Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Tell me a bit about your creative writing practice?
When I’m really in a good space, practice-wise, it looks like having a big, messy, dedicated desk full with stacks of books, and printed pieces of paper scattered about, and bits of art or interesting things I’ve picked up on walks. Then, it’s about deciding a frame to work within – usually something loose that I’m intrigued by: maybe water patterns, or a particular myth framework, and then digging into that. I love to braid ideas in my works – bits of this and bits of that – finding resonance between things. For a long time I felt very constrained by form, feeling I had to write a poem to look or sound a certain way. Now, I try to release that and flow into whatever feels right for that idea or sequence.
What inspired you to run this course?
I wanted to run the type of course I wanted to take. I love being encouraged to write across genres – and wanted to create a fluid workshop where you could engage with ideas and themes of water, the body, and desire without being pinned to any one type of expression. Also, I think there’s a real explosion in expressiveness around nature writing and ecopoetry and how we encounter the landscape with and through our bodies at the moment, and I wanted to run a course that would allow writers to explore that.
Can you describe yourself as an educator?
Over time, I’ve come to see myself as an educator interested in ritual. I was brought up in an alternative household, and over time I’ve found that when I incorporate elements that might be considered spiritual or seasonal into our work, we can feel more connected to our practice and our creative selves. Writing is a form of spellcraft, and that’s really important to me as a educator.
If you could offer one piece of advice to writers, what would it be?
To be actively kind to yourself and your creative projects. I struggle with perfectionism, and I have Anne Lamott’s quote from Bird by Bird taped to my wall – “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Nina Mingya Powles’ essay collection Small Bodies of Water (workshop appropriate!), listening to Diarmid MacCulloch’s biography of Thomas Cromwell, and finishing Alice Hillier’s deeply moving poetry collection Birds of Winter.
You can learn more about Petra's upcoming workshop here.