As I’ve mentioned on these pages before, I have a book coming out soon. I Love St Andrews. There is SO MUCH to say about Carly Brown, but I’ll let you read her website. Needless to say, she has been such a joy to collaborate with. What follows here is an interview with Carly, who was questioned by our mutual friend, esteemed artist in her own right, Lydia Cruz.
Interview with Carly Brown
Q: This was your first collaborative writing experience. How did you meet Gillian? What were some of the benefits of collaborating with another artist? What were the challenges?
A: Gillian and I met in the best possible way: because of tea! Gillian ran a wonderful tea shop in St Andrews called Our Story, where I used to go all the time. My old flatmate, Stephanie, also worked on some designs for Gillian’s company Tea People. Stephanie told me about Gillian’s idea to create a book celebrating St Andrews. When I learned that Gillian was interested in having me write it, I was so flattered. From there, she and I began working on the project.
It has been great working with Gillian: she had a clear idea at the outset about what she wanted from the book and that made the writing process pretty straightforward. She thought it could be centered on the seasons and full of fun, quirky references that people who lived in the town would appreciate. I took those ideas and ran with them.
The challenges were mostly due to distance. In the last year, Gillian moved to Durham and I moved to Glasgow, so that’s made our collaboration more tricky. Lengthy Skype calls!
Q: You mention quite a few activities in the poem (flying kites, building sandcastles, a foam fight, carols at Holy Trinity, etc). Do you have any specific memories of doing these things that you would like to share in more detail?
A: Oh plenty! I’ve never actually built a sandcastle in St Andrews, but I’ve done almost all of the other things (except attend a fashion show, I’m embarrassed to say). The foam fight was fun, but what they don’t tell you is that the shaving cream really stings your eyes. Advice to Incoming Freshers: Wear Goggles!
I included Lade Braes Park because it’s one of my favorite places to walk and I think it’s underrated in St Andrews because of all our lovely beaches. I also liked singing Carols at Holy Trinity, listening to fiddle music (my favorite pub for that is The Whey Pat) and even wandering around at night alone, all of which are featured in the book.
Q: I find that part of editing my own writing—whether poetry or prose—involves reading the piece aloud to test the fluidity of the language. With your background as a performance poet, do you find that the sonic nature of words plays a large part in what you write, even if the poem is not intended as a performance piece?
A: Definitely. I wanted to stick to a (fairly) strict meter with the poem, so reading aloud really helped me to make sure that I was keeping to that. I also wanted the book to be fun to read aloud as well, so I tried to pick words that had a jaunty, sing-song-y quality.
My friend Laala, a poet and journalist from Bahrain, helped me to edit the book and I would read the poem aloud while she pounded out beats on my kitchen table, to make sure it was in the correct rhythm. It sounds silly, but it helped!
4. Though you’ve had your eye on publishing as an eventual goal, it is in the realm of performance poetry where you’ve had the most exposure, having performed regularly in the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as at the World Series of Slam Poetry in Paris last year. Now, I Love St Andrews will be your second book in under a year. Did you expect that you would jump into the world of publishing so soon? Has this affected your trajectory as a writer? If so, how?
I certainly did not expect to have two books coming out within the span of one year! Both books were the results of collaborations with two talented artists and I feel very fortunate indeed to have worked with them.
I’m not sure how it has affected my trajectory as a writer. I suppose time will tell! Overall, I intend to just keep writing as much as I can, as often as I can.
5. Are there any authors that have been especially influential in your writing? Any particular books?
In terms of children’s books, my absolute favorite is Dr Seuss (particularly The Lorax). He is just such an agile, hilarious, clever and poignant writer. Growing up, I loved authors like Louis Sachar (Holes), Lemony Snicket, J.K Rowling, Roald Dahl and Lois Lowry. I also read a LOT of Emily Dickinson. She’s the one who really ignited my love of poetry.
6. Do you have any other projects in the works?
I’m currently on the MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. I’m more interested in prose than poetry. Last term, I focused on short stories and I’m currently submitting to literary magazines. One story is set in a dystopian version of Las Vegas. Another is a non-fiction piece about my first winter in St Andrews.
‘m also working on a novel for middle-grade readers at the minute so finishing that up will be my next big project.