An Interview with Rosemary Stevens
During the month of July, Rosemary Stevens will be running a new course at the Centre for Stories called Life Writing. Life Writing is a 7-week course that offers an intimate, safe and relaxed environment in which to begin, or reinvigorate, your life story. Spaces are strictly limited so reserve your spot today!
We asked Rosemary a few questions about sharing stories through writing and her influences.
What is your best advice to someone with writer’s block?
My advice is to forget what you’re striving to write for the moment, and come at it sideways by focusing on the five senses. Write down what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell right now. Then, simply write down whatever occurs to you next. Keep the pen moving and stay with the sensuous detail. Don’t stop to edit; just keep going with first thoughts until you get into a flow and let that rhythm carry you forward. Once you find your stride, it’s easier to transfer this to a project you feel stuck on.
Why is life writing and memoir so important?
Recording key memories quickly reveals a pattern or recurring theme in your life. By writing these down, more memories flow, perhaps forgotten or suppressed until now. The act of writing triggers insights, which in turn stimulate further connections. Life writing, whether a memoir or a biography of someone else, reveals meaning.
What do you most enjoy writing about?
I enjoy writing about memories associated with particular places; reliving moments of deep pleasure, for example, that are linked to nature, like lying on the slippery grass of a Welsh hill under scudding cloud, lost in a book of poems. I’m fascinated too by the way strong emotions seem physically bound to the place where they occurred; I remember a difficult conversation in a phone box where the draught under the door and the smell of metal and stale cigarettes will forever mingle with the shock news I struggled to take in. Recalling these details in a fictional piece helped me assimilate those feelings, whilst lending power to the writing.
Why do you think sharing stories is important?
I see stories as a lifeline connecting us to each other and ourselves. In order to tell our story, we have to shape it in some way, linking one thread to the next. This helps us understand what matters, how it feels and what it means; fluid elements that shift in the retelling. But we can’t do this without an audience; it’s a two-way process: when we open ourselves to someone else’s story, we complete the circle, acknowledging their unique experience and seeing ourselves reflected there. Whether through the written or spoken word, together we bear witness; a dynamic in which both parties are changed.
Can you name a storyteller or person who has greatly influenced you or evoked something within you?
It may sound clichéd, but Shakespeare was an early influence. I was gobsmacked as a teenager at how entire worlds could be born in words – storms evoked; jealousies and loves birthed and buried – all through cadence, imagery and rhyme. Virginia Woolf is another soulmate; I am still in love with the breathless rhythm of her prose, her insight and courage. These are the authors I return to over and over for fresh inspiration.