Stephanie Ginger is a writer and winner of the Fresher Writing Prize for Poetry 2016. She has studied Creative Writing at both the University of Oxford and Brunel University, as well as working as a freelance journalist. Stephanie has also been successfully shortlisted for several screenwriting competitions. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about the FWPA, recording her winning podcast, and her poetry influences.
What have you been up to since winning the Fresher Writing Prize? Any exciting projects on the horizon?
Winning Fresher with Pansies was completely unexpected – I wrote it as part of an assignment at Oxford and have always been fond of it but had no idea it was good enough to win a prize. Its success made me look again at my poetry and has given me confidence to enter other competitions. Having said that, although I’ve got a number of projects on the go – all different from each other – none of them are poems.
How did you find recording your podcast with us? Have you done anything like that before?
It was a brilliant experience. I was very nervous on the drive down to Bournemouth but once I got there, thanks to Emma’s encouragement and Alan, the studio technician’s calm professionalism, I began to relax a bit. Years ago, in another life (and another century) I was a freelance radio journalist/reporter in Greece, usually working without the luxury of a studio; in those days it was all sent ” down the line” by recording and editing on a Uher tape recorder, unscrewing telephones and attaching crocodile clips. To my amazement, recording the podcast came much easier than I thought it would.
You won our poetry category, is that your preferred genre or do you enjoy writing in other forms?
I love prose – short stories mainly – but have always loved radio and film drama. I’ve been in a primarily “screenwriting phase” since finishing my MA in 2012 and have had a bit of success in various screenwriting competitions since. I’m currently working on three completely different ideas: a Nineteenth-century historical drama set in Vienna and Switzerland about the last Empress of Austria; a contemporary ghost story about a heart transplant, and a character-driven contemporary Drama Comedy about two old school-friends coming to terms with widowhood. Stories are a bit like children competing for my attention but there’ll be a tipping point when I can’t be distracted by the others shouting at me. That (story) will be the one I’m in for the long haul.
How have you spent your prize money?
I’ve bought a couple of wonderful books already – and I’ve put the rest aside to buy something inspirational. Don’t know what yet, but I’ll know it when I see it. The challenge will to prevent it dissolving into the housekeeping pot.
Who would be your favourite poets to recommend? Have they influenced your own work?
Helen Dunmore, Carol Ann Duffy, T.S. Eliot, John Betjeman, Roger McGough – there are so many. Sometimes my I think relationships with poets are like relationships with friends: they belong in an era of your life but when you move on, it doesn’t mean you love them less, you just don’t see them as often. I love any writing (prose, drama, poetry) that can make you laugh and cry at the same time. Humour and tragedy. Incredibly difficult to pull off but something I aspire to.
To what extent do you draw on personal experiences and real life in your writing?
Not intentionally, but I believe that inevitably your life experiences inform everything you feel and therefore everything you write. I’m a very different writer now than I was in my twenties.
Do you have any top tips for someone who wants to get into poetry?
Read everything. All sorts. Read out loud. Don’t be scared to slash and burn redundant words, chop it up, turn it upside down. You can always turn it back if you don’t like it. Keep a notebook within reach – ideas come in all forms at any moment, often in that twilight point between sleep and wakefulness; you think you’ll remember it in all its brilliance but you won’t. But if you scribble it down, however rubbish the note is it will remind you and your germ (of an idea) will grow and flourish.
Fresher Writing 2016 is now available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle. More information can be found on our Books page.