Join us as we chat about different voices within the literary community. We look at stand-out pieces from Subliminal Magazine's first issue and then speak to Neha Sridhar from Authylem Lit Mag. We close out chatting to writer and ex-professional boxer James Lilley about falling into the writing world slightly later on in life.
Join us as we chat about different voices within the literary community. We look at stand-out pieces from Subliminal Magazine's first issue and then speak to Neha Sridhar from Authylem Lit Mag. We close out chatting to writer and ex-professional boxer James Lilley about falling into the writing world slightly later on in life.
Hello, and welcome to the Full House podcast, episode 2. We hope you enjoyed the last one. And this is gonna be even better because we have some great guests.
It's so good in fact, that we have to split it up into two parts.
So in the first part, this is part A we have Neha from Authylem. And then we have the fantastic James Lilley. And then in Part B, we speak to the fantastic Ollie Charles from Untitled Writing, and have a big chat around representation and diversity in literature. So we're going to kick off part A by looking at an issue from a mag. And we've been following these guys for a while now, and they're absolutely fantastic. So we are going to be looking at issue one from Subliminal magazine. The first issue features the work of eight poets, three prose writers, and four artists. On their website, Subliminal magazine expresses an interest in the subtle messages hiding in plain sight. And they're dedicated to exploring the intricacies of our everyday realities and uncovering the beauty behind them.
So we're going to start off by looking at some of the standout poetry pieces. And there are some really good ones, the choice is great. I'm going to start off looking at an Aneska Tan really sorry if I pronounced that wrong. So it's not only the form I really like about this piece, but the language is fantastic. So the piece called hybridity, which already is just such a complex, interesting title. But I'm going to read out some of my favourite lines here. So there's a line 'for it throw up an alphabet', 'like a home for phlegm'. And then there's another one, 'I chew an airport to a pulp. And it's what we were saying last podcast, about these original phrases, they're just so they're so well integrated, but they're just so fantastic. They're not the sort of thing you hear every day. And although they're quite, I'd say abstract phrases, they actually fit within the piece really well. And the whole piece in itself is almost like an art piece. It's filled with these fantastic phrases that just come together and create such magic.
Yeah, this poem has some really great examples of alliteration throughout I think, I think the example you gave was 'I chew an airport to a pulp' was really good for that, like the port and the pulp has a great sense of assonance and alliteration there.
Another piece I really loved was museum of deliberate intimacy by Samia Saliba again, really sorry about pronunciation if we've totally ruined that. What I love about this piece is as a way to describe what I'm trying to say it's lots of sort of short sentences broken up with full stops, there isn't a lot of capital letters in this it just as a full stop, and just a new sentence without any capital lessons begins. And it gives it a real sort of simple childlike quality maybe. And it reminds me a bit of Deborah Levy's Hot Milk in the sort of themes speaks about and the way it's written. So one of the lines is 'i sun-burned my thighs riding my bike', 'i did things I did not tell my mother', 'i had a number of crushes'. And it feels like this really sort of childlike piece in the stream of consciousness in that way. And it's just really brilliant. It's really like within the moment, and that's what I think is really special about it. It is clear that Samia is really, really talented.
Yeah, I really like the sort of disjointed nostalgia in this piece. And I do really like the intimate nature of this poem. I feel like we learn a lot about the poet just from this, or at least the character. I don't know if it's like a personal account, of course.
Yeah, there is a really real sense of character here. And I feel like we can see the narrator really vividly. And then the last poetry piece we wanted to highlight as a standout was Travis Tate's Futures. And again, this is another one that is really simple with it's language, there's no like overly flowery, or, you know, decorative phrases. They're really simple and really familiar in that sense, but the way they're being used, and the way the story is being told is fantastic. So we start off with a small dog running in a field. And the way the enjambment and the way that lines run into each other here is used is really, really clever. So the poem sort of flows in the piece, and you don't know where lines end and where lines begin. And it's so visually interesting. So yeh we begin with this dog. And then we move on to this kitchen space with chicken and garlic and then we move into a different space then we end up in this really weird in the future abstract space and it's just absolutely fantastic. Some really gorgeous lines. And you can tell that this is a masterpiece. I think this is really well constructed. And each line is so interesting. As I say the language isn't you know, really super, like flowery, but it doesn't have to be the simplicity is where the magic is, I think and this is one I could see myself rereading, rereading, rereading over and over and just never getting bored of.
So I'd like to talk about a prose piece from a subliminal magazine called unwrapping, unravelling by Heather Domenicis. Sorry, if I've mispronounced your name. So this is quite an interesting piece. It's in a sort of stream of consciousness style. And it's basically like this character who, who's like clearing out their cupboards and talking about how they they sort of mark relationships by, like, the food they're eating, while they're in those relationships. So for example, in their, in the character's current relationship, they are there with someone that they describe as a carnivore. So obviously, someone eats a lot of meat. And they say that they they haven't really shared this with the with the person yet that they're, um, I think they're meant to be vegetarian that all they've been eating is scrambled eggs. The descriptions of food in this piece are so vivid, it's almost like you can taste them.
Yeah, I mean, the senses here are really getting attacked, I honestly feel hungry, just reading it. If you are reading this piece have some snacks to hand. Yeah, and the way it's written this sort of stream of consciousness, is really like delicate and interesting reminds me a bit of something like Pond by Claire Louise Bennett. And I feel like it's a really sophisticated piece, although it just you know, speaks about, you know, food, it's quite simple in its themes, its really intelligent in the way it attacks them. And then when we get to the ending, we sort of move away from food in these last few lines. And we're left with this melancholy sort of sad, wishful hopes for the future, and the hopes of being able to take care of things better. And I just think is a really fantastic piece of prose.
So we'd also like to talk about a pair of art pieces from their first issue. Obviously, we can't really, we can't really like read them to you, because obviously, it's art, but we'll provide links on Twitter. So the first is, well, the first is to Taylor Yingshi's compost, which is described on the website as reflecting on our relationship to the dirt through eating, composting, nurturing, and the terrene beauty of leftover bones and cartilage.
Yeah, so compost is an extraordinary artwork, it's so fantastic. It's not got any colour, except the colours of you know, black, white grey scale. It's not like a vivid colour piece. But it's all about the linework here and the way shapes and shading is used, if I'm just zooming in on the face of the character in the piece, and it is absolutely gorgeous, the way the lines have been used to convey like the hair is fantastic. And there's a real sense of movement within this piece and I think it's pretty fantastic it blew me away The first time I saw it, I was like wow, this is not something I've seen before and it's subtle in the fact that it isn't this really vivid, colourful piece like the second piece is, but it's got a simplicity that really does make it stand out in that way.
Taylor's second piece feast is about as far away as from the first piece you probably get described on the website as first it goes into the 17th century Dutch Golden Age produced lavish fruit still life paintings of this piece exploring the dark colonial underbelly of art history, like foreground against dark Caravagian background accentuates the subject's movement and disorientation. This is a well first of all, this is an incredibly colourful piece. It features like a big cat on a on a table with it sort of basically taken over the table like sat on the table, all the food is spilling off the table. There's a child nearby trying to catch some of the food there's people in the background just panicking basically, there's a chandelier that sort of swinging backwards and forwards the light is painted so well on the chandelier that the contrast and the fruit is incredible as well.
Yeah, like I'm zooming in on this orange in the bottom corner. And it is fantastic. I don't even know how talent like this exists. But Taylor you are bloody incredible. Yes, as Jack says its completely different to the first piece which just shows like how insanely talented Taylor is that she can go from two completely different not only styles, but users of colour uses of movement of texture. And just yeah, hats off to you Taylor, this is fantastic. And this is the sort of artwork that you need to you know, you'd frame and put on your wall for some reason kind of gives me like beauty and the beast vibes with that chandelier and like the food and the cutlery. I don't know why. But yeah, I think it's really like it's really talented. And as Jack says, we'll put the links to these pieces, but you definitely need to check them out. And I think what's really cool is that if you don't like one you'll like the other because they are so different. I personally love them both. And yeah, incredible work there. I'm always very happy when my mind has been blown. So yeah, basically that was subliminal magazines first issue. That was our standout pieces. But the other pieces are absolutely amazing as well. So I mean, this is a mag, you need to absolutely follow because I can see great things in the future. And I for one cannot wait to carry on and see the next issue.
So now we have a guest on our show, which we are really excited. So jack, if you'd like to introduce them.
So our next guest is Neha from Authylem. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Yeah, sure. It's lovely to be here. Thank you for having me. I'm Neha. I'm 17. I'm a high school senior in Kansas in America. And I am really excited to talk about Authylem today. It's my magazine for my senior capstone project at school, I'm in a program where I can do an independent study program for a year. And I've been editing for another literary magazine that's local for four years now. So I'm really excited to get to delve into the genre of literary magazines and get to understand them a bit better. So Authylem is the word itself is a mix of authentic and ylem, meaning the primordial matter of the universe. And I chose this word because I like the idea of getting at the genuine sort of origins of stories. And I like to find out what makes a story and what people have to say in a really diverse way. And yeah, I wanted to make this magazine because of my project, but because I also was really excited to find out how literary magazines form. I've only been on the side of working with a team before. So I never had to make stuff from scratch and never had to build a following. And it's been really great. I've had a lot of support. And it's been really lovely.
So Neha, you're 17 now, so presumably, you go into this literature world quite young, if you've been working for about four years. So how did you sort of get into the word? How did you fall in?
I've always loved reading and writing to preface I've been a really prolific reader from a really young age. And that's just been like a part of my life writing I got into when I started typing, I don't like to handwrite things. So when I started to type when I was around 11 ish, I started to write more. And I really enjoyed it. And I found that it was actually fun when I didn't have to write on paper. And I started volunteering at the library. When I was around 12/13. It was at the end of my eighth-grade year. And I was transitioning to high school and I had to do community service projects to like get the requirements for graduation and stuff. So I started, I started early, and I wanted to really get on foot of that. So I thought the library was a good choice, because I have a lot of team volunteers. And I loved library in general, I think libraries are a really important part of the community. And I think that they are such a great resource for all sorts of kinds of people. And they're like really lovely. I was just a normal volunteer, I sort of helped with shelving. And I helped with a lot of teen events and like kid events. So like, there's a like a passport program at my library. And then we just kind of like had a bunch of like fun science programs and stuff like that to teach kids. So it was more of an event planning sort of job, it wasn't really more of a books kind of job. But from that I made a lot of librarian friends. And then I found out about Elementia, which is a teen literary magazine run by the library. It's grant-funded and stuff. So it's like very professional, but it's all run by teens. And it's for teens as well. We only accept teen works. And I really enjoyed working with that team, I still work with that team, we have a new issue coming out this year, even so it's been really fun learning about magazines from that way. I also got involved with another library program, which is called lit up. It's a books and art festival. And I still help plan that program. But it's a different library branch. And just yeah, I've been involved with these things from a young age because I like to find opportunities.
Well you've definitely got a passion. And that's just fantastic to see. What's the sort of experience been like editing, specifically your mag in comparison to other editorial experience you've had so far?
Yeah, different than I thought it would be. Authylem is run by me and only by me for now, I would prefer to have a team. But for my senior project, I don't want to put the work on other people. So I'm doing everything on my own. And I actually have found a community of like one person run lit mags around Twitter. So I'm not alone. But I am like doing everything on my own. And it's been a lot different because I am deciding things from the get go. So I've had to kind of like figure out what works for me. And when it comes to just figuring out like what guidelines I'm making for my submissions, what things I want to see what things I don't want to see. I'm just like figuring out like my selection process. So to preface for Elementia we have a two-round selection process where we do one round of yes or no to sort of weed out the mass amount of submissions that we can't accept because we get a lot of submissions we get around like 800 ish submissions and it's, we can't include that many. So each piece is assigned to three editors and then they say yes or no. And if it gets two that say yes, it moves on to the second round. Normally, in the second round, we have around 150 ish pieces to weed out. And everybody reads these pieces. So the entire team of like 15 ish editors reads these pieces, and then we weed down to about 60 ish pieces from that. And that second round is on a sort of rubric kind of style. It's not a rubric rubric. It's more like just like guidelines to like, think about style, think about how the writing for flows. Think about, like, does it address a theme. I like literary magazines that have themes because I think they have more narrative presence, they read more like an anthology, or like a book, I think, like, ones that don't have themes are really cool too, because they can be more like broad, and you can see what people submit. But personally, I just want to run ones that have themes, because I feel like readers enjoy it more as well as creators. So if it addresses the theme, then it moves on as well. And elements, at least for my magazine as well. But yeah, in Elementia, we have to weed it down to about 60 ish, but it's a lot more discussion-based because we have a team of editors. And in my magazine, I'm finding that I'm having to have a discussion with myself, which is kind of funny, because I have to make kind of sorts of comments around the pieces and then kind of come back to them later. Because I don't want to my first impression to be the final judgment, because I know from experience from Elementia, that my first impression is almost never the impression that actually goes through with pieces. I do trust my gut. But in the end, like I have to go back and reread pieces over and over again, to really get a sense of what they are. So I often make comments, I don't do a two round selection process, I just kind of look at the pieces as they are, especially because I'm doing them as they're coming in for Elementia, I usually wait until the deadline to look at pieces at all. Whereas with Authylem, I'm having to get onto jumping because there's so many pieces right now I have 180 ish, and my submissions still haven't closed yet. They close in about 20 ish days. So I really do have to keep continue working on them right now. And I mostly just kind of make comments and come back to them. But I am trying to think about other things too, because I want to figure out like, if there's a rubric that would work better for this, since I don't want my bias to cloud things. But with bias even then I usually I know my own biases, like I don't really love hair stories anymore, like stories that talk about hair, because I see them so often in Elementia. So I have to force myself to like reread those kinds of stories and just kind of, I take them in for what they are rather than for what I think about them as a single person rather than like a reader.
Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I mean, I know at Full House, we're definitely talking about expanding our editorial team and getting some more submission editors on board, because Jack and I are only two voices. And it means unfortunately, unintentionally and unconsciously, we will have a bias towards certain pieces, like not meaning to whatsoever. But that's just you know, what's going to happen. So we definitely think maybe there is something in having a slightly bigger team. And then maybe that will allow more diverse voices to sort of shine through that otherwise, Jack and I might not have seen beauty in. So I mean, I know for one, we're definitely wanting to expand our submissions editorial team. So if that is something you are interested in, and you would like to join us at Full House looking through submissions, then please do keep your eyes peeled for that. Because we'll be you know, releasing some details soon. But yeah, it's an interesting point. What do you think about that Neha? Do you think it maybe is better to be in a team? Or can you sort of, you know, push aside your biases working just as an individual?
Oh, yeah, I do think it creates a bit of a challenge for voices. Because when you only have that one or two person point of view, even though like you are trying, and I'm trying as well to like see different kinds of angles and perspectives. And I think that editors can really, like get at that angle and really see different perspectives in a way that some people might not be able to just because they haven't had practice. But even then, like, we are still human. So we still have our own biases, implicit bias and stuff like that. And it does create a bit of a challenge for diverse voices. So I think that as editors, we have to like really actively be searching for those kinds of voices that we want to include, and the voices that we might not think of first of all, like in the first place and make sure that they get represented even then I think that sometimes like it can help to get other points of views like even if you just like ask a friend like hey, can you take a second look at this piece? Like make sure that I'm not missing anything? And just yeah, stuff like that.
Yeah, I mean, definitely including diverse voices can be a challenge sometimes. Definitely for me and Jack, its something that is always at the forefront of our minds, because we would just hate to be closed-minded in any way and then miss the chance to share such an amazing writer such an amazing voice. So I mean, that's definitely one of our biggest challenges and something that we are always striving to be better at. But another challenge we find super hard is actually rejecting people like it absolutely breaks our heart every time we have to say no and it's I honestly I hate it so much but unfortunately it is a part of the process. Neha, we're wondering, you know which part of being editor is the bit you struggle with most?
I agree actually. I haven't sent out very many rejections yet still solely because like, I don't want to make final decisions on some pieces until like, I can really think about them as a magazine. So like, I want to keep them till the end most of the time, but I've been trying to do personalized reductions so far. I know that won't work long term. So I want to switch to form reductions at some point. But I actually am finding that sending up personalised ones is a lot softer, I'm finding it like I don't mind as much because I really want the writers to get better. And I really want them to feel loved and appreciated as creators themselves, even if they might not be the best fit for my magazine, and they might not be the fit I'm looking for right now.
Oh, yeah, I mean, personalized rejections are just absolutely fantastic. They take ages. But Jack, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes, you know, we have considered especially at the beginning, and thinking oh shall we just do like a standard rejection. But it just means so much more, I think to the writer, when you can actually like clearly speak heart to heart person to person, rather than just sending like an automated cookie-cutter response. And it's something that we always strive to do for as long as possible, and hopefully forever. And it definitely is you're right, it just adds you know, that personal touch, and it just goes to show that you know, you've read that person's work, and you've given them the time of day, but obviously it is really hard if you're really busy. And you have a lot of submissions. But if you can do it, it does go a long way.
My magazine for reference prioritizes new voices and like people who haven't been published yet, young voices, as well. So I think that being able to send out precise reductions, if you can, is really nice, because it uplifts people who might not have the backbone of getting a bunch of rejections yet. But even then, like I actually don't mind form reductions too much, because I know that it can come off as cold. But they also do kind of build up that backbone. Like I've gotten a ton of form reductions myself as a submitter, and with Elementia, we send out form directions as well. I don't I'm not personally involved with that. But I do know, I have like seen emails and like most the time, they are fairly nice. It just I just feel cold, though. So I'm glad to be able to send out personalized ones,
Definitely and at Full House, we always try and promise at least three paragraphs. And we just think it's just a nicer way to do things. Because some of the times is such small things that hold us back from being able to publish it like it's little things like that language needs to be tightening, or there's a more interesting way that they could say this thing, and we don't want to publish it because we want to give them the chance to make it even better than it can be. And then we'd rather have them send it to us then. And then we can publish it knowing that they've gone away. And they've said, oh, you know, I really yeah, I agree with this edit, or I don't actually agree with this edit. And then we'd rather have it back and publish it then. But yeah, sometimes it's such a small thing. So I was wondering Neha, did you do you have the same experience where sometimes it's just really small things that stop the piece being able to be published by you?
Yeah, so often, it's like a small thing. And that kind of breaks my heart because I don't have the time to work with every submitter to get them to improve and like get a new version. But a lot of the time, it is really just a couple of lines here and there. Or it's that they have it, they have a really great starting idea, but they haven't developed it completely. That's actually the main thing that I find is that a lot of people send me pieces that like I think are works in progress, really. And that they I don't want to publish it right now. Because I think that they could really improve it and do better and even send it off to another magazine. But yeh most of the time it's stuff like that a lot of times also, for me, at least its the theme, because a lot of my pieces aren't addressing my theme of language very well. And I don't really want to include pieces that take away from the reading experience in that way, even though they're lovely pieces. And I really do enjoy them. Other times it is actually the language as well, I think you mentioned the word choice, I guess, or the tone of like writing style sometimes could just be better. Like you could have a couple of changes here and there. And it would be a lot smoother, it would be a lot more evocative. Yeah, I rarely I actually very rarely I reject pieces based on the content. Because I feel like you can write about anything as long as you do it really well. And yeah, I just want people to be their best.
Totally agree with you there we're the same in that we want to accept finished products. We would hate to accept something and then say to the author, actually, we've got all these edits and all these changes that we want you to do. Because that's not the conditions under we accepted the piece. And we don't feel like we have enough, you know, creative license and authority to change something that is not ours.
Yes, we wouldn't accept a piece unless it's 100% ready to go because although we're called we call ourselves editors we're editors of the publication. We're not really editors of people's pieces. Like it's not really our place to make suggestions on other people's art especially when so many of them come from such a personal place.
Yeah, that's a good point to make actually because I know we call ourselves editors but in reality we're more readers or selectors would be a better term, viewers even. Because we don't actually most of time at literary magazines, we don't actually edit pieces actively, I've occasionally emailed a couple of submitters to ask them to change a line here or there because I really loved the piece. And I don't want to let it go. But for the most part, yeah, I don't edit pieces, really, I just look at them and take them for what they are, which is why if I do have feedback, it's usually a rejection. And that happens with Elementia too, because we don't have the time to actually go in and like fix pieces. I'm not so sure about the authority of having that sort of sort of power, I guess. Because I do, I do like to help people improve. And I do think that like, if I'm sending it out, it's usually relatively helpful, at least if they choose to accept it or not, because I know, a lot of writing is so subjective, that I don't want to think that I am the final say, as well. But yeah, for the most part, I take pieces for what they are, and I don't really want to work with work in progress, I guess, like it really shouldn't be a finished piece you're submitting it. And I think that saying no to pieces that aren't finished pieces, helps them improve on the long term.
And switching gears slightly. We know you spoke a lot about libraries earlier on, and they've obviously been such a massive part of your life, we'd love to know, your views on you know, are libraries still important, or, you know, there's online methods now, like, you know, Kindles and online books?
Oh, yeah, that's a good question. Um, I love libraries. I'm a big fan of libraries. I think they're a really important central point of society in general, to be honest, I know not all countries and cultures have libraries. But having resources like that are really important to communities that I've witnessed, at least, actually, that kind of ties into each other, because libraries also have like online lending systems. And they have other resources too, like, I love them for the books, of course, and the physical copies of all sorts of resources. But I also love them for how they have event planning programs for the community. They're a really great place for people who are underserved because the community is really lovely. And they have so many different kinds of like programs to help out and really get people back on their feet. Yeah, I actually do prefer physical copies, I'm sitting in front of a really massive bookshelf collection right now. But I do think that online copies are really accessible. And I think it's good that they're becoming more accepted and modernized, because physical copies are so expensive to print. And they are kind of a waste of paper sometimes. So it's good to have both options.
I don't know, I feel like when I was a little kid, like really small, I adored going to library, and it was the most magical thing in the world, you'd get your really cool library card with the interesting design on. And it was like this whole amazing place. And you have to be so careful with your copies, you don't want to rip the pages because they weren't yours. And it was just such a gorgeous place to be and exist. But I feel like the magic is gone now I'm older honestly, and not because I love libraries any less. But nowadays, I feel like they are just used as study spaces, these vessels and these waiting rooms. And I think nowadays, people are missing out on that experience of, you know, holding something that so many other hands have held and reading these powerful words.
Libraries are really kind of centered around kids and a lot of ways like there's a lot of programs for kids to make them really love literacy and like love reading. And yeah, like designs, like library card designs are really fun. I remember there were like cute dragon designs and stuff. And I was a kid. But yeah, I guess they are becoming more study spaces. Like all my friends who asked they always asked me what library for context. They like to ask me, oh, when is the library opening up again, because I work with them. But they always ask about the study spaces in general, because there's really nice facilities at my local libraries that like are really nice study areas are like really quiet. But yeah, I do think that's when the magic is being lost. But I also don't think that's really a bad thing about them. Because I think that kids are still finding them really magical, like, I worked with kids a bit when I volunteered at the library. And kids still loved library as a play space and to pick up books as well. Like I see that all the time. So I'm not too concerned about that. It's kind of sad right now, at least because libraries are really closed off due to the pandemic. But other than that, I think it's okay that we are kind of being distanced from libraries as adults, at least because I do think that it makes them more of a safe space for kids even.
And yeah, I mean, that's the beauty about a library, right? It's the space where you can come in, and you've got this whole world around you where you can be safe to choose anything to not be afraid to, you know, try new genre, meet new characters, and I think that's so beautiful. I mean, do you remember anything about like your first time in the library or anything like that, what it meant to you?
I'm not sure. Actually, I I can't really remember the first time but I remember a library that I used to go to as a kid flooded a couple years ago, which was really sad, they rebuilt it in all but I remember there were these big windows in the back of the kids section, and I would sit in them and read in them. And I would pick out like a bunch of like random novels like things that just caught my attention. A lot of Choose Your Own Adventure novels on Nancy Drew stuff like that. Um, but yeah, I remember talking to librarians. I guess they knew they knew me by name to reference because I went there so often. And I remember there's a little basket of stickers by desk and I would pick one out every time. And yeah, that's my memories, I guess.
Definitely! And so this reaches the end of our section with you. But thank you so much, Neha, you've been an absolute delight to have on and we have loved hearing about your experiences with your different magazines and your editorial experience and your love of library.
Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed this. And I hope your podcast does really well. I think it's a really lovely project that you're doing.
Okay, so our next guest is a really exciting author who is breaking into the literary world at the moment. James Lilley from South Wales. He is an incredible force and moment, and we're so happy to have you on the podcast, James. So if you would like to introduce yourself.
Thank you. So my name is James Lilley, I'm from Swansea, South Wales, I've worked as a network engineer for the last five/six years, and I'm an ex-profesional boxer. I am active in sort of MMA and yeah, over the summer lockdown, we've nothing much else to do, I got a bit more into sort of writing and putting some poetry out there. And its sort of taken off a little bit from there.
Okay. James, tell me a little bit about your writing.
I've written sort of poetry since I was seven or eight. I've got my grandparents have got like one of my first ever poems framed up on the wall in the houses.
I sort of wrote a poem for like a school competition or something within, the local paper. So I've always written it, but I've never used it. I've always thought of just you know, a little hobby, never thought any more of it. But with the summer lockdown, you know, I wasn't in work, no gyms are open. There were no fights happening. So I started taking it a bit more serious and finding I had more time to do it. And I got to speaking to a gentleman called Matthew MC Smith, who runs black bough poetry. And he encouraged me said, oh, you should just submit that. And yeah, since then, um, I've had quite a lot of success with different sort of zines publishing my work. And I've just signed a book deal with close to the bone poetry for them to publish a chapbook next year.
Oh that's great!
Oh wow, congratulations!
Yeah, thank you. It's been a bit of a roller coaster as I've said. It was something I just thought was just a little hobby of mine, you know, like, I'd write a little story, I'd write a bit of poetry. And since, you know, I taken it, like I said, a bit more serious, it just seems to have built up quite quickly. And it's gone from one extreme to having not a single poem published to having this book deal on the table.
Wow, that is incredible.
It was a bit! It was only last week that I was sent the contract and I still haven't quite got my head around. I'm going to have a book published you know someone wants to put my work out there.
That does sound like a crazy turn of events. So concept wise, what sort of content you usually deal with in your poetry? Or do you? Or is it like quite a mix?
I'm quite heavily influenced being from Swansea, I'm quite heavily influenced by Dylan Thomas, I remember we studied it for sort of my a level, English literature. And, you know, the poetry evokes all its hometown, nature kind of stuff. So in the beginning, I was writing, you know, poetry about sort of, like, you know, the sky at night, Swansea in the blue hour, different sort of elements of sort of nature and things that inspired me, but being sort of on Twitter and then picking up other sort of publications like yourself, Versification, I notice all these different and sort of more modern poetry that I wasn't aware of, and I started writing more sort of gritty stuff, you know, more real life stuff about you know, depression and loss, addiction and anger, rage, and, you know, and when I when I came across Versification, its been a big help, I managed to sort of change to sort of micropoetry. Sort of five line poetry and stuff that really hits you like a punch, you know, you read it and it takes your breath away, and I seem to have got a knack for it and I started speaking to another author, Amy Muller and Stephen Golds over at close to the bone, and they were like, yeah, you know, you've got a little bit of talent. I still love writing about, you know, the nature and you know, the sky and stuff because I think the world is breathtaking. I don't think you can write enough about the world. But it seems that the gritty stuff is what people are enjoying of mine and I've gone down that road for a moment, but I'm quite open and no, I got lots of influences. Picking up more and more sort of indie books and looking at older issues and just sort of changing myself style to suit what type of poetry I want to write.
Okay. Okay, yeah, that makes sense. Have you got any favorite publications that you've been looking at recently?
I read quite a few to be completely honest with you. Um, and I do it more to see other people's style of writing because I think if you sort of blocked yourself into sort of one corner, you limit yourself. Versification was one, I've got quite a few poems in, I think I've been featured every month since September, October. And yeah, it's sort of, they're kind of my, my favorite go to at the moment, cuz they seem to be doing really quite well with the dark and gritty stuff. But I'm also just like, I read through some of your guys stuff, or basically, punk noir magazine, close to the bone, you know, I like to, I can read all sorts of different types, you know, the only the only one I haven't managed to, write myself is more sort of romantic ones, I'm not, I'm not big on the most sexulized ones, bit worried my nans gonna see it or something.
Okay, that's really interesting, it's really great to hear that, you know, coming new into the scene, you're not afraid to, like try out different, more experimental, more rebellious types of magazines. So I think that's really cool. One thing we have to sort of ask you about is a lot of your hobbies and like, career based things seem very like centred on the hands, although they're quite obviously different motions, you have to have like a sense of control over you know, when you're writing you, you're more nimble, maybe, if you're typing and you're more controlled, like with the hand movement, when your boxing, you're more aggressive, and they operate slightly differently. So we're wondering how that feels for you, and how you sort of, like manage the different sensations physically?
Yeah, it's quite a strange thing, I'm quite, quite calm, when it comes up to a fight. Although everyone gets the nerves that I've learned over the years, you know, I've had quite a few fights and I have pushed them down and you know, use them as a tool rather than sort of hindrance myself. And I think, because of that, when I'm sort of writing, you know, I'm not so good anymore with a pen, unfortunately, because my hands ache a little bit so I am more of a typer now. But I'm quite relaxed while I'm doing it. And I think it's because I've had to diffuse from sort of fights, I'm nervous when I submit a poem, nervous when I get back from a publication. But yeah, and it's given me sort of like a bit of confidence, because I've taken from sort of the fight game, and I'm all or nothing. So when training for fights I'm 100%, I've got to do this fight, this diet, I've got to do my training, and I'm a bit like that with the writing and if I've got a goal, I'm going to sit down, and like scribble a few words on paper quickly, an idea pops in my head, but then most of the time, I'll type it out, because I'm used to network engineering. And it's a bit a bit softer on my hands because of the damage over the years.
So, regarding your experiences as a boxer and a father, how does that does that shine through in your work?
I find I find it difficult to write about fighting, I got a couple of poems accepted. I often think because there's so much, although I don't think there's much sort of poetry about actual fighting, there's quite a lot of sort of novels and books and films about fighting, I think, I often think that I'm going down sort of a road that's already been covered. So I find it quite difficult to write about boxing. Being a father has helped because my children seem to have got wild imaginations from stories and stuff. So they're always they're always, like, coming up with some crazy story. Singing and dancing. So that kind of puts me in a good mood and it gives me ideas and, you know, I fulfilled the podium of fighting you know, they are kind of separate things, my feelings towards them, and I think my children have helped more with poetry than fighting has. But it is harder to write around when I got my three children sort of running around screaming. I've often got to find a quiet spot in the house to go and write.
Yeah, because we were going to ask you about how you sort of keep all these different elements separate and as Jack was saying, we imagine they sort of intermingle in some areas. And so how, what's your sort of writing space like and how do you sort of transfer from okay, I'm a father, okay, I'm a writer now.
Yeah, it's very difficult. If I'm, if I'm honest, it was always difficult sort of training, boxing, work and family life, you know, I I'm always, you know, I always seem to have like long days, you know, it's an hour commute to and from work and the gym on the way that's an hour, maybe two hours difficult. And then you've got to give enough time to family because I've got quite young children to their bed times are early so if I'm not home, if I'm not home certain times, obviously I'm gonna miss out on seeing them. So it's always been a little bit difficult to try and juggle them. So, yeah, I usually wait. My youngest boy gets up quite early and he is downstairs having his breakfast and I open up my laptop and write a couple of pages early doors or wait until they've gone to bed and write after they've gone to sleep. It's usually a late night one/early morning for me.
We wanted to ask you if you have any favourite pieces you’ve ever written and also how do you feel about reading out your work and performing because you know as a boxer you would have, you know you are in a performance state and stage so does that is that similar to you know reading poetry, how does that translate?
My favourite piece I’ve written is one called Autumn Kiss and basically I was down the park with my daughter one night, she wanted to see the sunset and sort of the sky just lit up with all these mad crazy different colours of pink and its just something that stuck in my head and I got it down and submitted and it was accepted this year so I’m looking forward to that coming out because it was one that I was quite proud of and one that I had to think about because there were so many different sort of elements to the sky that night. I usually like to write quite raw, write it once and then usually like to just submit it but with this one there was quite a lot of elements and it took me a bit more time so I’m quite proud of that one. Yeh so that’s my favourite piece at the moment. I’m not entirely confident about reading my own poetry out at the moment. I’ve been looking at spoken word but I’m not a big fan of them, and I know I’m used to fighting and sort of big crowds and I used to be on a fighting podcast quite regular so my voice is out there, but its a different feeling trying to read your own work out.
Oh definitely, I mean with poetry, the visual side and the spoken side are two almost completely different sort of sections. At Full House we are going to play around with doing some open mics hopefully so we’ll try and get some people to read.
What have you been reading recently, like in terms of any books?
I’m doing an open uni course at the moment on creative writing and I’ve been reading Charles Dickens, a christmas carol, and christmas stories and I was only meant to read sort of the main story, a christmas carol, but I found all the other stories around christmas because we’ve just come out of the holidays and its quite interesting and so thats what I’m reading at the moment. And I bought a collection of R.S Thomas’ poetry, someone recommended him to me, and I’d heard of him but I’d never read much of his work and he’s sort of a bit more god-fearing than Dylan Thomas was so it’s a nice little change and he is welsh again so.
That is definitely cool, and I mean I’m under the impression that and a lot of people say that the more you read, the better writer you become. And I have to say I think I agree with that! How do you feel about it James?
Yes definitely, I’m a big sort of reader. I haven’t read as much lately because I’ve spent quite a lot of time writing but we’ve always got sort of between myself and my wife a different book to be reading between us or swap. But yeh you pick up little tricks from some writers and what I find as well is a lot of the time I worry about grammar when you are writing a conversation between two people and how you describe how they are speaking but different authors have different methods so it’s not sort of set in stone. I think that helps, knowing that there isn’t strict around how it is in a novel or a story.
So thank you so much for talking to us James, this has been really interesting hearing about how you balance the different aspects of your life and how you’ve come into writing in a sort of later point in your life but that hasn’t stopped you excelling in anyway and it seems like this is something maybe you were always mean to do and I think this is a really good lesson in that you should never be afraid to start anything in your life because it is never too late, there is always that option there. So thank you so much for telling your story!
If anyone else is out there and they are not too sure about what they should do with their work, I would say submit it, even if you get a rejection you should get some good feedback about the work so yeh keep chasing your dreams guys! You are never too old!
That is such great advice and one that everyone needs to hear for sure. Thank you so much James.
Thank you for having me guys, it’s been lovely.
Wow so I mean I’m a bit blown away. So we’ve just heard from someone, our firsts guest Neha, who was really young when she got into writing and then we’ve heard from James who fell into it much later on in life and it was so interesting seeing their different perspectives on that and I know I couldn’t have wished for two better for guests! I don’t know about you Jack.
Yeh it was really amazing hearing the perspectives of other writers in the community.
So that closes out part A of our podcast, it has been a blast and we’ve just got so much more to say that we are going to have to run onto part B! So thank you for joining us for part A.
And be sure to check out part B where we speak to Ollie Charles from Untitled writing. We’ll also close out with our tweet of the week and a news blast.