read + write

By Anna from Twitter

You cannot write if you haven’t read



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read + write
we’re doing a thing.
Join us on Wednesday April 20 at 1pm Eastern, when we’ll be chatting with Errin HainesMary H.K. ChoiDanyel Smith, and Amanda Mull. We’ll talk about writing, reading, and feelings.
Today, we have reading recommendations, inspiration, and writing advice from Okechukwu Nzelu and Sally Bayley. We’ll also hear from Ursula Vernon, who writes Wombat Droppings. Finally, we’ll offer some tips on honing your newsletter writing process.
read + recommendations
Each week, a writer will join us to answer some questions about what they like to read.
Our first guest is Okechukwu Nzelu. Okechukwu is the award-winning author of The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney and Here Again Now, published in March 2022. He’s a regular contributor to Kinfolk magazine, and a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. 
📸: Alex Douglas
📸: Alex Douglas
What’s the thing you’ve bookmarked, you know you need to read, and are excited to read? 
Your Show by Ashley Hickson-Lovence. It sounds like a fascinating look at a piece of Black British history which deserves more attention. Also, I’ve had a quick look at the opening and I’m intrigued that it’s in second person. 
What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write? 
I find it really helpful to read poetry when I’m writing prose; I find that one tends to sharpen the other. It varies with what I’m writing but my favourites include Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lorna Goodison and Alice Fulton, all of whom are (or were) masters of language.
What’s the thing you read when you need to feel something? 
Sometimes I turn to old favourites, like Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra or Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (I’ve just realised that in both of these narratives we know before beginning, or early on, that everything will end in tragedy; hope that doesn’t say anything about my psyche…). 
I think I read somewhere that the things you read before you get to your early or mid twenties have the firmest hold on you for the rest of your life, and I think that’s often true in a way, even though I’ve read lots of beautiful things since then.
What newsletters have you continued to happily subscribe to? 
John Paul Brammer is a wonderful writer whom I first came across through his Twitter feed. His advice column, ¡Hola Papi! (the title came about as a reclamation of the racist language to which he was subjected on dating apps), is brilliant, and whenever it drops into my inbox I know I’m in for a treat.
Is there a thread you love that you come back to (or finds its way back to you)? (if so, why)? 
There are so many intelligent, educational threads on Twitter but I’m going to opt for a brilliant thread of weird stuff women have found in bathrooms of men they know. One lady found ‘wiping socks’. Yes.
What’s the first book you remember reading and loving? 
When I was about twelve I went to my local library and picked up Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle because I liked the cover and the blurb sounded interesting. It’s a wise, funny novel about family and falling in love, which are still two of my favourite things to write about. I must have read the novel five or six times since then.
What’s the best thing you’ve read this month? 
Sean Hewitt’s All Down Darkness Wide. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy (it’ll be published in July), and it’s an intelligent, moving memoir. Highly recommended.
Who’s the Twitter follow that hasn’t let you down, since the beginning? 
Andrew McMillan (@AMcMillanPoet). Great writer, great reading recommendations, great friend.
newsletter time
Every other week, we’ll include a new Revue newsletter (new = under 60 days or five or fewer issues). 
Wombat Droppings
We asked Ursula: In 280 characters or less, what’s your advice for anyone planning on starting a newsletter?
You can post about it on Twitter until you feel unclean and someone is STILL going to say “You have a new book out? How did I miss that?!” It’s too easy for things to get lost in the scroll. A newsletter is painless and gets the word out to the people who really care.
write + inspiration
Each week, a writer will join us to answer some questions and give their perspective on writing.
Our second guest is Sally Bayley. Sally is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, as well as a lecturer and teacher at the University of Oxford. Her books include Home on the Horizon, The Private Life of the Diary, Girl with Dove, and the recently published No Boys Play Here. The third part of her trilogy, The Green Lady, is out next year. She also writes a blog for students, writers, and keen readers. 
📸: Alice Kelly
📸: Alice Kelly
What’s a piece of writing advice that’s held true for you?
There is no way around it: writing and reading are intimately related and you cannot write (well) if you are not reading. You cannot write if you haven’t read. All writing comes from a deep underground spring of words and images stored away, and then some experience. You also cannot write if you do not go into the world and have some encounters. Writing comes from turning living, and observations on living, into some form of experience worth recording. The diary form is a useful starting point for any writer.
What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write?
Good diarists, unfettered by the obligations of any finished form. Writers who know how to improvise and busk; to arrive directly into a relationship with their own voice without any of the preliminaries of How Do You Do. Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Samuel Pepys, George Orwell.  
And then writers with an overwhelming sense of rhythm and rhetoric, writers of conviction: DH Lawrence (letters and novels) James Baldwin (the essays), George Orwell (everything). James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (in snatches) for pure subterranean flow. Jane Austen for her perfectly balanced sentences: a sort of writing osteopathy.
What’s a writing strategy you’ve developed that’s worked for you?
Read for half an hour or so with my phone off; then take the plunge. Start by following a phrase about and let it turn into an image. Allow the image to turn into a conversation, an encounter, something from life but not quite: a scene or situation a little removed that you watch from the sidelines.
What do you do with all the writing ideas that pop into your head? Where do they go?
Keep a set of images, phrases, idioms, scraps of conversation, inside a journal. Allow one idiom or phrase to build into a scene or encounter. Allow the image or phrase to turn into a short dialogue which you direct from the side as though you were watching a play.
How would you describe your relationship with your readers?
Conversational. All writers are winning over their audience. A writer must imbue warmth and atmosphere, a way of attaching; her voice is a cordon we cling to and follow as she tugs at us, pulls us along. 
What’s your one tip (that doesn’t get discussed enough) for a writer trying to improve in 2022?
You must practice every day or almost every day if you want to get good at it. Most of writing is editing and re-editing and editing again. In between there are moments when you fly or skate, run or swim, however it is you get about when you are most fit for purpose. 
Each week, in addition to hearing from writers, we’ll also give an update about what we’re doing for readers and writers at Twitter.
This week, we searched the archive for advice on writing a successful newsletter. Here are four links on how to level up your writing process:
wrap up
Thanks for reading — you can reach us at @revue.
See you next time,
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Anna from Twitter
Anna from Twitter @revue

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