Diane Jackman, whose story ‘Firedrake’ appears in issue 5 of Lucent Dreaming, has appeared in Rialto, Spillway, Bangor Literary Journal, optimum, Snakeskin, Happenstance, small press magazines and many anthologies. She won the Liverpool Festival, Deddington and Café Writers Norfolk prizes. She started out as a children’s writer with seven books and 100 published stories. She is passionately interested in Anglo-Saxon literature and medieval rabbit warrens, possibly because she grew up on a farm in the English Midlands, and now lives in rural Norfolk.
What inspired your piece ‘Firedrake’ and how did it find its way to Lucent Dreaming?
I went to evening classes in industrial archaeology for about 6 years, and for a presentation I chose lead mining in Derbyshire, a fascinating area, full of stories and words peculiar to the industry and the miners. When I saw the Lucent Dreaming Flash Fiction contest with its theme of Lead, I immediately thought of the days I had spent climbing the Derbyshire hills looking at the remnants of lead mining in the landscape, and the story was triggered.
What does writing mean to you?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. As a child I wrote puppet plays with my cousins and performed them to the family. It was a challenge as our puppets were a very motley crew. From my mid-twenties writing has been a significant part of my life. In the early days I wrote mainly children’s books and stories until the recession in the 1990s saw the loss of my publisher. More recently I have concentrated on writing poetry. I have always had notebooks and lots of scraps of paper where I’ve written down stray thoughts, something I’ve seen, odd juxtapositions – often the germ of an idea which grows into a story or poem. Writing itself gives me deep satisfaction, and the noticing of things opens the door to all possibilities.
What are you most excited about right now and what writing/creative projects are you currently working on?
I have just moved back to a village and the garden is a meadow, which is fighting back. There is a wild pond. I’m looking forward to making a real wildlife haven. Out of the window I can see rabbits and squirrels, partridge and moorhens. A deer crossed the boundary yesterday. I feel there will be a lot of inspiration to come as this project develops. I am now working on a sequence of poems about water. Living near the eroding coast of East Anglia means it is an ever-present threat, compounded by the prospect of rising sea-levels. I started a poetry café in Breckland, England’s desert, and we are producing a pamphlet of poetry about trees, so I am busy collating the poems and organising the production in time for Christmas.
Tell us about some of your favourite books you’ve experienced – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?
Where to start? I enjoy crime fiction – not too cosy, not too noir.
The Good Soldier – Ford Madox Ford for its insight into the human heart.
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons which never fails to make me laugh.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – its stark relation of the facts raises so many questions about what did happen or might have happened.
Writers like Kate Mosse and Kate Atkinson for the consummate story-telling. The list goes on.
I realise that I enjoy books where the past is still a powerful influence on the present.
What advice would you give those who want to do what you do?
You have to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. Variations of this advice have been circulating for 100 years. It does work. My son Ralph Jackman did exactly that and has produced two published novels in the last five years, along with two children, lots of sport and a full-time job. Try to write regularly, and if possible, in the same physical place, so you feel when you are sitting in that spot, writing is what you do. Keep track of opportunities for submissions. Poetry Kit and the National Poetry Library for poems; Prize Magic for all kinds of writing; Cathy’s Comps and Calls which lists free entry competitions and submissions every month.
Admin takes time, but it does pay off, so keep a good handle on what you’ve sent where, and a note of the judge’s name. Sometimes it seems that a particular judge has been invited to judge everything that quarter..
And read widely, so you can keep up to date with themes and trends,
Where can people see more of you and your work?
I don’t do social media and I am thinking about a website, so the best way to see anything else I have written is to Google my name. Please note: I am not Diane Jackman of The Scratch Orchestra, a situation revealed when I received an email in French asking me to perform at a concert in Lyons.