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Kathrine Bancroft, London Independent Story Prize 2024 1st Competition, 'Rubies and Pearls'

Kathrine Bancroft, London Independent Story Prize 2024 1st Competition Poetry Finalist 'Rubies and Pearls'

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

I was born in Sofia to a Bulgarian/Ukrainian mother and British father and grew up in Macclesfield in Cheshire. I am, at heart, still very much a Northern girl but I've called London home for a long time now and am still inspired by it.


I started my working life in television, producing factual programmes and documentaries before moving into political and not for profit communications.

I now work as a freelance communications consultant which I love and which also gives me the flexibility to work on my own writing.



- When and how did you get into writing?

I’ve always written, ever since I was a child. A powerful childhood memory is of picking up a pencil and seeing the magic of letters, albeit badly formed ones, beginning to appear on the page.


Literature has also always been a massive part of my life and drew me back to university in 2005. I’m still slightly evangelical about the two years I spent at Birkbeck reading for an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature. It's a brilliant place.


Working in communications means that I deal with words and ideas every day but I've only been truly serious about my own writing since 2015. My dad died very suddenly that year and words were my solace, and my hope, in the miasma of loss and grief.


There’s a belief that the dead leave us a passing gift and I think that Dad’s was to leave me some of his fearlessness as after some short courses and workshops, I finally plucked up the courage to apply for a place on City University's Novel Studio course. 


I now have an almost completed first novel and along the way I’ve enjoyed experimenting with the creative possibilities of flash fiction (  City Writes Winter 2019 winner) and poetry and was thrilled to be one of LISP’s Promising Pens last year with a prose poem called The Afternoon Tea, inspired by my 102 year old friend and whisky drinking buddy Harry Winter, one of our last WW2 veterans.


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

I try to pick up a pen to write every day - but am not always successful in this mission. And yes, I really am that old school!


One of the best pieces of advice that I have been given is that writing isn't just about what happens on the page - it’s also the thoughts and ideas that float through your mind in the shower, on a walk, in the supermarket. So, I try to be open to letting my mind wander as much as possible during the day and seeing where it all ends up. There are bits of paper all over the house and in my pockets from where I've scribbled things down. I sometimes jot things down on my phone too - so maybe I'm not totally old school!


Inspiration comes from all kinds of places and I am a bit of a magpie. Just today, a friend sent me some photos of his visit to Chartres cathedral, where there is a labyrinth,which got me thinking and I really enjoy the creativity of ekphrastic poetry and responding to other art forms. I couldn't live, or write, without music either.


But my biggest inspirations are, well, the biggies - love, and people. They are the ones that really matter I think. 


- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It feels wonderful! I'm not ashamed to say that I got a little teary when I saw my piece published in last year's anthology. So too when I received the email about being a 2024 finalist.


But without a shadow of a doubt, the best bit about it is hearing that people like what you're doing, and that it's touched them in some way. We humans have an innate need to tell and share our stories and if other humans respond to our words…..well, you can't beat it. 


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

The best thing is when you get flow! It's a wonderful, almost liminal feeling, when the words seem to come with ease and everything slots into place. It's as rare as hen’s teeth but it's like alchemy when it happens.


The converse of this is when you have an idea, and it seems great in your head, but it just won't translate onto the page.


Sometimes, this is temporary. At others, you just have to give it up as a bad job and move on - which can be hard to do, especially if you're a stubborn old bird like I am!


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

‘Rubies and Pearls’ was written quickly and is inspired by Turkish poet Edip Cansever’s wonderful ‘Table’.  I've always loved the lines I’ve borrowed in it from ‘The Tempest’ and the idea behind them that out of death and tragedy something beautiful is made. T.S.Eliot's ‘The Wasteland’, which also makes use of these lines, remains one of my favourite pieces of literature so using them in my piece was a little nod to that poem’s importance to me too. 


It's a highly autobiographical poem. I was involved in an accident last year which very nearly killed me, so mortality has been very much on my mind. But I also wanted to try and write something that encapsulates the absolute joys of being alive - all the good things -  like love, and desire, and family. Hopefully, I've managed to do some of that with these lines. 


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

Remember that you are the only one who can tell your stories. No one else thinks or feels the same way you do - this is all yours and yours alone - so don't hold back and just say what you need to say.

But always make sure that you are truthful. To yourself. And to, and for, your reader.


- Lastly, do you recommend that writers submit to LISP?

Absolutely! It's a brilliant organisation run by people who really care about supporting as many people as possible to tell their stories. I'm very grateful for the support they've given me and urge anyone who’s thinking of submitting to just take a deep breath and do it. What have you got to lose?



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