Thanet Writers Question Connor Sansby
I am a poet, publisher and event organiser working mostly in Thanet. I joke my job is word stuff because I have so many different roles but more and more, it’s those three that I focus on.
I always wanted to be a writer but people always say “Don’t be an artist, you’ll never make a living out of it.”
I basically failed every sensible thing I could do and writing was the only thing left. I’ve had fairly successful careers in marketing and retail before I finally became a writer. “Although of course you end up becoming yourself” (David Foster Wallace) is the quote that comes to mind.
I started writing non-fiction and doing copywriting before moving onto short stories and finally poetry.
I’m mostly influenced by people-watching. There’s nothing like sitting down in a café, facing the window and narrating the passers-by.
I also tend to write about my past and old friends and relationships. I’ve known a lot of people who fit into that sort of romantic mould of addict, whirlwind kind of people. It’s never been something I’ve gotten involved with but I like to stand a little too close to these events, like nudging your toes over the yellow line before a train comes into the station.
These days the motivation comes from the desire to eat. This is my full time job so I really have no choice but to write. I used to tell people there’s a long line of people who want to make things up for a living and the line starts after me.
I think if you really want to make it as a writer, you have to be prepared to work harder than anyone else.
As a poet, I’ve also felt that writing is about sharing the human experience, so those moments where I get to connect with the audience, it’s a very powerful feeling, addictive almost. I’m on stage so often because I’m chasing that dragon; otherwise I wouldn’t leave my desk much.
I write every day, around lunch unless I’ve got a big project on. It’s when I’ve woken up enough to focus but I’m not worn down by the day.
If it isn’t flowing, I’ll visit a cafe or bar and write there. I’ll hunt for prompts from the way the coffee spills over the edge of the mug to the conversations I overhear and the people they remind me of.
I’m inspired by people, above all else. Having said that, inspiration is an active thing. A lot of people like to imagine that ideas fall into your lap fully formed but the truth is you have to be constantly looking for things.
More and more, writing actually becomes a smaller part of what I do. Everything comes from writing, like organising poetry gigs (like Tongue Punch at Tom Thumb Theatre), but there’s a lot of infrastructure that goes into a writing career.
I also spend a lot of time editing other people’s work for Whisky & Beards, my little publishing house. I find that when I’m deep into an edit, my own work takes a back seat in order to get myself into the poet’s mind-set; otherwise I’d make everyone sound like me.
My greatest achievement would probably be the book. I spent four years writing and editing a 60 page book of poetry: Promise Me The Journey Back.
A lot of people think that a poetry collection is just a selection of poetry you’ve written, but a great collection is linked all the way through and each poem is as carefully placed as the individual words within a poem.
Another achievement I’m really proud of is the recent slam I hosted, The Bookie Slam as part of the Margate Bookie. We had a really strong line-up, including some people I’d had the pleasure of teaching from The Prince’s Trust. To see them get up on stage for the first time and stand as peers was magical. We managed to bring the venue up to capacity, which for poetry is amazing.
Develop your “and”.
As writers, we’re almost replaceable. There’s a lot of people who can write, who draw similar inspiration. What really sells you, especially within poetry, is what you can do besides write. As a poet, you might be able to organise gigs or edit or you might have music production experience. Looking for how you can apply these extra skills will see you employed more actively than someone who just writes.
At the moment, I’m on a little tour of Kent promoting Promise Me The Journey Back. I’ve just done a feature over in Rochester at Little Roc Coffee Shop, and I’ll be appearing in Canterbury over the next month a couple times.
I’m always looking to promote Tongue Punch too, that’s a very active thing. I like to keep the line-up fresh each time, and I’m developing the audience more and more. It’s not enough to just advertise poetry to poets, we need to reach out and show people what poetry is really like, not just how it is in school.
Finally, I was lucky enough to be featured in the Thanet Writers’ short story anthology, Shoal, so I’m helping the promotion on that and will be hosting an event at Harbour Books in Whitstable this summer featuring some of the other authors.
I’m currently getting ready for the release of Thanet Poetry Journal Volume 4! This time, we’ve got Harry Baker guest editing. He’s been a joy to work with, he’s come in with a vision and he’s executing it brilliantly. I can’t wait to show people the outcome.
We’ve also started putting together the next Margate Bookie literary festival, which will be a blast.
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© 2018 Connor Sansby
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Connor Sansby is a Margate-based writer, editor, poet and publisher through his super-indie Whisky & Beards publishing label.