CR Smith: Confluence Writers' Development Scheme graduate
CR Smith was one of our first cohort of Writers' Development Scheme writers. Angela C Dye finds out more about her.
Hello CR Smith. Would you like to tell us a little about yourself please?
CRS: I’ve lived in Medway since the age of two and I think it’s a far better place than people give it credit for. There’s such a lot of creativity here. There’s also history at every turn. At the moment I’m studying Fine Art at the University of Kent, based at Chatham Historic Dockyard. My art practice invariably contains text and I have recently started to incorporate my own poetry.
Oh I lived about three streets from you in Medway for sixteen years and I loved it. From age two and beyond: a potted biography please?
CRS: Over the years I’ve held roles as diverse as cartographic draughtsman, double glazing sales assistant, and stock controller — none of which I found particularly inspiring. So when a friend asked if I’d like to attend a creative writing class I jumped at the chance, despite having written little more than shopping lists for decades. The course changed my life. It turned out to be an access course and after two years of hard work I enrolled at university. Art and writing are two sides of the same coin, I’m always involved in one or the other.
I know you have written quite a lot of things now! How would you (or others) describe your writing style?
CRS: My writing is influenced by the gothic and often described as poetic. I like sentences to have rhythm and spend a lot of time trying to get the balance of a piece right. In the last three years I’ve written flash fiction, long and short stories, and a small amount of poetry, most of which are on the dark side. More recently, due to time constraints, I’ve experimented with Drabbles (stories of exactly 100 words) which are harder than they look.
Ooh the dark side! What inspires you to write?
CRS: Life inspires me. As an artist I tend to look closely and often approach subjects from a different angle. I like to write in my head as I walk. Sometimes a story, or lines of poetry, emerge ready formed and all I need do is write them down. That doesn’t mean I never sit and stare at a blank page, though. Writing can be like sculpting stone, every mark a tremendous effort.
What inspired you to join the Writers' Development programme?
CRS: Writing is a lonely occupation. People who don’t write often imply it’s an easy task. However, they only read the end product, the one you’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months — possibly years — agonising over. They never see the pile of edits. I wanted to find people who understood the effort and time writing takes, and I wanted to improve by mixing with them. The Writers' Development programme was the ideal opportunity.
They are a lovely talented bunch to mix with. What have you learnt about yourself as a writer through the programme?
CRS: Having work published was, for me, as nerve racking as waiting for a rejection. I often worried myself sick over what people would think of it. Being able to compare notes with other writers made me realise I should recognise and celebrate my achievements. In a way the programme has given me permission to believe in myself and my work.
Yes you must believe. It is very good work. Any highlights?
CRS: Reading my poetry at the Brook Theatre in May, supporting Henry Normal, is definitely the highlight so far. Six months ago I would never have considered reading to an audience. Being a part of the programme has given me the confidence to do so. I would like to thank Sam, Barry and you, Angela, for making it possible.
Aw thank you so very much. Definitely a pleasure mentoring such a talented and lovely person. What advice would you give to new writers?
CRS: Write something everyday, even if it’s only a couple of sentences. I often jot down lines on my phone, or record them, before they can be forgotten. And try not to compare your output with others, if you start trying to keep up you’ll lose your way. Set your own agenda. Write it your way as only you know how, then edit, edit and edit again — it’s part of the writing process. As for submitting your work, don’t rush. Once written let the piece rest a while, writing is not a race. There will always be somewhere to send it. If your work is rejected check it over again then submit it somewhere else.
The beauty is in the edit. That is my favourite bit: the shining, cutting, polishing it up. What is next for you?
CRS: I’m planning to spend the summer, creating art and writing poetry about the Medway area and its interaction with the river. I’m also helping set up a club that runs along the same lines as a book club, except you bring along a record you want to listen to and talk about rather than a book. Naturally, this will take place in a pub.
Where can we see more of your work?
A sample of earlier work can be found on my website although it’s desperately in need of updating — another task for the summer months. I also have work in several anthologies, including Please Hear What I’m Not Saying (a poetry anthology raising funds for Mind), Flash, I Love You! by Paper Swans Press and The Infernal Clock, an anthology of 24 horror stories. More pieces are scheduled to be published later this year in four separate anthologies.
CR Smith performing at Roundabout Nights presents Henry Normal at the Brook Theatre in 2018.
September Tastes Of Regret
by CR Smith
September tastes of regret,
of the tartness found in plums
fermenting with the sourness
of pomegranates, a smack
of remorse mourning
all those ends left undone
as the year winds down.
Dreams and plans unravelling,
like the promise of green tomatoes
lined up on window ledges, shrivelling
before turning red — regret leaving
a hint of decomposing matter
smouldering on the tongue, musty,
mellow as those famous mists.
Of days crisp as a bite of apple,
sharp as the blackberry thorn,
of cool beginnings briefly warmed
beneath a lazy sun; the keenness
of chills at dusk devouring the day
as Persephone packs her bags
setting her sights on spring.