Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Sile, Me, Books and Tea: Talking Writing and Well-being for The Vibe on Radio Sheffield

I had such a lovely morning with Sile Sibanda when she came to visit last month. We chatted over a cup of tea and recorded our conversation for her Thursday evening show which aired on 5th March 2020. It’s fascinating when someone shines a light on you and wants to know about you as a writer. It’s very rare that we actually think about our process; it’s something we do, peruse over and refine constantly. So to share the sofa with Sile and talk about my influences, my processes and my published books was a real privilege. Sile and I know each other from working at Grimm & Co, a literacy charity in Rotherham where we both have supported children with their own writing, so it was wonderful to catch up! Sile is hugely talented. She runs her own radio show as well as writes poetry and performs at spoken word events.

You can listen to the interview here:

Here is a partial transcript of our conversation.

Sile: What do you write?

I write children’s novels, dark faerie fiction rooted in reality. I first wrote Driftwood then my next novel was The Pixie Plot which I wrote over two years.

I write a blog about my writing too called KatesWords. I was a primary teacher but had to leave through ill health. I’m blessed to have had my writing as living with a chronic illness is life changing. My blog is about my writing but also living with chronic pain and have some heartfelt comments from people in a similar situation who have said they find my posts helpful and that means so much.

Sile: How did you get started?

I think all writers start as avid readers - I inhaled books as soon as I could read: Roald Dahl, Louisa May Alcott, (I wanted to be Jo March from Little Women for the longest time) Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, then as I got older i discovered writers like Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood realising how powerful books could be. Good stories live with you.
I wrote from being a child, poetry and short stories usually with something magical happening or based in history.

Sile: What inspires your writing?

The books I read often inspire me - Atwood, Carter, Dickens, Wilde and faerie tales and folk tales from my childhood. I always have a notebook when I go anywhere and places I visit set me off - a day at Creswell Craggs inspired the caves in The Pixie Plot and a magical, incense filled shop in Whitby inspired the puppet shop in Driftwood and Amethyst. Writers are magpies, we really are.

People I talk to, snippets of conversations I overhear, news stories, places and buildings I go to - unusual settings, quirky objects I find in junk shops and museums. I love old houses and museums and take lots of photos.

Sile: Do you listen to music when you write?

I love to have classical music on a theme of what I’m writing, for example, my play list at the moment it sea music and sea magic - classical, jazz, contemporary - various Spotify lists to inspire me. I listen to a lot of music which I often find sparks an idea - or sometimes it could just be a line I hear someone say which I write down and squirrel it away for another day.

Sile: What you are working on at the moment?

Currently I’m right in the middle of my latest novel which is based around sea magic and the faltering relationship between three generations of the same family. There are many secrets to be unearthed so there are many twists and turns! I’ve been building up to the middle for a while which is quite nerve wracking and now I’m here I’m loving it. I’m building certain relationships up and laying foundations again for later in the story which is all good. I work from notes I’ve made and refer loosely to my plan (as I always go off at a tangent here and there) and write on my laptop each day if I can - even if I only manage 200 words I know I'm chipping away at it..

I read a lot about writing - Stephen King’s and Margaret Atwood’s books about writing are incredible.

Sile: Tell me about your blog.

I started writing my blog when I became ill. I was a primary teacher and had a pelvic and back injury so I wasn’t able to work due to a combination of chronic pain and strong medication. I fought to stay in teaching and tried and tried until my Occupational Therapist and consultant said ‘Enough!’ I felt really stuck for a long time as I really did not know what I would do. I needed to have purpose still. There are lots of people in my position with really busy lives in medicine, education, retail, law - and they have to stop working. But I was lucky as I knew that if I had 10 minutes or an hour where I felt well enough I could write. So I write my stories and I write my blog which is a mixture of my experiences, my learning about pain management, my experiences of writing and theory around each of these areas.

Sile: What does being a writer allow you to do?

I spend a lot of time at home reading, note taking, thinking about writing and writing. I also attend Sheffield Authors events, arts events, book events - I love to meet people who have read my book and have ideas for what happens to certain characters next. It’s really important for me to inspire children and young people to write - at events I have an area for children and young people to write, to make books, note down ideas etc just to get their creativity flowing. That's the teacher on me. She’s still there sometimes.

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Sile, Me, Books and Tea: Talking Writing and Well-being for The Vibe on Radio Sheffield

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