Date posted: 9th February 2018 / Interviews
World Book Day swiftly approaches and we bookish types don't need persuading to celebrate the rich array of books published every year.
This year, on 1st March, people across the country will be donning costumes as they become their favourite book characters for the day and celebrate the stories which make us laugh and cry, those stories we can’t wait to share. With campaigns like ‘share a story in 10 minutes’ part of the World Book Day celebrations, we are delighted to be teaming up with Torquay Museum as they participate in Torbay’s ‘Sharing Stories’ festival to present a talk by noted nature-writer and creative non fiction lecturer at Plymouth University, Dr Miriam Darlington.
To celebrate the publication of her latest book Owl Sense and provide insight into the process of writing creatively, Miriam will be at Torquay Museum from 2 – 3 pm on 1st March to share her story and help us celebrate World Book Day.
Before the event, we caught up with Miriam to find out more about what inspires her and what it’s like to be a writer in the South West.
1. Your work focuses on nature-writing, can you tell us a bit more about the genre and why it is important to you?
Nature writing is as old a humanity itself; people have been fascinated by nature and wanting to tell stories about the wild that surrounds them, their encounters with it, what it might mean, and how much they appreciate it, or even their battle with it.. for hundreds if not thousands of years. There is nothing new about that. I grew up enticed into nature by stories, as many children are, this is often the first way we find into empathising with the natural world. My passion and interest were sparked by stories like Tarka the Otter and Ring of Bright Water. There is a venerable tradition of nature writing of this sort over the last 150 years since the Romantic poets with writers like Richard Mabey and Robert Macfarlane leading the way more recently, but what is new, and what interests me, is that nature writing now is expressing a deep concern for what is threatened in our environment. Almost in an effort to reignite wonder in others, raise concerns and awareness, and protect species and wild places we are afraid may disappear. Increasingly, what we see as being lost and degraded is being highlighted in nature books, in a variety of ways, with many different voices. We live in an ecosystem that is damaged; ocean plastics, extinction of bird species, invasive species, antibiotic resistance.. we exist in uncertain times, and people are hungry for the wonder, insights, revelations and truths to be found in this most recent wave of nature books.
2. How important is travel to your work? Can you describe how your studies of the natural world influence your writing?
My writing as I see it is a series of adventures, or forays into the natural world, at home and in other countries.. I often find, the further I go, or the more challenging the adventure (I went to Serbia to research this latest book, and to the forests in Finland, but equally, bashing my way into a forest of nettles or scaling a cliff can do it too) the greater the challenge, the more interesting the writing becomes. When we push ourselves to the edge of what we know, put ourselves outside the familiar, the writing becomes far more exciting. You have to go into the fire a little. That’s where the surprises lie.
3. If you could share one piece of advice for budding writers looking to write in the genres of nature writing or creative non-fiction, what would it be?
Three things, apart from the above: 1. Research; immersive experiences. 2. All writing needs tension. 3. Get the sentences right. 4. Writing is easy. Editing is the hard bit, and the most important. Sorry, that’s four…
4. You’re based in the South West. Does the region impact upon your writing in anyway and could you describe a writing day for us?
I think there are two things that have impacted on my writing here in the South West. The first is that there is a very encouraging writing scene, with plenty of writers groups that are welcoming to people of all levels, and plenty of accessible evening classes adult ed etc.. When I first arrived here I joined a group of poets, The Moor Poets, who were very encouraging and inspiring and helped me to get my early work published. They ran workshops and had visiting speakers, and it was all fundamental when I was starting out. Writing can be a nervous and lonely occupation, and anyone that can offer encouragement and support is great! Being part of a community of writers, whether they are published or not, can be a fabulous catalyst. The next thing is the landscape of Dartmoor. I found it utterly inspiring. I fell passionately in love with its granite tors and wild places, its wildlife and birds and its nooks and crannies, and I would say that drew me into writing quite powerfully.
A writing day? I begin with a cup of tea and lots of procrastination, picking fluff off the carpet, that sort of thing. If I’m stuck I read, and then right at the last minute I begin writing furiously as quite soon it will be time to pick up the kids from school. I would add that walks in the fresh air are a vital part of that, too.
Thank you Miriam!
Entry to this event is free with a valid Torquay Museum admission ticket. Find out more here.
Miriam is also in the line-up of writers for Word on Tour, see her at St Mary’s Library on the Isles of Scilly, Bridgwater library and Ilfracombe Library. Tickets will be available shortly. For the latest information please visit the Word on Tour Facebook page