My grandmother’s house in Atlantic City… this white and pink house a block away from the ocean… you just went in and it felt like home. Whenever I’m thinking about writing or where I feel both safe and comfortable enough to create and imagine anything that’s possible… I go back to that place, that house… When I think about my literary home is that house that’s no longer there.
In this episode, Yvonne brings us all to a place that is important to her writing practice. We all have houses or environments we loved as children and where we left our imagination run wild. Which one is yours?
When Charley Barnes got ready to publish her first-ever novel – Intention, a psychological thriller – she had no expectations whatsoever. In fact, she was the first one surprised to see that she managed to find a publisher in less than a year.
When we start our writing careers, it is not unusual to expect more than acceptances (and it is no wonder, since novel writers have to get through many rejections before landing their first publishing contract). However, you can see this as Charley did: an opportunity to explore different avenues for your book (finding an agent, traditional publishing, indie publishing, etc.) And above all, don’t despair! Every rejection is a step closer to that final acceptance.
Listen to this extract to find advice on:
Unpacking rejections as the start of your writing career
Having a laid-back attitude towards rejections in writing
With my poetry collection… I’d send it to places and they’d say it wasn’t quite right but then they would give some really nice feedback… and that’s what kept me going, because they actually took the time to tell me that so that probably is a good sign.
Rejection is not about you. Part of it it’s about that piece, that story, that poem, that book. But it’s also about them and what they can and can’t see, and about what they can and can’t market, who they can and can’t target.
Perhaps some writers believe that one reaches a certain point in their career when they are established enough and stop receiving rejections – only acceptances, commissions, money and praise come their way! While this may be the dream of many of us, truth is, won’t ever happen. Your writing won’t be loved by absolutely every human being on this Earth.
What is more, and as Yvonne Battle-Felton suggests in this episode, we need to stop taking rejections personally. Getting a short story rejected doesn’t mean being kicked out of the writing community. Doesn’t even mean we are not good writers! Writers get rejected constantly, it’s simply part of the journey.
If you get a rejection letter, see it as a confirmation that you are doing the work you should. And if it is a rejection from a place you love – do like Yvonne – and celebrate!
I’ll always remember the first time I submitted something to The New Yorker and it was rejected and I was like, yeah, I got a rejection from The New Yorker, that’s pretty cool, and I was talking to a really good friend of mine, who is not a writer, and she was like, oh my gosh, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna stop writing? And I’m like, what are you talking about? They don’t send rejections to everybody… this is great!
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
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 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:
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.
I paint a lot of the landscapes that I see as I’m hiking … sometimes it’s the view I get from the summit but other times it’s little tiny details, small landscapes that are kind of hidden. It always strikes me that as you climb the mountain, there are various different stages to it and the landscape changes really dramatically as you’re going up and it doesn’t feel like a straight uphill.
I met Ellie Moore on the misty peaks of the Lake District while we fought against the rain and the wind to keep a conversation about our common interests: writing, painting, Scotland, the 18th century and the Jacobites…
Ellie Moore, based in Yorkshire, has been painting and exhibiting her work since an early age. She went to study art in Florence before studying Fine Arts and Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She has organised exhibitions with another podcast guest, Jessica Elleray. Through her intricate miniatures and vibrant landscapes, Ellie shows her love for hiking and nature. Her large-scale paintings, such as The Aurelians – a recreation of an 18th-century room that, thanks to the magic of perspective, invites the viewer to step inside – serve as a link between her art and the stories she wants to tell through writing.
In this interview Ellie and I discuss the connections between writing and painting. We also talk about how travelling and, more specifically, walking, influences the creative process.
Whatever the mainstream narrative is, there may be some truth to that narrative but … there are always many other stories running alongside it, or going in opposition to it, and it would be foolish to assume that the national mood is what the TV news is saying it is … so I was interested in bringing out the stories of the people whose stories are less represented, specially in literature.
Come and join us with Gary Budden, while we visit the eerie misty islands on the frozen seas of Finland…
Some time in 2018 I read an article that comforted my soul and my artistic self more than I can explain. It was Awake Awake Sweet England: Why We Need Landscape Punkwritten by Gary Budden and published by The Quietus. Since then, I’ve become obsessed with this writer who doesn’t shy away from reclaiming the role of art and literature as tools to undo this dehumanisation that seems to permeate society, politics and even the media.
His first book, Hollow Shores, is an exploration of landscape and the humans who inhabit it that goes beyond nations – Gary sets his stories in England but also Wales and even Finland – and beyond genres – the book engages with landscape writing, weird fiction and horror, among others. Gary is also the co-founder of Influx Press, ‘an independent publisher based in London, committed to publishing innovative and challenging fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction from across the UK and beyond’. Influx Press can be supported via Patreon.
In this interview Gary talks about how his passion for Punk influenced his literature, the travels he has done to share his writing – and that took him to places such as an ex-Yugoslavian naval barracks in a literary festival in Croatia – and about the importance of believing in hibridity in order to free ourselves.
One of the reasons we move so much is that we look at the communities … when we moved to Devon, there was a community of creative people there already that we joined and there was a lot of opportunity there so we took advantage of that … and when we moved up here, there was a community, too … the biggest gathering of magicians in the whole of the world … and in Las Vegas we have a big community, friends and people we like there … also, and this is going to sound very selfish, is moving to a community where you have more to learn from people who are already there.
Let’s take a tour around Blackpool, a sea-side resort in the northwest of England full of quirky little places and a vibrant art scene…
Jen Allen and Jay Fortune are a multi-talented couple that was introduced to us via Marja Lingsma, a podcast guest from our first season. Jen is a fine artist and speed painter, and Jay is a writer, magician and illustrator. They share their travels with us, from living in London to the quiet countryside in Devon. From touring the world, via cruises to Las Vegas to the world capital of magic: Blackpool.
Jen and Jay were incredibly generous with me as they showed me around Blackpool and treated me for tea at The Regent – a hybrid between antique shop, old-style cinema and tearoom with seaside views. They also gave me a tour around their house, which is full of art and magic in every corner – someone should actually film a fantasy movie there – and even made me dinner. We also discussed the life of the artist – what it takes to “make it”, discipline and having priorities right.
I do use made-up words in my fiction, peppered in amongst the English … for example, ‘gracekeeper’ is not a word … I just thought it sounded nice and had good connections with what I wanted … I’ve also discovered that even though I keep saying that I speak English, I always forget that, of course, I understand Scots … I went for lunch with a publisher … and they would circle all these words [in the manuscript] and say: ‘I thought this was a word that you made up.’ And I would be like: ‘No, that’s an English word.’ But it was Scots, and because I use it as part of my daily language I hadn’t realised that it wasn’t an English word … A lot of these Scots words don’t even have an English equivalent … In the end, I always keep them [in the book] because I think people can understand the context … or like the word so much that they look it up or think that I’ve made it up.
Shall we take a walk around the mysterious back alleys of Granada?
Kirsty Logan, a Glasgow-based author, is well-known for her beautiful, unusual fiction. During a talk at Lancaster in 2017 – which I had the pleasure of attending – she encouraged writers not to shy away from the weird and uniquely distinctive aspects of their writing, but rather to embrace them to make their storytelling original. She confessed she hadn’t been the ‘ideal’ Creative Writing MA student. She was the only one in her workshop writing about queer mermaids. Fast forward a few years, and now she’s successful, cult – I adore her prose, and I know I am not alone in this. And she writes about many distinctive things, including girls who are friends with bears, a circus on boats, and keepers of sea-graveyards.
In this interview, Kirsty talks to me about how she has travelled around the world thanks to writing residencies, and discusses her fascinating experiences in places such as Iceland and Granada. We also speak about Scottish English, women writing horror, queerness, and gender-fluid characters – she has many, and reading about them in books such as The Gracekeeperswas empowering. In this interview, she also reads us an extract of her new novel The Gloaming and a horror short story that will be published in a forthcoming collection, Things We Say in the Dark.