UQP Writer's Room: Lorraine Marwood
Why did you start writing?
I can’t honestly remember a time when I didn’t want to write – I consciously remember thinking at 8 years old I want to write… and have been keeping writing notebooks for decades. The surprise was that I would be a poet!
How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?
I began writing little snippets, stories, then as growing up, poetry fitted my teenage angst – who am I, what will my life be like?
So I began writing poetry, being published as a literary poet and my first publication was a poetry collection with Five Islands Press. My practical training was as a primary school teacher – I loved children’s books, literature, poetry and helping children to read and write. This led to the diversion/expansion of my writing to children’s stories and poems.
Where was your inspiration for your latest work?
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of man on the moon and the 1969 era which included the dual upheaval events of the Vietnam War and conscription. I’ve always wanted to write a school-based novel, so all the elements came together in ‘Footprints’. I had no idea of the road ahead with the balance between issues and the enormous historical canvas I’d acquired for myself.
How do you get started with a new project?
Gather research, read social background, begin sketching my main character in words, getting an emotional feel for the conflict, the drive of the book, the character and her/his driving desire/need/quest.
Do you have a routine? What tools do you use?
Mornings are my favoured writing time, I feel so much fresher, seem to have more energy, both physically and emotionally. I handwrite my poetry, and use a laptop for prose. I might use a line, or an idea I’ve recorded in my notebooks or go back over a story and re-vamp it or continue one I’ve been working on. I might read to spur myself forward, or use a textbook on writing – lots of poetry ideas out there to write some poetry as a warm up. I have found after years of writing that if I need to write (for example where I’ve been asked to write a poem or story), then I will sit down and write. But the most enjoyable writing comes when I sit outside in my garden and just watch and soon a poem, or some lines come.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I don’t seem to have that problem. I have files of ideas, half begun stories, completed stories that need re-vamping. I think writer’s block might be tied up with that critical editor inside that tries to say 'don’t write that, don’t write that way, who’s going to read this anyway?’ Turn off that critic and write freely.
How important is research in the writing you do?
Very important. In ‘Footprints’, Lewis is fascinated by the whole moon race and knows many facts about the moon and Earth. Therefore because this book was based on real events I had to get my time line and my facts right. Research for the social era was important too – the political atmosphere at the time, the ‘established' opinions. Newspaper articles were especially helpful when it came to the protest banners and posters.
How much planning is required when it comes to structuring one of your books?
Lots it seems. As a ‘pantser’, this poses real problems for me, but the atmosphere, the emotion, the characters are paramount and the inherent sense of poetic language that accompanies a verse novel, flows through the writing. This book took a bit more structural work to get the world events right. The change of school calendar to three terms (not four like we have now) is just one example.
What’s the editing process like?
Now that is the bones of the whole book – to make facts, events, character interactions, and character thoughts more transparent. As a poet I allow a lot of white reader space, I paint the scene but the reader needs to be part of the scene. As a verse novel is both poetic and narrative, I need to work hard during the editing process to ensure both are harnessed and working in tangent.
How did you come to be published?
Ah, that’s a long story with many milestones along the way, being published as a poet first then as a children’s author and poet. Small beginnings in literary journals that led to publication in the USA, UK etc. and entering competitions, as well as belonging to writing associations were all important. And the passion, the passion, the determination, the love of writing all come together in a journey of many different publishing experiences.
Social media – like it or loathe it?
Hmm, for me it’s hard work, I was brought up to not ‘boast’ self promote etc., so it’s hard work to overturn this and publish work or ideas or successes. I’m slowly getting there, but it’s never easy.
How do you handle the reviews?
Ah! Sing, laugh, cry, hide, dance, quietly sit and re-read. Take notice, and appreciate, mostly. Honoured for a review and hope the intended audience enjoy my work and that the story resonates with them long after the reading.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Teach more, explore literacy, garden more, sew, craft more, do more grandchildren visiting, travel more in the caravan. Nah, I can do all those things as well as write and my writing’s enriched. I wouldn’t be me without writing.
What is your number one tip for aspiring writers?
Keep a journal/notebook/diary of some sort. Scribble in it, record daily events, things that surprised you, dialogue, gratitude, world daily happenings, colours, textures, the wide sky, your hopes, dreams, prayers, sketch, collage. All these things will enrich your journey as a writer and you are writing.
No piece of writing goes to waste, it all helps in this wonderful creative genre.
Plotter or pantser?
Pantser and trying to teach myself plotting!
Tea or coffee?
Oh tea please, the real tea leaf, teapot, teacup deal; oolong, French earl grey, black rose…
When I’m not writing I’m…
Thinking about writing, about ideas, about family, about creating in craft, cooking or gardening.
My favourite place to read is…
In my lay-back, legs-up chair, actually anywhere… read, read.
Ebook or physical book?
Physical. Turn those pages, go back, re-read… use a gorgeous grandchild crafted bookmark, place the newly acquired book on a bookshelf and admire those book spines.