Q&A with Magi Gibson: Write the Wild Woman Way

We’re delighted that Magi Gibson will join us during Listowel Writers’ Week (1st – 5th June) where she will host her ‘Write the Wild Woman Way’ 3-day Workshop. Magi hails from Scotland, where she is an established poet and writer specialising in working with women. She has been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies, as well as in four poetry collections including the bestselling Wild Women of a Certain Age, out of which her workshops grew. Magi also writes short stories and has co-written a play for BBC Radio 4. Her three novels for older children are published by Penguin.

Wild Women
Wild Women

Q. Have you visited Listowel Writers’ Week before? If not, what have you heard about the festival?

A. I’m a Listowel Newby! I’ve heard good things though, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Q. What was the inspiration behind the ‘Write the Wild Woman Way Workshops’? When did they start and what has their reception been?

A. The workshops grew out of my poetry collection ‘Wild Women of a Certain Age’. Lots of women love the collection and the celebratory mood of many of the poems, so when I was asked years ago to run a workshop specifically for women, it seemed natural to pursue the ‘Wild Women Writing’ angle. Particpants in the workshops have been overwhelmingly positive about them. For many women it’s a liberating experience and they go on to feel more confident in their own writing. They enjoy knocking out their internal censors so they can fully tap into their own life experiences, as well as the chance to let their imaginations fly and share the results.

Q.You are also a published poet. What is it about the form that you particularly enjoy?

A. When I was first writing my children were very small, and the fact that I could ‘carry’ a poem in my head while I ferried them around, or while they played, was a huge attraction! I’m garrulous by nature so I love the way poetry requires me to be concise. But basically I love the rhythms of language, the possibilities of metaphor, the way a poem can take flight and surprise even the writer.

Q. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

A. Not at all! It was all a happy accident. As a child I never had a clear ambition. I joined a ‘Women and Writing’ group when the kids were tiny because it had a creche. I thought it was a book group. We did read women’s writing and discussed it, but we were also expected to write. After four weeks I was the only person who hadn’t brought a piece to the group. The rest of the story of how I became a writer involves a gin and tonic, and another gin and tonic, and if you really want to know what happened next – come to my workshop!

Q. What writers influenced you most as a young woman and why?

A. Oh, I read all sorts of strange things when I was young. When I was 12 I loved Rider Haggard and King Solomon’s Mines. I was very dependent on what the local library stocked. I loved Little Women too, but never came across Enid Blyton at all. I was big into Nancy Drew and Cherry Amis, Student Nurse. In my early twenties Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls gave me quite a jolt after that strange mix of ‘made-up’ stories.

Q. Who are your favourite contemporary writers and why?

Graffiti in Red Lipstick
Graffiti in Red Lipstick

A. Margaret Atwood for her inventiveness, intellect and the surgical beauty of her prose. Alice Munro for her wonderful depictions of women of every age and type. And more recently, Elizabeth Strout for her linked short story collection Olive Kitteridge full of quiet and astute observation, skilful drama, moments of comedy. All these writers for their humanity. In poetry I particularly like Sharon Olds, Polish poet Anna Swir, and Scottish poets Kathleen Jame and Jackie Kay. (Amongst many others.)

Q. Who is your favourite fictional character and why?

A. Anne of Green Gables. I should have read this when I was ten. It mustn’t have been in the local library so I only got my hands on it a few years ago. Anne is truly my ‘kindred spirit’. Olive Kitteridge, on the other hand, is a difficult woman, but I love the way she stumbles through life with all her imperfections, tries her best and endures her disappointments.

Q. Do you have a daily writing schedule?

A. Ahem. Can I lie and say yes? Or will Listowel Writers’ Week administer a Truth Drug when I arrive? I should have a writing schedule. I wish I had. I will have. One day soon. Honest.

Q. For those who are starting out on their creative writing journey, what is your best piece of advice?

A. Read, read, read. Work out what you like and why. And write. For yourself.

Q. What do you think are the main benefits of attending a 3-day Write the Wild Woman Way Workshop?

A. Exploring how to write from the inside, to find a voice your confident in. Leaving at the end of the workshop with fresh enthusiasm, energy and self-belief. Along with a head-full of practical advice and tips on how to craft your work, whether that’s poems, story, drama or novel. Oh, and with a folder full of new ideas and beginnings to get stuck into.

Q. Briefly, what will you be covering in the Workshop?

A. Over the three days I’ll lead activities aimed at helping partcipants write in fresh and unexpected ways. If you’ve no experience of writing, that’s fine. If you’ve got published work under your belt that’s fine too. Each of you will work at your own level. We’ll discuss pieces by established writers, analyse what makes them work. There will be advice on craft as we go along, and guidance on how to recognise and tune into your own strengths. There will be lots of laughter, and lots of support from the other women in the group as you challenge yourself to shift out of your comfort zone and try something a bit, well, wilder!

For more information or to book a place on Magi’s workshop, please see below: