This episode we look through our latest spades issue and highlight some writers, before chatting to 7 fantastic spades writers. We learn about their inspirations behind their pieces, their intentions, and learn about their process of crafting!
We talk through the work of: Daniel Clark, Travis Cravey, Claire Hampton, Linda McMullen, Laura Pearson and Francine Witte.
We speak to: Rachel A.G. Gilman, Nora Blascsok, Helen Bowie, James Bruce May, Jem Henderson, JP Seabright and Kelly Van Nelson.
Hello, and welcome to this week's Full House podcast.
In this week's episode, we'll be talking about our spades issue and speaking to some of our amazing contributors.
So yeah, we're gonna start off by looking at the issue and having a chat about it really briefly. So I mean, I thought it was a bunch of fun. We learned a lot from the last issue. I don't know about you, Jack.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. I feel like compared to the first time round with diamonds, I feel like we, the way we chose pieces was quite different. Like we had a more we had a far more efficient, like sort of, like sorting process and just sorting through submissions. Like we were sorting things into, well, into genres. And yeah.
Yeah, it was really good. And we think the quality of the submissions, first of all was great. And the pieces we chose for the issue we are just absolutely in awe and in love with them. And yeah, we're just so thankful for our writers and for everyone who submitted. And yeah, the design is gorgeous, we absolutely love it. And we just can't wait to see where hearts brings us. But let's dive into spades. For now, we're going to start off by looking at some of the wonderful pieces, we are going to also be having some interviews of our writers. So we're going to start off by looking at a few pieces now.
So the first piece we'd like to speak about is by Travis Cravey, it's called a chronological list in descending order of some memorable punches I've taken and notes concerning the outcomes. Now this piece has quite an interesting format. So as you can tell from the title, it is a list in descending order. So it's, it's in reverse chronological order, which obviously allows for Travis to do some quite interesting things. So we get a list of four different things. And it sort of it starts off with the character. Well, it starts off with an event just from the night before essentially and then the night before this list, where the where basically the main character goes into a fight at a bar. And the second entry is sort of details the characters, my guess that the characters divorce, and it sort of goes into that sort of struggles of alcohol, well all the entries do, the third is sort of details the character meeting his wife, essentially he will meet his fiance then becomes his wife. So entries three and four, entry four is listed as 1986 whilst entry three is listed as 2011. So an entry four it basically sort of reveals the reasons for this character to have alcoholism and sort of tendency towards violence, which is sort of these simple, simple sort of powerful passage of he just says, 'Daddy several times, I swore to all that was holy, I'd never let another man strike me without a swift and violent response.' This is like quite a big, not a twist, but like a really sort of poignant explanation for the content that we that we just read. And I think if you have the chance, I'd recommend listening to Travis's reading because that just enhances it tenfold?
Yes, I totally agree. The reading of this is absolutely phenomenal, you need to check that out. And the thing that I enjoy most about this particular piece from Travis is the way it's so easy to fall into the story like it's written in such a conversational and flowing way. And you can really connect even though the parts are not particularly long, they're really easy to connect to and you sort of fall into that world, which is amazing. I love that as a reader. And you don't have to work too hard to be able to see this whole entire world in front of you. And then the end was sort of drawn back down to reality. And we are grounded in this really interesting way that I didn't see coming. And I just think it's a really fantastic ending. And Travis is clearly just such a fantastic writer, and storyteller.
And then another piece we wanted to take a quick look at was Daniel Clark's, we set out/ together. And this is such an interesting piece. It's sort of in two parts, I guess that it could be read as two separate poems, but we've got them together in one piece just in two separate sections. And they're fantastic. They link in a lot of interesting ways. And they're also different in a lot of interesting ways. And the two stories are so good. Like they're really short. They've got three lines in each stanza, and they're two stanzas long each. They are just brilliant. I love the way this is spaced out on the page. Yeah, Daniel has just done really well here to convey some really interesting imagery in a really simple and easily accessible way. So this is a piece that has got really interesting lines like 'untidy demeanors, draped over shameful', and then it goes on to 'innocence, playful roaming and dreams of escape last in first breeze'. It's so easy to fall into these lines and just run away of the magic of them. And yeah, it's a gorgeous gorgeous piece. And I'm so glad it's part of our collection. The first time I read it, I knew that this was a piece that I would love its one of those wall pieces. And you know, if you've listened to our podcast before, you know that that's very high praise.
And then another oh my gosh, fantastic piece is Claire Hampton's pink cake. And I have a lot of love for this piece is a really hard hitting emotional, impactful piece. But the writing is gorgeous. Claire writes in such a beautiful way, a way that her storytelling really draws you in. And we start off in this cafe before we're pulled into this really traumatic scene, and then we're pulled back into the cafe again, as a sort of resolution. And in just two pages, Claire discusses trauma and childhood violence and, and you know, the process of, of how that affects you and trying to overcome that. And it's all put together by a pink cake. And I said this in a tweet to her that I'll never be able to look at a French fancy, or a piece of like school cake again, even though Claire discusses specifically a pink coconut cake. But yeah, I'll never be able to look at a piece of pink cake without thinking of Claire, and this so emotional and impactful piece. It's just the visual vivid imagery of that pink cake is such a clever way of really sticking out. And Claire, this is incredible. You are a fantastic writer. And I just cannot wait to read more of your work. I am hooked in for life now. This is fantastic. This is the type of prose that I would aspire to write. So I have nothing but absolute love for this piece. This is the first piece that we knew was a definite yes. We didn't need to discuss it, we both just was like there's no way we're not taking this piece. It's too good to say no to this was definitely this is destined to go in this issue.
So the next piece we want to have a look at is Return to Sender by Laura Pearson. This piece really sort of stuck out of me even like even on a first reading because the the opening line is 'I have become an unintentional collector of babies'. And that's just sort of like, it's not really, it's not well, I mean, we've said this a lot in our podcasts and in our discussions of lots of people's works, but it's just something I hadn't heard before and immediately drew me into the poem. So then it's sort of the poem sort of bombards you with this sort of sort of unique imagery of postman, like sort of delivering babies which sort of brings a whole new meaning to the phrase delivering babies. And it's like it has this imagery of the of the babies 'encased in fancy paper glue and a second class class stamp. He pops them through my door as quietly as possible. Is he aware that I'm not quite sure what to do with them?' And the overall sort of interpretation of the poem. I mean, me and I both found it quite difficult to interpret, which is what we kind of enjoyed about the piece a lot. It could be read in many different ways. And we'd be curious to see what you think about that.
Yeah, I think it's because a thing that drew me into the pieces because it's talking about something so familiar in such a interesting and unfamiliar way. I've never seen babies and baby photos and baby reminders written about in that way. And I mean, a Jack and I, we had a lot of discussion about this piece, because as we say, I think there are a few different ways to interpret it. Which is always what we would love to see in a piece. Its one of these pieces where there's not everything just given to you, you can have a few different lenses and perspectives on this piece. And yeah, what left me have the most impact from this piece is the final line. So we have this whole section about babies and then we don't we don't really get too much of the narrator's you know, response. It's just 'I'm not sure what to do with them.' 'I'm not sure what to do of them.' 'Should I return them to sender.' And the last sort of line is, 'I gather them up, shut the cupboard door, and I let them fall from my mind.' And just that lasting image is just incredible. And Laura, this piece is genius. It's I think it's got so much emotion to it. Even though I may not necessarily know the emotion that Laura is intending to come across. It is emotionally charged in a lot of ways. And it's a very well crafted piece. And it tells a story in a very interesting way. It doesn't just go from yeh this is the beginning, the middle, the end. It's got a really interesting narrative about it, which is what drew me to the piece and it was just very different than the other pieces we'd gotten our submissions in a really good way so yeh this is definitely one of the little gems of our collection. And we just really love it. And, Laura, you are fantastic keep doing what you're doing. And yeah, we'll just we'll be on the lookout see more of Laura's fantastic, really human pieces.
And then I'd like to talk about Jane's network by Linda McMullen. And like, Rachel A.G Gilman's piece, this sort of has a black mirror esque feel to it. It is about this child who presents differently than other people, and her parents are really worried and concerned and trying to fix her, or, you know, find something to for the mom, it's so that she doesn't get teased and bullied, because the mom comes from a place of worry, and just wants her child to be happy. So the doctor in this situation is going through the proposed treatment, and then we find out that it's never been tested before. And Jane would be, you know, one of the first ones to receive it. And here, there's a shift in the mom's brain. And now she's not so worried about her child being different, she really appreciates her child's differences. And there isn't like an explicit, inferred ending. But I think this is such a great piece about you know, like telling about acceptance, and acknowledging differences and all sorts of really interesting commentary about, you know, girls being diagnosed versus boys. In this particular story, all of people that have Jane's similar mental state or Jane's way of living, they're all typically boys. So Jane, is much harder to sort of diagnose and treat, because there are, there just hasn't been enough research into girls. And, I think it's a really interesting commentary on especially, you know, like autism in girls, that's something that presents a lot harder to treat. And a lot of girls are diagnosed much later in life, as opposed to boys, sothat is, you know, my sort of reading of the piece that it sort of has that sort of attitude about it. And yes, its phenomenal. I think the, because it has that Black Mirror esque feel, you read it as something that sort of challenging society and society's views. And you know, the characters, you know, it's a short piece, it's three pages long, but the characters are really well developed. It's got these really interesting, Linda plays around a lot with italics. And this gives it such a character because it gives the characters such personality. And this is one of the pieces that Linda didn't mind us reading it for the audio issue. And this was such an interesting piece to read, because there were so many italics and different ways of you know, saying things, but it's just such an interesting way to play around with text. And I love it when writers do that, because that means that they don't have to say they can, you know, show it instead of telling it, which is the best way to write in my opinion. And yeah, Linda has done a cracking job here. It's a really interesting piece, I think it really makes you think there's a lot of discussions, you know, you can have around this piece. So as it's not particularly long you know, a story, but there's a lot to dissect and discuss. And this is like my sixth reading of it, I'm still picking out different things. So is absolutely great. And I love it. And maybe we'll see it as a developed Black Mirror piece one day.
So the last piece we'd like to speak about is crumbs by Francine Witte. So like every piece in this issue well like it's an interesting piece. So it's it's told from the point of view of, I want to say an adult having a sort of flashback to when they were a child. And basically, there is sort of this event where they're where they're sort of focusing on they're eating a cookie, this sort of repeated phrase, 'I am biting into a cookie.' And then basically their father comes home from work, and then goes to hit their mother in sort of an act of domestic abuse, but then the child screams or that that child character, narrator screams and then the story sort of ends. So it's a really short story that's probably described as a piece of I definitely say, probably a piece of flash fiction, I don't think it is much more than 100 or 200 words, but I think it does, it does a lot of very short length. Like whilst this is I would describe it as somewhat of a fragment, it is a very powerful one like that. And that is what flash fiction should be. There isn't there isn't a wasted word in this entire piece. And especially with the with the repeated phrase, it's almost a refrain of the 'I'm biting into a cookie.' It always gives it a sort of poetic feel. And I think with this piece that Francine has her description of, of just, of just everything really, it's sort of it sort of paints a scene very vividly of like, of sound and sight. And my sort of take on the whole the reason for the repetition of I'm biting into a cookie is sort of because it's the characters way of distracting themselves from what's going on around them. So even though there's this these horrible things happening around them. There's domestic abuse, they're sort of grounding themselves by biting into a cookie. Which is, although we're not given a description of what the cookie tastes like the phrase like just for the cookie, it's something sweet, something comforting something. Yeah.
Yeah. And I think it's interesting that the cookies used, especially with the connotations of crumbs and the crumbs that are meant to I mean it is the title of the piece. So we have this cookie, as Jack says, which is comforting and sweet. But then we have the crumbs and the fragments of the cookies, like the fragmented, you know, family dynamic here. I think Francine, as Jack said, has packed a lot into this piece and every word you can read it so interestingly, it all means something. And yeah, Francine, this is fantastic.
Now let's have a chat to some of the contributors from our spades issue.
So first up, we have Rachel A.G. Gilman, and she's gonna be telling us a little bit more about her piece, it should be affordable to die alone. So hello, Rachel.
Hi, there. How are you?
Good. Thank you, how are you?
I'm, well, thanks.
Okay. Okay. So obviously, today we'll be talking about your your piece in current issue of full house, which is, it should be affordable to die alone. So first, I'd like to ask what inspired the piece,
Right. So I wrote the piece as a prompt in one of my graduate school classes at Columbia in New York. And it was a comedy writing class. And I believe we had to write something that took place and an absurdist or not real world environment, which is sort of hard for me because I'm a realist writer. So I wrote as close to the real world as I could get, and just threw in a strange situation. And that is the piece which kind of focuses on what would happen if New York City decided to charge people who were single to live there more than if you were coupled?
So what was the process? Like of writing it outside of the exercise? Did you sort of develop it further?
Yeah. So I think when I started the exercise, I just kind of wrote down a lot of absurdist images and a lot of ridiculous ideas that might happen from this. And that, you know, was all good and well, but there wasn't really a plot there. So after I had some of those images, it was a process of deciding which ones could stay for the sake of actually creating a story and which ones, you know, maybe had to leave in order to root this in some sort of a narrative outside of just being some funny sentences.
Absolutely. And I mean, I don't know about Jack, but I get sort of Black Mirror vibes from this. I love the world that it's set in. And I'm just, you know, you've put such careful consideration into this world and making it seem realistic, as you say, but we also have this quality that is outside of what we know. So I'm just wondering, you know, how long did it take you to construct this piece?
So I first wrote it in, I want to say, like October or November of 2019. And now it's 2021. So I wasn't working on it every day, obviously. But it did require quite a few months of putting something into it, walking away from it, and then coming back to it. And I think, you know, I appreciate the Black Mirror comment. Certainly, it makes me feel good. But I think perhaps part of that comes from the fact that, you know, some of the details are taken from real life, which almost makes it creepier than if I had just made everything up. I mean, some of the names or some of the situations are, you know, very rooted in our reality and then just kind of spun it this extra element was put into place as well.
We're going to go through all favorite lines in a moment. But what would you say your favorite line from the piece is?
Um,I think the line that continues to tickle me, even if it's not necessary, is that the narrator in this piece, finds anderson cooper to be like warm milk, soothing and extremely white, which is how I feel about Anderson Cooper. But it's sort of a funny way to describe him. And every time I read it, I, I feel equally amused by it as I did when I wrote it down.
And would you say that this type of writing is, you know, typical, like, typically representative of your writing in general, or is this piece a bit different for you?
I think, as I said before, all of my writing is heavily observational, very rooted in reality, but to the point where the observations become kind of ridiculous, so that is true of most of my writing. However, I don't tend to write fiction where something is happening that you know, is outside of the norm. I'm not saying that, you know, this is totally insane. Although if New York City decides to impose a, a singles tax, I think a lot of people will be quite angry. But yeah, it's it's sort of in the same voice as all of my pieces, but it is taking on a slightly different genre, I suppose.
Okay. And you know, we've read this piece actually quite early on in our submissions, and it definitely stuck out to us. So Jack, what was it about it that you know, made you fall in love?
Well, I think it was the so it was that Black Mirror feel. I mean, I really liked that series is sort of that like, sort of tongue in cheek, almost like, I don't wanna say like dark humour, sort of like a dystopian sort of setting. Like, especially I think the ending stuck out to me the most where it's like the middle aged woman wearing a cardigan that looks like a blanket. And then just handing over this like, handing over like the little flyer saying cookie, coffee and cookies will be served. It just feels like yeah, this this is something that is sort of rooted in reality. It's sort of how I'd imagine the situation would be treated.
Yeah, absolutely. And I totally agree with that. I feel like that this is so easily something that can happen. Like, it's far enough away that it's funny, like, we can laugh at it. But also, it's kind of it is a bit close. Like I could definitely see this happening like in, you know, the strange world we live in now, who the hell knows what could happen? So this isn't actually you know, that it's got that bit of undertone, we're like, actually, I'm a bit uneasy, like this actually could happen, you know. So I think it's a great piece. And it really makes us think, and, Rachel, what were your intentions, you know, for your audience to go away with the piece and think.
You know, I think I think that's sort of shifted over the time, because I think when I first started writing it, all I wanted was for people to laugh. But as I was editing it in times of COVID, it almost felt in some ways, a commentary on coupling and relationships. And, you know, the decisions people make, I mean, reading this now of like, Oh, I need to be with somebody. It's not that far off from conversations I've had with friends of mine who live alone are like, oh, my gosh, I just can't do this anymore. It's been 11 months of this, you know, it's a survivalist narrative of it has certainly changed from being something of, oh, this is sort of silly to well, I can see how people would be in this headspace. So I think, you know, I hope now going forward as people read it, it isn't simply a comedy sketch, it does have something a little bit deeper, rooted in it.
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with that. Like, if I had read this in like a pre COVID landscape, I would just find it absolutely funny. But like, we've seen it when COVID struck and lockdowns happen, people that have only been dating each other for like two weeks, were moving in together. So I can definitely, you know, sense that from your piece like now. It hits different.
Yeah, it certainly does. And it's funny too, because the characters are I mean, I have friends named Keenan and Allie and Kevin. And when I first heard it, they thought it was really funny. But then when they read it now, they're like, oh, this is actually kind of odd, because we all had to think about this in terms of COVID. You know, like, are who are we going to live with? What are we gonna do so it's, it's taken a nice lifespan, I suppose it's changed a lot for the better, I would say.
Jack, do you have any particular elements that really stood out to you in reading this and some of your favorite lines?
The the whole, we put you as a reference in to introduce us at your Palentine's Day party kind of made it that well, that was a funny line. And there's also stuff like from the narrator, or main character, I guess, that the 'nineties TV proves New York isn't an enclave for single people.' It's just like, almost rooted in a pop culture. But like, as soon as you say, 90s TV, it just makes you think of shows like friends, that sort of thing. It just makes you think like, oh, yeah.
Yeah, definitely. Um, the thing I love about this piece is I feel like there's like a confidence in it. And I don't know if you would describe yourself as a confident writer, Rachel, but that's definitely what I get from the piece.
Oh, I really appreciate that. I have confidence in nothing. Although the the 90s comment that was not a line that was in like the first iteration of this, but I have been watching a lot of friends and lockdown, and feeling quite nostalgic for a time I was never even able to live in, you know, where one doesn't have a cell phone and all of these kind of trivial technology, things that we're super dependent on in times of COVID. But I've really wanted to, like live in a life where that wasn't the case. And you're just kind of, you know, mingling about in New York and the way that television shows so that that's taken on as many things I said now, a double meaning in this new life of the piece, but I do appreciate that it comes off as confident since it's not something I would attribute to myself.
I would not I would not guess that from the the writing style like it's, it comes across as really, like clear, really precise, it's got a certain tone about it, which I think is really strong and really confident like, I just absolutely love it and it's amazing. You should be really proud of this piece as far as I'm concerned.
I really appreciate that. Yeah, I think something for I mean, I'm not a particularly old writer, if it shocks anyone. But I think something when you're trying to figure out, you know, your voice and your style, and what kind of things you're writing, regardless of genre, it is trying to get to a point of confidence. So maybe you don't have to feel it, but at least you can feign it. And that that'll make people feel it even if you cannot.
For anyone, you know, looking to find you and look up more of your work, can you tell us a bit about any of the places you've appeared in or some of your, you know, projects going forwards or where they can find you?
Sure. So I am a regular columnist at no contact mag, which was a mag started in quarantine in New York by some of my Columbia MFA, fellow peers. And in that I interview independent bookstore owners and talk to them about their stories and give book recommendations, which is very different vibe with my work, but still humorous if you appreciate that. And then going forward, I am working on a collection of I call them nonfiction stories, not out of fiction. And they're all tales about unrequited love, and how you can't really escape someone with the invention of the internet that you can never really let go. So some of those pieces have been published in JM WW as well as touchstone magazine. And then some more will be forthcoming. And you can find out all of that on my website, Rachelaggilman.com.
Thank you so much for coming on to tell us about your piece, its an honor to have you as part of our spades collection. You know, the collection wouldn't be what it is about these fantastic pieces, including yours. So we just can't thank you enough for submitting your piece and also chatting to us about it.
Thank you for talking to me. This was super exciting, great way to spend my day.
And so now we have the pleasure of talking to Jem Henderson, who wrote a fantastic piece Whum. And we're really excited to learn more about the origins of Whum and what inspired the piece. So hello, Jem.
How are you today?
I am excellent. The sun is shining here in Leeds. And it's a beautiful day, which is quite nice.
Oh, that's great to hear. We're having a really gloomy day in Norwich. So glad you're getting in some sun. So when we read your piece, when we were just overcome with how emotional the piece was, we were just touched by it. And we'd love to know a bit more about what inspired the piece and how you came across the idea for writing it.
Okay, so for this piece, I often don't really think about process, but this one had one. And so for this piece, I'm in a I'm in a group, a writing group called Wednesday Wordship. And in this group, we take a word. And we all sit down to discuss the words and all the different connotations. And then you write a poem. So the word for this week was sound. And I was thinking back to all of those sounds in my life that that are significant. And I thought about the sound of listening to my baby's heartbeat with a doppler. Because really, I mean, that's probably the most intense sound I've ever heard. It's it's a very fast, rapid whum sound. So for me, it was an immediate, that's the sound that I want to talk about. And then started thinking about that in relation to, I love an animal in a poem. So I went on Wikipedia, weird mother creatures, and I know just, I think probably from playing too much Sonic about a echidnas. And because echidnas is like duck billed platypuses and lay eggs as mammals, which is obviously quite rare. So basically smashed all those things together. And, and ended up creating this poem. And I don't quite know why I picked Roy Walker and catchphrase, it might have been something that came up in the workshop in the discussion. I'm a big fan of,of that show. I mean, not that I've watched it for a long time. But I just, it just worked. That's what got put in at the end.
Certainly. And I think the thing that attracted me and Jack to this piece was the fact that there's a lot said, but there's also a lot that's not said. And I love the fact that you give the readers permission to fill in gaps. A lot of writers, they really do rather explictly specifically say what they mean to say, and there's not much creative interpretation for the audience, to work out what you're going to say there's not enough trust in the readers to fill in the gaps and with you, you definitely give readers that chance. And I think that's a really beautiful thing about the piece. It's very subtle. In some places, which really gives readers the chance to interpret, and apply maybe their own experiences to the piece, I really love that.
Yeah, absolutely. I think as poets, it's our job and responsibility to know that every single thing in your poem has to be doing something and take out anything that isn't, you know, what we often as writers write into our poems, and then write out of our poems so often means that when we come to edit them, you can kind of sack off the first few lines and the last few lines, because you've, you've written them in such a way that they don't really need to be there. It's just your brain ramping up and ramping down from that, that flow place, where were we write. And I think, as well, it's just, it's so cliche to talk about showing, not telling, but you can use so in this poem, in particular, if we talk about the last stanza. So if you look at hot water bottle, that it's doing a lot, it's denoting some comfort, it's denoting sensation, it's denoting pain, it's doing all of those things for you. So you don't need to say I am in pain, because because of this experience, and therefore, I need a water bottle. You just say hot water bottle.
Another thing I think is really interesting about this piece is it is very grounded, and it's very within reality. And then you've also paired that really grounded imagery, with a rather scientific type of language at times. So we have the description of the animal at the beginning. I think it's really interesting how you will link them two together, especially at the beginning and the end of the piece. And he was just a really great thing. And the scientific language and imagery is really interesting.
Yeah, I think I yeah, I don't quite know why I did that. I'm currently in have geared up from from this. So I've been writing quite extensively for the past year. And I would say that I feel quite privileged to have reached a point where I found my voice now. And this was actually, I guess, at the beginning of the phase I'm in now where I'm doing much more experimental work. And so being able to be intertextual, and play with the science, and the onomatapaic nature of sound and putting everyday things next to non everyday things in a really specific way. And so yeah, I think this, this poem was one of the first like forays into that. So I'm really glad to hear that you that you like it, and you think it works.
Oh, absolutely, we were in love with this piece. And the really interesting and delicate tone that you present throughout the entirety of the piece from beginning, middle to end, I mean, the bit I especially like, as I say is the end and the beginning sort of coming together. Towards the end of the piece, where at the start of the piece, we have 'a mother that shouldn't be' and at the end we have i'ts good, but it's not quite right.; Again, we have the repetition between the slight imbalance and something is off in this piece. That gives it a really interesting quality. And it's definitely a really well crafted link that you've put in there. So I was just wondering, you know, how long did it take you to construct this piece? Because, I mean, there was a lot, presumably to get right. So yeah, how long did you spend on this with and were there many edits?
So this, this one kind of did come almost fully formed? I think when you know, you know, right. And sometimes, for me, a lot of poetry happens when I take two ideas and smash them together. By smashing those things together, the fireworks happened. And I also as part of this group, you get to put your work up, and everyone has a little bit of a chat in a Facebook group and says, oh, well, I like this bit. I don't like this bit. And I've also got quite a lot of friends I work with who are also poets who we know we're always sending stuff to each other and going come on read this totally think be brutal. And I think that's actually another great thing that's come out of COVID. I don't want to say that. But it's true. I've made loads of new poet friends by doing all of these online workshops and online readings and that sort of thing. And so now I've got a really strong, a strong base of poets. And I think one of the really important things has been those poets that get you those poets that write in the same way as you those poets that take joy in the work that you do, and understand where you're coming from. If you can, like build a coterie of those and then have the confidence to send them your first draft, then that is absolutely vital. It might be the only one word needs changing. Or it might be a whole stanza needs taking out. But surround yourself with writers who have the confidence to be able to tell you that and I think that that will really help everyone write better.
Mmm, yeah, and I think another really interesting thing about this piece is that it isn't the longest piece in the world. It doesn't go on for pages and pages, but everything is there. There would be nothing necessarily added by adding anything extra to it. Everything is there. And it's a complete narrative. And it's absolutely fantastic. And I was wondering, how did it come about that? You know? That you were done at the point where you were done, how did you know it was finished? And that you, you know, it wouldn't be benefited from adding anything more to it?
How do you ever know that you're done? I mean, that is a big question to ask a poet, right? Because we can look at these words over and over and over and go, oh, well, that's not, you know, who is it that says that art is never finished, it's just abandoned. I think I just wrote this, I edited it, and then I kind of went, okay, I, I'm gonna write the next one. I think when it comes to narrative poems, because this is whilst it has got that weird sciency bit in it, it is also a narrative. And stories have beginning middles and ends. And this, this has that, because, you know, ultimately, at the end of the poem, when we're sitting with with the character in the poem, and you know, she's, she's sitting on the sofa watching catchphrase, that moment, that portrayal of that moment, is the end of that experience of having a miscarriage.
Yeah, the subtlety in that part is really well balanced.
Yeah, I think another thing that I did actually forget to say, I read this piece out when I was when I wrote it in the workshop. And one of the people in the group was in a room with with with somebody else. And they said, oh, you've just made somebody cry. I think that definitely helped me go, I think this might be pretty much finished. Because to evoke that emotion was the intention. I mean, I don't I'm not I'm not actively looking to make people cry, because that's a bit mean. But I think as writers, we want people to be moved by what we do. And if in a few, just a few words, you can manage that. I think I feel like I'd achieved something.
Yeah, Jack and I were certainly very moved by this piece. And I'm sure your audience definitely will be as well. So I was going to ask you about your intention. And you sort of already answered the question there. So you know, the intention you have of what you hope your audience get from the piece, I think you've certainly achieved it, its a fantastic piece, every lines is crafted with such delicacy, and it's so thoughtful and well put together. And yes, it's absolutely a finished product. We wouldn't accept it if it wasn't. And as I say, we were just so touched and moved by the piece that we knew we have to have, I think we remember putting a couple of big ticks and big yeses by the piece. And saying yes this is one we have to have. And so Jem, tell us a little bit about some of your future writing plans. And where else can we find your work?
I guess, in terms of finding my work, so speaking of all my experimental stuff, I just had a piece published in Streetcake. I'm actually doing a workshop with Nikki, around experimental stuff. And actually, I am I think touchwood, I am working on what I'd like to be my first pamphlet, it's quite experimental. And there's a lot of playing around with form. I've just invented this weird form, which is essentially a table of words and where the, where the words in the table come together and writing a stanza of how those words fitting together makes me feel, or in relation to my experience of gender, and the rejection of that as a genderqueer person. So it's dealing with some pretty big stuff. And yeah, I'm hoping to well, one, get it finished. I think I've got 12 poems now, some quite long ones, some quite short ones. And yeah, I'm just, it's not there yet. But as soon as it is, I'll find some places that I can submit it to. Its finding those places that will take more experimental pieces. I've also got some stuff coming out in dreich. But yeah, they took a couple of pieces for July. I was also really proud of something older, I was involved in a project in my hometown of Harrogate, which was all around homelessness. And as somebody that has lived experience of homelessness, I wrote a piece inspired by ginsburg called howl. So if you google my name, and poetry, I think that's one of the first things that comes up. And I quite like that, because I wrote it,I wrote it quite a long time ago. And it actually still stands up. Yes.
That's brilliant. And thank you so much for coming on, and chatting to us about your work. It's been great to get to know you a little better. And find out more about your piece.
No, anytime. Thank you for having me. Much appreciated.
And so next up, we are talking to the amazing JP seabright and talking about the piece reveal redact, and we absolutely love the qualities in this piece. So we're really excited to hear more about it. So hi, JP.
Hi, both. Thank you very much for having me. It's great to be here.
Thank you for popping on. I mean, we are here to talk about your piece reveal redact and its a phenomenal piece. Visually it is fantastic. And I just want to know like, what's the inspiration behind this piece? How did it come about?
Yeah, well, thank you very much. I mean, it is one that is designed to have a sort of visually striking impact as much as the words. And I suppose that's, that's one of the things around sort of visual poetry. In terms of inspiration. I was checking this actually earlier and I think I actually wrote it about this time last year. So it was when the pandemic was starting to become more apparent, I guess, to Western Europe. And that put in my mind, I guess, literary and historical references to plagues and this sort of thing. And I've always had a sort of strong interest in kind of mythologies, and religions, and particularly the psychology of religion. So that the found text for this poem is actually the King James Version of the Bible, and the book of Revelation, in particular, and chapters eight and nine, specifically. So that's that that's the text. And the idea behind it was to redact that text, but rather than that sort of hiding certain things, that the redaction itself and revealed, if you like the sort of the truth, or the reality behind it. In my kind of pay job or or day job, if you like, is sort of information management and security. So redaction is actually something that I do quite a lot. So I found it quite interesting. That idea of where you normally kind of redact if you like the sort of secret stuff that you don't want people to know about. Whereas in this case, I'm sort of trying to subvert that and say, well, actually, the redaction is highlighting, you know, the elements behind that.
Okay, that's really interesting. And the question I have for you is, how did you decide which parts of the text were important to reveal? And redact? Because that's really interesting part of the process, I think, and I'd love to know more about how you decided to which parts were important to the piece you wanted to tell.
There wasn't a great deal of intellectual thought behind it. I sort of went with the the language that I that I liked, and the ideas about conveyed. I mean, the good thing, I mean, the fascinating thing I think about the book of revelations, in particular within the Bible is that the imagery and the language is so rich. And there's so many kind of wonderful ideas and concepts there. And I guess that's why it's been a piece of work that's inspired sort of artists of all kinds, over over centuries. So it was a bit of trial and error with with kind of, you know, trying a few things to get getting the right balance between how it read, so it could actually be read as a poem.
Okay, that's really interesting. And along those lines, another question I have for you is about the visual formatting and decisions behind this piece, because you have the black background with the white pops of revealed text, and obviously, the black being the redacted parts. But why did you decide specifically to include those pieces in rather than just have you know, the white pieces? Or have it just the the revealed parts just as a poem? Is it essential to the reveal redact aspect maybe? Just tell us a little bit about you know, some of your design decisions maybe.
Oh, that's a good question. I'm not sure I've got an answer for that. I think it was, it was, it was something that was actually produced quite quickly. There was the idea, really and then sort of running with the idea and thinking, oh, that looks nice. I like that. And then I sort of put it away for several months and didn't do anything with it. And didn't really think about submitting it anywhere, because I thought it wasn't something that was necessarily of interest to other people. So I think I think because in in redaction where you're not often doing it with a with public documents, it is sort of a black marker pen on kind of usually white text white pages, sort of black text, of course. So that for me, that just made sense, you know, to do it in that way. But obviously here you've got most of it is blacked out. And you just sort of highlighted, you know, a few sort of snippets here and there, which sort of gives you yeah, kind of gives you a sort of strange sense of what am I missing sort of what's what's behind the black?
Well, it certainly turned out looking fantastic and I mean Jack and I as soon as we saw it we like we absolutely loved that sort of reverse highlight feel that had to it. And we just we really enjoyed lots of the imagery that stood out more because we could really focus in upon it and and we wondering if you had a particular favorite line or part of the piece?
What what I also liked about this was the way that it actually worked quite well so I haven't messed around with the text at all I've taken exactly as it comes and justified it on the page and then the did the reduction, but I quite liked the way that it sort of fit and I guess when I chose what to redact and what not to redact you know, a lot of that was about how those phrases sort of work together, and sometimes creating new meanings. The way in which those phrases kind of work together. So I like the starting point with 'there was silence in heaven', because that's just such a dramatic sort of starting point. And then the repetition of 'there fell a great star from heaven burning' and then repeated a little bit later 'I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth.' And then there's lots of just very sort of wonderfully apocalyptic kind of imagery in terms of locusts on the earth and men being tormented and the sort of woe, and two woes more so. Yeah, I mean, I think there's just lots of lovely phrases in there.
Absolutely, I can totally agree with you. There are some really gorgeous pieces that really jump out at you. And we were just wondering, is this type of writing or in this style of experimental writing, is that quite typical of your usual writing style? Or do you usually conduct a different process, we would love to hear a little bit more about that.
Well, to be honest, this isn't typical at all. So I mainly write fiction, short stories. And I'm currently working on a novel, which does have a sort of dystopian to it, but not not quite as apocalyptic and not about a plague. And I used to write a lot of poetry. And I've only recently sort of got back into that. And it's been interesting, because recently, I've looked back at some of the old pieces that I put together, you know, we're going back sort of 10/20 years ago. And actually, it was originally quite experimental. And I was really into sort of found poetry. And I guess, being a little bit of a geek, you know, I liked texts that had a sort of concept behind it. So I've been getting back into doing much more experimental work with poetry and prose, more recently, which has been great. And And certainly, because they tend to be perhaps quicker pieces to, you know, that the inspiration sort of comes more quickly, and then you're able to realize it more quickly. There's something that's quite satisfying about that, then obviously, a longer, longer piece of work, like, you know, a short story collection, or, or a full length novel, of course.
Yeah, for sure. And the thing I like about this piece is, I think it does take a lot of boldness to take somebody else's words and recraft them into a piece, that is still got a sense of originality about it. And still, you know, shows like a JP voice shining through in terms of your style and in terms of the way you think about language. So I think you've done that really well. And I can really admire the way you've put that together. And I was just wondering if there were many sort of edits around this piece. And if it took you long to construct and play around with and till you found the point you were happy with?
Well, no. So there were many edits. So it came out sort of quite quickly. And I guess the process was simply experimenting with with redaction and how that looked and trying to be absolutely true to the original text, and only to redact so not to take anything away, or change it in any way. And it was just a little bit of trial and error in terms of getting the balance between, you know, it kind of making sense and not just redacting things for the sake of it. But also visually that it was that it was striking as well. I mean, I feel a bit nervous, because of course, it's such an obvious in some ways, and such an original text to have chosen, but hoping to present it in a in a new in a different way. The Bible, in particular, the book of Revelation with its imagery, because the language is just so rich and unusual. You know, it's something that artists have drawn on for, for a long, long time. But it was really just to try and convey that in a, in a new and a different way.
Jack and I aren't particularly religious. So when we read this piece, we knew it was from something and it was some sort of found text play around, but we weren't sure of the original source material. And we just still really loved the way that it was a unique sort of voice coming through, regardless of it being used from something else. And that sort of found text. And something that we were really interested in is you being you know, more familiar with the text and acknowledging the fact that it has been used widely, was it difficult? And did you have to sort of make a conscious decision, like a really conscious decision about what parts you wanted to select and keep?
In a way, the form and the text sort of came about at the same time. So you know, and this is perhaps just how my brain was working at the time and, and, and often how I'm thinking about experimental pieces now. It's, it's the, the form or the way in which I'm constructing that poetry or trying to put it across to other people is sort of inherent in in the text, whether it's my original text or it's something that I've taken like a found poem, in this case, and the idea was that it was I suppose, you're playing on the idea of reveal, revelations and redaction, which is of course about not revealing certain things, and as you know, subverting that so in some ways, the redaction itself, kind of almost sort of tells you reveal something different from what you might have read if you if you'd read the original text.
And so JP, where can people find more examples of your work? And you know, what does your writing future hopefully look like?
Yes, I've recently had some work published by Babel Tower Notice Board, which came out in early January, and publishing another pieces in a couple of weeks time, which is great. So another piece that's found found poetry and quite experimental. And another interesting bit that sort of works on redaction. And then from fugatives and futurists, I've had a couple of short stories published recently. And I've got something that's quite interesting, quite exciting coming up with Strukturriss, which is a literary mag quite experimental based in Ireland. And that's coming out later in the year. So So in terms of writing goals, well, I've got this novel that I started writing about a year ago, that I'm about 80,000 words into. But that's a first draft. And there's, there's still quite a long way to go. That's been on hold for quite a while just because we've been busy with work and life and stuff. So I want to get back to that quite soon. But in the meantime, I've been really enjoying the experimental poetry, and shorter pieces of fiction, and revising some older short stories. So yeah, I'm trying to sort of have more confidence in my own writing, and sort of celebrate that and get it out there. And also just really enjoying the literary community and the writing community, which is very supportive, with magazines like yourself that are quite new, but doing something really exciting and much more accessible and really supporting writers. So I've really enjoyed kind of getting into that community recently.
Oh, that's fantastic. That's great that you've had a good experience. And you deserve it. You're a fantastic writer and a lovely person. So I'm pleased, that's what you've been experiencing. And thank you so much for coming on and chatting about your work. It's been great to learn more about the piece and about you.
Thank you so much for having me. It's been great to see it published by Full House. And I'm looking forward to hopefully perhaps seeing more pieces with Full House in the long term.
Certainly, and it's been great to have you on JP. So the next lovely spade we will be chatting to is the wonderful Nora. And we'll be talking about Nora's piece seasons/one, which we absolutely fell in love with. So I cannot wait to hear more from Nora about it. So hi, Nora.
Hi, how are you?
I'm good, thanks. It's been really sunny today. So that cheers me up.
That's great. That's fantastic. It's been really sunny here as well. So um, seasons/one is in is in this current issue of Full House. So what was the sort of main inspiration behind this piece?
I actually wrote it in a workshop I did, I think in December, with Nikki Dudley, and another writer called Elspeth Wilson, and they did the workshop theme was on writing loss. And this was one of the exercises in the workshop. And Elspeth led this one, and I think we had, she kind of guided the writing. And this is why I ended up in three sections. And I thought that that kind of the last section kind of held it all together. And then I decided to write from a different point of view, rather than, you know, the usual human point of view.
Absolutely. And I love the way we go from, you know, summer, winter, then to people, I think that's such an interesting transition. And I was just wondering, you know, what was the craf like behind this piece? How long did it take you to develop it from the workshop? Were there many edits?
I don't think that there were lots of edits. There were a little bit. I think there's certain pieces that I spent just weeks and weeks and sometimes months editing. But this came out a bit more fully formed. And I did have to edit it a little. And I it's also a bit more kind of prosey than my usual writing. Yes, it's quite narrative. So I guess I kind of moved away from my usual poetry style.
Yeah, I mean, it works really well. I think it's so interesting, and I've got loads of lines that I've really enjoyed, but we were wondering, what's your favorite line?
Oh, good question. I think I liked a bit about the child, like feeding the birds. And kind of, you know, that mixture of excitement and fear mix a fear and joy hop and a giggle. I think I like that one.
Is there any other parts that you really enjoyed like crafting? Or is there any parts that you think came out really, really well?
It's hard to say that about my own writing. I'm usually quite critical. The more I read something I've written, the less I like it. That's normally my process.
We love the sense of nature that was in the piece as well like, when we read it, we just felt so like calm that we can just imagine, you know, like sitting like by a lake somewhere in a park watching all of this go about and I don't know, I just got so like relaxed reading it, I don't know about you Jack.
I really, I really liked the poem as a whole, but I like I like the the three sections as a as a sort of structure. And like, especially the last one, which sort of takes it in a different direction. As you as I think you said earlier, the sort of switch in perspective almost.
Mm hmm. Yeah. And we just love the way that you've like, crafted the imagery of this piece like, and you've got such like a really nice tone behind it, you know, and we were wondering, obviously, you've said, this is a bit different than your usual type of writing. So what does a typical Nora piece look like?
I think I, even though I'm really interested in the environment, and I like reading eco eco poetry, I normally don't find it very easy to write about nature. I think I find it much easier to write about people and those kind of moments between people and, you know, rather than animals or landscapes. But I guess with this one, I kind of place myself in, in an environment that was very familiar to me, because it's about my local park. And something I see on a daily basis, and just kind of felt like I was slowing everything down, you know. And my, my poems sometimes are quite manic. But this is like, the opposite its like, I've tried to slow everything down. Because sometimes you feel like inside your, your thoughts, you feel feel a bit manic, and then you go out into nature. And that's when you get a chance to kind of slow down. So yeah.
I mean, this is a really controlled piece. I feel like every word is there for a reason. I feel like it's a really tightly constructed. Was there like an intention behind writing this piece? Did you know exactly what you wanted from it?
No, I definitely didn't. I think I knew I wanted to do something different. Like the exercise made me try something different and different style. And I'm glad that it came off well, and it kind of succeeded. But I don't think it was as intentional as it might seem. Yeah, I think it was intentional to be that have that kind of calmness about it. And this, this slowness? And I guess the language I used worked.
And so how do you usually sort of begin the process of writing your pieces? Obviously, this one came out of a workshop, but how would you usually begin, you know, writing and crafting any of your other pieces?
Guess it's it's a mixture of having, like an idea, or like an image in my head. And that kind of kickstarts something or as you say, in a workshop. These days, I find it quite hard to just sit down and start a new poem out of nothing. So that's why I keep signing up to workshops. But for example, the first lockdown, I wrote loads of poems, because I just had lots of ideas, I suddenly had all this space in my, my head just freed up for new ideas. And then I just guess I sit down. And sometimes it's really different how, who I write, the type of poem determines how I write it, like, more experimental pieces. I guess I'm more a bit more associative. Whereas, for example, poems I write about my family are a little bit more kind of narrative.
And what if there's one thing that you know, readers get from reading your pieces? What do you hope that is?
I'd probably say, I hope that they, they get the sense of playfulness. Because I think that's what I most enjoy about writing. Poetry is how much it's like a game or like an experiment. And, and that I'm having fun when I'm doing it. I think it is really important that people when they read a poem, you can see whether that person is having fun writing, or is trying something really hard. I don't know. That's how I read poems.
So to sort of finish off first of all, what is what are your sort of plans for like your future writing? Have you got any directions you want to take your your writing?
I've actually got a pamphlet that I've been submitting. I've had it submitted to a couple of places. So that's kind of a lockdowny themed pamphlet. But I've got some ideas for another pamphlet I want to start putting together. Which yeah, I don't know if I want to say what it's going to be about. I don't want to. I don't want to jinx it, but just just a little clue. I guess I'm writing a lot about my mother, and, and about the pressure to be a mother as a woman in her mid 30s. So I guess the two kind of tie together this is a topic that kind of interests me, and just kind of, yeah, capitalism and motherhood if this might sound a bit poncey, but.
That sounds really interesting. I'd be really excited to see those when they come out. And obviously, you've been quite successful recently, you've had some really great pieces out. So where can people find your work?
Thank you. That's so nice of you to say, I've had some pieces come out this week, actually, one on osmosis press, which is run by the brilliant Briony Hughs. There's a poem of mine that today well, what is it 28th of February, called headspace. And I also had a poem on ink, sweat and tears called something. And also in a Full House mag, which hopefully you will read after this teaser.
Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for talking to us about your work. And we're so excited to see what you do in the future.
Thanks so much for interviewing me, its been really fun.
And so next up we are chatting to Kelly Van Nelson about the fantastic piece Cabbage Patch Kid. And yeah, we there was no way we were letting this one go. We read it both of us and just gave a massive tick just writing next to it yes, this this has to be yes. And it's really fantastic. So I can't wait to hear more about, you know, Kelly and the story. So hi, Kelly.
How are you doing?
Good. Thank you. How are you?
Yeah, great. Thanks.
Yeah, we're so excited to have you on and learn more about the piece. So firstly, tell us what was the inspiration what is the origin story of Cabbage Patch Kid.
So I've been writing a new book called retrospective a new contemporary poetry book. It's my third poetry book. And it's really looking back into childhood growing up in Newcastle upon Tyne in a sort of working class, single parent home. And as part of that collection, I was sort of unearthing all of these old memories of childhood. And the family social home was quite troublesome. So always a lot of arguments and fighting going on between at the time my mom and my father. And this piece sort of stemmed out of out of that turbulent childhood to be honest. Yeah.
Well, yeah, I mean, it's definitely got those personal undertones, which I really enjoy about it. But the good thing about this piece is it's not one of these pieces, that's, you know, too personal that it's not accessible for anyone else. So when Jack and I read this piece for the first time, I remember we just put so many yeses next to it because it just has such its a complicated piece in the themes it discusses but it does it so well, that we just absolutely loved it. Jack, what were your first impressions of the piece?
Yeah, pretty much the same the same I'd say I like I liked the contrast between the like, the, like, obviously, the description of the Christmas tree, and then like the the idea of like paper, thin walls. And then the then obviously, the last couple of stanzas kind of kind of reveals what what is going on.
I mean, yeah, this is a really, I think, well crafted piece. So Kelly, how long did it take you to do this? Was there many edits? What was the process like?
There probably wasn't a load of edits, but it was maybe I would say, three, four sort of refinements of the piece, I definitely started out with the concept in mind of using the cabbage patch doll. I love writing with metaphors, it just gives sort of this freedom of, you know, not being boxed in about what you want to see, especially if you're writing about a tricky topic or a past memory of any kind of might be a traumatic memory. So it definitely freed up this ability to, you know, sort of wrap the piece around the doll and a very specific sort of situation and arguments around this doll. And it's sort of formed from there. So I definitely wrote the piece in one go, I didn't write it in multiple goes, but I probably refined it three or four times or where before I was I was happy enough to pop it into the collection.
Definitely. And I really liked the tone of this piece, although as we say it does discuss like a fairly, you know, serious issue. I think it's done in such a brilliant way and it almost as because you're sort of saying it from the perspective of you know, like a child, I think it's got an innocence that comes through. And would you say this sort of writing style is quite typical of your general writing style?
I wouldn't say it's typical. No, I definitely delved quite deep with this piece. And it was, when I wrote it, the new, the new book called retrospective, it starts off in childhood, it is really a whole chapter around, you know, the memories of youth. And this, as I say, growing up in a troublesome house. And I know quite a few memories in writing that and I did want to bring in the childlike kind of concept as I was trying to definitely differentiate by age and for that sort of, you know, childhood memory, but I typically don't do that I typically write more from an adult point of view, and don't really, you know, do too much in the childhood memories, so it was quite specific. And it wasn't a really, it wasn't an easy piece to sort of write. But once I started, it did come in the one go.
I love it. And I think my favorite line, or there's so many good ones, but I think maybe it's a description of the doll was my favorite stanza because I feel like I can you do it in such a good way that I feel I can see it so vividly. And what's your favorite line, if you had to choose?
I definitely do like the paragraph around the doll. And I what I was trying to do, there is sort of express sadness of a child who just wanted to, you know, have a really normal life, you know, when using the metaphor made it easy to sort of come up, come up with a few of these sort of sadness that this you know, the child has thinking, I love my little ending. So my three line ending is probably my favorite sentence and and sort of piece where I wanted to sort of finish with a bit of ambiguity there around you know, is it is it dad who is right, is it mom who's right, who was right and wrong in this argument, and the child has just, you know, there is no right and wrong here that the child has no clue really about the argument and what's really going on in the household, only that there is fighting, and you know that the doll is the only one who really knows the truth. So I purposefully wanted to leave the poem hanging as to not, you know, not to close out the argument, though, that there was a right or wrong parent in this situation, it was more on the sadness of the child. And again, using the doll to do that. So yeah, the last sentence.
Its a really good last sentence. And another thing I really liked about this piece is that the language is fairly simple. Obviously, you have these fantastic, you know, metaphors and imagery inside it. But it's not one of these pieces that's like every word is like really flowery and detailed. And that's one thing I really enjoy about this particular piece. And I was wondering, when writing it did you have a specific intention of how you wanted to write it and how you wanted it to look?
I definitely had in mind that I wanted to create impact with the youth space on the young adults space. I've got, I've got a huge following in my sort of writing as an author in that age demographic, not really young, but sort of, I would say, a late teens up into ya in into adulthood, I've got a really great following. And I like to write pieces, whether it's with a child childhood set of eyes, or a child lens, or whether it's with an adult lens, I more like to write pieces that will make that age demographic really think. And it's accessible. It's not confusing. It's really simple and can create impact and a really quick read. So definitely almost all my writing, that's what I try and do in this style that I write in. It's very raw, and it's very, it is usually very simple. And yeah, it's definitely sort of targeting that audience quite intentionally with the layout, I didn't intend to do a layout sort of centrally like this or anything. But I do play a lot with the where I put my breaks where I put my pauses, and then I end up with a more visual visually sort of attractive looking piece. It's one of the few that I centre sort of, you know, position this way. And I did it, it just felt right. And I was playing with it, wanting it to have a little bit of a Christmas tree kind of sort of feel about it when you looked at it. And yeah, I definitely played with the layout for a long time as well.
So to sort of end up could you sort of tell us a little bit about what your plans for the future in terms of your writing, like, are you being published in any other journals or anything like that?
Yeah, definitely. I've probably got work now in maybe 20 anthologies or so and a lot of work published in different magazines, different newspapers, probably been in more than 100 publications now. I've got the three three poetry books out and I've got a fiction book out as well. So I'm coming on to my fifth book and two of them are number one bestsellers so I'm definitely my big thing is, I am trying to really make poetry sort of hip again and cool again, good for the young audience and the youth. And to use poetry as a vehicle to generate conversation around tricky topics, you know, whether it be, you know, childhood arguments and parents arguing or domestic violence or trauma, or, you know, mental health issues, whatever it is contemporary current issues that are, you know, being experienced around the world today. So I have lots of different projects going on. But they're always around social issues, and generating major change in the world around the things that I care about. And then using that to have a platform to help us. I mentor youths a lot in schools and in universities and do a huge amount of work with, you know, with kids, especially underprivileged kids. And yeah, this piece had that in mind for sure. When I was writing it, I definitely wanted to it was one of the pieces I knew I would probably use in schools. And in that age group to raise conversation. Projects, I've always got a million on. Yeah, I've got a few things. My other one is probably that I and this might be a good piece, actually, I do a lot of work, creating short films, short poetry films, or fusing film and cinematography with poetry. And I've done a few now I've got a few streams in Melbourne Fringe, and in different sort of writing festivals, I've got a lot of collaboration happening with a film producer in the US. And that's sort of taking on a little bit of a life of its own as well. And it's getting a different audience. And this would be a really cool piece to create a short movie off the back of it again, it's it's quite visual. You know, there's the there is the tree and the doll and the the sort of darkness of this argument going on. But I think it could create a nice little film piece. So that's what I might do with it.
Wow, thank you so much, Kelly, for chatting to us. We've loved learning about you know, your other writing experiences, you sound like a busy bee, but like you're doing such good work. So thank you so much for coming on and chatting to us.
Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's good to talk it through.
And so now we're really excited to talk to Helen, who wrote evaporation, which is a phenomenal piece. And yeah, I've got so many questions to ask you, Helen. So hello, hello, how are you?
I'm really well. Thank you. How are you?
Good. Thank you. So we're here to speak about evaporation, which is in our latest issue. And first off, we just want to know what inspired this piece tell us a little bit about the background.
So I did a workshop at the end of last year that was run by Alice Frecknall. And it was one of the workshops there I think it was exploring surrealism, or something along those lines was the theme. And it was a prompt. And the prompt was from the Caroline bird poem, patient intake questionnaire. And so, basically, it was inspired by that poem. And then it was kind of written as, imagine a self portrait but view through a kaleidoscope. So taking a lot of things that are just like quite bland statements about myself, and how I see myself and then like extracting them sort of, you know, stage after stage out until it got to something unrecognizable. That's kind of where it came from.
Yeah, I mean, it's fantastic. The imagery, in this is incredible and every line offers something so unique, which is definitely what drew me to the piece. Jack, I don't know, what about it resonated with you?
Well, as soon as I saw it it was sort of the shape of the piece. Because I mean, when we can tell from the first line, we see the word concave, concave reflections, then that's the sort of shape we're getting from the piece itself. And that's kind of what stood out to me at first. I mean, obviously, the shape of poem is always what stands out, because you see it even before you read the words.
That's really good to hear, because it's one where as originally written it, and it was like just a solid wall of text. And then it was broken up. And it went through so many iterations of feeling like I liked all of the words, and I wasn't sure how they should sit. And and it was that ultimately, viewing it as being a self portrait and how I would see myself as not a wall of words, but more like a sort of wavy squiggle. So I'm glad that the shape resonated with someone else.
Absolutely. It's gorgeous. And we just loved the way it stood out it is traditional in that, you know, it's a poem, but language is so confident and interesting. I mean, particular lines we enjoyed was definitely the opening line, it stuck out to us so much. We also really like the last line as well and you've got a really really controlled way of like beginning and ending this piece. And I was wondering how long it took you to craft this piece and if there were many edits?
I feel like I got the words in one go and I'm a bit of a devil for doing that. Either I get the words in one go or I spend like six months playing with them. It becomes something completely unrecognizable. And I was really happy with that side of things quite early on. And like I say it was moving the shape around. I think as I moved the shape, I changed some of the word order because it did start out as this but very prosaic list of character traits that I perceive about myself. And then as it got weirder, and became the words that it actually was, it felt like, actually, it needs to sit slightly differently. But I think that came with when I decided that I was going to make it that sort of center aligned in and out piece, that it now looks like is where I ended up moving. The end, as it currently is, was somewhere way in the middle, which didn't make any sense. But you read it, as it now looks.
Okay. And do you have a particular line that you enjoy the most?
I really like the line 'evaporation cooling or white hot it'. Partly because I think it is a really honest line about myself that has been extracted from that so many times, it doesn't feel like it's too vulnerable on a page, but I feel like people probably can relate to it. And partly because for no reason as a child, my mum used to constantly go on about how evaporation causes cooling, it was like a motto even though it's not a motto, it's just a rule from physics. And she'd say it all the time. And so being able to speak it into a poem feels like a little bit of a haptic I'm quite pleased with.
Absolutely. And I think the way you have addressed language in this piece is fantastic. And I was wondering, is this you know, typical of your writing style in general? Or did you do something different with this piece? Tell us about that sort of process?
Yeah, I like poetry, because I like playing with language. And I think language is the, the bit of the writing process that I love the most. I know, there are people who really go for character and go for world building. And that's just not the way my mind works, I find that gets me like bogged down in details in a way that loses the magic. Whereas when you find a perfect string of words, or a string of words, that sums up something that you've been trying to grab onto in your mind for a while, and you get that image, there is something really satisfying about that. And, and I've always been a bit of a language nerd. So it's definitely my favorite part of the writing process. And I think it's something that echoes through quite a lot of things I've written.
Yeah, definitely. I think that definitely reflects through. Jack, what was your favorite line from the piece?
I think I would probably go with the same with the 'evaporation calling a hot white id'. But I also like the lines linking to King Midas so that starting with 'feast and zygotes and liquid gold asking King Midas to lay hands on social crises'. I felt like that kind of I really liked the imagery like the the sort of the liquid gold kind of created a, it's quite striking in my mind, especially with the reference to King Midas was like sort of broadens the like the behind the scope almost because this, I felt like it was quite, it's quite contemporary. But then it sort of moves towards something which I think it's I want to say it's Greek mythology.
The secret behind that the original form of that line before I changed it into something a bit surreal, the zygotes in liquid gold line was actually just about mayonnaise. Zygotes is eggs and liquid gold is oil. And that's what I mean about how language is the thing that I think is the most fun because mayonnaise is not something that I want to write a poem about. I mean, it is but I just don't want to call it mayonnaise.
And I mean, me and Jack bang on about this all the time. But we particularly love pieces that have language or lines in that we feel like we've just never seen before. And this is 100%, one of these pieces that were like, oh, we've never seen this thing described like this or presented like this. And that's definitely one of the main reasons why we had to choose this piece in our issue, because it's just got such uniqueness about it. And I think your voice Helen, as a writer does come through really strong, because you've done that. Another thing I wanted to talk about was the fluidity to this piece, which is incredible. I mean, I know you've got the liquid imagery, which sort of really does help the piece flow. Was that like a conscious decision you had when writing the piece?
Again, I think that came out of editing to make it the shape that it is. I think when it was first on the page, it felt like a series of individual ideas. And I really wanted it to tie together because like I say it's supposed to be this sort of self portrait. And even though we are all a little bit disjointed, that's not necessarily how you want to view yourself on the page. And so I'm glad that it comes through with that. And I think some of the choices of the shape, but also the way that I adapted the original language I was keen to make sure that there was a through line, even if that line is not immediately obvious. If it flows then I'm glad.
Yeah, definitely. And I think a good thing about this piece as well is it definitely has enough room to allow your audience and your readers to pick bits out and view it in different angles. It's not one of these pieces that like you know, tells it exactly as it is. I like that you've given the audience some creative license to interpret your language as well.
I think that's the thing about poetry, isn't it? I think all the poems that I enjoy the most, are the ones where I read it, and I know what I think it is, and then I read it a different day in a different mood and what I think is is something different again. And then you can hear the person who's written it, talking about it, and they're saying something completely different. And all of those interpretations are valid. And I think that, again, is like why I love language and playing with it so much is because you can introduce that sort of flexibility into a world that you've created, but it's also going to be completely different for every person who reads it.
So as a sort of way to close off, what is your sort of plans for the future? Or do you have any pieces coming out in other magazines? And what other sort of pieces are you planning to write in the future? Have you got anything on the horizon?
Yeah, so I've been looking at how I can take a slightly more experimental approach than what I've been doing and playing with words in other ways. I've got a piece coming out in how to be bad. And similarly, anamorphosis have picked up a piece that is shaped like a word search. And I'm so excited, because when I made it, I felt like it was really treading the line between this is either a great idea, or this is absolutely a complete waste of time. So if just one other person likes it, then I'm happy. I think that's the sort of direction that I want to go and make things weirder, weirder and weirder.
You know, you've said a bit about being happy is that you know, the one thing you hope readers take away from work or is that the intention you have behind when people read your pieces?
I think I just want people to read them and take something from them. I think at the moment, I'm very aware that a lot of people are finding that joy is in short supply and so writing things that start a little bit of joy it's really important to me, but also, I hope that people can find that when they're reading things that I've written. I know last summer, I was writing a lot of very dark, very sad, very, I've been trapped inside for a long time stuff. And it wasn't making me feel better. I can't make anyone else feel better. Because actually, there's a bit of fake it till you make it with all things. You can fake it till you make it. If you wrote poems that make yourself smile, then hopefully they'll make someone else smile, too.
That's fantastic. Thank you so much, Helen, for chatting to us a little bit more about your work and your piece. It's been great to sort of get to know evaporation and yourself better.
Thank you for having me. It's been lovely.
And say the last spade we'll be speaking to is James Bruce May, who wrote hamster on a wheel, which is a really, really quirky, fantastic piece. And I'm looking forward to hearing more about it, James. So hello.
Hi. Hi. It's nice to be here. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, brilliant. We're here to speak about your piece hamster on a wheel, which we absolutely fell in love with the very first time we read it. And we'd love to know a little bit more behind the inspirations of this piece and the background of how it came about.
Well, first of all, thank you so much for posting, it was really exciting to have it on your in your journal is great, by the way. So it was really cool to to have it there. But I'm really happy to talk about it, it's um, it's a piece which is, I suppose a bit challenging. And I mean that both ways for for writing it and perhaps reading it as well. So I live in in London, I've been living here for about 13 odd years now, maybe 14, I came here to be a student, I came to study creative writing at Greenwich. And then I sort of stayed around afterwards for years. And of course, London is an amazing city, really busy one. It's so diverse, it's so exciting. But one factor that you can never really escape is that it does have a lot of homelessness. And I suppose part of me for a long time wanted to write about that. And I have always struggled with how to go about it. So I think with this poem, I, I really wanted to take a sort of step back. And I wanted to be as empathetic as I could with homeless people. And trying to do that in a poem was very difficult because I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of having never had to live on the streets and with sort of fictionalizing it. And one thing about poetry is that its power comes from the sort of observing truth. And the way I posed this poem was to imagine to kind of paint that danger of being very close to homelessness, even if you're in a quite privileged position of having a job, and a place. And all of those things. I just feel like there's sometimes it's very easy to walk past them on the street, and not really put yourself in their shoes. Yeah. And that's what I was trying to do with this work.
Absolutely. I mean, I think is a really, as you say, challenging piece, it's quite a confronting piece and confrontational piece in the fact that it's this happens all the time like you think of homelessness, and it is quite a almost taboo thing you know, it's every day people walk past homeless people in the streets and they sort of, you know, put their eyes down and look the other way and avoid it, but you really tackle it head on with this piece. And yet it is uncomfortable, but in a really important and impactful way, I think.
Yeah, thanks, I guess. So this this poem, I started writing it pre pandemic. And it took a while to find its form, I think I did want to write it for years and just couldn't really address it properly. Like I say, it's a daily occurrence sadly. And sometimes it's a bit more in your face. And whereas, perhaps, a homeless person will be on the tube in your, in your carriage in the tube and directly kind of pitching for money or, or maybe it's something that you can walk away from really easily. But you're never very far away from it. And so it's never really been very far away from my thoughts about how I could tackle that, as a writer, I don't know, I guess there's there you always feel, or one should always feel, I suppose that you know that there are things that you can try to do to help if that's stopping and chatting to someone, or giving a bit of spare change, or buying a bit of food in a supermarket, whatever it is, or just donating a fiver a month to shelter or whoever. And I guess I did, I was guilty of not really knowing much about it. And then I had this experience just before the pandemic where a friend of mine works quite nearby to where I work, they're working in covent garden. And he was, it's funny, because we're both atheists, and we joke about it, but he was volunteering at a church on Endor Street. And it's a sort of weekly thing, where you make tea and toast and chat with homeless people in the mornings. And I figured it was just before work. And I could easily do that. It's just a bit of time. And it was such an eye opening experience. And this is where I really learned about the kind of diversity of of London's homeless in that there's a massive age range, even in the even in the kind of cross section that will come into that church, and a massive age range, a massive range in backgrounds, and in sort of cultural backgrounds as well. And in terms of how long people have been on the streets, some people have not been homeless for very long. Others had been homeless for a long time. Some of those people that I met in that experience had perhaps fallen on hard times and ended up in this situation. And I think it really brought home to me that that kind of danger to all of us that you could end up without a without a place to live. I realized I because I'd spent quite a lot time in my in my 20s and 30s. Like, I'm just 40 now 41 now. But yeah, working in jobs that I really enjoyed but didn't didn't pay very much. And as I was pursuing things like writing and being in bands and that kind of stuff, I wasn't really thinking about a career. And so I was only ever really making enough to cover costs. And although that all worked out, okay, had it not and I didn't have a family or whatever to go back to it could have easily been myself in this situation that I was seeing on the other side of the counter. I loved your tweet where you said, you know, this is it's a commentary on society, as well as homelessness as a thing, because it's how you're held down by all these monthly bills, and all the things you've got to pay for. And if you were to slip into debt or to miss payments, you know, it doesn't take long before getting into trouble.
Absolutely. And I think that's what's so good about this piece is that it really has a really human quality to it in terms of the dialogue of the homeless person, you've really presented them in a really human way. As you say, we're all you know, we're not that far away from being this position ourselves. And I think this piece is good and reminding people of how to treat others and that it really isn't so hard just to be kind to people, you know. So that's a really great quality that this piece has. And I was wondering, I mean, you said you've been wanting to write a piece about this for a long time. So how long did this particular piece take you to craft and where there many edits?
The title comes from an actual person. So the banker mate in the last stanza. He exists and he's a friend and he did that that phrase I mean its a bit of a cliche, but I that really he said a couple of years ago, and that as soon as I got the phrase, I just thought that's definitely a poem. Sometimes, sometimes it's just a phrase, which is just converts into a poem in my mind. And so it was 2018, I think I started writing it. And an early draft was sent around to a couple of online journals and came back, but it wasn't quite ready because it didn't have that it didn't really have empathy in the center of it. And with editing poems, I mean, it's, I write a bit of fiction as well. And it's just so different. Because fiction, you can, there's a lot of craft in it, you bash out a draft, and then you come back, and it's, you really put you sort of switch hats, and you put on an editorial hat. And it's a bit easier to think about, and a syntax and stuff like this. But with poetry, I find that to really make it fly, you sometimes just need to walk away from it and, and come back and, and see why and kind of see why isn't working. And sometimes you just need to completely rewrite it. So it's first, its first form was one long standing, like a kind of narrative. And it didn't have the the refrain, with the, the exchange between the homeless person and the person walking past. And that was added in later because it was, is another thing that was sort of a bit more real. And coming back to the poem, although it had that kind of central cliche of society kind of driving you like a hamster and the risk of falling off the wheel, I suppose that was still there. But it just didn't, it didn't really have any energy to it. So I suppose this is interesting to touch on. And you've probably thought about this a lot yourselves. But one interesting thing about being a writer today is that a lot of you're corresponding with journals, literary journals is online. And a lot of your your publishing credits will be linked to online journals. And there's a there's a kind of a great tradition of writing to editors, and getting rejections back. And then this whole thing of simultaneous submissions. And it's it's like a kind of massive web. And normally I write sort of six or so poems, and kind of send them out to a bunch of places. And then usually about two or three months later, they come back, although you were much quicker. So props to you. But often, often that little gap of two or three months is enough for them to come back. And then you look at it with fresh eyes. And I think I went through that two or three times with this piece. But certainly the pandemic just gave a new boost of energy to this because during the kind of lockdown times when all we were able to do was walk around a bit and, and a lot of people left London I stayed on, a lot of people left London. And it was it's sort of a telling thing, but it was a bit sad to see that the London streets are empty of people, you know, when you're used to seeing them so full and colorful and everything. But a lot of the people who were leftover that weren't just kind of Londoners like me, they were they were homeless people. So that gave the the the piece some more energy for me to kind of pile into it. In terms of the kind of fear, I guess.
To sort of round off about you so tell us a little bit about maybe some future projects you're working on? Or where else can we find any of your work?
You can get my work at my website, which is Jamesbrucemay.com. It's got links to all of the poems and short stories that I've had published, pretty much all of it is free apart from one or two bits that are paid. But there's, there's loads of stuff on there. So if you if you want to, you can go and have a read. In terms of other projects. Well, I've got a couple of novels that I've been working on for some time, did a master's degree, it was really, really great at Goldsmiths, it was I'd recommend it to any writer who hasn't done one. It was cool, just because you could just focus on one thing for for a year, really great fun. From that came an idea for a book, which I managed to finish a couple of years later. And then a long process of drafting that again, sending it out to agents and publishers, getting rejections back working on the draft some more, getting a sort of professional proofread of that, and then doing another draft and then the story goes on. So that first book is now on its eighth draft. And yeah, it's a labor of love now, but it's close to its third round of querying with agents. So that's really exciting. So hopefully that'll happen this summer. And meanwhile, I've started a second book. And I've got a little writing group with some, some friends from from goldsmiths. And we're, each of us are working on a new novel. So that's really, really fun. So hopefully the two of them will be sort of ready at the same time ish this awesome.
Wow. So lots to look forward to for any of your fans out there. That's incredible. You've done so much and achieved so much, so really looking forward to these projects coming out. And thank you so much, James, for talking to us about your piece. It's been fantastic to learn more about why you wrote it and how important this piece really is. So yeah.
t's an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.
And that is us done with chatting to our wonderful spades and looking through the pieces in our latest issue. It's been an absolute blast. And I've absolutely loved learning more about the pieces really. And we are now open for submissions to our next window which is going to be the hearts issue so do submit, you've got up until the second of April, and we'd love to read your work. If nothing else, you're going to get free free paragraphs worth of feedback, so worth a shot. And that wraps up part A of our podcast this week. In Part B we will be chatting to Chris L Butler, who is absolutely phenomenal. Such an inspiration and you need to listen to that. So go and check it out. Thank you so much, see you over there!