Ep. 24 | Inés G. Labarta on Waking Up at 5am to Write

I really try to write first thing in the morning, before I do anything else, at least anything else that’s mental… because my brain is just too tired after a day of work.

INÉS G LABARTA

CEOs and productivity gurus may have been talking about the wonders of starting your day early for years now. But the reality is that for many of us, it is the only way of dedicating some focused time to what we care about the most – before the day starts and other responsibilities kick in.

In this episode, writer Inés G. Labarta discusses how she trained herself to wake up at 5am to get some writing time done whilst completing her full-time Creative Writing PhD and having several part-time jobs to support herself. This was no fashionable routine but, rather, something she had to resort to keep a regular writing practice. Luckily, she soon discovered some advantages in writing at such early hours, and now she has implemented this habit in her writing life.

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Writing before you start working at 9am
  • Managing several part-time jobs, a PhD and a writing routine

Connect with Inés:

Twitter Instagram

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 23 | CHARLEY BARNES ON using writing time as a reward

There are some days when working on fiction becomes my reward system around getting X amount of jobs done from the day-job list.

charley barnes

When you have to combine your writing career with another job, the usual struggle is to carve the time out to focus on your craft. Most of us will try to start writing before the start of our day job. But what if we did things the other way around?

For crime author and Creative Writing lecturer Charley Barnes, her precious writing time is the reward after a hard day at work. Delaying the ‘pleasure’ (we know it doesn’t always feel like that!) of sitting at the desk to focus on her own fiction projects seems to help her productivity and motivation. Have you ever tried something similar?

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Being a writer and a Creative Writing lecturer
  • Finding motivation to sit down to write after working on your day job

Connect with Charley:

Website / Twitter / Instagram

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

three poems by natalie sorrell charlesworth

The sea strips / the sand into strata, / shifts the timeline / on the tides. / The village / was Saxon, was Viking / was Roman. / Was here, then gone.

natalie sorrell charlesworth

Picture credits: Andrew

Christ the King, Fishergate Hill

Castle ruin, fairy gate, grey-white mirage

side-eyed from the slipstream windowpane

of a hundred early morning bus journeys.

Octagonal towered, Notre Dame aspirant

pulled flat on all faces but this. A demoted

church, the council’s truncated, votive offering.

One day I will walk up to your wall, press

my palms flat to your bricks. Push.

Picture credits: Preston Digital Archive

Tulketh Hall

Back to grass and heather. The hum

of masonry bees vibrating in their

honeycombed brickwork remnants.

Hidden undergrowth fed on ashes.

Here, a hunter once crouched

in their furs in the long grass,

watching the sedate grazing

of their next rabbit-skin hat.

Here, a monk once set down

his wandering staff, bricked

the world into windows, panes

of glass arching heavenwards.

Here, a man made a manor

of a monastery, rented out

the choral echoes of inherited

nobility, to trade and railways.

Here, they sent the orphaned

or unwanted, the short-trousered

progeny of parents on a budget,

for Latin, Greek and arithmetic.

Here, the army stored their secrets,

then forgot to post a guard. Lost

the lot to trespassers five years later,

ten-year-old Tom with dad’s lighter.

Here, half the roof peeled open

in a storm, like a ring-pull can lid.

The council puts paid to the walls

with a wrecking ball next winter.

Here lies Tulketh, interred in

Avenue, Brow, Road, Crescent.

Foundations’ bones tarmacked

under a car park’s cracked skin.

Picture credits: Tjer77

Domburg Beach

i.

The sea strips

the sand into strata,

shifts the timeline

on the tides.

The village

was Saxon, was Viking

was Roman.

Was here, then gone.

ii.

One winter reveals

a headless Victory.

She was carried

in triumph

to the church. Left

greening

out of salt until

she was reclaimed,

or lost,

to lightning.

iii.

In harder times

the villagers develop

criminal tendencies.

Wind their way

through the wave

forms of foundations,

the worm casts

of superfluous

underwater wells.

Seek plunder.

iv.

The currents change

on the whim of the weather,

call up

the temple of a forgotten

Roman goddess, plying

her faith amongst

the carcass stalls

of Viking merchants,

the graves of Christians

birthed

out of the mud,

heads facing westwards.

v.

For centuries of dark nights,

the villagers’ children

have crept out

through the waves’

boneyard, pillaged the surf’s

hand-me-downs

for the brooches and skulls

they liked the best, ferried

them home through

seaweed snares and crab nests.

Of the rest, little is known

and the locals’ lips

are salt-sealed.

Dr Natalie Sorrell Charlesworth, is a 29 year old Preston native. She won the Poetic Republic Portfolio Prize 2014, was specially commended in Elbow Room 2016, shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2020 and Jane Martin Prize 2014 and longlisted for Mslexia 2021. Her work has been published by Poetic Republic, Elbow Room, Beautiful Dragons and Hidden Disabilities.  She works as a Library Assistant for Lancashire County Council, as an Outreach and Schools Liaison Officer for Lancaster University and as a freelance artist and genealogist. She is an active board member for Lancaster Literature Festival and recently passed her VIVA for her Creative Writing PhD at Lancaster University.

EP. 22 | caitlin stobie on writing while doing a postdoc

I don’t have a writing routine for my writing now, it mostly happens in little bursts in between finishing something for my postdoc or maybe on the weekend, in the evenings…

caitlin stobie

Some authors combine their careers with a job in academia. This is the case of Caitlin Stobie, who is a writer and a research fellow at the University of Oxford. In fact, Caitlin’s interest in the intersections between science and literature partly inspired her forthcoming poetry collection, Thin Slices.

In this episode, Caitlin talks about changing routines to find what works best for you wherever you are in life. She also recommends the book Daily Rituals, which describes the creative routines of well-known writers such as Sylvia Plath, Patricia Highsmith and Franz Kafka.

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Combining your academic writing with your fiction writing
  • Writing on the weekends and during the evenings

Connect with Caitlin:

Website / Twitter / Instagram

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 21 | rob m francis on writing first thing in the day

More often than not I’ll open my laptop and start writing at around 7 o’clock in the morning. That’s deliberate because I know that I’m going to get two hours worth of work without anyone getting in touch with me on email or a phone call or anything like that.

rob m francis

If waking up early is something that comes naturally to you, why not try to get your writing done before anything else? The early hours tend to be the most creative, way before your brain becomes overwhelmed with the demands of the day. For years Rob has started his day very early at his writing desk, which gives him two hours of focused time on the craft before going into his day job as a lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton. No wonder why he’s such a prolific writer!

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Writing first thing in the day
  • Cold showers, breathing exercises and more ways to tap into your creativity
  • Finding time to focus on your writing and avoid distractions

Connect with Rob:

Website / Twitter

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

Ep. 20 | Lisa Blower on fitting your writing around your day job

I swim in the morning and i try to get back to the house by quarter to nine, i make a big pot of coffee, i read what i wrote yesterday and then i’ll write as much as i can before i have to be zoom-ready for a meeting or whatever is coming up that day.

lisa blower

Only a few authors have the luxury to dedicate all their time to their craft. For most of us, writing is something we do around other jobs. In this episode, Lisa talks about how she fits her writing around her academic career. You don’t need to have a very strict writing routine to be successful!

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Writing around a day-time job
  • Tips on having a writing routine that’s flexible around other commitments.

I’d love to say i have a writing routine, but i don’t, i write very sporadically.

lisa blower

Connect with Lisa:

Website / Twitter / Instagram

EP. 19 | yvonne battle-felton on writing during your commute

I started taking the train and commuting…  and it was all that time, two hours and a half, that I could be writing, but I wasn’t, because I kept thinking oh I’m inconveniencing other people, and then I started hearing people having these private conversations on this public train… after hearing the third private conversation I thought, ok, so I can write here…. so now I write on trains, in between places, I can write in cafes, public libraries, crowded spaces, in a park… I can write anywhere that a mood strikes me or a character does a whisper… I can write anywhere now.

yvonne battle-felton

Yvonne Battle-Felton, author of Remembered, talks to us about her writing routines. From her dislike of waking up way too early to fit writing before her work day – although she may have changed her mind on this one, since she’s been recently hosting a daily writing group that meets at 5.55am – to how she started using her commute time to get projects done.

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • How to write on the go.
  • Finding a writing routine that works alongside your day job.

The closest I have to a routine is that I try to start my day with writing…. I love it because that’s me prioritising my writing.

yvonne battle-felton

Connect with Yvonne:

Website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

Manual mode, by anthony López Get

For those who can afford it, there’s a whole new market of fancy devices that connect to your phone or smart watch and register your breathing patterns, send you alarms, remind you to refill your oxygen tank, locate the nearest Oxygen Station, alert your emergency contacts if you collapse; they got you covered. Martha knows them very well. She was moved to the smart respirator department six months ago and has been selling them ever since.

anthony López Get

Martha removes her oxygen mask to sip her coffee and lets the bitter taste fill her with pleasure. It has been a while since they closed all hospitality venues due to the emergency, but now that everything is going back to some normality, she will make sure she enjoys every instant of it; she is even trying, with some difficulty, to take the otherwise annoying and now ubiquitous sound of the pumps around her as just “friendly reminders” of the current situation, rather than as bad omens. At least they are mostly indoors, for now, but she knows they soon will be everywhere. It’ll become part of the background eventually, she tries to reassure herself but without much conviction.

What amuses her is people’s creativity when it comes to customising their personal masks. Next to her table, a bloke is wearing one with the tubes painted and arranged to resemble Dalí’s moustache; yesterday, she saw one in the style of Mad Max’s Immortal Joe, with the teeth and the big corrugated tubes, and there are of course tons inspired by Star Wars, Batman, and many others. Even her husband Dave made a Cthulu mask, with tentacles and all. She thought about doing an Alien theme on hers, but she is a bit concerned her boss will not appreciate her sense of humour if she shows up to the office with a juvenile xenomorph wrapped around her face; I need to get me a spare mask ASAP, she reminds herself, or find me a new job; that second part has proved the harder, though.

As the air leaves her lungs, she is forced to focus on her breathing, being mindful of the process, in-out, in-out, in-out until she gets her rhythm back. It is so easy to get distracted, but she doesn’t want to spoil this lovely cup of Costa Rican beans brewed into liquid perfection by taking the mask on and off all the time. Her dad would’ve loved this coffee. He was a connoisseur, and he taught her, or cursed her somehow, as she became intolerant to anything cheap or poorly executed. Dave, on the other hand, was hopeless. For years, she battled with his daily transgressions; how dare he spoiling her gourmet coffee with kilos of sugar and milk! Outside, another person collapses on the pavement. It’s a man, in his late thirties, maybe early forties. The woman at the flower stall runs to him with a manual pump, like the ones used by paramedics. She has aided at least seven people in the past thirty minutes, bless her. The man recovers consciousness, sits down for a few minutes and then walks on, not before thanking the lady for her help.

It’ll take a while for people to get the hold of it, she thinks, it takes some getting used to new things. Like the sound, phughhhh hhhaaaa, phughhhh hhhaaaa, all around you, so artificial, like white noise but so dark, so enveloping, so surrounding, so there. Martha hates the sound. She read some Unis are working on cheap and quieter portable models. That would be great. Specially at night. It’s difficult enough to put your mind at ease when you risk suffocating in your sleep, to add that annoying beat with its perfect tempo. During the day it’s just there for the fainters, and the children, in restaurants and public transportation, and of course it’s mandatory for drivers and those operating heavy machinery, health workers and those in jobs that require a lot of concentration. For those who can afford it, there’s a whole new market of fancy devices that connect to your phone or smart watch and register your breathing patterns, send you alarms, remind you to refill your oxygen tank, locate the nearest Oxygen Station, alert your emergency contacts if you collapse; they got you covered. Martha knows them very well. She was moved to the smart respirator department six months ago and has been selling them ever since. But at two thousand quid apiece for the cheapest model, Martha must stick to her noisy and bulky NHS model for home, or the public ones in shops and stations. For the rest, there are signs everywhere, on the pavement and on toilet walls, on classrooms and shops, so that people won’t forget while doing something else. Some people cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, a joke Martha has made all her life but that now is full of significance. It seems the plan of the government is to train people on how to live in manual mode, without external aid, at least while awake, but so far it doesn’t look promising. 

She takes another sip of her coffee and reviews her plans for the day: first a little walk around the Minster, then to the chippy for a nice meal, and finally the pub. She has been drooling for a pint of Plum Porter and perhaps a nice IPA. Having beer at home is never the same. She wants the pub, the smell of the old, sticky carpet, the conversation, the cheap pint glass, the full experience. She will meet Gareth and Pablo there. It feels like ages since they went out together the last time. It will be nice seeing them, the gang minus one. They will remember Sue, of course, with a toast and a few shots of her favourite tequila. She wants to hug Gareth with all her strength, and to comfort him for his own loss, although it happened months ago, and it might feel way too late now. And they will want to comfort her, for sure; they know what she’s been through. They will cry together at some point, but she hopes there will be more laughter than tears tonight. There have been too many tears already.

Martha unplugs her mask from the pump at her table and leaves the tea-room. At the door, she stops to take a deep breath before heading to the Minster. The timing couldn’t be better for a reopening. Spring is coming, the sun is shining and a couple of degrees up make a difference. As she walks through the narrow streets of York, with the taste of coffee lingering in her mouth, she thinks about all the things she misses – not the people, but the things, the activities, places, food and drinks – and cannot help but feel shallow and privileged. Yes, people have lost everything, jobs and loved ones, millions have died around the world, most in their sleep; she has lost people too, her dad, her friend Sue, and Dave; she has mourned them; it still hurts, but in her immediate reality, in the right here, right now, in spite of her own need for affection and company, more than anything, she wants to enjoy that coffee, and the pub, and a nice beer, and breathing, yes, breathing; such a disregarded process, so underrated and taken for granted until the automatic mode is shut off.

Anthony López Get is an associate professor of English Literature and Language at University of Costa Rica. In 2018, he moved to Lancaster, UK while his wife does a PhD in English Literature. This break from work has given him the opportunity to explore more creative forms of writing beyond academic articles and books. He has been experimenting with poetry, short fiction, short plays and monologues, both in Spanish (his mother tongue) and English. In 2019, he was shortlisted for both the Pint Size Plays Competition and the The Lancaster One Minute Monologue Competition.

Picture credits: Michael Mauger.

EP. 18 | Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai on finding the right agent to publish your work

If you are looking for an agent you’ll have to pull all your connections and you can’t be too pushy but you can’t give up easily

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 

In this episode, Vietnamese-born author Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai talks about the publishing journey of her first novel, The Mountains Sing. She discusses why it was important for her to find the right agent, and what her experience was like working with a whole publishing team to edit her novel.

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • How to know an agent is right for you.
  • Strategies and tips to finding agents that will be interested on your work.
  • Reasons as of why you may want to have an agent and how this will shape your writing career.

I had an agent before and the relationship didn’t go so well and I felt she wasn’t the right agent… and so I took the risk and ended the relationship. I think sometimes you have to take the risk to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 

Connect with Quế Mai:

Website / Twitter / Instagram / FaceBook

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.

EP. 17 | Inés G. Labarta on publishing as a multilingual writer

if i look back to all the things i published… i realise that there was a previous connection with the publisher beyond me just sending them my work. for example, a publisher was looking for something and a friend of mine knew i was working on something similar so they recommended me.

Inés g labarta

Inés G Labarta started writing in Spanish but she switched to English when she moved to the UK. She has had a multilingual writing career since then publishing novellas in English – McTavish Manor – and in Spanish – Kabuki. In this extract, Inés discusses how to write in a langue that is not your mother tongue and how to find publishers in different countries.

Listen to this extract to find advice on:

  • Publishing novellas
  • Working on a writing career in multiple languages
  • Using social media to help your publishing journey

with publishing is very important to be always sending things out while working on something else.

Inés g labarta

Connect with Inés:

Twitter / Instagram

The Wandering Bard podcast is also available on Spotify. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheWBmag.