Writer Of The Week: Michelle Illing

writer of the week michelle illing

This week our writer of the week is one of our newest poets, Michelle Illing.

Read her spooky poem ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ in Special #216, out now. It’s a treat, not a trick!

Your poem ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ captures the fun side of the spookiest day of the year! How important is tone when writing poems for the “The People’s Friend?”

Tone is the most important thing to get right. It breathes life into a poem and gives it atmosphere.

Also, it shapes a poem to fit in with what you publish and helps gives your readers what they are looking for.

For example I read that the “Friend” prefers an uplifting tone so that’s why I made ‘All Hallows Eve’ fun and tried to write it from a child’s point of view.

In the past, you’ve written poetry for greeting cards! How has this developed your writing and do you have a favourite occasion to write for?

I’ve been writing poetry for greeting cards since 2013. My favourite occasions to write for are Mother’s Day, and new baby cards.

They’re so lovely and always have gorgeous artwork to go with the words too.

Writing for the sentiment industry has helped my writing in so many ways.

An important skill in this type of writing is to say a lot in as few a words as possible, so it’s helped with brevity.

The other is rhyme. I’ve written in several rhyme schemes now, and even tried my hand at an acrostic poem which was fun.

Have you ever received a card with your poem in it?

I have! And it was a lovely surprise. It was a son, and partner Christmas card. I put it up in pride of place in the living room and kept looking at it with a big smile on my face.

I’ve given cards to people that I’ve written too, that’s a lovely feeling.

How long have you been writing poetry and what do you enjoy about it?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was nine. My first poem was about a twisted chimney! I was fascinated by it.

What I love the most about poetry is playing with language – I love similes.

Also, finding the perfect rhyme always fills me with joy too.

I love helping people express their emotions with the greeting card writing, and helping people connect with each other.

With regard to writing for the “Friend” it’s the pleasure of looking at something (for example, Halloween) in a whole different way, and honing in on the detail.

Which writers have influenced you and who is your latest favourite?

There are so many! I love rhyme in any shape or form, so a lot of writers have influenced me.

I love the picture book writers Michelle Robinson, and Lou Treleaven who are excellent at rhyme; Helen Steiner Rice, and Emily Matthews who wrote beautiful greeting card verse too.

The most recent are the poet Tony Mitton, and picture book writer Denise Doyen.

Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?

It’s a bit of everything. It was the kitchen table, but my lovely partner bought me a desk back in March, so I work from my bedroom now.

I intend to put some pictures up soon to brighten it up a bit, but I do have a window to my right which is nice.

I take a notebook everywhere I go when I’m out too. But if I leave it at home, I frantically type on my phone.

I’ve held an idea in my head on a two hour walk before. I was so relieved to finally get home and write it down!

What’s your one top tip for an aspiring Writer of the Week?

My top tip is write about a subject you’re really passionate about. I’ve adored Halloween since childhood, so when it came to writing about it the ideas (and rhymes) just kept flowing.

Also, read a few copies of the magazine first to get a feel for the language and tone of the poetry they publish. This gives you a better idea of writing something they’ll like and in the style of the magazine.

Click here for more from our Writer Of The Week series.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.