In this episode, we begin by looking at Journal of Erato's issue 1 and highlight some standout pieces.
We then chat to the wonderful J. Archer Avary, and the fantastic Zoe Brooks.
We finish off with a quick newsblast.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Full House podcast, we're going to be speaking to some awesome people today. And we think you really enjoy the content for this week. So firstly, we're just going to be looking at our community aspect and looking at a few issues that have recently come out or that are a little bit older, but we never got the chance to explore before. And we just really like the missions of what these magazines are doing. So the first one we're gonna look at is Journal of Erato. And they are a literature journal with focus on creating community among young artists. Here we are, this is on the website, here believe that looking at art and creating art is essential no matter what we're dedicated to making your home for those works, as well as providing inspiration to create. So that sounds fantastic. We absolutely love these guys, fantastic site. The issue that they've put out is so beautiful. And this issue, it came out in May. And they do have another issue coming up in August. But the May issue was too good not to dive into a bit deeper. It's just fantastic. And most all of the pieces are absolutely brilliant. The creativity is amazing. It's so beautifully laid up and put together. And we just wanted to highlight some standout pieces that really caught our eye. And obviously we're really looking forward to seeing what this journal does in the next issue as well.
So the first piece I really loved is 'a place called in Fellini's eye' which is the very first piece that appears. And this is by V. Freeman, and is an absolutely fantastic piece. I love the way this is presented on the page as well like so scattered about and it's been beautifully laid up. But the piece itself is absolutely brilliant. A line that immediately stuck out to me when I started reading it was 'in a pool of Honey Nut Cheerios'. I love little details like that, that are so real and that you can f eel and they are so within reality in that way, and I really enjoy reading them. They're the things that sort of really pull me into the piece. A line that I really enjoyed continue reading is the way that sort of tone works. For example, 'can you tell me what's real about this mundane dead patterned rhyme, cycling through the calendar running it's fingers through my hair.' It's just got such a lovely flow to it. I really enjoy the way this piece is written. It's a really like sort of simple style and the way it's written it's not really really detailed and flowery. It's definitely something that I really enjoy to read. I like the style of writing a lot. Yes, absolutely fantastic. Another segment I really enjoyed was 'The ooz tattoos the side of a sinking clouds voyage. Sunken sillhouettes of motherhood stroll past me, following the laughing trail of the young girl the red umbrella.' I just really like the way that sound is used in this piece as well. In terms of like the repeated letters and sounds, I think it's a really great piece. I really enjoyed reading it. It was something that really like surprised me it wasn't something that I see every day in my expect. So I was really really really pleasantly like happy reading this piece and I am very excited continue to continue checking out for V. Freeman and reading the rest of his work. An absolutely fantastic piece that I will reread many many times.
Another piece which absolutely stands out is a photogenic breakfast by J. Archer Avary. Gosh, this is such a fantastic piece. So it's quite short, so I'm going to read out my favorite lines but it might actually ends up being the whole thing. So 'she revels in a photogenic breakfast', I really liked that opening. So strong. It is the type of sentence that as I say stands out to me because it's not something I've read every day it's really unique. And really pulls me in another line I really liked was 'seeds of chaos take root they thrive amid the handbag clutter'. And then the last sort of segment is 'a receipt is offered she declines' and there's just so much dissect in that tiny little segment. It's just such a little gem of a piece. I absolutely adore it. Definitely one that I would stick on my wall. It's just perfect. I love everything about this piece. Yeah it hits all of my boxes and I highly recommend you check out this one. It's It's fantastic. And J. Archer Avary is fantastic writer. This piece just does absolutely everything for me. I really appreciate the way it's so tight. So well constructed, so cleverly constructed, and I definitely think this is the type of writing that I aspire to write and would love to be able to write so amazing job that really enjoyed that piece.
And then we get some really really lovely photography Pretty in Pink by Caitlin Davis. And this is gorgeous photography. It's the type of photography that I could see on magazines oh it is just absolutely beautiful there are just gorgeous images in there, the way that these photos are taken and the light in which they cast is just brilliant, it is absolutely fantastic work. Yeah beautiful beautiful pieces really stunning and really lovely to come across.
Another standout piece would be take me by Rachael Crosbie, a fantastic piece, Rachael is a fantastic writer. I absolutely adore Rachel's work and this piece is no different. It's got these really gorgeous spaces in between words. It's just it's beautiful to visually look at on the page. And the piece itself is really fantastic. So it starts off with 'take me to a beach teased by waves.' I really love that it's a gorgeous opening line and the whole entirety of the piece is really beautiful. I love the imagery that's used, it is a really tight piece really well constructed piece. I can definitely see why it's been chosen to belong in this issue. is really really gorgeous. I really enjoyed it. I think there's a lot of good language in there. Another line I really like one of the phrases I really like is 'intimate appraisal.' Another one 'bathed in honeyed hues', the sounds in it are gorgeous, it's just so well done. Rachael's done a fantastic job. I really, really loved this piece.
Another piece I really enjoyed was Aura Martin's piece, the song we inhabited, a really, really, really gorgeous piece. And I like the way these are laid up this so beautifully done. It's a really, really stunning issue. Yeah, from start to finish this, this is just a gorgeous issue. Holly has done such a phenomenal job in putting this together. And it's absolutely outstanding. So professional, so clean an absolute joy to flick through. And then so back to Aura's peace. Yeah, it's fantastic is really, really lovely. So the way that this is written, I'm a really big fan of repeated sounds and alliteration. So I really like the line, 'someone within all those syllables something secret, covert, intimate. Means nothing to anyone but me.' I love that line. I think it's really cool, really clean really tight. All the pieces within this issue are so well done. They're just so tightly constructed and there's just nothing there's no faults I can find of any of these pieces. They're just brilliant from start to finish. So the standard of like quality within this issue is immensely high. And Aura's is a perfect example of that really high quality writing is so fantastic Aura's a fantastic writer. This piece was just a pleasure to read. I really liked the last line 'say it again, she whispered' a beautiful ending to this piece. The pieces got a lot of italic lines, which are really lovely. A line I enjoyed was ''this is what I carry in my head for better or worse. Tomorrow when I wake up, I promise I'll be better.' I think this is a piece a lot of people could relate to and really enjoy reading in the way that they'll feel listened to and recognized within this piece is really fantastic. And I highly recommend you check it out.
And then the next piece that really hits home for me is I spy by Ashley Sapp. This is another one that just does such good things of the alliteration and the sounds that are used. This opening paragraph is fantastic. So 'I spy how the weeping willows kiss the wet ground, heavy, and I think of how this is a happy little accident.'' And this oh, this is such a great piece. I love this piece. The repetition of the I spy and the different phrases is fantastic. This piece for me is just absolutely perfect. I love the different lines, I've read this piece a lot of times and each segment is just so gorgeous, the as the times I go back and reread it different words stick out at me, I like the way that the ideas are explored. I think this is a really really great piece. I think my favorite segment is 'I spy the stray cat on the fence and name him after he is gone, tired, but observing' yeah, so really fantastic piece. I love the observations that it makes in the world and how it explores them yeah, so really great piece I highly recommend you check this one out. Definitely one of my favorites and standout pieces from this issue.
Another piece I really enjoyed was a dialogue between two archaeologists by Isla O'Neill. Yeah, this is great. This is so great. I like the way this is formatted in this really interesting shape. And I'll read out the first bit that really drew me in so 'did you know that if bones are left for millions and billions of years (mrs. antonelli said) they turn into stones'. Yes, fantastic. A lot of it is these short sentences short lines they're just words towards the end of it. Yeah, it's really really fun. It's such a clever piece. I really admire this piece it is so confident so clever. So well constructed. I'd love to write pieces like this. I think it's fantastic. A favorite standout of mine is the way that exclaim is written with an x and then claim oh it is just brilliant. This piece is so clever. Yeah, I'm just in awe of how clever a writer Isla is, it is a brilliant, brilliant piece and I'm so thankful I got the chance to read it. Yeah, I this is again, this is a wall piece. Definitely would stick this in my wall. I mean, by the end of just reading this issue alone I've got I've collected a whole new bunch of wall pieces. So that just tells you everything you need to know about this issue.
Another piece I really enjoyed was inside my home by Nosakhare Collins. Yeah, this is a great piece. Again, it's not entirely like really long, but it's a really tight short piece. And those are the pieces that grab my attention. And this is exactly the type of piece that does that. So lines that really stuck out to me as being so bold, so unique and something like I've never heard before is lines like long as like 'a lake is covered in smoke' And then 'I'm trying to relive myself, but I can't I'm here with this mystery where it opens its wide mouth to consume what's left of my body.' Yeah, it's just so impactful in the way it's written, I really really enjoyed this piece. It's one that I you know, I've read a couple of times this one, and it just every time I read it, it really sticks out to mean a different line just hits me. It's so powerful. I love every aspect of this piece. And it was a really really enjoyable read and I'm so glad I stumbled across this piece and this fantastic writer. Um, so yeah, it was definitely a great find from this issue.
Another piece I really liked was Caroling on the moon by Julie A.Larick and this has got some gorgeous lines in and I was just mesmerized reading this piece. The language is fantastic. I just felt so drawn into it so for example, the first line is gorgeous. 'The starry wide-eyed girl opens her mouth to chirp in space, her puckered lips a robin's beak, lightning notes, leaving in harmony', just fantastic. Like I'm blown away by that, it is so beautiful. And then this gorgeous imagery continues across the piece. Another line I really enjoyed was 'and she watches the smattering of stars which cocoon her like a gentle lullaby.' Yeah, it's just so beautiful. I love this piece. This is a gorgeous, this is the final piece in the issue. And it's such a beautiful and fantastic piece. I love it. So beautiful. And Julie's done such a gorgeous job there is fantastic. This is like the type of thing that I would like read to like a child as they go to bed. It's beautiful. It definitely does feel like this almost lullaby type writing. It's gorgeous. And the language is beautiful. Absolutely stunning from start to finish a beautiful, beautiful piece that I so enjoyed reading.
And then final piece that I absolutely adored was six types of love a pantomime by my grandmother's cat. And this is by Jenna Sumpter. This is such a great piece, I love the way it's laid out formatted. Oh, it's amazing. It's like from the perspective of a cat. And it's separated into 123456 different stanzas, for example, six different types of love. And it's in these different sections all named various things like storage, agape. Yeah, it's brilliant. There was a lot of humor within this piece. If you like cats, you will adore this piece is fantastic. Again, it's so cleverly constructed. And Jenna has done a fantastic job of this piece. And it's not one that's lost in the form, the form really complements the tone, and language in the piece. Everything works so well together. It's a brilliant piece. And I'm so glad to have read, it just puts such a smile on my face. And it definitely will put a smile on your face too. So I highly recommend you check out this absolutely brilliant piece.
And so that brings us to the end of Journal of Erato's first issue. It's beautiful. I loved every second of reading this issue. And I highly recommend you check it out if you just want to be blown away by stunning visuals, stunning tight clever pieces, and really enjoy some reading. This is the type of reading that really ignites me and makes me inspired to write. It just shows you know what writing can do and what creativity can do. All the writers featured in this issue clearly love writing so much. And yeah, that's brilliant. So make sure you check out their issue 2. And they do also have donation links. So do consider supporting them because they're a fantastic issue and a fantastic magazine. So really, really excited to see what Journal of Erato do next.
That was an absolute pleasure checking out that issue. And now we're gonna move on to our first guest and this is going to be J. Archer Avary interviewed by the incredible JP Seabright.
Hello everyone and welcome to the Full House podcast. I'm really delighted that we have with our guest today, J. Archer Avary, the editor in chief of sledgehammer lit mag, who I know many of you listening will be aware of and big fans of certainly us Full House. We were huge fans of what what J. Archer Avary has been doing there. So welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
J Archer Avary 14:45
Thanks for being here. It's a great opportunity, longtime listener first time caller.
Great. Well, well it's really good to have you on and obviously we know you through the work that you do with with sledgehammer, but you're also a writer yourself, of course. And we'll come on to talk a little bit about your most recent publication, which very exciting just just last week launched. But maybe do you want to give us a little bit of a brief intro about how you describe yourself as a, as a writer or a creative if you like.
J Archer Avary 15:16
Well, I feel like I'm an emerging writer, I guess you'd say, because for 21 years, I did journalism. And I wrote plenty of things. But nothing was really creative. It's just kind of making deadline. And then my journalism career edited 2019 when I moved to Guernsey, and I was finally able to sit down and start doing poetry and writing short stories and joining writers groups and things like that. I feel like I'm really starting to kind of hit my stride. So I guess I'm a budding writer, kind of a late, late in life, getting to it, but taking it on with a curiosity of a much younger man, I hope.
Well, that sounds like a good philosophy in life anyway, doesn't it? So? So with the with the creative writing that you've that you're doing now? I mean, maybe this is a stupid question. But how for you, does it differ from the sorts of the writing and the journalism that you were doing? You know, in the previous part of your career?
J Archer Avary 16:14
Well, I worked as a television reporter. So basically, I would go out and interview people and kind of use the sound bites that I bring back, like, as kind of the bones for the interview, and then I'd use the reporter track, I'd have to kind of link it to kind of tell the story. So I really more considered myself a visual storyteller when I was a TV news reporter. But it's also quite formulaic, because you only get, you know, a minute and 30 a minute and 10, you know, 45 seconds to tell a story. So it's really kind of bare bones, kind of formulaic stuff. And, you know, each year, you end up covering the same event year in and year out, there wasn't a lot of challenge to it, other than just handling the workload. And then I feel with writing, you know, stories and poems, like I get to just do whatever I want. And it's like a blank canvas. And I can throw spaghetti at the wall, so to speak, and, and hopefully, come up with something that I'm proud of, and that I like, and if not, you know, the journalism mantra, like, you're only as good as your last story certainly applies. You know, because if I write three bad poems today, I don't really worry about it. I just, you know, write three poems the next day, and hopefully, they're better. And likewise, if I write one great poem, you know, that's just one day and tomorrow, it's another blank page looking at me and I have to just press myself on, because you're only as good as the last one.
Yeah, yeah. Well, I guess that's a good a good approach to have, isn't it? But I'm, I'm curious, because I can imagine, in that line of work with the journalism that you're doing that you probably do come across a lot of interesting life stories, if you like, or a lot of interesting people that you you know, do you find with the stories that you're writing now, or the pieces that you're putting together, you think, oh, yeah, I can I remember that guy I interviewed, you know, back then, and, or it gives you ideas of things that you'd like to explore further?
J Archer Avary 18:05
Definitely, there's some kind of overlap in my journalistic life, but I feel that just kind of the way I am like, it takes me like a decade or two decades distance from something just to process it enough to write about, if it's, you know, at all rooted in factuality. So, you know, a lot of the characters I've come across only kind of are in their fermenting inside the wine that will be poured in 10 years, it's going to be, you know, the the 2030 2040 whiskey that's in there brewing right now. So those characters will make an impact on what I do in the future, I'm sure but i think you know, time is like the number one ingredient for me if I tried to be a writer at age 20, I didn't know anything, you know, like, how is how would I write anything that anyone would relate to? If I didn't even know myself at that age? So think times time is important.
Yeah, yeah. So what what are some of your inspirations at the moment with the writing that you're doing?
J Archer Avary 19:02
Well it is kind of funny, like as a like, I'm just trying to like, be my own poet right? You know, I see at sledgehammer I get all kinds of really amazing poetry coming in. And, you know, there's a temptation there that I want to be like so and so or, or I want to kind of incorporate somebody else's tricks into my own bag of tricks. But for me, it's really just trying to like, be my own voice and kind of take my unique what makes me unique, try to like get that on the page. And I don't know if I'm being that successful yet. I always feel like my, my recent poems are always my favorite, but then, you know, a month away from them, I look back and I realized how much room I have to grow. So in poetry, it's definitely like kind of like a work in progress. I think I haven't, haven't really struck gold, if you will, in terms of, you know, doing work I really love but I think I'm kind of like honing you know, sharpening the pencil trying to sharpen my craft. And, and making it tight and, and try not to be influenced by any anything else but like what's coming out.
Yeah, yeah. And I guess enjoying that process hopefully?
J Archer Avary 20:12
Oh yeah, and it's, it's more fun than anything I really enjoy the fun of, of the poem and if you know if I'm sitting there and I'm struggling with it, you know, and it's not fun that day, I just don't do it, you know, like, I like to write a lot, but also like, you know, if it ceases to be fun, then you know, what's in it for me, right? You know, I like I like it being fun. And I like being productive. And if I'm not being productive, I'll just go have fun some doing something else that day.
Yeah, yeah. So are you one of those writers that feels that you have to sit down and write something every day, or you will kind of go with the flow, if it's there, it's there. And if not, it's not a problem.
J Archer Avary 20:48
Well, I'd love to write every day. I mean, I love to sit down and try. But recently with sledgehammer, kind of, you know, about halfway through the first submission window, it started started to become quite a bit of work. So instead of getting time to write, I was basically, you know, fielding inbox trying to, you know, turn around my submissions, I think, I got to all my submissions for a 91 day window in less than seven days, except for one or two that got diverted to junk mail. And I didn't know about them. But I took care of most most submissions under five days, which I'm really proud about. But at the same time, I kind of sacrificed my time to work on my own things, which is fine, because as a guitar player, too, I noticed every time I put the guitar down for a couple of months, you know, and just forget about it, when I come back to it, I've been able to kind of break through the walls that were kind of fencing me in before in my my guitar playing. So I think you know, with writing you need breaks to to kind of start from scratch again. And then you know, you you see the puzzle and at a different angle. And and that's that's how you grow.
Yeah, kind of guide me to help something to get a bit of distance doesn't it to things. So let's talk about sledgehammer. I want to come back to your work in a bit if that's okay, but let's talk about sledgehammer because we've mentioned it a few times. And obviously, you know, it's a relatively new kid on the block, I guess. And but I think being phenomenally successful, and perhaps largely because of, you know, your work ethic and turning things around and having a very sort of perhaps accepting kind of approach and encouraging sorts of young or emerging writers. What what prompted you to start it and what do you How would you sort of describe its ethos?
J Archer Avary 22:36
Well, I kind of had this idea that I wanted to start a journal, but I didn't know if I could do it, you know, I didn't know how to do it. And then one day, during the lockdown here in Guernsey, my wife and I were taking a walk and in Delancey Park, which is about a half mile from our house, and the name sledgehammer came to me and it had so many different meanings. You know, because everyone loves the sledgehammer video from Peter Gabriel, because it's kind of a mash up of so much imagery and color. You know, and and like the claymation was great. It was like really makes an impression. And then I also thought about the sledgehammer, like smashing down boundaries, and, you know, smashing preconceptions and things like that so and I thought, wow, like sledgehammer literary journal, I'm going to go do that. And so the very next day, I went, and went on Wix, and I bought a website, and I built it. And then I think, two days three days later took me to kind of make it look cool. And I've never designed websites before I was like, oh, this is, this looks really cool. I'll do this, I'll do that. I'll put a doodad here, you know, and then then the next day, I got a Twitter and luckily, sledgehammer lit was available. Both with .com and as a Twitter handle, so I just, I just put it out there. And I didn't know if anyone would send me anything. And then eventually the submission started to trickle in. And, and it was really great stuff. I mean, I have so much kudos for the people that took a chance on a new journal, because I see a lot of journals pop up here and there and and, you know, it takes it takes the breath of life to breathe, breathe it into them. And I'll always appreciate the first people you know, that got their submissions, and because it really breathed life into sledgehammer.
Yeah. And did you did you imagine that it would be this sort of successful that you'd you'd have this kind of volume of submissions. You know, when starting out? Did you did you think you'd still be here with it? You know, because how long have you been now? Is it is it? Six months, roughly?
J Archer Avary 24:38
Yeah, I think I started it on March 7, I bought the domain, and then did the site and I think March 25 we launched content. And I knew I wanted to do daily stuff because I really loved Shawn Berman and the daily drunk because just, you know, just the his candor and his public persona and like how The Daily drunk, you know, put stuff out there every day, I just wanted to be consistent. And you know what I did and know that people could always come around and read something awesome and, and, you know, have a really kind of cool laid back vibe. Now obviously, I'm not trying to copy, Shawn, you know, like his he's in a different lane than me, you know, but definitely inspired a lot by what he's doing over there. And his energies like definitely when I, when I saw the success of daily drunk, I was like, you know what, like, that's really the key to it is being accessible, being fun and and not taking yourself too seriously seemed like the recipe for success. The way I saw it.
Yeah, well, that's great. And and obviously it has has been that success. And I think I think people appreciate that kind of, you know, the fun element, you know that. I mean, obviously, the serious work out there, but you and sledgehammer, that kind of vibe that it gives off is that you're not taking yourself too seriously. And I think the fact that people get, you know, fairly fast responses and honest and helpful responses, you know, as writers makes a huge difference. Sometimes you can submit somewhere and you won't hear anything for three months, or it sort of disappears into a black hole. And you wonder what's happened. So. So I think you're you're really providing, I think, a kind of, you know, a really exciting and vibrant and probably quite a good positive service in a way for emerging writers who are looking for somewhere where their work might fit that it might not have done in conventional journals, or that the old traditional guard if you if you like so. So I think it's great. So what what's what do your plans for the future for sledgehammer or, you know, where do you see things moving in the coming months?
J Archer Avary 26:51
It's it's a really exciting time right now, like in my personal life, I'm leaving Guernsey and moving to the northeast of England, and in about a week's time. So there's a lot going on a lot of moving parts, but also at the journal like, I kind of realized that, you know, this is getting too big for to be a one person project. So I put out the call a couple of weeks ago, for people to join team sledge. And I've had a really great response. And I've picked up a couple of great people along the way, we're looking for kind of a small team, I think we most of the pieces are in place, we might be adding one or two more people here. And then I think in early August, we'll kind of be announcing who all the players are behind the scenes, we're probably going to switch to you know, a Google Forms type submission so that everyone can collaborate on the turnaround of submissions. I really love my spreadsheet that I made, you know, I'm, I'm a Mac guy. And I know I have to like make it easy for everyone. Because I think that will help preserve the quick turnarounds everyone's been so happy about with sledgehammer. But I'm just thrilled to bits with the people that have joined the team so far. And I think, you know, we're going in the same direction, you know, we like to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks kind of mantra. I think everyone's just kind of excited and has a lot of energy to bring to the table. And when subs open on August 20, you know, there's gonna be a whole lot more people in the process, you know, making their mark with sledgehammer. And I couldn't be more excited about that, to just see that, hey, I created something and people want to help out, you know, it's like really made me proud and kind of swell with pride to know that people want to help me realize this little dream I had.
Yeah, no, that's great. And it's that is a great validation, isn't it at all at all the effort you've put into it so far. So just to check that was that August the 20th? You said that subs are open?
J Archer Avary 28:50
Yes. Yeah, August 28. Again, I figured we're going to probably do a window that lasts and to the early days of December, so probably 110 115 days, hot and heavy for you to get your work in. And you know, we published four pieces a day. So you know, we could have a poem about grief alongside a poem about farts. So that's like totally, the sledgehammer way is that it could be almost anything at random on any given day, like flash or poetry or anything in between. And so we're just excited to see what comes in and to keep the website populated with really good stuff. And that's, that's the thing that separates literary journals, you know, is that, you know, you could publish a lot of stuff, but we've been lucky that people have been just blowing us away with what they send us and we just want to keep it going like that.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, that sounds great. And I think that's what people love about sledgehammer. It's the it's that kind of eclecticism as well as the high quality you know, you've managed to kind of really hit that that sweet spot, which is which is brilliant.
J Archer Avary 29:51
We've had the chapbooks submissions right now. So we've been reading, reading through chapbooks submissions, and hopefully probably in early September, we might have a decision on the the inaugural batch of sledgehammer chaps that we're going to release, those will be physical, handmade chapbooks that I'll be making at home. And we'll just kind of see where that goes, you know, it'd be a nice way to collaborate with writers to put a physical product out there, because I know that, you know, as much as people, you know, the proliferation of little online magazines has made it great for writers, but there's nothing like seeing something in print, it's just seems so much more permanent. And people want to get their hands on that. And hopefully, we're going to produce some really cool little books that, that people are going to want to read and take with them to the beach, or bring with them on the metro train on their commute to work. Just Just little companions have the kind of that sledgehammer vibe, but in a little book you can carry around.
Yeah, yeah, no, that's great. I was actually just about to ask you that. Because obviously, you you released your own chap book, as you know, a few months ago, which, which I was very lucky to grab a copy of this sort of limited edition meat drawer? Or is, is that what sort of prompted you to think that actually, this is a direction that you could take a sledgehammer? Or was that always in the back of your mind when you when you produce meat draw?
J Archer Avary 31:13
Well, I was always kinda in the back of my mind, you know, but meat draw was more like, at first I was like, well, I'm going to make a, you know, a little pamphlet or a little chapbook, and just see if I can physically make the book, you know, like, what does it take, you know, like, what formatting? Do I need to like, make it come out? Right, and how hard is it to fold? You know, 12 sheets of paper exactly perfect. Yeah. And, and so I think, you know, I probably should have taken more time working on the content in that book, because it's really nothing very thematically there, aside from a lot of the work relates to Guernsey, the island I'm currently living on. But I was like, Okay, I can do this now. And, you know, now that I've had the experience of making one book, I think, I, I'm pretty confident I can do probably small runs of maybe 10 to 12 and a year, you know, like coming up with one a month and, and hopefully there'll be enough interest that people will, you know, want to subscribe and get like a three month thing where they get the next three books or, you know, do that to kind of put a little bit of wind in the sails to, you know, keep me stocked up with paper and keep ink in the printer and, and also, you know, give some renumeration for the writer because, unfortunately, sledgehammer isn't in a position to pay our contributors as much as we'd love to, if we did, I mean, we published 100 and something pieces a month. So even if we gave, like one pound to each contributor, that's, that's, you know, 160 pounds a month just to give everybody one but the chapbooks will be a good chance that we can, you know, find some way to get some renumeration to the writer, you know, like, it feels great to get paid for what you do. And I don't think it'll be a huge sum for anybody. But being able to say that, hey, I put my chapbook out with sledgehammer and you know, now I'm gonna go take my partner out for a Chinese meal tonight. It's just great. I mean, like, I sold meat draw. And then I took my wife and one of our friends out, we had a Chinese takeout and it was I was just so ecstatic to like, be like, wow, my poems paid for this.
Yeah, yeah, that's good. That's great. And I think it's really exciting development. And I imagine that you'll have a lot of people supporting that. So so. So good luck with that, I think we're interested to see, you know, that that direction that sledgehammer takes, you know, alongside your sort of core core work, but aside from the poetry chapbook, you've also just published a prose novella. The dog sitter, I think, was published by the daily drunk, is that right? Or the sort of publishing arm of the daily drunk is to talk us through that?
J Archer Avary 34:08
Well, I was, you know, Twitter's like, great for writers. You know, I had like, no idea there were people like me out there until I kind of got onto Twitter and said, wow, there's like a whole kind of positive, upbeat corner of social media where people, like, share their works and talk about writing. And you know, like, there's all these journals out there you can submit to it kind of was like a, like a mind blowing moment for me to realize that was going on. And then one day, digging through Twitter, I wrote the story that was too long to submit to most places, and too short to be like a novel, right? And then I remember whining to my wife, I'm like, Oh, I wrote this thing. And that just can't end it, you know, so I let it run its course. And I was just very upset and disappointed that I had this, you know, 10,000 word, story, this behemoth that no one ever is going to read online. And I just put it up. And then one morning, I see that Shawn from the daily drunk, got drunk and said, hey, maybe I shouldn't be doing this because I'm a little buzzed but how about a 24 hour call for novellas, and I'm sure that he was inundated with dozens, if not hundreds of novellas to come through. And about a month later, I got the word that he liked mine and wanted to put it out for free on the daily drunk. And I said, Yeah, that's great. And then, you know, I said, Hey, do you mind if I print, you know, some physical copies via sledgehammer? And he said, yeah, that's cool. So it's for free on the daily drunk for anyone in the world to read. I encourage you to go over there and check it out. There's a lot of great stuff that they're putting out with their chap books and novellas and things. And then, you know, if you like it, you can get a copy for me, like, and I can, you know, take all my friends out for a Chinese takeout and feel amazing.
In, in the northeast, as opposed to Guernsey yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, congratulations on that. And that, that must be quite exciting. And, and, you know, maybe maybe you'll have novellas in your chapbook submission. So it could be that that's also something that that comes out of sledgehammers as well. But, yeah, yeah.
J Archer Avary 36:15
we have our eye on, you know, some big things, you know, let's say you got to crawl before you walk. And so I think, you know, the chapbooks will be good, but, you know, I've got my eye on some big things in terms of, you know, like, seeing, like, a real book, come off the press, you know, I think, you know, that's something that, uh, that I'm definitely aspiring to being able to publish some some actual, like, proper collections of poetry or or maybe even be so ambitious to do a big short story collection from kind of an up and coming writer.
Yeah, yeah, that's, that sounds really exciting. Exciting. sky's the limit, really, isn't it? It's just yeah, you know, time quite quite often. So what are you working on? At the moment? I mean, that you made it you know, you said that obviously, you've been really busy with sledgehammer not been able to do so much of your own writing, but what what are some of the kind of creative pieces that you're working on yourself at the moment?
J Archer Avary 37:07
Yeah, I don't have much time right now, the house is all packed up in the boxes. So you know, right now, it's like operation Newcastle is to get you know, get everything packed up, leave Gurnsey, leave a tidy apartment behind, and then make sure we get our deposit back from our landlords, you know, sell the cars, all that stuff. But, uh, when we're writing, in my writing, you know, what was so refreshing about the dog sitter was that I didn't overthink it, you know, it basically spilled out of being like three or four days, you know, and it basically was ready to go as a first draft. You know, the way the way it is on the book, there's is pretty much a first draft with just me reading it a few times and looking for typos. I didn't have to really change much. It just came out fully formed as a story. And I didn't outline it or anything. But I did work on a longer work in the 2020 year, once we've got first lockdown, I basically wrote a long novel. And it was very much kind of outlined, and things like that. But it also kind of took shape organically where I started writing, hopefully at 1000 words story that turned into like, oh, wow, here's what I want to have happen next night outlinned this whole complicated novel, but I kind of like, hesitant to go back at it. Because it's going to be a lot of work, because I have to rewrite the beginning. And then I know what the ending is going to be. But I wanted to write the ending last, so I can have that euphoric rush of like, I finished a novel, right the time Yeah. At the end. Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. So it's just like, you know, to, you know, maybe when we get to the northeast, and you know sledgehammers operating with a full crew of people to help keep the magazine going, then I can maybe dig back into that and finish it, because there's a boost of confidence that you get when you see like, a physical book with your name on it. And that's, those are my words on those pages. Yeah. And I think, you know, having that rush, you know, and my wife said it to me, she's like, you know, I know you're gonna finish that novel now. And, and I was like, yeah, you know, you're probably right. Because, you know, like, I want to feel that thrill of, you know, having a book launch and you know, like, just seeing it opening the box and seeing it and, and hopefully, people liking it and things like that. So.
Yeah. Well, yeah, I'm sure you will, because you've achieved so much already, you know, in a short amount of time with with sledgehammer and your chapbook. And then of course, now the dog sitter, which was, which was launched just just last Friday, or Thursday, I think last Thursday. Yeah. Did that did that go? Well, you weren't you were pleased with that. So you were able to at least to have a physical launch, not just do everything online.
J Archer Avary 39:52
Yeah, it was great. It was great. The local library here the library Gurnsey like they had like a little writers group and through that I met some people at the library when when the book was finished because I did workshop the story in the workshop, like, wow, that's from our, from our group, you should do the launch at the library. And so I did and then I thought about having Shawn Berman zoom in, and he's a character. And he came in it was a lot of laughs you know, kind of a small crowd, maybe a dozen or so. We had pretty much we brought a case of champagne along so we basically have one bottle per attendee and, and then, when it was over, we just kind of migrated down to the pubs and then I, my head hurt the next day for some reason. I can't I can't remember why. But yeah, it was just a great night.
Sounds like a perfect book launch. Well congratulate you again on that. I don't know if Would you like to read us a little bit from from the dog sitter or perhaps some of your other work. So we those who haven't read it, or it would be further encouragement to check it out the daily drunk or to purchase a copy directly from you.
J Archer Avary 41:01
Yeah, I'll go ahead and read a little passage here. It's basically this guy, Evan Barlow is deli worker and his boss kind of convinces him against his better judgment to take care of her Labradoodle. And this is when he goes over to her house to get the keys and find out where she keeps all the treats. And it's describing his boss. 'Tessa emerged as if out of nowhere dressed in a black triangle top bikini. Evan almost choked on his whiskey. There was a lot of skin on display. Does it look that bad? She said feigning embarrassment. I have so many swimsuits. I don't know which ones to take. Since you're already here. I was hoping you might help me decide which ones are most flattering to my figure. Tell me the truth. How do I look? Evan was instantly uncomfortable. Tessa hardly acted like it but she was his boss and there would always be a power dynamic at play. He never considered her outside the confines of their professional relationship. Never seen her wearing anything besides the faded blue jeans travatos, polo shirts, red and white striped aprons she wore at work. Evan looked her up and down. She didn't immediately strike him as his type. Her dog rey eyes were droopy, almost mornful set to close together. A delicate and slightly upturned nose presided over a deep and pronounced philtrum giving her upper lip a buoyant appearance as it struggled to contain her oversized front teeth. Her skin was clean and unblemished, simultaneously radiating youth in warmth which diverted one's attention from her shrinking chin and chubby cheeks. Her hair was the salon engineered shade of polished mahogany tempered with a swatch of complimentary highlights and lowlights that were very much in vogue. At the moment. Her body was something else entirely. A juxtaposition of elegant curves and daring angles gave an impression of luxury excess, yet she retained a degree of accessible innocence. She was fine art a sculptors master work, live and bronze, exuding tangible sensuality like an aromatic mist. in contradiction of classical standard, she derived her beauty if it could be called that from the many asymmetries that distinguished her from other women. Even found himself in a trance drinking at all in without the vocabulary to express his appreciation.'
Oh, that's fantastic. Thank you so much. That's great. Sounds like you had lots of fun writing that.
J Archer Avary 43:13
I mean, it just I've sitting there as like an in hog heaven really just like Like I said, it came out in four days, you know, I'm not always not always the kind of guy that can just hammer it out like that. But this story just kind of came out fully formed, like I said, and and I couldn't be happier to see it. And I couldn't be more grateful to Shawn Berman. Because if it weren't for that, it'd probably just be languishing. In my hard drive somewhere. Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that's fantastic. So so so hopefully, just the first of many more to come. But that's sort of keep keep an eye out for those. So I imagine there might be many people listening who are perhaps interested in setting up their own lit mag, or perhaps they are have already started to do this, but perhaps are not sure how to get more submissions or more followers. Given you've been so incredibly successful with this, you know, what, what advice might you give to those that are interested in doing the same?
J Archer Avary 44:11
I would really say, you know, get into it, I kind of just jumped into it without looking or without preparing. And, as well as that worked, I would say to maybe put a little bit more thought into it on the front end, because the more the more you know about what you want, the easier it's going to be to accomplish that or take detours that you need to take to get to your ultimate destination. So I'd say just, you know, go ahead and go ahead and do it. Maybe team up with somebody else because it can viral into a lot of work. And, you know, like myself, it's kind of difficult for me to ask for help in certain scenarios. And so luckily, I had the presence of mind to decide that, Okay, I'm going to need help with this and then actually go out to the public and ask for help. So I'd say that would be my advice really, is to get it started. And then if you need help, don't hesitate to ask for it, you know, because I think you actually you and I talked on the phone independently one time you said, you know, there's plenty of people that would love to volunteer. And I took your advice and reached out to the public and sure enough, kind of recruited a nice little group of people that are going to help me take the next step with sledgehammer, which is more of the same and maybe being able to do even bigger and better things with chapbooks and physical publishing hopefully down the line.
Yeah, well, that I mean, that sounds great and really exciting and I'm sure you'll you'll continue to go onwards and upwards with with sledgehammer, I've no doubt. I'm just interested how what your view is on, you know, social media and and Twitter in particular, because that feels as though there's a real genuine writing community out there on Twitter. And and one that I never imagined existed on a platform like like Twitter. Is that something that's also new to you? And and how does that sort of, you know, is that quite integral? Do you think to to the community that you're building with with sledgehammer?
J Archer Avary 46:21
I think it's a big part of getting the message out there. I think, for me as a writer, like if it wasn't for Twitter, I wouldn't know. I wouldn't know that. I wouldn't know where to send my work. You know, I think Twitter really is, it's kind of the place to be, you know, I've kind of disillusioned with most social media, you know, especially coming from the world of journalism, where it was basically a cesspool of like, horrible, nasty comments about, you know, I don't like you, and I don't like your story. And, you know, you're liberal media, and you're like, fake news, you know, so take all that abuse on Facebook, because it's part of my job as a journalist, kind of soured me on, on that platform and social media as a whole. But then I discovered kind of, you know, lit Twitter as I, as I call it, and, you know, it seemed like it was a little bit of a kinder, gentler place in a lot of respects, and, you know, just a great resource to look around to find which journals are, you know, looking for either poetry or, you know, pieces of fiction, things that I'm writing, you know, it helps me know where to send it to, and, and, it's, it's kind of helped, you know, in terms of networking, and, and, without it, I don't think people would have known about sledgehammer because, you know, if you start a journal on an island and the English Channel, you know, there's 65,000 people here, and there's maybe five or six people in your writing group and maybe 10 people that go to the poetry open mic, you know, you're gonna have kind of a small submission pool and not really very excited. But what's great with you know, sledgehammers, like through Twitter, we reach the whole world, we get submissions from, you know, India, Nigeria, Australia, all these different countries, you know, Canada, us. Japan, you know, it's really cool, because it kind of brings the world together.
Yeah, yeah. Which is great that you really got that sort of global kind of contributions to the site. And obviously, you know, so many different voices, which is fantastic. And people feeling that that that sledgehammer is a place for them, you know, and I think that's to your credit that you've made it a very open and welcoming place for all sorts of different voices and all kinds of different different writing which is which is great. Yeah, if people want to read more of your own work, not not just know about you through sledgehammer. We talked about the dog sitter, of course, but but if people want to find out a little bit more about your other work, what are some of the places that you direct them to? Or what are some of the other pieces you're proud of that you you'd like to share with with listeners?
J Archer Avary 49:06
I always like, my most recent stuff fast, you know, so my publications have kind of slowed down in March, when when I started sledgehammer I kind of was embarrassed because, you know, I'd sent so much stuff out in January and February that I had, like, you know, some days where I had two or three new things coming out, which is a great, great thing for a writer to have happened, but I kind of felt like that was a little bit overwhelming, so I needed to do something else. So it wouldn't be like, you know, that full on but uh, one journal I really love is Journal of Erato and I've got a piece coming out with them. When they drop their second issue. I don't know exactly when that will be but that's coming pretty soon down the pipeline. Holly is great with that website. I think I've had a couple things with her and and i think i think they're a cool little contemporary journal. I don't really have a much in the fire right now, cuz definitely my submitting has slowed down mainly due to keeping sledgehammer going. And that's one of the big reasons why I really need to get some help with it. So I could, you know, I didn't lose that flame that I had going to write, you know, but I've got a link tree out there. And I've collected all my little poems and stories. Oh, I had one in white wall review that I thought was really awesome. And then one in a journal called potato soup journal about a mail delivery carrier. So those are two kind of like, short story, maybe 4000 3000 word stories that are out there that I think are really worth a read that I'm really proud of. But I have like a link tree on my Twitter page that you know, you know, the typical writer accoutrement these days where we collect all your all your links into one handy thread so that you know you don't forget where where your poems went to.
Yeah, yeah, well, that's that's great. So for those that are listening and want to find out more about J. Archer Avary's own work, not not just free sledgehammer, then then your your Twitter is is J Archer Avary with an underscore between between the each word.
So that was such a great interview. And as JP says, you can check out J. Archer Avary's Twitter. And we're now going to move on to our next guest, who is the wonderful Zoe Brooks. And hi Zoe, how are you today?
Zoe Brooks 51:25
I'm fine, thank you very much. Bit hot and bothered but it is fine.
It is a really boiling hot day here. So start off do you just want to tell us a little bit about yourself, like how you began writing and perhaps like some of your journey so far?
Zoe Brooks 51:40
Well, I can't remember starting writing. And that's because I've always written and poetry has just been part of me all my life. And I mean that because my parents told me that I was writing poetry before I could write it down that I was making up poems at the age of four. And which isn't surprising, you know, nursery rhymes, I was reading Nursery Rhymes. Nursery Rhymes are poems. So I decided I wanted to do the same as what I was learning. So I think I think it's not so much of a surprise, I think it's what's probably unusual is that I've, I continued and didn't get put off writing poetry. So I was very, very lucky, and was encouraged to write poetry. So I've always written it's something that is sort of second nature in a way. So that thing about people discovering poetry, poetry was there. And my folks had didn't have, we didn't have a lot of books in the house, we had a small book case. But one shuffle that bookcase was poetry. Because my my parents love poetry. And it was an I sort of grew up louder reading these rather eclectic poetry books, and whatever I could get my hands on, and they saw that they encouraged me. That is, yeah, people are surprised, but it seems normal.
Sure that is like a lovely story of like, how you became, you know, emersed in the poetry world and that. And a question I have for you is, what is it that you do love about poetry? And has that changed from you know, the years that you've been writing in loving poetry? Was it that maybe you started loving poetry? And has that developed?
Zoe Brooks 53:29
That's a good question. I think what I really love, and there was a period in my, in my life where I wasn't writing, so I actually lost the lost my way, you know, but that's, that's something else. But the thing that I've come back to it, and the thing I enjoy, is that interaction between myself and the reader. For me, poetry exists in a space between me and the recipient of this poetry. So it's very important for me to read out loud to return people to, to perform my poetry and it's also when you get the biggest thrill is always when someone comes back to you and says, well, thank you for that poem, that poem meant something to me, or there's a poem called jam, which is a really short poem and it's about it's about how you can just get tripped up by grief by something very normal. And suddenly, you've got this loss comes back to you. And I read that poem, and people came up to me afterwards said a reading and said, several people came up with it. Yes, for me, it was my husband's tea mug or yes, for me, it was the smell of a smell of flapjacks because my mom always used to make flapjacks or that sort of thing. And likewise, for me, you know, sometimes you come across a poem in a, in a magazine or a collection or something, and it just hits you between the eyes. And you say, yes, yes, that's absolutely bang on. And that's what excites me is when that sort of, rather than magical alchemy happens in that space between the poet and the reader.
And so Zoe for you I wonder, because I knew some writers, right, where they consider the audience and some completely don't. So wonder how that works for you, when you write? Are you considering your audience? Or is that something that's, you know, separate for you?
Zoe Brooks 55:38
I don't consider the audience and I think I in a way, because I think if you do that, you start being becoming artificial. And actually, what works for me is when I when people are being emotionally or intellectually honest, in their poetry, so that it's not an artifice, it's not a construct, you're actually that person is there is something very real in what that person that poet is saying. And I think it's really important that you write, for me, it's really I can't write to prompts very well, I, I need it to be part of me. And that makes it difficult to actually sometimes put poetry out there. And it certainly was difficult for a while to actually put stuff down on on on the page. I'm not suggesting poetry is therapy, but but sometimes, it's bloody close.
Definitely, I would certainly agree with you there. And I wondered, has there been any sort of challenges across the process of writing from where you began to where you are now? Well, perhaps what's the most important thing that you've learned for yourself as a writer from where you began to where you are now?
Zoe Brooks 56:55
Well, there was a massive challenge. I'm a mature woman, as they say, a woman of a certain age. And I'd got, and I think what happened to me is what happens to a lot of women, I, I had, I was quite successful, when I was younger, I was in the sort of up and coming crowd and published by the late, much missed michael horovitz. And the, and then what happened was, I had my son, and I had, I had postnatal depression. And I was at work, and I went back to work, and it was wonderful the work it was, it was, I was working with deprived communities. And I was juggling that work which was hugely emotionally demanding, being a mom. And the thing that struggled to get in there was poetry. And that, and I think that happens to a lot of women, I think, you know, you, you tend to sort of regard it as a sort of a bit of an indulgence. And when do you do it, because you know, you're shattered when you get to bed. And, and I think, also, and then you have this sort of cyclical thing, where you start to doubt yourself, and you start to feel less confident. And that was something that that happens. for quite a long time. I did write some things i'm not i didn't completely stop. But it wasn't until relatively recently, I took myself in hand and said, look, just try it, just just send out some poems and see if anybody thinks they're any good. And, to my amazement, almost by return of post, I got an acceptance. And, and then, and then another acceptance and another acceptance. And suddenly I thought, actually, I am good. And that me so I think the worst thing you can do to yourself is doubt yourself. And particularly if you're doing what what I'm saying earlier about exposing, talking about your own experience, working from your experience as a bit of Zoe in nearly all my poetry, and that's putting myself out there, it will be a lot easier if I was writing about something else. You know, that's where I'm, and that's what I've learned. And I've learned resilience and I'm building myself up and and I'm finding, as I should have known that the poetry world is very supportive and full of lovely people who who reinforce and hold you up and and care for you. And that reaching out that you do in your poetry is reciprocated, and is actually wonderful.
Oh, certainly, definitely agree with you there. Is there anything that sort of surprised you in your poetry journey?
Zoe Brooks 59:59
What suprised me...Um, I'm always surprised when people say I'm good. I'm always surprised. I was discussing this Anna Saunders who is the chief executive of the Cheltenham poetry festival and and she said, I would say we were talking about imposter imposter syndrome, I said, oh, yeah, I know that and she said you you feel impostor syndrome? Yes, of course I do. I think some people don't, but an awful lot of poets feel imposter syndrome? And why would anybody want to read me that's, that's the thing. So I think you've got to just keep reminding yourself that actually, it's important. I think it is important. I really do to keep writing, keep putting it out there.
Another question I have for you is, what does it look like, when you sit down to start writing talk me through, like the atmosphere around you, and what it looks like when you sit down to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
Zoe Brooks 1:01:08
I don't write to a keyboard. Not poetry, prose I'll write to a keyboard. But poetry is it has to be lined paper, and a pen. And that's probably because I've done it since I was a kid. And that's, that's how it is, you know, that we didn't have had the option of writing to a computer. I very seldom sit down to write. One of my great heroines in, in, in poetry is Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet and, and Anna Akhmatova said that she tried to resist writing poetry until the poem, if there's a poem that she tried not to write it, until it insisted on coming. And I can understand that, what what I tend to how I tend to write my process, my normal writing process is, I when I get to bed, I read poetry, before I go to sleep, and, and I just lie down and I'm just dropping off to sleep, and then subconscious kicks in and I start getting some lines coming through and I write then it's it, I sit up in bed, get a copy of my notepad next to my bed and I start writing, I write for about an hour or so, maybe less, maybe longer. And then when I feel that, I've got to a point where I, I've got a page or to covered with lines and crossings out and arrows, I then I then go to sleep. And then in the morning, I get up, take the notepad over to the computer, and then I type into the computer what I've written. And it's and then I can see it on the page as it would appear. And I might make some I will make alterations, then sometimes, many sometimes few. And then I'd share the poem. I have I have number of people I share poems and Anna is one I always read to my husband, I always read it out loud. That's the other thing I always read in when I get up, I read the poem out loud, to hear it to hear how it works orally is tremendously important to me. And I find that if when I'm writing, when I'm reading this, this sort of draft poem, I make a change very often subconsciously, I'll make a change. Or if I, I, it's difficult to say, I know there's something wrong. So I've got the rhythms wrong, the words wrong or whatever. And I'll make an alteration that I'll make a note of where I stumbled. And so that's the sort of process by which I write. Having said that a few weeks ago, I went down to the forest of Dean and stayed in this wonderful converted shed on the edge of the forest. And there I was writing in the garden quite a lot. So it wasn't just late last thing at night. But that was just an I was I was walking and contemplating and had a notebook with me and wrote a few lines. I do write write the occasional line down in a notebook, and then revisit them. But that's basically my writing process.
Great. I love hearing about people's writing process because everyone approaches it so differently.
Zoe Brooks 1:04:41
Yeah, it's what suits you. I mean, this is what I think I think with poetry. It's very easy to you get these how to write poetry books. Yeah. And you think well, yeah, well, I don't do and you think is that am I wrong? Should I be doing or should I be trying to write every day? I don't, doesn't suit me. And I think everybody has a different way of approaching it. And if you look at the great poets, they all had different ways. I mean, a classic one I, it's in my book, there's a book poem called apples. And it's about this, that smell of apples that that memory of apples, that moment, we used to have an apple tree, and the mom had us keep them. And they used to get wrinkly at the top of it in a box in the attic. And that smell of apples really is quite triggering. But what's interesting is that the great poet Schiller could not write unless he had the smell of decaying apples. When Goethe went to see him. He was he wasn't there. And the housekeeper let him into the into the room. have to wait for Mr. Schiller, and gather could smell something. He goes, well, what is it? What is it and eventually opened a drawer and there were a line of decaying moldy old apples and was told, but this is absolutely necessary. In order to write. Isn't that strange! It's like a footballer who has to have his his his old, old boots or something. But if it works, go with it, you know? And anything's right, if it works?
Oh, definitely. Yeah, I just find it so fascinating to hear about everyone's processes. And yeah, that was a great story. Thank you so much for sharing that. That's awesome. I hadn't heard of that one. So I wondered for you Zoe, where do you draw your inspirations from a lot of it obviously comes from like yourself and your life. Is that an easy process? Do you find that like hard or easy to do, because some people, a lot of their work comes from them. But it can be quite a difficult process to translate what can be such personal things onto a page that can be accessible for an audience to read, and actually stand out as a good piece? So how do you sort of approach that and balance that?
Zoe Brooks 1:07:08
Right. It's such a good question. Where am I where my inspiration comes from, I'm a country girl grew up in Gloucestershire and I come from a farm working family and, and nature has always been very important part of my life. And my mum used to take me for walks and country and maybe look at things, she was very good at pointing things out saying, Look at that, look at that. You know, what do you think that looks like? And I'd say, Oh, it looks like a witch. She said, Yes, I think so too, I think so definitely looks like a witch. And she would encourage that, that ability to see things in nature, which I use a lot of. So nature often is, I often take nature and use it to talk about something else. So so I would be, you know, I have a poem about slow worms. And that was interesting, because they, when they're mating, they are mating for so long, they actually already huge danger. So the very process of creating new life is actually extremely dangerous for the parents, which is an interesting image. And so you can have all sorts of so nature and landscape can be used in a way that is, is symbolic. And, and metaphorical. And so that I often start from nature and then move, move it into the personal relationship. So there's, there's that, I think, sometimes you think you're going to write a poem about x, and you're writing the poem, about y. And it's, it is very difficult to write personally about things. But can we back to the very, very first, whilst your very first question, it's important you do about because, because you need to, because what people identify with are these sort of universal experiences. And whether it's grief or it's, it's bearing a child, or it's, you know, a woman having her first period, or whatever, any number of experiences, they are universal experience and not exclusive to me. And so, so, it's what's important is not to make it too personal. A lot of to make it personal, but but have a universality about it. I mean, I like the unexpected. I mean, there's a degree to which, you know, sometimes things surprise me, and particularly as it's coming out of my subconscious because, you know, because obviously, if I'm working from home, I'm half asleep, it's not exactly coming out to the conscious side of my brain. Initially, initially, it rapidly moves into the conscious side of my brain, but so it's not stream of consciousness already. But it's something very often what there is, is there is something there. Angela France, talks about the poem sort of sitting like a toad at the back of the brain. And I think, I think that's, that's very true, I think you can often you will have the makings of a poem. But it's not quite ready to come out yet. It's sort of sitting there. Like, you know, you're going to write a poem about, you know, that there's this poem, and it's not quite, you know, you start it and stop it and study it. And so it is not right, it's not right. And the thing is, to let it sit there for a while, and just let it sort of let the toad grow in the dark until it takes over and comes forward and is fully formed. And sometimes that can be a surprise. But often it's it's you've had hints that it's there. And you've just the process of way sort of grows. And what sometimes happens is a particular image or a particular stimulus happens. And that's the thing that you hook, this subject matter this poem onto, and suddenly there's the way there's the there's the metaphor you've been looking for, for all this time. So it's quite interesting.
Fantastic. Another thing I wanted to ask you was, what do you consider like the highs and lows of like the process of writing? Do you maybe have like a favourite thing about writing and a least favourite thing about writing?
Zoe Brooks 1:11:44
I don't know. I mean, the worst bit is is writer's block.
Zoe Brooks 1:11:51
It's the worst. It's it is horrible. It's horrible. And it just, you know, you think, when am I going to start again, the way I do things, you know, that I've had it for years at times, so I'm not, you know, so it's not like it's, it's a week or a month, or whatever it can go on for years. And when that happens, it's really rather distressing. And particularly as a way that for me, I do use poetry, I find that I'm not complete if I'm not writing poetry, and I think I mean, it's quite genuinely, it's so hard to me that if it's not happening, there's something wrong. Yeah, the balance is wrong. In my life, I'm either I'm doing too much for others, and not doing enough myself. And the highs, without doubt, it can be wonderful when it's really flowing. It's really coming. I wrote a long poem, and I just just came out almost perfectly.
Zoe Brooks 1:12:54
That is just so it doesn't happen very often. But it came out. And there it was beautiful. And I look, wow. And there is a degree to which it happens. So, so easily. I thought, well, is that mine? I mean, did I do anything with that? I don't know. I'm not sure I did. And the other the other bit, as I've said before, this is actually the interaction with the reader matters tremendously to me. And I, I really want that to happen. I love it's not just that it's the performing side is not just about ego. Yeah, actually about it's actually about communication. And knowing that you have communicated is is wonderful.
Oh, definitely. And I mean, for you, do you think that there's that your poetry would be recognizable to you? Or if I rephrase it as there are certain things in your poetry like components that make up a Zoe piece, it has to have this, this and this for it to be, you know, like my work. I wonder if you've like thought about that before?
Zoe Brooks 1:14:01
I think I think my friends would probably be better to answer that. One of the things that I do a lot, and I don't, it's one of the things that I am care, I, for me, poetry has an element of music and sound. And I'm not a page poet, in the sense that I don't what it looks like on the page is secondary.
Zoe Brooks 1:14:28
And, and that's that, that I think is very much me. I think also, I personally, it's something that you, you get when you work with other poets. So I've got I've got this feedback from from from Anna and other people around me, who have said, you know, you really do, you're very, very condensed, and it's true, I myI try, my idea of editing is to cross things out, I don't usually add, I try to be as I like poetry that is crystalline. Really tight. And I would hope that that is something people see in my poetry, I mean it's been said to me. So sometimes obviously some people do that.
Yeah, cuz it's tricky like in you know, like, artwork there's clear things that stand out visually as recognizable, but I wonder if it's a bit more. if it's a little bit harder to recognize in poetry. It's not something I've really ever thought about before. Whether, like I'm trying to think now of like poets, I would definitely recognize that that's their piece. And I do think there are certain qualities that like a very consistent across like pieces, and that is definitely something interesting to think about.
Zoe Brooks 1:15:47
It is. It's a fascinating question. I hadn't thought about it before. So you had me struggling there.
Yeah, definitely. I'm going to try and look out for that now and see and see that and think about that a bit more. So you do a lot of work within the project community you do lots for like the Cheltenham poetry festival, and I wondered how you sort of got into that. And just a little bit about your work within the literary scene.
Zoe Brooks 1:16:12
Right well what happened was, I initially when I came back into the scene, and started sending my poetry out again, it took me three months, before I built up coverage to go and read my poetry in public. And I went to buzzwords Angela France's monthly event, which is sadly on hold at the moment due to COVID. And, and sort of stammered my way through a poem. But very rapidly, I kept got in and found that there was that and obviously, that's in Cheltenham. So the Cheltenham festival that was sort of, so that was around about. That was January, I went to buzzwords and Cheltenham festival poetry festival happened in April. And I thought I went to it as an audience member. And I thought, well, I could actually help on this because I do have a background in management of community events, including arts events. And I thought, well, I could probably help but I don't want to be running things I'll just offer to help out. So I offered to help out and I thought I'd be delivering programs and blah, blah, blah. But obviously, if you're running, if you're Anna, and you're running an event, and you find that this person, this person that's just volunteered, has a background in things like fundraising events, you don't want her to just hand out programs. So I, and and then we're so I sort of started and then COVID happened. And we went online, and it just sort of grew. I am very happy to help and I, I love it. I mean, it's great to be part of a community and to be supporting other poets. And it's opportunity here, lots of poets, I mean, like you, you know, it's, it's an opportunity to, to relate to others. Because we sit in our little rooms, it's always useful to talk to other people.
Oh, definitely. It's so great. And I mean, in a way the online sort of sphere has allowed me personally to meet so much more people. Because obviously, when we're online, it's much easier to see people and they're not like six hours away or whatever. So in a way it's been really great to meet loads more people recently.
Zoe Brooks 1:18:43
Yes, and you know, I'm and I'm reading all over the place at the moment I'm down in Devon, over in Norfolk all while sitting in front of a computer in my bedroom so amazing. And it's what's great about it, of course zoom, I can't see this going back completely to the old days. Because it was it was very much little groups in geographical areas. And and what this has done is it's out it's made it more egalitarian people can put them people are putting their names down for open mics who never did. And people for whom accessing whether because they're living in they living in an era which doesn't have a vibrant poetry scene or because physically they don't have a car or they they that they have a disability that precludes them getting into these events are able to access poetry and take part in and and read poetry. And that's can only be good.
Certainly, definitely agree with you that and I know, for one Full House will carry on doing their online workshops. I mean, I really hope that other organizations do carry on doing online stuff because it is just brilliant.
Zoe Brooks 1:20:10
We will be going sort of hybrid, we will be doing some local events. Yeah, but we've got this audience. You know, we've, we've, I mean, we've had sellout audiences. Right. We've had audiences up to 100. It is dropping it down a bit now, because if people have got other things they can do, but yeah, quite regularly, we're selling 50, 70 tickets. And, and. And though they are free, and these people are coming from all over the world, yeah. Yeah. And that's wonderful. Yeah, in a physical event, you know, if you get 30, you think you've done well? Yeah, that's the difference. Why would you change?
100%? Yeah, I'm really keen on definitely like the online space, it'd be really interesting to see things be a bit more hybrid so we can see things in real life. But we can also continue to reach people online as well, I think that'd be really great to see how that develops. Something I want to ask you about so talking about your recent and current writing. So your collection owl unbound, which is published by Indigo dreams. Talk us through that, how did that start was the context of this collection?
Zoe Brooks 1:21:32
Well, I suppose things you will have gathered that things as things happened rather quickly. But once I've started to, to, to send stuff out, I started, and it was actually the first, the first magazine that responded, I think, was Dawn Treader from Indigo Dreams. So that was that was great. What happened was, I did have poems from past it wasn't like I didn't, I wasn't starting from scratch, there was quite, I had a track record, etc, etc. And I was getting published pretty well in magazines. I was getting a good hit rate in terms of acceptances. I asked Angela, do you think I could get a pamphlet or a collection of published and she said, well, how many poems you had published? And I said, and she said, well, definitely, you've got a good track record. And Indigo dreams window came up. And I just thought, I just wonder, well, I can try. I'll see how it goes. And so in a way, owl unbound is a sort of collected works. It's, it does have themes there are there is a strong element of nature. And there's a strong element of loss and stuff going on in there. But it's as much as any Zoe's collected work, collected, shorter works. And that's fine. Put it together relatively quickly. Because I was up against a deadline and put it in and thought no more about it. And Anna, who's published by them said I think you'll find the, the that she said that you've got, you've got a good chance. And I said, well, maybe. And yeah, they said, yes. So here I am. And so I, I wish I could say I've planned everything, but didn't actually work out that way. I just didn't know what I was doing. I just put this collection together. But inevitably, you know, I didn't write it to the theme. But the themes there, because the it's about me, and my responses so that inevitably, things I'm interested in come out.
Yes, certainly. What do you hope that anyone picking up this collection and reading it maybe takes from it?
Zoe Brooks 1:23:57
Yeah, it's a very good question, what they take from it, I hope, what it does, amongst other things, is, I hope they just find something in there that speaks to them. I really want people to what's fascinating is, is when I've had some reviews and all the reviewers seem to choose different poems. They like so that so that there is clearly not, you know, it's not like a collection with one standout poem. It seems people respond in different ways to different poems, and it really makes a that my aspiration, I in terms of long term as aspiration is, I think a lot of it is do we, what do we what do we I hear people talking about how I want to be published by bloodaxe, or whatever that's my ambition. And you have to ask, why is that your ambition? I think of yourself? If Why does that matter to you? And I think I'm, I'm, what I would love to happen with my poetry is there is at least one or two poems that survived me. You know, that, that that mean enough to enough people that they, they, they sort of toddle off and, and, and are taken into people's hearts and that people will turn to them. That's actually a massive ambition. It sounds quite modest. But it's actually massive. Because when you look at great poets from the 1960s, the people that were lauded in the 1960s 70s 80s, whatever, let alone Victorian poets an awful lot of them we don't know about anymore. We don't know that their poetry. They disappeared without trace. And but there are sometimes these poems which just seem to last. And it's because they have a universality that speaks to people. And I'd love one of my poems to do that. With whether it's one in owl unbound, I don't know, if it's not down to me, it's down to have the reader to choose what what matters them. That would be absolutely great. You know?
Yeah, awesome. Definitely. And for you has your own journey, like surprised yourself, did you expect from when you you know, like four years old reading poetry that you'd ever get to where you are now and achieve all the fantastic things that you've achieved?
Zoe Brooks 1:26:43
I don't think at four. But when I was a bit older, and actually, I took it almost as read that sounds terribly, terribly...
No that is so interesting yeah.
Zoe Brooks 1:26:58
When I was younger, I'm not I'm not in the sense that I was ambitious or whatever, oh, but I was things, I was very lucky, picked up as being very talented, and all the rest of it. And that was just normal in a way. So I, I thought, when I was in my 20s that I would touch sooner or later, I would have a collection and I'd have a career in poetry. And I would, you know, I'd be one of those books that, you know, where I accepted but life intervened and stopped that.
I mean, if you love something, that's where you know you hope you'll end up.
Zoe Brooks 1:27:51
Exactly, you know, I had enough very good people telling me I was good, that I was, you know, genuinely, genuinely able to think, you know, this, this isn't this is possible.
Yeah, definitely. You've obviously ended up where you're meant to be. So that's, that's great life as a way of, you know, putting us in the place where we're meant to be, I think,
Zoe Brooks 1:28:15
I think so. Though, you do have to send the poems out. Because, yeah, you have to write them.
Yeah. So now just to round off, um, have you got any future projects coming up? Obviously, you don't have to spill the beans if there's any secret things, but what is coming up in your future? And what can we look out for?
Zoe Brooks 1:28:38
Right well, what's hopefully coming up is back in 2013, you know, a poem for voices, which is almost like a verse play it was published it online as a as an e book. And it never got published as an as a physical book. And hopefully, that will be coming out again next year. I mean, discussions about that. It is very, very different. It's, it's not like, owl unbound. And what I've got is a whole series of nearly finished projects, which I have worked on over the decades, which are sort of sitting there and I just have to sort of get them to a point where I want to send them out and identify with, and I need to sort of time that because there's a lot to come.
Zoe Brooks 1:29:39
Yeah. And the other thing I'm writing at the moment I'm doing a lot of writing is for about 15 years. I was spending a lot of time in the Czech Republic. I had a house over there. I had a business which was taking people on holiday over there and I was living in this house on the edge of the forest, you know, in on the edge of a village in South Bohemia. And it was the most amazing time I didn't. And one of the reasons I bought that house was I was going to write in it. That was the idea. Of course it didn't. But having sold the house, I probably started writing. So I've got a whole series of poems about the Czech Republic, and my relationship with the Czech Republic. And, and, and the loss of a very dear friend who introduced me to the Czech Republic. And so that those that is almost certainly a collection at some point, I'm not sure when we'll see.
Oh, well, that's great. Lots of exciting things to look out for hopefully soon from you. So that's really exciting. So your, your fans, your audience can be rest assured, there are lots of good things coming, which is great to hear. And so thank you so much for chatting to us. So it's been an absolute pleasure to find out more about yourself and your work. And just thank you so much for giving us your time.
Zoe Brooks 1:31:07
My pleasure. Thank you for for being interested.
So that was so brilliant to talk to Zoe, lots of interesting stuff there.
And we're just gonna finish off now with a really quick newsblast.
So firstly, streetcake magazine's prize opens in seven days, which is so exciting. It's free entry, and it's open to residents in the UK and EU. So this opens on the 30th of July, so get your innovative writing ready. Very exciting stuff.
A massive congratulations to Kali Richmond whose collection gradual reduction to the bone is going to be out of nine pens press lookout for pre orders and launch details because that's going to be really exciting. I can't wait to get my hands on that one.
Aaron Kent's debut collection angels the size of houses is now out, you can order that which is fantastic. It's waiting for me at home, I need to read it. I'm very excited.
Beir Bua have just released their covers information about a whole range of exciting things that will be coming out from their press. And there are some brilliant, brilliant things that will see me coming out. So make sure to keep your eyes peeled on that one.
Over at Full House, we're running a workshop on the 28th which will be about tightening and editing tips that will be run by me and Kinneson and that will be at eight o'clock UK time. And if you can't make the event, you can still sign up to receive the recording. And that's our pinned tweet top of our page.
The Babel Tower Notice Board are putting out some fantastic things at the moment. So highly recommend you going over and checking them out. The site is just phenomenal. And it just gets better every day. So if you haven't been there in a while, I highly recommend you go checking them out.
Hecate magazine is hiring looking for two epic individuals to join their team as assistant art editor and editorial assistant. So you can then send them a CV and a brief cover letter to their email address. And yeah, that'd be great opportunity. So do head over and check that one out.
The Royal Society of literature are doing an amazing map sort of piece which collects different pieces from poets around London, featuring the likes of the wonderful JP Seabright. And if you want to submit a piece you can still and you can check out some of the ambassadors discussing their experience of working and there's some really cool stuff over there. So definitely check that one out.
Perverse magazine submissions are open till the end of July for their issue six so get those in while you still can.
Broken sleep books have a submissions call for an anthology of new eco poetry. So definitely check that out if that's something you're interested in.
With confetti are open for their issue one until 31st of July. So you've still got a bit of time there.
And lastly, as a Full House, we will be announcing the guests for our amazing 24 hour live festival really soon. So stay tuned for that.
So that's all from us at Full House this week. We wish you a lovely rest of your week. And thank you so much for tuning in.