I'd like to thank Marija Smits for nominating me to take part in this. I love the work she does, her glorious style, and her multiple names. All I gave myself was an L when I wanted to hide in myself, but here I am. Here's Marija's post with the answers to the questions she was given. It's a really interesting read.
Here are the 11 questions Marija gave me, with my answers:
1. How are you? (No, really, how are you?)
I'm doing OK. Getting overwhelmed sometimes, worrying about my children (isn't there always something to worry about?), and feeling frustrated that so many brilliant women I come across are struggling to have their work noticed, while same old same old usual suspects are there again and again and again. Sometimes I feel like I should hide the womanly aspects of my experience in my poems to get them taken more seriously, but I don't want to do that. Anyway, I'm running out of funds to concentrate as much as I am on my writing, so I've applied for a minimum wage job, that's all I can find to fit around when I need to be there for my family. The job requires intelligence and experience and shouldn't be minimum wage, but is, because lots of women need to work the hours it's offering. Because of that, I'm spitting chips!
2. How do you feel about the season changing from summer to autumn? Do you have a favourite autumnal poem? (If not, simply share a favourite poem.)
There's a tree in the neighbouring village which changes first. Your body and mind are still telling you that there's hope for summer and that tree decides to rummage through its wardrobe and put its red dress on.
There it is, firmly into its change now, and making me want to wear my boots and see if I don't have a bit of red velvet somewhere (I'd be buying this if I could).
Marija asked about Autumn poems. My first poem that did anything was about Autumn. I read it at the school's harvest festival, up there with the eagle. I can't remember it now, but it was positive and rhyming and might have had leaves coloured in down the sides (I can't help but think that a bit of colouring in might be a good thing for my poems now. Just now I've got a poem which is being considered for publication which imagines emotionally dark trees experience of seasons: "In Autumn the trees burn/with rage justified..."
I generally write darker poems, but I do love the colours and the smells of Autumn, and the returning to warmth, cosiness, and
3. On the introvert-extrovert and sensitivity continuum where would you put yourself?
Oh there are so many continuums (continua?)!
I'm OK at performing socially, but I don't make friends easily. That said I do need to have those connections, and so I force myself to come out of the little box I'll tuck myself in if I have the chance. Marija describes herself as a Highly Sensitive Person, and that's a label I'm drawn to. I cannot stand screaming - some children do it outside of school, I think they're happy, but my children know that I just kind of shut down when there's screaming so as soon as it starts they take me straight away, do not hang around to chat with friends, just get out of there. I hate amusement arcades, and although I like parties for the people, I need to have somewhere I can escape to. I swear I continued smoking for so long because it gave me an excuse to get out! I cannot stand some synthetic fibres and prefer to shop in actual real shops where I can touch things. If I touch something that feels horrible I have to wipe the feeling away.
4. Have you ever been ‘stuck’ in life? Or are you ‘stuck’ (in some way) right now? Any tips for getting unstuck?
I think we're always stuck in some ways. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, as they say. Everything is a process, and sometimes there are things we can't do, even though we're ready to do them.
I had envisaged having three children, but I hadn't understood what being a mother would be like, how all-encompassing it would be. When I had my first child I intended to go back to my previous job, but once I'd had him I realised that I couldn't. I couldn't pay someone else to do what I considered to be my most important job, of raising him. Happily we were able to find a good job for my husband, and we chose to get the job done of having children. We had three. I wouldn't be without any of them, but it would be a lot easier to have two, or to have one.
I would like to do paid work and get paid at a rate that reflects my worth, but I cannot do what I used to do and have a meaningful career because of the work culture in our society, which undervalues part time workers (which is crazy, because part time workers are happier, more driven, and less likely to exhibit presenteeism). Things are happening, which is exciting. There are organisations now like Part Time Professionals but it's taking a long time. So I guess I'm stuck, looking after the children, but I'm glad I get that opportunity, there are lots of people who can't.
5. How do you balance family life, work and creative time? Is ‘time scheduling’ the way forward? Or do you have a more relaxed approach?
My work is my creative time at the moment. I work when the kids are at school, and at other times that I can get a chance. My children are now 7, 10, and 12 (as of today, happy birthday Mr 12), so they can entertain themselves more, but I must admit our house isn't very tidy!
6. What creative work are you focusing on at the moment?
I'm writing poetry. I've been reading the bible a lot this last week, and finding out about interpretations, looking at the story of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Arising from that I've written a poem about David's motivations for taking on Goliath, and another about his love for Jonathan. I find Christian stories fascinating. They are really odd. Christians tell stories about their god and then these stories are blatantly contradicted in the old testament (but somehow that doesn't count because it's the old testament). I like to imagine that their god is actually real and see what comes out of that. He's a good stand-in for all the patriarchal nonsense he's used to justify.
I've also been reworking some of my poems, and have written a new one about a slightly magical love affair between a witch and a merman. Although I'm not sure I've pointed out that it's a witch and a merman.
7. Are you a one-project-on-the-go person or do you flit between different creative projects?
I try not to flit, but I'm easily distracted. I'm so much happier working on poetry than trying to work on something big like a novel. Poetry gives me a small piece to work on which I can get as right as possible (and I love that that changes over time). I am supposed to be going through all of my poetry and working out themes to put together a pamphlet, but I am so easily distracted from that job it's unbelievable.
8. Some of your favourite books…?
I love the A Song of Ice and Fire series from George RR Martin. It's not perfect, of course. His portrayal of women could be improved, but some of it's smashing, and I love the way he plays with the tropes of fantasy. I will never forget where I was when I read the bit in the first book where you're wondering just how exactly Ned will be saved and then, he isn't. Oh my word! I read that when I'd been reading lots of fantasy, and I was blown away.
I love Storm Constantine's Wraeththu series. The world building is amazing. I particularly love the fabulously flawed Cobweb. "We dwell in Forever."
I'm currently reading Laini Taylor's Smoke and Bone series. I like the world she's built, and the audacity of the relationship at its core. It's a really interesting idea.
I've also recently bought Rebel Sun by Sophie McKeand. Here is where you can buy it. She's an amazing poet.
9. An inspiring piece of music?
So much of what I write is inspired by music. Sometimes I take a whole song to use as the rhythm to a poem. I did this in my mucky imaginings about Jarvis Cocker poem, Wanted, published here, and in Up Here - inspired by a couple of New Model Army songs. Another poem - Know by Now was inspired by the Editors song, Munich (and a crappy 'friend'), and by the structure of Muse's Hurricanes and Butterflies.
I've been writing less structured poems lately, and spending a lot of time listening to The Red Paintings.
10. A favourite ice cream flavour? If you don’t like ice cream, here’s another question: tea or coffee? (And how do you take it.)
Ice cream - it's a glorious thing. My favourite is orange marmalade ice cream from Nardinis in Largs.
Generally I drink coffee - decaf sweet coffee with plenty of milk. It's basically hot ice cream. Sometimes I drink tea, usually herbal, although I do love a London Fog - my favourite is the lavender version. Lush.
11. A photo of one of your favourite places to create (or the place you mostly end up creating, though it may not be your favourite!).
I'm assuming you mean the place I work. Here's a picture of my always messy desk, with my lovely Loki assisting me (I usually have one of them helping - at the moment Glameow is watching over me). I use fountain pens and proper notebooks, this colourful one was from Paperchase. I want another one, it was perfect, but my notebook box is full so I'm not allowed any more!
My desk has been passed down through my husband's family. It used to belong to his great uncle, who ran a bus company from it. It has a rolltop and lots of cute little drawers and extra writing spaces, and I can't bring myself to drill a hole in it for the computer wire so there are always wires to trip over. I use lots and lots of those tiny postits, to note which poems are out seeking publication. When there are a load of them stuck in a notebook that's because they've been rejected - I call them poem graveyards, but actually, once they're rejected I get to work on them again and send them off somewhere else, or not. Some just linger and eventually get sent to the great big folder of nothing else happening.
The places I create aren't generally real, and I wish I could draw them, but I get so frustrated - my pencil can't go fast enough for my mind. I don't think I give enough attention to places generally - they're not what I'm generally focusing on in the tale I'm telling, especially not in a poem. However, in the novel I've written I do have a stronger sense of place, and this is one of the places which is a portal to the realm of Faerie.
This is at Kelburn, a castle and country centre near us, and is close to the castle itself. In my story the castle is called Carter Hall, and lived in by Lord Carter. Lord Carter has particularly lovely (magical) roses in a walled rose garden which is where the children's garden is in real life.
11a. And just to be awkward here’s a bonus question (feel free to expand or not, as you see fit): Where are you on the limerent/non-limerent scale?
Wow, that's an interesting question. I would really like to know everybody's answer to that. It is the sort of question you might consider when developing a character.
I had to google limerence to check what it was all about, and my understanding is it's how obsessively you're in love.
So here's my answer... I am practical and pragmatic. I consider my relationship with my husband and kids as a unit and plan to be in it for life. I don't expect hearts and flowers the whole time, and I don't think that there might not be other people who would be great to be with, but breaking up this unit wouldn't be worth it.
That said, I had a totally obsessive relationship with my first husband, and I think it was the pain of that breaking down which made me step away from all people to avoid becoming that obsessed again. That was amazing and then hideous, and I lost myself in there. I would rather be in a relationship like the one I'm in, where everyone brings something to the table and everyone takes something too.
Marija, your questions were awesome. Thank you for tagging me to answer them. I'm excited about passing the baton of blue sky questions on.
For those of you who don’t know, the rules of the Blue Sky Tag go something like this:
- Thank the person who has nominated you.
- Answer their questions.
- Create 11 questions for your nominees.
- Tag your 11 nominees.
Here are my 11 questions:
- What's frustrating you in your life just now and what do you think you might do about it?
- How do negative relationships make you feel and how do you deal with it?
- What word do you do that you get paid for? Alternatively, what would you consider doing?
- What was the most fun day you've had lately? What did you do?
- What do you use for writing? Any stationery favourites?
- Do you believe in magic? Ghosts? Faeries? Gods?
- Do you take inspiration from games or from TV? Any recommendations? Any favourites?
- How do you feel about sharing photos of yourself? Please share one!
- What are your favourite things about Autumn?
- How did you survive adolescence?
- What three bits of advice would you give my kids? (Pictured below - Mr 12, Miss 10, and Miss 7).
Here's who I'm tagging to take part:
I hope you can take part, I'd love to hear what you've got to say. Cheers!