Write On! interviews writer Clare Cooper
Clare worked in magazine publishing for almost 40 years, the last 29 of which were spent very happily embedded in the Fiction Department of Woman’s Weekly magazine, reading, critiquing and editing other people’s stories. This didn’t put her off; she’s still an avid book and magazine reader, although she can’t quite break the habit of looking for errors. She enjoys doing the occasional bit of competition judging and writes regularly for Pen to Print on a variety of subjects, as well as supporting Write On! as associate editor.
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
CC: I write a regular blog about my life, good and bad, happy and sad, and general thoughts and observations. When I left my magazine job, I wrote an A-Z of magazine life and during the Covid pandemic, I kept a daily blog. Because there was so little going on, and hardly anything was open, it forced me to look and listen out for tiny details to share. I started taking lots more photographs with my phone camera then, too, while out and about on my ‘permitted’ daily walks.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest project?
CC: I wish I could! Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to write something much longer than I’m used to. It’s the big hefty chunk in the middle I’m still struggling with. I can do beginnings and endings, no sweat, and always think of a title first. Those bits are easy! I’m fascinated by how other, much more disciplined writers keep producing books, one a year in most cases that I know of, and am, and always have been, full of admiration (and not a little envy) for them.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
CC: It’s hard to say, as I’ve been scribbling short stories (and illustrating them) since a small child; although back then, I was probably heavily influenced by the books I was reading at the time, which were mostly pony books. I even used to make up little magazines for my schoolfriends.
I always knew I wanted to work in the magazine world, as it seemed so much fun and not like ‘proper’ work at all! Of course, as I came to find out, it was very much like proper work, but – in my case, anyway – with the bonus of being paid to read all day. It also gave me the chance to write the occasional piece for my magazine.
What inspires me now is anything I feel particularly strongly about and have an emotional connection to. Recent blogs have included serious pieces about my mother’s sad decline into dementia and about clearing and selling the family home. As an example of my more humorous writing style, I collect vintage cookery books and have had great fun writing about those. Recently, I wrote about my mother’s infamous sherry trifle recipe for Write On! Extra, which then became a podcast.
As any writer will tell you, the ideas are out there; you just have to be attuned to them. For example, during a conversation with a friend the other day, he was talking about his marriage breakup and what happened next with his wife and her family. I was so intrigued by what he was saying, I vowed to try to weave it into a story somehow – or even possibly begin another novel. So there are stories everywhere, if you can just pick up on them. I love talking to people and am naturally nosy, so am always asking questions. As someone once said: “Everything is fodder.”
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Contradictions’. With that in mind, do you ever actively look for, or specifically avoid, contradictions in your writing? Is there a part of your writing process that contradicts itself, yet somehow works for you?
CC: I think my dilemma with my writing is that I naturally veer towards funny ha-ha, although I’m capable of a more serious style as well, so I’m always wrestling with those two very different sides to my nature. I love to make people laugh, both in person and through my writing but, equally, if they say my writing has moved them in some way, it’s always very gratifying to hear.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
CC: Read anything and everything you can lay your hands on, while at the same time learning to develop your own unique voice and style. Practice writing something every day. Start a blog, keep a diary, enter competitions, join a writers group, go on workshops. Immerse yourself in the whole process. You’ll learn so much and make new friends as well, and then you can support each other.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @Grasshopper2407 How many half-finished and unpublished novels do you have?
CC: I have two unfinished at the moment, and an idea for a third, plus ideas for more blogs.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
CC: To continue my blog, and to continue writing pieces for the Write On! publications. We showcase several themes a year and I find it enjoyable and stimulating to engage and expand my writing brain in this way. I just wish it was as easy when it comes to my longer work!
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
CC: No specific one springs to mind, but I was a pony-mad child, so a horse would be wonderful. I would also love a dog as a loyal, devoted companion. Maybe I can have both?!
You can connect with Clare on Instagram: @clareatclarelou and read her blog at: claredotcooper.wordpress.com
Issue 16 of Write On! is out now. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can also find the digital issue here.
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There are stories everywhere, if you can just pick up on them!