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04 Feb

Meet the Members: Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin works as a full-time author and reviewer after having a successful career as a clinical psychologist. Anne writes novels and short fiction; her debut novel Sugar and Snails was released in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.

Anne’s novels deal with ‘themes of identity, mental health, marginalisation, attachment, gender, adolescent development, troublesome bodies and other psychological and social issues.’* More about Anne can be found on her website:

Tell us about your own writing process and what makes it special to you.

I’m always surprised when readers ask about the mechanics, but mine are different to the average. Due to chronic repetitive strain injury caused by too many dissertations, I write by voice-activated software, so speak my words onto the screen. It can be frustrating as it’s never adapted to my Cumbrian vowels, so I repeatedly have to pause my thoughts to make corrections. But it’s better than being unable to write because of the pain.

Plotter or Painter, Architect or Gardener? Tell us your approach to creativity when crafting your work.

When I first began writing fiction, I had no idea I could build or borrow a structure to navigate through from beginning to end. I was less a gardener than a toddler in a sandpit, trying to construct a castle without any tools. Gradually, I learnt how to give my work shape, but I still prefer discovering this rather than imposing it from the start. I’ve become more of a planner as time has gone on, as it gives me more confidence the completed novel will work for readers, not just me. Nevertheless, I’m not sure I could have got to this point any quicker by studying story structure. Groping in the dark feels like an essential part of the process of finding out what kind of writer you want to be.

Have you ever read your work in public and how did it go?

Although it makes me quite nervous, I enjoy reading my work to an audience. Despite my odd accent, it’s generally gone well, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. I’m learning from observing some of the excellent poets at the Studio to view it as a performance: an idea that both inspires and terrifies me.

Where do you read and when?

I have the luxury of an almost non-existent social life and rarely watch TV, so I read most evenings after dinner, coddled in a reclining armchair. I read between 100 and 140 novels a year, most of which I review on my blog.

What are you reading at the moment?

By the time this is published, I’ll be reading something different, so I’m going to cheat and mention a couple of this year’s favourite reads. Raising a much-needed laugh in lockdown, Enter the Aardvark by Jessica Anthony, is a trenchantly honest yet uplifting tale of populist politics, closet (literally in one case) homosexuality and wearing the skins of your enemy to get what you need. Plus a rare non-fiction read that has fed into my next-but-one novel: The Windrush Betrayal by Amelia Gentleman is a compassionate investigation into how the British government’s austerity measures and ‘hostile environment’ policy resulted in thousands of Caribbean-born British citizens being misclassified as illegal immigrants and stripped of their rights.

Was there a story or poem that you read and felt you had arrived home in the discovery of it?

I’m a little embarrassed that I thought Stevie Smith had written “Not Waving but Drowning” especially for me, until the year it was voted the nation’s favourite poem. But I love the blend of humour and darkness, simplicity and depth.

Twitter: @Annecdotist
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