Becky Danks is one of our amazing team of flash fiction judges. She recently won the City Writes competition with her short story The Anniversary and she was able to read it at their event just last night, 12th July.
Which writers or poets inspire you and why?
Kate Armstrong. Her debut novel The Storyteller is an insightful, creative yet honest exploration of mental illness. Kate has been open about her own experience of depression and I admire that she is helping to challenge stigma by writing about it.
John Keats. He made the brave move from being a surgeon to a poet. Despite completing lengthy training for a place on a practical career path, he took the risk to do what he loved full-time. I used to live in Rome and was a regular visitor to his former home there and also his grave in a rare tranquil corner of the city.
Toni Morrison. She writes with compassion and without judgment. Her novel Beloved is one of my favourite books and follows a character who has attempted to rebuild her life after unimaginable suffering. It’s a haunting story that’s stayed with me for many years after I first read it.
Stephen King. I’m a big horror fan. I read The Shining whilst travelling and it scared me so much I couldn’t have it under my mosquito net! But what inspires me most is his versatility in writing unique stories across different genres.
What advice would you give your younger writing self?
Be more confident and keep at it. I remember being very surprised and embarrassed in primary school when my poem was published, first in a local newspaper and then in an anthology. I loved writing from a young age but at secondary school creative writing wasn’t on the curriculum. Although I knew it was something I was able to do well, I didn’t think it was possible to pursue writing professionally. It didn’t help that I was told very firmly by a teacher that journalism was too competitive for a girl, advice I unfortunately took very seriously. I’ve recently made up for it by doing a postgraduate course at the London School of Journalism. With hindsight, I would advise my younger self to do work experience, volunteer and persist!
Who would you invite to a literary dinner party?
Italian author Donatella Di Pietrantonio. I had the pleasure of interviewing her remotely and would love to meet her in person. She writes about women in Italy facing challenging circumstances such as dementia in the family.
Charles Dickens. He was very much a Victorian-era social critic highlighting issues such as the mistreatment of the poor. I would love to hear his opinions on the current climate. I think we’d have a lot to talk about!
J.K. Rowling. I recently read the Harry Potter series for the first time and loved it. I know I arrived late to the party but I’m so glad I came! Plus she sounds like a right laugh based on her tweets.
If I could invite a character it would be Jane Eyre because she was an independent female role model at a time when women had few rights. And if she could bring Mr Rochester along as a plus one that would be great as he’s my literary crush!
If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?
I liked creative writing and poetry as a child. I then enjoyed literary criticism while studying English at university which has helped me subsequently with my book reviews. I also started writing a rhyming children’s book as a student. But once I started working full-time I stopped writing.
After a long break, I began contributing articles to a local magazine and wrote an Italian lifestyle blog in Rome. Since moving to London I’ve written book reviews, event features and author interviews for a publishing symposium called the Contemporary Small Press at the University of Westminster. I’ve also recently joined the Time Out London blog network which is a fantastic opportunity to receive feedback and mentoring from a sub-editor.
I am very excited to be in the process of building my writing hobby into something more substantial. I plan to focus more on creative writing and poetry as well and am determined to finally finish off that children’s book!
Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?
I’m a library lover because they do so much for communities. I strongly believe that literature should be freely accessible and not exclusive. My home city of Birmingham has the largest library in the UK which I’m very proud of! But due to cuts it has to close on Sundays.
I got to recite from Jane Eyre at the amazing British Library last year for a special recording to commemorate the bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth.
In Rome, I volunteered at the Santa Susannah English Language Library, a lovely place for expats and Italians to come together. I made lifelong friends there and nowadays I donate the review books I receive to the library once finished.