with Vicky Allen:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Vicky: I loved writing stories from early childhood. I used to make up stories and draw elaborate pictures to go with them, and in some form or another that has continued all the way through my life. I went on to study illustration at art college, and in the years since then have continued to weave writing and art of all kinds through the tapestry of my life.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Vicky: I hardly know where to begin with this question! The poets Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, as well as George Mackay Brown have been really important to me in adulthood. But I am probably most influenced by the people around me, who live quietly extraordinary lives and are faithful to their gifts and dreams. I love observing that and reflecting on what that means.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?
Vicky: Until I was eleven or twelve my family lived in Lincolnshire in England, and then we spent my teenage years in Scotland – first the Shetland islands and then Aberdeenshire in north east Scotland. I’ve lived in Scotland ever since, and my identity has blurred from a displaced English person to someone whose deeply at home in Scotland. I write and reflect about this in my writing in small, personal ways quite often, with the watchfulness of an outsider in some ways.
Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Vicky: A few years ago, just after my mum died, I had a deep longing to create a piece of work which recorded and reflected on the lives of some women who have been important to Scotland’s spiritual legacy, but who are perhaps not quite as well known as they should be. This eventually took the form of “Wonderlines”, a piece of storytelling and poetry which intertwined the stories of three of Scotland’s female saints connected to the part of south east Scotland I now live in. The loss of my mum gave me an impetus to hold onto women’s stories in a fresh way. I went on to share “Wonderlines” at the Edinburgh Book Festival Fringe, and two other events over the next year, and the script is being reworked into book form. It is a project that is deeply important to me.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Vicky: Not really…it’s all felt like the unrolling of a long mysterious scroll – endlessly surprising and precious! I have always loved to be creative so in some ways that mysterious scroll is telling me the story that was already written inside me.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Vicky: Reading, of course! Ever since I was small I have always read past my bedtime, under the covers with a torch, and my favourite way to spend any spare time is to read. Finding the peace and time to do that is another matter! I really love to get in the sea and go swimming with friends, it’s a transformative and restorative delight.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
I’m really excited to be taking part in a Hedgehog Poetry Press Showcase as part of the Eastside Arts Belfast Festival in August. This virtual event will look at the connections between Scotland and Ireland, through a group of poets, like myself, who have had their work published by Hedgehog recently.
Q8: One of your favorite lines from a poem of yours or others, or favorite piece of art or photograph?
Vicky: This is a print I created as a thank you for a group of poets who helped me to celebrate the first anniversary of my debut poetry pamphlet “Broken Things and other tales”. It is such a special thing to discover how we are held by the support and kindness of those around us. The image is important to me because it reminds me of that community of kindness.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Vicky: Oh dear. Where to start?! As a child I remember my dad having a novel under development for a long time. As far as I know he never did anything with it, but there was definitely something about that early sense of possibility – what if I wrote a book? told this story I have burning inside? – that I have carried with me ever since. Over the last few years I’ve been part of a wonderful writers’ group, and their encouragement and thoughtful comments have been so important and valuable to me. I’ve had the joy of attending two of Joel McKerrow’s online writing courses, and they have been a massive influence and very formational for my writing as well (he’s an incredible writer and performer too – take a look at his website for details https://www.joelmckerrow.com/). And family and friends have been my constant encouragers and most honest critics – I’m so thankful for them.
Bio: Vicky Allen’s debut poetry pamphlet is “Broken Things and other tales” (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020). She’s been published in print & online in Mslexia, Stravaig, Bonnie’s Crew, Writers Cafe and others, & in anthologies by Proost, Black Agnes Press & Dove Tales. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives on the south east coast of Scotland.