Our Writer of the Week is Carol Probyn. Carol’s story, “Let It Grow”, appears in the July 23 issue.
Nature and especially trees feature in your story. Do you often find inspiration in such things?
Sometimes. I also paint as well as write, so I have spent many a happy hour absorbed in recreating my version of a flower or tree.
I walk regularly, and being immersed in the landscape or a woodland gives one a positive feeling of well-being and can soothe a troubled mind. Such walks have frequently helped me gather my thoughts when a story has lost its way. Yes, I have hugged trees, particularly ancient ones, as I revere their secrets and wisdom.
My garden is full of gifts like my Silver Pear Tree. My friends and I share cuttings and each one has a back story and a connection to the giver. Now there’s an idea . . .
Do you think there is a close affinity between creative people and nature?
Most definitely. One only has to think of the Romantic poets and the Pre-Raphaelites and how attuned to nature they were with their writing and art. It’s an intrinsic part of being human – right back to early man and the cave paintings.
But at the same time, I know many people who admit to not having a creative bone in their body and who love the natural world around them. It is the very stuff of life.
How special and uplifting it is to read something wonderful penned by a writer who has a unique touch to make that connection for us.
One can aspire to that. Meanwhile, my little story was written to pass on happy events and hopefully entertain.
Do you draw from your memories, experiences when writing?
Constantly. This story is mostly autobiographical, more so than any short story before, although told from a grandchild’s point of view.
Generally, though, maybe a memory or a song out of the blue might trigger some connection to my past. Then the imagination takes over and it takes on a life of its own, and it’s sometimes hard to trace it back to its source.
Even when the initial inspiration has been inspired by just a random word or object – or even someone else’s story, there will probably be a bit of me in there somewhere.
If you could teach your younger self one thing about writing, what would it be and why?
I would have to say, “Keep at it, and write from the heart. Look for a touch of magic and do your best to make it life-affirming.”
That’s several lessons really; the first one is obvious – we only learn to write by writing, and the more you do the more you develop your own voice.
I have written novels (one self-published) and numerous short stories, some of which have addressed challenging or darker issues. Ultimately for me there has to be a positive outcome. That’s why I enjoy writing for the “Friend”.
Favourite authors or favourite genres?
Oh where do I start! I still love Thomas Hardy and Daphne Du Maurier. I read thrillers by Ann Cleeves and Lisa Jewell. Kate Atkinson and Salley Vickers are favourites, but I enjoy more light-hearted contemporaries like Jojo Moyes.
I don`t have a favourite genre – anything and everything, but if I have read something really deep I turn immediately to something lighter and less challenging and, yes, life-affirming.
The most recent memorable novel which was both challenging and uplifting is “Where The Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, a unique survival story immersed in magical, natural surroundings (and trees!).
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
Writers are always advised to take a notebook with them, and I do, occasionally jotting down something. Fortunately, I learnt to type many years ago, so mainly I sit at my computer and tap away, a recent event having inspired something.
Occasionally, I trawl through forgotten stories or prompts and wonder if I can reshape them. I have a sideways view of my pretty garden and the sky, where I often search for inspiration or that evasive word.
Sometimes my Norwegian Forest cat interrupts, and banished from my lap or keyboard, she will sit patiently in my in-tray (loaded with bills and rejection slips (ha ha) waiting for treats.
What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
There are stories everywhere; go for a walk in the woods and let your imagination soar. And read, read, read (including “The People`s Friend” if that’s the magazine you want to write for).
I know, more than one – sorry.