Today I am delighted to welcome Angela Readman to my blog. Angela is an award winning short story writer and poet. Her new poetry collection, The Book of Tides, has been described as Northern Gothic, touching on feminism and mythology. My review may be found here.
Although I like to think that I read a fairly eclectic mix of books I am aware that I can be less open in my reception to poetry. The Book of Tides is, however, a literary feast.
I was interested to learn more about this young writer’s creative process. Please welcome to neverimitate, Angela Readman.
Where do you typically write?
I have a little desk in the corner of a room. It fits perfectly. It is old, a bit battered, but it’s mine. It was a present from my husband for our wedding anniversary. He put a small notebook in each of the drawers. It’s quite special to me because I knew he was trying to encourage my writing, most people I knew just thought it was a strange habit.
Tell us about your writing process
It’s quite different for poetry and prose. With poems, it usually starts with a line. Even if it’s inconvenient, words show up and stick with me until I do something about it. I have to scribble on the backs of envelopes and post-its I find all over the place. Poems can be quite persistent, even if you’re in no mood to write some won’t leave you alone.
There’s one poem in The Book of Tides called The Woman with No Name that was so guilty of this. I wasn’t writing poetry at the time, I was working on finishing my short story collection, but this line kept bothering me, ‘I wake and can’t remember my name.’ I’d be in the shower and I’d have to say it out loud, then I knew the next line and I had to continue. I had to write the poem just so it would stop haunting me. I almost didn’t want to, it’s a poem so full of grief I knew writing it would leave me feeling shattered, but I had to do it to get some peace.
Once I’ve written a poem, I leave it alone. I’ll come back later and whittle it down. I remove as much as I can, a bit here, a bit there, until I can take out no more.
It’s a different process for a story. I don’t start with a line. I start with a vague idea. It’s something like developing a strange obsession for a short time, something will catch my eye, or make me feel a certain way, and I have to know more about it. I don’t usually know what a story is really about until after I’ve started writing it, then it surprises me.
Tell us about your publishing experience
I’ve found the publishing experience is so different for poetry and prose. The way a lot of prose writers go about it is: find an agent who’ll approach publishers. It really helps take the sting out of it. I was shortlisted in the Costa Short Story Award and an agent approached me. By the time I discovered I was shortlisted again, the following year (when I won) I already had a contract for Don’t Try This at Home on my desk, all ready to sign. I was lucky.
It’s different for poetry. Poets don’t have agents, so it can be a bit of a slog to find a publisher. When I started out, a few small presses gave me a shot, but publishing changes so quickly. Those places either folded, or changed their focus. I found looking for a publisher so daunting I didn’t think I’d do a poetry collection again, but I kept submitting to competitions and journals anyway. I did this for years. I wanted to prove my poems were OK before I bothered a publisher. It’s amazing I found one really. For years, I did just about everything I could do as a poet, other than a book.
I submitted to Nine Arches because of Jo Bell and the 52 project. I found some lovely people in the group were really encouraging. Sometimes someone would ask about my next poetry collection and I felt sort of ashamed to admit I wasn’t doing one. I hadn’t looked, in all this time. I’d given up on the idea. It was shocking.
In what ways do you promote your work
It can be quite difficult to promote poetry. I’m not a performer, sadly, though I used to work really hard to try and be. It never quite worked out. I’d make myself ill with anxiety and came home with one book sale. It wasn’t worth losing a week’s sleep over it.
An audience can always tell when you’re not comfortable, I think. They know when you’re standing there trying to be something you’re not, and respond accordingly. There are so many wonderful poetry performers these days, the audience expects more than ever. They have paid for their ticket, they deserve a lot more than I can give them.
I do all I can online instead. I work hard at sending to anthologies, journals and magazines, and hope it reminds people I’m here. That’s all I can do really. keep working, keep writing, and hope the work wins people over one reader at a time.
What are some of your current projects
I’m working on a few things. I wrote a story collection some people loved, so, of course, all other people ask me about now is a novel. I smile politely and work on something I’m not willing to show anyone yet. I dream of doing a little flash fiction collection sometime. I’m also writing short stories. I have a title for my next story collection, and I’m working on it. Last week, I finished my first story commission, with any luck my story will be on Radio 4 next year (fingers crossed!).
Where can my readers find you?
Twitter: angela readman (@angelreadman)
Angela Readman’s stories and poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, including London Magazine, Staple, Ambit and Mslexia, and she has won awards including the National Flash Fiction Competition. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award for ‘Don’t Try This at Home’ – an award she would go on to win in 2013 with the story ‘The Keeper of the Jackalopes’. Her previous collections of poetry include Strip (Salt, 2007). The Book of Tides is her third collection of poems.
The Book of Tides is published by Nine Arches Press and is available to buy here.