Naomi Marklew is originally from Bristol but is now based in Durham in the North East of England. She lives with her husband and two boys, aged 4 and 6. Before having children she taught English Literature to undergraduates at Durham University where she did her MA and PhD in Poetry Studies, but these days she is working on her own poetry and prose for publication. She is also enthusiastic about forming communities with fellow creative people. Her work has recently featured in Amethyst Review, -algia, streetcake, Selcouth Station, Second Chance Lit, The Aesthetic Directory and is forthcoming in other journals.
Who and what inspires you?
I often find myself writing about people. Not always people I know well – I just had a poem published about our old window cleaner – but most of my early attempts at poetry were written for family birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. Since becoming a mum, my existence has mostly been centred around home and the kids and my own mental health, so these themes have come up a lot over recent years, but as my kids get older I’m starting to write about other things too. My PhD was on elegy, so I’m quite drawn to writing about grief in its various forms. Anne Lamott talks about writing every bit of inspiration down on index cards and I similarly try to keep notes on my phone. Last week I was coming out of the little supermarket near our house and noticed that the pet foodbank bin was overflowing with donations while the foodbank bin for humans was nearly empty. I’m not sure what point I want to make about that yet, but it seemed like something to make a note of for later. I also write down all my 6 year old’s ideas for stories, they’re much better than my own!
How do you find time to write as a parent?
I didn’t really write for the first few years of parenting. I started making notes on my phone when my youngest was about one, mainly to try to claw back a bit of sanity and selfhood. When he started nursery, I tried to use that time to write, but often sat in front of a blank screen crying with frustration. I was completely disconnected from other writers and didn’t know where to start. When lockdown started in 2020, my youngest had been doing half a week at nursery for about 2 months, I’d just had my first few pieces accepted for publication, and suddenly that precious writing time seemed like it was lost again… but a miraculous thing to come out of lockdown was that an online writing community seemed to spring up almost straight away. I applied for MumWrite which had a massive impact for me. I started to see myself as a writer and a mum, rather than just a mum attempting to be a writer. The sense of community helped my confidence and the practical techniques learned in the workshops have vastly improved my writing. I have a much better idea of how and where I should submit work, and I feel more familiar with the contemporary poetry community. Having said that, it’s still been really hard to find time to write, especially during the recent lockdowns. I basically write when the kids are at school/nursery, and I’m trying not to count down until they’re both at school full time! One essential thing has been online writing sessions with friends. Booking a time to write with other people has given me permission to take time away from the family that I normally wouldn’t give myself.
Which writing activities kickstart your writing when you're struggling?
I now have notebooks full of prompts and exercises from the workshops I’ve attended online over the last year. I especially like tools like Stick Bucket, Google Translate, using found texts and Oulipo-style dictionary work. I also love Kate Clanchy’s book ‘How To Grow Your Own Poem’, and always find it helpful to try one of her exercises if I’m struggling. Currently though, after the recent lockdown, I have a backlog of ideas, I just need the discipline to sit and work on them.
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