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Evalyn Lee, London Independent Story Prize 2024 1st Competition Poetry Finalist 'My Discernment Process Ends Badly'

London Independent Story Prize 2024 1st Competition Poetry Finalist 'My Discernment Process Ends Badly' Evalyn Lee

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I live in London but am originally from New York City. When I am not writing, I’m over in Battersea doing lay ministry work for St. Mary’s Battersea at an end-of-life care home or laughing at Stitching Together which is an amazing group of women busy creating crocheted and knitted goods to raise funds for local charities for the common good.


- When and how did you get into writing?

I have kept a dairy since I was 11 years old. I started writing poetry at the age of twelve. I won the American Poetry prize my senior year on college and went on to study English at graduate school at Oxford. But I was an undiagnosed dyslexic and given my ability to constantly make ‘mistakes’ in my writing, I decided it was best not to pursue an academic career. I was able to land a job in documentary radio, as a secretary. I worked my way up to become a writer and producer, for radio and television, in what was called hard news. Believe it or not, being able to write poetry is great training for news writing. I worked for CBS News in New York and then the BBC here in London. I have won an Emmy, a spoken word Grammy, a Polk award, four Writers Guild awards and my poems, stories and essays have been published in over 100 publications. I am currently working on my first collection of poems.


- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

I write pretty much continuously – taking notes in my journal on scraps of paper – I’m a kinaesthetic learner, so having my hand make words is how my brain processes information. I have a very limited short-term memory, so I write, note and draw the world around me as a memory aid. Zoom is great for drawing meetings, discussions, and I always draw on tube rides and at readings I attend. If I am writing a poem – I always turn my notebook sideways – that way I can quickly find them to type up later when I have time. I title and date all my journals and have shelves of them. I am at heart a journalist. Endless lists in a journal.


- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

The thing I miss about not being in broadcasting, is the conversation with listeners/viewers about a story. I miss not speaking right away with a reader and have found the silence between creation and publication lonely. The process of being published is a winding road. I admire all the editors and creatives who make publishing possible. It was probably the hardest part about going freelance, giving up the endless conversations about editing, shaping, reporting, and final outcomes. But I love that poetry is not transactional. It is an equal gift to the reader and to the writer.


- What's the best and most challenging thing about writing Poetry? 

Clarity of purpose and shaping the poem. Especially when you know you are not there yet. The most challenging part is to keep going when things are not working on the page and to have the faith that you have skillset to figure it all out and to give yourself time to work it out.


-  How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

This poem has been a long time in my mind on the back burner. I pulled out of the Church of England Discernment process after two gruelling years, four years ago, just as COVID shut down the churches and locked us all in. The discernment process for ministry is a hard process to describe or explain, but my vicar had asked me to pursue it. But I had one particularly terrible interview while I sitting on a sofa that rested on four piles of books. As a professional interviewer myself, I was shocked to be left feeling so emotionally abandoned. I never in my career left anyone I spoke with so alone in a conversation. But this moment though confusing and painful became clarifying over time. God didn’t give me words to be a minister instead I was given the words to write this poem.


- Can you please give us a few tips about writing Poetry?

Trust your voice and how you see the world. Read tons. Listen to lyrics and spoken word. Remember there is no right way to write. Be observant, be hopeful and experiment. Trust that what you have to say will find the right form, no matter how long it takes.


- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions? 

Let go of outcomes and just having the nerve to keep going.


- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit to LISP

Absolutely I would recommend writers submit to LISP. The reading I attended, to hear my friend Robin Martin read from her novel, was inspiring in its breadth of support for writers and in the joy of the editors. LISP is a wonderful place to submit.



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