Interview: On Poetry and More with Wendy Cope

InterviewsWendy Cope is one of the most beloved contemporary British poets, known for her wit and succinct expression. When she was rumoured to become the next poet laureate she announced that she wasn’t interested, believing that a poet should be free to write the poems they want to write. Even more amazingly, she makes a living from writing poetry and, to our continuous joy, runs poetry workshops at Kingston University. WPN is proud to present Wendy Cope in conversation with Boyana Petrovich, discussing things poetry, literature and life related.

By Boyana Petrovich

Wendy, you sold your archive to the British Library in 2011. It included 40,000 emails, poetry notebooks, school reports, Word files, early school work, correspondence and accounts books. What struck me most was that you had all this saved in the first place, most of us don’t even keep a diary. What motivated you to collect such an extensive archive? Were there things you decided to exclude from the archive and keep just for yourself?

I’ve always tended to keep letters and so on, even before I had any thought of being a published writer. When I got published I became aware that my documents might be of interest at some stage.

In 2011 I needed to raise money to buy a house – my partner was retiring and the house we lived in went with his job. So I contacted the British Library. To persuade them to buy I had to throw in a few things I would rather have kept.

After you published Serious Concerns Ted Hughes wrote to you: “I like your deadpan fearless sort of way of whacking the nail on the head – when everybody else is trying to hang pictures on it.” How would you describe your poetry? How would you like people to remember it? Continue reading

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Happy Holidays From WPN!

The Words, Pauses, Noises team would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season and, of course, a Happy New Year. As each year draws to a close, we reflect on our past fortunes and failures, our mistakes and marvels. With the end of 2013 we would like to thank you all for supporting our endeavor, for coming to see our works and our accomplishments.

This blog is now well into its 8th month, and with the approaching holiday we look back to our first steps and the works we’ve posted. We hope that you too will go through and read anything you’ve not read, perhaps comment and reblog for us as well. Without you, our readers, we would not be able to do such things as put up a competition, or have interviews with published authors.

As we ring in 2014 we remember the old and look to the future with all the joys and adventures it will bring. To you writers out there, may your acceptance letters be plentiful, and your rejections tactful. To our readers, we hope you have enjoyed the works here, and continue to follow us into the coming years.

We’ll return next week with more works, but for this Sunday, we wish you good tidings and plenty of cheer.

Interview: Confidence, Creative Writing, and Careers: A Conversation with Adam Baron – Part 2

Interviews

Adam Baron is a principal lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University, teaching on the undergraduate, MA and MFA programs. During his versatile career he has been an actor, literary editor, comedy writer and performer. Adam is a published author and his crime novels Shute Eye and Hold Back the Night were both adapted into drama series on BBC in 2009/10. Here he shares his thoughts with Words, Pauses, Noises’ Boyana Petrovich about studying creative writing, feedback, grades, how to get published and more.

‘Interview With Adam Baron, Part 2’

Adam, what would you tell students about getting their work published? Is online presence important for young authors?

I think these days it is.

Do you think students should publish on blogs? Is that helpful?

Why not? Get it out there. Get your work published. If you get this blog up and working and people hear about it literary agents will go and look for work on there. They will. And if you have some sort of editorial board that says these are our favourite short stories of the month that will be a good platform for those students to get their work noticed. I send a report to literary agents who come to our Awards and Achievements Show, I think three were there last time and asked for it and they will look at it and contact the students if they feel there’s anything they can represent. Literary agents are hungry for new writers especially and are taking matters into their own hands rather than just waiting for work to be sent to them.

How did you first get published?

Advice I would give is try to meet people in publishing. I wrote to many editors saying can I read your manuscripts and one said yes, Alan Samson, a fantastic editor. He was then at Little Brown and sent me some scripts to read. I started giving him editorial feedback on the books that were going to be published. When I eventually said that I was writing a crime novel he told me to send it to these three agents and two of whom were interested. I think being able to mention his name helped, at least in the sense that it sped things up. I sent it to the right people. So, I got an agent, he got me an editor. Macmillan wanted to meet me and then they made an offer. I think the process is more or less the same today.

Do you have any advice on how to get published today?

Today – write something brilliant. More than ever you need an original take on something. The marketing people have an enormous power and unfortunately it is true that novels of lesser quality but with a good, flashy idea have a greater chance of being published than novels that are better but don’t have that. So a real leap for originality and voice and trying to do something new is what I think the publishers are looking for today.

My next question is about grading. What do grades actually mean to you?

To me personally I think they’re a marker as to where people need to go. If you look at our marking criteria a pass is a decent piece of work. It will get you a master’s degree and that is not easy to achieve. If you get above sixty that means your work is good to very good. And if you’re getting up towards seventy you have produced work that is readable, well executed; it may be raw in terms of its formal qualities, there may be errors in terms of clarity of writing, clumsiness in prose but you’ll have written a very good piece. If you get above seventy you’re approaching a sort of work that we think is going to be looked at seriously by agents and editors. And then, if I’m giving an eighty, which I do, very rarely, I am saying to that student I think that their work is as good as the published stuff I’ve read.

Often there will be elements in students writing which cross marking boundaries and then you have to make a decision, a piece that is say a sixty two with elements that deserve a highest possible mark. Continue reading

Creative Work: Poetry “Windows” by Boyana Petrovich

Words, Pauses, Noises features a duo post this weekend. The measure of Creative Workscreative writing teems on the hemline of time and does so with such gravity in the drawn instants of a poem. Follow the minutes in these two poems, steady yourself on the cadence of each work and admire the way in which words can remove you from your present but widen your perceptions all at once. A welcome and inspiring return from Boyana Petrovich and Neil Horabin.  

‘Windows’

By Boyana Petrovich  

London is a Renaissance painting

framed in the white plastic of my window.

Soaked.

Cars and busses inching across

Hammersmith Bridge in the distance lull

my heavy eyelids.

In the bottom right corner, caressed by

the gingko tree –  cumulonimbus

in your savvy sash.

Behind your expanding desk,

hiding your shadow in the bulging drawers,

are you watching back?

You say: ‘They think it’s black, but it’s with stars

and distant galaxies this coffee I’m drinking.’

When daylight is subdued by irony clouds,

when the air is saturated and hard to breathe in

and the window swells with grand gloom

I sit down. I stay still.

It must be windy. Birds are floating like kites.

 

Read the second Sunday post by Neil Horabin

Breaking The Blockage: A Talk About Creative Clogs

InterviewsLast week we opened the topic of Writer’s Block– or, as Amber termed it, the ‘Creative Clog’. Today we continue our discussion about the Big, Bad Block and what it means to the Words, Pauses, Noises team. Amber Koski asked the rest of the WPN team to answer a few questions about how we get over our own blocks, with some advice (from us as well as some which has allowed us to break our own blockages) thrown in. Over-caffeinated and stressed out from our deadline looming ever closer, I think that I’ll let the interview do the talking for me today. Enjoy!

Ashley Nicholson, Boyana Petrovich and Jasmine answer questions from Amber Koski.

Some people believe that talking about an unfinished work can block you up. What do you tell people who ask about your work-in-progress? 

ashleyAshley: For me, talking about my current work doesn’t always lead to inspiration. When people question things I felt so very sure about ten minutes ago, I feel like my entire creative thread unravels faster than I can pull it back together. Instead, I bring up the weather or make an excuse to leave.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQ

Jasmine: I just tell them I have written nothing and have writer’s block…

 

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: I feel like talking about my writing can bring new ideas and expose any plot holes. When I get to the stage where I can tell someone what I’m writing about and it doesn’t make me want to die, I feel like I’ve achieved something. I appreciate the challenge of sorting things out in my head so that they make sense to someone in the outside world.

What have writers you admire said about writer’s block that has helped you?

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I’m not sure who said it, but don’t consider writer’s block as something negative but as something positive. It means that you have something important to say, but your fear is holding you back. Once you break through that barrier of fear, something great will appear on the page.

ashleyAshley: To loosely paraphrase Neil Gaiman: ‘after a while we expect to be able to write something brilliant on a first draft. It really doesn’t work that way.’ We have to battle with our expectations of perfection on the first try. I think our work is better for a little suffering.

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Hanif Kureishi said that writer’s block is good, it means that you are resisting saying something you really need to say and that is hopefully worth saying. It resonated with me.

 

If someone came to you with writer’s block, how would you try to inspire and coax them out of it?

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Leave your work alone for a little bit. Go do something pleasant but pointless like playing Fruit Ninja or Spider Solitaire. If, after a while, you’d still rather be doing that than writing, perhaps it’s time to start working on a different project.

 

ashleyAshley: Write whatever comes to your mind, even if it’s how hungry you are or what you need to do later. Perhaps your own hunger prompts your character to enter a diner and meet a turning point.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: Start a new project or walk away from writing completely- do something else that you like and try and find other forums that can spark some inspiration. I also think it is important to be encouraging and maybe share some of your own battles with writer’s block.

 

What would you tell your agent if your manuscript was due in three months and you had 30,000 words left, and you are mid-writer’s coma?  

ashleyAshley: Absolutely nothing. I’d smile, nod, and quietly freak out. Perhaps not so quietly when far enough away…

 

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I would be honest and talk about it with my agent. You never know, they might just be able to help you or at least push you at the right direction, but I guess that depends on what kind of relationship you have with your agent.

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Bring the deadline a month sooner. I like challenges.

 

 

Any other things about writing you want to share with the World Wide Web? 

ashleyAshley: Writing, for me, is a very introverted thing. I find it hard to be creative with too many people in my space because it’s easy to become distracted. People keep telling me that being a complete hermit isn’t healthy, though, so I go to coffee shops or my uni library to edit.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I believe fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not finishing, of failure and of success. There is only one cure for fear- love. Be nice to yourself, don’t judge yourself and try and find ways that helps you beat that fear.

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: There are so many things that come to mind, but for some reason all begin with “I wish…” Not sure the internet would want to know about those.

 

 

Well, we have come to the end of our Writer’s Block sessions, but tune in next week to see what other creative things our MA’s have gotten up to over the summer!

Writer’s Block: An Interactive Journey of the Joys (and Woes) of Writing

InterviewsToday is an interactive Sunday!

There’s an idiom every writer dreads, even if they can’t admit it: writer’s block. What Macbeth is to actors, writer’s block is to authors. We can be a superstitious lot and sometimes it seems that just uttering the words can stop your creativity before your fingers meet keys. As the Words, Pauses, Noises team work fervently on their dissertations, the urge to run away grows as the time to complete the work shrinks. To help us get a jump on any blockage, we got together to think proactively on the subject. There’s nothing like discussing writer’s block to help you realise how real, and irrational, it can be.

The Words, Pauses, Noises team: Ashley Nicholson, Amber Koski, Boyana Petrovich, and Jasmine

WPN decided that in order to help ourselves work around the issue of writer’s block, we needed to go a little further outside of the box. It was certainly a learning experience for the team, and a way for us to concentrate on something besides our dissertations. There was one point we all agreed on: when blocked, go to another project.

Click on this link to go to our interactive presentation.

As September nears the Words, Pauses, Noises team grow steadily more caffeinated and conflicted, but as you can see, we’ve given ourselves some good advice to run with. This blog is dedicated not only to showing you our creative work but to help all writers overcome those fears we face during creation itself. As with any art, it’s all subjective, it’s all about taste, it’s all about what’s inside you and… the list goes on. As with any artist, we thrive on commentary and conversation, so let us know when you like something, or if you hate it. We’d love to see hear what you think.

Click back next week for the next installment of this series, Writer’s Block: Block Busting.

Creative Work: Novel Excerpt “My Name Is Freedom” by Boyana Petrovich

Creative WorksAs writers, the lasting effects of the lives we have led bleeds into our work, sometimes without the author even noticing. Other times our work has everything to do with that search for identity and our characters are reflections of ourselves. In previous posts we’ve given you a taste of the effect that the sense of ‘place’ has on the writer and their work in poetry. Today on Words, Pauses, Noises, we invite you to sample a piece of prose written by Boyana Petrovich about the lasting effects of place, of heritage, and how it feels to leave the country of your birth to in search of a new beginning. In this excerpt of Boyana’s novel-in-progress, the main character is a woman torn by two cultural identities the result of her dual heritage. Her very name binds her to the old country and holds her back from immersing herself within a new identity. 

‘My Name is Freedom’

By Boyana Petrovich

 

I had a dream last night. I’m standing on the edge of a massive cliff, rope tied around my ankles. You tell me to untie the rope and walk away, but I know that the only right thing to do is jump. And I want to, so much, but I don’t know how. So I’m just standing here on this edge, tied in my jumpless bungee.

My real name is Freedom.

I was born in a country that doesn’t exist anymore. Mom and her parents and their parents were born here, too, only here was somewhere altogether different again. In 1906 here was the Kingdom of Serbia. My great grandmother, Zlata, came from a village called Hellville, three hours’ walk across the mountain to the west. If you’re less poor you could travel most of the way from here on a donkey. Not across the Bishop’s Plateau though, a rocky place where the bishop in question wouldn’t come off his horse and they both fell into the ravine. Poor horse. I don’t know if this story is true, but I do know that everyone gets off their donkey at the Bishop’s Plateau. The selfish git’s legacy. Jovan, my great grandfather, came from a village called A Crow Without a Tail. To get there you’d have to drive further into the depths of The Old Mountain, a few hours to the west, then to the south, quite close to the border with Bulgaria. I’ve seen, many times, Jovan sitting, serious, with palms on his knees and Zlata standing close to him, hands resting on her hips. The faded sepia photograph claims the first page of our family album, but they were gone long before I was born. Continue reading

Confidence, Creative Writing, and Careers: A Conversation with Adam Baron – Part 1

Pen-and-Paper

Adam Baron is a principal lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University,teaching on the undergraduate, MA and MFA programs. During his versatile career he has been an actor, literary editor, comedy writer and performer. Adam is a published author and his crime novels Shute Eye and Hold Back the Night were both adapted into drama series on BBC in 2009/10. Here he shares his thoughts with Words, Pauses, Noises’ Boyana Petrovich about studying creative writing, feedback, grades, how to get published and more.

Adam, you’re a very experienced tutor and students love your workshops. What can Creative Writing MA students expect to learn or shouldn’t expect to learn during their course? 

I suppose you can’t come here thinking I will have to do that and be a published writer. But what you can learn is to write from your own voice, to find that voice as a writer. You can learn which genres work for you, which kind of writing works for you, in a way that you will discover all sorts of new ways of writing and thinking about writing. And from my perspective, you can learn the practicalities of structure and form which you can then apply in your own work. And that is what I see most creative writing students do. Encountering feedback, feedback generally being about structure and form of a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a longer piece of work, they then see similar structural problems in the work of other students that means the work of other students isn’t as successful as it could be to them as a writer, and that makes them think, aha, I need to take this on board myself.

Students can also learn to take themselves seriously as writers, to gain confidence, to say – this is what I’m interested in as a writer – which is very hard to do. It’s very hard to have confidence to say I will write and this will be interesting. And you can see this growing confidence in students who get a good mark, then a better mark and genuinely see that other people like their work and it’s that boost of confidence that they can learn as well, learn to take themselves seriously.

Continue reading