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Tuesday, 10 November 2020





The Pivot Questionnaire comprises 10 questions. I have seen it used on the television show Inside The Actor's Studio, presented by James Lipton. Apparently Proust was the original inspiration. The modern questions originated on a French TV show called Bouillon de Culture, hosted by Bernard Pivot. I have expanded the questions to 12, and left room at the end for encouraging words.

This run of A Dozen Questions is by invitation only - 12 writers (of many) I admire. And then there's me!

Grammar school boy, 1965

Joe Cushnan was born and raised in Belfast. He left for England in 1976 to follow a retail management career, a career that lasted 40 years in total, in which, neat but true, he worked for 40 bosses of all styles and behaviours. Only two of those bosses have his 100% admiration and respect Now retired, he devotes time to writing and has accumulated a published portfolio of features, reviews, poetry and flash fiction. He writes this blog of mixed content but is happiest promoting the work of other creatives and reviewing non-fiction books. 

He has written a career retrospective book, Retail Confidential (2010), a book about his job losses, Much Calamity & the Redundance Kid (2012) and a film star biography, Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood (2013), about the star of Ben-Hur, The Fall of the Roman Empire and Fantastic Voyage, amongst others. 

He has researched and written a memoir - Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? - about his father who left the family home in 1960 and vanished, only to surface (if that's the right word) in 1982 when we were told he had died at 56 in 1982 in Clapham, London. The memoir is yet to be published. 
Joe is as upbeat and positive as a person can be in this wacky whirlpool of an era, infused with joy by two relatively new grandsons.

(Book covers at the end)

Q: What is your favourite word? 

A: Nonchalant, marshmallow, mellow. I like soft words. 

Q: What is your least favourite word?


A: Any verbal diarrhoea that spews out of the mouths of just about every politician. Where are the truly selfless, inspiring leaders? Sadly, gone the way of the dodo. But you never know, someone might just pop up and surprise us all.


Q: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? 


A: Simply trying to string words and ideas together, experimenting continuously, knowing that I carry with me guidance from many sources, not least my late mother, and I am not afraid to unleash my heart and soul if the writing stirs me. My watchword is 'onward'.


Q: What turns you off? 


A: Yobs and bad manners.


Q: What is your favourite song? 


A: Home Thoughts from Abroad by Clifford T. Ward is the sweetest, sad song. Rio by Michal Nesmith is the coolest and Buck's Polka by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, a frenetic, sugar-rush of an instrumental, gets the foot a-tappin'.


Q: What is your favourite film? 


A: The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, I am a western, Ford and Wayne nut. Closely followed by Casablanca. I reckon I've seen both at least a hundred times, and never tire of them.


Q: What is your favourite curse word?

A: Usual suspects: fuck, shit, bollocks.


Q: What sound or noise do you love? 


A: Any noise at all from my wondrous grandsons.


Q: What sound or noise do you hate? 


A: House alarms and dogs barking in the middle of the night.


Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? 


A: Radio presenter.


Q: What profession would you not like to do? 


A: Soldier.


Q: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? 


A: "Come on in. The kettle's on."

Q: Any words of encouragement for writers and writing?


A: In the early years of writing attempts, I would get very annoyed with rejections and even more annoyed with no communication at all. Now, I'm not that bothered. Acceptances are still great for moral, of course, and very nice to add to the CV. I gave up on entering most fee-paying competitions because they are getting more and more expensive. So, I suppose my message is, find your own temperamental balance and budget. My other advice, from my own efforts and experiences, is to diversify - write poetry, take a break and write flash fiction, a memoir feature - for variety. Finally, the old one is the best, read, read and read some more. 'Tis fuel for the writing engine.

I have been very lucky that two of my writing projects have been support-funded by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, so seek such generous and encouraging organisations out in your own places.



Thank you Me for my dozen answers

and words of encouragement.


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