Elizabeth Chats With…Veronica Bright
I first met this month’s guest, Veronica Bright, at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School a few years back and our paths kept crossing at writerly events from then on. She writes wonderful short stories, one of which came second in the Chudleigh Phoenix Short Story Competition. But we also share one particular non-writerly memory: the day we both agreed, with some trepidation, to go horse riding on Dartmoor with a mutual friend, Tarja Moles. Afterwards, I swore never to go within a mile of a horse again; but I think Veronica may have enjoyed it more than me.
Hello Veronica and welcome. Let’s start at the beginning: what was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
I was the sort of girl who was willing to love everything. Some of our teachers made it a pleasure to be in their lessons; some made it totally awful. I was blessed with a brilliant English teacher. She loved her subject; she wanted us all to do well; I can’t remember her ever shouting, she simply didn’t need to. She was a teacher who suited me well, as I’ve always loved writing stories.
I remember with some revulsion my art lessons with a rather, should I say, eccentric, teacher. She told me that tree trunks were not brown; they were a mixture of wonderful colours. Even though I’d always loved trees, this was way over my head. Of course they’re brown, I thought. The worst thing about this particular woman was her dog, a horrid little sausagey creature that wandered the room as we worked. (I do not jest—she kept it in the classroom.) I was very afraid of dogs at that time (bad experience, aged four). Thus Fido often made a bee-line for me. One day it chewed a hole in my sock, and the art teacher said I’d encouraged it. Me? Encourage a dog? Never!
Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence “not a lot of people know…”?
…that when I was in my last year at primary school, I was co-editor (with my fave boy in the class) of the school magazine, The Beechnut.
Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?
Home. Sitting by the fire in winter, eating outside in the garden in the summer.
How do you relax?
Walking in the country or by the sea, a camera at the ready. Reading. Listening to music – especially jazz.
If you knew you only had 24 hours left, how would you spend them?
I would get up early and watch the sky turn from creamy pink to blue as the sun rose. I’d walk miles on Dartmoor, and meet my family beside a wide river for a picnic, and watch the children swim and splash and play. I’d come home for a glass of wine in my garden, and listen to the bees humming in the lavender bushes. I’d have a meal with my husband on our patio. We’d see the sky change colour once more, and watch the bat dance over the trees.
If you could change one thing about yourself or your life so far, what would it be?
I would give a younger me a huge daily dose of self-confidence. As a teenager I was told, ‘You’ll only be ordinary,’ and, ‘No-body wants to look at you.’ When I told my daughter this, she said, ‘If you said that to me, Mum, I’d say, We’ll see about that.’ I wish I’d been bold enough to say the same.
Watch a film, go to the theatre, read a book or talk to friends — which would you prefer?
Go to the theatre. And please would somebody bring back plays by people like George Bernard Shaw and Chekhov. And Oscar Wilde. I never get tired of his wonderful wit.
PS It was a difficult choice. I love films, books, and all my friends.
Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?
I can hardly believe this. I wrote right-brain, then I did three different tests online, and in every one I came out left-brain dominant.
What are the best and the worst things about your life as a writer?
I’ll start with the worst. That’s when the sun’s been shining all day, and friends tell me they’ve been strolling along the cliffs, or walking on Dartmoor, and I’ve spent hours beavering away at the computer. I half regret that I wasn’t out there somewhere. The thing is, I don’t want to stop writing. I love it.
Now the best. It makes my day when some-one tells me they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written. Last July I self-published Cloud Paintings and A Gift from the Horse Chestnut Tree, two collections of prize-winning short stories. I’m writing a novel at the moment, and my dream is to see someone on the bus reading it. Or maybe picking one up in Waterstones. I’ll just keep on writing. After all, if we take one step forward each day, it is a step nearer our dreams.
Thank you Veronica for taking the time to chat with me. Readers, if you want to find out more about Veronica Bright, she writes a monthly blog for beginner writers on her website. Her short story collections may be found here.