With a staggering volume of successful creative alumni, Goldsmiths University London is an institution that takes talent seriously, and its MA in Creative and Life Writing has nurtured some of the finest contemporary literary talent. Evie Wyld, Lucy Caldwell, and Ross Raisin are just some of its most recent graduates who have gone on to find critical acclaim and success. Now a student on the MA herself, Livvy J Hooper is here to use and abuse her position as a CV writer and MA student to chat with some of the brightest stars on the course; who just so happen to be some of the brightest literary talents on the horizon. Remember these names…
Tell us a bit about yourself: who are you, where are you from? I am Fiona Mason. I am originally from the midlands and flitted about from place to place until landing in Essex, where I studied philosophy at the Uni and made my home in Wivenhoe. That was nearly 30 years ago. Since then I’ve worked as a producer in theatre, dance and music, and now I’m focusing on my visual art and writing practice.
How would your best friend describe you? Resilient, resourceful, creative, gregarious.
How did you ‘get into’ writing? Why do you write? I am a lifelong scribbler and cannot imagine not writing. I guess I write to work things out, problem solve, find understanding, create worlds from nothing.
Who are your biggest influences? (inside and outside of literature) In literature it has to be Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Seamus Heaney. Outside? J.S. Bach, Anselm Keifer, Merleau-Ponty.
Do you have a specific technique or routine to your writing? Any strange writing habits? Ideas gestate for a long time before I put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard (or brush to canvas), but when I am ready to write it tends to happen quickly. I like to get stuff down without any pestering from the inner critic. Once I have something to work with I will then edit and edit, and edit again until it feels right. It is a steady, iterative process. I can’t force words out if they’re not ready.
How important is inspiration to your writing practice? If you’re not inspired by the subject that you’re writing about, then I think you’re making life very hard for yourself. It is hard to sustain the sort of effort required for substantial work without a level of motivation bordering on obsession. I write about the things that niggle at me to be written, the things that won’t go away.
What are you working on right now? I am working on a collection of landscape poetry, on a fine-art and text project about a 1200-mile journey by bicycle with a guitar, and on a prose and poetry work about a personal experience of caring and bereavement.
What are your plans for the future? What’s the ultimate goal? I turned 50 last year and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! Ultimate goal from hereon in is doing more of what makes me happy because life is short. At the moment what makes me happy is writing, drawing, painting, playing my guitar and having adventures.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Write.
What are you reading at the moment? Would you recommend it? Angela Carter’s Wise Children, again. Yes I would recommend it. It is a book full of heart, humanity and humour.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring? Water purifier, good boots, a knife.
If you were left in the woods with only the items in the room you are in, what would you build? With what is currently in my room and some nifty bushcraft skills picked up along the way I would build a shelter, make a bed, light a fire, dig pignuts from the ground and draw a map of my surroundings.
If I came to your house for dinner, what would you cook? Boeuf Bourguignon with boulangere potatoes and whole green beans.
If you were to be known for one thing and one thing only, for the rest of your life, what would you want it to be? Making a difference.
Pen or pencil? Pencil.
Scones: jam first, or cream? Jam. Always jam.
What question do you wish I had asked you? Answer it now. My earliest memory? Being in my pram in the hallway of the first family house, screaming when the netting veil was drawn over the opening, shutting out the world.
You can – and should – read Fiona’s poetry on Goldfish, and check out her website.