I met Cheryl at the storytelling event at The Botanic Gardens of Wales, and she kindly invited me to her first book fair in Llandysul, hosted by herself as Parlour Press Publishing on 29th September. Today, she shares her writing schedule and five things you may not know…
1 How do you write? Is everything plotted, planned to perfection? Do you ever change tack as you go along or always stick to a pre-made plan?
I write in free fall. I let my soul connect to my pen and leave the rest to trust. Sometimes, I don’t even know that I am writing, especially since waking up two years ago with sudden hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis. I find that on awakening, I have fully formed poems, stories and songs in my head. It helped me to write them down and then I found that in actual fact, I had been recording these pearls of wisdom onto my phone in my sleep. There are literally hundreds of recordings. These have become the basis for my new books, Soul Seeds and Soul Ink and The Truth is in There.
Writing started for me even before I could write, if that makes sense. When I first started school, I was labelled a bit of a day dreamer, but actually, in my head I was writing stories and poems and little songs. Then one Monday morning in Primary School, the teacher asked us to write our Weekend News and instead, I wrote a story about a black rose growing in my garden. I was so proud of it. I remember drawing the black rose across the page with the stem and thorns intertwining with the words. Well, it got me into terrible trouble. So, my Mum took me to one side and quietly asked me to ‘just write what actually had happened at the weekend, instead of making things up’.
The following Monday, I wrote ‘We went to the social club and my Dad got drunk again.’ As you can imagine, this didn’t go down too well either. So, it seemed that neither my imagination nor the truth, were acceptable fodder for Weekend News.
In response, my beautiful Mum gave me a little notebook, within which I could write whatever I wanted and in school, I was to write whatever they wanted. I decorated the front cover of that little book and kept it in a box under my bed. Inside, it soon became filled with stories and poems. There have been very many little books under the bed since then, nurturing my passion for creative writing and subsequently publishing, because writing and books have always gone hand in hand for me.
Cheryl inside the Dylan Thomas Writing Shed at Laugharne when she was one of 9 Poets in Residence for the year of the DT100. Photograph Jeff Beer.
2 Do you have a writing ritual? Meditation, certain cup for your tea, writing trousers?
Writing is my life rather than a special occasion. It can happen anywhere at any time; scraps of paper in cafes, backs of receipts, whatever I have to hand. I have a little notebooks scattered everywhere, just in case.
3 Aside from writing, what makes you tick? Tell us 5 things about yourself we probably don’t know.
1 Helping other people to engage with creative writing. I grew up on a council estate and there were very clear messages about who became a writer, and it wasn’t us. So, I have spent a great deal of my life undoing that stereotype for marginalised communities. For instance, in 2015, I won the Gold Wales National Care Award for my work in Creative Writing and Publishing for Older People with Dementia. http://www.parlourpress.net
- I love making quirky little books and poetry pockets out of felt. I have a little lap tray and make them as a distraction for my tinnitus in the evenings. I have hundreds of them. It is always my intention to sell them and sometimes I do, but I find it hard to let them go. I like to make the little books to reflect the story or poem in them. They are an extension of the story, of my story.
- I am a volunteer storyteller at Skanda Vale Hospice. I love going there. I adapt storytelling so that it can be an inclusive, one to one experience at the bedside of those who are at the end of their life. Usually, it inspires them to tell me about their life story.
- I am fascinated by people’s life stories. And people seem to love telling them to me. Even as a child, I would stand at the bus stop waiting to go to school and know everyone’s life story by the time the bus came. I now run sound memories dementia friendly radio station which is an award winning digital story project, collecting life story. http://www.soundmemoriesradio.com
- Reading this back, I realise that my life is so immersed in writing, that the things that make me tick outside of my own writing, are associated with it. I even met the love of my life, Jeff, through writing. I auditioned for his band 32 years ago and we became collaborative songwriters before we were lovers. Incidentally, we snook off last week and secretly got married. We had poems in the ceremony. Guess who wrote them?
4 If you were stranded on a desert island with shelter, food and water, what 5 items would you
want with you?
I don’t really need items. I could find a stick and write in the sand. I do need Jeff, my lovely new husband and Maisy, my little King Charles Spaniel. Other than that, I can make do. It will be exciting finding out what the island has to offer.
5 On said island, what 5 books would you take and why?
I don’t think I would take any books. Once I have read a book, it stays with me for always. I don’t need to read it again. I might ask 5 friends to recommend books I haven’t found myself, so it will be a nice suprise or more likely, take 5 blank books and keep journals about my adventure on the island, press flowers in them, though it would be more exciting to make books out of banana leaves and ink from berries.
6 Off the island now, which famous person would you like to have dinner with?
I have had dinner with quite a lot of famous people, when I was a touring singer/songwriter, the festivals would lay out tables for us backstage. I really was very blessed to work with the people that had been my heroes and to meet lots of wonderfully inspirational folk.
For instance, I was commissioned to write a song for Prince Charles when he opened Llanhilleth Institute and I stood right in front of him, performing it. That was pretty amazing really, that a daydreamer from the council estate could be stood in front of the Prince of Wales performing one of her songs. I don’t think I could ever have imagined that as a child. So, probably, I would like to have dinner with someone who is no longer here. To be honest, my first thought was, oh can I have dinner with my Grandad, please. He’s not famous, but he was the most beautiful human being.
7 Your current writing projects?
Soul Seeds: Planting Heartfelt Stories
Soul Ink for the Morning
The Truth is in There
Cheryl performing on the main stage at Women in Tune. Photograph Roweena Russell.
Fallen on Deaf Ears
A tribute album being recorded by other artists of my song archive organised by Mike Kennedy of Welsh Connection Magazine and Radio Tircoed, being released by Death Monkey Records.
Say it in the Sand
I have composed a piece of improvised music for a collection of films made by Sean Corcoran, an amazing artist at The Art Hand on the Copper Coast, The films are part of an International Prevent Suicide Campaign, based in Ireland.
Soul Ink Songs
I am currently working on a collection of new songs, finding new ways to perform and record as a hearing impaired person. Jeff is patiently and kindly sound engineering for me.
The band Sendelica have released a limited edition 12 inch single of a remix track that I recorded with them prior to my hearing loss. It is the most amazing, far our piece of psychedelic.
The Parlour Press Anthology
I am compiling an Anthology for the Inaugural Parlour Press Book Fayre with poets from across Wales and two international guest poets.
Sound Memories Radio
I am in R&D for a Silent Nature project with people who have end stage dementia.
I am working with a client to collate a book of the songs that define her husband’s life, to help him remember his sense of self since moving into a dementia friendly care home. He has been a folk musician and his music helps him to remember.
8 Other published work and links….
Best to come to my websites …
It never ceases to amaze me that every month @ 4000 people follow my Fusion Inspire: Journey Through the Creative Mind Blog. It has had over 140,000 views.
Meet Cheryl, myself and a host of other authors in Llandysul 29th September.
Thank you so much for sharing, Cheryl, and I’m looking forward to 29th!
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You have a beautiful spirit, Cheryl x
Lovely interview, Wendy!
Thanks Lisa! Full moon blessings xx