The Monthly interviews writer and poet, Ali Whitelock, on the art of writing without fear – Part 3

Are you ever asked for advice with regards how to write?

Yes and I don’t think I am the best person to give advice. I was asked some questions recently and I suggested that rather than putting your writing brain on and then start thinking about the poem, you might be better to write an email to a friend where you tell them what you wanted to write about and what ideas you wanted to concentrate on.

I think there is a reservoir inside of all of us where all the juicy stuff resides and the logical brain and the search for structure can get in the way of that, so I think it is better to dive into the reservoir and swim around in the raw sewerage.

I was asked recently to teach some children, 12 year olds, and I did try to say to the people who asked me that perhaps if they looked at my work they might realise that I wasn’t the person to be put in front of the children. But when I read back some of the work the kids had produced, they had just dived in to the deep end of the reservoir head first. Again my head was blown away by their writing. It was absolutely brilliant writing.

Have you ever found any obstacles to your writing career simply because you are a woman writer?

I don’t feel that any obstacles have been put in my way. I really haven’t faced any issues that I can think of.

My last collection, “My heart crumples like a coke can” was a very honest book. I talked about infidelity on my part, I was very open about things I had been part of and the response was very good; it was overwhelming.

I think people want the truth, and in this instance I was talking about an affair and I wasn’t making myself look good in this scenario, and people responded to that. I think people can see that when you write openly and honestly they can respond to that because life is messy, most people’s lives are messy.

I think that so many things, social media, the news, the political situation, are so fake that there is a hunger for being told things as they actually are.

You also are building an online presence?

Yes, I am. Many of the opportunities that have emerged for me have come about because of connections I have made online. Through Twitter I have read in Edinburgh, Ireland and Australia. I know that you need an online presence and I have put some effort into that side of things. I have made some film poetry as well and I have readings of my work online.

It is vitally important if you want to maintain a professional career. It seems to have grown in importance even in the short time between my first book and the latest collection. I think now that publishers want writers to have a social media presence and I think they might not take them on if they don’t have one.

Where to now?

I am working on a third collection, I’m also working on a second memoir and there is another project where I am writing about a young woman who had a terrible relationship with her father and somehow thinks that Neil Diamond could be a pseudo father and she tries to forge a relationship with him. She writes letters to Neil Diamond and it is tragic and comedic at the same time. I just happen to love comedy and tragedy.

This is what I am doing and I don’t have any desire to write plays or scripts for films. I have been asked to write some essays about writing and I might look at that but really for the foreseeable future it is more of the same.

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