspapers and magazines nationally and internationally.In 2010, after I’d decided to semi-retire, it was suggested that I write a memoir of what I used to get up to in the early 70s when I was heavily involved in rock and jazz music reviews and everything that went with it. That formed the kernel of an idea for a novel. I self-published First Dead Body in 2014, basically because I didn’t want the hassle (and ignominy of being rejected) of finding a publisher. After my first novel came out, I vowed never to self-publish (I’m a writer, not a salesman) and researched potential publishers. I approached Fahrenheit Press as they seemed like a good fit and was taken on. My second novel, A Fatal Drug, was published in 2016.How would you describe the writing you are doing? I write crime thrillers with a historical (1960s and 70s) slant. My protagonists are journalists who are drawn into the action; the police are present, but these are not ‘police procedurals’.I hope my books appeal to anybody who enjoys crime fiction. I was told a while ago: “Write about what you know”. I hope my knowledge of the early 70s and newspapers is interesting.I was in my 20s all the way through the 70s, and memories are vivid. I also lived in Pakistan in the very early 60s; and then worked as a journalist during what I believe were the last great days of regional newspapers.Which authors influenced you most? All crime writers help, but I try and follow the characterisation and description that is accomplished so brilliantly by people like Ian McEwan, Alan Sillitoe, James Joyce and, of course, the maestro, Ian Rankin.Simon Jardine, the main protagonist in Tony R. Cox's thriller novels, is a crime reporter on a regional newspaper whose investigations, in A Fatal Drug, reveals a spiral of gangland drug dealing and violence that stretches from the north of England to the south of Spain.What are your main concerns as a writer?Cadence and coherence, mainly. I believe every book must capture the reader and lead them through, gradually as the pace quickens.What are the biggest challenges that you face?Getting it right! Money is not the prime objective, nor is becoming a best-seller, but I want my books to be accepted as well-written.Do you write everyday? No way. I write frenetically to get the plot down and this can be a base of about 50,000 to 70,000 words. Then I stop; put it away; go and re-visit the locations; immerse myself in the people. After a week or a month I go back and start the heavy edit, which is basically re-writing the novel from scratch, but with a structure already in place.In addition to novels, you also write short stories. Do you use the same approach to short stories as you use when you are writing novels?One of my short stories, "Under a Savage Sky" was published by Dahlia Publish[...]

Interview _ Flair Donglai Shi


Flair Donglai Shi 施東來 is a DPhil in English candidate at Oxford University, a critic in comparative literature (Chinese and English), an occasional short story writer, and a translator.When did you start writing? This simple question is also perhaps the hardest. Since I started my university journey, my academic language has always been English. Yet before that I was living in my hometown, a somewhat remote small city deep in the mountainous province of Zhejiang 浙江, China, and my only language was Chinese.When I was young I was definitely more interested in writing than reading. I got top scores in my Chinese language and literature class but I rarely read outside the curricula. At that time, around the early 2000s, there was a culture of increasing openness in China, and the sentimental, individualistic and urban popular writing was having its moment in the country. So I started writing around themes of loneliness, isolation and dislocation and published a number of short stories in newspapers and anthologies with the help of my teacher. Most of them are lost now but I still have the original manuscripts in my old notebook. After I started studying in the UK around 2012 I started writing in English, but mainly for an academic audience as that is the mode of writing in English I am most familiar with. I published a couple of short stories in English also, one called “Strawberry Candy” and the other called “China Boy”, in which I play around themes about sexuality and disempowerment. It is really much harder for me to write beautifully in English than in Chinese and sometimes I would just translate my creative writing from Chinese to English in order to preserve that original sentimentality, because I find that I always become too concerned about getting the sentence “right” in English to be able to prioritize my creativity.How would you describe the writing you are doing? There is a trend in academia nowadays to challenge the divide between creative writing and academic prose, but in practice this remains unwelcomed. As graduate students we do not have the freedom to write without the standard restrictions on style and structure, and very few academics nowadays produce essays in the manner of George Orwell, D. H. Lawrence or even Virginia Woolf. Most of our essays are so jargon heavy and ideologically entrenched they stop being accessible and influential and become some kind of self-indulgent soliloquy instead. Sometimes I would think the people in the humanities in Western higher education today are like construction workers trapped in a room they built around them, and now all they do is try very hard to find cracks in the wall so that they can write something to fill that blank, and thus to make the room more sealed off from the world. I find this very suffocating sometimes, especially when the election of Trump and Brexit explicitly tell us how higher education has failed to take into action what it preaches. As a literary scholar, I perceive two kinds of criticism to be worth doing. The first is theoretically informed political reading, such as postcolonial, feminist, or queer readings of the classics, which can offer new perspectives for us to see the structures built around a cultural product. This is more of a cultural history kind of reading. The second form of reading is perhaps a traditional one, which is that we should also read what we perceive to be good literature and promote it by making a sound case for its unique contribution to the wider world. These two modes of reading and essay-writing may sound quite commonsensical, but I think in this era of niche-market obsession, many of us under institutionalized pressure tend to forget about why we entered the field in the first place and choose to prioritize the theories over the literary works themselves.As for my occasional creative writing, I vie[...]

Interview _ Marilyn Ricci


Marilyn Ricci is a poet, playwright and editor. Her poetry has been published in a wide range of small press magazines and her pamphlet, Rebuilding a Number 39, was published by HappenStance Press. Her first full collection, Night Rider, is out now from SoundsWrite Press.In this interview, Marilyn Ricci talks about her writing and about Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the work you do?In terms of my poetry writing, I’d describe it as fulfilling and often a huge struggle. When a ‘prompt’ or idea comes to me for a poem (usually through reading other people’s poetry) I feel an excitement because I know I’ve stumbled across something which is important to me. This is the beginning of a process which is sometimes quite difficult but will end, I hope, with a poem which is meaningful both to me and to others with whom I hope to connect. That connection is the important thing.Which are the easiest aspects of the work? I think the easiest aspects are enjoying other people’s work, getting together with other poets and gaining inspiration from this. Poetry isn’t a solitary occupation for me. In terms of the actual writing itself, very occasionally a poem does seem to waft my way and I more or less just write it down and then play with it until it feels right. I wish that happened more often.With regard to the writing process, one of the most challenging aspects is cultivating patience. When something has prompted me to write, I begin by getting a few lines down. I’m listening for rhythm, wondering about form, cutting out the extraneous to make sure every word earns its place in the poem, looking for what excites me in the subject matter and looking at that from an unexpected perspective or speaking about it in a new way. I’m constantly interrogating the poem as I work on it. This can take a long time and you have to be patient and bold – start all over again if necessary. I belong to a women’s poetry group in Leicester – SoundsWrite – and I workshop a lot of my poems there to make sure I’m asking the right questions, to help me to be patient and keep working on the poem until it feels right to me. I often refer to a poem as ‘cooked’. What I don’t want is ‘half-baked.’Marilyn Ricci's books include the poetry pamphlet, Rebuilding a Number 39 (HappenStance Press, 2008) and the poetry collection, Night Rider (SoundsWrite Press, 2017).Who or what has had the most influence on you?Regarding subject matter, many of my influences come from my childhood growing up on a council estate just outside Leicester. My parents worked in local factories and I’ve written a sequence about them, “Hannah and Con At Work” – in my latest collection, Night Rider. As was very common in 1960s Leicestershire, my mum worked in the hosiery and my dad in ‘the print’. But they weren’t locals. They were incomers from the mining areas of South Wales and County Durham who were moved during the 1930s on a government scheme to get people out of the depressed areas. They brought their politics with them which greatly influenced my view of the world and so I was very aware of social class differences and the systematic inequalities that produces. This led later to an awareness of gender and ethnic inequalities too and the crazy ways people attempt to justify them and promote prejudice. I hope this is apparent in my poem ‘Framed’ which is being translated – the notion that women covering their heads with a headscarf as something unheard of in British culture is a lie. Not covering the head in public in the UK is a very recent thing and as I said in the poem: my mother always wore a headscarf when she left the house.The list of other poets who have influenced me is very long, almost too many to name. Here are a few: John Keats, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Stevie Smith, D A Prince, Stephen[...]

Interview _ Trevor Wright


Trevor Wright works part time in social care and is the co-director of a community interest company, InSight, which provides autism awareness training. His first poetry collection, Outsider Heart, was published by Nottingham's Big White Shed in November 2016. In this interview, Trevor Wright talks about the work he is doing.How would you describe the writing that you do?I'm relatively new to poetry and so far I've written about family, masculinity and its impact on others, political events in the wider world, key events from my own past with the odd comedic poke at well known public figures. If there's a theme that links many of them it's inequality which has significantly worsened in recent years and is by no means inevitable.As a writing process, chaotic. Trying to process the endless sensory incoming of everyday life, put some shape to it, find a place within or against it. Sometimes both within one poem. Sin, death and redemption just about covers it.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?I didn't study literature after the age of 16 and only started writing a few decades later so I'm still working that out.The Beano, Sillitoe, Robert Tressell and Michael Foot's biography of Nye Bevan then an overdue catch up on the other half of the population via Virago and the Women's Press when I worked in a collective bookshop. I like to hear poetry aloud so would credit people on the Derby / Nottingham open mic circuit who have been supportive. However, I'd say my main cultural influence has been music and the pictures and rhythms that it embeds. You won't spot the links but the likes of Patti Smith, Leadbelly, Joni Mitchell, and Niney crept into my first collection.Phrases and rhythms from when I lived in Wales as well, 'everyone has their own bag of stones to carry' for example, and then there's the influence of observational comedy - I've always had a soft spot for Dave Allen.How have your personal experiences influenced you're writing?Everyone has highs and lows to reflect on so there are experiences and lessons there to be tapped. Some poems come easy, one about my daughter kicking up leaves in the park, for example ... others are buried, not always whole, in layers of clay, rubble and rock that have to be pick axed out.Being autistic is a thread. Living with autism means you see things from the margins, rationally, not overly encumbered by emotion but can express that perception with passion. It gives an early insight, not always complete of course, into inequality and diversity.I draw on a range of experiences, from working with snippets that pop up in a writing workshop, media reports from around the world, looking up from a table at an open mic night to see a lonely bloke staggering across Nottingham's Slab Square dressed as Batman. If it pops up, I'll have it!What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?Surviving my early open mic and crit group experiences relatively intact has got to be high on the list as has being a Reds fan yet getting a poem accepted for the Welcome to Leicester anthology.My first collection, Outsider Heart, was published by Big White Shed last November and I never thought that being asked to do that would happen within three years of starting to write. But I'd say, the biggest achievement has been connecting and working with others. Simple things like chatting to someone at an open mic night because a poem spoke to them or the types of creative collaboration central to Journeys in Translation. That can be difficult for someone with autism and against the grain of your instincts and learned experience. Most of us mask and mimic behaviours to damp down the anxieties of 'doing social' or just avoid it altogether.Writing and performing has enabled me to contribute on my terms, which I'd never really done before. Bet[...]

Interview _ Penny Jones


Penny Jones is a writer from Leicestershire. She has been published by Fox Spirit Books, Factor Fiction Press, Five Leaves Publications, and Dahlia Publishing. Among other writers' conventions and conferences, she attends the monthly meet up of Leicester Writes.In this interview, Penny Jones talks about her writing, Over Land, Over Sea and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the writing that you do?I'm new to writing, so at the moment I write anything and everything. I find writing really hard, but find procrastinating really easy, so writing in different styles and genres means that I can try and fool my brain when it is telling me to give up.I have recently finished the first draft of a novel, and throughout the process all I wanted to do was write the short story I had been commissioned to write; then when I was writing that, all I wanted to do was write the screenplay for the course I was attending, and now I'm doing that all I want to do is go back to re-writing the novel.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?I read for pleasure, and admire writers who manage to take big issues and make them accessible through fiction.I don't tend to stick to one style of literature and enjoy finding new writers, so each year I take up a different reading challenge; for example one year I made my way through the alphabet, another year all the authors had to be from different countries.I want my writing to be as well rounded and diverse as possible, and so I want as wide an influence of subjects and authors as possible.How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?I very much put myself into each and every character I write about, especially my flaws. I like my characters to be well rounded, so I look at my experiences and use those to try and see how I would react to a situation. Also, my background as a psychiatric nurse helps as I can utilise the skills and knowledge that I use as a nurse, to empathetically see how my characters are feeling and how they would react; the protagonist in my novel is a young boy, so his reaction to events will be drastically different to my own.What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?My most significant achievement so far was my first commissioned piece, which was for a charity zine called Do Something by Factor Fiction Press. The first time you are asked to contribute to something, rather than sending in to an open submission, feels amazing.How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?I felt very strongly about supporting Syrian refugees, so when I saw a post on Facebook, where they were looking for poems for a charity anthology I knew that I had to at least send them something, even though I hadn't written any poetry since my school days.My poem "What's in a name?" was accepted for the anthology Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge by Five Leaves Publications, and following on from that one of the editors, Emma Lee, asked if it could be included in a project to bring the message to as many people as possible through translation. Penny Jones' poem, "What's in a Name?", on the pavement at the Leicester Against War / Leicester for Peace vigil that, since December 2015, is held every Friday at the Clock Tower in Leicester in solidarity with people everywhere who are bearing the brunt of war and those who are seeking refuge.Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project?The easiest aspects of the work, was the idea for the poem. I can only really write poetry if I already have an idea in mind, and for this project it was already clear in my mind, that I wanted to look at humanising refugees.I had seen and heard many people using the terms refugee and immigrant interchangeably, and it angered me that not only did peop[...]

Interview _ David Wilkinson


David WilkinsonDavid Wilkinson lives in Ashby de la Zouch and works as the Midlands Regional Officer for the Institute of Physics.His debut novel, We Bleed the Same (Inspired Quill, 2014) was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2015.In this interview, David Wilkinson talks about his concerns as a writer.When did you start writing?I have been making up stories set in my fictional “universe” since I was about five. These have been refined over the years until I had novel plots set in my mind. I would talk extensively to my wife about them and she kept saying I should try writing them out. Then a confluence of events occurred. First I got paid to write an article in a science magazine. Then I heard a successful playwright interviewed on BBC Radio 4 who used to be a girl in my English GCSE class, giving feelings of “well, if she can do it...” But mostly it was my wife just telling me to shut up and get on with it, buying me a course at the Leicester Writing School for my birthday in the process. 14th September 2011, the day after the first workshop, at around about lunchtime, was when I started writing!How would you describe the writing you are doing?It would firmly sit on the science fiction shelf, some would say space opera. However, the books are totally plot and character driven. It is about interesting people interacting with each other in a dysfunctional society that just happens to span half the galaxy.The work is certainly adult and has plenty in it for the science fiction fan. However, several non-sci-fi fans who have read it, or parts of it, find themselves enjoying it too. It has a political thrust and also an undercurrent of feminism, so it would be nice to get into broader markets. As for why – I am just writing what I know and love.Which authors influenced you most?The very first science fiction books I read as a child were Spaceship Medic by Harry Harrison and Wheelie in the Stars by Nicholas Fisk.There's a tiny homage to Medic in my first novel; I wonder if anyone can spot it.As I got older I ploughed into most of Asimov and, like so many others, I owe future city building to the Caves of Steel.Dystopias had a strong impact – From Huxley’s Brave New World to Orwell’s 1984.The one standout novel that had the most influence on me was The Mote in God’s Eye by Niven and Pournelle. It really brought home to me the truth that good Science Fiction is about our contemporary world. I was also impressed by their amalgam of current and future tech. It really brought characters to the fore and had the power of story where characters were neither entirely good nor entirely bad.What are your main concerns as a writer?I’m not a fan of large swathes of description. I don’t enjoy reading it and I am not good at writing it (as evidenced by my cold readers, editors and anyone else who has ever got near an unedited version of my work). As a result I have learned about writing detail.If you write about one of your characters tracing greasy outlines on the outside of their mug, you don’t have to write a long description of the squalor of the canteen they are sitting in. It also keeps the reader close to the action.What are the biggest challenges that you face?The biggest challenges are my everyday life. I have two children under eight and a full time job. I am also learning to play a concerto. Writing just fills in the odd free moment. I also write on trains – that’s where I am doing this interview now.Do you write every day?Taking into account the previous question, the writing experience is usually the same. I sit down and spend about 10 minutes reading over what has come before, ostensibly to get into the flow but really just to put off the moment of beginning.Once I start, the first 15-20 minute[...]

Interview _ Ursula Kapferer


Ursula KapfererUrsula Kapferer was born in Vienna (Austria) in 1989 and currently lives in Freiburg (Germany). She studied German and English to become a teacher and is currently writing her PhD thesis on German-English poetry translation. She is also presently writing an article about translating the German poet Christian Morgenstern forthcoming in the traductology series ECHO. In this interview, Ursula Kapferer talks about writing, poetry and poetry in translation.How would you describe the writing you are doing? I write poetry in German and English and translate poetry in both directions.Currently, I am working on my PhD thesis about poetry translation, where I combine poetry translation practice and theoretical work.I have always been fascinated with sound and rhythm which greatly influences both my writing and research interests and I am also interested in the different advantages and challenges when translating both from German to English and vice versa.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer? The two greatest influences on my writing are my family and the poets I admire.Some of my earliest memories are my father carrying me around in the kitchen, while reciting Latin poetry. I remember being fascinated with the enchanting rhythms and sounds, even though I did not understand a word. Poetry was always part of our everyday life during my childhood: My grandfather recorded ballads for me and my parents used to read to me and each other while going on holiday. I think these childhood experiences shaped my love for poetry and especially for sound and rhythm.My own writing has always been greatly influenced by the poets I was reading at a time. Leafing through my older poems, I can see the different poets who influenced me at the time shining through. It has always been easier for me to get a feel for a poem than finding my own voice. This is probably also why I started translating poetry.Are there other ways in which your personal experiences have influenced your writing? Poetry for me is closely connected to emotion. I would even say the two are inseparable in my experience. Strong feelings often bring poems to mind and also have resulted in several of my poems. Also, I still have great difficulties translating poetry which I do not have an emotional connection with. What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far? The encouraging feedback of my private and professional environment is especially significant to me, for instance that I was invited to read one of my poetry translations at the T & R (Theories and Realities in Translation and wRiting) conference in Naples (Italy) in 2016.Another significant achievement for me is that I managed to obtain two scholarships (first the “Landesgraduiertenförderung” and then the “Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes Promotionsstipendium”) for my PhD project (which includes my translations as well as theoretical work on translation I mentioned above).How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation? Especially since my work as a German as a Second Language teacher for Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Freiburg (Germany), refugee experience and integration have become personal matters for me. I think that poetry is able to play a significant role in the integration process which begins with mutual understanding, I believe. So, when I heard about the project via an email bulletin from EACLALS (The European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies), I started translating “but one country” by Rod Duncan the same day. Rod Duncan's poem, "but one country, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), on the pavement at the Leicester Against War / Leices[...]

Interview _ Lydia Towsey


Lydia Towsey is a poet and a performer. Her previous commissions include: Freedom Showcase (Literature Network); Spoken Word All Stars Tour (Poet in the City); Beyond Words, U.K. tour of South African poets (Apples and Snakes); and, Three the Hard Way UK tour, alongside Jean ‘Binta' Breeze and Alison Dunne in 2014 and Jean Binta Breeze and Shruti Chauhan in 2015.Poet, Performer and Spoken Word Artist, Lydia Towsey.A Decibel commissioned artist, in 2008 Lydia Towsey was one of 50 international artists in residence at Stratford Theatre Royal.Previously shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, she has spoken and performed everywhere ... from London’s 100 Club, Roundhouse and the House of Lords, to ... Plymouth University’s Zombie Symposium.Her work has been featured in publications that include the magazines: The London Magazine, Hearing Voices and Magma Magazine; and the anthologies, Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Raving Beauties, Bloodaxe, 2016), Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016) and within Candlestick Press’ 10 Poems about ... series.Lydia is currently UK touring the stage show of her collection, The Venus Papers (Burning Eye Books, 2015) produced by Renaissance One, supported by Arts Council England.In addition to her practice as a poet/performer, Lydia works as a producer, specialising in literature, health, women and excluded communities and works as part-time Arts in Health Coordinator for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. She plays the ukulele, keeps a cat and is the chair/co-ordinator and rotational compere of WORD! - the longest running spoken word night in the Midlands, nominated as ‘Best Regular Spoken Word Night’ in the 2017, national Saboteur Awards.In this interview, Lydia Towsey talks about the work she is doing.How would you describe your writing?My creative writing focuses on poetry and developing work for the page and performance.I'm particularly interested in narratives surrounding gender, politics, woman and culture - from popular culture to counter culture and the other… to ethnicity and notions of national identity. I enjoy using humour, satire, wordplay, the fantastical and both visual and performance based techniques and approaches to explore these areas.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?Who - undoubtedly, Jean Binta Breeze - who I was lucky enough to meet at an early point in my writing career and fall truly, madly, deeply in friendship and fan-girldom with. I was in my mid-20s and experiencing challenging personal circumstances. Jean taught me to look outside of myself and combine the personal with the public. I think of poems of hers like “Ordinary Mawning” pegging out the washing, while America bombs the middle east… now, with new resonance, of course.Who, also - Scott Bridgwood, my life partner, figurative painter and key creative collaborator. Our work frequently crosses over, and has done so most recently in The Venus Papers. In this, I’ve developed my research in collaboration with Scott, drawing on his knowledge of figurative art and incorporating my work as a life model (within our relationship) to write around these and other experiences/areas of knowledge. He’s always the first person to hear a new poem and the closest thing to a Witch Doctor I’ve found.Another big influence - around 10 years ago undertaking and completing an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, specialising in poetry and screenwriting. In doing so I was able to develop formal craft, technique and writing processes, which I’ve drawn and built on ever since.How have your personal experiences[...]

Interview _ Emma Lee


Emma LeeEmma Lee co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) and is one of the coordinators of Journeys in Translation. She also co-edited Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016) and has three poetry collections, Ghosts in the Desert (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015), Mimicking a Snowdrop (Thynks, 2014) and Yellow Torchlight and the Blues (Original Plus, 2004).She reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and is currently Vice-President of Leicester Writers' Club. Her poems have been published in the UK, USA, Mexico and South Africa, broadcast on radio and she has performed them at venues such as Leicester City Football Club, Leicester's Guildhall and the Poetry Cafe in London.In this interview Emma Lee talks about her writing and about Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the writing you are currently doing?In between poetry reviews and blog articles, there are poems. I'm currently taking part in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month, April 2017) where the aim is to draft or make notes towards 30 poems during April, averaging a poem a day. Outside of NaPoWriMo, I'll still be writing poems, blog articles and reviews, going to poetry and spoken word events and Leicester Writers' Club, but without the pressure of averaging a poem a day.In that, who or what has had the most influence on you?I usually avoid naming contemporary poets for fear of leaving someone out, but it's fair to say many of them are my Indigo Dreams Publishing stable mates. Other influences include Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Mew, Rosemary Tonks, Maya Angelou, Marcia Douglas, Anna Akhmatova, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell.How have your personal experiences influenced the writing?Not all my poems are semi-autobiographical. I love that poems give me the chance to try and imagine what someone else's experiences feel like and explore how others might tell their stories if they were given a chance. What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?In terms of being noteworthy, probably co-editing Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), not only in the interest it generated in readings in Leicester, Nottingham, St Andrews, the Poetry Cafe in London and interviews in The Morning Star and on Iraqi TV, but also in fundraising for refugee charities and subsequent projects such as the Journeys Poems Pop-Up Library, Journeys in Translation and the "Poetry and 'The Jungle'" paper I presented at the Jungle Factory Symposium organised by the University of Leicester in 2017.On a more personal level, it has to be the publication of my third collection Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, 2015).How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?Ambrose Musiyiwa and I were chatting over coffee about the Journeys Poem Pop-up Library, where we gave out postcards featuring eight poems from Over Land, Over Sea at Leicester Railway Station during the Everybody's Reading Festival, and how we could build on that.At the time of putting together Over Land, Over Sea we only took poems in English, a language common to all three co-editors, because our priority was to raise funds, however we were aware that the publication being monolingual was a potential issue because it raised barriers to reading and sharing poems about a universal experience. So the idea came about to translate some of the poems into other languages and break down some of those barriers.We picked the eight poems used in the postcards and added a further five, using local poets so that we could work towards an event where the original [...]

Interview _ Antonella Delmestri


Antonella Delmestri was born in Trieste, Italy, where she began her education in Classical Studies before moving to Computer Science. Holder of a PhD in Information and Communication Technologies, she is author or co-author of a number of scientific publications.In 2004 her first collection of Italian poems, Stanze dove non eri stato mai, was published by Ibiskos. In 2016 her second collection, Il respiro del drago (The breath of the dragon), including an English translation by Anne Lloyd-Williams, was published by Battello Stampatore.Antonella has also published in Italian a short story “E questo fu solo l’inizio!” and has won various literary awards with her poems. Since 2006, she has lived in the UK, and works at the University of Oxford in medical research.In this interview, Antonella Delmestri talks about her poetry.How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?My personal experiences have entirely influenced my writing, even its very start and existence. I love T. S. Eliot’s definition of poetry:Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.Which authors influenced you most?What has most influenced my writing is my classical background, especially Greek and Latin mythology. I am fascinated by the power of this psychologically evocative cultural expression, which remains significant through the ages in representing universal human emotions. Myths, archetypes and metaphors are symbolic ways of conveying deeper truths about ourselves and the world around us. How would you describe Stanze dove non eri stato mai? Stanze is a journey through different emotional states represented by the book's sections: "Ombre" (Shades), "Attimi" (Moments), "Sorrisi" (Smiles), "Miraggi" (Mirages) and "Catene" (Chains).The reader is invited to discover different rooms (stanze in Italian) of a virtual house, which symbolises one's inner self and identity. This is what the book's title refers to (Rooms where you had never been in English), and is a line in one of the poems, "La vergogna" (Shame). The fact that Stanza has an additional meaning in poetry makes the title more evocative.How did the collection come about?I started writing poetry when I was in my early 30s and it was a complete surprise to me. One day I woke up and I just had to write.Initially, everything I produced was in rhyme, and the rhymes were ready to come out effortlessly. It was an unsettling experience, because I was not used to it and I did not understand where it came from. Probably to give it some direction, I got into the habit of writing in the morning and editing the result later in the day. This activity of dreamy writing and file-editing went on for a few years undisturbed and solitary.One day I heard of a publisher, Ibiskos, running a competition for poetry collections, and I began to consider sharing my writing with the outside world. I started selecting the poems that I thought might be suitable, and grouped them into sections. My collection was shortlisted in the competition and Ibiskos offered to publish it.Antonella Delmestri's first poetry collection Stanze dove non eri stato mai was published in 2004 by Ibiskos Editrice. What were the easiest aspects of the work that went into the collection? And which where the most challenging?The creation of the poems themselves was the easiest part of the work. But my writing is very deep, and I am always worried that it could be too intense for people to enjoy. I found it challe[...]

Interview _ Irena Ioannou


Irena Ioannou’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Wild Word, S/tick, Literary Mama, Eyedrum Periodically and Shipwrights. She writes from Crete, Greece where she lives with her husband and four children.In this interview, Irena Ioannou talks about her writing, translation and poetry.When did you start writing?My first efforts were in Greek and were meant for my eyes only, too many years ago to be able to pin it down. Then I stumbled upon some creating writing courses at Malmo University, or they stumbled upon me, I can’t tell for sure.My first poems were published online in 2013 and ever since I’ve been taking my writing one step forward, the past months more steadily and decisively so. How would you describe the writing you are doing?I write narrative, confessional poetry, more often than not with a feminist-political bent. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with the flash fiction and the short story form. Writing constantly offers new opportunities to learn and evolve, or sometimes you find that a medium cannot deliver the intended meaning adequately. But poetry is the guide to everything else: it taught me to pay attention to every single word, which is a big step into writing.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?I am Greek and I have attended Greek school which means that I’ve studied the Classics. Having also studied English Literature though, a new window opened when I came across contemporary female poets.I chose to do my Bachelor Thesis on Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife, and, well, nobody can remain unaffected by that. Questions about the truth of representation and the reinvention of history still haunt my writing.In general, I am drawn to poems with a strong voice. Poets like Sharon Olds and Adrienne Rich — and others less known who use poetry to bare their soul — are my soft spot. How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?Your experiences make you who you are, and your writing reflects it. I’ve been influenced by two countries: Sweden, where I was born, and Greece, where I’ve grown up.Studies have also the habit of messing with your head, and at times I enroll in foreign language courses trying to decode the way of thinking behind them. And of course, my job in the Greek Fire Brigade offers new angles of interpreting the human condition.What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?I consider my best achievement that I continue writing while working and being a mother of four.I cannot single any of my pieces out as they all carry a piece of me in their words. But of course I value the magazines that treat my work with respect, like The Wild Word did with my poem "It’s Only Human Nature" and my personal essay "On Country And Shared Blood", and the Mortar Magazine did with my short story "St. George".The publishing world is still a puzzle to me, though every time a total stranger chooses my work among hundreds I call it a small miracle, and marvel at the way poetry unites us all.How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?I answered to an open call for volunteer translators posted in my university’s online writing community.I have translated eight of the poems into Greek, and I am working on the rest. So far, it’s been a very rewarding experience. I can’t help but admire such initiatives; we’re all so caught up in our lives that we don’t even allow sidelong glances to anything that doesn't directly concern us.Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project?It’s natural to identify more with certain poems than with others, which make their reading[...]

Interview _ Laura Chalar


Laura Chalar was born in 1976 in Uruguay, where she trained as a lawyer. She is the author of six books, most recently Midnight at the Law Firm (Coal City Press, 2015), a chapbook of poetry, and Líber Andacalles (Topito Ediciones, 2016), a Spanish-language short story for children. She has also published numerous translations from and into Spanish, including Touching the Light of Day: Six Uruguayan Poets (Veliz Books, 2016) and Uruguayan poetry dossiers in Modern Poetry in Translation and other literary journals. The recipient of various literary awards as well as a Pushcart Prize nominee, she is currently at work on several simultaneous projects. Laura is married and has a daughter.In this interview, Laura Chalar talks about her writing.When did you start writing?I started writing when I was very small, copying the printed letters I found in books and newspapers. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. My father was very proud of a story about a ‘caterpillar woman’, which I must have written when I was about four. Both my parents were readers --- fine examples of that type of cultured, literary-minded lawyer which is now sadly in danger of extinction. We never had much money when I was growing up, but there were always plenty of books around the house.How would you describe the writing you are doing?I am a poet and short-story writer who also wants to become a novelist! Recently, I’ve also started writing for children. And then, of course, I also translate. These different genres often hinge around subjects I keep returning to --- memory, childhood, ‘normal’ people living normal lives, usually in places I happen to know or have lived in. In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most and in what way? Why do you think they’ve had this kind of influence?I wouldn’t know about influence, but there are many writers whose work I admire and which are a quality standard I always try to keep within sight, even if I can’t match it. I’m always discovering poets whose work I love, many of them English! Among Uruguayan writers, who are perhaps less familiar to English-language readers but definitely worth getting to know, I would mention Julio Herrera y Reissig, Líber Falco, Juan Carlos Onetti, Marosa di Giorgio, Carlos Martínez Moreno, Horacio Quiroga and Juana de Ibarbourou from the ‘classics’ ranks.Laura Chalar's books include Touching the Light of Day (Veliz Books, 2016) and Líber Andacalles (Topito Ediciones, 2016).How have your personal experiences influenced the writing you are doing?My personal experiences are always there, lurking behind the scenes. That is not to say, of course, that my writing is always ‘confessional’ --- I will draw on stories I have heard, the visual arts, places I have never been to --- but there is always something of myself, of my tastes and inclinations, in what I write. I suppose it’s the same with most writers --- your life seeps into your writing, sometimes in ways you can’t recognize.What are you working on at present?I am preparing a Spanish-language book of prose poems (or poem-like stories, depending on your view) for the press. It will be published in Uruguay by Irrupciones, a local publisher, perhaps in May. This year, I also plan to finish a book about reading to (and with) my daughter, and edit the short stories and other writings of my father, who died last year (some of these can be read in the latest issue of Coal City Review, an American literary journal, in my translation).I’m also looking for a publisher for my translations of the Brontë sisters’ poems, illustra[...]

[Interview_2] C. Y. Gopinath


C. Y. Gopinath has worked as a journalist, a film director, and a community development worker.His books include Travels with the Fish (Harper Collins, 1999) and the novel, Book of Answers.In this email interview, C. Y. Gopinath talks about his new book, Hoyt’s War.What is your latest book about?I just finished writing Hoyt’s War. The story is set in USA 2020, after four years of a very Trump-like President called Barry Codbag have made America the most ridiculed and reviled nation on the planet. It’s strange that my main ‘villain’ was every bit as irrational, maverick, and a dangerous loose cannon as Donald Trump. Campaigning now for four more years in the Oval Office, Codbag needs new and more diabolical distractions to confuse the electorate.Along comes an ordinary retiring American, Daniel Hoyt, a man who just would rather be left alone in peace. Hoyt knows he’s in trouble when he inherits an ancient but locked book said to contain answers to all of America’s problems.And Codbag wants it. He knows this book will help him get re-elected.Hoyt, wanting no part of this, sells the book to a dollar store. But the shop owner quickly realizes what the book could mean, and re-invents himself as a clergyman, claiming that through this book God speaks straight to him. It’s a matter of time before he is working directly with the President.The President and the pastor make a lethal pair. For every preposterous law Codbag wants to enact, the pastor makes up ‘divine’ evidence that it comes from God’s words in the book. And a gullible nation laps it up.Codbag wants to turn America into a monarchy with himself as King, in the name of minimum government. Decriminalize rape. Legalize cheating in examinations. Impose a tax on sex. Create a special Grey Area for people who think too clearly. Ban the past and future tense. Now Daniel Hoyt hates a fight; he’s no hero. But against his wishes, he gets dragged closer and closer to a confrontation with Codbag. The government wants the key to the book, and only Hoyt can get it. Suddenly he is the White House’s crosshairs.Hoyt’s War is the story of an ordinary American who reluctantly takes on the most powerful man on the planet, in a hard-hitting, riotous and all too plausible satire of a dystopian America.Is it true that Donald Trump was the inspiration for the character of President Barry Codbag?Codbag undeniably talks, thinks and feels like Trump. But the truth is that I began writing this book in 2012 and finished it in early 2015, long before Trump was even a feature on the election map. So it’s a moot point whether Trump inspired Codbag — or whether Trump could pick up a few more crazy ideas from him.The rather audacious promotional campaign I am launching actually is based on a series of ‘news stories’ from a certain fictional newspaper called Washington Psst, in which Trump is seen waving a copy of Hoyt’s War and saying it should be banned. It feels completely appropriate to take full advantage of someone as amoral, unethical, unprincipled and self-serving as Trump. What sets the book apart from other things you've written?Imagine a story set in the culture and society of one country — being re-written and re-imagined in the socio-political setting of a completely different country. I would go out on a limb and say Hoyt’s War might be the first book in literary history to do that.In 2011, HarperCollins India published my first novel, The Book of Answers, a sharp political satire along Orwellian lines, set in India. The novel got shortlisted for the 201[...]

[Interview] Ellie Stevenson


Ellie Stevenson was born in Oxford and brought up in Australia. She is a member of the Careers Writers' Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors.She writes feature articles and short stories.Her first novel, Ship of Haunts: the other Titanic story (Rosegate Publications, 2012), which is available as an e-book and as a paperback, has been described as "engaging and lively ... a real page-turner" and as "thoroughly enjoyable".In this interview, Ellie Stevenson talks about her concerns as a writer:When did you start writing?When I was 10.I spent part of my childhood in Australia, and I would lie in bed and listen to the sounds of the Australian bush, and think about what I could do with my life. My first published work was a poem published in an Australian state newspaper. Then came a hiatus, quite a long one, but fortunately, that’s over now.How would you describe your writing?Fairly eclectic.Primarily I’m focused on writing more novels but I also write stories, articles and poetry. The poetry's more of a leisure thing, but I like to think it informs my work!I always wanted to write books, but life and a need for cold, hard cash got in the way. When I finally took my ambition seriously, I started with articles, as a way getting some hands-on experience. But I always planned to be a novelist – I just wasn’t sure if I had the stamina. Who is your target audience?Anyone who wants to read my work!No, seriously, I write for people who love mysteries and a sense of something other-worldly. I love to read ghost stories and books that take us across time and space. Maybe some time travel, or something that haunts or has a bit of a twist.I write the stories I want to read.I like novels which speak to the reader, are emotionally strong. And those that challenge the reader’s concepts, while still maintaining a page-turning story. Lyrical language is also important. I love to read books by Maggie O’Farrell and Douglas Kennedy.Have your own personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?My novel is a ghost story about Titanic, child migration and living a life under the sea. I’m an historian by nature and I love the past. Three of my family were child migrants and I’ve been heavily influenced by the time I spent living in Australia, an amazing country. I’ve always been passionate about Titanic. As for the ghosts, I can’t really say...What are your main concerns as a writer?Making my work the best it can be and improving its rhythm and the way it flows. Having integrity in my stories. Making people wonder if what we know isn’t all there is. Reaching readers.What are the biggest challenges that you face?Marketing my work. In order to be read, readers need to know you exist. I enjoy promoting my novel and articles but it takes a lot of time, which means less time to write. It’s a constant trade off, especially if you’re an independent author. Every day I do a little bit more.Do you write every day?At the moment I’m focused on promoting the novel. But when I’m writing, yes, every day, in allocated time slots until I have to do something else. I stop at that point, or when I come to a natural break. The initial writing isn’t that hard, the real work comes with the plot corrections, improvements to language, and the many revisions. I’m naturally self-critical and my work is never good enough. It’s not a happy trait for a writer to have!How many books have you written so far? One so far, Ship of Haunts, although a collection of short stories will be coming out in late Septe[...]

[Interview] Harry Whitehead


by Nick Edgeworth, The Grassroutes Project*Harry Whitehead is a novelist, a short story writer and a creative writing lecturer at the University of Leicester. Before that, he worked in the film and TV production industry.His novel, The Cannibal Spirit (Hamish Hamilton, 2012) is set among the First Peoples of Canada at the turn of the twentieth century, and has been described as "“Unflinching and rigorously unsentimental ... a thought-provoking and impressive read.”His short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies that include London Lies (Arachne Press, 2012), The Storyteller Magazine and Whimperbang.In this interview, Harry Whitehead talks about the concerns that inform his work as a novelist and a creative writing lecturer:To start off, thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed.Pleasure.My first question is: where did the creative writing process begin for you? When and why did you start?Well, I used to win the prizes at primary school at creative writing exercises and competitions, and I think that started it for me. And I always wrote. I never took it seriously I don't think – but I guess everyone who writes stories sort of does take it seriously, don't they?I did an undergraduate degree in Anthropology when I was 24 – I had been in the Far East for many years – and I read a story whilst I was there: an anthropological story that stuck with me. I won't explain it immediately because it might go back to a question you ask me later, but that story just played in my mind and I ended up doing a Masters degree in Anthropology to follow the story, and then it wouldn't go away, and I did a Creative Writing MA as well, and got sidetracked and wrote a load of other stuff before I eventually came back and wrote that. So I've always written, and enjoyed storytelling from the earliest days, and I got serious about it in my thirties.Anthropology is a big part of your début novel The Cannibal Spirit. Do you think you're the sort of writer who looks very widely for ideas in interdisciplinary fields?Yeah, for sure.Before I joined this department [UoL's School of English] I had an O Level in English Literature so I haven't come from a focused reading past, in the way that English Literature trains you, at all. I come from a much broader space and have read much more multifariously, shall we say. But living abroad for so many years and then studying Anthropology has made me look all over the place for stories.My book has been reviewed well and badly, and when it's been reviewed badly it's often in terms of its cultural authenticity and arguments about that. I was treading on some pretty delicate ground writing about First Nations people in Canada and people either loved me or hated me for it. Which is all right – that's fine by me.What was it that attracted you to that setting at that point in time?Well, I was 25 and I'd just broken my back, and I read this story, actually in a piece by Claude Lévi-Strauss, one of the founders of structuralism – so a pretty unlikely spot to originate. I read this story about a nineteenth-century north-west coast shaman who wanted to become a shaman in order to expose the lies and trickery of shamanism. And he learns all these acts of prestidigitation and fraudulence as he saw them, and then a local chieftain has a dream that only he can save his sick grandson. So very reluctantly the guy performs the ritual, and lo and behold the child is cured.So, this guy, whose name is Quesalid in the story – Quesalid's dilemma fascinated me. I[...]

[Interview_3] Gail McFarland


Gail McFarland writes contemporary romance.Her novels include Doing Big Things (Lulu, 2012); Wayward Dreams (Genesis Press, 2008); and, Dream Keeper (Genesis Press, 2009). In addition to that, her romantic confessions and short stories have been featured in a number of magazines as well as in the anthologies, Bouquet (Pinnacle Books, 1998) and Can a Sistah Get Some Love? (Lady Leo Publishing, 2010). Her work is available in both print and e-format.In this interview, Gail McFarland talks about her experience of e-books, the future of the book and about her short stories:How much of your work is available in print form and in e-format? My novel-length work is currently available in print form and available for order and purchase in both online and brick-and-mortar-bookstores. In e-format, readers can find a dozen different stories everywhere from and B&, to the ibookstore, Kobo, Diesel, Sony, and Smashwords. Of the two formats, as a reader and then as a writer, which do you prefer? This is a great question! As a reader who grew up pre-ebook, I absolutely love the feel of a book in my hands. I love experiencing the turning of the pages and the whole holding-my-breath as I wait to see what awaits me on the next page thing. But I am at heart a reader. Truth be told, I will read just about anything, so I am reading ebooks.In my everyday real life, I work in Wellness and Fitness and for me, that is where e-books take the full advantage. They are easy to carry in my gym bag and I can read on the treadmill or while cranking out miles on a stationary bike. E-books are unmatched for downloading manuals and having ready reference available for my classes and clients. I still love a real paper book, but I guess I’m just a woman of my times and a good e-book works for me.In your view, what is the future of the book going to be like? The ease of reading and the portability of e-readers is impressive. Additionally, the opening of the market to indie authors is allowing an unprecedented rise to free and open thought that was often lost among traditional publishers. This leads me to think that more people are reading – a good thing. It also leads me to think that more ideas are being more easily exchanged and that our society, as a whole, is expanding and reshaping itself accordingly – another good thing. So ultimately, I think that both traditional and indie authors are going to have to step up our game to keep pace with this future, and that we owe this effort to our readers, ourselves, and the ongoing integrity of books.You have an impressive number of your stories that have been published in a variety of anthologies. How did this happen? One of the nicest things about writing for publication is that you are able to make contact with people whose hearts sing the same songs as your own. When that happens, how can you say, ‘no’? I have been fortunate to find myself in the company of a number of lovely ladies for the Arabesque Bouquet Mother’s Day anthology, and the Lady Leo Can a Sistah Get Some Love anthology. Additionally, a number of my short confessions (27 of them!) appeared in collections for the Sterling/MacFadden Jive, Bronze Thrills, and Black Romance magazines.In each case, I was invited to submit an idea and a subsequent story for the collection. I was very happy and enjoyed doing it.And here’s a little bit of a 'scoop' for you and your readers: I will be included in a new anthology featuring the GA Peach Au[...]

[Book Review] Killing Honour... a beautifully written, heartfelt book


Reviewed by Sarah O’Rourke, The Grassroutes Project*Bali Rai is considered the writer of British Asian teen fiction, and it’s not hard to see why. Life bursts off the pages of his 2011 novel, Killing Honour. Rai tackles taboo subjects with incredible clarity and passion.Killing Honour tells the story of Sat, a Leicester-born Asian teenager, whose sister is forced into a marriage with an abusive husband who then goes onto murder her – a so-called “honour killing.” Bai makes his stance clear on these killings in the title of the book and through the voice of his narrator, who never once gives up on his sister, no matter what izzat she has offended. Sat understands that family must come before honour, saying: “[A]ll you’re doing is killing it – killing honour – not defending it,” (KH p.180) but in order to unravel the mystery of his missing sister, Sat comes up against a “wall of silence” in the Sikh community. At the same time, of course, Sat represents those Sikh men who openly condemn such murders. Killing Honour condemns domestic violence in any form, whether that be against Asian women or white women. By removing the “honour” from the phrase honour killings, Rai exposes these violent acts for what they are: murder without justification. Rai makes it clear how intolerable it can be for women who have to live up to unachievable standards to protect their family’s izzat. Sat notes that he is a male and so the “izzat thing” (KH p91) is easier for him, making his sympathy for women apparent, wishing that his sister had run away, because he could never have lived her life. Rai further instils a sense of sympathy for women by switching the point of view of his narration – sometimes it’s Sat, sometimes it’s third person from Laura’s perspective, and sometimes it’s the abused woman. Here we see the horror of domestic violence and murder from every perspective, from the family to the Asian wife to the abused white girlfriend. Rai considers all these people as victims of the same crime. Rather than privileging one over the other, he states emphatically that it is wrong. That it must be stopped.Rai paints Leicestershire as a diaspora space – that is a community in which the consciousness of not only the first generation immigrants is transformed, but the indigenous peoples too, each changing and shaping one another together as one cohesive whole. Location figures heavily in Killing Honour, set in and around Leicester, with local landmarks such as De Montfort Hall, Victoria Park, Queens Road, and even Babella’s bar. Sat says that his sister “lived on the other side of Leicester, but it wasn’t far. Nothing in Leicester is.” (KH p.9) And this image of Leicester as a tightknit community can be felt not only in the novel, but in the city itself, with art reflecting reality and vice versa.In Rai’s novel, Britishness figures as intrinsically culturally diverse. As Rai himself says, “we should celebrate what we have in common” rather than putting our differences first. And so we see Sat drinking from a Bart Simpson mug, the family visiting Disney World and hot dogs being eaten. When Sat gets a girlfriend who is white (a union frowned upon by people from both sides of the cultural divide), he is presented as very much the modern multiculturalist, showing the transformations that have taken place between first and second generations in the diaspora space of Leicester life. Sat says of his gi[...]

[Interview] R. J. Heald


R. J. Heald is author of 27: Six Friends, One Year (Dancing Parrot Press, 2012); founder of Five Stop Story and editor of Five Stop Story: Short Stories to Read in 5 Stops on Your Commute (Five Stop Story Press, 2011).In this interview, Heald talks about her concerns as a writer:  When did you start writing?Like a lot of writers, I always loved creative writing when I was a child and I remember writing stories as one of the highlights of my primary school education. I continued to write into my teens, but stopped completely during university.I started writing seriously when I woke up from a dream with the idea for a book about five years ago. The idea just wouldn’t go away, and when I got home from work it was still at the front of my mind, so I just started writing. That was the first novel I wrote, but it’s still in draft form and remains in a drawer at present!I’m not sure if I ever consciously thought “I want to be a published writer.” The overriding motivation was to write, to tell the stories that occupied my thoughts and to let loose the ideas. But when I finished the first draft of my second novel, publication seemed like a sensible goal. I got feedback from beta readers and produced five re-drafts of the novel over eighteen months. I entered the novel into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition and reached the Quarter Finals.I’d always been interested in publishing as a business, and I run my own digital publisher, Five Stop Story, which publishes short stories. Therefore, I didn’t approach any agents or publishers, but took the decision to set up my own publishing company and self-publish the novel. How would you describe the writing you are doing?My writing is very contemporary and tells the stories of ordinary people and their everyday triumphs and disasters. My debut novel, 27: Six Friends, One Year tells the story of a year in the lives of six friends aged 27. On the surface they lead enviable lives, but underneath the facades, they are falling apart. They each face their adversities in different ways as they try and maintain their appearance to the outside world. The novel focuses on the events both big and small that shape their lives during their 27th year.I write about the drama of ordinary lives, and I try to capture the complexity of relationships, telling each character’s story.Some readers have compared my writing to One Day by David Nicholls and I think that’s a good comparison. Who is your target audience?My target audience is predominantly women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. However, I’ve had feedback from men and women outside of this age bracket, who also enjoy my writing.One piece of advice I heard when I was writing was “write the book you’d want to read.” That’s what I’ve done with 27: Six Friends: One Year. So I suppose the target audience is people like me. In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?My debut novel, 27: Six Friends, One Year is all about everyday life, so my experiences and those of my friends have influenced it a lot. However, I think the experiences in the novel are universal. So, although my experiences have guided me to a certain extent, the novel is really an amalgamation of everyone’s life stories.Jodi Picoult has been a big influence. I love the way she focuses on the importance of the relationships between characters in her stories. I think Nick Hornby and David Nicolls have influenced wr[...]

[Interview_4] Jonathan Taylor


Jonathan Taylor is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in Leicester. He is also the author of books that include the memoir, Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta, 2007) and the academic books, Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Sussex Academic Press, 2007); Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003); and, Figures of Heresy: Radical Theology in English and American Writing, 1800-2000 (Sussex Academic Press, 2005) (co-edited with Dr. Andrew Dix).In this interview, Jonathan Taylor talks about his debut novel, Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012):How long did it take you to write the novel? It took me a while to write the novel: I started it in 2007, shortly after the publication of my memoir, Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta Books, 2007), and finished it four or so years later.In fact, its origins lie further back, in that the starting-point was an episode which was eventually cut from my memoir. In 2001, my father was in intensive care, and I was travelling backwards and forwards to Stoke from Leicestershire, where I was working at the time. One night, in Loughborough, I was approached by a homeless woman, who said she hadn’t eaten for days, and who asked if I had anything she could eat. I’d had a few too many drinks that night, and decided it was a good idea to invite her back to our house to (and I quote) “eat our freezer.” She came back with me, I fed her, and then she met my housemate of the time, who proceeded to talk to her for hours about his current obsession: ants. After that, she slept on our floor, and then, next morning, just before she left, gave us both a kiss on the cheek and told us that she now “believed in English gentlemen again.”It was one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. I never saw her again, but the novel is an attempt to imagine what her traumatic background was – what had brought her to that desperate point. In effect, she’s the novel’s narrator. The central character is a heavily fictionalised version of my ant-obsessed housemate (though he’s really a complex hybrid of my housemate, myself and other people I know).Did you write everyday?I wrote a great deal of the novel in 2008-9, when our twin girls were still babies. This meant that the writing process was squeezed between massive commitments – to my daughters (obviously), and also to my full-time job as a lecturer. So I’d sometimes have no more than an hour or two a week writing time. This meant that I had to maximise that time, and use it to its full advantage. Through sheer necessity, I’ve come to discipline myself to be able to write at will as and when I get the chance. I hardly believe in ‘inspiration’ any more – and I don’t have the kind of time available to wait for it to come. I’ve just trained myself to write as and when I get the odd hour free. In that sense, ‘writer’s block’ is something, I think, that is often the preserve of people with a lot of spare time. In terms of how I proceeded with the novel, I actually wrote it in a linear way, from beginning to end. I’ve never done this before – the memoir was built up in a piecemeal fashion from fragments, and my second novel (which I’m completing now) is much less linear. But the story for Entertaining Strangers demanded this kind o[...]