Originally from the UK, Jo currently lives in Amsterdam with her husband and two daughters. She first heard about IWC back in 2016 and has done over ten courses since then. Jo works as a freelance copywriter, helping clients to find their own unique voice.
Let’s start with the beginning. What is your writer’s origin story?
I’ve always had a passion for writing, since I was a young child. I used to make little books with my dad’s old printer paper and was always thinking of new stories to write. At school, I loved English – I had an incredible teacher and I think because of her I went on to study English Literature at university, and later journalism at the London School of Journalism. Alongside the academic route, I’ve always kept journals as a means of understanding the world around me. So, writing has always been a significant part of my life, both academically and personally – but it wasn’t until the IWC that I discovered a true love for poetry and began exploring that avenue further. I’m currently working on compiling a poetry chapbook and have recently written a children’s book that I hope to get published. I also write a variety of articles and essays.
What is it about poetry that you love?
Poetry offers me a new lens on everyday things, like putting on a different pair of glasses. The poets I admire the most are the ones that can take the mundane and make it mystical; it’s a special kind of alchemy. As a reader, you are almost transported to a different realm.
What does your creative process look like?
Honestly, it’s really challenging with two young kids to find the time and have a writing routine, but I find that my best ideas come when I just have quiet moments to myself – or some seemingly mundane interaction will inspire me. I get these sudden downloads of information and inspiration and will then quickly make notes on my phone or scribble something down in my journal. Even if it’s just 30 seconds of writing, I’ll try to capture it because you never know what might come from it.
I hear you when you say it’s hard to keep a writing discipline. What are ways that you make it work for you?
The IWC courses are great because they push me to write consistently, and by the end of the course I’ll have a body of work that I otherwise wouldn’t have created. Even if only a few of the poems are keepers, at least I am creating a wider catalogue to choose from, and just getting my hand back into the writing practice. I love finding inspiration from the spectrum of other writers that the IWC courses introduce me to, and the feedback from teachers is always so constructive and encouraging that it’s a good impetus to keep going!
I also try to listen to poetry podcasts and read more poetry if I feel I am slipping with my writing. In general, writing has become such a part of who I am, that if I haven’t written for a long time, I start feeling restless, and that’s always a sign for me to get back to it.
How was the process of writing the children’s book?
The process of writing the book was fun, even though it stemmed from quite a difficult experience. We had a whole year of my daughter not sleeping after my youngest was born. So, I wrote a book about a girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep (trying to make the most of a rubbish situation!) It’s written in rhyme and designed to speak to both children and their parents, so it was fun to try a completely different writing style.
What have you learned from the process of trying to get the book published?
The process of getting published is quite tricky. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had some of my writing published over the years, but I’ve also received a lot of rejections in that process. You have to (try) to be patient and develop a thick skin around the process (which is not my strong point!). Of course, there is a desire to be recognised and for your writing to be accepted, but the most important thing is that you’re doing it because YOU love to do it (and if someone ends up loving reading it, that’s an added bonus!).
What is your short-term plan?
I want to write a bit more around the topic of motherhood, perhaps another children’s book, and maybe start sharing some of my already-published work more widely online.
Who are your favorite authors?
I’ve been reading The Hurting Kind, by Ada Limón, which is an amazing collection. I also like David Whyte and Gregory Orr and I’ve really been getting into Anne Lamott’s work on the writing process. The poetry podcast I listen to all the time is called ‘Poetry Unbound’, it’s a great way to discover new poets and feel inspired.
Interview by Beatriz Ramos