WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD BOOK AND WHY?
As a child, I grew up reading both English and Polish books and my favourite was Stefek Burczymucha by Anna Konopnicka. I still have the flimsy little orange paper copy I read thousands of times as a child.
Stefek spends all his time showing off about how brave he is (written in Konopnicka’s excellent poetry), but at the end, we discover he’s petrified of a miniscule mouse.
I love the way it highlights the difference between how people portray themselves to others – and the stories they tell themselves – and reality.
WHICH OF YOUR OWN BOOKS IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND WHY?
ARGGGG, that is SUCH a difficult question! It’s tricky to have a favourite because each one is so different…
But if you dangled me off the edge of a cliff and forced me to choose, I would say Dear Ugly Sisters, illustrated by Tania Rex. It was my first poetry collection and took almost a decade to write.
I had numerous poems published in magazines and anthologies – and even in hospitals, hospices and prisons and on public transport, radio and TV before my collection was published. But part of me felt like I wasn’t a proper poet because I didn’t have my very own poetry collection. It was a long, long wait – but it was worth it because had I published it earlier, I would have included poems that weren’t quite as good as they could be.
I also relished creating the audiobook and have been recently working on an animation of one of the poems with Tania and a brilliant animation studio. I love being able to bring the words to life in different ways.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO READ?
I read different things at different times for different reasons.
Sometimes I read to escape, but also to learn about myself and others. Living someone else’s life through a story is a fabulous way to develop understanding and empathy.
Sometimes I read to learn about something specific. How did it feel to race all the way to the South Pole, only to find out someone else had got there first? How old do you have to be to start doing the full fast for Ramadan? Who created the very first vaccine and how?
Sometimes I read to delight in language, to listen to and revel in the music of words, or to remind myself of important things I’d forgotten. Reading poetry sometimes feels like pausing to look at my compass to check I’m on the right track.
Sometimes I read because I need quiet time to reenergise. Reading can be like plugging myself in to charge so that I can throw myself into the world again.
Sometimes I read with my son so that, whatever is going on in the world, we can snuggle up in safety, ignite our imaginations and talk about important things that come up in the books we read.