Welcome to my interview with writer, Ruth Muttlebury. Enjoy.
Hello Ruth. Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Ruth Muttlebury from Plymouth.
How long have you been writing?
As long as I can remember but very little was done for 20 years when my daughter was born and growing up. I also helped run my late husband's farm in Cornwall during that time - which left little time for anything. I won a creative writing prize in school in 1978 so the interest has been embedded for a while.
What first got you interested in writing?
I was always given lots of books when young. Also, I was the member of a ballet/dancing school which put on productions, so from a young age I was working with scripts.
Do you attend a writing group?
I started with the St Budeaux Library (Plymouth) Writers' Group, which was closed by Plymouth Library Services. At that time I had just joined a private/subscription library called Plymouth Proprietary Library which had a wealth of books; may first editions and rare. I asked about a Writers Group and they suggested I started one up. The rest is history!
Why do you attend a writing group?
The sheer joy of creativity. We never know what will happen at the next gathering. It's like a trip in the Tardis. You can end up anywhere!
Hopefully with David Tennant in tow somewhere! What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from your writing group?
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)/
I enjoy mystery/historical mystery and poetry. I think with mystery, part of your brain must be locigal or unravelling the mystery won't make sense. As for poetry ... It writes itself.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
Romance: I am not struck at all on romance. I find it too predictable and inward looking.
What types of things do you write?
Poetry, short stories, Haiku, Tanka.
I enjoy the Japanese styles too. Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
The Classics (Greek and Roman writers).
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Hard to say but I try not to use names of people I know.
I'm the same. I don't want to give my friends and family an unnecessary ego boost! What is your writing routine?
I work full time so my writing is restricted to about 10 hours a week.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
Both: sometimes there is a plan (which deviates as I go) and at other times thoughts are random.
Do you have an editing process?
I am inclined to read my work out loud. This is particularly useful in poetry. Apart from that - I will occasionally e-mail things to my daughter (who is a scientist so not arts minded!)
Sometimes it's best to have someone with a fresh eye look over your work. Have you ever had anything published?
I have had poetry published in various places and was also a runner up in the NAWG [National Association of Writers' Groups] play writing competition a few years ago. I also came third in the 2011 West Country Writers' Association competition. Overall I don't enter that many competitions due to lack of time.
Have you ever sent your writing to agents/publishers?
No - I am not bothered about being published (strangely enough). Competitions are good as they sometimes set a theme and will usually publish if you win, but apart from that I'm not fazed.
So no plans for self-publishing/e-publishing?
I am nowhere near self-publishing. It would be too expensive. As for e-books? Too ephemeral. Give me the real thing.
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
No - a bit tacky for me. (Is it writing or acting?) I don't mind public speaking if I have to but open mic is all about showmanship.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Not that important. (There is nothing worse than someone who wants to hog the audience with their work).
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Pick up a pen and just write. It doesn't matter if nothing is on your mind at that moment in time - it gets the creativity flowing.
And what advice would you give to a new writer?
Enjoy what you are doing.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
Most: I love words and using words; like plasticine ... They can be moulded.
Worst: Lack of time.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Rowing (sea-boats), gardening, charity work.
What are you working on at the moment?
A poem on the theme of 'Invitation'.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is a poem called Jacob's Island and was written to mark the Bicentenary of Charles Dickens. It was read aloud at the Plymouth Proprietary Library AGM in June 2012.
A rookery, a den, with asphalt core
Where survival tactics are swift and sure
It sits adjacent to St Saviour’s Dock
Home of rapscallions where the locals pick locks
Capital of cholera,
Veniceof the Drains
Are just a few nicknames the place quickly gained
Islandhouses human hell
The only luminosity comes from glistening oyster shells
Which discarded and broken are rich banquet for the birds
Though Charles Dickens used plain, stronger words
Oliver Twist showed the plight of the needy
While the merchant class remained simply greedy
Orphans abounded where disease was rife
Natural Selection made its own choice of life
Dreaded hellish workhouse, Bastille of the poor
For ‘twas deemed madness to say: ‘Please Sir, I’ll have more’.
The lot of Oliver Twist we all recognize
Yet virtuous he was in many peoples eyes
Oliver had something which made him unique
A quality which Fagin himself did speak
‘Young man if you carry on the way you began
One day you’ll grow up to be a very great man.’
Yet when someone knows what’s wrong from right
Social conditions don’t always help their plight
They have to continue the way they started
Boundaries erased, wholesomeness departed.
Onwards down the spiral, spun an Artful Dodger
Leading sprite-footed boys to steal for a codger
For that canny Jew Fagin, was no gilded lily
He’d certainly meet his match these days in Swilly.
Are times really different in the year 2012?
Do we evaluate problems too deeply ourselves?
Benefits, tax credits, human rights, the dole
Internet theft and fraud make a great hole
In the shallow pocket of the average worker
You can be in the red but never once a shirker
Because you pay your own way there is no choice
Stand on your own feet but they’ll ignore your voice
For when you say that things aren’t fair
And no government politician seems to care
Your words are swamped by a deafening shout
That condemns the jobless layabout
Whose chance of work grows rapidly slim
In the lottery of life which some never win
Just as in Victorian days, ask only the poor
The question of society having heard of them before
Misfits breed misfits, anger destroys hope
The undefended of Dickens day met a swinging rope
As Bow Street Runners raced to keep the lawThe vagabonds denied what the upper classes sawBy exposing Jacob’sIn that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
Island, a stagnant truth unfurled
© Ruth Muttlebury 2012
Thank you very much, Ruth.