Today we’re over the moon to share some superb tips for freeing the imagination and putting pen to paper from a very special poet – Kate Wakeling, recent winner of the 2017 CLiPPA .
Previously won by a roster of remarkable poets (including Sarah Crossan, Michael Rosen, Roger McGough, George Szirtes, Carol Ann Duffy and John Agard), the prestigious CLiPPA – the only award for published poetry for children – was launched in 2003, and seeks to give this vital branch of children’s literature the recognition it deserves.
Kate’s winning book, Moon Juice, is a gloriously inventive collection of twenty-five poems, and also includes interviews with Kate and illustrator, Elīna Brasliņa, and ideas for writing your own poems. The book is a kaleidoscope of colourful characters, from warrior Skig (who’s actually more worrier than warrior), to Hamster Man, and Rita the Pirate. There’s a joyous musicality to Kate’s writing, and we at Scoop can’t recommend Moon Juice enough. Now over to Kate …
If you’re feeling low on ideas or want to inject something of the strange into your poems, try Automatic Writing. The technique is simple: find a pen and paper then set an alarm for three minutes. You must write continuously – the pen never leaving the page – until the alarm sounds. Feel free. Write absolutely whatever pops into your head. When you’re finished, circle any words or phrases that strike you as interesting, colourful or unexpected. BANG: here is the seed of your next poem.
Try and let the sounds of words guide how you choose and use them. The sense of words is very important, of course, but if you relax your grip on meaning just a little and sometimes let sound alone direct how you put together lines and phrases, you’ll find all sorts of excellent and unexpected things will happen in your writing.
Read. Everyone says this, and often everyone is wrong, but on this occasion, everyone is RIGHT. Read often. Read widely. Read with your eyeballs screwed in as tightly as possible. Read like a detective and thief rolled into one. I find it helps to be reading even when in the middle of writing: other books can be good company while you draft something. I often pick a book that feels particularly interesting and inspiring to me that day and I sit it on my desk next to my notebook and computer. If I’m feeling bored or aimless or discouraged with my work, I pick up the book, open a page at random and enjoy a few moments in its warm company, before returning to my own writing. I think of it as like phoning a friend when in a fix: sometimes you need a burst of another person’s energy to set you on your way.
Don’t be afraid to work slowly. In any piece of writing, but perhaps most particularly poetry, every word is crucial and sometimes it can take a long time to find just the right one. Of course, sometimes a poem happens quickly and this is a very fine feeling, but there are also times when a poem takes twenty attempts to get it just how you want it to be. Think hard about every little detail and embrace the slow care of poetry.
Lastly, if you find yourself struggling to make sense of an idea or to finish a line: GO FOR A SHORT WALK. You’ll find the effect can be magical. There is something about fresh air, the rhythm of your feet, and the sights and sounds of the outside world that help loosen up the imagination and tighten up your problem-solving. Imagination and problem-solving are the two crucial muscles of writing: keep them exercised.