[My guest this month is a writer, a tutor and one of the co-authors of The Creative Writing Students’s Handbook. I have known her for a couple of years, since I joined Exeter Writers, which she Chairs. She is always smiling, is generous with her time and her experience, and has a critique style that I’m sure her students would agree is firm but fair. I am delighted to be chatting with Cathie Hartigan]
Good morning, Cathie. Let’s start by going back to the beginning. What is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?
It was before I could walk and I remember shuffling up and down our hall on my bottom. I didn’t crawl but developed this alternative means of getting about. We had lino at that time and I travelled at quite a speed.
What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
Anything that involved stories or music was good, but gymnasium was another word for torture chamber.
If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?
My Macbook Air would be the first thing no question – rushes off to back it up right now – it contains so much of my life, the photos, writing, business, contacts, it’s scary. Secondly, I’m assuming super-hero powers here, I’d take my piano. It belonged to a lovely friend and is a fine instrument. Lastly, I’d take a small watercolour of a windbreak on the beach. It was the first picture I ever bought, well over thirty years ago and it’s still the first I put up if I move. For someone on a tiny salary £25 was quite expensive but I loved it and now see it as marking the start of being a grown-up.
How do you relax?
I’ve always loved singing and for the last fifteen years have sung in a small group called Nota Bene. There are only six of us and we meet in each other’s houses to sing anything we like. Mostly that’s English and Italian madrigals and twentieth century part songs. My latest novel is called Madrigal and features a group something like ours, although the characters are entirely fictional, of course!
If you could change one thing about yourself or your life so far, what would it be?
I’d like to be more athletic, both in being and doing. I have to be cajoled into exercise these days and that’s not good.
Describe your ideal menu — and where would you like to eat it?
I would be on a terrace overlooking the Tuscan countryside in full-flowering June. It would be lunch and nothing to do for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t mind an avocado and mozzarella panini or lots of delicious small courses, although no seafood please. Prosecco before, chianti during and expresso afterwards. On the other hand, they do a very good bacon bap at a café on Exmouth prom looking the sea!
If you were a car, what type would you be — and why?
I’d like to be a Jenson Interceptor, an elegant classic with stylish sleek lines, but I’m really a Ford Ka, small, round and easy to park.
What would you have printed on the front of your T-shirt?
I’d have Creative Writing Matters written on my T-shirt. I think creative writing certainly does matter and of course, it’s the name of the business I run with Margaret James and Sophie Duffy. I’d have to have our logo printed on the T-shirt too. Henry the cat would be very offended if I didn’t include him.
Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?
Absolutely both. I think if I was all right-brain I would never have been a teacher or co-written The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook. Teaching a subject makes you analytical about what you do. How else can you explain it to someone else?
Do you have a writing maxim?
I have ‘Do It Anyway’ written above my computer screen. It’s so easy to get discouraged by rejections or your own inner critic, but ‘nothing will come of nothing’. I know Lear wasn’t talking about writing when he said that, but it is still applicable!
Thank you for chatting to me today, Cathie.
Readers, if you would like to read more about Cathie, check out the Creative Writing Matters website. You can find The Creative Writing Students Handbook here.
Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.
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