British poet Liz Brownlee lives in a village with her husband who is a wildlife film editor for the BBC, her dog Lola, and her cat Milla. She has two children, Emmelie, 24, who is a sustainability consultant and green issues author (she also has a book out!) and Jem, 19, who is at university.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
I have two favourite places to write. One is in my living room on the sofa, next to a table on which I have my ipad so I can research things, resting with my legs up and lots of books by my side and cushions behind my back. I often wake up with the pen in my hand, half way through a line. My other favourite place is in front of the computer in my study, surrounded by bookshelves, sitting in a chair that keeps me upright in the correct writing position. Strangely, despite being able to see the garden, my apple tree, birds on the feeders and squirrels behind my screen, I get a lot more work done in this place. Mystifying.
What do you love most about writing?
What I most love about writing is that moment when you have expressed what is in your heart and soul and it sings back off the page with the same melody – or maybe a harmony – but sometimes that surprise is just as good!
What is the hardest and easiest part of the writing process for you?
The hardest part of the writing process for me is when I have researched an animal, if I am writing an animal poem, or a concept, and sit down to start writing. There are so many things to try out to see what fits the subject. What mood? What rhythm? What sounds? Soft words? Hard words? Long, languorous words, or short, staccato words? Sombre words or happy, chirpy words? Until I have chosen all the elements, rather like a room designer chooses their colours and patterns and styles, I feel restless, uncomfortable, frustrated…
The easiest part of the writing process for me is the editing, and the most fun. I love looking at a poem or line in a poem and deciding whether it is the very best way I can describe something with the fewest number precise, elegant words as possible.
What five words best sum up your personality?
I couldn’t think what summed me up in 5 words so I asked other people. My husband said ‘thoughtful, sensitive, methodical, creative, and funny’. My daughter said ‘funny, kind, determined, inquisitive and creative’, one of my best friends said ‘kind, funny, intelligent, thorough, and talented’. One of my other friends said ‘bonkers’.
Other than writing, what else do you love to do?
I love reading, walking my dog Lola who alerts me to low blood sugar, laughing, learning new things, doing anything creative like drawing or making something, going to the theatre, chatting with my friends, looking round second-hand bookshops, planning poetry events, singing in a choir, taking photographs, playing on the computer, eating chocolate… that doesn’t cover it but there is just so much…
Describe your perfect day.
I am lucky to have a perfect day every week. Friday is my favourite day. On Friday, I almost wake up around half 8, shower and wake up slightly more, have half a grapefruit for breakfast with two pieces of toast and marmite and, after a whole pot of tea, I’m certainly nearly wholly awake. Then I get a basket ready, with money in it and a key and empty egg boxes etc. to go to the farmers’ market with my dog, Lola. Friday is also Lola’s favourite day and she is always very excited. At the market I buy fresh salad, veg, fruit, free-range eggs, home-made marmalade and cakes and Lola tries to get to my friends to be stroked. Lola is a small dog that is trained to alert me to low blood sugar, as I have no warning symptoms and my blood sugar drops very quickly. She does not sit sensibly as a service dog should at the market, where all my friends also own dogs and who have been on walks with us – she tries to get to my friends to ravish them with doggy kisses. Then we both sit down for a coffee – many of my friends have sat here with me for the last 25 years. We chat, pass on news, laugh a LOT (we are very unruly) and Lola shuffles off my lap onto the next one, and then round the whole circle, for love from everyone. Then we go for a dog walk in the fields with the dogs. When I get back, I shower Lola, have lunch, and start writing, do some housework, do some more writing, or reading, or researching… usually I then have dinner with my husband (who is the cook) but my perfect, perfect day would finish with going out to friends’ and having dinner and more laughter there.
Do you have a writing schedule?
I do not have a writing schedule. I go in phases. It depends what stage I am at. If I’m struggling to start a poem I find lots of housework to do. If I’m desperate to finish a poem and having fun I don’t do any housework at all, do a lot of falling over things left on the floor and work till 2 in the morning.
What are your past, current, and/or next projects?
At the moment, I am right at the beginning of a project and I’m researching, looking at facts and imbibing the character of the animals I am looking at. Sometimes that leads to a poem straight away, in which case I’ll sit down and think about all the different ways to write that poem, and start writing write a load of rubbish, and then start again, and maybe in a week or two or three get something I’m happy with. Very occasionally a poem writes itself out of the end of my arm onto the page as if it was written already, and it needs no editing at all. I think that’s usually when I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
At the moment I’m contemplating doing a wildlife festival of poetry and art and creativity… I’ve done one 10 day poetry exhibition in 2009 as part of Bristol Poetry Festival. Fifteen professional poets in the poetry group I belong to donated their work and 9 of them came and helped run the exhibition in shifts, and it was heavenly, delightful, fabulous fun!
To learn more about Liz and her love of animals, visit her here and find her book here.
Flikr (poetry exhibition): http://www.flickr.com/photos/25774572@N08/sets/72157622770073722/