A few months ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Dr Sophie Louise-Hyde. I was intrigued by her workshop style and project The Student Wordsmith, so I sent her a few questions to find out more. Here’s what she had to say.
What made you create The Student Wordsmith?
The Student Wordsmith was actually originally created as an alias and as an online blog for me to share my own work as a poet.
It was during my studies for a Masters in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. We had to deliver a presentation and really think carefully about our online presence as writers. I decided that I needed to put myself and my writing out there but was a little worried at first about doing this under my own name. So, I created the blog and the readership (and opportunities!) just grew from there!
I love the name The Purple Breakfast Review. How’d you come up with it and what are your goals for it?
It’s a funny story and, normally, I wouldn’t recommend creating a name in this way, but I actually created the name of the quarterly journal using one of those online, random name generators—you know the ones where they get you to pick out the first letters of your first name/surname etc. It was quite similar to those.
I came across it during an afternoon of creative brainstorming (definitely perfect timing!), gave it a go, and The Purple Breakfast Review was formed. I haven’t looked back since!
I guess my goals for the journal right now are twofold: I want to grow its following and readership—we received the most submissions ever for our ‘Sound and Silence’ issue, so I want to continue this trend moving forward—but I also want to make it more regular.
The print version should remain beautiful and unique each time that it is printed, but I want to ensure that it’s out for our readers and writers efficiently, too.
In the past, we’ve had some issues with printers (which I’ll be the first to admit isn’t always easy!), so I’m keen to ensure that we overcome these in a way that means the quality and standard of the journal is maintained.
What’s your favourite part of working with writers?
My favourite part of working with writers is hearing about their markers of success along the way and, where possible, being able to celebrate these with them.
A number of our previous writers have gone on to big things: Natalie Moores is now running a marketing agency and is a fantastic advocate for female entrepreneurs and women generally as one half of Mac and Moore, while Judy Leigh (published in various issues of The Purple Breakfast Review) has been published by HarperCollins imprint Avon Books UK this year with debut novel, A Grand Old Time—those are the moments I love to share with them!
What’s the biggest hurdle you see writers face? What advice do you give them to help them overcome it?
I think the biggest hurdle I see writers face, especially those we work with, can often be a crisis in confidence.
Being a writer (in any form) often means that you need to develop a thick skin and to learn that rejection doesn’t mean it’s the end of your journey or development as a writer.
Rejection in this industry can be subjective—though many of us will try to ensure we are as objective as possible when judging/reviewing work—and, although it is sometimes disheartening (and trust me, I’ve been on the end of this rejection, too, sometimes!), I think it is actually a blessing. It means that even if someone doesn’t want to publish it or think it’s right for them, another press or publisher at another point in time will enjoy it, like it and, perhaps, even want to print it!
When you led a workshop at Nottingham Writers’ Studio, you had a very welcoming, very inclusive style that got even the quietest members to speak up. What advice would you give to writers looking to lead workshops themselves?
I’m really grateful to hear you say that, thank you.
I’ve always been (by the platform’s very nature and what it’s centred on, especially more recently) keen to promote inclusivity, community and collaboration in anything I do—especially in workshops.
My advice to writers looking to lead workshops themselves is to plan accordingly in order to be prepared and to practice. Practice at home, in the mirror, in front of friends and family if you need to, to ensure that you’re developing a workshop style that suits you but, more importantly, that this feels comfortable and makes others feel comfortable, too.
I would also find out more about the audience you’re going to be leading the workshop for—before if you can but, if not, take a moment in the session to hear about them and their writing—this helps them to feel more at home with you and means you can get to know the personalities in the room and tailor your style to work with them in the session.
What’s The Student Wordsmith’s biggest success story?
I think the biggest success story for The Student Wordsmith to date, other than those of our previous writers that I touched upon earlier (which I love to hear about and celebrate!), was our first-ever awards evening in 2016 which will become a bi-annual event moving forward.
The awards evening was a fantastic celebration of all of the writers, industry partners, students, and graduates that we’d worked with in the first three years of our activity and was an absolute dream come true.
It was a goal from early 2015 and when we made it happen in April the following year—awarding 20+ prizes and celebrating with an audience of 120 guests, a variety of performers and speakers, and an exhibition of creative organisations close to our hearts—I really felt like it was the perfect end to those three years as I began the journey to complete my PhD.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many people that this may a fairly long list…but, if I’m completely honest, first and foremost, my mum is a huge inspiration. I know that a lot of people say that, but my mum has been a pillar of strength for me and played the part of both parents to me from a very early age so she’s definitely an inspiration.
In terms of writing, I’m inspired by so many poets, novelists and playwrights but, in particular, Kate Rhodes (who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on numerous occasions and who was an ambassador for The Student Wordsmith in its early days), Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press, and Alecky Blythe. If you haven’t read her verbatim play, London Road, I’d thoroughly recommend it. She was definitely the inspiration for my PhD project on verbatim poetry!
What are you reading right now?
Funnily enough, I’ve actually just finished reading our Judy Leigh’s debut novel, A Grand Old Time. We’ll be featuring a Q&A with her and a review of the book on The Student Wordsmith website over the coming days, but I was absolutely smitten with it (if you can be with a book!).
It was funny, life-affirming, and a real reminder of how short life is and how we should all strive to live it in whatever way suits us individually. I couldn’t put it down and it took me on a real emotional journey—laughter, tears, inspiration. Now, there’s a book I’d suggest reading!
What are you working on next?
In terms of what’s next for The Student Wordsmith, we’re currently working on getting our pre-orders for The Purple Breakfast Review 5 on ‘Sound and Silence’ out to customers. This has taken a little longer than we’d have liked as I wanted to ensure it was perfect for our writers and readers, but it’s on its way to them now…
Finally, I’m in the process of putting out a couple of part-time job opportunities for people to come and work for us, we’re setting up some exciting new partnerships for programmes and events in order to plan what’s next for the platform, but I think you’ll see some really interesting things moving forward.
Our focus for 2018-19 is on four, key strands: Poetry Pamphlets, Students and Graduates, Online/Digital Programmes and Community and Collaboration. More on these strands will be announced in the summer.