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An interview with Natalie Holborow: Who are my Readers?

Feb 2017

An interview with Natalie Holborow: Who are my Readers?

Natalie Holborow is an award winning writer and is an active member on the spoken word scene in south Wales. She was awarded both the Terry Hetherington Award and the Robin Reeves Prize for Young Writers in 2015 and has been shortlisted for various others including the Bridport Prize, Hippocrates Prize and the National Poetry Competition. Her debut poetry collection And Suddenly You Find Yourself is out through Parthian in 2017 and she has recently been published in both The Stinging Fly and New Welsh Review. She is currently working on her first novel, thanks to a Literature Wales bursary.How did you begin your writing journey, at what age, how did it all start?

I have always been into writing as a child, I would always embrace any such task when teacher would give me to write a story. At about 8 years I was into Roald Dahl books and I wrote my first poem at age 14 but it wasn’t until I was 18 that I fell in love with poetry and that was outside the school syllabus when I started reading with myself. I started reading Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, etc. When I reached university, at age 20, that is when I started writing seriously and it’s been 5 years that I have been shaping that writing.

  • Who is that one writer/poet that has had a tremendous impact on you as a reader? What aspect of his/her writing attracted you?

Sylvia Plath and the imagery she created in her poems. I always return to her poems. She is one of the writers you can pick up her poems and you will never ever get through to the real meaning. At whatever stage you are in life whichever person picks it up, you receive something different every time you read it and I love that kind of writing.

  • Your poem ‘Relapse’ speaks about an eating disorder. Could you tell us a little bit about that.

That was during university. I suffer from diabetes and it’s not spoken about very much in the UK, it’s started to gain publicity now and people are coming to know about it. But I went about a period of 3 years struggling with insulin, struggling with eating and I was so stressed that I stopped eating and it is not always going that way I am always making sure I am trying when I can and that sort of thing, trying to find my coping mechanism and so writing was a huge healing process for me and that would be how I can express myself. That would be how I could tell someone about it but I can’t. I put all of that in my writing and it is only this year that I went public with it telling people about what I went through and it is ok to talk about it and I am trying to reach out to others. The trigger was also from bullying that happened during school too.

  • Please tell us about your writing process? Do you write as the words flow or you think about a theme and then, write accordingly – do you write the poem or do you let the poem write you?

I let the poem write itself to some extent, say you have an idea about the poem you know that it is the poem you want to say but at the same time writing goes beyond just the written page. Like for example, we are here in India to write and I feel I am trying to embrace every experience because later this is going to be the impact that I take home with me, because this is from where the words will flow and so I am currently engaging with life and I have nothing to write about at the moment. Sometimes when you put too much pressure on yourself, sit at your desk, and meet the word count, or write a particular poem, but you need to have that life experience as well.

  • You are now venturing into fiction from being a poet, how has the transition been? From flowing words to writing about characters, plot etc.

It’s a huge challenge really. I find myself being carried away with the language a lot. I have to bring myself in a lot of times and focus a lot on mapping the plot, characters and that has taken more discipline and that has taken more hours at the desk and am not beating myself up when things are not working, it’s really experimenting, nothing is wasted because it is still in the developing stage. But it is a totally different process as well.

  • You are writing your first novel – could you share with us a little about the main protagonist or what the book is about?

I am writing about two teenagers who have a baby at a young age and I think it is especially relevant because of the schools I came from so many of the young children will get pregnant at a young age at 15, 16 yrs and they are very stigmatized as well, people will whisper and looked down upon and those women became quite voiceless and I’d like to know their side of the story. I have been researching about these girls, how they felt and how the society treated them. It’s not all been negative there has been plenty of support as well. Even the men they are shut out and you wonder how does the father feel and for the ones who stay around does he feel invisible in any way and so does it all become about the mother and the men get shut out? I want to see the male perspective and the female perspective and it has taken a lot of research and it is really interesting.


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